Saturday, January 03, 2009
...Many of the "moderate" Arab leaders, including the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas, were not afraid to alienate the Arab street by blaming Hamas for the latest cycle of violence. Some of them are even reported to have gone as far as quietly urging Israel to pursue its military operation until Hamas is removed from power.
Since the beginning of the operation, the Arab media have been full of reports suggesting that Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz had all given Israel a "green light" to attack Gaza.
...the reports have ...sent hundreds of thousands of Arab protesters to the streets to condemn not Israel, but what they regard as their governments' involvement in the "US-Zionist conspiracy" to remove Hamas from power.
The widespread protests are seen by some Arab political analysts as marking the beginning of a popular "intifada" against corrupt, pro-Western Arab dictators. They expect these protests to intensify as the IDF operation continues and the number of Palestinian casualties rises.
...Most of the heat on the Arab street is directed against Mubarak and Abbas - the only two leaders who had the courage to blame Hamas for the war because of its continued rocket attacks on Israel. ....
Several members of the Jordanian parliament, in an unprecedented move, burned the Israeli flag inside the chamber, and called on King Abdullah to expel the Israeli ambassador. At least 20,000 Palestinians and Jordanians staged a huge demonstration in Amman, during which they chanted slogans against Israel, the US and Arab leaders, especially Mubarak and Abbas.
...Mubarak, who is currently facing growing opposition on the streets of Cairo, is also being accused of participating in the Israeli blockade on Gaza by refusing to reopen the Rafah border crossing. His declared policy, that the border crossing won't be reopened until Abbas's loyalists are permitted to return to the terminal...Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah ...called on the Egyptians to overthrow Mubarak's regime.
...THE INCITEMENT against Mubarak and Abbas in the Arab media is likely to intensify as Al-Jazeera continues to broadcast horrific images of dead women and children in Gaza. As in the past, it is now spearheading a campaign aimed at discrediting "moderate" Arab rulers, by depicting them as pawns in the hands of the Israelis and Americans. The message that Al-Jazeera is sending to the Arab and Islamic masses is: "You must rise against your treacherous leaders, because they are serving the interests of Israel and the US."
...Operation Cast Lead will not wipe out Hamas completely, even if it results in the demolition of all of the Islamist movement's government buildings and security installations. On the contrary, the operation, by all accounts, is likely to boost Hamas's popularity not only among the Palestinians, but also on the streets of Khartoum, Amman, Cairo and Beirut.
...After January 9, Abbas is likely to come under heavy pressure to step down not only from Hamas, but also from many people in his Fatah faction who accuse him of being a failed leader and who hold him responsible for the fact that Hamas is in power in Gaza.
The talk about a "third intifada" that would be directed this time against the Arab rulers appears to be gaining momentum on the Arab street, where many people are no longer afraid to openly condemn their leaders as "traitors" and "Israeli puppets."
The Arab street is ready for a third intifada, said Palestinian writer Rashad Abu Shawar. "Those Arabs who are exonerating Israel and blaming Hamas are being regarded as traitors," he said. "This week, we already saw the spark of the third intifada on the streets of Ramallah, Hebron, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as well as inside Israel. These Arab regimes want to see Gaza surrender, so that they can eliminate the term 'resistance' from their lexicon. The third intifada won't only finish off the PA; it will also destroy the illusion of peace with the Israeli enemy."
President Bush issued a sharp condemnation of Hamas late today, accusing the Palestinian militant group of provoking Israeli military action with rocket attacks and increasing the death toll by secreting its arms within civilian populations.
...Bush also said he would not support "another one-way ceasefire," and he called for a strict monitoring system to curtail weapons smuggling into Gaza. ...
"This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel's destruction," Bush said. He also referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules the West Bank, as "the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people."
"I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror, and to support legitimate Palestinian leaders working for peace," he said.
...Bush said in his address that he has been in contact with leaders throughout the region, including Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. He also said he would continue to keep President-elect Barack Obama informed, and said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "is actively engaged in diplomacy" aimed at achieving "a meaningful ceasefire that is fully respected."
Bush's criticism of Hamas was focused largely on allegations that the group endangers innocent Palestinians, using civilian areas to hide in and focusing scant resources on weapons. Bush also said he was "deeply concerned" about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and pledged to increase U.S. assistance.
"Since Hamas's violent takeover in the summer of 2007, living conditions have worsened for Palestinians in Gaza," Bush said. "By spending its resources on rocket launchers instead of roads and schools, Hamas has demonstrated that it has no intention of serving the Palestinian people."...
Friday, January 02, 2009
HAMAS Prime Minister Ismail Haniya called for a ceasefire yesterday after Israel refused to halt the fighting and reiterated its determination to send ground forces into the Gaza Strip. Israel's Channel Two said the army had been ordered to prepare to move today as rain, which had turned the terrain to mud, began to clear.
