Israel admits, then deletes, responsibility for Gaza killings

Relatives of Hamdan Abu Amsha mourn at his funeral in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, on 31 March, a day after he was killed by Israeli fire near the Gaza-Israel boundary.

Ashraf Amra APA images

The Israeli army posted a statement on Twitter on Saturday apparently accepting full responsibility for the killings a day earlier of 15 Palestinians as thousands took part in the Great March of Return in Gaza.

The army then quickly deleted the admission – as more evidence of war crimes by its soldiers came to light – but not before a copy was made by the human rights group B’Tselem.

The now-deleted tweet from the official @IDFSpokesperson account stated: “Yesterday we saw 30,000 people; we arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem’s international advocacy officer, characterized the statement as meaning that the “Israeli army takes full responsibility for the killing of all unarmed protesters and the injuring of hundreds with live ammunition.”

The army’s deletion of the tweet is hardly surprising. The admission that its killings of demonstrators were premeditated down to the last bullet means it cannot deny responsibility for apparent war crimes, such as the lethal shooting of Abd al-Fattah Abd al-Nabi, 19, as he ran away from the Israel-Gaza boundary fence. Abd al-Nabi was reportedly shot in the head.

Video of the slaying, widely shared on social media, shows Abd al-Nabi running alongside two other Palestinians far away from the boundary fence when the crack of a gunshot is heard and he falls suddenly.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a video of the same incident from another angle:

Another video apparently shows a man being shot and injured as he prayed with a group of Palestinians, with the boundary fence visible in the far distance.

Times of Israel reporter Jacob Magid commented that the Israeli army is “gonna have a hard time saying this guy fell off his bike.”

This is a reference to the army’s transparently false claims that Muhammad Fadel Tamimi, the 15-year-old boy shot in the head by one of its soldiers in the occupied West Bank in December, had merely had a bicycle accident.

On 29 March, B’Tselem’s Michaeli noted that Ofir Gendelman, an Israeli government spokesperson, used a video of an unarmed Palestinian being shot in the leg while standing still to “threaten Gazans” on the day of the planned Great March of Return.

The Israeli army’s admission of responsibility accorded with reports prior to Friday that the military had prepared for the protests by deploying dozens of snipers with orders to shoot demonstrators entering an Israeli-imposed no-go zone extending hundreds of meters inside Gaza along the boundary.

In addition to the slayings, at least 1,400 Palestinians were injured as Israeli forces used live ammunition, drones firing tear gas and even artillery along the Gaza-Israel boundary where Palestinians had gathered Friday to commemorate Land Day and protest Israel’s refusal to allow them to return to lands from which Palestinians were ethnically cleansed.

The charity Medical Aid for Palestinians called Friday “the bloodiest day in Gaza since Israel’s 2014 offensive.”

According to the health ministry spokesperson in Gaza, at least three more people were injured with live ammunition on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, the human rights groups Adalah and Al Mezan issued an urgent call on Israel to allow medical teams to enter the no-go zone to search for two missing Palestinians whose condition is unknown.

“The Israeli military’s use of 100 snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal,” Adalah stated Friday. “Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants” – in other words war crimes.

UN calls for inquiry

As Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned as “shocking” the number of Palestinians killed and injured by Israeli gunfire, the UN Security Council met that night to discuss the situation. Israel’s representatives boycotted the session.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent inquiry into the violence.

Although such inquiries in the past have uncovered evidence of Israeli war crimes, they have never led to effective action to hold Israel to account.

Guterres himself, acting under US pressure, last year suppressed a UN report that found Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians.

It took until Saturday for the European Union to issue a statement that “mourns the loss of life.”

The EU acknowledged that Israel used “live ammunition during clashes and demonstrations” but endorsed Israel’s “right to protect its borders” with “proportionate” force.

The EU also endorsed the UN’s call for an investigation and, equating occupier and occupied, urged that “those concerned need to exercise restraint.”

Corbyn tones down criticism

In Canada, Hélène Laverdière, foreign affairs spokesperson for the center-left opposition New Democratic Party, condemned the “shocking situation” and demanded that Israel “must abide by its responsibilities under international law and respect human rights.”

After 24 hours of silence, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, posted a statement on Twitter that the “killing and wounding by Israeli forces of civilians demonstrating for Palestinian rights in Gaza is appalling.”

But Corbyn – who has been under sustained attack from Israel lobby groups that have justified the massacre in Gaza – did not call for any action to hold Israel accountable.

Previously, Corbyn has called for an arms embargo on Israel and endorsed some tactics of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the left-wing political leader in France who has also faced an Israel lobby smear campaign in recent days, offered condolences to the families of Palestinians killed and called for the deployment of UN forces.

But apparently secure that it will not face calls for real accountability – even from lifelong supporters of Palestinian rights such as Corbyn – Israel is issuing new threats to escalate its violence against Palestinian protesters.

Given ongoing official silence, complicity and inaction, Palestinians will be counting on a major escalation in grassroots support through boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns to finally bring Israel to account.

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These crimes will not go unpunished. The world has a moral obligation to bring Israel to its accounts and bring justice to Palestinians. In this civilized and moderate world where the majority of world leaders express biased policies and where the war becomes business, resistance to the occupation is one of the apparatus that one can play with. Other than universal solidarity and cohesion from good hearted people, nothing can be established until people continue to fight back and confront the brutality and injustice committed by the Israelis and supported by the world leaders. Unfortunately, the international laws have no meanings anymore - UN has miserably failed and so has the dummies including the Arab leaders. They play altogether a part of a unified forces of occupation inspiring Zionists for bringing atrocities, injustice to Palestinians. This includes daily demolition of their homes, nightly invasions and killing children and family members at point blank. This happens only in Israel – claiming to be civilized, democratic country in Middle East. It’s time for Canada to wake up and Mr. Trudeau takes this great opportunity to bring its world-class recognition of peacekeeping role in the Middle East by standing up against this outrage and carry the mission of tranquility and peacefulness to the people of Palestine.

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I am first to insist that the sorry backside of His Excellency Proudly Captain Dreadful Bibi Netanyahu is hauled before an international criminal court.

"These crimes will not go unpunished." you say.

These crimes need to be stopped - first - this must surely be our ultimate goal - what we are all working to achieve?

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These are not "clashes".
This is another massacre of unarmed civilians this time by snipers who clearly see their unarmed victims with deadly accuracy and pull the trigger.
Murder.

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Why are countries so scared of Isreali Zionists?
Where is the compassion and humanity to save a people that are slowly being murdered and driven from their county?
It's downright disgusting that anyone who criticises Israeli Zionists is called out as beinging antisemetic.
There must be some sort of conspiracy that is stopping the richest countries from stopping this abomination continuing.
And GREED is the answer.

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Unfortunately, in this world might makes right, and nuclear weapons, considerable military and technological prowess and having America in their back pocket means no one wants to get on their bad side.

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What have the Palestinians done to deserve this?

The Holocaust occurred on a different continent almost three-quarters of a century ago. It involved Germans abusing another Germanic people, the Ashkenzi.

But somehow the Palestinians not only paid the price afterwards, they are paying it still.

No one can distinguish what the people of Gaza are forced to endure from a German concentration camp.

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Corbyn is criticized for taking 24 hrs to respond via Twitter and for his response to be milder in tone than previous statements he has made. But do we really want Twitter to be the platform for serious political statements by political leaders? Twitter is just for short tweets; which by their very nature do not allow for detail or nuanced statements and can live on, and then one day bite you in the bum. Apart from short motherhood statements and the occasional witty one-liner, Twitter is good as an immediate gauge of public interest or reaction to events. Its good as a gauge of how political players see the current zeitgeist. I don't want or expect Twitter to be a platform for serious policy discussion; it would better for all serious political leaders to stay clear of Twitter and resist the urge to comment too quickly on events which are still unfolding, and if they must indulge, then restrict themselves to safe motherhood statements. Motherhood statements are bland but whatever happened to the notion of speak softly but carry a big stick.

Surely its more politically deft for the UK Labour Party and Corbyn to leave risk prone twitterings to lesser political players and for political leaders to remain above the fray. Twitter is for us; ordinary people who risk little damage as a consequence of an imperfectly expressed opinion and will not be pilloried if we are not aware of all the facts, or misinterpret etc. The twitters of the ordinary folk feed into and expose the zeitgeist.

If Corbyn does become UK's next PM, it is more likely that he will be able to pursue policies that reinforce international law re Israel if we, the public twitter like mad over Israeli crimes, than if he makes a strongly worded twitter himself. As Obama once said (in my recollection - no link to source), politicians only do things when they are forced to - so force me (says Obama). Give me the necessary political cover if you really want something.

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