Archive for the ‘attack’ Category

Obama team hopes letter will heal Iran rift

January 29, 2009

Symbolic gesture gives assurances that US does not want to topple Islamic regime….

By Robert Tait and Ewen MacAskill in Washington
The Guardian (UK)
Officials of Barack Obama‘s administration have drafted a letter to Iran from the president aimed at unfreezing US-Iranian relations and opening the way for face-to-face talks, the Guardian has learned.

The US state department has been working on drafts of the letter since Obama was elected on 4 November last year. It is in reply to a lengthy letter of congratulations sent by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on 6 November.
Diplomats said Obama’s letter would be a symbolic gesture to mark a change in tone from the hostile one adopted by the Bush administration, which portrayed Iran as part of an “axis of evil”.

It would be intended to allay the ­suspicions of Iran’s leaders and pave the way for Obama to engage them directly, a break with past policy.

State department officials have composed at least three drafts of the letter, which gives assurances that Washington does not want to overthrow the Islamic regime, but merely seeks a change in its behaviour. The letter would be addressed to the Iranian people and sent directly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or released as an open letter.

One draft proposal suggests that Iran should compare its relatively low standard of living with that of some of its more prosperous neighbours, and contemplate the benefits of losing its pariah status in the west. Although the tone is conciliatory, it also calls on Iran to end what the US calls state sponsorship of terrorism.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Natanz uranium ... 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)


Israel in Gaza: Is the Real Target Hamas Rule?

January 3, 2009

EREZ CROSSING, on the IsraelGaza border — As Israel’s tanks and troops poured into Gaza on Saturday, the next phase in its fierce attempt to end rocket attacks, a question hung over the operation: can the rockets really be stopped for any length of time while Hamas remains in power in Gaza?

By Ethan Bronner
The New York Times
And if the answer is determined to be no, then is the real aim of the operation to remove Hamas entirely, no matter the cost?

After her visit to Paris on Thursday to explain to French authorities why she thought this was not the time for a quick cease-fire, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel said, “There is no doubt that as long as Hamas controls Gaza, it is a problem for Israel, a problem for the Palestinians and a problem for the entire region.”

Vice Premier Haim Ramon went even further Friday night in an interview on Israeli television, saying Israel must not end this operation with Hamas in charge of Gaza.

“What I think we need to do is to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern,” Mr. Ramon said on Channel One. “That is the most important thing.”

Neither Prime Minister Ehud Olmert nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak has made such a statement. Still, there is a growing and shared concern among Israeli leaders that any letup against Hamas would be problematic for Israel’s broad goals in the long term because it could bolster and validate the group, which says Israel should be destroyed.

“If the war ends in a draw, as expected, and Israel refrains from re-occupying Gaza, Hamas will gain diplomatic recognition,” wrote Aluf Benn, a political analyst, in the newspaper Haaretz on Friday. “No matter what you call it,” he added, “Hamas will obtain legitimacy.”

In addition, any potential truce deal would probably include an increase in commercial traffic from Israel and Egypt into Gaza, which is Hamas’s central demand: to end the economic boycott and border closing it has been facing. To build up the Gaza economy under Hamas, Israeli leaders say, would be to build up Hamas. Yet withholding the commerce would continue to leave 1.5 million Gazans living in despair.

Gaza Day 9 Sunday: Israeli Ground Troops, Tanks Join Air Assault on Hamas

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Israeli ground forces enter Gaza in escalation

January 3, 2009

Israeli tanks and infantry rolled into Gaza after nightfall Saturday, launching a ground offensive in a widening war against Hamas that the Israeli defense minister said “will not be easy and will not be short.”

The ground operation was preceded by several hours of heavy artillery fire after dark, igniting flames in the night sky. Machine gun fire rattled as bright tracer rounds flashed through the darkness and the crash of hundreds of shells sent up streaks of fire.

By Ibrahim Barzak And Jason Keyser, Associated Press Writers

Artillery fired illuminating rounds, sending streaks of bright light drifting down over Gaza’s densely packed neighborhoods. Gunbattles could be heard, as troops crossed the border into Gaza, marching single file. They were backed by helicopter gunships and tanks.

“Gaza will not be paved with flowers for you, it will be paved with fire and hell,” Hamas warned Israeli forces. Spokesman Ismail Radwan said in a televised speech Gaza will “become a graveyard” for Israeli soldiers.

“This will not be easy and it will not be short,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a televised address shortly after the ground invasion began. “I don’t want to disillusion anybody and residents of the south will go through difficult days,” he added.

“We do not seek war but we will not abandon our citizens to the ongoing Hamas attacks.”


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Israel’s Defense Minister: “We Are Aware of Dangers, Difficulties and Victims”

January 3, 2009
The decision to undertake a ground operation was made with the knowledge that soldiers would be at risk, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said several hours after ground troops began an incursion into the Gaza Strip.

From the Jerusalem Post


“We know there will be dangers, difficulties and victims… It must be said that the ground operation entails dangers to the lives of soldiers,” Barak said in a press conference early Saturday night.

Barak opened by explaining to the public the need for Israel to proceed with the second stage of Operation Cast Lead, saying that he had made it clear from the very beginning of the maneuver that he intended to expand operations.

The decision to widen the operation, he said, was made following “intensive consideration” and after “every possible scenario was examined… We must end the hostile actions against Israel,” Barak insisted. “We will not abandon our citizens,” he said.

“I know very well what dangers are involved in every offensive as well as what the potential heavy price we can pay is. I take full responsibility. This will not be easy. This will not be short,” Barak said.

The minister expressed his gratitude to the residents of the south, the cities’ mayors, police forces, firefighters and the Shin Bet. He acknowledged his faith in the senior IDF command, specifically IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, saying that there was indeed “who to trust.”

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Israel infantry soldiers gather on the border just before leaving ... 
Israel infantry soldiers gather on the border just before leaving Israel for the northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009. Israeli tanks and infantry entered Gaza after nightfall Saturday, launching a much anticipated ground offensive in a widening war on Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Israeli security officials said the operation is likely to go on for several days, but that the objective is not to reoccupy Gaza.(AP Photo/Yossi Aloni)

Saturday Night in Gaza: Israel Unleashes Artillery, Warns Gazans to Flee, Ground Assault Ready

January 3, 2009

More signs of an impending ground assault from Israel against Hamas in Gaza this Saturday night in the Middle East.

For the first time, Israeli artillery unleashed a barrage on targets within Gaza, after a week-long air assault subsided.

Israel Launched Ground Offensive
Into Gaza; Saturday Night Jan 3-4

Leaflets, phone messages and other media were used to warn Gazans to leave or risk personal danger.

The leaflets were signed by the commander of the Israeli military and were dropped over northern Gaza on Saturday morning, warning residents to “leave the area immediately” to ensure their safety.

But Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai played down speculation the artillery fire and leaflets promised a ground offensive.

“I don’t think this is the next stage. This is part of a military campaign being waged and now artillery cannons have joined in,” he told Israel Radio.

Fox News reporters said they had seen tanks reporitioning and moving closer to Gaza.

Troops and tanks looked poised to attack following the week-long air assault, according to several observers.

An Israeli soldier walks in front of tanks and armored vehicles ... 
An Israeli soldier walks in front of tanks and armored vehicles in a staging area near Israel’s border with Gaza, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. Israel demanded international monitors as a key term of any future truce with Gaza Strip militants, as its warplanes bombed the parliament building in Gaza City on Thursday and its ships attacked coastline positions of the territory’s Islamic Hamas rulers.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

From Reuters:

Jerusalem Post:


Israel bombs Hamas sites, split on ground invasion

January 3, 2009

Israeli warplanes and gunboats blasted more than two dozen Hamas targets Saturday, including weapons storage facilities, training centers and leaders’ homes as Israel’s offensive against Gaza’s Islamic militant rulers entered a second week.

There were tentative signs that the current phase of fighting may be nearing an end. Most of the airstrikes targeted empty buildings and abandoned sites, suggesting Israel may be running out of targets.

