Israeli ‘phosphorous shells’ incinerate 1,000s of tons of UN food as Gaza starves


A UN foreign worker runs outside the UN warehouse in Gaza City after it was hit by Israeli strikes

ISRAELI shells set ablaze a food warehouse at UN headquarters in Gaza yesterday, destroying tons of emergency rations intended for needy Gaza civilians, a senior UN official said. A pall of black smoke rose from the UN compound, visible across Gaza City. Flour spilled on the ground and mixed with soot as Palestinian firefighters tried to douse the flames.

“The main warehouse was badly damaged by what appeared to be white phosphorus shells,” UN humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said at a news briefing in New York.

“Those on the ground don’t have any doubt that’s what they were. If you were looking for confirmation, that looks like it to me.” The compound belongs to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unwra).

The rights group Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using white phosphorus, which can create smoke screens or mark targets but also makes a devastating incendiary weapon.

Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said the military fired artillery shells at the UN compound after Hamas militants opened fire from the location, a version of events John Ging, director of Unwra in Gaza, rejected as “nonsense”

Mr Ging said Israeli shells first hit a courtyard filled with refugees, then struck garages and the UN’s main warehouse, sending thousands of tons of food aid up in flames. Later, fuel supplies ignited, sending a thick plume of smoke into the air.

“It’s a total disaster for us,” said Mr Ging, adding that the UN had warned the Israeli its shelling put the compound in danger.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, who is in the region to encourage a ceasefire, demanded a “full explanation” and said the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, had told him there had been a “grave mistake”.

Read moreIsraeli ‘phosphorous shells’ incinerate 1,000s of tons of UN food as Gaza starves

Israel attacks UN aid compound with White Phosphorous Shells

UNRWA spokesman Johan Eriksson told the British Broadcasting Corp. via phone from Jerusalem that he had just spoken to the agencys boss in Gaza City, who confirmed to him that at least three shells containing white phosphorus hit their sprawling compound.

Related article:
Spent shells prove Israeli use of white phosphorus, Gaza doctors say (Times)

Fire is raging inside our compound. It is inside a mechanical workshop, Eriksson told the BBC, adding that shipping pallets loaded with humanitarian aid were also on fire inside the compound.

Firefighters cannot do anything. White phosphorus has landed and these fires cannot be put out, said Eriksson. Three people inside the compound are injured so far.


Added: 15 January 2009
Source: YouTube

Read moreIsrael attacks UN aid compound with White Phosphorous Shells

US Congressman: Israel war violations ‘deliberate’


Congressman Kucinich: America arming Israel with weapons that are used against Palestinian civilians.

PACIFICA – Israel must take the responsibility for its attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza, said Congress member Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, during an interview with Democracy Now! on Monday.

“When you look at what the targets of the attacks have been, you know, the Israeli army is given a lot of credit for its precision, so when UN schools are hit, the American university there, when you look at the damage or destruction of the Red Cross’s efforts there, you have to come to an understanding that this is deliberate. This isn’t accidental. Accidents can happen in war, but when you’re using that kind of destructive power, you have to take the responsibility for the consequences of it,” said Congressman Kucinich.

“There’s no question there’s a use of disproportionate force here, and no amount of reasoning or attempt to try to take the side of Israel is going to remove that single fact,” he added.

“Just look at the numbers. Look at the destruction. I mean, believe what you see with your eyes. And that’s, I suppose, one of the reasons why the Israeli government doesn’t want the media to get in there. When you tell civilians to go to a house to be protected, and then you shell that house, I mean, what does that say?” Asked the Congressman.

Related articles:
Israel defends munitions amid white phosphorus accusations (The Raw Story)
UNICEF: 300 Children Killed in Gaza (Voice of America)

Lebanon rockets fired on Israel (BBC NEWS)
Israel hit by second round of rockets from Lebanon (LA Times)

Stunning photos capture Israeli bombs falling on Gaza (Telegraph)
Hamas May Survive Offensive, Israel Says (Washington Post)
Gazans seek new places to bury the dead (AP)
Bowen diary: A just war? (BBC NEWS)
Benjamin Netanyahu says Hamas must be ‘removed’ from Gaza (Telegraph)
Netanyahu casts himself as player on a world stage (Independent)
Gaza-bound Iranian aid ship turned away by Israel (Irish Times)

Congressman Kucinich said the US must make sure that its military aid to Israel will not continue to be used against the civilian population in Gaza.

“Not only F-16 jets, Apache helicopters, but now we’re seeing white phosphorus used against the people in Gaza. This should be a great concern to every person in this country, because of the amount of money that we’re giving to Israel,” said the US Congressman.

Such use is even in violations of the US conditions.

“In 1976, Congress passed a law that says that if the United States is going to give arms to another country, that it can attach and does attach conditions that says that those arms are transmitted under the condition, first of all, that they’re used for defensive purposes only, and second, that they not be used to escalate a preexisting conflict. On both of those cases, I think that Israel has failed,” noted Congressman Kucinich.

But Israel seems to be encouraged by Washington.

“The Bush administration encouraged Israel to continue the aggression that occurred in South Lebanon that resulted in, the closing days of that war, the destruction of South Lebanon, which is one of the reasons why I’m concerned about what might happen yet in Gaza in the closing days of this current war,” said Congressman Kucinich.

The US Congressman also addressed the root cause of the conflict – Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“You have to go back to the blockade and the occupation, and you have to look at Israel’s conduct in the West Bank, as well. I mean, if Israel was so gentle with the people of Gaza, you look at the West Bank and look at what’s happened there,” he explained.

But – outside the US – Israel has failed justify its violence.

“The whole world is watching this, and the world understands what’s happening. You know, no amount of attempt to rationalize this violence in Gaza is going to work for Israel,” he said.

On the timing of the Israeli assault, Congressman Kucinich said: “Israel has a lot of talent, very bright people running their government. They chose to use violence. They chose it on the eve of a presidential inauguration in the United States. They’re trying to take advantage of this situation, because they know the Bush administration couldn’t care less about international law.”

Read moreUS Congressman: Israel war violations ‘deliberate’

Gaza: UN official reports horrific hospital scenes of casualties


In a UNICEF warehouse in Zarka, Jordan, workers review boxes of supplies for shipment to the Gaza Strip

12 January 2009 – Appalled that fighting was still continuing in Gaza despite the Security Council’s ceasefire resolution, senior United Nations officials said today they were horrified at the human costs amid reports that over 40 per cent of the nearly 900 Palestinians killed in the Israeli offensive, and almost half of the 3,860 wounded, were women and children.

“Behind those statistics that we read out every day is really profound human suffering and grave tragedy for all involved and not just for those who are killed and injured but for their families as well,” UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Director of Operations John Ging told a news conference in New York, speaking by video link from Gaza, where he had just visited the main Al Shifa hospital.

“(It) is the place of course where you see the most horrific human consequences of this conflict. Among the tragic cases that I saw were a child, six years of age, little or no brain activity, people don’t have much hope for her survival; multiple amputee – another little girl; and a pregnant woman who’d lost a leg,” he said, as the Israeli offensive went into its 17th day with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks into Israel.

“The hospital is really full of patients whose lives have been in many instances really destroyed, and they’re alive.”

Read moreGaza: UN official reports horrific hospital scenes of casualties

Israel to Weigh Truce Offer After Gaza School Attack Kills 40


A father carries his wounded daughter into the al-Shifa hospital after Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, Jan. 6, 2009. Photographer: Saleh Jadallah/Bloomberg News

Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) — The Israeli government will weigh the future of its military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as mounting casualties among Palestinian civilians increased pressure for a truce.

At least 40 Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces struck a school run by the United Nations in Gaza, a UN official said. Israel, which struck at least 40 more Hamas targets overnight, said it responded after its soldiers were fired at from the building.

Related articles:
Optimism over Gaza ceasefire plan (BBC)
UN rights body calls special session on Gaza (Reuters)
Homeless and terrified, 15,000 seek refuge in UN schools (Guardian)
Shell-shocked children who are drawn into the cult of the martyr (Guardian)
Obama fiddles while Gaza burns (Guardian)
Gaza killing sparks attacks on Jews across Europe (Telegraph)

The school deaths yesterday added urgency to diplomatic efforts aimed at reaching a cease-fire as the conflict entered its 12th day. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak proposed a new initiative last night and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been lobbying throughout the region for a truce, said the casualties at the school demonstrate the urgent need to stop the fighting. “Time works against us,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed the proposal and Mubarak’s call for peace talks in Cairo, which may begin as early as today.

Read moreIsrael to Weigh Truce Offer After Gaza School Attack Kills 40

Israel rejects EU calls for ceasefire

Israel rebuffed a call from visiting European foreign ministers on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in its Gaza offensive, as troops engaged in their heaviest clashes with Hamas fighters and the civilian death toll mounted. At least 14 children were reported to have been killed.

Speaking after a meeting with a European Union delegation that included foreign ministers from the Czech Republic, France and Sweden, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, said: “A necessary war on terror does not end with an agreement. We don’t sign agreements with terror; we fight terror.”

Read moreIsrael rejects EU calls for ceasefire

Forces mass for Israeli ground invasion of Gaza


New front … thousands of Israeli troops have massed in preparation for a ground assault on Gaza.

ISRAEL has thousands of troops massed for a ground offensive on Gaza that would aim to deal a hammer blow to Hamas and re-establish Israel’s military credentials with its other foes, experts say.

The number of troops and tanks along the 60km border is a military secret but Israeli leaders say the force is ready and local media say the assault is imminent.

Israel launched air strikes and a naval bombardment one week ago in response to weeks of militant rocket fire from Hamas-run Gaza.

Israeli warplanes today hit Gaza targets including a mosque and a house where three young brothers were killed.

A missile from one of 30 new Israeli raids hit a house and killed the boys, aged from seven to 10, emergency services said.

At least 430 Palestinians have been killed – including top Hamas leader Nizar Rayan – and 2250 people wounded in the raids, according to Gaza officials. About 300 militant rockets have killed four people and wounded dozens in Israel.

Read moreForces mass for Israeli ground invasion of Gaza

U.N. calls for an immediate halt to all violence in Gaza

27 December 2008 – Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the situation in Gaza and southern Israel

The Secretary-General is deeply alarmed by today’s heavy violence and bloodshed in Gaza, and the continuation of violence in southern Israel.

He appeals for an immediate halt to all violence.

While recognizing Israel”s security concerns regarding the continued firing of rockets from Gaza, he firmly reiterates Israel”s obligation to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law and condemns excessive use of force leading to the killing and injuring of civilians. He condemns the ongoing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants and is deeply distressed that repeated calls on Hamas for these attacks to end have gone unheeded.

The Secretary-General reiterates his previous calls for humanitarian supplies to be allowed into Gaza to aid the distressed civilian population. He is making immediate contact with regional and international leaders, including Quartet principals,in an effort to bring a swift end to the violence.

Related articles and video:
Israeli jets kill ‘more than 200′ in revenge strikes on Gaza (The Times)

Israel vows to keep up Gaza attacks through the night (CNN)
Witness describes Gaza attacks (BBC)
EU Calls for Ceasefire as Casualty Numbers Rise in Gaza (Deutsche Welle)
Hamas source: IDF strike unexpected (ynet news)

Source: UN

‘I was still holding my grandson’s hand – the rest was gone’

In the second of our series of dispatches from the ravaged country, Afghans explain how mounting civilian casualties are aiding Taliban recruiting

Clancy Chassay on Afghanistan‘s civilian casualties Link to this video

It was 7.30 on a hot July morning when the plane came swooping low over the remote ravine. Below, a bridal party was making its way to the groom’s village in an area called Kamala, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, to prepare for the celebrations later that day.

The first bomb hit a large group of children who had run on ahead of the main procession. It killed most of them instantly.

A few minutes later, the plane returned and dropped another bomb, right in the centre of the group. This time the victims were almost all women. Somehow the bride and two girls survived but as they scrambled down the hillside, desperately trying to get away from the plane, a third bomb caught them. Hajj Khan was one of four elderly men escorting the bride’s party that day.

“We were walking, I was holding my grandson’s hand, then there was a loud noise and everything went white. When I opened my eyes, everybody was screaming. I was lying metres from where I had been, I was still holding my grandson’s hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere. I couldn’t make out which part was which.”

Relatives from the groom’s village said it was impossible to identify the remains. They buried the 47 victims in 28 graves.

