El mundo ha visto con estupor e indignación los últimos ataques perpetrados por la fuerzas de ocupación israelíes contra la población civil palestina, en los cuales han sido asesinados el día Viernes 09 de Junio 7 palestinos 4 de ellos pertenecientes a una sola familia, sobreviviendo una niña de 12 años que quedó huérfana siendo adoptada por Su Excelencia Presidente Mahmud
Este brutal ataque se produjo mientras las víctimas se encontraban en las playas del norte de la Franja de Gaza. Israel adujo que dicha acción se produjo por un error sin dar mayores explicaciones.
Este tipo de acciones se enmarcan dentro de la sistemática política de asesinatos de civiles palestinos, quedando esto demostrado con claridad cuando nuevamente el día Martes 13 de Junio el ejercito israelí ataca un bus en la ciudad de Gaza asesinando a 9 civiles 2 de ellos niños y a 3 miembros
del equipo de socorro mientras atendían a las decenas de heridos.
Con ello Israel ha vuelto a desafiar a la comunidad internacional al
asesinar impunemente a civiles inocentes siendo calificadas por el
Presidente de la Autoridad Nacional Palestina Señor Mahmud Abbas como terrorismo de estado que deben ser condenadas sin reservas y enérgicamente .
Hacemos un llamado a los organismos internacionales, a los medios de comunicación, a los pueblos y gobiernos amigos a parar estos brutales ataques y a denunciar y condenar el genocidio sistemático a que es sometido el pueblo palestino ante la pasividad y complicidad de los poderosos aliados de Israel.
Instamos a las Organización de las Naciones y a su Consejo de Seguridad a condenar con claridad estos barbáricos ataques de salvajismo sin límites perpetrados por las fuerzas de ocupación israelíes.
Reafirmamos que a pesar todos estos crímenes el pueblo palestino ha manifestado su firme voluntad de seguir luchando hasta alcanzar el establecimiento de su Estado independiente, soberano y viable y su Capital Jerusalén, en una política de convivencia y buena vecindad basada en una paz justa, verdadera y duradera para la región.
Embajadora de Palestina en Chile
Noticias de la BBC
Israeli ground forces are massed at the northern border with Gaza, intensifying an assault on the territory sparked by the capture of a soldier by militants.
Palestinian witnesses said Israeli tanks had crossed the border into Gaza near the town of Beit Hanoun, but Israel has not confirmed this.
On Wednesday, Israeli troops entered southern Gaza and made air strikes. On the West Bank, Israel has detained at least 10 ministers and lawmakers from the Hamas-led government.
Among those held after the raids in Jenin and Ramallah were four cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser al-Shaher.
In the West Bank town of Qalqilya, the Hamas mayor and his deputy were taken into custody. The BBC's Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston, says Israel is dramatically stepping up pressure on the Hamas government in order to secure its soldier's release.
Cpl Gilad Shalit was seized by Palestinian militants in an attack on an Israeli border post on Sunday, that also left two Israeli soldiers dead.
Israel has threatened a huge military response if Cpl Shalit is not released and has been massing its tanks along the border with Gaza.
Separately, Palestinian militants in the West Bank are reported to have killed an Israeli settler they said they had abducted at the weekend.
Palestinian security sources were quoted as saying the body of the 18-year-old man, Eliahu Asheri, had been recovered in the city of Ramallah.
Reports of the Israeli incursion into northern Gaza come a day after Israeli forces pushed through the south of the territory, taking up positions near the town of Rafah.
'We are living, but we feel as if we are dead '
Air strikes continued throughout Wednesday, with missiles striking a road near the Khan Younis refugee camp and the premises of the Islamic University in Gaza City.
No casualties have been reported so far.
On Tuesday night, Israeli jets struck bridges and a power station in Gaza.
The overnight raid cut electricity to much of Gaza and nervous civilians in north of the territory stockpiled batteries and candles, as well as food and water.
Israeli military said some of the strikes were intended to impair militants' ability to move the soldier they are holding hostage.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would not hesitate to 'carry out extreme action' to free the captured soldier but said Israel did not want to re-take control of Gaza.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, of the governing Hamas party, criticised Washington for giving approval to the Israeli incursion.
Mr Haniya said Washington had 'given the green light to aggression' and called on the United Nations to step in to prevent an escalation in violence.
A spokesman for US President George W Bush has said Israel has a right to defend itself and the lives of its citizens.
The spokesman said Hamas must shoulder the blame for the Israeli assault because militants linked to it had kidnapped Cpl Shalit.
Mr Haniya has urged the UN Security and the Arab League to move to end the crisis in Gaza.
'The Israeli occupation must put an end to its aggression before the situation gets complicated and the crisis gets worse,' Mr Haniya said.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he hoped for a swift diplomatic solution to the crisis in Gaza. He warned that the crisis risked inflaming tensions extending across the region.
Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli jets flew low over a house in Syria used by President Basher al-Assad.
Israel accuses Damascus sheltering Hamas leaders involved in Cpl Shalit's abduction.
Fuente: BBC, 28 de Julio 2006
Israeli forces have rounded up dozens of Palestinian Cabinet ministers and lawmakers from Hamas, increasing pressure on militants to release a captured Israeli soldier.
Witnesses said on Thursday that tanks moved into northern Gaza, widening Israel's largest military operation in the year since it pulled out of the seaside territory.
Adding to the tension, a Palestinian militant group claimed on Thursday that it had killed an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials said they believed the body of Eliahu Asheri had been found in the West Bank city of Ram Allah.
Hamas officials said more than 30 lawmakers have been arrested in the West Bank.
Palestinian security officials said Israeli forces detained Nasser Shaer, the Palestinian deputy prime minister, and three other Cabinet ministers, as well as four lawmakers in Ram Allah. Several others were arrested in the town of Jenin, they said.
Israeli media reported a roundup of Hamas lawmakers in Jerusalem and other locations. Also, the Hamas mayor of the West Bank town of Qalqiliya and his deputy were detained, security officials said.
The Israeli military refused to comment. Israel blames Hamas for the Sunday attack in which two soldiers were killed and a third captured when militants tunnelled under the border and attacked an army post, setting off the invasion.
According to the witnesses, before daybreak on Thursday, Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved into northern Gaza, stopping about 200m inside Palestinian territory across from the Jabaliya refugee camp. No clashes were reported. But the military denied its forces had moved into northern Gaza.
Despite the size of the Israeli operation, with large troop movements, artillery barrages and many air strikes over two days, no one was hurt.
Israel held the Palestinian government, headed by Hamas, responsible for the fate of the soldier. It also blamed the Hamas leadership in exile in Syria.
Israel says Khalid Mishaal is a target for assassination
An Israeli Cabinet minister said Khalid Mishaal, the Syria-based Hamas leader, was a target for assassination. In a bold warning to the country that shelters him, Israeli warplanes buzzed the seaside home of Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, in the port of Latakia.
Syria confirmed that Israeli warplanes entered its airspace, but said its air defences forced the Israeli aircraft to flee.
Israel's concern goes beyond the rescue of the soldier and the negative precedent abducting soldiers would set. Ehud Olmert's government is alarmed by the firing of homemade rockets at Israeli communities around Gaza and support for Hamas in the Arab world, especially from Syria.
Earlier, witnesses reported heavy shelling around Gaza's long-closed airport, and Israeli missiles hit two empty Hamas training camps, a rocket-building factory and several roads.
Palestinians filled up on basic supplies after warplanes knocked out electricity, raising the possibility of a humanitarian crisis. The Hamas-led government's information ministry warned of 'epidemics and health disasters' because of damaged water pipes to central Gaza and the lack of power to pump water.
In Rafah, Nivine Abu Shbeke, a 23-year-old mother of three, hoarded bags of flour, boxes of vegetables and other supplies.
The Israeli move has raised the spectre of a humanitarian crisis
'We're worried about how long the food will last,' she said. 'The children devour everything.'
Dozens of Palestinian militants - armed with automatic weapons and grenades - took up positions, bracing for attack.
Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, threatened harsher action to free the soldier, though he said there was no plan to re-occupy Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, deplored the incursion as a 'crime against humanity'.
Abbas and Egyptian dignitaries tried to persuade Assad to use his influence with Mishaal to free the soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit. Assad agreed, but without results, said a senior Abbas aide. Israel refused to negotiate with the militants and rejected their demand - freeing Palestinian prisoners - outright.
The US pressure
The Popular Resistance Committees [PRC] in Gaza said they had killed Asheri, kidnapped in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials said the body had been found, and Israeli security sources said the youth had apparently been killed. The PRCs had said it would execute the hostage if Israel did not halt its invasion of Gaza.
The US kept up pressure on Israel and Hamas to show restraint
Also, militants said they kidnapped another Israeli, and police said they had a missing person report about a 62-year-old Israeli from the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion.
Meanwhile, the European Union on Wednesday urged both Israel and the Palestinians to 'step back from the brink' and, echoing a statement from Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to give diplomacy a chance.
The White House kept up its pressure on Hamas, saying the Palestinian government must 'stop all acts of violence and terror'. But the US also urged Israel to show restraint.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, urged restraint in a phone call to Olmert, saying he had spoken to Assad and Abbas and asked them to do everything possible to release the soldier. Amr Mussa, the Arab League secretary-general, called on the US to assume its role as 'honest broker' and to make the Palestinian-Israeli conflict its top priority in the Middle East.
Source: ALJAZEERA.NET 29/06/06
FORTIN MAPOCHO like to present an article written by Peter Hirschber form IPS News [Abduction Upsets a Plan, July 3, 2006] and Israeli premier rejects ultimatum from News from Aljazeera News, June, 30th 2006. Finally we are reproducing in arabic latest news from Aljazeera.net.
JERUSALEM, Jun 30 [IPS] - Heckled by hardline parliamentarians, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to strike a defiant pose. Despite the spiralling violence in the Gaza Strip, from where Israel withdrew unilaterally last year, he insisted he would press ahead with his plan for a unilateral pullback in the West Bank.
He had no regrets, he said, over his strong support for Israel's exit from Gaza, which it had occupied for 38 years… 'I have not backed down or changed my mind about the enormous historical importance of the [Gaza] disengagement plan,' he told parliament Tuesday, just hours before Israel launched a ground offensive in the coastal strip. 'I am convinced that in the coming years the State of Israel will realign into new borders which will obligate us to redeploy significantly.'
But the kidnapping this week of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants and the ground invasion of Gaza it has triggered have undercut the plan the Prime Minister placed at the centre of his election campaign and which he has now made his main policy goal.
For months, Olmert deflected calls within the defence establishment for a more vigorous response to the hundreds of rockets that Palestinian militants have been firing from Gaza into Israel. With the makeshift rockets causing more psychological than physical damage, he could afford to ignore growing public pressure for him to respond.
But that all changed in the pre-dawn hours of Jun. 24, when Palestinian militants belonging to Hamas and two other small armed groups crawled through a 300-metre tunnel they had dug under the Gaza border, exited on the Israeli side and opened fire on soldiers at an army post. After attacking a tank with rockets and killing two soldiers, militants blew a hole in the border fence and disappeared back into Gaza with 19-year-old Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit.
For the first 72 hours, Olmert worked the diplomatic channels, hoping that international pressure on the Palestinians would secure Shalit's release. When it did not, he ordered the first major Israeli ground operation in Gaza since the pullout 10 months ago.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Israeli warplanes targeted the main power station in Gaza, knocking out electricity in the southern part of the strip. The pilots then turned their attention on several bridges in southern Gaza, rendering them impassable in an attempt to prevent the soldier's captors from moving him around the strip.
A short while later, thousands of Israeli troops and armoured vehicles poured into Gaza, taking over the airport and setting up positions about two kilometres inside the strip, around the town of Rafah. At the northern tip of Gaza, thousands more Israeli troops sat waiting for the order to move. Their mission: to stop the firing of rockets by militants into Israel.
In the West Bank, troops swooped overnight Wednesday on dozens of Hamas officials, arresting a total of eight ministers and 20 lawmakers, for what Israel said was their involvement in a 'terrorist organisation.'
But matters got worse for Olmert that night when the body of a teenage settler was found buried near Ramallah with a gunshot wound to the head. Eliyahu Asheri, 18, from the West Bank settlement of Itamar near Nablus, had been missing since Sunday. The Popular Resistance Committees, a small armed group that also participated in the raid on the Israel-Gaza border, said it had kidnapped him. After the body was found, Israeli officials said Asheri had been killed shortly after being snatched.
The re-invasion of a part of Gaza has not brought international opprobrium, possibly because with Israel no longer in the strip, the attack on the army post was seen as a violation of Israel's sovereignty rather than a legitimate act of resistance to occupation. For now, that will provide Olmert with some diplomatic leeway.. But the longer Israel remains in Gaza, the louder international criticism will become.
At home, some defence commentators are already beginning to ask why Israel went into Gaza at all. Was it out of a sense of impotence and frustration? Or out of a need to restore wounded pride, having been humiliated by Palestinian militants? And does the Israeli leader have an effective exit strategy?
The stated goal of the military operation is to pressure the Palestinian population with the hope this will turn up the heat on the militant groups holding the soldier, and force them to release him. Based on past experience, especially in Lebanon where Israel launched two large offensives in the 1990s aimed at pressuring the local population into stopping Hezbollah from carrying out attacks, this strategy is unlikely to result in the release of the kidnapped soldier.
Olmert has repeatedly refused to negotiate with Shalit's captors, who have demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for his release.
While Israel has negotiated the release of soldiers and citizens who were held captive in Lebanon, it has tended not to negotiate with Hamas militants who have kidnapped Israeli soldiers. In the most well-known kidnapping case, Nachshon Waxman, a young soldier, was killed in October 1994 by his captors as Israeli commandos stormed the West Bank house where he was being held.
But Olmert's biggest headache could come once the military operation winds down and he returns to his plan for a unilateral withdrawal. According to the plan, Israel will dismantle isolated settlements in the West Bank and withdraw from some 90 percent of the territory, while holding onto large settlement blocs. The massive separation barrier under construction in the West Bank will serve as the temporary border between Israel and the Palestinians.
What drives the plan is the belief prevalent among many Israelis that there is no viable negotiating partner on the Palestinian side, and a demographic logic positing that if Israel does not relinquish the occupied territories, Jews will ultimately become a minority and Arabs a majority because of their higher growth rate. If Israel reaches the demographic tipping point, Olmert has said, it will ultimately mean the end of the state as Jewish and democratic.
But the roar of the rockets and Hamas threats of more kidnappings are a far more immediate threat for Israelis than the distant spectre of demographic oblivion.
Hardline lawmakers who opposed the pullout from Gaza, but have struggled to counter the demographic argument, have been pointing to the almost daily volleys of rockets being launched into Israel as evidence of the folly of unilateral withdrawal. The ground offensive launched by Olmert will further bolster their claims among the public that Israel cannot counter Palestinian attacks if it is not located inside the territories from where they are being launched.
The Israeli leader also appears to be losing the public. A poll published on Jun. 9 showed 56 percent of Israelis opposed his West Bank pullout plan, while only 37 percent supported it. The ongoing rocket fire, the attack on the army post and the abduction of a soldier will not help turn those figures around.
Rather, it will plant more doubt in the minds of Israelis over the wisdom of a go-it-alone pullout plan that leaves armed Palestinian militants at the doorstep of Israel's major population centres. [END/2006]
Israeli premier rejects ultimatum
From Aljazeera News. Monday 03 July 2006, 23:24 Makka Time, 20:24 GMT
The Israeli prime minister has rejected an ultimatum issued by Palestinian groups that say they will free an abducted Israeli soldier in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
In a statement, Ehud Olmert said he 'will not yield to the extortion of the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government, which are led by murderous terrorist organisations'.
Olmert also dismissed the possibility of negotiating with those holding Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Earlier on Monday, the Palestinian groups that abducted the soldier gave Israel until 0300 GMT on Tuesday to meet their demands, threatening unspecified consequences if it refused.
In previous statements, the groups demanded that Israel, as a first stage, release Palestinian women and youths in its prisons in exchange for information about Shalit, seized in a cross-border raid on June 25.
The Israeli defence minister, Amir Peretz, said that the Hamas office in the Syrian capital Damascus, led by exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, 'is the main address that bears responsibility' for the abduction.
'I suggest to [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, who is trying to turn a blind eye, that he open his eyes, as the responsibility is at his doorstep,' Peretz said.
Meanwhile Assad renewed his support for the Palestinians during a speech to Syria's highest political body, the National Progressive Front.
'Israel's aggressive stand and its unjust accusations against [Palestinian] national forces serve to increase our commitment to Arab rights,' he said in his first reaction to the crisis.
A senior Syrian politician reportedly said that during the meeting Assad dismissed Meshaal's involvement in the soldier's capture and said a prisoner exchange was the best way to resolve the issue.
Last week, Israeli warplanes flew over Assad's summer palace in a warning over his hosting of Hamas.
Earlier on Monday, a small Israeli force entered the Gaza Strip for the first time since Shalit's capture.
Tanks and armoured vehicles crossed the northern Gaza border, along with a detachment of Israeli troops, to search for explosive devices and tunnels, militiary sources said on Monday.
Witnesses said about 25 Israeli tanks crossed into Gaza. However, Israeli military sources said the incursion was not a large-scale ground operation and would be limited in duration.
Also on Monday, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile into a Hamas office in Gaza City, damaging a building the Israeli army said was being used by Palestinian fighters.
However, President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement said the office was a charity and near to a Hamas office. There were no reported casualties.
Witnesses also reported two missiles landing in open areas in northern Gaza, near the town of Bait Lahiya.
Monday's strike came hours after Olmert ordered the military to intensify its operation to free a captured Israeli soldier.
About 5,000 Israeli troops remain poised on the Gaza border in the largest Israeli military operation since it pulled it troops out of the tiny coastal territory last year.
كتائب القسام تهدد بالرد بالمثل على العدوان الإسرائيلي
عباس وهنية تفقدا الدمار الذي أحدثه القصف الإسرائيلي في مكتب رئيس الوزراء [رويترز]
هددت كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام الجناح العسكري لحركة المقاومة الإسلامية [حماس] بالرد بالمثل على الهجمات الإسرائيلية التي استهدفت المدنيين والبنية التحتية في قطاع غزة والضفة الغربية.
وقال أبو عبادة المتحدث باسم الكتائب 'إنه في ظل الحرب الصهيونية القذرة والإجرامية التي تشنها آلة الإرهاب والبطش الصهيونية ضد أبناء شعبنا الفلسطيني بقصفها لمحولات الكهرباء والجسور والجامعات والمدارس ومقر وزارة الداخلية ومجلس الوزراء والقوة التنفيذية وغيرها من المؤسسات، نحذر العدو إذا استمر في هذه العمليات بأننا سنضرب أهدافا مشابهة لدى الاحتلال الصهيوني أحجمنا سابقا عن استهدافها'.
من جانبه وصف الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس القصف الإسرائيلي لمقر مجلس الوزراء الفلسطيني في غزة اليوم بأنه 'عمل إجرامي حقيقي'.
وقال الرئيس عباس خلال زيارة تفقدية لمقر مجلس الوزراء الذي تعرض للقصف، حيث اجتمع لوقت قصير مع رئيس الوزراء إسماعيل هنية، إنه 'في صف واحد مع الحكومة ضد هذه التصرفات التي تعقد الأمور على أرض الواقع في داخل المجتمع الفلسطيني'.
أولمرت أمر جيش الاحتلال باستخدام كل قوته [الفرنسية]
وكان هنية طالب المجتمع الدولي بالتدخل لوقف العدوان الإسرائيلي, معتبرا الغارة 'إساءة لرمز فلسطيني'. ووصف الهجوم الإسرائيلي لإطلاق الجندي الإسرائيلي لأسير جلعاد شاليط بأنه 'سياسة حمقاء'.
وفي هذا الإطار أمر رئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلية إيهود أولمرت جيش الاحتلال باستخدام كل قوته ضد ما أسماه الإرهاب الفلسطيني لتحرير الجندي الأسير.
وقال أولمرت في اجتماع حكومته هذا الصباح الذي خصص لبحث توصيات المجلس الأمني المصغر, 'سنفعل كل شيء للإفراج عن الجندي, وأكرر: لن نستثني أحدا'. وأضاف أن إسرائيل تمر بأيام صعبة, 'لكننا لا ننوي الإذعان للابتزاز'.
