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Friday, 15 August 2014

Munitions Madness: Procurement and Disposal


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 Me holding what I believe is an unexploded drone's missile. This what Israel uses to warn people to evacuate. And yes, it kills: photo by Dr Bassel Abuwarda via twitter, 8 August 2014

Arma virumque cano...
Virgil, Aeneid, Book One

Shadow Government
 
Gaza Crisis: Israel Outflanks the White House on Strategy: White House Now Scrutinizing Israeli Requests for Ammunition: Adam Entous, The Wall Street Journal, 14 August 2014


JERUSALEM -- White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.

Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it.

The munitions surprise and previously unreported U.S. response added to a string of slights and arguments that have bubbled behind the scenes during the Gaza conflict, according to events related by senior American, Palestinian and Israeli officials involved. 

In addition, current and former American officials say, U.S.-Israel ties have been hurt by leaks that they believe were meant to undercut the administration's standing by mischaracterizing its position and delay a cease-fire. The battles have driven U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.


Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House in 2010

Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House in 2010. If the US leader is inclined to make nice with his Israeli counterpart, one possibility is a visit to Israel in 2013: photo by Jason Reed/Reuters, 12 November 2012



Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.

U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal.

As a 72-hour pause in the fighting expired at midnight Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said negotiators agreed to another cease-fire, this one of five days. The cease-fire was holding on Thursday.

The frayed relations raise questions about whether Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu can effectively work together. Relations between them have long been strained over other issues, including Mr. Obama's outreach to Iran and U.S.-backed peace talks with the Palestinians.

Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict -- the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years -- has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy.

Israeli officials, in turn, describe the Obama administration as weak and naive, and are doing as much as they can to bypass the White House in favor of allies in Congress and elsewhere in the administration.

While Israeli officials have privately told their U.S. counterparts the poor state of relations isn't in Israel's interest long term, they also said they believed Mr. Netanyahu wasn't too worried about the tensions. The reason is that he can rely on the firmness of Israeli support in Congress, even if he doesn't have the White House's full approval for his policies. The prime minister thinks he can simply wait out the current administration, they say.

"The allegations are unfounded," said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. "Israel deeply appreciates the support we have received during the recent conflict in Gaza from both the Obama administration and the Congress for Israel's right to defend itself and for increased funding of Iron Dome."

A senior Obama administration official said the White House didn't intend to get into a "tit for tat" with the Israelis when the war broke out in Gaza. "We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend," the official said. "The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."

American officials say they believe they have been able to exert at least some influence over Mr. Netanyahu during the Gaza conflict. But they admit their influence has been weakened as he has used his sway in Washington, from the Pentagon and Congress to lobby groups, to defuse U.S. diplomatic pressure on his government over the past month.


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Israel has turned Gaza into a minefield of unexploded munitions. Who's going to pick them up? : photo by Dr Bassel Abuwarda via twitter, 8 August 2014


Tensions really started to flare after Israel launched Gaza ground operations July 17 and the civilian death toll started to rise sharply, prompting U.S. officials to complain that Israel wasn't showing enough restraint. Israeli officials rejected that notion, saying Hamas was using civilians as human shields.

U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu told them he was interested in a cease-fire from the start, but the two sides clashed over the process of achieving one and the players who would take part.

Bracing for a longer military campaign than expected, Israel approached the Defense Department within days of the start of the ground fighting to request money for more interceptors for the Iron Dome, which shoots down rockets aimed at population centers.

After consulting with the White House, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told aides to submit a proposal to Congress for $225 million.

Within the administration, the request was deemed noncontroversial because the Iron Dome was defensive and couldn't be used in Gaza ground fighting, U.S. officials said.

In meetings at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House, Israeli officials told the Americans Israel had enough Iron Dome interceptors for the current Gaza operation, but wanted to replenish its stocks, according to U.S. officials who attended. So with Israel's consent, the administration didn't seek immediate emergency funding, Pentagon officials said, adding that they expected Congress to approve the request sometime in the fall.

Unknown to many policy makers, Israel was moving on separate tracks to replenish supplies of lethal munitions being used in Gaza and to expedite approval of the Iron Dome funds on Capitol Hill.

On July 20, Israel's defense ministry asked the U.S. military for a range of munitions, including 120-mm mortar shells and 40-mm illuminating rounds, which were already kept stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.

The request was approved through military channels three days later but not made public. Under the terms of the deal, the Israelis used U.S. financing to pay for $3 million in tank rounds. No presidential approval or signoff by the secretary of state was required or sought, according to officials.

