by Tony Karon and Tom Engelhardt
Yes, we now know the ever grimmer statistics: more than 1,400 dead Gazans
(and rising as bodies are dug out of the rubble); 5,500 wounded; hundreds of children killed; 4,000
to 5,000 homes destroyed and 20,000 damaged – 14% of all buildings
in Gaza; 50,000 or more homeless; 400,000 without water; 50 U.N. facilities
, 21 medical facilities, 1,500 factories and workshops, and 20 mosques reportedly damaged or destroyed; the smashed schools and university structures
; the obliterated government buildings; the estimated almost two billion dollars in damage; all taking place on a blockaded strip of land 25 miles long and 4 to 7.5 miles wide that is home to a staggering 1.4 million people.
On the other side in Israel, there are a number of damaged buildings and 13 dead, including three civilians and three soldiers killed
in a friendly-fire incident. But amid this welter of horrific numbers, here was the one that caught my eye – and a quote went with it: Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israeli Army, told Parliament
on January 12th, "We have achieved a lot in hitting Hamas and its infrastructure, its rule and its armed wing, but there is still work ahead."
Work? The "work" already done evidently included a figure he cited: more than 2,300 air strikes launched by the Israelis with the offensive against Hamas still having days to go. Think about that: in a heavily populated, heavily urbanized, 25-mile-long strip of land, 2,300 air strikes, including an initial surprise attack
"in which 88 aircraft simultaneously struck 100 preplanned targets within a record span of 220 seconds." Many of these strikes were delivered by Israel's 226 U.S.-supplied F-16s
or its U.S.-made Apache helicopters.
In addition, the Israelis evidently repeatedly used a new U.S. smart bomb
, capable of penetrating three feet of steel-reinforced concrete, the bunker-busting 250-pound class GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. (The first group of up to 1,000 of these that the U.S. Congress authorized Israel to buy only arrived in early December.) In use as well, the one-ton Mk84
Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and a 500-pound version of the same. These are major weapons systems. Evidently dropped as well were "Dime (dense inert metal explosive)
bombs designed to produce an intense explosion in a small space. The bombs," reported Raymond Whitaker of the British Independent, "are packed with tungsten powder, which has the effect of shrapnel but often dissolves in human tissue, making it difficult to discover the cause of injuries."LinkHere
The Israelis say is evidence that on many occasions when civilians were killed their troops had been responding to incoming fire.
There are reports of the neighbourhood where the family lived, known as Ezbat Abed Rabbu, had been used by militant fighters in the past. During an incursion in the spring of 2008 the Israelis took over Khalid's house for two days.
But Khalid insists he is not Hamas, he is not a fighter. He said he worked for the Palestinian Authority and is a member of Fatah, Hamas's political rivals.
"There were no fighters here," he added, picking up crisp bags printed with Hebrew lettering that the soldiers seemed to have left behind. "Do you think soldiers eat crisps sitting on their tanks when there is incoming fire?"
Samar's father and her uncle have not spoken to each other since she left Gaza for treatment in Egypt, yet in separate interviews they told us the three girls were outside the house, in plain view, when they were shot.
We toured the part of Jabaliya where the Abed Rabbus lived. In an area that must cover at least a square mile, there are no houses left - no mosques, no factories and no orchards. The entire neighbourhood has been devastated.
It may be true that fighters were hiding in the alleys of Jabaliya. It is possible that rockets were being fired from here towards Israel.
But for the people who lived here, this is a story of wanton destruction. The world must now decide whether the Israeli action here was justified under the rules of war.