A New Year's Day message from Gaza

This SMS from Gaza arrived on a friend’s mobile in Ramallah this morning:

“Look Outside…
F-16s SMILING For you
ABATSHE [Apache = U.S.-made Helicopters] Dancing for you
ZANANA [Israeli pilotless drones] Singing for you
Because I requested them All to wish you

The recipient in Ramallah called his friend, the sender, in Gaza, and demanded, laughing: “What more could you ask for?”…

This is Palestinian humor, he said.

Meanwhile, on the sixth day of Israel’s unprecedented attack on Palestinians today, it has just been reported that Hamas has sent text messages to Israeli cell phones, reading: “Rockets on all cities, shelters will not protect you, Qassam rocket, Hamas”.

Indeed, rockets and missiles fired from Gaza have hit a 60-kilometer radius in Israel this morning, from Ashdod (23 miles up the Mediterranean coast from Gaza) to Beersheeva (28 miles east into Israel’s Negev desert). Within minutes of what was reported as a Grad [Katuysha] missile attack on a building in Ashdod, it was then reported that the IDF had just attacked and destroyed the “terror cell responsible for firing Grad”.

And, on the first day of the new year, Israeli air attacks continue on targets in Gaza — including the Palestinian Legislative Council headquarters in Gaza. An IDF spokesperson’s statement this morning reported that the building houses “Hamas’ Ministry of Justice and Legislative Assembly, both situated in the Tel El-Hawwa government complex. Hamas Government sites serve as a critical component of the terrorist groups’ infrastructure in Gaza.”

The IDF also reported these other targets were hit: “Over five smuggling tunnels along the ‘Philadelphi Route’ [along the Gaza-Egypt border] used by Hamas to smuggle arms and terrorists in and out of Gaza; a weaponry manufacturing and storage facility in central Gaza, under which a tunnel had been dug; a command center of Hamas’ police force in Rafah, as a well as a Hamas coastal authority outpost on the shore adjacent to Gaza City. In addition, the Israel Navy targeted a number of Hamas outposts and rocket launching grounds”.

An IDF update a short while later reported that a number of other targets were also struck today (and it is now only 2p.m. in Jerusalem and Gaza):
“Among them, was the house of Muhamad Fuad Barhud (a senior terror operative in the Resistance Committees) in Jabaliya. Barhud is responsible for the wide array of Grad and Qassam rockets, as well as mortar shells, that are in the northern Gaza Strip, and is funded and supported by Hamas. Among other locations, his house was used as a storage site for various weapons including anti tank missiles, rockets, and explosive devices used by both, the Resistance Committees and Hamas.
The house of another terror operative, Hasin Drairy, was also attacked in the Sabra (northern Gaza Strip). The house was used as a storage site for rockets and mortar shells. The house was also used as a lathe for rocket manufacturing. In addition, a weapon storage facility was attacked in the house of Taufik Abu Ras. Abu Ras is a Hamas terror operative from A-Nusseirat. His house also served as a manufacturing laboratory and a storage site for a wide array of weaponry, including rockets and explosive devices. More than twenty targets were attacked since this morning including weapons storage facilities, rocket launching sites, Hamas terror operatives, and a tunnel used by Hamas. The IDF operation is continuing and will go on for as long as necessary”.

Earlier this week, Gazans reported receiving text messages in Arab from Israel warning them that their homes will be attacked if they are near Hamas targets, or if they keep weapons in their homes.

A demonstration in solidarity with Gaza was called for noon in Ramallah’s central Manara Square. New Year’s eve parties were largely cancelled in Ramallah because of the attacks in Gaza.

Last night, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made an address in which he called off negotiations with Israel — something the chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmad Qurei’a did earlier in the week — Abbas just waited until almost the last possible minute of the last day of 2008 — the deadline, sort-of, set by the Annapolis Conference on 27 November 2007 for a process of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that was supposed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian State in 2008 (or, as later amended, by the end final day of the Bush Administration on 20 January 2009…) Abbas also swore to do his best to protect the Pa

Comparisons have been made between the present Israeli offensive in Gaza and the 2006 war Israel waged against Hizballah in Lebanon, that was vastly destructive of a Shi’a quarter in south Beirut, and of civilian infrastructure throughout the southern part of the country.

But the 2006 war was against a Lebanese Shi’a organization — though one that had just acted to support Gazan fighters who had a few days earlier seized IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid near Kerem Shalom, Israel’s preferred border crossing, near the Palestinian international airport it destroyed not once but twice.

A better comparison might be made, for those who still remember such things, with Israel’s full-force 1982 invasion of Lebanon, led by Ariel Sharon, who had an unclear mandate from the Israeli government and appeared to be acting mainly on his own instincts. After brushing the UN force in south Lebanon, UNIFIL, aside with not much more than a wave of the hand, Sharon’s men headed straight for Beirut, which was then the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) “capital within a capital” and the stronghold for Yasser Arafat.

The IDF encircled and strangled East Beirut for weeks — though the situation is no comparison to the Israeli-military-administered blockade of Gaza for the past year. And they bombarded every day, introducing weapons that imploded multi-story apartment buildings in on themselves, killing all occupants, in what they indicated were attempts to assassinate Arafat. Then they accused Arafat and the PLO of hiding behind the skirts of civilians …

For at least two years prior to the 1982 full-force invasion, the IDF conducted regular air raids and bombing attacks on Lebanon, particularly on Beirut.

I was there during one such period in the spring of 1980. During a three-week period, it was impossible to move because of the frightening daily air attacks on Beirut. The airport was closed, and there was no exit. I was invited to dinner a family’s apartment in what I recall was an 8-story (though it was possibly 10 stories) building in the central Palestinian area, around Arafat’s Beirut offices. The wife had prepared stuffed grape leaves. We were all sitting around the table, when a severe bombing attack began. “Don’t you move to the bomb shelter in the basement during these attacks”, I asked cautiously. The wife and husband looked at each other, and at their two young kids. Then, she replied: “The basement is full of ammunition. If this building is hit, we all go straight to God”. And we continued the meal.

It was one of the most delicious meals ever.