End Israeli assault on Gaza Strip now!
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Israeli combat troops march toward northern Gaza Strip January 12. The Israeli offensive there has left more than 1,000 dead and thousands more wounded.
BY SETH GALINSKY
January14The Israeli Defense Forces are continuing their land, sea, and air assault on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Backed by reservists and tanks, Israeli ground troops have pushed into neighborhoods on the edge of Gaza City, some of the most densely populated in the world.
Israeli troops have virtually sealed off the strip of some 1.5 million people, closing all crossings. The area is bordered by Israel on the north and east and Egypt on the south.
As of January 14 more than 1,000 Gaza residents, including 300 children, have been killed and nearly 5,000 wounded. Another 90,000 have been forced from their homes by the fighting, reported the BBC.
Israel is not going to show restraint anymore, asserted Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni in an interview appearing in the January 19 Newsweek.
The Egyptian government is attempting to broker a cease-fire. According to the January 14 Jerusalem Post, Hamas negotiators in Cairo had agreed to an Egyptian proposal in principle, which would include halting rockets attacks on Israel. Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Defense Ministrys diplomatic bureau is scheduled to travel to Cairo January 15 to review the cease-fire proposal and present Tel Avivs conditions.
Washington and Tel Aviv insist on an international force at the Egypt-Gaza border to block arms shipments through tunnels.
The London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported January 13 that Hamas is willing to accept Turkish forces in the town of Rafah along the Egyptian-Gaza border crossing as part of a cease-fire agreement.
After occupying Gaza for 38 years, Israel pulled out its troops and settlements in September 2005. Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) won a majority in the elections to the Palestinian parliament in Gaza in 2006.
Washington has given full support to the assault on Gaza. There will not be a sustainable cease-fire if they continue firing rockets. I happen to believe the choice is Hamass to make, said U.S. president George Bush January 12.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli Defense Forces are carving out a security zone along Gazas border, which it plans to occupy even after the war ends, regardless of the negotiations.
Just a week into the assault, which began December 27, Israeli forces had bombed more than 1,000 sites, including mosques, universities, dairy factories, news media offices, homes, and many government buildings. However, few sites in the affluent Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City have been hit, according to Haaretz. Instead, the Israeli Defense Forces have focused on the citys more working-class eastern side.
Attacks on civilians and restrictions on aid are so blatant that the International Red Cross, which rarely makes public criticisms, charged that the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded. The statement was issued after it took four days for the Red Cross to get Israeli permission to travel to a bombed-out residence where several small children were found next to their parents corpses.
The Israeli assault came on top of an 18-month economic blockade of Gaza, which has increased dependence on UN handouts and caused severe shortages of electricity, water, food, and medicine.
Gazans help each other out
Gaza residents are seeking ways to help each other out in the midst of the assault. In the Shati refugee camp, baker Zuhair Abu al-Arraj opened his house to neighbors looking for a place to cook. Arraj did not have electricity, but he did have a clay oven which he powered with cardboard and paper.
Give me more, give me more, he said sticking his hands out to two women with baskets of dough, according to a report in the Washington Post. He baked 400 loaves by midafternoon that day.
From the point of view of the Israeli government, Operation Cast Lead has so far been a success. The Israeli Defense Forces say they have seriously damaged Hamass infrastructure and inflicted hundreds of casualties. Rocket attacks by Hamas have declined from 70 a day before the assault to about 20 now.
Tel Aviv controls on media
Tel Aviv also has worked to control media coverage of the assault. Israeli soldiers in Gaza had to turn in their cell phones. Foreign reporters have not been allowed into Gaza since the assault began.
While TV news reports around the world show scenes from Gaza hospitals that include critically wounded children, in Israel similar images from Gaza are scarce while news on Israelis injured or killed is covered around the clock.
We dont pretend to show the whole picture, as though we are covering a war in Tanzania. Its our war, said Reudor Benziman, chief executive of Channel 10 News, one of two major private stations in Israel.
But there are some voices opposing the war in the Israeli press. Gordon Levy, a columnist for Haaretz, protested what he called the Israeli stations blackout of the fighting.
He wrote that anyone who recoils from our heroic tales, bias, whitewashed words, Rorschach images of bombing, IDF spokesman-distributed photographs, propagandists excuses, self-satisfied generals and half-truths should instead tune in to the English broadcasts of Al Jazeera, an Arab-language news service that has six reporters in Gaza.
Elections in Israel during war
Elections to the Knesset, Israels parliament, are scheduled to take place February 10. This occurs amid tactical differences among the Israeli rulers on how far to go in Gaza, or whether enough has been achieved already. Military officials told the press that they have a contingency planthe full reoccupation of Gaza and the toppling of Hamasif Tel Aviv does not achieve all its goals in the negotiations. But few among Israeli rulers believe that a long-term occupation of Gaza is possible.
Until the attack on Gaza, right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, was ahead in the race to become the new prime minister. But recent polls show growing support for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party. A bloc led by Foreign Minister Livnis Kadima party has pulled even with Netanyahu.
Livni is a one-time spy for Mossad, Israels intelligence service. She and Barak are considered part of the Israeli left. With hundreds dead in Gaza, even Newsweek noted, Theres something vaguely Orwellian about referring to Barak and Livni as doves.
On January 12, Israels Central Elections Committee disqualified from the elections two Arab-Israeli partiesBalad, which currently has three members in the Knesset, and the United Arab List with four. Haaretz said Balad and UAL were accused of supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israels right to exist.
Nearly 20 percent of Israels 7 million citizens are Arabs. But, Haaretz notes, Israeli Arabs have suffered from discrimination and poverty for decades.
One of the largest protests by Israeli-Arabs in years took place in Sakhnin January 3 with 10,000 demonstrating against the assault on Gaza.
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