zaterdag 17 januari 2009

Palestijnse vredesactivist in Gaza verliest dochters door Israelische granaat

Dit drama haalde zelfs het Nederlandse Acht Uur Journaal, met als inleiding dat een 'persoonlijk verhaal soms meer vertelt dan alle analyses en commentaren'. Deze arts is één van de vele duizenden burgerslachtoffers in de Gazastrook van de heilloze heilige oorlog die Hamas voert en de Israelische tegencampagnes in dichtbevolkt gebied. Extra tragisch omdat dit gezin zich juist inzette voor vrede en begrip tussen Joden en Arabieren.
Wat mij echter opviel is dat het de beweringen in Nederlandse media onderuit haalt, dat de Israelische media nauwelijks aandacht zouden hebben voor het Palestijnse leed in Gaza. Het is oorlog, maar de Palestijnse dokter uit Gaza werd regelmatig gevraagd op een Israelische journaal te berichten over de dramatische situatie aan zijn kant van het conflict.

Last update - 20:46 17/01/2009

Israeli-trained Gaza doctor loses three daughters and niece to IDF tank shell
By The Associated Press

Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a Palestinian doctor who trained in Israel, has been a regular fixture on Israeli television during the 21-day-old war against Hamas militants, bringing witness accounts of the medical crisis facing Gazans to Israeli living rooms.

His report Friday was drenched in grief as he sobbed through a cell phone that three of his daughters and a niece were killed by an Israel Defense Forces shell. 

Abu al-Aish said he hoped his three daughters would be the last victims of the fighting in Gaza, and that their deaths would help bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"I want to know why my daughters were harmed. This should haunt (Israeli Ehud Prime Minister) Olmert his entire life," Abu al-Aish said on Israel's Channel 10, speaking through a cell phone in Hebrew as he has throughout the war.

He added that his daughters were "armed only with love."

Gazan officials identified Al-Aish's deceased daughters as 22-year-old Bisan, 15-year-old Mayer and 14-year old Aya. His niece was identified as 14-year-old Nour Abu al-Aish.

At least two other daughters were injured, and are currently being treated at Tel Ha-Shomer Hospital in Tel Aviv.

The press conference at Tel Ha-Shomer became tense at one moment when an Israeli woman and mother of three IDF paratroopers began yelling at Abu al-Aish, demanding that he explain why there was weaponry in the house.

Throughout the war, Abu al-Aish had put a face on the Palestinian suffering, making regular reports by cell phone to Israel's Channel 10. He is a rarity among Palestinians, a Hebrew-speaker who trained in two Israeli hospitals - the Soroka hospital in Beersheba just 18 miles from Gaza, and Tel Aviv's Tel Hashomer hospital.

His tragedy prompted numerous calls of concern to the station, many from people who know him.

"We all know and love him well at Soroka, and we really hope the situation gets better," Dr. Shaul Sofer, head of the ER at Soroka who taught Abu al-Aish.

Abu al-Aish, a 55-year-old gynecologist, also is a known peace activist who was involved in promoting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, and an academic who studied the affects of war on Gazan and Israeli children. He works at Gaza's main Shifa Hospital.

During the call-ins, Abu al-Aish often spoke of his fears for his eight children as Israeli shells punished not only the Hamas militants they were targeting but civilians who live in the crowded enclave, unable to leave. His wife reportedly died recently of cancer.

When Channel 10 called him on Friday, he answered the phone crying that his house in the northern Gaza strip town of Jebalia had been hit by Israeli shells and his daughters killed. Eighteen members of his extended family were in the house at the time.

Israeli TV said initial reports indicated that a sniper had fired from either the family's building - which friends quoted by TV said they doubted - or nearby, and the Israeli infantry responded with a tank shell.

Abu al-Aish was able to arrange the transfer of two injured daughters to Israeli hospitals - something that has been extremely rare during this conflict. The Israeli army also for the first time allowed a Palestinian ambulance to go straight to the Erez border crossing, where the injured were transferred to Israeli ambulances.

From there, they were taken by helicopter to Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv.

"Everyone knew we were home. Suddenly we were bombed. How can we talk to Olmert and (Foreign Minister) Tzipi Livni after this?" Abu al-Aish told television reporters at the border crossing.

"Suddenly, today when there was hope for a cease-fire, on the last day...I was speaking with my children, suddenly they bombed us. The doctor who treats Israeli patients."

Stroomuitval door Palestijnse raketten in Ashdod

Naar eigen bewering van de Al Qassam Brigades hebben ze sinds het Israelische offensief op 27 december begon tot gisteren 303 Qassams, 213 Grad raketten en 51 mortiergranaten op Israël afgevuurd.
(www. en www.

Jan 17, 2009 10:17 | Updated Jan 17, 2009 22:52
Rocket in Ashdod causes power outage
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue to fire rockets at the western Negev on Saturday evening, with a Grad-type rocket hit in Ashdod causing power outages in the south of the city.

Two Kassam rockets also hit Ashkelon, causing no casualties or damage.
On Saturday afternoon, Hamas exploited a humanitarian lull in IDF activity to fire two rockets at Beersheba. The projectiles hit in open areas, causing no injuries or damage.
Kiryat Gat was also targeted by rockets that struck open areas during the afternoon.

