2. More information related to this Special Peace Vigil for the Middle East
The long-running conflict between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has reached a new climax of violence when the Israeli jets simultaneously attacked 40 targets on Saturday December 27, in order to apply pressure on Hamas to stop firing its small home-made rockets against Israel. As a result of this sudden attack against Gaza, 229 people died and over 800 were injured in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state. On both sides of this conflict, there are calls for an escalation that could mean many more deaths and injured and risk triggering a wider conflagration. Whatever the possible far-reaching consequences of this conflict between the Israeli government and Hamas, peacemakers from around the world urgently need to focus their attention on this situation in a collective effort to precent any further escalation of violence, thus allowing a renewed cease-fire to take place as soon as possible and direct face to face negotiations to begin between the Israeli government and Hamas. The long and ongoing Israeli-imposed siege that has brought the whole population (1.5 million) of Gaza to its knees and caused a humanitarian catastrophe that submit them all to an unspeakable ordeal must also cease. It is important to focalize our peace-fostering thought-forms towards envisioning a world where such conflicts are unthinkable and where all nations live in a spirit of harmony and peaceful cooperation.
This special Peace Vigil for the Middle East is archived at
2. MORE INFORMATION RELATED TO THIS SPECIAL PEACE VIGIL FOR THE MIDDLE EAST
This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Peace Vigil. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.
1. Palestinians: At least 205 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes
2. To be in Gaza is to be trapped
3. Gaza is Buckling
Israel pounds Gaza for second day (Dec 28) http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081228/ts_nm/us_palestinians_israel_3
Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state."Palestine has never seen an uglier massacre," said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and his Islamist group, which has controlled the coastal territory since June 2007, vowed revenge including suicide bombings in Israel's "cafes and streets."Israel bolstered armored and infantry forces along the Gaza Strip border, and a military spokesman said on Sunday: "The (Gaza) operation is continuous. It is still taking place." The Jewish state said it was responding to "intolerable" almost daily rocket and mortar fire by Gaza militants that intensified after Hamas ended a six-month ceasefire a week ago. The militant attacks caused some injuries, raising the stakes for Israeli leaders ahead of a February 10 election which surveys show the right-wing opposition Likud party may win. Israel said its warplanes mounted about 100 strikes on Saturday and that Palestinian militants had fired some 70 rockets at the Jewish state, killing one Israeli man.
Israeli jets kill at least 225 in revenge strikes on Gaza (December 28, 2008) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5404501.ece
Israel yesterday launched its largest raid on Gaza with two waves of air attacks that killed at least 225 people and injured more than 700, according to Palestinian doctors. Children on their way home from school and policemen parading for a graduation ceremony were the principal victims of a bloody few hours that left the territory in flames.The short but brutal aerial blitz codenamed Operation Cast Lead was aimed at targets held by the Islamic fundamentalists of Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip 18 months ago.After weeks of rising tension and repeated Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli territory, the air force struck with warplanes and unmanned drones loaded with guided missiles. (...) Israeli military officials said more than 100 tons of missiles had been fired at Gaza by mid-afternoon. By early evening 205 Gazans were known to be dead and 700 wounded, Gaza health official Dr Moaiya Hassanain said. He did not provide figures on civilian deaths. Some of the dead, rolled in blankets, were laid out on the floor of Gazas main hospital for identification. Earlier in the day, when the death toll stood at 155, police spokesman Ehud Ghussein had said about 140 Hamas security forces were killed. Hamas leaders threatened revenge. Hamas will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood, said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman. Israel told its civilians near Gaza to take cover as militants began retaliating with rockets, and in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian president, called for restraint. Egypt summoned the Israeli ambassador to express condemnation and opened its border with Gaza to allow ambulances to drive out some of the wounded. Protests against the campaign erupted in Arab Israeli villages and the Abbas-ruled West Bank. The most violent West Bank response came in the city of Hebron, where dozens of youths, many of them masked, hurled rocks at Israeli forces, who lobbed tear gas and stun grenades in response. CLIP
Israel launches new wave of Gaza attacks (28 Dec 2008) http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=79721§ionid=351020202
Israel begins a fresh wave of air strikes in the Gaza Strip after it killed 265 people and wounded 800 others on Saturday. Israeli warplanes staged an air strike early Sunday in the southern Gaza Strip, targeting a fuel truck traveling outside Rafah near the Egyptian border, witnesses said. The Sunday Israeli air attacks have so far left six Palestinians dead and several others wounded. The latest deaths raised Gaza death toll to 271. An Israeli military spokesman in Tel Aviv told AFP that Israeli aircraft had staged several air strikes throughout the night, one of which was staged against a mosque in Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City. According to Israeli public radio, the military carried out at least 20 airstrikes across the impoverished region over night. Hundreds of Israeli infantry and armored corps troops headed for the Gaza border early Sunday in preparation for a possible ground invasion, military officials said. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Sky News on Saturday that he would not rule out widening the offensive in the Gaza Strip to include a ground invasion. Barak on Saturday also said Israel "cannot really accept" a cease-fire with Hamas, rejecting calls by the international community for a truce.
