Posts Tagged ‘hamas’

Palestinian men, reflected in a broken mirror, look at the damage in a bedroom of their house, which was occupied by Israeli soldiers during the conflict, in Mughraka, central Gaza strip, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. Israel withdrew the last of its troops from the Gaza Strip before dawn Wednesday, the military said, and pursued diplomatic efforts to stanch the flow of arms into the Hamas-ruled territory. Some 1,300 Palestinians were killed, more than half of them civilians, Gaza health officials and the U.N. have reported. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Palestinian men, reflected in a broken mirror, look at the damage in a bedroom of their house, which was occupied by Israeli soldiers during the conflict, in Mughraka, central Gaza strip, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. Israel withdrew the last of its troops from the Gaza Strip before dawn Wednesday, the military said, and pursued diplomatic efforts to stanch the flow of arms into the Hamas-ruled territory. Some 1,300 Palestinians were killed, more than half of them civilians, Gaza health officials and the U.N. have reported. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

The last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip before dawn Wednesday, the military said, as Israel dispatched its foreign minister to Europe in a bid to rally international support to end arms smuggling into the Hamas-ruled territory.

The AP reported that the timing of the pullout reflected Israeli hopes to defuse the crisis in Gaza before President Barack Obama entered the White House. The military said troops remain massed on the Israeli side of the border and are poised to take action if militants violate a fragile three-day cease-fire.

The troops’ exit marked the end of an Israeli offensive that ravaged Gaza and left a total of 1,284 Palestinians dead and 4,336 wounded, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The rights group, which has dispatched researchers to collect the names of the dead, said 894 of those killed were civilians.

The Israeli military says 500 Palestinian militants were killed in the fighting. Gaza’s militant groups claim only some 150 of the dead were armed fighters.

Israel launched the offensive to permanently halt years of militant rocket fire on growing numbers of Israelis and to halt the smuggling of arms that turned Hamas into a potent threat to much of southern Israel. But by Wednesday, some of the tunnels on the Egyptian border appeared to be back in business, with workers clearing blocked passageways, bulldozers carrying out other repairs, and fuel already being brought from Egypt into Gaza, according to AP Television News footage.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was heading to Brussels on Wednesday, hoping to clinch a deal committing the European Union to contribute forces, ships and technology to anti-smuggling operations, Israeli officials said.

Last week, the U.S. signed an anti-smuggling deal with Israel calling for expanded intelligence cooperation between the two countries and other U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe.

Gaza remained tense Wednesday. Israeli navy ships fired rounds of machine-gun fire at the beaches of northern Gaza, and the military said a Gazan fishing vessel had strayed into an area declared off-limits by the Israeli navy.

The death toll in Gaza has provoked international outrage. In Israel, however, the war has strong backing, because it is seen as a legitimate response to militants who now have one-eighth of the population within rocket range.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon left the region early Wednesday after touring Gaza and southern Israel. Ban called for an investigation into the Israeli shelling of U.N. compounds in Gaza during the fighting, which he termed ‘outrageous.’ He also called militant rocket attacks against Israel ‘appalling and unacceptable.’

The Israeli military said it has launched an internal investigation into allegations about its use of white phosphorus munitions. U.N. officials and human rights groups have alleged Israel used such weapons, typically employed to illuminate targets or create smoke screens. Amnesty International has said Israel’s firing of white phosphorus shells in densely populated residential areas of Gaza is a war crime.

Both sides declared cease-fires that went into effect Sunday, but the arrangements remain shaky. Israel reported mortar shelling from Gaza on Tuesday, and the Palestinians say Israeli troops shot and killed two Gaza farmers along the border after the truce took hold.

The fighting ended before Israel achieved its aims, though world leaders have pledged to assist in efforts to keep militants from restocking war-depleted arsenals.

The U.S. has promised to supply 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 to monitor Gaza’s land and sea borders.

The Israeli-American agreement also calls for the U.S. to expand work with its NATO partners, particularly in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and eastern Africa.

At the signing ceremony in Washington, Livni described the deal as ‘a vital complement for a cessation of hostility’ in the troubled region. Shortly after, she said she hoped European countries, notably Britain, France and Germany, would work out similar agreements with the Israelis.

Although signed by the Bush administration on its last working day, the agreement is binding on the Obama administration.

Most of the smuggling was carried out through tunnels underneath the eight-mile (15-kilometer) border between Egypt and Gaza border. Egypt has proved unable or unwilling to halt the flow of weapons and medium-range rockets coming through the tunnels, alongside fuel and consumer goods.

Israel bombed most of the tunnels during the offensive.
Iran, one of Hamas’ main backers, rejected the international attempt to deny the militant group weapons. In statements reported Wednesday on the Web site of Iranian state TV, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that as Israel is well-armed, it would be wrong to question the Palestinians about obtaining weapons.

Israel says Iran provides the group with cash, weapons and training. Tehran denies giving any weapons to Hamas.

P/S: FINALLY~

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In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, during their meeting in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. Ban Ki-moon is visiting the Gaza Strip to inspect the devastation wrought by Israel's three-week onslaught. (AP Photo/GPO, Avi Ohayon, HO) ** ISRAEL OUT **

In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, during their meeting in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. Ban Ki-moon is visiting the Gaza Strip to inspect the devastation wrought by Israel's three-week onslaught. (AP Photo/GPO, Avi Ohayon, HO) ** ISRAEL OUT **

Confronted by stark scenes of destruction, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and Israel was poised to withdraw its troops before the U.S. presidential inauguration later in the day.

Ban, on a Middle East tour, was the highest-ranking international figure to visit the territory since separately declared ceasefires by Israel and Hamas ended a 22-day Israeli offensive and Palestinian cross-border rocket attacks.

As reported by Reuters, ‘The secretary general was keen to express solidarity with the people of Gaza who have suffered so much over the past few weeks and the U.N. staff who have continued heroically to provide assistance despite the difficulties,’ said Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Ban.

Israeli political sources said Israel planned to complete its troop pullout before Barack Obama’s inauguration, scheduled for 1700 GMT. Analysts saw the withdrawal as an effort to avoid any tension with the new U.S. president.

Amid crowds waving Hamas flags, Ban drove in a convoy to the compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the city of Gaza.

Last Thursday, Israeli fire set ablaze the UNRWA facility’s food and fuel warehouse, an incident Ban described at the time as ‘an outrage.’ Israel apologized but said it was prompted by fire from gunmen at the compound.

Many Palestinians returned to the rubble of what used to be their homes in Gaza city suburbs that were hard hit during the fighting. They picked through debris, trying to salvage belongings.

Two children playing with unexploded ordnance were killed when it detonated, Hamas officials said.

Ban, who met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before traveling to the Gaza Strip, planned to visit southern Israel, an area hit by Palestinian rockets during the Gaza war, later in the day.

At the prime minister’s office, Ban said he wanted to help to make the ceasefire ‘durable.’

World leaders are keen to cement a truce and avoid any more bloodshed in Gaza where more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s air and ground strikes launched on December 27 with the declared aim of ending rocket attacks.

RUINED INFRASTRUCTURE


In a report denied by the Israeli military, Hamas said an Israeli force holding a position near the town of Jabalya shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian.

Residents of Maghazi refugee camp said Israeli tanks had shelled houses, causing several casualties. An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

Gaza’s infrastructure has been left in ruins and the repair bill was estimated by the Palestinian statistics bureau to be about $1.9 billion.

Hamas said 5,000 homes, 16 government buildings and 20 mosques were destroyed and that 20,000 houses were damaged. Israel has said militants hid weapons inside the mosques.

Palestinian militant groups said 112 of their fighters and 180 Hamas policemen were killed. Israel put its dead at 10 soldiers and said three civilians were killed in rocket attacks.

Gaza medical officials said the Palestinian dead included at least 700 civilians. Israel, which accused Hamas of endangering non-combatants by operating in densely populated areas, said hundreds of militants were among the dead.

In Geneva, World Health Organization head Margaret Chan warned of a looming health crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion for rebuilding and the European Union said the bloc’s foreign ministers planned to meet in Brussels to discuss humanitarian aid and Israeli demands for the prevention of weapons smuggling to Gaza.

