Israel and Hamas carried out a rhetorical battle Sunday over the fate of dueling offers to extend a ceasefire. In the end, the fighting resumed after Saturday’s 12-hour truce. Israel vowed to continue its military campaign, targeting tunnels along the border. Wary Gazans prepared as best they could for the feast that marks the end of Ramadan.
Posts Tagged ‘Israel grossman PDF’
Anne Barnard from The New York Times talks with NPR’s Eric Westervelt about the differences between the current explosion of violence in Gaza and previous ones.
Bloodshed is escalating in Baghdad as the militant group known as the Islamic State seeks to expand its territory in Iraq. NPR’s Eric Westervelt talks to reporter Alice Fordham in Erbil about life under the rule of the radical Islamic group.
hide captionSmoke rises from buildings in May after shelling on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which is currently held by anti-government fighters. Rights workers say civilians are being killed by government attacks with so-called barrel bombs.
Sadam el-Mehmedy/AFP/Getty Images
Sadam el-Mehmedy/AFP/Getty Images
Human rights groups are accusing the Iraqi government of indiscriminate bombing. Baghdad officials deny that and note they’re fighting a Sunni insurgency that commits mass executions and suicide bombings.
Yet rights workers say civilians are being killed by government attacks with so-called barrel bombs — the crude weapons made famous in Syria’s current conflict. Barrel bombs are illegal and indiscriminate explosives, packed in things like oil drums or gas cylinders.
Hospitals haven’t been spared. A doctor reached in the town of Garma in Anbar province says his hospital was destroyed by a barrel bomb and now he works in a school nearby. Many of the victims, he says, were women and children.
Other doctors contacted by NPR say they’re counting hundreds of civilians killed in several places, including Mosul, Fallujah and Baiji — casualties of barrel bombs from Iraq’s Shiite-led military.
A Terrifying Blast
Distraught and in tears, Ali Hamad can barely describe the destruction that fell from the sky last Wednesday.
The family had broken their day-long fast in the city of Fallujah in the restive Anbar province. Hamad walked out of the house and heard the hum of a helicopter, saw a barrel bomb drop, then a terrifying blast.
“I got up and screamed for my sisters and my mother,” he says. Hamad’s house was wiped out, his whole family dead — two teenage sisters, a 10-year-old brother, his mother and his uncle. He found pieces of them in the rubble. His mother’s arm was still holding her prayer beads. Hamad already lost his father during the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Next door, a family of six was gone. A grieving man cries and says he wishes he had died with them.
“I want someone to hear me, to tell the United Nations what Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki is doing to us. Why? Because we’re Sunni?” he asks.
Insurgents And Indiscriminate Bombings
Tirana Hassan, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, investigated 17 separate airstrikes, including six barrel bombs since June 6 that killed at least 75 civilians.
“The Iraqi government needs to cease all indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and foreign governments who are providing military support and assistance should only continue to support the Government of Iraq on the condition that the armed forces are compliant with international humanitarian law,” Hassan says.
Baghdad is locked in a battle with the extremists calling themselves the Islamic State who have taken over vast parts of the north and west. They’re known for extreme violence and killing innocents.
The government denies the use of barrel bombs, but they’ve been documented in Fallujah since January and are being used in other towns. Doctors in Fallujah estimate the town gets hit by barrel bombs three times a week and more than 600 civilians have been killed in strikes since January.
“A number of these barrel bombs have dropped in these civilian areas and not actually exploded,” Hassan says. “So here you have a civilian population who is trapped between insurgents on the one hand and indiscriminate bombings on the other also living with unexploded ordinances.”
And so people are fleeing in huge numbers to safer areas like Shaqlawa, northeast of Erbil. It’s a resort town where many families from Anbar fled to escape the airstrikes.
Escaping To Safety
The Nouri family fled Fallujah. Ahmed Nouri lays in a bed recovering from a strike that wounded him. He says it was a barrel bomb a month ago. It overturned his car. A scar runs down the length of his arm, another across his stomach.
“This is genocide by Maliki against the Sunni people of Fallujah,” he says.
His sister, Suad, and brother, Mohamed, sit nearby. They survived a rocket and then a barrel bombing last week and fled.
Mohamed Nouri pulls out a small pink piece of paper where he lists every strike he witnessed — July 11, July 12, the list goes on. First, the Americans came and killed us, he says, and now the leader of our own country is doing it.
hide captionDutch and Australian investigators along with members of the OSCE mission in Ukraine examine pieces of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the village of Petropavlivka, Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine on Friday.
Ukrainian forces were reportedly advancing on rebel positions near the key eastern town of Donetsk on Saturday, as they try to retake the separatist stronghold.
Donetsk is the region where Malaysia Airlines MH17 was shot down on July 17, killing nearly 300 people. Pro-Russian rebels have been blamed for downing the plane and they have hampered international efforts to access the site of the wreckage.
The Washington Post says: “Government troops are currently battling rebels in the nearby town of Horlivka and have blocked all roads leading out of Donetsk to prevent the insurgents from replenishing supplies and fighters or escaping, said Andriy Lysenko of the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council. Once Horlivka is under Ukrainian control again, he said, the army will move to retake Donetsk, a city where pro-Russian separatists have held sway for months while declaring it the Donetsk People’s Republic. The Ukrainian military has ousted rebels from 10 surrounding villages and towns in the past week.”
According to the AP, the move comes “as Ukrainian forces appear to have gained some momentum recently by retaking control of territory from the rebels. But Russia also appears to becoming more involved in the fighting, with the U.S. and Ukraine accusing Moscow of moving heavily artillery across the border to the rebels.”
As we reported earlier this week, the U.S. has said it has “new evidence” that Russian forces were lobbing artillery across the border and that Moscow was planning to ship powerful multiple rocket launcher systems to the pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.
NPR’s Corey Flintoff, reporting from Donetsk, says Ukrainian officials have been accusing Russian troops for days of firing across the border
“The allegations come as separatists appear to be losing ground in the face of a Ukrainian offensive,” Corey says.
hide captionAn Israeli army officer on Friday shows journalists a Palestinian tunnel that runs from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Israel says its current military campaign is aimed at destroying the tunnels.
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
During the current round of fighting in the Gaza Strip, Kareem, a 40-year-old Palestinian, witnessed a Hamas tunnel exposed.
“There is a chicken coop near us,” said Kareem, who lives on the eastern edge of Gaza City, bordering on farmland. “We know it’s a chicken coop.”
But an Israeli attack, which destroyed the chicken house, revealed a tunnel heading east toward Israel, he said.
“We didn’t know about it, but we faced a risk because of it,” he said.
More than a risk. The Shejaiya neighborhood where he lives was the target of first Israeli airstrikes, then intense shelling shortly after the ground invasion started. Thousands of Gazans fled their homes.
The last word Kareem heard from neighbors who left after him was that his house, from where he used to be able to see the chicken coop, had been badly damaged, if not destroyed.
The Israeli military called Shejaiya “reknowned for terrorist activity” and said troops encountered significant resistance from militant fighters there.
This week, the military published a map showing six tunnels beginning in Shejaiya snaking under the double fence at the border, and into Israel.
This is one area Israeli leaders would likely try to keep troops on the ground as long as they are able, even during a ceasefire, to shut down militant activity, including tunnels.
“We’re not willing for [Hamas] to come and meet us in our backyard,” said IDF spokesman Peter Lerner. “We want to meet them in theirs.”
Overall, Israel says its found more than 30 tunnels in Gaza since the fighting began.
A Long History Of Gaza Tunnels
Israel certainly had been aware of Gaza tunnels before this war. First, it’s an ancient practice.
In his forthcoming book, Gaza: A History, Jean-Pierre Filiu describes the “first historic reference to the loose subsoil of Gaza” during Alexander the Great’s 332 BC siege of this Mediterranean city, then under Persian rule.
Filiu writes that Alexander expected quick victory. But “the siege of Gaza involved 100 days of fruitless attacks and tunneling.” When Gaza finally fell, Alexander was infuriated and went on a vengeful rampage.
In more recent times, Palestinians subverted Israeli controls over travel, imports and exports to and from the Gaza Strip by digging tunnels to south, into Egypt.
Cars, cows, and cigarettes came through what were commonly called smuggling tunnels, although Hamas taxed what it could after it came to power 2006. Cheap Egyptian gasoline kept Gaza going when Israel fuel was too expensive. Weapons and sometimes people travelled through those commercial tunnels too.
Hamas also used a tunnel from Gaza to enter Israel and kidnap an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2006. He was held for five years, until Israel agreed to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
The tunnels to Egypt have been largely shut down in the past year, following the ouster of Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood was sympathetic to Hamas. Under the current Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt has bulldozed those tunnels, stifling the already weak Gazan economy.
hide captionA Palestinian man is lowered into a smuggling tunnel that runs beneath the Egypt-Gaza Strip border, on Sept. 11, 2013. For the past year, Egyptian forces have cracked down on smuggling tunnels which Gazans used to import a wide range of goods, including weapons.
Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Uncovering The Tunnels
The network of military tunnels snaking north and east into Israel were likely dug over several years. But they only began to be exposed in the past year or so, even as the commercial tunnels to Egypt were being shut down.
Heavy flooding last year revealed some. The Israeli military found one last fall near a kibbutz and much bigger one this spring. Extensive Israeli media coverage may have helped cement worry of infiltration in the Israeli public’s mind.
In retaliation, Israel stopped permitting concrete to be brought into Gaza — a concession that had only recently been won.
These militant tunnels are not mole holes. Some are tall enough to stand in, reinforced with concrete and equipped with electricity and phone lines in some cases.
Over the past week, Israel said its troops had at least two separate firefights with militants coming out of tunnels into Israeli territory. The military said weapons, Israeli uniforms, plastic handcuffs, and tranquilizers have been found in tunnels — tools for both potential attacks and potential kidnappings, Israel says.
Related NPR Stories
One of those tunnels emerged near Israel’s Kibbutz Nir Am, a lush gated community just a few hundred yards away from the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. Five Hamas gunmen shot dead four Israeli soldiers before they were killed themselves in a battle Monday.
“Sometimes I do my Saturday walks, I go there, and never imagined that there would be, maybe on some paths that I was walking, an opening from where terrorists could just come and attack me,” said Israeli Ben Hillel, a resident of the kibbutz. “They had heavy ammunition … so they probably wanted to enter one of the kibbutzim — in this case our kibbutz — and kill people.”
The Israeli military on Friday showed journalists another tunnel in the area that had been uncovered two months ago outside Nir Am. The tunnel was lined with concrete plates and was big enough for armed men wearing body armor to walk through, single file.
Israel says it did not realize the scope of the tunnel network until it got troops on the ground last week. This has been described by some as a “resounding security failure” demanding a public inquiry.
But before that, Israel insists the tunnels must be destroyed for peace.
Mkahimar Abusada, a Gazan political analyst says Hamas may accept that if it includes a long-term truce and opening Gaza’s borders, the militant group’s central demand.
“If there’s going to be a long ceasefire and there’s going to be an end to the siege on Gaza, why would Hamas need those tunnels anymore?” he says.
But he also says the fundamental Palestinian goal of an independent state must be addressed for tunnels to stay shut down.
“It’s not like Hamas is going to liberate Palestine by tunnels,” he says. “This conflict is going to explode again and again if the roots of this conflict are not resolved,” he said.
Emily Harris has been covering the Israeli-Palestinian fighting from Gaza. Follow her @emilygharris. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Daniel Estrin contributed reporting from Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry is trying again to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, as casualty counts rise inexorably higher. NPR’s Emily Harris is in Gaza, and she speaks to Audie Cornish about both sides’ demands.
Despite sweeping changes in the ways that the news media operate in the digital age, one thing hasn’t changed: the difficulties journalists face in covering the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s almost impossible to cover it in a way seen as fair by all sides.
Both the government and the people of Israel have been determined to continue the country’s ground invasion in Gaza, despite a growing wave of international criticism. Israelis have been shaken by claims that Hamas has a heavily fortified network of tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are offering their take on the mounting numbers of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. from Central America. They’re talking to reporters on the day before a meeting with President Obama.