A summary report by the US Pentagon has revealed the overwhelming and wholly disproportionate use of force applied by Israel against predominantly civilian populations and infrastructure in Gaza during the six weeks of Operation Protective Edge.
Fewer places was this more apparent than Shejaia, a town of some 150,000 people on the eastern edge of Gaza City.
Embarrassed by unexpectedly organized and effective Hamas fighters on the ground, Israel opted instead to obliterate whole neighbourhoods in retaliation, and to avoid taking the soldiers on in ground combat.
Israel sent in an avalanche of tanks, F-16s and Apache helicopters volleying high explosive shells and missiles into homes, schools, streets, farms and fleeing townspeople.
As AlJazeera reports of the Israeli massacre in Shejaia, on the eastern edge of Gaza City:
According to this senior U.S. officer, who had access to the July 21 Pentagon summary of the previous 24 hours of Israeli operations, the internal report showed that 11 Israeli artillery battalions — a minimum of 258 artillery pieces, according to the officer’s estimate — pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during a seven-hour period at the height of the operation. Senior U.S. officers were stunned by the report.
This equates to one shell every 6 seconds, for seven hours – at the height of the massacre.
“Eleven battalions of IDF artillery is equivalent to the artillery we deploy to support two divisions of U.S. infantry,” a senior Pentagon officer with access to the daily briefings said. “That’s a massive amount of firepower, and it’s absolutely deadly.” Another officer, a retired artillery commander who served in Iraq, said the Pentagon’s assessment might well have underestimated the firepower the IDF brought to bear on Shujaiya. “This is the equivalent of the artillery we deploy to support a full corps,” he said. “It’s just a huge number of weapons.”
Artillery pieces used during the operation included a mix of Soltam M71 guns and U.S.-manufactured Paladin M109s (a 155-mm howitzer), each of which can fire three shells per minute. “The only possible reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible,” said the senior U.S. military officer. “It’s not mowing the lawn,” he added, referring to a popular IDF term for periodic military operations against Hamas in Gaza. “It’s removing the topsoil.”
This kind of firepower would be terrifying and deadly against a fully equipped military power – but against civilian men, women and children, it constitutes a genocidal act.
110 Palestinians were killed in just the opening hours.
This is what it looked like on the ground.
I spent time in Shejaia last week, witnessing the aftermath of this godawful night. Here is a section of that report:
We speak with the al-Masrani family in the shell of their former home. They lived on the first floor of a five storey building, There are only three storeys left, and the facade of the building is now rubble in the street. We make our way carefully up the stairwell, making sure not to fall through the gaping holes or trip on the foot-deep debris.
There is no door to their apartment, and it is utterly devastated. To my left, what remains of a toilet – filled with dust and broken bricks, with the door blown off its hinges. To the right of that, a double bed is just visible, a Minnie Mouse doll perched on the mattress, amid fallen beams, dust and chunks of cement. The family bathroom is knee-deep in the remains of the collapsed ceiling. We stand in the lounge – before us, the devastated apartment and behind us, devastated Shejaia. If I take a step backwards, I will simply fall out of the living room into the street. The wall is gone.
I speak to the patriarch first – he is peaceful and communicative in a way I find unimaginable given the terror to which he has so recently been subjected. His voice is soft, his eyes bright.
“They gassed us in our beds” He says of the Israeli armed forces.
He tells me that first came the gas, then the apartments above them were hit by a missile. So in the height of fear, they were forced to choose between remaining in their apartment and likely being blown to pieces like the families above them, or to flee and likely be gassed, shelled or shot in the street like their other neighbours. They chose to run, at least giving themselves a chance. This elderly man, his wife and their two sons (in their 20′s), took to the streets of Shejaia.
They somehow managed to survive this attack.
But just hours after I spoke with them, after all they’d been through, Israel broke the ceasefire and began its aerial assault again. Never mind the unimaginable horror and devastation already wreaked upon the stricken town – Israel hit it without pause for another week.
I have no idea if they made it through this time.
This is all that remains of Shejaia.
David Cameron will be speaking on Gaza in the House of Commons, Monday 1st September 3.30pm. Email your MP with:
1) a demand that they attend the statement, as it is a matter of great importance to you.
2) the questions, or points you would like them to make.
No excuses. It doesn’t matter who your MP is or the likelihood of them listening to you. Speak out anyway.
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