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January 20, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hamas Leader Admits Surprise at IDF Use of Force in Gaza (Ha'aretz)
    The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram quoted Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal on Tuesday as saying his group was surprised by the force Israel recently used against it in Gaza.
    Meshal also said that Hamas had believed that Israel's 22-day campaign against it would last no longer than three days.

Hamas Trumpets of Victory Strike False Note - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    According to Palestinians in Gaza, on the first day of the war Hamas ordered its gunmen to take off their uniforms to avoid detection.
    The Hamas gunmen who participated in the fighting were all dressed as civilians and the majority arrived at hospitals without any signs revealing their status as gunmen.
    See also IDF Estimates 500 Palestinian Gunmen Killed in Gaza Fighting - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    See also Thousands of Losers in the War in Gaza - Martin Fletcher (Times-UK)
    As the fighting finally ceased, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' Gazan leader, broadcast a message congratulating the Palestinian people on their "great victory."
    Haniyeh's claim of victory was obscene. In three weeks Hamas' fighters managed to kill just six Israeli soldiers.
    The group's much-vaunted tunnels, booby-traps and other "surprises" barely dented Israel's military machine.
    See also Despite Its Threats, Hamas Put Up Light Resistance - Matti Friedman (AP)
    Before Israel invaded Gaza, Hamas vowed to turn the territory into a "graveyard" for Israeli soldiers. The results were markedly different.
    The Islamic group's fighters put up little resistance and the Israeli army emerged relatively unscathed.
    For a guerrilla group operating on its urban home turf, it wasn't much of a fight.

Iran Renews Efforts to Supply Missiles to Hamas - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran has renewed efforts to supply advanced weaponry to Hamas and the IDF is concerned that the terror group will try to smuggle long-range Fajr missiles into Gaza.
    Fajr missiles, manufactured in Iran, have a range of 70 km. and would easily reach Tel Aviv.

