ONTD Political

Israeli Strike in Gaza Kills at Least 11, Including Children

1:03 pm - 11/18/2012
Israeli forces killed at least 11 people, including several children, in a single airstrike that destroyed a home here on Sunday, as Israel pressed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip for a fifth day, deploying warplanes and naval vessels to pummel the coastal enclave.

The airstrike, which the Israeli military said was meant to kill a Palestinian militant involved in the recent rocket attacks, was the deadliest operation to date and would no doubt weigh on negotiations for a possible cease-fire. Among the dead were five women and four small children, The Associated Press reported, citing a Palestinian health official.

Two media offices were also hit on Sunday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned of a “significant” expansion in the onslaught, which has already killed over 50 people, many of them civilians.

Speaking on Sunday from Bangkok, President Obama condemned missile attacks by Palestinian fighters in Gaza and defended Israel’s right to protect itself.

“There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Mr. Obama said in his first public comments since the violence broke out. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”

The president also said that efforts were under way to address Israel’s security concerns and end the violence. “We’re going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours,” Mr. Obama said.

Even as the diplomacy intensified on Sunday, the attacks continued in Gaza and Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu made his warning as militants in Gaza aimed at least one rocket at Tel Aviv, a day after Israeli forces broadened the attack beyond military targets, bombing centers of government infrastructure in Gaza, including the four-story headquarters of the Hamas prime minister.

“We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations, and the Israel Defense Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” Mr. Netanyahu told his cabinet at its routine Sunday meeting, referring directly to the of thousands of reservists who have been called up and the massing of armor on the Gaza border that many analysts have interpreted as preparations for a possible invasion.

“I appreciate the rapid and impressive mobilization of the reservists who have come from all over the country and turned out for the mission at hand,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Reservist and conscript soldiers are ready for any order they might receive.”

His remarks were reported shortly after a battery of Israel’s Iron Dome defense shield, hastily deployed near Tel Aviv on Saturday in response to the threat of longer-range rockets, intercepted at least one aimed at the city on Sunday, Israeli officials said. It was the latest of several salvos that have illustrated Hamas’s ability to extend the reach of its rocket attacks.

Since Wednesday, when the escalation of the conflict began, Iron Dome has knocked 245 rockets out of the sky, the military said Saturday, while 500 have struck Israel.

The American-financed system is designed to intercept only rockets streaking toward towns and cities and to ignore those likely to strike open ground. But on Sunday a rocket fired from Gaza plowed through the roof of an apartment building in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. There were no immediate reports of casualties there.

In Gaza City, the crash of explosions pierced the quiet several times throughout the early morning.

Before the latest deadly strike involving civilians on Sunday, Hamas health officials had said the Palestinian death toll had risen to 53. One of the latest victims was a 52-year-old woman whose house in the eastern part of Gaza City was bombed around lunchtime.

A few hours earlier, a Hamas militant was killed and seven people were wounded in an attack on the Beach Refugee Camp, where Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, has a home. Those killed on Sunday included three children ages 1 through 5, the health officials said.

In Israel, 3 civilians have died and 63 have been injured. Four soldiers were wounded on Saturday.

The onslaught continued despite talks in Cairo that President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt said Saturday night could soon result in a cease-fire. Mr. Netanyahu said he would consider a comprehensive cease-fire if the launchings from Gaza stopped.

The attack on Mr. Haniya’s office, one of several on government installations, came a day after he hosted his Egyptian counterpart in the same building, a sign of Hamas’s new legitimacy in a radically redrawn Arab world.

That stature was underscored Saturday by a visit to Gaza from the Tunisian foreign minister and trips to Cairo by two Hamas allies, the prime minister of Turkey and the crown prince of Qatar, for talks with the Egyptian president and the chairman of Hamas on a possible cease-fire.

A delegation of Arab ministers plans to visit Gaza on Tuesday, Reuters reported, and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, is expected in Cairo on Monday.

But Mark Regev, a spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu, denied reports on Saturday that a truce was imminent.

Mr. Obama said Sunday that he had spoken several times with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Morsi and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in hopes of finding a way to address Israel’s security concerns without further ramping up military operations.

“We are actively working with all the parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired without further escalation of violence in the region,” he said.

It was unclear whether the deal under discussion in Cairo would solely suspend the fighting or include other issues. Hamas — which won elections in Gaza in 2006 and took full control in 2007 but is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States — wants to turn its Rafah crossing with Egypt into a free-trade zone and seeks Israel’s withdrawal from the 1,000-foot buffer it patrols on Gaza’s northern and eastern borders.

Mr. Netanyahu has also spoken with the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, according to a statement from his office. On Sunday, he said he appreciated the “understanding they are displaying for Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Some European leaders seemed to be counseling restraint as much as offering support.