قصف وعمليات دهم
من ناحية أخرى استشهد فلسطيني وأصيب آخر بجروح جراء غارة إسرائيلية أخرى على جباليا شمال غزة استهدفت مقر القوات الأمنية التنفيذية التابعة لوزارة الداخلية.
كما دهمت قوات الاحتلال مقرات عدة تابعة لحركة المقاومة الإسلامية [حماس] في مدينة جنين بالضفة الغربية.
ودهمت قوات الاحتلال لجنة أموال الزكاة ومديرية الأوقاف. واقتحمت في رام الله مقر صحيفة منبر الإصلاح التابعة لحماس, حيث صادرت محتويات هذه المقرات وأتلفت مقتنياتها.
وقال مراسل الجزيرة في جنين إن حماس استنكرت على لسان خالد الحاج هذا الاجتياح, ونددت بالخطة الإسرائيلية لاجتياح غزة, وطالبت المجتمع الدولي بوضع حد للعدوان الإسرائيلي.
قوات الاحتلال تواصل استعداداتها للعدوان على غزة [الفرنسية]
وفيما يتعلق بمفاوضات الإفراج عن الجندي الإسرائيلي الأسير التي يقوم بها الرئيس عباس والرئاسة المصرية، اعتبر نبيل أبو ردينة المتحدث باسم الرئاسة الفلسطينية أن المساعي المبذولة في هذا الاتجاه منذ أسبوع باتت قريبة من 'طريق مسدود'، مع تأكيده 'استمرار الجهود' في هذا المجال.
وقال أبو ردينة في تصريحات صحفية 'إننا نحمل الجميع مسؤولية البحث عن حل سلمي للقضية، لأن التهديدات الإسرائيلية جدية ومستمرة ولا نريد أن ندخل غزة في دوامة الحرب التي لن تنتهي'.
وفي هذا السياق أكد أحمد بحر النائب الأول لرئيس المجلس التشريعي الفلسطيني أن تسليم الجندي الإسرائيلي لن يتم إلا بعد الاستجابة للشروط المطروحة وهي إطلاق الأسيرات الفلسطينيات ونحو 1000 أسير فلسطيني.
ولكنه أوضح في المقابل أن 'خضوع إسرائيل أمام الشروط المطروحة لإطلاق سراح الجندي المأسور لن تكون سهلة في ظل عنجهيتها وتسخيرها للعالم تحت سيطرتها'.
LIDERES PALESTINOS ACUSAN A ISRAEL DE CRIMENES DE GUERRA [08/07/06].
Israel Returns From Gaza With Little
JERUSALEM, Jul 8 [IPS] - Even as Israeli troops, backed by armoured vehicles and Apache attack helicopters, thrust into northern Gaza, political leaders were insisting the foray was temporary and military officials were wondering whether the operation had any hope of achieving its stated goal -- ending rocket fire by Palestinian militants into Israel.
'We have no intention of sinking in the swamp that is Gaza,' declared Defence Minister Amir Peretz. 'We did not leave Gaza in order to return,' he added, referring to Israel's withdrawal from the coastal strip 10 months ago.
Senior Israeli military officials have conceded that the incursion into northern Gaza, from where Palestinian militants have launched hundreds of makeshift rockets into Israel in recent months, will not stop the rocket fire, which they expect to resume once the soldiers pull out.
Some military commentators have suggested the aim of the operation is to 'exact a price' from Palestinian militants in a bid to deter them from firing rockets. Indeed, in the first two days of the operation, which got under way in the early hours of Thursday morning, 31 Palestinians -- most of them militants -- were killed by Israeli forces in the bloodiest fighting since Israel left Gaza in September last year. One Israeli soldier died in the clashes.
Ever since Israeli troops and armoured vehicles pushed into southern Gaza on Jun. 28 in an operation aimed at winning the release of an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants from a base inside Israel, the forces massed at the northern end of the strip had been awaiting the order to move. But that order only came in the early hours of Thursday morning, and had a lot less to do with the abducted soldier than with the rocket fire.
Two days earlier, militants had succeeded in reaching the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon with their rockets. No one was injured in the attacks. Militants have fired hundreds of rockets at small towns in southern Israel since the pullout last year. But this was the first time one had landed in a major Israeli population centre -- Ashkelon is home to some 110,000 people.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, already facing public criticism for not responding effectively to the rocket salvos, ordered the troops in. While the rockets have not caused large numbers of casualties, they have served as an effective psychological weapon for the Palestinians, sowing fear especially among residents of the rocket-riddled southern town of Sderot.
As they moved into northern Gaza, troops first took control of the ruins of three former settlements -- they were torn down by Israel before leaving the strip -- and then moved towards the town of Beit Lahiye from where many of the rockets have been launched. They met fierce resistance from masked militants, who moved between the cramped alleyways of the town, firing at Israeli tanks and soldiers with their semi-automatic rifles and rocket- propelled grenades.
In the deadliest confrontation, eight militants were killed and 20 people injured Thursday when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile, and a tank fired two shells at a group of militants in Beit Lahiye. In total, 16 Palestinians, almost all gunmen, were killed that day in the town.
Residents took shelter in their homes as the street battles raged. In some areas, Israeli troops forced their way into houses, taking up positions inside.
Palestinian leaders accused Israel of committing war crimes. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel's goal was the 'gradual...reoccupation of Gaza.'
Israeli officials, however, have been anxious to dispel accusations that the army is planning a lengthy sojourn in Gaza. Backing up Defence Minister Peretz's comments that Israel would not get bogged down in the strip, the head of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, said the operation would be 'limited in time. We do not plan to spend an extended period of time there.'
Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, the head of the military's southern command, told reporters the incursion into northern Gaza was a 'raid not an occupation. We have no interest in remaining there. We have no territorial aspirations.'
Israel is not keen to establish a permanent presence in northern Gaza, which would probably take the form of a buffer zone aimed at pushing the militants further south in the strip and out of range of Israeli towns and cities with their rockets. The military knows that soldiers stationed in north Gaza would quickly become targets for Palestinian militants.
Israelis recall the bitter experience of the security zone they set up in southern Lebanon in a bid to keep Hezbollah guerrillas from crossing the border and striking inside Israel. With Hezbollah attacks on Israeli military positions an almost daily occurrence and with soldiers being killed and injured every month in Lebanon, public pressure finally prevailed, and in May 2000 Israel withdrew unilaterally, ending an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
Olmert knows that recapturing part of Gaza would cost Israel the international legitimacy it earned after its withdrawal last year. As a result of the pullout, international criticism of Israeli actions in Gaza in recent weeks has been muted.
With Israel out of the strip, many world leaders view the rocket firing and the abduction of the soldier as an attack on sovereign Israeli territory rather than a legitimate act of resistance to occupation. This has afforded Olmert diplomatic and military leeway.
Even with Israeli soldiers, tanks and aircraft operating in northern Gaza, militants have continued to fire rockets, raising questions about the efficacy of the military action. On Friday alone, militants successfully launched 15 rockets into Israel.
Israel cannot 'sit with its arms folded' while rockets fly toward its towns and cities, concedes Danny Yatom, a Labour Party member of parliament and former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency. 'But the effectiveness of the current operation is limited. It can reduce the rocket fire, do damage to the [militants'] ability to launch the rockets, but it can't stop it.'
Even if Israel were to find a way to force the militants who fire the rockets further south in Gaza and out of range of Israel, adds Yatom, they would develop 'a rocket with a slightly longer range.'
In the absence of any form of dialogue between the sides, Yatom explains, Israel will find itself sucked back into Gaza time and again. 'As long as nothing is happening on the diplomatic front, I don't see the rocket fire ceasing.' [END/2006]
VETOS EN NACIONES UNIDAS [12/07/06]
U.N. Action in Gaza, North Korea Stalled by Veto Threats
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 [IPS] - The 15-member Security Council, the only U.N. body wielding power to impose mandatory sanctions on the organisation's 192 member states, is unable to help contain two ongoing crises primarily because of threatened vetoes by China and the United States.
The two draft resolutions currently before the Security Council -- one to punish North Korea for last week's missile tests and the other to condemn Israel for its military incursion into Gaza last month -- are virtually in limbo.
The deadlock has been aggravated further by Wednesday's invasion of southern Lebanon by Israeli military forces in retaliation for the kidnapping of two soldiers by Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group influential in Lebanese politics.
The United States, which seeks to penalise the North Koreans for defying Washington, is frustrated because China has publicly announced its decision to veto any resolution that imposes sanctions on Pyongyang.
'What goes around, comes around,' says an Asian diplomat, who points out that the United States has exercised its veto over 35 times to protect Israel from Security Council condemnation.
'North Korea is perceived as China's Israel,' he said. 'So the U.S. is getting a bitter dose of its own medicine.'
A draft resolution, which the United States threatens to veto, calls upon Israel, 'the occupying power', to halt its military operations and its disproportionate use of force that endanger the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territories.
The resolution also asks Israel to cease the practice of extrajudicial executions which contradict international law, and to withdraw its forces to their original positions outside the Gaza Strip. The crisis was triggered by the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants in Gaza on Jun. 25.
Asked whether the United States will veto the resolution, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters Wednesday: 'Like any prudent ambassador in New York, I have requested for instructions from Washington.'
'When I receive those instructions, I will implement them. But it certainly remains our position that there is no need for this resolution,' he added.
Not surprisingly, the Chinese have expressed similar sentiments on a proposed resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea. 'China is opposed to the draft resolution because it is an overreaction,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jian Yi told reporters in Beijing.
'We think the response should not be an overreaction that would further intensify the problem. We think all measures should be conducive to resolution of the situation through dialogue,' she added.
Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East Report, says he is not familiar with North Korea's infringements [if any] of international law nor with China's motives for shielding it from censure or worse.
'I would however note that Washington's itchy trigger-finger when it comes to wielding the veto on behalf of Israel has served to regularise and normalise what was intended as an exceptional measure,' Rabbani told IPS.
'It therefore stands to reason that China, and for that matter Russia, will resort to the veto on behalf of their own interests and allies more readily than would otherwise have been the case,' he added.
An additional factor in this respect is quite clearly China's increasing assertiveness on the international stage, he said.
'But it also seems apparent that they are keen to send a message to Washington, namely that they are capable of wielding the veto in unexceptional circumstances too,' Rabbani argued.
Nadia Hijab, senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Palestine Studies, told IPS that the main point of comparison between Israel's attacks on Gaza and North Korea's nuclear programme is that 'negotiations on how to implement international conventions are the only way out of the crisis.'
'The ostensible cause of the Gaza crisis -- the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants -- is just a symptom of the problem which has its root cause in Israel's 39-year occupation and annexation of Palestinian territories, and the unresolved refugee problem,' she pointed out.
In the case of North Korea -- as well as Iran and other states aspiring to nuclear weapons -- the most effective approach would be the application of the non-proliferation treaty, and fulfillment by the United States and European powers of their pledge to gradually do away with their nuclear weapons, making sure more recent nuclear powers such as Israel, India, and Pakistan do so too.
Otherwise, she said, the Council will remain 'seized' on these matters for decades to come.
Rabbani said that for all the rhetoric about the United Nations being 'a bastion of anti-Israel decision-making', the reality is quite alarming, namely that -- in stark contrast to other states perpetrating systematic discrimination and widespread violence on an ethnic or religious basis -- Israel enjoys total impunity when it comes to observing the U.N. charter or indeed any other component of international law.
'The primary reason for this is the insurance policy provided by the U.S. 'nyet' in the U.N. Security Council,' he added.
The reality of the matter, which is easily demonstrated and verified by an examination of Security Council voting rolls, is that since 1945 no country has been shielded from scrutiny, censure, or consequences like Israel.
'It is without peer when it comes to benefiting from the Security Council veto, and this is primarily thanks to the United States wielding of this veto [occasionally but with increasing frequency joined by Britain].'
The situation has in fact consistently deteriorated over the years, so that today even rhetorical condemnation of Israel by the Security Council has become a thing of the past and largely unthinkable, Rabbani added.
'Given that power within the U.N. system has increasingly gravitated towards the United States and the Security Council since the end of the Cold War, it is hardly surprising that Washington has become increasingly effective in shielding Israel from the consequences of its actions when it comes to the United Nations,' he added. [END/2006]