Stories like this are relatively common in today’s Afghanistan. More than 600 civilians have died in Nato and US air strikes this year. The number of innocents killed this way has almost doubled from last year, and tripled from the year before that. These attacks are weakening support for the Afghan government and turning more and more people against the foreign occupation of the country.

Read more‘I was still holding my grandson’s hand – the rest was gone’

Report: Secret order OKs U.S. raids overseas

N.Y. Times: U.S. targeted al-Qaida fighters in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere

WASHINGTON – The U.S. military has conducted nearly a dozen secret operations against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan and other countries since 2004, The New York Times reported in Monday editions.

Meantime, Pakistan’s president said he expects U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to re-evaluate American military strikes on al-Qaida and Taliban targets on its side of the Afghan border.

Citing anonymous U.S. officials, the Times story said the operations were authorized by a broad classified order that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed and President Bush approved in spring 2004. The order gave the military authority to attack al-Qaida anywhere in the world and to conduct operations in countries that were not at war with the United States.

One such operation was the Oct. 26 raid inside Syria, the Times reported. Washington hasn’t formally acknowledged the raid, but U.S. officials have said the target was a top al-Qaida in Iraq figure. Syria has asked for proof and said eight civilians were killed in the attack.

In another mission, in 2006, Navy SEALs raided a suspected terrorist compound in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The raids have typically been conducted by U.S. Special Forces, often in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency, the newspaper said. Even though the process has been streamlined, specific missions have to be approved by the defense secretary or, in the cases of Syria and Pakistan, by the president.

Read moreReport: Secret order OKs U.S. raids overseas

Pakistan threatens to retaliate against US

A spokesman for Pakistan’s army, Major Murad Khan, has slammed Washington for killing Pakistani civilians, warning of retaliatory action.

“Border violations by US-led forces in Afghanistan, which have killed scores of Pakistani civilians, would no longer be tolerated, and we have informed them that we reserve the right to self defense and that we will retaliate if the US continues cross-border attacks,” Khan said in an exclusive interview with Press TV.

His warning came after US forces launched cross-border attacks in tribal areas in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding 25 others on Monday.

Read morePakistan threatens to retaliate against US

Harrowing video film backs Afghan villagers’ claims of carnage caused by US troops

As the doctor walks between rows of bodies, people lift funeral shrouds to reveal the faces of children and babies, some with severe head injuries.

Women are heard wailing in the background. “Oh God, this is just a child,” shouts one villager. Another cries: “My mother, my mother.”

The grainy video eight-minute footage, seen exclusively by The Times, is the most compelling evidence to emerge of what may be the biggest loss of civilian life during the Afghanistan war.

These are the images that have forced the Pentagon into a rare U-turn. Until yesterday the US military had insisted that only seven civilians were killed in Nawabad on the night of August 21.

Read moreHarrowing video film backs Afghan villagers’ claims of carnage caused by US troops

Blackwater contract in Iraq renewed for one year

The US State Department said Friday it is extending its diplomat protection contract for private security firm Blackwater USA, despite the incident last September in which Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians.

“I have requested and received approval to have Task Order 6, which Blackwater has to provide personal protective services in Baghdad, renewed for one year,” said Gregory Starr at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Blackwater is the most controversial of several private security firms tasked with protecting high-profile US officials and foreign dignitaries visiting Iraq.

Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians while escorting a US diplomat through Baghdad in a September 16, 2007 incident that the Iraqi government considers a crime. Blackwater says its guards reacted in self-defense.

Read moreBlackwater contract in Iraq renewed for one year

Blackwater ‘Blood Money’ Angers Iraqis

At least two Iraqi families of victims killed by Blackwater security guards in September tell ABC News they have refused compensation offered by the company.

blackwater_ali_excl_080207_ms.jpgThe father of a 9-year-old boy, who says his son was one of the 17 civilians killed when Blackwater guards, escorting a diplomatic convoy, opened fire at Baghdad’s Nisour Square on Sept. 16, says he is trying to file a lawsuit against the company. He told ABCNews.com that Blackwater offered him $20,000 through an Iraqi prosecutor, but he refused the money.

Another Iraqi who lost both his wife and son in the incident says he too has refused the company’s offer of compensation of $20,000 for each victim.

Read moreBlackwater ‘Blood Money’ Angers Iraqis