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Israeli Ground Forces Enter Gaza In Escalation - UPDATES

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Author Topic: Israeli Ground Forces Enter Gaza In Escalation - UPDATES  (Read 221 times)
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« Reply #30 on: January 06, 2009, 11:56:38 am »

                                                  WHAT THE ISRAELIS THINK:

B'Tselem to army: Evacuate wounded Gazans trapped in shelled buildings
B'Tselem has received a report that several wounded Palestinians are currently trapped in buildings shelled on Saturday night by the army, together with the bodies of their relatives.

Human rights groups report from the field
Israeli human rights groups have launched a blog supplying ongoing updates about the caused to civilians as part of the fighting in the Gaza Strip and Southern Israel.

Killing of Nizar Rayan with his wives and children breaches laws of war
On 1 Jan. '09, the Israeli army killed four women and eleven children when it bombed the house of Nizar Rayan, a senior Hamas official, in the Jabalya refugee camp. Such extensive loss of civilian life constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law and cannot be justified on military grounds.

Ambulance and team fired at while evacuating wounded people
On 4 January, a medical team was fired at while evacuating wounded people in Beit Lahiya. A paramedic and one of the wounded people were killed.

Testimony: children witness two women shot in taxi
On 4 January, soldiers opened fire from a tank toward a passenger taxi outside Gaza City. The four children in the taxi witnessed their mother and another woman killed.

Testimony: Toddler and girl killed in their home by bombing
A-Nasalah family was in their home when near-by structure was bombed a number of times. A-Moaz, 2.5 years old and Eyon, 16, were killed.

Testimony: three-year-old killed in Gaza bombing
On 27 Dec., Ahmad and Maryam Sinwar, aged three and six, stepped out of their home to feed chickens in the yard. Before they reached the coop, the house was hit by the bombing of a nearby building. Ahmad was killed.

Testimony: Life in Gaza under siege and bombardment
The al-Masri family hardly dare leave the house and live on bread and tea.

Testimony: Five girls killed when IDF bombs near-by mosque
Samirah Bau'lusha, 36, lost 5 of her daughters when her house was destroyed after the Israeli Air Force bombed a mosque next door. Four of her other children were also hurt during the attack. According to Ba'aloosha, many houses near by were damaged as a result of the mosque bombing.

Testimony: Man loses father and brothers in Gaza bombing
On 27 Dec., Jaber …was urgently called home from work by a neighbor. He arrived to find his house destroyed and family members wounded or killed.

Testimony: 8-year-old girl and aunt are killed in their home by bombing
The Kashku family was warming themselves around a bon-fire in their yard due to the power failure. Ibtehal, the 8-year-old girl, went up to her aunt's apartment to get tea, when the house was bombed. Ibtehal and her aunt were killed and the house was destroyed.

Testimonies: Vegetable merchants killed in bombing of Gaza police building
On 27 Dec. '08, the Israeli army bombed a police building next to the central market of Deir al-Balah. Merchants and vendors were killed, as well as a seven-year-old child.

Additional items...
« Last Edit: January 06, 2009, 11:59:20 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #31 on: January 06, 2009, 07:26:14 pm »

                                   Egypt floats truce plan after 42 killed in Gaza school

January 6, 2009

Israel and Hamas studied a proposal by Egypt for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday that won immediate backing from the United States and Europe, hours after Israeli shells killed 42 Palestinians at a U.N. school.

However, Israeli officials also said ministers would discuss a major escalation of their 12-day-old offensive that would push troops deep inside Gaza's cities and refugee camps in their bid to end rocket fire into Israel by Islamist militant groups.

A Palestinian official said Hamas leaders, who want an end to Israel's blockade of the coastal enclave, had been briefed in Egypt on the proposals by President Hosni Mubarak and were debating them internally.

Israeli officials have said they too are willing to look seriously at plans that would satisfy their demand that Egypt cut off Hamas's supplies of smuggled weapons.

Mubarak made his ceasefire call at a joint news conference in Egypt with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He gave little detail, but diplomats have described a process that would focus on bringing in foreign forces to seal the Egypt-Gaza border to Hamas arms smugglers while easing other trade routes.

Sarkozy, winding up a two-day tour of the Middle East, said: "I am confident the Israeli authorities' reaction will make it possible to consider putting an end to the operation in Gaza."

With Washington hamstrung by the transition period ahead of the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, France and its European partners, with backing from U.S. allies in the Arab world, have been pushing hard for Israel to cease fire.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking at the United Nations, quickly endorsed the Mubarak proposal and said a "sustainable" ceasefire should involve both closing off Hamas's ability to rearm through tunnels from Egypt and easing the lives of the 1.5 million people of Gaza by reopening its trade routes.

"We need urgently to conclude a ceasefire that can endure and that can bring real security," Rice told the Security Council.

