Three children killed as Israel escalates Gaza attacks

14 Nov

Relatives of a slain Palestinian mourn outside of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on 13 November. [Mahmoud Ajjour APA]

By Tamara Nassar, The Electronic Intifada, 14 November 2019

The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip rose to at least 25 on Wednesday as Israel escalated its lethal attacks on the territory that began on Tuesday morning.

Three children are among those slain.

Gaza’s health ministry said that more than 85 Palestinians have been injured, including 30 children.

Israel extrajudicially executed Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata early Tuesday along with his wife, provoking an exchange of Israeli missile strikes on Gaza and rocket fire from the territory.

Israel is targeting civilian areas, homes, vehicles, stores, security sites and fields, the human rights group Al Mezan stated on Wednesday.

Some 15 schools in the Gaza Strip have been damaged as a result of the escalation, according to the territory’s education ministry.

No serious Israeli injuries have been reported as of this writing as a result of rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups in response to the Israeli attacks.

This has been the most serious military confrontation between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip in months.

Egyptian intelligence officials are attempting to broker a ceasefire, but Tel Aviv daily Haaretz said an agreement was unlikely to materialize quickly.

Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhala told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV channel that the group’s demands for a ceasefire with Israel include an end to extrajudicial assassinations and the killing of Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza boundary fence, and lifting Israel’s 12-year siege on the Strip.

Al-Nakhala said he expected an answer by Wednesday night.

Children killed

An Israeli missile strike killed a father and his two sons riding a motorcycle near their home on Wednesday morning.

Rafat Muhammad Ayyad, 54, and his sons Islam Rafat Ayyad, 24, and Amir Rafat Ayyad, 7 [pictured above] were in the al-Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza City trying to get to the nearby al-Shifa hospital when an Israeli missile hit, killing all three. [Report: Defense for Children @DCIPalestine ]

Israeli warplanes attacked another motorcycle in the al-Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City on Wednesday, killing one of its riders, Mumin Muhammad Qaddoum, 26, and severely injuring another.

Islamic Jihad stated that Qaddoum was one of its members.

Israeli strikes hit a carpentry workshop in the al-Tuffah neighborhood east of Gaza City belonging to the al-Aal family, killing five people in the store.

Three members of the al-Aal family died in the attack, including two children, Ibrahim Ayman Abd al-Aal, 17, Ismail Ayman Abd al-Aal, 16, and their older brother, Ahmad Ayman Abd al-Aal, 23.

An Israeli airstrike killed Khalid Muawad Faraj, 38, in the village of al-Maghraqa southeast of Gaza City.

Islamic Jihad stated Faraj was one of its commanders.

Collective punishment

Meanwhile, Israel continues to isolate the besieged territory, and is only allowing the entry of fuel at the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, the only place Israel allows goods in and out of Gaza.

Only medical patients, Palestinian citizens of Israel and foreign passport holders are permitted to exit from Erez, the military checkpoint separating Gaza and Israel, according to the human rights group Gisha.

Israel has completely blocked access to any waters north of Gaza’s fishing port while allowing fishers a distance of only six nautical miles elsewhere along the territory’s coast.

Hospitals in Gaza have received dozens of injured people since the Israeli attacks began despite their severely depleted supplies of vital medicines.

“More than 46 percent of essential drugs and 28 percent of medical disposables are at zero stock, meaning there is less than one month’s supply on the shelves,” the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians stated on Wednesday.

Fikr Shalltoot, the group’s director in Gaza, said the situation is “very similar to the 2014 Gaza attacks,” adding that “explosions can be heard all over Gaza.”

Hamas seeks calm

Resistance factions have established a joint operations room to coordinate their military responses to Israel’s attacks.

The groups vowed on Wednesday “to teach the enemy a lesson it will not forget” for the killing of Abu al-Ata.

But Palestinian factions do not appear to be seeking any further escalation to a confrontation that they did not start.

They stated that the Israeli public needed to recognize the “stupidity of their political and military leadership which bears the responsibility” for the disruption to Israeli civilians’ lives.

Islamic Jihad’s spokesperson Abu Hamza accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his newly appointed defense minister Naftali Bennett of concealing from the Israeli public the extent of the damage the group’s rockets had caused in Israel.

“The enemy is enforcing severe censorship of reality so that settlers wouldn’t march against Netanyahu and his war minister, and their alleged victory and fake delusions wouldn’t turn into a crushing defeat that would lead him to prison rather than forming a new government,” Abu Hamza stated.

Palestinian resistance organization Hamas is reportedly merely advising Islamic Jihad in its retaliation for the assassination of Abu al-Ata, but not joining in the fighting.

“Hamas does not want total war or for the fighting to last more than a few days,” an unnamed Hamas spokesperson told Haaretz.

“If a concrete proposal including relief of the blockade and a significant improvement for civilians is made, we can demand that Islamic Jihad restrain its fire.”

The spokesperson warned of an escalation if Israel continues to attack civilians and infrastructure.

Palestinian men inspect a poultry farm destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis southern of Gaza Strip, on November 13, 2019. [Photo by Ramadan el-agha]

United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov expressed concern over what he called a “serious escalation between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel,” on Wednesday.

Mladenov condemned the “indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars against population centers,” referring to Palestinian resistance factions, but failed to mention Israel’s targeting of civilian areas.

Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said that “the continuation of the occupation is the cause of all tension and violence,” adding that “Israel cannot achieve security through attacking Gaza.”

Safadi’s words rang hollow as evidence emerged that Jordanian warplanes were taking part in military exercises hosted by the Israeli air force at the same time that Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip.

Jordanian officials did not respond to requests for comment about those reports.

Silent progressives

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and US Democratic presidential hopeful, tweeted a one-sided condemnation of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip but said nothing about Israeli strikes on Gaza:

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is also seeking the presidency, offered similar remarks, with no mention or condemnation of Israel’s killing of Palestinians.

Leading progressive Senator Bernie Sanders, who previously said he would withhold military aid from Israel if he is elected president, had by Wednesday evening made no comment about the Israeli assault on Gaza.

In the UK, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is fighting a general election campaign, has also not commented.

Corbyn had previously been an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights, but since he assumed his party’s leadership in 2015 he has been put on the defensive by an Israel lobby smear campaign falsely accusing him of anti-Semitism.

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