Gaza carnage Obama's litmus test (28 Dec 2008) http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=79704§ionid=351020202
The Israeli bombardment of Gaza Saturday left at least 230 dead and 800 wounded, making it the biggest such atrocity in 60 years of Israel-Palestine conflict. In an interview with ISNA News Agency in Tehran on Saturday, the head of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi stated that the United Sates and other Western backers of the Zionist entity must be held accountable for the Gaza carnage. Without their full support the Zionists would lack the effrontery to launch such a large-scale onslaught on defenseless Palestinians, he noted. The Zionist regime has enjoyed the Bush administration's generous support to limber up for the new wave of appalling atrocities. The ongoing Gaza tragedy is regarded as the litmus test for US President-elect Barack Obama to show a timely action to halt the violence, the Iranian lawmaker commented. Boroujerdi maintained that missile attacks on Gaza are an obvious manifestation of Tel Aviv's desperation rather than a show of might. He also called on Muslim states to play their vital role to cease the worsening humanitarian crisis.
UNSC kicks off Gaza meeting (28 Dec 2008) http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=79723§ionid=351020202
The UN Security Council began the meeting to discuss a Libyan call for an immediate halt to Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip that have so far killed more than 230 and wounded 800 others, AFP reported. "Our main objective is an immediate ceasefire," said Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador to the UN, whose country is the lone Arab member of the council. He said his delegation called the emergency meeting "in coordination with the UN Arab group" in the wake of the deadly Israeli air raids on Gaza. UN Palestinian observer, Riyad Mansour, said "There is no justification for slaughtering hundreds of Palestinian civilians." He said, "This collective punishment is inhumane, immoral and should be stopped immediately,'' UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply alarmed" by the bloodshed in Gaza and appealed for "an immediate halt to all violence." The United States, Israel's main ally and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, held the Hamas movement responsible for the Israeli bloody attacks saying Tel Aviv was defending its people. The US said the rocket firing of the Gazan fighters prompted the Israeli regime to attack the Gaza strip. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there. The ceasefire must be restored immediately and fully respected." Palestinian fighters in the Gaza strip fire rockets into Israel in retaliation for the Israeli daily attacks against them. Unlike the state of the art Israeli weapons and ammunition, the home made Qassam rockets rarely cause casualties. On Saturday, Israeli F16 bombers and apache helicopters carried out around 40 simultaneous raids on 40 separate targets across the Gaza strip. Following the attacks, Israeli authorities said the air strikes were only just the 'beginning of an operation launched after a security cabinet decision'.
