Israel resumed its genocidal war on Gaza following the brief pause last week, which was insufficient to address the plight of the thousands of missing Palestinians, most of them women and children, trapped beneath the rubble. Personally, I’ve been trying since 27 October to reach a former colleague in the Bureij refugee camp. The unnerving lack of response echoes as ominous as a silent stone. I have hesitated to contact others, afraid that I might get the same silent treatment, or worse, discover the dreaded truth.
Then it came from an unexpected corner. On 23 November, I received the news of the tragic death of my relative, Mariam, her daughter and grandchildren in Nuseirat refugee camp. A day earlier, Al Jazeera had covered a drone attack that obliterated a car, leaving charred bodies of women and children beyond recognition. Little did I know that I had seen the very car that Mariam and her family had taken to escape their camp in a desperate attempt to find a “safer” shelter for her grandchildren.
Mariam was born in Palestine in 1948, the year of the Nakba. We grew up together in Nahr el Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. In the 1970s, she married a member of the PLO and was displaced again in 1982, this time from Lebanon. Subsequently, following the Oslo Accords, her family resettled in Gaza.
The last time I saw Mariam was more than a decade ago during my visit to our old camp, which happened to coincide with hers. She complained that I had been to Gaza without stopping to see her. I explained that I was unaware that she had relocated to Gaza. In reality, I had been to Nuseirat camp, and we could have crossed paths in an alley or at the small market. Nevertheless, the thought didn’t occur to me that she could be there, and it was likely that, after more than 20 years since our previous meeting, we wouldn’t recognise each other easily.
According to Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 November interview on “Meet the Press”, Mariam and her family who heeded the Israeli military orders to seek a “safe” place, were “unintended casualties” and the 15,000 (now 16,000+) murdered civilians were “collateral damage”. Arguing that a bombardment damaging 278,000 structures is simply “collateral damage” in a war fighting supposed “terrorists” hiding behind civilians, is hogwash, not least because the Israeli army is the only indicted party to have used civilians as human shields. In May 2002, Israel’s High Court of Justice explicitly prohibited Israeli soldiers from using Palestinian “civilians of any kind as a means of ‘living shield’.” Yet, even if one were to accept the prime minister’s definition of “collateral damage”, it would mean that Palestinian fighters must be physically and actively present in or around the targeted 278,000 buildings throughout Gaza. This is an impossible reality given that the best estimates put the number of the largest group, Hamas, having between 30,000 to 40,000 fighters, which would equate to about 0.125 fighter at or near each building.
The targeting of civilian structures by Israel is so omnipresent that it covers 50 per cent of all homes in Gaza. For 48 days and counting, the Israeli army had murdered 15 civilians, injured 35, dropped 42 bombs, and destroyed 12 buildings, every hour of every day. This relentless bombardment replicated a military strategy known as “area” or “saturation” bombing; it’s a tactic employed initially by Nazi Germany in Poland in 1939. The allies applied the same “area” bombing technique in their counteroffensive against Nazi Germany in 1945, dropping 3,900 tons of explosives on the city of Dresden.
During the second week of the Israeli war on Gaza, former Knesset Lawmaker Moshe Feiglin called for Gaza to be turned into Dresden. Feiglin won’t be disappointed; the Israeli military listened, and has dropped on Gaza more than ten times (40,000 tons) of what all of the allied forces dropped on Dresden.
However, a more fitting warfare parallel would be the Japanese Great Bombing of Chongqing in World War Two from 1939 to 1942, whereby civilians were targeted to break Chinese defiance. Over three years, the Japanese killed nearly an equivalent number of civilians as those murdered in Gaza. Still, a more compelling reality in this comparison, unlike Gaza which is cut off from the world, the defenders of Chongqing received nonstop military aid from the Soviet Union and the US, and the city was not under complete siege.
To contextualise it geographically, the area of Chongqing is 31,700 square miles, making it 1 to 0.0045 Gaza. In the three years of the Great Bombing of Chongqing, 3,000 tons of explosives were dropped, or 1/13th of the explosives dropped on Gaza. Proportional to the area, Israel launched 2,888 per cent more explosives in only 48 days than what the Japanese dropped during the three-year period of the Great Bombing of Chongqing. Moreover, the contemporary destructive power per ton far exceeds that of World War Two, such as the misnomer “smart bombs”, a euphemism for more lethal weaponry.
Unlike Chongqing, what may seem random bombing is, in fact, a calculated and deliberate aspect of a covert Israeli system known as “Habsora” (The Gospel), which relies on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The AI-driven “mass assassination factory” utilises algorithms to generate targets at a speed surpassing human capability. Operating semi-autonomously it relies on a language structure instructing drones, fighter jets, rockets, warships, artillery, etc., to harvest a pre-set bank of targets throughout Gaza. The algorithms can be manipulated without incorporating definitive parameters, such as the shape of moving objects, space, time or speed, allowing the drone to engage targets, whether deemed “legitimate” military targets or not, as in the case of Mariam and her family in their car.
According to the Israeli news site +972 and Local Call who exposed the “Habsora” mass assassination factory, the AI data arranged its “military” targets into four categories, with two related to civilian objectives: “power targets” and “family homes”.
Power targets encompass public institutions and civilian infrastructure such as universities, schools, hospitals, government buildings, banks, communication centres, power generation plants, water plants, fuel storage facilities, residential towers, etc., aiming to induce a high level of civilian suffering.
The other civilian category is “family homes”. The Habsora database includes extensive private home addresses of persons suspected of being associated with the Palestinian resistance. The purpose for this data is to carry out strikes on residential quarters on a massive scale. Even though there is no military activity associated with such addresses, and the unlikelihood that the alleged operative would be home during wartime in any case, AI delivers, murdering multi-generational families, with neighbours classed as “unintended casualties”. The mass assassination factory is so pervasive that entire generations from multiple families have been completely expunged from the civil registry. An example of this is what we saw on 31 October, when Israel dropped two two-ton bombs on a home in the middle of the densely-populated Jabaliya refugee camp.
As per +972 and Local Call, in the early days of the Gaza genocidal war, the Israeli army focused on civilian infrastructure, whereby in the first five days nearly “half of the targets bombed — 1,329 out of 2,687 — were deemed to be ‘power targets’.”
The murdered civilians in Gaza came from all walks of life. Consider the family of Wael el Dahdouh, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Gaza. His family heeded Israeli warnings and moved to the “safe” south. In the raid on the house where they took shelter in Nuseirat camp, an Israeli bomb killed his wife, son, daughter and grandson.
In the medical profession, doctors treat the sick and ease the pain, but in Gaza, they couldn’t save their own lives. Dr Hammam Alloh, a 36-year-old nephrologist, worked tirelessly for over a month at Al-Shifa Hospital, dedicated to his patients. On 11 November, he took a short break to check on his father near the hospital, and an Israeli “smart” bomb struck their home, killing both of them. Dr Alloh was one of over 200 medical professionals killed by Israel to date. Four days after his killing, the largest hospital in Gaza where he worked was put out of service by the occupying Israeli army as soldiers searched for their computer-generated mirage of the supposed “Hamas command and control centre” beneath the mass graves that filled the hospital yard.
According to Human Rights Watch, as of 12 November there have been 137 documented “attacks on health care” centres in Gaza. HRW reported that two-thirds of the primary care facilities and half of all hospitals in Gaza were non-functional. At the European Hospital in Khan Yunis south of Gaza, Dr Paul Ley complained in an interview, “I have worked in hospitals in Afghanistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cambodia… but I have never operated on so many injured children as I am now in the Gaza Strip.”
There were also the attacks on medics where 87 medical transport ambulances were specifically targeted and put out of service. Even UN workers were not spared Israeli atrocities as the international organisation suffered the loss of over 100 aid workers, making it the highest number killed in any single conflict since its establishment.
Another example is Dima Abdullatif Mohammed Alhaj from the WHO Trauma and Emergency Team, a 29-year-old who had evacuated from Gaza City. She and her husband, their six-month-old baby boy and her two brothers were killed in a similar fashion, along with 50 other family and community members who sought shelter in the same house in the supposedly “safer” south.
Journalists have also suffered an unprecedented number of casualties in Israel’s malevolent aggression. The international Committee to Protect Journalists reported that the number of journalists killed was “the deadliest month for journalists” in over 30 years. In targeting journalists, Israel effectively achieved its objective of imposing an international “news blackout” from the frontline. In a further attempt to dissuade international news organisations from operating inside Gaza, the Israeli army warned “Reuters and Agence France Presse that it couldn’t guarantee the safety of their journalists working within the Strip.”
Rather than denouncing the Israeli-imposed news blackout, or protesting about the killing of their fellow reporters, Western journalists embedded with the Israeli army continue to report on what their military escorts allow them to observe. Thus, Israel has made Western media complicit in shirking its professional duty by not sending reporters to Gaza, opting instead to rely on Israeli newspeak sources. Hence, the mass murder of civilians in Gaza is treated as sidebar news while priority coverage is given to the Israeli professional victims. Similarly, on American news programmes, where the Israeli Iron Curtain dominates the discourse, the Palestinian perspective is conspicuously absent, and balanced shows like Mehdi Hassan on MSNBC has been cancelled.
As Western, and Arab governments turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to what is going on in Gaza, it is self-evident that the scorched earth strategy targeting civilians in their homes, “safe” shelters and hospitals is an integral component of Israel’s genocide in Gaza. This is not due to Palestinian fighters hiding behind civilians; it is Israel and its hasbara — propaganda — that hide behind the fighters as a pretext to normalise the murdering of civilians. Unfortunately, the managed “free” Western media continue to be a wilful tool skirting around the truth while promoting the normalisation of Israel’s mass assassination factory in Gaza.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.