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January 1, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Rocket that Hit Beersheba School Made in China - Yael Barnovsky (Ynet News/Jerusalem Post)
    Brig.-Gen. Avraham Ben-David, the deputy commander of the IDF Home Front Command, said Wednesday that the rocket that struck the school in Beersheba earlier in the day was manufactured in China.
    The four rockets that hit Beersheba this week were filled with metal balls that can scatter up to 100 meters.
    The rockets were bought by Iran or Hizbullah, transferred to Sinai, and then smuggled into Gaza.

Iranian Volunteer Homicide Bombers Seek to Attack Israel (AP/FOX News)
    Five hard-line student groups and a conservative clerical group appealed to the Iranian government to authorize volunteer homicide bombers to leave Iran and attack Israel in response to the Israeli assault on Hamas in Gaza.
    Student leaders claim more than 10,000 people throughout Iran have registered for volunteer homicide attacks in the past three days.

Gunman Wounds Two Israelis in Denmark Mall Shooting - Jan M. Olsen (AP)
    A gunman shot and wounded two Israeli men in their 20s working at a central Denmark shopping mall Wednesday, police said.
    According to the B.T. newspaper's Web site, a man shouted something in a Middle Eastern language and opened fire.

Sick Palestinians from Gaza Transferred to Israeli Hospital, 2,500 Tons of Humanitarian Aid Transferred to Gaza (Israel Ministry of Defense)
    On Wednesday, 12 Palestinians entered Israel for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. Two were children injured during military action, while the rest were chronically sick people and their escorts.
    93 trucks carrying 2,500 tons of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and medication were conveyed to Gaza through Kerem Shalom cargo terminal.
    The World Food Program has informed Israel that they will not be resuming shipments of food to Gaza due to the fact that their warehouses are full.
    Since Saturday some 6,500 tons of aid have been transferred.

On the Frontline with Hamas (Scotsman-UK)
    Maintaining a night vigil along the border with Israel, Hamas fighters sat Wednesday within reach of a device connected to underground wires. The wires were attached to a battery-like device that might have been a detonator for a landmine.
    Clutching assault rifles and hiding behind trees, masked Hamas gunmen in military clothing reported by field radio their observations of Israeli movements.
    "The difference between us and them is that they wait passionately for the day they can return home safely, while we bid farewell to our families and hope to die as martyrs," one of the men said.

Retiree Pleads Guilty to Giving U.S. Secrets to Israel in the 1980s - Carrie Johnson (Washington Post)
    Ben-Ami Kadish, 85, a retired engineer whose clandestine activities went undetected for more than two decades, pleaded guilty Tuesday to serving as an unregistered agent for Israel.
    Kadish shared 50 to 100 documents with Israel between 1980 and 1985 when he worked at the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, N.J.
    He acted out of a desire to help Israel, receiving only nominal gifts and family dinners in exchange, according to court papers filed by the government.

Useful Reference:

Video: Israel Air Force Strikes Palestinian Rocket Launchers (Jerusalem Post)

Video: Israel Air Force Hits Truck Loaded with Rockets in Gaza (YouTube)

Intelligence Briefing: Attacks on Terrorist Targets in Gaza (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

IDF Website with Instructions for Citizens - Updated Daily (IDF Home Front Command)

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • White House: Hamas Must First Stop Firing Rockets
    "President Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets and that is what will be the first step in a cease-fire," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Wednesday. President Bush spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and received assurances that Israel was only targeting Hamas and working to minimize civilian casualties, Johndroe said. The two did not discuss a timetable for halting Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. (Reuters)
  • Saudis Blame Hamas - Ian Black
    Saudi Arabia Wednesday blamed Hamas for Israel's continuing offensive in Gaza and urged it to resolve bitter differences with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. Arab League foreign ministers meeting in emergency session in Cairo warned it was not possible to help until the Islamist movement in control of Gaza returned to national unity talks with its rival Fatah. A furious Hamas attacked the Arab League stance as "pathetic."  (Guardian-UK)
        See also Divisions Deep at Arab League Meeting - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
  • Hamas Accuses Senior Palestinians of Spying for Israelis - Ben Lynfield
    Hamas has accused senior aides of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas of spying for Israel. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Al-Jazeera that Fatah had formed a cell with the purpose of "contacting various Fatah followers in Gaza to collect information on secret Hamas locations and on the whereabouts of the leadership" that is hiding from the Israeli military. Palestinians say that allegations of collusion are believed by much of the public. (Independent-UK)
        See also Arabs Turn Against "Megalomaniac" Hamas - Abraham Rabinovich
    Bassam Abu-Sumayyah, a columnist for the daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, accused Hamas of megalomania and said it had acted without even a little bit of political and security sense. "They thought they have a number of missiles and can therefore prevail in a war of such size," he wrote. A columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, Abdallah Awwad, wrote of Hamas, "We are paying the price of stupidity and the maniacal love of being rulers." (The Australian)
  • Israelis Detail Combat Sorties over Gaza - Arthur Max
    Israeli jet fighters have flown 500 bombing missions against Gaza-based Hamas, a senior officer said Wednesday. There have also been hundreds of combat sorties by helicopter gunships and surveillance aircraft. The targets included command posts, some 130 missile launch sites, munitions dumps and individuals carrying weapons. He said 95% of the targets were hit, and no major targets remained standing. Seeking to avoid civilian casualties, he said, an automated telephone service dials the phones of residents of a targeted building, warning them to evacuate. (AP)
        See also Gazan Mosque Used as Rocket Storage and Launching Site Targeted
    The Israel Air Force targeted a mosque in the Tel El Hawwa neighborhood of Gaza City on Wednesday that was used by Hamas as a Grad and Kassam rocket storage site. Rockets were launched from the mosque's grounds as recently as Wednesday morning. The airstrike set off numerous secondary explosions caused by the munitions stockpiled in the mosque. (Israel Defense Forces)
        The attack on the mosque was carried out in line with legal authorization provided by the military's experts on international law. Earlier, Judge Advocate-General Avichai Mandelblith approved strikes against sites used for terror activity, even if they happen to be located in holy or sensitive spots. (Ynet News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Ashdod Apartment Building
    A Grad rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday scored a direct hit on an eight-floor apartment building in Ashdod, nearly 40 kilometers from Gaza. The rocket caused a fire and seriously damaged the top floor. Four more rockets exploded a few minutes later in the city of Ashkelon. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire on Beersheba Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Grad-type rocket at the Beersheba area Thursday morning. Three Grad-type rockets were fired at Beersheba overnight Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Targets Israeli Cities - Yaakov Lappin
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Grad rockets Wednesday that slammed into residential neighborhoods in Ashkelon. One rocket landed at a busy intersection, wounding four people. By Wednesday evening, well over 60 rockets had been fired from Gaza. Nine rockets were fired at Ofakim, three at Netivot, three at Sderot, one at Ashdod, one at Kiryat Malachi, and 14 landed in the western Negev region. Twenty people suffered shock throughout the region. The relatively low number of wounded was largely due to the residents' compliance with Home Front Command instructions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Cabinet: Gaza Operation Will Not End Until Palestinian Rocket Fire Stops - Roni Sofer
    Israel's National Security Cabinet ordered the Gaza offensive to continue until Palestinian rocket fire stops. "Israel did not launch the Gaza offensive only to end it while rockets are still fired at us," Prime Minister Olmert said Wednesday. "Can you imagine ending the operation unilaterally after a few days only to have a rocket barrage hit Ashkelon?" "Israel has been restraining itself for years. We gave the cease-fire a fair chance and we did it knowing there would be a price; we did it so the residents of the south could have some sort of a normal life, free of Color Red alerts every few minutes. We were willing to give it a try but Hamas kept violating the truce." (Ynet News)
        See also Israel to UN: We'll Continue Gaza Operation - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Prof. Gabriela Shalev said during a Security Council emergency discussion Wednesday that Israel's citizens will not be "ducks in a shooting gallery." Israel will continue its operation in Gaza as long as it needs to and will defend its citizens against terror, she added. (Ynet News)
  • In Beersheba, Rockets Bring Arab, Jewish Neighbors Together - Abe Selig
    In one shelter in Beersheba, Jewish women pored over books of Psalms, while Arab women sat next to them, knitting scarves and caps for their young children who waited nearby. Local resident Riki Yitzhak said: "This is a mixed neighborhood - Jews and Arabs live here together, and we're all suffering from the rockets together. These women are scared just like we are." Indeed, the Arab families, mostly Bedouin, said they were happy to be with their Jewish neighbors in the shelter, and that they abhorred the rocket fire coming from Gaza. "What do I care about Hamas?" one of the Arab men asked, his anger visible. "This is my home right here, and they're firing rockets at it."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Israel Is Bombing Gaza - Ephraim Sneh
    When rule over Gaza passed to the Hamas government in January 2006, instead of bringing investors to Gaza, Hamas brought the guerrilla-warfare trainers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Instead of launching economic projects, this government launched rockets every day at Israeli towns and villages across the border. They smuggled in vast amounts of explosives, weapons and rockets; they prepared themselves for battle. Gaza became nothing less than a military base for Iran. No sovereign state would resign itself to having its cities bombarded. That is the reason for the military campaign that Israel launched this week.
        Those demanding a cease-fire must produce a comprehensive solution containing the following elements: Full dismantling of the military power of Hamas in Gaza, including destruction of all stockpiles of rockets and missiles. Transfer of control over border-crossings between Gaza and Egypt and between Gaza and Israel to the Palestinian Authority government of Salam Fayyad. The return of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The writer served as Israel's Deputy Minister of Defense. (Washington Post)
  • There Will Be No Peace While Hamas Controls Gaza - Con Coughlin
    British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was right to point out that the lion's share of the blame for the current violence in Gaza lies with the radical Palestinian militia Hamas. Ever since Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup d'etat last year, the Iranian-backed militia has not only persisted with its campaign to destabilize the border with Israel, but has forced tens of thousands of Palestinians to obey its strict Islamic code, even though they have no interest in it. Hamas is also doing its best to undermine the efforts of Mahmoud Abbas to lay the foundations of a future peace deal with Israel. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that Hamas' pernicious influence on the peace process needs to be curbed if any attempt by President-elect Barack Obama to revive the Middle East peace process is to be successful. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Israel's Policy Options in the Gaza Conflict - David Makovsky
    Beyond the specifics of the Gaza operation, serious thought needs to be given in Washington about how to deal with both the changing nature of warfare and the impact of such warfare on conflict resolution. Wars between states that dominated the Arab-Israel conflict from 1948 through 1973 are being replaced by nonstate actors firing indiscriminately from civilian populations in areas from which Israel has withdrawn and then expecting immunity from retaliation. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • What Hamas Wants - Clifford D. May
    Hamas was created to fight and win holy wars - not to seek peace and sing "Kumbaya" with infidels. Hamas wants a Palestinian state in place of Israel - not next door to Israel. When Hamas officials vow to fight Israel's "occupation," they are referring to any and all territory on which Israelis now exercise self-determination. (Scripps News)
  • On the Other Side from Civilization - Melanie Phillips
    Israel was never the Palestinians' "homeland." It was never taken from them "by force." On the contrary, they tried to take the Jews' homeland from them by force - and are still trying.
        The issue of Israel sits at the very apex of the fight to defend civilization. Those who wish to destroy Western civilization need to destroy the Jews, whose moral precepts formed its foundation stones. The deranged hatred of the Jews lies at the core of the Islamists' hatred of America, the "infidel" West and modernity, and is the reason why they wish to destroy Israel. Unless people in the West understand that Israel's fight is their own fight, they will be on the wrong side of the war to defend not just the West but civilization in general. (Spectator-UK)
  • Hamas Is Not Interested in Peace - Jack Kelly
    Nothing better illustrates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of so many Western journalists than the ritual condemnation of Israel for the accidental deaths of a few Palestinian civilians, and the near total absence of condemnation of Hamas for its repeated deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians. "Fighting breaks out as Hamas ends truce," read the headline in a British newspaper Dec. 19. If you google "Hamas breaks truce," you'll also find stories from June 26, and from June 12 and April 25 of 2007. There is a certain repetitiveness to this. Hamas agrees to a ceasefire when its supply of rockets grows low. Once the rockets have been replenished, Hamas breaks the cease-fire. (RealClearPolitics)
  • Observations:

    Hard Truths About the Gaza Conflict - Robert J. Lieber (Washington Post)

    • Despite the tragic deaths of civilians, Israeli's airstrikes have been precisely aimed at Hamas fighters, installations and rocket launchers. From initial figures announced by UN personnel, it appears that more than 80% of those killed were Hamas security personnel or other militants - a ratio that might compare favorably with the use of force by U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. In view of Hamas' practice of deliberately placing missile launchers and other weapons in the midst of densely populated areas, the precision is remarkable.
    • What we are witnessing is not a "cycle" of violence. The IDF airstrikes are a reaction to the unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks against the Jewish state. The expanding range of Palestinian rockets now covers an area populated by as many as 700,000 Israelis.
    • Israel and Hamas have profoundly different aims. Israel has accepted the principle of a two-state solution as the basis for ending the conflict. Hamas, by contrast, rejects this.
    • Any realistic hope of progress toward a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a successful two-state solution requires that Hamas suffer a severe setback in ways that seriously damage its capabilities and weaken its political credibility among Palestinians. Leading officials of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority know this.
    • Ultimately, peace will be possible only if most Palestinians and their leaders become convinced that terrorism and violence are a dead end and that they cannot under any circumstances prevail over Israel through the use of force. If today's conflict leaves a seriously weakened and politically damaged Hamas, that result is more likely to enhance the prospects for peace than to weaken them.

      The writer is a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University.

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