These are the two reports prepared for the New York Times and for the Wall Street Journal by journalists who agreed to be embedded with the IDF to enter the Gaza Strip — from where foreign journalists have been barred for most of the last three and a half months, and from where Israeli journalists have been prohibited from entering for over two years.

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel continues to pursue its appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court for immediate and unconditional entry. It had accepted, as an interim arrangement, to form small “pools” to go in, but the Israeli Ministry of Defense said that the start of Operation Cast Lead — a full-fledged war — changed the basis of the whole arrangement that had been reached with the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: The FPA informed its members on Saturday 17 January that “another urgent appeal to the Supreme Court on the issue of opening Gaza to foreign journalists is in the works. Our lawyers are arguing that the state is in contempt of court by failing to abide by the court-ordered arrangement for access to Gaza for journalists”.

HERE ARE THE TWO REPORTS PRODUCED BY EMBEDS ETHAN BRONNER (NEW YORK TIMES) AND CHARLES LEVINSON (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

1.) Israel Lets Reporters See Devastated Gaza Site and Image of a Confident Military

By ETHAN BRONNER in the New York Times
Published: January 16, 2009

“GAZA — To the west, the Mediterranean sparkled and winked. To the east, columns of black smoke rose and gunfire pounded. In between, Israeli Merkava tanks plowed through potato and strawberry fields on Thursday as paratroopers guarded their ground, a mix of ruins that once were handsome two-story houses and farm fields that had been turned into rocket-launching pads against Israel by Hamas

The area was a major site for Hamas launchers over the past eight years. But for the past 10 days, it has been a ghost town inhabited only by Israeli soldiers, many of them from a paratroopers’ unit, the 101, founded in 1953 by Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister, as the first elite Israeli unit aimed at striking Palestinian guerrillas infiltrating from Gaza.

The fact that more than half a century later Israel remains at war with the children and grandchildren of those guerrillas has served as a kind of overpowering historical backdrop to the 20-day-old military confrontation that Israel says is aimed at ending Hamas rocket fire onto Israeli towns. No one believes this will be the last war.

Israelis face harsh censure abroad for their tactics, but a visit by 10 foreign reporters to this position arranged by the Israeli military showed an army that feels serenely confident that it is doing the right thing. The army, which has banned foreign journalists from entering Gaza on their own, has begun taking small groups to outer positions for briefings with commanders in the field…”

This NYTimes article produced from the EMBED arrangement can be read in full here .

One question: How did Ethan Bronner verify that the area was, in fact, “a major site for Hamas launchers over the past eight years”?

The only really good and useful piece of information to come out of this piece is this paragraph:
“Across the border region, Israel has lowered a kind of electronic curtain to prevent remote-control bombs, disabling even remote car locks well into Israel”.

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2.) Wall Street Journal – JANUARY 16, 2009

Israel Kills Hamas Security Chief, Hits UN Site

By CHARLES LEVINSON and JAY SOLOMON + Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv contributed to this article.

“AL ATATRA, Gaza Strip — Airstrikes Thursday killed Hamas’s security chief in the Gaza Strip, in a tactical victory for Israel.

A separate Israeli attack on the United Nation’s headquarters in the territory drew international condemnation.

Thursday’s attacks in Gaza’s heavily populated urban areas came as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accelerated efforts to forge a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas by finalizing an agreement with Jerusalem to guard against the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip.

Israeli commanders Thursday took a group of Israeli and international journalists on a restricted visit into Gaza, in the second guided military tour of the territory since the conflict started Dec. 27. The territory has been sealed to the media, and journalists have covered the conflict from hilltops on Gaza’s border, via telephone to Palestinians inside Gaza, and with the help of Gazan journalists.

During Thursday’s visit, Col. Herzi, commander of the Paratrooper Brigade, stood in a field in the farming village of Al Atatra, north of Gaza City. Smoke billowed into the sky behind him where the U.N. headquarters was burning to the ground. (Israeli Defense Force rules for the trip forbade reporting of last names of Israeli military personnel.)

Sgt. Almog, a 20-year-old machine gunner on one of the armed personnel carriers that was transporting reporters, tried sharing his experience. ‘We kept hearing Hamas was a strong terror organization, but it was much easier than we thought it would be’, he said. Hamas’s fighters, he said, ‘are just villagers with guns. They don’t even aim when they shoot’.

His company commander silenced him with a few terse words. ‘We have nothing to hide’, the commander told reporters. ‘But they cannot talk to you’.”

This WSJ article produced from the EMBED arrangement can be read in full: here.

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