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ISRAEL'S LEADERS RIVALRY ON GAZA CEASE-FIRE

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Four days after the launch of "Operation Cast Lead" in the Gaza Strip, the first signs of a rift among the Israeli leadership over the campaign's management began to emerge.
  • Even though the IDF operation has thus far been considered a relative success (and the ministers who approved it have benefited from an improvement in their political standing as a result), a dispute has erupted among the country's senior political echelon over the question of when to begin the process of winding down the operation.
  • The disagreement is rooted in the antipathy that has taken hold among the major players on the Israeli side as well as the tense jockeying for votes. In addition, there remains much confusion in the decision-making process that is similar to that which was cited by the Winograd committee report which investigated the lapses during the Second Lebanon War.
  • There are many similarities to the Lebanese affair, only this time the differences of opinion are given greater public airing. Four days after the breakout of the Second Lebanon War, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (and deputy IDF chief Moshe Kaplinsky) sought to set in motion a diplomatic process that would put an end to the fighting. Prime Minister Olmert balked.
  • In the current situation, the argument centers on an exit strategy. The defense minister told Olmert and Livni on Tuesday night that Israel needs to consider a 48-hour cease-fire during which Hamas' willingness to cease its launching of rockets will be tested. Nonetheless, Barak is convinced that Israel should not take any unilateral measures.
  • Rather, it should exploit one of the proposals, including that offered by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, for a two-day lull in the fighting so as to address any pressing humanitarian issues.
  • In the meantime, the group has succeeded in demonstrating its military capabilities. The Israeli assault appears at times to be akin to blowing off steam, while Hamas continues to launch projectiles.
  • Hamas is not unleashing its entire arsenal and the operatives in its military wing are displaying operational discipline. Residents of Gaza have raised questions about the Israeli operation.
  • "What exactly has Israel managed to achieve?" one asked. "Many killed, many destroyed buildings, and Hamas continues to stand on its feet. Politically, it's stronger than ever."
Source: Haaretz Correspondents
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ARABS WORRY ABOUT THE IMPACT OF GAZA WAR

Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Israeli assault on Gaza, which has so far resulted in the death of at least 350 Palestinians, is a "massacre" that has "the Arab world boiling," according to Arab journalists, who say the eventual cost to Israel could be great.
  • The reverberations of the assault, seen not only in the Arab streets
  • In a rare display of emotion, Jordan's Queen Rania, who is of Palestinian origin, wrote in the Alrai daily Jordanian newspaper: "There is nothing to be said ... and words cannot help any of us here.
  • This is how I felt in the recent days. We are human beings. Today stones and trees are crying and the silence. How can we all not cry! After the silence comes the anger.
  • Anger against oneself for its defeat, because we all can do more in unleashing our voice and opinions and hands to help the infants, the mothers and the elderly, the nation [the Palestinians] whose will is a source of inspiration for all of us. A nation struggling for its right to live its life."
  • She continued: "To limit oneself to expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza is a disgrace, because they do not need our sympathy.
  • We have to prove to Gaza and its people that we are their brethren and that we are with them."
  • The Israeli offensive in Gaza and its disastrous aftermath have provoked harsh reactions in the media throughout the Arab world.
  • The Jordan Times' main editorial today tackled the effects the Israeli assaults on Gaza could have on the future of the peace talks between the Arabs and Israel. and media, were today also felt in Arab royal palaces as well.
Source: ABC NEWS
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IRAN JEWS STAGE PRO-PALESTINE

Wednesday, December 31, 2008
TEHRAN - Members of Iran's Jewish community staged a demonstration outside of the United Nations' office in Tehran, to protest the Israel Defense Forces' operation in the Gaza Strip.
  • The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, reported that community members, alongside Jewish parliamentarian Siamak Mara-Sedq, urged Israel to do its part to return quiet and security to the region.
  • The chairman of Iran's Jewish Union, Rahmatullah Raafi, said the community had come out in support of the Palestinian people.
  • "We are here to express out support and sympathy for the Palestinian nation," he said, adding that Muslim nations could rise up as a single large force against Israel. He also said that the victors of the current conflict were the residents of Gaza.
  • Both sides "need to unite against the occupation," Odeh said. "Our enemy is the Israeli occupation, not Hamas, and not Fatah, and not others."
  • Operation Cast Lead was an unprecedented tragedy, exceeding Deir Yassin in 1948, he said.
  • Some 25,000 Jews still live in Iran. Many have visited Israel, where a large percentage of the community has immigrated in the past 30 years. Still, others prefer to remain in Iran. There are rarely reports of the community suffering from antagonism or aggression from their neighbors or from the government.
In Tel aviv, the Hadash Party plans a massive Jewish-Arab demonstration for Tel Aviv on Saturday evening to protest the IAF offensive in Gaza, while the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee has a smaller protest set for the same day in Sakhnin.
  • The protests will call on Israel to "stop the massacre in Gaza," and on feuding Palestinian factions - particularly Fatah and Hamas - to unite, said Aymen Odeh, secretary general of the Hadash communist party and a member of the monitoring committee.
AP
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ISRAEL'S OPERATION IN GAZA IS IN PROBLEM

