Friday, March 07, 2008

Zichronum L'bracha

From Ynet News 7/3/08, by Aviram Zino:

Names of eight people killed in Thursday's shooting at Mercaz Harav yeshiva .....

  • Yohai Lifshitz, 18, of Jerusalem
  • Yehonatan Yitzhak Alder, 16, of Shilo
  • Yehonadav Haim Hirshfeld, 19, of Kochav Hashahar
  • Neria Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem
  • Roy Rot, 18, of Elkana
  • Segev Peniel Avihail, 15, of Neveh Daniel
  • Avraham David Mozes, 16, of Efrat
  • Maharta Tronoh, 26, of Ashdod

Libya blocks UN council from condemning terrorism

From The China Post, Friday, March 7, 2008:

UNITED NATIONS -- For the second time in two months, Libya has blocked the U.N. Security Council from condemning violence and unrest in the Middle East. The United States had proposed a press statement...condemning a day of violence Thursday that included a gunman's attack on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem in which eight people were killed and a deadly ambush of an army patrol near Israel's border with Gaza. But the statement fell short of gaining the unanimous support it needed to be approved.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said such obstruction undermines the council's effectiveness in the region.

"What happened today was clearly a terrorist act," Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters after the council's almost two-hour emergency session Thursday. "We regret that this makes it difficult for the council to contribute positively to developments in this region, but those who blocked this possibility bear responsibility for that."

In closed-door discussion among the 15-nation council's diplomats, Libya insisted that the statement should be "balanced" by including condemnation of Israeli actions in Gaza, a Libyan U.N. representative said after the meeting. Three other nations agreed, but most of the council's members wanted to keep the issues separate, according to council diplomats involved in the negotiations.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, the council's president this month, suggested a compromise by including an expression of deep regret at the loss of civilian life in the conflicts so far, and said he regretted that Libya would not go along.

In late January, Libya blocked the council from expressing concern about the safety of people living along the chaotic Gaza-Egypt border....

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Arab Press Anti-Semitism

From the B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, March 05, 2008:

The barrage of rocket fire from Gaza and Israel’s military action to stem the attacks on its cities have prompted an outpouring of offensive and bigoted commentary in the Arab press, whose response came in the form of a series of rapid-fire editorial cartoons using swastikas, classical anti-Semitic images and other hateful references to the Holocaust to vilify Israel and portray the Jewish state as an aggressor with genocidal ambitions.

"Ad-Dustur", March 4, 2008 (Jordan)

Israeli soldiers raise the Nazi flag over the dead bodies of the Palestinians in “Gaza;” the cartoon mimics the famous photo of U.S. Marines raising the flag at the battle of Iwo Jima.

Many of the cartoons are rife with Holocaust imagery and blatant analogies between Israel’s defensive military action and the killing of European Jews during the Holocaust in World War II. The cartoons feature swastikas and describe the defensive measures Israel has taken as a “Holocaust” in Gaza. Holocaust imagery and direct comparisons to the Holocaust are a common feature of the anti-Semitic cartoons that regularly appear in Arab newspapers across the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world.

Follow the link to see some more of the cartoons.

US House of Representatives condemns rocket attacks on Israel

From Ynet News, 5/3/08, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

WASHINGTON – The United States House of Representatives endorsed Wednesday a resolution condemning the rocket attacks on Israel, stating that the firing of rockets on civilian population constituted a blatant violation of human rights and international law.

A sweeping majority of 404 House members endorsed the resolution, while one voted against it and four abstained.

In the resolution, the House of Representatives expressed support for Israel's sovereign right to defend its territory against rocket attacks and called on President George W. Bush to instruct the US envoy to the UN to push for a UN resolution condemning the Palestinian terror.

The members also urged Bush to demand that US ally Saudi Arabia publicly condemn the rocket fire.

The resolution stressed that those responsible for the rocket attacks were operating from within civilian-populated areas, while using civilians as human shields.

It also stated that following Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, more than 4,000 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at the country, killing over a dozen Israelis and wounding hundreds, including children.

The House also cited Iran and Syria as the main sponsors of the Palestinian terror.

The resolution further emphasized the moral difference between Israel unintentionally harming Palestinian civilians during military operations, and the deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas and the other terror groups in Gaza.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hamas's human shields

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Mar. 4, 2008:

As the latest IDF operation in Gaza ended, Defense Minister Ehud Barak began consulting Israel's topmost legal authorities about how to respond to rocket assaults launched on Israeli civilians from areas with large numbers of civilians in Gaza.

Not every state under attack would evince such extraordinary care regarding the lives of populations in enemy entities, especially when the enemy has made noncombatants its primary target. This, more than all else, underscores the injustice inherent in the widespread condemnation overseas of Israel's self-defense. Israeli policy-makers are extremely sensitive to the moral bind in which Gazan terrorists unconscionably place Israel.

Hamas tacticians cynically exploit Israel's humanitarian predisposition, trusting it to be too decent to discard its concern for the lives of Gazans - a concern that is the direct reverse of the willful intent of Gazan terrorists to cause as much death and destruction to as many Israeli civilians as they can.

This underlying moral disparity between the sides - all too often completely ignored by Israel's critics abroad - takes on particularly sinister attributes when terrorist rockets are purposely launched from crowded civilian sites to deter Israel from striking back at the rocket cells.
This makes it a lose-lose situation for Israel. If it responds vigorously, it will be censured for the likely loss of life. If it doesn't respond, it abandons increasingly larger numbers of its own civilians to "the Palestinian roulette." On Monday, for instance, a Grad missile exploded outside a day care center in Ashkelon. Only by a miracle did scores of babies and toddlers escape grievous harm.

Simultaneously, Israel's predicament constitutes a win-win situation for Gaza's Hamas overlords. If they cause casualties to their own civilians, Israel will be pilloried by world opinion. If Israel is daunted from defending its own population, Hamas can continue its rocket barrages with impunity.

Hamas's brazen use of human shields is directly facilitated by the international community's reluctance to address the issue and denounce the premeditated endangerment of ordinary people. According to all rules of warfare, including the Geneva Convention, this is nothing short of a war crime. When the crimes of Gaza's terrorists against their own people are consistently overlooked around the world, it can only encourage the Islamists' immorality.

By staying silent on this fundamental moral issue, the international community becomes an accomplice to bloodshed both among the directly targeted Israelis and the unintentionally harmed Gazans....

....Principled despite its vilified reputation, Israel wrestles with a wrenching quandary callously imposed upon it. But Israel shouldn't be the only one to grapple with the ruthlessness of terrorists toward their human shields. Democracies the world over need to internalize what is taking place here, to pin blame where it is due, and to condemn Hamas for its heartlessness toward its own people.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

White House Faults Hamas in Violence

From AP News, by JENNIFER LOVEN – 4/3/08:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Monday blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas for causing the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians that has killed dozens and put a halt to peace talks.

"The Palestinians have a choice to make," Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council, told reporters traveling with the president back to Washington. "It's a choice between terrorism or a choice between a political solution that leads to a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel."

Israeli troops on Monday completed the first extended sweep in a new offensive against Palestinian rocket squads in the Gaza Strip that have ben targeting southern Israel. The days of fighting killed dozens and led the Palestinian president to call off peace talks, just as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to the region for a weeklong trip aimed at boosting the search for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

The Israeli offensive has drawn a chorus of international condemnation, with the EU, Turkey and U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon accusing Israel of using excessive force. But Johndroe said it is Hamas that is to blame by inciting the developments when it fired rockets into Israeli cities.
Johndroe would not say whether the United States thought Israel was using excessive force. "We obviously don't want innocent civilians to lose their life," he said. "But I think that started with these rockets that have been fired from Gaza into Israel recently killing and injuring Israeli citizens in some of their bigger cities."

He said Rice would talk to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about his decision to suspend talks because of the violence. "The No. 1 thing that has to happen is that Hamas has got to stop targeting Israeli citizens with rockets. It must stop," he said. "We are going to keep after it. ... Keep on pursing it."

New UN sanctions against Iran

From THE JERUSALEM POST by AP and staff, Mar. 3, 2008:

Israel welcomes the UN Security Council's approval on Monday of a third round of sanctions against Iran, the government said in an official statement.

According to the statement, the "important resolution is an unequivocal message that the international community cannot countenance Iran's nuclear program...[it] has no confidence in Iranian declarations that its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes, and rightly so." ...

...The Security Council approved the new sanctions with near unanimous support, sending a strong signal to Teheran that its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment is unacceptable and becoming increasingly costly.

The vote was 14-0 with one abstention from Indonesia....

...For the first time, the resolution bans trade with Iran in goods that have both civilian and military uses. It also authorizes inspections of shipments to and from Iran by sea and air that are suspected of carrying banned items.

The resolution introduces financial monitoring of two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. It calls on all countries "to exercise vigilance" in entering into new trade commitments with Iran, including granting export credits, guarantees or insurance.

The resolution also orders countries to freeze the assets of 12 additional companies and 13 individuals with links to Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile programs - and require countries to "exercise vigilance" and report the travel or transit of those Iranians. It imposes a travel ban on five individuals linked to Iran's nuclear effort.

Most of the new individuals subject to sanctions are technical figures but one, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, is a prominent figure in the elite Revolutionary Guard military corps and is close to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The resolution identifies him as a former deputy chief of the Armed Forces General Staff for Logistics and Industrial Research and as head of the State Anti-Smuggling Headquarters engaged in efforts to get around previous U.N. sanctions.

Britain and France, who co-sponsored the resolution, put off the vote from Saturday until Monday to try to get four non-permanent council members who raised a variety of concerns on board - Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam.

In the final vote, Libya, South Africa and Vietnam voted "yes" but Indonesia abstained. Diplomats credited French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited South Africa last week, for helping to sway the Libyans and South Africans.....

... the Americans and their European allies stressed that the report from the UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium, in defiance of Security Council resolutions, and demanded that Teheran suspend its uranium centrifuge program.....

Hizbullah re-arms

From Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST, Mar. 4, 2008:

Israel says Hizbullah is rearming and has an arsenal including 10,000 long-range rockets and 20,000 short-range rockets in southern Lebanon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council in a report....

...Ban also expressed concern at "the threats of open war against Israel" by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.....

...The secretary-general's report focused on implementation of the UN cease-fire resolution that ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah in August 2006. The resolution reiterates a call for the disarming of all militias and bans arms transfers to them. "Reports of Hizbullah rearming are a cause of great concern, posing serious challenges to the sovereignty, stability and independence of Lebanon," Ban said.

He told the council he continues to believe that the disarmament of Hizbullah and other militias must be part of a Lebanese-led political process that would fully restore the government's authority throughout the country. He expressed regret "that the persistent deterioration of the political climate and the prolonged deadlock" over the election of a new Lebanese president have made it impossible to deal with the disarmament issue.

In his last report to the council in late October, Ban alleged that Hizbullah had rearmed with new long-range rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv and tripled its arsenal of C-802 land-to-sea missiles since the 2006 war. He also drew attention to alleged breaches of the arms embargo and the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran and Syria - both strong backers of Hizbullah - across the Lebanon-Syria border....

..."All member states in the region, in particular the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran, have a key responsibility in this regard," the secretary-general said. "Such violations risk further destabilizing Lebanon and the whole region." ...

Monday, March 03, 2008

IDF operation in Gaza ends

From Ynet News, 3/3/08, by Hanan Greenberg:

First stage of Operation Warm Winter comes to an end, as infantry and armor forces begin to pull out of northern Gaza Strip. 'The troops faced the missions they were tasked with courageously,' military source tells Ynet. Meanwhile, IAF continues to strike in Gaza; Palestinians report two gunmen killed

Infantry and armor forces began pulling out of the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday night, after operating in the area since the weekend, bringing the first stage of Operation Warm Winter to an end.

The Israel Air Force continued to strike in the Strip overnight, however, with Palestinian sources reporting of two gunmen killed.....

....'One operation ended, next on their way'
A senior military source told Ynet on Monday morning that "one operation had ended, but many more are on their way."

Addressing the rockets fired at Ashkelon and the Gaza vicinity communities after the end of the operation, the source said, "One operation cannot bring about a change in the situation. However, there is no doubt that in a series of activities, while exerting patience, the terror organizations will suffer a heavy blow and this will also bring a change in the situation, in terms of Qassams as well."

... one of the fighters said. "The terrorists are more courageous, wily and sophisticated, and it seems like they are part of an army. They also have improved equipment. ....Over the weekend there were many incidents of antitank missiles fired at us, but we operated well. The Air Force also helped us. We hit many terrorists and there is a feeling of success. After the first stage of the fighting we reached a situation of control, which enabled us to comb the area in relative calm...."...

Air Force continues to strike
... IAF aircraft struck various targets in the Gaza Strip.... four weapon manufacturing workshops and an office used by the Hamas movement....

....The rocket fire on the western Negev and Ashkelon continued Sunday until the evening hours, lightly injuring nine people since the morning hours. Many people suffered from shock.

Some 40 Qassam and Grad rockets landed in Israel since Sunday morning....

Master of Islamist doublespeak

From The Australian, by Melanie Phillips March 03, 2008:

THE Swiss Islamic activist Tariq Ramadan has been invited by Griffith University to be the keynote speaker at its conference opening in Brisbane today. The fact that Australia is allowing Ramadan to enter the country at all will raise eyebrows in security circles elsewhere. Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: the spiritual backers of al-Qa'ida and Hamas and whose goal is to Islamise the world.

While it is, of course, unfair to tar someone with his grandfather's views, there is ample reason to think that in the case of Tariq Ramadan the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

Ramadan has been banned from entering the US because of his alleged association with extremists. The Geneva Islamic Centre, with which he is closely associated, has been linked to terrorists of the Algerian FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) and the GIA (Armed Islamic Group). A Spanish police report claimed that Ahmed Brahim, an al-Qa'ida leader jailed in Spain, was "in frequent contact" with Ramadan, a claim he has denied.

Yet the Swiss activist has not only been allowed into Britain but is ensconced at St Anthony's College, Oxford as a research fellow and is much lionised by the British establishment, appearing at security seminars on Islamism and even serving as an adviser to the British Government on tackling Islamic extremism.

So how to explain this wild divergence of views about Tariq Ramadan? And does Australia have cause to be concerned?

Ramadan's message is highly seductive to a Western world terrified by Islamic radicalism. For Ramadan preaches the comforting message of an unthreatening Islam that can accommodate itself to modernity and to the West. He does so in a charismatic style combining high intellect, a winsome French accent and impossibly hip glamour. To the desperate British establishment, the picture he paints so beguilingly of a way out of the Islamist nightmare has made him into the rock star of the counter-terrorism circuit.

But closer scrutiny of what he actually says - and perhaps even more importantly, does not say - suggests the talented Mr Ramadan is an Islamist wolf in moderniser's clothing. To the Islamic world he says one thing; to credulous Western audiences quite another in language that is slippery, opaque, manipulative and disingenuous.

His reputation as a Muslim reformer owes everything to the wishful thinking of those who want so much to believe in him that they fail to grasp what he is really saying. Partly, this is because much of his work is in French. The writer Caroline Fourest has analysed it and her book, Brother Tariq: the Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan has just been translated from French into English. All who are concerned to halt the spread of radical Islamism should read this book. For it shows without doubt that the poster boy for Islamic reform is in fact one of the most sophisticated proponents of the global jihad.

Ramadan claims he has "no functional connection" with the Muslim Brotherhood. But he was trained at the Leicester Islamic Foundation in England, the controversial institution that propagates the doctrines of the key Islamist ideologues Maulana Maududi and Syed Qutb and which aims to promote "an Islamic social order in Great Britain".

And Ramadan has repeatedly said that his grandfather's views have "inspired" him and "there is nothing in this heritage that I reject". So what is the heritage of Hassan al-Banna? He did not just promote the most reactionary and oppressive Islamic fundamentalism. He also devised a strategy of "graduated conquest" - pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood around the world - by which not only the countries of the former medieval Islamic caliphate, but all countries where Muslims live, are to be gradually Islamised and then taken over by an Islamic government under sharia law. This is the "heritage" Ramadan endorses. The only difference is that he has developed a particularly subtle strategy for seducing the West into embracing Islamist thinking without realising what is happening.

On the issue of terror, he is particularly slippery. Professing to oppose terrorism, he denies that his grandfather had anything to do with jihadi violence. Yet al-Banna explicitly supported the armed jihad which he considered to be the highest and "most sacred" form of holy war. Ramadan claims his grandfather limited this to "legitimate defence" or "resistance in the face of injustice". But this is precisely the weaselly formulation by which Islamists justify the "resistance" of human bomb terrorism in Israel or Iraq.

Behind the honeyed words about reform and tolerance which have entranced his Western fan club, Ramadan has consistently lined himself up with the forces of obscurantism, intolerance, hatred and violence.

The first association he set up in 1994, the Muslim Men and Women of Switzerland, promoted confrontation and stirred up tension. He wrote the preface for a compilation of fatwas by the European Council for Fatwa whose president, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has said human bomb operations in Israel and Iraq are a religious duty.

Through his stronghold in the Union of Young Muslims in Lyon, he radicalised thousands of young French Muslims. In 1993, he was involved in a successful attempt in Geneva to stop production of a play by Voltaire on the grounds that it insulted Islam.

In a telling exchange with the future French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he refused to condemn stoning to death for adultery, calling merely for a moratorium on this barbaric practice. And all those who oppose him he labels Islamophobes, Jews or Zionists. The desperation to embrace this most devious "reformer" is gravely misplaced. Truly moderate Muslims are undermined and indeed endangered by Ramadan at every turn.

Far from offering a way to modernise Islam, he proposes instead to Islamise modernity. And he is all the more dangerous precisely because his weapon is not a bomb-belt but his tongue. Some may say that, even if his thinking is reactionary, that is no reason to refuse to let him into the country. This naive view ignores the fact that the Islamists' war of civilisation is being conducted principally on the battleground of ideas.

Terrorism merely backs up the Muslim Brotherhood's fundamental strategy of cultural infiltration, incitement, demoralisation and conquest.

As Fourest has written, the strategy of Ramadan is to globalise the Islamic awakening that is part of that strategy. In May 2003, the Appeal Court of Lyon agreed that language employed by preachers such as Ramadan "can influence young Muslims and can serve as a factor inciting them to join up with those engaged in violent acts". Wherever he goes, Ramadan is a pied piper leading the young to jihad by his mesmeric tunes. Through his appeal, he is probably the most dangerous Islamist in the Western world.

Thanks to the short-sightedness of the British Government, brother Tariq has been given a platform to radicalise innumerable young Muslims. Does Australia really want to follow suit?

Melanie Phillips is a columnist with the Daily Mail in Britain and the author of Londonistan.

Why aren't we firing back?

From Ynet News, 2/3/08, by Roni Sofer:

Vice Premier Haim Ramon wants IDF to shoot back at launch sites even if they are located in civilian areas, says measure was approved during Lebanon War; justice minister to look into matter

...Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann will look into the legality of Israeli counter-fire on Palestinian targets located in the heart of population centers used as rocket launching sites.

...Speaking at Sunday morning's government session, Ramon said: "Why don't we shoot at the sources of the fire? According to international law, we are allowed to do it. The issue was legally examined during the Second Lebanon War and the conclusion was that if they fire from a village, we are allowed to fire back even if this is a populated area."

During Sunday's government session, the ministers raised ideas about how to cope with the Gaza escalation, ahead of a meeting on the issue attended by three senior officials - Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, and Defense Minister Barak – as well as senior security officials.

The national security cabinet is expected to convene Wednesday to decide on Israel's next move in the Strip....

Time for action

From Ynet News, by Hanan Greenberg, 3/3/08:

Defense minister vows to 'change situation in Gaza' during meeting with top security officials Sunday evening. Barak reiterates that Hamas will pay price for Gaza escalation, army wants to continue operating in Strip

"The time has come for actions," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday during a meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin, and other senior security officials. Barak said that Hamas' ongoing attacks left Israel with no choice but to respond. "Hamas bears the responsibility and it will pay the price," he said.

"We disengaged from Gaza, we uprooted communities and Israelis from their homes just so there would be quiet for the Gaza vicinity towns – these are painful concessions that we have made for peace and Hamas continues its attacks," said Barak at the security meeting, held in his office.

"We will use force to change the situation, and we will change it," he said.

Meanwhile, IDF officials expressed their satisfaction with the progress of operation "Warm Winter" in the Strip. As clashes with terrorists in Gaza drastically declined on Sunday, the troops were free to search homes and other structures on the ground. The IDF is interested in continuing its operations in the current format, that is, activity deep within Palestinian territory that includes "clearing" Qassam launch sites, searching structures, and apprehending wanted terror suspects.

Army targets 'Qassam chain'
So far, more than 30 Palestinians were interrogated by security officials. The suspects are expected to provide the IDF with additional intelligence information ahead of more operations. The defense minister is also pushing for continuing the operational drive in the same format in conjunction with Air Force attacks across the Strip. The army's objective is to hit the entire "Qassam chain," ranging from production facilities to the terrorists who fire the rockets.

However, IDF officials noted that many actions still need to be carried out in the coming weeks in order to create a new reality in the Strip.

At the same time, IDF Central Command officials are also monitoring developments in the Strip while preparing for the possibility that terror groups would boost their efforts to carry out attacks against Israeli targets across the West Bank.

The army also estimates that West Bank riots will continue in the next few days.

Gaza: a strategic review

From THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 3, 2008, by Herb Keinon:

...Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post the IDF had short-term goals for a limited offensive, such as the one now under way, dubbed "Hot Winter," and longer-term goals for a larger operation.

The longer-term goals for an IDF operation that has not yet been approved by the government include "weakening and even bringing down the Hamas government," the officials said. The other goals of a much broader operation in Gaza include putting an end to the rocket fire and dramatically reducing the smuggling of arms from Egypt into Gaza.

The short-term goals are to shift Israeli cities out of Kassam range...delivering a heavy blow to Hamas; and hitting the Kassam production line. "Israel wants to stop the rocket fire," one senior official said. "If it is done through diplomatic means, that's one way. But if it isn't, then we will have to do it militarily."

The official said it was no coincidence that the security cabinet was not meeting until Wednesday to discuss the government's goals and aims in Gaza, after the Rice visit, to see if her intervention would put an end to Hamas's rocket fire. The officials said that if Rice were able to bring about calm by getting Hamas to stop the attacks, it was unlikely that the government would go ahead on Wednesday and okay a widespread ground push into Gaza....

....The sources said the level of the fighting tapered off on Sunday, largely because the combat was most intense when the IDF first penetrated into Gaza. Once the army was deployed there, the intensity diminished, as those who resisted were either killed or retreated.

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, meanwhile, said that since Wednesday, an average of 50 rockets had hit the South per day, including 13 Grad missiles in Ashkelon. He said about 100 Palestinians had been killed in the fighting and that, despite media reports that the majority were civilians, 90 were terrorists....

....OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin expanded on this and provided the ministers with an overall assessment of what Hamas was trying to do by increasing its rocket fire, saying that the organization's decision to bombard Israeli communities was connected to its own strategic situation.

Having been in power now for more than two years, Hamas was dissatisfied with its overall situation and decided that it needed to take dramatic action .... He added that Israel's killing of a "high-quality" terrorist cell on Wednesday, made up of operatives who had trained in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, was also a severe blow to the Islamist organization.

Yadlin said Hamas was trying to create new rules for the game. However, he added, "I want to say that with all attention on the South, when I look at the threats on Israel, I remember Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. The fact that they are not shooting now does not mean that they are outside of the battle. The opposite is true. They are all looking to see how this will end, and how this will end [will significantly affect] how they will act." ...

...Hamas signaled by firing fewer rockets on Friday that it was interested in calming down the situation, and was surprised that Israel responded with a massive offensive on Saturday, he said....

...Olmert said Israel would continue to protect its citizens in the South. "Nobody has the right to preach morality to the State of Israel for taking basic action to defend itself and to prevent hundreds of thousands of residents of the South from continually being exposed to incessant firing that disrupts their lives."...

Kassam and Katyusha rockets continued to rain down

From, By JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP Mar 2, 2008 9:09 Updated Mar 2, 2008 20:30:

....Kassam and Katyusha rockets continued to rain down on the western Negev Sunday evening, with two rockets slamming into two houses in Ashkelon and Sderot.

A woman was lightly wounded in Ashkelon. The mother had been hiding with her two children at the time of the attack.

The second home to be hit was in Sderot. There were no reports of casualties save for a woman who suffered from shock. Shortly afterwards, a rocket launched at Sderot hit an electric pole causing a power cut in the area.

Two other Katyusha rockets landed in the city, while three Kassam rockets hit open areas in the Negev. A fourth rocket struck near a public swimming pool in a Kibbutz.

Some 35 rockets have struck the region since Sunday morning, this despite the ongoing IDF operations against Gaza terror cells.

Earlier, two people were lightly wounded when a Kassam hit a kibbutz home in the Sha'ar Hanegev region. The house sustained severe damage....

Abbas halts contacts with Israel

From ABC News, 3/3/08:

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas formally suspended all contacts with Israel in protest at the blitz on the Gaza Strip .....

...."Suspending peace talks is a mistake and it gives the keys to the negotiations to Hamas," a senior Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity....

....Israeli leaders have meanwhile insisted that their Gaza operation would actually further the peace process by weakening the Islamist Hamas movement ruling the territory - a foe of both Abbas and Israel.

"No-one can deny that targeting Hamas will strengthen the chances for peace. The more Hamas is weakened the greater the chances are for peace," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

There must be no let-up

From DEBKAfile, March 2, 2008, 5:37 PM (GMT+02:00):

... Internal security minister Avi Dichter... criticized the current Israeli military operation in Gaza as failing to stop the Palestinian missile-rocket blitz on Israeli towns and villages.

Just the opposite, he complained to the weekly cabinet meeting: Instead of 125,000 Israeli civilians under fire, there are now 250,000.

Dichter, a former Shit Bet director, stressed there must be no let-up in operations against terrorists; Palestinian civilians shielding them are themselves terrorists, he said....

....Minister Dichter was speaking for the frustrated Israeli commanders conducting the Gaza anti-missile campaign against Hamas. The government is still restricting Israel’s military incursion of the Gaza Strip to 2.5-3 km deep, whereas Palestinian crews are firing missiles and rockets from the relatively safe distance of 6 to 15 km inside the Strip. That is why, Dichter argued, the operation is falling short of its goals, which defense minister Ehud Barak defined to the ministers as halting Palestinian missile fire and cutting down their arms smuggling....

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ofakim is third Israeli town to join Hamas missile targets Sunday

From DEBKAfile, March 2, 2008, 8:58 AM (GMT+02:00):

Israel pounds Hamas in Gaza

A Palestinian missile hit Ofakim, a town of 30,000, situated 12-15 km east of Gaza and south of Beersheba, Sunday, March 2, crashing into the Salli mausoleum, but causing no casualties.

Defense minister Barak stated that Israel would fight Hamas in Gaza until it was forced to halt its missile-rocket war against Israeli towns and villages. The goal would not be attained in two days and more escalation was to be expected, Barak said. Regarding the Palestinian Authority’s suspension of peace talks, the defense minister said the PA had only itself to blame for the current crisis by letting Hamas terrorists to throw it out of Gaza eight months ago.

Saturday night, the Israeli air force demolished the building housing Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh’s office in Gaza City. Haniyeh was absent; he and the rest of the Hamas leadership have gone into hiding.

DEBKAfile’s military sources reported earlier that the IDF command received intelligence of Hamas plans to top their missile jihad by infiltrating terrorists into Israeli cities through secret tunnels running under the Gaza-Israel border. Palestinian suicide bombers are also to be unleashed against Israeli troops fighting in northern Gaza; Hamas is at the same time determined to keep up its heavy missile and rocket barrage against Israeli civilian towns and villages.

Saturday night, Israeli forces therefore continued to pound Hamas targets without let-up, including air strikes against Khan Younes and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and al Bureij camp further north. Another 10 Palestinian gunmen were killed, raising the day’s Palestinian death toll to close to 70. They included a number of civilians, including children. In Jebalya, a Palestinian truck loaded with 160 missiles, rockets and mortar shells was blown.

Hamas is counting on a combination of multiple-casualty terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers with a continuous rocket blitz to bring Israel to its knees and force the IDF to end its incursion into Gaza.

Israeli leaders, for their part, expect the heavy Palestinian cost in life and demolition of the Hamas’ government and military infrastructure to terminate their missile offensive.
Saturday night saw stepped up Palestinian terrorist activity on the West Bank.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report an explosive device blew up in the hands of a terrorist preparing to hurl it at an IDF patrol south of Hebron. He was seriously injured.

Gunshots were aimed from Beit Jala at Mt. Gilo, at the southern edge of Jerusalem. An armed Palestinian was driven off when he tried to attack a military police checkpoint near Shuafat in northern Jerusalem. Pesagot near Ramallah came under gunfire. This series of attacks is estimated by Israeli security chiefs to be the start of a systematic terrorist offensive in and around Jerusalem.

U.S. warns Europe of Iran missiles

From the Los Angeles Times, by Kim Murphy, Staff Writer, February 29, 2008:

Tehran is close to building arms capable of reaching major capitals, says an official promoting a defense system.

LONDON -- With American officials working to close a deal on a missile defense system in Europe, the head of the U.S. program warned Thursday that Iran was within two or three years of producing a missile that could reach most European capitals."They're already flying missiles that exceed what they would need in a fight with Israel. Why? Why do they continue this progression in terms of range of missiles? It's something we need to think about," Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told a conference here on missile defense....

