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

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
30 December, 2008

Israel warns Gaza attacks will go on
Reuters, The Independent 12/30/2008
Israel hit the Gaza Strip with more air strikes today and said its military action could last weeks, while rockets fired by Islamist Hamas struck deep inside the Jewish state. Both sides rejected any notion of a ceasefire soon, three days after Israeli leaders launched bombing raids with the declared aim of halting rocket salvoes from the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave. "None of us can say how long it will take," Israeli President Shimon Peres said after being briefed at the Defence Ministry. Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel, which is blockading Gaza, was gathering ground forces at the frontier and would expand its operation "as much as is necessary" to stop the rocket fire and "deal a heavy blow to Hamas". Despite winter rain - weather that could impede any ground incursions - Israeli warplanes pressed on for the fourth day with attacks on Hamas targets, killing 12 Palestinians.

Gaza’s main hospital struggling to cope
IRIN Report, Electronic Intifada 12/30/2008
GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - Gaza’s main hospital, al-Shifa, is struggling to cope with the influx of people injured in the Israeli air strikes which started on 27 December, according to medical sources. Staff and patients are also fearful Israel might target it, as the leaders of Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the enclave, have held press conferences there. The hospital has already moved some medical facilities below ground. The head of the international cooperation department of Gaza’s health ministry, Medhat Abbas, told IRIN: "Al-Shifa has never received hundreds of patients all at once. Hospital staff are using sheets to staunch bleeding, and many patients have died because of the lack of supplies and equipment. " A statement issued by the Israeli branch of Physicians For Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, on 30 December said: "The Israeli attack

Free Gaza Movement: Israeli Navy attacks and wounds Dignity in International Waters
International Solidarity Movement 12/30/2008
(Larnaca, Cyprus, 10:00 am) On Tuesday, December 30, at 5 am, several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity as she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza. One gunboat rammed into the boat on the port bow side, heavily damaging her. The reports from the passengers and journalists on board is that she is taking on water and appears to have engine problems. When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza. The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza. As the boat limps toward Lebanon, passengers have been in contact with the Lebanese government who have said the captain has permission to dock and are willing lend assistance if needed. Cyprus sea rescue has also been in touch, and has offered assistance as well.

US man admits ’spying for Israel’
Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
An 85-year-old former US army engineer has admitted passing classified military documents to Israel during the 1980s, prosecutors say. Ben-Ami Kadish was accused of providing the documents, including some relating to US nuclear weapons systems, to an Israeli agent, Yosef Yagur, who photographed them at Kadish’s home. Kadish, who pleaded guilty to only one of the four espionage-related charges he originally faced, entered the plea at a New York court on Tuesday. He is set to be sentenced in February and could face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. However, a US prosecutor said on Tuesday that the government would not oppose a sentence that means Kadish will not serve time in prison, the Associated Press reported. Yagur has been linked in court documents to the case of Jonathan Pollard, a US citizen who is serving a life sentence for a 1985 charge of spying for Israel.

Pressure grows on Israel for ceasefire
Anne Penketh and Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 12/31/2008
Diplomatic pressure on Israel to end its relentless military assault on Gaza gathered pace last night as its key ally Washington joined European Union foreign ministers in calling for an immediate ceasefire. The diplomatic push for at least a temporary truce gained momentum amid an international outcry over the mounting deaths of Palestinian civilians from the four-day Israeli blitz that followed the collapse of a truce with the militant Hamas leadership in Gaza. EU foreign ministers explored a blueprint for a ceasefire package last night, choreographing a halt to the bloodiest fighting in Gaza in living memory and a return to peace negotiations as the international diplomatic machine strained to open a window of hope for the 1. 5 million residents trapped inside the battered territory. The EU initiative was bolstered by the United States beginning to apply pressure behind the scenes.

Official: Israel won’t accept humanitarian pause
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Prime Minister Olmert places embargo on resolutions of his four-hour meeting with Foreign Minister Livni, Defense Minister Barak on ways to continue Gaza operation. Nonetheless, state officials reject French offer of ceasefire for humanitarian purposes. Earlier, ministers approve additional draft of 2,500 reservists - A state official said Tuesday night that "Israel mustn’t talk of a ceasefire for humanitarian needs. This expression is unacceptable to us, as medications, blood and basic commodities have already been transferred to the Gaza Strip. " The official spoke after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert placed an embargo on the resolutions of his four-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin and other defense officials on ways to continue the military operation in Gaza.

MIDEAST: ‘Civilians Are Paying the Price in Gaza’
Haider Rizvi, Inter Press Service 12/31/2008
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 30(IPS) - International aid groups, including several United Nations agencies, are warning of a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza if Israel does not stop its military action there immediately. "The consequences of [further] military action by Israel would be disastrous," said Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International, a London-based aid organisation that is providing food and water for Palestinians affected by the Israeli blockade. Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza depend on Oxfam and other international aid agencies for the basics of life -- clean water, food and sanitation. Before the recent Israeli bombing campaign, Gaza had been cut off from the outside world for 19 months. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is also expressing similar concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Gazan doctor: People dying due to lack of equipment
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Shifa Hospital treating hundreds of patients since of Operation Cast Lead. Physicians complain of shortage of medications, operating rooms and beds. ’This is a catastrophic situation. The corridors are filled with injured people, but we won’t let anyone die without a battle,’ hospital manager tells Ynet - There are no IV units, no syringes, and every square meter is used for treating the injured, but the medical staff at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, which has been working nonstop since the Israel Defense Forces operation was launched, has no plans to give up. "This is a catastrophic situation. All the corridors, operating rooms and trauma rooms are filled with injured people, but we won’t let anyone die without a battle," the hospital’s manager, Dr. Hassan Khaled, told Ynet on Tuesday afternoon.

Shortages put hospitals on the brink of collapse
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, Hazem Balousha in Gaza City, The Guardian 12/31/2008
Call for Israel to let in most serious cases for treatment - Emergency medical supplies were being flown to the Middle East yesterday to help Gaza’s overstretched hospitals, where doctors say they are still struggling to cope with hundreds of injured patients. Doctors at the Shifa hospital, a 585-bed complex which is the largest in Gaza, said they had treated patients on the floor and conducted operations with as many as three different patients and a dozen doctors crowded into each operating theatre. All 25 intensive care beds were full, said Dr Hussain Ashaur, the hospital director, and there were still another 87 patients in a critical condition waiting to enter intensive care. Doctors said they were overwhelmed on Saturday, with the first rush of large numbers of injured. . .

Food and Medical Supplies Grow Scarce in the Gaza Strip
Islam Abdel Kareem and Sudarsan Raghavan, MIFTAH 12/30/2008
NIR AM, Israel -- The family of Um Shadi al-Bardaweel did not sleep. The Israeli airstrikes and the explosions, the sirens and the screams of strangers outside their house near the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip kept them awake into the predawn hours Sunday. At the first light of dawn, the mother of five sent her son to the bakery to buy bread. Hundreds of Palestinians had the same idea, joining a never-ending line. "There’s no food in the market," Bardaweel explained in an interview with a reporter. Her son did not return until nightfall. Then came another airstrike close to their camp, rocking the house and shattering the windows. "Our children started screaming in a crazy way," she recalled. "After each airstrike, my sons ask me: ’Why are we targeted? Will they arrest us? Will they come after us? ’ I tell them not to panic. We are far away from the shelling. But then tonight, the bombing reached our doorsteps. "

Red Cross sending 10 tons of medical aid to Gaza
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
The international Red Cross said Tuesday it was preparing to fly 11 tons of medical supplies to Israel to help Gaza’s over-stretched hospitals. The charter plane is scheduled to leave Geneva for Tel Aviv late Tuesday, said Florian Westphal, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Westphal said the supplies were destined for Gaza hospitals struggling to treat hundreds of people wounded in IDF’s Operation Cast Lead. Westphal said six trucks full of medical supplies and spare parts for ambulances and generators would arrive in Gaza from Israel on Tuesday. A Red Cross delegation that visited Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, found conditions there had stabilized, he said. "The situation is difficult but increasingly under control," Westphal told The Associated Press. Ensuring that hospitals have sufficient fuel is a priority because many rely on diesel generators for electricity, he said.

Oxfam warns of humanitarian disaster in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Oxfam international has warned of a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip in the event Israel continued its onslaught on the Strip and did not allow passage of humanitarian relief assistance. The organisation, in a statement on Monday, said that the Israeli occupation forces’ incessant aerial bombardment had destroyed the infrastructure in Gaza leaving numerous areas in the Strip without water or electricity. The increasing number of victims had exhausted the health sector, which is already working with minimum potentials, it added. Oxfam said that it had to temporarily suspend its humanitarian work in the Strip because of the shelling including one of its programs that used to supply food to 25,000 people in Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Strip depend on Oxfam’s support along with other international aid organizations that provide. . .

Gaza diary: Destroyed memories
Mohammed Ali, Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
As the death toll from Israel’s war on Gaza continues to climb, an advocacy and media researcher for Oxfam who lives in Gaza City, will be keeping a diary of his experiences. Day 3 - Memories destroyed It is the third consecutive night of the Israeli offensive. My two young children, my wife, my sister-in-law, who is staying with us, and I all slept in our living room, which is in the centre of our flat. During the night, there was an average of two air strikes every ten minutes in Gaza City alone. On the television we heard that the Israeli military had hit a mosque in Jabbalia refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip. We were shocked to hear that the shelling caused a house to collapse, killing five sisters inside and injuring all 11 family members.

Aid group issues emergency appeal for food, meds, clothes
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An aid organization is warning on Tuesday that the situation in the Gaza Strip is turning into “a real disaster,” according to a statement. The Gaza Strip is “cold, dark and closed off by Israel; people cannot get their daily needs of food and shelter,” the Al-Burij Society for Community Rehabilitation said in a statement. “This will require a fast response to rescue them and help them survive this disaster,” the group said. The group has established an emergency committee for the needs of people living in particularly hard-hit communities, and is appealing for donations of food, clothing and medication. [end]

Resident of Rafah refuses to leave home despite Israeli attacks
International Solidarity Movement 12/29/2008
Gaza Region - A resident of Yibna camp is staying in his house despite the evacuation of the camp by the Red Crescent following expectations of intensified Israeli attacks on the area. In Yibna Camp in Rafah, Ahmed Mansour has been forced to choose between his life and his home. "I cannot leave my home. If I leave and they destroy it, what can I come back to? They have taken away any stability in my life, I will not give up my house. I know the Israeli’s will destroy homes close to the border, but I cannot leave. "This night, the Red Crescent in Gaza is evacuating people from the neighborhoods in Rafah located along the border with Egypt. Mansour has ensured that every one of his family members is in another location, away from a probable incursion. He has decided to stay in his home tonight.

VIDEO - Interviews with residents of Rafah
International Solidarity Movement 12/29/2008
Video -This is a longer video report, including interviews, of the aftermath of the bombing of the pharmacy in Hi Alijnina on the 28th December. Video by ISM Gaza Strip Shortly before 7:00am on Sunday 28th December, yet another Israeli missile strike hit the residential neighbourhood of Hi Alijnina in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. This time a pharmacy was targeted, totally destroying the building and causing severe damage to surrounding homes. Electricity lines were torn down during the blast and the street was littered with medicines. This footage was filmed within minutes of the attack as fire fighters battled to control the blaze. Shocked residents poured into the streets, some still wearing pyjamas.

ISRAEL-OPT: Israel allows 60 aid trucks into Gaza
Tamar Dressler/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 12/31/2008
TEL AVIV, 30 December 2008 (IRIN) - Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, yesterday agreed to allow medical aid and food supplies into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing - even as Israeli military operations continued in Gaza, and Hamas militants fired rockets into southern Israel. Crossings into Gaza from Israel have been closed for several days in line with the government’s policy of closing them down the moment a missile is launched from Gaza. Some 60 trucks carrying food and medical supplies entered Gaza on 29 December. A hundred more trucks were waiting to enter on 30 December. Thirty-two contain supplies from UNWRA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) warehouses in the occupied Palestinian territory and donations of dry food (sugar, flower, rice, powdered milk) from Jordan. Sami Mshasha, a spokesperson for UNWRA in Gaza, told IRIN: "The warehouses in Gaza are depleted; we ceased food distribution on 18 December.

200 youth kidnapped by the Israeli army and police in Jerusalem in four days
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
Israeli media sources reported on Tuesday that the Israeli army and police have kidnapped at least 200 Palestinian young men from several parts of Jerusalem city during the past four days. [end]

Israeli army attacks Nablus city and imposes curfew in nearby town
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
Palestinian security sources reported that an Israeli army force invaded the Northern West Bank city of Nablus and nearby Hawowra town on Tuesday morning. [end]

Children traumatized as Israeli bombs rain down on Gaza
Adel Zaanoun, Daily Star 12/31/2008
Agence France Presse - GAZA CITY: "We are scared. . . that we can die at any moment," said 11-year-old Mohammad Ayyad, still terrified hours after a massive Israeli bombardment of Hamas government buildings next to his house in the Gaza Strip. Like the rest of Gaza’s children, he has been traumatized by the four-day assault on the coastal enclave that has transformed many areas of the overcrowded territory into piles of rubble and shattered glass. "As they were hitting the center [of Gaza City], we heard an enormous explosion and our house was filled with dust," he said. "We immediately ran toward the ground floor. " His 6-year-old brother Ahmad "peed his pants. We were all scared because the planes are in the sky all the time and we could die at any moment. "Schools in Gaza have been closed since the Israeli strikes began on Saturday and children have passed the time examining the damage caused by the raids.

IDF ready for ground push, waiting for official go-ahead
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
The Israel Defense Forces has finished preparing for a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. However, it will not begin such an incursion until it receives the go-ahead from the government, which is still discussing whether it should first agree to a 48-hour cease-fire intended to prevent further escalation. At least 30 Palestinians - including two sisters aged 5 and 12 - were killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza yesterday, and Palestinians fired more than 40 rockets on southern Israel by yesterday evening. A Katyusha rocket hit Be’er Sheva - located 37 kilometers from Gaza - for the first time yesterday. Ofakim and Rahat, both 25 kilometers from Gaza, were also hit by their first Katyushas. Hamas took responsibility for the Katyushas aimed at Be’er Sheva, and its military wing said last night that it plans to fire at Israeli targets that are even further away as long as the IDF operation continues.

Barak asks cabinet to approve emergency call-up of 2,520 reservists
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the cabinet last night to approve the mobilization of an additional 2,510 reserve forces soldiers by means of an emergency call-up order (Tzav Shmoneh). If approved, they will join the 6,700 reservists whose mobilization the cabinet approved on Sunday. Barak apprised Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel of his decision in writing, and requested approval of the order from the cabinet by phone. The resolution will be submitted to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee within 48 hours, as required by law. The additional reservists will be deployed in the Home Front Command, the Border Police, the Navy, the Logistics Branch, Military Intelligence and Ground Forces headquarters. The Home Front Command will begin training activities today in the communities that were only included in the rocket-strike. . .

