Monday, January 28, 2008

Dreams, Schemes and Screams in Gaza

If half a million Gazans tried to swarm over the opposite end of their little strip and punch some holes in the wall, it wouldn't be like Woodstock. The IDF has a choice of non-lethal weapons for crowd control, according to today's Jerusalem Post. Fancy "The Scream" (bursts of penetrating noise every ten seconds, which leaves targets reeling with dizziness and nausea, with hands covering ears instead of gripping rocks? Or maybe the "Pain Ray", which heats up water molecules in the mob's bloodstreams with microwaves? Beats rubber bullets, we're told.

Taking advantage of the momentum following the dramatic destruction of the fence separating Egypt from the Gaza Strip, Hamas threatened late last week to pull a similar stunt at the Erez Crossing.

But while within the IDF the proposed responses seemed vague or insufficient, some argued that the events at Rafah would actually reduce Hamas's ability to organize a mass demonstration.

Last week, senior Hamas official Ahmed Youssef warned that "the next time there is a crisis in the Gaza Strip, Israel will have to face half a million Palestinians who will march toward Erez. This is not an imaginary scenario, and many Palestinians would be prepared to sacrifice their lives."

Yoram Schweitzer, a senior research fellow at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies and the director of their Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict, said Sunday that the "incidents in Egypt may have given an outlet for the pressure" that had been building up in the Gaza Strip as a result of the shortages there. It could thus be more difficult for Hamas to organize a march on the scale described by Youssef - 500,000 people would mean that approximately one out of every three Gazans would participate in the protest.

"People would either have to be extremely angry and 'choked' - or very, very loyal to Hamas," in order to respond in such numbers to a call to participate in a mass march on Erez, Schweitzer said. "Before, they could depend on public anger and frustration as a mobilizing force, rather than simply the organizational ability of Hamas."

Since the Hamas takeover in June of last year, the largest march held thus far in the Gaza Strip was one sponsored by the anti-Hamas opposition in September, in which an estimated 10,000 people turned out to pray publicly in the streets rather than in Hamas-controlled mosques.

In comparison, observers have estimated that somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000 Gazans have passed through the remains of the Rafah border fence into the Sinai over the past five days.

The IDF has said in the past that it would respond to such provocations by utilizing nonlethal crowd control methods, and maintain its usual rules of engagement, in which troops would use live fire only if physically threatened.

Even in such situations, the initial response would be to fire into the air, then at would-be assailants' legs - and finally to shoot to kill if the attack did not cease.

Schweitzer said that if such a protest ended with Palestinian casualties, it would have serious implications for Israel in the international stage, increasing the media victory for Hamas.

"They know that the use of civilian protest to pass along a political message can be more effective than shooting bullets," he said, emphasizing that "Hamas knows how to use psychological and media warfare to its advantage."

He suggested that security forces attempt to place physical - and intelligence - obstacles in the protesters' path, as well as utilizing nonlethal technology.

Among the methods already in use by the IDF is "the Scream" - a machine that releases sound pulses that cause nausea, disorientation and dizziness.

US forces in Iraq have found that their Active Denial System (ADS) - known as the "pain ray" - is also quite effective in crowd control.

The ADS - which, unlike the Scream, cannot be blocked by plugging one's ears - is a strong millimeter-wave transmitter that excites water molecules in the skin to around 55 degrees Celsius, thereby causing protesters to experience a burning sensation, without actually burning them.

It is believed, however, that prolonged exposure or malfunctions leading to increased strength of microwaves could be fatal to protesters.


Staci Rose said...

I find it interesting, as a US/Jewish observer, that no one has commented on why the Egyptian border was closed. I have to highly doubt that was entirely Israel's decision - after all, we're talking about the border to if they have no involvement, until now by conceding the entry.

Seems too convenient to let Israel deploy various weaponry while all these 'peaceful' people are being harmed for a loaf of bread...seems less plausible, too.

And, I am not a big supporter of weaponry or the US media (an actual farce and more a business than a media outlet - there's always an agenda.)

But, since PLO, the media has always been able to manipulate. Since Nazi Germany, Isabella & Ferdinand...the media is typically mangled and seized to portray a villainous Jewish population. And because most human beings cannot fathom the extent some people will go to destroy others - I remain highly skeptical...of all sides, all situations reported without seeing them with my own eyes.

PS...I do remember my trip to Israel and meeting High School students. An interesting group of individuals that are veiled in the knowledge that their bus could be blown up on the way home. All had lost family or friends; some had emmigrated from similar situations in different countries. It was particularly disturbing and eye-opening to realize that a child matures very quickly in Israel.

Thanks for this post. I find it's easy to have an's a little more difficult to have one that's fair and just.

eyeless in Gaza said...

Israel pulled out of the "Philadelphi corridor" in 2005, part of Sharon's controversial disengagement of the settlements. This is from wikipedia:
On August 31 of that year, the Knesset voted to withdraw from the Gaza-Egypt border and to allow Egyptian deployment of border police along the demilitarized Egyptian side of the border, revising the previously-stated intent to maintain Israeli control of the border.
On September 11, the cabinet reversed an earlier decision and decided not to demolish synagogues in the settlements. This enabled the IDF to complete its pullout that night, ending in the early hours of September 12, 2005. The Palestinian National Authority protested Israel's decision, arguing that it would rather Israel dismantle the synagogues. While Israel called on the PNA to protect former Jewish places of worship, Palestinian looters scavenged items from the rubble of former homes (destroyed by Israel before withdrawal) and burned and destroyed four of the synagogues.
The EUropean Union helped the PA patrol the Gaza side of the international border with Egypt.

That's historic. Upheaval over the next few days should determine what happens next

Anonymous said...

It's extraordinary that Israel uses its genius to devise heat-rays when they could pacify the Palestinians by offering them real terms for a two-state solution.
Red Bulll

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