...."Many in Europe have expressed doubts that Iran would target European cities. But Obering said it was possible to imagine as little as seven years from now a nuclear-armed Iran shutting off oil shipments in the Persian Gulf, or Al Qaeda militants seizing freighters off Europe and arming them with nuclear-tipped Scud missiles "to punish the West for invasion of Muslim holy lands."....

Times staff writers Paul Richter in Washington and Janet Stobart in London contributed to this report.

There is no benign explanation

From by David Horovitz, February 24, 2008 ::: 18 Adar I, 5768:

Sir Martin Gilbert [official biographer of Winston Churchill and prolific World War II historian] ... emphasize[s] that the mistakes of 70 years ago cost the free world a terrible price. He explains how those mistakes came to be made. And in so doing, he provides a historian's context for today's challenges, a guide to today's perplexed leaders that we had all better fervently hope they follow.

...."A grave mistake was made in the 1930s in finding all sorts of reasons for not regarding the Nazi threat as being a serious threat. Therefore, when you're working out your thoughts on the current situation, about fundamentalism, just remember that it is very easy for highly competent, educated, civilized, sophisticated people to find excuses and benign explanations for everything that happens," he says....

..."The main argument towards the [Nazi] threat was: 'It must modify; these are extremes which surely will modify.' ....'This can't really be that grave a threat. This can't be truly an evil force,' and, 'Well, it's not really what it seems." ...

....The ostensibly "alarmist" Churchill (who was to take over as prime minister in May 1940) had been warning all through this period that by the time the apologists woke up and belatedly recognized the need to "take a stand," the means to mount an effective fightback would be much reduced. And so it proved: When the bitter truth of Nazi ambition could no longer be apologized away, with the invasion of Poland in 1939, says Gilbert, "you'd lost your allies, you'd lost territory, you'd lost raw materials. You were in the weakest possible position."...

...To give just one example, Gilbert asks: Would 55,000 members of [the Royal Air Force's] Bomber Command have been killed if we [Britain] had prepared our air force properly in 1936, 37, 38, 39, instead of pursuing this extraordinary belief that you could do a deal with Germany; that you could even have some sort of disarmament; that it was 'only fair' to allow Germany to build up to your level because they had been 'so cruelly and wrongly disarmed at Versailles'? All this loose thinking arose from the basic premise that Germany wasn't a threat."

The "Other part of this equation," Gilbert says, is the question of allies. Britain's two late-1930s prime ministers, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, were firmly set against bringing in the Soviet Union as an ally. Churchill, second to none in his opposition to Communism, argued nevertheless that the Nazis were effectively the only enemy, and that alliances needed to be constructed with everybody who was threatened. Under parliamentary pressure, Chamberlain did send a mission to Moscow, but with instructions to stall. Yet had British policy been to create an alliance of threatened states, Gilbert stresses, "Poland could not have been conquered. Hitler was only able to conquer Poland via the Nazi-Soviet pact by basically partitioning the country. And the Holocaust, of course, was a Holocaust of Polish Jewry..."

Now Gilbert allows himself to foray into the present. "When you are looking today at the role of the United Nations, of NATO, of the various forces that can combine [to deal with Iran], the Soviet analogy may be quite good here: if you can't get Russia on line, China, then you're already in a terribly weak position. Then you're in the same position as Britain and France were..." And so, regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, "it is absolutely essential that you tackle it with everybody who is in danger. And presumably everybody is in danger....

...."Do I have faith that the leaders know what the situation is? ... Yes. If they don't, then we're in real trouble." ...

IAF strikes Haniyeh's office

From Ynet News, by Ali Waked and AP, 2/3/08:

Israeli helicopters fire three missiles at office building of Hamas prime minister, completely destroying it...

Israeli aircraft attacked the office building of Palestinian Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and witnesses said the building was destroyed early Sunday.

Israeli attack helicopters hit the building with three missiles..... The office was empty at the time of the raid, just before 2 am Sunday....

....The IDF confirmed attacking Haniyeh's house, as well as a weapons factory in the Strip....

....Seven targets have been targeted by IAF jets during Saturday night, including three arms caches, three weapons production facilities and Haniyeh's office. ....

Cabinet to decide future of Gaza operation midweek

From Ynet News, by Roni Sofer / Israel News 2/3/08:

National Security Cabinet to discuss prolonging Gaza operation Wednesday; Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Livni demand operation be widened. Foreign Ministry prepares to fight off international onslaught in view of death toll in Gaza

IAF strike in Gaza Photo: AP
The cabinet is not expected decide on prolonging the IDF operation in Gaza in its Sunday meeting. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is likely to wait for the National Security Cabinet's Wednesday meeting to have the operation declared a wide-range incursion.

The Israeli government has simultaneously launched an international informative campaign, aimed at explaining Israel's stand on the Gaza situation.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livini spoke on the matter with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Slovenian Foreign Minister and current EU President Dimitrij Rupel.

Israel, she stressed, has the right to defend its citizens and the Palestinians must not suspend the peace talks because of the Gaza operation, especially since Israel "did not suspend the talks, despite the ongoing rocket fire."

Director-General of the Foreign Ministry Aharon Abramovich called a special ministry session Saturday night, in which the Israeli ambassadors around the world were briefed on the measures in which to deal with the expected international onslaught in view of the death toll in Gaza.

Foreign Ministry personnel were instructed to stress the impossible reality in which 200,000 of Israel's residents have been living.

Meanwhile, the security establishment is readying for a large-scale incursion aimed at terror infrastructure and the Hamas-led government in Gaza Strip.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both believe the operation is warranted, and both agree this is not the time to engage in a Gaza war.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved the current operation in the Strip's north, but his is in no hurry to call for a wide incursion. Olmert is expected to meet with defense establishment official on Sunday to study the weekend's occurrences in Gaza more thoroughly.

The National Security Cabinet will meet Wednesday, with Rice's visit to Jerusalem hovering in the background, and is not expected to necessarily result in a declaration of war.

A source in Jerusalem told Ynet that "things may change", especially now that Ashkelon and its vicinity are under rocket fire.
The overall feeling, added the source is that as time goes by, Israel deterrence in decreasing and since political pressure on Hamas to cease fire has proves ineffective, Israel may have no choice but to decide the matter by military force. The only remaining question is when.

