Leaflets of fear


The above leaflet was dropped on Gaza this morning from Israeli military helicopters. The translation says:

TO THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

Your life is being harmed by irresponsible elements who exploit you by firing missiles from in between your houses at the Israeli settlements. These missiles backfire on you causing only destruction and loss of your source of living without leaving you any road to hope.

Be aware !!! that firing missiles from your area will compel the Israeli Defense Forces to act in your area and to hit missile-launching elements in any place they act from.

Get rid of terror which leads you to the bottom.

Follow the road of hope.

Do not allow the terrorists to come close to your area.

It is clear from reports from multiple human rights organizations that Israel’s actions in Gaza are not necessarily related to any Palestinian shooting at Israeli settlements. Case after case reported on the international human rights newswires speak of people shot inside their homes with bullets.

With telescopic sights standard issue to all soldiers manning watchtower positions around settlements and on the Gaza-Egyptian border, there can be no doubt that these cases include many unlawful and willful acts of killing.

Since the beginning of the Intifada, EI has received many reports from trusted sources of indiscriminate Israeli shelling and firing at Palestinian neighborhoods — without there having been any fire from the Palestinian side — on a daily basis.

In recent weeks, case after case has surfaced in the Israeli media highlighting the abuse and killing of Palestinian civilians throughout the Intifada prompting one Ha’aretz writer to note that the situation of “feigned innocence of the IDF’s top brass, which has “suddenly” discovered that immoral acts are being committed by soldiers in the territories, is extremely grave. Suddenly, the IDF command has discovered that soldiers are desecrating dead bodies, shooting at children, humiliating people at checkpoints and shooting the wounded in order to confirm the kill. The truth, of course, is otherwise: They have known about these grave acts all along. They heard about what happens at the checkpoints and knew the details of shooting incidents in which civilians were killed.” (“The message to the soldiers was clear”, Reuven Pedatzur, Ha’aretz, 13 December 2004).

If we look at one week in Gaza, as reported by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Israel’s pattern of targeting Palestinian civilians and civilian property is unmistakable.

On December 2nd, PCHR reported that, “At approximately 16:30, Israeli troops positioned in a military post in Tal Zo’rob area in the southwest of Rafah, opened fire at Palestinian houses in Zo’rob neighborhood.  A Palestinian child, 8-year-old Khalil Hisham Buraika, was injured by shrapnel in the head when he was near his house.  At approximately 17:10, Israeli troops positioned at the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, opened fire at Palestinian houses in al-Salam neighborhood near the border.  A Palestinian woman, Fathiya Mohammed al-Akhras, 52, was wounded by a live bullet in the right hand when she was inside her house.”

On December 3rd, PCHR reported that, “At approximately 12:00, Israeli troops positioned in military posts in the vicinity of ‘Morag’ settlement, north of Rafah, opened fire at Musabbeh neighborhood.  A Palestinian woman, Raiqa Mansour Tabasi, 60, was wounded by a live bullet in the left shoulder when she was inside her house.”

On December 4th, PCHR reported that, “At approximately 18:00, Israeli troops positioned in military posts in the west of Rafah opened fire at Palestinian houses in Tal al-Sultan neighborhood to the east.  A Palestinian child, 15-year-old Nidal Mohammed Abu Hilal, was wounded by a live bullet in the left leg when he was near his house.  At approximately 19:45, Israeli troops positioned at the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, opened fire at Palestinian houses in al-Salam neighborhood near the border.  A Palestinian civilian, 20-year-old Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Hassanain, was wounded by a live bullet in the buttocks when he was inside his house.”

On December 5th, PCHR reported that, “At noon, Israeli troops positioned at the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, opened fire at Palestinian houses in al-Brazil neighborhood near the border.  Two Palestinian civilians, including a schoolchild, were wounded: Mohammed ‘Abdul Fattah Mansour, 11, wounded by shrapnel in the head; and ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Farraj Abu Mour, 40, seriously wounded by a live bullet in the chest. Also at noon, Israeli troops positioned at the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, opened fire at residential areas in the town.  A Palestinian physician, Mohammed ‘Ata Hamed Hamad, 30, was seriously wounded by a live bullet in the chest, when he was nearly 900 meters away from the border. At approximately 14:30, Israeli troops positioned at the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, opened fire at Block J in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the border.  A Palestinian child, 13-year-old Bustan Mufid Sha’at, was wounded by a live bullet in the left leg.”

