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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
17 January, 2008

Israel accused of war crimes over 12-hour assault on Gaza village
Peter Beaumont in London, The Guardian 1/18/2009
Israel stands accused of perpetrating a series of war crimes during a sustained 12-hour assault on a village in southern Gaza last week in which 14 people died. In testimony collected from residents of the village of Khuza’a by the Observer, it is claimed that Israeli soldiers entering the village: attempted to bulldoze houses with civilians inside; killed civilians trying to escape under the protection of white flags; opened fire on an ambulance attempting to reach the wounded; used indiscriminate force in a civilian area and fired white phosphorus shells. If the allegations are upheld, all the incidents would constitute breaches of the Geneva conventions. The denunciations over what happened in Khuza’a follow repeated claims of possible human rights violations from the Red Cross, the UN and human rights organisations. -- See also: VIDEO - Shocking evidence of Israeli phosphorus use in Gaza emerges

VIDEO - Shocking evidence of Israeli phosphorus use in Gaza emerges
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian 1/17/2009
Residents of Khuza’a, near Khan Younis, describe Israeli soldiers shooting at people attempting to rescue wounded, at women waving white flags, an Israeli bulldozer attempting to bury civilians alive, snipers shooting women in the street, civilians shelled with phosphorus - Fresh evidence of the firing of white phosphorus weapons by Israeli forces in Gaza has emerged from witnesses heard by the Guardian and first hand accounts by human rights groups of their use against civilians. Graphic descriptions of attacks by Israeli forces near the Gaza town of Khan Younis are contained in footage shot by Fida Qishta for the International Solidarity Movement and obtained by the Guardian. A woman described how on Tuesday Israeli forces "started to fire phosphorus bombs against the people, of course, they are civilians. . . " A man added: "A fire broke out and we have to leave out. -- See also: Israel accused of war crimes over 12-hour assault on Gaza village

Olmert announces Gaza ceasefire
Al Jazeera 1/18/2009
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, has announced a unilateral truce in the Gaza Strip. Israel will halt its offensive in Gaza at 0000 GMT on Sunday but troops will remain in the enclave for the time being and will respond to Hamas fire, Olmert said on Saturday. The announcement came after a meeting of Israel’s security council on Saturday evening and halts the 22-day offensive which has left more than 1200 Palestinians dead, more than 400 of them children. Mission accomplished "We have reached all the goals of the war, and beyond," Olmert said. "If our enemies decide to strike and want to carry on then the Israeli army will regard itself as free to respond with force," he added. Olmert said the war boosted Israel’s deterrence and that Hamas’s actions would decide when the military would withdraw.

UN condemns shelling of Gaza school
The Independent 1/17/2009
A United Nations official has condemned an Israeli shelling attack that struck a UN school in the northern Gaza Strip and killed two people. Spokesman Chris Gunness said the school was crowded with 1,600 people who had sought shelter from Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza. It was latest incident in which Israeli fire aimed at militants has struck a UN facility during the offensive. Gunness says Israel had the coordinates of the school and knew it was being used as a shelter. He says there should be an investigation into possible war crimes, and that anyone who is guilty should be brought to justice. The military was investigating the incident and had no immediate comment. But in similar cases, it has accused Hamas militants of staging attacks from schools, mosques and other civilian areas.

Israel kills 3 daughters of ‘friend’ doctor in Gaza
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
GAZA CITY – The Palestinian doctor provided Israeli TV viewers with regular updates on Gaza fighting’s human toll. But Friday’s report was different — with sobs he told how his three daughters and a niece were killed by an Israeli shell. "I want to know why my daughters were harmed," Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish said on Channel 10. "This should haunt (Israeli Ehud Prime Minister) Olmert his entire life. " Throughout the 21-day war, Abu al-Aish has brought accounts of war’s tragedy to Israeli living rooms, making him for many the voice of Palestinian suffering. During the broadcasts, Abu al-Aish also often spoke of his fears for his eight children. His wife reportedly died recently of cancer. When Channel 10 called him on Friday, he answered his cell phone crying that his house in the northern Gaza strip town of Jebalia had been hit by Israeli shells and his daughters killed.

Ongoing attacks on hospitals and medical equipment in Gaza
Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
Polly Basak for PNN -- Three hospitals were attacked on the same day in the Gaza Strip where Israeli forces disregard the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits targeting medical facilities, ambulances and personnel. Since the major attacks began on 27 December, Israeli forces have hit 16 medical facilities and even more ambulances and medics. On 15 January he Al Quds Palestinian Red Crescent Society Hospital in the Tel Al Hawa neighbourhood, the Al Wafa Hospital in eastern Gaza City (the only rehabilitation hospital in the Gaza Strip) and the Al Fata Hospital in western Gaza City came under fire and were all damaged in the bombardment. In addition a Palestine Red Crescent warehouse was also shelled, destroying all medical and relief items stored in the vicinity. In both the Al Wafa Hospital and Al Fata Hospital the windows were smashed, walls were damaged and three hospital ambulances were destroyed in the blast.

WHO deplores the shelling of hospitals in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
GENEVA, (PIC)-- The World Health Organization in a statement on Friday deplored the Israeli attack on Al-Wafa and Al-Fata hospitals, and the Al-Quds hospital, which is run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. "WHO expresses deep concern about the serious implications on patients, medical staff, health infrastructure and the provision of critical health services", the statement added. The statement then said, "WHO calls for the discontinuation of the current violence, the removal of the blockade for the safe passage of patients, health personnel, food, fuel and medicines, and the respect of the inviolability of the health facilities in conflict zones". It noted that up to Friday 16 health facilities and 16 ambulances have been damaged or destroyed since 27 December. "Al-Quds Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) Hospital in south Gaza City remained closed 16 January after being hit by Israeli fire a day earlier.

22nd day under attack: Israel shells UN school, death toll in Gaza 1,200
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/17/2009
As the Israeli military operation entered its 22nd day on Saturday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that the death toll have reached by midday today to 1,200. The ministry added that the number of those injured have exceeded 5,300 including 400 in critical conditions. During night shelling targeting Gaza, local sources said that 11 people were killed, jet fighters and tanks fired shells at residential areas in Gaza City, Beit Lahia and Rafah. Meanwhile on Saturday morning six people, including a women and two of her children, where killed when Israeli war planes fire several missiles at a school in Beit Lahia. . . . Medics and Doctors in Gaza said that the school was attacked with missiles believed to contain white phosphorus and dense metals. . . Israel[’s]. . . troops have attacked the UN centers and schools at least four times. . .

Israeli forces impose curfew on villages near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the West Bank village of Huwwara, south of Nablus, on Saturday morning, erecting checkpoints on the main street and imposing a strict curfew. Huwwara’s mayor, Samer Mur’eb, told Ma’an that Israeli troops have closed the entrances to the village and those of two nearby villages, Beita and Einabus. As a result of the curfew, Huwwara residents are forbidden from walking in the main streets of the town. Witnesses reported similar conditions in Beita, where Israeli soldiers have piled dirt on one of the main entrances of the town. Sources in Beita said the Israeli troops began the curfew after locals threw stones at them.

Israeli troops beat woman at Huwwara checkpoint; detain men attempting to intervene
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli troops closed the Huwwara checkpoint south of Nablus on Saturday after beating a young woman who they accused of saying “bad words” to Israeli soldiers manning the post. Witnesses said the young woman was in her twenties, wore a grey overdress and a headscarf, but did not know her name or family. They added that she condemned the Israelis for their war crimes in Gaza, and was slapped and shoved brutally by soldiers. The checkpoint was then closed for 4o minutes while the woman was taken to a closed room. Several men waiting to cross the checkpoint ran after the soldiers as they dragged the woman away. A brief scuffle broke out between the men and the soldiers. The men, including a Palestinian policeman, were detained.

Israeli soldiers seize, beat Palestinian man near Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers severely beat a Palestinian man near the city of Bethlehem on Saturday. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers seized 28-year-old Majed Ash-Sha’er from in front of his house in the village of Tuqu, south of Bethlehem and took him away in a military jeep. After beating him, the soldiers then dumped Ash-Sha’er on the street near the village. Medical sources said Ash-Sha’er’s condition is moderate, although his head was wounded, and he suffered bruises on several parts of his body. At the time of writing he was still being treated in a hospital in Bethlehem. [end]

Soldiers attack, beat a Palestinian man near Bethlehem
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/17/2009
The Maan News Agency reported on Saturday that Israeli soldiers attacked, kicked, punched and dragged a Palestinian youth from Tiqua’ village, southeast of Bethlehem, after kidnapping him from his home. Majid Al Sha’er, 28, was moved by the residents to the main governmental hospital in Bethlehem, and is currently receiving treatment for concussions and bruises. His condition was described as moderate. He was standing in front of his home when the soldiers initiated the assault, then they abducted him and took him to a road near the village where they continued to kick and punch him before leaving him soaked in his own blood. Medical sources at the Beit Jala Government Hospital, said that Al Sha’er suffered fractures and concussions in his head, arms and several parts of his body.

Military components factory ransacked in Gaza protest
Mark Townsend, The Guardian 1/17/2009
Nine people are being questioned by police following extensive damage at an arms factory where protesters claim military components are being made for Israeli warplanes bombing - The group, which calls itself Smash EDO, entered the EDO MBM Technology plant in Moulsecoomb, Brighton, in the early hours of this morning. During the incident computers and furniture were hurled from the windows of the Sussex factory. Police described the damaged as "substantial". Demonstrators said they were "decommissioning" the site in protest against the killings of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. They said equipment made at the plant was being used in Gaza by the Israeli air force. DCI Graham Pratt of Sussex police said: "Windows had been smashed and offices turned over in what I would describe as wanton vandalism, but with machinery and equipment so targeted that it could have been done with a view of bringing business to a standstill. The damage is significant and the value substantial. "

Israel to annex lands from Bethlehem villages in order to expannd Gush Azion settlement Bloc
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/17/2009
The Israeli army decided to annex lands from the Palestinian villages of Husan and Nahhalin, near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, in order to expand the illegal Gush Azion settlement bloc. The decision, sighed by Noam Tibon, the general Israeli military commander in the occupied West Bank, states that Israel will annex more than 24 Dunams of Palestinian lands in Husan and Nahhalin. Khalid Al Azza, head of the Popular Committee for Defending Lands and Countering Occupation and the Annexation Wall in Bethlehem, said that the army isued two orders signed by Tibon and addressed to the owners of the lands. The first order T/28/08 states that the army intends to annex 10 Dunams and 200 square/meters from Nahhalin village, while the second order T/09/03, states that the army intends to annex 13 Dunams and 400 square/meters from the nearby Husan town.

200+ sign document condemning PA inaction, calling for national struggle government
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – More than 200 Palestinian political and civil society leaders and scholars signed a petition stating their position as with the Palestinian resistance and with the people of Gaza who are still under Israeli fire. The document went further and rejected the actions of the Palestinian Authority in repressing the demonstrations against the Israeli actions in Gaza. The PA has stationed police and Special Forces at gathering sites around the West Bank every Friday since the Gaza invasion began. Those who signed the document affirmed that it is not the acts of the Palestinian resistance that is hurting Gazan citizens, but rather the Israeli occupation and silence from all parties. The document condemned the strategy of blaming Israel’s victim for the crimes of the aggressor. The document called for the formation of an international investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Fatah leader denounces his movement’s 'silence' on Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – A Fatah senior leader, Hatem Abdul Qader, criticized on Saturday what he described as the silence of the Fatah leadership on the Israeli attack on Gaza and the Palestinian national project as a whole. “The leadership of the was supposed movement to play a greater and influential role in dealing with the massacres and conspiracies against the Palestinians,” he said, decrying attacks “aiming at ending Palestinians’ material and moral existence. ”Abdul Qader is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from Jerusalem. In a statement, he held the Fatah’s leadership responsible for “this setback and the inability to play an influential role in the dangerous events that are taking place in Palestine. ”He noted that “the divisions that inflicted the movement prevented it from taking clear and honest stances towards the recent events, an issue. . .

Big powers to combat ‘arms smuggling’ to tiny Gaza
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
BERLIN - Britain, France and Germany have offered to help prevent arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip in a joint letter to the Israeli and Egyptian governments published in Berlin Saturday. The three countries said according to the German version of the letter that they were ready to take a number of steps to "contribute to an end to the arms smuggling to Gaza". They would also continue to work with the governments in Egypt and Israel "to implement these measures". "Germany, France and the United Kingdom, along with other partners, support efforts by the Israeli and Egyptian governments to reach a lasting truce in Gaza," said Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in their letter to Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. The leaders’ letters were handed over by their respective countries’ embassies in Israel and Egypt.

Egypt says Israel main obstacle to Gaza deal
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
CAIRO - Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Saturday that Israel was the main obstacle to Egyptian efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza. Asked by reporters what the main obstacle was, he said "Israeli intransigence," adding: "Israel is drunk with power and violence. " Egypt has been holding separate meetings with representatives from Israel and the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza in a bid to broker a truce. Abul Gheit said on Saturday that Cairo is "not bound" by a US-Israeli agreement to stop arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip. Egypt "is absolutely not bound by this agreement," on halting arms smuggling through tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, Abul Gheit told reporters. Israeli newspaper Haaretz published on Friday what it said was a copy of the agreement. It said that Israel and the US would "work cooperatively with neighbours. . .

Barak: IDF forces to remain deployed in Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Defense minister says army prepared to resume military activity and even expand it if Hamas continues aggression during unilateral ceasefire -The IDF is holding its fire, but forces will remain deployed in Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters Saturday night following cabinet’s decision on a unilateral ceasefire in the Strip. "We are holding our fire, but will remain vigilant," he said, "We’ve met our military objectives and are now holding our fire, but Hamasmay fire at the forces and the home front. The army will remain deployed in Gaza and is prepared to continue and even expand the operation if needed. Israel’s citizens must also be prepared. "The defense minister added: "We did not go to battle with cries of joy; you go to battle when there is no other choice; you set realistic goals, prepare meticulously and apply all the necessary force. "

Egypt, Israel, US: next phase in regional control
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
Cairo - The Israeli Ministerial Council is holding a meeting of security and political affairs to discuss the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, while the US/Israeli "memorandum of understanding" is seen as another assault. Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that "significant progress had been made" during talks held in Cairo yesterday. The head security at the Israeli Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad and the political advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert met with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Friday. An Israeli government source was reported in Ha’aretz today as saying that the "significant progress" was in reference to combating the smuggling of weapons, the current creation presented to justify rabid attacks on Gaza. The Israeli administration is widely seen as dismissing international efforts toward a ceasefire.

Egypt: Israel drunk with power, violence
News agencies, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit says Cairo not committed to US-Israeli pact to halt arms smuggling into Gaza Strip - Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday his country was not committed to the US-Israeli pact to halt arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. "We have no commitment towards this memo whatsoever," Aboul Gheit told reporters. "We do not know anything about this memo and it does not concern us in anything," he said. He added that Israel was the main obstacle to the "Egyptian efforts" to end an agreement by the war in Gaza. Questioned by the press on the main obstacle to the Egyptian mediation underway, Aboul Gheit said: "Israeli intransigence". " Israel is drunk with power and violence," he acknowledged. The United States and Israel signed an accord on Friday aimed at stopping the smuggling. . .

Hamas vows to fight on, ignoring Israeli declaration of ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hamas said on Satruday that it will ignore any unilateral announcement of a ceasefire by Israel. Usama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon said that the movement will fight on until its demands are met. Speaking during a televised interview in Beirut, Hamdan said Hamas has “nothing new” to say regarding a possible ceasefire. "Today the movement’s delegation arrives in Cairo. And clearly, we have nothing new to offer. . . Either we hear what we have demanded or the result will be the continuation of confrontation on the ground,” Hamdan said. The Israeli security cabinet is expected to endorse a unilateral halt in its attacks on Saturday night, exactly three weeks after it began its massive assault on the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile officials representing both Hamas and Israel are in Cairo where they are negotiating with Egypt an indirect bilateral ceasefire agreement.

European leaders to help stop Gaza smuggling
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Heads of France, Germany, Italy and UK send letter to Olmert, expressing willingness to offer naval resources to help stop arms trafficking into Gaza. Also say will provide aid to Gaza, willing to monitor crossings -German, British, Italian and French leaders are willing to take steps to help stop weapons smuggling into Gaza, they wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Saturday. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote that they had met and intend to continue meeting with Israeli and Egyptian leaders in order to determine steps to help prevent arms trafficking into Gaza and bring about a ceasefire in the region. A copy of the letter had also been sent to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the four leaders wrote.

Sarkozy, Merkel, and Brown to attend Gaza summit in Egypt
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office said he and Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak will co-chair an international summit in Cairo to discuss the Gaza crisis. Sarkozy will lead Sunday’s meeting in the Red Sea resort Sharm al-Sheikh along with Mubarak. An Egyptian official says Egypt also has invited, Italy, Britain, Spain, Turkey, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The official spoke on condition of anonymity Saturday because there has not been an official announcement. The German government says Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend. The French statement says British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is also going, but Brown’s office has not confirmed this. Egypt has been trying to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, now in its 22nd day.

Israel calls a halt to its assault on Gaza
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/17/2009
Hamas ’to fight on’ after ceasefire • Olmert says war aims ’fully attained’ - Israel called a halt to its bombardment of Gaza last night after winning American and European pledges of support to shut down the Hamas weapons supply pipeline. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in effect declared Hamas was broken, saying that its power is diminishing. "The conditions have been created that our aims, as declared, were attained fully, and beyond," he said in a televised address. "The campaign has proven Israel’s power and strengthened its deterrence. " But Hamas said it would keep fighting for as long as Israeli troops remained in Gaza. "A unilateral ceasefire does not mean ending the aggression and ending the siege," a spokesman said. "These constitute acts of war, so this will not mean an end to resistance. " Israel’s security cabinet backed Olmert’s proposal for what he called a unilateral

Israel announces ceasefire in Gaza
The Guardian 1/17/2009
Israeli leaders have voted to halt an offensive that has left nearly 1,200 in the Gaza Strip dead. In announcing the unilateral ceasefire, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert claimed that Israel had achieved its goals. He said in a televised address: "Hamas was hit hard, in its military arms and in its government institutions. " Fighting will stop at 2am local time (midnight GMT), but Israel will keep troops on the ground for the time being, Olmert said. Israeli insistence on keeping troops in Gaza raises the spectre of a stalemate with Hamas, which has repeated that it will not respect any ceasefire until Israel pulls out of the territory. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum in Gaza said today that a unilateral ceasefire was not enough to end Hamas’ resistance. " The occupier must halt his fire immediately and withdraw from our land and lift his blockade and open all crossings and we will not

Israel declares unilateral Gaza truce
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/17/2009
National Security Cabinet votes in favor of unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, to take effect early Sunday; Olmert says Hamas hit hard, operation’s objectives fully met. IDF troops to remain in Strip for time being - After 21 days, Israel declares end to fighting:The National Security Cabinet voted Saturday evening to end the military operation in the Gaza Strip. Seven ministers supported the decision, two others objected, and one abstained. In a statement following the vote, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel fully achieved the operation’s objectives, adding that the IDF will end its military operations at 2 am Sunday. The prime minister noted that Hamas sustained hard blows during the operation, adding that the group is an offshoot of Iran. Iran, with its weapons smuggling, attempted to do with Hamas what it did with Hizbullah in Lebanon," he said.

Olmert says his government decided on a unilateral truce which starts on Sunday 2:00 am
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/17/2009
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, announced on Saturday at night that his government decided to a unilateral truce in Gaza which starts on Sunday 2:00 am. Olmert said that this decision comes after the military operation which Israeli initiated in Gaza 22 days ago, have managed to weaken the Hamas movement which controls Gaza since June 2007. The Israeli PM added that Israeli tanks will keep key positions in Gaza and will respond to any attack by the Palestinian resistance. Osama Hamdan, a Hamas leader in Lebanon, told Al Jazeera TV that Hamas will continue to resist the as long as there are Israeli tanks and troops in Gaza. Hamas demanded a cease fire last week, and on December 16th 2008, Hamas agreed to a six-months cease fire with Israel but Israel refused any further with Hamas as senior Israeli military officials said that the Gaza offensive plan was already prepared and finalized before the truce ended.

Israel slammed at UN General Assembly
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
UNITED NATIONS - The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly late Friday to demand an immediate and durable ceasefire in the strife-torn Gaza Strip leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces. In a non-binding amended resolution, the 192-member body demanded "full respect" of a Security Council resolution adopted last week calling for "an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces" from Gaza. Council resolution 1860 also called for the "unimpeded provision and distribution throughout the Gaza Strip of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment. " The assembly vote, which came after hours of procedural wrangling, was 142 in favor with three against and nine abstentions, according to a revised vote count. Assembly president Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann earlier said the vote was 142 in favor, six against with eight abstentions.

UN assembly demands Gaza truce
Al Jazeera 1/17/2009
The UN general assembly has demanded an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces. In a non-binding revised resolution, the 192-member body voted to demand "full respect" of a security council resolution adopted last week. The earlier binding resolution had called for "an immediate, durable andfully respected ceasefire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces" from Gaza. Both Israel and the Palestinian factions have not heeded the call to end hostilities. Friday’s resolution won 142 votes in favour, six against with eight abstentions. John Terrett, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in New York, called the measure "a stinging rebuke for Israel". "We now do have a General Assembly that has voted in favour of a resolution that doesn’t quite condemn Israel but does go a long way down the road towards it," our correspondent said.

UN chief relieved about Gaza, urges Israel withdrawal
Reuters, YNetNews 1/18/2009
’Unilateral truce should be the first step leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza,’ Ban says. Rice: US expects all parties to stop hostile actions immediately -UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday he was relieved about an Israeli ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and urged the Jewish state to withdraw all of its troops as soon as possible. "I am relieved that the Israeli government has decided to cease hostilities as of midnight GMT," Ban told reporters. "This should be the first step leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza," he said, adding that he wanted the withdrawal "as soon as possible". He said that Hamas militants also needed to do their part to bring an end to the violence by halting their rocket attacks against southern Israel.

U.N. General Assembly Demands Ceasefire in Gaza
Haider Rizvi, Inter Press Service 1/18/2009
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 17(IPS) - As Israel’s military aggression in Gaza stretched to nearly a month, the 192-member U. N. General Assembly passed a resolution Friday evening calling for an immediate ceasefire. The resolution, which follows a similar call from the U. N. Security Council a week ago, was adopted by a majority of the member states, with 142 voting in favour, four against and eight abstaining. Among those who opposed the resolution were the United States and Israel. The 10th special emergency meeting of the Assembly was called by its president, Miguel d’Escoto, at the request of the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of 118 countries of the global South. "The Council resolution has failed to bring about either a ceasefire or unimpeded humanitarian access," d’Escoto told delegates during his opening remarks.

Resistance Rejects International Gaza Force
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service 1/18/2009
CAIRO, Jan 17(IPS) - Since the outset of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, calls have been renewed for an "international force" to protect the civilian population. But Palestinian resistance factions, chief among them Hamas, reject the idea outright. "The resistance will not accept international forces (in the Gaza Strip)," Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas’s Damascus-based political bureau said recently on Syrian state television. "We know that such forces would only serve Israel and its occupation. " On Saturday (Jan. 10), Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called for an "international presence" to "protect Palestinian civilians" in the Gaza Strip, which has been governed by Hamas since the summer of 2007. "We want the international force to be deployed in Gaza, not on the Egyptian border," he told reporters in Cairo.

Egypt urges Israel to implement unconditional Gaza truce
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on Israel on Saturday to end its military operations in the Gaza Strip immediately and said his country would call for a meeting on post-war reconstruction in the enclave. "I call on Israel today to end its military operations immediately. And we call on its leaders to (agree) to an unconditional ceasefire and I call on them to withdraw all the forces completely from the strip," Mubarak said in a televised address to the nation. The Israeli security cabinet is set to meet later on Saturday to decide whether to end its three-week offensive on Gaza unilaterally. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday his country was not commited to the U. S. -Israeli pact to halt arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, telling reporters "We have no commitment towards this memo whatsoever. "

Israel declares unilateral cease-fire
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff Barak Ravid and Assaf Uni, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
The security cabinet last night authorized a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip to go into effect at 2 A. M. , ending three weeks of intense fighting. "The objectives of the operation have been fully reached," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at a press conference after the cabinet meeting. The decision was made after it became clear that Egypt was unable to reach an agreement acceptable to both Hamas and Israel to end the fighting. "I want to thank, first and foremost, my friend the defense minister, Ehud Barak, for his professional expertise, and the understanding he showed throughout the whole operation," Olmert said. "I also want to thank and express my appreciation to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for her contributions to the wide-ranging diplomatic efforts that greatly enhanced the international support Israel has received.

Hamas: 'Olmert’s speech, another Israeli failure after the 2006 Lebanon war'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/18/2009
Osama Hamdan, representative of Hamas movement in Lebanon, stated on Saturday that the speech of Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, in which he declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, is considered another Israeli failure to win against the resistance, similar to the Israeli failure in the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. Hamdan added that this speech is a victory to the steadfast Palestinian resistance, and added that Olmert claimed that his army managed to strike Hamas movement and its fighters, but also admitted that the army failed to free the captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, and does not even know his whereabouts. Shalit was captured by Palestinian fighters in June 26, 2006, after he was captured, Israel waged a war against Gaza, killed hundreds of Palestinians but failed to locate its soldier. The Hamas political leader also said that Olmert wants to keep his troops. . .

Hamas minister condemns Israeli use of civilians as human shields; calls for war crimes trials
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – More efforts must be made to track down Israeli war criminals and try them for their crimes in Gaza, said Minister of Justice and Prisoners’ Issues in the de facto government Muhammad Farraj Al-Ghol on Saturday. In a statement released to the public Al-Ghol called for an end to the massacres in Gaza and condemned the Israeli leaders responsible for the crimes in the Gaza Strip. He called for an end to the violence, and the release of all the non-combatants detained by Israel during their attacks. He announced that the Israeli practice of using civilians as human shields before detaining them was a crime and showed the carelessness of human life on the part of Israeli soldiers. He called the practice a serious violation of human rights.

Israel declares unilateral ceasefire - Ground forces to remain in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israeli forces will hold their fire beginning at 2am on Sunday morning local time, although Israeli forces will remain in Gaza. During a late-evening press conference at the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Olmert said that Israel would consider withdrawing its forces from Gaza only if Hamas agrees to completely hold its fire. More than 1,200 Palestinians, a third of them children, have been killed in the three-week Israeli onslaught. On the last day of the war, Israeli forces shelled a United Nations school where displaced Gazans had taken shelter. The three days before the announcement of the ceasefire witnessed some of the most intense shelling. Olmert claimed that Israel’s goals "were met in their entirety, and even beyond.

Abbas, Ban Ki-Moon, Mubarak and Sarkozy to meet in Cairo Sunday on Gaza ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Egyptian officials invited acting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his French counterpart Nicholas Sarkozy to Cairo for talks on strategies to end the attacks on Gaza, according to The Egyptian news agency Ash-Shahrq- Al-Awsat on Saturday. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will host the talks, to which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also been invited. They are scheduled to take place Sunday. Cairo is set to host leaders from around the globe, according to several western diplomats, including Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The Palestinian Authority (PA) ambassador to Egypt Nabil Amr said the talks between Abbas and Mubarak aim at securing an immediate halt to the military action.

Gaza Clan Finds One Haven After Another Ravaged in Attacks
Reyham Abdel Kareem and Craig Whitlock, MIFTAH 1/17/2009
The Abu Nihil clan, all 16 members, huddled on the living room floor of a friend’s Gaza City apartment. All the windows were gone, shattered by explosions. Israeli helicopters churned overhead. But the family has decided this is as good a place as any to make its final stand. The Abu Nihils have seen three houses destroyed since Dec. 27, when Israel launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and began a war that has left civilians with no safe place to go. " Wherever we go, they are chasing us," said Tarik Abu Nihil, 31, a married father of three. "I’ve had enough. I’m not moving to another house. If we die here, at least we will die together. " Despite some close calls, no one in the extended family has been killed or injured. The family still has some food and some money. But like many Gazans, they are exhausted by 20 days of war and have become increasingly fatalistic, in spite of talk of an imminent cease-fire. "Wherever we go, danger will be waiting for us," Tarik lamented.

After the army killed her family, a wounded child spends two days in an abandoned home
Maan News Agency - Translated by Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/17/2009
Amira, is a Palestinian child who fled her home after the army shelled it and took shelter in a nearby home bleeding and scared for two days without food and without anyone who can take care of her wounds. She was hiding in this empty home, as its owners had to leave it due to the Israeli shelling. She wrapped herself with some sheets and laid on a bed in the ground floor while crying and listening to the sounds of bombs, tanks and fighter-jets. When she was found two days later, she was nearly dead after losing so much blood. The 15-year old Amira saw her father and two brothers getting killed by the shell that struck their home before she ran out seeking shelter. Yet, when she was found, she told the owner of the home she was hiding in, "forgive me, uncle, for I entered your home without your permission". No one knows how she managed to phrase this sentence after witnessing the. . .

Wounded Gaza girl found in abandoned home
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Relatives were convinced Amira Kurim had died in same round of IDF shelling that killed her father, sister and brother, but she was found lying on mattress soaked with blood in Gaza City flat -Her relatives thought they had buried her, but Amira Kurim was found wounded and shell-shocked on Saturday in an abandoned Gaza City apartment. Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire taking effect early Sunday after a 3-week offensive that killed nearly 1,200 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, according to Palestinian officials. Often, members of the same family died together, huddling for safety and comfort during bombing runs. Relatives of 14-year-old Amira were convinced she had died in the same round of shelling that killed her father, sister and brother last Wednesday. They were all fleeing fighting in the Gaza City suburb of Tel Hawwa when her father was struck down by an Israeli missile. -- See also: After the army killed her family, a wounded child spends two days in an abandoned home

Dr. Hassanein: Israel used weapons melting human bodies
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, the director of ambulance and emergency in the health ministry, revealed that the IOF troops used weapons against civilians never seen before which melt human bodies down to the bone. Dr. Hassanein told the PIC that the medical staff found in one of the apartments in the Karama tower three melted bodies which turned into skeletons the thing which proves that Israel used internationally banned bombs during its attacks on the building. The health official added that it had been found in bombed apartments and towers in the Tel Al-Islam a white chemical powder which causes lethal side effects, noting that there are many Palestinians in hospitals with their limbs melted in addition to seven citizens who died of serious burns in their bodies. In another press statement to the PIC, the health official said that the death toll of the Israeli aggression. . .

HRW: IOF violating laws of war
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Human rights Watch organization has said that the Israeli occupation forces’ use of heavy artillery in heavily populated areas in Gaza city was in violation of the international ban on indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas. It said in a statement on Friday, "A Human Rights Watch researcher on the Israel-Gaza border on January 15, 2009, observed Israel’s repeated use in the center of Gaza City of 155mm artillery shells, which inflict blast and fragmentation damage up to 300 meters away". "Firing 155mm shells into the center of Gaza City, whatever the target, will likely cause horrific civilian casualties," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. "By using this weapon in such circumstances, Israel is committing indiscriminate attacks in violation of the laws of war.

Palestinian legislator assassinated, families murdered in Gaza
Press release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 1/16/2009
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has seriously escalated its attacks on the Gaza Strip during the past two days. Yesterday, the IOF assassinated Said Siam, a PLC member and Minister of Interior in the Government in Gaza. Israeli forces also advanced into several areas in the south and east of Gaza City, and heavily bombarded the neighborhoods of al-Shejaiya and al-Tuffah in the east of the City. After the invasion ended at 7am today, Al Mezan Center’s field workers entered the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. Initial reports indicate that about 70 buildings have been destroyed or damaged by the IOF. Bulldozers razed paved streets and destroyed water, sewage and electricity networks in the neighborhood. The IOF has targeted many homes in the invasion areas, people who are reportedly uninvolved in any armed, or even political activities.

Death toll in Gaza jumps to 1143 after Tel Al-Islam massacre
Palestinian Information Center 1/16/2009
Gaza, (PIC)-- Death toll in Gaza Strip has risen to 1143 martyrs, nearly one-half of them were children, women, and elderly people in addition 15 paramedics, four journalists, and three foreigners, hospital sources revealed. Around 23 Palestinian bodies were recovered from under the rubbles of their homes in Tel Al-Islam suburb after the IOF troops indiscriminately bombed residential condominiums in the suburb. According to the sources, the Israeli genocidal aggression has also left more than 5200 Palestinians wounded, hundreds of them in very serious condition, as the Israeli brutal attack on Gaza entered its fourth week. On Friday, Palestinian child Esa Ermeelat, 14, was killed after Israeli warplanes targeted his home at Al-Shaboura refugee camp in Rafah city, south of Gaza Strip. Eight other Palestinian civilians were also injured in an Israeli raid in Sofa area, southeast of the Strip.

IDF strike hits UN school, killing mother, two children
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
The Israel Defense Forces yesterday fired on a Gaza building owned by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, killing one woman and her two children. The facility, a school, was hit in the morning, as the IDF was bombing targets in Beit Lahia in the northern Strip. This is the third time in Operation Cast Lead that the IDF has hit UN-owned buildings. According to Palestinian sources, bombings of UN facilities have killed nearly 50 people in Israel’s three-week long offensive in the Gaza Strip. Gaza sources told foreign media that the two children, aged 5 and 7, were killed when a tank shell slammed into the third floor of the school. The children’s mother died after having lost both her legs in the attack. "Gaza is unique in the annals of contemporary suffering in that it is a conflict with a fence around it," said Christopher Gunness, an UNRWA spokesman.

Israeli forces shell UN school, killing mother and son
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Israeli warplanes dropped incendiary white phosphorus shells, killing three people. Palestinian medics say they found three completely burnt bodies covered in phosphorus. - Gaza official toll reaches 1,205 - Israeli forces shelled a United Nations-run school in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing a mother and her young son. According to witnesses several others were injured when Israeli rockets struck the school in Beit Lahiya. Tens of thousands of Gazans are sheltering in schools across the Strip run by the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness said several rounds hit the school at about 6:45am. After a short pause, the third floor of the school took a direct hit, killing the two and injuring another 14 people. Witnesses said four more people were killed when other shells struck nearby as people tried to escape. "The Israeli army knew exactly our GPS co-ordinates and they would have known that hundreds of people had taken shelter there," he said.

Israeli ’Phosphorous Shells’ Incinerate 1,000s of Tons of UN Food as Gaza Starves
Ibrahim Barzak and Ben Lynfield, MIFTAH 1/17/2009
ISRAELI shells set ablaze a food warehouse at UN headquarters in Gaza yesterday, destroying tons of emergency rations intended for needy Gaza civilians, a senior UN official said. A pall of black smoke rose from the UN compound, visible across Gaza City. Flour spilled on the ground and mixed with soot as Palestinian firefighters tried to douse the flames. " The main warehouse was badly damaged by what appeared to be white phosphorus shells," UN humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said at a news briefing in New York. " Those on the ground don’t have any doubt that’s what they were. If you were looking for confirmation, that looks like it to me. "The compound belongs to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unwra). The rights group Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using white phosphorus, which can create smoke screens or mark targets but also makes a devastating incendiary weapon.

1000 tons of explosives and white phosphorus dropped on Gaza in 22 days
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli 10th TV channel has disclosed that the Israeli occupation forces had used half of the air force and launched at least 2500 air raids over the past three weeks of attacks on Gaza Strip. The TV military correspondent said on Saturday that the Israeli warplanes had dropped more than a thousand tons of explosives in that period. He reported that the shells fired by artillery, tanks, infantry and gunboats were not included in those fired by the air force. The intensive Israeli air, sea and land shelling had targeted civilian neighborhoods, mosques and security buildings other than UNRWA offices and warehouses and killed 1200 citizens so far other than 5400 wounded.

UN demands ‘war crime’ probe of Israeli strike
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
GAZA CITY - United Nations officials on Saturday demanded an investigation into a new Israeli strike on a UN-run school in Gaza, which killed a woman and a child in the fourth such attack during its war on Gaza. More than one dozen people were wounded when Israeli shells hit the school compound in the northern town of Beit Lahiya where some 1,600 people had taken refuge to escape fierce clashes outside, officials said. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA condemned the attack and called for an investigation. "Just before seven o’clock this morning (0500 GMT) several rounds of shells went directly into the school compound in Beit Lahiya. There was a pause and then there was a round that directly hit the school building killing two people," said UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness. "Where you have a direct hit on an UNRWA school where about 1,600 people had taken. . .

Ging calls for international investigation into IOF killing of civilians in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- John Ging, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza Strip, on Saturday demanded an international and independent investigation in the Israeli occupation forcers’ killing of civilians in the Strip. Ging, addressing a press conference in UN-run Beit Lahia elementary school for boys that was bombed by IOF phosphorous bombs earlier Saturday, said that the world community should decide whether the murder of civilians and children in that school was a war crime. He said that civilians in Gaza were paying the price and the children and women are the victims of this "bloody violence". Today two innocent children were killed and their mothers’ limbs were amputated while 14 others were seriously injured, he elaborated. Ging asked the international community to protect the Palestinian in the Gaza Strip, adding that there was no safe place in Gaza not even his own home.

United Nations under attack, deaths throughout the Strip
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
Gaza - Continuing the brutal attack on the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces again targeted a UNRWA school. The death toll rose to 1,203 Palestinians killed on the twenty-second day. The number of injured is at approximately 5,300. Palestinian medical sources reported on Saturday morning that at least five people, including a woman and a child, were killed in the attack on the school. Four others were also wounded in the Israeli shelling of yet another United Nations Relief and Works Agency school. Medical reports indicate they used white phosphorus incendiary bombs. The school in the northern Gaza Strip’s Beit Lahia is one of several UN buildings that Israeli forces have targeted, despite promises that to cease. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, is demanding an end while the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Israel shells UN school in Gaza
Al Jazeera 1/17/2009
Two Palestinian boys have been killed after Israeli tank shells hit a UN-run school in Gaza - hours before Israel’s security cabinet is expected to vote on a proposal for a unilateral ceasefire. The boys, aged five and seven, died and 25 other Gazans were wounded as they sought to shelter in the school run by the UN relief and works agency (Unrwa) in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza. The school is the third UN shelter to be hit by Israeli fire in its 22-day war on the territory. The attack came as heavy artillery and aerial bombardment of what Israel described as "Hamas targets" continued on Saturday. Christopher Gunness, an Unrwa spokesman, said several rounds hit the UN school at about 6:45am. The third floor of the school took a direct hit after a short pause, killing the pair and injuring another 14 people.

Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 08- 14 January 2009
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/14/2009
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Have Continued Their War on the Gaza for the 3rd Consecutive Week under International Silence - IOF Offensive on the Gaza Strip - *1,042 Palestinians have been killed. *The victims include 698 civilians and 166 civil police officers. *The civilian victims include 230 children and 76 women. *IOF attacked medical and civil defense crews, killing 7 medical personnel. *IOF attacked UNRWA vehicles, killing a driver. *3,901 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 1,101 children and 552 women, have been wounded. *343 houses have been targeted and destroyed and hundreds of houses and flats have been damaged. *20 mosques have been destroyed. *46 workshops and industrial facilities have been destroyed.

Water; precious commodity in bombarded Gaza
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
GAZA CITY - Every day when Israel pauses its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians launch a ground assault on the territory’s public fountains to try to lay their hands on precious supplies of water. As soon as the radio announces the start of the daily three-to-four-hour lull, thousands of people race from their homes, laden with water containers of all shapes and sizes, and head for fountains, mosques, schools or any other public water source. At home, for many families, the taps have run dry. "As soon as I heard that there was another of the three-hour truces, I came down to the fountain," says Kamel al-Hamami, an empty water container in each hand as he nears the front of a queue of around 20 people. Hamami lives in Zeitun, where running water is now a distant memory. "I’ve come here with my children, and they’ve also got containers so that we can fill up our 500-litre water tank on the roof of our home. "

Donations fall short of the need created by Israeli policy
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
Kuwait and Gaza - The Director of the World Food Programme of the United Nations, Josette Sheeran, said that in light of the real humanitarian problem suffered by the Gaza Strip, at least 81 million USD is needed. Others on the ground, such as the Palestinian Network of NGOs, say that now aid is certainly needed due to the ongoing attacks, but just as necessary is an opening of the crossings and an end to occupation in order to allow life to function. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Economic Development Forum in Kuwait today, Sheeran said the aid is needed "fast. " She said, "What are needed urgently in Gaza are electricity, water and food. "However, these urgently needed commodities are three things unavailable due to the long standing Israeli siege. Not for a lack of money did these things become unavailable in the Strip.

UNRWA not suspending services after latest attack
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
Gaza -- Adnan Abu Hasna has survived the attacks on the Gaza Strip that include targeting UNRWA headquarters and several schools. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesperson told PNN on Saturday that despite the bombings, the organization is still functioning. On the 22nd day of the major Israeli attacks, at least 1,205 Palestinians have been killed and 5,300 injured. The response from attacks on the UN throughout the past three weeks has been a temporary suspension of services due to intense danger. Speaking from Gaza City, Abu Hasna said that the UNRWA would "hold those accountable involved in the bombing of our institutions and centers. "He said, "The occupying power had maps and coordinates of all of the UNRWA positions," yet still bombed. The latest attack on a UNRWA school in Beit Lahia today will not lead to the suspension of services which has been. . .

Society of French Millers donates 22 tons of flour to Gaza; aid arrives on French plane to Tel Aviv
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The second French plane in a week arrived in Tel Aviv Saturday, delivering 55 tons of aid for the people of Gaza. The French have sent more than 91 tons in total, including food and medical supplies. The supplies, to be delivered to Gazans through the Israeli crossings Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz, and will be distributed by the UN, WHO and UNRWA. The supplies include 27 tons of meat delivered from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 tons of flour from the French society of millers, six tons of medical supplies and clothes from the municipalities of southern France. [end]

Press release: EMHRN/ FIDH Mission to Gaza
International Middle East Media Center News 1/17/2009
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) are visiting Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Egypt, from 17 -- 20 January 2009 in order to express their solidarity with the civilian population of the Gaza Strip who are under continuing Israeli attacks. This international delegation of high profile human rights defenders will meet with respective civil society organisations, government officials and the media in order to: (1) request access to the Gaza Strip(2) call for an immediate cease-fire and an international fact finding mission for the Gaza Strip (3) request access of humanitarian aid and human rights NGOs to the Gaza StripThe EMHRN/FIDH mission will hold a press conference in the Ambassador Hotel, Nablus Road, Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem on 19 January 2009 at 6:00 pm.

Israel TV news broadcasts a Gaza father’s heartbreak
Jeffrey Fleishman and Batsheva Sobelman, Reporting from Jerusalem, Los Angeles Times 1/17/2009
Dr. Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish, who gave frequent interviews to the Israeli media, was minutes away from giving another when he called newscaster Shlomi Eldar, screaming and weeping with grief. - Israeli TV broadcast a father’s heartbreak Friday night when a Palestinian doctor living in Gaza made a frantic phone call to a newscaster saying an Israeli tank had shelled his home, killing three of his daughters and injuring other family members. Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish, who speaks Hebrew, worked as a gynecologist in an Israeli hospital. Even as the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel had largely been closed in recent months, he had traveled frequently from one place to the other. But he had remained in Gaza since the Israeli offensive began 21 days ago. He gave frequent interviews to the Israeli media on living conditions in the seaside enclave.

