By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams
Pentagon acknowledges recent release of ammunition stockpiles for IDF as Palestinian death toll approaches 1,400 people in three-week attack decried by humanitarians across the globe
The Pentagon on Wednesday announced its recent approval for unlocking a massive stockpile of ammunition for use by the Israeli Defense Forces who continue to pummel the civilian population living inside the Gaza Strip where the death toll now nears 1,400 people-a majority of whom are civilians, including close to 300 children.
Worldwide condemnation over Israel's attack on Gaza has reached previously unseen levels, but the U.S. government has stated that its commitment to Israel will not waver and that providing weaponry remains standard policy despite accusations that Israel's behavior in Gaza amounts to "war crimes" and international calls for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.
"The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability," said Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby as he spoke of the new ammunition shipment. Kirby said the delivery of new U.S. weapons-despite Israeli bombardments on hospitals and emergency shelters that the United Nations has called indicative of "war crimes"-as "consistent with [U.S.] objectives."
According to reports, the Israeli military last week requested access to a "little-known stockpile of ammunition" maintained by the Department of Defense inside Israel for "emergency" purposes. The sale was approved just three days later on July 23.
Rhania Khalek, writing at the Electronic Intifada, reports:
Israel’s call for more arms was fulfilled on the sixteenth day of Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza Strip. By then Israel had already killed at least 661 Palestinians, including 132 children.
Asked whether the defense department - the Pentagon - is concerned that its weapons might be used to harm innocent Palestinians given that the overwhelmingly majority of those killed in Gaza have been civilians, Kirby replied that the US is troubled by civilian casualties and is actively pushing for a ceasefire.
“We have consistently voiced our concerns over the rising number of civilian casualties in this conflict. We need to bring the violence and civilian casualties to an end, which is why the US government is focused on instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement,” [Kirby responded in an email], adding, “We are also concerned that continued fighting could further destabilize the West Bank.”
The spokesman also issued an unprompted reaffirmation of support for “Israel’s right to defend itself,” and praised the Israeli army’s supposed moral superiority, saying “Unlike Hamas, which is firing rockets from populated areas and indiscriminately targeting civilians in Israel, the IDF [Israeli army] takes measures to limit civilian casualties.”
The chorus of international outcry over the the situation in Gaza has only grown in recent days, as new Israeli shelling and airstrikes have only escalated. The official death toll is rapidly approaching 1,400 people as the IDF targeted the main power station in Gaza on Tuesday, a UN-administered refugee shelter that killed at least 20 people on Wednesday, and continued targeting of homes in highly populated areas.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called the bombing of the UN school, which was acting as a shelter, an "outrageous" act that could have no possible justification. “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” Ban said in his most harsh statements to date against Israeli action.
In a separate statement, the executive director of UNICEF Anthony Lake said that when it comes to Israel's attack on civilians in Gaza, “Outrage has become commonplace.”
"For 23 days, too many children in Gaza have lived with fear and desperation. Water taps have run dry and raw sewage is running in the streets, while health workers try to save lives with little electricity and insufficient medicines. At least 245 children have been killed since the conflict began," Lake said. “For 23 days, children in Israel have lived with the threat of indiscriminate attacks targeting their homes and neighborhoods."
“What hope is there for these children - and their societies - if adults no longer live up to their responsibility to protect them? What are these children learning about how to behave when they are adults?" he continued. “For the sake of children, all sides to this conflict must come to their senses, permit humanitarian workers to aid those in need, and agree to end these attacks. Now, before more innocent lives are lost - including the most innocent of all, the very young.”
A Palestinian child killed during Israeli attacks on Gaza
(photo by Islamic Republic News Agency)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated there is no end in sight for his nation's military campaign and rejected notions that a cease fire would soon end the conflict. On Friday the Israeli security cabinet approved the calling up of an additional 16,000 IDf reservists to bolster what it calls Operation Protective Edge.
Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi this week voiced specific condemnation against the U.S. government for its continued military and diplomatic support of Israel amid the slaughter of civilians in Gaza. Writing for The New Yorker, Khalidi described the unjust and counter-productive nature of U.S. policy towards Israel which "puts its thumb on the scales in favor of the stronger party."
"In this surreal, upside-down vision of the world, it almost seems as if it is the Israelis who are occupied by the Palestinians, and not the other way around," Khalidi continued. "In this skewed universe, the inmates of an open-air prison are besieging a nuclear-armed power with one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world."
"If we are to move away from this unreality, the U.S. must either reverse its policies or abandon its claim of being an “honest broker.” If the U.S. government wants to fund and arm Israel and parrot its talking points that fly in the face of reason and international law, so be it. But it should not claim the moral high ground and intone solemnly about peace. And it should certainly not insult Palestinians by saying that it cares about them or their children, who are dying in Gaza today."
Note: This article was originally published by Common Dreams and it is reprinted here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
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