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“Horrifying”: Gaza Assault Kills 44 Palestinians, 15 Children. Will Ceasefire End Bloodshed?

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The death toll from three days of an Israeli military bombardment on Gaza has reached at least 44 Palestinians, including 15 children. At least 350 Palestinians were wounded. Bombing has since stopped after Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group agreed on Sunday to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt, and border crossings reopened on Monday to allow bare necessities in. We go to Gaza to speak with the journalist and activist Issam Adwan, who says Israel’s military operation is meant to bolster the current Israeli government ahead of November elections. “They are using the Palestinian blood to promote a campaign for certain individuals,” says Adwan.

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StoryMay 21, 2021“We Want Real Dignity and Freedom”: Gazans Welcome Ceasefire But Demand End of Siege & Occupation
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In Gaza, at least 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, have been killed in three days of an Israeli military bombardment before a ceasefire began Sunday. At least 350 Palestinians were wounded. Palestinians accused the Israeli government of launching the attack in an effort to build political support ahead of November’s elections. Palestinian children who survived the Israeli assault described horrifying scenes. This is a 9-year-old girl named Leen Matar who was pulled from the rubble.

LEEN MATAR: [translated] I was at my grandfather’s house when suddenly the rubble started to fall on us. And we started screaming, and the neighbors came to rescue us. … We don’t want to keep going through this. Every year there are strikes, killings of children and injuries. I am happy that I am alive, because I always had a dream to fulfill, which is to become a doctor and help people in such times, to help them because I have been through many problems like this.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel defended the bombardment of Gaza, saying it was a preemptive operation targeting militants with the group Islamic Jihad. Two senior Islamic Jihad commanders were killed in the attack. During the bombardment, Israel also cut off fuel to Gaza, leading to blackouts across the region.

For more, we go to Gaza now to speak with Issam Adwan, Palestinian journalist, activist, researcher and new father.

Issam, welcome back to Democracy Now! This ceasefire has been declared between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel. Can you talk about what has happened over the weekend?

ISSAM ADWAN: Thank you for hosting me.

The scene is, as usually, terrifying for me as a new father of a 2-month infant, as [inaudible] on the other part that we are expecting everything from the Israeli side even during the times of the ceasefire, because several instances before indicated the violation of the times of the ceasefire. The situation is horrifying. We have witnessed 44 Palestinians dying, including 15 children and six women, which represents half of the casualties from the Palestinian side. There are no words to describe the war crimes that have been committed, even with the claims of the Israeli authority that they are targeting PIJ’s senior members, military senior members. This included, of course, targeting of residential buildings, killing children and women, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what started this?

ISSAM ADWAN: So, what started it, just to correct you a little bit in your introduction, that you mentioned that Israel cut fuel supplies to Gaza during the bombardment launched on Gaza, of the operation, of course, but it happened four days before the escalation started, when the Israeli administration decided to close both borders, at Kerem Shalom crossing and Erez crossing, which they are the main crossings of the goods that enters into Gaza, as well as the medical equipment and fuel, as well. So, when they decided to do that, it came along with the provocative action to detain Bassam al-Saadi, a senior member of the PIJ in the West Bank, of course, with no response by the political parties here in Gaza. They have added more violence with the targeting of Tayseer al-Jabari, a senior member of the PIJ in Gaza. Just to give you a sense of understanding about Tayseer al-Jabari, he had been more of a political person rather than being a military.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the two Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders who were killed and Israel’s assertion that this was a preemptive attack on a possible attack against Israel?

ISSAM ADWAN: I don’t know how to describe this properly, but what preemptive attacks, when included that the international laws, especially the international humanitarian laws, which prohibit targeting buildings and areas which contains hundreds of civilians? We are talking about Gaza, that is about 365 square kilometers, where 2 millions of people are put with an intentional policy to suffocate every norms of their existence. So, how you can possibly target senior members of the PIJ? And as I stated before, they were more of political persons rather than being military, so, significantly, saying that they were not of a great threat to the Israeli administration.

But following what has been happening inside — I mean, the dispute happening inside the Israeli administration ahead of the pre-elections coming in the future, that they are using the Palestinian blood to promote a campaign for certain individuals, especially with the decreasing of the public support provided to Lapid and Gantz, in particular, during the run of the current government.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the Israeli elections coming up in November and how you feel they weigh in here.

ISSAM ADWAN: It’s actually the same. No matter who runs the Israeli government, it’s always the same, with the same policy to suffocate the Gaza Strip. We’re talking about 15 years of blockade. This blockade killed every existence of people living in Gaza. And there were several individuals running the Israeli government of different opinions and different views and different policies to deal with Gaza, but all the policies were met on a one goal that the Palestinians in Gaza do not deserve to live a normal life. This extent leads us to think that this change inside the Israeli government is just a minor change, just an appearance change of who’s leading the government, but the policy remains the same thing, either being the right wing or left wing of Israelis.

AMY GOODMAN: Now talk about the situation in Gaza. What does it mean to have the blackout? And the number of casualties, what’s the latest figure? We heard 44, more than a third of them children, over 300 people injured. What’s happening in the hospitals? And how do you get these figures?