...Mr Haniya, who has been in hiding with the rest of the Hamas leadership in Gaza since the Israeli air attack began on Saturday, said in a taped television address that Hamas was prepared "to talk about all issues and seriously" if Israel halted its attacks and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
His sober tone was a sharp departure from the taunts voiced by previous Hamas spokesmen..."What is happening in Gaza is not normal ...." said Mr Haniya. "It is a real war...."
..."We didn't initiate the Gaza operation to end it while Israeli towns are still under fire, as they were before the operation," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. He added that the proposal would be reconsidered when the time was right and only if international monitors took responsibility for enforcing it. As for humanitarian considerations, he said Israel was permitting an unlimited amount of humanitarian supplies to be trucked into the Gaza Strip daily.
...The head of Israel's Shin Bet security agency, Yuval Diskin, said that senior Hamas officials had taken shelter in Gaza's hospitals where they had "disguised themselves as doctors and (male) nurses". Other officials, he said, were sheltering in mosques, which had become weapons storehouses and command centres. He said Hamas was trying to repair destroyed tunnels to evacuate the leadership across the Egyptian border....
... The end to the Israeli operation is in Hamas' hands. The equation is simple: the sooner Hamas stops firing at Israel, the sooner the IDF will halt its offensive. Hopefully, the learning curve of the leadership in Gaza is flexible enough to minimize the pain Israel is inflicting.
...Ending the Hamas attacks on Israel is attainable if the Israeli military operation threatens Hamas' rule in Gaza. After all, the main goal of Hamas is to stay in power. All else, including the cherished goal of destroying the Jewish state, is subordinated to the survival of the Hamas regime.
It appears that Israel has gained international understanding, including from certain Arab states, for administering a blow to Hamas and for quieting its southern border. .... Uprooting Hamas rule from Gaza, however, is beyond Israel's power; Israel cannot install a new government in the Strip. ... Hamas is here to stay and Israel cannot but feel sorry for the Palestinians doomed to ignorance, poverty and fanaticism – the inevitable result of Islamist rule.
While a Hamastan in Gaza is not the ideal neighbor for Israel, there are several advantages to continuous Hamas rule.
First, the entrenchment of Hamas makes it crystal-clear who rejects peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is largely off the hook.
Second, the Hamas military coup of June 2007 dealt a death blow to the two-state paradigm that the world is still paying lip service, but is patently not working. A growing realization of the futility of this paradigm might allow the emergence of a more realistic approach to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In light of the depressing reality among Israel's neighbors, and in particular the Palestinians, the strategy of the Jewish state should be modest. Israel should refrain from trying to influence the societies in its vicinity. Israel is located in a truly dangerous neighborhood and the bitter truth is that the country has little to gain from cultural and economic interactions with its neighbors.
Therefore, what should be of exclusive concern to Jerusalem is the ability of the neighboring Arab states to inflict harm. Israel's diplomatic and military resources should be directed toward just that objective – minimizing the damage they are capable of inflicting against Israel. This is the only realistic goal of the IDF operation in Gaza.
The IAF targeted a mosque in the Tel El Hawwa neighborhood of Gaza City on Wednesday afternoon that was used by Hamas as a Grad missile and Qassam rocket storage site. The Gazan mosque was also turned into a staging ground for rockets and for launching missiles. The most recent rocket launching from the mosque occurred Wednesday morning.
The strike set off numerous secondary explosions caused by the munitions stockpiled in the mosque. [see it on the attached video]
In recent days, joint IDF and ISA intelligence efforts brought to light the information that terrorists were stockpiling weapons in the mosque and carrying out rocket attacks against Israeli communities from the mosque’s grounds, as well as using it as a hiding place. The IDF will continue to attack any target used for terrorist activity and will not hesitate to strike those involved in terrorism against the citizens of the State of Israel, even if they choose to operate from locations of religious or cultural significance.
.... In addition to the mosque ...targets include the following:
- Weapons manufacturing and storage facilities in southern Gaza, including a storage site in the Khan Younis area where Amar Abu Ghalula, a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad's rocket infrastructure, was present. Three additional Islamic Jihad operatives were in the facility at the time of the IAF strike.
- A tunnel in the Khan Younis area that was used for the smuggling of operatives and weaponry.
- A Hamas outpost and training camp in Gaza City, which was also used as a weaponry manufacturing site and place of assembly for senior members of the terror organization.
- Rocket launching sites, several of which were underground, as well as a number of loaded Grad launchers.
...the IDF has so far attacked 450 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The IDF will continue to operate against terror organizations and will not hesitate to strike those involved both directly and indirectly in attacks against the citizens of the State of Israel.
Israeli jet fighters have flown 500 bombing missions in its offensive against Gaza-based Hamas, a senior officer said Wednesday. There have also been hundreds of combat sorties by helicopter gunships and surveillance aircraft, both manned and unmanned.
The targets included command posts of the Islamic militant movement, some 130 missile launch sites, munitions dumps and individuals who appeared to be carrying weapons. Also among them was a Hamas center, the Islamic University, which the officer described as a weapons research facility.
