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Palestinian human rights leader: 'Cast Lead was a joke compared to this'

LISTEN: Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard speak to Raji Sourani, founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, about the ongoing destruction in Shujaiyeh, the use of human shields and the fate of Gaza’s civilian population. 

By Michael Sfard and Raji Sourani

Raji Sourani: Hello

Michael Sfard: Raji? This is Michael. Can you speak now?

R: Yes, yes.

M: So, how was last night?

R: Well last night was difficult, the worst in the last two weeks. This is incredible evil. Ambulances weren’t able to reach the areas which were under heavy bombardment by tanks and F16s. And F22s were used too last night. And these kinds of bombs that we are not familiar making the houses last in an earthquake. You know, it just shakes for a few seconds.

M: There are no warnings before?

R: No no no. It just on the top of the people, on their heads. It is a war zone, not bombing. You see slain [people]. Six to eight bombed per minute. Not for 10 minutes, or one hour, all the east side of Gaza, Zeiton, Shujaiyeh, eastern Jabaliya, nothern area, eastern Khan Younis, eastern Rafah…

M: Israeli friends reported that the IDF, the Israeli army made notifications that the civilians could go to some areas. Are there any areas that are safe to be?

R: No, there is not safe place in Gaza. You can be in the street, in my office or home and you will be bombed and away from my house, sixty meters a house was bombed by an F16. This can anywhere, whether it a drone, F16, and tonight they used F22. Gaza, Michael, I’m telling you, 350 square kilometers, two million people are living in it. It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Anywhere you move. You can ask people from the northern or eastern areas to move but you are taking about 400,000. They ask eastern Khan Younis, where to go?

Relatives mourn on family members at the Al Shifa hospital as more bodies arrive from the Shejaiya area, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Relatives mourn family members at the Shifa Hospital, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

So far there is 70,000-80,000 [civilians] that moved since mid-day yesterday (July 19), but where are the people can go? UNRWA? Each school hold 1,500-2,000 people. There is shortages in the UNRWA schools. It’s madness. I have never seen anything like this in my life.

M: Do you think it is worse than Cast Lead?

R: That was a joke. This is very, very serious. I think the army is losing their minds. They really want to inflict pain and terror on the civilians. I have no objection to do that with Fatah, with Hamas, with PFLP, they are competent, they are resistance. But I’m telling about hitting the flash, they are bombarding randomly. Bombing the civilians houses. Many, That is why many families fled. I challenge if in Gaza, one million people, if any of them slept.

M: Raji, what are the PCRH figures of civilians killed since the beginning?

R: Only yesterday we had something between 70 to 80 killings. And injuries you have much, much more.

M: And since the beginning?

R: It has exceeded 420.

M: Now you told me before that there is a suspicion for the use of DIMES?

R: Yes, that is what the doctors are telling us, including international doctors. They see we don’t see clean wounds, they see sharp ones; it is a very strange kind. There are hemorrhages, amputations.  You hear the rockets and then it is over, you are hurt. It is like X-Files.

M: And there is no shrapnel?

R: No. Tonight and the night before, they are using tanks heavily, and using heavy artillery. On the civilians areas. Of course the tanks don’t use DIMES – these are tank bombs.

M: Are the Hamas forces visible around the streets of Gaza?

R: No. You can’t figure out one of them. You don’t see them, they are ghosts. They don’t function from the civilian areas. They don’t move anything. Everything was planned in advance.

M: But what do you mean they don’t function from civilian areas? They do shoot.

R: You don’t see any of them them.

M: But some of the rockets are shot from civilian areas. This is something that is quite clear, no?

R: Of course. All of Gaza is a civilian area. By definition. Where these rockets are coming from? Of course. But “using civilians as shields” is nonsense and disgusting. And it doesn’t exist. The plains they (Israel) are using [for targeting Hamas), but you don’t hear any second explosion, Michael. You don’t hear. They would say we bombed the south because it is a storage area, but if they would bomb [a storage area] it will destroy 20-30 houses around them, but this is not the case.

M: Raji, how many PCHR people do you have on the ground now?

R: How many?

M: I mean, are field workers still going out?

