Israel resumed its genocidal war on Gaza following a brief pause, insufficient to address the plight of the thousands of missing children trapped beneath the rubble. Personally, I’ve been trying, since October 27, to reach a former colleague in the Bureij refugee camp. The unnerving lack of response echoes as ominous as a silent stone. I hesitated to contact others, afraid, I might get the same silent treatment, or worse yet, discover the dreaded truth.
Then, it came from an unexpected corner. On November 23, I received the news of the tragic death of my relative, Mariam (Mary), her daughter and grandchildren in Nuseirat refugee camp. A day earlier, Al Jazeera had covered a drone attack that obliterated a car, leaving charred bodies of women and children beyond recognition. Little did I know I had been watching the very car Mariam and her family had taken to escape their camp in a desperate attempt to find a “safer” shelter for her grandchildren.
Mariam, who was born in Palestine in the year of the Nakba in 1948, and I grew up in Nahr el Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. In the 1970s, she married a member of the PLO and was displaced in 1982, again, now from Lebanon. Subsequently, following the Oslo Accord, her family resettled in Gaza.
The last time I saw Mariam was more than a decade ago during my visit to our old camp, which happened to coincide with hers. She complained that I had been to Gaza without stopping by to see her. I explained that I was unaware she had relocated to Gaza. In reality, I had been to Nuseirat camp, and we could have crossed paths in an alley or at the small market. Nevertheless, the thought didn’t occur to me that she could be there, and it was likely that, after more than 20 years since our previous meeting, we wouldn’t easily recognize each other.
According to Benjamin Netanyahu’s interview with Meet the Press on November 12, Mariam and her family who heeded the Israeli military orders seeking a “safe” place, were “unintended casualties” and the 15,000 murdered civilians were “collateral damage.”
Arguing that a bombardment damaging 278,000 structures is simply “collateral damage” in a war fighting supposed “terrorists” hiding behind civilians, is “hogwash.” Especially, since the Israeli army is the only indicted party that have used civilians as human shields. In May 2002, Israel’s High Court of Justice explicitly prohibited Israeli soldiers from using Palestinian “civilians of any kind as a means of ‘living shield.’” Yet, even if one were to accept the prime minister’s definition of “collateral damage,” it would mean that Palestinian fighters must be physically and actively present (hiding) in or around the targeted 278,000 buildings throughout Gaza. This is an impossible reality given that the best estimates put the number of the largest group, Hamas fighters, between 30,000 to 40,000 or about 0.125 fighter at each building
The targeting of civilian structures is so omnipresent it covers 50% of all homes in Gaza. For 48 days and continues, the Israeli army had murdered 15 civilians, injured 35, dropped 42 bombs, and destroyed 12 buildings, every hour, every day. This relentless bombardment replicated a military strategy known as “area” or “saturation” bombing; a tactic initially employed by Nazi Germany in Poland in 1939. The allies applied the same “area” bombing technique in their counteroffensive against Nazi Germany in 1945 dropping 3,900 tons of explosives on the city of Dresden.
During the second week of the Israel war on Gaza, former Knesset Lawmaker Moshe Feiglin called to turn Gaza into Dresden. Feiglin wouldn’t be disappointed, the Israeli military listened and dropped on Gaza more than ten times (40,000 tons) of what all the allied forces had dropped on Dresden.
However, a more fitting warfare parallels would be the Japanese Great bombing of Chongqing in WWII from 1939 to 1942, whereby civilians were targeted to break the Chinese defiance. Over three years, the Japanese killed nearly an equivalent number of civilians as those murdered in Gaza—15,000 civilians. Still, a more compelling reality in this comparison, unlike Gaza which is cut off from the world, the defenders of Chongqing received nonstop military aid from the Soviet Union and the U.S., and the city was not under complete siege.
To contextualize it geographically, the area of Chongqing is 31,700 square miles, making it 1 to 0.0045 Gaza. In the three years of the Great bombing of Chongqing, 3,000 tons of explosives were dropped, or 1/13th of the explosives dropped on Gaza. Proportional to the area, Israel launched 2,888% more explosives in only 48 days than what the Japanese dropped during the three-year period in the Great bombing of Chongqing. Moreover, the contemporary destructive power per ton far exceeds that of World War II such as the misnomer “smart bombs,” a euphemism for more lethal weaponry.
Unlike Chongqing, what may seem random bombing is, in fact, a calculated and deliberate aspect of a covert Israeli system known as “Habsora” (The Gospel), which relies on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The AI-driven “mass assassination factory” utilizes algorithms to generate targets at a speed surpassing human capability. Operating semi autonomously and relying on a language structure instructing drones, fighter jets, rockets, warships, artillery etc., to harvest a preset bank of targets throughout Gaza. The algorithms can be manipulated without incorporating definitive parameters, such as the shape of moving objects, space, time, or speed, allowing the drone to engage targets, whether deemed “legitimate” military targets or not, as in the case of Mariam and her family in their car.