He said 95 percent of the targets were hit, and no major targets remained standing.
Now the objective is to hunt down missile launchers and fighters one-by-one, said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.
Describing a typical mission, the officer said it often begins when spy planes identify trucks or fighters transporting what could be a missile launcher.
Information on the target is fed into the command center, where a commander clears the mission. The data is relayed to the weapons system on board an F16 jet fighter, which plots the target. The pilot flies into position, and the bomb is released automatically, guided by laser beam onto the missile launcher.
"Just like a GPS telling you exactly where you are, we know exactly where the target is," he said.
As the officer outlined the precision bombing, the reach of Israeli intelligence became apparent.
Seeking to avoid civilian casualties, he said, an automated telephone service dials the phones of residents of a targeted building, warning them to evacuate. He shrugged when asked how Israel obtained the numbers.
Since the air strikes began Saturday, most of the nearly 400 casualties have been Hamas fighters or officials, but dozens of civilians also have been killed.
Hamas has accused senior aides of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, of spying for Israel, underscoring an intensification of Palestinian infighting even in the face of Israel's bombardments in the Gaza Strip.
... This includes allegations that the former Fatah strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, whose forces were defeated by Hamas in its June 2007 takeover of the Strip, met Israeli intelligence officials several weeks ago to discuss Israeli plans for a strike in Gaza. Mr Dahlan, according to an account on the Islamist movement's website, urged Israel to deal a "painful blow" to Hamas.
The charge of spying was made by a Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, also on the movement's website and in remarks broadcast on al-Jazeera, the satellite television station based in Qatar. They were angrily denied by Fatah leaders....
Saudi Arabia yesterday blamed Hamas for Israel's continuing offensive in the Gaza Strip and urged it to resolve bitter differences with the western-backed Palestinian Authority - even as divisions deepened with a new charge of treachery.
Arab League foreign ministers meeting in emergency session in Cairo warned it was not possible to help until the Islamist movement in control of Gaza returned to national unity talks with its rival Fatah.
A furious Hamas attacked the Arab League stance as "pathetic". Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum also accused Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, of ordering members of Fatah in Gaza to gather intelligence on the whereabouts of Hamas leaders to pass to Israel ....
Discussions between Arab states were sharp too, amid bickering over calls for an emergency summit conference in Qatar tomorrow. "Everyone is watching as the intensity of Arab-Arab disputes increase," warned the league's secretary general, Amr Moussa.
......Syria and Gulf maverick Qatar want a summit. But they met fierce resistance from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the western-backed Arab states that are most hostile to Hamas....
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush ...spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the White House said on Wednesday.
"President Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets and that is what will be the first steps in a ceasefire," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Texas where Bush was on holiday.
During the phone call with Olmert, Bush received assurances from the Israeli leader that Israel was only targeting Hamas and working to minimize civilian casualties, Johndroe said. The two did not discuss a timetable for halting Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, he said.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
RESIDENTS at certain addresses in the Gaza Strip have been receiving unusual phone calls since the Israeli air assault began on Saturday -- a request that they and their families leave their homes as soon as possible for their own safety. More unusual than the recorded message is the Arabic-speaking caller, who identifies himself as being from the Israeli defence forces.
Dipping into their bag of tricks for the updated Gaza telephone numbers, Israel's intelligence services are warning Palestinian civilians in Gaza living close to Hamas facilities that they may be hurt unless they distance themselves from those targets.
In some cases, the warning comes not by telephone but from leaflets dropped from aircraft on selected districts. Such warnings clearly eliminate the element of surprise, butfor Israel it is of cardinal importance to minimise civilian casualties, and not just for humanitarian reasons.
The principal calculation is fear that a stray bomb hitting a school or any collection of innocent civilians could bring down the wrath of the international community on Israel, as has happened more than once in the past, and force it to halt its campaign before it has achieved its objectives.
Israel Radio reported that leaflets had been dropped at the beginning of the operation in the Rafah area near the border with Egypt, warning residents that the tunnels to Egypt through which weapons and civilian products were smuggled would be bombed.
Many of the residents, mostly youths, are employed in the tunnels. Initial reports said two people were killed when the tunnels were bombed.
Gaza is one of the most densely built-up areas in the world, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint targets without collateral damage. Israeli officials say that the small percentage of civilians killed so far is due to precise intelligence regarding the location of Hamas targets and accurate bombing and rocketing.
...Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meeting with foreign diplomats in Jerusalem yesterday, said she understood the difficulty for them to express understanding for an armed attack.
"But this is the only way to change realities on the ground," she said. This is what is needed to change the situation."
Top officials discuss Gaza op, PM calls for 'iron fist' against Hamas, bans ceasefire talk
Speaking at a meeting with top officials, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed participants to refrain from talking about the possibility of a Gaza ceasefire at this time, while focusing on continuing the offensive against terrorists in Gaza. "We no longer talk about an exit policy, but rather, we are working in order to secure the Gaza operation's objectives," he said. "As long as the fire continues, the Israeli operation will be expanded."
The meeting was attended by Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and top security officials, including Army Chief Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, and Mossad Director Meir Dagan. Participants were told that Hamas asked Senegal, the current president of the Islamic Conference, to secure a ceasefire, in a move reflecting the group's difficult condition in the wake of the IDF assault. However, Israeli officials decided to reject the possibility of a ceasefire at this time.
"We need to continue handling Hamas with an iron fist – while handling the civilian population with kid gloves," Olmert said. An intelligence assessment prepared by the security establishment noted that Hamas' leadership, headed by Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar, went into hiding and is not functioning at this time.
"They are on the run, and the Hamas regime does not function in any way," one security official said. According to information presented in the meeting, some Gaza residents are overjoyed by the blow sustained by the terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Home Front Command officials expressed their concerns over the lack of discipline among Israelis in the face of rocket attacks. Virtually all Israeli casualties thus far failed to follow the Home Front's safety instructions, one official said. "This is very worrisome," he said. "It could lead to a disaster and a grave moral blow that will undermine the military effort in the Gaza Strip."
After a successful start to Operation Cast Lead, the question now is: What should the next stage be?
That depends on the goal. What do we want to achieve?
If we are to be satisfied with attaining a stable, long-term quiet, a solution regarding Gilad Schalit and the possibility of resolving the smuggling from Egypt to Gaza, then, in my opinion, this can be achieved without a wide-ranging ground operation and within a relatively short time.
For this to happen, the following must be done:
• We must correctly define the enemy. The enemy is ..."the State of Gaza." If we speak about "the Hamas terror organization," then we will be answered internationally: "OK, then fight against that organization, but why do the residents of Gaza have to suffer?"
• We must continue massive attacks from the air and not be put off by the growing numbers of Palestinian civilians who will be hurt or by international pressure. The greater the international pressure.... The more that the various players, including Arab states, want to achieve a cease-fire, the more such a cease-fire will obligate Hamas and the longer it will hold.
• We have to insist that a cease-fire is the maximum that Israel is prepared to agree to - in return for a similar obligation from the other side. After a cease-fire is reached, two issues will remain to be resolved: a prisoner exchange and the opening of the border crossings. If we agree to open the crossings as part of the cease-fire agreement, we will lose a vital bargaining chip towards an acceptable solution for Gilad Schalit. Israel's readiness even now to partially open the border crossings out of "humanitarian concerns" is a mistake. If the humanitarian situation in Gaza is so grave, there's a way to solve that: First, to reach and honor a cease-fire and then to simultaneously discuss all humanitarian issues - shortages in Gaza on the one hand, and the prisoner problem on the other.
• We need to open discussions with Egypt right away on the necessary border arrangements in the Philadelphi Corridor. Israel needs to say that its readiness to agree to the supply of essential materials is conditioned on more effective security arrangements on the Egyptian side of the Gaza-Egypt border.
Attaining a stable cease-fire, and making arrangements for bringing in supplies at the crossing points and an exchange of prisoners, would amount to a modest but sufficient achievement, especially as it can be attained in a relatively short time and at a relatively low cost.
But if we do not consider this to be satisfactory, and want to destroy Hamas's entire military capability, and even to bring down its rule - as several ministers have suggested - then a wide-ranging ground operation that essentially conquers all or most of Gaza is necessary.
This is certainly possible from a military point of view, but involves a higher price and greater risk. The price is mainly in terms of casualties. The risk is increased uncertainty as regards the possibility of attaining the goal without running into further complications, including the escalation of fighting to additional fronts.
The political echelon has the right to conceal from the public, and from the enemy, the true aims of this operation, but it must not avoid discussing them in the appropriate forums and reaching a clear decision. We often highlight the importance of "sticking to your mission," but this is only a partial concept. The complete professional expression is "sticking to your mission to achieve your goals." In other words, it's difficult to succeed in a mission if it's not clear which goals it is intended to serve.
One of the most obvious problems of the Second Lebanon War was the confused definition of its goals, which were exaggerated at the start, changed frequently and were understood differently by various echelons.
It seems as though many of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War are now being successfully implemented. It is highly important that this central lesson, too - clear definition of the goal - is not neglected.
[As events in Gaza unfold, Palestinian Media Watch monitors the incitement and hatred pouring forth on Hamas Television. Below are several dispatches from the front, which tell a much different story than the one reported in the Western media. -- The Editors.]
Hamas Celebrates Targeting Israeli Civilians
Along with today's TV propaganda in which Hamas depicts itself as a victim, Hamas continues to portray itself as the heroic killer of Israelis. A video on Hamas TV this morning blended pictures of Hamas fighters shooting at Israel with pictures of injured Israelis and medical evacuation scenes.
In addition, the visuals include pictures of skulls dripping with blood, captioned: "Let them taste violent death."Other narrations and texts include:
"Send them to Hell! Tear them to pieces!"
"Send them to Hell, Qassam missile!"
Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), Dec. 28, 2008.
Hamas TV: 180 Killed are from Hamas Armed Forces
Hamas TV acknowledged this morning that the vast majority of those killed are from the Hamas military. A news ticker running repeatedly from 10:00 AM announced:
More than 180 Palestinian policemen were killed including the [Police] Commander, General Tawfik Jaber.In the background Hamas TV is repeatedly broadcasting the same scenes of dozens of bodies of the uniformed Hamas soldiers who were killed in Israel's first attack yesterday when Israel hit the Hamas officer's course graduation ceremony.
Hamas TV, Dec. 28, 2008.
Hamas TV: Ahmadinejad Threatens Israel Over Gaza Events
Hamas TV reported that Iranian President Ahmadinejad threatened Israel in response to Israel's attack on Hamas. The Hamas TV news ticker reported numerous times:
The President of Iran [Ahmadinejad]: These crimes will not change the Zionist entity's condition. Rather, its situation will be even blacker and its fate even worse.Iran's support of the Hamas is not surprising as Hamas is a major supplier of weapons for Hamas and Hamas military units have undergone training in Iran.
Hamas TV, Dec. 28, 2008.
Mahmoud Abbas: Hamas Responsible for Violence
In a news conference today from Cairo, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas placed the blame for the violence in the Gaza Strip squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. He described how he repeatedly made contact with Hamas and implored them not to break the ceasefire. He lamented that the violence in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided had Hamas not broken the ceasefire. The following is Mahmoud Abbas's statement at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit.
I say in all honesty, we made contact with leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. We spoke with them in all honesty and directly, and after that we spoke with them indirectly, through more than one Arab and non-Arab side... We spoke with them on the telephone and we said to them: We ask of you, don't stop the ceasefire, the ceasefire must continue and not stop, in order to avoid what has happened, and if only we had avoided it.
PA TV Dec. 28, 2008.
...After almost three days of the military operation against Hamas in Gaza, the Israeli government has not made yet clear its final goal or exit strategy.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking to the Israeli people stated that "we were compelled to take action in order to halt the aggression against our citizens..[that] the operation in the Gaza Strip is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south of the country…. to restore the quiet and the tranquility." Olmert made it clear to the residents of Gaza that Israel is not acting against them and has no intention of punishing them for the actions of Hamas.
Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak declared the country is engaged in a "war to the bitter end" against Hamas in Gaza and that the operation's goal is to force Hamas to stop its hostile actions directed at Israeli civilians. Barak warned that the offensive in the Gaza Strip would be further expanded and widened as much as required.
Israeli Deputy Chief if Staff, Brig. Gen. Dan Harel said today that "this operation is different from previous ones…We have set a high goal and are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings….After this operation there will not be one Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game."
On the third day of the massive air campaign against Hamas' military and civilian infrastructure and its leadership the results seem quite impressive: the surprise attack, the sheer magnitude of the human losses among its security personnel and the destruction of 40 – 50 missile pre-prepared positions have destabilized the organization's command and control system and minimized the first "portion" of rockets ready to retaliate for an Israeli attack.
At this moment it seems that a ground military operation is on the move and practically inevitable, if Israel wants to ensure the attainment of its strategic goals. The question arises again, what kind of ground operation is necessary or feasible in the challenging operational conditions of the Gazan urban environment and the complex regional situation.
The destruction of Hamas' infrastructure and even the successful targeting of its leaders in hiding, will not convince them to give up their goal to achieve a military balance of power and a deterrent capability in the future vis-à-vis Israel, even if they will be compelled to accept a shameful cease-fire. The example of Hizballah, which has tripled and enhanced its military arsenal since the Second Lebanon War of summer 2006, is speaking for itself.
This author's opinion has not changed: in order to achieve its strategic goal, Israel should cut the oxygen pipeline - the tunnels permitting the smuggling of advanced rocket, anti-tank and other advanced weapons - by re-occupying and widening the Philadelphi Road on the Egyptian border.
Following the destruction of most of the arsenal in possession of Hamas during the present campaign, the control of a 1 km wide strip of land on the border will permit the progressive drying of the organization's military capability, which has a direct influence on its ability to control politically Gaza.
The control of the Rafah border passage should progressively return to the Palestinian Authority and the international European team and thus give the PA a foothold for future political comeback to Gaza.
The Israeli government has rightly acted by speaking directly to the Palestinian population in Gaza explaining the reasons of the military operation, and by continuing to provide it with the basic humanitarian needs. This policy should continue and even be expanded.
Some forgotten facts
Hamas is not responsible only for the present violence and destruction.
During the years 1994-96 its suicide bombings derailed the Oslo peace process and in the end changed the positive political mood of the Israeli society towards this process.
During the bloody years of the second intifadah (2000 – 2005), Hamas was responsible, together with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for some 70% of the 150 suicide bombings which killed more than 1000 Israeli citizens, the great majority civilians.
During the military coup of June 2007 Hamas has assassinated in cold blood some 150 – 200 Fatah militants, while in the past the PA only arrested Hamas members for short periods of time.
Arab and Muslim protesters' hypocrisy and double standard
Arab and Muslim movements in the Middle East are trying to subvert their regimes and compel them to act politically and diplomatically against Israel and even instigate to open war against the Jewish state.
Here are a series of violent events in the Muslim world in recent days:
- in Mosul, Iraq, a suicide bomber targeted a manifestation of protest condemning Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, killing one civilian and wounding 16;
- in Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a weekend suicide car bombing that killed 14 children and two adults;
- in Pakistan a suicide car bomber set off an explosion outside a polling station in northwest Pakistan, killing up to 30 people, including several children.
Where are the massive protests of Arabs and Muslims against these indicriminate killing of Muslims? Where are the Arab and Muslim protests against the Mumbai killings in November of this year? And where are the protests for the genocide in Darfour?
Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hizballah, is now pushing Hamas, through his inflamatory speeches, to a brinkmanship strategy of martyrdom, ready to fight to the last Palestinian. He is also threatening the Egyptian government and President and other moderate Arab leaders.
This is the man responsible for the death of some 1000 Lebanese citizens and the destruction of the Dahya neighbourhood in Beirut and the villages in southern Lebanon during the Second Lebaneon War; the man who recoginzed that if he new the results of the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers he wouldn't start the operation; the leader who solemnely promised never turn the weapons "of the Resistance" against his fellow citizens but is responsible for the killing of several dozen Lebanese during the bloody events in Beirut in May 2008; who two years and a half after the war with Israel is speaking to his followers and the besieged Hamas leaders from his bunker in Beirut!
Hopefully, the moderate responsible leaders in the Middle East and the international community will understand that Hamas in power in Gaza will thwart any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and threaten the rule of the moderates in the West Bank and beyond.
Monday, December 29, 2008
CAIRO (Reuters) - Deadly Israeli raids on Gaza have deepened the divide in the Arab world between Islamists with popular appeal and authoritarian governments widely seen as collaborating with Israel and the United States.
Especially in Egypt the battle lines are clearer than ever, as members of the ruling party give Egypt's own Islamists, allies of the Palestinian movement Hamas, advice along the lines of "If you don't like it in Egypt, you can go to Gaza."
Hussein Megawir, a pro-government Egyptian member of parliament, said in a debate on Gaza on Saturday: "There is an Iranian plan, with Hamas and some of the (Muslim) Brotherhood, to stir up trouble in Palestine and Egypt."
The Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group with one fifth of the seats in parliament, is in close alliance with Hamas, which began as a Brotherhood offshoot.
...In public statements on the Israeli raids, the Egyptian government and its Palestinian allies in the Fatah movement have come close to saying that Hamas is mainly to blame for the raids, which in two days have killed more than 270 people.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday that Egypt sent warnings about the possibility of an Israeli offensive and those who ignored the warnings were responsible for the consequences.
In Cairo on Sunday, Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas echoed the theme.
"We talked to them (Hamas) and we told them 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop' so that we could have avoided what happened," he said.
Egyptian political commentator Hassan Nafaa, writing in the independent Al Masry Al Yom, said: "Hamas looks like the common enemy of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority."
... Egypt has repeatedly ignored public pressure to expel the Israeli ambassador ...
...The two Arab camps split along much the same lines as they have for the past few years -- the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority on one side, Hamas, Syria, the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and a wide range of Islamists, leftists and Arab nationalists on the other.
Iran, non-Arab and Shi'ite Muslim, lurks on the sidelines as an ally of those who favour resistance to Israel and U.S. plans.
The same alliances took sides on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. Analysts said the Arab conservatives initially hoped that conflict would damage Hezbollah but soon changed tack when the Israeli army failed to deliver a quick victory and Hezbollah proved it could survive.
The Arab League, where the conservative governments are dominant, has already postponed a ministerial meeting to take a common position on the crisis in Gaza and a proposal to hold an Arab summit is meeting some resistance, diplomats said.
Judging by past summits, Arab heads of state are unlikely to fulfil popular aspirations, especially if that would bring them into conflict with Israel and Washington.
Children in Ashkelon crying from shock after Qassam rocket hits near their home.
(Yehuda Peretz for The Israel Project)
From THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 28, 2008, by Abe Selig:
Warning sirens sounded in Ashdod Sunday morning as two rockets launched from the Gaza Strip landed east of the city.
Over 35 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, as two of the projectiles, reported to be Grad-type rockets - landed near Ashdod, some 40 kilometers from Gaza.
While the total number of rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza was significantly lower than Saturday's barrage of over 60 missiles, the strike near Ashdod marked the farthest point into Israel a Hamas rocket has reached since the terrorist organization began firing them on Israel some eight years ago.
... officials said that while the relatively low number of rockets fired could be a result of the blow suffered by Hamas, it was somewhat more likely that Hamas was attempting to deceive Israel into believing this, and that the group might be poised to unleash severe rocket barrages when the opportunity arose.
In the afternoon, two Grad rockets also hit Ashkelon, lightly wounding two people and causing minor damage. Eight more residents were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon and treated for shock. In the Eshkol region, one person was lightly wounded when a rocket hit the roof of a building in a kibbutz.
In Ashkelon, the first rocket landed in an open field near the entrance to the city, a mere 300 meters from the Hutzot Mall, while the second rocket, which caused the wounds, landed on a street in Ashkelon's Atikot neighborhood.
As a crowd gathered around the spot where the rocket had fallen, holes from its shrapnel could be seen peppered across the walls of nearby homes. Children ran by, picking up the loose nails and pieces of metal that had been packed into the rocket's hull - a common characteristic of the home-made rockets, which creates an even deadlier payload....
As Hamas and other Iran-backed Palestinian groups in Gaza continue to kill and wound Israeli civilians by launching almost daily attacks, Israel took action Saturday (Dec. 27) to defend its citizens with targeted airstrikes against terrorist leaders and their strongholds. 
Responding to the terrorism, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a televised interview to Gaza’s citizens Dec. 25 on the Arabic TV network al-Arabiya “You the citizens of Gaza, you can stop it. I know how much you want to get up in the morning to quiet, to take your children to kindergarten or school, the way we do, the way they want to in Sderot and Netivot…“We want to live as good neighbors with Gaza,” Olmert said.“ We do not want to harm you. We will not allow a humanitarian crisis and that you should suffer from a lack of food or medicines. We do not want to fight the Palestinian people but we will not allow Hamas to strike our children.” 
Despite the ongoing rocket and missile attacks, Israel on Friday (Dec. 26) transferred more than 90 truckloads of vital goods to Gaza residents.  (Click here for a comprehensive list of humanitarian aid delivered during the six-month ceasefire.)
During the past year, Iran-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 3,000 rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians in the southern Negev region, killing four people and wounding more than 270.  Since Israel gave up all of Gaza in 2005 – relinquishing homes, farms, places of business and worship – terrorists have launched more than 6,300 rockets and mortars into Israel from Gaza. The attacks have killed 10 civilians, wounded more than 780 and traumatized thousands of others.  The only remaining Israeli in Gaza is Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit who was abducted from Israel on June 25, 2006 by Hamas in a bloody cross-border raid in which the terrorists killed two IDF soldiers and wounded four others. 
During a visit five months ago to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, then-candidate and now President-elect Barack Obama defended Israel’s right to protect itself from such attacks: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing." 
Speaking about the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama also said during the visit, "A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." 
In addition to firing rockets and mortars, terrorists have smuggled vast amounts of war materiel into Gaza. Israeli Minister for Public Security Avi Dichter said that in July 2008 alone, more than four tons of explosives were smuggled into Gaza via tunnels dug by terrorists under the Egypt-Gaza border. There are 400-600 smuggling tunnels running along Gaza’s Philadelphi Corridor, the strip of land spanning the border between Egypt and Gaza. 
Iran, one of the chief sponsors of Palestinian terrorism, provides approximately $20 million to $30 million to Hamas annually and also trains Hamas operatives in Iran and Syria. 
On Nov. 28, 2008, an Iranian-manufactured standard 120mm mortar was fired by a terrorist group in Gaza and hit an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base inside Israel, wounding eight soldiers, one of whom had his leg amputated as a result. The use of Iranian-made munitions by Palestinian terrorists is an increasingly common phenomenon in the conflict. 
Internecine Palestinian fighting during the past two years also has dealt a harsh blow to future prospects for peace, with 616 Palestinians killed in factional fighting from the time that Hamas won Palestinian elections in January 2006 through May 2007.  In June 2007, when Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup against Palestinian Authority President’s Fatah faction, 161 Palestinians were killed and at least 700 wounded. 
Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, gives Hamas $20 million a year, and provided an additional $50 million after Hamas beat Fatah in the 2006 elections.  Iran also provided Hamas members with intensive military training in the weeks and months leading up to the group's takeover of the Gaza Strip. 
In September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Iran considered supporting the Palestinians its religious and national duty and would stay beside the Palestinian nation 'until the big victory feast which is the collapse of the Zionist regime (Israel).” 
 Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak, “Palestinians: At least 205 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes,” Haaretz, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050359.html
 Ben David, Calev, Abu Ramadan, Saud, “Israeli Air Raids in Gaza Kill as Many as 200 People,” Bloomberg, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aj7RvdbJIeDY&refer=home Curiel, Ilana, “Man killed in rocket strike,” YnetNews, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3644954,00.html; Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak and Issacharoff, Avi, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “Army readies for 'limited' Gaza action as 22 mortars hit Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 26, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050338.html  “Gaza-Hamas Fact Sheet,” Embassy of Israel, Dec. 22, 2008; "Hamas fires at Israel, threatening hopes of renewed ceasefire," The Telegraph (UK), Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/3933368/Hamas-fires-at-Israel-threatening-hopes-of-renewed-ceasefire.html  Adayat, Fadi and Harel, Amos, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service, “One Israeli killed, 4 hurt as Palestinian rockets hit Negev home,” Haaretz, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050399.html  “PM Olmert Interviewed on Al Arabiya,” Prime Minister’s Office, Dec. 25, 2008, http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/Spokesman/2008/12/spokeinter251208.htm  Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak and Issacharoff, Avi, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “Army readies for 'limited' Gaza action as 22 mortars hit Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 26, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050338.html  Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; “Hamas fires at Israel, threatening hopes of renewed ceasefire,” The Telegraph (UK), Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/3933368/Hamas-fires-at-Israel-threatening-hopes-of-renewed-ceasefire.html; “Rocket barrage from Gaza as Hamas ends six-month calm,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site, Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA  Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; Berger, Ronny and Gelkopf, Marc, “The Impact of the Ongoing Traumatic Stress Conditions on Sderot,” Natal, The Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War in cooperation with Dr. Mina Tzemach, Director, Dachaf Public Opinion Research Institute, Oct. 2007  Harel, Amos; Issacharoff, Avi; Haaretz Service and Reuters, "Two soldiers killed, one missing in raid on IDF post," Haaretz, June 25, 2006, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/730994.html  Ravid, Barak, "Obama in Sderot: Nuclear Iran would be game-changing," Haaretz, July 23, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1004747.html  "Obama says nuclear Iran a "grave threat," Reuters, July 23, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSL2376765320080723  “Main terrorist attacks carried out at Gaza Strip crossings,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 4, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terror+Groups/Main+terrorist+attacks+carried+out+at+Gaza+Strip+crossings+16-Jan-2005.htm  Data relayed to The Israel Project by the IDF’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, Dec. 10, 2008  “News of the Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation July 22-29, 2008,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/jul_e001.htm; “Hamas has lately regulated the flourishing tunnel industry in the Gaza Strip,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Oct. 28, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ct_e009.pdf  Hamas," Council on Foreign Relations Web site, http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/, retrieved July 7, 2008  “Senior Hamas operative figure tells London Sunday Times’ Gaza Strip correspondent about Iranian and Syria military aid, detailing the training received by hundreds of Hamas terrorist operatives and describing the transmission to Hamas of Iranian technical know-how for the manufacture of rockets and IED,” The Terrorist and Intelligence Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center, March 17, 2008, retrieved July 7, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_160308e.htm; Colvin, Marie, “Hamas wages Iran’s proxy war on Israel,” The Times, March 9, 2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article3512014.ece  “Violation of calm: Rockets strike Sderot, Ashkelon, western Negev,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 17, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Hamas+war+against+Israel/Rockets_strike_Sderot_Ashkelon_western_Negev_16-Nov-2008.htm; Harel, Amos, “Gaza mortar shells injure eight soldiers, one loses leg,” Haaretz, Nov. 29, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1042007.html  “Over 600 Palestinians killed in internal clashes since 2006,” YnetNews, June 6, 2007, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3409548,00.html  “Black Pages in the Absence of Justice: Report on Bloody Fighting in the Gaza Strip from 7 to 14 June 2007,” Palestine Centre for Human Rights, October 2007, http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/Reports/English/pdf_spec/Gaza%20Conflict%20-%20Eng%209%20october..pdf  Hamas," Council on Foreign Relations Web site, http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/, accessed July 2, 2007 Iran pledges $50m Palestinian aid," BBC News, April 16, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4914334.stm  Rabinovich, Abraham, "Hamas digs in for war in Gaza," The Australian, March 16, 2007  “Ahmadinejad: Iran will support Hamas until collapse of Israel,” Haaretz, Sept. 13, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1020630.html  Kalman, Mathew, “Hamas launches TV Bugs Bunny-lookalike who declares 'I will eat the Jews',” The Daily Mail, Feb. 12, 2008, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-513925/Hamas-launches-TV-Bugs-Bunny-lookalike-declares-I-eat-Jews.html; 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Accessed on Dec. 22, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
...A man was killed and three other Israelis sustained light to serious wounds after a rocket hit an apartment building in Netivot...
Hamas' armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
...The IDF Home Front Command is urging residents to remain in secured rooms and bomb shelters.
...At least 20 rockets have been fired toward Israel since Saturday morning.
Just days after the cabinet gave the military final approval to counter ongoing Palestinian rocket fire against communities in the western Negev, the IDF launched a massive operation, striking Hamas installations throughout the Gaza Strip on Saturday.
...According to witnesses, among the dead was Hamas police chief Maj.-Gen. Tawfik Jaber.
...Hamas remained defiant, vowing revenge and calling on all other Palestinian factions to join in the fight.
...Minutes after the first wave of air strikes hit areas in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinians reported a second wave which targeted installations in the center and the north of the Strip. Channel 2 reported that 60 planes were involved in the attack, and nearly 100 targets were hit.
Hamas's Interior Ministry said that all security compounds in Gaza were destroyed.