Protests against the Gaza City bombing

Now, a week after the Israeli Gaza City air-terror strike, after protests and deliberations, everybody in Israel agrees: the hurdling of a one-ton explosive bomb into the midst of a densely populated urban area with the aim to assassinate one person, alleged by the security people to have been a major “terrorist leader,” was utterly wrong.

The official government and army sources speak of mistaken intelligence information. Many media commentators openly speak of the bombing as a criminal war atrocity. The Israeli peace camp demands action and punishment of the war criminals, responsible for the murder not only of the Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, but 414 civilians, among them nine children, and injuring 150, some of them seriously.

Facing world-wide protests, as well as a mounting wave of criticism at home, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was squeezed to express some kind of apology for the death of so many civilians and children. However, he continued to maintain that the “liquidation” of the “arch terrorist” Shehadeh was justified, only the chosen means for it was “unfortunately mistaken”. The Israeli Defense Minister, Ben-Eliezer, who at the time was in London, had given Sharon his O.K. for the “operation” by phone. He, too, has expressed some late apology for the civilian deaths and injuries.

The only one of the three main culprits who has not shown any sign of remorse so far, was the new head of the army, General Chief-of-Staff Moshe Ya’alon. He, after having received Sharon’s O.K., had given the direct order to execute the terror air strike. The Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, in an interview published this weekend by the German magazine Der Spiegel, maintained it “obviously was a mistaken calculation to use an one-ton blockbuster bomb to assassinate one person in a three-story apartment building in the midst of a densely populated city neighborhood. A smaller bomb could have been more appropriate.” He, too, expressed doubts whether Sharon really wants any peace solution with the Palestinians.

A mistake? The three responsible criminals, Sharon, Ben-Eliezer and Ya’alon are generals, the first two ex-general chiefs-of-staff, the third the current one! They were very well aware what kind of catastrophic effect a one-ton bomb fired from a F-16 fighter jet would cause. It was like killing a fly in your parlor with a heavy artillery grenade.

“In any normal state, the PM, his war minister and their responsible army chief-of-staff would have been forced to resign after such a criminal act,” a Gush-Shalom peace organization statement, published as an ad in the Ha’aretz daily this weekend, said. In another ad published in the same paper by Yesh-Gvul, the organization of officers and reserve soldiers who are refusing to do army service in the occupied territories, states: “PM Sharon, who made the decision, Ben-Eliezer who approved it, Ya’alon who recommended it, the squadron commander who issued the order, and the pilot who dropped the bomb, should stand trial.” And further, “ If the Israeli justice system is not up to discharging this task, those responsible should go on trial before an international war crimes tribunal!”

On July 27 an impressive demonstration of several thousands was held in front of Sharon’s Jerusalem residence, called for by a peace coalition.

In the weekend issues of the Israeli media, opposition views had seen publication Many point to the fact that Sharon, as well as Ben-Eliezer and Ya’alon, must have been informed about the fact that the day prior to the Gaza bomb atrocity, the official el-Fatah Tanzim militia leaders had achieved an agreement with the Hamas leadership about ceasing all armed attacks, suicide bombings included, within Israel.

Even the Hamas leader in Gaza, Sheik Ahmad Yassin, had expressed in public his support for such an agreement, which was part of international efforts, including Jordan, Saudi-Arabian and Egyptian mediation. This agreement, Alex Fishman remarked in the Israeli Yediot Aharonot daily (June 24), was achieved thanks to the massive Palestinian public opinion that suicide and other bombing attacks within Israel are counter-productive to the just cause of the Palestinian people and their national aspirations. Moreover, they play into the hands of the most rightwing elements in the Sharon administration

“Sharon apparently does not want any agreement, not one being discussed by Peres with the Palestinian delegates over the two weeks prior to the Gaza bombing, nor any broader deal,” Ha’aretz analyst Gideon Samet stated (July 26). He continued asking, “Was it because he [Sharon] knew about the Palestinian cease-fire agreement and did not want it to realize, that he ordered the fatal bombing? ... What a horror story – every way you look it at!”

One thing is clear: Should Sharon and his myrmidons succeed in provoking extremist Palestinian, to renew suicide or other major bomb attacks within Israel their spilled blood should be accounted for as victims of Sharon’s brutal colonialist occupation policy.

Hans Lebrecht is a contributor in Israel and can be reached at pww@pww.org