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

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
1 January, 2008

Israel extrajudicially executes Hamas leader and his family
Report, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 1/1/2009
3:40pm Gaza Time (+2 GMT): The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has continued its military operations in the Gaza Strip for the sixth consecutive day. Air strikes and attacks from ground forces and naval vessels have continued around the clock. The vast majority of their targets have been civilian objects, and most of the casualties have been civilians. Attacks have particularly targeted houses of individuals Israel claims are connected with resistance groups. Other attacks hit the parliament and other government facilities. The most significant attacks by IOF today was an air raid that targeted the houses of Abu al-Jabin family and Nizzar Rayyan, who is a leader in the Hamas movement. At approximately 2:40pm today, Israeli aircrafts fired five heavy missiles at the two houses, which are located in the middle of Jabaliya refugee camp -- one of the most densely-populated places in the

Livni: No crisis in Gaza Strip
Al Jazeera 1/1/2009
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, has again rejected a French proposal for a ceasefire to allow aid into the Gaza Strip saying there is "no humanitarian crisis". Israel’s foreign ministry quoted Livni as having said in a statement during a trip to Paris that "there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce. " Over the past six days more than 400 Palestinians have been killed and 2,000 wounded under an Israeli aerial bombardment. The strip, home to 1. 5 million people, is already suffering shortages of power, food and medical supplies due to a two-year blockade imposed by Israel on the area. Livni was quoted as saying: "Israel has been supplying comprehensive humanitarian aid to the Strip.

Eleven children among 21 killed on sixth day of Israeli air assault
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - Israel’s air force continued its aggression on the Gaza Strip for the sixth consecutive day at the beginning of New Year 2009, leaving at least 21 Palestinians dead, including 11 children and nine women. Medical sources in Gaza said the death toll had been lifted to 418 and the number of injured to about 2,100 by the end of Thursday, roughly 250 of them injured critically. A somewhat targeted strike on the home of a prominent Hamas leader left him dead, too, along with 13 of his family members who were living in the same four-story home. The building was demolished after being struck by two Israeli missiles on Thursday afternoon. Israeli warplanes also continued to attack homes and headquarters of the Palestinian government, where aircraft destroyed the house of Hamas leader Nizar Rayan, killing him and his family.

The Israeli Army attacks Nili’n village and injures seven Palestinians
Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMc News, International Middle East Media Center News 1/1/2009
Israeli Army troops attacked the village of Nil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, on Thursday, and injured seven civilians, Palestinian sources reported. Eyewitnesses told the Palestinian Press Agency, Wafa, that villagers where holding the funeral of Mohamed Al Khawaja, a local youth who died last night. Soldiers attacked the village after the funeral. Witnesses added that Israeli soldiers opened fire at the villagers, and some homes in the village. One home caught fire and sustained damage, while two Palestinians were injured by the fire, medical sources reported. Meanwhile, another five local youths sustained injures during the clashes that took place later with the Israeli Army. Mohamed Al Khawaja was injured four days ago when Israeli troops attacked a protest, organized by the villages against the Israeli Army attacks on Gaza.

Draft UNSC resolution on Gaza rejected
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
The Security Council held an emergency meeting on New Year’s Eve on an Arab request for a legally binding and enforceable UN resolution that would condemn Israel and halt its military attacks on Gaza. But the draft resolution circulated by Libya on behalf of the 22-member Arab League Wednesday night was immediately rejected by the United States as "unbalanced" and "one-sided" because it makes no mention of halting the Hamas rocketing of southern Israel which led to the Israeli offensive. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States was working very hard to achieve an immediate cease-fire implemented by both sides, but he said Washington had not seen "any evidence" yet that Hamas was willing to end its rocket attacks. The best way to move forward, he said, would be to get an agreement among the parties for a cease-fire and humanitarian access to Gaza through. . .

Gaza’s injured succumb to wounds as Operation Cast Lead claims more lives
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - The Gaza death toll continues to climb as injured Gazans die of their wounds and fresh airstrikes claim more lives. Overnight Wednesday medical sources reported the death of Mahmoud Abu Najal, who died of his wounds in an Egyptian hospital. The death toll of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead is now 400, with more than 2,000 injured since Saturday. [end]

Besieged Palestinians battle to find burial spaces
Hazem Balousha in Gaza and Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/2/2009
Salim Abu Sadaq and six of his relatives scrabbled around in the soil of Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan cemetery for two hours yesterday, searching for a space in which to lay his cousin to rest. In the end, he opened his grandfather’s grave and moved the older man’s remains aside to make space for the body of his grandson. After "The Beginning", the first chapter in the Qur’an, was read aloud to mark the end of a life, Abu Sadaq expressed misgivings about the shared grave. "I feel very bad about it. It hasn’t happened before, but there’s no space. "At the entrance to the cemetery hangs a makeshift sign, written on fabric and strung up by the ministry of religious affairs. "It is forbidden to bury here," it says, directing mourners to the newer cemetery on Gaza’s eastern outskirts near Jabalia, where there is still some open ground.

Human Rights Activists to accompany medical teams in Gaza
International Solidarity Movement 1/1/2009
Since an air raid by the Israeli Air Force led to the injury of one and death of another Palestinian doctor on December 30th, International Solidarity Movement and Free Gaza Movement volunteers will be accompanying medical teams throughout the Gaza Strip. A press conference was held today to announce the new task the international volunteers will take on, starting January 1, 2009. In an effort to document the war crimes being committed by the Israeli military operation in Gaza, the internationals will be joining Gazan medical teams in shifts, both governmental and NGO hospitals. Volunteers expressed their concerns about the violation of Articles 19 and 21 of the Geneva Convention, which state that medical facilities and vehicles are to be protected from warfare. "Attacking a medical team is in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. . . "

’Missiles Took Away a Piece of Me’
Ola Attallah – Gaza, Palestine Chronicle 12/31/2008
When Heba El-Sakka heard the thundering sound of the Israeli bombardment, she was, just like every time, terrified to death. But it never crossed her mind the target this time was her university. " My graduation project, the fruit of five years of hard study, vanished in a blink on an eye," the engineering student at the Islamic University in Gaza (IUG) told IslamOnline. net with tears rolling down her face. " It can’t be. It feels like the missiles took away a piece of me. " Israeli warplanes have fired air-to-ground missiles at the IUG, the biggest and oldest scientific edifice in the impoverished Gaza Strip, on Monday and Tuesday. Six buildings in the university, including the female dormitory, were completely flattened as a result. The IUG, which has more than 16,000 students, said the Israeli bombardment has completely leveled science and engineering and other research laboratories.

’I heard explosions from left and right - now I hate going to school’
Eyewitness, The Guardian 1/2/2009
Saleem Abdulla, aged six. He is in the first grade at Rimal school, Gaza. I finished the exam at around 10 in the morning [on Saturday] and I started to go out from my classroom when suddenly I heard a large explosion near my school. I started to be really scared. My classroom is on the second floor so I was afraid to get to the stairs until a teacher came and took us to the ground floor. Usually my mum comes to pick me up or sends me a taxi. I found no taxi so I stayed at the gate of the school just hearing explosions and people running. I felt that I could do nothing but stand. I kept waiting for a while. . . I don’t know how long for. I found my mum running to the school to pick me up. We walked home - maybe about 2. 5km (1. 5 miles). I started to hear explosions coming from right and left and was really scared. Mum tried to ask me how I did during he exam, but I forgot everything. I was just looking around looking at the flames and smoke on the buildings.

A horrible truth from the Al-Amal Orphan Society / A message from David Halpin
Palestine Think Tank 1/1/2009
Mohammed El-Ewadi is a very calm, polite, shy, and clever boy. He is an orphan living at AL AMAL Orphanage in Gaza. Mohammed left the orphanage early in the morning, to his final exam at school. he was ready for his exam, and looking forward to the winter vacation, as he was planning to learn photography and computer drawing. He was supposed to come back to the orphanage at 11:00 AM, as he is used to come back from school right away. We waited and waited. Mohammed did not come back. We went out looking for him everywhere, but we couldn’t find him. We went to the hospital many times asking about him, the hospital was a total chaos, no one was able to help us. Finally at 7:00 PM we were permitted to enter the ICU to look for Mohammed between the many unknown victims. Yes, Mohammed was one of the many victims of the crimes committed against Gaza yesterday.

Il Manifesto: The angel factories
International Solidarity Movement 1/1/2009
Jabilia, Bet Hanun, Rafah, Gaza City are the legs of the journey in my personal map of hell. Whatever the press releases from the summit of the Israeli military may say, recited parrot-style all over Europe and the US via the disinformation experts, in the last few days I’ve been an eye witness to the bombing of mosques, schools, universities, hospitals, markets and many, many civilian buildings. The medical director at Al Shifa hospital has confirmed he received calls from members of the IDF, the Israeli Army, ordering him to evacuate the hospital, or else face being showered by missiles. But they didn’t let the Army intimidate them. I should be sleeping at the port (though we haven’t shut our eyes once in Gaza for at least 4 days), but it’s being constantly bombed at night. You no longer hear the sirens of ambulances in a mad chase, simply because there isn’t a living soul left at the port or its environs. Everyone is dead, and it feels like treading a cemetery in the aftermath of an earthquake.

After six weeks of near blackout, foreign press to re-enter Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - After more than a month of near media blackout Israel announced Thursday its decision to slowly allow foreign journalists into Gaza. Starting 11 November members of the international press reported that they were being turned away from Erez crossing. A journalist for a major international news organization, speaking anonymously on Monday said that he had been attempting to enter Gaza consistently since 9 November and was denied entry each time. After one week of non-access for the international press, media outlets condemned the Israeli policy as an unprecedented violation of press freedom. The Foreign Press Association (FPA) submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court. Israeli officials cited the “volatile security situation in Gaza” as a risk to the safety of the international press as justification for the blackout.

8 foreign reporters allowed into Gaza
Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
At the urging of the High Court of Justice, Israel agreed Thursday to allow eight foreign journalists into Gaza when it reopens the border crossing with the Hamas-ruled territory, the Justice Ministry said. The decision fell short of a High Court proposal, made a day earlier, to let up to 12 international journalists into the Gaza Strip, and was deemed "insufficient" by the Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association, which had petitioned the court on the matter. The move was the latest in an ongoing legal battle between the government and the group representing foreign journalists in Israel, following a two-month-old ban on foreign correspondents entering Gaza. Israel originally imposed the blanket ban following an upswing in Palestinian rocket attacks, but the issue. . .

IDF kills top Hamas terror sheikh Rayyan
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 1/2/2009
Israel stepped up the pressure on Hamas on Thursday and dropped a one-ton bomb on the home of one of the group’s top five leaders, Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, killing him and a reported 18 others as the IDF made final preparations for a ground operation expected in the coming days. Some security sources, however, said the likelihood of a massive IDF ground incursion into the Gaza Strip was receding. The IAF hit more than 40 targets throughout the day, with an emphasis on the homes of senior Hamas officials. Four homes were targeted, including the one in Jabalya that belonged to Rayyan, a senior Hamas commander and cleric for the terror group’s military wing, Izzadin Kassam. More than 700 targets have been bombed since the beginning of the operation, and over 50 rockets pounded the South on Thursday, one of them striking a nine-story apartment building in Ashdod and sending 32 people into shock.

Israeli bomb strike kills senior Hamas leader
The Independent 1/2/2009
Israel killed a senior figure in the Hamas leadership for the first time in its current wave of air attacks on Gaza yesterday when it used a one-ton bomb to flatten the home of Nizar Rayan, a leader linked to both the Islamic faction’s military and political wings. The bomb also killed four of his 12 children and two of his four wives, and at least four others during the attack on Mr Rayan’s four-storey home in the northern Gaza town of Jabalya. The Israeli military said that there were a series of secondary explosions after the attack, which sent thick plumes of dark smoke high in the air and damaged several neighbouring buildings, and that this showed the house was used for storing weapons. The military also said that there was a tunnel under the house to allow militants to escape. The family were warned 30 minutes earlier by the Israel Defence Forces that the house. . .

IAF bombs Gaza mosque used as 'terror' hub
Amos Harel and Yoav Stern and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Israel Air Force aircraft struck a mosque in Jabaliya late Thursday night used as a terror-hub by the Hamas "terror" organization. The mosque was used as a storehouse for a large amount of Grad missiles, Qassam rockets and additional weaponry. The strike set off series of secondary explosions and a large fire, caused by the ammunitions stockpiled inside the mosque. The mosque was also used as a center of operations for Hamas, as a meeting place for its operatives and a staging ground for "terror" attacks, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson’s office said in a statement. "The IDF will continue to attack any target used for "terrorist" activity, and will not hesitate to strike those involved in terrorism against the citizens of the State of Israel, even if they deliberately choose to operate from locations of religious or cultural significance," the statement went on to say.

IAF steps up Gaza Strip air strikes
Yaakov Katz, Staff And Ap, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
The IAF on Thursday bombed a building in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, reportedly killing seven people, including senior Hamas leader and cleric Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, and injuring thirty others. Army Radio reported that according to Palestinian sources, his family was warned before the attack but did not leave the building. Earlier, the IAF launched a quick-fire response shortly after a Grad-type missile slammed into the top floor of an Ashdod building. The army said that the air force struck both the Gaza terror cell that launched the projectile and the launching device. Several Hamas homes which were used to store weapons were also bombed in the afternoon air raid. Since Thursday morning, the IAF struck over 20 targets, including rocket launching sites in northern Gaza, as well as tunnels and a car in the southern Gaza Strip, killing several Hamas operatives. In addition, the IAF bombed the homes of three senior Gaza terrorists.

16 Palestinians, including prominent Hamas leader, killed in latest massacre
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
JABALYA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation airforce, Thursday evening, bombed the house of Dr. Nizar al-Rayyan, killing him and 15 of his family and wounding scores of Palestinians. The house targeted by the occupation airforce is in the crowded Jabalya refugee camp causing a lot of damage to neighbouring houses and many casualties. Dr. Rayyan is a lecturer at the Islamic university and enjoys widespread respect at the Jbalya refugee camp, especially that he was always at the forefront of demonstration against the occupation, not only that, but he never hesitated to don his military suite and join the Qassam Brigades in defending the camp during IOF incursions. It was Dr. Rayyan, who took the initiative, two years ago, to protect homes against Israeli occupation air strikes by forming human shields which succeeded in stopping this practice by the Israeli occupation, where they used to. . .

Northern Gaza Strip sees steady flow of airstrikes; at least 40 injured
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - The northern Gaza Strip is being steadily bombarded with missiles from Israeli warplanes Thursday, in the sixth straight day of strikes. 12:05pm - Israeli missiles targeted two homes in the densely populated An-Nusseirat refugee camp, dozens have been reported injured. 11:30am - Israeli warplanes injured 20 as they bombed the home of Abu Mousa Ad-Diry in the As-Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. 6:00am - The de facto government Ministries of Justice and Education buildings were demolished. 5:00am - The headquarters of the Legislative Council was destroyed in Israeli missile strikes. 4:00am - Israeli warplanes targeted several homes in the Gaza City area. [end]

Israeli troops briefly enter Strip near Gaza City, clash with Hamas fighters, killing one
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - One activist was killed as Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip east of Gaza City, but retreated shortly after they clashed with Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades. The Hamas-wing reported that Israeli troops entered the Strip briefly in the early hours of Thursday morning. The Brigades exchanged fire with the troops, who seemed to retreat after the exchange. Reports do not indicate that this invasion was part of the threatened Israeli ground invasion intot the Gaza Strip. Sources said the incursion was similar to those conducted before the airstrikes began, and occurred near the border wall. [end]

VIDEO - Gaza attacks continue as UN calls for ceasefire
The Guardian 1/1/2009
Israeli air strikes are targeting government buildings in Gaza as international pressure for a ceasefire builds [end]

Palestinians rally throughout West Bank cities
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – In solidarity with the thousands of dead and injured in the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, Palestinians rallied by the hundreds throughout West Bank cities on Thursday. In the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on Thursday, a procession of children holding candles was organized by the Palestinian Red Crescent, following a sit-in at their headquarters. Meanwhile, residents of the village of Az-Zababdah, near the West Bank city of Jenin, carried out a silent candle procession in solidarity with Gaza. The residents attended a sermon marking the end of 2008 that was held at the village’s Latin Church. In the central West Bank city of Ramallah, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) participated in a demonstration in solidarity with Gaza. That rally was followed by a sit-in at the city center, along with a meeting at the PLC headquarters in Ramallah.

Palestinians vow solidarity with Gaza and continued resistance in 2009
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 1/1/2009
In an atmosphere of anger and grief, New Years Eve in Ramallah was turned into a massive show of solidarity with the people in Gaza under constant Israeli bombings. The central square was packed with people carrying Palestinian flags and shouting slogans vowing to continue to fight for their rights. The first gathering started at around 10:30 pm at the central square, al Manara, with a few dozen people who marched together to the municipal hall in al Bireh. There, the National Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza, which had organized the evening mobilization, had prepared speeches and arranged for a music group to play national songs dedicated to the steadfastness and resistance of the Palestinians in Gaza. The hall quickly filled. When shortly before midnight the crowd marched back to the center square, hundreds had already gathered at the municipal hall to stand in solidarity with Gaza.

Bethlehem protests the continued Israeli attacks on Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMc News, International Middle East Media Center News 1/1/2009
On Thursday morning, scores of Palestinians from the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem protested at the Church on the Nativity against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. Local sources reported that the demonstrators carried banners calling on Israel to stop the attacks, while calling on the international community to aid Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, which started on Saturday morning have so far left 396 Palestinians killed, and more than 1788 injured. At midnight on Wednesday, at least 150 Palestinians and internationals gathered at the Church of the Nativity to mark the New Year with a vigil for Gaza. People lit candles and drew "Gaza" in Arabic and English. Speeches were delivered calling for an international intervention to stop, what the people call, the Israeli war on Gaza.

Israel deploys additional police to Jerusalem’s Old City
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israel’s Jerusalem Police Department plans to deploy thousands of additional forces and border guards inside Jerusalem’s main entrances, fearing massive demonstrations coinciding with weekly prayers on Friday. Israeli sources said that the procedures would be taken so long as Israel continues its “Operation: Cast Lead” assault on the Gaza Strip. “Men under the age of 50 will not be allowed to enter Al-Aqsa for prayers,” one official said. Age restrictions for women were not specified. [end]

Israeli troops detain four from Hebron area, including village mayor
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli troops detained four Palestinians from Tarqumiya and As-Samu in the Hebron governorate Thursday morning. Security sources in Tarqumiya village west of Hebron said Israeli troops invaded the area, broke into several homes and detained Shehda Al-Fatafta,Rami Hassan Al-Badawi and Abd Al-amid Eghtas. In As-Samu village the mayor was detained. All were taken to an unknown destination. [end]

Israeli troops force families from homes in village near Qalqiliya
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Several Israeli military vehicles overran Kafr Laqif village and forced several families to evacuate their homes east of Qalqiliya Wednesday night, eyewitnesses said. The families were interrogated and the homes searched; no detentions were reported. [end]

Gazans face ’humanitarian crisis’ as Israeli raids intensify
Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/2/2009
After six days of Israeli bombardment, aid agencies say that Gazans are facing a humanitarian crisis with air strikes causing severe problems in getting food, medicine and fuel suppliesto the besiegedcivilian population. The assessment, by several international relief organisations, contradicts the statement by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, during a visit to Paris yesterday that "there is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce". While relief shipments were allowed into Gaza by the Israeli authorities in the days before the start of the offensive, they came after weeks of virtually no supplies getting through, the agencies point out. The biggest difficulty is that many people are too frightened by bombing to venture out to collect food rations. Gaza officials are also unwilling to take part in food distribution because. . .

Haneyya: Israel will fail in achieving its goals in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government in Gaza, has asserted that the Israeli military adventure in the Gaza Strip would end up in failure and would achieve none of its goals. Haneyya, addressing the Palestinian people in a speech broadcast on the Aqsa TV station on Wednesday evening, said that what is going on in Gaza is a real war. "This is a war without ethics or principles that surpassed all norms and heavenly and earthly morals. It is a war of annihilation in which all types of weapons are being used and in which none is being spared," he elaborated. However, the premier stressed that the Palestinian internal front was solid and the people of Gaza would emerge victorious. The enemy wanted to employ this war of genocide to liquidate a cause and to end a certain project, Haneyya said, asserting that the war was not against Hamas or the government. . .

Israel rejects ceasefire as warplanes attack government buildings in Gaza
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/1/2009
Hamas security officials say buildings housing education and transportation ministries are virtually destroyed - Palestinians stand in front a destroyed mosque following Israeli airstrikes in the Tal al-Hawa area, south of Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA Hamas security officials said buildings housing the education and transportation ministries had been virtually destroyed. The Palestinian parliament building was also hit, they said. Gunmen in Gaza retaliated by firing a long-range rocket at the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. As the Israeli planes bombed targets for a sixth day, Israeli defence officials said its military offensive would continue and that Israel would insist on an end to all rocket fire. "This is only the beginning," the Israeli deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, said on Israel’s Army Radio.

IDF coordination chief: There is no humanitarian crisis
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Hamas terrorists are using civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip - including hospitals, mosques and areas next to offices of international aid groups - to conduct terrorist activity and fire rockets at Israel, Col. Moshe Levi, commander of the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), said Thursday. Levi, who is in charge of coordinating humanitarian efforts in the Gaza Strip, told The Jerusalem Post that since Sunday over 330 trucks carrying food, medicine and medical supplies had been allowed into the Gaza Strip despite the daily rocket barrages against the South. In addition, the CLA has facilitated the transfer of 10 ambulances and 2,000 blood units to Gaza, and has approved a Palestinian request to allow three Gazans wounded in the fighting into Israel for medical treatment, Levi said.

PM: We have no interest in a long war
Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
"We have no interest in conducting a protracted campaign," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday, the sixth day of the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead. "We are not longing for a wide-scale war, but we want quiet and we want the lives of southerners to change so that our children can grow up in security, without fear and nightmares. " Speaking on a visit to rocket-hit Beersheba, the prime minister said that southerners shouldn’t have to run from "the whistles of missiles and Kassams. " Olmert met municipality heads from the area and security officials, including Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i and OC Home Front Command Yair Golan. Olmert stressed, once again, that despite the government’s transitional status, there was full cooperation on the political level concerning the Gaza operation.

VIDEO - Livni: No legitimacy to Hamas through truce talks
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/1/2009
(Video) Foreign minister meets President Sarkozy, French counterpart in Paris, says Israel is rejecting ’humanitarian ceasefire’ offered by his country because no humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza - VIDEO - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Thursday with Frebch President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for talks on the situation in Gaza. Livni told Kouchner that Israel was rejecting his country’s ’humanitarian ceasefire’ proposal. Officials in Livni’s office said no humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza, therefore there is no need for a ceasefire of this sort. During their meeting in Paris Kouchner condemned the rocket fire from Gaza towards the southern communities of Israel and said that his country sees Hamas as a terror organization.

Olmert tours Beersheva, says Israel to avoid long war
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited the central Israeli town of Beersheva on Thursday, where he told Israeli press that “no war was declared in Gaza. ”“But it’s clear that it is impossible to continue accepting a reality where hundreds of thousands of Israelis are living in continuous fear,” the prime minister said. He said that the Israeli military hopes to achieve its goals quickly, and that Israel will deal with Hamas “with an iron fist,” despite that “they handle themselves with silk gloves. ”During Olmert’s tour of Beersheva on Thursday, he held a meeting with residents, met with the mayor and visited sites struck by projectiles.

IDF targets senior Hamas figures
Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
An Israeli air strike yesterday killed a high-ranking Hamas official in Gaza along with nine women, including at least four wives, and 11 of his children, in the first major assassination since the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Cast Lead. According to sources from the defense establishment, decision-makers are increasingly inclined to order a ground invasion into Gaza. The assassination of Nizar Ghayan, which was carried out in an air raid, left dozens of people from neighboring buildings injured and brought up the body count on the Palestinian side to 425 people dead from Israeli raids since the operation’s launching last Saturday. The number of wounded is now estimated at around 2,000. The IDF Spokesman said that Ghayan’s house had served as a weapons silo and a war room for Hamas. Under the house, according to the IDF, was a tunnel which was meant to serve as an escape route in case of an Israeli attack.

Israeli bomb kills Hamas leader and six of his family
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/2/2009
An Israeli jet dropped a one-tonne bomb on the home of a senior Hamas leader in Gaza yesterday, killing him and six members of his family in the first high-level assassination in six days of intensive bombing. Nizar Rayan, 49, a Hamas hardliner who was close to the group’s military wing, was one of the few senior figures in the movement not to go underground when the latest conflict began. The four-storey building where he had his apartment in the Jabalia refugee camp was destroyed and neighbouring buildings badly damaged. Large crowds pawed through the rubble looking for survivors. As well as Rayan, 11 people, including two of his four wives and four of his 12 children, were killed. "We are trying to hit everybody who is a leader of the organisation, and today we hit one of their leaders," said Israeli vice-prime minister Haim Ramon.

Gaza strike kills top Hamas figure
Al Jazeera 1/2/2009
A senior leader of the Palestinian Hamas movement has been assassinated in an Israeli air assault on Gaza as speculation grows that a ground offensive is imminent. Nizar Rayyan is the most senior Hamas official killed since Israel unleashed its massive bombardment on Gaza, in what Israel argues is a response to persistent Hamas rocket attacks from the enclave. Israeli aircraft went on to bomb sites near the southern Rafah border and open ground near the boundary in the north. Meanwhile the Israeli army has begun clearing landmines along the Gaza border, apparently laying the groundwork for an invasion of the strip. Medics say 13 members of Rayyan’s family, including his wife and three children, were killed in the attack on his five-storey home in the Jabaliya refugee camp on Thursday.

IAF strikes Jabalya mosque that was used as launching ground
Jerusalem Post 1/2/2009
As Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza entered its sixth day, the Israeli Air Force bombed a mosque in the village of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip. The Holfe Mosque was used as a launching ground for rockets, a meeting place for Hamas terrorists, as well as storage facility for arms and a communications center. Palestinians reported that the IAF carried out five strikes just before midnight Thrusday, Israel Radio reported. In an earlier attack in Jabalya, the IAF killed Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas military commander who was a sworn enemy not only of Israel, but also of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. 15 people were killed in the strike that liquidated Rayyan, including his four wives.

Family of prominent Hamas leader killed in Israeli airstrike
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas confirmed the death of one of its most prominent leaders, Nizar Rayan, in an Israeli airstrike that targeted his home in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp on Thursday. Three Israeli missiles struck his home, killing his wife and 13 other family members, including several children. Palestinian medical sources that that many bodies are still under the rubble of his house, but have managed to identify Rayan’s son, six-year-old Abed Ar-Rahman. The airstrike destroyed a four-story building in a densely populated neighborhood, leading to a massive number of killed and injured; among the dead appears to be Rayan’s entire family. Israeli TV said that the Hamas-affiliated “bank of targets” includes Hamas leaders and their homes. Another Israeli source claimed that secondary explosions at the house were caused by stores of weapons Rayan was maintaining.

Hamas leader killed with family in Israeli strike
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
GAZA CITY- Senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayan was killed on Thursday with his four wives and two of his children in an Israeli air strike in Gaza, medics said. Rayan was killed when a missile crashed into a five-storey house that he shared with his wives and children in Jabaliya in the north of the territory, the medics said. The dead children were aged seven and 10. Three other people were also killed in the raid. The Israeli army said that it had targeted Rayan’s house during a strike. Rayan is the most senior Hamas official killed since Israel unleashed its massive bombardment against Gaza on Saturday. In the minutes following the strike, dozens of people rushed to the scene, pulling bodies from the rubble. The New Year in Gaza began Thursday with air strikes as Israeli jets pounded the Strip end and the death toll from the blitz reached over 400.

Journal: Riding with ambulances from tonight
Sharyn Lock in Gaza, International Solidarity Movement 1/1/2009
Last night E and I accompanied Dr Halid on the dark walk from Al Shifa hospital (his day shift) to Al Quds hospital (his night shift); he didn’t expect to find a taxi to take us, as our destination had a lot of government buildings which had recieved many strikes. His route attempted to avoid the main targets. "Let’s go this way to avoid the Jawizat," Dr H said. "Where exactly was that? "E asked. "Oh well, let’s go past it so you can see it," he offered, Arabic hospitality to guests immediately outweighing any concerns of being underneath a missile. The Jawizat was one of the police academies that were having a training day, and between 45-50 young men were killed there in the first ten minutes of attacks. At Al Quds hospital we met the Red Crescent Ambulance folks, who have set up their operations room in a hospital office.

In Gaza: Updates
International Solidarity Movement 1/1/2009
6 more blasts from the Israeli naval ships, in 2 sets. No power, nor internet last night, no way to keep updating. I didn’t go to Jabaliya, to my terrified friends, because it was too late, impossible to travel there without being a target. They live on the eastern side of Jabaliya, and the roads which lead to their home are within an even more targeted area than other parts of Jabaliya, especially Salah al Din street, a main north-south road. At 7 am, the blasts renewed, 8 blasts in sets of 2. Ten minutes later, 3 blasts. I learn that the Council of Ministers, hosting the Prime Minister’s Office, was targeted last night, at 8:50 pm, along with the Ministry of Interior in Tel al Hawa, which was targeted for the 3rd time.