According to the Israeli news site +972 and Local Call who exposed the “Habsora” mass assassination factory, the AI data arranged its “military” targets into four categories, with two related to civilian objectives: “power targets” and “family homes.”
Power targets encompass public institutions such as universities, schools, hospitals, government buildings, banks, communication centers, power generation, water plants, fuel storage, residential towers, etc., aiming to induce a high level of civilian suffering.
The other civilian category is “family homes.” The Habsora database includes extensive private home addresses of persons suspected of being associated with the Palestinian resistance. The purpose for this data is to carry out strikes on residential quarters on a massive scale. Even though, there is no military activity associated with such addresses, and the unlikelihood that the alleged operative would be home during wartime events, AI delivers murdering multi-generational families, and neighbors as “unintended casualties.” The mass assassination factory is so pervasive that entire generations from multiple families are completely expunged from the civil registry. An example of this is what we saw on October 31st, when Israel dropped two-two-ton bombs on a home in the middle of the dense Jabalia refugee camp.
As per +972 and Local Call, in the early days of the Gaza genocidal war, the Israeli army focused on civilian infrastructure where in the first five days nearly “half of the targets bombed — 1,329 out of a total 2,687 — deemed ‘power targets.'”
The murdered civilians in Gaza came from all walks of life. Consider the family of Wael el Dahdouh, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Gaza. His family heeded Israeli warnings and moved to the “safe” south. In the raid on the house where they took shelter in Nuseirat camp, an Israeli bomb killed his wife, son, daughter, and grandson.
In the medical profession, doctors treat the sick and ease the pain, but in Gaza, they couldn’t save their own lives. Dr. Hammam Alloh, a 36-year-old nephrologist, worked tirelessly for over a month at al Shifa Hospital, dedicated to his patients. On November 11, he took a short break to check on his father near the hospital, an Israeli “smart” bomb struck their home, claiming both of their lives. Dr. Alloh was one of over 200 medical professionals killed by Israel. Four days following his death, the largest hospital where he worked, was put out of service by the occupying Israeli army as they searched for their computer-generated mirage of the supposed “Hamas command and control center” beneath the mass graves that filled the yard outside the hospital.
According to Human Rights Watch, as of November 12, there have been 137 documented “attacks on health care” centers in Gaza. HRW reported that two-thirds of the primary care facilities and half of all hospitals in Gaza were non-functional. At the European Hospital in Khan Yunis south of Gaza, Doctor Paul Ley complained in an interview, “I have worked in hospitals in Afghanistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cambodia… but I have never operated on so many injured children as I am now in the Gaza Strip.”
There were also the attacks on medics where 87 medical transport ambulances were specifically targeted and put out of service. Even UN workers were not spared Israeli atrocities as the international organization suffered the loss of over 100 aid workers, making it the highest number killed in any single conflict since its establishment.
Another example is Dima Abdullatif Mohammed Alhaj from the WHO Trauma and Emergency Team, a 29-year-old who had evacuated from Gaza City. She, along with her husband, their six-month-old baby boy, and her two brothers, was killed in a similar fashion, along with 50 other family and community members who sought shelter in the same house in the presumed “safer” south.
Journalists have also suffered an unprecedented number of casualties in Israel’s malevolent aggression. The international Committee to Protect Journalists reported that the number of journalists killed was “the deadliest month for journalists” in over 30 years. In targeting journalists, Israel effectively achieved its objective of imposing an international “news blackout” from the frontline. In a further attempt to dissuade international news organizations from operating inside Gaza, the Israeli army warned “Reuters and Agence France Presse that it couldn’t guarantee the safety of their journalists working within the Strip.”
Rather than denouncing the Israeli-imposed news blackout, or protesting the killing of their fellow reporters, Western reporters embedded with the Israeli army, reporting on what their military escorts allowed them to observe. Thus, making Western media complicit in shirking its professional duty by not sending reporters to Gaza, opting instead to rely on Israeli newspeak sources. Hence, treating the mass murders of civilians in Gaza as sidebar news while giving prominence coverage to the Israeli professional victims. Similarly, American news programs where the Israeli Iron Curtain dominates the discourse, Palestinian perspective conspicuously absent, and balanced shows like Mehdi Hassan on MSNBC canceled.
As Western, and Arab governments turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, it is self-evident that the scorched earth strategy targeting civilians in their homes, “safe” shelters, and hospitals is an integral component of the Israeli genocidal war on Gaza. This is not due to Palestinian fighters hiding behind civilians; it is rather, Israel and its Hasbara that hide behind the fighters as a pretext to normalize the murdering of civilians. Unfortunately, the managed “free” Western media continue to be a willful tool detouring around the truth while promoting the normalization of the Israeli mass assassination factory in Gaza.