PNI Mourns the Vicious Murders of Two Young Girls
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 12/30/2008
Ramallah, 30-12-08:Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, The Secretary General of the Palestinian Initiative has expressed this morning his deepest regrets regarding the latest children killing in the Gaza Strip. This morning, Israeli missiles directly hit a donkey cart driven by two young sisters, aged four and eleven. The sisters were throwing garbage bags into dumpsters outside their home in Jabaliya. Medical sources said Israeli missiles made a direct hit on the girls, and a third sister was loaded onto a donkey carriage and transported to Gaza City’s hospital. " It is increasingly clear that Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip is not limited to Hamas", said the Deputy, "no matters how many times the Israeli administration repeat it to the international media. "  As the fourth day of the massacre unfolds, the body count has already reached over 365, and is steadily climbing higher.

Israel Mounts Third Day of Gaza Raids
Nidal Al-Mughrabi, MIFTAH 12/30/2008
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes flattened bastions of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip on Monday 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. Hamas, an Islamist movement that took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, defied the Israeli assaults, the fiercest in the coastal enclave since the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel Says No Hamas Building will be Left After Gaza Blitz
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 12/30/2008
JERUSALEM - Israel vowed on Monday to raze every single Hamas structure in the Gaza Strip during its ongoing blitz of the Palestinian enclave ruled by the Islamist movement. " After this operation there will not be a single Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game," said armed forces deputy chief of staff Brigadier General Dan Harel, quoted by YNet News. " We are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings," Harel told leaders of Israeli communities that are within range of the rockets fired by Gaza militants. " We are hitting government buildings, production factories, security wings and more," he said. At least 320 Palestinians were killed in three days of air strikes on targets in the besieged Palestinian enclave. Two Israelis were killed by rocket fire from Gaza in the same period. Harel warned that was just the beginning. "The worst is not behind us, it is still ahead of us," he said ominously.

Two sisters killed by Israeli air-strike in Beit Hanoun
International Solidarity Movement 12/30/2008
Gaza Region - 30th December 2008: Two International Human Rights Activists witnessed the killing of two young girls in Beit Hanoun this morning. A young boy was also seriously injured in the attack. The two girls, one four years old, the other twelve years old were killed as they took out garbage from their home. The deaths came as Israeli missiles destroyed an agricultural co-operative, a PFLP community centre and a police station in the Beit Hanoun area. "It is impossible to avoid civilian casualties in a densely populated area. No one is safe from the Israeli air strikes. I saw two girls, ages 4 and 12 get hit by a bomb from an F16. They were outside clearing some rubbish around their homes. The 4 year old girl died and the 12 year old girl was being taken to the hospital on a donkey cart. The people of Gaza have nothing left from the ongoing siege: there is not even an ambulance to take a child to the hospital.

Jets target Rafah tunnels; 375 now dead, 1,720 injured
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Israeli F16 warplanes fired heavy missiles at the tunnels on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip Tuesday night. According to Israeli TV, 12 heavy missiles landed inside the tunnels. This is the second Israeli attack on the Rafah border and the tunnels beneath the area in as many days. The shelling came hours after the Egyptians announced closure of the crossing following Israeli threats to shell the area. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a speech Tuesday afternoon that his country would not open the Rafah crossing unless it is controlled bythe PA and European monitors. There were no reports of deaths from the latest tunnel attack. The death toll since the Israeli attacks began Saturday has reached 375 with more than 1,720 injured, hundreds seriously so. 5:00pmA lathe workshop belonging to the Ashour family in the Zaitoun neighborhood. . .

Israel continues Gaza blasts in ’all-out war’
Middle East Online 12/30/2008
GAZA CITY - Warplanes pounded Gaza for a fourth day on Tuesday as tanks stood by to join the "all-out" war Israel vowed, and the Palestinian death toll rose to at least 360. Israel made it clear Monday the offensive was just beginning, even as UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders to work urgently to end the "unacceptable" violence. Palestinian resistance fighters responded to Israeli air strikes with deadly rocket and mortar fire that has so far killed four Israelis. Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who has threatened to launch ground incursions alongside the aerial blitz, said Israel is in "an all-out war with Hamas. " Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said the offensive’s goal "is to topple Hamas. " With Israeli tanks just metres (yards) away from Gaza, the army decreed the border area a closed military zone -- a move that in the past has been followed by ground operations.

Hamas warns Israel over Gaza ground invasion
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The armed wing of the Hamas movement threatened Israel on Monday over its alleged plans to launch a ground invasion on the Gaza Strip. The movement’s Al-Qassam Brigades said it would “teach Israeli forces a hard lesson if they dare to invade the Gaza Strip” in a statement sent to Ma’an. Al-Qassam addressed Israel’s leadership in the message, saying, “If you decide to enter Gaza, it will change into a volcano,” adding that fighters would fire missiles even further into Israel. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Al-Qassam Brigades said that If Israeli soldiers enter Gaza, “your children will collect your soldiers’ corpses. ”“Hamas and Al-Qassam are in every house. They will attack you from under the debris. If you believe shelling homes will make us retreat, you will learn that your plans are wrong, and we will surprise you,” Hamas spokesperson Abu Ubayda said in a televised speech.

Hamas vows to hit Israel harder
Al Jazeera 12/31/2008
The warning from Hamas’s armed wing came after Israel said its assault could last "weeks" The armed wing of Hamas has said it will step up its rocket attacks on Israel if the Israeli military continues its deadly bombardment of the Gaza Strip. "We tell the leaders of the enemy - if you continue with your assault, we will hit with our rockets further than the cities we have hit so far," a masked spokesman for Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a televised statement on Tuesday. "If you think that Hamas and al-Qassam will be crushed, we will rise up from the rubble," he said. The Hamas statement followed Israeli warnings that the onslaught in the Gaza Strip could last for "weeks". More than 380 people have been killed, including at least 61 women and children, in four consecutive days of Israeli bombardment and local hospitals are saying they are unable to cope with any more casualties.

Army continues is offensive in Gaza; over 385 killed and 1750 wounded
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
The Israeli army continued its offensive against the residents of the Gaza Strip for the fourth day and carried on Tuesday at least 70 strikes, including a recent strike targeting the Rafah-Egypt border, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Death toll exceeded 385 residents, including children, women and elderly while at least 1750 residents were injured. The Qatar-based AL Jazeera reported that the Egyptian Authorities partially closed the Rafah terminal after the Israeli army shelled the border line with a minimum of ten shells. A legislator from Rafah said that the city hundreds of residents started fleeing from Rafah after the Israeli army said that it would shell the areas adjacent to the border with Egypt, especially the tunnels. The Israeli Air Force also shelled several areas in Gaza City and Beit Hanoun; four more residents were killed while medical sources estimated. . .

DFC: 30 Palestinian children killed since start of IOF raids on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
Ramallah, (PIC)-- The Defense for Children / Palestine Section has said that 30 Palestinian children were killed in the ongoing Israeli occupation forces’ air raids on the Gaza Strip since Saturday. The DFC said in a statement on Monday that its researchers were currently investigating all incidents in which children were the victims. It predicted that the number of causalities among children would increase as the children constitute 56% of the Gaza population. The statement attributed the increased number of casualties in lines of children to the fact that the first major Israeli air strikes coincided with the return of school children to their homes, a thing that has been surely known by those who planned the strikes. Israel’s indifference towards the lives of civilians reflects its disrespect to its commitment as an occupation power and to rules and laws of war, the DFC said,. . .

Army shelled 56 targets on Tuesday at dawn
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
The Israeli Air Force continued its offensive against the Gaza Strip and shelled overnight and until morning hours of Tuesday 56 targets in different parts of the Gaza Strip. The targeted included Qassam training camps, homes, ambulances, mosques and medics. The shelling also targeted the houses of Qassam Brigades leaders Abdul-Karim Al Shaer and Adnan Rayyan in Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and the house of Raed Sa’ad, a Qassam leader in Jabalia. The army also shelled a sports club in Tal AL Hawa, a police station in Beit Hanoun, Bani Suheila City Council, blacksmith workshop in Gaza, and training grounds for the Al Qassam Brigades in northern Gaza, west of Gaza City and a third camp in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, soldiers shelled the mosque of Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Al Bureij in the central Gaza Strip; this is the sixth mosque that. . .

Rocket hits Hapoel Ashkelon stadium just before training
Allon Sinai, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
A Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit the stadium of soccer team Hapoel Ashkelon on Monday, just minutes before the start of a training session. The players and coaching staff were in a protected room when the rocket exploded and training was immediately cancelled. "The rocket hit the penalty box and it was a very scary experience," coach Shiye Feigenbaum said. "There could have been a disaster had the players or the youth departments been on the field at the time. " Following Monday’s intensified rocket fire, Ashkelon decided to accept the Israel Football Association’s invitation and will train at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Tuesday. The club has also asked to postpone Saturday’s league match against Ness Tziona, and will likely get its wish. Ashkelon’s basketball team was set to renew training on Monday, following a short winter break, but decided to. . .

Projectile attacks kill Israeli soldier, civilian, injure 34 others
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli medical sources announced on Monday night the death of two Israelis as Palestinian projectiles landed in the Israeli cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ofakim in the western Negev, and Nahal Oz military base. One of the dead was a soldier, killed near the border wall in northern Gaza, and the second was a civilian woman who died in an attack on Ashdod. An additional 34 Israelis were injured in the attacks, and were taken to nearby hospitals. Medical sources said three are seriously injured. In Ashkelon the attacks cut power to the city overnight. The Popular Resistance Committees claimed the shelling at Nahel Oz, while the An-Nasser and Al-Qassam Brigades claimed the launches towards Ashdod in a phone call to Ma’an. Late Monday night five Israeli soldiers were reported injured as Palestinian projectile landed in Ashdod.

Hamas rockets kill 2 Israelis
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 12/30/2008
Irit Sheetrit, a 39 year old mother of four, of Ashdod, was killed by a Grad rocket. Hamas rockets killed two Israelis this morning. Irit Sheetrit, a 39 year old mother of four, of Ashdod, was killed by a Grad rocket, and her sister, Ayelet, was seriously wounded. Shortly afterwards, IDF Senior Sergeant Major Lutfi Nasraladin, 38, from the Druze town of Daliyat El-Carmel, was killed at Nahal Oz outside the Gaza Strip, and another soldier was critically wounded. The IDF Home Front Command ordered all schools within 30 kilometers of the Gaza Strip closed today, including Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, Yavne, Ofakim, Sderot, Netivot, and Rahat. Schools reopened after the Hannukah holiday. The Israel Air Force (IAF) and Navy continued hitting Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip, including Hamas government offices, Hamas training. . .

Palestinian military groups continue projectile fire at Israel despite days of airstrikes
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian military groups in the Gaza Strip continued to launch projectiles towards Israeli towns on Tuesday in retaliation for the Israeli air strikes that have now claimed 368 lives. Al-Qassam - Hamas’ Brigades reported to Ma’an that they fired a number of projectiles at the Israeli town of Ashdod Tuesday morning. Al-Quds Brigades - Islamic Jihad’s Brigades reported that they fired three homemade projectiles at the Israeli city of Ashkelon, and two more at Sderot. An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades - The Popular Resistance Committees Brigades said their fighters launched five mortar shells at the Israeli military post of Nahal ‘Oz and earlier projectiles towards Ashdod. “Eagles of Palestine” - A previously unknown military group calling themselves the “Eagles of Palestine” claimed to have fired two projectiles at Sderot.

VIDEO -Grad rocket lands in Kiryat Malachi
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 12/30/2008
(Video) Attack marks first time city and its surrounding area targeted by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza; another rocket hits north of Beersheba near Rahat. One person suffers shock as rocket lands in Ashdod area. At least 30 rockets fired toward Israel since late morning hours; IAF jets hit underground tunnels in Rafah area - VIDEO - A Grad rocket fired from northern Gaza landed in the city of Kiryat Malachi on Tuesday afternoon. There were no reports of injuries or damage. The attack marked the first time that the city and its surrounding areas have been targeted. Kiryat Malachi is located 17 kilometers (11 miles) northeast of Ashkelon and 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Israel’s border with Gaza. Several were fired from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening. One of them exploded in the Ashdod area, without causing damage.

Ashkelon gets rocket tracking system
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) installed a new innovative command-and-control system in the Ashkelon Municipality that is capable of tracking and locating Katyusha rockets that hit the city. The system was installed last week to be tested in a Home Front exercise that was held ahead of Operation Cast Lead launched against Hamas on Saturday. The system is called MC4 - Command and Control Communication Center. The system was developed by the IAI’s Malam Missile and Space Division. The system, the IAI said, uses GPS as well as other sensors and cameras to identify rocket launches and the targets that they hit inside the city. "It helps the emergency services identify the location that was hit and then the municipality knows which infrastructure is there and which forces it needs to dispatch," IAI explained.

Rockets return to Sderot
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 12/30/2008
Prime Minister Olmert said the current operations were the first phase of several phases that were authorized by the government. 4 Kassam rockets landed in Sderot. One person was lightly injured, and several suffered shock. One of the rockets landed on a house and caused damage. This morning, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the operation against Hamas in Gaza was far from over. At a meeting today with president Shimon Peres, Olmert told Peres that military is currently executing the first stage of several stages that have been authorized by the political-security cabinet. Olmert added that the political echelons are giving total support to the full range of Israel Defense Force activities and the commanders to continue and fulfill the objectives of the operation as the government has defined them.

School canceled in Beersheba due to rocket attack
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Following consultation with defense officials, Home Front Command after first rocket fired from Gaza lands in southern city, municipality decides not to open education institutions. Kindergarten hit in attack; 34 people suffer shock - The Beersheba Municipality announced Tuesday night that the southern city’s schools would not be opened Wednesday morning, including special education institutions. The decision was made following a consultation with security officials, the Home Front Command and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai. Some 43,000 children and youths are expected to stay at home in light of the decision. Tuesday evening saw a first Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip land in Beersheba. The missile hit an empty kindergarten, causing damage to the building and to a nearby house.

Extra help for handicapped in rocket range
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
Social workers and soldiers are going house to house to ascertain the needs of elderly and handicapped residents of areas within rocket range from the Gaza Strip. They are also making sure they have people there to help them, and if necessary, they have been doing their food shopping and other errands. The project has been underway since Saturday, when the Israel Defense Forces began its assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Although local authorities and the Home Front Command have been making an effort to avoid evacuating people with special needs from their homes, more than 60 people with severe developmental disabilities were evacuated from an institution at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha on the Gaza border and relocated to another institution in Dimona. Several dozen people with developmental disabilities were moved from Ashkelon to hostels in the center of the country.