A body lays at the Al Shifa hospital as more bodies arrive from the Shejaiya area, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Al Shifa hospital taking in bodies from the Shujaiyeh area, Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

R: Yes, we had our own field workers, and we depend only on our accounts. We don’t take any over accounts, including hospitals. We may take these numbers to compare. We have field workers from Rafah to Beit Hanoun, and in between, and we have our lawyers, for this documents, also. We have an aim to represent most of the families who has been raided, including the family who lost their children on the beach.

M: Now I understand that as this time there no indications of use of white phosphate right?

R: No. We haven’t noticed that at all.

M: Raji, take care.

R: Last night people were pleading for them to go and take the injured. And they couldn’t do anything for them. People died bleeding, literally, especially in Sajahiya, and Zeiton, and Turkman area

M: I will be in touch, and what can say, I hope this ends soon.

R: We will remember this in a good way. This is tough, it’s  unprecedented, it never ever came up to this. Keep well.

M: You too.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation from deadliest day in Gaza
WATCH: Dozens of bodies strewn in the streets of Gaza
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’

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    1. Craig Vale

      Bibi the katsef of Tel Aviv plies his deadly trade in the Gaza. He, the emperor of Israel cuts civilians to pieces with such skill as to be able to keep the international community at bay as the grinding of the blades of death on the sharpening stone is barley audible. Early estimates have 75% of the dead being civilians, ( You know the typical stats that Bibi will lament but absolve himself of in the weeks to come as he will of course blame Hamas for his lust for Palestinian blood) Old men, women, and children dead at the hands of a morally bereft military who see the Gaza as just another economic windfall piece of real estate for some sea side villas replete with condos, outdoor bistros who’s clientele will wax nostalgically and regale each other with stories that all begin with the phrase ” I remember when this place was full of Palestinians” Said with a sarcastic smile.
      Time for Bibi to wipe the blood off his hands and onto his apron as he prepares to greet the crowds as the new King of O’Israel as the right wing war mongers delight in his very presence.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sonnehuhr

        Of course the 75% civilian kill rate is only more Palestinian propaganda. Since the ground operation Israel has killed 130 terrorist fighters since the ground operation started. This greatly exceeds the number of killed reported by the Palestinians in the neighborhood of Shujaiyeh.

        Even if you look at the figures from Maan news, approximately 50% of those killed are males of fighting age. Plus no one knows what percentage of the women killed were Hamas operatives or Hamas operatives dressed as women as report by CTV news.

        Reply to Comment
        • Elisabeth

          I guess inside the Israeli bubble you do not realize how ludicrous you sound.

          Reply to Comment
          • Whiplash

            I doubt that the Palestinians even know what percentage of those killed were terrorists and which were civilians. Hamas fighters and operatives do not wear uniforms. Hamas has instructed Palestinian journalists and citizens to lie and state all casualties are those of civilians.

            Even the leader of Palestinian Human Rights (if there was ever a oxymoron this would be one) tows the Hamas line, there are no fighters in civilian areas even though he admits rockets are being fired from civilian areas. He then makes some stupid comment about storage sites for missiles if hit would destroy 20-30 homes and denies that Hamas is using civilian shields when we all have seen and heard Hamas calling for human shields. Hamas leaders take great pride in using human shields and the leader of Human Rights in Palestine does not even acknowledge it.

            The other day a Hamas leader made a gaffe when he said Hamas was leading Palestinians to death, when he meant confrontation. The slop of tongue revealed what every Gazan ought to know that Hamas is leading them to death.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            “Even the leader of Palestinian Human Rights (if there was ever a oxymoron this would be one)”

            Right. It’s an oxymoron – why? Because Palestinians aren’t actually human?

            Hate speech much?

            Reply to Comment
          • whiplash

            Palestinians do not allow their own people human rights. That is why the moniker Palestinian Human Right Leader is such an oxymoron.

            Reply to Comment
          • Craig Vale

            Comparable to the risible claim that Israel is a functioning democracy too ? In light of recent events one could correctly describe it as being a monarchy with Bibi as king.

