Israel Continues to Break Unilateral Cease Fire

On entering Gaza ABC reporter, Ban Knight said “after three weeks of war the state of Gaza still came as a shock to me.” Ben has reported some grab bytes from Gaza locals:

“I didn’t want to come out until now,” one man said.

“They targeted everything. They shot everywhere. Nowhere was safe.”

I spoke with one man who claimed that since the ceasefire, Hamas officials have been rounding up members of Fatah accused of collaborating with Israel and shooting them in the legs. Hamas denies it.

But this man, a Fatah supporter, believes Hamas will hold onto power here by dividing the people even further.

“Hamas have more support than they did before the war,” he said.

“They’ve convinced the people that Israel invaded with Fatah’s permission.”

Talal Oukal, a Palestinian analyst stresses the need for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

… everything is linked to a historic reconciliation between the two big rival groups, “and once they agree, I believe that other problems would be marginal and can be resolved through diplomatic ways between Israel and the Palestinians.”

However, he warned that if the two parties fail to achieve reconciliation soon, “I believe that the situation would remain as it is because the Western world led by the United States, including Israel, are not willing to hold direct talks with Hamas which basically rejects to condemn violence or recognize Israel.”

He added that the issues that can be resolved through diplomatic ways, if Fatah and Hamas reunite and agree on a reconciliation, are “the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the reopening of Gaza Strip crossing points including Gaza-Egypt Rafah border crossing.”

Dr Azzam Tamimi explains the realities of Israel’s occupation of Palestine – Israel could have peace if they removed the occupation and blockade, released prisoners, remove settlers, withdraw to pre 67 borders. As the oppressor, Tamimi insists Israel needs to take the initiative and negotiate with Hamas.

In Haaretz, Gideon Levy admits the obvious – Israel’s ‘war’ was a complete failure.

This war ended in utter failure for Israel.

This goes beyond the profound moral failure, which is a grave matter in itself, but pertains to its inability to reach its stated goals. In other words, the grief is not complemented by failure. We have gained nothing in this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and the besmirching of Israel’s image.

What seemed like a predestined loss to only a handful of people at the onset of the war will gradually emerge as such to many others, once the victorious trumpeting subsides.

The initial objective of the war was to put an end to the firing of Qassam rockets. This did not cease until the war’s last day. It was only achieved after a cease-fire had already been arranged. Defense officials estimate that Hamas still has 1,000 rockets.

The war’s second objective, the prevention of smuggling, was not met either. The head of the Shin Bet security service has estimated that smuggling will be renewed within two months.

Most of the smuggling that is going on is meant to provide food for a population under siege, and not to obtain weapons. But even if we accept the scare campaign concerning the smuggling with its exaggerations, this war has served to prove that only poor quality, rudimentary weapons passed through the smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt.

Israel’s ability to achieve its third objective is also dubious. Deterrence, my foot. The deterrence we supposedly achieved in the Second Lebanon War has not had the slightest effect on Hamas, and the one supposedly achieved now isn’t working any better: The sporadic firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip has continued over the past few days.

The fourth objective, which remained undeclared, was not met either. The IDF has not restored its capability. It couldn’t have, not in a quasi-war against a miserable and poorly-equipped organization relying on makeshift weapons, whose combatants barely put up a fight

Hamas has not been weakened, it will be strengthened. Fatah, collaborator with the Occupation on the other hand will be weakened.

Their war has intensified the ethos of resistance and determined endurance. A country which has nursed an entire generation on the ethos of a few versus should know to appreciate that by now. There was no doubt as to who was David and who was Goliath in this war.

Israel’s aggressive and lawless character has now been confirmed to the world.

Israel’s actions have dealt a serious blow to public support for the state. While this does not always translate itself into an immediate diplomatic situation, the shockwaves will arrive one day. The whole world saw the images. They shocked every human being who saw them, even if they left most Israelis cold.

The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law. The investigations are on their way.

Levy’s assessment of the weakening of the PLO sheds light on its move to negotiate with Israel on terms remarkably similar to those of Hamas – Israel’s withdrawal from land occupied in 1967 and the freezing of all settlement activity. With the advent of Obama’s presidency, now is a good time for Palestinians of whatever faction to drive for a realistic deal which can ensure a viable state. The current bantustans are not workable as a basis for a Palestinian state. If Israel is unwilling to make concessions, then a one state solution becomes the only possible outcome.

The PLO Executive Committee said it was demanding Israel commit to a comprehensive freezing of all settlement activity in and around Arab East Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank and a commitment to give up its hold on all occupied land captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

“The Palestinian leadership are not ready to return to political negotiations with Israel unless there is a new basis for talks,” the PLO said, without elaborating.

It said it wanted to conduct talks on the basis of the Arab peace initiative of 2002 which offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in the 1967 war.

Successive Israeli governments have either ignored or rejected the offer, which would require Israel to dismantle settlements which house hundreds of thousands of Jews.

The prospect of the PLO, Fatah and Hamas aligning demands and even worse uniting will send chills down Israeli politicians spines. Expect a renewal of attempts of divide and conquer.

There are signs of this already, with Israel preventing Abbas from bringing much needed cash to Gaza.

The restrictions threatened to undercut the ability of President Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank-based government to reassert a presence in the Hamas-ruled territory after Israel’s 22-day offensive, said the officials, who asked not to be identified.

The cash restrictions also underscored the wider hurdles facing reconstruction, estimated to cost more than $2 billion, in the Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million Palestinians live.

Israel has told the United Nations and other aid groups planning for the rebuilding they must apply for project-by-project Israeli approval and provide guarantees none of the work will benefit Hamas.

Israel had no immediate comment on why the Palestinian Authority’s post-war cash shipments were being blocked. The restrictions were put in place long before fighting broke out on December 27, with Israel arguing that Gaza had enough cash in circulation and that some of the money could end up with Hamas.

Middle East envoy Tony Blair, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank countered that the restrictions were crippling Gaza’s economy and undermining the Palestinian Authority, which adopted anti-money laundering rules to prevent any of the money from going to Hamas and other groups.

Juan Cole agrees that Fatah and the PLO have been weakened by Israel’s failure in Gaza.

The fundamentalist group Hamas is reasserting itself in Gaza as Israeli troops withdraw, and now has a new pretext to target members of the Fatah group, secular nationalists loyal to Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. So the Israelis may have actually politically strengthened Hamas and further weakened Fatah, which is already notorious for corruption, political repression, inefficiency, and, increasingly collaboration with Israel.

As Obama rings around the ME leaders expressing his wish for an Arab Israeli peace, he has not yet stated any plans to talk with Hamas leaders, preferring instead

to help consolidate the current Hamas-Israeli cease-fire, and help the Palestinian Authority with a major reconstruction effort in Gaza after three weeks of conflict.

Israel is still only allowing in humanitarian aid, so the reconstruction of Gaza must wait for Israel’s hegemonical leisure. Tipsy Livni insists the blockade will remain as long as Hamas holds Gilad Shalit. No mention is made of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners including children being held, many for years, in Israeli dungeons.

Will Obama do the sensible thing and talk to political groups which have legitimate claims against the regimes who have delegitimised them using Bush’s phony ‘war on terror’ as cover?

In his piece, Obama Should Quit War on Terror, Talk to Hamas and Taliban, Nathan Gardels thinks so.

“Power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please, ” Obama declaimed on the Capitol steps. Instead, “our power grows through its prudent use, our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”

Israel, take head – humility and restraint have been notably lacking in the case of Israeli aggressions.

Olivier Roy also points out the pragmatic necessity of negotiating with Hamas – the alternatives he points to are undesirable.

Where a political approach has been tried, it has worked. The relative success of the surge in Iraq is based on the implicit rejection of the official doctrine of the “war on terror”: Local armed insurgents were recognized as political actors with more or less a legitimate agenda, thus separating them from the foreign-based global militants who did not give a damn about Iraqi national interests.

Whatever the justification of the Gaza military operations (to punish the inhabitants for supporting Hamas or to free them from the control of Hamas), it will not work. Dismantling Hamas’ military capacity can only buy time, not solve the issue.

Under the logic of the current military scenario, either the PA must be reinstated in Gaza — only to face political and military guerrilla warfare with Hamas — or the Israeli Defense Forces must maintain control, perhaps with the involvement of foreign troops. In either case, the military “solution” will prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state.

Palestine is thus doomed, in the best case, to be either under a permanent Israeli occupation or under some sort of an international mandate. The suggestion that Gaza could be handed over to Egypt and what remains of the West Bank to Jordan will just contribute to extending the conflict. Such an eventuality would nullify the only positive result of the Oslo negotiations, which is to have transformed an Israeli-Arab conflict into an Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thus, if the Obama administration truly seeks to change the equation in the Middle East and Afghanistan, it must recognize the real motives and aspirations, not imagined ones, that actually drive groups like Hamas and the Taliban. Such a recognition would lead the U.S. to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan and look for a political instead of military solution that responds to legitimate Pashtu aspirations. It would lead the U.S. to refrain from endorsing the Israeli delusion that it can eliminate Hamas by force while frustrating Palestinian statehood.

Despite Israel’s supposed unilateral cease fire, Israeli gunboats are still firing at civilians in Gaza.

A Palestinian medical official says an Israeli gunboat off the shores of Gaza City has opened fire on Gazans, wounding a man and a girl.

Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said Thursday that a shell fired by the gunboat hit a house in a beachside refugee camp. He said the wounded were passersby in the street, AP reported.

Gunboats off Gaza have been firing for several days despite a cease-fire, which ended a three-week Israeli offensive, being in place.

More civilian killings from gunboats by Israel:

Israel’s navy shelled the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, injuring seven Palestinians, including five fishermen.

Mu’awiyah Hassanain, the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry told Ma’an that Israeli gunboats shelled the As-Sudaniya area northwest of Gaza City.

He said the wounded people were taken to Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Hassanain added that rescue teams are still working to recover the corpses, many of them now decomposing, of those killed in Israel’s three-week war on Gaza.

Separately, two Palestinians died in Egyptian hospitals where they were treated for wounds from Israel’s three-week offensive.

Medical officials identified them as: Tamer Omar Al-Louh, 22, from Gaza city and Azzam Mu’awad Ash-Shafe’y, 24, from Rafah.

The death toll from the war is now 1,330, with more than 5,000 injured.

Israel Continues Bombing Gaza In Spite of Ceasefire, Sacramentans Report

Despite the ceasefire, Israel bombed Gaza again yesterday. Reports from Gaza are terrible. Tonight we spoke with a young Gaza man now living in Amman; he told us that seven of his cousins there were killed by the Israeli attacks. We are also getting reports of increased repression against Palestinians in the West Bank as well as Palestinian-Israelis; including killing and arresting demonstrators.

It is imperative that world pressure on Israel continue and increase. Not only to stop the atrocities against Gaza, but to end the occupation and apartheid policies and practices of Israel that have led to these atrocities. Israel must immediately stop the attacks on Gaza and open all borders; it must remove all of its military, apartheid wall, and settlements from the West Bank; it must stop its harassment and unequal treatment of Palestinian-Israelis; and it must adhere to UN resolutions regarding the Palestinian refugees.