On December 6th, PCHR reported that, “At approximately 13:30, Israeli troops positioned in military posts in the vicinity of “Gadid” settlement, southwest of Khan Yunis, opened fire at Palestinian houses in Baten al-Samin area to the east.  A Palestinian child, 5-year-old Ahmed Mohammed al-Bashiti, was seriously wounded by a live bullet that entered the back and settled in the chest when he was on the roof of his house.”

On December 7th, PCHR reported that, “At approximately 10:10, Israeli troops positioned at the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, opened fire at Palestinian houses in al-Brazil neighborhood, adjacent to the border.  A Palestinian civilian, 25-year-old Mohammed ‘Abdul Karim Qeshta, was wounded by a live bullet in the left knee as he was on duty as a traffic man.  At approximately 14:30, Israeli troops positioned in military posts in the vicinity of “Neve Dekalim” settlement, west of Khan Yunis, opened fire at Palestinian houses in al-Nimsawi neighborhood and Khan Yunis refugee camp.  A number of live bullets hit the buildings of Nasser Hospital, nearly 700 meters away from the source of fire.  A Palestinian woman, 50-year-old Fatema Khamis ‘Ennaba, was injured by shrapnel from a live bullet in the left shoulder.”

On December 8th, PCHR reported that, “At approximately 17:00, Israeli troops on a tank positioned near “Morag” settlement, south of Khan Yunis, opened fire at Palestinian houses in Gizan al-Najjar area to the north.  A Palestinian civilian, 20-year-old Mohammed Hassan al-Najjar, was wounded by a live bullet in the neck.”

PCHR usually identifies situations in which killings and injuries resulted during an exchange of fire. However, typically even clashes see indiscriminate Israeli fire against Palestinian non-combatants. It is believed that the majority of the week’s events involve unilateral Israeli firing at Palestinian areas, not clashes between two sides. Reports from the week which did involve Palestinian militants were not included in the list above.

Looking at the list of casualties above, are we expected to accept that boys aged 5, 8, 11, 13 and 15; men aged 20, 20, 25, 30, and 40; and women aged 50, 52, and 60 — were all wounded in the course of Israeli military actions against Palestinian militants?

Are we supposed to believe that 52-year-old Fathiya al-Akhras was entertaining some Hamas militants with a cup of tea while they shot at Israeli military positions from her living room window? Or that Mohammed Qeshta, the “traffic man”, continued to direct pedestrians across the street after some lads from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades showed up and set up a mortar position next to him? These are not credible situations in which “retaliation” can be argued to be taking place, unless we subscribe to the most base, dehumanizing and — in these two particular cases — comical beliefs about Palestinians.

Most of the casualties detailed in the list above were shot in or near their homes during the day, not a favorite time for militant groups to be firing mortars at settlements for obvious reasons stemming from the disparity in military technology on the two sides. When this does take place, it almost always takes place when it is dark.

No Palestinian in Gaza believes that Israel acts in their area only when Palestinian militants are “firing missiles” from the area! The sheer scale and daily frequency of indiscriminate fire at Palestinian neighborhoods make the notion ludicrous to anyone with on the ground experience. During the first three-and-a-half years of the Intifada, Israel demolished 1,800 homes in Gaza’s Rafah refugee camp alone, and this was even before either the massive military campaigns of “Operation Rainbow” in May or “Operation Days of Penitence” in September 2004.

Israel is not so self-deceived as to believe Palestinians will ignore this evidence from their own bitter and extensive personal experience, or believe that Palestinians will accept that the false premise offered by the propaganda leaflet will actually guarantee their safety. The Israeli military and Palestinians in Gaza know very well how the realities on the ground play out, even if the commercial media remains confused. The leaflet portrays a situation completely contrary to these well-known realities.

With all this in mind, the leaflet achieves a much more sinister goal, that of threatening a powerless Palestinian civilian population with more violence which they can do nothing to stop. The leaflet represents a desperate act of general intimidation aimed at driving even more Palestinians from their homes with the threat of future violence.

This is utterly contrary to international law. Article 33 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War explicitly states that, “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited… Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

Related Links

  • Palestinian Center for Human Rights

    Nigel Parry is one of the founders of the Electronic Intifada. He lived in the occupied territories from 1994-1998. Leaflet translation by Hasan Abu-Nimah.