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1000 Dead or Wounded in 2 Days

It’s been 48 hours since the Air Force began pounding Gaza with “Operation Cast Lead”, and already more than 1,000 people have been killed or wounded.

While the heavily populated Gaza Strip is now under attack from both the air and the sea (Israeli Navy joined the offense), civilians who tried to flee the tiny Strip into Egyptian territory have been fired on by Egyptian forces. Surviving in Gaza is a very claustrophobic ordeal.

News reports claim 300 casualties on the Palestinian side, along with 700 injured. Hospitals lack supplies and blood units. And these early numbers are probably going to rise dramatically in the coming days.

On the Israeli side, 2 men have been killed by separate rocket attacks, while a dozen others were wounded. Hundreds of thousands of residents in southern Israeli towns are compelled to stay in or near available shelters all throughout the day. Indeed, there’s enough claustrophobia to go around on both sides of the fence.

I refrain from commentary at the moment. These are simply the dry facts.

Ticking Tunnel

We’re all familiar with the term a “ticking bomb“. This morning I learned a new term: a “ticking tunnel“.

Apparently a ticking tunnel was the reason behind the operation in Gaza last night. The Israeli intelligence community warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet that the Palestinians are keen on abducting more soldiers and that they already have a tunnel (or several) in place underneath the border.

Personally, I think that’s a very legitimate reason to go out on a mission to demolish the tunnel. However, I find the mentality of a “ticking tunnel” disturbing. It’s a discourse that primes preemptive strikes, and one that broadens our militaristic viewpoint of the world. In other words, are we going to be talking about “ticking towns” and a “ticking instigator” anytime soon?

The action was probably necessary. The language is totalitarian.

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Transit Governments

  • Tzipi Livni has decided last night to forego her last attempts in assembling a parliamentary coalition. This means we’re heading into general elections within 3 to 4 months, probably somewhere in middle February 2009.
  • Municipal elections in Israel are slated for November 11.
  • While the US Presidential elections are due November 4.
  • On top of it all, Abu Mazen, president of the Palestinian Authority, is ending his term in office come January. Hamas has already declared that his people will not regarded Abu Mazzen as a legitimate president if the dejected man decides to remain in office despite the deadline. If such a scenario materializes — and there is high probability it will — then the West Bank might turn into a bloodbath between Fatah and Hamas.

Back to Olmert… As the head of a transit government, he has no public mandate to craft new policies or to resume diplomatic negotiations, yet nevertheless he is still Prime Minister for at least 3 more months.

And as of today he has to deal not only with the Iranian threat, the financial crisis, and the possibility of a looming chaos in the West Bank; but also with the growing tensions between the Settlers and the Israeli army.

If you haven’t heard yet, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) dismantled tonight a tiny unauthorized settlement outside of Hebron — that belonged to far-right-extremist Noam Federman. As a result, several people in the Jewish Settlers community called out to kill Israeli soldiers as retaliation!

Despite his lack of public or parliamentary support, and while several indictments are awaiting him in court, he has to face the threats of both a Palestinian civil conflict as well as a Jewish civil conflict.

The Turning Point ?

Qana LebanonSevere reactions to an attack by the Israeli Air Force on the Lebanese town of Qana, located 16 km east of Tyre, has provoked widespread condemnation of Israel’s continuing military operation; and may even be a major ‘turning point’ in this 19 day old war. The air raid, occurring in the early Sunday morning hours, resulted in a basement shelter filled with refugees, many of them women and children, being hit by IAF bombs with more than 60 people reported killed and injured. As the bodies were continuously pulled out of the rubble, the angry outcry has resulted in a cancellation of a planned visit to Beirut by U.S. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice. Though Israeli military authorities reported that Qana had been used to launch Katyusha rockets into Israel, the resulting death and injury and of innocent civilians has created such a strong backlash against Israel that an immediate and unconditional ceasefire is now being demanded by world leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah, who called the attack “an ugly crime”.

Condoleezza Rice Israel Defense Minister Amir Peretz has asked the IAF to investigate the cause of the attack and why this particular location (i.e. the shelter area) was attacked. This effort is not enough to placate an extremely agitated Lebanese populace who afterwards surrounded and broke into the U.N. Beirut headquarters, smashing everything they could lay their hands on, and waiving yellow Hezbollah flags, as well as shouting slogans tied to that organization.

The reverberations from this attack, called an international outrage by many, could well be Hezbollah’s “secret weapon” as they know that international public opinion is even more potent than their continuing to shoot their missiles into the Jewish State. Incidents such as this have always occurred during warfare; and a very similar one occurred in Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War when an American launched ‘smart bomb’ struck a shelter in central Baghdad, killing more than a hundred civilians. That incident, and the public outcry it created, resulted in an immediate scaling down of U.S. attacks on the Iraqi capital, and may have helped keep Saddam Hussein in power, even after his army was crushed.

Qana LebanonHezbollah has successfully used civilians to keep their enemies at bay, and even in the initial attacks on southern Beirut, Hezbollah had used heavily populated areas to launch missiles, as well as hide militiamen and arms. This may have also occurred in what will now be referred to as the ‘Qana massacre’. And regardless of the outcome of Israel’s investigation, the international condemnation pouring out, with the help of zealous news medias, will most likely result in even Ms. Rice and U.S. President Bush calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Hezbollah, especially their leader Sheikh Nasrallah, couldn’t be more pleased, and are probably already making plans on how to exploit this event to the fullest. They even know that if an international peacekeeping force is sent to S. Lebanon (most likely composed of many American combat personnel, despite being stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan) will be to Hezbollah’s advantage, as a few well- orchestrated suicide terror attacks will make this force flee like the Americans did form Beirut in 1982. And Nasrallah also knows that he doesn’t even have to fire any more of his Katyusha rockets into Israel, as the ‘missiles’ of anti- Israel public opinion have already been very successfully launched.

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