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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Déluge de feu sur le peuple de Gaza

by Pierre Barbancey

The People of Gaza under a Deluge of Fire

Middle East: The massacre is at its peak; Israel’s aggression takes a heavy toll among Gazan civilians; its army meets with fierce resistance from the united people.

Translated Saturday 10 January 2009, by Isabelle Métral

Progress is difficult for Israeli soldiers, despite the tons of bombs dropped on the 1.5 million Palestinians that live in the Gaza strip, despite the massive, unrestrained destructions and shameless killings. All the Palestinian factions have joined in the armed fight, the communist militants of the PPP (Palestinian People’s Party) included – as has been confirmed to us.

From our special correspondent on the border of the Gaza Strip [1]

A thick plume of smoke dims the sky. Have the air-force’s heavy strikes, the ceaseless whirr of the tanks’ massive gun turrets and armoured ships’ heavy artillery, and the whistling rockets fired from combat helicopters had the better of the pocket of Palestinian resistance that is trying to block the advance of Israeli troops in the neighbourhood of Beit Lahiya, in the north of the Gaza strip? It is hard to tell. What is sure, however, is that progress is difficult for Israeli soldiers, despite the tons of bombs dropped on the 1.5 million Palestinians that live in the Gaza strip, despite the massive, unrestrained destructions and shameless killings. All the Palestinian factions have joined in the armed fight, the communist militants of the PPP (Palestinian People’s Party) included – as has been confirmed to us.

There are clashes in practically all the sectors of the Gaza strip – Walid Al Awad, who lives less than 550 yards away from the sea, confirmed to l’Humanité that Israeli tanks had still not entered the city of Gaza yesterday afternoon, proof enough that Palestinian fighters are putting up a fierce struggle. « Right now I can see Israeli ships firing at the town », he said. He also confirmed that « Israeli tanks are not far away but they have not entered the city centre. They are in the vicinity of Zeitoun, Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya. »

« There is heavy fighting going on in those neighbourhoods », notes Jamal Abou Habil, whose house is between Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya. [2] « There have been very violent blasts this afternoon and houses have been destroyed. It is extremely difficult to move about. Families shut themselves up in their homes. We have no electricity at present. There are a great many helicopters and planes firing and dropping bombs – we have had almost no respite. »

On the previous night there had also been violent clashes in those same suburbs as well as at Al-Shoujaiya and Iqlim al-Touffah, on the outskirts of Gaza City.

The bombing of a house in Gaza struck down twelve members of the same family. They were at home, in the Zeitoun district, when an Israeli plane launched two missiles on their four-storey house – which is divided into seven flats. Seven children aged one to twelve, three women, and two other men were killed. Quite simply because it had also been the residence of a Hamas leader, although he had abandoned those quarters at the very beginning of the Israeli operation. A passer-by was also struck dead and a dozen neighbouring houses were damaged. On that same day ,in Gaza, at least forty people were killed in an Israeli air-raid on an UNRWA school (run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) where 450 people from other districts of the town believed they would be safe. At Khan Younis (in the southern part of the Gaza strip) an artillery shell hit the entrance to another school and killed two people.

Bureij and Deir el-Balah, in the centre, Khan Younis, in the south have not been spared. « It’s very hard. All night long we have been bombed by Israeli tanks, planes, and helicopters, cannon fire, also », Zoher, an eye witness, said. He lives at Abassane, not far from Khan Younis. « They shoot in all directions, they will attack just anything. They even shoot at ambulances. They killed ambulance drivers who were assisting civilian victims. I don’t know if there have ever been wars like this one anywhere in the world », he exclaims.

Since it was launched, on December 27th, the Israeli offensive has killed over 582 Palestinians, among whom hundreds of civilians, including 159 children, and wounded more than 2,780. If one takes into account the Israeli army’s official count of over 130 enemy fighters killed since the beginning of the ground invasion, the total number of Palestinians who lost their lives in a matter of ten days can be estimated at more than 700 – an all-time high. That was, no doubt, the reason why a few (ultra)Orthodox Jewish settlers, not far from the town of Sderot, were so exhilarated that they danced and shimmied about, pumping up the music while scrutinizing the Gaza strip a few miles farther to the west. When two helicopters came into sight, they seemed as if in a trance, then exulted as a blast immediately followed a passing plane. Not far from this place, a soldier tried to launch a kite.

Meanwhile those who orchestrate the Israeli propaganda hire a bus to take journalists around, and have them meet the victims of Palestinian rockets. A supreme proof of their civil attentions is given us when we are told that the tour is conducted « in all languages ».

On the Israeli side, the rockets that Palestinian militants keep launching (one of which fell for the first time, yesterday, more than 45 kilometres away to the north-east of the Gaza strip on the town of Gedera, slightly wounding a baby) have killed four people. On the battle field it is almost certain that the Israeli army’s chiefs of Staff want to minimize the losses at all costs. Four of their troopers, among whom an officer, were killed and 24 wounded on Monday evening in the north of the Gaza strip when an Israeli tank fired by mistake on their position. Hamas said it has captured two soldiers, but the information has yet to be confirmed. The leader of the daily Haaretz, Amos Harel, speaking of the death of these soldiers, wondered publicly whether it was justified to carry on with the offensive.

A turning point may have been reached. It is clear that Palestinian militiamen are now trying to lure Israeli soldiers right into the towns where the assailant’s superiority in terms of heavy weapons will carry little weight. The Palestinian factions, being more mobile and, probably, having tunnels at their disposal, are quite liable to hurt the Israeli army badly. Israeli soldiers are aware of this and so far they have been trying to bomb out the pockets of resistance, the bombings resulting in what amounts to war crimes or even crimes against humanity. The coming days should be decisive.

Translator’s notes:

[1]No reporters are allowed to cross the border.

[2] To the north and north-north-east of the city of Gaza.

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