IDF bomb kills three daughters, niece of Gaza MD working at Tel Hashomer
Noah Kosharek, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a gynecologist living in Jabalya refugee camp and working at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer lost three daughters and a niece Friday as the result of an Israel Defense Forces strike. Another daughter and another niece, seriously injured in the strike, are currently being treated at Tel Hashomer. Two of Abu al-Aish’s brothers were also injured in the strike; one is being treated at Tel Hashomer and the other at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital. Abu al-Aish has been a regular fixture on Israeli television throughout Operation Cast Lead, bringing accounts of the medical crisis facing Gazans to living rooms across Israel. Before joining Tel Hashomer’s Gertner Institute (a research center for epidemiology and health policy), the physician worked at Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva. Ofra Balaban, chair of the CHEN patient fertility association and a friend. . .

IDF: Shots fired from doctor’s home
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Army says it fired at Gaza doctor’s home, killing three daughters, after troops were targeted by sniper fire; meanwhile, IDF says that shell hit fuel tank near UNWRA compound Thursday, but facility itself was not targeted - Not so innocent? The daughters of a Gaza doctor were killed by the IDF after sniper fire from the family’s home targeted Israeli soldiers, the army said Saturday. Earlier Saturday, Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish convened a press conference at Sheba medical center near Tel Aviv, where he works, and demanded to know why the army targeted his home. "Why they did kill them? Give me a reason," the doctor, who lost three of his daughters in the incident, said. "That’s what I want. I want the reason. These Israeli soldiers, the IDF, they know my house. " Following an inquiry into the incident, the IDF announced that soldiers fired shells at the doctor’s home in response to sniper fire.

Soldiers’ mother: Stop Gaza doctor’s propaganda
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Confrontation at Sheba medical center: Mother of three soldiers interrupts press conference convened by Gaza doctor who lost his three daughters, says ’why is he engaging in propaganda? Have you all gone crazy? ’ - The Sheba medical center was the site of a confrontation Saturday, as Israeli visitors to the hospital slammed the "propaganda" of a Gaza doctor who lost three of his daughters after an IDF shell hit his home in the Strip. The doctor, who works at Sheba, convened a press conference at the medical center where he spoke about his daughters. At one point, he was interrupted by a mother of three soldiers who said: "Why is he engaging in propaganda? He’s talking against Israel at the Sheba hospital. You should all be ashamed. All my children are serving in Gaza. Who knows what he had at his home? "

Israel again pummels Gaza Strip
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
GAZA CITY - Israel pummelled Gaza with new strikes on Saturday, as it says that is poised to unilaterally halt its 22-day-old war on Gaza. A Palestinian woman and a child were killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school in the northern town of Beit Lahiya where civilians had taken refuge from fierce clashes between Israeli ground troops and Palestinian fighters, medics said. "This yet again illustrates the tragedy that there is no safe place in Gaza. Not even a UN installation is safe," Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said. "There is no place to flee," he said. Elsewhere in the territory, a two-year-old baby and three other Palestinians were killed as Israel hammered Gaza with some 50 raids, medics and the Israeli army said. The raids came ahead of a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet later on Saturday that. . .

Plea to stop war from victims of rocket salvoes
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/17/2009
Considering people in and around the Israeli town of Sderot have been under daily rocket attacks from Hamas for much of the past 20 days you might have thought they would unanimously back the offensive in Gaza. But amid overwhelming support for the war, lonely Israeli voices of dissent among residents along the Gaza border can be heard. Uri Dan, a security co-ordinator for Nir Oz, a kibbutz which lies just 5km from Gaza, is among a small but brave number of Israeli residents who say they would like to see Israel’s war in Gaza halted. "In Sderot and in the area around Gaza, the suffering from rockets is great but it has no proportion at all to what is happening to the Palestinians," he said. "We live next to the Palestinians and we will have to continue living with them. You should live with your fellow human being as a neighbour, not as a wolf. "

13 Palestinians killed; 13 soldiers hurt in Gaza
Amos Harel and Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Thirteen Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded, three seriously, in fighting in the Gaza Strip over the weekend. Thirteen Palestinians were killed yesterday in the course of IDF operations in the Strip, bringing the death toll there to 1,205. Six soldiers from the Givati Brigade were wounded yesterday when they were hit by an anti-tank missile fired by militants in the Gaza Strip. One of the soldiers was seriously wounded, two moderately hurt and three lightly wounded in the incident. The missile was launched at the troops while navigating the ruins of the former settlement Netzarim, south of Gaza City. Also yesterday, two IDF officers and two enlisted men were wounded from so-called friendly fire in the northern Gaza Strip. The wounded, all of whom were from the Paratrooper Brigade, received medical treatment at the scene, before they were evacuated by helicopter to hospitals in the south of Israel.

Nine IDF troops wounded, four seriously, in Gaza fighting
Amos Harel Anshel Pfeffer, and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Five soldiers from the Givati infantry brigade were wounded on Saturday when they were hit by an anti-tank missile fired by militants in the Gaza Strip. One of the soldiers was seriously wounded, two were moderately hurt, and three lightly wounded in the incident. Also on Saturday, two Israel Defense Forces officers and two IDF enlisted men were seriously wounded during fighting in the northern Gaza Strip. The wounded, all of whom were from the Paratroopers’ Brigade, received medical treatment at the scene, before they were evacuated by helicopter to hospitals in the South of Israel. The IDF is currently checking the circumstances the incident, and weighing the possibility that it was another case of friendly fire. If the four wounded troops were in fact hit by friendly fire, it would represent the fourth such incident since Operation Cast Lead began on December 27.

Four Israeli soldiers wounded as Palestinian fighters engage invading forces
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Gaza – Ma’an/Agencies – Two Israeli soldiers and two officers were wounded in after mortars launched by Palestinian fighters hit them on the outskirts of Gaza City. While the Israeli military confirmed that the four were wounded in an exchange of fire, the officials said that the incident is still being investigated, and that they could not rule out a “friendly fire” incident. The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas said that they bombed an Israeli tank in Al-Mughraqa, on the southern outskirts of Gaza City, and exchanged fire with Israeli troops in the same location. Israeli tanks and ground troops had withdrawn on Friday morning to the ruins of the Israeli settlement Nitzarim, to the south of Gaza City, after operating for 24-hours deep in the urban center of Gaza. The Al-Qassam Brigades also said they fired eight homemade rockets at Israeli troops to. . .

9 soldiers hurt in Gaza
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Anti-tank rocket fired at troops, hurting five; earlier, four soldiers wounded near Gaza City - Cleared for publication:An IDF soldier sustained serious wounds, another was moderately hurt, and three more troops sustained light injuries in Gaza after an anti-tank rocket was fired at them. The five Givati Brigade soldiers were treated at the scene and later taken to hospitals in Israel. Earlier Saturday, two soldiers and two officers from the Paratroopers Brigade were seriously injuredin exchanges of fire with Palestinian gunmen on the outskirts of Gaza City. The four were hurt by mortar shells fired at them during a patrol of the area. The incident is being investigated by the Israel Defense Forces. Military officials said the circumstancesthe forces were likely hurt in a "friendly-fire incident".

Medics recover two bodies near Khan Younis
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian medical crews recovered the bodies of two brothers who were killed by Israeli fire in the Al-Fakhari area east of Khan Younis on Saturday. The dead were identified as Ibrahim Muhammad Sharab and Kassab Muhammad Sharab. Their father was wounded and was taken to a hospital. The head of Ambulances and Emergency Services in the Ministry of Health in Gaza, Dr Mu’awiya Hassanain said that 13 people have been killed in Gaza so far on Saturday, most of them as a result of phosphorus munitions. He said that a number of the bodies have been so badly burned that they cannot be identified. The death toll in Gaza is now 1,205. Among them are 410 children, 108 women, 113 elderly people, and five foreign nationals.

Palestinians in Gaza fire Grad rocket at Beersheba; no casualties
Jerusalem Post 1/17/2009
Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip continued to fire rockets at Israel late Saturday night, despite a cabinet decision to observe a unilateral cease-fire. A Grad-type rocket landed in an open area of Beersheba, causing no casualties or damage. The Israeli cease-fire will being at 2 a. m. Sunday. [end]

Grad rockets fired at Ashdod cause power outages; no casualties reported
Jerusalem Post 1/17/2009
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired two Grad-type rockets at Israel on Saturday night. The rockets caused power outages in the south of the city. No casualties were reported in the attacks. [end]

Grad nearly strikes worshipers at synagogue
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Dozens of worshipers in a community near the city of Ofakim narrowly escaped injury yesterday when a Grad rocket hit a study hall adjacent to the synagogue where they were praying. "We were in the middle of the shacharit morning prayer service and the rabbi just said the word vishmarech ["you shall be guarded" in Hebrew) when we heard a loud bang," recounted Nissim Almog, one of the worshipers who witnessed the attack. "The Grad hit the study hall next to the synagogue - it was a miracle. Even the windows shattered outward and my mother who was in the women’s section was not hurt. " The Grad was one of 15 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel by Palestinian militants yesterday, as the Israel Defense Forces’ operation in the coastal territory entered its 21st day. No one was wounded in the attacks but damage was caused to property.

Rocket barrages follow Gaza ceasefire announcement
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Six Grads fired at south Israel as Barak briefs reporters on unilateral truce in Strip; no injuries reported -Palestinian gunmen in Gaza fired six Grad rockets toward south Israel late Saturday night just as Defense Minister Ehud Barak was briefing reporters on Israel’s decision tosuspend its offensive in the Hamas-controlled territory. No injuries or damage were reported. At least 25 rockets were fired toward Israel since Saturday morning. Prior to the cabinet’s announcement on a unilateral ceasefire, two rockets were fired at Ashdod. One landed near a structure in the city, and medical teams treated a number of people for shock. The second rocket landed damaged a few vehicles and apparently an electrical pole, as the entire area was plunged into darkness. A short while later a mortar shell landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council area, causing no injuries or damage.

Attacks continue; rocket lands near Ashdod home
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Medics treat several anxiety victims after rocket hits southern city; south under fire throughout Saturday - As Israel prepares to declare a unilateral ceasefire, two rockets were fired at the southern city of Ashdod Saturday night. One rocket landed in a residential area in the city, damaging some vehicles in the area, including a bus. Magen David Adom medics treated several anxiety victims at the scene. Earlier Saturday, two rockets exploded in open spaces in the Beersheba area - no injuries or damages were reported in the attack. The rockets were fired during the daily "humanitarian pause" declared by the IDF. The army announced that it will hold the pause between 12 to 3 pm. During that time, the IDF opened the Kerem Shalom Crossing in order to allow dozens of trucks carrying food, medical supplies, and fuel into Gaza.

2 suffer ’shock’ following rocket barrage
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Air raid sirens sound throughout southern Israel on Saturday as 10 rockets fired from Gaza Strip. Two people treated for shock after rocket hits empty building near synagogue in Netivot area - Palestinian gunmen fired 10 rockets and four mortar shells into Israel on Saturday morning. One of the rockets hit an empty building near a synagogue. Magen David Adom emergency teams treated two people for shock. The rest of the rockets exploded in open areas without causing injuries or damage. Two rockets exploded in open areas near the city Beersheba on Saturday afternoon, and another rocket landed at the same time in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. The rockets were fired during the "humanitarian pause" in Gaza declared by the Israeli army. A Qassam rocket landed in an open area in the Sdot Negev Regional Council at around 9 am. -- See also: Israel's Gaza myths

Palestinian resistance repels IOF troops in Tel Al-Islam
Palestinian Information Center 1/16/2009
Gaza, (PIC)-- Fighters of the Palestinian resistance factions  led by the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, have succeeded Friday in pushing the invading IOF troops out of Tel A-Islam suburb, west of Gaza city, after fierce clashes in the area. According to sources in the Palestinian resistance, the Palestinian fighters destroyed a number of Israeli armored vehicles despite the intensive Israeli air, land, and sea strikes on the populated suburb. The headquarters of the UNRWA in Gaza Strip and a local hospital where around 500 people, including hundreds of patients, were inside were bombed by the Israeli warplanes alleging they were used by the Palestinian fighters to shoot at the IOF troops. The UNRWA and the hospital shrugged off the allegations and accused Israel of fabricating them. Local sources confirmed to the PIC correspondent that the IOF troops were. . .

Palestinian Children hold a candle procession in Nablus
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/17/2009
The Nablus Society for Social Development and its Darna Center for Youth Initiative, the Ansar Al Insan Charitable Society, and a rehabilitation committee for the physically challenged, held on Sunday a candle procession for children in Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank, in solidarity with the children in Gaza. The procession "Nablus lights candles in solidarity with the children in Gaza" came as the Israeli army continued its offensive in the Gaza Strip for the 22nd day killing more than 1200 Palestinians, and wounding 5300 others, 400 critically. Hundreds of the casualties are children, infants and women. Mohammad Al Rifa’ey, director of the Darna center, said that this activity is part of several direct solidarity actions organized by the center and several other institutions in support of the residents of the Gaza Strip, and to call for immediate protection for the civilains, and the children.

Flags of silence, nonviolent resistance in Ramallah
Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
Ramallah -- After Friday prayers in western Ramallah’s Bil’in Village, residents gathered as they do every week to protest Israeli occupation. Yesterday the focus was on the Gaza Strip with members of the nonviolent resistance wearing the flags of the European Union, Arab League and United Nations with mouths taped to illustrate international silence to the suffering in Gaza. Other residents held shoes bearing American and Israeli flags in their mouths as a statement of the power of two to gag the world. Above the heads of several hundred people waved the flags of Palestine, Venezuela and Bolivia, the latter two countries who have cut diplomatic ties with the Israelis over the attacks on Gaza. Walking together toward the Wall built on Bil’in land, nonviolent protesters were hit by gas and rubber-coated and steel bullets.

Palestinian minister of justice calls for prosecuting Israeli war criminals
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian minister of justice Mohamed Al-Ghoul on Friday called on the international community to curb the war crimes committed by Israel and its violations of human rights and international law in Gaza, stressing the need to prosecute Israeli leaders in the international criminal court. In a statement received by the PIC, Ghoul strongly denounced Israel for kidnapping Palestinian citizens during its war on Gaza, considering Israel’s kidnap of civilians as one of the war crimes committed by the IOF troops in Gaza. The minister noted that the IOF troops committed their biggest massacre in the Zeitoun neighborhood, where they gathered a number of Palestinian citizens in one house and shelled it over their heads. In a statement received by the PIC, the Hamas Movement said the Israeli assassination of interior minister Sa’eed Siyam was aimed to renovate the morale of the IOF troops which collapsed under the attacks of the resistance.

PLO official calls US-Israel agreement on arms smuggling a reward for Israeli war crimes
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Ramallah- Ma’an - The agreement signed between Israel and the United States Friday is a “reward [for Israel’s] onslaught and violations of international law,” said Member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, and the politburo office of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)Tayseer Khalid. The agreement, signed by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised US involvement in patrolling the Mediterranean and ensuring that no arms are smuggled into Gaza, principally from Iran. Khalid called the agreement a “threat to the security and stability in the region and an attempt to engage the world in a wide scale war under the pretext of barring smuggled weapons to Gaza. ”What would have been a more advisable course of action for the United States, said Khalid, would have been to pressure Israel into halting its attacks on Gaza.

Abu Bakker: Israel still seeks to bury the PLO
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – As Israel’s attacks in Gaza continue to draw the world’s attention their policy of Judaizing Palestinian East Jerusalem continues, said member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Najat Abu Bakker said in Ramallah on Saturday. Bakkar reminded the world that as Gaza attacks continue the Israeli policy of confiscating lands, constructing the separation wall and forcing 40,000 Jerusalemites to live behind the wall and be denied access to municipal services also continues. She accused Israel of planning for the Gaza attack for years, and of using Palestinian blood to achieve their political aims. What they most want to achieve, she said, is the destruction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Government official proposes ’disengaging’ Bedouin homes
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
A government employee being considered to head an inter-ministerial team to deal with issues of Bedouin settlement in the Negev has recommended implementing similar principles to those used in the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. "If the government evacuated 8,000 citizens living in legally authorized buildings, it can also evacuate those living in illegal buildings," wrote Ehud Prawer, the head of policy planning in the Prime Minister’s Office, who is under review for leading the implementation of the Goldberg report on Bedouin land claims. In a document released two years ago at the annual Herzliya Conference, Prawer (then deputy head of the National Security Council) wrote that during the Gaza disengagement "the country showed an ability to deal with difficult challenges in terms of organization, budget and legal issues. "

Arab-Israelis lament war on Gaza
Rachel Shabi in Israel, Al Jazeera 1/17/2009
"This is murder and a crime," says the 82-year-old Palestinian standing on a Jaffa street corner. "Killing children, destroying homes on top of the women and children still inside them - this is murder. Don’t they see what they are doing? " This man has been standing on this same street corner every evening since the Israeli assault on Gaza began in late December. He is one in a crowd of varying sizes - sometimes less than 100, sometimes 1000-strong - forming a candle-lit protest vigil in Jaffa, a mixed Arab-Jewish city just south of Tel Aviv. This daily demonstration is just one in a chain of anti-war protests staged across Israel by its Palestinian citizens. This sector of society - around 20 per cent of the population - is overwhelmingly against the war on Gaza at a time when most Jewish Israelis support the assault. The latest polls show that more than 94 per cent of Israel’s Jewish population backs the war, while 85 per cent of the Palestinian sector opposes it.

Arab Israelis caught between fear and rebellion
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
SAKHNIN, Israel - The Gaza crisis has left Israeli Arabs caught between a fear of voicing solidarity with the Palestinians and an urge to condemn the onslaught fuelled by a ban on two of their parties from next month’s elections. "Our state is at war with our Palestinian nation," said Gazal Abu Raya, an Arab Israeli and head of the Jewish-Arab Institute for Peace in Sakhnin, in the northern Galilee region. Sakhnin, which has an Arab population of 25,000, was the site of a demonstration of over 100,000 people on January 3 to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza a week after it began. As the death toll has spiralled, spontaneous protests against the war have multiplied in Galilee -- home to around half of the 1. 4 million-strong Arab Israeli community, which makes up about 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Masri: Abbas renounced Palestinian affiliation when he boycotted the Arab summit
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Mushir Al-Masri, a prominent Hamas leader, on Friday said that ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s boycott of the emergency Arab summit on Gaza held in Doha is clear evidence that he renounced his Palestinian affiliation after he had previously abandoned the national ethics. In a press statement received by the PIC, MP Masri that the invitation to Palestinian resistance leaders to attend the Arab summit is proof that the resistance is respected by not only the Arab and Islamic peoples, but also by some governments which sided with the resistance project. He underlined that it was not so unfortunate to see some Arab countries boycott the summit, despite this was against the interests of their peoples, but it was most reprehensible for Abbas, who claims to be a representative of his people, to boycott a summit on Gaza.

Radwan: Abbas, Arab countries had prior knowledge of IOF aggression
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas has charged that Mahmoud Abbas, the ex-PA chief, along with Arab and regional countries had prior knowledge of the Israeli occupation forces’ planned aggression on the Gaza Strip and some of them even encouraged it. Dr. Ismail Radwan, one of the Hamas’s political leaders in the Strip, said in a statement on Saturday, that Hamas received information that meetings and contacts were made between Abbas and Arab and regional parties to prepare for the aggression and encouraged the IOF plan to topple Hamas. The assassination of interior minister MP Said Siyam, the prominent Hamas leader, fell in line with this scheme, Radwan said, adding that they thought that the murder of Siyam would accelerate their target of toppling Hamas. The Hamas leader asserted that the conspiracy had failed thanks to the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and its brave resistance.

Hamas officials blast leaders for ’disaster’ in Gaza
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Two leaders of Hamas’ more pragmatic wing in Gaza have blamed the group’s leadership in Damascus for its decision not to extend the six-month cease-fire with Israel that ended in December, saying the move brought "disaster" on the coastal territory. Palestinian sources say the Hamas officials behind the comments are Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and Ghazi Hamad, a former government spokesman. The sources say that in recent days, Yousef and Hamad have told members of the group’s political bureau: "You brought terrible disaster and death on Gaza" by deciding not to extend the cease-fire. They also expressed frustration at the Damascus leadership for failing to heed their warnings about ending the cease-fire and renewing rocket fire at Israel. "It was a serious mistake," they said before Israel launched its operation.

Erdogan: All those silent on Gaza massacre would be an accomplice to this shame
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
ISTANBUL, (PIC)-- Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded the suspension of Israel’s UN membership because it continues to ignore the international resolutions to stop its attack on the Gaza Strip. Erdogan, in a the latest of series of statements that blasted Israel for its savage aggression on the Strip, said that a state that absolutely ignores UN Security Council resolutions should not be allowed in the international organization. He said that the UN main office in Gaza was hit by Israel while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was visiting Israel, which constituted an open "challenge" to the entire world community. Hamas does not own specific military installations or headquarters in Gaza as claimed by Israel, the Turkish premier underlined, adding that only civilians were the victims of the Israeli attacks that also targeted hospitals and mosques.

News in Brief -Qatar cutting commercial links with Israel
Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Qatar cutting commercial links with Israel - The government of Qatar announced Friday it would cut relations with Israel due to its military campaign in the Gaza Strip. Hamad bin Jassim, who serves as both prime minister and foreign minister, told reporters in the capital Doha that Israeli commercial representatives must leave the tiny Gulf state at once. "We will inform the Israeli office that its presence is unwanted until circumstances change and there is a better chance for peace," he said. Foreign Ministry representatives in Jerusalem did not offer comment. (Yoav Stern) 763 protesters held over anti-op ralliesPolice have arrested 763 protesters - the vast majority Israeli Arabs - during demonstrations against Israel’s three-week-long operation in the Gaza Strip. Charges are expected to be submitted against 685 suspects for violations including throwing stones and petrol bombs.

Hamas welcomes boycott of Israel
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas vowed to continue fighting Israel on Friday and also thanked Qatar for hosting an urgent Arab summit on the conflict in Gaza. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said: “I congratulate the states that boycott Israel and stand by the Palestinian side and I am glad with the summit taking place in Qatar and I would like to thank the Qatari sheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa Al-Thani and we hope that the results will help Palestinians to end their suffering and rebuild Gaza. ”Barhoum was referring to an announcement by Qatar and Mauritania that they would suspend all ties with Israel in protest of the onslaught on Gaza. The two Arab states announced the boycott at the summit which was held on Friday in the Qarari capital, Doha. Barhoum also said that the assassination of de facto Interior Minister Said Siyam was a way for Israeli leaders to ‘keep their spirits up’ in the face of stiff resistance from Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

Hertz withdraws from Israeli airline deal
Stina Backer, The Independent 1/17/2009
The world’s largest car hire firm last night called on the Israeli airline EL AL to withdraw an internet advert which offered free Hertz rental to British passengers who flew to to Israel to show their "solidarity" with the country, The Independent has learnt. The adverts, running on EL AL’s website, stated: "Now, more than ever is the time to come to Israel. Come express your solidarity with Israel. Fly with EL AL and receive 3 or 4 day car rental for free!" The advert had a clearly visible Hertz logo and when users clicked on it they could view the terms and conditions which stated that the deal with Hertz Israel was valid for EL AL tickets to the country. But last night the Hertz Corporation said they did not want to be associated with the offer and said they had called on EL AL to remove it. They have already insisted that their logo be taken off the promotion.

Some in international community take tentative stand
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
Bethlehem -- The Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement is openly thanking Qatar and Mauritania during demonstrations throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The countries publically decided yesterday to sever all political and economic ties with the Israeli state due to its ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip. Throughout the past three weeks the resistance has sported pictures of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for his unending support. International condemnations of the Israeli administration have been slow in coming, but not surprisingly say organizers in the nonviolent resistance movement. "Even Arab countries generally have diplomatic relations with the Israelis. If they will behave as if all is well while the Israeli occupation rages on after 40 years, we could not expect much from them," Mahmoud Daradoush commented.

Demonstrators: British bank cow-tows under US pressure to cut charitable aid
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
UK - Today in the United Kingdom the Bristol-branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is hosting information stalls and looking for additional support for an ongoing boycott of Israeli goods. Yesterday there were scenes of chaos on Bristol’s Corn Street as police and security guards failed to hold back a surge of chanting protesters from reaching the doors of Lloyds-TSB Bank. The bank is accused of increasing the number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip by preventing the transfer of charitable donations. Bristol filmmaker Ed Hill said on Friday, "At a time like this, when people across the country want to help, and many of them are busy raising money. Anything that gets in the way of the money getting through to where it is desperately needed is an outrage. " In the face of some 60 nonviolent demonstrators demanding to see the manager, police and security guards. . .

British parliamentarian notes Israeli exploitation of Holocaust, calls for arms embargo
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/17/2009
London -- A deputy in British Parliament’s Labor Party is among those who have linked the syndrome of victims becoming victimizers to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Gerald Kaufman likened the current Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust carried out by German soldiers during World War II. In an attempt to end what he referred to as utterly unacceptable, Kaufman called on Britain to impose an arms embargo on the Israeli administration. During a meeting of the British Parliament on Thursday, Kaufman said, "My grandmother will not be used to provide cover for the Israeli soldiers who commit crimes against Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. "A senior member of the British Labor Party who grew up an Orthodox Jew, Kaufman is known for his opposition to Israeli policy. He joins scores of officials who have accused the Israeli government of "ruthless exploitation". . .

Thousands march in Rome to protest Israel’s Gaza offensive
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Thousands of people waving Palestinian flags marched through Rome on Saturday in a demonstration against Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Some of the demonstrators held banners with Nazi swastikas super-imposed on the Star of David. Others carried large pictures of Palestinian children killed since Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27. Ground troops pushed in a week later. A large banner reading "Life, land and liberty for the Palestinian people" led the Rome demonstration. Another demonstration for peace in Gaza took place in Assisi, the central Italian city where St. Francis was born. The Vatican, meanwhile, announced that Pope Benedict had sent an unspecified amount of money from his personal charity funds to help the tiny Catholic population in Gaza.

British Jews attacked for pro-Gaza solidarity
Emily Dugan, The Independent 1/18/2009
British Jews have been attacked for expressing support for Palestinians suffering under Israeli military strikes in Gaza. Police confirmed yesterday that they have provided protection to a number of people believed to be victims of UK-based Zionist extremists angered by expressions of solidarity with Palestinians. Israel’s assault on Gaza has prompted a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain, with more than 150 incidents reported by the Community Security Trust (CST), an organisation for the protection of Jews. But the past two weeks have also seen aggression within the Jewish community towards those sympathetic to the plight of Gaza. Rabbi Elchenon Beck, 39, was among six rabbis expressing support for Gaza’s Palestinians who were set upon by a gang of what they allege were Zionists while walking back from opposing rallies outside the Israeli Embassy on 6 January.

Egypt slams summit
Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
This week, Egypt moved from the subtle to the upfront and officially expressed opposition to a request presented by Qatar for the convening of an emergency Arab summit on Gaza. The proposal was initially forwarded by Qatar to the Arab League at the outset of the Israeli aggression on Gaza 27 December. " Arab leaders agreed to meet in Kuwait on 19 January. Obviously Gaza will be discussed there and at that time. We now believe that time has to be used to work on making progress on efforts designed to secure a ceasefire," Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit said Wednesday. Abul-Gheit’s statements came against a backdrop of a clear split in the Arab position over the convocation of the Arab summit proposed by Qatar. While Cairo and Riyadh were lobbying to block the summit, Qatar and Syria were pushing hard for its convocation. "There is a very sad and distrubing Arab split. This is not what we need to address the disaster in Gaza," said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa Wednesday.

Summit on thorns
Niveen Wahish, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
The Arab Economic Summit is set to be held next week despite Israel’s aggression on Gaza, looks at the agenda and sounds out expectationsThe decision is final: the Arab Economic Summit will be held as scheduled on 19-20 January in Kuwait. Ongoing massacres in Gaza and the failure of Arab leaders to come together against the Israeli aggression had initially cast doubt on whether it was the right time to convene. But this week Amr Moussa, Arab League secretary-general, assured a gathering of high-profile media representatives that holding the summit as originally planned was very important. "The issues that will be tackled by this summit are of no lesser importance than political issues," Moussa said. "We will not forfeit the reform and development of the Arab world on any political differences," he said in reference to differences that had kept an emergency summit on Gaza from taking place. "There are a lot less sensitivities on the economic front. "

Syria Makes Its Mark on Regional Politics
Analysis by Helena Cobban, Inter Press Service 1/18/2009
DAMASCUS, Jan 16(IPS) - The main artery of Damascus’s famous covered souk (market) sports a giant red banner expressing -- in Arabic and English -- the disgust and anguish of a nearby private business for the Israeli military’s attacks on Gaza. In restaurants and other businesses, large-screen televisions that usually play sports are instead tuned to Al-Jazeera’s 24-hour coverage from Gaza. Syrians of all social groups voice sadness -- and considerable anger -- about Israel’s war on Gaza and the George W. Bush administration’s refusal to press for a speedy ceasefire. But even amid these emotions, Syrians close to and outside the government expressed some confidence that their country might soon be able to realise two long-held national goals: The resumption of a serious, comprehensive peace process in which all the remaining tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict -- including their. . .

