Posts Tagged ‘middle east conflict’

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~

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.

Israeli President Shimon Peres (right) with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prior to their meeting at the president's residence in Jerusalem

Israeli President Shimon Peres (right) with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prior to their meeting at the president's residence in Jerusalem

More on Israel’s offensive on Gaza ploughed on into its 21st day on Friday after new deadly strikes that set ablaze the enclave, according to The Agence France-presse(AFP) while diplomatic efforts gathered pace and Hamas offered a conditional truce.

The Israeli army said it will lock down the occupied West Bank for 48 hours as Hamas called for a day of ‘wrath’ on Friday against the offensive on Gaza, as the death toll soared.

Gaza medics said that 1,105 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27, including 355 children, with at least 5,130 people wounded.

At least 50 Palestinians were killed in fighting on Thursday, including a top Hamas leader, as tanks pressed into the heart of Gaza City setting landmark buildings ablaze, including a hospital filled with refugees.

Said Siam , interior minister in Gaza’s Hamas government, was slain along with his brother and son in an air strike on the brother’s house north of Gaza City, Hamas said, as its armed wing vowed to avenge his death.

A Hamas hardliner, Siam had created the Executive Force, a militia that played a key role in the Islamist takeover of Gaza in June 2007. He is the highest-ranking Hamas official killed since Israel unleashed its offensive.

He was killed in a day of fierce fighting in which Israeli tanks rolled into the centre of Gaza City and forces struck a hospital, a media building and a UN compound , setting ablaze a warehouse filled with food aid.

A tide of terrified civilians , many gripping wailing children, fled the advancing Israeli troops as warplanes pounded the impoverished enclave in a bid to stem Palestinian rocket fire.

Hundreds of people took shelter in the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza’s Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood but after nightfall they were forced to flee the facility engulfed in flames.

Patients who had been wounded in the fighting could be seen struggling to get out of their beds only to head out into an icy night pierced by gunfire, according to an AFP photographer.

At least three babies in incubators and three people on life support were wheeled out into the flame-lit streets.

Despite the onslaught, Gaza militants continued to rain rockets and mortar rounds on southern Israel, where 25 projectiles crashed on Thursday wounding five people, one of them seriously, the army and medics said.

On the diplomatic front, Egypt pressed ahead with Western-backed efforts to end the war in which an estimated 600 Palestinian civilians have been killed.

Israeli negotiator Amos Gilad held four hours of talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Cairo’s plan for a truce on Thursday before heading back home to report to the Israeli leadership.

In what could be a major breakthrough, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would travel to Washington to sign a memorandum on joint efforts to halt smuggling beneath the Gaza-Egypt border.

Shutting down the hundreds of tunnels beneath the frontier that form Hamas’s main resupply route was one of Israel’s chief war aims.

Olmert’s office also announced that top negotiator Gilad was going back to Cairo on Friday for more talks with Egyptian authorities on a truce plan.

Egyptian officials said earlier that Gilad responded ‘favourably’ to Cairo’s plan for a ceasefire.

The Damascus-based deputy head of Hamas’s powerful politburo, Mussa Abu Marzuk, also told AFP the Islamists were ready to accept a one-year renewable truce if Israel pulled its troops from Gaza.

Hamas was waiting for the Israeli reply, Abu Marzuk said, adding that the offer was also conditional on Israel’s lifting of the crippling blockade it has imposed on Gaza since the Islamists took control of the enclave in 2007.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Israel on Thursday just before an Israeli tank shell hit the UN refugee agency’s main Gaza compound, wounding three employees and torching a warehouse filled with tens of millions of dollars worth of aid.

Ban, who is on a regional tour to push for a ceasefire in Gaza, conveyed his ‘strong protest and outrage’ amid a chorus of international condemnation.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also said she spoke to the Israeli leadership about the ‘difficulties’ caused by the shelling of the UN compound and described the incident as ‘unfortunate.’

Olmert said that Israeli troops had shelled the UNRWA compound in Gaza in response to fire coming from the building -charges denied by the UN refugee agency.

Israel also came under fire at an emergency UN meeting. ‘Gaza is ablaze. It has been turned into a burning hell,’ said Nicaragua’s Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, president of the 192-member UN General Assembly.

‘The violations of international law inherent in the Gaza assault have been well documented: collective punishment; disproportionate military force; attacks on civilian targets, including homes, mosques, universities, schools.’

Israel says 10 of its soldiers and three civilians have died as a result of combat or rocket fire since December 27.

P/S: JUST TELL US WHEN IS THIS ‘HELL-WORLD’ GOING TO END ALREADY! TOOK OFF THE FREAKIN PRIDE AND JUST EXCEPT WHAT YOU HAVE! AAARRRGH!

Approximately 100 Palestinians were bombed after alleged Israelis soldiers evacuated them to a house

Approximately 100 Palestinians were bombed after alleged Israelis soldiers evacuated them to a house

Around 30 people are reported to have been killed in the incident which happened in Zeitoun, south of Gaza city, where Red Cross workers later found four small children next to the corpses of their mothers.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cited reports of ‘extensive destruction and many deaths’ in the area.

As reported by the ITN, it said: ‘According to several testimonies, on January 4 Israeli foot soldiers evacuated approximately 110 Palestinians into a single residence house in Zeitoun (half of whom were children) warning them to stay indoors’.

‘Twenty-four hours later, Israeli forces shelled the home repeatedly, killing approximately 30.’

The OCHA described it as ‘one of the gravest incidents’ since the start of the Gaza conflict on December 27.

UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs John Holmes on Wednesday cited the deaths in Zeitoun as an example of the ‘dreadful incidents that are coming to our notice’ in Gaza.

On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) accused the Israeli military of ‘unacceptable’ delays in allowing rescue workers to reach homes in Zeitoun hit by shelling.

In a strongly-worded statement it said: ‘The ICRC believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded.’

Meanwhile, the United Nations has demanded an immediate ceasefire in the region. The US abstained from the Security Council vote but says it backs the text of the resolution which also calls for a full withdrawal by Israel.

The vote followed days of intense haggling with foreign ministers from Arab nations pressing France, Britain and the US to go along with a resolution rather than a more diluted president’s statement.

It came as the Israeli airstrikes and artillery assaults continued. In one of the latest attacks, six Palestinians from the same family were killed when their house was shelled.

The fighting has now killed more than 750 Palestinians and at least 14 Israelis.

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.’