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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
18 January, 2008

Bodies unearthed from rubble as Israel violates ceasefire
Press release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 1/18/2009
Israel has announced to unilaterally cease fire in the Gaza Strip while leaving its troops in positions they had seized during the so-called Operation Cast Lead. Al Mezan Center’s staff visited some of the areas the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) left last night and this morning. It found out that a disaster had struck these areas, which had not been accessible for weeks. The findings provide evidence about the likelihood that the IOF had perpetrated war crimes in these areas. In particular, dozens of civilians’ corpses have been found in a bad condition under the rubble of destroyed houses. Moreover, the scene of destruction of neighborhoods suggests that wide-scaled home demolitions were systematically conducted by the IOF. Al Mezan Center’s field workers reported that entire urban blocks have disappeared in the areas of Ezbet Abed-Rabu, al-Salatin, al-Atatra, al-Israa in North Gaza

Hamas offers conditional ceasefire
Al Jazeera 1/19/2009
Hamas and several allied Palestinian factions have announced a conditional, one-week ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, giving Israel seven days to pull out of the territory. The move, following a meeting of the factions in Damascus, comes a day after Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire, ending its 22-day offensive in Gaza which has left at least 1,203 Palestinians dead. "We in the Palestinian resistance movements announce a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and demand that enemy forces withdraw in a week and open all the border crossings to permit the entry of humanitarian aid and basic goods," Mousa Abu Marzuk, deputy leader of Hamas’s political bureau, said in Damascus on Sunday. Besides Hamas, Palestinian factions at the Damascus meeting included Islamic Jihad, al-Nidal, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and al-Saeqa.

Another Nakba in the Making??
Mary Rizzo, Palestine Think Tank 1/18/2009
Under cover of announcing humanitarian relief for injured Palestinians, it is now emerging that Israel is planning the transfer of tens of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt. Evidence of the Israeli transfer plan has been sent to London based Islington Friends of Yibna** [IFY]. Earlier today, Sat 17 Jan 09, IFY received a photo of tents [see attached] outside the main hospital in Egyptian Rafah, near the border with Gaza. The white tents with no markings are being erected by the Egyptian Army, starting last night, Fri 16 Jan 09. The photo was taken this morning [Sat 17 January 09]. The soldiers stated that 5,000 tents were planned for refugees from Gaza. Further information is available from our contacts in the Egyptian side of Rafah [Rafah was divided by Israel after it occupied Gaza and Sinai in 1967; Israel divided Rafah when Sinai was returned to Egypt]. -- See also: Evidence of the tents for ethnic cleansing? and VIDEO - Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger wants to deport Palestinians to the Sinai desert more.. related.. e-mail

Untold stories lie buried in the rubble
Kim Sengupta, The Independent 1/19/2009
As the guns fell silent in Gaza, the terrible human cost of the three weeks of bloody carnage began to be tallied. After 22 days of air strikes and shelling, residents began emerging to search for the dead and the lost and pick over what was left of their shattered homes. The death toll at the time of ceasefire, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, stood at 1,300, among them at least 410 children. Another 5,300 people were wounded. Chris Gunness, the spokesman for the UN relief agency UNRWA, said: "We have untold stories literally buried under the rubble, each one of them will have to be found and what happened accounted for, it is impossible to say how long that will take. "We have faced a huge amount of destruction -- 53 out of our 200 facilities have been damaged, our headquarters was destroyed when the Israelis opened fire and the main workshop burned to a cinder when it was hit by white phosphorus shells. "

95 more bodies uncovered in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/18/2009
With ceasefire in effect, Palestinian rescue teams begin searching rubble for casualties of Operation Cast Lead. Total death toll rises to 1,300. Sources estimate 15% of houses in areas where IDF operated destroyed - With the Israeli ceasefire in effect, the dimensions of the death and devastation in Gaza are becoming more apparent. At least 95 bodies were found Sunday morning in different areas of the Gaza Strip, including the bodies of 17 members of the same family. Dozens of dead were found in the al-Atatra neighborhood in Beit Lahiya, and some of them were identified as Islamic Jihad military wing gunmen. Palestinian sources reported the bodies were retrieved from the ruins of houses they were unable to reach up until now due to the fighting. Among the dead, reports said, were those of families that had been killed in Israeli shells.

Israel arrests more children in first two weeks of 2009 than any month in 2008
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The number of children arrested by Israeli forces and brought before military courts in the first two weeks of January is double the average for any given week in 2008, said Defense for Children International (DCI) on Sunday. They reported that the DCI legal department has received ten new cases for representation for children in military courts. This is again double the average of cases per month. Most of the arrests are of children participating in demonstrations against Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, though DCI said it was not able to get statements from all of the children to confirm the allegations. This is in conjunction with reports of hundreds of Palestinian adults being detained by Israeli forces both in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel.

Oxfam: A unilateral ceasefire 'insufficient to halt civilian deaths'
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Oxfam expressed concern over the unilateral Israeli declaration to declare a ceasefire Saturday evening, calling the move “insufficient to halt civilian deaths. ”Executive Director of Oxfam International Jeremy Hobbs stressed in a Sunday morning statement that while the organization welcomes “cessation of violence,” he was concerned that the “unilateral ceasefire is not sufficient. ”“There must be no further Israeli or Palestinian attacks against civilians,” he said, and urged the international community to press for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860. “A negotiated durable and fully respected ceasefire with Hamas completely stopping rocket fire on Israel and leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza is essential,” the statement said. Hobbs called for an “Immediate opening of all the crossings into Gaza and. . .

Israeli ’ceasefire’ includes increased US involvement in Israeli occupation
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/18/2009
The “US part of the bargain”, according to Rice’s spokesperson, thus consists of military and intelligence equipment and personnel with the aim of “inhibit[ing] the ability of Hamas to rearm. "- Just before Saturday’s decision by Israeli officials to declare a ’ceasefire’ in Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni received a signed assurance from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the US government would provide security and intelligence personnel to assist the Israeli military in its ongoing military occupation of all Palestinian land. Previously, the US role in the conflict had been limited to material support, including weapons shipments and billions of dollars in financial commitment to Israel each year. Now, the US has committed in writing to the Israeli Foreign Minister (although no Congressional debate or resolution took place), to provide. . .

UK Prime Minister criticizes Israel’s targeting of civilians; agrees to assist Israel in Occupation
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/18/2009
In a statement Sunday by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister criticized Israel for targeting civilians in a ground and air assault that has left over 1200 dead in 3 weeks. But at the same time, officials in the British government were busy signing agreements with the Israeli military that would commit British intelligence and security resources to supporting the Israeli occupation of Gaza. The agreement made between Israel and the UK would commit the British Royal Navy to assist in anti-smuggling operations in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. "For a cease-fire to be sustainable, we must address the underlying causes of this conflict, including continued Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and Gaza’s economic isolation," said Brown Saturday. Before Israel agreed to a unilateral ceasefire on Saturday, Israeli officials set requirements for each of a number of European nations and the US.

Olmert: We will leave Gaza once truce proves stable
Ynet, YNetNews 1/18/2009
PM thanks visiting European leaders for ’working to ensure Israel’s safety’, says Israel to pull troops out of Strip once armistice is solid; expresses regret over civilian Palestinian casualties who ’became hostages of Hamas’ - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that "if the Gaza ceasefire proves stable, Israel will not remain in the Strip. "In a press conference held in the premier’s Jerusalem residence, with several of the world’s prominent leaders by his side, Olmert added that "we intend on leaving Gaza as soon as possible and once we make sure that Israel’s south is safe. We did not set out to take Gaza, and we have no desire to stay in it. "French President Nicolas Sarkozy, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Czech PM, Mirek Topolánek, all traveled to the

Ceasefire of Sorts Agreed, For Now
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 1/19/2009
RAMALLAH, Jan 18(IPS) - One Palestinian civilian died and over a dozen rockets hit southern Israel early Sunday morning just hours after Israel implemented a unilateral ceasefire halting its three-week military incursion into Gaza. The Israeli Air Force (AIF) carried out several bombing attacks on the northern and southern Gaza strip. Israeli soldiers exchanged gunfire with a number of Palestinian gunmen after the rockets were fired into southern Israel by Palestinian resistance groups after the ceasefire. Israel had said the truce would comprise two components. First, Israeli troops would remain stationed in Gaza for a period of time to see if Hamas ceased with rocket fire on Israel. If the salvos of missiles stopped the IDF would withdraw from the strip. If, however, Hamas continued with hostilities, the Israeli military would resume operations and the air force would recommence sorties and bombing raids.

Gaza hospital appeals for nursing reinforcements
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Nasser Medical Compound in Khan Younis issued an urgent appeal for nurses in the Gaza Strip, according to a statement. The hospital said it is calling on Arab nursing unions and international organizations working in healthcare to “urgently send nursing staff” to the Gaza Strip to fill a large void there. A number of nurses, specifically in surgery, intensive care and emergency services, are particularly in need due to fatigue brought on by three weeks of intense violence in Gaza. The appeal came as a Jordanian delegation of medical staff arrived to treat the injured in Israel’s war on Gaza. According to Bassam Musalaman, the head of the compound, the delegation was sent from a Jordanian nursing union after coordinating with counterparts in Khan Younis. Musalaman noted that the Jordanian delegation is composed of four nurses now working “around the clock” to aid Palestinian staff.

IOF Attacks 3rd UNRWA Shelter; Kills more Civilian Refugees, Including Children
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights 1/17/2009
The Israeli Occupation Forces has stepped up its attacks on the shelters and installations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip. Today, the IOF fired artillery and Phosphorus shells onto an UNRWA school that shelters civilians in Beit Lahia, killing children and injuring many civilians. This was the third attack of this kind. Dozens of displaced civilians have been killed in the IOF’s attacks on UNRWA’s shelter since the start of the on-going Operation Cast Lead on 27 December 2oo7, which has also claimed the lives of approximately 1,200 people, most of whom civilians. The IOF has also attacked eight schools across the Gaza Strip directly. At least 67 schools have been damaged as a result of IOF’s air and artillery attacks as of today. 36 of these schools are UNRWA schools.

IOF Targets a 3rd UNRWA Shelter and Continues its massacres in the Gaza Strip - The Int’l Community Must End Slaughtering Civilians Immediately
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights 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 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 ICRC, 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...

IOF Unilaterally Ceases Fire; Redeploys inside Gaza - Dozens of Decomposed Bodies Found under Houses Rubble and Enormous Destruction in Neighborhoods
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights 1/18/2009
Israel has announced to unilaterally cease fire in the Gaza Strip while leaving its troops in positions they had seized during the so-called Operation Cast Lead. Al Mezan Center’s staff visited some of the areas the IOF left last night and today morning. It found out that a disaster had struck these areas, which had not been accessible for weeks. The findings provide evidence about the likelihood that the IOF had perpetrated war crimes in these areas. In particular, dozens of civilians’ corpses have been found in a bad condition under the rubble of destroyed houses. Moreover, the scene of destruction of neighborhoods suggests that wide-scaled home demolitions were systematically conducted by the IOF. Al Mezan Center’s field workers reported that entire urban blocks have disappeared in the areas of Ezbet Abed-Rabu, As-Salatin, Al-Atatra, Al-Israa’ in North Gaza District, and Al-Kashif and Al-Rayis Hills and the eastern suburbs of Gaza City.

Gaza voices: ’People still afraid’
Al Jazeera 1/18/2009
As Gazans start to venture out on to the streets again after 22-days of bombardment by the Israeli military, residents share their firsthand experience with Al Jazeera. Motasem Dalloul, a Gaza City resident and freelance journalist "Here in Gaza, the Gazans have not slept for the noise of the helicopters, of the Israeli drones and the artillery shelling. These things were continuous all night and until now. I am now speaking with you while walking on the street and, in order to hear you, I am putting my finger on the other ear in order not to hear the noise of the drones and the helicopters in the skies of Gaza. There was many artillery shelling, there was sporadic helicopter shooting, there was a clear attack on a certain area of the Gaza Strip. People are still afraid to return back to their homes after they have heard about the unilateral ceasefire because they know the Israelis may break this ceasefire easily and also because they are hearing the sporadic shelling of the helicopters and the artillery shellings.

Man loses sons during 'lull'
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Gaza - During the three hour lull that Israeli forces had agreed to for the United Nations to receive humanitarian aid, they shot a family. Friday afternoon’s case was not the first and not the last. Sixty four year old Mohammad Shurab was with his two sons on their farm land during the daily calm. It was in Al Fukhara on the southeastern edge of the Strip, 500 meters from the Israeli boundary fence. Twenty-eight Kassab Shurab and his younger brother, 18 year old Ibrahim Shurab, were driving their jeep with their father when Israeli forces opened fire. The Israelis shot Mohammad in the left arm and Ibrahim in the leg. Kassab was shot in the chest and fell upon trying to run away. For two hours the father and youngest son remained bleeding in their jeep but it was too dangerous to move. The Shurab’s were just 50 meters from their home. Mohammad was able to contact the media and the Red Cross via mobile phone, along with several NGOs.

Bodies of 95 residents located under rubble in several areas in the Gaza Strip
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/18/2009
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Sunday that medics and residents located the bodies of 95 Palestinians who were killed during the Israeli offensive and their bodies were buried under the rubble of shelled homes and facilities. The sources added that 1305 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive and more than 5450 were wounded. Among the killed residents were 417 children, 108 women, 120 elderly, 14 medics, 4 reporters and five internationals. Medics and civil defense teams started a search campaign on Sunday morning in areas that they were unable to enter during the Israeli shelling and located the bodies of 35 residents during early morning hours. Dr. Muawiya Hassanen, of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, reported that by the end of the day on Sunday, the bodies of 95 residents were found under the rubble in Al Tuffah area, Jabal Al Rayyis, Al Kashif, Al Atatra, Al Qarm, Al Zeitoun and Jabalia.

100 bodies recovered from under the rubble of evacuated Gaza areas
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian medical teams on Sunday recovered around 100 bodies of Palestinian civilians from under the rubble of houses flattened in the Israeli occupation forces’ three-week onslaught on the Gaza Strip. Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, the director of ambulance and emergency in the PA health ministry, said that the bodies of scores of other martyrs were still pending removal from different areas in the Strip. He said that the medics could not reach those areas due to the IOF presence in the past days but he noted that coordination was made with the IOF to allow access for ambulances. He noted that the number of martyrs in the IOF bloody invasion of the Strip had reached 1310 while the wounded reached 5450. He pointed out that 417 children, 108 women, 120 elderly people, 14 paramedics and civil defense members, 4 journalists and 5 foreigners were among the victims of the attacks.

Foreign surgical team: Friday night in Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Gaza -- The Gaza Strip is not facing the intensity of direct fire that it had for three weeks, but it remains closed and under siege and occupation. There are over a thousand people dead and several thousand wounded. Doctors are scrambling to treat those they can with limited supplies and while exhausted. Dr. Regis Jarij, a foreign doctor practicing in Gaza, provided some of his details. "At four in the morning, in the biting cold, all the patients and medical staff at the Al Quds Hospital in the Gaza Strip are hiding in the corridors of the hospital. Since 11:00 pm everyone has been hiding and the shelling has not stopped. The bombing has doubled and now the building is shaking. Israeli tanks are a few hundred meters away. " Dr. Jarij continued, "A violent explosion, the most powerful explosions of the others, makes us move more towards the corridor where there are. . . "

22nd Day of Continuous IOF Attacks on the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/17/2009
54 Palestinians killed by IOF during the reporting period: Victims include 43 unarmed civilians, 17 of them children: IOF continue to bombard civilian houses and UN schools : Gaza death toll mounts to 1,184, Including 844 Civilians : Victims include 281 Children and 85 Women : IOF continue to use incendiary bombs across the Gaza Strip : IOF continue to destroy houses and agricultural Land, and force civilians to flee their homes : The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued their war on the Gaza Strip for the twenty second consecutive day. The civilian death toll has continued to rise, in spite of political efforts to end the IOF war and amidst massive international protests against the war. IOF have continued to attack UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) shelters, as well as medical, civil defense and media crews. They have also continued to use incendiary bombs, which are believed to contain white phosphorous.

’My daughters, they killed them’: TV doctor shows Israelis horror of war
Ben Lynfield in Tel Hashomer, Israel, The Independent 1/19/2009
Like the shellings of UN-run schools and a major hospital in Gaza City, the Israeli public might have regarded the deaths of his three daughters as just more collateral damage in an ugly but justified war, if they noticed it at all. But Dr Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish is a gynaecologist at Israel’s Shiba Hospital near Tel Aviv, and is well known among Israeli medical colleagues and journalists. During the 22 days of Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza, the Palestinian doctor and peace advocate who speaks Hebrew fluently had helped the Israeli media cover the war by giving phone interviews from inside Gaza. But on Friday night, Dr Aboul Aish’s scheduled live interview with Israeli Channel 10 television was conducted minutes after three of his daughters were killed by an Israeli shell. His raw anguish forced Israelis to take their first real glimpse of the suffering and death caused to Palestinian civilians.

Political prisoners suffer medical neglect in the cold, pray for Gaza
Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Jenin -- Palestinians imprisoned by the Israeli administration number at approximately 11,000. Among them are hundreds of cases of serious medical neglect and more of general illness. The Palestinian Prisoner Society reports this week that the spread of influenza is reaching epidemic proportion. At Huwara Prison in southern Nablus, built on West Bank land as military prisons are, the administration is refusing to allow appropriate treatment or humane quarantine to combat the virus that has spread rapidly among the Palestinians inside. Large numbers of people are forced to share cramped spaces without proper heating or enough warm blankets. Food is inadequate in both quality and quantity. Farhan is from Nablus and is subject to bouts of severe pain in his right kidney in addition to influenza.

MIDEAST: Shock, Awe, and a Belated Soul-Search
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 1/19/2009
JERUSALEM, Jan 18(IPS) - "If only my three daughters will be the last victims of this horrible conflict," wept Dr. Ezzadin Abu Al-Aish, a Palestinian gynaecologist recovering from his wounds in Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer hospital. An Israeli tank shell killed three of his nine children aged 20, 15 and 14 as well as a 14-year-old niece in their home in the Jebaliya refugee camp Saturday. Israel says its forces were responding to sniper fire. Israeli TV viewers had already become familiar with the doctor, who had trained at the Israeli hospital and maintained regular professional contact with Israeli colleagues. During the war, through Israel’s Channel 10 network, he regularly brought accounts of Gaza’s humanitarian plight into Israeli living rooms. "I raised my children to be soldiers of peace - I believed medicine could be a bridge between our two peoples. . . "

Gaza doctor who lost 3 daughters demands explanation from Barak
Meital Yasur Beit-Or, YNetNews 1/18/2009
’Israel’s defense minister should just tell me the truth and say that the IDF made a mistake when it shelled my house; I’ll accept it,’ says Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, adding ’there were no Hamas gunmen inside my building’ -Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a gynecologist from Gaza who lost three of his eight children and a niece over the weekend in IDF shelling, said he is still expecting an explanation from Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "He should just tell me the truth and say ’we made a mistake’; I’ll accept it. He should tell the truth if he wants to go to bed at night with a clear conscience," said Abu al-Aish, who has been working at the Sheba Medical Center for the past few years and researching the treatment of Palestinian and Israeli children at the Gertner Institute. He also worked at the Soroka Medical Center for many years.

Summary execution in southern West Bank
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Hebron -- During the killing of over 1,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the demonstrations against them the occupation remains in the West Bank. This week a family lost their father in Hebron. Yasser Saqr Ismail Tameizi had his six year old son with him. They were working on their land in Ithna Village, west of the city. It was Tuesday morning and the 35 year old farmer’s death served as a violent reminder, commented the Al Haq Human Rights Organization, "that even as Israel engages in horrific and illegal attacks against the Gaza Strip, its oppressive occupation policies continue to undermine the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank. " Tameizi had an Israeli-issued permit to reach his lands that the Wall had divided him from. Two eyewitnesses were in an adjacent field grazing their cattle and Tameizi and his six year old were 500 meters east of the Wall which is incomplete in this area of Hebron.

Death toll rises as people are unearthed
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Gaza - Director of Ambulance and Emergency in the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Dr. Muawiyah Hassanain, reports 100 bodies found in the rubble of the Gaza Strip throughout the day. Twenty-five people were found amongst the destruction of Jabaliya, just north of Gaza City. Dr. Hassanein said that due to the state of the decomposition and destruction of the bodies, many are being identified and buried on the scene. Four bodies were found by a rescue crew in the northern Strip’s Beit Lahiya. The death toll continues to rise with the unearthing of more people and due to the killing earlier today of farmer Abed Abu Rajliah in Khan Younis. Israeli forces remain on the ground but are not firing on rescue and medical crews. The number of Palestinians killed in 22 days of the major Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip is approximately 1,300 with 5,450 injured.

Clashes follow Israeli ’cessation’
Al Jazeera 1/18/2009
The Israeli military has continued its operation in the Gaza Strip, killing one civilian in Khan Younis and carrying out air raids in the north. The attacks came just hours after the country’s prime minister declared an end to hostilities. Ehud Olmert had said late on Saturday that Israel had "achieved its military objectives" to end the launching of rockets into Israel and disable the Hamas faction which rules the Gaza Strip. But by Sunday morning, 10 rockets had been fired into Israel, and Palestinian fighters were engaged in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers in Jabaliya. Israel carried out aerial sorties, claiming to have hit rocket-launching sites. One Palestinian civilian died near Khan Younis after being hit by mortar fire. Recovery teams are working to pull bodies out of the rubble in areas that have so far been too dangerous to enter. They have retrieved the bodies of at least 25 people, including children, and the number is expected to rise steeply.

IDF chief: Operation’s objectives met in full
Ynet, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi sends epistle to fighting forces, commends their actions during Operation Cast Lead, says Hamas suffered massive blow, security realities in southern Israel changed - IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi said Sunday that "Operation Cast Lead’s objectives have been met in full. ""The IDF will hold its fire after 22 days of fighting, following the government’s decision," wrote Ashkenazi in his order of the day, distributed to all IDF forces. "The objectives set for the operation have been achieved in full. Hamas infrastructure and alignment have been dealt a severe blow, and we have created the conditions to fundamentally change the security realities in southern Israel. "The IDF is realigning its forces to monitor any new development and to maximize its achievements. "Nevertheless, stressed Ashkenazi, the operation has not come to its end: "The

IDF ponders response to rocket fire
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Military holds responding to post-truce rocket fire, said to allow several hours for orders to trickle down form Hamas leadership to field operatives. Reserve forces redeploy around Strip - The defense establishment said Sunday night that it believed Hamas and the other armed groups in the Gaza Strip intend to uphold the ceasefire, prompting the IDF to allow for a short grace period – several hours – for the ceasefire orders to trickle down form Hamas’ leadership to the organization’s field operatives. Once the grace period elapses, any rocket fire will meet a severe response, said a security source. Sunday morning’s fire on the western Negev, added the source, was probably prompted by Hamas’ leadership in Gaza as a show of force; but some was probably initiated by individual operatives seeking vengeance. This assumption was the reason why the IDF’s response to the fire was limited.

Ashdod woman hurt by Gaza rocket as Hamas declares truce
Haaretz Service and the Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
A rocket fired by Palestinian militants lightly wounded a woman in Ashdod on Sunday, as Hamas announced a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The rocket directly struck a building in the southern town. A total of 20 rockets exploded in southern Israel on Sunday, despite Israel’s declaration of a unilateral cease-fire in the coastal territory on Saturday night and Hamas’ subsequent announcement that it too was adhering to a truce. Three people were lightly wounded over the course of the day. One rocket was fired into Ashkelon at noon, and earlier Sunday two rockets hit a chicken coop in Shapir Regional Council causing severe damage. The rest of the rockets hit open areas near the southern Israeli town of Sderot, causing no casualties. Following the salvoes fired into the South, Israel Air Force aircraft attacked rocket launchers in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Report: Palestinians find 95 bodies in rubble of battle-torn Gaza
Amos Harel , Haaretz Service and Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
The Israel Defense Forces killed a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, medical workers said, the first reported fatality on either side since a unilateral cease-fire declared by Israel went into effect at 2 A. M. local time. The Palestinian was slain in an area where militants had fired mortar bombs in defiance of a unilateral Israeli cease-fire, according to the medical workers. They reported that he was killed near the Gaza town of Khan Yunis, and identified the man as a civilian. In another incident after the truce went into effect, militants fired small arms at an infantry patrol in the northern Gaza Strip. The troops returned fire and hit the group of gunmen, the army said, also directing artillery and aircraft to strike back. None of the soldiers were wounded in the gunfight. An IDF spokesman said that the troops opened fire according to the rules of engagement, and vowed that any assault on soldiers in Gaza would meet with a harsh response.

CEASEFIRE: One dead by Israeli fire - Medics uncover reeking bodies - At least 1,246 killed in total - Clashes reported
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A Gazan farmer is dead and his son injured by Israeli fire less than ten hours after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip Sunday morning, medical sources confirmed. The farmer was identified as 24-year-old Abd As-Samad Abu Rejlieh, who was shot as he went out to his lands to inspect the damage from the 22-day Israeli incursion. Israeli fire also hit a mother and her daughter in their home in the northern Strip town of Beit Hanoun, both were injured. Since the ceasefire went into effect at 2am Sunday morning, one is dead and several injured. Medical crews continue to dig bodies out of Gaza rubble. Israeli reconnaissance planes buzzed overhead throughout the night Sunday, and explosions were heard in several parts of the Strip. Israeli shells fell on a group of Rafah residents in the south, and phosphorus bombs landed in the At-Tuffah neighborhood of eastern Gaza City.

’Israel has achieved nothing from this’
Inigo Gilmore in Rafah, The Guardian 1/18/2009
The people of Rafah wandered around the rubble of what had been their homes, dazed and distressed by the scale of the destruction. A young man stooped to push a crumpled armchair into a crater below his broken house. Gaza’s frontline neighbourhood of Rafah has never seen anything like this. It was the first morning after 22 days of intense bombing, and many have lost everything. Along a row of shattered houses a veiled woman sat in a chair surrounded by broken pieces of furniture and concrete. She waved towards the sandwiched layers of flattened concrete where her six-story home once stood. "When Israel does this is just makes us stronger," she said. "We have even more sympathy with Hamas now. " It was a message that several people delivered as I wandered around Rafah, surveying the holes gouged from the ground where tunnels once burrowed their way under the nearby Egyptian border.

Norwegian doctor says Israel used new weapon in Gaza
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Some Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip were wounded by a new type of weapon that even doctors with previous experience in war zones do not recognize, according to Dr. Erik Fosse, a Norwegian cardiologist who worked at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital for 11 days, during Operation Cast Lead. However, he added in a telephone conversation from Oslo, most casualties were people hit by shrapnel from conventional explosives. Fosse, a department head at a university hospital in Oslo, worked in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and several times in Lebanon, also in 2006. That was when he first heard about the new kind of weapon, but did not see any such wounds with his own eyes. The unknown weapon appears to mainly affect the body’s lower part, he said. It severs the legs, leaving burns around the stump, small punctures in the skin and internal bleeding. -- See also: 'Tungsten bombs' leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds

'Today is a better day than yesterday,' John Ging, UNRWA chief in Gaza
Iyad El Baba/UNICEF-oPt, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/19/2009
RAMALLAH, 18 January 2009 (IRIN) - The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is the lead UN agency working for Palestinian refugees. Its compound and schools, sheltering displaced Gazans, have come under Israeli attack during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which began on 27 December with aerial bombardments and was combined with a ground assault beginning on 3 January. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on 18 January. John Ging, head of UNRWA operations in Gaza, spoke with IRIN by phone from Gaza City on 17 and 18 January. IRIN: Is UNRWA able to deliver assistance to Gaza residents under the current conditions? What type of assistance is being delivered and to how many recipients? JG: The warehouse and all its contents were destroyed [in the 15 January Israeli attack on the UNRWA compound], and we could not deliver that day.

Al-Mizan center: Israel bombed 67 schools sheltering civilians during 3 weeks
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Al-Mizan center for human rights on Saturday reported that Israel, during its three-week military aggression, deliberately bombed 67 schools in the Gaza Strip including 36 schools belonging to UNRWA. In a statement received by the PIC, the center pointed out that Israel bombed several schools turned by UNRWA into shelters for Palestinian families who fled the constant Israeli attacks on civilian areas. The Israeli occupation forces also bombed many UNRWA vans. The statement underlined that Israel deliberately shelled the UN agency headquarters in Gaza city and its food storage depots. It pointed that on Saturday Israel bombed an UNRWA school in the Beit Lahiya town sheltering 1,800 civilians with white phosphorous which led to the death of two children and the injury of their mother who lost one of her arms and legs, adding that the Israeli shelling was resumed on. . . -- See also: Al Mezan: IOF Attacks 3rd UNRWA Shelter; Kills more Civilian Refugees, Including Children

Israel stops aid convoy en route to Gaza from Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli authorities seized a UN aid convoy en route to the Gaza Strip in the southern West Bank on Sunday, Palestinian sources claimed. Israeli forces reportedly apprehended the convoy, which was being taken from Hebron to the Gaza Strip, near the entrance of a tunnel leading to Jerusalem, they claimed. Witnesses said the UN trucks and two trailers, which belong to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, were all collected en route to Gaza on Sunday. [end]

Kurd: Ramallah authority delaying supply of foodstuff to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian government in Gaza has charged the Ramallah authority of detaining consignments of food assistance being shipped to the Gaza Strip in Israeli stores at Awja crossing for ten days. Ahmed Al-Kurd, the minister of social affairs, said that the food shipments donated by the Arab countries were collected and sent to the Rafah crossing but was transferred to the Awja crossing at the request of the PA authority in Ramallah where it has been held for ten days in Israeli stores. He said that during contacts with the Egyptian official, in charge with sending those aid shipments, he said that the medical assistances only are sent via Rafah terminal but the food supplies are supervised by the Ramallah government of Salam Fayyad and are sent to Awja crossing. The minister said that at least 50 tons of food supplies are being sent on daily basis to the Awja crossing to be delivered to Gaza but are being hindered access.

Fatah calls for unity, to expose Israeli aggression
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Executive Committee of the Fatah movement called on every faction in the Gaza Strip to “expose” Israel’s true intentions there, according to a statement on Sunday. Fatah urged all Palestinian resistance factions to make clear their commitment to the Egyptian initiative for ending the aggression in Gaza, as well as an immediate Israeli withdrawal and lifting of the siege. Israel is betting on future Palestinian disunity, Fatah said, urging Palestinians to prove them wrong by uniting behind the Egyptian plan. The committee called on all “Arab brothers” to work honestly to end the internal division, “which only benefits the Israeli occupation. ”Fatah also accused Israel of war crimes in its war on Gaza, insisting that its political and military leaders should be tried and convicted in international courts for the use of internationally prohibited weapons.

Palestinian PM: Gaza reconstruction offer deepens split
Reuters, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Setting up interim international committee that would fund, organize aid directed towards reconstruction of Hamas-ruled Strip may deepen political rift by ’ignoring Palestinian Authority’s role,’ Fayyad says -Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Sunday that international donors keen to rebuild the Hamas-run Gaza Strip risk deepening a political rift by ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s role. Fayyad and senior Western diplomats said this week European leaders and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had proposed to the Palestinian Authority setting up an interim international committee that would fund and organize aid directed towards reconstruction of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. " I have a political difficulty with this mechanism. It assumes separation between Gaza and the West Bank will continue, and, in not addressing. . . "

Minister of justice: Ex-PA chief no longer represents the Palestinians
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Minister of justice Mohamed Al-Ghoul stated that any actions, decisions or obligations made by former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, whose term of office had expired on 9/1/2009, do not oblige the Palestinian people. In a press release received by the PIC, Ghoul explained that the Palestinian basic law stipulates in article no. 36 that the presidential term of office is only four years and accordingly Abbas is no longer entitled to represent the Palestinian people or sign agreements on their behalf even by declaring himself a president of Palestine. The minister of justice underlined that the government of national unity headed by Ismail Haneyya is the only legitimate and legal government that represents the Palestinian people according to the basic law and any other side has no right to usurp this jurisdiction from the legitimate government.

Palestinian killed in the first day of unilateral cease-fire, medics locate bodies of 35 residents
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/18/2009
Palestinian medical sources in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, reported on Sunday morning that Israeli soldiers killed one resident in Khuza’a town, east of Khan Younis. The sources added that rescue teams and medics located the bodies of 35 residents after the army withdrew from areas in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The slain man is the first to be killed after Israel declared its unilateral ceasefire which came in effect at 02:00 on Sunday at dawn. The Israeli army claimed that the slain man was in an area used by Palestinian fighters who fired homemade shells into adjacent Israeli areas. The slain man was a civilian, medics reported. Several other residents were wounded. The army also said that soldiers were returning fire at Palestinian gunmen when the man was killed, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported.

Hamas announces ceasefire after Israel declares truce
Reuters, The Independent 1/18/2009
Hamas said today it would cease fire immediately along with other militant groups in the Gaza Strip and give Israel, which already declared a unilateral truce, a week to pull its troops out of the territory. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier that if a ceasefire held in the Hamas-ruled enclave, Israel could start the process of withdrawing its forces. "Hamas and the factions announce a ceasefire in Gaza starting immediately and give Israel a week to withdraw," said Ayman Taha, a Hamas official in Cairo for talks with Egypt on a truce deal. The Islamist group said previously it would not stop its attacks as long as Israeli soldiers remained in the Gaza Strip. Taha said Hamas was demanding the opening of all Gaza border crossings for the entry of "all materials, food, goods and basic needs".

Fatah: Israeli ceasefire not good enough; 'ploy to mislead international opinion'
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The protection of women, children and the elderly is the top priority in the Gaza Strip, said Fatah spokesperson Fahmi Az-Za’areer on Sunday morning. The priority of protecting vulnerable groups has been central to Fatah’s responses to the Israeli offensive from the start. Az-Za’areer added, however, that a ceasefire without Israeli troop withdrawal would not ensure the protection of these groups and so was unacceptable. Fatah demanded a full withdrawal, a cessation of violence and an opening of Gaza’s borders. Az-Za’reer said the ceasefire call is a ploy to mislead the international opinion, quiet diplomatic efforts for a fair end to the offensive in front of the Arab Summit in Kuwait, the inauguration of US President elect Barack Obama and the Sharam Ash-Sheikh meetings with international leaders taking place Sunday.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad set terms for mutual ceasefire, demand Israeli withdrawal from Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip agreed to participate in the ceasefire declared by Israel, on the condition that Israeli troops are out of the Gaza Strip within one week. Factions announced that Israel had not “imposed its conditions” on the resistance, who have sought the removal of Israeli occupation and control over the area for years. In a joint statement declared “We the Palestinian resistant factions, announce a ceasefire from our side in Gaza Strip. We confirm our stance and our demand for Israeli troops to withdraw from Gaza in a week, that Israel opens the borders, and crossing points for humanitarian aid convoys. ”The statement highlighted the factions’ readiness to respond to the Egyptian, Turkish, Syrian, and Qatari plans to for a permanent lifting of the siege, and opening of Gaza’s borders.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad agree to ceasefire, give Israeli troops one week to fully withdraw
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/18/2009
Although the Israeli ceasefire declared Saturday did not include a timeline for troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian resistance factions have given the occupying military one week to fully retreat to the border of the occupied Gaza Strip. The joint statement of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza declared "We the Palestinian resistant factions, announce a ceasefire from our side in Gaza Strip. We confirm our stance and our demand for Israeli troops to withdraw from Gaza in a week, that Israel opens the borders, and crossing points for humanitarian aid convoys. " The resistance groups further stated their readiness to ensure that Israel agrees to a plan introduced by the Arab leaders in Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Qatar to have Israel lift its 18-month long siege of the Gaza Strip, and reopen Gaza’s borders for commerce.

Hamas: We will never accept the presence of IOF troops in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- In its comment on Israeli unilateral ceasefire claims, the Hamas Movement on Saturday highlighted that it would never condone the presence of any Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip under any circumstances. In a statement broadcast by Al-Aqsa satellite channel, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum underlined that his Movement would never accept less than stopping the Israeli aggression, full withdrawal of IOF troops from Gaza, lifting the siege and opening the crossings. Barhoum said that Israel’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire bore out that the war was waged by only one side and in one direction, adding that the Israeli war on Gaza has nothing to do with Palestinian rockets or the resistance as much as it is a cheap employment of the blood of women, children and civilians in the coming Israeli elections.

Ceasefire in Gaza means Israeli forces remain, resistance says it won’t fire for a week
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Gaza - The Israel administration said on Sunday it would not consider setting a timetable for withdrawing all its forces from within the Gaza Strip. The reality of the "ceasefire" is a slap to the Palestinians, noted the Fateh party in a West Bank statement today. The siege remains in affect as well, which is by definition a declaration of war. The reality of this ceasefire is that Israeli forces remain inside the Gaza Strip, and they retain sympathy of international governments for the "right to defend" themselves against the occupied population. The armed resistance announced before 4 pm that it will not fire for a week. The Israeli attacks also destroyed the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state, as noted by chief negotiator in the Palestine Liberation Organization, Dr. Sa’eb Erekat, today.

Gunfire ends but the debate in Israel begins: should we have pressed on?
Rachel Shabi in Tel Aviv, The Guardian 1/18/2009
Broad public support for assault on Gaza Strip leaves some Israelis believing the ceasefire is a mistake - Talk of victory was scant in Israel today after the government’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza. "The decision was terrible," said Shimon, a 55-year-old from Ra’anana, a town in Israel’s interior. "We should carry on fighting until Hamas is devastated. " Overwhelmingly, the Israeli Jewish public supports the country’s assault on Gaza. But while the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, described the three-week war as a "brilliant" achievement of Israel’s objectives, the public does not seem as certain. "I hope we will succeed in halting the rockets, but I think the ceasefire was a little premature," said Avot Yitzhak, 48, from Tel Aviv. "They should have continued, to show [Hamas] that they really have lost. "

Leaving Gaza, soldiers feel their job is not done, since Gilad Shalit still not free
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
By yesterday afternoon, many of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers who fought in the Gaza Strip had already left. The IDF bases and training sites in the Negev were full of conscripted soldiers and reservists recovering from two weeks of combat. Some soldiers’ parents were quick enough to see their children, whom they hadn’t been able to speak to for several days. Many soldiers said they were content with the way the army functioned during Operation Cast Lead, especially compared to the Second Lebanon War - including the massive force used, even though it resulted in many Palestinian civilian deaths. But they also complained that there was some confusion about ending the fighting and expressed frustration over the lack of a deal that would have freed captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Palestinian militants on the Gaza border in June 2006.

Israeli rabbis to Olmert: It doesn’t matter even if you kill million Palestinians
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A report issued by the Saudi Al-Watan news paper revealed Saturday that Jewish rabbis in the Zionist entity have issued a religious edict allowing the killing of Palestinian women and children and exonerating every Jew doing such horrible thing. According to the paper, the rabbis opined that the Israeli massacres in Gaza Strip falls in line with Jewish teachings that consider such killing as "mass punishment to the enemies". The paper also added that one of the rabbis opined that there would be no problem at all in exterminating the Palestinian people even if one million or more of them were killed at the hands of the occupation troops. Citing verses from the Book of Genesis, Jewish rabbi Mordachi Elyaho, who is the religious reference of the popular religious current in the Zionist entity sent outgoing Israeli premier Ehud Olmert a weekly leaflet containing articles. . .

Qatar closes Israel trade office over Gaza op, expels staff from country
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Qatar has closed Israel’s trade office in the small Gulf Arab state and ordered its staff to leave because of the Israeli offensive on Gaza. The Qatar News Agency says the head of the Israeli trade office was summoned Sunday morning and given a memorandum containing the decision to close the office, according to the Foreign Ministry. QNA said the office’s staff have seven days to leave the country. Qatar is the only Gulf Arab state to have ties with Israel. Israel’s offensive in Gaza to halt Hamas rocket fire has left over 1,200 Palestinians dead and outraged Arabs and Muslims. Qatar and fellow Arab League member Mauritania on Friday said they had frozen relations with Israel. Related articles:Qatar breaks off relations with Israel over Gaza operation Arab-Israeli orchestra cancels concerts in Qatar,. . .

Israel: Too early to determine withdrawal schedule
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an- Israel will not put a “timetable” on the withdrawal of troops from the Gaza Strip until Hamas and other factions stop attacking them, said Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev Sunday afternoon. The comments came shortly after a statement from Hamas saying it would agree to the ceasefire so long as Israeli troops leave Gaza within the week. The UN has also called for such a timetable. Reuters reported Regev as saying “We can’t talk about a timetable for withdrawal until we know that the ceasefire is in progress. ”An Israeli security source said “the next few hours will be a test for the ceasefire” noting that the Israeli army is prepared to respond to any attacks or projectiles. Another security source noted that troops will remain in Gaza for fear of an escalation in attacks.

IDF troops begin withdrawal from Gaza Staff, Ap, And Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 1/18/2009
The IDF began to gradually withdraw from the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening, nearly a day after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral cease-fire, and hours after Hamas and other Palestinian factions declared they, too, would honor the calm. There was no exact timetable for how much time it would take until all Israeli forces were out of Gaza, but sources in the army said that the process would be conducted over a number of days. Hours earlier, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal announced on Syrian television that the Islamic group would implement a cease-fire in which they would halt all military activity and give IDF troops one week to pull out of the Gaza Strip. This after the cabinet decided unilaterally that it would do so. According to the statement, Israel must end the blockade and open the border crossings. It did not elaborate.

Israel plans to complete Gaza pullout before Obama inauguration
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/19/2009
Senior officials tell visiting European leaders that, barring any unforeseen developments, Israel will withdraw all IDF forces from Strip as gesture to incoming US president and to consolidate ’anti-smuggling’ memorandum - Barring any unforeseen developments, Israeli forces are expected to complete their withdrawal from Gaza prior to the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama on January 20 (7 pm GMT). Israel’s plan to withdraw prior to the inauguration as a gesture to the incoming US president was mentioned during Sunday’s talks between visiting European leaders and Ehud Olmert at the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Czech PM, Mirek Topolánek, all traveled to the Middle East over the weekend to assist in the Gaza ceasefire efforts.

Obama welcomes Gaza truce, says committed to Mideast peace
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
U. S. President-elect Barack Obama welcomed Israel’s unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and said he is committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians work toward peace, a spokesman said on Sunday. Obama will say more on the situation in Gaza after he is inaugurated on Tuesday, spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said in a statement. Following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s announcement of Israel’s unilateral cease-fire on Saturday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement saying the ultimate goal remains a lasting truce that is respected by all sides. Hamas has not agreed to end rocket attacks into Israel. "The United States welcomes the cessation of hostilities in Gaza announced by Israel and expects that all parties will cease attacks and hostile actions immediately," she said.

Bibi: Gaza arms smuggling will persist during truce
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 1/18/2009
’We cannot show any weakness in the face of the Iranian-backed Hamas terror,’ Likud leader says while visiting injured civilians, soldiers at Beersheba hospital - "The IDF has dealt Hamas a severe blow, but unfortunately the job has not been completed," Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday while visiting inured soldiers and civilians at Beersheba’s Soroka University Medical Center. "Hamas still controls Gaza and will continue to smuggle improved rockets through the Philadelphi route (along the border with Egypt)," he said. "We cannot show any weakness in the face of the Iranian-backed Hamas terror and must act with an iron fist to defeat the enemy. "A unilateral Israeli ceasefire began before dawn Sunday. Hamas also announced it would halt fighting from its side for one week while demanding that Israeli troops leave the territory.

DFLP: Israeli ceasefire proves strength of Brigades; unity behind resisters essential
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Salfit – Ma’an – Olmert’s decision to call a unilateral ceasefire shows the endurance of the resistance factions against the Israeli invasion into Gaza, said a Sunday statement from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). The ceasefire is the result of the “legendary endurance of the Palestinian people in Gaza Strip and the worldwide reaction which has pressured the Israeli government,” said the statement. The document affirmed that without an Israeli withdrawal from the Strip than factions would never agree to a ceasefire, and further demand that the borders to the strip remain open for goods and citizens. The DFLP said that Palestinian unity behind the resistance is essential in the coming days, and noted that the party is working on forming a common political leadership that includes all parties and factions that maintain resistance as their goal.

