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“Dark Days”: Israeli Human Rights Leader Orly Noy on Israel’s War on Palestinians After Hamas Attack

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Israel has declared war on Hamas after Hamas fighters launched a surprise coordinated attack over the militarized border, the largest in decades. In a military operation titled “Al-Aqsa Storm,” as many as 1,000 fighters from Hamas broke out of the blockaded Gaza Strip and carried out an unprecedented attack inside Israel on Saturday morning. Hamas cited the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza and increasing settler violence in the occupied West Bank as reasons for the move. Israel responded by pounding the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, which hit housing blocks, tunnels and a mosque. Over the past three days at least 1,300 people have died, including over 800 inside Israel and almost 500 in Gaza. We spend the hour discussing the unprecedented developments, starting in Jerusalem with Orly Noy, chair of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call. “There is a really strong sense of demanding revenge within the Israeli public,” reports Noy, who says the attack catching Israel off guard is a massive military intelligence failure. “Once the immediate crisis is over, the Israeli public will be demanding answers from the government and Netanyahu.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Israel has ordered a complete siege of Gaza, two days after as many as a thousand Hamas fighters carried out an unprecedented attack Saturday morning, when Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel as militants broke through Israeli security barricades. Over the past three days, at least 1,300 people have died, including over 800 inside Israel, almost 500 in Gaza. One Israeli military spokesperson described Saturday as, quote, “by far the worst day in Israeli history,” unquote.

The surprise attack came almost 50 years to the day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Hamas attacked killed at least 44 Israeli soldiers, including several commanders. Over 250 people were killed at an Israeli music festival attended by mostly young people. Hamas militants also took about 100 hostages. Entire Israeli communities were forced to evacuate.

Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes have killed over 500 Palestinians in Gaza since Saturday, but the death toll is expected to soar, as Israel threatens to launch a ground war. Israel has called up 300,000 reservists, is sending heavy armor toward the Gaza border. This comes as the United States is sending more ammunition to Israel and warships to the region. Earlier today, Israeli airstrikes killed dozens of residents in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has announced a total blockade on Gaza, including a ban on food, water, electricity and fuel. Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza for the past 16 years, largely cutting off the area from the rest of the world. Gaza has been widely described as an open-air prison.

Hamas named its military operation “Al-Aqsa Storm” in response to the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hamas also cited the blockade of Gaza and increasing settler violence in the occupied West Bank. The attack also came as Israel was moving to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia

In a moment, we’ll go to Israel and Gaza for response, but we begin with the voices of two parents — one in Israel, one in Gaza — whose lives have been devastated by this weekend’s violence. This is Yoni Asher, a 37-year-old father whose wife and two children have been taken hostage by Hamas.

YONI ASHER: Yesterday, while my wife, Doron, and two daughters, little girls, Raz and Aviv, 5-year-old and 2 years old, went visit my mother-in-law in Nir Oz — it’s a kibbutz near Gaza. And during the morning, I contacted my wife, and she told me on the phone that there are terrorists inside the house. Later on, I saw a video, the same video that was in the social media, in which I surely identified my wife, my two daughters and my mother-in-law on some kind of a cart, and terrorists of Hamas all around them. … I want to ask of Hamas: Don’t hurt them. Don’t hurt little children. Don’t hurt women. If you want me instead, I’m willing to come.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is a mother in Gaza, Sabreen Abu Daqqa, who survived after being trapped in rubble after an Israeli rocket hit her home. The attack killed three of her children.

SABREEN ABU DAQQA: [translated] I was at home, and suddenly we heard a sound, and everything fell over our heads. My children were next to me. One of them was next to my legs, and the others were next to me. My brother, Saber, was a bit further. Nothing happened to him. I was hiding between the sofa and the door, so there was no pressure on me, only on my leg. But I didn’t hear any sound coming from my children. I called them, but I didn’t hear a sound coming from them. Suddenly, I heard my brother Saber calling. The first moment I heard his voice, I shouted, and I said, “I’m here!” And when they recognized me, they started calming me down, and then they started removing the rubble from above me.

