Palestinians report several Israeli attacks on Gaza –and more Qassam attacks on Israel

The two independent Palestinian news agencies, Ramattan and Ma’an, are both reporting an upsurge in Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Ramattan is reporting that “Witnesses told RNA that Israeli bulldozers has destroyed on Monday the pipelines that provide Gaza with fuel at al-Montar (Karni) crossing, east of Gaza. The witnesses said that in Israeli bulldozer uprooted the network of the fuel tubes in the crossing”. The Ramattan report on the destruction of fuel pipelines at the Karni crossing from Israel to Gaza is here.

Ma’an has a report on multiple Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacks, with a number of casualties — including, so far, three Palestinian deaths and 11 injured, and one IDF death: “…Israeli forces invaded the Gaza Strip in several places Monday morning … Israeli forces killed one Palestinian fighter, twenty-two-year old Ahmad Abu Tahun, affiliated with Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, near Sufa border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning. Israeli sources said two soldiers from the Golani Brigade were injured in a battle with Palestinian fighters south of Sufa crossing. The soldiers were evacuated to Soroka hospital in Beersheba. Ma’an later learned that one injured soldier died of his wounds.” Ma’an also reported IDF attacks with casualties in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza strip, including the death of one disabled Palestinian. And, Ma’an reported that “Earlier, two Al-Qassam Brigades fighters were injured while attempting to block an advancing Israeli unit in a village near the city of Khan Younis. The Al-Qassam Brigades said they lobbed an explosive device and seven mortar shells at the invading forces. Israeli forces also invaded the city of Dier Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, seizing five Palestinians over 24 hours…”

Ma’an additional reported that “Palestinian resistance groups struck Israeli targets in response to Israel’s renewed incursions. The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades said they launched a homemade projectile at the Israeli border town of Sderot, near the Gaza Strip. The An-Nasser Brigades also claimed to have fired two mortar shells at the Israeli military base at Kisufim”.
The Ma’an report on Monday’s attacks in Gaza is here.

Interestingly, a week ago, on Saturday 20 October — while the Israeli Defense Ministry was preparing plans for a phased program of escalating sanctions against Gaza if Qassam attacks continued — Maan reported that “Israeli forces completely demolished the main electricity transformer in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday evening. Local residents of northern Gaza reported spending Friday night completely immersed in darkness after the destruction of the transformer which supplies power to the area. Eyewitnesses stated that an Israeli tank launched a shell towards the transformer located near the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun … The area of Beit Lahiya was also subjected to Israeli gunfire and has had a suspension of electricity”. The Ma’an report of a 20th October attack on the main electricity transformer in the northern Gaza strip is posted her.

Israel cuts Gaza fuel

Israel has apparently not yet implemented phased sanctions against Gaza in retaliation for Qassam rocket attacks against Israel… but fuel supplies to Gaza have reportedly been stopped.

The Israeli High Court of Justice will rule next week on petitions submitted by a number of Israeli human rights groups seeking to stop an Israeli cut-off of vitally needed supplies, such as the fuel on which the Gaza power plant operates since a June 2006 Israeli air strike destroyed all the plant’s generators.

But, the Israeli military has closed the Sufa crossing through which the fuel is delivered from Israel to Gaza. So, one way or another, the fuel is cut off.

A separate decision to cut-off direct Israeli suspension of electricity supplies to Gaza is still pending, according to Israeli officials.

See Israel starts phased Gaza sanctions here.

Kofi Annan and Ted Turner meet Israeli PM Olmert

Former UNSG Kofi Annan, who made it one of the main goals of his administration to improve Israel’s relationship with the UN, is visiting Israel this week as part of a delegation from the UN Foundation. Ted Turner is also part of the delgation.

Annan has just inaugurated in Geneva his new Global Humanitarian Forum.

Israeli Prime Minister’s office issued the following statement: “The Prime Minister briefed the delegation on the talks being held with the Palestinians in order to reach a two-state solution in which the State of Israel and a Palestinian state live side by side in peace and security, and on his talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The delegates expressed their appreciation for the Government’s efforts to advance relations with the Palestinians…”

For more details — at least, for what’s known so far — see UN-Truth’s post here.

One Palestinian critique

Ghassan Khatib, who runs the Jerusalem Media Communications Center, and who writes a weekly editorial for his Bitterlemons weekly analysis round-up, has just written this week that “Current negotiations are characterized by secrecy, at least on the Palestinian side, thus precluding the input of the public and official decision-making bodies; they have taken place without agreed-upon and declared terms of reference, again leaving the Palestinian side at the mercy of the imbalance of power between the two sides; and, finally, the makeup of the Palestinian delegation, which was apparently influenced by the US, is more or less the same as that for the Oslo talks”.

Khatib has served as the Palestinian Authority Minister of Labor under Yasser Arafat, and as Minister of Planning under Mahmoud Abbas.

“Meanwhile, in the last meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state disappointed the Palestinian side in three ways. First, Rice appeared to place greater importance on internal Israeli dynamics in her expectations of the language and content of any document to come out of the Annapolis meeting. Second, she brought nothing by way of progress in ending Israel’s negative practices in the occupied territories, including a possible relaxation of the Israeli closure regime, an end to settlement expansion or any significant prisoner release. Finally, she also brought no commitment from Israel to a timetable for negotiations …

“Rice left the Palestinian leadership and peace camp in a disadvantaged position vis-a-vis the camp led by Hamas even before the Annapolis meeting has started. This is unfortunate, especially since it is less than two years since Hamas overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections, particularly as a result of the collapse of the peace process and the failure of the peace camp in Palestine to deliver on its promises to the public of a negotiated peaceful end to the conflict.

“If the Annapolis meeting is not itself going to mark progress toward a political settlement that includes an end to the occupation, then it should at least mark the resumption of bilateral negotiations. In this case, there has to be a clear and intensive effort to reduce public expectations both in Israel and Palestine and avoid the exaggerated importance currently attached to this meeting.

“Furthermore, the Arab world is advised to restrict its representation at Annapolis to those countries that already have relations with Israel, i.e., Egypt and Jordan. Attendance by countries such as Saudi Arabia and Syria would mark a diplomatic victory for Israel. Such a victory cannot come for free. If there is to be no end to settlement expansion, no easing of restrictions on movement in occupied territory and no clear commitment to negotiate an end to the conflict at Annapolis, there is no need to grant Israel any diplomatic victory in this way”.- Published 22/10/2007 here .

The Road Map by any other name …

So, the fog is lifting, and the mist is clearing. Or, perhaps it is the smoke — as in smoke and mirrors…

Remarks made by Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat after Friday’s meeting in Jerusalem between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) seem to indicate that the Middle East peace conference (or “meeting”) that the U.S. has talked about convening in Annapolis in late November (or later) is not a new, improved initiative at all.

No, it now seems to be the same old thing — another attempt at implementing the 2003 Road Map, sketched out by the U.S. following George Bush’s 2002 vision of a two-state solution (which would necessarily mean the creation of a Palestinian State), and of course following the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq (which aroused considerable regional reaction).

Just to refresh our memories: the Palestinian leadership rushed to accept the Road Map — however unhappy and anxious they were about it, they realized that not going along would make their immediate situation much worse. The then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, however, smiled, sighed, dawdled, and dragged his feet — then submitted a list of 14 “objections” to the Road Map, without formally objecting in so many words.

Immediately prior, and during, her last visit to the region a week ago, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice suddenly began talking about the need to implement first-stage requirements of the Road Map — before the Annapolis peace conference (or “meeting”). That remark alone is enough to put in serious doubt any imminent convening of this proposed Annapolis event, despite the “diplomatic capital” that Rice is investing.

Continue reading The Road Map by any other name …

Rice is studying previous Mid-East peace efforts

According to a story out of Washington from the Associated Press’ Matthew Lee today, “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is looking to the past for lessons on how to make next month’s Mideast peace conference a success”.

Very good.

A few days ago, Rice said something that should have made our ears perk up, in testimony to U.S. Congressmen at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee [See the post “Rice tells US Congress — ???” on our sister log, UN-Truth, here.]

What Rice said was: “For more than six decades, over the course of many administrations, American leaders of both parties have worked for peace and security in the region, not always perfectly, but consistently”.

Not always perfectly???

