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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MELBOURNE 000006
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL IS AS
SUBJECT: Anti-Israel Protests in Melbourne and Adelaide
REF: A) 08 SYDNEY 285, B) 08 Canberra 909, C) 08 Melbourne 117
Â¶1. (SBU) Melbourne-based “Women for Peace” intends to hold a small
vigil in front of the consulate building on January 9 to protest
events in Gaza. So far, protesters have organized four rallies
elsewhere in Melbourne and Adelaide over the past ten days
condemning Israeli airstrikes and ground attacks. Pro-Israel
supporters staged their own rally, calling for an end to “Hamas
terror.” All protests have been peaceful so far and have generally
refrained from targeting the United States. Tasmania and the
Northern Territory remain quiet. Although Melbourne is home to more
than 100,000 Muslims, the motivating force behind the anti-Israel
rallies has been non-religious organizations. End Summary.
Â¶2. (SBU) Victoria Police notified post on January 8 that the “Women
for Peace: No Weapons, No War” organization plans to hold a
seven-person vigil in front of the U.S. Consulate on January 9 from
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The vigil is intended to express concern for
women and children who have been injured or killed in Gaza.
According to their website, Women for Peace is a Melbourne-based
women’s organization formed in 2002 in response to the 9/11
terrorist attacks and ensuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They condemn all “war, acts of terrorism and manufacture of
weapons.” The group has conducted several peaceful protests in
front of the consulate building in the past. Post will follow up in
cable or email format if the January 9 vigil occurs.
Â¶3. (SBU) Approximately 1,000 people gathered in Melbourne’s central
business district on January 4 to protest Israeli airstrikes and
ground incursion in Gaza, according to the Victoria Police. While
the protesters generally avoided expressing anti-U.S. sentiment,
they dismantled a Star of David and burned it along with an Israeli
flag. Protesters called for a free Palestine and held posters
depicting bloodied corpses of children. A similar 500-person, non
violent protest was held in Melbourne on December 28 accompanied by
Hezbollah flags and condemnation of Israeli military action.
According to Victoria Police, the Socialist Alternative, a
university based spin-off of the International Socialist
Organization, organized both Melbourne rallies.
Â¶4. (U) Melbourne’s Imams reportedly hosted the “biggest ever cry for
Gaza” in the city’s Broadmeadows suburb on January 4. Protesters
again criticized Israeli military action in Gaza while religious
leaders made speeches and invoked prayers.
Â¶5. (SBU) Pro-Israel protesters also staged a rally in front of
Victoria’s Parliament house with banners stating: “no more terror”
and “Hamas uses human shields.” Speakers at the pro-Israel rally
reportedly included the federal Parliament’s only Jewish member,
Michael Danby, and Liberal Party Senator from Victoria, Mitch
Fifield. An article in Melbourne’s daily Age noted that Jewish
organizations, schools and synagogues have been the target of
abusive phone calls and letters since Israel commenced attacks in
Gaza. Jewish people have also reportedly been verbally abused on
the streets. (Note: There is no Israeli consulate in Melbourne.
End note.) According to Victoria Police, all gatherings in the
state have been conducted peacefully with the full cooperation of
law enforcement authorities.
Adelaide and Elsewhere
Â¶6. (SBU) On December 30, approximately 80 people gathered on the
steps of the State Parliament building in Adelaide to protest
Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Police told post that they did
not observe any anti-U.S. sentiment during the rally. According to
contacts in South Australia’s police force, the protest was peaceful
and organized by the “Australian Friends of Palestine.” The group
defines itself as a “voluntary, not-for-profit organization which
has as its primary object the promotion of peace in Palestine based
on international law and relevant UN resolutions.” Law enforcement
contacts in the Northern Territory and Tasmania report that there
have been no significant anti-Israel rallies in those states.
MELBOURNE 00000006 002 OF 002
Â¶7. (SBU) Although Melbourne is home to more than 100,000 Muslims,
the primary motivating force behind the anti-Israel protests have
been non-religious organizations. This is at least partially
because Melbourne’s Muslim community, similar to Sydney’s, is
heavily divided along ethnic lines. Turks comprise the largest
majority of Melbourne’s Muslim community, accounting for more than
70,000 residents. Lebanese, Somali, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Eritrean,
Baltic European, Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani and Iraqi Melbournians
make up the remainder of the community. While controversial issues
such as the Benbrika terror trial (refs B and C) have temporarily
united these disparate groups, Melbourne’s Muslim communities remain
divided and are primarily motivated by individual ethnic concerns.
O 090803Z JAN 09
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INFO AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
C O N F I D E N T I A L CANBERRA 000034
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/IPA, EAP, EAP/ANP
P FOR TESONE, D FOR LEE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV IS AS
SUBJECT: GAZA: AUSTRALIAN RESPONSE MAKES ISRAELI
REF: CANBERRA 13
Classified By: Economic Counselor Edgard Kagan. Reasons 1.4 (b/d).
Â¶1. (C/NF) Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem is very satisfied
with the Australian response to the fighting in Gaza.
Australian Government statements, including vacationing PM
Kevin Rudd’s January 5 remarks, have emphasized the need for
an end to HAMAS rocket attacks on Israel and halting arms
shipments into Gaza. Most Australian media reporting has been
“surprisingly balanced,” according to Rotem, who commented
that Australian protests have been “very limited” in
comparison to those during the 2006 fighting in Lebanon and
the 2003 operations in Jenin. Rotem said he had been
impressed with Acting PM Julia Gillard, who has taken the
lead in coordinating the GOA public and private response to
the Gaza fighting. Gillard impressed the Israelis with her
tough questions and understanding during a January 2 phone
conversation with Israeli PM Olmert. Rotem is encouraging
the “very pro-Israel” Rudd to visit Israel in March by
suggesting that such a visit will increase his ability to be
a player on Middle-Eastern issues, particularly Iran.
Commenting that FM Stephen Smith has been “surprisingly
absent” on Gaza, Rotem said Smith made clear that he did not
want to interrupt his vacation to work on the issue. Rotem,
who is also accredited to New Zealand, expressed amazement
that Wellington has “been so reasonable” on Gaza, saying that
this marks a real departure from the era of former PM Helen
Clark. End Summary.
Â¶2. (C/NF) Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem told Econcouns
January 9 that he is very satisfied with Australia’s response
to the Gaza conflict. Commenting that Australian Government
statements have been “very balanced,” Rotem said that he has
worked closely with Acting PM Gillard and National Security
Advisor Duncan Lewis to keep them informed of Israeli
thinking and the latest developments. Rotem said that
Gillard and Lewis have been very understanding of Israel’s
military action, while stressing the need to minimize
civilian casualties and address humanitarian concerns. Rotem
said that the Lewis and Office of National Assessments (ONA)
Director General Peter Varghese “were nervous” about the
possible consequences of the Israeli ground operations in
Gaza. Along with Rudd’s Foreign Policy Advisor Gary Quinlan,
Lewis and Varghese are very interested in what is happening
in the cease-fire talks in Cairo.
Gillard A Surprise
Â¶3. (C/NF) Rotem said that Gillard’s public statements
surprised many Israeli Embassy contacts as being far more
supportive than they had expected. Israeli officials were
Qsupportive than they had expected. Israeli officials were
impressed with Gillard’s performance during a January 2 call
with PM Ehud Olmert, he said, commenting that this was a
relief because it had been very difficult to persuade Olmert
to make the call. Rotem said that he received a readout
highlighting that Gillard had asked tough questions and shown
good understanding of the Gaza situation, while reassuring
Olmert that Australia understood the reasons for Israel’s
actions. During a January 8 interview, Gillard told a
reporter: “I did say in the early days and I would happily
say it now that obviously there was Hamas shelling (sic) into
southern Israel and Israel responded.”
Â¶4. (C/NF) Rotem praised PM Rudd’s January 5 statement
(reftel) as being “very supportive” of Israel because of
their emphasis on the need for halting arms shipments into
Gaza as well as referring to HAMAS as a terrorist
organization. He said that several senior Labor Party
contacts have told him privately that the PM has been a bit
jealous of the attention garnered by Gillard and that this
led him to speak to the issue on January
Playing to Rudd’s Vanity
Â¶5. (C/NF) Rotem said that he is encouraging PM Rudd to
travel to Israel in March in order to strengthen his voice on
Middle East issues, particularly Iran. Rotem has argued to
Rudd and to National Security Advisor Lewis that being one of
the first foreign leaders to meet the new Israeli leadership
after the upcoming elections will give the PM more
credibility with other Western leaders. Commenting that Rudd
has a strong affinity for and good understanding of Israel,
Rotem said that Israel recognizes that Australia will “never
be the United States” but will listen to Canberra “when it is
also clear that they are not the Europeans.” Acknowledging
that he is acting without instructions from Israel, Rotem
said that Rudd is very interested in strengthening his
ability to have a voice on Iran with the new U.S.
Tepid Public Reaction
Â¶6. (C/NF) Commenting that the Australian public has shown
little reaction to the Gaza fighting because it is happening
when many are on vacation, Rotem termed the various
demonstrations around Australia as small and ineffective at
mobilizing broader public support. He said that they have
tended to highlight divisions within the Arab community
rather than reach out to the broader Australian public. This
low-key public response is a sharp departure from the much
more vocal and better-organized protests during the 2006
fighting in Lebanon and the 2003 fighting in Jenin. It has
been encouraged by the Australian media’s “even-handedness,”
though Rotem complained that “this has started to change
since the ground offensive began.”
Where’s FM Smith?
Â¶7. (C/NF) FM Stephen Smith has been “surprisingly absent” on
Gaza, according to Rotem, who said that he had approached the
FM at the beginning of the conflict to suggest that this
would be a good opportunity to take advantage of PM Rudd’s
Qwould be a good opportunity to take advantage of PM Rudd’s
vacation to take the lead on a high profile foreign policy
issue. Smith had initially expressed interest, then sent
word through an intermediary that he did not want to
interrupt his vacation. Rotem noted that on several occasions
he has been ordered to pass messages to the FM and that
Smith’s office has been unable to get in touch with him for
Â¶8. (C/NF) Also accredited to New Zealand, Rotem said that he
was very surprised at the Kiwi response to the Gaza crisis.
Saying that Israel had grown used to former PM Helen Clark
issuing statements on Middle East issues “that could have
been drafted in Damascus,” Rotem said that the new Government
has been a very welcome change. He commented that they had
avoided making a public statement and then issued one that
was “surprisingly balanced.” Rotem said that this was a very
welcome change and that it has been noticed in Israel.
DE RUEHBY #0013 0052116
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C O N F I D E N T I A L CANBERRA 000013
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/04/2019
TAGS: PREL AS
SUBJECT: AUSTRALIAN PM SPEAKS OUT ON GAZA
Classified By: Acting Political Counsellor John W. Crowley for reason 1
Â¶1. (U) In his first public comment on the Israeli strike on
Gaza, vacationing Prime Minister Rudd expressed concern over
the continued violence in Gaza and Southern Israel. In a
January 5 press interview, Rudd said Australia recognizes
Israel’s right to self-defense but called on “all parties to
avoid any actions which result in unnecessary suffering or
increased suffering on the part of innocent civilians”. He
also cited the need for a diplomatic solution that includes
halting arms shipments into Gaza, ending rocket attacks on
Israel by the terrorist organization Hamas, and opening
border crossings into Gaza. Rudd affirmed GOA support for UN
actions towards a ceasefire and concern over humanitarian
implications of the conflict and Israel’s need to meet those
obligations. He stated that any solution “must form part of
a longer term compact involving Israel and Palestine, based
on a two-State solution”. Rudd also highlighted an
allocation January 1 of USD 3.5 million for food and medical
supplies to the people of Gaza, in addition to the USD 35
million in GOA assistance pledged over the last 12 months.
