Israeli Assault on Gaza 1
I SRAELI A SSAULT ON G AZA
D R N OOR UL H AQ
A SSISTANT E DITOR
K HALID H USSAIN
2 IPRI Factfile
1. Israeli Army Gets Go-ahead for Attack on Gaza 1
2. Israeli Troops Mass along Border; Arab Anger Rises 2
3. Israeli Attacks Shatter Gaza 5
4. Hundreds Dead, Injured in Gaza as Israeli Airstrikes Continue 7
5. Israeli Attacks on Gaza 11
6. Jamaat-i-Islami Condemns Attack on Gaza Strip 12
7. Israel Pounds Gaza for 4th day, Rejecting Truce Appeals 14
8. Israel’s Bloodiest Onslaught 15
9. UN Chief Says Gaza Conflict Must End 17
10. Israeli Attack Kills Senior Hamas Leader 18
11. Battlefield Gaza 20
12. Sindh Protests Gaza Attacks 21
13. Israeli Attack Splits Gaza; Truce Calls are Rebuffed 23
14. Blood and Terror in Gaza 26
15 Why Do They Hate the West So Much 27
16. Brown Calls for International Action over Gaza Crisis 29
17 Massacre of Innocents as UN School is Shelled 31
18. UN Resolution 1860 33
19. The Gaza Onslaught will Impact on the Arab World 34
20. Slaughter in Gaza 36
21. From U.S. Experts on Mideast, There’s No Shortage of Advice 38
22. Pakistan National Assembly’s Resolution 41
23. UN Rights Body Weighs Resolution Condemning Israel 42
24. Lebanese Minister Criticizes Arab Division for Weakness
in Resistance Against Israel 42
25. Israel Using Nasty Weapons in Gaza 43
26. Israel Intensifies Military Offensive in Populated Areas of Gaza 44
27. Israel Intensifies Bloody Campaign 45
Israeli Assault on Gaza 3
28. 55 Anti-Semitic Attacks in France since Gaza Attack 45
29. Israel Says Hamas is Damaged, Not Destroyed 46
30. Gaza: The Larger Arab Dilemma 49
31. Pakistan Condemns Israeli Strike in Gaza 51
32. Israelis Destroy UN Offices, Food Stock in Gaza 52
33. UN Chief Urges Unilateral Israeli Ceasefire 53
34. Tomorrow’s Crippled Generation 56
35. The Myth of Israel's Strategic Genius 57
36. Gaza War Divides Arab Governments from People 63
37. Palestinian Authority is Left Weakened 65
38. UN Chief Appalled at Israeli Destruction in Gaza 68
39. Arab Leaders’ Passivity 70
40. Obama Tells Olmert and Abbas: He will Pursue Peace 72
41. Ban Seeks Israeli Explanation of UN Attacks in Gaza 74
42. Alarm Spreads over Use of Lethal New Weapons 76
43. Gaza Family Recounts Day of Horror 78
44. Another War, another Defeat 80
45. Gaza’s Economy in Ruins 85
46. Israel Must Allow Rehabilitation of Gaza – UN 87
47. Factbox: Israeli-Hamas Conflict Tolls 89
48. Timeline: Israeli-Hamas Violence 90
4 IPRI Factfile
On December 27, 2008, Israel mounted a military offensive in Hamas-ruled
Gaza Strip which lasted till January 17, 2009. Israeli troops supported by
intense fire from tanks, artillery, sea and air occupied the center of the city.
Israel is reported to have used cluster bombs and phosphorus shells in heavily
populated areas. Israel was killing a hundred Palestinians for a dead Israeli.
The war caused colossal damage to life and property. The details are given on
The earlier ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that was not being
fully respected by either side ended on December 19, 2008. For instance, on
November 5 2008, Israel killed six Palestinian gunmen and Gaza Palestinians
fired rockets into southern Israel. One reason for the onset of war was firing
of rockets by Palestinians. Another could be the five-week Israeli war with
Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. However, the underlying reason seems to be
the fact that Israel does not respect the Palestinians’ democratic verdict of
electing Hamas. The immediate cause was of course the impending January
2009 elections in Israel whereby the Israeli leaders wanted to show their
toughness against Hamas to win popular support.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860 of January 9,
2009 condemned “all violence and hostilities directed against civilians” and all
acts of terrorism. The National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously passed a
resolution on January 12 strongly condemning the “Israeli aggression on
Gaza”. Unlike initial disengagement from the Palestinian issue evinced by
former US President George W. Bush, President Barak Obama was visibly
concerned about civilian casualties and pledged to pursue the Middle East
However, the war has shown that neither side could eliminate the
other. Hamas could be damaged but not eliminated or destroyed. Sympathy
for Palestinians would increase but Gaza’s economy is in ruins and
reconstruction may require about US $ 2 billion.
The IPRI Factfile includes a few national and international media
reports and articles published from December 26, 2008 till the end of January
2009 that would give a brief account and sampling of views on the Israeli
offensive in Gaza.
January 31, 2009 Noor ul Haq
Israeli Assault on Gaza 1
I SRAELI A RMY G ETS G O -A HEAD FOR A TTACK ON G AZA :
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni vowed on Thursday to strike back at the
Hamas rulers of Gaza after a sharp escalation of violence in the Palestinian
territory dashed hopes of a new truce.
“Enough is enough. The situation is going to change,” Livni said in
Cairo after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the
deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip since a truce expired six days ago.
“Unfortunately there is one address to the situation of the people in
the Gaza Strip; this is Hamas, Hamas controls them, Hamas decided to target
Israel, this is something that has to be stopped and this is what we’re going to
do,” she said in English.
“Yesterday’s escalation was unbearable,” Livni said after Gaza
militants hit Israel with their biggest rocket barrage in six months to avenge
the killing of three fighters from the Islamist movement.
“Hamas needs to understand that our aspiration for peace does not
mean that Israel will take this situation any longer,” Livni said at a press
conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.
“Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip is not only Israel’s problem... but
what we are doing is an expression of the needs of the region.”
“The situation in the Gaza Strip has become an obstacle on the way
of the Palestinians toward a state,” added Livni, who has vowed to topple
Hamas if her Kadima party wins a general election in February.
Livni has been heading the Israeli team in talks with the Palestinians
that resumed in last year but have failed to make any visible headway since.
Abul Gheit, whose government mediated the six-month truce that
expired on Friday, called for restraint.
“Egypt has made clear that there should be restraint and no escalation
and an alleviation of the humanitarian situation,” he said, adding Israel should
refrain from “collective punishment.”
Israel’s Maariv newspaper said the security cabinet had given the army
the go-ahead to conduct expanded operations in Gaza after a meeting on
Wednesday and Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned that Israel would
respond to the fire.
“Hamas... will pay a big price,” he said. “We will not allow this
situation to last.”
Hamas has vowed to step up attacks if Israel strikes Gaza, a tiny
enclave sandwiched between Egypt and Israel that is home to 1.5 million
largely aid-dependent Palestinians.
Since Friday’s expiry of the truce, Israel has threatened to launch a
major offensive on Gaza, with top leaders threatening to topple Hamas.
2 IPRI Factfile
In turn, Hamas has warned it will retaliate by resuming suicide
bombings inside Israel. The last such attack was in January 2005.
Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meanwhile, called on
Thursday for residents of Gaza to stop Hamas militants from firing missiles
“I say to you in a last-minute call, stop it,” Olmert said in an interview
with the Arab television Al-Arabiya.—AFP
Dawn, December 26, 2008
I SRAELI T ROOPS M ASS A LONG B ORDER ; A RAB A NGER
Israeli troops and tanks massed along the Gaza border and the government
said it had called up reserves for a possible ground operation, as the death toll
increased to nearly 300 after Israeli aircraft pounded Gaza for a second day on
The continued strikes, which Israel said were in retaliation for
sustained rocket fire from Gaza into its territory, unleashed a furious reaction
across the Arab world, raising fears of greater instability in the region.
Such of the anger was also directed at Egypt, seen by Hamas and
some nearby governments as having acceded to Israel’s military action by
sealing its border with Gaza and forcing back many Palestinians at gunpoint
who were trying to escape the destruction.
Witnesses at the Rafah border crossing described a chaotic scene as
young men tried to force their way across into Egypt, amid sporadic exchanges
of gunfire between Hamas and Egyptian forces. Egyptian state television
reported that one Egyptian border guard was killed by a Hamas gunman. A
Palestinian man was killed by an Egyptian guard near Rafah, Reuters reported.
In Gaza, officials said medical services, stretched to the breaking point after 18
months of Israeli sanctions, were on the verge of collapse as they struggled to
care for the more than 600 people wounded in two days.
At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, women wailed as they searched for
relatives among bodies that lay strewn on the hospital floor. One doctor said
that given the dearth of facilities, not much could be done for the seriously
wounded, and that it was “better to be brought in dead.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed on Sunday
for urgent humanitarian assistance, including medical supplies, to be allowed
to enter Gaza. Israeli officials said that some aid had been allowed in through
one of the crossings. Egypt temporarily opened the Rafah crossing on
Saturday to allow some of the wounded to be taken to Egyptian hospitals.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 3
Israel made a strong push to justify the attacks, saying it was forced
into military action to defend its citizens. At the same time, the supreme
religious leader of Iran and the leader of Hezbollah expressed strong support
Across Gaza, families huddled indoors as Israeli jets streaked
overhead. Residents said that there were long blackouts and that they had no
cooking gas. Some ventured out to receive bread rations at bakeries or to
brave the streets to claim their dead at the hospitals. There were few mass
funerals; rather, families buried the victims in small ceremonies.
At dusk on Sunday, Israeli fighter jets bombed over 40 tunnels along
Gaza’s border with Egypt. The Israeli military said that the tunnels, on the
Gaza side of the border, were used for smuggling weapons, explosives and
fugitives. Gazans also use many of them to import consumer goods and fuel in
order to get around the Israeli-imposed economic blockade.
In the first two days of the operation Israeli jets destroyed at least 30
targets in Gaza, including the main security compound and prison in Gaza
City known as the Saraya, metal workshops throughout Gaza that were
suspected of manufacturing rockets, and Hamas military posts.
Hamas said Israel bombed a government ministry compound and the
Islamic University in Gaza, a stronghold of Hamas, late Sunday night. The
Hamas-owned television station Al Aqsa was also struck, as was a mosque that
the Israeli military said was being used as a terrorist base.
On Monday, Israeli warplanes bombed the Hamas-run Interior
Ministry, Reuters reported, based on a Hamas statement.
Israel appeared to be settling in for a longer haul. The government on
Sunday approved the emergency call-up of thousands of army reservists in
preparation for a possible ground operation as Israeli troops, tanks, armored
personnel carriers and armored bulldozers massed at the border.
Speaking before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israel’s
defense minister, Ehud Barak, said the army “will deepen and broaden its
actions as needed” and “will continue to act.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
said Israel’s goal was not to reoccupy Gaza, which it left unilaterally in 2005,
but to “restore normal life and quiet to residents of the south” of Israel.
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister appeared on American talkshows
to press Israel’s case. She said on “Fox News Sunday” that the operation “is
needed in order to change the realities on the ground, and to give peace and
quiet to the citizens in southern Israel.”
Militants in Gaza fired barrages of rockets and mortar shells the
farthest yet into Israel on Sunday. One rocket fell in Gan Yavneh, a village
near the major port city of Ashdod, almost 20 miles north of Gaza. Two
landed in the coastal city of Ashkelon. Several Israelis were wounded.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, told reporters that Israel
had started a “war” but that it would not be able to choose how it would end.
4 IPRI Factfile
He called for revenge in the form of strikes reaching “deep into the Zionist
entity using all means,” including suicide attacks.
The hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens now within rocket range
have been instructed by the authorities to stay close to protected spaces.
In Lebanon, the leader of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Sheik
Hassan Nasrallah, put his fighters on alert, expressing strong support for
Hamas and saying that he believed Israel might try to wage a two-front war, as
it did in 2006. He called for a mass demonstration in Beirut on Monday. And
he, too, denounced Egypt’s leaders. “If you don’t open the borders, you are
accomplices in the killing,” he said in a televised speech.
Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, condemned
the silence of some Arab countries, which he said had prepared the grounds
for the “catastrophe,” an Iranian news agency, ISNA, reported.
“The horrible crime of the Zionist regime in Gaza has once again
revealed the bloodthirsty face of this regime from disguise,” he said in a
statement. “But worse than this catastrophe is the encouraging silence of some
Arab countries who claim to be Muslim,” he said, apparently in a reference to
Egypt and Jordan.
Egypt has mediated talks between Israel and the Palestinians and
between Hamas and Hamas’s rival, Fatah, leaving it open to criticism that it is
too willing to work with Israel. In turn, Egypt and other Western-allied Sunni
Arab nations are deeply opposed to Hezbollah and Hamas, which they see as
extensions of Iran, their Shiite nemesis.
Across the region, the Israeli strikes were being broadcast in grisly
detail almost continually on Arab satellite networks.
In the Syrian capital, Damascus, a large group of protesters marched
to Yusuf al Azmeh Square, where they chanted slogans and burned Israeli and
In Beirut, protesters were bused to a rally outside the United Nations
building, holding up Palestinian flags and Hamas banners. Muhammad Mazen
Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Palestinian who lives in one of the refugee camps here,
choked up when asked about the assault on Gaza.
“There’s an agreement between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel
against Hamas,” he said. “They want to end them; all the countries are in
league against Hamas, but God willing, we will win.”
That sentiment is widespread here. Many see Ms. Livni’s visit to Cairo
last week as evidence that Egypt, eager to be rid of Hamas, had consented to
the air strikes.
The anger echoes what happened in July 2006, when the leaders of
Saudi Arabia and Egypt publicly blamed Hezbollah for starting the conflict
with Israel. Popular rage against Israel soon forced the leaders to change their
Israeli Assault on Gaza 5
Hamas, sworn to the destruction of Israel, took control of Gaza when
it ousted Fatah last year. An Egyptian-brokered six-month truce between Israel
and Hamas, always shaky began to unravel in early November. It expired 10
Taghreed El-Khodary & Isabel Kershner, New York Times, December 28, 2008
I SRAELI A TTACKS S HATTER G AZA
At least 300 Palestinians have been killed and more than 900 wounded as
Israel continues to carry out its severest military attack on Gaza since the 1967
Late Saturday morning 80 Israeli fighter planes and Apache
helicopters launched the first wave of several air attacks over the Gaza strip.
Dozens of sorties dropped over a hundred bombs on 150 Hamas targets,
destroying 40, including police stations and military installations in a matter of
Early Sunday morning a second wave of Israeli military strikes
bombed a mosque and the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV station.
Simultaneously, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) amassed hundreds
of infantry and armoured corps troops on the Gaza border in preparation for a
possible ground invasion.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak rejected calls by the UN and the
EU for a ceasefire, and told the international media that Israel would not rule
out widening the offensive to include a ground operation.
"For us to be asked to have a ceasefire with Hamas is like asking you
to have a ceasefire with Al-Qaeda," Barak said in an interview with Fox News.
"It's something we cannot really accept. Our intention is to totally
change the rules of the game," he added.
Most of those killed and wounded were Hamas military and police
personnel. However, dozens of Palestinian civilians are reported to be among
The civilian casualties are expected to rise. Many of Hamas's
installations are in densely populated civilian neighborhoods. School children
in several surrounding schools were on their way home as the first wave of
bombs hit Gaza city.
Grim scenes of carnage fill the corridors of Gaza's hospitals and
morgues as the dead and dying, and mutilated bodies lie on the ground due to
a shortage of hospital beds and morgue space.
Medical staff are treating the wounded under severe pressure, as Gaza
has limited supplies of electricity, medicine, medical equipment, and fuel to
6 IPRI Factfile
operate emergency generators due to the Israeli-imposed blockade of the
coastal territory. Only very limited amounts of humanitarian aid is allowed in.
Egypt, in a rare display of solidarity with the beleaguered Gazans, has
opened its Rafah border crossing to allow the wounded to be evacuated to
Sinai hospitals to receive medical treatment.
"It is madness and people are in a state of shock," Elena Eqleibo, a
former Costa Rican diplomat and hardened aid worker who has lived in Gaza
city for several years told IPS.
"I had just finished a meeting in the municipality when suddenly there
were massive booms and plumes of smoke surrounding the entire area," said
Eqleibo, whose apartment is located near a major Hamas headquarters.
"I visited some neighbors at the local supermarket and grocery store,
and everybody is in a state of shock. Nobody can believe the scale of the
Abdallah Al-Agha, who lives near the former presidential palace of the
late president Yasser Arafat, which was then taken over by Hamas and
subsequently targeted by the Israelis, said there were scenes of chaos outside
his apartment when the first bombs hit.
"The thunderous explosions went on for what seemed ages. People
were panicking, ambulances and fire trucks were tearing down the streets and
trying to help the wounded and put out fires which had broken out amongst
the crumbled buildings.
"Children were screaming and crying and mothers were hysterically
looking for their kids coming home from school," Agha told IPS.
Israel had been threatening a large-scale military incursion following
an increasing number of rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups at Israeli
towns bordering Gaza.
The rocket attacks followed the end of a fragile six-month ceasefire
between Israel and Hamas and ten days of intensive fighting last month
following an Israeli cross-border military incursion into Gaza.
The Islamic resistance organization accused Israel of breaching the
terms of the truce by refusing to lift the hermetic sealing of Gaza's borders.
But the timing of Israel's attacks caught Hamas by surprise. Israel had
temporarily opened the borders for a few hours on Friday to allow in several
convoys of humanitarian aid.
This was done as the Israeli government simultaneously launched a
massive diplomatic campaign to explain its case for a military operation to the
Israeli intelligence timed the operation to coincide with a meeting of
Hamas's leadership, several of whom were killed, as well as a graduation
ceremony of hundreds of new Hamas police cadets.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 7
But the Israelis are aware that the attacks will not cow Hamas, and
that retaliatory rocket fire can now plague Israeli border towns on an even
Following the initial Israeli sorties, Hamas and smaller resistance
groups rained rockets down on Sderot, Ashkelon and other border towns,
killing an Israeli and wounding others.
Israel has declared a state of emergency. Israelis within a 10-kilometre
radius of Gaza were ordered to enter bomb shelters within 15 seconds of a
siren warning. Residents within a 20-30 kilometer radius were ordered to enter
shelters within 45 seconds of siren warnings.
Meanwhile, the IDF is expecting an increased daily rocket barrage of
up to 100 missiles, some of which are expected to reach cities and towns
located further away as Hamas uses upgraded projectiles with a 40-kilometre
range as opposed to the current range of only 20 kilometers.
Analysts on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide are arguing that
the current military invasion is not about deterrence but more about the
upcoming Israeli elections in February where Barak is a candidate for the
prime minister's seat.
The Israeli public has been baying for blood following the Gaza
rocket attacks, and any premier candidate would be expected to take a tough
line with the Palestinians militarily.
Mel Frykberg, IPS News, December 28, 2008
H UNDREDS D EAD , I NJURED IN G AZA AS I SRAELI A IRSTRIKES
A Palestinian envoy called on the United Nations to condemn the deadly
violence in Gaza as Israeli airstrikes on Hamas militants entered a second day
"There is no justification for punishing 1.5 million in the Gaza Strip
because of the actions of a few," Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters
Saturday before entering a U.N. Security Council meeting scheduled for 10
p.m. ET. "We hope we don't fail in having a reaction from the Security
Israeli airstrikes continued pounding targets in Hamas-ruled Gaza
Sunday, killing at least 225 and injuring 400, in what Israeli Defense Minister
Ehud Barak said was a response to escalating rocket attacks against southern
Yet Hamas blamed Israel for the artillery exchange, accusing it of
violating a cease-fire intended to stem violence in the region.
8 IPRI Factfile
Barak said the Israeli attacks would continue as long as necessary until
Hamas militants were ready to "change their behavior."
"This will not be a short operation. The war on terrorism is an
ongoing one, and we will have to stand firm in order to change the situation in
the south," Barak said Saturday. An Egypt-brokered cease-fire between Hamas
and Israel expired December 19.
Barak told CNN that Israel was compelled to respond with force after
evacuating Gaza three years ago "to the last square inch" only to face
"We have to experience shelling and rocket attacks on innocent
civilians, that's something we will not accept," he told CNN. "I am confident
that the American government would not have waited one day before they
would have responded if San Diego [California] would have been bombed or
shelled or rocketed from Tijuana [Mexico] with thousands of rockets."
Hamas vowed to retaliate.
"We will stand up, we will defend our own people, we will defend our
land, and we will not give up," senior Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan said.
Hamdan also denied accusations that Hamas had provoked Israel attacks by
violating the cease-fire with rocket attacks.
"Hamas did not fire rockets through the cease-fire. It's clear that the
one who violated the cease-fire is the Israelis," Hamdan told CNN. "For half
the period of cease-fire, they closed all the checkpoints, and they killed 28
The exchange of accusations came as bodies piled up on the streets of
Gaza City, where hospitals and medical personnel were overwhelmed by the
influx of wounded.
Palestinian medical sources said that 225 people had been killed and
400 people injured, many of them in serious to critical condition.
"People are suffering and dying because of shortages of medical
equipment," said Dr. Mahmoud el-Khazndar, who works at Gaza City's Shifa
Hospital. "The hospital is not accustomed to accept mass casualties like this."
The Egyptian government sent 20 ambulances and medical personnel
to its border with Gaza to help treat and transport the wounded, an Egyptian
Tensions had been building between Hamas and Israel despite the six-
month truce. The tenuous agreement was weakened in recent weeks as
The Arab League condemned the attacks and scheduled an emergency
meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday to discuss the situation. The meeting is set
for 7 p.m. (noon ET).
"The situation is lending itself to escalation," Secretary General Amr
Moussa told CNN International. "The attacks have resulted in casualties
among the civilians, among the young, among the population."
Israeli Assault on Gaza 9
Moussa said the Arab League would call on the U.N. Security Council
to issue a statement or resolution calling on all parties to end violence and
enter into mediation.
"Also, we are calling on the Palestinians to close ranks and stop feuds
between different organizations in Palestine," Moussa said, referring to
struggles between warring factions struggling for power
Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi also accused Israel of ignoring
the terms of the cease-fire that expired December 19.
"This is certainly a very cruel escalation, a relentless bombardment of
a captive civilian population that has already been under siege for months, that
has been deprived of basic requirements like food and medicines and fuel and
power," she said from Ramallah in the West Bank.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the United States
places the blame for the Israeli military action squarely on Hamas.
"We want the cease-fire to be restored, but we understand that Israel
is reacting to the hundreds of rockets that have been fired upon the innocent
people of Israel over the last few days," he said. "Hamas must end its terrorist
activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also called for the cease-fire
to be restored.
"We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against
Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the
renewal of violence there. The cease-fire must be restored immediately and
fully respected," she said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply
alarmed" and called for "an immediate halt to all violence," a spokesman said
in a statement.
Israeli military officials accused Hamas militants of firing more than
65 rockets into southern Israel on Wednesday, and the Israeli air force said it
killed a Hamas militant whom it accused of helping launch the rockets against
In a letter Saturday to Ban and the U.N. Security Council stated,
Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said Hamas holds "the sole responsibility
for the latest events in Gaza" and claimed Israel was exercising self-defense.
"No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian
population without taking the necessary actions to stop it," Shalev said. "Israel
expects the understanding and support of the international community to its
actions, as it confronts terrorism and advances the interest of all those who
wish that peace and coexistence will prevail in our region."
The Israeli Defense Forces said Israeli aircraft were attacking "a series
of Hamas targets and infrastructure facilities," including headquarters, training
camps and weaponry storage warehouses.
10 IPRI Factfile
About 50 aircraft targeted more than 100 Hamas sites over the first
two rounds of airstrikes Saturday, an IDF spokesman said.
A Gaza-based reporter, whose name was withheld for security
reasons, reported that the building housing Hamas-run television station al-
Aqsa TV was destroyed early Sunday morning. The reporters also said a
number of Hamas police stations were hit, killing some senior police
Among those killed were Palestinian Maj. Gen. Tawfeeq Al-Jaber, a
senior commander in the Hamas police force, and Ismail Jabari, who headed
the special police force in Gaza, Palestinian sources said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for patience, insisting that
Israel wants to avoid causing an "humanitarian disaster" in Gaza.
