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January 12, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Confiscates Donations of Flour (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories)
    Hamas is confiscating food donations sent into Gaza. Reports point in particular to the confiscation of flour and its sale, often at outrageous prices.
    On Sunday, in a Hamas Internet forum, surfers complained about the confiscations of flour donations in Dir-al-Balech by Hamas.
    There is also a description of how Hamas transfers the donations to its own warehouses and distributes them to only two bakeries - Albana Bakery and Al-Tzalah Union Bakery - both belonging to Hamas.

Israel Says Hamas Leaders Hide in Foreign Missions (Reuters)
    "The leaders of Hamas and the armed wing are hiding in bunkers, hospitals and foreign (diplomatic) missions," Israeli Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel said Sunday, based on an intelligence briefing.
    But Hamas officials reject Israeli insinuations that their behavior is cowardly.
    Hamas parliamentarian Mushir al-Masri said on Sunday: "Martyrdom is our dearest wish, but God has ordered us not to pose ourselves as easy prey for our enemies."
    See also Hamas Using Gaza's Shifa Hospital as Meeting Place - Amir Mizroch (Jerusalem Post)
    Public Security Minister and former Israel Security Agency head Avi Dichter said Monday that on Jan. 10, those Hamas commanders who could move around made their way to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to receive their salaries.

Hamas Terrorists Hide in Red Crescent Ambulances - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    A senior military officer who is commanding forces fighting inside Gaza said on Sunday that Hamas terrorists hiding inside Red Crescent ambulances were trying to cross the IDF line separating northern Gaza from the south.

Palestinian Rockets Leave 28 Israeli Families Homeless - Zvi Lavi (Ynet News)
    Since the beginning of the Gaza operation, 28 Israeli families have become homeless after Palestinian rockets destroyed their apartments or homes.
    Israelis have filed 891 damage claims dealing with buildings and 192 for damages to cars, the Tax Authority said Sunday.
    The city of Ashkelon sustained the most damage, with 296 claims, followed by Ashdod with 270 claims and Sderot with 211.
    Claims were also filed by the residents of Beersheba (22), Netivot (36), Ofakim (18), Gedera (16), and other Gaza-vicinity communities (251).

Groups Slam Bush for Not Vetoing UN Resolution - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
    Jewish groups expressed disappointment in the Bush administration for failing to veto a UN Security Council resolution on the Gaza war.
    The American Israel Public Affairs Committee issued a statement Friday expressing "its disappointment," while the Anti-Defamation League expressed "surprise."
    The Weekly Standard, citing "well-informed sources," reported that Secretary of State Rice favored voting for the resolution, while Vice President Dick Cheney favored vetoing it. Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, brokered a compromise that President Bush ordered: abstain.

