Archive for the ‘offensive’ Category

Hama: Gaza is Israeli “Cemetery”; France Condemns Ground Offensive, Europe Mixed

January 3, 2009

Hamas vowed on Saturday to turn the Gaza Strip into a “cemetery” for the Israeli army, which launched a ground offensive in the enclave following a week of air and naval bombardment.



France condemned Saturday Israel’s decision to send ground forces into the Gaza Strip, branding it a dangerous military escalation that would undermine attempts to broker a ceasefire. — AFP


By James Mackenzie

PARIS, Jan 3 (Reuters) – France condemned an Israeli land assault in the Gaza Strip on Saturday just hours after the Czech presidency of the European Union said the action was “defensive, not offensive”.

The conflicting statements suggested disunity among European partners ahead of separate visits to the region by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and an EU delegation led by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

France, which handed the EU presidency to the Czechs on Jan. 1, has led calls for a ceasefire and hosted a meeting of EU foreign minsters to reinforce the message on Tuesday.

Israeli troops clashed with Hamas forces on Saturday as columns of tanks backed by helicopters advanced into Gaza under darkness, a Palestinian witness said.

In Prague, Czech EU presidency spokesman Jiri Potuznik said Israel, which launched air bombardments against Gaza a week ago in retaliation against rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled area, appeared to be acting defensively.

“At the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action,” he said.

Saeb Erekat, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called for the world to condemn the Czech position.

“This is a vicious aggression against our people. The international community cannot stand silent … This position (by the European Union’s Czech presidency) deserves condemnation,” told Al Arabiya television.

The French Foreign Ministry said: “France condemns the Israeli ground offensive against Gaza as it condemns the continuation of rocket firing.”

It said the “dangerous military escalation” complicated efforts to end the fighting and bring aid to the area.

Further underlining the impression of European division, a British government source said of the Czech statement: “It is not the position of the British government.”

In London, British Foreign Minister David Miliband urged both Israel and Hamas to agree to stop hostilities.

“Unfolding events show the urgent need for the immediate ceasefire that we have called for. The escalation of the conflict will cause alarm and dismay,” he said in a statement.

Israeli troops and tanks had been massed on the border for days in readiness for an invasion as Israeli firepower pounded Gaza from land, sea and air and diplomatic efforts to arrange a ceasefire stalled.

Analysis: Israeli politics lies behind Gaza attacks

December 28, 2008

The people of Sderot, a small town in southern Israel a few miles from the Gaza Strip, have 15 seconds to take cover whenever the wail of sirens gives warning of another rocket attack.

By David Blair, Diplomatic Editor
The Telegraph (UK)

Palestinians try to dig out the remains of a security force ... 
Palestinians try to dig out the remains of a security force officer from Hamas as he lays in the rubble following an Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza City,Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel’s campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday, Palestinian medical sources said.(AP Photo/Fadi Adwan)

For almost five years, this has been their daily ordeal and Sderot’s bus stops have been specially reinforced to serve as armoured shelters from the regular salvoes fired out of Gaza.

With a general election due on Feb 10, no Israeli government could afford to appear indifferent to this threat, especially as Palestinian fighters are deploying rockets with longer ranges and heavier warheads, with some weapons capable of hitting the port of Ashdod 20 miles from Gaza. In all, some 500,000 Israelis live within range of Gaza’s rockets.

The political imperative to act undoubtedly lay behind Israel’s decision to launch the attack. It will have weighed most heavily on the minds of Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the centrist Kadima party, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister and leader of the Labour party.

Both will be fighting the election against Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister from the right-wing Likud party. As they enter this contest, neither can afford to appear anything but hawkish.

Yet the scale of the response exposes Israel to international criticism. Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed in the last two days alone. By contrast, rockets fired from Gaza have killed 17 Israeli civilians in the last seven years.

An Israeli soldier stands on the hood of a military vehicle ...
An Israeli soldier stands on the hood of a military vehicle near the border with the Gaza Strip December 28, 2008. Israel pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip from the air on Sunday for a second day and prepared for a possible invasion after killing nearly 290 Palestinians in the opening rounds of a fierce offensive. Despite the assault, militants fired some 80 rockets into Israel, emergency services said.REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (ISRAEL)

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