Report: Assad ready to cooperate with U.S., won’t give up good relations with Iran
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/17/2009
Syria’s President Bashar Assad has signaled his readiness to cooperate with the new U. S. administration, but also indicated that his country won’t give up good relations with Iran, a German magazine reported Saturday. Barack Obama’s election has raised hopes for better ties between Syria and the U. S. after years of strained ties under outgoing President George W. Bush. Damascus has close ties with Iran, which the West suspects of seeking a nuclear bomb. "We would gladly contribute to stabilizing the region," Assad was quoted as saying in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel, in response to a suggestion that Obama might seek Syria’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. "But we must be included and not, as up to now, isolated. ""We are ready for any form of cooperation that is also helpful for America’s relations with other countries," he said, according to the report.

Arab Ranks Divided as Pressure Mounts to Hold Gaza Summit
Edward Yeranian, MIFTAH 1/17/2009
Arab leaders and diplomats are engaged in an increasingly bitter quarrel over the need to hold an emergency summit to discuss a cease-fire in Gaza, where the death toll has now risen to more than 1,000. Diplomatic efforts continued Thursday in Cairo where Israeli envoy Amos Gilad has been conveying Israel’s position to Egyptian mediators. Arabs leaders and diplomats are taking their deep divisions over the conflict in Gaza into the open, as Arab public pressure mounts to do something. Egyptian mediators raced against the clock to broker a truce, conferring four hours with Israeli Assistant Defense Minister Amos Gilad in Cairo. A Hamas delegation, from both the Gaza Strip and Damascus also met with Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman, Wednesday. Salah Bardawil, a member of the Hamas delegation, indicated that he was waiting to hear Israel’s response to his group’s position over a cease-fire.

Doha summit calls for suspending Arab peace initiative, stopping normalization
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
DOHA, (PIC)-- The final statement of the emergency Arab summit on Gaza held on Friday in Doha demanded the Arab countries to suspend their peace initiative and stop all forms of normalization, including the reconsideration of diplomatic and economic ties, with Israel. The statement hailed the stance taken by both Qatar and Mauritania to freeze their relations with Israel and welcomed president of Senegal the current chairman of the organization of the Islamic conference Abdullah Wad’s invitation to convene an emergency summit of the organization to discuss the Israeli aggression on Gaza. It also condemned the brutal aggression on Gaza, demanding Israel to immediately stop its war crimes and withdrew its troops from Gaza. The statement held Israel fully responsible under international law for committing war crimes and genocide in Gaza and stressed the determination to prosecute Israel and its leaders with international tribunals.

Hard time selling Israel propaganda to Arab viewers
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
TEL AVIV - Avichai Adraee gets up each day to face a mission impossible. His job is to defend the Israeli army in the midst of a deadly war in Gaza before a less than sympathetic audience -- the Arab world. Adraee is the Israeli army’s sole Arabic-speaking spokesman, the man the Arab media call to get the military’s official point of view. Adraee has become a familiar presence on television screens from Gaza to Dubai. The current conflict in Gaza is the third Israeli war that he has taken to the Arab airwaves since he assumed his post three and half years ago. Defending a military in a conflict where nearly 1,200 people – mostly civilians - have been killed in three weeks, is a daunting task in and of itself. It becomes all the more so when your interlocutors are anchors on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya who rarely mince their words.

Anger explodes
Reem Leila, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
Egypt’s streets are unlikely to calm down before Israel halts its air strikes on Gaza, reports Developments in Gaza over the past three weeks have driven Egyptian people to the streets in a display of anger directed at both the government and Israel’s aggression. The biggest demonstration took place in the coastal city of Alexandria where thousands of Egyptians demonstrated after Friday prayers. Led by MPs affiliated to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, they chanted slogans against the Israeli offensive and Arab complicity in the blockade of Gaza. The protesters called upon Arab leaders to allow them to fight besides the Palestinians. One slogan, repeated over and over by students during the past two weeks, runs, "Where is the army? We want war". On the same day the Doctors’ Syndicate held an extraordinary general assembly at which it was announced that 11 Egyptian doctors have been allowed to enter Gaza to help in treating injured Palestinians.

Need to heal
Assem El-Kersh, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
In support of the Palestinians under attack in Gaza, a high-level delegation of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) visited Rafah and Arish cities on Tuesday, to tour hospitals treating scores of Palestinians injured in the attacks and deliver medical aid to the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza. " We are wholeheartedly with the Palestinian cause. But Egypt’s security is above all else. And nobody will drive us into the unknown," said Safwat El-Sherif, secretary-general of the NDP, during a rally held a few kilometres from the borderline with Gaza. " Israel should abide by an immediate ceasefire, implement the UN Security Council resolution and apply the Egyptian initiative, for the world has become fed up with Israel’s state terrorism," El-Sherif noted. El-Sherif, who headed an aid convoy with 20 trucks packed with 8,000 tonnes of foodstuff and 280 tonnes of medicine in addition to eight highly-equipped ambulances, said that other convoys funded by donations from NDP members will continue going to Gaza.

A message of defiance
Bassel Oudat, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
Syrian support of Hamas in its current confrontation with Israel is showing no sign of faltering, as Damascus made clear to a succession of high-level visitors, reports Syrian protesters reiterate anti-Israeli slogans during a demonstration in DamascusSince the start of the Israeli attack on Gaza, top-level diplomats have been landing in Damascus one after another, all hoping to explore ways of ending the fighting. Damascus received them with the usual cordiality, but made it clear that it wants Hamas to stop the fighting only if it is granted better terms. Meanwhile, the Syrians want an Arab summit meeting to be held. They proposed the summit at a recent meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, and were immediately rebuffed. President Bashar Al-Assad made no secret of his disappointment. "Does it make sense that we attend an economic summit [in Kuwait] in two weeks but cannot get together to discuss a humanitarian, political, and military issue? "he said.

Shoe waving and clamour
Gamal Essam El-Din, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
Mounting Palestinian casualties in Gaza became the subject of a heated exchange of accusations in the People’s Assembly. Speaker Fathi Sorour accused Brotherhood MPs of violating parliamentary rules and using the Israeli onslaught against Gaza to tarnish the image of Egypt on Arab satellite channels, especially Qatari- based Al-Jazeera. Sorour referred Brotherhood MP Ashraf Badreddin to the People’s Assembly Ethics committee for questioning after he removed his shoes, climbed onto the members benches and tried to hit Hassan Nashaat El-Qassass, a ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) MP for North Sinai governorate, while chanting anti- government slogans. Brotherhood and independent MPs joined with Badreddin in chanting "Down with Israel". They then walked out of the meeting hall to protest against Sorour’s referral of Badreddin, insisting that El-Qassass also be referred for accusing opposition MPs of serving Egypt’s enemies.

Lieberman: Ceasefires are deathtraps
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Rightist parties slam cabinet’s decision to declare unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, say Hamas will continue to arm itself. Kadima officials: If fighting resumes we must consider postponing elections - Senior Likud officials said Saturday night that the party intends to officially criticize the cabinet’s decision to suspend the IDF’s offensive in Gaza. Likud, which is leading in the polls just 22 days ahead of the general elections, plans to accentuate the IDF’s achievements in contrast to the "political echelon’s failures". "We assume Hamas will continue to arm itself, and we will find ourselves in another conflict with the organization in the near future after it has obtained long-range rockets," one Likud official said. However, at this point the party is not expected to incorporate the issue into its official election campaign and will await further developments in Gaza and south Israel.

PM says all Israel’s goals in Cast Lead have been attained
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 1/16/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared Operation Cast Lead a victory Saturday night and threw the ball into Hamas’s court, declaring a unilateral cease-fire that suspends the three-week operation, whose future depends on whether Hamas continues to fire on Israel. Olmert’s announcement followed a three-hour emergency meeting of the 12-member security cabinet Saturday night that approved the cease-fire by a vote of 7-2, with one abstention. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai voted against, while Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan abstained. According to what was decided Saturday night, Israel will stop its offensive, but will keep the IDF forces in place, see how Hamas responds and whether an effective mechanism will be set up on the border to stop smuggling. US, Israel sign MOU to jointly battle. . .

Why did Israel forget about Gilad Shalit?
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
TEL AVIV - He was the ‘official’ reason Israel launched its last major offensive against Gaza in June 2006. But in today’s war on Gaza hardly anyone mentions the Israeli soldier held by Gaza resistance fighters for more than two years. Corporal Gilad Shalit turned from an anonymous 18-year-old conscript into a household name in Israel after he was seized on June 25, 2006 when Hamas and other resistance fighters attacked an Israeli occupation army post in a deadly raid. For many months, Shalit became a cause-celebre inside the Israel, his face staring out from posters throughout the country and officials raising his plight with foreign diplomats at every opportunity. Shalit has also a French citizenship. Israeli officials have engaged in months of indirect negotiations with Hamas over a prisoner exchange for him. But since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Gaza on December 27, hardly anyone in officialdom has mentioned his name.

Suspicious eyes
Yossi Klein, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman met last weekwith students at Bar-Ilan University, ostensibly on home court - When you smile your eyes laugh too, they crinkle up a bit. Not Avigdor Lieberman’s, at least not this past Tuesday at Bar-Ilan University. When Lieberman smiles (few people have caught him laughing) his lips stretch, but his eyes remain wide open, following everything suspiciously. Lieberman doesn’t trust anyone. Not the Arabs, not the goyim, certainly not the leftists and not even the audience sitting in front of him. He has good reason to be suspicious. Before he explains his diplomatic-political philosophy, he has to check to whom he is selling it. The audience in Bar-Ilan is ostensibly a comfortable one for Lieberman, and Bar-Ilan is ostensibly a home court. It’s not the University of Haifa, but they aren’t awaiting him with enthusiasm.

Hezbollah plot to attack Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan foiled
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
The London Times revealed Friday that a Hezbollah plot to attack the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan was foiled last year, after Azeri Intelligence discovered the plot. Azeri intelligence authorities reportedly first caught wind of the plot weeks after Imad Mughniyah, Deputy Secretary General of the Lebanon-based guerilla group was killed by a car bomb in Damascus last February. As the date of Mughniyah’s assassination draws near there is growing concern that Hezbollah is planning further attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets abroad to retaliate his killing, the Times indicates. Hezbollah’s 1800 Unit is said to be working on possible attacks inside Israel. Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said: "The Zionists will discover that the war they had in July was a walk in the park if we compare it to what we’ve prepared for every new aggression," says the Times.

Iranian cleric calls for Tzipi Livni to be shot
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
A high-level Iranian cleric called for the shooting of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in a speech before worshippers on Friday. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said during Friday prayers that "every time the picture of this woman is shown, I really wish that somebody would expend a bullet on her," according to a recording of the sermon obtained by the Associated Press. A copy of the speech was also translated and published by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Middle Eastern press monitoring service. Jannati is the head of the powerful hard line Iranian Council of Guardians which ensures the government remains true to the principles of the Islamic revolution [end]

U.S. intelligence chief: Iran nuclear weapon could start regional war
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
"Cyber-security is the soft underbelly of this country," he said. - U. S. National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell on Friday said that Iran is two to three years away from having a long-range missile that could reach Europe and is continuing to produce low-enriched uranium, the raw ingredient for the fissionable material needed for a warhead. As he prepares to leave office, McConnell told reporters that U. S. intelligence agencies lack enough evidence to prove Iran has decided to build a nuclear warhead, but he shares the alarm of outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden that the possibility may come soon. "I’m very concerned Iran will continue down a path that will result in a nuclear weapon," he said. He is especially worried about the effect it would have in the Middle East, either kicking off a regional arms race or a war.

Cartoon of the Day
Carlos Latuff, Palestine Think Tank 1/17/2009

The war as warm-up act for Obama
Gershom Gorenberg, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
The diplomatic timing for the war looked lovely. The U. S. president who loved military action was still in power, though fading into the shadows. The new president, dynamic and popular, hadn’t yet entered office. There was no one to interfere, to pressure us to stop. We don’t know if the Olmert-Livni-Barak triumvirate deliberately picked that window of opportunity. If so, it already looks like another of the war’s mistakes - perhaps the only welcome miscalculation. For instead of preventing American involvement, their decision to go to war on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration may well force him to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and push for a diplomatic solution. In recent months, foreign-policy experts from Obama’s camp have debated whether there’s any point in a new peace initiative. Robert Malley, known as the most dovish veteran of Bill Clinton’s peace team, has written - surprisingly - that such an effort is hopeless. I

U.S. Jewish Peace Lobby Isolated on Gaza
Daniel Luban, Inter Press Service 1/18/2009
WASHINGTON, Jan 17(IPS) - The three-week-old war in Gaza - halted Saturday by an Israeli ceasefire - has had a polarising effect on the U. S. Jewish community, resulting in a deeper and at times acrimonious split between dovish groups that are sceptical of the Israeli military campaign, and centrist and hawkish groups that have been broadly supportive of it. Perhaps the most important aspect of this split, however, has been the reaction of organisations commonly viewed as representative of "moderate" and "liberal" Jewish public opinion. These groups have overwhelmingly lined up in support of Israeli military action. In the process, participants and observers say, they may have driven a firmer wedge between the so-called "peace lobby" and the remainder of the constellation of Jewish groups. As the Israeli offensive got underway on Dec 27, a great deal of the reaction. . .

Obama and the Palestinians
Robert Dreyfuss, Middle East Online 1/17/2009
Chances are fair to middling that a ceasefire in Gaza, ending Israel’s three-week blitzkrieg there, will take hold before Barack Obama is sworn in as president on Tuesday. But, either way, the war has pushed the Palestine issue to the very top of Obama’s agenda for first days and weeks in office. If there is any silver lining from the carnage in Gaza, it’s that Obama’s team can’t avoid the issue, even if they’d wanted to before the crisis erupted. But in talking to Washington insiders, virtually everything about how Obama will approach the Arab-Israeli dispute seems up for grabs -- or, at least, Obama’s people aren’t talking. Obama, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, and other officials have said that they won’t let the problem sit on the back burner for years, as past administrations have done. And they certainly won’t abstain from engagement altogether while giving one-sided. . .

Mideast Awaits Signs of Obama’s Stance on Gaza
Helene Cooper, MIFTAH 1/17/2009
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has promised that he will have plenty to say about the Israeli incursion into Gaza once he takes office next week, and expectations are high. But there is a growing consensus among the people who have followed the Arab-Israeli conflict for decades that Mr. Obama must take some quick, decisive steps — within days of being sworn in — or else face the prospect of coming across in the Arab world as continuing President Bush’s tilt in favor of Israel. During the two weeks of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as reprisal for rockets launched from Gaza by Hamas, the militant Islamist group, Mr. Obama disappointed many commentators in the Muslim world by declining to condemn the Israeli operation. “President-elect Obama is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza, but there is one president at a time,” said Mr. Obama’s national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, repeating a mantra of the incoming administration.

Shalits beg IDF to include Gilad in cease-fire deal
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Relatives of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit being held by Hamas gathered at his family’s home in Mitzpeh Hila yesterday and implored the cabinet to include him in any Gaza cease-fire agreement. "We’re in favor of reaching agreements but we’re saying any deal, any agreement, whether it’s unilateral, with Egypt, with the Americans or any other entity, must have Gilad included as one of its main tenets," said Noam Shalit, the soldier’s father. The Shalits’ statement was one of the first issued by the family since Israel’s operation aimed at stopping militants from firing rockets began three weeks ago. Yesterday the family and activists broke their silence in light of reports that the military operation in the Palestinian territory where Shalit is believed to be held is nearing an end. "We refuse to believe that Gilad’s release will not be included in any agreement reached," Noam Shalit said.

ANALYSIS / Israel declares victory in Gaza, but at what cost?
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Trying to hide a smile and a sense of self-satisfaction Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced the cameras at the Defense Ministry and declared to the Israeli public, "We won. "The Israel Defense Forces objectives for its operation in the Gaza Strip were "obtained in full. "Hamas was "surprised and badly beaten," the government "made decisions responsibly and wisely," the IDF’s performance was excellent and the southern home front "displayed resilience. "Olmert would have loved to have been able to say the same thing back in 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War. But then he had to confront a disappointed and outraged public calling for an inquiry into the government’s handling of the war. The Gaza operation was undoubtedly intended to redeem Olmert, and will be used as a springboard for a comeback - if he avoids conviction on any of the charges pending against him.

Noam Shalit: Any truce deal must include the release of Gilad from Gaza custody
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Noam Shalit, father of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit on Saturday said any truce deal must include the release of Gilad from custody in Gaza. At the same press conference, Gilad’s mother Aviva said the family maintains hope that he will return. "Under the circumstances the family views this unequivocal demand as a basic right and duty of any parents of soldiers. " Earlier on Saturday, the Shalit family published a letter saying "the Shalit family has followed the war in Gaza and is grateful for it’s impending close. The family is expressing hope that the end of hostilities will also bring an end to Gilad’s captivity. "The letter adds that Shalit’s release would be in keeping with the moral foundations of the IDF. "If Israel’s leaders fail in returning Gilad home, Israeli society will pay a price. . .

Hamdan: Hamas does not have anything new to offer on the Egyptian initiative
Palestinian Information Center 1/17/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, stated that his Movement does not have anything new to offer regarding the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, adding that a delegation of Hamas would be in Cairo on Saturday to hear what it is acceptable or the result would be continued resistance in the battlefield. Hamdan underlined in a statement at a rally in support of Gaza in Beirut that any proposal that does not guarantee an end to the Israeli aggression on the Gaza people and their resistance, the withdrawal of the IOF troops, get the blockade lifted and the crossings opened would make the Palestinian resistance continue to defend its people. The Hamas leader noted that the ceasefire initiatives, regardless of their names, were carefully made to extract politically what Israel had failed to get by force, adding that the increase in the number of martyrs and the. . .

Israel moves towards ceasefire
Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, The Independent 1/17/2009
Israeli warplanes returned to the attack on the Gaza Strip before first light today as leaders of the Jewish state weighed a unilateral ceasefire. Political sources said a decision could come by evening. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may declare a halt to the three-week-old offensive without concluding any deal with Hamas-led militants who control Gaza, they said. Ending a night of sporadic gunfire, the roar of jet aircraft around 3am (GMT) was followed by heavy explosions flashing over points to the south and north of the city of Gaza. The Israeli army said 50 targets here hit, including 16 tunnels, two mosques from which troops were fired on, three bunkers, eight rocket-launching pads and six mined areas including a booby-trapped building. A spokeswoman had no immediate comment on a report that two civilians were killed near a school.

Shalit: This may be last chance to free Gilad
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 1/17/2009
Family of kidnapped soldier appeals with government to include his release in any agreement to end Gaza operation - The safe return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, "must be an overt and explicit part of any agreement" that puts an end to Operation Cast Lead, wrote the Shalit family in a letter published Saturday. They described this as the last chance to free Gilad. In a press conference Saturday evening, Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit, said that "we are facing a critical junction and a one-time window of opportunity to return Gilad, after more than two and a half years in Hamas captivity. " "We cannot imagine that the issue of freeing Gilad will not be included in any kind of deal secured vis-à-vis Hamas," he said.

Iraqi guards throw party for shoe-Bush-basher
Kim Gamel - BAGHDAD, Middle East Online 1/17/2009
The Iraqi journalist jailed since throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush got a visit from his brother Friday and a birthday party from his guards as he turned 30. Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who has gained cult status for his bizarre protest, is in good shape but has been denied access to his lawyer, relatives said after his brother Maitham visited him for two hours in his detention cell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush’s joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Thousands demonstrated for al-Zeidi’s release and hailed his gesture. But concern was raised about his welfare after allegations that he had been severely beaten and tortured in detention. The case’s investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents who wrestled. . .

Pentagon clears itself of Iraq propaganda
Middle East Online 1/17/2009
WASHINGTON - An internal investigation has cleared the Pentagon of violating a ban on domestic propaganda by using retired military officers to comment positively about the war in Iraq in the US media. In a report posted on its website Friday, the Pentagon’s inspector general said "we found the evidence insufficient to conclude that RMA (retired military analysts) outreach activities were improper. " The report said the controversy, which erupted in April following an expose in the New York Times, warranted no further investigation. The Times found that the Pentagon laid on special briefings and conference calls for the retired officers, many of whom then repeated the talking points as military experts on television news shows. It also found that many of the media analysts also worked as consultants or served on the boards of defense contracting companies, but that those ties often went undisclosed to the public.

Same mettle
Sherine Bahaa, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
Intentionally or not, Hamas and Hizbullah are speaking a similar discourse. Sherine Bahaa reviews their rhetoric. - "You have created resistance in every household," Hamas’s leader in exile Khaled Meshaal said, referring to Israelis in a televised speech earlier this week. Listening to Meshaal brought to memory the words of Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on 16 July 2006:"[The resistance] is one project and the resistance movement is one movement and has one course, one destiny, one goal, despite its different parties, factions, beliefs, sects and intellectual and political trends. . . Resistance movements in this region, especially in Lebanon and Palestine, complement one another and are contiguous groups. " Hamas is Sunni but Hizbullah is Shia, Hamas is working mainly in Gaza while Hizbullah has its base in South Lebanon.

Victorious, but vilified: Israel has ’destroyed its image and its soul’
Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem and Donald Macintyre on the Gaza-Egypt, The Independent 1/18/2009
After three weeks of carnage in Gaza, there were tentative signs of a ceasefire last night. But the bitter legacy of the past 22 days for Israel is that, while it declares victory on the battlefield, the country’s reputation has rarely sunk so low. Yesterday the United Nations called for a war crimes investigation after two children, aged five and seven, were killed when, it claimed, an Israeli tank shell hit a school sheltering some of the more than 40,000 internally displaced refugees. "These two little boys are as innocent, indisputably, as they are dead," said John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza. In Jerusalem, Chris Gunness, the organisation’s spokesman, added: "There has to be an investigation to determine whether a war crime has been committed. " Mr Gunness used unusually strong language.


’Tungsten bombs’ leave Israel’s victims with mystery wounds
Raymond Whitaker, The Independent 1/18/2009
      Israel facing demands for war crimes investigations
     ...Although Mr Olmert’s announcement was only a first step towards halting the conflict in Gaza, the UN is not the only international body insisting that inquiries must be held as soon as possible into the tactics and weapons used by Israel. Erik Fosse, a Norwegian doctor who worked in Gaza’s hospitals during the conflict, said that Israel was using so-called Dime (dense inert metal explosive) bombs designed to produce an intense explosion in a small space. The bombs are packed with tungsten powder, which has the effect of shrapnel but often dissolves in human tissue, making it difficult to discover the cause of injuries.
     Dr Fosse said he had seen a number of patients with extensive injuries to their lower bodies. "It was as if they had stepped on a mine, but there was no shrapnel in the wounds," he said. "Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before." However, the injuries matched photographs and descriptions in medical literature of the effects of Dime bombs.
     "All the patients I saw had been hit by bombs fired from unmanned drones," said Dr Fosse, head of the Norwegian Aid Committee. "The bomb hit the ground near them and exploded." His colleague, Mads Gilbert, accused Israel of using the territory as a testing ground for a new, "extremely nasty" type of explosive. "This is a new generation of small explosive that detonates with extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of five to 10 metres," he said.
     According to military databases, Dime bombs are intended for use where conventional weapons might kill or injure bystanders – to kill combatants in a house, for example, without harming people next door. Instead of being made from metal, which sprays shrapnel across a wide area, the casing is carbon fibre. Part of the motive for developing the bombs was to replace the use of depleted uranium, but Dr Fosse said the cancer risk from tungsten powde was well known. "These patients should be followed up to see if there are any carcinogenic effects," he said.
See also: Chemical Warfare

UN school attacked; civilians left to bleed to death
Press release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 1/17/2009
      The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has further escalated its attacks on the Gaza Strip at the start of the fourth week of its war on the Strip. According to Al Mezan Center’s monitoring, the IOF has continued to destroy homes on their residents. For the third time, the IOF attacked an UNRWA [the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees] shelter, killing two displaced children and injuring at least 15 people.
     Al Mezan Center’s monitoring also indicates that the IOF has continued to restrict ambulances’ access to injured people, despite the intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross, causing them to bleed to death. Field information shows that the IOF has killed at least 1,191 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the start of its Operation Cast Lead on 27 December 2008. This includes at least 272 children and 85 women. The number of casualties is expected to be higher, since Al Mezan only reports on the cases which it has been able to verify. Moreover, 3,953 people have been injured, including at least 849 children and 481 women.
     Since 1pm yesterday, the IOF has launched hundreds of attacks across the Gaza Strip. The following section provides some of the most deadly attacks, which resulted with death and destruction in all of Gaza’s five districts.

Fears Raised over Use of Chemical Weapons [January 11 – January 17]
MIFTAH, MIFTAH 1/17/2009
      Israel’s assault on Gaza entered its third week today, January 17, as the death toll reached a staggering 1,200 dead. Amongst the dead, 410 were children, while some 5,300 Palestinians have been wounded. The Israeli death toll remains at 13, ten of whom were soldiers.
     More fears were raised this week regarding Israel’s use of chemical weapons in Gaza. As of now, Israel has neither confirmed nor denied it is using phosphorus shells. However, on January 13, the Palestinian Network of Non Governmental Organizations (PNGO) demanded an urgent international investigation into allegations that Israel used internationally prohibited weapons against Palestinians in Gaza. Based on the reports of Palestinian and foreign doctors working in Gaza hospitals, PNGO has concluded that new Israeli weapons are causing burns that can reach to the bones of the victims. PNGO also said that another type of unidentified weapon fires smoke and noxious gases that cause breathing difficulties, particularly in children. Just days later, on January 15, Chris Gunness, an UNRWA official in Gaza, claimed that Israeli jets had fired unknown chemical weapons on an UNRWA compound in Gaza. Three Palestinians were injured. At the time, about 700 displaced Palestinians were inside the building when it was targeted by Israel’s air force. Gunness explained, “[The chemical compound] looks like phosphorus, it smells like phosphorus and it burns like phosphorus.” The UN building continued to burn into the late afternoon. “I don’t know why they [Israel] would do this,” Gunness continued. “We had guarantees.”

Tel Al-Hawa: The invasion and then after
Ma’an News Agency 1/17/2009
      Witnesses also reported that Israeli soldiers invaded residential buildings, ordering locals to leave. Hundreds fled to other parts of the city. Fadel Al-Batran and his 19-year-old daughter Hanin were gunned down as they fled their home.
     Gaza – Ma’an – The embers of Tel Al-Hawa continue to burn. The smoke from the fire and concrete dust cloud the air, and carry the thick smell of burning and rotting bodies.
     This street, up until Thursday was one of the most luxurious streets in Gaza City, built by the Palestinian Authority in the late 1990s.
     Rather than flowers, glittering glass and stone a walk through Tel Al-Hawa two days after the Israeli invasion into the area, burnt cars with burned bodies, half demolishedapartment towers and torn up roads are what greet passersby.The hospital is where most residents call home now.
     Ma’an visited the destroyed neighborhood, and asked about the burned car at the main street’s entrance. A former resident told reporters that the car was owned by Oday Salameh Haddad. He was in his car fleeing the area after hours of Israeli tank fire and troops running home to home.

The Boss Has Gone Mad
Uri Avnery - Israel, Palestine Chronicle 1/17/2009
      ’It will become apparent that this war was sheer madness.’
     169 years before the Gaza War, Heinrich Heine wrote a premonitory poem of 12 lines, under the title ’To Edom’. The German-Jewish poet was talking about Germany, or perhaps all the nations of Christian Europe. This is what he wrote (in my rough translation):
     "For a thousand years and more / We have had an understanding / You allow me to breathe / I accept your crazy raging // Sometimes, when the days get darker / Strange moods come upon you / Tillyou decorate your claws / With the lifeblood from my veins // Now ourfriendship is firmer / Getting strongerby the day / Since the raging started in me / Daily more and more like you."
     Zionism, which arose some 50 years after this was written, is fully realizing this prophesy. We Israelis have become a nation like all nations, and the memory of the Holocaust causes us, from time to time, to behave like the worst of them. Only a few of us know this poem, but Israel as a whole lives it out.

'Twenty years of a life erased'
Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/16/2009
      Seven minutes January 15, 2009, 11:02 am When I’d met the extended Abed Rabu family, before the ground invasion began, they had just had their house bombed by an F-16. Their area has been occupied by Israeli tanks and soldiers since the ground invasion began. Medical workers cannot reach the injured there, and those who have managed to escape testify to imprisonment in their houses, abuse, point-blank shooting (to death), and a number of dead not yet known. It’s an area Israel views as strategic, lying just hundreds of meters from the eastern border to Israel, a key entry point for invading troops. Past invasions have meant entire families and neighbors being locked into a room of a house for a day or days. Supposition among journalists and those with two cents here is that Israel’s intense bombardment of, and destruction of houses in, the area is to both decimate any resistance and to create an alternate "road" for tanks and troops to roll in on, meaning houses in their path are leveled to the ground.
     That day, Abu Mahmoud Abed Rabu had related the events of his house demolition. "A person called me saying he was a spokesperson for the Israeli army and that we had seven minutes to leave the house before it was bombed. I begged for 10, told him seven wasn’t enough to collect possessions and get our children out safely. He said seven," Abed Rabu explained. His family made it out in time, avoiding the death sentence that has been given so many here, without warning.

Israeli Aggressions: Worse is Yet to Come
Jeremy Salt – Ankara, Palestine Chronicle 1/16/2009
      ’Israel’s destructive path shows no signs of coming to end.’
     I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness and will hold your hand and keep you, and I will establish you as a covenant of the people for a light unto the nations. -- Isaiah 42:6 If our dreams of Zionism are to end in the smoke of assassins’ pistols and our labours for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained so consistently and so long in the past. -- Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons, November 17, 1944.
     Well, Winston, you were right, except the gangsters are armed now not just with pistols but nuclear weapons. Admittedly Lord Moyne, the British Minister of State to Egypt, assassinated in Cairo on November 6, 1944, only six days before you made these remarks about Zionism in the House of Commons, was your friend, so there was a very personal element in your anger. But, as you feared, Zionism did give birth to gangsters, generation after generation of them. Their ranks begin with David Ben-Gurion, who in 1948 superintendedthe ’flight’ of the Palestinians, the destruction of their villages and the theft of their property; Yitzhak Rabin, who obeyed his orders and ’cleaned’ large areas of Palestine of their inhabitants; Menahim Begin, who oversaw the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 and the massacre of villagers at Deir Yassin in 1948....

In Gaza: Killed by Israel, Eaten by Dogs
Ola Attallah – Gaza City, Palestine Chronicle 1/17/2009
      "Oh, God! I have never seen such a terrible scene," cried Kayed Abu Aukal.
     The emergency doctor could not believe himself seeing the remains of what was days back Shahd, a full-fleshed 4-year-old Palestinian girl.
     She died when an Israeli shell was fired at the backyard of her home in the Jabalya refugee camp northern Gaza strip, where she was playing.
     When her parents attempted to rush to the rescue of their kid, who fell to the ground amid a pool of her blood, rains of Israeli bullets kept them a distance.
     For the next five days Shahd’s which was left lying in the open left for dogs to tear out.
     "The dogs did leave one single part of the poor baby’s body intact," said a tearful Abu Aukal.
     "We have seen heart-breaking scenes over the past 18 days. We picked up children whose bodies were torn or burnt, but nothing like this."
     For five days Shahd’s brother, Matar, and cousin, Mohamed, tried in vain to reach her body. They were fired at by the Israeli occupation forces every time.
     Seeing the body of the little angel torn to piece by the assaulting dogs, the two made one final attempt, and it was their last.
     They were showered by Israeli bullets before they could reach Shahd’s body, joining a long list of more than 920 Palestinians killed by Israel since December 27.

White phosphorous but no flag
Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
      The Palestinians refuse to succumb to defeat in the face of flagrant Israeli war crimes.
     In an interview with Yediot Aharonot’ s online edition in Hebrew, Israeli Colonel Mikey Sharbit spoke of the "ferocious" resistance the Israeli occupation army has encountered in Gaza. Speaking from his hospital bed after being injured in northern Gaza Sharbit, who previously served as an artillery commander in the 2006 war on Lebanon, denounced the Israeli media’s disregard of the competence of Hamas’s fighters and the nature of the ground war the Israeli army has experienced in the past two weeks.
     "It’s a war of ghosts," he said. "We don’t see the fighters... they emerge as if from underground. We move on the ground with the feeling that beneath us an underground city of ghosts is moving too."
     Such statements illuminate the gap between what Israel’s political leaders are saying and what its military commanders are experiencing since the war started on 27 December. The latter insist that Hamas’s Ezzeddin Al-Qassam’s Brigades have not been affected and remain capable of pursuing the battle for the foreseeable future. Even Rony Daneyl, Israel’s Channel 2 pro-war military commentator, told audiences this week that he is prohibited by the army from referring to the problems it has encountered on the ground and which have deterred it from advancing almost three weeks after the start of the war and despite the hundreds of tons of missiles the Israeli air force has showered on the Palestinians.

Hear the rumble?
Hassan Nafaa, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
      In attacking Gaza Israel upset the regional equilibrium. The results are likely to be momentous.
     The birth of the Arab system is usually associated with the creation of the Arab League (AL), in 1945. But two earlier developments paved the way for the AL’s creation. One was that Egypt, acting as the key country in the region, had a clear vision of what it wanted to do and was ready to act on that vision when regional and international circumstances were right -- which is exactly what happened after the end of WWII. The other was that the conflict in Palestine had reached a point where most Arab countries recognised the danger posed by the creation of an independent Jewish state in their midst.
     Reeling from the protracted fighting of World War II, Britain gave its endorsement for any scheme promoting unity among the Arabs. The endorsement, which was made public in 1943, was aimed to deter Arab countries from siding with Germany. Egypt, at the time ruled by a Wafd government led by Mustafa El-Nahhas, saw its chance. Soon it opened bilateral and multilateral consultations with Arab countries in an effort to lay down the framework of a regional political structure. The AL came into being as a result. It wasn’t a first step towards federalism as many hoped but a congregation of seven semi-independent countries willing to pass resolutions by consensus, more of a political club than a blueprint for unity.

Israel’s Gaza myths
Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
      The media continues to parrot Israel-friendly half-truths about Gaza.
     We have all heard the shocking news from Gaza: nearly 1,000 dead after less than three weeks of Israeli air and ground attacks. But surprisingly, no one has reported another shocking statistic: that there are some 1.5 million injured in Gaza, or the Strip’s entire population in fact. How is it possible that such an astounding figure could have passed the world’s media by?
     The reason, I suspect, is that they are relying on the highly unreliable statistics provided by official Palestinian sources. From what I can gather, the Palestinian Health Ministry only records as wounded those Gazans who need to stay in hospital because of the severity of their injuries.
     That means they count only the more than 4,400 Gazans who have suffered the following types of injuries: severe burns from exploding Israeli phosphorus shells; shrapnel wounds from artillery rounds; broken or lost limbs from aerial bombardment; bullet wounds; physical trauma from falling building debris, and so on.
     But in fact there is another, far more reasonable standard for assessing those injured, one that provides the far higher total of 1.5 million Gazans. The measure I am referring to is the one employed by Israel.

The plot against Gaza
Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada 1/17/2009
      Israel has justified its assault on Gaza as entirely defensive, intended only to stop Hamas firing rockets on Israel’s southern communities. Although that line has been repeated unwaveringly by officials since Israel launched its attack on 27 December, it bears no basis to reality. Rather, this is a war against the Palestinians of Gaza, and less directly those in the West Bank, designed primarily to crush their political rights and their hopes of statehood.
     The most glaring evidence contradicting the Israeli casus belli is the six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that preceded the invasion. True, Hamas began firing its rockets as soon as the truce came to an end on 19 December, but Israel had offered plenty of provocation. Not least it broke the ceasefire by staging a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas members. Even more significantly, it maintained and tightened a blockade during the ceasefire period that was starving Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants of food, medicine and fuel. Hamas had expected the blockade lifted in return for an end to the rockets.
     A few days before Israel’s attack on Gaza, Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, noted Hamas’ commitment to the ceasefire and its motives in restarting the rocket fire. "Make no mistake, Hamas is interested in maintaining the truce," he told the cabinet. "It seeks to improve its conditions -- a removal of the blockade, receiving a commitment from Israel that it won’t attack and extending the lull to the Judea and Samaria area [the West Bank]." In other words, had Israel wanted calm, it could have avoided invading Gaza simply by renegotiating the truce on more reasonable terms.

Can Abbas survive after Gaza war?
Al Jazeera 1/17/2009
      Mouin Rabbani, a contributing editor to the Middle East Report magazine, talks to Al Jazeera about what Israel’s war on Gaza means for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and his Fatah faction, and what its wider repercussions may be.
     Q: If the Israeli bombardment stops, what will be the most prominent political battle for the Palestinians?
     The most difficult battle that is going to be waged within the Palestinian political system once this war subsides is going to be Mahmoud Abbas’s fight for political survival.
     He has been under tremendous pressure and growing widespread criticism all along for the absolute failure of each and every one of his strategies since he assumed the presidency in November 2004.
     Q: Does it matter if he is president or somebody else in the same mould as him?
     Many Palestinians increasingly say it does matter if he continues as president and that it is increasingly important to replace him with a leader who can, more authentically, represent his people.
     It is interesting that in the last 10 years Fatah, the movement which (despite the ascendency of Hamas) is the spinal chord of the Palestinian national movement, has become increasingly bitter and divided.
     [Fatah’s factions] have united only once in the past 10 years - that was in November 2004 to appoint Mahmoud Abbas as a successor to the late Yasser Afarat.
     Since then, they have been at war with each other. The movement is disintegrating.

Can Hamas still walk tall in Gaza’s streets?
Peter Beaumont and Hazem Balousha, The Guardian 1/18/2009
      There is little left to see of the house that once belonged to Ayad Siam in Gaza’s Sheikh Radwan district. There is a hole, 20ft deep and twice as broad, and a few slabs of concrete and a snarl of tangled pipes. The bodies have gone. They were the bodies of Ayad and his brother, Said Siam, Hamas’s 50-year-old minister of the interior, who was targeted in a joint operation last week by the Israeli air force and Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency.
     Across Gaza, Hamas personnel have been targeted and its strongholds bombed in an attempt to destroy the organisation’s infrastructure. But what, beyond death and destruction, has Israel achieved by its onslaught? And what, as Israel moves towards a unilateral ceasefire ahead of the inauguration of Barack Obama as US President on Tuesday, is left of Hamas?
     In the case of Said Siam and his Interior Ministry - once one of Hamas’s major centres of power - the assessment is simple to make. The four-storey Interior Ministry complex was flattened by a missile strike early in the campaign. Police stations and other facilities have also been destroyed. Scores, perhaps several hundred, of his men have died. And while buildings can be rebuilt, the death of Siam is something different.
     ....Wael Abd Latef, 38, a bookshop owner from the Tal el-Hawa district of Gaza City, was convinced that the long days of bombardment have had little effect on Hamas. He abandoned his house five days ago with the arrival of Israeli tanks, and on Friday returned to check his property. "It’s a war against the civilians. It’s not against Hamas," he said. "They think that it’s against Hamas, but it’s not. The situation is a disaster for Palestinian people, not Hamas. Israel started the war against Palestinians. They imposed sanctions on Palestinians. Hamas demands the world just leave the siege and break the blockade on Palestinians by opening the curtains. Hamas spent a long time helping the Palestinian people here and worked for its interests."

Hamas Rising
Fawaz A. Gerges, Middle East Online 1/17/2009
      I have just returned from the Middle East and witnessed how Israel’s assault on Gaza is radicalizing mainstream Muslim opinion. Shown endlessly on Arab and Muslim television stations, the massive killing of civilians is fueling rage against Israel and its superpower patron, the United States, among mainstream and moderate voices who previously believed in co-existence with the Jewish state. Now, they are questioning their basic assumptions and raising doubts about Israel’s future integration into the region.
     Many professionals, both Christian and Muslim Arabs, previously critical of Hamas, are bitter about what they call Israel’s "barbaric conduct" against Palestinian noncombatants, particularly women and children. No one I have encountered believes Israel’s narrative that this is a war against Hamas, not the Palestinian people. A near consensus exists among Arabs and Muslims that Israel is battering the Palestinian population in an effort to force it to revolt against Hamas, just as it tried to force the Lebanese people to revolt against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. But Hezbollah weathered that Israeli storm, acquired a sturdier immune system and became the most powerful institution in Lebanon. In so doing it shattered Israeli deterrence, delivered a blow to US Mideast policy and expanded the influence of Iran, Hezbollah’s main supporter in the region.

In Gaza Our Love for God is in ’Intensive Care’
Stuart Littlewood - London, Palestine Chronicle 1/17/2009
      Manuel Mussallam: ’Gaza is sinking in its own blood.’
     A very moving message from the elderly priest who leads the Christian community in Gaza, Fr Manuel Mussallam, has just arrived in my computer inbox.
     This remarkable and much-respected man of the Catholic church runs the best school in Gaza, where some 70% of the pupils are, believe it or not, Muslim. I was lucky enough to meet him in Gaza about a year ago when the situation was already dire.
     People ought to understand that the starvation, hardship and slaughter did not begin with the Israeli air offensive on 27 December. It had been going on since before the election of Hamas in early 2006 and the spiteful siege immediately imposed by Israel and the US and supported by Britain and the EU. Between 2005 and 2008 the Israelis killed nearly 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.
     "From the valley of tears," says Fr Manuel in greeting, "from Gaza that is sinking in its own blood, the blood that has strangled the joy in the hearts of one and a half million inhabitants, I send you this message of faith and hope. But the message of love is imprisoned, choked in our throats as Christians. We do not venture to even say it to ourselves.

Time for Israel to be put on trial
Elna Sondergaard, Electronic Intifada 1/17/2009
      The brutal and indiscriminate Israeli attacks on the Palestinian population in Gaza during the last weeks have entailed numerous violations of basic norms of international law, such as the principles of proportionality and distinction (between civilians and combatants; and between civilian and military targets). Military acts such as intentionally targeting schools and other civilian facilities are considered violations of international humanitarian law in relation to which the state of Israel bears responsibility -- but they also constitute serious crimes under international law (e.g., war crimes and eventually crimes against humanity) in relation to which individuals should stand trial.
     The international community agreed to this principle of individual responsibility for international crimes in the wake of the Second World War; genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes were considered totally unacceptable and individuals committing such crimes should be held accountable. The rational behind the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945 was clear: without a trial, justice and peace would never prevail. This idea of individual accountability has subsequently been implemented in the case law of the ad-hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will develop it further in the future.