As Israel prepares for its ground invasion to decrease Gaza’s territory, it is also cracking down on dissent harder than ever, including on journalists, reports Elizabeth Vos.
Rockets fired from Gaza, 2014. (IDF/Flickr)
By Elizabeth Vos
Special to Consortium News
Further attacks on sheltering civilians loom as Israel prepares a ground offensive in northern Gaza: Tel Aviv has ordered Al-Quds hospital and five UNRWA schools in Gaza City to evacuate to escape imminent bombardment.
The Al-Quds hospital is reportedly treating over 400 patients and sheltering 12,000 displaced civilians.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to tighten its grip on internal dissent and media coverage of the carnage.
News reports indicated Friday that U.N. relief agency UNRWA’s representatives said Israel told them to evacuate five schools “as fast as possible… We did what we could protest and reject this decision, but this means that from now on these facilities are no longer safe.”
Journalist Max Blumenthal wrote on social media: “Israel is implying it plans to bomb UN schools. The message below was sent to UNRWA.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent wrote via X:
“PRCS faces an imminent threat. The IOF demands the evacuation of Al-Quds Hospital, a sanctuary for over 400 patients and around 12,000 displaced civilians. We call [on] the international community to act urgently, averting another catastrophe like Al-Ahli Hospital”
Speaking with Al Jazeera, a hospital representative said that the order to evacuate to escape bombardment was “immediate,” adding the words of the IDF: “Al-Quds hospital will be bombarded.” The aid group also indicated via X that 70 percent of the civilians sheltering on the hospital grounds are women and children.
Both the Al-Quds hospital and the UNRWA schools are in Gaza City, in the northern part of the Gaza strip, where Israel has already carried out heavy shelling of residential areas. Thousands of people were forced to seek shelter in institutions like hospitals and schools after their homes were destroyed. There is also no way to transport critically ill patients.
Even if healthy mobile civilians want to leave targeted hospitals and schools, their options are extremely limited. There is no way out of Gaza and no way for aid to be delivered thanks to Israel’s total blockade. [After U.S. pressure, a total of just 20 aid trucks were let into the territory on Saturday morning.]
Israel initially told residents of northern Gaza to evacuate to the south, but established safe roads were targeted, and numerous bombings were carried out by Israel in the southern portion of the Gaza strip, including a bombing on one of the last functioning bakeries.
That schools and a major hospital in northern Gaza would receive such threats from Israeli forces would indicate that Israel intends to decimate as many large buildings and groups of people as possible in preparation for a ground invasion in the North.
The warnings should be taken especially seriously in light of the bombing of the al-Ahli hospital earlier this week, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians who had sought shelter there. Though responsibility for the bombing has not been established with certainty, new investigations seriously undermine Israel’s narrative.
New Evidence on Hospital Attack
Channel 4 News and Al Jazeera further debunked Israel’s version of events, including the direction from which the projectile that hit the hospital parking lot was fired as well as the alleged tape of Hamas fighters produced by Israel to evade responsibility for the attack.
Video evidence and multiple eyewitness accounts indicated that victims of the attack were torn to pieces, and the concussive blast of an airburst missile would explain this kind of damage as discussed by U.S. Army veteran and weapons expert Dylan Griffith, who spoke to the Middle East Monitor.
After being asked on social media about the lack of damage to the hospital’s structure, Griffith stated:
“Same premise. My guess is that this area was being used as a casualty collection point and the heat signatures drew the aircraft’s attention. It is my opinion that the damage seen is consistent with an airburst munition and I still hold that the incoming sound is that of a JDAM.”
Initial reports had suggested that Israel was likely responsible for the blast, before Israel and later the establishment press blamed the attack on a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket. If Israel is ultimately proven responsible for the bombing it will add to the country’s long history of lying about the crimes it commits against Palestinians and their allies.
Gaza Will Shrink
Beyond the hospital attack, members of Israel’s government are more comfortable openly discussing their homicidal intent. On Wednesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen admitted that Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land in Gaza, saying,
“At the end of this war, not only will Hamas no longer be in Gaza, the territory of Gaza will also decrease.”
Seven U.N. experts have also sounded the alarm on Israel’s conduct in Gaza, as reported by the Electronic Intifada. Their statement described Israel’s actions as amounting not only to war crimes but to crimes against humanity.
Of a coming ground invasion, Chris Hedges writes:
“I have been in urban warfare in El Salvador, Iraq, Gaza, Bosnia and Kosovo. Once you fight street by street, apartment block by apartment block, there is only one rule — kill anything that moves.
The talk of safe zones, the reassurances of protecting civilians, the promises of ‘surgical’ and ‘targeted’ air strikes, the establishment of ‘safe’ evacuation routes, the fatuous explanation that civilian dead were ‘caught in the crossfire,’ the claim that the homes and apartment buildings bombed into rubble were the abode of terrorists or that errant Hamas rockets were responsible for the destruction of schools and medical clinics, is part of the rhetorical cover to carry out indiscriminate slaughter.”
To target a working hospital remains a war crime, just as it was a war crime to target other medical facilities, a U.N. aid building, and at least three places of worship where hundreds of civilians sought safety.
The New York Daily News reported that,
“In total, seven hospitals and 21 primary care health centers in Gaza are listed as ‘out of service,’ while 64 medical staff have been killed during Israel’s bombing campaign, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health.”
The situation on the ground is now so dire that surgeon and British Palestinian Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta, who previously recounted his experience during and after the al-Ahli hospital attack, reported via social media on Thursday that medical workers have been reduced to treating bacterial-infected wounds with vinegar.
Dresden Was ‘Worth It’
Israel’s plans for Gaza are so extreme that they have openly compared it to the firebombing of Dresden in WWII. The Grayzone reported the Associated Press’s removal of the comparison from their reporting, as well as examples of Israel’s representatives making the Dresden comparison publicly, arguing that killing egregious numbers of civilians was “worth it” to beat the Nazis.
According to Defense for Children, 1,661 Palestinian children have been killed in Gaza by the Israeli military since Oct. 7, while “more than 4,000 Palestinian children are injured and hundreds are still missing under the rubble.”
The violence is so indiscriminate that former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash lost family members in Israel’s bombing of Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church, where they sought shelter. The bombing of the church as well as mosques in Gaza constitute war crimes, as it is illegal to target places of worship.
Preparations Within to Kill in Darkness
As Israel prepares for its ground invasion, it is also cracking down on dissent harder than ever, including on journalists. Israel Frey, an Israeli journalist who had to go into hiding after speaking out against Israel’s attacks on civilians in Gaza, spoke via social media on Friday in reference to the more than 1,000 children killed in Gaza in the recent offensive.
“Anyone [in Israel] showing empathy for the pain we cause these innocents is labeled traitor [and is] being threatened, like the blood of the people of Gaza is worth nothing as if our war crimes will comfort our victims.”
The Nation likewise reports at least 170 Palestinians have been “arrested or brought in for questioning since the Hamas attack on the basis of online expression,” which can be as little as “liking” a pro-Palestinian post on platforms like Instagram, where a large volume of footage and images directly from Gaza are posted daily.
On Friday, the Israeli government approved regulations that will allow it to temporarily shut down foreign news channels, paving the way to shut down channels like Al Jazeera.
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said of the regulations:
“Israel is at war on land, in the air, at sea, and on the public diplomacy front. We will not allow in any way broadcasts that harm the security of the state… The broadcasts and reports of Al Jazeera constitute incitement against Israel, help Hamas-ISIS and the terror organizations with their propaganda, and encourage violence against Israel.”
In discussing a zero-tolerance policy for anti-war protests, an Israeli police chief threatened to send pro-Palestinian protesters to Gaza on buses: a death sentence given Israel’s current genocidal trajectory of extreme violence on those in the strip.
With high numbers of Israeli military casualties likely to come in a ground invasion, it also makes sense that authorities would preemptively crush dissent before a widespread backlash against the war can take root on the home front and internationally.
With the intensifying internal crackdown on speech and the threats to bomb hospitals and schools in Gaza, it is clear that Israel is gearing up for an all-out war that it knows will cause high civilian casualties and internal and foreign dissent.
Disclaimer: To Kill in Darkness - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view