500 Egyptian Activists Enter Gaza With Medical Supplies

Unlike Past Israeli Attacks, Gaza Blockade No Longer Complete

Though the Egyptian government’s change in policy toward Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip has mostly been rhetorical, the obligation of an elected government to avoid angering its own population too much has made a meaningful change on the ground.

That’s because while Egypt’s government is mostly still just playing the role of facilitator for ceasefire negotiations, civilians are taking a more pro-active role, with some 500 of them marching into Gaza today with medical supplies for the tiny enclave’s overwhelmed hospitals.

This would have been unthinkable during the 2006 Israeli attack on Gaza, or the 2008 Israeli attack on Gaza, when the Mubarak regime was cheerfully cooperating with a total Israeli embargo on supplies.

Gaza’s hospitals have been poorly supplies for years, and were woefully unprepared for the massive number of casualties the war has brought. With Egyptian aid flowing, it is possible that the percentage of wounded civilians who survive will be much greater this time.

by Jason Ditz

 

Teacher, Children Among Slain as Gaza Toll Rises

The death toll of the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip continues to rise today, with Israeli officials promising a protracted offensive and patting themselves on the back for doing so. And while the war started with the assassination of a Hamas military leader, the more recent deaths suggest the strikes are having a big impact on Gaza’s civilian population.

Israeli violence has left 24 dead and 200 wounded in Gaza. A total of three Israelis have died from rocket-fire coming out of Gaza.

Marwan Abu El Qumsan, a teacher at a UN school, is among the victims, and the UN has had to close its schools because of the growing attacks. Children were also the victims of Israeli attacks, including the 11-month-old son of BBC editor Jihad Misharawi.

The exact split between fighters and civilians in the death toll is unclear, but it seems apparent that civilians are dying at a higher rate, and the massive numbers of wounded in attacks on residential areas seem dramatically skewed toward civilian bystanders.

Egypt’s prime minister, Hesham Kandil, visited Gaza to see the destruction and draw attention to the suffering on the Palestinian side, which is unfortunately underreported.

“No one can remain still and watch this tragedy unfold in this fashion,” Kandil said. “This is impossible. The whole world must intervene, and Israel must abide by the agreements and stop the aggression.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shrugged off complaints about the civilian toll, insisting there was no “moral symmetry” between Israeli air strikes killing civilians and Gaza rocket attacks doing so. Netanyahu added that he saw a photo of a bleeding Israeli baby and this proved there was no comparison. It was unclear if he saw the pictures of Misharawi’s slain infant son.

No End in Sight as Civilians Feel Impact of War

by Jason Ditz

Israel Counted Minimum Calorie Needs in Gaza Blockade, Documents Reveal

“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” Dov Weisglass said in 2006.

The Israeli military meticulously and callously calculated the number of calories Gaza residents would need to consume in order not to starve, and used those calculations to inform how to impose a harsh economic blockade on the Palestinians, according to newly released documents.

In the January 2008 document, Israel decided to allow Gazans to eat 2,279 calories worth of food each day, as if they were dogs in a cage. They estimated therefore that they would allow 1,836 grams of food per person, per day.

The overwhelming blockade Israel imposed on Gaza, tightening restrictions on the movement of people and goods, was supposedly punishment for having Hamas in power.

“The official goal of the policy was to wage ‘economic warfare’ which would paralyze Gaza’s economy and, according to the Defense Ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government,” the Israeli human rights group Gisha, which fought the legal battle that led to the document’s release, said in a statement.

Israel’s general policy towards Gazans was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, years before the document was written.

“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” Weisglass said, claiming the hunger pangs are supposed to coerce Palestinians to force Hamas out of government.

Israel was accused of making these calculations prior to an Israeli court demanding its release on Wednesday, but they denied them outright. To have now proved themselves wrong is perhaps as embarrassing as the document’s release itself.

“How can Israel claim that it is not responsible for civilian life in Gaza when it controls even the type and quantity of food that Palestinian residents of Gaza are permitted to consume?” asked Sari Bashi, Gisha’s executive director, in a statement.

“Israel’s control over movement creates an obligation to allow free passage of civilians and civilian goods, subject only to security checks – an obligation that remains unfulfilled today.”

 

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