• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

  • Countries

  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

  • Media Content

ISRAEL/GAZA: Will Israel Help Gaza’s Victims? (The Huffington Post)

By Sarah Holewinski, Executive Director of CIVIC

Ask any civilian who has lost a loved one, a limb, or a home in war and they’re likely to tell you they never received anything for their suffering. I’ve always found it shocking that international law doesn’t generally require warring parties to help the people they’ve harmed.

Take for example the family of 60-year old Fayiz Ad-Daya. He was killed along with twenty of his relatives on January 6, 2009, when an Israeli warplane roared over Gaza attempting to bomb a house nearby that allegedly contained a weapons cache. Fayiz’s family was killed instead, with victims ranging in age from four (granddaughter Kawkab) to sixty (Fayiz himself). An Israeli military official admitted it made a mistake in hitting the wrong house and said this “is bound to happen during intensive fighting.”

The Al-Daya family thus joins a long list of millions of civilians destroyed in war. Like so many before them, the surviving members will likely never receive a formal apology or compensation for their losses.

When a similar mistake was made by the US military in Afghanistan back in 2001, they didn’t pay any compensation either to a woman widowed by a missile intended for three miles east. Eight graves are lined up near her home, representing her husband and children. I’ve heard so many stories like this. And then a few years later, the US learned it had to do things differently: a compensation system now exists for “mistakes” and unintended casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. The system doesn’t work perfectly, but making amends to these civilians is the decent thing to do. It is befitting a nation like the US that prides itself on abiding by international laws that obligate respect for civilians (as Israel has claimed it does too).

Plenty of people have a bone to pick with Israel over this winter’s war with Hamas. And by bone I mean serious allegations linking Israeli Defense Forces to war crimes and violations of international laws governing armed conflict. All of the details have to be sorted out — the investigations, witness accounts, military records, photos and media reports. In the meantime, the UN estimates that three-quarters of the population still needs some form of aid. They’re talking about the basic stuff like food, water, shelter and healthcare.

So while the investigators press on and the applicable laws are figured out, here’s an idea: help these people.

Billions have been pledged from donor countries to help Gazans, but Israel has blocked all but a trickle from reaching across the closed borders. Hamas has played a role in the devastation too and Gazans are now being punished broadly (if not intentionally by Israel than certainly by default) for the acts of a few. Israel’s reticence comes from not wanting aid to go to people who will turn around and support Hamas; but who do they think they’re turning Gaza’s children toward by blocking life-saving aid?

If all that seems too daunting, start with the Al-Daya family.

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GUEST BLOGGER: Monitoring Human Rights in Gaza

GAZA – I trekked across the Sinai Peninsula after watching the fighting from the Armistice line for a few weeks in December and January.  Israel wouldn’t let human rights monitors into Gaza, so I decided to take my team of researchers in through Egypt once the fighting stopped.  I’ve been to Gaza twice before – in 2004 when there were still settlements there, and again in 2006 after they were removed, and I consider myself seasoned to working in war zones.  But the tragedy I faced in Gaza hit me hard.

Watching the rockets rain on Israel, and the bombs fall on Gaza I knew a humanitarian crisis loomed.  With the borders closed people were going without food, water, electricity, and most urgently – medical care.  I’ve been to many war zones, but one constant is always there – civilians bear the brunt.  But as I stood there watching the white phosphorus flames raining down on Gaza city and Beit Lahiya I could only imagine the Dante’s inferno I would find.

The Abu Halima house reeked like a fireplace.  The walls were black and sooty, the wooden beams long since turned to charcoal.  The fire inside had been so intense the electric sockets had melted.  I could only imagine what the family faced inside.  I met Sabah Abu Halima, 44, a housewife and mother of a large family, in the burn unit of the Shiffa Hospital.  She was thoroughly traumatized, laying there with her burned arms trying to grasp at her children no longer there.  Her son Ahmad had to tell me what had happened.  On January 4th an Israeli white phosphorus artillery shell pierced the roof of the house.  It decapitated Ahmad’s father and burned his three brothers and a sister to death.  Sabah and five of her family were burned in the fire and so their ordeal is not over.

In the days after the smoke cleared, the Palestinian Authority tried to pour millions into rebuilding Gaza but was thwarted.  Now some humanitarian aid has been let in and Hamas activists are handing out cash payments of $5,100 to Palestinians whose homes were destroyed.  Seventy-five countries and international organizations made pledges to give billions in reconstruction aid.  Thus far, this is an opportunity lost for Israel.  Moderate Palestinians have no reason to stay moderate.  Israel should be helping with the rebuilding, provide victim assistance and compensation, and open the border to humanitarian aid and monitors.

The stories I heard will live with me for a long time, and the suffering Israelis and Gazans endured will surely last far longer if the warring parties don’t take seriously their moral responsibility to make amends to war’s victims for their violence.

VIDEO: The Grocer

Posted By: Marla B.

During the 2006 war nearly all businesses in the north of Israel closed. Many Israelis fled their homes here, heading south staying with friends, family and even occasionally strangers willing to take them in.

In Kiryat Shmona, a town close to the Lebanese boarder, this man stayed behind and tended to one of the few grocery stores that remained open to serve its neighbors.

He tells the story here of his experience and of the war’s lasting psychological effects on him and his family.

For more on the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and long-term aftermath, visit: http://www.civic-israel-lebanon.org/

VIDEO: Bint Jbeil, War’s Lasting Damage

Posted By: Marla B.

Perched on a hilltop overlooking a lush valley on the other side of which is Isreal, Bint Jbeil was considered a ‘Hizbollah stronghold’ during the 2006 war.

Two major battles took place there. The first began early in the morning on July 25, 2006 with heavy gun volleys between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hizbollah fighters. The fighting lasted four days. The second battle began on the evening of August 6th and lasted to August 14th, when finally a tentative ceasefire agreement was signed.

All through the town, there is no mistaking war had been here. Buildings, still in rubble, streets with pock holes from mortars and missiles. Nearly two years after the war, the town still bears its deep scars.

For more on the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and long-term aftermath, visit: http://www.civic-israel-lebanon.org/

VIDEO: Haifa Train Depot

Posted By: Marla B.

Haifa’s train depot was the scene of the deadliest attack in Israel during the 2006 war with Hizbollah. On July 16, shortly after nine in the morning missiles rained down on the city. One directly struck the train depot killing eight workers inside.

We visited the train depot in the hopes of getting inside to interview other workers or people who had survived the missile attack. We were turned away but found a mechanic across the street who received us warmly with stout coffee and offered his eyewitness account of what happened that day.

For more on the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and long-term aftermath, visit: http://www.civic-israel-lebanon.org/

VIDEO: Mahdi’s Story, Lebanon

Posted By: Marla B.

On a Thursday morning we left Tyre and traveled south to visit with more survivors and survey some of the other small towns. The first one we came to was Qana. Lebanese Christians believe this is where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water to wine.

Qana also has a long, sad history of conflict. Perhaps most notably in 1996, when an Israeli missile attack hit a UN tent where the townspeople had fled for safety. Israel claimed a rocket launcher had been located nearby making the tent a viable target, but more than 100 civilians died that day.

In the 2006 war, Qana was peppered with clusters throughout the town and surrounding hills. This is the story of one small survivor.

For more on the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and long-term aftermath, visit: http://www.civic-israel-lebanon.org/

A Background on Israel and Lebanon

In July of 2006, members of the terrorist group Hezbollah entered Israel and killed several Israeli soldiers, kidnapping two others. Israel responded to the attack with aerial strikes throughout Lebanon. Members of Hezbollah then retaliated with rocket attacks, launching the Israel and Lebanon into a full-scale war that lasted four weeks.

Trapped in the middle of this conflict was the civilian population of both countries. According to Human Rights Watch, this brief conflict killed roughly one thousand civilians and displaced nearly a million more.

Even now, threats remain. The use of landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have furthered the human toll within Lebanon. Often accidentally detonated by children, these explosives maim and sometimes kill innocent civilians.

CIVIC is now traveling to Lebanon and Israel to document the ongoing effects of this conflict on the civilian population. Check out the following videos and posts to learn more about both our experiences and how we plan to take action.

To learn a bit more about the Israel and Lebanon 2006 conflict, it’s aftermath and related issues we recommend Kevin Sites’ (from Yahoo’s In the Hot Zone) excellent video blog.

ISRAEL-HEZBOLLAH WAR: http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs68146
ISRAEL: http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs53384
LEBANON: http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs52439