Gaza – “Blatant Extermination”
The Shejaiya Massacre
By TLB Contributor: Ariyana Love
This is Shejaiya district. It was utterly destroyed by the Israeli military in July of this year. Virtually nothing remains in Shejaiya now except rubble. The destruction of the city is reminiscent of the destruction of Hiroshima in Japan, with the dropping of the Atomic bomb in 1945.
During their 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip, which they named “Operation Protective Edge”, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) transformed entire neighborhoods and border villages into gigantic crime scenes of devastation. With those attacks, the Israeli policy of the overt extermination of people became undeniably clear, shocking the ‘free world.’
A colleague and friend, Denny Cormier, who is an American human rights activist and citizen journalist, remained on the ground in Gaza during the entire 51 days of bombing, choosing to stay in Gaza rather than seeking refuge in Egypt or returning to the United States, because, as he put it, “you don’t abandon your friends when things get tough.”
Denny has been living in Gaza for 7 months now, preparing material for a series of short documentaries and reporting on his experiences in Gaza using social media. He risked his own life, acting as a human shield at Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa. He and other international activists were successful and prevented Israel from destroying it.
Israel started its ground invasion into Gaza on Thursday, the 17th of June. The incursion was carried out secretively at first.
Denny was broadcasting live from his living room in Gaza City. Our team of journalists and activists were feeding Denny live updates and breaking news, which he relayed through his broadcast. As the attacks intensified, so did the horror, which grew obvious in his eyes. We could hear the sounds of artillery shelling from war ships just offshore and explosions from bombs dropped by F16 jets, intensifying just after midnight. We were all sickened with horror. By the time the Israeli military unleashed its fatal assaults, we were receiving reports of a ground invasion. It was not publicized in Israeli media until the following day.
The Palestinian Resistance (who many of us consider ‘Freedom Fighters’) fought courageously, defending their homes and families from a ground invasion. Much to everyone’s surprise, they demonstrated remarkable stealth, agility and bravery.
Although 17 members of the Resistance were killed and 21 others detained for questioning on the first day of the ground operations (New York Times), Israeli Occupation Forces also suffered severe casualties during the attack and were forced to retreat. It was a defeat for Israel and a blow to the establishment’s collective ego.
According to Israel, 20-year-old Israeli combatant, Eitan Barak, was shot and killed in the early hours of the attack, and seven members of the Israeli assault team were also wounded.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Israeli Government has a track record of lying to the public. Reporting half of the actual deaths of their own personnel is standard military procedure, according to every Palestinian news source I’ve spoken to. Considering the fact that the IOF retreated that night, their casualties were likely much higher. We also received reports around 2:00 am from reliable sources on the ground in Gaza, that 5 Israeli militants had been killed.
A large percentage of the African population of refugees living in Israel (mostly from Congo) was recruited to join the IOF for the assault on Gaza. None of their deaths are reported because to the “Jews-only state”, they are not considered members of the “Jewish army” or the Jewish “state,” even though these are already second-generation refugees in “Israeli” Occupied Territory. This is carefully hidden from the mainstream.
On the night of Friday, July 19 at 11 pm, the ground invasion resumed. All border towns throughout Gaza were assaulted with heavy bombardment from air, land and sea. As usual, never before tested, internationally banned experimental weapons were also used. (We’ll explore this more in a following article).
With the world and the Israeli population watching, the Israelis made their criminal pronouncement that they were going to “take the gloves off” this time. Defeat was not in their agenda.
Egypt’s Complicity in War Crimes
Israel’s first ground invasion attempt in Gaza was in 2012. It lasted 5 days and was abruptly interrupted by Egypt’s President Morsi, who threatened war against Israel, if they did not retreat.
In this 2014 assault on Gaza, President Sisi’s loyalty to Zionism and the illegal “state” of Israel allowed the lawless “state” to carry out their ground invasion, with extended killings and vast destruction of Gaza, on a scale never seen before.
Sisi committed his own historic war crimes by preventing tons of desperately needed medical supplies and humanitarian aid from entering Gaza prior to, during and after the assault. He prevented 70 international doctors from entering through the Rafah Boarder Crossing, during the assault.
Overwhelmed with hundreds of mangled bodies arriving same day in hospitals, doctors had to choose between patients, treating only those they believed had the best chance of surviving. Understaffed, they could not give proper care to everyone.
They worked around the clock, extending the boundaries of exhaustion – catching a few hours of sleep whenever they could, on mattresses laid out in a conference room.
Some surgeries were performed without anesthesia and others without electricity, while doctors lit the operating table with cell phones during electrical outages.
By the next day, Friday the 18th, 100,000 civilians were evacuating from the Northern villages of Gaza, while at least another 100,000 or more were fleeing the carnage and chaos in the rest of Gaza’s Eastern boarder towns. UNRWA schools were opened as shelters and quickly filled to capacity. Imagine 1000 people sharing the same toilet.
