What is in store for Gaza’s population now?

Ahdaf Soueif’s article “The Palestinians say: ‘This is a war of extermination’ ” details some of the most horrific scenes the people of Gaza faced in the last three weeks. The stories Soueif records are not new – indeed, despite what Israeli officials have tried to tell the world, images from Gaza substantiate what can be found in the article. In Egypt at the general hospital at el-Arish she asks a Gazan man who he has accompanied there:

“I’m here with my nephew. He’s 19. Shrapnel in his head. He was sitting with his friends. He’s a student. Architecture. The helicopter dropped a bomb and seven of the group were killed and six were injured. They found a boy’s hand on a 3rd floor balcony.”

And Soueif goes on to write:

They [the Palestinians] describe bombs which break into 16 parts, each part splintering into 116 fragments, the white phosphorus which water cannot put out; which seems to die and then flares up again.

No one I spoke to has any doubt that the Israelis are committing war crimes. According to the medics here, to reports from doctors inside the Gaza Strip and to Palestinian eye-witnesses, more than 95% of the dead and injured are civilians. Many more will probably be found when the siege is lifted and the rubble is cleared. The doctors speak of a disproportionate number of head injuries – specifically of shrapnel lodged in the brain.

They also speak of the extensive burns of white phosphorus. These injuries are, as they put it, ‘incompatible with life’. They are also receiving large numbers of amputees. This is because the damage done to the bone by explosive bullets is so extensive that the only way the doctors in Gaza can save lives is by amputating.

Beyond this, and since writing her article, Soueif has uncovered the beginnings of another Israeli initiative which involves, under the auspices of humanitarian urgency, the permanent transfer of Palestinians from Gaza. Sonja Karkar, from the organization Woman for Palestine, outlines the following:

since [Soueif’s] article was published [on 19 January], she has passed on further information to Mary Rizzo of the Palestine Think Tank: ‘Outside the general Hospital in Egyptian Rafah a city of tents has sprung up. I counted 200. But the soldiers there told me they have many more and can set them up immediately. They said the beds and furnishings for all the camps are ready. I was also told that other camps are being set up, in el-Arish and other locations. I was told these camps were being set up for “the Palestinian refugees.” Where will they come from? From Gaza. When? When they open the border. Officers then arrived and insisted that we leave immediately. Any information we wanted we could get from the headquarters of the Second Army in Ismailia. A soldier added that some TV stations had been here already ¬but they were with the Army.’

The news leaking out is about an Israeli transfer plan involving tens of thousands of Palestinians which under the guise of humanitarian assistance would actually ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Gaza. Such plans have been talked about before. Only a year ago on 18 January 2008, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger in an interview called for the Palestinians in Gaza to be transferred to the Sinai desert as a humanitarian gesture.

With everything that has gone on in Gaza over the last three weeks, transfer may well be a less provocative solution that could easily slip under the radar of recent public outrage and not be noticed until it is too late.

And in case anyone is wondering what all this is about – the discovery of extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline in 2000 could have a lot to do with it. Legally, those gas reserves belong to the Palestinians. You may wish to read Canadian economist Professor Michel Chossudovsky’s article “War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields for more on that subject.

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