Thursday

17th Aug 2017

Israel vs. Palestine: one-nil?

  • Gaza City football stadium showing craters form Israeli missiles (Photo: EUobserver)

Israel last month showed off the accuracy of its weapons by bombing a football stadium in Gaza. But civilian deaths and settlement expansion have caused diplomatic defeats.

At about 9am local time on 17 November an Israeli F16 jet fired two missiles at a football field in Gaza City. One of them hit a goalpost, leaving a 2-meter-deep crater full of sand and bits of metal. The other one landed behind the opposite goal, just missing the goalposts but creating another big hole.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Hole in wall of UN-run school, showing destroyed Palestinian interior ministry building (Photo: EUobserver)

The strikes were part of an eight-day-long war between Israel and Hamas, the militant Palestinian group in charge of Gaza.

They prompted a joke from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh when he spoke to a group of visiting European parliamentarians in his residence nearby on Sunday (2 December).

Noting that he used to play football at the stadium on Wednesdays with friends from his university days in the 1970s, he said: "They scored a goal with their F16."

But there is nothing funny about the rest of what is being called the Eight-Day War.

The next day an F16 rocket hit the house of the al-Dalu family also in Gaza City, killing 10 people and wounding nine others. The dead include a one-year-old baby, Ibrahim, two boys, Yousef and Jamal, aged four and six, and a seven-year-old girl named Sarah.

The Israeli strikes killed about 180 people in total, almost half of them children and women.

One of them was Marwa al-Qumsan, an Arabic teacher who worked for the UN refugee agency, UNWRA.

They also smashed up an UNWRA children's school, a Jordanian-run hospital, a sports centre for disabled people, several media buildings, mosques, olive farms, wells and police stations.

"I worked as a surgeon for 30 years and I have never seen such injuries before. Some people came to us so badly burned that they were mummified. I don't know what kind of weapons can do this. Some had lost their limbs because of special shrapnel in what looked like surgical-type amputations. Some had no visible injuries, but when we did a post mortem, we saw that their viscera were completely destroyed," Hamas health minister Mufeed Mkhallalati told the European fact-finding mission also on Sunday.

On the other side, Hamas rockets hit several Israeli towns near Gaza, as well as the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

They killed six people, three of them - Etti Sarraf, Aharon Samdaga and Isaac Amsalem - in one direct strike on a civilian home in Kiryat Malachi.

The Israeli army says Palestinian civilians were killed either because Hamas was using them as "human shields" or accidentally.

Scott Anderson, the deputy head of UNWRA in Gaza, told the European MPs: "If a militant is firing a rocket from a house where there are women and children inside and Israel fires on it, then both sides are to blame."

Another Gaza-based UN employee, who did not want to be named, said Hamas does not fire rockets from civilian houses, however.

"They do it from open ground. I can see how it happens from my balcony. The ground opens - whoosh - the rocket comes, then the tunnel closes again. Then an Israeli jet appears and bombs the whole area," he told EUobserver.

"I don't think they target civilians. But they don't care if civilians die," he added.

For its part, Hamas does not make any excuses for targeting Israeli homes.

Asked by this website on Sunday if he is sorry for the Israeli civilians killed in the conflict, Haniyeh said: "The occupying force [Israel] is the only one responsible for this carnage. The Israeli side started this occupation and started this war as well."

A senior Hamas official in its education ministry, Ahmed al-Najar, at an earlier meeting in Cairo, told EUobserver: "Thanks be to god we now have rockets that can hit Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem as well."

The EU listed Hamas as a terrorist entity in 2003.

As a result, there are no European diplomats in Gaza to see what Israel did or did not do.

But for the EU's ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, the Gaza war is one reason why 26 out 27 EU countries said Yes or abstained in a vote on upgrading Palestine's UN status 10 days later. The vote would have been "quite different" if not for the conflict, he said according to Israeli daily the Jerusalem Post.

For the European parliamentarians who went to Gaza, the football field bombing gave the lie to Israel's line that civilian deaths were accidental.

"Given their boasts about the accuracy of their weapons, we have to ask why so many women and children are being killed," Pat Sheehan, an MP in the devolved parliament in Belfast told Hamas' health minister.

"There's nothing to justify the aggression of the Israeli people against the Palestinian people," Portuguese left wing MEP Alda Sousa said.

Meanwhile, Israel's post-UN-vote decision to build 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank has cost it even more sympathy in EU capitals.

Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the UK on Monday and Tuesday summoned Israeli ambassadors to issue formal complaints.

British foreign minister William Hague also raised the prospect of punitive measures against Israel in a speech to parliament on Monday. "If there is no reversal of the [settler] decision that has been announced, we will want to consider what further steps European countries should take," he said.

"The Israeli occupation is now isolated. Its narrative, which transforms the aggressor into the victim and the victim into the aggressor, is no longer accepted," Haniyeh said on Sunday.

Hamas appeals for talks with EU diplomats

The Prime Minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has appealed to the EU to take his political and militant group, Hamas, off its terrorist register.

UN vote marks EU defeat for Israel

Just one EU country - the Czech Republic - voted against Palestine's bid to become a UN "observer state" on Thursday.

Israeli PM 'disappointed' with Angela Merkel

A joint German-Israeli government meeting in Berlin on Thursday is likely to be the scene of more disagreements between Chancellor Merkel and PM Netanyahu as the two traditional allies are having increased difficulty finding common ground.

Israeli leader mocks EU 'dismay'

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has mocked EU "dismay" over his plan to split Palestine in three and take away its capital.

From Gaza to EU: one man's journey

The efforts of one Palestinian man to get to his scholarship at a European university show how cut off Gaza is from normality.

News in Brief

  1. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  2. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  3. Russian power most feared in Europe
  4. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  5. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  6. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  7. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  8. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy