InI Logo
InI Needs Your Support!
Subscribe to InI’s Mailing List/Newsletter

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  
31 December, 2008

Israel defies peacemakers and prepares for invasion
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem and Anne Penketh, The Independent 1/1/2009
Israel has defied a formidable international consensus in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza by opting to continue its unprecedentedly fierce air attacks on Hamas targets and stepping up preparations for a possible ground offensive. As the security cabinet rejected an EU-backed French proposal for a 48-hour humanitarian halt to the bombing, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "We did not begin the Gaza operation in order to finish it with rocket fire continuing like it did before. Israel has restrained [itself] for years and given plenty of chances for a calm. "With Palestinian sourcesputting the total death toll in Gaza since the bombing began last Saturday at 390, with 1,600 wounded, Associated Press reported that a long column of tanks and armoured vehicles was visible along an access road to Gaza from Israel, while dozens of other tanks were parked in a field close to the border.

'If there is an Israeli invasion hospitals will collapse'
Electronic Intifada 12/31/2008
GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - In Gaza’s main hospital, the director’s office is under virtual siege, according to an IRIN journalist in Gaza. Relatives of the injured are desperate to get their kin transferred to Egypt for emergency treatment. There is a fear here that the already overstretched healthcare system will collapse if Israel mounts a ground offensive into the tiny coastal strip, home to 1. 5 million Palestinians. As of the night of 30 December the death toll from the Israeli offensive had reached 380, with 1,800 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said 30 children and nine women were among the dead and 250 children had been injured. Fifteen medical patients passed through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt for emergency care on that day, said WHO.

Russian intelligence: USA participating in Israeli war on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/31/2008
MOSCOW, (PIC)-- American aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea are assisting the Israeli occupation forces in the military campaign on Gaza Strip, a well informed source in the Russian intelligence said on Wednesday. The source explained that the American aircraft carriers were extending information and logistical support to the IOF air force in its savage raids on the Strip. The source, who requested anonymity, said that the White House had endorsed a proposal by senior staffers to offer a batch of advanced weaponry to the IOF on condition that the deal would not be disclosed at present due to the current sensitive conditions in the USA such as transfer of power and the economic crisis. The source also revealed that the American defense department, the Pentagon, had advised the IOF to surprise the Palestinian resistance in Gaza and launch an attack from Egyptian lands.

Obama’s Gaza silence condemned
Al Jazeera 12/31/2008
Despite growing pressure on Barack Obama to speak out on the crisis in Gaza, the US president-elect has remained silent on the issue. Obama, holidaying in Hawaii, has made no public remarks on Israel’s unrelenting military assault on the Palestinian territory, which has left more than 380 people there dead. The former Illinois senator spoke out after last month’s attacks in Mumbai and has made detailed statements on the US economic crisis. But some fear that the US president-elect’s reluctance to speak out on the Gaza raids could be sending its own message. "Silence sounds like complicity," Mark Perry, the Washington Director of the Conflicts Forum group, told Al Jazeera. "Obama has said that Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks but my question to him is ’does he believe that. . .

Hamas accuses senior Abbas ’spies’ of colluding with Israel
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/1/2009
Hamas has accused senior aides of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, of spying for Israel, underscoring an intensification of Palestinian infighting even in the face of Israel’s bombardments in the Gaza Strip. The charges are part of a wider Hamas media campaign depicting Fatah leaders as colluding with the Israeli military onslaught that has taken the lives of 390 Palestinians in Gaza. This includes allegations that the former Fatah strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, whose forces were defeated by Hamas in its June 2007 takeover of the Strip, met Israeli intelligence officials several weeks ago to discuss Israeli plans for a strike in Gaza. Mr Dahlan, according to an account on the Islamist movement’s website, urged Israel to deal a "painful blow" to Hamas. The charge of spying was made by a Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, also on the movement’s website and in remarks broadcast on al-Jazeera, the satellite television station based in Qatar.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator says Gazan civilians facing humanitarian catastrophe
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Maxwell Gaylard warned the international community Wednesday that if Israel’s attacks on Gaza do not stop immediately hundreds of thousands of civilians face a humanitarian catastrophe. “Conditions for parents and children in Gaza are dangerous and frightening,” said Gaylard’s statement. “We are in a life or death situation for many people today. It is absolutely crucial that there is an end to the fighting. Without it, more civilians will continue to be killed. ”“Without the violence stopping, it is extremely difficult to get food to people who need it, we cannot assess where the most urgent needs are, and it is too dangerous for civilians to leave their homes to seek urgent medical treatment, buy supplies and assist people in distress. ”Gaylard explained that if Israel does not open the Karni crossing, east of. . .

IDF gets green light to continue Operation Cast Lead
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The Israel Defense Forces yesterday recommended a major, but relatively short-term, ground offensive in the Gaza Strip as military preparations continued on the border. The army was given the green light to forge ahead with Operation Cast Lead, which enters its sixth day today. Detailed briefings have been underway for the past two days at Southern Command, with officers receiving their orders. The General Staff believes that more pressure must be put on Hamas to make it agree to a long-term cease-fire under conditions more favorable to Israel. The IDF said rocket fire on the south was expected to continue during a ground operation. The army recommends that a diplomatic exit plan be prepared while a cease-fire agreement is formulated. While defense officials tend to favor a clear agreement with Hamas, even if it is not enshrined in a written document, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is considering another idea.

For the fifth day Gaza still under attack, death toll 390
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that the death toll by Wednesday now stands at 390 as a result of repeated Israeli air raids on the coastal region. According to the Ministry of Health, at least 1,884 Palestinians have been injured by the relentless Israeli bombing. Among the injured 300 are in critical conditions. Local sources reported that the Israeli bombing continued on Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning. Targets included ambulance crews and civilian homes. The Ministry of Health said among those killed on Wednesday at dawn, were Dr. Iyhab Al-Madhom, and medic Mahmoud Abu Hassira. The Ministry said that the two were aiding injured people during the targeting of Gaza City, when an Israeli unmanned plane fired directly at them. Among the civilian targets that were shelled on Wednesday at dawn, was the oxygen refilling plant which is used by local hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

IDF bombs ’"terror" mosque’
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Gloves are off: Air Force razes Gaza Strip mosque used by Palestinian rocket cells targeting Israeli communities; several people reportedly hurt in strike. Army officials say rockets, explosives stored inside mosque - IDF razes "terror" mosque: The IDF confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Air Force jets bombed a mosque in western Gaza City. Medical sources in the Strip said that several people were hurt in the attack. IDF officials said that the mosque was used by "terrorists" as a storage site for missiles and explosive materials. The army said that Palestinian rocket cells were firing at Israel from the mosque area and from nearby sites. A short while after the Air Force attack, additional explosions could be heard in the mosque, apparently as result of arms blowing up. In recent days, the army had been closely monitoring the mosque. . .

Air force bombs mosque ’used for rocket attacks’
Yoav Stern Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The Israel Air Force continued its bombing of Gaza Strip targets yesterday, reporting it hit 25 terror-related targets including the offices of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a mosque in the city of Gaza where Hamas activists were hiding. Rockets had also been fired at Israel from the mosque. Palestinian militants fired about 70 rockets and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip at Israel yesterday, hitting Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon among other targets. Five Israelis were injured in the attacks. At least six Palestinians were killed yesterday in the Israeli attacks including a Palestinian doctor and medic. Until now, 395 Palestinians have been killed in Operation Cast Lead and 1,600 injured. The Philadelphi route along the Egyptian border was bombed again yesterday in a further attempt to destroy the tunnels used by Hamas for smuggling weapons into Gaza from Egypt.

’Eight civilians killed’ in surgical strike on truck
Peter Beaumont in London and Hazem Balousha in Gaza City, The Guardian 1/1/2009
Rights group calls for inquiry into alleged error - An Israeli human rights group said yesterday it was investigating claims that an apparent surgical strike on a Hamas missile truck in Gaza, which is being publicised by Israel’s armed forces on its website, is a case of mistaken targeting that has left eight civilians dead. Monochrome images of the attack have been repeatedly shown by media around the world after being released by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to demonstrate both the accuracy of their attacks and that Hamas was trying to move and hide rockets. The footage was also posted on the Israeli military’s YouTube site. However, the Israeli-Palestinian B’Tselem group in Gaza has testimony from the owner of the truck, as well as photographs taken at the scene, which. . .

Fifteen percent of Israel’s victims are children like Ismail Hamdan and his two sisters
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The most recent victim of Israeli airstrikes was 10-year-old Ismail Hamdan, who succumbed to his injuries after being hit by a missile while running an errand for his mother near their home in Beit Hanoun. Ismail was with his two sisters when the missile struck, they were both torn to pieces on impact Tuesday afternoon. The three were pulled out of a rubble pile by a passerby and transported to hospital via donkey-cart. The girls, 5-year-old Lama Hamdan, 12-year-old Haya Hamdan, were declared dead on arrival, but Ismail still had a faint heartbeat. Dr Ibrahim Abu Ghazala treated fractures in each of Ismail’s limbs, removed damaged portions of his liver and pancreas and feared that if the boy survived he would have massive brain damage. He died on the operating table. During a lull in the air and artillery strikes Wednesday afternoon Ismail’s mother sent. . .

Gaza hospital director: Israel lying
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Gaza doctors slam ’crazy’ Shin Bet charges that hospitals in Strip used as Hamas hideouts - Doctors at Gaza’s Shifa hospital say they are outraged by Israeli charges that the medical facility has been used as a Hamas hideout. The charges, made by Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin earlier in the day, were dismissed by doctors as "nonsense," "complete lies," "crazy," and "an attempt to score political points. " Diskin, who briefed the cabinet Wednesday, told ministers that Hamas sustained grave blows and that many of its members were hiding in hospitals, with some dressed as doctors and nurses. Shifa Hospital Director Khaled Hassan told Ynet that Diskin’s remarks were a political statement by a general who in the future expects to join the political establishment. "We are dealing with lies of a person who is trying to be Israel’s future leader," he said.

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society: Emergency appeal for Gaza
Palestinian Medical Relief Society - PMRS, Palestine Monitor 12/31/2008
Ramallah, 31. 12. 08 - The Palestinian Medical Relief Society issued today an emergency appeal regarding the collapse of the health and sanitation sectors in Gaza. Gaza’s humanitarian situation was already declared a "˜crisis’ by the international community after nearly two years of siege. The situation has now been exacerbated by the bombing. The heath sector in Gaza is currently in a state of collapse, with hospitals full to overflowing and medical teams cannot provide an adequate response to the growing needs. Sunday, the main medical supplies store in Gaza was bombarded. Severely injured patients cannot be taken abroad for treatment due to prolonged closures of border crossing. Hundreds of injured people are impossible to transport by land due to closures and the severity of their harms.

Israeli troops attack Bethlehem and Ramallah, kidnapping 22 Palestinian civilians
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
Palestinian security sources reported that the Israeli Army kidnapped 22 Palestinian civilians from the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and the Southern West Bank city of Bethlehem during pre-dawn attacks on Wednesday. In Ramallah, Israeli troops kidnapped four civilians during house-to-house-searches, targeting al-Jalazon refugee camp, located in the Northern part of the city. Meanwhile, another Israeli force attacked several parts of Bethlehem City and nearby al-Khader and Hussan villages, kidnapping 18 civilians, local sources reported. Among those kidnapped from Bethlehem by the army were Mohammed Sabaten, age 18, Issa Sallah,age 15, and Sami Sabaten, age 19. [end]

Israeli troops detain 22 Palestinians from the central West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli troops detained 22 Palestinians from the central regions of the West Bank on Tuesday night. Four were detained from the Al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah, 15 from Hussan village and three from Al-Khader village both in the Bethlehem governorate. The identities of those detained were not released. [end]

Israeli forces arrest five youths near Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested three Palestinian youths from the southern West Bank towns of Al-Khadr and Husan, near Bethlehem, on Wednesday morning, local sources said. Israeli forces raided the town at dawn and ransacked several homes before seizing 17-year-old Haytham Sayil Issa, 17-year-old Builal Ali Sbeih and 16-year-old Issa Fayiq Salah, residents said. In the Bethlehem-area village of Husan village, Israeli soldiers raided several houses overnight, seizing 23-year-old Sami Sabatein and 18-year-old Muhammad Sabatein, according to Palestinian Authority (PA) security sources. [end]

Israeli troops search homes near Jerusalem and kidnap one civilian
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli Army attacked and searched a number of homes in Selwan town near Jerusalem City on Wednesday at dawn, kidnapping one civilian. [end]

Palestine Today 311208
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 00s || 2. 74 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Wednesday December 31st 2008. For the fifth day Gaza under attack; Death toll reached 390, while in the West Bank the Israeli army kidnaps 22 Palestinian civilians. These stories and more coming up. Stay tuned. The News Cast The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that the death toll by Wednesday midday stands at 390 due to the Israeli attack on the coastal region. According to the Ministry, at least 1,884 Palestinians have been injured by the ongoing Israeli shelling. Among those injured are 300 in critical condition. Local sources reported that the Israeli shelling continued on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Civilians Suffer as Missiles Fly in Gaza and Israel
Richard Boudreaux and Ahmed Burai, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
Reporting from Ashkelon, Israel, and Jabaliya Refugee Camp, Gaza Strip -- Pierced by an Israeli missile, the mosque exploded at 1 in the morning, crushing the Balousha family’s flimsy metal roof next door. Anwar Balousha awoke on the floor, covered by rubble, and heard moans from the bedroom next to his. Neighbors crawled over a collapsed wall and pulled him, his wife and four of their nine children to safety. Five Balousha girls -- Tahir, 17; Ikram, 14; Samar, 12; Dina, 8; and Jawaher, 4 -- were dead, swelling the list of Palestinian civilians killed in three days of Israeli airstrikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. About 8 1/2 hours later and 10 miles away, air raid sirens wailed across the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, but Hani Mahdi, 27, reacted too late. A Grad missile fired from Gaza tore through a building site for the city’s new library, killing Mahdi and wounding 23 other construction workers.

War on Gaza diary: The frontline
Alan Fisher in southern Israel, Al Jazeera 12/31/2008
There’s been a build up of military forces. Just driving south, shadowing the Israeli Gaza boundary, men and machines are being brought into the area. Low loaders carry tanks and personnel carriers, which then churn their way on to the fields, their guns pointed towards Gaza. Men in uniform struggle through the clawing mud which would hinder any advance. Our attempts to film what is going on are quickly snuffed out by Israelis who constantly remind us we are in a closed military zone. This Israelis are showing that the possibility of a ground incursion is more than just talk. But there is the argument a ground attack would be a no-win war for the Israelis. It would be difficult. They run the risk of inflicting high civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, world opinion would be against it; if they started losing soldiers, Israeli public opinion could turn and, when they leave,

IOF raids kill paramedic, wounds others
Palestinian Information Center 12/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian paramedic was killed and a number of other citizens were wounded in fresh Israeli aerial raids on the Gaza Strip at dawn Wednesday that claimed the lives of almost 390 citizens and wounded 1800 others since Saturday. Dr. Muawiya Hasanein, the director of ambulance and emergency in the health ministry, told the PIC over the telephone that paramedic Mahmoud Abu Hasira was killed, another paramedic and doctor wounded when the IOF warplanes shelled an ambulance car carrying the international Red Cross flag while on its way to rescue wounded persons east of Gaza. He said that many other casualties were registered in various areas of the Strip, adding that the IOF warplanes shelled and destroyed nine ambulance cars and three vehicles for civil defense. Meanwhile, legal centers refuted IOF claims of bombing a truck loaded with missiles on Tuesday after investigating the incident which the IOF filmed and circulated.

Mezan Center: '315 Palestinians, including 41 children, killed and 939 wounded'
Mezan Center for Human Rights, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
Following is a report prepared and published by the , in Gaza, documenting the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip. The statistics published in the report are according to data collected by the center in the Gaza Strip. The report is pasted here exactly as it was published by the Mezan Center on Wednesday December 31, 2008. It is worth mentioning that the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip reported on Wednesday that the death toll now stands at 390 as a result of repeated Israeli air raids on the coastal region. The ministry also said that at least 1,884 Palestinians have been injured by the relentless Israeli bombing. 300 are in serious conditions. IOF Continues to Perpetrate War Crimes in Gaza; Targets an Ambulance Crew and Other Civilian Objects- Number of Palestinian Casualties Rises to 315 (41 Children) & the Injured 939 (85 Children) 12:30pm. . .

Authorities name 187 dead Palestinians, four slain Israelis
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Health Ministry on Wednesday released a list of 187 Palestinians killed in the first two days of Israeli airstrikes. According to Dr Omar Nasr, director of the Health Ministry’s Public Relations department, the death toll through Wednesday at midday had exceeded 395, and the ministry is trying to collect all the names of the slain and the wounded. The Health Ministry, Dr Omar Nasr added, will soon provide details of how many civilians were killed and injured in order to present documents to international humanitarian organizations when it files legal proceedings against Israel. On Tuesday, the United Nations announced that 51 innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed since the airstrikes began. On Wednesday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said that 31 of the dead were children.

Under fire, Gaza’s Al-Aqsa TV fights on
Middle East Online 12/31/2008
GAZA CITY - Ibrahim Zaim knows that any day could be his last. "I expect to become a martyr at any time," says Zaim, chief correspondent for Al-Aqsa TV, the flagship in the media arsenal of Gaza’s embattled rulers. The Hamas channel’s five-storey headquarters was reduced to rubble in an air strike on Sunday, the second day of Israel’s mammoth offensive that has killed at least 390 Palestinians. Staff evacuated the building shortly before it was hit and Al-Aqsa continued broadcasting from a mobile studio. "We can broadcast from anywhere because we have a mobile studio that cruises the streets," said programming director Mohammed al-Thuraya. "Our coverage in the field has not been affected. " But the broadcaster, which first took to the airwaves in 2006, lost much of its equipment, said Thuraya, who estimates the damage at four million dollars. . .

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.

Al-Quds, Al-Qassam and An-Nasser Brigades launch projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Brigades step-up projectile fire on fifth day of Israeli military operation. Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades announced that they launched 8 projectiles at Beersheva, Keryat Mlakhi, Ofakim, Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod. Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades claimed 8 projectiles that landed near Ashkelon and Sderot. The Popular Resistance Committees’ An-Nasser Brigades said they launched a projectile at Sderot. All factions said their resistance activity is a direct response to the continued Israeli violence against the people of Gaza. [end]

DFLP: Two projectiles fired toward Israeli city, military base
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed responsibility on Wednesday evening for firing two homemade projectiles toward the western Negev. The DFLP-affiliated National Resistance Brigades said in a statement that the group fired two projectiles at the southern town of Ashkelon and Israel’s Sufa military post, which is near Gaza. The Brigades said in a statement that they would continue to lob rockets toward Israeli towns “in retaliation for the Israeli holocaust in Gaza. ”[end]

Fatah affiliates fire five more projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah’s armed wing claimed responsibility on Wednesday for firing five more projectiles toward the Israeli town of Sderot and the military post of Zekeim, it said in a statement. The Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades said the projectile attacks were ongoing, and that fighters are working together in light of recent Israeli airstrikes. [end]

Defiant Hamas launches new rockets deeper into Israel
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/1/2009
Despite Israel’s intense five-day bombing campaign of Gaza, Palestinian militants have begun using longer-range rockets that now reach up to 25 miles inside Israel, hitting cities such as Ashdod and Be’er Sheva for the first time. Israeli military officials say the rockets are 122mm Grads, which they believe have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels under the Egyptian border in recent months. The rockets, which are up to three metres in length, can be disassembled and were almost certainly brought through the tunnels in parts, under the border town of Rafah. In the past, regular Grad rockets had reached up to 12 miles inside Israel, hitting cities such as Ashkelon. But now an enhanced, longer version with a slightly larger 22kg warhead has reached ranges of 25 miles. Rockets fired on Tuesday night and yesterday hit the city of Be’er Sheva, in the Negev desert, for the first time, although they remain inaccurate and are not fired from sophisticated launchers.

Rocket barrages hit Beersheba, Ashkelon; 5 lightly hurt
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Long-range rocket fire continues: Two projectiles fired at Negev city, land in school, open area. More rockets hit Ofakim and Ashkelon, where five residents were evacuated with shrapnel injuries. Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat also targeted - Two long-range rockets fired from northern Gaza landed in Beersheba Wednesday morning. No injuries or damage were reported, but eight people were treated for shock. Residents were instructed to remain in secure spaces. One rocket landed in a schoolhouse located in a residential area. The school was empty at the time of the attack. Severe damage was caused to the structure. The second rocket exploded in an open area in the northern part of the Negev city. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. The Home Front Command reported that the siren did not sound prior to the landing of the first rocket at around 8 am due to a technical glitch.

Beersheba under attack; ’special situation’ expanded
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Terrorists fire more rockets at Israel’s largest southern city Wednesday evening; meanwhile, Defense Minister Barak orders ’special situation on home front’ status to be expanded to 40-kilomter radius - Israel’s largest southern city under fire: Rocket alert sirens were activated in Beersheba Wednesday evening as terrorists from Gaza fired more rockets at the southern city. Residents reported hearing two explosions; there were no reports of injuries or damages. The siren was activated around 10 pm, prompting local residents to take cover. However, many locals complained that they did not hear the siren ahead of the explosions. The rockets are believed to have landed outside the city. Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered all communities in a 40km (25 miles) range of the Gaza Strip be placed under a "special situation in the home front" status.

IDF: Rocket that hit Beersheba school made in China
Yael Barnovsky, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Home Front Command’s deputy chief says rocket fired at Negev city can cause much greater damage than the Qassam; adds that all events with 100 or more guests will be cancelled due to attacks - "We are witnessing the expansion of the rocket fire emanating from Gaza to a radius of 30 - 40 kilometers (about 19 - 25 miles)," the deputy commander of the IDF’s Home Front Command said Wednesday. Brigadier-General Avraham Ben-David told reporters that in light of the rocket attacks on Beersheba, all planned events with over 100 participants will be cancelled, including New Year’s Eve parties. Referring to the rocket attack that severely damaged a Beersheba school earlier in the day, Ben-David said the IDF’s decision to cancel classes in all of the Negev city’s educational institutions "saved lives", adding that school will be out at least until the end of the week.

Negev’s largest cities targeted by Hamas
Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
The Negev’s large cities were targeted again by Palestinian rocket-firing crews Wednesday, as two Grads slammed into residential neighborhoods in Ashkelon, and one that hit Beersheba heavily damaged a classroom that was fortunately empty. In Ashkelon, air-raid sirens rang out to warn residents of both attacks, bringing cars to a stop and sending the few residents who had ventured outdoors scrambling for cover. The thud of a rocket landing could be heard shortly after each siren. One rocket landed at a busy intersection while a second slammed into a road. Four people were lightly wounded by shrapnel, police said. By Wednesday evening, well over 60 rockets had been fired at the South from Gaza. Police sappers managed to recover 21 projectiles. One rocket fell in Ashdod, three in Sderot, one in Kiryat Malachi, and 14 in the western Negev region.

Palestinian projectiles reach outskirts of Beersheva; 12 fired since dawn Wednesday
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Since sunrise on Wednesday 12 projectiles were launched from the Gaza Strip as Israel continues shelling the coastal area. One Ashkelon resident was taken to hospital after one of the projectiles landed near his home. Palestinian projectiles reached the outskirts of Beersheva Tuesday evening, damaging an empty building as factions continue to launch projectiles at Israeli towns and cities bordering Gaza. Israeli media reported that the projectile hit an empty kindergarten, and announced that at least 34 were treated for “shock. ”This is the first time Palestinian projectiles have reached the 35 kilometers from Gaza’s borders and the large Israeli city. Israel claimed that reaching the target has been a principal aim of Hamas for months. Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for firing the projectiles.

Armed groups step up projectile fire despite five days of attacks
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - "If you assassinate one leader, the body of fighters will continue to act against Israel," said the spokesperson for Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades on Wednesday. For five days Israel has waged a massive campaign to root out the factions responsible for firing homemade projectiles at towns near the Gaza-Israel border. Israeli warplanes, artillery tanks and warships have been bombarding de facto government buildings, workshops and the homes of known leaders, relentlessly. Since the start of the Israeli bombardment, however, armed factions have stepped up their projectile attacks. It appears that attacks are now coordinated between factions, meaning volleys of larger numbers of projectiles are being launched over the Gaza border wall. Factions have also started to launch Grad rockets, used first by Russian soldiers in the 1960s.

Diskin: Hamas dealt a ’serious blow’
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
Hamas has been attacked in a manner in which it has never been attacked before, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin told the security cabinet Wednesday, a week after the same forum approved Operation Cast Lead. According to Diskin, Hamas’s ability to govern has been seriously harmed, and the organization’s leaders are in hiding. He said that some are hiding in hospitals, disguised as doctors or nurses, while others are hiding in mosques. Diskin said that Hamas has turned some of Gaza’s mosques into command and control centers, assuming that Israel would not bomb them. He also said Hamas has stockpiled weapons in mosques. According to Diskin, the IAF has destroyed Hamas’s weapons-manufacturing capabilities, as well as numerous arms-smuggling tunnels. He said Hamas was trying to rebuild the tunnels to smuggle its leadership to Egypt.

Shin Bet: Hamas has been hit by IAF’s Gaza offensive like never before
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Shin Bet Security Services Director Yuval Diskin said Wednesday that the current Israel Air Force offensive on the Gaza Strip has caused unprecedented damage to Hamas’ infrastructure and personnel. Hamas "has been hit like it has never been hit before," Diskin told a meeting of cabinet officials in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The Cabinet meeting was attended by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and the head of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin. Diskin told the officials present at the meeting that the Islamic group’s ability to govern the Strip has been seriously damaged, and that senior Hamas officials are hiding out in Gaza’s hospitals, where they have "disguised themselves as doctors and nurses.

IDF: We’re ready for battle
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Military officials say IDF ready to face 15,000-men Hamas army; Israeli troops expected to face massive roadside bombs, Palestinian snipers. ’Anyone who thinks we’ll be conducting ourselves gently is wrong,’ senior officer tells Ynet - IDF prepares for major Gaza battle: Israeli forces are ready to embark on a ground assault in Gaza, a senior military officer told Ynet Wednesday, adding that "anyone who thinks we’ll be conducting ourselves gently is wrong. " "Hamas has indeed prepared for this, but so did we," the IDF official said. IDF officers say they are closely familiar with Hamas’ military buildup but add that troops are prepared for the mission ahead. Ever since the Second Lebanon War, the IDF has been engaged in intensive training sessions and preparations ahead of a possible clash in the Strip.

U.S. counterterror expert: Hamas has adopted Hezbollah-like tactics in Gaza
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Hamas rockets have struck the large southern cities of Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, home of Israel’s largest port, for the first time since the militant group broke its cease-fire with Israel on Dec. 19. A former U. S. intelligence official said Hamas is now using Iranian versions of the Katyusha and Grad rockets with a range of 18. 6 to 21. 7 miles (30 to 35 kilometers). The new rockets dramatically extend Hamas’ reach. Hamas had relied heavily on the shorter-range homemade Qassams that fly only up to 1. 8 miles (3 kilometers), the former official said. He spoke anonymously in order to discuss Israeli intelligence. The rockets do not have guidance systems so they are indiscriminate in targeting. But that makes them well suited for a barrage on a town or a dispersed battlefield of soldiers, particularly if fired in great numbers.

Israel launches one-ton seismic bombs at Rafah tunnels
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Israeli warplanes targeted Rafah tunnels for a third time Wednesday, launching new one ton seismic bombs are the area. The bombs, which had not been used before Wednesday, created holes at least 30 meters deep in the areas around the tunnels. [end]

IN PICTURES / Israel battles Hamas in Gaza: Day five
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008

School closure saves lives of pupils
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
Beersheba experienced its second day on the front lines Wednesday as Hamas stepped up Grad-type rocket attacks, striking an open area and a high school - the second educational institution in the city to be hit since rockets began falling there Tuesday night. Over 60 rockets from Gaza pound southern Israel A day earlier, a kindergarten was hit. Fortunately, both schools were closed due to the security situation, and no one was hurt. It had been unclear late Tuesday if children were to return to their classrooms on Wednesday in the south’s largest city. But a final decision came at 4 a. m. ,when Mayor Rubik Danilovitz met with officials from the Home Front Command and other security services.

Hamas rockets hit Beersheva
Globes Online 12/31/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak: A ground operation is probably inevitable. Hamas fired four Grad rockets at Beersheva last night, the first time that the city has been hit since the start of Operation Cast Lead. One rocket hit a kindergarten - fortunately empty at the time - in a residential neighborhood, and nine residents were treated for shock at Soroka Medical Center. Another rocket landed in open space. Beersheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich said, "There are no reported casualties. We ask Beersheva’s residents to say near their protected rooms. We’ve taken responsibility with the Home Front Command and we’re ready for all scenarios. " Danilovich added, "People who live in Israel know that this can happen anywhere. We’ve said that we won’t be complacent, and this city won’t fall into panic.

Wounded Gaza civilians treated in Israel
Judy Siegel-itzkovich, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
A seven-year-old Gaza boy who suffered a serious head wound in Israel’s retaliatory air strikes was rushed through the Erez Crossing and taken to Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva on Wednesday. The boy, whose transfer was facilitated by the Peres Peace Center, was in critical condition in the intensive care unit on Wednesday night. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which favors the transfer of Gaza civilians hurt in the bombings, said the Palestinian Authority is unwilling to pay for their medical care in Israel because Hamas is responsible. The PHR-Israel has urged the PA to facilitate such transfers immediately and argue later about who would finance the treatment to save their lives. Three wounded children had been transferred during the past two days via the Erez Crossing, with help from UNRWA.

Analysis: The weather favors Hamas
Amir Mizroch, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
According to the Israel Meteorological Institute there is still a possibility of very light rain in the Center and South on Thursday, and it will get significantly cooler. On Friday it will be fair and slightly warmer, but still cooler than normal for the season. On Saturday, it will be partly cloudy-to-clear with a rise in temperatures and a drop in humidity. But this is not a weather report - it is a crucial element in the diplomatic and operational calculations of the Israeli leadership for the next few days. The air campaign in Gaza has all but run its course, and now is the time to switch focus - either to a ground operation or a cease-fire. The hesitation we are seeing, choosing neither option, is reminiscent of the indecision displayed during the Second Lebanon War. The IDF has not followed up on its initial operation with any comparable, meaningful strike on Hamas.

Wednesday forecast
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Meteorological Department expects Wednesday’s weather to be cloudy with showers expected during the day. Temperatures will drop down below seasonal. Winds will be westerly to moderate while the sea is expected to be tranquil. On Thursday temperatures are expected to drop further. Skies will stay cloudy and showers are expected. Winds will be southwesterly to moderate. The sea will be tranquil. Frost will cover the streets overnight Wednesday and fog is expected to cover the mountain areas. Expected temperatures are as follows (°C):Jerusalem: 6 to 11/ Bethlehem: 5 to 10 /Ramallah: 5 to 10/ Tulkarem: 6 to 11 /Qalqiliya: 6 to 11/ Salfit: 6 to 11 /Nablus: 7 to 12/ Jenin: 5 to 18 /Tubas: 7 to 14/ Hebron: 4 to 10 /Jericho: 9 to 19/ Gaza City: 8 to 13 /Khan Younis: 8 to. . .