Â¶2. (U) In a separate interview today with Deputy PM Julia
Gillard, who is acting PM while Rudd is on holiday,
reiterated the need for an immediate end to all violence and
support for efforts to find a lasting solution. She also
emphasized concern about casualties among civilians and
stated that the GOA has urged Israel to be mindful of
civilians caught in the conflict. In response to a question
about the disproportionate casualties between Palestinians
and Israelis, she pointed out the need for a lasting solution.
Â¶3. (C/NF) Justin Whyatt, Executive Director, Middle East
and Africa Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
indicated that the GOA is consulting with a number of
countries concerning acceptable conditions for a ceasefire,
including Egypt’s role vis-a-vis Hamas and views on Sarkozy’s
visit to the region.
More cables from Counterpunch: (down to the 09HARARE24 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
C O N F I D E N T I A L
SECTION 01 OF 02
SIPDIS NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, NSC FOR ABRAMS/PASCUAL/RAMCHAND E.O. 12958:
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
4 Jan Cairo
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02
SIPDIS FOR NEA/ELA AND NEA/IPA E.O. 12958:
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
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
5 Jan 2009
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04
TEL AVIV 000015 NOFORN
SIPDIS E.O. 12958:
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
6 Jan Gaza (from Jerusalem)
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02
SIPDIS NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, NSC FOR ABRAMS/PASCUAL/RAMCHAND, S/ES-O FOR S TRAVELING PARTY E.O. 12958:
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)
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
OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0024/01 0090843
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 090843Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3900
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0003
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2535
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2657
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1150
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0234
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1926
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2281
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2706
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0529
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5134
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0068
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 5616
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0021
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1813
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000024
AF/S FOR B. WALCH
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS
STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ECON EMIN RS ZI
SUBJECT: MILITARY EXPANSION FUELS DIAMOND CHAOS XXXXXXXXXXXX
REF: A. IIR 6 926 0058 09
¶B. 08 HARARE 1016
¶C. 08 HARARE 1035
Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX, poloff met with XXXXXXXXXXXX,
XXXXXXXXXXXX region that contains the
diamond-rich Marange fields, to discuss violence in the
region as well as recent developments in the turbulent
Marange diamond trade. XXXXXXXXXXXX described how the military
expansion in XXXXXXXXXXXX in late November has been displacing
the police and diverting the diamond flow from the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe to the Zimbabwean military. This has not
deterred the continued brisk diamond trade involving foreign
buyers, including most prominently the Lebanese. END SUMMARY.
Shootings Continue as Bodies Pile Up
¶2. (C) The tribal chief XXXXXXXXXXXX, met
with poloff in Harare XXXXXXXXXXXX and confirmed that
military and police shootings in Marange are continuing, as
security forces tighten their control over the diamond-rich
area. This was seconded by a report we received from a human
rights group in the region (REF A). According to the report,
during police and military Operation Hakudzokwi, (Shona for
“you won’t come back”) which was aimed at clearing individual
panners from the area, over 200 bodies turned up at Mutare
Provincial Hospital Mortuary, Old Mutare Mission Hospital,
Sakubva District Hospital, and private mortuaries. Many of
those bodies arrived with fatal gunshot or dog bite wounds
and were tagged “BID Marange” or “brought in dead from
¶3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX many of his people have been
killed, beaten, and arrested for dealing in diamonds. The
villagers had entrusted their diamond findings to XXXXXXXXXXXX
because he owned a safe and they thought his tribal status
would be respected; however, the police forced him to turn
over the village’s diamond stash to the security forces.
XXXXXXXXXXXX is now in hiding in Harare. He also told us
XXXXXXXXXXXX he had been harassed, arrested, and beaten beat out . XXXXXXXXXXXX END NOTE.)
Military Expansion Displacing the Police
¶4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that the military has increased
its numbers in the region and now exceeds the police presence
by a large margin. He suspected the increase stemmed from
concern that the power-sharing negotiations between ZANU-PF
and the MDC might culminate in the awarding of the Home
HARARE 00000024 002 OF 003
Affairs ministry–which includes the police department–to
the MDC. This would result in a tremendous loss of wealth
and patronage that helps to maintain the Mugabe regime.
Therefore, he believed that the military, which would remain
under ZANU-PF control in the event of an agreement between
the two parties, was seeking to consolidate its authority.
¶5. (C) Digging by panners, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, is
continuing in Marange largely under the supervision of the
military. The typical practice is for soldiers to supervise
and escort groups of panners as they dig. Then at the end of
the day, any diamonds found are apportioned between soldiers
and diggers. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that military helicopters fly in
daily and transport many of the diamonds to bases near
Harare, where presumably they are taken by senior military
Gono May Have Been Cut Out of the Deal
¶6. (C) Prior to the military expansion in late November, it
was well known by locals that Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)
governor Gideon Gono had representatives in Mutare buying
diamonds with bundles of freshly-printed Zimbabwean notes
(Ref B). XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that the military has now barred
Gono’s operatives from the region and that diamonds are no
longer being sent to the RBZ. All diamond purchases are now
being conducted solely in foreign exchange. (NOTE: According
to an article in the state-controlled newspaper, the Herald,
Tendai Makurumidzi, a well-known Gono buyer who uses the
alias “Gonyeti” was arrested sometime in November and had
three of his vehicles seized. END NOTE.) XXXXXXXXXXXX explained
that it used to be common to see 4×4 vehicles leaving
XXXXXXXXXXXX, but now the roads have deteriorated to the point
that access is only possible by foot or helicopter.
Vehicular access to the greater area is also being controlled
by police and military roadblocks, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX.
Foreign Buying Unabated
¶7. (C) While Gono’s access to diamonds may have been
compromised, XXXXXXXXXXXX said that many diamonds are still being
sold to foreign diamond buyers in Mutare and over the border
in Mozambique by a mix of panners, police, and soldiers. In
particular, Lebanese buyers have set up shop in large numbers
in Mutare and typically pay for the diamonds with U.S.
dollars. In order to operate safely, the Lebanese have
formed profitable relationships with senior military and
police officials in the region. Marginally more reputable
buyers from Europe and other regions prefer to stay in
Chimoio in Mozambique. Chimoio affords these buyers
protection from Zimbabwean police and soldiers who commonly
seize cash, diamonds, and vehicles from them in Mutare, but
that safety is offset by higher diamond prices.
¶8. (C) We previously reported on a meeting between Gono and
the Russian diamond monopoly ALROSA (Ref C) in November.
