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Special Edition

January 11, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Obama Won't Deal with Hamas (Jerusalem Post)
    The incoming Obama administration will not abandon President George Bush's doctrine of isolating Hamas, the Obama transition team's chief national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, told the Jerusalem Post.
    President-elect Barack Obama "has repeatedly stated that he believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's destruction, and that we should not deal with them until they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements," she said in a statement.

IDF: Army Didn't Fire on UN Truck Driver - Amir Mizroch (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF was not responsible for the death of a Palestinian aid worker for the UN and the wounding of two others on Thursday, the IDF Spokesman said Saturday.
    "An IDF investigation has found that it was not the army who fired on a UN truck at the Erez crossing."

A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
    Hamas, with training from Iran and Hizbullah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs.
    Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership's war room is a bunker beneath Gaza's largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say.
    Israeli intelligence officers are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans.
    After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood.
    The most important strategic decision the Israelis have made is to approach their incursion as a war, not a police operation.
    Civilians are warned by leaflets, loudspeakers and telephone calls to evacuate battle areas. But troops are instructed to protect themselves first and civilians second.

Israel's Motivation for March into Gaza - Oakland Ross (Toronto Star)
    "It's only a matter of a year or two before Hamas threatens Ben-Gurion, the only international airport Israel has," said Hillel Frisch, senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv.
    "The moment any missile flies within 10 kilometers of that airport, no foreign airline will fly that route."
    "There was no way that Israel could allow this to continue," said Frisch. "It just can't be. It's either us or them."
    Frisch also said Hamas' rocket capabilities will soon threaten "the most crucial installations of Israeli defense," if they don't do so already.

Axe-Wielding Palestinian Wounds Two Israelis in Rehovot (Ha'aretz)
    Police in Rehovot on Friday arrested an axe-wielding Palestinian who injured two passersby, striking them while chanting "God is great" in Arabic.

Useful Reference:

IDF YouTube Channel (Israel Defense Forces)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel: No More Restraint in Face of Rocket Fire - Lally Weymouth
    Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview: "I don't like the term 'ceasefire,' since it looks like an agreement between two legitimate sides. At the end of the day, this is not a conflict between two states but a fight against terror." "In six months Hamas has changed the range of its missiles from 20 kilometers to 50 kilometers. This now threatens 1 million Israelis. We need to know that at the end of this military operation, we will not face the rearmament of Hamas."
        "We are not looking to reoccupy Gaza and we do not want to control the Palestinians....The only way to continue the peace process is not only by continuing the dialogue with their pragmatic leadership, but also by weakening those who are not willing to live in peace in this region."  (Newsweek)
  • U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site - David E. Sanger
    President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran's main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials. White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike, but the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran's major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country's only known uranium enrichment plant is located. The White House denied that request outright. (New York Times)
  • Iran Moved Billions via U.S. Banks - Vikas Bajaj and John Eligon
    Iranian banks illegally shifted billions of dollars through American financial institutions in recent years, and authorities suspect some of the money may have been used to finance Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Details of the illicit transfers came to light on Friday when New York State and federal authorities announced that a large British bank had agreed to pay $350 million to settle accusations that it had helped the Iranian banks hide the transactions.
        The British bank, the Lloyds TSB Group, "stripped" information that would have identified the transfers in order to deceive American financial institutions, which are barred from doing business with Iranian banks, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said. Morgenthau said that money in one transaction was used to buy a large amount of tungsten, an ingredient for making long-range missiles. The district attorney's office was still investigating nine major banks that might be engaging in similar conduct. (New York Times)
        See also Lethal Technology Making Way From U.S. to Iran via Front Companies - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
  • House Passes Pro-Israel Gaza Resolution - Ron Kampeas
    The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted 390-5 to approve a resolution calling for a Gaza Strip cease-fire on Israel's terms. The resolution "encourages the Administration to work actively to support a durable and sustainable cease-fire in Gaza, as soon as possible, that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure, including the capability to launch rockets and mortars against Israel, and thereby allowing for the long-term improvement of daily living conditions for the people of Gaza." 22 lawmakers voted "present," declining to take sides. (JTA/San Jose Mercury News)
  • Soldiers Keen to Rescue Comrade - Abraham Rabinovich
    In a room in Gaza, probably underground, Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in 2006, has been listening for the past two weeks to the sound of bombs and gunfire signaling the approach of his countrymen as Hamas guards hover nearby, prepared to shoot him dead if a rescue attempt is made. His fate is very much on the minds of the army units conducting the incursion into Gaza. "We're not leaving without him," a soldier told a TV reporter. It would appear likely that Shalit's release will be part of Israel's conditions for withdrawing from Gaza. (The Australian)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jerusalem: "Diplomatic Window for Truce Still Open" - Roni Sofer
    Jerusalem sources said on Sunday that the window of opportunity for arriving at a diplomatic agreement for a ceasefire in Gaza will remain open for two to three more days. Israel is giving the diplomatic process a chance, but, barring any groundbreaking political surprises, there will be no choice but to expand the military operation. (Ynet News)
  • IDF: 300 Hamas Men Killed in Ground Operation - Hanan Greenberg
    A senior IDF officer estimated Saturday that roughly 300 Hamas men have been killed since the army launched its ground incursion in Gaza. "Hundreds of people were killed in the various combat sectors," the officer said. "Some Hamas companies were simply wiped out. We also see cases of desertions." Earlier Saturday, the IDF killed Hamas' rocket chief in the Gaza City area, Amir Mansi. The senior officer said that shortly before his death Mansi clashed with his subordinates, who refused to come out of their hideouts. Mansi was left with no choice but to launch mortar shells himself, and was killed after being identified by the army. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Rejects Diplomatic Initiatives - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The Security Council's resolution and the Egyptian-French efforts aimed at securing a stable ceasefire have failed thus far. The resolution is no more than a declaration aimed at appeasing Arab foreign ministers and showing that the United States and Europe are willing to mitigate the pressure exerted on them in the Arab world. The resolution's text contains no practical steps that would advance Israel's demand for a stable, long-term ceasefire. Hamas rejected the Security Council's decision and continued to fire rockets at Israel. The Egyptian-French mediation effort is also stuck because Hamas rejected it. (Ynet News)
        See also The Egyptian-French Plan to Bring Fatah Back to Gaza - James Bone and Martin Fletcher (Times-UK)
  • Palestinian Rockets Hit Beersheba Sunday - Yanir Yagna
    Two rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday struck the Israeli city of Beersheba. On Saturday, at least 21 Palestinian rockets hit Israeli territory, wounding 14 people. Kassam rockets slammed into apartment buildings in Ashkelon, while the city center sustained another Kassam strike. Two Grad rockets were launched into Ashdod. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • In Defense of Israel - Editorial
    The paramilitary overlords of the Gaza Strip use civilians routinely for protection in the knowledge that many will be sacrificed to Israeli airstrikes. Unlike the IDF, they deliberately target civilians with their own rockets. At least 70 such rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel in December. This was the criminal act that triggered the current crisis.
        Hamas has explicitly rejected a two-state solution. It exists chiefly to promote a nihilistic doctrine of self-defense through terror, and to foster a delusional pan-Islamism with no tolerance for unbelievers, let alone a Jewish state. The way to end this war is not to abandon Israel. It is to defeat Hamas. (Times-UK)
  • Arab Reaction to Gaza Conflict: Anger at Israel, But Scant Support for Hamas - David Pollock
    Even after two weeks of fighting in Gaza, Arab officials are showing remarkably little support for Hamas, even as they express strong outrage at Israeli behavior and sympathy for Gaza's civilians. Contrary to common perception, no evidence exists that this situation is "radicalizing" or "destabilizing" the region, or even strengthening Hamas politically. So far, Arab reactions suggest a real opportunity to weaken, isolate, and ultimately marginalize Hamas. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • No Way Forward While the Hamas Hydra Lives - Amir Taheri
    Hamas has forged an alliance with Iran based on President Ahmadinejad's strategy of "wiping Israel off the map." Israelis see Hamas as one of the two arms of a pincer, along with Iranian-funded Hizbullah in Lebanon, that Tehran is building against them. Israel's war aims are clear: end the rocket attacks, reopen Gaza to other Palestinian parties and eliminate the Iranian presence. This means creating a new status quo in which Hamas is not the dominant party in Gaza.
        Hamas is part of a pan-Islamist movement with global messianic ambitions. Creating a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank is not its aim. Hamas is the Arab acronym for "Islamic Resistance Movement," making it clear that the movement regards Palestine not as a nation in its own right but as a small part of the ummah, the community of believers. Cutting Hamas down to size would be good not only for Israel but also for the Palestinian people, more specifically the people of Gaza. (Times-UK)
  • Israel's Gaza Offensive Also Confronts Iran - Con Coughlin
    While the Israeli military's immediate focus is to destroy Hamas' ability to terrorize Israel's southern border, the military campaign should be seen within the wider context of Israel's growing resolve to deal with the combined danger of Iran's continuing support for Islamic terrorist groups and its controversial uranium enrichment program. The Israeli government sees both of these as direct threats to the country's existence.
        The Israeli authorities are deeply alarmed by Iran's continued support for radical Islamic groups located on the country's northern and southern borders, both of which are committed to Israel's ultimate destruction. The Grad rockets provided by Iran mean that Hamas now has the capability to hit targets deep within Israel's heartland, a development that precipitated the Israeli government's decision to launch the current offensive in Gaza. Few in Israel are under any illusions that the main enemy they have to confront, whether it is in Gaza or South Lebanon, is Iran, and that the military offensive against Hamas is merely the start of a broader campaign to curb the Iranian threat. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Observations:

    Liberate the Palestinians from Hamas - Bernard-Henri Levy (New Republic)

    • No government in the world would tolerate having thousands of shells falling on its cities year after year. The most remarkable thing in the affair, the true surprise, is not Israel's "brutality"; it is its restraint.
    • The fact that Hamas' Kassam and, now, its Grad missiles have caused so few deaths does not prove that they are inoffensive, but that the Israelis protect themselves, that they live burrowed under shelter: a nightmarish existence, with the sound of sirens and explosions.
    • The fact that the Israeli shells create so many victims does not mean that Israel is engaging in a deliberate "massacre," but that the leaders of Gaza have chosen to expose their populations, relying on the old tactic of the "human shield."
    • The Palestinians' worst enemies are the extremist leaders who have never wanted peace, have never wanted a state and never conceived of one for their people other than as an instrument and as a hostage.

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