The UN has protested to Israel “in the strongest possible terms” over collateral deaths and damage at two UN buildings, expressing deep concern about the safety of UN personnel and installations and requesting “specific and immediate undertakings regarding their security.”
Eight students aged 18 to 20 at an UNRWA training centre who were waiting for UN buses to take them home were killed and 19 injured on Saturday from the blast of a missile that targeted policemen standing near a government building. Also, the Gaza headquarters of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) was damaged today when the adjacent presidential guesthouse was hit, and seven vehicles were totally or partially destroyed.
“UN premises must be protected and inviolate,” UNSCO said in a statement. “The Government of Israel has all coordinates of UN premises in Gaza. These strikes occurred without prior warning. Military attacks in these circumstances, so close to UN premises as to recklessly endanger UN personnel and property, must not be repeated.”
The more independent people within the UN are direct:
UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk said the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza represent “severe and massive violations” of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions.
“Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful,” he noted in a statement. “But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign State, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response.”
General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, in a statement issued last night, said that “the behaviour by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful State against a territory that [it] illegally occupies.”
He stated that “the time has come to take firm action if the UN does not want to be rightly accused of complicity by omission.”
NY Times: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak described the bombings as “an all-out war on Hamas and its kind.”
Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general and a military analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, said the point of the conflict was for Israel to exact the best conditions it could in a future ceasefire with Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls Gaza after winning Palestinian elections three years ago.
"The military operation is changing the dynamic, making it clear to Hamas that it is going to pay a very high cost for violations of the ceasefire," Brom said. "I think Hamas deluded itself by thinking Israel is kind of paralysed because of its political system or the possible reaction of its population to some suffering."
For nearly six months until mid-December Israel and Hamas held a ceasefire in Gaza, although it broke down in the final weeks with violations on both sides. Now both Hamas and some Israeli leaders have said they are not willing to return to a ceasefire deal.
Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, told Fox News on Saturday when the bombing began: "For us to be asked to have a ceasefire with Hamas is like asking you [the US] to have a ceasefire with al-Qaida. It's something we cannot really accept."
Despite his words, the reality is that a new ceasefire agreement is probably the best Israel could hope to achieve. As Alex Fishman, a columnist in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, put it bluntly today: "The answer to the question of what we want is simple: To stop the fire. In order to stop the fire, we have to reach an arrangement, and in order to persuade Hamas to reach an arrangement, we are now breaking its bones – among other reasons, so that the price it demands will not be high," he wrote. "But we have not yet decided, amongst ourselves, what price we are willing to pay."
Yet there are others who raise broader questions about Israel's policy towards Gaza, particularly in the past three years since Hamas won the surprise electoral victory.
Yossi Alpher, a former senior official at Mossad and a military commentator, agreed that Israel was seeking a ceasefire on more acceptable terms. But he was critical of the tough economic blockade Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip in recent years, limiting imports to humanitarian supplies and preventing all exports, a policy that has all but wiped out private industry and brought Gaza's economy to collapse.
"The economic siege of Gaza has not produced any of the desired political results," he said. "It has not manipulated Palestinians into hating Hamas, but has probably been counter-productive. It is just useless collective punishment."
I saw PM wannabe, Livni, on Al Jazeera (of all places) last night defending the Gaza assault - not talking about security and safety from rockets but of "peace and quiet." She was the one making them out to be "glorified skyrockets" the way she was talking. As for her ridiculous agenda of "changing the equation" and altering "the facts on the ground" - it was nonsense. Her Orwellian bullshit about wanting peace as she has oversees the slaughter of hundreds is preposterous. Not only is overthrowing Hamas unachievable (I'm sure they bombed the prison with the intention that the fatah prisoners might escape), the proposition that the Israelis can maintain their blockade of Gaza under even stricter cease-fire terms makes a Hamas concession politically and popularly impossible.
So why is the government of Israel doing this?
Only by being in a constant state of conflict can the militants stay in power - this goes equally for both Hamas and the Israeli State. That's the way the game is set.
Israel demands everything on their own terms, while the US runs interference - roping in the other Arab states (dictatorships for the most part) to side with Israel. This encourages and enables Israel to attack wantonly and to break cease-fires in order to do so. Israel wants to determine which Palestinian government it deals with rather than accept the legitimate democratically elected Hamas one in Gaza. And no government in Gaza - of whatever party - would ever agree to subject themselves to more of the strangulation that Israel has enforced upon them already.