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‘Israel meant to kill more’: Gaza 10 years after Op Cast Lead | News

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It has been 10 years since Israel launched its massive offensive on the Gaza Strip, which sparked global outrage as the world’s fifth-strongest army pounded the tiny blockaded enclave and its 1.6 million residents.

The 22-day land, naval and air bombardment saw some 1,400 Palestinians killed, thousands injured, and massive damage to infrastructure, including the destruction of 3,540 homes, 268 factories and warehouses and 18 schools.

Thirteen Israelis were also killed in the offensive, including four in friendly fire.  

White phosphorus, which is illegal in populated areas, was fired at a central United Nations compound in Gaza City, as well as at least two other hospitals.

The first air raids targeted an outdoor graduation ceremony for cadets at the Arafat Police Academy in Gaza City.

“At 11:25am, Israeli air jets violently bombed the academy as well as tens of police stations across the Gaza Strip at the same time,” Ayman al-Batniji, spokesperson for the Palestinian Police Force in Gaza, told Al Jazeera.

“I was only a few metres away from the scene where a number of new cadets were rehearsing for their graduation ceremony when the first strike hit,” he recalled. 

Around 251 policemen were killed in the first few hours of the attack and more than 700 injured, including those who lost their legs and other limbs and could never return to work, al-Batniji said.

Among the people killed was Tawfiq Jabber, the Gaza chief of police at the time.





Relatives of Palestinian police chief Tawfiq Jaber, who was killed in an Israeli air raid, hold pictures of him at his funeral on December 28, 2008 [File: Getty Images]

‘Unforgettable scenes’

The bloody images are seared in the minds of the surviving police officers as they remember ambulances and private cars rushing to the site to evacuate the dead and wounded against a backdrop of fumes and rising dust.

Hanadi Karsou, 29, was among the first cohort of women hired as police officers at the time and the only female officer at the scene.

“I was in my office when the air attacks began,” she said. “I went outside to see that the entire place was burning. There were bodies of young officers on the ground, torn to shreds.”

“Those were unforgettable scenes,” she said. “Students and children running in the streets crying… families trying to enter the academy to see what happened to their sons.”

Karsou said she lost many colleagues who treated her presence on the force with respect. Today, the academy has more than 200 policewomen.

Another police officer, Issa Abu Khater, was also present the day the academy was bombarded and recalled the sight of blood and torn body parts in the courtyard.

“Many of them took their last breaths in front of me,” he said.

The 35-year-old spent the rest of the day at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital where he saw his wounded colleagues and identified the bodies those killed.

“My family was looking for my body in the morgue,” he said. “My brother and uncle found me and held me tight, relieved to see I was alive.”

Abu Khater was in shock and had to take sedatives in order to “absorb the horrors of that day”.

‘Sense of horror’

The attacks on December 27, 2008, occurred a week after Egyptian authorities brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian armed factions in the Gaza Strip, following a short flare-up between the two sides.

The bombings occurred very close to an area that had university buildings and schools, al-Batniji said.

“I remember the sense of horror that had prevailed among the students there,” he said. “F-16 warplanes and reconnaissance drones were firing missiles at the academy compound. They even targeted policemen at the entrances,” he said.

“They meant to kill more.”

Al-Batniji stressed that the police service, as a civil body, was unaffiliated to any of the Palestinian factions.

“We provide civil services to people as a way to maintain security here and to maintain the execution of civil law,” he said.

“Why were we targeted in this way? I lost many of my friends and best colleagues in the blink of an eye. It was a haunting day and can never be forgotten.”





Gaza police spokesperson Ayman al-Batniji says the police, as a civil service, is not affiliated with Palestinian factions [Maram Humaid/Al Jazeera]

Various human rights bodies condemned the targeting of police officers in Gaza during the offensive.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) pointed out in a report that the “251 non-combatant policemen were not members of an armed group and were not participating in hostilities; their targeting and willful killing constitutes a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions”.

The centre called for those responsible for committing the crime to be investigated, tried and prosecuted in accordance with international standards, though it also acknowledged the unlikely probability of it.

“If the occupation has taught us anything, it is that as long as Israel is granted impunity, it will continue to violate international laws [and] Palestinian civilians will continue to suffer the horrific consequences,” PCHR said.

The police academy was rebuilt in 2010, new cadets were recruited and another generation graduated. The total number of police officers in the academy now numbers 7,800.

Al-Batniji said that after the 2008-2009 offensive, the academy now acknowledges that it is within the open circle of Israeli targets.