Israelis mourn rocket victim -- and unite against Hamas
Ben Lynfield, The Independent 12/31/2008
Prayers by a rabbi fused with the anguished moans and sobbing in front of the corpse of Irit Shetreet. Her death from a rocket attack on the town of Ashdod has reinforced a sense among Israelis that the country is waging a just military campaign in Gaza despite the scale of the death and destruction on the other side. "Ima, Ima," (mother, mother), Chen Shetreet, 20, one of the dead woman’s four children, cried as the remains of her mother -- killed by shrapnel while on her way home from a fitness centre -- were borne yesterday to burial area number 57 of the Ashdod cemetery. Ms Shetreet was one of four Israelis who have been killed by rocket fire since the bombardment of Gaza began on Saturday. More than 365 Palestinians have been killed. The stated purpose of the bombings, which have been overwhelmingly backed by the Israeli public despite the emergence of calls for restraint. . .

Israeli forces impose curfew on village near Salfit
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces imposed a curfew on the northern West Bank town of Kafr Haris, west of Salfit, on Tuesday, local sources told Ma’an. Israeli soldiers claimed that Palestinian youths from the town had hurled stones at Israeli vehicles on the main road near the town. According to sources within the town, soldiers then deployed in the area and prevented the movement of residents. [end]

Israeli forces arrest three young brothers in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested three brothers from the Ar-Rajabi family in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday, relatives said. Forces ransacked their home before taking the three brothers into custody; they were identified as 21-year-old Imad, 19-year-old Salah and 17-year-old Salih Ar-Rajabi. A fourth brother told Ma’an that soldiers ransacked their home in a dawn raid before arresting his three siblings. [end]

Palestine Today 301208
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
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 Tuesday December 30th 2008. Death toll 363 as Israeli army air raids continues to pound Gaza, while in the West Bank Palestinians protest those attacked, these Stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Palestinian medical sources reported that 2 Palestinian children were killed when Israeli warplanes targeted a home located in the northern part of the Gaza strip on Tuesday morning. The sources identified the two children as Lamma Hamdan (12), and her sister Hayiah (4). Meanwhile Israel expanded its shelling by Tuesday midday to reach a number of homes and other civilian targets across the Palestinian coastal region.

Israeli boy, 3, lightly wounded by Palestinian stone-throwers
Jonathan Lis and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
An Israeli boy, 3, was lightly wounded on Tuesday when Palestinians hurled stones at vehicle he was riding in near Zif junction, in the West Bank. Defense officials said Tuesday that they had thwarted two attempted terror attacks in the West Bank. Attacks of the sort have grown more frequent over the past few days, as Palestinians gather amasse to protest Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian youth was arrested on Tuesday after attempting to stab a soldier near the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus, Army Radio reported. Earlier Tuesday, a Palestinian man was arrested in Beit-Iba checkpoint concealing five kilograms of explosives on his body. Also, an East Jerusalem resident was severely wounded i clashes with IDF forces after he reportedly threw a firebomb at the soldiers near the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Gaza protest boat limps into Lebanon
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
BEIRUT, Lebanon - A boat, called SS Dignity, carrying international peace activists and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip sailed into a Lebanese port yesterday - after being turned back and damaged by the Israeli navy, organizers of the trip said. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the boat had ignored an Israeli radio order to turn back early yesterday. Palmor said the boat tried to outmaneuver an Israeli navy ship and crashed into it, lightly damaging both vessels. But passengers and crew aboard the SS Dignity said their boat was rammed by Israeli navy boats. "We were prevented from entering Gaza. . . by Israeli patrol boats. . . They shone their spotlight on us and then all of a sudden they rammed us approximately three times," said former U. S. Representative Cynthia McKinney who was aboard the boat.

Israel accused of ramming Gaza aid boat
Mark Tran, The Guardian 12/30/2008
Activists trying to bring aid to Gaza today claimed their boat had been rammed by Israeli gunboats in a "criminal attack" in international waters. The Free Gaza Movement said its vessel, the Dignity, was intercepted by several Israeli ships as it headed to the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli aerial bombardment since Saturday. One gunboat rammed the Dignity on the port bow side, causing heavy damage, although no one was hurt, the group said. "When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza," the group said on its website. "The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza. Israel thumbs its nose in the face of maritime law by attacking a human rights boat in international waters and has put all of these human rights observers at risk. At no time was the Dignity ever close to Israeli waters. They clearly identified themselves, and the Israeli attack was wilful and criminal.

Israeli Navy Attacks Humanitarian Aid Boat en Route to Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
An international humanitarian aid boat filled with medical supplies and surgeons has been attacked by the Israeli navy. According to the Free Gaza movement, the boat called The Dignity has been rammed by an Israeli gunship, and live rounds were fired around the boat, as of 6:45 am Tuesday morning. The group’s media spokesperson said that she had been in contact with the passengers on the boat, which include a former US Congressmember and a Cyprian Member of Parliament, but just before cell phone contact was cut off, heavy gunfire was heard in the background. No one had been injured at the time, but since contact was cut off with the boat, it’s unknown whether anyone has been injured. In a press release, the Free Gaza movement stated, "Contrary to international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or Lebanon.

Free Gaza ship attacked by Israeli Navy, diverts to Lebanon but taking on water
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Free Gaza ship successfully landed and unloaded three tons of medical supplies in the Gaza Port Tuesday, but was assailed by Israeli Naval ships which opened fire on the vessel. According to organizers of the movement one Israeli gunboat rammed into the SS Dignity on the port bow side heavily damaging the ship at approximately 5am. The Israeli army is reporting that the Dignity was on a collision course and did not alter their route despite warnings that the Gaza Strip was a closed military zone and entry would not be allowed. Israeli warships are also reported to have fired into the water in front of the Dignity in an effort to prevent the ship from continuing on its way to the Strip. The attack was filmed by journalists on board the boat and the crew and passengers will report more extensively on the event once they reach Lebanon.

IOF gunboats assault 'Dignity' boat, damage its bow
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- An Israeli navy gunboat on Tuesday deliberately crashed into the front part of the "Dignity" boat that was carrying international sympathizers and doctors from Cyprus to Gaza along with medical supplies and forced it to retreat. Media sources on board the "Dignity" reported that the Israeli occupation forces’ naval units blocked entry of "dignity" into Palestinian territorial waters and destroyed its bow. Amjad Al-Shawa, spokesman for the network of private institutions, said from aboard "Dignity" that a number of IOF gunboats were surrounding it in international waters. He added that "Dignity" was forced to divert its destination and was seeking the nearest possible harbor in view of the damage. He warned that lives of the crew and members of the team on board were in danger, and held the IOF fully responsible for their safety.

Israeli vessel hits Gaza-bound boat
Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
A small boat, damaged as it tried to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, has arrived in the Lebanese port of Tyre. The Dignity started taking on water after it was hit by an Israeli naval vessel as it approached the Israeli coast with its cargo of medical aid. The Free Gaza Movement, which organised the attempt to reach the territory , said their boat was "rammed" and shots were fired when at least four Israeli vessels confronted them in international waters. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, denied there had been any shooting but said that the ships had made "physical contact". He said that the crew of the Dignity had failed to respond to Israeli naval radio contact. ’Rammed’ Elize Ernshire, one of the activists onboard the boat, told Al Jazeera by telephone. . .

VIDEO - Free Gaza Movement: URGENT! Israeli Navy Attacking Civilian Mercy Ship! TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY!
International Solidarity Movement 12/30/2008
Gaza Region - Video report from CNN - Press Release by the Free Gaza Movement: The Dignity, a Free Gaza boat on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, is being attacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters. The Dignity has been surrounded by at least half-a-dozen Israeli warships. They are firing live ammunition around the Dignity, and one of the warships has rammed the civilian craft causing an unknown amount of damage. Contrary to international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or Lebanon. Instead, the Israeli navy is demanding that the Dignity return to Cyprus - despite the fact that the ship does not carry enough fuel to do so. Fortunately, no one aboard the ship has yet been seriously injured.

Interview with Free Gaza boat organizer
Jenka Soderberg, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
In response to the Israeli assault on Gaza, the Free Gaza movement has set sail from Cyprus with a ship full of humanitarian aid. Jenka Soderberg spoke with Greta Berlin, one of the organizers. Click following link. . . [end] -- See also: Audio file

Union urges immediate boycott following Gaza university bombing
Appeal, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, Electronic Intifada 12/30/2008
The following appeal was issued on 29 December 2008: The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees condemns in the strongest possible terms the bombing today of the campus of the Islamic University in Gaza. This wanton destruction of an academic institution is only the latest in the ongoing lethal campaign launched by the Israeli government and army against Palestinian society in the Gaza Strip. This murderous rampage has caused more than 300 deaths and the injury of close to 1,500 Palestinians. And the carnage continues with impunity. We add our voice to the urgent appeal issued two days ago by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) urging international civil society not just to protest and condemn Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign

Foreign journalists demand Gaza access
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/30/2008
Israel’s supreme court will hear a petition tomorrow brought by the Foreign Press Association, which represents around 400 foreign journalists, demanding that Israel allow reporters into Gaza to cover the latest conflict. The sole pedestrian crossing from Israel into Gaza, at Erez, has remained closed to journalists since Israel’s bombing campaign beganon Saturday. Two years ago, after Hamas won the Palestinian elections, Israeli authorities stopped all Israeli journalists and Palestinian journalists with Israeli identity cards crossing into Gaza, saying it was too dangerous. Last month, as the last ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militant groups began to collapse, the Israeli defence ministry closed the Erez crossing to all foreign journalists as well, citing "security" reasons. Egypt has largely kept its one crossing into Gaza, at Rafah, closed except for in rare medical emergencies, and it too does not allow journalists to cross.

IFJ condemns IOF shelling of Aqsa TV
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
PARIS, (PIC)-- The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the Israeli occupation forces for shelling and completely destroying the Aqsa TV premises in Gaza city during its air raids on Gaza. "Once again, Israel shows contempt for international law, which forbids attacks on media installations, even when they are instruments of propaganda," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Putting media people in harm’s way does not advance one inch the cause of security as it only hardens attitudes and undermines Israel’s claim to be the region’s leading democracy," he elaborated in a statement. The IFJ and other press freedom advocates have consistently condemned attacks on unarmed media installations which are not being used for military purposes and which are protected under international law.

As Israeli shelling continue death toll in Gaza stands at 363
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
Palestinian medical sources reported that 2 Palestinian children were killed when Israeli warplanes targeted a home located in the northern part of the Gaza strip on Tuesday morning. [end]

The Israeli attacks on Gaza
The Guardian 12/30/2008
Day by day - photos and maps [end]

VIDEOS - Two Gaza rockets strike Be’er Sheva area for first time
Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Earlier, one man sustained shrapnel wounds, three others suffered shock as rocket slammed into house in Sderot - ANALYSIS / Hamas is hoping for an IDF ground operation in Gaza - Hamas hopes it can inflict losses that would cause the IDF to flee Gaza with its tail between its legs - By Aluf Benn - ANALYSIS / Israel’s operation in Gaza is entering its problematic phase - The longer the operation continues, the more trouble Israel’s leadership will have staying unified - By Amos Harel - David Grossman / Is Israel too imprisoned in the familiar ceremony of war? - Stop. Hold your fire. For once, act against the usual response, in contrast to the logic of belligerence - By David Grossman - Amira Hass / Bombing keeps Gazans awake and fearful of who will be next. . .

Widening range, rockets strike Beersheba kindergarten Staff, Yaakov Katz And Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Palestinian terrorists on Tuesday night fired at least two rockets at Beersheba, adding some 187,000 residents of the largest city in the Negev into the ever-widening range of the rockets attacks. There were no reports of casualties in the attack but one of the rockets landed in a kindergarten, causing damage. Rescue forces were searching for the impact site of another rocket. Shortly afterwards the army announced that The IAF had bombed the Grad launcher as well as the terrorist cell responsible for the Beersheba rocket attacks. Military sources reported that the targets were hit. Meanwhile, one person was lightly wounded by shrapnel when two Grad rockets impacted in the center of Ashkelon. The rocket caused extensive damage to nearby businesses and vehicles.

Armed groups fire more projectiles at Israeli towns
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The militant wings of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Fatah movement claimed responsibility for launching three mortar shells at Israeli tanks stationed behind the Sufa gate, east of Rafah on Tuesday. The two wings, PFLP’s Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades and Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility for the shelling in a statement, which said the attacks “came in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. ”Separately, Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for firing a Russian-made Grad missile on the Israeli city of Ashkelon. [end]

Four Israelis injured by homemade projectile in Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Four Israelis were injured on Tuesday morning as a homemade projectile launched from the Gaza Strip landed in the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev, Israeli medical sources said. According to Israeli ambulance service Magen David Adom, one of the four injured sustained scrapes to the face from projectile shrapnel, while another three suffered from shock. On Monday night, an Israeli soldier and a woman were killed and 32 injured, including three seriously, as a result of a barrage of Grad missiles and mortar shells, which hit Ashdod and the western Negev. [end]

Palestinian rockets fall in vicinity of Beersheba; no casualties
Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists on Tuesday night impacted near Beersheba, the furthest Eastward point that such rockets have reached so far. The rockets landed in open areas, causing neither casualties nor damage, Channel 2 reported. [end]

State wants more time to fortify Sderot schools
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/30/2008
State Prosecutor’s Office asks High Court to grant yet another extension for construction of new fortified schools in bombarded city, says municipal bid for project ongoing - The State Prosecutor’s Office petitioned the High Court of Justice on Tuesday, asking it for yet another six months in order to fortify school buildings in Sderot. Six months ago, the court ordered the State to build six new fortified schools in the rocket ridden city, but according to state officials, the construction is being delayed. The State alleged that the construction tender was only recently filed with the City of Sderot, which was tasked with carrying out the court’s original decision, and that the contractors have yet to enter their bids.

Rockets reach Beersheba, cause damage
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis join list of rocket-stricken communities as Grad missile explodes in empty kindergarten, causing damage; 34 people suffer shock. Air Force targets launching cell. Man lightly injured by rocket in Ashkelon - Beersheba joined the list of rocket-stricken communities Tuesday evening as an air raid siren sounded across the southern city, followed by several explosions. A Grad missile landed in an empty kindergarten in the city, causing damage. Thirty-four people were treated for shock at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. The Israel Air Force managed to locate the terrorist cell which launched the Grad rocket. The cell was located in the northern Gaza Strip and attacked from the air by an IAF jet. Both the launching pads and the cell members were hit.

345 people killed in Gaza and 1,400 wounded. Israel and the International Community should urgently stop the bloodbath
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 12/30/2008
Ramallah, 29-12-08: Since Saturday, the Israeli army has carried out massive air strikes against the most densely populated area on the planet, provoking one of the biggest massacre since the beginning of the occupation. At least 345 have been reportedly killed (including more than 25 children and 9 women), and more than 1,000 have sustained heavy injuries (including 130 children and 45 women). The number is expected to rise within the coming hours as more bodies are uncovered from the rubble, more casualties succumb to their wounds, and more bombs continue to fall. "This massacre as nothing but a war crime. The most brutal bloodshed since 1967", condemned Mustafa Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the. The Deputy emphasized on the ruthless targeting of civilians -including women and children.

IAF pummels Gaza smuggling tunnels
Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
IAF aircraft on Tuesday evening were bombing smuggling tunnels along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt. Earlier, Al Jazeera reported that Egypt had closed the border crossing at Rafah for fear of an impending Israeli air strike. The army confirmed that it was striking tunnels along the border. Channel 10 reported that "many" jets were participating in the second wave of attacks on tunnels along the Gaza Egypt border near Rafah since Operation Cast Lead began on Saturday. On Sunday some 40 smuggling tunnels were bombarded by the air force. RELATEDslideshow: Gaza op, Day IV Earlier Monday, the IAF struck two targets in Gaza City and the city of Khan Yunis, located in the south of the Strip. Army Radio reported that a Hamas police station was one of the targets.

Israel prepared for ground invasion to last several weeks
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli army is prepared to launch a ground invasion that is expected to last several weeks, announced Deputy to the Israeli Defense Minister Matan Vilnai Tuesday. The Israeli army has launched hundreds of airstrikes at the Gaza Strip damaging, according to one Hamas spokesperson, at least 95% of the government infrastructure, killing close to 400 and injuring some 2,000 individuals. Vilani said to the media that the Israeli army is prepared to deliver a painful blow and will prevent Palestinian resistance fighters from launching a single additional projectile into Israeli towns. He did not rule out, however, that more projectiles would land before the strike is successful. In preparation for the invasion Israel has declared all areas in a 30 kilometer radius around the strip a “special situation” area.

Deserted streets and fear as Israel demolishes Gaza
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
As Israel’s relentless bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip has entered its fourth day, the number of dead and injured has exceeded 2,000. Speaking via Skype, The Electronic Intifada correspondent Rami Almeghari described the situation near his home in al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip:I am in al-Maghazi refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip. This afternoon Israeli drones targeted a house in al-Maghazi with three missiles. Fortunately there were no casualties. But unfortunately there have been many casualties elsewhere in Gaza where they have targeted houses and mosques. I went out of the house to deal with some urgent matters today. But movement is really risky right now. Anyone who moves could be a potential target for the Israeli warplanes that are buzzing overhead all the time. You don’t know what the next target is.

New Israeli air raids on Gaza
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
Israeli warplanes carried out on Tuesday a series of new air strikes on the Gaza Strip, wounding three Palestinian residents including one critically. According to witnesses, Israeli air crafts bombarded early this morning a Hamas-run police station and a dairy in Gaza city, causing great damages. Also, the warplanes attacked a workshop in the city as well as a Hamas post in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. Also, three Israeli missiles landed on another Hamas post in the nearby Beit Hanoun city. Renewal of the Israeli air strikes came shortly after the Israeli warplanes shelled a third Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. In addition, the Israeli raids hit another target in the Buraij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. With these new attacks, death toll reached 368 as the number of injuries rose tp 1700 , according to medics.

Barak asks gov’t for more reservists
Yaakov Katz, Ap And Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday evening asked the government to give the IDF authority to call 2,510 more reservists in emergency call-up. The reserve soldiers expected to be called up are from the Home Front Command, Border Police, Logistics, Navy and the Ground Force Command. Earlier, officials in the defense establishment recommended to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to suspend military operations against Hamas in Gaza for 48 hours and during that time to review a number of possible ceasefire solutions for Operation Cast Lead. Senior Israeli ministers were discussing the proposal Tuesday night. According to reports, if the unilateral ceasefire were to fail, Israel would launch a ground offensive. Olmert reportedly opposed suspending the operation while Barak was weighing the idea. The recommendation, disclosed by defense sources on Tuesday evening,. . .

IOF intensified air raids on Gaza continue unabated for the 4th day running
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces continued their devastating air raids on the Gaza Strip for the fourth day running on Tuesday as more casualties were suffered among the Palestinian civilians other than the vast material destruction. Local sources in Breij refugee in central Gaza Strip reported that IOF warplanes dropped tons of explosives and bombs on a five-storey mosque late Monday that completely destroyed it and damaged nearby houses. They said that the mosque included a kindergarten and a small charitable desalination plant. The IOF aerial raids had destroyed seven other mosques in the savage aerial bombardment that left 360 martyrs and 1700 wounded, many of whom are in serious conditions. The IOF F-16s late Monday night intensified their raids on Gaza city targeting official and sports facilities dropping a big number of bombs in the course of five minutes.

The original plan isn’t the only one
Yonathan Lerner, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
Until yesterday, the fourth day of the attacks on Gaza, it looked like an ongoing war of attrition. Let’s hope that it’s not, but at least according to what the media report, there is no sign of an attempt to stop the exchanges of fire by other means. It is therefore possible to expect the final results of the operation to differ drastically from what the leaders planned when they began. I experienced something similar at the beginning of the year, when I organized two simulations at the Institute for National Security Studies with my friend Shlomo Brom, a former director of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff strategic planning division. Both simulations examined the issue of a halt to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and in both, Israeli governments had difficulty reaching the goals they had set at the beginning.

Gaza blitzkrieg follows Israeli tradition of pre-election muscle-flexing
Daily Star 12/31/2008
Analysis - RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Israel’s stated goals for its massive bombardment of the Gaza Strip looked no closer to being achieved on Tuesday, the fourth day of a devastating offensive dubbed "Operation Cast Lead. "Despite heavy damage to Hamas’ infrastructure and the enormous loss of life inflicted on Gaza, the Islamic resistance organization continues to fire rockets at Israel, with four Israelis killed to date. The Palestinian death toll currently stands at at least 368, with about 1,400 wounded. The UN released figures several days ago stating that at a conservative estimate more than 50 of the dead were civilian, and expected the figure to rise within the coming days. Israel’s stated goals that its massive aerial campaign was meant to stop Hamas and its allies launching rockets at Israel have so far failed to materialize.

Throngs at Ashdod funeral mark ’war against Israeli normalcy’
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
The big school in Ashdod where the ceremony took place has a thick concrete ceiling, and the building was overflowing with people on Tuesday afternoon. Huge crowds came to say goodbye to Irit Sheetrit, who was killed Monday by a rocket. Many people had no choice but to gather outside, and there was crying when Sheetrit’s body was brought out. But what really bothered Ashdod police commander Daniel Ohayon was the possibility of a warning siren. Before the eulogies he took the microphone and told the crowd what to do in case of rocket fire, and the speakers were asked to keep their speeches short - this is how the first funeral in the current round of bloodletting in Ashdod started. Irit Sheetrit left a husband and four children as well as thousands who knew her and her family.

Druze soldier killed by Gaza mortar shell laid to rest
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
Yesterday morning, 4-year-old Asul learned that her father, Warrant Officer Lutfi Nasereldeen, had been killed. "Since then, she has not stopped crying," said her uncle Hadi, who was also in tears. Asul will celebrate her fifth birthday tomorrow, and "Lutfi was so much looking forward to it," said a close friend, Danny Maklada. "He was going to come and surprise his daughter. She was his entire life, his soul. " Nasereldeen, 38, of Daliat al-Carmel, was a career army officer. On Monday, his Golani Brigade unit was transferred to the Nahal Oz Base near the Gaza Strip. The soldiers were preparing for a possible ground operation in Gaza when a mortar shell launched from the Strip hit him. His grandfather, Amal, a Likud Knesset member from 1977-88, described Nasereldeen as "a man with an academic education, a cultured man, who loved and was loved by everyone.

Ashkenazi: ’Difficult times’ await us
Yaacov Katz And Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
"Difficult times are awaiting us; I am sure we will overcome them as well," IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said on the fourth day of Operation Cast Lead. Post’s David Horovitz: One hopes realistic goals, exit strategies arranged - Speaking at a joint press conference Tuesday afternoon with President Shimon Peres, Ashkenazi praised the IDF and security forces participating in Operation Cast Lead, which he said was aimed at "creating a better reality for the residents of southern Israel. " He also thanked the general Israeli public for supporting the operation, and expressed his appreciation of Israel’s southern residents, who are "living under constant threat" and providing important support to the operation, "which extends our endurance. " Ashkenazi said he was "very pleased with the operation at this point.

Beit Sahour: Scores protest the Israeli attacks on Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
At least 60 Palestinians and international supporters gathered on Tuesday night at the town plaza in Beit Sahour located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem to protest the Israeli attacks on Gaza. The people carried a large Palestinian flag and lighted candles, speeches where made by locals and internationals calling for the immediate halt of the Israeli attacks. Today’s protest was organized by the Alternative Information Center AIC, a Palestinian Israeli NGO working for peace and justice. During the protest Rami Al Meghari, the IMEMC correspondent in Gaza spoke via phone to the gathering and gave the latest update from Gaza. The Israeli attacks that started on Saturday midday have so far killed 363 Palestinians the latest was three children when Israeli jet fighters leveled their home in northern Gaza.

For the fourth day Jerusalem residents continue to protests the Israeli attacks on Gaza
Mayissa Abu-Ghzalah, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
For the fourth day in a row, Palestinians from the city of Jerusalem continued to organize demonstrations in the city against the Israeli ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip. [end]

A Christmas Card from Bethlehem
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 12/30/2008
Recent years have witnessed a steady decrease in the Chistian Palestinian population of Bethlehem. If this trend continues one of the most holy cities to christianity will be without a christian Palestinian community in merely a few decades. Throughout the christmas hollidays christians everywhere go to church and hear the story about Josef who walked with his pregnant wife Maria from Nazareth to the city of David, Bethlehem, to register at a census. A stable bathed in the dim light of the star over Bethlehem with Josef and Maria standing next to the manger flanked by the three wise men; this is how most of us picture Bethlehem. Two millenia later the image of this Biblical town is quite different. Although progress has been achieved both economically and with the overall security situation on the West Bank, Bethlehem faces its share of challenges.

Israeli forces relax travel restrictions for cars moving in and out of Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli forces are preparing to allow increased traffic through Nablus checkpoints in the northern West Bank. New regulations will allow drivers of all ages to pass in and out of the area without a permitIsraeli forces erected a new military structure at the site of the Huwwara checkpoint south of Nablus, which allows an increased number of cars to pass through the area. The new site has been under construction for at least six months, and acts as an expanded version of the earlier crossing. Previously almost no vehicles registered in Nablus were able to pass through the Huwwara checkpoint, and travelers had to disembark from busses and taxis, walk through the checkpoint and find transportation to Nablus’ city center. As the new checkpoint was build Israeli forces began relaxing restrictions on Nablus drivers, allowing those over 45 to drive in and out of the northern sector of the West Bank without a permit.

Ex-U.S. Army engineer Kadish pleads guilty to spying for Israel
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
An 85-year-old former U. S. Army engineer on Tuesday admitted he passed classified documents to the Israelis in the 1970s and 1980s. Kadish said he believes he was promised that the government will not seek imprisonment at his February sentencing. Assistant U. S. Attorney Iris Lan said prosecutors promised only that they would not oppose or challenge a sentence that included no prison time. Kadish, a U. S. citizen who lives in New Jersey, pleaded guilty only to one of the four charges of conspiracy he originally faced during his trial in Manhattan. He had been charged with slipping classified documents about nuclear weapons, fighter jets and air defense missiles to an Israeli Consulate employee who also received information from convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested during the same time period, authorities said.

White House: Bush calls Abbas, discusses Gaza
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
President George W. Bush and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed in a telephone conversation Tuesday that if any new cease-fire agreement is to be effective in the Mideast, "it must be respected by Hamas," the White House said. Briefing reporters at Bush’s Texas ranch, spokesman Gordon Johndroe reiterated the U. S. call for the militant Hamas organization to stop firing rockets into Israel. He said that Bush talked to both Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayed after having a briefing by videoconference with his own top aides on the fast-paced developments in Gaza. Johndroe said that "for any cease-fire to be effective, it must be respected by Hamas. "Bush’s spokesman added that in the absence of such a stance, a cease-fire agreement wouldn’t be worth the "paper that it’s written on. " "The president is concerned about the citizens of Gaza," said Johndroe, "but not the Hamas terrorist leaders. "

Ex-US Army engineer pleads guilty to spy charge
Associated Press Published, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Ben-ami Kadish, 85, admits he passed classified documents to Israelis in 1970s, ’80s -An 85-year-old former US Army mechanical engineer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, admitting that he passed classified documents to the Israelis in the 1970s and ’80s. Ben-Ami Kadish entered the plea Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. Kadish said he believes he was promised that the government will not seek imprisonment at his February sentencing. A prosecutor says the government has agreed it will not oppose a sentence that calls for no jail time. Kadish pleaded guilty only to one of the four charges of conspiracy he originally faced. Kadish was accused of taking home classified documents from 1979 to 1985 when he worked at an Army base in New Jersey. The government said he let an unidentified Israeli agent photograph them.

Israeli court refuses appeal of deportation order for Diaspora Palestinian
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli Higher Court of Justice on Tuesday refused an appeal by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society over the impending deportation of Nasri Atwan from Al-Khadr, south of Bethlehem. Atwan is in Israeli custody for allegedly remaining in the West Bank illegally. While in custody, Atwan was given a Palestinian ID card, although the Higher Court still insists on deporting him. The Prisoners’ Society in Bethlehem condemned the decision, calling on the Palestinian Authority and other human rights organizations to intervene and stop the deportation. [end]

Leadership split over 48-hour truce in Gaza; IDF completes preparations for ground op
Barak Ravid Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
The cabinet will reconvene today to discuss a French proposal for a 48-hour "humanitarian" cease-fire, after failing late last night to reach a decision. Last night’s meeting followed a day in which a Hamas rocket struck Be’er Sheva for the first time and the Israel Defense Forces completed preparations for a possible ground operation in the Gaza Strip. The Education Ministry announced that schools in Be’er Sheva would not open today. In discussions with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni yesterday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak recommended seeking an exit from the fighting within the next few days, using one of the various international initiatives currently being worked on. Barak also favors the French proposal for a 48-hour truce that would be used to examine Hamas’ willingness to agree to a long-term cease-fire, in addition to its stated purpose of providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s population.

Israel vows more pain in Gaza as death toll mounts
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/31/2008
GAZA CITY: The Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued for the fourth day on Tuesday, with Palestinian casualties - including children - mounting amid Israeli statements that the onslaught will be a drawn-out one. The armed wing of Hamas on Tuesday warned the Jewish state that if its bloody offensive continued, the group would send retaliatory rockets deeper into Israel. "We tell the leaders of the enemy - if you continue with your assault, we will hit with our rockets further than the cities we have hit so far," a spokesman for Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in televised comments. "If you think that Hamas and Al-Qassam will be crushed, we will rise up from the rubble," he said. "If you decide to enter the Gaza Strip, the land in Gaza will burn under your feet and it will explode under your soldiers and Gaza children will collect parts of your bodies and your tanks from the streets," he added.

Olmert: 'War to continue', Peres: 'This war is like no other war in Israel’s history'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, stated on Tuesday that the Israeli army would continue its offensive against the Gaza Strip until "achieving its goals against Hamas". Israeli President, Shimon Peres, said that "this war is like no other war the army carried out since Israel was established". Olmert stated on a statement on Tuesday that the army will continue its offensive in Gaza until Israel achieves its goals against the ruling of Hamas. He added that the army will continue to operate according to the plan, "the war has begun, and will not end until we achieve our goals", Olmert added. Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that the statement of Olmert came responding to reports that the army would agree to a 48-hour truce. He stated that it became necessary to a ground offensive. Olmert also said that the offensive is still in its early stages, vowing further and more painful assaults.

MIDEAST: Gaza Becomes a Chessboard for Israeli Leaders
Analysis by Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 12/31/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec 30 (IPS) - Israel’s devastating bombardment of Gaza, and the mounting death toll continue as Operation Cast Lead entered its fourth day Tuesday. Despite massive damage to Hamas’s infrastructure and the enormous loss of life inflicted on Gaza, the Islamic resistance organisation continues to fire rockets at Israel, with three Israelis killed to date. The Palestinian death toll currently stands at more than 350, with about 1,400 injured. The UN released figures several days ago stating that at a conservative estimate more than 50 of the dead were civilian, and expected the figure to rise within the coming days. Israel’s stated goals that its massive aerial campaign was meant to stop Hamas and its allies launching rockets at Israel have so far failed to materialise. Although the firing of projectiles at Israel had been problematic, hundreds of. . .

Mayor of rocket-battered Netivot calls for talks with Hamas
Amir Zohar, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
One of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s most important supporters in the Negev, longtime Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar, is calling on Israel to negotiate with Hamas. "The fact that we have so far not held talks with Hamas is a mistake," Zohar told Knesset members and cabinet ministers who visited Netivot on Monday, two days after city resident Bebert Vaknin was killed in a rocket attack there, the day the Israel Defense Forces assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip began. "In order to achieve the calm we are hoping for, we will have to speak to Hamas this time around, too," said Zohar, a Likud Central Committee member. "It’s too bad they didn’t aspire enough to an agreement, because ultimately we’ll be talking only with Hamas. "Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the purpose of the IDF operation was to remove Hamas from power.

Israel’s failure to learn
Nir Rosen, Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
When George Bush, the US president, first entered the White House as the commander-in-chief in 2001, Palestinians were being killed in the al-Aqsa intifada. Eight years later, as Bush prepares to leave office, Israel is carrying out one of the largest massacres in its 60-year occupation of Palestine. The US, then and now, strongly backs Israel’s offensive, justifying it as being, in fact, defensive. An Israeli general recently threatened to use military force to set Gaza back decades in much the same language used before the invasion of Lebanon in 2006. But despite the Israeli devastation of Lebanon, Hezbollah emerged victorious and the Shia resistance and social movement emerged a hero to the Arab world. Israel is about to make the same mistake with Hamas. . Its notion of a truce with Hamas was that the Palestinians would quietly accept the siege. Israel would deny them the basic means of survival, let alone the basic means to create a functioning society.

Hamas: We will not raise the white flag
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- On the fourth day of the barbaric Israeli occupation forces’ bombardment of the Gaza Strip that primarily targeted Hamas buildings and government institutions but which also destroyed civilian homes, Hamas asserted that it would never surrender or raise the white flag. Dr. Ismail Radwan, one of the political leaders of Hamas, said in a press release on Tuesday that targeting mosques, universities, charitable and civil institutions and civilian homes point to the "ugly, racist, savage and terrorist image of the Israeli occupation". He urged the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, to retaliate to the aggression, and hailed the Palestinian people’s legendary steadfastness and backing of resistance. Radwan also heaped praise on the Arab and Islamic masses that demonstrated in support of Palestine and called on them to continue pressuring their governments to support the Palestinians.

Israel: Hamas buildings destroyed, armed groups intact
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The next two days present Israel with the difficult decision of whether to bow to international pressure and accept a ceasefire or to order a ground invasion. Security sources told Israel’s Army Radio that decision makers in Israel will decide soon whether or not to accept the building calls for a ceasefire or to send military forces on a wide-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. Sources did say that the original airstrikes, which have killed nearly 400 Palestinians, were successful. In the same regard, an Israeli army spokesperson claimed that investigations demonstrate that all three Hamas-run government compounds in the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City were completely destroyed in overnight airstrikes. And another senior military official told Israel’s Channel 10 that several Hamas establishments in the Gaza Strip were crippled by air. . .

Defense establishment to recommend pause in Gaza op
Ynet reporters, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Security echelon said to suggest National Security Cabinet explore 48-hour interval in fighting in bid to assess Hamas’ future intentions. PM reiterates Israel will not halt operation in Strip. ’We will hold fire only when it suits us,’ says Hamas source - Israel NewsThe defense establishment plans to recommend the National Security Cabinet explore various options for a temporary pause in the Gaza offensive in order to reassess Hamas’ intentions. Should, for example, Hamas be willing to accept the suggestion made by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for a 48-hour "humanitarian ceasefire," the defense establishment is willing to recommend the cabinet accept it. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was reluctant to explore the possibility of a ceasefire at this stage of the Gaza offensive.

’The aim isn’t to topple Hamas’
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
The relatively modest goal for Operation Cast Lead articulated Saturday by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - to fundamentally improve the security situation in the south - has morphed in the mouths of some of the country’s key spokespeople over the last three days into the destruction of Hamas, a change that has left some foreign ministry officials extremely frustrated. For instance, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, said Monday the aim of the operation was to "completely destroy" Hamas, and added that Israel would continue with the action "as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely. " Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been enlisted to help explain Israel’s actions abroad, told Reuters, "The action that is required is something that removes this Hamas regime from the scene.

Israel mulls pause in Gaza assault as massive ground invasion looms
Ian Black, Middle East editor, The Guardian 12/30/2008
Israeli officials raised the prospect last night that they might accept a French proposal for a temporary pause in their bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip, but a key meeting tomorrow will also discuss options for a massive ground invasion. After a fourth day of Israeli attacks, and with Palestinian fatalities rising to more than 370,the EU and the Quartet group comprising the US, EU, US and Russia, called for an immediate and lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Two victims were girls aged four and 11, killed as they rode on a cart. ­ Following a meeting in Paris, EU foreign ministers said there could be "no military solution" to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and called for for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza.

Israeli police violently attacks protestors in Nazareth
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/30/2008
The Arabs48 news website reported on Thursday at night that clashes took place between hundreds of protesters and Israeli policemen in Al Ein area and the main street in Nazareth city. Dozens of protesters were wounded after inhaling gas fired by the police while others were wounded by rubber-coated bullets; some of them are still hospitalized. The Arabs48 added that the police kidnapped nine protestors; five from Nazareth and four for Taybeh. The under-cover forces also participated in the attack and assaulted the protesters who took off to the street to protest against the Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. The protestors also closed several roads with burnt tires and garbage barrels in an attempt to slow the policemen who chased them in the streets. Hundreds of Israeli policemen are currently deployed in Nazareth, especially in the main road and undercover forces are still. . .

Israeli Arabs plan protests in TA, Sakhnin
Brenda Gazzar, Yaakov Lappin and Etgar Lefkovits, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
The Hadash Party plans a massive Jewish-Arab demonstration for Tel Aviv on Saturday evening to protest the IAF offensive in Gaza, while the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee has a smaller protest set for the same day in Sakhnin. The protests will call on Israel to "stop the massacre in Gaza," and on feuding Palestinian factions - particularly Fatah and Hamas - to unite, said Aymen Odeh, secretary general of the Hadash communist party and a member of the monitoring committee. Both sides "need to unite against the occupation," Odeh said. "Our enemy is the Israeli occupation, not Hamas, and not Fatah, and not others. " Operation Cast Lead was an unprecedented tragedy, exceeding Deir Yassin in 1948, he said.

Rabbis who signed anti-Arab labor ads face criminal probe
Tomer Zarchin and Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
A criminal investigation for incitement to racism will be opened against 29 rabbis who signed two advertisements urging people not to hire Arabs, Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan decided yesterday. Both advertisements were issued following terror attacks in Jerusalem carried out by East Jerusalem residents: the shooting attack at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva last March and two rampages by bulldozer drivers in July. "Again and again, it turns out that ostensibly cheap Arab labor exacts a price from us in blood, which is more dear than all," read the ad published after the bulldozer attacks, which appeared in the right-wing newspaper Kommemiyut and was also distributed as a flier. "The murderous tractors driven by Arabs from East Jerusalem are only the tip of the iceberg of a national problem that has long since become an existential danger that threatens the welfare of the nation that. . .

Abbas orders formation of emergency room to rule Gaza after toppling Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has ordered his officials in Ramallah a day after the Israeli massive air strike on Gaza Strip to form an emergency room grouping the interior minister and security commanders to be ready for taking over control of Gaza affairs when Hamas is toppled, a secret report obtained by the PIC revealed. It added that Abbas, who was in Cairo and was on his way to Saudi Arabia, said that he would coordinate his stands with the Egyptian regime to confront any changes in Gaza following the IOF military operation. The report pointed out that Abbas is expected back in Cairo for this matter. Meanwhile, sources in Ramallah told the PIC that Nimir Hammad, the advisor to Abbas, had telephoned Amos Gilad, the Israeli coordinator of operations in the occupied territories and the political advisor to war minister Ehud Barak, on Saturday night.

Hamas: Abbas is preparing to take over after Israel leaves Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hamas’ website, the Palestinian Information Center, posted an article accusing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of preparing to take control of the Gaza Strip after Israel topples Hamas. The article was posted Tuesday morning and claims Hamas got hold of a “secret report” elaborating plans of Abbas to re-establish control in Gaza. The report says Abbas called Palestinian officials in Ramallah while he was in Egypt en route to Saudi Arabia. It said Abbas was in Cairo in order to coordinate a joint plan on facing the changes in the Gaza Strip. Abbas reportedly asked his interior minister and security commanders to prepare an emergency unit prepared to take over after the Hamas regime collapses in Gaza.

Fatah leader calls on Hamas to return confiscated weapons
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – A senior West Bank Fatah leader on Tuesday called on Hamas to return weapons confiscated from Fatah militants during the 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip. Ghassan Al-Masri, a leading Fatah official in Nablus, said that in light of Israel’s threats to launch a ground invasion, it has become a national duty for Hamas to hand back the confiscated weapons for other militants’ use. He explained that the Palestinian people must unite “under these conditions in order to counter Israeli aggression. ”He noted that “one Palestinian faction (Hamas)” cannot stop the Israeli invasion “on its own. ”[end]

Quartet calls for immediate truce between Israel and Gaza
Natasha Mozgovaya and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
Foreign ministers from the Quartet of Middle East peace brokers - the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union - called on Tuesday for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and southern Israel after a telephone consultation. U. S. President George W. Bush called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday to discuss how to end the violence in the Gaza Strip, ongoing now for four days. He also called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to thank him for "the positive role" that Egypt was playing. Israel’s envoy to the U. S. , Sallay Meridor, on Tuesday blamed Iran for the situation in Gaza. "What you see in Gaza is made by Iran - it’s funded by Iran, the terrorists are trained by Iran, it’s supplied by Iran, the know-how to create short range rockets is Iranian, he said.

Gaza protests planned for weekend across UK
Audrey Gillan, The Guardian 12/31/2008
British demonstrations against Israeli bomb attacks in Gaza will gather momentum on Saturday with thousands of people expected to attend a rally in London and smaller protests planned in cities across the UK, say organisers. Yesterday, in the third consecutive day of protest within shouting distance of the Israeli embassy in Palace Green, London, numbers had diminished to around 200 and there were no arrests. The protests are planned to continue tomorrow and on New Year’s Day. A rally will be held at the Egyptian embassy in London on Friday to demand that the country’s border with Gaza be opened, while the capital’s larger rally will assemble on the Embankment at 12. 30pm on Saturday. Sarah Colborne, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: "Thousands will be demonstrating all across the country.

Sarkozy to visit Israel to promote truce
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/31/2008
French president expected to arrive in Jerusalem on Monday in bid to mediate between Israel, Hamas. Foreign Minister Livni to meet with French government officials in Paris later this week. Quartet calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza, southern Israel - International efforts to bring about lull in south gather momentum: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, will arrive in Jerusalem next Monday in a bid to mediate between Israel anHamas. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to meet with senior French government officials in Paris later this week. State officials confirmed that the French president plans to lead a move for a 48-hour ceasefire. It is unclear whether Sarkozy or Kouchner will also be meeting with Hamas members.

’Coordination is putting Israel ahead in the media war’
Haviv Rettig Gur, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
As the anti-Hamas operation in Gaza entered its third day Monday and IDF commanders laid the groundwork for a possible ground assault on the Strip, Israeli officials responsible for the parallel media offensive sounded decidedly optimistic. Gaza op, Day IV - Reporting on the conflict is a crucial arena of the battle itself, say analysts. The success or failure of the media effort can affect the window of opportunity which the IDF has to fulfill its operational objectives: weakening Hamas and imposing a calm that could not be reached through negotiations. "I don’t know how long it will last, but at this moment Israel has no small measure of understanding and support, and even approval, from many countries," says former UN ambassador Dan Gillerman, who was brought into the media effort by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni shortly before the aerial attack against Hamas began on Saturday.

HRW: Don’t target civilians in Gaza conflict
Middle East Online 12/30/2008
NEW YORK - Human Rights Watch called Tuesday on Israel and Hamas not to target civilians in their escalating military conflict. "Israel and Hamas both must respect the prohibition under the laws of war against deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians," the New York-based rights watchdog said in a statement. "The rockets are highly inaccurate, and those launching them cannot accurately target military objects. Deliberately firing indiscriminate weapons into civilian populated areas, as a matter of policy, constitutes a war crime," the group said. Human Rights Watch said that Israeli bombing of Gaza appeared to be "unlawful" and highlighted three incidents it said had resulted in the deaths of civilians, including children. "Additionally, Israel’s severe limitations on the movement of non-military goods and people into and out of Gaza, including fuel and medical. . .

UN official: Countries cooperating with Israel are accomplices to the aggression
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
NEEW YORK, (PIC)-- A UN official has said that any country assisting Israel with military hardware or supporting the siege on Gaza are accomplices to the Israeli violations of the international law. Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian lands, said that the UN is committed to protecting civilians who are the victims of grave violations of the international humanitarian laws regardless of the country responsible for those violations. He called on all UN member countries to condemn Israel and to agree on a new method for protecting the Palestinian people. The UN official underlined that the ongoing Israeli aerial raids on Gaza represented the worst violation of the international humanitarian laws as embedded in the Geneva agreements. Falk listed some of those Israeli violations such as the collective punishment of one and a half. . .

Thousands of Nigerians demonstrate against Gaza attacks
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
LAGOS, (PIC)-- Thousands of Nigerians on Monday hit the streets of Lagos to protest the ongoing Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip that claimed the lives of 365 Palestinians and wounded around 1750 others. Students also took part in the march that denounced international and Arab silence towards that pogrom, adding that next Friday would be a day for solidarity with besieged Gaza all over Nigeria. In Aden, southern Yemen, angry demonstrators on Tuesday broke into the Egyptian consulate and hoisted the Palestinian flag over it. Local sources said that Yemeni security men could not control the demonstrators, who were in thousands, despite using teargas. The demonstrators, who were infuriated with the Egyptian official positions regarding the events in Gaza, called for opening the Rafah crossing to allow access of humanitarian and relief material into the beleaguered Strip.

Qazi: Zionist invasion on Gaza a slap on Ummah conscience
Palestinian Information Center 12/30/2008
LAHORE (PAKISTAN), (PIC)-- Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan ameer Qazi Hussain Ahmad has said that Israeli bombing on Gaza and massacre of Palestinians is shaking Ummah’s conscience but the delay in calling meetings of OIC and Arab League is the worst betrayal with the innocent blood of Palestinian Muslims. Palestinian nation led by Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) is fighting the war for liberating Muslims’ Qibla-e-Awwal from the Zionist occupation and history will never forgive those sacrificing the Palestinian cause for personal interests and regional politics, he said in a statement on Monday issued by JI Media Cell. Qazi demanded that border crossing of Rafah, between Gaza and Egypt, should be opened permanently. Qazi said Israeli objectives behind using entire air force and war machinery to destroy a small town of 144 km area is not to protect the handful of Jewish settlers near. . .

WHO: civilians paying price for Israel siege on Gaza
Middle East Online 12/30/2008
GENEVA - The World Health Organization on Tuesday called for an immediate halt to hostilities in Gaza and urged Israel to ensure that medical supplies are channelled to those hit by the military action. "Civilians are paying the price for the prolonged blockade. As a top priority, the shortages of essential and life-saving medicines need to be abated without delay," said the WHO in a statement. At least 363 Palestinians, including 39 children, have been killed and 1,720 people wounded in intensive bombardment by Israel on the Gaza Strip. "The inability of the hospitals to cope with a problem of this magnitude, if the situation continues unchanged, will result in a surge in preventable deaths from complications due to trauma," warned the WHO. Negotiations were ongoing with the Israelis to funnel medical supplies through, the WHO added as it urged an end to the conflict.

World outraged at Israeli blitz of Gaza Strip
Middle East Online 12/30/2008
Brazil slams US for failure to stop Mideast violence - BRASILIA - Brazil’s president on Tuesday slammed the United Nations and United States for failing to get a resolution passed to stop violence in Gaza, and called for an emergency UN session to do so. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on a visit to Brazil’s northeast that "what has been made clear is that the UN does not have the strength to pass a resolution that can achieve peace in that place. "And it doesn’t have the strength because the United States has veto power and that is why things do not get done," charged Lula, whose country aspires to a seat on a reformed UN Security Council. Lula said he had instructed Foreign Minister Celso Amorim to contact France about the possibility of an emergency UN meeting on the violence. Brazil’s president flatly charged US efforts at mediating "are not working.

Next EU president Czech Republic defends Israeli strikes in Gaza
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
The Czech Republic, which takes over the European Union’s presidency on January 1, defended Israel’s strikes against Hamas on Tuesday. The EU has called for a cease-fire to end the violence that has killed almost 350 Palestinians. But Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Israel had the right to defend itself. "Let us realize one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable any more," Schwarzenberg told daily Mlada Fronta Dnesin an interview. France, which will hand over the EU’s rotating presidency to Prague, has condemned Israel’s strikes and the rocket attacks from Hamas militants and called for both to stop immediately. Schwarzenberg, a staunch ally of Washington, said Hamas had excluded itself from serious political debate due to its rocket attacks on Israel.

EU calls for opening of border crossings to Gaza
Middle East Online 12/30/2008
MADRID - EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana Tuesday called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and for the opening of crossing points to war-battered Gaza. We must "have a cease-fire as quickly as possible, which is fundamental, and the crossings must be opened to allow humanitarian aid to pass," he told Spanish National Radio. Solana is to take part in the emergency meeting in Paris of European Union foreign ministers later Tuesday, which is to make an appeal for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. "The formula that we are working on and on which we must insist is based on three fundamental points: the first is an immediate cease-fire, the second is the opening up of crossing points between Gaza and Egypt and Gaza and Israel," and "the third, the immediate resumption of humanitarian aid," he said.

IDF launches YouTube Gaza channel
Max Socol, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
In the midst of its Gaza operations, the IDF is entering yet another conflict zone: the Internet. IAF destroys truck with Grads - Footage shows terrorists loading vehicle with missiles; Navy joins op. The Israeli army announced yesterday the creation of its own YouTube channel, through which it will disseminate footage of precision bombing operations in the Gaza Strip, as well as aid distribution and other footage of interest to the international community. "The blogosphere and new media are another war zone," said Foreign Press Branch head Maj. Avital Leibovich. "We have to be relevant there," she said. Her sentiment reflects a growing awareness in the Israeli government that part of the failure of the 2006 Lebanon campaign was Israel’s lack of readiness for the intense media debate surrounding its operations.

Jordan’s queen donates blood for Gaza victims
Middle East Online 12/30/2008
AMMAN - Jordan’s Queen Rania donated blood on Tuesday for Palestinians in the battered Gaza Strip, where more than 350 people have been killed in a deadly four-day Israeli aerial bombardment. "Queen Rania visited the Al-Hussein Medical Centre today to take part in a nationwide campaign to donate blood and support the citizens of Gaza," her office said in a statement. In an article published in local newspapers, Rania, herself of Palestinian origin, also called on Jordanians to help ease the suffering. "To be limited to expressing sympathies with the people of Gaza is shameful because they don’t need to be felt sorry for, they need us to act and help, and I know that we can do more," wrote the queen. Her husband King Abdullah II donated blood on Monday at the same military-run hospital and ordered the army’s medical services to establish a field hospital in Gaza.

Violence at Gaza protest in Yemen
Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
Demonstrators in the Yemeni port city of Aden have broken into the Egyptian consulate in a protest against Cairo’s response to Israel’s offensive against Gaza, a security official has said. The protesters, who were mostly students from the University of Aden, "vandalised furniture before they were removed peacefully from the building", the official said on Tuesday, asking not to be identified. Another security official said three staff members were inside the building at the time but they were unhurt. The official said one protester was wounded when a consular guard opened fire and that the protesters retaliated by setting fire to two consular vehicles. More than 20 demonstrators were arrested. Protests have been held across the Middle East against the four-day-Israeli. . .

'Silence is complicity': Across the world, citizens take to the streets in anger as the Gaza massacre continues
Stop The Wall 12/30/2008
Since the start of the Gaza massacre on Saturday, activists and citizens have poured into the streets of cities across the world to voice their anger at the Israeli occupation and to call for action to halt the Israeli crimes. More demonstrations are planned for the coming days, including actions across the United States on Tuesday 30 December, and a Europe-wide day of action and protest on Saturday 3 January. Egypt - - Numerous demonstrations have taken place in Cairo calling for the Rafah crossing to be opened and for the people of Gaza to continue their steadfastness. - Jordan - A demonstration was held in Amman on December 27. MPs burned the Israeli flag inside parliament building. Other demonstrations were held in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and across the Middle East. . .

UN attacks ’excessive’ Israel raids
Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has condemned what he called Israel’s "excessive" use of force during three days of air raids on the Gaza Strip that have left at least 350 Palestinians dead. The UN chief also condemned world leaders for not doing enough to end the violence. "I think regional and international partners have not done enough. They should do more," Ban said in New York on Monday. "They should use all possible means to end the violence and encourage political dialogue, emphasising peaceful ways of resolving differences. "At least 350 Palestinians have died in Gaza, local authorities say, after three days of heavy bombardment by Israel in what it says is a response to rocket attacks thathave left at least three Israelis dead.

Indonesians rally for Gaza
Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
More than 1,000 people have rallied in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, to voice their opposition to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip. Demonstrators waved Palestinian and Indonesian flags while some carried banners with slogans such as "Zionist Israel Go To Hell" and "Move Israel outside Palestine land. "Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and many Indonesians have been staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause. The protest coincided with a condemnation of the raids by Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "I have sent a letter to the secretary-general of United Nations as well as to the UN Security Council condemning the Israeli military attacks and urging swift action to resolve the conflict," Yudhoyono said.

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.

Egypt refuses full opening of Gaza crossing
Ynet and AP, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Mubarak says won’t fully open Rafah crossing unless Abbas forces control border post. Assad to US senator: Israeli massacre in Gaza must be stopped -Egypt’s president says his country will not fully open its crossing into the Gaza Strip unless Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is in control of the border post, resisting demands Egypt do so amid Israel’s onslaught against Hamas. Egypt has come under heavy criticism in the Arab world over its refusal over the past year to open the Rafah crossing, which has helped complete an Israeli blockade of the territory. Since Israel’s offensive in Gaza began Saturday, Egypt has allowed some wounded to cross from Gaza for treatment and some humanitarian supplies to enter the territory. President Hosni Mubarak said in a televised speech Tuesday that Israel must "stop the aggression" against Gaza and accept an unconditional ceasefire.

Egypt refuses to fully open Rafah
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Egypt’s president struck back against critics throughout the region and said he would not fully open the crossing into the Gaza Strip unless the Palestinian Authority was in control of the border to preserve Palestinian unity. Egypt has come under heavy criticism in the Arab world over its refusal over the past year to open the Rafah crossing, which has helped complete an Israeli blockade of the territory. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also visited Egypt just before the assault, leading many to accuse Egypt of giving a green light to the attack. "We will not deepen the division and that breach [among the Palestinians] by opening Rafah border crossing in the absence of the Palestinian authority and the European union monitors," Mubarak said, referring to the 2005 agreement over the border. Egypt resists dealing with Hamas because it opposes the group’s 2007 takeover. . .

Al-Hayat: Egypt and Turkey warn Israel against ground attack; propose plan to restore calm
Ma’an News Agency 12/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported Tuesday that Egypt and Turkey plan to warn Israel that a ground invasion in Gaza might result in a new front being opened in southern Lebanon by Hizbullah fighters. The newspaper report detailed an Egyptian-Turkish plan to restore calm and end the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. The countries believe that by working together they can pressure Israel into complying with the agreement and influence world opinion. The plan includes re-establishing a ceasefire between Gaza factions and Israel. This would see the opening of the crossings into the Gaza Strip and a total removal of the blockade imposed by Israel. Further, the plan would see the creation of a set of guarantees that would ensure the crossings remain opened and the flow of projectiles stopped.

Assad: Stop Israeli massacre in Gaza
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/30/2008
During meeting with US senator Syrian President Bashar Assad calls for siege of Strip to be lifted and crossings to be opened immediately -Syrian media reported on Tuesday that President Bashar Assad said the Israeli massacre against the unarmed Palestinian people should be stopped, the siege on Gaza should be immediately lifted and all crossings should be opened. In a meeting held in Damascus with US Senator Arlen Specter (Rep. ), a number of Mideast issue were discussed, particularly the Palestinian problem. Also present at the meeting were Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, Assad’s advisor Dr. Buthaina Shaaban and the delegation accompanying Specter. On Sunday Syria announced that Damascus was putting an end to the indirect peace talks with Syria following the military operation in Gaza.

Iran clerics recruit Islamist fighters to aid Hamas’ battle against Israel
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has urged Muslims to defend Palestinians whatever way they can, and clerics have even gathered to recruit Islamist fighters to join Hamas’ battle against Israel. Meanwhile, Iran has set up a court to try Israel for its air attacks on Gaza and is ready to try in absentia any people who Tehran says have committed "crimes," a judiciary official said on Tuesday. Iran, which does not recognize Israel, has criticized some Arab states for not doing enough to stop military action by Israel. Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on all Muslims to defend Palestinians in whatever way they can. "The court is in a special branch in Tehran and entrusted with the task of dealing with the executors, planners and officials of this [Israeli]. . .

’Iranian Jews protest Gaza slaughter’
Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Different groups representing Iran’s Jewish community on Tuesday gathered in front of the United Nations office in Teheran in order to protest "Israeli war crimes and the slaughter of the innocent people in Gaza Strip," the Iranian IRNA news agency reported. The protesters, led by the Jewish representative in Parliament, Siamak Mara-Sedq, carried placards with anti-Israel slogans in both Farsi and Hebrew, the report said. "We are here to express our support and sympathy with the Palestinian nation," Rahmatollah Rafi, the chairman of Iran’s Jewish community was quoted as saying at the rally. Hinting mainly at Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the report said that Rafi went on to criticize "certain Arab governments for their inaction and silence towards Israeli inhuman acts and war crimes in Gaza and the entire Palestinian territories.

Iran sets up court to try Israelis over Gaza
Reuters, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Judiciary official says Islamic Republic ready to try in absentia any ’executors, planners and officials of this (Israeli) regime who have committed crimes’ - Iran has set up a court to try Israelis for its air attacks on Gaza and is ready to try in absentia any people who Tehran says have committed "crimes," a judiciary official said on Tuesday. Iran, which does not recognize Israel, has criticized some Arab states for not doing enough to stop military action by the Jewish state. Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on all Muslims to defend Palestinians in whatever way they can. "The court is in a special branch in Tehran and entrusted with the task of dealing with the executors, planners and officials of this (Israeli) regime who have committed crimes," judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said.

Iranian students break into UK Embassy residence to protest Gaza strikes
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Iran’s official news agency says dozens of hardline students have broken into the British Embassy residence in Teheran. The IRNA agency says the students accuse Britain of supporting Israel’s air assault on the Gaza Strip. The agency says the students stormed the compound Tuesday evening and pulled down the British flag. IRNA says the students then hoisted a Palestinian flag at the compound’s entrance before police forced them to leave. The news agency says the break-in lasted about an hour and that the area is now calm. No injuries were reported. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has called for an immediate cease-fire by both Israel and Hamas. [end]

VIDEO / Mubarak: We’ll open Gaza crossing only if PA takes control
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Tuesday that his government will not fully open its crossing into the Gaza Strip unless Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is in control of the border post. The speech Tuesday from Mubarak came despite criticism of Egypt in the Arab world over its refusal over the past year to open the Rafah crossing, which has helped complete an Israeli blockade of the territory. Since Israel’s offensive in Gaza began Saturday, Egypt has allowed some wounded to cross from Gaza for treatment and some humanitarian supplies to enter the territory. But Egypt resists dealing with the Islamic militant Hamas because it opposes the militant group’s 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip and insists Abbas is the legitimate Palestinian leader. Yemenites storm Egyptian consulate to protest Cairo’s Gaza policy. . .

Salah: If we had an army, it would act
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Leader of Islamic Movement’s northern branch tells al-Jazeera network Israeli occupation would not have had courage to cause destruction without Arab and Islamic support, official silence. Meanwhile, Arab leadership in Jewish state launches global PR campaign to end Israeli offensive - If we had warplanes they would be used to maintain peace, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch said Tuesday in an interview to the al-Jazeera network following the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. "We are following what is taking place in Gaza with a lot of pain. It’s clear to us that what is happening now is a war in every sense of the word, and is part of the wars of the past which have taken place in the region since 1948, through 1967 to 2006. This is the new war these days.

