US Conspires with Israel : Let’s Blame Hamas for Operation Cast Lead

No prizes for knowing from whence Counterpunch obtained these cables, which are not yet on the Wikileaks site. First, let’s recall that despite Hamas’ efforts to renew the truce and relieve Gaza from the illegal siege and collective punishment which Israel inflicted on the people of Gaza for 2 years, and despite there having been virtually no rockets fired by militants during the June – November 08 truce, and none at all by Hamas, Israel broke the truce on November 5. Barak had planned the Operation Cast Lead massacre even before entering into the truce. The massacre was also calibrated against the February 09 Israeli elections. From the cables below, the US kept a close eye on the impact of the massacre on the elections contenders’ standings.

As we know now from the mouths of Silvan Shalom and Nutanyahoo himself, Israel doesn’t want democracies around it as they tend to express the will of the people, to wit, disgust and indignation at zionist atrocities, land theft and genocide. Hamas was democratically elected, yet with fascist aplomb, Israel designates both the Hamas political and military wings as ‘terrorist’. Israel and the US collaborate with the PA, who collude against their own people to suppress Palestinian resistance to Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I’ve highlighted what I think are the important parts in the cables below. For more related Wikileaks cables in the same time span, please use the Wikileaks drop down menu at the top of the page.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02

TEL AVIV 002864

SIPDIS E.O. 12958:

DECL: 12/22/2018

TAGS: PREL, PTER, PHUM, MOPS, KWBG, IS

SUBJECT: PREPARING FOR AN ISRAELI MILITARY OPERATION IN GAZA

Classified By: Ambassador James B. Cunningham, Reason 1.4 (b) (d) 1. (S)

Summary. Since Hamas announced the end of the “tahdiya” truce agreement December 19, pressure has been building in Israel for the IDF to respond more aggressively to daily barrages of rockets and mortars from Gaza. The Israeli cabinet meeting December 21 was largely devoted to a lively debate about the appropriate military response in Gaza. While Defense Minister Barak, supported by PM Olmert, has so far managed to resist the pressure for an immediate, large-scale operation, the IDF has prepared a range of contingencies, and we assume these options are now under active consideration. The contingencies range from resumption of targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders to a full-scale invasion and reoccupation of Gaza. In the current environment, even such limited operations as air strikes on Hamas or PIJ rocket launching teams could set off such an intensive barrage of rockets that the IDF could be drawn into a ground operation to stop the shelling. Foreign Minister Livni, who is one of the primary advocates of an immediate, large-scale military response to the rocket fire, has instructed the MFA to prepare a diplomatic campaign to explain and justify likely Israeli military action.

2. (S) We recommend that the Department also begin to prepare press guidance, talking points and Security Council reaction in the event that Israel acts in the near future. Our suggestions as to the content appear in para 6 below. We further recommend contingency planning for humanitarian relief that will likely be needed in the aftermath of an Israeli military operation. End Summary.

Pressure Building in Israel ————————— 3.

(C) Pressure inside Israel is building for a much tougher response to rocket and missile attacks from Gaza. While it appears that the GOI has yet to take a specific decision, the Hamas announcement of the end of the “tahdiya” truce and the daily rocket and mortar firing — over thirty rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza at Israeli communities over the weekend — is adding to the pressure for an Israeli military response. At the December 21 cabinet session, PM Olmert and Defense Minister Barak had to fend off demands from much of the rest of the government, but especially Foreign Minister Livni, Transportation Minister Mofaz and Deputy PM Ramon, for an immediate, strong military response to the rocket fire. Livni and Ramon have called for overthrowing Hamas rule in Gaza, which would probably entail occupying the entire Strip. Opposition Likud Party leader Bibi Netanyahu visited Sderot yesterday and blasted the government’s failure to take stronger military action in response to the shelling. Based on public statements by Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Ashkenazi, it is clear that Barak and the military want to take action at a time of their choosing and not forewarn Hamas exactly what they have in mind. Nonetheless, the pressure on the GOI to “do something” is growing. Political posturing is part of the mix, as all of the players except Olmert — who has resigned and will not seek reelection — are focused on building public support in advance of the February 10 general elections.

IDF’s Range of Military Options ——————————- 4.

(S) The IDF has prepared a range of operational plans over the past year. These range from renewed targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders to limited brigade or several brigade-size ground incursions (such as the IDF conducted last March) up to a full scale combined air-land-sea invasion of Gaza. An interim operation often discussed before the tahdiya was signed in June was the IDF’s seizure of the southern and northern ends of the Gaza Strip in order to stop the smuggling and make rocket launching more difficult. The precise mix of options is a political decision which the GOI probably has not yet taken and Barak is stressing the importance of limiting public discussion in order to preserve operational surprise. There is also the possibility, much discussed in the media here, that given the build-up in Hamas’ rocket stockpiles and the extension of their range, even such limited Israeli military operations as air strikes on rocket squads could lead Hamas and the other organizations to launch massive barrages of rockets, which could in turn force the IDF to go in on the ground to stop it. In this environment, there is no guarantee that what starts out as a limited operation will remain that way.

5. (C) Livni has instructed the MFA’s senior staff to prepare a diplomatic strategy to explain a large-scale Israeli military operation in Gaza. While international criticism of Israeli action is predictable, we anticipate that the tenor of the Arab and international response will be TEL AVIV 00002864 002 OF 002 determined by a number of unknown factors, including the scale and duration of the operation and the extent of the damage to the civilian populations on both sides. There is also the question of an Israeli exit strategy: if the GOI decides to reoccupy large parts of Gaza, as soon as the smoke clears the Israelis probably will be looking for a third party to whom they can transfer responsibility.

Action Recommendation: Consider U.S. Response Now ——————————————— —– 6.

(C) We strongly recommend that the Department consider now the U.S. response to the above-mentioned range of Israeli military operations, including press guidance, talking points and even Security Council action, bearing in mind that we are likely to have little to no advance warning and that even a relatively restrained operation could rapidly grow into something much bigger. Our recommendation is that the USG start with putting the blame on Hamas for the illegitimacy of its rule in Gaza, its policy of firing or allowing other factions to fire rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian targets, and its decision to end the “tahdiya” calming period; and support for Israel’s right to defend itself, while also emphasizing our concern for the welfare of innocent Palestinian civilians and U.S. readiness to provide emergency humanitarian relief. On this last point, USAID points out that large-scale U.S. and international humanitarian assistance will be urgently needed in Gaza if the IDF ends up carrying out a broad-scale military operation.

********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv ********************************************* ******************** CUNNINGHAM

Not sure where this next bit is from – is it an appendage to the above or from elsewhere?

23.12 from Jerusalem

Al Quds quotes a recent World Bank report that concludes trade in the West Bank cannot improve under the current Israeli restrictions and checkpoint regime. The report focused on the Allenby border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan where Palestinian exports must pass through several Israeli obstacles. It demands the lifting of existing Israeli limitations on the travel of Palestinian citizens and goods. The report also considers Gaza to be on the verge of economic collapse due to the Israeli siege.

Next cable:

29/12/08

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03

TEL AVIV 002906

NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958:

DECL: 12/28/2018

TAGS: KWBG, MOPS, PREL, PTER, PINR, EAID, EFIN, IS

SUBJECT: GAZA SITUATION REPORT, DECEMBER 29, 18:00

REF: JERUSALEM 2295

Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers for reasons 1.4 (B/D).

1. (C) Summary:

The IDF continued its deployment of ground forces around the Gaza periphery on December 29, with elements of at least three armored and two infantry brigades taking up positions opposite Gaza City and Beit Hanoun. Air strikes against strategic and tactical targets continued throughout the day, as did rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. One Israeli civilian was killed when a rocket landed in Ashkelon on the morning of December 29. According to IDF contacts, 63 truckloads of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom during the day on December 29, with further deliveries scheduled for December 30. Israeli political leaders, including FM Livni and MoD Barak, caution that military operations could continue for weeks, and that the goal is to change the strategic environment and destroy Hamas’ offensive rocket capabilities. Separately, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Discount announced that they will cease providing correspondent banking services to Gaza at midnight on December 31. End summary.

Military Operations ——————- 2.

(SBU) The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is continuing its strategic campaign against Hamas leadership, personnel and infrastructure throughout Gaza. In addition to targets associated with the manufacture, storage and deployment of Kassam rockets, the IAF has also attacked the Hamas Interior Ministry, Islamic University (which contains labs that the GOI says are active in weapons and explosives research for Hamas), and a Hamas guest house used for official visitors. The IDF Spokesperson announced that the office of Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh was attacked overnight (note: speaking on Israeli radio December 29, Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai denied that Haniyeh was personally targeted in the airstrike), as were “dozens of other Hamas-related targets.” Israeli Naval forces also attacked Hamas vessels and coastal structures overnight, according to the Spokesperson’s office. In his radio interview, Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai also said the IDF has high morale, and in contrast to the Second Lebanon War, all levels of the military know their task and what is expected of them. Vilnai said the operations will last a long time, “perhaps much longer than people expect.” Asked to comment on a possible ground campaign, he declined to answer, saying he did not intend to broadcast to Hamas Israel’s military intentions.

3. (S/NF) At 16:00 on December 28, the IDF bombed the Phiadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border, destroying 39-40 smuggling tunnels. No Egyptian border guards were harmed. IDF contacts have repeatedly told DATT that the targeting of the tunnels was coordinated with Egypt, and that they had passed the coordinates of the attack points to the Egyptians to enable them to ensure the safety of their border forces.

4. (SBU) As of 15:00 local December 29, 50 rockets have been fired into Israel today from Gaza, according to press reports. One Israeli was killed and 14-16 wounded when a Grad-type rocket struck a construction site in Ashkelon during the morning. Two Israelis have been killed since the start of operation “Cast Lead” on December 27. On December 28, two 122 mm Katyusha rockets struck areas in or near the city of Ashdod, in what appears to be the first attack by rockets with a range in excess of 30 km.

5. (S/NF) The IDF is continuing its deployment of ground forces around the Gaza periphery, although no ground operations had been initiated as of 18:00. This morning the IDF closed most areas bordering the Gaza Strip to allow for the positioning of armor and infantry units. On December 28, DAO officers observed the movement of M-109 artillery and support/ammunition vehicles into the vicinity of Gaza. Heavy trucks laden with concrete shelters, water storage tanks and other logistical equipment intended to support ground operations were also observed deploying around the Gaza border. DAO also observed the movement of Merkava 3 tanks from the 188 Armor Brigade, which is normally deployed on the Lebanese border, into the vicinity of Gaza.

6. (S/NF) During a subsequent observation mission this morning, DAO officers observed a further significant increase in the IDF ground forces presence around Gaza. Elements of three armor brigades, including artillery batteries and Merkava 3 and 4 tanks, and two infantry brigades were deployed opposite Gaza City and Beit Hanoun.

TEL AVIV 00002906 002 OF 003 Political Developments ———————– 7.

(U) During a special Knesset session to discuss the military operations this morning, DefMin Barak called the operation an “all-out war against Hamas” and said it would be “widened and deepened as is necessary.” He said the security services had spent “months” preparing for the operation, and would carry it out until Hamas is not longer capable of launching rockets at Israeli towns. While somewhat less hawkish, FM Livni’s remarks to the Knesset made clear that Israel expects the international community to blame Hamas, not Israel, for the current hostilities and the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

8. (C) During a briefing in Sderot for the diplomatic corps on December 28, Livni and MoD Pol-Mil Director Amos Gilad stressed that Israel needs the support of the international community for an extended military operation designed not to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza, but to change the strategic environment by force. Israel will not tolerate continued rocket attacks on its citizens and the operation will continue for weeks. Livni said if the international community forces Israel to stop too soon, Israel will have to do it all over in the near future. She expressed understanding of President Abbas, dilemma and pressure on him to condemn Israeli actions, but she noted that even he had blamed Hamas while in Cairo, and she asked why the rest of the international community was finding it hard to do the same. “This is the minimum we expect of you,” she told the assembled diplomats. Livni also said the Gaza operation was in the longer run interests of peace with the Palestinians since Israel could not sign a peace agreement with a Palestinian Authority that did not have control over Gaza.

9. (C) Gilad said he attached high priority to cooperating with UNRWA, WFP, and Arab and Muslim states to ensure a steady flow of humanitarian relief. He said the objective is to force an end to the rocket fire and Israel will continue until that goal is reached. He reiterated comments by other political leaders that ground operations are an option to be used if necessary. Gilad emphasized that the targets have been only Hamas offices, military installations and rocket workshops and stockpiles. He said Israel is using sophisticated means to avoid civilian casualties but some are unavoidable. Asked if Israel was concerned about Hizballah opening a second front from the north, Gilad said the IDF is on high alert in the north and is “ready for all eventualities.” Gilad dismissed the possibility that the fighting in Gaza could touch off a third Intifada in the West Bank, saying that “all of our intelligence assessments are that the PA is in full control in the West Bank and has no interest in allowing a third Intifada.

Humanitarian Assistance ———————– 10. (SBU)

The MFA and the IDF,s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) say they are prepared, to the extent possible given ongoing military operations, to facilitate the passage of all international humanitarian assistance destined for Gaza. According to COGAT, 23 trucks crossed into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing on December 28, with 50 trucks scheduled for delivery December 29. As of 17:00 on December 29, 63 trucks had crossed into Gaza, according to an IDF contact at Kerem Shalom. The crossing was scheduled to remain open until 16:30 but closed late in order to get through an urgently needed donation of 600-1000 units of blood from Jordan. The IDF contact confirmed delivery of five ambulances from the PA, but said the Turkish ambulances, which were supposedly off-loaded in Ashdod, had not been found as of closing time.

11. (SBU) According to the IDF source, the 63 trucks included: — World Food Program: 15 trucks (450 metric tons, including 20 metric tons funded by USAID) of wheat flour; — UNWRA: 4 trucks of medical supplies and 10 trucks of food (rice, milk powder, sugar); — ICRC: 3 trucks of medical supplies and 5 ambulances transferred from the West Bank; — Jordan: 1 truck of 1000 liters blood products, 12 truck of food and medical supplies; — Egypt: 4 trucks of food; — Doctors Without Borders: 1 truck of medical supplies; — CARE: 1 truck of medical supplies;

12. (SBU) The IDF expects 50-60 trucks at Kerem Shalom again tomorrow, including five trucks of medical supplies for the ICRC.

TEL AVIV 00002906 003 OF 003

13. (SBU) Nahal Oz and Karni: As of 11:00, the MFA reported that plans to open the Nahal Oz terminal for cooking gas transfer was cancelled due to the ongoing military operations near the terminal. COGAT is planning to try again December 30. Plans to transfer 40 trucks of grain through the Karni conveyor terminal were also cancelled, with COGAT examining the possibility of rerouting the grain to Kerem Shalom.

14. (SBU) Erez: COGAT source confirmed several emergency crossings at Erez, including a number of UN staff entering Gaza and urgent medical cases exiting Gaza. As of 17:00, Erez was being held open waiting for the arrival of an ambulance to transport an injured individual to the West Bank for medical treatment. The Consular Section is coordinating with COGAT and Consulate General Jerusalem on any potential evacuations of Amcits through Erez, but COGAT knew of none seeking exit on December 29.

15. (SBU) Medical Supplies: The MFA argued today that inefficiencies on the part of the Palestinian Authority,s (PA) Ministry of Health (MOH), not the GOI, are responsible for the delay of medical supplies into Gaza. According to the MFA, the PA took responsibility for the provision of healthcare products to Gaza as of August. Since that time, it has become the responsibility of the PA MOH to gather, package, and transfer medical supplies to UNRWA for delivery to recipients in Gaza. Due to delays in preparing supplies, the PA MOH has not been able to deliver enough goods to UNRWA to keep pace with demand, the MFA said. The MFA emphasized that the GOI stood ready to approve for entrance any medical supplies that donors or the PA were prepared to send to Gaza. COGAT confirmed that the PA had advised of 30 truckloads of medical supplies slated to arrive at Kerem Shalom on December 29. However, only five had arrived before the crossing closed, and COGAT was told by PA officials that no more would be coming.

16. (SBU) MFA contacts said they were now working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve the supply of medical goods destined for Gaza. The MFA understands that the WHO has requested additional donations of supplies from its members and continues to coordinate its actions with the PA MOH. The MFA believes the WHO had underestimated the number of injured that would result from the current action and is now ramping up operations to meet demand as quickly as possible. The Israeli Ministry of Health has offered to send emergency medical supplies as well, and is coordinating with the MFA and COGAT to determine whether its assistance is required.

Other —– 17. (C) Gaza Cash: Bank Hapoalim and Bank Discount, the only two Israeli banks that maintain correspondent relationships with Palestinian banks, report that they plan to permanently discontinue provision of services to Gaza branches as of midnight on December 31st. Banking contacts have informed emboffs that Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel, has not requested that the banks extend their deadlines as he did in November. Without such a call from Fischer by close-of-business today, emboffs believe that Bank Hapoalim and Bank Discount will likely follow through on their plan as announced. Embassy contacts at the banks and in Fischer,s office have agreed to keep emboffs appraised of any changes.

********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv ********************************************* ******************** CUNNINGHAM

Next cable:

30/12/08 from Jerusalem

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02

JERUSALEM 002314

SENSITIVE SIPDIS NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, IPA; NSC FOR ABRAMS/PASCUAL/RAMCHAND E.O. 12958:

DECL: 12/30/2018

TAGS: KWBG, IS, PGOV, PTER, ASEC

SUBJECT: SENIOR IDF, PASF COMMANDERS MEET TO DISCUSS WEST BANK SECURITY SITUATION

Classified By: Consul General Jake Walles, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S) PA security chiefs met with top IDF and COGAT officers late December 29 at Bet El (outside Ramallah) to discuss the West Bank security situation in light of Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip. PA security chiefs told ConGenOffs that the PA urged the IDF to avoid Palestinian demonstrations and to refrain from using live ammunition, which killed three Palestinian demonstrators in recent days. According to PA commanders, the two sides agreed to expedite coordination and exchange information on disturbances and agreed both sides have an interest in avoiding violent clashes. Separately, PM Salam Fayyad confirmed to the Consul General that Israeli MoD officials have expressed their understanding of the need to avoid confrontations in the West Bank. End summary.

2. (S) According to PA National Security Forces (NSF) commander MG Thiab Mustafa Ali (Abu al-Fatah), PA Joint Security Committees (JSC) commander BG Qays Makhzumi and other senior security contacts, PA commanders met with IDF West Bank Division Commander BG Noam Tibon, West Bank COGAT Director BG Yoav (Poly) Mordechai and IDF staff principals late December 29 at Bet El DCL (District Coordination Liaison) office outside Ramallah. In addition to MG Ali and Makhzumi, PA police chief MG Hazim Attallah, Preventive Security (PSO) director MG Ziad Hab al-Rih, acting General Intelligence (Mukhabarat) chief Muhammad Thib Mansur, and Military Intelligence (Istikhbarat) chief BG Majid al-Farraj attended the meeting. Security commanders told ConGenOffs that they discussed the overall security situation the West Bank in light of Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip, and better methods of dealing with protests.

PA Commanders Urge IDF to Avoid Use of Live Ammunition —————————- 3.

(C) PA commanders complained about IDF use of live ammunition, responsible for three Palestinian fatalities in December 27-28 protests. MG Ali said IDF commanders told them live ammunition is the last resort when dealing with Palestinian demonstrators, and IDF rules of engagement only authorize it when the lives of IDF soldiers or Israeli citizens are at immediate risk. PA security chiefs said IDF BG Tibon reported that the Nil’in village shooting (in which two Palestinian were killed by IDF fire) was quickly investigated by the IDF, and that an IDF officer has already been referred to a disciplinary board for improper use of live ammunition during the incident. According to MG Ali, both BGs Tibon and Mordechai said they re-issued instructions to all forces operating in the West Bank to abide strictly by rules of engagement and refrain from using live rounds against unarmed demonstrators.

4. (C) MG Ali added that IDF commanders said that in the Silwad incidents the Palestinian was about to throw a firebomb, thus endangering soldiers’ lives, and that according to IDF rules of engagement Palestinians with firebombs are a threat to life and can be engaged with live ammunition. He added that both IDF commanders agreed, however, that in most cases, even demonstrators with firebombs should not be engaged, and troops should find non-lethal means of controlling the situation.

Both Sides Agree to Increase Coordination —————————————– 5.

(S) According to PA security chiefs, the second part of the meeting was dedicated to a review the West Bank security situation. PA commanders said they told IDF officers that President Abbas and PM Fayyad both directed them to avoid situations that could develop into confrontations with the IDF. The security chiefs said Abbas and Fayyad passed a message to all Palestinian factions, at a PLO Executive Committee meeting on December 29, that only peaceful marches away from flashpoints would be permitted. PA commanders noted they have no control on over B/C areas such as Qalandiya and Nil’in, and would need IDF approval to move PA forces to those areas to prevent clashes between protesters and the IDF. PA commanders said both sides agreed that Hebron is a problem, and cooperation on a case-by-case basis is critical. PA commanders said their IDF counterparts agreed to expedite coordination and movement requests and exchange information on possible disturbances, as both sides have an interest in preventing West Bank violence. They said both sides also agreed not to leak substantive discussions about the meeting to the press, given the sensitivity of JERUSALEM 00002314 002 OF 002 PA-GOI security coordination in a time of Palestinian outrage over events in Gaza.

Fayyad Confirms MoD Contacts —————————- 6.

(S) In a separate conversation with the Consul General, PM Fayyad said he had received messages from the Israeli MoD on December 29 indicating that the Israeli security leadership understands the need for the IDF to deploy in the West Bank in a way that will minimize confrontations with Palestinian civilians. Fayyad said he was encouraged by the messages, but would watch carefully to see how these instructions are implemented by IDF commanders on the ground. WALLES

Next cable:

30/12/08 Tel Aviv

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03

TEL AVIV 002922

NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958:

DECL: 12/30/2018

TAGS: KWBG, MOPS, PREL, PTER, PINR, EAID, EFIN, IS

SUBJECT: GAZA SITUATION REPORT, DECEMBER 30, 18:00

REF: TEL AVIV 2906

Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers, reasons 1.4 (b),(d) 1.

(S) Summary: The IDF continued to reinforce and increase ground forces around the Gaza periphery, including robust logistical support and elements from brigades not typically deployed in the Gaza sector. No ground operations have been initiated; the senior GOI leadership is discussing a range of options. Air strikes during the early morning hours of December 30 destroyed a number of Hamas strategic and tactical targets, including a government complex in Gaza City. Rockets and mortars from Gaza continued to strike Israel, reaching as far north as Yavne and as far east as Rahat; one Israeli woman in Ashdod and an IDF soldier near Nahal Oz were killed in rocket strikes during the evening of December 29. According to the IDF, 93 truckloads of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing during the day on December 30. During a strategic assessment meeting on December 29, PM Olmert challenged GOI officials to avoid talk of a ceasefire, and directed IDF forces to continue their operations with an undefined duration. An Israeli Navy vessel rammed a boat from the Free Gaza movement carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza from Cyprus, forcing it to turn back. The Free Gaza boat sustained damage but was able to travel north to the Lebanese port of Tyre. The Embassy disseminated a warden message to avoid the 30km area from Gaza due to on-going IDF operations and rocket attacks. End summary.

Military Operations ——————- 2.

(SBU) Israeli air and naval forces attacked dozens of Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip overnight and during the morning hours of December 30. According to the IDF Spokesperson, targets included three buildings in the Hamas government complex — including the Hamas ministries of interior and foreign affairs and PM’s offices — in the Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood, Hamas training camps and outposts, stations held by Hamas naval forces, a vehicle transporting a stockpile of Grad missiles, rocket launchers, a weaponry manufacturing facility, and sites used as headquarters by terror cells. Israeli media reported that two top Hamas weapons engineers were killed in the December 29 strike on research labs at the Islamic University.

3. (S/NF) The IDF continues its deployment of ground forces around the Gaza periphery, although no ground operations had been initiated as of 1800 local. Poor weather conditions may have been a contributing factor, although late-breaking press reports also indicate that “senior defense officials” may recommend a 48-hour truce to evaluate Hamas’ reaction prior to launching any ground offensive. Israel Defense Intelligence (IDI) sources told DAO officers that ground operations could begin at any time; a deciding factor would be weather conditions facilitating the ability to provide close air support and medical evacuation. During the evening of December 29, rain and lowered ceilings dominated weather conditions; overcast skies were prevalent over Gaza during much of the day on December 30. The tempo of air operations decreased greatly during the afternoon of December 30.

4. (S) The IDF continues to reinforce and increase its logistical footprint around Gaza. DAO officers observed more robust logistical support for units in assembly areas at Erez Crossing and at the artillery position located south of Kibbutz Nir’am. Unit flags, tents, and port-a-johns have been erected at these locations. Overnight, reinforcements from units previously unobserved in the Gaza sector arrived, including elements of the Givati Brigade, the Golani Brigade’s 12th Battalion, and the Kfir Brigade’s Heruv Battalion. DAO reports that the preponderance of IDF units are located around the northern half of Gaza; the deployment of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) with mounted mock turrets may represent decoy attempts to portray a larger presence in the south.

5. (S) DATT reports that during a briefing to military attaches and UN military representatives on December 29, IDF Strategic Division Commander Brigadier General Yossi Heyman noted the 122mm rocket attacks on the port of Ashdod demonstrated that Hamas is capable of launching rockets of up to 35km — putting more than 500,000 Israelis in the range of rockets emanating from Gaza. BG Heyman said the IDF was “prepared for a long operation,” and stressed that the IDF was doing its best to minimize civilian casualties. Reserve Brigadier General Baruch Spiegel informally mentioned to embassy officers December 30 that the IDF is ready to carry out a detailed plan for ground operations with multiple TEL AVIV 00002922 002 OF 003 stages and a range of levels of intensity, but is waiting for orders from the political level — presumably the inner war cabinet of PM Olmert, Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Livni, and Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ashkenazi. Spiegel said he thought the decision whether to launch a ground operation would be made in the next 48 hours. He commented that the IDF is not in a hurry and can continue to build up ground forces without pressure to act. Spiegel and his colleague at the Economic Cooperation Foundation Boaz Karni told us that the GOI’s goal of a “sustainable ceasefire” was being complicated by the fact that senior Hamas officials in Gaza have all gone underground and are not able to communicate with potential mediators.

6. (SBU) As of 1715 local December 30, approximately 20 rockets have been fired throughout the day from Gaza, according to press reports. Most of these rockets landed in or near Sderot, injuring two Israelis and damaging several properties. One rocket struck as far east as the vicinity of Rahat; another Qassam rocket scored a direct hit on a kibbutz dining hall in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. According to the Israeli MFA, approximately 90 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel on December 29. Three Israelis were killed by rocket and mortar fire on December 29, including a construction worker in Ashkelon (Grad-type rocket), a soldier in the Nahal Oz area (Qassam/mortar attack), and a woman in Ashdod (Grad-type rocket). Four Israelis have been killed since the start of operation “Cast Lead” on December 27. During the evening of December 29, several rockets hit in or near Okafim in the east and Yavne in the north, demonstrating increasing range. Israeli schools in a 30km radius from Gaza remained closed on December 30.

Political Developments ———————- 7.

(SBU) According to media reports, during a December 29 evening situation assessment meeting with FM Livni, Defense Minister Barak, Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Director Diskin, and Mossad Director Dagan, PM Olmert reportedly instructed meeting attendees not to talk about a cease-fire with Hamas. He ordered the IDF to continue its actions with an undefined end to the operation. Olmert stressed that Israel will act against Hamas “with an iron fist,” but would treat the population in Gaza “with silk gloves” by ensuring the provision of humanitarian aid, food, and other needs.

8. (SBU) Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor Party) said to the press that Israel would not cease the operation in Gaza until Hamas stopped firing rockets at Israel. He said the operation will continue until a “new reality” is created in which communities on the Gaza periphery can “lead their lives quietly.” Minister for Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai (Shas Party) commented that the Israeli elections scheduled for February 10 should not be postponed due to the situation in Gaza.

9. (C) The MFA is closely following Egyptian-Turkish discussions of possible ceasefire terms, which they believe are backed by the USG. Israeli press reports, meanwhile, speculate on a joint French-British proposal to force a cease-fire on Israel and Hamas. According to the press, the proposal will be presented at an emergency session of the EU’s foreign ministers’ meeting on December 30. The Israeli press quotes Foreign Ministry sources as saying the “British are promoting a very bad proposal for Israel.” The same sources indicate the “international hourglass” would allow Israel to continue its operation in Gaza at most until January 5. Israeli press reports indicate that “senior defense officials” may recommend a short-term cessation of hostilities to evaluate Hamas’ reaction, although the cabinet’s views on any such suggestion were unclear as of 1800 local.

Humanitarian Assistance ———————– 10.

(SBU) The MFA and the IDF’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reiterated the GOI policy that any international aid will be permitted into Gaza. According to COGAT information relayed via the MFA, the Kerem Shalom crossing was open on December 30, but closed at 1500 local. One hundred and ten trucks carrying medical equipment and food were expected, but only 93 actually crossed into Gaza due to time constraints and lack of preparedness on the part of some trucks, according to COGAT.

11. (SBU) According to USAID, 14 UN World Food Program (WFP) TEL AVIV 00002922 003 OF 003 trucks with 400 metric tons of wheat flour and 21 metric tons of biscuits entered Gaza on December 30 through the Kerem Shalom crossing. USAID reports that all USAID-funded food commodities for non-refugee beneficiaries are already in Gaza; delivery will begin as soon as the security situation permits.

12. (SBU) The Nahal Oz crossing was closed after a mortar attack on the crossing on December 29; COGAT via the MFA reported that the security situation on December 30 prevented the opening of the terminal. The MFA also noted the GOI was aware that the Gaza power station needs diesel fuel, and is working on an alternative point of entry as the Nahal Oz crossing was closed. COGAT also reported that the Karni crossing remained closed December 30 due to on-going military operations in the area; it is not clear whether the security situation will allow for the crossing to be opened on December 31. According to the MFA, COGAT suggested to UNRWA that wheat originally destined to enter through Karni be repacked in sacks to allow for a transfer at the Kerem Shalom crossing. (Comment: We doubt this offers a realistic solution, given the very large volume of bulk wheat needed by UNRWA and the additional pressure it would place on the Keren Shalom crossing.)

13. (SBU) The MFA continued to argue on December 30 that inefficiencies on the part of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Health (MOH) — and not the GOI — are responsible for the delay of medical supplies into Gaza. According to the MFA, several NGOs have complained about the PA MOH’s inefficiency.

14. (SBU) The MFA reports that the GOI has approved the following new humanitarian assistance shipments: — One aircraft from Norway with WHO medical supplies (expected in next few days) — One aircraft from Geneva with Red Cross medical supplies (expected in next few days) — Two aircraft from Russia with humanitarian goods (expected to arrive on or around January 2) 15. (SBU) USAID sources report that 45 to 50 truckloads of medical supplies, basic food items, and blankets donated by Qatar and Libya are waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing and are expected to enter Gaza on December 30. Four electrical generators for the Gaza Ministry of Health facilities are also at the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing waiting to enter Gaza.

15. (SBU) According to press reports, Olmert, Livni and Barak agreed December 29 to allow Qatar to airlift humanitarian aid to Gaza in coming days. Several aircraft from Qatar will land in Israel; food and medicine will subsequently be trucked to Gaza. 16. (SBU) The MFA expects the GOI to approve the full list of foreign citizens wishing to be evacuated from Gaza, including any American citizens. The GOI is now working with Jordan to permit the expeditious entry of these potential evacuees into Jordan via the Allenby Bridge with departure through Amman airport. The MFA expects the GOI to allow the evacuation within the “coming days.”

********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv ********************************************* ******************** CUNNINGHAM

Next cable:

31/12/08 Tel Aviv

S E C R E T TEL AVIV 002930 NOFORN E.O. 12958:

DECL: 12/31/2018

TAGS: KWBG, MOPS, PREL, PTER, PINR, EAID, EFIN, IS

SUBJECT: GAZA SITUATION REPORT, DECEMBER 31, 14:30 REF: A. TEL AVIV 2922 B. TEL AVIV 2906

Classified By: Classified by Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Siever s, reason 1.4 (b) and (d) 1. (S)

SUMMARY: While IDF troops remained on hold but still poised for a ground attack, rocket fire continues into Israel from Gaza, including increased attacks beyond 30km, and the first hit in the city of Be’er Sheva. Israeli airstrikes are ongoing, although at a slowed tempo, with attacks reported along the Philadelphi corridor, in northern Gaza, and on government buildings including the Hamas “Prime Minister’s Offices.” Meanwhile, according to press reports, the “security kitchen cabinet” of PM Olmert, DM Barak and FM Livni decided to reject the French proposal for a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire, calling it unrealistic because it was not permanent, placed limited demands on Hamas, and was unnecessary as no humanitarian crisis has developed in Gaza. According to COGAT, over 100 truckloads of humanitarian aid are scheduled to enter Gaza on December 31 through the Kerem Shalom crossing, while the Karni and Nahal Oz crossings remain closed due to ongoing mortar fire in the area. The Erez crossing remains open but restricted. With Karni and Nahal Oz closed, COGAT says it is working with UNRWA on logistically feasible options for bringing bulk grain and fuel through Kerem Shalom. Finally, the Bank of Israel has also given its approval for Bank Hapoalim and Discount Bank to end their correspondent relationship with Gaza banks as of January 1.

Military Operations ——————- 2. (S) DAO sources report that the IAF conducted 35 strikes overnight, withIsraeli Naval forces also striking targets withinGaza. This includes attacks against a reported Hamas training camp in northern Gaza, a second strie along the Philadelphi corridor against smuggling tunnels, and the bombing of additional government buildings including the office building of Hamas “Prime Minister” Ismayil Haniyah. No casualties were reported in these actions, although there are reports of civilian casualties in other strikes, including one that targeted a house in the Jabalya refugee camp.

3. (S) At 1430 local, DAO observers reported an increase in IDF ground forces (over levels observed December 30) along the Gaza border, including elements of at least four infantry and three armor brigades. Unlike during previous observation missions, IDF forces outside the northern Gaza Strip were observed wearing full combat gear and deployed in a combat-ready stance. Additional roads, including highway 4 north of the Erez crossing, were closed, and a large staging area — with lights, generators, field tents, water tanks and other structures — had been completed adjacent to the northeast corner of the Gaza Strip.

4. (S//NF) Rocket fire into Israel continues as several more towns suffered their first hit, including at least 5 impacts in Be’er Sheva, the principal city in the Negev. Be’er Sheva is Israel’s sixth largest city, after Ashdod (which is also under attack), with a population of 200,000. The first rocket strike into Be’er Sheva was a 122mm Grad that the IDF told the DAO they believe the Grad was made in China but are analyzing it further before confirming.

5. (U) While no one was injured in the initial Be’er Sheva attack, it hit an empty kindergarten and the news photos of the burned dolls and destroyed children’s toys elicited a strong response from authorities and the public. The IDF has expanded its orders to close the schools to additional “third ring” cities, including Be’er Sheva, and asked residents to stay in or near shelters and avoid public gatherings. At least five more rockets have hit Be’er Sheva on December 31, and attacks are reported on other towns including Ashkelon and Yavneh. Early estimates are over 40 Qassam, Katyusha and Grad rockets fired as of 1430 local on December 31.

Humanitarian Assistance ———————– 6.

(U) COGAT told Emboffs that Kerem Shalom and Erez remain open, while Nahal Oz and Karni are still closed due to continued attacks in the vicinity of the crossings. COGAT says as of mid-day over 80 trucks have passed through Kerem Shalom, with a target of over 100 trucks before the crossing closes at 1500. As of 1430, COGAT was not able to provide the number of people that have crossed through Erez, though at least four crossing permits have been issued.

7. (SBU) COGAT officials also said that they have yet to receive a response from UNRWA on the feasibility of transferring the bulk grain at the Karni crossing into 1-ton plastic sacks and moving them through Kerem Shalom. COGAT says it is also still investigating ways that it can move cooking gas and diesel fuel through Kerem Shalom that meet public safety standards. COGAT officials also told EconCouns that two planeloads of aid are expected today and tomorrow from Greece, Norway and the WHO. However, the COGAT official warned that, due to capacity issues, it will take a week and a half to move these goods through Kerem Shalom.

Political Developments ———————- 8. (C)

Prime Minister Olmert, Minister of Defense Barak and Foreign Miniter Livni met last night and rejected the possibility of a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire as suggested by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson called the proposal unrealistic because it was a unilateral Israeli ceasefire with no mechanism to ensure Hamas ceases rocket fire, smuggling, and other terrorist activity. Barak was reportedly in favor of the ceasefire to calm the international community, while Olmert and Livni took a harder line according to press reports. Nimrod Barkan, head of the MFA Political Research Department, told A/DCM on December 31 that Barak’s primary interest in the 48-hour ceasefire was due to the poor weather expected over the next two days.

9. (U) The full security cabinet met on December 31 to receive a security briefing and discuss a ground operation. Barak has already requested that another 2,500 reservists be activated. During the meeting, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin reportedly said that the operations against Hamas infrastructure had been more effective than anticipated and that no humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza.

10. (U) In the press, pundits are divided over whether Israel should accept a ceasefire or continue to a more-costly ground operation. Speculation is also growing over the political motivations of the Gaza operation. Opposition leader and PM candidate Benjamin Netanyahu has so far expressed complete support for the government, while the first polls released since the operation began show gains for both Labor and Kadima, with Kadima now even with Likud at 29 seats apiece.

11. (SBU) Israeli Arabs: Protests against the Gaza operation continue in Israeli-Arab and mixed Jewish-Arab towns and cities. While most of these demonstrations have ended peacefully, others have resulted in clashes with police or Jewish counter-protesters. Minor clashes between Arab and Jewish students at Haifa University have occurred each day since December 29. The far-left and predominantly Arab Hadash Party is organizing what it hopes will be a very large demonstration in Tel Aviv on the evening of January 3. At the same time, small groups of Israeli-Arab youths continue to throw stones at cars and block roads throughout the north, with incidents reported in Uhm al-Fahm, Nazareth, Akko and dozens of smaller towns. Media reports on December 31 indicate that police have arrested over 300 Israeli Arabs, a large portion of them minors, for causing violent disturbances and disrupting traffic. POL and DAO officers have seen very large numbers of Israeli police and border police deployed in visible locations throughout the north since the start of military operations on December 27.

********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv ********************************************* ******************** CUNNINGHAM

Next cable:

2 Jan 09

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02

TEL AVIV 000005 SIPDIS E.O. 12958:

DECL: 01/01/2019 TAGS: KWBG, MOPS, PREL, PTER, PINR, EAID, IS

SUBJECT: GAZA SITUATION REPORT, JANUARY 2, 15:00

REF: A. TEL AVIV 2930 B. TEL AVIV 2922 C. TEL AVIV 2906

Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers for reasons 1.4 (B/D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Local and international media highlighted FM Livni’s January 1 comments in Paris that a ceasefire was unnecessary and would give Hamas time to regroup. Israeli troops deployed around Gaza have relaxed their posture, but remain prepared for ground incursions. Rocket and mortar strikes against southern Israeli towns have decreased, but Grad-type rockets continue to impact Be’er Sheva; no additional Israeli deaths were reported on January 1 or 2. Israeli Air Force (IAF) operations against Hamas targets continued on January 1 and 2, killing Nizar Rayan, reportedly one of the IDF’s top targets and the first senior Hamas official killed in Operation Cast Lead, along with 15 members of his family, according to press reports. The IAF also destroyed a mosque reportedly serving as a weapons depot and communications hub. On the morning of January 2, Embassy Tel Aviv, Consulate-General Jerusalem and Embassy Amman facilitated the evacuation of 27 American citizens and their family members from Gaza. END SUMMARY.

POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS 2. (SBU) After meeting with French President Sarkozy in Paris on January 1, FM Livni reiterated the cabinet’s December 31 decision to reject a 48-hour ceasefire, saying there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and therefore no need for a humanitarian ceasefire. Sarkozy restated his intention to visit the region next week. On January 1, France ceded the rotating EU presidency to the Czech Republic, which announced plans to dispatch a delegation to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Amman, and Cairo on January 4 in support of the French ceasefire proposal. Turkish PM Erdogan’s diplomatic tour continued on January 1 with a stop in Cairo after meeting Syrian President Asad on December 31; he is expected to visit Riyadh on January 3. Turkish DCM Bozay provided a readout of President Gul’s January 1 conversation with President Peres. Gul reportedly expressed understanding of Israel’s need to take action against terrorist attacks, noting that Turkey was also a victim of terrorism, but cautioned Peres that the operation needed to be brought to a quick conclusion due to the impact on Muslim public opinion. Peres responded that he hoped Israeli military operations could be completed soon, but said Hamas was not showing any sign of readiness to accept a ceasefire on terms acceptable to Israel. Local reaction to the December 31 statement by Arab League FMs has been muted.

3. (C) Neither the inner cabinet nor full security cabinet have convened since the December 31 meeting in which cabinet members agreed upon conditions for a ceasefire and ended press speculation of dissent by DM Barak; the next regular cabinet meeting will be on January 4. While reportedly pushing for a major but brief ground incursion, Ha’aretz reports that defense officials recommend parallel preparation of a diplomatic exit strategy that would include an agreement brokered with Hamas; FM Livni remarked in Paris that a ceasefire negotiated directly with Hamas was unacceptable as it would legitimize the group’s hold over Gaza.

4. (U) Polling results in advance of Knesset elections still scheduled for February 10 continue to show gains for DM Barak,s Labor Party, with unclear results for FM Livni’s Kadima Party and former PM Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Media commentators agree that Barak has the most to gain from the Gaza operation, though much depends upon its outcome. A Ma’ariv-Teleseeker poll published January 2 shows the Labor Party earning 16 Knesset seats if elections were held today (up from 11 on December 25), while Likud and Kadima would each take 28 (down from 29 for Likud and 30 for Kadima). The same poll showed public support for the ongoing operations against Hamas at 93 percent, with 40 percent favoring continued air attacks only, 41 percent in favor of a ground incursion, and nine percent advocating an immediate ceasefire. 77 percent of the public believes Israel should only accept a ceasefire if it includes negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit. (Note: The Ma’ariv-Teleseeker poll showed significantly stronger support for ongoing operations in Gaza than a January 1 Ha’aretz poll that included Israeli Arabs, though their influence on government decision making is minimal, leading us to believe they were excluded from the Ma’ariv poll.) The Likud Party has put up billboards all over Tel Aviv with the slogan “strong together” and in smaller print, “Likud supports our soldiers and the residents of the south.” In keeping with Bibi Netanyahu’s pledge to suspend his electoral campaign during the fighting, the billboards do not refer to Netanyahu directly.

MILITARY OPERATIONS 5. (S) The Israeli Defense Forces, (IDF) ground buildup appears to have slowed after the initial influx of armor and infantry to the Gaza perimeter. Elements of at least three armor and four infantry brigades remain deployed along the TEL AVIV 00000005 002 OF 002 northern Gaza strip. DAO reports no indications of an imminent ground incursion. IDF maintenance and logistical activity continued on January 2, but IDF troops displayed a more relaxed posture than on January 1. DAO assesses that the IDF has not yet deployed sufficient forces for a deep, sustained ground operation, but that more limited incursions into northern Gaza could occur with little or no warning.

6. (SBU) Despite cleared skies over Gaza, the pace of Israeli Air Force (IAF) operations has decreased, with 48 sorties on January 1, according to the IDF. Media reports speculate that the IAF is running out of quality targets and may soon be forced to either scale back operations or turn the fighting over to ground forces. IAF operations on January 1 included a strike that killed senior Hamas official Nizar Rayan in his Jabaliya home, reportedly along with his four wives and 11 of his children. Rayan was reportedly on the IDF’s list of top Hamas targets, and was the first senior Hamas political official killed in Operation Cast Lead. IAF jets also bombed a mosque in the Jabaliya area that, according to IDF sources, served as a command and control hub for Hamas militants and storage site for Grad-type and Qassam rockets. As of 12:00 on January 2, the IAF had carried out an additional 20 strikes, mostly targeting the homes of Hamas militants; IDF sources stress that residents received prior warnings to evacuate by leaflet, phone, or text message, although one prominent commentator quoted military sources as saying that at least in the Rayan attack, no one answered the phone when it rang 10 minutes prior to the attacl.

7. (SBU) IDF sources report that 35 rockets, including 10 Grad-type, and four mortar rounds were fired into Israel on January 1, with several rockets striking in or around Be,er Sheva, with no deaths or injuries. As of 15:00 on January 2 approximately 20 additional rockets had been launched from Gaza, impacting Ashkelon, Sdot Negev, and Eshkol; one woman was reported injured by shrapnel. Israeli towns and cities within 40km of Gaza remain under special alert, expanded from 30km after rockets began striking Be,er Sheva on December 31. Schools remain closed, and residents have been asked to stay in or near shelters.

AMCIT EVACUATION 8. (SBU) On the morning of January 2 Embassy Tel Aviv, Consulate-General Jerusalem, and Embassy Amman coordinated the evacuation of 27 American citizens (Amcits) and non-Amcit family members from Gaza via the Erez crossing; an additional seven Amcits on the initial evacuation list chose to remain in Gaza. As of 14:00 the 27 evacuees were proceeding through the Allenby border crossing from Israel into Jordan after transiting Israel under embassy escort. A total of 234 third country nationals were evacuated through Erez during the day.

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE 9. (SBU) The Office for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that 60 trucks carrying 1,360 tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing on January 1, including 10 UN Relief and Works Agency trucks with cooking oil and seven with flour, three trucks with medical supplies from Egypt, seven trucks with food from Jordan, and two International Committee of the Red Cross trucks carrying medical supplies. 64 trucks entered Gaza on January 2, according to COGAT (of 72 that were initially expected). According to USAID, the Kerem Shalom crossing remained open as of 15:00 on January 2, while the Rafah crossing into Egypt opened only briefly for the evacuation of 17 wounded Palestinians and entry of six Egyptian trucks carrying medical supplies. The Karni grain conveyor and Nahal Oz fuel pipeline remained closed on January 1 and 2.

10. (SBU) Turkish DCM Bozay told us today that Turkey had completed the coordination with COGAT of substantial Turkish humanitarian assistance, including five ambulances, 330 tons of flour, 11,000 dried food parcels (11 tons), and 13 tons of medical supplies, all of which has now entered Gaza. Bozay said he received full cooperation from Israeli officials, including clearance of the ambulances through the Ashdod port within two days. Based on the success of these shipments, the Turks reportedly are planning additional humanitarian relief, including a number of small generators for Gaza’s hospital.

********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv ********************************************* ******************** CUNNINGHAM

Next cable – Please Protect name unredacted? why?:

Talking with Gazans

2 Jan

C O N F I D E N T I A L

SECTION 01 OF 02

JERUSALEM 000017

SIPDIS NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, NSC FOR ABRAMS/PASCUAL/RAMCHAND E.O. 12958:

DECL: 01/02/2019

TAGS: KWBG, IS, PHUM, ECON, EAID

SUBJECT: GAZA CONTACTS DESCRIBE A MISERABLE LIFE UNDER FIRE

Classified By: Consul General Jake Walles, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 1. (C)

Summary. A wide selection of Gaza Strip political, business, civil society, academic and NGO contacts report fear of airstrikes, deteriorating conditions, minimal or no electricity, increasing food pressures, and a gloomy outlook for resolution of current hostilities. Several who are strongly opposed to Hamas said they have little hope that Hamas will lose control or change its behavior due to Israel’s military operations. End summary.

Gaza PLO ExComm Member: Situation Deteriorating; Hamas Unwilling to Return to Ceasefire; ————————————– 2. (C)

Gaza City-based PLO Executive Committee member Riyad al-Khudari (independent, please protect) told PolOff January 2 that he doubts Hamas will accept a mutual cessation of hostilities, as Hamas’ objective is permanently reopening the crossings, not halting Israeli attacks or protecting Gaza’s population. He said ending the fighting will be difficult, as Hamas has made Gaza into an armed camp and does not fear an Israeli invasion. They are too stubborn, he believes, to agree to a ceasefire that does not include guarantees on the crossings. Al-Khudari said most airstrikes have killed civil police, not Izz al-Din al-Qassam fighters, and, except for Nizar Rayyan, few Hamas leaders have been hit. He said his neighborhood (an upscale part of Shaykh Radwan) has been without electricity for three days, and their house has no heat, with only cooking gas left. Al-Khudari, who is also a university trustee, said all schools and universities in Gaza are closed and will not open anytime soon.

Gaza PLC Member: Outraged at Israeli Targeting of Non-Hamas Institutions ———————————— 3. (C)

Gaza-based Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Rawiya al-Shawwa told PolOff that she and most Gazans are outraged by Israeli targeting of the PLC building, where she and several Fatah PLC members kept offices. She said the building had only recently been completed and complained it was a PA facility, not used by Hamas as a faction, and its destruction is an affront to the PA and delegitimizes the PLC as an institution. She worries that her home in Shuja’iya will be destroyed in fighting, as houses nearby have been bombed by the IAF and it lies on a main avenue of approach to Gaza City from the border with Israel.

Key UN OCHA Contact’s House Destroyed, Airstrikes Jarring Children ————————— 4. (C)

Hamada al-Bayari, a key Economic/crossings contact, told EconOff January 2 that his house was largely destroyed when IAF ordnance struck a house nearby. He said the bomb targeted a single house but destroyed or heavily damaged all the houses on his street. He said airstrikes are having a severe psychological impact on his children, who have become distant and distrustful. He said he was fortunate to have relocated his family to an in-laws’ house the night before his house was wrecked.

American Corner Director: Situation Terrible for the Children; Food Shortages Acute ————————————– 5. (C)

Gaza City-based Dr. Awni Karzon, Director of Gaza’s American Corner, told PDoff January 2 that his house was heavily damaged in IAF strikes on Justice Ministry buildings, and he had to relocate his family to a friend’s house. He said his family could not take anything from the remains of his house, and they are sharing food provided by his hosts. The adults are eating little themselves so the children can eat. Most food stores in his area are closed, he said, and few Gazans will venture outside because of airstrikes.

Governor’s Office Contact: No Electricity for Days, No Confidence Hamas Will Weaken —————————————– 6. (C)

The Gaza Governor’s office manager, a 35-year-old mother who lives in Rimal (northwest Gaza City) near the ocean, said she has had no electricity for three days, and only had a few hours of electricity daily since Israeli airstrikes began on December 27. She said her home has no heat, and her family must simply bundle up throughout the day for warmth. She said she hates Hamas and sympathizes with Israel’s need to stop rockets, but commented that she sees little connection between Israel’s bombing targets and Hamas, JERUSALEM 00000017 002 OF 002 and doubts current military operations will weaken Hamas’ grip on power.

Democracy Program Manager: Israel Targeting Our Civil Infrastructure More than Hamas ———————————— 7. (C)

Manal al-Bashti, program manager of a USAID-funded civil society/democracy project, told USAID staff that Israeli airstrikes have frequently targeted government institutions, such as the PA Education Ministry building and PLC headquarters, that have no connection to Hamas’ military forces or rockets. She commented that Israel’s military campaign seemed more directed at destroying Palestinian civil infrastructure than degrading Hamas’ capabilities to attack Israel. She said moderates and civilians are suffering the most from the fighting.

AMIDEAST Director: Bombing, Food Shortages Threaten Civilians —————————- 8. (C)

Gaza AMIDEAST Director Anis Abu Hashim told PDoff January 2 that his multi-story apartment building shook so much from nearby bombings that he worried his home had become structurally unsound. He said his family has had no electricity or water for four days, and must transport jugs of water from street level. He said he does not go outside except when forced to look for food, but on a recent search did not find any stores open except for a donkey cart selling vegetables. He wanted to buy bread, but said the line outside the bakery was at least four hours long, and did not want to risk being exposed during airstrikes. WALLES

Next cable:

4 Jan Cairo

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02

CAIRO 000007

SIPDIS FOR NEA/ELA AND NEA/IPA E.O. 12958:

DECL: 01/04/2019

TAGS: KPAL, PGOV, PREL, PHUM, EG, IS

SUBJECT: EGYPT: GAZA ROUND-UP: JANUARY 4

REF: A. CAIRO 0003 B. CAIRO 0002

Classified By: Minister Counselor William R. Stewart for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) —– Rafah —– 1. (S)

As of 1500 hrs. local on January 4, Egyptian military contacts said Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing on January 4 after the Israelis gave advanced warning of their ground invasion and additional air strikes on the smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Rafah border. According to the Egyptian military, the air strikes against the tunnels “appear to be effective8 and the Egyptian Border Guards have seen “no tunnel smuggling activity8 since Israel began bombing Gaza. The Ministry Of Defense will brief military attaches and diplomats on January 5 on their views of the Gaza situation.

2. (SBU) The Egypt-Gaza border remains stable, with a reported 7000 central security forces (civilian, not military) providing additional security throughout Rafah, al-Arish, and the major roads across northern Sinai.

3. (SBU) On January 3, an Egyptian border guard was shot and wounded by Palestinian gunfire. Until January 4, the Egyptians continued to open the Rafah crossing for the transfer of medical supplies into Gaza and to receive injured Palestinians. The transfer of humanitarian assistance had been slow, as all shipments were transferred by hand between Egyptian and Palestinian trucks. However, even this traffic across the Rafah border has now ceased.

4. (U) According to press reports, 102 Palestinians have been treated in Egyptian hospitals since hostilities began and 294 Palestinians have been allowed back into Gaza. Wounded Palestinians are being initially taken to two hospitals in al-Arish ) al-Arish General and Mubarak Armed Forces ) and then transferred as needed to Ministry of Health or military hospitals in Cairo and Ismailia.

—————————— Demonstrations January 3 and 4 —————————— 5. (C)

According to independent daily “Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY),” on January 3, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) organized a mass demonstration of 10,000 at the Doctors’ Syndicate in Kafr El-Sheikh in the northern Delta. If this estimate is accurate, it would probably be the largest demonstration in Egypt since the Israeli attacks on Gaza began December 27. According to press reports, there were small demonstrations January 3 in the Delta governorates of Sharkia and Dakahlia. We have confirmed there were demonstrations January 3 in El-Arish approximately 20 miles south of the Gaza border, following the January 2 El-Arish demonstrations when police prevented protestors from moving to the Gaza border. A prominent blogger told us that the AMAY journalist whom police beat unconscious at a downtown Cairo demonstration on Friday, January 2, has left the hospital and returned to work. According to this blogger, the journalist told the police that he was covering the demonstration for “AMAY,” but the police continued to beat him anyway. The blogger said that the police prevented opposition journalists from covering downtown Cairo demonstrations December 31, and subsequently transported the journalists to a desert area bordering Cairo and left them there.

6. (SBU) Contacts told local staff that police had violently suppressed a January 4 demonstration in the port city of Damietta, and have arrested several demonstrators. Contacts have estimated 1,500 demonstrators in Damietta January 4. The MB called for a demonstration the afternoon of January 4 outside the Engineers’ Syndicate in downtown Cairo. We noticed a moderately heavy security presence in the vicinity around mid-day, and we will continue to monitor developments related to this demonstration.

————————- Inside the Demonstrations ————————- 7. (C)

A prominent blogger told us January 4 that the MB has tried to avoid chanting anti-Mubarak slogans during demonstrations as it realizes that the police will move in to stop demonstrations when such chanting begins. The blogger said that when leftist opposition members begin chanting such slogans during demonstrations, MB members try to drown them CAIRO 00000007 002 OF 002 out with shouts of “God is great (Allahu Akbar).”

8. (C) A leading member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) told us that MB members tried to stop an EOHR press conference at the Journalists’ Syndicate during the week of December 28 by shouting insults accusing the organization of being an agent of the U.S. and the West, before the press conference eventually proceeded. This EOHR contact told us that his organization is asking the GOE to disclose the number of demonstrators it is currently holding in detention. He said the EOHR believes that the GOE has released most demonstrators from custody after a few hours of detention. SCOBEY

Next cable:

5 Jan Cairo

S E C R E T CAIRO 000017

SIPDIS FOR NEA/ELA AND NEA/IPA E.O. 12958:

DECL: 01/04/2019 TAGS: KPAL, PGOV, PREL, PHUM, EG, IS

SUBJECT: EGYPT: GAZA ROUND-UP: JANUARY 5

REF: A. CAIRO 0007 B. CAIRO 0003 C. CAIRO 0002

Classified By: Minister Counselor William R. Stewart for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) —– Rafah —– 1. (S)

On January 5, Egyptian military officials briefed defense attaches on the situation in Gaza. The Egyptian military reports that the Egyptian-Gaza border remains stable, with no breaches since December 28. Egyptian border guards successfully prevented subsequent attempts to breach the border by a small number of unorganized individuals. Egyptian forces continue to receive occasional gunfire from the Gaza side of the border.

2. (S) The Egyptian military estimates that Israeli air attacks have destroyed 50 percent of the main smuggling tunnels between Rafah and Gaza. They anticipate that the Israeli Defense Force will take additional measures to destroy the tunnels during the ground invasion. The Egyptian military stressed that the Rafah border would not be permanently opened until the Palestinian Authority regained control of the border crossings. They expressed concern that the Israelis were attempting to sever Gaza from the West Bank, leaving an independent Gaza as “Egypt’s problem”.8

3. (SBU) According to the Egyptian military, 325 tons of medical aid has been delivered to Gaza since December 28, including 60 tons donated by the GOE. Assistance is being delivered through Rafah, Kerem Shalom, and most recently al-Aouja (Egyptian-Israeli border crossing in Central Sinai) due to the high volumes of goods. All material is being thoroughly searched for weapons and ammunition.

————– Demonstrations ————– 4.

(SBU) Contacts told us that the police prevented the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) from holding a large demonstration planned for Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on the afternoon of January 5; however, our contacts said the demonstration will be held elsewhere in the city either today or tomorrow. The police allowed the MB to lead a smaller demonstration at the Press Syndicate, not far from Tahrir Square, where approximately 400 people demonstrated as of 1430 hrs. local. Emboff observed a demonstration of about 200 people in front of the Mogamma (an enormous government building about half a kilometer from the embassy). The protestors were waving a Palestinian flag and chanting, “We are with you, Hamas!” There were at least 1500 police in full riot gear scattered throughout the public square in front of the Mogamma.

5. (SBU) Contacts told us January 5 that about 17,000 demonstrated in a peaceful protest January in the Delta town of Tanta. Contacts remarked that police allowed the demonstrators to protest, and did not attack the crowd. The MB has claimed that it led demonstrations January 4 of at least 10,000 protestors each in the Delta town of Mansoura and in Fayoum (about 100 kilometers south of Cairo), and of 25,000 protestors in Alexandria. SCOBEY

Next cable:

5 Jan 2009

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04

TEL AVIV 000015 NOFORN

SIPDIS E.O. 12958:

DECL: 01/05/2019

TAGS: KWBG, MOPS, PREL, PTER, PINR, EAID, ASEC, IS

SUBJECT: GAZA SITUATION REPORT, JANUARY 5, 16:00

REF: A. JANUARY 5 KAPLAN E-MAIL B. JANUARY 4 REIDHEAD E-MAIL SITREP C. JANUARY 4 KAPLAN E-MAIL D. TEL AVIV 0005 E. 08 TEL AVIV 2930 F. 08 TEL AVIV 2922 G. 08 TEL AVIV 2906

Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, reasons 1.4 (b),(d) 1. (S)

Summary: IDF ground operations continued January 5 with heavy artillery fire and troop advances on Gaza City. After bisecting the Gaza Strip, IDF ground forces are methodically closing in on Gaza City. IDF leadership describes a “root canal” ground operation aimed at preventing rocket fire, seeking and destroying ammunition storage sites and Hamas combatants, and apprehending terrorists for further interrogation. IDF forces continue to hold ground in northern Gaza used earlier as rocket launching grounds. The number of rocket attacks has decreased, although 28 rockets were fired at Israel as of 1600 local. “Tens of thousands” of reservists were called up January 4 and 5, according to press reports, which indicated that some are intended to reinforce the northern border while others are being held in reserve for any expansion of operations in Gaza. PM Olmert made a number of phone calls to international leaders in the effort to convince the international community that Israel is making efforts to assist the population of Gaza as much as possible. Israeli press widely covers French President Sarkozy’s anticipated arrival in Israel during the evening of January 5. The GOI continues to restrict media access to Gaza; while the MFA said it would allow a few foreign journalists to enter Gaza January 5, no foreign journalists in fact entered Gaza. On January 4, the GOI announced the establishment of a humanitarian coordination cell within the MOD. IDF sources confirmed that 49 out of 80 planned trucks of humanitarian supplies crossed into Gaza on January 5. IDF sources reported that approximately 200,000 liters of diesel fuel were transferred through the Nahal Oz fuel depot, but the Gaza power station contractor refused to pick up the delivery. Local embassies were planning to evacuate an additional 198 foreign nationals on January 5; no U.S. citizens were evacuated. However, the Canadian Embassy informed us that 18 Canadians and 16 other third country nationals were unable to leave Gaza via bus due to IDF-implemented road obstacles north of Gaza City. Continued call ups of local guards for reserve duty could affect Embassy Tel Aviv’s security operations. End summary.

Military Operations ——————- 2. (S)

As of 1230 local, DAO members on the border with Gaza reported heavy artillery fire throughout the Northern Gaza Strip (from southern Gaza City to the northern border), which has been on-going throughout the morning. Apache and Cobra helicopter gunships provided tactical support for on-going troop advances toward and around Gaza City. DAO observers reported at 1400 local that there were no signs of ground operations along the border south of Karni. According to DAO, military police continued to deny foreign journalists access to the exclusive military zone surrounding Gaza, but did allow DAO personnel and other diplomats past checkpoints to areas near the Sufa crossing.

3. (SBU) According to Israeli media outlets, the security establishment has set three main goals for the described “root canal” ground operation to destroy terror infrastructure in Gaza: 1) prevent further rocket launches; 2) seek and destroy ammunition storage sites and Hamas operatives; and 3) apprehend if possible those involved in terrorism for further interrogation. After bisecting the Gaza Strip, IDF troops have surrounded Gaza City, and are now cautiously and methodically closing in. IDF ground forces lay to the north, south, and east of the city, with Israeli naval vessels deployed off-shore to the west. IDF ground forces deployed from the Karni crossing to the Mediterranean have cut off Gaza City from potential Hamas reinforcements and supplies from the south.

4. (SBU) IDF forces continue to hold ground in the northern towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya; ministers were briefed during the January 4 cabinet meeting that 73 percent of all rockets fired at Israel during the last week were launched from these areas seized by IDF forces. The number of rocket attacks has decreased as a result, although approximately 28 rockets as of 1600 local have thus far been fired at Israel on January 5, including at least 4 long-range grads. No Israeli casualties were reported as a result of these strikes as of 1600 local. The Israel Air Force (IAF) struck over 30 targets during the evening of January 4, including tunnels, TEL AVIV 00000015 002 OF 004 homes of Hamas operatives, and ammunition and rocket stores. Following the death of an IDF soldier on January 4, there have now been five Israeli fatalities — two soldiers and three civilians — since Operation Cast Lead began. According to Reuters and AFP, over 530 Palestinians have been killed since the operation began. Approximately 50 IDF soldiers have been wounded as a result of the ground combat operation.

5. (SBU) Israeli press outlets speculate that Hamas is attempting to draw IDF forces into dense urban areas in order to maximize IDF casualties or attempt soldier kidnappings. Several press outlets report comments from “security sources” cliaming that the IDF has internalized the lessons learned from the 2006 war in Lebanon: for example, by maneuvering constantly around the combat zone in order to prevent creating stationary targets for Hamas — as well as opportunities to kidnap IDF soldiers.

6. (SBU) The press reported an attempted kidnapping by Hamas of an IDF soldier on January 4. According to the press, the IDF soldier from the Golani infantry brigade had been cut off from his unit, and engaged in a firefight with Hamas operatives who attempted to pull him into a tunnel. The soldier was apparently able to escape following the arrival of helicopter air support. In response to the intense media coverage — both local and international — of the alleged kidnapping of two IDF soldiers, the IDF spokesperson stated the IDF will not respond to false Hamas-generated rumors, and would report in the future any factual kidnappings to the public in an appropriate manner.

Northern Border ————— 7. (S/NF)

DAO reports Israel Defense Intelligence (IDI) concerns regarding possible action by Hizballah, Iran, or Global Jihad organizations, particularly with the one-year anniversary of Imad Mughniyah’s death on February 12. On-going IDI and Israel Naval Intelligence analysis strongly indicates a possible maritime attack scenario within the region or abroad. The current IDI assessment is that Hizballah may act now, as Hizballah may see Israel as less likely to be drawn into additional fighting over a one-time Hizballah terrorist response due to on-going IDF operations in Gaza.

8. (SBU) The Israeli press covered January 4 comments made by Director of Military Intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin suggesting Hizballah may open a second front against Israel in the north. The IDF called up “tens of thousands” of reservists on January 4, which could be used against potential attacks in the north and the West Bank. Israeli media outlet YNET picked up Syrian newspaper al-Watan’s coverage of significantly increased Lebanese and UNFIL patrols in southern Lebanon.

Political and Diplomatic Developments ————————————- 9. (SBU)

The regular Sunday cabinet meeting was moved to Tel Aviv on January 4 as is customary in times of major military operations. The cabinet discussed the continued fighting in the south and in addition to hearing a statement from PM Olmert (ref B), was briefed by Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Livni, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ashkenazi, as well as by senior intelligence chiefs. Livni briefed ministers on the various diplomatic issues related to the operation in the south. Education Minister Tamir discussed school cancellations in the south during the emergency. Shin Bet Director Diskin suggested Hamas was “at a breaking point,” and was searching for a formula which would provide an exit point without causing the organization further humiliation.

10. (SBU) The Israeli press widely reports on the impending arrival of French President Nicholas Sarkozy during the evening of January 5. Sarkozy will meet with Olmert, Livni, and President Peres during the visit. Olmert spoke to Sarkozy on the phone in advance of the visit, assuring Sarkozy that Israel is making efforts to assist the population in Gaza as much as possible, and in this context, is transferring “considerable humanitarian aid.” Israeli media outlets note Sarkozy’s comments to three Lebanese newspapers that Hamas “bears heavy responsibility” for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli press also widely covered criticism by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who reportedly accused Israel of conducting “inhuman acts” in Gaza which would cause Israel to “destroy itself.”

11. (SBU) According to press, Olmert also spoke by phone with TEL AVIV 00000015 003 OF 004 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on January 4, telling him that Israel will be unable to halt its military operation until the goals that it has set are accomplished. Olmert reportedly said this could be carried out by military means or by those diplomatic measures that must be formulated by the international community. Olmert said Israel has done much to allow the passage of equipment that will prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and added that IDF forces have been instructed to refrain from attacking innocents. The press reported Medvedev as stating no country could tolerate terrorism against its citizens and added that ways to conclude the operation and achieve a stable quiiet must be considered.

12. (SBU) Olmert and Barak met with Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair on January 4. Olmert reportedly repeated Israeli military goals to Blair, but also said that Israel does not rule out diplomatic activity by the international community which could bring about a situation in which the rocket fire at Israeli communities ceases and Hamas no longer constitutes a threat to southern Israel. On January 4, Livni met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov; according to the press, Livni rejected a Russian initiative to mediate between Israel and Hamas. FM Livni met January 5 with the EU Troika.

13. (SBU) Defense Minister Barak briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee on January 5. According to press, Barak said the IDF had struck Hamas a “a very heavy blow,” and expressed certainty that Israel would end the operation in Gaza with “the upper hand.” However, Barak said the GOI had yet to achieve its objectives and therefore would continue the operation. Echoing a note struck repeatedly by Olmert in his phone conversations with international leaders, Barak noted that Israel was engaged in diplomatic dialogue with international officials regarding the operation.

Elections ——— 14. (SBU)

Minister for Pensioners’ Affairs Rafi Eitan proposed January 4 that the Israeli general elections scheduled for February 10 be postponed by six weeks; senior officials in Kadima, the Labor Party and Likud continue to oppose any postponement. According to a poll taken by the Panels Polling Institute, a small majority (49 percent of 1,045 polled) oppose delaying the elections. Forty percent favor postponing the elections, while 11 percent were uncertain.

Media Access ———— 15. (SBU)

The GOI continues to control media access to Gaza. Foreign journalists have been barred from entering Gaza since November 4, despite a December 31 High Court ruling that they be allowed in. Journalists on the Gaza border also have been pushed back as the IDF has steadily expanded the closed military zone surrounding Gaza. Most are now covering the conflict from vantage points northeast of Gaza around Nir Am and Sderot. On January 3, the IDF also confiscated the personal cell phones of soldiers involved in the ground campaign. MFA Deputy Director General for Economic Affairs Irit Ben Abba told EconCouns that a small number of foreign correspondents would be allowed into Gaza January 5. However the IDF’s Office for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) confirmed late in the day that none of the journalists had entered Gaza.

Humanitarian Assistance ———————– 16.

(SBU) Per ref C, MFA DDG Ben Abba and MFA Deputy Director for International Organizations Eviator Manor briefed on January 4 representatives from UN agencies, the ICRC, the EU, the Office of the Quartet Representative (OQR), as well as USAID and PRM. According to Ben Abba and Manor, a humanitarian coordination cell has been established in the Israeli MOD to improve the GOI’s humanitarian response capacity by catering to the humanitarian needs identified by international organizations. The cell will allow rapid coordination between the MOD, MFA, and COGAT. For now, international organization representatives are not being invited to join the cell, although the MFA would like to meet twice weekly with the UN and other aid agencies.

17. (SBU) On January 5, COGAT confirmed the crossing of 49 truckloads of medical supplies, medication, and food commodities from Greece, Jordan and Egypt through Kerem Shalom into Gaza. According to COGAT sources, the fact that 49 truckloads made it through the crossing was “a miracle.” TEL AVIV 00000015 004 OF 004 This included 18 truckloads of wheat flour for UNRWA. COGAT also confirmed that 196,400 liters of diesel were shipped through the Nahal Oz fuel depot. However, COGAT sources say the Gaza power contractor did not pick up the diesel. According to COGAT, UNRWA volunteered to have their contractor make the delivery but the UNRWA contractor was threatened by the power company and dissuaded from delivering the fuel. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates the minimum basic food needs in Gaza at 1,219 metric tons per day, or approximately 40-45 truckloads of food alone per day.

18. (C) A total of 198 foreign nationals were expected to be evacuated through Erez during the day. However, the Canadian embassy informed us that a busload of 18 Canadian citizens and 16 other third country nationals was unable to make it to Erez due to IDF-implemented road obstacles. The Canadian sent an armored bus from Erez to the site of the obstacles with the hope of picking up the Canadian citizens, but artillery shelling was too intense and the bus had to turn back to Erez.

19. (S) Israeli officials maintain that Hamas combatants are using religious and medical facilities as cover for their operations, believing the IDF will be reluctant to strike mosques, hospitals and humanitarian operations. During a January 4 meeting with UN and other aid agencies, including USAID and PRM, senior MFA officials asked for help evicting Hamas militants from Gaza’s main hospital, Shifa. According to an unnamed defense officials quoted in the Jerusalem Post on January 5, “Hamas operatives are in (Shifa) hospital and have disguised themselves as nurses and doctors.” DAO reports growing concern among IDF officers at what they see as Hamas’ effort to reconstitute certain command and control capabilities at Shifa Hospital.

Embassy Local Guards Being Called-Up ———————————— 20. (S)

Embassy Tel Aviv RSO reports 15 local guards have been called up for IDF reserve duty. RSO estimates embassy security operations will not be affected as long as the number of local guards called up for reserve duty does not exceed 20. RSO plans to petition the MFA via letter for a special exception to further call ups.

********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy el Aviv’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sov.gov/p/nea/telaviv ********************************************* ******************* CUNNINGHAM

Next cable:

6 Jan Gaza (from Jerusalem)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02

JERUSALEM 000049

SIPDIS NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, NSC FOR ABRAMS/PASCUAL/RAMCHAND, S/ES-O FOR S TRAVELING PARTY E.O. 12958:

DECL: 01/06/2019

TAGS: EAID, ECON, IS, KWBG, MOPS, PHUM SUBJECT: AS IDF MOVES IN, GAZA CONTACTS EXPRESS ANGER AND DESPERATION

Classified By: Consul General Jake Walles for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 1. (SBU)

Summary.

A wide range of ConGen Gaza contacts showed signs of increased trauma as they recounted a night of heavy IDF bombardment, an attempt by militants to fire rockets from civilian areas, and shortages of essential materials, including food, water, and fuel. Contacts expressed mounting anger at what they termed the “randomness” of Israeli attacks. CNN’s bureau chief described a woman at Shifa Hospital who said her baby died after four days without food or water. End Summary.

STRESS MOUNTS WITH INTENSE BARRAGES ON JANUARY 5 AND 6 =========================== 2. (C)

Amideast Gaza Director Anees Abu Hashem, clearly exhausted after a sleepless night, told PDoff that he could not believe he survived the night. He said the IDF commenced a barrage on Gaza City at 17:00 local time January 5. Airstrikes began at nightfall. He said that, each time the bombs struck, he closed his eyes and crouched down: “Every time I opened my eyes again, I couldn’t believe I was still alive.” He characterized the bombing as “totally random,” saying there were no militants visible in his area of the city. Abu Hashem expressed anger at the mounting civilian death toll: “The IDF is not organized. I am a witness here. They have lost their minds. They are killing civilians.” He did not know what he would do if the IDF were to invade his neighborhood, and remarked, “I am afraid tonight will be even worse.”

3. (C) Former Fulbright Senior Scholar and Al-Azhar University professor Dr. Jamil Salem told PDoff that his town of Saftawi, located between Gaza City and Jabalya, had been increasingly hit by what he termed “indiscriminate” Israeli fire. Just prior to the phone conversation, Dr. Salem said that two Israeli tank shells struck his next-door neighbors’ home, destroying a whole portion of the house. Fortunately, no one was in the destroyed part of the house, so there were no injuries. Sounding angry and agitated, Salem said that no emergency personnel had been able to get through to the worst-hit areas in the past two days, and many dead and wounded were still trapped beneath mounds of rubble.

4. (C) While speaking with EconOff about rumors of an IDF-imposed 18:00 curfew on Gaza City, USAID project employee Salem Al-Raiz abruptly cut off the phone call after the sound of a huge explosion on his end of the line, followed by loud screams. “I don’t know where it came from. A shell,” Raiz said. He cut the call short, saying he had to go and help.

MILITANTS MOVE INTO NEW NEIGHBORHOODS ===================================== 5. (C)

Al-Azhar University professor Dr. Nehaya El-Telbani reported to PDoff that a Qassam rocket crew tried to fire from an olive grove near her neighborhood in the central Gaza town of Zawayda, but that “Israeli F-16s” had responded almost immediately. She was surprised the militants had tried to launch Qassams from her area, as she does not live close to the Israeli border. She suspected they had been pushed back by Israeli forces. Telbani said that her six children are screaming day and night, and her eight-year-old has started wetting his bed again. She added that they are completely cut off from north Gaza, with the IDF surrounding Khan Younis.

6. (C) El-Telbani told PDoff that she had received a pre-recorded call on January 5 saying in Arabic: “This is the Israeli Defense Forces. We do care about you civilians. If you have terrorists living near you, please call this number. Do not let yourself become a cover for terrorists. If you know they are there, then get out.” Other ConGen contacts reported receiving similar calls.

RUNNING LOW ON ESSENTIALS ========================= 7. (C)

Gaza American Corner director Dr. Awni Karazon, who has moved three times since his home was partially destroyed several days ago, told PDoff that he risked his life to return to his bombed-out house to gather some powdered milk, canned foods, and clothes for his kids. He said his old neighborhood was a “ghost town”. He managed to procure two gallons of water, a mix of 25 percent mineral and 75 percent tap water, being distributed by employees at a local mineral water plant. When asked if he might consider moving into an JERUSALEM 00000049 002 OF 002 UNRWA shelter for the displaced, Karzon said he would consider this only as a last resort, noting that the IDF had struck UNRWA shelters in the last 24 hours.

8. (C) Deposed independent Gaza City Mayor Majid Abu Ramadan told Poloff that he used his remaining gasoline last night to power a generator for three to four hours, allowing five neighboring families to obtain running water.

9. (C) Other contacts said they are also facing increasing shortages of food, water, fuel, and electricity. CNN’s Jerusalem bureau chief Kevin Flower told PD chief that his cameraman had encountered a woman at Shifa Hospital who said her six-month-old baby died after four days without food or water. Amideast Director Abu Hashem told PDOff that he has not had electricity or running water for five days, and his pregnant wife and children are all surviving on potatoes, rice, and olives. He mentioned that thousands of displaced persons are staying at UNRWA schools, but, as they do not have sufficient blankets, some local families are contributing extra blankets and bedding to UNRWA. Dr. Telbani said that she has been making bread at home, but is down to her last bag of flour. Fruits and vegetables are an expensive luxury, she added. Just today, her husband took a risky trip to Maghazi camp to buy food for the family. He returned with only a single orange. WALLES

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