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December 31, 2008

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Israel Allows Humanitarian Aid into Gaza (AFP)
    "A convoy of 109 trucks carrying international humanitarian aid was authorized to pass on Tuesday through the Kerem Shalom crossing," an Israeli military spokesman said.
    On Monday, Israel allowed more than 80 trucks filled with aid to pass through the same crossing.
    Israel will permit additional trucks with humanitarian aid into Gaza on Wednesday, despite the fact that at least 40 rockets were fired at Israel Wednesday morning. (Ha'aretz)
    See also Israel: Abundance of Medical Supplies Sent to Gaza - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    Col. Moshe Levi, head of the IDF District Coordination Office in Gaza, said Wednesday that since the start of the IDF operation, unprecedented amounts of medical equipment have been allowed into Gaza, including medicine and blood units.
    In addition, ambulances sent from the West Bank and donated from other countries were allowed in.
    Levi also accused Palestinian Health Ministry officials of preventing the injured from leaving Gaza to receive medical treatment in Israel.
    "Gaza hospitals have not collapsed, and international organizations have not reported a collapse and even point out that the medical equipment sent there is improving the hospitals' efficient activity. Regarding food as well, we have not received official complaints; there are large amounts of food in the Gaza Strip and there is no crisis in this regard," Levi said.
    Israeli defense sources said Gazan officials are trying to create a false picture of a humanitarian crisis.

Israeli Security Chief: Hamas Has Been Hit Like Never Before - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Chief Yuval Diskin told the Cabinet Wednesday that the current Israel Air Force offensive in Gaza has caused unprecedented damage to Hamas' infrastructure and personnel. Hamas "has been hit like it has never been hit before," he said.
    Diskin said Hamas' ability to govern has been seriously damaged, and that senior Hamas officials are hiding out in Gaza's hospitals, where they have disguised themselves as doctors and nurses."
    In addition, "many Hamas officials are hiding in mosques." Dozens of mosques have been turned into weapons warehouses and command centers, he added.
    Diskin also said the weapons factories used by Hamas have been wiped out and dozens of tunnels used to smuggle arms have been destroyed.
    He said Hamas is currently trying to repair the tunnels, in order to evacuate their leadership to Egypt.

A Fatah Friend Is Supporting the Israeli Air Force - Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic Monthly)
    I've been talking to friends of mine, former PA intelligence officials (ejected from power by the Hamas coup), and they tell me that not only are they rooting for the Israelis to decimate Hamas, but that Fatah has actually been assisting the Israelis with targeting information.
    One told me that one of his comrades was thrown off a high-rise building in Gaza City last year by Hamas. "Let the Israelis kill them," he said. "They've brought only trouble for my people."
    See also Fatah Loyalists: Gaza Operation Is Allah's Revenge for Hamas Actions - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    "Many people blame Hamas for the recent deterioration, but they are afraid to say anything," said A., a resident of Jabalya in Gaza.
    "Most Palestinians will not say anything bad about Hamas. They are afraid for their lives....But in private conversations you hear the true criticism against them."

Israel Targets Terror Labs Funded by U.S. Islamic Group - Patrick Poole (Pajamas Media)
    Israel Defense Forces aircraft bombed suspected Hamas terror laboratories located at the Hamas-run Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).
    The IUG science and technology lab was financed and constructed with the assistance of the Dublin, Ohio-based Arab Student Aid International (ASAI).
    The organization's primary benefactor is Prince Turki Ben Abdul Aziz, a former high-ranking Saudi government official and half-brother to King Abdullah.
    The IUG has been used for weapons storage, launching rockets, and holding hostages.
    See also Fatah: Abducted Israeli Soldier Was Held at Islamic University of Gaza - Ronny Shaked (Ynet News)

Iran Sets Up Court to Try Israelis Over Gaza (Reuters)
    Iran has set up a court to try Israelis for the air attacks in Gaza and to try in absentia any people who Tehran says have committed crimes, Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said Tuesday.
    Jamshidi called on all Palestinians who have been affected by the Israeli operation in Gaza to file complaints.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Rockets Reach Deep into Israel
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two rockets at the Israeli city of Beersheba, located 28 miles from Gaza, on Tuesday evening. The mayor of Beersheba told Israel television that one rocket hit an empty kindergarten. (AP)
        See also Gaza Rocket Strikes School in Beersheba - Yanir Yagna
    A Grad rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza directly struck an empty school in Beersheba on Wednesday morning. After holding emergency consultations with the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command, authorities in Beersheba had decided on Wednesday there would be no school in the city. The army shut down schools on Wednesday in all towns within 30 km. of Gaza. More than 40 rockets struck Israel on Tuesday, striking Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat. One rocket scored a direct hit on a kibbutz dining hall. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israelis Worry about Cover as Rockets Reach Deeper - Ari Rabinovitch
    For many residents of southern Israel, the fighting in nearby Gaza is measured in the number of seconds they have to take cover when Hamas rockets rain down. In Ashdod, where a woman was killed by a rocket on Monday, about 40 seconds elapse between the "Code Red" warning and the blast of impact. The city is 22 miles north of Gaza and had been untouched by Hamas rocket fire. The rockets have killed four Israelis since the fighting began Saturday. In Ashkelon, 12 miles from Gaza, the "Code Red" warning gives people about 30 seconds to find shelter. But the impact is perhaps most felt in small Israeli border communities where residents can see Gaza from their backyards. There, they have only a 10-second warning of incoming rockets. (Reuters)
  • U.S.: Gaza Cease-Fire Can't Be One-Sided - Matthew Lee
    Secretary of State Rice on Tuesday kept up steady U.S. calls for a "durable and sustainable," but not necessarily immediate, cease-fire in Gaza and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants based there. In phone calls with Israeli and Arab leaders, Rice pressed for a durable solution to the fighting that is not used by Hamas to launch more attacks into Israel. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said, "It can't be a cease-fire in which one side uses it to launch periodic attacks." Meanwhile, the State Department announced a new contribution of $85 million to UN relief efforts to assist Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. (AP)
        See also Behind Closed Doors, U.S. Seeks Israel Exit Strategy - Paul Richter
    While publicly declaring strong support for Israel, the Bush administration is increasingly nervous about the campaign in the Gaza Strip and is urging its ally to settle on a timetable and exit strategy, say foreign diplomats and Middle East experts close to the discussions. U.S. officials are concerned that the campaign could drag on without destroying Hamas, and might even bolster support for the militant group - just as the 2006 Israeli campaign in Lebanon strengthened Hizbullah. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Bush Calls Arab Leaders Over Gaza - Tabassum Zakaria
    U.S. President George Bush on Tuesday called Palestinian and Egyptian leaders about the crisis in Hamas-ruled Gaza and emphasized the need for a lasting cease-fire, the White House said. Bush spoke with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and also called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to thank him for "the positive role" that Egypt is playing, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. (Reuters)
  • Egypt: Gaza Border to Stay Shut Until Abbas Back in Power
    President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday ruled out reopening Egypt's border with Gaza. "We in Egypt are not going to contribute to perpetuating the rift (between Abbas and Hamas) by opening the Rafah crossing in the absence of the Palestinian Authority and EU observers in violation of the 2005 deal," Mubarak said in a televised speech. He added: "We say to our Palestinian brothers: restore your unity. We warned you several times that any refusal to renew the truce would push Israel to attack Gaza." (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: Gaza Offensive to Go On Until Israel's Aims Are Achieved - Amos Harel and Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday, "The Gaza offensive has begun and will not end...until our goals our reached, we are continuing according to the plan." The government said Tuesday it was prepared to work with France and other governments on increasing aid flows into Gaza. "We want to see convoy after convoy of humanitarian support and we are willing to work closely with all relevant international parties to facilitate that goal," the prime minister's spokesman, Mark Regev, said. "At the same time, it is important to keep up the pressure on Hamas, not give them a respite, time to regroup and reorganize," Regev added. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Rejects French Proposal for 48-Hour Gaza Truce - Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, and Avi Issacharoff
