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January 27, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF: At Least 700 Terrorists, 250 Civilians Died in Gaza Fighting - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    After a continuing investigation, the IDF now estimates that between 1,100 and 1,200 people were killed during the Gaza offensive, including 700 terrorists and 250 civilians.
    The IDF has yet to verify the identity of some 200 fatalities, mostly men in their 20s.

Hamas Tried to Hijack Ambulances During Gaza War - Jason Koutsoukis (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
    Mohammed Shriteh, 30, is a Gaza ambulance driver with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. "Mostly the war was not as fast or as chaotic as I expected," Shriteh said. "We would coordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients, because they have all our names, and our IDs, so they would not shoot at us."
    Shriteh said the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety.
    Shriteh says Hamas made several attempts to hijack the al-Quds Hospital's fleet of ambulances during the war.

EU Takes Iran Opposition Group Off Terror List - Mark John (Reuters)
    The EU agreed on Monday to remove the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, the exiled Iranian opposition group that exposed Tehran's covert nuclear program in 2002, from a list of banned terrorist organizations.

Britain's BBC, Sky News Refuse to Air Gaza Charity Appeal - Luke Baker (Reuters)
    Two of Britain's major broadcasters, the BBC and Sky, faced down broad popular criticism on Monday and refused to air a charity appeal for the victims of Israel's offensive in Gaza.
    The news channels say they will not air the appeal for fear of being seen to take sides.
    In 2006 the BBC refused to broadcast an appeal for Lebanese victims after Israel's war with Hizbullah.

Israel to Close Emergency Clinic for Palestinian War Casualties - Meital Yasur Beit-Or (Ynet News)
    Israel has decided to close the emergency clinic at the Erez crossing set up to treat Palestinians who were injured during the Gaza offensive.
    The clinic aided a low number of Palestinian patients after Hamas instructed civilians not to seek treatment there.

Useful Reference:

