A Day in Southern Israel

Rocket remants collected at Sderot police station. 28 January 2009, (c) AI

Rocket remants collected at Sderot police station. 28 Jan. 2009, (c) AI

28 January 2009: We read in the news that a home-made rocket was fired from Gaza to southern Israel by Palestinian fighers this morning, but it didn’t fall near any people. We saw yesterday at Sderot and Ashkelon police stations what these rockets—among them Qassems, Grads, Quds—look like: they are very crude, rusty 60, 90, or 120mm pipes about 1.5 meters long with fins welded onto them. They can hold about five kilograms of explosives as well as shrapnel in the form of nails, bolts, or round metal sheets which rip into pieces on impact. They have a range of up to 20 km, but cannot be aimed accurately. Anybody with some basic chemicals and scrap metal can make them. One can readily get a sense of why these rockets are inherently indiscriminate.

People in southern Israel have been rehearsing how to protect themselves from rocket attacks since the first one was launched in 2001. If there is a siren and an alarm warning, they have 10 to 20 seconds to take shelter or lie on the ground.

Today we travelled to visit cooperative farming and industrial communities, known here as kibbutzes, which lie in the proximity of the Gaza border, in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel. As we got closer to the Gaza Strip, we saw evidence of increased Israeli military presence. Trucks transporting tanks and bulldozers used the main road, until we came to a military base facing the entrance to kibbutz Nahal Oz, one of the communities on our itinerary. Nearby is one of the crossings for the transport of fuel into Gaza. Two workers were killed at the Nahal Oz fuel crossing on 9 April 2008 when it came under mortar attack. A little further south is the Karni crossing for commercial goods. In a parking lot off the main road a number of commercial trucks were waiting, perhaps carrying aid or goods which are not allowed in when the crossings are closed, as they were yesterday.

Kibbutz Nahal Oz is a close-knit community of 320 people.  Although they are closest to Gaza and they were the first to come under mortar fire, nobody was injured and none of the houses sustained damage in recent attacks because all the mortar shells and rockets fired in their direction from Gaza fell in open spaces. Some window panes were shattered, but this might have been due to the sonic booms caused by the Israeli fighter planes flying over Gaza.

Mortar attacks are different from the rocket attacks because they are aimed horizontally, which means that there is no time to sound the alarm siren: they can strike without warning. The head of the regional administration, Alon Shuster, told us, “It is amazing how much one can do to protect oneself in 15 seconds. With the mortar shells, one cannot take those measures.” For this reason, the administration of Nahal Oz organized the temporary evacuation of families with small children, comprising about two thirds of the community, during the three week long conflict. For those who stayed during the three-week crisis in Gaza, they organized cultural events in the protected communal room in order to keep up the morale.

Morale was not so high, however, in the neighboring kibbutz of Kfar Aza. One villager, Jimmy Kadoshim, had been killed in a mortar attack on 9 May 2008. This was deeply traumatic for the small community and many decided to play it safe and leave until the danger ceases. They are slowly returning, but not many trust the fragile ceasefire that has brought them quiet since 18 January 2009.

Head of local administration Buki Bart in kibbutz Sa'ad shows Curt Goering (AI USA) where the rocket that damaged the house behind them came from (repaired sections are visible due to the white plaster.) 28 Jan. 2009, (c)

Head of local administration Buki Bart in kibbutz Sa'ad shows AIUSA staff where the rocket that damaged the house behind them came from (repaired sections are visible due to the white plaster.) 28 Jan. 2009, (c) AI

In another community, the religious kibbutz Sa’ad, two apartments were hit by a home-made rocket on 1 January 2009 just after noon. People were having lunch in the communal dining room but one resident was in one of the apartments that came under attack. She heard the siren and took shelter, but the façade of the house and the windows were badly damaged, with large pieces of shrapnel penetrating the room where she had been standing seconds earlier. Many here call these close calls “miracles” but they can also be attributed to the proper rehearsal of protection measures, the availability of safe rooms, and the low explosive power of the rockets.

A Bloodstained Wall Full of Flechettes

(Originally posted on Livewire)

Monday January 26: The Israeli army’s use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas of Gaza has captured much of the world’s media interest. However, the Israeli forces also used a variety of other weapons against civilian residential built-up areas throughout the Gaza Strip in the three-week conflict that began on 27 December.

Among these are flechettes – tiny metal darts (4cm long, sharply pointed at the front and with four fins at the rear) that are packed into120mm shells. These shells, generally fired from tanks, explode in the air and scatter some 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes in a conical pattern over an area around 300 metres wide and 100 metres long.

Flechettes are an anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation and to strike a large number of enemy soldiers. They should never be used in built-up civilian areas.

The Israeli Army has used flechettes in Gaza periodically for several years. In most reported cases, their use has resulted in civilians being killed or injured. The last reported case was in April 2008, when Israeli soldiers fired a flechette shell at Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana while he was filming in Gaza, killing him.

He was filming the tank at the time and caught its firing of the flechette shell on camera in the split second before he was killed. Other civilians, including children, were killed and injured by the same flechette shell.

The Israeli Army said later that it had investigated the incident and concluded that its troops’ actions were justified – although the film footage of the incident showed clearly shows that Fadel Shana and others who were killed and injured were posing no threat to the soldiers in the tank when they fired the flechette shell, or to anyone else.

We first heard about the use of flechettes in the conflict that began on 27 December some 10 days ago. The father of one of the victims showed us a flechette that had been taken out of his son’s body.

Then, when we went to a Bedouin village in north Gaza, we saw several flechettes embedded in the walls of houses and residents told us that the street had been littered with them after the attack. Today, we found more hard evidence of their use in two other villages.

In ‘Izbat Beit Hanoun, to the south-west of the town of Beit Hanoun, several flechette shells were fired into the main road, killing two people and injuring several others on the morning of 5 January. Wafa’ Nabil Abu Jarad, a 21-year-old pregnant mother of two, was one of those killed.

Her husband and her mother-in-law told us that the family had just had breakfast and were outside the house drinking tea in the sun. Wafa’ and her husband were standing by the corner of the house when they heard a noise, followed by screams.

They turned to go back into their house, but, at that moment, Wafa’ and several other members of the family were hit by flechettes. Wafa’ was killed outright. Her two-year-old son, who was in the house, was struck by a flechette which became embedded in his right knee.

Wafa’s husband, Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad, and his father were both injured in the back and other parts of the body. One of the flechettes that hit Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad is still lodged in his back, close to his spinal cord. It was clearly visible in an X-ray that he showed to us. Doctors have not attempted to remove it as they fear that he could be left paralyzed.

At the other end of the same street, we visited the house of 16-year-old Islam Jaber Abd-al-Dayem, who was hit on the same day by a flechette that struck him in the neck. He was taken to the hospital’s ICU (intensive care unit) but died three days later.

Mizar, his brother, was injured in the same attack and still has a flechette lodged in his back. We found flechettes embedded in the walls of these and several other houses nearby – the tiny darts explode out of their shell with such force that sometimes only the fins at the back are left sticking out when they become embedded in walls.

In the village of al-Mughraqa, a few kilometres south of Gaza City, dozens of houses were destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardments and shelling. Most residents of the area fled from their homes when the Israeli ground incursion began on 3 January. But some did not, with tragic consequences.

They included Atta Hassan Aref Azzam, who feared that if he left his home it would be destroyed. He decided to stay. He and his family remained inside their house because there was frequent shelling and shooting in the area, only going out to fetch water.

At 8.30 am on 7 January, a shell struck the room in which Atta Azzam was sitting with two of his children, Mohammed, aged 13, and Hassan, aged two and a half, killing all three of them. The six other members of the family who were in the house fled to the nearest school for shelter. When we examined the bloodstained wall by which the three were killed, we saw that it was full of flechettes.

