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January 6, 2009

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Hamas Rocket Unit Head Believed Killed in IDF Strike - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    The head of Hamas' rocket unit, Ayman Siam, was believed killed Tuesday in an airstrike in Jabaliya in Gaza.

Hamas Exploitation of Civilians as Human Shields (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Hamas and the other terrorist organizations copied and adapted Hizbullah's warfare doctrine, which is based on exploiting the civilian population as human shields.
    Using civilians as human shields is a war crime, a grave breach of the laws of armed conflict and a crime against humanity.
    Rockets and mortar shells are routinely fired from built-up, densely populated areas and near structures and facilities (including educational institutions and mosques) provided special protection by the Geneva Conventions.
    Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and many other Hamas leaders (such as Nizar Rayyan, killed last week) have openly boasted about their use of human shield tactics.

Hamas Officials Hiding in Gaza Hospital Maternity Ward - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinian sources said senior Hamas officials have been spotted more than once wandering around the maternity ward of Gaza City's Shifa Hospital and even using the hospital to hold press conferences, on the theory that it offers a safe haven from Israeli fire.
    For the same reason, Hamas forces have taken refuge near buildings that serve as headquarters for various international organizations, such as the Red Cross and the UN.

Hamas Steals Aid Supplies for Its Own Hospital for Gunmen - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas has set up an independent hospital in Gaza to treat its wounded and is pilfering a significant portion of the medicine allowed into the Strip, senior defense officials said Monday.
    Nevertheless, the Defense Ministry said it would continue facilitating the transfer of food and medical supplies into Gaza since the humanitarian convoys play a key role in garnering international legitimacy for the IDF's operations.

Wounded Israeli Troops Yearn to Be in the Fight - Griff Witte (Washington Post)
    Sgt. Natan Weitzman was creeping through Gaza on Saturday night with his Israeli army platoon when a mortar shell landed in their midst.
    Hours later, his brother said, Weitzman was in the intensive care unit of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba having shrapnel removed from his heart. "Even now, he says he wants to go back," his brother said.
    Weitzman's desire to fight reflects a broader consensus in Israel that the offensive in Gaza against Hamas is necessary and just.
    There is little hand-wringing in Israel over whether putting troops in harm's way is the right thing to do. It is widely accepted that Israel's adversaries must be confronted with force.

Synagogue Set Alight During Rise in Anti-Semitic Attacks in London - Robert Mendick and Neil Millard (Evening Standard-UK)
    The number of anti-Semitic attacks in London has risen sharply following Israel's land assault in Gaza, Jewish community groups said Tuesday.
    An arson attack on the synagogue in Brondesbury took place on Sunday night, while anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in Jewish areas across London.
    See also Outrage after Attack on French Synagogue (DPA)
    French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Tuesday described as "stupid and revolting" an anti-Semitic attack in which a car was sent hurtling against the gates of a synagogue in the city of Toulouse and then set on fire.

