January 6 2009
By Nidal al-Mughrab
Israel and Hamas studied a proposal by Egypt for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday that won immediate backing from the United States and Europe, hours after Israeli shells killed 42 Palestinians at a U.N. school.
However, Israeli officials also said ministers would discuss a major escalation of their 12-day-old offensive that would push troops deep inside Gaza’s cities and refugee camps in their bid to end rocket fire into Israel by Islamist militant groups.
A Palestinian official said Hamas leaders, who want an end to Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave, had been briefed in Egypt on the proposals by President Hosni Mubarak and were debating them internally.
Israeli officials have said they too are willing to look seriously at plans that would satisfy their demand that Egypt cut off Hamas’s supplies of smuggled weapons.
Mubarak made his cease-fire call at a joint news conference in Egypt with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He gave little detail, but diplomats have described a process that would focus on bringing in foreign forces to seal the Egypt-Gaza border to Hamas arms smugglers while easing other trade routes.
Sarkozy, winding up a two-day tour of the Middle East, said: “I am confident the Israeli authorities’ reaction will make it possible to consider putting an end to the operation in Gaza.”
With Washington hamstrung by the transition period ahead of the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, France and its European partners, with backing from U.S. allies in the Arab world, have been pushing hard for Israel to cease fire.
But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking at the United Nations, quickly endorsed the Mubarak proposal and said a “sustainable” cease-fire should involve both closing off Hamas’s ability to rearm through tunnels from Egypt and easing the lives of the 1.5 million people of Gaza by reopening its trade routes.
“We need urgently to conclude a cease-fire that can endure and that can bring real security,” Rice told the Security Council.
She also welcomed an offer by Israel to open what it called a “humanitarian corridor” that would let aid agencies more easily distribute food and medicine around Gaza while it continues its military operation, which has killed over 600 people and carved the 40-km (25-mile) strip into several zones.
ISRAEL’S “THIRD PHASE”?
For all the talk of cease-fire, however, Israel continues to insist that it wants all rocket fire to stop — over 30 missiles hit Israel on Tuesday — and guarantees that Hamas cannot rearm.
And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet, convening on Wednesday morning, will discuss a third — and final — stage of the offensive, two senior political sources said, though the ministers may defer a vote on approving the plan.
“The plan is to enter the urban centres,” a source said, noting the first phase was an air campaign launched on December 27 and the second a ground invasion that began on January 3.
Olmert spokesman Mark Regev declined comment, saying: “We do not generally discuss the agendas of the security cabinet.”
CARNAGE AT SCHOOL
After nightfall, fighting eased to a sporadic rhythm of explosions and gunfire across the enclave. On Tuesday, 77 civilians were killed taking the total Palestinian death toll to 631, compared to 10 Israelis, seven of them soldiers.
Israel says it has killed dozens of militants this week in intensive close-quarter combat. Arab and widespread international anger mounted on Tuesday, however, when Israel admitted mortaring a United Nations school where hundreds of people were taking refuge. Medics said 42 people were killed.
The Israeli army accused Hamas militants of using civilians as “human shields” and said its troops had been returning mortar fire from the school.
An aide said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a bitter foe of Hamas, had ordered officials to look into taking Israel to international courts over the incident. A U.N. spokesman said it wanted an inquiry into both the incident and the Israeli allegations about militants firing from its schools.
The school killing could intensify pressure on Israel for a cease-fire. During Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah, the deaths of 28 unarmed Lebanese in shelling at the village of Qana intensified international pressure on the Jewish state to negotiate a cease-fire.
The deaths in the school prompted Obama to break his silence on the Gaza offensive, to say the loss of life among civilians was “a source of deep concern” for him. Obama said he would not engage in policy until he was in office but vowed to work rapidly thereafter to secure peace in the Middle East.
Some commentators have said the U.S. presidential transition has exposed the United States to greater risks from Israel’s action in Gaza. Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri called on the Internet for Muslims to “hit the interests of the Zionists and Crusaders wherever and in whichever way you can.”
