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The U.S. has long recognized that some elements of Israel’s military strategy and practices amount to a form of collective punishment or “collective punishment by other means,” one that, in turn, could lead the United States to question Israel’s true motives in its occupation of the Golan Heights. Yet, since the end of the Second Intifada, when Israel was able to hold a ceasefire—albeit only for six days—the U.S. has tended to stay silent and, in many cases, continue to condone the Israeli government’s actions.
Israel’s policies during the period of the Second Intifada have been characterized by harsh and disproportionate enforcement of Israeli military regulations, including harsh and disproportionate treatment of Palestinian civilians. As part of a 2009 study on what can be termed “collective punishment by other means,” Human Rights Watch found that, during the war in Gaza, Israeli forces took actions against civilians that amounted to collective punishment. The Israeli military authorities had little compunction about punishing “terrorist” fighters and civilian bystanders alike in this way—even those not directly involved in Hamas’ military activities. The “collective punishment” that Human Rights Watch found took place in southern Gaza was of a kind no other country in the world has been known to tolerate. Among the things that Human Rights Watch found:
In one particular incident, Israeli forces on the Gaza-Jericho road, a main artery connecting Gaza with Israel, fired warning shots toward “terrorists” and then began to shoot at them, killing three, including two who were on the other side of the road and who may have been posing a danger. Three other Palestinians were also killed during this action, and a number of other civilians suffered bullet wounds from rubber-coated metal bullets.
Israel’s treatment of civilians is particularly alarming, given that the United States, with the United Nations and other groups, has called for an end of collective punishment. Yet, to date, the United States has not taken any formal action against Israel.
Israeli soldiers who took part in the shooting of members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades with live ammunition had their weapons confiscated and were not allowed at al-Aqsa to practice in the vicinity; they were also barred from leaving the area on the day that the incident occurred, and they were not allowed to return at all, despite having been informed in advance of their expected arrival. These measures
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