Despite poor weather, airstrikes continue; 398 killed, 2,000 injured
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Gaza’s Hospitals are the source of the latest dead as yesterday’s wounded head to overcrowded morgues and medical supplies dwindle. Medical sources put the number of dead at 398. Among those who succumbed to their wounds on Wednesday were:*Mahmoud Abu Nahl, who died in an Egyptian hospital*Ismail Hamdan, a 10-year-old boy who was hit with a missile Tuesday along with his two sisters*Paramedics Eyhab Al-Madhoun and Mahmoud Abu Hasira who were hit while rescuing civiliansFresh airstrikes bring more deadAfter a several-hour noontime lull Israel resumed airstrikes in the Gaza Strip Wednesday afternoon. The lull coaxed many families out of their homes to inspect damage, find family or replenish food reserves. By four o’clock however, Israeli strikes resumed and targeted a donkey-cart in Bani Suhayla Square in Khan Younis, killing two and injuring several others.

News in Brief - Home Front Command calls up Bedouin reserves
Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The Home Front Command is mobilizing hundreds of Bedouin reserve soldiers, using emergency orders, in the wake of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into the southern Negev, which has a large Bedouin population. Officials in the command believe that Bedouin communities can be better served by Bedouin reservists working with emergency services due to their language and cultural skills, and that they will be better received by locals than their Jewish colleagues. The Negev Bedouin communities are particularly vulnerable to rocket damage, as many of the residents live in tents and shacks, there are no reinforcements against rockets and the siren alarm system is flawed. (Amos Harel) The state is to respond today to a High Court of Justice proposal that would permit small groups of foreign journalists to enter the Gaza Strip, thus partially ending Israel’s November ban on reporters from abroad entering the area.

SS Dignity to be forensically analyzed to verify Israeli attacks in international waters
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Thousands of Lebanese supporters gathered to welcome the SS Dignity to the Tyre port on Tuesday, after the boat from the Free Gaza movement was damaged during a confrontation with Israeli navy ships that morning. According to the movement’s organizers the Lebanese government has pledged to provide a forensic analysis of what happened to the ship. Israel says the boat collided with a naval vessel after being warned to turn around, but the ship’s crew say they were deliberately attacked after identifying themselves as a humanitarian vessel. The boat was en route to Gaza where it was set to deliver three tons of medical supplies and three volunteer doctors to assist in the overburdened hospitals. According to the crew the ship was more than 140 kilometres offshore, in international waters, when they were attacked.

VIDEO - Free Gaza Movement: Dignity docks in Lebanon
Al-Jazeera English, International Solidarity Movement 12/31/2008
(Lebanon, Tuesday 30 December) Today the Free Gaza ship "Dignity" carefully made its way to safe harbor in Tyre, Lebanon’s southern-most port city after receiving serious structural damage when Israeli warships rammed its bow and the port side, Waiting to greet the passengers and crew were thousands of Lebanese who came out to show their solidarity with this attempt to deliver volunteer doctors and desperately needed medical supplies to war-ravaged Gaza. The Lebanese government has pledged to provide a forensic analysis of what happened in the dark morning, when Israel rammed the mercy ship in international waters, and put the people on board in danger of losing their lives. The Dignity was on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, and was attacked by. . .

Journal: Tuesday by the sea
Sharon in Gaza, International Solidarity Movement 12/31/2008
Last night was a hectic scramble to get to our Jabaliya house soon after dark; the further into the night, the greater the danger. On Sunday night, other commitments had delayed us, and then over the phone the family said any car on the road late would for sure be hit and they couldn’t bear any more loss, even new friends like us. So we arrived at about 6 yesterday evening, and F told us they hadn’t spent more than brief moments up from the basement that day, since heavy bombing had begun at 5am. The night was manageable; an Apache helicopter seemed perched above the house for a lot of it, but that meant it was firing rockets away from us. Nearer to morning we had some hours of it being the other way round and the explosions being pretty loud.

On the 4th Day of IOF Offensive on the Gaza Strip, the Number of Palestinians Killed Mount to 310, Mostly Civilians, Including 37 Children and 9 Women
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 12/30/2008
On the 4th Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued their offensive on the Gaza Strip for the fourth consecutive day. They have increasingly bombarded civilian facilities, mosques and houses, without paying attention to the lives and safety of Palestinian civilians. Israel claims that such civilian facilities, mosques and houses were related to Hamas, but investigations conducted by PCHR indicate that IOF have used excessive lethal force and that the majority of the facilities that have been targeted are public and private property located in densely populated areas, making Palestinian civilians pay a heavy price from their lives and property. All of the victims of recent attacks are civilians, and dozens of houses have been heavily damaged. Due to the current siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction or reparation. . .

9 Palestinian Children Killed Raising the Number of Children Killed Since the Beginning of the Current IOF Offensive against the Gaza Strip to 31
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 12/29/2008
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued to launch an open war against the Gaza Strip for the third consecutive day. IOF have continued to attack children, women and old people in disregard to their lives, humanitarian appeals and international humanitarian law and human rights law. PCHR’s investigations indicate that IOF have used excessive lethal force throughout the Gaza Strip, which is the most densely populated area in the world. They have launched dozens of heavy missiles from the air and the sea on houses, civilian facilities and mosques in densely populated areas. In a very horrible crime, last night and this morning, 22 Palestinian children were killed or wounded while they were sleeping at homes. Five sisters were killed in Jabalya refugee camp; 3 brothers were killed in Rafah refugee camp; and a 9th child was killed in Gaza City.

Bethlehem activist sentenced to three life terms, plus 25 years
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli military court on Wednesday sentenced an Al-Aqsa Brigades activist to three life terms in an Israeli prison, with an additional 25 years. The Offar military court had convicted 35-year-old Nasser Ibrahim Ubeijat of killing three Israeli soldiers and other clashes with occupying forces. Ubeijat was originally arrested in 2006 by Israeli forces in the Halhul area of Hebron. [end]

Ninety people arrested in East Jerusalem as Israeli police look to prevent protests of solidarity with Gaza through intimidation
International Solidarity Movement 12/31/2008
29th December 2008 - Occupied East Jerusalem - At 6pm on the 29th December, another demonstration of solidarity with Gaza people took place in Jerusalem. The demonstration to support the people in Gaza took place at 6 o’clock, starting at Damascus Gate and continuing into the old city of Jerusalem. Around 150 people joined the demonstration which was calm and non violent. People marched and chanted slogans of solidarity. The demonstration lasted for about one hour, watched by a very large number of border police who were surrounding the demonstration. After 30 min of demonstration, without any apparent reason Israeli Police prevented access through the gate and surrounded the protesters. One women wanted to leave the demonstration, but the police forcefully blocked her.

Israeli soldiers hurl tear gas canisters at Palestinian homes in Hebron 'for fun'
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers hurled tear gas canisters at a Palestinian house in Hebron on Wednesday evening near the illegal Israeli Kiryat Arba settlement in the southern West Bank. Several members of one family suffered from teargas inhalation, said Farid Ar-Razim, who lives in the home targeted by soldiers, told Ma’an over the phone from the scene of the attacks. According to Ar-Razim the soldiers threw the canisters at the home entirely unprovoked, most likely to "amuse themselves. "The vehicle from which the soldiers threw the canisters is permanently stationed near the fence between his house and the nearby Israeli settlement. [end]

Palestinian demonstrator dies of wounds from clash with Israeli forces
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an - A young man injured in clashes with Israeli forces in Na’lin died from his wounds Wednesday. Twenty-one-year-old Mohammed Said al-Khawaja was injured in protests that broke out following the first Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Saturday. The protest took place in the central West Bank city of Na’lin, the site of the weekly Friday demonstrations against the wall. When airstrikes broke out the day after the weekly protest, demonstrators gathered for a second day to condemn the Israeli violence. Medical sources in Ramallah Hospital confirmed the death. [end]

VIDEO - Ni’lin holds funeral for Arafat al Khawaja
International Solidarity Movement 12/31/2008
29th December 2008 - Funeral for the 22 year old resident of Ni’lin village killed by Israeli army while protesting against Israeli massacres in Gaza. After the Israeli attacks against Gaza strip, Ni’lin village has been continuously protesting in solidarity with the people in Gaza. Photos courtesy Activestills - During the demonstration on the 28th December, Israeli soldiers used live ammunition against the protesters, hitting three people from the village. 22 year old Arafat Khawaja, was killed after having been shot in the back. The two others were Mohammed Khawaja, 19, who was declared brain damaged yesterday afternoon after taking a bullet in the forehead and Mohamed Srour who was shot in the leg. At around 10am a procession of vehicles followed the ambulance carrying the body of Arafat from Ramallah hospital.

Protest Broken up in Jerusalem, Four Detained
Grace Walsh, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
A protest and vigil of approximately 35 people was swiftly broken up in Jerusalem and 4 Palestinians were detained according to sources. [end]

Vice President of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini visits Um Kamel and the Sheikh Jarah protest camp
International Solidarity Movement 12/31/2008
Jerusalem Region - Photos - 29th December 2008 - At around mid-day on the 29th December, in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, Luisa Morgantini, Vice-President of the European Parliament, led a delegation of fifty people to express solidarity with Um Kamel al-Kurd. She also expressed her deep concern about the situation in Gaza to the people that were in the tent when she arrived. From the protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah, a march in solidarity with the people in Gaza, with about 30 people participating, went towards the French consulate. The protest was aimed at the French president, who is this periods president of the European Union. The demonstration lasted for about one hour. After some time, a representative from the consulate came out to meet the protesters and invited one spokeperson from the demonstration, who then delivered the group’s message for. . .

Vice President of the European Parliament tells Hebronites to continue fighting for rights
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Hebron – Ma’an - Vice President of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini went to Hebron on Wednesday with a delegation of Europeans to show solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli attack. The delegation was received by Hebron mayor Khalid Al-Useili and other members of the city’s municipal council. The delegation was given an update on the situation in Hebron in light of the recent settler attacks against Palestinian homes following the eviction of right wing settlers from the Rajabi home. He called the actions in Hebron a “prelude to the bloodshed by an Israeli war machine which targets residential buildings, mosques, hospitals and schools paying no attention to international conventions and laws. ”Al-Useili asked members of the delegation to exert pressure on their home governments and on the European Union to stop Israeli aggression both in Hebron and in the Gaza Strip.

Bethlehem University to host prayer service for Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an/BU - The interim vice chancellor of Bethlehem University announced the institution’s sadness over the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday:The Bethlehem University community is deeply saddened over the events of the past several days in Gaza – and we are especially concerned for the hundreds of our graduates and their families who live there. On 28 December Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to the violence in the Holy Land and asked the international community to do everything possible to help the Israelis and Palestinians find a solution to the current conflict. The Pope stated that he is “profoundly saddened by the deaths, the wounded, the material damage, the suffering, and the tears of the peoples [who are] victim to this tragic recurrence of attacks and reprisals. ”The extraordinary and disproportionate amount of bombing carried. . .

'Peace process' blown to bits
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 12/31/2008
CAIRO (IPS) - Formally, the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" appears set to continue, in line with the last United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution. But the chances of finding a resolution are virtually nil in light of Israel’s new campaign against the Gaza Strip. "Even before Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza, the so-called peace process was dead," Magdi Hussein, secretary-general of Egypt’s Islamist-leaning Labor Party (officially frozen since 2000), told IPS. On Saturday, 27 December, Israel began a series of punishing air strikes throughout the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, whose interior is controlled by Hamas. According to Israeli officials, the campaign comes in retaliation for rockets fired at Israel by Palestinian resistance factions. On Monday, 29 December, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Ahmed Qureia announced the suspension of negotiations with Israel.

President Abbas to ensure ceasefire, Israel continues warfare on Gaza
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
Palestinian president , Mahmoud Abbas is slated to head for New York shortly in order to press for a U. N biding resolution that ensures an Israeli ceasefire against Gaza. According to the WAFA News Agency , Abbas decided to go after he was advised by the Secretary General of the Arab States league , Amr Mousa, on the ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. On the ground , Israeli cabinet decided Wednesday to keep up Israeli military attacks on the coastal territory, as foreign minister, Tsibi Livni is set to pay a shuttle visit to Paris, where she is supposed with Frecnh officials on an update of the current situation. Israeli military officials ordered the deployment of 2500 Israeli reserve soldiers around the Gaza Strip, apparently in preparation of a ground offensive on the besieged Gaza. Israeli aerial raids on Gaza entered their fifth day today with an increased. . .

Abbas to ask UN Security Council for ceasefire resolution
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United Nations Security Council to release a ceasefire resolution for the Gaza Strip, according to official Palestinian news agency Wafa. Abbas reportedly made the decision after being called to do so by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa. For its part, the Israeli cabinet decided to extend military operations in the Gaza Strip rather than agreeing to a ceasefire. The decision apparently followed a long internal debate. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will meet with French President Nicholas Sarkozy before returning late on Wednesday evening. [end]

American protests stop traffic in San Francisco
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
San Francisco – Ma’an Report – From California, Ma’an United States correspondent Abu Samra describes chaos surrounding a massive demonstration outside Israel’s San Francisco consulate on Tuesday:A protest started in front of the Israeli Consulate on Tuesday evening with a few hundred protestors, but it eventually grew into over three thousand people demonstrating on the streets for several hours. Most of the protestors were Arab Americans joined by many Americans from many different origins. I should also mention a large number of Jews who are anti-Zionism, anti-Israeli terrorism, and pro-human rights, pro-Palestine. They were there too. Load chanting, lots of screaming, flags waving, drums playing, all to protest against the cruel Israeli attacks in Gaza, to stop the massacres, to save the children, and to show the Americans what their media is hiding from the; all those. . .

Progressive Jewish Groups See Test in Crisis
Spencer Ackerman, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
As the Israeli bombardment of Gaza enters its fourth day, there is no shortage of tests. The wisdom of Israeli strategy is being tested. The resilience of the Palestinian people is being tested. The ability of the U. S. and the international community to impose a ceasefire is being tested. And the might of the new progressive American Jewish infrastructure that emerged in 2008 — unapologetically pro-peace and pro-Israel — is undergoing its own test as well: How to effectively argue that an Israeli war is counterproductive to Israel’s long-term security while the bombs are falling. “Absolutely,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, a new liberal Jewish lobby group. “This is a real testing moment for those of us who honestly believe you can be supportive of Israel but questioning of steps its government takes.

MIDEAST: Jewish Organisations Call For End to Gaza Bombings
Ali Gharib, Inter Press Service 1/1/2009
WASHINGTON, Dec 30(IPS) - With a fresh outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine, a battle of a different sort is being waged in Washington between various interests in Mid- East policy circles. As Israeli air strikes continue to pummel the Gaza Strip for a fourth day and crude home-made rockets launched by Palestinian militants land in Israeli towns near the densely populated and besieged Strip, Jewish groups in the U. S. are taking two distinctly differing tacks at addressing the latest Middle East bloodshed. Some of what are traditionally thought of as pro-Israel groups are undertaking a major public relations campaign to support the bombing runs against Hamas that have claimed more than 370 Palestinian lives -- largely parroting the Israeli government that the attacks are a justified defence of Israelis.

White House: Hamas must cease rocket fire as first step to truce
The Associated Press and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
President George W. Bush believes the militant group Hamas needs to stop firing rockets at Israel as a first step to a cease-fire, the White House said on Wednesday, following the outgoing leader’s talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "President Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets and that is what will be the first steps in a ceasefire," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Texas where Bush was on holiday. "We want to see a cease-fire that’s durable and lasting and the most important thing is that Hamas respect it. They had a cease-fire until about Dec. 19. . . but then they failed to renew the cease-fire and substantially increase the level that forced the Israelis to live in bomb shelters," Johnroe said. "The onus is on Hamas. "He added that officials are seeing a good flow of medical and food supplies into Gaza, addressing a concern that Bush raised earlier.

White House backs Israel, says ’onus is on Hamas’
Yitzhak Benhorin and AP, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Bush backs Israel’s demand for halt to rocket attacks as pre-condition to ceasefire - American support for Israel: United States President George W. Bush spoke with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday evening and offered words of support for Israel’s operation in Gaza. During the conversation, Bush backed Israel’s demand that a ceasefire with Hamas take effect only after the rocket fire at Israeli communities end. However, the US president asked Olmert to make an effort to end violent clashes in the Strip. Earlier Wednesday, the National Security Cabinet decided to continue the Gaza operation. The White House spokesman said that Bush spoke with Olmert from his Texas ranch, adding that there is no point in a ceasefire that will not last. The two leaders "discussed their mutual desire" for peace, presidential spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.

US students spending winter break volunteering in Negev
Jessica Freiman, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
Instead of spending their winter vacation with their families, 120 American college students have come to volunteer in the Negev - despite the proximity to the war in Gaza. The students, participating in the Jewish National Fund’s weeklong Alternative Winter Break, had to raise a minimum of $950 each toward construction of a JNF protected indoor playground in Sderot, set to open later in 2009. "Even though there’s a war, I wanted to show my support and that I wasn’t going to be afraid to go to the place that I love," said Jesse Golodner, 23, from Philadelphia. He studies at the University of Central Florida, and arrived in Israel on Tuesday night. Golodner and his fellow students spent the day painting inside a community center in Arad, and were personally greeted by Mayor Gideon Bar-Lev. "Everyone else was more scared for me than I was," said Jennifer Schwarz,. . .

Bush wants truce Hamas will respect
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
US President George W. Bush on Wednesday discussed with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ways to "end the violence" in Gaza, the White House said. "They both discussed their mutual desire" for peace, presidential spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters. He said the president consulted by phone early Wednesday with the Israeli leader from Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. The call came amid news that Israel decided against a two-day unilateral cease-fire, a proposal pushed especially by France. Bush voiced concern about the strikes in Gaza and the attacks in Israel and also raised again his concern about civilian casualties in Gaza. Johndroe said that Olmert gave Bush assurances that Israel was focusing its attack on the Hamas leadership governing the Gaza Strip and that it is trying to limit civilian casualties.

Israel rebuffs Gaza ceasefire calls
Al Jazeera 1/1/2009
Israel has rejected calls for a temporary halt to its attacks on the Gaza Strip, as the Palestinian president threatened to abandon peace talks in response to Israel’s deadly "aggression" against Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas told the Palestinians in a television address on Wednesday that Israel’s bombardment was "barbaric and criminal aggression". "The most important obligation is to rally the forces, nationally and regionally, to end the barbaric and criminal Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip," he said. At least 393 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, have been killed and about 1,600 injured as Israeli warplanes and helicopter gunships have dropped hundreds of bombs and missiles on the densely populated strip over the past five days.

Israel rejects Gaza ceasefire
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/31/2008
Israel today rejected calls for a ceasefire and said it would continue its attack on Gaza. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told a meeting of the security cabinet that Israel would continue military operations until all its goals had been achieved, news agency reports and the Ha’aretz newspaper website said. The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, today added to the pressure for an urgent ceasefire amid what he called a "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza. He said it was "vital that moderation must now prevail". The Israeli security cabinet met to discuss military options, including a ground invasion of Gaza or continuation of the current strategy of air strikes. It rejected a European Union proposal for a 48-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. If conditions will ripen and we think there will be a diplomatic solution that will ensure a better security reality in the south, we will consider it.

Haniyeh: If IDF stops aggression, we’ll talk about all issues
Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
Only if Israel stops its aggression unconditionally, lifts the blockade and opens the Gaza crossings will Hamas agree to "talk about all issues - and seriously," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday night, at the end of the fifth day of the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead. In a televised address, the Hamas prime minister added that only after these conditions have been met, will an internal Palestinian dialogue be launched. Haniyeh turned to Palestinians in Gaza. "The situation in Gaza before the war will be different from after the war," he assured them. "This is a war that divides two eras and, with God’s help, victory will be ours, because these people stand firm, the resistance stands firm and because the occupation will fail to achieve anything. "Our blessings are with all those who have fallen in battle, all the casualties and all the operatives on the ground," he said.

Hamas ready for Gaza truce, but Israel not
Middle East Online 12/31/2008
MOSCOW - Hamas is ready to halt its attacks on Israel if the Jewish state lifts its blockade of Gaza, Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday. In a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, "voiced readiness to cease armed confrontation but on condition of the lifting of the blockade of Gaza," the ministry said. Hamas said on Wednesday it had not received any truce proposals but was ready to consider any that are made that would end the Israeli offensive on its Gaza stronghold and its blockade of the enclave. "No truce initiative has been sent to us," senior Hamas official Ayman Taha said. "If such a proposition is made to us, we will examine it as we are favourable to any initiative that will put an end to the aggression and totally lift the blockade," he said.

VIDEO -Cabinet: Gaza op will not end under fire
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/31/2008
(Video) National Security Cabinet orders Gaza offensive continue unless rocket fire on south, western Negev stops - srael News VIDEO - Day five of Operation Cast Lead saw the National Security Cabinet decide to forge on with the Gaza offensive. "Israel did not launch the Gaza offensive only to end it while rockets are still fired at us," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Can you imagine ending the operation unilaterally after a few days only to have a rocket barrage hit Ashkelon? Israel has been restraining itself for years. We gave the ceasefire a fair chance and we did it knowing there would be a price; we did it so the residents of the south could have some sort of a normal life, free of Color Red alerts every few minutes. We were willing to give it a try but Hamas kept violating the truce. "

Cabinet rejects 48-hr truce proposal
Herb Keinon And Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday in Paris to discuss diplomatic options to end the operation in the Gaza Strip, as Israel decided to keep the pressure on Hamas while starting to work on the diplomatic track. There is no contradiction between Livni’s going to Paris to talk about how to end the military action, even as the security cabinet decided Wednesday that the operation would continue, one senior diplomatic official said. "The operation will continue, but that doesn’t mean we are not talking about the day after or the conditions for ending it," the official said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the end of a five-hour security cabinet discussion that Israel did not launch the comprehensivemilitary operation only to have it end with missiles still falling on the south.

Hanneya gov’t: IOF committing genocide in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government of premier Ismail Haneyya has described the Israeli occupation forces’ savage bombardment of the Gaza Strip as a war of genocide. Dr. Mohammed Awad, the cabinet’s secretary general, said in a press release on Wednesday that the IOF military campaign was "state terrorism" that aims at destroying everything in a bid to subdue the population of Gaza and force them to bow to occupation’s dictates. The Palestinian government would continue in its responsibility in serving the citizens regardless of the "sinful Israeli war", he said, stressing that the goals of the Israeli military campaign would not be fulfilled and Gaza would remain steadfast in face of "Israeli terrorism". Meanwhile, IOF air strikes on Wednesday killed two doctors in Gaza city and two citizens in Khan Younis district among other casualties other than the destruction of numerous houses and vehicles that included ambulance cars.

Hamas PM: Crazy war must end unconditionally
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/31/2008
For first time since start of Gaza Strip operation, Ismail Haniyeh delivers pre-recorded televised address, presents group’s conditions for ceasefire; ’victory shall be ours with Allah’s help,’ Hamas leader says - Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh presented Hamas’ conditions for a ceasefire Wednesday evening, in his first televised address since the start of Israel’s Gaza operation. The Hamas leader extended his well wishes to Palestinian casualties and to "all the teams operating on the ground," adding that the Palestinians were closely monitoring global public opinion, and particularly Arab public opinion. Haniyeh said he was satisfied with the response to the Israeli campaign. "We feel that Israel faces the free Arab and Muslim world, which shall never accept this crazy war against a nation without weapons, in such small area, yet showing rare endurance," he said. "Gaza is not the only one facing the aggression"¦this storm within the Arab nation proved that the Strip is not alone. "

Israel Warns Attack on Gaza Has Just Begun
James Hider and Nico Hines, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
Israel warned today that the aerial attack on Gaza, which has now entered its fourth brutal day, is only “the first of several” military stages intended to wipe out Hamas. As the army said it was ready to launch a ground incursion and tanks and infantry forces massed on the border, Israeli officials claimed the military “has made preparations for long weeks of action”. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, upped the stakes further today when he said he had informed Shimon Peres, the country’s ceremonial president, that the current aerial phase of the operation was the “the first of several stages approved by the security cabinet”. Hamas continued to fire rockets back at the Jewish state as Israeli forces carried out a fourth day of attacks on the Gaza Strip, broadening the offensive to include naval as well as aerial bombardments.

Israel rejects ceasefire move as divisions emerge in leadership
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/31/2008
Israel rejected any temporary halt to its five-day bombing campaign in Gaza ­today and continued to hit targets in the Palestinian territory amid the first signs of disagreement over strategy among Israel’s leaders. Israeli troops and tank crews gathered in larger numbers on the Gazan border ready for a new stage in the fighting. A ­possible invasion by Israeli forces could range from limited ground incursions to a much larger land invasion of Gaza, home to 1. 5 million Palestinians. Another call-up of reservists has been approved, bringing the total to 9,000. Israel extended its buffer zone under military authority around Gaza to a radius of 25 miles after the reach of Hamas ­rockets to the town of Be’er Sheva. In the first indication of a division over the course of the engagement since the conflict began on Saturday, the prime ­minister, Ehud Olmert, personally championed a continuation

Haniyeh: Palestinian victory in Gaza is near
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday that Israeli attacks on Gaza had to stop before any truce proposals could be considered. "First, the Zionist aggression must end without any conditions. . . Second the siege must be lifted and all the crossings must be opened because the siege is the source of all of Gaza’s problems," he said in a televised speech to Palestinians. "After that it will be possible to talk on all issues without any exception," Haniyeh said, referring to recent truce proposals raised by all parties, including Israel. Haniyeh was speaking from an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip, home to 1. 5 million Palestinians, which has suffered the deadliest Israeli attacks in the past four decades in which at least 394 Palestinians have been killed.

Israel decides to push on with Gaza op until ’all goals reached’
Barak Ravid Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, and Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Israel decided on Wednesday to continue its offensive on the Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, according to the original plan of the defense establishment. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told cabinet ministers, who reached their decision following a presentation by defense officials, that Israel would not conclude its operation until all of its goals had been reached. ]"We did not begin the Gaza operation in order to finish it with rocket fire continuing like it did before," Olmert said. "Israel has restrained for years and given plenty of chances for a calm. ""We knew what the price would be to enable people living in the Negev to recuperate and to live for some time without concern," the prime minister added. "But Hamas breached the calm. " Israel earlier Wednesday rejected a French proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire. . .

ANALYSIS / Rivalry among Israel’s leaders at root of row on Gaza cease-fire
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Four days after the launch of "Operation Cast Lead" in the Gaza Strip, the first signs of a rift among the Israeli leadership over the campaign’s management began to emerge. Even though the IDF operation has thus far been considered a relative success (and the ministers who approved it have benefited from an improvement in their political standing as a result), a dispute has erupted among the country’s senior political echelon over the question of when to begin the process of winding down the operation. The disagreement is rooted in the antipathy that has taken hold among the major players on the Israeli side as well as the tense jockeying for votes. In addition, there remains much confusion in the decision-making process that is similar to that which was cited by the Winograd committee report which investigated the lapses during the Second Lebanon War.

Olmert sets terms for cease-fire: International body to enforce future deal
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is interested in the establishment of an international supervision and enforcement mechanism for any cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Olmert has made that a precondition of any deal and emphasized it in talks with U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other world leades. "Israel cannot agree that the only party responsible for implementing and regulating the cease-fire be Hamas," a senior Israeli diplomatic source said yesterday. According to the source, lack of an external supervisory body was the central reason for the collapse of the calm earlier this month. "The situation in which Hamas didn’t have to account for implementing the cease-fire did not prove viable," the source said. Olmert clarified in yesterday’s cabinet meeting that Israel will not end the Gaza operation until it achieves its goals.

MIDEAST: Israel Looking to Silence Hamas Forever
Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 1/1/2009
JERUSALEM, Dec 31 (IPS) - This is the most senseless of all the wars that Palestinians and Israelis have fought, says Israeli President Shimon Peres. The futility, he suggests, stems from the Hamas insistence, ever since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, on continuing to shell Israeli towns and villages. "Their shooting has no point and no logic. Nobody understands what are Hamas’s goals," said Peres, speaking alongside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who was briefing the President on the state of the war Tuesday evening. "The Gaza offensive will not end until our goals are reached," said Olmert in response to reports that Israeli defence officials were considering a 48-hour truce in the devastating air attacks prior to possibly launching a major ground operation. So, what are Israel’s goals? There seems to be national consensus -- at least among Israeli Jews -- on the. . .

Livni: We will not allow thugs to rule the Middle East
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, on a tour of rocket-battered Be’er Sheva Wednesday, said Israel will not allow Hamas "thugs" to rule in the Middle East. "We have made a change in the equation, gone are the days in which Hamas fired at us and we kept quiet," Livni said. "They erred in thinking that when Israel restrained itself, it would not respond. " Livni said Israel cares about its citizens while at the same time Hamas does not care about its own. "They use women and children in order to defend terrorists. We will not allow these thugs to rule in the Middle East," she said. Earlier, President Shimon Peres visited Ashkelon as Qassam rockets pounded the southern city, and vowed that "the IDF is ready for any scenario. " During his tour, Peres met with Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin and officers from the Home Front Command, and was given an assessment of the security situation in the city.

Israel rejects Gaza truce call
Reuters, The Independent 12/31/2008
Israel today said the time was not right for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and stepped up preparations for a possible ground offensive after Hamas’s long-range rockets hit another major population centre. "If conditions will ripen and we think there will be a diplomatic solution that will ensure a better security reality in the south, we will consider it. But at the moment, it’s not there," an aide quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying. "We didn’t start this operation just to end it with rocket fire continuing as it did before it began," Olmert said, according to the aide. "Imagine if we declare a unilateral ceasefire and a few days later rockets fall on (the town of) Ashkelon. What will that do to Israel’s deterrence? " Foreign pressure has grown on both sides to end hostilities. France had proposed a 48-hour truce that would allow in more humanitarian aid for Gaza’s 1.

Israel ordered to let international media into Gaza
Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/31/2008
Israel’s supreme court today ordered the government to allow the international media into Gaza to report on the effect of the air strikes on Palestinians. Over the past two months, foreign journalists and representatives have increasingly been restricted from entering Gaza. Israel has closed the border completely since it began bombing the besieged Palestinian territory on Saturday. However, the supreme court told the government it must allow up to 12 journalists to enter whenever it opens the Erez crossing, a passenger gateway, for humanitarian reasons. The Foreign Press Association (FPA), which represents foreign journalists and began a legal battle to open the crossing to the media last month, said it had been "left with no other choice" than to accept what is a limited victory. " The state’s prohibition on journalists violates two fundamental rights – the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press," the FPA’s lawyer, Gilead Sher, said.

