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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
8 January, 2008

Israel accused of delaying medical access to injured
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/9/2009
Four exhausted children have been discovered cowering in a house next to the bodies of their mothers by staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which yesterday accused the Israeli military of "unacceptable" delays in allowing medics safe access to injured Gazans. The Red Cross workers found the children, who were so weak they could not stand, sheltering next to the bodies of their mothers in a house in Zeitoun, southeast of Gaza City. Another man was found alive, but again too weak to stand. At least 12 corpses were lying on mattresses. In another house nearby they found 15 survivors, several of whom were wounded. There were three more bodies in a third house. On Wednesday, a Palestinian volunteer with the Red Crescent who was in the same convoy described seeing dozens of dead bodies.

Palestinians: 35 found dead in rubble of Gaza battle zone
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
A Palestinian health official on Thursday said the bodies of 35 people have been found in the rubble of a Gaza Strip battle zone. Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry said the bodies were discovered Thursday during a three-hour lull in fighting. Israel agreed to the lull to allow aid shipments into Gaza. Hassanain said the bodies were discovered in several areas around Gaza City that have experienced heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants in recent days. He said it was not clear how many militants were killed because the remains were in poor condition. But he said women and children were among the dead. Hassanain said close to 750 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s 13-day offensive against the Islamist militant group Hamas in Gaza.

UN suspends Gaza aid over fears for staff
AP, The Independent 1/8/2009
The UN today halted all aid supplies to Gaza amid a growing row over Israel’s treatment of civilians in the area. The agency said its workers were not safe after one of its supply truck drivers was killed by Israeli tank fire. At the same time the Red Cross accused soldiers of a "shocking" disregard for wounded civilians and revealed four small children had been trapped for days beside the bodies of their dead mothers in their home. A UN spokesman said: "The UN is suspending its aid operations in Gaza until we can get safety and security guarantees for our staff. "We’ve been co-ordinating with them (Israeli forces) and yet our staff continue to be hit and killed. " He said the agency arranged the delivery with Israel, and the vehicle was marked with a UN flag and insignia when it was shot in northern Gaza.

WHO: '21 medics killed, 31 wounded due to the ongoing Israeli offensive'
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Thursday that basic medical services in Gaza are collapsing as Israel continues its siege and offensive in the Gaza Strip. 21 medics were killed by Israeli shells and bullets and at least 31 others were wounded. According to information obtained by the WHO, the ongoing Israeli air strikes, shelling and ground offensive have limited the movement of the patients and the medics to a serious level that blocked medical services and the delivery of medical supplies. The organization stated that 21 medical personnel were killed in the Gaza Strip and that thirty other were wounded as the army did not only shell ambulances but also shelled hospitals in medical centers. The army also shelled at least eleven ambulances. The WHO added that the number of medial governmental facilities that are still running in the Gaza Strip is 29 out of 56 centers and medical facilities.

Draft UN Security Council resolution doesn’t call for immediate Gaza truce
Barak Ravid and Shlomo Shamir , and Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
A draft of the newly revised United Nations Security Council resolution on Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza does not call for an immediate cease-fire, according to a copy obtained by Haaretz on Thursday. Instead, the draft resolution "Stresses the urgency of an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire. " It should be noted, however, that the draft was of 5. 15 P. M local time in Israel, and is still subject to further discussion before it is voted on in the Council on Thursday evening. The draft was composed by the United States, France and Britain. It also expresses "Grave concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation in Gaza and southern Israel, in particular the resulting civilian casualties since the failure to extend the period of calm and the firing of rockets into Israel followed by Israeli military operations.

Israeli soldier shoots 12-year-old boy near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers fired on a small boy during clashes that erupted in a refugee camp near Hebron on Thursday. An Israeli soldier shot 12-year-old Ya’qub Nassar in the stomach. Paramedics evacuated him to Hebron Hospital, where medical sources reported that he is "seriously injured. " An 18-year-old Palestinian, Sami Ibrahim Thibi, was shot in the neck and also taken to a hospital. Medical sources there described his condition as serious. Medical officials at Hebron Hospital told Ma’an that the 12-year-old boy is undergoing surgery on his stomach, where a bullet entered before passing through his back. Gunfire broke out during a rally in which Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers clashed at the Al-Fawar Refugee Camp, which is just south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said on Thuresday. . .

Palestinian shot dead after trying to blow up settlement gas station
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Israeli security forces on Thursday shot and killed a mantrying to blow up a gas station in the West Bank settlement of Mishur Adumim, near Jerusalem. A Palestinian gas station attendant was lightly wounded in the incident. Security forces were alerted mid-morning that a man was trying to torch the gas station. When they arrived on the scene, they called out to the man to halt his activities at once and stand still. According to an initial investigation, the assailant then began running toward the security forces, holding an unrecognizable object in his hand. Police investigators are still trying to determine the identity of the assailant. They believe that he was a Palestinian carrying out a terrorist attack in response to the Israel Defense Forces’ offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Report: US military re-supplying Israel with ammunition through Greece
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
As the Israeli military continues to pound the crowded, impoverished and imprisoned population of the Gaza Strip with the full force of its military might, Israel’s strongest ally, the United States, announced plans to ship large amounts of ammunition to the Israeli forces -- as it did during Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, when the Israelis ran out of (internationally-banned) cluster bombs, and the US shipped them tens of thousands more. The US Military Sealift Command on Dec. 31st published a solicitation for bids from shipping companies to ship two boats, each containing 168 TEU’s (twenty-foot equivalent container units) of ammunition, from Greece to Israel. The description of the vessels required was brief: "Required: Request US or foreign flag container vessel (coaster) to move approximately 168 TEU’s [standard twenty-foot containers] in each of two consecutive voyages both containing ammunition.

US Senate unanimously votes to support Israel’s invasion of Gaza; House to vote tomorrow
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
Despite protests in every major city in the US, and thousands of phone calls, faxes, letters and emails sent by US citizens to their Senators in Washington, the US Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to support Israel’s aggression against the population of the Gaza Strip. A rollcall has not yet been released by the US Senate, so it is unclear whether there were any abstentions. The US Senate has historically overwhelmingly given its support to all of Israel’s attacks, even when those attacks are in direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, and even when the attacks have been condemned by the United Nations. Most US Senators and Congressmembers have taken all-expense-paid trips to Israel sponsored by the Israeli government and US-based Zionist groups. During these trips, Congressmembers report being subjected to tours and propaganda that promote a Zionist. . .

ISRAEL-OPT: Gaza short of food
WFP, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/9/2009
GAZA CITY/RAMALLAH, 7 January 2009 (IRIN) - Civilians are finding it increasingly difficult to find food in Gaza. Markets opened briefly in Gaza City on 5 January, but they had little to offer, according to residents. Queues for bread formed, with buyers limited to five shekels worth per person - about 35 flat breads - not enough for families with an average of six children. The World Food Programme () managed to send into Gaza 11 truckloads of food on 5 January. Its warehouses are stocked with some 3,700 metric tonnes of food - about half the normal level,said. Food aid distributions have been hampered by truckers unwilling to do the job because of concerns about their safety. Fighting, shelling and bombing are also limiting the ability of recipients and ’s partners to reach distribution points,said.

MIDEAST: Egypt Pulls Down the Shutters on Aid
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service 1/9/2009
CAIRO, Jan 8(IPS) - Egyptian authorities have almost fully sealed the border with Gaza, preventing delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid. "The government has expressly forbidden the entry of aid convoys laden with food into the Gaza Strip," Emmad al-Din Moustafa, member of the Popular Committee for Aiding Gaza told IPS. "The continued border closure -- like the Israeli assault itself -- constitutes a crime against humanity. " Israel began a series of devastating air strikes on targets throughout the Gaza Strip Dec. 27, followed by a ground offensive launched Jan. 3. According to Israeli officials, the campaign, which has included thousands of air strikes and naval bombardment, comes in retaliation for rockets fired at Israel by Gaza-based Palestinian resistance factions. Since the campaign began, humanitarian aid -- donated by sympathisers from across the Arab and. . .

UN report: 'No safe place in Gaza, no place to protect civilians'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a press release stating that the civilians in Gaza have no place to go to, no safe place to take shelter from the Israeli shelling and that UN schools and offices are not equipped as shelters. "There is no safe place in Gaza, there are no shelters to protect the residents, borders are sealed, this war is unique in a way that the civilians have no place to go to, no place to hide", the statement reads. THE OCHA also said that UNRWA buildings, schools and offices have distinct marks on them and that the army has been provided with the locations of these building, yet still shelled them. "UNRWA buildings are no shelters, cannot withstand shells", the OCHA statement added and slammed that increasing number of civilian casualties, especially children, in the ongoing Israeli offensive.

Red Cross slams Israel over access to wounded
AP, The Independent 1/8/2009
The international Red Cross accuses Israeli forces today of failing to assist wounded Palestinians and of "unacceptable" delays in letting rescue workers reach a Gaza home where four small children were found alive next to their mothers’ bodies. Rescuers had been refused permission by the Israeli army to reach the site in the Zaytun neighborhood of Gaza City for days, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. The neutral aid group’s head of delegation for the region described the incident as "shocking. " "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded," Pierre Wettach said in a statement. "Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded. " Rescuers eventually received permission to go to the site Wednesday, four days after it was hit by Israeli shells.

Red Cross criticises Israel for blocking access to Gaza injured
Mark Tran, The Guardian 1/8/2009
Israel today came under fierce criticism from humanitarian groups for delaying access to the injured during its offensive in Gaza as fresh fighting killed at least 11 people, taking the death toll over 700. The unusually strong condemnation coincided with a UN announcement that it was suspending its operations in the territory in response to what it said were Israeli attacks. The International Committee of the Red Cross accused Israel of "unacceptable" delays in letting rescue workers reach three homes in Gaza City that had been hit by shelling. The group said the Israeli army refused rescuers permission to reach the site in the Zaytun neighbourhood for four days. Once Red Cross teams reached the area yesterday, they found four small children next to their dead mothers at one home. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses. In another house, a rescue team found 15 survivo

Human rights groups demand medical access to injured Palestinians
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
The High Court of Justice is scheduled to review today a petition served by eight Israeli human rights groups who asked the court to order the Israel Defense Forces to vouch for the safety of medical teams in Gaza and allow injured people to be evacuated to medical facilities. The Red Cross, meanwhile, has accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the Gaza Strip, and demanded it grant safe access for Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded without being fired on by Israeli soldiers. Red Cross relief workers said that on Wednesday they found four small children sitting next to their dead mothers and other corpses in a house in a part of Gaza City that had been bombed by Israeli forces. "They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up.

ISRAEL-OPT: Aid workers’ movements in Gaza severely restricted
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/9/2009
GAZA CITY/RAMALLAH, 6 January 2009 (IRIN) - The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has over 10,000 staff in Gaza, but their deployment has been severely restricted due to Israeli bombing and tank shelling, UNRWA spokesman Sami Mshasha said. They are not the only ones. The movements of all aid workers are severely restricted. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has a staff of eight foreign nationals and 60 local staff in Gaza. The former, however, are holed up at the UNRWA compound in Gaza City, Mshasha said. "[UNRWA] field officers are trying to move to different areas to assess the situation for food distribution, safety and the availability of water and electricity services," UNRWA’s Mshasha said. Underlining the severity of the security situation, three Gazans were killed in an Israeli attack on an UNRWA school on 5 January.

MIDEAST: Children Found Starving
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 1/9/2009
RAMALLAH, Jan 8(IPS) - An international chorus of condemnation has blasted Israel over its human rights abuses in Gaza. Operation Cast Lead, into its 12th day, has now claimed the lives of over 700 Palestinians. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) demanded safe access Thursday for ICRC officials and Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) ambulances to evacuate the wounded. It accused Israel of deliberately delaying ambulances. Rescue teams made several attempts to rescue the wounded and retrieve bodies in several areas of Gaza city but were refused entry by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers. On Wednesday, however, after a week’s intensive negotiations with Israeli officials, ICRC officials and PRC ambulance teams managed to reach some of the survivors in Gaza’s Zeitoun neighbourhood. The ICRC reported finding four starving toddlers next to the bodies of their dead mothers in one of the houses.

1,500 West Bank medics march in support of Gaza counterparts
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Ramallah - Ma’an – Some 1,500 health workers demonstrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday in protest of the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, condemning Israel’s attacks on medical workers. A number of medics, especially those working in ambulances, have been injured and killed by Israeli fire. Hospitals and ambulances have come under fire. Palestinian Authority (PA) Health Minister Fathi Abu Mughli attended the demonstration, which was organized by the Health Ministry. The protest march started from the Ministry of Health headquarters in the town of Al-Bireh and proceeded to the Manarah square in downtown Ramallah, which is the seat of the PA. In his speech to the demonstration Abu Maghli said the main goal of the march is to make medical workers’ voices heard. Abu Maghli saluted the work of medics in Gaza and urged the international community to stop the “massacres” of the Palestinians in the Strip.

Israel accused over access to Gaza victims
Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, The Independent 1/8/2009
Israel pressed its offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip today amid sharp Red Cross criticism that it was delaying access to casualties. A rocket salvo from Lebanon slightly wounded two people in northern Israel and briefly raised fears that Hezbollah fighters were opening a second front to relieve pressure on Gaza. But an Israeli cabinet minister blamed Palestinian groups in Lebanon. US backing for an Egyptian truce proposal has increased pressure on Israel to end its Gaza war as casualties mount. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza put the Palestinian death toll at 707 since the Israeli assault began on 27 December. It said at least 3,000 people had been wounded. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she agreed with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on conditions for a ceasefire, but neither Israel nor Hamas has agreed on the details.

MIDEAST: Israel May Face Charges for War Crimes
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 1/9/2009
RAMALLAH, Jan 7(IPS) - Israel has committed war crimes and should be prosecuted in an international court, says Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza. "The repeated bombing of clearly marked civilian buildings, where civilians were sheltering, crosses several red lines in regard to international law," Sourani told IPS. Palestinian Authority (PA) delegate to Britain Professor Manuel Hassassian has said the PA will launch legal proceedings against Israeli leaders it says are responsible for war crimes in Gaza, according to a Palestinian news report. Another 22 Palestinians were killed Wednesday morning in bombing and shelling as Israel’s Operation Cast Lead entered day 11. The dead included four people killed in the shelling of a children’s playground near a mosque in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza city.

ISRAEL-OPT: Gaza’s children in the firing line
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/9/2009
RAMALLAH, 8 January 2009 (IRIN) - Gaza’s children - some 56 percent of Gaza’s 1. 5 million people - are struggling to survive the Israeli offensive which began on 27 December. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 660 Palestinians have been killed since 27 December, including 176 children and 86 women; 2,950 have been injured, of whom 40 percent are children and 18 percent women. When asked about the high number of child fatalities, Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman Maj Peter Lerner told IRIN: "Hamas is taking advantage of the civilian population, using them as shields. " A statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry on 6 January said: "Israel is doing all it can to avoid harming non-combatants; any collateral injury to them is the responsibility of Hamas.

Accusations of War Crimes Levied Against Israel
Abu Yusef from Occupied Palestine, Palestine Monitor 1/8/2009
As the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip enters its 13th day, the IDF is accused alongside of Hamas for using Palestinian families as human shields. - The Israeli targeting of the make-shift UN refugee camps has shown us that there is nowhere to hide from the Israeli invasion and bombardment of the Gaza Strip; yet most families have chosen to try and "˜wait it out’ in their homes, praying that the next shell to fall will be further away than the last. However, even if the missile strikes and mortar rounds from the sea, air and land, do not damage the home and kill the inhabitants, they have other, more terrifying things to worry about as the ground invasion enters its seventh day. According to Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director, Malcolm Smart, Israeli soldiers have been routinely entering into civilian homes, barricading families into a single room or a single floor, and using the rest of the home as a makeshift base from which to carry out attacks and take up "˜sniper positions".

HRW: Gaza border closures ’unlawful and heartless’
Middle East Online 1/8/2009
CAIRO - Israel and Egypt should open their borders with Gaza to allow civilians and the wounded to flee the fighting in the territory from which there is no other escape, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. "There is no place safe from the fighting for civilians in Gaza at this time," HRW emergencies researcher Fred Abrahams said in a statement. "It is imperative that borders not be closed to people fleeing for their lives. " HRW said that both Israel and Egypt have blocked the exit from Gaza of many severely wounded people in urgent need of medical treatment. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed and 3,100 wounded since Israel launched its offensive on the Gaza Strip on December 27. The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday that Israel had failed to help wounded Gazans in one area, charging that it had taken four days for the Israelis to authorise. . .

Babies cling to life in stricken hospital
Kim Sengupta, The Independent 1/8/2009
The fate of 600 patients rests on four ageing generators keeping blackouts at bay - Even with the glimmer of hope that a ceasefire may finally be under negotiation, the situation at Gaza’s biggest hospital remains desperate, with more than 70 life-support patients now precariously dependent on generators because the main powersupply has been down for five days. The 596-bed Shifa hospital in Gaza City was struggling yesterday to cope with the latest casualties of war -- the injured victims of the bombing on Tuesday at a school in the Jabalya refugee camp which left 42 dead. But the shortage of fuel to run the generators, after months of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, is now the biggest problem facing Shifa and other medical facilities in Gaza. "It is not just a matter of fuel," said Dr Hassan Khalaf, the director of the hospital. "We have four generators and they are old. They are meant to be back-ups, not run all the time.

UN: Army admitted school shelling was by mistake
Barak Ravid and Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
The United Nations is claiming Israeli military officers have admitted the tank firing on the UNRWA school in Gaza, in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, was an error. In addition, UNRWA Thursday announced it will cease activities in the Strip due to the death of an UNRWA staffer in an IDF shelling during Thursday morning’s humanitarian hiatus. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Haaretz yesterday that the army had conceded wrongdoing. "In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school," Gunness said. "The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional. "He noted that all the footage released by the IDF of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself.

'Bring it on': UN demands Israel provide proof of claims gunmen were in school
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – The UN is demanding that Israel provide evidence for its claims that Palestinian gunmen fired on Israeli forces from a UN school compound in northern Gaza before an Israeli artillery attack that killed more than 40 Palestinian civilians. "We have nothing to hide," UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness told CNN on Wednesday. "Bring it on. We want to see the evidence. We want to clear any suspicion. " According to the UN, Israeli artillery shells exploded at the front gate of the compound. The UN has categorically denied that any armed men were in the school at the time. UNRWA is using its schools to provide shelter to some 14,000 Palestinians who have fled the Israeli military campaign in Gaza. The agency, dedicated to providing relief to Palestinian refugees, said it gave the GPS coordinates of all UN installations to Israel long before the current conflict.

Israel threatens to bomb Al-Shefa hospital
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation army that launches a monstrous military aggression on Gaza Strip has threatened to reduce Al-Shefa hospital to rubbles, alleging that Hamas leaders were hiding inside it. The hospital is considered the biggest hospital in the tiny Strip where hundreds of patients are lying. Dr. Muaweya Abu Hassanein, the director of the emergency department in the hospital categorically denied the Israeli allegations, affirming that no Hamas leaders is using the hospital as a hideout, warning at the same time that if Israel carried out its threat, thousands of Palestinians in and around the hospital could be killed. The hospital, and other smaller hospitals and clinics were previously shelled by the Israeli warplanes and tanks, stressed Hassanein.

UN: No fighters in targeted school
Al Jazeera 1/8/2009
In video - Gazans mourn their dead after UN school bombed - The head of the UN agency in Gaza running the school that was attacked by Israel forces has rejected claims that Hamas fighters were inside the converted shelter. The Israeli military accused Hamas of using civilians sheltering inside the building as "human shields" and said its troops had returned fire after fighters fired mortars at their positions from within al-Fakhora school in the Jabaliya refugee camp. But John Ging, the director of operations in Gaza for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), told reporters that he had visited the school during a three-hour lull in the fighting on Wednesday and "was reassured by the management of the school. . . that there were no militants in the school".

UN halts Gaza aid after convoy hit
Al Jazeera 1/9/2009
The United Nations has suspended its aid operations in the Gaza Strip in the wake of a series of Israeli attacks on its personnel and buildings. "Unrwa decided to suspend all its operations in the Gaza Strip because of the increasing hostile actions against its premises and personnel," Adnan Abu Hasna, a Gaza-based spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said on Thursday. The move came after Israeli tanks shelled a UN convoy earlier in the day, killing a Palestinian UN worker and injuring two others, as lorries were travelling to the Erez crossing to pick up humanitarian supplies meant to have been allowed in during a three-hour suspension of fire. At least three UN-run schools have also been hit by Israeli fire, killing scores of civilians, during the 13 days of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip.

In protest of Israeli attacks on its convoys; the UNRWA halts its operations in Gaza
Gaza office, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency UNRWA announced on Thursday evening that the agency will halt all of its operations in Gaza. UNRWA, which is the only agency left that manages aid to the attacked Gaza Strip, said in a press statement that the decision to halt the work comes as a protest to the Israeli attacks on the agency staff and institutions. Adnan Abu Hassnah, the spokesman of UNRWA in Gaza, said in the statement that the agency trucks convoy was attacked today by the Israeli army, he added that one UNRWA staff member was killed and one injured, the convey was bring in aid supplies into Gaza from the Israeli-Gaza borders, the army was informed of the convey and gave the permission, Abu Hassnah said. On Tuesday January 3, 2009, the Israeli troops launched an attack on a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency UNRWA in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya.

UN halts Gaza aid after Israelis shell convoy
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 1/9/2009
GAZA CITY: The United Nations’ main Palestinian relief agency halted work in Gaza on Thursday after a driver was killed by Israeli fire and the death toll from the Jewish state’s war on the enclave rose to more than 760 after dozens of bodies were found in the rubble. Israel went on alert as three rockets were fired from Lebanon in addition to new attacks from Gaza, but cease-fire efforts also took a step forward with an Israeli envoy holding talks in Cairo on a plan proposed by Egypt’s president. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) suspended operations in the territory after a UN convoy was hit by two Israeli tank shells, killing a truck driver. UNRWA distributes food to about half of Gaza’s 1. 5 million population. "Operations will remain suspended until Israeli authorities can guarantee the safety and security of our staff," its spokesman Christopher Gunness told AFP.

Aid halted after driver killed by tank shell
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/9/2009
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepened yesterday when the main United Nations aid agency suspended its work in the Strip after one of its drivers was killed by an Israeli tank shell. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also said it would restrict its operations after one of its lorry drivers was hurt when a convoy carrying drugs for Gaza hospitals and transferring intensive care patients to Egypt came under fire from Israeli troops south of Gaza City. Both organisations said their convoys had been co-ordinated with the Israeli military. John Ging, operations director of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said: "We have lost confidence in the mechanism that is there. We are. . . prepared to take reasonable risks in this conflict but something has to change with regard to our being able to rely on the liaison that we do with the Israeli military.

ISRAEL-OPT: Aid worker killed in Gaza as bombings hamper food distribution
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/9/2009
RAMALLAH, 8 January 2009 (IRIN) - An aid worker for CARE International’s food distribution project in Gaza, Mohammed Ibrahim Samouni, was killed on 7 January when bombs hit his home and also killed nearly 60 others, CARE International said on 8 January. Samouni was a father of six. One of his sons remains in a critical condition. Countless targets have been hit across Gaza since Israel began its bombardment on 27 December in response to rocket fire by Hamas into southern Israel. Samouni worked at a food packing station managed by CARE’s partner, General Union of Palestinian Peasants, for two years. CARE’s Gaza Fresh Food Project, funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), delivers fresh fruit and vegetables to 60,000 people, hospitals and orphanages weekly. "Food distributions cannot continue because of the bombings.

UN suspends relief efforts in Gaza after Israel attacks convoy
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees has decided to suspend its operations in Gaza citing Israeli attacks on its personnel and facilities. Adana Abu Hasna, the spokesperson for UNRWA said in a statement: ”We decided to stop all operations because the situation has become very dangerous and Israel has committed brutalities in the Gaza Strip. ”A truck driver was killed and another employee was injured when Israeli troops fired on a UNRWA convoy coming from the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Thursday, despite prior coordination with Israel. For a second straight day Israel had said it would suspend military action for a three hour window to allow the delivery of aid. Also, according to Abu Hasna, Israeli forces fired on the armored car of Judy Clark, the assistant to the UNRWA director in Gaza.

Tales from Gaza III: 'I am Still Alive'
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - PCHR, Palestine Monitor 1/8/2009
Carnage at Al-Fakhoura School, Jabalia - Subject: I am still Alive! - "I was working at the [Kamal Edwan] Hospital here in Jabalia, when the ambulances arrived with the dead and injured from Al-Fakhoura school. Most of the dead were women and children, and most of the survivors had terrible shrapnel wounds. We had to turn the maternity ward into a surgical theatre so that we could try to save more lives. " Ayman Al-Majdalawi is a nurse from Jabalia in the Northern Gaza Strip. Yesterday, January 6, he was on duty at Kamal Edwan hospital when the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) fired four artillery shells towards nearby Al-Fakhoura school. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) had just transformed the school into a temporary shelter for dozens of local families, who, like thousands of other local residents, had been driven out of their homes by the IOF’s continuing military onslaught.

13th day under attack; Death toll in Gaza reaches 765
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
The Israeli army continued its military offesnive for the 13th consecutive day in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Palestinian medical sources stated that 50 people were killed by Israeli army fire since early morning hours on Thursday. Dr Moawiya Hassanen, the Director of the Ambulance and Emergency Department in the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, stated that 50 dead bodies were retrieved today from several areas of the Gaza Strip as it was impossible to retrieve them yesterday and last night due to the continued Israeli shelling. Dr Hassanen added that this afternoon, death toll in Gaza reached 765, half of them are children and women, in addition to 3,200 injured residents, among them 500 in critical condition. According to local sources in the Gaza Strip, today’s shelling targeted municipal buildings, homes, and mosques.

Bombs rain down as peace deal accepted ’in principle’
Donald Macintyre at the Gaza-Israel border and David Usborne in, The Independent 1/8/2009
The first tentative hope of an end to the war in Gaza came yesterday when Israel said it accepted "the principles" of a French-backed Egyptian peace plan providing for international action to stop Hamas militants smuggling arms. Israel, nevertheless, resumed its 12-day-old offensive against Hamas last night, which Palestinian medics say has killed 688 Palestinians, after halting it for three hours to allow humanitarian and medical aid into Gaza. The military said it may halt ground operations for three hours a day. As witnesses reported tanks on the move close to the border parallel to the southern town of Khan Yunis, Israel began new air strikes against smuggling tunnels in Rafah after warning local residents to leave their homes. It was claimed that an Israeli airstrike destroyed a mosque in Gaza City, injuring at least 15 worshippers.

ISRAEL-OPT: 'We see women and children carrying white flags looking for food' - Israeli soldier
Wissam Nassar/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/9/2009
TEL AVIV, 8 January 2009 (IRIN) - As the Israeli operation in Gaza entered its 13th day, human rights NGOs in Israel began collecting testimonies over the phone from Gazans. - See Gaza situation map - Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for Israeli NGO Betselem, told IRIN on 7 January: "We collect testimonies over the phone; [but] it is becoming increasingly hard to reach Gazans by phone. Our staff keep going at it. " Casualties in Gaza are now estimated at at least 683 killed, according to the Gaza ministry of health; some 3,085 have been wounded. On 6 January, the Israeli authorities allowed a brief testimony of an Israeli army officer in Gaza to be aired on public radio: "The situation in Gaza is grim; we see women and children carrying white flags looking for food, it will take years to rehabilitate [Gaza]", he said.

Send in the dogs, the soldiers will eventually follow
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Palestinians say Israeli soldiers remain in their tanks until the last minute before taking over a Gaza residence. "The soldiers don’t dare get out of the tanks and come into our homes - only after they send in dogs to clear the area," say Palestinians forced to leave their northern Gaza homes. M. , a Jabalya refugee camp resident, told Haaretz, "the army moves very slowly. The tanks approach houses, then they send the dogs. If it’s a three-story home, they send three dogs: The dogs have a camera on one leg and a walkie-talkie on the other. That’s how the dogs transmit what is in the house. Then the tanks advance up to the doorway by rolling over the fence, and the soldiers exit the tank. "According to M. , soldiers find only women, children and the elderly in the house, because the public address system called on all men under age 50 to gather at the school. " People are very scared to go to the schools the UN has opened as shelters or to hole up in mosques, which the IDF has also bombed," M. added.

Israel bombs south Gaza tunnels, tells local residents to flee
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/8/2009
The Israel Air Force attacked towns in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening, in an effort to crumble the smuggling tunnels dug by militants on the border between the Hamas-ruled coastal territory and Egypt. Residents on the Gaza-Egypt border said Israel dropped leaflets in the area, urging them to leave immediately because of planned Israel strikes. Hamas’ weapons smuggling tunnels are located in the area, and Israel has already destroyed dozens of them in repeated air strikes. The leaflet addressed the residents of a strip of neighborhoods that run parallel ot the Egypt border. "Because Hamas uses your houses to hide and smuggle military weapons, the IDF will attack the area, between the Egyptian border until the beach road," the leaflet said, according a local UN official.

VIDEO - Rafah razed
International Solidarity Movement, The Guardian 1/8/2009
Video supplied to the Guardian by the International Solidarity Movement shows razed suburbs of town of Rafah close to border between Gaza and Egypt [end]

Gaza toll passes 700; renewed shelling in Gaza City
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – More than 700 people have now been killed as Israel continues its assault on the Gaza Strip for a 13th day. Ma’an’s correspondents in Gaza report that Israeli warplanes attacked Ash-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza City, leveling houses and security buildings in an area that has already come under intense bombardment. Israeli forces also attacked Gaza City from the southeast, near the area of the evacuated Israeli settlement Nitzarim. Witnesses reported plumes of black smoke and fire in the area. Israeli warplanes also struck intensively in the city of Rafah near the Egyptian border. More than 800 Palestinian families have fled their homes in the area after Israeli planes dropped leaflets ordering residents to evacuate. Jenny Linnel a British human rights activist in Rafah said, "Shortly before midnight on the 6th of January, missiles began raining down on. . .

Israel Gaza strikes continue despite truce talks
Middle East Online 1/8/2009
GAZA CITY - Israeli jets carried out mass strikes in the Palestinian territory Thursday. With the military onslaught in its 13th day, Israeli jets pounded zones near the border with Egypt where Israel says there are hundreds of underground tunnels. In Gaza City three people were hurt when an air strike destroyed the Al-Taqwa mosque late Wednesday, medics said. A man, his three sons and a nephew were killed in one attack at the Jabaliya refugee camp and an air strike killed two men in Khan Yunis on Wednesday night, medics said. Witnesses reported that Israeli tanks had entered southern Gaza. Israeli planes dropped tens of thousands of leaflets on the Rafah area near the border warning people to leave their houses or face attacks, despite the fact that they have nowhere safe to go. There are up to 500 underground passages around Rafah, which are used to smuggle food. . .

IOF raids kill 3 little sisters, 5 members of one family
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli aerial raids on northern Gaza on Wednesday evening killed five Palestinian citizens of the same family including a 40-year-old father and his three children Tawfik, 10, Habib, 12, and Mohammed, 15, along with their cousin. Three little sisters Amal, 2, Suad, 4, and Samar, 6, were killed earlier the same day in an IOF artillery barrage at their homes in Jabalia shortly after expiry of the three hours lull announced by the Israeli occupation forces on daily basis starting Wednesday to allow citizens to purchase their supplies and to facilitate the entry of relief material into Gaza. Locals said that the three children remained under the rubble for a few hours before the rescue squads could reach their home and retrieve their bodies from under the rubble. Local sources in northern Gaza said that even during the three-hour lull IOF troops opened their machineguns. . .

Young brothers killed in shelling - Gaza toll rises to 765
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli troops shot and killed a United Nations truck driver in Gaza on Thursday. Witnesses said the UNRWA driver was shot near the Kerem Shalom border crossing at the northern end of the Strip. A bystander was injured in the shooting. The attack occured two days after Israeli artillery killed 45 civilians at a UN compound in northern Gaza. According to Palestinian medical officials, more bodies were recovered from previous attacks on Thursday, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 765 over 13 days of the Israeli offensive. Some 3,120 have been injured. The head of Emergency and Ambulance Services within the de facto Health Ministry confirmed the death toll earlier on Thursday. He clarified in a phone call to Ma’an that a number of missing persons has been reported and could only confirm that among the 3,120 wounded, 375 a “seriously injured.

Six Palestinians killed in fresh IOF attacks
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Six Palestinians including two elderly people were killed on Thursday in Israeli occupation forces’ air and land bombardment of various Gaza Strip areas. Eyewitnesses said that an IOF warplane fired a number of missiles at a group of the Palestinian resistance fighters near Beit Lahia town in northern Gaza killing three of them. They three are members of the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad movement. Meanwhile, medical sources reported that an old woman was killed in her home north of Beit Lahia after it came under IOF shelling while 20 other wounded Palestinians were rushed to northern hospitals. Another old man was killed in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, in the IOF shelling of the residential neighborhoods. In Beit Hanun a Palestinian youth was killed and four others wounded in IOF artillery shelling on the town.

IDF officer killed in Gaza
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/8/2009
Palestinian gunmen fire anti-tank missile at Haruv force entering building near Kissufim crossing, mortally wounding company commander, injuring soldier - Cleared for publication: Major Roee Rosner, 27, from Holon was killed and another soldier sustained minor injuries during an operation in the central Gaza Strip, Thursday. The incident took place near the Kissufim crossing. Rosner, a company commander, and another serviceman, were wounded when an anti-tank missile was fired by Palestinian gunmen at a building their force, which is part of the IDF’s Haruv Company, was entering. Rosner was married just 10 months ago, and a few days before he was killed the newlyweds received the key to their new apartment in Holon. He also left behind his parents and a younger brother, who has been drafted for reserve service as well.

IDF officer, soldier killed in Gaza
Hanan Greenberg Latest Update, YNetNews 1/8/2009
Staff - Sergeant Amit Robinson, 20, of Kibbutz Magal killed by Palestinian sniper fire during operation north Gaza; Captain Omer Rabinovitch, a 23-year-old Golani commander from Arad, killed during exchanges of fire -It was cleared for publication Thursday evening that Staff - Sergeant Amit Robinson, 20, of Kibbutz Magal was killed during the army’s activity in northern Gaza. Robinson, a soldier in the Armored Corps, was apparently killed by Palestinian sniper fire. Captain Omer Rabinovitch, a 23-year-old Golani commander from Arad, was also killed Thursday during exchanges of fire with terrorists. IDF sources said many terrorists were killed during the battle in which Rabinovitch was killed. Eight IDF soldiers have been killed since the ground incursion into the Hamas-controlled territory was launched.

Palestinian fighters kill Israeli soldier, claim extensive action throughout Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – One Israeli soldier was killed during fighting with Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. The Israeli military said the soldier was killed by an anti-tank missile. In other activity by the Palestinian armed groups, more rockets and homemade projectiles were fired into Israel from Gaza in response to the Israeli invasion. Palestinian guerillas also claimed to be engaged in battles with Israeli forces throughout the Gaza Strip. Israeli sources confirmed that one projectile landed in Ashkelon, causing no injuiries. Another landed in the Eshkol area east of Gaza, moderately wounding 14. A larger, Russian-made Grad missile also landed on Ashkelon, causing no damage. Six projectiles and missiles landed in the Negev, as far away as Beersheba, far to the west of Gaza, overnight.

IDF discovers Hamas booby-trap map
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/8/2009
Chief intelligence officer displays color-coded map of al-Atatra neighborhood used by terrorists to record locations of explosive devices, sharpshooters -A map depicting Hamas’ best-laid plans on how to hurt IDF soldiers in Gaza was discovered by paratroopers in al-Atatra neighborhood Thursday. The map was translated on the scene and helped the troops in subsequent operations. Chief IDF Intelligence Officer Brigadier-General Yuval Halamish explained that Hamas had divided the neighborhood into a number of areas distinguished by landmarks such as mosques, gas stations, and fuel depots. "You can see that the neighborhood was divided into three areas of fighting, according to color, and inside the terrorists spread out a number of posts, planted explosive devices, and posted sharpshooters," he said.

Israeli Military reports 8 casualties since Israeli offensive began; 4 of them from ’friendly fire’
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/9/2009
Since Israel began its full-on military assault on the besieged population of the Gaza Strip on december 27th, 8 Israelis have died. Six of the casualties were soldiers, four of whom died from so-called ’friendly fire’. Israeli military censors have severely restricted the release of information about Israeli casualties, and some unconfirmed reports claim that Israeli military casualties are higher than the military is reporting. At the same time, on the Palestinian side, over 700 people have been killed, overwhelming hospitals that no longer have any place to store bodies, dozens of people are waiting in overcrowded emergency rooms, with Palestinian hospitals almost completely out of medicine and supplies due to the Israeli siege. Two of the Israelis who died were civilians killed by Palestinian shells fired blindly from inside the besieged coastal Strip across the border with Israel.

Three soldiers killed in Gaza fighting
Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip yesterday as rockets continued to fall on Israel, and for the first time since the fighting began 13 days ago also fell in northern Israel. Meanwhile, as fighting raged in the south, Israeli, Egyptian and other foreign diplomats sought to negotiate a formula for bringing the fighting to an end. Also yesterday, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss a draft cease-fire resolution. An Israel Defense Forces soldier was killed yesterday in a clash with Hamas gunmen in Gaza, the third IDF soldier to die in one day. Capt. Omer Rabinovitch of the Golani infantry brigade was killed in the northern Gaza Strip. Another soldier was lightly wounded in the incident. Earlier yesterday, Sgt. Amit Robinson, 20, from Kibbutz Magal, was killed by Palestinian sniper fire in the Strip.

IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi tours Gaza battlefields
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi visted the Gaza Strip on Thursday, where he received an assesment of the IDF’s campaign against Hamas in the Strip. Ashkenazi toured the outskirts of Gaza City, where the Golani and Givati infantry brigades have been battling Gaza militants. While in Gaza, the IDF’s top officer met with the head of the Givati Brigade, Colonel Ilan Malka, and the head of the Golani Brigade, Colonel Avi Peled. Peled was lightly wounded in a clash with Gaza militants earlier in the week that left three IDF soldiers dead. IDF troops attacked five squads of Palestinian gunmen in Gaza on Thursday, as an IDF officer was killed during a gunbattle with Hamas militants in the coastal strip. Major Roey Rosner, 27, an officer in the Kfir infantry brigade, was killed when his unit. . .

7 IDF troops hurt, one seriously, in mortar strike on Negev
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Seven Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded on Thursday, one of whom seriously, in a mortar attack by Gaza militants on the western Negev. One of the IDF troops was also moderately hurt and the others sustained light wounds in the attack. Palestinian militants fired about 20 rockets into Israel on Thursday. Just before mortar strike, a rocket fired by Gaza militants scored a direct hit on a sports facility next to a school in Ashkelon. The strikes occurred just after 1 P. M. , technically the beginning of a 3-hour temporary ’humanitarian truce’ during which Israel and Hamas have agreed to hold their fire to allow free flow of aid to Gaza. Two of the rockets exploded in open fields near Be’er Sheva, another two hit near Ashkelon and a fifth struck the Eshkol Regional Council.

Tensions rise as rockets hit Israel from South Lebanon
Daily Star 1/9/2009
TAIR HARFA/BEIRUT: At least three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel on Thursday, prompting the Israeli military to respond with an artillery attack near the village of Tair Harfa. During an emergency meeting Thursday night, the Lebanese Cabinet said it refuses to give Israel "pretexts" to launch a wide-ranging offensive on Lebanon. Speaking following the Cabinet meeting at Baabda Palace, Information Minister Tarek Mitri said the government rejects turning South Lebanon into a platform for launching missiles and said the Lebanese Army has started a "serious investigation" into Thursday’s incident. Mitri added that President Michel Sleiman and the Cabinet stressed Lebanon’s commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought a cessation of hostilities to the devastating summer 2006 war with Israel.

25 Gaza rockets strike Negev over course of Wednesday
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/8/2009
Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday fired 25 rockets into Israel’s southern communities, including Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon. The number was significantly lower than the average absorbed by these communities in recent weeks. Two rockets exploded in Be’er Sheva just after 4 P. M. , minutes following the expiration of a 3-hour truce between Israel and Hamas which was meant to ensure a temporary free flow of aid to Gaza residents. Some structures in the city were lightly damaged, but there were no casualties. Following that attack, more rockets were reported exploding in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, close to the Gaza Strip. Earlier in the afternoon, two rockets hit Ashkelon, one exploding in the backyard of a three-story building. Nine people were treated for shock, but no other casualties were reported.

Katyusha slams into Nahariya nursing home; Hezbollah denies involvement
Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
At least two Katyusha rockets fired from south Lebanon exploded in northern Israel yesterday morning, leaving two people lightly wounded. The rockets struck the Nahariya area at around 8 A. M. , one of them directly hitting the roof an old-age home. Army officials said they believed the launch was an isolated incident, and that Hezbollah has not decided to join the fighting with Hamas at this stage. A Hezbollah minister in Lebanon’s cabinet has denied any involvement by the militant group in the rocket attacks. Israel Defense Force troops immediately fired five artillery shells into Lebanon in response to the rockets, an Israeli security source said. A military spokesman said Israel aimed "a pinpoint response at the source of fire. "About two hours after the attack, the rocket alert sounded again and two more Katyushas were reported near Nahariya.

Nasrallah warns Israelis not to pick another fight
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 1/9/2009
BEIRUT: Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday warned that "all possibilities" were open against Israel as he gave a fiery speech in which he blasted the Jewish state’s bloody offensive against the Gaza Strip. "We have to act as though all possibilities are real and open [against Israel] and we must always be ready for any eventuality," said Nasrallah, whose party defended Lebanon during the summer 2006 war with Israel. His comment marked the first time he has spoken so openly on the possibility of a renewed conflict with Israel since the war in Gaza began on December 27. Nasrallah, addressing tens of thousands of supporters in Beirut’s suburbs via video link on the occasion of Ashura, warned that the 2006 conflict in which some 1,200 Lebanese - mostly civilians - and 160 Israelis - mostly soldiers - were killed would be "but a walk in the park" compared to what awaits Israel if it launches a new offensive on Lebanon.

Rockets from Lebanon hit Israel
Al Jazeera 1/8/2009
Several rockets fired from Lebanon have hit northern Israel, Israeli police say. At least three rockets landed in the town of Nahariya, about 8km south of the Lebanese border, on Thursday causing slight injuries. The attack was followed by reports of a second missile strike, but officials later said it was a false alarm. The Israeli military fired mortars into southern Lebanon in response to the initial attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in southern Israel, said analysts were suggesting that the rocket attack could have been carried out by Palestinians in southern Lebanon. She said the firing of rockets from Lebanon "could mean the opening of a second front" in the war on Gaza which has left at least 700 Palestinians dead.

UN Security Council resolution fails to call for immediate ceasefire
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/9/2009
After several days of discussion, the United Nations’ Security Council issued a statement Thursday that failed to issue a call for an immediate ceasefire. The revised resolution stresses on the "urgency for an immediate, durable, and fully respected ceasefire". The draft of the resolution was released at 5:15 P. M Israeli time, and will be subject to further discussion before it’s voted on. The draft was composed by the United States, Britain, and France, and expressed "grave concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation in Gaza and southern Gaza and Israel". The main concern of the United States is the halt of arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, and not the huge number of civilian casualties among the Palestinians, including women, children, infants and elderly. Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General, Amro Mousa, said that the league’s firm. . .

Diplomat: Western, Arab ministers agree on UN draft on Gaza truce
AFP, YNetNews 1/9/2009
Western powers, Arab states say they have reached deal on draft of Security Council Resolution calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza - Western and Arab foreign ministers on Thursday agreed on a compromise draft resolution calling for an immediate Gaza ceasefire and decided to put it to a UN Security Council vote, a Palestinian diplomat said. "There’s an agreement accepting the amendments of the Arabs," Ryad Mansour, the Palestinian observer to the UN, told reporters. The UN Security Council meanwhile scheduled closed-door consultations for 5 p. m. (2200 GMT) Thursday presumably to hold a vote on the text that reconciles rival drafts proposed by the Arab and Western ministers. Adoption by the 15-member council of the compromise draft, which was sought by Libya on behalf of the Arab UN group, is virtually certain given that the. . .

IDF sources: Conditions not yet optimal for Gaza exit
Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Senior Israel Defense Forces officers expressed doubt over whether military efforts alone could bring regime change in the Gaza Strip, and said the army is far from achieving optimal conditions in the Strip to implement an exit strategy. IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has instructed the army to prepare for action in Gaza since March 2007, shortly after he entered the post. That month, military programs were authorized that were eventually put into action as Operation Cast Lead. The meetings dealt with the situation Israel seeks to see in the Strip after military operations are complete. An official present said the optimal situation would include several elements: steep reduction in rocket fire; neutralization of terror infrastructure; weakening of Hamas’ position and organization, as well as its removal from power; creation. . .

MIDEAST: Israel Ponders End to Offensive
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 1/9/2009
JERUSALEM, Jan 7(IPS) - "Unlike the Qana tragedy in 1996 which brought about an immediate end to the Israeli offensive in southern Lebanon, Tuesday night’s Israeli shelling of the Fakhura UNWRA school will not bring about an abrupt cessation of the Israeli military campaign," says analyst Chemi Shalev in the Wednesday morning edition of Israel Today. "But it will definitely accelerate the diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire. "The big question, he says, is "will Israel’s leaders now know what to do to secure our war objectives? " The school attack underlies what John Ging, head of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA) in Gaza had been saying repeatedly for the previous three days since the start of the ground offensive: the Palestinian population in Gaza is locked in and simply has no effective escape from the hostilities.

Hamas reticent about peace moves
Ian Black, Middle East editor, The Guardian 1/9/2009
Egypt tried to broker an urgent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in talks with Israel yesterday but there was no contact between Israel and Hamas, while the Palestinian group appeared undecided about whether to accept an Egyptian-French initiative for halting the fighting after 13 days. Ahmed Abul-Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, said he was aiming for a truce within 48 to 72 hours after President Hosni Mubarak first floated the plan on Tuesday. "I cannot imagine the Israeli killing machine continuing this operation," he told al-Hayat newspaper. Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, met Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence ministry official, to discuss future border monitoring. Gilad returned later to Jerusalem to brief the security cabinet. Israel has "welcomed" but not accepted the plan, which calls for a ceasefire,. . .

Hamas says ceasefire proposals 'under review'
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A de facto government spokesperson announced on Thursday that several ceasefire initiatives are “under review” to stop the ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip. De facto government spokesperson Taher An-Nunu said Thursday that “we will talk about them after we finish reviewing them,” but insisted that no proposal would be accepted that “does not serve Palestinian interests. ”“What is need is an immediate halt to the Israeli offensive on Gaza, as well as an end to the illegitimate blockade. ”An-Nunu concluded by saying that “the three-hour ceasefire is insufficient to remove the dozens of bodies that are under rubble” in Gaza, claiming that the Israeli military is simply attempting to “improve its image in the wake of the massacres carried out in Al-Fakhoura. ”Al-Fakhoura is the Gazan city where Israeli soldiers shelled UN schools sheltering hundreds of Palestinians, killing as many as 48, mostly women and children.

Palestinian groups: Egypt’s Gaza ceasefire plan not valid
AFP, YNetNews 1/8/2009
Groups based in Syria, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, see ’no valid basis in the Egyptian plan for a solution to the crisis’ since it is ’a threat to the resistance and the Palestinian cause’ - Palestinian groups based in Syria, including Hamas, believe the Egyptian plan aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip "has no valid basis," a Palestinian official said Thursday. "Palestinian organizations, notably Hamas, see no valid basis in the Egyptian plan for a solution to the crisis" in Gaza, Khaled Abdel-Majid, spokesman for Palestinian groups based in Damascus, told. He said the common position came after a meeting of eight Palestinian movements based in the Syrian capital, including the Islamist Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups. " The Franco-Egyptian initiative does not contribute towards finding a solution since. . . "

Akef: The Egyptian-French initiative is an Israeli request
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt Mohamed Akef on Wednesday said that the Egyptian-French ceasefire initiative is primarily an Israeli request in order to hide Israel’s failure in eliminating the Palestinian resistance.  In a conference held by the Egyptian national forces, Akef announced that next Friday would be a day of popular anger in solidarity with the Palestinian people aimed to ask the Arab regimes especially in Egypt to adopt a responsible and serious position to protect the Palestinians against the Israeli killing machine. In the same context, lawmaker Mustafa Bakri said that the Egyptian regime lives on an island isolated from the people who went out on the streets and expressed their rejection and condemnation of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. For his part, Dr. Abdeljalil Mustafa, the coordinator of the Egyptian Kefaya movement, said. . .

Fayyad signals PA’s support for Egyptian ceasefire plan
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA) signaled its support for an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad, said the Egyptian plan is logical and practical. According to Fayyad, the plan calls for an end to the Israeli assault and lifting the siege of the Strip. Fayyad made this announcement at a news conference at the president’s office in Ramallah, after a special session of the PA cabinet. He reasserted that the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) top priority is to stop the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip and protect people in the Strip. During the press conference, Fayyad held up gruesome pictures of the civilian victims of the Israeli invasion. While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is still personally recognized as president in the Gaza Strip, the PA does not control the Strip.

Israeli leadership split on whether to up Gaza war
Marius Schattner - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 1/8/2009
The Israeli leadership is divided over whether to enlarge its war in the Gaza Strip amid increased international pressure to end its deadly offensive, officials said Thursday. The differences surfaced during a meeting of the security cabinet on Wednesday, where ministers agreed to both continue the massive offensive and send a senior envoy to Cairo to discuss an Egyptian ceasefire proposal. During the meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were in favour of exploring the diplomatic channel while Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and several other ministers voiced a more hardline approach. "During the meeting Ehud Barak came out in favour of a new truce while I and several other ministers were opposed," Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon told Israeli television. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas on December 27 with a massive nearly simultaneous bombing of targets across the coastal strip.

Mideast Mediators Seek Anti-Tunnel Plan
Craig Whitlock, MIFTAH 1/8/2009
The biggest hurdle to winning a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, according to diplomats and Israeli military officials, is a problem that has bedeviled Israel for years: how to stop Hamas from digging tunnels into Egypt in order to bring tons of rockets and other weaponry into Gaza. Mediators are trying to come up with an anti-tunnel plan to satisfy Israel, which has said it won’t agree to a truce unless it includes concrete measures to prevent Hamas from rearming. Some of the ideas under consideration include construction of a giant underground barrier along the nine-mile border between southern Gaza and Egypt, as well as international military patrols with the authority to search for and destroy any freshly built tunnels, Israeli officials said. Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who along with several other European leaders has been trying to broker a deal, said Tuesday in Jerusalem that an "immediate cease-fire" was within reach if a solution to the tunnel problem could be found.

VIDEO - WATCH: Olmert spokesman says Israel never sought war in Gaza
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Mark Regev says Gaza operation preceded by dozens of rockets fired at southern Israel, despite warnings to Hamas to end attacks.

Olmert: IDF has not yet achieved all its goals in Gaza offensive
Barak Ravid and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday said that Israel has not yet achieved all of its goals in its offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "The decision about how we make sure that the quiet in the South remains is still before us, and the Israel Defense Forces has still not been asked to carry out everything that is necessary to achieve this," Olmert said. The prime minister made the comments during a tour of the IDF’s Gaza Division, where he was given a summary of the ongoing warfare in the Hamas-ruled territory. Olmert’s remarks can be seen as a signal that Israel may expand the campaign, called "Operation Cast Lead". Political sources in Jerusalem on Wednesday said the decision about whether to do so or not would be made over the next few days.

ANALYSIS / Israel’s three alternatives for the future of the Gaza war
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Israel is approaching its next important decision concerning the war in the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces will complete its preparations to expand the ground offensive today, with the reservists called up earlier this week equipped and ready for action. The political leadership will have to decide whether to authorize further action or to seek an end to the operation. At its meeting Wednesday, the cabinet agreed, at least according to the official announcement, to give diplomacy a chance. Senior officials Amos Gilad and Shalom Turgeman are traveling to Cairo Thursday to prepare the ground for a deal. In the efforts to reach an agreement, Israel will be faced with a number of alternatives: withdraw without an agreement, or adopt an option offered by the army to broaden the offensive against Hamas.

Look who’s talking / No end sans Hamas
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
At midnight tonight, according to Hamas’ interpretation of the Palestinian constitution, the tenure of Mahmoud Abbas as President of the Palestinian Authority comes to an end. The confrontation in the Gaza Strip has granted Israel the opportunity to decide whether Abbas will lose his legitimacy before some of his nation, or will secure continued Fatah rule in the West Bank. The decision to adopt the Egyptian-French-American compromise may bring an end to the fighting in the Strip and create the conditions for the resumption of the peace process. A decision to reject it may, instead of causing the collapse of Hamas rule in Gaza, bring about the crash of Abbas’ rule in the West Bank. And that will, by extension, destroy the road map. The proposal is based mostly on the 2005 agreement on the crossings that Israel signed.

Cabinet to debate sending reservists into Gaza
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
The moment of decision is nigh. In a few days’ time, at most, Israel’s political leadership will have to decide on the continuation of the ground offensive in Gaza. On day 13 of Operation Cast Lead, which was yesterday, three Israel Defense Forces troops were killed in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip. In the diplomatic arena, Hamas spurned the Egyptian mediation initiative, while the United Nations Security Council discussed the draft of a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. Five days into the ground component of the operation, it is becoming apparent that Hamas has not been defeated. Its men, most of whom had disappeared from sight when the IDF troops entered, are beginning to emerge from their hideouts to plague the forces’ rear flanks. The IDF is entering one of the offensive’s most dangerous phases.

Sarkozy: Halt to arms smuggling is key to Gaza cease-fire
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday that the key to reaching a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was the permanent cessation of arms smuggling to the Hamas-ruled coastal territory. "We must give Israel the guarantee that weapons will not pass through that border. As of that moment, the Israeli army must withdraw from Gaza. Then in a second phase we will talk about reopening the border crossings," Sarkozy told a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris. Sarkozy also said that he and Merkel were prepared to do whatever was necessary to help reach a truce ending Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The French president drew up a plan for a truce between Israel and Hamas gunmen in the Middle East with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Merkel said she backed the plan.

Top Barak aide pays visit to Cairo for talks on cease-fire plan
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 1/9/2009
CAIRO: A senior Israeli official was in Cairo on Thursday for crucial talks on an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza, a plan which Palestinian groups, including Hamas, said was "not valid. "Amos Gilad, a top aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, was to hold confidential talks with Egypt’s intelligence chief and pointman for Israeli affairs, General Omar Suleiman, before heading home, the Israeli Embassy said. Israel is hopeful the talks in Egypt "lead to conditions which will allow" the end of its offensive, a statement from Premier Ehud Olmert’s office said. Suleiman will detail the plan’s technical aspects on securing Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip through which Israel says Palestinian resistance groups, including Hamas, get weapons, a diplomatic source told AFP, requesting anonymity. Sealing the border, criss-crossed by hundreds of tunnels, is an Israeli requirement. . .

The price to be paid
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
So far, the IDF has implemented two of four stages in its original plan for the Gaza offensive. So far things have gone smoothly, but at a high cost - in the rear, in the international arena, and in the destruction and hatred that have been sown in the Strip On Wednesday, as foreign emissaries and mediators shuttled across the Middle East, the latest defense establishment assessment was that Hamas was not yet ready for a cease-fire. "They are adamant about ending this war with some sort of political achievement," an Israeli security source said. "Otherwise, the heavy price they paid will be seen to be in vain. "The Israeli dilemma is the mirror image of the one faced by Hamas. Israel, too, has paid a steep price. It’s true that it has the upper hand in the fighting and has suffered only a fraction of the casualties sustained by the Palestinians (10 Israelis killed, compared with some 550 Palestinian dead, as of midday yesterday).

Hamas: We will win war in Gaza
Shane Bauer in Damascus, Al Jazeera 1/9/2009
Israel’s war on Gaza has left more than 700 Palestinians dead - nearly a third of them women and children - and more than 3,000 injured. But at the organisation’s headquarters in Damascus, 100km miles from the territory, Musa Abu Marzouq, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, told Al Jazeera why he believes his organisation is on the verge of victory against Israel. Al Jazeera: Under what conditions will Hamas agree a ceasefire with Israel? Abu Marzouq:We have three conditions for any peace initiative coming from any state. First, the aggression of the Israelis should stop. All of the gates should be opened, including the gate of Rafah between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Finally, Israel has to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. We are not saying we will stop firing rockets from the Gaza Strip to Israel - we are only talking about stopping the aggression from the Israelis against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

Syria and Egypt / Arab dispute could delay cease-fire
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Serious differences of opinion between Syria and Egypt are making the process of reaching a Gaza cease-fire agreement difficult. Syria has advised Hamas not to accept Egypt’s cease-fire proposal, arguing it is too vague, particularly regarding the issue of Israel’s withdrawal from the Strip. In Syria’s opinion, which is coordinated with Iran, the Egyptian proposal may undermine Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip and present Israel with an advantage. Hamas is demanding a return to the terms of the cease-fire that were reached last June, which bar Israel from attacking the Gaza Strip and demand that the calm be applied in the West Bank after six months. By this, Hamas would show that Israel had not achieved any political gains through its Gaza operation. The Egyptian initiative, on the other hand, calls for a cease-fire that would take effect within 48-72 hours and would open border crossings to allow humanitarian aid into the Strip.

Buses carry 250 foreigners to safety, but more still trapped
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 1/9/2009
EREZ CROSSING, Israel: About 250 foreigners took the risky ride from Gaza City to safety across the border Thursday, but hundreds more are believed still remaining inside the war-stricken territory, diplomats said. Some of those trapped, like Spaniard Maria Velasco, have made three attempts to get to the border but say they have been forced back by the fighting between Israel and Hamas or by bureaucratic obstacles. The International Committee of the Red Cross organized the convoy of six buses that took 48 Canadians along with citizens of Austria, Norway, the Philippines, Romania and Sweden, officials said. "It was risky," said Palestinian-Canadian Marwan Diad, who was on holiday with his family when he became trapped. "Nowhere is safe in Gaza. "At the Erez border crossing with Israel, the foreigners were greeted by diplomats from their countries and most were then escorted away to be taken onward to Jordan where they were to board flights home.

Israeli policemen gun down Palestinian youth near Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli policemen shot and killed a Palestinian young man on Thursday claiming that he was trying to torch an Israeli petrol station in Mishor Adumim settlement northeast of occupied Jerusalem. Hebrew press reports said that the policemen seriously wounded the young man, who was not identified, and that he later succumbed to his injuries. Israeli ambulance cars rushed to the area while security apparatuses started investigating whether the incident was related to the Israeli military aggression on Gaza. In an unrelated development, Ibrahim Abul Najja, the prominent Fatah leader in Gaza, denied Israeli press reports that Hamas had liquidated 40 Fatah members during the Israeli aggression on Gaza. He told Quds Press that Fatah along with Hamas and other resistance factions were in one trench in confrontation with the Israeli aggression.

Palestinian man shot dead after apparent attack in West Bank settlement
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Palestinian man was shot dead on Thursday morning after allegedly attempting to set fire to a gas station in an Israeli settlement east of Jerusalem. The identity of the man has still not been determined. He was killed in Mishor Adumim, a settlement in the central West Bank. Israeli ambulances and firefighters have arrived on the scene. Israeli police are reported to be investigating the incident. [end]

Israeli troops seize three Palestinians near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli troops seized three young Palestinians from the West Bank village of Madama, south of the city of Nablus, after raiding their houses overnight. Local sources in Madama said Israeli military vehicles invaded the village at 2am. Israeli troops detained 21-year-old Ali Issam Zyadeh, Ayham 17-year-olf Omar Qat, and 17-year-old Muhammad Ghassan Zyadeh. [end]

Police kill suspected terrorist in W. Bank
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Israeli security forces yesterday shot and killed a man whom they believe was trying to blow up a gas station in the West Bank settlement of Mishur Adumim, near Jerusalem. Police were alerted mid-morning that a man was trying to torch the gas station. When they arrived on the scene, they called out to the man to freeze. According to an initial investigation, the assailant then began running toward the security forces, holding a metal object in his hand. Later, police found out the man was holding a fire extinguisher. A Palestinian gas station attendant was lightly wounded in the incident. The attendant, 39, was rushed to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem and was diagnosed as suffering from minor injuries. Last night, police investigators were busy trying to determine the identity of the assailant.

Palestinian children rally in Nablus against Gaza assault
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Nablus - Ma’an - Hundreds of Palestinians, many of them children, rallied against Israel in the northern West Bank on Thursday. Palestinian activists had reportedly issued calls for schools and other organizations to let out early in light of the rally, which took place in the center of Nablus on Thursday. At least one institution, Pioneers Baccalaureate School, heeded the call on Thursday afternoon. The private school cancelled classes to allow its students to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinian children in Gaza, English teacher Isabel Hunter told Ma’an in a telephone interview. More schools were expected to follow suit later on Thursday afternoon, Hunter added, to join activists who held signs and waved banners near a tent set up at the rally to house the hundreds of participating demonstrators and speakers.

Journalists’ Syndicate denounces PA over provocation, assault
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The director of the Ramallah-based Journalists’ Syndicate on Thursday denounced what he described as members of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s security forces’ assaults and provocation of West Bank journalists. Na’eem At-Tubasi claimed that PA forces committed "acts against journalists," particularly in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, as well as others. At-Tubasi said that "we repeatedly confirmed that these acts would harm the PA, its leadership, the presidency and the reputation of Palestinians. " The actions "put us in the category of those who attack and kill journalists and assault freedom of the press," he said. The union head noted documented the harassment of journalists and photographers in Birzeit, Ramallah and Bethlehem, calling them incidents of "insulting and irresponsible illegality.

Bethlehem demonstrators rally for Gaza at Nativity Square
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Demonstrators assembled in front of Bethlehem’s Nativity Church on Thursday to protest what some called Israeli "massacres" against children in the Gaza Strip. National and Islamic groups organized the demonstration, where protesters lifted flags and raised banners, shouting slogans and calling for national unity. They also erected a tent where photographs of Gazans killed in Israeli attacks were displayed. Other protesters marched to the headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent and moved on to Rachel’s Tomb, where clashes erupted between demonstrators and Israeli troops near the Israeli separation wall. Several injuries were reported. [end]

VIDEO - Popular protests against the annihilation of Gaza all over Palestine
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 1/8/2009
Mass demonstrations, vigils and protests in solidarity with Gaza have erupted all over Palestine. The call for an immediate end to the brutal massacre of Gaza, for national unity and the liberation of Palestine, have dominated the mobilization everywhere. Below are a few videos of the protests - Jayyous: the mobilization against the Apartheid Wall has turned into ongoing protests against the annihilation of Gaza: Bethlehem: Instead of Christmas and New Years celebrations, people were out in the streets to protest the crimes in Gaza. Nazareth: Palestinians within the Green Line gather in huge protests to call for an immediate halt of the Israeli crimes on Gaza.

Israeli soldiers fire tear gas at Bil’in women’s protest
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Ramallah - Ma’an - Dozens of Palestinian women suffered tear gas inhalation at a demonstration in Bil’in in support of the people of Gaza on Thursday. A group of women and children set out to demonstrate in the village of Bil’in, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, carrying child-size coffins and carrying Palestinian flags. When the crowd reached the Israeli separation wall, soldiers fired tear gas at the crowd of women and children, injuring dozens. [end]

Tulkarem writers demonstrate at Culture Ministry office
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Culture Ministry organized a sit-in demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinian people on Thursday in Tulkarem. The ministry’s Tulkarem office organized the event, which included intellectuals, writers, poets, cultural centers and libraries in the governorates calling for ending the occupation and the immediate halt of “Israeli massacres. ”Deputy Governor Jamal Sa’eed said that the continuous Israeli offensive has caused the deaths of more than 700 Palestinians and wounded some 3,000 others, half of which are women and children, and more than 80 percent of which are civilians. “This confirms that the targeted is the overall Palestinian people; the elderly, women and children, proving the necessity for the Palestinian people to unite as soon as possible,” he said.

Doctor’s group: Stop the bloodshed in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/9/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A Russian physicians group said in a statement sent to Ma’an on Wednesday that doctors must reject Israel’s operation in Gaza because as medical professionals, they have "an obligation to protect life. " "We, physicians, who have the mission to protect life and promote health, cannot accept the present suffering and bloodshed taking place in Gaza," the doctor’s group said in a statement sent to Ma’an. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. "We urge all parties to immediately take all the necessary steps to achieve an immediate, complete and stable ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the south of Israel, and to provide sufficient medical care for all the victims who suffer from severe injuries," the group said.

Foreign reporters dub Israel ’military dictatorship’
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 1/8/2009
Members of foreign press who received court’s green light to enter Gaza refused entry by IDF due to security reasons - One week after the High Court of Justice approved an appeal by representatives of the foreign press granting them entrance into Gaza, journalists were still waiting for the IDF to permit them to enter the Strip Thursday. "I don’t believe we’ll get in anymore," ABC’s Simon McGregor Wood told Ynet. He said they had been waiting at the Erez crossing since Sunday, when they had been called for by the IDF. "But then suddenly they said there were problems with security and only diplomats could get through," he said. Wood said the journalists were waiting at the border and straining to get a glimpse of the fighting. He said the IDF was "unprofessional" and perhaps trying to hide something.

Gaza: Palestinian journalist, his wife and mother-in-law killed by Israeli artillery
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
The Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that a Palestinian journalist, his wife and his mother in law were killed on Thursday evening when Israeli troops shelled their home in Gaza city. Eyhab Al Wahidi worked as a cameraman for the Palestinian President’s Office in Gaza. IThe children of Al Wahidi, now orphaned due to the killing of their parents and grandmother, also sustained serious injuries. While international and Israeli journalists have been kept out of the Gaza Strip throughout the two-week long Israeli offensive, Palestinian journalists who have managed to get reports out of Gaza via the internet and cellular phone have reported being targeted by Israeli forces. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reports that 8 Palestinian journalists have been killed by the Israeli army between the years of 2000 to 2008.

Israel continues to deny media access to Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
With the Israeli assault on Gaza entering its 13th day, international and Israeli journalists continue to be denied access to the Gaza Strip, despite an Israeli High Court ruling that they should be allowed to enter. For the last week, since the High Court decision was made, journalists have gone every day to the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, as they were told to do by Israeli officials. And each day, Israeli military officials have turned them away, telling them not to bother returning to try to gain access to the besieged strip. Hundreds of journalists wait in Israel for access to the Gaza Strip, which they have been denied for the last two months. But at the same time, Israeli government officials and Zionist groups from the US have been providing them with tours and interviewees inside Israel, which has led to an extremely one-sided presentation of the situation.

Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza
Ethan Bronner, MIFTAH 1/8/2009
Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza. The reporters were to be permitted in to cover firsthand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza. Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and other foreign citizens were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told to not even bother going to the border. And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

Timeline: Gaza crisis
Al Jazeera 1/9/2009
June 19: An Egyptian-brokered six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas comes into force. November 5: Israel closes all of its crossings with Gaza. December 14: Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal announces the six-month ceasefire with Israel will not be extended. December 19: Six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel officially expires. December 21: Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, says that her primary goal if she wins Israeli elections, will be to overthrow Hamas. December 27: Israel begins assault on Gaza, codenamed "Operation Cast Lead," by launching air raids that kill more than 225 Palestinians. One Israeli is killed and six others wounded in missile attacks by Palestinian fighters. December 28: Israeli aircraft bomb the Islamic University in Gaza City and the length of the Gaza-Egypt border, taking out more than 40 tunnels used to smuggle vital goods to the strip.

Gaza invasion: latest news
Matthew Weaver, The Guardian 1/8/2009
As the death toll among Palestinians passes 700, rockets have been fired from Lebanon into northern Israel prompting fears that the conflict in Gaza could spread - 8. 19am: Palestinian medical officials in the northern Gaza Strip said an Israeli air strike killed three members of a rocket-launching squad from Islamic Jihad. They said the air strike occurred in a crowded area about 150m from a hospital, according to Associated Press (AP). 8. 42am: No group has yet claimed responsibility for the rocket attack from Lebanon, but the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz blames Hezbollah backed by Iran. It says: Hezbollah is too sophisticated to claim responsibility for Thursday’s rocket fire. Elections in Lebanon are scheduled to take place in about six months, and Hezbollah does not want to be perceived as the party that once again disrupted the relative calm the country has experienced.

IOF warplanes blast tens of Palestinian homes along borders with Egypt
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Israeli warplanes on Wednesday blasted dozens of Palestinian civilian homes in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, along the borders with Egypt displacing thousands of inhabitants, eyewitnesses reported. They said that the Israeli warplanes launched a series of intensified raids destroying scores of those houses using heavy bombs, and noted that thousands fled the area fearing the powerful shelling. The displaced people sought refuge in a number of shelters provided by UN organizations amidst fears that the Israeli occupation forces might target them as well similar to what happened on Tuesday when the IOF warplanes bombarded a UN school that provided shelter for Palestinian civilians fleeing their homes. IOF choppers resumed Wednesday evening their bombing of several targets in the Gaza Strip after three hours of suspension, which was granted to allow entry of humanitarian aid into the Strip.

Victims of Israeli aggression on Gaza rise to more than 700 Palestinians
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The death toll of the continued Israeli wanton aggression on the Gaza Strip rose to more than 700 Palestinians, half of them were children and women, and the injuries to at least 3,100. Dr. Muawaiya Hassanein, the director of the ambulance and emergency in the health ministry, stated that the number of children rose to 230 and the women to 100. Israel had intensified on Tuesday its military raids on civilian houses and UN schools sheltering hundreds of innocent Palestinians which resulted in the death of more than 135 civilians in one day. In another context, Hamas political leader Mohamed Nazzal on Wednesday said that the Palestinian resistance fighters spearheaded by Al-Qassam Brigades managed to kill and wound more than 130 Israeli soldiers in five days. In a statement to the Aqsa satellite channel, Nazzal added that the Palestinian resistance had killed since. . .

Projectiles fired from Gaza reach Beersheba
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian fighters fired at least four projectiles and rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip just before midnight on Wednesday. According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth, two rockets landed in open areas near the city of Beersheba, far to the east of Gaza and the largest city in the Negev Desert. Another fell near the city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza and a fourth in the Eshkol Regional Council, east of Gaza. No injuries or damage were reported. Another newspaper, Maariv, reported that six projectiles had fallen. Palestinian fighters usually fire small, homemade projectiles that only reach areas in the immediate vicinity of Gaza. Since the beginning of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, however, armed groups have begun using longer-range rockets. By some reports, Russian-made Grad and Katyusha rockets have been used.

Sleiman again exhorts Arabs to save Gaza
Daily Star 1/9/2009
President Michel Sleiman reiterated his call on Thursday for the Arab League to hold an urgent summit to discuss means of ending both Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip and its siege of the coastal enclave. Sleiman also called on the United Nations Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities in this regard. The president made the remarks to Arab and Westerndiplomats at Baabda Palace. He also hailed the steps undertaken to establish diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria. Sleiman stressed the importance of confronting terrorism in all its forms and reinforcing the capabilities of Lebanon’s security armed forces. He also highlighted the need to have the Special Tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and other crimes, "fully operative," to implement the Taif Accord and the decisions of the national dialogue.

Israel to present complaint to UN over Lebanon rocket fire
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Israel will present a formal complaint to the United Nations on rocket fire from Lebanon, after the Lebanese terrorist organization fired two Katyusha rockets at Israel Thursday, that struck the northern of Nahariya. The Foreign Ministry has informed Israel’s ambassador to the UN Professor Gabriella Shalev to write a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon highlighting how UN resolution 1701 is not being implemented. The letter highlights how the rocket fire represents a blatant violation of UN 1701 and how Israel has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens from "radical terror groups. "The letter also states that combating arms smuggling both in Lebanon and along the border with Gaza helps ensure regional stability. Related articles: UN chief wants international monitors for Gaza cease-fireSarkozy. . .

Rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon
Middle East Online 1/8/2009
TEL AVIV - Rockets slammed into northern Israel from Lebanon on Thursday, with Hezbollah indicating it was not responsible for the attack that sowed panic on both sides of the tense border. No group had claimed responsibility for the salvo, which came as Israel pushed on with its 13-day-old offensive against the Gaza Strip. "Three rockets landed in Israel fired from Lebanon," said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, adding that two people were lightly wounded in the area around the northern town of Nahariya. "We carried out direct fire at the source of the rocket fire from Lebanon," an Israeli army spokeswoman said. A Lebanese army spokesman said: "Between two and three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon. Israel has retaliated with five or six rockets. " The exchange sent Israelis into bomb shelters and Lebanese into cars to flee their homes.

Israeli sources: Katyusha missiles fired from Lebanon hit north Israel
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli military sources said that several Katyusha missiles landed Thursday morning in northern Israel particularly in the areas of Nahariya and Shlomi near the borders with Lebanon The sources, which ruled out the possibility that Lebanese Hezbollah party was behind the operation, added that the missiles caused several explosions which led to the injury of at least five Israelis.  In a later development, Lebanese security sources reported that the IOF troops responded by firing four artillery shells at a village in southern Lebanon from which the missiles were fired. Shortly after the fall of the missiles, the home front of the Israeli army announced the disruption of study in schools in north Israel and called on the settlers especially those living near the Lebanese borders to head to shelters for fear of renewed shelling.

Katyushas strike northern Israel
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 1/8/2009
In Gaza, an IDF officer was killed in a fire-fight with Hamas. Four Katyushas were fired against the Western Galilee at 7:30 am today. One struck an old age home in Nahariya. No air raid sirens were sounded ahead of the strike. In fighting against Hamas in Gaza, an IDF officer was killed and another soldier lightly wounded this morning during a fire-fight. The soldiers, from the Kfir infantry brigade, were hit by an anti-tank missile. Sources in Lebanon claimed the rockets were fired by a Palestinian organization. The hospital in Nahariya reported that eighteen people were injured, including three with light injuries and fifteen suffering from shock. The state of alert in the region has been raised and 150 ambulances have been sent to the north as reinforcements.

IDF on alert after Nahariya attack
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 1/8/2009
The IDF is prepared if Hizbullah or Palestinian terror groups escalate rocket attacks from Lebanon, senior defense officials said Thursday, after four Katyushas struck Nahariya earlier in the day. Two people were lightly wounded when one of the rockets scored a direct hit on a Nahariya retirement home and exploded in the kitchen as some 25 elderly residents were eating breakfast in the adjacent dining hall. One resident broke a leg and another sustained bruises, both apparently from slipping on the floor after emergency sprinklers came on. "The rocket went through the roof, hurling the water heaters into the air. It went through upstairs bedrooms and then into the kitchen. There was a massive blast," said Henry Carmelli, the home’s manager.

White House breaks ranks with Israel to back draft resolution
Ed Pilkington in New York, The Guardian 1/9/2009
The US administration signalled a renewed willingness to detach itself from Israel, its main ally in the Middle East, when it backed a UN resolution yesterday calling for an immediate ceasefire in the 13-day conflict in Gaza. There were frantic scenes of last-minute discussions over the timing of a vote, but all other issues appeared to have been agreed. The resolution, forced through the UN system in the face of Israeli opposition,broke a deadlock in the international community’s response to the crisis that risked exposing the UN to ridicule and caused a tense standoff between the US and Arab countries. It came at the end of three days of intensive negotiations, with unanimous agreement being reached, barring what one senior western diplomat described as "twiddles" to the wording. The draft called for an immediate end to the fighting and swift measures to ease the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip.

UN reaches agreement on Israel ceasefire
David Usborne in New York, The Independent 1/9/2009
The United Nations was poised late last night to adopt a milestone resolution calling for an "immediate" end to military action by all sides in the Gaza Strip, a breakthrough that only became possible after the United States abruptly signalled its willingness hours earlier to accept such a text. Officials confirmed that an agreement had been reached on the wording of a ceasefire text after hours of marathon negotiations on the sidelines of the Security Council meeting between the foreign ministers of Britain, France and the US on the one hand and their counterparts from several Arab nations on the other, although the timing of the formal adoption of a deal remained in doubt. "It is not every day that the United Nations speaks loudly and clearly and across all the nations in the UN about the Middle East," said the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, in an implicit nod to the US change of position.

NATO leader: No one is talking about NATO role in Gaza Strip
Amir Oren, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
According to the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who is scheduled to visit Israel for high-level talks Sunday, "NATO has never had a discussion about deploying forces to Gaza; NATO is not a party to the Middle East Peace Process. " "That being said, the December 2008 meeting in Brussels of NATO and Mediterranean Dialogue Foreign Ministers, in which Tzipi Livni took part, offered a very useful opportunity for an exchange of views on the peace process by the countries directly involved. I think we should not ignore the potential of that format at a certain stage in the future," Scheffer told Haaretz in an exclusive interview, which will be published in full in Sunday’s edition. The prospect of Israel’s membership in NATO is virtually impossible, Scheffer said.

UN Gaza resolution text ’agreed’
Al Jazeera 1/9/2009
Western powers and Arab states have reached agreement on the text of a draft UN Security Council resolution that would call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, diplomats have said. A vote will be held on Thursday evening over the resolution, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said on Thursday. Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, David Miliband, the British foreign minister, and Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, had put the new proposal to Arab foreign ministers at the UN earlier on Thursday. Al Jazeera’s Ghida Fakhry, reporting from the UN, said the draft called for "an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza".

Abbas Appeals at UN for End of Israeli ‘Genocide’ in Gaza Strip
Bill Varner, MIFTAH 1/8/2009
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is “genocide” and appealed for urgent action by the United Nations Security Council to stop the 11-day assault. “The entire world opinion will accept no less than an urgent intervention by the Security Council to stop the fighting and deter the aggressor,” Abbas said at the UN in New York late today. “This is the message I am bearing. ”Abbas endorsed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s proposal for an immediate cease-fire that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to discuss security arrangements to avoid another round of deadly violence. Mubarak said he asked Israeli and Palestinian leaders to accept his plan after meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “Gaza today is living a new Palestinian catastrophe,” Abbas said. “I call upon this council to take the first necessary steps to save my people in Gaza, a resolution calling for an immediate cessation of Israeli aggression. ”

WATCH: U.S. Senate voices strong support for Israel’s Gaza battle against Hamas
Natasha Mozgovaya, and Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
The U. S. Senate voiced strong support on Thursday for Israel’s battle against Hamas militants in Gaza, while urging a cease-fire that would prevent the Islmast militant group from launching any more rockets into Israel. The chamber agreed on a voice vote to the non-binding resolution co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican party leaders in the chamber. "When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel, by reaffirming Israel’s inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said before the vote. Noting that Israel was bent on halting Hamas rocket fire into its southern towns, Reid said: "I ask any of my colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States.

Report: Obama ready to talk to Hamas after taking office
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
U. S. president-elect Barack Obama is expected to engage Hamas in dialogue, after he takes office, the UK newspaper The Guardian reported on Thursday. The Guardian quoted unnamed sources reportedly close to Obama’s transition team, who said he has been urged by close advisors to launch low-level contact with Hamas. The article said though there hasn’t been any talk of Obama being in favor of direct negotiations with Hamas, a growing number of voices in Washington are saying the policy of isolating Hamas is not productive. Regardless of the level of engagement, if Obama decides to reach out to Hamas, it would represent a stark break from the Bush presidency’s policy of isolating the group. The article mentions advisors to Obama who are reportedly in favor of talks with Hamas, including Richard Haass, a diplomat who served. . .

Deadly conflict ’could easily have been avoided,’ Carter says
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 1/9/2009
WASHINGTON: Israel’s assault on Gaza is an "unnecessary war" that could have been easily avoided if the Zionist state and Hamas had settled differences over extending last year’s truce, former US President Jimmy Carter said Thursday. In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, the longtime peace envoy described how he had visited the Middle East on multiple occasions in 2008, including Israel and the Palestinian territories. "I know from personal involvement that the devastating invasion of Gaza by Israel could easily have been avoided," wrote Carter, a Nobel Peace laureate. Describing intransigence on both sides, notably Israel’s refusal to fully increase the flow of humanitarian supplies to impoverished Gaza, Carter recalled that as late as mid-December he had sought in vain during a trip to Syria to win an extension of the cease-fire.

Carter: Israel using disproportionate force in Gaza
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/9/2009
Former President Jimmy Carter said Thursday that Israel’s operation in Gaza has been disproportionate to rocket attacks on Israel but could result in new efforts for a long-term Middle East peace plan. Carter told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday that although animosity toward Israel in the Arab world "has probably increased dramatically," there may be renewed interest among European leaders in finding a peaceful settlement. The former president also expressed hope the incoming administration in the US would take a more active role in negotiations. Carter said he discussed the issues with President-elect Barack Obama in a meeting this week, but would not disclose what Obama said. Jpost. com staff contributed to this report.

Transcript: Stephen Hadley
John D. McKinnon, MIFTAH 1/8/2009
The Journal’s John McKinnon sat down with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley at his office in the West Wing. They talked about the situation in Gaza, the U. S. relationship with Russia, Iraq and more in an interview previewing a valedictory speech Mr. Hadley plans to deliver Wednesday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview. The Wall Street Journal: Talk a little about the challenges, as well as the opportunities, that the next administration is going to face. Mr. Hadley: Well, there are a number of challenges out there, as the President reminds us, with each challenge there is an opportunity and the trick is to find it. But I think one of the things that is obviously they’re going to have to focus heavily on is the Pakistan situation. Pakistan is an old ally of the United States. It is in our interests to see this democratically elected government succeed, because it is important

Oslo, Caracas rocked by Gaza rallies
YNetNews 1/8/2009
In Norway police subdue violent clashes after pro-Palestinian protestors burn Israeli flag, while in Venezuela protestors cheer expulsion of Israeli ambassador by throwing shoes at embassy - Norwegian police on Thursday were forced to use tear gas in order to subdue violent protests against the IDF operation in Gaza, Germany’s DPA news agency reported. Meanwhile in Venezuela protestors sprayed graffiti and hurled shoes at the Israeli embassy, backing President Hugo Chavez’s decision to expel the Israeli ambassador. Hundreds of people, including members of parliament, participated in a pro-Israel rally while a pro-Palestinian rally was staged just across the street. Siv Jensen, leader of Norway’s Progressive Party, said that although war is awful, Israel is "employing its right to defend itself.

Norway: Protesters hurl rocks, bottles at pro-Israel demonstrators
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/8/2009
Tens of thousands marched throughout Norway on Thursday calling for an end to ’the violence in Gaza’ Gaza and police used tear gas to disperse a few hundred others who turned violent during a separate pro-Israel demonstration in Oslo. No serious injuries were reported. Police said one officer was treated for cuts to his face, and at least 27 protesters were detained. The state television network NRK estimated the crowd in Oslo to be up to 40,000 calling for Israelis and Palestinians to stop attacking each other and seek peace. There were also peaceful marches by thousands in other Norwegian cities. A pro-Israel demonstration of about 500 people turned ugly when several hundred young pro-Palestinian demonstrators began hurling rocks, bottles and fireworks toward police and Israeli supporters. The police used tear gas to disperse the crowd there and again against about. . .

Czech FM: Truce needed to curry EU favor
Assaf Uni, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
BERLIN - The longer the military operation goes on, the more Israel loses in terms of European public opinion, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview to Haaretz. The Czech Republic currently holds the rotating European Union Presidency. "I do think that each hour Israel is continuing its military operation it loses in the public opinion in Europe and this is a process which is going on very fast and endangers the friendly government around Israel and undermines the position of president Abbas. I think we have to achieve a cease fire, to achieve a settlement, today and not tomorrow," said Schwarzenberg. Nonetheless, the Czech minister, who headed a mission by the Foreign Ministers of the European troika to the region earlier this week, is not very optimistic about the possibility for an agreement that would bring an end to the fighting.

European Jews to hold rallies supporting Israel’s Gaza offensive
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Responding to daily anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Israel protests, Dutch and Belgian Jewry have decided to stage rallies to show their support for Israel in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, along with British, German, Austrian and Italian sister-communities. One demonstration against Israel this week was attended by a Dutch legislator who called for "intifada" in order to "free Palestine. " Dutch Jews will hold a support rally in Hague today (Friday). The Belgian community in Antwerp is planning a similar event on Sunday in a park in the city’s center. On Wednesday, some 500 Jews showed up to protest outside the Iranian embassy in Brussels. Jewish leaders from both Holland and Belgium conceded that while the demonstrations may add to the rising tension, but add that they "cannot afford" to remain silent, as one community leader from Holland said.

Merkel says Israel security key for Gaza ceasefire
News agencies, YNetNews 1/8/2009
German chancellor says she agrees with Sarkozy on conditions for Gaza ceasefire, adding that ’the key is having guarantees for Israel’s security’; French president: Escalation must be curbed - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday she agreed with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the conditions for a ceasefire in Gaza and that making sure Israel had guarantees on security was vital. "The key is having guarantees for Israel’s security," Merkel told reporters after meeting Sarkozy in Paris. The French president said the rocket fire on Israel "must stop," adding that the "escalation must be curbed and Israel must receive guarantees for its security and lave Gaza, the sooner the better. " Angela Merkel and I believe that Israel should be guaranteed that no arms will be smuggled across the Egypt-Gaza border, and once these. . .

Jews in Rome outraged over boycott call
Ynet Published, YNetNews 1/8/2009
The Times quotes Jewish community leaders in Italian capital as saying trades union proposal to ’identify and boycott’ Jewish-owned shops was reminiscent of anti-Semitic racial laws adopted by Mussolini - Jewish community leaders in Rome expressed outrage over a trades union proposal to "identify and boycott" Jewish-owned shops in the Italian capital in protest of Israel’s operation in Gaza, The Times reported Thursday. The proposal was put forward by Giancarlo Desiderati, leader of the Flaica-Uniti-Cub union, which represents 8000 shop assistants in Rome, the report said. According to the London-based newspaper, Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, condemned the boycott call, and Jewish leaders said it was reminiscent of the anti-Semitic racial laws adopted seventy years ago by the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini in imitation of Nazi Germany, under which only "Aryan" shops were allowed to open.

Pope: ’Military options no solution’ in Mideast
Middle East Online 1/8/2009
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday that military options were not a solution in the Middle East and called for a new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned," the pope said during his annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps. He said he hoped "that, with the decisive commitment of the international community, the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip will be re-established -- an indispensable condition for restoring acceptable living conditions to the population -- and that negotiations for peace will resume. " Benedict called on both sides to reject "hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms. " Israel is currently in the 13th day of a massive offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Venezuelans march over Gaza crisis
Al Jazeera 1/9/2009
Protesters have marched on the Israeli embassy in Venezuela, calling for an end to Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. More than 1,000 demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans in support of Gaza outside the embassy in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Thursday. Demonstrators threw shoes and firecrackers at an outer wall of the building housing the embassy and spray-painted "Israel get out" and "Long live a free Palestine" to protest against Israel’s assault. The protest comes two days after Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president,announced his decision to expel the Israeli ambassador to Venezuela. Chavez anger Chavez, a longtime critic of Israel, called the country’s offensive in Gaza a "holocaust" in televised comments on Tuesday.

Jewish group holds rally at Israel’s Toronto consulate
Ma’an News Agency 1/9/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A diverse group of Jewish Canadian women occupied the Israeli consulate in Toronto on Tuesday, according to a statement. The group said the action was "in protest of the ongoing Israeli assault on the people of Gaza. "It carried out the "occupation" in solidarity with the 1. 5 million people of Gaza and to ensure that Jewish voices against "the massacre in Gaza" are being heard, it said. They are demanding that Israel end its military assault and lift the 18-month siege on the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid into the territory. Israel has been carrying out a full-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip since 27 December. At least 700 people have been killed and well over 3,000 injured in airstrikes and the ground invasion that began on 3 January. The Jewish protesters said they are outraged at Israel’s latest assault on the Palestinian people. . .

British link with drone aiding the Israeli war effort
David Pallister, The Guardian 1/9/2009
An Israeli-owned British company has been drawn into the political controversy over arms sales to Israel prompted by the assault on Gaza. UAV Engines, of Lichfield, Staffordshire, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of engines for drones - unmanned aerial vehicles that are becoming critical frontline systems for military and civilian use around the world. The company, known as UEL, is owned by the Israel drone specialists Silver Arrow, a subsidiary of the Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems. One of its rotary Wankel engines is used in Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone. A version of the 450 makes up a squadron of the Israeli air force and has been seen over Gaza in the current conflict, being used for surveillance and targeting for Israel’s F-16 strike fighters. Commentators on reputable defence and aviation journals and Elbit’s own website suggest that the Lichfield factory produces engines for the Hermes.

Beautiful green-eyed soldiers wage PR battle for IDF
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/8/2009
The Israel Defense Forces has been putting its female face forward as it battles for public opinion in cyberspace. The New York Times printed a blog on Wednesday showing that the army’s English Web site features a self-updating banner with pictures of one glamorous female soldier after another, while the Hebrew site shows images of male soldiers. Perhaps guided by the belief that pictures of smiling female soldiers present a better image of Israel than battle-hardened troops in combat fatigues, the banner features photos that would not seem entirely out of place in a fashion show. One picture in particular stands out, as it shows a close-up of a female soldier with light-green eyes before a row of multi-colored bullets lined up like sticks of lip balm. A glance on the Hebrew site shows that for the domestic audience, the. . .

Iran bans volunteer suicide bombers from traveling to Israel
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Iran’s top leader banned hardline Iranian volunteers on Thursday from leaving the country to carry out suicide bombings against Israel but warned that Iran would not spare any effort to assist the militant group Hamas in other ways. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ban sought to tone down calls by allies of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to toughen Iran’s stand against Israel. But they also exposed hidden rifts between the supreme leader and the president five months before elections in which Ahmadinejad, whose popularity has been waning, is seeking a second term. Hardline Iranian student groups had asked the government to authorizev olunteers to go carry out suicide bombings in Israel in support of Hamas. The students began signing up volunteers after Khamenei issued a religious decree on Dec.

EGYPT-OPT: Gaza wounded get help across the border
Pablo De Soto/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/9/2009
RAFAH, 8 January 2009 (IRIN) - The town of Rafah is divided between Egypt and Gaza, with the border running through the town. Al-Arish hospital on the Egyptian side had yet another busy day on 7 January with the arrival of 29 wounded Palestinians from Gaza via the Rafah border crossing. Among the wounded were a nine-month-old child shot in the head and a 27-year old woman shot in the intestines. Her traumatised sister was being calmed down by nurses outside the emergency room. A doctor told IRIN he was finding bullets and not just shrapnel in the bodies of children, an indication, he said, that they may have been targeted by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli authorities have strongly denied any intention of attacking civilians. Despite criticism of Egypt’s reluctance to keep the Rafah border crossing open to allow aid into Gaza, some humanitarian workers said the government’s response was adequate.

EU seeks to open safe-passage route for aid to Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The European Union will open a route for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, according to an announcement from the international organization’s Media and Communications Department in Brussels on Thursday. The department’s head of operations, Simon Horner, said Thursday that the EU "has designated staff to coordinate the opening of a safe passage to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. " He added in a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that, “We represent the human side of the EU Commission (ECHO) and the aid that should enter Gaza. " "Now we are holding negotiations with the Israeli side to open a safe passage to allow aid into Gaza," he added, going on to say that the Gaza residents are suffering "a major human tragedy" and are deprived from their "basic life needs, including pure drinking water and even safe shelter.

Qaradawi: Egypt refused to receive delegates of federation of Muslim scholars
Palestinian Information Center 1/8/2009
DOHA, (PIC)-- Dr. Yousef Al-Qaradawi, the head of the world federation of Muslim scholars, on Wednesday said that Egypt refused to receive a delegation from the federation in order to meet with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and said that the conditions are not appropriate for such a visit. In a press conference held in Doha, Dr. Qaradawi stated that the delegation urged the leaders of the visited countries (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Turkey) to mediate with the Egyptian regime and pressure it to open the Rafah crossing and allow the passage of humanitarian aid to the Gaza people. The noted Muslim scholar affirmed that the delegation highlighted during its visits to Arab countries that the Palestinian resistance in Palestine must continue and receive all support, and stressed the need to confront the Israeli attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause.

250 foreigners flee Gaza fighting
AFP, YNetNews 1/8/2009
Red Cross organizes convoy of six buses that takes 48 Canadians along with citizens of Austria, Norway, the Philippines, Romania and Sweden across Erez crossing and into Israel. ’I am happy because I’m out, but I am worried about my family,’ Palestinian-Canadian says - About 250 foreigners on Thursday took the risky ride from Gaza City to safety across the border, but hundreds are believed still left inside the war-stricken territory, diplomats said. Some of those trapped, like Spaniard Maria Velasco, have made three attempts to get to the border but say they have been forced back by the fighting between Israel and Hamas or by bureaucratic obstacles. The International Committee of the Red Cross organized the convoy of six buses that took 48 Canadians along with citizens of Austria, Norway, the Philippines, Romania and Sweden, officials said.

Arab news channels differ over Gaza war coverage
Ali Khalil - DUBAI, Middle East Online 1/8/2009
Israel’s onslaught on Gaza has taken over the screens of the two main Arab news channels, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, but each with its own perspective on objectivity and the airing of disturbing footage. "Gaza Under Fire" is the title adopted by the Doha-based Al-Jazeera television for its round-the-clock coverage of Israel’s all-out offensive. According to Gaza medics, more than 700 Palestinians have now been killed since Israel’s offensive began on December 27. To some, the Qatari-funded channel may seem pro-Palestinian in its coverage by describing the dead as "martyrs". But its editor-in-chief, Ahmed al-Sheikh, has no apologies. "Instead of asking why we call the dead ’martyrs,’ we say stop the killing so that there would no longer be any martyrs," he said, insisting the channel remains objective, allocating airtime for Israeli officials.

PA asks Arab League for funds to rebuild Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Cairo – Ma’an – Palestine’s ambassador to Egypt said on Wednesday night that the Palestinian Authority (PA) sent a request to the Arab League for rebuilding Gaza’s decimated infrastructure. Ambassador Nabil Amro passed along the request to Amr Mousa, the secretary-general of the Arab League in Cairo, hoping the latter could include the issue in planned 19 January economic talks in Kuwait. Amro clarified that rebuilding the Gaza Strip after massive Israeli destruction places the issue in a "category of its own" in light of the ongoing assault on the coastal strip. [end]

Turkey sends food aid to Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A social rehabilitation group received a portion of Turkey’s overall commitment to Gazans on Wednesday, according to a statement. The Al-Bureij Association for Social Rehabilitation received the Turkish donation at Gaza’s Al-Bureij Refugee Camp in Al-Wousta. The association’s executive manager, Raed Ibrahim, said he received requested food aid after having made several appeals. He added that the association has received 1,375 meals at the cost of US $55 in light of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza. [end]

Tel Aviv judge defends right of Arab anti-war protesters
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 1/8/2009
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Wednesday quashed a request to restrict the movement of four Arab residents of Haifa who demonstrated against the war in Gaza, with the prosecutor saying their protest "damages national morale. "Judge Ido Druyan released the protesters on bail and removed restrictions that had been placed on them. The four, aged 19 to 26, were indicted on charges of illegal assembly, disturbing the peace and obstructing a police officer in performing his duty. The indictment says the protesters waved Palestine Liberation Organization flags outside the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv, assaulted police officers and clashed with counter protesters. "There’s no doubt that freedom of expression is the most precious element of democracy, but only while maintaining the boundaries between the permitted and the prohibited,". . .

Pipe bomb thrown at home in Lod; residents say incident terror-related
Eli Senyor Published, YNetNews 1/9/2009
Police initially claimed incident was criminally-motivated, but locals say it is continuation of recent tension between Jews and Arabs in the mixed city - A pipe bomb was thrown Thursday evening toward the front yard of home on Yaakov Plumnick Street in the city of Lod. The home’s front yard also serves as a kindergarten. Residents said the explosion, which occurred at around 9:30 pm was terror-related, but police are investigating all possible angles. Yaakov Plumnick Street is located on the border of Lod’s old city, and houses both Jews and Arabs. The home that was attacked is owned by a Jewish family with no links to the underworld. Residents said a second explosive device that was thrown at the house did not explode and was later neutralized by sappers. Police officials initially claimed that the incident was criminally-motivated, but the area’s Jewish residents are certain it was an act of terror.

Nablus leaders launch fundraising campaign for Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Nabulus - Ma’an - The governor and mayor of the largest city in the West Bank declared the largest-ever fundraising campaign for besieged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Nablus Governor Jamal Muheisen announced the goal in the presence of Zakaria Al-Agha, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee, as well as many others representing civil society and governmental organizations in the district. Governor Muheisen explained during a news conference in Nablus on Thursday held in at the headquarters of a civil servants’ union that forming teams for fundraising would be a first priority for his position in the PA. The campaign comes amid calls from the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who insisted on forming individual teams for fundraising for victims of Israel’s onslaught against the Gaza Strip.

Barak’s war gains
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 1/8/2009
Operation Cast Lead has boosted faith in Defense Minister Ehud Barak as a potential prime minister. The latest "Globes"-Geocartography poll finds Minister of Defense Labor Party leader Ehud Barak to be gaining popularity as a result of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Fully 48% of respondents said that their faith in him as a potential prime minister had risen or risen greatly because of his performance in the war. If Barak hoped that merely being Minister of Defense would enhance his chances of regaining the premiership, the past couple of years would have disabused him, but now, while he probably cannot manage in the 30 days left to the elections to gain enough momentum to mount a serious challenge for the top post, he must stand a good chance of holding onto the defense portfolio in a government led by Kadima chairwoman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni or Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel Defers Vote on Expanding Gaza Ground op Amid Growing Truce Bids
Barak Ravid, MIFTAH 1/8/2009
Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday postponed a vote on whether to expand the Israel Defense Forces 12-day-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, political sources said. The sources said ministers discussed whether to implement the "third stage" of an operation launched on Dec. 27 but decided to defer the decision on whether to approve it to an undisclosed date. Israel’s political leadership gathered in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning to discuss widening the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip at a time when most of the aims of the operation have been met. In parallel, international diplomatic efforts are continuing, centering on an initiative to deploy an international force of combat engineers that would deal with the tunnels along the Philadelphi Route. The force would work in coordination with a naval force that would patrol the Gaza Strip shores.

Fighting on the front line of the public opinion war
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
English-speakers promote Israel’s take on the Gaza operation through the IDF Spokesman’s office If you sound like a native-English speaker in Hebrew when you’re near Doron Spielman on one of his trips to the Negev, you could end up on television. As an IDF Spokesman captain in the reserves, the former Detroit resident is always looking for Anglos who can explain about living under fire. "I work a lot like the journalists," he said on Wednesday from a hill overlooking the Jabalya refugee camp situated in the northern Gaza Strip. He was explaining about his service in the foreign media desk at the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s office. "We build a network of contacts so that when we need them, like now, we can call them up and have them explain to the media why the IDF had to enter Gaza," he said.

Knesset legal advisor says 80-member majority needed to delay elections
Shahar Ilan and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Knesset legal advisor Nurit Elstein determined yesterday that a two-thirds majority would be needed to postpone elections, and leaders of four major parties dismissed appeals for postponment Eighty Knesset members would have to support a special law delaying the February 10 general elections and detailing the special circumstances surrounding the measure. The law could only allow the elections to be postponed as long as those special circumstances were in place. Attorney Elstein wrote an opinion at the behest of Likud party whip Gideon Saar and Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich. Saar and Yachimovich claimed that the legal situation needed to be clarified in light of public debate on the subject. Pension Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan spoke to most party chairs, but his efforts to garner support for delaying the elections fell short.

Israeli official blasts slow handling of evacuated Gaza settlers’ plight
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in a report released Wednesday that the shortcomings in dealing with disengagement evacuees constituted "foot-dragging," and the way housing issues were handled showed a "lack of sensitivity" to the situation facing the evacuees. Employment issues were also poorly handled, Lindenstrauss found. The report is a follow-up; an initial report on the government’s treatment of the Jewish settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 was released in March 2006. The current report discusses the functioning of Sela, the administrative body established to deal with the needs of evacuees, the Housing Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry’s budgets department and accountant general. Among other things, the report looked into the treatment of businesses that were evacuated from. . .

IDF reserve troops receive fictitious calls for duty in Gaza
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 1/8/2009
The Israel Defense Forces have launched an investigation into numerous fictitious Tzav Shmone (emergency call for duty) messages recently sent to mobile phones of reserve soldiers, ordering them to join the battles of the ongoing Gaza assault. The messages instructed the soldiers to arrive at Haifa’s enlistment center, where they would receive their stationing in the south. Boaz, a student in Tel Aviv and a reserve soldier serving in Golani Brigade’s elite Egoz anti-guerilla unit describes receiving the message: "A few days ago, while I was in the university, I received a call from an unidentified number. When I answered I heard an automatic voice message very similar to the message we received during the Second Lebanon War, only this time I wasn’t requested to verify my ID number. "

Arafat’s photographer reportedly killed in Gaza strike
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/9/2009
Ihab al-Wahidi, who accompanied late Palestinian leader across world, killed along with his mother and wife, Palestinian sources say; Gaza toll death tops 770 - Ihab al-Wahidi, who served as late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s photographer, was reportedly killed Thursday night along with his wife and mother in an IDF strike in Gaza. Palestinian sources said that the home where al-Wahidi was staying was hit by a tank shell or an Air force missile. Al-Wahidi was noted for accompanying Arafat on his trips across the world. The photographer’s father served for many years as the Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy to Morocco - al-Wahidi himself was married to a Moroccan national. Meanwhile, sources in Gaza reported that three people - a Palestinian doctor, his Ukrainian wife, and their daughter - were killed by an IDF shell in the eastern section of Gaza City.

’Not all Israelis are bad’
Meital Yasur Beit-Or Published, YNetNews 1/9/2009
Eight-year-old Palestinian cancer patient treated near Tel Aviv grateful to Israeli doctors - Even though he is currently his Israel, while most of his family is in the Gaza Strip, Imad Tanani watches almost no television. His young daughter, eight-year-old Wala, is a cancer patient treated at the oncological department at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. Imad says he prefers not to expose his daughter to the difficult images from Gaza because they frighten her. "She is very concerned about what’s happening in Gaza and asks: ’Daddy, what if they attack our house by mistake? ’" Imad told Ynet Thursday. "She tells her mom not to let her brothers go outside because it’s dangerous. " The concerned father says he takes his daughter to the supermarket and buys her presents to help her deal with the anxiety.

Kanoute shows support for Palestinians
Middle East Online 1/8/2009
SEVILLE - Sevilla’s Malian international striker Frederic Kanoute displayed a t-shirt with the word "Palestine" during his side’s 2-1 Spanish Cup over Deportivo Coruna in the Spanish Cup. The 31-year-old lifted his jersey to show the t-shirt with the word written in various languages after his side scored late Wednesday in what was seen as an act of support for Palestinians in Gaza where an Israeli military offensive has claimed more than 700 lives since it began on December 27. France-born Kanoute, a Sevilla player since a 2005 move from English Premiership side Tottenham, is a practising Muslim who has supported various humanitarian causes in the past. In 2006 he set up a foundation to help orphans in Mali and the following year he reportedly spent around 500,000 euros (700,000 dollars) of his own money to save a privately owned mosque in Seville from being sold after a contract. . .

Ottoman-era Jerusalem Jews were slave owners
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
A recently published research paper abut the life and death of one 10-year-old Ethiopian girl in 19th century Jerusalem has added an interesting detail to what scholars know about Jewish life under the Ottoman Empire. Apparently, some of them bought and kept slaves. According to research by Joseph B. Glass and Ruth Kark, which appeared in the scientific publication Jerusalem Quarterly, Sarah La Pereta ("Black Sarah"in Ladino) entered the Valero family from Jerusalem as a slave, was manumitted and lived out her life as a servant and cherished member of the family. Bought at the age of 9 from Arab slave traders in 1879 by Haim Aharon Valero from Jerusalem, she was tasked with helping to tend to Valero’s seven children, who had lost their mother, Simcha, in childbirth. Kark, a researcher at the Hebrew University, explains that the name Sarah La Preta was most probably given to the young slave by the family.

Moody’s: Israel credit rating not threatened
Erez Wollberg, Globes Online 1/8/2009
"Israel is the only A-rated issuer with an active state of war on its territory. ""Israel’s present political and financial shocks do not pose an immediate threat to the country’s risk profile, including its A1 rating and stable outlook," says Moody’s Investor Services in a special report. Moody’s Israel analyst Joan Feldbaum-Vidra adds, "Our main concern for the credit rating is fiscal, given the unknowns over the cost of the military conflict with Hamas in Gaza - Israel is the only A-rated issuer with an active state of war on its territory - and the ability of the government’s fiscal intervention program to deal with the credit crunch and difficult conditions in Israel’s capital markets. " Feldbaum-Vidra noted that Israel’s continued rating stability is delicately poised, driven by the expectation that the fiscal impact of the shocks. . .

Unemployment rises steeply in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem
Shay Niv, Globes Online 1/8/2009
National Insurance Institute director general Esther Dominici: The December figures are the start of a trend. The National Insurance Institute reported today that most of the people laid off as a result of the economic crisis are high-tech employees and graduates. December 2008 figures indicate an increase of over 50% in the number of applications for unemployment benefits in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, compared with an increase of 10% in the south. The National Insurance Institute said that the greatest impact of the crisis so far was on high-tech companies, whose employees mainly reside in central Israel. As evidence, it cited the sharp rise in applications for unemployment benefit in Rishon LeZion, Ramat Gan, Ashdod, and other large cities. 18,500 people applied for unemployment benefit in December, 23% more than in September.

Shekel weakens as tension in North rises
Sharon Baider, Globes Online 1/8/2009
Foreign exchange trading firm Finotec said that a continued ground operation is liable to weaken the shekel. The shekel-dollar exchange rate is up 1. 56% to NIS 3. 917/$, and the shekel-euro exchange rate is up 1. 33% to NIS 5. 3303/€. This morning, several Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon and landed in Nahariya, raising the possibility of a second front in the current fighting against Hamas. While there are claims that a Palestinian group, rather than Hizbullah, fired the missiles, the tension has weakened the shekel, sending the shekel-dollar rate higher. Foreign exchange trading firm Finotec said that continued fighting is liable to weaken the shekel, if market participants conclude that Israel’s economy will suffer from an long lasting ground operation, and that the financial burden on Israeli citizens will increase.

Greens oppose high-speed Jerusalem rail line tender
Moshe Lichtman, Globes Online 1/8/2009
At issue is whether the railway will bridge over or tunnel under Nahal Yitle in the Judean Mountains. A storm has erupted betweenIsrael Railways and environmental organizations after Israel Railways announced that it intends to publish a tender for construction of the second section of the Jerusalem high-speed rail link. The environmental organizations are demanding that the tender be postponed until after a detailed plan for the line is formulated. Last month, the cabinet approved the establishment of a special authorizing body to deal with the planning aspects of the high-speed Jerusalem railway line. The cabinet also budgeted NIS 6. 4 billion for the project. Environmental organizations, including the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said that Israel Railways was acted underhandedly by acting before the key. . .

Gov’t allocates NIS 150m to firms for new hires
Erez Wollberg, Globes Online 1/8/2009
Priority will be given to enterprises in outlying areas and communities around the Gaza Strip. The social economic cabinet has approved a proposal by Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai and Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On to allocate NIS 150 million to enterprises to encourage them to hire. Priority will be given to enterprises in outlying areas and communities around the Gaza Strip. Aid will also granted to companies nationwide with high proportion of minorities, haredim (ultra-orthodox), and handicapped employees. Special budgets will be allocated for the establishment of R&D centers in outlying areas that will provide high paying jobs. These centers will serve as job anchors that will support educational, cultural, and other activities in the areas.

Rich get poorer
Stella Korin-Lieber, Globes Online 1/8/2009
Israel’s largest investor groups lost over 80% in market cap last year. The aggregate market cap of Israel’s 14 largest investment groups fell a stunning 81% to NIS 65 billion at the end of 2008 from NIS 345 billion at the end of 2007, according to Dun and Bradstreet Israel Dun’s 100. Financial and real estate holdings took the greatest losses. D&B Israel says that the large investment groups will maintain their appearance on the list in 2009. D&B Israel general manager Reuven Kuvent said, however, "The fall of one holding company is comparable to the fall of one of Israel’s big banks. Therefore, from a national perspective, we must examine the conduct of these companies and help during the crisis. "He added that if a major holding company crashed, the damage to the economy as a whole was inestimable. While the Tel Aviv 25 Index fell. . .

Banks cracking down on diamond merchants
Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
Israel’s banks have been making credit terms tougher for the faltering diamond sector. Most of Israel’s big diamond merchants admit to a roughly 20% drop in sales last year compared with 2007, and say banks are tightening credit unless the merchants provide more collateral. At its peak, credit to the diamond industry had been some $2. 25 billion, say industry sources. In recent days banks have cut back credit by some $200 million, following a reduction of the a similar degree in previous months. And as activity in precious gems slows together with the world economy, the banks are expected to tighten credit lines even further. The value of diamonds in world markets has been dropping. When a gem is offered for sale abroad, doesn’t find a buyer and returns to Israel, its value is diminished. Since it is worth less, the merchant’s banker will want more backing for credit, and if the. . .

Shi’ites and Sunnis find common cause
Jeffrey Donovan, Asia Times 1/9/2009
From Gaza to Kabul, signs are mounting that the age-old feud between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam is easing, despite violence yet again marring Ashura, the holiest Shi’ite holiday that culminates this week in the Iraqi city of Karbala. In Baghdad on January 4, a female suicide bomber killed 35 people near a key Shi’ite shrine during the run-up to Ashura. No one has claimed responsibility, but speculation has invariably pointed to Sunni terrorists, among other suspects. Sunni attacks, after all, have long been a common feature of Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom in AD 680 of Imam Hussein and his followers in a battle that sealed Islam’s split between Shi’ites loyal to Hussein, Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, and the Sunni majority. But as Shi’ites by the hundreds of thousands poured into Karbala - beating their chests and flogging their backs with chains to recall Hussein’s ordeal - the political divide between Islam’s main branches has narrowed.

Zebari expects Obama to stay Bush’s course
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 1/9/2009
DUBAI: US President-elect Barack Obama, who opposed the 2003 war on Iraq, is likely to continue the foreign policies of President George W. Bush, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari predicted in interview published on Thursday. "There won’t be a radical change or a rapid break," Zebari told the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the incoming US leader would be guided by a security pact signed between Baghdad and Washington. He said he had already been in communication with members of the incoming Democratic administration, and "the message we received is one of continuity. Perhaps there would be change in the focus or the tasks of the troops and some policy elements - but not in the overall policy. "- AFP

Free Gaza Movement warns Israel: We’re coming back
Ma’an News Agency 1/8/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - On Wednesday the Free Gaza Movement "put Israel on notice" that it is sending another emergency boat to Gaza. "We will announce our exact departure date, time and route in the next few days. We will travel from Cypriot waters into international waters, then directly into Gaza territorial waters, never nearing Israeli waters," the group insisted in a statement. Ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed nearly 700 Palestinians, including many children and women, and injured as many as 3,000. "These acts by Israel are severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined by the Geneva Conventions, both in regards to the obligations of an occupying power and in the requirements of the laws of war," the group said. Free Gaza also said the United Nations has failed to protect the Palestinian civilian population from Israel’s "massive violations of international humanitarian law.

Free Gaza Movement: 'We are coming back'
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/8/2009
The Free Gaza Movement issued a press release on Thursday announcing that peace activists will be heading to Gaza via an emergency ship in an attempt to deliver humanitarian supplies to the residents of the Gaza Strip. The movement added that the time and date of the trip will be announced soon, and that the boat will sail from Cyprus to the regional waters in Gaza without approaching Israeli controlled regional waters (although this will not stop the Israeli Navy from attacking and intercepting them). The movement said that the ongoing Israeli offensive and the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children, and the thousands of wounded residents, prove that Israel is ongoing with targeting civilians, while the international community remains unable to oblige Israel to respect the international human rights treaties and the four Geneva Conventions.


POLITICS: U.S. Weaponry Facilitates Killings in Gaza
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service 1/9/2009
      UNITED NATIONS, Jan 8(IPS) - The devastating Israeli firepower, unleashed largely on Palestinian civilians in Gaza during two weeks of fighting, is the product of advanced U.S. military technology.
     The U.S. weapons systems used by the Israelis -- including F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles and a wide array of munitions -- have been provided by Washington mostly as outright military grants.
     The administration of President George W. Bush alone has provided over 21 billion dollars in U.S. security assistance over the last eight years, including 19 billion dollars in direct military aid as freebies.
     Israel’s intervention in the Gaza Strip has been fueled largely by U.S. supplied weapons paid for with U.S. tax dollars," says a background briefing released Thursday by the Arms and Security Initiative of the New York-based New America Foundation.
     The Bush administration has been unwilling to use its considerable influence -- as Israel’s major military and political backer -- to dissuade the government in Tel Aviv from its pattern of claiming self-defence while perpetrating collective punishment, human rights violations and undertaking massively disproportionate attacks that harm and kill civilians," Frida Berrigan, senior programme associate at the New America Foundation, told IPS.

Airburst shells ’are danger to civilians’

Peter Beaumont and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian 1/9/2009
      Israel’s use of white phosphorus airburst shells over the densely populated Gaza Strip came under fresh criticism last night for endangering civilians.
     The New York-based Human Rights Watch compared the use of the shells to the impact of cluster munitions which scatter "bomblets" over a wide area. The group questioned whether the way the weapon was being deployed was compatible with Israel’s Geneva conventions commitment to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.
     The use of white phosphorus as a weapon - as opposed to its use as a smokescreen - is banned by the third convention on conventional weapons. Israel is not a signatory to the convention but its military manuals reflect restrictions on its use in that convention. Israeli spokesmen have given ambiguous answers to questions about the use of the shells, saying: "We’re using what other armies use and we’re not using any weapons that are banned under international law."
     But expert accounts and eyewitness descriptions of civilians suffering phosphorus burns are lending weight to suggestions that Israel is using the shells as some kind of weapon. Israel initially claimed that it was not using white phosphorus. It later said that shells being loaded for a howitzer, identified from photographs as phosphorus rounds, were empty shells used for target marking. However, images of the shells exploding earlier this week, and showering burning fragments, have largely been identified as phosphorus.

'By choice they made themselves immune'

Saree Makdisi - The Electronic Intifada, International Middle East Media Center News 1/9/2009
      Israel has killed and injured almost 4,000 men, women and children so far in its assault on Gaza; it has entombed whole families together in the ruins of their homes
     As I write, news is breaking that Israeli bombs have killed at least 40 civilians huddling in a UN school which they mistakenly thought would be safer than the homes from which Israel’s relentless barrage -- and its deliberately terrorizing "warning" leaflets and prerecorded phone calls -- had already driven them. (I still have one of the leaflets the Israelis dropped on besieged Beirut in 1982 and the language is exactly the same -- "flee, flee for your lives!"). Mosques, schools, houses, apartment buildings, have all been brought down on the heads of those inside.
     All this death and destruction comes supposedly in retaliation for rocket attacks that had not inflicted a single fatality inside Israel in over a year. What happened to "an eye for an eye?"

The UN in Israel’s sights

Ian Williams, The Guardian 1/8/2009
      The shelling of schools in Gaza caps off a tumultuous relationship between the UN and Israel
     As well as the untimely and tragic end of over 40 Palestinian civilians, the Israeli shelling of UN schools in Gaza could be taken as a final farewell salute to the honeymoon between Ban Ki-moon and Israel.
     Ban came into office with somewhat limited appreciation of the Middle East, and seemed to take much of his attitude second-hand from Washington. But his own deep sense of ethics and growing experience of Israeli duplicity and obduracy could be plotted on the rising curve of indignation in his public statements. Israel has been provided with the exact coordinates of all UN agency installations in the strip. So are those who fired the shots incompetent, ruthless or undisciplined and vindictive?
     There is a morbid circularity in this. When Boutros Boutros Ghali took office as UN secretary general, he was reviled by much of the Arab world as the architect of the original Camp David accords, which they regarded as treachery. He left as their hero after Israel shelled the UN compound at Qana in Lebanon, killing over a hundred civilians who had taken shelter there.
     Famously, when the Israeli ambassador came to ask for the suppression of the UN’s report on the incident because it would "open deep wounds in Israel" Boutros Ghali retorted that they could not match the wounds inflicted on the Lebanese who were shelled.

Too much to mourn in Gaza

Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2009
      After finishing a shift with the Palestine Red Crescent Society yesterday morning, we went to the United Nations-administered al-Fakhoura school in Jabaliya, which was bombed by Israeli forces, killing at least 40 displaced people who were taking shelter there. When we arrived, prayers were happening in the street in front of the school. I’d seen prayers in open, outdoor places in Palestine and Egypt. But these days, when I see a mass of people praying, in front of al-Shifa hospital, in the streets of Jabaliya, I think of the mosques that have been bombed, and of the loss of lives and sanctuaries. And yesterday I thought of the loss of another safe haven.
     The grief was very evident, as was the indignation: "Where are we supposed to stay," one man demanded. "How many deaths is enough? How many?" It’s the question that has resounded in my mind since the attacks on 27 December.
     Across Fakhoura street from the school, about 15 meters down a drive, a gaping hole in the Deeb family house revealed what had been happening when it was hit by a shell. Rounds of bread dough lay where they’d been rolled out to bake. Amal Deeb was in her 30s, a surviving family member told us. When the missile struck, it killed her and nine others in the extended family’s house, including two boys and three girls. Another four were injured, one having both legs amputated.

The Makings of History / Had the refugees been allowed to return

Tom Segev, Ha’aretz 1/9/2009
      Simon Rawidowicz was a Polish-born scholar who studied in Berlin, and lived in London during World War II. After the war he moved to the United States, and, during his final years, he taught as a professor of Jewish studies at Brandeis University. He died in 1957. Those who cherish his memory say he was one of the most important Hebrew writers of the 20th century, and they believe his name has been forgotten because he believed in the future of Jewish life all over the world, alongside the central place of the State of Israel. He developed this belief in his book "Babylon and Jerusalem," which he wrote in Hebrew in the mid-1950s. The book aroused the scorn of the Zionist establishment, mainly in Israel, which at the time still championed "the negation of the Diaspora.
     Recently, an entire chapter that Rawidowicz had omitted from the book - "Between Jew and Arab" - was found. It calls on the State of Israel to permit the return of the Palestinian refugees. Alongside political and ethical reasons, this demand reflected Rawidowicz’s belief in the rights of national minorities: Jews among the nations of the world, Arabs in the Jewish state.

Red Cross prevented from accessing injured, starving survivors in Gaza

Press release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2009
      1pm Gaza Time (+2hrs GMT) The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continued its destruction of the Gaza Strip, systematically targeting civilians and civilian objects. Air raids and artillery attacks targeted homes, schools and medical teams. A unilateral ceasefire lasted for three hours yesterday; however, IOF’s attacks were resumed more fiercely after 4pm. Tens of thousands of civilians whose areas had been threatened with bombardment left their homes seeking safety. Civilians also left their homes seeking food and other essentials. Nevertheless, IOF carried out four attacks during the ceasefire, including an attack on a car in Jabaliya refugee camp, and shelling with heavy machine guns of a group of women carrying food to their homes in Ezbet Abed-Rabu eastern Jabaliya, injuring three of them. IOF also dropped leaflets warning the residents of Rafah who live along the border of heavy bombardment and ordering them to leave the area. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people left their homes as a result. Civilians are made to stay in open areas and schools in Rafah, all of which are not prepared for sheltering civilians.
     Four days after submitting a request to the IOF, teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and ambulances from the Palestine Red Crescent Society were allowed yesterday to enter the eastern Gaza City of al-Zeitoun. In one of the houses they entered, they found four children next to their dead mother and a young man, too weak to stand up. Twelve corpses were lying on mattresses in the house. They also found 15 survivors from the IOF attack, including injured people. In another house, the rescue team found three corpses. IOF were positioned only 80 meters from these people but left them to stay with the unburied corpses of their family members and to reach the brink of starving to death. The ambulances were not permitted to reach the wounded people, who had been left for four days without help. The rescue team had to evacuate them on donkey cart. As the ICRC and human rights organizations continue to receive reports about similar cases in this neighborhood, the ICRC has not yet received information from the IOF concerning its request to search for the dead and survivors.

The Old Testament and the Genocide in Gaza

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 1/8/2009
      "You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.” - Leviticus, Chapter 26, verses 7-9 "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.” Deuteronomy 7:1-2 "…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…as the Lord your God has commanded you…” - Deuteronomy 20:16
     There is not much doubt amongst Biblical scholars that the Hebrew Bible contains some highly charged non-ethical suggestions, some of which are no less than a call for a genocide. Biblical scholar Raymund Schwager has found in the Old Testament 600 passages of explicit violence, 1000 descriptive verses of God’s own violent actions of punishment, 100 passages where God expressly commands others to kill people. Apparently, violence is the most often mentioned activity in the Hebrew Bible. As devastating as it may be, the Hebrew Bible saturation with violence and extermination of others may throw some light over the horrifying genocide conducted momentarily in Gaza by the Jewish state. In broad daylight, the IDF is using the most lethal methods against civilians as if their main objective is to ‘destroy’ the Gazans while showing ‘no mercy’ whatsoever.

Hamas and the Continued Turnaround

Hassan Haidar, MIFTAH 1/8/2009
      Hamas - like Hezbollah, the other devout follower of the Syrian and Iranian regimes - is an expert at changing notions and truths, and using words in a manner that is contrary to their definition. Hence, simply staying alive becomes a "victory"; the increase in the number of deaths and injuries becomes the ability to "resist"; "scratching" the Israeli cities with a few rockets becomes a "strategic balance", and the lack of readiness for battle and of surveillance of the enemy’s intentions, as well as being surprised by the extent of the enemy’s response become "betrayal". It must be noted that Hamas has accused Israel of betrayal ever since the beginning of the conflict between them, but has not made a priority of taking its precautions against it. Slogans that praise genocide and death turn into a political program for the future, the rational becomes an "enemy", the intermediary a "swindler", and the international community a "conniver".
     It is why Khaled Mashal reassures "loved ones that resistance in Gaza is doing fine, its infrastructure is unharmed, and has only registered very slight losses" - as if all the destruction, the dead and the wounded who cannot get access to treatment do not enter in the calculations of Hamas, which is forcefully holding the Gaza Strip’s fate in its hands. Hamas was not even embarrassed to pursue the Fateh fighters and return them to prison after their detention place was destroyed by Israeli bombing.

EI investigation: The US media and the attack on Gaza

Shervan Sardar, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2009
      In the first three days of the Israeli offensive from 28-30 December, editorials and op-eds from five major US papers overwhelmingly adopted the official US and Israeli government talking points on the conflict -- even where this version was clearly contradicted by the legal and historical record, widely available to the public.
     The editorial pages erroneously put forward the view that Gaza was no longer occupied, ignored Israel’s numerous cease fire violations, and blindly asserted Israel’s right of self defense regardless of what was happening on the ground. Overall, the commentary presented a disturbingly false and misleading picture of the conflict to the American public.
     The legal status of Gaza is repeatedly being misrepresented in the op-ed pages and the American mainstream media generally. While the international consensus position at the UN and among human rights organizations is that Gaza remains occupied even after the 2005 Israeli disengagement, the editorials and op-eds collectively refused to acknowledge this view.Instead, the editorial pages chose to adopt and promote the Israeli government view of a 2005 "complete withdrawal" from Gaza so that Israel no longer retains official responsibility there. The issue has important implications for determining accountability in the conflict, the humanitarian situation in the Strip, and even military operations that can be taken.

US media didn’t report Israeli ceasefire violation

Jim Lobe and Ali Gharib, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2009
      WASHINGTON (IPS) - Consumed by coverage of the 4 November presidential election, US mainstream media ignored a key Israeli military attack on a Hamas target that some Palestinians claim marked the effective end of the ceasefire between the two sides and set the stage for the current round of bloodletting.
     While the major US news wire Associated Press (AP) reported that the attack, in which six members of Hamas’s military wing were killed by Israeli ground forces, threatened the ceasefire, its report was carried by only a handful of small newspapers around the country.
     The 4 November raid -- and the escalation that followed -- also went unreported by the major US network and cable television new programs, according to a search of the Nexis database for all English-language news coverage between 4 to 7 November.
     But the military action, which was followed up by an aerial attack that killed at least one other Palestinian, appears to have dealt a fatal blow to the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire that had taken effect 19 June and largely held for some four and a half months.

Testimony: Nowhere is safe from Israel’s bombing

Testimony, B'Tselem, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2009
      Osama Musa Suliman al-Nabahin, 37, married with two children, is a treasurer in the Palestinian Authority and a resident of Johr al-Dik, in Deir al-Balah district. His testimony was given to B’Tselem’s Musa Abu Hashhash by telephone on 4 January 2009:
     I live with my wife and our two daughters, who are one-and-a-half and three years old, in the Johr al-Dik section of Gaza, about a kilometer and a half from the Green Line. My wife is seven months’ pregnant.
     Generally, when Israel invades the area, first a bulldozer enters and clears everything in the area. My house was damaged a few times, but we didn’t leave. This is the only house we have, and it cost me a lot to build it.
     Since the beginning of Israel’s military attack on the Gaza Strip, there have been lots of bombing and shelling in our area. For a week, we stayed with my sister, who lives between al-Bureij and al-Mahgazi, but then they started bombing there too. The house shook after every bomb. My wife began to feel sharp pain in her stomach, a result of tension and fear.

A Music School Silenced in Gaza

Nadia Hijab, Middle East Online 1/8/2009
      The day after the music school was hit (by Israel), its coordinator called each of the children and their parents to make sure they were safe, and also to assure them that the school would be repaired, restocked, and reopened as soon as possible.
     There was a music school in Gaza. It was just six months old. The 31 children aged seven to 11 could choose one of five instruments, including the guitar, oud (lute), and piano. Most of the 19 girls gravitated to the guitar and piano while many of the 12 boys showed a preference for the oud.
     The school worked out of rented premises in the Palestinian Red Crescent Society building just across the street from the Preventive Security Forces compound in Gaza City. The compound was targeted in the first wave of Israeli bombardments on December 27, and twice more the next day. The five-story building was vaporized; a flat gravel surface is all that remains.
     Like other buildings in the neighborhood, the Gaza Music School was shattered; window frames and doors were blown out, and holes were punched in the walls. The force of the blast imploded the four ouds, just like it had the compound.

Children of Gaza, Run to the Angels

Suzanne Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 1/8/2009
      ’God is Great, Thank God for Everything,’ said the man with the dead children.
     Ironically, it was in Palestine, 20 years ago, that I concluded that there is no God. For how could a God, who claims to love all and treat all with impartiality, allow such horrors like those in Palestine to happen?
     This unbelief grew stronger with each curfew, with each strike that mourned the death of yet one more martyr, with a decapitation induced by gunfire in the main square on a sunny Ramallah afternoon so many years ago. But it was cemented the day I had to tell one of my fifth grade students that his brother had just been taken away by the Israeli army. His expression, his body going limp, the shuddering of his shoulders as he wept with his classmates’that’s what finally did it.
     Nearly 20 years have passed since that day, and I have now married into a Gazan family. I am a wife and mother, the sister and aunt of so many kids living the horror of what Gaza has become. As we watch the footage of Israel’s onslaught, I hear myself, whispering as I see one more martyred child, "Run to the angels’.run." After so many years, this living nightmare is fostering a burning desire to believe once again in the afterlife.

Dr. Ehab isn’t there anymore

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/8/2009
      Dr. Ehab Jasir al-Shaer, a physician specializing in dermatology, a graduate of a university in Ukraine, has not been at his clinic since 27 December 2008.
     On that day, Ehab, his brother Raja, Ehab’s uncle Yasir and Ehab’s cousins Haitham and Tamer, all went to the Rafah governorate local administration building in Rafah City in the south of the Gaza Strip where they live.
     "At 10:00am, my sons, my brother and my nephews went to the governorate. Suddenly at almost 11:30am, we heard loud explosions everywhere," said Jasir al-Shaer, Dr. Ehab’s 60-year-old father, while sitting on a sofa at Ehab’s clinic.
     "Neighbors told us that the governorate building was just hit by Israeli warplanes. My heart began beating very quickly. I left my home and rushed over. Among the dead bodies I found my son Ehab, my brother Yasir and his son Haitham laying lifeless in the hospital’s morgue," Jasir said with a clear voice.
     "Ehab’s smile never left him at any moment. He was a cheerful, kind and caring husband. That’s all I have ever known from Ehab since we married three years ago," Nancy Jouda, Dr. Ehab’s wife, recalled with tears in her eyes.