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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 3, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Using U.S. Weapons Against IDF - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    According to Palestinian sources in Gaza, most of the gunmen fighting the IDF over the past few days are members of Hamas' armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, with 15,000 members divided into four brigades.
    The Hamas gunmen were using many American-made arms seized from the Fatah-controlled PA security forces in June.
    Other groups involved in the fighting include Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, and some splinter factions of Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades, operating in coordination with Hamas. Altogether, these groups have fewer than 1,500 gunmen in Gaza.
    Hamas is hoping that once the fighting is over, it will be able to declare "victory, as Hizbullah did after the war in 2006," said a Palestinian source.

The Mother of All Mistranslations - Melanie Phillips (Spectator-UK)
    Reuters reported Friday that Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said the stepped-up Hamas rocket fire on Israel would trigger what he called a "bigger holocaust" in Gaza. But Vilnai never said it.
    It was an appalling mistranslation by Reuters. Vilnai used the word "shoah" which Reuters translated as "holocaust." But "shoah" merely means disaster.
    In Hebrew, the word "Hashoah" alone means "the Holocaust." The well-known Hebrew phrasing used by Vilnai merely means "bringing disaster on themselves."

Public Bomb Shelters Open in Ashkelon; Red Alert System Expands Beyond City - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command instructed the Ashkelon municipality to open its public bomb shelters Saturday in order to allow residents to take cover once a Red Alert sounds.
    Eight more communities in the greater Ashkelon area were made part of the Red Alert system, as far north as Kfar Silver.
    More sirens were installed in the Ashkelon area so that residents can better hear the Red Alerts.

Israeli Action in Gaza Met by Loud Silence from Arab World - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinian Information Minister Riad al-Malki responded to Israel Defense Forces raids against militants firing rockets from Gaza by saying: "Hamas gave Israel an excuse to start a war in Gaza."
    Mahmoud Abbas said that the "operation in Gaza is not just a reaction to the rocket barrage." Both comments can be interpreted as Palestinian backing of the Israel Defense Forces ground incursion.
    Moreover, the very mild Egyptian reaction also indicates that the IDF raid is perceived by the Arab world to be first and foremost a war against Hamas, not the Palestinian people.
    The fact that Al Jazeera devoted a whole episode of a popular debate show to the question "Why are the Palestinians keeping silent about the situation in Gaza?" also serves to prove this point.

French Ballistics Expert in al-Dura Libel Case: Gaza Child Wasn't Killed by Israeli Gunfire - Adi Schwartz (Ha'aretz)
    A report presented to a French court last week by independent ballistics expert Jean-Claude Schlinger maintains that the death of Mohammed al-Dura, a Palestinian child shot in Gaza on the first day of the intifada in September 2000, could not have been the result of Israeli gunfire, corroborating claims that the footage shown on France 2 television was doctored.
    Schlinger wrote, "If Jamal [the boy's father] and Mohammed al-Dura were indeed struck by shots, then they could not have come from the Israeli position, from a technical point of view, but only from the direction of the Palestinian position."
    Schlinger has served as an adviser on ballistic and forensic evidence in French courts for 20 years.

Gaza Pitfalls in Every Path - Helene Cooper (New York Times)
    President Bush's peace plan for the Middle East has been to prop up the more moderate Mahmoud Abbas. But as long as Hamas controls Gaza, it can subvert negotiations between Israelis and moderate Palestinians whenever it sees fit.
    "You cannot make peace with half of the Palestinian polity and go to war with the other half," said former American diplomat Aaron David Miller.
    Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said encouraging Israel to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas would further undermine Abbas and make it look like Hamas is the entity with which Israel and the West should be negotiating.

U.S. Forces Kill Saudi Al-Qaeda in Iraq Leader - Patrick Quinn (AP/Washington Post)
    A U.S. military helicopter fired a guided missile to kill a wanted al-Qaeda in Iraq leader from Saudi Arabia who was responsible for the bombing deaths of five American soldiers, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Sunday.
    Jar Allah, and another Saudi known as Hamdan, were both killed Wednesday in Mosul.