Israel ordered to allow journalists into Gaza
Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem, The Independent 12/31/2008
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled today that the Israeli government must allow journalists entry into Gaza to cover the ongoing conflict. The decision came in response to a petition by the Foreign Press Association which has been campaigning for access to the besieged Palestinian enclave since a media ban was imposed more than two months ago. The legal battle highlights the propaganda war being waged behind the bombs and rockets of the latest conflict. Israel cites as one of the main reasons for blocking foreign journalists from Gaza its belief that the reporting has been unfair and one-sided. This is hardly the first time that the Israeli government has complained about perceived bias in the foreign media, but this time it is also putting unprecedented resources into getting its message across. There is a consensus among many Israeli officials that the last war. . .

Protests abound at T.A. and Haifa Universities; Be’er Sheva students flee Gaza rockets in droves
Yanir Yagna and Fadi Edayat, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
While university students around the country staged demonstrations on Wednesday in protest of the Israel Defense Forces military campaign in the Gaza Strip, students in areas that are subject to an onslaught of Hamas rockets, including Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva and Sapir College in Sderot, are fleeing in droves. Large crowds of students boarded trains at the Be’er Sheva railroad station to catch the shuttle to the center of the country. Both BGU and Sapir announced that classes were suspended indefinitely due to the continued rocket fire. The city’s train station was overflowing with passengers shouldering one another in the rush to find a spot on the next train. "My parents are calling every day," Roi, a student from Ra’anana, said. "We’re not used to this situation in Be’er Sheva, where there is rocket fire on the city and we are slightly afraid and so we go home.

MIDEAST: Media Banned From Gaza as Humanitarian Crisis Escalates
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 1/1/2009
RAMALLAH, Dec 31 (IPS) - Israel is again preventing journalists from entering Gaza to report first-hand on the escalating crisis there as its military operation, codenamed Operation Cast Lead, enters its fifth day. Israel imposed an unprecedented news blackout in November and banned foreign journalists from the Gaza Strip for an entire month. This followed an Israeli cross-border military incursion into the coastal territory which broke the fragile ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and set off the current cycle of violence. The media ban was eventually lifted after the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court, and editors from a number of foreign media outlets sent a letter of protest to the Israeli government.

Rabbis probed for alleged incitement
Aviad Glickman Published, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Attorney General’s office launches several investigations against prominent religious figures following several media reports suggesting rabbi decreed that Jews were no longer allowed to hire Arab laborers - Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan instructed the police to launch an investigation against several prominent rabbis in the Orthodox community on suspicion of incitement. Tuesday’s decision followed petition filed by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) back in March. The IRAC filed its petition following several media reports suggesting Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky decreed that Jews were no longer allowed to hire Arab laborers. The rabbi issued the alleged ordinance following the deadly attack on Mercaz Harav rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem. Also implicated in the case is Haim Barzilai, Rabbi Kanievsky’s operations officers, who reportedly. . .

Arab leaders: Police threatening us
Sharon Roffe-Ofir Published, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Arab-Israeli leaders say police using scare tactics against them in attempt to curb anti-Israel riots -Arab-Israeli leaders are accusing police of holding them accountable for riots by Arab youths protesting the Gaza Strip operation. "They call us in for questioning, threaten us, and scare us," Umm al-Fahm Mayor Mustafa Souhil told Ynet Wednesday. Riots have become a daily occurrence in the wake of the IDF operation in south, and police have already arrested scores of youths suspected of throwing stones and molotov cocktails, and igniting tires. Police claim they have been holding talks with leaders of the Arab sector in order to curb the riots but Arab leaders claim the talks mostly comprise threats. "They call in imams, distinguished sheikhs, and even school teachers - all under threats.

Students rally for IDF soldiers
Ynet reporters, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Hundreds of university students all over the country hold demonstrations in support of IDF Operation Cast Lead, southern residents under fire. Three students arrested for rioting - Students all over Israel rallied on Wednesday in support of the IDF and its Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The protesters were countered with left-wing demonstrators who called for an end to the Israeli offensive. Three students were arrested in a demonstration near the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa for rioting. Protests were held in Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Haifa, the Holon Institute of Technology, the Technion, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, the Ariel University Center of Samaria, and more.

Saudis blame Hamas amid calls for talks with Fatah
Ian Black, Middle East editor, The Guardian 1/1/2009
Saudi Arabia yesterday blamed Hamas for Israel’s continuing offensive in the Gaza Strip and urged it to resolve bitter differences with the western-backed Palestinian Authority - even as divisions deepened with a new charge of treachery. Arab League foreign ministers meeting in emergency session in Cairo warned it was not possible to help until the Islamist movement in control of Gaza returned to national unity talks with its rival Fatah. A furious Hamas attacked the Arab League stance as "pathetic". Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum also accused Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, of ordering members of Fatah in Gaza to gather intelligence on the whereabouts of Hamas leaders to pass to Israel - a grave charge that underscores the deep rift between the factions. Discussions between Arab states were sharp too, amid bickering over calls for an emergency summit conference in Qatar tomorrow.

Saudi: ’Massacre result of Fatah-Hamas row’
Brenda Gazzar, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
In an apparent message to Hamas, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister and the Arab League chief on Wednesday blamed the divisions between Fatah and Hamas for Israel’s attacks in Gaza, and urged them to unite to help end the fighting at an urgent Arab League meeting. "This terrible massacre would not have happened if the Palestinian people were united behind one leadership and one voice," Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said, at the opening of the league meeting in Cairo. The Arab foreign ministers decided to ask the UN Security Council to pass a binding resolution that would immediately "end the aggression" and open the crossings into Gaza. They also called on the Palestinian factions to unite.

Fatah leader tells Hamas to return weapons to willing fighters
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Fatah leader Ziad Abu Ein called on Hamas to return confiscated weapons to Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip. Abu Ein made the statement during a Wednesday television interview with Manar Lebanese TV. He estimated that there are more than 70,000 militants affiliated with Fatah in the area, and said their weapons had been confiscated by Hamas during the factional fighting in 2007 and 2008. It is now time for those weapons to be returned, he said, so Fatah fighters can defend Gazans against Israeli crimes. [end]

Gaza offensive: Arab leaders urge Palestinian unity
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/31/2008
Arab League calls emergency session on Israeli operation in Strip, slams Palestinian people for being divided in time of crisis; ’Arab nations cannot extend helping hand if you don’t extend your own hands to each other,’ says League’s Sec. -Gen. - Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister criticized the divisions among the Palestinians at the opening of an emergency Arab League meeting Wednesday and said it prevented an effective Arab response to the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. Saud al-Faisal slammed the ongoing division of the Palestinians between the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the West Bank saying it opened the door to Israel’s attack.

Hamas: Abbas plans to relay information on Hamas’s leaders location to IOF
Palestinian Information Center 12/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas has charged that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas was forming an emergency cell with the purpose of finding out the location of Hamas leaders in Gaza and relaying the information to the Israeli occupation forces. Fawzi Barhoum, the Movement’s spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday that Abbas’s call on all Palestinian factions for talks at this particular time was "too late" and was only distracting the attention away from IOF crimes in the Strip. He said that in view of such a call, which attempts to prove Abbas’s patriotism, Hamas is forced to reveal a number of issues topped by the formation of this emergency cell. He explained that members of the cell are asked to contact Fatah elements in Gaza to collect whatever information is available on Hamas’s secret locations and places of leaders then sending the information to the IOF through security coordination.

Abbas greets Gazans live on television; promises to exert all efforts to stop massacre
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas greeted the population of the Gaza Strip in a live speech on Palestine’s official satellite network wishing them patience, tolerance and victory. Putting his hand on the holy Qur’an Abbas swore to faithfully and wisely protect the confidences vested in him. He promised to see the 40-year history of the Palestinian cause through. From the first martyr of Palestinian history to the last martyr in Gaza, Abbas said, he will follow up the Palestinian dream until freedom and an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital are realized. “Palestine will remain the mother of martyrs and sacrifices until the day it enforces its freedom and becomes a state for all Palestinians despite Israeli aggression and stubbornness,” he said. Abbas described the current situation in Gaza as a massacre and an act of criminal aggression. . .

Gaza Protests Now Target Arab Leaders
Farnaz Fassihi, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- On the third day of Israel’s attack on Gaza, street protesters across the Middle East broadened their rage toward Israel and the U. S. to include Arab rulers accused of not acting forcefully and fast enough to stop the violence. The ferocity of the Israeli attacks in Gaza -- and mounting casualties, which United Nations estimated Monday at 320 dead, including 62 civilians, and more than 1,400 injured -- could channel pent-up anger against Arab leaders into further support for Islamist groups. These groups are increasingly seen as the only organized movements willing to stand up to Israel. Demonstrators in Cairo protest the Israeli air strikes in Gaza. " These feelings have been there for years; what has changed is that Arabs now have extremist groups through which they can channel their anger and resentment," said Rami Khouri, a political analyst in Beirut. "You’ll have a new generation of people who want to fight Israel. "

Cast Lead’ reveals Saudi divide on right to assembly
Habib Trabelsi - PARIS, Middle East Online 12/31/2008
The Israeli military Operation "Cast Lead" in the Gaza Strip, which drove hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets in several countries worldwide, highlighted the deep division of Saudis on the right to assembly, de facto prohibited in the kingdom. A paradox - "The law in force in the kingdom bans demonstrations which cause chaos and disrupt public order. The security forces will prevent any attempt to organize rallies or demonstrations," said Monday General Mansour Turki, spokesman of the Interior Ministry. General Turki was asked about reports of a pro-Palestinian demonstration on the same day in Al-Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Shiite area. According to residents, the police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse demonstrators as a dozen were slightly injured and some arrested.

Saudi ’Israel inciting’ cleric arrested
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
A popular radical cleric who urged Muslims to target Israeli interests around the world has been arrested, a Saudi Web site reported Wednesday. Saudi security officials were not available for comment. The site, Rasid, posts news about Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community and has reliable contacts within both the Sunni and Shiite religious community. The site said Sheik Awadh al-Garni was detained Monday in connection with his recent fatwa, or religious edict. [end]

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

Turkish PM condemns ‘ruthless’ Israel offensive
Middle East Online 12/31/2008
ANKARA - The Turkish prime minister Wednesday condemned Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip as "ruthless" as he embarked on a regional tour aimed at halting the "dangerous developments" of recent days. "We have been deeply concerned over the developments in Gaza since this ruthless operation began on Saturday," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters before flying to Syria, the first stop on his tour. "The objective of my tour is to help stop these dangerous developments," he said. "The attacks on Gaza should stop immediately and a permanent ceasefire should be urgently secured to prevent irreversible developments in the region," he added. Erdogan said he was to hold talks first with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, followed by meetings with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the Jordanian city of Aqaba later in the day.

Dubai cancels New Year celebrations
AP, The Independent 12/31/2008
Tourist hot spot Dubai has had all New Year celebrations cancelled by ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum over the attacks in Gaza. Hotels were today trying to rearrange their plans amid confusion over the extent of the order. It calls for Dubai to mark the New Year "with a sombre tone as a token of solidarity" with the Palestinian people and with the Gaza Strip in particular. The manager of the four-star Arabian Courtyard said there would be no music or dancing to ring in the New Year, although the hotel’s restaurants and bars will stay open. It was unclear if other hotels would follow suit. Most say they cannot yet comment on whether the ban will affect the city’s champagne dinners and raucous bar bashes. Organisers also said they did not know if a concert by pop star Shakira in Abu Dhabi will go ahead.

Turkey, Syria call on Islamic nations to pressure Israel to end Gaza offensive
News agencies, Ha’aretz 12/31/2008
The leaders of Turkey and Syria called on Arab and Islamic nations Wednesday to pressure Israel to end its air offensive against Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, warning the attacks undermine Mideast peace efforts. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicked off a four-nation tour of the region to consult on ways to halt Israel’s attacks that have killed more than 374 Palestinians and sparked street protests in Arab and Islamic nations. Syria’s official news agency SANA said Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad discussed ways to end the Israeli offensive, and both warned of the danger and consequences a continued aggression would have on the region. The report said both stressed the impossibility of talking about any peace under Israeli stubbornness.

Brown calls for Gaza ceasefire
Andy Philip, The Independent 12/31/2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown today called for an urgent ceasefire amid the "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza. He said aid was now getting through to the Palestinian territory, which has been pounded by five days of Israeli air strikes. Mr Brown said: "It is vital that moderation must now prevail - there’s a humanitarian crisis. " The Prime Minister’s comments were made as international pressure grew for a ceasefire in Gaza, where hundreds of people have been killed. Mr Brown said: "I have talked to the prime minister of Israel and had assurances from him that there will be access for humanitarian reasons to get stocks in, to get supplies to people in Gaza and to help with the casualties. "We have now set aside $10m of aid so that will happen. "I have some indication that aid is now getting through.

UN calls on Israel to protect aid personnel in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - In light of two disturbing incidents in Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has called on Israel to step up its protection of humanitarian agents in the war zone. Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd, the UN Designated Official for Security, and UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry on Tuesday wrote an urgent joint letter to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak. The two UNRWA officials wrote the letter "to express deep concern about the safety of UN personnel and installations in the Gaza Strip and to request specific and immediate undertakings regarding their security. " More specifically, the officials wanted to inform Barak of their condemnation, "in the strongest terms possible," two particular incidents in which UN personel were targeted by Israeli airstrikes. On 27 December at 1:20pm, an Israeli missile targeted a group of. . .

Britain’s Brown urged to take action on Gaza
Middle East Online 12/31/2008
LONDON - The organisers of demonstrations in Britain against Israel’s air strikes on the Gaza Strip urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday to end his "deafening silence" on the bloodshed. In an open letter published on the back page of The Guardian newspaper, the 21 groups told Brown: "this is your hour with history and we urge you to take the first step". Protests have been held outside the Israeli embassy in London since Sunday and a national demonstration is planned for Saturday in the city centre. "The mass outrage expressed on the streets of Britain is yet to be reflected in the actions of our government, and this is unacceptable," the groups said. "While Gaza mourns its dead, the deafening silence of our prime minister and government is a source of great bewilderment. " The groups said Brown had "rightly" rushed to New Delhi and Islamabad in the wake of. . .

Britain pledges $10m in emergency aid to Gaza
Reuters, The Independent 12/31/2008
Britain pledged $10m (£6. 9m) of emergency humanitarian aid today for the Gaza Strip, where Israeli air strikes have left hundreds dead and wrought havoc for several days. International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said the money would help provide urgently-needed food and fuel to Palestinians cut off by the offensive launched on Saturday. "Aid is desperately needed in Gaza," Alexander said in a statement. "The human cost of this conflict is unacceptable and the humanitarian situation is getting worse by the hour. Thousands are suffering. " Medical officials say some 385 Palestinians have been killed and more than 800 wounded since the Israeli offensive began on Saturday. A United Nations agency said at least 62 of the dead were civilians. Four Israelis have been killed. In Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas group, basic food. . .

Protesters worldwide express anger at Israel
Middle East Online 12/31/2008
PARIS - Protesters denouncing Israel’s deadly bombardment of the Gaza Strip returned to the streets Tuesday in demonstrations around the world to keep up the pressure for an end to the violence. As Israel, under increasing diplomatic pressure, mulled a proposed 48-hour truce and the death toll from its onslaught rose to at least 373 Palestinians, the protesters made their voices heard again. In France, more than 7,000 protesters marched in a dozen cities across the country to denounce the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which continued for the fourth day running Tuesday. In Paris, around 3,500 people according to police -- 5,000 according to the organisers -- marched towards the French foreign ministry on the Quai D’Orsay by the River Seine, shouting slogans and carrying banners denouncing Israel. Police said another 700 marched in the western city of Nantes, while. . .