Israel had launched its offensive with a vow to ‘change the reality’ for southern border towns that had been the target of rocket fire from Hamas and other militant groups since 2001.

Olmert has declared the mission accomplished, noting diplomatic efforts by the United States, Egypt and European nations to prevent Hamas rearming. Israel has vowed to respond to any renewed flow of arms to Gaza.

The fighting ended just weeks before a February 10 Israeli election. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is still the front-runner but Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Labour party has gained in popularity.

Hamas proclaimed victory despite the destruction in Gaza, and its armed wing vowed to replenish its arsenal of rockets.

But Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said talks would continue on Egypt’s proposal for a long-term truce that would assure the reopening of crossings into Gaza, including the Rafah terminal with Egypt that was the main access to the outside world.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah forces in 2007 after winning an election the year before.
Israel and the West boycotted governments led by Hamas because the group rejects Israel’s right to exist.

P/S: In other words. . .Israel LOST. Hamas WINS. Is this over yet? I don’t thing so as ‘Israel has vowed to respond to ANY renewed flow of arms to Gaza’. I think the Israelis backed out alright, but just for a while until they find another ridiculous reason to attack Gaza again.

Israel call for unilateral gaza truce

Israel calls for unilateral gaza truce

Sky News has reported that the Israeli war cabinet has backed a unilateral ceasefire at last in Gaza from 2am Sunday morning local time.

Troops will however remain inside Gaza, at least for a few days.

After several hours of discussions with his ministers Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerged to say that ‘the goals we set for ourselves have been achieved’.

Mr Olmert said: ‘Hamas has been beaten badly, its leaders are hiding, most of its people are dead.’

But he insisted that if fired upon by Hamas, the Israeli Defence Forces would respond.
He added that it was Hamas’ own policies that had allowed its own community to suffer and accused it of acting as an Iranian proxy.

But even as the cabinet met, a rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in the town of Ashdod.

There is no word yet on casualties.

Israel’s decision to call a ceasefire follows a proposal from Egypt to end the 22-day long war in Gaza after what was described as ‘substantial progress’ during talks in Cairo.

A Hamas official said the militant group would continue to fight unless Israel withdrew completely from Gaza.

An emergency summit on the crisis, co-hosted by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak is to be held on Sunday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

Mr Sarkozy’s office said the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will attend, along with several European leaders including Gordon Brown.

Earlier, Mr Brown offered British naval resources to help prevent arms smuggling into Gaza as part of an arrangement to end the fighting there.

The Prime Minister said after meeting the Israeli and Palestinian leaders that there was “general understanding” that the ‘appalling violence […] should come to an end as quickly as possible’.

He pledged to help make sure there was proper protection and monitoring of the crossings into Gaza, if requested as part of a ceasefire deal.

‘We will do everything that we can to prevent the arms trafficking that is at the root of some of the problems that have caused the conflict,’ Mr Brown said.

An agreement has also been struck between Israel and the US to expand intelligence cooperation to prevent Hamas smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip.

UN officials have condemned the killing of two Palestinian children in an Israeli strike on one of their schools in the north of the Gaza Strip.

They were among 1,600 people taking shelter in the building in Beit Lahiya, reports said.

A UN spokesman said there was no excuse as Israel knew the locations of all its operations in Gaza.

Ban Ki-moon condemned what he called an ‘outrageous attack’ and demanded a thorugh investigation by the Israeli authorities.

Around 1,200 Palestinians have been killed and 5,000 wounded since Israel began its offensive on December 27. Ten Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting and three Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza.

P/S: NOW, that there’s an understanding between them, I REALLY hope that the ‘ceasefire’ isn’t JUST a word. . . God help them.

Smoke is seen from an explosion after an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. Israeli troops battled Palestinian gunmen in a suburb of Gaza City on Sunday morning, waging one of their fiercest ground battles so far as Israel's military inched closer to Gaza's main population centers and residents braced for an expansion of the offensive. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Smoke is seen from an explosion after an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. Israeli troops battled Palestinian gunmen in a suburb of Gaza City on Sunday morning, waging one of their fiercest ground battles so far as Israel's military inched closer to Gaza's main population centers and residents braced for an expansion of the offensive. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israeli troops battled Palestinian gunmen in a suburb of Gaza City Sunday in one of the fiercest ground battles so far as Israel’s military inched toward Gaza’s population centers and residents braced for an expansion of the offensive.

