[media id=7041] Thanks to Heather for the vid clip One of the key parts of Israel's well-planned media narrative in Gaza is that they are carefully
January 4, 2009

Thanks to Heather for the vid clip

One of the key parts of Israel's well-planned media narrative in Gaza is that they are carefully targeting attacks and that there is no humanitarian crisis there which isn't attributable to the mis-management of the elected Hamas government. President Shimon Peres repeated the claim this Sunday on ABC News "This Week with George Stephanopoulos".

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, the head of the Shin Bet general security services told a cabinet meeting in Israel today, it's been reported, that Hamas has eased its demands for a cease-fire with Israel. Can you elaborate on that?

PERES: Yes. They made the demand, they made the suggestion to have a cease-fire and open the passages. To open the passages without control means to enable them to bring in more rockets, more missiles, more weapons, more supply from Iran. Doesn't make any sense that we should do it. Because it started with open passages. They could have moved around without any difficulties. We even permitted the supply of money, not only medical supply, money that we have collected to the Hamas. So what do they want, that we should open to them again, to have more supply of weapons and bombs?

We say that they are -- we are not going to. And even today, by the way, one of the passages is open, because there is no shortage of basic needs in Gaza. We take care that medical equipment and food and fuel will arrive to Gaza, even today.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Mr. President, thank you very much for your

time this morning.

PERES: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now for reaction here in the United States, I am joined by the number-two Democrat in the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the senior senator of Illinois.

Good morning, Senator. Let me get your reaction right away to President Peres. You clearly saw him, heard him this morning, no cease-fire, no withdrawal now. Is that wise?

DURBIN: Well, it's understandable.

The UN has a very different appreciation of the situation, however.

John Ging, the head of the UN relief agency in Gaza, described the situation there as "inhuman".

"We have a catastrophe unfolding in Gaza for the civilian population," he said. "The people of Gaza City and the north now have no water. That comes on top of having no electricity. They're trapped, they're traumatised, they're terrorised by this situation.

"They're in their homes. They're not safe. They're being killed and injured in large numbers, and they have no end in sight. The inhumanity of this situation, the lack of action to bring this to an end, is bewildering to them."

The UN has been particularly angered at the contention of the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Ging also accused Israel of a campaign of destroying public buildings vital to the administration and governance of Gaza.

"The whole infrastructure of the future state of Palestine is being destroyed," he said. "Blowing up the parliament building. That's the parliament of Palestine. That's not a Hamas building. The president's compound is for the president of Palestine. Schools, mosques."

Now, there are indications that the Israelis are using either cluster munitions or white phosphorus over urban areas, which will inevitably push up civilian casualties and raise allegations of war crimes. Although Western media have been slow to acknowledge the use of such weapons - and Murdoch's London Times even altered its own photo caption to suggest otherwise - some pictures from Gaza clearly show the distinctive multiple explosive impacts from Israeli artillery shells bursting over built up areas.

If there wasn't a humanitarian crisis before, Israel seems set on manufacturing one now.

"When there was a siege, we kept taking about a catastrophe," said Hatem Shurrab, 24, of Gaza City. "But then the airstrikes started, and now we don't even know what word to use. There's no word in the dictionary that can describe the situation we are in."

Update: I've spoken to a couple of ex-military folk and they've confirmed that pictures coming out of Gaza by AFP news service show white phosphorous rounds exploding over and setting fires in urban civilian areas. Meanwhile Haaretz has confirmed that cluster munitions are also being used by the IDF but says they're being used over "open areas". Gaza is a lot smaller than Rhode Island and cluster bombs have a pattern as big as a football field so your definition of "open areas" may vary from the IDF's.

The BBC has a slideshow. here's the third photo.


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