Divining the News (DTN)

Not Mainstream News

Egypts Al Ahram correspondent in Gaza:

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Pretty informative report from Gaza, with quotes of the Israeli authorities as well. It seem Hamas is much fiercer than Israel expected.

Searching for an exit

Diplomacy rears its reluctant head and the “truce” word is suddenly everywhere as Israel’s war on Gaza enters its third week. Saleh Al-Naami reports from the besieged Strip

UNBROKEN SPIRIT: A Palestinian youth stands next to a Palestinian flag and watches as others inspect the damage at a building following Israeli forces’ aggression against Gaza

It is day 12 of Israel’s brutal war on the besieged Gaza Strip. The carnage continues and the death toll has reached 680. Of the 3,075 injured, half are women and children.
In New York the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has postponed until today — Thursday — any discussion of the Arabs’ proposed resolution for an immediate ceasefire. On Tuesday evening President Hosni Mubarak made a proposal for a truce to be followed by talks with the Palestinians and Israel.

It was backed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been in the region since Monday. By postponing its ceasefire discussions to study the Egyptian initiative, the UNSC has in effect postponed issuing any ceasefire resolution.

Israel has yet to fully respond to the proposal but its decision to halt air strikes for three hours on Wednesday to allow aid to flow through a “humanitarian corridor” seemed in tune with the Egyptian proposal, though it could also be an attempt by Tel Aviv to improve its image as an army of child killers. The three-hour lull came after the Israeli air force bombed a UN school in Gaza killing 40 civilians on Tuesday.

As Al-Ahram Weekly went to press Israel was still contemplating the plan. Soon after Israeli President Shimon Perez described the proposals as “not enough”, a statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday afternoon said he “views positively” Egyptian and French efforts in this respect. An Israeli government spokesman said Israel could accept the initiative “if it halts hostile fire from Gaza and includes measures to prevent Hamas from rearming,” while Olmert and Defence Minister Ehud Barak will send senior representatives to Egypt to look into the offer.

But both Israel and Hamas remained cautious about accepting the proposal without being informed of its full details and what they entail regarding the borders and siege on Gaza.

Hamas officials said they will “study” the Egyptian plan but expressed reservations about any permanent ceasefire agreement that does not include the lifting of sanctions and opening Gaza’s borders. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed it and will fly to Cairo on Friday to discuss the plan with Mubarak. In Turkey, a diplomat said that his country would be given the task of constructing an international force for Gaza, if the idea was to be approved by the parties.

A delegation from the Damascus-based Hamas leadership flew to Cairo Monday for talks with the head of Egyptian General Intelligence for the first time since Israel began its bombardment on 27 December. The delegation was not permitted to talk to the press but the Weekly has learned that it is discussing, among other details, the presence of Hamas representatives alongside those of the PA at the Rafah border crossing, together with Turkish and European observers.

The official Egyptian news agency MENA reported on Wednesday morning that Israeli F16s and Apache helicopters had fired missiles across the 14km Egypt-Gaza Rafah border.

Diplomatic escalation outside the war zone came from Venezuela on Tuesday when it expelled Israel’s ambassador in protest against the Israeli “holocaust” in Gaza. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday made a scathing attack on Tel Aviv when he described its offensive as a “black spot” in the history of mankind, and blamed Israel for the carnage.

It is public opinion within Israel, however, that continues to be the crucial element in determining the actions of the Israeli occupation army in the coming stage. Israel has confirmed that six Israeli Occupation Army (IOF) soldiers have been killed in Gaza. It has banned all media representatives in Israel or the occupied territories from reporting any war-related casualties that have not first been released by the army.

It is also banning reporters from entering Gaza.
But the little that is being made public has been revealing. On Monday evening General Yaav Beiled, commander of the Golany infantry brigade, and tens of IOF soldiers were lured into a Palestinian house in a village east of Jabalya refugee camp which immediately exploded. Beiled and three soldiers were killed and six are in critical condition. Hamas’s armed wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the operation. Israel denies their version of events, charging that the soldiers were killed by “friendly fire”.

The resistance has caused some damage on the Israeli side. Israel’s Channel 2 military commentator Rony Daniel described Hamas’s reaction thus far as “shocking” to Israeli army commanders. Which is why, he said, the IOF is now advancing “very slowly” in the rural areas surrounding Gaza city. Yediot Aharonot’ s military expert Alex Fishman reported that the IOF soldiers he spoke with are fearful of the possibility of being captured by the Palestinian side.

As the Israeli war enters its third week the expectations of Yuvul Diskin, head of Israel’s domestic intelligence prior to 27 December, that Gaza would fall in 36 hours, have proved unrealistic. Resistance fighters in Gaza continue to fire rockets into south Israel almost a week after the beginning of the ground battle and after two weeks of heavy aerial bombardment. Israel’s strategy at the moment seems to be expanding its offensive to cause more civilian casualties to pressure Hamas into accepting a ceasefire under Tel Aviv’s conditions, according to Israeli commentator Ram Eidly in an interview with the Hebrew Israeli Radio.

Although Tel Aviv has been reserved in responding to the Egyptian proposal Israeli TV commentator Amnon Ibrahmoveits believes the reservations are simply window dressing since in essence the proposal is compatible with Israel’s own conditions for a ceasefire. It also deprives Hamas of declaring any political gains out of the war, according to Ibrahmoveits.
A ceasefire, no matter how compelling, might not be so easy to achieve. The population of Gaza, terrorised now by the Israeli war machine and suffering from 18 months of economic siege, will need more persuasion to accept a ceasefire that does not render the massive death toll completely pointless.

Ghassan Ibrahim, a resident of Maghazi refugee camp, told the Weekly : “We didn’t sacrifice hundreds of our people so that Israel could impose its conditions on us all over again.” Israel, he said, “can’t threaten us more than it has already. It has committed massacres and the price for this should at least be the full lifting of the siege.” Ibrahim is not alone in believing this.

Amer Bereik, director of a Palestinian NGO in Gaza’s central area, insists that “our people did not die in vain and Israel’s options are very limited.” Haaretz ‘s Aluf Ben also believes that Israel is stuck. If it withdraws from Gaza now it will appear to be escaping a confrontation with Hamas. And if it continues with its offensive and recaptures all of Gaza, it could pay a hefty economic price in the absence of any political settlement.

On the other side, says Palestinian analyst Nehad El-Sheikh, if Israel ends its offensive without an agreement, or if an agreement that conforms with Hamas’s conditions for a ceasefire is reached, the movement will have scored a legitimacy “won by the blood of its fighters”.

Additional reporting by Amira Howeidy


Written by morris

January 14, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Egypt, Gaza, israel

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