Faced with the escalation in rocket fire, said the sources, the PM has some hard decisions to make.

Possibilty of a Lebanese Front

From DEBKAfile, March 1, 2008, 7:56 PM (GMT+02:00):

Saudi citizens instructed to depart Lebanon with all possible speed

...this unprecedented order from the royal court in Riyadh on March 1 portends an unusual military outbreak in Lebanon. Kuwait quickly followed suit.

Standing by since Friday off the troubled Mediterranean shores of Lebanon, Israel and Gaza is the USS Cole guided missile destroyer opposite Lebanon. It was joined Monday by the USS Nassau amphibious warship and its strike group of six vessels carrying 2,800 marines, flight crews and sailors. US naval sources report that a third group will join them shortly.

Two Israeli soldiers killed, 6 injured in heavy battles in Gaza.

From DEBKAfile, March 1, 2008, 11:30 PM (GMT+02:00):

Israel self-propelled gun in N. Gaza
The Israeli fatalities are identified as 1st Sgt. Doron Asulin, 20 from Beersheba and 1st Sgt. Eran Dan Gur, 20, from Jerusalem.

... Israel’s Givati Brigade troops engaged in heavy fighting with Hamas armed forces in the northern Gaza Strip’s Sejaya and Jebalya areas Saturday March 1 in the IDF’s first extended challenge to Hamas' protracted missile and rocket offensive on Ashkelon and Sderot regions.
Tanks, self-propelled guns, F-16 fighter jets and helicopters took part in the combat. Two Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinian fire, six injured. ....

A Palestinian truck loaded with 160 missiles, rockets and mortar shells was blown up in Jebalya by an Israeli air strike Saturday night. A large store of war materiel, including missiles was struck earlier.

Throughout the battles, the Palestinians continued firing scores of missiles and rockets – more than 50 by evening. Three waves of extended Katyusha rockets hit Ashkelon, under attack for the third day running. One set the shopping center on fire after two crashed into houses, injuring 6 people, two of them children. There were dozens of shock victims....

...Sderot and its kibbutz and moshav neighbors sustained 50 Qassam missiles. One exploded harmlessly in an empty nursery school. Six shock victims were hospitalized.
A Grad rocket reached Kfar Silver which is situated between Ashkelon and the big port town of Ashdod to the north. This town, 27 km north of Gaza, and just within range of the larger and more powerful Palestinian rockets, is preparing for attacks to start. Twelve alert systems are ready. ....the 120mm Grad, which is based on the Soviet Katyusha artillery rocket, has a maximum range of 30 km and packs 15-20 kg. of explosives.

The education minister is drawing up plans to evacuate children from towns and villages in direct line of fire from Gaza.

The IDF’s Homeland Command has installed Red Color code alerts in 8 locations around Ashkelon: Kfar Silver, Berachiya, Bat Hadar, Beit Shikma, Mavki’im, Talmei Yosef, Gaya and Mishan.

Suicide Attacks Expected from Gaza, West Bank

From DEBKAfile March 2, 2008, 12:39 AM (GMT+02:00):

Hamas expected to extend its deadly duel with Israel to suicide terror attacks after heavy Palestinian losses Saturday

This toll came close to 70 dead Saturday night. Israel forces lost two men in heavy battles with Hamas.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report intelligence received by the Israeli military command of Hamas plans to top their missile jihad by infiltrating terrorists into Israeli cities through secret tunnels running under the Gaza-Israel border. Palestinian suicide bombers are also to be unleashed against Israeli troops fighting in northern Gaza; Hamas is at the same time determined keeps up its heavy missile and rocket barrage against Israeli civilian towns and villages.

Saturday night, Israeli forces therefore continued to pound Hamas targets without let-up, including air strikes against Khan Younes and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and al Bureij camp further north. Another 10 Palestinian gunmen were killed, raising the day’s Palestinian death toll to close to 70.

They included a number of civilians, including children. A Palestinian truck loaded with 160 missiles, rockets and mortar shells was blown up in Jebalya by an Israeli air strike Saturday night.

Hamas is betting on a combination of multiple-casualty terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers with a continuous rocket blitz to bring Israel to its knees and force the IDF to end its incursion into Gaza.

Israeli leaders, for their part, expect the heavy Palestinian cost in life and demolition of the Hamas’ government and military infrastructure to terminate their missile offensive.

Saturday night saw stepped up Palestinian terrorist activity on the West Bank.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report an explosive device blew up in the hands of a terrorist preparing to hurl it at an IDF patrol south of Hebron. He was seriously injured.

Gunshots were aimed from Beit Jala at Mt. Gilo, at the southern edge of Jerusalem. An armed Palestinian was driven off when he tried to attack a military police checkpoint near Shuafat in northern Jerusalem.

Pesagot near Ramallah came under gunfire. This series of attacks is estimated by Israeli security chiefs to be the start of a systematic terrorist offensive in and around Jerusalem.

70 Palestinians killed in IDF operation in Gaza

From Ynet News 2/3/08, by Hanan Greenberg*:

Israeli forces launch military operation Friday night near town of Sajaiya in northern Strip. Some 70 Palestinians killed in heavy exchanges of fire with soldiers, dozens of casualties reported

IDF soldiers entered the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning and began operating near the northern Strip town of Sajaiya. According to reports, 70 Palestinians were killed in heavy exchanges of fire which erupted in the area – the largest number of fatalities in a single IDF operation in the area since the Gaza pullout. The Palestinians further reported that 12 of the casualties were civilians, including eight children, three women and two unarmed men. More than 60 Palestinians were injured.

Most of the gunmen killed were Hamas members. Several others were Islamic Jihad operatives and one was a member of the Popular Resistance Committees.

Five IDF soldiers were lightly to moderately injured in the clashes, two sustaining light to moderate wounds, and the other three lightly injured. The troops were evacuated via helicopter to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

Givati and armor forces were deployed near Sajaiya on Friday night, not far from the populated area, in a routine operation aimed at uncovering terror infrastructures in a bid to thwart terror attacks planned in the border fence area....

