UPDATE-January 2, 2009.
Qatari planes land at Ben-Gurion International Airport
Israel has agreed to send aid to the Palestinians by three Qatari planes to Tel Aviv Airport to be transferred to Gaza by land. This is an unprecedented and unusual step, as aid used to be transported to Gaza through Rafah Crossing and not through Ben Gurion Airport. – Egypt Daily News. January 1, 2009.
Hamas accepts EU truce offer
GAZA CITY: The Palestinian Hamas movement said yesterday it was accepting “under conditions” an EU proposal for a ceasefire with Israel around Gaza. “Hamas accepts this initiative on the condition that the aggression stops, that the blockade is lifted, that all the border crossings are opened and that it gets international guarantees that the occupier will not restart its terrorist war,” spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement. – The Peninsula, Qatar, January 2, 2009.
Kaddoumi underlines the ultimate victory of the Palestinian people
TUNIS: Chief of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Political Department, Farouk Kaddoumi, has praised the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and the resistance in Gaza against the Israeli aggression, stressing that the rifle will not be dropped until all the Palestinian goals are achieved, and all Palestinians return to their homes and properties. In his address at a Palestinian gathering in Tunis today, Kaddoumi said that the legendary steadfastness of the people of Gaza will emerge victorious and called for the continuation of the struggle until the establishment of the independent Palestinian state. – SANA (Syrian News Agency). January 1, 2009.
Egyptian border guard officer killed by Hamas’ orders
Sources unveiled that the assassination of Egyptian Border Guard Major Yasser Eisawi on the Egyptian Palestinian borders on Sunday evening was carried out under Hamas’ directives. The sources also affirmed that the movement had ordered to kill members of the Egyptian border guard. “Hamas’s orders aimed to spread chaos on the borders with Egypt and make it easier for resistance members to break into Egypt, as one of Hamas’s groups had been entrusted with storming the border check-point where Major Eisawy was,” the sources said.”The group of masked men jumped over the border barrier while hiding their weapons. When the Egyptian officer uncovered them, he faced them with no weapons and was killed with two shots in his chest. Two more soldiers were injured, while the group ran away.” Egypt Daily News. January 1, 2009
Christian celebrations in Syria confined to masses and prayers in solidarity with Gaza
DAMASCUS: The celebrations of the Christian denominations in Syria on the occasion of the New Year were confined to masses and prayers in churches and worship places in solidarity with the Palestinian people besieged in Gaza Strip under the continuing Israeli brutal aggression. A divine mass was held Thursday morning at the Mariamieh Cathedral in Damascus, headed by His Beatitude Ignatius IV Hazim of Antioch and All Orient for the Roman Orthodox. His Beatitude delivered a sermon in which he spoke about the noble meanings of this occasion during which humanity looks for amity and tolerance. SANA (Syrian News Agency). January 1, 2009.
A summary of news stories published this week in the Arab English language press- January 1, 2009.
Tehran closes leading reformist newspaper
TEHRAN: The Iranian press watchdog shut down leading reformist newspaper Kargozaran yesterday over publication of a piece criticizing Palestinian militants, the official IRNA news agency reported. “Kargozaran has been banned over a media offence and the case has been referred to the court,” Mohammad Parvizi, who is in charge of domestic media at the culture ministry, told IRNA. He said the ban was ordered over “a piece yesterday which justifies the Zionist regime’s crimes against humanity in Gaza and portrays the Palestinian resistance as terrorists who cause the deaths of children and civilians by taking up position in kindergartens and hospitals. Kargozaran’s director Morteza Sajadian confirmed the closure and said the piece in question was a statement by a radical pro-reform student group, the Office to Consolidate Unity. – The Kuwait Times. January 1, 2009.
Rafah crossing to remain closed until PA regains Gaza, says Mubarak
CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak said Tuesday in a televised address that the Rafah border crossing will remain closed until Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas regains control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas. “We in Egypt are not going to contribute to perpetuating the rift [between Hamas and the PA] by opening the Rafah crossing in the absence of the Palestinian Authority and EU observers in violation of the 2005 deal,” he said. – Daily News, Egypt. December 30, 2008.
Saudi denies clash report
RIYADH: Witnesses said Saudi police fired rubber bullets to break up a pro-Palestinian protest yesterday, injuring up to eight people, but a government official denied the report. Residents said between 200 and 300 people took part in the march in the Eastern Province. Many protesters held pictures of Palestinians wounded in Israel’s military offensive against the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 300 Palestinians since it began on Saturday. At least three witnesses said they saw riot police fire rubber bullets after demonstrators clashed with security forces in the Al Qatif area. However, interior ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said there had been no protest. “None of this is true. No rubber bullets have been fired, no clashes occurred and no demonstration happened. That’s what security sources in Qatif told me,” he said. “As you know, protests in the kingdom are banned.” – Gulf Times, Qatar. December 29, 2008.
Many Egyptians want to stay clear of trouble
EZZAT: Abdel-Rahman says that Palestinians are suffering “great injustice” at the hands of Israel but they should have followed Egypt’s lead and long ago made peace with the Jewish state. He also says Egypt should not open its border with Gaza to let Palestinians flee the six-day Israeli assault, as demanded by Hamas militants and many Arabs. “This could get Egypt into trouble with Israel,” said the 42-year-old, who runs a shop selling shoes in central Cairo. “Israel could accuse Egypt of smuggling weapons into Gaza and dump the problems of Gaza on Egypt.” Despite the fiery rhetoric of Islamists and activists who demand strong action against Israel, many average Egyptians say that they do not want the country dragged into another Middle East conflict, in rare agreement with a usually unpopular government. Many say Hamas militants, who rule the Gaza Strip, could have avoided the attacks that killed more than 400 people if it had stopped firing its ineffective rockets at Israel. “Hamas is acting against the Palestinians,” said Mohamed Kamal, also a central Cairo shopkeeper, and one of a dozen Cairo residents interviewed by Reuters this week. “There is no reason for firing rockets. What are they hitting anyway?” Others said Hamas was acting with Iran and Syria, its main two supporters, to undermine Egypt and drag it into a conflict with Israel. – Gulf Times, Qatar. January 2, 2009.
Saudi relief supplies reach Palestine
RIYADH: On the orders of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia is sending several planeloads of relief supplies to Palestinians. “At least six planeloads of relief materials will be sent for the injured Palestinian patients within a week from now,” Khaled Al-Mirghalani, the official spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said yesterday. – Arab News, Saudi Arabia. January 1, 2009.
Gaza figures prominently at GCC Summit
MUSCAT: Gaza was the word spoken every few minutes during the last three days in Muscat as journalists, officials and ministers crisscrossed the hotel lobbies during the 29th GCC Summit but an analyst advocated realistic expectations from the leaders rather than an emotional output. A television journalist got highly emotional while raising a question on the situation in Palestine in a high-pitched voice, during the post-Summit press conference and Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs sympathised with him and his emotions and agreed that enough was not being done for the people of Palestine. He agreed that every Arab was anguished at the Israeli brutality in Hamas-held Gaza strip but also pointed out that the Palestinians need to put their own house in order to fight jointly. A lot was lost in translation but he conveyed that emotions were one thing and realism another. – Gulfnews, UAE. December 31, 2008.
Hamas vows victory
Senior Hamas member, Osama Mazini, said in a statement distributed by the Hamas press office that his fighters were eager for a ground assault. “The people of Gaza are waiting to see the Zionist enemy in Gaza to tear them into pieces of flesh,” said Mazini. He also had a message for anyone who might question the wisdom of Hamas’ decision to take on Israel and provoke the fiercest military assault on Gaza since the 1967 Mideast war. “Whoever says that Hamas entered a losing gamble, we say this is the price of victory and liberation. Whoever doesn’t pay the price will be a slave all their lives,” he said. The Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, promised victory in a speech broadcast later on a Hamas TV station. “Absolutely, you will be victorious with God’s will. Victory is near, God willing, it is closer than what people expect,” Haniyeh said. -Al Bawaba, Jordan/UAE. January 1, 2009.
War on Gaza Diary: The Front Line
There’s been a build up of military forces. Just driving south, shadowing the Israeli Gaza boundary, men and machines are being brought into the area. Low loaders carry tanks and personnel carriers, which then churn their way on to the fields, their guns pointed towards Gaza. Men in uniform struggle through the clawing mud which would hinder any advance. Our attempts to film what is going on are quickly snuffed out by Israelis who constantly remind us we are in a closed military zone. This Israelis are showing that the possibility of a ground incursion is more than just talk. But there is the argument a ground attack would be a no-win war for the Israelis. It would be difficult. They run the risk of inflicting high civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, world opinion would be against it; if they started losing soldiers, Israeli public opinion could turn and, when they leave, as they say they have no intention of re-occupying Gaza, one rocket fired into Israel, just one, would let the critics claim the whole operation was bloody and pointless. The city of Be’er Sheva is known as the capital of the south. For years it has been a concerned observer as Hamas rockets brought fear and damage to towns nearby. Now it finds itself in the danger zone. The missiles are travelling further, up to 45 kilometres, and that puts Be’er Sheva on the front line. One man tells me: “Of course we’re worried but we want to live in peace and if that means confronting Hamas, that is what we have to do. A young woman says: “This bloody cycle has to stop. Both sides deserve better than this.” Across the city they haven’t started clearing the damage yet from a school which was one of the first targets. From the outside the damage seems slight but inside the full picture of what the single rocket had done. It fell when the school was empty. Lessons here and elsewhere across the city have been suspended. – Aljazeera. December 31, 2008.
(Photo credit: The Kuwait Times)
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Re. Egypt Blames Hamas For Violence in Gaza (December 30, 2008)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has made a public statement of Egypt’s assessment of where the blame for the current Gaza conflict resides and blame is being placed with Hamas and it’s leadership.
Egypt’s foreign minister said on Thursday that Hamas must ensure rocket fire stops in any truce deal to halt Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, criticizing the Palestinian group for giving Israel an excuse to launch the bombardment.
The problems Gheit appears to be referencing would be the daily Kassam rocket and mortar attacks which Hamas has allowed, encouraged and supported on the towns of Southern Israel. He criticized Hamas, saying Egypt had seen “the signals that Israel was determined to strike Hamas in Gaza for the past three months. They practically wrote it in the sky.”
Such an outspoken complaint from Egypt to Hamas signals a significant deterioration in the working relationship between the Militant Hamas and Moderate Egypt.
While the Hamas leadership was safely tucked away in bunkers, the Hamas leadership had left the rank and file security personnel, police and public to their own devices and to protect themselves.
“Where are the Hamas leaders now, when the residents of Gaza are getting killed? All of Hamas’s leadership is in bunkers,” stated Muhammad Bassiouny.