The carnage continued Sunday in Gaza, killing dozens of Palestinians.  --  A U.N. school in Rafah where 3,000 displaced persons were sheltering was shelled by Israeli artillery, killing at least 10 civilians.  --  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced the act as a "gross violation of international humanitarian law," Reuters said.[1]  --  The U.N. chief called for those responsible for the shelling to be held accountable, saying:  "Israel Defense Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites."  --  The United States also expressed outrage.  --  Time reported that a State Department spokesperson said:  "The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons."[2]  --  "Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties."  --  "Approximately six U.N. facilities have been hit by Israeli fire since the conflict began, the Associated Press reports," Nolan Feeney noted.  --  Ominously, given recent Israeli publications calling for the total ethnic cleansing of Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "Every option is on the table to ensure long-term quiet to the residents of Israel."  --  "I won’t say when we’ll finish and where we’ll go.  --  We have no obligation outside of our security concerns."  --  COMMENT:  As Netanyahu's comment makes explicit, but the State of Israel is increasingly a law unto itself, and Israel's contempt for the pronouncements of the United Nations is well-known, and the U.S. State Department is profoundly in error when it invokes Israel's "own standards."  --  Sunday's events are indeed an expression of Israel's "own standards," and there are historical precedents for its attitude.  --  Harvard Law School's D.F. Vagts wrote in a justly celebrated *American Journal of International Law* article published in 1990 entitled "International Law in the Third Reich" that that régime held the following view of international law:  "Firstly, international law was not binding on the German States; the Volk [i.e. 'people'] was the 'highest and finest institution of common life'; as such, 'there was nothing higher than the foreign relations law of the Volk, those rules which served its interests and which might from time to time coincide with generally accepted practices of States.  --  But where they diverged, the rule of the Volk would predominate.  --  Secondly, a wide range of justifications was developed for disregarding treaties.  --  Thirdly, international organisations were an object of concerted attack, and dismissed as 'Jewish, pacificist internationalism.'  --  Fourth, the laws of war did not apply, for instance, to the Reich's war on the Eastern front because such a war was so entirely different from the wars that had been envisaged by the authors of the Hague and Geneva Conventions.  --  Fifthly, the rules of occupation were disregarded -- through deportations and forced labour, for instance -- and prisoners were subjected to grave mistreatment.  --  No real legal justification was given for these abuses.  --  Sixthly, more broadly, the overall international law jurisprudence of the legitimisers of the Third Reich led to the inexorable conclusion that 'there could be no international law but only German foreign relations law'" (this is a summary of Vagts's conclusions that appears on pp. 22-23 of Antony Anghie's "'Hegemonic Internatonal Law' in Retrospect," which can be found in Pieter H.F. Bekker, Rudolf Dolzer, and Michael Waible, eds., Making Transnational Law Work in the Global Economy (Cambridge UP, 2010), 22-23.  --  As Norman Finkelstein has written, these coincidences are anything but accidental.  --  Political Zionism is in Finkelstein's view "a kind of Romantic nationalism fundamentally at odds with liberal values" (Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, 2nd ed. (2003), p. xxxix).  --  Indeed, "political Zionisms’s point of departure was the presumed bankruptcy of the democratic idea" (ibid., p. 8).  --  In many ways, "Zionism replicated the reasoning of the anti-Semitic political discourse" (ibid., p. 13)....

Middle East


** At least ten killed and 30 injured in building sheltering 3,000 displaced persons in Gaza **

Reuters (via Irish Times)
August 3, 2014

U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon described a deadly attack on a U.N. school today as a “moral outrage and a criminal act“ and called for those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law“ to be held accountable.

In a statement, Mr. Ban strongly condemned the shelling of the school in Rafah in southern Gaza that killed at least 10 civilians.  The school was sheltering 3,000 displaced persons and Mr. Ban said the “Israel Defense Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites.”

The Israeli air strike wounded about 30 others today and Israeli military said it was looking into the reported attack, the second to hit a school in less than a week.

Israeli media, on the 27th day of the fighting, reported that most Israeli troops had pulled out of Gaza, and Reuters TV footage showed a column of Israeli tanks and dozens of infantrymen leaving the enclave.

An Israeli military spokesman stopped short of calling the move a withdrawal, but said residents from some evacuated Palestinian neighbourhoods had been told by the army they could return.

“The troops are in the midst of a redeployment to other parts of the border,” said lieutenant-colonel Peter Lerner.  “Indeed we are releasing troops from the front line but the mission is ongoing.  Ground forces are operating.  Air forces are operating.”

In the town of Rafah, where the military has been battling militants, a missile from an Israeli aircraft struck the entrance to the school, where Palestinians who had fled their homes were sheltering, witnesses and medics said.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, said 10 people were killed and 30 wounded.

Robert Serry, U.N. Middle East special coordinator, said the strike in the immediate vicinity of the school in Rafah sheltering 3,000 displaced persons caused multiple deaths and injuries.

“It is simply intolerable that another school has come under fire while designated to provide shelter for civilians fleeing the hostilities,” he said.

Last Wednesday, at least 15 Palestinians who sought refuge in a U.N.-run school in Jabalya refugee camp were killed during fighting, and the U.N. said it appeared that Israeli artillery had hit the building.  The Israeli military said gunmen had fired mortar bombs from near the school and it shot back in response.


Earlier today, Israeli shelling killed at least 30 people in Gaza, a day after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to keep up pressure on Hamas even after the army completes its core mission of destroying a tunnel network that extends into Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu says Gaza’s dominant Hamas faction bears ultimate responsibility for civilian casualties, accusing gunmen and rocket-launching squads of using residents in densely populated areas as “human shields.”

In Rafah, Fatah faction leader and local resident Ashraf Goma said Israeli forces were bombarding the town from air, ground, and sea, and locals were unable to deal with the wounded and the dead.

“Bodies of the wounded are bleeding in the streets and other corpses are laid on the road with no one able to recover them.

“I saw a man on a donkey cart bringing seven bodies into the hospital.  Bodies are being kept in ice-cream refrigerators, in flower and vegetable coolers,” Mr Goma told Reuters.

The Israeli army said that more than 55 rockets had been fired from Gaza at Israel today.

Israeli troops had discovered a cache of 150 mortar bombs in the southern Gaza Strip.  They had clashed with Palestinian fighters who had emerged from a tunnel and with others preparing to launch an anti-tank missile from a house in the area, a military statement said.


In Cairo, efforts to find a new truce were due to resume today.

A delegation from Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad arrived in the Egyptian capital, but a quick breakthrough seemed unlikely in the absence of Israeli representatives.

After accusing Hamas of breaching a U.S.- and U.N.-brokered ceasefire on Friday, Israel said it would not send envoys as scheduled.

In Gaza, Israel intensified attacks in the area of Rafah along the border with Egypt, where 23-year-old officer Hadar Goldin was feared captured there on Friday shortly after what was to have been a 72-hour truce began.

The military later said Mr. Goldin, who was dragged by militants into a tunnel after two of his comrades were killed by a suicide bomber, had also died in action.

Hamas accused Israel of misleading the world by claiming a soldier had been kidnapped before later announcing his death.

Defense minister Moshe Yaalon said Goldin was a relative of his.  “He and other soldiers who fell embarked on the campaign to restore quiet and security to Israel.”

More than 30 tunnels and dozens of access shafts have been unearthed and were being blown up.

Israel expected to complete its mission to eliminate tunnels “probably within the next 24 hours or so,” Lerner, the military spokesman, said.

Israel began its air and naval offensive against Gaza on July 8th following a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other guerrillas, later escalating the operation into ground incursions.

The fighting on Sunday pushed the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,770, most of them civilians.  Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian rockets have also killed three civilians in Israel.

At least 30 Palestinians in Rafah were killed by Israeli fire today, including nine from the same family, hospital officials said.


The talks in Cairo, without Israeli participation, were unlikely to produce any breakthrough, as Israel and Hamas‘ positions remain far apart.

Israel says it wants Gaza demilitarized under any long-term arrangement.  Hamas, sworn to Israel‘s destruction, demands Israel withdraw its troops and a lifting of Israeli and Egyptian blockades that have choked Gaza’s economy.

Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni, a member of Mr Netanyahu’s decision-making security cabinet, said any agreement on the issue was still far off.

“You want to talk about lifting the blockade?  Not with us, and not now,” she told the news website Ynet.

The United Nations said 460,000 people had been displaced by the fighting -- a quarter of Gaza”s population.



Middle East


By Nolan Feeney

** Israel says it's scaling back but isn't done with fighting Hamas **


August 3, 2014

The State Department joined United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in condemning the killing of 10 Palestinians outside of a UN Relief and Works Agency school in Gaza on Sunday, as the Israeli military issued a warning to residents of the Palestinian territory that “the battle is ongoing.”

“The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, in a statement issued Sunday.  “The coordinates of the school, like all U.N. facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces.  We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”  She called for a “full and prompt” investigation of the incident.

In a statement earlier Sunday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called the attack “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”  Ban also called for an investigation into what he called “yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law,” and for an immediate end to fighting.  “This madness must stop,” he said.

The school had been sheltering Gaza residents displaced by the nearly four weeks of fighting that have taken place.  Approximately six U.N. facilities have been hit by Israeli fire since the conflict began, the Associated Press reports.  The Israel military had no immediate comment on the most recent attack, but said it would look into the reports.

Israel has previously said that when Hamas deliberately uses civilian centers as weapons depots or places from which to fire rockets, it turns those places into targets.  “When a schoolhouse, hospital, mosque is turned into a military command center or a weapons depot, or a place where you fire rockets, it becomes by the rules of war a legitimate target,” said Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, on July 22.

As the U.N. called for an immediate end to the violence, the IDF began withdrawing some troops from the Gaza strip as it entered a “next stage” of combat.  A statement from the IDF says it was “redeploying to enable combat against Hamas & continued defense from tunnels.”

“We have indeed scaled down some of the presence and indeed urged Palestinians in certain neighborhoods to come back to their homes,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner also told the A.P., though Israeli air strikes continue in the region.

The IDF shared its plans to scale back troop numbers as it dropped notices all over the Gaza Strip warning that “the battle is ongoing” and that “all the leaders of Hamas and other terrorist groups are unsafe,” NBC News reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Saturday evening press conference that Israeli’s Operation Protective Edge would go on in Gaza “no matter how much time it takes and how much strength it requires,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

“Every option is on the table to ensure long-term quiet to the residents of Israel,” Netanyahu said.  “I won’t say when we’ll finish and where we’ll go.  We have no obligation outside of our security concerns.”

Plans for a 72-hour cease-fire brokered by the UN and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fell apart Friday morning just before the truce was supposed to begin, reportedly after a Palestinian militant made a suicide-bomb attack near the town of Rafah.

More than 1,750 Palestinians, largely civilians, and 70 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have been killed in the conflict so far.