ISSAM ADWAN: Yes. With the — as I mentioned, as I highlighted before, that the Israeli administration decided — implemented the closure of the Gaza Strip four days ahead of the operation start in Gaza, including a shortage — including blocking the entrance of fuel, which is a — which is Gaza mainly depends to run eight hours a day in the normal cases. With the shortage of the fuel, of course, it influenced — it hugely influenced the capacity of the hospitals to treat those injuries and also to put those dead people in the proper places. This is an indicator of the harsh policies that the Israeli administration has been dealing with Gaza.

And I don’t know how to describe this in a human-side level, because even to me personally, I have experienced even — because the media mainly focusing on Gaza whenever there are hundreds of people dying, hundreds of houses bombed, but there are other times during these 15 years of blockade people are dying because of the poverty. People are dying because of the lack of hope, of the lack of job opportunities. And that is what the media is neglecting to cover on the situation of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad agreed to a Cairo-mediated truce after three days of intense rocket attacks by Israeli forces.

TAREK SELMI: [translated] Now, for sure, we have reached a deal, and there is an Egyptian commitment to release the prisoners Khalil Awawdeh and Bassam al-Saadi as soon as possible from the Israeli jails. We announced a ceasefire by 11:30, and we welcome the Egyptian efforts that were made to end this battle.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s an Islamic Jihad spokesperson. Issam Adwan, can you talk about Egypt’s involvement here and where you think this is going at this point?

ISSAM ADWAN: Yeah. As I said before, the ceasefire is never a safe solution for the people of Gaza, because it moves no tangible improvements on the situation in Gaza of day by day and from a war to war, especially the wars of 2008, ’12, ’14 and 2021 and this current one. The infrastructure of Gaza is hugely damaged. The medical expertise and equipment are barely found.

So, the solution and the ceasefire that happened between the IJ and the Israeli side, there were three conditions, three conditions revealed from the Egyptian mediation, who has been positively in the process, that first to release Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi, who was detained by the Israeli government in the previous days ahead of the escalation, and releasing the Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been in a hunger strike for more than a hundred days, with an intentional medical negligence to transfer him to medical care systems. Those demands, they are indications of how much the situation is worsening day by day. And that’s why the situation is not improving.

And people do not feel safety, because Israel can determine a new round of escalation throughout assassinating a valuable target, as they claim, despite the fact that even the Israeli media outlets, they do not recognize this as a big of achievement, the killing — and I mean by that the killing of Mansour and Tayseer al-Jabari. As I said before, they were more of a political target rather than being a military. So there is no significant achievement recognized, but the Israeli government keeps bragging about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel is saying that a number of the Palestinians killed were killed by the backfiring of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s own missiles. Your response, Issam Adwan?

ISSAM ADWAN: I believe the Israeli side used a video, an anonymous video, that shows nothing, in the middle of the darkness, that during the bombardment of Jabaliya refugee camp. So there were no, I would say, clear indications that this is by the PIJ’s misfired rocket. We have seen huge bombardment launched on Gaza during the times between 9 p.m. to 12 p.m. During these times, more than 12 targets were hit on Jabaliya camp. So there were no clear identification of whether this.

But let’s take into consideration the exclusive power. The Israeli side has always undermined the potential, the rocket’s potential, of the Palestinian resistance, and now they are recognizing that this missile — this rocket could kill seven individuals, seven Palestinians. I don’t think this makes any sense, because Israel exaggerates whenever the exaggeration in its benefits, and they undermine the potential of the Palestinians whenever they see it fit.

AMY GOODMAN: You tweeted, “The ceasefire is never a time to celebrate for Gazans, but rather a moment to mourn the deaths of innocent civilians killed by the Israeli warplane — To barely survive wondering 'am I going to be next?'” Can we end where we started? You’re a new father. You have a 2-month-old little girl named Sara. Can you talk about what you see the future as in Gaza?

ISSAM ADWAN: It’s really terrifying during thinking about it all the years, even before Sara came to my life, that I have a huge sense of guilt that I brought her into life. It’s really pessimist to talk about it, but inside of me it eats me alive that I brought a child into a situation that never rested. I was born in 1993, lived my entire life under the occupation, and for the past 15 years I have been denied the majority of my rights, including the right to have a proper education outside or mitigation in cases of illness. So, imagining the situation applies to my daughter Sara is terrifying me the most, because being a journalist and being exposed to — being exposed, hugely exposed, to cases of slaughtering children and women, it keeps echoing in my mind, it keeps echoing in my heart, and it eats me from inside, that is it going to be next, and if it’s not me, it could be my Sara.

AMY GOODMAN: Issam Adwan, we want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian journalist, activist and researcher, joining us from Gaza.

Next up, we go to Colombia, where the newly inaugurated President Gustavo Petro is ushering in a new political era with Francia Márquez Mina, the first Afro-Colombian woman to be elected vice president. Stay with us.

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“It Brings Hope”: Colombia Inaugurates Leftist Former Guerrilla as Pres. & Afro-Colombian Woman as VP

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