            Reply to Comment
        • Craig Vale

          If we use Israeli numbers then ALL the dead were terrorists right ? There is little disagreement about the number of civilian deaths in the Cast Lead carnage that the IDF carried out in 2012 So why would you question the numbers now? Something not fitting in well with the Hasbaran narrative? Two hospitals bombed in two days with the usual Israeli propaganda that they we housing terrorists with their rockets or it was just plain and simple collateral damage? Bibi and his ilk want to have their own ” Final Solution” for the Palestinian problem. They have already taken a page out of Hitler’s book when it comes to the practice of Lebensraum. Israel’s version of manifest destiny. Don’t believe it ? Look at the map on the enclosed link. http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/4maps.html

          Reply to Comment
          • Whiplash

            The Israeli numbers suggest about a 1:1 ratio according to Algemiener.com, which is a very good ratio better than any other army.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Sonnehuhr

      This is just Palestinian propaganda courtesy of 972mag. Not even Maan News or Aljazeera would try to state that there are no Hamas fighters visible in the street. Mann news saw them. CTV news reporter Jackie MacKay Fryer saw a fighter dressed in woman’s clothing with a weapon sticking out. Other reporters reported Hamas fighters preventing reporters from viewing positions. You will recall that Hezbollah did the same thing in Lebanon.

      Reply to Comment
    3. ibnab

      By F22, you mean the fighter jet? Because the israeli air force doesn’t have such jets.

      Reply to Comment
      • Elisabeth

        Memri is notorious for their ‘creative’ translations. BTW there are nice hasbara manuals to be found on the internet as well.

        Reply to Comment
        • Arb

          MEMRI is notorious for exposing things the West doesn’t want to believe or accept.

          In this instance, MEMRI is simply exposing the type of statements and language that any Palestinian speaking to others about the conflict is supposed to use. Some of the things Raji Sourani is saying sound precisely like what Hamas has instructed. What can you do?

          Reply to Comment
      • Craig Vale

        And please include in your next post how Hasbaran practitioners of Israeli propaganda have been instructed in their craft. 3+ decades of lies and misinformation supplemented with disinformation. Israel, since its inception, has NEVER done anything wrong as we know. The perennial victim of goyim across the globe. Now today reports of them bombing hospital verified by network footage but I guess in your world that video was done is some basment of a Hamas terrorist right? The dead bodies were faked for effect too ? Alas , we are now just getting to the bottom of this eh?

        Reply to Comment
    4. Max

      Israel and its mostly immoral army are a shame for the nations, worse than Burma and DRC. No one sane of mind will make business or entertain relation with such a murderous racist country.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sonnehuhr

        Yes shame on Israel for continuing to provide Gaza with daily deliveries of fuel, electricity, food, medicine and other goods while Israel is under attack.

        Shame for Israel warning civilians before they attack areas from which Hamas is fighting.

        Shame on Israel for targeting Hamas fighters and not civilians.

        Shame on Israel on agreeing to ceasefires while fighting Hamas missile launchers.

        Shame on Israel for not attacking like Nato in Serbia, Russia in Chechnya or Sri Lanka in Tamil held territory.

        Reply to Comment
        • Craig Vale

          You think they do this out of a sense of altruism ? They do it because it’s international law. All OCCUPIERS are required to provide basics and Israel fails at that too. Water restrictions, enegy supplies et al. Not targeting civilians… are you attempting a ruel joke here ? 74% of the dead are civilians. As for not attacking all those folks you listed there is one single reason they don’t. They’re far too busy with their own policy of Lebensraum and need to concentrate all their efforts to ethnically cleanse the whole of Gaza of Palestinains. When that task is complete they will do the same in the West Bank while folks like you cheer them on ! No shame, no dignity, no conscience either. Katsefs hard at work of late.

          Reply to Comment
          • Sonnenuhr

            Israel does not occupy Gaza. The Palmer Report clearly stated that Israel has a legal blockade of Gaza. It has no legal obligation to provide Gaza with anything in time of war.

            Reply to Comment
          • Craig Vale

            Maybe not Gaza but they sure as hell have a home in the US Congress as witnessed earlier today when the UN called for investigations of war crimes surrounding the multitudes of civilian deaths ! Israel and the US rejected the call for the investigation. And our congress people have the gall to come before the cameras time and again to state we are a ” fair” broker in the talks. They think all of us are either complete idiots or we all subscribe to the Hasbara’s weekly newsletter.
            Duplicity has been the hallmark of the US role in Mid East negotiations since Israel’s founding. An example of that was on full display today during this vote and some folks ask why Arabs and Palestinians inparticular don’t trust us to be that impartial and ” fair” broker for peace. The US is complicit in the deaths of these civilians too but our war machine Industry must go on so the congress can launder taxpayer money via arms sales to Israel by US companies who’s stockholders carry the name of the Bush’s and the Cheney’s and a host of others.
            The war crimes will continue.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Greg

      Maybe now you will stop firing rockets and there will quiet.

      Reply to Comment
    6. nasser

      this should have been better translated so that the full meaning can reach the reader. i understand that the broken english signifies the tension raji may be feeling or conveys that he may not be fluent in the language, nevertheless, the translator should not have done a word for word translation but one amended so that the full meaning is conveyed.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Whiplash

      Palestinian Human Rights Leader

      “It is a war zone, not bombing.”

      Just what does this pathetic man think happens in war? Under ground attack tunnels extend under Gaza into Israel. Tunnels hide rockets and other weapons. These tunnels have entrances in civilian and public buildings such as mosques.

      Hamas had a large number of rocket launchers in civilian areas which again are in or near civilian homes or public buildings. The people of this neighborhood knew that Hamas had militarized the area on which their homes sat and they did nothing to stop Hamas. When Hamas told them to stay there and act as human shields they did.

      Yet the top man in Palestinian Human rights in Gaza says nothing about Hamas’ crimes against their own people or his people’s collusion with Hamas to commit crimes against Israel.

      Every rocket fired out of Gaza is a war crime. The Human Rights leader of Gaza apparently has nothing to say of these crimes.

      Reply to Comment
      • Craig Vale

        Again with this ” Hiding among civilians” meme. Gaza is one of the worlds most densley populated areas on the planet ! Where is Hamas supposed to be operating from ? Are they to stand in an open field waving to the IDF as they drop bombs and yell ” Over here ! Over here! ” You can’t travel 100′ in any direction and not encounter civilians. More Hasbaran and Israeli gov’t propaganda. Hamas has more courage than any IDF soldier in that they are willing to fight Goliath himself for their rights and take a beating from far superior armed forces who butcher folks from the comfort of their tanks, their fighter jets and their navy ships. Real brave of them eh? Kids throw rocks, the IDF responds with bullets. It’s been the Israeli MO for decades. Israel continues to ignore UN res 242 and wonders aloud why there is an intractable problem. And please don’t respond with the pro forma line that Israel got out of Gaza years ago. For all intents and purposes they never left.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Sonnenuhr

      Another bit of Palestinian propaganda. There are 131 American urban municipalities in the United States which have a greater population density than Gaza. There are over 50 cities worldwide which have population densities 2 to 11 times as many as Gaza. One of them is in Israel.

      If Israel is bound by rules of war, then Hamas is. This means that Hamas does not have the option to hide behind the skirts of women or place their missiles under the beds of children. If they do, they make their citizens collateral damage on the field of the battlefield chosen by Hamas.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Margot Dunne

      I’m right there with Craig Vale – thanks for your input, Craig. Plea to Israel: stop the covert & not-so-covert annexation of Palestinian territory; move the settlers back behind the Green (legitimate) Line; agree to a just division of Jerusalem; decide to lift the imprisoning Gaza blockade &, with international help, talk some diplomacy with Hamas. AND please, please cease this egregious spinning of war crimes as national defence: you are not WW2 David anymore, you are an out of control Goliath. I think your Prophets might be ashamed.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Craig Vale

      Bibi said yesterday… ” all the civilian deaths there are the responsibility of Hamas.” If that were indeed true why did Israel and the complicit US decide to oppose the investigation called for by the UN yesterday looking into the possibility of war crimes being committed not only by Israel, but on the part of Hamas too! Bibi’s saying so doesn’t make it so. I really believe that civilian deaths while maybe not part of the plan, were nonetheless a calculus measured and weighed and found to be an acceptable risk assumed by Israel in hopes of instilling the maximum amount of fear among the population of Gaza. Bibi could stand before the world and point the finger at Hamas accusing them of being embedded within the civilian population. He knew if he and the Hasbaran colleagues got out in front of the narrative, he stood a good chance of pulling off the sleight of hand and absolve himself of the responsibility of such a horrendous death toll amongst the civilian population .
      I find it incredulous to think that the US has any credibility left with Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular when this nations duplicitous policies were on full display during the UN vote yesterday. If as Bibi claims , it is the fault of Hamas, would not an investigation clear him of these war crime accusations? Of course we know it was all part of the plan before the first IDF soldier set a foot into the Gaza. Blame the victim because as is the steadfast rule… Israel has never been , can never be, the victimizer in this century old conflict.

      Reply to Comment
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