Washington’s allies in Arab governments have condemned the Israeli assault, which has contributed to rising oil prices, and the always vocally anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, another OPEC member, called it a “holocaust.”
Venezuela also expelled the Israeli ambassador.
Hamas, which has rebuffed Western demands to recognise Israel, end violence and accept existing interim peace deals, has demanded a lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip in any future cease-fire. It seized the territory in 2007, 18 months after it won a Palestinian parliamentary.
That created a schism with Abbas’s Fatah faction that helped kill off the outgoing U.S. administration’s efforts to broker a peace with Israel that would have created a Palestinian state. The violence in Gaza this month has raised questions over Obama’s ability to do better.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Adam Entous in Jerusalem, Aziz el-Kaissouni in Sharm el-Sheikh and Claudia Parsons at the United Nations; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Myra MacDonald)
France and Turkey willing to give monitors for Gaza
January 6 2009
France and Turkey said on Tuesday they were willing to contribute to an international monitoring team for a cease-fire in Gaza, where Israel launched a ground offensive last weekend.
“International monitoring mechanisms might prove necessary and we are willing to contribute to this,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a session of the U.N. Security Council.
Kouchner said France was awaiting Israel’s response to a cease-fire proposal announced by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and “we harbour hope that it will be a positive one.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also said his country, which has been active in trying to end the violence in Gaza, would be prepared to contribute monitors.
“If Turkey is asked to be in such an international monitoring team, we are going to be of course willing to be there,” Babacan told reporters before the special U.N. session.
(Reporting by Sue Pleming and Claudia Parsons; Editing by John O’Callaghan)
Egypt bars doctors from entering Gaza Strip
January 6 2009
Frustration is mounting at Egypt’s border with the Gaza
Strip, where many local and foreign doctors are stuck after Egyptian
authorities denied them entry into the coastal area now under an Israeli
Anesthesiologist Dimitrios Mognie from Greece idles his time at a cafe near the border, drinking tea and chatting with other doctors, aid workers and curious Egyptians.
“This is a shame,” said Mognie, who decided to use his vacation time to try help Gazans. He thought entering through Egypt, which has a narrow border with the Hamas-ruled strip, was his best bet.
“That in 2009 they have people in need of help from a doctor and we can go to help and they won’t let us; this is crazy,” he added.
Gaza’s few hospitals have been swamped by the numbers of injured; health officials there reported more than 550 Palestinians dead and 2,500 wounded, since Israel embarked upon its military campaign designed to stop Gaza’s Islamic Hamas from launching rockets at Israel on December 27.
Mognie and a colleague, both part of the Greek organization Doctors for Peace, came to Rafah four days ago, loaded with instruments and medical supplies. Egyptian border guards turn them back daily.
Mognie, who said he has worked in conflict zones such as Iraq, Angola and Somalia, added that he understood worries over security but that he was willing to take the risk to help the people in Gaza.
Along with Israel, Egypt has maintained the closure of the Gaza border,
imposed after Hamas took control of the area in June 2007. However, the Egyptian closure has been seen by some as abetting Israel’s siege of the crowded strip, home to 1.4 million people.
Since Israel’s offensive, Egypt has taken in a trickle of wounded Palestinians from Gaza through the crossing in the border town of Rafah. Cairo, the main mediator between Israel and Hamas, has said it would only open Rafah if moderate Palestinian forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are in charge of the crossing.
Calls to Egypt to ease the border bottleneck – where aid convoys first have to have their cargo unloaded from Egyptian trucks before it’s loaded onto Palestinian ones and taken into the strip – have increased, including from Hamas allies such as Iran.
Although Egypt allowed two Norwegian doctors into Gaza on Dec. 31, the majority of physicians are frustrated at their inability to get in.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said Monday the his government submitted a formal request to Egypt to set up a desert hospital on Egyptian territory near the Gaza Strip to receive wounded Gazans.
Palestinian doctor Abed el-Qader Lubbad, who works in the intensive care at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, arrived in one of the ambulances transporting patients to Egypt on Monday. Out of the eight patients he ferried, one seriously wounded died on the way to the border, Lubbad said.
The Palestinian ambulances are not allowed to continue driving through Egypt. At the crossing, patients are taken out of the often poorly equipped Palestinian ambulances and transferred on gurneys to Egyptian ambulances.
On Monday, at least 18 Palestinian patients were brought to Egypt, according to Mohammad Arafat, a Palestinian representative in Rafah. The wounded included a man missing both legs and another who lost his eye and fractured his skull.
Another physician at Rafah was obstetrician Jemilah Mahmood from Mercy Malaysia. She said her group worked with the Egyptian Red Crescent to bring around $100,000 worth of medical supplies to the border for transport to Gaza. And while equipment eventually got through, Mahmoud said neither she nor her colleagues are allowed to cross.
“Can you imagine how many women are hurt and how few women doctors there are?” she asked. “All of us are sitting at the border.”
The cost of the Damage in Gaza at this point, I would imagine is in the Billions of Dollars. No one has yet to mention anything about that, to this point. However are they going to be able to rebuild. The damage to the infrastructure is overwhelming, schools, hospitals, police stations, government buildings, media building, roads, and homes to name a few have been destroyed. I think Israel should pay for it however. Considering they choose to drop the massive amounts of bombs. They are responsible for the damage. They had bloody well not hire the likes of Haliburton either.
Latest Report Stated.: As of Tuesday January 6 2009, 77 civilians were killed taking the total Palestinian death toll to 631. Over 2,500 Palestinians wounded, according to Gaza health officials and UN estimates.
10 Israelis have died, seven of them soldiers. Of the 7 soldiers who died, 4 were killed by friendly fire.
The International Press is still banned from Gaza and the Doctors that want to help are also Banned. Israel isn’t to keen on stopping the devastating attacks.
Israeli officials also said ministers would discuss a major escalation of their 12-day-old offensive that would push troops deep inside Gaza’s cities and refugee camps in their bid to end rocket fire into Israel by Islamist militant groups.
They want to escalate it to what? They want all of Gaza. They want total control. They don’t want to compromise. They are not being truthful.
I don’t trust them. They have done to much damage to be trusted. They have lied.
They are using weapons that are illegal.
They are attempting to hide the truth from the rest of the world.
They starved Palestinians and then devastated them with bombs that do horrendous damage.
There will be long term health problems for Palestinians in the years to follow, Israels cruel and unnecessary attacks.
This could have been resolved without an all out war. Instead of putting the Palestinians in a prison camp which is what Gaze really is they could have treated them with kindness and respect. Israel choose to commits crimes against humanity and war crimes.
They choose Ethnic Cleansing, , Genocide, and Murder.
They put Palestinians behind a wall just like the Berlin wall.
If anyone should have their “Weapons of Mass Destruction” removed is should be Israels. They have weapons and equipment that is far more deadly then anything Hamas has.
I am certainly doubtful, they will ever compromise on anything.
Pictures from Israel.
People look at the site where a Hamas rocket landed in the southern town of Sderot, Israel January 6, 2009. (Nikola Solic/Reuters)
A municipality worker surveys the scene after a rocket landed on an empty kindergarten in the port city of Ashdod, Israel January 5, 2009. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)
An Israeli man surveys damage to a house after a rocket landed in the southern city of Ashkelon January 5, 2009. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)
An Israeli mourner attends the funeral for soldier Dagan Vertman at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem January 6, 2009.(Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)
Israeli soldiers mourn beside the grave of their comrade Nitai Stern during his funeral at Mount Herzl miltary cemetery in Jerusalem January 6, 2009. (Eliana Aponte/Reuters)
Israeli soldiers carry the flag-draped coffin of their comrade Dagan Vertman during his funeral at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem January 6, 2009. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)
Israel’s President Shimon Peres stands beside the bed of a soldier, wounded during Israel’s offensive in Gaza, at a hospital in the southern city of Beersheba January 5, 2009. (Eliana Aponte/Reuters)
Two pages of Pictures from Gaza:
Reports From Gaza: