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

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29 December, 2008

Palestinian death toll rises to 325 as Israeli strikes continue
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem and Ewen MacAskill in Washington, The Guardian 12/29/2008
guardian. co. uk The toll of Palestinians killed by Israel’s three-day bombing campaign in Gaza today rose to at least 325 as Israeli jets bombed a university’s science laboratories and hit the interior ministry in a widening series of air strikes. The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak - who has already said his government does not want another ceasefire with the Islamist Hamas movement - said his army was fighting a "war to the bitter end". Israel declared the border area around Gaza a closed military zone which, together with preparations for a call-up of thousands of reservists, could suggest a large ground invasion is planned next. Barak said the military campaign would be "widened and deepened as needed". The number of civilians killed in the fighting continued to rise. The UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees and has large programmes in Gaza,. . .

Gaza without electricity, water
Report, Electronic Intifada 12/29/2008
GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - As a result of a major Israeli offensive on 27 December against the Gaza Strip a dire humanitarian situation looms, according to aid officials. Gaza had been teetering on the edge of such a crisis even before the Israeli offensive: humanitarian access to Gaza has been severely restricted by Israel since early November. Now infrastructure in several areas has been destroyed, leaving residents without electricity and water. On 28 December Oxfam said it had been forced to temporarily suspend most of its humanitarian work in Gaza because of the bombing, and a program which will feed 25,000 people has also been put on hold. Only United Nations agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been able to send staff to Gaza since early November. "Since 3 November Oxfam Great Britain’s requests for the coordination of 10 staff members to enter and exit Gaza have been denied," said Oxfam administrator Mohammed Abu-Gharbieh.

Olmert: Don’t talk about truce
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Top officials discuss Gaza op, PM calls for ’iron fist’ against Hamas, bans ceasefire talk - Speaking at a meeting with top officials, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed participants to refrain from talking about the possibility of a Gaza ceasefire at this time, while focusing on continuing the offensive against terrorists in Gaza. " We no longer talk about an exit policy, but rather, we are working in order to secure the Gaza operation’s objectives," he said. "As long as the fire continues, the Israeli operation will be expanded. " The meeting was attended by Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and top security officials, including Army Chief Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, and Mossad Director Meir Dagan. Participants were told that Hamas asked Senegal, the current president of the Islamic. . .

Hamas: 120 police dead, 95% of security buildings demolished and hundreds of civilians slain
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Gaza- Ma’an - Most of the Israeli airstrikes hit Gazans at work, not activists launching rockets as Israel has reported, said Spokesman for the de facto Interior Ministry Ihab Al-Ghusein in a Monday statement. Those killed in government buildings were ministry employees doing their best to help the people of the besieged Gaza Strip, said Al-Ghusein in a Gaza City press conference Monday afternoon. Al-Ghusein confirmed that Gaza will accept any and all aid from Arab states, and urged Egypt to open the Rafah crossing to aid could come into the Strip. The aid is desperately needed, he added, because Israel has bombed mosques, houses, schools and university campuses. He called on Palestinians to unite, and promised that no political prisoners from Fatah or any other faction were in de facto government custody.

Five sisters killed while they slept
Donald Macintyre and Said Ghazali, The Independent 12/30/2008
The five Palestinian sisters were fast asleep when a night-time Israeli airstrike hit the next-door mosque in Gaza. One of the walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in their beds. The eldest sister, Tahrir, was 17 years old, the youngest, Jawaher, just four. "They grow up day after day and night after night. Within a second, I have lost them," the girls’ father, Anwar Balousha, said yesterday. The 37-year-old, along with another three of his children, was himself injured in the attack on the densely populated Jabalya refugee camp. The funerals of the sisters -- Tahrir, 17; Ikram, 15; Samar, 12; Dina eight; and Jawaher, four -- were attended by family members and thousands of mourners. But with space running out in the cemetery, the five girls had to be buried in just three graves, one for the eldest and the others forced to share.

Two Palestinians killed near Ramallah in clashes with Israeli soldiers
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Two protesters were left dead as young Palestinians in the West Bank demonstrating against the violence in Gaza met Israeli troops patrolling the streets in an attempt to force calm in the area. A young Palestinian man was killed during Sunday evening clashes with Israeli forces in the central West Bank town of Silwad, east of Ramallah. Local and medical sources identified the victim as 17-year-old Muhammad Hamid. He was transferred to Ramallah Hospital where medics announced he had sustained three gunshot wounds in his abdomen and chest. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Earlier in a separate incident, another young man 20-year-old Arafat Al-Khawaja, was killed and six others were injured. Muhammad Al-Khawaja, also 20-years-old, was hit by a bullet to the head and medical sources in the governmental hospital in Ramallah described his condition as critical.

VIDEO - Palestinian stabs 4 in Modi’in Illit
Judy Siegel-itzkovich And Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
A Palestinian laborer stabbed and wounded four Israelis Monday in the West Bank settlement of Modi’in Illit before he was shot and wounded by a volunteer medic, police and rescue officials said. The morning attack in the haredi community, located just over the Green Line adjacent to Modi’in, left one victim seriously wounded, and three others lightly hurt. The Palestinian assailant, who had worked in the settlement for over a decade, was shot and seriously wounded by Kobi Rosenstein, a settlement security official who volunteers with Magen David Adom, the rescue service said. Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the stabbing was a "spontaneous" act in response to Israel’s three-day aerial offensive against Hamas targets in Gaza. Initial reports of a second attack in the community an hour after the first were unfounded, he added.

Gazan families seek safety indoors, hope food outlasts Israeli bombs
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The rhythm of life in Gaza sees civilians, fighters, Brigades leaders and their children walking the same streets, working in the same buildings and searching the same hospitals for the bodies of their dead. All are likely to come under fire as Israel continues to go after “Hamas assets” in the Gaza Strip. Gaza City is dense, with tall apartment buildings, packed refugee camps and crowded neighborhoods. The city holds approximately 400,000 residents crammed into 45 square kilometers, the most overcrowded population in the world. Rawan, a young woman living in the center of the city, has not left her family’s home since her uncle rushed to collect her and two relatives from the school where they study and work. “He took more than an hour to get to us,” she explained, “We don’t have a car and he had to beg taxi drivers on the street to take him to the school, but they all said no because the area was too dangerous.

Uncertainty and bombing keep Gazans awake and fearful of who will be next
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Abu Salah’s family lives in Gaza’s Nasser neighborhood - close enough to hear the bombings targeting the home next to that of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Shati refugee camp, and close enough to hear the attacks on Haniyeh’s office, which also hit the UN building. " Salah wants to leave the house, but I didn’t let him," Abu Salah said. "Who knows what will happen outside? On the other hand, who knows what will happen at home? " He knew what he was talking about Monday morning, following what he called "the hardest night we’ve had until now. Even harder than Saturday. From 12 at night until 7 we couldn’t sleep - bombings, explosions and ambulances the whole time. " At 1 o’clock that same night, on the other side of the Strip in Rafah’s Yibna refugee camp, a missile was fired at the home of Riad al-Attar, a senior commander in the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Attar had already vacated the building along with his family.

Gaza Humanitarian Plight ’Disastrous,’ U.N. Official Says
CNN, MIFTAH 12/29/2008
Israeli airstrikes pounding Gaza are deepening the humanitarian crisis in an area that was already in deep distress, according to a United Nations aid official. " The situation is absolutely disastrous," U. N. official Christopher Gunness toldon Sunday, as a second day of aerial attacks brought the death toll in Gaza close to 300. Hundreds more people have been injured. Israel has said the airstrikes are a necessary self-defense measure after repeated rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas militants. Israeli leaders say they are trying to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. Gaza is headed for "a major humanitarian disaster" unless the fighting ends soon, said Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, a psychiatrist who runs Gaza’s mental health program. He described people huddling in their basements for safety as bombs fell. " The children are terrified," he said. "Adults are unable to provide them with security or warmth. Hospitals are stretched out of the limits. We need blood and medicine and surgical equipment. "

Medical Officials: Gaza has Run Out of Medicine
Grace Walsh, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
Medical and healthcare services are struggling to cope with the outcome of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, while the bombing continues. In a special interview with IMEMC, Dr. Mo’oawiah Hassunin, the head of the Palestinian Ambulance and Emergency Services of the Ministry of Healthin Gaza, made an update on the current situation of health services. According to Dr Hassunin, hospitals in Gaza are operating without any medical supplies whatsoever, while three of the main hospitals have been badly damaged. The ambulance services are now operating at 50 percent capacity due to a lack of medical and personnel resources. The entire area is now being serviced by five ambulances and three fire brigades. The small amount of medicine that Egypt has allowed into Gaza lasted just a few hours. Dr Hussanin confirmed the number of dead Palestinians is 312, though this is steadily increasing. . .

Red Crescent evacuating neigbourhoods in Rafah
International Solidarity Movement 12/29/2008
Gaza Region - The Red Crescent in Gaza is evacuating people from the neighborhoods in Rafah located along the border with Egypt. According to the international Human Rights Volunteers in Gaza, people are being mobilized to leave the area as urgently as possible. "Under the guise of humanitarian efforts, people are being informed that their homes are about to be destroyed. After an inhumane siege that left Gaza with little to lose, people are being asked to say goodbye to the last remains of their former lives. " Fida Qishta, Palestinian resident of Rafah, International Solidarity Movement "After days of coordinated bombings all over Gaza, the pretense of avoiding civilian casualties is nonsensical. The offensive bombing of sites in Gaza has already lead to over 300 deaths and 1,000 injuries. To pretend that Israel wants to avoid unnecessary deaths is to ignore the facts.

Red Cross: Gaza hospitals in ’chaos’
Middle East Online 12/29/2008
GENEVA - Gaza Strip hospitals are in a state of chaos after more injured people flooded in on the third day of Israeli air raids, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday. "The situation in hospitals is described as chaotic," the ICRC said in a statement. "Palestinian sources indicate that by 10:00 am local time on 29 December, some 310 people had been killed and at least 1,000 wounded, 180 seriously. "Medical teams have been dealing with a constant influx of wounded since 27 December and are stretched to the limit," the statement added. "We are completely overwhelmed by the number of people coming in with very serious injuries. I have never seen anything like this," the statement quoted the head of the surgical ward of Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City as saying. He said more medical supplies were urgently needed.

Three Israelis killed as Hamas launches revenge attacks
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem and Anne Penketh, The Independent 12/30/2008
Rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip took the lives of three Israelis yesterday, the highest toll since Israel began its devastating bombardment of Gaza on Saturday, while the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman warned the conflict could "get worse before it gets better. " In their deepest missile attack yet, Palestinian fighters struck Ashdod, 25 miles south of Tel Aviv yesterday evening, killing one woman and wounding five other people. Police spokeswoman Sarit Philipson said the woman was killed at a bus station and Israeli media reports said she had alighted from her car after hearing the siren that warns of incoming rockets. Another person was killed by a mortar and five people wounded during a separate evening attack on the southern Israeli community of Nahal Oz, while in the morning a medium-range Grad missile fired from the Gaza Strip slammed into a construction. . .

Journal: Attacks last night in Gaza
Sharon in Gaza, International Solidarity Movement 12/29/2008
This will be hurried as very short collision of internet, electricity, and me, before we have to head for our night time locations before dark. Last night my group went to Al Awda hospital in order to be in the Jabalia region in case of incursion. One of the targets bombed by Apaches was a mosque near us; the next door shop and house were also destroyed, the rubble collapsing on top of the six daughters of the Belusha family. I watched live footage as they tried to extract the single traumatised little girl who survived. The others were dead. We visited the site this morning, catching a ride back to Gaza city with a driver whose eyes were full of tears. In Gaza I went to see the Kabariti family in the port area, who you will recall hosted us for Christmas Eve. -- See also: Sharon's blog

Israeli forces arrest four Palestinians near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested on Monday morning four Palestinian youths in the northern West Bank village of Madama, south of Nablus. Member of the village’s local council Eyhab Tahsein said that 12 Israeli military vehicles stormed the village at 2:00 am, ransacked several houses and arrested four youths. Israeli forces also entered the Yamen Educational Center and confiscated a computer, the said. Tahsein named the arrestees as 21-year-old Muhammad Al-Qit, 20-year-old Yasser Nassar, 21-year-old Muhammad Nassar and 22-year-old Kamal Nassar. [end]

Soldiers detain three Palestinians north of Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The West Bank-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said Israeli soldiers detained several residents of a northern village near Hebron on Monday, according to a statement. Soldiers raided the area at dawn on Monday, seizing several Palestinians in the Hebron-area village of Beit Umar, the statement said. The group identified the seized as 20-year-olds Issa Muhammad and IssaAwad, as well as 21-year-old Yousef Ali Musleh Awad. Residents also claimed that Israeli soldiers broke into several houses in the area. [end]

Four Israelis injured in stabbing attacks
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - Four Israelis were injured by Palestinian attackers in the ultra-Orthodox town of Kiryat Sefer, according to Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Three appeared to have been stabbed by one person, while a fourth was found wounded, apparently from a separate Palestinian stabber. One of the Israelis is seriously injured, according to the newspaper. [end]

A Palestinian man attacks and injures four settlers near Ramallah
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
Israeli sources reported that a Palestinian man attacked a group of settlers in Kryiat Sfer, an Israeli illegal settlement, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, injuring four on Monday. [end]

The Israeli army kidnaps ten Palestinian civilians from several parts in the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army attacked several West Bank communities on Monday morning and kidnapped at least 10 Palestinian civilians. In Hebron city, in the southern part of the West Bank, Israeli troops attacked several part of the city then kidnapped two local youth, local sources in the city identified the two as Issa Awad, 20, and Yousif Awad, 21. Meanwhile four civilians were kidnapped by Israeli troops during an attack targeting the village of Bil’in located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Sources there said that troops invaded the city, searched homes then took the four to unknown locations. In addition, four civilians were taken by the Israeli forces during an attack on the village of Madama, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Monday morning.

Israeli wounded in stabbing attack
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Terror rears its head in West Bank settlement in response to Gaza op: Israeli lightly wounded when Palestinian stabs him in neck - An Israeli citizen was lightly wounded Monday in a stabbing attack near the West Bank settlement of Kedumim. The man was evacuated to the hospital by Magen David Adom (MDA) and the IDF has launched a search for the terrorist. The attack occurred when a Palestinian arrived at the settlement and stabbed one of the settlers in the neck, injuring him lightly. Soldiers and MDA paramedics were alerted to the scene. Earlier four people were injured in a stabbing attack in the community of Kiryat Sefer, near the central city of Modiin. An Arab handyman armed with a sharp tool began running wild and stabbing people on the fourth floor of an apartment building. An initial IDF investigation revealed that at around 8 am the laborer. . .

Man hurt in Palestinian stabbing attack at West Bank settlement
Amos Harel and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
A man was lightly wounded on Monday evening after a Palestinian stabbed him in the head at the West Bank settlement of Kedumim. Police suspect the Kedumim resident was stabbed in protest of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Earlier on Monday, a Palestinian laborer stabbed three Israelis in the ultra-Orthodox town of Kiryat Sefer, which lies near Modi’in. One of the wounded was reported in serious condition. Another Israeli was later found wounded after suffering stab wounds at the hands of another Palestinian. The first Palestinian stabber, who works as an air conditioner technician, attempted to flee following the attack. Armed civilians nearby opened fire and wounded him moderately before taking him into custody. Israeli security forces began combing the area in search for a Palestinian suspected of being an accomplice to the attack.

Senior Jihad man, 14 others die in IDF strikes
Senior Jihad man, 14 others die in IDF strikes, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Ziad Abu Tir, fourteen people killed in strikes on northern Gaza; terror organizations prepare for ground incursion, vow to send out ’hundreds of car bombs and suicide bombers’. Over 60 rockets fired at Israel - Gaza under fire: Palestinian source in the strip reported Monday evening of several IAF strikes across the strip. Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck two targets in northern Gaza, both near the home of one of Hamas’senior military wing operatives. News agencies reported that at least 20 people were killed and dozens were injured. Another strike in the Northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya hit the home of a senior member of the group’s recruiting branch; and a third took out a truck carrying Grad rockets in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabalya. According to the IDF, the truck was either headed towards a hiding place or to launching pads.

IDF: Hamas’ military wing intact
YNetNews 12/29/2008
Army preparing for next stage of Operation Cast Lead; senior officers support launching of ground incursion in Gaza to substantiate Israeli deterrence, say Hamas still capable of carrying out extensive ops - Despite the Israeli Air Force’s massive strikes throughout the Gaza Strip in the last three days, military sources estimated Monday that Hamas’ military wing was still intact and that it was capable of carrying out substantial operations in the near future. Meanwhile, the IDF was preparing Monday for the next stage of Operation Cast Lead, which will see ground forces entering the Strip. Large forces and heavy machinery are already stationed near Gaza, and the IDF is holding deliberations aimed at determining the nature of the ground incursion. The army is inclined to broaden the operation in order to boost Israel’s deterrence vis-à-vis Hamas.

Israel in ’all-out war against Hamas’
Reuters, The Independent 12/29/2008
Israeli air strikes flattened bastions of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip today in the third day of an offensive that has killed more than 325 Palestinians in the deadliest violence in the territory in decades. "We have an all-out war against Hamas and its kind," Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in parliament, using a term he has employed in the past to describe a long-term struggle against Israel’s Islamist enemies. Broadening their targets to include the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes bombed the Interior Ministry, which supervises 13,000 members of the group’s security forces. The building had been evacuated and there were no casualties. Israel also targeted the homes of at least two top commanders in Hamas’s armed wing. The commanders were not at home at the time but several family members were killed.

IAF strikes close to Hamas chief’s home
Globes Online 12/29/2008
The IAF made 40 attacks overnight. On the third day of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas sources reported that Israel Air Force (IAF) planes struck a target near the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who used the building as an office. The IAF made 40 attacks overnight, mostly on weapons warehouses. Targets included the Islamic University, where Hamas set up a weapons development and production laboraties. "Al Jazeera" reported last night that a senior Hamas official, Ahmed Fayed, a commander in the Izz al-Din al-Kassam brigades, was killed in one of the attacks. The home in Khan Yunis of another military commander, Mohammad Sharak, was also hit. Palestinians reports that there were no casualties in that strike. The IDF has declined to confirm the report. The IDF Home Front Command last night ordered that air raid shelters in Beersheva,. . .

IAF strikes senior Hamas, Islamic Jihad commanders
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
The Israel Air Force conducted dozens of sorties over the Gaza Strip on the third day of Israel’s military operations. Forty Palestinians were killed in yesterday’s actions, bringing the total number of casualties since the operation began Saturday to 350. At least 51 of the dead were civilians. A great deal of yesterday’s actions were directed against rocket-launching teams, particularly in the northern part of the Strip. However, poor weather hampered efforts to pinpoint targets and Hamas managed to launch more than 60 rockets. One Israeli was killed and 10 were injured during the attacks. Yesterday afternoon the air force hit a Hamas truck carrying dozens of Grad missiles in the Jabalya refugee camp north of Gaza City. The Israel Defense Force said Hamas activists were attempting to bring the rockets to a new hiding place out of concern the previous place had been identified.

Palestinians storm Gaza-Egypt border attempting to flee bombing
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
As ongoing Israeli airstrikes mount a death toll of 325 in just two days, hundreds of Palestinians tried to flee from Gaza to Egypt on Monday morning by storming the closed border crossing en masse. Local sources report that several hundred Palestinians managed to overwhelm the Egyptian security forces stationed at the border crossing and cross over into Egypt. Egyptian authorities have supported the Israeli siege on Gaza and the starvation of the Palestinian people over the last two years, and continue to refuse to open the border between Gaza and Egypt (the only way out of Gaza other than border crossings with Israel). According to one Egyptian paramedic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Egyptian authorities said they would allow 20 injured Palestinians into Egypt for treatment at El-Arish hospital in the Sinai.

Egyptian forces kill one Palestinian wound 15 others
Palestinian Information Center 12/29/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- The Egyptian forces stationed at the Rafah border crossing killed a Palestinian man when a group of Palestinian managed to make an opening in the border fence and bring 12 trucks loaded with aid into the Strip. Local sources told PIC correspondent that the Egyptian forces killed Muhammad Ismail al-Kurd, 21, and wounded 15 others when they opened intensive fire at a group of Palestinians who managed to breach the border fence. The Egyptian forces fired at a group of Palestinians near the border fence after the Israeli occupation airforce destroyed 40 tunnels used for smuggling essential goods to the besieged Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said that a number of Palestinians managed to make a hole in the border fence and let 12 stranded trucks at the Egyptian side and loaded with medical aid into the Gaza Strip.

Hannibal Gaddafi: Egypt is besieging Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/29/2008
DOHA, (PIC)-- The Egyptian authorities refused to grant landing permit for a Libyan plane loaded with urgently needed medical and humanitarian relief material to land in Arish airport near to Gaza despite carrying with it Seiful Islam Al-Gaddafi the son of the Libyan leader Muamer Al-Gaddafi. Hannibal Gaddafi, brother of Seiful Islam, told Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV network shortly after midnight Sunday that Egypt blocked the passage of Libyan and Qatari aid to Gaza. He noted that the Libyan airplane was denied landing permission on Saturday and was forced to land in Abu Dhabi. Seiful Islam intended to personally supervise distribution of the assistance. Hannibal disclosed that an Egyptian-Israeli coordination had prevented the Libyan ship Al-Marwa, which carried tons of humanitarian relief material, from docking in Gaza port a few weeks ago.

VIDEO / Egyptian paper: Hamas leaders partially responsible for Gaza assault
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
An editorial published in the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram on Monday argues that the Hamas leadership, who kept silent as Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel, is partially to blame for the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which has killed at least 300 Palestinians in the last three days. "If you can’t kill the wolf, don’t pull its tail" says the article. Since Saturday, Egypt has been under media attack by Hamas and various Islamic organizations in the Arab world, for collaborating with Israel. The attack peaked Sunday when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Egyptians to come out in protest against their government. The Egyptian government rejects claims it is in collusion with Israel, indicating that it had warned against such an Israeli response if Gaza militants continued to fire rockets.

Egypt prevents surgeons from entering into Gaza Strip despite growing death toll
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hamas Movement has deplored on Monday the Egyptian government for blocking Egyptian surgeons from crossing into the beleaguered Gaza Strip to help their Palestinian comrades with the growing numbers of injuries. In a statement it issued in this regard, and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC, Hamas urged Egypt to open the Rafah crossing point before Egyptian and Arab medical assistance donated to the Palestinian people. Two Qatari planes loaded with medicine and other relief items were forced back to Doha after Egyptian authorities refused to permit them pass the items through the Rafah terminal. According to Hamas, such Egyptian behavior raises a number of questions on the real reasons that push Egypt into act this unpatriotic way. For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that the growing numbers of Palestinian casualties has put tremendous pressures on the hospitals in Gaza Strip.

Nasrallah: Attack on Lebanon possible; Egypt must open Rafah
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Secretary-General of Hizbullah Hasan Nasrallah on Sunday warned that Israel might extend its aggression on the Gaza Strip and attack Lebanon, taking advantage of the transitional period before the new US president-elect comes to office. “Resistance is ready to counter any Israeli aggression on Lebanon,” Nasralah said. He added, “I asked the resistance fighters in southern Lebanon to be careful because our enemy is criminal and treacherous. ”Nasrallah also called on the Egyptian people, governmental officers, intelligentsia and political parties to exert pressure on their government to keep the Rafah crossing open permanently and to send weapons and ammunition to Gaza. “Thousands of Egyptians must take to the street and demand the opening of Rafah crossing,” Nasrallah said. Nasrallah explained that if Egypt does not open the Rafah crossing it will be accused of partnership in the aggression and siege on Gaza.

Nasrallah urges Egyptians to stage mass protest
Middle East Online 12/29/2008
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah Sunday urged Egyptians in their "millions" to take to the streets to force their government to open the country’s border with Gaza, where Israel is conducting deadly air raids against Palestinians. "If the people took to the streets by the millions, could the police kill millions of Egyptians? "said Nasrallah, whose Shiite militant group fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel. "People of Egypt, you must open this border by the force of your chests," he said in a televised address. If Egypt did not open the Rafah crossing to Gaza, it would be considered a partner in the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli military. "I am not calling for a coup in Egypt. . . but if you (the Egyptian leadership) do not open the Rafah crossing, if you do not help the Palestinian people, you will be considered accomplices in the massacre and the blockade," he added.

Source hints Gaza offensive may spur Hezbollah to attack
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/29/2008
A senior Lebanese journalist who is close to Hezbollah hinted Monday that the pro-Iranian Lebanese group could attack Israel in response to the IDF offensive in Gaza. Ibrahim Al-Amin, editor of the Al-Ahbar newspaper, also wrote in an extended article on the events in the Gaza Strip that Hamas would respond with rockets of a new type, capable of striking areas of Israel which were previously out of range. "More importantly, however, is that the matter may not be limited to a single front, a single location or a single group," the article concluded. Al-Amin also wrote that Hamas will resume suicide bombings "anywhere that Hamas activists will reach. " On Sunday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that his organization was on alert in south Lebanon, warning that Israel intended to attack Lebanon as well.

Hezbollah: Defending Gaza means offering blood of martyrs
Jonathan Lis and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/29/2008
Tens of thousands of Lebanese Shi’ite protesters, chanting "Death to America, Death to Israel," massed in Beirut on Monday, calling for an end to Israeli strikes on Gaza that have killed 320 Palestinians. In the Jordanian capital, Amman, about 20,000 people staged a demonstration organized by the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood, while in Cairo about 1,000 people rallied to show solidarity with Gaza Palestinians. "In Gaza today we face, as a nation, a battle against the fate of Palestine and not the fate of the Hamas government," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared to a throng of demonstrators in Beirut’s southern suburbs. "I join my voice to the voices of other Palestinian leaderships that have called for a third intifada (uprising) in Palestine and other intifidas in both the Arab and Islamic worlds," he said.

Shalit likely wounded in Israeli air strikes in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
Israeli army radio reported on Monday that the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was wounded in one of the Israeli air strikes targeting the Gaza Strip. Yet, Israel held Hamas responsible for the life of Shalit. Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that a Hamas source confirmed in an interview with an Egyptian TV that Shalit was wounded in one of the Israeli air strikes in Gaza. His condition remains unknown. Shalit was captured by Palestinian fighters in June 2006; the fighters raided a military base adjacent to the Gaza border and kidnapped the Israeli corporal. Two Israeli soldiers and two fighters were killed in the raid. Israel is still skeptic about the report and said that Shalit might have been wounded, yet added that the news might be psychological warfare by Hamas. Israeli Vice Prime Minister, Haim Ramon, told the Israeli Army Radio on Monday that "Shalit. . .

Gilad Shalit reported injured in air raid
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 12/29/2008
Senior Hamas officials refuse to confirm or deny the reports. Egyptian state television reported in a news flash last night that captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who being held in the Gaza Strip, was wounded in an IDF attack during Operation Cast Lead. A Hamas website claims that Shalit "was wounded in one of the Air Force raids on the Gaza Strip. " The Hamas website added that senior Hamas officials refused to confirm or deny the reports that Shalit was wounded, and if so, the severity of his injuries. The website added that Hamas says, "Israel bears full responsibility for the safety of the soldier and what will happen to him. " An IDF spokesman said in response, "Gilad Shalit is an asset for Hamas. We believe that the organization will do everything to keep him alive.

Hamas seeks ceasefire
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 12/29/2008
Senior figures in the Gaza Strip are reportedly pressuring the leadership in Damascus. Israeli general: The worst is ahead. Senior figures in the Islamic Jihad and Hamas movements in the Gaza Strip have taken the first steps in pressuring the Hamas leadership in Damascus to bring about talks on a renewed truce with Israel, on new terms. Hamas chief Khaled Mashal, who resides in Damascus, has approached the president of Senegal with a request that he should mediate in initial talks on a ceasefire, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News. From conversations between Channel 2 reporters and a senior person in Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, it emerges that pressure from Gaza Strip residents may be beginning to have an effect. Meanwhile, as dozens more rockets hit southern Israel today, Israel’s deputy chief of staff, General Dan Harel, talking. . .

Hamas: We’ll confront ground invasion
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
A senior exiled Hamas official rejected Monday any talk of a new truce with Israel unless all attacks on Gaza cease and the border crossings are reopened, and promised to confront any ground invasion. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ politburo, also told The Associated Press in an interview in Damascus that Palestinians had a right to strike everywhere in Israel in response to its assault on Gaza. Abu Marzouk pledged his group will not surrender and promised to face any Israeli ground invasion. "We are going to defend ourselves, defend our people and defend our land," he said. Abu Marzouk said there can be no talk of a new truce with Israel under the present conditions. "Stop all kinds of aggression, open all (crossings), stop all the violence against the people in the West Bank," he said in English, listing Hamas’ conditions for any future truce.

Hamas: No truce before Israel stops attacks
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Senior group leader Moussa Abu Marzouk says no negotiations on ceasefire can take place before Israel halts its strikes in Gaza, declares Hamas will face any Israeli ground invasion - A senior exiled Hamas official rejected Monday any talk of a new truce with Israel unless all attacks on Gaza cease and the border crossings are reopened, and promised to confront any ground invasion. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ politburo, also told The in an interview in Damascus that Palestinian militants have a right to strike everywhere in Israel in response to its deadly assault on Gaza. He spoke as Israel continued three days of intensive air raids against Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip. The number of casualties from the offensive rose Monday to at least 315. Abu Marzouk pledged his group will not surrender and promised to face any Israeli ground invasion.

Hamas: IOF chose date of starting hostilities, we will determine its final date
Palestinian Information Center 12/29/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas on Sunday stressed that it would be the one to determine the end of military operations in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli occupation forces chose the date of starting those hostilities. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told a press conference held jointly with Hamas political leader Dr. Ismail Radwan that the IOF military adventure was meant to liquidate the resistance program and Hamas after securing regional approval. He emphasized that Gaza would not surrender and the Palestinian people’s determination would not weaken. The spokesman said that the declared war on Gaza would only "boost our insistence on resisting occupation in defense of our people using all means available". He hailed the Arab and Islamic masses that expressed solidarity with Gaza and appreciated the Arab and Islamic countries that sent urgent aid topped by Qatar.

Gaza strategy divides Israeli military analysts
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/29/2008
Israel has said the goal of the past three days of intense bombing in Gaza is to stop rockets being fired by Palestinian militants into southern Israeli towns. To reduce the rocket fire, Israeli military analysts argue, is a modest goal. However, even within Israel there remain sharp differences of opinion about how to achieve that. Most believe the latest conflict will eventually end with a new lull in the fighting, or at best another short-term ceasefire agreement - the latest in a long line of temporary ceasefires in the conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza. Although Israel has put in place some preparations for a major ground invasion - preparing a call-up of reserves and deploying tanks near the Gaza border - that is still seen as by no means an inevitable step.

U.S.: Hamas must halt rocket fire at Israel, agree to lasting truce
Natasha Mozgovaya and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
The White House on Monday said Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to a lasting ceasefire after Israeli air strikes on Gaza killed more than 300 Palestinians over the course of three days. The United States has not called for Israel to stop the attacks on Hamas-controlled Gaza and has placed the onus for ending the violence on the Palestinian faction, which Washington considers a terrorist organization. "In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable cease-fire," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "That is the objective to which all parties need to be working. That is what the United States is working towards. Israel made clear it has no intentions to reoccupy Gaza," he said in a statement.