Recent press reports, corroborated by Embassy sources,
HARARE 00000024 003 OF 003
indicate that Mugabe is planning a trip to Russia in January
to discuss mining investment opportunities. With the GOZ
desperate for forex, such a trip could involve discussion of
a Chiadzwa diamond deal between Zimbabwe and Russia. END
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP
DE RUEHROV #0011/01 0271652
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 271652Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1029
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0076
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0064
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 0004
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0022
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0030
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1065
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000011
E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/27/2029
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF PHUM JO IS VT
SUBJECT: CHURCH UNITY ONE, CATHOLIC-JEWISH RELATIONS ZERO
REF: A. A) VATICAN 10
¶B. B) ROME 58
¶C. C) VATICAN 09
VATICAN 00000011 001.2 OF 002
CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael P. Foley, Acting DCM.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
¶1. (S) Summary: The Pope’s decision to reinstate communion with
a breakaway Catholic group that included a Holocaust-denying
cleric (ref A) proved that his highest concern is the long-term
religious well-being of the Church, not the Holy See’s relations
with other sovereign states. This religion-first attitude is
also informing the Holy See’s planning for the Pope’s probable
trip to Israel and Jordan next May (ref B) and its handling of a
controversy over whether WWII Pope Pius XII should be declared a
saint. Most Holy See insiders believe that this is the right
approach for a 2,000 year-old institution which considers its
greatest historical failure “the scandal of the Christian
disunity.” This said, Pope Benedict XVI — himself a German who
lived through WWII — has publicly deplored anti-Semitism and
emphasized improved relations with the Jews. The Holy See may
find, however, that its politically tone-deaf handling of this
decision may cool the Pope’s reception in Israel this May, if
the trip is confirmed). End Summary
Broad Context, Long History for Vatican-Jewish Dialogue
¶2. (C) In a lengthy discussion with CDA and A/DCM on January 23,
the Secretary of the Holy See’s Commission for Relations with
the Jews, Father Norbert Hofmann, described Vatican-Jewish
dialogue efforts. He noted that an odd organizational decision
demonstrates just how important Catholic-Jewish relations are to
the Vatican: the Commission for Relations with Jews comes under
the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity —
not/not the Pontifical Council on Inter-Religious Dialogue
(which deals with relations with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and
Animists). According to Hofmann, Jewish leaders appreciate this
arrangement because it is to their advantage to underline the
special relationship that bounds Christianity to Judaism.
¶3. (C) Both religions accord major importance to dialogue.
Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic
Church has pursued closer ties with Judaism, citing their shared
texts and history. In recent years, and coinciding with the
election of German Pope Benedict XVI (who lived through WWII as
a child), the effort to strengthen these ties has been kicked
into high gear. Jews, Hofmann said, think good relations with
the Holy See help combat anti-Semitism and ensure that there
will never be another Shoa.
Denial of Outrage about Perceived Affronts
¶4. (C) Hofmann opined that Pope Benedict XVI’s reinstatement of
the four Lefebvrist clerics excommunicated by Pope John Paul II
(ref a) would not damage Vatican relations with the Jews over
the long term. He anticipated that the public denial of the
Holocaust by one of the four, Bishop Williamson, would be
controversial and would attract criticism in the short term but
then be set aside quickly. Other Church leaders seemed to agree
that since the Pope’s decision was religious, not political, it
would be understood as such. The head of the French bishops’
conference, for example, hailed the act as “a gesture of mercy
and openness for strengthening Church unity.” Other Church
leaders disassociated themselves from Bishop Williamson’s
Holocaust denials, then adding words of welcome for the
reinstatement of the four Lefebvrists. It fell mostly to
Cardinal Kasper, who runs the Catholic-Jewish dialogue, to
condemn the rehabilitated bishop’s remarks as “stupid” and
“unacceptable,” and having “nothing to do with the Catholic
Church.” As is typical, the Pope stayed above the fray and did
¶5. (S) Indeed, most Church leaders seem to think the damage from
this matter will not last or harm the Pope’s planned visit to
Israel. Father Hofmann specifically said the controversy would
join other similar matters as “non-issues in the good state of
Jewish-Catholic relations.” Nevertheless, other controversies
continue to rankle with Jews and others. Among them is an old
Latin Catholic Mass prayer calling for conversion of Jews. Even
more controversial in recent months has been the proposal to
canonize (make a saint of) Pope Pius XII, the WWII-era Pope who
some criticize for not having publicly denounced the Holocaust.
Rabbi Cohen of Haifa (Israel), the first Rabbi ever invited to
address a Synod of bishops, implicitly criticized the
canonization proposal in his remarks to the bishops last fall.
Church officials did not expect the criticism and were annoyed
by it. Hofmann dismissed even those public remarks, though,
saying the Rabbi had confided in him that he’d been pressured by
other Jewish leaders to deliver the point.
