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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
14 January, 2008

Civilian casualties: Human rights groups accuse Israelis of war crimes
Donald Macintyre and Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/15/2009
Israel is under suspicion of committing war crimes and should halt the "clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians" in Gaza, nine of the country’s main human rights organisations have declared. The Israeli organisations have written to the government, armed forces chiefs and the attorney general, condemning the "unprecedented" harm to a civilian population now in "extreme humanitarian distress", the "wanton use of lethal force" and a series of what it says are "blatant violations of the laws of warfare". These include the fact that, apart from the death toll, with border crossings closed residents are unable to escape the war zone and are living in "fear and terror". The organisations also cited the dire capacity problems of Gaza’s hospital system and the failure to evacuate about 600 wounded and chronically ill patients; what they say is. . .

Gaza war rages as toll tops 1,000
Al Jazeera 1/15/2009
More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s war on Gaza as the assault enters its 20th day. As the offensive continued in the early hours of Thursday, with what has now come to be nightly explosions and heavy gunfire on the ground in Gaza City, diplomatic efforts to bring about a ceasefire continued to yield little result. The neighbourhood of Tufah came under intense bombardment and at least five people were reportedly killed there. And a mosque in the southern town of Rafah near the Egyptian border was hit by artillery fire. The Palestinian death toll stands at about 1,025 people and nearly 5,000 have been injured, with 40 per cent of the dead civilians and a third children, aid agencies and Palestinian medics say. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza, said more than 80,000 Palestinians had fled their homes because of the fighting and there was a real desperation and fear among the people.

Hopes of ceasefire as Hamas replies to Egyptian plan
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, Ian Black, The Guardian 1/15/2009
The first indications emerged last night that an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to halt Israel’s 19-day offensive in Gaza might be close, despite signs of disagreement among Israel’s leaders. A Hamas official said that the movement had given its response to an Egyptian proposal for an initial ceasefire that might last 10 days, but it appeared the Islamist movement had attached its own conditions. Israel’s top defence ministry official, Amos Gilad, was due in Cairo today to give his country’s response. Last night the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, met his defence minister, Ehud Barak, and foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, to discuss whether to accept a ceasefire. Afterwards, Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said that Israel would not accept a temporary ceasefire if it allowed Hamas to "rearm and regroup". "Israel seeks a durable quiet that contains a total absence of hostile fire from Gaza into Israel and a working mechanism to prevent Hamas from rearming," he added.

U.S., Israel close in on deal to halt arms smuggling into Gaza
Barak Ravid Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, and Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
A memorandum of understanding between the U. S. and Israel on security and intelligence cooperation aimed at countering the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip is being prepared and may be signed as early as Friday, Haaretz has learned. Meanwhile, Hamas has agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues, senior officials for the group said in Cairo on Wednesday. The head of the political-security bureau in the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, will travel to Cairo today for talks on a cease-fire. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos that he wanted to bring the operation in the Gaza Strip to an end if Hamas agreed to the Egyptian proposal. At the crux of the cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.

EU parliament urges halting relations with Israel
Middle East Online 1/14/2009
STRASBOURG - European deputies stepped up the pressure on the executive EU Commission to bring an end to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, urging it to halt developing EU-Israeli relations. "I have never condemned Israel and I am sincerely worried about the two sides, but the fact is that Israel’s action are disproportional and we are doing nothing," said Irish MEP Guy Mitchell in the European Parliament. Other deputes raised the issue of suspending last month’s EU-Israel Association Agreement, which formed the legal basis of stronger relations between the European bloc and the Jewish state. "Do you not think the time has come to interrupt the strengthening of our ties with Israel? It is no longer about words, but actions," said Italian MEP Vittorio Agnoletto. Faced with a barrage of accusations that the EU was political paralysed, the European Commissioner for External. . .

90 organizations, mainly French, to prosecute Israel for War Crimes
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/15/2009
Ninety organizations, mainly French, decided to prosecute Israel at the International Court for committing War Crimes against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip as the Israeli offensive left more than 1033 Palestinians dead, and over 4580 wounded in its first two weeks - Mohammad Al Araby -- Brussels: The French Lamond Newspaper reported that the organizations prosecuting Israel in the International Court are pro-Palestinian and that this step comes as several Arab and international organizations are also moving towards filing lawsuit against Israel for war crimes against the unarmed Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, especially since Israel is using internationally banned weapons in its war such as White Phosphorus. A French lawyer who phrased the lawsuit said that the eight article of the Rome Conventions specifies a war crime as "a deliberate act that aims at harming. . . "

Gaza humanitarian situation deteriorates as death toll rises
Press release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 1/14/2009
Monday night and today saw a serious escalation of the violence of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the Gaza Strip in the past week. Starting at 10pm yesterday, the IOF stepped up its ground invasion and attacks from the air and the sea. The IOF launched ground incursions deeper into western Beit Lahia and Jabaliya, and into the northern, eastern and southern suburbs of Gaza City. Al Mezan Center’s staff members who live close to these areas witnessed the use of white phosphorus bombs in these areas, a fact that has been supported by visits to hospitals and interviewing victims. The numbers of casualties and destroyed properties in Gaza have also continued to rise as a result of the IOF’s attacks. According to Al Mezan Center’s monitoring, the IOF killed 59 Palestinians last night and today at 1pm. Of those, five were children and five women.

Israeli aid groups call for urgent action in Gaza
Amir Farshad Ebrahimi/Flickr, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/15/2009
JERUSALEM, 14 January 2009 (IRIN) - Nine Israeli human rights and aid organisations have released their findings on the situation in Gaza and called on the Israeli government to take urgent action to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation there. At a press conference in Jerusalem on 14 January, they said Gaza’s entire population was in extreme humanitarian distress, caught in the midst of a massive Israeli land incursion and aerial bombardment. The NGOs called the level of harm to civilians "unprecedented" and accused the Israeli armed forces of "making wanton use of lethal force which has to date caused the deaths of hundreds of uninvolved civilians and destroyed infrastructure and property on an enormous scale". Their findings and allegations are based on testimonies collected from residents in the Gaza Strip, including medical teams and experts.

Refugees Surge Raise Concerns of a Broader Gaza War
Taghreed El-Khodary and Sabrina Tavernise, MIFTAH 1/14/2009
GAZA: Growing numbers of Palestinians are fleeing their homes for makeshift shelters in schools, office buildings and a park as the Israeli Army continues to press its military campaign deeper into the city of Gaza. According to the United Nations, about 30,000 people are living in schools it sponsors, and an estimated 60,000 have fled to the houses of relatives. The figures represent a small part of Gaza’s 1. 5 million population but have doubled in the past four days, UN officials said, raising concerns about the humanitarian impact of a broader war. " What began as very small, isolated numbers is now turning into a torrent," said Aidan O’Leary, deputy director for the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees. Major Jacob Dalal, an Israeli military spokesman, said units used leaflets to warn families to leave areas where they planned to operate.

Groups Say Israel Failed to Plan for the Safety of Gaza Civilians
Ahmed Abu Hamda and Shashank Bengali, MIFTAH 1/14/2009
Israel’s offensive in Gaza has forced as many as 90,000 Gazans to abandon their homes, and thousands more may soon have to flee in search of safety, humanitarian aid organizations said Monday. For civilians caught in the crossfire between Hamas militants and Israel’s military, however, there’s no escape to safety abroad and no sure sanctuary in Gaza. Some families have had to move repeatedly to escape the violence. In the 17 days since Israel began pummeling Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Sultan’s family has moved four times, from house to house, shelter to shelter, having left all their possessions behind. Now they’re among hundreds of displaced Palestinians who are sleeping in cold concrete classrooms in a schoolhouse that’s serving as a temporary shelter in Gaza City. " They have no place to hide, and no place to run," said U.

1033 killed in the ongoing offensive, at least 4580 wounded The Israeli army continued its offensive
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/15/2009
The Israeli army continued its offensive against the Gaza Strip and killed on Wednesday, the nineteenth day of the offensive at least twenty-two Palestinians. Dr. Muawiya Hassanen, of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, reported that 1033 Palestinians were killed, 4580 were wounded in the ongoing Israeli attacks. On Wednesday at night, medical sources reported that five Palestinians were killed and at least seven were wounded when the army shelled the home of Abu Waheed Mousa, a civilian living in Al Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City. Another resident was killed when the army shelled Tal Al Hawa neighborhood. Also, an UNRWA personnel was seriously wounded when the army shelled a clearly marked UN vehicle in Tal Al Hawa. One resident was killed when the army shelled a residential tower, north of Gaza City.

Israeli official: Keeping all options open
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/15/2009
Senior diplomatic official tells Ynet that if Egyptian truce proposal fails to meet Israeli objectives, other options remain open, hinting military op could expand. Decision of whether to accept ceasefire plan or deepen offensive to be made by Friday, he adds - Israel will give the Egyptian-brokered negotiations on a Gaza ceasefire a chance, but is keeping other options open as well, a senior Jerusalem official told Ynet Wednesday night, hinting that the military operation in the Strip could still expand further. "The military move in Gaza continues in full strength with strikes from the air, sea and ground, in a bid to further wear out Hamas," he explained. "The decision on whether to declare a truce or expand the operation in Gaza will likely be made by Friday," he added. Defense Ministry representative Amos Gilad will depart for Cairo. . .

Hamas accepts Egyptian cease-fire proposal
Barak Ravid Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
A memorandum of understanding between the U. S. and Israel on security and intelligence cooperation aimed at countering the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip is being prepared and may be signed as early as Friday, Haaretz has learned. Meanwhile, Hamas has agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues, senior officials for the group said in Cairo yesterday. The head of the political-security bureau in the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, will travel to Cairo today for talks on a cease-fire. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos that he wanted to bring the operation in the Gaza Strip to an end if Hamas agreed to the Egyptian proposal. At the crux of the cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.

Push for ceasefire intensifies
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/15/2009
A potential ceasefire package to end Israel’s 19 day offensive in Gaza began to take shape last night as the country’s top Defence Ministry official prepared to fly to Cairo for intensive talks with Egyptian mediators. The chances of Egypt’s peace initiative depend heavily on Cairo’s ability to overcome the residual reservations of the Hamas leadership and a clear division between Israel’s premier and his defence minister over when to end a war whose Palestinian death toll rose above the 1000 mark yesterday. A security source confirmed before a crucial meeting of the two leaders with the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, that the Defence Minister now believed that the operation had "achieved its goals" and was in favour of calling at least a temporary halt to hostilities to allow diplomatic moves to progress.

Hamas presents reservations regarding truce
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Following reports group accepted Egypt’s ceasefire proposal, Hamas representative says in Cairo press conference that Israel must lift siege on Gaza, end aggression, pull out of Strip and open border crossings for truce to materialize - Despite previous reports saying Hamas is willing to accept Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza, the group’s representative Salah Bardawil said at a press conference in Cairo Wednesday that the group still had reservations regarding the initiative. "We will try to achieve our objectives in any way possible, in order to end the aggression, lift the siege and open the crossings," he stated. "The Egyptian proposal is the only plan that has been presented to us," said Bardawil. "We have presented our vision and hope it will materialize. "Bardawil said that what Hamas demanded from "the Zionist enemy" is to lift the siege on Gaza, halt the aggression,

Egypt Wants Hamas to Sign up to Truce Deal ’Now’
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 1/14/2009
CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt was on Tuesday holding talks with Hamas on Cairo’s Gaza truce proposal, with an official calling for the Islamists to sign up "now" in the hope of announcing a ceasefire before the end of the week. A Hamas delegation was to hold a fresh round of talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, as Israel’s offensive ploughed on for an 18th day and diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed plodded forward. " We’re working seriously with Hamas, we need to end the vagueness and they need to say yes, now, to our plan," a senior Egyptian diplomat told AFP, requesting anonymity. " Egypt hopes that the Israeli war machine can be stopped by the end of the week and the massacres can be ended," with more than 900 Palestinians dead and 4,000 wounded. The diplomat said that Israel "appears now to agree" with the truce plan launched by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a week ago, but Hamas is having difficulty signing up to it.

Report: Hamas Agrees to Turkey Troops on Gaza-Egypt Border
Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern, MIFTAH 1/14/2009
Hamas sources have said that the Palestinian militant organization would agree to the deployment of Turkish troops along Gaza’s border with Egypt, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported Tuesday. " We trust Turkey and its role as an Islamic country," the Hamas officials said. They were referring to a proposal recently submitted to Hamas’ Damascus-based political chief Khaled Meshal by Turkish officials. But a senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq told Al Jazeera television any cease-fire proposal must address the group’s demands for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a complete opening of border crossings. " This initiative, if it is to be accepted, will be on the basis set by the movement from the beginning," he said. " I believe this track will be the launch point for the acceptance of any initiative, Egyptian or otherwise" by Hamas, he added. A Hamas delegation is in Cairo to relay the group’s position to Egyptian intelligence officials.

Report: Hamas agrees to ceasefire in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Palestinian sources say group’s representatives in Cairo willing to accept Egypt’s proposal for ceasefire in Gaza. Hamas to hold press conference Wednesday evening and present understandings reached in talks - Hamas has agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza based on Egypt’s proposal, Arab sources told Ynet Wednesday. The conditions for the truce have not been published at this time. Senior Hamas official Ayman Taha is expected to holda press conference at 7:30 pm (GMT) in which he will present the understandings reached during the Cairo talks. According to Palestinian sources Hamas will likely present several reservations from the proposal’s outline but is expected to accept its principal clauses. According to television network al-Arabiya, Egypt and Hamas reached an in-principle understanding regarding the stationing of international forces at the border crossings.

UN chief meets Egyptian president for talks over Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, met on Wednesday with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt for talks regarding the Israeli attacks on Gaza. Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Egypt comes as part of a tour he is making in the region aimed at ending the Israeli attack on Gaza. Ban Ki-moon arrived in the Egyptian capital Cairo at the start of a regional tour aimed at ending Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip. The UN Secretary General will meet leaders in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey during his tour. UN sources say that Ban Ki-moon is expected to discuss the reconstruction in Gaza after the violence ends, an effort the United Nations is expected to lead. The UN chief said that he would send an assessment team to determine the extent of the damage and of humanitarian needs following a ceasefire. The death toll in Gaza today has reached 997 due to the 19 day long Israeli attack on Gaza.

UN chief says Gaza negotiations must intensify
Sarah El Deeb, AP, The Independent 1/14/2009
The UN secretary-general today called for an immediate halt to the fighting in Gaza and said intense negotiations were needed to come up with the necessary arrangements. Ban Ki-moon began a weeklong trip to the region in Egypt in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in the Gaza Strip, where an Israeli campaign to end Hamas rocket fire has killed over 940 Palestinians. "My call is (for) an immediate end to violence in Gaza, and then to the Israeli military offensive and a halt to rocket attacks by Hamas," he told reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "It is intolerable that civilians bear the brunt of this conflict," he said, adding that the "negotiations need to be intensified to provide arrangements and guarantees in order to sustain an endurable cease-fire and calm.

Olmert aides blast Barak for comments backing Gaza truce
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/14/2009
Officials close to outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blasted Defense Minister Ehud Barak for comments quoted Wednesday in Haaretz in support of a week-long "humanitarian cease-fire" in the Gaza Strip. "The remarks constitute a lack of national responsibility," the officials said. "Ministers speaking to the media about the conduct of the war touching on cease-fire initiatives are very grave. " The political sources added that, "Hamas sees the scenes and hears the voices - and these comments are a shot in the arm for Hamas and its leaders. "On Wednesday, Olmert did not convene the political-security cabinet to discuss whether the operations should go on. He has also delayed a meeting with senior ministers in an effort to allow the military operations in Gaza to continue.

Rising Anger of British MPs over Gaza
Stuart Littlewood - London, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
George Galloway: ’Stop selling British weapons to the mass-murderers. . ’After seeing American politicians pass resolutions giving unconditional support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza - the Senate unanimously and Congress by 390 to 5 - readers might like to know how their British counterparts viewed things in a Commons emergency debate on 12 January, when foreign secretary David Miliband rose to make a statement. He said, among other things, that "the immediate trigger for Israeli military action on 27 December was the end of the truce. Hamas refused to extend the lull and instead fired almost 300 rockets into Israel between 19 and 27 December. " He went on: "The Prime Minister and I have been in close touch with the Israeli Government since the onset of the crisis. The Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister argued strongly against any UN resolution. Their argument is that there can be no equivalence between a democratic state and a terrorist organization.

Europe stalls on closer Israel links in Gaza protest
Ian Traynor in Brussels, The Guardian 1/14/2009
European plans to turn Israel into a "privileged" partner enjoying special political, diplomatic and trade links were frozen by Brussels today in protest at the Israeli onslaught in Gaza. Senior figures in Brussels said the European move was ordered by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the commissioner for external relations, who instructed various departments of the European commission to suspend implementation of a policy decided last year "to upgrade" relations between Israel and the EU. "Senior people are saying there should be a pause in close ties between Israel and the union," said a European diplomat. "The commission has frozen contacts with the Israelis on practical aspects of the upgrade," another diplomat said. Commission officials denied that the decision amounted to sanctions against Israel. "There’s been no talk of sanctions. We’re very focused on the Egyptian [ceasefire] plan," said a senior official.

Thousand Deaths Do Not Put Off EU
David Cronin, Inter Press Service 1/15/2009
BRUSSELS, Jan 14(IPS) - Senior European Union figures have signalled that they could push ahead with plans to strengthen formal ties with Israel, even though more than 1,000 have now been killed by the bombardment of Gaza Two conflicting statements about EU-Israeli relations were delivered Jan. 14, as the number of Palestinians, about one-third of them children, killed in Gaza continued to climb. Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, the European Commission’s envoy in Jerusalem, claimed that a proposed ’upgrading’ in relations with Israel cannot "proceed business as usual. "Yet his statement was soon contradicted by Karel Schwarzenberg, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency. Schwarzenberg noted that EU governments agreed in June last year to intensify efforts to build a stronger alliance with Israel. This decision could only be revised by those governments, he said, adding: "It can’t be changed at the word of a very respected representative of the European Union in Jerusalem. "

UK Gov’t Holds Emergency Meeting to Assess Gaza Impact on Domestic ’Extremism’
The Guardian,Thursday 15 January 2009, The Guardian 1/15/2009
The government is holding an emergency meeting today to assess the impact of the Gaza conflict on its campaign to prevent violent extremism in Britain’s Muslim communities. Three departments - the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government - have invited more than 80 people from around the country to the meeting in London, where they will be asked to relay what effect the government’s position on the crisis is having on its £90m programme, Prevent. Participants are likely to represent local authorities or organisations engaged in the Prevent agenda. The justice minister, Shahid Malik, told the Guardian this week that there was "immense anger" in Britain’s Muslim communities over developments in the Middle East: "There is a real feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness among Britain’s Muslims in the context of Gaza and the sense of grievance and injustice is both profoundly acute and obviously profoundly unhealthy. "

Malaysia Exercised Over Gaza
Baradan Kuppusamy, Inter Press Service 1/15/2009
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14(IPS) - As an economically advanced country that seeks a key role in the Muslim world, it is perhaps natural that Malaysia and its people are exercised over Israel’s war in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. Malaysia has taken a lead role in persuading the United Nations to hold a special session on Gaza and this initiative has fructified, according to an announcement by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on Wednesday. Abdullah said that he is in receipt of a letter dated Jan. 12, from Miguel Brockman, president of the U. N. General Assembly, saying that a session would be called on Thursday. Brockman said, in the letter, that the session, originally set for Jan. 8, had to be postponed because of the U. N. Security Council meeting which passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Following the failure of the Security Council to get Israel to withdraw. . .

U.N. General Assembly Calls Crisis Meeting on Gaza
Haider Rizvi, Inter Press Service 1/15/2009
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14(IPS) - The 192-member U. N. General Assembly, which is due to hold a special emergency meeting Thursday, may call for an international inquiry into the Israeli killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza, diplomatic sources told IPS. "A number of countries are in favour of the idea that Israel must be held accountable for its war crimes in Gaza," said an Asian diplomat who did not want to be named. "Most of those countries are from Africa and Asia and Latin America. " The source added, however, there is resistance to this move on the part of certain European and Arab countries. "The Arab world has a divided opinion," he said. "Countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt do not want such measures against Israel. " In the past three weeks, thousands of people, mostly unarmed civilians, have been killed and wounded as a result. . .

Venezuela severs ties with Israel over Gaza
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/15/2009
Venezuela has broken off diplomatic relations with Israel to protest its military offensive in Gaza. The decision by President Hugo Chavez’s socialist government comes more than a week after it expelled the Israeli ambassador in Caracas and seven embassy staff members. A Foreign Ministry statement said Wednesday that Venezuela "has decided to break off diplomatic relations with the state of Israel given the inhumane persecution of the Palestinian people. " [end]

Bolivia cuts Israel ties over Gaza
Al Jazeera 1/14/2009
Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, says he is breaking off ties with Israel in protest against its war in Gaza, which has left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead. Morales said on Wednesday that he would seek to get top Israeli officials, including Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, charged with "genocide" in the International Criminal Court. The Bolivian president also dismissed the United Nations and its "Insecurity Council" for its "lukewarm" response to the crisis and said the general assembly should hold an emergency session to condemn the invasion. "Considering these grave attacks against. . . humanity, Bolivia will stop having diplomatic relations with Israel," Morales told diplomats in the Bolivian capital, La Paz. He also said that Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, should be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize for failing to stop the invasion.

Bolivia severs ties with Israel over Gaza
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Following in footsteps of Venezuelan counterpart, President Evo Morales claims Olmert should be tried for genocide in international court - President Evo Morales says Bolivia has broken relations with Israel over its offensive in the Gaza Strip and will seek to charge top Israeli officials with genocide in the International Criminal Court. Israel does not have an embassy in Bolivia, and the nearest ambassador is situated in Peru. Morales said Wednesday the IDF operation "seriously threatened world peace. "He is calling for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to face criminal charges for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians. Morales chided the United Nations’ "Insecurity Council" for its "lukewarm" response to the crisis. He called for the UN to hold an emergency general session to condemn the fighting.

Israel asks Security Council to condemn Hamas
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 1/15/2009
Israeli envoy to UN says Hamas targeting civilians, using Palestinian civilians as shields, asks UN to deplore organization - WASHINGTON - Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev asked the UN Security Council on Thursday to include a condemnation of Hamas in a presidential statement set to be released later in the day. The council held a session dedicated to the subject of civilians caught up in armed conflict. The Libyan envoy took advantage of the meeting to accuse Israel of committing war crimes and genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Libya is also trying to push for a draft resolution by the council that would deplore Israel’s actions in Gaza. In her speech, Shalev warned that terror turns civilians into targets, human shields and weapons against their will. She stressed that Hamas has ben firing rockets at schools and kindergartens for. . .

Foreign Ministry hopes to repair Israel’s image on ’day after’ Gaza op
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The Foreign Ministry has created a special task force to prepare for the aftermath of the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza operation. The team will submit proposals for two of the army’s main concerns - Iran and Hamas taking control of Gaza’s postwar reconstruction, and the harm the offensive might cause to Israel’s image abroad. One of the task force’s missions is to draft recommendations for the Strip’s rehabilitation. The ministry hopes to avoid a situation similar to the one in southern Lebanon after the 2006 Second Lebanon War. There, Iran sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Hezbollah to transfer to families whose homes had been destroyed, burnishing the militant group’s reputation among the population. The goal is to allow the Palestinian Authority, as well as Arab and international entities, to lead reconstruction efforts. . .

Israel’s PR Campaign in Buenos Aires
Belén Fernández, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
’How much longer Israel will be permitted to defy logic? ’As Israel’s latest foray into Gaza has coincided with my visit to my parents’ home in Buenos Aires—also home to the largest Jewish population in Latin America—I have availed myself of the opportunity to assess the robustness of the Israeli public relations effort in Argentina. My assessment began last week with a visit to the website of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which—given prevailing regional attitudes that things can always be accomplished at a later point in time—I half-expected to have not yet complied with Tzipi Livni’s call for an upgraded international sympathy initiative. The need for the upgrade was due in part to recent deviations from global democratic standards, summarized by Livni in her Knesset address of 29 December: "Unfortunately, some of the world’s decision makers are swayed

Israel’s Propaganda War
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 1/14/2009
Following its 2006 war with Lebanon, Israel decided that it needed to set up a Public Relations program to deal with hasbara- Hebrew for "˜explanation’, since the media coverage and death toll in that war"”over 1,000 Lebanese civilians, made Israel look "˜bad’. In other words, the "˜National Information Directorate’, created in 2008, deals with information, spin, and propaganda. This program has been put to use for the first time on a world-wide scale with the Israeli invasion of Gaza. In addition to sending Israeli diplomats around the world to gain international support for the invasion of Gaza, the program has also been recruiting a staff of Arabic, Italian, Spanish, and German speakers ready to explain the Gaza situation to any visiting media representative, so that they do not have to judge the rapidly worsening situation for themselves.

Jewish charity brings U.S. viewers Israel’s version of the war in Gaza
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/14/2009
A Jewish charity in the United States has launched a television advertising campaign meant to show America viewers the Israeli perspective on its operation in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has already launched worldwide public relations campaign intended to glean support for Operation Cast Lead. The Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) is now financing 60-second ads to show Israeli children running toward bomb shelters as rockets strike the western Negev. The ad spots also show the wreckage left behind by the rockets. Each television spot also features a telephone number which viewers can call in order to donate money to improving anti-rocket fortifications in southern Israel. The IFCJ, which was founded by American Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, also produces a series of public relations. . .

Israeli-Arab Eurovision singer urged to step down over Gaza
Noya Kohavi, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
Several local artists and intellectuals are calling on the Israeli Arab singer and actress chosen to represent Israel at the Eurovision song contest to step down, saying her participation in the "Israeli propaganda machine" would convey a false impression of national coexistence used to cover up the deaths of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. The duo Mira Awad, a Christian Arab, and singer Achinoam Nini, who is Jewish and also known as Noa, were chosen this week to represent Israel in the televised contest. "Israel would not be able to continue with its war crimes without the support of the international community, especially the United States and the European Union," the signatories, both Jewish and Arab, wrote in an open letter to Awad. "What allows the international community to provide support is Israel’s image as a ’democratic,’ ’enlightened,’ ’peace-seeking’ country.

Arab village in Negev to host latest major protest against IDF strikes
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
A protest against the offensive in Gaza will be held tomorrow in the Negev village of Arara. The protest, organized by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, will be the third to be held since the start of Operation Cast Lead. Last week’s demonstration was held in Baka al-Garbiyeh, where the local council is led by former Kfar Sava mayor Yitzhak Wald, appointed by the Interior Ministry after the previous municipal head was deemed unable to function. Tomorrow’s event will be held in the Negev village of Arara (also known as Aroer), where the council is headed by Yitzhak Shalom, another Interior Ministry appointee. Local council heads have abstained from hosting these protests. This may be attributed to the unrest across the country after remarks from Sakhnin mayor Mazen Genaim, who at the first protest two weeks ago referred to Gazans killed by Israeli fire as "martyrs," causing widespread condemnation among Jewish Israelis.

Soccer / Operation Cast Lead / Showdown between IFA and Israeli Arab club averted after police okay grounds
Gil Shefler, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The Israel Police yesterday reversed its previous decision and announced it would permit Bnei Sakhnin to host its match against Hakoah Ramat Gan at its home ground, Doha Stadium, this Saturday. "The decision was made despite and in addition to our wide-scale spread in the northern district," a police official said. "Our aim is to allow everyday life to return and so we made a decision to assist all sports teams to hold matches as usual and offer our help. " Police had previously told the Israel Football Association it would not permit the match to take place in the Israeli Arab town because of heightened security concerns in light of the ongoing Israel Defense Forces operation in the south. Bnei Sakhin officials were outraged by the decision and threatened to boycott the match if it were relocated. Yesterday management and players reacted positively to the news the club would be allowed to host the match.

VIDEO - Gaza conflict: Day 18
The Guardian 1/14/2009
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterates his call for a ceasefire while northern Israel comes under fire from Lebanon and a strike hits a cemetery in Gaza City [end]

Balad chair: Abbas refuses to condemn Gaza ’slaughter’
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 1/15/2009
MK Zahalka lashes out at Arab parties willing to support Livni, Barak despite ’blood on their hands’ - Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka, whose party was disqualified from the national elections earlier this week, slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for refraining from condemning Israeli leaders for the operation in Gaza. Speaking at a Shefaram conference Wednesday, Zahalka said, "Abbas is doing nothing. He is just watching from the sidelines. He must decide if he wants to be chairman of the PLO or chairman of Ramallah. " During the conference, intended to show support for the people of Gaza, Zahalka claimed the Palestinian president must answer appeals from rights organizations and sign a petition demanding Israeli leaders be tried in international court for the "slaughter in Gaza".

Assad calls for halt in op, rocket fire
YNetNews 1/14/2009
In interview with BBC Syrian president claims Gaza fighting is dangerous because it is ’planting seeds for extremism, terror in Middle East’ - Syrian President Bashar Assad called on Israel to cease its military operation in Gaza immediately, while simultaneously demanding that Hamas cease its fire towards Israel. In an interview with the BBC network Assad warned that the fighting in Gaza could lead to the exacerbation of Islamic extremism in the Middle East. "The effects of the war are more dangerous than the war itself," he said during Wednesday’s interview. "It’s planting the seeds for extremism and terror in the entire region. " Assad accused Israel of refusing to honor the ceasefire that expired in December and claimed it was the State’s responsibility to halt the "murder" of the Palestinians and the siege on Gaza.

Israeli human rights groups speak out as death toll passes 1,000
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem and Sarah Boseley, The Guardian 1/15/2009
The number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s offensive in Gaza climbed above 1,000 yesterday, despite repeated calls from the UN for a halt to the conflict. With mounting concern about the hundreds of civilians killed, nine Israeli human rights groups wrote to their government warning of their "heavy suspicion. . . of grave violations of international humanitarian law by military forces". Among the sites hit yesterday was Sheikh Radwan cemetery. Thirty graves were destroyed, spreading rotting flesh over a wide area. The army said it was targeting a nearby weapons cache. So far 1,010 Palestinians have died, including 315 children and 95 women, Dr Moawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza’s medical emergency services, told the Guardian. The number of injured after 19 days of fighting stood at 4,700, he said. On the Israeli side, 13 people have died, among them three civilians, and four soldiers accidentally killed by their own troops.

Rights groups challenge IDF figures, speak of ’war crimes’
Nir Hasson and Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
A coalition of human rights organizations warned yesterday at a press conference that the Gaza Strip was on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. In a letter to the prime minister, defense minister, chief of staff, GOC Southern Command and the attorney general, nine rights groups claimed that after the fighting it would be necessary to start inquiries into what they alleged were war crimes in the Strip. The human rights groups are also demanding that an "escape corridor" is created so civilians can flee the areas of the fighting. The rights organizations also presented data showing that the number of those killed in the Gaza Strip exceeded 1,000. More than two-thirds of those killed, the groups claimed, were civilians, and a third of those were children. They also presented data claiming that there are 5,000 wounded as a result of Israel Defense Forces operations, and about. . .

IDF helping coordinate aid for Gaza civilians
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The Israel Defense Forces is coordinating humanitarian aid for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip with international organizations. The IDF has 120 officers, part of the District Coordination Office (DCO), attached to command outposts. They deal with special requests from Palestinians for food and medicine, the evacuation of the sick and wounded, and move civilians from areas of fighting. The officers have contacts with UNRWA, the Red Cross and the Palestinians, who frequently call the DCO themselves, even during fighting. The officers all speak Arabic and were trained in a special school for humanitarian issues operated by the DCO. "Sometimes we face a difficult conflict, because we’re in a war zone, travel in tanks and take part in the fighting," said Captain Noam Muzrafi, the humanitarian issues officer attached to Armored Brigade 401.

Gaza under cloud of white phosphorous
PressTV 1/14/2009
Live Press TV footage from Gaza City shows parts of the densely populated strip enveloped by fatal clouds of Israeli white phosphorous. The footage taken moments ago by the crew of Press TV correspondent Akram al-Sattari, present in Gaza City, is further indication of the use of unconventional weapons by Israeli forces in the strip. White phosphorus, classified as a ’chemical weapon’ by the US intelligence, is an incendiary material that causes horrific burns, severe injuries or death when it comes in contact with human skin. Under the Geneva Treaty of 1980, the use of white phosphorous as a weapon is prohibited, however, there is no blanket ban on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination. Human Rights Watch has warned Israel not to use white phosphorus in Gaza, saying its researchers have observed the use of the chemical weapon by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip.

Group accuses Israel of firing white phosphorus into Gaza
Ben Wedeman, CNN 1/12/2009
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The international group Human Rights Watch is accusing Israel of firing weapons containing white phosphorus into Gaza. The group demands that the alleged practice cease. Israel is declining to say whether bursts like this over Gaza involve white phosphorus. The group’s researchers in Israel "observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area" on Friday and Saturday, the organization said on its Web site." Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an ’obscurant’ [a chemical used to hide military operations], a permissible use in principle" under the laws of war, the HRW posting said." However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire," the posting said.

Gaza: Israel under fire for alleged white phosphorus use
Robert Marquand and Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor 1/13/2009
On Tuesday, the Israeli army denied using white phosphorus munitions. A Norwegian doctor claims Israel is using Gaza as a ’test laboratory for new weapons,’ including Dense Inert Metal Explosives, or DIME. - PARIS; and Beirut, Lebanon - Marc Garlasco has been on the northern border of Gaza for the past five days watching what he says are white phosphorus munitions exploding over a crowded refugee camp. Mr. Garlasco, a senior military analyst for New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), says that the way Israel is using the incendiary device is illegal. White phosphorus shells contain more than 100 felt filaments that ignite upon contact with the atmosphere, drift to earth, and burn intensely for at least 10 to 12 minutes. The usage of white phosphorus is not illegal under international law if it’s used in military operations as a smoke screen to cover troop movements or against bunkers, armored vehicles, and ammunition dumps. But its use is forbidden against people – civilians and soldiers alike – under nearly all military codes and laws." The use of white phosphorus is banned as a weapon that causes ’unnecessary suffering,’ " says Mark Ellis, director of the International Bar Association in London. "It isn’t to be used in civilian areas, or indeed against people since it creates horrible damage to the human body, and unnecessarily so." Israel, which has been charged with using white phosphorus in Lebanon, says it is not using white phosphorus in its war against Hamas in Gaza, now in its 18th day." The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] acts only in accordance with what is permitted by international law and does not use white phosphorus," IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday in response to a query. -- See also: Israel's Weapons in Gaza and Warfare of the Future, Today? The DIME Bomb: Yet another genotoxic weapon

Depleted uranium found in Gaza victims
PressTV 1/4/2009
Medics tell Press TV they have found traces of depleted uranium in some Gaza residents wounded in Israel’s ground offensive on the strip. Norwegian medics told Press TV correspondent Akram al-Sattari that some of the victims who have been wounded since Israel began its attacks on the Gaza Strip on December 27 have traces of depleted uranium in their bodies. The report comes after Israeli tanks and troops swept across the border into Gaza on Saturday night, opening a ground operation after eight days of intensive attacks by Israeli air and naval forces on the impoverished region. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Sunday that the wide-ranging ground offensive in the Gaza Strip would be "full of surprises." A ground offensive in the densely-populated Gaza is expected to drastically increase the death toll of the civilian population.

Rights Group: Israel Used Incendiary Bombs
CBS News 1/12/2009
(CBS/AP) Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Israel’s military has fired artillery shells with the incendiary agent white phosphorus into Gaza and a doctor there said the chemical was suspected in the case of 10 burn victims who had skin peeling off their faces and bodies. Researchers in Israel from the rights group witnessed hours of artillery bombardments that sent trails of burning smoke indicating white phosphorus over the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. But they could not confirm injuries on the ground because they have been barred from entering the territory. The chief doctor at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza said he treated several victims there with serious burns that might have been caused by phosphorus. He said, however, that he did not have the resources or expertise to say with certainty what caused the injuries.

Nine human rights groups unite to call for emergency relief for Gaza
Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz 1/14/2009
Nine human rights organizations joined forces on Wednesday to call for emergency humanitarian relief for the population of the Gaza Strip. Using the umbrella name "Clear and Present Danger," the group claims that the number of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead has reached 1,000 and the number of wounded has reached 5,000. The group warned that Israel is perpetrating grave violations of international law in Gaza in a letter addressed to the prime minister, the defense minister, the IDF chief of staff, the attorney general and the head of GOC Southern Command. The letter added that after the fighting ends, the time will come for those responsible for the violations to face the consequences. The group claims that there have been at least six instances of Israel Defense Forces soldiers firing on medical crews, resulting in 12 deaths and 17 wounded.

IOF Continue Attacks Across the Gaza Strip for the 18th Consecutive Day:
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/13/2009
51 Palestinians Killed, Including 17 Unarmed CivilianVictims include 3 Children, 5 Women and One Physician: Current Death Toll is 936 People, Including 635 Unarmed Civilians and 165 Members of the Civilian Police Force, Who Are Also Classified as Civilians - IOF Conducts Large Scale Destruction of Houses, Farms and other Civilian Objects, Forcing Civilians To Flee - IOF Continue to Use Incinerating Bombs Against Gaza Population. In violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, and amid international silence,the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) are continuing their indiscriminate attacks in the Gaza Strip. For the eighteenth consecutive day, IOF continue to systematically target Gaza civilians and their public and private property. In their ongoing war against the population of Gaza Strip, IOF are perpetrating further war crimes, launching intense air strikes, and shelling populated residential areas day and night.

17th Day of Continuous IOF Attacks Across the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/12/2009
17th Day of Continuous IOF Attacks Across the Gaza Strip: * 26 Palestinians Killed, Including 6 Children and 3 Women: * Current Death Toll Stands at 884: * Victims include 211 Children: * Mass Internal Displacement of Gaza Families - The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continued their indiscriminate attacks in the Gaza Strip for the sixteenth consecutive day, with the estimated number of victims rising to 884. During the reporting period, IOF attacks were most ferocious in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip, where Palestinian civilians continued to be killed indiscriminately. The killing of children has become a characteristic of the attacks in both these areas. The increasing number of civilian victims, especially children and women, and the continuing use of excessive lethal force against civilians and their property, indicates that IOF is aiming to cause maximum deaths of Palestinian civilians and destruction of their property.

IDF confirms Israel Navy turned back Iran ’aid ship’ headed for Gaza
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/14/2009
The Israel Navy late Tuesday night turned away an Iranian ship that was attempting to dock in Gaza, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed Wednesday. The ship was carrying 200 tons of food and medical supplies, according to Iran Radio. After being turned back by the Israel Navy, the ship then tried to unload the supplies in the nearby Egyptian port of el-Arish, but was prevented from doing so by the Egyptian Navy. On Tuesday, Iran Radio reported that the Israel Navy had blocked the ship’s passage. According to the report, the ship departed from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas 13 days ago. On Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said an Iranian ship had passed through the Suez Canal. On Tuesday, Iran Radio aired an interview with Ahmed Nabad, said to be the ship’s captain, who claimed the ship had neared the coast of Gaza but "the Zionist regime is blocking its entry.

Navy stops Iran boat from docking in Strip
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The Israeli navy has prevented an Iranian ship from anchoring in Gaza’s port and unloading its cargo. Late Monday night and early Tuesday morning, the Iranian vessel Iran Shaheeb, whose displacement is estimated at 2,000 tons, approached Israel’s coast after it crossed into the Mediterranean from the Suez Canal. A navy missile boat shadowed the ship and ordered it, on the international naval communication channel, to avoid nearing the coast of the Gaza Strip. The vessel then tried to dock at the Egyptian port of El Arish, but the Egyptian navy also turned it back. As of yesterday evening the ship is sailing 30 nautical miles from the shore of the Gaza Strip, under the surveillance of a navy ship. IDF sources say that the ship is carrying supplies and possibly arms to Hamas, but that there is no intention at this time to board the vessel.

Israel ’stops Iranian aid ship’
Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, The Independent 1/14/2009
The Israeli Navy has intercepted an Iranian ship loaded with medicine, food and clothing destined for Gaza and forced the vessel to head toward an Egyptian port, Iran’s state television reported today. Ahmad Navabi, head of the humanitarian aid group sponsoring the ship, said in comments aired on television Wednesday that the Israel Navy approached the cargo ship, Shahed, just 20 miles off the coast of Gaza at dawn today, and ordered it to turn back. "An Israeli warship approached our cargo ship and warned us not to approach Gaza. We could see the lights at Gaza coast. We were forced to change route toward an Egyptian port," Navabi said. The ship is carrying 2,000 tons of medicine, food and clothing to Palestinians living in Gaza. Navabi said his group may have to try to send the humanitarian aid to Gaza through the Rafah land crossing at the Egyptian border.

Free Gaza Ship to sail to Gaza on Wednesday morning
Press Release, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
This is a press release issued for circulation by the Free Gaza Movement. The movement is sending a new ship to Gaza carrying physicians, journalists, human rights workers and members of parliament. The ship sailing to Gaza carried the name "Spirit of Humanity". - SPIRIT OF HUMANITY RESUMING MISSION - [Larnaca, Cyprus] The Free Gaza Movement vessel, SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, will resume its emergency mission to the besieged Gaza Strip at 9:00 a. m. on Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The ship will carry desperately needed doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and members of parliaments as well as medical supplies donated by the people of Greece and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza. After departure on January 12 at 3 pm from Larnaca Port the boat encountered problems with one of its two generators that was compounded by rough weather.

Gaza: an ongoing challenge for the media
Oliver Luft, The Guardian 1/14/2009
The blockade of Gaza by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) preventing reporters entering the besieged territory has created a series of operational headaches for British news organisations. Several hundred journalists from across the globe have now gathered on the Israeli side of the Erez crossing from Israel into Gaza seeking news from inside the territory. The lack of access has left media relying on local reporters in Gaza to gather stories. The BBC is one of the few international news organisations to have a bureau in Gaza. With Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen prevented from entering the territory, the BBC has used local producers, Rushdi Abu Alouf and Hamada Abuqammar, to chase stories. To get around the blockade the BBC has used Abu Alouf in front of camera at the al-Shifa hospital to report on how staff are coping with dwindling supplies and many wounded patients.

Journalists challenge Israel reporting restrictions
Middle East Online 1/14/2009
EL-ARISH, Egypt - Seventeen journalists and media activists took a bus loaded with notebooks and paper to Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Tuesday, demanding journalists be let into the enclave. The trip’s organisers, the Doha Centre for Media Freedoms, was trying to defy Israeli restrictions on foreign correspondents covering the war in Gaza, despite an Israeli court ruling they should be allowed in. However the attempt proved unsuccessful, with the delegation retiring to spend the night at a hotel in nearby El-Arish. "We are being optimistic," Robert Meynard, head of the media rights group, said on the way back from the crossing. "By letting us in, it will be a chance for the Egyptian government to show they are different. "he said, adding his group would make another attempt to enter Gaza on Wednesday.

Troops kidnap seven civilians from villages near Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
The Israeli Army invaded several villages located near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and kidnapped seven Palestinian civilians on Wednesday. Local sources said that Israeli troops attacked and searched homes in the villages of Beit Awwa and Sa’er, before kidnapping seven men and taking them to unknown locations. Among those kidnapped were Mos’ab Al Sowiti, age 20, Monther Hamed, age 19, Mo’ath Al Sowiti and Samer Masalmah. According to locals, Israeli troops gathered the men aged above 18 in the village school in Beit Awwa before searching the homes. Locals added that soldiers abused some of them and beat them up during the time they were in custody. During the search of locals’ homes, witnesses told the Palestinian News Agency WAFA that soldiers destroyed electrical equipment in homes and took money that belongs to the families.

IDF soldier seriously hurt in anti-tank missile attack in Gaza
Anshel Pfeffer and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
Seven Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded on Wednesday, one of them seriously, as Palestinian militants fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli paratroopers just outside Gaza City. One soldier sustained moderate wounds and five were lightly hurt as Israel’s offensive against Hamas terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip neared the end of the 19th day. Later Wednesday, six IDF soldiers were lightly wounded when a wall collapsed in northern Gaza. The six were evacuated to Israel for medical attention. Earlier Wednesday, IDF paratroopers killed a Palestinian suicide bomber who attempted to detonate his explosives belt near them. The paratroopers discovered the terrorist while searching a site in the northern section of Gaza City. When the bomber attempted to approach them, the soldiers opened fire, apparently hitting his explosives belt and detonating it.

Israeli pilot refuses to target Palestinians
PressTV 1/14/2009
An Israeli Apache helicopter pilot is refusing to take part in the ongoing onslaught against the civilians in the Gaza Strip. Captain Orr, who has flown dozens of combat missions over Gaza the past few weeks, said Tuesday that he decided to abort missions to avoid killing civilians after seeing children near his intended targets. He also expressed sorrow for civilian casualties, the people who were caught up in the bombardment by him and his colleagues, saying that the vast majority of damage and casualties in Gaza were caused by flying attack helicopters and jet fighters. Since the start of "Operation Cast Lead", Israeli forces have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and wounded over 4,580 others -- most of whom are women and children. Captain Orr made the remarks in an interview with the Associated Press.

Six soldiers lightly wounded in Gaza Strip when building collapses on them
Jerusalem Post 1/15/2009
Six IDF soldiers were lightly wounded on Wednesday in the northern Gaza Strip when a house collapsed on them, apparently after a bomb planted in the building exploded. The soldiers were evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. This incident brings the number of IDF forces wounded on the 20th day of Operation Cast Lead to 22. [end]

Gaza: IDF soldier seriously hurt by antitank missile
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Palestinian gunmen fire antitank missile at Paratroopers unit during clashes in northern Gaza Wednesday, injuring seven troops. One soldier sustains serious injuries, another moderately wounded and five lightly hurt - An IDF soldier was seriously wounded Wednesday during clashes with Palestinian gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip. One soldier sustained moderate injuries and five others were lightly injured. The troops were evacuated to hospitals in Israel and their families have been notified. The soldiers were hurt after gunmen fired an antitank missile at a paratroopers unit operating near Gaza City. The Israel Defense Forces attacked about 60 different targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night, including Hamas’ police headquarters, several terrorist cells and arms smuggling tunnels. Three officers and three soldiers were lightly to moderately injured in exchanges of fire with Palestinian terrorists.

Hamas SMS: Surprises waiting for your sons
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 1/14/2009
As IDF continues to hit Hamas, terror organization responds with psychological warfare. Number of Israeli citizens receive text message to their cellular phones Wednesday threatening that soldiers in Gaza will be hurt - After Hamas sent a text message in broken Hebrew to a number of Israeli cellular phones during the first days of Operation Cast Lead, the organization ahs now decided to try its luck in an English message. "Come on into Gaza. A number of surprises waiting for your sons, the least of which is death. Hamas," read the SMS message received Wednesday by a number of Israelis on their cellular phones. Attempts to call the phone number from which the message was sent, that appeared to have an British country code, was met with an automated message the number had been disconnected. Nava Inbar, a resident of Tel Aviv, does not usually receive text message early in the morning.

Fire resumed: Rocket hits Ashdod
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Despite reports of imminent ceasefire in Gaza, rocket fire still threatening south. Sirens heard in Ashdod, Ashkelon Wednesday evening, one rocket lands in Ashdod - While talks on a ceasefire are being held in Egypt, rockets from Gaza continue to pound Israel’s south. Sirens were sounded in Ashkelon and Ashdod Wednesday evening, and one rocket exploded in Ashdod. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack. Thirteen rockets have been fired at Israel since the morning hours. The latest barrage was recorded around noon, as two rockets landed near Ashdod and Yavne, one in the Beersheba area and one in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, where a hothouse suffered damage. The attacks began shortly after 10:30 am, when two Qassams landed in open fields in the Eshkol Regional Council. Another rocket was fired on the area shortly afterwards, and three others landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council and near Ashkelon about an hour later.

19th Day under attack: 997 killed in Gaza and 4,525 injured
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
The Israeli military continued its offensive, targeting the Palestinian coastal region for the 19th straight day on Wednesday. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that at least five Palestinians were reported killed by Wednesday midday; this brings the death toll in Gaza since the start of the Israeli operation, 19 days ago, to 997. The Ministry added that among those killed are 311 children. Meanwhile, the number of those injured reached 4,525, among them 300 are in critical conditions. Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli Army shelled residential areas in Gaza City, and in the nearby Jabalyia town. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks advanced from several areas deeper into the coastal region. Witnesses and reporters said that a clouds of smoke covered the sky over Gaza City in the morning due to the intense bombardment from Israeli warplanes.

Israel indicts two Iran TV journalists for reporting on Gaza ground invasion
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
Israeli authorities on Tuesday indicted two journalists working for an Iranian television station on charges they passed classified information to the enemy. The indictment says the two Palestinian journalists reported the beginning of Israel’s ground incursion into Gaza on Jan. 3 while the information was still subject to military censorship. Tuesday’s indictment says they knew their broadcast for Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam TV could endanger Israeli soldiers by giving Hamas militants forewarning of the operation. The charges could carry lengthy jail terms. The journalists’ lawyer says his clients did not know they were breaking any law. Muhammad Dahleh says Israeli authorities are picking on the journalists because they are Palestinians working for a TV station from Iran, one of Israel’s most bitter enemies.

Fighting rages in Gaza as toll nears 1,000
Middle East Online 1/14/2009
GAZA CITY - Israeli forces battled Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip’s main city early Wednesday and bombed the enclave’s southern border with Egypt as the death toll from the war on Gaza neared 1,000. With the war now in its 19th day, witnesses said there were far fewer air strikes on Gaza City and other parts of the north than on the previous night, but that heavy fighting still continued. "Tanks are shelling Palestinian fighters, who are responding with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," a media correspondent said. "There is heavy machine-gun fire on both sides. " One Palestinian was killed and another 20 wounded when an air strike destroyed a house in the city’s Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood, he quoted medics and witnesses as saying. Speaking on Tuesday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had said Israel’s offensive was "becoming more ferocious each day as the number of victims rises.

Palestinian death toll in Gaza reaches 1,000
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, Peter Walker, The Guardian 1/14/2009
The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza conflict climbed to more than 1,000 today after nearly three weeks of intensive Israeli bombing and fighting on the ground. So far, 1,010 Palestinians have been killed, among them 315 children and 95 women, Dr Moawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza’s medical emergency services, told the Guardian. The number of injured after 19 days of fighting stood at 4,700, he said. As Israeli troops fought on the outskirts of Gaza City after another night of heavy bombing and shelling, diplomatic efforts to end the conflict intensified, with the secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, in Cairo for urgent talks. He is calling for an immediate ceasefire. With the death toll rising, Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, said his country had cut diplomatic relations with Israel. He called for Israeli leaders to face charges at the international criminal court.

Phosphorus mortar shell detected in Negev
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Hazardous shell located in Eshkol Regional Council a day after hitting ground, causing no damage. ’Potential danger of using such a rocket is enormous,’ says community’s security chief - One of the mortar shells fired from northern Gaza at the Eshkol Regional Council Tuesday contained white phosphorus. The council’s security chief, Nikki Levy, said that "the potential danger of using such a rocket is enormous. It is far more dangerous than other Qassam rockets and mortal shells. This is an escalation in the type of explosives the Palestinians use on civilians. "Haim Yelin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, added: "Everyone criticized Israel for the weapons it’s been using, but we must realize that the other side is using illegal weapons. "

Hamas ’launches first phosphorus rocket’ at Negev; no injuries reported
Anshel Pfeffer, Yanir Yagna and Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
Palestinian militants fired a phosphorus rocket at Israel for the first time yesterday, one of 17 fired into Israel as fighting entered its 19th day. The phosphorus rocket exploded in an open field in the western Negev. No injuries or damage were reported. Also yesterday, three rockets were fired at Israel from southern Lebanon, the second time in a week the north has come under attack. No injuries were reported. In Gaza operations, seven Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded yesterday, one of them seriously, as Palestinian militants fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli paratroopers just outside Gaza City. Five IDF paratroopers were wounded during a separate gunbattle in northern Gaza. Two officers were moderately wounded and an officer and two soldiers were lightly wounded in the incident, which began when they were fired upon by gunmen.

Hamas Web site: Saudi ’fighter-priest’ killed in Gaza battle
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The unusual report of a Saudi jihadist, who was killed while fighting Israel alongside Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, appears to indicate that Hamas may be gaining greater acceptance among even more fundamentalist Muslim groups. As a rule, Hamas does not release details about its casualties - neither in number nor identity. But a Web site identified with a radical Islamic organization that preaches jihad and features the logo of Hamas’ military wing, reported that Abu Muhammed Mari, a Saudi sheikh mujahid ("fighter-priest"), who previously fought in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, was killed in the fighting in Gaza. Reuven Paz, an Israeli scholar who researches radical Islam and who noticed the posting on the Web site, said it is important because it appears to mark a change in the way Al-Qaida and other jihad proponents view Hamas.

Three Palestinians killed on Tuesday at dawn, offensive ongoing
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
The Israeli army intensified its air and ground attacks against the Gaza Strip on Tuesday at dawn, killing one Palestinian in Sheikh Radwan area in Gaza, and two fighters east of Rafah, in the souther part of the Gaza Strip. The Salah Ed Deen Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, reported that two of its fighters were killed, and a third fighter were seriously wounded, when the Israeli Air Force shelled an area east of Rafah. The two slain fighters were identified as Mohammad and Moneer Abu Sneema, while the wounded fighter was identified as Mohammad Abu Doqqa; he is currently in a serious condition. Soldier fired at least 40 missile at Rafah and its surrounding areas, especially areas close to the Rafah border terminal in the east, and Tal Zo’rob area in the west. Eyewitnesses reported that the Israeli Air Force shelled Sheikh Radwan Graveyard in the center of Gaza City destroying several tombs.

Hamas Health Ministry: More than 1,000 dead in Gaza
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The Palestinian death toll in Israel’s Gaza offensive topped 1,000 on Wednesday, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said, as Israel’s offensive, targeting Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, continued into its 19th day. The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human rights said more than 670 civilians were among the dead. Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians hit by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have been killed since Israel launched its campaign on Dec. 27. Backing its demand that any ceasefire ensure that Hamas cannot rearm, Israel sent warplanes to drop missiles on smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. "They used bombs that went deep into the tunnels and shook the whole Rafah refugee camp. The land trembled beneath our feet," said Bassam Abdallah, a local Palestinian cameraman.

Palestine Today 011409
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 00s || 2. 75 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, on Wednesday, January 14th 2009. Hundreds protest against the continued Israeli attack on Gaza while the death toll in the Costal region reaches 997 killed, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast The Israeli military continued its offensive targeting of the Palestinian costal region for the 18th day. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that at least five Palestinians were killed by midday on Wednesday; this brings the death toll in Gaza since the start of the Israeli operation on December 27th to 997. The Ministry added that among those killed are 311 children and the number injured reached 4,525 including 300 in critical condition.

False alarms rattle Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh residents
Globes Online 1/14/2009
Rockets did land, however, in Beersheva and Yavne. Warning sirens blared across the Jerusalem area today. Sirens were also heard in Beit Shemesh. After a few minutes, the Home Front Command reported that they were false alarms. The alarms led to several disquieting minutes around 1:00 in the afternoon. However, warning sirens that blared in cities around Gaza were not false alarms. Grad rockets landed in Beersheva and Yavne. [end]

Settlements could cost $1b in U.S. guarantees
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The United States administration plans to cut about $1 billion from the balance of its loan guarantees to Israel because of its investments in the settlements. The balance currently stands at $4. 6 billion. Washington has not officially informed Jerusalem of the cut. The assumption is that the announcement, and the decision over the exact extent of the cut, will come only after Barack Obama is sworn in as president next Tuesday. Israel has used about $4. 4 billion of the $9 billion in loan guarantees extended by the U. S. in 2003 in the wake of the war in Iraq and to help shore up the Israeli economy. The guarantees have assumed greater importance recently in light of the global economic crisis and the Finance Ministry intention to use the guarantees to secure foreign loans to help pay for the expected government budget deficit.

Olmert Piles Up the Pressure
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 1/15/2009
RAMALLAH, Jan 14(IPS) - In the face of U. S. denials, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office confirmed Wednesday that he personally intervened to ensure that the U. S. abstained from voting on UN Security Council Resolution 1860 last week. According to Olmert, U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forced to abstain from voting on the resolution, which called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and which she was largely responsible for authoring and putting together. On Monday Olmert told a news conference in the Israeli town Ashkelon, which borders Gaza, that he put a call through to U. S. President George W. Bush moments before the ceasefire was to be put to a vote. Olmert said he first tried to convince Bush to veto the resolution. However, Bush hadn’t read the resolution, so Olmert informed him that he had, and that it should be vetoed.

’PM stands by his version in diplo spat’
Herb Keinon, Allison Hoffman And Ap, Jerusalem Post 1/14/2009
Ehud Olmert’s aides on Wednesday said that the prime minister stood by his claim that his intervention made the US abstain from last Thursday’s UN Security Council resolution vote on a Gaza cease-fire. US State Department spokesman: Olmert’s Bush story ’not true’ The aides said the prime minister told the story exactly as it happened. Olmert had claimed that US President George W. Bush broke off a speech he was giving in Philadelphia to take his call, and that the abstention embarrassed Rice. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. Israel and the US engaged in a rare and uncharacteristic public spat Tuesday over events leading up to the UN vote. Both the State Department and White House spokesmen said that Olmert’s claim that he had essentially gotten Bush to twist Rice’s arm and abstain on the measure was simply untrue.

Olmert’s claims revive specter of 'Israel Lobby'
Daniel Luban, Electronic Intifada 1/14/2009
WASHINGTON (IPS) - The US State Department fiercely denied claims made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about his influence over President George W. Bush, in an incident that has stirred up old debates about the role of the Israeli government and the so-called "Israel lobby" in formulating Middle East policy in Washington. On Monday, Olmert claimed that he demanded and received an immediate conversation with President Bush, during which he convinced the president to overrule the wishes of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and abstain from a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. In response, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Tuesday called Olmert’s claims "wholly inaccurate as to describing the situation, just 100-percent, totally, completely not true. "The State Department did not respond to an IPS request for further elaboration. Olmert’s comments were made in Ashkelon, a southern Israeli city that has been the target of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Clinton Sympathizes With Palestinians In Confirmation Hearing
Ryan Grim, MIFTAH 1/14/2009
Hillary Clinton sent a message to Israel Tuesday during her Secretary of State confirmation hearing testimony, telling the Foreign Relations Committee that because of the conflict in Gaza "we have. . . been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East, and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians. " Mainstream American politicians are famously reluctant to utter the words "suffering" and "Palestinian" in the same sentence. By breaking from that tradition, Clinton appeared to send a signal to Israel that that it would not have a free hand to operate in the Middle East. [sic] President-elect Barack Obama found out the hard way early in the campaign what heat can come to a candidate who expresses sympathy for Palestinian suffering. He was quoted in the Des Moines Register as saying that "[n]obody is suffering more than the Palestinian people. "The report said that Obama considered the suffering "a result of stalled peace efforts with Israel. "

US denies Olmert influenced UN vote
Al Jazeera 1/14/2009
The US has denied that a telephone call made by Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, to George Bush, the US president, led to the US abstaining in a UN vote on the Gaza war last week. In a speech late on Monday, Olmert said Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, was left "pretty shamed" at the vote and had to abstain on a resolution she had helped arrange. Sean McCormack, a US state department spokesmen, who was with Rice at the UN last week during debate on the security council resolution, said the remarks were "just 100 per cent, totally, completely untrue". McCormack said that Washington had no plans to seek clarification from Israel. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Ehud Olmert, said the Israeli leader stood by his remarks.

A mission impossible for Ban Ki-moon
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times 1/15/2009
NEW YORK - This week, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon embarked on an extensive tour of the Middle East in the hope of silencing the guns in Gaza by convincing Israel and Hamas to accept UN Security Council Resolution 1860 that calls for an "immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza". In light of Israel’s deep military incursion inside Gaza and Israel’s rejection of the UN demand as "unworkable", Ban’s ability to achieve his peace objective may be a hope against hope. Increasingly frustrated and dismayed that his repeated call on the warring parties in Gaza to stop fighting has fallen on deaf ears, the UN chief has been unequivocal in his strong condemnation of Israel’s "disproportionate use of force". He is travelling to Israel, the West Bank as well Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, but perhaps

ANALYSIS / Key to Israeli exit from Gaza rests with Cairo, Washington
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
A meeting of the "troika" on Wednesday dealt with preparations for a visit to Cairo by senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, as well as formulating a position that he will present to his Egyptian interlocutors. Upon his return from Cairo, the troika will reconvene to hear his report and to decide whether Israel will accept the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, thus concluding Operation Cast Lead. Israel refrained from issuing a direct response to Hamas’ announcement on Wednesday that it is accepting the initiative. However, implicit in the decision to dispatch Gilad to Cairo is Israel’s approval of the Egyptian proposal, even if that approval is conditional. The dissension among the leadership in Jerusalem burst to the fore after Wednesday editions of Haaretz hit newstands with its lead story detailing Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s initiative for a cease-fire.

IDF: Hamas received worst blow in years
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/15/2009
Military officials express satisfaction with Israel’s restored power of deterrence -Following reports that Hamas would agree to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in Gaza, defense officials said Wednesday that Hamas’ political officials as well as its ground forces had realized that they were losing the battle against Israel. During a meeting summing up the military operation so far, IDF officials said the offensive constituted the most serious blow Hamas had received in decades. They said reconstruction of the organization’s destroyed foundations could take years, but that Hamas could demonstrate its abilities again very soon. The IDF admits Hamas retain certain capabilities, but believe deterrence has been afforded by the organization’s realization of the consequences that await them if they attempt to employ these capabilities.

US makes new/old accusations against Iran
Middle East Online 1/14/2009
WASHINGTON - Iran is likely to use this year’s elections in Iraq to extend its influence over the country, the Pentagon claimed Tuesday. In a quarterly report to Congress, the Defense Department said Iran’s "malign influence" was one of a number of factors that still weighs on the security situation in Iraq. "In the months ahead, Tehran will likely seek to influence Iraq by identifying and supporting pro-Iranian individuals and parties in their bids to win upcoming elections," the report said. "Iran continues to pose a significant threat to Iraq’s long-term stability, territorial integrity, and political independence," it said. "Despite persistent promises to the contrary, Iranian behavior continues to reflect a fundamental desire to oppose the development of a fully secure and stable Iraq. " The report accused Iran of trying to derail, both in public and covertly, a long-term security agreement between the United States and Iraq.

Leader: Israeli defense deals in Turkey not at risk
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 1/14/2009
Analyst Yoav Burgan says past crises have not shaken Israel’s defense cooperation. Turkey is unlikely to cancel arms deals with Israel because of the fighting in Gaza, according to Leader Capital Markets analyst Yoav Burgan. Commenting on reported remarks by a senior executive in Israel’s defense industries to the effect that Operation Cast Lead may undermine cooperation with the Turkish military and even lead to existing deals being cancelled, Burgan writes that, on the basis of past experience, such fears are overdone. This is especially so given that the army enjoys supreme status in Turkey, and wants Israeli defense systems, he says. Burgan notes that Israeli defense company Elbit Systems(Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) is involved in three large projects in Turkey: upgrading Turkey’s M-60 tanks, a project worth $780 million of which Elbit’s share is $183 million;. . .

Envoy to UK: Public backs underdog
Hagit Klaiman, YNetNews 1/14/2009
In interview with Ynet, Ron Prosor says Israeli PR is difficult task when competing with ’shocking’ images from Gaza. ’Clearly if rocket was to fall on London they would respond differently,’ he says - LONDON -"The British public expects Israel to become a martyr," Israel’s ambassador to the UK told Ynet Wednesday. Ron Prosor was referring to the IDF operation in Gaza. "It’s very clear that if just one rocket were to fall on London they would respond differently. British society identifies totally and automatically with the underdog, and we are perceived as strong," Prosor said. "How can it be that in the three years in which we have been telling the story of Sderot on every possible stage and displaying the intolerable daily lives of residents, no left-wing organization or protest organization has called for the condemnation of this absurd situation? "he asked.

France: 55 anti-Semitic acts since start of Cast Lead
AFP, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Representatives of 20 organizations meet with French Secretary of State for Urban Policies in search of solution to rising tensions between groups. Jewish Students Union head says more incidents recorded since start of Gaza op than at start of second intifada - A total of 55 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in France since the start of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, said President of the French Jewish Students’ Union Raphael Haddad on Monday. " This is a higher number of incidents than that of 2001 after the second intifada started," Haddad said in a meeting with Secretary of State for Urban Policies Fadela Amara. Representatives of 20 other organizations also took part in the meeting. France has the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in all of Europe, with some 600,000 Jews and 4 - 5 million Muslims living in the country.

In Aubervilliers, atmosphere is tense
Amer Ouali - AUBERVILLIERS, Middle East Online 1/14/2009
The fighting in Gaza is on everyone’s mind, but in this mixed Paris suburb, Jews and Muslims tread carefully around the issue, anxious to keep the peace in their own community. Home to Europe’s biggest Muslim and Jewish populations, France has seen a spike in anti-Semitic attacks since Israel launched its Gaza offensive last month, sparking appeals for calm from politicians and religious leaders. In Aubervilliers, a working class town on the northern outskirts of Paris that is home to three mosques and two synagogues, residents say the two communities have long rubbed shoulders peacefully. "We have always worked in a good atmosphere," said an Arabic nurse from a local clinic, who asked not to be named. "People trade jokes, gifts and visits, we tell each other about our festivals and religions without the slightest problem.

Birthright nails down tycoon Adelson’s $20m pledge for youth trips
Anthony Weiss, The Forward, Ha’aretz 1/13/2009
Birthright Israel, one of the most prominent identity organizations for young Jews, has worked out a deal with its largest donor to confirm a $20 million pledge that had been in question for the coming year. Officials at Birthright Israel, which sends young Jews on free trips to Israel, say that the organization has made an arrangement with casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson to match his $20 million pledge for 2009 with $10 million in new gifts. Adelson had pledged the $20 million in the summer of 2008, but Birthright insiders had been so worried about whether the money would come through that they were planning on the assumption the money wouldn’t come through. Adelson, tagged by Forbes as "the world’s richest Jew" in 2007, has seen his fortune decline precipitously since then.

Arabs undecided over Gaza summit
Al Jazeera 1/15/2009
Saudi Arabia has called for an emergency summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) to discuss Israel’s ongoing war on the Gaza Strip, the Saudi foreign ministry has said. "Due to the escalation in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, King Abdullah called for an emergency meeting for the GCC countries in the Saudi capital," the statement on Wednesday said. Saudi plans for the summit in Riyadh on Thursday came a day after Qatar unveiled its own plan for an Arab League summit on the war to be held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on Friday. King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, and Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, have refused to attend the Qatar summit and said they prefer to hold consultations on Gaza on the sidelines of the Arab economic forum to be held in Kuwait next week. The Arab League later said there was no quorum to convene a summit in Qatar.

Kuwaiti MP calls to move Arab League to Caracas
Middle East Online 1/14/2009
KUWAIT CITY - A Kuwaiti Islamist MP called on Wednesday for moving Arab League headquarters from Cairo to Caracas after Venezuela expelled Israel’s ambassador because of its onslaught on the Gaza Strip. "I call for moving the Arab League from Cairo to Caracas," MP Waleed al-Tabtabai said during a special debate in parliament over the Israeli offensive. Tabtabai said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "has proved that he was more Arab than some Arabs," after he expelled Israel’s ambassador to Caracas on January 6. Israel retaliated a day later, saying it was expelling Venezuela’s charge d’affaires. Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania, the only Arab countries to have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, have ignored public calls to expel Israeli diplomats. An Israeli trade office in Qatar also remains open. Tabtabai also criticised Egypt, which hosts the headquarters of the. . .

Dutch MP in hot water over anti-Israel protest
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
A Dutch parliamentarian who attended a recent anti-Israel demonstration was accused yesterday of incitement to hate, violence and discrimination against Jews. MP Harry van Bommel attended a January 3 Amsterdam demonstration where protesters shouted, "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas," leading to a complaint to the Dutch justice ministry from attorney Bram Moskowicz. Van Bommel told Haaretz he did not hear the calls, and that he’d have left had he heard them. "I was in front with a loudspeaker," he said. "They’re saying people in the back shouted these things, but I never heard them. " He was filmed at the event shouting "intifada" and "free Palestine. "In a video posted online before the complaint, van Bommel’s voice is heard as people in the background shout in Dutch: "Hamas, Hamas, Joden aan het gas.

More rockets from Lebanon hit Israel amid Gaza fighting
Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, The Independent 1/14/2009
Rockets fired from Lebanon struck Israel today for the second time in a week while its Gaza offensive ground on, but there was no immediate sign the incident would escalate into wider violence. There was no initial claim of responsibility for the attack, which triggered warning sirens in parts of northern Israel, and police said no one was hurt. On Thursday, a similar salvo hit northern Israel but Lebanese and Israeli officials were quick to play down that incident, blaming not the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement, an ally of Gaza’s Hamas, but smaller, Palestinian groups in Lebanon. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006. "Three rockets fired into Israel landed outside the city of Kiryat Shmona," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said about Wednesday’s incident in the Galilee. Security sources in Lebanon said five rockets were fired and two fell in Lebanon.

Rocket attack on northern Israel from Lebanon
Middle East Online 1/14/2009
TEL AVIV - Three rockets fired from Lebanon slammed into northern Israel early on Wednesday in the second such attack in less than a week that comes amid a devastating war on the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials said. "Three rockets landed outside Kiryat Shmona," a town at the border between Israel and Lebanon, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. In Lebanon, a security official said that one or more rockets were launched into Israel from the southern Lebanese border area of Habaniyeh and that the Israeli army retaliated. "Between one and three rockets were launched from an area four kilometers west of the village of Shebaa and Israel responded within a minute with four rockets that landed north of Ghajar," the official said. The attack comes on the 19th day of a massive Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip. . .

Hizbullah says not behind rocket attack on north
Reuters, YNetNews 1/15/2009
Hizbullah minister denies group had anything to do with Wednesday’s Katyusha fire on northern Israel. UNIFIL urges maximum restraint on both sides - The commander of a UN peacekeeping force urged Lebanon and Israel to exercise restraint after at least three rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon on Wednesday. The Lebanese government condemned the attack, the second launched from Lebanon against Israel since it began its offensive in the Gaza Strip on December 27. Information Minister Tareq Mitri said it "gave Israel an excuse to harm the national interest. "The army deployed additional forces in the south to boost its "defensive capabilities," a military source said. Labor Minister Mohammed Fneish, the Hizbullah minister in government, denied that the Lebanese political and military group had anything to do with the attack.

Israeli sources: rockets fired from Lebanon hit Israel
Ghassan Banoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
Israeli media sources reported on Wednesday that three rockets fired from southern Lebanon have hit northern Israel. The Israeli Army confirmed the incident, and said that the Katyusha rockets hit open areas causing nether damage or injuries. Army sources told the media that Israeli troops fired five artillery shells into southern Lebanon in response to the attack, adding that the army command fears that a second front will open at the Israeli-Lebanese borders because of Gaza. Hezbollah officials denied any involvement. Hezbollah resistance fighters managed to launch almost 4,000 rockets at Israel during the War in Lebanon in 2006. This is the second attack with rockets from the Lebanese borders into Israel since the Israeli military offensive on Gaza started 19 days ago, which, by Wednesday, has left 997 Palestinians killed, among them 311 children.

Katyushas hit Kiryat Shmona
Globes Online 1/14/2009
There are no reports of injuries or damage. Three Katyusha rockets landed in Israel’s northern city Kiryat Shmona this morning. There are no reports of injuries or damage. Israel is preparing for the possibility that terror organizations will try to hit other targets in the north. Reports from Lebanon claim that the IDF fired 2-4 shells toward the sources of the rocket fire. An IDF spokesperson said that in fighting against Hamas in Gaza, the Israeli Air Force hit about 60 targets overnight, including Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, an area rigged with explosive devices intended for detonation against IDF forces, five rocket launching sites, and around 35 weapons smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip. Six soldiers were wounded in ground operations throughout the night.

Rockets from Lebanon hit Israel
Al Jazeera 1/14/2009
At least three rockets fired from southern Lebanon have hit a northern Israeli city. Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said on Wednesday that "three rockets fired into Israel landed outside the city of Kiryat Shmona". They were reportedly fired from the area of Habaniyeh in southern Lebanon. The rockets landed in empty fields and no one was hurt, an Israeli emergency official said. Three other rockets fired from southern Lebanon landed within Lebanese territory, Al Jazeera’s correspondent said. Within minutes of the attack, Israel responded by firing eight rockets into the south of Lebanon, a Lebanese official said. Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said the rocket attack was not the first on Israel from Lebanon.

Voices from the frontline
The Guardian 1/15/2009
I moved from my house because I didn’t have any electricity or any access to the internet and I needed to contact my international partners and the international media. I feel that I have a duty to my people to report on this aggression. That night, at 12 o’clock I said to one of my friends, "Today is quiet and we can sleep without any bombs". Fifteen minutes later we started to listen to the radio and we could hear bombs falling not far away. Later I heard they were bombing near my house. I started to call my wife. I said, "Just take care of the kids". She said, "How? ". I told her to move out of the apartment into the stair well. I continued calling every three minutes. I was listening to my kids and they were crying "Dad, Dad, Dad, come and take care of us. "I prayed and said to my wife, "For the sake of the kids, please just survive. "

’Ode to Joy’ at a joyless concert
Noam Ben Ze'ev, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
RAMALLAH - The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music chose to open its youth concert at the Ramallah Cultural Palace on Sunday with the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony - a call for brotherhood between nations, humaneness, joy and peace. Anyone who has followed the Palestine Youth Orchestra in recent years must surely be amazed by the pace of its progress. Now touting 60 young musicians, the orchestra is wholly self-reliant, no longer dependent on international support or guidance from abroad. The children play all the instruments, including the more rarely heard tuba, French horn, oboe, timpani and contrabass. The orchestra is comprised of youngsters all under the age of 18, who represent the best of the conservatory’s 600 students at its Ramallah, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem branches. After the nod to Beethoven, conductor Eiad Awadi bowed to the audience and the. . .

Seven wounded Palestinians children transferred to Brussels
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/14/2009
Seven wounded Palestinian children and their parents arrived on Wednesday in Brussels to received medical treatment after they were seriously injured in the Israeli shelling to the Gaza Strip. The children were first moved to Egypt. The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release stating that Egypt refused to allow Belgian Physicians to operate in its hospitals although they had medical equipment transferred from their country. Egypt said that its hospitals have the needed equipment; Belgium them decided to transfer the equipment to Jordan in order to attempt to move this equipment from Jordan to Gaza in a later stage. The seven wounded Palestinian children were transferred by air from Al Areesh Egyptian airport to Belgium. Seven wounded Palestinians children transferred to BrusselsBelgium said that it is willing to receive 30 wounded Palestinian children in. . .

Teens: No ceasefire without Shalit
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Hundreds of teenagers rally in Tel Aviv, demand any agreement ending Israeli offensive in Gaza will secure release of soldier held by Hamas - Hundreds of teenagers rallied in the Tel Aviv Museum Plaza on Wednesday, demanding that any ceasefire agreement ending the Israeli offensive in Gaza must secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Guy Elyasif, a childhood friend of Shalit’s, told Ynet that "we are fighting in the south and Gilad is probably hearing the explosions and thinking the moment (of his release) is near. Once that stops, he is sure to think we’ve given up on him, that the government has decided not to bring him home. "Saying that getting Gilad Shalit back is not one of the operational objectives is easy, but we will not allow the government to not bring him home. "Getting Shalit back, he added, "has to be a clear-cut goal.

Poll: US ’supports Israel in Gaza op’
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 1/14/2009
Ipsos poll reveals 44% of Americans blame Hamas for conflict while only 14% blame Israel - WASHINGTON - The American public supports Israel in its military incursion into Gaza, according to a recent poll conducted by Ipsos. The poll results published Tuesday show that 44% of Americans blame Hamas for the current conflict while only 14% blame Israel. Nine percent said both sides were to blame, and 29% were undecided. Also, 57% of Americans thought that Hamas had used "excessive" force, whereas 44% thought that Israel had used "appropriate" force. Regarding a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, a surprising number of people were opposed to the two-state solution so often voiced by US leaders. When asked whether the US should support the establishment of a Palestinian state, 45% answered negatively while just 31% answered positively, and 24% were undecided.

Poll shows widespread public support for Gaza campaign
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
Almost three weeks after the beginning of Operation Cast Lead and less than a month before the Knesset elections, a Haaretz-Dialog poll shows widespread public support for the Gaza campaign. Less than 10 percent see the operation as a "failure. " The poll, supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs, head of Tel Aviv University’s Statistics and Operations Research, shows that Likud and Kadima have weakened slightly and would get 29 and 25 Knesset seats respectively if the elections were held today. Labor is holding steady with 16 seats. The right-wing bloc still commands more support than the center and left wing, effectively handing Likud chair MK Benjamin Netanyahu the next government. His coalition, however, would be complex, difficult to manage and possibly short-lived.

Fiscal obsolescence
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 1/14/2009
The bad news about the tax revenue report is that there is no good news. The tax revenue report for 2008 released yesterday paints a gloomy picture of the government’s future financial situation. The sharp drop in tax collection over the past few months from the business sector, the capital market, and from the general population too, which has stopped consuming, will only become steeper in 2009. The Ministry of Finance is already changes the assumptions that lay behind the budget for this year. What was put together in June 2008 for January 2009 is no longer relevant. Worse than that, the new budget proposal will not be implemented before May-June, after the elections, the formation of a new government, and the predictable coalition demands. The growth assumption of 2-3% is the first thing to have become obsolete.

Feminist group slams former envoy to UN Gillerman for ’tasteless’ jokes about women
Haaretz Sevice, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The televised classroom sessions produced by "Keshet" are intended to provide instruction for school students in the south who cannot attend class due to the rocket bombardments, but the curriculum presented in Tuesday’s edition by the guest teacher, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman, ignited howls of criticism from feminist groups. During his lecture to students, Gillerman offered an analogy when explaining the definition of a diplomat. "The difference between a diplomat and a lady is that when a diplomat says ’yes’ he means ’maybe,’ and when he says ’maybe’ he really means ’no. ’ If he says ’no,’ he’s not a diplomat. When a lady says ’no,’ she means ’maybe,’ when she says ’maybe’ she means ’yes’ and so if she says ’yes,’ then she’s not a lady.

Halachic ruling: Lives more important than bones
Matthew Wagner And Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post 1/14/2009
Protecting Jews from Hamas’s Grad rockets is more important than respecting the rest of the dead. That is the unsurprising halachic decision issued Wednesday by the two chief rabbis of Israel regarding the ongoing controversy surrounding foundation construction at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center. The construction is designed to fortify the hospital against Grad rockets fired by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, by adding an underground operation room. But the necessary digging will disinter Roman- or Byzantine-era graves, an act that is prohibited according to Jewish law if the bodies are Jewish - which is unclear. Last week Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger reasoned that since the digging is aimed at saving lives, and since there is a doubt whether the bones are Jewish, building the underground room takes precedence over not disturbing the deceased.

Cartoon of the day
mahjoob.com, Palestine Think Tank 1/14/2009


Cartoon of the day 2
Palestine Think Tank 1/14/2009


Demand for workers lowest since 2004
Yossi Nissan, Globes Online 1/14/2009
Manpower reports a drop across all sectors in December. Employment agency Manpower released its monthly index of demand for workers in the Israeli economy today. The index is based on help-wanted advertisements in the press. The company reported that, in December, total demand for workers fell 6. 8% in comparison with November, and by 19. 1% in comparison with December 2007. In comparison with 2007 as a whole, total demand for new workers in all sectors of the economy fell by 6. 2%. Demand for workers in high tech fell 9% in December in comparison with November, and by 6. 8% in comparison with 2007 as a whole. In both cases (total demand and demand in high tech) the December figure is the lowest in annual terms since 2004. In the fourth quarter of 2008, demand for new workers in all sectors fell by 6.

Wed: Africa-Israel leads market down
Ron Steinblatt and Tamar Koblenz, Globes Online 1/14/2009
There were falls across the board today, with Africa-Israel among the steepest decliners, and profit taking in the companies involved in the Tamar-1 gas exploration. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) fell today. The Tel Aviv 25 Index fell 3. 1% to 660. 256 points; the Tel Aviv 100 Index fell 3. 22%, to 584. 64 points; and the Tel-Tech Index fell 3. 03%, to 145. 27 points. Turnover totaled NIS 986 million. Today’s session began with rises, but after the opening the indices pointed south, and the falls intensified as the session wore on, on the back of weak macro figures from the US, and falls on European bourses. Corporate bond prices mainly fell today. The Tel-Bond 20 Index fell 0. 6%, but the Tel-Bond 40 Index rose 0. 4%. Government bonds were mixed, with long Galils falling slightly, while long Shahars rose.

Finance C’ttee chair warns of 'unbearable' 2009
Ran Rimon, Globes Online 1/14/2009
Braverman: Finance Minister Bar-On’s conservative policy in 2008 left us no remedy in 2009. Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Avishay Braverman (Labor) told "Globes" today, "The high-tech sector is facing an unbearable year. Of course we worry about our soldiers in Gaza, but the economic crisis will not pass over us, and when there is a cease-fire it will all come back to us. "There is an economic low point here that has not been seen since the 1930s. This will impact 2009, which will be the most difficult year ever. Without proper policies, I see fifty thousand unemployed in the high-tech sector. Some of the companies which have become international are having difficulties, and they will have layoffs. " Braverman recommended three steps to take: Increase the chief scientist’s funds.

Diamond industry woes worry banks
Eran Peer, Globes Online 1/14/2009
Bank of Israel figures show that diamond industry customers owed $2. 1 billion to Israeli banks in December 2008. Israeli banks are growing increasingly concerned by the troubles in the diamond industry. Israel Discount Bank (TASE:DSCT ), the biggest bank player in the diamond sector, is conducting a review to locate the credit that was extended to the diamond industry, its commitments to customers, and the value of any guarantees given against the loans. Discount Bank has extended $600 million to diamond industry customers At the end of the review, the bank will decide how much of its credit to diamond industry clients should be classified as doubtful debt. Bank of Israelfigures show that the balance sheet debt (not including guarantees and credit frameworks) to the diamond industry was $2.

Telecom equipment giant Nortel files for bankruptcy
Erez Wollberg and Ran Rimon, Globes Online 1/14/2009
Canadian company Nortel employs about 33,000 workers, and has extensive operations in Israel. Facing a $107 million interest payment on Thursday, and in light of a sharp drop in orders, telecommunications equipment company Nortel Networks has filed a request for bankruptcy protection in a US court. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy request was filed in Delaware. Nortel Networks employs about 33,000 workers, and it has extensive operations in Israel. Pele-Phone Communications Ltd. chose Nortel to operate its CDMA network. Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq:PTNR ; TASE:PTNR ; LSE:PCCD) chose to implement a Nortel UMTS network. Most ofBezeq The Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. ’s (TASE:BEZQ ) voice communications infrastructure is based on Nortel DMS solutions, and mostCellcom Israel Ltd.

Market Report / Poor U.S. retail figures push down shares in Tel Aviv
Yuval Maoz, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
Moderate falls on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange yesterday worsened toward the end of play after the release of listless retail-trading data in the United States. The TA-25 index fell 3. 1% to 660 points, the TA-100 lost 3. 2% to 584 points and the TelTech-15 index shed 3%. Turnover was NIS 1 billion. December’s consumer price index, which will be announced today, is expected to be negative. The Central Bureau of Statistics puts December’s trade deficit at $700 million, for a total of about $13. 7 billion in 2008, compared with $10. 2 billion in 2007. Israel Chemicals and the Israel Corporation rallied slightly at the start of trade after Tuesday’s declines of 7. 1% and 2% respectively, but ended the day down 6. 6% and 4%. El Al lost 2. 8% yesterday despite receiving an IOSA certification from the International Air Transport Association the day before.

Already parched nation faces driest January on record
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The head of the Water Authority said yesterday Israel is facing a water crisis the likes of which it has not seen since the 1980s, with the worst still to come. "January is turning out to be the driest month ever measured for this period," Professor Uri Shani said at a Knesset Interior and Environment Committee meeting. "The gap between supply and demand as well as the situation of aquifers are more serious than we have ever known. The peak of the crisis is still ahead of us," he said. Since the beginning of the year, he said, only 55 percent of the average annual precipitation has fallen for this time of year. At the meeting, Shani announced a number of emergency steps the Water Authority intends to take to deal with the crisis. First, prohibitions will be put in place on watering grassy areas both privately and publicly in 2009, in order to prevent irreversible damage to aquifers.

Former union boss convicted in theft
Amit Benaroia, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
The former chief executive of the National Workers Federation, Yitzhak Russo, was convicted of a series of serious crimes yesterday by the Tel Aviv District Court after pleading guilty as part of a plea bargain. Russo admitted to theft by a manager, fraud and breach of trust, money laundering, falsifying of corporate documents, abetting of theft and money laundering as part of a plea bargain, and admitted to stealing NIS 335,000 from the NWF, and to assisting in the theft of another NIS 565,000. Russo is a former associate and current adversary of disgraced former finance minister Avraham Hirschson, who was convicted in the same case. The parties to the plea bargain have not agreed on the sentence, but the prosecution will ask for a 20-month prison term. However, the sides agreed that Russo will pay a NIS 300,000 fine to the victim of the theft, the NWF.

Osama bin Laden tape calls for jihad against Israel
Firouz Sedarat, Reuters, The Independent 1/14/2009
The al-Qa’ida leader Osama bin Laden called for jihad (holy struggle) over the Israeli offensive in Gaza in a new audio tape that appeared on Islamist websites today. The Saudi-born militant said the global financial crisis had exposed the waning US influence in world affairs and would in turn weaken its ally Israel. "Our brothers in Palestine, you have suffered a lot. . . . the Muslims sympathise with you in what they see and hear. We, the mujahideen, sympathise with you also. . . "bin Laden said in the tape entitled ’A Call for Jihad to Stop the Aggression against Gaza’. "We are with you and we will not let you down. Our fate is tied to yours in fighting the Crusader-Zionist coalition, in fighting until victory or martyrdom. " The Palestinian death toll from a 19-day-old Israeli offensive to crush the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza has risen to 971, causing widespread anger among ordinary Arabs and Muslims.

Bin Laden tape calls for Gaza jihad
Al Jazeera 1/14/2009
Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, is reported to have issued a video recording calling on Muslims to wage jihad against Israel over its offensive in Gaza. The recording, which was dated to the current month in the Islamic calendar and called "A Call for Jihad to Stop the Aggression against Gaza", was posted on websites on Wednesday. "God has bestowed us with the patience to continue the path of jihad for another seven years, and seven and seven years," the voice on the tape, purported to be that of bin Laden, said. "The question is, can America continue its war with us for several more decades to come? Reports and evidence would suggest otherwise. "It was not possible to independently identify the voice on the tape.

US accused of abdicating role as human rights defender
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian 1/14/2009
Governments indulging in abuse and repression, including the US, are avoiding human rights legislation and international justice by hiding behind the principle of national sovereignty, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warns in a report today. Abusive practices throughout the world, including Afghanistan, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories, ha[ve] got worse as governments cling to the concept of non-interference. The US, specifically by secretly rendering prisoners to Guantánamo Bay, has abdicated its traditional role as defender of human rights, it adds. The 546-page report, the latest annual survey by HRW, says Barack Obama’s administration will have to put human rights at the heart of foreign, domestic and security policy if it is to undo what it calls "the enormous damage" of the George Bush years. " For the first time in nearly a decade, the US has a chance to regain its global


Articles


PCHR Condemns IOF Use of Unidentified Incinerating Bombs Against Civilians, Causing Horrific Burns
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/14/2009
      Doctor: "We do not fully understand why some of the injured are bleeding internally, because we can find no X-ray evidence of foreign objects inside their bodies." - PCHR is gravely concerned that the IOF may be using white phosphorous against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip
     The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) utterly condemns the mass killing of civilians by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip. The current death toll stands at 983, including at least 673 civilians, of whom approximately 225 are children. In addition to the rising civilian death toll, the Centre is also gravely concerned about IOF use of unidentified incinerating bombs that are causing horrific burns to civilians across the Gaza Strip, and forcing doctors to perform amputations on some civilian victims. The Centre is demanding an immediate investigation into IOF use of these weapons by international health experts.
     Hospitals across the Gaza Strip have reported increasing numbers of civilians with serious burns being admitted for emergency treatment, and the scale of injuries indicates that IOF are using these unidentified incinerating bombs to target civilians across the Gaza Strip. For example, on 10 January, 2009, residents of Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis, reported being attacked by IOF artillery shells which exploded into flames, dispersing shrapnel and dense white smoke that caused skin burns, suffocation, spasms and fainting. At least one hundred local civilians were injured by this IOF attack, including medical personnel who arrived at the scene. Civilians were subsequently admitted to hospitals in Khan Yunis, suffering from breathing difficulties and severe pains in their eyes.
     As part of its ongoing investigation into the constituents, and effects, of these unidentified IOF weapons, PCHR has interviewed Dr Nafez Abu Shaban, Head of the Burns Unit at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip. -- See also: Israel's Weapons in Gaza

Gaza: the endless cycle of trauma
Sandy Tolan, Middle East historian, Al Jazeera 1/15/2009
      The Israeli bombs and rockets streaking through the skies of Gaza trace not only a path of death and terror for Palestinians in 2009, they also outline the smoke trails of traumas past, from the Nakba, or ’catastrophe,’ in 1948 to the 1967 war; from the Lebanon invasions, to the 2002 assault on Jenin. All are echoes of today’s calamity of US-made missiles and mortars raining down on Gazans.
     Watching history repeat itself is, of course, most horrifying for the people through whose roofs the missiles are falling, whose children are dying. For the outsider, peering in from a safe perch, it is merely surreal.
     We look on as Israel replays the tape-loop of its brutal and tragic follies. Israel has shown again and again that, rather than vanquishing its enemies, it makes new ones while strengthening old ones.
     Many commentators have invoked 2006 and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, when, in trying to destroy Hezbollah, it made it stronger. But this is only a relatively recent example.
     ’My enemy’s enemy’
     Consider early 1988, near the beginning of the First Intifada, when Israel, trying to weaken Yasser Arafat, the late PLO leader, invoked the ill-fated strategy known as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

War as child’s play
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 1/15/2009
      The fighting in Gaza is "war deluxe." Compared with previous wars, it is child’s play - pilots bombing unimpeded as if on practice runs, tank and artillery soldiers shelling houses and civilians from their armored vehicles, combat engineering troops destroying entire streets in their ominous protected vehicles without facing serious opposition. A large, broad army is fighting against a helpless population and a weak, ragged organization that has fled the conflict zones and is barely putting up a fight. All this must be said openly, before we begin exulting in our heroism and victory.
     This war is also child’s play because of its victims. About a third of those killed in Gaza have been children - 311, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 270 according to the B’Tselem human rights group - out of the 1,000 total killed as of yesterday. Around 1,550 of the 4,500 wounded have also been children according to figures from the UN, which says the number of children killed has tripled since the ground operation began.
     This is too large a proportion by any humanitarian or ethical standard.
     It is enough to look at the pictures coming from Shifa Hospital to see how many burned, bleeding and dying children now lie there. History has seen innumerable brutal wars take countless lives.
     But the horrifying proportion of this war, a third of the dead being children, has not been seen in recent memory.

Covering for Israel, Concealing War Crimes
Stephen Lendman – Chicago, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
      In his January 8 article, "Gaza Under Fire," John Pilger quotes the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko saying: "When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie." America’s dominant media suppress facts, sacrifice accuracy, and conceal the greater lie that:
     -- all Israeli aggression is collaboratively planned months in advance with Washington;
     -- American aid makes it possible - billions of dollars annually, the latest weapons and technology, and Security Council vetoes to assure no anti-Israeli resolutions with teeth are passed;
     -- six months of preparation preceded Israel’s terror bombings followed by invasion, occupation, and repeated war crimes on the ground;
     -- Hamas "rockets" were pretext (not cause) to abet Israel’s overall strategy - with initial measures planned years ago and implemented in steps; Gaza 2008 - 09 is the latest with much more to come unless stopped;
     -- grievous international law violations are being willfully committed;
     -- innocent men, women and children are slaughtered;
     -- civilians and legitimate resistance are called "terrorists;"
     -- basic infrastructure unrelated to defense is destroyed - government buildings, police stations, schools, mosques, private dwellings, TV stations, commercial structures, water mains, power facilities, fishing boats, vehicles, ambulances, medical facilities, UN relief ones, and visible civilian targets, even young children coming from and going to school....

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence. It’s a war crime
Undersigned, The Times On Line, Palestine Monitor 1/14/2009
      Twenty-seven Academics and and Professors signed a petition, condemning Israel’bombardement on Gaza for "War crimes"
     Israel has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.
     The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.
     The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.
     For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.

Cease Fire, Cease Siege
Kathy Kelly - Arish, Egypt, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
      ’Trapped, isolated, hungry and desperate, Gazans endured economic warfare.’
     Yesterday, en route to the Rafah border crossing that leads into Gaza, our driver pointed to a long line of trucks laden with goods that are desperately needed in every area of Gaza. "You see," he said, "all of this is to help people." Generous people, around the world, want Gazans to have food, shelter, fuel, medicine and water while the Israeli military ruthlessly attacks their homes and neighborhoods. The aid shipments will surely save lives and ease affliction. Nevertheless, this relief will meet only a fraction of the need. What’s more, the Egyptian government’s recent decision to allow humanitarian goods into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, a border over which they have sovereign control, is a departure from the normal state of siege that Gazans have endured for most of the past sixteen months.
     A friend, Caoihme Butterly, who had lived in Gaza during the period when the borders were sealed, told me that the limited access to food drove up the prices for basic foods."A kilo of lentils cost $4.00, but the average person lived on less that $2.00 per day."Gazans don’t want to live on charity," said Caoihme, "but the humanitarian provisions become political. We were campaigning just to have the border open once a week, but we didn’t succeed."

Those who want to bump off the witnesses of the slaughter
Pino Cabras – Megachip, Palestine Think Tank 1/14/2009
      The call is clear: to kill a group of people, with their first and last name, habits and ideas, political affiliations and pictures easily identifiable. They also demand informers’ cooperation so as to complete the list with addresses. The dossiers are openly addressed to the Israeli military so as to help them eliminate “dangerous” targets physically, unless others see to it first: the foes to be hit are western activists—health assistants and other volunteers—who work and are witnesses to what is unfolding in the Occupied Territories.
     You may read all this on a website, run by a group of extremists, a sort of American-Jewish Ku Klux Klan: Stop the ISM. It may be worth noting that an Italian, Vittorio Arrigoni, whose touching reports from Gaza we have read, is amongst those targeted.
     The person who runs the site is Lee Kaplan. He’s one of the many quasi-fascist instigators of the American far right underbelly, a medley that has recently taken root both amongst the Christian movements and the fringes of Jewish fundamentalism, now joined by an unusual anti-Islamic extremism. In the US, this linking between these two milieus has strengthened to the extent that Kaplan often hangs around the wannabe high society circles of the TV talk shows famous for their foaming at the mouth, on Fox News channel.

Qana and Jabalya: Brothers in Blood
Rannie Amiri, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
      Amnesty International said ’The IDF intentionally attacked the UN compound’ in Qana.
     Israel’s Jan. 6 attack on a United Nations-run girls elementary school sheltering more than 1,600 civilians in Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp was not the first time the country’s military targeted refugees it helped create. In April 1996, an eerily similar incident took place at a UN compound near the southern Lebanese village of Qana.
     Qana and Jabalya share a tragic history. They are the where the innocent were massacred, and the assumption the humanitarian auspices of the UN could protect non-combatants from Israeli shelling, shattered.
     Qana, 1996 The year was 1996 and Israel was only six weeks away from upcoming elections (sound familiar?). Prime Minister Shimon Peres was expecting a stiff challenge from Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. At the time, Israel was occupying southern Lebanon. Along with its proxy militia, the South Lebanese Army, they continued to fruitlessly battle Hezbollah despite their repeated failure to eradicate the group’s resistance. As in all its military escapades, what Israel really needed to do was to provoke their enemy enough to elicit a significant response. That would then be used as pretext for initiating a full-scale assault.

How Israel Gets Away With Murder
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Palestine Think Tank 1/14/2009
      When Lord Derby asked Sir Lewis Namier, the great historian of Georgian England, why he, as a Jew, didn’t write Jewish history, Namier replied: "There is no modern Jewish history, only a Jewish martyrology, and that is not amusing enough for me." It might be said that the underlying purpose of the Zionist project – which Namier passionately supported – was to reject Jewish martyrology, and to turn the Jews from passive victims to active makers of their destiny.
     That has been accomplished to a fault, many would say as they watch the news from Gaza, where one image after another has caused deep revulsion. But then that rejection of martyrdom and victimhood may also explain what has puzzled as well as dismayed onlookers – the fact that Israel seems to be quite oblivious to international opinion.
     In Muslim countries there is, of course, intense hostility to Israel, which, in return, has long since followed the Latin principle oderint dum metuant towards her neighbours: Let them hate us, so long as they fear us. Since there’s no point in even trying to win their hearts and minds, they should be taught to respect brute force, a precept which, it should be admitted, has enjoyed considerable practical success.

The Massacre in Gaza: Check the Facts
Max Kantar, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
      ’A genuine massacre of ordinary, unarmed people has been taking place.’ (Reuters) Israel’s operative military policy in the Gaza Strip has been fairly consistent with its stated definition of what it considers to be legitimate military targets, which in practice has amounted to mass killings of innocent Palestinian civilians.
     Based on the overwhelming evidence available, one conclusion can be drawn regarding the nature of the US-backed Israeli attacks on Gaza: a genuine massacre of ordinary, unarmed people has been taking place for over two weeks.
     Here is just a small part of the documentary evidence to prove it.
     Targeting Civilian Police Stations and Officers - In the opening days of Israel’s aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip, its main targets were police stations and officers. For civilian police officers to be considered legitimate military targets, they must be directly engaged in hostilities, in this case, towards Israel. No evidence has been presented by Israel, or anyone else, that even reasonably suggests that the police officers in Gaza fall into this category. Therefore, the police officers that were targeted and murdered by Israel were clearly civilians: not lawful military targets.

The Re-Possession of Gaza
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Middle East Online 1/14/2009
      Israel is on its way to re-possessing the Gaza Strip, despite a UN Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and mounting international criticisms, and the Israeli army that initially claimed a modest goal of "a new agreement with Hamas" has now all but admitted that the intention of Operation Cast Lead is to "topple Hamas."
     "Gaza battle isn’t a one-time conflict, won’t end in accord," Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, has been quoted by Jerusalem Post, in rather sharp contrast to two weeks ago when Livni and other Israeli officials were quoted on the front pages of New York Time denying that their intention was to "reoccupy Gaza." Slowly but surely, as the Israeli army inches closer to its military objectives against Hamas, albeit with certain international costs and financial and human toll in the face of stiff Palestinian resistance forcing Israel’s use of reservists in the Gaza operation, the fog of war is thinning with respect to Israel’s intentions -- of reoccupying a parcel of land and restoring military rule over 1.5 million mostly refugees three and a half years after "unilateral disengagement" that followed nearly forty years of oppressive occuptaion.

Palestine, Moral Test of the Western World
Salim Nazzal, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
      ’Europe needs to send a blunt message to Israel to stop its aggression.’
     In the year 285, Silvanus the Palestinian bishop of Gaza was given two choices, either to give up his faith or to die. Off course Silvanus knew that his power was little compared with that of the Roman Empire, the superpower of the time. But what can man do when he has to choose between freedom and slavery?
     History provides us with numerous examples of men who chose to die rather than live lives of servitude. History recorded that Silvanus defied the Pax Romana peace. Bishop Sylvanus died as a martyr, but Christendom lived and the Roman occupation became history.
     This event took place in the days of antiquity, when the concepts of freedom and self-determination were not yet known and the charter of human rights has not come into existence, long before the Geneva Convention, intended to protect civilians in occupied countries and war zones, was born. In that period, there was no modern media to report the atrocities committed against humanity, there was no United Nations; there was no International Red Cross, no Amnesty International and no human rights organizations to watch and to report.

Israel Bars Arab Parties from Election
Jonathan Cook - Nazareth, Palestine Chronicle 1/14/2009
      ’All the Arab parties have harshly criticised the attack on Gaza.’ (AFP) The only three Arab parties represented in the Israeli parliament vowed yesterday to fight a decision by the Central Elections Committee to bar them from running in next month’s general election.
     In an unprecedented move signalling a further breakdown in Jewish-Arab relations inside Israel, all the main Jewish parties voted on Monday for the blanket disqualification. Several committee members equated the Arab parties’ vocal support for the Gazan people with support for terrorism.
     The decision follows the arrest of at least 600 Arab demonstrators since the outbreak of the Gaza offensive and the interrogation by the secret police of dozens of Arab community leaders. The three parties -- the National Democratic Assembly, the United Arab List and the Renewal Movement -- have seven legislators out of a total of 120 in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
     The elections committee barred all three from putting up candidates for the Feb 10 election on the grounds that they had violated a 2002 law by refusing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and by supporting a terrorist organisation.

Resolution 1860: fig leaf to Arab failure
Hasan Abu Nimah, Electronic Intifada 1/14/2009
      Israel rejected outright the weak UN Security Council’s "call" for "an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire." What the Arab foreign ministers hailed as a triumph for their mission to New York was no more than a fig leaf to cover their failure before their increasingly angry and restive peoples who are ever more boldly denouncing Arab leaders’ inaction or complicity as Israel butchers Palestinians in Gaza.
     Resolution 1860 was a shameless whitewash of the Israeli aggression and war crimes, which the Arab ministers had no choice but to take after having escaped in the direction of New York from the embarrassing alternative of an Arab summit.
     The resolution has serious flaws that the Arab delegations should not have accepted under any circumstances. Calls for an Arab summit by the emir of Qatar and other Arab states to consider reaction to the Israeli onslaught on Gaza were strongly opposed by Egypt and several other states who now stand accused by their people of collaborating with the Israeli enemy, with evidence mounting daily in support of such accusations.

Israel’s Siege of Washington
Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 1/14/2009
      BEIRUT -- If the Israeli attack on Gaza that started 18 days ago was designed partly to send a message to incoming U.S. President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress in the past week seems to have joined the battle to handcuff the new president and lay down the law for him, even before he takes office.
     Obama has tried to remain aloof and stay out of the political battle over the Gaza war by making no substantive statements about it. Israel and its many supporters in Washington have different plans for him. He stayed away from the war, but they have brought the war to him -- shoving it down his throat as his first pre-incumbency lesson in how American presidents behave vis-à-vis Israel’s desires -- if they wish to remain in power.
     The House of Representatives voted last Friday by 390-5 for a resolution that completely backed Israel in its onslaught against Gaza, specifically affirming “Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza". A day earlier, the Senate overwhelmingly supported Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism.

Tin-pot rockets won’t open a second front
Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/15/2009
      The "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command" – the quotation marks are necessary since this outfit controls at most 500 cadres – is responsible for all the tin-pot rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon this past week.
     It is not the next "front". It is not the beginning of the "northern front". No one was injured when three rockets fired from southern Lebanon fell in open areas near the Israeli town of Kiryat Shemona yesterday. A blaze of outdated rockets on northern Israel – "about 1944, I date them", as one Palestinian put it in Beirut – is not going to ignite another conflict for Hamas in Gaza. In Lebanon, the guns are silent – and when they are not, the world will know about it.
     The Hizbollah are not behind them – though it is strange that the Iranian-supplied militia failed a second time to prevent the PFLP-GC from firing over the border – and the organisation’s preposterous attempt to ignite another conflict did little more than advertise the divisions within the Palestinian refugee community inside Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp east of Sidon. For the West, the PFLP-GC is an unspeakable problem. Most Arabs suspect theywere behind the Lockerbie bombing. Thus did most Western "analysts" believe, until the PFLP-GC’s Syrian supporters were needed after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 – Syrian troops were sent to Saudi Arabia to help defend the kingdom – after which Libya and a certain Mr Megrahi became the culprits, and the PFLP-GC became the blameless boys of the Middle East.

Why children are the first casualties of war in Gaza
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian 1/15/2009
      In war, everyone dies: men, women, children, civilians and fighters, the innocent and the villains. Every death is ugly and sad. But the dead bodies of children drop us into a deep pit of shame and sadness: they make us angry, vulnerable and hopeless.
     As I am writing, 315 children have died in Gaza in the last 19 days. Most probably, more will have died by the time this is published. About a third of the dead and injured have been children.
     The dead children in Gaza take me back two years, to Israel’s last war, with Lebanon. Again, it was the children who were dying. I remember seeing seven children lying together on a filthy brown blanket - next to the bodies of their relatives and parents - after their house, in the village of Qana, was bombed by Israeli planes. They all had acquired the monochrome beige colour of the debris they had been buried under all night. They had a look of astonishment, agonised confusion, their lush lips twisted, their mouths stuffed with dirt. But they looked peaceful even in the ugliness of their death.
     All dead children look alike, that’s the thing - even those mangled and disfigured by a Baghdad car bomb. They look asleep, not dead, just asleep after a long night of bombing and shelling.

Israel Has Managed to Lose Again
Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 1/14/2009
      Haaretz reported today that IDF Senior officials "believe that Israel should strive to reach an immediate cease-fire with Hamas, and not expand its offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group in Gaza."
     This shouldn’t take us by great surprise. Though Israel has proved beyond doubt that it is rather capable of conducting large-scale genocide, it also proved that its military forces do not have the answer to Islamic resistance. The Israeli chief military officials admitted as well that "Israel achieved several days ago all that it possibly could in Gaza." The IDF, so it seems, finished its role in Gaza. It turned its neighbourhoods into piles of rubble. Relentlessly, it even murdered the civilian population in broad daylight by means of air raids and attacks from warships. Images of white phosphorus artillery shells bursting over schools and hospitals are now part of our collective memory. Tanks firing into schools loaded with evacuees seeking refuge from the bombing of their buildings is now the image associated with the Hebraic soldier and yet, the Israelis failed to achieve any of their objectives. I must admit that it must take a special talent to be an Israeli general. As much as they are good in committing war crimes, they somehow fail in everything else.
     The Israeli politicians initially swore to destroy Hamas, they then lowered their expectations, they promised just to destroy Hamas’ rocket launching capabilities, all the while reassuring their excited Israeli voters that this time the Jewish State will fight till the bitter end. Seemingly, their promises fell too short once again. -- See also: Ha'aretz story

Warning of a Clear and Present Danger to the Lives and Well-Being of Tens of Thousands of Civilians in the Gaza Strip
Undersigned Israeli human rights organizations, Alternative Information Center 1/14/2009
      Dear Friends,
     A press conference was held in Jerusalem today in which Israeli human rights NGOs (including PCATI) read its statement to the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, warning of the clear humanitarian danger looming in Gaza and pointed out the severe nature of Israeli action in the course of its war in Gaza which blatantly violates the human and humanitarian rights of civilians in Gaza. Stating " This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes."
     Member organizations also pointed out that their concern is for the rights and PROTECTION of all CIVILIANS with no national, religious or other distinction, Israelis and Palestinians. The fact that the damage being done to the Palesitinian civilian population, the destruction of its institutions, infrastructure and the vast loss of life among Palestinians is so monumental and being done by Israeli forces necesitates a very particular Israeli response that calls on the Government of Israel and Israeli citizens to look in the mirror and to be concerned about what they see.
     The text of the letter to the Prime Minister can be found below...