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It can be assumed that the longer the fighting continues, the more trouble Israel's quarrelling leadership will have staying unified.
In the end, as in every war, the defense establishment will argue that it was stopped a moment before it destroyed the enemy while the diplomats will say the fighting went on too long, until Israel lost international support.

  • Operation Cast Lead is entering the problematic phase of any war: The first, surprise strike is over, the operational successes are less impressive, and the enemy is beginning to rally. Israel would want to continue hurting Hamas, but the goals readied before the operation are running out and the magical aerial solutions that do not involve loss of soldiers are coming to an end.
  • This is the stage when the government must decide whether to send ground troops into the Gaza Strip and begin face-to-face combat with Hamas or make do with threats, seek a cease-fire that will bear the imprint of the
  • bombardments of the first days and announce that the goal had been attained and threaten that if rocket-fire from Gaza continues the next strike will be more painful.
  • Monday the first signs of controversy surfaced in Israel regarding the continuation of the operation and its character. The defense establishment at first spoke enthusiastically about a three- and even four-week operation, and about preparations for a ground assault. The cabinet decision allows for such an escalation, up to retaking the Gaza Strip, but the Foreign Ministry says the international community will stop Israel long before that.
  • Meanwhile, the diplomatic arena is quiet. Israel discounts today's meeting of European Union foreign ministers and the urgent calls from the United Nations secretary general and the foreign ministers of Britain and France for an immediate cease-fire.
  • No senior envoy is on the way to Israel to stop the fighting. The Bush White House is very pleased with the blow struck against Hamas.
  • Israel cannot expect the world to "save it from itself," and it should look for ways to end the conflict quickly. The danger lurking here is a feeling of success that would drag on the action and increase the chances of unpleasant entanglements.
Source: Haaretz Correspondent
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ISRAEL MAY ATTACK LEBANON

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The head of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said that he had asked his fighters to be on alert for any possible Israeli attack on Lebanon following raids on Gaza that killed nearly 300 Palestinians.
  • In a televised address at a religious gathering marking the Shiite Day of Ashura south of Beirut, Nasrallah said "I have asked the brothers in the resistance in the south specifically to be present, on alert and cautious because we are facing a criminal enemy and we don't know the magnitude of the conspiracies."
  • "What is happening today is a Palestinian copy of the July war," Nasrallah said, drawing a comparison between the Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip and the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which Hezbollah waged against Israel in southern Lebanon.
  • "This is exactly what happened with us. The possibilities and the same possibilities, the conspiracy is the same, the battle is the same battle, and the result, Allah willing, will be the same result," the Hezbollah leader told the crowd.
  • Speaking about IDF preparations in northern Israel, at the border with Lebanon, Nasrallah said that he does not rule out the possibility that Israel fears a Hezbollah assault, "but there is another possibility," he said, "that at this terrible timing, in the shadow of the Arab conspirators and the American political vacuum, between Bush and Obama, there is the possibility that the enemy will take advantage of the situation and attack Lebanon. They need it because of the elections, or to improve their power of deterrence. We need to be careful and not take what is happening lightly.
  • The Hezbollah leader also mentioned the missiles recently discovered by the Lebanese army, which it said were aimed at Israel and had timers set for launch, saying that Israel, or someone working on Israel's behalf, planted them. "Who put them there before a war?" he asked.
  • "When they found them, they said 'people in Lebanon.' We in the Hezbollah have the courage to take responsibility for every action and we won't hide, like some others. Would it have been difficult for Israel to infiltrate southern Lebanon and put them there? The many Israeli agents, lone and institutional, could do this to give themselves an excuse to attack Lebanon."
  • In his televised address, Nasrallah criticized some Arab countries whom he accused of colluding with Israel and America, saying "I'll call things by their name. We need the word of truth and we need every nation to shoulder its responsibility in the face of what is happening."
Source : Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
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ISRAEL IN "ALL-OUT-WAR" WITH HAMAS

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
JERUSALEM-Israel is in "all-out war" with Hamas, the nation's defense minister said Monday, as Israeli jets continued to hammer targets in Gaza and the Palestinian death toll reportedly topped 300.
"We have stretched our hand in peace many times to the Palestinian people. We have nothing against the people of Gaza," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "But this is an all-out war against Hamas and its branches."
  • Barak's remarks to parliament came as Israeli warplanes carried out a third day of strikes against the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza.
  • The Palestinian death toll from the campaign has topped 300, most of them Hamas militants, Palestinian medical sources said Monday. The attacks also have wounded about 650 people, the sources said. Columns of smoke rose over Gaza City, while Israeli tanks cruised along the edges of Gaza.
  • Iyad Nasr, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the streets of Gaza were largely empty while airstrikes continued Monday morning.
  • A U.N. spokeswoman in Gaza City described the scene as chaotic and said Palestinians were "running in all directions" and were fighting among themselves.
  • Israel says the goal of the bombardment is to stop an ongoing stream of rockets being fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
  • More than 40 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel on Monday despite the raids, according to Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. More than 150 rockets have been launched into Israeli territory since the campaign began, Israel Defense Forces said
  • One of the strikes killed an Israeli at a construction site in Ashkelon, 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of Gaza, and wounded eight others, a hospital spokeswoman said. Another Israeli was killed during an attack on Kibbutz Nahal Oz, according to Israeli police and hospital spokespersons. They were the second and third Israeli fatalities since the airstrikes began Saturday.
  • Two other people were wounded in Nahal Oz, one seriously, and two people were wounded by rocket attacks in Ashdod, one seriously. One woman who was critically injured during the attack died later during an operation, according to Israeli medical sources.
At a security assessment held at the Defense Ministry, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the operation would intensify if the rocket attacks did not stop.
  • "If Hamas does not immediately stop the criminal and intentional firing of rockets, Israel will use all the legal resources and courses of action at its disposal to force the enemy to stop its aggressive and illegal action," Barak said.
  • Olmert asked Netanyahu to join Israel's public relations efforts as he did during the Second Lebanon War. Netanyahu's spokesman said he responded affirmatively and without hesitation despite being the leader of the opposition in the middle of an election campaign.
Source : CNN , AlJAZEERA & AP
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IRAN VOLUNTEERS TO FIGHT ISREAL

Monday, December 29, 2008
TEHRAN: A group of Iranian hard-line clerics is signing up volunteers to fight in the Gaza Strip in response to Israel's air strikes that have killed at least 300 Palestinians, a news agency reported on Monday.
  • "From Monday the Combatant Clergy Society has activated its website www.rohaniatmobarez.com for a week to register volunteers to fight against the Zionist regime Israel in either the military, financial or propaganda fields," the semi-official Fars news agency said.
  • Fars said the hard-line group provided volunteers with a registration document called "Registration form for dispatching volunteers to Gaza." It said more than 1,100 people so far had registered for military service against Israel.
  • Khamenei said on Sunday that whoever was killed in the fight to defend Palestinians was "considered a martyr." Iran will send its first ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said.
  • "Iran has dispatched its first plane load of aid, including medicine, to Gaza on Sunday. The second cargo is on the verge of being dispatched," Qashqavi told reporters on Monday. "The first aircraft arrived in Egypt last night."The hard-line Iranian group, which is headed by some leading clergy, says it has no affiliation with the government and was formed shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians in Gaza against Israeli attacks "in any way possible.
  • A religious decree is an official statement by a high-ranking religious leader that commands Muslims to carry out its message. While there is no religious and legal force behind it, Khamenei is respected by many Iranian and non-Iranian Shi'ites.
  • Iran refuses to recognize Israel, which accuses Tehran of supplying Hamas with weapons. Iran denies the claim, saying it only provides moral support to the group.
Mean while Israel patrols the coastal waters around and lands. It has declared the areas around the enclave a "closed military zone.". In Jerusalem, Israel's Cabinet approved a call-up of 6,500 reserve soldiers Sunday in apparent preparation for a ground offensive.
  • The final decision to call up more reserves has yet to be made by the defense minister, Ehud Barak, and the Cabinet decision could be a pressure tactic.
  • Israel has doubled the number of troops on the Gaza border since Saturday and deployed an artillery battery. Several hundred reservists have already been summoned to join their units but no full combat formations have been mobilized so far.Military experts said Israel would need at least 10,000 soldiers for a full-scale invasion.
  • The carnage has inflamed Arab and Muslim public opinion, setting off street protests in Arab communities in Israel and the West Bank, across the Arab world and in some European cities. On Monday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded four Israelis in a West Bank settlement before he was shot and wounded. It was not immediately clear if the attack was directly connected to the events in Gaza.
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