VATICAN 00000011 002.2 OF 002
Prospects for Pope’s Trip to Israel and Jordan
¶6. (C) Meanwhile, the Pope’s planned visit to Israel looms
large in Vatican-Jewish relations. Consistent with what other
Vatican officials have told us (ref b), Father Hofmann confirmed
that the Pope’s trip was not conditioned on resolving Church
property taxation issues in the Israel-Holy See Fundamental
Agreement. The real motivation for the trip is, again,
religious: the eighty-one year-old Pope wants to make a
pilgrimage to the Holy Land as Pontiff before his advanced age
makes it too difficult. At the same time, the Holy See believes
the Pope’s trip to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan will advance
awareness about the Holocaust and the need to combat
anti-Semitism. A Papal visit will also publicly highlight the
Vatican’s acceptance of the State of Israel, with which the Holy
See established relations in 1993. Hofmann implied that for
these reasons, absent major negative developments, the trip
¶7. (S) In a separate conversation on January 23, the new Israeli
Ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechai Lewy, took a somewhat more
jaded view. While confirming that planning without
pre-conditions is underway, expressing hope that the trip would
happen, and acknowledging that it could advance Catholic-Jewish
dialogue, Lewy would not speculate on its likelihood. Lewy did
not see many prospects for a Papal visit helping to resolve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Israel wants to keep on
good terms with the Holy See to avoid problems, he said, Israeli
leaders don’t think that the Vatican can influence the Arabs.
¶8. (S) On the other hand, Lewy said, the Jordanians may have a
pecuniary interest in the visit. Prince Ghazi, Lewy alleged,
has financial stakes in the possible tourist development of the
area around Jesus’ baptismal site. A Papal visit to this area
would be good for business. Since not all churches in that area
would welcome such development, this has caused some conflict
between authorities and local churches.
¶9. (C) The Israeli Ambassador did not think that the recent Gaza
crisis would play a role in the Pope’s final decision on whether
to travel to the Holy Land. Lewy was disappointed with the
Vatican’s criticism of Israeli actions in Gaza, and raised his
views with Monsignor Parolin, the Holy See’s deputy foreign
minister. Lewy urged Parolin to say something positive about
Israel to balance these remarks. Specifically, he wanted the
Holy See to state publicly that the religious freedom Christians
enjoy in Israel is unparalleled in the Middle East, where
Christian minorities are increasingly on the defensive against
political Islam. Parolin, he said, committed to do so.
(C) Comment: A Formidable Partner in Need of P.R. Lessons
¶10. (S) Pope Benedict sometimes bewilders politicians and
journalists by pursuing what he believes is in the best interest
of the Church, such as reinstating the Lefebvrists or
considering the canonization of Pius XII. (His predecessor,
John Paul II, suffered from some of the same second-guessing.)
Vatican outsiders lament decisions or policies that they
perceive as being out-of-step with the new millennium, and call
for the Church to be more modern and accommodating. What these
observers fail to recognize is the consistency of the Holy See’s
decisions and behavior on key issues like the reunification of
the Church or the dignity of all human beings – and the value of
that consistency. Regardless of whether outsiders agree or
disagree with the Holy See, it’s hard to dispute its moral
influence, geographic reach, and ability to grab headlines.
These qualities can make the Vatican a formidable partner for
the U.S. and other nations in the pursuit of common objectives.
¶11. (S) At the same time, there’s no denying the fact that a
little more attention to how the outside world views decisions
taken inside the Church could help the Holy See protect its
image and further its influence. Although Church leaders like
Benedict are adopting new means of communication to get their
message to a wider audience (ref C), they have not yet embraced
fully the need — and tools — for 21st century public
relations. The Holy See’s spokesmen could have resoundingly
denounced the Holocaust-denying views of Bishop Williamson at
the same time the Pope welcomed him back into the Church, but
they waited days to do so, and then did it weakly. By then,
much of the damage had been done. Instead of scoring a
religious hat-trick — reuniting the Church, demonstrating the
Church’s commitment to second chances for those who have erred,
and reaffirming the horrors of the Holocaust — the Holy See is
playing catch-up. End Comment.