Israel set for prolonged Gaza op (28 December 2008) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7801662.stm
Israel says it will widen its attacks on Hamas if necessary to stop the Palestinian militant group firing rockets from the Gaza Strip. Israeli F-16 bombers hit targets across the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 227 people, local medics say. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said operations would continue on the ground if air strikes were not enough to change Hamas's behaviour.UN Security Council members are meeting to discuss the crisis. The emergency meeting was called at the request of Libya, the only Arab member of the council, the AFP news agency said. "Our main objective is an immediate ceasefire," Libya's deputy ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told the agency. Just before the Security Council gathered, Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, repeated Israel's stance that it was taking action to "protect its citizens from further terrorist attacks"."No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian population without taking the necessary actions to stop it," she said in a statement.Israel's air raids were the heaviest on the Gaza Strip for decades. Most of those killed were policemen in the Hamas militant movement, which controls Gaza, but women and children also died, Gaza officials said. About 700 others were wounded, as missiles struck security compounds and militant bases, the officials added. CLIP
Attacks are only going to strengthen hand of Hamas (28 December 2008) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/28/israel-and-the-palestinians-middle-east1
Israel's hammer blow against Hamas in the Gaza Strip bears all the hallmarks of its doctrine of overwhelming force. But it was met by furious Arab warnings that the onslaught would lead to all-out war and a new wave of suicide bombings. The attacks followed a decision by caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to widen reprisals for cross-border rocket attacks on Israel, which restarted after the expiry of a shaky six-month ceasefire just over a week ago. Hamas leaders may have been shocked but can hardly have been surprised by the onslaught. Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, warned in Cairo on Thursday that Israel "cannot tolerate" continuing attacks. after some 50 rockets or mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip. Livni's high-profile visit to Egypt was seen as part of an diplomatic offensive to prepare for an attack. Mixed signals confused the picture, perhaps deliberately: on Friday, Israel reopened border crossings into Gaza to allow the delivery of fuel, food and humanitarian supplies. There was immediate outrage at the raids from Egypt and Jordan as well as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas's rival, which is based in the West Bank town of Ramallah and backed by the West. (...) It is hard to gauge Hamas's popularity, but first signs were that the raids will rally support. "This is nothing short of a massacre, an outrage," the Palestinian independent Hanan Ashrawi told the BBC from Ramallah. "The cycle of violence is generated by the occupation and by the ongoing state of siege that is attempting to collectively punish a whole people. This will enhance the standing of Hamas. People are sympathising with Hamas as the people who are being ruthlessly targeted by Israel. They are seen as victims of ongoing Israeli aggression."
Britain and US refuse to demand end to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza (28 December 2008) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5404545.ece
Britain and the United States were on a collision course with their European allies last night after refusing to call for an end to Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.The wave of attacks marked a violent end to President George W Bushs sporadic Middle East peace efforts. The White House put the blame squarely on Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organisation, for provoking the Israeli blitz. Britain echoed the call for militants to stop firing rockets into Israel while calling for maximum restraint to avoid casualties.The response was in sharp contrast to demands by the European Union for an immediate ceasefire and criticism by France of the use of disproportionate force. (...) The EU has repeatedly condemned rocket attacks against Israel. The current Israeli strikes are inflicting an unacceptable toll on Palestinian civilians and will only worsen the humanitarian crisis. The French presidency of the EU issued a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc, condemning both sides. The EU condemns the Israeli bombardments as well as rocket attacks from Gaza. It demands that this stops immediately, it said. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, also went further than Britain and America in condemning the use of disproportionate force. CLIP
Israels Cynicism Supported by the Wests Complicity (27.12.08) http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21544.htm
Today the Israeli army launched its long awaited strikes against the Gazan people, an unarmed, captive civilian population. The West, including the British government, has supported the last two years of blockade of the Palestinians in Gaza for the crime of exercising their democratic rights in a manner not to Israels liking. They have stood by while the people have been reduced to beggars dependent upon food aid, aid which has been consistently denied to them by Israels siege, resulting in malnutrition, trauma and deaths from medical neglect. This siege has been accompanied by regular military attacks on Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank as Israel is allowed to act with impunity. The passage of 100 trucks of aid yesterday, in the BBCs words to prevent Israel being accused of a causing humanitarian crisis is a cynical diversion which does not fool anyone despite the hopes of our cowardly leaders. The British government must condemn outright the current assault on Gaza, and immediately demand that the UN takes steps to end the siege with the restoration of full freedom of the borders of Gaza.