Calls to Use Oil as Weapon in Gaza Fight Fall Flat - Adam Schreck (AP/Washington Post)
    As fighting widens in Gaza, threats of an oil embargo against Israel's friends by some in Iran and Bahrain are falling flat.
    Key Persian Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia are keeping quiet, reflecting a focus on their struggle to deal with the plunge in world oil prices.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Rebuffs French Call for Gaza Ceasefire
    After meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected any truce in Gaza that fails to end Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. "The results of the operation must be...that Hamas must not only stop firing but must no longer be able to fire. We cannot accept a compromise that will allow Hamas to fire in two months against Israeli towns." "It will not be wise to pass a (Security Council) resolution on the issue because experience has shown that Israel cannot afford losing its freedom to act against terrorism." The French president noted, "Hamas acted in an irresponsible and unforgivable manner....Hamas is to blame for the suffering of the Palestinians." (AFP)
        See also Israel Rebuffs Calls for Gaza Border Observers - Adam Entous
    Israel on Monday rebuffed European proposals for international observers in Gaza after any cease-fire, pushing instead for equipment and teams to help search out and destroy tunnels Hamas could use to rearm. "We don't need a monitor to tell us that 'At 10 a.m. this morning Hamas launched a rocket into Israel'," a senior Israeli official said. "What we need is tangible action to prevent Hamas from rearming at the end of this crisis." (Reuters)
  • Bush Blames Hamas for Gaza Conflict - Dan Eggen
    President Bush said Monday that any cease-fire agreement must ensure that Hamas is unable to continue to fire rockets into Israel. Bush also blamed Hamas for starting the fight by violating an earlier cease-fire. "I understand Israel's desire to protect itself and that the situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas," Bush said. "Instead of caring about the people of Gaza, Hamas decided to use Gaza to launch rockets to kill innocent Israelis. And Israel has obviously decided to protect herself and her people." "I know people are saying, 'Let's have a cease-fire,'" Bush said. "And those are noble ambitions. But any cease-fire must have the conditions in it so that Hamas does not use Gaza as a place from which to launch rockets." (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Wants Gaza Deal on Rockets, Tunnels, Crossing Points - David Gollust
    The Bush administration is pushing for a Gaza agreement that will end Hamas rocket fire into Israel, arms smuggling through tunnels from Egypt, and re-open Gaza crossing points for relief supplies and commerce. (VOA News)
  • In Southern Israel, Families Still Live in Fear of Hamas Rockets - Sheera Frenkel
    For nine days Avraham Tiger has not left the Emergency Medical Center in Sderot, where he is chief paramedic. "There has been an unending barrage of rockets. We live by the warning sirens." In the nine years since Gazans first developed missile-launching capabilities, Mr. Tiger's home has been hit twice. "Two years ago I collected one friend in a body bag. Another friend was struck in the neck by shrapnel from a rocket and died in my arms." "Two days ago we treated a young Palestinian boy that was brought out of Gaza. We suddenly came under fire from rockets as we were treating him but we acted as though he was one of our children." (Times-UK)
  • No Sign of Third Intifada in West Bank - Steven Erlanger
    Fewer than 100 people showed up on Monday in Nablus for a demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza. The lack of interest was not for lack of support for Hamas, but there is no sign of a third intifada, or uprising, despite Hamas' call for one. People also said they were intimidated by the Palestinian security forces of Mr. Abbas and his appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad - forces subsidized by the U.S. and trained by Jordan - which have cracked down on a series of demonstrations. The same newly organized police forces that are providing better security in the West Bank are trying to repress popular anger over Gaza. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Three IDF Soldiers Killed by Friendly Fire in Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    Three IDF soldiers were killed and 24 others were injured on Monday in a friendly fire incident in Gaza when a tank fired a live round at a building in Jabalya in which IDF forces had taken cover. Col. Avi Peled, commander of the Golani Brigade, sustained minor injuries in the incident but refused to leave the scene until the last of his troops were evacuated. (Ynet News)
        See also Fighting in Gaza Intensifies - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Sources estimated that between 80 and 100 terrorists were killed Monday, and 100 gunmen were apprehended and are undergoing interrogation in northern and central Gaza. Hamas has intensified its attempts to strike back at the advancing forces, utilizing mortar fire, snipers and gunmen wearing explosive belts. IDF sources reported several cases in which suicide bombers lunged at the troops but failed to detonate. Hamas operatives are also incessantly trying to abduct soldiers. (Ynet News)
  • Gaza Rocket Slams Deepest Yet into Israel, Wounds Baby
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket the deepest yet into Israel Tuesday, wounding a 3-month-old baby in the town of Gedera, about 45 km (28 miles) from Gaza. (AFP)
        See also Gaza Rocket Strikes Empty Kindergarten in Ashdod
    Over 40 Kassam and Grad rockets were fired Monday from Gaza at Israel, striking Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, Kiryat Malakhi, near Ofakim, Netivot and Beersheba. One of the rockets exploded in a kindergarten in Ashdod, causing extensive damage to the structure. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Two Israelis Wounded by Gaza Mortar Fire
    Two Israelis in the town of Sha'ar Hanegev were wounded by a Palestinian mortar shell fired from Gaza on Monday. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. to Foil Arab Bid for Security Council Cease-Fire Resolution for Gaza - Shlomo Shamir
    The U.S. is determined to thwart any Arab initiative aimed at forcing the UN Security Council to assume a direct role in the Gaza crisis. Reliable sources at the UN say that the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, has received explicit instructions from the State Department to torpedo any initiative proposed by the Arab bloc which is designed to grant the Security Council the status of an official arbiter that will have direct involvement in the Gaza crisis. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Egypt's Mubarak to EU: Hamas Must Not Be Allowed to Win in Gaza - Barak Ravid
