Inadvertent martyrs to the cause of Hamas, THE AGE AUSTRALIA by David Bernstein January 1, 2009 ; David Bernstein is an Age Newspaper journalist.
Who could not be distressed by the heart-wrenching picture of four-year-old Jawaher Balousha's tiny, lifeless body on the front page of Wednesday's Age Newspaper? She and four of her sisters died (5 girls) when, according to the accompanying report, their family home collapsed on them from the force of the blast generated by an Israeli bomb attack on the nearby Imad Aqil mosque, presumably a Hamas target, in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp.
In Gaza, shortly before midnight on Sunday, December 28, 2008, Israeli warplanes fired one or more missiles at the Imad Aqil Mosque (the Mosque of Martyrs) in Jabaliya, a densely populated refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip destroying the building and collapsing several shops and a pharmacy nearby. The force of the blast was so massive (there appears to be large secondary blasts from inside the Imad Aqil Mosque see video here) it also brought down the Balousha family's house across the street, which yesterday lay in ruins. The attack killed five of Anwar Balousha's daughters, the Balousha's three-room house is just across a small street from the mosque.
In Jabaliya Gaza, the two-story Imad Aqil mosque, ( "mosque of martyrs") named after a deceased Hamas member, is regarded by Palestinians in the area as a "Hamas mosque" - that is, a place where the group's supporters gather for political meetings or to assemble for demonstrations, and where death notices of Hamas members are posted. There appears to have been rockets and ammunition stored in the two story HAMAS Imad Aqil Mosque, see video of seconday explosions, click here.
Israel killed a senior Hamas leader in an air attack on his home on Thursday, 1/01/09. Nizar Rayyan, a cleric widely regarded as one of Hamas's most hardline political leaders, had called for renewed suicide bombings inside Israel. Medical officials, confirming his death, said two of his four wives and seven of his children were killed in the bombing, in Jabaliya refugee camp. Hundreds of supporters scrambling over the concrete rubble vowed revenge as the mangled bodies, covered in blood and cement dust, were extracted from the wreckage.
"The blood of Sheikh Nizar Rayyan and the blood of other martyrs will never be wasted and the enemy will pay a heavy price for the crimes it has committed," Hamas official Ayman Taha said, it appears that the Mosque was also a storage facility for weapons and rockets..
Black-bearded Rayyan, 49, was a preacher at Jabaliya's "mosque of martyrs" who mentored suicide bombers. With a cartridge belt around his stocky frame, he would sometimes patrol the streets of Gaza with Hamas fighters. Hamas Radio said he had ignored advice to leave his house as other Hamas leaders have done in anticipation of assassination attempts by Israeli forces, who confirmed the air strike.
Israeli war planes also bombed the Jabaliya mosque, Israeli security officials said it was a meeting place and command post for Hamas militants and the large number of secondary explosions after the strike indicated that rockets, missiles and other weapons had been stored there. Witnesses in Gaza said it was completely destroyed.
In Tampa Fl, Wednesday, December 31, 2008, Locals Protest Gaza Attacks, Six Nieces of Tampa Resident Yusuf Dabus Killed in Israeli Bombing of Hamas Target. The thought of his six young nieces keeps Yusuf Dabus awake. The girls, ages 3-7, lived in the Gaza Strip and were seeking shelter near the Jabaliya Mosque, "the mosque of martyrs" (Hamas is known to store rockets in Mosques) as Israeli planes dropped bombs on Hamas targets.
His nieces died, Yusuf Dabus said, casualties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. "Basically that whole street was taken out," said Dabus, of Tampa. "My aunt's house and all. How can I sleep knowing my family will not be alright tomorrow?" Yusuf Abdul R. Dabus appears to be the son of Abdul R. Dabus Tampa business owner.
There will undoubtedly be charges of disproportionality, callousness, and even inhumanity, and mounting calls for international pressure to bring Israel to heel. All perfectly understandable, when one sees images such as this. But there have also been charges that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians. One pro-Palestinian Australian witness in Gaza even claimed on radio earlier this week that she had seen many dead women and children brought to a local hospital and not a single combatant.
This not only belies the figures coming from UN and Palestinian sources in Gaza that make it clear that the overwhelming majority of casualties, so far at least, have been Hamas operatives, but defies all rationality. Pictures and reports of Palestinian children dying in Israeli air raids are the last thing Israel wants or needs as it attempts to protect its own children from falling victim to incessant rocket attacks from Gaza.
Where do proponents of the "human shield" theory expect Hamas to set up its camps safe from Israeli attack: in the dense forests and remote mountain tops of Gaza? And the fact that Israel has declared that it is targeting the entire "Hamas infrastructure" including Hamas-run mosques, evidently in its current Cast Lead offensive would make any "combatant/civilian" separation even more impossible.
So while there is ample reason for even the most obdurate sceptic to accept that Israel is doing its best to avoid civilian casualties, if only to escape the international opprobrium and pressure these bring, this appears all but impossible in the circumstances. Meanwhile, the depressing truth is that, in this soul and hope-destroying, God-forgotten conflict between Muslim and Jew, Palestinian and Israeli, in the "Holy Land", children Arab and Israeli alike will continue to be the helpless "collateral victims" of a political situation their elders (and, for that matter, the world) appear impotent to bring to a just and workable conclusion...