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Entries in Gaza (13)


United Nations Report: Israel Deliberately Fired on Gaza Schools/Shelters

Scott Lucas on Press TV: The UN Report on Israel's Killing of Gaza Civilians

jabaliyaI'm not sure how many folks are still paying attention --- the Gaza War is so yesterday --- but a United Nations Board of Inquiry has found that the Israeli military deliberately fired on UN schools, which were being used as civilian shelters, during the conflict.

The 184-page is being kept confidential as it is sent to the UN Security Council, but a 27-page summary was released yesterday. (It's proving quite difficult to find a summary on the Internet, so any assistance would be appreciated.) News accounts, however, say Israel is held responsible for:

• The deaths of three young men killed by a single IDF missile strike at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Asma school in Gaza City on 5 January;

• The firing of heavy IDF mortar rounds into the UNRWA Jabalia school on 6 January, injuring seven people sheltering in the school and killing up to 40 people in the immediate vicinity;

• Aerial bombing of the UNRWA Bureij health centre on the same day causing the death of a patient and serious injuries to two others;

• Artillery firing by the IDF into the UNRWA field office compound in Gaza city on 15 January that in turn caused high explosive shells to explode within the compound causing injuries and considerable damage to the buildings. The summary notes that it disrupted the UN's humanitarian operations in Gaza;

• Artillery firing by the IDF into the UNRWA Beit Lahia school on 17 January, causing the deaths of two children

• Aerial bombing by the IDF of the Unesco compound on 29 December causing damage to UN buildings and vehicles.

(It is notable that The New York Times did not mention the report at all, and The Washington Post distorted the summary, noting only two of the incidents and ignoring the Jabaliya mass killing.)

The Board also found "there was no evidence...that Palestinian militants had used U.N. facilities to launch military attacks against Israeli troops".

Despite the seriousness of the findings, and the Board's recommendations for a full impartial inquiry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is moving quickly to sweep away the report. While he said he would pursue Israeli compensation for $11 million in damage, Ban added that there was no need for a further investigation.

Aid and Warning: Clinton Backs Abbas, Gives Zardari Space, Puts Karzai on Notice

Video and Transcript: Robert Gates Remarks to Senate Appropriations Committee (30 April)
Video and Transcript: Hillary Clinton Remarks to Senate Appropriations Committee (30 April)

karzai7Quick question: which of these three --- President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai (pictured), or former President of the West Bank Mahmoud Abbas --- should be feeling most secure this morning about support from Washington?

If you went for one of the two who are legally in office at the moment, you need to do some homework, maybe watching the entire 140 minutes of the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. On the other hand, if you voted for Abbas (something will not be occurring in Palestinian elections in the near-future), take a bow and join the Clinton/Gates team.

The clear backing of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, unnoticed by the media this morning, came in Clinton's opening statement:
At Sharm el-Sheikh last month, on behalf of the President, I announced a pledge of $900 million for humanitarian, economic, and security assistance for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people.

Notice, not to Gaza, which suffered the damage from the recent war --- as we have pointed out repeatedly, 2/3 of this aid is earmarked for the West Bank. And most definitely no assistance which benefits or has any connection with the Gaza Government of Hamas: "[There are] stringent requirements to prevent aid from being diverted into the wrong hands."

Put bluntly, this aid is not primarily, as Clinton claimed, for "humanitarian" purposes; the objective is political and the primary beneficiary is Mahmoud Abbas.

As we wrote yesterday, President Zardari in Pakistan might want to watch his back, but he did get off lightly yesterday. Clinton and Gates played nice with him in their statements. Their primary purpose was to get Congressional support for the initial tranche of $500 million in military and economic assistance, so they did not raise doubts that America's partner in Islamabad might not be reliable. Instead, they stuck with general references for "diplomacy and development, to work with the Pakistani Government, Pakistani civil society, to try to provide more economic stability and diminish the conditions that feed extremism".

The recent Pakistani military operations to push back Taliban operations in Buner province seems to have given Zardari a bit of breathing space, even if he's not the prime mover behind that offensive. Clinton said:
The Government of Pakistan, both civilian and military leadership, is demonstrating much greater concern about the Taliban encroachment. We're getting a much more thoughtful response and actions. It was heartening to see  the military sent into Buner province this weekend.

Afghanistan President Karzai was not so lucky. Consider this from Clinton's opening statement:
Bringing stability to [Afghanistan] is not only a military mission; it requires more than a military response. So we have requested $980 million in assistance to focus on rebuilding the agricultural sector, having more political progress, helping the local and provincial leadership deliver services for their people.