...."The activity is taking place in areas which the terror organizations want to guard, including launching pads," a military source explained. "We are fighting against a large scope of armed gunmen. The soldiers have encountered various countermeasures, such as explosive devises, anti-tank missiles and sniper fire.

"There have been several attempts (by gunmen) to try and harm the troops in order to accomplish a show of force, but the soldiers are ready for it," added the source. "The IAF is assisting us and the cooperation between the ground forces and the aerial ones is satisfactory."....

....Meanwhile, Palestinian sources in Gaza reported that the IDF has struck two militant cells in northern Gaza. Earlier, IDF forces targeted a vehicle in the Strip's north.

The sources reported that two gunmen were killed in the strike, one in a targeted strike and the other by sniper fire.

Saturday night saw two more Hamas operatives killed in an IAF raid on a Hamas police station in southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis.

Palestinian sources later reported that the bodyguard of Hamas leader Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar was killed by IDF fire in the northern Gaza Strip.

IDF forces continued to hammer targets in Gaza all through Saturday, as Palestinian sources reported five people were killed in two separate IAF strikes in Rafah. According to reports, the strikes targeted both a Hamas police station and a local mosque.

A Palestinian security officials called the Rafah strike "the height of the IDF’s moral bankruptcy," adding "the IDF realized it cannot win the battle against Palestinian operatives, so it is now targeting civilians and civilian infrastructures.”

The IDF confirmed its forces struck a Rafah building housing several Hamas operatives, Saturday night; confirming a hit.

Palestinian sources later reported that two more Hamas operatives were killed in Gaza Saturday. One of the men was Haled Attallah, a senior operative of Hamas' Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, whose home was raided by IDF troops earlier Saturday. The other was reportedly killed IDF fire in northern Gaza.

Attallah died of his wounds at a Gaza City hospital. His wife and three of his children were also killed in the IDF raid.

Faced with the weekend's death toll, the Hamas government in Gaza declared a full school strike and three days of mourning. The decision is not expected to be implemented in the West Bank.

*Ali Waked and Yael Branovsky contributed to this report

Heavy rocket fire riddles western Negev

From Ynet News, by Yael Branovsky, 2/3/08:

At least 50 Qassam and Grad rockets fired at Israel since Friday night. Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon takes in dozens of of people injured in barrage

Twenty-two residents of Sderot and Ashkelon were transported to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon for treatment Saturday after being injured by the rocket salvo on the two southern cities.

....At least 50 rockets were launched at Israel since Friday night, some landing in open areas in Sderot and the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. ....

....The last barrage was fired at around 2:30 pm, with two rockets landing in open areas in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. .....

....The Color Red alert system was activated in Ashkelon shortly after 5 am. .....

Abdullah: messenger-boy for Islamofascists

From THE JERUSALEM POST by Associated Press, Feb. 29, 2008 [my emphasis added]:

Jordan's King Abdullah II warned Friday that unless a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian agreement is reached during the Bush administration's final months in office, the chances for a lasting Middle East peace could be "set back, perhaps for decades."

...[In his] ... 20-minute speech sponsored by Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ...Abdullah said resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more important to the future of the Middle East than any other issue, including the war in Iraq.

... by agreeing soon to allow a Palestinian state, Israel could quickly gain diplomatic and trade relationships with 57 countries that now refuse to deal with the Jewish state. While Israel and Palestinian leaders might agree on most issues, there are some that the international community - and especially the United States - will need to help resolve, he said. [diplomatic jargon for forcing Israel to commit suicide]

"If we miss today's opportunities, peace will be set back, perhaps for decades," he said. "Extremists will continue to act. The forces for moderation and positive change will weaken. Global divisions will not only endure but also possibly deepen." [diplomatic jargon for threatening the free world with terrorism]

Key for the Palestinians in any peace deal is Israel's return to pre-1967 borders, the right of return [undiplomatic jargon for Israeli suicide] of refugees and the status of Jerusalem - all issues which have derailed peace efforts before.....

Gaza war intensifies

From DEBKAfile, March 1, 2008, 4:46 PM (GMT+02:00):

... Israeli Givati Brigade troops backed by tanks, F-16 fighters and helicopters went after terrorist targets in Sejaya and Jebalya, N. Gaza Strip early morning Saturday, March 1. Five Israeli soldiers were injured, two very seriously. The Palestinians report 32 dead and dozens of injured casualties.

.... the Israeli military command is now targeting Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip as ultimately the only effective way of halting the Palestinian missile offensive against civilian locations. It therefore proposes to systematically destroy Hamas institutions one by one until its rule of Gaza caves in.

This tactic was presented to prime minister Ehud Olmert Friday on his return from Japan. If Hamas alternatively decides it can no longer afford the exorbitant price exacted by the Israeli military for sustaining its missile offensive, so much the better. Meanwhile, the port town of Ashdod north of Ashkelon and 27 km from Gaza is preparing for start of Palestinian rockets attacks. Twelve alert systems are ready.

The IDF has set itself the following targets: Every Palestinian military and security installation belonging to Hamas, as well as its Al Dawa social welfare branches used as meeting places and the money changers’ places of business.

A series of ground operations on the same lines as the Sejayia raid will be launched to drive Hamas and its allied terrorist groups out of northern Gaza – the sites of most missile launches against Ashkelon and Sderot. Once this part of the territory is purged, Israeli military control can be exercised without reoccupation.

DEBKAfile’s Palestinian sources report that Hamas leaders are well aware of the IDF’s revamped tactics and have employed counter-measures.
1. Their heads of government, armed wings and clerical authorities have gone to ground.
2. Their rank and file have taken over an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 civilian homes around Gaza City active and set up a wall for the town’s defense. Each home is provisioned with sufficient ammo, water and food for three weeks’ combat.
3. All Hamas operatives have dumped their cell phones and all means of communication which could betray their whereabouts. Orders and messages are carried by courier, usually children.
4. Thousands of missiles and rockets of different types are stocked in private homes and schools inside Gaza City and its refugee camps to escape Israeli attacks. This stratagem allows Hamas to calibrate its missile barrages on Israeli civilians according to the intensity of Israeli strikes against them.