– Originally posted to Livewire by Donatella Rovera, Middle East & North Africa Researcher at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London

On the ground in Gaza

An Amnesty International delegation recently entered Gaza shortly before Israeli attacks ended to document the true scale of devastation wrought on civilians.  Amnesty researcher Donatella Rovera has been keeping a dairy of their findings.  Here is a excerpt from an entry she posted earlier this week to Livewire:

Today, Tuesday, it seemed as though Gaza was beginning to draw a collective breath after the shock of the past three weeks of Israeli bombardments. The streets, previously deserted, filled up again and tens of thousands of people who had fled their homes for fear of Israeli attacks began returning to them. But thousands have no homes to which to return because so many were destroyed by Israeli forces.

In Gaza City’s Zaitoun neighbourhood, where scores of homes were flattened by Israeli air strikes and bulldozers women and children were rummaging through the rubble of their homes, trying to recover the little that could be salvaged.

At a mourning tent amidst the rubble the surviving member of the Sammouni family received condolences and recited prayers for their 29 relatives killed by Israeli forces. Salah Sammouni told us that Israeli soldiers had evicted them from their home, which they then used as a military base, and told them to stay in their relatives’ house across the road, only to bomb it the following day.

Some died on the spot, they said, while others were left to die, as the Israeli army did not allow the ambulances to approach the house to evacuate the wounded for several days.

We then visited the Qishqu and al-Daya families whose homes were both destroyed by Israeli bombardments. ‘Abdallah Qishqu, whose house was destroyed by an Israeli air strike on 28 December, told us that his wife, who was seriously injured in the attack, still does not know that their eight-year-old daughter, Ibtihal, was killed in the explosion together with their daughter-in-law, Maisa.

At the Shifa hospital, Gaza’s main hospital, the head of the Burns Unit told us that when the first patients with phosphorus burns were brought in, doctors in the Burns Unit did not realise what had caused the injuries.

“The first thing we noticed were cases with orange burns, different from the burns we are used to dealing with. They started with patches and after a while they would become deeper with an offensive odour and after several hours smoke started coming from the wound,” the doctor said.

“We had a child of three years with a head injury. After three hours we changed the dressing and saw smoke coming out of the wound. We opened the wound and brought out this wedge. We had not seen it before. Later on, some colleagues, doctors from Egypt and Norway, were able to enter Gaza and told us that this was white phosphorus.

“We noticed various things about this: the burn does not heal; the phosphorus may remain inside the body and goes on burning there, and the general condition of the patient deteriorates – normally with 10-15% burns, you would expect a cure, now many such patients die,” he said.

Other doctors from the hospital said they had seen patients with strange injuries that appeared to have been caused by unusual weapons (there is speculation that this may include Deep Inert Metal Explosive – DIME weapons) and which they did not know how to deal with. Patients who should be getting better were getting worse.

The Killing of Children in Gaza

Sir John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, said he was said he was shocked by “the systematic nature of the destruction” in Gaza.

Equally troubling are the reports about shooting and killing of children by Israel during the conflict. The BBC reports:

One of the most alarming features of the conflict in Gaza is the number of child casualties. More than 400 were killed. Many had shrapnel or blast injuries sustained as the Israeli army battled Hamas militants in Gaza’s densely populated civilian areas. But the head of neurosurgery at the El-Arish hospital, Dr Ahmed Yahia, told me that brain scans made it clear that a number of the child victims had been shot at close range. Samar’s uncle said the soldier who had shot his niece was just 15m (49ft) away. ”How could they not see they were shooting at children?”

There are othere reports that suggest that some parents were lined up and shot in front of their children. The Telegraph writes

One nine-year-old boy said his father had been shot dead in front of him despite surrendering to Israeli soldiers with his hands in the air.

Another youngster described witnessing the deaths of his mother, three brothers and uncle after the house they were in was shelled.

He said his mother and one of his siblings had been killed instantly, while the others bled to death over a period of days.

A psychiatrist treating children in the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City, where the alleged incidents took place, described the deaths as a “massacre”.

In a powerful video, the Guardian documents some of the horror experienced by children in Gaza. Clip here to watch the video.

China's e-blockade a blow to human rights victims of the world

It’s not surprising that with the Olympics come and gone, reports are surfacing of China’s cracking down of the Internet, again, and with the help, of course, of Chinese and US companies, including Microsoft and Google.

