Archive for the ‘ground’ Category

Hamas Continues to Rocket Isreal, Both Sides Resisting Growing Calls for Cease Fire

January 5, 2009

Hamas continues to send rockets into Israel despite a more than one week assault from the Israeli Air Force and Army.

And it is not yet certain that Hamas will relent.  What is certain right now is that Israel will not stop its offensive until Hamas stops shooting rockets into Israel.

The Associated Press reported at about 1930 Monday that “the U.S. joined a stream of countries pushing for a cease-fire.”

 Monday in Gaza Day 10: Israel’s Assault Continues
 Gaza Day 11: Israel Says No Cease Fire, Deaths Become Unbearable, Diplomats Flock

The International community continues to urge a cease fire but in the UN the US has blocked resolutions demanding that israel stops its attack.

Now France, Britain, Egypt, Turkey and other nations are apparently urging Hamas to relent and stop the rocket attacks.

And Israel will not stop its offensive until Hamas stops the rocket attacks.

“Before the military operation, Hamas targets Israelis whenever it likes and Israel shows restraint,”  Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni  told foreign ministers from the EU. “This is no longer going to be the equation. When Israel is targeted, Israel is going to retaliate.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who unsuccessfully proposed a two-day truce before the land invasion began, was due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Asked about civilian deaths in Gaza, Israeli Maj. Avital Leibovich said, “If Hamas chose cynically to use those civilians as human shields, then Hamas should be accountable.  Civilians will probably continue to get killed, unfortunately, because Hamas put them in the first lines of fire.”


 France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy Seeks Peace in Gaza
Gaza Cease Fire? Israel Clarifies Tough Stand


From The Associated Press:
In Washington, the State Department said the U.S. was pressing for a cease-fire that would include a halt to rocket attacks and an arrangement for reopening crossing points on the border with Israel, said spokesman Sean McCormack. A third element would address the tunnels into Gaza from Egypt through which Hamas has smuggled materials and arms.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken by phone with 17 foreign leaders — in Europe as well as the Middle East — in pursuit of such a cease-fire agreement, McCormack said, adding that much detailed work remains to be done.

“We’re doing a lot of work on these three elements. The secretary is trying to get the international system and various actors in the international system to coalesce around those three elements,” McCormack said.

President George W. Bush, however, emphasized “Israel’s desire to protect itself.”

“The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas,” he said in the Oval Office.

In Damascus, Syria, a senior Hamas official rejected the U.S. proposal.

The deputy head of Hamas’ politburo in Syria, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told The Associated Press the U.S. plan seeks to impose “a de facto situation” and encourages Israel to continue its attacks on Gaza.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who unsuccessfully proposed a two-day truce before the land invasion began, was due to meet Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas in June 2007.

While blaming Hamas for causing Palestinian suffering with rocket fire that led to the Israeli offensive, Sarkozy has condemned Israel’s use of ground troops, reflecting general world opinion. Sarkozy and other diplomats making their way to the region are expected to press hard for a cease-fire.

A European Union delegation met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday.

“The EU insists on a cease-fire at the earliest possible moment,” said Karel Schwarzenberg, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which took over the EU’s presidency last week. Rocket attacks on Israel also must stop, Schwarzenberg told a joint news conference with Livni.

The EU brought no truce proposals of its own to the region because the cease-fire “must be concluded by the involved parties,” he added.

Read the rest:

Gaza: Israel’s Objectives Modest But Palestinian Bloodshed Intense

January 5, 2009

In the clearest break from a strategy it used to pursue Hezbollah militants in Lebanon in 2006, Israeli leaders have set out clearly defined — and relatively modest — expectations for the current Gaza offensive. Two years ago in Lebanon, Israeli officials vowed to wipe out Hezbollah and bring back two kidnapped Israeli soldiers. They didn’t accomplish either goal.

This time, government officials have said their aim is simply to reduce rocket fire and weaken Hamas. At the same time, they have spent days preparing the public for a tough fight.

Read the rest from The Wall Street Journal:


Gaza and Obama’s “Deafening Silence:” Arabs and Muslims Wonder

January 5, 2009

With Israel pounding Gaza and killing Palestinians and the U.S. President-elect totally silent, it is difficult to find anyone in the Arab world that is gaining faith in Barack Obama and his ability to change the course of U.S. Middle East policy.

“Change” sounded good to everyone but in a few weeks it may be too late to change the facts on the ground in Gaza: a lot of people will be dead and there may be new management.

Many nations cancelled New Year’s celebrations to show support for the Gazans.  But in Washington D.C. it is inauguration tuxedo rental time, it seems….


By Simon Tisdall
The Guardian (UK)

Barack Obama’s chances of making a fresh start in US relations with the Muslim world, and the Middle East in particular, appear to diminish with each new wave of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza. That seems hardly fair, given the president-elect does not take office until January 20. But foreign wars don’t wait for Washington inaugurations.

Above: The President-elect arrives in Washington

Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.

But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama’s detachment – and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush’s strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush’s bias or simply does not care.

The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticising “the deafening silence from the Obama team”….

For Barack Obama, Middle East Pressure Cooker Intensifies With Each Unchecked Israeli Move
Obama Inaugural Turning Into 4 Day Fest Needing Massive Security

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Monday in Gaza Day 10: Israel’s Assault Continues

January 5, 2009

Israel continued its air assault and ground attack in Gaza yesterday as both Hamas and the Israelis suffered additional casualties.  Doctors worry about the humanitarian condition and deaths of so many Palestinians caught in the crossfire.

The U.N. Security Council seemed to be gridlocked and no cease-fire was in sight, But France, Turkey, Egypt the EU and others vowed to restart the peace process today.

 France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy Seeks Peace in Gaza
Gaza Cease Fire? Israel Clarifies Tough Stand

Israel called up the reserves a few days ago.  Last night, an Islamic leader called upon Allah.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ally of Israel, used exceptionally harsh words overnight on Sunday to describe Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying Israel would be punished by Allah…..

But Israel shows no signs of letting up on Hama in Gaza.

But neither does Hamas, which continued rocket attacks into Israel.

Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip early Monday.

Above: Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip early Monday.

“After all this overnight pounding that we’ve heard … continuing gun battles … the warning sirens sounded in the town nearby here,” CNN’s Nic Robertson reported Monday. “That was an indication that a rocket was being fired out by Hamas into Israel and the rocket landed on the hillside a little bit away from where we are …”

Israeli troops and tanks continued their offensive and Gaza was divided but not conquered.

Israel’s ground forces moved in after nightfall Saturday following hours of intense, fiery artillery shelling to clear the way, and Hamas warned that its fighters would turn Gaza into an Israeli “graveyard.”

John E. Carey

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: Can He Regain Gaza?
Gaza: Pressure Grows on Hamas To Agree to A Cease Fire


The New York Times reported:
Even as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France readied a new quest for a cease-fire, Israeli forces took control of rocket-launching areas and surrounded Gaza City after slicing through the center of the beleaguered territory on Sunday. Israel Radio reported street fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters in the streets of Gaza City early on Monday.

Despite the onslaught, Hamas militants continued to lob rockets into southern Israel, witnesses said, as Gaza residents, fearful of growing casualties, faced severe power shortages and other deprivations. The reported death toll of Palestinians passed 500 since the assault began, including 100 said to be civilians.

Read the rest:

Rockets continue despite Israeli strikes

The Los Angeles Times reports on the Gazan people:

Five civilians die when shells hit a market, while most residents stay indoors to avoid Israeli shelling. ‘Anyone who survives this wave, it will be like they were born again,’ said one man.


From The Jerusalem Post:

Speaking in Antalya following his Middle East tour, Erdogan said Israel was perpetrating “inhumane actions” which would “bring it to destroy itself.”

“Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents,” Erdogan said. His recent tour of the Middle East conspicuously skipped Israel despite the bilateral ties both countries enjoy.

Erdogan has over the past week visited Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia as Turkey engaged in shuttle diplomacy with Arab countries in the search for a cease-fire in the Middle East.

From the JerusalemPost:


Turkey Could Push The Hamas case at UN

Turkey could bring the Palestinian faction Hamas’ conditions for ceasefire to the attention of the United Nations, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said late on Sunday, broadcaster CNN Turk report.

“As a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council, we could bring the conditions of Hamas for a ceasefire to the attention of the United Nations. Hamas officials have full confidence in Turkey,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

He also criticized Israel for laying the groundwork for provocation without removing the embargo on Palestinians.

Earlier on Sunday, Erdogan slammed Israel’s Gaza operation, saying the disproportional use of force causes “humanitarian tragedy.”