A U.S. defense official said the standard review process was properly followed.

While the military-to-military relationship between Israel and the U.S. was operating normally, ties on the diplomatic front were imploding. For the Americans, they worsened dramatically on July 25, when aides to Secretary of State John Kerry sent a draft of a confidential cease-fire paper to Mr. Netanyahu's advisers for feedback.

The Americans wanted the Israelis to propose changes. The U.S. didn't intend or expect the draft paper to be presented to the Israeli cabinet, but that was what Mr. Netanyahu did. U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu's office breached protocol by sending back no comments and presenting the paper to the cabinet for a vote.

The paper was also leaked to the Israeli media. U.S. officials say they believe the Israeli government publicly mischaracterized Mr. Kerry's ideas with the intent of buying more time to prosecute the fight against Hamas because Israeli officials were angry over outreach by Mr. Kerry to Qatar and Turkey.

Israel and Egypt had sought to sideline Qatar and Turkey—two countries that backed Hamas—rather than increase their influence. U.S. officials say Mr. Kerry reached out to the two because they had leverage with Hamas that would be critical to getting the group to agree to another cease-fire.

From Israel's perspective, Mr. Kerry's cease-fire draft reflected an approach "completely out of sync with Israel, not just on a governmental level but on a societal level," said Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. under Mr. Netanyahu.

"The best thing that Kerry can do is stay out... We need time to do the job, we need to inflict a painful and unequivocal blow on Hamas. Anything less would be a Hamas victory," Mr. Oren said.

The watershed moment came in the early morning in Gaza July 30. An Israeli shell struck a United Nations school in Jabaliya that sheltered about 3,000 people. Later that day, it was reported in the U.S. that the 120-mm and 40-mm rounds had been released to the Israeli military.

"We were blindsided," one U.S. diplomat said.

White House and State Department officials had already become increasingly disturbed by what they saw as heavy-handed battlefield tactics that they believed risked a humanitarian catastrophe capable of harming regional stability and Israel's interests.

They were especially concerned that Israel was using artillery, instead of more precision-guided munitions, in densely populated areas. The realization that munitions transfers had been made without their knowledge came as a shock.

"There was no intent to blindside anyone. The process for this transfer was followed precisely along the lines that it should have," another U.S. defense official said.

Then the officials learned that, in addition to asking for tank shells and other munitions, Israel had submitted a request through military-to-military channels for a large number of Hellfire missiles, according to Israeli and American officials.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, was about to release an initial batch of the Hellfires, according to Israeli and congressional officials. It was immediately put on hold by the Pentagon, and top officials at the White House instructed the DSCA, the U.S. military's European Command and other agencies to consult with policy makers at the White House and the State Department before approving any additional requests.



imagine the level of trauma and pain to this little boy is going through: photo by abdallahsalsadi on twitter, 8 August 2014


A senior Obama administration official said the weapons transfers shouldn't have been a routine "check-the-box approval" process, given the context. The official said the decision to scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels amounted to "the United States saying 'The buck stops here. Wait a second…It's not OK anymore.' "

White House and State Department officials were worried about public reaction.

The Palestinians, in particular, were angry, according to U.S. diplomats.

"The U.S. is a partner in this crime," Jibril Rajoub, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Western-backed Fatah party, said of the decision to provide arms to Israel during the conflict.

Even as tensions with the White House and the State Department were spilling over, Israeli officials worked to expedite the Iron Dome money on Capitol Hill.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Israeli officials told lawmakers the money was urgently needed because they were running out of interceptors and couldn't hold out for a month or more.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Congress's goal in approving the money quickly on Aug. 1 was to send a message to the administration to stop calling Israel out about civilian casualties.

A senior Republican congressional aide said Israeli officials told senators they wanted the money sooner rather than later. He said Israel's main purpose in accelerating the vote in Congress to before legislators' August recess was to provide an overwhelming "show of support" for the military operation.

The last straw for many U.S. diplomats came on Aug. 2 when they say Israeli officials leaked to the media that Mr. Netanyahu had told the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, that the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" about how to deal with Hamas.

The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy. They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.

Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review -- slowing the approval process and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.

A senior U.S. official said the U.S. and Israel clashed mainly because the U.S. wanted a cease-fire before Mr. Netanyahu was ready to accept one. "Now we both want one," one of the officials said.

A top Israeli official said the rift runs deeper than that. "We've been there before with a lot of tension with us and Washington. What we have now, on top of that, is mistrust and a collision of different perspectives on the Middle East," the official said. "It's become very personal."


AFP_523387956_58840820

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama at the White House: photo by Saul Loeb / AFP, 2012

‘My wife thinks I will come home in a box’ –- and three days later Gaza bomb disposal expert was dead

Rahed Taysir al'Hom

Rahed Taysir al-Hom has died after a 500kg bomb he tried to defuse exploded: photo by Sean Smith for the Guardian, 8 August 2014

Rahed Taysir al-Hom headed northern Gaza’s only bomb disposal unit. He spoke to the Guardian just days before he was killed by a 500kg explosive 

Jason Burke in Gaza City, The Guardian, Wednesday 13 August 2014 09.49 EDT

Rahed Taysir al-Hom was buried in the sandy soil of the cemetery of Jabaliya, the rough Gaza neighbourhood where he had grown up, at 1pm on the third day of the ceasefire.

His funeral was quick, attended by a hundred or so mourners, and accompanied by a short sermon from a white-turbaned cleric, a sobbing father and some shots fired from a Kalashnikov by a skinny teenager.

Two breeze blocks and a ripped piece of cardboard with his name scrawled on it now mark the grave of a personable man with an easy smile, hollow eyes and a quiet intensity that was entirely understandable given his job.

The 43-year-old father of seven lies next to his brother, a Hamas fighter killed in an Israeli air strike two weeks ago. But the Hom who died on Wednesday was not a warrior. He was head of the sole bomb disposal unit of Gaza’s northern governorate and his job was to protect several hundred thousand people from the unexploded ordnance that now litters the streets, fields and rubble of many homes.

Hom, who died when a 500kg bomb he was trying to defuse exploded at 10.30am on Wednesday, was an incidental casualty of a month-long war that no one seems able to stop.

Three of his colleagues and two journalists were killed with him. He was well aware of the risks he was taking but believed in his work.

One day last week, while the last tenuous ceasefire held in Gaza, Hom received 70 calls. In this conflict alone, he had dealt with 400 “objects”.
 

Hom made safe ordnance for five of his 20 years in the Gaza police force. Photograph: Sean Smith

 Hom made safe ordnance for five of his 20 years in the Gaza police force: photo by Sean Smith for the Guardian, 8 August 2014

“I try to do as much as I can,” he said at the weekend as he drove from site to site in the northern town of Beit Lahia, accompanied by the Guardian.

“Every time I hear that someone has been injured by a bomb on the ground I feel very sorry. This is my responsibility. But we are very limited and don’t have proper equipment. My wife thinks I will come home one day in pieces in a box.”

Hom had been defusing bombs, rockets and shells for five of his 20 years in the Gaza police. He had some training from international experts but gained most of his skills “on the job”.

He had no protective clothing and used basic tools -- screwdrivers, pliers and cutters -- as he worked to make everything safe, be it Hamas rockets which had fallen short of their mark or bombs dropped by Israeli warplanes.

Helmets, body armour and screening devices, supplied after the last conflict in 2012, had worn out or were broken.

“We have been working all the time,” he said. “There is a danger to people when there is a bomb in their house. It is risky, of course, but we have to do it.

“So far we have had no injuries in my team, praise be to God,” he added, though one of the team had been killed in an air strike at home a month ago.

Over the weekend, before the latest ceasefire came into force, Hom dealt with a dozen or so urgent incidents. His work was slowed by frequent pauses as Israeli missiles hissed overhead, sometimes exploding only a few hundred metres away.

In Beit Lahiya, he defused a 1,000kg bomb that had landed in a bike repair shop. Hossein Rabieh Salem, the 48-year-old owner, had been sleeping for several nights with his family of 18, above the storeroom and the live weapon. “Where can I go? I shut my eyes and trust in God,” Salem said.


Hom was working amid a heap of explosives – with minimal to no protection. Photograph: Sean Smith

Hom was working amid a heap of explosives –- with minimal to no protection: photo by Sean Smith for the Guardian, 8 August 2014


Unable to immediately render the bomb safe, Hom assured the worried mechanic he would return with a truck to pick it up and transport it to the football field opposite his police station where all the ordnance -- defused or live -- was dumped. There, in untidy piles, lay shells and bombs and Hamas rockets, glinting in the strong Gaza sun.

Among them was a bomb lifted, still live, from the home of the Filfils in a quiet residential neighbourhood in the north of Beit Lahiya.

Jazia Filfil, 60, remembered how, as the dust began to clear from her living room after the air strike last month, she saw a huge metal object half buried in the rubble where a three-piece suite had once been. She had no idea what it was.

“They dropped a truck on our home,” she shouted to her husband and sons. When the family worked out that the object was no truck, they called Hom.

“He is very brave but he was very slow in coming. We had the bomb in our house for weeks,” Filfil said on Sunday. Hom, listening, laughed away the complaint, joking that his “customers” were never happy.

Over a lunch of beef kebabs, snatched rapidly down a Beit Lahiya side street, Hom spoke about his worried wife, his two sons and five daughters, and his wider family.

His 33-year-old brother died in an air strike two weeks ago, he said. Abdel Jawad al-Hom had joined the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, after another brother had died following imprisonment in an Israeli jail in the early 1990s when Hamas had set out to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.




This is Gaza thanks to Israhell: photo bi Eddie DiFruscia on twitter, 15 August 2014


“He was very angry and joined as a teenager, maybe he was only 12 or 13, and rose up the ranks. He was a commander in the Beit Lahiya area. He was in a friend’s house on the frontlines when it was bombed and was martyred with two other fighters,” al-Hom said.

So far the conflict has killed 1,900 people in Gaza, mostly civilians. The UN has said that around 200 fighters from Hamas and other groups have been killed. Israeli officials say the total is much higher.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have died. Three civilians in Israel have been killed by rocket fire.

On Wednesday, as Hom set out to defuse the 500kg bomb which killed him, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were continuing indirect talks in Cairo aimed at a putting a durable ceasefire in place.

The explosion was so loud it was heard five miles away, said Maher Halewi, the chief of Hom’s police station. Doctors at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City were working to save the lives of four men wounded in the blast who remained in a critical condition on Wednesday afternoon. The al-Shifa, like hospitals across Gaza, is chronically short of medical supplies after treating thousands of wounded during the conflict.


The funeral of Rahed Taysir al-Hom.

The funeral of Rahed Taysir al-Hom: photo by Sean Smith for the Guardian, 13 August 2014

Within two hours of his death, Hom’s remains were taken to the Beit Lahiya hospital and then to the al-Auda mosque in Jabaliya. After noon prayers and a blessing, a procession jogged through the crowded streets, past the donkey carts, the fruit stalls and the battered Mercedes taxis to the cemetery.

A crackling voice from a loudspeaker a block away called people to a Hamas rally this afternoon to show support for the Palestinian delegation in Cairo.

An Israeli drone buzzed overhead.

Relatives shovelled sand over Hom’s remains, wetted the mound with water from a plastic jerry can and stood back, forming a line to shake hands with the mourners.


 Crowds carry Rahed Taysir al-Hom to be buried next to his brother in the Gaza cemetery of Jabaliya.

The crowd carries Rahed Taysir al-Hom to be buried next to his brother in the Gaza cemetery of Jabaliya
: photo by Sean Smith for The Guardian, 12 August 2014 

  

The cleric called for “revenge on the Jews” and for the blessing of God on the deceased and on the community. Shots rang out as the skinny teenager raised his Kalashnikov once more. Then, within minutes, it was over and the mourners were gone.



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Me holding what I believe is an unexploded drone's missile. This what Israel uses to warn people to evacuate. And yes, it kills: photo by Dr Bassel Abuwarda via twitter, 8 August 2014

8 comments:

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

Inna Lazareva in Jerusalem4:20PM BST 15 Aug 2014

A 91-year-old Dutch man who was awarded a prestigious honour by the State of Israel for his family's role in saving a Jewish child from the Holocaust has returned his prize after six of his relatives were killed in Gaza.

In 2011 the Israeli authorities declared Henk Zanoli 'Righteous Among the Nations' – a title bestowed upon non-Jews who helped save Jews from the Holocaust. During the Nazi occupation of Holland Mr Zanoli's family had helped shelter a young boy until the Allied liberation in 1945.

But Mr Zanoli returned his prize to the Israeli embassy in the Netherlands after hearing that six of his relatives had been killed during an attack on their home in Gaza.

In a moving letter addressed to the Israeli ambassador and published in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, he said: "For me to hold on to the honour granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on."

Mr Zanoli's father was deported from Holland and subsequently died in the Dachau concentration camp due to his outspoken opposition to the German occupation.

"After the horror of the Holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a national home", wrote Mr Zanoli.

"Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews.

On Sunday July 20 an Israeli fighter jet dropped a bomb on the family home of Ismail Ziadah, the husband of Mr Zanoli's great-neice. According to Haaretz the strike killed the family matriarch, Muftiyah, 70, three of her sons, Jamil, Omar and Youssef, Jamil's wife, Bayan and their 12-year-old son, Shaaban.

"The great- great grandchildren of my mother have lost their grandmother, three uncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli army", added Mr Zanoli.

TC said...

Abdal-Hayy,

Many thanks. Henk Zanoli was to be the third part of this post, but wrestling it up there... well, we had to cut losses. That was a loss.

This is feeling like a long war, with many losses.

It appears the Gaza bomb squad actually lost more than one member to the madness of arms. The same blast that killed Rahed Taysir Ali al-Hom took the lives of a number of other members of the bomb disposal team (there are varying reports as to who was leading the squad), as well as that of a journalist. A photographer whose work has appeared here was also injured by shrapnel.

And as this is writ, a thousand tons of unexploded Israeli munitions remain on the ground in Gaza.

TC said...

By the way, Dr Bassel Abuwarda, who is seen cradling the unexploded Israeli ordnance in the top and bottom photos, is a man who has spent the better part of the past six weeks attempting to remove bits of diabolical gifts like these from the flesh of humans -- children, women and men -- in Gaza.

Wooden Boy said...

It's very good to hear about Rahed Tasir Ali Al-Hom: unimaginable courage; terrible loss.

The idea of Egypt and the US brokering peace dealsis beyond satire.

TC said...

Yes, that's difficult to imagine.

And for that matter, with his present weak hand, it's hard to see how the POTUS is going to be able to broker anything, at this point, save perhaps a helicopter escape from office; he begins to give off that kind of dead-man-standing emanation that customarily envelops the political loser / scapegoat like a noxious cloud -- and to be honest, when I see him in a room with Bad-News Bibi, the trembling sympathy for all underdogs which annoyingly haunts the fossilized heart wants to dodder out of the crypt, offer him a tissue and a gentle pat on the back and tell him it's all just a bad dream, things will be be ok in the morning.

But things won't, and they will be less ok for us than for him, so best not overdo the sympathy.

The atmosphere of denial and avoidance in this country has already allowed the distracting and confusing suffering of the people in Gaza to be filed away under yesterday's news, and tomorrow's fresh set of wars, so it probably should not be too surprising that the silence on this WSJ piece is deafening... everywhere but in Israel, where there is that lamentable continuous persecution-complex whinging, a new arch-adversary appearing with each turning of the road. It was the Hildebeest, than it was Kerry, now Obama.

"How dare the man withhold weapons from us?! Who does he think he is!!"

It seems to be assumed that with the neocons and the scariest elements of the insatiable military industry now arrayed against him, Obama hasn't a hope; that Bibi will win out, eat him up and spit him out without missing a beat, then acquire all the hideous weaponry he wants and claims he needs from whoever it is does the dirty work of disposing of the now manifestly disposable O'B.

But really it's the tearing of flesh and mangling of body parts achieved by these calculating killers without a by-your-leave that affects one so much more than the sordid in-your-face realpolitik, the macabre antic aspect of it all.

TC said...

Meanwhile, still piecing together the reports on the chaos of the Wednesday ordnance-dump blasts... Details somewhat sketchy as to the members of the bomb squad, more attention to the foreign journalist (Italian) who was killed. Jason Burke at least recognizes the courage. The Western media are routinely patronizing about everything to do with Gazan infrastructure (what shreds of it remain). This from the Washington Post (William Booth, 13 August):
__

An Associated Press video journalist and his Palestinian translator were killed in series of explosions at an ordnance dump as they were reporting a story about Gaza’s efforts to dispose of a mountain of deadly debris left behind after a month of war.

The Italian journalist, Simone Camilli, and interpreter, Ali Shehda Abu Afash, were killed alongside four members of the Gaza police force’s bomb disposal unit.

The Gaza bomb technicians, who are mostly self-taught and lack even basic safety equipment, were attempting to defuse an unexploded ordnance, the silent killers that can linger for years after armed conflict ends.

The Israeli Defense Forces hit more than 4,860 sites in Gaza during four weeks of fighting. Many sites were struck repeatedly by a barrage of ordnance...

*

The bomb squad not only lacks electronics and robots, but also forgoes protective gear. They defuse bombs in sites crowded with onlookers and store unexploded ordnance in make-shift depots in residential areas, including one site next to a United Nations school in the Nuseirat neighborhood...

The deadly explosion Wednesday took place in a sandy lot across the street from a fortified police station in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. The unsecured dump was protected by a few strands of barbed wire and a drop cloth.

Police at the scene said all the ordnance was gathered during the current operation, although some of the casings appeared older. They said it was all fired by the Israelis, but it was possible the site contained some munitions left behind by Hamas...,

Three others were badly injured at the scene, including Associated Press photographer Hatem Moussa, from Gaza, who was listed in serious condition and evacuated to an Israeli hospital.

“We heard a large explosion, then a series of explosions, big and small, and we ran here from the police station,” said Lt. Rabah Hijazi, a Gaza police officer who was stationed across the street. “We saw people on the ground. They were calling for help.”

At the scene, beside the piles of artillery shells, scattered like trash, were dark stains in the dirt and a camera lens cover.

*

[Before the event, one police officer from the bomb disposal squad had] ... estimated that there were 2,000 unexploded munitions in Gaza, including shells fired by Israeli tanks, artillery batteries and gunboats, and missiles from Apache helicopters, armed drones and F-16s.

A senior spokesman for the Israeli military, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said the army was not commenting on Wednesday’s explosion. He said that Israel had no plans to assist in the disposal of unexploded ordnance. “There is some international effort ongoing to do that, but it has not yet been put into action,” he said.

Maureen said...

One particular word in the account about Mr. Al-Hom's death is "incidental". The dictionary definition adds the word "minor". No loss of life is incidental, and certainly not in this detestable war.

That estimate of unexploded munitions: imagine how many more lives there would be / still may be lost because of these weapons.

That statement about DOS and the White House being caught off guard outrages me to the same extent I'm outraged to learn how city and county police forces here in the States have gained access to military-grade weapons such as were shown to be used in Ferguson. Seeing those images from Ferguson reminded me once again of the '60s and early '70s in this country when we turned against ourselves. What have we become, as individuals, as a nation?!

TC said...

Maureen,

I hear you. It's quite a stretch to call any death or harm that comes from the use of weaponry "incidental" (or coincidental, or accidental for that matter), when obviously a weapon has no other purpose than to kill or harm. Where there are weapons, there will be harm. The more numerous and powerful the weapons, the greater the harm. The extremely sophisticated weapons produced now, for the great profit of weapons makers and war strategists and war mechanics, are capable of inflicting a volume and complexity of harm not seen before, even in the long sordid history of warfare.

And these weapons do not cease to be dangerous even if they do not explode upon impact. It's estimated that 18-20 thousand tons of explosives have fallen in Gaza over the past six weeks. At least a thousand tons have not yet blown up. But they will blow up, and when they do many will be harmed and killed. We've seen the compassionate view of the Israelis -- "it's your problem," they brazenly declare in the face of those who must now live with a very big problem which the Israelis created, then walked away from.

Hurt somebody weaker, then walk away. SOP.

And of course these weapons are always produced and dispatched at a distance from their targets (whether from a command bunker hundreds of miles away, or from the armoured sanctuary of a tank the size of a small factory), so that the whole matter is distanced to a safe remove from the perpetrators, and may be relayed back in turn to those who are paying for it all (that is, US taxpayers) as something remote, hygienic, antiseptic -- and salutary at that, as these "bad guys" who are being shot at are always presented to us as different, dangerous, alien to our values, threatening to our famous "freedoms", and so on.

The freedom we actually have is the freedom to stand by passively for the conduct of wars, assist in the conduct of wars by not objecting to them, take a more active part in the conduct of wars by paying for them, and finally -- our most wonderful freedom -- to provide a willing and appreciative (that is, gaping and ingenuous) audience for wars, as they are continually devised and executed at that safe abstract distance and then relayed back to us via network media (whose raison d'être is unquestioning service to the war machine).

Doubtless that part of the world upon which the West has descended historically in an ongoing global plunder operation, routinely depleting the resources that are thought useful and profitable, meanwhile manipulating and destroying the populations as convenient, will remain a "trouble spot" as long as the imbalance of power separating bullies from everybody else on the planet remains in place. And at present that gap not only appears well in place, but expanding every day, with each new airstrike -- indeed, will there come a day in our lifetimes when the "major powers" are not conducting an airstrike somewhere?

For better or worse it's one world now. Ferguson is not Gaza nor even the West Bank, but to suppose that a universal contagion of rage on the part of oppressed peoples can be effectively suppressed by stamping out the local manifestations one by one... well, isn't that exactly the sort of blind short-term thinking that most endangers the world right now -- and also exactly the form of thinking that qualifies politicians to be politicians, now or at any time?