Today’s story, it is apparent, emerged from Friday’s daily briefing at the U.S. State Department by spokesman Sean McCormack — and from a journalist’s question, probably from the AP writer Matthew Lee, about why Rice spoke with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, an appointment that would have been listed on her daily schedule, or mentioned around the State Department press office.

The full unvarnished excerpt of the exchange at yesterday’s State Department briefing is reproduced here — it shows, at least, that this is one story that was not spoon-fed to the press:

“QUESTION: The Secretary this week also apparently met with President Carter.

MR. MCCORMACK: She did.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about that meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I wasn’t in on that one. And they had a fairly good discussion about a variety of different issues. They talked about our efforts in the Middle East. It was a good cordial meeting. She was talking to President Carter about what we were doing.

QUESTION: Compared to what he did?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. This isn’t a game of one-upsmanship.

Continue reading Rice is studying previous Mid-East peace efforts

A Just State

A comment (by Shlomo) posted on Tony Karon’s Rootless Cosmopolitan blog on 16 September, just after the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana – which fell on 12-13 September this year), made these observations about a major change in worldview or ethos since the early days surrounding the creation of the State of Israel (14 May 1948):

“When I was at Rosh Hashana services, the congregation said a prayer for Israel, as is customary. However, the prayer book was over fifty years old, so it was not what I was used to. The main focus [then] was on a just state and a “brotherhood of humanity” – in short, moral strength. This is very different from the modern version, which is predominantly a prayer for conquest, “shielding us from our enemies”, etc – in short, military strength. Both of these prayers were by and for religious Zionists. My, how times have changed”

The comment is made to this post on the Rootless Cosmopolitan blog.

 

Where are the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations?

The U.S. State Department has announced that “Secretary Rice will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah November 4-6 to continue her discussions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to support their ongoing bilateral dialogue and the serious effort underway to draft a joint document that could lay the foundation for negotiations. [n.b., notice the qualifiers] The Secretary will follow up on her recent discussions with the parties on the need for progress on phase one commitments under the Roadmap both to improve conditions on the ground and to build confidence between the parties …

What, exactly, does that mean? That Israel must remove a few roadblocks in the West Bank, which it has promised to do for months (while reportedly putting into place a few more…)? And that the Palestinians must do what? Ensure (Israeli) security???

Israeli officials say almost unanimously these days that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is too weak to deliver peace.

So, what do they want? A 100-year truce, many Israelis say, to see if the Palestinians are really serious about making peace. Hamas has proposed only a 10-year truce … but many Israelis appear utterly convinced that, after that, there would only be more attempts to ensure their destruction as a state as well as a nation.

Continue reading Where are the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations?

There is terror

… though it is not one-sided, but that will be elaborated in other posts, at other times.

Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel have been prevented in recent months, in fact in over a year. Qassam rockets are still being fired, still apparently mostly indiscriminately, by Palestinian militants from Gaza. Israelis going about their normal lives have been killed, as recently were some Israeli soldiers at a military training site near Gaza.

Condemnation and moral objections aside, these attacks are simply incomprehensible, even as expressions of objection and resistance to Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. [See “These Qassam attacks from Gaza are stupid and more” posted here.]

The most-read article in the Guardian newspaper’s website yesterday was: “Google Earth used to target Israel. Palestinian militants are using Google Earth to help plan their attacks on the Israeli military and other targets, the Guardian has learned”, which can be read in its entirety here.

While it has been assumed that the Palestinian militants were firing blindly — though perfecting their aim, as their technological prowess increased, with reports of the results of each strike — this report in the Guardian increases the psychological terror of the present situation, by suggesting that information freely available on the internet is helping to improve the planning of the attacks.

Continue reading There is terror

There is oppression

How to describe the present situation?
For the truth to be told, there is no getting around it: one important aspect is the present occupation — the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory — and, whatever the expressed disclaimers, this has dragged oppression in its wake. Few Israelis deny it, when they speak about it — though most Israelis live their normal pleasant, loving, and sometimes stressful lives without dwelling too much on the subject.

Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist who has lived among and reported on the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza, reporting for Haaretz newspaper, wrote a few years back about the desire expressed by her Israeli compatriots that when they say they want “peace”, she believed what they really meant was “peace” as in “peace and quiet”.

Her recent reporting has taken on a more exhausted and impatient tone.
Continue reading There is oppression