After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank

After last night’s cease-fire in Gaza, the IDF says it has now arrested — “in cooperation with the ISA [Israel Security Agency], Israel Police and the Israel Border Police” — some 55 people said to be affiliated Hamas + Islamic Jihad, from the north to the south of the West Bank.

According to the IDF announcement, they include “a number of senior level operatives” — but the IDF published no names.

The official IDF explanation is: it will “to restore calm”.  In the past eight days, there has been unrest and protest demonstrations around the West Bank against the IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds against Gaza, and at least 62 protesters against Operation Pillar of Clouds were detained by the IDF during the operation in Gaza.

However, almost none of these protests are organized by Hamas or Islamic Jihad, who take a quite low-key profile in the West Bank. Nor is it Hamas or Islamic Jihad who send young men out to throw stones whenever they see jeeps of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Hamas officials have regularly been arrested ever since their electoral victory in 2006 Legislative Council elections. Islamic Jihad activities were “prohibited” in the occupied Palestinian territory by a decree of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 6 October 2010.

Until last night, most of the West Bank unrest has been due to protests led by a combination of the popular committees and the younger anti-Oslo Accords, anti-PA, anti-Abbas protesters who came together last year in support of Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolution. One of their main platforms is the call for a revival of, and world-wide Palestinian elections to, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Palestine National Council [PNC]. .

Hamas is not yet a member of the PLO, despite an agreement in Cairo in 2005 that this would happen.

What prevented Hamas’ joining the PLO was a tough position by Fateh “unity” negotiators against Hamas getting an allocated percentage of seats in the PNC proportional to the more-than-60% seats it won in the local Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 elections. The Fateh negotiators were firm that Hamas did not deserve more than 20-25% of the seats in the PNC, which the Fateh negotiators insisted was the true strength of Hamas.

Those who were arrested this week, until last night, were the younger more secular crowd.

Addameer, a prisoners support group based in Ramallah, Tweeted this: @Addameer_ps – There has been a spike in arrests across the West Bank since the Occupation attacked #Gaza last week.

Continue reading After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank


All of a sudden, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr appeared on the TV screen — on all the news channels.

In Arabic, FM Amr announced that “efforts had led to a cease-fire, an end to the violence and bloodshed we have witnessed”.   He said this cease-fire would start at 21:00 in Cairo [20:00 GMT].

He read a statement in Arabic, speaking about the end goal being a comprensive and just resolution.  “We are calling for a fair solution to the Palestinian question”, and he said Egypt will continue in its efforts.  And, he indicated that he hoped the divisions between Palestinian factions would end, and the Palestinians will be united.

Then, Sec of State Clinton said, “To hold, the rocket fire must end and a broader calm return”.  She said that the people in the region deserve to live “free from fear and violence”, and that “in the days ahead, the U.S. will work to improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel”.

@TimothyS — CNN just reported that US will spend an additional $600 million on Israel’s Iron Dome system as part of the Gaza cease-fire agreement.

UPDATE: An alternative theory: reported on 23 November, here, relying on a report on the not-always-reliable, that “the pause in fighting comes after the US promised to send troops to Sinai. According to Debka, US troops will soon be en route to the Sinai peninsula…Debka reports this week that Sinai will soon be occupied by US troops, who were promised by President Barack Obama to Israel’s leaders as a condition that a ceasefire be called. Once deployed, the Americans will intervene with the rumored arms trade orchestrated by Iranians, ideally cutting off supplies for Hamas while at the same time serving as a thorn in the side of Iran…The decision to send US troops to Sinai in exchange for a ceasefire was reportedly arranged early Wednesday morning after Pres. Obama made a deal over the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…A ceasefire has since been called after a week of fight, but more military action could soon occur, claims Israel, if the flow of weapons to Gaza is not stopped… Debka’s sources suggest that US troops may now have to intervene in Sinai if any smugglers should attempt to move weapons into Gaza. ‘By opening the Sinai door to an American troop deployment for Israel’s defense, recognizes that the US force also insures Israel against Cairo revoking or failing to honor the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979’, adds Debka.  According to their sources, US troops are expected in Egypt early next week”.

The Guardian reported here that “Barack Obama heaped praise on Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire plan and offered increased US funding to beef up Israel’s air defence batteries.  The White House, in an unusual twist, highlighted that Netanyahu had followed Obama’s advice, which was to accept the ceasefire deal…[The White House statement] publicly stressed the fact that Netanyahu had taken Obama’s advice. ‘The president commended the prime minister for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal – which the president recommended the prime minster do – while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself’, the White House said.”

Continue reading Cease-fire?