The fighting in the Sheikh Ajleen neighborhood erupted before dawn and continued through the morning as Israeli infantrymen and tanks advanced toward Gaza City and its approximately 400,000 residents, Palestinian witnesses said to The Associated Press(AP) today. Hamas and the smaller militant group Islamic Jihad said they ambushed the Israelis, leading to some of the heaviest fighting since Israel sent ground forces into the coastal territory on Jan. 3.

Gunfire subsided in the early afternoon, with the Israelis in control of buildings on the neighborhood’s outskirts.

Israel launched its offensive against Hamas on Dec. 27 in an attempt to halt years of rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli towns. Gaza health officials have counted more than 820 Palestinians dead and say at least half are civilians. The Israeli military says troops have killed some 300 armed fighters since the ground offensive began and that many more were killed in the week of aerial bombardments that preceded it.

Thirteen Israelis have died, three of them civilians.

‘Israel is nearing the goals which it set itself, but more patience, determination and effort is still demanded,’ Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said ahead of his government’s weekly meeting Sunday.

The U.N. Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire Thursday, but Olmert said Israel ‘never agreed that anyone would decide for us if it is permissible to strike at those who send bombs against our kindergartens and schools.’

Hamas, the Islamic group whose government controls Gaza but is not recognized internationally, likewise has ignored the resolution, complaining that it was not consulted.

Israeli defense officials say they are prepared for a third stage of their offensive, in which ground troops would push further into Gaza, but are waiting for approval from the government. Israel dropped leaflets on Gaza on Saturday warning of a wider offensive.

The first phase was the massive aerial bombardment, and the second saw ground forces enter Gaza, seize open areas used to fire rockets and surround Gaza City. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because military plans have not been made public, said the army also has a contingency plan for a fourth phase -the full reoccupation of Gaza and toppling of Hamas.

At least 14 people were killed in Sunday’s fighting in and around Sheikh Ajleen, Palestinian health officials said. How many were militants and how many civilians was not immediately known. There was no word on Israeli casualties.

‘We are safe, but we don’t know for how long,’ said Khamis Alawi, 44, who huddled with his wife and six children in their kitchen overnight. He said bullets riddled his walls and several came in through the windows.

Hamas militants launched barrages of rockets at the Israeli city of Beersheba and at the town of Sderot. Hamas has been hard-hit by the Israeli offensive, but continued to fire rockets from Palestinian residential areas, paralyzing much of southern Israel.

Open areas in northern Gaza from which militants once launched many of their rockets are now in Israeli hands.

Israeli warplanes bombed targets along the Egypt-Gaza frontier near the town of Rafah early Sunday, shattering windows at the border terminal. The area is riddled by tunnels used to smuggle weapons and supplies into Gaza, and has been repeatedly bombed throughout the Israeli offensive.

At least 20 Palestinians had been killed across Gaza by midday Sunday, according to Gaza health officials. Most were noncombatants, they said, including four members of one family killed when a tank shell hit their home near Gaza City.

The military says Hamas fighters are wearing civilian clothes and endangering civilians by operating out of heavily populated residential areas.

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces fired phosphorus shells early Sunday at Khouza, a village near the border, setting a row of houses on fire. Hospital official Dr. Yusuf Abu Rish said a woman was killed and more than 100 injured, most suffering from gas inhalation and burns.

Israeli military spokesman Capt. Guy Spigelman denied the claims. One of the main uses of phosphorous shells is to create smoke and mask ground forces, which is legal under international law, but the chemical can be harmful if used in densely populated areas.

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made a fiery speech on Arab news channel Al-Jazeera, describing the Israeli assault as a ‘holocaust.’ Still, Hamas teams were in Cairo to discuss a cease-fire proposed by Egypt.

Israel wants a guarantee that any cease-fire would end Hamas rocket fire and weapons smuggling from Egypt. Hamas is demanding that Israel open Gaza’s blockaded border crossings. Israel is unlikely to agree to that condition because it would hand Hamas a victory and allow the group to strengthen its hold on the territory it violently seized in June 2007.