She also welcomed an offer by Israel to open what it called a "humanitarian corridor" that would let aid agencies more easily distribute food and medicine around Gaza while it continues its military operation, which has killed over 600 people and carved the 40-km (25-mile) strip into several zones.


For all the talk of ceasefire, however, Israel continues to insist that it wants all rocket fire to stop -- over 30 missiles hit Israel on Tuesday -- and guarantees that Hamas cannot rearm.

And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet, convening on Wednesday morning, will discuss a third -- and final -- stage of the offensive, two senior political sources said, though the ministers may defer a vote on approving the plan.

"The plan is to enter the urban centers," a source said, noting the first phase was an air campaign launched on December 27 and the second a ground invasion that began on January 3.

Olmert spokesman Mark Regev declined comment, saying: "We do not generally discuss the agendas of the security cabinet."
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« Reply #32 on: January 06, 2009, 07:28:19 pm »


After nightfall, fighting eased to a sporadic rhythm of explosions and gunfire across the enclave. On Tuesday, 77 civilians were killed taking the total Palestinian death toll to 631, compared to 10 Israelis, seven of them soldiers.

Israel says it has killed dozens of militants this week in intensive close-quarter combat. Arab and widespread international anger mounted on Tuesday, however, when Israel admitted mortaring a United Nations school where hundreds of people were taking refuge. Medics said 42 people were killed.

The Israeli army accused Hamas militants of using civilians as "human shields" and said its troops had been returning mortar fire from the school.

An aide said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a bitter foe of Hamas, had ordered officials to look into taking Israel to international courts over the incident. A U.N. spokesman said it wanted an inquiry into both the incident and the Israeli allegations about militants firing from its schools.

The school killing could intensify pressure on Israel for a ceasefire. During Israel's 2006 war against Hezbollah, the deaths of 28 unarmed Lebanese in shelling at the village of Qana intensified international pressure on the Jewish state to negotiate a ceasefire.

The deaths in the school prompted Obama to break his silence on the Gaza offensive, to say the loss of life among civilians was "a source of deep concern" for him. Obama said he would not engage in policy until he was in office but vowed to work rapidly thereafter to secure peace in the Middle East.

Some commentators have said the U.S. presidential transition has exposed the United States to greater risks from Israel's action in Gaza. Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri called on the Internet for Muslims to "hit the interests of the Zionists and Crusaders wherever and in whichever way you can."

Washington's allies in Arab governments have condemned the Israeli assault, which has contributed to rising oil prices, and the always vocally anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, another OPEC member, called it a "holocaust."

Venezuela also expelled the Israeli ambassador.

Hamas, which has rebuffed Western demands to recognize Israel, end violence and accept existing interim peace deals, has demanded a lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip in any future ceasefire. It seized the territory in 2007, 18 months after it won a Palestinian parliamentary election.

That created a schism with Abbas's Fatah faction that helped kill off the outgoing U.S. administration's efforts to broker a peace with Israel that would have created a Palestinian state. The violence in Gaza this month has raised questions over Obama's ability to do better.

(Additional reporting by
Dan Williams and
Adam Entous in Jerusalem,

Aziz el-Kaissouni in Sharm el-Sheikh and

Claudia Parsons at the United Nations;

Writing by Alastair Macdonald;

editing by Myra MacDonald)
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« Reply #33 on: January 07, 2009, 07:35:16 am »

                                 Deepening Israeli assault on Hamas divides Arab world

Yahoo News
Jan. 7, 2009

Israel pressed deeper into Gaza Tuesday in its assault on Hamas. As the battle grew deadlier, calls for a cease-fire mounted as did outrage at Israel after two strikes outside United Nations schools killed at least 34 Gaza civilians.

Across the Arab world the conflict continues to tear at the rift between factions that extol resistance to Israel and the Western-friendly autocracies and monarchies that rule in the region. As anger at Israel grows, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas backers in Iran and Syria gain more currency on the street at the expense of American allies: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. And this shifting tide of support could have an impact on US policy in the Middle East for decades.

"This conflict, like the July [2006 Hezbollah-Israel] war, is one in which the stakes are very high for both sides," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese expert on the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. "I would expect now an even-deeper polarization in the region."

As with the 2006 Lebanon war, the Gaza conflict suggests that the most dynamic forces at play in the modern Middle East are not states but the powerful militant organizations Hezbollah and Hamas that have emerged and evolved over the past two decades.

"These are very powerful, legitimate, and perplexing actors for the world to deal with. The really important actors are the militant nationalist, Islamist resistance groups," says Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Center of Lebanon at the American University of Beirut.

These divisions between anti-Israeli factions and US allies were first thrown into sharp relief in July 2006 when Hezbollah fought the Israeli army to a surprising standstill in south Lebanon. At the onset of that conflict, Saudi Arabia implicitly accused Hezbollah and its backer Iran of "uncalculated adventures," an unusually stinging rebuke.

But in this war between Israel and an Islamist militant group, the verbal barbs have been sharper. The Saudis, while providing humanitarian aid to Gazans, have implicitly blamed Hamas for the offensive, saying that the "massacre would not have happened if the Palestinian people were united behind one leadership."

On the other side, Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah charged the Sunni Egyptian regime of conspiring with Israel and urged Egyptians "to take the streets in their millions."

"Can the Egyptian police kill millions of Egyptians? No, they cannot," he said.

This was an unprecedented call from the politically astute leader who has always been wary of aggravating Sunni-Shiite tensions.

"The gloves have come off and Hezbollah is no longer afraid of antagonizing the Sunnis," says Ms. Saad-Ghorayeb.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul-Gheit shot back at Sheikh Nasrallah, saying that Hezbollah had destroyed Lebanon in 2006 and accused him of having "insulted the Egyptian people."

"I found Nasrallah's comments to be objectionable, but I also found them to be ineffective because they had absolutely no effect on the ground," says Nabil Fahmy, an Egyptian diplomat and former ambassador to Washington. "What has had more of an effect in galvanizing the Egyptian people, understandably, is the bombing itself."

The Israeli offensive has triggered demonstrations in Europe and the Arab world. While Europeans have largely directed their protests at the Israeli government, Middle Easterners are pointing their ire at Egypt, with thousands marching on Egyptian embassies in Beirut and Amman, Jordan.

But as the war drags on, unease is growing among so-called Arab "moderates." Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan have become more vocal in their denunciations of Israel's excessive military force. King Abdullah of Jordan has sacked his intelligence chief in what may be a move related to the Gaza crisis. Last week he and his wife, Queen Rania, donated blood for Palestinians in Gaza.

The violence hastened steps Tuesday to reach a cease-fire arrangement and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to the UN to consult with Arab officials.

Syria, which hosts Hamas's leadership, also has been drawn into the diplomatic moves with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, holding talks Tuesday with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Damascus as part of a tour with European officials.

Syria is in an unusual position. It is the sole Arab state member of the so-called "resistance front," it continues to maintain an alliance with non-Arab Iran, backs Hezbollah and Hamas, and has acted to scuttle US policy gains in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon.

Still, its relations with Europe have thawed lately and there are hints of a renewed dialogue with the US under President-elect Barack Obama's administration. On the other hand, Syria's ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt have worsened.

"The Syrians have strong reason to believe that Hamas will not be defeated in this war, and on the contrary, will score a point for its allies, vis--vis Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who are loudly critical of Hamas today," says Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst. "It's not on Syria's agenda to make up with either Egypt or Saudi Arabia, given their positions on the current war. Syria is sticking by its allies and continuing to build-bridges with Europe."

But it is the powerful nonstate actors of Hezbollah and Hamas that draw most attention. Nasrallah's televised addresses are watched avidly by friends and foes alike for clues on what his enigmatic organization might do next. Hezbollah and its allies are in a strong position to triumph at the polls in June to form a new parliamentary majority and government. Hamas, having won elections in 2006, is the ruling authority in Gaza.

But with power comes responsibility. Hezbollah has refrained so far from coming to the assistance of its ally Hamas by opening up a new front in northern Israel largely because of the domestic political backlash such a move would invoke. Hamas, too, even if it emerges from this war claiming victory, may find its military options curtailed.

"In the short term, there will be a perception that they [Hamas] are stronger and that countries that supported them are stronger," says Mr. Fahmy, the Egyptian diplomat. "But if whoever is controlling Gaza a few months down the line cannot give people a better lifestyle then I don't think they will continue to be heroes."
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« Reply #34 on: January 07, 2009, 07:39:10 am »


                                          Led by ideologues, Gazans feel abandoned by the world

Mcclatchy Newspapers
Tue Jan 6, 2009
Gaza Strip

For 11 days, life has kept getting worse for Saladin Sultan and his family.

First came the surprise Israeli airstrikes on his northern Gaza Strip town. Then the power went out. Food became harder to find.

As Israeli ground troops advanced through the uneven dirt roads leading to his town Monday, Sultan gathered his wife and five children and fled.

On Tuesday, living in a cold, dark United Nations school, Sultan wanted to know why it had come to this.

Among the 1.5 million Palestinians in the increasingly isolated Gaza Strip , there's a growing sense of abandonment.

Gaza residents with no way to escape the expanding Israeli military campaign to destabilize Hamas are turning their anger on the outside world.

From hospital emergency rooms to rudimentary shelters, more and more Palestinians say that everyone from their Arab allies to Western diplomats has turned a blind eye to their deepening plight.

"Where are the Europeans?" asked Sultan, a 40-year-old shop owner. "Where are the human rights they are talking about? A dog there is better than a human (here).

"They are not human," he said bitterly. "They are insects."

Israeli aircraft and artillery have been pounding the Gaza Strip relentlessly for 11 days. The attacks have killed more than 600 Palestinians and wounded nearly 3,000. The Gaza Strip's government infrastructure, from police stations and universities to government offices and mosques, has been repeated targets of Israeli strikes. Most residents haven't had power for days. Food is becoming more scarce. Hospitals are straining to handle the rising number of women and children wounded by the Israeli attacks. Israeli ground troops are closing in on Gaza City .

And there's still no real indication that evolving diplomatic cease-fire talks will end the attacks anytime soon.

Predictably, plenty of anger is aimed at the Israelis who launched the attack.

However, there's also pointed hostility toward the Arab and Muslim world, which largely has been slow to act.

"God damn the Arabs," Jabel Abdel Dayam shouted as he stood over his wounded son in Gaza City's Shifa Hospital . "

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak draws special scorn in Gaza .

He's opened Egypt's border crossing with Gaza to allow a small number of Palestinians out and a small amount of humanitarian aid in. However, he's cracked down on pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Cairo .

It hasn't escaped people's notice that Mubarak, like Israel , relies on billons of dollars in American aid, and that he, like Israel , sees militant Islamists as a major threat.

Although demonstrators in Egypt have pounded on the border gates with Gaza to demand that Mubarak allow Palestinian to flee, the potential escape hatch remains shut.

Gazans also are experiencing a sense of alienation from their estranged Palestinian cousins in the West Bank .

Ever since Hamas seized control of Gaza in a pitiless, 2007 military showdown with fighters loyal to pragmatic Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas , the divide between the West Bank and Gaza has been growing.

Even so, many Palestinians in both places were surprised when Abbas appeared initially to back Israel's military strike on Gaza by blaming Hamas for instigating the crisis.

While truce talks have been slow to gain traction, Palestinians find themselves trapped between advancing Israeli forces intent on crippling Hamas and Hamas ideologues intent on humiliating Israel .

Eyaj Sarraj, the founder of the Gaza City Mental Health Program, said both sides were leading Gaza into ruin.

"This is a revenge mentality with no strategy for security and peace except by brutal force," Sarraj said of the Israeli policy. "The strategy on the Hamas side is a fatalistic belief in resistance. And here we are in the middle."

(Hamda is a McClatchy special correspondent.
Nissenbaum reported from Jerusalem .)
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« Reply #35 on: January 07, 2009, 07:45:09 am »

                                 UN Says No Hamas Fighters Were in Bombed Gaza School

Yahoo News
Tim Mcgirk
Wed Jan 7, 2009

United Nations investigators say they have uncovered no evidence to support a claim by the Israeli military that Hamas fighters were holed up in a Gaza school, prompting a deadly attack by Israeli forces that killed 40 civilians, many of them children.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office asserted that militants fired mortars from inside the school at troops involved in Israel's controversial incursion into the Gaza Strip in pursuit of Hamas fighters - a military operation that is drawing fierce international condemnation as civilian casualties mount. "The IDF returned fire," according to the spokesman's office. (See pictures of Israeli soldiers sweeping into Gaza.)

But after a preliminary investigation of the Jan. 6 attack at the Fakhura girl's elementary school, "we're 99.9% sure that no militants were at the school," says Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The agency questioned survivors, including UNRWA staff that run the school under U.N. auspices.

Before the school was hit by Israeli bombs, some 400 Palestinians fleeing shelling of the Jabalya refugee camp had taken shelter inside Fakhura, hoping that the U.N. flag would shield them from harm, according to survivors. Earlier, the U.N., which oversees relief efforts for more than 800,000 Palestinians in Gaza, had passed along the coordinates of all its schools and buildings to the Israeli military so that its humanitarian missions would be spared attack.

Some reports say that Israel struck the school with artillery shells, while others say with mortars. Thirty Palestinians were killed outright from the incoming fire, and 10 others died last night in Gaza's overburdened and badly provisioned hospitals, according to the U.N. More than 55 were injured. Israeli bombs also hit a second school on Tuesday, say Gaza residents, killing three civilians.

Some Jabalya refugees at the school said they saw a small group of militants firing mortars near the school and running away, the Associated Press reported. A Gaza resident contacted by TIME said there is a citrus grove not far from the school. "Most likely, the militants fired from there," said the resident, who requested anonymity.

But Israeli military officials insist that the mortars were fired from within the crowded schoolyard and that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. The IDF gave the names of two Hamas combatants it says were killed inside the school - Imad and Hasasan Abu Askar - who allegedly fired the mortars. But the IDF did not explain how it was able to identify them among the many casualties. Troops did not visit the school after the attack, nor did the IDF have access to a casualty list from Gaza's hospitals. (See pictures of Israel's deadly assault on Gaza.)

