After Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s call on Saturday for a cease-fire, Israeli leaders responded with an increase in the intensity of their invasion of Gaza, saying the incursion could continue for months. “We are determined to create a professional chaos, to jump from one place, to emerge, to use this method or another, to leave the territory and enter it again after a while,” Israel’s Gaza Division Commander Brigadier General Kochavi said this weekend.
The commander of the southern region, General Yoav Galant insisted Saturday that "Operation Summer Rain" would deter Palestinian militants. "They will think twice before launching attacks when they see in a week, a month or two months from now that hundreds of terrorists have been killed, that infrastructure and ministerial offices have been destroyed," he said.
But Palestinians in Gaza counter the Israeli General’s statement by pointing out that most of those that have been killed thus far in the ongoing Israeli invasion have been civilians. Over 40 Palestinians have been killed and more than 120 others wounded, some of them critically, since the Israeli army invaded Gaza Strip at midnight Tuesday on June 27. Three Palestinians were also killed in the West Bank.
Saturday night, an Israeli missile killed a mother and her two children, and injured five members of the family, as they were eating supper in their backyard east of Gaza City. Sunday, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at militants in Rafah but missed, killing a bystander and injuring four others. And Monday morning, two were killed and four injured, including an eight-year old girl, in a similar missile strike in Khan Younis.
Over the weekend, the Israeli military reoccupied areas 500 meters deep in eastern Gaza Strip two days after reoccupying a belt of the northern Mediterranean coastal strip Israel called a buffer zone, including the sites of the three former Jewish colonial settlements of Nisanit, Elei Sinai and Dugit.
Much of the power, water, road and government infrastructure is bombed to rubble amid an exacerbating humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated strip – sealed off from outside world for the 15th consecutive day.
Five thousand Palestinian passengers are stranded on the Egyptian side of the border and an elderly man died on Friday while waiting to enter Gaza. Egyptian authorities won’t allow the stranded Palestinians to return to Egypt while the border remains closed, and they are forced to wait in the desert sun for days, uncertain as to when the border will re-open to allow them to come home.
And the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, an area weakened from five months of international sanctions, has been multiplied by the current Israeli invasion. According to John Ging, the head of operations of the UN agency which looks after Palestinian refugees, "Daily life is a misery. Ordinary people are struggling. We are running around trying to put plasters on everything. It’s a dangerous and desperate situation and it’s a myth that there is no humanitarian crisis."
He said that in the north of Gaza Israeli forces had shot and destroyed rooftop water tanks and mains, while in the south more than 1,000 people had been forced to leave their homes. Rafah has no electricity because the army will not allow the UN to fix a minor fault, while the rest of Gaza has limited electricity, several hours a day, from diesel generators which are quickly running out of fuel. All of the main power plants were destroyed by Israeli missiles the first night of the invasion, and hospitals are facing an electricity crisis. Several patients on life support have died due to the electricity cuts.
Israeli military officials claim that the aim of its invasion is to free the captured Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, captured during a Palestinian resistance attack on a tank he was driving in southern Gaza two weeks ago. The father of the captured Israeli soldier, Noam Shalit, called on Israel’s government Thursday to consider releasing 100 female and 413 child prisoners, as requested by the soldier’s captors, in return for his son’s release. The Israeli government has flatly refused, saying "We will not negotiate with terrorists."
But a top Israeli government official suggested on Friday that Israel might release Palestinian prisoners as part of an Egyptian proposal to win freedom for the Israeli soldier.
Israeli officials stated that an additional aim of the invasion is to stop the launching of home-made Palestinian shells at Israeli targets, which began after the current Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. Of the approximately 10 shells that have been fired across the border by Palestinian resistance fighters, none have caused any damage or injuries. In a press conference Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the European Union should stop criticizing Israel and start condemning the Palestinian homemade shells, saying, "When was the last time that the European Union condemned this shooting and suggested effective measures to stop it? At some point, Israel had no point but to take some measures in order to stop this thing."
The shells, also known as ‘qassams’, are made of metal pipes with dynamite attached, and have no aiming capability whatsoever. In contrast, over 5,000 shells and at least 20 missiles have been fired by Israeli forces into the Gaza Strip in the same time frame, killing over 40 and injuring 120 Palestinians.
The Arab bloc in the United Nations, as well as a number of non-aligned nations, offered a resolution to the Security Council over the weekend voicing “grave concern at the violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people caused by the Israeli occupation, including the current extensive Israeli military operations.”
The council also urged “Israel, the occupying power, to immediately release the arrested Palestinian ministers,” lawmakers and “all other arrested Palestinian civilians,” and called “for a negotiated solution to the current crisis.”
US and French delegates rushed to stop the resolution, saying it was too critical of Israel and didn’t mention Palestinian violations (presumably referring to the 10 ‘homemade shells’ fired toward Israel in response to the ongoing invasion).
*this article was sourced from the International Press Center, Ha’aretz, Ynetnews and local and medical sources