The NGO Front in the Gaza War: Human Rights Watch (NGO Monitor)
    From the beginning of Israel's military operation in Gaza on Dec. 27 to Jan. 11, more than 35 NGOs claiming to promote human rights and humanitarian agendas have issued more than 175 statements on the fighting, and the number increases continuously.
    During that period, Human Rights Watch released eleven statements primarily critical of Israel, and since Dec. 30, HRW's Internet site has featured emotive images of Palestinian victimization.
    HRW statements on Gaza continue to ignore the massive Hamas use of human shields and its Jan. 10 statements condemning Israel's use of white phosphorus are not supported by credible evidence.
    See also NGOs Aid Hamas PR Campaign - Anne Herzberg (Jerusalem Post)
    See also In Search of Moral Clarity from NGOs - Dan Kosky (Ynet News)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IDF Pushes into Gaza City, Hamas Seeking Cease-Fire - Steven Erlanger and Ethan Bronner
    Israeli troops pushed into Gaza City from the south on Sunday in fierce fighting, and senior Israeli officials said they believed Hamas leaders inside Gaza were looking for a cease-fire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel was "getting close to achieving the goals it set for itself," but that "more patience, determination and effort are still demanded." On Monday Egypt plans to convene negotiations aimed at a cease-fire in Gaza.
        A senior Israeli security official said Israeli soldiers had "confirmed through their sights" the killing of 300 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters on the ground in Gaza, and that Hamas units were making mistakes and fighting without clear direction. "I can say with a high level of confidence that for two days, what we have been hearing repeatedly is that Hamas inside Gaza is eager - eager - to achieve a cease-fire," said the official. "This is as opposed to the leadership in Damascus that is willing to fight to the last Palestinian." (New York Times)
  • Supporters of Israel Rally in New York City
    Thousands of supporters of Israel rallied near the UN on Sunday to declare that the Jewish state's two-week-long military action in the Gaza Strip is an act of self-defense. Sen. Charles Schumer asked the pro-Israel rally. "Would any country that had rockets launched at it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, be told, 'Let the rockets continue? Just sit down and talk?"' (AP/FOX News), View Video (NY1 Radio)
        See also Hundreds Call for Jewish Solidarity in Seattle (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), Minnesotans Rally to Express Support for Israel (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Hundreds Rally in Delaware to Support Israel (News Journal-Delaware)
        See also Thousands of Jews Rally Against Hamas in Britain - Audrey Gillan
    The sign taped to the front of 10-month-old Ezra Wiesenberg read: "The IDF don't hide behind me! Stop Hamas abuse of children shields." Strapped to his mother Ann's chest, Ezra and his family had traveled with thousands of other Jews to Trafalgar Square in London Sunday for a pro-Israel rally calling for peace in the Middle East but also supporting the Israeli government's actions in Gaza. The chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, gave a message to Hamas: "Stop wanting Israel to die, start wanting your children to live. Why, Hamas, do you hold in contempt not only Israeli lives but Palestinian lives?"   (Guardian-UK)
        See also Thousands of Pro-Israel Demonstrators Turn Out in Germany (Jerusalem Post), Australian Jews Pray for Israel (ABC-Australia)
  • Gaza's Tunnels, Traps and Martyrs: The Hamas Strategy to Defend Gaza - Azmi Keshawi, Martin Fletcher and Sheera Frenkel
    The bearded young Hamas fighter stood beneath a shop's awning in the center of Gaza City as he tried to hide from Israeli drones. Mohammed, 24, of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said the fighters wore civilian clothes, concealed their weapons, and no longer walked around in groups. He insisted Hamas still had plenty of rockets that could be launched remotely from hidden bunkers.
        Suicide bombers are another hazard. On Saturday a man wearing an explosives belt sprang from a side alley in Jabaliya as an Israeli patrol walked past. They shot him seconds before he could detonate himself. Early in the ground war a suicide bomber ran up to a lone Israeli bomb dismantler and literally hugged him as he blew them both up. There have been several such attacks, two by women. (Times-UK)
  • France Takes Hamas TV Off Air in Europe
    Hamas' Al-Aqsa television channel was taken off the air in Europe less than 24 hours after it was added to the French Eutelsat's satellite network, industry officials said Friday. The French broadcasting regulator CSA had warned Eutelsat that much of Hamas' programming contravenes laws against inciting hatred and violence. Eutelsat official said the company had never had a contract with Hamas but had rented space on one of its satellites to Noorsat, a Bahrein-based provider, which had begun showing Al-Aqsa. Noorsat was warned to respect French law, and the broadcast was halted. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Iran Warns Hamas Not to Accept Egyptian Truce Proposal - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Iran is exerting heavy pressure on Hamas not to accept the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel, an Egyptian government official said on Sunday. As soon as the Iranians heard about the Egyptian cease-fire initiative, they dispatched Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, and Said Jalili of the Iranian Intelligence Service, to Damascus on an urgent mission to warn the Palestinians against accepting it, the official told the Jerusalem Post. "The Iranians threatened to stop weapons supplies and funding to the Palestinian factions if they agreed to a cease-fire with Israel." "We hope that Hamas has learned the lesson and realizes that it has been fighting a war on behalf of others...the Iranians and Syrians."
        Egyptian political analyst Magdi Khalil said he shared the view of the PA and Egypt that Hamas was responsible for the war in Gaza. "Hamas and its masters in Damascus and Tehran want to spread chaos in Egypt," he said. He said that Hamas was not only jeopardizing Egypt's national security, but had also destroyed the Palestinians' dream of statehood. "By endorsing the Iranian agenda, Hamas has brought the Iranians to Egypt's eastern border."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: Hamas to Turn Down Egyptian Cease-Fire Proposal
    Hamas will turn down the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel, Israel Army Radio reported Monday, quoting the London-based Arab daily al-Hayat. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Intelligence: Hamas Is Damaged But Reluctant to Concede - Roni Sofer
    "Hamas is crying stop....On the other hand, they don't want to wave the white flag," Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Sunday. Hamas "operatives evade friction with our forces and prefer remote controlled operations from a distance," he said. "Hamas is moving towards a ceasefire...but still has the capability to cause damage."
        Israel Security Agency head Yuval Diskin noted, "There is clear evidence of Gaza residents refusing to have rocket launchers placed next to their homes." This, as well as the deliberate execution of Fatah operatives, suggests that Gaza residents are beginning to rethink their leadership. "Hamas is the target of criticism that they caused a tragedy in Gaza." (Ynet News)
  • Decline in Hamas Rocket Fire - Amos Harel
    A Palestinian rocket team needs 90 seconds to launch a Katyusha rocket at targets 40 kilometers away. Defense sources say Hamas has moved to "rush-launch" methods to evade air strikes, even though this diminishes the chance they will hit their targets. In recent days the numbers of rockets being fired at Israel by Palestinians in Gaza has fallen considerably, to about 20 to 30 daily, compared with 40 to 60 at the start of the offensive. The constant air cover over Gaza is the main reason for the drop, targeting militants readying to carry out a launch. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Hits Apartment Building in Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired at least 14 rockets and two mortar shells at Israel Monday morning, with a Grad rocket hitting an apartment building in Ashkelon. Residents of the building that was hit ran for cover in the bomb shelter, and no one was injured. Earlier Monday a Grad rocket exploded near the city of Kiryat Gat, while another landed in Beersheba. Two rockets exploded near Ofakim, while four rockets hit Sderot, one of them hitting an empty house. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Fired Anti-Aircraft Missiles at Israeli Planes - Amos Harel
    Hamas forces in Gaza have tried to down Israeli warplanes with sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, defense sources say. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Soldiers Come Under Fire at Syrian Border - Hagai Aharon
    Israel Defense Forces soldiers came under fire on Sunday while working on the fence between Israel and Syria. A UN force later detained a Syrian civilian suspected of carrying out the attack. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The False Symmetry of UN Security Council Resolution 1860 - Dore Gold
    Reading UN Security Council Resolution 1860 on the Gaza conflict, one would not be aware that Israel has been under constant rocket attacks since 2001. Moreover, Resolution 1860 demands that Israel "ensure the sustained reopening of crossing points" between Israel and Gaza, as though the cessation of rocket fire and the opening of the crossing points are symmetric demands. Israel should not pay anything to get Hamas to stop firing rockets which is an act of outright aggression. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Security Council did not seek Kuwaiti concessions alongside its demand of Iraq to withdraw.
        In addition, Israel is not required under international law to trade with a neighbor if it prefers not to. Israel, with the backing of the Western powers, decided to embargo the Hamas regime in Gaza. Trade embargos are a state's inherent right, like the U.S. embargo of Iran or Cuba. To compel Israel to open the Gaza crossing points is to deny Israel a valid economic instrument to exercise its right to self-defense against a regime that seeks its eradication. The writer served as Israel's ambassador to the UN and today is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Legal Expert: Rising Gaza Death Toll Doesn't Mean IDF Acts Are Disproportionate - Ofra Edelman
    The fact that hundreds of Palestinians have been killed during the operation in Gaza, compared to fewer than 20 Israelis, has nothing to do with the question of whether the operation is legal according to international law, says Prof. Yuval Shany, an expert in international law from Hebrew University. The relevant question, he said, is "whether the operation is proportionate to the provocation that led to it. When a single Kassam [rocket] is fired, the state cannot invade and conquer an entire country. There must be a measure of proportion between the action and the reaction. But here, we are not talking about a single Kassam, but about years of Kassams." Israel "is permitted to use force to the degree necessary to end the attacks against it. Therefore, it [the operation] is legal as long as it is meant to prevent the attacks."  (Ha'aretz)
  • If Hamas Is the Victim, Why Is Ramallah So Quiet? - Michael Gove
    If this is a struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, then why are the streets of Ramallah so quiet? Indeed, why are the streets of Cairo, Amman, Riyadh and Tunis so muted? Hamas is not a national liberation movement, it is not a force dedicated to establishing a free and democratic Palestine. It is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamist organization which wants to unite the Islamic world in submission to its own austere and totalitarian view of Islam.
        The reason there has been so relatively little support and agitation on Hamas' behalf among Arab leaders is their recognition that Hamas does not want to see Palestine take its place among other stable Arab nations. Hamas wants war in Palestine to be the launch pad for a jihad against those it considers apostate secular rulers in Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere. Worse than that, as far as other Arab states are concerned, Hamas, like its sister party in Lebanon, Hizbullah, is a tool of the Iranian regime, and Iran's ambitions to become the dominant regional power in the Middle East threaten their own interests and security. (Scotland on Sunday)
  • Observations:

    What's Behind Western Condemnation of Israel's War Against Hamas? - Efraim Karsh (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • With a unanimity that has become all too familiar, politicians, the media, NGOs, and church leaders across the globe took their cue to denounce Israel's legitimate act of self-defense against one of the world's most extreme terror organizations. This chorus of disapproval is in stark contrast to the utter indifference to far bloodier conflicts that have been going on around the world.
    • Why do citizens in democracies enthusiastically embrace a radical Islamist group that not only seeks the destruction of a fellow democracy but is overtly committed to the substitution of a world-wide Islamic caliphate for the existing international order?
    • Decades of mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Arab states have gone virtually unnoticed. Only when they interact with Israel do the Palestinians win the world's attention.
    • The fact that international coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has invariably reflected a degree of intensity and emotional involvement well beyond the normal level to be expected of impartial observers would seem to suggest that it is a manifestation of longstanding prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the conflict.
    • The Palestinians are but the latest lightning rod unleashed against the Jews, their supposed victimization reaffirming the millenarian demonization of the Jews in general, and the medieval blood libel - that Jews delight in the blood of others.

      Professor Efraim Karsh is Head of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies at King's College, University of London.

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