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January 19, 2009

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IDF: Shots Were Fired from Gaza Doctor's Home - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    The army said Saturday that sniper fire from the home of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who works at Sheba medical center near Tel Aviv, targeted Israeli soldiers.
    It was return fire that led to the deaths of three of the doctor's daughters.

Natural Gas Discovered Off Israeli Coast - Steven Scheer (Reuters)
    A U.S.-Israeli exploration group said on Sunday it has discovered more than 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, 90 km from Haifa, with the potential to meet Israel's gas needs for well over a decade.
    "If it turns out in a few weeks that the indicators received in recent days are true, then we are talking about the biggest find in Israel's history," said National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer.
    Analysts estimated the natural gas was worth about $26 billion and will be sold starting in 2013.

Egypt Says Not Committed to U.S.-Israel Gaza Arms Smuggling Pact (Reuters)
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday his country was not committed to the U.S.-Israeli pact to halt arms smuggling into Gaza.
    The U.S. and Israel signed an accord on Friday aimed at stopping the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza.

White (Phosphorous) Lies - Gerald M. Steinberg (Jerusalem Post)
    Human Rights Watch initiated a campaign alleging that the IDF was using white phosphorus weapons unlawfully in the conflict in Gaza with Hamas.
    Two days later, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement: "Using phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is legitimate under international law," adding that there was no evidence that Israel was "using phosphorus in a questionable way, such as burning down buildings or consciously putting civilians at risk."
    Phosphorus flares assist search and rescue forces in saving the lives of wounded soldiers and preventing Hamas from snatching the bodies of dead soldiers.

Hizbullah Behind Lebanon Rocket Strikes in North - Yossi Melman, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Hizbullah is behind the two Katyusha rocket attacks that struck northern Israel in the last two weeks, in both cases using proxy Palestinian militant groups to launch the rockets from southern Lebanon.

Gaza Diary - Mohammed Dawwas (Independent-UK)
    The silent majority, I think, have changed their mind about Hamas. They question whether to vote for them again.
    But that is for afterwards. Right now we all stand by Hamas because we are together in this problem.
    Gaza is destroyed. It's set us back 20 years. When things are more normal, people will see the catastrophe.
    See also Can Hamas Still Walk Tall in Gaza's Streets? - Peter Beaumont and Hazem Balousha (Observer-UK)
    Ahmed Tafwiq, 27, a civil servant in Gaza, said: "I am totally against the so-called resistance, because it proved a total failure. We used to hear these slogans of how strong our resistance is. I believed the slogans."
    "But when the war started, nothing happened. I live in an area close to the border with Israel. I used to see hundreds of Hamas and other factions' gunmen waiting for Israeli troops who might storm Gaza. But, since the first day of the war, none of them appeared. And Hamas still talks about a resistance that did nothing to protect our people."

Zionist Coffee - Michael Coren (National Post-Canada)
    Since the beginning of the war against Hamas in Gaza, various Arab, Muslim and socialist blogs have become obsessed with the idea that Starbucks is sponsoring the Israel Defense Force, which explains why one of their stores was smashed and looted during an anti-Israel demonstration last weekend in London.
    The Starbucks-Israel connection is a hoax, but the Hamas-supporting thugs exhibited their commitment to the Palestinian cause by stealing fair-trade coffee and travel mugs.
    See also Two Starbucks Branches Smashed and Looted as Anti-Israel Protests Turn to Violence - Alastair Jamieson (Telegraph-UK)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israelis Announce Cease-Fire in Gaza - Craig Whitlock and Jonathan Finer
    Israel announced Saturday that it would cease fighting in Gaza at 2 a.m. on Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel had succeeded in dealing a harsh blow to Hamas that would make it think twice about resuming firing rockets into Israel. Hamas never lost its capacity to launch strikes on Israel. On Saturday, Palestinians aimed about two dozen rockets into Israel. (Washington Post)
        See also Israel Begins Pullout; Gazans Survey Debris - Craig Whitlock and Jonathan Finer
    Israeli soldiers flashed the victory sign Sunday as they began withdrawing from Gaza. Shell-shocked Palestinians emerged from shelters and counted their dead. But as a tenuous cease-fire took hold, few people on either side predicted an end to the violence. Although Hamas sustained the heavier losses, by a lopsided margin, Israeli officials acknowledged that Hamas could quickly rebuild and that it still posed a long-term threat to Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Hamas Announces Cease-Fire in Gaza
    Hamas has announced an immediate cease-fire with Israel in Gaza. Hamas' deputy chief in Syria, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said the cease-fire was in the name of all "Palestinian resistance factions." The group said the cease-fire would be temporary unless Israel met its demands. (BBC News)
        See also Hamas Declares Victory - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    As Palestinians emerged from hiding, agape at the killing of more than 1,300 fellow Gazans and at the widespread destruction of homes and government infrastructure, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas administration, claimed a "popular victory" against Israel. (Reuters)
        See also Ahmadinejad Congratulates Hamas on "Victory" (AFP/Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Vows to Rearm after Gaza War - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Hamas vowed on Monday to rearm in defiance of any Israeli and international efforts to prevent it from replenishing its arsenal of rockets and other weapons after the Gaza war. "Manufacturing the holy weapons is our mission and we know how to acquire weapons," said Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas' armed wing. (Reuters)
  • Israel to Boost Gaza Aid But Won't End Blockade Until Kidnapped Soldier Is Freed
    Israel said on Sunday it will be prepared to sharply increase the flow of food and medicine to Gaza if the cease-fire holds, but it ruled out fully lifting a blockade until a captured Israeli soldier is freed. "You can't have anything close to full normalization of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. (Reuters)
  • Stage Three Gaza Attack Aimed at Psyche - Abraham Rabinovich
    Israel's endgame in Gaza is proving as surprising and remorseless as the stunning air attack that opened the war. The unexpected armored plunge towards the heart of Gaza City on Thursday, and air attacks on two of Hamas' top political figures, seem to have had a psychological dimension, undermining Hamas' morale and avoiding any ambiguity about the outcome of the war. With Israeli tanks reaching within 4 km of the center of Gaza City and encountering only sporadic fire, it will be difficult for Hamas to claim heroic resistance.
        Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashal in Damascus said Israel had lost more men in battle than Hamas had. Hamas has not given a figure for its battle dead but Israel puts it in the hundreds and its own fatalities at ten. It was revealed Friday that Israeli naval commandos had landed at several points along the Gaza coast at night and were fighting militants. (The Australian)
  • Gazans Have Had Enough - Until Next Time - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    For Hamas, the ability to fire rockets up to 40 km into Israel was a progression in tactics from the suicide attacks that were a hallmark of the second intifada (uprising) against Israel that began in 2000. But given the amount of death and destruction Israel has wrought on Hamas and Gaza as a result of the rockets, even those who initially backed the tactic are now questioning it. "I have always been a supporter of rockets and all forms of resistance," said Aziz, a taxi driver. "But maybe Hamas needs to renew martyrdom operations instead," he said, referring to suicide attacks.
        Hassan, a father of five, said there was little point in firing rockets if they were not effective. "Rockets - I think this issue needs to be stopped for sometime and restudied," he said. "Once we have a missile that can reach the heart of Tel Aviv and blow up a building, maybe they can resume fire."  (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Security Agency: Hamas Will Resume Arms Smuggling Within a Few Months - Barak Ravid
    Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin on Sunday told the cabinet that Hamas would soon rebuild the tunnels and resume smuggling arms into Gaza within a few months. He added that despite heavy criticism of Israel, Gaza residents are "fiercely criticizing Hamas for the destruction it has brought to Gaza." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas Will Try to "Even the Score" with Terror Attacks - Roni Sofer
    "Hamas will try to change the picture Israel painted and even the score by using, among other things, terror attacks," IDF Chief of Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the cabinet Sunday. (Ynet News)
  • Two Israelis Hurt as Rocket Hits Ashdod House Despite Cease-Fire - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinian gunmen fired at least 15 rockets and three mortar shells into Israel on Sunday. The Israel Air Force attacked and hit the rocket launchers. A man and a woman in Ashdod were wounded by shrapnel. The rocket landed between two houses and caused heavy damage. The schools in most rocket-stricken cities remained closed. (Ynet News)
