The number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead did not exceed five or six hundred, Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Italy’s Corriere della sera reported on Thursday. Cremonesi based his report on tours of hospitals in the Gaza Strip and on interviews with families of casualties. He also assessed the number of wounded to be far lower than 5,000, the number quoted by Hamas and repeated by the UN and the Red Cross in Gaza. “It is sufficient to visit several hospitals [in the Gaza Strip] to understand that the numbers don’t add up,” he wrote. In the European hospital in Rafah, one of the facilities which would presumably be filled with wounded from the “war of the tunnels,” many beds were empty, according to Cremonesi. A similar situation was noted in the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, and in the privately-run Amal Hospital Cremonesi reported that only five out 150 beds were occupied. Cremonesi interviewed Gazans who echoed Israel’s insistence of how Hamas gunmen used civilians as human shields. One Gazan recalled civilians in Gaza shouting at Hamas and Islamic Jihad men, “Go away, go away from here! Do you want the Israelis to kill us all? Do you want our children to die under their bombs? Take your guns and missiles with you.” “Traitors, collaborators with Israel, spies of Fatah, cowards! The soldiers of the holy war will punish you. And in any case you will all die, like us. Fighting the Zionist Jews we are all destined for paradise. Do you not wish to die with us?” the religious fanatics of Hamas reportedly responded. Other Palestinians told Cremonesi of Hamas operatives donning paramedic uniforms and commandeering ambulances. A woman identified as Um Abdullah, 48, spoke of Hamas using UN buildings as launch pads for rockets. Cremonesi reported that he had difficultly gathering evidence as the local population was terrified of Hamas.
Here is also something that validates the J’lem Post article. Blogger Kumitonttu forwards a letter from someone in Israel, that depicts just how much the Hamas was using civilians as human shields. These Islamofascists are pure evil, the those that support them or believe their lies ignoramus fools. KGSPalestinian ChildrenIt’s been pretty crazy here this week. Oshra has been on the phone and email most of the time. The kids have been on their own a lot while I was working. Even at school she has explained to her students what she’s doing and kept her cell-phone open during classes and spent her breaks making phone calls and sending SMSs. She asked me how I managed to do the things I did when I was so active all those years. But I didn’t start being politically active until she was in the army and then I mostly worked half-time and considered the other half of my time (paid for by the Defense Department) as a just return for this huge pension I’ve been getting all my life. She reminded me of all these movies of house-wife activists who run the world from their kitchen phones.At the beginning of the week we got – in writing – agreement from the IDF to allow 500 children to be evacuated from Gaza to the West Bank. They stipulated – besides a list of names, ages ID numbers and signed agreement of their legal guardians for the children to be removed, and a list of the families in the West Bank that would host the children, also that an international organization would take responsibility for transferring the children to the Erez checkpoint where the kibbutz movement would be waiting for them with trucks and buses to take them wherever they’re goingThings really got moving on Friday when Oshra finally got hold of somebody (Gershon Baskin – an old YJer and somebody I met at the two UN conventions I went to about “The Problem of Palestine”) He has contacts all over the place and got in touch with the regional director of UNRWA to get their agreement to ship the children out of Gaza. It’s unbelievable the difficulties we encountered. Neither the UNRWA nor the Red Cross would agree to transporting the children! UNRWA said it’s not in their mandate to transport refugees. I think the Red Cross had a similar response. The Palestinians were also unbelievably unhelpful. If they didn’t immediately attack us because we’re purporting to be humane and to care if children are being killed in Gaza, they either completely ignored us or came up with an endless list of objections to the plan. When the UNRWA refused to transfer the children we asked the PA who said they would have nothing to do with the fighting in Gaza. They have also announced that they won’t pay Israeli hospitals for hospitalization of wounded children (They usually pay for hospitalization of Palestinians who need medical care in Israel – but not war-wounded – go figure.) The ones who did talk to us complained that they couldn’t be sure a hosting family wouldn’t abuse a refugee child who came to stay with them. (Was there ever a worry about such a thing when Israelis were moving from home to home during the Lebanon war or groups of children were taken out of the bombing areas to places to rest and have some fun? t never occurred to us – and it never happened.) Then they were all suspicious about giving their names and ID numbers to the IDF. Still we could have overcome that difficulty with the help of private contacts among the Palestinian community. The kibbutz movement which has been working for years helping Palestinians care for their olive trees and harvest their olives – has lots of contacts on the West Bank. Oshra also made some good contacts with Palestinians in Gaza. One lady who sounds really sweet over the phone – has been trying to collect names of children. Meanwhile her house was blown up and she has moved in with her mother. Everyday we wait her phone call to be sure she’s still okay and her family is well (she has two teenage sons who were too old to be part of this deal.) Another doctor who has also been in constant contact with the news services here (speaks great Hebrew and works in Tel HaShomer) lost three daughters in a bombing attack today. We haven’t talked to the doctor today but we’ve seen the outpouring of sorrow from his many friends in Israel on the internet and also through the media. (A 100 hour candle-light vigil has started in Tel HaShomer to participate in his mourning for his daughters.) So we have to come to some sad conclusions. The Palestinians seem ready to do zilch to protect their children. They’d rather the children be martyred and make good propaganda than to cooperate in saving them. Something we already knew is that Palestinians are not very nice to each other. There seems to be little of the volunteer attitude of taking care of each other that we know from Israel. (I’ve known for years that even within Israel in Arab villages – where part of the population are “internally exiled” who were evicted from their villages in ’48 – these people are still considered refugees and second-class citizens compared to the “real” inhabitants of the villages.) The UNRWA and Red Cross will not touch a project that might potentially anger their Palestinian hosts – so while they are good at complaining about the humanitarian disaster that Israel has caused in Gaza – they won’t move a truck to get children out of the line of fire. Palestinian/Israeli dialogue organizations won’t disturb their brotherhood by helping with a project like this. The Palestinians are suspicious and the Israelis won’t call them on their suspicions. I’ve known for years that any cooperation with Palestinians demands – first-of-all – asking what they want us to do, and then doing it. They don’t appreciate it when somebody – on their own initiative offers help. And they mostly don’t let facts confuse them – Israelis are fascist racist murderers and they will do everything in their power to be sure their world looks that way.By today – she’d mostly given up. If there’s nobody to ship the children to Erez – the rest of the story just won’t work. The fact that there was a cease-fire in the making was irrelevant. (Even after the Lebanon War – children and families were taken out for R&R from the war zones. The same would definitely hold for this one. The families in Gaza will have their hands full cleaning up the mess – and having the children out of the way – in a quiet place for a week or two could be helpful.) But if the kids can’t be shipped – it’s no go. Oshra offered the written permission they’d gotten from the IDF to Physicians for Human Rights to use for shipping out wounded children. If we could have gotten the children to Erez – we could have overcome the rest of the problems through private contacts – but this one link stumped the whole thing. It may still happen. Who knows? Meanwhile we’ve been getting “publicity” from all over the place. Oshra got a phone call from a guy in France who said he would jump on the next jet and personally taxi children to Erez – if they’d let him. I phoned a friend from Peace Now today to see if she had any contacts higher in the UN than UNRWA (like from New York) and she immediately said “How is your initiative going? I heard the Palestinians aren’t too happy with it” at some meeting she’d had with them.
So anyway – tonight the Israeli government announced a “unilateral” cease-fire to begin in an hour and a half. I also think think we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns on this fight. We’re at the point where the ratio of civilians to combatants killed in Gaza is too high to continue. The Hamas’s human shield is working.
Everything else is rather moot this week.How are you?