Palestinian family forced from their home by Israeli drone attacks

This is part five of our series of articles focussing on what life is like for people in Gaza living beneath Israel’s military drones. To read part one, two, three and four click here.

We met Abdullah and Ebtihaj Al Habil at their house to the North of Gaza City in December 2013. Abdullah told us that he has been attacked by Israeli drones on two occasions. The attacks have forced them to abandon their home and find new accommodation.

The first attack came in 2009. Abdullah told us: “My family’s house is near here. We were all there when the bombing started. We decided to come here and get some clothes and then we were going to go to the UNWRA school in Shati Camp. I parked the car opposite the house and walked toward the house alone. I got a bag of food and clothes from the house. I could hear the drones in the sky above making a humming sound. I ran with the bag from the house toward the car. They fired. I heard the rocket. I looked round and could see it flying towards me. I jumped out of the way, hit a wall and a splinter from the rocket hit my leg.” Abdullah showed us his leg, which had a chunk of flesh missing.

Scars on Abdullah Al Habil’s leg from an injury sustained in a drone attack in 2009

The second attack came in 2012: “Three pillars of my house were destroyed by firing from the sea, an Apache [helicopter] fired three rockets at the house and machine gunned our water tanks. Then a drone strike hit the roof.” He shows us where the drone hit. Abdullah tells us that. “the wall of the house was damaged”. He hasn’t been able to afford to repair it and the roof leaks when it rains.

Abdullah points to damage to his roof caused by the attack on their house by an Israeli drone and an Apache Helicopter in 2012

“The attack happened after midnight, we heard the firing from the Apache and took our five children to take cover in the stairwell. They were firing white phosphorous munitions so we hid under soaking wet sacks to protect ourselves from burns. We could not go out of the house because the warships were firing into the street. We tried to call an ambulance but the phones were blocked. We heard the drone attack happen after the Apache.

Damage caused to water tanks on the roof of the house by machine gun fire from an Apache helicopter in 2012

“We know that a drone fired on us because one of the three rockets did not explode. The rocket was one metre long, two inches wide. The middle is made of plastic. The two tips were made of iron and at the end was a propeller.

“Our house was hit by white phosphorous ammunition [probably from the ships]. We tried to put it out but we couldn’t, it just kept burning.

“In the early morning the house across the street was hit by an F-16, killing three people.

The view from Abdullah and Ebtihaj’s window of a crater caused when the house opposite them was hit by a missile from an F-16

“When we came back to clean up the house after the attacks we found that papers had been dropped warning people to leave their homes. We had not seen the papers before the attack started. There was no reason given for the attack on our house.”

Abdullah tells us, “I paid $50 000 to repair the house. The construction materials were very expensive because of the siege. The government and UNWRA promised us support but it did not come. They just gave us some food and mattresses when we went to the UNWRA school. I had to buy new furniture, a TV, tiles for the bathroom and repair the ceiling. However, we no longer want to stay here. It is too dangerous. We are living somewhere else.

According to Abdullah: “Israel depends on drones more and more. More than any other warplanes. In 2009 and 2012, they were used for both surveillance and for attack and they were sending information to help the [Israeli naval] ships target their missiles.”

Increasing deaths caused by drone strikes

The number of deaths (as a proportion of total deaths) caused by drone strikes has been increasing. The Gaza based Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights provided Corporate Watch with these shocking figures for the years 2000-2012:

Year

Total recorded number of people killed by Israeli attacks in Gaza

Number of people killed by Israeli drones in Gaza (% of total)

2000

123

0 (0%)

2001

243

0 (0%)

2002

472

0 (0%)

2003

398

0 (0%)

2004

646

2 (0.3%)

2005

99

0 (0%)

2006

534

91 (17%)

2007

281

98 (34.9%)

2008

769

172 (22.4%)

2009

1058

461 (43.6%)

2010

72

19 (26.4%)

2011

112

58 (51.8%)

2012

255

201 (78.8%)

 

The companies behind Israel’s drone strikes

The battlefields of Israel’s militarism and occupation have proved effective testing grounds for new types of weaponry. Israel’s constant state of warfare has ensured a reliable marketplace for Israeli arms manufacturers. According to Drone Wars UK, surveillance drones were first used in Egypt in the lead up to the Yom Kippur War. The first recorded use of an Israeli drone to help piloted warplanes bomb targets (target acquisition) was in 1982 in the run up to the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon. According to the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the first recorded use of an armed drone by Israel was in 2004. The experience gleaned during years of military repression has made Israel the largest exporter of drone technology in the world. Israeli arms companies have sold drones to over 50 countries.

Israel’s market leaders in drone technology are Elbit, a private Israeli company based in Haifa. Elbit have partnered with French company Thales to manufacture the Watchkeeper drone for the UK military. A list of the Watchkeeper programme’s subcontractors can be found here.

The Watchkeeper is being tested at Parc Aberporth facility in Wales. Miitary testing is being carried out in Wiltshire at Boscombe Down. Campaigners in Wales have been protesting for years against the flying of drones at Parc Aberporth.

Thales’ UK locations can be viewed here.

Elbit’s UK locations can be viewed here.

In 2007 Elbit bought UK company Ferranti Technologies, based in Oldham, Manchester.

Two-way arms embargo

In 2011 a group of grassroots Palestinian groups called for a two-way arms embargo. This means an embargo on arms sales to Israel and on purchases of weapons from Israeli companies, until Israel abides by international humanitarian law. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee wrote at the time: “A comprehensive military embargo on Israel is long overdue. It would form a crucial step towards ending Israel’s unlawful and criminal use of force against the Palestinian people and other peoples and states in the region, and would constitute an effective, non-violent measure to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations under international law.”

The campaign recognises that buying arms from Israeli companies fuels Israeli militarism and strengthens the occupation and siege. In the UK, there is a call by a coalition of groups including War on Want for campaigners to pressure their representatives to support a two-way embargo; end all contracts with Elbit Systems and Elbit subsidiaries; end all arms trade with Israel; and suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement and all EU research funding for Israel’s arms companies.

Target the shareholders

Protesters demonstrate outside Newport Magistrate’s court where four people were on trial accused of aggravated trespass for occupying a Barclalys Branch this week. They were found not guilty!

The Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions demands action to persuade the investors in companies complicit in Israeli militarism to divest their shares. Barclays PLC is the named owner of over 50, 000 shares in Elbit Systems.

During the most recent Israeli attack on Gaza, in which 2,191 Palestinians were killed, campaigners held demonstrations and occupations of branches of Barclays bank all over the UK, including in Aberdeen, London, Brighton, Manchester and Wrexham. An Avaaz petition calling on Barclays to divest has gained nearly 2 million signatures. On 6 September 2014, campaigners in Wales held an occupation of a Barclays branch in Newport in solidarity with Gaza. Several people glued themselves to furniture inside the bank, closing the branch for several hours. Campaigners also staged an occupation of a Barclays branch in Brighton on October 11th.

In the face of these growing protests against its shares in Elbit, Barclays has claimed that it only holds these shares “on behalf of clients and to hedge exposure against customer facing transactions”. This explanation doesn’t get Barclays off the hook. The practice of ‘hedging’ is still a form of investment and in agreeing to purchase the shares in Elbit on the behalf of their customers the bank is ignoring the war crimes being carried out against people like Abdullah and Ebtihaj using Elbit’s equipment. Barclays have the power to refuse to purchase shares for their clients in unethical companies like Elbit. There is a need for further concerted action to persuade Barclays to change their position and to have nothing to do with shares in Elbit.

Continue reading

Trading under siege: the dying export industry in the Gaza Strip

Corporate Watch researchers visited the Gaza Strip during November and December 2013 and carried out interviews with farmers in Beit Hanoun, Al Zaytoun, Khuza’a, Al Maghazi and Rafah, as well as with representatives from Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Palestine Crops and the Gaza Agricultural Co-operative in Beit Lahiya. This is the second of two articles highlighting what their experiences show: that Palestinians in Gaza face significant and diverse difficulties when it comes to farming their land and harvesting and exporting their produce under siege, and that Israel enforces what amounts to a de facto boycott of produce from the Gaza Strip. The first article, about farmers’ experiences of working the land in Gaza, can be found here.