Israeli defense officials said some 10,000 troops, including tank, artillery and special operations units, were massed on the Gaza border and prepared to invade. They said top commanders are split over whether to send in ground forces, in part because such an operation could lead to heavy casualties but also because they believe Hamas already has been dealt a heavy blow. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were classified discussions.


At the same time, international cease-fire efforts were also gaining momentum. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting the region next week to try to end the violence, and President George W. Bush and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon both spoke in favor of an internationally monitored truce.

But Hamas, in its first reaction to the proposal on Saturday, reacted coolly to the idea of international monitors.

Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 in response to intensifying rocket fire by Hamas militants in Gaza. The operation has killed more than 430 Palestinians, including….

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Israel: Ground Attack Tonight?

January 2, 2009

Israel is launching a ground attack into Gaza tonight (January 2-3, 2009) according to an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) representative.

International voices have been calling for a cease-fire by Israel but Hamas has been launching and continues to fire rockets into Israel, which is provoking the Israeli leadership to launch the attack, we are told.

The aircraft attacks by Israel into Gaza continued well past sunset tonight for the first time since the air campaign began.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday a “durable and sustainable” cease-fire was needed to end the violence.

“We are working toward a cease-fire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo,” she said after meeting with President Bush at the White House.

The Bush-Rice meeting at the White House could have been as a result of Israel telling its key ally that the ground attack would commence soon….

Israeli soldiers stand on tanks at a staging area near Israel's ... 
Israeli soldiers stand on tanks at a staging area near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. Israeli aircraft kept up a relentless string of assaults on Hamas-ruled Gaza on Tuesday, smashing a government complex, security installations and the home of a top militant commander as thousands of Israeli ground troops, backed by tanks and artillery, massed along the border, waiting for a signal to attack.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Despite its use of precision weapons, Israel has been urged to further reduce civilian injuries and deaths inside Gaza.

A United Nations agency said the civilian death toll in Gaza was over 25 percent of the total killed in the violence. A leading Palestinian human rights group put it at 40 percent.

Israel made a big show during the last few days of allowing humanitarian supplies into Gaza and removing neutral civilians from Gaza….
Gaza is now a disaster area, with sewage sytems opened and the risk of disease on the rise.

CNN reported that Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said during a video news conference that much of Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed.

“Protection of civilians, the fabric of Gaza, the future of the peace process and regional stability — all are trapped between the irresponsibility of Hamas rocket attacks and the excessiveness of Israel’s response,” he said from Jerusalem.

 Gaza: Israel’s Nuclear Site Within Hamas Rocket Range? Civilians Flee

 “Making a Lot of Martyrs”: Where’s Israel’s Ground Assault? Are Objectives Clear?



Israeli soldiers stand on their tanks in a deployment area near ... 
Israeli soldiers stand on their tanks in a deployment area near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. Israel has thousands of troops massed for a ground offensive on Gaza that would aim to deal a hammer blow to Hamas and re-establish Israel’s military credentials with its other foes, experts said.(AFP/Menahem Kahana)


By The Times (UK)

Israel is poised to launch a major ground offensive into Gaza tonight after allowing hundreds of foreigners living in the devastated territory to evacuate.

After a week of air strikes that have killed at least 420 Palestinians and left scores of buildings in rubble, the Israeli army was set to fling hundreds of troops and tanks into a blitz to stamp out Hamas’s military wing, The Times understands.

Despite the looming onslaught, more Hamas rockets – which have so far killed four Israelis – were fired into southern Israel today.

The Islamist group vowed that its attacks, which have lasted for years and which finally provoked the massive Israeli campaign, would not stop.

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Egypt has urged Israel against launching a ground offensive against the Gaza Strip and is in contact with Hamas to seek an end to the week- long onslaught of the territory, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit has sent a message to his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni urging the Jewish state “to abstain from launching ground operations (into Gaza),” a statement said.


The message sent through the Egyptian ambassador to Tel Aviv also asked that Israel put an immediate end to its military operations against the territory, it added.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in the statement that Egypt was in talks with leaders of the  Hamas movement which control Gaza about ” ceasefire proposals.”

Israel has called up reserves for an expected ground incursion into Gaza, which analysts say would sharply increase casualties among both Palestinians and Israelis.

Hamas Vows “Fight to Last Breath” And For Key Leader, 400 Others, They Get It

January 1, 2009

Nizar Rayyan, a key Hamas leader, has been killed by Israeli air attack in Gaza.

Nizar Rayyan - file photo dated 23/09/2005

Above: Nizar Rayyan

Nizar Rayyan, the most senior Hamas figure to be killed since 2004, had urged suicide attacks against Israel.

Medical staff said seven people were killed in the airstrike on Rayyan’s house Thursday, including at least two of Nizar Rayyan’s four wives and several of his children.

New York Daily news writers in Gaza reported that Hamas vowed to fight “until the last breath.” Ordinary Palestinian citizens in Gaza City – where there is no power or water – braced for an invasion. Bread lines and funeral marches were the only signs of life in the normally crowded streets on the first day of the new year, 2009.

According to CNN, Palestinian medical sources said 400 people have been killed in Gaza since the Israeli raids began Saturday, with 42 children, 13 women and two medical workers among the dead. In addition, 2,000 have been wounded, 216 critically, they said.


From CNN:

Gaza: Hamas Was Dying, Now Israel Has Revived It….

December 30, 2008

In its efforts to stop amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities, Israel appears to have given new life to the fledging Islamic movement in Palestine.

By Daoud Kuttab
The Washington Post

For two years, the Islamic Resistance Movement (known by its Arabic acronym, Hamas) has been losing support internally and externally. This wasn’t the case in the days after the party came to power democratically in early 2006; despite being unjustly ostracized by the international community for its anti-Israeli stance, Hamas enjoyed the backing of Palestinians and other Arabs. Having won a decisive parliamentary majority on an anti-corruption platform promising change and reform, Hamas worked hard to govern better than had Fatah, its rival and predecessor.

Things began to sour when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza, but even then, Hamas enjoyed considerable domestic support — and much goodwill externally. Then the movement turned down every legitimate offer from its nationalist PLO rivals and Egyptian mediators to pursue reconciliation, and support for it began to slip.

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Israeli Foreign Minister Says Hamas Is to Blame; U.S. Seems To Agree

December 28, 2008

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni defended the Israeli assault in Gaza, saying on America’s Sunday morning talk shows that Hamas, not Israel, “is the one who needs to be condemned by the international community.”

By Sharon Otterman
The New York Times

Hamas rocket hits Israeli house

Above: Aftermath of Hamas rocket hitting an Israeli house

Reacting to anger from the Arab world, as well a call by the United Nations to cease hosilities, Ms. Livni said on “Fox News Sunday” that the assault “is needed in order to change the realities on the ground, and to give peace and quiet to the citizens in southern Israel.”

Speaking from Jerusalem in taped interviews, Ms. Livni said that until Hamas recognized Israel’s right to exist and ceased rocket attacks against Israel, they remained terrorists who needed to be acted against. The Israeli air assault has killed at least 280 Palestinians since it began Saturday.

She said army was seeking to avoid unnecessary deaths in the assault against Hamas headquarters in Gaza. Palestinian hospitals have reported numerous civilians among the dead and wounded.

“We are targeting Hamas, we are not looking for civilians to kill more than that,” she said in a second interview, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Israel Sees Existential Fight: Enemies, Uncertainty All Around

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The Bush administration, due to hand over to Obama on January 20, put the onus on Hamas, the Islamists in charge of Gaza, to prevent more violence. It did not demand an end to Israeli attacks but urged all concerned to protect innocent lives.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza three weeks before Barack Obama becomes U.S. president pose an unexpected challenge for a man who has promised to work for Middle East peace from his first day in office.

Jordanians shout anti-Israel and anti-U.S. slogans during a ... 
Jordanians shout anti-Israel and anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration against Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, in Amman December 27, 2008.(Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

By Reuters: Read it all: