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January 21, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Completes Withdrawal from Gaza - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)
    Israel completed its withdrawal of forces from Gaza early Wednesday.
    See also Iran: Israeli Troops Meet Hamas Pull-Out Ultimatum (Press TV-Iran)
    Israel has completed its troop pullout from Gaza within the one-week deadline Hamas had given Tel Aviv for its full withdrawal.

Arab Reporter Confirms Hamas Fired Rockets Near TV Offices - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    Al-Arabiya reporter Hanan Al-Masri was filmed saying that a Grad rocket had been fired from a location near the Arabic television station's studios at Al-Shuruk tower in Gaza City.
    A recording of the broadcast was released Tuesday by Israel's Foreign Ministry.
    Television networks with offices in the building had denied that rockets had been launched from anywhere nearby.

Israel Denies Gaza Munitions Had Depleted Uranium - Ian Deitch (AP/Washington Post)
    Israel on Tuesday denied allegations it used depleted uranium munitions in Gaza.
    "This is a particularly poor propaganda spin," said Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israel Foreign Ministry. "These accusations have been raised in the past many times and have been proven groundless each time by independent investigators."

Intelligence Warns of Hizbullah Attack Avenging Mughniyeh - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    According to intelligence assessments, Hizbullah is believed to be planning a terror attack against an Israeli or Jewish target ahead of the first anniversary of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh's assassination on Feb. 12.
    Israel believes that African and South American countries are the most vulnerable to Hizbullah attacks.

Al-Qaeda Bungles Arms Experiment - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
    An al-Qaeda affiliate in Algeria closed a base earlier this month after an experiment with unconventional weapons went awry, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Monday.
    The official could not confirm press reports that the accident killed at least 40 operatives of Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb (AQIM), but he said the mishap led the group to shut down a base in the mountains of Tizi Ouzou province in eastern Algeria.
    AQIM, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, maintains about a dozen bases in Algeria. In 2007, the group said it bombed UN headquarters in Algiers, killing 41 people.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address: "We Will Defeat Those Who Induce Terror"
    "With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat....For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
        "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." (AP)
        See also Israeli Officials: Obama a True Friend - Roni Sofer
    Barack Obama is a "true friend of Israel" who identifies emotionally not only with the state, but also with the people of Israel, a senior official in Jerusalem said Tuesday. These sentiments reflect the view of Israel's political and security establishment. "We have become familiar with many of the new administration's members during joint activity spreading over 10-15 years," a Foreign Ministry official said. (Ynet News)
  • Gaza Reconstruction Donors Don't Want to Deal with Hamas - Craig Whitlock
    European countries, oil-rich Arab kingdoms and the UN have all pledged money or aid for Gaza reconstruction, but none of the donors wants to deal with Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza but is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the EU and the U.S. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert repeated Tuesday that Israel would block the delivery of reconstruction aid and building materials to Gaza if they benefit Hamas. Israel's preferred partner is the PA, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, which was forcibly tossed out of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007. (Washington Post)
        See also Meeting of Arab Leaders on Gaza Ends in Discord - Diana Elias
    Arab leaders trying to come up with a plan to rebuild Gaza ended their meeting Tuesday in Kuwait in discord, unable to agree on whether to back Egyptian peace efforts or even set up a joint reconstruction fund. The violence in Gaza split Arab countries into two camps - one led by Syria and Qatar supporting Hamas hard-liners, and another led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia hoping to lure the Palestinians toward more moderation. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Olmert to Ban: Rebuild Gaza Not Hamas - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
  • France Ready to Talk to Hamas "When They Accept the Peace Process"
    Paris will talk to the Islamist Hamas movement when it shows it is ready to seek peace with Israel, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Tuesday. "We believe we will have to talk to them when they accept the peace process, when they agree to start negotiations," he told French lawmakers. Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said, "We are prepared to talk to a [Palestinian] national unity government that respects the principle of the peace process and that will engage in negotiations with Israel on creating a Palestinian state living peacefully side by side with Israel." (AFP-France24)
  • Hamas Declares Victory in Rallies Across Gaza - Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak
    Waving green Islamic flags, Hamas held more than a dozen victory rallies across Gaza attended by thousands of supporters Tuesday. Addressing a crowd near Gaza City's demolished parliament building, Ismail Radwan, a Hamas leader, declared: "Gaza is not our goal. The liberation of all of Palestine, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, God willing, will be achieved." Gaza resident Jawdat Abu Nahel dismissed Hamas' victory claims. "We can't talk about real victory because there were thousands of martyrs, and we didn't liberate anything," he said. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert to Ban: Probe into Gaza War Must Include Damage to Israel by Palestinian Rocket Fire - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for assurance that any UN investigation of the damage resulting from the war in Gaza includes the damage Palestinian-fired rockets caused in Israel. Ban has agreed to do so, a top government official said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Fires Mortars at Border Crossings, Blocking Aid - Amos Harel
    Hamas is intentionally harming humanitarian aid transferred from Israel by firing mortars at the Karni, Kissufim and Kerem Shalom crossings, the IDF liaison office for Gaza said. Palestinians fired eight mortar shells from central Gaza on Tuesday and the Israel Air Force responded to the shelling. Military sources said a harsh aerial response can be expected if the cross-border attacks continue. The Palestinians also fired light weapons into Israel on Tuesday near the Kissufim crossing and also set off an explosive charge. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Intercepts Humanitarian Aid in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A Fatah official said that on Monday night alone, Hamas gunmen intercepted 12 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid that had been donated by the Jordanian government to Palestinians in Gaza. The trucks were on their way to UNRWA headquarters when Hamas gunmen stopped them and confiscated their contents. Jordanian authorities confirmed on Tuesday that Hamas gunmen had seized the trucks shortly after they entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Last week Fatah activists and eyewitnesses claimed that Hamas had confiscated fuel and food that was en route to hospitals and schools housing thousands of Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Gaza Has Been Hit Hard, But What Has Changed? - Tim Butcher
    I knew Gaza well, so after the cease-fire I was able to see for myself. It was clear that bombing targets had been selected and then hit, often several times, with precision munitions. Buildings nearby had been damaged but, in most cases, I saw the primary target had borne the brunt. For the most part, I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be. It has been a tatty, poorly-maintained mess for decades and the presence of fresh bombsites did not make any great difference.
        The same can be said for the mindset of many of Gaza's residents. So steeped is the Gazan mindset in the narrative of victimhood that there was no internally-focused groundswell of anger at what had happened. For 60 years Palestinians in Gaza have dwelled on victimhood, a supplicant people grown dependent on foreign aid and reliant on the role Israel plays as the scapegoat for all ills. What many Gazans find most amazing is the ratio of Israeli war dead to Palestinian. For each of the 13 Israelis (three civilians and ten soldiers) who died during the Gaza operation, more than a hundred Palestinians died. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Israel Changes the Facts on the Ground, Militarily and Diplomatically - David Bercuson
    Some analysts may claim that the core of Hamas' military capability has survived in the bunkers and tunnels of Gaza City. But the military initiative is now Israel's. The Israel Defense Forces set the agenda, drove the fight, kept the enemy on its heels, destroyed significant enemy capability, and showed Hamas that IDF soldiers are now highly skilled in urban insurgent war. Israel is no longer merely Hamas' antagonist; it is its unquestioned military superior. The lesson will not be lost on Iran or Hizbullah.
        Israel taught Hamas that future provocation will be painfully costly. Israel also taught Hamas that no one but the Arab street really cares about the plight of Gaza under Hamas rule and, though noisy, the Arab street doesn't matter. The writer is director of the Center for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Will a Gaza Cease-Fire Work? - Alan M. Dershowitz (Hudson Institute-New York)

    • Israel's decision to impose a unilateral cease-fire - quickly followed by a Hamas cease-fire coupled with threats - will save lives in the short run, but it may end up costing even more lives if it is not accompanied by an unequivocal rejection of the Hamas tactic that provoked this war.
    • Unless Hamas is permanently disarmed and rendered incapable of smuggling more rockets into Gaza, this terrorist group will always have the upper hand. Whenever it chooses, it can once again provoke Israel into retaliating by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israeli civilian areas and playing Russian roulette with the lives of its children. It can also cause Israel to kill Palestinian children by simply continuing to use civilians as human shields.
    • Some have gone so far as to accuse Israel of war crimes. These same bigots were silent when Russia killed tens of thousands of Chechnyan civilians. They don't care about "war crimes." They only use that concept as a weapon against the Jewish state.
    • Palestinians will finally get a state when their leaders and the majority of Palestinians want their own state more than they want to see the destruction of the Jewish state. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen in the near future.
    • A Marshall Plan for a peaceful West Bank might demonstrate to the citizens of Gaza the peace dividend they could reap from giving up their futile dreams of destroying Israel, voting the Hamas terrorists out of office, and joining with the Palestinian Authority in achieving lasting peace with the Jewish state.

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