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Wednesday, 20 October 2004
Operation Days of Penitence

So after two weeks of killing and destruction in order the IDF says to stop Palestinians from firing Qassam rockets from Gaza, Qassams are still landing in Israel. So what was accomplished? 130 Palestinians at least were killed and dozens of houses bulldozed, thanks in part to Caterpillar armoured tractors.

Among the dead there were a large number of children including 2 school girls who were shot while they were sitting at their desks.

This is the most egregious story from the offensive though:

Israel's top military prosecutor has opened an investigation into a platoon commander whom soldiers accuse of emptying an ammunition clip into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl after earlier shooting her twice to make sure she was dead, the army said yesterday.

In media interviews, soldiers said the commander approached the girl, who they said had been shot from more than 200 feet away by soldiers who mistook her for a bomb-carrying militant entering a forbidden zone in Rafah, a Gaza Strip refugee camp.

The commander repeatedly shot the girl as they pleaded with him to stop, the soldiers said.

Iyman Hams, 13, was shot and killed Oct. 5. Initially the army had said soldiers shot and killed Hams as she planted a bomb near an army outpost in southern Gaza.

In disguised voices and without revealing their identities, soldiers told a different, chilling story to Israeli television stations Sunday night.

They said the platoon commander fired two bullets from close range at the girl, who had already been shot, to confirm that she was dead.

Two soldiers then described the commander going back a second time and spraying her with automatic-weapon fire.

The soldiers told Yediot that before the commander shot the girl they shouted to him over the two-way radio: "Don't shoot, she's a little girl."

"We saw her from a distance of 70 meters. She was fired at ... from the outpost. She fled and was wounded. I understood that she was dead.

The platoon commander neared her, shot two bullets at her, returned toward the force, turned back to her, put the weapon on automatic -- and emptied his entire clip," one soldier said.

Demolitions:

A Human Rights Watch report, entitled: "Razing Rafah -- Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip", said: "The pattern of destruction strongly suggests that Israeli forces demolished homes wholesale, regardless of whether they posed a specific threat, in violation of international law."

The New York-based organisation's executive director Kenneth Roth questioned Israel's insistence that the demolition of more than 2,500 houses over the past four years was necessary to destroy underground tunnels used by Palestinian militants to smuggle weapons into Gaza from Egypt.

Rather, he said the demolitions were about "creating a buffer zone, slice by slice" to facilitate long-term control over the Gaza Strip.

"The army is not serious, it wants to use the excuse (of tunnels) to invade, destroy and create a buffer zone," he told reporters at the launch of the report in Jerusalem.

The accusations of international law violations were echoed by Hansen as he toured the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, the main focus of the recently ended Operation Days of Penitence which left around 130 Palestinians dead in less than three weeks.

"Most of what we have seen here in Jabaliya over the last two weeks is a gross violation of international and humanitarian law," he said.

Hansen told reporters that at least 90 houses had been destroyed but added the figure was "a low estimate but will increase, I am sure, as we get more and more careful surveys".

"That means that hundreds of people -- I believe 600 to 700 -- will be added to the rows of homeless which is already 20,000 people in Gaza," he said.

The U.N. ambulances that were supposedly transporting weapons, weren't really after all.

Hansen was involved in a furious row with Israeli authorities during the offensive, when they said that UNRWA had allowed one of its ambulances to be used by Palestinian militants to transport makeshift missiles used in attacks on southern Israel.

Israel later retracted their allegations but refused to apologise to UNRWA.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:54 PM EDT
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