Saturday, December 8, 2012

roof tapping and leaflets - you were warned!

The following is an account from Gaza by Johnny Barber, who reports for counterpunch. I have edited his original piece for brevity and inserted some links for those interested in verifying what is related. I decided to use this article because in one place it describes several things that I have heard about from other sources and pulls together the dire situation of being a Palestinian in Gaza. It does not, of course, get into the difficulties of the Palestinians in the West Bank who, though not under fire from F16's or gunboats from time to time, have to deal with settler assaults, ground water theft and the onerous checkpoints.

From Johnny Barber:
The Israeli Defense Forces insist they protect civilians in Gaza, only targeting terrorists. They have several methods to protect innocent civilians. One method is to call the civilians on the phone, another method is to drop leaflets telling them to flee for their lives, as an attack is imminent. During the latest offensive, Israeli dropped leaflets in the rural areas telling people to flee to the city. In Gaza City, leaflets were dropped warning people to flee to the rural areas. A new, ingenious method they use to protect civilians is to drop ‘loud, non-lethal bombs’ on a home as a warning for the inhabitants as to what will come. They even have a name for this warning. They call it ‘roof tapping’. Then anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes pass before they bomb the house from F-16’s. These bombs are a very large and very lethal. The homes I have seen today have been completely flattened, and the houses around the target are also rendered uninhabitable.

The ‘non-lethal bombs’ penetrate rooftops and can travel through 4 stories. Children or other civilians sitting under these bombs lose limbs, suffer head trauma, shrapnel wounds, and other injuries. The idea behind these warnings is that inhabitants will flee their homes once they are warned. If elders, small children, newborns, or disabled people are in the home, this can be a difficult endeavor. If a child suffers an amputation, fleeing will take a little more precious time. But lets ignore these complications as they just muddy the waters. I am amazed at the generosity of the

After the most recent ceasefire agreement, it was stated that farmers would be able to reach their lands in the buffer zone (see my note on this below - CB). The farmers were thrilled that they would be able to farm on the 300-meter (about 1/4 mile) swath of land known here in Gaza as the no go zone, because if they dared try to access this land they were immediately targeted by Israeli snipers.

On Wednesday we accompanied farmers to the buffer zone in Johr el Deek. It was amazing! We walked right up to the razor wire barrier! We watched as 2 Israeli jeeps approached the fence. I was smiling as they got out of their jeeps, but my smile was erased as they lifted their weapons and fired toward us. Of course, they didn’t shoot us, the ceasefire was in effect for an entire week! I was confused though, as they lobbed tear gas canisters at us, and continued firing over our heads as we retreated. Perhaps the soldiers were as confused as I was about the details of the agreement. After all, unfettered access to the land is a little vague. Perhaps the farmers misunderstood.

The fishermen faced a similar dilemma. After the ceasefire was announced, the fishermen were told that Israel, would allow the fishermen to fish in Gazan waters up to 6 nautical miles from the shore. This was double, the limit that has been in effect for the past 6 years. The fishermen were happy. They would have an opportunity to provide for their families, though the Oslo Accords stated fishermen would have access to 20 nautical miles of the sea back in 1993

The fishermen I spoke with said they had access to the 6-mile limit for two days. Then, Wednesday, exactly one week after the ceasefire agreement, numerous fishing boats, in waters from 3 nautical miles to 6 nautical miles came under heavy attack by the Israeli Navy. One boat was sunk, 3 boats had their engines destroyed by gunfire, one trawler was confiscated and 9 fishermen were arrested.  The Israeli officers made sure the fishermen stripped and jumped into the sea before they sunk the boat. (Over the past few years, B’Tselem has collected dozens of testimonies from fisherman apprehended via the dangerous and humiliating “swimming procedure”: fishermen were compelled to undress at gunpoint and swim from their boat to a navy craft, regardless of weather conditions - CB)

The fishermen received no warnings. Of course everyone realizes that cell phones don’t work so far from shore and dropping leaflets would be impractical as most of the leaflets would fall into the water. And even I know ‘roof tapping’ at sea would be way too dangerous, as the possibility of harming the civilian fishermen would be high.

The best approach is to simply start firing from hundreds of meters away as the gunboats accelerate toward the fishing trawlers. This gives the fishermen at least 3 minutes to pull up their nets and escape back to port. I am not certain what changed on the third day for these fishermen, but few fish were caught.

We also visited the homes of children who were killed. One was 9-year old Fares al-Basyouni, killed in his home as he slept. Shrapnel that penetrated the wall decapitated Fares. His father described the horrific scene. ‘We didn’t hear the bombs. We woke to the sound of windows shattering and the house shaking. The house was full of smoke. My daughters and sons were screaming as I moved from room to room to find them.’ Fare’s lifeless torso landed on top of his 14-year old brother, who ran screaming from the house into the night.

Didn’t they receive the warnings? Hassan’s cousin Mohammed confirmed leaflets fell from the sky 20 minutes after the attack. So, you see, they were warned.
NOTE: from the B'Tselem website regarding the no-go zone: 

A 2010 report by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) maintains that, in practice, the areas to which Palestinian access was restricted and where any person was at high risk of injury encompassed 62.6 square kilometers and ranged from 500 to 1,500 meters from the fence. These areas comprise 17% of the total area of the Gaza Strip and some 35% of its farmland. Ninety-five percent of the areas with restricted access were cultivated farmland.

No comments:

Post a Comment