A leader of the ruling Hamas said the group had agreed to try anew an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel, after six days of bloodshed in and around the Gaza Strip.
“Our Egyptian brothers have asked us to completely stop firing at Israel: we told the Egyptians that we agree to exchange quiet for quiet with Israel,” Ayman Taha said.
An official close to the group said that the truce would take effect from midnight (21:00 GMT).
Palestinian officials said the latest attack brough the number of people killed so far in Israeli attacks on Saturday to three, and to 15 since this round of violence erupted on Monday.
Palestinian medics said the dead included a little child and that at least 24 others had been wounded.
An attack on Saturday by an Israeli drone killed a Palestinian man, Khaled al-Burai, 25, east of Jabaliya, in the north of Gaza, a medical source said.
Two other Palestinians survived the attack, witnesses said.
Later, in the afternoon, Israeli air raids killed 42-year-old Ussama Ali, and wounded 10 passers-by, according to Abham Abu Selmiya, spokesperson for the emergency services.
Palestinian medics said he was riding a motorcycle in Gaza City’s al-Nasser neighbourhood when he was hit.
Earlier in the day Hamas had threatened to end a three-day-old Egyptian-brokered truce following a series of deadly Israeli air raids.
A statement on Saturday from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said “the air raids by the Zionist enemy are new crimes. We will not stay silent in the face of the crimes”.
A medic said Ali al-Shawaf, aged six, was killed, and his father and another man wounded east of the city of Khan Younis, but the Israeli military denied it was responsible.
“According to the findings of a preliminary investigation, what happened in Khan Younis had nothing to do with any operation by the Israeli military,” an Israeli military spokeswoman said.
Witnesses said Israeli aircraft carried out at least four other raids elsewhere in Gaza on Saturday.
One targeted people believed by Israel to be fighters who were travelling in a car in the Zeitoun neighbourhood east of Gaza City after they had fired rockets into Israel, witnesses said.
Two civilian bystanders suffered minor injuries, they said.
Raids also struck the Beit Lahiya area in the north and the Nusseirat and Al-Bureij refugee camps in the centre of the Gaza Strip, without causing any casualties, witnesses said on Saturday.
Overnight raids targeted two camps of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades in the centre and north of Gaza, and a former Hamas security post in Gaza City. They wounded about 20 people, the health ministry said.
Palestinian fighters struck back, firing at least 23 rockets into southern Israel, most of them hitting the town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, Israeli officials said, adding that one man was wounded.
Israel holds Hamas responsible
The Israeli army said the latest raids were in response to rocket fire earlier in the week.
Israel held Hamas responsible for “all terrorist activity coming from the Gaza Strip”, the army statement said.
The latest round of Israeli attacks and Palestinian retaliation began with air raids on Monday morning, just hours after armed men from Sinai carried out an ambush along Israel’s southern border with Egypt, killing an Israeli civilian.
Israel has said its sudden surge in Gaza operations was “in no way related” to the border incident, with the military saying the air force was targeting fighters about to attack it.
–Al Jazeera English, 23 June, 2012
‘It is beautiful… not a single Arab to be seen’
Washington,DC- Lydda, a city home to some 20,000 Palestinians in 1948 quickly swelled to a population of 50,000 as refugees flocked from the cleansed city ofJaffa. After four days of siege, Israeli forces carried out expulsion orders during Operation Dani, leaving fewer than 1,000 residents remaining.
Yitzhak Rabin, an Israeli Brigadier General at the time, described how they perpetrated the ethnic cleansing of Lydda and neighbouring Ramle in July of 1948. To this day, however, the Israeli state prevents this description from being printed in Rabin’s memoirs.
I often wonder what must have been going through my grandfather’s head when he, and others among the few who managed to remain, realised the busy municipality that they had once called home had been reduced to a ghost town.
Perhaps they were in shock, an understandable reaction, given the circumstances. Perhaps they were busy attempting to care for the injured, of which there were plenty. Or maybe they were trying to secure their possessions from Israeli looters who ravaged the vacant homes and stores of businessmen-turned-refugees overnight. Israeli historians, such as Tom Segev, note that 1,800 trucks of possessions were looted from Lydda alone.
Once the dust cleared and the shock subsided, reality must have begun to set in. In a few months’ time, the Palestinian Arabs had gone from being a majority living in their ancestral homeland, albeit amid tension, to being a minority living under a state that had just made refugees out of most of their kin and would refuse them re-entry.
For Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, like Palestinians elsewhere, the Nakba was just beginning. The looting which took place was also a preliminary glimpse into the theft of land, property and identity that would ensue in the coming years.
Ironically, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who Rabin said ordered the expulsion of Palestinians during Operation Dani, expressed shock that Israelis were simply stealing the possessions of Palestinians in Lydda and elsewhere. How he reconciled a moral defence of ethnic cleansing with moral outrage at looting is beyond my comprehension.
Nonetheless, with the establishment of the state ofIsraelon the ruins ofPalestine, theft had to be disguised by legalisms. Prior to the war, Jewish ownership of land inPalestinewas minimal. Now, after the depopulation, the vast majority of land controlled by the Jewish state was not owned by Jews and many of the owners now resided in refugee camps.
To solve this predicament, the Israeli legislature enacted various laws which allowed the state to assume control of 92 per cent of the land. The first step was using a century old Ottoman law (two-empires old at this point) to declare the land “absentee land”. This meant that the owners of the land were not present (because they were refugees not permitted to return) and that the state could assume control of it.
But refugees weren’t the only ones dispossessed by this measure. Palestinians who managed to remain inside the boundaries of the new Israeli state but were prevented from living on their land became internally displaced persons (IDPs). These IDPs falling victim toIsrael’s legalised land theft are known as “present absentees”.
With their society decimated, their family members and kin spread across the region in refugee camps fromLebanontoJordantoGaza, their properties looted and land confiscated, Palestinian citizens ofIsraelhad to deal with another reality in the wake of the Nakba: living under martial law.
Israeli martial law, which governed Palestinian Arabs from the establishment of the state to 1966, was based on British Mandate-era emergency regulations. In the 1930s, the British used these regulations as the framework for the repression of the Palestinian Arab uprisings. Then in the 1940s, the British used them to crack down against Zionist dissidents. For this reason, such regulations were decried by Zionists prior to the establishment of the state. Yaacov Shapira, an Israeli attorney in 1946, did not mince words when criticising these laws used by the British against the Zionists at the time and likened them to Nazi Germany. Two years later, Shapira would be serving as the attorney general for the first Israeli government and would adopt these very laws to rule over the Arab minority.
Martial law was similar in many ways to the occupation we know today. During this period, the military government was empowered to deport people from their towns or villages, summon any person to a police station at any time or put under house arrest, use administrative detention or incarceration without charge, confiscate property, impose total or partial curfew, forbid or restrict movement and so on.
This, keep in mind, was not happening in Hebron or Nablus or Ramallah, this was taking place in what many today romanticise as the golden age of “democratic” Israel – inside the green line.
After the depopulation, an Israeli member of the MAPAI secretariat remarked in 1949: “The landscape is also more beautiful. I enjoy it, especially when travelling betweenHaifaand Tel Aviv, and there is not a single Arab to be seen.”
It is this kind of drive for ethnic homogeneity, present since the founding of the Israeli state, that underpins many of the laws that discriminate againstIsrael’s Palestinian Arab citizens. A Jew from anywhere in the world, for example, can move toIsrael- while a Palestinian Arab refugee, born within the present-day borders ofIsraelis not permitted to return. Likewise, laws also prevent Palestinian Arab citizens ofIsraelwho have non-citizen Palestinian spouses from residing inIsraelas a family. This is to prevent what the Israeli prime minister termed “demographic spillover”. This restricts the population of Palestinian citizens ofIsraelfrom marrying from most of their kin because doing so would mean either having to live separately or living outside ofIsrael.
Budgetary spending is also discriminatory. Despite making up over 20 per cent of the population, Palestinian citizens ofIsraelhave watched the state build hundreds of new towns for Israeli Jews, while a handful were built for the Palestinians. Even these towns, such as Rahat, were built in part to concentrate Palestinian Bedouin from unrecognised villages. Many Palestinian Bedouin villages remain unrecognised by the Israeli state, are not provided with civil resources and are left off the electric grid. Al-Arakib, a village in theNegev, has, as of this writing, been demolished by Israeli officials, and rebuilt by its residents, some 38 times.
Lingering in the psyche
Indeed, the Nakba is the central and uniting experience of Palestinians everywhere. It comes as no surprise then that Palestinian citizens ofIsraelalive today, who did not experience the Nakba first hand,still have political views shaped by the events of 1948.
Polls of Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, performed as recently as 2010, uncovered interesting trends in the views of respondents based on whether they have relatives who were refugees. Those who have refugee relatives were almost three times as likely to identify as Palestinian first (instead of Arab, Muslim or Israeli) than those who did not. They are twice as likely to support Iran’s right to a nuclear program, twice as likely to reject Israel’s defining itself as a “Jewish State” and twice as likely to oppose a loyalty oath to the state of Israel.
For Palestinians inIsrael, it is clear that the Nakba still lingers as a major factor, determining their views toward the state that governs them.
In sum, the Nakba and its implications has, since the transformative events of 1948, continued to directly impact the Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state. While Palestinians exist across various borders as refugees, residents or citizens of different states, the Nakba continues to be the tie that binds them. This is not only because of a shared memory from the lives of their grandparents, but also because varying, often harsh, present realities rooted in events of the Nakba can only be relegated to distant memory if a peace, based on justice for the Nakba, can be achieved.
Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Centre inWashington,DC.
–Al Jazeera English, 15 May, 2012