(Updated Nov. 16) Palestine: Gaza left activist, 'Israel has declared war', solidarity needed now! Ali Abunimah on Israel's goal

November 14, 2012 -- Al Jazeera's Shakuntala Santhrian interviews Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada. More from Ali Abunimah below the interview with Shamikh Badra.

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Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle & Patrick Harrison interview Shamikh Badra, Gaza-based activist with the Palestine People's Party

November 15, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- Israel has launched a fresh full-scale war on the besieged people of Gaza. As well as assassinating a Hamas spokesperson (and publicly threatening all Hamas representatives), more than 10 people had been killed by November 15. The dead reportedly includes Omar, an 11-month-old baby whose father works for BBC Arabic.

Disgustingly, the Israel Defence Force is "live tweeting" its murderous assault.

Patrick Harrison and Peter Boyle spoke to Shamikh Badra, a Gaza-based activist with the left-wing Palestine People's Party who recently toured Australia, about Israel's latest killing spree. The interview took place on the morning of November 15, 2012, Sydney (Australia)  time.

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What is the situation like in Gaza Strip? Are the attacks taking place across the whole area?

Over the past 48 hours, the Israeli army has escalated their aerial and ground attacks against the Gaza Strip. More than 10 people have been killed so far in the Israeli operation named “Pillar of Defence” within the last seven hours, including countless children such as seven-year-old child Ranan Arafat and an 11-month old baby. More than 50 others, including six women and 12 children, have been wounded.

Four of these deaths and 38 of the injuries, some of them serious, resulted from an Israeli attack in the al-Shoja’iya neighbourhood east of Gaza City which occurred on Sunday.

We’ve seen charred bodies of dead and injured children pouring in to Al Shifa hospital of Gaza City and the other depleted hospitals around the Gaza Strip. There have been at least 50 air strikes all over the Gaza Strip so far. Deafening explosions shook us all as bombs landed close to us in the streets near the Universities -- the windows of my house were broken as a result of Israeli bombing.

Huge explosions are landing all around us in Gaza City now as I write, some entire families have been injured. All the infrastructure of Gaza is coming under attack at this point -- power, water, roads, houses, farms and civilians. We can also hear the shelling of Israeli Gunships. There has been announcements of possible Israeli land invasion very soon.

What is the mood like among the people of Gaza? Are they afraid this will be another full-scale assault like Israel's "Cast Lead" offensive in 2008-09?

The Palestinian people will never surrender to Israeli aggression, they will defend themselves. More than 330 children were killed in the last bloody operation like this in operation Cast Lead, killing over 1400 in total: the vast majority civilians.

It is clear Israeli occupation is preparing for another war against the civilians on Gaza. Israel has declared war on Gaza.

Israel says that it was a surgical attack aimed at a Hamas security chief who has "blood on his hands". What is your comment?

I think the occupation wants to justify the crimes against Palestinians on Gaza.

We ask, what more does the international community need to see to be convinced to act than the dozens of dead corpses of children in Gaza? It is left to civil society and people of conscience to stop the ongoing massacre in Gaza.

I think Netanyahu’s attempts to use the Palestinian people in the electoral campaign is a crime in itself. We reiterate our condemnation of the international conspiracy of silence and Arab impotence in the face of these continuous Israeli crimes.

Why do you think Israel has launched an attack now?

As I have said, I think Netanyahu attempts to use the blood of Palestinian people in the electoral campaign. Israeli occupation always wants change the facts , they think that are able to hide their crimes.

Do people in Gaza expect Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi to intervene?

People hope for a lot of things from Egypt to intervene to stop the aggression, especially after the revolution of January 25. Egypt should not stand idle before this aggression.

It is good that Egypt recalled its ambassador from Israel on November 14 after Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, but I think it is not enough.

What can we in the West do at this point to show our solidarity for Gaza and stop this Israeli aggression?

You can make a difference. We call on the free peoples to organise protests, marches, demonstrations to reveal the Israeli crimes against the civilians of Palestinian people of Gaza, and to push their governments to stop this aggression against the innocent civilians -- children, women, people.

This heinous crime also comes one week after the re-election of Barak Obama for a second term. Tel Aviv claims to have been given the green light to annihilate as many Palestinians in Gaza as possible .

We call on the international community to stop the Israeli massacres against Palestinians, to stop another bloodbath in Gaza. Inaction around the world has lead us to this point -- please act now to support the besieged people of the Gaza Strip.

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At a press conference outside Shifa Hospital tonight, Palestine's minister of health Dr Mofad Al Makhalalaty called on the international community to immediately intervene to prevent another catastrophe.

Israel hopes attacks will 'reformat' Gaza

By Ali Abunimah

November 14, 2012 -- Electronic Intifada -- This morning Israel ended an effective truce with armed groups in Gaza, and carried out the extrajudicial execution of Ahmed al-Jabari, the commander of the military wing of Hamas.

Israeli attacks today killed at least seven people including two young girls in Gaza.

Aside from the fact that it almost always violates truces and ceasefires, seeking escalation where instead there could be calm, what motives might Israel have?

Israel’s “Minister of Home Front Defense” [Avi Dichter] says Gaza must be “reformatted” as if it were a computer hard drive, just like Israel did in the West Bank in 2002 during a series of massacres it called “Operation Defensive Shield”.

Dichter is a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet assassination organization, which claimed responsibility for killing of al-Jabari.

Israel’s Ynet reported in Hebrew that Dichter

said in a closed meeting, in the course of his visit in the south under the escalation, that “there is no other choice, Israel must carry out a formatting action in Gaza, actually format the system and clean it out, the way we did in Judea & Samaria during Operation Defensive Shield.” Dichter added that it is only in this way that the military deterrence will return.

Israel credits these attacks with turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) into an even more obedient partner of the Israeli army in suppressing Palestinian resistance. In the 2000s, under the supervision of US general Keith Dayton, PA forces were re-made into a more effective Israeli proxy force to suppress any resistance, particularly from Hamas.

Ron Ben-Yishai, a Ynet columnist with close ties to the “security” establishment wrote that the attack on al-Jabari and other anticipated attacks “was planned a long time ago, but it was postponed due to the election campaign”.

Ben-Yishai did not specify whether he was referring to the US election that saw President Barack Obama re-elected on November 6, or the Israel election scheduled for January.

The goal claims Ben-Yishai is to “restore [Israel’s] deterrence through a series of painful attacks on top military figures and assets belonging to all the terror organizations in Gaza, with an emphasis on Hamas”.

'Unprecedented damage'

Dichter’s call for “Defensive Shield”-like devastation and killing has been echoed in Israel's press. Reuven Berko, a commentator in Israel Hayom wrote:

Israel must not serve as a capricious victim of one or the other organization of bearded persons. It must bomb the [Gaza] Strip and cause unprecedented damage to activists and infrastructure, without exposing its soldiers to direct contact. Gaza is a chronicle of sisyphic combat, which will be decided in deterrence founded on damages [described] by orders of magnitude, so each individual soldier should be spared. Since the alternative for the Hamas leadership is already ready in Gaza, only a very few of the old timers should be retained as a ‘focus of knowledge’, with [this knowledge] burnt into their consciousness, to retain the memory and the deterrence.

Effectively, Berko is calling for mass elimination existing leadership, and its replacement with one more pliant to Israel’s wishes.

Israeli targeting of civilians

As Ben-Yishai acknowledged, Israel’s escalation of attacks on Gaza began not – as Israeli propaganda usually claims – after Palestinians fired rockets toward civilian areas, but after Palestinian resistance fighters targeted and hit Israeli forces enforcing the siege and occupation of Gaza.

It was Israel that “retaliated” by shelling civilian areas killing and injuring dozens of civilians in recent days. Before today’s additional victims, Israel’s attacks had claimed a high toll on Gaza. Between November 8 and 13, Israel killed six Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including three children and injured 52 others, including 12 children and six women, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

As of November 6 – before the latest orgy of killing by Israel – 71 Palestinians had been killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip in 2012, and 291 injured, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In the same period 19 Israelis had been injured by Palestinian fire from Gaza and none killed.

While today’s attacks are defined as “limited” and even “surgical” in Israeli terms, that is not how they are seen in Gaza.

“Gaza has been enduring Israeli policies of extermination and vandalism since 2006. We reiterate our condemnation of the international conspiracy of silence and Arab impotence in the face of these continuous Israeli crimes”, said the One Democratic State Group in a statement, also signed by the University Teachers Union and the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel.

“We note that not a single action against Israel has been taken by any Arab country. Will the Arab Spring stand aside and watch while we are being butchered? Empty rhetoric will no longer be accepted. Words of condemnation have to be translated into action.”

The statement called for an escalation of global campaigns of boycott, divestment and sanctions and other forms of protest against Israel.

With thanks to Dena Shunra for translation.