Shallah: World failed to check Israeli arrogance but resistance did
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
DOHA, (PIC)-- Ramadan Shallah, the secretary general of the Islamic Jihad Movement, has asserted that the Israeli occupation forces and leadership had failed in achieving any of their declared aims of the war on Gaza. Shallah, in a press statement commenting on Israeli premier Ehud Olmert’s address in which he declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, said that Olmert had failed in changing the de facto situation in Gaza, which is ending the Hamas rule. He also failed in halting the firing of rockets from the Strip, Shallah added. The Jihad leader said that despite the fact that his Movement was not participating in the Hamas government in Gaza "we declare that the Hamas government is the legitimately elected government in Gaza". He said that Olmert’s statement that the decision was taken in response to an Egyptian request constituted an offense to Egypt because it indicated that. . .

Abbas: Unilateral ceasefire not enough; will take part in Sharm Ash-Sheikh meetings
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Acting Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas called Israel’s ceasefire a step but not enough, and demanded that the Israeli army withdraw from Gaza and open the crossings. The statement came during a press conference in Cairo after the leader met with this Egyptian counterpart regarding the implementation of the Egyptian Initiative. Abbas will head to Sharm Ash-Sheikh Sunday afternoon where he will meet with delegations from Europe and the Arab world. King Abdullah the second of Jordan, French president Nicola Sarkozi, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Spanish PM José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, German leader Angela Merkel and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will attend. On the agenda for the meeting is a discussion over ways to build on the Israeli unilateral declaration of a ceasefire to a long-term. . .

Barghouthi: Livni-Rice agreement effort to hide Israeli failure, ceasefire 'will fail'
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Ramallah - Ma’an - The Livni-Rice agreement is a piece of paper meant to cover up the failures of Israel in the Gaza war and help the nation save face in front of international pressure, said Mustafa Barghuthi on Saturday. The Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) spoke out about the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and outgoing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday. The memorandum pledges US support to Israel for preventing weapons smuggling from Iran by patrolling the Mediterranean and sending experts into Egypt. “After 21 days of war on Gaza,” Barghouthi said in his statement, “Israel has failed to weaken the resistance and break the will of the Palestinian people. It made the resistance even stronger and re-affirmed the occupation’s persistence,. . .

Palestinian resistance factions declare ceasefire
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian resistance factions declared on Sunday a one week ceasefire in the Gaza Strip at the end of which the Israeli occupation forces should leave the Strip and open crossings to allow entry of humanitarian, relief assistance and all needs of the people. The factions in a statement expressed readiness to respond to any effort especially those of Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Qatar to reach an agreement that would lead to lifting the siege on Gaza once and for all and opening all crossings including that of Rafah. Meanwhile, the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad Movement, said in a statement on Sunday that it lost 34 of its cadres in the three weeks of bloody IOF attacks against the Strip. The armed wing added that Jihad fighters killed 18 IOF soldiers and wounded 56 others while 16 settlers were also injured after its elements fired 235 homemade missiles. . .

Unilateral ceasefire goes into effect, army to remain in Gaza ready for possible renewed war
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/18/2009
The Unilateral ceasefire declared by Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defense Minister, went into effect at 2 am on Sunday, while the Israeli troops invading Gaza will not withdraw and will remain in the Gaza Strip for a possible resumption and expansion of the war. Barak said that "Israel achieved its objectives of this war" and that the army will cease fire but will remain deployed in Gaza, Israeli Ynet News reported. On Saturday, and despite the continuous offensive, resistance factions clashed with the invading forces and fired homemade shells. On its side, Hamas movement said that Israel’s unilateral ceasefire does not mean that the army ended its hostilities or the siege had ended. Fawzi Barhoum of Hamas, said that the ongoing Israeli siege on Gaza is also one of the components of the Israeli war. Barhoum added that resistance would continue, and that the presence of the Israeli. . .

Olmert: Crossings closed but more aid to flow into Strip
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Jerusalem - Ma’an -Israel will keep its borders with Gaza sealed, but has promised to allow more humanitarian aid convoys into the area, said Israeli Government spokesperson Mark Regev Sunday. Late Saturday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the decision to impose a unilateral ceasefire on the Gaza Strip, after waging war on the area on 27 December. Israel claimed the war was precipitated by Palestinian faction’s projectile launches into Israel, and has said that they reserve the right to respond to any further attacks. For their part factions do not recognize the ceasefire because it does not open the crossings and maintains the presence of Israeli troops on Palestinian areas, which they do not recognize as legitimate. They launched six projectiles on Sderot shortly after 9am. Regev said borders would remain sealed until captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is released.

Olmert declares ceasefire, claims victory over Palestinian resistance
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli premier Ehud Olmert announced Saturday a unilateral ceasefire against the Gaza Strip taking effect Sunday, alleging that Israel achieved all the goals intended from the military operation. Few minutes after the Palestinian resistance fired rockets on Israeli settlements, Olmert held a news conference to claim victory by saying that his troops destroyed rocket factories, arms storage depots and smuggling tunnels, and controlled the areas from which rockets were fired. Israel violated its unilateral ceasefire against Gaza, where it stepped up at dawn Sunday its air raids on civilian areas in the southeast of Khan Younis and its artillery pounded the areas with a number of shells. Israel also shelled the eastern part of Gaza city. In conjunction with Olmert’s victory claim, the Palestinian resistance waged a number of rocket attacks on Israeli settlements and posts.

Summit in Egypt seeks long-term Gaza truce
Reuters, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Arab, European leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh attempt to turn fragile Hamas-Israel ceasefire into long-lasting mutual agreement leading to Israeli withdrawal, end to arms smuggling - European and conservative Arab leaders gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday to back Egyptian efforts to turn a shaky ceasefire in Gaza into a solid mutual agreement leading to Israeli withdrawal. The leaders of Britain, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Spain and Turkey, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, are meeting in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to coordinate policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after three weeks of fighting in and around Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa will also attend, officials said. Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire overnight and the Islamist movement Hamas responded on Sunday by declaring a one-week truce for Israeli troops to leave the coastal strip.

Mubarak: Lift Israeli siege on Gaza
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/18/2009
European, Arab leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh press for end to Gaza arms smuggling, opening of territory to humanitarian aid. ’In the next phase Israel must withdraw its forces, reopen crossings and life blockade,’ Egyptian president says. Sarkozy: Time to expedite efforts toward establishment of Palestinian state - European and Arab leaders racing to consolidate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas pressed Sunday for an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza and for the opening of the territory to desperately needed humanitarian aid. A summit meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh concluded that the next steps will include a humanitarian summit organized by Egypt in the coming days and the search for a way to open Gaza’s sealed border crossings to allow in humanitarian aid. Britain’s leader announced at the gathering that his country was tripling its humanitarian aid to Gaza, pledging an additional 20 million pounds, or about $29 million, to rebuild damaged homes and help those injured in the violence. -- See also: Mubarak juggles

Hamas may ’even the score’ with terror attacks
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Intelligence chief tell cabinet Palestinian organization will try to change the picture following Gaza op, possibly using unconventional tactics; Hamas has not disappeared, security leaders emphasize - As retribution for damages it sustained during Operation Cast Lead, "Hamas will try to change the picture Israel painted and even the score by using, among other things, terror attacks," the IDF’s Chief of Intelligence Major-General Amos Yadlin said at a cabinet meeting on Sunday. "Hamas sustained a heavy blow… Hundreds of their commanders and operatives were casualties. Hamas is hiding the true extent of the damage," Yadlin said. "As of now, Hamas has not been able to advance its goal of opening the crossings… The unilateral ceasefire (declared by Israel’s cabinet Saturday night) surprised Hamas and left it shame-faced.

Israeli ceasefire offers precious respite, but little has changed
Ian Black, Middle East editor, The Guardian 1/18/2009
Three weeks after the launch of Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip, its unilateral ceasefire marks a new stage in the conflict rather than the end of a shocking story that has reverberated across the Middle East and the world. Ehud Olmert’s declaration that Israel had attained its military goals was met almost at once with the launch of more rockets from across the border – a defiant signal that Hamas can still fight - shortly before it announced a week long ceasefire. With five Israeli divisions deployed in Gaza, ground attacks could resume at any moment. Hamas has not run up the white flag. Israel’s finger is still on the trigger. Gaza and its 1. 5 million people remain under blockade. There is no agreement between these bitter enemies. Nothing fundamental has changed, except that some 1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have died.

Yemen sending more doctors to Gaza
Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Sanaa - Gaza / Kahlani Majid -- The Medical Association of Canaan and Yemeni doctors and pharmacists told PNN today that they will be entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border with Egypt. On an urgent humanitarian mission, Canaan opened registration for doctors wishing to join. In need are specialists in orthopedic and brain surgery and nerve damage. In the same context the Yemeni Union is collecting medicine and supplies through its pharmacists which will arrive with the doctors. Currently the pharmaceutical companies operating in Yemen have donated more than 20 tons of essential medicines, sources in Yemen told PNN today. For coordination, the Medical Association is negotiating entrance through the Egyptians. Meanwhile, Dr. Nasser of the Yemeni delegation already in Gaza said that pediatric hospitals are suffering from a shortage of doctors.

Israel begins pulling troops from Gaza; soldiers say ’could have done more’
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Infantrymen leaving Gaza pursuant to Saturday’s cabinet decision think cessation of operation too hasty, say IDF could have and should have crushed Hamas will to shoot rockets at Israel - Cleared for publication: The IDF began pulling some of its troops out of the Gaza Strip Sunday, following Israel’s decision on a unilateral ceasefire. The troops redeployed to areas near the security fence. Among many soldiers in the field, many of whom have been pulled out in the past several hours, Israel’s declared truce appears to constitute a missed opportunity to crush Hamas’ will to fire at Israeli civilians. Some reservists reported, though, that Hamas appeared weak. " We could have done a lot more. There’s a feeling the operation ended too early," one soldier told Ynet. He and his colleagues are staying alert in an attempt to block ceasefire violations - rocket fire - by Hamas or other Palestinian organizations.

2 hurt as rocket hits Ashdod house
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Despite ceasefire declared by Israel, Sunday sees Palestinian gunmen fire at least 15 rockets, three mortar shells from Gaza. Rockets land in Sderot, Kiryat Gat, Ashkelon, Ashdod and western Negev kibbutzim. Man moderately injured, Woman lightly wounded by shrapnel, several people suffers shock, building damaged. One rocket hits henhouse, killing dozens of chickens - Rocket fire continues despite ceasefire: Palestinian gunmen fired at least 15 rockets and three mortar shells into Israel on Sunday. The Israel Air Force attacked and hit the rocket launchers. Shortly after 2 pm, a rocket hit the yard of a house in Ashdod. A man was moderately injured and a woman was lightly wounded in the hand by shrapnel. An air raid siren did not sound before the rocket landed. Nofar, who lives on the Ashdod street hit by the rocket, told Ynet, "The rocket landed between two houses and caused heavy damage.

51 soldiers and 14 civilians still hospitalized due to Gaza war
Judy Siegel-itzkovich, Jerusalem Post 1/18/2009
While a cease-fire was ostensibly in effect on Sunday, for seriously wounded soldiers and civilians, the struggle to survive and be well continued. With the relative quiet and fortunate lack of wounded after the cease-fire was unilaterally declared by Israel, only one victim of Gazan fire was taken to the hospital, a woman who suffered light shrapnel wounds to her hand when a Grad rocket hit her garden in Ashdod. Of the 51 soldiers and 14 civilians still hospitalized on Sunday, most were in good or moderate condition and improving. But a small number remain in very serious condition. A total of 13 soldiers are in moderate condition and about 30 in good condition. Sec. -Lt. Aharon Karov, a reserve paratrooper officer from Karnei Shomron who suffered serious head wounds a week after he got married, remains in very serious condition at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.

IOF soldiers kill Palestinian despite their declared ceasefire
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- A Palestinian civilian was killed and others were wounded when Israeli occupation forces fired at them east of Khuza’a town in Khan Younis district, south of the Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Medical sources said that Maher Abu Rjeila, 23, was hit with multiple gunshots at the hands of IOF tanks entrenched east of Khuza’a. Citizens hearing of the Israeli ceasefire rushed to inspect their homes and agricultural lands. Israeli premier Ehud Olmert had announced a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza as of early Sunday. Locals reported that IOF soldiers re-positioned their troops after the ceasefire announcement and withdrew from certain areas. They said that hundreds of houses were flattened by the invading IOF troops especially along the Rafah border strip with Egypt. Palestinian medical teams had recovered tens of bodies in areas where those teams could not reach before due to the IOF ceaseless pounding in the past three weeks.

Clashes erupt in northern Gaza; Brigades reported to fire on Israeli troops stationed near Jabaliya
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Palestinian factions clashed with Israeli troops still stationed in Gaza Sunday morning, after Israel called a “unilateral ceasefire” to start at 2am the same day. Even before the ceasefire was called, Gaza factions made it clear that a stop to the violence without the total withdrawal of Israeli troops and the opening of Gaza borders would be unacceptable, and fighting would continue. Israeli troops have remained stationed around Gaza City, though they have pulled back from residential areas. They are stationed in the southern Strip between Rafah and Khan Younis, and continue to divide the Strip by forming a physical and military road block between the northern and central sectors at the former Israeli settlement of Netsarim. Militants clashed with troops in the northern Strip near Jabaliya, and others fired several projectiles and Grads into Israel.

Al-Quds Brigades: 18 soldiers killed in 22 days
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades lost 34 fighters during the Israeli onslaught in Gaza and launched 262 projectiles at Israeli targets, according to their spokesperson on Sunday. Of the more than 1,300 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire, 34 Al-Quds Brigades fighters and leaders were killed. A statement said those who died were prepared to engage in “fierce” battles with Israeli troops. Of the projectiles launched, said the spokesperson, 158 were at Ashkelon, Sderot, Kfar Azza, Nahal Oz, Nir Oz, Be’eri, Nirim, Miftahim and Eshkol. They claimed to have injured 16 Israeli “settlers” in the attacks and caused structural damage to homes and public properties. The Brigades said they fired 77 mortars at Megan, Kissufim and gatherings of armored vehicles in the north-central and southeast areas of Gaza, injuring a number of Israeli soldiers.

Fight not over for dozens of injured
Meital Yasur-Beit Or, YNetNews 1/18/2009
In Israel, 51 soldiers, 13 civilians still hospitalized in various medical centers, several of them in serious condition - Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza Saturday night, but the struggle has not yet ended for dozens of injured soldiers and civilians hospitalized in Israel. As of Sunday morning, 51 soldiers and 13 civilians were still on file as patients at the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Among the 13 wounded civilians is seven-year-old Orel Elazarov of Beersheba, who has been in serious condition since he was injured by shrapnel from a Grad rocket. Two residents of Ashdod are also considered severely wounded, three weeks after they were hit by rocket. . .

Military factions continue to launch projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - Palestinian military factions continued to launch projectiles at Israeli targets Sunday, and Israeli troops responded to fire in the Strip despite the unilateral Israeli announcement of a ceasefire in the area. The Hizbullah Brigades in Palestine said they launched three projectiles towards Sderot and the western Negev. They are calling their projectile blitz the “Blaze of Gaza,” said a statement from the group Sunday. [end]

'Hezbollah Bridges' fire two projectiles on Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The apparently new armed group calling itself the "Hezbollah Brigades" launched two projectiles toward Sderot on Sunday evening, according to a statement. Hezbollah also claimed responsibility for five projectiles launched at an unspecified Israeli target in the south, insisting the attacks were designed to "affirm continued resistance. " [end]

Ramzi Shouhki, checkpoint baby
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Jerusalem -- Mirvat Shouhki holds the Israeli-issued blue identification card meaning Jerusalem. Her husband holds green, by which the Israelis mean West Bank. Her new born will soon be issued an identity. Baby Ramzi Shouhki will be deemed ’blue’ because he was born in Jerusalem. Mirvat was visiting family in Izzariyeh, an East Jerusalem town cut off by the Wall. "It was late," she told PNN today, her baby just five days old. "We had been visiting my in-laws and we decided to sleep there. "She said, "At around eight in the morning I felt the bangs of birth, I had begun labor. My husband’s sister and brother’s wife and I took the car and went ahead to quickly reach the hospital. " "We all carry blue Jerusalem ID," she explained. "And of course we were driving a car with the yellow Israeli plates, so we should have been able to pass into the center of the city without delay. . . "

Israeli army seizes Palestinian boy they say was carrying knife
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Soldiers detained a boy near the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old City on Sunday, according to local sources. The boy, Mu’taz Abed Al-Mu’z, 15, was reportedly on his way home in the Abu Sneinah neighborhood when soldiers stopped him and after a search, arrested him for carrying a knife. Israeli authorities did not announce a pretense for the search but residents say soldiers often randomly search Palestinians of all ages, and that such behavior has gone on for years. [end]

West Bank Stands Strong Against Increased Repression
Stop The Wall 1/18/2009
For the third week in a row, intense demonstrations were held all across the West Bank on Friday, with thousands of people coming out to protest the Occupation’s strategy of annihilation in Gaza. Once again, Occupation forces used brutal tactics to repress the rallies, causing dozens injuries to the protestors. In the village of Ni’lin, thirteen people, including two women and two children, were injured by tear gas and rubber bullets. Nine of the people who were injured had to be rushed to hospital to receive medical attention. Some 300 villagers, along with international solidarity activists, marched in Ni’lin’s weekly demonstration. They held their midday prayed on the land near the Apartheid Wall, praying for the souls of the now more than 1,100 people who have died in Gaza. As they prayed, Occupation forces stormed the village and launched a heavy barrage of tear gas onto the streets and near houses.

IDF ’opens clinic at Erez border crossing’
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
The Ministries of Defense, Health and Social Affairs yesterday inaugurated an emergency clinic for treating Palestinians injured during the present hostilities at the Erez crossing into the Gaza Strip. Paramedics and other professional staff from Magen David Adom will operate the clinic alongside doctors from Israeli hospitals. The clinic is scheduled to open this morning and will work through the afternoon hours in coming days. It is equipped with 10 examination and treatment rooms, and can handle up to 30 patients an hour. Additionally, the clinic has X-ray facilities and a lab for blood tests. The clinic will serve as a forward emergency room for the injured Palestinians, said Eli Bin, the director general of MDA. Ambulances and mobile intensive care units will be on duty near the facility to transfer the seriously injured to Israeli hospitals for additional treatment.

PA Health Ministry: Israel never built Gaza clinic
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Sunday denied reports from Israel that it had set up an “emergency treatment center” on Saturday at the Erez crossing into Gaza. The PA Health Ministry said neither had the clinic been opened nor had Palestinians been transferred to hospitals inside Israel for treatment, according to a statement. The ministry said it “has not been contacted or coordinated with” on the announced clinic, which Israel said was established on Sunday to “treat uninvolved civilians from Gaza,” according to a separate statement sent to Ma’an on Monday. According to Israel, by 2:00 pm on Sunday a clinic would be opened as “part of the Israeli government’s humanitarian efforts to assist the civilian population of Gaza. ”The statement adds that he clinic was established in coordination with the PA’s health and welfare ministers, as well as the Red Cross.

Israel ’opens field clinic at Gaza border to treat Palestinian wounded’
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Israel opened a small field clinic on the Gaza border Sunday to treat sick and wounded Gazans, but a human rights group said the move on the day a fragile truce took hold after a bloody three-month offensive was too little, too late. Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, who attended the clinic opening in the Erez crossing pedestrian zone, said the clinic would treat as many people as possible. "I wish this place will serve as a place of humanity, friendship and support for the needy," Herzog said. One Palestinian woman was already being treated in the clinic eight-bed clinic that includes a pharmacy, an X-ray machine and five consultation rooms. The patient blessed the clinic from her hospital bed, although her ailment was unclear. Israel had been criticized by human rights groups for not protecting Gaza’s civilians or facilitating medical access to the wounded.

Health Ministry denies all rumors of Israeli medical clinic
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Ramallah - The Palestinian Health Ministry categorically denied media rumors that Israeli forces opened a medical clinic at the Erez crossing to treat Palestinians or transfer them to hospitals within the Green Line. The Gaza Strip remains under the siege of a year and a half which includes a ban on the transfer of medical patients. A statement by the Ministry of Health in the West Bank said that there has been no contact at all in regard to changing the Israeli-imposed medical closure. "Israel is firm in its position of rejecting the transfer of any of the wounded or sick under the continuing brutal aggression," the Ministry wrote on Sunday. The Erez Checkpoint is the northern crossing in the Gaza Strip’s Beit Hanoun. At least 100 Palestinians were found in the rubble of Gaza today while Israeli forces shot and killed a farmer in the south.

A week is an eternity as diplomats strive to keep the peace
Ian Black, Middle East editor, The Guardian 1/19/2009
If a week is a long time in politics, the coming seven days will be an eternity for the Palestinians, Israel, Arab states and the wider international community as they grapple with the aftermath of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’s decision to follow Israel’s unilateral move with its own commitment to a week-long truce means the pressure is on to agree arrangements to prevent the fighting resuming. Israel’s control of Gaza’s air space and its military presence on the ground gives it the upper hand. It has said it will respond to any new Palestinian rocket attacks - and duly did so yesterday. Hamas has suffered serious, though not fatal, blows to its military strength but insists the resistance is intact. But its boast of having fought Israel for three weeks must be judged against some 1,300 Palestinian fatalities, the majority probably civilians, compared with the 13 dead suffered by its enemy.

Sarkozy: EU would never harm Israel’s security
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Sunday that the European Union would never harm the security of Israel. Speaking in Jerusalem alongside other European leaders, Sarkozy praised the cease-fire in Gaza and called on Israel to withdraw all of its troops from the Gaza Strip as soon as possible. At the start of the Jerusalem meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel has no intention of staying in the Gaza Strip or reconquering it, despite its three-week offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory. Sarkozy and the leaders of Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic met with Israeli officials on Sunday evening, after a day of talks on the Gaza truce, at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. In Jerusalem, Sarkozy also said that France would be willing to provide monitors to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and supply technology to help locate smuggling tunnels.

Israel to renew talks with Hamas on Shalit release if cease-fire holds
Barak Ravid Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Israel wants Egypt to press Hamas on a schedule for a prisoner exchange that would secure the release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Security sources said last night that if the cease-fire holds, it may be possible to resume talks on Shalit’s release. They also suggested that the outcome of the fighting in the Gaza Strip may have contributed to Israel’s bargaining power, but said it is unlikely that a breakthrough will be achieved before next month’s elections in Israel. The talks between the two sides did not stall on the number of prisoners Hamas wanted to see released in return for Shalit (about 1,400) but on several hundred "heavies" - terrorists involved in suicide bombing attacks during the 1990s and the second Intifada. Security sources said it would be difficult to convince Hamas to exhibit flexibility in this matter, but. . .

Shin Bet Chief: Hamas will resume arms smuggling to Gaza within a few months
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin on Sunday told the cabinet that Hamas would resume smuggling arms into Gaza within a few months, despite Israel’s recent destruction of many tunnels used for this purpose. Diskin said that the Palestinian Islamist group would soon rebuild the tunnels, which were destroyed during Israel’s 22-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza. He said that despite heavy criticism of Israel, Gaza residents are "fiercely criticizing Hamas for the destruction it has brought to Gaza. " Diskin emphasized that there has been mass confusion among the Hamas leadership in both Gaza and Damascus since Israel’s announcement of a unilateral cease-fire. "The confusion stems from the fact that Hamas’ stance, in the context of the UN resolution and in the context of the Egyptian initiative, placed the organization in a very. . .

Egypt summit backs peace efforts
Al Jazeera 1/19/2009
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president, has called for the international community to support ongoing efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Gaza Strip. He spoke on Sunday as the host of a summit of European and Middle East leaders on the Gaza crisis. The meeting was held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, as both Hamas and Israel have announced unilateral ceasefire. No unanimous position statement came out of the summit, but all the leaders emphasised the need to deal with Gaza’s immediate humanitarian and reconstructions needs. They also stressed the need to work towards a more permanent resolution to the conflict. Meeting with Olmert After the summit, the European leaders who participated travelled to Israel where they met Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister.

IN PICTURES / World leaders discuss Gaza at Sharm summit
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday hosted the leaders of Germany, Jordan, Italy, Turkey, Britain, Spain and the United Nations at an emergency summit in Sharm el-Sheik. The talks focused on the way ahead now that the fighting in Gaza has, for now, abated. [end]

Lull after the storm
Amjad Atallah and Daniel Levy, The Guardian 1/18/2009
After exactly three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli unilateral ceasefire declaration came into effect on Saturday night. While that is a very welcome development, particularly for the civilians of Gaza, it leaves open as many question as it answers. The steps taken by a series of actors, including the combatants and their neighbours and supporters, will determine whether or not this actually leads to a de-escalation and end to hostilities to what has been to a horrendously bloody start to 2009. Can the ceasefire work? The unilateral nature of the Israeli declaration is no coincidence. In Saturday’s declaration of a ceasefire, Israel is hoping to send the message that Hamas is not a legitimate actor. So who is the ceasefire actually with? It is, not coincidentally, consistent to some extent with the Egyptian-Turkish-Hamas negotiations which called for a ceasefire for 10 days during

Israel begins Gaza withdrawal after Hamas calls ceasefire
Chris McGreal and Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem, David Batty and, The Guardian 1/18/2009
Hamas official says truce dependent on Israel pulling its troops out of Palestinian territory within a week - Hamas today announced an immediate ceasefire by its fighters and allied groups in the Gaza Strip, hours after Israel unilaterally declared a truce. The Israeli army said a short time later it had begun withdrawing its troops from the territory after calling a halt to its three-week offensive, which claimed the lives of about 1,200 Palestinians, a third of them children and young people. Israel would not say how many troops it was pulling out. Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed tanks on the move and infantry soldiers walking towards the border. Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire late on Saturday. It said it would keep at least some troops in Gaza while arrangements are made to prevent Hamas from re-arming. A senior Hamas official, Ayman Taha, told Reuters that its ceasefire was -- See also: AUDIO - Rory McCarthy reports from inside Gaza

Hamas’ Haniyeh declares ’victory’ over Israel
Reuters, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Group’s leader in Gaza says IDF offensive was a failure, hails decision to declare ceasefire as ’wise and responsible’ - A Hamas leader said on Sunday Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip was a failure and had not cowed the Palestinians. "The enemy has failed to achieve its goals," Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in the territory, said in a speech broadcast on Hamas television. Though he called the war, in which more than 1,300 Gazans and 13 Israelis died, a "popular victory" for Palestinians, Haniyeh said Hamas’ decision to declare a truce on Sunday was "wise and responsible". Earlier Sunday Hamas announced an immediate ceasefire by its fighters and allied groups in the Gaza Strip and gave Israel a week to pull out its troops. "Hamas and the factions announce a ceasefire in Gaza starting immediately and give Israel a week to withdraw," said Ayman Taha, a Hamas official in Cairo for talks with Egypt on a truce deal.

Lieberman: Gaza still Hamastan
Eli Senyor, YNetNews 1/18/2009
’Politicians caused offensive to fail by not allowing IDF to seize control over Philadelphi route, Rafah crossing,’ Yisrael Beiteinu chairman says. Meretz: Israelis must consider other issues before casting their ballots in upcoming elections - Cabinet’s decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza was a mistake, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman told Ynet Sunday. "The IDF’s operation in Gaza didn’t change a thing, and Hamas is going to get exactly what it needs – including the reopening of the crossings," he said. "Gaza is still Hamastan and serves as an Iranian base. "The operation was very impressive on a military level, but it wasn’t translated into political achievements. The politicians caused the offensive to fail; they did not allow the IDF to seize control over the Philadelphi route (Egypt-Gaza border) and the Rafah crossing; this only accentuates the need for a leadership change (in Israel). "

IDF pulls most troops from Gaza after Hamas accepts cease-fire
Amos Harel Barak Ravid Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Six key European leaders pledged yesterday to work to prevent Hamas from rearming. The commitments were offered both at the Sharm al-Sheikh summit in Egypt and at a meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The six leaders - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency - offered to provide soldiers and technological assistance to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and terrorists into the Gaza Strip, in cooperation with Egypt and the United States. They expressed support for the cease-fire in Gaza and for an end to Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel.

Olmert: Israel will pull all Gaza troops as soon as possible
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Israel has no intention to stay in the Gaza Strip or to reconquer it, despite its three-week offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory. Israel late Saturday declared a unilateral cease-fire in its offensive. The declaration was followed by a separate truce announcement from Hamas. Olmert told European leaders visiting Jerusalem on Sunday evening that in the wake of the cease-fire, Israel planned to withdraw all of its troops as soon as possible. He said that such a move would come when the situation between Israel and Gaza was "stable. ""We didn’t set out to conquer Gaza, we didn’t set out to control Gaza, we don’t want to remain in Gaza and we intend on leaving Gaza as fast as possible", Olmert said at a dinner with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

Hamas ceasefire brings uneasy peace to Gaza
Patrick Cockburn and Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/19/2009
Hamas declared a week-long ceasefire in Gaza yesterday within hours of the truce unilaterally announced by Israel coming into effect. The Hamas declaration, 22 days after Israel’s military offensive began, put the ball back in Israel’s court after its ceasefire was first met by the firing of 17 rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel responded with two air strikes, killing one Palestinian civilian. The Israeli military announced last night that it had begun to pull troops and tanks out of Gaza. The Israeli government welcomed the Hamas declaration but reserved the right to carry out further punitive military action if rocket and mortar fire continued across the border. "We’ll play this day by day. We’ll see how this goes," a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said. "We want to leave Gaza. We’ll do so as soon as we can.

Hamas, Jihad cease fire in Gaza
Ali Waked and Reuters, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Palestinian groups announce immediate truce by their fighters, allied groups in Gaza, say Israel has a week to pull out its troops from area. Hamas source tells Ynet declaration aimed at allowing delegation to Cairo to receive clarifications - Hamas announced an immediate ceasefire by its fighters and allied groups in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, senior Hamas official Ayman Taha said, adding that the Islamists gave Israel a week to pull out its troops. "Hamas and the factions announce a ceasefire in Gaza starting immediately and give Israel a week to withdraw," Ayman Taha, a Hamas official in Cairo for talks with Egypt on a truce deal. The Islamic Jihad joined the ceasefire announcement. Hamas also demanded that Israel open all of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings to allow in food and other goods to meet the "basic needs for our people".

Gaza conflict has cost too many lives, says Brown
Nicholas Watt in Sharm el-Sheikh, The Guardian 1/18/2009
Gordon Brown this morning criticised Israel for using excessive force during its three-week military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Speaking en route to a humanitarian conference in Egypt, the prime minister demanded that Israel reopen Gaza’s crossings and allow humanitarian workers full access to the territory. " We are yet to discover the full scale of the appalling suffering," Brown said on an early morning flight to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. "But what is already clear is that too many innocent civilians, including hundreds of children, have been killed during the military offensive. " Brown’s carefully chosen words indicate the government believes Israel deployed disproportionate force in its response to Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. More than 1,200 Palestinians have been killed in the 22-day assault. -- See also: UK Prime Minister criticizes Israel's targeting of civilians; agrees to assist Israel in Occupation

Egyptian FM: we had nothing to do with the 'memorandum of understanding'
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
Cairo - Egypt called yesterday on the leaders of several countries to meet in Sharm el-Sheikh today to discuss the crisis in the Gaza Strip, but with the political developments the call was changed to a discussion of the ceasefire. Those attending include Europeans and President Abbas who refused to attend the Arab summit in Doha earlier this week. No shows at the Qatar meeting also included the expected: Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Today in the resort town of the Egyptian Sinai diplomatic sources report that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are among attendees. All three said yesterday that they would help the United States and Israel in policing "smuggling routes. " Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahemd Abul Gheit said that Egypt had nothing to do with that "memorandum of understanding" which was. . .

France raises alert after spate of anti-Semitic attacks over Gaza op
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
French authorities will increase their checks on television, radio and the Internet to prevent any hate messages prompted by the conflict in Gaza from spreading, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Friday. France has seen an increase in primarily anti-Semitic acts apparently related to Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 1,100 Palestinians in three weeks. Thirteen Israelis have been killed. "Even a cursory look at the Internet is enough to find blogs. . . carrying messages of incredible violence, whether against Israel or against the Palestinians," Fillon said after a meeting with ministers on fighting racism and anti-Semitism. He said he had asked the CSA, the broadcast authority, and an expert on issues of freedom of expression on the Internet to conduct more thorough checks on what was being published.

Ministries hunt for pro-Israel bloggers
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry yesterday announced it was setting up an "army of bloggers," to be made up of Israelis who speak a second language, to represent Israel in "anti-Zionist blogs" in English, French, Spanish and German. The program’s first volunteer was Sandrine Pitousi, 31, from Kfar Maimon, situated five kilometers from Gaza. "I heard about the project over the radio and decided to join because I’m living in the middle of the conflict," she said. Before hanging up the phone prematurely following a Color Red rocket alert, Pitousi, who immigrated to Israel from France in 1993, said she had some experience with public relations from managing a production company. "During the war, we looked for a way to contribute to the effort," the ministry’s director general, Erez Halfon, told Haaretz. "We turned to this enormous reservoir of more than a million people with a second mother tongue.

After military offensive comes legal defensive
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Israel is preparing for a wave of lawsuits by pro-Palestinian organizations overseas against Israelis involved in the Gaza fighting, claiming they were responsible for war crimes due to the harsh results stemming from the IDF’s actions against Palestinian civilians and their property. Senior Israeli ministers have expressed serious fears during the past few days about the possibility that Israel will be pressed to agree to an international investigation of the losses among non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead; or alternately, that Israelis will be faced with personal suits, such as happened to Israeli officers who were accused of war crimes in Britain for their actions during the second intifada. "When the scale of the damage in Gaza becomes clear, I will no longer take a vacation in Amsterdam, only at the international court in The Hague," said one minister.

Barrage of fire in Gaza, online ‘intifada’ in Saudi
Habib Trabelsi - PARIS, Middle East Online 1/18/2009
The Israeli flag in flames, hundreds of thousands of signatures, thousands of films, posters, photos and cartoons to denounce the "holocaust" in Gaza: Saudi Arabia, red lines are crossed. . . on the Web. Thousands of "jihadists" in the "electronic street" - Since the police’s dispersal of a demonstration in support for Palestinians in Gaza with rubber bullets and tear gas last December in the east of Saudi Arabia, hundreds of blogs and forums have flourished on the Web to carry out jihad (holy war) against Israel and the "puppet" Arab regimes. "We are all for Gaza", reads a banner on the blog as the picture of a flag bearing the star of David burning in the middle of Gaza under a deluge of white phosphorus bombs. The blog, of high technical quality, offers dozens of video clips, mainly taken from Doha-based Al-Jazeera satellite television, showing. . . -- See also: Adeedat Blog

Group Al-Qaeda urged Mauritania attacks over Gaza
Reuters, YNetNews 1/18/2009
Terror group’s North African wing urges attacks against Israeli, Western interests to ’purifying Mauritania from dirt of the Israeli flag that flies over its skies’ -Al-Qaeda’s North African wing has urged attacks against Israeli and Western interests in Mauritania, an Internet monitoring agency said, after the Arab state froze political links with Israel over its Gaza offensive. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also called on Algerians to disobey a long-standing government ban on public demonstrations and stage strikes to protest Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza. Both Israel and Hamas announced ceasefires at the weekend, and Israeli forces began withdrawing from Gaza where over 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the three-week war. Ten Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians were also killed.

Jewish group slams British MP’s Holocaust remark
YNetNews 1/18/2009
In response to Gerald Kaufman’s accusation that Israel is exploiting guilt non-Jews feel about Shoah in order to justify Gaza op, Simon Wiesenthal Center says lawmaker ’manages in one disgraceful screed to insult all victims of the Nazi Holocaust and the people of Israel’ -The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned British Parliamentarian Gerald Kaufman last week for telling his fellow lawmakers in the House of Commons that Israel is exploiting the guilt that non-Jews feel about the Holocaust in order to justify defensive operations in Gaza. "The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt from Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians," Kaufman, a governing Labour Party legislator, said Thursday during a House of Commons debate on Gaza.

Kuwaiti MPs ask their government to invite Hamas to Kuwait summit
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
KUWAIT, (PIC)-- A number of Kuwaiti parliamentarians asked their government to invite the Hamas Movement to the conference, which would be held on the periphery of the Kuwait economic Arab summit, to discuss the Gaza developments. MP Walid Tabtab’ee was quoted by the press on Saturday as saying that a Hamas representative should be invited to attend the conference as an observer in a bid to unite the Palestinian position. He elaborated that it would be absurd to discuss the situation in Gaza in the absence of Hamas. Another MP Musallam Al-Barrak said that it was not reasonable to discuss Gaza situation without presence of Hamas. Saudi Arabia and Egypt had called for a consultative Arab summit meeting on the sidelines of the Kuwait economic summit scheduled for January 19-20 to discuss Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas, whose term in office as PA chief expired on 9th January 2009, was invited.

Venezuela’s representative to the PA affirms support of his country to cause
Ma’an News Agency 1/18/2009
Ramallah - Ma’an- Ambassador of Venezuela to the Palestinian National Authority met with Palestinian undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sunday to update him on the situation in the Gaza Strip. For the Ministry Dr Ahmad Suboh thanked Jonathan Velasco of Venezuela for the support of his country during this difficult time, and “especially that of President Hugo Chavez for supporting the cause of our Palestinian people against the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. ”Velasco confirmed his country’s support (from the president, government, and people) to the Palestinian cause. He also confirmed Venezuela’s solid views against the Israeli aggression on Gaza. The two agreed that it was important to continue to strengthen Palestinian-Venezuelan relations in the future.

Lebanese protest targets US embassy
Al Jazeera 1/18/2009
Several demonstrators have been injured in clashes between Lebanese security forces and protested who rallied in front of the US embassy near Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. More than 200 people carried Lebanese and Palestinian flags on Sunday to show their solidarity with the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip. Hanan Zbeeb, a protester, said: "We are here to protest against the aggression on Gaza and against the 1,200 martyrs and 5,500 wounded. "Members of the rally broke through barbed wire near the embassy, and security forces used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd. Some demonstrators regrouped and continued to protest, calling on the US ambassador to be expelled from the country. Demonstrators had also placed dolls representing babies killed during Israeli’s war on the barbed wire barricade outside the building.

’This is what Hamas promised - just destruction’
Hazem Balousha in Gaza and Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/19/2009
The ceasefire couldn’t have come soon enough for Gaza’s Palestinians - but few believe it will deliver the protection they seek. Standing in the pyjamas that he wore when he fled his home 10 days ago, Shawqi Sultan, 44, a municipality employee in Gaza’s north, has little trust in either Hamas or Israel. " The ceasefire gives us nothing. If one rocket kills an Israeli they will kill hundreds and destroy more. Israel destroyed our area, killed our people and we got no political result," he says. For now at least, those who support Hamas are hoping that the militant group will also heed the lesson and hold their fire. " I’m not satisfied with the rockets. We haven’t benefited at all from the war," says Zakia Dabor, 50, whose home in Salatin was shelled early in the conflict. Dabor says she wants more than just a week-long truce - she wants a permanent end to the conflict.

Israel`s largest-ever reserve of natural gas discovered off Haifa coast
Avi Bar-Eli, TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
Isramco announced Sunday that "extremely significant" reserves of natural gas have been discovered at its Tamar 1 offshore drill site 90 kilometers west of Haifa. The natural gas reserve is the largest ever discovered in Israel - three times bigger than that of the "Yam Thetis" consortium and worth $15 billion. "Subject to receipt of further data from the drill site, the estimated reserves of natural gas are likely even to increase," the company said in a statement. Tamar is a joint venture between the U. S. company Noble Energy (36%), Isramco (28. 9%), Delek Drilling and Avner Oil and Gas Exploration. It is named after the grand-daughter of geologist Yossi Langotsky. Drilling is difficult: the sea floor is 1,700 meters below the surface of the water and under the sand is a 1,400-meter thick stratum of salt.

Sderot residents wary of fragile cease-fire
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 1/18/2009
At 10 a. m. on Sunday, 12 hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral cease-fire, a military vehicle full of soldiers passed this reporter on the road to Sderot. They all waved. "It’s over! We’re going back home!" one of them said with a big grin. I smiled and waved back. "I’m glad you’re all okay," I said. I didn’t want to ruin their high spirits. Back in Sderot, the wave of optimism that started late Saturday night had already faded. At close to 9 a. m. , a "Color Red" siren was heard and six Kassam rockets struck the area, taking the residents back to a routine that had become familiar over the past eight years. Rachel Ben-Yaish, the owner of a Sderot clothing store specializing in fancy dresses, sat inside her business and cried. She had opened for the first time in three weeks.

News in Brief - Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al appeal to High Court
Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al appealed to the High Court of Justice yesterday against the Central Elections Committee’s decision last week to bar them from running in the upcoming Knesset election. The formal arguments to back the parties’ appeal will be submitted only today. However, a press release put out by the parties’ attorney, Hassan Jabareen, said that disqualifying them would in effect remove all Arab parties from the Knesset, thereby improperly and disproportionately denying an entire population segment its basic right to Knesset representation. (Tomer Zarchin) [end]

Likud leading election polls with 29 seats, in wake of Gaza operation
Haaretz Service and Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
The first poll conducted about Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections since the end of the offensive in Gaza show Likud as the front-runner with 29 seats. The Channel 10-Dialog poll supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University predicted Kadima would win 26 seats and the Labor Party getting 14 seats, the same number as Yisrael Beiteinu. Though surveys on Sunday predicted center-left Labor would win 14 or 15 of the 120 seats in parliament - almost double that previously forecast - former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was still in the lead. A similar poll conducted by Channel 2 has Likud set to win as many as 31 seats, with Kadima party taking between 23 and 26, with the February 9 elections just about three weeks away.

With Gaza war over, election cranks up
Barak Ravid Mazal Mualem and Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
With the fighting in the Gaza Strip coming to an end, the political scene is quickly heating up, as Kadima, Likud and Labor prepare their campaigns for the February 10 elections. After the cabinet meeting yesterday, sources said Vice Premier Haim Ramon and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On complained that in the text of the cabinet’s decision on a unilateral cease-fire, the contribution of foreign minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni had not been mentioned. "It used to be that you were a troika. What happened now that you became a couple? "Ramon asked to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. For his part, Olmert applauded the opposition for their stance during the war, adding that "I would like to think that no politician will do a thing that will undermine the gains of the operation.

Parties reignite election campaign
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 1/19/2009
End of Israeli offensive in Gaza marks renewal of political race ahead of nearing general elections. Parties aim to make most of short time left - The impending end of the Israeli offensive in Gaza Strip and the new, though still fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, have allowed politics to take center stage once again. With just three weeks left until the general elections, the parties are gearing up for some intense campaigning meant to make the most out of short time at hand, and the fight for ballots promises to be anything but dull. The Likud has opted to begin its campaign with a positive message, aimed to play off Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s familiar strengths and experience. The second phase of the Likud’s campaign stands to focus on Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s shortcomings as a leader, as demonstrated – according to the party – during Operation Cast Lead. "The less credit she gets the more Netanyahu is likely to win," said a source in the party.

Defense attempting to block report about anthrax trial
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
The Defense Ministry is attempting to block or delay the release of a new report criticizing the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona for its experiment on an anthrax vaccine, which allegedly afflicted the trial subjects. Shortly before the committee, established by the Israeli doctors union, was due to publish its report last month, Amir Kain, director of security for the defense establishment, demanded to see the report to ensure it did not reveal state secrets. The committee refused, saying the report was not damaging to state security and that the defense establishment had already scrutinized and censored certain documents associated with the report. The state prosecution, representing Kain, petitioned the High Court of Justice to block the report from being released, and the court issued a temporary injunction to delay publication.

Likud MP admits failure of Israeli military aggression on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/18/2009
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- Israeli Likud lawmaker Yisrael Katz admitted the failure of the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip, asserting that Israel did not achieve its goals in the war which resulted in hundreds of casualties in the ranks of its troops. Katz said that the military operation in Gaza did not succeed after Israeli premier Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral ceasefire, pointing out that Israel neither eliminated the strength of the Palestinian resistance factions, nor reached an agreement to stop arms supplies to Gaza or get Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit released. The Observer, one of the best-selling newspapers in the UK, said that the war on Gaza inflicted a moral defeat on Israel. The newspaper considered that the concept which says that security problems can be resolved by the unilateral use of force is only a delusion dominating the mindset of Israeli politicians.

’Hezbollah behind Lebanon rocket strikes in north’
Yossi Melman Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
[Note that no sources, evidence, or justification are cited for the claims made here - a typical Ha’aretz disinformation job - Ed. ] Hezbollah is behind the two Katyusha rocket attacks that struck northern Israel in the last two weeks. In both cases, the organization used proxy Palestinian militant groups to launch the rockets from southern Lebanon. Security forces in the north are in a state of heightened alert, for fear that Hezbollah will fire more rockets into Israel or try to avenge the February 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, the organization’s No. 2, in Damascus. Hezbollah has since tried to carry out at least five attacks against Israeli or Jewish targets in various countries. The second Katyusha attack, which occurred last week, was aimed at the northern Galilee. The rockets landed in open territory, resulting in neither casualties nor property damage. The organization that physically fired the rockets was the Popular Front for the Liberation. . .

Major gas find at Tamar-1
Lior Baron, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Noble Energy, Delek units, and Isramco found commercial quantities of natural gas offshore of Haifa. It is the largest gas discovery in Israel’s history. Commercial quantities of natural gas have been found at the Tamar-1 well, 90 kilometers offshore from Haifa. The discovery amounts to the largest reserves found to date in Israel. The Tamar prospect in the Matan license is owned by Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) units Delek Drilling Limited Partnership(TASE: DEDR. L) and Avner Oil and Gas LP (TASE: AVNR. L) with a 15. 625% stake each, along with Isramco Ltd. (Nasdaq: ISRL; TASE: ISRA. L) (28. 85%), and Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) (36%), and Dor Gas Exploration Ltd. (4%) The Tamar 1 well, located in 5,500 feet of water, was drilled to a total depth of 16,076 (4,900 meters) feet to test a subsalt, lower-Miocene structure in the Levantine basin.

Tshuva: Gas find is huge
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Delek’s controlling shareholder: This find could solve Israel’s gas problems for generations. In response to today’s news about the natural gas discovery at the Tamar prospect, Delek Group controlling shareholder Yitzhak Tshuva told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) this morning, "The success of the drilling is a historic milestone for Israeli economic independence. It could solve the country’s gas problems for many years and generations to come. "I have no doubt that that this is a great day for Israel. We now won’t be dependent on others for gas, and we’ll even be able to make exports. We’re talking about huge quantities. " Tshuva added that he will be able to repay Delek Group’s(TASE: DLEKG) debts to the public and banks, despite the current crisis. He predicted that the Tamar well will have a positive effect on the Israeli economy, which is being affected by the global recession.

Manufacturers claim Cast Lead cost industry nearly NIS 90m
Adrian Filut and Hadas Magen, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Manufacturers Association: This figure does not include indirect financial losses, which it estimates at several tens of millions of shekels. The Manufacturers Association of Israelestimates the cost to industry of the 23-day Operation Cast Lead at NIS 88 million in direct losses. The figure includes losses by enterprises in the area affected by the operation, mostly due to absenteeism. The Manufacturers Association said that 1,700 enterprises, employing 39,500 people, were within range of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza. Reports by enterprises from the start of the operation until yesterday’s unilateral cease-fire by Israel, indicate that enterprises within 10 kilometers of Gaza, had absentee levels of 40-60%. Absenteeism reached 90% of employees at some companies. The Manufacturers Association said that its figure does not include. . .

Hapoalim CEO sees crisis into 2010
Eran Peer, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Zvi Ziv: The banking system will not be able to cope with the demand for credit in 2009. Bank Hapoalim (LSE:80OA ; TASE:POLI ) president and CEO Zvi Ziv sees the economic crisis continuing into 2010. Ziv told Bank Hapoalim’s in-house magazine ’Diyukan,’ "No real recovery is expected in 2009. In the best case scenario, we will begin to see the first buds of an improvement only during 2010, and perhaps even later. " Ziv expects that there will be a credit crisis in the Israeli economy during the coming year. "The answer to whether the banking system can cope with the demand for credit in 2009 is no. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t supply all the demand for credit. We would be required to examine carefully the risks that we are taking upon ourselves in customer credit portfolios, in Israel and abroad, and use cautious judgment, and go back over and recheck every credit decision.

Foreign banks continue Tel Aviv light rail support
Lior Baron, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Bank representatives are expected to meet today with light railway franchisee MTS. The Tel Aviv light rail project has received a major boost. Representatives of the major foreign banks that will provide financial support for the project, including Royal Bank of Scotland plc (LSE; NYSE: RBS) and Germany’s KfW Bank Group, and Bayern LB have decided to continue their support for the Tel Aviv light rail despite the global financial crisis. Representatives of the banks are expected in Israel today for a series of meetings with Tel Aviv light railway franchisee Metro Transportation Solutions (MTS), which is led by Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE: AFIL; Pink Sheets:AFIVY). The bankers will also meet with government officials. After the meetings they will officially announce their decision on the matter.

Merrill: Israel to be small fish in big MSCI pond
Erez Wollberg, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Developed market investors won’t be quick to add TASE stocks, when Israel’s weight will be about 0. 34% of the index. At a Merrill Lynch presentation this morning, Merrill Lynch analyst Haim Israel said, "We believe that Israel can expect to be classified as a developed market before the end of 2009. " Merrill Lynch expects Israel to be added to the MSCI developed market index this year, with the announcement coming in June, and actual implementation in November. But the analyst explained that though emerging market index investors will quickly sell their Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) holdings, as Israel is removed from that list, developed market index investors will be slower in adding Israeli investments. Israel, which accounts for 3. 17% of the MSCI emerging market index, will only account for about 0.

Leviev reaches NY building compromise
Michal Margalit, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Lev Leviev and Maurice Mann agreed on an outside manager for the Manhattan building. After spending many hours attempting to reach a compromise agreement on the Apthorp building in New York’s Upper West Side, Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE: AFIL; Pink Sheets:AFIVY) chairman Lev Leviev and his partner in the New York City building, Maurice Mann, have decided that responsibility for managing the building will be given to an outside company. Last Thursday was the final date for settling the dispute under an ultimatum given to Leviev and Mann by the Apollo Real Estate Advisors, which had extended a loan for the building but was threatening to withdraw it. Under the compromise, Leviev and Mann have agreed that Feil Organization will be the new management company for the building.

Hapoalim officially cancels Russian bank acquisition
Yossi Nissan, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Bank Hapoalim’s board is due to discuss the bank’s work plan, including its international strategy, within a few days. Bank Hapoalim(TASE: POLI; LSE:80OA) today officially cancelled its acquisition of Russian bank SDM. The bank cited "global economic developments, particularly in Russia, not obtaining an acquisition permit from the Bank of Israel, and not meeting all dependent conditions" as the reasons for cancelling the deal. Bank Hapoalim’s board is due to discuss the bank’s work plan, including its international strategy, within a few days. Officials within Bank Hapoalim had been calling to cancel the acquisition of SDM for several months, due to the changing macroeconomic conditions, and the Russian economic freefall and increased geopolitical risk.

Kodak Israel streamlining hits co-CEO
Shmulik Shelah, Globes Online 1/18/2009
Remaining operations in Israel will focus on development. Kodak Israel co-managing director Avi Waldman will leave the company at the end of the month, after three years in the job. His departure is part of the company’s streamlining measures, which include 200 layoffs and the transfer of production lines to China. When the measures are completed, Kodak Israel’s workforce will shrink to 650 from 900 a year ago. Waldman has worked for Kodak Israel ever since Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE: EK) acquired Creo in 2005. Kodak Israel’s core business is preprinting technology for wide printing for billboards, which it acquired from Creo and Scitex Digital Printing. When the streamlining is completed, Kodak Israel will focus on R&D, which employees 400 people.

Slow resettlement for Palestinian-Iraqi refugees
Lachlyn Soper/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/19/2009
DAMASCUS, 18 January 2009 (IRIN) - The start of 2009 offers little hope to the residents of Al Tanf, a refugee camp on the Syrian-Iraqi border housing over 700 Palestinians who had fled persecution in Iraq. No country has given any concrete pledge to take any of the refugees for resettlement in 2009, leaving them to battle the cold desert weather this winter with more despair than ever. The refugees say that despite visits from foreign delegations, resettlements have been few and far between since the camp opened in May 2006. Jamal, 53, said residents are giving up hope. Originally from Haifa, he moved to Baghdad following Israel’s taking over of the city. He said that he and his family fled to Syria in February 2007 after being targeted by militia groups. "We just want to be resettled," he said. "I don’t mind where.

Bomber kills manager of election campaign in Iraq
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/18/2009
A suicide bomber killed a campaign manager for a Sunni party near Iraq’s northern city of Mosul on Sunday, the latest sign that ethnic and sectarian tensions are rising ahead of this month’s provincial elections. Police said the attacker detonated his explosives inside the reception area of Hassan al-Luheibi’s home in Qayara, 60 kilometers south of Mosul, after saying he had pressing business to discuss. Bodyguards kept the bomber from going inside, but al-Luheibi emerged from the inner rooms to investigate the commotion and was killed in the blast, according to Col. Safaa Abdul-Razzaq. Two guards were also wounded, he said. Al-Luheibi was the deputy of prominent Sunni Arab lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq, who confirmed the attack. He also was the campaign manager for al-Mutlaq’s National Dialogue Front in the northern provinces of Ninevah, of which Mosul is the capital, and Salahuddin.

New York approves plan for first public school with Hebrew focus
Anthony Weiss, The Forward, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
The movement for publicly funded Hebrew language and culture charter schools took a giant step forward as a new charter school for New York City received final approval and plans emerged for a national center to back Hebrew charter school efforts across the country. On January 13, the New York State Board of Regents approved the application for the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School, a school that would teach the Hebrew language and aspects of Jewish culture, largely with public funds. Michael Steinhardt, a former hedge fund manager who has championed a number of high-profile Jewish causes, funded the application. Sara Berman, Steinhardt? s daughter and a former editor at The Forward, was the lead applicant. Hebrew charter schools have become a hot item in the world of Jewish identity and education, but it is difficult to tell what the latest development will augur.


A return to square one
Alastair Crooke, The Guardian 1/19/2009
      On Saturday evening, Israel announced not a ceasefire - in the sense of an agreement between the parties to end a conflict - but a decision that its forces will unilaterally halt their fire. It said it would await the Hamas response, any timetable for a withdrawal of Israeli forces being contingent on an end to rocket fire from Gaza.
     Yesterday, the resistance movements in Gaza, including Hamas, unilaterally announced a cessation of military action for one week, by the end of which time they demand that all Israeli forces should have departed Gaza. Implicit in this initiative is the threat that, were they to fail to leave within seven days, Hamas and the other groups would resume the firing of rockets into Israel.
     At one level, this unilateralist outcome resolves none of the core problems that were at the source of the conflict in the first place. Hamas remains in control in Gaza; its military capacity has not been substantially degraded: 40 missiles were fired at Israel on Saturday, and at least a further 16 were launched before Hamas announced the ceasefire yesterday. And nothing has been settled in terms of the opening of the crossings from Israel into Gaza, or in respect of the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza. The release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli captive, has not advanced.

A pointless war has led to a moral defeat for Israel
Editorial, The Observer, The Guardian 1/18/2009
      In historical terms, it is impossible to separate Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza from the long narrative of conflict and mutual grievance in the region.
     In geographic terms, the war over a tiny plot of land cannot be detached from the wider involvement and strategic interests of other countries: Syria, Egypt, the US, Iran.
     All of which makes it difficult to judge where - even if a unilateral Israeli ceasefire holds - the war really begins and ends.
     That fact alone explains why the operation represents a defeat for Israel, as was always likely to be the outcome. The notion that the country’s security problems can be resolved by the unilateral use of extreme force is a persistent delusion among Israeli politicians. In this case, the problem was perceived to be Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel; the solution was judged to be a war against Hamas. That analysis did not allow for the vital, humane recognition that, in densely populated Gaza, an all-out war against Hamas is, by necessity, an attack on the civilian population.
     Even on its own terms, the campaign has failed. Israeli authorities will insist that they have limited the ability of Hamas to launch rocket attacks. But the ostensible war aim was destroying that capability completely.

Rafah, a landscape scarred by Israel’s war
Donald Macintyre, The Independent 1/19/2009
      The southernmost city in Gaza has suffered mightily at Israeli hands in recent years, but Donald Macintyre was not ready for what he found there
     Even in the darkness, we could see the piles of rubble: one had been the police station, destroyed in the heavy bombing on the first day of Israel’s offensive, killing 22 Hamas policemen; another pile accounted for the houses that had been destroyed around Muntasa, a favoured children’s play area and park which the Israelis say militants had used for firing rockets -- residents deny the claim. The park is no more, a field of smashed masonry and concrete.
     Rafah, the southernmost city of Gaza, probably suffered more than any other from the eight long years of conflict before the start of Operation Cast Lead but even on the short journey here from the Egyptian border, some of the new devastation visited on the area and its inhabitants was evident. The Hamas mayor of Rafah had been building a new house for himself; it had been pulverised and lay in ruins.
     Earlier, as we entered Gaza from Egypt – among the first Western journalists to do so – the red lights of Palestinian ambulances flashing against a darkening sky as medics unloaded the wounded at the border were the first real sign of the war that had raged for three weeks. A boy, perhaps 15 years old, was delicately lifted from one ambulance to another, the medics struggling to prevent the drips attached to him from tangling.

As troops leave, 95 bodies discovered in rubble, thousands throng to streets
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
      Tens of thousands of people thronged through Gaza’s streets yesterday morning. Many left their relatives’ houses and the schools where they had been staying for the last two or three weeks, after having been forced to flee the bombing of their homes and neighborhoods and the Israel Defense Forces’ advance. They came out to check whether their homes were still standing, or to try to save something from among the rubble of those houses that were destroyed.
     Others came out to examine the damage and discovered that entire residential neighborhoods had been wiped out. "We were cut off, without electricity and television. Contrary to people living in the West Bank and elsewhere around the world, who were able to watch the news, we did not see the pictures broadcast from other places. We only knew about the damage nearby, around us, in our houses," said one resident of Tel al-Hawa, the Gaza neighborhood the IDF took control of last Thursday.
     Residents crowded the streets yesterday despite fears that the IDF would shell and bomb them again, although Israel had announced a unilateral cease-fire. After several hours of quiet, they began to feel somewhat relieved about no longer hearing any explosions or ambulance sirens - sounds that have been haunting them for the last three weeks. But the scale of the destruction, which is still hard to fathom, left them in shock.

Mubarak juggles
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 1/19/2009
      The ruling party in Egypt issued two unprecedented directives yesterday. The first to the Information Ministry, instructing it to order the Television and Radio Authority not to broadcast Palestinian national songs and "to make do with low-key songs." The second to the Education Ministry telling it to ban national songs from being played in schools, and to avoid all songs on Pan-Arabism and jihad in the coming days. When the Gaza Strip chafes against Egypt and fiery sparks fly, the well-being, security and honor of Egyptians takes priority before Gaza and the Arab world. This is the policy of President Hosni Mubarak, who is not deterred even by the rift with the Arab world that he ostensibly created.
     In coordination with Saudi Arabia, Mubarak decided not to send a representative to, and certainly not to participate in, the Arab summit being held Friday in Doha. He insists that he will not open the Rafah crossing except on the basis of the 2005 agreements, which Egypt did not sign. Through his information minister, he is guiding the Egyptian press to carry on with its attacks on Hamas - even after the cease-fire was struck. Meanwhile, he is planning the kind of a border area that will involve cooperation with the international community but will exclude foreign troops on Egyptian soil. It is a matter of historical honor and national pride.

Gaza: War, from a distance
Jon Snow, The Independent 1/19/2009
      There have been two versions of the assault on Gaza played out over the past three weeks. One is the moderated account aired in the West; the other is the unexpurgated account of civilian deaths filmed in vivid close-up inside Gaza.
     Has the Western account, restricted by the Israeli ban on journalists in the conflict zone, been so reduced as to dull the scale of protest? Has the volume of images of death injury and destruction played and replayed in the Arab media served to radicalise and enrage the Islamic world still further? Thus creating a gulf so unbridgeable that it defeated even the passage of a unanimous UN call for a ceasefire? I want to take you on a personal journey that I made to the region last week.
     I am standing on the so-called "hill of shame" – a strange bump of terrain with three trees on top and a cascade of camera’s tents and television dishes pouring down the other side. This is as close as the world’s media has come to the Israeli invasion of Gaza. I have been unable to clarify whose "shame" the hill celebrates. Is it the stream of ordinary Israelis who come to cheer the booms of Israeli bombs and shells and the plumes of resulting smoke? Is it the shame of reporters stymied in their attempts to reach Gaza? Either way it has made me think again about war reporting.

Night terror: on the phone with Tel Al Hawa
Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 1/18/2009
      Jenin -- He spent the whole night on the phone. Yasser was speaking to his sister Aml in the Gaza Strip. He was trying to calm her during the worst Thursday/Friday in her neighborhood.
     Aml is married to a Gaza resident and the family was trapped in their home in the Tel Al Hawa neighborhood for two nights with tanks rumbling outside, massive explosions, and missiles raining from the skies.
     "I wished to die every moment because of the terror," Yasser described his feeling while speaking to his sister. "I could hear her children, their cries, and the Israeli shelling was so loud and my sister was screaming ’they are burning everything.’ We expected death. She said, ’The missiles are falling all around us.’"
     Israeli forces fired into hundreds of homes and buildings in southern Gaza City’s Tel Al Hawa neighborhood, including a hospital and the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
     Despite the sorrow and pain Yasser insisted on keeping the line open with his sister and her family. Weeping bitterly he said he thought that these were their last moments together. “There is nothing more difficult that the inability of one human to help another. I could not assist my sister, only to pray that she would survive each hour that passes. My sister was crying. ‘The house is shaking Yasser!’ She said, ‘A shell just landed on the house of our neighbor, Abu Sami, and destroyed it. We don’t know the fate of the family because the aircraft is continuing the shelling and the tank fire and missiles aren’t stopping. Anything that moves has a death sentence.’ There is no charge or reason to target homes, to keep shelling homes and shops and the property of the people.&rdquo.

White phosphorus: 'The patient came back smoking'
Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/18/2009
      It’s hard to believe it can get worse, but daily it does.
     Last week, I saw the white phosphorus clouds doctors have written about and condemned. From a tall Gaza City building, the panoramic view showed a spreading stream of poison, on eastern Gaza.
     The chemical burns deeply, to the bone, experts say. It is considered illegal warfare, not to be used in civilian areas. Yet the accounts grow of its use: heavy use in the Khosar region, east of Khan Younis, and in the northwest of Gaza, and in eastern Jabaliya, Sheik Zayid, Sheik Rajleen, al-Zaitoun, everywhere. The United Nations headquarters housing hundreds of fleeing Palestinians which was bombed on 15 January was hit with white phosphorus.
     "Five days ago, in Jabaliya, I saw an abnormal material: white dust, spread out in spinning circles which spread the dust further. From inside there was something falling down which looked like snow. It covered a large area, over many houses," Maher al-Madhouan, head of the physiotherapy department in Sheik Radwan hospital, told me last week.
     At al-Shifa hospital, Dr. Nafez Abu Shabaan, Head of the burn department, told me they’ve received some burn cases unlike anything they’ve ever seen. "We’re not familiar with phosphorous burns, but some patients have very deep burns, very strange burns." He cites the case of a patient sent for a brain scan who three hours later, still alive, "came back smoking".

Surviving in the 'Palestinian Wing'
Dina Makram-Ebeid writing from Cairo, Egypt, Electronic Intifada 1/18/2009
      Seeing Hedaya slowly regain her smile and her strength is so comforting. At every visit, her beautiful facial features appear more visible and distinct. Um Nayef, her elder sister who accompanied her from Gaza to Cairo, in turn embraces me warmly when I come in and with the Palestinian dialect says ishtanalik, we miss you. I grin and hug her back. We sit down, share a few jokes about Hedaya’s health and exchange hellos with whoever is in the room. There are always visitors at Maahad Nasser Hospital coming to wish the injured well, ask about their families and provide assistance.
     Almost a week ago when I first visited Hedaya, or Um Muhammad as she prefers to be called, her screams were so loud, I could hear them from the other end of the "Palestinian Wing" -- as they now call that part of the hospital. Having just gone out of the operation room, Um Muhammad’s tears were incessant, her face looked pale, almost green and she was in such pain that she kept calling the nurses over and over and they in turn kept turning her down, repeating that this kind of pain was inevitable following an operation. Next to Hedaya’s bed, Um Nayef, whom I’ve come to know later as a strong and cheerful woman, stood visibly shaken and unable to hold her tears.

Our victory and our defeat
Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 1/18/2009
      Have we not exerted ourselves enough in the past three weeks to have staged a winning image, that final picture that will brand itself on our consciousness and souls, as though done with phosphorous?
     That final picture has arrived and it is of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish and his six daughters, three of whom were killed and three others wounded. One was killed while cooking, another was reading a book and the third was sleeping. The rest are "battling for their lives." It seems that Arab propaganda has no limits. You see the picture but do not hear the voice, that of a father mourning the fate of his daughters who are no longer. Yesterday al-Aish searched for an explanation. "Why were they killed?" he asked. "Maybe [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak will explain, or [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert or [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni?"
     Contrary to the announcement made by the government and Israel Defense Forces spokesman, the third phase of the Gaza operation has very much begun. In recent days it has become apparent, based on the outcome, that its spearhead has been directed at hospitals, schools and children who had not taken cover. Phase three is a success, as is the entire war.

The Pilot Plays Computer Games over Gaza
Mats Svensson, Palestine Chronicle 1/18/2009
      The book with the title Khirbet Khizeh begins with the words, "True, it all happened a long time ago, but it has haunted me ever since." Already in 1949 Yizhar Smilansky wrote this masterpiece which was just recently translated into English.
     An early winter morning Israeli soldiers from three companies lie in the outskirts of the small fictive village Khirbet Khizeh. In their binoculars they can from a distance observe what is happening in the village. They see the young and the old in the village preparing themselves for a day’s work. They look down at the village that they will soon take over, see the old woman that they will expel, the houses they will demolish, the plantations they will destroy and the well they will blow up.
     When the author begins to write he has not yet decided what he wants to say or how he will say it. He knows that he can no longer hold back what he has experienced but is unsure of whether he is capable of being honest, if he will be able to tell the story. He knows that the most difficult in life is to be true. Does he have the ability to tell and will anyone subsequently have the ability to read what he has written?

No honeymoons in Gaza
Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/17/2009
      16 January 2009, 5:11pm Wael Selmi displayed a surprising kindness and welcome -- you are welcome any time -- given that his life’s work had just been leveled by the invading Israeli army. Even more surprising, given that the brothers’ furniture factory in northern Gaza was destroyed by the Israeli army four years ago, causing $300,000 in damage and losses. They’d had it just two years at the time. Along with that ruined factory, the family owns agricultural land which they cannot access near the Erez crossing.
     At 4am on 13 January, two Israeli F-16 warplane missiles destroyed the sea-side Jazeera hotel and the next door Shihab hotel, leaving the Jazeera, in particular, skeletal, with entrails of concrete and wiring dangling from ceiling to floor, and with other random survivors testifying what had been: matching, semi-intact chairs clustered in a corner, marbled stairs and tiled walls. One of the 14 employees, while describing the building beneath the wreckage, detailed the losses: $28,000 for the 160 kilowatt generator, $25,000 for the electricity regulator, and the other losses amounting to $1.3 million in damage, with another $600,000 in unpaid debts.

Punishing the Palestinians
Ralph Nader, Palestine Chronicle 1/17/2009
      What is going on in Gaza is what Bill Moyers called it earlier this month: ’state terrorism.’
     In the long sixty-year tortured history of the Palestinian expulsion from their lands, Congress has maintained that it is always the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority, and now Hamas who are to blame for all hostilities and their consequences with the Israeli government.
     The latest illustration of this Washington puppet show, backed by the most modern weapons and billions of taxpayer dollars annually sent to Israel, was the grotesquely one-sided Resolutions whisked through the Senate and the House of Representatives.
     While a massive bombing and invasion of Gaza was underway, the resolution blaming Hamas for all the civilian casualties and devastation—99% of it inflicted on Palestinians—zoomed through the Senate by voice vote and through the House by a vote of 390 to 5 with 22 legislators voting present.
     There is more dissent against this destruction of Gaza among the Israeli people, the Knesset, the Israeli media, and Jewish-Americans than among the dittoheads on Capitol Hill.

Israel, Palestine, and a Personal Conflict
Rowan Wolf, Palestine Chronicle 1/16/2009
      Israel supporter: ’They are forcing us to kill their children.’ (Photo: via Google/file) I come from a varied background which has taken me on a winding a somewhat tortuous trail throughout my life. There are a series of threads that tie me to Judaism and hence Israel, and to the Palestinians.
     I come from what is sometimes referred to as "humble" beginnings. In my case I was the only child (as far as I know) of mixed race parents who lived in poverty in the inner city of Kansas City. At the age of 7 (after my father was imprisoned, and my mother "remarried") I was removed from my mother’s custody and put within the "tender care" of the Jackson County Juvenile Justice department. After almost a year in confinement at the downtown facility I was sent out into foster homes.
     Throughout my early life I was steeped in a variety of Christian denominations, and dutifully baptized in each along the way - Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist.
     I was also a child from the inner city of Kansas City dumped into a generally middle class world which glaringly contrasted and conflicted with my beginnings. I was deeply aware of the inequalities evident between these worlds, and the prejudice of the middle class towards the poor. I bore the insults and assaults from foster parents, other children, and other children’s parents. That disgust that often bordered on hatred that was directed at me marked me deeply. It was a clear and conscious choice on my part to fight for social justice. It started early - by the time I was 10 - and continues to this day.

Gaza, A New Middle East Indeed
Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Think Tank 1/16/2009
      As Israel unleashed its military fury against Lebanon for several weeks in July-August 2006, it had one major objective: to permanently "˜extract’ Hezbollah from the South as a fighting force, and to undermine it as a rising political movement, capable of disrupting, if not overshadowing the "˜friendly’ and "˜moderate’ political regime in Beirut.
     As Israeli bombs fell, and with them hundreds of Lebanese civilians, and much of the country’s infrastructure, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sprung into action. She too had one major objective: to delay a ceasefire, which the rest of the international community, save the US and Britain, desperately demanded. Rice, who is merely, but faithfully reiterating the Bush Administration’s policy, hoped that the Israeli bombs would succeed in achieving what her government’s grand policies failed to achieve, namely a New Middle East.
     In a friendly meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, on July 25, 2006, Rice eagerly, although rashly wished to interpret to equally eager journalists the political promise that lies within the Israeli onslaught. "As we deal with the current circumstances, we need always to be cognizant of and looking to what kind of Middle East we are trying to build. It is time for a new Middle East," she said. Olmert nodded.

Families targeted
Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/15/2009
      Israel is using weapons of mass destruction to take out ordinary families in Gaza, reports Clockwise from top: Palestinians mourn the death of one of their relatives, killed during the Israeli strikes, at the local cemetery in Gaza City; Palestinian families leave their houses in Rafah after the Israeli army warned residents to leave the area; a Palestinian woman walks amidst the debris of destroyed buildings; Palestinian men pull a man injured in the Zeitoun district following Israeli strikes Arafat Al-Samuni lives on the eastern border of the Zeitoun neighbourhood south of Gaza City. He was recently startled by a loud knock at his door and didn’t open it at first because he and his family were too scared. The sound of explosions filled the air and the walls of his home had been shaking ever since the Israeli army had begun its land offensive. Yet the knocking persisted, and Al-Samuni had no choice but to open the door. He had thought that occupation soldiers had been knocking, but was surprised to find dozens of his relatives -- men, women and children -- shouting at him to get down to the storage space on the ground floor as ordered by the Israeli soldiers who had raided the area. The soldiers had asked all the families in the area, including Al-Samuni’s, to gather in his house.
     The men, women and children stayed in the storeroom for three days without food or water. During the afternoon of the fourth day, two of the men decided to leave the house to bring water and some food for the children who were weak with hunger. They returned an hour later and as the children were eating the bread and cheese they had brought an Israeli tank fired shells at the house, directed at the ground floor storeroom. Dozens of family members were killed or injured, while two men who were unharmed fled through the door that had burst open from the impact, leaving to bring an ambulance. Israeli occupation soldiers were watching and demanded that the men strip naked before allowing them to leave. They eventually ran off to get emergency relief teams to rescue the injured, but when the ambulance finally arrived, the soldiers shot at them and didn’t allow them to remove the wounded for another three hours.