War comes to Rafah
THE ISRAELI army concluded its murderous incursion into the southern Palestinian city of Rafah last week. The grotesquely named "Operation Rainbow" left at least 48 Palestinians dead and 150 houses demolished.Thousands of Israeli troops poured into Rafah on 18 May, sealing off the refugee camp.
Backed with tanks and Apache helicopters, they proceeded to systematically terrorise the population. Children were a particular target.
Israeli forces fired tank shells, machine-guns and missiles at an unarmed demonstration called by Palestinian youth organisations. At least eight marchers were killed, including four children: Walid Abu Khmer, 10, Mubarak Al Hashash, 11, Mahmoud Mansour, 13, Ahmad Abu Said, 14.
A teenage boy and his sister were shot dead on the roof of their house. Ahmad Al-Mogheir had gone to feed his pet doves, and his sister Asma planned to collect dry laundry. Moments later, their mother Sariyya heard gunfire. "I rushed up to the roof to find both laying on the ground, soaked with their blood," she said.
A three year old girl was shot dead on her way to buy sweets. Rewan Abu Zeid received two bullets to her head, according to a doctor at a Rafah hospital.
Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, ordered the operation on the pretext of closing down "weapons-smuggling tunnels" between Rafah and Egypt. Yet the Israeli army did not report any single tunnel being uncovered or closed down. The sheer brutality of "Operation Rainbow" drew criticisms from unlikely quarters.
Yosef Lapid is Israel's justice minister and a coalition partner in Sharon's cabinet. He condemned the operation as "inhumane" and said pictures of an elderly Palestinian woman searching the rubble of her house reminded him of his own grandmother, who perished in the Holocaust.
Their record of shame
POSTMORTEMS WERE not done on at least five Iraqi prisoners who died of mysterious causes at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention camps, according to US army records.
Among the cases is a prisoner who died, records show, after "gasping for air". Summaries of the death investigations, which do not say whether the prisoners were interrogated, are in documents obtained by the US newspaper the Denver Post from a high level Pentagon source.
Civilian toll now tops 11,500
THE NUMBER of civilian deaths in Iraq since the invasion is now at least 11,500 and probably more, according to the Independent newspaper. No one knows for sure because the occupation authorities refuse to keep figures and recently ordered the Iraqi health ministry not to do so.
The US army's chief spokesperson in Iraq, General Mark Kimmitt, embodies the attitude of the occupiers. When he was recently asked what he would say to Iraqis who saw television footage of civilians killed by coalition troops, he replied, "Change the channel."
Hypocrisy is their only law
A CRUCIAL memo written in January 2002 told George Bush and the US military that they did not have to comply with any international laws in the "war on terrorism".
In the memo, obtained by the Denver Post last week, Justice Department lawyers claimed the Geneva Conventions did not apply to fighters captured in Afghanistan.
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld later ruled they did not apply in Guantanamo Bay, setting the seal on future torture. The same memo, however, hypocritically said the US could still turn to international law to try any prisoners as "war criminals".
New evidence on British troops
THE DAILY Mirror came under savage attack when it published photographs which it claimed showed soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment abusing an Iraqi. But now five Iraqis have come forward with evidence that soldiers of this regiment carried out systematic torture of Iraqi civilians under an officer's direction.
The five were arrested with Baha Mousa, the Basra hotel receptionist who died in the custody of the regiment's troops. Lawyers and Amnesty International say the new witness statements show that officers were overseeing systematic abuse of detainees as an interrogation technique.
Lesley Warner of Amnesty UK says, "The beatings were reportedly conducted in the presence of officers and in some cases officers actually took part."
GIOVANNI PESCE will travel to London in July to speak at Marxism 2004. Tom Behan, author of The Resistible Rise of Benito Mussolini, says, "Giovanni Pesce joined the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, where he was wounded.
"Returning to his native Italy, he was imprisoned in fascist jails for three years. He then became a major organiser of the mass anti-fascist armed urban resistance movement in Turin and Milan during 1943-5, which overthrew fascism in an armed insurrection."
On Tuesday evening you can hear world renowned jazz musician Gilad Atzmon and Palestinian author Ghada Karmi discuss "How can Palestine be free?" On Thursday poet and broadcaster Mike Rosen will speak on Shakespeare. On Monday night you can join Alex Callinicos and Michael Albert to debate the relevance of Lenin to the new anti-capitalist movement.
Marxism 2004 9-16 July central London
Speakers include: Walden Bello Samir Amin Olivier Besancenot Tony Benn Tariq Ali Lindsey German Giovanni Pesce Michael Albert George Galloway Mark Serwotka Ghada Karmi Gareth Peirce Alex Callinicos Stuart Weir Luciana Genro China Mieville John Gittings Phillip Knightley Michael Rosen Jeremy Seabrook and many more