“On the tenth anniversary of the war, our message to the world is to separate us from the conflict between the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian factions,” he said.

Despite the heavy losses incurred a decade ago, the police spokesperson maintains that the academy has returned “stronger with nothing to lose”.

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25 Best Senators’ Memories From 25 Years at Canadian Tire Centre

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There is a special birthday in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata this weekend.

Canadian Tire Centre turns 25. Its doors first opened on Jan. 15, 1996, for a Bryan Adams concert. The Senators played their first game in their new arena on Jan. 17, 1996, when they lost to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life has at that arena. I don’t know how many Sens games I have been to there — I would ballpark it somewhere between 600 and 700. But I thought it would be fun to look back and share my 25 most memorable moments at the arena. I am not counting numerous concerts as great moments in the building — I often joke that the four best concerts I have ever seen there are Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks and Garth Brooks. I am not counting the 2009 World Juniors either. I am sticking entirely to the Sens.

25. Paul MacClone

Mike Watson was just sitting in his company seats, minding his own business, watching the Ottawa Senators take on the Florida Panthers on a January night during the 2012-13 season. The casual discussion among reporters after the game was how he broke Twitter.

Watson’s friends had told him that he looked like then-Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean. When he got face time on the new high-definition scoreboard, in the front row and directly behind the coach, the crowd buzzed and cheered.

Senators coach Paul MacLean had a doppelganger behind the bench.

The shot of Watson behind the bench spread quickly on social media. Surely, everyone thought, he must have been planted in that seat. He wasn’t. The last time he had sat in those seats, Cory Clouston was the coach, and no one noticed him.

As the season went on, the MacLean doppelganger became a local celebrity and was somewhat of a mascot during Ottawa’s playoff run.

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With spare parts and derring-do, Ottawa’s own Rocketman reinvents skating

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An Ottawa man is turning heads on frozen stretches of the Ottawa River with a homemade device he jokingly refers to as his “jetpack.”

In reality, Brydon Gibson’s gas-powered, propeller-driven invention is more Rona than NASA.

“I got my hands on some weed whacker motors and I figured strapping one on my back and making skating a little bit lazier would [be] a good idea,” said Gibson, 24.

He bolted a 38-centimetre propeller to a wooden frame, fashioned a throttle out of a brake handle and cable salvaged from a 10-speed bike, then added padded straps cut from a dollar store backpack. He laced up his skates, and suddenly Gibson was zipping along at speeds reaching 40 km/h. 

“I was actually getting a little scared at one point because I was going a little too fast,” the inventor admitted.

There are no brakes, but there is kill switch to cut the power “when something goes wrong,” said Gibson. “It’s actually a little finicky.”

This is not the first iteration of Gibson’s invention. As a teen, he built an electric propulsion device in his parents’ basement, though it never got to the testing phase.

“Ever since I was a kid … I’ve been taking apart things I found on the side of the road, making a mess of my parents basement, spreading electronics everywhere,” he said.

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‘It is frustrating’: U.S-educated nurse from Ottawa hits barriers to getting licensed in Ontario

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Before she accepted a swimming scholarship to attend Boston’s Northeastern University, Ottawa’s Rachael Geiger made sure it had the kind of nursing program she wanted. The school’s baccalaureate nursing program offered a fifth year of co-operative placement after four years of study — something Geiger thought would leave her well prepared for a career as a nurse when she returned home after university.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Two and a half years after graduating summa cum laude from Northeastern, the 25-year-old is unable to work as a registered nurse in Ontario.

Geiger said she was initially surprised, especially since she wrote the same licensing exam in Massachusetts as is written in Ontario, the NCLEX-RN exam. She is licensed to practise in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I never thought it would be such a challenge.”

She and her family are frustrated at how difficult it has been for her to get registered to be able to practise in Ontario. That frustration is heightened by the fact that nurses have seldom been in such high demand in Canada and around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic strains health systems and shortages loom. Local hospitals are among those trying to recruit nurses. The Canadian Nurses Association has been warning that Canada will experience extreme shortages in coming years.

“It is frustrating to sit and see all the news about nursing shortages and not be able to help,” said Geiger.

Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the professional association that represents registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in the province, said she was “more than surprised” to hear of the difficulty Geiger has had.

But Grinspun, who initially studied nursing in Israel and then the U.S. before becoming one of the country’s nursing leaders, said the system of allowing foreign trained nurses to work in Ontario is unnecessarily slow and complicated and leads many valuable nurses to simply give up or find another career. Grinspun herself challenged the system when she first came to work in Ontario.

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