"The instructions that we have given to our forces are to refrain from
inflicting injury and harm on the innocent," he said at a news conference with
Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Yet scores of deaths and injuries have been claimed on both sides as
aid organizations urged Israel to cease the attacks.
An Israeli woman was killed Saturday when a rocket fired from Gaza
hit a house in Netivot in southern Israel, about six miles east of Gaza, Israeli
police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. Two other Israelis were in "medium
to serious" condition at Soroko Hospital in Bersheba, he said.
Wounded people could be seen lying in the streets of Gaza City, and
passers-by were doing what they could to summon help.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees urged the
Israeli government to stop its bombardment.
"UNRWA recognizes Israel's legitimate security concerns. However,
its actions should be in conformity with international humanitarian law, and it
should not use disproportionate force," the agency said in a news release.
Saeb Erakat, adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas, urged Israeli and Hamas leaders to put another cease-fire in place.
"I believe this is the only way out. I don't think this problem can be
solved through military means," he told CNN. "I don't think it can be solved
through aggression, through violence. Violence will breed more violence."
Abbas' Fatah party government is locked in a power struggle with the
On Friday, Israel opened three border crossings for the first time in
10 days to allow food, medical supplies and other humanitarian goods into
Gaza, but Palestinian rocket attacks continued.
CNN, December 28, 2008
Israeli Assault on Gaza 11
I SRAELI A TTACKS ON G AZA
Israeli war planes and combat helicopters pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza
Strip on Saturday.
Here are some of the key comments:-
Israeli Defense Force Statement
“The IDF will continue its operations against terror in accordance with
constant status assessments by the IDF Chief of General Staff. This operation
will be continued, expanded and intensified as much as required.”
“All fighters are ordered to respond to the Israeli slaughter.”
Hamas Armed Wing Spokesman Abu Ubaida
The group will “teach the enemy a lesson they will never forget”.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, Aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud
“President Abbas demands that the Israeli government stop this aggression
immediately to spare our people its painful effects, and calls on the
international community to intervene to stop the aggression.”
White House Spokesman Gordon Johndroe
“Hamas' continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to
stop. Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the
future of the Palestinian people.
“The United States urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it targets Hamas
Spokesman for EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana
“We are very concerned at the events in Gaza. We call for an immediate cease-
fire and urge everybody to exert maximum restraint.”
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa
“We are facing a continuing spectacle which has been carefully planned. So we
have to expect that there will be many casualties. We face a major
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Quoted by Mean
“Egypt condemns the Israeli military attacks.”
12 IPRI Factfile
“Egypt will continue its contacts to prepare an atmosphere conducive to
restoring the period of calm and achieving reconciliation between the
British Foreign Office Statement
“The only way to achieve lasting peace in Gaza is through peaceful means.
Whilst we understand the Israeli government's obligation to protect its
population we urge maximum restraint to avoid further civilian casualties”
“We also call on militants in the Gaza Strip to immediately cease all
rocket attacks on Israel.”
French Presidency Statement
“He (French President Nicolas Sarkozy) demands an immediate stop to the
firing of rockets on Israel and to the Israeli bombings in Gaza and calls for all
parties to use restraint.
“He condemns firmly the irresponsible provocations which have led
to this situation as well as the disproportionate use of force
“He reminds that there is no military solution for Gaza and asks for a lasting
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hasan Qashqavi Quoted By
“Iran strongly condemns the Zionist regime's (Israel) wide-ranging attacks
against the civilians in Gaza.”
“The raids against innocent people are unforgivable and
Russian Foreign Ministry Statement
“Moscow deems it necessary to stop large scale military action against Gaza,
which had already led to big casualties and suffering among civilian Palestinian
population. At the same time we call on Hamas leadership to stop shelling
China Post, December 28, 2008
JI C ONDEMNS A TTACK ON G AZA S TRIP
Activists of Jamaat-i-Islami held rallies and demonstrations in different cities
and towns of the province on Sunday, condemning the latest Israeli attack on
Palestinians, which left more than 250 dead and many more injured.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 13
A large number of JI activists staged a demonstration outside the
Hyderabad press club. Ameer of JI’s Hyderabad chapter, Moulana Abdul
Waheed Qureshi, said in his address that Muslim rulers’ cowardice was to
blame for the attack.
They were all working as American stooges, he alleged. He said that
America had destroyed Iraq because the country was against Israel.
Though the entire Muslim world was against Israel and America,
Muslim rulers had bowed their heads to the imperialist forces, he said.
Israel did not feel itself answerable to anyone as it was committing
atrocities against Palestinians with complete impunity, he said.
Thousands of Palestinian Muslims had been murdered over the years
since Israeli occupation but the UNO was witnessing the atrocities as a mute
spectator, he said.
Shaikh Shoukat Ali said that not only America but India was also
supporting Israel and demanded that Pakistani rulers raise their voice against
Israeli aggression at international forums.
In Shikarpur and Mirpurkhas, activists of JI and its affiliated
organisations held rallies to voice protest against Israeli attack on Palestine.
The protesters led by JI district ameer, Imam Bux Asim Memon and
others condemned the cruel attack and demanded that the Pakistan
government urge the United Nations to take serious notice of the attack and
immediately stop aggression.
In Sukkur, activists of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and Jamaat-i-Islami held a
demonstration and sit-in in protest against killing of hundreds of Palestinians
in Gaza Strip.
The protesters led by Prof Masood Ali Khan, Moulana Hizbullah
Jhakro condemned Israeli bombardment and demanded that Muslim countries
announce social boycott of the USA, Israel and the UK.
Dozens of JUI workers led by Moulana Ghulam Hussain Lashari,
Hafiz Ghulam Mustafa Soomro and others staged a sit-in at Rohri bypass for
The leaders slammed Israel and USA and said that both the countries
were involved in genocide of Muslims and Muslim Ummah was silent on the
They demanded that the Pakistan government sever diplomatic ties
with the USA and officially condemn the massacre.
Dawn, December 29, 2008
14 IPRI Factfile
I SRAEL P OUNDS G AZA FOR 4 TH D AY , R EJECTING T RUCE
Israel on Tuesday rejected worldwide appeals for a truce as its air strikes on
the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip went on for a fourth day.
The operation, dubbed Cast Lead, continued early Tuesday, with at
least 10 people killed and 40 others wounded when Israeli war planes bombed
a series of Gaza targets, according to Palestinian reports.
The death toll on the Palestinian side has so far risen to more than
380 killed and more than 1,600 others have been injured in the ongoing air
Despite Israel's devastating air assaults, Hamas militants continued to
fight back, pelting Israeli territory with rockets and mortar shells.
The United Nations and many countries repeatedly urged Israel to
stop the bloodshed but Israeli officials rejected any truce with Hamas, warning
that the country was ready for "long weeks of action."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel Defense Forces
(IDF) would continue military action in Gaza "until all the goals are met."
The IDF operation would intensify "as much as needed to meet the
goals we set for ourselves, to bring quiet to the South," Israel Army Radio
quoted Barak as saying.
The operation also aims "to strike a severe blow to Hamas," he said,
"in order to bring about an end to firing and other operations against Israeli
civilians and IDF soldiers."
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the military
operation is so far "the first phase in a series of steps approved by the
Olmert made the remarks while meeting with Israeli President Shimon
Peres to brief him on the most recent developments in the operation.
Peres said Hamas is the party responsible for creating the current
situation in the Gaza Strip.
"Israel is not fighting against the Palestinian population, only against
the terror organization that has etched on its flag the continuation of violence
and the undermining of regional stability," he said.
"There isn't a person in the world who understands what the goals of
Hamas are and why they continue to fire rockets. The firing defies reason and
logic and it doesn't stand a chance," Peres added.
With Israeli forces gearing up for a possible ground incursion into the
Gaza Strip, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said the military has "made
preparations for long weeks of action."
"We are ready for a prolonged conflict and for weeks of combat,"
Vilnai said in broadcast remarks.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 15
After a meeting overnight Monday with IDF Chief of General Staff
Gabi Ashkenazi and other leaders of the security establishment, Olmert
stressed that Israel would strike Hamas with an "iron fist" but would treat
Gaza civilians with "kid gloves" in its humanitarian effort, local daily Jerusalem
During the meeting, security officials said the IDF had given
telephone warnings to about 90,000 people living near Hamas facilities
targeted by the Israeli air force. They stressed that the sites were bombed only
after civilians had left their homes.
Israel let about 100 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies from
Jordan, Turkey and international aid groups into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom
border crossing said the report, adding that five new ambulances donated by
Turkey were allowed into the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Israel launched massive air raids against the Gaza Strip on Saturday,
while Hamas shelled Israeli territory after a six-month ceasefire that ended
China View, December 30, 2008
I SRAEL ’ S B LOODIEST O NSLAUGHT
Israel’s decision to launch its devastating attack on Gaza on a Saturday was a
“stroke of brilliance”, the country’s biggest selling paper Yediot Aharonot
Of the ferocity of the assault on one of the most overcrowded and
destitute corners of the earth, there is at least no question. In the bloodiest
onslaught on blockaded Gaza, at least 310 people were killed and more than
1,000 reported injured in the first 48 hours alone.
As well as scores of ordinary police officers incinerated in a passing-
out parade, at least 56 civilians were said by the UN to have died as Israel used
American-supplied F-16s and Apache helicopters to attack a string of civilian
targets it linked to Hamas, including a mosque, private homes and the Islamic
As Israeli journalist Amos Harel wrote in Ha’aretz at the weekend,
“little or no weight was apparently devoted to the question of harming
innocent civilians”, as in US operations in Iraq. Among those killed in the first
wave of strikes were eight teenage students waiting for a bus and four girls
from the same family in Jabaliya, aged one to 12 years old.
Anyone who doubts the impact of these atrocities among Arabs and
Muslims worldwide should switch on the satellite television stations that are
watched avidly across the Middle East and which do not habitually sanitize the
barbarity meted out in the name of multiple wars on terror. Then, having seen
16 IPRI Factfile
a child dying in her parent’s arms live on TV, consider what sort of western
response there would have been to an attack on Israel, or the US or Britain for
that matter, which left more than 300 dead in a couple of days.
You can be certain it would be met with the most sweeping
condemnation, that the US president-elect would do a great deal more than
“monitor” the situation and the British prime minister go much further than
simply call for “restraint” on both sides.
But that is in fact all they did do, though the British government has
since joined the call for a ceasefire. There has, of course, been no western
denunciation of the Israeli slaughter – such aerial destruction is, after all,
routinely called in by the US and Britain.
Instead, Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza are held responsible for
what has been visited upon them. How could any government not respond
with overwhelming force to the constant firing of rockets into its territory, the
Israelis demand, echoed by western governments and their media?
But that is to turn reality on its head. Like the West Bank, the Gaza
Strip has been – and continues to be – illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.
Despite the withdrawal of troops and settlements three years ago, Israel
maintains complete control of the territory by sea, air and land. And since
Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel has punished its 1.5
million people with an inhuman blockade of essential supplies, backed by the
US and the European Union.
Like any occupied people, the Palestinians have the right to resist,
whether they choose to exercise it or not. But there is no right of defense for
an illegal occupation – there is an obligation to withdraw comprehensively.
During the last seven years, 14 Israelis have been killed by mostly homemade
rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, while more than 5,000 Palestinians were
killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments in the
Hamas is likewise blamed for last month’s breakdown of the six-
month lull. But, in a weary reprise of past ceasefires, it was in fact sunk by
Israel’s assassination of six Hamas fighters in Gaza on Nov 5 and its refusal to
lift its siege of the embattled territory as expected under an Egyptian-brokered
deal. The truth is that Israel and its western sponsors have set their face
against an accommodation with the Palestinians’ democratic choice and have
instead thrown their political weight, cash and arms behind a sustained attempt
to overthrow it. The complete failure of that approach has brought us to this
week’s horrific pass.
But as with Israel’s disastrous assault on Lebanon two years ago, it is a
strategy that cannot succeed. Hamas’s appeal among Palestinians and beyond
doesn’t derive from its puny infrastructure, or even its Islamist ideology, but
its spirit of resistance to decades of injustice. So long as it remains standing in
the face of this onslaught, its influence will only be strengthened. And if it is
Israeli Assault on Gaza 17
not with rockets, its retaliation is bound to take other forms, as Hamas’s leader
Khalid Mish’al made clear.
Seumas Milne, Dawn, December 31, 2008
UN C HIEF SAYS G AZA C ONFLICT M UST E ND
UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said here on Wednesday that the ongoing
Gaza conflict must end.
Ban said that he wishes to "underline in the strongest possible terms
the world's call for an immediate ceasefire that is fully respected by all parties."
"This must be achieved now," he stressed.
Addressing an open Security Council meeting with its focus on the
Gaza conflict, the UN chief said: "The parties must step back from the brink.
All this violence must end."
"I am profoundly troubled that the call of this council, issued nearly
four days ago, for an end to the violence has gone unheeded," Ban said.
"There must be an immediate ceasefire that is fully respected by all
parties," Ban said. "This must create new conditions on the ground that ensure
at last that crossings into Gaza will be reopened; that rocket attacks and
weapons smuggling will end; and that we will pursue political dialogue, and
only political dialogue, to reunite Gaza with the West Bank; and that the root
cause of this suffering, the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace, is ended."
"Even as this crisis rages, let us never forget the underlying issue:
there must be an end to occupation, an end to conflict, and the creation of a
Palestinian State," he said. "Let us not lose sight of our goal: two states, Israel
and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, and a just, lasting and
comprehensive peace in the region."
"The conflict must end, and it must end once and for all," he urged.
The UN chief said he condemns "unequivocally and in the strongest
possible terms" the ongoing rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other
Palestinian militants, but at the same time also condemns the excessive use of
force by Israel.
"All parties must fully uphold international humanitarian law,” he said.
"It is the civilian populations that are bearing the brunt of this escalation, and
there must be swift and decisive action by the international community to
bring to an end their suffering."
"All parties must address the serious humanitarian and economic
needs in Gaza and take necessary measures to ensure the continuous provision
of humanitarian supplies," he said. "Without the violence stopping, it is
extremely difficult to get food to people who need it."
18 IPRI Factfile
"It is too dangerous for civilians to leave their homes to seek urgent
medical treatment, buy supplies and assist people in distress," he said.
"Conditions for parents and children in Gaza are dangerous and frightening."
Wednesday's open Council meeting was convened after Council
members met behind closed doors to discuss the current Gaza conflict. The
president of the Security Council for December, Croatia's UN Ambassador
Neven Jurica, called the Council meeting at the request of Egyptian UN
Ambassador Maged Abdleza.
The Egyptian ambassador, in his letter to the Council president, said
that the Arab countries want the council "to adopt an enforceable and binding
resolution that would ensure immediate ceasefire, cessation of the Israeli
military aggression, lifting of the blockade, opening of collective punishment,
providing international protection to the Palestinian people and ensure calm."
The UN Security Council on Sunday released a press statement,
calling on Israelis and Palestinians to immediately halt all violence in Gaza.
Taking the floor at the open Council meeting, Riyad Mansour, the
Palestinian permanent observer to the United Nations, echoed the appeal of
the Egyptian ambassador and asked the Security Council to adopt "a binding
resolution" that would ensure an end of the Israeli military assaults on Gaza by
Meanwhile, Giadalla Ettalhi, Libya's UN ambassador, urged the
Council to adopt a resolution drafted by the Libyan Mission that seeks the
condemnation of the Israeli attacks. Libya is the only Arab country in the
However, Western diplomats doubted whether there will be a vote on
the draft resolution.
China View, January 1, 2009
I SRAELI A TTACK K ILLS S ENIOR H AMAS L EADER
Israel killed a senior Hamas leader in an air attack on his home on Thursday,
striking its first deadly blow against the top ranks of the group in a Gaza
offensive that has claimed more than 400 Palestinian lives.
Nizar Rayyan had called for renewed suicide bombings inside Israel.
Medical officials, confirming his death, said two of his four wives and seven of
his children were killed in the bombing, in Jabalya refugee camp.
Hundreds of supporters scrambling over the concrete rubble vowed
revenge as the mangled bodies, covered in blood and cement dust, were
extracted from the wreckage.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 19
“The blood of Sheikh Nizar Rayyan and the blood of other martyrs
will never be wasted and the enemy will pay a heavy price for crimes it
committed,” said Hamas official Ayman Taha.
Black-bearded Rayyan, 49, was a preacher at Jabalya’s “mosque of
martyrs”. Hamas Radio said he had ignored advice to leave his house as other
Hamas leaders have done in anticipation of assassination attempts by Israeli
forces, who confirmed the air strike.
After talks in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Israeli
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reiterated Israel’s rejection of a French-proposed
ceasefire of 48 hours to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“There is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no
need for a humanitarian truce,” she said. “Israel has been supplying
comprehensive humanitarian aid to the Strip ... and has even been stepping
this up by the day.” The deadliest conflict in the Gaza Strip in four decades
has killed at least 410 Palestinians and wounded some 1,850. About a quarter
of the dead were civilians, the UN estimates.
On the sixth day of hostilities, Israeli aircraft and naval forces attacked
about 20 Hamas targets, including a government complex, the Israeli military
Visiting southern Israeli towns where rockets fired from Gaza have
killed four people since Saturday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel was
fighting Hamas with an “iron fist”.
Israeli television broadcast film of rubble-strewn street in the port of
Ashdod, where a Hamas rocket tore into the eighth floor of a high-rise.
Several residents were treated for shock.
In New York, the UN Security Council held an emergency session but
adjourned without a vote after Arab countries pushed for an immediate
ceasefire. Western delegates described the Arab-drafted resolution as
unbalanced and said negotiations would continue to reach an agreed text.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Israeli attacks must stop before any
truce proposals could be considered. Israel must also lift its economic
blockade of Gaza and open border crossings.
The Czech prime minister, who holds the European Union
presidency, said EU foreign ministers would conduct a mission to the Middle
East, likely to coincide with a visit to Jerusalem on Monday by French
President Nicolas Sarkozy.—Reuters
Dawn, January 2, 2009
20 IPRI Factfile
B ATTLEFIELD G AZA
Yosef Sheinin, the chief rabbi of Ashdod, was understandably distraught at the
funeral of Irit Shetreet, one of four Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets since
Israel launched its bombing campaign against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on
Sunday. However, he was wrong to say that her death was “the latest
manifestation of 3,000 years of anti-Jewish hatred.” The hatred is real, but its
sources are a good deal closer both in time and in space.
Western media coverage of current affairs rarely goes into the origins
of those affairs: even what happened last year or ten years ago is treated as
ancient history. So the fury and despair of the million and a half residents of
the Gaza Strip can easily seem incomprehensible — the “bottomless hatred of
wild beasts,” as Sheinin put it. Why do these Palestinians fire murderous
rockets at innocent civilians in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, even Beersheva?
Because that’s where they come from. Only about a fifth of the Gaza
Strip’s population is descended from people who lived in that barren stretch of
land before 1948. The rest are people, or the children or grandchildren or
great-grandchildren of people, who were driven out of what is now Israel
during the 1948 war, or simply fled in fear and were not allowed to go home
again afterwards. Their former homes were mostly in the south of former
Palestine, in places like Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva.
This does not give them the right to launch rockets at the people who
now live in those towns, of course, any more than Israel has the right to use its
massive air power to pound the crowded Gaza Strip. But it does provide some
context for what is happening now — and indeed, happens every year or so.
This struggle is still about what it has always been about: the land.
And the fact that Israel is killing a hundred Palestinians for every dead Israeli
does not mean that the Israelis are winning.
Israel cannot actually lose this fight, since Hamas, the Islamist
organisation that now controls the Gaza Strip, is distinctly short of F-16s,
tanks and UAVs carrying Hellfire missiles. Israel will not lose a lot of soldiers
— more than a couple of dozen — even if it invades the Gaza Strip on the
ground for a while, because Hamas is not like Hezbollah, the Shia militia in
south Lebanon that fought the Israelis to a standstill in the 2006 war.
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s interim prime minister, and Tzipi Livni, his
successor as head of the Kadima party, and Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the
Likud party and her principal rival for the prime ministership in next month’s
Israeli election, all know that. They are all old enough to have watched Israel
try to bash the Palestinians into submission half a dozen times before, and
they know it does not work. But that is strategy, and this is politics.
For Israel’s political leaders, this is mainly about looking tough in
front of an electorate that just wants someone to “do something” about the
Israeli Assault on Gaza 21
Palestinians and their rockets. Nothing much can be done, short of a peace
settlement generous enough to reconcile them to the loss of their land, but
Israeli politicians have to look like they are trying. Hundreds of people are
dying in the Gaza Strip to provide that show.
There is a more profound issue behind all this, which is Israel’s right
to exist versus the right of the Palestinians to their homeland, but we shouldn’t
get carried away with the unique moral dimension of all that. It’s just one more
conquerors-versus-previous-inhabitants conflict, like the European settlers
versus the Indians in the Americas in the eighteenth century — or, for that
matter, the Israelites versus the Canaanites three thousand years ago.
Those earlier conflicts were all settled by force, but the world has
changed and force doesn’t work so well any more. Israel has the power to
hammer the Palestinians endlessly, but they don’t give up and go away. They
cannot, and neither can the Israelis. Neither side can eliminate the other, as has
been amply and repeatedly demonstrated.
Gwynne Dyer, Dawn, January 2, 2009
S INDH P ROTESTS G AZA A TTACKS
Demonstrations were held across Sindh on Friday in protest against Isreali air
strikes in Gaza.
Leaders of various religious and political parties criticised the role of
the United Nations and called upon Muslim rulers to evolve a joint strategy to
stop Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinians. The protesters also burnt
an Israeli flag.
In Hyderabad, activists of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Islami Jamiat-i-Tuleba
and women wing of the Jamat staged a protest demonstration outside the
press club and deplored the indifferent attitude of the Muslim rulers over the
Workers of the Awami Tehrik, Sunni Tehrik, JUI-F, JUI-S, Shia
Ulema Council and other organisations also staged separate protest
demonstrations outside the Hyderabad press club.
The leaders of various political parties and organizations, while
addressing the rallies, urged the Muslim rulers to raise a strong voice at
international level against Israeli aggression.
Those who spoke on the occasion included Dr Saifur Rehman (JI),
Zahid Mallah and Ayaz Soomro (AT), Khalid Qadri (ST), Maulana Taj
Mohammad Nahiyoon (JUI-F), Allama Kazim Shah Naqvi and Nizamul
Hyderi (Shia Council) and others.
In Jacobabad, the JUI-F and JTI workers took out a rally and staged a
sit-in at DCO chowk. The activists were carrying party flags, banners and
22 IPRI Factfile
placards inscribed with slogans against Israeli attacks on Palestinian territory of
Jamat-i-Islami also took out a rally which started from party office and
after marching on many roads, reached local press club.
In Khairpur, AT activists, led by Abdul Razzaq Chang took out a
procession in Faiz Gunj and staged demonstration at main Chowk of the
town. The speakers condemned Israeli attack on Palestine and appealed the
world community to pressure Israel to stop such attacks.
In Shikarpur, activists of the Imamia Students Organization took out
a rally followed by demonstration at Lakhi Gate Tower Chowk. The rally was
led by ISO divisional president Fida Larik who, while addressing the rally,
condemned Israeli air attacks on Palestine and termed it an act of terrorism
against Muslim countries.
In Mirpurkhas, a protest rally was taken out from Madina Masjid on
the call of the Ulema Action Committee. The protesters carried banners and
placards and raised slogans against Israel, USA and India.
They marched on the main roads and reached Market Chowk where
speakers condemned Israeli attacks on Palestine in which hundreds of
innocent people including children and women were killed.
They said that USA was also involved in the attacks and was fully
supporting Israel while hatching conspiracy to occupy Muslim countries
gradually. They also burnt the effigy of Indian Prime Minister. They asked the
Muslims to unite to face the challenges of anti-Muslim conspiracies.
In Larkana, JUI-F workers took a rally to condemn Israeli air strikes
The participants, carrying party flags and chanting slogans, emerged
from the Madressa Ishatul Quran and marched on different roads before
reaching Jinnah Bagh.
Addressing the gathering, Senator Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro,
criticised attacks on Palestinian people and killing of innocent people. He
alleged that United States was fully supporting these attacks and murdering
innocent people. He urged Muslims to shun differences and fight against
Israel. Expressing solidarity with them, he said that JUI would stand by the
Palestinians in difficult time.