    Israel on Wednesday rejected a French proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire in Gaza. "That proposal contained no guarantees of any kind that Hamas will stop the rockets and smuggling," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. "There's no such thing as a 'humanitarian cease-fire'," an aide to Prime Minister Olmert said Tuesday. "Gaza is not undergoing a humanitarian crisis. We're constantly supplying it with food and medications, and there's no need for a humanitarian cease-fire."
        Israel's terms for a permanent cease-fire include a complete cessation of all rocket and mortar fire from Gaza by all Palestinian organizations; a ban on armed men approaching the border fence with Israel; complete Israeli control over the Gaza border crossings; Egyptian efforts to stop the weapons smuggling into Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula; and a supervisory mechanism to ensure that Hamas is meeting its commitments. (Ha'aretz)
  • Ashdod Still Recovering from Shock of Palestinian Rocket Attack - Shelly Paz
    Irit Sheetrit, 39, a mother of four from Ashdod who was killed in a Palestinian rocket attack, was buried on Tuesday. "The Jewish people have been hunted forever only because they are Jews, and this is the reason for Irit's death. She is a victim for the sake of the Israeli people, a victim of hatred," said the rabbi who eulogized her. Sheetrit's eldest daughter is a soldier, and the youngest is in fifth grade. Ashdod is Israel's fifth-largest city and is home to 250,000 people. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Despite Rocket Strikes, Israelis Vow to Soldier On - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
  • Rocket-Spotting in Sderot - Abe Selig and Diana Gershman
    On the top of a hill near Sderot, curious residents looked down across the plain and into Gaza, less than a kilometer away. Black smoke could be seen rising over Beit Hanoun and Jabalya as Israel air force planes and helicopters launched assaults on rocket cells operating below. Suddenly, white trails of smoke could be seen shooting out from inside Beit Hanoun, following freshly fired rockets. "They're firing on Ashkelon!" someone yelled. Then another trail, towards the south. "That one's heading for Netivot!" another voice called out. And then another trail, this time more difficult to make out. "Run! It's heading over here!" another voice cried, and sure enough, the "Color Red" warning began to sound as the small crowd that had gathered, with no shelter in sight, lay on the ground and prayed for the best. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Defeating Hamas for America's Sake - Benny Avni
    By routing Hamas in Gaza, Israel can improve its security - and perhaps enhance prospects for eventual peace in the region. But the defeat of a U.S.-certified terrorist group will also be a boon to America's strategic interests. Washington can do itself much good by helping Israel achieve victory, by providing the diplomatic space for Jerusalem to get the job done. Should Israel fall short again, Iran - which also backs Hamas - will carve yet another notch in its gun. Furthermore, Hamas must be defanged before any political progress can be achieved. (New York Post)
  • Hizbullah Will Defend Iran - Not Palestinians - David Schenker
    Despite Hizbullah's strong rhetorical response, it has still not fired a single rocket into Israel in defense of the Palestinians. Hizbullah's primarily Shiite constituents in southern Lebanon are war weary and have not completely recuperated from the last war. Moreover, Hizbullah and its political allies appear to be well positioned for the spring 2009 Lebanese parliamentary elections, and another war would risk undermining the organization at the polls. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel, Hamas, and False Moral Equivalence - Alan M. Dershowitz
    The firing of rockets at civilians from densely populated civilian areas is the newest tactic in the war between terrorists who love death and democracies that love life. The terrorists have learned how to exploit the morality of democracies against those who do not want to kill civilians, even enemy civilians. The attacks on Israeli citizens have little to do with what Israel does or does not do. They have everything to do with an ideology that despises - and openly seeks to destroy - the Jewish state. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • When a Regime Uses Its Citizens as Tools of War - Fania Oz-Salzberger
    Imagine your next-door neighbor - with whom you have had a long and bloody feud - pulling out a gun and shooting into your windows from his own living room, which is densely packed with women and children. In fact, he's holding his daughter on his lap as he claims he will not stop till your family is dead. Police are unavailable. What should you do? Finally, as one shot hits your child's bedroom, you decide that enough is enough. You attempt a surgical strike: aim at the shooter's head, try to spare the innocents. This is what Israel is doing. The writer is Professor of Modern Israel Studies at Monash University in Australia and a senior lecturer in law and history at Haifa University. (The Age-Australia)
        See also What Would You Do? - Amy Weiss
    What would you do if a stalker had been threatening you and your family, you had a restraining order, and in the middle of the night you heard a rustling outside the window. When you confront the person who has invaded your home, do you only hit him a couple of times because you aren't exactly sure if he was going to just scare you or maim you and your family while they were sleeping? You wouldn't stand in the hall and say, "Excuse me, could you please leave immediately before I get really mad?" Rabbi Amy Weiss is the executive director of The Initiative for Jewish Women in Houston. (Houston Chronicle)
  • One Effective Way to Stop the Rockets - Moshe Arens
    The only effective alternative is for the Israel Defense Forces to take control of the rocket launching sites in the Gaza Strip. In World War II, the Allies understood that the only way to put a stop to the shelling of London by German V2 rockets was for Allied armies to reach the launching sites in Western Europe. Nobody has yet found a way of defeating an enemy without invading their territory. That is how wars have always been won, and if we are going to defeat Hamas and stop the rockets from raining on Israeli civilians, that is what we will have to do. The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Air Power Alone Won't Force the Hamas Response that Israel Wants - Jeffrey White
    Hamas will attempt to sustain rocket attacks for as long as possible to demonstrate its potency and to create pressure within Israel to end its operation. Hamas will also likely attempt to carry out suicide attacks within Israel and against the border crossing points. Israel does not want to return to the cease-fire conditions, which left much of the political and security initiative with Hamas and allowed it to expand its military capabilities.
        Israel's use of air power limits Hamas' ability to respond, but also limits the scope of damage Israel can inflict. It is questionable whether air power alone will force Hamas to respond the way Israel wants, since it could attempt to ride out the attacks until diplomatic pressure forces Israel to end IDF operations. The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fight Fire with a Cease-Fire - David Grossman
    After the heavy blow that Israel has dealt to the Gaza Strip, we would do best to halt, turn to the leaders of Hamas and tell them: Until last Saturday, we restrained ourselves in responding to the thousands of Kassam rockets fired at us. Now you know how severe the retaliation can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction that has already taken place, we intend, unilaterally and absolutely, to hold our fire for the next 48 hours. (New York Times)
        See also Cease Terror, Not Cease-Fire - Editorial
    It is way too premature for Jerusalem to be entertaining thoughts of a cease-fire. It is Hamas that needs an exit strategy to extricate it from a devastating situation of its own making. Let us keep our eyes on the prize. The government has rightly declared the imperative to change the security environment in the south and stop Hamas from attacking our population. No country - not Britain, France, Russia, Turkey or the U.S. - would tolerate missile attacks on its homeland. Neither can Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Time Once More to Blame the Jews - Wesley Pruden (Washington Times)

    • The Israelis finally get enough of the constant rain of rockets on their border towns and villages, fired by Hamas thugs recognized by nearly everybody as international jackals, and strike back to stop it. Guess who the villains are.
    • Those thugs have become expert at retail death, killing one or two Jews one day, occasionally three or four on another. Death-by-rocket in Ashkelon and other cities in southern Israel is bad, but, like other urban inconveniences, not something to "overreact" to.
    • Because the Hamas terrorists have perfected provocation as an art of war, the blame is attached to Israel by those always eager to "blame it on the Jews," and by a media unable to make distinctions and eager to draw moral equivalence between provocateur and the provoked.
    • Much of the world long ago decided that it would no longer be moved by the suffering of the Israelis, nor impressed by their patience in the face of extreme provocation. The Israelis are friends of the Great Satan, after all, and so deserve whatever retail death their enemies can deal. We must give the provocateur a pass.
    • The tragedy is that none of this is necessary. The Palestinians could have a two-state solution if they would only take it. But they are determined to win a one-state solution bought at the price of a second Holocaust. This is the reality that Israel's critics in the West willfully refuse to acknowledge. The Jews can expect to be made the villains of the piece - again.

      The writer is editor emeritus of the Washington Times.

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