Hospitals were understaffed – and overflowing with the injured, dead and dying. I remember a Tweet from Belal Dabour of a boy age 8 that was found sleeping on the cement ground of Al Shifa hospital parking lot, curled in a ball with a cat in his arms. He and his cat were the only survivors from his house demolition. In fact, thousands of civilians took refuge in the parking lots of hospitals, on sidewalks and in the streets.
As the Israeli Ministry had threatened, they took the gloves off in Gaza– while the international community observed the horror and Israeli spectators watched from hilltops in occupied territory, joyfully cheering and munching popcorn.
Meeting an impressive resistance from Palestinian Freedom Fighters was not something that anyone anticipated, especially not the fourth “most powerful” military in the world. Israeli Occupation Forces were frightened and confused by the Freedom Fighters display of skilled tactics on the battlefield and suffered a great blow of humiliation.
Angered by the loss of their comrades, it was with a vengeful mindset that the IOF approached Gaza’s Eastern town of Shejaiya, early Saturday morning of July 19th, when the ground invasion was resumed. Rolling in with tanks and on foot, infantrymen from Israel’s elite Golani Brigade and Nasal Unit were “catching bases” in Shejaiya homes, waiting for further orders.
Israeli commanders gave the infantry orders to “get ready for an extended killing.”
Demonstrating no couth, Israeli militants defecated on the bathroom floors of the homes they seized – scribbled graffiti and obscenities on the walls, and severely vandalized these homes amidst the excitement.
Aaron Afranti, a former Israeli militant turned anti-occupation activist and investigative researcher, provided us with insight into the Shejaiya Massacre. Knowing personally 3 Israeli militants who were involved, Aaron collected first hand testimony of events in Shejaiya, which was one of the most horrific pogroms carried out during the 51 days of Israeli war crimes.
That same evening, Freedom Fighters stealthily ambushed an Israeli unit in the southern area of Shejaiya, shooting them and taking their weapons. 6 Israeli militants died.
And later in the evening, 7 Israeli militants, who spearheaded the Golani Brigade attack, were also killed in Shejaiya, when the Resistance forces ambushed their armed vehicle.
Israel’s military chief, Benny Gantz, said that the Israeli army had suffered more casualties on a single day than at any other time since the start of Israeli Occupation began in 1948. This infuriated the Israelis.
Of the 13 Israeli combatants killed in Shejaiya, a Deputy Battalion Commander was one of them. Freedom Fighters captured Oron Shaul of the Golani Brigade. That’s when the Hannibal Directive was invoked.
“The directive was code-named Hannibal. It considers a dead IDF soldier better than a captured one,” Israeli Occupation Forces have stated.
The idea behind the directive is to avoid a captive Israeli soldier from being taken alive, preventing political embarrassment and denying their enemy bargaining chips. Its objective is to prevent concessions that would have to be made to secure the abducted soldiers release.
Shocking as it may sound, Israelis are ordered to kill their own soldiers when they are captured, rather than to be vulnerable to future negotiations with the enemy over their release. And that is precisely what they did on at least three occasions when Israeli combatants were captured during ground invasions into Gaza.
The Israeli government has claimed that Oron Shual was not captured, but was killed in combat. It claimed that the Hannibal Directive was not enforced in Shejaiya, but admits it was enforced later in Rafah when Lt. Hadar Goldin of the Givati Brigade was captured.
But, according to Aron Afranti, Israeli forces ran over the bodies of their fellow soldiers with their tanks, in what was obviously a chaotic scene that could only be “justified” by an unrestrained rampage to kill the captured Oron Shual, before Freedom Fighters could take him to a safe house. Israeli forces returned Sunday morning to pick up the body parts of their fellow infantry.
Israeli military tractors were sent into Shejaiya to collect a large amount of sand from the area, which contained body parts. And after careful forensic work, the occupation army was able to identify the remains of six of the seven soldiers who were killed, but no traces of Shaul, the seventh soldier, were found according to the Times of Israel.
In Shejaiya, the Occupation Army’s orders were to “shoot at anything that moves, whether it is a civilian, Freedom Fighter, or even an animal.” With that order, terror resumed.
110,000 Shejaiya residents and their homes and businesses were bombarded continuously for 48 hours from tank artillery and warplane hellfire.
130 Palestinians, including women and children, were slaughtered in two days, based on the highest orders from the Israeli military commanders, who called for an extended extermination of the civilian population. The Occupation Army shot at everything they could target until everybody was either running away or had been killed. Scores of civilians fleeing the neighborhood were shot in the back and killed in the streets.
Tank artillery flattened homes, often crushing entire families who were trapped inside. Some families were executed at gunpoint inside their homes. And the wounded could not be rescued for 3 days.
“We couldn’t save anyone; we were running out of the town. Whoever fell down – be it family member, relative, friend, or stranger – due to an injury or any other obstacle, did not get any help to escape from the town (so they died in the streets, in homes and in backyards – basically everywhere.) Everyone wanted to save his/her own life because pausing for a second in that time to help anyone might get you killed,” an old man from Shejaiya said.
In the morning, thousands began fleeing for their lives at first light. The UN has reported that more than 60,000 civilians from Shejaiya fled to the international body’s shelters at UNRWA schools.
According to Ashraf Khalaf from Shejaiya, “We stayed in one corner for the whole night. They didn’t stop shelling homes and nearby buildings. We heard the screams of girls and people crying. Once the sun rose we left our homes in groups, but the Israeli artillery shelling didn’t stop in the streets. My cousin was running beside me, and he was killed in front of me. I couldn’t save him. I kept running holding my younger brother. They attacked the Al Qassa family in the Al Remal neighborhood. 8 were killed – all women and girls.”
Those, who escaped, talked about “massacre” and “streets filled with martyrs”. There were many others who also witnessed massacres in the UNRWA schools as Israeli tanks and warplanes deliberately targeted them there. 14 people were killed and dozens more were severely wounded at an UNRWA school in Shejaiya.
“It was like doomsday,” Hanadi al-Kabariti, 33, said after she fled Shejaiya. “There is nowhere to hide in Gaza. It’s dangerous wherever you go,” she said.
Walking barefoot, with almost nothing, many families who fled Shejaiya, wandered in the streets, not knowing where to go. “We went to UNRWA schools, but they were full. They closed the gates. So we went to Al Shifa hospital, but there was no place for us there either” – a family of 7 reported.
Israel Targets & Kills Paramedics:
As the news arrived from Shejaiya some brave paramedics and firefighters tried to enter the area, despite the heavy shelling. They were deliberately targeted – with many killed or injured.
In one account: at 9 am on Saturday morning, three firefighters were injured when an Israeli missile or shell directly hit their truck. The two men, Muhammed Abu Naji, 28-year-old father of two, and Ayman Asa’d el-Arabid, 27-year-old father of five, were on their way to Shejaiya to put out the fire. Later they lay in the Al Shifa emergency room, with tears in their eyes, unable to move. Muhammed was partially paralyzed due to the injury to his back. He lost consciousness and could not remember what happened. At around 10 am the body of a paramedic Fuad Jabir was also brought to the main hospital.
By Saturday night, the Red Cross simply switched off their phones. I called them many times and into the early morning.
With Israel’s blatant disregard for our international laws by the extermination of people and deliberate targeting of several ambulances, with many paramedics injured and others killed, and with ambulances unable to reach the area, on Sunday the International Committee of the Red Cross called for an urgent temporary ceasefire to allow paramedics to evacuate the dead and wounded. Both sides agreed to this ceasefire.
It was hellish scenes of carnage and chaos that greeted a convoy of ambulances that moved in to make the most of the calm (an AFP correspondent reported). Entire buildings were collapsed or strewn all over the streets, while others were still ablaze, sending pillars of black smoke skywards. There were also bodies lying strewn in the streets, blackened and charred almost beyond recognition, some with whole limbs missing. Evidence of Israel’s use of internationally banned weapons was apparent.
Ministry of Health and Safety crews were astonished when they arrived in Shejaiya. Sixty percent of the homes were completely destroyed, especially those in the eastern part of the village.
Even Israel’s allies were shocked by the intensity of its shelling on civilian areas. On August 27, US military officials called the shelling of Shejaiya town, largely leveled by Israeli artillery fire, “absolutely deadly” and meant only “to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible.”
The barrages of artillery fire into Shejaiya, according to a Pentagon briefing, pumped 4,800 shells into the neighborhood during a single seven-hour onslaught alone.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s Emergency Session on Operation Protective Edge, held in Brussels, September 24th 2014, found evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.
The Tribunal also found evidence of the following war crimes:
Extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity
Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and civilian objects
Disproportionate use of force
Attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and education
The use of Palestinians as human shields
Employing weapons, projectiles, and material and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering which are inherently indiscriminate
The use of violence to spread terror among the civilian population
The Tribunal further noted: ‘We have a genuine fear that in an environment of impunity and an absence of sanction for serious and repeated criminality, the lessons from Rwanda and other mass atrocities may once again go unheeded’.
The Tribunal calls on Israel to fulfill its’ obligations under international law and for the state of Palestine to accede without further delay to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court fully cooperate with the human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry and fully engage the mechanisms of international justice. (Mondoweiss)
The Tribunal also reminds all states to cooperate to bring to an end the illegal situation arising from Israel’s occupation, siege and crimes in the Gaza Strip. In light of the obligation not to render aid or assistance, all states must consider appropriate measures to exert sufficient pressure on Israel, including the imposition of sanctions, the severing of diplomatic relations collectively through international organizations, or in the absence of consensus, individually by breaking bilateral relations with Israel. (Mondoweiss)
It calls upon all states to fulfill their duty ‘to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide’.
It is every citizen of every nations responsibility to pressure our representatives to do what’s right by the occupied people of Palestine.
Video of Assassination of Journalist Ramy Ryan by Israeli forces.
23-year-old Salem Shamaly was shot as he searched for members of his family in the ruins of their Gaza homes, allegedly killed as he strayed into the path of an Israeli sniper (you don’t stray into a snipers path … snipers are trained to be very methodical and exact concerning their targets).