Countercurrent – November 17, 2023
US, Israeli lies about “command center” at Al-Shifa hospital fall apart
by Andre Damon
For weeks, Israel used its claims that the Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest, was being used as a military command center to justify a relentless bombardment of the hospital that killed dozens of people and prevented the wounded from entering or leaving, in a series of flagrant war crimes.
Admitting that there were no hostages inside the hospital, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, “We had strong indications that they [the hostages] were held in the Shifa hospital. If they were [there], they were taken out.”
In an October 27 post on X, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) asserted that Al Shifa “acts as the main headquarters for Hamas’ terrorist activity.” The post was accompanied by an animation showing a sprawling complex, spanning hundreds of meters, underneath the hospital. Israel’s claims were reiterated multiple times by officials from the White House, Pentagon and State Department.
On Tuesday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby asserted, “We have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages.”
Biden repeated this unsubstantiated claim on Thursday, declaring, “Here’s the situation: You have a circumstance where the first war crime is being committed by Hamas by having their headquarters, their military hidden under a hospital. And that’s a fact.”
Asked by a reporter to “detail for us what kind of evidence the U.S. has seen that Hamas has a command center under Al-Shifa Hospital,” Biden replied, “No, I can’t tell you. I won’t tell you.”
On Wednesday, the IDF posted a video showing a half-dozen assault rifles, two flak jackets, and a computer which it claims were hidden behind an MRI machine at Al-Shifa. There was no attempt to explain why an MRI machine, with its powerful magnetic field, did not cause the weapons to fly across the room when it was in operation.
Israel’s “evidence” was so flimsy that even the US government was not shameless enough to back it.
In a press briefing Thursday, Al Jazeera correspondent Patty Culhane asked Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh, “So you’re saying that the video of a blurred laptop, flak jacket, a handful of rifles—that that backs up what you’ve been saying that Hamas is operating in the hospital?”
To this, Singh replied, “Hamas uses—Al-Shifa being one of them—hospitals in Gaza to conduct and to operate out of and to further execute on terrorist actions.”
Culhane asked, “Is there video to back that up?” to which Singh replied, “I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Later on Thursday, after searching the hospital area for two days, the IDF claimed to have found a vehicle on the hospital grounds packed with assault rifles and an opening leading to an underground structure.
In the 1980s, Israel itself undertook a renovation of the hospital, including what Haaretz noted was a “large cement basement that housed the hospital’s laundry and various administrative services.”
Since the start of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the World Health Organization has recorded at least 137 attacks on healthcare facilities, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza is disastrous, amid mass hunger and dehydration. Thursday marked the fifth consecutive day with no update to the death toll, which stood at over 11,078 on Friday, of whom 4,506 were said to be children and 3,027 women. The United Nations attributed the lack of reporting to the “collapse of services and communications at hospitals in the north.”
Gaza’s telecommunications services were again shut down on Thursday, after providers announced that they had completely run out of fuel, and after Israel conducted strikes on communications infrastructure.
For the second consecutive day, no aid trucks entered Gaza, following the collapse of humanitarian infrastructure in the country due to lack of fuel. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said that it will no longer be able to coordinate any humanitarian aid convoys starting Friday.
Israeli forces attacked the Central Petroleum Station at the northern entrance of Al Maghazi refugee camp, killing nine people and injuring dozens more. The picture of the humanitarian situation provided by the United Nations is disastrous:
Active ground operations in the heart of Gaza city have continued to disrupt the movement of rescue teams and ambulances and people to obtain their essential needs, particularly food and water. Households in the western neighbourhoods of Gaza city appealed for help after their remaining food and drinking water had been depleted. Reportedly, they were unable to leave their homes because of the presence of Israeli ground troops and fighting. Multiple appeals by stranded households and family members underneath struck buildings and homes went unanswered; the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has been unable to respond to hundreds of calls to assist and evacuate.
There have been no bakeries active in northern Gaza for over ten days, and no wheat flour is available on the market. In a post on X, the World Food Program wrote, “23 bakeries on Oct 7th. 5 bakeries on Oct 17th. 1 bakery on Oct 31st. ZERO bakeries today. @WFP’s last contracted bakery in #Gaza has shut down due to the lack of fuel. Today, nearly the entire population is in need of food assistance.”
Probe Shows 126+ Civilians Killed by Israeli Airstrike Targeting ‘Just One Guy’
by Jessica Corbett
Israel’s war on Gaza has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, including over 100 civilian victims of a single Israeli bombing in the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp on October 31 who were publicly identified on Thursday by the U.K.-based watchdog Airwars.
The group identified 116 names of civilians killed in the strike—including 10 cases with the death of multiple family members, three of which reportedly involved entire families being wiped out. The estimated civilian death toll is 126-136, including 69 children.
Airwars noted on social media that this is “the most named victims we have ever monitored in a single event,” and “almost every named victim we found died along with at least one other family member.”
The analysis is just for the Israeli attack on October 31, but the group is separately reviewing a strike from the following day. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed both bombings and claimed to be targeting “a very senior Hamas commander.”
As Guardian reporting cited by Airwars detailed:
A spokesperson for the Israeli military said the attack had been authorized to assassinate a senior Hamas commander and destroy his base. IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari named the target as Ibrahim Biari, commander of Central Jabaliya Battalion, who he said had been leading fighting in northern Gaza from a network of tunnels under the camp.
Hagari declined to comment on how many munitions, or which types, were used to target the camp, or identify which craters were caused by tunnel collapses. He said Israel would provide some of these details at a later date.
“Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem denied any senior commander there and called the claim an Israeli pretext for killing civilians,” according to Reuters.
Ahmad al-Kahlout, a spokesperson for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Interior Ministry in Gaza, told reporters at the time that “these buildings house hundreds of citizens. The occupation’s air force destroyed this district with six U.S.-made bombs. It is the latest massacre caused by Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.”
Hagari claimed the IDF killed “scores” of militants alongside Biari.
“With ambiguity around the exact number of militants killed, Airwars has applied a 12-24 combatant casualty range to account for comments such as ‘dozens’ of targets killed,” the watchdog said.
Those in the camp remain at risk. Middle East Eye reported Wednesday that “renewed heavy Israeli shelling has targeted residential homes in the Jabalia refugee camp. Footage showed blocks falling to the ground and survivors digging in the rubble with their hands to retrieve dead bodies.”
The IDF strikes on Jabalia have been globally condemned as war crimes—as have various other Israeli actions since October 7, when the nation launched what experts are calling a “genocidal” war in response to a Hamas-led attack.
Throughout Israel’s bombing campaign and ground operations in Gaza—which along with killing and wounding thousands of civilians have destroyed civilian infrastructure and displaced around three-quarters of the population—global calls for a cease-fire have mounted.
There have also been growing demands for International Criminal Court action. Rutgers Law School professor and Just Security executive editor Adil Haque tagged the ICC prosecutor, Karim A. A. Khan, in a social media post about the Airwars analysis.
Khan last month asked civil society groups “to send us any and all evidence that underpins their reports or their communiques or their notices that they issue” on Gaza, explaining that “reports by themselves are, of course, not evidence and I cannot and will not act pursuant to my oath of office without reliable evidence that we can validate that can stand up in a court of law.”
Jessica Corbett is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.
CODEPINK Launches International Campaign Urging ICC Investigation
into Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza
By Press Release
THE HAGUE — In the wake of alarming statements by Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which have been perceived as incitement to genocide in Palestine, CODEPINK and its international partners are spearheading a global letter-writing initiative calling for an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into Israel’s actions in Gaza.
Since the commencement of Israel’s military offensive after October 7, 2023, Gaza has been subjected to a series of war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to Article 5 of the Rome Statute, the ICC holds jurisdiction in cases where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to prosecute these offenses themselves.
The CODEPINK-led campaign cites a myriad of offenses, including continuous Israeli airstrikes on densely populated civilian areas, the bombing of hospitals, schools, and United Nations buildings, the imposition of a suffocating siege, forced displacement of the population, use of toxic gas, and the denial of basic necessities like food, water, fuel, and electricity.
These actions, as outlined in the letter to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, are asserted to amount to genocide, incitement to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, in violation of Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute.
The letter also highlights explicit statements made by Israeli officials, reinforcing their alleged intent to commit genocide:
CODEPINK is a grassroots peace and social justice movement that emerged in 2002 in response to the Iraq War. Committed to promoting diplomacy and disarmament, CODEPINK engages in creative, nonviolent actions to address issues of militarism, injustice, and inequality. With a focus on women-led initiatives, the organization strives to build a world free from violence and oppression, advocating for a just and sustainable peace. CODEPINK’s vibrant activism spans a range of global and local campaigns, amplifying voices for positive change and challenging policies that perpetuate conflict.
Amid Israeli war on Gaza, Iran blocks IAEA nuclear inspectors
As the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) wage war on Gaza with the full-throated support of the US-NATO powers and Israeli officials threaten to drop a nuclear bomb on the besieged enclave, a confrontation is escalating between Iran and the imperialist powers over Tehran’s expulsion of a number of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who were monitoring its nuclear energy program.
This points to the urgent necessity for the mass protests against the IDF’s genocidal war in Gaza to oppose imperialist military escalation against Iran. It is increasingly likely that Washington could attack Iran and that the war in Gaza could engulf the entire Middle East.
The US has already surged two aircraft carrier groups to the region, and in a very rare move recently let it be known that it has also deployed a nuclear-powered and potentially nuclear-armed submarine to the region.
US officials have repeatedly threatened over the past two decades that they could launch a first strike, potentially with nuclear weapons, in order to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.
On Wednesday, IAEA officials complained that Iran was refusing to certify several of its inspectors, including French and German citizens, while continuing to produce highly enriched uranium. The Iranian government withdrew the inspectors’ accreditation as retaliation for what it called “political abuses” by the US, British, French and German governments.
“Iran’s stance is not only unprecedented, but unambiguously contrary to the cooperation that is required,” wrote IAEA head Rafael Grossi. Grossi also pointed to the increasingly large stockpiles of highly enriched uranium that Iran has built up since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally cancelled the UN-backed 2015 Iranian nuclear accord and imposed devastating economic sanctions on Iran. Washington has used its domination of the world financial system to bully its European allies and much of the rest of the world to enforce these sanctions, which are themselves tantamount to an act of war.
IAEA officials found in September that Iran has 128.3 kg (282.9 pounds) of uranium enriched to 60 percent. It is a relatively straightforward technical operation to turn uranium enriched to the level for weapons-grade uranium, enriched to 90 percent, that can then be used to make nuclear bombs. The IAEA indicated that on this basis Iran has sufficient uranium enriched to 60 percent to make three nuclear bombs in a few weeks, once this uranium is enriched to 90 percent.
In May, IAEA officials in Iran said they had detected trace amounts of uranium that had been enriched to over 83 percent, or very near to weapons grade.
Iran initially decertified the IAEA inspectors in September, after the European powers announced that they would continue to enforce a set of sanctions that were soon set to expire under terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. Tehran’s actions prompted a protest from the IAEA at the time. The Vienna-based UN agency issued a statement that declared, “This measure, while formally permitted ... was exercised by Iran in a manner that directly and seriously affects the Agency’s ability to conduct effectively its verification activities in Iran, in particular at the enrichment facilities.”
However, this week after the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war in October and as questions mounted over the state of the Iranian nuclear program and uranium stockpile, the IAEA issued another statement denouncing the decertification as “extreme and unjustified.”
The Iranian government responded by sending a letter to the IAEA on Wednesday declaring that it was “within its rights” to decertify the inspectors. However, it added that it was “exploring possibilities to address the request” made by the IAEA.
Arms control officials are stressing that if Iran continues enriching uranium, there is an increasing risk that Washington and Tel Aviv will seize upon this as a pretext to attack Iran. Moreover, one of the main facilities of Iran’s nuclear program, a new underground processing plant under a mountain near Natanz that is over 80 meters underground, is thought to be buried deep enough to survive attacks by all conventional US bombs. This increases the danger that Washington could choose to bomb it with nuclear weapons.
Completion of such a deeply buried facility “risks igniting a new escalatory spiral,” warned Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy at the Washington-based Arms Control Association. “Given how close Iran is to a bomb, it has very little room to ratchet up its program without tripping U.S. and Israeli red lines. So at this point, any further escalation increases the risk of conflict.”
Contacted by the Associated Press in May, the Biden administration confirmed that it was prepared to attack Iran, including potentially with nuclear weapons, to prevent Iran from developing the ability to build its own nuclear bomb. “We believe diplomacy is the best way to achieve that goal, but the president has also been clear that we have not removed any option from the table,” the White House told AP.
Washington and its European imperialist allies have never forgiven the 1979 Iranian revolution that toppled the bloody, US-backed dictatorship of the Shah of Iran. In the over 30 years of imperialist war in the Middle East since the 1991 Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union, Iran has found itself surrounded by US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and beyond that altogether have claimed millions of lives. And despite repeated overtures to the US, Tehran has found itself in the Pentagon’s crosshairs time and again.
The Iranian regime has viewed its nuclear program, begun under the Shah, as a useful bargaining chip in its relationship with Washington.
The Iranian government’s nuclear brinkmanship does not work to develop the struggles of the working class in Iran or internationally. It is not progressive and does not deserve working class support. Indeed, polls in Iran indicate that only 33 percent of the population supports the program, up from around 10 percent before the Israeli-Gaza war. The most aggressive role in this crisis, however, is played by the imperialist powers plundering this oil-rich region.
US officials, in particular, have repeatedly threatened that they would consider the most draconian actions, including genocidal acts of mass murder, to block Iran’s nuclear program. After having threatened to invade and occupy Iran immediately after the illegal 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, Washington and its European allies launched a campaign denouncing Iran’s nuclear program and its opposition to Israel. In 2008, then-US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton threatened to “obliterate” Iran.
Tensions surged between the NATO imperialist powers and Iran after the NATO alliance launched a war for regime change in Syria in 2011 that continues to this day. Iran and Russia both intervened to prop up the Syrian government after Washington, London and Paris threatened to bomb Syria in 2013. After Washington cancelled the 2015 Iranian nuclear treaty, Iran’s nuclear program became the focus of US attempts to use control over the US dollar, the world’s main trading currency, to lock Iran out of the world financial system and crush its economy.
Iran has developed closer ties with both Russia and China, especially in the recent period, which intensifies the danger that a US or NATO strike on Iran would inflame wars that have spread across not only the Middle East but the entire world. In 2021, Iran signed a 25-year, $400 billion friendship treaty with China that reportedly included a promise of mutual military assistance in case of war. Last year, Russia and Iran developed close ties for the manufacturing of drones, ammunition and other military supplies that Russia is using in its war with NATO in Ukraine.
A US-led war with Iran in the 2020s, amid an emerging Third World War, would rapidly involve far more powerful forces than those that opposed Washington in Afghanistan, Iraq and other wars in the 2000s.
Last month, as Washington deployed two aircraft carrier battle groups to the Middle East in response to the eruption of the Israel-Gaza war, the South China Morning Post reported that China would send its own flotilla of six warships to the Persian Gulf region.
With its war with NATO in Ukraine, Moscow is also reportedly discussing providing Iran with modernized fighter jet aircraft in exchange for the drones and ammunition it is receiving from Iran. Moscow is also in negotiations with Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar to set up a military base in the eastern Mediterranean, at the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk, from which it could conduct surveillance of Europe and European military forces in the Mediterranean.
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