Unfortunately, Amnesty’s website is again one of the victims.

But when widespread censorship occurs, the “victims” are even more widespread — it’s much more than the author of a site or the person who can’t access it which is harmed. According to media reports, Chinese authorities have clamped down on child pornography and vulgur content. (And, who wants to argue the pro-child pornography point?) But, such categories are also said to include “content depicting violence and depravity”.

Content depicting violence and depravity? Iraq? Gaza? Darfur? All off limits? It’s unfair enough to deprive Chinese nationals of access to the world, but what about those suffering egregious abuses around the world, whose only hope could depend on the awareness and actions of others (citizens of the world/human rights activists/humanists) outside of their borders? What right does any state have to take away not only from its own people, but from people far beyond its jurisdiction? And, how can companies that enable this taking sleep at night?

Sri Lankan Civilians Trapped in War Zone Urgently Need Protection

You may not have heard about it, but there’s a humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka right now – over 250,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone between the Sri Lankan Army and the rebel Tamil Tigers and can’t escape.  The army has been steadily encroaching on the Tigers’ territory over recent months.  The civilians caught in the area are running out of safe space.  They can’t simply leave the war zone due to restrictions imposed by the Tigers, who are also using them as an involuntary pool of recruits and laborers.  The civilians are also facing tremendous shortages of food and shelter, aggravated by the fact that many of them have already sold most of their possessions due to earlier displacements.  For its part, the Sri Lankan government has restricted the ability of outside agencies to provide assistance to the civilians.  While the government has made assurances that the humanitarian situation is under control, there’s evidence to suggest that the authorities lack the capacity to provide the needed aid to the people.  An aid mission visited the area at the end of 2008 and noted the increased vulnerability of the civilian population, including reduced available materials to address urgent needs for shelter and sanitation.

Last November, AI drew attention to acute food and shelter shortages affecting the civilians in the war zone and produced a video on the issue.

Please raise your voice for the suffering civilians trapped between the two sides.  Send an email to the Tamil Tigers.  Ask them to allow the civilians trapped in the war zone to leave safely without any restrictions; ask that the Tigers also stop forcing civilians to join their ranks or work as laborers for them.  Also, send an email to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya.  Ask them to allow international monitors into the war zone to assess the humanitarian needs of the civilian population and to ensure proper distribution of food and other assistance to the people.

Jim McDonald
Sri Lanka Country Specialist

UN Should Investigate War Crimes

Last week, the UN passed a binding resolution calling for “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire leading to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.” Resolution 1860 also calls for “the unimpeded provisions and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment” and “condemns all acts of violence and terror directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.” In addressing the issue of arms trafficking into Palestinian territories, the resolution calls for “intensified international arrangements to prevent arms and ammunition smuggling
The resolution passed, with fourteen members voted in favor.  The United States abstained.

But despite the binding resolution, both Israel and Hamas have continued their attacks.  Nearly 25 rocket attacks were fired on Israel on one day alone, January 10.  According to Israel, 13 Israelis have died, three of them civilian.

Meanwhile, Israel continues shelling Gaza, moving its land invasion deeper into Gaza.  In air and land attacks that have been waged since December 27, over 900 Palestinians have been killed.  The director of emergency services in Gaza, Dr Muawiya Hassanein, said half of the casualties were women and children.  But Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni promised more of the same from Israel: “Israel is a country that reacts vigorously when its citizens are fired up, which is a good thing,” she said.  “That is something that Hamas now understands and that is how we are going to react in the future.”

But with mounting evidence that Israel deliberately attacked civilians, prevented civilians from fleeing areas of conflict, and prevented wounded from seeking medical attention, Amnesty International is concerned that the UN resolution did not go far enough.  In a statement released today, Amnesty said, “the resolution failed to state that parties must stop violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, nor does the resolution address the mounting evidence of war crimes and other serious abuses of international law, or provide for an investigation and for those responsible to be held to account.”

For more, read here.

A Humanitarian Truce or Farce?

After thirteen days of shelling Gaza in attacks that have killed over 683 Palestinians, the Israeli government has agreed to a daily three hour truce to allow for humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza.