Day 8 of Operation Pillar of Clouds – no cease-fire

Those who thought there might really be a cease-fire yesterday have been disappointed. There is no cease-fire.

There is a lot of diplomatic pressure, but it does not seem very effective.

The sudden announcement yesterday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Clinton arrived in Israel around 21:00, and went in the dark of night to see Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. The two made a brief pre-set formalistic press appearance, and then went into a meeting.

In her public statements, Clinton first spoke of America’s “rock solid and enduring” support for Israel’s security.

A full transcript of her remarks and of PM Netanyahu’s, with a video, is posted on the State Department website here.

Clinton will have a second meeting with Netanyahu [together with his inner cabinet?] this morning, according to information just Tweeted by Haaretz journalist Barak Ravid, after a brief “consultation” with Palestinian President Abbas in the Ramallah Muqata’a.  [Proving that an escorted convoy can make it between Ramallah + Jerusalem quickly — but still not in 15 minutes, as Netanyahu recently claimed.]

@BarakRavid: SecState Clinton will meet at 11:00 am for 2nd time w Israeli PM Netanyahu, FM Lieberman & MoD Barak b4 leaving to Egypt

The Obama Administration’s first huge crisis — even before actually taking office — was the last huge Israeli military operation against Gaza, Operation Cast Lead [27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009], which ended at the insistence of Obama’s people literally hours before his inauguration ceremony. A day after being sworn in, Barack Obama’s first international phone call as President was to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He appointed Senator George Mitchell as envoy, and gave the impression that he would deal with this problem strongly and seriously. Israeli settlements were identified as the major obstacle to a political solution, and Mitchell had written an earlier report that pointed to the settlement problem. But Israel under Netanyahu, whose party won national elections in February 2009, dug in its heels. Every trick in the book was pulled out, and settlements were expanded and entrenched. The U.S. caved in and gave up. Mitchell eventually was removed as Special Envoy.

As Palestinian negotiators have said, Israeli negotiators only wanted to talk about security. So, the Obama administration changed its tactics and adopted a new strategy: from early 2010, the focus has been on reassuring Israel. The idea seemed to be that if Israel’s security needs were given “rock solid” guarantees, then Israel would be relaxed and reassured enough to negotiate more…seriously.

In the Spring of 2010, the Obama team reinforced what has been American policy for decades, but announced it in a big way: unqualified support for a “Qualitative Military Edge” [QME] for Israel, which we have written about previously on this blog.

Obama announced an increase in military spending for Israel — $30 billion dollars over the next ten years. On top of that, the U.S. gave additional money to allow Israel to develop the Iron Dome missile defense program. Just this week, Israel deployed a fifth and upgraded Iron Dome battery to protect Tel Aviv, which had never been attacked by fire from Gaza before — and was previously out of range, and Israeli officials have indicated they need a total of 13 portable Iron Dome units [at a reported cost of some $50 million dollars each] to feel sure about protecting their country.

The Iron Dome battery is not effective in short distance ranges, for the Israeli communities in the Gaza perimeter, nor for long distances, but it is portable.

So far, Israel has reportedly fired nearly 400 Iron Dome missile interceptors [which reportedly cost some $40,000 each].

The Iron Dome system has been effective in the current Operation Pillar of Clouds — but even a few failures are costly and frightening. Yesterday afternoon, a 6-floor apartment building in Rishon letZion, not far from Tel Aviv, was badly damaged by a direct hit. At least one person was injured, but no deaths. Also yesterday, a second round of long-range [M-75s, Hamas calls them] missiles was fired towards Jerusalem, where there is no Iron Dome protection. It is unclear what the intended target, but in any case it fell near the Palestinian town of Beit Ummar in the southern West Bank, landing in an open area.

That is the policy the U.S. is still backing and pursuing. In the current Israeli military operation, President Obama and every other official in the Administration who has spoken out has backed Israel’s right to defend itself. The U.S. reportedly announced a few days ago that it was sending another $300 million dollars for Iron Dome defense.

So it is in this context, as Reuters reported, Clinton spoke yesterday upon arrival — and both Netanyahu and Clinton referred to the Iron Dome system.

Reuters reported overnight that Clinton “repeated international calls for the kind of lasting, negotiated, comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian settlement that has eluded the two peoples for decades – something neither of the two warring parties seems seriously to be anticipating. ‘In the days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region’, Clinton said. ‘It is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. The rocket attacks from terrorist organisations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored. The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike’.”   This report is posted

Netanyahu, who earlier lectured UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon [who had urged “restraint”] on the his view of the security situation, apparently said less with Clinton: “If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem with diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I’m sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people”.

But, the rigid — “rock-solid” — U.S. support for Israel’s security and for its defense against missile threat is juxtaposed against Israel’s targetted killings, which it used to start Operation Pillar of Cloud, and which it continued yesterday. Israel has justified killing journalists working for Al-Aqsa TV and for targetting media offices where Hamas officials were being interviewed.

This strategy runs counter to most interpretations of international humanitarian law. But Israel — and the U.S., in its post 9/11 policies and “war on terrorism” by any name — have put themselves outside of this consensus. They appear unmoved by the reaction. Whatever outcry there is against this is limited and reported in only part of the media.

Those European countries who have not covertly participated in these operations have chosen to look away. European leaders this week have used the same expressions as Obama officials, speaking only in support of Israel’s right to defend itself.

In this context, Clinton is at this hour about to descend with her entourage on the Muqata’a Presidential compound in Ramallah, to meet with the beleagured and sidelined Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas — more to pressure him against pursuing his planned “UN move” in the General Assembly to seek an upgrade in the status of Palestine to [observer non-member] State [because, what does Abbas have to do with a cease-fire???] - Photo by  Tweeted by @WessamH [Wessam Hammad]

Photo of Clinton arriving at Ramallah Muqata’a + being greeted by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat

PhotoTweeted by @WissamH [Wessam Hammad]

UNSG BAN Ki-Moon, who is more sympathetic to the “UNGA move”, will visit Abbas a couple of hours later.

Then, the diplomatic scene will move to Cairo, where Egypt is charged with finding an end to Hamas rocket and missile firing…

Day 5 of Operation Pillar of Clouds – Pillars and Pillars and Pillars [of smoke]

Israel, apparently still unsatisfied with the details of a cease-fire agreement being negotiated from Cairo, conducted 70 strikes overnight — from the air as well as from the sea — but said there was quiet, until rocket fire from Gaza resumed this morning.

UPDATE: Haaretz reported on its live blog here that “More than 70 rockets have been fired at Israel since Saturday, and the IDF has attacked a similar number of targets in the Gaza Strip”. So, during this phase of cease-fire negotiations, Israel appears to have deferentially downgraded from massive attacks to eye-for-an-eye striking…

One person from Gaza reported that the Israeli strike had created pillars of smoke [rather than pillars of clouds].

Pillars of Clouds is a closer translation, apparently, of the Hebrew name for this IDF military operation against Hamas in Gaza — but the IDF and Israeli Government has chosen to call it “Defensive Pillar” in English, instead.

Some of the Israeli targets — and yes, the IDF spokesperson reported this morning that they were targets precisely chosen after months of intelligence work — were two media offices in downtown Gaza City.

Among the other casualties of the Israeli attacks, according to Reuters’ Noah Browning, were three small children killed since midnight. The casualty figures are rising continuously.

The IDF also reported that last night it took out more missile storage and/or launching sites [which the Army previously said had been largely wiped out on Day 1 of this operation, last Wednesday].

But, yesterday afternoon, the Global Post’s Jerusalem Correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky Tweeted [@NTarnopolsky] :  #Homeland Security minister Avi #Dichter foresees “hundreds more #missiles” in coming days #Israel #Gaza @GlobalPost

And, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu said at his regular weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that some 1,000 rockets +  missiles had been fired from Gaza to Israel in the past four days.

The first of the two media offices attacked was in “Shawwa and Hussary tower” at about 4 am this morning, reportedly injuring about 8 Palestinian journalists, in the offices of Hamas-funded Al-Quds TV, which was one of two television channels which aired last night the bravado statement put out just before midnight by AlQassam Brigade/Islamic Jihad .  The statement was accompanied by a video, apparently now available on Youtube, showing an underground hatch opening to allow rocket launchers to move up briefly, and fire.

The IDF says these airstrikes targetted “Hamas’ operational communications”.

Smoke coming from Al-Quds TV in Gaza after IDF attack on 18 Nov 2012
Photo of a pillar of smoke coming from Al-Quds TV offices in Gaza city after IDF strike this morning

The photo above was announced on Twitter and posted on Facebook, here.

The IDF later sent an SMS calling this a “surgical strike”.

An Al-Quds TV cameraman Khader az-Zahar has reportedly had to have his leg amputated as a result of the attack this morning.

[A Reuters photojournalist from Gaza suffered injuries that resulted in the amputation of his entire leg after a previous Israeli attack several years ago in Gaza {was it one using “flechette” bombs that sent out hundreds of razor-sharp arrows?}].

Deliberately targetting civilians is considered a war crime.

Bombing of media operations has, as BBC correspondents and editors Tweeted this morning, been specifically denounced by UN resolutions.  The BBC World Service’s Middle East Editor Jon Williams sent this Tweet to that effect this morning :

[@WilliamsJon] “International law protects journalists involved in conflict. #UNSC 1738 sets important standard #Gaza #pressfreedom …

[[This resolution states, in part: “without prejudice to the war correspondents’ right to the status of prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention, that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be respected and protected as such“.]]

Reprisal bombing — using the argument that media funded by a protagonist in a conflict is a legitimate target [because it broadcasts information helpful to the enemy or part of the hostilities, or whatever] — didn’t go well when it happened in Belgrade during the Balkans war in the mid 1990s. The US operating on behalf of NATO there at the time had to struggle to prevent judicial examination for war crimes.

Gaza TV building hung with poster of Fadel Shani killed by an Israeli-fired flechette bomb in 2008 - photo Tweeted by by Noah Browning of Reuters

Photo taken by Noah Browning of Reuters, showing Gaza TV building today, where TV transmission facilities are located and available for hire.  The building is hung with a poster of Reuters’ Fadel Shani, killed by an Israeli-fired flechette bomb while reporting in Gaza in 2008.

Continue reading Day 5 of Operation Pillar of Clouds – Pillars and Pillars and Pillars [of smoke]

Day 3 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds [a/k/a Defense Pillar] against Gaza

Today is Day 3 of the IDF’s Operation “Pillar of Clouds”, also known as Operation Defense Pillar against Gaza.

Last night, two Fajr rockets fired from Gaza reached the Tel Aviv area. [Qassam Brigades were calling them Qassam M-75s.]  Earlier in the day, three Israelis were killed by shrapnel after a direct rocket hit on the top floor of an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi.

Overnight, the IDF carried out at least 150 strikes on the Gaza Strip, including on on the Civil Affairs office in the Ministry of Interior in Gaza.

UNRWA photographer Shareef Sarhan took this picture showing the damage to the Civil Affairs office. here.  Other pictures are viewable on the Activestills Flikr page photostream, here.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights [PCHR] sums it up: The “most significant targets was the building of the Civil Department of the Ministry of Interior in Tal al-Hawa neighborhood in the south of the City. The building was totally destroyed and a number of nearby buildings and houses were heavily damaged. Israeli fighter jets bombarded also the building of the Collection and Inspection Center of Gaza Municipality near Abu Mazen Square. The building was completely destroyed and a number of nearby houses and buildings were heavily damaged. Israeli fighter jets further bombarded a plot belonging to an ecclesiastic center near the Roots Restaurant in the southwest of Gaza City. Additionally, Israeli gunboats bombarded an electricity transmitter near the house of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya in the Beach camp. A number of houses and a civilian car were heavily damaged”.

PCHR has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to examine the situation. As to the UN Security Council, well, it met on Wednesday night after a request from Egypt, but took no decision. The only outcome was a decision that UN Secretary-General BAN Ki Moon would travel to the region on Tuesday — but he does not intend to go to Gaza. UNSG BAN Ki-Moon will apparently have talks in Israel on Wednesday. Mahmoud Abbas announced to the PLO Executive Committee this evening that UNSG BAN would be coming to Ramallah on Thursday.

The Arab League will meet on Saturday afternoon in Cairo, after a delegation led by the Tunisian Foreign Minister, possibly accompanied by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi and maybe some other officials from other Arab countries, hopes to enter Gaza via Egypt on Saturday morning…

On Friday morning, a delegation of Egyptian officials led by Prime Minister Qandil and accompanied by Egyptian Special Forces entered Gaza on Friday morning to assess the situation, and were received by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh.  As they entered Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, a small child who had just died from an Israeli strike was brought in, and the two men cradled the body.

The photo was posted on Twitter by Hazem Balousha [@iHaZeMi].  Pool photo by Mahmud Hams.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel would serve a 3-hour cease-fire for the visit of the Egyptian delegation on condition that no projectiles were fired from Gaza onto Israel — but there was very little let-up.  Several journalists in Gaza reported outgoing projectiles. Journalists also reported incoming [though IDF spokespeople said there were no attacks during the Egyptian PM’s visit.

A little later, there was an execution of a collaborator in Gaza, which the NYTimes reported on, here.

By the end of the day [Friday] the Palestinian death toll in Gaza rose to 30, with some 250 injured — and climbing. There were no Israeli deaths from Gaza firing reported on Friday.

Continue reading Day 3 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds [a/k/a Defense Pillar] against Gaza