“Israel creates a humanitarian tragedy with using disproportional force. This would cause problems for Israel as well,” Erdogan said in the southern province of Antalya, without specifying what the problems would be.

He said he would discuss the latest situation in Gaza in his meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Monday.

Erdogan had visited Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt after Israel launched air operation against Gaza in Dec. 27. He returned Turkey on Sunday as he ended the Middle East tour aimed at helping to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

Tens of thousands of protestors demonstrated in central Istanbul on Sunday, burning Israeli flags and chanting slogans, after Israeli tanks and ground troops moved in Gaza Saturday.



From The Associated Press:

Nightfall In Gaza: Israel in Partial Control, Day 9 Closing

January 4, 2009

Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip early Sunday, cutting the coastal territory into two and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against Hamas militants gained momentum.

The military used overwhelming firepower from tanks, artillery and aircraft to protect the advancing soldiers, and Gaza officials said at least 31 civilians were killed in the onslaught. The military said troops killed several dozen militants, but Gaza officials could confirm only four dead — in part because rescue teams could not reach the battle zones.

By IBRAHIM BARZAK and MATTI FRIEDMAN, Associated Press Writers

An Israeli military jeep drives in front of the sun setting ... 
An Israeli military jeep drives in front of the sun setting on the Israel-Gaza border January 4, 2009. Israeli troops and tanks split the Gaza Strip and ringed its main city on Sunday in an offensive against Hamas militants but civilians trapped in the Palestinian enclave suffered more bloodshed.REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (ISRAEL)

The ground invasion and live images of the fighting in Gaza drew international condemnations and dominated news coverage on Arab satellite TV stations, many of which aired footage of wounded Palestinians at hospitals. Hamas threatened to turn Gaza into an Israeli “graveyard.”

Israel reported one soldier was killed by mortar fire on Sunday — the first Israeli death in a ground offensive that so far has been widely popular with the Israeli public.

Read the rest:

Israel Carves Up Gaza: Day 9

January 4, 2009

Israeli troops advanced into Gaza on Sunday under cover of heavy air, tank and artillery fire after opening a ground war against the militant group Hamas on Saturday night.

The New York Times

Witnesses said the Israeli forces had punched across Gaza, bisecting its northern and southern parts, and had taken over certain strategic areas, including what the military has described as rocket launching sites.

The ground campaign came after a week of intense airstrikes. Israel’s stated goal was to destroy the infrastructure of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza’s government, and to significantly decrease the threat to southern Israel from Palestinian rocket fire.

In a telephone briefing for a group of foreign correspondents, a senior Israeli military official said that Israeli troops would hold the areas they have taken inside Gaza at least for the duration of the operation to prevent militants from returning to fire rockets from there.

Read the rest:

Israeli Forces Bisect Gaza, Surround Biggest City, Sunday Noon GMT

January 4, 2009

Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip early Sunday, bisecting the coastal territory and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against Hamas gained momentum.

Thousands of soldiers in three brigade-size formations pushed into Gaza after nightfall Saturday, beginning a long-awaited ground offensive after a week of intense aerial bombardment. Black smoke billowed over Gaza City at first light and bursts of machine gun fire rang out.

From the Associated Press
In his first public comments since the ground operation was launched, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet on Sunday that Israel could not allow its civilians to continue to be targeted by rockets from Gaza.

“This morning I can look every one you in the eyes and say the government did everything before deciding to go ahead with the operation,” he said.

A senior military officer said Hamas was well-prepared for the Israeli incursion into Gaza, a densely populated territory of 1.4 million where militants operate and easily hide in the crowded urban landscape. He said the operation was “not a rapid one that would end in hours or a few days.”

Still, he said, “We have no intention of staying in the Gaza Strip for the long term.” He spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with army regulations.

TV footage showed Israeli troops with night-vision goggles and camouflage face paint marching in single file. Artillery barrages preceded their advance, and they moved through fields and orchards following bomb-sniffing dogs ensuring their routes had not been booby-trapped.

The military said troops killed or wounded dozens of militant fighters, but Palestinian medical teams in Gaza, unable to move because of the fighting, could not provide casualty figures. Hamas said only three of its fighters had been killed, and Gaza health officials said eight civilians also died, including a 12-year-old girl in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya and four family members killed in an airstrike in southern Gaza.

Read the rest:


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:

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.

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


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.
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:

Gaza, Israel Could Highlight Stark Obama, Bush Differences


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:

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:

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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