By Dave Bender
COLUMBUS, GA – A rocket fired from a nearby former US army base exploded in a shopping center in Columbus, GA., on Thursday, wounding 70 people and leaving two trapped under rubble, officials said.
(Got your attention, now? Good. So calm down, take a moment to wipe down the screen and keyboard – I’ll wait – and read on…)
Two Israeli school boys, residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza Strip, as they and a dog examine pockmarks on a kindergarten’s reinforced security wall from a Kassam rocket attack in 2012 against their small farming community (Photo: Dave Bender, All Rights Reserved).
While thousands of Israeli troops scour the West Bank for a trio of teens kidnapped by Hamas a week ago, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip have bombarded southern Israel with rocket fire for the last six nights.
Bet you didn’t hear much about it in the news, right?
One of the Kassams slammed into a home on Kibbutz Shaar Hanegev Wednesday night, although, thankfully, there were no physical injuries in the latest salvo.
But the psychological damage to tens of thousands of Israelis in range of the coastal enclave is immense, and cumulative.
Some three million Israelis in an increasingly distant arc – which now reaches Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem – are, essentially, sustaining low-level collective punishment and being held hostage to the next possibly lethal volley.
So, as a public service, following is a black satire putting the scenario of near-incessant mortar, Kassam, and long-range Grad rocket fire into American terms – in this case, southwestern Georgia – with roughly accurate relative distances, and details from several such terror attacks that rarely make it into international news coverage. I shot all the photos in areas around Gaza; I’d appreciate crediting me if you use them.
Gaza Rockets Pummel Columbus, Georgia
COLUMBUS, GA – A rocket fired from a nearby former US army base exploded in a shopping center in Columbus, GA., on Wednesday, wounding 70 people and leaving two trapped under rubble, officials said.
Rescue service spokesman said two babies were among the severely wounded. A mother and daughter sustained serious injuries, and dozens of others sustained lighter wounds, first-responders said.
Witnesses told the local Ledger-Enquirer newspaper that the rocket caused considerable damage to Peachtree Mall. Officials warned that militants calling themselves “The al-Benning Brigades,” who took over the 184,000-acre base after the government pulled out all military and civilian personnel in a controversial move in 2005, were likely targeting the adjacent Columbus Municipal Airport, in a bid to cut strategic air links to the Lower Chattahoochee Valley.
US President Barack Obama and a host of international political and business leaders were visiting LaGrange at the time of the attack. They had gathered at the city, about a half hour north of Columbus, to inaugurate a technical school and a car assembly plant.
Obama decried the attack, and called for “democratizing” al-Benning and similar military irredentist areas throughout the southeast.
“The best way to defeat enemies is to advance the cause of freedom,” Obama said in the presence of Governor Nathan Deal, who called the attack, “entirely intolerable and unacceptable.” Deal has repeatedly indicated, however, that he would readily agree to any cease-fire leading to a peace treaty with the base.
While Deal has come under scathing attack for his position by angry and baffled Columbus residents and other Georgians, he has responded that he is doing it to show that “Georgia stands ready to take painful steps for peace.”
That willingness was severely tested when militants fired a laser-guided anti-tank rocket at a school bus letting off students from Hardaway High School at a stop on Warm Springs Road.
The missile slammed into the rear of the bus, severely wounding a 16-year-old student who was the last to get off, and who later died of his injuries at the Columbus Medical Center. The two short-range missile attacks are the latest of more than ten thousand projectiles that have been lobbed into Columbus in recent years, killing over two dozen of the city’s residents and wounding hundreds of others.
Many residents have fled to Atlanta, and many of those that have remained are reported suffering from severe psychological trauma.
Georgia has continued, however, to supply al-Benning with electricity, gas, food, medicine and other supplies, at the 185, and “Victory Drive” crossing points – adjacent to the site of the abduction.
As well, Atlanta has regularly allowed ill Benning residents to be treated at no cost at the Columbus Medical Center, despite attempted suicide bombings and missile strikes against the medical facility – often by al-Benning residents otherwise being treated there.
However, Benning officials vow that they will not relent until Columbus is emptied on its residents, and the “cancerous, bacterial State of Georgia is eradicated.” The obliteration of Georgia as a sovereign state is enshrined in the al-Benning charter.
Base radio, television and print media regularly broadcast horrific indoctrination messages that all residents of Georgia are “the sons of pigs and apes,” and teach children and toddlers to emulate suicide bombers that have killed close to two thousand Georgian civilians, and maimed thousands of others.
In many of the attacks, nail-filled charges were set off in crowds of young people and the elderly that frequent cafes and nightspots along the Fountain City’s famed Broadway Avenue and RiverWalk promenade on the Chattahoochee River. The picturesque Columbus Trolley line has also been targeted numerous times by militants, leading to armed guards being posted at the front door to screen passengers.
An Israeli army tank, a porta-potty, and an unused lookout tower at a position facing the Gaza Strip across the road from a kibbutz, whose fields are seen in the lower part of the image (Photo: Dave Bender, All Rights Reserved)
In the summer of 2005, Columbus officials pulled out close to 10,000 civilians from productive, but isolated homesteads on areas claimed by the base, most against their will. They had settled the forests and wilderness areas into what they termed, Georgia’s breadbasket.”
Some were third-generation residents, grandchildren of pioneers who had settled the Florida panhandle decades earlier, and had themselves returned to Georgia, “for the sake of peace.” Veteran al-Benning residents called the original settlers “crazy” to try to settle land that had never yielded to centuries of attempts at cultivation. But the land bloomed after great efforts, and was internationally recognized as one of Georgia’s largest agricultural exporters.
Many of the al-Benning residents worked with the settlers for years, building amicable business and personal relationships. Protesters and al-Benning officials say the “goodwill gesture” – unprecedented by any democratic nation in history – “is a good start,” and hoped it would soon include all of Georgia.
After the areas were given over to al-Benning, locals immediately set to looting and setting ablaze the communities, including churches, buildings and infrastructure bought and donated to them for future economic development.
Officials and residents in nearby Alabama say they deplore the violence, but support the aspirations of al-Benning. They have aided and abetted them in smuggling tons of armaments across the Chattahoochee for over a decade.
Alabama, as well as al-Benning have received several billion dollars in aid from Washington, despite mocking repeated peacemaking efforts with Georgians in the official press, and targeting US personnel for decades.
The local and international media have largely ignored the situation in Columbus for the past seven years, despite mass-casualty terror attacks and infractions of Geneva Convention war-crimes statutes.
However, graphic news reports and photos of wounded al-Benning personnel and families flood the press when Columbus security forces respond, in an effort to stop the incessant attacks.
The United Nations and world leaders commonly call for Columbus and Georgian security forces to grit their teeth and display a “proportionate response,” to the attacks, including reining in their forces and withholding decisive military blows to end the rocket fire at purely civilian targets, which is a war crime.
This behavior has been lauded internationally and has been dubbed, “The Peace of the Brave.”
The Algemeiner Journal