        See also Fight Not Over for Dozens of Israeli Injured - Meital Yasur-Beit Or
    As of Sunday, 51 soldiers and 13 civilians were still hospitalized. During the three weeks of the Gaza operation, some 800 soldiers and civilians arrived at hospitals for treatment. (Ynet News)
  • How Well Did Hamas Fight? - Ehud Ya'ari
    Hamas' fighting prowess has hardly inspired awe. Hamas was not fighting in the areas penetrated by the IDF, even though its defensive doctrine - drawn up under Iranian supervision with the assistance of Hizbullah - is based on an attempt to stop the IDF's infantry brigades outside of Gaza City, or at least to detain them.
        Hamas abandoned the heart of "Kassamland" - the areas surrounding Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and Atatra - almost without resistance. The offensive array of bunkers and tunnels, booby-trapped buildings prepared for detonation from afar, and all the other tricks adopted by Hamas were captured intact. From the perspective of the people of Gaza, Hamas simply abandoned the arena and fled into the crowded neighborhoods. Once there, Hamas fighters hurriedly shed their uniforms. Many of them simply deserted and returned to their families. (Jerusalem Report)
  • EU Leaders Commit to Helping Prevent Hamas from Rearming - Amos Harel, Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay
    Six key European leaders on Sunday pledged to work to prevent Hamas from rearming. At Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt and in Jerusalem, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, offered to provide troops and technological assistance to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and terrorists into Gaza, in cooperation with Egypt and the U.S. (Ha'aretz)
  • Don't Count on Egypt to Curb Arms Smuggling - Mordechai Kedar
    No agreement to end arms smuggling will be implemented, even if the Egyptian regime wants it to happen. The Bedouins in the Sinai will continue to smuggle regardless of decisions that bind Egypt. Those familiar with Egyptian realities know that policemen at Sinai roadblocks, who earn several dozen dollars a month, will not stop taking bribes from trucks transferring arms to Gaza. In addition, the chances that a presidential decision on curbing smuggling will be implemented administratively are slim. Mubarak may want it, but his decisions are not carried out. This is not about malice; it's merely Egypt. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Beyond Gaza - Editorial
    Meeting with the Post's editorial board on Thursday, Barack Obama said that he didn't believe his administration would "have that luxury" of standing back from the deteriorating situation in Gaza. Yet the president-elect appeared to have a healthy appreciation of the limits of what U.S. diplomacy might be able to accomplish. "That doesn't mean we close a deal or we have some big, grand...Camp David-type event early in my administration," he said. "The notion is not that the United States can dictate the terms of an agreement." Obama said his aim would be "to provide a space where trust can be built"; he cited the suggestion of former British prime minister Tony Blair "to build some concrete deliverables that people can see," such as greater security for Israelis and economic benefits for Palestinians. (Washington Post)
  • Averting Iranian Influence in Post-War Gaza: The Rehabilitation Issue - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    It is of prime importance to prevent Iran from acquiring influence in post-war Gaza through any assistance programs. Following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Iran and Hizbullah grasped the political and economic significance of the rehabilitation project in the Shiite areas of southern Lebanon damaged during the war. Hizbullah directed the rehabilitation work, while totally ignoring the central Lebanese government, and in this manner regained and even reinforced its influence within the Shiite community. The main objective for Israel and the international community should be to deny Iran the attainment of this objective and to transform the Palestinian Authority into the principal factor, along with Egypt, entrusted with the rehabilitation work in Gaza. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Where Hamas Gets Its Money - Rachel Ehrenfeld
    International aid organizations and many countries kept on sending money to Gaza, while its rockets continued to hit Israel. The billions that have come from the EU, UN, U.S., Saudi Arabia and other Arab League countries have done little to advance the development of a viable Palestinian state or of peace in the region. Rather, it has helped to fuel the Palestinian leadership's terrorist agenda, and kept the Palestinian people oppressed and disenfranchised. Yet most international organizations and the world community at large continue to ignore the ongoing human and civil rights violations perpetrated against the Palestinians by their own leadership. (Forbes)
  • Arabs Splinter Over Gaza - Robert F. Worth
    Arab leaders remain cripplingly divided on how to respond to the Gaza crisis. Despite a rush of diplomatic meetings - two simultaneous ones on Friday in Qatar and Kuwait - there was still no agreement on convening the Arab League. Most Arab regimes are terrified of Islamist movements like Hamas, which represent the greatest threat to their legitimacy. Many, including Egypt and Jordan, face challenges at home from their own popular versions of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' ideological parent. Many Arab leaders believe that Iran is aiming to become the dominant power in the Middle East, and is using the Palestinian issue to batter its rivals through Hamas, its client. (New York Times)
  • The Truth about Hamas' Mission - Andrea Levin
    Hamas does not just call for the destruction of Israel in accord with its guiding principles, but has been actively pursuing this goal. It pioneered suicide bombings inside Israel beginning in the 1990s, seeking to terrorize, demoralize, and drive the Jews out. The rockets it rains down from Gaza into Israel in ever-widening arcs also seek to destroy Jewish life in Israel. There is no avenue of compromise, no area of debate.
        Understanding Hamas' supremacist and murderous goals, contempt for non-Muslim rights, and programs of indoctrination helps put in perspective the challenges Israel faces in navigating a course consistent with the imperatives of its own moral and democratic system but at the same time one that defends the nation against a merciless adversary. The writer is director and president of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. (Boston Globe)
  • Observations:

    The Limits of Restraint - Dan Schueftan (Ynet News)

    • The war in Gaza is over the fate of regional radicalism and the myth of "resistance." In the second half of the previous century, the military struggle against Israel reached a dead-end. This perception started sinking into the Arab public's consciousness in the Six-Day War. It was institutionalized when the peace treaty removed Egypt from the cycle of active confrontation, when the superpower that armed the Arabs collapsed, and when Iraq's military power was eliminated. Ever since then, radical elements in the region have been seeking a replacement.
    • When a proper response for suicide attacks was found, in the form of the security fence and Operation Defensive Shield (when the IDF retook control of the West Bank in 2002), the radicals turned to rockets. The Second Lebanon War illustrated that there is no military solution to rocket attacks on the home front, with the exception of permanent Israeli presence within the territory and population that hosts the threat. So the radicals reached the conclusion that they possess the ultimate weapon that would embitter Israel's existence and present it as helpless. The entrenchment of such perception in the Arab world poses a strategic threat to Israel.
    • The war in Gaza was aimed at preventing the entrenchment of the perception that the rocket resistance in conjunction with Islamic zealotry is the ultimate weapon Israel cannot cope with. The strategic response is political willingness (in addition to military capabilities) to sow disproportional destruction and hurt the assets that are dear to those who fire rockets at Israeli population centers. The main objective is not to hit the last rocket, but rather, to enforce a fundamental change in the cost-benefit equation of the "resistance" by dramatically raising the cost.
    • The results of the war will not be determined by the nature of the diplomatic agreement that ends it, but rather, by Israel's willingness to pulverize Hamas during the war, and especially to respond to the first rocket launched after the war. Destruction in Gaza contributes to the prevention of war with Lebanon and Syria, assists Egypt and Jordan in fighting radical elements, and signals Israel's limits of restraint to Iran.

      The writer is deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa.

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