During the evening, officials from the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council reported hearing three explosions near a kibbutz; no injuries or damage was reported.
Throughout the day, the agricultural regional councils of Eshkol, Sdot Negev and Sha'ar Hanegev were all struck by rockets. No injuries or damage were reported.
Four mortar shells were fired at Eshkol shortly after noon. Earlier, a rocket hit outside a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev region.
Ofakim and Netivot were targeted by four rockets in the morning, with one rocket damaging a synagogue in Tifrah, near Ofakim. The building was empty due to a break in morning prayers and no one was wounded, although two people were treated for shock. Heavy damage to the structure was reported.
Gaza-belt communities released a statement on Saturday evening expressing support for Operation Cast Lead while also backing diplomatic contacts aimed at reaching a cease-fire.
"We have carried the burden of the threat of terrorism for eight years, and hold in esteem the [military] operation that has been under way over the past three weeks against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza," the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba said seven-year-old Uriel Elazarov remained in critical condition. On Thursday, a piece of rocket shrapnel penetrated his skull.
The condition of a 43-year-old woman also seriously wounded in Thursday's attack has improved, hospital officials added, saying she had left the intensive care unit in moderate condition.
On Friday, Grad rockets fired from Gaza hit Kiryat Gat, wounding three people and causing heavy damage. Others were treated for shock following the attack.
Ashdod was also targeted by two Grad rockets on Friday afternoon. One rocket struck the yard of a home, wounding one man moderately and one man lightly. They were evacuated to Rehovot's Kaplan Hospital.
The second projectile hit a factory in the city, causing heavy damage but no casualties. At least one man was treated for shock.
Twenty-three rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel on Friday.
Soldiers and civilians in the South described the rockets fire over the weekend as routine.
Though Sderot seemed a ghost town on Saturday, on Friday it was flooded with people who came from across the country to show support and to do their Shabbat shopping.
"We wanted to feel the atmosphere here from up close," said Shimon Nagar, an Israeli who has been living in New York for 40 years. He arrived in Israel a few days ago, and together with two of his friends came to Sderot to demonstrate solidarity.
One of Nagar's friends, Shmuel Levy from Herzliya, described himself as a leftist, "and even a communist." He supported continuing the offensive against Hamas. "It is either peace or war. In war as in war, but peace will win eventually," Levy said, before the three friends drove to the best lookout into Gaza.
Three couples from Tel Aviv, Ness Ziona and Rishon Lezion ate felafel near the Sderot outdoor market, which remained closed on Friday. They said they has decided to do all their shopping in the town.
"This is our first time here and we decided to support the people of Sderot and the area economically and to show them our love," said Billy Shapira from Tel Aviv.
"Two of my children who are serving in the army asked me to buy things for them here, too, and that's what we did," Ariela Cohen from Rishon Lezion said.
Late on Saturday morning many soldiers and Sderot residents were hanging around the Kfar Aza Café/convenience store.
"I just came back home after three weeks in Eilat," Sderot man Pini Asido told his friends. "I thought it would be over by now, but it isn't," he said. "But don't get me wrong. I am not complaining, we have been waiting for this for eight years."
His friend Shmuel Dahan said he refused to be intimidated by the rockets. "I am glad that Hamas fired rockets at Beersheba and Ashdod, otherwise they [the government] wouldn't have started this operation at all," he said.
When asked about the civilian casualties inside Gaza, in particular children, Dahan said: "Of course it hurts. We are human. This is not an easy thing, but what do you expect us to say, that we don't want our children to have a normal life?" he asked.
Another woman at the table said that though this operation was taking a heavy toll in children's lives, "They killed more of us. They kill us all from the inside, not a few hundreds of us, but all of us who have been living under this threat for so long."
Sec.-Lt. Stav Gilad from Jerusalem, whose job is to facilitate the evacuation of wounded soldiers and damaged equipment from Gaza, hasn't been home for three weeks. On Friday, her mother, father and aunts brought her a homemade lunch.
Stav said Operation Cast Lead had entered a static phase as far as the soldiers were concerned. "This is the phase where you've had enough of it and everything becomes routine. But there is a difference between the desire to go back home and to rest a little, and the greater desire to reach this operation's main goal: to stop the rocket fire," she said.
Stav is an only child. Her mother, Ariela, who signed the documents that allow her to serve in a combat unit, said she had been worried sick. "I know she is not going inside Gaza, but she is here in the area and that causes me to lose sleep," she said.
Stav's father, Dotan Gilad, who lives in California and took a flight to visit his daughter, said that the offensive was generally accepted by Americans.
"The IDF must remove the rocket threat from over the heads of the people. The Americans think we are crazy that we allowed this to happen, they think we are wimps," he said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

Verklaring premier Olmert over eenzijdig staakt-het-vuren Gaza

Wij worden er wel eens van beticht een spreekbuis van de Israelische regering te zijn.
Bij deze.

Translation - Prime Minister's Office

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Statement
at the Press Conference on January 17, 2009

Citizens of Israel,

Exactly three weeks ago as the Sabbath ended, we sat here before you - my friend Ehud Barak, the Vice Prime Minister Tzipi Livni and myself - and detailed the considerations and goals which guided us in launching a military operation in the Gaza Strip.  Today, we face you again and can say that the conditions have been created so that our targets, as defined when we launched the operation, have been fully achieved, and more so:

·        Hamas was badly stricken, both in terms of its military capabilities and in the infrastructure of its regime.  Its leaders are in hiding.  Many of its members have been killed.  The factories in which its missiles were manufactured have been destroyed.  The smuggling routes, through dozens of tunnels, have been bombed.  The Hamas's capabilities for conveying weapons within the Gaza Strip have been damaged.  The scope of missile fire directed at the State of Israel has been reduced.  The areas from which most of the missiles were launched are under the control of IDF forces.  The estimate of all the security services is that the Hamas's capabilities have been struck a heavy blow which will harm its ability to rule and its military capabilities for some time.

·        The IDF and the General Security Services have succeeded in conducting an outstanding operation, utilizing all the elements of Israel's force - on land, at sea and in the air.  The military operation was characterized by determination, sophistication, courage and an impressive ability in intelligence and operations, which led to significant and numerous achievements.  The current campaign proved again Israel's force and strengthened its deterrence capability vis-à-vis those who threaten us.

·        The reserves soldiers, who are the foundation for the IDF's strength, proved that the spirit of volunteerism and a willingness to sacrifice still very much exist.  These forces were made ready in a thorough manner, equipped with all they needed and thus could demonstrate their professionalism and fierceness of spirit.

·        During all the days of fighting, the Israeli home front demonstrated its strength, despite hundreds of rockets and mortar shells indiscriminately fired at a population which numbers one million residents; it was the home front that created an unshakable foundation which strengthened us and gave us the ability to continue fighting.  Two years of preparation on the home front proved that we learned our lessons and were properly organized.  The Government and the heads of the regional local authorities under attack demonstrated the patience, endurance and that same strong spirit which allowed the political echelon to make the right decisions, knowing that the home front could withstand the consequences of those decisions.

·        As a decision-making body, the Government of Israel demonstrated unity with regard to goals, and acted professionally and in coordination to achieve those goals.  The decisions were all made in a responsible and educated manner, following clarification and in-depth discussions.  As an executive branch, the Government met the demands and needs of the population and the fighting forces.

·        Alongside the successes, we must also remember the fallen and those who sacrificed their lives to achieve a better reality in the South.  The campaign claimed the lives of three residents of the South and ten of our soldiers.  Tonight our hearts are with their families.  We send our wishes for a speedy recovery to the residents of the South and to the IDF soldiers injured during the operation.

·        Today, and in large part due to the success of the military operation, the entire international community is ready to mobilize in order to achieve maximum stability, and knows that, for this to occur, the process of Hamas's strengthening must stop.  To this end, we reached a number of understandings - the importance of which cannot be underestimated - which will ensure that the strengthening of Hamas will decrease.  We formulated understandings with the Egyptian government with regard to a number of central issues, the realization of which will bring about a significant reduction in weapons smuggling from Iran and Syria to the Gaza Strip.

·        On Friday we signed a memorandum of understanding with the American government, in the framework of which the United States will mobilize to take the necessary steps, together with the other members of the international community, to prevent weapons smuggling by terrorists in Gaza. I wish to thank and express my great appreciation to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Prime Minister for her efforts to reach this agreement, for her contribution to the diplomatic steps and for the widespread diplomatic effort she made over the past several weeks, which were an important contribution to the international backing given to the Israeli effort against the terrorist organizations headed by Hamas.

·        Today I received a letter from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel and the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, in which all four expressed their profound commitment to assisting in any way in order to ensure that weapons will not succeed in reaching the murderous terrorist organizations in Gaza.

I have no doubt that were it not for the determined and successful military action, we would not have reached diplomatic understandings, which together create a full picture of impressive accomplishment.