Barak reprimands Majadele over boycott
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Labor chairman sends letter to science, culture and sports minister following latter’s absence from cabinet meeting on Gaza operation. ’I believe such conduct does not befit your responsibility as a minister in the Israeli government,’ he says - After Prime Minister Ehud Olmert canceled Science, Culture and Sports Minister Raleb Majadele’s trip to Jordan and Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel called him "cheeky" due to his absence from Sunday’s cabinet meeting on the Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza, Majadele was also reprimanded Tuesday by his party’s chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak sent a letter to Majadele slamming his conduct. "I believe that such conduct does not befit your responsibility as a minister in the Israeli government," he said. The Labor chairman began the letter by saying, "I was surprised to learn that. . .

Tel Aviv: Dozens rally in support of Gaza op
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Likud activists stage support rally near Defense Ministry headquarters. ’We want to give the IDF the feeling that Israelis are united in their support of the armed forces,’ says MK Erdan - Several dozen people, most of them Likud activists, rallied across from the Defense Ministry’s Tel Aviv headquarters in support of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The offensive entered its fourth day Tuesday. The activists carried signs urging Tel Avivians to "wake up before Hamas gets here. " A disagreement broke out between the protestors as some hoisted signs reading "Israel’s Arabs - the IDF is defending you too": "Israeli Arabs are a fifth column. They support Hamas and I do not support them," one of the activists told Ynet. Knesset Member Gilad Erdan (Likud), one of the rally’s organizers, urged cooler heads to prevail and the sign was not used.

Hot lines opened to help southern residents
Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
An emergency phone line for the elderly and lonely in the South who are suffering from anxiety due to the security situation have been invited to call for help. Organized by the Etgar Group, the line will be open between 8 a. m. and 8 p. m. at 1-599-550-100. Relatives will be contacted and places to stay in the center of the country will be arranged. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry announced that the four health funds have set up information services on their Web sites and by phone: Clalit Health Services at *2700, Maccabi Health Services at *3555, Meuhedet at *3833 and Leumit at 1-700-507507. In addition, the ministry said stress treatment centers had been set up in Sderot, the Eshkol Region, the Sdot Negev Region, Netivot, Ashkelon north, Sha’ar Hanegev, Ashdod and Ofakim. The Shahal heart monitoring company has instituted a phone line for free consultations with cardiologists. . .

’Tzipi Livni is not worthy of being PM’
Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
Former minister Benny Begin, who has returned to politics after an extended absence and is now running for a Knesset seat on the Likud ticket, recently slammed Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni for marketing the disengagement from Gaza as a move that would bring tranquility to Israel and questioned her suitability for the job of prime minister. "The foreign minister bears responsibility for [Security Council] Resolution 1701, in which she takes great pride. Under the auspices of Resolution 1701, Hezbollah has tripled the number of warheads in its possession," Begin said late last week in an interview with Haaretz Magazine that will be published Friday. "The foreign minister is also responsible for the disengagement. She marketed it enthusiastically and explained the tranquility that would descend upon us once the settlements were uprooted.

V.A.T. revenues plunged 20% in December
Meirav Arlosoroff and Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
State revenues from V. A. T. on imports plunged 20% in December compared to last year, and are down 13% compared to November. Such a sharp drop in import activity in a single month is unprecedented, raising deep concerns about the direction the economy is taking. V. A. T. revenues fell from about NIS 2. 9 billion in December 2007 to some NIS 2. 3 billion in December of this year, spelling NIS 600 million less to state coffers. NIS 100 million alone is attributed to the decreased import of cars, but the remaining half a billion shekels does not appear to be a result of a particular problematic sector, nor of a technical explanation. Nor did the ports suffer labor disputes in December, which could have jeopardized the flow of imports. No important importer has made any major technical adjustments to the volume of activity in December, such as a rescheduling of shipments.

Meretz, Peace Now to campaign for cease-fire, but no protests yet
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Just five days into the war in Gaza, candidates of Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz will begin a new campaign on Wednesday calling for a cease-fire and opposing a ground incursion. Meretz’s campaign will be the first step against the war for the Zionist Left. Peace Now will start a similar campaign on Friday. While the non-Zionist Hadash Party protested outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Meretz and Peace Now say they are holding off against demonstrating for now. "We understand that this war is an inevitable struggle against Hamas," Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said. "There is no anger and fury at the government yet. There is just hope that the war ends before it gets too complicated and there is concern that it won’t, but that concern has not yet persuaded our people to go out and demonstrate.

Gillerman turns down offer of Jewish Agency chairmanship
Haviv Rettig Gur, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Former UN ambassador Danny Gillerman has turned down a request that he run for chairman of the Jewish Agency, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The position is expected to become vacant following February’s national election, as current Chairman Ze’ev Bielski is No. 15 on Kadima’s Knesset candidates list. According to a source who works closely with the Jewish Agency, Gillerman was the front-runner for the post, and was expected to easily gain the needed support of the different factions in the World Zionist Organization, required to be elected to the chairmanship, including representatives of Israeli political parties, the large religious movements overseas and American and international donor organizations. Gillerman confirmed on Monday he had been approached, but said he turned down the proposal.

Beirut earmarks $1 million to help Gazans, declares official day of mourning
Daily Star 12/31/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Cabinet said on Tuesday it would donate $1 million to help Palestinians affected by continuing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. "The Cabinet has decided to provide $1 million in immediate assistance to aid the injured and afflicted in Gaza," Information Minister Tarek Mitri told reporters after the ministers met at Baabda Palace for a session presided over by President Michel Sleiman. The government also announced that it will also launch a drive to raise funds for Gaza relief efforts. In addition, Wednesday was declared a day of national mourning, with flags at state institutions to be flown at half-mast. Mitri stressed the "necessity of lifting the blockade against Gaza and ensuring access of medical and humanitarian assistance to the wounded. "The news came as Israel bombed Gaza for a fourth day in a row.

War of words between Israel, Lebanon escalated in 2008
Daily Star 12/31/2008
Year in Review - BEIRUT: Despite the significant political and diplomatic strides taken by the Lebanese Republic over the past year, 2008 offered few signs of hope in the ongoing standoff between Lebanon, particularly the Shiite Hizbullah movement, and the state of Israel. Indeed, the year began on an ominous note with the assassination of fabled Hizbullah tactician and field commander Imad Mughniyeh. Listed as one of America’s most wanted for his alleged involvement in bombings and hijackings in the 1980s, Mughniyeh was killed by a car bomb on February 12 in an upscale residential neighborhood in Damascus. The assassination came a year and a half after the devastating 2006 summer war between Lebanon and Israel, which was widely seen as a significant blow to the image of invincibility often conferred on the Israel military.

Home Front Command allows Sderot plants to open
Shay Niv, Globes Online 12/30/2008
Manufacturers Association: Factories are so protected that many employees prefer to be at work rather than home. The IDF Home Front Command today changed its guidelines for factories in the south. The decision whether to open a factory will be based on its protection, not its distance from the Gaza Strip. The new guidelines mean that many factories in Sderot and the area surrounding the Gaza Strip can now open. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that the Home Front Command revised its guidelines last night, but could not get approval from the commanding officer. Home Front Command orders shut all factories, except for essential enterprises, in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip when Operation Cast Lead was launched on Saturday. The orders allowed enterprises farther from the Gaza Strip, in the areas of Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Netivot, and Ashdod to stay open provided they had protected spaces.

Israel 2009: 7.4 mil residents, 75.5% Jews
Ynet Published, YNetNews 12/30/2008
Central Bureau of Statistics reports 157,000 babies were born in Israel in 2008 opposite 38,000 deaths. Steady growth rate of 1. 8% maintained, with continuing decline in immigration trends -On the eve of 2009 the population of Israel is 7,373,000 people, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported. Out of the total Israeli population, 75. 5% were Jews, 20. 2% were Arabs, and 4. 3% were defined as "others". Data published on Tuesday showed that during 2008 the Israeli population grew by some 1. 8%. The annual Israeli growth rate of 1. 8% has remained steady since 2003. A total of 129,500 people were added to the Israeli population in 2008, with 92% of them being a result of natural reproduction. During 2008 some 157,000 babies were born and about 38,000 people died. The rest of the population growth was a result of immigration.

Israel’s population grew 1.8% in 2008
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 12/30/2008
The Central Bureau of Statistics reports that Israel’s population reached nearly 7. 4 million at the end of 2008. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports that the country’s population totals 7. 37 million at the end of 2008, of whom 75. 5% (5. 57 million) are Jewish, and 20. 2% (1. 49 million) are Arabs. Israel’s population grew by 1. 8% - 129,500 - during 2008. This growth rate figure has remained stable since 2003. During 2008 157,000 babies were born, while 38,000 people died. 92% of the population increase was due to natural growth with the remaining 8% coming from immigration. This latter figure is down from 12% last year due to a 25% decrease in immigration during 2008 when only 13,500 new immigrants arrived compared with 18,000 in 2007.

Iraqi shoe-thrower trial postponed
Al Jazeera 12/30/2008
Muntazer al-Zaidi hurled his footwear at Bush during his final visit to Iraq as US presidentIraq’s Central Criminal Court has delayed the trial of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. A court spokesman said on Tuesday the postponement was agreed following an appeal by the journalist’s lawyers. The spokesman said a new trial date would be set in due course, pending a higher court ruling on the charges against the journalist. Muntazer al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old reporter working for the Iraqi Al-Baghdadia television channel, gained international fame after hurling his footwear at Bush during his farewell visit to Iraq on December 14. Grave insult As well as throwing his shoes at the US leader - something that is considered to be a grave insult in the Arab world - al-Zaidi shouted: "It is the farewell kiss, you dog.

Gulf ministers agree on monetary union in 2009
Middle East Online 12/30/2008
MUSCAT - Oil-rich Gulf monarchies agreed on Tuesday on the final draft of an accord on a monetary union which they intend to launch next year, an official statement said. Five members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council have "adopted the monetary union accord, which includes the legal and organisational framework," said the statement issued at the end of the annual GCC leaders summit in Muscat. "It also adopted a system governing the monetary council," the statement said. The GCC groups Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which had previously announced it would not participate in the scheme. GCC finance ministers meeting on Tuesday during the summit had drafted the final version of the monetary union accord which is intended to be implemented next year, followed by the launch of a single currency, a GCC official said.

TASE’s main indexes plunge 50%-80% in 2008
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Investments in the main indexes of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in 2008 lost 50 percent to 80% of their value. "If 2007 was marked as one of our best years, 2008 was one of the worst years we have seen, due to the global financial crisis," TASE CEO Esther Levanon said at an end-of-year conference in Tel Aviv on Monday. "Despite Israel’s positive macroeconomic conditions, TASE investors were not spared the precipitous decline in share prices, similar to that experienced in Europe and US markets. "Public offerings have come to a near standstill except for offerings of financial instruments and private placements, while the market for government bonds has grown rapidly. " Only two new companies joined the TASE in 2008, compared with 62 public offerings in the previous year. Levanon said turnover on the TASE had fallen to NIS 2 billion a day this year, from NIS 2.

VC survey indicates widespread pessimism
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 12/30/2008
Three of four respondents expected at least 10% of VC-backed firms to close in 2009. The fourth quarter VC Indicator survey of venture capitalists by Deloitte Brightman Almagor Zohar shows widespread pessimism as 2009 approaches. 74% of respondents expect at least 10% of venture capital-backed companies to be shutdown in 2009. Not a single respondent believed that start-ups will post an increase in revenue. 44% believe we will see a major decrease in the revenue, and 46% believe we will see a slight decrease. Deloitte Israel High Tech Leader Asher Mechlovich said that the difficult year ahead will essentially leave mostly strong companies. "Tech companies are headed for rough times. The revenues forecasts for the next year are all for decrease, albeit at varying levels, with no increases in the foreseeable future.

New cars worth NIS 2b in rocket range
Dubi Ben-Gedalyahu, Globes Online 12/30/2008
Inventory of unsold cards built up as the economy slowed. A study by "Globes" found that inventory of new cars worth more than NIS 2 billion are within range of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza. Most of the cars are located at the Reem Park in the western Negev, where importers including Toyota Israel Ltd. and UMI Ltd. store cars before delivery. Vehicle industry sources estimate that nearly 15,000 cars are now parked at Reem because the economic slowdown has reduced car sales. The storage facility of Kia Motors and Daihatsu Ltd. , Telecar Ltd. , is even closer to the firing line, in Ashkelon. The facility has a 1,000-car capacity, and rockets have hit nearby. The importers are insured by insurance companies against inventory damage, but not damage caused by war. War-related damage is covered by the purchase tax.


Israeli shelling badly damages human rights offices
Press release, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Electronic Intifada 12/30/2008
      At about 1:50am Tuesday, 30 December 2008, Israeli F-16 fighter jets shelled a Palestinian police site in Gaza, which is 70 meters away from the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme’s (GCMHP) main building in Sheikh Ejleen on Gaza Beach. The shelling was part of the vicious military attacks that the Israeli army launched on Gaza starting 27 December 2008.
     This harsh shelling caused massive destruction in the GCMHP’s main building, where walls and four ceilings cracked completely and partially. Extreme damage done to the furniture, equipment, electrical and electronic devices as well as the files and documents that were in the four-floor building, which contains offices, training halls, the main library and financial and administrative departments.
     Luckily, the guard, who was in the premises, was not harmed. However, he was in a state of panic due to the strength of explosions.
     As a result, the tremendous destruction to the building and its contents and equipment will force GCMHP to suspend its operations for some time, due to the necessity for renovation, before it can resume its work.

Palestine’s Guernica: An Illustrated Look at Israel’s On-going Massacre in the Gaza Strip

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 12/30/2008
      "There is not enough space for bodies; they lay on the floors of the hospitals and morgues. There is not enough blood for the wounded, and they will soon be joining their countrymen in death."
     Aerial photo of the Gaza Strip. It is the most densely populated place on earth with 1.5 million people huddled into 360 km2, or 4,166 people per square kilometer. It is surrounded on all sides by a massive electric fence and watchtowers. Israel controls the air, land and water around the Strip, and every entry-point in.
     The median age in the Strip is 15.3, and 70% of the population are already refugees. 86% of the population is heavily dependant on foreign aid which has been denied them for over two years.
     A photo of Israel’s "˜Cast Lead’ operation in which 100 tons of bombs were dropped on the most densely populated space on the planet while the Gazans slept in their beds.