    Hamas must not be allowed to win its conflict with the IDF, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told a delegation of European foreign ministers Monday. Mubarak said Hamas "must not be allowed to emerge from the fighting with the upper hand."
        Regarding Israel's demand that Egypt halt arms smuggling from its territory into Gaza as part of any cease-fire agreement, Mubarak denied that any such smuggling takes place. He insisted that the weapons arrive not via tunnels from Sinai, but in barrels thrown overboard from ships passing near Gaza's coast. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel: Deal with Hamas Would Abolish Peace Process - Roni Sofer
    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that "a necessary war on terror does not end with an agreement. We don't sign agreements with terror; we fight terror." If we sign an agreement with terror we will not longer be able to advance a peace deal, she said. "We will insist on achieving our goals: Halting the rocket fire and terror from Gaza, stopping the smuggling into the Gaza Strip, and international supervision," she added. "The equation according to which Hamas attacks Israel whenever it wants and Israel exercises restraint must be changed. It ended on the day we launched the operation. The moment Israel is attacked - it will respond." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Video: The Importance of an Israeli Victory Against Hamas for the West - Dore Gold
    Israel sees that its cities have been hit for seven years by the rockets of Hamas and other organizations in the Gaza Strip and it now wants Hamas to make a firm undertaking that they're not going to fire rockets at Israel. As long as it takes to get that undertaking, Israel will continue with this military operation. If Israel is perceived as not securing a victory that is bringing about an end to rocket attacks against Israel, that is not just a problem for Israel. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. That will hearten and embolden radical Islamic organizations in Egypt, in Jordan, and even in Europe. Therefore, denying Hamas its military goal of having the right of armed resistance against Israel by hitting Israeli civilians, that victory is essential for Israel and it is also essential for many of our allies abroad. (Sky News)
  • Jihadist Groups in Gaza: A Developing Threat - Yoram Cohen
    Since Hamas' 2007 coup in Gaza, a small coterie of other militant Islamist organizations has emerged. These Salafi-jihadist groups have grown in strength and appear increasingly inclined to act independently of Hamas leadership. They include Jaish al-Islam, Fatah al-Islam, Jaish Allah, al-Takfir, Lion's Den of Jihad Fighters, and Jaljalat. Although they receive no directives from al-Qaeda, these groups identify with al-Qaeda's ideology and model their tactics and strategy on that organization. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The New Middle East Game - David Brooks
    When Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran became leading players in the Middle East struggle, the land-for-peace game was suspended. The new game is not oriented toward a final agreement. The extremist groups believe in the eventual extermination of Israel. They're not interested in a handshake on the White House lawn. The extremists' goal is to kill as many Jews as possible and wait for God (or Iran) to kill the rest. Israel's goal is to restrain the brazenness of the extremists until their movement somehow burns itself out or is destroyed from within Arab society. Israel's realistic immediate goal is not to achieve some permanent resolution, but to merely suppress terrorism week by week and month by month. (New York Times)
  • Israel's Moral High Ground - Saul Singer
    The equation of the actions of Hamas and Israel is disgusting. Imagine terrorist group A attacking country B, where A is trying to maximize civilian casualties on both sides and B is trying to minimize civilian casualties on both sides. What sort of moral judgment would have trouble distinguishing between the two? By taking on Hamas, Israelis deserve the gratitude of decent people everywhere. More than that, by sending in troops to fight them on the ground, Israel is risking its precious soldiers to minimize Palestinian casualties. These soldiers risk becoming martyrs to human rights because they are fighting in places where other countries, including the U.S., might have called in an artillery or air strike and been done with it. (Washington Post)
  • Ross: Hamas Cannot Be Allowed to Rebuild
    Former top Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross said Sunday the U.S. should back a cease-fire in Gaza only if it ensures that Hamas "can't rebuild." "If Hamas is left with the capability to rearm," he said, then the current conflict will have been "just a prelude" to the next round. Ross said achieving an Israeli-Palestinian agreement now would be much different than his last attempt in 2000. Not only is the Palestinian Authority divided and much weaker, but the Israeli public doesn't believe such an agreement is possible. (JTA)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Gaza Surge - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • In some sense, the ground incursion into Gaza can be understood as Israel's version of the U.S.-Iraqi "surge" in Iraq. The strategic question is larger than merely stopping Hamas missiles from landing in Israeli cities, though that is justification enough for Israel's bombing and the ground operation. A nation like Israel, with enemies on all sides, must maintain an aura of invincibility if it is to have any chance at peaceful coexistence.
    • It was that aura after two wars that induced Egypt to agree to peace with Israel in the 1970s. By contrast, the 2006 Lebanon campaign convinced radical Arabs and Persians that Israel had grown soft and could be beaten. Israel can't let Hamas maintain a similar mythology at the end of this operation, or the costs will be far higher down the road.
    • The Bush Administration has rightly given Israel the diplomatic cover it needs to pursue its war aims, amid the usual Arab, European and UN denunciations. Similar denunciations were of course never aimed at Hamas missiles fired at Israeli civilians. As Israel's operation continues, the clamor will build for the U.S. to force Israel to stop short of defeating Hamas.
    • Much as Mr. Obama takes office in a stronger position thanks to the Iraq surge, his foreign policy would also benefit from Israeli success in Gaza. A Hamas humiliation would show Tehran that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regional militarism has more costs than benefits.
    • The Israelis have done Mr. Obama a favor by striking back at Hamas before he takes office so President Bush can endure the usual global denunciations for U.S. support for Israel. But Mr. Obama will soon need to return the favor by showing Israel - and Iran - that he understands the U.S. stake in the success of Israel's Gaza surge.

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