Citizens of Israel,

The Government decided to launch the operation in Gaza only after long thought and great consideration, and only after all attempts through other means to stop the firing and other acts of terror by Hamas failed.  Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last millimeter at the end of 2005 - with no intention of returning - found itself under a barrage of missiles.  Hamas violently took control of the Gaza Strip and began attacking the communities in the South more intensely.  Hamas's methods are incomprehensible.  It placed its military system in crowded residential neighborhoods, operated among a civilian population which served as a human shield and operated under the aegis of mosques, schools and hospitals, while making the Palestinian population a hostage to its terrorist activities, with the understanding that Israel - as a country with supreme values - would not act.  The external Hamas leadership, which lives in comfort and quiet, continued to set extremist policies while ignoring the population's ongoing suffering and out of a conspicuous unwillingness to ease its situation.

Hamas in Gaza was built by Iran as a foundation for power, and is backed through funding, through training and through the provision of advanced weapons.  Iran, which strives for regional hegemony, tried to replicate the methods used by Hizbullah in Lebanon in the Gaza Strip as well.  Iran and Hamas mistook the restraint Israel exercised as weakness.  They were mistaken.  They were surprised.

The State of Israel has proven to them that restraint is an expression of strength which was exercised in a determined and sophisticated manner when that which we had avoided became unavoidable.

During the operation, the State of Israel demonstrated great sensitivity in exercising its force in order to avoid, as much as possible, harming the civilian population not involved in terror.  In cases where there was any doubt that striking at terrorists would lead to harming an innocent civilian population - we abstained from acting.  There are not many countries which would act thusly.

We have no disagreement with the residents of Gaza.  We consider the Gaza Strip a part of the future Palestinian state with which we hope to live a life of good neighborliness, and we wish for the day when the vision of two states is realized.

During the operation, we made widespread and concerted efforts to see to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population.  We allowed for the transfer of equipment, food and medicine to prevent a humanitarian crisis. In addition, I appointed Minister Isaac Herzog, the Minister of Social Welfare and Social Affairs, to head up this effort, and tonight the Cabinet instructed him to invest all his efforts in preparing a comprehensive plan so that in the next few days, we will be able to provide an appropriate and comprehensive answer to the civilian population's needs in the Gaza Strip. I wish to express my great appreciation to the international organizations which acted and continue to act tirelessly to assist us in providing the Palestinian population with appropriate living conditions.  Israel will continue to cooperate with them, especially in the coming days and weeks on behalf of the Gazan population.

Citizens of Israel,

Today, before the Government meeting, I spoke with the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who presented Egypt's initiative to me, along with his request for a ceasefire.  I thanked the President for Egypt's commitment to finding a solution to this crisis and for the important role it plays in the Middle East.  I presented the President's statement to the Cabinet, along with the totality of our achievements in the operation, as well as the completion of the goals.  The Cabinet decided to accept my proposal to declare a ceasefire.

Beginning at 2:00 a.m., Israel will cease its actions against the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip and will remain deployed in the Gaza Strip and its environs.

It must be remembered that Hamas is not part of the arrangements we came to. These are agreements involving many countries, and a terrorist organization like Hamas is not and need not be a part of them.  If our enemies decide that the blows they have already suffered are not enough and they wish to continue fighting, Israel will be ready for that scenario and will feel free to continue responding with force.

Hamas was surprised a number of times during the past several weeks.  It did not predict the State of Israel's determination or the seriousness of its intentions to bring about a change in the reality in the region.  Hamas's leaders did not believe that the State of Israel would launch a military operation on such a scale on the eve of elections; it did not predict the force of the military attack and moreover - it did not predict the outcome.

Hamas still does not fully appreciate the difficult blow it received.  If Hamas decides to continue its wild terrorist attacks, it may find itself surprised again by the State of Israel's determination.  I do not suggest that it or any other terrorist organization test us.

This statement tonight would be incomplete if I did not mention the kidnapped soldier, Gilad Schalit.  One hundred meters from here, there is a demonstration for his release, and I respect each and every one of the participants.  The intensive efforts to secure Gilad's release began long before the operation, continued during it and will continue after as well. The Government of Israel is working on many levels to bring him home, and during the operation we carried out various actions to bring us closer to this goal.  Due to the sensitivity of the matter, I will not go into detail. I will only say that Gilad is at the top of our agenda, and we do not need any prodding or reminding in this matter.  I am hopeful tonight as well that we will soon see him in his family's embrace.

On a personal note:

For weeks I have been watching the people of Israel day and night as we make the unprecedented effort to fight for and realize our right of self-defense. I saw the brave soldiers, our dear and beloved sons; I saw their commanders and the spirit which buoyed them; I saw the residents of the South, their fierce sprit; and the leadership of the mayors who took care to provide for the needs of their residents; I also saw the actions of the Home Front Command, which quietly and efficiently coordinated the assistance campaign for the southern region; and I heard the bereaved families.

Dear families, the things you said, the pain you expressed, the fierce spirit you demonstrated - these are the foundation for the people of Israel's strength.  On behalf of the entire nation, on behalf of the Government of Israel, I share your profound pain and thank you for the encouragement, the strength and the inspiration your strong stance has granted the entire nation.

I also wish to say something to the people of Gaza: even before the military operation began, and during it, I appealed to you.  We do not hate you; we did not want and do not want to harm you.  We wanted to defend our children, their parents, their families.  We feel the pain of every Palestinian child and family member who fell victim to the cruel reality created by Hamas which transformed you into victims.

Your suffering is terrible.  Your cries of pain touch each of our hearts. On behalf of the Government of Israel, I wish to convey my regret for the harming of uninvolved civilians, for the pain we caused them, for the suffering they and their families suffered as a result of the intolerable situation created by Hamas.

The understandings we reached with Egypt, the international backing of the United States and the European countries - all these do not ensure that the firing by Hamas will stop.  If it completely stops - the IDF will consider withdrawing from Gaza at a time which it deems right.  If not, the IDF will continue to act in defense of our residents.

This is the time to convey our appreciation and gratitude, first and foremost to you, Mr. Minister of Defense, for your work, for the tremendous effort you made, for your skill, professionalism and the understanding you demonstrated throughout he operation - thank you very much.  I wish to thank the soldiers of the IDF, their commanders, the Head of the Southern Command Yoav Galant, and the Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi; to the General Security Services, its fighters and its head, Yuval Diskin; to the Mossad and its hidden fighters, headed by Meir Dagan; to the Israel Police and the emergency services, Magan David Adom and the Fire Department.

Blessed is the nation with such an army and such security and rescue services.

I wish to express my hope that tonight the first step towards a different reality, one of security and quiet for the residents of Israel, will be taken.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank the people of Israel, its fighters and their commanders for the fierceness of spirit and the social solidarity they demonstrated over these past weeks.

This is the secret of our strength - it is the foundation for our power and it is the hope of our future.

Thank you.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Vannacht gaat eenzijdig staakt-het-vuren Gazastrook in

Vannacht om 2 uur Israelische (1 uur Nederlandse) tijd gaat het staakt-het-vuren door Israel in, zo heeft het kabinet besloten.
Hamas heeft al aangekondigd door te gaan met raketbeschietingen tot hun eisen zijn ingewilligd. Zij willen doorvechten tot de laatste burger van Gaza lijkt het; statistisch gezien zou dat in dit tempo nog 60 jaar zijn...
Hopelijk houdt het staakt-het-vuren lang genoeg om humanitaire hulp op gang te krijgen zoals medische verzorging en voedsel- en brandstofdistributie. Een definitief einde van de gevechten durf ik niet te voorspellen, tenzij Hamas alsnog toegeeft en aan de belangen van de Palestijnen begint te denken.

Last update - 23:45 17/01/2009

Israel to begin unilateral Gaza cease-fire at 2 A.M.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Prime Minster Ehud Olmert on Saturday night announced that Israel's security cabinet has voted in favor of a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, which will come into effect at 2 A.M.

The announcement comes after three weeks of fighting in the coastal strip, as Israel launched a massive military offensive aimed at halting years of daily rocket fire on its southern communities. Palestinian sources say that more than 1,100 Gazans have been killed since the offensive began on December 27. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israel Defense Forces have been killed during that period.

The decision to launch the cease-fire was approved during a lengthy security cabinet meeting which began after sundown in Tel Aviv. Two ministers were against the move, and another abstained.

"Our fight is not with the people of Gaza," Olmert said at the Tel Aviv press conference following the cabinet meeting. "We left Gaza in 2005 with the intention of never returning," he said, referring to Israel's unilateral withdrawal of troops and settlers from the territory under former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Olmert warned that Iran, through its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, was trying to establish its own hegemony in the region. He said that Hamas had underestimated Israel's decisiveness, had been "surprised" by the launch of the offensive, and was still not fully aware of how badly it had been damaged.

Olmert said that "if Hamas entirely ends its rocket fire on Israel, Israel will consider an IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip." If that did not occur, he said, "The IDF will continue to operate in order to protect our citizens."

Most rocket launching areas are now controlled by IDF, he said.

A strong hint at the impending cease-fire announcement came earlier Saturday, when Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel was very close to meeting the objectives of its 22-day-old offensive in Gaza.

"After three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, we are very close to reaching the goals and securing them through diplomatic agreements," Barak said during a visit to the south of the country, according to a statement from his office.

The decision means Israel has put an end to Operation Cast Lead without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt in battling arms smuggling into Gaza. 

Israel's Channel 10 earlier Saturday quoted IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi as saying he is in favor of bringing the IDF Gaza operation to a close.

A government source emphasized that there has been great progress with Egypt in reaching an agreement on fighting arms smuggling. The deal would require the combined use of technological measures on the border between Gaza and Egypt, operations against smugglers in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and the use of international experts to identify smuggling tunnels on the border.

The deal would also call for cooperation between Israel and Egypt on matters relating to the Gaza Strip in which they have shared interests, without the interference of Hamas.

Egypt is at the moment considering whether to organize a summit in the near future in Cairo between Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Egypt's state-run news agency MENA reported on Saturday that Mubarak has invited French President Nicholas Sarzoky and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for talks on how to end the Gaza offensive.

The Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that Abbas and Sarkozy are set to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Muabark on Sunday.

The United States and Israel signed an agreement on Friday aimed at stopping the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

The deal includes measures meant to fight arms smuggling from Iran to Gaza, with the policing to take place throughout the route by which the arms reach Gaza, including patrols of the Persian Gulf, Sudan and neighboring states.

The two-and-a-half page document outlines a framework under which the United States will provide military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training to Israel, Egypt and other nations in the region. The equipment and training would be used for monitoring Gaza's land and sea borders.

The document also calls for the U.S. to expand work with its NATO partners in the effort, particularly in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and eastern Africa, according to a text.

It also commits Washington to use relevant components of the U.S. military to assist Mideast governments in preventing weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories.

Although signed by the Bush administration, the agreement is binding on the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama and Rice and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said both Obama and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton had been briefed on the details.

Memorandum Israel en VS tegen wapensmokkel

Dit is het akkoord dat gisteren tussen Israel en de VS is gesloten, en op grond waarvan Israel waarschijnlijk vanavond met een eenzijdig staakt het vuren in zal stemmen.



אל: כל הנציגויות

דע: תפוצת הסברה

מאת: מח' מידע ואינטרנט – אגף תקשורת


הנדון:  מזכר ההבנה למניעת הברחות - טקסט - 16.1.09




Memorandum of Understanding


Israel and the United States Regarding

Prevention of the Supply of Arms and Related Materiel to Terrorist Groups


Israel and the United States (the "Parties"),


Recalling the steadfast commitment of the United States to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats;


Reaffirming that such commitment is reflected in the security, military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel, the Strategic Dialogue between them, and the level and kind of assistance provided by the United States to Israel;


Taking note of the efforts of Egyptian President Mubarak, particularly the recognition that securing Gaza's border is indispensable to realizing a durable and sustainable end to fighting in Gaza;


Unequivocally condemning all acts, methods, and practices of terrorism as unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed and whatever the motivation, in particular, the recent rocket and mortar attacks and other hostile activity perpetrated against Israel from Gaza by terrorist organizations;


Recognizing that suppression of acts of international terrorism, including denying the provision of arms and related materiel to terrorist organizations, is an essential element for the maintenance of international peace and security;


Recognizing that the acquisition and use of arms and related materiel by terrorists against Israel were the direct causes of recent hostilities;


Recognizing the threat to Israel of hostile and terrorist activity from Gaza, including weapons smuggling and the build-up of terrorist capabilities, weapons and infrastructure; and understanding that Israel, like all nations, enjoys the inherent right of self defense, including the right to defend itself against terrorism through appropriate action;


Desiring to improve bilateral, regional and multilateral efforts to prevent the provision of arms and related materiel to terrorist organizations, particularly those currently operating in the Gaza Strip, such as Hamas;


Recognizing that achieving and maintaining a durable and sustainable cessation of hostilities is dependent upon prevention of smuggling and re-supply of weapons into Gaza for Hamas, a terrorist organization, and other terrorist groups, and affirming that Gaza should not be used as a base from which Israel may be attacked;


Recognizing also that combating weapons and explosives supply to Gaza is a multi-dimensional, results-oriented effort with a regional focus and international components working in parallel, and that this is a priority of the United States' and Israel's efforts, independently and with each other, to ensure a durable and sustainable end to hostilities;


Recognizing further the crucial need for the unimpeded, safe and secure provision of humanitarian assistance to the residents of Gaza;


Intending to work with international partners to ensure the enforcement of relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions on counterterrorism in relation to terrorist activity in Gaza;


Have reached the following understandings:


1.  The Parties will work cooperatively with neighbors and in parallel with others in the international community to prevent the supply of arms and related materiel to terrorist organizations that threaten either party, with a particular focus on the supply of arms, related materiel and explosives into Gaza to Hamas and other terrorist organizations.


2.  The United States will work with regional and NATO partners to address the problem of the supply of arms and related materiel and weapons transfers and shipments to Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, including through the Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and eastern Africa, through improvements in existing arrangements or the launching of new initiatives to increase the effectiveness of those arrangements as they relate to the prevention of weapons smuggling to Gaza.  Among the tools that will be pursued are:


·        Enhanced U.S. security and intelligence cooperation with regional governments on actions to prevent weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories; including through the involvement of relevant components of the U.S. Government, such as U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Special Operations Command.


·        Enhanced intelligence fusion with key international and coalition naval forces and other appropriate entities to address weapons supply to Gaza;


·        Enhancement of the existing international sanctions and enforcement mechanisms against provision of material support to Hamas and other terrorist organizations, including through an international response to those states, such as Iran, who are determined to be sources of weapons and explosives supply to Gaza.


3.  The United States and Israel will assist each other in these efforts through enhanced sharing of information and intelligence that would assist in identifying the origin and routing of weapons being supplied to terrorist organizations in Gaza.


4.  The United States will accelerate its efforts to provide logistical and technical assistance and to train and equip regional security forces in counter-smuggling tactics, working towards augmenting its existing assistance programs.


5.  The United States will consult and work with its regional partners on expanding international assistance programs to affected communities in order to provide an alternative income/employment to those formerly involved in smuggling.


6.  The Parties will establish mechanisms as appropriate for military and intelligence cooperation to share intelligence information and to monitor implementation of the steps undertaken in the context of this Memorandum of Understanding and to recommend additional measures to advance the goals of this Memorandum of Understanding.  In so far as military cooperation is concerned, the relevant mechanism will be the United States-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group, the annual Military to Military discussion, and the Joint Political Military Group.


7.  This Memorandum of Understanding of ongoing political commitments between the Parties will be subject to the laws and regulations of the respective parties, as applicable, including those governing the availability of funds and the sharing of information and intelligence.




This Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 16 January, 2009 at Washington, in duplicate, in the English language.



FOR ISRAEL:                                            FOR THE UNITED STATES:




עד כאן


מח' מידע ואינטרנט – אגף תקשורת

Grootste watercrisis in Israel in 80 jaar

Een probleem waar maar weinig aandacht voor is. Ik heb al eens eerder betoogd dat Israel misschien maar geen waterzuipende landbouwproducten zoals bloemen, tomaten en parika's meer naar Europa moet exporteren, maar juist producten die weinig water nodig hebben; om de markt wat dit betreft haar werk te laten doen, moet water dus nog een stuk duurder worden. Dan zal het tevens aantrekkelijker worden om te investeren in ontziltingsinstallaties. De vele mensen in Israel die op of onder de armoedegrens leven zouden dan gecompenseerd moeten worden, of water zou boven een bepaalde hoeveelheid pas duurder moeten worden.
Ik heb eerlijk gezegd geen idee wat voor discussies hierover in Israel gaande zijn en wat voor voorstellen er zijn gedaan om iets aan de waterproblematiek te doen, want dit probleem wordt totaal overvleugeld door het conflict met de Palestijnen en Arabieren. Juist op dit vlak zou Israel haar buren, die hier in nog ernstiger mate mee kampen, echter wat te bieden kunnen hebben.
Last update - 04:49 16/01/2009
Expert: Israel faces worst water crisis in 80 years
By Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz Correspondent
Though there are still more than two months left in the rainy season, the writing is already on the wall: Expect another dry winter that will worsen the state of Israel's water economy.

To date, most parts of the country have received only 60 to 80 percent of their normal rainfall for this time of year. The situation is particularly grave around Lake Kinneret, which is Israel's principal water source. The last time the lake was this low, six years ago, we were saved by an exceptionally rainy February that raised the water level by several meters in the space of a few weeks. The chances of that happening a second time, however, are slim. And barring such an occurrence, the lake is likely to remain so low as to virtually preclude pumping from it.

On Wednesday, Water Authority director Prof. Uri Shani told the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee that, so far, this has been the driest January since regular rainfall measurements began. "We are at the height of a water crisis whose like we haven't seen for 80 years," he warned.
The Water Authority believes the easiest way to save water is to ban watering lawns, both public and private. Shani said an order to this effect will be issued soon. The authority also intends to cut the water quota for farmers by another 100 million cubic meters. For now, however, it does not intend to forbid watering gardens, nor does it intend to initiate short-term cutoffs of the water supply to households, having concluded that this actually does little to save water.

In an effort to increase supply, the authority plans to expand drilling in areas such as the Golan Heights, the Hula Valley and the eastern Galilee. The drilling sites are slated to include nature reserves and natural parks, a proposal that has upset green organizations - not only because these sites will receive less water, but because the drilling itself, plus attendant work such as constructing access roads, could harm these sites.

Even without new drilling, some nature reserves are already suffering severe water shortages that have harmed their native flora. Lake Kinneret has been suffering ecological damage as well.

"We understand that the situation is grave and action must be taken quickly, but it is still necessary to give thought to nature and open spaces," said Itamar Ben David of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Drilling in nature reserves, he argued, should be "a last resort."

In a discussion on how best to counter the water crisis, Shani said that the Water Administration is considering anchoring desalination boats off the coasts of Israel.

"The gap between demand and availability, as well as the condition of the aquifers being in the bad shape, suggest that the peak of the crisis is still ahead of us in 2009," Shani added.

In 2008 water allocation for farming was already at its lowest point since the establishment of the state, at 450 million cubic meters.

Committee chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz acknowledged that "the crisis is severe, but there is no sense of crisis and no one is behaving as if it were a crisis. We expect the government to adopt a determined, aggressive police of enforcement and punishment, including criminal charges [against violators of water restriction regulations]."

Egyptische sheik erkent antisemitisme

MEMRI: Special Dispatch | No. 2190 | January 15, 2009
Egypt/Antisemitism Documentation Project
Egyptian Cleric Safwat Higazi Responds to MEMRI: "Yes, I Am An Antisemite"; If Not for the Arab Rulers, "We Would Devour [The Jews] With Our Teeth"; "We Are Your Enemies. Until The Day Jesus. Descends, Fighting You And Calling To Join Islam"

Recently, MEMRI TV released a clip of a speech by Sheikh Safwat Higazi that aired on Hamas Al-Aqsa TV on December 31, 2008, in which the sheikh said: "Being killed... is what we desire and hope for. It is martyrdom, by Allah... I wish I could stand among the youth of the Al-Qassam Brigades, passing them one of their missiles, wiping from their faces the dust of a missile that was launched, or crying 'Allah Akbar' along with them... Dispatch those sons of apes and pigs to the Hellfire, on the wings of the Qassam rockets... Jihad is our path... The [Jews]... deserve to be killed. They deserve to die. Destroy... everything over there"
(to view this clip, visit ).

According to the Lebanese Daily Star, Safwat Higazi is founder and secretary-general of Dar Al-Ansar for Islamic Affairs,(1) and in January 2008 headed a 21-vehicle relief convoy bound for Gaza with medical and food supplies and blankets but was stopped by Egyptian police.(2) On December 24, 2008, he issued a fatwa that anyone who denies the Sunna is an infidel and crazy, and must be killed.(3)

On January 4, 2009, Sheikh Higazi responded to MEMRI's releases, on Al-Nas TV
(to view this clip, visit

De reactie van sheik Safwat Higazi op beschuldigingen van MEMRI dat hij aanzet tot haat en geweld:
Safwat Higazi: "An Israeli-American organization monitoring Arab media, called MEMRI - or rather, this is its acronym - has accused several prominent Muslim clerics and sheikhs from Arab TV channels, including Dr. Sallah Sultan and Sheikh Safwat Higazi, of incitement to the killing of the Jews and to hatred of the U.S.


"This is a great honor for us. Yes, I am an antisemite. Yes, I hate Zionism. Yes, Judgment Day will not come until we fight the Jews. These are the words of our Prophet, like it or not."[...]

"Yes, We Hate Them... If Our Rulers Let Us, We Would Catch You in the Street... [And] Devour You With Our Teeth"
"Yes, we are enemies of these people. We are enemies of all those who plunder our land and our rights, and we are enemies of the American government, and of whoever helps our enemies in the killing of our brothers. We are enemies of whoever helps our enemies - America and all the others.

"Yes, we hate them. Yes, we are hostile to them. By Allah, only our rulers prevent us from getting to you. By Allah, if they let us, we would devour you completely, and we would bite you with our teeth. We would not wait for weapons, for RPGs, or for bullets. If our rulers let us, we would catch you in the street, and we would devour you with our teeth.

"Yes, we are your enemies, and we will continue to be your enemies, until the day Jesus son of Mary descends, fighting you and calling to join Islam, the religion of the Prophet Muhammad."

For assistance, please contact MEMRI at

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077

Waarom Israel geen vrede kan sluiten met Hamas

There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.
The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.
Deze laatste visie is vooral populair onder een grote groep Europeanen. De huidige militaire campagne zou de extremisten versterken, en gesprekken met Hamas en tegenmoet komen aan hun wensen zou de gematigden ten goede komen. Het is zeker waar dat de dood en destructie in Gaza Hamas sympathie oplevert, maar tegelijkertijd zien Palestijnen ook dat het op de Westoever onder Fatah toch beter toeven is. Bovendien komt Hamas zwaar aangeslagen uit deze strijd, en dat is dus juist een klap voor de extremisten. Macht en invloed komen in het Midden-Oosten vaak uit de loop van een geweer, zoals Hamas onder andere in haar bloedige coup in 2007 liet zien. Een verzwakt Hamas is goed voor de kansen op vrede, omdat zij zo minder goed in staat zal zijn het vredesproces te torpederen zoals zij in de jaren '90 met succes deed.
January 14, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
Why Israel Can't Make Peace With Hamas



IN the summer of 2006, at a moment when Hezbollah rockets were falling virtually without pause on northern Israel, Nizar Rayyan, husband of four, father of 12, scholar of Islam and unblushing executioner, confessed to me one of his frustrations.

We were meeting in a concrete mosque in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Mr. Rayyan, who was a member of the Hamas ruling elite, and an important recruiter of suicide bombers until Israel killed him two weeks ago (along with several of his wives and children), arrived late to our meeting from parts unknown.

He was watchful for assassins even then, and when I asked him to describe his typical day, he suggested that I might be a spy for Fatah. Not the Mossad, mind you, not the C.I.A., but Fatah.

What a phantasmagorically strange conflict the Arab-Israeli war had become! Here was a Saudi-educated, anti-Shiite (but nevertheless Iranian-backed) Hamas theologian accusing a one-time Israeli Army prison official-turned-reporter of spying for Yasir Arafat's Fatah, an organization that had once been the foremost innovator of anti-Israeli terrorism but was now, in Mr. Rayyan's view, indefensibly, unforgivably moderate.

In the Palestinian civil war, Fatah, which today controls much of the West Bank and is engaged in intermittent negotiations with Israel, had become Mr. Rayyan's direst enemy, a party of apostates and quislings. "First we must deal with the Muslims who speak of a peace process and then we will deal with you," he declared.

But we spoke that day mainly about the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that specifically concerned Jews and their diverse and apparently limitless character failings. This sort of conversation, while illuminating, can become wearying over time, at least for the Jewish participant, and so I was happy to learn that Mr. Rayyan had his own sore points.

"Hezbollah is doing very well against Israel, don't you think?" I asked. His face darkened, suggesting that he understood the implication of my question. At the time, Hamas, too, was firing rockets into Israel, though irregularly and without much effect.

"We support our brothers in the resistance," he said. But then he added, "I think each situation is different."

How so?

"They have advantages that we in Gaza don't have," he said. "They have excellent weapons. Hezbollah moves freely in Lebanon. We are trapped in the Israeli cage. So I don't like to hear the sentence, 'Hezbollah is the leader of the resistance.' It's a very annoying sentence. They are heroes to us. But we are the ones fighting in Palestine."

"And they're Shia," I said. Mr. Rayyan, who was educated by Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, was known in Gaza as a firm defender of Sunni theology and privilege, and sometimes lectured at the Islamic University of Gaza on the danger of Shiite "infiltration."

"Yes! There are many different secret agendas," he said. "We have to be aware of this."

Hamas men across Gaza were of two minds on the subject of Hezbollah: One night, I met the members of a Hamas rocket team in the town of Beit Hanoun, on Gaza's northern border with Israel. The group's leader, who went by the name of Abu Obeidah, said that he, too, was frustrated by Hezbollah's success against Israel; he even asked if Hamas's rocket attacks that summer were featured on television in America, and seemed to deflate physically when I told him no.

"Everyone, all the media, says that Hezbollah is wonderful," he complained. "We stand with our brothers of Hezbollah, of course, but, really, look at the advantages they have. They get all the rockets they will ever need from Iran."

Hamas is not a monolith, and opinions inside the group differ about many things, including engagement with the Shiites of Hezbollah and Iran. The former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi told me shortly before he was assassinated by Israel in 2004 that it would be "uncharitable" to find fault with Iran.

"What do the Arab states do for us?" he asked. "Iran is steadfast against the Jews."

Today, there is no doubt that Rantisi's view holds sway inside the organization, and many in Hamas wish for even closer ties with Tehran, particularly over the past month as they have absorbed a battering from Israel. Even those who believe that Iran is secretly trying to bring Sunni Palestinians to Shiism acknowledge anti-Israel Shiites as ideals of resistance.

As the Gaza war moves to a cease-fire, a crucial question will inevitably arise, as it has before: Should Israel (and by extension, the United States) try to engage Hamas in a substantive and sustained manner?

It is a fair question, one worth debating, but it is unmoored from certain political and theological realities. One irresistible reality grows from Hamas's complicated, competitive relationship with Hezbollah. For Hamas, Hezbollah is not only a source of weapons and instruction, it is a mentor and role model.

Hamas's desire to best Hezbollah's achievements is natural, of course, but, more to the point, it is radicalizing. One of the reasons, among many, that Hamas felt compelled to break its cease-fire with Israel last month was to prove its potency to Muslims impressed with Hezbollah.

Another reality worth considering concerns theology. Hamas and Hezbollah emerged from very different streams of Islam: Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood; Hezbollah is an outright Iranian proxy that takes its inspiration from the radical Shiite politics of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But the groups share a common belief that Jews are a cosmological evil, enemies of Islam since Muhammad sought refuge in Medina.

Periodically, advocates of negotiation suggest that the hostility toward Jews expressed by Hamas is somehow mutable. But in years of listening, I haven't heard much to suggest that its anti-Semitism is insincere. Like Hezbollah, Hamas believes that God is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine. Both groups are rhetorically pitiless, though, again, Hamas sometimes appears to follow the lead of Hezbollah.

I once asked Abdel Aziz Rantisi where he learned what he called "the truth" of the Holocaust — that it didn't happen — and he referred me to books published by Hezbollah. Hamas and Hezbollah also share the view that the solution for Palestine lies in Europe. A spokesman for Hezbollah, Hassan Izzedine, once told me that the Jews who survive the Muslim "liberation" of Palestine "can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from." He went on to argue that the Jews are a "curse to anyone who lives near them."

Nizar Rayyan expressed much the same sentiment the night we spoke in 2006. We had been discussing a passage of the Koran that suggests that God turns a group of impious Jews into apes and pigs. The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, among others, has deployed this passage in his speeches. Once, at a rally in Beirut, he said: "We shout in the face of the killers of prophets and the descendants of the apes and pigs: We hope we will not see you next year. The shout remains, 'Death to Israel!'"

Mr. Rayyan said that, technically, Mr. Nasrallah was mistaken. "Allah changed disobedient Jews into apes and pigs, it is true, but he specifically said these apes and pigs did not have the ability to reproduce," Mr. Rayyan said. "So it is not literally true that Jews today are descended from pigs and apes, but it is true that some of the ancestors of Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and it is true that Allah continually makes the Jews pay for their crimes in many different ways. They are a cursed people."

I asked him the question I always ask of Hamas leaders: Could you agree to anything more than a tactical cease-fire with Israel? I felt slightly ridiculous asking: A man who believes that God every now and again transforms Jews into pigs and apes might not be the most obvious candidate for peace talks at Camp David. Mr. Rayyan answered the question as I thought he would, saying that a long-term cease-fire would be unnecessary, because it will not take long for the forces of Islam to eradicate Israel.

There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.

The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.

The only small chance for peace today is the same chance that existed before the Gaza invasion: The moderate Arab states, Europe, the United States and, mainly, Israel, must help Hamas's enemy, Fatah, prepare the West Bank for real freedom, and then hope that the people of Gaza, vast numbers of whom are unsympathetic to Hamas, see the West Bank as an alternative to the squalid vision of Hassan Nasrallah and Nizar Rayyan.


Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, is the author of "Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror."


Is Gaza beter af met een zwak Hamas of zonder Hamas?

Binnen Hamas in Gaza neemt de kritiek op het 'principiele' leiderschap in Damascus - dat ertoe had aangezet het staakt het vuren niet te verlengen - verder toe. Ondertussen heeft Meshaal in een speech op Al Jazeera de overwinning in Gaza uitgeroepen. Damascus is ver van Gaza.

The latest developments have contributed to optimism in Israel. However, those who are still toying with the idea of bringing down Hamas entirely should weigh what is best: a weakened Hamas or complete anarchy in the Strip, with no one in power to threaten or to make indirect agreements with? Gaza can still deteriorate into another Somalia. 

Als Hamas geheel verslagen zou zijn kan de Palestijnse Autoriteit van Abbas terugkeren, zodat de eenheid tussen de Westoever en Gaza is hersteld en er één Palestijns leiderschap is waarmee Israel kan onderhandelen. Ook een ernstig verzwakt Hamas kan gedwongen worden om de macht weer met de PA te delen zoals voor haar illegale coup in juni 2007.


Last update - 03:14 16/01/2009
ANALYSIS / Would Gaza be better with weak Hamas or no Hamas?
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents 

In a series of blows during the past 24 hours, the most severe since the Israel Defense Forces operation began in the Gaza Strip 20 days ago, Hamas was brought very close to surrender.

It is unlikely that we will see white flags, because the group recognizes that this would have a devastating effect on its image. But the Israeli military pressure has destroyed most of the Palestinian defenses in the heart of Gaza City, a day after the group had to agree in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire a deal it is not very happy with.

At the start of the fighting, there was talk in the IDF of a Hamas division, trained and funded by Iran, ready to confront an invasion of the Gaza Strip. This division evaporated and it is doubtful whether it ever existed.
The situation as of last night was as follows: Said Sayyam and Salah Abu Shreich, two senior Hamas figures, were killed in an air strike in Jabaliya. The home of another Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, is surrounded. Infantry, armor and special forces are operating in the center of the city, very close to the Hamas "security quarter" southwest of the city, where most of the command and control centers of the group are situated.

Even in the center of the city, Hamas gunmen are opting to avoid direct encounters with the IDF. In most cases they are choosing to escape along with thousands of civilians. The Hamas announcement in Cairo two days ago began the countdown toward a cease-fire.

The head of the political-security bureau at the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, delivered a positive message to Egypt regarding Cairo's cease-fire initiative. Israel's "kitchen-cabinet" still deliberated late into the night, where the Ehud Barak-Tzipi Livni alliance grew tighter in an effort to block the last minute warlike urge of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to continue the offensive.

The army sensed Hamas' weakness when units left their defensive positions in the Zeytun neighborhood. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi approved the assault and forces reached the center of the city through the gap. On the way, the IDF killed most of the members of a unit comprising militants trained by Iran.

The latest move has is risks. The IDF is constantly concerned that a single mistake may lead to mass killing of Palestinian civilians, or a surprise attack by Hamas that may affect public opinion in Israel. This nearly happened yesterday when UNRWA facilities were hit.

On Wednesday a commando force suffered six soldiers injured when a wall collapsed on them. Another force had destroyed a tunnel and it caused the collapse nearby.

GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant ordered soldiers not to stay in multi-story buildings, fearing the explosion of booby-trapped devices that could cause many casualties.

Meanwhile it seems that at least the Hamas leadership in Gaza has began to fathom the seriousness of its position. Two Hamas leaders in the Strip, Razi Hamad and Ahmed Yusuf, accused the group's leadership in Damascus of "bringing a terrible disaster on Gaza."

The two are considered members of the pragmatic wing of the party, and charged the Damascus-based leadership with making a terrible mistake in ordering Hamas to foil the extension of the cease-fire agreement with Israel in December.

However, in Damascus it is not clear that the message has been received. Ramadan Shalah, head of the Islamic Jihad, told Al Jazeera that the Palestinians will continue their resistance in Gaza and the city will not surrender because "victory is imminent."

The head of the Hamas politburo, Khaled Meshal, who is central in the decision that led to the events in the Strip, spoke in Damascus last night of a Palestinian "victory in Gaza."

During the speech, delivered live on Al Jazeera, breaking news announced that Said Sayyam and his brother Iyad had been killed in Gaza.

The latest developments have contributed to optimism in Israel. However, those who are still toying with the idea of bringing down Hamas entirely should weigh what is best: a weakened Hamas or complete anarchy in the Strip, with no one in power to threaten or to make indirect agreements with? Gaza can still deteriorate into another Somalia.

Dit weekend eindelijk staakt-het-vuren in Gaza?

Het leek er even op dat er overeenstemming zou komen over een staakt-het-vuren met bemiddeling van Egypte. Israel overweegt nu een eenzijdig staakt-het-vuren te proberen. De internationale kritiek en druk op Israel blijft groeien, en de meeste militaire doelen lijken gehaald, afgezien van het riskante uitkammen van de binnenstad van Gaza.
Evenals eerder in Libanon is het echter niet gelukt om de Hamas raketten helemaal het zwijgen op te leggen, noch om Hamas te dwingen tot een staakt-het-vuren op Israels voorwaarden.
Hoe een eenzijdig staakt-het-vuren uit zou pakken is moeilijk in te schatten. Hamas zal ook met haar beschietingen moeten stoppen, anders is het snel weer over. Egypte zal wellicht doortastender gaan optreden tegen de wapensmokkel, en hopelijk is er nog overeenstemming te bereiken over waarnemers aan de grens, zodat meer - dringend nodige - goederen en hulpverleners naar de Gazastrook kunnen, zonder dat Hamas zich al te makkelijk kan herbewapenen.

Last update - 00:31 17/01/2009

Cabinet to vote Saturday on unilateral Gaza truce
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

The cabinet will hold a vote on Saturday evening to decide whether to enact a unilateral cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The decision would mean Israel has put an end to the three-week-long Operation Cast Lead without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt in battling arms smuggling into Gaza.

A government source emphasized that there has been great progress with Egypt in reaching an agreement on fighting arms smuggling. The deal would require the combined use of technological measures on the border between Gaza and Egypt, operations against smugglers in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and the use of international experts to identify smuggling tunnels on the border.

The deal would also call for cooperation between Israel and Egypt on matters relating to the Gaza Strip in which they have shared interests, without the interference of Hamas.

Egypt is at the moment considering whether to organize a summit in the near future between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The United States and Israel signed an agreement on Friday aimed at stopping the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

The deal includes measures meant to fight arms smuggling from Iran to Gaza, with the policing to take place throughout the route by which the arms reach Gaza, including patrols of the Persian Gulf, Sudan and neighboring states.

The two-and-a-half page document outlines a framework under which the United States will provide military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training to Israel, Egypt and other nations in the region. The equipment and training would be used for monitoring Gaza's land and sea borders.

The document also calls for the U.S. to expand work with its NATO partners in the effort, particularly in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and eastern Africa, according to a text.

It also commits Washington to use relevant components of the U.S. military to assist Mideast governments in preventing weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories.

Although signed by the Bush administration, the agreement is binding on the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama and Rice and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said both Obama and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton had been briefed on the details.

vrijdag 16 januari 2009

Gedode Hamas minister was hoofdrolspeler in Gaza machtsgreep 2007

Geen frisse jongen, die waarschijnlijk zelf vaker heeft verklaard dat het martelarenschap boven het leven te verkiezen is. Wel, dat heeft Israel hem nu bezorgd.
Last update - 00:45 16/01/2009
PROFILE / Slain Hamas minister was key figure in '07 Gaza coup
By The Associated Press
Hamas Interior Minister Said Sayyam, killed in an Israeli airstrike Thursday, was one of the Islamic militant group's top five leaders in Gaza and a key figure in its violent takeover of the territory in 2007.

The 50-year-old Sayyam was in his brother's house in a Gaza City suburb when an Israeli warplane dropped a huge bomb, flattening the building and leaving a deep crater in the sandy ground. Sayyam's brother and the brother's family were also killed. Hamas TV showed footage of Sayyam's body, wrapped in a bloodied white shroud. 

Sayyam was the second of Hamas' top five to be assassinated during Israel's 20-day-old offensive, aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel. The offensive has killed nearly 1,100 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, but Hamas has yet to agree to an Egyptian cease-fire offer.

A Hamas spokesman said Sayyam's death would not shake the militant group's defiance.

"Some of our leaders will fall, some of our people will fall, but the flag of resistance wont fall," said Sami Abu Zuhri.

Sayyam, who served as interior minister, did not look like a typical Hamas leader. He sported a short beard, dark turtlenecks and black sports jackets, rather than the Arab robes that some of his colleagues donned.

He was often long-winded in press conferences. When angry, he could dip into coarse, colorful Gaza slang to describe his rivals. The hardliner often insisted women cover their hair, in compliance with conservative Muslim law, before entering his office.

Born in 1959 in Gaza's Shati refugee camp, he worked as a math and science teacher at local United Nations-run schools. He joined Hamas in the 1980s, one of its earliest members. Sayyam quickly assumed leadership of the local teacher's union.

He was active in the first Palestinian intifada against Israel, which erupted in 1987. He headed a Hamas branch that hunted and killed suspected Palestinian informers for Israel.

Israeli forces detained Sayyam several times in the 1990s, and in 1992 exiled him for a year to southern Lebanon with hundreds of other Hamas leaders.

In the mid-1990s, Hamas' rival, the Fatah movement of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, established the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, as part of interim peace deals with Israel. Sayyam was arrested by Fatah security forces during this period.

Sayyam rose through Hamas' ranks, preaching at a local mosque and ultimately becoming a chief negotiator for the militant group in dealings with Egyptian and Iranian officials, with whom he enjoyed warm relations.

He was elected to the Palestinian parliament in 2006, winning the most votes of any candidate.

After Hamas' sweeping victory in those elections, the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah intensified. Sayyam set up the Executive Force, a security apparatus that developed into Hamas' police after the militants seized Gaza in June 2007.

After the takeover, he was widely feared for cracking down on opponents. Local human rights groups frequently complained his ministry used torture to cower Fatah rivals.

In 2008, Sayyam shut down a Gaza City neighborhood close to Israel's border, after a local pro-Fatah clan living there refused to hand over suspects implicated in a car bombing that killed Hamas officials. Under Sayyam's directions, police used assault rifles, mortars and rockets, prompting clansmen to dash into Israeli territory for protection. Police sprayed gunfire behind them as they fled.

Yet Sayyam was also respected by residents for his ability to impose order in once lawless Gaza. Before Hamas seized power, gun-toting thugs ruled Gaza's streets and clans battled each other with assault rifles.

Zes gewonden door Grad raketten in Beersheba

Er is nauwelijks aandacht voor de voortgaande raketbeschietingen door Hamas, ook tijdens de dagelijkse gevechtspauze, en op het RTL nieuws werd zelfs gezegd dat er vandaag alleen schade aan gebouwen was door de raketten.

Six wounded as Grads hit Beersheba

Jan. 15, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST


A 7-year-old boy and a woman were seriously wounded and four others sustained lighter injuries in Beersheba Thursday afternoon when two Grad rockets fired by Gaza terrorists hit the city. One of the rockets scored a direct hit on a car.

Two people were moderately wounded and two were lightly hurt in the attack, and several people were treated for shock.

The army said that an IAF aircraft hit the rocket launcher that had fired on Beersheba.

Even as an Egyptian cease-fire initiative was being discussed in Cairo, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired at least 25 rockets at southern Israel on Thursday.

Earlier, a Kassam rocket landed near Ofakim, causing no casualties or damage.

In a morning volley, a Grad-type rocket also landed in the Gedera region, causing neither casualties nor damage.

Hours earlier, a Kassam rocket hit a house in Sderot, causing extensive damage to the structure and to cars parked nearby. Another rocket landed near an educational institution in the city. No casualties were reported in the attacks.

Rocket warning sirens sounded in the city seconds before impact. Sirens also sounded in Beersheba, though there were no reports of rockets landing in the city.

On Wednesday, at least 15 rockets were fired at Israel.