The French news media reported that the foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, was heading to Israel to seek a cease-fire, and William Hague, his British counterpart, cautioned that an Israeli invasion of Gaza “would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy they have” and make it “much more difficult to restrict and avoid civilian casualties.”

The conflict, meanwhile, showed no sign of abating.

Palestinian news agencies reported that two children were killed in a predawn strike on Sunday in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza. The Israeli military said it had “targeted dozens of underground launchers” overnight and also hit what it called a Hamas training base and command center. The Israeli Navy “targeted terror sites on the northern Gaza shore line,” the statement said, in repeated rounds of missiles.

Among the buildings that Israel hit overnight were two containing the offices of local news media outlets.

Salama Marouf of the Hamas media office condemned what he called an “immoral massacre against the media” and called the attack a confession by Israel “that it has lost the media battle.”

Seven journalists were injured in the first attack, around 1:40 a.m., in the Shawa and Hossari Building in downtown Gaza City. It houses two local radio stations — one run by the militant Islamic Jihad — and the offices of the Ma’an Palestinian news agency as well as the German broadcaster ARD.

One of the journalists injured on Sunday, Khader Zahar of the Beirut-based Al Quds satellite channel, was said to have lost a leg in the explosion, which hit its 11th-floor studio.

The Israeli military referred to the two sites as “Hamas operational communication sites that were identified by precise intelligence.”

“In order to minimize the damage to noninvolved persons, the I.D.F. only targeted the communication devices which were located on the roof of the building, and not the operations room of Hamas that is located on one of the floors,” the military said.

“The second site was targeted at approximately 06:50 a.m. and was also part of Hamas’s operational communications that was deliberately located on the roof of the building, in which several international media bureaus reside,” the military said in a statement.

It urged “international journalists and correspondents who operate in the Gaza Strip carrying out their duties, to stay clear of Hamas’s bases and facilities — which serve them in their activity against the citizens of Israel.”

Ayman Amar, a spokesman for the Al Quds television, said seven camera operators and editors were resting on couches in their offices around 1:30 a.m. when a missile fired from an Israeli helicopter ripped through the roof. They fled, and three more bombs dropped around 10 minutes later, Mr. Amar said.

Al Quds, an independent channel with 50 employees in the Gaza Strip, has had offices in the building since 2007, and on its top floor since 2011. Since the conflict escalated, journalists have been working around the clock and catching naps in the office. Some of its employees were back out on the streets on Sunday, Mr. Amar said, and others were trying to clear the wreckage from the five-room editing studio.

“We never expected that it would hit us,” he added. “So far we don’t know why; there are no reasons. We will not stop. It is our duty toward our cause to support the Palestinian people.”

Later, a missile that was dropped from an Apache helicopter hit the top of the 15-story Al Shoruq Building, which is also downtown, witnesses said.

The target was the Hamas channel that broadcasts locally, Al Aqsa, but the building also contains offices of the Al Arabiya television network and the Middle East Broadcast Center, which runs it, as well as the live studio of an Iranian television station and two production companies — the Gaza Media Center and Mayadeen — that provide services for Fox News, Sky News, CBS and Al Jazeera.

No one was injured in that attack. Witnesses said that everyone in the building fled after a warning missile was fired in the stairwell, two minutes before the attack on the roof.

The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem said it was “concerned” by the attacks, recalling a United Nations ruling that “journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be respected and protected as such.”

The ability to gain access to and influence news media coverage is critical to both sides seeking to promote their rival claims and versions of the events and arguments underpinning the conflict, recalling the 2008-9 winter invasion of Gaza that brought international condemnation of Israel.

The news media war took a new turn on Sunday when the Israeli military intercepted and took over signals from two local radio stations — Al Aqsa and Al Quds — to broadcast a warning to Gaza residents: “We recommend that you stay away from the places of terrorists and the infrastructure of Hamas.”

It continued: “Hamas is playing with fire and putting you at risk.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that 22 foreign journalists were prevented by Hamas from leaving the Gaza Strip.

violetrose 19th-Nov-2012 12:46 am (UTC)
It isn't solely Obama's decision; that's the issue.

If Obama really wanted to stop, or even slightly reduce the amount of funding Israel is given, he would face a tonne of opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. The accusations of giving into 'Islamic terrorists' would be insurmountable, and he would likely have to create a bill that would be either immediately rejected by each major political party, or if by some miracle it were to pass, it would absolutely be overturned or probably vetoed before it even had a chance to take effect.

