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January 7, 2009

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Arab Leaders Weather Gaza Storm with Ease - Jonathan Wright (Reuters)
    Arab governments have weathered ten days of public outrage at their passive response to the Israeli assault in Gaza and can easily survive as long as the Israeli operation takes, political analysts said.
    Only a minority of Islamists and other political activists are willing to come out on the streets and risk abuse at the hands of state security agents.
    "More than half of the public accept the Egyptian idea that Hamas was irresponsible and was irrational....They are not going to fight, or take a stance against Egypt or Saudi Arabia," said Sateh Noureddin, columnist at the Lebanese newspaper as-Safir.
    "To a lot of Egyptians the idea of Hamas being a fundamental threat makes sense," said Issandr el-Amrani, Egypt and North Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group.

Report: Hamas Stealing Aid Supplies to Sell to Residents - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Hamas operatives have seized control of supplies passing through the Gaza border crossings - including those sent by Israel and international organizations. Supplies intended to be distributed among the population are seized by Hamas and then sold to the residents.
    On Monday a convoy of trucks carrying supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing was fired upon and seized by Hamas gunmen. Similar incidents occurred with trucks carrying fuel.
    Complaints state that Hamas gunmen pull children along with them "by the ears" from place to place for protection from the IDF.
    Others hide in civilian homes and stairwells, UNRWA ambulances, and mosques.

Hamas Executes Six Suspected Collaborators - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Six Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel have been executed in the past two days by Hamas security officers in Jabalya. Among the dead were three brothers executed on the street.

Venezuela Expels Israeli Envoy over Gaza (Ynet News)
    Venezuela has expelled the Israeli ambassador and all embassy personnel in response to Israel's military offensive in Gaza.

French TV Shows Gazans Killed by Hamas, Blames Israel (AFP/Gulf Times-Qatar)
    France 2 Television on Monday broadcast footage to illustrate a report on the current Gaza conflict that actually shows civilians wounded in the explosion of a pick-up truck loaded with Hamas rockets at a rally in 2005.
    France's public broadcaster was forced to apologize Tuesday, with a France 2 executive saying, "It is an error on our behalf. There was an internal malfunction in the checking of information."

Terror in Turkey for Israeli Basketball Team - Allon Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
    Moments before the start of a Eurocup encounter between the Israeli Bnei Hasharon basketball team and Turk Telekom in Ankara Tuesday, Turkish fans shouting "Death to the Jews," threw bottles at the Israeli players and stormed the court, forcing the Israelis to flee to the locker room.

Habad House Was Prime Target in Mumbai Attack - Somendra Sharma (DNA-India)
    The Mumbai terrorists were in no doubt that Nariman (Habad) House was the prime focus.
    When asked during interrogation why Nariman House was specifically targeted, terrorist Mohammed Ajmal reportedly told the police they wanted to send a message to Jews across the world.
    See also Transcript: Mumbai Gunmen Were Commanded by Phone to Kill Hostages (AP)
    A transcript of phone calls intercepted during the Mumbai attacks was part of a dossier of evidence India handed Pakistan this week.
    In one instance, a gunman said into the phone, "We have three foreigners, including women."
    The response was plain and brutal: "Kill them," the man said. Gunshots rang out, followed by a round of cheering.
    The handlers told another team of gunmen who had seized a Jewish center to shoot hostages if necessary.
    "If you are still threatened, then don't saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them," he said.

The Clock Is Ticking towards the Khomeinist Nuclear Bomb - Amir Taheri (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
    Iran is a "short distance" from securing all it needs to make a nuclear warhead. This is the conclusion of a long-awaited report prepared for the French National Assembly in the last days of 2008.
    Prepared by a number of leading French experts, the report asserts that Iran will be an effective member of the nuclear club by the end of 2011 at the latest.
    See also Iran Has Almost Enough Fuel For Its First Nuclear Weapon - Interview with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Sallai Meridor (Newsweek)

Turkey Holds Suspicious Iran-Venezuela Shipment - Selcan Hacaoglu (AP)
    Turkey was holding a suspicious shipment bound for Venezuela from Iran because it contained lab equipment capable of producing explosives, Suleyman Tosun, a customs official at the Mediterranean port of Mersin, said Tuesday.
    Authorities detected the equipment during a search of 22 containers labeled "tractor parts."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Civilians Die at UN-Run School in Gaza that Hamas Was Firing From - Griff Witte and Sudarsan Raghavan
    Israeli soldiers battling Hamas gunmen in Gaza on Tuesday fired mortar shells at a UN-run school where Palestinians had sought refuge from the fighting, killing at least 40 people, after Hamas fighters launched mortar shells from the school. The Israeli military said its soldiers fired in self-defense. The incident underscored the dangers Palestinian civilians face as Israeli soldiers fight their way across Gaza against an enemy that does not wear uniforms or operate from bases, but instead mingles with the population.
        Rockets continued to be launched from Gaza Tuesday, with 35 landing in Israel. Israel says it will not stop its offensive until it has international guarantees that Hamas can be prevented from continuing to fire rockets. (Washington Post)
        See also The Tragedy at the School in Gaza
    Hamas terrorists fired mortar shells from the area of the school towards Israeli forces, who returned fire towards the source of the shooting. The Israeli fire landed outside the school, yet a series of explosions followed, indicating the probable presence of munitions and explosives in the building. Intelligence indicates that among those killed were Immad Abu Iskar and Hassan Abu Iskar, two known Hamas mortar crewmen. Not a single Palestinian would have been hurt had Hamas not launched unprovoked rocket and mortar barrages on Israeli cities three weeks ago - an act of aggression that was a clear violation of international law. This tragedy occurred because Hamas uses its own population as human shields. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Gazans Tell AP that Hamas Staged Attacks from Cover of UN School
    Residents of a Gaza neighborhood are confirming Israel's claim that Hamas militants had opened fire from the cover of a UN school where Palestinians had sought refuge. Two residents say a group of militants had fired their mortars from a street near the school, then fled into a crowd of people. Israeli forces fired back with mortars. (AP)
        See also Canada Blames Hamas for Civilian Deaths at School - Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail-Canada)
        See also Video: Palestinians Launch Mortars from UN School in Gaza (29Oct07) (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also UN Secretary General Condemns Mortar Attack from Gaza School Run by UN (8Nov07) (United Nations)
        See also Hamas MP Fathi Hammad: We Used Women and Children as Human Shields (MEMRI/YouTube)
  • Israel to Set Up Humanitarian Corridor for Gaza Aid
    Israel has agreed to establish a "humanitarian corridor" to supply residents of Gaza with aid. (CNN)
        See also Humanitarian Aid Arrangement for Gaza Residents
    In order to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Israel will establish a humanitarian corridor to assist the population. This would entail opening geographic areas for certain periods of time during which the population would be able to equip itself and receive the assistance. Since the start of its military operation in Gaza, Israel has channeled hundreds of tons of equipment, goods and food in quantities equal to those which it channeled in the months preceding the operation, despite Hamas activity. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Israel Announces Daily Three-Hour Lull to Enable Humanitarian Aid for Gaza - James Hider
    Israel is to halt military operations for three hours a day in Gaza to enable aid to flow through a humanitarian corridor. (Times-UK)
  • Diplomats Say Gaza Agreement Could Take Several Days - Warren P. Strobel
    Diplomats accelerated efforts Tuesday in search of a formula to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas. International support appeared to be growing for a cease-fire that would be accompanied by an international monitoring force and other measures intended to stop the flow of smuggled weapons into Gaza, as Israel has demanded. (AP/Miami Herald)
        See also Gaza Cease-Fire Options Weighed - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    None of the major international players want to strengthen Hamas. France and Egypt are currently leading the cease-fire efforts, yet their proposals are far closer to Israel's demands than to those of Hamas. Therefore, unless Hamas gives in and accepts these proposals, the fighting is likely to continue. What to do about Hamas' arms smuggling currently appears to be the main sticking point holding up a cease-fire agreement. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Blair: Gaza Cease-Fire Must Halt Hamas Smuggling
    Any cease-fire in the Gaza conflict will require "clear and definitive action" to halt the smuggling of weapons and money, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday. "If there is strong action on that front, so that Israel feels it has achieved something - namely the end of the smuggling of weapons and finance to Hamas - then I think it is possible to resolve this reasonably quickly," Blair told CNN. "If that doesn't happen, if we're not in that position, then obviously it's going to go on."
        Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said any cease-fire must guarantee "real quiet" - and prevent Hamas from replenishing and expanding its arsenal. "Before the last cease-fire with Hamas began, Hamas had missiles with a range of 20 km.," Regev said. "By the end of the cease-fire, the range of the missiles grew to 40 km. Israel does not want the next cease-fire to allow them to get missiles with a range of 60 km." (CNN)
        See also below Observations - Rice to UN: New Arrangements in Gaza Must End Rocket Attacks on Israel (State Department)
  • Obama Vows to Work for Peace Deal - Glenn Kessler
    President-elect Barack Obama promised Tuesday "to hit the ground running" on achieving a broad Middle East peace deal. "We are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East," he said, adding that "the loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern to me, and after January 20th I am going to have plenty to say about the issue." (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Forces Clear Pockets of Resistance in Gaza - Amos Harel
    A senior Israel Defense Forces officer said Tuesday, "Hamas has avoided confronting us directly because of the firepower that was used when we went in. It had an initial shock effect and broke down orderly resistance. We do not see battalion- or company-size units fighting against us, but much smaller pockets of resistance." The soldiers are now busy searching tunnels and homes. In many homes belonging to active Hamas members, escape tunnels were uncovered, as well as large quantities of military equipment. In addition to small arms, the soldiers found anti-tank missiles and large explosive devices. In some instances, troops shot and killed would-be suicide bombers - whose corpses were laden with explosives. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Confronts Hamas-Built Underground City - Hanan Greenberg