The true story behind this war is not the one Israel is telling

Johann Hari, The Independent 12/29/2008
      The world isn’t just watching the Israeli government commit a crime in Gaza; we are watching it self-harm. This morning, and tomorrow morning, and every morning until this punishment beating ends, the young people of the Gaza Strip are going to be more filled with hate, and more determined to fight back, with stones or suicide vests or rockets. Israeli leaders have convinced themselves that the harder you beat the Palestinians, the softer they will become. But when this is over, the rage against Israelis will have hardened, and the same old compromises will still be waiting by the roadside of history, untended and unmade.
     To understand how frightening it is to be a Gazan this morning, you need to have stood in that small slab of concrete by the Mediterranean and smelled the claustrophobia. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight but it is crammed with 1.5 million people who can never leave. They live out their lives on top of each other, jobless and hungry, in vast, sagging tower blocks. From the top floor, you can often see the borders of their world: the Mediterranean, and Israeli barbed wire. When bombs begin to fall – as they are doing now with more deadly force than at any time since 1967 – there is nowhere to hide.
     There will now be a war over the story of this war. The Israeli government says, "We withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and in return we got Hamas and Qassam rockets being rained on our cities. Sixteen civilians have been murdered. How many more are we supposed to sacrifice?" It is a plausible narrative, and there are shards of truth in it, but it is also filled with holes. If we want to understand the reality and really stop the rockets, we need to rewind a few years and view the run-up to this war dispassionately.

Eine Kleine Nacht Murder: How Israeli Leaders Kill for their People's Votes

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 12/29/2008
      In order to grasp the latest devastating murderous Israeli expedition in Gaza one must deeply comprehend the Israeli identity and its inherent hatred towards anyone who fails to be Jewish and a hatred against Arabs in particular. This hatred is imbued in the Israeli curriculum, it is preached by political leaders and implied by their acts, it is conveyed by cultural figures, even within the so-called ‘Israeli Left’.
     I grew up in Israel in the 1970’s people of my generation are nowadays the leaders of the Israeli army, politics, economy, academia and the arts. We were trained to believe that ‘a good Arab is a dead one’. A few weeks before I joined the IDF in the early 1980’s, General Rafael Eitan, the Chief of Staff at the time announced that the “Arabs were stoned cockroaches in a bottle”. He got away with it, he also got away with the murder of many thousands of Lebanese civilians in the 1st Lebanon war. In a word, Israelis manage to get away with murder.
     Luckily enough, and for reasons that are still far beyond my comprehension, at a certain stage I woke up out of that Hebraic lethal dream. At one point I left the Jewish state, I evaded the Jewish hate mongering, I had become an opponent of the Jewish state and any other form of Jewish politics. However, I am utterly convinced that it is my primary duty to inform every being that is willing to listen about that which are we up against.

Gaza and Israel: Interview with Amira Hass

Angel Ricardo Martinez, Palestine Chronicle 12/28/2008
      Hass: Gaza is a big prison, and it has been so for the last 18 years.
     This telephonic interview took place on December 12, when I spoke with Israeli journalist Mrs. Amira Hass from her house in Ramallah, the West Bank. Almost two weeks before, on December 1st, she was ordered to leave Gaza - where she had entered three weeks before on a boat - by Hamas. In this interview, we speak about the current state of Israeli journalism, the contradictions of Israeli society, life in the occupied territories, and the future of Palestinian politics.
     What motivated you to dedicate your life to this conflict and becoming the only Israeli journalist living in the territories?
     Let me correct you, I’m not the only Israeli journalist, I’m the only Israeli Jew journalist. But it’s not a decision, this conflict is our life. It’s not by choice, it’s there all the time. Also, before becoming a journalist I was very active in the Israeli left-wing and workers right advocacy groups. It has always been a part of my life.

The self delusion that plagues both sides in this bloody conflict

Robert Fisk, The Independent 12/31/2008
      During the second Palestinian "intifada", I was sitting in the offices of Hizbollah’s Al-Manar television station in Beirut, watching news footage of a militiaman’s funeral in Gaza. The television showed hordes of Hamas and PLO gunmen firing thousands of rounds of ammunition into the air to honour their latest "martyr"; and I noticed, just next to me, a Lebanese Hizbollah member -- who had taken part in many attacks against the Israelis in what had been Israel’s occupation zone in southern Lebanon -- shaking his head.
     What was he thinking, I asked? "Hamas try to stand up to the Israelis," he replied. "But..." And here he cast his eyes to the ceiling. "They waste bullets. They fire all these bullets into the sky. They should use them to shoot at Israelis."
     His point, of course, was that Hamas lacked discipline, the kind of iron, ruthless discipline and security that Hizbollah forged in Lebanon and which the Israeli army was at last forced to acknowledge in southern Lebanon in 2006. Guns are weapons, not playthings for funerals. And Gaza is not southern Lebanon. It would be as well for both sides in this latest bloodbath in Gaza to remember this. Hamas is not Hizbollah. Jerusalem is not Beirut. And Israeli soldiers cannot take revenge for their 2006 defeat in Lebanon by attacking Hamas in Gaza – not even to help Ms Livni in the Israeli elections.

Growing horror at the bloodletting in Gaza

Editorial, The Guardian 12/31/2008
      Israel’s continuing massive military strikes on Gaza are an outrage that the international community must not allow to continue (Reports, 30 December). Palestinian rocket attacks that traumatise the lives of communities in southern Israel are also utterly unacceptable. Both sides must cease fire. Israel’s actions are disproportionate and counterproductive to achieving either security for the people of Israel or peace in the Middle East. Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) have warned that "targeting of civilians and of medical facilities is a breach of international humanitarian law. The targets chosen by the Israeli military include also clearly civilian installations."
     Gaza is one of the poorest and most densely populated places on Earth. For the past two years, the blockade and previous Israeli strikes had already disrupted electricity supplies and access to clean water. Even before the current attack, Gaza’s health system was near collapse. Hospitals are short of medicines, blood and essential equipment. Only half of Gaza’s 58 ambulances are functioning.

Falling into the moral abyss

Titus North, Electronic Intifada 12/30/2008
      The gradual process of ethnic cleansing in the occupied Palestinian territories is accelerating, and with it so is the moral culpability of Israel and the supporters of its policies in the United States. More and more people from the mainstream of Israeli politics are voicing alarm. In the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg compared the situation in Israel today to Germany on the eve of Nazis coming to power. Writing for The Huffington Post, former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy likened Israel to a drunk and the US to a friend who gives them bottle of vodka and keys to his car. Even current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has ordered incessant attacks on Gaza since coming to power, has called recent attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank "pogroms."
     A state founded by Holocaust survivors should be a beacon of morality, not a black hole for it. Supporters of Israeli policy (and I distinguish between support for the Israeli people and support for its government’s policies) often justify their support by saying that Israel is the only democracy in the region. Leaving aside certain problematic aspects of that claim, I wonder if these people have ever thought of the implications of Israel, as a democracy, being engaged in continual violations of international law and human rights. Israelis, benefiting from a press that is far more open to the truth about government’s policies than the American media, know a great deal about what the leaders they elect are doing, yet they continue to elect them. Thus, the Israeli public has culpability for their government’s crimes that citizens under a dictatorship would not have.

Gaza, a History of Hardship and Struggle

Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Palestine Chronicle 12/30/2008
      ’Frightened refugees brought nothing other than the clothes they had on their backs.’
     The most wrenching event that Palestinians encountered was the 1948 disaster (nekba), but for the Gazans it was not the only or the last one. Gaza was a battle ground in World War I (WWI), occupied twice by Israel, started the first uprising (intifada), created Hamas movement and opted for armed resistance rather than engage in endless negotiations, declared enemy entity by Israel and the US and today the Gazans are being massacred by Israel and abandoned by the so called Arab states.
     Gaza was a peaceful and prosperous town, but since WWI, it has become a frontline in the struggle for control of the region. The British and the Turks fought three bloody battles in WWI before the British conquered Gaza and the neighboring villages; and in the process, Gaza, the biggest town in the area was decimated and the lives of the Gazans were shattered. Thousands of Gazan civilians died or injured and thousands were forced to leave. On a personal note, my grandfather, Hasan, a soldier in the Turkish cavalry brigade, was killed in these battles. Herbert Samuel, the first British High Commissioner wrote that Gaza town, which used to be the third largest town in Palestine and home for forty thousand before the war, became "comparable to the devastated areas in France and Belgium..And its population dwindled to something like one third of its original population". Palestine which had been unanimously referred to as Southern Syria came into being officially in 1919 and the League of Nations that was dominated by the victorious powers mandated Palestine to be governed by Britain.

How we like our leaders

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 12/30/2008
      This isn’t the time to speak of ethics, but of precise intelligence. Whoever gave the instructions to send 100 of our planes, piloted by the best of our boys, to bomb and strafe enemy targets in Gaza is familiar with the many schools adjacent to those targets - especially police stations. He also knew that at exactly 11:30 A.M. on Saturday, during the surprise assault on the enemy, all the children of the Strip would be in the streets - half just having finished the morning shift at school, the others en route to the afternoon shift.
     This is not the time to speak of proportional responses, not even of the polls that promise a greater share of Knesset seats to the mission’s architects. This is, however, the time to speak of the voters’ belief the operation will succeed, that the strikes are precise and the targets justified.
     Take, for example, Imad Aqel Mosque in Jabalya refugee camp, bombed and strafed shortly before midnight on Sunday. These are the names of the glorious military victory we achieved there - Jawaher, age 4; Dina, age 8; Sahar, age 12; Ikram, age 14; and Tahrir, age 17, all sisters of the Ba’lousha family, all killed in a "precise" strike on the mosque. Another three sisters, a 2-year-old brother and their parents were injured. Twenty-four neighbors were wounded and five homes and three stores destroyed. This part of the military victory did not open our television or radio news broadcasts yesterday morning, nor did they appear on many Israeli news Web sites.

Why bombing Ashkelon is the most tragic irony

Robert Fisk, The Independent 12/30/2008
      How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians, to delete the narrative of their tragedy, to avoid a grotesque irony about Gaza which -- in any other conflict -- journalists would be writing about in their first reports: that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza.
     That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it -- Askalaan in Arabic -- were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They -- or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don’t come from Gaza.
     But watching the news shows, you’d think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.

Deserted streets and fear as Israel demolishes Gaza

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 12/30/2008
      As Israel’s relentless bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip has entered its fourth day, the number of dead and injured has exceeded 2,000. Speaking via Skype, The Electronic Intifada correspondent Rami Almeghari described the situation near his home in al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip:
     I am in al-Maghazi refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip. This afternoon Israeli drones targeted a house in al-Maghazi with three missiles. Fortunately there were no casualties. But unfortunately there have been many casualties elsewhere in Gaza where they have targeted houses and mosques.
     I went out of the house to deal with some urgent matters today. But movement is really risky right now. Anyone who moves could be a potential target for the Israeli warplanes that are buzzing overhead all the time. You don’t know what the next target is. It is terrible, horrible for the population here.
     Most of the shops and businesses are closed. Only a few food stores are open. There is very little movement in the streets. There are very few cars, for example, the on the Salah al-Din road, a main thoroughfare running through the Gaza Strip. People are staying in their houses, their neighborhoods. What is going on is unprecedented since Israel occupied Gaza in 1967. There is a great deal of fear, worry, anxiety.

From the ashes of Gaza

Tariq Ali, The Guardian 12/30/2008
      The assault on Gaza planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely as Neve Gordon has rightly observed to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.
     Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet. The EU politicians, having observed the build-up, the siege, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza, the targeting of civilians etc (for all the gory detail, see Harvard scholar Sara Roy’s chilling essay in the London Review of Books were convinced that it was the rocket attacks that had "provoked" Israel but called on both sides to end the violence, with nil effect. The moth-eaten Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and Nato’s favourite Islamists in Ankara failed to register even a symbolic protest by recalling their ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UN security council to discuss the crisis.

Unmentioned Casualties of the Gaza Massacre

Abu Yussef, Palestine Monitor 12/30/2008
      Over the last three days the world has fixated upon the ever increasing body count in Gaza following the recent massacre. However, President Abbas, National reconciliation, the Annapolis Process, the Palestinian Non-Violence Movement and the Two-State Solution have all suffered near fatal, if not fatal wounds as a result.
     The Israeli sea and air bombardment of the Gaza Strip has done more than decimate the already suffering inhabitants of the world’s largest prison; it has led to a number of other important casualties that the press has failed to mention amidst the chaos and death of the last few days.
     1. The first casualty has been Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. His attempt to walk the thin line between American and Israeli dictates on the one hand, and the needs and wants of the Palestinians on the other, has gone up in flames.
     At best he now looks incompetent and weak; in the worst light some are already calling him a ‘spy’ or ‘traitor’. It is unclear now, how he will receive the legitimate support to extend his Presidential mandate in the coming weeks as he can no longer even claim to be able to deliver peace through negotiations in the near terms, nor represent the Palestinian people.

Bloodied in Gaza as the world silently watches

Laila El-Haddad writing from Durham, the United States, Electronic Intifada 12/30/2008
      "There is a complete blackout in Gaza now. The streets are as still as death."
     I am speaking to my father, Moussa el-Haddad, a retired physician who lives in Gaza City, on Skype, from Durham, North Carolina in the United States, where I have been since mid 2006 -- the month Gaza’s borders were hermetically sealed by Israel, and the blockade of the occupied territory further enforced.
     He is out on his balcony. It is 2am.
     "I can only see grey plumes of smoke slowly rising all over the city, everywhere I look," he says, as though they were some beautiful, comforting by-product of some hideous, malicious event.
     My father was out walking when the initial strikes began -- "I saw the missiles falling and prayed; the earth shook; the smoke rose; the ambulances screamed," he told me.
     My mother was in the Red Crescent Society clinic near the universities, where she works part-time as a pediatrician. Behind the clinic was one of the police centers that were leveled. She said she broke down at first, the sheer proximity of the attacks having shaken her from the inside out. After she got a hold of herself, they took to treating injured victims of the attack, before transferring them to al-Shifa hospital.

’My cousin is still under the rubble’

Mona El Farra, The Guardian 12/30/2008
      It is extremely difficult for me to be here in the UK watching events unfold in Gaza from this distance. With a broken heart I watch the news of this unprecedented and savage Israeli attack on my friends, family, and colleagues in Gaza. Their "military targets" are mixed with homes, schools, hospitals, and universities.
     I am distraught thinking about the fate of these injured people. I know the hospital situation in Gaza well through my health and humanitarian work. The siege has left them without 100 basic medications and important diagnostic and laboratory equipment is not working because spare parts aren’t available. The fluctuation of current from our irregular power supply has left some equipment beyond repair. In this period of crisis, Gazan hospitals are also lacking crucial medications and supplies for their operating rooms.
     I’ve watched the chaotic scenes inside Gazan hospitals as staff struggle to find space for all of the injured and dead. The unprecedented numbers of casualties come in from ambulances and cars in a near-constant stream. But emergency situations are nothing new in Gaza; it is the impact of the siege that has changed the odds. I know that we would be facing a different situation if the 18 months of siege hadn’t drained our supplies of medicines and food, making it difficult to treat and feed patients.