- Mohammed OmerPalestinian journalist based in Gaza. In 2008, he won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.
- Gershon Baskinfounder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. He was the initiator of the secret talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israel is continuing to pound the Gaza Strip with air strikes amidst fears that Israel could soon launch a ground invasion into Gaza. Israeli troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers are now massing near the Palestinian territory. Earlier today, 85 missiles exploded within 45 minutes in Gaza City, sending black pillars of smoke. At least 21 Palestinians have died in the most recent round of violence, while three Israelis died on Thursday. Israel said it launched 150 air strikes overnight, while Palestinians fired a dozen rockets into Israel. Israel has started to draft 30,000 reserve troops in a sign the assault may soon widen. Among the casualties of Israeli violence was the 11-month-old son of a BBC Arabic journalist, Jihad Misharawi. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil traveled to Gaza today to condemn the Israeli attack. For more, we get a report from Rafah by Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, who says, “One thing that we ought to talk about here is the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. This is a situation of targeting a population of civilians, exactly like Israel is shooting in a fishbowl. And there is no shelter, and there is nowhere to run for the general population. Gaza is living in a very dire situation.” We also speak with Gershon Baskin, the founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, who was the initiator of the secret talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Israel is continuing to pound the Gaza Strip with air strikes amidst fears that Israel could launch a ground invasion. At least 21 Palestinians have died in the most recent round of violence, while three Israelis died on Thursday. Israel said it launched 150 air strikes overnight, while Palestinians fired dozens of rockets into Israel. Israel has started to draft 30,000 reserve troops in a sign the assault may soon widen. Among the casualties of Israeli violence was the 11-month-old son of a BBC Arabic journalist. An Associated Press photo showed journalist Jihad Misharawi clutching the wrapped body of his baby, who was killed by an Israeli round that struck his home Wednesday.
Earlier today, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil traveled to Gaza to condemn the Israeli attack.
PRIME MINISTER HISHAM KANDIL: [translated] We cannot stay silent about this tragedy. The entire world should be responsible regarding this aggression. Egypt—Egypt, the revolution, will not spare any efforts to exert every effort stop this aggression and achieve a sustainable truce.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, in Washington, the—we’re joined by two guests right now. We’re joined by the award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer. And we want to thank you very much for being with us, back again. Thank you so much. Tell us what is happening on the ground in Gaza right now.
MOHAMMED OMER: You’re welcome, Amy.
Well, let me start with the last—I’m right now in Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli F-16 missile just fired at least two missiles, killing one person, and the person was—just arrived to the hospital, Nasser Hospital, at the moment. And he was identified as Ismail Kandil, 24-year-old. That brings the number of the air strikes in the last three days to 502 air strikes. This means—this resulted in the killing of 23 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and over 230 people who are injured.
One thing that we ought to talk about here is the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. This is—this is a situation of targeting a population of civilians, exactly like Israel is shooting in a fishbowl. And there is no bunker—or, there is no shelter, and there is nowhere to run for the general population. Gaza is living in a very dire situation. The U.N. has decided to shut all the schools tomorrow, as well as the Ministry of Education and Higher Education called all the university not to open tomorrow. Gaza hospitals announced the need for medical supplies and medical stocks. I was just speaking to a number of doctors at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and they announced that they are in bad need for 192 types of medicines that are not available in the stocks of the Ministry of Health or the hospitals. There is also the need for 450 items of medical supplies, or what they call disposable medical items. If these needs are not met by the next day or two, there will be a big humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
The situation is deteriorating in the Gaza Strip. The target is indeed civilians. The last one was Haneen Tafesh, a 10-month baby child who was killed by any Israeli missile. The missiles are falling at the moment, as I speak to you. And as breaking news coming out from the medical crew next to me, the F-16s are targeting the beach camp in the east of Gaza City at the moment. The Israeli army, or the Israeli F-16s, at the moment, they are targeting the beach camp in the west of Gaza City at the moment. That’s the breaking news, and it’s happening as we speak at the moment.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Mohammed, the reports are that the leaders of the Hamas government are in hiding, fearing possible attempts to assassinate some of them, as well. Is the general population or the security forces there preparing for a possible Israeli invasion again?
MOHAMMED OMER: Well, there is no way to determine that, because walking in the streets or driving in the streets, you really don’t see anybody in the streets. The streets are entirely empty. I was just driving from Gaza City to Khan Younis in the south, and the streets are entirely empty. There is no people are walking in the streets, because the air strikes are bombing everything that moves. Everything that moves in the streets is being bombed and attacked, and this makes things quite difficult for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
There are talks about the big invasion targeting the Gaza Strip. We don’t know if this is starting, but I can confirm to you that in the southern part of the Gaza Strip—Rafah and Khan Younis—there is a unusual military buildup. We hear some tanks and bulldozers gathering around the borderline, but we don’t know yet, as the operation or a large-scale operation on the ground did not start yet, but it’s potential with the Israeli threats at the moment.
Just to clarify the last breaking news I gave you about two minutes ago, the target in the west of Gaza City is a car driving in Gaza City. It’s a car driving in Gaza City. And so far, the medical crew are not aware who was the target, and they cannot determine if there are casualties. But they say there are casualties, but we don’t know the number yet.