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Fri Sep 19 19:54:43 SAST 2014

The latest on the Israel, Palestine clash: 19 November 2012

Reuters, Sapa dpa | 19 November, 2012 09:54
A Palestinian medic helps evacuate a wounded woman after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City.
Image by: STRINGER / REUTERS

The latest news on escalating tensions between Israel and Gaza all in one place.

Tears breed defiance at funeral for Gaza family Reuters

Even as neighbours picked through the rubble of their destroyed house for survivors, the stunned Dalu family arrived at Gaza's main hospital on Monday to collect the bodies of nine relatives for burial.

"Is this your wife?" asked a medic inside the morgue.

"Ahh, what happened to your face sweetheart?" her husband said, weeping and collapsing into the arms of his spouse. The woman's face was burnt beyond recognition.

Israel's bombing of the Dalu house in Gaza on Sunday was the deadliest single attack since it began an offensive it said was aimed at deterring Hamas and other militant groups from firing rockets over the border at its towns and villages.

Nine members of the Dalu family, a mother and her four children, a grandmother, great grandmother and two aunts died in the Gaza strike. Two other neighbours were also killed as the building collapsed.

The father of the family was at the local grocery with his young son when the house was attacked. He returned to the wreckage to find most of his loved ones dead and trapped in its battered shell.

The Israeli military said on Monday it could not yet provide an explanation about the incident and that an investigation was under way.

Ninety Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, have been killed since the hostilities began on Wednesday, hospital officials said. Three Israeli civilians have been killed.

The bodies of 12 people killed in Israeli air strikes since Sunday crowded the morgue in Shifa Hospital, while outside dozens of relatives and friends tearfully awaited a final glance on their dead before walking them to the grave.

There have also been scenes of grief in Israel, where a rocket fired from Gaza tore into an apartment building in the southern city of Ashkelon, killing two men, aged 29 and 27 and a 24-year-old woman. Police said 1,100 rockets have been launched at Israel since the offensive began on Wednesday.

RESCUE OPERATIONS

In Gaza, mourners also worried about the fate of Yara, a high-school girl, and Mohammed, 25, whose bodies could be trapped under the Dalu house rubble as rescue operations continued frantically into a second day.

"They killed a family that was safe and happy," said Hatem Dalu, 40, a relative and a grocery owner.

"For no reason, Israel has committed a massacre, an ugly crime. All those victims were either children or women," he said, crouching on a hospital staircase.

Despite ongoing violence and the sounds of explosions, several thousand mourners marched in their funeral as the bodies, draped in Palestinian flags, were held on stretchers while family carried the dead children in their arms.

"Resistance created a new formula. If Gaza is hit the resistance will hit Tel Aviv and beyond Tel Aviv," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri at the funeral.

Due to a lack of space in the Martyr's Cemetery, the nine bodies were crowded together into three graves.

Mourners around the stricken patriarch said Israel was trying to increase the number of civilians deaths in order to mount pressure on militant leaders to agree to their terms for a truce being discussed by Israeli and regional representatives in Cairo.

 

Gaza invasion: it's been done before, but this is different Reuters

Big armoured bulldozers with blades tall enough to plough through houses and carve a path for tanks and infantry were lined up on Israel's border with Gaza on Monday, ready to invade if given the order.

More of Israel's formidable Merkava tanks were on the way south to join the battle lineup on a plain of fertile farmland and fruit groves. Soldiers camped out next to their armour. The observant Orthodox Jews among them said their daily prayers.

Everyone is waiting to find out if it will be truce or war. Mediator Egypt says a deal to end the fighting could be close. Israel says it is prepared to move troops into Gaza but prefers a diplomatic solution.

In the Israeli town of Sderot, well in range of Palestinian rockets and mortars, the feeble shockwaves of a flurry of detonations jarred the ceiling as the local council met in a bomb shelter 6 metres (20 feet) underground to talk about the crisis.

Sderot has been here before. In December 2008 the same tank and bulldozer transporters were rumbling down Highway 34 past the sleepy town that has become synonymous in Israel with random rocket attacks, blast shelters and jangled nerves.

People are waiting to find out if there will be a re-run this time. Defiant rocket fire from Gaza drove many out in 2008 during a week of bombing from the air, artillery shelling and naval gunnery. Then Israel sent some 30,000 troops into Gaza.

