Originally published at Common Dreams
Israeli air and ground forces continued to attack Gaza Monday while continuing to tighten a devastating blockade on the besieged territory. The latest bombing, ostensibly targeting Hamas, has been occurring nearly daily since August 6, and has largely been ignored by the U.S. corporate media.
Over the past few weeks, balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices, as well as some rockets, have been launched from Gaza into Israel, causing dozens of mostly small brushfires that have harmed no one.
Haaretz reports Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warplanes and tanks struck what it said were “Hamas military posts and underground infrastructure” in densely-populated Gaza “in response to explosive balloons” launched into Israeli territory.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA reports the IDF attacks targeted an area east of the town of al-Qarara, in Khan Younis. Israel also bombarded an agricultural area near the Sufa border crossing with artillery fire, destroying property but causing no casualties.
Al Jazeera reports Israel is also tightening its crippling economic blockade on Gaza, prohibiting the importation of fuel for the territory’s only power plant. On August 10, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza, part of an effort to deprive its people of fuel in retaliation for the balloon and rocket attacks. The crossing is the sole point of entry for goods between Israel and Gaza.
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said that the attacks from Gaza “will first and foremost harm the residents of the Gaza Strip, its economic growth, and the attempts to improve the civilian situation of its residents.”
According to Haaretz, power outages caused by the fuel shortage have left residents with only a few hours of daily electricity. Photos posted on Twitter and other social media show children sleeping on the floor in the summer heat due to lack of air conditioning.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, responded to the Israeli fuel cutoff by calling on “all concerned parties to maintain a supply of electricity that is sufficient to meet the basic needs of the civilian population,” citing “14 years of an illegal blockade and the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The closure of the power plant has caused the power feed to decline to two or three hours per day, followed by 20 hours of interruption,” UNRWA said in a press release. “Such poor power feed will negatively impact the wellbeing and safety of the people of Gaza. It will also have devastating effects on Gaza’s vital services, including hospitals, thus putting the lives and health of nearly 2 million people, including 1.4 million registered Palestinian refugees, at risk.”
Hamas, the militant Palestinian resistance group, recently admitted to launching missiles at Israel in response to the IDF attacks.
“[Hamas] is ready to stop any Israeli aggression toward Palestinians,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in an August 21 press release. “[Israel] must end its violations, stop the ongoing escalation, and end the 14-year-old siege imposed on Gaza.”
The 2 million people of Gaza—more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the United Nations—have been subjected to a brutal blockade since 2007 over acts of Palestinian resistance, including rocket attacks against Israel. Although Israel ended its illegal 38-year occupation and settler colonization of Gaza in 2005, it maintains a physical and economic stranglehold on the enclave. Israel has launched three major wars against Gaza since 2008, killing and wounding thousands of civilians while destroying much of the territory and displacing many thousands more.
The privation suffered by the people of Gaza has been so severe that human rights activists often refer to it as the “world’s largest open-air prison,” a description echoed by world leaders including former British Prime Minister David Cameron.
As the latest Israeli attack on Gaza continues, U.S. media have been accused of largely ignoring the assault. “U.S. corporate media, focused on the coronavirus and election coverage, have shown little interest in the renewed violence in the Middle East,” wrote Alan MacLeod for the media monitor group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) late last week. “Searching for Gaza on the websites of NBC News, CNN, MSNBC and PBS elicits no relevant results. Nor has Fox News addressed the bombing, although it did find time to cover the archaeological discovery of an old soap factory in Israel’s Negev Desert.”
“The reporting on the latest round of attacks on Gaza follows the patterns we have often remarked on,” MacLeod added, “downplaying Palestinian suffering and viewing the conflict from an Israeli state perspective.”
The new Israeli attacks on Gaza are occurring as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Israel, where he raised eyebrows and ire by recording a speech in Jerusalem to be aired during the Republican National Convention (RNC) on Tuesday. Pompeo’s move defies tradition—and perhaps more than that, according to some appalled career diplomats.
“It’s just shredding the Hatch Act,” one anonymous current U.S. diplomat told the Associated Press, referring to a federal law banning government employees from political activity while on the job.
“This is really a bridge too far,” concurred former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “Pompeo is clearly ensuring the State Department is politicized by using his position to carry out what is basically a partisan mission.”
President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, drawing widespread condemnation not only in the Middle East but around the world. The U.S. remains Israel’s largest benefactor by far, providing around $3.8 billion in annual military aid, as well as diplomatic cover for what prominent international critics call Israeli crimes including illegal occupation and settler colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as aggression in Gaza, and ethnic cleansing and apartheid in the occupied territories.