Struggling to keep peace efforts alive, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has urged Israel and Hamas to agree to a truce. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was set to hold talks with Israeli leaders Sunday in Egypt in an attempt to advance the Security Council’s cease-fire call.

‘Israel must be persuaded to let the firearms rest now,’ Steinmeier told reporters Sunday.

One of the deadliest single incidents since the offensive began was an Israeli strike near a U.N. school Tuesday that Gaza health officials said killed 39 Palestinians. On Sunday, Israeli defense officials said an investigation by the military concluded that an Israeli mortar shell missed its target and hit near the school.

The Israeli investigation concluded that troops fired three mortar shells at Hamas militants who had just launched a rocket, the officials said. Two shells hit the target, but a third missed by about 30 yards, striking near the school and killing bystanders. The Israeli military believes the number of casualties was inflated by Hamas.

The defense officials spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been made public, and there was no official comment from the military.

The U.N. agency in charge of Palestinian refugees has resumed its operations after suspending them because of Israeli attacks on its convoys. U.N. Relief and Works Agency spokesman Christopher Gunness said nine aid convoys were planned Sunday, but that the Israeli military had to ‘stand up and deliver’ on its promises to allow aid to reach Gaza civilians.

But the international Red Cross said Sunday it was halting its service of escorting Palestinian medical teams after one of its ambulances came under fire on Saturday during a three-hour lull declared by Israel to allow aid groups to do their work in besieged areas.

Red Cross spokesman Iyad Nasr said his organization is still investigating the source of the fire.

The Red Cross escorts are meant to provide extra protection to Palestinian ambulances and guarantee that all occupants are civilians. In the past Israel has charged that ambulances have been used to transport militants and arms.

P/S: A miss? how about that? are ALL the bombs and bullets that killed up to 800 palestinians now was a miss too? I just don’t believe it.

One of the banners at the protest, the feelings of a human being towards humanity however doesn't occur on the Israelis.

One of the banners at the protest, the feelings of a human being towards humanity however doesn't occur on the Israelis.

The Associated Press(AP) has reported today that some 3,000 Malaysians protested on Friday against Israel’s invasion of Gaza, burning Israeli flags and effigies of President George W. Bush.

The mainly Muslim protesters, waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans, marched to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Kuala Lumpur from a nearby mosque after Friday prayers.

They called on the U.S. to use its influence to stop Israel’s military offensive on Gaza, which has left more than 750 people dead -at least half of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials. Thirteen Israelis have died.

Israel has defended its two-week operation, saying it wants to stop rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israeli territory.

‘The killing continues. … We are urging the American government to demand that Israel withdraw from Gaza,’ said Adnan Mohamad Tahir, an activist.

The protesters, who burned two Israeli flags and effigies of Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, dispersed after an hour.

The United States abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution passed Thursday that called for a cease-fire.

Malaysia’s government, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, has condemned Israel’s ground offensive as a ‘an act of total war.’ On Thursday, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for international sanctions on Israel.

In Hong Kong, several hundred people outside a mosque chanted slogans and held placards reading, ‘Stop the Israeli Attacks on Gaza’ and ‘Stop Killing Children and Innocent.’

P/S:  The protest is still going on today in Selangor, Malaysia at The  Melawati Stadium. FREE PALESTINE!

Israeli missiles launched into Gaza Strip aimed at the death and destruction of the Palestinian people. Nearly 500 people have been massacred in the latest fighting.

Israeli missiles launched into Gaza Strip aimed at the death and destruction of the Palestinian people.

Reuters reported that Israel rejected a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza on Friday and, as jets and tanks again pounded the Palestinian enclave, ministers debated whether to step up their two-week-old campaign against Hamas guerrillas.

With the civilian death toll in the hundreds and rising amid outraged denunciations of Israel from the Red Cross, United Nations agencies and Arab and European governments, diplomats also sounded an alarm that Egyptian-brokered truce talks launched this week might also be foundering.

Israel’s air force said it hit over 50 targets. Palestinian medics counted at least 18 dead, including civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected the Security Council resolution calling for an “‘immediate and durable’ cease-fire as ‘unworkable.’ He issued his statement while a meeting with his security cabinet continued, looking at whether to send in reservists for a push into the main urban centres.

