08 September 2006

The Genocide in Gaza continues with the complicit silence of the West

In today's Independent, Patrick Cockburn reports:

"Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.
A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world."

What Patrick Cockburn doesn't tell us is that in a report issued on 06 September 2006, the UNDP estimates the damage to infrastructure in Gaza caused by the Israeli Occupation Forces in just 2 months between 26 June 2006 and 28 August 2006 at US$46 million!

I quote the UNDP Press Release:

"JERUSALEM -- The UNDP's Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) released the findings of an extensive damage assessment it conducted of the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip over the past two months. Covering the damage incurred since the beginning of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operation that began on 28 June to August 27, 2006, the assessment examined physical and material damage to six sectors: municipal infrastructure, housing, public buildings, agriculture, energy and industry.

The assessment was divided across 5 distinct geographic areas in the Gaza strip, namely the officially established Governorates: Gaza, Rafah, Khan Younis, Middle and North.

The team of over 25 UNDP engineers and programme specialist, who assessed every single damaged site in the Gaza Strip, estimated that the total cost of the damage for the period between June 28 and August 27, 2006 is around US$ 46 million.

Commenting on these initial findings, the acting Special Representative of UNDP/PAPP in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt.), Ms. Minna Tyrkko stated: "As a leading development agency in the oPt., with a long history of building essential infrastructure, we felt it necessary to take stock of the physical damage incurred by in the Gaza strip in the past two months" "We would not be able to begin the process of recovery if we did not empirically know the extent of the damage," she added.

It is important to note that the figure of US$46 million reflects the actual estimated costs of damage and not estimates for the required repairs. Nor does this figure represent the total aggregated economic loss, which would be in the hundreds of millions.

Below is a breakdown of the estimates. For a full copy of the damage assessment report visit PAPP's web site at: www.undp.ps

The initial damage estimates per sector hitherto yielded are:

1. Municipal infrastructure (including bridges water and wastewater lines and roads) US$ 8 million

2. Energy (including the electricity lines and power station) US$ 8 million

3. Agriculture (including olives and citrus orchards, greenhouses, poultries and livestock farms, water wells) US$ 23.5 million

4. Housing US$ 2 million

5. Public buildings (both governmental and NGO) US$ 4.2 million; and

6. Industry US$ 0.3 million

The damage estimates per Governorate are:

1. Gaza - US$ 13.5

2. Middle - US$12 million

3. Rafah - US$ 9.6 million

4. North - US$ 6.6 million

5. Khan Younis - US$ 4.2 millions"

Patrick Cockburn also falls into the Israeli trap and accepts that this episode started, as he puts it "in the aftermath" of the "the kidnap of Cpl Gilad Shalit by Palestinians on 25 June".

This is the Israeli version of events, but the actual events are not that cut and dried as Media Lens informed us in their alert of 10 July 2006, BLAMING THE VICTIM IN GAZA:

"The media have emphasised the capture of the Israeli soldier as key in escalating tensions. On June 29, Stephen Farrell reported in The Times "a dramatic escalation of the conflict sparked by the abduction". (Farrell, 'Tanks go into Gaza as Jewish settler is murdered,' The Times, June 29, 2006)

On June 30, the Financial Times reported "the rapid escalation of the crisis sparked by last Sunday's kidnap" (Ferry Biedermann and Roula Khalaf, 'Abbas appeals to UN over arrests,' Financial Times, June 30, 2006).

The BBC described the Palestinian attack as "a major escalation in cross-border tensions". (BBC World News, June 25, 2006)

Few readers will be aware that on June 24, the day before the "kidnapping", Israeli commandos had entered the Gaza Strip and captured two Palestinians claimed by Israel to be members of Hamas. (See our Guest Media Alert by Jonathan Cook, 'Kidnapped by Israel'; )

Nor have the press suggested that the one-sided nature of the killing in the weeks leading up to the capture of the Israeli soldier might have "sparked" Palestinian actions.

On June 8, the Israeli army assassinated the recently appointed Palestinian head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, and three others. On June 9, Israeli shells killed seven members of the same family picnicking on Beit Lahiya beach. Some 32 others were wounded, including 13 children.

On June 13, an Israeli plane fired a missile into a busy Gaza City street, killing 11 people, including two children and two medics. On June 20, the Israeli army killed three Palestinian children and injured 15 others in Gaza with a missile attack. On June 21, the Israelis killed a 35-year old pregnant woman, her brother, and injured 11 others, including 6 children. Then came the Israeli capture of two Palestinians, followed by the Palestinian capture of the Israeli soldier and the killing of the two other soldiers.

After the beach deaths, Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority, broke an 18-month ceasefire and joined other militant groups in firing Kassam rockets into Israel. The Financial Times reported on June 23 that the missiles, principally targeted towards the Israel town of Sderot, have caused damage and some casualties but no fatalities in the recent barrages. A June 29 Guardian leader noted that the home-made Kassam rockets are "not in the same league as Israel's hi-tech (though not always accurate) weaponry". (Leader, 'Storm over Gaza,' The Guardian, June 29, 2006)

In an interview for Democracy Now, Norman Finkelstein, Professor of Political Science at DePaul University in Chicago, compared the lethality of Israeli and Palestinian weapons:
"Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005 'til today, the estimates run between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy artillery shells have been shot and fired into Gaza. On the Palestinian side, the estimates are approximately 1,000 Kassam missiles, crude missiles, have been fired into Israel. So we have a ratio of between seven and nine to one.

"Let's look at casualties. In the last six months, approximately 80 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza due to Israel artillery firing... There have been exactly eight Israelis killed in the last five years from the Kassam missiles. Again, we have a huge disproportion, a huge discrepancy." ('AIPAC v. Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel's Assault on Gaza,' June 29, 2006; http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/06/29/1420258)

Finkelstein also compared the situation with regard to hostages: "let's talk about those 9,000 Palestinians who are effectively hostages being held by Israel. 1,000 of them are administrative detainees... Administrative detainees who are being held without any charges or trial. And the other 8,000 are being held after military courts have convicted them, almost always on the basis of confessions which were extracted by torture. So if we're going to look simply at the numbers, we have one hostage on the Palestinian side, and effectively we have about 9,000 on the Israeli side."

Earlier this month, the Israeli human rights organisation, B'Tselem, published fatality figures for June 2006 in the Occupied Territories and Israel. Forty-two Palestinians, six of them minors, were killed by Israeli armed forces. Twenty-four of the fatalities were bystanders not involved in the conflict. (http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/EKOI-6RC53K?OpenDocument&rc=3&cc=isr )

B'Tselem's figures do not include the seven members of the Ghaliya family killed on Beit Lahiya beach. However, a June 17 report by Donald Macintyre in the Independent "cast doubt on crucial elements of the conclusion of the military investigation which absolved Israel of any responsibility". (Macintyre, 'Hospital casts doubt on Israel's version of attack that killed seven Palestinians,' The Independent, June 17, 2006)

According to B'Tselem, in May 2006, 36 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, one Israeli civilian died from injuries he sustained the previous month. At time of writing, Israeli soldiers have killed a total of six Palestinians since the re-invasion.

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