United for Peace and Justice Condemns Israeli Attacks on Gaza, Calls for an End to U.S. Support of the Israeli Occupation
Ten months ago Israeli military forces withdrew from the Gaza Strip, part of the Palestinian lands long occupied by Israel. On Tuesday, June 27th, the Israeli military launched an all-out assault on the people of Gaza, and there seems to be no end in sight.
The destruction of vital bridges and power stations, which led to the cut off of electricity and water for well over 1 million people, is nothing short of collective punishment imposed on a civilian population. Israel has also taken nearly 100 elected officials and leaders of the Hamas party as prisoners in the last few days.
Israel’s massive military assault on Gaza is clear evidence that Israel remains the occupying power of the Gaza Strip, despite its unilateral withdrawal of settlements last year. Israel has been seeking to bring down the Palestinian government by bringing pressure to bear on the civilian Palestinian population, and is using the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier as a pretext to do that. (More background information below.)
United for Peace and Justice condemns this brutal attack and calls for an end to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip.
UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE CALLS FOR:
1) An immediate end to the assault on Gaza by the Israeli military forces.
2) Cut off of U.S. financial and military aid to Israel that makes it possible for such assaults to be carried out, as well as U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
3) Immediate shipments by the U.S. government of humanitarian aid (especially food and medicines) for the people of Gaza.
YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY:
1) Call the White House (202-456-1111) and the U.S. State Department (202-647-4000) to demand that the U.S. take immediate action to end.
2) Send a letter to your local paper and speak out against the latest assaults by the Israeli government on the people of Gaza.
3) You can help get much-needed medical supplies to Gaza -- click here for more information and to make a donation.
During the month of June the Israeli military forces carried out several deadly attacks in Gaza. On June 9th, 8 Palestinians were killed and 32 injured when a beach was shelled (see report from Human Rights Watch for more information on this incident); on June 13th a missile attack on a highway in Gaza killed 11 people and wounded another 30; and on June 20th another missile attack from Israeli forces killed 3 children and wounded 15 more people.
In retaliation, Palestinian militants raided Israeli military positions near Gaza on June 25th, during which 2 soldiers were killed and Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured. Israel then threatened an attack if he was not freed and began deploying tanks along the border. Their attack began after Israel rejected Shalit's captors' demand for the release of all Palestinian women and Palestinians younger than eighteen in Israeli prisons. (There are some 9,800 Palestinians being held: 335 of them are children and several dozen are women.)
Just before midnight on June 27th a large scale military assault on Gaza was launched by Israel. Fighter planes hit three bridges along the main north-south highway in Gaza. Another strike hit Gaza's main power plant and knocked out the electricity in densely populated Gaza City. This power plant provided 42% of the power to Gaza's 1.3 million residents, and now Gaza is completely dependent on Israel for power. It could take as long as a year to get the plant operational again.
Israel’s deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure is a violation of its obligations under the Geneva Conventions and a war crime. Israel’s use of U.S. taxpayer-supplied weapons to target civilian infrastructure is also a violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act; UFPJ calls upon the White House and Congress to investigate these violations of U.S. law and take appropriate action to shut off future weapons transfers to Israel as a result.
At about 2:30 in the morning the Israeli military forces started to move into Gaza and take control of areas east of the city of Rafah. A little after 5am fighter plans flew low over Gaza, causing intentional sonic booms which reportedly shattered windows. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said their goal was "not to mete out punishment but rather to apply pressure so that the abducted soldier will be freed. We want to create a new equation -- freeing the abducted soldier in return for lessening the pressure on the Palestinians." Such deliberate collective punishment of a civilian population is also a violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime.
According to the June 29th edition of the NY Times, the Israeli forces have expanded their assault: "In the West Bank city of Ramallah this morning, Israeli forces detained 20 lawmakers and 8 ministers in the 24-member cabinet, including Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer and Labor Minister Mohammed Barghouti, security officials said. Today, an Israeli warplane fired a missile in Gaza City that an Israeli spokeswoman said hit a soccer field near the pro-Hamas Islamic University. Reuters reported that the missile hit inside the university .... The Israelis also detained about 20 Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament as they made arrests in Ramallah, Jenin, East Jerusalem and elsewhere." And the shelling and sonic booming has continued over these past few days.
The Times went on to say, "On Wednesday, the crisis seemed to be tipping toward escalation as Israeli tanks hunkered down inside southern Gaza at the airport after warplanes had knocked out half of Gaza's electricity and pounded sonic booms over houses. Also on Wednesday, Israel battered northern Gazan towns with artillery and sent warplanes over the house of the Syrian president [in northwest Syria], who is influential with the Palestinian leader believed to have ordered the kidnapping."
According to reports in the Syrian press, the 4 Israeli fighter planes were forced out of the airspace by Syria's military. As bad as the situation is, things could get even worse if Israel does not stop its assaults. But the Israeli government is taking an extremely hard line: Prime Minister Olmert, as quoted in the NY Times, said, "We won't hesitate to carry out extreme action to bring Gilad back to his family."
All of this comes in the midst of a severe economic, humanitarian crisis throughout Gaza and the West Bank. In January of this year international aid to the Palestinians was cut off after the Hamas party won the elections, leading to extreme shortages of food and medicine, as well as other supplies and necessities. Last week, the Senate passed its version of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which proposes additional economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Palestinian people for exercising their right to vote. The Senate bill, which was approved by unanimous consent, comes on the heels of the House passing its version of the bill last month. UFPJ has signed a statement to Congress, organized by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, calling on it not to impose sanctions on the Palestinian people for voting.