Israeli warplanes dropped bombs on the outskirts of the city of Gaza, residents said. Elsewhere, Palestinian medics said tanks shelled a house in Beit Lahiya in the north of the Gaza Strip, killing six Palestinians from the same family.

A U.N. agency said in a report that 30 Palestinians were killed earlier this week when the Israeli army sheltered dozens of civilians in a house which was later hit by shells.

Noting Palestinians fired more rockets at Israel on Friday, Olmert said the army would go on with its mission.

‘The firing of rockets this morning only goes to show that the U.N. decision is unworkable and will not be adhered to by the murderous Palestinian organisations,’ he said.

‘The IDF will continue to act in order to protect the citizens of Israel and will achieve the goals that were set for the operation.’

Israel says it wants to stop rockets landing on its towns. At least 14 were fired on Friday, fewer than the dozens Hamas was able to launch in the early days of the war. Hamas officials said they were looking at the U.N. resolution.

Israel’s key ally the United States abstained in the U.N. vote, easing the pressure on the Jewish state, while noting talks on a truce were still under way under Egyptian mediation.

TALKS IN TROUBLE

That Egyptian initiative, brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier in the week, may be in trouble, however.

‘The truce talks are going nowhere at the moment,’ a senior European diplomat told Reuters. ‘There is a growing sense that the Egyptian-French plan is not going to work.’

European and Israeli diplomats told Reuters that Egypt was objecting to proposals that foreign troops and technicians be stationed on its 15-km border with the Gaza Strip as part of a deal to meet Israeli demands that Hamas be denied the opportunity to rearm after a truce through smuggling tunnels.

Instead, diplomats said, Egypt was ready to accept technical assistance for its own forces on the border, which Israel argues have hitherto failed to prevent Hamas building up an arsenal of hundreds of smuggled, Soviet-designed Katyusha missiles as well as, possibly, sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

Olmert’s security cabinet on Wednesday put off a decision on whether to launch a massive escalation of the offensive on Hamas guerrillas by moving troops in a third phase deep into urban areas, a move that would mean calling in reservists. Officials said ministers were discussing the proposal again on Friday.

The onslaught in Gaza, where many civilians including children have been killed, has solid support among Israeli voters who go to the polls in a month. A poll on Friday showed over 90 percent support among Israel’s Jewish majority.

A poll showed that Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s Labour party has held on to sharp gains it has made since war began, though it still trails Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima, which is running close behind the right-wing Likud opposition. Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud’s leader, has also thrown strong support behind the war.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, governed by Hamas’s rival Fatah movement under President Mahmoud Abbas, have been enraged by the Israeli offensive, and Israeli forces and Abbas’s police were on high alert on Friday, although there were only minor clashes around weekly prayers at mosques.

Several thousand people demonstrated and burnt Israeli flags in Hebron, a Hamas stronghold in the West Bank.

CASUALTIES

The Israeli air force hit at least 50 targets across the enclave, including launching pads for rockets and facilities used to manufacture rockets, an army spokesman said.

Israel’s military commanders appeared keen to pursue what was termed a third stage of the operation with additional ground troops being sent into the heart of Gaza’s built-up areas to flush out more gunmen and to try to secure more gains.

The Israeli army said it was, for the third day running, holding fire for three hours from 1 p.m. to let people stock up on food and other supplies.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers sent mixed signals about the resolution. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said the group did not recognise the resolution as it had not been consulted. Another spokesman said Hamas was ‘studying’ the resolution.

The resolution called for arrangements to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and for its borders to be opened. It said there should be ‘unimpeded provision’ and distribution of aid to the territory, home to 1.5 million people.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which distributes much of the aid in Gaza, kept its operations suspended on Friday after the death of one of its drivers in Israel’s offensive.

Hamas officials said the Palestinian death toll had risen to 783. Ten soldiers have been killed in the campaign launched by Israel to crush Hamas forces and halt the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel says it is doing what it can to avoid civilian casualties but accuses Hamas of deliberately placing its fighters close to homes and mosques.

