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Self-Defense Stories from Gaza

By Paul J. Balles & Redress, October 22, 2009

Paul J. Balles views Israel’s disinformation that its attack on Gaza was defensive against the background of the horrendous injuries which it deliberately inflicted on Gaza’s civilian population.*

According to Amnesty International, some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day Israeli offensive between 27 December 2008 and 17 January 2009, which agrees broadly with Palestinian figures. More than 900 of these were civilians, including 300 children and 115 women.

Two-year old Amal Abed Rabbo, one of the 300 children casualties, died in an Israeli attack outside her house in the village of Izbit Abed Rabbo, Gaza, on 7 January 2009.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Goldstone report called Israel’s military assault on Gaza “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability”.

Gabriela Shalev, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, quickly rejected the report, saying it failed to take into account that the operation was in “self-defence”.

Amira Qirm lay on a hospital bed with her right leg in plaster, and held together by a line of steel pins dug deep into her skin. For several days after her operation Amira, 15, was unable to speak, and even now talks only in a low whisper.

Amira watched her father die in the street outside their home in Gaza, then heard another shell land and kill her brother Ala'a, 14, and her sister Ismat, 16; and then she spent three days alone, injured and semi-conscious, trying to stay alive in a neighbour's abandoned house.

Israel's argument: the war was a response to Palestinian rocket fire and therefore an act of self-defence.

Muhammad Balousha, aged two, waited constantly by the door listening carefully to the sounds around him, hoping to recognize the sounds of his five sisters coming home. He does not know that, when on that one night they said goodnight and went to sleep, it was forever.

On the Israeli side 13 died in this conflict, three of them civilians. In total in the past eight years, 20 people in Israel have died from rocket and mortar attacks launched by militants in Gaza.

Abdul Rahim Abu Halima, 14, was killed when a white phosphorous artillery shell hit his home on 4 January. He died with two of his brothers, Zayed, eight, and Hamza, six, his sister Shahed, who was 15 months old, and their father Saadallah, 45.

Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute writes, in The Jerusalem Post that the charges of human rights violations are just more of "that same old bash-Israel agenda".

A boy from the Abu Halima family lost his father, three brothers and an infant sister in a horrific fire after an Israeli phosphorus shell hit the house.

Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has difficulty believing the soldiers' testimonies that they intentionally harmed Palestinian civilians, because the Israel Defence Force is a “moral army”.

A Palestinian ambulance arrives with a patient who is barely 10 years old and his head is wrapped in a bandage and he is unconscious and on manual ventilation. He was shot in the head by Israeli sniper fire.

Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israeli forces were exercising their right to self-defence.

Neurosurgeon Dr Ahmed Yaha catalogued horrific injuries such as babies being shot in the head, babies with broken spines due to being thrown by shell blasts. People burned to the bone by white phosphorus, nail bombs causing brutal injuries and a new phenomena, micro-pellets, that leave no entry wound but cause fatal internal injuries.

In self-defence?

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see

*Descriptive images of the Gaza children are from Eman Mohammed ‘s diary.




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