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Gaza Death Zone

by ANN WRIGHT

The Palestinians in the Death Zone called Gaza are being slaughtered again as Israel and now Egypt kill and wound more innocent civilians who challenge their illegal siege, blockade and quarantine.

In the past four days, one young Palestinian man has been killed and two young women and a young man have been wounded by Israeli snipers as they protested the Israeli bulldozing of 300 meters of Palestinian land into an Israeli “buffer zone.” Four young Palestinian tunnel workers have been killed by suffocation and 6 injured as Egypt sprayed a crowd disbursal gas into a tunnel.

Death in the Tunnels from Egyptian Gas and from Israeli Bombs

According to an Associated Press report, yesterday, on April 28, four young Palestinian men who work as tunnel diggers were killed by suffocation by some type of crowd control gas sprayed into one tunnel by Egyptian authorities. Six other tunnel workers were seriously injured by the gas.

Other Palestinian tunnel workers have been killed in tunnels that collapse from Israeli aerial bombings and from contact with electrical wires that run the length of the tunnels that power an underground lighting system.

According to the Mezan Center, a Gaza Human Rights organization, five Palestinian men have died in tunnel collapses in 2010. In 2009-2010, Israeli aerial strafing killed 10 Palestinians in the tunnels. A total of 141 have died in the tunnels and 353 have been injured, including 4 children.

Gaza’s official border crossings have been closed by Israel and Egypt since 2007 when Hamas, considered a “terrorist organization” by Israel and the United States, seized control of Gaza following a Parliamentary election in 2006 in which Hamas won sufficient seats to control the Parliament.

The tunnels underneath the border with Egypt are the lifeline that provide a means of getting food and materials into Gaza since the Israeli blockade prohibits all but 44 items to come into Gaza. The Israelis maintain that the tunnels are used to bring weapons into Gaza that are used against Israeli forces.

Egypt has cracked down on movement of materials through the tunnels in recent months. Egyptian authorities have blown up numerous tunnel entrances and set up checkpoints in the area around Rafah, Egypt and confiscated materials destined for the tunnels. With the assistance of the United States, since December, 2009, Egypt has been building an underground steel wall to block the tunnels. About four miles of the underground wall is complete with another four miles to go to completely cut off the tunnels.

Once the underground steel wall is complete, the suffocation of the people of Gaza will begin in earnest, unless international citizen pressure forces Israel, Egypt, the United States and European Union countries to stop the collective punishment of the people of Gaza through this illegal blockade.

Death and Injury of Palestinians and Internationals by Israeli Shooting During Protests of the Taking of 20% of Arable Gaza Land for an Israeli “Buffer Zone”

On Wednesday, April 28, 2010, Ahmed Salem Deeb was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper during protests against the Israeli military bulldozing of Palestinian farming lands in a 300 meter zone in Gaza that Israel calls a “buffer zone,” and a no-go zone for Palestinians.

Up to 20 per cent of Gaza’s arable land is inaccessible to Palestinian farmers because it is now in the new “no-go” area. The Israeli “shoot to kill” policy is implemented in this zone in Palestinian territory. Palestinians have been shot by Israeli snipers as far as 2 kilometers away from the border.

According to Max Ajl, a reporter who was at the protest, Ahmed died from a severed femoral artery from a hollow-tip bullet that had ruptured the middle of his thigh, shredding it. The doctor at al Shifa hospital in Gaza City said Ahmed died of shock and blood loss.

Four days before Ahmed’s death, on Friday, April 24, 2010 at a peaceful, non-violent demonstration at El Maghazi, Deir Al Balah, Gaza, against the Israeli “buffer zone,” three people were shot by Israeli military snipers.

Nidal Al Naji (18) was shot in his right thigh. Hind Al Akra (22) was shot in the stomach and had to undergo emergency surgery. Bianca Zammit (28), a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was shot in her left thigh as she was filming the protest.

During the events of April 24, approximately 20 Palestinians had gone to the “buffer zone.” Several carried Palestinian flags as a part of continuing demonstrations against the illegal action by Israel to create a 300 meter buffer zone in Palestinian land and declare it off limits to Palestinians.

Those who enter into the border area go there to gather rubble and steel for rebuilding homes, schools and clinics. 6,400 homes were destroyed or severely damaged and 53,000 other homes sustained lesser damage in the 22 day Israeli attack in 2009 on Gaza that killed 1440, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. The Israeli siege on Gaza has prevented construction materials from entering Gaza making the damaged construction materials found along the border area vital to the modest rebuilding efforts.

Prior to the April 24 incident, in late March, a Palestinian teenager was killed and 12 people were wounded, including children, as Israeli troops opened fire east of Khan Younis at “Land Day” demonstrators near the Gaza border.

2 Israeli soldiers and 4 Palestinians killed in Gunfight in March, 2010

On March 26, 2010, two Israeli soldiers were killed inside Gaza during an exchange of fire with Palestinians who the Israeli military said were planting explosives along the security barrier on the Israel-Gaza border. Two Palestinians were killed in that incident and two others later the same day. It was the first time an Israeli soldier had been killed in Gaza since January 27, 2009, the end of the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza.

Also on March 26, 2009, Israeli ground forces backed by tanks and helicopter gunships fired at Palestinians in a sparsely populated border area near the city of Khan Younis. The Israeli military said the action was a “routine defensive operation meant to protect southern Israel from militants who attack it with rockets and explosives.” Gaza medical authorities reported that eight civilians were injured in the fighting, including three hurt in an aerial attack.

In 8 years, from September 2000-December 2008, 4860 Palestinians Killed by Israelis; 972 Israelis Killed by Palestinians

According to the Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem, in the eight years from September 29, 2000 to December 27, 2008, 4791 Palestinians were killed in the Occupied Territories by Israeli Security forces (3,000 in Gaza, 1791 in the West Bank) and 69 Palestinians were killed in Israel by Israeli Security Forces.

During the same period, 245 Israeli security force personnel were killed by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (97 in Gaza and 148 in the West Bank) and 90 Israeli security forces were killed by Palestinians in Israel. 237 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians (39 in Gaza and 198 in the West Bank). During the same period, 490 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians in Israel.

In 22 day attack by Israelis on Gaza in December, 2008 and January, 2009, 1417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis Were Killed

During the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza from December 27, 2008 until January 18, 2009, between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinians (first figure is from the IDF and the second from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights) were killed. PCHR reports that this figure includes 960 civilians, including 288 children and 121 women and 239 police officers.

13 Israelis were killed during the 22 day period, 10 soldiers and 3 civilians. 5 of 10 Israeli soldiers were killed by friendly fire from other Israeli soldiers.

Deaths and Injuries of International Solidarity Movement volunteers

Bianca Zammit, who was wounded on April 24, 2010, arrived in Gaza in May, 2009, as one of 65 delegates from 10 countries who travelled to Gaza in a trip organized by CODEPINK: Women for Peace. Bianca, from Malta, wanted to go to Gaza to work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group of women and men from around the world who attempt to protect, by their international presence, Palestinians in Gaza and the Occupied Territories as they work in their agricultural fields, as they tend their sheep and goats and as they protect their homes from demolition by Israeli military bulldozers.

Bianca was shot as she was filming Palestinians as they walked in to the newly razed Palestinian land. Through her camera, Bianca was documenting what is happening in Gaza, documentation which the Israeli military apparently considered a threat to their security.

Several international solidarity workers have been injured and killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza and the West Bank. On April 23, 2010, an Israeli activist protesting in solidarity with Palestinians in B’ilin, West Bank, suffered a broken skull and a brain hemorrhage after Israeli soldiers shot him directly with a tear gas projectile that hit his forehead at B’ilin.

On March 13, 2009, American ISM volunteer Tristan Anderson was critically wounded by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers near Nil’in. On September 6, 2007, ISM volunteer Akram Ibrahim abu Sba was killed by members of Islamic Jihad in Jenin.

On April 11, 2003, American ISM volunteer Brian Avery was shot in the face and permanently disfigured by machine gunfire from an IDF armored personnel carrier while he was escorting Palestinian medical personnel in the street. On April 11, 2003, British ISM volunteer Thomas Hurndall was left clinically brain dead after he was shot in the head by an IDF soldier. Hurndall died in January, 2004.

On March 16, 2003, American ISM volunteer Rachel Corrie was killed as an IDF bulldozer ran over her as she attempted to block the destruction of a home in Rafah, Gaza.

Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish ISM volunteer was shot by an IDF soldier in Jenin shortly before UNRWA relief works project manager, British citizen Iain Hook was killed by Israeli military gunfire.

On April 2, 2002, Australian ISM volunteer Kate Edwards received severe internal injuries from Israeli shooting during a protest in Beit Jala.

People of Conscience Demand an End to the Killing and to the Siege of Gaza

People of conscience around the world demand that Israel, Egypt, the United States and European Union countries stop their illegal siege of Gaza and their collective punishment of the Palestinians of Gaza.

People of conscience demand that the Israeli military stop taking Palestinian land to create their own buffer zone and stop shooting at Palestinians who are telling Israel to end the illegal seizure of Palestinian land.

People of conscience demand that soldiers who shoot unarmed civilians be held accountable for these crimes.

People of conscience call on President Barack Obama to withhold funding (over $3 Billion each year) from Israel until these unlawful and illegal actions of the Israeli military forces and the Israeli government end.

ANN WRIGHT is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She travelled to Gaza three times in 2009 and helped coordinate the Gaza Freedom March. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

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Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She also was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She has been in Gaza six times and was on the 2010 Gaza Flotilla that was attacked by the IDF and who executed nine passengers and wounded 50.

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