UK ministers urge Israel to agree Gaza ceasefire
Patrick Wintour, political editor, The Guardian 12/31/2008
British cabinet ministers today again urged Israel to agree a ceasefire in Gaza and allow aid agencies unfettered access to help Palestinians desperately in need of help in the territory. The international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, led the appeal after his department announced it was providing £6. 9m in aid for the area following the bombing by Israel that began on December 27. The minister insisted that the UK was "highly engaged", along with the US and its Middle Eastern partners, in trying to bring the conflict to an end. He denied the US was being inactive, and said that much diplomacy was going on behind the scenes. But Alexander also acknowledged that the crisis was the product of failed peace talks over the past year or more, saying that everyone needed to give the issue greater priority. The Israeli security cabinet is due to meet today to discuss their next moves.

IAF operation draws mixed reactions in Central Europe
Benjamin Weinthal, Jpost Correspondent, Berlin, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
"War to the bitter end," quoting Defense Minister Ehud Barak, was the front-page headline on many of the large German dailies on Tuesday. The international press and political reaction to the military operation in Gaza has been generally mixed, but the spectre of increased anti-Israeli reactions in Central Europe looms large. On Monday, Germany’s most popular daily, the tabloid Bild, published a commentary from Israeli author Amos Oz. Oz wrote that "the systematic bombardment of Israeli civilians in residential areas is a war crime and a crime against humanity," and stressed the necessity of Israel’s self-defense measures. In the same issue, Bild dubbed its lead news story "Israel strikes back," and reported that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the Social Democrats had sharply criticized Hamas’s actions but urged Israel to respect the need of a proportional military response.

Arab states curb New Year events
Al Jazeera 12/31/2008
New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest times of the year for Dubai’s hotel-based bars and restaurantsSeveral Arab countries have shelved New Year’s Eve celebrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip who have suffered a fifth straight day of Israeli bombardment. Egypt, Jordan, Dubai and Syria have all cancelled festivities including concerts by popular Arab singers which had been billed for Wednesday night. Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram daily newspaper reported that official events planned for New Year’s Eve had been called off. "In solidarity with the painful events in the Palestinian territories and the massacres which Gazans are faced with. . . the ministries of culture and information have decided to cancel New Year’s festivities," it said. Cancelled events include a special concert by Egyptian singer Mohammed Munir set for Cairo’s Opera House, and a variety performance due to be broadcast on state television.

Israel Downplays Criticism of Gaza Blitz
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
Israel has played down international criticism of its massive bombardment of Gaza, saying the protests have been generally more measured than on previous occasions. ‘The tone of the criticism is moderate, restrained, more balanced, at least in the case of those countries that count,’ a senior government official said. ‘I’m not talking about Iran or other extremist states,’ he told AFP. The conservative English-language Jerusalem Post hailed the response of the White House, and noted what it called the ‘evenhanded’ reaction from several European leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The outgoing administration of US President George W. Bush blamed Hamas ‘thugs’ for provoking the offensive by firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamist movement.

UN Chief Demands Immediate Gaza Cease-Fire
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and urged Mideast and world leaders to do more to help end the Israeli-Hamas conflict and promote political dialogue. Ban on Monday urged Arab foreign ministers, who are holding an emergency meeting in Cairo on Wednesday "to act swiftly and decisively to bring an early end to this impasse. "The bombings have killed at least 360 people — including 62 women and children, according to the U. N. — and wounded some 1,400 others. " I think regional and international partners have not done enough," the United Nations chief said on the third day of an Israeli bombardment of Gaza. "At the same time, other world leaders must also step up efforts to support a longer term resolution of the issue. " Egypt’s U. N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said he was sure there would be swift and decisive action on the part of the Arab League.

Pro-Palestinians protest in Greece
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/1/2009
Pro-Palestinian protesters staged a demonstration during New Year celebrations in Greece, chanting slogans and burning flags of Israel, the United States and the European Union. About 200 demonstrators chanted "hands off Gaza," as they gathered near an outdoor concert in Athens main square shortly before midnight. "This is our New Year’s message: For this carnage to stop in the Middle East and for governments around the world to wake up and stop this," protest organizer Theodoros Koutsoubos said. The demonstration was peaceful, but scores of riot police took up positions around the capital’s main Syntagma Square. [end]

Arabs want UN to end ’Israeli aggression’
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/1/2009
Arab states urge Security Council to end ’military aggression,’ make no mention of Hamas rocket attacks - The Security Council scheduled emergency consultations Wednesday night to discuss an Arab request for a legally binding and enforceable UN resolution that would ensure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Egypt’s UN Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said in a letter to the council president that the Arab Group at the UN, which he currently chairs, was seeking an emergency session on "the continued Israeli military aggression" on instructions from Arab League foreign ministers who met in Cairo earlier Wednesday. Croatia’s UN Ambassador Neven Jurica, the council president for December, scheduled emergency consultations at 6 pm (EST. )In the letter, Abdelaziz said the Arabs want the council "to adopt an enforceable and binding resolution that would. . .

The Turkish option
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The involvement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in pushing a cease-fire indicates primarily the deep-seated differences between the Syria-Hamas-Iran axis and the Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Palestinian Authority axis. These two axes that now need an external mediator still cannot agree on Hamas’ status. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who earlier this week outlined his plan, is willing to open the Rafah crossing on the condition there is a cease-fire and the crossing is operated by the PA with European observers, according to a 2005 agreement. Mubarak thus seeks to shrink Hamas down to a Palestinian faction that must first make peace with Fatah and the PA. Saudi Arabia and Egypt seek to prevent Hamas not only setting the cease-fire terms, but gaining the status of a sovereign authority, an almost-government, undermining Mahmoud Abbas’ authority and becoming an equal to Israel or any other partner in the cease-fire.

Protesters storm British embassy in Iran
Laura May, The Independent 12/31/2008
A group of demonstrators stormed the compound of the British Embassy in Iran, the Foreign Office confirmed. A spokesman said: "A group of demonstrators have trespassed in the British Embassy compound in north Tehran. "The situation has been resolved. All of our staff are safe and have been accounted for. " He could not confirm reports from the IRNA news agency that the demonstrators were students protesting against what they see as British support for Israel’s air strikes on Gaza or that the students tore down the British flag and hoisted a Palestinian standard in its place. The incident happened at 5. 20pm GMT (8. 50pm local time) and reports claimed that the occupation lasted about an hour. No one at the embassy was available for comment. Foreign Secretary David Miliband was last night in crisis talks with European Union counterparts after a fourth day of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Iran Jews stage pro-Palestinian rally near UN offices in Tehran
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Members of Iran’s small Jewish community staged a demonstration outside of the United Nations’ office in Tehran, to protest the Israel Defense Forces’ operation in the Gaza Strip. The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, reported that community members, alongside Jewish parliamentarian Siamak Mara-Sedq, urged Israel to do its part to return quiet and security to the region. The chairman of Iran’s Jewish Union, Rahmatullah Raafi, said the community had come out in support of the Palestinian people. "We are here to express out support and sympathy for the Palestinian nation," he said, adding that Muslim nations could rise up as a single large force against Israel. He also said that the victors of the current conflict were the residents of Gaza. Israeli sources familiar with the Iranian Jewish community suspect that the. . .

Report: Iranian newspaper closed over article sympathetic to Israel
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
A newspaper close to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been closed down for publishing an article the authorities said was sympathetic to Israel, the official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday. The moderate daily Kargozaran is regarded as close to Rafsanjani, who was defeated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election. "The reason for the closure of the newspaper is because it published an article yesterday in which it sanitized the Zionist regime’s crimes in Gaza," Mohammad Parvizi of the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry told IRNA. He did not say when the ban would take effect. The newspaper appeared on newsstands on Wednesday. Israel’s air attacks on the Gaza Strip have prompted protests in Iran, mainly by students who accuse Arab and Western countries of doing too little to stop the Israeli action.

WATCH: YouTube pulls some IDF videos showing Gaza assault
Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The Israel Defense Forces has opened a YouTube channel broadcasting footage taken over the last five days in its air offensive on the Gaza Strip. The channel was launched as part of the army’s PR campaign to draw international support for its military operation on Hamas’ infrastructure in Gaza. YouTube briefly yanked the clips on Tuesday, saying it was inappropriate, only to restore it a few hours later, labeling it inappropriate for minors, the military said. "We were saddened on December 30, 2008 when YouTube took down some of our exclusive footage," the military wrote on its YouTube channel page. Fortunately, due to blogger and viewer support, YouTube has returned the footage they removed. YouTube did not immediately reply to an email requesting comment.

Embassy protesters chant for justice in Gaza
Robert Bex, The Independent 12/31/2008
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Israeli Embassy today to protest at the attacks on Gaza. The crowd outside the embassy in Kensington, central London, carried banners demanding justice for Palestine and were led in chants of "no justice, no peace". Majed Al-Zeer, from the Palestinian Return Centre which helped organise the protest, said the fact several hundred people had turned out for the protest showed how strong feelings were about the Israeli attacks. He said: "It is a working day and for some people a holiday and it is very cold but still hundreds have turned out. "It is a very reasonable number. We have had many pickets here with only tens of people. "There are British people, people from the Arab community and people from the Muslim community. The protest sends a very important message that what is happening in Gaza is not right.

Portland protests Israeli attack on Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/31/2008
"Occupation is a crime, killing children is a crime" - was the chant that filled the downtown streets of Portland, Oregon - USA, Tuesday afternoon, as hundreds of local residents gathered with handmade signs and megaphones to voice their outrage at the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza that have continued for the last four days. "From Ramallah to Gaza, The people will maintain their dignity", chanted Arab-American protesters during Tuesday’s protest and march in Portland. The protestors chanted slogans calling for ending the Israeli occupation to Palestine, and ending the US government support and military aid to the Israeli occupation. As the bombs continue to fall, Israeli authorities say that the first stage of their long-planned assault is ending, and the second stage is about to begin - a ground invasion of the besieged and imprisoned Gaza Strip.

Mishaal to meet Erdogan in Syria
Palestinian Information Center 12/31/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chief of Hamas Movement, is to meet on Wednesday with visiting Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Damascus, well informed Hamas sources revealed on Tuesday. Erdogan is to visit Syria for a few hours during which he would meet with Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad then with the Hamas leadership to discuss the deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip as a result of the Israeli occupation forces’ aggression. The sources underlined that the Erdogan-Mishaal meeting would fall in line with Turkish efforts to contain the IOF aggression. The sources underlined that Hamas would listen to the Turkish proposals and that they hoped that Turkey would succeed in its effort to halt the massacre in Gaza, which they said is hinged on ending the aggression and lifting the siege once and for all.

Egypt accuses Hamas of adventurism, as Arab leaders seek common stance on Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Egypt’s ruling party accused the Hamas on Wednesday of adventurism, irresponsibility and ignoring Egyptian advice on Gaza. The National Democratic Party (NDP) said in a statement that Egypt was the victim of an organized campaign by Hamas and its regional allies - Iran, Syria and the Lebanese group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah have criticized Egypt for failing to open its border with Gaza, in effect cooperating with the Israeli blockade of the impoverished coastal strip. "(The party) notes that the leadership of Hamas is responsible for the turn that events have taken (in Gaza)," said the NDP secretariat. The statement also condemned Israeli raids which have killed almost 400 people in Gaza. "The Hamas movement has thwarted all attempts to achieve Palestinian national unity and has not accepted repeated Egyptian advice. . .

Egypt seen as complicit in Gaza assault
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 12/31/2008
CAIRO (IPS) - As the Palestinian death toll approaches 400, much of popular anger throughout the Arab world has been directed at Egypt -- seen by many as complicit in the Israeli campaign. "Israel would not have hit Gaza like this without a green light from Egypt," Hamdi Hassan, MP for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, told IPS. "The Egyptian government allowed this assault on Gaza in hopes of finishing off Hamas. " On Saturday, 27 December, Israel began a series of devastating air strikes on targets throughout the occupied Gaza Strip, internally controlled since the summer of last year by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas. According to Israeli officials, the campaign -- which has included hundreds of air strikes -- comes in retaliation for rockets fired by Palestinian resistance factions. More than 200 Palestinians were reportedly killed on the first day of the operation. Four Israelis, meanwhile, have reportedly been killed by Palestinian rocket fire since the air campaign began.

Bush thanks Mubarak for the 'positive role' of Egypt during the war on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/31/2008
WASHINGTON, (PIC)-- The white house announced on Wednesday that the US president George Bush called the Egyptian president Husni Mubarak and thanked him for Egypt’s "positive role" during the past few days of the war on the Gaza Strip. White house spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, also said that Bush called the PA president Mahnoud Abbas and the premier of his illegitimate government Salam Fayyad and emphasized the need for a lasting cease-fire. "President Bush and the two Palestinian leaders discussed their efforts for a sustainable cease-fire. They agreed that for any cease-fire to be effective, it must be respected, particularly by Hamas," Johndroe said. Bush, who is leaving the white house in three weeks, has not made any statement about the Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip. The Washington Post quoted a US administration official as saying that Israel chose to attack. . .

Report: Cairo refuses Qatari envoy; Tel Aviv welcomes
Ma’an News Agency 12/31/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - A Qatari aid plane landed in Tel Aviv to deliver medical supplies to the Gaza Strip, according to an Israeli newspaper that claimed Egypt refused the same envoy on Wednesday. The Israeli daily Hebrew newspaper reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave the go-ahead for the plane full of aid from the Arab state of Qatar to land at Ben Gurion International Airport on Wednesday. Qatar had previously attempted to deliver several tons of aid to Gaza by sea earlier in December, in the wake of the success of the Free Gaze Movement’s blockade-breaking voyages to the besieged strip. Egypt had apparently refused to allow the Qatari plane to land in the Sinai, for undisclosed reasons. The report was confirmed by Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, as well, which said that three planes loaded with aid had arrived in Israel en route to Gaza.

Labor, Barak enjoy popularity surge thanks to Gaza operation
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The Labor Party has emerged the biggest political winner of the war against Hamas so far. Labor and its head, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have made significant gains, bringing the left-wing to a 60:60 draw against right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. Just a week ago, before the offensive, the Haaretz-Dialog public opinion poll gave the right bloc 65 MKs and the left 53 plus two for the Pensioners. While Likud actually gained support in the past week, it came at the expense of other right-wing parties. Labor, on the other hand, is mostly pulling votes away from parties such as the Pensioners, Meretz and the various environmentalist parties. A decisive majority of respondents support continuing the army’s air campaign against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip without endangering the lives of Israel Defense Forces soldiers in a ground offensive.

Lieberman probe won’t close until after election
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Senior police officers said recently that the investigation of MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) on suspicions including fraud and money-laundering will not be completed before elections are held in February. The police said completion of the probe, which began in 2001 and is one of the longest in police history, has been delayed by the complexities of the case, giving it an unknown completion date. Lieberman was questioned under warning on suspicion of taking bribes through fictitious bank accounts and a consulting company in which his daughter Michal worked. The police suspect that Lieberman took the bribes when he was infrastructure minister and transport minister, between 2001 and 2004, through companies he controlled. Billionaire gambling tycoon Martin Schlaff and international businessman Michael Cherney are believed to be behind the alleged bribes.

Police say criminal probe likely in Bar-On double-voting scandal
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
The police’s investigations branch has presented the attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, with the results of its preliminary examination in the case in which Finance Minister Roni Bar-On is suspected of double-voting in the Knesset. Bar-On allegedly voted in place of another MK in addition to his own vote during a Knesset vote. The police refused to say whether they recommended opening a criminal investigation into the matter, but various sources knowledgeable about the case said recently that there will be no choice but to open a criminal investigation against Bar-On. Mazuz is expected to decide in a few days whether to close the file or order a full investigation. A few weeks ago former MK Inbal Gavrieli was summoned to the national fraud squad’s headquarters, where she provided evidence against Bar-On, who is suspected of voting in her name in her absence.

Rightist parties accuse each other of extremism
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
MK Zevulon Orlev, a leader of the new right-wing Orthodox party Habayit Hayehudi, yesterday attacked the National Union, most of whose members split from Habayit Hayehudi, saying that components in the party were "desecrating the name of religious Zionism. " Orlev, who leads the National Religious Party faction in the new party, also said that "those who throw stones at Israel Defense Forces soldiers and curse them, and fight against the state of Israel, are not part of religious Zionism. "Orlev also pointed a finger at some of the National Union’s members in Baruch Marzel’s faction, Hazit, saying the National Union had "professional divisives who have joined Marzel’s people after they led us astray. " In response, National Union Party chairman Ya’akov Katz said he "understood the sorrow of the NRP, who sees the forces gathering around the National Union," but he invited "those. . .

Habayit Hayehudi assails National Union for ’desecrating religious Zionism’
Matthew Wagner, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
The radicalized young settlement activists known as "hilltop youth" desecrate the name of religious Zionism, MKs from Habayit Hayehudi said at a Knesset news conference to launch their election campaign on Monday. "Hilltop youth and [Kach adherent and new National Union supporter Baruch] Marzel, those who throw rocks at soldiers, and those who refuse IDF orders are not a part of religious Zionism," MK Zevulun Orlev said. "They desecrate religious Zionism, they desecrate the crocheted kippot on their heads. We have to strengthen the State of Israel. That is what religious Zionism is about. "We as religious Zionists believe that the establishment of the State of Israel represents the beginning of the process of heavenly redemption. Therefore, we do everything we can to protect and defend the State of Israel," he said.

Meretz campaigns for end to Gaza op
Eli Senyor, YNetNews 12/31/2008
New Meretz alignment launches internet campaign calling on government to halt military operation in Strip, refrain from sending in ground forces - The new Meretz alignment party announced Wednesday that it would launch a new Internet campaign calling on the government to stop the military operation in Gaza and refrain from sending ground forces into the Strip. Slogans planned for the campaign include "We won’t enter Gaza", "Cease fire immediately", and "Entering again? Getting entangled again? Casualties again? " MK Zahava Gal-On explained that the party has two objectives it hopes the campaign will help secure. "First - to cease fire in Gaza, and second - to halt the ground incursion," she said. "From past experience we know that whatever has not been achieved in the first 48 hours will not be achieved in later stages either.

’It’s About Time’: Satisfaction in Israel Over Gaza Assault
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
ASHKELON, Israel — In southern Israeli towns and cities, anxiety from the casualties inflicted by missiles from Gaza are mixed with satisfaction that Israel’s military is trying to settle the score with their militant tormentors. Four Israelis were killed, including a soldier, and two seriously wounded Monday in rocket barrages, some deeper into Israel than ever before. A woman was killed when a missile crashed into a bus stop in the city of Ashdod, 23 miles from Gaza, the farthest Hamas militants have fired to date. Another woman was killed in a village next to Gaza. Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 11 miles north of Gaza, suffered its first rocket death when an Israeli Arab worker was killed at a construction site. Overall, five Israelis have been killed in rocket attacks since the Israeli offensive began Saturday. Deeper in Israel people are increasingly fearful, and many are following army instructions to begin preparing bomb shelters.

Israeli raids on Gaza boost Hamas popularity
Middle East Online 12/31/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank - - Hamas’s star is rising among Palestinians as each new Israeli bomb falls on Gaza, while president Mahmud Abbas is becoming increasingly isolated, analysts say. Abbas, who lost control of Gaza when Hamas seized it last year from forces loyal to him, has even been accused by Hamas and others of seeking to retake power in the enclave with Israeli complicity. Abbas has repeatedly called for an immediate halt to the Israeli offensive in Gaza, but his pleas have been eclipsed by the gory images of casualties and of protests across the world broadcast on television. Mushir al-Masdri, leader of the Hamas group in the Palestinian parliament, has even gone so far as to claim that Abbas "knew the exact date of the surprise Israeli operation in Gaza. " Increasingly, the Palestinian man in the street is viewing Hamas as the cutting edge of resistance against Israel,. . .

Battered Hamas Stands to Gain in Stature
The Orlando Sentinel, MIFTAH 12/31/2008
For anyone watching the plumes of smoke rising from Gaza in recent days, Hamas dominates the television news and newspaper headlines. It is not only the publicity, but the status conveyed on Hamas as the Palestinians’ principal resistance. Its secular rival, Fatah, sits on the sidelines, marginal to the violence unfolding in Gaza, from which Hamas effectively expelled it at gunpoint in the summer of 2007. The questions remain: Why did Hamas end its six-month cease-fire Dec. 19? Will it -- can it -- unleash suicide bombers into Israel in retaliation? And will the devastation make Palestinians fall into line behind Hamas, as they reliably have in the past, or lose their support as Gazans count the escalating cost in blood and destruction? Even knowing that retaliation was certain, Hamas seemed to have ended the cease-fire in part because of its long-standing discipline and consistency:

Not their war
Chris Dalby, The Guardian 12/31/2008
As the tanks gear up for war, so do groups across Israel - forgotten segments of the population who barely receive a mention in media coverage of the offensive on Gaza. Most reports suggest Israeli citizens are almost entirely in favour of the war in Gaza, supporting it as an overdue response to years of terror. Among those concerned directly with potential rocket attacks from Gaza, public support for the war has been high. Student Tamara Cycman from Rehovot agrees that supporting Israel’s actions is normal for most Israelis and that most view these attacks as a kind of comfort, a positive step after years of shelling from Hamas. Cycman laments the violence, but defiantly states that the IDF makes every effort to warn citizens away from target areas and to minimise civilian casualties.

65% of readers want ground op
Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
Over sixty-five percent of JPost. com readers support launching a ground operation in Gaza, according to the results of a non-representative site survey answered by over 5,500 respondents. Nearly 23% rejected the possibility of a ground operation, arguing that it is not worth risking soldiers’ lives while the IDF can continue using its air force. 12% supported a limited incursion into Gaza. About 54% said Israel’s main goal in the operation should be to topple the Hamas regime and take over the Strip, while 25% said Hamas should be toppled but only with a clear exit strategy in mind. Nearly 12% said the main goal should be to bring about a new cease-fire with zero rocket fire at southern Israel, while 9% said they believed the main goal. . .

Israeli assault on Gaza: the cartoonists’ view
James Sturcke, The Guardian 12/31/2008
How illustrators around the world are depicting the offensive - Hemmed in by barbed wire and brick walls as the bombs rain down, today’s Guardian cartoon by Simon Farr illustrates the horror of life inside the Gaza Strip. Farr is among many professional and amateur cartoonists around the world drawn to the bombardment. Mazen Kerbaj, on Kerblog, attracted international attention with his drawings of the 2006 Israeli assault on Lebanon. This week, he has turned his attention to how the Gaza situation is affecting children. Meanwhile, Ronny Gordon, in the Jerusalem Post, is making mincemeat. Both the Independent’s cartoonist Dave Brown and the Times’s Morten Morland. . .

One Shot
Al Jazeera 12/31/2008
In Israel Through Its Own Eyes, Al Jazeera takes a frank look at Israel through the work of Israeli filmmakers who are able to offer us a glimpse into a world which would otherwise be unknown to those outside the country. One Shot by Nurit Kedar is a troubling look into the work and the minds of an elite team of Israeli army snipers who carry out assassinations. After five weeks of training an Israeli soldier can become a sniper if he chooses. The filmmaker spent a whole year getting all the necessary permits from the Israeli military authorities. This is the first time Israeli snipers were given permission to be interviewed for a film and Israeli military censors required the filmmaker to cover the faces of the soldiers who speak. One Shot airs on Wednesday, December 31 at 1230GMT

Israeli banks allowed to end Gaza activity
Eran Peer, Globes Online 12/31/2008
The Bank of Israel previously rejected bank requests to halt clearing activity. The Bank of Israeltoday notified Bank Hapoalim(TASE: POLI; LSE:80OA) and Israel Discount Bank(TASE: DSCT) that they may cease their activity with banks in the Gaza Strip, as they requested. Over the past year, the Bank of Israel rejected the banks’ request to halt their clearing activity, and compelled them to continue it. The Bank of Israel has the authority as the clearing administrator to forbid commercial banks from suspending their clearing activity. Banking sources expressed their satisfaction at the Bank of Israel’s decision. The Bank of Israel declined to comment. The Bank of Israel and the Ministry of Finance considered the activity of Israeli banks with their Palestinian counterparts in Gaza as a political issue with widespread ramifications.

Damage to southern farmers estimated at half-billion shekels
Amiram Cohen and Paz Vaysman, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
While farmers in Israel’s south are tallying the damage they’re suffering from the clashes between Israel and the Palestinians, industry in Be’er Sheva is working on adaptating to the new reality. Direct and indirect damage to agriculture in the south and the Negev since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead has reached half a billion shekels, estimates Havkin Assessors. The firm surveyed communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and in the south, where agricultural activity has all but ground to a halt because of the security situation. Most of the damage is a result of suspending the harvest of potatoes, carrots, baby radishes, tomatoes and peppers for export, and of the inability to work in the fields. The president of the Farmers Federation of Israel, Dov Amitai, said that the organization will ask the government to compensate. . .

Ashkelon’s economy suffers under the shadow of rockets
Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post 12/31/2008
The underground command and control room at the Ashkelon Municipality was packed with visitors when the chilling sound of the air raid siren rang out at 1:30 p. m. on Monday. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai was in the room, and he was later joined by local industrialists and Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel. The topic of conversation was Ashkelon’s economic future, which was looking increasingly bleak. "We see how in Sderot suppliers have stopped arriving," Brosh said. "We fear some factories will have to close [in Ashkelon, too]. "He called for state and local funding for rocket protection for factories in the city. Mor Shapira-Shamgar, a local industrialist, called on Yishai to help local factories survive. "We want to keep on working and producing," she said.

Group denied funds due to ’occupied’ address
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Mercantile Discount Bank has refused to execute a bank transfer from a Spanish government agency to an Israeli human rights organization because the transfer form listed the organization’s East Jerusalem address as being in "the Occupied Palestinian Territories. " Yesterday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court issued an injunction barring the bank from returning the money to the donor until it hands down a final ruling on the legality of the bank’s refusal. The injunction was issued in response to a suit by the intended recipient, the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual. The money, totaling over 100,000 euros, has been sitting in one of the bank’s Tel Aviv branches since November 21. According to Hamoked, bank officials told it that had the form not included an address at all, the money would have been deposited in its account without delay.

Lehman Bros seeks stay of proceedings in Israel
Yitzhak Danon, Globes Online 12/31/2008
Lehman: Israel is not an island, respect the English High Court. Lehman Brothers International (Europe) has petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court for an urgent injunction against legal proceedings against the company in Israel. Lehman Brothers Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy in September. Lehman Brothers International is asking the court to recognize the administrative order filed 14 weeks ago with the High Court in England as part of the insolvency proceedings. In the petition to the Tel Aviv District Court, the company said, "It is unacceptable that when the company’s creditors around the world have filed equitable claims for debts as part of the insolvency procedures underway in England, Israeli creditors, or people seeking to seize the company’s assets in Israel, are undertaking separate procedures in the Israeli courts, as if Israel were an island, unrelated to the developments in the world.

Gov’t figures show 4.1% growth in 2008
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 12/31/2008
Central Bureau of Statistics estimate: GDP grew less than the average of the preceding three years. Preliminary estimates of the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today that Israel’s GDP grew by 4. 1% in 2008, less than the 5% average over the preceding three years. GDP rose by 1. 8% in the second half of the year. Since Israel’s population grew by 1. 8% in 2008, GDP per capita rose by 2. 2%, after rising by 3. 5% in 2007. Export of goods and services rose by 3. 6% in 2008, after rising 8. 5% in 2007. The slump in diamond exports was mainly responsible for the decline in exports. Private consumption increased by 4% after rising 7% in 2007. Private consumption per capita rose by 2%, reflecting a 7% increase in per capita consumption of durable goods and a 1. 5% increase in per capita consumption of perishable goods.

S&P Maalot puts IEC on credit watch
Yael Gruntman, Globes Online 12/31/2008
Rocky labor relations contribute to instability. Standard & Poor’s Maalot Ltd. has placed the bonds ofIsrael Electric Corporation (IEC) (TASE:ELEC. B22 ) on negative credit watch. The bonds are rated AA+. Maalot cited the erosion in IEC’s liquidity and access to financing sources because of its need to repay $1. 6 billion in debts during 2009, including $500 million in refinancing in March. Maalot also cited IEC’s relatively low liquidity and its aggressive investment plan, which is liable to increase its financing debt. Additional reasons for adding the bonds to the credit watch list include IEC’s weak financial results, the uncertainty regarding its activity as a result of the delay in setting new base electricity tariffs, and the company’s troubled labor relations.

Iraqi oil, gas fields up for grabs
Middle East Online 12/31/2008
BAGHDAD - Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani announced Wednesday the launch of a new international tender for development of 11 oil and gas fields. The move could help boost Iraqi oil production by up to 2. 5 million barrels per day, Shahristani told a news conference. The minister named the oil fields as Majnoon, West Qurna Phase II, Halfaya, East Baghdad, Gharrafa, Qayara, Najmah, Badrah, Kifil/West Kifil/Mirjan and a group in Diyala province, and the Siba gas field in Basra province. "The new crude fields can increase production by 2. 0 to 2. 5 million barrels per day within three to four years of the deals being sealed," he said. The tender invitation comes six months after the first round of bidding was opened in which six oil and two gas fields were offered for development. Shahristani said the winner of the tenders would be announced in the first quarter. . .

U.S. quits Saddam’s palace, marking start of power transfer
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
BAGHDAD - United States officials withdrew from the Saddam Hussein-era palace they have occupied in Baghdad since 2003 yesterday, a sign of the change of power as their troops came under Iraqi authority at midnight last night. The U. S. force in Iraq, now more than 140,000 strong, has operated since 2003 under a UN Security Council resolution which expired at midnight. From today, U. S. troops will operate with authority granted by the Iraqi government under a pact agreed by Washington and Baghdad. The pact is viewed by both countries as a milestone in restoring Iraqi sovereignty. It requires U. S. troops to leave in three years, revokes their power to hold Iraqis without charge and subjects contractors and off-duty troops to Iraqi law. Iraq also reached a deal with Washington’s main ally Britain on Tuesday, giving its 4,100 troops until the end of July to depart.

Home Front confusion / In south, finding shelter is often mission impossible
Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz 1/1/2009
Tens of thousands of people in southern Israel would like to follow the instructions of Home Front Command chief Yair Golan to seek shelter when an alarm sounds, but their houses have no concrete walls or they are mobility-impaired. Golan said Tuesday that the people killed by Palestinian rockets in recent days had not followed the army’s instructions. However, Haaretz has found that most people living in the outer perimeter of the rocket threat in Be’er Sheva and Ashdod have no more than 60 seconds to seek proper shelter when the alarm sounds. And for those who live in a plaster- or wood-walled house, reaching a safe space in that time is impossible. The Home Front Command has expanded the meaning of the term "protected space" to include not only a reinforced room, but also a stairwell and even an inside hallway.

God’s Chariot
Al Jazeera 12/31/2008
Since it was first produced in 1979, Israel’s Merkava tank has gained a formidable reputation as one of the world’s best-protected fighting machines. Yet, in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas in Southern Lebanon shattered this image. In just over a month 49 of Israel’s home-produced Merkava tanks -- the symbol of the Jewish state’s military prowess -- were reported damaged or destroyed. It was not only the tank that was damaged, but the myth of Israeli military invincibility so central to the psychological warfare of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Merkava represents Israel’s technological superiority in conventional warfare, but in the new era of guerrilla war, is the Merkava an asset or a liability? Episode 1Watch part two On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas in Southern Lebanon crossed the border into Israel and killed three Israeli soldiers.

IAF attacks Khan Younis rocket factory
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/30/2008
As Hamas continued to bombard the South with dozens of rockets on Wednesday, senior defense officials said a ground operation was "days away. " The air force struck Wednesday at more than 25 targets throughout the Strip, including a Gaza City mosque that the army said was being used to hide Kassam rockets. The IAF reported several secondary explosions following the strike. A number of Hamas outposts and command posts were also destroyed, as well as a tunnel in Khan Younis that was used to covertly move weapons throughout southern Gaza. Since Operation Cast Lead began on Saturday, fighter jets have carried out some 500 sorties against Hamas targets, the IDF said, adding that attack helicopters had also flown hundreds of combat missions. According to the IDF, at least 95 percent of the targets were hit.


Israel’s War Crimes
Richard Falk, Middle East Online 12/31/2008
      The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.
     Those violations include.
     Collective punishment: The entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.
     Targeting civilians: The airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.
     Disproportionate military response: The airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza’s elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.
     Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims....
     Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University, United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories

Open Letter to the US Mass Media

Yousef Abudayyeh, Palestine Think Tank 12/31/2008
      Dear Editor,
     Imagine if more than 63 thousand Americans were massacred in a couple of hours' campaign of F-16 bombing. This number represents (by way of percentage) the number of Palestinians killed by Israel when it launched its massive air strikes in Gaza on Saturday. A friend of mine in Gaza tells me that hundreds are still buried under the rubble and the toll of deaths could easily reach thousands. Already there are more than 1,700 injured with many in serious conditions.
     Imagine if all this carnage is being paid for by your tax money.
     Israel is carrying out an all out massacre in the Gaza Strip and the Arab American Community is outraged because neither the US Media is covering and reporting the facts nor do the Bush Administration and Congress have the backbone to order Israel, which gets almost 11 Billion Dollars a year from the US, to stop carrying out these war crimes.

Killing for Votes

Gilad Atzmon, Middle East Online 12/30/2008
      In order to grasp the latest devastating murderous Israeli expedition in Gaza one must deeply comprehend the Israeli identity and its inherent hatred towards the Arabs. 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.
     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 lethal dream. At one point I left Israel and become an opponent of the Jewish state. However, I am utterly convinced that it is my primary duty to inform every being that is willing to listen about that which we are up against.

Israeli electioneering with bombs

Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada 12/30/2008
      Of the three politicians who announced the military assault on Gaza to the world on Saturday, perhaps only the outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has little to lose -- or gain -- from its outcome.
     Flanking the Israeli prime minister were two of the main contenders for his job: Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and the new leader of Olmert’s centrist party, Kadima, and Ehud Barak, the defense minister and leader of the left-wing Labor Party.
     The attack on Gaza may make or break this pair’s political fortunes as they jostle for position against Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, before a general election little more than a month away.
     Until now Livni and Barak have been facing the imminent demise of their ruling coalition as Netanyahu and the far Right have surged in the polls and looked set to form the next government.
     Both have strenuously denied that the election has any bearing on the timing of the Gaza operation. But equally they hope a successful strike against Hamas may yet save them from electoral humiliation.

Israel’s Lie Machine is Working Flat out

Stuart Littlewood - London, Palestine Chronicle 12/30/2008
      Firefighters try to extinguish flames at a medicine storehouse bombed by Israel. (Xinhua) While the murderous assault on Gaza continues, I notice there’s a briefing document on the website of the Israeli Embassy in London which has a lie in every line. The West’s mainstream media repeat them, and even the most senior TV and radio interviewers don’t bother to challenge them.
     The document is a transcript of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s statement to the Israeli press dated 27 December 2008 -- a day that will live in infamy. It is a perfect example of the falsehoods used to dupe not only us westerners but Israel’s own people. The statement shows how the regime’s view of itself is constructed on a web of dishonesty and self-delusion.
     For example:
     • "Israeli citizens have been under the threat of daily attack from Gaza for years."
     Palestinians have been under harsh Israeli occupation for 60 years.
     • "Only this week hundreds of missiles and mortars shells were fired at Israeli civilian communities."

Peace Trees of Palestine - Poem

Lise Brouillette, Palestine Chronicle 12/30/2008
      Standing upright branches lifted up
     swaying in the wind in a prayer to Allah
     silently waiting for
     raining death or retribution
     If every olive of every tree
     that was uprooted and burned was pressed
     it yet would not produce enough tears
     to cry for Al-Nakbah
     If every drop of oil was dropped
     in the hearts grieving for Al-Nakbah
     the fire would be high enough
     to create a sun for the night
     If every grain of sand in a desert
     created by the killing of the trees
     was lifted by the wind if would twist
     in a funnel that could engulf the world...

Victims of Israel’s Latest Experiment

Nadia W. Awad, MIFTAH 12/29/2008
      There is no point in preparing an introduction to this article. Why waste words on compositional niceties when the only thing I can offer is that I’m at a total loss. There are no words or expressions that could ever fully explain what I and other Palestinians are feeling at this moment in time. Since Saturday afternoon, most of us here have been glued to the television, mutely taking in details of the latest bombed target andwatching horrific footage of bloodied men, women and children, body parts strewn about, and people offering last minute prayers in the rubble of their homes because they think they’re about to die. The hospital scenes offer no consolation, as doctors and nurses wearing bloodied scrubs attempt to aid the injured, knowing full well that they do not have the medical supplies to do so effectively.
     Rage, disgust, impotence, disbelief… these are just a few of the feelings swirling around in our hearts and minds for the moment.Those feelings are not just addressed to Israel, but to the international community as well. The UN gathered in an emergency session to issue yet another lukewarm resolution calling on all sides to stop the fighting. Of course, the resolution was missing what should have been a key component, condemnation of Israel’s actions. There was no mention of an excessive use of force, no mention of Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power. The US and the UK did not even bother to demand a halt to the violence, instead merely requesting that Israel try to avoid racking up civilian casualties. Israel hasn’t even acquiesced to that request, and how could they? Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. There are no wide expanses of land. Houses are built on top of each other. Government buildings and police stations are nestled in and amongst residential neighborhoods. It would be like trying to pluck out one card from beneath a house of cards, and expecting the whole structure to stay intact. Besides, Israel is not merely targeting government buildings and security compounds as first thought. Looking at the latest reports, Israel has bombed the Gaza port, a local university campus, an Olympic committee building, greenhouses, a school, homes, parked cars, mosques, prisons (full of prisoners), a graduation ceremony for traffic police, and medical storehouses. And still the bombing continues.

Gaza: the logic of colonial power

Nir Rosen, The Guardian 12/29/2008
      As so often, the term ’terrorism’ has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak.
     I have spent most of the Bush administration’s tenure reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia and other conflicts. I have been published by most major publications. I have been interviewed by most major networks and I have even testified before the senate foreign relations committee. The Bush administration began its tenure with Palestinians being massacred and it ends with Israel committing one of its largest massacres yet in a 60-year history of occupying Palestinian land. Bush’s final visit to the country he chose to occupy ended with an educated secular Shiite Iraqi throwing his shoes at him, expressing the feelings of the entire Arab world save its dictators who have imprudently attached themselves to a hated American regime.
     Once again, the Israelis bomb the starving and imprisoned population of Gaza. The world watches the plight of 1.5 million Gazans live on TV and online; the western media largely justify the Israeli action. Even some Arab outlets try to equate the Palestinian resistance with the might of the Israeli military machine. And none of this is a surprise. The Israelis just concluded a round-the-world public relations campaign to gather support for their assault, even gaining the collaboration of Arab states like Egypt.
     The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. "All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks," as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said.

The dogs of war

Osamah Khalil, Electronic Intifada 12/29/2008
      Almost eight years ago, George W. Bush entered office in the early months of the second Palestinian intifada. Rather than resuming the negotiations facilitated by the Clinton Administration, he chose instead to "pull out" and allow Ariel Sharon, who was favored to win the upcoming Israeli elections, a free hand to end the intifada. According to former US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Bush asserted that "sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things." [1] President Bush now leaves office with historically low approval ratings and an economy in shambles. As a consequence of his foreign policy misadventures, Bush also leaves the Middle East in flames and America’s reputation in tatters. Yet, one thing has remained constant for the aloof president: deference to an Israeli "show of strength" rather than diplomacy. Only a year ago, Bush hosted the Annapolis conference that "relaunched" the "peace process" and then predictably stood by as it stalled out. Unable to launch a war against Iran, capture Osama bin Laden, pacify Afghanistan or Iraq, or broker a Palestinian-Israeli peace, rather than ride into the sunset in the waning days of his presidency, Bush is determined to leave in a final blaze of malicious incompetence. As it has been so often over the past eight years, the site of his enmity is Gaza.

Gaza and the World: Will Things Ever Change?

Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 12/29/2008
      A Palestinian girl is carried into Shifa hospital in Gaza City following the strikes. (AP) In times of crisis, most Arabs tune in to Aljazeera television. Sometimes it’s comforting for the truth to be stated the way it is, with all of its gory and unsettling details, without blemishes and without censorship. When Israel carried out massive air strikes against Gaza on Saturday, December 27, terrorizing an already hostage and malnourished population, I too tuned in to Aljazeera.
     Within seconds I learned of the tally: 290 deaths and climbing, with 700 more wounded, all in one day. But as dramatic as this event may have seemed -- the highest Israeli inflicted death toll in one day in Palestine since Israel’s establishment in 1948 -- there was nothing new to learn. Tragedies anywhere - natural or manmade -- tend to lead to social, cultural, economic and political upheavals, revolutions even, that somehow alter the social, cultural, economic and ultimately political landscapes in the affected regions, save in Palestine.
     I gazed pointlessly at the screen. Learning of the aftermath of such tragedies seems more of a ritual than a purposeful habit. The Arab and international responses to the killings can only serve as a reminder of how ineffectual and irrelevant, if not complacent their timid mutterings are.

Israel’s Wanton Aggression On Gaza

Stephen Lendman – Chicago, Palestine Chronicle 12/29/2008
      ’The Bloodiest Day in the History of Occupation.’ (Aljazeera) It’s not the first time and won’t be the last. On December 27, AP reported that: ’Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous attacks, and Hamas and medics reported dozens of people were killed.’
     Haaretz headlined:
     "Israel launched (Operation Case Lead) Saturday morning (at around 11:30AM with no warning) the start of a massive offensive against Qassam rocket and mortar fire on its southern communities, targeting dozens of buildings belonging to the ruling Hamas militant group." reported that "Israeli missiles target Gaza," and continued:
     "Israel has launched air strikes on Hamas installations across the Gaza Strip, killing at least 155 people and causing heavy damage, according to officials and witnesses."
     "At least 30 missiles (later over 100 reported) were fired at targets on Saturday (morning), with the head of emergency services in Gaza saying at least 200 people were also wounded."

U.S. Middle East Policy a Disaster

James J. David, Palestine Chronicle 12/29/2008
      ’President Bush and Secretary Rice both blamed Hamas for the violence.’
     If you’ve ever wondered why there is continued violence between the Israelis and Palestinians for the past 40 years all you need to do is look at U.S. Policy.
     Let’s take the current situation in Gaza. The Israelis claim that they have ended the 40 year seize in Gaza yet Israel’s blockade has forced 1.5 million people in Gaza to go without food, medical care, heating fuel, electricity, clean water and facilities and infrastructure necessary to life or even a half-way decent standard of living. Israel controls the land, sea, and air preventing anyone from entering or leaving.
     During the past 6 months there has been a cease fire between the two parties but just last month the Israelis violated the cease fire by firing missiles into Gaza killing 6 Palestinians. It was Israel who was the first to break the cease fire, not Hamas.

The Israeli massacre of Gazans civilians

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, Palestine Monitor 12/28/2008
      The Israeli cabinet approved a military operation against Gaza by the forces of Israel. The military massacre of Gazan civilians was launched on December 27th, 2008 in two separate waves of attacks when over 100 bombs were dropped on dozens of targets . Some 80 airplanes and helicopters took part in the assault destroying civil police compounds and civilian homes. Over 205 Palestinians were killed and at least 750 wounded, 125 of these with critical injuries, including women and children.
     This massacre of Gazan civilians by the Israeli military, is indeed a crime against humanity. It is all the more cruel considering the suffering of the People of Gaza, under the collective punishment policy of Israel which has cut Gaza off from the World for almost 2 years, and led its one an a half Million people to living in what is the world largest open air prison, and suffering one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies in the world.
     In November, when I visited Gaza with Free Gaza Movement, we met with the Hamas Leadership, and attended a meeting of representatives of all the Political Parties in Gaza, the 6 month ceasefire was holding and the Political Parties were ready to go to Cairo to meet with their Political colleagues from West Bank. There was great hope that Palestinian National Unity could be built, and that the ways of active nonviolence would help towards the goals of ending the Israeli occupation and self determination for the Palestinian people.

Food shortages send prices through roof after farmers are forced to abandon their fields

Hazem Balousha in Gaza City and Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 1/1/2009
      The vegetable market at the Beach Camp, a crowded warren housing refugee families in Gaza, was all but deserted yesterday. Subhi Saeda, 55, waited for customers but none came, save one man who stopped briefly to check prices but moved on once he heard how high they had risen. "You should have seen this stall in the past, now we have very few vegetables for sale," Saeda said. "It’s so frustrating for us. "
     Farmers near the border with Israel have stopped going into their fields for fear of being mistaken for militants and that, combined with severe limits on all but humanitarian imports, has pushed prices up dramatically in recent days.
     On his stall Saeda had only potatoes, peppers, onions and tomatoes. A box of tomatoes now sells for 30 shekels (£5), three times its price last week. Potatoes have doubled in price, onions too. Few stalls were selling any fruit because of shortages and higher prices.
     "I support the ceasefire," said Saeda, "and I’m expecting it will return again. But we need to have the crossings into Gaza open, with medicines available and a normal economic life. Under the last ceasefire the blockade went on and nothing changed."

The rotten state of Egypt is too powerless and corrupt to act

Robert Fisk, The Independent 1/1/2009
      There was a day when we worried about the "Arab masses" -- the millions of "ordinary" Arabs on the streets of Cairo, Kuwait, Amman, Beirut -- and their reaction to the constant bloodbaths in the Middle East. Could Anwar Sadat restrain the anger of his people? And now -- after three decades of Hosni Mubarak -- can Mubarak (or "La Vache Qui Rit", as he is still called in Cairo) restrain the anger of his people? The answer, of course, is that Egyptians and Kuwaitis and Jordanians will be allowed to shout in the streets of their capitals -- but then they will be shut down, with the help of the tens of thousands of secret policemen and government militiamen who serve the princes and kings and elderly rulers of the Arab world.
     Egyptians demand that Mubarak open the Rafah crossing-point into Gaza, break off diplomatic relations with Israel, even send weapons to Hamas. And there is a kind of perverse beauty in listening to the response of the Egyptian government: why not complain about the three gates which the Israelis refuse to open? And anyway, the Rafah crossing-point is politically controlled by the four powers that produced the "road map" for peace, including Britain and the US. Why blame Mubarak?
     To admit that Egypt can’t even open its sovereign border without permission from Washington tells you all you need to know about the powerlessness of the satraps that run the Middle East for us.