The Battle for Hearts and Minds (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Hamas is perpetuating a myth of victory in the recent fighting in Gaza. Its spokesmen release false descriptions of events and their false successes.
    The difficulty for Hamas lies in the discrepancy between the rhetoric and the situation on the ground.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Kill Israeli Soldier in Gaza Truce Breach - Nidal al-Mughrabi and Alastair Macdonald
    An Israeli soldier was reported killed close to the border with Gaza Tuesday in what Palestinians said was an attack by militants in breach of cease-fire declarations. Palestinians living near Kissufim crossing said they had seen a small group of gunmen moving toward the border fence. They later heard explosions and gunfire. (Reuters-Washington Post)
  • EU Envoy Lays Gaza Blame on Hamas
    Senior EU official Louis Michel has blamed Hamas for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The humanitarian aid chief said Hamas bore "overwhelming responsibility" for the destruction. He said there would be no dialogue with the "terrorist" movement until it gave up violence and recognized Israel. "At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," he said. "I intentionally say this here - Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such." (BBC News)
  • Germany Cracks Down on Exports to Iran - Chris Bryant
    The German newspaper Handelsblatt said Chancellor Angela Merkel had instructed Michael Glos, the economics minister, to stop all federal credit guarantees covering exports to Iran. The action follows mounting criticism from the U.S. and Israel over Berlin's failure to rein in exports to Iran, despite a range of UN sanctions. In the first 11 months of last year German companies exported goods worth 3.6 billion euros to Iran, an increase of 10.5% on the same period in 2007. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Gaza Ruins Pose Questions for Hamas - Quil Lawrence
    When Hamas called for a rally to celebrate what it has been calling a historic victory over the Israelis, the citizens of Gaza voted with their feet - they stayed at home. In the past Hamas could easily call tens of thousands into the streets, but this time only party stalwarts could look around the devastation and believe this could be victory. Hamas supporters claim that many more Israelis died in the war than Tel Aviv's official count of 13 dead. Likewise they believe the official Hamas announcement that Israel killed only 48 fighters. But that raises another question: if so few Hamas fighters died, were they really out there fighting? (BBC News)
        See also Gaza in Ruins: Who Has Won Here? - Ulrike Putz
    Mohammed Sadala's rage is aimed at the man whose remains he found in his bedroom: a Hamas fighter. He and a comrade broke into the home after the Sadala family fled. The Hamas men shot at the approaching Israelis from the balcony. The soldiers fired back, killing the militants and destroying the house in the process. Standing before the rubble of his house, Abu Abed, 60, says, "Many people are now against Hamas, but that won't change anything because anyone who stands up to them is killed." "There will never be a rebellion against Hamas. It would be suicide," says a neighbor who doesn't want to give his name. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Cairo Stops Iranian Arms Ship - Yaakov Katz
    Israel is closely tracking an Iranian freighter believed to be carrying weaponry for Hamas that is currently docked in the Red Sea outside the Suez Canal. "So far the Egyptians have prevented the ship from crossing the Suez and we hope it will stay that way," a senior defense official said. Defense officials said Iran is trying to supply Hamas with new Grad-Katyusha rockets and high-grade explosives. The IDF is concerned that Iran will supply Hamas with long-range Fajr missiles that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Executes Former Human Rights Field Worker for Collaborating with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Haidar Ghanem, 46, of Rafah, a Palestinian human rights activist and journalist who used to work for the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, was executed by Hamas on Jan. 7 on charges of "collaboration" with Israel, Palestinians in Gaza said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Court Sentences Palestinian to Death for Collaborating with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A Palestinian Authority "military court" in Hebron on Sunday sentenced another Palestinian to death by firing squad on suspicion of "collaboration" with Israel. The 28-year-old man, who used to serve in the PA's elite Presidential Guard, is the eighth Palestinian to receive the death sentence in the past few months. Presiding Judge Ahmed Abu Dayyah said in his verdict that the accused had been found guilty of collaboration with the "enemy." Defense lawyer Yusef al-Ribie told the court that his client had been tortured during interrogation. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Do Palestinians Really Want a Two-State Solution? - Josef Joffe
    Hamas wants bad things to happen to its own people. This will mobilize the "Arab street" and the world's media against Israel while demonstrating its absolute imperviousness to pain. "Bring it on" is great for Hamas' credibility, pride and honor, but for the purpose of statehood, it would behave very differently. Double-statehood is not the Palestinians' no. 1 priority. They want it all, and if they can't get it, they would rather nurse their honor, pride and sense of righteous victimhood than engage in the sordid business of compromise.
        Never again will Israel vacate territory without making sure that it won't turn into a strategic springboard against the heartland. It will insist on a strategic presence in the Jordan Valley. Nor can Israel yield military control over the West Bank. The upside is that today Palestine is less than ever the "core" of the Middle East conflict. The real issue is Iran and its reach for regional hegemony.
        Iran will use its power, through its proxies, to demolish whatever deal might be hashed out by Israel and the PA. Iran's object is to intimidate America's Arab supporters and to eliminate Israel as America's strongest regional ally. So for the Obama administration, Israel/Palestine has become an intractable sideshow on a vastly enlarged stage. The writer is publisher-editor of Die Zeit, and a fellow at the Institute for International Studies and the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Can the Palestinian Authority's Fatah Forces Retake Gaza? Obstacles and Opportunities - Dan Diker and Khaled Abu Toameh
    It is widely believed that the PA in Ramallah only pays the salaries of civil service employees in Gaza to encourage them to stay at home to avoid working with Hamas. However, PA Prime Minister Fayyad also pays the monthly salaries of between 6,000 and 12,000 Hamas Executive Force operatives in Gaza, in line with the 2007 Mecca national unity agreement, as well as to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorists.
        The U.S. must avoid the temptation of once again blindly relying on Fatah as the sole security and reconstruction subcontractor for Gaza. The Obama administration must implement tough and verifiable directives to facilitate internal Palestinian housecleaning: no militias, good governance, complete accountability, full transparency, effectiveness, and zero tolerance for corruption, gangsterism, and terror within PA ranks. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Defining a "Prediplomacy" Agenda for U.S.-Mideast Efforts - Robert Satloff
    New U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell has not endorsed the view that calls for finding ways to engage Hamas in diplomacy. There is no hint that the Obama-Clinton team intends on dipping its toes in the Hamas waters without Hamas first meeting stiff international conditions for dialogue.
        A prediplomacy strategy should include the following elements: Stabilize the truce by securing broad international contribution to and support of Egyptian-Israeli countersmuggling efforts. Use the funds and process of Gaza reconstruction to further erode Hamas' standing. Invest quickly and robustly in the Dayton and Blair agendas in the West Bank. Work to adapt, not merely adopt, the Arab peace initiative to provide a regional context to Israeli-PA cooperation. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    Obama Calls for New U.S. Partnership with Muslim World (Huffington Post)

    In his first formal interview as president, Barack Obama told Arabic TV network Al-Arabiya on Monday:

    • "Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them. They're going to have to make some decisions. But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table."
    • "Look at the proposal that was put forth by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. I might not agree with every aspect of the proposal, but it took great courage to put forward something that is as significant as that." "If we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think that we can make significant progress."
    • "Now, Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side."
    • "My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries....The Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."
    • "Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we're not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace, we're going to start now. It may take a long time to do, but we're going to do it now. We're going to follow through on our commitment for me to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital."
    • "Iran has acted in ways that's not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past - none of these things have been helpful. But I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran."

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