Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Protest Forces Israel to Call Off Gaza Airstrike

Hello friends,

Here's the fascinating story of nonviolent defense of a home by Palestinians.  This is a tactic similar to that often used by Christian Peacemaker Teams to prevent or delay home demolition, but in this case it is a broader community response --

Here's a note from a mentor of mine, nonviolent activist George Lakey, who shared the article with me:
It's a great example of NV defense, though, innovative, and the kind of thing which, if I advocated as a US'er to some Palestinians I've known they would laugh it off as ridiculous because it wouldn't deter the IDF.
I love these spontaneous things that people come up with in the midst of struggle, even people basically committed to violent struggle, when they realize that (once again) nonviolent means are often more powerful than violent means.
Peace and grace,
Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

November 19, 2006

Protest Forces Israel to Call Off Gaza Airstrike

JERUSALEM, Nov. 19 ­ Israel halted an airstrike against the house of a suspected Palestinian militant in Gaza late on Saturday, after the inhabitants ignored a telephoned warning and neighbors flocked to the house in numbers to prevent the bombing, the military said.

On Sunday, hundreds of Palestinians, including the prime minister from the militant faction Hamas, stayed around the house and on its balconies and the roof throughout the day. They declared a victory for “popular resistance” as Israel, under criticism for killing civilians in such strikes, called it another example of Palestinians using civilians to shield military activity.

“We see it as a cynical exploitation of our attempt to avoid harm to civilians,” said a spokesman for the Israeli military, who as is practice, spoke on condition of anonymity, “They are using them as human shields.”

But Palestinians celebrated it as a possibly potent new defense against air raids that Israel may find difficult to counter.

“We are so proud of this national stand,” Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said while visiting the house, in northern Gaza. “It’s the first step toward protecting our homes, the homes of our children.”

Israel said the house was being used by leaders of the militant group Popular Resistance Committees, which was active in firing off Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. Last week, a 57-year-old Israeli woman from the nearby Israeli town of Sderot was killed by one of the rockets, and over the weekend, Israel carried out several small-scale operations against militants suspected of being involved firing them.

The military spokesman said the attack on the house was called off after a routine telephone warning from the military urging inhabitants to evacuate the house was ignored. “We didn’t want to harm civilians,” he said.

Israel has had an increasingly difficult time ending the rocket fire, the most contentious issue between Israel and Palestinian militants. Nearly two weeks ago, Israeli artillery fire killed 19 civilians in Beit Hanun, prompting a United Nations resolution to open a fact-finding mission into the incident.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, during his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, criticized the resolution as not sufficiently condemning the Palestinians’ rocket fire against Israeli civilians. He said Israel would not cooperate with any international inquiry.

Reprisals continued on Sunday. An 80-year-old Palestinian man was killed in Gaza City and a dozen others were wounded by an Israeli strike on a car carrying two Hamas militants. The Israeli spokesman said the militants were involved in making rockets.

On Sunday, the office of Defense Minister Amir Peretz of Israel said he called the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to ask him to help end the rocket fire.

Mr. Peretz lives in Sderot, the town hit hardest by the rockets. A member of his security detail was hit and had both legs severed by the same rocket that killed the Israeli woman last week.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza City.


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