Getting catastrophe down to a science.

Author:Cox, Stan
Position:Thinking Politically - Gaza strip conflict - Essay

A cease-fire between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the military wing of Hamas has gotten Israeli troops out of Gaza, at least for now. But the 23-day air-and-ground campaign by Israeli forces killed more than 1300 Palestinians--one-third of them children--while destroying around 4000 homes, leaving 50,000 people homeless, and racking up an estimated $1.9 billion worth of further damage in an already-devastated place. (1)

Ten Israeli combatants were killed, four of them accidentally by their own troops. Rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinians killed three civilians in Israel.

The IDF said they will keep large forces on the border with Gaza, and, they told a Ha 'aretz reporter that if Hamas or other groups fire any more rockets, IDF will launch another "massive, disproportionate assault. "(2) A post-cease-fire analysis by the New York Times concluded that in trying to cow its enemies, the Israel government likes to cultivate an image of itself as "a madman who cannot be controlled." After the carnage of the four-week assault, it won't be difficult to convince the Palestinians of that.

When it comes to "disproportionate assaults," the IDF are world champions. Among the targets they bombed during this most recent onslaught:

* Gaza police compound during a graduation ceremony, killing at least a dozen fresh graduates.

* a television station and other media outlets

* mosques

* the Engineering Department of the Islamic University

* three United Nations (UN) schools that were serving as makeshift refugee centers

* a UN warehouse facility for humanitarian supplies

* a hospital

* a shopping center

* a fruit market

* the library at Azhar University

* ambulances

* the Palestinian parliament

In destroying the UN warehouse compound, Israeli forces reportedly used white-phosphorus explosives. (3) Use of white phosphorus is banned in international law, except to create smokescreens during combat; civilian sites are, of course, off-limits altogether. John Ging, head of UN relief operations in Gaza, explained why the entire warehouse complex was destroyed by the bombs: "These are phosphorus fires, so they are extremely difficult to put out, because if you put water on it, it will just generate toxic fumes and do nothing to stop the burning." The fires destroyed thousands of tons of food and medical supplies.

Earlier use of white phosphorus, in attacks on Gaza city and the Jabalya refugee camp on January 9-11, (4) had left at least 55 people with...

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