I'm not defending Obama's decision, but acting as if changing America's policy about Israel is as easy as turning on a light switch is incredibly disingenuous. For both the Democrats and Republicans, even criticising Israel is almost anathema.
ms_maree 19th-Nov-2012 12:50 am (UTC)
I was only asking, because I'm not sure how things are set up in the US system. I had this idea that Obama was head of the Military. So I presumed military aide would fall under him directly.
violetrose 19th-Nov-2012 12:54 am (UTC)
The fact is, Obama isn't the sole decision maker when it comes to funding. If he wanted to change America's relationship with Israel (and according to this article, I doubt that he does), he would have put a bill toward Congress, which really, would immediately be shut down. It's depressing, but the truth.

I'm not in the US myself, and the US system does confuse a little at times. But I do think that anyone with even a remedial understand of US politics would realise that the US's foreign policy towards Israel will take a long time, possibly a lifetime, to change.
ms_maree 19th-Nov-2012 01:20 am (UTC)
Well according to this, Reagan, Bush and Clinton signed various agreements which upped military aide over the years:


But Obama has gone beyond all those agreements, especially with wartime joint task forces.

During the Obama administration these relations reached new levels, with the two countries prepared to function in wartime as joint task forces

Congressional approval is required for the military aide, I think, but I'm not sure whose decision it is to up the joint military exercises.
yndigot 19th-Nov-2012 02:24 am (UTC)
...I can try my high school civics explanation of how it works, although it's obviously hella more complex than this and I admit that I don't wholly understand the ins and outs either.

As commander in chief, the president has the authority to 'make war' (send troops into battle). (Congress has tried to limit this somewhat after Vietnam, which may or may not be constitutional.)

Congressional approval is required to fund the military (the president usually asks them for money either in his budget proposal or asks for extra outside the budget if something comes up that he wants to fund). Congress also has the exclusive power to formally declare war (which they never do anymore).

So, the military answers directly to the president, but they're pretty limited in what they can do without Congress giving them the cash to do it. I'd be interested to hear from someone who knows a bit more -- I think decisions to hold military exercises are probably made a lot at the Pentagon level (with approval from the President)? Congress definitely has a lot of lobbyists crawling all over them encouraging them to fund military aide to Israel, though, so they're going to have a lot of influence there as well. As much as the President seems to be the face of most of what goes on, it's always seemed to me that the system is set up to make it as difficult as possible for any one branch of government to get much done if the others aren't playing along. (Actually, I think that's exactly the point of the whole system.)

Dunno if any of that was the lest bit helpful. Probably just things you either knew or could google in five minutes anyway (and very sketchily drawn as well), but I thought I'd throw in my 2¢ on how it all works.
ms_maree 19th-Nov-2012 03:14 am (UTC)
No, this is really interesting. I thought there was one thing Obama did have a great deal of power in (compared to how the Westminister system deals) and this is with the military.

But I think I can work out that the budget is somewhat different from military operations. So would it be fair to say that Obama has some control over 'joint military' operations etc (he can say yay or nay depending on military advise), but his part in budgets would be contingent on Congress.
yndigot 19th-Nov-2012 05:01 am (UTC)
My understanding (again, a bit limited, so people should totally correct me) is that Congress certainly couldn't force his hand. 'Joint military' operations would, so far as I can tell, be something worked out by military officials at the Pentagon along with the president and relevant cabinet members. Aside from saying 'we will/won't give you money to do xyz', I don't think Congress really has a lot of direct influence on the military except in the way of more general policy, not specific actions.

When it comes to military aid, I think it works much the same way -- I think it's under the purview of the Department of Defense and Department of State, which are headed by cabinet members who report to the president, but their budgets are given to them by Congress who, for the most part, knows full well where the money is going to go and is being encouraged by lobbyists. Obama has a lot of power when it comes to the military, but in some ways I think it's also a giant circle jerk to keep everyone happy so that no one starts blocking anyone else's laws/resolutions/funding.

So ... yes? It's interesting how muddled things get when one side has the power to act and the other controls the purse strings, but I think it's definitely fair to say that Obama has a good amount of control. But then, being aggressively pro-Israel seems like a great way to make almost everyone in DC very happy anyway.
ms_maree 19th-Nov-2012 05:08 am (UTC)
being aggressively pro-Israel seems like a great way to make almost everyone in DC very happy anyway.

Is this more strategy or religion do you think? I know you're not an expert or anything, but I'm curious, and if anyone wants to say anything, that would be cool too.

Ie, is it because of the power of the Christian lobby, or is it basically about keeping control over the area through Israel.
yndigot 19th-Nov-2012 05:46 am (UTC)
I personally tend to think the lobby is a huge, huge part of it because I know they're very influential, but I'm sure strategy plays a part as well. I suppose I'd lean toward saying that when it comes to strategy, the lobby is a large (the largest?) reason we're not going to see more different, creative strategies for foreign policy in the Middle East gaining any support. We've locked ourselves in now.
celtic_thistle 19th-Nov-2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
I agree. The blind support for Israel is so deeply entrenched at this point that even if Obama wanted to cut off support for them, he couldn't. :/
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