The school deaths intensified urgent international calls for a cease-fire. Israeli diplomats said that Israel was taking 'very, very seriously" an Egyptian cease-fire proposal backed by the U.S. and Europe. Several senior Hamas officials in Cairo were briefed on the Egyptian proposal and said they are debating it.

The Egyptians are suggesting that both sides agree to an immediate truce, and work out long-term details on lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza. However, one member of the Hamas poliburo in Damascus complained to TIME that the proposal does not call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. "Without that, it's a joke," he said.

On Tuesday, as the Israeli military tightened its hold on Gaza's towns and refugee camps, civilian casualties mounted sharply, with 77 killed, taking the total death toll to 631 since the operation began 12 days ago. Israel says it will not halt its ground offensive until Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel. Hamas launched 30 rockets Tuesday, striking towns near Gaza but causing no casualties.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would allow the opening of a "humanitarian corridor" to bring supplies to the besieged 1.5 million Gazans trapped by the conflict, and called for all fighting to be suspended for three hours on a daily basis to allow residents to stock up on necessities. "While we welcome the humanitarian corridor," says Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman, "this cannot compromise the need for an immediate ceasefire."

- With reporting by Jamil Hamad/Bethlehem
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« Reply #36 on: January 07, 2009, 11:30:01 am »

                                        Muslims around the world protest Gaza assault

Fri Jan 2, 2009
ABC News

Thousands protested Friday against Israel's air offensive targeting Hamas at demonstrations in the Middle East and several continents.

Similar protests have been held daily across the Middle East since Israel launched the bombing campaign last Saturday. But these gatherings held mostly after Friday prayers were larger mainly because Friday prayers are a traditional gathering opportunity for Muslims and seemed to be more far-reaching in the number of countries where protests occurred.

The Israeli offensive has killed more than 400 Palestinians and sparked outrage among the Arab public. Israel says its offensive is aimed at silencing Hamas rockets.

In Tehran, a crowd of about 6,000 stretching for a half-mile (kilometer) marched from prayers at Tehran University to Palestine Square, chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" and burning Israeli flags.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned Israel that entering Gaza "by land will be the biggest mistake of the Zionist regime."

Iran is a major backer of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, giving it millions of dollars. The U.S. and Israel accuse Iran of giving weapons and rockets to Hamas, though Tehran denies arming Hamas.

In Egypt, authorities clamped down hard to prevent protests Friday. Hundreds of riot police surrounded Cairo's main Al-Azhar Mosque, where a rally had been called, and scuffled with would-be protesters, keeping most from approaching.

Police also arrested 40 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood that called for protests.

More than 3,000 people marched in the northern Sinai city of el-Arish.

Many governments in the Arab world such as Egypt have been wary about protests at home over Israel's Gaza assault lest the protests spiral out of control.

In Jordan, police fired volleys of tear gas and scuffled with protesters who tried to reach the Israeli Embassy in Amman. A few of the protesters threw stones at police, but the security forces dispersed the group, arresting several.

About 30,000 Jordanians gathered at a stadium in Amman shouting their support for Gaza and calling for the abolition of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty signed in 1994.

More than 10,000 Muslims marched through Indonesia's capital Jakarta to protest the ongoing bombing raids in Gaza, aiming fake missiles labeled "Target: Tel Aviv, Israel" at the U.S. Embassy.

Protests were also held after Friday prayers in other cities in the world's most populous Muslim country, in what was the largest turnout since Israel began the operation.

In the Afghan capital of Kabul, about 3,000 people gathered outside a prominent mosque, according to police estimates. Men in the crowd threw stones and shoes at an effigy of President George W. Bush.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in the Philippines capital Manila, carrying placards saying Israel is a "butcher of children."

In Turkey, Israel's closest ally in the region, some 5,000 people denounced the Israeli raids outside a mosque in Istanbul, burning Israeli and U.S. flags and reciting funeral prayers for the victims.

In Syria, some 2,000 marched in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, carrying Palestinian flags and chanting "jihad will unite us."

Syrian President Bashar Assad talked with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday and called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution forcing Israel to immediately halt its Gaza offensive, Syria's official news agency SANA reported.

In Sudan, thousands marched in downtown Khartoum, urging Muslims to jihad and denouncing Israel and America.

Protests erupted as well in the Palestinian territories.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, thousands demonstrated in solidarity with Gazans, calling for Palestinian unity and accusing Arab leaders of silence over Israel's bombardment.

There were also protests in the United States. Thousands gathered in Washington to express outrage over Israel's attacks, marching from the Israeli embassy Friday to the Egyptian embassy to criticize Egypt's handling of the attacks.

In Los Angeles, about 350 protesters and counterprotesters demonstrated. The pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside the Israeli Consulate, while supporters of Israel lined the opposite side of the street. No incidents were immediately reported.

Ex-Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox and other celebrities, including activist Bianca Jagger, comedian Alexei Sayle and former London mayor Ken Livingstone, held a news conference in London demanding Israel halt the onslaught.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil almost 200 people led by local Muslim leaders gathered outside the Sao Paulo Art Museum to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Several demonstrators carried Palestinian flags, and banners reading "End the Genocide in Gaza."

In Bern, Switzerland, hundreds of people marched, calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and demanding the international community impose sanctions against Israel.

Russian authorities detained about 37 people after a small protest outside the Israeli Embassy in Moscow demanding an end to attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of Muslims held a rally at the main mosque in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, hoisting banners that said "Palestinian Blood Is Human Blood" and shouting for Kenya to sever ties with Israel.

Meanwhile, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, the leader of al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, has issued a message urging Muslims to attack Jews everywhere, according to the SITE Intelligence, a group which monitors extremist Web sites.

The message was issued on jihadist forums on Thursday, SITE said.
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« Reply #37 on: January 07, 2009, 11:32:23 am »

                                      Israel, Hamas briefly hold fire to allow Gaza aid

January 7, 2009.
(Ismail Zaydah/Reuters)

Hundreds of embattled Palestinians ventured outside to shop for food on Wednesday during a three-hour Gaza truce, a first step toward an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire under discussion by Israel and Hamas.

"Food and milk -- what else can we hope for in three hours," said Ahmed Abu Kamel, a father of six who lives near the city of Gaza. "We want it all to end."

Violence resumed in the area soon after the 1 p.m.-4 p.m. truce expired, and Palestinians returned to the precarious safety of their home after stocking up on food and visiting family and friends.

Israel said it would cease attacks in the Gaza Strip during those hours every day to ease the flow of aid to the Hamas-run territory's 1.5 million residents.

A day after Israeli shelling killed 42 Palestinians at a U.N.-run Gaza school, Israel said it viewed "positively" talks with Cairo over a wider ceasefire plan promoted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French leader Nicolas Sarkozy.

"We welcome the French-Egyptian initiative. We want to see it succeed," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose security cabinet decided to delay a decision on expanding a 12-day-old Gaza offensive.

Israel wants a ceasefire deal to include a specialized international force to search out and destroy tunnels along the border between Gaza and Egypt to prevent Hamas from rearming and firing more rockets at Israeli towns.

A Palestinian official said the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers, who want an end to Israel's blockade of the enclave, had been briefed in Egypt by Mubarak and were debating the proposal.

"Aggression must stop, the siege must be lifted and the Zionist forces must pull out, and then we can talk about others issues, including calm and rockets," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

In fresh fighting, at least 12 Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks, medical workers said. At least 15 Hamas rockets hit southern Israel, causing no casualties.

The total Palestinian death toll reached 650, medical officials said. Israel says it killed dozens of militants this week in the offensive it launched on December 27 with the declared aim of silencing rocket salvoes.

According to U.N. figures, more than a quarter of the Palestinian dead are civilians. A Palestinian human rights group put the figure at 40 percent. Seven Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

The United Nations called for an inquiry into Israel's deadly shelling of the U.N. school in Jabalya refugee camp on Tuesday. Israel said Hamas militants at the school had fired rockets. The U.N. said there were no gunmen on the premises.

An aide said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a bitter foe of Hamas, ordered officials to look into taking Israel to international courts over the deaths at the school.
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« Reply #38 on: January 07, 2009, 11:34:39 am »


Israeli government sources said Egypt was seeking an initial 48-hour ceasefire, during which it would put the finishing touches to its plan. Israel, the sources said, opposed a preliminary truce and wanted all the details of a ceasefire agreement completed first.

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy speech, said by telephone from Tel Aviv that the EU was prepared to help Egypt prevent arms smuggling along its border with the Gaza Strip as part of a ceasefire with Israel.

"Today we have the will, today we have the technology, today we have the means ... to prevent that smuggling of weapons takes place," he said, but played down the need for foreign ground forces.

With Washington in a transition period ahead of the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, France and its European partners, with backing from U.S. allies in the Arab world, have been pushing hard for Israel to cease fire.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice endorsed the Mubarak proposal and said a "sustainable" ceasefire should involve both closing off Hamas's ability to rearm and easing the lives of the 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip by reopening trade routes.

While it ordered a three-hour-long lull in "offensive" military operations to let in aid, Israel also considered entering a third stage of its air and ground offensive -- a deep push into Gaza's cities and refugee camps.

But an Israeli official, citing the Egyptian and French ceasefire efforts, said Olmert's security cabinet deferred voting on the urban warfare plan to an undisclosed date.

Fierce combat in Gaza's narrow alleyways and streets, leading to heavy casualties on both sides, would hold political risks for Israel's leaders ahead of a February 10 national election.

(Additional reporting by
Dan Williams and
Adam Entous
in Jerusalem,

Aziz el-Kaissouni in
Sharm el-Sheikh and

Claudia Parsons and
Louis Charbonneau at
the United Nations;

Writing by
Alastair Macdonald and
Jeffrey Heller;

by Dominic Evans)
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« Reply #39 on: January 07, 2009, 11:39:00 am »

                                         AP Gaza reporter finds hometown in rubble

Ibrahim Barzak,
Associated Press Writer
Jan. 7, 2009
Gaza Strip

I live alone in my office. My wife and two young children moved in with her father after our apartment was shattered. The neighborhood mosque, where I have prayed since I was a child, had its roof blown off. All the government buildings on my beat have been obliterated.

After days of Israeli shelling, the city and life I have known no longer exist.

Gaza City, with some 400,000 people, stopped supplying water when the fuel ran out for the power station driving the pumps. We listen to battery-run radios for news, even though the outside world watches what's happening to us on television. Grocery stores are closed and food is scarce.

Hospital officials say more than 600 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's military operation to crush Hamas, the radical Islamic movement that rules Gaza. Many are civilians.

Three days after Israel began its airstrikes on Gaza on Dec. 27, my apartment building was shaken by bombs aimed at a nearby Hamas-run government compound.

My brother took a picture of the room where my boys, 2-year-old Hikmet and 6-month-old Ahmed, once slept. Their toys were broken, shrapnel had punched through the closet and the bedroom wall had collapsed. I don't know if we will ever go back.

The Israeli army issued a video of the bombing of the Hamas compound, which it posted on YouTube. I can see my home being destroyed, and I watch it obsessively.

On Tuesday, I stood outside my apartment building but didn't dare to enter. I was worried the remains of the nearby Hamas compound might again be shelled without warning.

Driving back to central Gaza City, I took the road where Gaza's two main universities are. It was covered with shards of glass, telephone cables, electricity wires and flattened cars. This road was once crowded with students, taxis and street vendors. It was always noisy and jammed.

The only shop I found open was a pharmacy run by my friend Eyad Sayegh. He's an Orthodox Christian, and I stopped to wish him a Merry Christmas Eastern churches celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.

Eyad told me he forgot it was Christmas.

All the landmark buildings I covered as a reporter have vanished.

The colonial-era Seraya was the main security compound for the succession of Gaza's rulers the British, Egyptians, Israelis, the Palestinian Authority and then the rival Palestinians of Hamas.

We used to fear the Seraya, where the central jail was. Now it's rubble.

Of the presidential office overlooking the sea only a few walls remain. For many Gazans it was a symbol of our statehood, even though President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the Fatah movement, hasn't been there since Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007.

Someone planted a Palestinian flag on the building's remains. The huge gate at the western entrance still stands, giving an illusion of something big behind it.

And across the city, the Parliament house is half destroyed.

On Jala Street, one of Gaza's main roads, I saw about 30 boys around a leaky irrigation tap on a traffic island. They were clutching empty soft drink bottles and jerry cans, trying to fill them with water.

Samir, who is 9, told me his family has no water at home and he wanted to bring enough for a bath because he and his brother smell.

So do most people in Gaza right now.

In my father-in-law's building, residents throw out bags of spoiled food. With no power, refrigerators don't run and fresh food quickly rots.

Shortages are getting worse, leading to unusual gender equality in the bread lines. I saw about 150 men and women gathered to buy bread but standing in separate lines. The men complained the women, normally so deferential to men, kept pushing, so now they have two lines.

There are few cars on the roads, and most of those are media cars, ambulances and vehicles packed with civilians. Some look like they are fleeing, with mattresses tied to the roofs, but who knows where they can go.

Israeli helicopters fly overhead. I hear blasts in the distance. The roads have been ripped apart by explosives.

I drive into downtown Gaza, trying to prove to myself I can still do something I have done so often before drive through my city.

I reach the Catholic school I attended, where my late father used to bring me every day. The building is undamaged. I stand in front of it, wondering if I will ever walk my children to this school.
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« Reply #40 on: January 07, 2009, 03:12:36 pm »

                                             Israel approves tougher war on Hamas

JAN. 7, 2009

 Israel on Wednesday approved an even tougher war on Hamas, warning residents to flee southern Gaza ahead of planned bombardments of cross-border tunnels, as the Palestinian death toll passed 700.

After a brief lull to allow Gaza's beleaguered population to hunt for food and fuel, Defence Minister Ehud Barak was given the green light by the security cabinet to order a deeper offensive into Gaza towns as part of the campaign to halt Hamas cross-border rocket attacks.

But Barak has also decided to send an envoy to Cairo on Thursday to get details on an Egyptian ceasefire plan, which secured widespread international backing amid mounting concern about the scale of the civilian casualties.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he hoped the talks would "lead to conditions which will allow" the end of the Israeli offensive which began on December 27 and has so far killed 702 Palestinians and wounded 3,100, Gaza medics say.

Olmert chaired the security cabinet meeting in Jerusalem which "approved continuing the ground offensive, including a third stage that would broaden it by pushing deeper into populated areas," a senior defence official said.

The final decision will be left with Barak, the official added.

Israeli shelling and air attacks around Gaza City were halted for three hours as a humanitarian gesture. Hamas also halted rocket attacks.

People and cars quickly filled the streets of Gaza City and long queues formed outside bakeries which soon ran out of bread. Aid groups sent dozens of truckloads of food and fuel across the border during the truce.

But the fighting equally quickly resumed, inflicting new deaths. A man and his three sons and a nephew were killed in one attack at the Jabaliya refugee camp, according to Gaza medics.

Israel also warned thousands of people in the Rafah zone on the Egyptian border to leave their houses or face air strikes.

"You have until 8:00am (0600 GMT)" on Thursday, said leaflets which were dropped by the Israeli military.

The area around Rafah is criss-crossed by what the Israeli army estimates to be some 300 tunnels and what local residents have told AFP is 500 subterranean passages from Gaza into Egypt.

The tunnels are used to smuggle supplies and arms into Gaza, an impoverished enclave that Israel has virtually locked down since Hamas seized power in June 2007.

Putting a halt to the smuggling is a key element of the ceasefire plan proposed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The proposal calls for an "immediate ceasefire," Israeli-Palestinian talks in Egypt on securing Gaza's borders, reopening border crossings and possible Palestinian reconciliation talks under Egyptian mediation.

Egypt has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to open a humanitarian corridor from its border with Gaza for aid and evacuating the wounded, the foreign ministry in Cairo said.

The Hamas leadership announced it was studying the plan and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was set to go to Cairo for talks.

The United States signalled it was open to the idea of a ceasefire but the White House said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was clarifying details of the Egyptian plan.

Russia's top Middle East envoy met exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus on Wednesday. A Russian foreign ministry statement said Meshaal declared himself ready to take part in a "political-diplomatic solution" but that "the imposition of capitulatory conditions by Israel was unacceptable."

The Israeli government has faced mounting international criticism over its offensive, its deadliest ever in Gaza.

Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's justice and peace minister, was quoted by the online Italian daily Il Sussidiario as saying Gaza had been turned into a "big concentration camp" by two weeks of Israeli bombardments.

Israel responded by saying the comments were "based on Hamas propaganda."

Hundreds of Hamas rockets fired into Israel over the past 12 days have killed four people and wounded dozens. Six Israeli soldiers have also been killed in combat.

Israel was also slammed by the United Nations which expressed outrage and demanded an independent investigation after military strikes on three UN-run schools in Gaza on Tuesday killed 48 people.

Forty-three people were killed in the deadliest strike at Jabaliya. The army said its investigation found militants had fired at Israeli forces from inside the school and Hamas militants were among those killed.

The United Nations denied this.

"Following an initial investigation, we are 99.9 percent sure that there were no militants or militant activities in the school and the school compound," Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, told AFP.
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« Reply #41 on: January 07, 2009, 07:30:18 pm »


Palestinians pray over the bodies of people killed near a United Nations school Tuesday, during their funeral in the Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009.

Israel's military paused its Gaza offensive for three hours Wednesday to allow food and fuel to reach besieged Palestinians, and the country's leaders debated whether to accept an international cease-fire plan or expand the assault against Hamas. With criticism rising of the operation's spiraling civilian death toll and Gazans increasingly suffering the effects of nonstop airstrikes and shelling, Israel's military said it opened 'humanitarian corridors' to allow aid supplies to reach Palestinians.

(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
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« Reply #42 on: January 07, 2009, 07:33:30 pm »


Palestinians walk in the rubble following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. Israel ordered a pause in its Gaza offensive Wednesday for three hours to allow food and fuel to reach besieged Palestinians, as the country's leaders debated whether to accept an international cease-fire plan or to expand the assault against Hamas.

(AP Photo/Khaled Omar)
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« Reply #43 on: January 07, 2009, 07:36:56 pm »

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« Reply #44 on: January 07, 2009, 07:47:32 pm »



After Israel LEVELED Lebanon over a border skirmish involving 2 missing sentries,

my lifelong support of Israel is OVER!

These attacks on the people of Gaza, who are CONFINED like swine

by the Israelis are a hateful disgrace and criminal acts that cry out for justice!!!
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