By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East
GAZA CITY, Gaza – December 30 is the fourth day of Israel’s aerial campaign in Gaza. In Gaza City, Israeli air raids damaged five government buildings; including an Islamist university building, the Interior Ministry and the office of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas political leader and former Palestinian Prime Minister.
As of December 29, the Palestinian death toll had reached 363, with 1,720 people wounded. According to UN figures, most of the victims have been Hamas security forces but at least 64 of them were civilians, including 39 children.
In addition, rockets are still being fired from Gaza into Israel. According to the Israeli military, since December 27, over 250 rockets have been fired from Gaza. Additionally, on December 30, the Jerusalem Post reported that over 30 rockets have been fired that morning.
Also, on December 30, European Union (EU) foreign ministers will meet in Paris to discuss an appeal for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. In France’s last act as EU president, Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, will urge his European colleagues to issue a joint truce demand. Reuters reported that a senior EU diplomat said that the EU were discussing ways to open humanitarian aid corridors to Gaza, by land, air or sea, but establishing them would require Israel and Hamas to hold their fire.
According to Reuters, an Israeli government official said Kouchner spoke to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak by telephone and proposed a 48-hour truce to allow in aid. In addition, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, stated that Israel would like to see “convoy after convoy of humanitarian support and we are willing to work closely with all relevant international parties to facilitate that goal.”
However, Regev added, “At the same time, it is important to keep the pressure up on Hamas, not give them a respite, time to regroup and reorganize.” In addition, there are multiple reports of both sides rejecting any possibility of a temporary truce or renewing the previous ceasefire agreement.
As EU leaders met, protests against the Israeli military action took place across the world. In London, hundreds of demonstrators returned for a second day of protests in front of the Israeli Embassy. People chanted slogans in support of Palestine behind metal barriers and in the presence of 30 police officers and a police helicopter. Protests held on the previous day resulted in the arrests of seven individuals for public disorder offenses.
Demonstrations also occurred in cities across the Arab world. Demonstrators burnt Israeli and US flags and gathered in front of UN offices demanding stronger international condemnation.
On December 28, Jordanian deputies burnt an Israeli flag during a parliamentary session. Khalil Atiyah, a prominent independent deputy, along with several pro-government MPs and an Islamist deputy, set the flag aflame inside the lower house chamber during a special session to show solidarity with the Palestinians.
In addition, on December 30, Iran announced that it had set up a court to try Israelis for its air attacks on Gaza and is ready to try Israeli officials in absentia. Judiciary spokesman Alirezi Jamshidi said, “The court is in a special branch in Tehran and entrusted with the task of dealing with the executors, planners and officials of this (Israeli) regime who have committed crimes.”
Jamshidi said the court was set up on the basis of the UN Convention on the Prevention of Genocide to which Iran is a signatory. He called on all Palestinians who have been affected by the Israeli operation in Gaza to file complaints.
On December 29, the Iranian Islamic Republic News Agency reported that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had called for immediate legal action against Israeli leaders for the humanitarian crisis and death of innocent civilians in Gaza. Iranian leaders said those involved in the attacks in Gaza “should be designated as a war criminal and murderer” and added that they would urge the UN to bring Israeli leaders before an international court.
In addition to targeting the governments of Israel and the US, demonstrators are also targeting Arab leaders. In Beirut, hundreds of Hezbollah supporters demonstrated near the Egyptian Embassy, protesting against what they see as a tacit green light given by some Arab countries for the Israeli attack on Hamas.
In Yemen, hundreds of angry protesters stormed the Egyptian consulate in Aden. According to a security official, the protesters stormed the front gate, climbed the two-story building to the roof and set fire to the Egyptian flag.
In Annan, Jordanian protesters marched to the Egyptian Embassy and demanded that Cairo open its border with Gaza to end the blockade imposed on Gaza. Demonstrators also demanded that the Jordanian and Egyptian governments sever their diplomatic ties with Israel and expel the Israeli ambassadors.
The Israeli government has downplayed the international and Arab criticism regarding its recent aerial campaign. A senior government official told AFP, “The tone of the criticism is moderate, restrained, more balanced, at least in the case of those countries that count… I’m not talking about Iran or other extremist states.”
Jerusalem Post noted the support from the US and the “evenhanded” reaction from the European leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The Israeli newspaper dismissed the angrier condemnations as coming “from those who make no pretence at being evenhanded.”
For more information, please see:
AFP – Israel Downplays Criticism of Gaza Blitz – 30 December 2008
Jerusalem Post – Palestinian Terrorists Continue to Rocket Southern Israel; No Causalities – 30 December 2008
International Herald Tribune – Yemeni Protesters Attack Egyptian Consulate – 30 December 2008
Reuters – Iran Sets Up Court to Try Israelis over Gaza – 30 December 2008
Reuters – Israel Presses on with Gaza Strikes Amid Truce Talks – 30 December 2008
Scotsman – Hundreds Protest Outside Israeli Embassy over Gaza Attacks – 30 December 2008
Times – EU Leaders Meet to Discuss Gaza Violence – 30 December 2008
The Wall Street Journal – Gaza Protests Now Target Arab Leaders – 30 December 2008
Middle East Times – Iran Calls for War Crimes for Israel – 29 December 2008
Times – Protest Erupt in the Arab World Against Airstrikes – 29 December 2008
Reuters – Jordan Deputies Burn Israeli Flag in Assembly – 28 December 2008