Hizbullah Plot to Attack Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan Foiled - Nicholas Blanford (Times-UK)
    In Azerbaijan a few weeks after the assassination of Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh nearly a year ago in Damascus, Azeri intelligence discovered a plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy there.
    Recently, intelligence sources say, Egypt broke up a Hizbullah cell in the Sinai headed by a Lebanese citizen, Sami Shehab, which included Palestinians and was planning to attack Israeli targets.
    There are concerns that Hizbullah, operating through its external security organization, is planning further attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets outside Israel, while Hizbullah's "1800 Unit" is said to be working on possible attacks inside Israel.
    Ibrahim al-Amine, of Lebanon's Al-Akhbar newspaper and a confidant of Hizbullah leader Nasrallah, wrote last week that up until his death Mughniyeh was obsessed with the idea of passing on Hizbullah's military secrets to Hamas.
    Dozens of Palestinian fighters traveled to Lebanon, Syria and Iran for training, he wrote.
    A European intelligence source told the Times that two Iranian teams, including communications and rocket specialists, were working with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza last summer.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Proceeds with Gaza Pullout as Hamas Halts Rocket Attacks - Calev Ben-David and Saud Abu Ramadan
    Israel proceeded with pulling its troops out of Gaza as Hamas ceased rocket attacks. There were no reported rockets Monday. "Our capacity to launch rockets hasn't been diminished, and we will launch more rockets with God's help," Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida told Al-Jazeera. (Bloomberg)
  • Egypt's Mubarak: Hamas Invited Israeli Offensive
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told a summit of Arab leaders in Kuwait on Monday that Hamas invited Israel's offensive against Gaza by not extending their cease-fire when it expired last month. He said Egypt would continue its efforts to achieve a reconciliation between Palestinians. "Without it (Palestinian unity), no stability will be realized for Gaza and no rebuilding and no end for its embargo," Mubarak said. (Reuters)
  • Gaza "Victory" Brings Joy to Iran
    Tehran University will celebrate the end of the Gaza war in a feast that will be attended by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. "University students in Iran will hold a special celebration at Tehran University on Tuesday to commemorate the Palestinian resistance and to discuss the consequences of the bitter Zionist defeat," student leader Esmail Ahmadi said Monday. President Ahmadinejad on Monday described the Israeli decision to pull its troops out of Gaza as a "victory" for the Palestinian resistance. (Press TV-Iran)
  • Obama to Name Sen. Mitchell as Mideast Envoy - Michael D. Shear and Karen DeYoung
    President Obama plans to name former senator George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) as his Middle East envoy, aides said. With a fragile Gaza cease-fire in place, the new administration plans to tread gingerly, working behind the scenes while allowing Egyptian and European initiatives to play out before taking a highly visible role. Sources said the initial emphasis will likely be on stepped-up presidential engagement, and empathy and aid toward humanitarian suffering. (Washington Post)
        See also Ex-Senator Considered as Envoy to Mideast - Elisabeth Bumiller
    Mitchell, 75, has Lebanese as well as Irish roots: his father, Joseph Kilroy, was an orphan adopted by a Lebanese family whose Arabic name had been anglicized to Mitchell, and Mitchell was raised a Maronite Catholic by his Lebanese mother. He was appointed in 2000, in the waning days of the Clinton administration, to lead an international commission to investigate the causes of violence in the Middle East. (New York Times)
        See also Mitchell Outlines View of Mideast Road Map in 2003 (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Fresh Clues of Iranian-Chinese Nuclear Intrigue - Glenn R. Simpson and Jay Solomon
    U.S. security and law-enforcement officials say they have fresh evidence of recent efforts by Iran to evade sanctions and acquire metals from China used in high-tech weaponry, including long-range nuclear missiles. One Iranian company, ABAN Commercial & Industrial Ltd., has contracted through an intermediary for more than 30,000 kilograms of tungsten copper - which can be used in missile guidance systems - from Advanced Technology & Materials Co. Ltd. of Beijing.
        The United Arab Emirates has informed the U.S. that in September it intercepted a Chinese shipment headed to Iran of specialized aluminum sheets that can be used to make ballistic missiles. A month earlier, UAE officials also intercepted an Iran-bound shipment of titanium sheets that can be used in long-range missiles. (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Concerned that Gaza Rebuilding May Legitimize Hamas - Herb Keinon
    Concern is mounting in Jerusalem that the massive efforts expected for Gaza reconstruction will lead to a de facto recognition of Hamas rule there. Another Israeli concern is that the massive amounts of steel and concrete that will be needed to rebuild Gaza will be rerouted to reconstructing Hamas' badly damaged rocket-producing capabilities.
        EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said Monday in Jerusalem that while the expected humanitarian aid would flow quickly, reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure would only begin when the EU had an acceptable Palestinian partner. She strongly hinted that it would be difficult to rebuild Gaza as long as Hamas remained opposed to peace efforts. "We don't want to go on to reconstruct Gaza every I-don't-know-how-many years," she said. "What we would like to see is a clear sustainable peace."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Averting Iranian Influence in Post-War Gaza Rehabilitation - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Israeli Critically Wounded in West Bank Drive-By Shooting - Efrat Weiss
    Moshe Avitan, a resident of Kochav Hashahar in the West Bank, suffered a critical gunshot wound to the head Monday, in what is believed to be a drive-by shooting attack involving a Palestinian vehicle. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Torturing Fatah Members in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas militiamen have rounded up hundreds of Fatah activists on suspicion of "collaboration" with Israel during the Gaza war, Fatah members in Gaza said Monday. The Hamas crackdown intensified after the cease-fire went into effect. A Fatah official in Ramallah said at least 100 of his men had been killed or wounded as a result of the massive Hamas crackdown. Some had been brutally tortured. According to the official, at least three of the detainees had their eyes put out by their interrogators. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah: We Also Fought IDF in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, announced on Monday that its men in Gaza fired 102 rockets and 35 mortars at Israel during the war. The group revealed that Ali Hijazi, its commander in charge of firing rockets at Israel, was killed during the operation. The group said that most of its attacks were carried out in cooperation with Islamic Jihad. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iranian Support of Hamas
    Iran has a clear strategic interest in helping Hamas control Gaza. For Iran, a radical Islamic entity in Gaza is an important strategic asset against Israel's southern border, in conjunction with the threat posed by Hizbullah along Israel's northern border. In both cases, Iran regards using rockets as an effective way of exhausting Israel's home front. Therefore, it has established large rocket arsenals for Hizbullah and Hamas, while at the same time developing their military capabilities. Iran regards Hizbullah and Hamas as two important sources of power in its striving toward regional hegemony. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Scored a Tactical Victory - Bret Stephens
    The top echelons of Israel's political and military establishment think that Israel has re-established a reputation for invincibility tarnished in the 2006 war with Hizbullah; that they bloodied and humiliated Hamas while taking few casualties; that they called overdue international attention to the tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle its arsenal; and, with the unilateral cease-fire, that they put the onus to end the violence squarely back on Hamas' shoulders.
        For years, Egypt took an ambivalent view of Hamas: partly worried by the threat it poses to its own secular regime, partly delighted by the trouble it causes Israel. Now the Mubarak government at last understands that Hamas is also a strategic threat to Egypt. "An Iranian base can play against Egypt the same way it played against Israel," says the official. He adds that the timing of Israel's operation in Gaza was dictated in part by the assessment that Hamas was just months away from obtaining longer-range missiles that could reach Cairo as easily as Tel Aviv. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel's Right to Exist in the Face of Hamas Attacks from Gaza - Mortimer Zuckerman
    What the world cannot remember the Israelis cannot forget. The Israelis know the Jewish nation has been one defeat away from extinction for 70 years. They know that every partition plan in the region, from the dawn of Zionism to the present day, has failed because of the Arab failure to accept the State of Israel. They know that the Palestinian leadership is virtually hopeless, wherein the people who are moderate are not effective and the people who are effective are not moderate. Israel is so small it has no margin for error. When Israel left the West Bank, it became a base for suicide bombers, ultimately forcing the Israelis to go back at great cost. They've since built a security fence, but a fence will not protect people from rockets. (U.S. News)
  • Observations:

    The Disproportionate Criticism of Israel's Self-Defense - Robert Fulford (National Post-Canada)

    • The big word in Middle East politics is "disproportionate." Applied to the Israel-Hamas struggle, it quietly weakens Israel's position and displays sympathy for the Palestinians while making those who use it feel both righteous and compassionate. The word says: "I of course support Israel's right to defend itself - but not in this way." We are expected to assume there must be a better way to defeat Israel's tormentors, a way that will win the world's respect. No one ever explains this strategy, perhaps because no such strategy exists.
    • Israel faces a relentless, implacable enemy. Diplomacy and "the peace process" will do nothing to stop Hamas or its sponsoring nation, Iran. Hamas doesn't want a better deal with Israel; it wants Israel to cease existing, as does Iran. To achieve that end they will proudly sacrifice many of their own people, not only warriors but also women, children and the old. Israeli forces are ordered to avoid harm to civilians wherever possible. But so long as Hamas hides behind women and children the results are inevitable.
    • Given that fact, should Israel simply decline to fight? Perhaps some nation, somewhere, will take that attitude at some unforeseeable moment in the future. It would be a truly radical idea. We can hardly expect that Israel, which has always lived under the threat of destruction by its Middle East neighbors, will be the first to take that bold and possibly suicidal step. Yet that's the course implied by those who glibly and piously condemn "disproportionate" warfare.

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