He said it was time for Muslim countries to unite under one flag and
establish a forum identical to the UNO to counter such attacks against Muslim
countries in the world. He said India and US had planned to attack Pakistan
and that was why ‘a drama’ of Mumbai carnage was staged. He accused India
and the US for executing this plan by hiring some terrorists.
The activists of Jafria Students Organisation also staged a protest rally
after Friday prayers.
Allama Mushtaque Hussain Mashhadi and Maulana Ghulam Abbas
Bhutto led the protest. They criticized Muslim countries for what they called
Israeli Assault on Gaza 23
their criminal silence over the bombardment on Palestinian civilians by the
They urged Muslim countries to stand up against the Israel aggression.
The protestors later burnt the flags of US and Israel and dispersed peacefully.
In Sukkur, two separate protest rallies were taken out against killing of
innocent Palestinians by the Israeli forces in Gaza strip.
Scores of JUI workers, led by Maulana Abdul Haq Mahar, took to the
streets from Madrassa Manzil Gah while shouting slogans against Israel and
USA marched on the main roads of the city and reached at the clock tower,
where they staged a demonstration. A Similar protest rally of Jamiat Ulema-e-
Pakistan and led by Mufti Mohammad Ibrahim Qadri and Musharraf
Mehmood Qadri emerged from Ghousia Mosque and after marching on the
main thoroughfares of the city, reached at clock tower Chowk and staged a
Strongly slamming Israel for killing innocent Palestinians, the JUP
leaders termed USA and UN responsible for the genocide of Muslims
throughout the world. They said that Israel was bombing Palestinians and the
world community has kept a criminal silence.
They demanded of the UNO to approve a strongly-worded resolution
against the Israeli aggression and also demanded of the Pakistan government
to officially condemn Israeli onslaught on innocent Palestinians.
Dawn, January 3, 2009
I SRAELI A TTACK S PLITS G AZA ; T RUCE C ALLS ARE
Israeli troops and tanks, protected by heavy air, sea and artillery fire, sliced
through the center of Gaza on Sunday, taking control of rocket launching
areas and surrounding the main city, as their government rebuffed diplomatic
efforts to end the nine-day assault.
In Gaza, residents faced severe power shortages and other
deprivations and grew increasingly afraid as the reported death toll of
Palestinians passed 500 since the assault began, including 100 said to be
Following a week of constant air raids and high expectations
produced by the days of massing Israeli troops on the border, the first 24
hours of ground combat appeared to have been comparatively restrained.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that governs Gaza, had warned
that Israeli ground troops would find themselves trapped, resulting in
24 IPRI Factfile
The battles so far have been outside urban areas, however, and Israel
reported the death of only one soldier in combat. Four other Israelis, including
civilians, were killed by Gazan shelling since Israel began its assault Dec. 27.
Senior Israeli officials said that the fighting could go on for days, if
not weeks, and that calls for a cease-fire were premature.
Israel aimed its power at Hamas’s fighters and infrastructure and said
its forces had killed several dozen militants, including a senior leader, and
destroyed a smuggling tunnel.
Palestinian officials did not confirm the militants’ deaths, and it was
difficult for foreign news organizations to verify Israel’s claims, because
journalists have been restricted from entering Gaza.
At Shifa, Gaza City’s main hospital, dozens of casualties seen being
brought in over many hours all appeared to be civilians.
Most of the fighting was taking place in northern and eastern Gaza, in
areas not far from the Israeli border. But at least five civilians were killed and
many wounded on Sunday morning when Israeli shells or rockets landed in the
market of Gaza City while people were stocking up on supplies.
Israel has said it wants to end Hamas’s will or ability to shoot rockets
at civilians in southern Israel, which Hamas has been doing for years, terrifying
tens of thousands of inhabitants. Recent rocket attacks have been of longer
range and greater power, suggesting that Hamas has been successfully arming
itself in recent months, and adding urgency to Israel’s efforts to stop it.
But Israel has not made clear if its goal of ending rocket fire would
include ending Hamas’s 18-month rule. The rockets continued Sunday, with
some 45 hitting Israel, including the city of Sderot, where Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg of New York was visiting. He was rushed to a safe area when the
alert sounded. Across southern Israel, six people were reported to have minor
Rage in the Arab and Muslim worlds intensified over Israel’s war, with
demonstrations in recent days in Turkey and Lebanon as well as in a number
of European capitals. The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian
Authority, which all have diplomatic relations with Israel, condemned the
attacks as disproportionate and called for them to end.
During rock-throwing demonstrations near the Israeli separation
barrier in Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops shot and killed a
Palestinian man, according to an Israeli Army spokeswoman. She said that two
Palestinians had started to climb the barrier and ignored warning shots from
There have been scattered arrests of protesters, including seven Israeli
Arabs, since Israel began its offensive in Gaza on Saturday night.
But the United States placed the onus on Hamas, saying it must stop
the rockets. The European Union, currently headed by the Czech Republic,
Israeli Assault on Gaza 25
was increasingly critical of Israel and urged the Israelis to allow more aid into
Gaza, saying it worried about rising civilian casualties.
As one Israeli official said about efforts to end the operation, “We still
Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that
Mr. Olmert had been constantly on the phone with world leaders and that the
goal of the conversations was to construct a mechanism for a cease-fire.
Mr. Regev said that the point of the fighting was “to reach a situation where
there will be quiet in the south and international support for that quiet.”
In Moscow, President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s office said in a press
statement that he had talked with Mr. Olmert on Sunday night to express
concern about Gaza’s civilians and stressed “the importance of the swiftest
possible cease-fire.” The statement also said Russia, a member of the so-called
quartet of Middle East mediators that also includes the United States, the
European Union and the United Nations, planned to convene a meeting in
Moscow to help “normalize the situation in the region.”
At the United Nations, the United States blocked the Security Council
from issuing a formal statement on Saturday night calling for an immediate
cease-fire, saying there was no indication Hamas would abide by any
The emergency meeting, called by France, was the latest failed attempt
at finding a diplomatic solution at the United Nations. The Security Council
has already met three times since the war began.
Earlier in the week, it discussed a draft resolution submitted by Libya
that would have called for an end to the fighting. The proposal, drafted by
members of the Arab League, was immediately greeted with skepticism by the
United States as anti-Israeli, and never reached a vote.
However, with the arrival of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian
president, and the top foreign ministers for eight Arab nations in New York
on Monday, United Nations officials say they expect to see increasing pressure
on the Security Council to take some sort of action. The president of France,
Nicolas Sarkozy, was expected in the Middle East on Monday to work on a
cease-fire solution. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a planned trip
to China to focus on Gaza.
President-elect Barack Obama continued to defer publicly to the Bush
administration after the ground campaign began. Brooke Anderson, Mr.
Obama’s chief national security spokeswoman, said Saturday that the
president-elect was closely monitoring the situation in Gaza, but that “There is
one president at a time, and we intend to respect that.”
Some officials here and abroad began exploring ways to keep Hamas
from rearming as it has through smuggler tunnels in the Sinai. Some were
suggesting a huge concrete underground wall, and others suggested heavily
armed international monitors.
26 IPRI Factfile
In a telephone briefing for a group of foreign correspondents, a senior
Israeli military official said that Israeli troops would hold the areas they had
taken in Gaza at least for the duration of the operation, to prevent militants
from returning to fire rockets. “We don’t plan to retake the Gaza Strip, but
there are several places we control now and will control later,” he said. “If it
will be needed, we are prepared to stay there.”
The senior military official said there had been limited man-to-man
combat so far, and that Hamas was fighting back mostly with mortars and
Reliable reports on the fighting, death toll and civilian situation in
Gaza were scarce, since Israel has barred foreign journalists from entering
Gaza for most of the past two months and every day since the war began,
despite an Israeli Supreme Court order that it permit a pool of foreign
At the same time, Israel has mounted a public relations blitz to explain
its war to the world, bringing in dozens of officials as spokesmen in Jerusalem,
Tel Aviv and along the border area. Numerous reporters have been driving
along the Israeli-Gaza border straining to see events through binoculars and
television camera lenses. Drones and warplanes have come and gone
Israel pulled its settlers and soldiers out of Gaza in 2005 but
maintained control of its borders, sea and airspace. Hamas shot rockets at
Israel soon after its departure. Hamas leaders went on to win legislative
elections and, in June 2007, to throw out their Fatah rivals and govern Gaza,
an area of 1.5 million people.
Israel imposed an economic blockade, supported by much of the
West and parts of the Arab world, because Hamas refused to recognize Israel,
renounce violence against it or accept previous Palestinian agreements with
Israel. Still, many rights groups considered the boycott inappropriate, a
collective punishment of an area that Israel had occupied for four decades.
Hamas has been seeking an opening of its commercial passages to
Israel to build the economy. Israel and others have expressed fear that such an
opening would only improve Hamas’s standing among its people.
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, January 4, 2009
B LOOD AND T ERROR IN G AZA
The world is witnessing a replay of Israel’s 34-day war with Hezbollah in
Lebanon in 2006, although with certain variations. As then, so now, the UN
has been deactivated, because the US has frustrated every attempt by the other
Four to agree on a ceasefire resolution. Clearly, the loss of hundreds of lives in
Israeli Assault on Gaza 27
Gaza has not been cause for universal dismay and action. As in 2006, so now,
the UN is giving the Israeli terror machine time to kill as many civilians as
possible. In 2006, when the Israeli air force destroyed Lebanon’s infrastructure
in the name of the war on terrorists, so now Israel’s forces are reducing the
Gaza Strip to rubble to punish Hamas ‘terrorists’. Just as in 2006, Israel
bombed such ‘military targets’ as factories and the Qana refugee camp, so now
the Israeli air force is unleashing hell on homes and mosques to ‘defend’ itself,
as President George Bush and president-elect Barack Obama would have us
believe. But there is one major difference between 2006 and 2009: Hamas is
not Hezbollah. Based in another country, Hezbollah was better placed to
organize, train and arm its soldiers; Hamas has been operating in an occupied
zone, with severe limitations on its finances and training facilities. For that
reason, Hamas is unlikely to give Israel the punishment and humiliation which
Hezbollah inflicted on it.
The ground assault that began on Saturday has added to the civilian
population’s agony: hospitals are without electricity and running water; food
and medical supplies, already restricted because of a year of blockade, are
running out; and the death toll has crossed 500, while the number of injured is
a matter of opinion. The massacre is likely to continue because Israel’s prime
minister and defense minister have indicated that the assault would last for
quite some time. In brief, in a small strip of land, Israeli soldiers are practicing
what invading hordes have done through history on a wider scale.
Strangely enough those who support Israeli actions say they want to
win the hearts and minds of Muslims. Gaza’s blood-drenched streets are
certainly not the best way of doing so. The Taliban hardly need to hone their
brainwashing techniques, because America and the world powers are doing an
excellent job for them. The images being watched on television live by millions
would move any heart, except those immune to human suffering. The fire and
smoke which have enveloped Gaza’s skies serve as a better recruitment poster
for the Taliban than any sermons in mosques or rallying cries emanating from
Al Qaeda cells. By proudly displaying heaps of Palestinian bodies, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak stands an excellent chance of winning next month’s
Dawn, January 6, 2009
W HY D O THEY H ATE THE W EST SO M UCH , W E WILL A SK
So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty
civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not
bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in "purity of arms".
But why should we be surprised?
28 IPRI Factfile
Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of
them children and women – in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700
Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana
massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children,
at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from
their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter
crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion,
almost all of them civilians?
What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents
and prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the old
lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties. "Israel makes
every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties," yet another Israeli
ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre. And every president
and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse to avoid a
ceasefire has the blood of last night's butchery on their hands. Had George
Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours earlier,
those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be alive.
What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war
crime be too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity
if it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I'm afraid, it was. After
covering so many mass murders by the armies of the Middle East – by Syrian
troops, by Iraqi troops, by Iranian troops, by Israeli troops – I suppose
cynicism should be my reaction. But Israel claims it is fighting our war against
"international terror". The Israelis claim they are fighting in Gaza for us, for
our Western ideals, for our security, for our safety, by our standards. And so
we are also complicit in the savagery now being visited upon Gaza.
I've reported the excuses the Israeli army has served up in the past for
these outrages. Since they may well be reheated in the coming hours, here are
some of them: that the Palestinians killed their own refugees, that the
Palestinians dug up bodies from cemeteries and planted them in the ruins, that
ultimately the Palestinians are to blame because they supported an armed
faction, or because armed Palestinians deliberately used the innocent refugees
The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel's right-wing
Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel's own commission of
inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing. When Israel was
blamed, Menachem Begin's government accused the world of a blood libel.
After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996, the
Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the base. It was
a lie. The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 – a war started when Hizbollah
captured two Israeli soldiers on the border – were simply dismissed as the
responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies of children killed in a
second Qana massacre may have been taken from a graveyard. It was another
Israeli Assault on Gaza 29
lie. The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The people of the village were
ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were then attacked by an Israeli
gunship. The refugees took their children and stood them around the truck in
which they were travelling so that Israeli pilots would see they were innocents.
Then the Israeli helicopter mowed them down at close range. Only two
survived, by playing dead. Israel didn't even apologise.
Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance
carrying civilians from a neighbouring village – again after they were ordered
to leave by Israel – and killed three children and two women. The Israelis
claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was untrue. I covered
all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to the survivors. So did a
number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was that most slanderous of
libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic.
And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all
these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie –
heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime –
and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost
certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely
have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the
world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first
on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and
again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more
Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around
Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week,
thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin
helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that
was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale. This recalls not a normal
Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the
1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and
takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to
do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not
know the answer.
Robert Fisk, Independent, January 7, 2009
B ROWN C ALLS FOR I NTERNATIONAL A CTION
OVER G AZA C RISIS
Gordon Brown intensified the pressure on Israel last night to pull out of Gaza,
warning that the Middle East faced its "darkest moment" following the strike
on the United Nations school.
30 IPRI Factfile
The Prime Minister insisted: "I am hopeful that the basis on which an
immediate ceasefire can take place can be found."
He called for international action to open the crossings into Gaza and
for the tunnels from Egypt that Israel says are used to smuggle weapons and
ammunition to be closed.
He also urged a new agreement to guarantee "security to both the
Palestinian people and the Israeli people".
Mr Brown said: "That is the basis on which I believe an immediate
and sustainable ceasefire can happen."
With the crisis being discussed in the United Nations, the Prime
Minister said proposals for ending the bloodshed in the Gaza strip were being
circulated among world leaders. He said he had discussed the situation with
Egypt and Turkey.
Deploring the deaths in the UN school, he said: "This is a
humanitarian crisis. This is the darkest moment yet for the Middle East and it
affects the whole world.
"It's because of that that we must get humanitarian aid in, as we are
"And it's also because of the violence of war that we must work as
hard as possible in the next few hours and days if necessary so there is an
immediate and sustainable ceasefire."
William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "These events
demonstrate that the need to secure a ceasefire on both sides and prevent
further loss of life is more urgent than ever."
More than 100 British MPs have signed a statement demanding an
end to the military action by Israel. They are calling for an immediate ceasefire,
an embargo on the supply of military equipment to both sides and urgent
intervention by the international community to end a growing humanitarian
catastrophe which is unfolding.
Richard Burden, Chairman of the Britain-Palestine All Party
Parliamentary Group, said: "The continuing slaughter in Gaza is an outrage.
The international community has to make clear that respecting its calls for a
ceasefire is not simply an optional extra for those launching attacks on either
Nigel Morris, Independent, January 7, 2009
Israeli Assault on Gaza 31
M ASSACRE OF I NNOCENTS AS UN S CHOOL IS S HELLED
Obama Breaks Silence to Express Deep Concern over Civilian
Hundreds of Palestinians had fled their homes for the refuge of the al-
Fakhoura school, hoping the blue and white flag of the UN flying over the
impromptu shelter would protect them from the Israeli onslaught. The UN
had even given the Israeli army the co-ordinates for the building to spare it
from the shells and air strikes raining down on the Gaza strip. But yesterday
afternoon tank shells exploded outside the school, sending shrapnel into the
crowds, killing at least 40 and wounding another 55.
It was the worst confirmed bloodshed of Israel's attack on Gaza and
sparked outrage and condemnation around the globe, with the US President-
elect Barack Obama breaking his 11-day silence, the UN Secretary Ban Ki-
moon calling the incident "totally unacceptable" and Gordon Brown
describing the conflict as "the darkest moment yet for the Middle East".
Within hours of the strike on the school, with the Palestinian death
toll topping 600 and pressure mounting on Israel to stop its crushing military
campaign, Egypt proposed an immediate ceasefire and talks with Israel and
Hamas on a long-term settlement, including an end to the Gaza blockade.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was in Cairo on the latest stop
of a two-day tour of the Middle East, said that his Egyptian counterpart,
Hosni Mubarak, was inviting "notably the Israeli side to discuss the issue of
border security without delay".
Arriving in New York for an emergency UN Security Council
meeting, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, welcomed the statement by
Mr Mubarak saying it "underlined the fast-moving nature of events". The
world, Mr Miliband told the Council, was witnessing in Gaza, "the horror of
war piled upon months of deprivation".
At the meeting, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas voiced
support for the Sarkozy-Mubarak ceasefire initiative. The killings at the school
in Gaza confirmed the "heinous crime being committed against our people,"
Israel had yet to respond to the initiative last night. However, a
statement was issued late in the evening anncouncing Israel's willingness to set
up a "humanitarian corridor" into Gaza for the safe delivery of emergency
supplies "to prevent a humanitarian crisis" there.
The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said Washington backed
Mr Mubarak's ceasefire proposal. "We need urgently to conclude a ceasefire
that can endure and that can bring real security," she told the Security Council.
"In this regard we are pleased by and wish to commend the statement of the
President of Egypt and to follow up on that initiative."
32 IPRI Factfile
With Israeli troops moving further south into the cities of one of the
world's most crowded territories, the Palestinian death toll is beginning to rival
that in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Yesterday, the UN demanded an
immediate independent investigation into the latest school killings.
The emergency room of northern Gaza's Kamal Adwan hospital was
packed to overflowing after the carnage. "We have become quite used to
noises of explosions but then they started bringing in all those who had been
caught in the attack and it was a very bad sight," Dr Bassam Abu Warda told
"It was terrible, really terrible. We are living at a very difficult time but
even as doctors it is always hard to see children being hurt and we had a lot of
them today and we are not really equipped to deal with this type of emergency
Majed Hamdan, a photographer, said he rushed to the scene shortly
after the attacks, which happened just as many of the refugees had ventured
outside for fresh air. "I saw women and men – parents – slapping their faces in
grief, screaming, some of them collapsed to the floor," he said. "They knew
their children were dead."
Gruesome footage on Hamas's al-Aqsa TV showed medics starting to
unload the bodies of men who had been stacked up in the back of an
ambulance, three high, and were dragged out without stretchers. The blood-
caked stumps of one man's legs bumped along the ground as he was pulled
from the ambulance.
Responding to criticism of its hit on the school in the Jabalya refugee
camp, the Israeli military accused Hamas of "using civilians as human shields".
It said that the results of its "initial inquiry" was that mortar shells had been
fired from the school at forces operating in the area and that, "in response to
the incoming enemy fire, the forces returned mortar fire", and said that this
was not the first time Hamas had fired mortars and rockets from UNRWA
school premises in Gaza. Two Hamas militants, Imad Abu Askar and Hasan
Abu Askar, were among the dead, the army said.
John Ging, the operations director for the UN Relief and Works
Agency, which runs the school, expressed his outrage. "Those in the school
were all families seeking refuge," he said. "There's nowhere safe in Gaza.
Everyone here is terrorised and traumatised ... I am appealing to political
leaders to get their act together and stop this."
Ahead of the Security Council session, there were signs of tension
between the White House and the US State Department. "We would like an
immediate ceasefire, absolutely," a department spokesman, Sean McCormack,
told reporters before Ms Rice's departure for New York. "An immediate
ceasefire that is durable, sustainable and not time-limited." Minutes later, the
White House said this did not represent a shift in the US position.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 33
Veering away from his mantra of "one president at a time", Mr
Obama said "the loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep
concern for me." Gordon Brown said: "This is a humanitarian crisis. This is
the darkest moment yet for the Middle East and it affects the whole world."
Al-Qai'da's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, made an internet
appeal for Muslims to "hit the interests of Zionists and Crusaders wherever
and whichever way you can".
While the school killings represented the single biggest loss of life
since the Israeli offensive began on 27 December, details are emerging of
other incidents involving high numbers of civilian casualties. An Israeli human
rights agency, B'Tselem, and the UN's Office for the Co-ordination for
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) independently released reports that more than
30 members of the same extended family had been killed on Monday during
the shelling of a building in the northern Zeitoun district of Gaza City.
With foreign journalists currently prevented from entering Gaza and
with mobile telephone use in Gaza intermittent, it is virtually impossible to
verify details of all casualties.
In Israel, the Hamas rockets have continued to land. At least five hit
Israeli soil yesterday, including one in Gadera, 28km (17 miles) from Tel Aviv.
A three-month-old baby was hurt.
The Israel Defence Forces says seven Israeli soldiers have died during
the offensive: one during the air strikes, three more since the ground invasion
began and, late on Monday, three were killed and another 24 wounded by a
tank shell in a friendly fire incident.
Donald Macintyre & Kim Sengupta, Independent, January 7, 2009
UN R ESOLUTION 1860
The resolution adopted Thursday night by the United Nations Security
Council calls on Israel to cease fire immediately, but does not mention Hamas.
Kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is also not mentioned.
Here are the nine clauses of Resolution 1860 calling for a ceasefire in
1. The Security Council stresses the urgency of and calls for an
immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full
withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.
2. The Security Council calls for the unimpeded provision and
distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of
food, fuel and medical treatment.
34 IPRI Factfile
3. The Security Council welcomes the initiatives aimed at creating and
opening humanitarian corridors and other mechanisms for the
sustained delivery of humanitarian aid.
4. The Security Council calls on member states to support international
efforts to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza,
including through urgently needed additional contributions to
UNWRA and through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee.
5. The Security Council condemns all violence and hostilities directed
against civilians and all acts of terrorist.
6. The Security Council calls upon member states to intensify efforts to
provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a
durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in
arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained reopening of
crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement
and Access between the Palestinian Authority; and in this regard,
welcomes the Egyptian imitative, and other regional and international
efforts that are underway.
7. The Security Council encourages tangible steps towards intra-
Palestinian reconciliation including in support of mediation efforts of
Egypt and the League of Arab States as expressed in the 26
November 2008 resolution, and consistent with Security Council
Resolution 1850 (2008) and other relevant resolutions.
8. The Security Council calls for renewed and urgent efforts by the
parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive
peace based on the vision of a region where two democratic states,
Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and
recognized borders, as envisaged in Security Council Resolution 1850
(2008), and recalls also the important of the Arab Peace Initiative.
9. The Security Council welcomes the Quartet's consideration, in
consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow
January 9, 2009
T HE G AZA O NSLAUGHT WILL I MPACT ON THE A RAB W ORLD
The immediate consequences of the Israeli assault on Gaza are being felt
primarily by the Palestinians in Gaza, but its political shockwaves will be felt
throughout the Arab world, in forms that cannot be easily predicted today.
The Israeli attempt to inflict patrie-cide - the murder of a people and state - on
Gaza emphasizes a series of transformational trends that have been clear
throughout the Arab region for the past quarter-century.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 35
The most important trend is the reconfiguration of power, legitimacy
and activism in the modern Arab state. As governments in Arab states
effectively ignore what is happening in Gaza - to judge by their political
immobility - we will continue to witness the thinning impact, control and even
legitimacy of many of those regimes. We will also continue to see the rise of
non-state actors who become so strong and credible that they should be called
Street demonstrations by angry Arabs no longer have political
significance because the fear, rage, and desire for action by ordinary men and
women throughout the Middle East have been mobilized by a combination of
Islamist and tribal movements that now form the center of gravity of Arab
political identity - in those expanding spaces that are not dominated by the
modern Arab police state.
Hizbullah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Muqtada Sadr's
movement in Iraq and others are some leading examples of this. Hamas in
Gaza is probably the most significant, because it is part of the core Palestinian-
Israeli conflict that has expanded into a wider Arab-Israeli conflict. The
conflict forms a sacred landscape that incorporates Jerusalem, which is holy to
all Muslims and Arabs, Christians included; and, in the past two years, Gaza is
the only place in the history of the conflict where Palestinians have had a brief
opportunity to establish a sovereign state let of sorts - with their own
institutions and security operations, largely free from direct Israeli attacks or
controls, or hindrances from fellow Arabs.
The coming weeks will reveal what is happening in the battles in
Gaza, and the political ramifications to follow. What is already obvious,
though, is that Gaza represents the first time that Palestinians who controlled
their own society have decided to make a stand against Israel's repeated
attempts to kill, occupy, starve, and destroy them as a coherent society.
The picture is not pretty in any of its dimensions - the internal Fatah-
Hamas fighting among Palestinians in 2007-2008, the mutual attacks between
Hamas and other Palestinians and Israel, the insolvency of the Israeli
negotiations with the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the
stunning immobility of the Arab governments and leaders, or the world's
complicit inattention to the Israeli attempt to starve and strangulate Gaza's
population in the past two years, since Hamas won the parliamentary elections
in January 2006.
Most of this is not new. The one and only truly new phenomenon
today is that several thousand armed and trained Palestinians under the
command of Hamas and smaller resistance groups have taken a stand in their
homeland. They have shown that they are prepared to fight to the death to
defend themselves against Israel's might and America's explicit support for
36 IPRI Factfile
The 60-year-old intensifying Israeli assault on the people and land of
Palestine has crossed so many thresholds that it has finally started to elicit
reactions from many quarters of the Arab world who refuse to acquiesce in
their own continued humiliation, colonization, marginalization, or - in the
worst cases such as Gaza today - their own extermination.
A majority of Arabs and others around the world sympathize with
Hamas and the Palestinian people - but they are helpless to do anything other
than march in solidarity. Most Arab and foreign governments fear movements
like Hamas that mobilize masses of citizens, take charge of their own destiny,
and openly resist and confront the American-backed power structures around
How this war ends will have an enormous impact on trends in the
region. If Hamas emerges standing on its feet, with an internationally
monitored cease-fire that stops attacks by both sides and also reopens Gaza's
borders to normal economic activity, this will be seen as a victory for Hamas.
It will also bolster the popularity of the Hizbullah-Hamas model of armed
resistance predicated on the will and capacity to fight a stronger foe.
Israel historically has never been able to come to terms with
Palestinian nationalism. It has never seen the Palestinians as people who
should enjoy the same quality of life and national rights as Jews, Zionists, and
Israelis. In Gaza, we see the first example of assertive Palestinians operating
on sovereign Palestinian soil. They have elicited an Israeli attempt at patrie-
cide, and widespread popular support throughout the Arab region. Both of
those trends will strengthen Islamist-nationalist movements and further
degrade some existing Arab state structures.
Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, January 9, 2009
S LAUGHTER IN G AZA
What precisely are Israel’s war aims in Gaza? Is the massacre it unleashed there
designed simply to stop the rocket attacks by Hamas?
Or is its real aim the elimination of Hamas as a power in Gaza with all
that it would entail? The result would be that its sole negotiating partner would
be Mahmoud Abbas on the West Bank, enfeebled, not strengthened by
Hamas’ ouster, and the wreckage of the remnants of the peace process. The
military had been preparing for the attack for a year. The US is complicit in all
Hamas’ proneness to tactical mistakes and to excess is not doubted.
But that stems from exasperation at the economic boycott and border closing
it has been facing all along. It was prepared to play a constructive role, but that
was denied to it. Quite regardless of how the Israel’s military venture ends
Israeli Assault on Gaza 37
Mahmoud Abbas will emerge a diminished man Steven Erlanger of The New
York Times reported from Nablus in the West Bank. “Fury is rising here over
the war in Gaza, as are support for Hamas and anger with the Palestinian
Authority…. Security forces had broken up pro-Hamas demonstrations,
arrested Hamas supporters, confiscated Hamas flags and torn up placards
carrying pro-Hamas slogans.”
Mahmoud Abbas’ term as chairman of the Palestinian Authority
expired yesterday (Jan 9). The Israeli Knesset goes to the polls on Feb 10.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had resigned last year. His foreign minister Tzipi
Livni could not drum up a coalition. Hence, the elections in which Likud’s
hard-line Binyamin Netanyahu will make a strong bid for return to power. The
ruling Kadima needs to show that it can be as tough.
Israel never accepted the poll results which brought Hamas to power
and soon began to contain it forcibly. Having failed, it now seeks to crush it.
On Jan 25, 2006, around 1,073,000 Palestinians went to the polls to
fill 132 seats in the Palestine Legislative Council. Hamas secured an
astonishing 74 seats. Fatah got 45. Hamas’ rallying cry was “For change and
reform”. Its number two candidate Sheikh Mohammed Abu Teir said “Israel
and a future Palestinian state could live side by side.”
On Jan 29 four days after the polls, a communiqué was issued after
the cabinet meeting: “The State of Israel will not negotiate with any Palestinian
administration even part of which is composed of an armed terrorist
organisation that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.”
On July 5, 2006 Israel Radio announced the cabinet’s decision to jail
the Hamas government leaders and destroy the movement’s infrastructure. A
spate of bombing raids began on July 2, 2006, lasting days and pounding the
prime minister’s offices in Ramallah, Gaza and Nablus and the ministries of
the interior and foreign affairs in Gaza.
When Mahmoud Abbas met President George W. Bush in the Oval
Office in the White House in October 2005, the president warned “Don’t
have an election if you think you will lose.”
A Hamas-Fatah coalition agreement arranged through Saudi
mediation fell apart. Hamas controlled Gaza; Fatah controlled the West Bank.
However, Israel immediately announced that it would not deal with the new
government because its programme fell short of the three conditions for
acceptance — recognising Israel, renouncing violence and accepting previous
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was designed, not to promote, but to
wreck the peace process. Its architect the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s
friend and Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas said as much to the Israeli daily
Haaretz on Oct 6, 2004: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the
freezing of the peace process. When you freeze that process, you prevent the
establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion of the
38 IPRI Factfile
refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Disengagement supplies the amount of
formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the
Palestinians.” Formaldehyde is the liquid in which dead bodies are preserved.
A security wall was built around the West Bank to cage in more than
two million Palestinians, an electrified fence having already imprisoned more
than a million in Gaza. More than 1,000 Israeli settlers are added every month
to the thousands in the West Bank. More than 500 checkpoints hinder
Palestinian movement. Palestinians were split into two Bantustan state lets
behind high concrete and electrified fences.
This is the lot of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and 1.5
million in Gaza. There are besides 1.13 million in Israel; 2.8 million in Jordan,
l.64 million in other Arab countries and 0.57 million in the rest of the world. A
nation of 10.1 million dispossessed from its own lands by force and deceit.
The Hamas leader Khalid Mishal’s plea to president-elect Barack
Obama is naïve and pathetic “The start is not good. You commented on
Mumbai but you say nothing of the enemy (Israel). This policy of double
standards should stop”. But Israel is a valued ally.
After his nomination as the Democrats’ candidate, Barack Obama
rushed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and declared
that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain
Secretary of State-designate Hilary Clinton is no less staunch a
supporter of Israel. It is heartening to know that at long last the UN Security
Council has done its job by passing a resolution calling for an “immediate” and
“durable” ceasefire in Gaza. How it is translated into practice remains to be
A.G. Noorani, Dawn, January 10, 2009
F ROM U.S. E XPERTS ON M IDEAST , T HERE ’ S N O S HORTAGE
OF A DVICE
As Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to take over as secretary of state, a coterie
of emissaries who have made the Arab-Israeli conflict their specialty for
decades is pushing for a more assertive and balanced American approach to a
region once again torn by war.
All are members of a close-knit but fractious fraternity that has
dominated the American debate over the Arab-Israeli problem. Each has
written a book assessing the failures of the past and offering prescriptions for
the next president. All agree that with Gaza in flames, the United States needs
to make a renewed push for peace.
But they differ sharply on how best to do that. At the heart of the
debate is whether Washington should continue to embrace Israel as uncritically
Israeli Assault on Gaza 39
as it has during the Bush administration, and should it become as deeply
engaged in the minutiae of peace talks as it did under Bill Clinton.
With Israel intensifying its assault against Hamas militants in Gaza,
the experts argue, the next administration should act as a broker between
Israel and the Palestinians, but it should avoid squandering American influence
by becoming too heavily vested in a single solution.
“We’ve allowed our special relationship with Israel to become
exclusive,” said Aaron David Miller, who advised several administrations on
the Middle East. “We acquiesced in too many bad Israeli ideas; we road-tested
every idea with Israel first.”
Those dispensing the advice — Mr. Miller, Dennis B. Ross, Martin S.
Indyk and Daniel C. Kurtzer — are the same Middle East hands who advised
Mr. Clinton in his long, futile pursuit of a peace agreement between the Israelis
and the Palestinians.
With some of them in line to work for Mrs. Clinton, their rivalries,
frustrations and ambitions are playing out in full view. Mrs. Clinton, of course,
is hardly an empty vessel on the Middle East. She brings her own views and
experience, stemming from her years as first lady, when she immersed herself
in Mr. Clinton’s peacemaking efforts and was criticized for appearing to tilt
toward Palestinian interests. Later, as a New York senator, she honed a
reputation as a champion of Israel.
People who know Mrs. Clinton say she is eager to recruit a fresh face
to handle the Arab-Israeli issue, perhaps reaching beyond the circle of Middle
East stalwarts. Still, in the debates playing out on cable talk shows and in
opinion columns, the discussion keeps coming back to members of this group,
all of whom are Jewish and have collectively worked for 5 presidents and 10
secretaries of state.
They bring three decades of experience in one of the most politically
booby-trapped parts of the world. But they have been sidelined for much of
the Bush presidency, which has relegated the Middle East peace process to
Mr. Ross, who has been an important player on Middle East issues
since the Reagan administration, is the most prominent member of the group.
The others have each played a more subordinate role, though Mr. Indyk and
Mr. Kurtzer have both been ambassadors to Israel, and Mr. Miller has advised
six secretaries of state.
Mr. Miller speaks the most freely of the former advisers because he is
the one with virtually no chance of another government job. Mr. Clinton, he
said, was so stung by his public criticism that he refused to talk to him for his
book, “The Much Too Promised Land.” Anyway, he said, Middle East
peacemakers ought to have term limits.
40 IPRI Factfile
But the others are still in the game. Mr. Ross, 60, is expected to
receive a senior post at the State Department, officials said, directing policy on
Iran and advising on the rest of the Middle East.
Mr. Kurtzer, who was also ambassador to Egypt, has been an adviser
to Barack Obama and is mentioned as a possible special envoy for Arab-Israeli
talks. So is Mr. Indyk, who advised Mrs. Clinton during her presidential
campaign — though his prospects for a job seem slim.
Mr. Miller’s heroes are Henry A. Kissinger and James A. Baker III,
secretaries of state who he says dealt with Israel in a tough but fair manner. He
argues that Mr. Clinton’s embrace of Israeli leaders, while well intentioned,
undermined the ability of the United States to seal a deal with the Palestinians.
Nonsense, says Mr. Indyk, who argues that Washington’s close relationship
with Israel is crucial because it assures the Palestinians and other Arabs that
the United States has leverage with Israel.
“The school of beating up on Israel is fundamentally wrong because it
just causes Israel to dig in its heels,” said Mr. Indyk, whose book, “Innocent
Abroad,” praises Mr. Clinton for his unflagging commitment to a deal but is
unsparing about the flaws in his approach.
Mr. Clinton, he wrote, became too immersed in details, losing sight of
the big picture. His determination to sign a deal before he left office in 2001
was unrealistic and even counterproductive, Mr. Indyk said, because neither
the Israelis nor the Palestinians felt the same pressure.
While Mr. Indyk and his colleagues believe the next president needs to
push for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he said, the United States will
have to go about it in a more realistic way.
“It will need to be a way that is less naïve in its assumptions, more
modest in its ambitions, more humble in its approach and more imaginative in
its anticipation of what can go wrong,” he said.
Mr. Kurtzer, who like Mr. Miller was a deputy negotiator in the
Clinton White House, argued that Mr. Clinton was less disciplined or strategic
than his predecessor, the first President Bush. The White House, he said, did
not adequately prepare for the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000,
which contributed to the collapse of the meeting without an agreement after
two weeks. The United States also did not reach out enough to Arab countries,
Mr. Kurtzer said in his book, “Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace,” which he
wrote with Scott B. Lasensky.
Some of the tension between the advisers is personal. During the
Clinton administration, friends of Mr. Kurtzer and Mr. Miller say, the two
chafed at being subordinate to Mr. Ross, a tall, self-confident diplomat with
keen political instincts.
The criticism of Mr. Clinton is delivered in sorrow rather than anger.
After all, Mr. Clinton burnished the reputations of these men. All landed
Israeli Assault on Gaza 41
comfortable perches at think tanks or universities, not to mention book
contracts. Mr. Ross’s book, “The Missing Peace,” was published in 2004.
For all their differences, the advisers agree on one thing: the
disengagement from Israeli-Palestinian issues that President Bush practiced in
his first term was a failure. The Obama administration, they said, will have
little choice but to dive into the issue. But Mrs. Clinton faces a rough ride, Mr.
Indyk said, because “the Gaza crisis has so weakened the hands of those who
would make peace.”
Mark Landler, New York Times, January 12, 2009
U NANIMOUS R ESOLUTION AGAINST I SRAELI A GGRESSION
This House [Pakistan National Assembly] strongly condemns the Israeli
aggression on Gaza which has resulted in the death of more than 900
Palestinians and injuring over 3800, mostly civilians. The Israeli military
offensive and continued siege of Gaza are in contravention of the international
law and the international humanitarian law and are an affront to the
conscience of the international community.
Pakistan urges the international community to play its role for early
cessation of Israeli atrocities on the Palestinian people in Gaza,
implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860 of 8
January 2009, and free flow of humanitarian assistance to the affected people.
This House unanimously urges all the parties to keep open the
crossings leading to Gaza, including Rafah Crossing, to ensure free and
unhindered flow of humanitarian assistance to the affected people of Gaza.
We also strongly condemn the unwarranted attacks on the aid convoys by the
Israeli armed forces.
This House expresses its full solidarity and complete sympathy with
the people of Gaza who continue to suffer under the Israeli suppression.
We also renew Pakistan’s resolve on supporting the Palestinian cause,
the fundamental elements of which include total withdrawal of Israel from
occupied Arab territories including Jerusalem; the restitution of the inalienable
rights of the Palestinian people; establishment of an independent homeland,
with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, and right of return of refugees.
The National Assembly also reiterates the resolve of the people of
Pakistan for continued support to the Palestinian people in their just struggle
for self determination and in accordance with the UN Security Resolutions 242
and 338, leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian homeland.
This House also urges upon the Government to pursue the matter in OIC, &
provide humanitarian aid & medical assistance.
National Assembly of Pakistan, January 12, 2009
42 IPRI Factfile
UN R IGHTS B ODY W EIGHS R ESOLUTION C ONDEMNING
The top U.N. rights body is considering a resolution condemning Israel's
military offensive in Gaza.
A draft resolution before the Human Rights Council's 47 members
says the offensive has "resulted in massive violations of human rights of the
The resolution sponsored by Cuba, Egypt and Pakistan also accuses
Israel of "systematic destruction of Palestinian infrastructure" and of targeting
civilians and medical facilities.
Some 870 Palestinians have died since Israel launched its military
offensive on Dec. 27 in response to Hamas rocket attacks.
The resolution being considered in Geneva Monday urges an end to
the rocket attacks against Israel but mentions neither Hamas nor violations of
Israeli civilians' rights.
Jakarta Post, January 1, 2009
L EBANESE M INISTER C RITICIZES A RAB D IVISION FOR
W EAKNESS IN R ESISTANCE AGAINST I SRAEL
Lebanese Information Minister Tareq Mitri criticized on Monday that one of
the reasons for Arab weakness in resistance against Israel is that they are
divided, local TL television reported.
"This division is increasing in the balance of power between Israel and the
Palestinian resistance," Mitri was quoted in an interview with the TV channel.
He, however, ruled out the possibility of implementing UN Resolution 1860
without the approval of Hamas movement.
The Resolution 1860 calls for a ceasefire in Gaza following a devastating
Israeli operation which has killed over 900 people and wounded 4000 others
since the beginning of the Israeli offensive on Gaza on Dec. 27, 2008.
Meanwhile, "there is a Lebanese consensus between all parties to avoid
Lebanon to become a base for launching rockets" on Israel, Mitri added.
Last Thursday, three Katyusha rockets were fired from southern Lebanon
into northern Israel, prompting an Israeli response by shelling back. Radical
Palestinian factions were accused of being behind the attack.
China View, January 12, 2009
Israeli Assault on Gaza 43
I SRAEL U SING N ASTY W EAPONS IN G AZA
Israel is testing a new "extremely nasty" type of weapon in Gaza, two medics
said as they returned home to Norway after spending 10 days working at a
hospital in the war-torn Palestinian territory.
"There's a very strong suspicion I think that Gaza is now being used
as a test laboratory for new weapons," medics said at Oslo's Gardermoen
airport, commenting on the kinds of injuries they saw while working at the
Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
The two medics, who were sent into the war zone by the pro-
Palestinian aid organisation NORWAC on December 31, said they had seen
clear signs that Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME), an experimental kind
of explosive, were being used in Gaza.
"This is a new generation of very powerful small explosives that
detonates with an extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of
five to 10 meters," they said.
"We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb
because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen
a number of very brutal amputations without shrapnel injuries which we
strongly suspect must have been caused by the DIME weapons," he said.
The weapon "causes the tissue to be torn from the flesh. It looks very
different (from a shrapnel injury). I have seen and treated a lot of different
injuries for the last 30 years in different war zones, and this looks completely
"If you are in the immediate (vicinity of) a DIME weapon, it's like
your legs get torn off. It's an enormous pressure wave and there is no
shrapnel," he explained.
Mr. Gilbert also accused Israel of having used the weapon in the 2006
Lebanon war and previously in Gaza, and referred to studies showing wounds
from the explosive could cause lethal forms of cancer within just four to six
"Israel should disclose what weapons they use and the international
community should make an investigation," he said, stressing the amount of
damage apparently caused by the new form of explosive.
"We are not soft-skinned when it comes to war injuries, but these
amputations are really extremely nasty and for many of the patients not
survivable," he said.
News, January 13, 2009
44 IPRI Factfile
I SRAEL I NTENSIFIES M ILITARY O FFENSIVE IN P OPULATED
A REAS OF G AZA
The Israeli army intensified on Tuesday its air and ground military offensive
on the Gaza Strip for 18th successive day, where its ground forces carried out
short and quick incursions into populated areas.
Palestinian witnesses and local radio stations said that the Israeli army
on Tuesday had intensified its ground, air and sea strikes on houses and empty
areas around Gaza city and in northern Gaza Strip.
They added that dozens of houses were destroyed as several tanks and
armored vehicles carried out quick and short ground incursions into several
areas surrounding Gaza City, leaving more people killed and wounded.
Gaza emergency chief Mo'aweya Hassanein told reporters that the death toll
since the beginning of the Israeli offensive has hit to 936 Palestinians and
4,280 have been wounded, adding only on Tuesday 19 were killed.
Radio stations quoted witnesses as saying that the Israeli army sent
several tanks into more populated areas in Gaza City to drag the militants and
fight with them, adding after few hours of the incursion, the tanks pull back.
One resident recognizing himself as Ahmed told al-Sha'b, the radio
station of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) that the
aim of sending tanks into populated areas is to drag militants to gun battles
and exhaust the armed resistance.
He added that the Israeli tanks pull back to the stations and posts they
have seized when the ground operation into Gaza began ten days ago.
“The rescue crews managed to find six bodies of people north of
Gaza city after the Israeli army tanks left the area," said Hassanein, without
saying whether the six were militants or civilians.
He also said that four more people were killed on Tuesday and they
were taken to Shifa Hospital, adding that they were from southern Gaza Strip
and were found after the Israeli army ground forces attacked the area and left
in the morning.
He added that nine more Palestinians were killed in a series of air
strikes and tanks shelling on different areas in northern, central and southern
Palestinian witnesses said that the Israeli army destroyed a house and a
sports club in central Gaza Strip, adding in spite of Tuesday's three-hour
humanitarian ceasefire, the Israeli army continued strikes.
Palestinian residents in Gaza said that they witnessed the fiercest and
most violent gun battles and armed confrontations between Israeli soldiers and
Gaza militants since the beginning of the aggression.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 45
A health ministry statement said that among the Palestinians were
killed since the beginning of the offensive on Dec. 27, which is 936, there are
292 children and 75 women.
It added that 13 Palestinian paramedics were killed as they were doing
their rescue job.
China View, January 13, 2009
I SRAEL I NTENSIFIES B LOODY C AMPAIGN
Israeli tanks punched their way towards Gaza City on Monday in some of the
heaviest clashes of the war as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to hit
Hamas with an ‘iron fist’ unless it stopped firing rockets.
A defiant Hamas meanwhile said it was closer than ever to victory
after 17 days of conflict which have so far left more than 900 Palestinians dead
but not halted the Islamists’ targeting of southern Israel with makeshift
Infantry units, bolstered by thousands of newly-deployed reservists,
battled Hamas gunmen across the region as Olmert insisted Israel was
achieving the objectives of Operation Cast Lead.
“We want to end the operation when the two conditions we have
demanded are met: ending the rocket fire and stopping Hamas’s rearmament.
If these two conditions are met, we will end our operation in Gaza,” Olmert
said in a speech in the southern town of Ashkelon.
“Anything else will meet the iron fist of the Israeli people, who are no
longer ready to tolerate the Qassams (rockets).”
An army spokesman said that close to 30 missiles had been launched
from Gaza during the course of the day, although there were no reports of
Nation, January 13, 2009
55 ANTI -S EMITIC A TTACKS IN F RANCE S INCE G AZA
A TTACK : S TUDENT G ROUP
France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim and Jewish communities, has seen
55 anti-Semitic attacks since the start of Israel’s Gaza offensive, a Jewish
student group said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has appealed for calm and warned that
perpetrators of hate crimes will be severely punished if they try to “transpose”
the Arab-Israeli conflict to France.
46 IPRI Factfile
Raphael Haddad, president of the Jewish Students Union of France,
said on Monday night that his group had registered 55 anti-Semitic attacks
since the start of the Israeli military offensive.
Haddad said the violence was more intense than in 2001 when France
was rocked by the spill-over from the second Palestinian intifada that was
crushed by the Israeli army. He made the comments at a meeting in Paris of
concerned Jewish and Arab groups organized by urban affairs minister Fadela
Amara, who has responsibility for France’s volatile high-immigrant suburbs.
Hafid Bouchefa from a community group in a Paris suburb said
tensions were running high in ethnically-mixed neighborhoods.
“There are young people there who are not thinking things through.
These are the same ones who torched cars during the 2005 riots,” said
Participants at the meeting also said they were worried by mass anti-
Semitic SMS messages and emails making the rounds and agreed to draft a
common appeal urging Jews and Arabs to “live together” in peace.
Three synagogues have been targeted in a week and there have been
huge pro-Palestinian protests in cities across France.
In the latest attack, vandals on Sunday night hurled nine firebombs at
a synagogue north of Paris in Saint-Denis, setting fire to the next-door kosher
Dawn, January 14, 2009
I SRAEL S AYS H AMAS I S D AMAGED , N OT D ESTROYED
Despite heavy air and ground assaults, Israel has yet to cripple the military
wing of Hamas or destroy the group’s ability to launch rockets, Israeli
intelligence officials said on Tuesday, suggesting that Israel’s main goals in the
conflict remain unfulfilled even after more than two weeks of war.
The comments reflected a view among some Israeli officials that any
lasting solution to the conflict would require either a breakthrough diplomatic
accord that heavily restricts Hamas’s military abilities or a deeper ground
assault into urban areas of Gaza, known here as a possible “Phase Three” of
As the conflict entered its 19th day on Wednesday, three rockets fired
from south Lebanon landed outside the town of Kiryat Shmona in northern
Israel, but caused no casualties, the Israeli authorities said. The Israeli military
said it fired back. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets into
Israel. A similar incident last week raised concerns briefly that a second front
had opened in the war. But Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group which fought
Israeli Assault on Gaza 47
a war with Israel in 2006, quickly sought to assure the Lebanese government
that it was not responsible.
In Gaza, the Israeli intelligence officials said, there were some signs
that the military assault had undermined Hamas’s political cohesion, and that
Hamas’s leaders in hiding inside Gaza were more eager for a cease-fire than
group leaders in exile. They described this assessment as based on hard
intelligence, presumably telephone intercepts.
A senior Egyptian official in Cairo said separately on Tuesday that
representatives of Hamas had disagreed openly when participating in
continuing Egyptian efforts to broker a cease-fire.
Inside Gaza, the military wing of Hamas has been hit “to a certain
extent” with “a few hundred” Hamas fighters killed during the ground
offensive that began midway through the war, the intelligence officials said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity in return for discussing internal
assessments of the conflict. Hamas is still able to launch 20 to 30 rockets a
day, including 5 to 10 missiles of ranges longer than 20 kilometers, or about 12
miles, down by a third from the start of the war, the officials said.
Greater damage has been done to Hamas’s capacity to run Gaza, with
a large number of government buildings destroyed over the course of the
operation, they said.
The Israeli Army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, speaking
to Parliament on Tuesday, said that “we have achieved a lot in hitting Hamas
and its infrastructure, its rule and its armed wing, but there is still work ahead.”
In Egypt, efforts to broker a cease-fire were complicated by bickering
inside Hamas, the Egyptian official said. The official said that Hamas
representatives in Gaza were eager for a cease-fire, but were being blocked
because political decisions were being made by the group’s leadership in
“Hamas is in a very difficult position,” the Egyptian official said. “On
the ground, their militants are not doing as good a job, not matching their
rhetoric. But politically, they have been totally taken over by their sponsors.
“The guys inside are holding their ground, but they don’t want to
continue the confrontation,” the official said. Egypt talks to Hamas but is not
eager to see the radical Islamic group succeed in running a small state let next
Israeli officials said they were delaying any expansion of the war until
the negotiations succeeded or failed. But journalists and photographers along
the Israeli border with Gaza said they saw large numbers of Israeli reservists
moving into the territory, suggesting preparation for an intensified phase of
On the eve of a visit to the region, which began in Cairo on
Wednesday, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, demanded an
48 IPRI Factfile
immediate halt to the fighting in accordance with a Security Council
“Too many people have died,” Mr. Ban said, while Gazans are facing
a humanitarian disaster. United Nations officials have said that three-hour
daily humanitarian lulls are insufficient to provide enough food, medicine and
other essentials to civilians. Israel said that 102 trucks carrying aid entered
Gaza on Tuesday, with a total of 1,028 since the war began.
John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for the United Nations
Refugee and Works Agency, who has been highly critical of the Israeli military
action, said by video link that the fighting was extracting an unacceptably high
toll on civilians.
“Tragically, the horror continues overnight,” he said. “Nineteen
children killed and 52 injured last night. I would hope that would motivate
those who can help.”
Israeli officials say their primary aim in the operation is to stop Hamas
from firing rockets from Gaza into Israeli cities.
Hamas is capable of building rockets with an advanced propellant that
can go up to 18 miles, the intelligence officials said, using chemicals and parts
smuggled in from Egypt. Hamas also is using 122-millimeter rockets that are
Chinese-made and supplied by Iran that can go almost 25 miles, they said.
But they assessed the probability that Hamas now has rockets capable
of going farther than 25 miles as “very low.”
On Tuesday, Hamas fired 11 rockets and six mortar shells into Israel,
the Israeli Army said.
General Ashkenazi said that Israeli aircraft had carried out more than
2,300 strikes since the offensive began on Dec. 27.
In Tuesday’s fighting, 18 Palestinian fighters and seven civilians were
killed, part of the 971 Palestinians who have died, according to Gaza’s Hamas-
run Health Ministry. Those figures are not thought to include many of the
fighters killed since the ground war began.
Thirteen Israelis have died, including 10 soldiers. The Israeli military
said one Israeli officer was critically wounded and two Israeli soldiers suffered
light wounds in fighting overnight. They were hurt, the military said, after a
bomb exploded in a booby-trapped house that they were searching.
General Ashkenazi said that Hamas fighters were using suicide
bombers, sometimes women and sometimes dressed as Israeli soldiers, to try
to get close to Israeli troops and kill them. One Israeli soldier was killed last
week by a Hamas suicide bomber, the Israeli intelligence officials said. The
method of the attack that caused the death had not been disclosed before.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, the exiled deputy to the Hamas political chief
Khaled Meshal, told Al Jazeera television on Tuesday that while the
organization had “serious reservations” about the Egyptian cease-fire plan, he
believed that it might be accepted if changes were made.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 49
“If the initiative is accepted, it will be in accordance with the position
set out by Hamas at the start, namely an Israeli withdrawal, a cease-fire and the
opening of the crossing points” between Gaza, Israel and Egypt, he said.
The leader of Israel’s opposition Likud Party, Benjamin Nentanyahu,
said Tuesday that ultimately Hamas would have to be removed from Gaza and
if the government chose to do so in this war, he would support it.
“At the end of the day there will be no escape from toppling Hamas
rule,” he said at a meeting with the Foreign Press Association, adding that
“Israel can not tolerate an Iranian base right next to its cities.”
Steven Erlanger & Michael Slackman, New York Times, January 14, 2009
G AZA : T HE L ARGER A RAB D ILEMMA
It took the UN 13 days to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza,
which Israel continues to defy. Israeli air strikes and ground assaults have
spread death and destruction and turned the narrow strip into a testing ground
for its “extremely nasty” new weapons.
Israel claims that since its war aims have not been met, the operations
will continue, irrespective of what the world body may demand. Apparently
the rules of the game do not apply to Israel, nor can it be held accountable for
its transgressions, for Israel is a law unto itself and has been exercising a free
hand when it comes to the Palestinians.
In fact, ever since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election in
January 2006, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, with US and EU
support. Fuel, electricity and even the movement of people has been slowly
choked off, leading to health and economic hardships.
The reason advanced for the current operations is that Hamas rockets
threatened security of Israel’s citizens. But the story is a trifle complicated. In
reality, with Israel going to the polls, major politicians are vying for the top job
and are engaged in efforts to burnish their less than admirable records.
Caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, having already been indicted on
corruption charges, fears being convicted. Nor have the Israelis forgiven him
his disastrous adventure against Hezbollah in Lebanon. He therefore seeks to
redeem himself in Gaza.
His likely successor as head of the Kadima Party and current foreign
minister, Tzipi Livni, too was tainted by the brush of the 2006 fiasco in
Lebanon. She is also trying to live down her ‘mistake’ of making a distinction
between legitimate Palestinian freedom fighters and terrorists. Livni is now
determined to demonstrate that she can be as tough as the boys.
Finally, Defence Minister and Labour Party chief Ehud Barak has
been ruing the day he gave the impression of agreeing to Jerusalem’s partition,
50 IPRI Factfile
which led to accusations of being a ‘dove’, an unforgivable sin in Israel. And,
of course, all three are trying to prove that they can be tougher and more
inflexible than Likud’s disgraced but potent Binyamin Netanyahu.
Having had their competence and conduct embarrassingly exposed
during operations against Hezbollah, Israel has imposed a ban on media
coverage of its Gaza operations. Yet to its discomfiture, enough has come out
to enrage the world, though not to put to shame its supporters, who continue
to peddle worn-out lies to justify Israel’s violations of international law that
could include crimes against humanity.
It has nevertheless, brought to the surface the growing divide between
the rulers and the ruled in the Arab world. While the streets are chanting with
slogans condemning Israel and its benefactors, the rulers appear oblivious to
the growing rage. Instead, they seek succour and solace from the US while
paying lip service to the Palestinian cause. In reality, they view the Palestinian
cause as a threat to their regimes.
Egypt’s position is unenviable. It continues to harbour pretensions of
being the Arab world’s leader and setting the region’s agenda. But it has
pursued policies that promote US interests and insists on close relations with
Israel at a time when the regime is preparing for a transition from the nearly
three-decade rule of Hosni Mubarak. Moreover, as the spiritual heir to the
Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is viewed with mistrust.
The Saudis find themselves in a quandary. Though ideologically close
to Hamas, they are averse to any organisation that seeks sustenance from the
But most uncomfortable is Jordan’s position. With Palestinians
constituting the country’s overwhelming majority, the Hashemite monarchy,
while liberal and progressive, continues to be viewed as a foreign entity. It has
therefore relied on the West and even occasionally Israel for its survival. Thus,
more than its politics, what makes the Arab regimes as well as the US deeply
hostile to Hamas is its popularity among the Palestinians.
Syria’s minority Ala’wite Ba’athist regime, has traditionally supported
radical causes and developed close ties with Iran, thereby incurring its
neighbours’ displeasure, but enjoying popular accolades. Syria’s support for
Hamas and Hezbollah gives it credibility in the region and permits it to use it
as leverage in negotiations with Israel.
But as Nicholas Kristoff recalled in the New York Times recently, “It
is worth remembering that Israel helped nurture Hamas”. When Hamas was
founded in 1987, Israel figured that a religious organisation would help
undermine the nationalist Fatah. So Israel cracked down on Fatah and allowed
Hamas to rise as a counter-force. Its refusal to negotiate with Fatah not only
weakened it but also exposed its credibility. In the meanwhile, the “extremists
on each side sustained the other”, more so the Gazans who belong to families
Israeli Assault on Gaza 51
that were evicted by the Israeli Army in 1948 from towns such as Ashkelon
The war on Gaza is not about ceasefire violations nor is it about
“restoring Israel’s deterrence”, as it claims. In the words of Moshe Yaalon, a
former Israeli defense chief, it is to make the Palestinians “understand in the
deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people”. Or as
Avi Schlaim, the well-known Israeli author pointed out recently in the
Guardian: “Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post colonial
era. Jewish settlements in occupied territory are immoral, illegal and an
insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once an instrument of
exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation.”
The Israeli incursion will not crush Hamas, nor reduce extremism. In
fact, if Hamas survives Israel’s all-out assault, it will have gained in stature and
standing, further discrediting President Mahmoud Abbas and exposing the
fickleness of moderate Arab leaders. There is a growing fear, particularly in
Egypt and Jordan that a fundamental tenet of the Middle East peace process
— the so-called two-state solution — could soon become irrelevant. If this
were to happen, Egypt and Jordan may be forced to absorb the Palestinian
population now living in Gaza.
Worse for them, it could see Iran’s influence expand, to their
detriment. The Palestinian cause, which has historically struck a deep
emotional chord in the Islamic world, could yet deepen regional rivalries and
upset traditional balances of power in the Middle East. Israel may come to
regret the day it launched its attack on Gaza.
Tariq Fatemi, Dawn, January 15, 2009
P AKISTAN C ONDEMNS I SRAELI S TRIKE IN G AZA
Pakistan Thursday condemned Israeli acts in Gaza which left 900 people dead.
"These excessive acts constitute a flagrant breach of international
norms and humanitarian law," the Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad
Sadiq said during an online briefing.
The increased Israeli hostilities have exacerbated the humanitarian
suffering and economic hardship of the people of Gaza, he said.
The News Network International (NNI) news agency quoted Sadiq as
saying that the situation would lead to an escalation of tension in the region
and undermine efforts for promoting a peaceful resolution of the Palestine
Sadiq mentioned that the Pakistani Parliament had passed a resolution
unanimously condemning Israeli raids on Gaza. The resolution called for an
immediate stop of the ongoing Israeli attacks in Gaza Strip and urged Israel to
52 IPRI Factfile
open all routes so that relief goods and medicine could be provided to the
Palestinians, he said.
He also called upon the international community to work for the
resolution of the Palestine issue in accordance with relevant United Nations
Security Council Resolutions, the Arab Peace Plan and other international
peace efforts, according to the NNI.
CRI, January 15, 2009
I SRAELIS D ESTROY UN O FFICES , F OOD S TOCK IN G AZA
Israel shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday,
engulfing the compound and a warehouse in fire, destroying thousands of
pounds of food and humanitarian supplies intended for Palestinian refugees
and triggering world condemnation and protests at the attack.
UN workers and Palestinian fire-fighters, some wearing bullet-proof
jackets, struggled to douse the flames and pull bags of food aid from the
debris after the attack.
In another air strike, Israel killed senior Hamas Interior Minister Said
Siam along with his brother and son, Hamas said.
Separately, Israeli planes hit a UN school in another Gaza City
neighborhood, wounding 14 people who had sought sanctuary there, medics
and fire-fighters said.
Said Siam was slain along with his brother and son in the Israeli air
strike on his brother’s house north of Gaza City, Hamas said, as it vowed to
avenge its leader’s death.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in the region to end
Israel’s devastating offensive against Gaza, demanded a “full explanation” of
the air strike on the UN HQ and said the Israeli defense minister told him
there had been a “grave mistake.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the military fired artillery
shells at the UN compound after Hamas militants opened fire from the
John Ging, director of UNRWA operations in Gaza who was in the
compound at the time, dismissed the Israeli account as nonsense and said the
attack at the compound caused a massive explosion, wounding three people.
France denounced the latest attacks.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the bombings this morning by
the Israeli army of several hospitals and a building housing international media
in Gaza city,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the violence on
Israeli Assault on Gaza 53
“Today’s attack on the UN headquarters in Gaza is indefensible,” he
“The intensification of Israeli military action, and continued Hamas
rocket attacks, reinforce the urgency of our call for an immediate ceasefire.”
EU’s Czech presidency said the Israeli attack on a UN compound was
simply unacceptable, demanding that the Jewish state take measures to prevent
The EU presidency “condemns today’s strike on a building of
UNRWA in Gaza City by Israeli artillery,” a statement said.
“The (EU) Presidency demands that Israel undertake measures to
prevent any recurrence of this attack on civilian or humanitarian targets, which
is simply unacceptable,” it added.
EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said: “It is
unacceptable that the UN headquarters in Gaza has been struck by Israeli
Greece strongly protested to Israel after its navy turned back a boat
chartered by Greek activists to take medical aid to the Gaza Strip, the foreign
The boat was carrying several tones of medical supplies.
In Strasbourg, the European Parliament denounced the Israeli
blockade preventing aid from arriving in Gaza.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad strongly condemned the
genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and accused some Arab and Islamic states of
complicity in the Israeli attacks.
Even as a top Israeli envoy went to Egypt to discuss a cease-fire
proposal, the military pushed farther into Gaza in an apparent effort to step up
pressure on Hamas. Ground forces thrust deep into a crowded neighborhood
for the first time, sending terrified residents fleeing for cover. Shells also struck
a hospital, five high-rise apartment buildings and a building housing media
outlets in Gaza City, injuring several journalists.
Despite fierce Israeli offensive, defiant Hamas militants continued to
launch projectiles on Thursday, sending two long-range Grad missiles crashing
into the southern Israeli city of Beersheva and wounding five people, medics
Dawn, January 16, 2009
UN C HIEF U RGES U NILATERAL I SRAELI C EASEFIRE
The U.N. chief urged Israel Friday to declare a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, but
Israel rebuffed the idea as its diplomats headed for Egypt and the United
States in what appeared to be a final push toward a truce.
54 IPRI Factfile
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon floated the idea
during a visit to the West Bank on his Mideast mission to try to stop Israel's
three-week-old offensive against Hamas militants who have been firing rockets
from Gaza for years.
"I strongly urge Israeli leadership and government to declare a cease-
fire unilaterally," Ban said from Ramallah, the seat of the West Bank
government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a fierce rival of Hamas.
"It's time to think about a unilateral cease-fire from the Israeli government."
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed the idea.
"I don't believe that there's a logical expectation in the international
community that Israel unilaterally cease fire while Hamas would continue to
target cities, trying to kill our people," he said.
Ban is on a weeklong trip to the region meant to promote a truce after
both sides ignored a U.N. resolution demanding an immediate and durable
cease-fire. He will not meet with Gaza's Hamas rulers, who have been
shunned by much of the international community since they violently overran
Gaza in June 2007.
His comments came a day after Israeli forces shelled a U.N.
compound in Gaza that had been sheltering hundreds of refugees from the
fighting, sending thousands of tons of food aid up in flames. Israeli forces also
killed a senior Hamas official on Thursday.
Some 1,100 Palestinians have been killed since the war began on Dec.
27, including 346 children, according to the U.N. and Gaza health officials.
Thirteen Israelis have been killed, four by rocket fire, according to the military.
The Israeli military kept up pressure on Hamas Friday.
Before dawn Friday, Israeli aircraft struck about 40 targets all over
Gaza, the military said. An official statement said targets included smuggling
tunnels along the Egyptian border, a rocket launcher ready for firing and a
mosque that housed a tunnel entrance and was also used to store arms.
Later, Palestinian medical officials reported an 11-year-old girl was
killed in a shelling in northern Gaza and witnesses reported an airstrike on a
Gaza City mosque as people were headed there for Friday prayers. The Israeli
military had no comment.
Militant rockets, meanwhile, struck 10 times in southern Israel,
causing no injuries, the military said.
In the West Bank, Palestinian medics said Israeli soldiers shot dead a
20-year-old Palestinian during a violent protest against Israel's Gaza Strip
Witnesses said demonstrators hurled rocks at troops who stopped
them from marching into the Israeli-controlled sector of Hebron. The
witnesses said the soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the
protesters but the man killed was hit by a live round to the head. Five other
men were injured, medics said.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 55
The army had no immediate comment.
Chief Israeli negotiator Amos Gilad arrived in Cairo on Friday for his
second visit in two days to seek clarifications and express Israeli views about
the latest Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni left for Washington, where she
was expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. over
ways to stop arms smuggling to Hamas. Before leaving, she made clear that
halting arms smuggling was a crucial part of any truce deal.
"Israel is going to retain its right to defend itself anyway, also when it
comes to the smuggling of weapons, not only to rockets being fired at Israel,"
The Bush administration was racing in its final days to negotiate a deal
on American support for mediation efforts under which the U.S. would give
technical support and expertise to prevent Hamas from rearming, said U.S.
and Israeli diplomats. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because
of the sensitivity of the talks.
Israel wants a total end to Hamas' rocket launches into Israel and an
arms embargo on Gaza's militant rulers.
Hamas has demanded an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and
the opening of blockaded border crossings.
"These are our demands and we don't accept any political movement
that does not accept them," the movement's top political leader, Khaled
Mashaal, said in a televised address from his headquarters in Damascus, Syria.
Intense Israeli military activity in Gaza on Thursday exacted a steep
price from Hamas when Interior Minister Said Siam was killed in an airstrike.
Siam was the commander of Hamas security forces and was widely feared in
A small crowd of mourners buried Siam in Gaza City on Friday. His
white-shrouded body was draped in a green Hamas flag and some of the
people who carried it chanted, "Greetings from Hamas!" One man fired an
assault rifle in the area in a traditional salute.
Siam was seen as a main architect of the violent Hamas takeover of
the Gaza Strip in June 2007, when Hamas fighters expelled forces loyal to
Western-backed Palestinian President Abbas. He was the highest Hamas
official killed in the offensive.
Hamas leaders went into hiding before the war began and none
attended the funeral. But a statement distributed there in the name of Gaza's
Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said, "This new crime committed by
the Zionist war machine will not affect the determination of our people or
drive us to raise the flag of surrender."
Ibrahim Barzak & Mark Lavie, Huffington Post, January 16, 2009
56 IPRI Factfile
T OMORROW ’ S C RIPPLED G ENERATION
Yesterday it was the mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan that flooded all
television screens. Today it is Gaza. However, while these and other reports
on atrocities in Swat and Fata are daily fodder for our newspapers, let’s not
forget Africa and its child soldiers.
One of the most unforgettable and frightening television images that I
saw in 2008 was of an African child soldier filmed by Al Jazeera. His
expression, body language and stance as he held a lethal weapon outdid any
Hollywood depiction of the most bestial of Chicago gangsters.
Civilians, especially children, are always the primary victims of brutal
conflicts. Of late, a deluge of emails with horrendous pictures of Gaza along
with public comments of despair and frustration is swamping us. Babies and
young children covered in blood or with missing limbs tug at the heart — well
over 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and a third of them are children.
Meanwhile, there have also been a number of comments about the
psychological state of child survivors. As Robert Fisk comments, “Israel
cannot win this war and Hamas cannot lose it.”
Israel is slitting its own throat. As Palestinians die, more fighters and
suicide bombers proliferate like mushrooms all over the Middle East. A
teenager in Indonesia can travel to Gaza to fight alongside his Muslim
brothers; scores of Palestinian and Arab children will grow up with a desire to
avenge the murders of their loved ones who were gunned down beside them
or blown to bits in their homes. Their lives are wounded and disrupted; their
homes and schools have been destroyed, the entire infrastructure has been
blown to smithereens and their economy stands shattered.
There are children who may have survived the blitzkrieg, but will
battle life forever more with amputated limbs — a two-year-old with a bullet
in her spine will never walk again; another with a bullet in her brain is unlikely
to see the dawn of another day. And if this is not horrific enough, it is now
alleged that cluster bombs and phosphorous have been unleashed by the
After 9/11, and the American invasion of Afghanistan, there were
reports that radium, a highly radioactive chemical found in trace amounts in
uranium ore that is more radioactive than uranium itself, had been used.
Although I am unaware if this has been proved, since then there has been a
definite rise in reported cases of abnormalities and cancer in Kabul.
Up in the Kalash valleys, where I work, I can vouch for the fact that
in the last 10 years, I have seen more cases of cancer than in the past 15 years.
A small child that I brought to Peshawar with a cancerous tumour in her eye
was one of many cases detected in the area in recent years. An eye surgeon
told me that he suspected there was radium in the mountains and that a recent
Israeli Assault on Gaza 57
study stated that there were more cases of cancerous eye tumours among
children in the Hindu Kush region than in the rest of the world put together.
Phosphorus is another chemical agent that can cause serious burns.
Supposedly, the Israelis are using it as a smokescreen, but in a heavily
populated area as the Gaza Strip, human harm is inevitable. The Israelis have
also allegedly said that they had fired hundreds of shells, including cluster
bombs, in open areas. Apparently, military analysts have verified this from
Cluster bombs do not only kill, they maim. Again, the main casualties
are children. One bomb, with its 202 bomblets, can contaminate
approximately 100,000 square meters. They come in different colors, shapes
and sizes. Some resemble cricket balls; others look like long yellow cigars. I
saw this variety in Afghanistan and when I went to Bamiyan last spring, de-
mining teams were still conducting mine clearance seven years after the
invasion of the Americans. Maimed children are a regular sight in Kabul; they
go from car to car in traffic jams, begging for alms.
The international community and the UN are failing to stand up for
the rights of mankind. And many questions, therefore, remain unaddressed:
What will happen to the children of Gaza? Will they be the suicide bombers of
tomorrow? What will happen to those who have fallen victim in Swat, Bajaur
and Fata? Will they receive education; will they have medical assistance, both
physically and financially? Who will be held accountable? Will the leaders of
Israel or the United States be tried for war crimes? Is Gaza now going to be
one huge battered and shattered ‘refugee’ camp? The list of questions is
Maureen Lines, Dawn, January 19, 2009
T HE M YTH OF I SRAEL ' S S TRATEGIC G ENIUS
Many supporters of Israel will not criticize its behavior, even when it is
engaged in brutal and misguided operations like the recent onslaught on Gaza.
In addition to their understandable reluctance to say anything that might aid
Israel's enemies, this tendency is based in part on the belief that Israel's
political and military leaders are exceptionally smart and thoughtful strategists
who understand their threat environment and have a history of success against
their adversaries. If so, then it makes little sense for outsiders to second-guess
This image of Israeli strategic genius has been nurtured by Israelis
over the years and seems to be an article of faith among neoconservatives and
other hardline supporters of Israel in the United States. It also fits nicely with
the wrongheaded but still popular image of Israel as the perennial David facing
58 IPRI Factfile
a looming Arab Goliath; in this view, only brilliant strategic thinkers could
have consistently overcome the supposedly formidable Arab forces arrayed
The idea that Israelis possess some unique strategic acumen
undoubtedly reflects a number of past military exploits, including the decisive
victories in the 1948 War of Independence, the rapid conquest of the Sinai in
1956, the daredevil capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960, the stunning Israeli
triumph at the beginning of the 1967 Six Day War, and the intrepid hostage
rescue at Entebbe in 1976.
These tactical achievements are part of a larger picture, however, and
that picture is not a pretty one. Israel has also lost several wars in the past --
none of them decisively, of course -- and its ability to use force to achieve
larger strategic objectives has declined significantly over time. This is why
Israelis frequently speak of the need to restore their "deterrent"; they are aware
that occasional tactical successes have not led to long-term improvements in
their overall security situation. The assault on Gaza is merely the latest
illustration of this worrisome tendency.
What does the record show?
Back in 1956, Israel, along with Britain and France, came up with a
harebrained scheme to seize the Suez Canal and topple Nasser's regime in
Egypt. (This was after an Israeli raid on an Egyptian army camp in Gaza
helped convince Nasser to obtain arms from the Soviet Union). Prime
Minister David Ben-Gurion initially hoped that Israel would be allowed to
conquer and absorb the West Bank, parts of the Sinai, and portions of
Lebanon, but Britain and France quickly scotched that idea. The subsequent
attack was a military success but a strategic failure: the invaders were forced to
disgorge the lands they seized while Nasser's prestige soared at home and
across the Arab world, fueling radicalism and intensifying anti-Israel
sentiments throughout the region. The episode led Ben-Gurion to conclude
that Israel should forego additional attempts to expand its borders - which is
why he opposed taking the West Bank in 1967 -- but his successors did not
follow his wise advice.
Ten years later, Israel's aggressive policies toward Syria and Jordan
helped precipitate the crisis that led to the Six Day War. The governments of
Egypt, Syria, the USSR and the United States also bear considerable blame for
that war, though it was Israel's leaders who chose to start it, even though they
recognized that their Arab foes knew they were no match for the IDF and did
not intend to attack Israel. More importantly, after seizing the West Bank,
Golan Heights and Gaza Strip during the war, Israeli leaders decided to start
building settlements and eventually incorporate them into a "greater Israel."
Thus, 1967 marks the beginning of Israel's settlements project, a decision that
even someone as sympathetic to Israel as Leon Wieseltier has described as "a
Israeli Assault on Gaza 59
moral and strategic blunder of historic proportions." Remarkably, this
momentous decision was never openly debated within the Israeli body politic.
With Israeli forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt launched the
so-called War of Attrition in October 1968 in an attempt to get it back. The
result was a draw on the battlefield and the two sides eventually reached a
ceasefire agreement in August 1970. The war was a strategic setback for Israel,
however, because Egypt and its Soviet patron used the ceasefire to complete a
missile shield along the Suez Canal that could protect Egyptian troops if they
attacked across the Canal to regain the Sinai. American and Israeli leaders did
not recognize this important shift in the balance of power between Israel and
Egypt and remained convinced that Egypt had no military options. As a result,
they ignored Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's peace overtures and left him
little choice but to use force to try to dislodge Israel from the Sinai. Israel then
failed to detect Egypt and Syria's mobilization in early October 1973 and fell
victim to one of the most successful surprise attacks in military history. The
IDF eventually rallied and triumphed, but the costs were high in a war that
might easily have been avoided.
Israel's next major misstep was the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The
invasion was the brainchild of hawkish Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, who
had concocted a grandiose scheme to destroy the PLO and gain a free hand to
incorporate the West Bank in "Greater Israel" and turn Jordan into "the"
Palestinian state. It was a colossal strategic blunder: the PLO leadership
escaped destruction and Israel's bombardment of Beirut and its complicity in
the massacres at Sabra and Shatila were widely and rightly condemned. And
after initially being greeted as liberators by the Shiite population of southern
Lebanon, Israel's prolonged and heavy-handed occupation helped create
Hezbollah, which soon became a formidable adversary as well as an avenue for
Iranian influence on Israel's northern border. Israel was unable to defeat
Hezbollah and eventually withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2000, having
in effect been driven out by Hezbollah's increasingly effective resistance.
Invading Lebanon not only failed to solve Israel's problem with the
Palestinians, it created a new enemy that still bedevils Israel today.
In the late 1980s, Israel helped nurture Hamas -- yes, the same
organization that the IDF is bent on destroying today -- as part of its long-
standing effort to undermine Yasser Arafat and Fatah and keep the
Palestinians divided. This decision backfired too, because Arafat eventually
recognized Israel and agreed to negotiate a two-state solution, while Hamas
emerged as a new and dangerous adversary that has refused to recognize
Israel's existence and to live in peace with the Jewish state.
The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 offered an unprecedented
chance to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all, but Israel's
leaders failed to seize the moment. Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon
Peres, and Benjamin Netanyahu all refused to endorse the idea of a Palestinian
60 IPRI Factfile
state -- even Rabin never spoke publicly about allowing the Palestinians to
have a state of their own -- and Ehud Barak's belated offer of statehood at the
2000 Camp David summit did not go far enough. As Barak's own foreign
minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, later admitted, "if I were a Palestinian, I would
have rejected Camp David as well." Meanwhile, the number of settlers in the
West Bank doubled during the Oslo period (1993-2001), and the Israelis built
some 250 miles of connector roads in the West Bank. Palestinian leaders and
U.S. officials made their own contributions to Oslo's failure, but Israel had
clearly squandered what was probably the best opportunity it will ever have to
negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Barak also derailed a peace
treaty with Syria in early 2000 that appeared to be a done deal, at least to
President Bill Clinton, who had helped fashion it. But when public opinion
polls suggested that the Israeli public might not support the deal, the Israeli
Prime Minister got cold feet and the talks collapsed.
More recently, U.S. and Israeli miscalculations have gone hand-in-
hand. In the wake of September 11, neoconservatives in the United States,
who had been pushing for war against Iraq since early 1998, helped convince
President Bush to attack Iraq as part of a larger strategy of "regional
transformation." Israeli officials were initially opposed to this scheme because
they wanted Washington to go after Iran instead, but once they understood
that Iran and Syria were next on the administration's hit list they backed the
plan enthusiastically. Indeed, prominent Israelis like Ehud Barak, Benjamin
Netanyahu, and then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres helped sell the war in the
United States, while Prime Minister Sharon and his chief aides put pressure on
Washington to make sure that Bush didn't lose his nerve and leave Saddam
standing. The result? A costly quagmire for the United States and a dramatic
improvement in Iran's strategic position. Needless to say, these developments
were hardly in Israel's strategic interest.
The next failed effort was then-Prime Minister Sharon's decision to
unilaterally withdraw all of Israel's settlers from the Gaza Strip in August 2005.
Although Israel and its supporters in the West portrayed this move as a
gesture towards peace, "unilateralism" was in fact part of a larger effort to
derail the so-called Road Map, freeze the peace process, and consolidate Israeli
control over the West Bank, thereby putting off the prospect of a Palestinian
state "indefinitely." The withdrawal was completed successfully, but Sharon's
attempt to impose peace terms on the Palestinians failed completely. Fenced in
by the Israelis, the Palestinians in Gaza began firing rockets and mortars at
nearby Israeli towns and then Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections
in January 2006. This event reflected its growing popularity in the face of
Fatah's corruption and Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank, but
Jerusalem and Washington refused to accept the election results and decided
instead to try to topple Hamas. This was yet another error: Hamas eventually
ousted Fatah from Gaza and its popularity has continued to increase.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 61
The Lebanon War in the summer of 2006 revealed the deficiencies of
Israel's strategic thinking with particular clarity. A cross-border raid by
Hezbollah provoked an Israeli offensive intended to destroy Hezbollah's large
missile inventory and compel the Lebanese government to crack down on
Hezbollah itself. However worthy these goals might have been, Israel's strategy
was doomed to fail. Air strikes could not eliminate Hezbollah's large and well-
hidden arsenal and bombing civilian areas in Lebanon merely generated more
anger at Israel and raised Hezbollah's standing among the Lebanese population
and in the Arab and Islamic world as well. Nor could a belated ground attack
fix the problem, as the IDF could hardly accomplish in a few weeks what it
had failed to do between 1982 and 2000. Plus, the Israeli offensive was poorly
planned and poorly executed. It was equally foolish to think that Lebanon's
fragile central government could rein in Hezbollah; if that were possible, the
governing authorities in Beirut would have done so long before. It is no
surprise that the Winograd Commission (an official panel of inquiry
established to examine Israel's handling of the war) harshly criticized Israel's
leaders for their various strategic errors.
Finally, a similar strategic myopia is apparent in the assault on Gaza.
Israeli leaders initially said that their goal was to inflict enough damage on
Hamas so it could no longer threaten Israel with rocket attacks. But they now
concede that Hamas will neither be destroyed nor disarmed by their attacks,
and instead say that more extensive monitoring will prevent rocket parts and
other weapons from being smuggled into Gaza. This is a vain hope, however.
As I write this, Hamas has not accepted a ceasefire and is still firing rockets;
even if it does accept a ceasefire soon, rocket and mortar fire are bound to
resume at some point in the future. On top of that, Israel's international image
has taken a drubbing, Hamas is probably more popular, and moderate leaders
like Mahmoud Abbas have been badly discredited. A two-state solution --
which is essential if Israel wishes to remain Jewish and democratic and to
avoid becoming an apartheid state -- is farther away than ever. The IDF
performed better in Gaza than it did in Lebanon, largely because Hamas is a
less formidable foe than Hezbollah. But this does not matter: the war against
Hamas is still a strategic failure. And to have inflicted such carnage on the
Palestinians for no lasting strategic gain is especially reprehensible.
In virtually all of these episodes -- and especially those after 1982 --
Israel's superior military power was used in ways that did not improve its long-
term strategic position. Given this dismal record, therefore, there is no reason
to think that Israel possesses uniquely gifted strategists or a national security
establishment that consistently makes smart and far-sighted choices. Indeed,
what is perhaps most remarkable about Israel is how often the architects of
these disasters -- Barak, Olmert, Sharon, and maybe Netanyahu -- are not
banished from leadership roles but instead are given another opportunity to
repeat their mistakes. Where is the accountability in the Israeli political system?
62 IPRI Factfile
No country is immune from folly, of course, and Israel's adversaries
have committed plenty of reprehensible acts and made plenty of mistakes
themselves. Egypt's Nasser played with fire in 1967 and got badly burnt; King
Hussein's decision to enter the Six Day War was a catastrophic blunder that
cost Jordan the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Palestinian leaders badly
miscalculated and committed unjustifiable and brutal acts on numerous
occasions. Americans made grave mistakes in Vietnam and more recently in
Iraq, the French blundered in Indochina and Algeria, the British failed at Suez
and Gallipoli, and the Soviets lost badly in Afghanistan. Israel is no different
than most powerful states in this regard: sometimes it does things that are
admirable and wise, and at other times it pursues policies that are foolish and
The moral of this story is that there is no reason to think that Israel
always has well-conceived strategies for dealing with the problems that it faces.
In fact, Israel's strategic judgment seems to have declined steadily since the
1970s -- beginning with the 1982 invasion of Lebanon -- perhaps because
unconditional U.S. support has helped insulate Israel from some of the costs
of its actions and made it easier for Israel to indulge strategic illusions and
ideological pipe-dreams. Given this reality, there is no reason for Israel's
friends -- both Jewish and gentile -- to remain silent when it decides to pursue
a foolish policy. And given that our "special relationship" with Israel means
that the United States is invariably associated with Jerusalem's actions,
Americans should not hesitate to raise their voices to criticize Israel when it is
acting in ways that are not in the U.S. national interest.
Those who refuse to criticize Israel even when it acts foolishly surely
think they are helping the Jewish state. They are wrong. In fact, they are false
friends, because their silence, or worse, their cheerleading, merely encourages
Israel to continue potentially disastrous courses of action. Israel could use
some honest advice these days, and it would make eminently good sense if its
closest ally were able to provide it. Ideally, this advice would come from the
president, the secretary of state, and prominent members of Congress --
speaking as openly as some politicians in other democracies do. But that's
unlikely to happen, because Israel's supporters make it almost impossible for
Washington to do anything but reflexively back Israel's actions, whether they
make sense or not. And they often do not these days.
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard
University's Kennedy School of Government.
Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, January 19, 2009
Israeli Assault on Gaza 63
G AZA W AR D IVIDES A RAB G OVERNMENTS F ROM P EOPLE
Street protests against Israel's assault on Gaza continue to be held almost daily.
The anger has not ended with the ceasefire called.
In Cairo, and in many Arab capitals, much of the anger is directed at
the Egyptian regime, seen by critics as complicit in the Israeli campaign.
"The escalation of popular protests across the country indicates
unprecedented levels of popular outrage over both Israel's aggression and
Egypt's official position," Ibrahim Mansour, political analyst and managing
editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Dustour told IPS.
On Saturday (Jan. 17) night, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire.
Israeli troops and armour, however, remain deep inside the Gaza Strip, and it
remains unclear whether the move represents a definitive cessation of Israeli
military operations inside the territory.
After three weeks of punishing assaults from air, land and sea, the
Palestinian death toll has soared past 1,200, mostly women and children.
The Egyptian government, meanwhile, has come under increasing
criticism both at home and abroad for keeping its 14-kilometre border with
the Gaza Strip closed - with a few minor exceptions - to humanitarian aid
"By keeping the border closed to humanitarian aid, Egypt is complicit
in Israel's aggression against the people of Gaza," Mansour said, echoing a
common sentiment. "Egypt's shameful position does not represent the
Egyptian people or Egypt's political opposition."
Ever since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 (after
winning elections a year earlier), Egypt - like Israel - has kept its border with
the territory tightly sealed, geographically isolating the coastal enclave and
depriving its 1.5 million inhabitants of desperately needed food and medicine.
Since the Israeli campaign began Dec. 27, local sources say that only
about 10 percent of the humanitarian aid that has accumulated on the
Egyptian side of the border, donated by sympathizers from around the world,
has been allowed entry into Gaza.
Egypt maintains that it cannot reopen the border in the absence of
Palestinian Authority (PA) officials and EU observers, as is stipulated in a
2005 security agreement. Egyptian officials also cite the security situation at
the border - the Palestinian side of which came under frequent Israeli attack in
past weeks - as a reason for the closure.
In the last three weeks, popular protests against both Israeli
aggressions in Gaza and Egypt's border policy have increased in size and
intensity throughout the country.
According to independent daily Al-Badeel, Friday (Jan. 16) witnessed
demonstrations in rural provinces countrywide involving "tens of thousands"
64 IPRI Factfile
of participants. "Twenty thousand people protest in Daqheliya; 15,000 in Al-
Qalioubiya," the paper reported the following day.
Along with severing diplomatic relations and the immediate halt of
natural gas exports to Israel, protestors demand the permanent reopening of
Egypt's border with Gaza. "Mubarak, you're responsible... Why is the Rafah
crossing closed?" demonstrators asked (referring to Egyptian President Hosni
Other 'moderate' Arab regimes, namely U.S. allies Jordan and Saudi
Arabia also came in for criticism from angry protestors. "Cowardly Arab
regimes...there's either resistance or betrayal", they chanted, according to local
"The eruption of demonstrations countrywide signifies the extent of
popular outrage over the criminal attack on Gaza," Hamdi Hassan, MP for the
Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, told IPS. "It also
reflects the people's total rejection of the position of most Arab governments,
which refused to use the means at their disposal to pressure Israel to halt its
Protests in the capital, meanwhile, have been far more restricted, due
primarily to an extremely heavy police presence. According to Al-Badeel, a
demonstration held on Friday (Jan. 16) on the outskirts of Cairo involving
hundreds of participants was cordoned off by several thousand security
"Demonstrations are given relatively free rein outside the capital,"
Diaa Rashwan, analyst at the semi-official Al-Ahram Centre for Political and
Strategic Studies told IPS. "But in Cairo, security forces are very careful to
keep protests under very tight control with a view to securing state
"For this reason, the biggest demonstrations in Cairo have not
surpassed 5,000, while some rural provinces have seen protests involving more
than 100,000 people," Rashwan added.
Demonstrations have been accompanied by a fresh wave of arrests
directed mainly against the Muslim Brotherhood, which has taken the lead in
organizing protests in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the Palestinian
On Tuesday (Jan. 13), 12 Brotherhood members were arrested in the
Delta province of Sharqiya, according to independent daily Al-Masri Al-Youm.
The next day, the newspaper reported that a total of 860 MB members were
detained for organizing protests since the outset of Israel's campaign.
"The arrest of people for holding peaceful protests is a way of
effectively terrorising citizens from expressing their opinion," said Hassan. "It
also clearly reveals the degree of the regime's complicity with the criminal
policies of the Zionists."
Israeli Assault on Gaza 65
The war on next-door Gaza has also dominated parliamentary affairs.
Recent sessions in the national assembly have witnessed fierce exchanges
between opposition MPs - who have repeated the basic demands of street
protestors - and those of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
According to Mansour, opposition in parliament - no matter how
vocal - stands little chance of changing unpopular government policy.
"The NDP majority thoroughly monopolises all parliamentary
decision-making," he said. "Opposition and independent MPs would be better
off tendering their resignations in protest."
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, IPS News, January 19, 2009
P ALESTINIAN A UTHORITY IS L EFT W EAKENED
*The assault left the moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank looking ineffective
and marginalized, and support for its peace talks with Israel seems weaker than ever.
With Israel and Hamas both claiming victory in the Gaza Strip, there is one
clear loser: the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority, which desperately wants a
peace accord with Israel and a unified Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel’s 22-day assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza made the West Bank-
based Palestinian Authority look ineffective and marginalized, unable to stop
the carnage. Popular support for its peace talks with Israel, already declining,
now seems weaker than ever.
And a tentative cease-fire that left Hamas still in charge of Gaza
threatens to reinforce the rift between the Palestinian territories, further setting
back hopes for a settlement of the decades-old Middle East conflict.
At an Arab summit in Kuwait on Monday, Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas pleaded for a revival of the power-sharing
arrangement that broke apart in 2007 when Hamas, an armed Islamist
movement, ousted his secular Fatah forces from Gaza in a ruthless
He called for immediate talks between the two factions to form a
“unity government” to rebuild the war-devastated territory, organize elections
and negotiate peace with Israel.
Salam Fayyad, Abbas’ prime minister, echoed the appeal at a news
conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The urgency in both men’s
voices signaled a position of weakness, reflecting the frustration of Western-
oriented Palestinians over the outcome in Gaza.
Fayyad said he worried that reconstruction aid, including $1 billion
pledged Monday by Saudi Arabia, would strengthen Hamas and its message of
violent confrontation with the Jewish state. He urged international donors to
66 IPRI Factfile
funnel aid through the Palestinian Authority, with the aim of forcing Hamas to
agree to a reconciliation that might moderate its policies.
If the division of Palestine were to become “internationally
acceptable,” he warned, “this would endanger the Palestinian cause.”
But the authority has no means to reassert its presence in Gaza
without the consent of Hamas. And although Hamas said it was open to a new
power-sharing deal, it seemed in no hurry to strike one with Abbas, whom one
Hamas official dismissed as “a full partner” in the Israeli assault.
“Hamas will be much less powerful militarily against Israel but
significantly stronger against Fatah,” said Ghassan Khatib, an independent
Palestinian analyst in Ramallah. “No one will challenge its control of Gaza. It
is in much less need of a unity government.”
As a result, Barack Obama’s administration will face the same Middle
East conundrum that stymied President Bush’s belated effort to forge a deal
on Palestinian statehood: Israel is reluctant to give Abbas a state as long as he
cannot enforce peace in Gaza, much less enter the territory.
West Bank leaders view Israel’s offensive in Gaza as more than an act of self-
defense against years of Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel. They see it as a
calculated blow to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks Bush initiated in late 2007
over the divisive issues of borders, Palestinian refugees and control of
“The Israelis wanted to weaken Hamas enough to make it less of a
threat to their country but still allow it to control Gaza,” said Samir Abdullah,
the Palestinian Authority minister of planning. “By enhancing Palestinian
division, Israel can claim that there is no reliable partner for a final
Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said Israel was
interested in advancing the peace talks. He said Israel had scored a military
success over Hamas that is likely to lead to “more flexibility” in its security
restrictions on the West Bank and improve the climate for negotiations.
But Israel’s assault has undermined Palestinian support for Abbas and
his peace agenda. Many West Bank residents, even those who oppose Hamas’
violent ideology, considered the Gaza offensive an attack on all Palestinians
and accused Abbas of not doing enough to stop the killing of more than
Abbas misread public opinion by declaring that Hamas was partly to
blame. His own police forces used clubs and tear gas to put down West Bank
street protests against Gaza bloodshed whenever participants chanted Hamas
slogans or unfurled the Hamas flag.
“The people are going to hold accountable whoever failed to stand by
our people in Gaza,” said Izzeddin Ibrahim, a 25-year-old engineer in
Israeli Assault on Gaza 67
Ramallah. “There is no chance left to make peace with those who kill our
people. We cannot accept anyone meeting with Israelis anymore.”
Such criticism also comes from within Abbas’ Fatah movement,
which had led every major Palestinian battle against Israel since its founding by
the late Yasser Arafat in the late 1950s. By sitting this one out, senior Fatah
members acknowledge, the movement has lost respect.
“Those who fight the occupation gained popularity, and we who
stood back and watched lost,” said Kadura Fares, a member of Fatah’s
revolutionary council. “We are no longer in the vanguard.”
Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey
Research and a sometime advisor to Abbas, said that during the Israeli
offensive there was a shift in public opinion in favor of Hamas. But he said it
was probably temporary and would not threaten Abbas’ position in his
But he said a large majority of Palestinians, as many as eight in 10,
believe Abbas’ peace talks with Israel are pointless and should be halted.
The U.S.-brokered talks are on hold, awaiting the outcome of Israel’s
Feb. 10 elections and a signal of the Obama administration’s approach to
Nabil abu Rudaineh, Abbas’ spokesman, said the Palestinian leader
would urge Obama to abandon the Bush administration’s policy of trying to
isolate Hamas. He said U.S. support for a power-sharing deal could help coax
the Islamic group to support peace talks with Israel.
Animosity Runs High
Hamas officials have said they would allow Abbas’ police officers into Gaza to
control border crossings with Egypt and Israel, a condition both countries
have set for ending their blockade of the territory.
But Hamas is reluctant to make other concessions and has challenged
Abbas’ authority to continue as president because his four-year term
technically ended Jan. 9. In Gaza, animosity between the rival factions runs
high; Israeli officials say Hamas killed 70 Fatah supporters during the
offensive, accusing them of collaborating with Israel.
Aluf Benn, editor at large of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, said the
Obama administration has an opportunity to influence Hamas.
“A stable cease-fire can serve as a basis for engaging Hamas and
trying to lure it into accepting, even ambiguously, the international terms for
recognition” – acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, he said. “If Israel is ready to
live with Hamas, so can the United States.”
Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2009
68 IPRI Factfile
POLITICS: U.N. C HIEF A PPALLED AT I SRAELI
D ESTRUCTION IN G AZA
When Israel went on a military rampage during its 22-day air strikes and
artillery attacks on Gaza, it largely singled out residential neighborhoods,
hospitals, schools and U.N. buildings on the pretext of targeting Hamas
But John Ging, director of operations for the U.N. Relief and Works
Agency (UNRWA), based in Gaza, kept insisting there were no Hamas
fighters anywhere in the vicinity of U.N.-run schools or warehouses.
"What we have regretted in the past is that we have not been given a
hearing to answer," he told reporters Monday.
He charged that most of the allegations made by Israel were
"unsubstantiated, unfounded - and continue to be repeated."
Perhaps his strongest indictment of the Israelis was reflected in his
response to a question on military tactics: "We don't, in a civilized world,
shoot the hostage to get to the hostage taker."
But in reality that was what the Israelis were doing in Gaza, says an
Arab diplomat, echoing Ging's comment.
"The Israelis violated every single international convention governing
the rules of war and the treatment of civilians," he told IPS. "Their military
excesses can, in no way, be justified."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who praised Israel at a press
conference in Jerusalem last week, describing the Jewish state as "a responsible
member of the United Nations", apparently, had second thoughts when he
saw the devastation caused in Gaza.
Standing outside a U.N. compound that was destroyed by Israel, Ban
told reporters Tuesday: "I am just appalled. Everyone smells this bombing still.
It is still burning. It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the
Despite pleas from the secretary-general, Israel bombed U.N.-run
facilities, including schools and warehouses, on four different occasions.
One of the bomb attacks on the UNRWA compound took place on the same
day Ban arrived in Israel.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the final tally read:
1,314 Palestinians killed, including 416 children and 106 women; 5,320 injured,
including 1,855 children and 795 women.
In comparison, the number of Israelis killed included four civilians
and nine soldiers, along with 84 injured.
And according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the
buildings destroyed included 4,100 residential homes (with 17,000 damaged),
Israeli Assault on Gaza 69
20 mosques, 25 educational institutions and medical facilities, 31 security
offices, 16 government buildings and 1,500 factories and shops.
The Office of the U.N.'s Humanitarian Coordinator pointed out that
16 health facilities and an equal number of ambulances were destroyed or
damaged during the 22-day conflict.
Nadia Hijab, senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for
Palestine Studies, told IPS: "The scale of the devastation is such that Israel and
its supporters are unlikely to be able to bury or bulldoze it out of the collective
conscience of the world."
There have already been calls to bring war crimes charges against
Israeli leaders, she pointed out.
Although the formal wheels of international justice may grind slowly,
citizens are not waiting.
"Trade unions in different parts of the world are calling for a boycott.
Israel's fruit shipments are rotting in its warehouses as importers in
Scandinavia, Jordan and the UK cancelled orders," she said.
In an open letter in the London Guardian last weekend, Israeli
citizens themselves called on world leaders to impose sanctions against their
own country: "This is the only road left. Help us all, please!"
Although a ceasefire has been declared, said Hijab, Gaza's torment
and siege is not over and the U.N.'s "We the peoples" are likely to remain
mobilised until justice is done.
Speaking from Gaza, Ging told reporters that the population in Gaza
remains shell-shocked, traumatised and living in real fear.
Asked about the "most outrageous" incident he had witnessed, Ging
said: "The dead children."
Meanwhile, the United Nations is expected to lead international
efforts to rebuild Gaza.
But Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the external affairs commissioner of the
27-member European Union, was quoted as saying that the EU would not
fund reconstruction as long as Hamas was in control of Gaza.
Humanitarian aid, however, would be provided without any
conditions, she added.
Hijab told IPS that "it is almost as though there are two different
worlds, with the mainstream media, European and U.S. leaders, and U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon living in one world."
And in the other, she said, are the leaders of the Third World, the
president of the General Assembly (Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann), and
millions of outraged citizens.
D'Escoto has taken a very strong stand denouncing the United
Nations as ineffective in taking any action against Israel.
Hijab said the former parrot the Israeli line about Israel's need for
protection while the latter exchange U.N. reports and eyewitness accounts of
70 IPRI Factfile
the destruction and damage to thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and
They also share photographs of phosphorous shells showering white
flame on unprotected civilians; read about the killing of entire families among
the thousands of dead and wounded; and respond with horror to the reports
of women whose legs have been shorn off by new kinds of weapons, she
Thalif Deen, IPS News, January 20, 2009
A RAB L EADERS ’ P ASSIVITY
It was Monday, so it had to be Kuwait. And there they were, 17 leaders and
five senior representatives of all 22 members of the Arab League, gathered to
discuss the impact of the global economic crisis, though the original agenda
was hijacked by the end of Israel’s devastating three-week onslaught against
Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Monday’s summit of kings, presidents and emirs did produce one
piece of good news for the battered Palestinians: a Saudi cheque for $1bn that
will certainly help rebuild bombed mosques, schools and homes. But it raises
the wider question of what Arabs can and should do to help the cause they
hold so dear — when they cannot even agree on an agenda and when or
where to meet.
On Sunday the heads of state of Egypt and Jordan, both stalwarts of
the so-called moderate or western-backed camp, were the only Arabs to attend
the Sharm el-Sheikh conference. Last Friday there was an Arab majority in the
Qatari capital Doha — though still not the required two-thirds quorum for a
formal Arab League summit. Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, was the star of
that show, along with the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, his Palestinian
guests in Damascus. Non-Arab Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was
the other special invitee. This is the core of jabhat al-mumana’a — the Arab
Thursday saw leaders of the smaller Gulf States summoned to the
Saudi capital Riyadh to upstage the next day’s gathering in Doha. It all brings
to mind Gandhi’s smart response to a question about his view of western
civilization: Arab unity would be “a good idea” too.
Arab disarray was a fact of life before Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.
But the crisis has put it on cruel and very public display, drawing the contempt
and fury of what is so condescendingly called the “street” from Algeria to
Yemen. The league may be a bad joke, but its members still represent 320
million people. “In the fog of war,” commented the Egyptian scholar Mamoun
Israeli Assault on Gaza 71
Fandy in the Saudi-owned daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, “everything was suddenly
Anger with Israel and solidarity with the Palestinians are still natural
instincts across the Middle East and North Africa. The memory of the 1948
Nakba (catastrophe) has never faded; the humiliation of the 1967 defeat lives
on. Yet sympathy for the martyred children of Gaza does not equate
automatically with support for Hamas, which is often attacked for recklessly
believing it can defeat Israel.
Very few imagine a return to the unified Arab military efforts of the
past. Most Arabs, including most Palestinians, accept Israel as a reality, though
there are those — with whom Ahmadinejad agrees — who take the longer
view. That sees Israel as a modern Crusader state that may yet endure for a
century or more but is an artificial, colonialist implant that is destined to
wither. This may be no more than wishful thinking. But it ignores Israel’s
evident strengths and the fact that the majority of its now native-born,
Hebrew-speaking Jewish citizens have no other homeland to go “back” to.
Still, the perception that it is a fundamentally illegitimate entity combines with
resentment at its unassailable (nuclear-armed) regional hegemony.
Not surprisingly, the most strident voice of the “refusal front” has
been that of Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic leader of Lebanon’s
Hezbollah, who blundered into war with Israel in 2006 and served as a model
for Hamas in Gaza — though this time he kept his powder dry. Islamists
elsewhere mocked the impotence and passivity of “treacherous” Arab
governments they scorn as US puppets or Zionist stooges.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak has been the target of much fury. Now 80
and serving a pharaonic fifth consecutive presidential term, he has been
attacked for refusing to open the Gaza border. It has all been grist to the mill
of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest (but outlawed) opposition
movement and supporter of the like-minded Hamas — whose election was so
uncomfortable for Cairo. It was Mubarak who inherited the original “sin” of
recognizing Israel from his predecessor Anwar Sadat.
In the same boat is Jordan’s King Abdullah, the other Arab neighbor
with a peace treaty with Israel — though like his father Hussein, Abdullah is
ever mindful of the Palestinians who make up the majority of his subjects.
Facing them is the canniest, but perhaps also the most pliable, of the
“refusers”, Syria’s Assad, a weaker version of his famously iron-willed father
Hafez. Hopes of seeing him press Hamas or Hezbollah or abandon his alliance
with Iran ensure a steady stream of western supplicants to his Damascus
palace. Barack Obama’s envoy may well be next. So against this complex,
deeply fissured background, whither Israel and the Arab world after Gaza?
Israel makes much of Saudi and other conservative Arab fears of Iran’s nuclear
ambitions and its promotion, in Iraq, Lebanon and beyond, of Sunni-Shia
72 IPRI Factfile
divisions. But this ignores the crucial importance — symbolic and real — to all
Arabs of finally resolving the Palestinian issue.
Saudi King Abdullah told the Kuwait summit that the 2002 Arab
League initiative, offering Israel the recognition of all 22 Arab states in return
for a return to the 1967 borders and the creation of an independent Palestinian
state, remains on the table, but warned that it will not remain there indefinitely.
The Arab “refusers” wanted it withdrawn after the pounding of Gaza. It is
hard to see it surviving another bloodletting like that.
Ian Black, Dawn, January 21, 2009
O BAMA T ELLS O LMERT , A BBAS H E WILL P URSUE P EACE
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged on Wednesday to pursue Middle East
peace, telephoning Israeli and Palestinian leaders after Israel completed a troop
withdrawal from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
In a call to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,
Obama reiterated that he and his administration would work to achieve Middle
East peace, a Palestinian official said.
Palestinian leaders later said they would only resume peace talks with
Israel if the Jewish state commits to a comprehensive freezing of all settlement
activity and undertakes to give up all occupied land captured in the 1967
Middle East war.
A statement from Olmert's office said the prime minister updated
Obama on the situation in the Gaza Strip and added that he hoped efforts by
Israel, Egypt, the U.S. and European countries to prevent weapons smuggling
into Gaza would succeed.
The statement added that Olmert undertook that "Israel would invest
in efforts to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population
in the Gaza Strip and would work to improve the economic situation in the
In Washington, the White House said Obama had also spoken to
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah and that the
U.S. president would actively engage in peace efforts.
"He used this opportunity on his first day in office to communicate
his commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from
the beginning of his term, and to express his hope for their continued
cooperation and leadership," spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
Israel left the Gaza Strip devastated by its 22-day offensive. It
completed its pullout earlier on Wednesday.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 73
"We've redeployed on our side of the frontier and we will follow
events closely," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert. "If Hamas breaks
the ceasefire, we of course reserve the right to act to protect our people."
Under international pressure to end the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian fighting in
decades, Israel and Hamas declared separate ceasefires on Sunday, opening the
way for more aid to be brought into the rubble-strewn enclave where
thousands are homeless.
Reconstruction, if it can be launched in light of the West shunning
Hamas as a "terrorist" group, may cost close to $2 billion, according to
Palestinian and international estimates.
Diplomatic efforts led by Egypt were focusing on reaching a long-
term Israel-Hamas truce deal, far short of an accord on Palestinian statehood
sought by the United States and other international peace brokers.
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said in Damascus that Israel had
failed to achieve its goals in Gaza.
"This battle has proved that force alone will not provide security for
the Zionist entity (Israel)," Meshaal said.
He said that Arab countries seeking to help rebuild Gaza should
donate money to the group's leader in the territory, Ismail Hanieyh, whom he
described as the head of the legitimate Palestinian government, shunning
Abbas's Fatah administration which holds sway in the occupied West Bank.
Israel's attacks in an offensive it began on December 27 killed some
1,300 Palestinians. Gaza medical officials said the Palestinian dead included at
least 700 civilians.
Israel said hundreds of militants died and that it dealt Hamas a strong
blow that had boosted the Jewish state's power of deterrence and drawn
international pledges to help prevent the Islamist group from replenishing its
Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians, hit by cross-border rocket fire,
were killed in the conflict.
Israel's Haaretz daily, reporting what it said were details of an army
probe into its soldiers' use of white-phosphorous shells, said 200 were fired in
the fighting, including 20 in a built-up area in the northern Gaza Strip.
Two Palestinian children were killed and 14 people suffered severe
burns on January 17 when Israeli shells landed in a U.N.-run school in the
northern Beit Lahiya area, medical officials said.
Calling the troop withdrawal a "victory for Palestinian resistance," Hamas
demanded a lifting of the blockade Israel tightened on the Gaza Strip after the
74 IPRI Factfile
Islamist group seized control of the territory from the Fatah movement in
Israel said at the start of the military campaign it never intended for its
army, which quit the Gaza Strip in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, to
remain there permanently.
Most Israeli forces pulled out before Obama was sworn in on
Tuesday, in a move analysts saw as an attempt to avoid any early tensions with
Looking to reconstruction efforts, Israel has told the United Nations
and aid groups they must apply for project-by-project approval and provide
guarantees none of the work will benefit Hamas, Western and Palestinian
Israel, the officials said, is also preventing the Western-backed
Palestinian Authority from transferring cash to the Gaza Strip to pay its
workers and others hard-hit by war.
The restrictions threatened to undercut the ability of Abbas's
government to reassert a presence in the enclave.
Hamas officials and an Israeli envoy planned to meet separately with
Egyptian mediators in Cairo on Thursday to discuss ways to make the
ceasefire "durable" and a reopening of border crossings, an official close to the
Jeffrey Heller, Reuters, January 21, 2009
B AN S EEKS I SRAELI E XPLANATION OF U.N. A TTACKS IN
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday he expected Israel
to provide urgently a full explanation of attacks on U.N. facilities in Gaza and
said those responsible must be held accountable.
Reporting to the U.N. Security Council on a trip to the Middle East,
Ban said the recent violence in Gaza was a sign of "collective political failure"
and called for a "massive international effort" to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Ban visited the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday to pledge aid for
Palestinians after Israeli attacks killed 1,300 and made thousands homeless in a
22-day assault Israel said was to stop Hamas firing rockets at southern Israel.
Hamas and Israel declared ceasefires on Sunday and Israel has
withdrawn its troops from Gaza.
Ban said he had demanded a thorough investigation by Israel of
"several incidents of outrageous attacks against U.N. facilities," including
Israeli Assault on Gaza 75
U.N.-run schools that were being used as shelters and a warehouse storing aid
Israel blames Hamas for fighting around civilians and sites run by the
United Nations, which provides support for much of the 1.5 million
"I expect to receive a full explanation of each incident and that those
responsible will be held accountable for their actions," Ban said in a report
delivered for him by Under Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe because Ban had
lost his voice.
He said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised to provide
the results of an inquiry "on an urgent basis."
"I will then decide on appropriate follow-up action."
Other U.N. officials, including John Ging, head of the U.N. Relief
and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, have called for an independent
investigation into the attacks. U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban
also wanted one after the Israeli inquiry but could not himself initiate it.
Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour said he was satisfied with Ban's
comments because in his view "determining the next step ... includes many
things, including legal proceedings in (the) international legal system."
The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, condemned by
Washington and Israel as anti-Israeli, has said it will send a fact-finding
mission to investigate Israeli actions in Gaza. UNRWA will also conduct its
own probe, Pascoe said.
The top U.N. priority was to get relief supplies to Palestinians and
ensure the current ceasefire is translated into a lasting one paving the way for a
comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pascoe told
The U.N. Security Council, in its first comment since the end of the
fighting, agreed on a statement welcoming the ceasefire and efforts to make it
durable and sustainable. It urged all sides in the conflict to protect U.N.
facilities and "ensure respect for international humanitarian law."
He said the tools to end the Arab-Israeli conflict were in place in
Security Council resolutions and an Arab peace initiative, but the political will
had been lacking.
"Nothing short of a massive international effort is now required to
support, and insist on, a resolution of this conflict," Ban said, adding that he
would urge U.S. President Barack Obama, who was inaugurated on Tuesday,
to make Middle East peace one of his top priorities.
Claudia Parsons, Reuters, January 21, 2009
76 IPRI Factfile
A LARM S PREADS OVER U SE OF L ETHAL N EW W EAPONS
Eighteen-year-old Mona Al-Ashkar says she did not immediately know the
first explosion at the United Nations (UN) School in Beit Lahiya had blown
her left leg off. There was smoke, then chaos, then the pain and disbelief set in
once she realised it was gone - completely severed by the weapon that hit her.
Mona is one of the many patients among the 5,500 injured that have
international and Palestinian doctors baffled by the type of weaponry used in
the Israeli operation. High-profile human rights organisations like Amnesty
International are accusing Israel of war crimes.
Mona's doctors at Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital found no shrapnel in
her leg, and it looked as though it had been "sliced right off with a knife."
"We are not sure exactly what type of weapon can manage to do that
immediately and so cleanly," said Dr. Sobhi Skaik, consultant surgeon general
at Al-Shifa hospital. "What is happening is frightening. It's possible the Israeli
army was using Gaza to experiment militarily."
Both international organisations and human rights groups, including
the UN, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have condemned
Israel's use of unconventional weapons in civilian areas of the Gaza Strip.
Amnesty International's chief researcher for Israel and the Palestinian
Territories, Donatella Rovera, told IPS in Beit Lahiya that Israel's use of white
phosphorus and other "area weapons" on civilian populations amounted to
"The kind of weapons used and the manner in which they were used
indicates prima facie evidence of war crimes," she said.
Israel announced Wednesday it would be launching its own probe into
reported use of white phosphorus, but has so far refused to comment further.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear
watchdog, said it would look into a claim made by the ambassadors of a
number of Arab nations that Israel used depleted uranium in its recent attacks
Local doctors say a number of both widespread and unusual injuries
may indicate that new types of weapons were used on the Gaza population
during the war. Health officials are seeing wounds they have never seen
before, or at least not on such a massive scale.
"There has been a significant loss of life here in Gaza for reasons that
are unexplainable medically," said Dr. Skaik.
Mona's injury is characteristic of Dense Inert Metal Explosives
(DIME). DIMEs are munitions that, packed with tungsten powder, produce
an intense explosion at about the level of the knee, with signs of severe heat at
the point of amputation.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 77
"If you ask a patient how it happened, how their leg was removed,
they won't know," Dr. Skaik said. "They'll say that a rocket or missile exploded
and took only their lower limbs off."
Once in the body, tungsten is both difficult to detect and extremely
carcinogenic, and can produce an aggressive form of cancer, according to both
Dr. Skaik says the Al-Shifa hospital alone has seen between 100 to 150
patients with this type of injury. Over 50 patients at Al-Shifa had two or more
limbs severed, he says.
But because Gaza's hospitals are so poorly equipped, it has been
nearly impossible so far to test properly for the substances and count
accurately how many wounded Palestinians may have been hit with this
The Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert who worked at Al-Shifa hospital
during the siege confirmed to journalists that the injuries were aligned with
those produced by DIME explosives.
Human rights groups say Israel used the weapon for the first time in
Lebanon in 2006.
What is worrying health officials even more, however, is that some of
the patients' organs are being ruptured with little or no sign of a shrapnel entry
This is something they have never seen before, they say, and also
something they do not know how to treat.
"Normal shrapnel has a clear path, with both an entry and an exit
point," said Dr. Mohamed Al-Ron, another surgeon at Al-Shifa hospital.
"But someone's entire abdomen will be ripped open, and only after
searching will we find a miniscule hole in the skin. Then we will find small
black dots all over the organ, but we don't know what they are."
It is an indication, he continued, that whatever is entering the body is
exploding and doing the damage once it is inside. Multiple organs will fail, and
will continue to fail even after surgery removes any shrapnel.
"We are consulting with international colleagues, and they are
confirming that there is something unusual going on with these cases," said
"We have seen plenty of nails, of metal shrapnel and foreign metallic
parts, but there was never violence of this character or something that
continued to damage even after the parts of the weapon were removed. What
is being intentionally created is a population of handicapped people."
Some of the injuries, including multiple organ failure, mutilation and
severed limbs, are so debilitating that Dr. Karim Hosni, an Egyptian doctor
volunteering at the Al-Naser hospital in Khan Younis, says he wishes he could
just end his patients' misery.
78 IPRI Factfile
"Sometimes I wish my patients would just die," he said. "Their injuries
are so horrifying, that I know they will now have to lead terrible and painful
Erin Cunningham, IPS News, January 22, 2009
G AZA F AMILY R ECOUNTS D AY OF H ORROR
There were 14 of them huddled under the stairs. Israeli shells and airstrikes
had long since shattered every window of the Helw family’s three-story home.
But underneath the concrete staircase, they said, they felt relatively safe – until
the soldiers came early in the morning on Jan. 4.
There was pounding on the courtyard door, they recalled last week,
and voices in accented Arabic shouted, “Who’s in there?”
As the troops burst inside, family members said Fuad Helw, 55,
jumped up with his arms in the air.
“We all put our hands up and yelled, ‘We’re women and children.
We’re not the resistance,’ ” recalled Sherine Helw, Fuad’s daughter-in-law.
The soldiers opened fire on Fuad, said Sherine, and he died in front of
There are no independent accounts of what happened that day, when
Israeli tanks rolled into the Zeitoun neighborhood on the outskirts of Gaza
City at the beginning of the land offensive. The Israeli army, which staged its
offensive after years of rocket attacks against southern Israel emanating from
the Gaza Strip, refuses to discuss individual charges in detail.
“As a matter of policy, we do not target civilians,” an army spokesman
said on condition that his name not be published. “These situations are very
complex and our soldiers do the best they can.”
But interviews across this devastated neighborhood in the aftermath
of Israel’s 22-day offensive reveal a stream of accounts of violence, anger, loss
and defiance. One of those stories is that of the Helw family, who say the
Israeli tank columns charged in from the border fence between 7 and 8 a.m.
Zeitoun is where the Palestinian coastal enclave shrinks to just about
four miles across, from the beach to the Israeli border. Residents believe that’s
why Israeli tanks and soldiers chose this natural choke point as a staging area
and forward operating base.
The tanks left a clear trail of churned earth still visible from the Helw
family’s roof. By the time the troops began withdrawing after a cease-fire took
effect Jan. 18, Zeitoun was unrecognizable.
A short walk from the family’s house, only six structures are left
standing in a mile-long strip of demolished homes and chicken farms and the
rubble of a mosque.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 79
Twenty-nine members of one clan, the Samounis, died in this
neighborhood, and residents say 27 homes were demolished.
Helw family members described a harrowing day of confusion and
fear, recounting interactions with Israeli soldiers that swung between cruelty
Fuad Helw died almost immediately in the courtyard of the family
home, relatives said. But then the Arabic-speaking Israeli soldier seemed to
take pity. Sherine said he told them, “Don’t be afraid. We don’t target women
She described how the soldier talked on his radio, and then
announced that the 13 remaining family members could walk to safety
together. They left the soldiers and headed up a dirt road, seven women, four
children and two adult males, Ammar Helw, 29, and his brother Abdullah, 18.
As the group walked, Sherine said, they were taunted in vulgar Arabic by an
Israeli soldier hiding in a nearby house.
Then, farther down the road, shots began to rain upon them from a
home across the road to the east, family members said. Farah Helw, Sherine
and Ammar’s 1-year-old daughter, was struck in the abdomen, family members
said, and Abdullah was shot in the hand. The family believes the shooters were
Dragging their wounded, they said, they crawled to shelter behind one
of the 8-foot-high hills created by Israeli bulldozers on the edge of a
Ammar Helw, a light-skinned man with brownish green eyes, told his
family’s story with almost alarming calmness as he chain-smoked and fingered
a string of prayer beads.
Retracing the route he said his family took, Ammar’s voice broke only
once: when he reached the spot where he said his daughter died. There on the
ground lay Farah’s fuzzy purple pants; Ammar picked them up and poked his
finger through the bullet hole, then tucked the clothing under his jacket.
The Helw family members say they took shelter there from 8 a.m. to 9
p.m. Sherine said she cradled her injured daughter to her chest and tried to
breast-feed her but that she died in her arms.
When the other young children grew hungry, Ammar says he fed
them lemons from the nearby trees.
After sunset, an Israeli soldier approached. Ammar and his brother
spoke to them in English and broken Hebrew. The soldier offered medical
help for the wounded, but Ammar was in no mood for Israeli charity.
“I yelled at him, ‘You told us it would be safe to leave the house! Is
this your safety?’ He didn’t answer but he acted like he was upset and said he’d
get an ambulance,” Ammar said. “I told him, ‘You just killed my father and
daughter. Now you’re going to treat us?’ ”
80 IPRI Factfile
More soldiers came. They handcuffed and blindfolded Ammar and
put his injured brother on a stretcher. The soldiers, they said, took the
wounded away and turned them over to the Red Cross a day later. The
uninjured were finally permitted to walk out of the conflict zone.
Red Cross spokesman Iyad Nasr said he couldn’t immediately confirm
the Israeli transfer of Helw family members. He noted that Israeli forces
prevented ambulances from approaching Zeitoun for several days after the
Jan. 4 ground incursion.
Ammar said he spent five days in Israeli custody, most of it
blindfolded and without food or water.
After reuniting with his family, who were staying with relatives, they
returned to their home Jan. 19, he said, but found it in ruins. Ammar alleges
that Israeli soldiers smashed the computer and stole the family jewelry.
He said he also found his father’s body, 30 feet from the house,
haphazardly buried under dirt and chunks of cactus plants.
“These aren’t human beings, I swear to God,” Ammar said.
Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2009
A NOTHER W AR , A NOTHER D EFEAT
*The Gaza offensive has succeeded in punishing the Palestinians but not in making Israel
Israelis and their American supporters claim that Israel learned its lessons well
from the disastrous 2006 Lebanon war and has devised a winning strategy for
the present war against Hamas. Of course, when a ceasefire comes, Israel will
declare victory. Don't believe it. Israel has foolishly started another war it
The campaign in Gaza is said to have two objectives: 1) to put an end
to the rockets and mortars that Palestinians have been firing into southern
Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005; 2) to restore Israel's
deterrent, which was said to be diminished by the Lebanon fiasco, by Israel's
withdrawal from Gaza, and by its inability to halt Iran's nuclear program.
But these are not the real goals of Operation Cast Lead. The actual
purpose is connected to Israel's long-term vision of how it intends to live with
millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the
creation of a "Greater Israel." Specifically, Israel's leaders remain determined
to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes
Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a
handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is
Israeli Assault on Gaza 81
Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between
them, the air above and the water below them.
The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians
so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that
Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy,
which was first articulated by Ze'ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily
influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the "Iron
What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy.
Let's begin with Israel's decision to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. The
conventional wisdom is that Israel was serious about making peace with the
Palestinians and that its leaders hoped the exit from Gaza would be a major
step toward creating a viable Palestinian state. According to the New York
Times' Thomas L. Friedman, Israel was giving the Palestinians an opportunity
to "build a decent mini-state there—a Dubai on the Mediterranean," and if
they did so, it would "fundamentally reshape the Israeli debate about whether
the Palestinians can be handed most of the West Bank."
This is pure fiction. Even before Hamas came to power, the Israelis
intended to create an open-air prison for the Palestinians in Gaza and inflict
great pain on them until they complied with Israel's wishes. Dov Weisglass,
Ariel Sharon's closest adviser at the time, candidly stated that the
disengagement from Gaza was aimed at halting the peace process, not
encouraging it. He described the disengagement as "formaldehyde that's
necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."
Moreover, he emphasized that the withdrawal "places the Palestinians under
tremendous pressure. It forces them into a corner where they hate to be."
Arnon Soffer, a prominent Israeli demographer who also advised
Sharon, elaborated on what that pressure would look like. "When 2.5 million
people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those
people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an
insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's
going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill
and kill and kill. All day, every day."
In January 2006, five months after the Israelis pulled their settlers out
of Gaza; Hamas won a decisive victory over Fatah in the Palestinian legislative
elections. This meant trouble for Israel's strategy because Hamas was
democratically elected, well organized, not corrupt like Fatah, and unwilling to
accept Israel's existence. Israel responded by ratcheting up economic pressure
on the Palestinians, but it did not work. In fact, the situation took another turn
for the worse in March 2007, when Fatah and Hamas came together to form a
national unity government. Hamas's stature and political power were growing,
and Israel's divide-and-conquer strategy was unraveling.
82 IPRI Factfile
To make matters worse, the national unity government began pushing
for a long-term ceasefire. The Palestinians would end all missile attacks on
Israel if the Israelis would stop arresting and assassinating Palestinians and end
their economic stranglehold, opening the border crossings into Gaza.
Israel rejected that offer and with American backing set out to foment
a civil war between Fatah and Hamas that would wreck the national unity
government and put Fatah in charge. The plan backfired when Hamas drove
Fatah out of Gaza, leaving Hamas in charge there and the more pliant Fatah in
control of the West Bank. Israel then tightened the screws on the blockade
around Gaza, causing even greater hardship and suffering among the
Palestinians living there.
Hamas responded by continuing to fire rockets and mortars into
Israel, while emphasizing that they still sought a long-term ceasefire, perhaps
lasting ten years or more. This was not a noble gesture on Hamas's part: they
sought a ceasefire because the balance of power heavily favored Israel. The
Israelis had no interest in a ceasefire and merely intensified the economic
pressure on Gaza. But in the late spring of 2008, pressure from Israelis living
under the rocket attacks led the government to agree to a six-month ceasefire
starting on June 19. That agreement, which formally ended on Dec. 19,
immediately preceded the present war, which began on Dec. 27.
The official Israeli position blames Hamas for undermining the
ceasefire. This view is widely accepted in the United States, but it is not true.
Israeli leaders disliked the ceasefire from the start, and Defense Minister Ehud
Barak instructed the IDF to begin preparing for the present war while the
ceasefire was being negotiated in June 2008. Furthermore, Dan Gillerman,
Israel's former ambassador to the UN, reports that Jerusalem began to prepare
the propaganda campaign to sell the present war months before the conflict
began. For its part, Hamas drastically reduced the number of missile attacks
during the first five months of the ceasefire. A total of two rockets were fired
into Israel during September and October, none by Hamas.
How did Israel behave during this same period? It continued arresting
and assassinating Palestinians on the West Bank, and it continued the deadly
blockade that was slowly strangling Gaza. Then on Nov. 4, as Americans
voted for a new president, Israel attacked a tunnel inside Gaza and killed six
Palestinians. It was the first major violation of the ceasefire, and the
Palestinians—who had been "careful to maintain the ceasefire," according to
Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center—responded by
resuming rocket attacks. The calm that had prevailed since June vanished as
Israel ratcheted up the blockade and its attacks into Gaza and the Palestinians
hurled more rockets at Israel. It is worth noting that not a single Israeli was
killed by Palestinian missiles between Nov. 4 and the launching of the war on
Israeli Assault on Gaza 83
As the violence increased, Hamas made clear that it had no interest in
extending the ceasefire beyond Dec. 19, which is hardly surprising, since it had
not worked as intended. In mid-December, however, Hamas informed Israel
that it was still willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire if it included an end to
the arrests and assassinations as well as the lifting of the blockade. But the
Israelis, having used the ceasefire to prepare for war against Hamas, rejected
this overture. The bombing of Gaza commenced eight days after the failed
ceasefire formally ended.
If Israel wanted to stop missile attacks from Gaza, it could have done
so by arranging a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. And if Israel were genuinely
interested in creating a viable Palestinian state, it could have worked with the
national unity government to implement a meaningful ceasefire and change
Hamas's thinking about a two-state solution. But Israel has a different agenda:
it is determined to employ the Iron Wall strategy to get the Palestinians in
Gaza to accept their fate as hapless subjects of a Greater Israel.
This brutal policy is clearly reflected in Israel's conduct of the Gaza
War. Israel and its supporters claim that the IDF is going to great lengths to
avoid civilian casualties, in some cases taking risks that put Israeli soldiers in
jeopardy. Hardly. One reason to doubt these claims is that Israel refuses to
allow reporters into the war zone: it does not want the world to see what its
soldiers and bombs are doing inside Gaza. At the same time, Israel has
launched a massive propaganda campaign to put a positive spin on the horror
stories that do emerge.
The best evidence, however, that Israel is deliberately seeking to
punish the broader population in Gaza is the death and destruction the IDF
has wrought on that small piece of real estate. Israel has killed over 1,000
Palestinians and wounded more than 4,000. Over half of the casualties are
civilians, and many are children. The IDF's opening salvo on Dec. 27 took
place as children were leaving school, and one of its primary targets that day
was a large group of graduating police cadets, who hardly qualified as
terrorists. In what Ehud Barak called "an all-out war against Hamas," Israel
has targeted a university, schools, mosques, homes, apartment buildings,
government offices, and even ambulances. A senior Israeli military official,
speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained the logic behind Israel's
expansive target set: "There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to
hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything
supports terrorism against Israel." In other words, everyone is a terrorist and
everything is a legitimate target.
Israelis tend to be blunt, and they occasionally say what they are really
doing. After the IDF killed 40 Palestinian civilians in a UN school on Jan. 6,
Ha'aretz reported that "senior officers admit that the IDF has been using
enormous firepower." One officer explained, "For us, being cautious means
being aggressive. From the minute we entered, we've acted like we're at war.
84 IPRI Factfile
That creates enormous damage on the ground … I just hope those who have
fled the area of Gaza City in which we are operating will describe the shock."
One might accept that Israel is waging "a cruel, all-out war against 1.5
million Palestinian civilians," as Ha'aretz put it in an editorial, but argue that it
will eventually achieve its war aims and the rest of the world will quickly forget
the horrors inflicted on the people of Gaza.
This is wishful thinking. For starters, Israel is unlikely to stop the
rocket fire for any appreciable period of time unless it agrees to open Gaza's
borders and stop arresting and killing Palestinians. Israelis talk about cutting
off the supply of rockets and mortars into Gaza, but weapons will continue to
come in via secret tunnels and ships that sneak through Israel's naval blockade.
It will also be impossible to police all of the goods sent into Gaza through
Israel could try to conquer all of Gaza and lock the place down. That
would probably stop the rocket attacks if Israel deployed a large enough force.
But then the IDF would be bogged down in a costly occupation against a
deeply hostile population. They would eventually have to leave, and the rocket
fire would resume. And if Israel fails to stop the rocket fire and keep it
stopped, as seems likely, its deterrent will be diminished, not strengthened.
More importantly, there is little reason to think that the Israelis can
beat Hamas into submission and get the Palestinians to live quietly in a
handful of Bantustans inside Greater Israel. Israel has been humiliating,
torturing, and killing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967 and
has not come close to cowing them. Indeed, Hamas's reaction to Israel's
brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzsche's remark that what does not kill
you makes you stronger.
But even if the unexpected happens and the Palestinians cave, Israel
would still lose because it will become an apartheid state. As Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert recently said, Israel will "face a South African-style struggle" if
the Palestinians do not get a viable state of their own. "As soon as that
happens," he argued, "the state of Israel is finished." Yet Olmert has done
nothing to stop settlement expansion and create a viable Palestinian state,
relying instead on the Iron Wall strategy to deal with the Palestinians.
There is also little chance that people around the world who follow
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will soon forget the appalling punishment that
Israel is meting out in Gaza. The destruction is just too obvious to miss, and
too many people—especially in the Arab and Islamic world—care about the
Palestinians' fate. Moreover, discourse about this longstanding conflict has
undergone a sea change in the West in recent years, and many of us who were
once wholly sympathetic to Israel now see that the Israelis are the victimizers
and the Palestinians are the victims. What is happening in Gaza will accelerate
that changing picture of the conflict and long be seen as a dark stain on Israel's
Israeli Assault on Gaza 85
The bottom line is that no matter what happens on the battlefield,
Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a strategy—with lots of
help from its so-called friends in the Diaspora—that is placing its long-term
future at risk.
John J. Mearsheimer, American Conservative, January 26, 2009
G AZA ’ S E CONOMY IN R UINS
Israeli forces used aerial bombing, tank shelling and armoured bulldozers to
eliminate the productive capacity of some of Gaza’s most important
manufacturing plants during their 22 days of military action in the Gaza Strip.
The attacks, like those which destroyed an estimated 20,000 homes
leaving some residential areas resembling an earthquake zone and more than
50,000 people in temporary shelters, destroyed or severely damaged 219
factories, Palestinian industrialists say. Leaders of Gaza’s business community
— who have long stayed aloof from the different Palestinian political factions
— say that much of the three per cent of industry still operating after the 18-
month shutdown caused by Israel’s economic siege has now been destroyed.
Chris Gunness, chief spokesman for the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency, said that widespread destruction of “civilian economic
infrastructure” was a strike “at the heart of the peace process” because
“economic stability is an essential component of a durable peace.”
While the main impact of the destruction is likely to be on the already
politically fraught prospects of medium to long-term reconstruction in Gaza, it
will not make efforts to help Gaza’s many stricken and displaced residents any
It is those humanitarian relief efforts for which the main British aid
agencies are appealing for help in the advertisement so far barred by the BBC.
The Unrwa is meanwhile separately pressing donors for $345m for immediate
repairs to homes still standing and to its own damaged premises.
The destroyed factories include: Alweyda, the biggest Palestinian
food-processing plant and the only one still operating in Gaza until the war;
Abu Eida, the largest, and now flattened, ready-mixed concrete producer; and
the 89-year old Al Badr flour mills, which have the biggest storage facilities
anywhere in the Strip.
The owners of all three said on Saturday they were proud of their
close and long-standing contact with Israeli partner firms and suppliers. Dr
Yaser M Alweyda, owner and engineering director of the demolished food-
processing plant estimated the total damage to his plant at $22.5m and accused
Israel of wanting “to destroy the weak Palestinian economy”. He added: “They
want to ensure that we will never have a state in Palestine.”
86 IPRI Factfile
The air and ground strikes have compounded the impact of the total
18-month trade embargo, which Israel imposed in June 2007 after the civil war
between Hamas and Fatah ended in the collapse of the short-lived coalition
between the two rival factions and Hamas’s enforced takeover of the strip.
Amr Hamad, executive manager of the Palestinian Federation of
Industries, said: “What they were not able to reach by the blockade, they have
reached with their bulldozers.” He added: “Businessmen are not connected at
all to Hamas and are very pragmatic and open-minded.
“They are the last layer in Palestinian societies who believe in peace
and the importance of the economy. They also believe that the only economic
link should be with Israel,” Mr Hamad said.
Meanwhile the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, told his cabinet
that with “typical moral acrobatics” the “terrorist organisations” were trying to
lay the blame on Israel, and that “the State of Israel did everything in order to
avoid hitting civilians.” Israel would ensure that soldiers and officers who took
part in the operation would be safe from any tribunals investigating them, he
At the Al Badr mills in Sudaniya, north of Gaza City, owner Rashed
Hamada, 55, said the company had been making wheat flour for bakeries right
up until the attack on Jan 10. He strongly denied that his compound had been
used by Hamas gunmen, and said it was clear the production line itself had
been the target.
“It seems that the father of the commander had owned a flour mill,”
he commented ironically. “He knew exactly where to hit. The Israelis.... used
to encourage me to expand production here. Now they have destroyed it. I
don’t understand why.”
Standing beside mangled and incinerated refrigeration vans and the
burned-out ruins of his food factory and warehouses, located for ease of
access to Israel between the eastern Gaza City district of Shajaia and the
border 650 metres away, Dr Alweyda said that as well as the production lines,
26 vehicles had been destroyed.
The company, sole Gaza agent for Israeli milk products company
Tnuva, had managed to keep biscuit production going up until the outbreak of
war. The Israeli military said that it was still investigating allegations of civilian
casualties and property damage.
Donald Macintyre, Dawn, January 27, 2009
Israeli Assault on Gaza 87
I SRAEL M UST A LLOW R EHABILITATION O F G AZA - UN
Press Release: United Nations
Israel Must Allow Full Access for Aid and Supplies to Rehabilitate Gaza – UN
The top United Nations humanitarian official today called on Israel to
immediately open up crossing points into Gaza for full access to relief aid
following its devastating three-week offensive against Hamas militants.
“Israel has a particular responsibility as the occupying power in this
context, because of its control of Gaza’s borders with Israel, to respect the
relevant provisions of international humanitarian law,” Under-Secretary-
General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told the Security Council in a
report on his just-completed visit to Gaza, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“It is therefore critical that new steps are taken immediately by the Israeli
authorities to move to the sustained re-opening of crossing points,” he said,
stressing that improving the living conditions of Gaza’s 1.5 million people was
vital to avoid further despair and undermining the two-state diplomatic
solution to the decades-`ld Middle East conflict.
As he did frequently during the assault Israel launched on 27
December with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza, Mr.
Holmes meted out blame to both sides in the conflict.
“The reckless and cynical uses of civilian installations by Hamas, and
the indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations, are clear
violations of international humanitarian law,” he said. However, even taking
into account Israel’s security concern to protect its own civilian population, it
is clear that there are maῪor questions to be asked about the failure of the
Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to protect effectively civilians and humanitarian
workers in Gaza.
“Given the scale and nature of the damage and loss of life, there are
also obvious concerns about a lack of wider respect for international
humanitarian law, particularly the principles of distinction and proportionality.
There must be accountability.”
Mr. Holmes cited the toll of the conflict: some 1,300 Palestinians
killed, and more than 5,300 injured, 34 per cent of them children, according to
Palestinian Ministry of Health figures that have not been seriously challenged;
21,000 homes destroyed or badly damaged; over 50,000 people displaced in
UNRWA structures during the height of the fighting, with tens of thousands
more sheltering with families and friends.
“Widespread destruction was caused to Gaza’s economic and civil
infrastructure,” he said. “I saw for example, an entire industrial and residential
area in East Jabalia which had been systematically bulldozed, an area of at least
88 IPRI Factfile
one square kilometre; one of the best schools in Gaza reduced to rubble; and
much of the Al Quds hospitῡl in Gaza City burned out.
But he stressed the critical need to look forward to bring urgent relief
to Gaza after 18 months of closure, which steadily weakened health,
livelihoods and infrastructure even before the recent offensive.
“A massive humanitarian effort is now needed in areas such as food
security, nutrition, water and sanitation, shelter, essential repairs of power,
roads and other basic infrastructure, rebuilding the health system, rubble
removal, unexploded ordnance and psychosocial care. As only one example,
1.3 million Gazans, almost 90 per cent of the population, now need food aid,
he said, noting that he would launch a Flash Appeal on 2 February.
Much freer access for goods and staff is needed, Mr. Holmes, who
also serves as Emergency Relief Coordinator, declared. While Israel has
allowed increased shipments of basic commodities with 120 truckloads getting
in on good days, the normal daily requirement is a minimum of 500. Many
humanitarian workers continue to be refused regular entry.
If aid workers continue to face rigid limits on their movement and
essential items such as construction materials, pipes, electrical wires and
transformers are kept out, the lives of the Gazan people cannot significantly
improve, he said.
The Under-Secretary-General also emphasized that Hamas must
refrain from any interference with the movement or distribution of
humanitarian goods, noting that reconciliation between Hamas and the
Palestinian Authority, which it ousted from Gaza in 2007, would best facilitate
relief and recovery activities.
“The people of Gaza have continued to exist in what is effectively a
giant open-air prison, without normality or dignity. Their lives have been put
at risk recklessly by indiscriminate rocket attacks from their midst, which have
also killed, injured and traumatized Israeli civilians in Southern Israel. They
have now endured a terrifying assault, and must live with its devastating
aftermath, he concluded.
“This is not sustainable or acceptable. It can only lead to more
despair, suffering, death and destruction in the coming years, and perhaps
fatally undermine the two-state solution we all seek,” he added, referring to the
Roadmap plan for Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace.
“It must therefore be in the long term interests of all parties, including
Israel, to ease conditions for the people of Gaza, by opening the crossings,
facilitating the provision of assistance, and allowing them to live, work and
Addressing the same Council session before it adjourned for
consultations, the head of the UN senior UN refugee official in the region
cited the apparent systematic destruction of schools, universities, residential
Israeli Assault on Gaza 89
buildings, factories, shops and farms. “Every Gazan projects a sense of having
stared death in the face,” UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd said.
“There is rage against the attackers for often failing to distinguish
between military targets and civilians and there is also resentment against the
international community for having allowed first the siege and then the war to
go on for so long,” she added, calling for political action to end the occupation
and peacefully resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle
East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported that all crossings were closed today as
a result of an Israeli soldier being killed.
For its part, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is currently
assessing damage and preparing a plan for reconstruction, focusing on rubble
removal, agriculture, water and sanitation, while the UN Children’s Fund
(UNICEF) is providing essential educational equipment and materials to help
restore a sense of normalcy for youngsters. In northern Gaza, UNICEF tents
are serving as temporary learning spaces for girls.
Scoop Independent News, January 28, 2009
FACTBOX: I SRAELI -H AMAS C ONFLICT T OLLS
Israel said it completed a troop pullout from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on
Israel's attacks in an offensive it launched on December 27 to counter
rocket attacks from the territory killed some 1,300 Palestinians and made
thousands homeless. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on January 17 with
Hamas announcing its ceasefire the next day.
Palestinians in Gaza
-- The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said at least 1,300 Palestinians,
among them at least 410 children, have been killed in the Gaza offensive.
A Palestinian human rights group said the civilian death toll was at
Hamas and other factions said at least 225 fighters and 230 policemen
had been killed.
The Health Ministry said 5,300 people have been wounded, including
about 1,630 children.
90 IPRI Factfile
-- Thirteen Israelis were killed: 10 soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas
rocket fire. Some 700,000 Israelis live in areas struck by Hamas rockets.
Living in Gaza
-- 1.5 million Palestinians live in the 360-sq-km (139-sq-mile) Gaza Strip. More
than three quarters of them are refugees whose families fled or were driven
from their land in what is now Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
-- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has
provided food and other assistance to 750,000 Gazans, 200,000 children
attend 221 UNRWA schools throughout Gaza. On Monday UNRWA said
that 17 out of 18 health centers were open in Gaza.
-- UNRWA said that 53 of its installations were damaged or destroyed
including 37 schools (six of which were being used as emergency shelters), six
health centers, and two warehouses.
-- According to UNICEF, the population of Gaza has become totally
dependent on humanitarian aid for its survival.
-- Hamas has said that 5,000 homes, 16 government buildings and 20
mosques were destroyed and 20,000 houses damaged in the three-week war.
Sources: Reuters/UNICEF/UNRWA/Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.
Reuters, January 21, 2009
TIMELINE: I SRAELI -H AMAS V IOLENCE
Here is a timeline of events since a six-month ceasefire between Israel and
Hamas in the Gaza Strip ended last month.
The ceasefire had been eroded by violence from both sides since early
November, when Israel killed several gunmen in air and ground raids, and
Hamas fired rockets into southern Israel.
December 19, 2008 - Ceasefire expires.
December 24 - Gaza Palestinian militants fire rockets at Israel.
December 27 - Israel launches air strikes on Gaza, killing at least 229
December 28 - Israeli air strikes hit the Islamic University and target
smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
December 31 - Emergency U.N. Security Council session on Arab
resolution calling for ceasefire adjourns without a vote.
January 3, 2009 - Israel launches a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip,
sending tanks and infantry into battle with Hamas.
Israeli Assault on Gaza 91
January 4 - Israelis cut the strip in half from the border fence to the
Mediterranean. Troops and armor ring Gaza City.
January 5 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a peace mission, and
U.S. President George W. Bush, call for ceasefire.
January 6 - Israeli shelling kills 42 Palestinians at a U.N. school in
Jabalya refugee camp where civilians had sheltered.
-- Egypt, backed by France and other European powers, proposes an
January 8 - Rockets fired from Lebanon strike northern Israel,
wounding two people.
-- The U.N. Security Council votes for a resolution calling for an
immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but the United States abstains, citing Egyptian-
mediated talks on a truce.
-- The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which distributes
the majority of aid in Gaza, suspend its operations after an Israeli tank shell
kills an UNRWA driver in a convoy.
January 9 - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejects the U.N.
resolution as "unworkable" and, noting Palestinians fired rockets at Israel, says
the army will go on defending Israelis.
January 10 - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal accuses Israel of
perpetrating a "holocaust" in Gaza and says his group will not consider a
ceasefire until Israel ends its assault.
-- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. Egypt says it will not accept foreign troops on its
side of the border with Gaza to stop arms smuggling.
January 11 - Israeli forces edge into the Gaza Strip's most populous
area, throwing army reservists into battle.
-- Israel says stopping arms smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip
should be done by Egyptian forces and rejects the idea of an international
January 12 - Olmert, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni decide against ordering troops in to engage in all-out
January 13 - Hamas says it has "substantial observations" about an
Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
January 14 - Rockets fired from Lebanon strike Israel for the second
time in a week.
-- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives in Cairo and calls
again for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
-- A Hamas delegation is holding talks with Egyptian intelligence
officials on an Egyptian initiative, but Hamas has said changes to the Egyptian
proposals are needed.
92 IPRI Factfile
-- Human Rights Watch says Israel's daily three-hour break in attacks
to facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid to Gazans is "woefully insufficient."
January 15 - Israeli forces push deeper into Gaza city unleashing their
heaviest shelling in three weeks of war.
-- UNRWA says its compound is struck twice by Israeli fire and three
staff members are injured.
-- Ban tells Israel the death toll from fighting has reached an
January 17 - Israel declares unilateral ceasefire. Hamas guerrillas say
the war will go on.
January 18 - Hamas announces a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
-- There is shooting from both sides after the declarations, but the
ceasefire appears to gain strength and Israeli troops begin to pull out of Gaza.
January 19 - A spokesman for Hamas's armed wing says it will
replenish its arsenal of rockets and other weapons.
January 20 - Ban Ki-moon visits the Gaza Strip and condemns an
"excessive use" of force by Israel as well as Hamas's rocket fire into Israel. He
also called the Israeli attack on a UNRWA compound outrageous and
demanded an investigation.
January 21 - Israel completes a troop pullout from Gaza.
-- According to Palestinian and international estimates, reconstruction
of Gaza may cost close to $2 billion.
Reuters, January 21, 2009