Archive for the ‘condoleezza rice’ Category

International Effort “Guarantees” Gaza Cease Fire

January 17, 2009

On Tuesday, Israel was already looking for a way to end the fighting in Gaza.

But Hamas was pledging to fight to the last drop of blood.

And Hamas was supported and emboldened by allies such as Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and thousands of of protesting and angry anti-Israeli people.

So a group in the international community made a pledge, in the form of a question, to Israel: If we can help you achieve your goals will you end the fighting?

Israel agreed.  And as of today, Israel, the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy and others are living up to that agreement.

Israel really needed two things: a halt to the rocket attacks into Israel and a way to assure that Hamas doesn’t rearm.

Today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told reporters that France and Germany had joined Britain in a pledge to curtail the bloodshed in Gaza now, by offering long-term support in keeping Hamas from rearming.

 “The Israelis, Egyptians and Palestinian Authority know this offer is available,” he said. “I think this may make it easier for people to come to a cease-fire.”
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Brown said that if a cease-fire is reached, Britain has people ready to enter Gaza to provide humanitarian aid to help relieve the obvious suffering.

“Britain will not be found lacking in the support we can give,” he said.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office released a statement indicating that she, Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had sent letters to Israeli and Egyptian leaders expressing a willingness to take a series of concrete measures to combat arms smuggling.

She said they all expressed support for “the efforts of the Israeli and Egyptian governments to reach a lasting cease-fire in Gaza.”

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi also joined in the offer of help, his office said Saturday.

European diplomats are part of a global push to calm the situation in Gaza, where more than 1,100 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been killed since an Israeli offensive against Hamas terrorists began in late December.

Israel thought the U.S. so important to the international effort that prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to Washington DC to sign an agreement with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The two-and-a-half page document outlines a framework under which the United States will provide military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training to Israel, Egypt and other nations in the region. The equipment and training would be used for monitoring Gaza’s land and sea borders.

The document also calls for the U.S. to expand work with its NATO partners in the effort, particularly in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and eastern Africa, according to a text.

It also commits Washington to use relevant components of the U.S. military to assist Mideast governments in preventing weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories.

“If this doesn’t satisfy the Israeli cabinet, what will?” a Western observer asked

Related from the Jerusalem Post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1232
100167091&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2
FShowFull

Related:
 Russia “Herding Squirrels” Iran, Syria, Hamas Toward Cease Fire

Gaza Day 22: High Expectations for Cease Fire but Fighting Rages Still

January 17, 2009

 Israeli aircraft pounded 50 Hamas positions early Saturday.

The meaning is not to be misunderstood: Israel wants Hamas to make a decision on peace or war.
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“This yet again illustrates that there is no place safe in the Gaza Strip,” said Chris Gunness, a U.N. spokesman. “This fighting has to stop because innocent people, women and children, who are taking refuge in neutral U.N. buildings are discovering that there is nowhere safe.”

Israel will make a decision this evening, Saturday, the 22nd day of conflict, to accept a cease fire or continue the fighting.

Tonight the Israel cabinet will meet to vote on a cease fire worked out by Egypt, Frace, Britain and others with input from Hamas and Israel.

But key to the cease fire is what Israel really wants: a Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday by the U.S. and Isreal to prevent the rearming of Hamas by smuggling.

For two days Hamas has offered differing versions of its intentions, first agreeing to a cease fire and then rejecting provisions and continuing to send rockets into Israel.
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Earlier Friday, Hamas’ Syrian-based political chief Khaled Mashaal rejected Israeli conditions for a truce and demanded an immediate opening of the besieged territory’s borders.

Mashaal  called on all Arab countries to cut ties with the Jewish state during a summit of Arab leaders in Doha, Qatar.
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad gave Mashaal their full backing, but significantly, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia boycotted the summit.

Now, Isreal says its cabinet will vote tonight on a unilateral cease fire.

Alalysts say the decision may mean that Israel has decided to end the operation in Gaza, “Cast Lead,” without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt.

Most insiders in Israel say Israel will end the fighting unilaterally on Saturday evening, and respond with “certain force” to any Hamas provocation.
Israel so strongly believed in the U.S. offer to prevent the rearming of Hamas that a trip was hastily put together Thursday to allow Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to be at the U.S. State Department for a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday.  The two inked the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the prevention of the rearming of Hamas.

Related:
U.S., Israel Sign Agreement Aimed At Preventing Rearmed Gaza, Hamas
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Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after signing a deal on stopping the flow of arms to Hamas. Shawn Thew/European Pressphoto Agency

The MOU  ‘Unequivocally’ condemns “terrorism as unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed and whatever the motivation, in particular, the recent rocket and mortar attacks and other hostile activity perpetrated against Israel from Gaza by terrorist organizations.”

Livni called the deal, reached on the final working day of the Bush administration, “a vital complement for a cessation of hostility.” It paved the path for Saturday night’s vote in the 12-member Security Cabinet.

Under the deal, Egypt would shut down weapons smuggling routes with international help and discussions on opening Gaza’s blockaded border crossings — Hamas’ key demand — would take place at a later date.

By John E. Carey

Related:
 Israel Expected To Begin “Unilateral Gaza Cease Fire,” End Fighting Saturday

From The Associated Press
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090117/a
p_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/
meast/01/17/israel.gaza/index.html

From al Arabia:
Gaza assault rages on as Israel prepares truce

The New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/17/
world/middleeast/17mideast.html?_r=1&hp

Humanitarian Situation in Gaza Worsens

PARIS (Reuters) – Medecins Sans Frontieres’ doctors cannot reach sick and injured civilians in Gaza because of Israel’s bombing campaign and may have to pull out if the security situation worsens, officials from the aid group said yesterday.Three weeks into a major offensive that has killed more than 1,200 Palestinians, Israeli forces have pushed deep into the city of Gaza despite international pressure on their government.

Flares are seen during an Israeli military operation in the ... 
Flares are seen during an Israeli military operation in the northern Gaza Strip as seen from the Israeli side of the border, Friday Jan. 16, 2009. Israel’s Security Cabinet will vote Saturday night on an Egyptian proposal for a truce to end the 3-week-old offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, a senior government official said.The official said a vote to approve the truce would amount to a ‘unilateral’ cease-fire, though Israeli forces would only leave Gaza after an official declaration that the fighting was over. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Israel Expected To Begin “Unilateral Gaza Cease Fire,” End Fighting Saturday

January 16, 2009

Israel is saying its cabinet will vote on a unilateral cease fire in Gaza tomorrow, Saturday.

Alalysts say the decision may mean that Israel has decided to end the operation in Gaza, “Cast Lead,” without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt.

Most insiders in Israel say Israel will end the fighting unilaterally on Saturday evening, and respond with “certain force” to any Hamas provocation.

Haaretz reported that “A government source emphasized that there has been great progress with Egypt in reaching an agreement on fighting arms smuggling. The deal would require the combined use of technological measures to fight smuggling on the border between Gaza and Egypt, operations against smugglers in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, and the use of international experts to identify smuggling tunnels on the border. ”

Israel also believed that the U.S. offer to prevent the rearming of Hamas merited a trip by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to the U.S. State Department for a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  The two inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the prevention of the rearming of Hamas.

Related:
U.S., Israel Sign Agreement Aimed At Preventing Rearmed Gaza, Hamas

“We have what we need not.  Hamas has agreed not to shoot rockets.  And the United States and Egypt have agreed to not allow the rearming of Hamas.  It is not perfect but it is a good outcome,” one senior Israeli told us.

Israel’s decision is being welcomed by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, and others who have been urging an end to the fighting.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (L) shakes hands with ... 
Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (L) shakes hands with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during their meeting in Tel Aviv January 15, 2009, in this picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO).

The decision to start a cease fire unilaterally would avoid a prolonged and difficult negotiation with Hamas, an organization that has vowed to destroy Israel.

The Jerusalem Post said, “A unilateral decision is likely after Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal rejected Israel’s conditions for a truce and called on all Arab countries to cut ties with the Jewish state during a summit of Arab leaders in Doha, Qatar. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad gave Mashaal their full backing, but significantly, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia boycotted the summit.”

Turkey said today that Israel should not be allowed to return to the U.N., adding another nation to the anti-Israeli faction.
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“How is such a country, which totally ignores and does not implement resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of the UN (headquarters)?” Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan said during a meeting at the ruling AK Party’s headquarters in Ankara Friday.
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According to Israeli radio, Cairo will host a truce summit on Sunday with Israeli officials and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expected to attend. Israeli television said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would attend.

The Israeli “unilateral” vote was set hours after the U.S. agreed to provide assurances on ending weapons smuggling into Gaza as part of a cease-fire, the Associated Press noted.

AFP reported that Russia has called on Iran and Syria to persuade Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to accept a plan pushed by Egypt to end the fighting in Gaza, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

“We are sending the appropriate signals to Hamas representatives and to those states that have influence on Hamas, meaning above all Iran and Syria,” of the need to accept the Egyptian plan, Lavrov said at a news conference.
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Related:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD
/meast/01/16/israel.gaza/index.html

From the Jerusalem Post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?ci
d=1232100163477&pagename=JPost%2
FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Associated Press:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009011
6/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

Related:
Gaza Cease Fire: Now What?

AFP:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090116/wl_mid
east_afp/mideastconflictgazarussia_200901161
43225

U.S., Israel Sign Agreement Aimed At Preventing Rearmed Gaza, Hamas

January 16, 2009

The agreement between the U.S. and Israel to prevent the rearming of Hamas in Gaza appears to place much of the blame for recent violence on Hamas, saying “the acquisition and use of arms and related materiel by terrorists against Israel were the direct causes of recent hostilities.”
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John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

The deal also ‘Unequivocally’ condemns “terrorism as unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed and whatever the motivation, in particular, the recent rocket and mortar attacks and other hostile activity perpetrated against Israel from Gaza by terrorist organizations.”

 Related:
 Gaza Day 22: High Expectations for Cease Fire but Fighting Rages Still
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 Israel Close to Declaration of Victory, Unilateral Cease Fire, No Matter What Hamas Says
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Gaza Day 22: Hamas Threatens “We Will Continue Battle,” Meanwhile Israel Talks “Unilateral Cease Fire”

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The United States and Israel are signing an agreement intended to assure the Jewish state that Hamas militants will not be able to rearm if it agrees to a cease-fire to end the fighting in Gaza, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

Rice told reporters that she and visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will sign a “memoradum of understanding” and that Rice hoped some European countries would work out similar bilateral agreements with the Israelis.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she hopes for a ...

“The MOU that Foreign Minister Livni and I will sign should be thought of as one of the elements of trying to bring into being a durable cease-fire, a cease-fire that can actually hold,” Rice told reporters.

“As you know, there are a number of conditions that need to be obtained if a cease-fire is to be durable. … And among them is to do something about the weapons smuggling and the potential for resupply of Hamas from other places, including from Iran,” she added.

`This we see as part of a broader international effort on the information sharing” on how to deal with weapons shipments,” she said.

Hamas is the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

Rice’s chief spokesman, Sean McCormack, said later that the memorandum is about two and a half pages and is “a very general framework, underpinned by a number of understandings.” Among the understandings, he said, is a U.S. commitment of “resources, wherewithal and technology necessary in order to fulfill our part of the bargain. The essential element of this is to inhibit the ability of Hamas to rearm.”

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (L) and US Secretary ... 
Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (L) and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (R) trade cheek kisses before signing a memorandum of understanding, aimed at preventing arms smuggling into Gaza, at the State Department in Washington, January 16, 2009.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)

McCormack added: “This is an enabling condition to get to a cease-fire.”

Diplomats said earlier that the text calls for enhanced intelligence cooperation and U.S. technical and logistical support for border monitors.

The diplomats said the hope was that the agreement would satisfy Israeli concerns about reopening Gaza border crossings and will be an important piece of an Egyptian cease-fire initiative being negotiated in Cairo to end the fighting that has killed some 1,100 Palestinians since Israel launched the operation on Dec. 27. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, four by rocket fire, according to the military.

“Once this is signed, hopefully Israel will be comfortable enough to allow the border crossings to reopen,” one official said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200901
16/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_mideast

Gushing Over Hillary

January 14, 2009

We seem in a moment of gushing over everybody.  All are gushing over barack Obama, the man of hope.  Terrific.

But yesterday, the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gushed all over hillary Clinton, and that was unnecessary and sad….

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By Dana Milbank
The Washington Post

At Hillary Clinton‘s confirmation hearing yesterday, senators came up with a new interpretation of the Constitution’s “advice and consent” clause. This one could be called the “admire and congratulate” clause.

“In Senator Clinton, President-elect Obama has boldly chosen the epitome of a big-leaguer,” gushed Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

“She’s an excellent choice,” asserted Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).

“There couldn’t be a better person to represent our nation,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) amended.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) sounded as if she were writing for Hallmark as she told Clinton: “I truly appreciate all that you are poised to do and what you have done in the past.”

The line of spectators trying to get into the hearing room snaked the length of the Hart Senate Office Building — more than even a nominee to the Supreme Court can expect — and yet there was no suspense inside. Clinton’s confirmation was a sure thing, and the senators were so deferential to their colleague that they didn’t bother to swear her in, the way they did when her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, came for her confirmation.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/cont
ent/article/2009/01/13/AR200901130271
7.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Gaza Day 12: Egypt, France Renew Cease Fire Hope After Dozens Killed At Schools

January 7, 2009

The UN Security Council held a high-level emergency meeting late Tuesday as international pressure mounted for an end to Israel’s attack on Hamas in the Gaza.
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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy brought forward the cease fire proposal and offered to bring Palestinians and Israelis together for discussions.
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Secretary General of the U.N. Ban Ki-moon criticized both Israel for its bombardment of Gaza and Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and urged members to act “swiftly and decisively to put this crisis to an end.”

The cease fire proposal considered late Tuesday was proposed by Egypt and France but other nations were quick to support it.
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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weclomed the initiative, but, echoing the Israeli position, cautioned that no agreement would succeed unless it halted Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and arms smuggling into Gaza.
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Rice told the Security Council that the United States understands “the urgency of an end to the fighting” and is working around the clock  to achieve it. She cancelled her trip to China this week to stay engaged in the Middle East peace effort.
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Earlier in the day, President-elect Barack Obama broke his silence on the crisis, saying that “the loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me.” He declined to go further, reiterating his stance that the U.S. has only one president at a time.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

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BREAKING NEWS FROM AP
1020 GMT January 7, 2009

The Israeli military says it will briefly halt its operations in Gaza during the day to allow in humanitarian aid and fuel.

Military spokesman Peter Lerner gave no specific time for the halt. But the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says the military has informed it of a planned lull between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m local time.

Israel has come under criticism for harming Gaza civilians during its 12-day-long offensive aimed at the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.

Gaza is suffering from shortages of basic supplies and fuel, and much of the strip is without electricity and running water.

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From the BBC:

On day 12, Wednesday, sounds of heavy gunfire and billowing smoke could be seen near Gaza City.

Israel has said it will halt its attacks on Gaza for three hours a day.

The pause, the first of which is due to start at 1100 GMT (1300) on Wednesday, will “allow residents to resupply, get aid and so on”, an IDF spokesman said.

Read the BBC report:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7814772.stm

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The New York Times said:
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In the wake of the criticism over civilian casualties, Israel agreed to set up a ”humanitarian corridor” to ship vital supplies into the Gaza Strip. Under the plan put forward by the Israeli Defense Ministry, Israel would suspend attacks in certain areas to allow people to get supplies.

The Egyptian and French presidents released no details of their proposal, saying only that it involved an immediate cease-fire to permit humanitarian aid into Gaza and talks to settle the differences between Israel and Hamas, which rules the small coastal territory.

See the New York Times report:
 http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/01/07/
world/AP-ML-Israel-Palestinians.html?_r=1

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Read the entire AP report:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090107/ap_on_re_mi_
ea/ml_israel_palestinians

See all reports at the Jerusalem Post:
http://www.jpost.com/

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More from CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/
meast/01/07/israel.gaza/index.html

Israel’s Gaza Attack Continues to Further Split Arab Rulers, People

January 4, 2009

“War on Gaza” was the description the satellite channel al-Jazeera gave for the Israeli ground invasion that began Saturday, a culmination of eight days of bombing that have killed hundreds of Palestinians in the crowded seaside strip. But across the Arab world, the struggle was as noteworthy for what was becoming a war at home.

From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, longtime leaders of the Arab world, the attacks illustrated a yawning divide between the policies of rulers and the sentiments of those they rule. Although the Palestinian cause is cherished on the street, the region’s leaders are viewed as paying only lip service to it.

The gulf between the two is not uncommon in a region that remains, with few exceptions, authoritarian.

But exacerbating the tension is an issue that, although half a century old, remains at the heart of Arab politics: Palestine and its symbolism here.

The intersection of the issue’s resonance with official Egyptian and Saudi criticism of Hamas has created a conflict in policy and sentiment as pronounced as perhaps at any time in modern Arab history.

From the Washington Post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content
/article/2009/01/03/AR2009010302017.html
?hpid=topnews

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

January 4, 2009

Israel continued a two pronged attack into Gaza Sunday; a military effort it said would end Hamas rocket attacks into Israel.

CNN and the Associated Press are now reporting that Israeli troops gained control of the eastern section of northern Gaza Sunday, less than 24 hours after launching a ground incursion into the Palestinian territory, according to Palestinian security sources.

Related:
Monday in Gaza Day 10: “Allah will punish Israel”
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Israeli Forces Bisect Gaza, Surround Biggest City

CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meas
t/01/04/israel.gaza/index.html

Thousands of ground troops supported by tanks and helicopter gunships were added to the mix Saturday while air attacks on Hamas positions continued.

Israel seemed to put some blame on its number one ally the United States for failing to achieve a cease fire.

But perhaps Israel really blames its long-time Arab neighbors.
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The Jerusalem Post reported that “Intensive diplomatic efforts led by US President George W. Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the leaders” of Arab nations including  of Egypt, Jordan and Syria failed to create a satisfactory end state for Israel.

Israeli soldiers advance near the border with northern Gaza ... 
Israeli soldiers advance near the border with northern Gaza during a ground operation by the Israeli army late January 3, 2009. Israeli troops clashed with Hamas fighters as they advanced into Gaza on Saturday in the first ground action of an eight-day offensive on the Palestinian enclave, a witness and the Israeli army said.(Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Army ambulances were seen bringing Israeli wounded to a hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. The military said a total of 30 soldiers were injured in the opening hours of the offensive along with “dozens” of militants.

The Jerusalem Post said: “Prior to the ground incursion, senior diplomatic officials were reacting positively to the idea of reincorporating the Gaza Strip into the Palestinian Authority, with Fatah, along with some kind of international mechanism, in charge of the border crossings.”

The Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, issued a statement Saturday night saying the objective of the ground operation was to take control of the areas inside the Gaza Strip from where rockets are being launched on Israel.

But Mark Regez, the Israeli government spokesman told CNN, “We haven’t articulated regime change as the goal of this operation. Our goal is to protect our people.”

“In many ways, they are victims like us. Both the civilian population of southern Israel and the civilian population of the Gaza Strip have been victims of this terrible, extremist Hamas regime,” Regev said.

Despite that Israel’s Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Friday night in an interview on Israeli television that 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.”

By John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

Regime Change?  From The New York Times:
 Israel in Gaza: Is the Real Target Hamas Rule?

Jerusalem Post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellit
e?cid=1230733155661&pagename=JP
ost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Related:
Gaza, Israel Could Highlight Stark Obama, Bush Differences

AP:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009010
4/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

Below from Haaretz:

The army believes the incursion into Gaza will do significant damage to Hamas’ standing army and at the same time give Hamas leaders a palpable sense that their rule is in danger. The ground invasion will also accelerate the diplomatic stopwatch. A delegation from the European Union “troika” (Germany, France, Great Britain) will reach Gaza on Sunday, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected on Monday. Translated into military terminology that means the IDF has less than a week to make genuine progress in Gaza.

In the past two days the army chief of staff and the head of Southern Command visited troops massing along the Gaza border and approved the final plans. The message from the IDF commanders is: “We will meet our goals. There will be casualties as a result of the thrust into Gaza but they will not stop any part of the operation.” This attitude is different from that evinced during the Second Lebanon War, when the army withdrew on more than one occasion in response to casualties. One battalion commander told his company commander on Saturday that it’s possible that not everyone will return to meet again in a few days’ time.

This knowledge has not affected the army’s motivation and readiness, however. Hamas is not Hezbollah and the IDF circa January 2009 is not the IDF of 2006. It is sharper, more determined and better trained. The intelligence is infinitely better this time. The offensive was prepared over a long period of time. It is very aggressive, with massive air and artillery fire preceding the ground and artillery forces.

Read the rest:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spag
es/1052336.html

The BBC:
Clashes were reported in Gaza City, the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Jabaliya refugee camp. Both sides have reported casualties in the fighting.

The UN secretary general has called for an immediate halt to operations.

But an emergency Security Council meeting failed to agree a united approach to the Gaza conflict.

Read the rest from The BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7810270.stm

Rice: Obama election encourages people worldwide

December 29, 2008

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the country is not “race-blind” and “we shouldn’t deceive ourselves that we’re race-blind,” but said the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president was a key moment in history.

“I think all Americans were quite taken with the fact that we were able, after the long history we’ve been through, that initial birth defect of slavery, that we’ve elected an African-American,” Rice said in an interview taped recently on CBS “Sunday Morning.” And that’s enormously heartening for people in the country, but also people worldwide who still have trouble with differences.”

By Jesse Holland
Associated Press

Rice, who left segregated Alabama to eventually become the first African-American female to be secretary of state, warned that the United States still has problems with race.

“But I do think we’ve gotten to the place that we don’t see a person and say, ‘That’s a black person, therefore they must be …’ And that’s an enormous step forward.”

Rice, who was Bush’s national security adviser when the U.S. invaded Iraq and then became secretary of state in Bush’s second term, said the opportunities that are available in the United States still draw people from around the world to this country.

“People, even in difficult economic times, still admire, maybe even envy a little bit, the entrepreneurship of this country and its capacity to be productive,” Rice said. “But what really draws people to this country is that anybody can come here and go from modest circumstances to extraordinary achievement.”

Read the rest:
http://apnews.myway.com/article/200
81228/D95BVH080.html

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/
12/29/gordon.reed.race/index.html

Clinton Moves To Widen Role of State Department

December 23, 2008

Even before taking office, Hillary Rodham Clinton is seeking to build a more powerful State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with global economic issues at a time of crisis.

By By MARK LANDLER and HELENE COOPER
The New York Times
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Mrs. Clinton is recruiting Jacob J. Lew, the budget director under President Bill Clinton, as one of two deputies, according to people close to the Obama transition team. Mr. Lew’s focus, they said, will be on increasing the share of financing that goes to the diplomatic corps. He and James B. Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration, are to be Mrs. Clinton’s chief lieutenants.

Nominations of deputy secretaries, like Mrs. Clinton’s, would be subject to confirmation by the Senate.

The incoming administration is also likely to name several envoys, officials said, reviving a practice of the Clinton administration, when Richard C. Holbrooke, Dennis Ross and other diplomats played a central role in mediating disputes in the Balkans and the Middle East.

As Mrs. Clinton puts together her senior team, officials said, she is also trying to carve out a bigger role for the State Department in economic affairs, where the Treasury has dominated during the Bush years. She has sought advice from Laura D’Andrea Tyson, an economist who headed Mr. Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

The steps seem intended to strengthen the role of diplomacy after a long stretch, particularly under Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in which the Pentagon, the vice president’s office and even the intelligence agencies held considerable sway over American foreign policy.

Given Mrs. Clinton’s prominence, expanding the department’s portfolio could bring on conflict with other powerful cabinet members.

Mrs. Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama have not settled on specific envoys or missions, although Mr. Ross’s name has been mentioned as a possible Middle East envoy, as have those of Mr. Holbrooke and Martin Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel.

The Bush administration has made relatively little use of special envoys. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally handled most peacemaking initiatives, which has meant a punishing schedule of Middle East missions, often with meager results.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/us/politi
cs/23diplo.html?_r=1&hp