Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Olmert orders plans drawn up for massive offensive against Gaza

Olmert orders plans drawn up for massive offensive against Gaza

Invaders accuse Hamas of 'shattering' truce

Go To Original

Interim Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert accused Hamas on Sunday of "shattering" the Gaza truce after two rockets hit Israel, which the Jewish state followed with an air strike that killed four Palestinian resistance fighters. However, Olmert, who made the comments at a weekly Israeli Cabinet meeting, did not mention the initial Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip on November 5 that killed seven Hamas members. The incursion, which touched off days of fighting, was in violation of an Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and Hamas which had virtually halted violence between the two foes.

The head of the Hamas administration in Gaza, deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya, said Israel was violating the truce and demanded that Israel prove its interest by keeping to its side of the bargain.

"Israel must turn its words about a truce into action by halting aggression and lifting the unjust siege," he said, dismissing calls by some Israeli leaders for a resumption of assassinations against Hamas leaders.

"Such threats don't even frighten the smallest Palestinian child," he added.

Haniyya made his comments at the funeral of four Palestinian militants from the Popular Resistance Committees, a small armed group not linked to Hamas, who were killed in the Israeli air raid on Gaza City earlier on Sunday.

The Israeli Army said the four had been preparing to fire rockets at Israel, and the raid had followed two hits which had caused neither casualties nor damage.

Following the Israeli strike, Palestinians fired several more rockets from Gaza into Israel late Sunday afternoon, leaving one person with light shrapnel wounds to the head and the arm, the Israeli military said.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials said the Jewish state's border crossings with Gaza, which is denied control by Israel of its land and sea borders in addition to its airspace, would remain closed to humanitarian deliveries to the aid-dependent territory, despite mounting international calls for a resumption of much-needed food and fuel.

Since Hamas won parliamentary polls deemed fair and democratic by international observers in 2006, Israel has imposed a crushing blockade on Gaza and tightened it when the Islamists ousted their Fatah rivals in 2007.

Various human-rights groups, in addition to UN and EU officials, have decried the siege as collective punishment of a civilian population, an act illegal under international law.

The Israeli siege has forced the UN to suspend food distribution to 750,000 Gaza residents and the territory's sole power plant to shut down. Roughly half of the enclave's population lives in abject poverty and is entirely depended on international food handouts for survival.

Under the terms of the truce, the Jewish state pledged to lift the blockade. But despite the deal halting rocket fire from Gaza - Israel's main condition - no substantial opening of the border crossings was made.

"The [Gaza] crossings will remain closed until further orders," said Israel's liaison officer for the Palestinian territories, Peter Lerner.

Amos Gilad, a top aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak who negotiated the informal truce with the Egyptians, said Israel had not ruled out reopening the crossings to limited humanitarian deliveries.

"The decision to reopen the borders could be taken today or tomorrow. Israel does not want a humanitarian crisis," Gilad claimed on Army Radio.

Various UN officials have stressed that the territory has already been experiencing a humanitarian crisis due to the Israeli closure of Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to press Olmert on the issue in talks on Monday, following appeals from both the EU and the United Nations.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting, Olmert said he had ordered security chiefs to draw up action plans against Hamas' 17-month-old rule in Gaza.

"The responsibility for the shattering of the calm and the creation of a situation of prolonged and repeated violence in the south of the country is entirely on Hamas and the other terror groups in Gaza," Olmert told ministers.

"I instructed them to ... present different action plans against the Hamas terror rule without its hampering our ability to use all necessary force in our response to violations of the calm," he added.

A senior official quoted Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, as saying at the Cabinet meeting: "We must stop talking and start a policy of targeted killing against the Hamas leadership."

Olmert's speech to the Cabinet exposed a mounting rift with Barak over the truce with Hamas, which went into force on June 19.

Barak took a far more conciliatory line than his colleagues, saying Israel should be prepared to consider a return to the deal.

"If the other side wants the calm, we will consider it seriously," he said.

Any major change of policy will have to be approved by Israel's Security Cabinet, which is expected to meet later this week. - AFP, with The Daily Star

Iranian legislators urge united front to aid Gazans

TEHRAN: Iranian MPs denounced the crisis in Gaza and asked Islamic organizations to respond to "cries" from Gaza's people, Iran's labor news agency ILNA reported Sunday.

A declaration supported by 217 members of the conservative-dominated 290-seat Parliament, the MPs condemned "the deteriorating situation and a great humanitarian tragedy" in Gaza.

"In recent days, the disastrous situation in Gaza has worsened and a great humanitarian tragedy is on the verge of taking place," it said.

"In addition to savage killings, lack of water, electricity [and] health services have placed the population in the worst conditions," it said.

The deputies voiced "solidarity" with the Gazan people and asked the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Muslim parliaments to take a collective stance and respond to the "cries of Gazans."

Pressure has risen on Israel to unblock humanitarian supplies for the aid-dependent territory, after days of bloody exchanges between Israelis and Gaza, controlled by the Hamas movement.

Four Palestinians were killed in a new outbreak of violence Sunday despite a truce between Hamas and Israel in force since June 19 that the Jewish state shattered with a deadly invasion of the territory on November 5.

No comments: