A Grad or Katyusha missile fired from Gaza hit Ashkelon the first thing this morning.
On Sunday, Monday, and today, the Israeli Air Force attacked — from the air — tunnels around Rafah and the southern border between Gaza and Egypt. On Monday and today, Egypt reportedly moved on the ground to demolish a number of tunnels running under the Egyptian-Gaza border. This is the stick.
At the same time, negotiations in Cairo with Hamas on a cease-fire with Israel are reaching what is being called a “sensitive phase”. There are reports that Egypt might open the border with Gaza to allow in badly needed reconstruction materials. This is the carrot.
Also of interest:
From YNet —
“Forty-eight Palestinian orphans whose parents were killed in bombings during Operation Cast Lead were planned to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for two weeks of rest and recovery from their grim reality at home. [[BUT ]]Tuesday’s closure of the crossings with Gaza made it unclear whether the children, aged 8-15 would be able to arrive as scheduled … The children will be hosted in Haifa, Sasa and Kfar Qassem as part of the Kibbutz Movement’s humanitarian initiative. A rich program in Haifa’s various sites was designed for the orphans, including a visit to the Museum of Science, the zoo, a cruise in Haifa bay, trips around the city, watching movies and children’s theater, and other social activities During their stay the children will also meet with Israeli students from schools in Haifa. Head of the Kibbutz Movement’s special assignment division Yoel Marshak, who operated the volunteers’ headquarters for southern residents under rocket fire is also managing the current humanitarian project. Marshak said Tuesday evening that the humanitarian effort was meant to ease the orphans’ suffering and not aid terrorists … Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog who is responsible for humanitarian aid sent to Gaza welcomed the project Tuesday night, saying, ‘This is a very important initiative. The State of Israel makes an absolute distinction between aid to the civil population in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’.” This news item can be read in full here.
From Haaretz —
European Union Middle East envoy Marc Otte said in Jerusalem today questioned why more material is not being allowed into Gaza: “What encouragement to terrorism would it be to rebuild the sewage system, have clean water, have kids going to school, have clinics that work, have mothers delivering their babies in safe conditions? … We’re not going to rebuild Hamas’s headquarters or provide weapons … Nobody wants Hamas to be legitimised unless they comply with certain practical and political conditions. But they’re still going to be there. Reconstruction should not be mixed … We just want that Gaza looks less like hell than it’s looking now … I hope we see flexibility soon because it’s not acceptable to simply say to people that for political reasons they and their children have to sleep outside.” The Haaretz story added that “Israeli officials say materials presently blocked could be used by Hamas to build rockets, bunkers and smuggling tunnels, and that a big reconstruction campaign would strengthen Hamas’s hold on power at the expense of the Palestinian Authority”… This is from an article published here.
From the Jerusalem Post —
“Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that while last month’s operation against Hamas had been effective in harming the group’s ability to threaten Israel, the day may come when another operation would be necessary. ‘The quiet in the South is a result of the serious blow dealt to Hamas in Gaza, and even if it takes a little more time and a few more shots are fired, this is the nature of events of this kind,” Barak told Army Radio, adding that “if we have to, we will hit Hamas again’. Barak later sparked a political storm by telling an election rally at Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University that the best way to achieve territorial continuity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was by digging a tunnel that would connect the two areas. He said the tunnel would be 48 kilometers long and cost 2-3 billion dollars. Right-wing MKs quickly criticized Barak’s proposal, saying it would only add to Israel’s security concerns”. This report is posted here.
And, from the Ma’an News Agency —
“Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will deliver a speech on Wednesday detailing the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza following the Israeli offensive. Fayyad’s office said that the speech will be delivered at the opening of a conference dedicated to evaluating the Palestinian Authority budget for 2009. According to a statement from Fayyad’s office, the Ramallah-based caretaker prime minister will outline the PA’s response to the disaster, including plans for a first phase of reconstruction in Gaza. These programs, according to the statement, will include urgent relief programs such as housing homeless people, refurbishment of damaged houses and economic facilities”. This can be read here.
Also from the JPost —
“Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday promised that a government under his leadership would topple the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. ‘[Kadima leader] Tzipi Livni and the people of Kadima scoffed at the predictions regarding rocket fire. A government under my leadership will overthrow the Hamas rule in Gaza and bring about a cessation of rocket fire’, Netanyahu said during a tour of Ashkelon following the first Grad rocket attack since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead some two weeks ago”… This is from the JPost here.