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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
20 January, 2008

UN chief demands investigation into Israeli attack on Gaza headquarters
Owen Bowcott, The Guardian 1/20/2009
Ban Ki-Moon visibly angry at sight of burned-out buildings • Palestinians estimate property damage at £1. 3bn - The secretary general of the United Nations has called for a full investigation into Israel’s shelling of three of its buildings in the Gaza Strip during its three-week long assault against Hamas. A visibly furious Ban Ki-moon condemned as "outrageous, shocking and alarming" the destruction he had seen while touring Gaza, and described as "excessive use" of force the violence wrought by both Israel and Hamas rockets. " These are heartbreaking scenes I have seen and I am deeply grieved by what I have seen today," he said, standing against a backdrop of still-smoking food aid in a UN warehouse destroyed by Israeli gunfire last Thursday. Demanding a proper judicial inquiry and guarantees that UN buildings would not be attacked again, Ban said: "I am just appalled.

Israel accused of war crimes over phosphorus use
Ian Black, Middle East editor, The Guardian 1/20/2009
As Palestinians yesterday counted the human cost of the conflict, Israel was again accused of war crimes for using white phosphorus munitions. " Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate," said Donatella Rovera, a researcher with Amnesty International. "Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime. " The UN and Human Rights Watch have made similar claims about the use of white phosphorus in the three-week conflict. Amnesty sent a British weapons expert, Chris Cobb-Smith, into Gaza following the ceasefire at the weekend. He found widespread evidence of the use of the incendiary material. " We saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still-burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters

IAEA to probe Arab claim Israel used uranium ammo on Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/21/2009
The United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday it would look into a claim by Vienna-based Arab ambassadors that Israel may have used ammunition containing depleted uraniumon the Gaza Strip during its three-week offensive. The IAEA said the request was made in a letter addressed to Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and was delivered by the Saudi Arabia ambassador on Monday on behalf of Arab diplomats. "We are circulating the letter to member states and will investigate the matter to the extent of our ability," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. She said the IAEA had not yet decided on its course of action as it needs to check with member states first. The Israeli ambassador to the IAEA, Israel Michaeli, declined to comment on the letter. The IAEA has in the past contributed to studies on depleted uranium traces. . .

Two children, one farmer, killed in Gaza on Tuesday
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/20/2009
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Tuesday that two Palestinian children, brother and sister, were killed when an explosive charge dropped by the army during the offensive against Gaza detonated near them. A Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli military fire in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The sources stated that the two children are brothers and were identified as Abdullah, 10, and his sister Shorouq, 11. They were playing in Al Sha’af area, east of Gaza City, when the explosive detonated near them. Also, Maan News Agency reported that Dr. Muawiya Hassanen,head of the Emergency Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, said that a Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli gunfire while he was working in his land east of Jabalia. The body of the farmer was moved to Kamal Adwan Hospital, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials: Obama a true friend
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/21/2009
Following historic day in Washington, officials in Jerusalem say they are not concerned about incoming US president, expect Israel to remain America’s "strategic, intimate partner’ during Obama era - Barack Obama is a "true friend of Israel" who identifies emotionally not only with the state, but also with the people of Israel, a senior official in Jerusalem said Tuesday. Referring to hints about Obama’s Muslim connections, the senior figure told Ynet that "his last name, Hussein, is completely meaningless. "Speaking on the historic day that saw America’s first black president sworn in, Israeli officials stressed that they are familiar with the incoming president and with quite a few key figures in the new US Administration. "Our advantage is that we have become familiar with many of the new Administration’s members during joint activity spreading over 10-15 years," a foreign ministry official said.

Report: Israel wants control of UN reconstruction effort
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel is insisting that any money allocated to Gaza’s reconstruction not go to Hamas or its affiliates, and that the United Nations sends a detailed list of required equipment for approval before it enters the Strip. According to diplomatic sources working at a Western office in Israel, the Israel is concerned that money may reach Hamas and is insisting on playing a large role and the surveillance of monetary inflow for reconstruction projects. Israel is also studying the possibility of expanding a list of main materials considered for entering Gaza, demanding that the UN and other relief organizations provide information on anything headed toward Gaza, the same diplomatic sources said. Israel is insisting that the UN and any other organization first obtain a permit before implementing pledges, as well as assurances that the UN will not participate directly with Hamas in Gaza’s reconstruction.

PA foreign minister, Hamas leader spar over UN Gaza aid
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – In spite of dual ceasefire announcements from Hamas and Israel, new battles are brewing between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, led by acting President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki asserted on Tuesday that the PA will take control of efforts to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip, despite a previous Hamas announcement that insisted on “specialized committees” for the post-war reconstruction. Speaking from Kuwait, Al-Maliki told Ma’an in a telephone interview that “all programs, mechanisms and plans that will be agreed upon will pass through the PA—only. ”The Palestinian foreign minister added that “everything we talked about from day one regarding the Gaza Strip will be accomplished in coordination with the PA. ”But according to Mousa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas deputy at the movement’s political office, rejected. . .

VIDEO - Gaza doctors struggle to treat deadly burns consistent with white phosphorus
Rory McCarthy in Gaza City, The Guardian 1/20/2009
Doctors in Gaza described today how they had struggled to treat dozens of patients with terrible and unusually deadly burns consistent with white phosphorus weapons, during Israel’s three-week war in Gaza. Nafiz Abu Shabaan, head of the burns unit at Shifa hospital and the most senior burns surgeon in Gaza, said 60 to 70 patients had died in his unit during the war from severe burns that were unlike any injury he had previously seen. Patients with only relatively small burn injuries, which ought to be survivable, were dying unexpectedly. His account, along with evidence from survivors, corroborates mounting evidence from groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that the Israeli military fired phosphorus shells into populated areas of Gaza in direct violation of international humanitarian law. Amnesty said it believes Israel is guilty of a war crime.

Olmert praises Gaza op commanders
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Prime minister says IDF adhered to high moral standards during war against Hamas -Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Tuesday with brigade commanders who led the military operation in Gaza and commended their performance. During the meeting, which summed up Operation Cast Lead, Olmert told GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant that his performance was "a masterpiece". The prime minister asked to hear details regarding Hamas and its methods of warfare against IDF soldiers. He was especially interested in Hamas’ techniques and weaponry. The brigade commanders presented their mission to the prime minister and detailed their soldiers’ progress on a map of Gaza. They also supplied dramatic accounts of heroic acts by troops on the battlefield.

An international investigation deems Israeli use of white phosphorus in city a war crime
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/20/2009
Gaza -- As some doctors and medical supplies are being allowed in to the Gaza Strip to work on the thousands of injuries, Amnesty International delegates found that the Israeli use of white phosphorous against Palestinians "is clear and undeniable. "An Amnesty delegation is among those investigating the humanitarian disaster and status of war crimes. The use of white phosphorus bombs was particularly heavy in densely populated areas in Gaza City and the northern Strip. A four-member fact-finding team was able to enter through the southern crossing. Weapons expert Christopher Cobb-Smith reports on the Sunday investigation, "We found the streets and alleys full of evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including one still burning and the remnants of the bombs and jackets made by the army. " The weapon is not banned under international law but is not accepted for use in civilian areas and is therefore considered a war crime.

Rights groups demand Gaza op probe
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Human rights organizations urge attorney general to investigate violations of combat rules in Gaza -Eight human rights organizations appealed to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz Tuesday to establish an independent committee that would investigate attacks on Gaza civilians during the IDF operation in the Strip. The organizations that launched the appeal, including B’tselem, Gisha, Yesh Din, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) say that an investigation independent of the State is necessary in order to establish whether international laws were broken by Israel. ACRI Attorney Limor Yehuda wrote that the organizations’ claims were based on various incidents reported by the media as well as reports emerging daily from Gaza. According to Yehuda, the "appalling" number of women and children killed during the operation as well as suspicions. . . "

Friends of humanity: Israel violated houses of worship during its war on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
VIENNA, (PIC)-- The organization of friends of humanity international based in Vienna issued an extensive report regarding the violation of the IOF troops to houses of worship during the war on the Gaza Strip. The report, which was received by the PIC, said that during the Israeli aggression on civilians and their homes, the IOF troops, as admitted by Israeli officials, deliberately bombed houses of worship in Gaza with missiles and heavy bombs while worshipers were inside them in some cases within the Israeli comprehensive war on Gaza. The organization provided statistics containing the names and the locations of 27 mosques that had been bombed by the IOF troops since the start of the war against Gaza on the 27th of December 2008. It condemned those attacks by saying that it was not strange to the IOF troops, who commit war crimes against the Palestinian people on a daily basis,. . .

Eight human rights groups call for probing Israel
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
TEL AVIV - Eight Israeli human rights groups came together Tuesday to demand the state investigate the army’s behaviour in the deadly 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip. They urged prosecutor general Menachem Mazuz, who is also the government legal adviser, to act "given the scale of the casualties among the civilian population during Operation Cast Lead. " A statement said the numbers of children and women killed were "terrifying. " It quoted Palestinian health ministry figures listing more than 1,300 people dead, including 410 children and about 100 women. Another 5,300 were wounded -- 1,855 of them children and 795 women. "The rules of war seem to have been held in total contempt forcing Israel to open an independent inquiry immediately," the groups said. "We call on the government legal adviser to act now to set up a mechanism for independent investigation.

The Grandchildren Of Holocaust Survivors From World War II Are Doing To The Palestinians Exactly What Was Done To Them By Nazi Germany...
Norman G. Finkelstein 1/16/2009
PHOTOS: Building Walls & Fences To Keep People In Prisons / Check Points Not To Allow People Basic Freedom Of Movement / Arrests & Harassments / Destroying Homes & Livelihoods....

Israel accused of war crimes
Al Jazeera 1/20/2009
Human rights group Amnesty International has accused Israel of war crimes, saying its use of white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip was indiscriminate and illegal. The accusations from the London-based organisation came as the scale of the destruction caused by the Israeli assault on the Palestinian territory overwhelmed Gazans. Amnesty is not the first group to accuse Israel of using white phosphorus. Human Rights Watch made the accusation on January 10 and the UN has also said Israel used the munition during its offensive in Gaza. Donatella Rovera, a researcher with Amnesty, said: "Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate. Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime. "

Father: ’I watched an Israeli soldier shoot dead my two little girls’
Donald Macintyre in Gaza City, The Independent 1/21/2009
A Palestinian father has claimed that he saw two of his young daughters shot dead and another critically injured by an Israeli soldier who emerged from a stationary tank and opened fire as the family obeyed an order from the Israeli forces to leave their home. Khaled Abed Rabbo said Amal, aged two and Suad, seven, were killed by fire from the soldier’s semi-automatic rifle. His third daughter, Samer, four, has been evacuated to intensive care in a Belgian hospital after suffering critical spinal injuries which he said were inflicted in the attack early in Israel’s ground offensive. Mr Abed Rabbo stood near the wreckage off his subsequently destroyed home on the eastern edge of the northern Gaza town of Jabalya yesterday and described how a tank had parked outside the building at 12. 50pm on 7 January and ordered the family in Arabic through a megaphone to leave building.

Video: Clear off all the city!
Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 1/20/2009
We’ve seen a lot of clips that have been showing Israeli war crimes within Gaza over the last 24 days. What we didn’t have chance to look at was the reaction of the occupiers of Palestine (a. k. a Zionists-Israelis) and what they were doing on the other side of the borders of Occupied Gaza? I can’t say I’m surprised by what I saw in the following videos because I know what Zionists are made of. I can only say that I was disgusted and sick to my stomach. What you are going to see is a sample of the overwhelming majority that voted FOR the Jewish state’s war crimes and supported it day after day. These warmongers form the majority of Israel too, so no wonder. After all that they have done, after all the war crimes they have committed, they are still asking "why do they hate us? " Well, this is why (listen carefully to the bitch in the first video, close to 58 sec):

Civilian deaths higher than reported, ban lifted on limited amount of supplies
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/20/2009
Gaza - Palestinian rescue teams recovered more bodies from the rubble of Gaza yesterday bringing the death toll to 1,310. The number rose again today to 1,313 with the death of two children and another man. Of the Palestinians killed during the major Israeli attacks 40 percent were women and children. Civilian deaths are thought to be much higher than reported as all adult men are being counted as members of the armed resistance by some conservative standards. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said there is no automatic determination. The Israeli administration very publically announced today that it was opening three crossings into the Gaza Strip, temporarily lifting the ban on humanitarian aid. Two hundred truck loads of food and medicine are passing through the Karni and Kerem Salam crossings for the first time since the closure that preceded the major attacks.