It took them three hours to remove the rubble above me, but my children died — Khaled died, Qais died, Mariam died. Assef went missing. When they pulled me out of the rubble, I saw everything damaged. The houses are damaged. That’s the only thing I saw. And then I went to the hospital. I found that everybody was injured, and we have many injured and dead people.

AMY GOODMAN: We spend the rest of the hour with four guests.

In Gaza City, Raji Sourani is an award-winning human rights lawyer, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. He’s the 2013 Right Livelihood Award laureate, as well as in RFK Human Rights laureate. We hope to be talking to him soon in Gaza. The bombing is heavy, an unprecedented bombing, he said, in his area in Gaza.

Joining us from Mexico City, Ofer Cassif. He’s a member of the Israeli Knesset and the Hadash-Ta’al coalition. He was born in Rishon LeZion, Israel, which was hit by Hamas rocket strikes.

Here in New York, professor Rashid Khalidi is with us, the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, author of a number of books, including The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine.

And joining us from Jerusalem, Orly Noy, Israeli political activist, editor of the Hebrew-language news site Local Call. She’s also the chair of B’Tselem’s executive board. B’Tselem is an Israeli human rights organization.

Orly, let’s begin with you in Jerusalem. Can you respond to all that has happened over the weekend, the surprise attacks, the 1,300 people dead at this point in Gaza and in Israel, and now the defense minister of Israel announcing a total siege of Gaza, as tanks and military equipment head down to Gaza?

ORLY NOY: Thank you, Amy. Thank you so much for having me.

These are very, very dark days in the area, both in Palestine and in Israel. We woke up Saturday morning to the sirens rushing us into the shelters. And gradually, as the picture cleared, it just became darker.

We have been witnessing, since the heinous Hamas attack on civilians on Saturday morning, a long list of Israeli failures, that started even before the attack with the lack of intelligence information. We are talking about an intelligence operation that basically surveils every breath every Palestinian takes, both in the West Bank and in Gaza Strip, and they knew nothing about that planned attack. It continued to the chaos that has been going on for long hours, where hostages were held, where people were slaughtered, without the army or police forces coming to the rescue. And until today, there is still a tremendous amount of unclearness. People are still searching for their loved ones, with no organized body by the government to inform those worried people.

And, of course, the Israeli government is doing the only thing that Israel knows to do, which is revenge and more force and more death and more very random bombing of civilians in Gaza Strip. There is a very strong sense of demanding revenge within the Israeli public. And even if that can be understood, it does not by any means justify the brutal attacks, that will, of course, be fruitful, like any previous promise we’ve been given by the Israeli authorities to annihilate the terrorism and so on. This is just about revenge, which will end up just in more death and more violence and more blood.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the questions: Will this lead to the fall of the Netanyahu government? I mean, allied with the far right, for example, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security head, himself convicted in Israeli court 15 years ago of inciting hatred against Palestinians — he is the national security chief. Are there so many in the leadership here that have been so focused on — who are part of the Israeli settler movement on the West Bank, that they weren’t paying attention to Gaza?

ORLY NOY: Absolutely. This is one of the — I mean, first, it should be mentioned that Itamar Ben-Gvir was convicted with more than just a hatred towards Palestinians; he was convicted with supporting a terrorist organization. So he’s a convicted supporter of terrorism.

There is a tremendous amount of anger directed towards the government in general, and specifically toward Netanyahu and the leadership. We know now that most of the military troops that were supposed to be posted in the south protecting the southern borders have been relocated to protect the settlers in the West Bank. These are things that — I mean, right now the Israeli public is too much — too deep into the grief and shock, in a state of shock, but there will come a time that they will demand those answers from the government, and personally from Netanyahu. In the short, short term, it looks like we are going to a broad emergency coalition joined by Gantz and probably also Lapid. This is not unprecedented. Israel tends to unite politically around the leadership in times of crisis. But there is no doubt that once the immediate crisis is over, the Israeli public will be demanding answers from the government and from Netanyahu.

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“Do You Hear the Bombing?”: Gazan Human Rights Lawyer Raji Sourani Describes Israeli Siege of Gaza City

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