Hmmm, which level of government is not mentioned in that passage? I'm thinking "national".

And, if you believe that was just an oversight, Clinton made her distrust of Karzai more than clear in response to a question from Senator Barbara Mikulski about "cronyism and corruption", narcotics, and "the status and security of women" 50 minutes into the hearing. Clinton responded:
With respect to the Government, its capacity, its problems providing services, its perception of being less than transparent, straightforward, honest: it's a problem, I'm not going to tell you it's not.

Clinton immediately mentioned "significant pockets of progress we want to build on", such as the building up of the Afghan Army, but then returned to putting Karzai on notice: "We have made it very clear that we expect changes. We expect accountability, and we're going to demand it."

This, however, was not the stinger in Clinton's response. That came instead in this phrase, "Several members of the Cabinet are doing an excellent job.". It's notable and far-from-subtle that Karzai, facing re-election in August, was not named amongst those members.

Of course Clinton was shrewd enough not to name any of the "excellent" members. Open American endorsement of any Cabinet Minister who challenges Karzai would be the kiss of electoral death, and Clinton made clear, "We are not taking a position in this Presidential election. We are neither for nor against

However, when Mikulsi asked if Karzai would co-operate with the US in its effects against the Taliban and narcotics, Clinton was not so cautious: "That is what we are demanding of him."

So, in Ramallah in the West Bank, an ex-President can breathe easily this morning. A current President in Kabul, however, best be sleeping with one eye open tonight

Video and Transcript: Hillary Clinton Remarks to Senate Appropriations Committee (30 April)

Full Video: Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on $83.4 Billion Supplemental Request
Related Post: Robert Gates Remarks to Senate Appropriations Committee (30 April)

h-clinton25SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Cochran, members of the Committee, former colleagues and friends. I thank you for this opportunity to appear before you. And I also thank you for your stalwart support of the men and women of the State Department and USAID, who serve in critical and often dangerous missions in all corners of the world.

I’m honored to be here with Secretary Gates. I appreciate the partnership that we have developed in the first 100 days of this Administration, and today, on Day 101, I look forward to our further collaboration in the months ahead.

Before turning to the topic of today’s hearing, let me just give you a brief update on how the State Department is supporting the federal government’s response to the H1N1 flu virus.

We have established an influenza monitoring group within our Operations Center. We are tracking how other governments are responding to the threat and what assistance we might offer. We are constantly reviewing and refining our advice to Americans traveling or living abroad.

Our pandemic influenza unit, set up in the last years, is providing valuable expertise. Its director, Ambassador Robert Loftis, is keeping us apprised of their work and their interaction with health agencies and the World Health Organization.

Earlier this week, USAID announced it is giving $5 million to the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization to help detect and contain the disease in Mexico.

We will continue to coordinate closely with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the WHO, the CDC, and other agencies. And I’m very cognizant of the role that we all must play in attempting to stem and contain this influenza outbreak.

Senator Gates – Secretary Gates and I are here together because our departments’ missions are aligned and our plans are integrated. The foreign policy of the United States is built on the three Ds: defense, diplomacy, and development. The men and women in our armed forces perform their duties with courage and skill, putting their lives on the line time and time again on behalf of our nation. And in many regions, they serve alongside civilians from the State Department and USAID, as well as other government agencies, like USDA.

We work with the military in two crucial ways. First, civilians complement and build upon our military’s efforts in conflict areas like Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, they use diplomatic and development tools to build more stable and peaceful societies, hopefully to avert or end conflict that is far less costly in lives and dollars than military action.

As you know, the United States is facing serious challenges around the world: two wars; political uncertainty in the Middle East; irresponsible nations, led by Iran and North Korea, with nuclear ambitions; an economic crisis that is pushing more people into poverty; and 21st century threats such as terrorism, climate change, trafficking in drugs and human beings. These challenges require new forms of outreach and cooperation within our own government and then with others as well.

To achieve this, we have launched a new diplomacy powered by partnership, pragmatism, and principle. We are strengthening historic alliances and reaching out to create new ones. And we’re bringing governments, the private sector, and civil society together to find global solutions to global problems.

The 2009 supplemental budget request for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development is a significant sum, yet our investment in diplomacy and development is only about 6 percent of our total national security budget. For Secretary Gates and myself, it is critically important that we give our civilian workers, as well as our military, the resources they need to do their jobs well.

In Iraq, as we prepare to withdraw our troops, our mission is changing, but it is no less urgent. We must reinforce security gains while supporting the Iraqi Government and people as they strengthen public institutions and promote job creation, and assist those Iraqis who had fled because of violence and want to return home.

