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January 15, 2009

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Bin Laden Urges Jihad Against Israel - Lee Keath (AP)
    Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel and condemned Arab governments as allies of the Jewish state in a new audiotape message posted Wednesday.
    The al-Qaeda leader also vowed to open "new fronts" against the U.S. and its allies beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Bin Laden and his lieutenants frequently use the Palestinian issue to try to rally support for al-Qaeda and often call for holy war to free Jerusalem. But there has been little sign that the terror group has carried out attacks in Israel.

ICC Prosecutor: Court Has No Jurisdiction in Gaza (Reuters)
    The International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague said on Wednesday it lacks jurisdiction to investigate possible war crimes in Gaza.
    The office of the prosecutor said the court's jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed on the territory of, or by a national of, a state party.
    "In Gaza at present, the ICC lacks such jurisdiction" (since Gaza is not a recognized state), the prosecutor said in a statement.

EU Halts Upgrade of Ties to Israel - Tobias Buck, Andrew England and Heba Saleh (Financial Times-UK)
    The EU called a halt on Wednesday to plans to upgrade diplomatic and economic ties with Israel in a sign of the international backlash against Israel's military offensive in Gaza.
    Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, head of a European Commission delegation to Israel, said upgrading ties at a time when Israel was "using its war means in a very dramatic, in a powerful way in Gaza" was "not appropriate."
    European officials said the "time-out" on upgrading ties was not intended as a sanction, but it did reflect the widespread dismay at Israel's conduct in the conflict.

Russian Aircraft Carrier Berths at Syrian Port (Defpro-Germany)
    A Russian naval task force berthed Monday at the Syrian port of Tartus.
    The task force from the Northern Fleet, led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, had carried out joint exercises with the Turkish Navy.

Saudi Jihadist Killed in Gaza Battle - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    A website identified with a radical Islamic organization that preaches jihad and features the logo of Hamas' military wing reported that Abu Muhammed Mari, a Saudi sheikh mujahid (fighter-priest), who previously fought in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, was killed in the fighting in Gaza.

Israel's Gaza Venture Hits Chord in Wounded India - Amity Shlaes (Bloomberg)
    Individual Indians have been speaking out in the press and on blogs about similarities between the missile attacks from Gaza and the November attack by terrorists who killed 164 people in Mumbai.
    Shashi Tharoor, a former UN undersecretary general, summed up the attitude in a recent column on "India's Israel Envy."
    "As Israel demonstrates anew its determination to end attacks on its civilians by militants based in Hamas-controlled territory, many in India, still smarting from the horrors of the Mumbai attacks in November, have been asking: Why can't we do the same?"
    A growing mutual admiration between India and Israel is showing up at levels both commonplace and lofty.

Pro-Gaza Demonstration in Ramallah Canceled for Lack of Protesters - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    On Wednesday, a demonstration in Ramallah in the West Bank to express support for the residents of Gaza was called off for a lack of protesters.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama: We're Going to Have to Involve Syria and Engage Iran - Katie Couric
    Asked about the Middle East stalemate, Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast Thursday: "We are gonna start on day one. Hillary Clinton, in her testimony during her confirmation hearing, expressed my views and the views of the administration that we can't delay.... We're gonna have to take a regional approach. We're gonna have to involve Syria in discussions. We're gonna have to engage Iran in ways that we have not before. We've gotta have a clear bottom line that Israel's security is paramount. But that also we have to create a two-state solution where people can live side by side in peace." (CBS News)
  • Israelis Near Gaza Can't Lower Guard - Sebastian Rotella
    Though Hamas' rockets are fewer amid the Israeli military assault, every day rocket teams sneak to launching sites such as trucks, rooftops, school courtyards and mosques to fire short-range Kassam rockets and longer-range Grads smuggled from Iran, aimed at Israel with the aid of Google Earth. Sirens wail moments later in Israeli cities beyond the border, giving Israelis 30 seconds to take cover. Hamas rockets and their victims are the main reason Israel unleashed its offensive on Gaza in late December. Rocket and mortar strikes have dropped from a daily peak of more than 80 to about 20 a day. Yet Hamas retains hundreds of rockets in their arsenal, intelligence officials say. (Los Angeles Times)
  • UN Agency That Runs School Hit in Gaza Employed Hamas and Islamic Jihad Members - Joel Mowbray
    The UN agency that administers a school in Gaza - where Hamas operatives firing mortars at Israelis led to the deaths of civilians by Israeli return fire last week - has admitted to employing terrorists to work at its Palestinian schools in the past, has no system in place to keep members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad off its payroll, and provides textbooks to children that contain hate speech and other incendiary information.
        There is evidence that students educated in UNRWA schools are much more likely to become homicide bombers, said Jonathan Halevi, a former Israel Defense Forces intelligence officer who specializes in Palestinian terrorist organizations. Halevi has spent several years building an extensive database for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs of terrorist attacks by Hamas and other Islamic extremist groups. Halevi estimated that over 60% of homicide bombers were educated in UNRWA schools. (FOX News)
  • Khameini Deputy: "Every One of the U.S.'s 32 Bases in the Region" Is within Range of Our Missiles
    On Jan. 4, the Iranian website Khabaronline reported that Hojat-Ol-Eslam Mojtaba Zolnour, representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, warned: "In the event of the slightest aggression against Iran, every one of the U.S.'s 32 bases in the region is within range of Iranian missiles." On the fighting in Gaza, Zolnour said that Hamas understood the history of defeat of the enemy forces. "All Gaza residents, their homes, and the Hamas forces form a barricade."  (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Agrees "In Principle" to Egyptian Cease-Fire Proposal - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas representatives to talks with Egypt announced an agreement in principle on Wednesday to an Egyptian cease-fire proposal. They also demanded several clarifications. The agreement includes the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, in the form of its renewed presence at the Rafah crossing with Egypt (as a condition for its reopening).
        Gazans are angry at Hamas leaders for dragging the Strip into an unnecessary and poorly considered war. There's no doubt that when the war does end, Hamas will claim victory. But the destruction in Gaza will tell a different story. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S., Israel Discuss Deal to Halt Gaza Arms Smuggling - Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, and Avi Issacharoff
    A memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel on security and intelligence cooperation aimed at countering the smuggling of arms into Gaza is being prepared. The agreement involves a U.S. guarantee to act more extensively to halt the smuggling of arms from Iran, through the Persian Gulf to Sudan and other countries, and finally to Hamas in Gaza.
        At the same time, a top Israeli diplomatic source said he was told by a senior Egyptian official that "we understand the problem and promise that the matter of smuggling will end." The Egyptian added, "Now we have the legitimacy to fight it, in order to prevent continued IDF activity." (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Fire 20 Rockets at Israel Thursday
    Palestinians in Gaza fired 20 rockets at Israel Thursday, targeting Gadera, Ofakim and Sderot. On Wednesday Palestinians fired 16 rockets, targeting Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Beersheba. (Jerusalem Post/Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Civilian Deaths in Gaza Less than 25% of Total - Yaakov Katz
    A maximum of 25% of the Palestinians killed in Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli operation are innocent civilians, the head of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), Col. Moshe Levi, said Wednesday. According to Palestinian medical officials, Israel has killed some 1,000 Palestinians and more than half of them are civilians. Levi said the CLA had compiled a list with the names of 900 Palestinians killed during the fighting. He said that 150 names were of women, children and elderly, and that the maximum number of civilians killed so far was 250.
        Levi also dismissed claims that 43 Palestinians were killed in an IDF attack on a Hamas terror cell that was firing mortars at Israeli forces from within an UNRWA school in Jabalya. Levi said 21 Palestinians were killed in the attack, including a number of Hamas operatives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Defensive War - U.S. Reps. Eric Cantor and Steny Hoyer
    During this difficult war in the Gaza Strip, we stand with Israel. Prior to military action, Israel tried a number of other options to stop the rockets, all to no avail. Like most Americans, we identify strongly with Israel's ongoing, elusive quest to achieve peace and security in a dangerous part of the world. We recognize that by arming and training Hamas, Iran has made this latest Israel-Hamas war a key front in its effort to remake the region in its own radical image.
        America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana; and just as we assert our right to defend ourselves, Israel has every right to protect its own citizens. Support for Israel in her time of need, from both Democrats and Republicans, is not just the logical choice. It is both a strategic and moral imperative. Eric Cantor is House Republican Whip. Steny Hoyer is House Majority Leader. (Washington Times)
  • Gaza's True "Disproportion" - Carlos Alberto Montaner
    Israelis are being accused of suffering too few casualties in their confrontation with the Hamas terrorists. Until this conflict began, history books everywhere always expressed great satisfaction and a certain chauvinistic pride when a nation's army inflicted on the enemy a large number of casualties. Israel is the only country expected to behave differently and, in fact, it does; I know of no other nation that announces where and when it will drop its bombs, thus enabling civilians to evacuate the territory.
        In turn, Israel has not the slightest interest in causing casualties. All it wants is to stop Hamas' attacks the only way it can: by eliminating the terrorists and destroying their arsenals. There's no other way to deal with them. The writer, a Cuban-born former professor, is one of the most widely-read columnists in the Spanish-language media. (Newsweek)
  • Hamas Prefers War as an Alternative to Progress - Sami Alrabaa
    The Islamist extremist group Hamas, which came to power in 2006 through a democratic election, has since hijacked Gaza and established rocket factories in residential areas, in bunkers under mosques, schools and hospitals. Over the past three years, the Hamas jihadis and their affiliates have frequently targeted their Kassam rockets at residential areas in Israel. According to a clandestine survey by Bielefeld University (Germany) conducted in Syria and Egypt (2006), over 70% of the population in these countries want peace with Israel. They are "sick and tired," as many put it, of the belligerent discourse of the Islamists and the biased and instigatory propaganda of their national media, though they don't dare say that openly.
        Khaled told me, "Our leaders and their affiliates suffer from some kind of personality disorder. They keep us busy with Israel to distract from their failure to establish democracy and remove poverty. They also support radical organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah as tools to keep that distraction alive." Fatima said, "Israel left South Lebanon and Gaza. Yet, for Hizbullah and Hamas this is not enough. What do these people want? They are making the life of their people and ours miserable. We feel hijacked by these murderers. We want peace."
        In view of the fact that Kuwait and Lebanon allow relatively higher freedom of speech, columnists like Ahemd Al Sarraf, Ali Al Baghli, Hasssan El Essa, Fouad Al Hashem, and Khaleel Haidar in these countries have blasted Hamas and the Islamists for the calamity in Gaza. The writer is a professor of sociology and a specialist in Arab/Muslim culture, living in Germany. (National Post-Canada)
  • Europe Reimports Jew Hatred - Daniel Schwammenthal
    Most of the anti-Jewish violence and protests in Europe during the past two weeks come from immigrants. The mythical Arab Street now reaches deep into Paris, London, Berlin and Madrid. The rage against the Jews that is exploding in Europe has been carefully nurtured. The depth of anti-Semitic propaganda in Palestinian and other Muslim societies is one of the most underreported facts about the Middle East. It is this anti-Semitism that predisposes Muslims in Europe to attack Jews and fuels the Mideast conflict. The hatred predates Israel's creation. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Hamas Is a War Crimes "Case Study" - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)

    • The fighting tactics and ideology of Hamas are a "case study par excellence" of a systematic violation of international humanitarian law, according to Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister and a leading expert in international law.
    • "First, the deliberate targeting of civilians is in and of itself a war crime," he noted, referring to the Hamas rockets fired at southern towns for eight years.
    • "A second war crime is when Hamas attacks [from within] civilian areas and civilian structures, whether it be an apartment building, a mosque or a hospital, in order to be immune from a response from Israel....Civilians are protected persons, and civilian areas are protected areas. Any use of a civilian infrastructure to launch bombs is itself a war crime."
    • Third, "the misuse and abuse of humanitarian symbols for purposes of launching attacks is called the perfidy principle. For example, using an ambulance to transport fighters or weapons or disguising oneself as a doctor in a hospital, or using a UN logo or flag, are war crimes."
    • The fourth violation "is the prohibition in the Fourth Geneva Convention and international jurisprudence against the direct and public incitement to genocide. The Hamas covenant itself is a standing incitement to genocide."
    • The fifth crime relates to the scope of the attack on civilians, which upgrades the violation to a crime against humanity. "When you deliberately hit civilians not infrequently but in a systematic, widespread attack, that's defined in the treaty of the International Criminal Court and international humanitarian law as a crime against humanity."
    • The final war crime for which Hamas is responsible is the recruitment of children into armed conflict.
    • "When Israel responds and civilians are killed because Israel is targeting an area from which rockets were launched, then it is Hamas which bears responsibility for the deaths, and not Israel, according to international law."

          See also International Law and the Fighting in Gaza - Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell (Global Law Forum-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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