Gaza strikes challenge for Obama
Tom Ackerman in Washington DC, Al Jazeera 12/29/2008
While the Gaza Strip erupted at the weekend Barack Obama remained in holiday mode in Hawaii, sticking to his regular gym routine and otherwise relaxing. The military action comes just three weeks before Obama is sworn in as president and poses a great challenge for a man who has promised to work for Middle East peace from his first day in office. But although the president-elect has received briefings on the situation, David Axelrod, Obama’s top political adviser, said it would be inappropriate for the incoming chief executive to comment while George Bush is still president. Nevertheless, he said Obama stood by his defence of Israeli actions when he visited the southern town of Sderot last July, a frequent target of Hamas rockets. He said then that when bombs are raining down on your citizens there is an urge to respond and act to put an end to that," Axelrod told CBS talkshow Face the Nation on Sunday.

US demands Hamas stop firing rockets
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
The Bush administration called Monday for an end to the new flare up in Mideast violence, saying Hamas has "once again shown its true colors as a terrorist organization" with attacks on Israel. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the Hamas organization had chosen not to renew a six-month cease-fire agreement arranged by Egypt. At the same time, he said the United States had asked Israel to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. The spokesman declined to respond to questions about whether the United States believes Israel is ready to launch a ground attack on Gaza, but said the ultimate goal of Israelis is "for their people to be able to live in peace. " Johndroe told reporters covering President George W. Bush in Texas that Bush had spoken early Monday with King Abdullah of Jordan, and had spoken on Saturday with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Gaza complicates Obama’s policy in Mideast
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
US President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is choosing its words carefully in dealing with Israel’s operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The deaths of hundreds of Palestinians in the IAF’s deadly air assault on the terror group will further complicate Obama’s challenge to achieve a Middle East peace - something that eluded both the Bush and Clinton administrations. David Axelrod, senior adviser to Obama, chose his words carefully, saying the president-elect would honor the "important bond" between the United States and Israel. "He wants to be a constructive force in helping to bring about the peace and security that both the Israelis and the Palestinians want and deserve," Axelrod said Sunday on CBS’ "Face the Nation. " "Obviously, this situation has become even more complicated in the last couple of days and weeks.

US pushes to curb Hamas
Al Jazeera 12/29/2008
The White House has reiterated its demands that the Palestinian group Hamas stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to a ceasefire. Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the White House, said in a statement on Monday that a ceasefire was "the objective to which all parties need to be working", including the US. At least 345 Palestinians have died in Gaza, local authorities say, after three days of heavy bombardment by Israel in response to rocket attacks on southern Israel which have left two Israelis dead. The Bush administration’s comments come as Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary-general, urged all sides to "halt acts of violence" and take measures to end civilian casualties. The UN secretary-general condemned the violence as "unacceptable" and put pressure on both Arab and world leaders to act "swiftly. . .

Barack Obama on Siege, Killings in Gaza
Joshua Frank, Palestine Chronicle 12/28/2008
Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, had nothing no say about Gaza. As President-Elect Barack Obama vacationed in Hawaii on December 26, stopping off to watch a dolphin show with his family at Sea Life Park, an Israeli air raid besieged the impoverished Gaza Strip, killing at least 285 people and injuring over 800 more. It was the single deadliest attack on Gaza in over 20 years and Obama’s initial reaction on what could be his first real test as president was "no comment". Meanwhile, Israel has readied itself for a land invasion, amassing tanks along the border and calling up 6,500 reserve troops. On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Obama’s Senior Adviser David Axelrod explained to guest cost Chip Reid how an Obama administration would handle the situation, even if it turns for the worst. " Well, certainly, the president-elect recognizes the special relationship between United States and Israel.

MIDEAST: Israeli Attack Seen as Complicating Obama’s Plans
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service 12/30/2008
WASHINGTON, Dec 29(IPS) - Israel’s massive three-day aerial assault on Gaza is likely to complicate President-elect Barack Obama’s hopes of aggressively pursuing Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations, and risk inflicting greater damage to Washington’s standing in the Arab world, according to most analysts here. Indeed, if the current campaign goes on much longer and the Israelis launch a major ground invasion of Gaza as they now appear to be preparing to do, Obama could face a major international crisis -- comparable to Israel’s failed 2006 war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah -- just as he takes office in three weeks’ time. "With this assault, the fallout has already started to spread considerably beyond the constituency of people who are Palestinians," noted Helena Cobban, a veteran Middle East analyst, who cited popular protests in Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere in the. . .

Activists sail to Gaza with medical aid from Cyprus
News agencies, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Free Gaza Movement sends 3. 6 tons of aid to Gaza by sea, as 16 volunteers man ship heading for Strip. This is an active protest and a direct response to the situation, says group - Aid workers, doctors and a former US Congresswoman sailed for battered Gaza with medical aid from Cyprus on Monday, defying Israeli air attacks on the Palestinian territory for the third successive day. The 66-foot yacht Dignity left Larnaca with about 3. 6 tons of Cypriot-donated supplies and 16 passengers, including former US Representative Cynthia McKinney, Cypriot lawmaker Eleni Theocharous and activists from Britain, Australia, Ireland and Tunisia, organizers said. This is an active protest and a direct response to the killing going on at the moment," Renee Boyer, a spokeswoman for the organizers, said. One passenger, American Cynthia McKinney, said she wanted to highlight what she said was a trail of devastation left by US weapons sold to Israel.

Sixth Free Gaza ship departs for devastated coastal region
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The SS Dignity will depart Cyprus at 5pm local time for the Gaza City Port, which was bombed by the Israeli navy overnight Sunday. This will be the sixth trip to Gaza organized by the Free Gaza Movement. The ship will carry three tons of medical supplies donated by the people of Cyprus and three volunteer doctors who will begin work in Gaza hospitals and clinics immediately and stay for several weeks. Also on board are Human Rights workers and US politicians. In their statement to the press the Free Gaza movement made a point of mentioning that they are not asking Israeli for “permission” to land in Gaza, as the Qatar ship had done earlier. The group insisted that “we will not stop until the Dignity lands in Gaza. ”The group named the voyage “Stop This Madness” and says it is challenging the world to take action against the Israeli massacre.

Egypt, Jordan, PA coordinate aid for Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Coordination between the Palestinian Authority (PA), Egypt and Jordan, truckloads of humanitarian and medical aid is en route to Gaza on Monday, according to the head of the PA’s civil affairs department. Hussain Ash-Sheikh told Ma’an that aid received from Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be sent to Gaza by the truckload on Monday. Another 48 trucks from international organizations, as well as 15 truckloads of medical aid, will head toward Gaza later in the afternoon. Among the supplies is blood units from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and five ambulances donated by the Turkish government, all expected to enter the Gaza Strip on Monday. Meanwhile, the PA’s undersecretary at the National Economy Ministry, Naser As-Sarraj, said that the Karem Shalom crossing east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip would be opened.

Kerem Shalom Crossing opened for transfer of supplies
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Israel opened the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip on Monday to facilitate the transfer of supplies to the Palestinians as defense officials warned that Hamas was possibly digging tunnels under the crossings, to be used to destroy them. On Monday the Defense Ministry permitted the transfer of 57 trucks carrying supplies - such as basic foods and medicine - into Gaza. Five ambulances were also allowed in. The Karni Crossing was supposed to open but was closed due to security threats. Bezalel Treiber, head of the Defense Ministry Crossing Directorate, told The Jerusalem Post that there was intelligence that Hamas was planning to target the crossings. He said that the Palestinians were desperate to receive the supplies and that due to the risk of "terror tunnels," Israel was running the crossings under a "new operational model.

Dignity Leaves for Gaza: Challenges World to 'Stop this Madness!'
Free Gaza Movement - Press Release, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
(Larnaca, Cyprus 29 December 2008) - There is a time when silence is complicity and inaction is unacceptable. On Saturday, December 27, Israel began Operation "Cast Lead," a military onslaught against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip that has - so far - massacred more than three-hundred men, women, and children, and seriously injured over a thousand. In response to Israeli butchery, the Free Gaza ship, the DIGNITY, will depart Larnaca Port at approximately 5pm (UTC), on Monday, December 29, bound for besieged Gaza. The ship is on an emergency mission carrying in physicians, human rights workers and over three tons of desperately needed medical supplies donated by the people of Cyprus. Coordinating with the Gaza Ministry of Health, the doctors will be immediately posted to overburdened hospitals and clinics upon their arrival.

Israel to allow Qatar to bring in aid to Gaza
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Israel will allow Qatar to airlift humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in the coming days, after Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni agreed yesterday to a formal request from the Qatari government. Several aircraft from the Persian Gulf nation will land in Israel, and from there food and medicine will be transferred by truck to Gaza. Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, who serves as Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, contacted Livni on Saturday and asked for permission to carry out the airlift. Livni said she would discuss the matter with Olmert and Barak. The request arrived after Qatar sent three planes to the Egyptian city of El-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula, and Egypt refused to allow the aid to pass through Rafah crossing into Gaza. "Israel will act with an iron fist against Hamas, but with silk gloves against its civilian population," Olmert said yesterday.

Free Gaza Movement: Dignity leaves for Gaza - Challenges world to 'Stop this madness!'
International Solidarity Movement 12/29/2008
International Actions - (Larnaca, Cyprus 29 December 2008) - There is a time when silence is complicity and inaction is unacceptable. On Saturday, December 27, Israel began Operation "Cast Lead," a military onslaught against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip that has - so far - massacred more than three-hundred men, women, and children, and seriously injured over a thousand. In response to Israeli butchery, the Free Gaza ship, the DIGNITY, will depart Larnaca Port at approximately 5pm (UTC), on Monday, December 29, bound for besieged Gaza. The ship is on an emergency mission carrying in physicians, human rights workers and over three tons of desperately needed medical supplies donated by the people of Cyprus.

Maan: Five Palestinian sisters killed in Israeli raid on Jabalia
International Solidarity Movement 12/29/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - No sooner had a Gazan mother run away with her baby boy and two other baby girls seeking shelter did an Israeli airstrike kill her five daughters before she could return and transfer them, as well. The girls were identified by Palestinian medical sources as Ayah, Eiman, Ikram, Tahrir and Samar Ba’lousha. They were killed after an Israeli airstrike hit their family home near the Imad Aqil Mosque in Jabalia, which was subsequently destroyed. Dozens of houses in Jabalia have been destroyed and several victims remain under debris since shortly before midnight on Saturday; Palestinian rescue workers are still trying to get them out. Israeli air raids also killed three children from the Al-Absi family in the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, as well as a brother and his sister from the Kishku family in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City.

War games predict look of Gaza ground operation
Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi believes that any occupation of Gaza by the army must end as soon as possible, according to an officer who participated in discussions and war games related to such an operation. At the same time, however, Ashkenazi fears that if the operation ends too quickly, the IDF will only have to go back into the Gaza Strip later. The officer added that Ashkenazi seeks to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians, but recognizes that this cannot be prevented completely. One possibility examined during the war games was that international aid organizations might stop supplying Palestinian civilians’ basic needs in areas where the IDF is operating. This would require Israel to do so in their stead. In that case, Israel might reestablish a scaled-down version of the Civil Administration that governed Gaza in the pre-Oslo era.

Now Israel declares ’war to the bitter end’
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 12/30/2008
Israel’s defence Minister, Ehud Barak, warned yesterday that his country was engaged in "a war to the bitter end" with Hamas as a third day of fierce bombing brought the estimated Gaza death toll to 320. Two Israelis were killed in retaliatory rocket barrages last night as Hamas struck deep inside Israeli territory. Mr Barak’s declaration to the Knesset -- the Israeli parliament -- came as Israel continued its comprehensive bombardment of Hamas targets after overnight aerial attacks that devastated large parts of the Interior Ministry and the Islamic University. Amid signs of increased international restiveness about the Palestinian death toll, Mr Barak insisted that "we have nothing against Gaza residents" but added: "We are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies. This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed.

IDF: We’re ready to go all the way
YNetNews 12/30/2008
Army prepares for ground incursion, Air Force chief says Hamas must understand Israel ’ready to go all the way’; IDF pounds Gaza targets overnight, at least 10 Palestinians reportedly killed, scores wounded in strikes - The army is "ready to go all the way," Israel’s Air Force chief said Monday night, as operation "Cast Lead" entered its fourth day. IDF officials are waiting for the green light to embark on a ground incursion, which may be unavoidable in light of the latest escalation in fighting. The Air Force attacked Palestinian targets across the Gaza Strip overnight, with eyewitnesses reporting that fighter jets dropped at least 16 bombs on Hamas government buildings and security compounds, destroying them completely. At least 10 people were reportedly killed in the strikes and more than 40 were injured.

PRC spokesman urges IDF troops to ’fight like men’
Ali Waked, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Gaza group’s spokesman urges Israel to launch ground incursion; death toll in Strip up to 350 - A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees told Ynet Monday night that Palestinian groups in Gaza are preparing for the "real battle," urging Israel to launch a ground operation in the Strip. "If Israeli soldiers are such men, they should fight on the ground, the PRC’s Abu Abir said. "The defeat they suffered on the ground in Lebanon would be even greater in Gaza"¦yet I know that we are dealing with cowards who ever since the 1980s have feared a face-to-face confrontation with us. " While admitting that the first day of Israel’s operation was not an easy one, the spokesman said the clash was now entering a new phase, "where we jump at the enemy, pursue it, and invite it to engage in battle.

Hamas calls ’reservists’ to foil attack
Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, on Monday announced that it was recruiting an additional 1,000 militiamen ahead of a possible IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip. The group said that thousands of volunteers from the Gaza Strip had also asked to be recruited to the movement in the past 48 hours so that they could fight against IDF soldiers. The announcement came as sources close to Hamas said that the movement’s armed wing had hardly been affected by the IDF operation that began on Saturday. The sources told The Jerusalem Post that many of the casualties in the first two days of the operation were "ordinary" policemen who had been recently recruited to various branches of the security forces. "These policemen were being enlisted to direct the traffic and fight crime," the sources said.

Building worker killed as missile hits Israeli town
Toni O'Loughlin in Ashkelon, The Guardian 12/30/2008
Three Israelis were killed yesterday by rockets fired by militants in Gaza - two in separate attacks less than an hour apart after nightfall. The deaths brought the tally of civilian fatalities from rocket strikes to 19 since 2002, when militants in Gaza first began firing missiles at Israeli towns. An Israeli-Arab labourer was killed and 10 other people were wounded yesterday morning when a Grad-style Katyusha rocket struck a building site in Ashkelon, 10 miles away. "You can hear them whistling, you don’t know where it’s coming from and where it’s going, or where it’s going to land," said the head of Asheklon’s community services, David Wolfson. Fifteen rockets have exploded in the centre of the city since Saturday and scores more have landed on the city’s outer limits.

ANALYSIS / Hamas is hoping for an IDF ground operation
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Three days into Operation Cast Lead, Israel is proposing a diplomatic exit. A ground operation likely looms in an effort to increase the pressure on Hamas. At the same time, however, others argue that the air force is close to exhausting its target bank, so if Hamas can be brought to accept a cease-fire on terms convenient to Israel in the near future it would be better to do so. Hamas intensified its rocket and mortar fire at Israel Monday. It is starting to recover from the initial shock of the assault, and the bad weather is helping to protect its launching crews from Israeli aircraft. By 8 P. M. , Hamas had fired more than 80 rockets and mortars at Israel, including a Grad Katyusha strike on Ashkelon that killed an Israeli construction worker and wounded 10 others.

Olmert: If the rockets do not stop, the IDF strikes will be even harsher
Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
"Suddenly I saw Hani lying on the floor covered in blood hit by shrapnel in his head," said construction worker Majdi al-Hababin of the Bedouin town of Rahat. "I tried pulling him to the shelter and cried out his name but he didn’t respond. I knew he was dead. "Al-Hababin said construction at the site had continued despite the rocket fire by Palestinian militants and that the laborers would sometimes take cover in one of the sheltered rooms when the sirens sounded. Construction worker Mahmoud al-Adami, 28, of the West Bank city of Hebron, was also wounded by the rocket fired by Palestinian militants. "The window was open and shrapnel flew through," he said. "Palestinians are on the receiving end on both sides, in Gaza and in Israel.

Israeli strikes on Gaza: What are the motives?
Mark Tran, The Guardian 12/29/2008
As Israel steps up its bombing campaign in Gaza, commentators have been examining the motivations and implications of its decision to launch the airstrikes in which more than 300 people have been killed in the space of a few days. Ethan Bronner, in the New York Times, says Israel’s main aim is to force Hamas to end its rocket attacks and military build-up. He also sees another goal: for Israel to expunge the ghost of its flawed summer 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and re-establish Israeli deterrence. Along the same lines, Meir Javedanfar at the Jerusalem Post says one of the reasons Israel has acted with overwhelming force is that it does not want Hamas to turn into another Hezbollah, which was able to boast that it had defeated Israeli forces in the 2006 conflict. " In other words," he writes, "Israel does not want Hamas to develop a deterrence capability, which it can later use to change the strategic rules of the game. "

A fatal miscalculation
Jonathan Spyer, The Guardian 12/29/2008
Contrary to much media prediction, a large-scale Israeli land invasion of the Gaza Strip is probably not imminent. Rather, preparations are under way for a prolonged campaign involving air power and the selective use of ground forces. The aim of this campaign is not to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza. Israel seeks a renewal of the "tahdiyeh" (lull), under improved conditions. These would include an end to rocket fire from Gaza, and an end to the large-scale military build-up, in which Hamas has been engaged for the last 18 months. Israel has so far not mobilised the quantity of forces that would make an all-out invasion of the Gaza Strip a possibility. The IDF has called up 6,700 reservists, whose numbers will be added to the regular forces already assembled outside Gaza. To destroy the Hamas regime in Gaza, Israel would need two or three divisions, a force larger than that currently assembled by several orders of magnitude. So what, then, is the plan?

VIDEO - IAF strikes Hamas rocket chief’s home
Yaakov Katz And Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
An IAF aircraft on Monday night struck the home of Maher Zakut, the commander of Hamas’s rocket-firing forces, the army said. In was unclear whether Zakut was in the house at the time. Palestinian sources said that seven people were killed in the strike. According to reports, several more targets were struck in the Strip. Several secondary explosions were caused by the strike because of a large weapons warehouse alongside the senior operative’s house. Five people were reportedly killed when an IAF aircraft targeted a car. Palestinian sources reported that 14 people were killed in air-strikes Monday evening. The air force also struck a truck carrying Grad-type missiles, setting off a series of secondary explosions, the IDF said. The army believes that Hamas was transferring the missiles to a hideout out of fear that their location had been compromised. VIDEO - IAF continues to strike Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets throughout Gaza

Legal center: 55 children, 9 women among victims of the IOF Gaza massacre
Palestinian Information Center 12/29/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Mizan center for human rights has said that the Israeli occupation forces’ ongoing raids on the Gaza Strip had inflicted hundreds of casualties including 55 children and nine women over two days. The center in a report on Sunday said that 20 Palestinian children were killed in the Israeli air strikes while 35 others were seriously wounded. It added that nine Palestinian women were killed mostly teachers who were in schools near to targeted spots. It underlined that the number of martyrs and wounded is expected to increase due to the fact that some of those martyrs were carried to their family homes then buried without being registered in hospitals. The report said that preliminary reports indicate that the biggest number of victims fell in Gaza city where 118 Palestinians were killed followed by the central district where 84 were killed then northern Gaza, 25, Khan Younis, 17, and Rafah, 13, by afternoon Sunday.

Nearly 320 killed in Israeli blitz of Gaza
Mai Yaghi - GAZA CITY, Middle East Online 12/29/2008
Israel bombed Gaza for a third day on Monday in an "all-out war" on Hamas, as tanks massed on the border and the Islamists fired deadly rockets to retaliate for the blitz that has killed nearly 320. Anger over the mammoth bombing campaign spiralled in the Muslim world, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon again deplored the violence, and efforts to hold talks between Syria and Israel were suspended as a result of the bombardment. With Israeli tanks idling along the border of the battered Palestinian enclave, the army declared the area a closed military zone -- a move that in the past has often been followed by ground operations. Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who has warned of a possible ground offensive, declared that the Jewish state was in "an all-out war with Hamas and its proxies. " "We will avoid as much as possible hitting civilians while the people of Hamas and other terrorists. . .

IDF says hit Hamas’ arms development site
YNetNews 12/29/2008
Target bombed Sunday night near Gaza’s Islamic college used by Palestinian gunmen to produce improved rockets. ’They used the knowledge of the college’s researchers,’ military source says -Israeli officials said Monday that the Israel Defense Forces managed to hit a target in Gaza which served as Hamas’ arms development site. "It was a target of high quality, and one of the State of Israel’s strategic targets in Operation Cast Lead," a defense source said. According to intelligence information gathered by the IDF and Shin Bet, the compound near the Islamic college in Gaza was being used as a chemical lab and as Hamas’ important explosives lab in Gaza. The Palestinian group used knowledge delivered from Iran and other places in order to increase the range of its Qassam and Grad rockets and develop advanced explosive devices, mortar shells and other weapons againstIsrael.

Death toll in Gaza rises to 350; over 1,600 injured
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Seven died when Israeli shells hit the home of Al-Qassam Brigades leader Maher Zaquot in Beit Lahiya north of Gaza City just before five o’clock Monday evening. Witnesses reported that the house had been evacuated shortly before the shelling began, and those killed were passersby on their way home or to local grocery stores to buy food. The shelling also demolished the nearby houses. Shortly after the home of an Al-Aqsa Brigades leader was targeted in Jabaliya and the home of Hamas leader Ayman Balksam in the same neighborhood. Several resistance activists were killed in the two attacks. The overall death toll of the strikes, which began at 11:30am Saturday morning is 345, while about 1,000 Palestinians are estimated to be injured and more than 200 critically so. A timeline of the day’s airstrikes is: 4:00pmAn UNRWA employee and a Police officer. . .

IMA wants Ashkelon hospital fortified despite haredi protests over graves
Judy Siegel-itzkovich, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
There must be an immediate move to fortify Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar said Monday, calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Health Minister Ya’acov Ben-Yizri to come up with a solution. As The Jerusalem Post reported a few days ago, the hospital - exposed to rocket and missile file from Gaza - has the funds to build an underground emergency room and surgical theater, but the project is on hold because haredi activists oppose the excavation and relocation of Byzantine-era bones discovered on the hospital’s campus. As a result, a few underground storerooms have been turned into fortified areas for urgent treatment. Dr. Ron Lobel, the hospital’s deputy director, said that Barzilai had the $40 million needed to carry out the project, but had been unable since January to recommence work after a preliminary dig. . .

Salah: IOF launching carpet bombing on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/29/2008
UM AL-FAHAM, (PIC)-- Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic movement in the Palestinian areas occupied in 1948, said that the American backed Israeli occupation authority was launching a carpet bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip in preparation for invading the Strip and toppling the resistance program. Sheikh Salah on Sunday evening said in a press statement that the IOA war on Gaza was the last in a series of wars launched in the region, charging that the Arab and Islamic official silence encouraged Israel to launch this war. He said that whether this silence was deliberate or not in the end it passed capital punishment against the entire Strip. The Islamic leader said that Palestinians in the 1948 lands have declared general strike and mourning following the start of the military campaign against Gaza while marches and demonstrations were organized in various areas.

Shallah: Resistance will foil IOA plans
Palestinian Information Center 12/29/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the secretary general of the Islamic Jihad Movement, has charged that the Israeli occupation forces’ ferocious attacks on Gaza Strip were the tools of a regional, Arab and international plot to liquidate resistance. Shallah told Al-Jazeera TV network in a statement from Damascus on Sunday night that Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni talked during her visit to Cairo about a regional axis to dissect Gaza hoping to change the "rules of the game". He stressed that Israel was the one that breached and ended the truce and not the resistance factions. The Jihad leader underlined that ending the "Zionist aggression" and lifting the siege on Gaza were basic conditions before discussing any new calm. Shallah said that the PA along with a number of Arab countries had given the green light to Israel to carry out its genocide in Gaza.

Motorcycle-riding Hamas gunman kills suspected Palestinian collaborator
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/29/2008
A gunman on a motorbike shot dead a fellow Palestinian near a Gaza hospital on Monday as militants settled scores with those suspected of collaboration with Israel. Witnesses said the gunman fired three times into the head and chest of a man who fled from detention on Sunday after an Israeli air attack blew up the security complex housing Gaza’s main prison. On Saturday Israel launched the start of a massive offensive against Hamas’ Qassam rocket and mortar fire on its southern communities, targeting dozens of buildings belonging to the ruling militant group in the Gaza Strip. The police stations of Hamas Islamists who control Gaza have been destroyed by Israel’s air strikes on Gaza, but armed militants are out on the streets of the city. Residents said a second suspected collaborator who also fled the prison was shot. . .

Palestine Today 291208
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 4 m 0s || 3. 66 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Monday December 29th 2008 Death toll 325 as Israeli army air raids continues to pound Gaza, while in the West Bank Israeli attacks leaves 55 Palestinians injured, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast - On Monday the Israeli air attacks targeting Gaza continued, targets included Police headquarters, hospitals, mosques, and schools. Palestinian medical sources in Gaza said that the death toll by Monday afternoon now stands at 325 with 1500 injured among them, 200 in critical conditions. Medical and healthcare services are struggling to cope with the outcome of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, while the bombing continues.

Barak: Israel will use all measures to stop rocket fire
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Defense minister warns Hamas that further fire on western Negev will force Israel to ’all legal means at its disposal in order to halt enemy’s aggression’ - Day three of Operation Cast Lead saw Defense Minister Ehud Barak issue a stark warning to Hamas: "Unless the criminal fire at Israeli citizens stops immediately, Israel will utilize all the legal means at its disposal in order to halt the enemy’s aggression. "Speaking after the daily security assessment, Barak reiterated Israel’s plea to Gazans to keep away from terror hubs for their own safety. Alongside the strikes, Israel allowed 63 truckloads of humanitarian aid, food and medicine into the Strip on Monday, through the Kerem Shalom crossing, as well as 1,000 blood units through the Erez crossing. Egypt allowed five ambulances and basic supplies into the Strip.

Israel mounts third day of Gaza raids
Matt Dickinson, PA, The Independent 12/29/2008
Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas targets in Gaza today, the third day of an offensive that has killed more than 300 Palestinians, many of them civilians. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said at least 57 of the dead were civilians. It based the figure, which an UNRWA spokesman called "conservative", on visits by agency officials to hospitals and medical centres. Hamas defied the strongest assault against Palestinian militants in decades by launching a rocket attack on Israel that killed one person, the second such fatality since Saturday. Most Gazans in the densely populated enclave stayed at home, in rooms away from windows that could shatter in blasts from air strikes on Hamas facilities. Residents of southern Israel ran for shelter at the sound of alarms heralding incoming rockets.

Islamic Jihad warns Israel over Gaza ground invasion
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Islamic Jihad’s leadership said on Sunday night that the movement will not stand down to a hypothetical Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shallah said that his movement will “fight Israeli tanks, which intend to change the situation in the Gaza Strip by force, through destruction and killing. ”Shallah told Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV that “Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip was okayed by international, Arab and regional sides aiming to change the current situation in Gaza. ”He insisted that Israel’s “aggression” must stop, the siege on Gaza must come to an end and the crossings must be opened before any positive talks about a ceasefire will be entertained.

Rocket kills one, injures nine in Ashkelon
Globes Online 12/29/2008
A Palestinian this morning entered a synagogue in Kiryat Sefer and stabbed a rabbi and another man with a screwdriver. A Katyusha rocket killed one person and wounded nine in Ashkelon. The casualties are reportedly Bedouin construction workers from Rahat. Calls by Hamas to Palestinians to take revenge on Israel are apparently finding a receptive audience. A Palestinian air conditioner technician this morning entered a synagogue in Kiryat Sefer in Upper Modi’in and stabbed a rabbi and another man with a screwdriver before escaping. A security guard in the area reportedly subsequently shot and critically wounded a Palestinian, possibly the stabber or an accomplice. [end]

Western Wall: Hundreds pray for soldiers’ wellbeing
Ynet, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar leads prayer for soldiers, southern inhabitants’ safety, says every Jew in Israel and abroad obligated to join prayer - Several hundred people arrived at the Western Wall on Sunday to attend a lighting of the eighth Hanukkah candle and say a prayer for the wellbeing of IDF soldiers and the residents of Israel’s southern communities. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Jerusalem District Police chief Maj. -Gen. Ilan Franco were also present at the event. "On these days every Jew in Israel and across the world is obligated to say a prayer for the soldiers and residents who are facing such difficult times," Rabbi Amar told. [end]

VIDEO - WATCH: Israel’s attack on Gaza from the missiles’ point of view
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/29/2008
For the first time since Israel launched a large-scale campaign against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the Israel Navy joined the Israel Air Force on Monday in the attacks. The targets of Monday’s assault, among others, were the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and a residence adjacent to his house. Dozens of stations and offices were bombed across the Strip, as did Hamas naval vessels. This is what it looked like. . .

DFLP wing fires four projectiles at Kfar Azza and Ashkelon
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The National Resistance Brigades, the militant wing affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), fired four homemade projectiles at the Israeli towns of Kfar Azza and Ashkelon on Monday morning. The group said in a statement that the shellings were "retaliation for Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip that have so far killed 300 and injured 1000. " [end]

Death toll rises to 310 as strikes level presidential headquarters
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Israeli warships bombarded the headquarters of the Palestinian presidency on Monday morning in Gaza City. The compound is known as Al-Muntada. No casualties were immediately reported in that attack. According to Muawiya Hassanein, the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, the death toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to 310. [end]

DFLP fires four projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) fired four projectiles at Israeli targets on Monday, according to a statement. It was not immediatly clear if the DFLP itself had fired the projectiles or if the attacks came from its militant wing. [end]

Seven projectiles fired from Gaza land in Ashkelon
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - At least 17 projectiles have been fired from Gaza at Israeli targets by noon on Monday, according to Israeli sources and statements from armed groups. [end]

VIDEO - Gaza air strikes
The Guardian 12/29/2008
Gaza air strikes - Israel has continued its attacks on Hamas in Gaza, with reports of more than 300 dead including at least 100 civilians [end]

251 Palestinians, Mostly Civilians, Including 20 Children and 9 Women, Killed and 584 Others, Including 130 Children and 28 Women, Wounded
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 12/28/2008
For the second consecutive day, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued to wage their bloodiest and most brutal war against the Gaza Strip since its occupation in 1967, under an international and Arab conspiracy of silence. In details of PCHR’s press release issued yesterday and the attacks that followed, yesterday evening, IOF launched more air strikes against many civilian facilities, including workshops, houses, medical warehouses and even mosques in a grave precedent. IOF war planes have so far continued to fly over the Gaza Strip terrifying the Palestinian civilian population. At night, many Palestinian families received phone calls from the Israeli intelligence, which ordered them to vacate their houses as they would be bombarded. Such phone calls confused Palestinian civilians. PCHR believes that this declared war target Palestinian civilians and their property, and statements of Israeli political and military officials herald a humanitarian catastrophe and a persistent war at all levels

Israeli Navy pull in towards Gaza Port - Heavy Israeli shelling of Gaza reported
International Solidarity Movement 12/28/2008
International volunteers eyewitness Israeli bombings in Gaza - 2:30am 29th December 2008 - Canadian Human Rights Activist Eva Bartlett has reported that the Israeli attacks into the Gaza Strip have escalated again, with the Israeli Navy shelling Gaza. "The Israeli Navy have pulled in towards Gaza Port and are shelling the coastal area. The shelling is incredibly heavy. "Eva Bartlett - International Solidarity MovementEarlier Eva Bartlett had reported from Al-Shifa intensive care unit in Gaza; "Dr Khaled from Shifa hospital’s intensive care unit told me today around 10am that the majority of cases in the ICU are critical, with approximately 80% who will not survive. At that time, the 24 beds in the ICU were the fourth shift of critically injured, the former three having died from their injuries.

Israeli, Palestinian leaders condemn Gaza airstrikes
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Politicians on all sides of the ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip have condemned the assaults, calling for a halt to the violence and protests against the onslaught. From Israel, Member of Knesset Mohammad Baraka called for all Palestinian national action parties inside Israel to attend a demonstration on Saturday in Nazareth. Baraka urged the world to speak out and to pressure Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza and to lift the siege, which was ongoing before airstrikes began on Saturday. From Gaza, Islamic Jihad denounced the Israeli attacks, the movement said in a statement. “The continued Arab official silence is unjustified in declaring war in this way; threatening the Palestinians from Arab and Islamic countries is a dangerous issue,” the group said on Sunday. The movement confirmed that resistance will not stop but rather escalate as scenes of destruction and killings cannot go unanswered.

Students protest Gaza operation
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem university campuses become sites of heated demonstrations for and against IDF’s Operation Cast Lead. Haifa students call Barak ’child killer’, lecturers face off with IDF officers. Three arrested in Tel Aviv - Hundreds of Haifa University students took part in hot tempered demonstrations in the middle of the campus Monday. On the one hand, Jewish and Arab students belonging to a leftist movement called for an end to the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and under the slogan "Diplomatic Terror" yelled out nationalistic chants and "Barak is a murderer". On the other hand, Jewish students gathered to support the Israeli operation and called out "Death to terrorists" and "Ismail (Haniyeh) is next". Large police and university security forces separated the two groups, which occasionally got into heated arguments with each other, and objects were even thrown from one side to another.

Jerusalem-area Arabs step up rioting
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Parts of Jerusalem were tense Monday as Arab riots and protests against the ongoing IDF operation in Gaza erupted at various locations in and around the capital. For the second day in a row, dozens of youths rioted near the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, burning tires and throwing rocks at the border policemen and IDF soldiers stationed at the checkpoint that leads in and out of the area. By nightfall, the rioters had been dispersed, but the marks of two days of violence were visible from the camps’ entrance. Large rocks, pieces of glass and other debris were scattered across the road, and a boosted Border Police presence - including Arabic-speaking officers wearing black face masks - were congregated in larger numbers than usual. "They were throwing rocks and burning tires, you know, the usual stuff," said one border policeman, who declined to give his name.

Seven Israeli Arabs arrested for hurling stones in protest of Gaza op
Eli Ashkenazi, Yoav Stern, Jack Khoury, and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/29/2008
Police on Monday arrested seven Israeli Arabs, three of them youths, for allegedly hurling stones and setting fire to tires near the entrance to the Mishad municipal council in the north. Authorities have arrested 49 people for disturbing the peace since the Israel Air Force began its aerial offensive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday. Police will remain on high alert today to deal with a wave of disturbances among Israeli Arabs and residents of East Jerusalem. There is also concern that Palestinian terror groups might try to carry out attacks in protest against Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip. Police Commissioner David Cohen held a series of consultations on Sunday to assess the extent of violence in the area of Arab towns known as the Triangle, roughly bounded by Baka al-Garbiyeh,. . .

Blair visits Middle East amid pressure to broker ceasefire
Ben Russell, Home Affairs Correspondent, The Independent 12/30/2008
Tony Blair will fly to the Middle East next week amid mounting international efforts to broker a fresh ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Britain has condemned the "unacceptable" loss of life caused by the Israeli strikes on Gaza. Mr Blair, the international envoy to the Middle East, will hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in a visit that will be dominated by the escalating conflict between the two sides. The former prime minister, who is the envoy for the Quartet made up of the EU, Russia, United States and UN, spent yesterday contacting senior figures including the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, as international pressure for a ceasefire mounted. Yesterday, Britain hardened its rhetoric on the Israeli attacks. Downing Street said it was "appalled" by the violence. A spokesman said: "We reiterate our call to Israel and Hamas for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further loss of innocent life.

POLITICS: Security Council Mildly Rebukes Israel’s Gaza Attacks
Analysis by Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service 12/30/2008
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 29(IPS) - After an emergency closed-door session Sunday night, the 15-member Security Council issued a politically bland statement expressing "serious concern" over the devastating Israeli air strikes on Gaza and calling for an "immediate halt to all violence. " The statement was predictable because the United States, a traditionally loyal Israeli ally, would never agree to anything smacking of a "censure" or "condemnation" of Israel -- even as the death toll rose to more than 300 Palestinians, mostly civilians. A single Israeli was killed during the three-day attacks. Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, points out that the Security Council "reflected the strategic goals and alliances of the most powerful veto- wielding countries, particularly that of the United States.

UN demands immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate cease-fire in Gaza on Monday and urged Mideast and world leaders to do more to help end the Israeli-Hamas conflict and promote political dialogue. "I think regional and international partners have not done enough," the UN chief said on the third day of an Israeli bombardment of Gaza that has killed at least 360 people - including 62 civilians - and wounded some 1,400 others. Ban urged Arab foreign ministers, who are holding an emergency meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, "to act swiftly and decisively to bring an early end to this impasse. " "At the same time, other world leaders must also step up efforts to support a longer term resolution of the issue," he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

EU to press Israel on ceasing Gaza operation
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
France and Great Britain will present a proposal on Tuesday aimed at forcing a cease-fire on Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. A senior government source in Jerusalem said the initiative would be presented at a emergency session of the European Union’s foreign ministers in Paris. Foreign Ministry sources in Jerusalem said on Monday that the "international hourglass" would allow Israel to continue its operation in the Gaza Strip, at most, until January 5. A source said Britain is pushing to pressure Israel, among other things, by releasing a statement by the 27 foreign ministers of the European Union that will call on Israel to stop the operation. The British are promoting a very bad proposal for Israel," a Foreign Ministry source said. French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke Monday and Sunday with Palestinian Authority. . .

Islamists urge pro-western regimes to act
Ian Black Middle East editor, The Guardian 12/30/2008
Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip is putting western-backed Arab governments under pressure from Islamist movements at home and in the region, as well as from Iran, which is stepping up its rhetoric against the US and Israel. The continuing onslaught yesterday led to the suspension of talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, as well as those between Syria and Israel, brokered by Turkey. Little progress had been taking place on either track, but the symbolism was clear. "It is not possible to carry on the negotiations under these conditions," Ali Babacan, Turkey’s foreign minister, said. Egypt, which controlled Gaza until it was conquered by Israel in 1967, again came under fire because of its relations with Israel, Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement openly accusing it of colluding with the attacks.

Israel Defends Action In Gaza, Says No Plans to Reoccupy
Paula Wolfson, MIFTAH 12/29/2008
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is defending the country’s massive attack on Gaza, but says there are no plans to reoccupy the Hamas controlled territory. Just hours after a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, the Israeli foreign minister appeared on American television to explain and defend the assault on the Gaza Strip. In addition to hundreds of airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, Israel has also called up army reservists, triggering fears of a ground assault. But speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Livni denied Israel plans to re-occupy Gaza. " Our goal is not to reoccupy Gaza Strip," she said. "We left Gaza Strip. We took our forces south. We dismantled our settlements. But since Gaza Strip has been controlled by the extremists and since Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas, and since Hamas is using Gaza Strip in order to target us, we need to give an answer to this. "

Iranians register volunteers to fight Israel
Reuters, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Group of hardline clerics signs up volunteers to fight in Gaza Strip in response to IDF airstrikes that have killed at least 300 Palestinians. Tens of thousands take part in anti-Israel protest in Tehran - A group of Iranian hardline clerics is signing up volunteers to fight in the Gaza Strip in response to Israel’s airstrikes that have killed at least 300 Palestinians, a news agency reported on Monday. "From Monday the Combatant Clergy Society has activated its website for a week to register volunteers to fight against the Zionist regime (Israel) in either the military, financial or propaganda fields," the semi-official Fars news agency said. Israel patrols the coastal waters around Gaza and has declared areas around the enclave a "closed military zone". The hardline Iranian group, which is headed by some leading clergy, says it has no affiliation with the government and was formed shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Miliband voices ’grave concern’ over Israeli attacks
Andrew Woodcock and Matt Dickinson, PA, The Independent 12/29/2008
Foreign Secretary David Miliband today voiced "grave concern" over the massive loss of life in the Gaza Strip as Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave continued for a third day. In a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London, Mr Miliband renewed Britain’s calls for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate halting of violence on both sides. As Israel masses troops on its border with Gaza, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken by telephone to his counterpart in Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, urging the Israelis to fulfil their humanitarian obligations. Israel’s air force today targeted symbols of Hamas power in Gaza, striking a university linked to the Islamist group, a security compound and a house next to the home of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. More than 300 air strikes since Saturday have wreaked devastation on Gaza, killing 315 including civilians and children.

David Miliband urges Gaza ceasefire
Lee Glendinning and Riazat Butt, The Guardian 12/29/2008
The foreign secretary, David Miliband, today renewed calls for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza, saying the Israeli air raids had come at a "very dangerous, very dark moment" in the Middle East peace process. As the air strikes continued for a third day, Milib warned of an "unacceptable" loss of human life, saying the only solution was a comprehensive peace settlement between Israelthe Arab world. In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Milib said the prime minister had spoken to his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, in Jerusalem calling for Israel to abide by humanitarian obligations. "The prime ministerI are following developments in Gaza with grave concern. The rise in rocket attacks on Israel since 19 Decemberyesterday’s massive loss of life make this a dangerous moment which. . . "

Livni to al-Jazeera: Don’t present just one side of events
YNetNews 12/29/2008
Foreign minister tells Arab network Israel making huge efforts not to hurt civilians, while Hamas deliberately targets women and children. Livni also criticizes al-Jazeera for biased, provocative reports that she says hinder peace - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave an interview Monday to Arab television network al-Jazeera in which she harshly criticized Hamas, saying the organization was to blame for the civilian casualties in Gaza. Livni stressed that Israel was doing the utmost to only target sites used by Hamas and the armed factions in the Strip. When asked about the killing of women and children the foreign minister stated that while Israel did not deliberately harm those uninvolved in the fighting, Hamas intentionally targeted civilians in Israel.

Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan see anti-Israel rallies
Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan see anti-Israel rallies, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Tens of thousands rally through Arab capitals calling for end to Israeli strikes in Gaza and in support of Hamas. In Beirut Hizbullah leader Nasrallah echoes calls for third intifada, while in Amman masses urge renewal of suicide bombings - Tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiite protesters, chanting "Death to America, Death to Israel", massed in Beirut on Monday, calling for an end to Israeli strikes on Gaza that have killed 320 Palestinians. In the Jordanian capital, Amman, about 20,000 people staged a demonstration organized by the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood, while in Cairo about 1,000 people rallied to show solidarity with Gaza Palestinians. "In Gaza today we face, as a nation, a battle against the fate of Palestine and not the fate of the Hamas government," Hizbullah leader. . .

Gulf nations to discuss Gaza at economic conference
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Gulf leaders plan to sign monetary union pacts at a summit on Monday in Oman, where they are also expected to discuss the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. "The issue will impose itself on the agenda. The events of yesterday will have their deserved place in the discussions," Information Minister Hamad al-Rashdi told Reuters. Other Gulf rulers gathering for the meeting on Monday are expected to approve a long-planned pact to take countries another step closer to issuing a single currency. "I don’t think the agenda will be derailed," Abdulmalik al-Hinai, undersecretary for economic affairs at Oman’s Ministry of National Economy, told Reuters. More than 310 Palestinians were killed in 76 hours of Israeli attacks in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical officials say.

Emergency Arab summit on Gaza in doubt
Middle East Online 12/29/2008
CAIRO - Holding an emergency Arab summit in Doha on Friday on the Gaza Strip crisis has not yet been agreed because some countries such as Egypt are not in favour of it, Arab diplomatic sources said on Monday. "Staging an Arab summit could be dangerous and subject to criticism, especially if it does not result in practical measures," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit was reported as saying on Sunday night. In remarks reproduced in the Egyptian press on Monday, he also said that "holding such a summit requires very careful preparation. " On Saturday, the day Israel launched its deadly aerial blitz on Hamas targets in the densely populated Gaza Strip, Arab League diplomats said an emergency Arab summit would be held on Friday. Qatar proposed staging it in Doha. Foreign ministers from the 22-member pan-Arab grouping are due to meet on Wednesday in Cairo, where. . .

GCC leaders gather amid differences over Gaza
Taieb Mahjoub – MUSCAT, Middle East Online 12/29/2008
Gulf leaders gathered in the Omani capital Muscat on Monday for an annual summit that is set to be clouded by differences over Israel’s three-day-old onslaught against the Gaza Strip. Qatar agreed to host an emergency Arab summit on the crisis in Doha on Friday and the meeting was announced in Cairo after talks among Arab League ambassadors on Saturday. But after a preparatory meeting of Gulf foreign ministers late on Sunday, regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia made plain its strong reservations about the Arab summit plan. "The ministerial council has not decided about the proposed extraordinary Arab summit, and has referred the matter to the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said after the marathon five-hour session. "There is no point in attending an Arab summit of statements, without having the. . .

Thousands Take to the Streets Worldwide to Protest Israeli Massacre in Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
On Sunday, in dozens of cities worldwide, including Tel Aviv, Paris, London, Edinburgh, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, Amman, Damascus and many more, thousands of people rushed to the streets to demand an end to Israeli atrocities in Gaza, and an end to the Israel occupation. Over a thousand people gathered in New York City, including orthodox Jews and Palestinians, standing together in solidarity against the Israeli attacks. In Paris, around 1,400 people gathered at the Arc de Triomphe and marched toward the Israeli embassy. They were met by police barricades, which prevented the protesters from getting close to the Embassy. In London, 10 protesters were arrested after police attacked a march of over a thousand people. Edinburgh saw a protest of around 100 people by the Royal Academy of Scotland, against a background of dozens of Palestinian flags,. . .

Likud replaces anti-Livni attack campaign with praise for the IDF
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
The Likud paid in advance for hundreds of billboards nationwide to launch a campaign Sunday attacking Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, but it decided to freeze the negative campaign when the operation in the Gaza Strip began. Instead, the space will be used for a campaign saluting the army and inhabitants of Sderot and Ashkelon, the party announced Monday. The "rally around the flag" campaign was initiated at the advice of the Likud’s American strategists, Bill Knapp and Josh Isay. The slogan on the billboards will now read "Strong together - The Likud with the IDF and the residents of the South. " It replaces the positive and negative slogans the Likud had intended to use, such as "The Likud, because there’s a country to run" and "Tzipi Livni: It’s out of her league. " Likud officials complained that the party began its billboard campaign nearly a month after Kadima. . .

Netanyahu joins Gaza op PR effort
Gil Hoffman And Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met one-on-one Monday with Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and Meretz leader Haim Oron and updated them about the progress of Operation Cast Lead. Olmert asked Netanyahu to join Israel’s public relations efforts as he did during the Second Lebanon War. Netanyahu’s spokesman said he responded affirmatively and without hesitation despite being the leader of the opposition in the middle of an election campaign. Netanyahu’s associates said there was no conflict of interest, because he was representing the country and not the government. They said he would continue to criticize the government’s policies of inaction in the Gaza Strip that were in force until Saturday. The Likud leader was interviewed Monday night on the American Fox News channel. He will give five interviews to international media outlets Tuesday.

UN’s Ban condemns Israel’s ’excessive use of force’ in Gaza
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 12/29/2008
Secretary-general strongly condemns both Hamas and Israel for continued fighting, expresses concern over rising number of civilian casualties in Gaza Strip. ban slams world leaders for not doing enough to mediate ceasefire - WASHINGTON - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned Israel’s "excessive use of force" in the Gaza Strip and said that international powers were not doing enough to force a ceasefire on the two sides. Ban made the statements at a press conference held at the UN’s headquarters in New York. "I am deeply alarmed by the current escalation of violence in and around Gaza. This is unacceptable. I have been repeatedly condemning the rocket attacks by Hamas militants against Israel. While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza.

Pope: End bloodshed in Jesus’ homeland, restore truce
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday condemned the “endless” bloodshed in the Holy Land and urged Israeli and Palestinian factions to end the violence immediately. Over 300 Palestinians and at least two Israelis have been killed since Saturday. Benedict told visitors in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square that he is devastated for “the dead, wounded, property damage, suffering and tears of the populations who are victims of this tragic succession of attacks and retaliation. ”The pontiff condemned all attacks and renewed his Christmas Day appeal that negotiations replace "the perverse logic of clashes and violence. " Israeli fighter jets dropped bombs and missiles on Saturday, Sunday and Monday on possibly hundreds of targets throughout the Gaza Strip, as continuing attacks have left over 1,000 hurt, nearly 200 of them critically.

200 protest Gaza op at Israeli Embassy in London
Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Some 200 people gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in West London Monday to protest the IDF counter-terror operation in Gaza, the Metropolitan Police said. The demonstration followed a 700-strong demonstration at the embassy in Kensington on Sunday yesterday that saw nine people arrested for public order offenses, including one for assaulting a police officer, a police spokesman said in a telephone interview. There were also a protest in Berlin, where about 2,000 marched through a central shopping district carrying Palestinian flags and banners saying Israel must end the Gaza blockade. Meanwhile, protesters throwing rocks at the Israeli Embassy in Athens clashed with riot police firing tear gas during a rally to protest the IAF assault. The scuffles broke out as about 300 Greek and Arab protesters waving Palestinian flags gathered outside the embassy for. . .

PA invites world to pressure Israel into halting attacks; condemns Israeli violence
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an - The caretaker government held its weekly meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr Salam Fayyad at the Council of Ministers headquarters in Ramallah on Monday, where ministers addressed the urgent issue of the Gaza massacre. Fayyad briefed the ministers on the diplomatic efforts made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as part of his efforts to secure an immediate halt to Israeli atrocities. In order to rally the international community to the Gaza cause the caretaker government issued the following statement:First: The Government renews its strong condemnation of the continued aggression on our people in the Gaza Strip and calls on the international community to put pressure on Israel to ensure the immediate freeze of Israeli attacks. We also stress the need for Arab and international protection for Palestinians.

IN PICTURES / Firestorm over Gaza
Ha’aretz 12/29/2008
Scenes from Gaza carnage and worldwide protests [end]

Top PA negotiator: No peace talks with Israel during Gaza assault
Yoav Stern and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said U. S. -backed peace talks with Israel have been put on hold, citing the Israel Air Force’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. "There are no negotiations and there is no way there could be negotiations while there are attacks against us," Qureia told reporters. The moves comes one day after a Syrian government official said that Damascus has decided to suspend its indirect peace talks with Israel, in the wake of the mass offensive Israel launched in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, which left more than 300 Palestinians dead and scores more wounded. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said "Israel’s aggression closes all the doors to any move toward a settlement in the region.

PA signals readiness to pay terror damages
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 12/29/2008
Negotiations are underway for a settlement of bus company Egged’s claim against the Palestinian Authority. Sources inform "Globes" that the Palestinian Authority is negotiating a compromise with Israeli bus company Egged. Egged sued the Authority in 2002 over its responsibility for the many terrorist attacks on buses, which caused Egged loss of revenue. This is the first time that the Palestinian Authority has engaged in negotiations on a settlement in a suit filed against it for its responsibility for terror attacks. Three months ago, the file was handed over for mediation before Israel Bar Association chairman Adv. Yori Geiron. Both Egged and the Palestinian Authority believe the lawsuit will end in compromise. The parties are currently discussing the amount of the settlement. It is estimated that the Palestinian Authority will pay, "without admitting the claims" up to NIS 30 million, in return for withdrawl of the suit.

Specter takes message from PM to Assad
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
US Senator Arlen Specter carried a message Monday from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite Syria’s announcement it had broken off its indirect talks with Israel. Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania who travels frequently to both Israel and Syria, left Israel Monday after a short visit for a meeting with Assad. Specter met with Olmert on Sunday, and said he "got a review of the Syrian negotiations from Olmert. " Specter refused to divulge the contents of the message Olmert asked him to take to Assad. Syria said Sunday that the indirect peace talks through Turkey were halted because of Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Specter said that this was not discussed with Olmert. The senator has long been an advocate of pursuing talks with Syria, and in 2006 was criticized by the Bush administration for visiting Damascus, because it was felt that these visits gave Assad legitimacy.

Turkey freezes Israel-Syria mediation
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Turkey said Monday it was suspending its role as mediator for peace talks between Israel and Syria after IAF attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. It came a day after Syria announced it was suspending the peace talks launched in May because of the counter-terror operation in Gaza. "Under these circumstances, naturally it is not possible to press ahead with the talks," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said at a joint news conference with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "Israel’s policy to turn to war with Palestinians while negotiating for peace with Syria, has greatly disappointed us. " Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the weekend described the Israeli attacks as a "crime against humanity. " Turkey was angered that the attacks came shortly after a visit to Ankara last week by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to discuss Middle East peace.

Syria pulls out of peace talks after Gaza airstrikes
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Syria has ended its indirect peace negotiations with Israel in light of the latter’s ongoing assaults on the Gaza Strip. A Syrian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media, said that “Israel’s aggression closes all the doors” to a peace settlement in the Middle East. Israel and Syria has been negotiating indirectly in Turkey since May. The two sides had met as many as four times, news accounts suggested. Last Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said he believed direct peace talks with Israel were possible. One week later, over 310 Palestinians are dead, along with hopes for a future agreement between Israel and its northern Arab neighbor.

Palestinian MK tossed out of Israeli Knesset session
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Tempers flared at Israel’s parliament building in Jerusalem on Monday as rightist members of the Knesset one after another made inciting statements against Palestinians. In response, one of the few Palestinian members of the Knesset, Muhammad Baraka, began a heated argument with several of the rightists in the room, causing the parliament’s speaker to expel Baraka from the session. Opposition leader Benjamin Natenyahu was the first to offend moderate elements in the room through his vocal support for an aggressive and “bloody” operation against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, applauding atrocities committed by the Israeli army there. Baraka, unable to restrain himself, told Netanyahu to “shut up and stop dancing over shed blood. ”Immediately, another member Netanyahu’s Likud Party, Gilad Arden, told Baraka to “go to Gaza,” causing the latter to answer, “Of course I would go to show solidarity with my people.

Tibi: Politicians counting Palestinian bodies
YNetNews 12/29/2008
In special Knesset session on IDF operation in Gaza, Arab MKs attack Israeli leadership. Foreign Minister Livni: Hamas doesn’t distinguish between Jews and Arabs, and neither should we - The Knesset held a special recess session Monday in light of the Israel Defense Forces operation in the Gaza Strip and the security situation in southern Israel. "There are those counting Knesset seats in exchange for bodies," Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) accused the Israeli leadership, after the premiership candidates slammed the Arab sector’s condemnation of Operation Cast Lead. "One cannot compare between those who have predatory power and those who have primitive power," said Tibi. "As a humane person, I oppose targeting civilians wherever they are. Naturally, however, every time an Arab is injured it hurts me more because we are members of the same nation.

MKs trade volleys over Gaza op
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Some 200 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip, the Knesset became a battleground on Monday between Jewish MKs, who unanimously supported the IDF operation there, and Arab MKs, who united against it. The Knesset endorsed the assault after Arab MKs failed to pass a proposal calling for an immediate cease-fire. Balad MKs boycotted the session while other Arab MKs took turns heckling Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. United Arab List MK Taleb A-Sanaa was removed from the plenum when he responded to Barak’s claim that 300 terrorists had been killed since the fighting began by shouting, "Tell the Knesset how many of them were women and children. " "The panicking in Sderot was unfortunate, but who said the reaction had to be rivers of blood in Gaza? " Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi said in his speech from the Knesset podium.

Majadle’s boycott of cabinet meeting costs him visit to Jordan
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Science, Culture, and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle’s decision Sunday to boycott the cabinet meeting in protest against the IDF’s actions in the Gaza Strip has cost him a diplomatic trip to Jordan. The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement Sunday saying that after Majadle - the country’s first Arab minister - informed cabinet secretary Ovad Yehezkel that he would not take part in the meeting to discuss the situation in Gaza, it was decided not to bring for cabinet approval Majadle’s request to visit Jordan. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, this was not a punishment. Rather, the statement said, "a minister who decides to boycott a cabinet meeting cannot then go on a diplomatic visit during which he is supposed to represent the positions of the body he has decided to boycott. " In response, Majadle’s office issued a statement saying his trip to Jordan had been. . .

Barak, Livni and Lieberman address a raucous Knesset
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
The leaders of Kadima, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu attended a raucous Knesset plenum meeting yesterday as the Israel Defense Forces Operation Cast Lead continued in Gaza. Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed the Knesset, saying the operation in Gaza will "be expanded and extended as much as necessary. " Barak defined the operations goals as "dealing a severe blow to Hamas and changing the situation in the south. "During his speech, Barak recalled the visit by U. S. president-elect Barack Obama to the Qassam-stricken town of Sderot before he was elected. The defense minister quoted Obama as saying "I would do anything to stop [a gunner]" to which he said he replied: "That’s exactly what we’re doing. "Barak told Knesset members: "We’ve implemented the conclusions from what happened on the home front during the Second Lebanon War.

Abbas: All factions must meet to discuss Palestinian crisis
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee in Ramallah on Monday to discuss “the painful events” in the Gaza Strip. President Abbas urged all factions, including Hamas, to take part in consultations about Gaza. “The situation in Gaza is extremely dangerous, and today’s meeting will be dedicated to discussing the situation,” the official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency, Wafa, quoted Abbas as saying on Monday. Abbas reiterated his condemnation of the Israeli assault on Gaza, saying, “We wish the injured a speedy recovery, and we condemn the fierce Israeli assault against our people in the Gaza Strip. ”The Palestinian president called on the whole world to exert efforts to stop “Israeli aggression,” asserting that he has been contacting international, Arab and regional sides to try and stop the aggression “as soon as it started.

Factions refuse Abbas’ call for unity meeting amid Gaza massacre
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the An-Nasser Brigades refused to participate in the all-factions meeting called by President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, while Fatah officials called for wide participationHamas leader Muhammad Nazzal made the announcement for his party during an interview with Al-Arabiya television Monday evening. Hamas will not try to make any political gains on the backs of the Gaza massacre, he said. Islamic Jihad sent a statement to Ma’an saying “what is required now is resistance,” and further stated that it was the party’s duty to defend “our land and our people and respond to the massacres committed against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. ”They called for unity in resistance activities, but spurned Abbas’ call for national unity. Abu Abeer with the An-Nasser Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, said that all. . .

PLC member weighs in on Gaza violence, Palestinian unity
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Mustafa Al-Barghuthi, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, demanded the Palestinian Authority “stand by the Palestinians affected by Israel’s grotesque crimes” and to stop negotiations immediately. He insisted that Israel that uses negotiations as a cover to its crimes and settlement expansion. He demanded restoration of national unity immediately, since “it is the right response in these moments to the Israeli attacks. ”He said that Israel is using the Palestinians as fuel for its election campaign. He noted that Israel is taking advantage of division to expand its attacks. Al-Barghuthi added that “it’s now the time to put the Palestinian interests at the top of any other partisan interests. ”

Israeli shoot at peaceful demonstrators in the West Bank showing solidarity to Gazans
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 12/29/2008
Yesterday, on the 28th of December, peaceful demonstrators from the village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah have been once more, seriously attacked by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), killing Arafat Khawaja, 22 years-old the 3d teenager killed in Ni’lin within the past 7 months. In the context of the bloody massacre of Gaza - the biggest bloodshed that Palestine has faced since the 6-day war in 1967 - peaceful demonstrators organised several solidarity and non-violent demonstration all around the West Bank. That day in Ni’lin, a town West of Ramallah that is holding weekly non-violent protests against the building of a new section of the Apartheid Wall that will surround the village and literally divide it into two parts, a Solidarity demonstration against the massacre in Gaza was held. For three consecutive days, hundreds of people gathered and marched peacefully, protesting against the Israeli occupation and brutality.

Israeli army attack several protests in the West Bank injuring 55 civilians
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/29/2008
Hundreds of Palestinians protested in several West Bank cities on Monday against the Israeli army attacks on the Gaza strip; Israeli troops attacked those protesting and injured 55 civilians. The protests were reported in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah. In Jerusalem demonstrations were organized in the old city, and on the main road connecting Jerusalem city and Ramallah city, local youths closed the road in protest. Israeli army and police attacked the protests and opened fire injuring 50 Palestinians according to medical sources there. Meanwhile 5 Palestinian youths, received moderate wounds from Israeli army fire in similar demonstrations organized in the southern west bank city of Hebron. Over the weekend the Israeli army killed two Palestinian youths in the central West bank city of Ramallah while protesting against Israeli attacks in Gaza.

Israeli soldiers steal jewlery, money as Palestinian youth arrested near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers on Monday morning stole the life savings of 47-year-old Mahir Al-Qit as they ransacked his home and arrested his son, 21-year-old Muhammad, in the northern West Bank village of Madama, south of Nablus on Monday. Mahir al-Qit told Ma’an that "at 2:00 am, Israeli soldiers knocked on my door in the eastern neighborhood of Madama. They detained all our family members, four girls and a boy, Muhammad who studies at An-Najah National University, near the staircase. " "Dozens of soldiers went to the second floor of the house refusing to let me accompany them while they inspect the house,” he added. Al-Qit said that about one hour later, an intelligence officer told him they wanted to arrest his son Muhammad for interrogation. After the soldiers left, Al-Qit started checking up on his properties to find out that his wife’s jewelry had been. . .

Hebron University students injured as rally mourning Gaza dead clashes with Israeli forces
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The student council at the Hebron University organized a demonstration to condemn Israeli violence against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip Monday afternoon. The demonstration march became a clash with Israeli troops and nine students were injured. Hundreds of students gathered for a press conference on the university campus where student leaders delivered speeches condemning the attacks. The students called on factions to unify and reconcile so they could best support Gaza in its dark hours. The demonstrators lifted banners and slogans calling on the world to break the silence and call for an end to the tragedy in Gaza. Many students carried black flags to mark the mourning period for the now over 300 dead. “Mourning is not staying at home and keeping the silence, but touring the streets, lifting our banners high and shouting to the. . .

West Bank rises up in solidarity with Gaza
Stop The Wall 12/29/2008
Photos - The massacres in Gaza that in the last 48 hours have taken over 300 lives and injured over 1000, come at the end of over one and a half years of brutal siege. A crime against humanity, a creeping genocide, the latest killing spree is not only the responsibility of the Israeli authorities. For over 60 years the international community has shown over and over again that they have no intention to stop Israel – whatever it does. For decades the people and their movements have fought the crimes of the Occupation, standing in the face of ethnic cleansing and dispossession. The last two days have seen the people all over Palestine, the Arab world and around the globe rise up in protest, not only against the Occupation, but against the inaction and complacency of their own leaders. The following are pictures from the West Bank.

BNC: 'Stop the massacre in Gaza - Boycott Israel now!'
International Solidarity Movement 12/29/2008
Boycott & sanctions - Press release from the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) - Occupied Ramallah, Palestine - 27 December 2008:Today, the Israeli occupation army committed a new massacre in Gaza, causing the death and injury of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including a yet unknown number of school children who were headed home from school when the first Israeli military strikes started. This latest bloodbath, although far more ruthless than all its predecessors, is not Israel’s first. It culminates months of an Israeli siege of Gaza that should be widely condemned and prosecuted as an act of genocide against the 1. 5 million Palestinians in the occupied coastal strip. Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself - perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people.

Gazans: ’We are living a nightmare’
Al Jazeera 12/29/2008
As the death toll from Israel’s aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip continues to climb, Al Jazeera asked Gazans to describe the situation where they are and to explain how the offensive is affecting them. Majed Badra, 23, Gaza City, cartoonist and student at the Islamic University "Unfortunately the situation is very bad in Gaza city - the Israeli occupation is striking more and more organisations, more houses and the mosque, and my university was hit last night. They focus on the civilians. It is easy for them. Nothing is working in Gaza and we don’t do anything. We stay inside the house, my family and I. Every family in Gaza is doing the same. We are used to hearing these airstrikes, everybody here is used to it and we don’t have any way to protect ourselves.

Israelis reflect on ’all-out war’
Al Jazeera 12/29/2008
As Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, says Israel’s military is in an "all-out war" with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera asked Israelis how they feel about the ongoing offensive and the prospect of a ground incursion. This is what they had to say:Adina, 31, Sderot "I was waiting for this attack for years - I wish they had done this sooner, it would have saved people’s lives, on both sides. No country lets its civilians live under fire. For eight years we have been bombed by terrorists. I am not in the government or the military and I don’t know the right way, but Hamas has to be stopped. I hope they will damage the rocket launchers and teach Hamas that they can’t continue, that they can’t just hurt civilians and use terror. . . "

Cartoon of the day
Carlos Latuff, Palestine Think Tank 12/29/2008

Israeli exports down 20% in fourth quarter
Shira Horesh, Globes Online 12/29/2008
The decline is due to the sharp drop in prices for raw materials and a 40% plunge in diamond exports. Despite the global slowdown, Israeli exports are expected to grow by 10% in 2008 to $78 billion, the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institutereported today. The Export Institute said that exports of goods grew by 24% in the first half of the year, driven by chemicals and fertilizers, whose prices rose sharply. However, export growth slowed to 7% in the second half of the year. Exports are expected to be 20% lower in the fourth quarter than in the corresponding quarter of 2007 because of the sharp drop in prices for raw materials and a 40% plunge in diamond exports. The US accounted for 33% of Israeli exports in 2008, down from 38% in 2006, although it remains Israel’s largest export market.

Southern businesses, farmers find themselves in dire straits
Barr Hayoun, Sivan Paltin, Amiram Cohen Ora Coren and Haim, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
"This war is a deathblow to businesses," said a jewelry store owner in the center of Ashdod’s business district yesterday, looking around at an empty town. The situation in the city’s big seaside mall was not much better. Even though children were enjoying the last day of their Hanukkah vacation, only a few kids and their parents were out and about, and many shopowners were sitting around with nothing to do. Signs directing people to the nearest shelter and how to act when the Color Red rocket alert sounds were everywhere. Some stores shuttered their glass display windows, leaving only the door open so they could close the store quickly. "Forty-five seconds from the warning to the hit is nothing," said Hani, the manager of a store in the mall. She said it took four minutes yesterday morning to get all the customers out and into the shelter, and to lock up.

Oil and gold prices sharply higher on Gaza fighting
The Guardian 12/29/2008
Israeli air strikes on Gaza triggered sharp rises in the price of oil and gold this morning. The sudden flare-up in violence raised fears over crude oil supplies and pushed up the price of oil by nearly 8% from the previous session to over $40 a barrel. New York light crude jumped by almost $4 to $42. 20 a barrel. Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza for a third day today and the country’s cabinet has approved the call-up of thousands of reservists, suggesting a major ground invasion is being considered. " It’s a terrible situation and it just seems to be again causing major concerns for all the markets," said Peter McGuire at Commodity Warrants Australia. "But where it’s going, nobody knows. Who can speculate on war? "Oil prices could rebound to around $100 a barrel between 2010 and 2105, according to Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s chief economist.

IDF operation costs factories close to Gaza some NIS 4 million a day
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
Each day of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip costs Israeli factories and businesses in the conflict zone NIS 4 million. With the start of the military operations against Hamas in Gaza on Saturday morning, the Home Front Command has ordered the closure of enterprises in communities within 4. 5 km. of the Gaza Strip. The Israel Manufacturers Association said Sunday that 80 factories were affected by the closure in the industrial zones around Sderot, Netivot and the Gaza Strip. Since the first Kassam rocket hit in the South some eight years ago, factories have suffered direct and indirect damages estimated at NIS 100m. , according to the association. The damages include direct losses from hits and indirect damage from lost orders, revenues, customers and workers. Although it is too early to estimate the total cost of the ongoing operation in Gaza, economists warn that a prolonged one. . .

Bank of Israel cuts rate 0.75%
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 12/29/2008
The interest rate cut is in line with expectations. According to "Globes" sources, a larger cut was planned before the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip began. The Bank of Israel has announced a cut of 75 basis points in its interest rate for January. The new rate will be 1. 75%. The new rate is the lowest in the Bank of Israel’s history, and the cut is the largest that Stanley Fischer has made since becoming governor of the bank in 2005. Most market analysts had expected a cut of 50 to 75 basis points, with some even predicting a full 100 basis point cut. Sources inform "Globes" that Fischer had in fact planned a 100 basis point cut, but that the fighting in the Gaza Strip caused him to moderate his intentions. On events in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, the bank’s statement said, "The security-related developments of the last few days have opposing effects.

Leviev sells executive jet
Tali Tsipori, Globes Online 12/29/2008
AFI Development is disposing of its Bombardier Global 5000 at a profit. Just a year after buying a new corporate jet, and selling the old one to Noam Lanir, Lev Leviev, controlling shareholder in Africa-Israel Investments (TASE: AFIL), is selling the new one too. Africa-Israel subsidiary AFI Development sold the aircraft for $46 million to a private businessperson from overseas. According to sources close to Leviev, he received a good offer, in the light of the slowdown in the private aircraft business. AFI, which coordinates Africa-Israel’s real estate activity in Russia, bought the plane, a Bombardier Global 5000, about a year ago. Enquiries by "Globes" reveal that the plane was technically owned by LL Avia Management SA, registered in Holland, and that it had a book value of $44. 5 million. Considering the fall in value from wear and tear and the slowdown in the. . .

Plunging diamond sector sinks fourth quarter exports
Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Export of goods, including diamonds, are expected to sink 20% in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to the same period last year, says Shaul Katzenelson, vice president of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute. But that shocking figure hides another drama. Katzenelson blames the sharp decrease in exports on the collapse of about 40 businesses in the diamond export industry, as well as the fall of raw material prices due to the global economic crisis. Excluding the diamond sector, industrial exports are expected to show a decrease of only about 5%. Preliminary figures for the fourth quarter, which ends tomorrow, are based on data from October and November and initial trends and figures from December, which could still be adjusted. "A true drama is unfolding in the diamond industry," Katzenelson says.

Gaza area farmers fear fighting may have bumped off crops
Amiram Cohen, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Even if the world economic crisis hadn’t already struck a fatal blow to agricultural exports from the farming communities in the Gaza area, the current fighting there might have. Military operations underway in the area mean that farmers from 12 of the 14 communities that are less than two kilometers from the border fence are not allowed to go to their fields. By the time things improve, there might not be anything left to harvest. Hashi Rubin a member of Kibbutz Nir Oz and head of the region’s agricultural cooperative, says he knows the Hamas strikes against their communities had to be stopped, but he is worried that economic ruination is in the offing. Dozens of tons of potatoes, the region’s main crop, cannot be harvested, the export of baby radishes had to be stopped in the middle, and carrot exports have not yet begun, he said.

Iraq’s Saleh warns of possible Arab-Kurd conflict
Middle East Online 12/29/2008
Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh warned of "vicious and dangerous" attempts to convert political and economic problems in Iraq to an Arab-Kurdish conflict. He also criticised the anaemic progress in increasing national oil exports, although eight billion dollars have been poured into the sector over the last three years. "There are vicious and dangerous attempts to convert the political and economic problems in Baghdad on a number of issues to an Arab-Kurdish conflict," Saleh said. "There are differences inside the government regarding how to handle political and economic cases like the issue of Kirkuk or the disputed areas and also the oil-gas law," added Saleh, who is a member of the Kurdish Alliance political group. The four Kurdish provinces will not take part in Iraqi provincial elections which are going ahead in the country’s other 14 provinces on January 31.

Israel in ’all-out war’ with Hamas
Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
Israel’s military is in an "all-out war" with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Ehud Barak, the country’s defence minister, has said. Palestinian medical sources say at least 345 Gazans have been killed and another 1,450 wounded in three consecutive days of Israeli bombardment in the heavily-populated territory. "We have nothing against Gaza residents, but we are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies," Barak said on Monday. There were also growing fears that a ground offensive was being planned after Israel declared a "closed military zone" around the Gaza Strip. Israel says the creation of a buffer zone along the border will help protect it from rocket attacks. Civilians, including journalists, could be banned from an area between 2km and 4km deep under the policy.

Special audio report on Gaza attacks
Jenka Soderberg, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
As bombs rain down on the people of Gaza in the largest single Israeli attack since 1948, 325 Palestinians have been killed. IMEMC’s Jenka Soderberg spoke with reporter Rami Almeghari in Maghazi Refugee Camp in Gaza, Natalie Abu Shakra in Gaza City, Jacob Rosenblum in Jerusalem and Hala Gores in Portland in this special report. Click on the link below to download the mp3 file (41:27) [end]

Egypt to Nasrallah: Our forces can defend nation
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/29/2008
In response to Hizbullah head’s speech citing Egypt as accomplice to ’Gaza crime’ Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit says Nasrallah wants chaos to serve ’interests not for good of the region’. Meanwhile Turkish FM says ending indirect talks between Israel and Syria due to Gaza operation - Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit slammed Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan in Ankara on Monday. Commenting on Nasrallah’s speech Sunday in which he accused Egypt of being an accomplice in the "Gaza crime", and similar accusations made by other bodies, Aboul Gheit said, "They have actually declared war on Egypt through a few satellite channels. The Egyptian people reject this statement and object to it. "Referring to Nasrallah, Aboul Gheit continued, "One of those who spoke yesterday said ’Dear Egyptian people, take to the streets and cause chaos’.

Games, practices banned in 40-km radius around Gaza Strip
Moshe Boker, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Military authorities yesterday put a halt to all organized soccer matches and practices within a 40-kilometer radius of the Gaza Strip, the Israel Football Assocation announced. According to regulations the IFA received from the Home Front Command, the association will not hold any soccer games within missile range, including in Ashkelon, Netivot, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and Kiryat Malakhi. Soccer officials were surprised to learn, in conversation with the military, that regular practices would also be forbidden within this area. The army took command of the stadiums in Kiryat Gat and Netivot, turning the first into a helicopter landing pad and the Netivot stadium into a dressing facility for the command’s headquarters. "The Home Front Command’s order is unequivocal - there will be no games or practices held in the region from Netivot-Ofakim to the Ashdod-Kiryat Malakhi region, said Avi Levy, head of the IFA’s amateur leagues division, yesterday.

No rest for the shell-shocked in Ashkelon shelters
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Dozens of bomb shelters in Ashkelon designed to serve hundreds of individuals and families are not ready for even short-term habitation. The shelters are foul-smelling, dark and decrepit. Some of the residents have resorted to taking shelter in stairwell, even though they are unfortified, and others simply choose to remain in their homes. At issue are private shelters located in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. A residential building on Hagalil Street holds eight households for the elderly, new immigrants and single-parent families. "We don’t go down to the shelters," said Miri Levy, a disabled mother of two young girls. "We stay at home and pray that the rockets don’t fall on us. The girls go to the stairwell sometimes, but it’s open and unprotected. "Yelena Glick, who lives with her chronically ill mother in the same building, has entered the shelter only once.

Motherly eyes in the sky
Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post 12/28/2008
It’s Thursday afternoon at the Israel Air Force base at Palmachim - less than 48 hours before Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas - and, despite the looming threat of an attack on the Gazan rocket infrastructure, Capt. Shira and Sgt. Keren, two of the female engineers who operate Israel’s unmanned aerial vehicles, appear fairly relaxed. "I read in this morning’s newspaper that there will be military action," says Shira, a 28-year-old who has been a professional soldier since finishing her compulsory IDF service eight years ago. She is not allowed to talk too much about such an operation, but, she explains, "if there is such an action, our job is to help those who are on the ground. We’ll be their eyes from above. Usually that means identifying hostile forces and warning the soldiers about what is waiting for them. "

Business in Brief - Job demand down
Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Demand for new employees is falling, just another sign of the economic slowdown. The Employment Service says the number of requests for workers from employers through the bureau fell 5. 9% in November to only 23,100. The biggest number of requests was for security guards, followed by general industrial workers, then sales and telemarketing. In addition, employers turned to the Employment Service for cleaning and maintenance workers and many other unskilled posts. However, the AllJobs Internet site said there was an increase in demand in December for certain professions such as information security, accountanting, social work and programmers. (Haim Bior) The Tax Authority has received about 200 reports of property damage from rockets in the south in the last three days, through yesterday afternoon. About 80 of the hits came in the last 24 hours.

Hitch Israel’s wagon to the US
Chemi Peres, Globes Online 12/29/2008
We will need even greater closeness in the post-crisis world. The US economy is facing one of the most challenging periods in its history. It is dealing with a huge deficit, in excess of $10 trillion, the heavy cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an ongoing banking and credit crisis, a $700 billion rescue plan, a stimulus plan by President-Elect Barack Obama, who has promised to allocate resources estimated at $1 trillion, and a rescue plan for the car industry, which will be fateful for three million workers. The US is also coping with low consumer confidence and burgeoning unemployment. The crisis is not confined to the Stars and Stripes, but is global in scope, affecting many countries, including China, India, and Russia. On the eve of Obama’s inauguration on January 20, it is possible to point to strategic directions, or at least. . .

Shekel-euro rate up sharply
Sharon Baider, Globes Online 12/29/2008
Foreign currency traders are waiting for Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer’s interest rate decision this evening. The shekel is depreciating against the dollar and euro because of the IDF’s military operation in Gaza and ahead of tonight’s interest rate decision by the Bank of Israel. The shekel-dollar exchange rate rose by 0. 57% to NIS 3. 895/$ in morning trading and the shekel-euro exchange rate rose by 2. 4% to NIS 5. 549/€. The euro is up by 0. 9% against the dollar in international markets to $1. 418/€. The Bank of Israel will publish the January interest rate at 6:30 pm today. Capital market analysts believe that it will cut the interest rate by a modest 50 basis points, because of the fighting in Gaza and expected volatility on capital foreign exchange markets.

Youth vote won’t be a big factor here come February
Ayala Tsoref, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Israeli prime ministerial candidates like to compare themselves and their policies to United States president-elect Barack Obama. But whereas Obama managed to shake American youth out of their indifference and get them to stand in line for hours to fulfill their democratic right to vote, Israeli contenders have yet to affect the same change. Israelis have proven that the stereotype of the politically apathetic youth is more than just a superficial image. About 33 percent of voters aged 18 to 25 said they don’t plan to vote in the general elections in February and 15 percent said they were undecided on the question of voting, according to a survey carried out by the Panels institute on behalf of TheMarker. In all, 48 percent of young voters either won’t vote or are still deliberating the issue. About 40 percent of voters aged 26 to 35, many of whom have young families and are members. . .

Judge refuses to recuse self from Gush Katif suits
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
A Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge declined to recuse herself last week from hearing suits over a piece of legislation that she herself was closely involved in drafting during her previous job. Three years ago, when Judge Anna Schneider was employed as the Knesset’s legal adviser, she was involved in drafting the law that governs compensation for settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank during the disengagement. She participated in more than 30 Knesset committee meetings on the bill, and went on a committee tour of the Gaza settlements. After the evacuation, dozens of former Gaza settlers filed suit against the government over the amount of compensation they were awarded, claiming they were entitled to more. This past September, however, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court President Amnon Cohen decided that Schneider would preside over all these suits.

Danino appointed southern police chief amid controversy
Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post 12/29/2008
A new Southern District police commander was appointed Monday, in a decision described by critics as a cynical use of the security situation to settle internal police accounts. In a joint statement, Police Commissioner Insp. -Gen. David Cohen and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter announced the immediate appointment of Israel Police Investigations Head Cmdr. Yohanan Danino as Southern District commander. Danino was supposed to take over the post in the summer, but the appointment was brought forward "in light of the special situation in the South," Cohen and Dichter said. The former head of the Southern District, Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev, was summarily dismissed by Cohen in late August after turning down an offer of a study leave. Bar-Lev has since launched a High Court battle to challenge his firing, saying that there was no need for him to go on study leave as he already holds two degrees.

The new (more extreme) Likud
Michael Tomasky, The Guardian 12/29/2008
I decided to take a look at the always insightful Gershom Gorenberg over at the Prospect site to see what he had to say about the current Gaza situation. Turned out he wasn’t writing on it per se but had something up that was even more alarming. As most of us know, Bibi Netanyahu will be the Likud candidate in the coming elections. He is odds-on to defeat Tzipi Livni of Kadima. He’s an implacable foe of dismantling any West Bank settlements, which, as Josh Marshall reminds us today, remain probably the central political problem here. The population of the West Bank settlements has slightly more than doubled since 1995, to 270,000. These settlements have to be reduced, at least. There’s nothing in Netanyahu’s record to suggest he’d contemplate that.

PA promises to keep West Bank mourners safe, warns others against taking advantage of chaos
Ma’an News Agency 12/29/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an - The Palestinian Authority (PA) will not prevent any peaceful demonstrations in the West Bank but will work to ensure protectors are kept safe from Israeli troops and keep civilian casualties to a minimum, said government spokesperson Riyad Al-Maliki Monday. Al-Maliki made the comments in a press conference following the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah. He stressed the government’s condemnation of the Gaza attacks and Israel’s harsh repression of mourning ceremonies in the West Bank that killed two. The spokesperson warned, however, that “the government will take real actions against those who exploit the protests and raise slogans against the authorities in order to create a sour atmosphere in the West Bank. ”He added that the PA is working to ensure Gaza medical centers have proper equipment and supplies, and Al-Maliki praised the medical staff for their hard work under such difficult conditions.


’I didn’t see any of my girls, just a pile of bricks’
Hazem Balousha Jabalia and Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/30/2008
      The family house was small: three rooms, a tiny kitchen and bathroom, built of poor-quality concrete bricks with a corrugated asbestos roof, in block four of Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. There are hundreds of similar homes crammed into the overcrowded streets, filled with some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in the Gaza Strip.
     But it was this house, where Anwar and Samira Balousha lived with their nine children, that had the misfortune to be built next to what became late on Sunday night another target in Israel’s devastating bombing campaign of Gaza.
     An Israeli bomb struck the refugee camp’s Imad Aqil mosque around midnight, destroying the building and collapsing several shops and a pharmacy nearby. The force of the blast was so massive it also brought down the Balousha family’s house, which yesterday lay in ruins. The seven eldest girls were asleep together on mattresses in one bedroom and they bore the brunt of the explosion. Five were killed where they lay: Tahrir, 17, Ikram 15, Samer, 13, Dina, eight and Jawahar, four.

Robert Fisk: Leaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored

Robert Fisk, The Independent 12/29/2008
      We’ve got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don’t care any more – providing we don’t offend the Israelis. It’s not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel’s side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs – who, as we all know, only understand force.
     Ever since 1948, we’ve been hearing this balderdash from the Israelis – just as Arab nationalists and then Arab Islamists have been peddling their own lies: that the Zionist "death wagon" will be overthrown, that all Jerusalem will be "liberated". And always Mr Bush Snr or Mr Clinton or Mr Bush Jnr or Mr Blair or Mr Brown have called upon both sides to exercise "restraint" – as if the Palestinians and the Israelis both have F-18s and Merkava tanks and field artillery. Hamas’s home-made rockets have killed just 20 Israelis in eight years, but a day-long blitz by Israeli aircraft that kills almost 300 Palestinians is just par for the course.
     The blood-splattering has its own routine. Yes, Hamas provoked Israel’s anger, just as Israel provoked Hamas’s anger, which was provoked by Israel, which was provoked by Hamas, which ... See what I mean? Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel bombs Hamas, Hamas fires more rockets and Israel bombs again and ... Got it? And we demand security for Israel – rightly – but overlook this massive and utterly disproportionate slaughter by Israel. It was Madeleine Albright who once said that Israel was "under siege" – as if Palestinian tanks were in the streets of Tel Aviv.

Gaza: A Campaign to Perpetuate the Occupation

Yacov Ben Efrat, Palestine Chronicle 12/29/2008
      ’It is Israel that plunged Gaza into its present condition.’ (Reuters) Israel’s military operation called Molten Lead started on Saturday, December 27, 2008 and took more than 200 lives in its first day, much to the satisfaction of the Israeli public. Already on Friday there were cries of "Go get ’em!" from the columns of the leading newspapers, and on Saturday the Gazans got what Israelis have long been wishing them. This was no spontaneous operation, no mere response to the recent firing of rockets on the towns of the Negev. In the preceding half year of calm, while warning that Hamas was arming itself, Israel carefully planned the attack to extract the highest possible price.
     Officially, the campaign was intended to return that calm to the area under conditions more favorable to Israel. But the aims go farther. Israel is trying to bring Hamas back to the negotiating table with Egypt on terms that will be good for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Abu Mazen. Hamas failed to use the six months calm "constructively" by reaching a deal with Abu Mazen, and now it is paying the price. Israel wants it to end armed resistance, recognize the legitimacy of the Oslo Accords, and accept the terms of the Quartet. In other words, Hamas is supposed to yield its control over Gaza and blend into the PA as a minor partner.

What is Israel’s Goal?

Neve Gordon, Palestine Chronicle 12/29/2008
      ’What exactly, one might ask, is Israel’s mission?’ (AFP) The first bombardment took three minutes and 40 seconds. Sixty Israeli F-16 fighter jets bombed 50 sites in Gaza, killing more than 200 Palestinians, and wounding close to 1,000 more.
     A few hours after the deadly strike, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened a press conference in Tel-Aviv. With foreign minister Tzipi Livni sitting on his right and defence minister Ehud Barak on his left, he declared: "It may take time, and each and every one of us must be patient so we can complete the mission."
     But what exactly, one might ask, is Israel’s mission?
     Although Olmert did not say as much, the "mission" includes four distinct objectives.
     The first is the destruction of Hamas, a totally unrealistic goal. Even though the loss of hundreds of cadres and some key leaders will no doubt hurt the organisation, Hamas is a robust political movement with widespread grassroots support, and it is unlikely to surrender or capitulate to Israeli demands following a military assault. Ironically, Israel’s attempt to destroy Hamas using military force has always ended up strengthening the organisation, thus corroborating the notion that power produces its own vulnerability.

Massacre in Gaza: The Paradox of Peace

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, Palestine Chronicle 12/29/2008
      ’We can each save a life, collectively; we can save the people under siege.’
     Twice this year, the leaders of Hamas indicated their readiness to accept a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders. Khaled Meshaal, Hamas leader, informed former president Jimmy Carter of this decision in April 2008. In May 2008, it was revealed that Yves Aubin de La Messuziere, a retired senior French diplomat had held discussions with Ismael Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar, two prominent Hamas leaders who confirmed Hamas’ readiness to accept a Palestinian State within the 1967 border, reflecting an unofficial acceptance of Israel. But this truce is contrary to the Zionism ideals:
     "The settlement of the Land of Israel is the essence of Zionism. Without settlement, we will not fulfill Zionism. It’s that simple." (Yitzhak Shamir (Maariv, 02/21/1997).
     Thus, it became necessary to punish those who sought peace -- and wage war.
     Sadly, this was not the first time. History has repeated itself. Only our media has successfully managed to throw sands of ignorance in our eyes and blind us with bigotry, keeping our wits dull with misinformation. For the sake of the innocent victims everywhere, the truth must be exposed. We must revisit history.

Israel’s Gaza assault wastes lives without changing anything

Editorial, Daily Star 12/29/2008
      It is highly unlikely that anything positive will emerge from the violent rampage Israel’s military launched against the Gaza Strip over the weekend. The only hope - a slim one indeed, based on past experience - is that some of the players on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will finally learn some lessons that should have been absorbed long ago.
     For the Palestinians, the crux of the matter is that the bitter feud between Hamas and Fatah has made the dream of statehood more elusive than ever. So long as Palestine’s two largest parties cannot set aside their differences for the sake of its people’s national aspirations, the outside world will remain largely indifferent, even when Israel comports itself with wanton disregard for innocent lives and international law. If Fatah and Hamas cannot so much as keep the peace with each other, let alone agree on compromise visions for independence and how to get there, how can they expect the outside world to entrust to either of them the myriad responsibilities of statehood? The crucial support of democratic polities in the Western world cannot be gained by organizations that display so little political maturity and probity.

Gratuitous Massacre

The Jordan Times, MIFTAH 12/29/2008
      Yesterday one could feel gloom and fury in the streets of Amman, as people were following with shock and horror news of Israel’s devastating, barbaric attacks on the Gaza Strip, which left more than 200 people dead and 300 wounded, 120 of them seriously.
     As soon as news of the attacks and their unprecedented toll were reported live by satellite television stations, Jordanians around the Kingdom took to the streets in spontaneous demonstrations to express solidarity with their helpless brethren in the impoverished, besieged strip.
     At the same time, His Majesty King Abdullah was reflecting the pain felt in the streets by issuing a swift clear condemnation. The King and the Jordanian government were also in contact with various leaders around the world in an effort to end the aggression and to find means to help the Palestinian people.
     The attacks were ostensibly triggered by rockets fired by Hamas into the Jewish state, killing one individual.
     In this case, disproportionate use of force is a cliché understatement; a tired phrase that doesn’t seem to ring any bell anymore to the outside world. Vicious cruelty would come closer to the ugly reality.

Why would Israel bomb a university?

Dr. Akram Habeeb writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/29/2008
      As a Fulbright scholar and professor of American literature at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), I have always preferred to keep silent about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I always felt that it was my mission to preach love and peaceful coexistence. However, Israel’s massive offensive against the Gaza Strip has spurred me to speak out.
     Last night, during the second night of Israel’s unprecedented attack on Gaza, I was awakened by the deafening sound of intensive bombardment. When I learned that Israel had bombed my university with American-made F-16s, I realized that its "target bank" had gone bankrupt. Of course Israeli politicians and generals would claim that IUG is a Hamas stronghold and that it preaches terrorism.
     As an independent professor, not affiliated with any political party, I can say that IUG is an academic institution which embraces a wide spectrum of political affinities. I see it as prestigious university which encourages liberalism and free thought. This personal point view might seem to be biased; therefore, I would invite anyone who would doubt about my assertions to browse IUG’s website.

Re-learning the biblical 40 years in Gaza

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 12/29/2008
      God punished the arrogance and hubris of the Hebrews in the Old Testament by making them wander the wilderness for 40 years, before allowing a later, more humble, generation to enter Canaan. The current generation of Israeli Jews is not as proficient at learning these 40-year lessons, it seems, to judge from Israel’s current ferocious attack on Gaza.
     It was exactly 40 years ago to the day - December 28, 1968 - that Israeli commandos raided Beirut airport and destroyed 13 Lebanese civilian aircraft, in retaliation for a Palestinian attack against an Israeli airliner in Athens. Israel aimed to inflict a revenge punishment so severe that it would shock the Arabs into preventing the Palestinians from fighting Israel.
     Today, 40 years and countless attacks and wars later, Israel again uses massive retaliatory and punitive force to plummet the Palestinians of Gaza into submission. Hundreds of Palestinians died in the first 24 hours of the Israeli attack, and several thousand might die by the time the operation ends. For what purpose, one wonders.

’We are all scared. My youngest daughter is panicked '¦ none of us sleep properly’

Salwa El Tibi, The Guardian 12/29/2008
      Save the Children UK’s Gaza programme manager, is in the Gaza Strip with her four children aged seven, 14, 15 and 19
     The situation is terrible. We haven’t been out of our home since the bombing started on Saturday. We hear the F16s coming in and the bombs fall. The Apache helicopters are precise but the F16 fighters cause widespread damage to buildings around their targets. It goes on day and night.
     We are all scared. My youngest daughter is panicked, talking in an agitated voice and has started to wet the bed. None of us are sleeping properly.
     We have to keep all the doors and the windows of our home open otherwise they could get blown in by the bombs. That means it is very cold. We have long periods without electricity. The children are complaining.
     I stocked up on food because we expected an attack and have enough for another three days or so. After that I don’t know. I might be able to get to the market but many bakeries have stopped producing bread because there is a severe shortage of flour. We are living from day to day.

'They are wrong to think we are the terrorists'

Eman Mohammed writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/29/2008
      Saturday was supposed to be a normal day -- at least as close to normal as we are allowed to enjoy in Gaza.
     Where else but in Gaza are students killed in air strikes on their classrooms? Where else does a humanitarian disaster unfold not because an earthquake, a volcano, or any other kind of natural disaster struck, but because of governmental policy, and the cooperation of world powers?
     From my desk in my university classroom we could see the smoke from Israel’s bombing and hear the most terrifying sound of non-stop explosions. Girls around me screamed in horror and I thought about my camera which I left back at home for fear that rain would damage it. It ended up being a sunny day and I regretted losing the opportunity to take photos, not for fame or for money, but to document what was happening to prove to people outside of Gaza that they are wrong to think we are the terrorists.
     Some of my classmates ran out of the university, fearing their lives, but were killed by Israeli missiles as they fled.

Remi Kanazi - A Poem for Gaza

Remi Kanazi, Palestine Think Tank 12/29/2008
      I never knew death until I saw the bombing of a refugee camp
     Craters filled with disfigured ankles and splattered torsos
     But no sign of a face, the only impression a fading scream
     I never understood pain
     Until a seven-year-old girl clutched my hand
     Stared up at me with soft brown eyes, waiting for answers
     But I didn't have any
     I had muted breath and dry pens in my back pocket
     That couldn't fill pages of understanding or resolution
     In her other hand she held the key to her grandmother's house
     But I couldn't unlock the cell that caged her older brothers
     They said, we slingshot dreams so the other side will feel our father's presence
     A craftsman
     Built homes in areas where no one was building
     And when he fell, he was silent
     A .50 caliber bullet tore through his neck shredding his vocal cords
     Too close .

Poems for Gaza

Sam Hamod and Remi Kanazi, Palestine Chronicle 12/29/2008
      The Palestine Chronicle is honored to feature the work of two very distinguished poets, Sam Hamod and Remi Kanazi.
     No Words Left
     By Sam Hamod
     Without words,
     Children screaming,
     Mothers wailing,
     Men cussing,
     Imam’s praying,
     Israeli bombs splaying blood,
     F16s ratcheting missiles everywhere,
     Buildings exploding,
     Hospitals shredded,
     University splintered,
     Shrapnel flying everywhere,
     No words from Bush,
     No words from Brown,
     No words from Obama...

The longest night of my life

Safa Joudeh writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/28/2008
      Here’s an update on what’s happening here from where I am, the second night of Israeli air (and sea) raids on Gaza.
     It’s 1:30am but it feels like the sun should be up already. For the past few hours there’s been simultaneous, heavy aerial bombardment of Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip. It feels like the longest night of my life. In my area it started with the bombing of workshops (usually located in the ground floor of private/family residential buildings), garages and warehouses in one of the most highly condensed areas in Gaza City, "Askoola."
     About an hour ago they bombed the Islamic University, destroying the laboratory building.
     As I mentioned in an earlier account , my home is close to the university. We heard the first explosion, the windows shook, the walls shook and my heart felt like it would literally jump out of my mouth. My parents, siblings and cousins, who have been staying with us since their home was damaged the first day of the air raids, had been trying to get some sleep.We all rushed to the side of the house that was farthest from the bombing. Hala, my 11-year-old sister stood motionless and had to be dragged to the other room. I still have marks on my shoulder from when Aya, my 13-year-old cousin held on to me during the next four explosions, each one as violent and heart-stopping as the next. Looking out of the window moments later the night sky had turned to a dirty navy-gray from the smoke.