Friday January 2, 2009
The United States gave Israel free reign Friday on whether to send troops into the Gaza Strip, insisting that the key to a ceasefire is an Israeli demand for Hamas to permanently halt rocket fire.
But the White House said it has asked Israel to try hard to avoid civilian casualties as reserves were called up for an expected ground incursion on top of a week of air strikes that has killed more than 400 Palestinians.
“We’ve been in regular contact with the Israelis,” White House deputy press secretary Gordon Johndroe told reporters when asked if US officials were trying to prevent a possible ground offensive.
US officials have urged the Israelis “to be mindful that any of the actions that they’re taking in Gaza avoid unnecessary civilian casualties and also to help continue with the flow of humanitarian goods,” he said.
“So I think any steps they are taking, whether it’s from the air or on the ground or anything of that nature, are part and parcel of the same operation,” Johndroe said.
“Those will be decisions made by the Israelis,” he said.
“Israel has a right to defend itself from these rocket attacks, and so we’ll see,” Johndroe said when asked about progress toward a ceasefire.
After briefing Bush about events in Gaza, just 18 days before he hands the White House to his successor Barack Obama, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was pursuing diplomacy with its partners in the Middle East.
“We are working toward a ceasefire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza,” Rice told reporters outside the White House.
“It is obvious that that ceasefire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a ceasefire that is durable and sustainable.”
Rice repeated the US stand that any ceasefire must be a “durable” one, in contrast to the previous six-month agreement that expired on December 19.
Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman, added that Rice has since New Year’s Day spoken to former British prime minister Tony Blair, the envoy for the Middle East quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
She has also spoken since then to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and her counterparts David Miliband of Britain, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayhan of the United Arab Emirates, Salah Bashir of Jordan and Ahmed Abul Gheit of Egypt, he said.
Duguid said she also spoke Friday to Karel Schwarzenberg, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which has assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union.
In the last week Rice has spoken with counterparts Tzipi Livni of Israel, Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Javier Solana of the European Union and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Rice again pinned the blame for the violence on Hamas, the Islamist Resitance Movement that seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after ousting the US-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmud Abbas.
Asked if she planned to travel to the Middle East to broker an end to the crisis, Rice replied: “I have no plans at this point.”
The Israeli offensive, launched a week ago on Saturday in response to a wave of rockets fired from Gaza, has killed at least 422 people and wounded more than 2,100 others.
It has prompted denunciations from around the world, but particularly from Arab and Muslim countries.
“Arab opinion, I hope will understand what we’re trying to do. I understand that passions in the region are inflamed by the situation,” Duguid said when asked if the US was concerned about Arab reaction.
“I only can offer them our sincerest efforts to try and work with our partners to achieve a ceasefire and move on and achieve a political settlement,” he said.
He said a political dialogue was possible with Israel if Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Duguid added that the United States arranged for 27 people who are US citizens and their immediate family members to leave the Gaza Strip and travel to Amman, Jordan.
Rights orgs: UN body must act to end Gaza war crimes Intervention, various undersigned, 30 December 2008
The following intervention was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on 30 December 2008:
General Assembly to act under Resolution 377
January 1, 2009
The UN Human Rights Council must urge the General Assembly to act under Resolution 377
Dear Member State of the UN Human Rights Council,
Representing the Palestinian human rights community, we write to you with an urgent request for intervention by the UN Human Rights Council to put an end to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as a result of the Israeli occupying forces’ ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip. At least 310 persons, including 37 children, have been killed and over 1000 Palestinians have been injured. The civilian population of the occupied Gaza Strip will inevitably continue to suffer heavy losses without the external intervention of the international community; this is confirmed by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s assertion that this is a “war to the bitter end.”
Grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention amounting to war crimes, have been committed, including, wilful killing and the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Furthermore, the continuing collective punishment of the Gaza strip has left medical services unable to deal with the increasing number of victims.
As member States of the UN Human Rights Council, you were fully apprised of the human rights situation in the OPT, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Israel earlier this month. The dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was a dominant concern raised by States during the review. Despite recommendations to Israel concerning its obligation to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the capacity of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population after days of bombardment has now reached breaking point. You have further been notified by Special Rapporteur Richard Falk of Israel’s failure to cooperate with his mandate and his call on “all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.”
We note that the Security Council has thus far failed to take concrete steps despite the gravity of the situation. However, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto’s statement that “the time has come to take firm action if the UN does not want to be rightly accused of complicity by omission” offers a platform for concrete action that should be supported by the Human Rights Council.
It is our considered judgement that the only effective measure the UN Human Rights Council can take under these specific circumstances is to issue a resolution requesting the General Assembly to convene under GA Resolution 377, “Uniting for Peace,” with a view towards the imposition of collective measures against the Israeli Government. We urge this approach having duly considered the implications for the Human Rights Council as well as the human rights of the Palestinian people should Israel again impede or ignore the Council’s interventions. We believe that such a step would halt the escalation of civilian deaths, offer hope to civilians in despair over the political deadlock and ultimately serve the long-term interests of peace.
Palestinian Human Rights Community
Arab Association for Human Rights-HRA
Addameer Prisoners’ Support & Human Rights Association
Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights
Defence for Children International
Ensan Center for Democracy & Human Rights
Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)
Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center (JLAC)
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, Musawa
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
Women’s Studies Center
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network — PNGO
Electronic Intifada: The Electronic Intifada (EI), found at electronicIntifada.net, publishes news, commentary, analysis, and reference materials about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a Palestinian perspective. EI is the leading Palestinian portal for information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its depiction in the media. [MORE]
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on the international community to treat Israel as it treated apartheid South Africa and supports the divestment campaign against Israel. [Israel: Time to Divest. Desmond Tutu, New Internationalist magazine, January / February 2003]
Union urges immediate boycott following Gaza university bombing
Appeal, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, 30 December 2008
The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees condemns in the strongest possible terms the bombing today of the campus of the Islamic University in Gaza. This wanton destruction of an academic institution is only the latest in the ongoing lethal campaign launched by the Israeli government and army against Palestinian society in the Gaza Strip. This murderous rampage has caused more than 300 deaths and the injury of close to 1,500 Palestinians. And the carnage continues with impunity.
We add our voice to the urgent appeal issued two days ago by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) urging international civil society not just to protest and condemn Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. We agree that, without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem. Read on …
Support Israel’s young conscientious objectors. www.December18th.org Shministim say why they refuse to serve in an army that occupies the Palestinians. Short video follows: