Sunday 28 December 2008

Britain and US refuse to demand end to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

Nicola Smith - TimesOnline

Britain and the United States were on a collision course with their European allies last night after refusing to call for an end to Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.

The wave of attacks marked a violent end to President George W Bush’s sporadic Middle East peace efforts. The White House put the blame squarely on Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organisation, for provoking the Israeli blitz.

Britain echoed the call for “militants” to stop firing rockets into Israel while calling for “maximum restraint” to avoid casualties.

The response was in sharp contrast to demands by the European Union for an “immediate ceasefire” and criticism by France of the use of “disproportionate force”.

“Hamas’s continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop,” said Gordon Johndroe, the White House spokesman, in Texas where Bush is spending the holidays at his Crawford ranch.

Britain declined to condemn Israel for the onslaught and called for an end to rocket attacks by militants.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, blamed Hamas for the raid. “The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza,” she said.

Gordon Brown, the prime minister, said: “I am deeply concerned by continuing missile strikes from Gaza on Israel and by Israel’s response today.

“Peaceful means are the only way of reaching a lasting solution to the situation in Gaza. I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by President Abbas.”

Brown added: “I understand the Israeli government’s sense of obligation to its population. Israel needs to meet its humanitarian obligations, act in a way to further the long-term vision of a two-state solution and do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties.”

The muted response of Britain and America was in sharp contrast to the statement issued on behalf of Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, who called for an immediate ceasefire and the renewal of the truce declared by Hamas leaders, which had expired on December 19.

“I call for an immediate cessation of military actions on both sides,” he said.

“The EU has repeatedly condemned rocket attacks against Israel. The current Israeli strikes are inflicting an unacceptable toll on Palestinian civilians and will only worsen the humanitarian crisis.”

The French presidency of the EU issued a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc, condemning both sides. “The EU condemns the Israeli bombardments as well as rocket attacks from Gaza. It demands that this stops immediately,” it said.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, also went further than Britain and America in condemning the use of “disproportionate” force.

In a statement from Paris he said that he “strongly condemns the irresponsible provocations which led to this situation as well as the disproportionate use of force”. The statement added that he “deplores the heavy civilian losses and expresses his condolence to the innocent victims and their families”.

The EU’s criticism of Israel’s actions was echoed by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, who said he was “deeply alarmed” and appealed for “an immediate halt to all violence”.

Israeli leaders have stepped up their rhetoric against Hamas in recent days, leaving no doubt about their intentions. Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israeli defence forces, said on Thursday: “We will need to use our full force to hit the terrorist infrastructure.”

Arab People, Not Regimes, Express Solidarity with Gaza

Hussein Assi

Once again, Arab regimes and Arab people seem to be living on two opposite river banks.
For the second consecutive day, the Zionist entity continued its bloody offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza strip, committing the worst-ever massacres.

For the second consecutive day, many Arab regimes maintained their deadly official "calm," or even worse, their "verbal denunciation" to the attacks. Yet, none of the Arab leaders took any "practical measure," except for calling for an "urgent" Arab summit on Friday, a week after the Israeli offensive that claimed the lives of more 270 Palestinians in less than 24 hours!

In contrast with the expected Arab official reaction to Zionist aggressions, Arab peoples have staged angry demonstrations across the Arab world to condemn Israeli barbarism and to express support for Palestinian Resistance. Demonstrations also called on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the Palestinians and the crimes against humanity committed by Israel.

One of the biggest demonstrations took place in the Yemeni capital Sanaa Sunday where the General People's Congress (GPC), National Democratic Coalition and civil society organizations organized a solidarity rally in the Capital Secretariat against the brutal Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Capital Secretariat and called for an Arab and Islamic unified stand against Israel’s illegal actions.

Syria, in turn, witnessed a huge rally where tens of thousands of Syrians gathered at the center of Damascus, protesting the Israeli aggressions and the Arab regimes' calm. They declared solidarity with Gaza and called to stop the aggressions as soon as possible. They also set fire to Israeli and US flags.

Beirut also witnessed for the second consecutive day multiple solidarity movements against the Israeli attacks. Palestinian and Lebanese protesters gathered outside the UN-ESCWA, calling for a responsible international reaction to the massacres. Protesters held candles and Palestinian flags, chanting anti-Israel slogans.
Demonstrations also have been held at the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, mainly the Ain el-Helwe camp in Sidon in south Lebanon. Dozens of youths took to the streets to express solidarity with the Palestinians and set fire to tires. A huge rally is also set to take place in the southern city on Monday.

Around 20,000 people took to the streets of Egyptian cities on Sunday to protest against the attacks. The largest protest saw around 8,000 people demonstrate on the streets of Assiut, a city in southern Egypt of 400,000, a security official said, with another 3,000 gathering in Minya, south of Cairo. A security official said 4,000 people took part in another anti-Israel and pro-Gaza demonstration in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the security official said. Another 4,000 people rallied outside the Doctors' Syndicate in the capital against the Israeli onslaught that has also wounded more than 600 Palestinians in the isolated enclave on Egypt's northeastern border.

Jordanians are also set to protest against the Israeli attacks on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, hundreds of protesters in the Jordanian capital Amman demonstrated in front of the nearby UN headquarters, waving Hamas banners and condemning Israel's strikes.

Thousands of people marched in the Moroccan capital to protest Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip and called for revenge for the more than 270 Palestinians martyred. A crowd estimated at 3,000 carried signs denouncing the "Israeli aggressors" and chanted that "with our soul, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Gaza!"

Meanwhile, a general strike was observed all across Palestinian territories Sunday in protest at the Israeli massacre in Gaza. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had called for a general strike and rallies and declared state of mourning. Commercial stores closed and Palestinian flags were brought to half-mast.
Some of the rallies developed into clashes between the Israeli occupation forces and the protestors in Ramallah, where dozens were injured with Israeli bullets.
Angry demonstrations also broke out in Oum el-Fahem, Nazareth, Sahnin and Tamra in northern occupied Palestine in response to a call from leaders of the Arab community. Protesters chanted slogans condemning Israeli aggressions and waved Palestinian flags.
In Bethlehem, municipal officials switched off Christmas lights in protest at the violence.

World wants end to Gaza operation

The deadly Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and its killing of civilians in the past two days have prompted worldwide demonstrations.

Many countries have been in deep shock ever since Israel began staging devastating attacks on the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

The situation has now escalated with Israel warning of ground incursions into the impoverished strip. Israeli attacks have killed at least 282 Palestinians since Saturday. Nearly 800 others are wounded.

Thousands of Palestinians took their concern over the air raids to the streets in cities and villages in the West Bank. Israeli forces immediately responded by firing rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs at the demonstrators

Dozens of Palestinians were injured.

Anger over the bloody attacks was not limited to the West Bank. Some 5 thousand demonstrators in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, condemned the assault and promised their support for the Palestinians, shouting in unison "Istanbul Stands Here Today for Gaza".

"No government gains power by killing people. You should have policies. You are a tribe that was tortured over centuries. So you know how it feels, stop killing people," a demonstrator said in condemnation of Zionism in an interview with Press TV reporter Jody Sabral.

The Israeli military action also sparked protests in Sidney, Australia where people showed their anger over the developments surrounding Gaza outside the US consulate.

The protesters sought to draw world attention to the ongoing US extension of financial and political support to Tel Aviv despite the blockade imposed on Gaza.

In the Jordanian capital Amman massive demonstrations were erupted in denunciation of the Israeli assault. Protesters cried and expressed shock as the death of hundreds of women and children was revealed.

"Jordanian people have poured to the cities to clearly protest against this massacre and say that the real criminals of this massacre today are the Arab officials and governments that have given the green light for this occupying army to conduct this air raids," Ali Abu-Sukkar, a member of Islamic Action Front, told Press TV reporter Tarek Al-Farra.

"For the Jordanian government, it's time for the end of this so-called peace agreement with Israel," he added.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, about 4-thousand protesters marched through Beirut. The Lebanese nation promised to stand beside the Palestinian people and to support the Hamas.

The Lebanese protesters also planned to protest outside the Egyptian embassy.

The protests come amid Washington's use of veto powers in support of Israel. The United States has managed to sanction Israeli crimes against the Palestinians by vetoing over 40 anti-Israel resolutions so far brought to the UN Security Council.

The Sunday US intervention in the UN Security Council bid to condemn Israeli crimes against the Gaza Strip blocked efforts to bring the attacks to a halt.

The UN Human Rights Council declared early in December that Israeli policies against the Palestinians and the blockade of the Gaza Strip are "crimes against humanity."

UN human rights rapporteur Richard Falk suggested that Israeli crimes against the Palestinians are worthy of an International Criminal Court investigation.

People in Turkey showing their support for the Palestinians

Jordanians shout slogans during a demonstration in Amman

Abbas calls on Hamas to renew truce

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called on rival Hamas to renew a truce with Israel in order to avoid 'further bloodshed' in Gaza.

"We have warned of this grave danger and said that we should remove all the pretexts used by Israel. We all hope to end the aggression and return to the calm. We want to protect Gaza," Abbas said Sunday after meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.

Hamas refuses to renew a truce with Tel Aviv, saying that Israel does not live up to its end of the deal. Under a six-month Egypt-brokered truce, which ended on Friday December 19, Israel had promised to ease Gaza blockade, open border crossings, and halt incursions into Gaza in exchange for an end to Gazans' retaliatory fire.

Israel, however, failed to halt cross-border attacks or lift the blockade and further intensified the siege in early December as the truce was nearing its deadline.

Israel attacked the Gaza Strip on Saturday, leaving 230 people dead and nearly 800 others in critical condition. The number of the Palestinian casualties rose to over 280 on Sunday.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who also held talks with Abbas, said a renewal of the truce should be a priority. "There has been calm [in the Gaza Strip] and we should work to restore it," said Aboul Gheit.

Egypt condemned the Israeli raids on Saturday, urging the US, Russia and France to call for and end to the onslaught.

"We summoned the Israeli ambassador and we said we refuse this aggression and we demanded an immediate end to it," Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki was quoted by AFP as saying on Sunday.

Report: Egypt stabbed Hamas in back

Egypt collaborated with Israel by deliberately misleading Hamas and allowing Tel Aviv to deal a blow to the movement, a report claims.

Citing diplomatic sources, the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi reported Sunday that Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman had deceived Hamas into believing that Israel would not launch an attack on the Gaza Strip in the near future.

According to the report, the misinformation lured Hamas into not evacuating its security compounds and headquarters.

Suleiman convinced a number of Arab leaders that Israel was intending to launch only limited operations into the Gaza Strip to mount pressure on Hamas ahead of signing a new ceasefire agreement, the report added.

Egypt told Hamas on Friday evening that Israel had agreed to begin talks on a ceasefire and would not attack Gaza before Cairo ended its diplomatic efforts, the daily quoted Hamas sources close to former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar as saying.

The report added that Egypt's assurance persuaded Hamas not to evacuate its security compounds in accordance with routine procedures in place after any threats by Israel.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Saturday blamed Hamas for provoking Israel into attacking the strip. "Egypt warned for a long time, and someone who ignores warnings is responsible for the outcome," said Gheit.

Israel launched a massive attack on the Gaze Strip on Saturday killing or wounding hundreds of people.

Gaza Today: "This is only the beginning"

"...There is a light through, beyond the sparks of resistance and solidarity in the West Bank, ’48 and the broader Middle East. This is a light of conscience turned into activism by people all over the world. We can turn a spotlight onto Israel’s crimes against humanity and the enduring injustice here in Palestine, through coming out onto the streets and pressurizing our governments; demanding an end to Israeli apartheid and occupation, broadening our call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and for a genuine Just Peace..."

Ewa Jasiewicz

As I write this, Israeli jets are bombing the areas of Zeitoun and Rimalin central Gaza City. The family I am staying with has moved into the internal corridor of their home to shelter from the bombing. The windows nearly blew out just five minutes ago as a massive explosion rocked the house. Apache’s are hovering above us, whilst F16s sear overhead.

UN radio reports say one blast was a target close to the main gate of AlShifa hospital – Gaza and Palestine’s largest medical facility. Another was a plastics factory. More bombs continue to pound the Strip.

Sirens are wailing on the streets outside. Regular power cuts that plunge the city into blackness every night and tonight is no exception. Only perhaps tonight it is the darkest night people have seen here in their lifetimes.

Over 220 people have been killed and over 700 injured through attacks that shocked the strip in the space 15 minutes. Hospitals are overloaded and unable to cope. These attacks come on top of existing conditions of humanitarian crisis: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and freedom of movement.

Doctors at Shifaa had to scramble together 10 make shift operating theatres to deal with the wounded. The hospital’s maternity ward had to transform their operating room into an emergency theatre. Shifaa only had 12 beds in their intensive care unit, they had to make space for 27 today.

There is a shortage of medicine – over 105 key items are not in stock, and blood and spare generator parts are desperately needed.

Shifaa’s main generator is the life support machine of the entire hospital. It’s the apparatus keeping the ventilators and monitors and lights turned on that keep people inside alive. And it doesn’t have the spare parts it needs, despite the International Committee for the RedCross urging Israel to allow it to transport them through Erez checkpoint.

Shifaa’s Head of Casualty, Dr Maowiye Abu Hassanyeh explained, ‘We had over 300 injured in over 30 minutes. There were people on the floor of the operating theatre, in the reception area, in the corridors; we were sending patients to other hospitals. Not even the most advanced hospital in the world could cope with this number of casualties in such a short space of time.’

And as IOF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenaz said this morning, ‘This is only the beginning.’

But this isn’t the beginning, this is an ongoing policy of collective punishment and killing with impunity practised by Israel for decades. It has seen its most intensified level today. But the weight of dread, revenge and isolation hangs thick over Gaza today. People are all asking: If this is only the beginning, what will the end look like?

Myself and Alberto Acre, a Spanish journalist, had been on the border village of Sirej near Khan Younis in the south of the strip. We had driven there at 8am with the mobile clinic of the Union of Palestinian Relief Committees. The clinic regularly visits exposed, frequently raided villages far from medical facilities. We had been interviewing residents about conditions on the border. Stories of olive groves and orange groves, family farmland, bulldozed to make way for a clear line of sight for Israeli occupation force watch towers and border guards. Israeli attacks were frequent. Indiscriminate fire and shelling spraying homes and land on the front line of the south eastern border. One elderly farmer showed us the grave-size ditch he had dug to climb into when Israeli soldiers would shoot into his fields.

Alberto was interviewing a family that had survived an Israeli missile attack on their home last month. It had been a response to rocket fire from resistance fighters nearby. Four fighters were killed in a field by the border. Israel had rained rockets and M16 fire back. The family, caught in the crossfire, have never returned to their home.

I was waiting for Alberto to return when ground shaking thuds tilted us off our feet. This was the sound of surface to air fired missiles and F16 bombs slamming into the police stations, and army bases of the Hamas authority here. In Gaza City, in Diere Balah, Rafah, Khan Younis, Beit Hanoon.

We zoomed out of the village in our ambulance, and onto the main road to Gaza City, before jumping out to film the smouldering remains of a police station in Diere Balah, near Khan Younis. Its’ name - meaning 'place of dates' - sounds like the easy semi-slang way of saying ‘take care’, DiereBala, Diere Balak – take care.

Eye witnesses said two Israeli missiles had destroyed the station. One had soared through a children’s playground and a busy fruit and vegetable market before impacting on its target.

Civilians Dead
There was blood on a broken plastic yellow slide, and a crippled, dead donkey with an upturned vegetable cart beside it. Aubergines and splattered blood covered the ground. A man began to explain in broken English what had happened. ‘It was full here, full, three people dead, many many injured’. An elderly man with a white kuffiyeh around his head threw his hands down to his blood drenched trousers. ‘Look! Look at this! Shame on all governments, shame on Israel, look how they kills us, they are killing us and what does the world do? Where is the world, where are they, we are being killed here, hell upon them!’ He was a market trader, present during the attack.

He began to pick up splattered tomatoes he had lost from his cart, picking them up jerkily, and putting them into plastic bags, quickly. Behind a small tile and brick building, a man was sitting against the wall, his legs were bloodied. He couldn’t get up and was sitting, visibly in pain and shock, trying to adjust himself, to orientate himself.

The police station itself was a wreck, a mess of criss-crossed piles of concrete – broken floors upon floors. Smashed cars and a split palm tree split the road.

We walked on, hurriedly, with everyone else, eyes skyward at four apache helicopters – their trigger mechanisms supplied by the UK’s Brighton-Based EDM Technologies. They were dropping smoky bright flares – a defence against any attempt at Palestinian missile retaliation.

Turning down the road leading to the Diere Balah Civil Defence Force headquarters we suddenly saw a rush of people streaming across the road. ‘They’ve been bombing twice, they’ve been bombing twice’ shouted people.

We ran too, but towards the crowds and away from what could possibly be target number two, ‘a ministry building’ our friend shouted to us. The apaches rumbled above.

Arriving at the police station we saw the remains of a life at work smashed short. A prayer matt clotted with dust, a policeman’s hat, the ubiquitous bright flower patterned mattresses, burst open. A crater around 20 feet in diameter was filled with pulverised walls and floors and a motorbike, tossed on its’ side, toy-like in its’ depths.

Policemen were frantically trying to get a fellow worker out from under the rubble. Everyone was trying to call him on his Jawwal. ‘Stop it everyone, just one, one of you ring’ shouted a man who looked like a captain. A fire licked the underside of an ex-room now crushed to just 3 feet high. Hands alongside hands rapidly grasped and threw back rocks, blocks and debris to reach the man.

We made our way to the Al Aqsa Hospital. Trucks and cars loaded with the men of entire families – uncles, nephews, brothers – piled high and speeding to the hospital to check on loved ones, horns blaring without interruption.

Hospitals on the brink
Entering Al Aqsa was overwhelming, pure pandemonium, charged with grief, horror, distress, and shock. Limp blood covered and burnt bodies streamed by us on rickety stretchers. Before the morgue was a scrum, tens of shouting relatives crammed up to its open double doors. ‘They could not even identify who was who, whether it is their brother or cousin or who, because they are so burned’ explained our friend. Many were transferred, in ambulances and the back of trucks and cars to Al Shifa Hospital.

The injured couldn’t speak. Causality after casualty sat propped against the outside walls outside, being comforted by relatives, wounds temporarily dressed. Inside was perpetual motion and the more drastically injured. Relatives jostled with doctors to bring in their injured in scuffed blankets. Drips, blood streaming faces, scorched hair and shrapnel cuts to hands, chests, legs, arms and heads dominated the reception area, wards and operating theatres.

We saw a bearded man, on a stretcher on the floor of an intensive care unit, shaking and shaking, involuntarily, legs rigid and thrusting downwards. A spasm coherent with a spinal chord injury. Would he ever walk again or talk again? In another unit, a baby girl, no older than six months, had shrapnel wounds to her face. A relative lifted a blanket to show us her fragile bandaged leg. Her eyes were saucer-wide and she was making stilted, repetitive, squeaking sounds.

A first estimate at Al Aqsa hospital was 40 dead and 120 injured. The hospital was dealing with casualties from the bombed market, playground, Civil Defence Force station, civil police station and also the traffic police station. All leveled. A working day blasted flat with terrifying force.

At least two shaheed (martyrs) were carried out on stretchers out of the hospital. Lifted up by crowds of grief-stricken men to the graveyard to cries of ‘La Illaha Illa Allah,’ there is not god but Allah.

Who cares?
And according to many people here, there is nothing and nobody looking out for them apart from God. Back in Shifa Hospital tonight, we meet the brother of a security guard who had had the doorway he had been sitting in and the building – Abu Mazen’s old HQ - fall down upon his head. He said to us, ‘We don’t have anyone but God. We feel alone. Where is the world? Where is the action to stop these attacks?’

Majid Salim, stood beside his comatosed mother, Fatima. Earlier today she had been sitting at her desk at work – at the Hadije Arafat Charity, near Meshtal, the Headquarters of the Security forces in Gaza City. Israel’s attack had left her with multiple internal and head injuries, tube down her throat and a ventilator keeping her alive. Majid gestured to her, ‘We didn’t attack Israel, my mother didn’t fire rockets at Israel. This is the biggest terrorism, to have our mother bombarded at work’.

The groups of men lining the corridors of the over-stretched Shifaa hospital are by turns stunned, agitated, patient and lost. We speak to one group. Their brother had both arms broken and has serious facial and head injuries. ‘We couldn’t recognise his face, it was so black from the weapons used’ one explains. Another man turns to me and says. ‘I am a teacher. I teach human rights – this is a course we have, ‘human rights’. He pauses. ‘How can I teach, my son, my children, about the meaning of human rights under these conditions, under this siege?’

It’s true, UNRWA and local government schools have developed a Human Rights syllabus, teaching children about international law, the Geneva Conventions, the International Declaration on Human Rights, The Hague Regulations. To try to develop a culture of human rights here, to help generate more self confidence and security and more of a sense of dignity for the children. But the contradiction between what should be adhered to as a common code of conducted signed up to by most states, and the realities on the ground is stark. International law is not being applied or enforced with respect to Israeli policies towards the Gaza Strip, or on’ 48 Palestine, the West Bank, or the millions of refugees living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

How can a new consciousness and practice of human rights ever graduate from rhetoric to reality when everything points to the contrary – both here and in Israel? The United Nations have been spurned and shut out by Israel, with Richard Falk the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Right sheld prisoner at Ben Gurion Airport before being unceremoniously deported this month – deliberately blinded to the abuses being carried out against Gaza by Israel. An international community which speaks empty phrases on Israeli attacks ‘we urge restraint...minimise civilian casualties’.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated regions on the planet. In Jabbaliya camp alone, Gaza ’s largest, 125,000 people are crowded into a space 2km square. Bombardment by F16s and Apaches at 11.30 in the morning, as children leave their schools for home reveals a contempt for civilian safety as does the 18 months of a siege that bans all imports and exports, and has resulted in the deaths of over 270 people as a result of a lack of access to essential medicines.

A light
There is a saying here in Gaza – we spoke about it, jokily last night. ‘At the end of the tunnel...there is another tunnel’. Not so funny when you consider that Gaza is being kept alive through the smuggling of food, fuel and medicine through an exploitative industry of over 1000 tunnels running from Egypt to Rafah in the South. On average 1-2 people die every week in the tunnels. Some embark on a humiliating crawl to get their education, see their families, to find work, on their hands and knees. Others are reportedly big enough to drive through.

Last night I added a new ending to the saying. ‘At the end of the tunnel,there is another tunnel and then a power cut’. Today, there’s nothing to make a joke about. As bombs continue to blast buildings around us, jarring the children in this house from their fitful sleep, the saying could take on another twist. After today’s killing of over 700, is it that at the end of the tunnel, there is another tunnel, and then a grave?’, or a wall of international governmental complicity and silence?

There is a light through, beyond the sparks of resistance and solidarity in the West Bank, ’48 and the broader Middle East. This is a light of conscience turned into activism by people all over the world. We can turn a spotlight onto Israel’s crimes against humanity and the enduring injustice here in Palestine, through coming out onto the streets and pressurizing our governments; demanding an end to Israeli apartheid and occupation, broadening our call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and for a genuine Just Peace.

Through institutional, governmental and popular means, this can be a light at the end of the Gazan tunnel.

Hamas Urges New Intifada; We Kneel Only before Allah

Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal called Saturday on Palestinians to wage a new intifada against Israeli occupation, including a return to martyrdom operations.

In an interview on Al-Jazeera television, Mashaal said: "We called for a military intifada against the enemy. Resistance will continue through martyrdom operations." "I call upon you (Palestinians) to carry out a third intifada," Mashaal said.

Mashaal pledged Hamas would respond to Israel's operation in Gaza that killed over 225 Palestinians and injured over 700 others. "The time when you were the ones to control the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over," he said, and vowed that "Gaza will soon be liberated" despite Israel's military superiority.

He also warned Israel that it would not achieve by fighting what it had not been able to achieve through diplomacy.

Mashaal defended the resistance group's actions and continued rocket attacks on the occupied territories, saying Israel - and not Hamas - was responsible for the renewed bloodshed.

Moreover, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared that Gaza would never cave to Israeli pressure, no matter how great. "We will not leave our land, we will not raise white flags and we kneel only before Allah," he said.

"There is blood everywhere, there are wounded and martyrs in every house and in every street. Gaza today was decorated by blood ... There can be more martyrs and there can be more wounded but Gaza will never be broken and will never surrender," Haniyeh said.

In a statement broadcast by the Hamas-owned Gaza-based television channel, Al-Aqsa, Haniyeh said: "Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre."

Hezbollah to Gazans: You Are Not by Yourselves

The head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sayyed Hachem Safieddine confirmed on Saturday that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were not standing by themselves.

Speaking during a protest in Southern Suburb of Beirut against the Israeli barbaric massacres, Sayyed Safieddine addressed Gaza residents saying, “You are not alone in this ordeal and the coming days will prove that the right that Gaza people are defending will obtain victory.”

His eminence compared the current Gaza aggression to the Lebanon Second War in July 2006, saying “the decision is American taken in the White House, the Zionist machine is executing and the collusion is Arab that has paved for this aggression.”

Sayyed Safieddine addressed the people of Gaza telling them thae they, along with the resistance, would achieve victory “as we did in 2006”, adding “you (Gazans) will stay in the victorious position.”

The head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council said that more cohesion and awareness for what the enemy thinks are required in this stage… The Israeli military machine the killed Gaza residents was moved by a political decision however, his eminence added, this decision doesn’t show that the Israelis, Americans and some Arab collaborated countries were in a good state, on the contrary they are lost.

Sayyed Safieddine concluded his speech saying that despite the grief and sadness that we feel towards every Palestinian child, woman and man yet in the future “the victory will be huge because it is God’s pledge and God’s pledge is going to be fulfilled.”

Meanwhile, Hezbollah issued a statement on Saturday confirming that Israel is committing an Israeli war crime and genocide against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, saying that this calls for an instant move by the international community and its institutions, and especially the United Nations and the Security Council considering their suspicious silence a clear collusion with this aggression.

The statement added, “The condemnation language adopted by the Arab countries and their league is not capable of covering their shameful stance anymore, since allowing to block the Palestinian people is considered a participation in the siege instead of supporting this people in the whole civil and military fields to make them capable of deterring the aggression.”

Hezbollah concluded its statement saying that the nation is called for a strict stance and to exert its maximum capabilities against the barbaric Israeli aggression, under the US auspices along with the international community.


David Halpin

It is a beautiful afternoon here on Dartmoor. The sunlight has that quality one sees in Russian paintings of birch trees in the crisp snow. The three lovely grandchildren - girls, are here. We have been out for a walk on the moor in freedom - not stifled by a 60 year long occupation that started with a terror driven ethnic cleansing.

I phoned my brother in Gaza at noon. The couple had their fourth child, a baby girl, 7 days ago. There are now 4 children, so what future?

There has been no electricity for 48 hours. If the hospital generators fail (they are meant for stand by only), those on ventilators etc might die. Those on ventilation are having their bronchial trees sucked out using syringes. 1500 need special medical care outside Gaza. Since June 2007 and the pre-emptive strike by Hamas and the tightening of the noose, there have been 273 Palestinian murders. One can assume at least three times that number have been wounded. There have been uncounted hundreds dying from want of adequate medical services. I have seen many 'amputees' and appeared with one - Bashir on Al Aqsa TV. 3,500 factories have shut and the unemployment rate is about 80%.

The population is braced for a general invasion. The direction might be multiple. The CIA trained Palestinian 'quisling' forces might use the sealed Egyptian border. The sea 'border' might have a US element.

They feel that Ms Livni and her Zionist conspirators have been greatly hurt by the solidarity of the people in Gaza in spite of every effort to cow them. They were required to kneel for a loaf. They prefer to die standing than to live on their knees. I embrace them in this, the 2008th year of our Lord. That the barbarians should do this is no surprise. That the well fed but extremely ill educated nations of the west should not lift a finger in disapproval is no cause for surprise either. The 'stance' of the Arab 'leadership' is beyond words. It is loathed as much by the Palestinians as by the domestic populations.

I cannot say happy New Year. The hollowness is even more extreme, rather as the State Broadcaster's lies have become.


Cartoon of the day

A Bloody Day in Gaza

Sameh Habeeb

Gaza Strip, 27 Dec, 2008- Saturday morning started as usual but dramatically changed by 11AM. Sixty Israeli F16s bombarded around 100 police stations, civil and governmental offices across Gaza Strip. The bombardment which simultaneously took place left (at the time of writing)160 people killed and around 3 hundred wounded. A number of wounded is expected to die while many corpses still lie under the rubble of buildings.

Palestinian victims were an amalgamation of policemen and civilians who were visiting some police stations for civic affairs. Al Jawazat police station witnessed the bloodiest Israeli attack in which around 70 were killed, mostlypolicemen. The victims of police of Al Jawzat were holding a graduation ceremony for new young police groups.

A family of 9 members, 15 young children, and some women were killed but not recognized. The Ministry of Health is not able to recognize the ID's of casualties. Tawfiq Jaber, Director of Gaza police was killed in the air raids along with Ismail El Jabari head of the security section in the police. Governor of central Gaza governorates and camps was killed as Israel hit his car.

Ma'waya Hasanian, head of Emergency and Ambulances said that around 230 people were killed and 200 injured. He added that a big number of victims were civilians from women, children and old people. Civilian cars referred wounded civilians to the hospitals due to lack of medical cars and vehicles.

Gaza hospitals announced inability of receiving the wounded due to lack of medical equipment and tools. Corpses of Palestinians were thrown on the corridors, rooms and units of hospitals. Meanwhile 2-3 wounded victims shared one bed due to lack of medical equipment, a result of the Israeli siege imposed 2 years ago. Basim Nai'm, Health Minster in Gaza said that Gaza medical sector needs tens of kinds of medical equipment and tools. A number of 70 wounded were referred to an Egyptian hospital.

According to Naser Al laham, Chief-Editor of Maan News Agency said that around 60 Israeli warplanes carried out the Massacre which surprisingly took place in Gaza.

The raids targeted all areas of Gaza Strip, cities, villages and towns. The hit cities are Gaza, Rafah, Khanyonis, Nusairat, Maghazi, Bait Lahia, Jabalia, Bait Hanoun. Refugee camps of Jabalia, Al Shati', Rafah an mid areas were targeted as well. Some of the destroyed compounds included Palestinian prisoners under penal detention for criminal issues.

The Israeli bombings flagrantly violate all laws which call for protecting civilians. This was so obvious from the number of civilian casualties. The brutal bombings happened in time of school children were going home, after a normal day of study. A considerable number of children were killed, but medical soruces didn't announce official numbers in this respect. Identities of killed people are still unknown but a very few ones.

On the other side, Israel officially announced the start of a full-scale military operation in Gaza. She has called on settlers to go down to bunkers bordering Gaza after 1 Israeli was killed and several injured in a homemade rocket fired from Gaza.

Israeli official Television broadcasted footage of the settlements hit by Gazan fighters and ironically ignored what's happening in Gaza. The television stated that today's military operations is the start of a long-term massive war action against Gaza. Israeli army named the operation in Gaza "Lead Pouring Out" which entirely means surprisingly decapitation of Palestinian factions in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared the 20 square kilometers of Gaza a "special military zone." The classification is one degree below a declaration of total war against an enemy state. The announcement was made Saturday morning.

Israeli Channel 10 announced that the current situation does not amount to a declaration of war, but the operation against the Gaza Strip is intended to last throughout Saturday and perhaps into Sunday. It asserted that Israel prepared an operation that could take several weeks. Preparations have also been taken to contain any expected response in the West Bank.

Ehud Barak said that this operation would roll out in all Gaza's areas and it will last for a longer time. He vowed of a painful military strike of Hamas pointing out "there is a time for peace and time for War." According to Barak the operation aims at toppling down Hamas government and stopping the homemade rockets.

Maan Agency reports: Israeli sources also asserted that the operation would not topple Hamas, but rather will ensure that homemade projectiles from the Gaza Strip will stop. This was confirmed in a statement released by the Prime Minister's office as well.

Regional efforts are being exerted to put pressure on Israel to immediately stop the war crimes perpetrated in Gaza. Turkey expressed its deep anger towards the surprising actions done by Israel. Turkish government held a meeting to discuss the possibilities of reaching a truce. Premire of Turkey, Abdallah Gul, condemned the Israeli brutal actions in Gaza.

Meanwhile Syrian President, Bashar Al Asad, Yemeni Presdient Ali Abdallah Saleh called for an immediate meeting for Arab league to discuss Gaza's situation. Additionally Qatar and the Sudan called on that too. An expected session for the United Nations would be heled upon a request from Arab countries.

On the popular level, demonstrations took place in the West Bank cities, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. Lebanese people protest in front of the Egyptian embassy in Beirut considering it has part of the siege on Gaza.

Israel warcraft still hovers on low distance on Gaza vowing of a hot night!

To Be Continued.

Sameh A. Habeeb, B.A.
Photojournalist & Peace Activist
Humanitarian, Child Relief Worker
Gaza Strip, Palestine

Mob: 00972599306096
Tel: 0097282802825
Skype: Gazatoday, Facebook: Sameh A. habeeb

Photos of the day

Haitham Sabbah

I selected the following photos to sum up all that can be said to describe the Israeli massacre in Gaza today and what we expect to see very soon.

First, Peace? What peace??

The Israeli terrorist war machines used 60 jet fighters to attack Gaza and drop 100 ton of explosives there. The operation was concluded in two minutes:

A new world record in massacring people in one day. Congratulations to Israel (I mean it, congratulations for winning the bloody record):

Israeli citizens watching with JOY and taking memorial photos of their terrorist attack on Gaza:

The casualties: 225 killed (including ten of children and toddlers, and still counting) and more than 700 injured, hundreds of them in critical condition. The Israeli terrorist state chose the peak hour in Gaza - while kids are returning home from school - to cause maximum death:

Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank went demonstrating against the Israel terrorist crimes in Gaza and attacked Israeli terrorists with stones. Reports indicated that all fractions between political parties vanished during these demonstrations, which included Hamas and Fatah supporters who attacked Israel's terrorist army side by side.

And finally, Palestinian President, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas was drinking Arabian coffee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Enjoy it Mr. President!

Gaza carnage Obama's litmus test

The head of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza Saturday left at least 227 dead and 800 wounded, making it the biggest such atrocity in 60 years of Israel-Palestine conflict.

In an interview with ISNA News Agency in Tehran on Saturday, the head of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi stated that the United Sates and other Western backers of the Zionist entity must be held accountable for the Gaza carnage.

Without their full support the Zionists would lack the effrontery to launch such a large-scale onslaught on defenseless Palestinians, he noted.

“The Zionist regime has enjoyed the Bush administration's generous support to limber up for the new wave of appalling atrocities. The ongoing Gaza tragedy is regarded as the litmus test for US President-elect Barack Obama to show a timely action to halt the violence,” the Iranian lawmaker commented.

Boroujerdi maintained that missile attacks on Gaza are an obvious manifestation of Tel Aviv's desperation rather than a show of might.

He also called on Muslim states to play their vital role to cease the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Israeli warplanes carried out a massive air strike on Hamas installations and and the neighborhoods that surround them inside the Gaza Strip. Of the at least 227 dead and more than 800 wounded, preliminary reports indicate the overwhelming majority of the casualties are civilians and not Hamas military-wing members or political activists.

Video footage showed the bodies of dead people including men, women and children on Gaza's streets.

Hamas said that Israeli F-16 jet fighters had hit some 40 targets across the coastal sliver.

Israel says Gaza incursion to go on

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says "now is the time to fight."

Israel's defense minister says the Gaza operation will go on for "as long as necessary", snubbing international calls for an end to the onslaught.

"The operation will go on and be intensified as long as necessary," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at a televised news conference on Saturday.

He made the remarks after waves of Israeli aircraft swooped over the Gaza Strip, killing more than 210 Palestinians. The center of Gaza City became a scene of chaotic horror, where dozens of mutilated bodies were laid out on the pavement, the New York Times reported.

The death toll is expected to rise because of the ongoing Israeli raids.

"There is a time for cease-fires and a time to fight, and now is the time to fight," Barak said. "For months the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and security forces have been preparing for the operation that began today."

Gaza residents told Press TV that the Israeli gunboats have approached the coastal strip and the helicopters are still seen flying over the coastal region.

Tel Aviv had long threatened the Hamas movement with a military offensive, warning that the punitive measures against the populated area would be aimed at halting Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.

The Saturday onslaught came after a six-month truce between Israel and the Hamas movement expired on December 19.

"Hamas was warned a few times in a variety of ways, but I can't elaborate on the warnings," said Maj. Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military.

"Anything associated with Hamas is for us a legitimate target, including an apartment in which the basement is a weapons storehouse. This operation is not finished yet, but for now it involves only aircraft," she added.

Israel placed the Gaza Strip under a blockade after the democratically-elected Palestinian government of Hamas took control of the coastal area in mid-June 2007.

Palestinian groups say they would consider a longer ceasefire if Israel met Hamas demands, cease all military attacks on Gaza, and lifts the embargo on the strip.