Last weekend, I visited Iraq, taking with me – or meeting on the ground, actually, our new ambassador who was confirmed the night before. We visited the leadership. We visited with a cross-section of Iraqis in a town hall setting. And clearly, there are signs of progress. But there is much work that remains. In meeting with Iraqis who are working with our Provincial Reconstruction Teams and our Embassy, I was struck by their courage and determination to reconstruct their country – not just physically, but really through the re-weaving of their society.

We have requested $482 million in the supplemental for our civilian efforts to help Iraq move forward – we want to create a future of stability, sovereignty, and self-reliance – and another $108 million to assist Iraqi refugees.

In Afghanistan, as you know, the President has ordered additional troops. Our mission is very clear: to disrupt, dismantle, and destroy al-Qaida. But bringing stability to that region is not only a military mission; it requires more than a military response. So we have requested $980 million in assistance to focus on rebuilding the agricultural sector, having more political progress, helping the local and provincial leadership deliver services for their people.

As President Obama has consistently maintained, success in Afghanistan depends on success in Pakistan. And we have seen how difficult it is for the government there to make progress as the Taliban and their allies continues to make inroads.

Counterinsurgency training is critical. But of equal importance are diplomacy and development, to work with the Pakistani Government, Pakistani civil society, to try to provide more economic stability and diminish the conditions that feed extremism. That is the intent of the comprehensive strategy laid out by Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar, which President Obama and I have endorsed and which the Senate will be considering in the next days.

With this supplemental request, we are seeking funding of $497 million in assistance for our work in Pakistan, which will support the government’s efforts to stabilize the economy, strengthen law enforcement, alleviate poverty, and help displaced citizens find safe shelter. It will also enable us to begin to keep the pledge we made to Pakistan at the Tokyo Donors Conference earlier this month.

In addition to our work in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, we are committed to help achieve a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and to address the humanitarian needs in Gaza and the West Bank. At Sharm el-Sheikh last month, on behalf of the President, I announced a pledge of $900 million for humanitarian, economic, and security assistance for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people. Our supplemental request is included in that pledge; it is not in addition to it. And it will be implemented with stringent requirements to prevent aid from being diverted into the wrong hands.

Meanwhile, the current economic crisis has put millions of people in danger of falling further into poverty. And we have seen again and again that this can destabilize countries, as well as sparking humanitarian crises. So we have requested $448 million to assist developing countries hardest hit by the global financial crisis. These efforts will be complemented by investments in the supplemental budget for emergency food aid, to counter the destructive effects of the global food crises, to try to help people who are undernourished to succeed in school, participate in their societies.  And I’m very pleased that the President has asked the State Department and USAID to lead a government-wide effort to address the challenge of food security.

We also must lead by example when it comes to shared responsibility. So we have included in this request $837 million for United Nations peacekeeping operations, which includes funds to cover assessments previously withheld.

As recently in Haiti, where the UN peacekeeping force, led by the Brazilians, has done an extraordinary job in bringing security and stability to Haiti. It is still fragile, but enormous progress has been made. It is a good investment for us to pay 25 percent of that kind of stability operation instead of being asked to assume it for 100 percent of the cost.

We’re asking also for small investments targeted to specific concerns: international peacekeeping operations and stabilization in Africa; humanitarian needs in Burma; the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear programs, assuming that they come back to the Six-Party Talks; assistance for Georgia that the prior administration promised and we believe we should fulfill; support for the Lebanese Government, which is facing serious challenges; and funding for critical air mobility support in Mexico as part of the Merida Initiative.

Finally, if the State Department is to pursue an ambitious foreign policy agenda that safeguards our security and advances our interests and really exemplifies our values, we have to have a more agile, effective State Department and USAID. We have to staff those departments well. We have to provide the resources that are needed. We have to hold ourselves accountable. Our supplemental includes $747 million to support State and USAID mission operations around the world.

Secretary Gates and I are also looking at how our departments can collaborate even more effectively. That includes identifying pieces of our shared mission that are now housed at Defense that should move to State.

With the budget support we’ve outlined in this supplemental request, we can do the work that this moment demands of us in regions whose future stability will impact our own.

Secretary Gates and I are committed to working closely together, in an almost unprecedented way, to sort out what the individual responsibilities and missions of Defense and State and USAID should be, but committed to the overall goal of promoting stability and long-term progress, which we believe is in the interest of the United States and which we are prepared to address and take on the challenges and seize the opportunities that confront us at this moment in history.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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