A dependent economy

“The Israeli occupation allows us to export a small quantity of produce, just to show the world that they are nice to the Palestinians, but they are using us. Everything we do is controlled by them”

Saad Ziada, Union of Agricultural Work Committees

PIC_0633

A queue of goods vehicles approaching the Karam Abu Salem goods crossing in the Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch December 2013

As a result of economic agreements made during the period of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian economy as a whole has become totally dependent on Israel. The Paris Protocol, signed in 1994, is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which outlines the economic relations between the two in the areas of customs, taxes, labour, agriculture, industry and tourism. In theory the protocol was meant to facilitate the free movement of goods, including agricultural produce, and give Palestinians access to international markets, but in practice it has worked as a basis for consolidating Israeli domination of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Whilst Israel benefits from tax free access to markets in the Occupied Territories, Palestinian exports are strictly controlled by Israel and can only be carried out through Israeli companies, hence benefiting the economy of the occupier.

When it comes to the Gaza Strip, the situation for Palestinians is even worse. Since the tightening of the siege in 2007, Israel has implemented a de facto economic boycott of Gaza, with no industrial goods and a minimal amount of agricultural exports being allowed through the Israeli controlled Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) goods crossing only. The Karni (or Al Montar) crossing, which was established as a main terminal in 1994 to facilitate the transfer of goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel, was closed permanently in 2011 as the siege intensified. Before the closure the crossing had been effectively non-operational since Hamas’ takeover of the Strip in 2007, only running a skeleton service through a conveyor belt transporting gravel and animal feed. The Rafah crossing to Egypt is completely closed for exports from Gaza.

Since 2007 farmers in Gaza have been prohibited from selling their produce to Israel and the West Bank, traditionally their biggest markets. Continue reading

Palestinian women’s union calls for a boycott of Israel

In December 2013, Corporate Watch interviewed Taghrid Jooma of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) about the union’s work in Gaza and its view of the international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions. A video interview with Taghrid is embedded below, to view the video with English subtitles hover over the bottom of the video and click subtitles/cc.

Taghrid told us that “UPWC was established in 1981 in the West Bank to advocate for women’s issues – economic, social and political. It has 3500 members in Gaza. It is a part of the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW), affiliated to the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Continue reading

Palestinian students call for Barclays boycott over Elbit investment

Barclays stop arming Israel demoPalestinian students have made this call for students around the world to stop banking with Barclays:

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI), a group of Palestinian students in Gaza dedicated to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign of Israel and the global justice movement for Palestinian justice and liberty, respectfully call on students around the world to stop banking with Barclays until Barclays divests from and ceases trading in shares in Elbit Systems, the major Israeli military company and drone manufacturer. Continue reading

Life beneath the drones: Part four – ‘We do not need just words’

The scene in Zaytoun after the attack by an Israeli F-16, November 2012, photo courtesy of the Abu Zor family

The scene in Zaytoun after the attack by an Israeli F-16, November 2012, photo courtesy of the Abu Zor family

Click here to read parts one, two and three.

This article tells the story of the Abu Zor family, who lost three family members after the Israeli military fired on their neighbourhood from a drone and F-16. Their story shows that Israel’s practice of firing a warning shot from a drone before destroying homes does not prevent deaths of people not involved in fighting. The family want action from solidarity campaigners against the companies manufacturing the weapons that were used to target them.

Corporate Watch interviewed the Abu Zor family at their ruined home in the Zeitoun district of Gaza City. Their house had been destroyed in an Israeli F16 attack on 19th November 2012. The bombing came at 3am in the morning during the Israeli attack known as ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’, which killed 255 Palestinians in eight days. According to the Gaza based Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights 201 out of 255 of these people were killed by attacks from Israeli drones. When we met them in December 2013 they were still in the process of rebuilding their home.

As we speak to Hamad and Mohammed Abu Zor, their children gather to listen to the conversation. We learn that many of these children lost their mothers in the attack. We are encouraged to look at their scars and feel the soft patches in their skulls where they were crushed when the house’s roof caved in on them, as if the family need to impress the reality of what happened on us. For these young children, as for many people in Gaza,  being involved in telling the story of how they saw their loved ones killed has become a normal occurrence. A duty to make people aware of the real story of what happened to them.

Roof-knocking

Before the attack the Israeli army had fired on the neighbourhood with a drone, supposedly to warn people to leave the area. This practice of firing a warning shot from a drone has become known as ‘roof-knocking’. In reality, roof-knocking is not really a way to protect life, but simply a way for Israeli commanders to avoid accountability by claiming that they did all they could to warn civilians.

In fact these ‘roof knockings’ are an added danger to those beneath the bombs and are not effective as a warning. In the Abu Zor family’s case it had fatal consequences. Continue reading

Planting hope in Palestine through BDS

We will be participating in Sumud Palestine’s ‘Planting hope in Palestine’ conference in Stoke on Trent.

Tom Anderson will be giving a talk and workshops on the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

‘Planting hope in Palestine’ is a one-day conference on Saturday, 25 October from 9.45 to 5.00 pm at Burslem School of Art at Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent ST6 3EJ

Stop arming Israel – Workshop at the Anarchist Bookfair

Elbit-occupation-photo-1

At least 800 major drone strikes were carried out during Israel’s 2014 attacks on Gaza while drones caused the most deaths during the attack on Gaza in 2012.

The Israeli drone industry is profitable as well as deadly. Israeli companies have sold drone technology to over 50 countries around the world. Israeli company Elbit is developing a British drone for the UK military.

Come and hear the stories of survivors of Israeli drone attacks and find out how you can join the campaign to make sure Elbit don’t profit any further from the bloodshed they have caused in Gaza.

Barclays Stock Brokers facilitating investment in the arms trade

images.duckduckgo.com
Barclays Bank claims that it is “not an investor in the defence industry” (defence is the euphemism the industry uses to avoid talking about trade in weapons). However, the bank profits from investment in the arms trade through providing its Barclays Stock Brokers service, which facilitates the buying and selling of shares, including shares in arms companies. In one of the options offered by Barclays to its UK customers the bank advertises that: “Barclays Stockbrokers will hold your assets on your behalf”. According to the Barclays Stockbrokers sales team the bank allows its customers to invest in any company they wish in “up to 18 different markets”. Barclays Stock Brokers’ customers are able to trade in whatever company they like, regardless of Barclays stated ethical policies. Continue reading

Solidarity campaigners plan demonstration at Elbit Systems

Friday 17th October 2014, 1-3pm Stop arming Israel – Demonstration at Elbit Systems in Shenstone

 Elbit-occupation-photo-1

During July and August 2014, 2,150 Palestinians were killed as Israel carried out another massacre of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip. Entire neightourhoods were destroyed and mosques, market places, UN relief compounds and schools were deliberately targeted. There was no safe place for the 1.7 million people in Gaza to take shelter from the Israeli bombardment.

Israeli unpiloted planes, known as drones, carried out over 800 major strikes. Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company, supplied many of the drones used by the Israeli military.

Continue reading

What it means to survive a drone attack


(For English subtitles please click the subtitles icon in the right hand corner of the you-tube panel and turn subtitles on).

“On 6 November 2006, I was waiting for a bus to go from the north of Gaza city to school. A kindergarten bus was driving past. A rocket fell down and exploded. Five people died including a six year old child.”

Mohammed Azzam, was 16 at the time of the attack. According to the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights the attack was by an Israeli drone.[1]

We met Mohammed Azzam at his family’s home in Gaza City in November 2013. As we sat down to talk we were disturbed by the sound of an Israeli F-16 overhead. Mohammed has grown up in a besieged city under constant Israeli attack. Just a few days before we met, Gaza had been attacked by Israeli F-16 strikes and we had been kept awake by the sound of drones. For the Palestinian survivors of Israeli drone attacks their trauma cannot be dealt with and put behind them. Instead it is an ongoing daily experience, full of triggers that can reopen old wounds.

Click here to watch a video of Mohammed speaking about his experience. (For English subtitles please click the subtitles icon in the right hand corner of the you-tube panel and turn subtitles on).

Continue reading