Darfur Rebel Movement Opens Israel Office (MEMRI)
    Sudan Liberation Amy/Movement (SLA/M) leader Abd al-Wahid al-Nur has announced that Darfur refugees who received asylum in Israel recently opened an SLA/M office, the Sudan Tribune reported Friday.
    He praised the Israeli government for helping the refugees, and said that SLA/M's vision was of a liberal, democratic Sudan that would normalize relations with Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli City Shocked as Palestinian Rockets Hit - Aron Heller
    Residents of the beachside city of Ashkelon are still coming to terms with being on the front lines of Israel's battle against Hamas militants. A dozen Katyusha rockets slammed into the city over the weekend, marking a significant turning point in the conflict and compelling Israel to strike back hard. "All of a sudden, the reality has changed," said Rachel Shimoni, 66, as she stood amid shards of glass, blown out of the front window of her clothing store. By reaching Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people about 11 miles north of Gaza, Hamas raised the stakes considerably. It is one of the largest cities in southern Israel, home to strategic installations like an electric power plant and a water purification plant.
        The latest fighting was the first time Gaza militants have been able to hit Ashkelon on a regular basis. An Israeli military official said the harsh Israeli reaction was intended as a clear signal to Hamas that hitting Ashkelon will not be tolerated. "The fact that more than a dozen rockets have targeted the major population center of Ashkelon is a sign that the terrorists have broken through a new threshold in their war against the Israeli civilian population," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert. "We will have to act to protect our people." Israeli officials assume that new and improved rockets, along with Iranian-trained rocket-launchers, were smuggled into Gaza when its border with Egypt was breached in January, bringing Ashkelon into range. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Saturday in Gaza: Two IDF Soldiers Killed Fighting Rocket Launch Crews, 54 Palestinians Killed - Steven Erlanger and Taghreed El-Khodary
    Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded in Gaza on Saturday. Six Israelis were wounded when Ashkelon came under fire again from seven Katyusha-style rockets smuggled in from Iran. At least 54 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded in the deadliest day of fighting in more than a year. Half the dead were Hamas gunmen or those of Islamic Jihad. Israeli troops concentrated on a hilly area near Jabaliya, within two miles of the Gaza border, where many of the rockets are launched from among the civilian population.
        An Israeli spokesman, David Baker, said that Israel was conducting "defensive measures" to protect its civilians from rocket fire against its cities. "We have over 200,000 Israelis in range of Palestinian rockets. We cannot allow this to go on. These rocket attacks on Israelis are sheer terror, designed to kill or maim as many Israelis as possible." Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said the military was engaged in "an enlarged operation and not a major ground operation."
        On Friday, Hussein Dardouna, 50, was burying his son, Omar, 14, killed by an Israeli strike aimed at a rocket-launching team. "I'm against these rockets, but I am afraid. What can I do? If I protest they will hit me, they will kill me," he said. Hamas said that Malak Karfaneh, 6, died Friday from an Israeli strike on Beit Hanun, but locals said that a Palestinian rocket had fallen short and landed near the house. Israeli officials say that up to half of Palestinian rockets fall inside Gaza. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Calls for End to Middle East Violence - William Varner and Michele Batchelor
    White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement Sunday: "We call for an end to violence and all acts of terrorism directed against innocent civilians....There is a clear distinction between terrorist rocket attacks that target civilians and action in self-defense.'' (Bloomberg)
        See also EU Condemns Israeli Attacks on Gaza
    EU president Slovenia on Sunday condemned Israel's attacks on Palestinians in Gaza as disproportionate and violating international law. The statement also condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinians from Gaza into Israel. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Wary of Iran's Growing Activity in Iraq - Liz Sly
    U.S. military officials are voicing increasing concern that Iranian-backed Shiite militants are stepping up their activities in Iraq, as Iranian President Ahmadinejad prepares to make a historic visit to Baghdad that is expected to reinforce Iran's expanding influence. The U.S. military refers to the cells operated by Shiite extremists as Special Groups. The U.S. military is certain that they receive arms, training, and funding from the Quds Force, the elite and secretive foreign-operations wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. "We are certain there are elements, including the Quds Force, who continue to train, finance and equip these people," said senior military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith. "They send Iraqis in [to Iran] and put them back on the border like wind-up toys. They're out there roaming around with all this training behind them and they're very lethal," said Smith.
        The Iraqi National Intelligence Service warned that Iranian agents are planning to stage attacks against the U.S.-allied Sunni Awakening movement, which has been instrumental in driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of many strongholds. "Iranian military intelligence services have dispatched agents to sabotage the Awakening Councils all over Iraq," said intelligence chief Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahwani. Should a disciplined and powerful Hizbullah-like force emerge in Iraq, "the Shiite groups could potentially be the most lethal long-term threat to Iraq," Smith said. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Iran's Ahmadinejad Visits Baghdad
    Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrived in Baghdad on Sunday, making the first visit to Iraq by an Iranian president. A key issue likely to come up during the two-day trip will be U.S. accusations that Iran arms and trains Shiite militias in Iraq. (Reuters)
  • Administration Won't Take Sides in Terrorism Case Against Palestinians - Glenn Kessler
    The Bush administration said Friday it is concerned that lawsuits by victims of terrorism could harm the "financial and political viability" of the Palestinian Authority, but it told a federal judge it will not offer an opinion on whether he should nullify a $174 million judgment. A federal judge in 2006 ordered the PLO and the PA to pay this amount to Leslye Knox, widow of Aharon Ellis, a U.S. citizen killed in Israel in 2002, and to other Ellis relatives. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Artillery Rockets Bombard Ashkelon
    The 122 mm Grad rockets (also known as Katyushas) fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza against the Israeli city of Ashkelon are a standard military artillery weapon, equipped with a weapons-grade high explosive fragmentation warhead. The range of the rockets fired against Ashkelon is over 20 km., an upgraded capability which places about a quarter of a million Israeli civilians in constant danger of Hamas attack.
        The Grad rockets fired at Ashkelon were apparently smuggled into Gaza from Iran via Egypt through tunnels and the breached Rafah border fence. Israel has repeatedly warned neighboring states and the international community about the arms buildup taking place in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel left Gaza over two years ago, with no intention of ever returning. Yet the continued escalation of Hamas terrorism emanating from Gaza, purposely targeting Israeli civilians, is liable to leave Israel with no choice. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Palestinian Katyusha Rocket Strikes Ashkelon Residence Monday - Mijal Grinberg
    A Katyusha rocket scored a direct hit on a residential building in Ashkelon on Monday morning. Palestinians in Gaza also fired at least six Kassam rockets at various locations in Israel on Monday morning. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rockets Slam into Israel Sunday - Avi Issacharoff and Mijal Grinberg
    An Israeli woman suffered shrapnel wounds when a Katyusha rocket slammed directly into a house in Ashkelon on Sunday. Earlier, an Israeli man was wounded by shrapnel when a Kassam rocket hit a factory, sparking a fire. A Katyusha rocket struck the tomb of the late Rabbi Baba Sali in Netivot. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Completes First Stage of Gaza Operation - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    IDF troops on Sunday completed the first stage of their activity in the northern Gaza Strip - dubbed Operation Hot Winter - which began over the weekend. IDF officials said an estimated 100 Palestinians were killed during the operation and 90 were arrested. On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that, contrary to media reports, 90 of the Palestinian fatalities were gunmen. Palestinian medical officials said that 116 Palestinians were killed and some 350 wounded.
        Security officials stressed that the operation was not part of a large-scale campaign which leaders have said may come if rocket fire continues. Meanwhile the IDF Sunday night killed five Hamas operatives, Palestinian sources reported. The army said aircraft targeted weapons storage and manufacturing facilities. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Prime Minister: Striking at Hamas Increases Chance for Peace - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
    Prime Minister Olmert told the Cabinet Sunday: "The State of Israel has no intention of halting counter-terrorism actions even for a second....We will act...without respite in order to strike at the terrorist organizations - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the others, including their leaders, those who dispatch them, those who provide their weapons, those who allow them in to act in given places, according to the outline that we will choose."
        "I have recently heard criticism and claims that civilians are being hurt, that the State of Israel is using too much force....Nobody has the right to preach morality to the State of Israel for taking basic action to defend itself and prevent hundreds of thousands of residents of the south from continuing to be exposed to incessant firing that disrupts their lives."
        "Striking at Hamas strengthens the chance for peace. The more that Hamas is hit, the greater the chances of reaching a diplomatic agreement and peace. It is clear to me that...the Palestinian leadership with whom we are trying to make peace understands this." (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israeli Decision on Gaza Awaits Rice Visit - Herb Keinon
    The Israeli government will wait until Wednesday - after U.S. Secretary of State Rice's visit - to define the overall goals of the current military campaign in Gaza, senior government officials said Sunday. "Israel wants to stop the rocket fire," one senior official said. "If it is done through diplomatic means, that's one way. But if it isn't, then we will have to do it militarily." The official said the security cabinet was not meeting until Wednesday to discuss Gaza, only after the Rice visit on Tuesday, to see if her intervention would put an end to Hamas rocket fire. The officials said that if Rice were able to get Hamas to stop the attacks, it was unlikely that the government would okay a widespread ground push into Gaza.
        Sources said the fighting tapered off on Sunday largely because the combat was most intense when the IDF first penetrated into Gaza. The intensity diminished as those who resisted were either killed or retreated. Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi said that since Wednesday, an average of 50 rockets had hit Israel every day. Israel Security Agency head Yuval Diskin said Hamas wanted "to create a new balance of terror to create calm, so they can consolidate their strength in Gaza and then move to the next level: taking over in Judea and Samaria (West Bank)." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • IDF Takes the Initiative - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The rocket fire from Gaza at Ashkelon prompted the IDF to take the initiative. The objective is to create a new equation between Hamas and the IDF that would exact a much higher Hamas toll in terms of fighters and infrastructure than what it paid before when it initiated a round of escalation in the rocket terror aimed at Israeli communities. The IDF has switched to ongoing methodical fighting from the air and on the ground deep inside Gaza, but this is not the "major operation" discussed in the media.
        Hamas is attempting to exert international pressure on Israel by presenting inflated civilian casualty figures. Every 15-year-old gunman hurt in the fierce battles is presented to the media as an "innocent Palestinian boy hurt by IDF fire." Even a one-year-old baby, who the Palestinians themselves admit was killed after a rocket exploded due to a "work accident," is presented as a victim of IDF fire. (Ynet News)
  • The End of the "Guilty Israeli" - Yossi Klein Halevi
    We Israelis who once wanted nothing more than to leave Gaza forever now realize that we may have no choice but to return, at least until relative quiet is restored to our border. In the early 1990s, while serving as a reservist soldier in Gaza, I became a guilty Israeli. My unit patrolled the refugee camps where sewage flowed in rivulets and old men stared with hatred and children with despair. We found ourselves enforcing an occupation whose threat to Israel's Jewish and democratic values had become unbearable. The first intifada created a substantial bloc of guilt-ridden Israelis ready to take almost any risk for peace. As the Oslo peace process came into being, the guilty Israeli became the most potent source of Palestinian empowerment.
        Israelis felt so desperate to end the occupation that they withdrew their army and uprooted their settlements from Gaza in 2006. Gazans elected a government led by Hamas, whose theology calls for the destruction of Israel and war against Jews around the world, and whose terror attacks are small pre-enactments of its genocidal ambitions. Palestinian rocket attacks that had previously been aimed at settlements were simply redirected toward towns and villages within Israel. The result is that today the guilty Israeli has become nearly extinct. Gaza was a test case for Israeli withdrawal, and the experiment was a disaster. How, Israelis wonder, can we evacuate the West Bank and risk rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?
        So we move toward the next terrible round of conflict. This time, though, for all our anguish, we will feel a lot less remorse. Because even guilty Israelis realize that, until our neighbors care more about building their state than undermining ours, the misery of Gaza will persist. The writer is a senior fellow in the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Not Aiming to End Hamas Rule... Yet - David Horovitz
    What's at stake in the current escalated conflict between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel is the issue of operational freedom: Hamas' operational freedom to inexorably build up its strength and move on to take over the West Bank and ultimately defeat Israel... and Israel's operational freedom to stop it. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, made plain Sunday that it is unthinkable for Israel to be deterred from acting to thwart terror attacks from Gaza because of a fear of Hamas rockets. The message Israel has been attempting to convey to Hamas, he said, is "Actually, we can stop you. And if you don't put a halt to the rocket attacks, you could lose your control of Gaza." At present, Gilad made clear, Israel is not embarked upon a military operation designed to end Hamas' reign over Gaza. For now, the IDF is acting specifically to halt the rocket fire. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Statement to the Security Council on Palestinian Rocket Fire from Gaza - Daniel Carmon (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    Israeli Charge d'Affaires Daniel Carmon told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Saturday:

    • Israel has exercised restraint for many months now. This has been in spite of the constant firing of rockets and mortar shells on our towns and villages in southern Israel, every single hour, every single day. While Israel has been showing restraint, Hamas has showed no intention of ceasing its vicious attacks. Since Wednesday, more than 150 rockets were fired at Israel, dozens in the past 24 hours alone. More than a quarter of a million Israeli citizens are in the range of the deadly and murderous weapons of Hamas. The government of Israel should thus not apologize for protecting its citizens.
    • No responsible member state would sit back in silence and do nothing as its citizens and territory are under constant attack. The alarms in Sderot - and now Ashkelon - gave Israeli civilians less than 15 seconds before the rocket slams into their lives, their homes, hospitals, kindergartens, schools, and playgrounds. And their lives are destroyed forever.
    • Hamas not only seeks to kill Israelis; it has no concern for its own civilians. It fires rockets from populated civilian areas, using their civilians as human shields. This is a war crime against both Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians in Gaza are victims of Hamas' regime of terror. It is not only Israelis. We are all being held hostage by Hamas, the real and only occupier in Gaza through its terror.
    • There should be no doubt in our minds that Hamas' true vision is the extermination of the State of Israel, and not to live peacefully side by side with us. It does not even seek to restore normalcy for the sake of the people of Gaza. Hamas bears sole responsibility for the violence.
    • Sitting on the sidelines will only embolden the extremists and convince them that they should not stop their violence. Israel expects the international community to support us in our protection of our people.

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