Friday, May 25, 2007

Israel Seizes 33 Palestinians in Crackdown in West Bank

This is somewhat of a continuation of the last post. Same topic, different day. Though the article was not on the front page of the New York Times, the picture that went with it was, and the thing that stuck out to me (besides the gaping chasm of rubble surrounded by people) was the pointing finger to the left of the photo. There's blame being shifted around by the agitated government officials.

This article was written by Isabel Kershner and she leds with the news that Israel arrested 33 important West Bank Palestinians (read: officials) in a raid as their stance against Hamas bristles. A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister of Israel said that they have conclusive evidence that links those government officials to the recent terrorist activities.

One of the most senior officials that Israel arrested was the Palestinian education minister, Nasser Eddin al-Shaer. He had been previously arrested in August, but was released in September because there was no evidence to hold him. According to Rabia al-Barghouti, spokesman for the Palestinian Legislative Council, al-Shaer is not a member of Hamas and has a clean security record.

Something else that Kershner mentioned was that there were forty-one Palestinian legislators being held by Israle, and they keep having the detention extended for two more months every time they appear in front of a judge. They are mostly being held for being a part of Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organization (According to Wikipedia, U.S.A. agrees.)

The spokeswoman of the Israeli Prime Minister said that Israel was going after Hamas "in all its aspects." So since the Hamas broke the truce about ten days ago, Israel has been firing rockets back and launching airstrikes. There have been 38 Palestinians killed, 156 wounded in 35 airstrkes since May 17 (Jeebus).

"Among the dead were seven Palestinians under the age of 16," said a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.

On the other side, there have been one Israeli woman killed and two seriously injured. Many others have been treated for lighter injuries.

Kershner is not subtle in her placement of these numbers: first, the Palestinians casualties, then the Israeli casualties. Basically, I think the Palestinian government wants all this fighting to stop (from what I garner from the article) but the Hamas is a group of people who refuse to agree since a breaking of the truce has now set things to be unclear and unassured- not to mention also that each side's word is completely unreliable. The Israeli government seem pretty gung-ho about clearing out the Hamas, saying, "The Palestinians have made a mockery of the so-called cease-fire in the Gaza Strip."

I'm sure the arrest of important government officials will lessen the tensions between the two nations and help foster a trusting environment for favorable negotiations. I'm also sure that the lumping of the Palestinians high officials with a declared terrorists organization will help to alleviate the mistrust and corruption in the Palestinian government itself. What happened to Israel saying that they will not be manipulated into full-out dischord with Palestine over terrorist acts that both sides agree is uncalled for? They said that they will enter this on their own terms- but look! they just got all trampled over by their pesky emotions and their anger, and now both Israelis and Palestinians are dead.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Unity Fractures as Palestinians Battle in Gaza

This was on the front page of the New York Times today, and it was written by Steven Erlanger. It's a feature story updating us on the Hamas-Fatah conflict and how it is starting to drag in the Israeli army, because there are people being wounded and hurt in Israeli towns as a result of the fighting in the Gaza strip.

I was captivated by this article because of Erlanger's excessive use of numbers. "Excessive" is the wrong word, because that would mean that I was turned off by it, but really, I was just so in shock by how many people had been killed in that short amount of time.

This was my first time reading about the Hamas-Fatah conflict and so I had to Wikipedia it to find out more about it. I could already guess most of what it said about Hamas by the article, that it is considered a terrorist group by many countries, and the Hamas-Fatah conflict is a factional conflict between Palestinians. Hamas is currently the majority ruling party in Palestine, after the early 2006 elections. Because of that, the U.S. has been on strained terms with Palestine (though that's not the only reason.)

Anyway, there have been recently an increase of Hamas attacks on the Fatah, and also on Israeli towns (Wikipedia said that the Hamas are known for suicide bombings outside of Palestine, and also for attacks on Israeli civilians and military) and Erlanger writes that it is perhaps to prompt retaliation from the Israeli government so as to reunify Palestinians. These attacks have included rocket fire fired from Gaza that have wounded two Israeli women.

Erlanger goes into how if Israel retaliated strongly against Hamas, they could end up unifying the Palestinian factions against them. He gives the example of how last summer, when Israel faced a similar situation with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, that instead of stopping the attacks from Hezbollah and strengthing the Lebanese government (that Israel wanted to strengthen), they got the opposite result: Hezbollah did not stop attacking and was thoroughly unified against Israel, and the Lebanese government was severly weakened.

I guess the Israel government learned its lesson, because it decided to think twice before responding harshly to the Hamas attacks.

"Israel is not going to be dragged into the Gaza Strip the way that Hamas wants," said Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "We will choose the time and place to respond. The price of any operation must be measured in terms of how effective it would be in stopping rocket fire, and the cost in life on both sides..."

The rest of the article is devoted to the violence that both sides have recieved, and honestly, it is so heartbreaking to read all these numbers, and about all these families that are being uprooted because they fear that they may be caught in the fire of the factional violence.

It really got to me when I read Abdel Hakim Awad, a Fatah spokesman said that Hamas leaders "want to turn Gaza into a new Somalia or Dafur." That's incredibly foreboding and it does not help that both sides are just so full of hate and anger. It's easy to dismiss Hamas as being in the wrong and being overly agressive (what with Wikipedia saying what it said- no, serious, look it up) but at the same time, Erlanger writes about certain Hamas who are in power who have stayed out of the fighting, like Islam Shahwan, and only decided to deploy against the Fatah because of the increased attacks towards the Hamas government. Really, it takes both sides to create this much problems and strife.

Towards the middle of the article, Erlanger writers about 200 Gaza residents who were marching in the center of Gaza City with Palestinian flags, trying to show peace. However, gunmen started to move around the group, and following gunfire, the demonstrators were scared off, and one was wounded.

I just went to the Times website to get pictures, and as it turns up, Erlanger has just posted another article. Judging from the headline ("8 Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza Kill At Least 7") it seems that the Israeli government has decided to take up the offensive. Damn it.


For some odd reason, Blogger is not letting me put up pictures. Well, if you got to the link above to the Times website, you will see the pictures I was going to put up. Also, if you do that, be sure to read the article. Erlanger does a good job conveying the helplessness of the civilians who don't seem to be angry or hateful, just frightened for their lives and children.