Mixed Emotions on Gaza War Anniversary

Robert Berger

It is the first anniversary of the beginning of the Gaza War between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. 

Air raid sirens wailed in the Gaza Strip, exactly a year after Israel began a three-week assault on the territory with a devastating air strike.  The ruling Islamic militant group Hamas marked a minute of silence for the victims - 1,400 dead according to Palestinian accounts.  Thirteen Israelis were also killed.

Only 3,000 Hamas members attended the commemoration, and the Palestinian public in Gaza largely ignored it.  People walked down the streets and cars sped by, ignoring the sirens.

It could be a sign of discontent because the war has plunged the Palestinians further into poverty.  Thousands of homes that were destroyed have not been rebuilt.  Israel bars the export of cement to Gaza under a tight blockade, fearing Hamas will use it to rebuild bunkers and other military infrastructure.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat accuses Israel of war crimes. "I think the most important thing now is how to provide international protection for the Palestinian people.  The follow up here is that we want to insure the non-reoccurrence of such massacres against the Palestinian people," he said.

A United Nations commission also accused Israel of war crimes, prompting outrage in Jerusalem.  Israel says the war was a legitimate act of self defense, launched in response to years of Palestinian rocket attacks. 

Though the commission also accused Hamas of war crimes, Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor describes its report as one-sided and biased. "The commission was really a farce of a U.N. fact-finding commission.  It was not a real effort to seek the truth," he said.

Despite growing diplomatic isolation, Israel says the war achieved its goal: With the exception of isolated incidents, Palestinian rocket attacks have stopped.

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