But is this sufficient? Consider the following:

1. Historical blockade of Gaza

Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and a former Israeli soldier, writes in his Guardian article, How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of a humanitarian crisis:  “Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip.  With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza’s prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development.”

Since the Hamas electoral victory in 2007, Israel has gradually blockaded humanitarian assistance from entering Gaza, creating unlivable conditions.  I blogged about the effect of this in an earlier posting called “Gaza by the Numbers.”

2. Recent Violence Wrecking Havoc on Civilians in Gaza

In the bloodiest day of fighting since the violence broke out on December 27, 2008, the Israeli government fired at a UN sponsored school, killing 40, including an entire family of seven with young children.  In an article in Time magazine, UN investigators found that no Hamas fighters were present at the school at the time of the attack.

The Israeli government has yet to apologize.

Often Israeli leaders say civilians are properly warned and that leaflets dropped by Israeli aircraft over Gaza have warned residents to leave the area.  However Gazans are physically prevented from doing so, causing panic and confusion among the population.  One Gaza resident, a supporter of the Fatah party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Amnesty International: “My children see the leaflets and go crazy with fear, they want to leave home; but we have nowhere to go.  My family and my wife’s family live close to the border, in even more dangerous areas; and we can’t just stay outside, it is equally dangerous, children have been killed walking or playing in the street.  There is no electricity, we can’t even find food, and we are not safe even in our homes.  We have nothing to do with Hamas, I’ve been detained and harassed by Hamas, but the Israeli bombardments are indiscriminate. No one is safe.”

Speaking of the recent violence, John Ging, a UN official, said: “I want to tell the world’s leaders something: You are not to sleep, eat or drink until you stop the killing of innocent people in the Gaza Strip.  There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone is terrorized and traumatized.” He added that 1 million Palestinians were without electricity and 700,000 were without water.

3. Three hour time frame for truce not enough

A statement released by Amnesty International on Friday said that “in the absence of a ceasefire, an immediate humanitarian truce is urgently needed to protect the civilian population. The fighting must stop long enough so that humanitarian assistance can reach those in need and so that those who want to leave can be evacuated.”

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN relief agency Unwra, said given the scale of the crisis, more time is needed: “When you are trying to feed 750,000 people a day in Gaza as we are, you need a permanent ceasefire. You can’t do that in a three-hour window.”

I'd Hire Blackwater? A wake-up call to renewed action.

When a good friend left for Iraq, I noticed I began to pay even closer attention to the daily news reports coming out of Baghdad. I emailed, but didn’t hear back. Then reports of more suicide bombings, killing dozens. Then the outbreak of extreme levels of violence in Israel/Palestine. And finally, a thought entered my mind: if I had the money, I’d hire a Blackwater guard and fly over there, see for myself, find those I care about and make sure they’re ok. Wait, what did I just say? I’d hire Blackwater?

As soon as I entertained the thought, I delved immediately into reflection on it.

Maybe it is the same political, economic, religious or other fervor that drives states and peoples into conflicts and into dependence on (or addiction to) military and security forces (public or private) that I was experiencing on a micro level –feeling an urgent and desperate need to do something, go somewhere, be someplace. As time passed without information, communication, resolution, the need to protect my own interest consumed everything in its path.

Driven by emotion. Untamed by perspective or rationality. This thought inherently dangerous because of its drunken-stupor-foundation in restlessness and despair. But that’s what law and regulation is there for. When people, states, companies become engulfed in a tidal wave of philosophy, belief, or emotion, we rely on time-tested structures and principles to protect ourselves from ourselves.

This is why Amnesty and other human rights groups have been pushing so hard for stronger regulation of companies that operate in conflict zones – places that are extremely vulnerable to rampant human rights violations, attacks on civilians, killing of innocents. We can’t let the urge to protect our own interests at any cost consume everything else.

Maybe a lot of us are watching horrific violence unfold in the pages of the daily paper or on our TV or computer screens and feel uncomfortably helpless in the comforts of our own security. But there is a lot we can do on our own soil. We don’t all need to hire private security detail and hop a plane to the Middle East. We need to work now – sober, dedicated and strong – to make sure we improve law and enforcement mechanisms that will ultimately protect the human rights in lands near and far.