Rockets have killed three Israeli civilians since the offensive began. Israel has said it accepts the ‘principles’ of the cease-fire proposal by Egypt and the European Union, and Washington has urged the Jewish state to study the details.

Boycott U.S goodsMore than 2,000 Muslim restaurants in Malaysia will remove Coca-Cola from their menus as part of a boycott of American products in protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, officials said today to a local newspaper,  The Star.

American companies are being targeted because of the U.S. government’s support of Israel, which is carrying out a military offensive on Gaza that is says is aimed at stopping rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled territory.

The nationwide boycott will be launched Friday by several Muslim groups after they seek God’s blessings at Friday prayers, said Ma’mor Osman, secretary-general of the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association which is leading the campaign.

In addition to Coca-Cola, he said they have identified some 100 other products ranging from food to beauty and clothing such as Starbucks, Colgate, McDonald’s and Maybelline.

Since the Israeli offensive began, nearly 600 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, have been killed and at least 2,500 people injured, according to U.N. and Palestinian officials. Eleven Israelis have also been killed.

Muslims in Malaysia and worldwide have held demonstrations against the Israeli action but Ma’mor said such protests are futile.

‘A boycott is the best way for us to protest Zionist cruelty against the Palestinian people as consumers can weaken the economy of countries like Israel and its ally, the U.S.,’ he said.

‘We urge everybody who loves peace and is against war to support our campaign. We must send a clear signal to Israel to stop the assaults in Gaza,’ he said.

Some 2,600 restaurants under the Association of Muslim Restaurant Operators will stop selling Coca-Cola from Friday, he added.

The move came after former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a strident critic of Israel, last week urged consumers and governments to boycott American products and the U.S. dollar.

Israel sent troops and tanks into Hamas-controlled Gaza on Saturday after a weeklong aerial bombardment, sparking outrage among Muslims worldwide.

Malaysia’s government, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, has denounced Israel’s ground offensive as ‘an act of total war’ which cannot be tolerated.

The United States has also been criticized for blocking approval of a U.N. Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

P/S: I never much favor coca-cola in the first place so I think this boycott can be done for me. Now I just have to change all my cosmetic products to local’s. That’s right, gosh.

ALL IN THE NAME OF PEACE!

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, hugs his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of a press conference on Tuesday Jan. 6, 2009 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. Sarkozy said Wednesday Jan. 7, 2009 that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accepted an Egyptian-French plan for Gaza.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, hugs his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of a press conference on Tuesday Jan. 6, 2009 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. Sarkozy said Wednesday Jan. 7, 2009 that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accepted an Egyptian-French plan for Gaza.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Israel and Hamas scaled back their fighting in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and weighed a cease-fire proposal from Egypt and France, even as Israeli leaders considered a deeper assault into the Palestinian group’s urban strongholds.

Fighting on the 12th day of the air, land and sea offensive all but stopped for three hours during a unilateral Israeli pause that allowed humanitarian relief. Israeli officials said they wanted to give diplomacy a chance, indicating that a decision either to end or intensify the operation, aimed at halting rocket fire into Israel, could come by week’s end.

It was the first letup in an Israeli assault that has killed more than 700 Palestinians, of whom the United Nations says more than 400 are civilians. Ten Israelis have been killed since the fighting began, three of them civilians struck by Palestinian rocket fire.

Like Israel, Hamas said it was studying the cease-fire proposal, which is being fleshed out in talks among the United States, Israel, European nations, Egypt and other Arab states. Egypt said it planned to hold separate talks with Israeli and Hamas representatives in Cairo, Egypt, starting today.

‘Given the diplomatic efforts, I am confident that we can agree within 48 hours on a formula both sides can accept,’ Ahmed Yusuf, a senior adviser to the Hamas government in Gaza, told Israel’s Ynet news.

In Jerusalem, Israeli leaders appeared to be seeking a way out of the bloodiest conflict in Gaza since Israel occupied the seaside enclave during the 1967 Middle East War.

Discussion on how to end the operation gained momentum after two events Tuesday: the cease-fire proposal offered by France and Egypt; and the Israeli shelling of a United Nations-run school in Gaza that killed 43 civilians, raising international pressure on Israel to withdraw.

‘Israel has reached an undesirable point,’ Giora Eiland, a retired brigadier general, told Israel Radio. ‘We have become the isolated party.’

A Palestinian boy hangs a Palestinian flag on the ruins of a destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip January 6, 2009.

A Palestinian boy hangs a Palestinian flag on the ruins of a destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip January 6, 2009.

More on the attacks on Gaza City, Gaza, Israel ordered a pause in its Gaza offensive for three hours Wednesday to allow food and fuel to reach besieged Palestinians, and the country’s leaders debated whether to accept an international cease-fire plan or expand the assault against Hamas.

With criticism rising of the operation’s spiraling civilian death toll and Gazans increasingly suffering the effects of nonstop airstrikes and shelling, Israel’s military said opened ‘humanitarian corridors’ to allow aid supplies to reach Palestinians, as was told on The Associated Press (AP).

Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said the ‘recess in offensive operations’ was aimed at allowing in supplies and fuel and would last from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m local time (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST). He said similar lulls in the coming days would be considered.

However, Lerner said that even during the pause ‘for every attack against the army, there will be a response.’ Gaza residents reported scattered gunfire and explosions even after it was supposed to have gone into effect, but the scale of fighting appeared to drop.

As Israel’s leadership met in the morning in Tel Aviv, sounds of heavy gunfire and thick plumes of smoke engulfed the Zeitoun neighborhood east of Gaza City. Israel said it struck 40 Hamas targets during the hours of darkness. Gaza health officials said new strikes Wednesday morning killed eight people.

Outrage over an Israeli strike Tuesday near a U.N. school continued, with the U.N. agency responsible for the building demanding an ‘impartial investigation’ into the attack. Gaza health officials put the death toll from the strike at 39, while the U.N. said 40 were killed.

Israel said its forces fired at militants who launched mortars from that location.

About 300 of the more than 670 Palestinians killed so far are civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. figures. Of those killed, at least 130 are children age 16 and under, says the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which tracks casualties.

Israel has lost six soldiers since launching a ground offensive on Saturday, and four other Israelis have been killed by rocket fire, three of them civilians.
Israel’s lull in operations could ease the plight of civilians in Gaza, where much of the territory has no power or running water, because pumps are dependent on electricity.

More than 500 aid trucks have been shipped into Gaza since operations began. But even when aid crosses into Gaza military operations have prevented officials from distributing it, leading to food shortages in some areas.

A World Bank statement Wednesday said there are growing signs of a severe public health crisis in Gaza because of a shortage of drinking water and an escalating failure of the sewage system.

Israel’s leaders -including the top troika of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak- were to discuss whether to broaden the operation in Gaza or move to accept a plan being proposed by Egypt and France to end the fighting.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the initiative calls for an immediate cease-fire by Israel and Palestinian factions for a limited period to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and an urgent meeting of Israel and the Palestinian side on arrangements to prevent any repetition of military action and to deal with the causes.

International Mideast envoy Tony Blair said Tuesday the key to any cease-fire will be an arrangement to stop weapons smuggling over the Gaza-Egypt border.

Israeli officials have said any cease-fire agreement must prevent further rocket attacks by Gaza militants and put in place measures to prevent the smuggling of missile and other weapons into the small Palestinian territory. Hamas has demanded that Israel open Gaza’s blockaded crossings as part of any agreement.

In the meantime, Israel has been making preparations to continue fighting. The military has called up thousands of reserve troops that it could use to expand the Gaza offensive, supporting the three brigade-size formations of regular troops now inside. Defense officials said the troops could be ready for action by Friday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the army’s preparations are classified.

The United Nations said the school was sheltering hundreds of people displaced by the onslaught on Hamas militants. Israel said its troops returned fire on a Hamas squad that fired mortars at them from nearby.

Christopher Gunness of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, responsible for the school, said the agency is ‘99.9 percent certain there were no militants or military activity in its school.’

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights said the presence of militants did not justify Israel’s response. ‘The presence of armed resistance does not justify in any way the use of excessive force that is disproportionate,’ the center said in a statement.

The carnage, which included 55 wounded, added to a surging civilian toll and drew mounting international pressure for Israel to end the offensive against Hamas.