Aid agencies supply essentials to Palestinians following Gaza conflict
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/20/2009
Humanitarian aid agencies poured resources into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, providing basic essentials to thousands of Palestinians in need of emergency aid after Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza. Israel, which controls border entry points into Gaza, said it hoped to triple the number of trucks being allowed to deliver assistance to the coastal territory. "We want to reach 500 trucks a day," said Isaac Herzog, the Israeli cabinet minister overseeing shipments from the Israeli side of the frontier. Around 150 trucks are currently delivering aid, including food and medicine, to the 1. 5 million population. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which has been operating in the Gaza Strip since 1948, said it carried out a preliminary assessment of the needs on the ground and determined that at least 330 million euros of emergency spending was required.

While Israeli children return to school, kids in Gaza sift through rubble to find bodies of friends
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/20/2009
Israeli media reported Monday that Israeli children from the town of Sderot have returned to school and normalcy. Meanwhile, children in every part of the Gaza Strip are either bleeding in overcrowded hospitals or sifting through the rubble of what used to be their schools, mosques and homes. Eissa Ermallat, 12, was killed Saturday in Rafah while collecting firewood to try to heat his family’s darkened home. He was among the last of the over 1300 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the three-week long offensive. While Ermallat was among the last casualties of the offensive itself, over a hundred bodies have been uncovered on Sunday and Monday, in the rubble of what used to be homes and apartment buildings. Abed Sharafi, an ambulance driver in Gaza, told Al Jazeera television network that he had personally helped pull fifteen bodies from the rubble.

Official: 230 members of Gaza police force killed
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The de facto government in Gaza announced on Tuesday that 230 members of its police and security forces, including the chief of police were killed in Israel’s three-week war on Gaza. The chief of police, Tawfiq Jaber, was also killed. Many of the police officers were killed on the first day of Israel’s massive bombing campaign on 27 December. Among the targets of the airstrikes were a number of police stations, the Ministry of the Interior, and even a police cadet graduation ceremony. During a press conference on Tuesday the spokesman of the security forces in Gaza, Islam Shahwan, called for an international investigation, backed by the European Union’s police development program, into the destruction of the police force in Gaza. Shahwan said that nearly all the police stations in Gaza had been destroyed.

Arab blogs: Tents in desert reveal Israeli plan to transfer Gazans to Egypt
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/20/2009
After flattening many parts of Gaza with aerial bombardment and ground artillery, Israel may be planning to transfer the now homeless refugees to Egypt, where hundreds of tents have been set up near Rafah. One local blogger said that a soldier told him there are many more tents being prepared, as well. According to Professor As’ad AbuKhalil, author of the ’Angry Arab’ blog, fellow blogger Ahdaf Souif in (Egyptian) Rafah told him, "Outside the general Hospital in Egyptian Rafah a city of tents has sprung up. I counted 200. But the soldiers there told me they have many more and can set them up immediately. They said the beds and furnishings for all the camps are ready. I was also told that other camps are being set up, in el-Arish and other locations. I was told these camps were being set up for ’the Palestinian refugees’. "

'Al-Basha’er Army' claims Monday night settler attack near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli medical crews said they found an Israeli settler shot in the head near the Kokhav Hashahar settlement in Ramallah on Monday night. A previously unknown group calling itself “Al-Basha’er Army” announced to Ma’an that their members were the shooters in the attack. According to Israeli sources their military and police scoured the area in search of the shooter, but were unable to find the perpetrators. They announced that an investigation has been opened into the attack. The settler is in critical condition at a local hospital. Also Monday night Israeli settlers reported being hit by a Molotov cocktail while driving on the main road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. No injuries were reported. Israeli troops detained several youth in relation to the reported incident.

Troops invade village near Jenin, impose curfew and kidnap 10 youth
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/20/2009
Palestinian sources in Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported on Tuesday at dawn that Israeli soldiers invaded Toura Al Gharbiyya village, west of Jenin, and kidnapped 10 Palestinian youths. The sources stated that soldiers closed all entrances of the village and placed sand barriers on its western entrance before imposing curfew barring the residents from leaving their homes. Eyewitnesses reported that soldiers interrogated dozens of youths, cuffed and blindfolded ten before taking them to an unknown destination. Saed Qabha, a resident of the village, told the Palestine News Network that Israeli soldiers surrounded several neighborhoods , broke into and searched dozens of homes before dragging dozens of youths and children from their homes and interrogating them in the center of the village.

Waqf Minister: Israel used Gaza invasion as chance to confiscate West Bank lands
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Land confiscations in the West Bank are continuing, said Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Jamal Bawatneh, and soon there will be no land to hold a Palestinian state. In a Tuesday letter the minister expressed his concern over the continued confiscations while “whole world was preoccupied with Gaza,” and accused Israel of using the attacks as a free-ticket to act in the West Bank. “Hundreds of dunnums of lands in Yatta village [south of] Hebron were confiscated” during the Gaza invasion, said Bawatneh. He called on Arab and Islamic leaders to pay attention to the land grabs, and speak out against them. [end]

Soldiers abduct 12 Palestinians across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers arrested 12 residents of the West Bank early on Tuesday morning, according to family members and witnesses. Troops raided the city of Sa’eer, near Hebron, on Tuesday, invading the city and seizing eight of its residents, wreaking havoc in and around homes and damaging furniture and the interior of at least one. The residents were arrested under security pretexts, according to witnesses. Other witnesses said the army fired percussion grenades inside homes, broke items belonging to residents and forced others out into the cold for several hours while a number of young men were beaten and eventually detained. They were identified as Khalil Al-Furoukh, Sa’eed Farahat Al-Furoukh, Ryad Sami Jaradat, Ha’er Nayef Jaradat, Eyad Awwad Al-Furoukh, Bilal Jameel Al-Furoukh, Anas Ali Jaradat.

Israeli soldiers abduct four Palestinians near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers seized four Palestinians in the early morning hours of Tuesday near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, residents said. The young men were reportedly taken from Aseereh and Beit Ommarein, near Nablus. Local sources told Ma’an that a number of Israeli patrols invaded the two villages, where they “entered a number of houses and searched them thoroughly. ”Soldiers dragged the following residents from their homes before taking them to an undisclosed location: Saber Fawzy Samara, 26, Jameel Sayel Samara, 43, from Beit Ommarien village and brothers Tayseer and Khaled Abd Allah Sawalmeh, from the northern Assereh village near Nablus. Neither the soldiers nor the Israeli military immediately announced any pretext for detaining the men, nor if they were accused or suspected of having committed any crime.

IOA seals home of Palestinian
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority on Monday sealed the home of Ala’a Abu Duhaim who launched an attack on a school for army rabbis in occupied Jerusalem in March last year. Lawyer Mousa Abu Duhaim, a relative to the family, said that a big number of Israeli border guards, policemen and special forces encircled the occupied Jerusalem neighborhood before dawn and ordered the family members out of the building. He said that the Israeli forces closed all entrances to the four-story building’s top two stories, describing the measure as "collective punishment". He noted that Ala’a, who was killed in the attack, only owned one of the rooms in the upper story while the Israeli forces closed two stories that contain four apartments sheltering 25 persons. Witnesses in the area said that the Israeli occupation forces prevented schoolchildren in the Jabal Al-Mukabir. . .

School teacher detained by Israeli troops, curfew imposed on northern village
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli troops detained a school teacher south of Jenin on Tuesday, then imposed a curfew on the village and blocked all roads in and out of the area. The head of the village council Tariq Qabha identified the detained man as Mu’ayad Qabha, at eacher in one of the schools in the village. He added that the troops raided the houses in the village and turned a billiards club into an investigation center. “They brought their computers and stuff and investigated some kids and young men,” said Qabha. Several children were spotted throwing stones at armed vehicles as they patrolled village streets. [end]

Day three of ceasefire: Two children killed by Israeli ordinance, farmer shot dead
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Two Palestinian children were killed by explosives left behind by Israeli forces in Gaza and a farmer was shot dead by Israeli gunfire, hospital officials reported. The director of Emergency and Ambulance Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, Muawiya Hassanain, told Ma’an that the farmer came under Israeli fire east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. His corpse taken to Kamal Udwan hospital. Earlier on Tuesday, Palestinian medical sources announced that a young boy and his sister were killed when they were playing with an unexploded bomb left behind by Israeli troops in the Ash-Sha’f area of eastern Gaza city. They were identified as 10-year-old Abdullah Hassanain, and 11-year-old Shurouq Hassanain. Hospital officials urged Gaza residents to stay away from ordinance left behind by Israeli forces, and not to eat food discarded by Israeli soldiers as it may be poisoned.

’Hamas’ fires 8 mortar shells
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/20/2009
"Terrorists" testing Israel: Mortar shells launched from central Gaza, land in Palestinian areas - Shaky ceasefire in Gaza: Palestinian "terrorists" fired eight mortar shells from the central Gaza Strip Tuesday, the army said. However, it appears all shells landed in Palestinian areas, possibly due to a malfunction. In one case, the Air Force spotted a mortar near a refugee camp and targeted it. IDF officials are closely monitoring developments in the Strip and estimate that the shells were fired by Hamas and other "terrorist" groups that are attempting to "generate" several "terror" attacks daily. Army sources told Ynet that "terrorists" resorted to mortar fire, rather than a more potent attack, as not to prompt a harsh IDF response, while still maintaining a certain level of "terror" activity. The IDF said that the mortar attacks constitute a violation of the Gaza. . .

False alarm causes panic in south
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Following first rocket-free day since Gaza operation, Color Red siren sounds in Gaza vicinity communities. Initial report says mortar shell fired from Strip; police later confirm alert system activated accidentally - A Color Red siren sounded in the Gaza vicinity communities Tuesday morning despite the ceasefire declared by the Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip. An initial report said that a mortar shell had been fired into the Sdot Negev Regional Council, but the army later said the siren was a false alarm. Many residents reported of panic following the siren. A resident of one of the kibbutzim in the area said, "When the Color Red system was activated we were quite surprised, although I can’t say we really expected a full ceasefire. People went out to work and we began a sort of routine. Post OpIDF gears for possible ceasefire violations/ Hanan. . .

Two Palestinian children die in explosion of Israeli army ordnance
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Two Palestinian children were killed on Tuesday in the explosion of unexploded ordnance left over by the Israeli occupation forces in Zaitun suburb east of Gaza city, medical sources reported. They explained that the two children, who were accompanying their parents in inspecting the remains of their destroyed home, played with a "suspicious" object, which led to its explosion and their immediate death. The IOF troops fired hundreds of tons of explosive on the Gaza Strip during the past three weeks of bloody aggression on the Strip, some of them carried non-conventional warheads that remain unexploded and blast when moved. Palestinian doctors expect more such explosions to occur within the few coming days. They asked inhabitants to be absolutely cautious when dealing with any "suspicious" metal object in the ruins or vicinity of their devastated homes.

Two children killed, Israeli ships open fire on fishermen
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/20/2009
Gaza - Palestinian medical sources report two children were killed on Tuesday when an explosive device from the remnants of the Israeli army detonated in eastern Gaza City. The Director General of Ambulance and Emergency at the Ministry of Health Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, said the "two children were killed while they were playing. "He said, "They were messing around with a package of remnants of the Israeli occupation, eastern Gaza City. They were transferred to the hospital. Their bodies are torn. "The children were identified as 10 year old Abdullah Hassanein and 11 year old Sharuq Hassanein. The Ministry of Health says the death toll is up to 1,414 Palestininians in the Gaza Strip since 27 December. Israeli tanks retreated from eastern Gaza City’s Shejayieh neighborhood where the children were killed, while continuing to bulldoze land in the central Strip.

Gunmen fire at IDF troops in 2 incidents
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Force fired on near Gaza border, south of Kissufim crossing; 40 minutes later, gunmen shoot at another Israeli force in central Strip. No injuries reported. Meanwhile, army begins pulling out last forces from Strip. Reservists released, regular brigades remain in bases near Gaza, prepared for any possible scenario - An Israeli force patrolling the area near the border fence, south of the Kissufim crossing, was fired on Tuesday afternoon. The Israel Defense Forces is looking into the circumstances of the incident. About 40 minutes later, Palestinian gunmen fired at another force in the central Gaza Strip. The soldiers fired back at the shooters. There were no reports of injuries or damage in both incidents. Meanwhile, the IDF was preparing to remove its last forces from Gaza following its three-week offensive there and deploy them outside the Strip.

Army claims soldiers bombed Gaza after eight shells were fired at Israel
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/20/2009
The Israeli air force shelled a target in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening and claimed that the shelled target was used earlier in the day by Palestinian fighters who allegedly fired eight homemade shells into Israel. Also, the army said that Palestinian fighters opened fire at Israeli soldiers in two separate incidents on Tuesday; no injuries were reported. The first incident took place near the Kissufim border crossing and the second in central Gaza, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported. Furthermore, the army backtracked an earlier report in which soldiers claimed that fighters fired a shell into adjacent Israel area. Haaretz reported that the Israeli police said that "what looked like a projectile never reached Israel". The army said that the warning siren that was sounded was a false alarm.

IOF gunboats shell Gaza coasts
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israel occupation forces’ gunboats on Tuesday fired a number of shells at the coast of Gaza city and its northern areas while its army tanks advanced into eastern Khan Younis, to the south of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses reported that the IOF gunboats fired shells and opened heavy machinegun fire at the Gaza coasts. In Khan Younis, locals said that five IOF army tanks and two bulldozers advanced into Qarara east of Khan Younis. They said that the tractors bulldozed agriculture land in the area while the tanks fired randomly at residential neighborhoods wounding a citizen. [end]

Mortar shells strike open areas in Eshkol region; none wounded
Jerusalem Post 1/20/2009
Palestinians fired a barrage of mortar shells late Tuesday night, hitting open areas in the Eshkol region. Nobody was wounded in the latest cease-fire violation, and no damage was reported. [end]

Olmert: U.S.-Israeli relations will grow even stronger under Obama
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/21/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday congratulated U. S. President Barack Obama upon his inauguration, saying he expects Israeli-American relations to become even stronger. "We wish the incoming President success in his office and are certain that we will be full partners in advancing peace and stability in the Middle East," Olmert said in a statement. "The greatest democracy in the world has again proven that it is a beacon and example for many countries," he said. "The entire State of Israel rejoices with the United States and welcomes President Obama. "The prime minister also thanked outgoing U. S. President George W. Bush for his friendship with Israel over the course of his terms in office. "The United States, including both parties, has been a true and strong friend of the State of Israel over the years, especially during former President Bush’s term of office," Olmert said.

Olmert: We share in America’s joy
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/20/2009
PM congratulates incoming US president, says he expects US-Israel ties to grow stronger - As President-elect Barack Obama made his last preparations to enter the White House, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a congratulatory statement Tuesday evening to welcome America’s new leader into office. "The prime minister expresses his gratitude to outgoing United States President George W. Bush for the friendship and closeness between Israel and the US during his term in office," the statement read. "On this festive day of democracy, the prime minister congratulates America and President Barack Obama, who is taking office today," Olmert wrote. "The entire State of Israel shares America’s joy and sends its well-wishes to the president being sworn in this evening. " The prime minister also expressed his confidence that the ties between the two countries will grow even stronger during Obama’s term in office.

Gazans see little hope for change under Obama
Mai Yaghi - Gaza City, Middle East Online 1/20/2009
As they clean up the rubble of Israel’s deadliest war on their coastal strip, Gazans hold out little hope that new US president Barack Obama can bring change to the cycle of violence. The tide of global hope that has surged with Obama’s arrival has not washed over Gaza, where 1,300 Palestinians died, more than 400 of them children, and 5,000 were wounded in Israel’s 22-day offensive that only ended on Sunday. "Obama won’t bring my husband back to life," said Leila Khalil. "He was martyred and left me with six children to feed on my own. And Obama won’t repair our house that was damaged in the (air) raids. " Palestinians across the battered city voice the same anguish as 42-year-old Khalil, who lost her husband on January 6 when Israeli bombs fell on a school in the north of the Gaza Strip. For Khalil, Obama, who was to be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United. . .

Ex-envoys: Israel has nothing to worry about
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Former ambassadors to Washington analyze Israel-US relations as Obama era begins - Obama’s inauguration as the American president will be a fundamental moment in the history of the United States, former Israeli Ambassador to Washington Daniel Ayalon said Monday after returning from a visit to the US capital. "The atmosphere in Washington is extraordinary. You can feel the excitement on the streets. I saw convoys of people arriving at the capital to take part in the swearing-in celebration, and it wasn’t the same crowd which came to such events in the past. Many black and Hispanic people. "Obama’s appointment will likely affect the way the US is perceived in the world. This will give the Americans a much softer and less stiff image, both because of Obama’s policy and because of what he represents as a minority. "

250 Palestinians recently taken from Gaza held under interrogation
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/20/2009
Najib Farrag -- At least 250 people were arrested during the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Legislative Council member working on the issue of political prisoners, Issa Qaraqa’ reported today that 250 more Palestinians are being held in the prisons of the Naqab Desert. "Conditions are extremely harsh," Qaraqa’ confirmed on Tuesday. "The prisoners have been subjected to beatings and abuse. A number of them are wounded and in need of treatment in hospitals. They are being held hostage by the Israeli intelligence service for interrogation. "The PLC deputy noted that Gaza Palestinians are being detained in Al Naqab because of a lack of space in the investigation rooms of Askelon, Jalama and Petah Tikva. They are in total isolation from the rest of the prison population. Qaraqa’ called the International Red Cross to visit the political prisoners from the Gaza Strip and see the conditions and circumstances.

250 Gazans in Negev detention center; men are harshly beaten and interrogated
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - At least 250 Gazans were detained by Israeli troops during the Gaza invasion, said member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Issa Karake on Tuesday. The men are being held in the Negev prison, living in tents and being constantly beaten and attacked, said Karake. Several need hospital treatment, which they are being denied and many are also being used by the Israeli intelligence units as information sources and are interrogated for hours. The Gazans have been isolated and not permitted to interact with prisoners from the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Karake called on the Red Cross to visit the detainees and verify his story, then put pressure on Israel to release the men immediately. The men are very worried about their families, Karake said, adding that they would like to go home and make sure their loved ones are alright.

Palestinian prisoners left untreated for virus at Israeli jail
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Palestinians held in the Huwwara prison by Israeli forces have come down with a severe flu, which has remained untreated and is aggravating several pre-existing health conditions, said the Detainees Society Sunday. According to their report the Israeli prison administration has repeatedly refused to treat the prisoners, and continue harsh treatment despite the prevailing illness in the facility. A lawyer for the society noted that the prison was very cold and that prisoners commented that there were not enough blankets to keep them warm, though 15 prisoners have been transferred to facilities with better conditions, adding that the Huwwara prison has many in solitary confinement or in damp, dark cells.

Livni: We need progress on Shalit before we address Hamas demands
Barak Ravid Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 1/21/2009
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that progress over the return of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit is a precondition for any Israeli concessions to Hamas. "It is clear to me that at this point in time Hamas, on the one hand, and the international community, on the other hand, are going to pressure Israel over border-crossings and other matters," Livni told students at the College of Management. While there things that Hamas wants to obtain from Israel, there is a human being that we want back - Gilad Shalit," she continued. "The two matters are mutually dependent; it is impossible to separate them and we cannot move forward on any other issue until we make progress on the return of Gilad Shalit. " Israel wants Egypt to press Hamas on a schedule for a prisoner exchange that would secure Shalit’s release.

Israel and Germany agree on expanding flights
Orli Peleg-Mizrahi, Globes Online 1/20/2009
The deal allows each side to operate 30 weekly flights, as opposed to the current 18. The Ministry of Transport announced today that Israel and Germany have reached an agreement to add new designated carriers on routes between the two countries. According to the agreement, each side can name two airlines as designated carriers to operate flights between the two countries. Similar agreements have been reached recently between Israel and Britain, Belgium, France, Russia, Italy, and other countries. According to Ministry of Transport director general Gideon Siterman, the deal will lead to a significant increase in competition and flow of passengers in and out of Israel. The deal allows each side to operate 30 weekly flights, as opposed to the current 18. There is also an option to operate flights from other destinations in Germany.

EU to join struggle against Gaza arms smuggling
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/21/2009
European Union expected to contribute manpower, vessels in effort to curb weapon transfers - The 27-member European Union is joining the effort to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza. EU foreign ministers are expected to announce Wednesday their intention to contribute units, vessels, and technological means in order to curb weapon transfers from Iran to Hamas. The intense efforts of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in coordination with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, reportedly prompted the six European leaders who attended meetings in Egypt and Israel Sunday to undertake concrete actions. Senior officials in Jerusalem say that according to the agreement that was formulated, EU countries will come onboard the deal signed between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and FM Livni over the weekend. The move would see the EU directing its members to undertake actions that would contribute to the anti-smuggling efforts.

Dialogue with Hamas is only path to peace, urges novelist
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/21/2009
David Grossman, the renowned Israeli novelist, issued a pained rebuke to his countrymen over the Gaza invasion yesterday and called for the immediate opening of talks with the militant Hamas movement. Embarking on what he conceded would be a daunting dialogue with Hamas, which refuses Israel’s right to exist, "will contribute more to our security than a hundred planes dropping bombs on a city and its inhabitants", the dovish author wrote in a front-page article in the daily Haaretz. Grossman accused Israelis of using "sophisticated defence mechanisms and self-righteousness" to avoid recognising the scope of the killing and destruction the army has wrought on Gaza. When this subsides, perhaps Israelis will realise there is "something deep and basic in our behaviour in the region, for time immemorial, that is mistaken, immoral and unwise and that time and again fans the flames that are consuming us", he wrote.

'Gazans won’t maybe die in airstrikes anymore but may still starve to death due to the ongoing siege'
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 1/20/2009
Ramallah, 20-01-09: Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, spoke out against the faulty unilateral ceasefire declared by Israel. " What ceasefire? " he asked, "Israel is still reportedly bombarding Palestinians from the sea, and though the troops have been moving back, they are not gone and retain the permission to instigate more violence at will. " "This war and the ceasefire have not brought about a lifting of the siege on Gaza. People might not be dying by gunfire, but they may still starve to death or succumb to easily treatable ailments. This brutal siege has crippled Gaza and most importantly the children", he emphasised, referring on the siege policy that Israel has heavily imposed on the Gaza Strip for 14 months. Studies in Gaza have revealed ’stunting’ in children compared to their West Bank counterparts due to the siege.

Israel Begins Pullout; Gazans Survey Debris
Jonathan Finer and Craig Whitlock, MIFTAH 1/20/2009
Israeli soldiers flashed the victory sign Sunday as they began withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. Shellshocked Palestinians emerged from shelters and counted their dead. But as a tenuous cease-fire took hold, few people on either side predicted an end to the cycle of violence that has endured for generations. The 22-day war ended without surrender. Neither Israel nor Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, made any concessions, except to stop fighting temporarily. " The essence of this is you have two completely separate cease-fires, with no underpinnings in them of agreement or understanding, and no resolution of the original causes of the conflict," said Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer and former European Union adviser on Palestinian issues. "On one level, it’s back to square one, and all of the elements of the situation are back to where they were before the war. "

Haniyeh: Hamas Won Gaza War, But was Wise to Declare Truce
Avi Issacharoff, MIFTAH 1/20/2009
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Sunday that Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip was a failure and had not cowed the Palestinians, but praised his movement for deciding to declare a cease-fire. " 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’s decision to declare a truce on Sunday was "wise and responsible". Hamas announced an immediate cease-fire by its militants and allied groups in Gaza on Sunday, giving Israel a week to pull out its troops from the coastal territory. Israel, which mounted an offensive against Hamas three weeks ago to halt years of rocket attacks, agreed to silence its guns and ground its aircraft early Sunday.

An-Nasser Brigades: We are not committed to anything
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - Though they have not yet launched any projectiles, the An-Nasser Brigades released a statement Monday announcing that they “are not committed to anything. ”The statement did not specify whether or not the Brigades, lead by Secretary General Sheikh Abu Al-Qassam Dughmush and affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees, would follow the ceasefire for the time being, nor did Dughmush indicate under what circumstances firing would begin again. What was made clear, however, was that Sheikh Dughmush wants to be consulted before any decisions regarding resistance factions are made. “The resistance will last and will never stop,” he wrote, adding “some Arab and Palestinian leaders thought that this Gaza war would break the will of the resistance,” be he assured then that “after this war [the resistance] is much stronger than before and we will have more training and preparation to oppose any Israeli attacks.

Calm reigns in demolished Gaza Strip
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
GAZA CITY - Tension eased in Gaza early on Tuesday as a fragile ceasefire entered its third day, with residents struggling to absorb the devastation caused by Israel’s deadly 22-day assault on the territory. As dawn approached, there were no reports of shooting, rockets or any other unrest by either side for the first time since Israel launched its massive assault on December 27. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on Sunday and begun pulling back from Gaza City while Hamas and other resistance groups kept to a week-long truce on condition that Israel would withdraw its troops by then. As some kind of normalcy began to return to the battered enclave, UN chief Ban Ki-moon was to make his first visit to witness first hand the extent of the destruction which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, mainly civilians.

U.N. Chief Appalled at Israeli Destruction in Gaza
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service 1/21/2009
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 20(IPS) - When Israel went on a military rampage during its 22-day air strikes and artillery attacks on Gaza, it largely singled out residential neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools and U. N. buildings on the pretext of targeting Hamas fighters. But John Ging, director of operations for the U. N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), based in Gaza, kept insisting there were no Hamas fighters anywhere in the vicinity of U. N. -run schools or warehouses. "What we have regretted in the past is that we have not been given a hearing to answer," he told reporters Monday. He charged that most of the allegations made by Israel were "unsubstantiated, unfounded - and continue to be repeated. " Perhaps his strongest indictment of the Israelis was reflected in his response to a question on military tactics: "We don’t, in a civilised world, shoot the hostage to get to the hostage taker.

Ban demands probe into Gaza attacks
Al Jazeera 1/21/2009
Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, has demanded a "full investigation" into Israel’s bombing of a UN compound in Gaza City. Speaking during an official visit to the devastated territory on Tuesday, he condemned the attack on the UN complex as "outrageous" and "totally unacceptable". "It is particularly significant for a secretary-general of the UN to stand in front of this bomb site of the UN compound," he said. "I am just appalled and not able to describe how I am feeling having seen this. . . it’s an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the UN. I have protested many times, and I protest again in the strongest terms. "Ban called for a "full investigation" into the incident to make those responsible for the attack "accountable".

Ban Ki-moon ’appalled’ by Gaza destruction
AP, The Independent 1/20/2009
UN chief Ban Ki-moon says Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel are appalling and unacceptable. During a trip to the rocket-scarred Israeli town of Sderot, Ban said the projectiles are indiscriminate weapons, and Hamas attacks are violations of basic humanitarian law. However, he also urged Israel to end its crippling blockade of Gaza. He says the embargo will only strengthen Hamas by fueling desperation in impoverished Gaza. Ban was touring Israel and Gaza on Tuesday in the wake of a deadly Israeli offensive in Gaza. Israel launched the operation to end years of rocket fire on Sderot and other southern towns. The UN chief inspected the devastation wrought by Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, leading a moment of silence at the smoldering UN headquarters, as the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, triumphant at having survived, held victory rallies amid the ruins.

UN chief: post-war Gaza ‘heartbreaking’
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
GAZA CITY - UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called for those responsible for the bombing of UN-run buildings and schools in Gaza (i. e. Israel) to be held accountable following Israel’s 22-day war on the Strip. "It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack on the United Nations," Ban said, speaking outside the still-smouldering main UN compound in Gaza City that was bombed during the war. "There must be a full investigation, a full explanation to make sure it never happens again. There should be accountability through a proper judiciary system," he said. Ban, describing the scenes in post-war Gaza "heartbreaking," became the first world leader to visit the enclave since Israel halted the deadliest offensive it has ever launched on the Palestinian territory. The UN compound where he spoke was hit by Israeli shells on January 15, setting a warehouse alight, burning. . .

UN Secretary General surveys the destruction of Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/20/2009
Gaza -- Under the terms of the ceasefire unilaterally declared by the Israeli administration as was the war, forces remain in the Gaza Strip. In the south’s Qarrara and Khan Younis tanks are razing large swaths of land. Two children were killed by left over land mines and thousands of people are trying to "return to normalcy. "Mourning for the victims, homelessness and joblessness are rampant with a destroyed infrastructure and 22,000 lost homes. A Gaza resident stuck outside says, "I am sad because my cousin’s home was destroyed," with the mourning spreading throughout the region. "And two of my friends were killed. "In the Strip today is United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who time and again called on the Israeli administration to lift the month and a half closure that preceded the major attacks, and repeatedly called for a ceasefire.

United Nations Secretary General: the situation in Gaza is tragic
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/20/2009
Gaza -- As the United States swore in Barak Obama, for whom the Israelis said they withdrew from Gaza, the United Nations Secretary General entered the Strip through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing in the north’s Beit Hanoun. To the press Ban Ki-moon said late this afternoon, "The situation in Gaza is tragic. "Thousands of people remain in United Nations’ schools that became shelters, still wondering about missing family members. Appalled by the destruction, the UN leader added that he would work for "peace, an end to occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. "As thousands of people are homeless in the devastated Strip, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported last night that there are over 46,234 homeless Palestinians because that is the number remaining in shelters.

Prayer for Pollard’s release ahead of Obama inauguration
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Free Pollard Committee hopes US President Bush may choose to grant last-minute pardon to convicted Israeli spy -Esther Pollard, wife of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, has been spending the last few hours of US President George W. Bush’s term at the Western Wall, praying that he makes a last minute gesture and set her husband free. Jonathan Pollard was a United States Naval civilian intelligence analyst who was indicted and convicted of spying forIsrael in 1986. He was later convicted of one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government; and though he never faced treason charges, he was sentenced to life in prison, without possibility of parole. Members of the Free Pollard Committee, an organization which has been lobbying for his parole for over a dozen years, see Tuesday - when Barack Obama stands to be sworn in. . .

George Mitchell to be named special US envoy to Mideast
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Barack Obama said to appoint veteran senator, author of Mitchell Report on al-Aqsa Intifada as his emissary to region - WASHINGTON – One of Barack Obama’s first moves once he is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday is expected to be the nomination of Senator George Mitchell (D) as his Middle East envoy. Mitchell is no stranger to Middle East affairs, as he headed the 2001 US Administration committee tasked with probing the events leading up to the 2000 al-Aqsa Intifada. According to the Washington Post, Mitchell’s nomination suggests Obama intends to push for fast progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track. The official announcement about the nomination is expected to be published later Tuesday, once the Senate confirms Hillary Clinton as the new secretary of state. According to the Washington Post, Mitchell’s nomination suggests Obama intends to push for fast progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track.

Obama considering George Mitchell as Mideast envoy
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/21/2009
President Barack Obama will move quickly to name a Middle East envoy and is strongly considering former Sen. George Mitchell for the job, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday. The naming of the veteran international troubleshooter to the role would signal that Obama was serious about carrying out his campaign pledge to engage early in his administration on the Middle East issue, analysts said. Best known for peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland, the former Senate majority leader, 75, also has experience in the Middle East. Mitchell was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to find ways to halt Israeli-Palestinian violence. "This is a tremendous signal of (Obama’s) desire to nail down once and for all a Palestinian-Israeli peace," said Gregory Orfalea, who teaches Arab-American history at Georgetown University.

Iranians doubt Obama will ’change’ policy
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
TEHRAN - People in Tehran voiced scepticism about a possible thaw in ties between Tehran and Washington. The ultra-conservative Kayhan daily dubbed Barack Obama as "a big fan of Zionists," below a cartoon that showed outgoing US President George W. Bush handing the Israeli flag to the new Democratic US leader. The conservative Hamshahri ran a sarcastic headline: "The change advocate, who changed," noting what it described as Obama’s "recent change of tone" to support war policies of the previous Republican administration. Obama has vowed diplomatic engagement with Iran but Hillary Clinton, his choice for secretary of state, has repeated the Bush’s administration stance of "not taking any option off the table" -- which includes military action -- in support for Israel. Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since 1979 Iranian revolution, which toppled the ruthless US-backed dictator, the shah.

Obama vows new start with Muslims
Reuters, YNetNews 1/20/2009
New president sworn in: Barack Obama says he will seek ’new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect’ vis-à-vis Muslim world, warns terrorists that America will outlast, defeat them - US President Barack Obama promised a new start with the Muslim world in his inauguration address on Tuesday. "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," said Obama, who also vowed to responsibly pull US forces out of Iraq. However, Obama warned that those who wage terrorism around the world that America’s resolve remained strong. "We say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. " Obama was sworn-in as America’s 44th president with millions in attendance at Washington, becoming the first black president of the United States.

’Iran renews efforts to supply Hamas’
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 1/20/2009
Iran has renewed efforts to supply advanced weaponry to Hamas and the IDF is concerned that the terror group will try to smuggle long-range Fajr missiles into the Gaza Strip. According to the latest intelligence assessments, Iran, which was responsible for writing Hamas’s military doctrine, has already launched an internal probe to determine how the plan it had created for Hamas failed to cause more IDF casualties. The military plan created by the Iranians was based on three pillars: The first was the defensive measures that Hamas had created in Gaza, which included dozens of kilometers of tunnels and thousands of roadside bombs and booby-trapped homes. The second pillar was rocket attacks against the home front. Here too, Hamas failed to fire rockets farther than 40 kilometers, even though it had planned to.

Report: Israel sent police unit to Gaza to free captured soldier
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A highly trained Israeli police unit was in the Gaza Strip for the duration of Operation Cast Lead, according to Hebrew-language newspaper Ma’ariv. According to the report, the unit had been trained in anti-terrorism and hostage-release tactics. Members of the specialized unit were reportedly on alert for the possibility that troops might come across captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted in the summer of 2007 near Gaza. [end]

Resistance factions: Abbas is not legitimate
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Palestinian resistance factions based in Damascus on Monday issued a statement rejecting the Arab League’s invitation to Mahmoud Abbas, the ex-PA chief, to represent the Palestinian people at the Arab summit in Kuwait. The statement said that Abbas, whose term in office ended on 9th January, had "lost legitimacy and only represented himself". It also warned of dealing with the Salam Fayyad government in Ramallah because it was not trustworthy of handling the Gaza reconstruction funds and did not reflect the Palestinian resistance’s opinion. The statement said that certain parties involved in the Israeli aggression on Gaza were quick to try and reap the resistance’s achievements in Gaza. It asked all countries to deal with Abbas only as a former president. A Jordanian MP has asked his government not to receive Abbas as president of Palestine since his term in office had expired.

Hamdan: Hamas is not against any effort to initiate national dialog
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Osama Hamdan, the representative of Hamas in Lebanon, stated that his Movement is not against any effort to initiate inter-Palestinian dialog leading to national reconciliation, ending the division and establishing a national unity government biased in favor of the resistance. Hamdan revealed that there is a common feeling among the Gaza people that ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and some of his entourage were inclined to the Israeli occupation, besides they did not see Abbas make one positive step for them during the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.  The Hamas leader stressed that the Palestinian government has embarked on addressing the impact of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, noting that the aggression would never be a gate to blackmail the Movement politically and therefore the required national dialog must be based on national foundations and reevaluate the nature. . .

Gaza has exposed the Arab leaders to fury and contempt
Ian Black, The Guardian 1/20/2009
It was Monday, so it had to be Kuwait. And there they were, 17 leaders and five senior representatives of all 22 members of the Arab League, gathered to discuss the impact of the global economic crisis, though the original agenda was hijacked by the end of Israel’s devastating three-week onslaught against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Yesterday’s summit of kings, presidents and emirs did produce one piece of good news for the battered Palestinians: a Saudi cheque for $1bn that will certainly help rebuild bombed mosques, schools and homes. But it raises the wider question of what Arabs can and should do to help the cause they hold so dear - when they cannot even agree an agenda and when or where to meet. On Sunday the heads of state of Egypt and Jordan, both stalwarts of the so-called moderate or western-backed camp, were the only Arabs to attend the Sharm el-Sheikh conference.

Iraqi FM: Arabs unable to agree on Gaza statement
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/20/2009
At end of a two-day Arab Economic summit in Kuwait, Hoshyar Zebari says efforts still ongoing to reach agreement on Strip following three-week Israeli offensive - Arab countries have been unable to agree on a unified statement about the Gaza Strip following Israel’s devastating three-week offensive, Iraq’s foreign minister said Tuesday. The crisis in Gaza has divided Arab countries into two camps - one supporting Hamas’ hardliners, the other hoping to lure the Palestinian militant group toward more moderation. The political division could affect the stability of the fragile cease-fire in Gaza, which was in its third day Tuesday. "Unfortunately, we didn’t reach a final result because of time limits and because some are entrenched in their positions," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told state-owned Kuwait Television at the end of a two-day Arab Economic summit in Kuwait, which had been dominated by Gaza.

Arab leaders focus on economy after Gaza
Reuters, The Independent 1/20/2009
Arab leaders looking to bridge sharp divisions over Israel’s Gaza offensive will agree at a summit today to launch a $2 billion (£1. 43 billion) reconstruction fund and call for greater economic cooperation. Differences over how to deal with the three-week Israeli offensive that killed more than 1,300 people highlighted the divide between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and their allies on one side, and Syria, Qatar and their allies on the other. In a bid to restore unity, Saudi King Abdullah on Monday hosted a lunch attended by the leaders of Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Kuwait at which they agreed to patch up their differences over Gaza. Leaders were expected to back a $2 billion fund to rebuild Gaza. Saudi Arabia has committed $1 billion to the fund. The final declaration would concentrate on increased economic cooperation, with the emphasis on energy.

Assad wants Israel branded ’a terrorist state’
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
KUWAIT CITY - Israel should be branded a terrorist state for its 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told an Arab summit in Kuwait on Monday. "Arabs should declare an unequivocal support for the Palestinian resistance. . . I call on the Arab summit to officially declare Israel as a terrorist state for the crime it did in Gaza," Assad said. "Ceasefire does not mean the end of aggression as the invading forces are still in Gaza," the Syrian leader said, urging "Arab solidarity. . . for our causes. " Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah opened the summit with a call for collective Arab measures setting out "practical steps to stabilise the ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip. Statistics released by the Palestinian bureau of statistics showed some 4,100 homes in Gaza were totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged in the three-week war.

Gaza agreement eludes Arab leaders
Al Jazeera 1/20/2009
Arab leaders have failed to agree on a specific mechanism to support reconstruction in Gaza following Israel’s offensive there, despite vowing to provide Gazans with "all forms of support". Disagreements over how aid should be chanelled to Palestinians blighted the Arab ministers’ meeting, held on the sidelines of an Arab economic summit in Kuwait, on Tuesday. "We have not reached a conclusion because of time constraints and some positions," Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, told Kuwait Television, without giving details. "Under these circumstances, it is supposed that all should make concessions for the sake of Arab reconciliation. . . Efforts are still being made to hammer out a united position," he said. Faisal al-Meqdad, the Syrian deputy foreign minister, said: "Realistically speaking, there are differences among Arab brothers. "

Kuwait summit: Abbas presses Arab world for action; Egypt, Saudi Arabia promise support
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Addressing the Kuwait Summit Monday acting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stressed the need for an all-factions talk in Cairo, so a long term agreement over Gaza and government can be reached soon. “What we need now,” Abbas said, “is a temporary national government that can take upon itself the duty of facing this humanitarian disaster. ” The new government would lift the siege, open borders and begin the reconstruction process in Gaza while preparing the country for simultaneous legislative and presidential elections with national agreement. The Israeli war on Gaza will “not go away,” he said, “Despite the excuses and cover-ups” that the Israeli military and government leaders have constructed. ”“We have not heard until now any rational voice that understands [Israel’s] motives” for the war in Gaza, Abbas noted.

Bahar salutes Gaza citizens for their fortitude against Israel’s aggression
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the PLC, on Monday hailed the Palestinian people for their legendary steadfastness in the face of the Israeli barbaric war on the Gaza Strip, saying that the people made a new model of fortitude and challenge for the sake of achieving their national goals and confronting all malicious schemes set by Israel and other parties. In a statement, Bahar reiterated the PLC’s adherence to the resistance as a means for liberating Palestine, defending its people and foiling all attempts to undermine the Palestinian rights. The PLC speaker expressed his appreciation to the Palestinian government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya for hastening to deliver relief aid to those affected by the Israeli aggression and its ability to manage the needs of citizens during the aggression.

Thousands protest in Tunisia against siege of Gaza
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
TUNIS – Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Tunisia’s capital Monday calling for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. The march in the centre of Tunis came two days after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire against the democratically elected government of Hamas in Gaza. Hamas and other resistance groups kept to a week-long truce on condition that Israel would withdraw its troops from Gaza by then. Statistics released by the Palestinian bureau of statistics showed some 4,100 homes in Gaza were totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged in the three-week war. Tunisian demonstrators protested against Israel’s military offensive that began on December 27 and resulted in the deaths of at least 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians and a third of them children. The Islamists and Hamas are the only winners. We do not share their ideas but we support the Palestinian people," said Khadija Cherif, a feminist demonstrator from a secular opposition group.

Saudi Arabia Offers $1 Billion to Rebuild Gaza as Fragile Cease-Fires Hold
Borzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei, MIFTAH 1/20/2009
The Saudi Arabian monarchy vowed to spend $1 billion to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after a devastating three-week war between Hamas and Israel but warned the Jewish state that an Arab 2002 peace offer was imperiled and that conflict could be renewed. " Israel must realize that the choice between peace and war will not always be open to it," King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz said at a long-scheduled Arab League economic forum in Kuwait, according to the Persian Gulf state’s official Kuwait News Agency. "The Arab peace initiative will not always remain on the table. " In 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a peace package promising normalized diplomatic and economic relations with Israel in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza along the borders that existed before 1967. By offering cash and talking tough, King Abdullah sought to absorb popular anger directed

The Egyptian Paradox in Gaza
Abdel-Moneim Said, MIFTAH 1/20/2009
The nightmare of politics is when political leaders have to deal with deeply contradictory goals. And when these contradictory goals characterise an environment of armed conflict, "war" for short, the nightmare is at its worst. Nothing represents this nightmare better for Egypt than the Israeli war in Gaza, where contradictory objectives describe both external and internal policy. Even after excluding ancient historic, geographic and demographic ties, Gaza is strategically linked to Egypt’s national security. For better or for worse, Gaza was under Egyptian administration between 1948 and 1967. Never was it contemplated in Cairo to annex the Strip. When the Egyptian-Israeli peace was signed, Gaza remained part of the Palestinian occupied territories, with Rafah as the crossing point between Egypt and Gaza. Between 1982 and 1994, when the Oslo Accords were signed, not only was the Rafah

Int’l campaign to withdraw Nobel prize from Peres
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- A member of the European committee to lift the siege revealed efforts to withdraw the Nobel peace prize from Israeli president Shimon Peres as a result of the aggression on the Gaza Strip. Bahraini literati also launched a similar campaign. Georgios Anastopoulos, the representative of the European committee in Greece said that the idea of withdrawing Peres’ Nobel prize came after he said a week ago that what concerned him was the interest of Israel, not what was happening in Gaza. Anastopoulos added that people awarded the Nobel prize came up with this idea which later developed into a general effort and a campaign to collect signatures of intellectuals, writers and scholars throughout the world, pointing that hundreds signed the petition. Anastopoulos said that after collecting the largest number of signatures on the petition, it would be submitted to the Swedish. . .

World Jewish Congress to stand by Israel
Ynetnews, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Over 400 representatives of Jewish communities from all continents, international Jewish organizations expected to attend WJC’s 13th Plenary Assembly on January 26-27 in Jerusalem - The 13th Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the leading international organization representing Jewish communities in over 80 countries around the Globe, will take place on January 26-27 in Jerusalem under the motto "We stand by Israel". Over 400 representatives of Jewish communities from all continents, international Jewish organizations and guests are expected to attend the meeting. The Plenary Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the WJC and meets every four years. The WJC was founded in Geneva in 1936. It serves as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people to governments and international organizations.

Turkish PM: Hamas authority must be respected
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
BRUSSELS - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday described the violence in Gaza as a "tragedy" and urged the international community not to marginalise democratically elected Hamas after its war with Israel. He also criticised Israel for having showed a lack of respect in keeping Turkey, their main regional ally, in the dark over the Gaza offensive. Erdogan, speaking on a visit to the European Union headquarters in Brussels, said the Hamas had clearly won elections in Gaza in 2007 and this had to be respected. "We should not be squeezing them into the corner," he said. Hamas should be left the time to show if it was capable of improving conditions in Gaza, he said. "If they are not successful they will lose the next time," Erdogan said in a speech at a European Policy Center conference.

Lieberman to Arab MK: We’ll deal with you like we dealt with Hamas
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Heated confrontation breaks out at Supreme Court after Arab parties appeal decision to bar them from running in upcoming Knesset elections. MK El-Sana tells Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, ’You’re a new immigrant and inciter. ’ Lieberman replies, ’You’re a terrorist representing terrorists’ - A heated confrontation erupted Tuesday morning between an Arab and a right-wing Knesset member before the of a Supreme Court hearing on an appeal filed by two Arab parties against the decision to bar them from running in the upcoming elections. MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta’al) called out towards Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, "Get the hell out of here. "Lieberman replied, "You’re a terrorist representing terrorists. We’ll deal with you like with any other terrorist, like we dealt with Hamas. "

Q&A: ’Without Loyalty, No Citizenship’
Daan Bauwens interviews Danny Hershtal of the Yisrael Beitenu Party, Inter Press Service 1/21/2009
JERUSALEM, Jan 20(IPS) - Arab Israeli lists Balad and Ta’al might not be allowed to take part in the upcoming elections. Last Monday, representatives from all major parties voted for the exclusion of the lists. Danny Hershtal, candidate of main instigator Yisrael Beitenu explains why his party considered such a move necessary. In the shadow of operation Cast Lead and a growing feeling of national conformity, right-wing parties Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) and National Union petitioned for the exclusion of Arab Israeli parties Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al. The Central Election Committee consisting of representatives of all parties overwhelmingly voted Monday for disqualification of the Arab lists. Balad and Ta’al are now awaiting the verdict of the High Court. It is widely expected that the High Court will overrule the decision by the Central Election Committee, as happened in 2003 and 2006 before elections were held.

