The latest in the Israel, Palestine clash: 18 November 2012
The latest news on escalating tensions between Israel and Gaza all in one place.
Arab League chief, ministers to visit Gaza on Tuesday: officials - Reuters
The head of the Arab League and a group of Arab foreign ministers will visit Gaza on Tuesday to show solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli attack, officials said on Sunday.
Arab league ministers had called at an earlier meeting for a mission to go to Gaza. Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby told reporters in Cairo the visit would take place on Tuesday. A League source said Elaraby would lead the delegation.
Israel's Peres welcomes Egypt's efforts for Gaza truce - Sapa-AFP
Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview on Sunday he welcomed efforts by his Egyptian counterpart to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict but accused Hamas of rejecting the proposals.
He told Britain's Sky News television that there was a possibility of a de-escalation of the conflict.
"We also appreciate the efforts of the president of Egypt to introduce a ceasfire. But until now, Hamas has rejected the proposal of the Egyptian president," he said.
UN’s Ban to visit Egypt for talks on Monday - Reuters
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will arrive in Egypt on Monday for talks with the Egyptian president and other officials, the foreign ministry reported on Sunday.
It did not give details of his planned discussions, only saying he would talk about regional issues. Egypt is negotiating a truce over Gaza and President Mohamed Mursi, who Ban is due to meet on Tuesday, has said there were “some indications” that a deal could be soon.
Israel, Gaza fighting rages on as Egypt seeks truce - Reuters
Israel bombed Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip from air and sea for a fifth straight day on Sunday, preparing for a possible ground invasion while also spelling out its conditions for a truce.
Palestinian fire into Israel subsided during the night but resumed in the morning, with rockets targeting the country’s commercial capital Tel Aviv for a fourth day. The two missiles were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome air shield.
Speaking shortly after the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive.
“We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” he said at a cabinet meeting, giving no further details.
Some 51 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began, Palestinian officials said, with hundreds wounded. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three civilians and wounding dozens.
Israel unleashed intensive air strikes on Wednesday, killing the military commander of the Islamist Hamas movement that governs Gaza and spurns peace with the Jewish state.
Israel’s declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and press Hamas into stopping cross-border rocket fire that has bedevilled Israeli border towns for years and is now displaying greater range, putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the crosshairs.
Air raids continued past midnight into Sunday, with warships shelling from the sea. Two Gaza City media buildings were hit, witnesses said, wounding six journalists and damaging facilities belonging to Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV as well as Britain’s Sky News.
An employee of Beirut-based al Quds television station lost his leg in the attack, medics said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the strike had targeted a rooftop “transmission antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity”. International media organisations demanded further clarification.
Three other attacks killed three children and wounded 14 other people, medical officials said, with heavy thuds regularly jolting the small, densely populated coastal enclave.
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in Cairo, as his security deputies sought to broker a truce with Hamas leaders, that “there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees”.
Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unravelled with recent violence.
A Palestinian official told Reuters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying “there is hope”, but that it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.
At a Gaza news conference, Hamas military spokesman Abu Ubaida voiced defiance, saying: “This round of confrontation will not be the last against the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning.”
Israel’s military also saw action along the northern frontier, firing into Syria on Saturday in what it said was a response to shooting aimed at its troops in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel’s chief military spokesman, citing Arab media, said it appeared Syrian soldiers were killed in the incident.
There were no reported casualties on the Israeli side from the shootings, the third case this month of violence that has been seen as a spillover of battles between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebels trying to overthrow him.
With tanks and artillery poised along the Gaza frontier for a possible ground operation, Israel’s cabinet decided on Friday to double the current reserve troop quota set for the offensive to 75000. Some 30000 soldiers have already been called up.
“If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel’s citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack,” Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon wrote on Twitter.
Israel’s operation so far has drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called its right to self-defence, but there was also a growing number of appeals from them to seek an end to the hostilities.
Netanyahu, in his comments at Sunday’s cabinet session, said he had emphasised in telephone conversations with world leaders, “the effort Israel is making to avoid harming civilians, while Hamas and the terrorist organisations are making every effort to hit civilian targets in Israel”.
Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza in 2005 and two years later Hamas took control of the slender, impoverished territory, which the Israelis have kept under blockade.
Pressure on sides to 'de-escalate'
British Prime Minister David Cameron “expressed concern over the risk of the conflict escalating further and the danger of further civilian casualties on both sides”, in a conversation with Netanyahu, a spokesperson for Cameron said.
Britain was “putting pressure on both sides to de-escalate,” the spokesman said, adding that Cameron had urged Netanyahu “to do everything possible to bring the conflict to an end.”
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said the United States would like to see the conflict resolved through “de-escalation” and diplomacy, but also believed Israel had the right to self-defence.
Diplomats at the United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to visit Israel and Egypt in the coming week to push for an end to the fighting.
A possible move into the Gaza Strip and the risk of major casualties it brings would be a significant gamble for Netanyahu, favoured to win a January election.
The last Gaza war, a three-week Israeli blitz and invasion over the New Year of 2008-09, killed 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis died in the conflict.
The current flare-up around Gaza has fanned the fires of a Middle East ignited by a series of Arab uprisings and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread beyond its borders.
One significant change has been the election of an Islamist government in Cairo that is allied with Hamas, which may narrow Israel’s manoeuvring room in confronting the Palestinian group.
Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979.
In attacks on Saturday, Israel destroyed the house of a Hamas commander near the Egyptian border.
Casualties there were averted however, because Israel had fired non-exploding missiles at the building beforehand from a drone, which the militant’s family understood as a warning to flee, witnesses said.
Israeli aircraft also bombed Hamas government buildings in Gaza on Saturday, including the offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a police headquarters.
Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile interceptor system has destroyed more than 200 incoming rockets from Gaza in mid-air since Wednesday, saving Israeli towns and cities from potentially significant damage.
However, one rocket salvo unleashed on Sunday evaded Iron Dome and wounded two people when it hit a house in the coastal city of Ashkelon, police said.
Israel prepared to widen Gaza offensive - Reuters
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday Israel was prepared to widen its Gaza offensive significantly.
“We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” he told his cabinet, in broadcast remarks.
He gave no specifics and made no mention of the possibility of a ground offensive.
Missile fired on Tel Aviv, intercepted - Sapa-dpa
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip Sunday fired one long-range missile at the greater Tel Aviv that was intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system, an Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed.
A dull "boom" was heard seconds after the sirens sounded.
It was the fourth time in as many days that Tel Aviv was targeted. Two missile landed in the sea, and a third, fired Saturday, was also destroyed by the Iron Dome.
Iran denies supplying Fajr-5 rockets to Gaza militants - Reuters
A senior Iranian lawmaker denied his country had supplied Palestinian Islamist militants in Gaza with missiles capable of hitting Israel’s commercial centre, Iran’s Arabic-language Al Alam television reported.
Israel began air strikes on Gaza on Wednesday, with the declared goal of deterring Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.
Hamas’ armed wing said on Saturday it had launched an Iranian-made Fajr-5 rocket at Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial centre, about 70 km (43 miles) north of Gaza, in the third rocket attack on the city since Wednesday.
Israeli police said Saturday’s rocket was intercepted mid-air by an Israeli anti-missile battery and caused no casualties or damage.
Israel’s enemy Iran, which supports and arms Hamas, has condemned the offensive begun by the Israel Defence Forces as “organised terrorism”.
But Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said Israeli claims that Iran was supplying rockets were unfounded, according to a report posted on Al Alam’s website on Saturday evening.
The militants were self-sufficient and in no need of weapons from outside their territory, he added, according to Al Alam.
With its 75 km (46 mile) range and a 175 kg (385 pound) warhead — powerful enough to shear through a concrete apartment block — the Fajr is a prestige weapon for Hamas, which is massively outgunned by Israel’s technologically superior military.
By putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in reach of the Palestinians, the Fajrs are also potential strategic game-changers that could draw even fiercer Israeli attacks on Gaza.
The Israelis say they have destroyed around 20 of the rockets on the ground and only a few remain in the Gaza arsenals.
Israel air strike kills Gaza toddler: medics - Sapa AFP
An Israeli air strike on central Gaza killed an 18-month-old Palestinian child and wounded his two young brothers on Sunday, an emergency services spokesman told AFP.
"An 18-month-old baby was killed in a strike east of Bureij (refugee) camp in central Gaza," spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya told AFP, naming the toddler as Iyyad Abu Khusa.
Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP that the two wounded boys, aged four and five, were "in critical condition."
The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike, which took place several hours after two other people were killed in separate air strikes on the northern towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya.
The attacks came after a quiet night on the Israeli side of the border, with the military confirming that no rockets had hit between 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Saturday) and 7:00 am (0500 GMT) on Sunday, after which two struck the south.
The latest air strikes raised the death toll in Gaza from Israeli air strikes since Wednesday to 47, with more than 450 people wounded, the emergency services said.
Israel returns fire on Syrian Golan, may have caused deaths - Reuters
Israel fired artillery into Syria in response to gunfire aimed at its troops in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, and may have killed Syrian soldiers, Israel’s army said on Sunday.
There were no reported injuries on the Israeli side from the shootings, which occurred on Saturday, the third case this month of violence seen as a spillover of civil unrest in Syria that has also alarmed other neighbours such as Lebanon and Turkey.
“There was small arms fire (at Israeli forces), there was a response and from what I hear over Arab media it appears Syrian soldiers were killed,” Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, Israel’s chief military spokesman, told Army Radio.
He said Israel was trying not to be dragged into battles between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebels.
The chaos of the 20-month-old insurgency often makes independent assessment of casualties within Syria difficult.
“Our trigger finger is very stiff, not light,” Mordechai said. “Under no circumstances do we accept any shooting on the State of Israel’s territory, but nor do we intend to heat up the area.”
Israel captured the Golan area in the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move never recognised internationally.
Israel lodged a complaint with the United Nations over Saturday’s incident. The U.N. has a peace-keeper force in the area monitoring a ceasefire in place since the 1970s.
Indonesian students protest against Israeli strikes on Gaza - Sapa-AFP
Hundreds of Indonesian Muslim students protested in Jakarta Sunday against fresh Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
About 1,000 students carried Palestinian flags and photographs of destruction and civilian casualties, chanting "Save Gaza, Save Humanity" in English outside the US embassy.
"We are showing our support for Palestinians who have suffered in the latest attack," protest coordinator Yousef Saiful Gunawan, 21, told AFP.
"America is a country that has always championed human rights but why is it not doing anything to stop Israel's attacks? Israel is the real terrorist," he added.
Israeli air strikes killed 16 Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday, and fresh strikes on a media centre and homes early Sunday caused further deaths and injuries.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, with 240 million people, is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on Thursday said the government was "following the situation on the Gaza Strip closely and attentively".
"Indonesia urges all parties to refrain from further actions so as not to aggravate the situation which could result in casualties among innocent civilians," he said.
Israel, Gaza fighting rages on as Egypt seeks truce - Reuters
Israel bombed militant targets in Gaza for a fifth straight day on Sunday, launching aerial and naval attacks as its military prepared for a possible ground invasion, though Egypt saw “some indications” of a truce ahead.
Forty-seven Palestinians, about half of them civilians, including 12 children, have been killed in Israel’s raids, Palestinian officials said. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.
Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday, killing a leading militant of the Hamas Islamist group that controls Gaza and rejects Israel’s existence, with the declared goal of deterring gunmen in the coastal enclave from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.
The Jewish state has since launched more than 950 air strikes on the coastal Palestinian territory, targeting weaponry and flattening militant homes and headquarters.
The raids continued past midnight on Sunday, with warships bombarding targets from the sea. And an air raid targeted a building in Gaza City housing the offices of local Arab media, wounding three journalists from al Quds television, a station Israel sees as pro-Hamas, witnesses said.
Two other predawn attacks on houses in the Jebalya refugee camp killed one child and wounded 12 other people, medical officials said.
These attacks followed a defiant statement by Hamas military spokesman Abu Ubaida, who told a televised news conference.
“This round of confrontation will not be the last against the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning.”
The masked gunman dressed in military fatigues insisted that despite Israel’s blows Hamas “is still strong enough to destroy the enemy.”
An Israeli attack on Saturday destroyed the house of a Hamas commander near the Egyptian border.
Casualties there were averted however, because Israel had fired non-exploding missiles at the building beforehand from a drone, which the militant’s family understood as a warning to flee, and thus their lives were spared, witnesses said.
Israeli aircraft also bombed Hamas government buildings in Gaza on Saturday, including the offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a police headquarters.
Among those killed in air strikes on Gaza on Saturday were at least four suspected militants riding motorcycles, and several civilians including a 30-year-old woman.
Israeli schools shut
Israel said it would keep schools in its southern region shut on Sunday as a precaution to avoid casualties from rocket strikes reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the past few days.
Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile interceptor system destroyed in mid-air a rocket fired by Gaza militants at Tel Aviv on Saturday, where volleyball games on the beach front came to an abrupt halt as air-raid sirens sounded.
Hamas’ armed wing claimed responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, the third against the city since Wednesday. It said it had fired an Iranian-designed Fajr-5 at the coastal metropolis, some 70 km (43 miles) north of Gaza.
In the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashdod, a rocket ripped into several balconies. Police said five people were hurt.
Israel’s operation has drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called Israel’s right to self-defence, but there was also a growing number of calls from world leaders to seek an end to the violence.
British Prime Minister David Cameron “expressed concern over the risk of the conflict escalating further and the danger of further civilian casualties on both sides,” in a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a spokesperson for Cameron said.
The United Kingdom was “putting pressure on both sides to de-escalate,” the spokesman said, adding that Cameron had urged Netanyahu “to do everything possible to bring the conflict to an end.”
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said the United States would like to see the conflict resolved through “de-escalation” and diplomacy, but also believes Israel has a right to self-defense.
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in Cairo as his security deputies sought to broker a truce with Hamas leaders, that “there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees.”
Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unraveled with recent violence.
A Palestinian official told Reuters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying “there is hope,” but it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli official declined to comment on the negotiations. Military commanders said Israel was prepared to fight on to achieve a goal of halting rocket fire from Gaza, which has plagued Israeli towns since late 2000, when failed peace talks led to the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising.
Diplomats at the United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to visit Israel and Egypt in the coming week to push for an end to the fighting.
Possible ground offensive
Israel, though, with tanks and artillery positioned along the frontier, signalled it was still weighing a possible ground offensive into Gaza.
Israeli cabinet ministers decided on Friday to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75 000 and around 16 000 reservists have already been called up.
Asked by reporters whether a ground operation was possible, Major-General Tal Russo, commander of the Israeli forces on the Gaza frontier, said: “Definitely.”
“We have a plan. ... It will take time. We need to have patience. It won’t be a day or two,” he added.
Another senior commander briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said Israel had scored “good achievements” in striking at nearly 1 000 targets, with the aim of ridding Hamas of firepower imported from Libya, Sudan and Iran.
A possible move into the densely populated Gaza Strip and the risk of major casualties it brings would be a significant gamble for Netanyahu, favourite to win a January national election.
Hamas fighters are no match for the Israeli military. The last Gaza war, involving a three-week Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year’s period of 2008-09, killed over 1 400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis died in the conflict.
But the Gaza conflagration has stirred the pot of a Middle East already boiling from two years of Arab revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread beyond its borders.
One major change has been the election of an Islamist government in Cairo that is allied with Hamas, potentially narrowing Israel’s manoeuvring room in confronting the Palestinian group. Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979.
Palestinians protest in Chile against Gaza violence - Sapa AFP
Hundreds of Chileans of Palestinian descent and their supporters protested Saturday outside the US embassy in Santiago against Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Some 1,000 people waved Palestinian flags and clutched large photographs of victims as they protested the bombing, which Israel says is in response to rocket attacks on its territory.
Members of local human rights groups also joined the peaceful protest, which was organized by the Palestinian Federation of Chile.
There are some 350,000 Chileans of Palestinian descent living in the South American country, one of the largest such communities outside of the Arab world.
The first Palestinians to arrived in Chile in the early 20th century were humble workers nicknamed “Turks” because of their Ottoman empire passports.
Today, prosperous Palestinian immigrants and their descendants number 350,000 people, and enjoy influence in all parts of Chilean society.
Two of the country’s wealthiest families are the Yarur and Said clans, and 10% of the Chilean senate is of Palestinian descent.
Chile also boasts the Club Deportivo Palestino, the only professional football team flying the Palestinian territories’ green, white, black and red flag.
The government of President Sebastian Pinera on Friday expressed “profound concern over the increase in violence” in both Israel and the Gaza Strip, and said that it was “especially grave” that this violence has affected civilians.