The U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement now in effect includes a withdrawal timeline for troops to leave Iraq, but not for security companies to leave. Though there has been a lot of talk about Blackwater, and the indictment of some of its personnel, the reality is that there are many U.S. companies operating in sensitive roles overseas without adequate regulation or oversight.

The to-do list of the incoming administration and the next Congressional session is already packed with urgent agendas – improved law relating to companies operating abroad, particularly in conflict and war zones, must not be forgotten.

[Stay updated on ways to take action -- www.amnestyusa.org/pmscs]

US Officials' Lopsided Response to Gaza Crisis

Last Friday, January 2, Amnesty International USA released its first major action of the year, calling on all Amnesty members and concerned citizens to write to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the current violence in Gaza and southern Israel.  In that action, we called on four things:

  • All parties to the conflict—ie Israel and Palestinian armed groups such as Hamas—should cease attacks on civilians.
  • The humanitarian crisis in Gaza should be ameliorated.
  • The US should cease military transfers to Israel and should investigate if any US weapons were used in attacks against civilians.
  • The US should condemn all sides with equal vigor—including Israel for its vastly disproportionate response.

So far, over 500 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed. Yet despite those figures, the US continues to place the onus of blame solely on Hamas.  Below is a list of quotes by US officials that illustrate why Amnesty calls the US response “lopsided.”

As the letter to Secretary Rice states, “We expect the US government to share this concern for all unarmed civilians, be they Israeli or Palestinians, who are caught in this conflict, and we urge the US government to spare no effort to pressure all sides in the conflict to immediately cease indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks which cause civilians fatalities and casualties.”

Quotes on Gaza by US Officials

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader
Jan. 4, 2009- “I think what the Israelis are doing is very important. I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away. They’ve got to come to their senses.”

Howard L. Berman, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee
Dec. 27, 2008- “Israel has a right, indeed a duty, to defend itself in response to the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza over the past week. No government in the world would sit by and allow its citizens to be subjected to this kind of indiscriminate bombardment. The loss of innocent life is a terrible tragedy, and the blame for that tragedy lies with Hamas.”

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House
Dec. 27, 2008- “Peace between Israelis and Palestinians cannot result from daily barrages of rocket and mortar fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas and its supporters must understand that Gaza cannot and will not be allowed to be a sanctuary for attacks on Israel. The United States must continue to do all it can to promote peace in the region and a negotiated settlement to differences between Israelis and Palestinians. Humanitarian needs of all innocent civilians must also be addressed. But when Israel is attacked, the United States must continue to stand strongly with its friend and democratic ally.”

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City
Jan. 4, 2009- “I think I speak for an awful lot, almost all Americans, who think that Israel is doing the right thing in defending itself.” Asked about the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, Mr. Bloomberg replied sharply: “That they are putting people at risk is an outrage. If Hamas would focus on building a country instead of trying to destroy another one, then those people would not be getting injured or killed.”

George W. Bush, President of the United States
Jan. 2, 2009- “This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction […] In response to these attacks on their people, the leaders of Israel have launched military operations on Hamas positions in Gaza. As a part of their strategy, Hamas terrorists often hide within the civilian population, which puts innocent Palestinians at risk. Regrettably, Palestinian civilians have been killed in recent days […] Another one-way ceasefire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable. And promises from Hamas will not suffice — there must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end. I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror, and to support legitimate Palestinian leaders working for peace.

Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State
Jan. 2, 2009- “I want to begin by noting that Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas, the legitimate President of the Palestinian people. The Hamas has used Gaza as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli cities and has contributed deeply to a very bad daily life for the Palestinian people in Gaza, and to a humanitarian situation that we have all been trying to address. But frankly, Hamas has made it very difficult for the people of Gaza to have a reasonable life. We are working toward a cease-fire that would not allow a reestablishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza.

Write to Secretary of State Rice asking her to call for the protection of all civilians and an end to unlawful attacks.