Mangled bodies, wailing relatives at Gaza hospital (28 December 2008) http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hAI2WflpC2KUwb0IkHTRfofYhFGA
GAZA CITY (AFP) Relatives wail as the mangled bodies of loved ones are brought into Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital on Saturday following Israeli air strikes that killed at least 225 people in the Palestinian enclave.Ambulances and private cars rush those wounded or killed in the punishing raids to the hospital, where staff use sheets as makeshift stretchers.In some cases, a single stretcher is used to carry several bodies. Torn limbs fall to the blood-soiled floor. There is no space left in the morgue and bodies are piled up in the emergency room and in the corridors, while many of the severely wounded scream in pain. Overworked doctors and nurses can only deal with the most pressing cases. Most of the victims wear the uniforms of the security services of Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza and whose installations were targeted in the attacks Israel says were in response to rocket attacks by Gaza militants. CLIP
Eyewitness: Chaos in Gaza (27 December 2008) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7801292.stm
(...) It's a very bad situation... There were Israeli aeroplanes everywhere, hitting everywhere. You could see smoke from north to south, from west to east. The people are really in a panic. The main object for the people now is to find a secure place to secure their family.Gaza has no shelters, it has no safe places. The Hamas security compounds are in the middle of the city - it's not the kind of place where you see compounds outside the cities.I have witnessed one of the compounds - which is 20m [yds] away from my house - I was standing on the balcony and I have seen the Israeli airplanes hitting the place.Some of my balcony was damaged and my kid was injured. Many people were injured inside their houses today. I saw an Israeli fighter drop a bomb on a building, flattening it. Smoke was coming from it. Kids were panicking and screaming.It took rescue teams six hours to evacuate injured from the place and they are still searching under the rubble, trying to find any survivors.
Israel "cannot accept" ceasefire with Hamas says Barak (Dec 27, 2008) http://uk.reuters.com/article/UKNews1/idUKTRE4BQ1V120081227
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel "cannot really accept" a cease-fire with Hamas, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in a U.S. television interview on Saturday, rejecting calls by the United Nations and the European Union for a truce after Israeli air strikes killed 227 people in Gaza. "For us to be asked to have a cease-fire with Hamas is like asking you to have a cease-fire with al Qaeda. It's something we cannot really accept," Barak told Fox News from Tel Aviv.Asked whether Israel would follow up the air strikes with a ground offensive, Barak said, "If boots on the ground will be needed, they will be there." "Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game," he said.
Voices: Reaction to Israeli raids (27 December 2008) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7801641.stm
Two Palestinians in Gaza and two Israelis in the nearby town of Sderot give their reaction to the Israeli air strikes on Gaza on Saturday. Palestinian medical officials say many of the 225 people killed were Hamas policemen.
West Bank rises up in response to massacre in Gaza (December 27, 2008) http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11511
In response to the bombing attacks that have left 205 people dead in Gaza, Palestinians across the West Bank and inside the 48 have organized to protest the crimes. In almost every district, mass marches and clashes have occurred. The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign has joined networks and committees such as the National and Islamic forces, the Committee against the Siege in the mobilizations that are rocking the entire West Bank.In Ramallah some 5,000 people headed the calls for demonstrations. Part of the demonstrators marched to the old road of el-Bireh, the location of the central offices of the so-called Civil Administration. The road, a site of daily confrontations at the beginning of the Second Intifada, was today again the site of heavy clashes. At the same time, in Qalandiya, the anger of the people erupted into violent confrontations against Occupation forces at the checkpoint.Popular demonstrations have occurred in nearly all the communities already organized for weekly actions against the Wall. In Jayyous, hundreds took to the streets in protest. Stones are hailing down on the Occupation soldiers in the neighboring village of Azzoun, where protestors are blocking the main road. In Nilin people have mobilized, fighting against soldiers in the fields outside the village.Most of the West Banks main cities have seen popular actions. In Tulkarm and Nablus, hundreds went out in the streets to protest against the bombings of the Gaza Strip. In Hebron, university students led a mass march towards the old city where they stood up against soldiers and settlers in hours of clashes on Shuhada Street. Even in Jerusalem, people mobilized in demonstrations along Salahuddin Street in the city center and in the villages around the city. CLIP
Foreign Min. starts massive PR move to raise int'l support (28 December 2008) http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050445.html
The Foreign Ministry yesterday began a broad range of public relations initiatives in order to boost international legitimacy for the Israel Air Force's operations in the Gaza Strip. (...) The Foreign Ministry has enlisted spokesmen fluent in Arabic, Italian, Spanish and German to address foreign journalists in Israel. Today it will open an international communications center and organize tours for foreign media representatives and diplomats in Sderot and nearby communities, which have been indiscriminately targeted by Palestinian militants with Qassam rockets and mortar shells for years. CLIP
IDF mobilizing tanks in event of Gaza ground incursion http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3645272,00.html
IDF prepares to intensify operation against Hamas infrastructure in Gaza, sending tanks and infantry reinforcements southward in preparation for possible ground incursion. Throughout day IAF carried out strikes on nearly 100 Hamas targets; Palestinian health officials putting death toll at 230 people.
Hamas urges military wing to fire long-range rockets (12.27.08) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081228/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians;_ylt=AkU1mWukO4P1VBtHzaJbQBKs0NUE
JERUSALEM Israeli police say a missile from Gaza hit near the city of Ashdod in the deepest missile strike inside Israel yet.Regional police spokeswoman Sarit Philipson says she was driving home Sunday when she saw the missile hit the ground near Ashdod, about 23 miles from Gaza.In Gaza, Hamas claimed responsibility for firing the missile.Philipson told Israel Army Radio that she saw a large explosion and a plume of smoke.Gaza's Hamas rulers have been stockpiling weapons in recent months, including medium-range missiles. Until Sunday, the deepest targets inside Israel had been the city of Ashkelon and the town of Netivot, which are closer to Gaza.
Palestinians: At least 205 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes
By Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Israel launched on Saturday morning 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 in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian medical sources said that at least 205 people had been killed in the strikes, which began with almost no warning at around 11:30 A.M.
Egypt has opened its long-sealed border with Gaza to allow in the wounded for medical treatment. Hamas said that the attacks had caused widespread panic in the Strip.
The first wave of air strikes was launched by a 60 warplanes which hit a total of 50 targets in one fell swoop. The IAF deployed approximately 100 bombs, with an estimated 95 percent of the ordnance reaching its intended target. Most of the casualties were Hamas operatives.
A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed they would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break their "resistance to the occupation."
The spokesman added that Hamas would not "raise a white flag" of surrender and would respond with all means available at their disposal.
Prior to the operation, Israel sought to catch Hamas off guard by luring it into a false sense of security through certain measures, including the opening of Gaza border crossings on Friday.
Immediately following the first wave, some 20 IAF aircraft struck 50 Palestinian rocket launchers in an effort to minimize Hamas' retaliatory strikes.
The IDF emphasized that civilians located in areas whence Palestinians launch rockets and who quarter Hamas operatives in their homes are liable to be hurt.
The targets that were hit included training camps and installations as well as police stations, some of whom were located in civilian buildings.
The IDF chief of staff is holding nonstop consultations with officers. Senior military officials characterize the strikes as part of a "rolling operation" and have thus begun a sporadic enlistment of the reserves, particularly in smaller units.
Top IDF brass anticipate difficult days ahead, warning that the operation will extend beyond the next couple of days.
The strikes follow a decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet to intensify Israel's response to cross-border attacks on Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces warned Saturday that the airstrikes "will continue, will be expanded, and will deepen if necessary."
The Prime Minister's bureau issued a statement on Saturday following the IAF strikes in Gaza.
"The operation was launched following the violation of the terms of the lull by Hamas and the unceasing attacks by Hamas authorities on Israeli civilians in the south of the country," the communique read.
"The decision on the attack was made Wednesday during a meeting of the security-diplomatic cabinet, which instructed the IDF to act in order to bring a prolonged halt of missile fire and terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip," the prime minister's bureau said.
"The cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to determine the timing and the method of operation in accordance with the cabinet decision, which was unanimously reached. The three [ministers] decided to [approve] the execution of the air force attack on Saturday morning."
"Israel wishes to make clear that it will continue to act against terrorist operations and missile fire from the Strip which is intended to harm civilians."
"We face a period that will be neither easy nor short, and will require determination and perseverance until the necessary change is achieved in the situation in the south," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
Hamas ended its six-month cease-fire with Israel ended on December 19 - a day before it was due to expire - and the number of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, which had dwindled significantly, returned to pre-truce levels. Dozens of Qassams and mortars had been launched almost daily at Israeli communities near the Gaza border since Hamas declared the truce was over.
The IDF statement said its military strikes were predicated on precise intelligence amassed in recent months. The IDF said it is targeting a wide array of top Hamas officials.
At least two people were killed and 30 wounded from an attack in Khan Younis, a refugee camp in the south of Gaza.
TV footage showed bodies of more than a dozen black-clad security men lying on the ground in one area. Palestinian witnesses say one of the missiles struck Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, with at least 50 people among the casualties in the attack.
The IAF strikes on the police headquarters killed police chief Tawfiq Jabber, Hamas radio reported.
Residents reported hearing at least 15 explosions. Many of Hamas' security compounds are in residential areas, and the airstrikes took place as children were leaving school. Plumes of black smoke rose over Gaza City, sirens wailed through the streets and women frantically looked for their children.
The Reuters news agency reported that Gaza City port and security installations of Hamas had been badly damaged by the strikes.
Residents of the western Negev communities have received instructions from the authorities to remain in their homes and in bomb-proof rooms.
On Friday, Egyptian officials said that Egypt had begun boosting the security along its border with Gaza, in anticipation of the imminent IDF operation within the territory, fearing an Israeli incursion would result in a breach of the border.
In January, Hamas militants frustrated over the tightened Israeli closure of Gaza blew holes in the border partition, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to stream into Egypt unchecked for ten days and stock up on food and other goods made scarce by the blockade.
Egyptian officials told Israel Radio, however, that Egypt is pressing on with efforts to prevent the escalation of violence in the region. The officials said that representatives on behalf of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman have approached senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in the Gaza Strip and presented him with Egypt's concerns.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired dozens of mortar shells from the Gaza Strip overnight Thursday and early morning Friday, as the IDF prepared for action.
The mortars damaged one building, but no one was hurt in any of the incidents.
Israeli Arabs react with violence to IDF operations in Gaza http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050412.html
Israeli Arabs on Saturday protested Israel Defense Forces attacks in the Gaza Strip, with demonstrations and clashes with police breaking out in communities throughout Israel. CLIP
Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor - 28 December 2008
Gaza. Always the suffering of Gaza, most potent symbol of the tragedy of Palestine. In 1948, during the Nakba or "The Catastrophe" as Palestinians describe the war that gave birth to the state of Israel 200,000 refugees poured into Gaza, swelling its population by more than two-thirds. Then Gaza fell under Egyptian control.
The six day war of 1967 saw more refugees, but with it came the occupation of Gaza by Israel an occupation that, despite Israel's declaration under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that it would unilaterally withdraw its settlements and troops in 2005, has never really ended.
It has not ended, for to be in Gaza is to be trapped. Without future or hope, limited to a few square miles. Its borders, land and sea, are defined largely by Israel (with Egypt's compliance along the southern end of the Strip).
It is not open to the ocean apart from a narrow outlet accessible only to the fishing fleet, a coastal blockade policed by Israel's gunboats, the boundaries of which have only recently been tested by boats of protesters sailing from Cyprus to draw attention to conditions inside Gaza.
Once it was possible for Gazans to pass with relative ease in and out of the Strip to work in Israel. In recent years, the noose around the 1.5 million people living there has been tightening incrementally, until a whole population in the most densely settled urban area upon the planet has been locked in behind walls and fences.
Since Israeli troops overran the Strip in 1967, Israeli politicians and generals have always seen it as a problem a hotbed of radicalism and opposition. And so Israel has ventured failed experiment after experiment in the attempt to control Gaza. It has tried everything except the obvious to allow its people to be free.
It has tried directly managing Gaza, and a brutal policy of quarantine backed by tanks, jets and gunboats. It has attempted the maintenance of strategic settlements, which only provided a focus for resistance against the patrolling troops. And when that failed, Israel retreated only to find that, without a proximate enemy, those living inside turned to attacking the nearby towns with crude missiles.
Ironically, one of Israel's experiments involved assisting in the creation of Hamas, which had its roots in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, to counter the power of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation. Israel has been determined to push Hamas ever closer to all-out war since insisting that even though it won free and fair Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, its right to govern could not be treated as legitimate.
Since Hamas took power in Gaza in summer 2007, after a short, brutal struggle with Fatah, Israel's policy has been one of collective punishment, summed up in the policy of "no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis". Not a visible humanitarian crisis, at least.
For what has been going on inside Gaza since the economic blockade began a year and a half ago has cynically stretched the definition of what constitutes the boundaries of such a crisis.
Those seeking urgent medical care outside Gaza's walls are forced to go through a long and humiliating process. Even some of those who are allowed to leave, human rights groups say, have been pressured into becoming informers for Israeli intelligence.
One in two Gazans is now living in poverty. Aid is sporadic, and as the World Bank warned at the beginning of December, the blockade has forced Gaza to become reliant on smuggling tunnels (taxed by Hamas), which risked destroying its conventional economy. Inflation for key products smuggled through the tunnels is rampant, which in turn has brought cash to Hamas.
Equally worrying, from a long-term point of view, has been the corrosion of Gaza's institutions and social cohesion, which has resulted in sporadic eruptions of inter-factional and inter-clan violence.
What Israel hopes to achieve with the present military offensive beyond influencing the coming Israeli elections is not clear. For if a long-anticipated ground operation, leading to a partial reoccupation on the ground, is to follow these air strikes as it did in the war in Lebanon in 2006 it will have to achieve what neither Hamas nor its rival Fatah can: unifying Palestinian society once more against a common enemy, as Gaza was once united against Israeli settlements inside its boundaries.
If that is not the intention, it is hard to see what Israel's actions are meant to achieve in a community that cherishes its martyrs; where violent death is intended to reinforce social cohesion and unity.
For in the end what has happened in the past few hours is simply an expression of what has been going on for days and months and years: the death and fear that Gaza's gunmen and rocket teams and bombers have inflicted upon Israel have been returned 10, 20, 30 times over once again. And nothing will change in the arithmetic of it.
Not in Gaza. But perhaps in a wider Arab world, becoming more uncomfortable by the day about what is happening inside Gaza, something is changing. And Israel has supplied a rallying point. Something tangible and brutal that gives the critics of its actions in Gaza who say it has a policy of collective punishment backed by disproportionate and excessive force something to focus on.
Something to be ranked with Deir Yassin. With the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Something, at last, that Israel's foes can say looks like an atrocity.
As Israel nails shut the coffin that is Gaza under a siege that has lasted nearly three years, steadily intensifying so that malnutrition rates rival those of sub-Saharan Africa, sewage runs raw in the streets and pollutes the ocean, homes are still being bulldozed to super-add collective punishment upon collective punishment; men, women and children are still being sniped at and killed; children are deafened by continuing sonic booms, the vast majority of them suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and many of that majority have no ambition other than becoming "martyrs," Israel in mid-December denied entry to Richard Falk, UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the occupied territories.
It is Dr. Falk's responsibility to report to the UN on conditions in the occupied territories. Israel is blocking him from carrying out this job. In an article that reads as if it rolled off the computers in Israel's Government Press Office (no quotes by anyone friendly to Falk's point of view, for instance), The New York Times, tells us Dr. Falk "has long been criticized in Israel for what many Israelis say [emphasis mine] are unfair and unpalatable views." The blind attribution is typical.
Unlike European Union ministers who recently condemned Israel's acts in Gaza and the West Bank only to turn around and approve upgrading the EU's relations with Israel, Falk will not compromise. He not only describes Israel's atrocities in Gaza, but calls for immediate protective action "to offset the persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life." He also calls for an International Criminal Court investigation to "determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law."
Perhaps it's his clarity of focus and refusal to back down that constitute his sins in Israel's eyes? (The usual hasbarah about anti-Semitism, etc., is to be discounted, though being Jewish Falk may fall into the category, "self-hating Jew.") Many others, Jewish and not Jewish (including Israeli Jews never quoted by The New York Times) have charged Israel with violations of international law and war crimes in Gaza. As Falk himself noted in his statement about Gaza to the UN (see "Gaza: Silence is not an Option" at The Heathlander and other Internet sites), the Secretary General of the UN, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have all condemned Israel for its monstrous siege. "Karen AbyZayd," stated Falk, "who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza, offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza. Although many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid." Other denunciations have been made by B'tselem, an Israeli human rights organization that in June, 2006 called Israel's destruction of Gaza's electrical power plant "a war crime" ("Aiming attacks at civilian objects is forbidden under International Humanitarian Law and is considered a war crime. The power plant bombed by Israel is a purely civilian object and bombing it did nothing to impede the ability of Palestinian organizations to fire rockets into Israeli territory.") Last month, Switzerland accused Israel of violating international law by destroying Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and Ramallah. This denunciation, writes a reporter for The First Post, is "arguably the strongest condemnation of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians to come from any western European country since Charles de Gaulle famously attacked the 'oppression, repression and expulsions' of Palestinians by Israel over 40 years ago.". (November 17, 2008.)
Christopher Hedges writes that Falk told him Israel's siege has unleashed "an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that each day poses the entire 1.5 million [population] Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive . . . This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 per cent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 per cent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders Over 50 per cent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live."
Gaza committed the ultimate sin. Its residents refused to be good little natives; it launched the first Intifada. It became legendary, together with Jenin in the West Bank, for its refusal to submit to Israel's occupation. Gaza was also a region that, unlike the West Bank, was negligible in terms of fertile land and water resources. So Gaza must first be quarantined (Darryl Li has compared Gaza after Israel's "pull-out" to an animal pen where before the siege, at any rate food and supplies were thrown in, Israel having divested itself of any responsibility for the population.) Israel's aim was that Egypt take responsibility for Gaza, which has not happened. Gaza's resistance has continued firing rockets into Israel. But Gaza's final and unpardonable sin was, in a completely fair election, to elect a party that displeased Israel and the US. Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra infamy helped the reprisal along by engineering civil war between Hamas and Fatah (see Vanity Fair, April, 2008.)
Now, finally, Gaza is buckling. While the world watches, a people is being destroyed. The definitive essay is Sara Roy's in this month's London Review of Books. She details an excruciating decline in all means of life food, fuel, medicine, water-purifiers, etc. Roy doesn't say it, and neither does Falk, but Israel's siege fulfills at least three points in Article 2 of the Convention on Genocide (killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.) Roy's depressing conclusion is that if Gaza falls, the West Bank will follow.
If Gaza falls . . . Sara Roy London Review of Books, Jan 2009 http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/roy_01_.html
(...) The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us, but there is little international response beyond UN warnings which are ignored. The European Union announced recently that it wanted to strengthen its relationship with Israel while the Israeli leadership openly calls for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and continues its economic stranglehold over the territory with, it appears, the not-so-tacit support of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah which has been co-operating with Israel on a number of measures. On 19 December Hamas officially ended its truce with Israel, which Israel said it wanted to renew, because of Israel's failure to ease the blockade. How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel? How can the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza's children more than 50 per cent of the population benefit anyone? International law as well as human decency demands their protection. If Gaza falls, the West Bank will be next.