Agencies air horrific footage of dead children after airstrike
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - News Agencies aired footage of a number of children killed after the Israel’s air force shelled areas in the Gaza neighborhoods of At-Tifah, Jabalia and Beit Hanoun on Thursday. Medical sources told Ma’an that scores of injured were taken to hospitals in Beit Hanoun and Kamal Adwan following a series of airstrikes that targeted an area near the An-Nada Towers building and many others in northern and eastern Gaza City. [end]

The Gaza List – Be Informed, and Help Gaza
Palestine Chronicle 12/31/2008
Learn about the war on Gaza, and how to help. The Palestine Chronicle is making available the list below, simply as a start up tool to those who need help finding alternative news, commentary and all sorts of information regarding the situation in Gaza. It’s not meant to suggest that these are the only available resources, and we apologize if we have missed some obvious choices. In fact, we are sure that we have. Nonetheless, we hope that the list below will help you find more information that you cannot locate in your local or national media. Please make sure to scroll down for links to recommended charities that provide important help to the residents of Gaza. Thank you, Palestine Chronicle Editorial Team Online Newspapers, Information Centers, Blogs, Multimedia and More - The Palestine Chronicle, The Electronic Intifada, Info-Palestine. net

Explosive device tossed at settler bus near Hebron; no injuries
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – An explosive charge was hurled at a settler bus on the main road near Beit Ummer, north of Hebron, according to Israeli sources late on Thursday night. No one was injured in the attack, but soldiers closed the road while scouring the scene in search of the fleeing Palestinians believed to have tossed the device toward the bus. Meanwhile, the Israeli military confirmed that it arrested a Palestinian woman near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old City, claiming that she was carrying a 15-centimeter knife. A spokesperson for the army said that the woman was taken in for interrogation. [end]

Fatah-affiliated armed group claims attack on settlement
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – An armed group affiliated with the Fatah movement announced on Thursday that it targeted an Israeli town near the border with the Gaza Strip. The Al-Aqsa Brigades, an armed wing of the Fatah movement, announced on Thursday that one of its groups escaped death in an Israeli airstrike that targeted the area of Jabal Ar-Rayes in eastern Gaza city. No injuries were reported. An Al-Aqsa Brigades affiliate confirmed the strike in a telephone call to Ma’an Headquarters in Bethlehem. The group also claimed responsibility for shelling the Israeli town of Azzata with a homemade projectile. [end]

420 Palestinians killed, 2100 wounded in the Gaza holocaust
Palestinian Information Center 1/2/2009
A number of houses destroyed in the targeting of Dr. Rayyan’s houseGAZA, (PIC)-- On the sixth day of the Gaza holocaust, the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation airforce has reached 420 and the number of wounded has reached 2100, 300 of them in serious condition. The worst carnage on Thursday was the targeting of the house of Dr. Nizar al-Rayyan, a prominent Hamas leader, in which he and 15 members of his family were killed. Dr. Rayyan’s house as well as many houses in the vicinity were destroyed. The houses of two other Hamas activists were also targeted by the Israeli occupation airforce, as well as the training grounds of the Qassam Brigades, no casualties were reported. Israeli occupation air strikes on Thursday targeted areas close to the border from Beit Hanoun to the north, to Hay al-Tuffah and Jabalya to the north east of the Strip, paving the way for a possible ground assault.

Rank and File
Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
CELL PHONE DRAFT: They were expecting to volunteer in the Israeli army, but to be recruited by the Israel Defense Forces via text message to relieve soldiers this week in non-combat positions certainly must have come as a surprise. The young adults, 75 participants in the Hadassah-sponsored Young Judaea gap year program, quickly responded in the affirmative and will be packing medical equipment, uniforms and take on other duties at four military bases, to free up support staff of soldiers and reservists for the military effort in the South starting early next week. The participants had already chosen to participate in a two-month military experience as part of their year in Israel. ? At first we were going to send 75 but now the number is up to 120,? said Young Judaea? s Joel Jacobs yesterday. The students will take a one-week break from their community volunteer or Israel experience placements for the endeavor.

Hospitals geared for emergencies
Dana Weiler-Polak, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon this week received 42 people with war-related injuries, including one fatality. Of the remainder, six were in moderate to serious condition and the rest had mild injuries. Another 74 people were treated for panic and anxiety. On Saturday, when the air raids over Gaza began, the hospital discharged 300 patients, either to their homes or to other facilities, in anticipation of the fighting. The top floor of the hospital was evacuated and its patients moved to the bottom floor to protect them in the event of a direct rocket strike on the building. In addition, the emergency, operating and delivery rooms, as well as the preemie, internal medicine and geriatric wards were moved into basements on hospital grounds that were repurposed. Be’er Sheva’s Soroka Medical Center treated 164 people affected by the war, most of them suffering from panic and anxiety.

Fifty-one rockets land in Gaza-area communities
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
"A great miracle" was what people yesterday in Ashkelon were calling the fact that a Grad rocket landed in a cemetery just after a funeral had ended. "There were seven funerals here today, and I’m telling you it was just luck that something terrible didn’t happen here," the director of the Hevra Kadisha burial society, Eli Yifrah, said as he stood next to a gravestone shattered by the rocket, which landed just after 3 P. M. A total of 51 rockets hit yesterday in southern Israel: 10 landed in Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon and the Sha’ar Hanegev region; five Grad rockets were fired at Be’er Sheva and landed in open areas; more than 10 rockets landed in the Eshkol region, one of which caused damage to a building near a community; eight Grad rockets were fired at the town of Netivot, landing in open areas outside the town. Rockets fired at Ofakim also landed in open areas.

Tel Aviv municipality orders residents to prepare shelters
Ran Rimon, Globes Online 1/1/2009
Deputy mayor: As of now there is no direct threat to Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality has issued instructions to the city’s residents in the event that Hamas rockets reach the city. The instructions relate to the preparedness of private shelters. Recommendations include ensuring that emergency lighting, food supplies, and first aid is available, as well as radios or other means of obtaining information. The municipality emergency committee, headed by councilman Dr. Moshe Tiomkin convened on Tuesday to discuss procedures. A deputy mayor said, "As of now there is no direct threat to Tel Aviv-Jaffa. No special preparations are necessary, but we’re nevertheless making preparations for an emergency. " Tiomkin said, "We cannot ignore the fact that missile fire is reaching cities near Tel Aviv, such as Yavne and Ashdod.

Tel Aviv, Rishon Letzion prepare bomb shelters in case of attack
Noa Kosharek, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Residents of Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion have no interest in being caught unprepared if Palestinian rocket fire begins to hit their environs, and have begun renovating public bomb shelters and updating emergency procedures. Rishon Letzion authorities told residents to begin preparing bomb shelters so they can be ready "for any possible scenario. " Municipal authorities stressed that the move does not mean the city is under the threat of attack, but they want residents to practice the utmost caution and be prepared for any circumstance. Tel Aviv authorities decided to update their emergency response guidelines, as a result of the fighting in Gaza. At a special meeting held at City Hall Wednesday, new emergency guidelines were discussed, as well as ways to accommodate citizens of the south who have fled their homes.

IDF fixing southern cities’ siren problems
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Warning sirens in communities that have come into the extended 40 km. range of Hamas rocket fire should all be working properly within the next few days, the IDF Home Front Command said Thursday. Beersheba, where many problems with the sirens have been experienced, should be fully covered by Friday, said Col. Eitan Yitzhak, the commander of Home Front Command’s southern district. Some sirens are not triggering properly, while others cannot be heard. Where the sirens are not sounding automatically, the Home Front Command has assigned soldiers to activate them manually when they receive a beeper message that a Color Red alert has been declared for the area. "These soldiers ensure the siren is activated in areas that are not fully covered, but this role is only temporary, until we reach a complete and perfect coverage of sirens in all areas that are in the range of the rockets," Yitzhak said.

Rocket hits Ashdod apartment building; no injuries
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Grad fired by Palestinians in northern Gaza hits eight-storey building in southern city; no injuries reported; fire breaks out. IAF strikes rocket launching pad in Gaza. More rockets target Beersheba, Ofakim, Ashkelon and Sderot. Municipalities cancel school day - A Grad rocket fired from northern Gaza at around noon Thursday struck an eight-storey apartment building in Ashdod. The rocket hit the building’s roof and penetrated two floors. There were no initial reports of injury. A fire broke out at the premises, but it was extinguished by firefighters who were dispatched to the scene. Some 20 people were treated for shock. The Israeli Air Force struck a launching pad in Gaza used to fire the rocket at Ashdod. The target was reportedly destroyed. Eyewitness Haim Sarusi told Ynet that a "huge cloud of smoke billowed over the building, as though someone had bombed the site from the air.

Armed groups continue attacks against Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - Dozens of projectiles landed on Israeli soil before midnight on Thursday, Israeli sources said. The launches were the response of Palestinian fighters to the sixth straight day of Israeli shelling and air assaults on the Gaza Strip that hit about 50 sites on Thursday. At 11am the Al-Qassam Brigades launched a projectile that reached as far as the Netsarim airbase on the edge of the Negev, southeast of Beersheva. Other groups claimed responsibility for several attacks on Israeli targets Thursday: Al-Quds Brigades - Islamic Jihad’s military wing launched two projectiles at Sderot and Kfar Azza early Thrusday morning. / Al-Aqsa Brigades- Fatah’s military wing in Gaza launched two projectiles at Sderot and western Negev shortly after 7am Thursday and another one before dawn. Later, the armed group said it targeted two more Israeli towns near the border with Gaza.

Rockets slam Ashdod, Beersheba
Shmulik Hadad Latest Update, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Rocket fired from Gaza lands near southern cities, MDA teams treat several people for shock. Over 40 rockets explode in Israel throughout Thursday, Homefront Command orders public to pray only in synagogues with bomb shelters - Palestinians fired several rockets from the Gaza Strip Thursday evening, which exploded near the cities of Ashdod and Beersheba. Magen David Adom teams were alerted to the scene and attended to several people who sustained shock. No damage was reported in the attacks. The most recent attack occurred at 10:30 pm, when a rocket landed outside of Beersheba after the alarm was sounded throughout the city. The rocket was fired after the Air Force struck various targets in Gaza. Rockets also landed throughout the evening in Ashkelon, Beersheba, and the Gaza vicinity communities, and the Homefront Command ordered residents of the south to refrain from. . .

Palestinian resistance groups continue homemade rocket fire despite Israeli air raids
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/1/2009
Gaza-based resistance factions continued firing homemade rockets and mortar shells into nearby Israeli towns, despite widespread Israeli air raids on the coastal territory for the sixth consecutive day. On Thursday morning, the Saraya al-quds brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, fired at least 19 homemade rockets, according to a press release emailed to media outlets. The al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, the militant wing of the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, fired two missiles on Thursday morning towards the southern Israeli town of Naqqab (Negev). Also, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine last night fired two shells onto the Israeli Sufa crossing in southern Gaza. The Salah Eldin brigades, an offshoot of the popular resistance committees, fired a mortar shell to the east of Khan Younis city in southern Gaza, according to press releases.

Home Command extends region with no classes
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 1/1/2009
Israel Ambassador to UN: Our citizens won’t be sitting ducks. The IDF Home Front Command widened the region in which where no classes will be held to include Yavne and Gedera. Schools and kindergartens in Beersheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and communities proximate to the Gaza Strip were already closed earlier this week. The IDF Home Front Command has also drafted another reserve battalion, which will be deployed in communities in range of Hamas rocket fire. "Israel won’t allow its citizens to be sitting ducks, and the operation will continue as long as necessary," Israel Ambassador to the UN Prof. Gabriella Shalev told a special meeting of the Security Council yesterday. She made the comment during an emergency meeting called by Libya to demand that the Security Council order Israel to unilaterally declare a cease-fire and open the border crossing to the Gaza Strip.

Emotional hot lines see sharp rise in callers from the South
Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Services providing emotional first aid to residents of the South reported a sharp rise in calls to their hot lines on Thursday, after almost six days of increased rocket attacks on an area where some 800,000 Israelis live. "The majority of those who call our hot line are suffering from panic and anxiety, with roughly 40 percent of the calls from children or their parents, and some 60% from adults over 18," Sigal Haimov, director of the hot line (1-800-363-363) run by Natal, the Israel trauma center for victims of war and terror, told The Jerusalem Post. "There are a lot of parents calling concerned or panicked by changes in their children’s behavior over the past few days," Haimov said. "There are many cases of children refusing to leave their reinforced rooms and bomb shelters, or those who are worried because their children are not eating and drinking.

Beersheba residents may be scared, but they’re not leaving
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Fear was splashed across the faces of Beersheba residents Thursday afternoon, as the sudden wail of a siren pierced the air and they scrambled into a bomb shelter near the city center. Running through the entrance and down the stairs, young women, elderly men, parents holding their young children and gasping for breath from the sprint to reach the shelter in time - all betrayed a panicked look that revealed the shock and confusion residents of this central Negev town feel now that rockets have begun to rain down on their homes. Since the first Grad rocket landed in Beersheba Tuesday night, residents have had to learn quickly how to react, and many, as was the case on Thursday, are clearly under considerable duress. "When will it end? "a woman asked as she finally made it down the stairs, her face strained and worried.

In Beersheba, rockets bring Arab, Jewish neighbors together
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Beersheba looked like a ghost town Wednesday afternoon, as the sporadic wail of sirens and rattling booms of Grad rockets prompted many to stay within the relative safety of their homes, glued to their TVs and radios. But in the city’s Gimmel neighborhood - a heavily-Sephardi, working class bloc near the city center - people stood outside the entrance to a bomb shelter, passing the time with jokes and gossip while waiting anxiously for the next siren or boom. "We didn’t hear it this morning," Riki Yitzhak said. "The siren hasn’t been working in this part of town at all, so we left our houses and came to the shelter. I’d rather stay here all day than go home. " Yitzhak explained that she and the others were crowded around the shelter’s entrance and had just stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air.

Ben Gurion University closes for weekend
Diana Bahur-Nir, Globes Online 1/1/2009
Students returned home. The decision to close schools and kindergartens in Beersheva following the Tuesday night’s strikes by Hamas rockets, proved to be a life-saver. A Grad rocket fired from Gaza hit a school in Beersheva’s A Neighborhood in the morning Although Ben Gurion University of the Negev originally had decided to remain open, it later agreed to IDF Home Front Command orders and will not hold classes in the city. University president Prof. Rivka Carmi said that the university changed its decision because of the uncertainty about Beersheva coming in range of Hamas rockets. After a four-hour meeting, the university administration decided to suspend classes until Sunday.

Israel suspends traffic laws throughout south
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli police announced that they had stopped issuing traffic citations in the south in light of the ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, a Hebrew-language newspaper reported on Thursday. Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported that the traffic police made the decision in order to accommodate the large evacuations taking place in the western Negev and elsewhere. A senior official within the region’s traffic police said the main aim of the decision is to better protect Israeli drivers and to help soldiers move into the area. [end]

Palestinian resistance retaliate for the attacks on Gaza and fire shells at Israeli areas
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/1/2009
Israeli Media sources reported on Thursday that at least 20 Palestinian homemade Qassam rockets fired from Gaza have hit several areas in Northern Israeli. According to sources, the homemade rockets landed in the Negev town of Ashdod and nearby Sederot. The Israeli Army reported damage, but no injures. The Hamas movement and other factions claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they come as a response to the ongoing Israeli Army attacks on the Gaza Strip. Israel launched a full-scale air attack on Gaza on Saturday. Today, the death toll has reached 412 Palestinians. Palestinian homemade rockets have killed four Israelis during the same period. [end]

IAF strikes in Gaza; locals flee their homes
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Israeli aircraft bombs home of senior Hamas commander; additional explosions reported in area, apparently after large arms cache blows up. Meanwhile sources in Gaza say hundreds leave neighborhoods near border fearing Israeli incursion - The IAF continued its strikes in Gaza as part of Operation Cast Lead Thursday evening. An Israeli fighter jet struck the house of senior Hamas commander Nabil Amrin in the Sheikh Radwan area. The house reportedly contained large amounts of weapons and ammunition. Several explosions occurred at the place following the air raid, but it is unclear at this point whether Amrin had been hit. Later in the evening, the rocket attacks on Israel continued, as did the IDF’s strikes in Gaza. One rocket landed in an open field near Netivot and another exploded in an open area near Ofakim.

IOF aggression escalates with 30 air raids in few hours
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation forces on Thursday escalated their relentless air raids that amounted to 30 aerial strikes in a few hours and naval bombardment of the Gaza Strip killing five more Palestinians including a woman. Local reports said that IOF warplanes blasted the fishermen’s pier and an agricultural field west of Khan Younis, south of the Strip, following 25 raids that were launched on Wednesday night. The reports said that IOF leveled five residential buildings bringing to 40 the number of buildings flattened since Saturday other than hundreds of homes that were partially damaged. The IOF warplanes also targeted a mosque south of Gaza city, the Palestine Legislative Council’s premises in addition to the ministries of justice and education along with a foundry, Jabalia police station, aluminum factory and a civil defense headquarters.

A new bloody year in Gaza, Israeli air raids kill four more Palestinians in Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/1/2009
As the new year began, Israeli air raids continued overnight, attacking several parts of the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of four more Palestinians, wounding a number others and devastating more buildings and homes. Witnesses said that the Israeli attacks targeted the buildings of the Palestinian legislative council, the ministries of education and justice in Gaza city, a house in the city, another house belonging to a Hamas fighter in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, a workshop and a picnic park in Rafah. Also in Rafah, the Israeli air assaults targeted smuggling tunnels used for bringing essential goods and commodities into the Besieged coastal territory, as well as a clinic. In the central Gaza Strip refugee camp of Almaghazi, an Israeli warplane hit a house just 20 minutes before midnight, shortly before the start of the new year.

Swarms of locusts over Gaza
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
The screen shows what look like two swarms of green locusts over the Mediterranean Sea, approaching the Gaza Strip. These are not locusts, though, but more than 50 Israel Air Force fighter jets that participated last Saturday in the unprecedented and astonishing air strike that was the opening act for Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. The entire attack, during which 50 Hamas targets were hit, took exactly three minutes and 40 seconds. Each green dot on the screen represents four fighter jets which fly in formation. Each swarm has several "foursomes" and was led by a veteran pilot who, like a conductor in an orchestra, needed to ensure that all of the aircraft carried out their missions in complete synchronization. These new details were revealed on Thursday, the sixth day of Operation Cast Lead, which until now has been mostly fought by the IAF.

Hamas leader killed amid escalating offensive
Ibrahim Barzak, and Amy Teibel, AP, The Independent 1/1/2009
Israel assassinated a Hamas strongman today in its first assault on the top leadership of the territory’s ruling group, escalating a crushing aerial offensive even as it declared itself ready to launch a ground invasion. While turning up the heat on the battlefield, Israel appeared to be sounding out a possible diplomatic exit from its campaign, demanding international monitors as a key term of any future truce with Gaza militants. The operation is meant to crush Gaza militants who have been terrorizing southern Israel with increasingly menacing rocket fire. In launching the campaign on Saturday, Israel made it clear that no one in Hamas was immune, and the air attack on the eight-story apartment building where Nizar Rayan lived sent that message home. The airstrike blew a huge hole in the side of the building and sent a thick plume of smoke into the air.

Muzzaini: Resistance preparing surprises for IOF
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Osama Al-Muzzaini, one of the political leaders of the Hamas Movement in Gaza Strip, has underlined that Palestinian resistance was still capable to strike and was preparing "surprises" for the Israeli occupation forces. He told the media office of Hamas in east Gaza city that Hamas would never acquiesce to the "enemy’s humiliating conditions", recalling that his Movement refused better conditions for a ceasefire. "We will not accept humiliating conditions for our people regardless of losses or sacrifices," he said. Muzzaini charged that Egypt was colluding with the Zionist enemy and was a partner in the aggression, adding that Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was quoted as saying that Hamas should be taught a lesson and that Hamas was led by a "gang". He also charged PA chief Mahmoud Abbas with collaboration with Israel in its aggression on Gaza,. . .

Sixth day under attack: Death toll in Gaza reaches 412
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/1/2009
Palestinian medical sources said that the Israeli Army continued its bombardment on the Gaza Strip today, calming the life of at least 15 Palestinians since this morning. The Hamas movement reported that among those killed today were Nizar Al Rayian, a Hamas politician, his wife and all of their kids. Local sources said that Israeli jet fighters shelled Al Rayian’s home, located in Jabaliya refugee camp in then northern part of the Gaza Strip, on Thursday afternoon. The Palestinian ministry of health in the Palestinian Coastal Region announced that by Thursday afternoon, the death toll in the Gaza Strip had reached 412, and the number of injured now stands at 2000, including 300 in critical conditions. The ministry said that Israeli warplanes continued to target Hamas and civilian targets in Gaza. The Israel attacks started on Saturday midday, just days after the sixth-month-long. . .

Hamas leader killed in Israeli airstrike
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, Matthew Weaver and agencies, The Guardian 1/1/2009
A senior member of Hamas was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his home today, after Israel rejected any temporary halt to its bombing campaign. Nizar Rayyan, a strong advocate of renewed suicide bombings who had close ties to the military wing of Hamas, was killed with members of his family. It is the first time aircraft have targeted a political leader of Hamas since Israel launched its offensive on Saturday. Medics said seven people were killed and about 30 were wounded in the air strike on Rayyan’s house today. Israel also targeted government buildings in Gaza and continued to mass troops along the border, while demanding international monitors as a key term of any future truce. Hamas security officials said buildings housing the education and transportation ministries had been virtually destroyed. The Palestinian parliament building was also hit, they said. Gunmen in Gaza retaliated by firing a long-range rocket at the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva.

IAF strikes continue; IDF expects Hamas revenge
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/2/2009
. IDF sources estimate that killing of Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan in airstrike Thursday will boost organization’s motivation to launch large-scale attack against Israel. Israeli aircraft bombs mosque used to store weapons in Gaza -The killing of Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan by the IDF would cause the organization to attempt to launch a large-scale terror attack against Israel to avenge the commander’s death, IDF officials estimated Thursday. Meanwhile, the IAF continued its airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. A mosque in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza was hit late Thursday night. The army said that the place was being used to store weapons and as a communications outpost.

Shin Bet: Number of terror attacks on Israel ’exploded’ in 2008
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Despite six months of relative quiet near the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, the overall number of terrorist attacks inside Israel rose last year, according to data from the Shin Bet Security Services annual summary. In addition, the number of people who died in attacks has risen significantly. The data shows that 36 Israelis were killed by terrorist attacks in 2008, including the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza, compared to 13 killed in 2007. More than a third of terrorist related casualties last year took place in Jerusalem. Eight of those were from the shooting at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on March 6. Both last year and the year before that saw one suicide bombing each. On February 4, 2008, one Israeli was killed and 28 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in Dimona.

IDF admits it overestimated Hamas’ ballistic capabilities
Amos Harel and Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
The threat that Hamas’ ballistic capabilities pose to the people of the Negev is less serious than initially presumed and the residents of the targeted areas are not demonstrating signs of panic, according to an interim analysis by the Israel Defense Forces of the situation nearly a week after the launching of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The analysis, which the IDF compiled with the Defense Ministry, also said the authorities’ ability to tend to the needs of the population has much improved compared to their performance in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who toured the Negev yesterday with Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilani, said that Hamas’ capabilities "cannot be compared" with those of Hezbollah. In six days of fighting, Hamas has fired some 350 rockets into Israel.

Hamas vows ’painful response’ to commander’s death
Ali Waked Published, YNetNews 1/2/2009
Hamas lawmaker brands killing of top leader earlier Thursday ’dangerous development’ that will lead to strong response. Sources in group say Rayyan’s death will not affect Hamas operations -Hamas warned on Thursday that the organization’s response to the targeted killing of one of its leaders by Israel would be "strong and painful. "Meanwhile, a member of one of the other armed factions in Gaza said that the group might attempt to launch rockets deeper into Israeli territory following the strike against Nizar Rayyan earlier in the day. Some 50 rockets have been fired on Israel throughout Thursday. No injuries were reported, but damage was caused to some buildings. Rayyan’s funeral is scheduled to be held on Friday, but Hamas’ leaders, who have been in hiding since Israel launched its operation in the Strip, are not expected to attend it.

US Embassy: We Will Not Avoid Gaza Protests
Franklin Lamb – Beirut, Palestine Chronicle 1/1/2009
’Demonstrations have been ongoing on a daily basis since last Saturdays. ’ - With daily demonstrations being held in Beirut and across Lebanon, this item just in from the morning papers (January 1) here in Beirut: ’United States Advises its Citizens in Lebanon to Avoid Demonstrations in Support of Gaza. ’"The American embassy in Beirut, sent an email to its citizens informing them that several protests had occurred "with little or no warning in Lebanon" and that they should "exercise extreme caution. " "Americans are advised that even the most peaceful assembly can quickly turn violent against them. Americans should avoid areas where protests and demonstrations are occurring," the warden’s message said. Demonstrations have been ongoing on a daily basis since last Saturdays events at various Lebanese regions protesting the Israeli military operation on Gaza.

Bringing Hamas in from the cold
Arthur Nelsen, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
In November, Ahmed Yousef, the speechwriter and aide of Gaza’s prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, claimed that U. S. President-elect Barack Obama’s team had been in contact with the group during the U. S. election campaign. The Obama camp denied it, and Yousef now says the talks are on ice. But many of the incoming president’s former and current foreign policy advisers favor some degree of U. S. engagement with the group. And if the United States were to stop boycotting Hamas, Israel could suddenly find itself internationally isolated on this point. But conservative and brutal as its politics can be, what is so frightening about talking to Hamas? The group does remain committed to the dream of a united Islamic Palestine, but its political leadership, including Khaled Meshal, has accepted the principle of a two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders, in return for a long-term hudna, or truce.

Gaza celebrates New Year under Israeli raids
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
GAZA CITY - The New Year in Gaza began Thursday with air strikes as Israeli jets pounded the Strip end and the death toll from the blitz hit 400. Israeli warplanes carried out some 20 strikes in the battered enclave overnight, the army said, after Israel’s security cabinet rejected international proposals of a truce in one of its deadliest-ever offensives on Gaza. Meanwhile, Hamas said on Thursday it was accepting "under conditions" an EU proposal for a ceasefire with Israel around Gaza. "Hamas accepts this initiative on the condition that the aggression stops, that the blockade is lifted, that all the border crossings are opened and that it gets international guarantees that the occupier will not restart its terrorist war," spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement. The death toll from "Operation Cast Lead," unleashed by Israel on Saturday in retaliation for ongoing rocket. . .

Analysis: Israel hoping for swift, dignified end to Gaza assault
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an Report – A review of recent Hebrew press indicates that despite the overwhelming assault on the Gaza Strip, Israeli military leaders want to find a way out of the war as soon as possible. Commentators on several Hebrew-language television and radio stations have noted that Israel hopes to pull out of Gaza before the images of civilian victims coming out of the besieged coastal strip spark further denunciation and criticism of Israel. For instance, on Israeli Channel 10, military and political analysts said that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had tried on Thursday to reach an agreement, with the help of Turkey and France, to renew a ceasefire on the condition that armed groups in the Gaza Strip agree not to fire more projectiles at Israeli targets. To justify the recent political stance of Israel’s right-wing extremist community, experts in media warfare. . .

Hamas gaining sympathy as onslaught continues
Khalid Amayreh, Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
With the massive Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip continuing unabated, and with Israeli political and military leaders threatening to "decimate" Hamas, Palestinian intellectuals as well as ordinary people expect Hamas’s popularity to rise dramatically when the present  Israeli campaign is over. Israel claims that its war on Gaza  is with Hamas, not with the Palestinian people. However, There is hardly a  Palestinian who would give the Israeli claim the benefit of the doubt. And those who do, such as the followers of the so-called "American-Israeli Trend" within the Fatah movement, are quite reluctant to speak up  publicly, fearing  a severe reaction from the Palestinian public and being  accused of treason and collaboration  with Israel. Israel also hopes that the vast havoc and destruction and death wreaked on Gaza so far would prompt the masses to blame Hamas.

Livni to meet with Sarkozy in Paris
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 1/1/2009
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, is on her way to France to meet with President Nicholas Sarkozy as international pressure on Israel is rising for Israel to agree to a truce to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera reports. In a brief statement, Sarkozy’s office said the meeting would take place at 14:30 GMT on Thursday at the presidential palace in Paris. Sarkozy’s term as the rotating president of the European Union ended on midnight of last night, but he nonetheless decided to go ahead with meeting which is aimed at brokering a truce that will put an end to Israel’s brutal assault on the civilians of Gaza. Yesterday, the Israeli cabinet rejected France’s proposal that would have put a 48-hour ceasefire into effect because "a temporary truce would simply allow Hamas fighters to regroup and re-arm," the cabinet said in a statement.

Hamas sends text messages to Israeli cell phones
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Organization makes original use of technology to warn Israelis of dire results unless Gaza offensive comes to a halt - Psychological warfare? Dozens of Israelis received text messages form Hamas Thursday morning, stammeringly warning them that the offensive in Gaza will only bring about massive rocket fire on Israel. The message read: "Rockets on all cities, shelters not protect, Qassam rocket, Hamas. "A source in Hamas military wing confirmed the new tactic, adding that Hamas wants to warn the Israeli public against a future escalation in Gaza. Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) Spokesman Abu Abir said that the Palestinian organizations have a few surprises in store for the Israelis, and not just military-wise. "Telephone messages and breaching the enemy’s radio frequencies are just some of the surprises we have for the Israeli side.

Top aide to Barak: IDF aiming to stop Gaza rocket fire, not crush Hamas
Amir Oren, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Israel prefers to achieve its military aims in Operation Cast Lead by way of an aerial assault though it will not be deterred from a wide-scale ground operation in the Gaza Strip, a top aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the American television station PBS on Wednesday. IDF Brigadier General Mike Herzog, Barak’s chief of staff, also said that Israel has no intention of toppling Hamas, though it does seek to create a deterrent balance that will reduce the threat of rocket fire at the western Negev. "Our aim is not to crush Hamas," Herzog said. "It’s not to topple the Hamas regime. This is not the aim set forward by the cabinet to the IDF. The aim is to change the equation, to create deterrence, so that they will stop firing for as long as possible.

News in Brief - Poets against Gaza war in Tel Aviv
Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
A group of Tel Aviv poets held a poetry-reading vigil protesting the Gaza operation in front of the luxury Akirov Towers, where Defense Minister Ehud Barak has an apartment. Twenty young poets read anti-war works over a loudspeaker, calling it "a protest against the destruction Ehud Barak is wreaking on the residents of the south while he’s sleeping in a comfortable bed on the 31st floor. "Avtisam Marana, number 12 on the Meretz Knesset list, spoke at the protest, and announced her resignation from Meretz because of its support for the war. Former MK Yael Dayan was also present. (Ofri Ilani)Ten human rights organizations yesterday called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to urgently renew an unlimited supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip. The groups, including B’Tselem, Gisha and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, wrote that the massive destruction of infrastructure following the. . .

Police on high alert before Friday prayers
Efrat Weiss Published, YNetNews 1/2/2009
Police chief orders deployment of 12,000 officers throughout Israel, focusing on Temple Mount, Old City in Jerusalem ahead of weekend services -Police Chief Dudi Cohen has ordered Jerusalem Police to allow only men older than 50 and carrying an Israeli ID to pray at the Temple Mount Friday. The decision was made during a meeting Cohen held with his senior commanders. Regarding women no limitations were set. Yoram Ohayon, head of the police emergency operations division, told Ynet that Friday’s prayers would be an important test for Israel’s security forces. He said the prayers "can constitute a comfortable soapbox for incitement and rioting. " As the sixth day of the IDF operation in Gaza comes to a close, police officials prepared to go on high alert in three areas: That of the Gaza vicinity, the entrances to cities, and populated city centers.

Youths suspected of burning tire on roof of abandoned mosque
Sharon Roffe-Ofir Published, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Police send reinforcements to Tiberias after receiving word of Jewish youths’ plot to damage two of city’s old mosques -Police reinforcements deployed around two mosques in Tiberias Thursday after riots broke out in the area. Two tires were set on fire near one of the mosques, located on the city’s boardwalk, and two youths were arrested on suspicion that they torched a tire on the roof of the other mosque. During the evening police received calls warning against Jewish youths that may attempt to cause damage to two abandoned mosques in Tiberias. A patrol car was sent out but reported no unusual findings. Officers conducting a search later found the tire that had been ignited on the roof of one of the mosques. A few minutes later a patrol car encountered dozens of youths burning tires on the street near the other mosque.

Protesters call on PM to talk with Hamas
Anat Shalev Published, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Left-wing activists assemble opposite Olmert’s residence, urge PM to declare truce in Gaza, begin talking to Hamas. In Tel Aviv some 40 bike riders travel through city in bid to raise awareness to suffering of civilians on both sides - Left-wing activists from across Israel demonstrated Thursday evening in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in protest of the IDF’s continued military operation in Gaza, and called for an immediate ceasefire. Some 200 people assembled outside the official residence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, and urged him to order the military to halt the fighting. "Our main message is - ’Children in Gaza and Sderot want to live’," said Ofer Neiman, one of the rally’s organizers. Neiman explained that he and his friends sought to draw attention to the suffering of civilians on both sides.

No tears for Hamas leader in Ramallah
Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Nizar Rayyan, the Hamas military commander who was killed in Thursday’s air raid on his home in the Jabalya refugee camp, was a sworn enemy not only of Israel, but also of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. Rayyan, who had four wives and a dozen children, led the Hamas militiamen who defeated Abbas’s security forces in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. He is the third most senior Hamas leader to be killed by Israel, after the targeted killings of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March 2004 and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a few weeks later. Hamas leaders stressed that Rayyan’s death, while a "painful loss" to their movement, would not affect its determination to continue the fight against Israel. A Hamas spokesman said he did not rule out the possibility that the PA had asked Israel to kill Rayyan because of his role in the Hamas-Fatah clashes in 2007. -- See also: Profile of a professor who was prepared for martyrdom

Abbas orders PA forces to abort possible intifada in W. Bank
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has ordered his security forces to prevent any attempt by Palestinian citizens in the West Bank to spark a third intifada against the Israeli occupation despite the increasing death toll in Gaza Strip, well-informed PA security sources in Ramallah confirmed. According to the sources, that did not want to be identified, directives and orders from Abbas’s office were conveyed to all PA security departments across the West Bank calling on them not to allow enraged Palestinian citizens confront Israeli occupation soldiers positioned at the outskirts of the Palestinian cities. In press conference he held last Tuesday, Reyadh Al-Maliki, the foreign minister in the unconstitutional PA government in Ramallah city, explained that the PA security forces would allow Palestinians in the West Bank to hold "peaceful" rallies to "express their sympathy with. . .

Hamas prime minister calls for unity, dialogue
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The de facto prime minister of the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip promised Palestinians that peace will prevail in spite of the ongoing onslaught. The Hamas leader was speaking in a televised address from an undisclosed location. In the speech, Ismail Haniyeh wished Palestinian Christians a very Merry Christmas, congratulating them on the occasion of Jesus’ birth and thanking them, “for your patience. ”He quoted a leader from the Gazan Christian community midway through his address: “Between slavery and death, we do not have any choice. We fear nothing. ”“Our internal front is solid. We are with you. We will sacrifice everything for you and for Gaza,” the letter from a Christian leader in Gaza reportedly said. “What is happening in Gaza is not an ordinary offensive, as it appears in some media outlets.

Hamas calls on West Bank Palestinian people to revolt against occupation
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Hamas Movement in the West Bank has affirmed Thursday that the battle in Gaza was the battle of Palestine and the battle of the Arab and Muslim Ummah and the free people of the world against the occupation. In a statement it issued, and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC, the Movement called on the Palestinian people in the West Bank to hold massive demonstrations in solidarity with "our brothers in Gaza". "Let all the days in the West Bank be devoted to the steadfast Gaza, let it be days for the souls of the pure martyrs in Gaza, and days for solidarity with our people in the steadfast Strip", the statement added. The Movement also urged the "mujahideen" and the rest of the Palestinian people to confront the Israeli occupation army and the Israeli settles in every Palestinian city, village, and refugee camp.

Abu Laila denounces Israeli shelling of Legislative Council building in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Ramallah - Ma’an - Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Qais Abdul Karim (Abu Laila) with the Political Bureau affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) denounced the Israeli attacks that targeted the headquarters of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza. Abu Laila made the condemnation during a sit-in organized by the parliamentary blocks of the PLC in Ramallah. The group marched into Ramallah’s city center where they began their protest. "The shelling of the Palestinian Legislative Council building is a violation of international conventions,” said Abu Laila. He explained that the action confirms Israel does not care about international norms or conventions, adding his condemnation of other states who are complicit in the Israeli actions.

Leftists petition court for right to wave Palestinian flags at protest
Aviad Glickman Published, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Two activists organizing Saturday rally claim police would not approve demonstration unless they promise not to wave Palestinians flags - Two left-wing activists filed a petition with the High Court of Justice Thursday demanding that police be forced to allow them to stage an anti-IDF protest. The activists claim authorities announced they would allow the protest only if they promised not to wave Palestinian flags, a condition the petition said was unlawful and unfeasible. Ayala Maoz and Hagai Matar are two of the organizers of a procession and rally scheduled for Saturday evening. The event is intended to protest the military operation in Gaza. They claim the condition posed by the police lacks logic and legality, and that despite the fact that they were not intending to wave Palestinian flags at the protest, they could not vouch for the other demonstrators in attendance.

Abbas to attend UN meeting on Gaza op
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 1/2/2009
Palestinian president seeks to take part in special discussion in bid to show that PA is body which really care for wellbeing of Gaza’s residents, as opposed to Hamas - WASHINGTON - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the foreign ministers of several Arab countries are leaving for New York in order to take part in a special United Nations Security Council discussion on the situation in Gaza. The meeting may take place on Friday night, but will most likely convene on Monday at the earliest, in a bid to allow the rest of the Arab representatives - including the Egyptian, Saudi, Jordanian, Moroccan, Syrian and Libyan ambassadors - to make it to the session. The diplomatic hourglass will be activated over the weekend, at the end of the New Year break, subject to developments on the ground, and particularly to footage from Gaza which will be presented on television networks worldwide.

Special spin body gets media on message, says Israel
Rachel Shabi in Tel Aviv, The Guardian 1/2/2009
Israel believes its has won broad international support in the media for its actions in Gaza thanks to its PR strategy, which through a new body has for months been concerned with formulating plans and role-playing to ensure that government officials deliver a clear, unified message to the world’s press. The body, known as the National Information Directorate, was set up eight months ago following recommendations from an Israeli inquiry into the 2006 Lebanon war. Its role is to deal with hasbara - meaning, in Hebrew, "explanation", and referring variously to information, spin, and propaganda. The directorate’s chief, Yarden Vatikai, said: "The hasbara apparatus needed a body that would co-ordinate its agencies, coordinate the messages and become a platform for co-operation between all the agencies that deal with communication relations and public diplomacy.

’Lots of spokesmen, lots of footage making a difference’
Hilary Leilea Krieger, The Jerusalem Post, Washington, Jerusalem Post 1/2/2009
WASHINGTON - American pro-Israel advocacy groups say the Israeli government has done a better job in reaching out and being responsive to the foreign press during the current Gaza fighting than in other recent conflicts. With Israel’s attacks on Hamas featuring prominently on newspaper front pages and the 24-hour news cycle, the Foreign Ministry and its representatives in the US have made officials available for scores of interviews and briefings, as photographs and video clippings from the scene have been distributed. The government has also been trying to use new media to reach out to the American public, including Twitter and Youtube. Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project compared the current situation to that during the second Lebanon war in 2006, when the IDF delayed releasing photos of bombing sites that could have showed Israeli actions in a more positive light.

Not just air strikes: Israel takes the fight to Arab media
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
In addition to the air raids on Hamas in Gaza, Israel has mounted a campaign to "conquer" Arab satellite television channels as part of Operation Cast Lead. The initiative has been spearheaded by Arabic speakers in the Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry, joined in their efforts by senior government officials. Captain Avichai Adarai, an officer in the Arabic department of the IDF spokesperson’s office, was invited for an on-air interview on "Al-Jazeera", hours after the operation began last Saturday. The live interview, which Adarai gave wearing his IDF uniform, made him the first Israeli to address the Arab world’s most popular satellite channel since the beginning of the operation on Saturday. "Do you [Israel] want to turn the Gaza Strip into a crematorium for its residents," Adarai was aksed during. . .

Gaza operation strains ties with Turkey
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is skipping Israel on his current Middle East tour, not as a demonstrative act of disapproval of the IDF’s Gaza Strip operation, but rather because presently he has no concrete proposal to bring here, government sources said Thursday. Erdogan, who visited Syria and Jordan on Wednesday, and Egypt on Thursday, made extremely critical comments about the aerial attacks, characterizing them Saturday as a "crime against humanity," and calling it "ruthless" during his visit to Damascus. In addition, he said Operation Cast Lead, which began four days after a visit to Ankara by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, "is disrespect to Turkey. " Israel expressed its reservations to the Turks over these comments through the normal diplomatic channels, including in a Wednesday night telephone conversation between President Shimon Peres and his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul.

Oxfam calls on EU to take larger role in demanding ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Oxfam called on the EU to take a more active role in preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In a statement from Oxfam International’s Director Jeremy Hobbs the international agency asked the EU to “push Israel and Hamas to agree an immediate ceasefire. ” They insisted that “any agreement on improved humanitarian access must not be a fig leaf for lacklustre diplomatic efforts to bring the violence to an immediate end. ”“What is needed is an immediate ceasefire to end the terrible levels of human suffering in Gaza,” Hobbs said in the statement. “Only then can there be any hope of substantial levels of humanitarian supplies reaching those in need. It is just far too dangerous for people to receive aid and for aid workers to deliver it and there is little fuel in Gaza to transport the aid. For the people of Gaza the latest round of violence is an intense part. . .

Tunisian president calls for halt of Gaza bombing
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
TUNIS - Tunisia’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in his New Year’s message on Wednesday. Ben Ali’s remarks come after Israel bombed the Gaza Strip for a fifth consecutive day in a campaign that has so far killed nearly 400 Palestinians and wounded almost 2000. "The violent, savage aggression which has taken place for the past few days. . . should encourage the world’s conscience to act vigorously," the Tunisian president said, calling for the strikes to stop immediately and the blockade of Gaza to be lifted. Ben Ali said Tunisia wanted a peaceful resolution to the conflict and called on "influential international parties" to help end the violence without delay. At least 25 percent killed in the Israeli bombardment have been civilians, according to the United Nations. Print

Message to Security Council from the UN secretary-general
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
New York - Ma’an/UN - The following is the full text of a statement from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to the president of the UN Security Council. It calls for an immediate ceasefire from both Israel and Hamas. Mr. President, distinguished members of the Council, excellencies,A dramatic crisis in Gaza and southern Israel has now reached its fifth day. The civilian population, the fabric of Gaza, the future of the peace process, stability in the region, and goodwill among people throughout the world: all are trapped between the irresponsibility displayed in the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation. All will be further threatened if the conflict continues or escalates to a new phase of deadly violence. Mr.

Cuba condemns Israeli aggression against Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 1/1/2009
Ramallah - Ma’an - The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba condemned ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. This condemnation came in a message received by the secretary-general of the Palestinian Democratic Union, "FIDA," Saleh Ra’fat. The letter said that the party "condemns the military operation against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and calls for an immediate end to Israeli attacks. " "Cuba renews its support for the Palestinians," the statement added. "It is time to have all other states and governments that condemn these massacres to stop Israel’s aggression," the statement said.

UN official: Gaza people’s suffering one of life and death
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
GENEVA, (PIC)-- The UN coordinator of humanitarian affairs in the occupied Palestinian lands Maxwell Gaylard has warned that the situation in the Gaza Strip was one of life or death for many of its inhabitants. He said in an official statement that if the killing persisted then more civilians would die and if the crossings remained closed the citizens would be deprived of many basic needs such as wheat and fuel. Galyard demanded the immediate opening of the Karni (Mintar) crossing to allow entry of wheat consignments into the besieged Strip. He also said that fuel should be allowed into Gaza to operate the electricity generation station. [end]

Khudari: Arab FMs decisions 'disappointing'
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular anti siege committee in Gaza, has asserted that the Arab foreign ministers should have agreed on lifting the siege on Gaza and ending the Israeli aggression in addition to backing the Palestinian people with all means. Khudari in a statement on Wednesday said that the decisions adopted by the Arab foreign ministerial meeting at the Arab League in Cairo were disappointing. He said that current circumstances furnish the way before a comprehensive Arab unity to confront aggression and support the Palestinian people’s steadfastness more than any time before. The MP pointed in this respect to the worsening humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip including thousands of casualties, tightened siege and closure of all crossings, which in turn entailed sharp reduction in aid and relief assistance.

Hamas: Arab FMs give up responsibility toward Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas has expressed dismay at the weak Arab position towards the Israeli occupation forces’ aggression on the Gaza Strip, pointing to their decision to refer the issue to the UN Security Council. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, described in a press statement on Wednesday the inaugural statements at the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo as "weak". The statements voiced at the inaugural session were weaker than the statement of the European Union, he said, adding that referring the issue to the UNSC means that the Arabs have cleared their responsibility towards the Gaza events and left it to face slaughter at the IOF hands. The spokesman said that the statement also displayed the Arabs favored one Palestinian party to another when they spoke about the internal Palestinian dispute. Abu Zuhri said, "We don’t accept Cairo as a party to the (Palestinian) dialogue, but rather (it should be) its patron.

Arabs continue diplomatic bid to slam Israel, halt IAF
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Arab diplomatic efforts to end the IDF operation in Gaza are pressing on despite a setback on Wednesday, when a draft Security Council resolution prepared by the Arab League that condemns "Israeli aggression" and calls for a halt in IDF attacks was rejected by the US. The United States said the resolution was one-sided since it made no mention of Hamas halting its rocket fire on southern Israel. Arab delegates in New York "are still trying to see what the views are of this member of the Security Council, and a [Arab League] ministerial delegation will be going to New York in the coming few days to continue this effort," Hesham Yossef, chief of staff for Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The resolution strongly condemned Israel and called for an immediate end to attacks on civilians in Gaza, while stressing the need for restoration of calm and the opening of border crossings for humanitarian aid.

UAE exempts Palestinians from visa, residency fees
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates has exempted Palestinians from paying visa and residency permit fees in solidarity with the bombarded Gaza Strip, the official WAM news agency said on Wednesday. It said UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan had ordered that "Palestinian passport-holders be exempted from paying fees for entry visas" and that the visas of visiting Palestinians unable to return home because of the ongoing conflict would be extended. Emergency services inside the battered Palestinian enclave say that since Israel unleashed its wave of air strikes Gaza on Saturday at least 400 Palestinians, including 42 children, have been killed and 1,900 wounded. WAM quoted UAE Interior Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahayan as saying the new visa rules will take effect from January 1. It said any Palestinians overstaying their visas in the oil-rich Gulf state. . .

’Papal visit to Israel could help Catholic-Jewish ties’
JTA, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
A papal trip to the Holy Land would be a decisive step in overcoming the problems that still dog Catholic-Jewish relations, a senior Vatican official said. Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of relations with Jews, made his remarks in an interview Wednesday in the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The Vatican has said that a papal trip to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories may still take place in 2009 despite the current violence in Gaza. Kasper said progress had been made in Jewish-Catholic relations over the past year but "there is no lack of problems. "He underscored two issues in particular: the reintroduction of a "prayer for the Jews" into the Good Friday liturgy and the continuing controversy over the role of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust. "I’m convinced then that the pope’s hoped-for trip to the Holy Land. . .

Pope prays for peace in Gaza as strikes continue
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday said he hoped "violence, hatred and mistrust" would not prevail in the world in 2009. "Violence, hatred and mistrust are also forms of poverty -- perhaps the greatest -- that must be fought," the pope said during a mass marking the Roman Catholic Church’s traditional January 1 World Day of Peace, on the theme of fighting poverty and building peace. Benedict had on Sunday denounced the violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, calling on the international community to help both sides abandon "this dead-end road". The death toll from Israel’s blitz on Gaza rose to 400 on Thursday, the sixth day of its biggest military operation against the Palestinian territory in decades. In Thursday’s homily the pope said: "The deep desire to live in peace. . . rises in the hearts of the great majority of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples,. . .

Saudis arrest two over pro-Gaza protest
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
RIYADH - Two activists who attempted to stage a demonstration against the Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip were arrested in the Saudi capital on Thursday, a Saudi rights groups said. Human Rights First Society said that the two activists, Khalid al-Omeir and Mohammed al-Otaibi, were arrested by police as they arrived at the site of the planned protest in south Riyadh. The arrests came a day after the interior ministry denied organisers permission to hold the rally on the grounds that demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia. A member of the group also said that a prominent Saudi cleric who called for attacks on Israelis had also been arrested on Tuesday in the southern city of Abha. Sheikh Awad al-Qarni had on Sunday issued a religious edict encouraging attacks on Israelis everywhere in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

12 Palestinians hurt in Gaza fighting being treated in Israeli hopsitals
Fadi Eyadat and Dana Viler-Pollak, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Twelve Palestinians have been evacuated to Israel for medical treatment since Operation "Cast Lead" began last Saturday in the Gaza Strip, as the hospitals in Gaza strain to accommodate the hundreds of wounded. For one Gaza boy, being treated in an Israeli hospital should increase his chances of making a full recovery. About a week and a half ago, before the operation began, 9-year-old Sari Alsamana from Beit Hanoun was playing with his cousin outside his house in the northern Gaza town when a Qassam rocket fired by Gaza militants landed nearby, followed minutes later by an additional rocket strike in the same spot. Both boys were seriously wounded and taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Last Saturday, as Operation Cast Lead was launched and the Israel Air Force began bombing the Strip, Sari was taken out of the intensive care. . .

Global terror attacks feared due to Gaza op
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 1/2/2009
Counter-Terrorism Bureau warns of rise in tensions between Muslim, Jews worldwide in response to Operation Cast Lead. Foreign Ministry: Alert level unchanged - As the Israel Defense Forces’ military operation in Gaza progresses, the defense establishment focuses on what is taking place in the Strip and in southern Israeli communities. But is the rise in tensions between Muslims and Jews worldwide being addressed? The Gaza operation may increase tremendously the danger for Israeli citizens and Jews living in different countries, even before mentioning the "promised revenge" by Hizbullah for the assassination of its commander Imad Mugniyah. A first concrete example for this danger was seen Wednesday in the Danish city of Odense, when an Arab man opened fire at an Israelis’ stand at a local mall, lightly injuring two of them. Sources in the Foreign Ministry estimated that the act was carried out in response to Operation Cast Lead.

Iran urges Arabs to act on Gaza
Al Jazeera 12/31/2008
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has told the Arab League it should take action "quickly" to end the Israeli attacks on Gaza. Speaking on Wednesday as Arab ministers met in Cairo, Ahmadinejad warned that setting up committees and making speeches would not be an adequate response to the offensive that has killed nearly 400 Palestinians. "If the Arab League does not want to do anything today, when does it want to act? "he told a rally in Zahedan in southeast Iran, the Reuters news agency reported. Ahmadinejad did not suggest what action Arab leaders should take. "Aren’t these oppressed Palestinians Arabs? So, when should the capacity of the Arab League be used? The Arab League should act quickly," he said.

Majority of Israelis favour keeping up Gaza strikes
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
TEL AVIV - More than two-thirds of Israelis are in favour of keeping up air strikes against the Gaza Strip, according to a survey published Thursday in the Haaretz newspaper. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed on Wednesday, day five of Israel’s aerial onslaught that has left nearly 400 Palestinians dead, supported continuing the air strikes against Gaza. Twenty percent backed launching a ground operation, while the same number supported declaring a ceasefire. Nine percent had no opinion. The poll also showed a surge in popularity for the Labour party of Defence Minister Ehud Barak since the start of the offensive. Labour now looks set to win 16 out of 120 seats in the Knesset in February 10 elections, up from the 12 it was credited with before poll. It holds 19 seats in the current parliament. The right-wing Likud party of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. . .

Winds of war blow Netanyahu’s way
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 1/1/2009
A "Globes"-Geocartography poll finds the right-wing block has extended its lead. While Labor Party chairman and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, and Kadima Party chairwoman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni quarrel about who deserves the credit for Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, which so far has been successful, it seems that the public is in no doubt: the winds of war are blowing the Likud’s way. A "Globes" survey, in collaboration with Geocartography, predicts sweeping victory for the Likud if the elections were to be held today, giving it 38 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. The right-religious block has jumped to 68 seats. The results are a surprise considering the public mood and the polls published in the past few days, that show the Labor and Kadima parties strengthening, and the center-left block running neck and neck with the right.

Yeshiva students waiving IDF service on the rise
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Yeshiva students deferring the military draft make up one out of every seven Jewish 18-year-olds. The percentage of these youths waiving their Israel Defense Forces service rose to 14 percent in 2007, up from 12. 6 percent in 2006, according to figures presented to the High Court of Justice by the state in its response to a challenge to the Tal Law, which governs such deferrals. The IDF stated in its response to the court that numerous service tracks are open to the ultra-Orthodox, and the army also said it will open a special track in intelligence for ultra-Orthodox recruits with families. It will also open a similar track in the logistics branch. In November 2006, the High Court ruled that the Tal Law violated the principle of equality, since, among other things, its implementation was a failure, which led to almost no increase in the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox.

Egypt FM: Hamas gave Israel the excuse to launch Gaza attacks
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
The initiative calls for a halt to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, a return to a Hamas-Israel truce and an international mechanism to ensure the opening of Gaza border crossings. Erdogan met a day earlier with Syrian President Bashar Assad and was expected to head to Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Aboul Gheit said any eventual truce agreement should include a mechanism to oversee that everything proceeds without one side causes problems with the other. He told journalists that the mechanism could involve international forces or Arab forces or just observers. Israeli officials have said they want international monitors to ensure compliance with any truce. It was not clear whether the mission of monitors proposed by Aboul Gheit would be to ensure the truce or be limited to observing border crossings, one of the central issues in the dispute over Gaza because of Israeli fears of smuggling of weapons.

’Hamas must halt attacks for truce’
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Egypt’s foreign minister said on Thursday that Hamas must ensure rocket fire stops in any truce deal to halt Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, criticizing the Palestinian group for giving Israel an excuse to launch the bombardment. Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s comments came as Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Egypt’s president, part of a tour by the Turkish leader to work out an Egyptian-Turkish initiative to end the violence. The initiative calls for a halt to Israel’s assault, a return to a Hamas-Israel truce and an international mechanism to ensure the opening of Gaza border crossings. Erdogan met a day earlier with Syrian President Bashar Assad and was expected to head to Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Aboul Gheit said any eventual truce agreement should include a mechanism to oversee "that everything proceeds without one side causing problems with the other.

Gaza attack strengthens Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
Joseph Mayton / The Media Line News Agency, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Rarely do Egyptian demonstrations see thousands of people take to the streets. But, put together anti-Israeli and anti-government sentiments spearheaded by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and the result is the country’s largest street action since the first anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq in 2004. With Israel vowing a "long" siege against the Gaza Strip, there are concerns that the already strong opposition Brotherhood could become even stronger in the face of Israel’s military action against Palestinians. On Monday, thousands of Egyptians marched in downtown Cairo, chanting phrases such as, "Off to Gaza we go, martyrs by the million," and "We all belong to Hamas. " The government and the military were as much to blame as Israel, activists said. "Where is the Egyptian army? " was another slogan chanted by the throngs of demonstrators.

European campaign: Cairo’s refusal to open crossing stab in back of Palestinians
Palestinian Information Center 1/1/2009
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign to lift the siege on Gaza has expressed absolute dismay at Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s televised address on Tuesday in which he declared refusal to open the Rafah border terminal with Gaza despite the ongoing Israeli massacres. Mubarak said that the crossing would be only opened when the PA leadership’s forces return to Gaza and in the presence of European observers. In a statement from Brussels on Wednesday the campaign described Mubarak’s statement as a "stab in the back of the Palestinian people". It charged that the Egyptian stand represents an unprecedented actual participation in the aggression on Gaza. The campaign asked Mubarak to retract his position, holding him responsible for the lives of the wounded who fall in hundreds in the ongoing Israeli military attacks on Gaza.

Prime Minister visits Beersheva
Globes Online 1/1/2009
Earlier today, a Hamas-fired rocket hit a house in Ashdod. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Beersheva this morning and met with approximately 30 local council heads from the south, whose councils are under missile threat. Earlier today, a Hamas-fired rocket hit a house in Ashdod, and a rocket landed in Beersheva. Several other rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Eshkol regional council area in the south. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, National Emergency Authority Director Zeev Tzuk-Ram, National Emergency Board (NEB) Director Avi Becher, and government and military officials. Prime Minister Olmert toured the Beersheva control center, which is staffed by municipal employees, along with NEB and Home Front Command representatives.

Comptroller to probe performance of Home Front Command in facing rocket attacks
Amir Oren, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The Comptroller’s Office will make an assessment next week of the performance of the Home Front Command and other authorities in defending civilians against rocket attacks from Gaza. The evaluation will gauge to what extent recommendations made byState Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss after the Second Lebanon War for how to improve the Home Front command have been implemented. A team headed by Lindenstrauss will tour southern communities hit by rocket attacks, in particular ones that have been hit by grad missiles. The team will also include the head of the Israel Defense Forces comptroller unit, as well as the local authorities review board. [end]

New Shas jingle features duet of party chairman and Obama
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Shas premiered a new jingle for its Internet campaign on Thursday that features a duet of party chairman Eli Yishai and US President-elect Barack Obama. The party borrowed the music from the soundtrack of the hit Beverly Hills Cop movies of the 1980s. It was played in the movies whenever star Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley character took action. German musician Harold Faltermeyer won a Grammy award for the soundtrack. In Shas’s version of the song, Eli Yishai’s voice is played saying the words "Judaism" and "education" in Hebrew, alternating with Obama uttering his slogan "Yes we can," which Shas also copied for its campaign. Shas spokesman Roy Lachmanovich said the jingle would most likely be used only for on-line ads, and not for its television and radio commerciaals. He said Sephardim in Israel had much in common with African-Americans like Obama and Murphy.

Officials discuss compensation for workers in Gaza-area cities
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Teams from the treasury, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation met yesterday to discuss compensation for employees and employers in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. The conditions and terms will probably be similar to those proposed during the Second Lebanon War. Worker absenteeism this week in the affected communities was between 20 percent and 30 percent. Directives issued by the Home Front Command and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry prohibit workplaces without proper reinforcement from opening, but many factory owners defied the ban on the grounds that their facilities’ concrete wall provided sufficient protection from rockets. Thousands of small businesses and stores in the affected areas were shuttered or open for shorter work days this week. Treasury officials say it is too early to say how many workers have been or will be. . .

Failed merger of green parties pits Anglo leaders against each other
Raphael Ahren, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Two well-known Anglo environmentalists are emerging as the main players in a bitter feud between the country’s green parties, which until this week tried to merge but because of personal quarrels and ideological differences will run on two separate lists in the upcoming national elections. New York-born Alex Weinreb, deputy mayor of Modi’in, is running for the 11-year-old Greens (Mifleget HaYerukim). Alon Tal, who grew up in North Carolina and also lives in Modi’in, is a respected academic and number three on the list of the Green Movement (HaTenuah HaYeruka-Meimad), which he co-founded in 2008 and recently merged with the center-left religious Zionist Meimad party. While both men said they were friendly with each other and recognized the other’s contributions to Israel’s environment, they now find themselves competing at the risk of costing the local environmental lobby its first realistic chance of achieving Knesset representation.

Critical factories forced to soldier on in south
Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
A new $70 million sugar refinery is close to going online at the Sugat plant in Kiryat Gat, located within a 30-kilometer radius from the Gaza Strip. Foreign experts, who must be on site to supervise, have all promised to return next week from their Christmas-New Year’s vacations, but company officials have decided to put them up at a hotel in Tel Aviv rather than returning to Ashkelon. "They all confirmed their return but it’s obvious that if the situation worsens they might decide not to come," Sugat CEO David Franklin said. The sole foreign expert who remained in Israel this week moved to Tel Aviv when the war began. "He came with us into the bomb shelter yesterday and said we’re giving him an experience he never expected and would rather not repeat," Franklin said. Sugat is classified as a critical facility that must remain open even if other factories in the area are ordered to close for security reason.

Tourism vanishes in south, shrinks in northern Israel too
Irit Rosenblum, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Leisure travel to southern Israel has completely evaporated, and that northern Israel’s facilities are also suffering from cancelations, say tourism industry sources. January is usually a weak month for tourism anyway, but this one looks worse than usual. There is the discouragement of the economic crisis, too. But what bookings there were are being canceled in droves all week, says Chaim Brum, chairman of the Northern Israel Rural Tourism Forum and of the Western Galilee Association - and that’s in the north. Moreover, the cancelations are from every direction - domestic and foreign tourism, even Birthright (Taglit) group visits. At the moment there are about 35,000 tourists in Israel. But tourism in the south has disappeared completely, say industry sources. Hotels in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva have all but emptied out.

Despite rockets, construction in south progresses unabated
Arik Mirovsky, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Work at construction sites in the south is continuing as usual, with the exception of occasional breaks for air raids, according to the Association of Contractors and Builders in Israel. Contractors say that potential buyers are still visiting the sites of residential projects, intent on bargaining over apartment prices. The head of the trade organization of Ashkelon’s building contractors, David Rosner, said that most building sites in the city were active yesterday, although he admitted some workers did not show up. Rosner’s counterpart in Be’er Sheva, Moshe Avisrur, said that some of that city’s construction sites and sales offices were open yesterday. On Wednesday, a Grad rocket exploded near the sales office of his construction site. The vice president of marketing for Y. H. Damari Construction & Development, Amos Dabush, said that despite the attacks, work at the southern sites was continuing at a near-normal place.

Bottom shekel / Keep your fingers crossed that no rockets land in Tel Aviv
Meirav Arlosoroff, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
NIS 3. 5 billion - that’s the amount of reparations that the state paid to employees and businesses in the north after the Second Lebanon War. In hindsight, some would say that it was the best NIS 3. 5 billion the state ever spent. The money helped the residents of the north rally after the war, and helped spur consumption, which had been one of the war casualties. The fact that the economy grew like a weed in 2006 despite the war can be attributed, among other things, to the Keynesian move of compensating citizens for war. This time around, the government has been lauded for the speed of its movement to help civilians during Operation Cast Lead. It seems the government learned lessons from the failures of the Second Lebanon War, and responded efficiently this time to attacks on the home front.

Huge jump in hacker attacks on Israeli sites
Noa Parag, Globes Online 1/1/2009
Hackers are aiming for quantity, not quality. Quantity, not quality, is the guideline of hackers trying to shut down Israeli websites in response to Operation Cast Lead. Information security solutions developerApplicure Technologies Ltd. (TASE:APCR ) reports a multifold increase in hacking at Israeli websites, as well as a large increase in attempts to hack protected websites. Applicure founder and CTO David Allouch told "Globes", "We’re talking about Iranian organizations, some of which call themselves communist, and organizations affiliated with Syria and Hizbullah. In contrast, during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, hackers were mostly kids from Morocco. " Hacked sites include Mazda Israel Ltd. and Cargo Airlines Ltd. (CAL). Allouch said that the main difference between the current hacking and the hacking. . .

GDP at slowest pace in five years
Bloomberg, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Israel’s economy expanded 4. 1 percent this year, its slowest pace since 2003, as exports and consumer spending cooled, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday. Exports of goods and services increased 3. 6%, down from 8. 5% in 2007, while consumer spending growth eased to 3. 9% from 6. 7%, bureau officials said at a Jerusalem news conference. The economic growth estimate, based on data through November, compares with a 4. 5% forecast in October. "This year, we felt the impact of the global crisis, both in terms of demand for exports, which dropped in the second half, and in demand at home for consumer goods," said Soli Peleg, head of the bureau’s macroeconomics division. "Consumers saw the value of their assets fall and cut back purchases. " The Bank of Israel, which forecasts that growth will ease to 1.

Shekel gains the least versus the dollar in three years
Bloomberg, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
The shekel posted its smallest annual gain versus the dollar since 2005 as the global financial crisis buffeted the economy and the central bank cut interest rates to a record low. The shekel, which advanced for a third year, weakened from an 11-year high of 3. 20 per dollar in July as the global credit squeeze worsened. The central bank lowered interest rates a fifth time since October on Monday to protect the economy from a deepening global slowdown. The shekel also rose this week even as Israel launched air strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after dozens of rockets were fired into the country. "The shekel has recently been more or less stable against global currencies but has strengthened against the US dollar because of its weakness worldwide," said Jonathan Katz, a Jerusalem-based economist at HSBC Holdings Plc.

Facebook exec: Hebrew version 'very soon'
Noa Parag, Globes Online 1/1/2009
Netanel Jacobsson: Israelis love networking and being up-to-date, and Facebook is exactly that. Facebook international business development director Netanel Jacobsson, an Israeli-Swedish national who resides in Palo Alto is in Israel on vacation. Despite being on vacation, Jacobsson told a Facebook developers conference in Herzliya, "I thought this would be a good opportunity for to meet Facebook Developer Garage Israel. A lot of Israelis contact me in Palo Alto, but I rarely have time available. "The conference, the first of its kind in Israel, was organized at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center byBenchmark Capital the. co. ilsblogger Yaron Orenstein, and Devunityfounder Alon Carmel. "Globes": When will we see a Hebrew Facebook? Jacobsson: "I can’t commit to an exact date, but it will happen very soon.

Leviev attempting to shed Apthorp building
Raz Smolsky, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Continuing its quest for liquidity as troubled times continue, Africa Israel has placed the Apthorp Building on the sales block. According to Web site The Real Deal, last week Africa Israel owner Lev Leviev motioned a New York court to rule him the sole owner of the Apthorp, located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, at the expense of partner Maurice Mann. Leviev wrote in his motion that the project’s board of directors agreed to hire the services of CB Richard Ellis to sell the building for $552 million. Mann has rejected proposals that the Apthorp project be sold. His legal representatives argue that shedding the building as a distressed project will make it impossible to sell the apartments there. Africa Israel bought the Apthorp together with Mann Realty for $426 million in March 2007.

Danish police arrest Palestinian on suspicion of shooting Israelis at shopping mall
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/2/2009
Danish police on Thursday arrested a 27-year-old man of Palestinian origin on suspicion of shooting and wounding two Israeli citizens at a shopping mall in central Denmark and charged him with attempted murder. A city court remanded the man in custody for four weeks. The Danish citizen, born in Lebanon, pleaded innocent but admitted to possession of a firearm before the judge ordered the rest of the hearing to be held behind closed doors. A gunman on Wednesday fired several shots at two Israelis who worked at a hair salon in the Odense shopping mall, wounding one in the leg and the other in the arm. The Israeli men were both still in hospital on Thursday but their injuries were not life-threatening. Police said the pair had been in Denmark for about a week.

Danish police arrest man in mall shooting
Associated Press Published, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Police arrest 27-year old Dane of Palestinian descent suspected of shooting two Israelis working at a mall stand, causing light injuries -Danish police say they have arrested a man of Palestinian descent on suspicion of shooting and wounding two Israelis at a shopping mall. Police spokesman John Jacobsen says without naming the suspect that he is a 27-year-old Dane born in Lebanon of Palestinian parents. A court on Thursday ordered the suspect held for up to four weeks while police investigate. Police say the suspect has denied attempting to kill the Israelis but acknowledged carrying a gun Wednesday at the mall in the central Danish city of Odense. The two Israelis, aged 25 and 26, were working at a Dead Sea Products stand in a mall when they were fired upon. A Danish daily reported that the unknown assailant fled in a car after. . .

US hands over Green Zone security
Al Jazeera 1/1/2009
The US military in Iraq has come under Iraqi authority for the first time since the US-led invasion in 2003, as a UN mandate for foreign troops expired and bilateral military accords took effect. Iraqi and US officials on Thursday endorsed the return of the heavily-fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad to Iraqi control under a pact between Washington and Baghdad, paving the way to restoring sovereignty. The US force, now more than 140,000 strong, had operated in Iraq under a UN Security Council resolution which ran out at midnight on December 31, nearly six years after Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, was ousted from power. "The role of the coalition forces [in the Green Zone] will be secondary, centred on training Baghdad brigade troops to use equipment to detect explosives and advising. . . "

IRAQ: Warning over plight of Iraqi widows
Afif Sarhan/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/2/2009
BAGHDAD, 1 January 2009 (IRIN) - A women’s rights activist and a Baghdad government official agree that the government needs to take action to help the huge number of widows in Iraq - but they disagree on how to proceed. "Iraqi widows, especially internally displaced widows in camps, are having a tough time. Most have more than one child and are finding it very hard to feed them," said Mazin al-Shihan, head of Baghdad’s Displacement Committee. "We have reports that some"¦ are being harassed and blackmailed by government officials"¦ More attention must be focused on this segment of the Iraqi people before it is too late," al-Shihan told IRIN. Citing figures and estimates from government bodies and NGOs, al-Shihan said Iraq had about one million widows, including those whose husbands had died of natural causes, but a further breakdown was not available.

Iraq hails lowest monthly death toll in nearly three years
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
BAGHDAD - A total of 316 Iraqis were killed in political violence in December, the lowest monthly death toll in nearly three years, Iraqi officials said on Thursday. Combined figures obtained from the defence, interior and health ministries showed that 240 civilians, 18 soldiers and 58 policemen lost their lives. They were the lowest monthly figures since February 2006 and compared with a total of 340 Iraqi deaths in November and 317 in October. In all, 6,226 Iraqis were killed in Iraq last year, down from 6,772 in 2007, according to the ministry figures. Figures compiled by Iraq Body Count also showed a sharp fall in civilian deaths last year but the British-based non-governmental organisation gave a higher absolute death toll for 2008 as it had for previous years. The group said that between 8,315 and 9,028 Iraqi civilians were killed last year compared with between 22,671 and 24,295 in 2007 and between 25,774 and 27,599 in 2006.

British forces hand Basra airport to Iraqis
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
BASRA, Iraq - British forces on Thursday handed over control of Basra airport, its main military base in southern Iraq, to Iraqi officials in accordance with an agreement signed with Baghdad this week. Iraqi officials and British military officers welcomed the move at a handover ceremony held at the airport. "This is a great and important day on which the Basra airport control tower and the entire airport was turned over by the British to us," said Basra provincial governor Mohammed Masbah al-Waeli. "Basra is an important airport in the region and it is ready to receive the biggest and most sophisticated planes in the world," he added. Iraqi transport ministry representative Sabih al-Sheybani said the airport would still be used by foreign troops. "The American and the British forces will use the airport but under Iraqi supervision," he said.

Iraq takes control of Green Zone from US
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Iraq’s prime minister on Thursday described the US handover Thursday to Iraqi authority of the heavily fortified Green Zone and Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace as the most visible sign that his country has regained its sovereignty. At a ceremony marking the transition, Nouri al-Maliki said he will propose January 1 be declared a national holiday to commemorate what he called "Sovereignty Day" - the day Iraq took the lead in security away from US forces, regained control of its airspace, and reclaimed a wide swath of downtown Baghdad’s Green Zone. The area that became known as the Green Zone on the west bank of the Tigris River was occupied by the United States shortly after the 2003 US invasion and walled off from the rest of the city. The takeover is part of a security deal with the United States.

Britain ready to take Guantanamo prisoners
Middle East Online 1/1/2009
LONDON - Britain is now preparing to take in detainees from Guantanamo Bay to help US president-elect Barack Obama shut down the prison camp, The Times newspaper said Thursday, citing government sources. London has previously said it would consider any US requests to take in prisoners on a case by case basis. But The Times said Britain had now decided to support moves to rehouse those detainees still left in the camp, which is on a US sovereign naval base on Cuba. Government departments are discussing the subject, with the Foreign Office pushing for a deal and a final decision expected to be made by the Cabinet, the daily said. The Foreign Office said it recognised that the US authorities would need "assistance from allies and partners" to shut down Guantanamo. London’s established position is that the camp should be closed.


The real goal of the slaughter in Gaza
Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada 1/1/2009
      Ever since Hamas triumphed in the Palestinian elections nearly three years ago, the story in Israel has been that a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip was imminent. But even when public pressure mounted for a decisive blow against Hamas, the government backed off from a frontal assault.
     Now the world waits for Ehud Barak, the defense minister, to send in the tanks and troops as the logic of this operation is pushing inexorably towards a ground war. Nonetheless, officials have been stalling. Significant ground forces are massed on Gaza’s border, but still the talk in Israel is of "exit strategies," lulls and renewed ceasefires.
     Even if Israeli tanks do lumber into the enclave, will they dare to move into the real battlegrounds of central Gaza? Or will they simply be used, as they have been in the past, to terrorize the civilian population on the peripheries?
     Israelis are aware of the official reason for Barak’s reticence to follow the air strikes with a large-scale ground war. They have been endlessly reminded that the worst losses sustained by the army in the second Palestinian intifada took place in 2002 during the invasion of Jenin refugee camp.

How Hypocrisy on ’Terrorism’ Kills

Robert Parry, Middle East Online 1/1/2009
      Israel, a nation that was born out of Zionist terrorism, has launched massive airstrikes against targets in Gaza using high-tech weapons produced by the United States, a country that often has aided and abetted terrorism by its client military forces, such as Chile’s Operation Condor and the Nicaraguan contras, and even today harbors right-wing Cuban terrorists implicated in blowing up a civilian airliner.
     Yet, with that moral ambiguity excluded from the debate, the justification for the Israeli attacks, which have killed at least 364 people, is the righteous fight against “terrorism,” since Gaza is ruled by the militant Palestinian group, Hamas.
     Hamas rose to power in January 2006 through Palestinian elections, which ironically the Bush administration had demanded. However, after Hamas won a parliamentary majority, Israel and the United States denounced the outcome because they deem Hamas a “terrorist organization.
     Hamas then wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, a rival group that once was considered “terrorist” but is now viewed as a US-Israeli partner, so it has been cleansed of the “terrorist” label.

Living under Israeli Fire

Ola Attallah – Gaza, Palestine Chronicle 1/1/2009
      ’I can’t feel anything any more. I have lost all my senses.’
     "Nobody dares to step out of the house," says an anguished Palestinian mother in the bombed-out Gaza Strip.
     The life of Abu Anas Al-Banna, his wife and their ten children has been confined to the walls of their small house in Gaza city.
     They are imprisoned in their own home, just like many other families in Gaza.
     The children stopped attending school, and the father stopped going to work or even praying at the mosque.
     They fear the Israeli death which has been haunting the impoverished coastal enclave since Saturday and has already claimed more than 414 lives.
     Al-Banna family spends the day shaking to the deafening sound of massive explosions resulting from Israeli strikes, now in their sixth day.
     The anguished parents jump to their toes every time one of their children comes close to a window or dares open the door to take a peek at the deserted streets.
     "We are terrified to death," said the wife, holding tight to her three-year-old son, Sami, who does not stop crying.

The illusion of victory

Daniel Barenboim, The Guardian 1/1/2009
      I have just three wishes for the coming year. The first is for the Israeli government to realise once and for all that the Middle East conflict cannot be solved by military means. The second is for Hamas to realise that its interests are not served by violence, and Israel is here to stay. And the third is for the world to acknowledge that this conflict is unlike any other in history. It is uniquely intricate and sensitive - a conflict between two peoples who are both deeply convinced of their right to live on the same very small piece of land. This is why neither diplomacy nor military action can resolve this conflict.
     The developments of the last few days are extremely worrisome to me for reasons of humane and political natures. While it is self-evident that Israel has the right to defend itself, that it cannot and should not tolerate missile attacks on its citizens, its army’s relentless and brutal bombardment of Gaza has raised a few important questions in my mind.

I can’t hug my mother in Gaza

Ghada Ageel writing from the UK, Electronic Intifada 1/1/2009
      There is nothing worse in life than being glued to the TV screen, watching one’s nation being slaughtered on an hourly basis while able to do nothing. There is nothing more painful in this universe than hearing the tears and cries of one’s mother on the phone and be unable to hug her, to wipe her tears or to comfort her with any words or means. There is nothing more terrifying than living through every night in fear that the coming morning will bring the worst possible news a person can bear, that a member of one’s immediate family has been killed. And last but not least there is nothing more horrible on this globe than something happening to a family member when he or she is barred from returning to his or her family and home.
     Like many other members of my community, I wonder what is happening to humanity in the 21st century that makes it deaf to the cries of Gaza’s children and of its entire population, trapped in their open-air prison for more than two years now.

Lessons of Lebanon return to haunt Israel

Donald Macintyre, The Independent 1/1/2009
      Although their proposals differ in detail, two of Israel’s best-known writers, Amos Oz and David Grossman, have joined the calls for a ceasefire after several days of Israel’s offensive.
     But Mr Grossman’s article in Haaretz, which draws inescapable parallels with the 2006 Lebanon war, is especially poignant for a reason which he is far too dignified to mention. Had the war not been fruitlessly prolonged, his own tank-commander son, who was killed during its last days, would probably still be alive.
     For there was a moment, back at the end of July 2006, when the second Lebanon war might just have ended five or six days after it began. We now know that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister, expressed serious concern that Israel might be missing a chance to reach a peace agreement at least as good as the one which would come a full four weeks and many hundreds of casualties – on both sides – later.

Searching for Words - Poems

The Palestine Chronicle is pleased to feature the work of, Palestine Chronicle 1/1/2009
      Searching for Words, by Samah Sabawi
     Gaza…I search desperately
     For words… for definitions
     To tell the story of ammunitions
     Exploding in a child’s body
     I try to shout my indignation
     But I am lost in vocabulary
     Drowned in phrases as old as me
     And I am as old as the Occupation
     I need new words
     How hard it is to find
     Definitions that can restore
     Humanity to a small strip of land
     Along the Mediterranean shore
     Siege, starvation collective misery
     Familiar words in my head they linger
     Bombs fall from the sky every day
     Powerless words I can’t use any longer
     I need new words...

Pardon Our Dust: Israel’s PR Campaign for Gaza

Belén Fernández, Palestine Chronicle 12/31/2008
      Will Israeli models try, again, to improve their country’s torn image?
     This past Monday, the third day of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, my mother received a response to the email she had sent the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. It had taken a total of three days for Tzipi Livni’s intensified public relations crusade to reach her computer.
     Livni had ordered the intensification on Saturday, in anticipation of the flawed manner in which the impressionable international community might interpret media coverage of hundreds of dead people and smashed buildings in Gaza. The Israeli Foreign Ministry was tasked with staging a global PR assault to match the physical assault on the Palestinians; according to an article in Haaretz, one component of the assault was the forced exodus of all ministry officials presently vacationing in Israel, and their reinstallation in their respective foreign outposts. The Haaretz article also outlined the Ministry’s plan to recruit speakers of various languages—namely Arabic, Italian, Spanish, and German—such that these speakers might explain the situation in Gaza to visiting media representatives, who were incapable of making judgments based on their own eyesight. (There did not appear to be arrangements, however, for a Maxim magazine spread featuring female veterans of the Israel Defense Forces who happened to be supermodels; this PR tactic had already been exhausted in the summer of 2007, when it was decided that—in order to gain the understanding of the international community—war was going to be equated with cleavage.)

If Hamas Did Not Exist

Jennifer Loewenstein, Palestine Chronicle 12/31/2008
      ’This crisis has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice or peace.’
     Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel’s will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated "calls" for a "ceasefire" on "both sides"; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world’s bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.
     The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with "Terror". It has nothing to do with the long-term "security" of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today. It has nothing to do with some conjured up "war" -- a cynical and overused euphemism that amounts to little more the wholesale enslavement of any nation that dares claim its sovereign rights; that dares assert that its resources are its own; that doesn’t want one of the Empire’s obscene military bases sitting on its cherished land.

'The radio reported that my friend was under the rubble'

Dr. Haider Eid writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/31/2008
      Dr. Haidar Eid is an Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. He gave the following testimony to Eva Bartlett at 5pm Gaza Time on 30 December:
     I was lying in my bedroom when the first strike happened, around 1:30 in the morning. A strike isn’t just one explosion, it’s a series of explosions.Boom, boom, boom, boom. The whole building shook. I woke up and went to the bathroom first, and within 30 seconds the second strike hit. F-16s were bombing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, about 500 meters away. I could hear glass shattering everywhere. I went back into the bedroom and saw glass everywhere, all over the bed which is right up against the window. If I had been lying there still, it would have shattered all over me, would have seriously injured me, or worse. It was a very strong blast, and the glass must have hit the bed with great force.
     I brought a mattress into the living room, which faces the sea, and lay down trying to sleep there. Moments later, I heard a huge explosion, the third strike, this time from an area closer to the sea. The front, sea-facing window exploded into the room, landing on the desk and the floor, thankfully too far from where I was lying.

On the Bombing of a Gaza University

Neve Gordon and Jeff Halper - Israel, Palestine Chronicle 12/31/2008
      Not one of the nearly 450 presidents of American colleges and universities who prominently denounced an effort by British academics to boycott Israeli universities in September 2007 have raised their voice in opposition to Israel’s bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza earlier this week. Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, who organized the petition, has been silent, as have his co-signatories from Princeton, Northwestern, and Cornell Universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most others who signed similar petitions, like the 11,000 professors from nearly 1,000 universities around the world, have also refrained from expressing their outrage at Israel’s attack on the leading university in Gaza. The artfully named Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, which organized the latter appeal, has said nothing about the assault.
     While the extent of the damage to the Islamic University, which was hit in six separate airstrikes, is still unknown, recent reports indicate that at least two major buildings were targeted, a science laboratory and the Ladies’ Building, where female students attended classes. There were no casualties, as the university was evacuated when the Israeli assault began on Saturday.

Letter to Bush on Gaza Crisis

Ralph Nader, Palestine Chronicle 12/31/2008
      Mr. Bush: ’How do these incontrovertible facts affect you?’
     Dear George W. Bush, Cong. Barney Frank said recently that Barack Obama’s declaration that "there is only one president at a time" over-estimated the number. He was referring to the economic crisis. But where are you on the Gaza crisis where the civilian population of Gaza, its civil servants and public facilities are being massacred and destroyed respectively by U.S built F-16s and U.S. built helicopter gunships.
     The deliberate suspension of your power to stop this terrorizing of 1.5 million people, mostly refugees, blockaded for months by air, sea and land in their tiny slice of land, is in cowardly contrast to the position taken by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. That year he single handedly stopped the British, French and Israeli aircraft attack against Egypt during the Suez Canal dispute.
     Fatalities in Gaza are already over 400 and injuries close to 2000 so far as is known. Total Palestinian civilian casualties are 400 times greater then the casualties incurred by Israelis. But why should anyone be surprised at your blanket support for Israel’s attack given what you have done to a far greater number of civilians in Iraq and now in Afghanistan?

Where peace is a problem

Haim Bresheeth, Electronic Intifada 12/31/2008
      As the death toll in Gaza rises by the hour, and the few civic buildings still left are collapsing under the combined firepower of the Israeli air force, with its up-to-the-minute bombers and destructive armaments, we are again facing an incredible political phenomenon -- the foretold disaster which surprises all political leaders as if they, unlike the rest of us, never see a newspaper or watch the television news channels.
     In Summer 2006, after months of Israeli hints that it was going to move into Lebanon and "finish off" Hizballah, world leaders were also too busy and quite shocked; to be precise, they were "shocked" for a whole month, a month of wanton destruction and killing, exactly until Israel needed a ceasefire urgently, as things were not going according to plan.
     Then, all of a sudden, western nations moved overnight to impose a cease-fire. Even so, they failed to help Israel in its mission of destroying Hizballah. So, while only people with no easy access to their moral fiber can go on claiming that Israel is right in its murderous, barbaric and illogical revenge mission to hell, the real question is, how are they allowed to do it, and always get away with it.

’We don’t know where will be targeted next’

Hatem Shurrab, The Guardian 12/31/2008
      Hatem Shurrab, 24, an aid worker with Islamic Relief:
     At Al Shifa hospital [in Gaza City] there is not enough space for the patients. The injured and the people who have been killed are lying outside. On the first day I saw horrific injuries to men and children who were being brought in; some were suffering terrible amputations.
     "There was one guy who was searching for members of his family. He saw his brother in the bodies and hugged him. He started crying. He was very angry. Also I saw a mother who found her son among the bodies.
     "There’s a terrible shortage of doctors, bandages and medical disposables. We are trying to provide the hospital with its basic needs. Some blood supplies have come in from charities working in Jordan.
     "Most of the equipment in the hospital is old and needs maintenance. There’s a shortage of spare parts for the machines. There’s no electricity for most of the day. They can’t use the generators all the time because they don’t work very well. On the streets there’s a shortage of fuel and food. There are crowds outside every bakery trying to get bread. Every half hour there’s an Israeli air raid and news of people killed and injured."

Obama and Israel’s Gaza Attack

John Nichols, Middle East Online 12/31/2008
      An Israeli air assault on Palestinian targets in Gaza has taken an estimated 300 lives over the course of the past several days, and the death toll is mounting rapidly. Dozens of children have been killed, confirming that there is nothing "surgical" about these strikes.
     Most U.S. media coverage portrays a simple struggle between Israelis on the one side and Gaza’s Hamas militants on the other. This is the line that is being advanced aggressively by the Bush administration and that has effectively been accepted by President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, which is maintaining its "Bush speaks for the U.S. until January 20" line even as the crisis mounts. Following Bush’s lead, Obama has refused to call for a more nuanced and effective U.S. response to an escalation of the Middle East conflict that Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti on Sunday described as the worst since the 1967 war in the region.
     Obama and his aides should be openly counseling the Bush administration to use every diplomatic avenue to promote a ceasefire and, above all, to urge against an Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza.

The civilian targets of Israel’s bombing

Report, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 12/31/2008
      12:30pm Gaza Time (+2hrs GMT)
     The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has continued its military operation in the Gaza Strip for the fifth day. Today, it targeted an ambulance and its medical crew with a missile, killing a doctor and an orderly and critically injuring its driver. According to Al Mezan Center’s monitoring, the number of Palestinian casualties since the start of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead at 11:30am on 27 December 2008 has risen to 315, of whom 41 were children and nine women. At least 939 people have been injured, including 85 children and 52 women. The number of civilian objects that have been destroyed is as follows:
     * 112 houses have been destroyed completely and approximately 3,500 houses damaged;
     * Seven mosques have been completely destroyed from direct air strikes;
     * 38 private industrial and agricultural enterprises have been completely destroyed;
     * 16 schools have been damaged;
     * Nine CBO offices were completely destroyed;
     * Eight private vehicles were destroyed;
     * 16 governmental facilities were destroyed.

So what have the Palestinians got to complain about?

Mark Steel, The Independent 12/31/2008
      When you read the statements from Israeli and US politicians, and try to match them with the pictures of devastation, there seems to be only one explanation. They must have one of those conditions, called something like "Visual Carnage Responsibility Back To Front Upside Down Massacre Disorder".
     For example, Condoleezza Rice, having observed that more than 300 Gazans were dead, said: "We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence. We strongly condemn the attacks on Israel and hold Hamas responsible."
     Someone should ask her to comment on teenage knife-crime, to see if she’d say: "I strongly condemn the people who’ve been stabbed, and until they abandon their practice of wandering around clutching their sides and bleeding, there is no hope for peace."
     The Israeli government suffers terribly from this confusion...

Re: Gross Human Rights Violations and War Crimes in the Gaza Strip

Various Undersigned Organizations, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 12/30/2008
      The UN Human Rights Council must urge the General Assembly to act under Resolution 377
     Dear Member State of the UN Human Rights Council,
     Representing the Palestinian human rights community, we write to you with an urgent request for intervention by the UN Human Rights Council to put an end to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as a result of the Israeli occupying forces‘ ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip. At least 310 persons, including 37 children, have been killed and over 1000 Palestinians have been injured. The civilian population of the occupied Gaza Strip will inevitably continue to suffer heavy losses without the external intervention of the international community; this is confirmed by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s assertion that this is a “war to the bitter end.”
     Grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention amounting to war crimes, have been committed, including, wilful killing and the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Furthermore, the continuing collective punishment of the Gaza strip has left medical services unable to deal with the increasing number of victims.
     As member States of the UN Human Rights Council, you were fully apprised of the human rights situation in the OPT, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Israel earlier this month. The dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was a dominant concern raised by States during the review. Despite recommendations to Israel concerning its obligation to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the capacity of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population after days of bombardment has now reached breaking point. You have further been notified by Special Rapporteur Richard Falk of Israel’s failure to cooperate with his mandate and his call on "all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people."