    Hamas' division and brigade commanders are hiding under the ground, the rocket manufacturing industry has been damaged and much of the Hamas infrastructure has disappeared. According to IDF soldiers operating in northern Gaza, Hamas has built an underground city of tunnels and holes paved with weapons. An air force strike not far from Shifa Hospital hit a weapons cache hidden in the area. Following the explosion, the bottom part of the bunker was blown away, exposing a maze of tunnels. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Resumes Wednesday, One Israeli Wounded near Ashdod
    Hamas and other Palestinian factions resumed rocket fire at Israel Wednesday. One person was wounded and a number of people suffered from shock when a Grad-type rocket hit the Be'er Tuvia region near Ashdod, damaging a building. Impact sites were also reported in the Sha'ar Hanegev region, Eshkol region and Ashkelon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Militant Islam Threatens Us All - Benjamin Netanyahu
    Three years ago Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. Since that withdrawal, our civilians have been targeted by more than 6,000 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. In the face of this relentless bombardment, Israel has acted with a restraint that other countries, faced with a similar threat, would find hard to fathom. Israel's government has finally decided to respond. There is no moral equivalence between Israel, a democracy which seeks peace and targets the terrorists, and Hamas, an Iranian-backed terror organization that seeks Israel's destruction and targets the innocent.
        When it comes to exercising our most basic right of self-defense, the Israeli public stands united against Hamas. We fight to defend ourselves, but in so doing we are also fighting a fanatical ideology that seeks to throw the civilized world back into a new dark age. The struggle between militant Islam and modernity - whether fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, India or Gaza - will decide our common future. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mideast Peace Rests with Arabs, Not U.S., Europe - Bernard Lewis
    The current fighting in Gaza raises again the agonizing question: What kind of accommodation is possible, if ever, between Israel and the Arabs? In several Arab countries at the present time, and in wider Arab circles, there is a growing perception that they face a danger more deadly and menacing than Israel: the threat of militant, radical Shiite Islam, directed from Iran. Iran, a non-Arab state with a long imperial tradition, seeks to extend its rule across the Arab lands toward the Mediterranean. Iranian tentacles are spreading westward into Iraq and beyond into Syria, Lebanon and the Palestine territories, notably Gaza. This double threat of Iranian empire and Shiite revolution is seen by many Arab leaders as constituting a greater threat than Israel could ever pose.
        During the war in Lebanon in 2006 between Israel and the Iranian-supported Shiite Hizbullah, the usual Arab support for the Arab side was strikingly absent. Some Arab governments and Arab peoples were hoping for an Israeli victory, and their disappointment was palpable. We see similar ambiguities over the situation in Gaza. Many see Gaza as a mortal threat to the Sunni Arab establishment. In this situation, it is not impossible that some consensus will emerge, along the lines of Sadat's accommodation with Israel, for the maintenance of the status quo. Such a peace, like that between Egypt and Israel, would be at best cool, and always threatened by radical forces, but it would certainly be better than a state of war, and it could last a long time. The writer is professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. (Bloomberg)
  • Implications of the Gaza Conflict - Michael Singh
    Israel must seek a ceasefire that corrects the shortcomings of the previous "calm." First, Arab states must press Hamas to stand down. Egypt, as Israel's standing intermediary with Hamas, will play a key role in negotiating a ceasefire, and as the only country besides Israel that borders Gaza, it will also play a central role in an agreement's enforcement. The international community will need to take a disciplined approach to the ceasefire negotiations and stand firmly behind the resulting agreement and assist in its enforcement. Active U.S. diplomacy will be needed to avoid a misguided wave of European and Arab outreach to Hamas, which would reward the group for its violence by easing its isolation. Allowing Hamas' actions to go unpunished, or even worse, allowing the group to improve its position as a result of them, would give succor to terrorists worldwide.
        Finally, Arab states - as well as the international community - must hold the Iranian regime accountable for its efforts to destabilize the region by more vigorously participating in U.S.-led sanctions efforts. The writer is former senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran's Postmodern Beast in Gaza - Robert D. Kaplan
    Gaza is bordered by Egypt, and was under Egyptian military control from 1949 through 1967. Yet the mullahs in Tehran hold more sway in Gaza today than does the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Gaza constitutes the western edge of Iran's veritable new empire. Israel's attack on Gaza is, in effect, an attack on Iran's empire. U.S. diplomacy with Iran now rests on whether or not Israel succeeds. We need to create leverage before we can negotiate with the clerical regime, and that leverage can only come from an Israeli moral victory. If he is smart, President-elect Obama will now be quietly rooting for Israel. The writer is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. (Atlantic Monthly)
        See also Iran's Gazan Diversion? - Caroline Glick
    Hamas may be defeated because, much to everyone's surprise, Iran may have decided to let Hamas lose. The war today, like the war in Lebanon in 2006, is a war between Israel and Iran. Like Hizbullah, Hamas is an Iranian proxy. Speaking on Hizbullah's Al Manar television on Sunday, Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran's National Security Council and a close advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, essentially told Hamas that it is on its own. Iran expert Michael Ledeen from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argued on Monday that Iran's apparent decision to sit this war out may well be the result of the regime's weakness. It is possible that Iran ordered the current war in Gaza to divert international attention away from its nuclear program. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Iran's Hamas Strategy Reuel Marc Gerecht (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Rice to UN: New Arrangements in Gaza Must End Rocket Attacks on Israel (State Department)

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the UN Security Council on Tuesday:

    • The ongoing attacks against Israel and the decision that Hamas made not to respect the previous period of calm shows us that when this ends there must be new arrangements in place, not a return to the status quo ante. It is imperative that any ceasefire is durable and sustainable, and that it ensures the safety and security of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
    • Hundreds of thousands of Israelis lived under the daily threat of rocket attack, and frankly, no country, none of our countries, would have been willing to tolerate such a circumstance. Moreover, the people of Gaza watched as insecurity and lawlessness increased and as their living conditions grew more dire because of Hamas' actions which began with the illegal coup against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
    • A ceasefire that returns to those circumstances is unacceptable and it will not last. We need urgently to conclude a ceasefire that can endure and that can bring real security. This would begin a period of true calm that includes an end to rocket, mortar, and other attacks on Israelis, and allows for the cessation of Israel's military offensive. And it must include also an end to the smuggling into Gaza and a reopening of crossings so that Palestinians can benefit from humanitarian goods and basic supplies.
    • We must find a way, with the consent and full cooperation of likeminded governments, to prevent any arms or explosives from entering Gaza, and the tunnel systems that have allowed rearmament of Hamas must be prevented from reopening.
    • Our goal must be the stabilization and normalization of life in Gaza. This will require a principled resolution of the political challenges in Gaza that reestablishes ultimately the Palestinian Authority's legitimate control and facilitates the normal operation of all crossings.
    • We need very much to find a solution to this problem in the short term. But it really must be a solution this time that does not allow Hamas to use Gaza as a launching pad against Israeli cities. It has to be a solution that does not allow the rearmament of Hamas. And it must be a solution that finds a way to open crossings so that Palestinians in Gaza can have a normal life.

          See also A Different Kind of Gaza Cease-Fire - Interview with U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley
      It's interesting how much of the international community understands that while we all want to have a return to a cease-fire, it needs to be a different kind of cease-fire - one that is enduring and that would be respected. If we achieve that cease-fire - and at some point we will - I think it will be clear to everyone that Hamas continues not to serve the interest of the Palestinian people of Gaza, but continues to bring them misery and violence. And I think that is probably a good lesson for the Palestinian people to see.
          Hamas has got to stop launching rockets into Israel. And there has to be some way of giving reassurance to Israel that the smuggling of arms, largely through the tunnels from Egypt into Gaza, will stop, because we can't have a situation where there is a cease-fire, but arms continue to flow in to replace the rockets that have been expended, because that's a prescription for resumption of hostilities at some point in the future. (Wall Street Journal)

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