Stories From The Gaza War You May Have Missed 3

(January 12, 2009)


Videos

School and Zoo Booby-Trapped by Hamas [YouTube]

Life Under Rocket Fire

“Last night, as we were descending into the shelter, my son asked me a barrage of questions, ‘Why can’t I go to kindergarten? Are they going to kill us? Why do we need to go the shelter? Is our house weak? Will the shelter stop us from dying?’ shared Batsheva. “It broke my heart. I just tried to explain calmly that the shelter was more protected.”

— Batsheva Tamano, director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Atzmaut program in Sderot

“Since the conflict in Gaza intensified, seventy-five-year-old widow Polina has simply not moved from her apartment in Sderot's Kasdor neighborhood. Polina relies on a walker to get around due to a loss of sensation in one leg. Her reduced mobility prevents her from moving to safety when the blaring Red Color attack alerts sounds. Her top floor apartment lacks a protected room and the building's shelter is on the first floor, an impossible distance to cover in the allocated 15 seconds to get to safety.”

Joint Distribution Committee

“I respond as a Jew who grew up in Birmingham and who has been living in the southwestern corner of Israel for the last 30 years. I live three miles from the Gaza Strip and the same distance from Egypt....I want to preface my amendments to all of your misconceptions and distorted interpretations of the facts, by saying that I am a human rights advocate myself and for all the years that I have lived in Israel I have voted for the human rights party (currently, Meretz), which is politically left of center. What you seem to forget though is that the Israelis are also humans and we have rights too. As I write this, my human rights are being violated as I listen to the blasts of Palestinian-fired missiles falling all around me. At this very moment, a missile just hit a kindergarten in Ashdod and it is only due to canceling school in the south that a lot of children weren't killed.

— Margaret Kartus Duvdevani responding to an article criticizing Israel in the Birmingham News

“Our sense of calm was shattered on Friday afternoon when the Israeli army carried out a synchronized artillery, naval and air attack that was coordinated on the border of our Kibbutz, which is now a closed military area. I ran out with the other Kibbutz members to see what was happening, and it was here that I saw “Israel Yayafa” – beautiful Israel. Not the external beauty, but the internal beauty of the people of Israel. Basketball stars from our national team had come in huge trucks filled with toys, presents and food. A Nike truck was filled with sports goods for the kids. Israel's top artists came to our pub morning, afternoon and evening to perform for the area residents and soldiers. It was a classic example of everyone simply joining hands and doing what they could in this time of war.

—Ofer Baram is Jewish Agency Director of Community Relations, Israel Southern Region

“I also went to Sderot for the first time in weeks to get my haircut. What a simple task that sounds like. But in these days, nothing is simple. The minute I walked into the salon, I asked where the bomb shelter was. Not only did I ask I went to check it out to make sure it was OK. After I finished, I walked outside. To my surprise people were out. It was a beautiful balmy day, and there were actually people in the coffee shops sitting outside. Sderot, for once, was not a ghost town. Added to this, people were riding in their cars with Israeli flags blowing from the windows. It felt like Independence Day. And it brought me back again to the thought that we are an incredible people. In defiance of everything that is going on, people are riding in their cars with their flags waving and sitting outside, as if to say, we are here to stay.”

— Soni Singer is the director of the San Diego-IBIM Student Village, situated one and a half miles from the Gaza border

“Three schools in World ORT’s Kadima Mada (Science Journey) program have been temporarily closed in the face of continued Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. The security measure has undoubtedly saved lives – a long-range Grad missile, its warhead packed with ball bearings to inflict greater harm, pierced the concrete roof of a Grade 9 classroom at the Makif Aleph High School in central Be’er Sheva last week but the school was empty and no-one was injured. Normally, the classroom seats nearly 40 children.”

— World ORT

“I have 100 percent trust in our army. I am not afraid for myself. But I am terrified for my children. And my heart is torn in half as I try to balance my responsibilities as a mother and as a working woman. As the director of the Jewish Agency's Israel Department activities in Sderot, Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev, my staff and I are responsible for the children of Youth Futures, the Net@ pupils and the children and youth in Partnership 2000 (P2K) programs who have been suffering on the frontline for over eight years. They desperately need our help. But when my daughter calls me crying, and my son's kindergarten teacher calls to tell me to come pick him up as a rocket fell less than a quarter of a mile from the school, I want to rush home and protect them. It is a harrowing situation. But I need to stay strong, my staff people need to stay strong – for our children and the children we care for everyday.”

— Ravit Ohayon-Michal, Jewish Agency for Israel

UNRWA's Teacher/Terrorist

“By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli air strike that killed the 33-year-old last week also laid bare his apparent double life and embarrassed a U.N. agency which has long had to rebuff Israeli accusations that it has aided and abetted guerrillas fighting the Jewish state.

In interviews with Reuters, students and colleagues, as well as U.N. officials, denied any knowledge of Qiq's work with explosives....But militant leaders allied to the enclave’s ruling Hamas group hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad's ‘engineering unit’ — its bomb makers. They fired a salvo of improvised rockets into Israel in response to his death.

After he was killed in an Israeli air strike, Qiq's body was wrapped in an Islamic Jihad flag at his funeral...and a handwritten notice posted on the metal gate at the entrance to the school declared that Qiq, “the chief leader of the engineering unit,” would now find “paradise.”

That poster was removed soon after Reuters visited the Rafah Prep Boys School, run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Staff there said on Monday that UNRWA officials had told them not to discuss Qiq's activities.

Reuters, (May 5, 2008)

Hamas Map Shows Strategy for Using Civilians

On January 8, 2009, the Intelligence Corps Officer-in-Chief, Brigadier General Yuval Halmish, revealed a sketch by Hamas that details on the deployment of explosives and Hamas forces in the Al-Attara neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip. The map was found during Paratrooper Brigade forces operating in the northern Gaza Strip and was translated from Arabic during the operation. It describes, among other things, the location of explosive devices and firing positions in the middle of the civilian population in the dense neighborhood, which endanger the life of the civilians.

The map shows that snipers are positioned at the entrance of the A-Tawil mosque and in the mosques next to it and describes the directions the snipers are aiming. It indicates that explosives are planted in the entrances of civilian homes. In addition to that, the map also shows an explosive device planted next to a gas station - the detonation of the device would significantly damage the surrounding area.

The forces also discovered a booby-trapped doll at the entrance of a building, which, upon detonation, pulls the surrounding people into an underground tunnel to facilitate the killing and kidnapping of soldiers.

— Israeli Foreign Ministry

Hamas Blocks Warnings to Civilians

Palestinian terrorists and even the police in Gaza are fighting in civilian clothing, making it difficult to reduce civilian causalities. In addition, Hamas terrorists have planted explosives in civilian residence buildings so that in the event of IDF fire, the entire structure will explode. According to Intelligence Corps Officer-in-Chief, Brigadier General Yuval Halmish, Hamas is preventing Palestinian civilians from receiving IDF leaflets asking Gaza residents to leave evacuate their homes. “They [Hamas] booby-trapped the entrances of civilian houses with explosives put close to them; the objective is of course to hit our forces but a local explosion also damages the houses of the civilians and causes great damage, and likely killing civilians.”

— Steve Erlanger, “A Gaza war full of traps and trickery,” The New York Times, (January 10, 2009);
“Israel's operation against Hamas in Gaza - Update Jan 10,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (January 10, 2009)

Media Access

Anyone who has picked up a newspaper or turned on the television in the last two weeks has seen plenty of coverage of the war in Gaza. Many reporters are complaining they do not have the access they would like, but there is no shortage of information coming from the battlefront.

It is true that Israel has restricted journalists’ access (they are now allowing some pool reporting and embedding some reporters); however, this is no different than the policy of the United States and other armies which do not allow reporters’ unfettered access during military operations. Israel learned a lesson from the degree of freedom it granted reporters during the war with Hizballah that journalists sometimes hampered military operations and endangered troops. Moreover, even after granting journalists access, much of the the reporting was distorted.

It is hard to argue that Israel has benefited in the conflict from limits placed on journalists as the story coming from Gaza has been largely told from the Palestinian point of view, with no pictures of Hamas terrorists or rocket crews but a steady stream of images of suffering and injured Palestinians. It is reminiscent of the observation by Marvin Kalb in his study of the last Lebanon war in which he said coverage made it appear the war was being fought by ghosts because you never saw a picture of any terrorists.

While the journalists sitting on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza complain and criticize Israel, we have heard almost nothing from the Egyptian side of the Gaza border. In fact, the UN reported, “Every day, local and foreign doctors, nurses, truck drivers and journalists, among others, wait on the Egyptian side of the border for the opportunity to enter Gaza during the daily three-hour ceasefire....On 9 January, the Egyptian authorities finally admitted a group of doctors from the Arab Medics Union to cross through to Gaza. Forty-six had arrived at the border two days earlier hoping to cross over and offer their assistance in Gaza....Foodstuffs and other aid are not allowed through the Rafah crossing, so are usually sent through the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4km away from Rafah, and which is under the control of Israel.”

Jerusalem Post, (January 7, 2009); IRIN (January 11, 2009)