Gruesome Gaza scene sets off two days of violence

An Islamic Jihad fighter guards the site of an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on 24 February.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Uncertainty reigns amid unconfirmed reports of a unilateral ceasefire declared by Palestinian fighters after two days of intense fire across the Gaza-Israel boundary, and Israeli strikes on Damascus.

Israel, due to hold elections next week, claimed that more than 90 rockets were launched from Gaza on Sunday and Monday. Schools in the south of the country were ordered closed on Tuesday for the second consecutive day.

The Israeli military targeted what it described as multiple Islamic Jihad sites across Gaza. Israel also closed Gaza’s fishing zone and its checkpoints along the boundary, halting the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.

The latest episode of armed confrontation began early Sunday after Israeli forces fired artillery shells at two men near Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

Israel claimed the men planted a bomb along the boundary and released surveillance footage showing two figures placing an object near the fence, as well as a photo purporting to show the explosive device.

Horrific incident

Soon after the Israeli fire, medical crews and locals arrived at the scene. Soldiers shot toward them as they attempted to evacuate the two people injured during the shelling.

Nearly two hours after the initial shelling, Palestinians managed to evacuate one of the wounded men, who was taken to hospital and reported to be in critical condition. Israeli soldiers shot one of the rescuers in the leg with live fire, according to Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza.

Meanwhile, an Israeli military bulldozer and a tank reached the other man injured during the shelling “amid heavy gunfire that caused the injury of another citizen,” Al Mezan added.

The rights group said that soldiers operating the bulldozer ran over the body of the man injured by the shelling hours earlier, and dropped him to the ground to “confirm the kill.”

Witnesses recorded video of the horrific incident:

The first of three clips in the video shows the mouth of the bulldozer crushing and flipping the injured man’s body multiple times.

The second clip shows the man’s body dangling from the mouth of the bulldozer. The third shows the bulldozer and tank moving towards the boundary fence while carrying the man’s body.

It is not clear how much time passed between the various clips in the video, which went viral after it was published on Twitter by Shehab News Agency.

The New York Times reported that an Israeli military spokesperson falsely claimed that the man and the other person wounded in the shelling were in Israeli territory.

Following the wide circulation of the video, Israel’s propaganda apparatus kicked into gear to justify its army’s actions:

“Blatant violations”

Adalah, a human rights group in Israel, stated that the video of the incident shows Israeli forces committing “war crimes and blatant violations” of international law, and demanded a criminal investigation.

Al Mezan likened the abuse of the man’s body to the 2003 killing of American solidarity activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an Israeli soldier operating a bulldozer in Gaza.

The rights group added that the impunity enjoyed by Israel encourages such crimes by its occupation forces, and called on third states to support investigations of alleged Israeli war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Last September, Israel’s high court approved withholding the remains of Palestinians slain by occupation forces to use them as bargaining chips in future negotiations.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s defense minister, stated last week that “We are hoarding the corpses of terrorists in order to put pressure on the other side.”

Islamic Jihad stated that the slain man, Muhammad Ali Hasan al-Naem, 27, was one of its fighters.

Islamic Jihad retaliated by firing rockets toward Israel from Gaza later in the day on Sunday. The rockets were answered with airstrikes targeting what Israel claimed were Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza and Syria.

Ziyad Ahmad Mansour, 23, and Salim Ahmad Salim, 24, both Palestinian refugees from Yarmouk refugee camp who belonged to Islamic Jihad, were among the six people reported killed in Israeli strikes on Damascus.

Israel also targeted Islamic Jihad figures in Damascus during the last episode of direct hostilities in November last year. It hit the home of Akram al-Ajouri, the head of the resistance group’s military wing, in an airstrike, reportedly killing one of his sons.

During those two days of fighting, Israel killed more than 35 Palestinians in Gaza, around half of them civilians.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.