Livni aims to win at least some credit for Gaza op’s success
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 1/20/2009
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni told an audience at the College of Management in Rishon Lezion on Tuesday she "did not care" who was given credit for the successes of Operation Cast Lead, but she insisted that she had improved Israel’s diplomatic standing during the war. Polls have shown that since the offensive began, the Labor Party has doubled its support, some of it at Kadima’s expense, and that while Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s popularity has skyrocketed, Livni’s has remained the same. Livni made an effort in the speech to emphasize her positive contribution to the operation. "I complained to foreign ministers around the world about the [arms] smuggling into Gaza," she said. "Because of this, the world is now involved on this issue. I’m not putting our security in Egyptian or international hands, but the fact that Egypt, the US and Europe have realized that Iran is the supplier and must be stopped is very important. "

Lebanese lay claim to Israel gas find
34;Globes" correspondent, Globes Online 1/20/2009
Lebanese parliamentarians say that part of the Tamar-1 gas field may belong to their country. According to reports in Bloomberg, claims were made in the Lebanese parliament today that part of the huge gas find announced yesterday in the Tamar-1 field off Haifa is really in Lebanese territorial waters. The Tamar-1 well, located in 5,500 feet of water 90 kilometers west of Haifa, was drilled to a total depth of 16,076 (4,900 meters) feet to test a subsalt, lower-Miocene structure in the Levantine basin. Preliminary indications show 88 billion cubic meters of natural gas at the Tamar prospect worth an estimated $15 billion. Israeli government revenue alone from the find could amount to NIS 11 billion. The Tamar prospect in the Matan license is owned by Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) units Delek Drilling Limited Partnership (TASE: DEDR.

Nasrallah congratulates Mishaal over victory
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese Hizbullah party, has congratulated Khaled Mishaal, the leader of the Hamas Movement, over the Palestinian people’s brave resistance and victory against the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. Nasrallah in a lengthy telephone conversation hailed the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and dignity, pointing out that the Israeli army has been defeated for the second time within two and a half years the first being in July 2006 in Lebanon. The secretary general announced his appreciation of the "heroic legends" displayed by the heroes of all Palestinian resistance elements, who were united in one trench, topped by the Qassam Brigades the armed wing of Hamas. For his part, Mishaal thanked Nasrallah for the initiative in calling to congratulate over the victory and for his party’s constant support of Palestinian resistance.

Survey: Gaza operation likely to increase voter turnout
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 1/20/2009
The Gaza operation will increase voter turnout next month, says a survey conducted on Sunday under the auspices of the Max Stern Academic College Of Emek Yezreel, immediately after the cease-fire began. Of those questioned, 82 percent said they plan to vote in the February 10 Knesset election; by comparison, the voter turnout in the last national election, in March 2006, only reached 63 percent. Among those age 44 and younger, 76 percent said they planned to vote. A small majority, 54 percent, said the Gaza operation increased their level of confidence in the government and its institutions, while only 15 percent said it reduced their confidence. Nineteen percent said there had been no change in their confidence in the government.

Despite threats, Hamas put up resistance
Matti Friedman, AP, The Independent 1/20/2009
Before Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, Hamas vowed to turn the territory into a "graveyard" for Israeli soldiers, and the military braced for dozens of fatalities. The results were markedly different. The Islamic militant group’s fighters put up little resistance to Israel’s crushing offensive, and the army — still smarting from its stalemate with Hezbollah guerrillas in their 2006 conflict in southern Lebanon — emerged relatively unscathed and more confident. Israel wrapped up its three-week offensive over the weekend, leaving behind widespread devastation and a death toll of more than 1,250 Palestinians, according to Gaza medical officials. In contrast, Israel suffered just nine combat deaths, four of them from "friendly fire. " To be sure, Hamas’ battlefield losses could be offset by other gains, depending on how postwar politics play out.

Fatah affiliates say Israel destroyed Gaza City office
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – An armed group linked to Fatah said its Central Information Office in the Gaza City neighborhood of Tal Al-Hawa was destroyed during Israel’s assault that ended Sunday. The “Martyr Yasser Arafat Group,” a section of the armed Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, said the office was destroyed on Tuesday, according to spokesperson Abu Seif, but confirmation of the destruction was not made until Wednesday when members could move through the streets. The office was inside Tal Al-Hawa Tower, an apartment building, Seif added. Another media coordinator for the group said that the “destruction of our information office won’t stop our groups from continuing to cover the news and broadcast the resistance. ”Abu Seif also accused Israel of committing “the worst and most horrific war crimes in history.

Report: Jordanian aid convoy hijacked in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Jordanian news agency Petra reported on Tuesday that armed men held up an aid convoy after it crossed into the Gaza Strip. The agency reported that armed men fired at the trucks and diverted them to private warehouses after they passed through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, an Israeli-controlled crossing used primarily for shipments of humanitarian aid. The supplies had been donated by the Hashemite Jordanian charity organization. The trucks earlier crossed into the West Bank using the Allenby Bridge and then proceed to Gaza. According to the report, the charity had coordinated in advance with UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, to receive the shipment in its warehouses after it entered Gaza.

Al-Mujahideen Brigades identify their dead, catalogue projectile attacks
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Fatah-affiliated Al-Mujahideen Brigades announced Tuesday that it lost five of its members to Israeli fire during the three week onslaught. The Brigades claimed to have fired 42 projectiles at Israeli targets and 13 mortars at Israeli tanks and troops inside Gaza. The fighters engaged in nine battles, and their Special Forces detonated several devices. The dead were identified as Ahed Abu Asy, Ahmad Al-Beetar, Zyad Al-Madhoon, Mohammad Abu Sh’eereh, and Mohammad Al-Banna. In their statement the Brigades confirmed their continued willingness to resist. [end]

Israel channel: Israeli fire killed an Israeli soldier captured by Al-Qassam
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israel’s channel 10 TV admitted Monday that Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, was able during the current war on the Gaza Strip to take an Israeli soldier prisoner, but he was killed along with his captors by Israeli fire. The channel quoted Israeli military officers as saying that Al-Qassam Brigades captured an Israeli soldier during the fighting in Gaza, but an Israeli force intervened which led to the killing of the soldier. This information agrees with Al-Qassam spokesman Abu Obeida’s statements yesterday which confirmed that the Brigades managed to capture a number of Israeli soldiers, but they were killed deliberately along with the captors by the IOF troops. The Israeli commander of the Givati military unit acknowledged the ferocity of the fighting in Gaza, pointing out that Al-Qassam Brigades turned the Strip into a "powder keg".

Thousands march to celebrate victory against IOF invasion
Palestinian Information Center 1/20/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Tens of thousands of Palestinians marched in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to celebrate victory despite the vast destruction inflicted by the Israeli occupation forces’ war machine. Hamas called for the demo after the noon prayers in all areas of the Strip in a bid to display popular backing to resistance. The march started from the UNRWA-run Fakhoura School in Jabalia refugee camp north of Gaza in which 45 Palestinians were killed and 150 others wounded in an IOF barbaric shelling of the school that was housing civilians seeking refuge. The march headed to the home of Dr. Nizar Rayyan, the Hamas leader who was killed in an IOF savage bombardment of his home that killed him along with all his family including 9 children. A number of Hamas leaders took part in the marches that also hit the streets of Gaza city, Khan Younis, Rafah, Deir Al-Balah, Nusseirat and Breij.

Thousands rally in Gaza City; leaders say resistance victorious
Ma’an News Agency 1/20/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Thousands of Palestinians rallied in cities across the Gaza Strip Tuesday, responding to a Hamas declaration that the people should “celebrate the resistance victory in the war against Israeli forces. ”Rallies began in local mosques where citizens emerged waving faction and national flags as processions poured out into streets chanting songs and slogans of resistance. Gazans cheered for the resistance that defeated the Israeli army until they retreated. Israeli forces, one slogan rang, managed to kill only women and children and destroy only homes after the resistance beat them. Massive crowds gathered in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Headquarters in Gaza City, shouting that they were with the resistance. Head of Popular Activities for Hamas Ashraf Abu Dayya commented on the rally, saying such mass participation reflected the popular. . .

Hamas holds victory rallies
AP and Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 1/20/2009
Despite decisive battleground defeat, Hamas supporters insist group won war - Hamas rulers, triumphant at having survived Israel’s military operation in Gaza, held victory rallies Tuesday amid the ruins left in the wake of the IDF’s campaign in the Strip. Thousands of Hamas supporters thronged a square outside the remains of the parliament building in Gaza City, which was heavily damaged in an Israeli airstrike at the outset of the war. Two men hoisted a sign in carefully scripted Hebrew reading, "The resistance will be victorious, Israel has been defeated. " Although Israel scored a decisive battleground victory, Hamas claims its own victory because it managed to withstand the intense Israeli assault and fired hundreds of rockets into the Jewish state throughout the fighting. In a sign the Hamas remained in control in Gaza, the group’s uniformed security teams patrolled Gaza City.

VIDEO - WATCH / Inside Israel medical center for Gaza residents
Rachel Neiman, Israel21c, Ha’aretz 1/21/2009
As a truce between Israel and Hamas gets underway after three weeks of fighting, Magen David Adom emergency service Israel, in cooperation with the Israeli government, has opened a medical center at the Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, to serve Gaza citizens. [end]

Israeli Lebanon war film ’Waltz with Bashir’ shown in Beirut
Nirit Anderman, Ha’aretz 1/21/2009
The Israeli movie Waltz with Bashir was shown in Lebanon on Saturday, although it is officially banned in this country. The documentary, which won the Golden Globe award for best foreign film last week and is nominated for an Oscar in the same category, was screened in Ramallah and may soon be shown in the Arab gulf states as well, director Ari Folman told Haaretz on Tuesday. It was shown at a private screening in a southern Beirut suburb, not far from Hezbollah headquarters, after a DVD copy was sent to the organizers. The screening, which was attended by some 90 people although only 40 were invited, was organized by UNAM, an organization documenting Lebanon’shistory and war memory with written and audiovisual materials, the weekly entertainment trade newspaper Variety reports. It was held in UNAM’s cultural center, Variety said.

Palestinian telecom co claims losses
Gad Perez, Globes Online 1/20/2009
Paltel CEO estimates that the damage to the communications networks in Gaza amounted to $10 million. The Palestinian communications network was badly damaged by the IDF military operation in Gaza. Palestine Telecommunication Company Ltd. (PalTel) CEO Dr. Abdul-Malik Al Jabar estimates that the damage amounted to $10 million. Al Jabar told "Globes" that in addition to the damage to property, five employees were killed during Israel Air Force bombing of the company’s communications and fuel installations. According to Jabar, a large part of the switching network was completely destroyed and bombing killed three employees of the company in the Jebalya neighborhood of Gaza City, and two more in Khan Yunis. He explained that the damage was caused at all levels from hits on the switching network, the destruction of buildings that served the company, the complete destruction of the company’s. . .

Gaza cease-fire paves way to compensation compromise
Shay Niv and Adrian Filut, Globes Online 1/20/2009
Large and small businesses will be compensated differently. Business leaders, the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel), and the Ministry of Finance yesterday reached agreement on a compensation mechanism for enterprises and employees located within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip and which were affected by Operation Cast Lead. The cease-fire in the campaign paved the way for the agreement, because the Ministry of Finance can now estimate damages without having to worry whether Hamas would extend the range of its rockets, which would have increased the number of enterprises affected. Last week, agreement was reached for compensation for small businesses and the self-employed, but disagreement remained over compensation for large companies. The Manufacturers Association of Israeland the Histadrut demanded 145% salary compensation for all employees of large companies affected by the campaign, who could not go to work.

S&P springs rating surprise
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 1/20/2009
S&P had been expected to lower Israel’s credit rating following the war in Gaza, the economic crisis and political uncertainty. International credit rating agency Standard & Poors (S&P) has left Israel’s rating unchanged at A, and the country’s forecast rating as "stable". In the wake of the war in Gaza, political instability ahead of next month’s elections, the absence of an approved budget, the global recession, which is now affecting Israel and the expected budget deficit, S&P economists had been expected to lower Israel’s credit rating. It was only last year that S&P raised Israel’s credit rating to A, its highest ever rating. The rating was approved today in all three criteria: the shekel debt; foreign currency debt; and transfer and convertibility assessment, which remains AA. S&P economists wrote, "approval of the rating reflectthe Israeli government’s commitment

Defense employees earn twice as much as teachers
Adrian Filut and Shay Niv, Globes Online 1/20/2009
Supreme Court Judge Emeritus Tova Strassberg-Cohen is the top-paid government employee. Ministry of Finance Director of Wages Ilan Levin today submitted the government service salary report for 2007. This is his first salary report. The report outlines the salary cost of Israel’s 143,000 government employees, including 57,000 civil servants at ministries and government hospitals, and 87,000 teachers. In the best tradition, the heads of government hospitals again topped the salaries of ministry director generals. The top-paid government employees do not, once again, work in healthcare, but in the judiciary: Ministry of Justice ombudsman for public complaints against judges Supreme Court Judge Emeritus Tova Strassberg-Cohen earned a gross monthly salary of NIS 62,674 in 2007, and her salary cost was NIS 79,833. The average wage of Defense. . .

Jerusalem slips economically
Ran Rimon, Globes Online 1/20/2009
JIIS: The average income of a Jewish man in Jerusalem is 60% of that in Tel Aviv; it was only 2% less in the 1980s. Research published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) shows that the capital is slipping further behind Israel’s other major cities in economic terms. JIIS has published parts of its latest study entitled "A Vision for Jerusalem" - a plan for the rehabilitation of Jerusalem. The research was conducted by an independent team of researchers headed by Prof. Gur Ofer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was paid for by various funds operating in Jerusalem. The plan is to enlarge Jerusalem’s middle-class population by 100,000 by 2020, while adding 100,000 middle-class residents to the surrounding metropolitan area. This will be achieved by creating 60,000-70,000 professional jobs in the city.

Baghdad hit by ’sticky bomb’ terror
Daud Salman, Asia Times 1/21/2009
BAGHDAD - Asaad saw a small metal object falling from the car speeding ahead of him. It rolled to a stop against a roadside fence and exploded. " I recognized it was a bomb and asked my driver to look out," he said. "I will never forget the scene. " Asaad, who did not want his last name revealed, and his driver were slightly injured by shattered glass from the blast in Baghdad last September. A month later, his sister and her husband were less fortunate. Rand and Ammar were shopping with their baby in Baghdad’s Karada district, on the eve of a family trip to Beirut. A bomb attached to a car parked nearby exploded as they walked past. The blast flung Rand against the pavement. Her husband crawled over to find her bleeding and unconscious. Injured and unable to find his baby, he fainted. Security men found the child, alive and only slightly hurt, on a pile of debris 15 meters from the car. Rand and her husband spent several days in the hospital being treated for severe injuries.

Iraq rocked by bomb blasts
Al Jazeera 1/21/2009
A series of blasts across Iraq have killed five people and injured at least 14 others. Tuesday’s attacks were carried out in Baghdad, Mosul and al-Zubair, which lies near the oil-rich southern city of Basra, police sources said. Three civilians were killed and eight others injured after a car bomb targeting a US patrol exploded in the central Baghdad district of Mansour. The US military said two of its soldiers were among the injured. Police colonel Abdulmajid Mohammed was killed after a bomb planted under his car exploded as he drove to work in al-Zubair. His driver, also a police officer, survived the explosion but was said to be in a critical condition in hospital. In another attack, Ammar Aziz Mohammed Ali, the deputy higher education minister, survived an assassination attempt in Baghdad. "A roadside bomb blew up as the.

Poll: Iraqi voters prefer secular candidates
Middle East Online 1/20/2009
BAGHDAD- Iraqi voters prefer secular candidates over those linked to religious groupings, according to an opinion poll published on Monday, less than two weeks before regional elections. The government-sponsored National Media Centre survey showed 42 percent of eligible voters favour casting ballots for secular nominees, compared with 31 percent for religious politicians. The rest were undecided. Of the 4,500 people questioned among various faiths and ethnic groups, 68 percent said they were against the use of religious symbols by candidates and parties standing for election. Iraq’s electoral laws ban the use of religious imagery, although some candidates have reportedly invoked images of religious figures in election material. In the poll, more than 73 percent of those questioned said they expect to participate in the upcoming regional elections.


Articles


Photostory: Israel attacks UN school in Gaza
UNRWA photographer Iyad El-Baba, Electronic Intifada 1/20/2009
      On 17 January 2009, Israeli forces bombed a school run by the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Around 1,600 Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip, mostly families including young children, sought refuge at the school to escape Israeli air strikes that were targeting homes in densely populated areas. At least two children were killed in the attack and another dozen wounded by the white phosphorus bombs fired at the school.
     The bombing was not an isolated incident of Israel targeting UN institutions and personnel since it launched a military siege against the Gaza Strip on 27 December 2008. At least 43 civilians were massacred on 6 January as they took shelter at the al-Fakhoura school in Jabaliya refugee camp. UN personnel have been shot and killed as they attempted to conduct relief operations in the Gaza Strip. Tons of desperately needed aid were destroyed on 15 January when Israeli forces shelled the UNRWA warehouse in Gaza City with what is suspected to be white phosphorous.

’Legal’ weapons also kill
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 1/21/2009
      The weapons and ammunition that killed the brothers Kassab and Ibrahim Shurab, aged 28 and 17, were legal. But apart from the weapons and ammunition, was there anything legal about killing them?
     On Friday, January 16, the two were driving with their father Mohammed, 64, in a red Land Rover from the family’s farm near the Green Line to their home in Khan Yunis. The father drove, Kassab sat in the passenger seat and Ibrahim sat in the back. The temporary cease-fire, allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza, was held between 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. that day.
     They came to one Israel Defense Forces inspection point in the area and were allowed to continue. At about 1 P.M. they reached the Abu Zaidan supermarket in the Al-Foukhari neighborhood. An adjacent building had been converted into an IDF outpost. Soldiers moved in, turning the tenants into prisoners in their own homes.
     Suddenly intensive fire opened on the Land Rover from the army outpost, about 30 to 50 meters away, according to the father’s estimate. Kassab was hit in the chest, came out of the sport utility vehicle (SUV), collapsed and died. Ibrahim jumped out and was hit in the leg by the fire, which did not stop. He tried to call for help on his mobile phone but a soldier shouted at him not to call and swore at him in Arabic, the father told Tom, a member of Physicians for Human Rights, hours later. The father’s hand was injured in the fire. He managed to drag his living son to a nearby wall and telephoned home, the Red Crescent, journalists and even his son in the United States. He saw a tank, saw Israeli soldiers coming and going, he told Tom.

Gaza and the Franco-Egyptian Proposal
Dr. Elias Akleh, Palestine Chronicle 1/20/2009
      The Israeli attack on Gaza had exposed the treacherous role the Egyptian Mubarak’s regime had been playing, since he received presidency, in the Arab/Israeli conflict and in the Palestinian/Palestinian division. During the attack Mubarak’s regime tried to portray itself as an honest mediator between Israel and Hamas, while, in reality, it was playing the role of an Israeli proxy negotiator, who was trying to impose Israeli conditions on Hamas government. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Tsibi Livni, had hinted to this when she stated that the negotiations through Egypt were not with Hamas but against it.
     Few days before the Israeli onslaught on Gaza Tsibi Livni traveled to Egypt to coordinate with the Egyptian regime its role in the Israeli onslaught against Gaza. The Egyptian role was to keep Rafah Crossing closed against all fleeing Palestinians to safety in Egyptian territory, and against the flow of all kinds of aid into Gaza. Egyptian regime would, later, exonerate itself through an Egyptian/Israeli already-agreed upon ceasefire agreement.
     The assumption was that the massive Israeli onslaught against Gaza would destroy Hamas government within a week, after which Palestinians would run to Egypt asking for mediation with Israel. Egypt had in the past played the role of mediator between Palestinians and Israel. Egyptian regime would “negotiate” a ceasefire and the “return” of the Palestinian security forces to Gaza, under the leadership of Mohamad Dahlan, in return for withdrawal of Israeli army from Gaza and for humanitarian aid.

The Post-Gaza Political Battle
Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 1/20/2009
      BEIRUT -- The distressed state of the Arab world was on full display last week on two fronts: The massive Arab emotional reaction against Israel’s ferocious attack on Gaza, and the slightly ridiculous holding of three separate Arab summit meetings -- with not a single practical result expected from any of them. The deeper reality that plagues the Arab world is that the average Arab citizen faces an unsatisfying choice between a brand of Islamist-nationalist military resistance that triggers enormous Israeli attacks and Arab death and destruction, and a brand of Arab autocratic governance that breeds mediocrity, corruption and perpetual vulnerability and dependence.
     The choice is stark: Hamas or Fateh in Palestine; Hizbullah or Hariri in Lebanon; Mubarak & Son or Muslim Brothers in Egypt -- and the list continues through every Arab country. The slow gravitation and polarization of the modern Arab state system over the past three generations into two broad camps of status quo conservatives and resistance fighters is more apparent than ever, and equally frustrating.
     The powerful Islamist-nationalist resistance and social-political movements that have come into being in recent decades are first and foremost a response to the poor performance and low credibility of the power elite that has dominated the modern Arab world. Movements like Hamas and Hizbullah have gained additional strength and legitimacy from fighting the Israeli occupation, which the established Arab power structure has not done very well in most cases, despite half a dozen wars since 1948.

A Memorandum of Understanding to Kill More Palestinians
Dr. Akram Habeeb, Palestine Think Tank 1/20/2009
      As an Americanist and a Palestinian  intellectual who is not affiliated to any political party in Palestine, I feel that I have to stand up and speak out. I have to speak about the faulty policy which feeds the spirit of hatred and resentment. Almost every man, woman and child in the world knows that the American policy in the Middle East during  the two terms of Bush's  Administration is distinguished by being biased and double standards.  Very few, however, are easily deceived by the glittering rhetoric made by some American politicians, particularly, the most articulate outgoing Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice! Dr. Rice was very smart when she declared at the outset of the most brutal Israeli war on Gaza that it was the Palestinian side which is held responsible for violating the six-month  truce. She was even smarter when she concluded her career by signing an MOU, which is completely in favor of the Israelis. It is an MOU which further tightens the siege on Gaza and allows Israel to posses more American WMD to kill more Palestinians.
     The most disturbing statement about the situation in Gaza was made by Dr. Rice was when she declared that it was the Palestinian side who violated the truce and subsequently is responsible for what is happening in Gaza. Such a statement is easy to be made by Dr. Rice whose accomplishments in America's foreign policy were spectacular.

Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis
Ben White, The Guardian 1/20/2009
      The scale of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip, and the almost daily reports of war crimes over the last three weeks, has drawn criticism from even longstanding friends and sympathisers. Despite the Israeli government’s long-planned and comprehensive PR campaign, hundreds of dead children is a hard sell. As a former Israeli government press adviser put it, in a wonderful bit of unintentional irony, "When you have a Palestinian kid facing an Israeli tank, how do you explain that the tank is actually David and the kid is Goliath?"
     Despite a mass of evidence that includes Israel’s targets in Operation Cast Lead, public remarks by Israeli leaders over some time, and the ceasefire manoeuvring of this last weekend, much of the analysis offered by politicians or commentators has been disappointingly limited, and characterised by false assumptions, or misplaced emphases, about Israel’s motivations.
     First, to what this war on Gaza is not about: it’s not about the rockets. During the truce last year, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip was reduced by 97%, with the few projectiles that were fired coming from non-Hamas groups opposed to the agreement. Despite this success in vastly improving the security of Israelis in the south, Israel did everything it could to undermine the calm, and provoke Hamas into a conflict.

This time, we found a willing ear
Tania Hary, Ran Yaron and Libby Friedlander, Jerusalem Post 1/20/2009
      On the day we arrived in Washington D.C. - representatives of Israeli human rights organizations in town to brief decision-makers on the situation in Gaza - three simultaneous events were taking place: 1) readers of The Washington Post were waking up to a front page story describing the discovery of four small Gazan children stranded for days next to their dead mothers, prompting an unprecedented statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross that in this instance the IDF failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law; 2) the Red Cross and UNRWA were debating the halt of services in Gaza following several incidents in which their workers were attacked presumably by the IDF; and 3) the US House and Senate were expected to near-unanimously pass a resolution declaring their unwavering support for Israel and its military action in the Gaza Strip.
     More than 100 individuals packed into room 2200 of the Rayburn House Office Building to hear from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement about the devastating impact of the military operation and 18 months of closure of the Gaza Strip. Perhaps they were also there to somehow understand how the three parallel events noted above could possibly be taking place all at once.

Posturing and laughter as victims rot
Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/20/2009
      The front page of the Beirut daily As-Safir said it all yesterday. Across the top was a terrible photograph of the bloated body of a Palestinian man newly discovered in the ruins of his home while two male members of his family shrieked and roared their grief. Below, at half the size, was a photograph from Israel of Western leaders joking with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister. Olmert was roaring with laughter. Silvio Berlusconi, arms on the back of Olmert’s shoulders, was also joshing and roaring – with laughter, not grief – and on Olmert’s right was Nicolas Sarkozy of France wearing his stupidest of smiles. Only Chancellor Merkel appeared to understand the moral collapse. No smiles from Germany.
     Europe laughs while Palestinians mourn their dead. No wonder that in the streets of Beirut, shops were doing a flourishing trade in Palestinian scarves and flags. Even some of Palestine’s most serious enemies in Lebanon wore the Palestinian keffiyeh in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Over and over again, Al-Jazeera television strapped headlines on to their news reports of Palestinians carrying the decomposing corpses of their dead: "More than 1,300 dead in Gaza, 400 of them women and children – Israeli dead in the war 13, three of them civilians." That, too, said it all.

Not to Remain Silent
Jim Miles - Canada, Palestine Chronicle 1/20/2009
      ’My emotions start from full cynicism and despair about the situation.’
     I write simply not to remain silent in the face of U.S. and Israeli aggression against the Palestinian population in general, and the Gaza population in particular.
     Where to start? There are so many other writers and spokespersons appearing regularly on the internet alternate media that speak clearly, passionately, and knowledgeably about the Israeli atrocities in Gaza. On the regular media, the corporate controlled agenda continues its endless reiterations of the Israeli line that their purpose militarily is to stop Hamas’ rockets, a position so grievously out of context and so contrary to the obvious war crimes being committed against the people of Gaza. The governments of the west, part and parcel of the same agenda, proffer up political platitudes about regretting civilian casualties, about proportionality, about the right of Israel to defend itself. The reports themselves disingenuously seek "balance" by equating the ineffective and feeble rocket attacks with the thunderous bombardment of U.S. Hellfire missiles fired from U.S. helicopters and war planes, the use of phosphorous bombs, cluster bombs, and other modern creations of "precision" warfare.

Israel’s Doctrine of Destruction
Jonathan Cook - Nazareth, Palestine Chronicle 1/20/2009
      Donors are reportedly tired of funding Gaza Projects to see them destroyed. (UNRWA) In the last days before Israel imposed a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza to avoid embarrassing the incoming Obama administration, it upped its assault, driving troops deeper into Gaza City, intensifying its artillery bombardment and creating thousands more displaced people.
     Israel’s military strategy in Gaza, even in what its officials were calling the "final act", followed a blueprint laid down during the Lebanon war more than two years ago.
     Then, Israel destroyed much of Lebanon’s infrastructure in a month of intensive air strikes. Even in the war’s last few hours, as a ceasefire was being finalised, Israel fired more than a million cluster bombs over south Lebanon, apparently in the hope that the area could be made as uninhabitable as possible.
     Similarly, Israel’s destruction of Gaza continued with unrelenting vigour to the very last moment, even though according to reports in the Israeli media the air force exhausted what it called its "bank of Hamas targets" in the first few days of fighting.

A child full of light will never see again
Sameh A. Habeeb writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/20/2009
      As a Gazan journalist who is devastated by the holocaust the Israel army is perpetrating against us, I find myself at loss. The list of horrendous crimes committed by the Israeli army against Palestinians is endless and the crimes are countless.
     Should I write about the 45 evacuees who were massacred in their refuge at the United Nations-administered al-Fakhoura school? Should I write about the most horrifying crime when Red Cross personnel found four starving children who had spent four days with the dead bodies of their mothers and other relatives in the ruins of a house in the al-Zeitoun neighborhood.
     Should I talk about the mass killing of the al-Dayaa family when 15 family members were killed when a "smart" bomb gently hit their five-story building.
     What about the sadistic crime when the father of the al-Samuni family was executed before his wife and children? Or the carnage committed against the extended al-Samuni family when 29 members of the clan were concentrated in one house which was bombed and collapsed on top of them, killing them all?

Outrage and Impotence as Gaza Burned
Chris Gelken, Palestine Chronicle 1/20/2009
      ’The UN is deeply implicated in the violations of rights of the Palestinians.’ (UNRWA) United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon expressed his "outrage" and the President of the General Assembly, Miquel d’Escoto Brockmann, accused Israel of violating international law.
     "Gaza is ablaze," he told the UN General Assembly, "it has been turned into a burning hell."
     The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Professor Richard Falk, characterized the Israel offensive as containing "severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law."
     But an outspoken US lawyer isn’t overly impressed with the indignant words of Ban, Brockmann, or Falk.
     "Saying is one thing," according to international attorney Francis A. Boyle, "doing is another."
     He accused the UN creating the problem in the first place by what he described as the "illegal" partitioning of the Palestine Mandate that led to a massive displacement of the indigenous Arab population.

Gotterdammerung and Other Poems
Palestine Chronicle 1/20/2009
      The Palestine Chronicle is pleased to feature these short poems contributed by Pina Piccolo, Frieda Groffy and Vi Ransel
     For Mahmoud Darwish, whispering his soul over Gaza
     You were taken by a merciful death, Mahmoud
     Lest phosphorous devour your heart
     A chorus of stones answered
     As the Strip lay awash in wrath
     And a swallow looked and wept
     As the bricks came unwrapped
     And the song of ages drowned
     The knocks of unmanned flight
     As a tribe of pigeons cooed a baby alone
     To sleep through the night
     And the ghosts of the olive groves bereft of poet
     Sang the Buraq back to life. [end]

It takes two to ceasefire
Daoud Kuttab, Palestine News Network 1/19/2009
      Ramallah - The decision by the Israeli cabinet to declare a unilateral ceasefire lacks three basic components: a partner, a monitor and a political process.
     Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is famous for his saying that when talking about peace negotiations, it takes two to tango. The same principle applies to the cessation of violence. Israel might think that since it began the attack on its own, it can end it on its own. But the "durable and lasting" ceasefire that the White House has called for requires an Arab partner which has the ability to make it work. Israel’s blind refusal to recognize Hamas has forced it to carry out the unusual step of declaring a unilateral ceasefire with the hope that others can help encourage Hamas to abide by it. The Islamic movement says it is not bound by an agreement which does not include it. Egyptian officials have been saying that both sides need face saving. Incentive is needed to help each down from the tree upon which it has climbed.
     Lasting ceasefire agreements also require monitoring. In the past the Egyptian government has sponsored a tahdiya [truce] between Israel and Hamas, but this six-month truce has been regularly violated by Israel and Hamas. Israel refused to open the borders or stop its assassinations of Hamas leaders. The armed wing of Hamas, claiming their actions were in response to assassination, also fired their Qassam projectiles into Israel as did armed wings of other parties. After time it becomes useless to try and figure out who started attacking. With the international press left out, the current Israeli declaration leaves out this important monitoring component, and in that it allows the Israelis to write the narrative they want.

Gaza Carnage in Context; Timeline
Stephen Lendman – Chicago, Palestine Chronicle 1/19/2009
      ’Israel defiled the rule of law, abused its neighbors (and) committed genocide.’
     World outrage continues over Israeli war crimes and Washington’s complicity. Gazans are now immortalized. Hamas is more popular than ever and remains resolute despite everything the IDF threw against it.
     Democrats and Republicans share equal guilt. They fund Israeli state terror, are partnered in its aggression, and have collaboratively planned, supported, and/or agreed to it for the past 41 years. Continuity under Obama is assured. The current Gaza carnage is the worst since 1967. In spite of its "unilateral" ceasefire, sporadic Israeli attacks continue. The IDF merely redeployed. Gaza remains under siege, and human suffering is overwhelming and unrelieved.
     Since December 27, Israel conducted terror bombings, tank and naval vessel shellings, and assault troop slaughter on the ground. Illegal weapons were used. Neighborhoods are burning and in ruins. Horrific wounds are reported. Civilians were willfully massacred. They comprise 80-90% of the casualties according to human rights organizations and medical authority reports. All 1.5 million Gazans were targeted. They still are. There’s no place anywhere to hide.

After Sderot, Will President Barak Obama Visit Gaza?
Sami Jamil Jadallah, Palestine Think Tank 1/18/2009
      Candidate Barack Obama visited the southern Israeli city of Sderot to express his support to the town’s people. Sderot has been marketed by the powerful Jewish media machine in the US as suffering a great deal from Hamas’ ballistic and nuclear missiles. I wonder if President Obama will make a similar visit and see for himself what America’s real missiles, real jets and real bombs and rockets did to Gaza and the people of Gaza. Candidate Obama on his visit to Sderot was reaching low to win A few more Jewish votes. Would President Obama reach as high and reach the hundreds of millions around the world who condemned the war crimes committed in Gaza?
     Candidate Obama expressed great support for the residents of Sderot and appreciated that the people could not have peaceful nights and could not enjoy quiet dinners with wine and music. Now that Israel has leveled Gaza, destroying its entire infrastructure, killed more than a thousand and injured several thousands and made homeless hundreds of thousands, using the latest weapons American could muster. Would President Obama visit Gaza to express his support for the hundreds of thousands of the people and visit the graves of all of the children and women deliberately killed by Israel? Witness devastation and total destruction, victims of a criminal partnership between Israel and the US. During his visit to Sderot, candidate Obama was accompanied by Israel’s Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Avi Dichter. Perhaps President Obama will be accompanied during his tour of Gaza by the parents of all those who lost their loved ones, by the doctors who treated the tens of thousands, by the UN relief workers who witnessed the cold blooded murder of women and children as they sought shelter.

From Gaza to Obama
Al Jazeera 1/20/2009
      On January 20th Barack Obama takes office as the 44th president of the United States, amidst turmoil in the Middle East following Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has left more than 1,200 Palestinians dead.
     Al Jazeera spoke to three Palestinians living in Gaza about their experiences during the Gaza offensive, how their life has been affected and what the new US president should do to bring about peace.

     Mohammed al-Sharif, Gaza City, works for Palestinian NGO: White phosphorous bombs have been dropped close to our house. You name it - everything you have seen on the TV we went through.
     Two weeks ago, we removed the panes of glass from our windows as we were scared it would shatter in our faces.
     We have been sleeping in one corner of the house away from the windows and trying to put our six-month-old daughter between us to keep her safe.
     We have only left the house to go to the supermarket to buy basic necessities.
     We have spent a lot of time on the telephone calling friends to see if they are still OK.
     You only get electricity for two hours a day and after a while you feel like you are very isolated.
     Let’s hope the new president will take more time to spend more time to understand the reality of the Israel-Arab struggle.
     He should not take only the Israeli point of view. he has to understand you cannot punish the Palestinian people for making a choice. I am not pro-Hamas, but Hamas won the election, a legal election.

Now we’ve all seen through the Israeli government’s excuses
Mark Steel, The Independent 1/21/2009
      The worrying part about whether the ceasefire in Gaza can hold together will be whether the international community can stop the flow of arms to the terrorists. Because Israel’s getting their planes and tanks and missiles from somewhere and until this supply is cut off there’s every chance it could start up again.
     The disregard for life from these terrorists and their supporters is shocking. For example Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, wrote that the purpose of the Israeli attack must be to "inflict a heavy death toll and heavy pain on the Gaza population".
     Replace "Gaza" with "western", and that could have been written by al-Qa’ida. Maybe this is the problem: the Israelis are writing their policies by downloading statements from an Islamic Jihad website and just changing the place names. Also, if the Israelis think the Hamas rockets are as lethal as they say, why don’t they swap their F-16 fighters and Apachehelicopters for a few of them?
     These things are capable of terrorising a whole nation for years apparently, yet the Israelis have neglected to buy any, wasting their money on gunboats and stuff. Given that their annual arms budget is $7.2bn plus $2.2 bn in "aid", they’d save enough to buy a selection of banks in every country in the world.