Sunday, April 15, 2018

15-Apr-18: On Israel's violent Gaza border, a battle of narratives

Friday's action on the Gaza side [Image Source]
We're into Week 3 of the Hamas-driven violence on Israel's Gaza border. And despite some serious efforts by Al Jazeera and others to "keep it in the forefront of the Arab public agenda" [Washington Post, April 13, 2018], the signs are that those Gazan riots do
not dominate the Arab media to the extent one might have expected. The events erupted in the middle of a crowded regional political agenda. In previous Arab-Israeli crises, popular Arab media outlets would have typically broadcast wall-to-wall coverage accompanied by furious talk shows and mobilizational programming, drowning out all other issues. This time, while most Arab media did cover the Gaza protests and subsequent violence, many key outlets covered it as one issue among many. These changes are rooted in fundamental alterations in the structure of the Arab media and the underlying political conflicts that have evolved since the 2011 Arab uprisings... [Washington Post, April 13, 2018]
Official Israeli sources are said [here for instance] to believe there is a gradual decrease in the number of Gazans participating in the "protests". And there are signs of news media weariness - even in the Arab world - with how Palestinian Arab "victimhood" is being milked in these staged Gaza border events. Here's an illustration.

It's not usually recognized by news consumers far from the scene but those reports of Arab casualties - the dead, the wounded on the Gazan side - always emanate from the Gazan Ministry of Health. Sounds reasonable, right? And would they lie?

But that ministry is an operating arm of the terrorist organization called Hamas. The name is an acronym based on Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah whose English translation is Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas is a Palestinian Arab Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization which was formed by and remains affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mid-afternoon today (Saturday), this report was published by one of the Palestinian Arab news agencies:
Four people were killed and others injured on Saturday in an Israeli artillery attack targeting a group of citizens who were riding a three-wheeled tuk tuk motorcycle east of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses and a medical source in Rafah said that Israeli artillery shelled the eastern border of Rafah targeting a group of young men who  were moving rubber tires near the eastern border of the city. Dr. Ashraf al-Qadra the spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza said that 4 Palestinians were  killed & several others wounded  in different Israeli shelling, pointing out that the martyrs and injuries arrived to  Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospitals. ["Four Palestinians were killed in Israeli artillery shelling east of Rafah", Palestine News Network, April 14, 2018]
Ma'an News Agency's version
And this version from the notorious Ma'an News Agency:
Four Palestinians were killed and others injured after Israeli artillery shelling targeted an auto rickshaw in the city of Rafah, in southern Gaza Strip, on Saturday afternoon. Locals told Ma’an that Israeli artillery stationed along the border with Gaza fired missiles at the auto rickshaw, killing four and injuring other passers-by. The four slain Palestinians were identified as Amjad Qartous, 18, Ayed Hamaydeh, 23, Hesham Kallab, 18, and Hesham Abdul-Al, 22. All four victims are from the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah...  Despite widespread outcry from international rights groups who have condemned Israel’s excessive use of forces against the civilian protesters, Israeli has maintained its open-fire rules for the Gaza border. ["4 Palestinians, 2 teenagers, killed after Israeli artillery fire targets auto rickshaw", Ma'an, April 14, 2018]
Turns out this is not, in reality, another case of Israeli artillery liquidating innocent and unarmed Palestinian Arabs - two teenagers! - going about their ordinary weekend activities.

From Arab media April 14, 2018, the Al Quds Brigade
(Islamic Jihad) "accidental martyrs" [Image Source]
The IDF (according to this source today) usually declares military strikes on the Strip but said today that "contrary to reports" it had not carried out any military activity in Gaza at the time. Now a Times of Israel report this evening explains:
Palestinian terror organization Islamic Jihad said Saturday that four of its members were killed in an accidental explosion near the Gaza Strip border with Israel. The group said in a statement that the four died during “preparations,” without giving further details. Army Radio reported that the terrorists were killed while carrying explosives in an all-terrain vehicle, suggesting the blast may have been a “work accident.” AFP said they were riding a tuk tuk vehicle which exploded a few hundred meters from the border with Israel. The four fatalities were named as Hisham Abdel Al, Elias Al Katrous, Ae’d Al Hamaydeh, and Mohammad Al Krinawi, according to Palestinian sources. Islamic Jihad is an ally of terrorist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. The group, which is supported by Iran, has fought alongside Hamas against Israel in multiple wars, most recently in 2014. ["Four Islamic Jihad members killed in Gaza explosion", Times of Israel, April 14, 2018]
(There's nothing unusual in the names of the dead Palestinian Arabs being different from one account to another.)

Some aspects of what was reported about yesterday's (Friday's) chapter in the planned six-week-long agitation on the Gaza side of the Israel border
  • "One Palestinian, Ahmed Hirzallah, 28, was shot dead and 416 others were injured" [Palestine Chronicle, April 13, 2018]
  • "One Palestinian was declared dead after being shot by Israeli gunfire Friday evening. Another 968 were wounded as another day of clashes erupted between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces along the Israel-Gaza border. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza identified the 28-year-old as Islam Rushdi Hirzallah..." [, April 13, 2018]
  • Israel once again "used extreme violence to brutally crush these peaceful protests... More than 900 Palestinian protesters were wounded in the violent Israeli crackdown, according to Gaza health officials... During the April 13 protest, the violence was once again clearly premediated. Media reports noted that, in advance of the peaceful demonstration, the Israeli military had deployed tanks, drones, and snipers to the border.Israel has claimed that the peaceful protests, which are known as the Great March of Return, are being used to cover up so-called terrorism. However there is no independent evidence that Palestinian demonstrators have used the demonstrations to launch any attacks." ["Israel Mows Down Unarmed Gaza Protesters for 3rd Week as US Blocks UN Investigation", IMEMC, April 14, 2018]
  • "At least four Palestinians were killed in Gaza Saturday, Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed saying the deaths were the result of a tank shell attack by Israel’s Army just east of the city of Rafah. However, Reuters reported an Israeli military spokesman saying “we have no knowledge of any Israeli strike in the area,” denying involvement. Local residents told Reuters the four men were members of the Islamic Jihad group, but this hasn’t been confirmed yet." [Telesur, posted this afternoon]
  • "The “Great March of Return” protests that Hamas and Gaza activists launched on March 30 saw their lowest turnout in three weeks and the smallest number of casualties in clashes with Israeli forces, with one Palestinian killed and 528 reported injured on Friday. Israeli authorities have been steadfast and on message about the protesters being a cover for violent action, while Hamas and the local activists have attempted to keep up the momentum. The proportion of those injured by live fire has declined by half, indicating a major reduction not only in the size of the protests but the level of violence along the border... [On Friday] the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza published a list of casualties from the past two weeks, stating that 3,078 Palestinians had been injured, including 1,236 from live ammunition. It claimed four people had lost legs. Of those injured 445 were under 18 and 152 were women. Thirty had been killed. It also said 30 paramedics had been injured and 14 journalists... ["Three weeks: How Gaza's mass protests are failing to make an impact", Seth Franzman in Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2018]
It's unlikely the Hamas organizers of this campaign are going to allow it to dwindle into insignificance. Unfortunately since the tools at their disposal tend to be limited to focusing on violence and generating human losses on their side (on our side too but that's less in their control), there's no basis for breathing more easily at this point.

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