The final toll was 1,400 Palestinians dead and 13 Israelis killed. Israel was condemned by some states for using "disproportionate force".

"Many are wishing that our air force will carry on bombing (Islamist militant positions in Gaza). There is some fear of what an invasion will bring," said Miryam Sassy of Sderot's education board.

"There would be more violence, more bloodshed. But if we stop now we'll be in the same situation again in one month or six months or a year."

This is Israel's dilemma from the moment the low-level Gaza conflict erupted into full-scale fighting six days ago. The Palestinian death toll is nearing 100, more than half of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials. Israel has had three civilians killed by a rocket.

Invasion would push the casualty figures higher. House-to- house combat would mean more civilian deaths.

The Islamist Hamas fighters of Gaza and their junior cohorts have newly-acquired weapons such as armour-busting anti-tank guided missiles to greet the Israeli invaders, conceivably killing many more than last time.

FALLOUT

The political fallout for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at home as well as abroad could be very negative. He is running for re-election in January. The impact at the ballot box of stopping before Hamas is effectively disarmed of its rockets could be almost as bad.

A ceasefire now may leave the Islamist forces still with plenty of rockets to threaten Israel in future, including long-range weapons that they have now proved can reach greater Tel Aviv, home to some three million people.

Hamas is an implacable enemy of "the Zionist occupier". It denies Israel's right to exist as a state and is pledged to take all of the land on which Israel was founded in 1948. It has spoken of a long-term truce, but never of a permanent peace.

Twelve-year-old boys in Sderot can tell the difference between a Palestinian rocket detonation and the sound of one being taken out in mid-air by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor.

"You hear the final whoosh in the air when a rocket gets through," said a boy at an outdoor cafe who played with his mobile phone during two detonations. "Those were Iron Dome."

But he got up and moved to shelter when the raspy croak of Sderot's alert signal sounded for a third time and a bang shook the ground. The warhead of the Gaza-made Qassam rocket is not powerful, but if you're close enough it will kill you.

Iron Dome's shield in the sky has been a game-changer. The army says it is knocking out 90 percent of incoming rockets that are targeted only if they are likely to hit residential areas.

Sderot's police station has a weird collection of rusting, petaled iron tubes from the scores of rockets that have hit the town since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 from the Western-backed Palestinian faction of President Mahmoud Abbas.

They served as a backdrop for Barack Obama when he made a speech at the station while touring Sderot during a visit to Israel as a candidate in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

Netanyahu says no country in the world would tolerate a constant drizzle of potentially lethal rockets on its citizens, traumatising families with the threat of sudden death.

He has the sympathy of much of the West. But how long will that last if Gaza is once again overrun, enraging an Arab world no longer under the control of pro-Western autocrats but ruled by Islamists who support Hamas?

Three dead in new Gaza strikes, media building hit Sapa-AFP

Three Palestinians were killed in new Israeli strikes in Gaza on Monday, including one that hit a media building in Gaza City for the second time, the ambulance services said.

"One Palestinian was killed and three others injured in a strike on the Shuruq tower," which houses several media offices, including that of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa television, a statement said.

Another two Palestinians were killed in a separate strike in Nusseirat in central Gaza.

Witnesses said at least two of the injured in the strike on the Shuruq building were cameramen, one of them with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news network.

On Sunday morning, Israeli jets bombed two media facilities, including the Shuruq, leaving at least eight journalists injured. One of them lost a leg.

Russia's state-run RT global television broadcaster said its office was badly damaged in the incident, adding none of its staff were hurt.

The Israeli military defended the strike, saying it had targeted Hamas operational communications and had sought to minimise civilian casualties.

But the strikes were condemned by the local Foreign Press Association as well as international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Israel says prefers diplomacy over Gaza invasion option Reuters

Israel bombed dozens of targets in Gaza on Monday and said that while it was prepared to step up its offensive by sending in troops, it preferred a diplomatic solution that would end Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave.

As international pressure mounted for a truce, mediator Egypt said a deal to end the fighting could be close.

Twelve Palestinian civilians and four fighters were killed in the air strikes, bringing the Gaza death toll since fighting began on Wednesday to 90, more than half of them non-combatants, local officials said. Three Israeli civilians have been killed.

After an overnight lull, militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip fired 45 rockets at southern Israel, causing no casualties, police said. One damaged a school, but it was closed at the time.

The deaths of 11 Palestinian civilians - nine from one family - in an air strike on Sunday - drew more international calls for an end to six days of hostilities and could test Western support for an offensive Israel billed as self-defence after years of cross-border rocket attacks.

Israel's military did not immediately comment on a report in the liberal Haaretz newspaper that it had mistakenly fired on the Dalu family home, where the dead spanned four generations, while trying to kill a Hamas rocketry chief.

Echoes of explosions in Gaza mixed with cries of grief and defiant chants of "God is greatest" at the funeral of the four children and five women killed in the attack that flattened the three-storey house. Their bodies were wrapped in Palestinian and Hamas flags and thousands turned out to mourn them.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Cairo to weigh in on ceasefire efforts led by Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza and whose Muslim Brotherhood-rooted government has been hosting leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction in the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had also been to Cairo for the truce talks. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government declined comment on the matter.

"Israel is prepared and has taken steps, and is ready for a ground incursion which will deal severely with the Hamas military machine," a senior official close to Netanyahu told Reuters.

But he added: "We would prefer to see a diplomatic solution that would guarantee the peace for Israel's population in the south. If that is possible, then a ground operation would no longer be required. If diplomacy fails, we may well have no alternative but to send in ground forces."

The official's language echoed that of U.S. President Barack Obama, who said on Sunday it would be "preferable" to avoid a move into Gaza. Obama also said Israel had a right to self-defence and no country would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens.

Egyptian negotiators could be close to achieving a deal between Israel and the Palestinians to stop the fighting could be close, the Egyptian prime minister said.

"I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation, (means) it is very difficult to predict," Hisham Kandil said in an interview in Cairo for the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.

Egypt's foreign minister is expected to visit Gaza on Tuesday with a delegation of Arab ministers to express solidarity with the Palestinians.

In scenes recalling Israel's 2008-2009 winter invasion of Gaza, tanks, artillery and infantry have massed in field encampments along the sandy, fenced-off Gaza border and military convoys moved on roads in the area.

Israel has also authorised the call-up of 75,000 military reservists, so far mobilising around half that number.

WORLD CONCERN

The Gaza fighting has stoked the worries of world powers watching an already combustible region.

In the absence of any prospect of permanent peace between Israel and Hamas and other Islamist factions, mediated deals for each to hold fire unilaterally have been the only formula for stemming bloodshed in the past. But both sides now placed the onus on the other.

Izzat Risheq, aide to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, wrote on Facebook that Hamas would enter a truce only after Israel "stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza".

Listing Israel's terms, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon wrote on Twitter: "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."

Yaalon also said Israel wanted an end to Gaza guerrilla activity in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai, a desert peninsula where lawlessness has spread during Cairo's political crises.

Israel bombed some 80 sites in Gaza overnight, the military said, adding in a statement that targets included "underground rocket launching sites, terror tunnels and training bases" as well as "buildings owned by senior terrorist operatives".

Netanyahu has said he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in Gaza. At least 22 of the Gaza fatalities have been children, medical officials said.

Before leaving for Cairo, Ban urged Israel and the Palestinians to cooperate with all Egyptian-led efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire.

But a big rocket strike might be enough for Netanyahu to give a green light for a Gaza invasion, despite the political risks of heavy casualties before a January election he is favoured to win.

Although 84 percent of Israelis supported the current Gaza assault, according to a Haaretz poll, only 30 percent wanted an invasion. Nineteen percent wanted their government to work on securing a truce soon.

Israel's declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and force Hamas to stop rocket fire that has bedevilled Israeli border towns for years.

The rockets now have greater range, becoming a strategic weapon for Gaza's otherwise massively outgunned militants. Several projectiles have targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. None hit the two cities and some of the rockets were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system.

As a precaution against the rocket interceptions endangering nearby Ben-Gurion International Airport, civil aviation authorities said on Monday new flight paths were being used.

There was no indication takeoffs and landings at Ben-Gurion had been affected.

Hamas and other groups in Gaza are sworn enemies of the Jewish state which they refuse to recognise and seek to eradicate, claiming all Israeli territory as rightfully theirs.

Hamas won legislative elections in the Palestinian Territories in 2006 but a year later, after the collapse of a unity government under President Mahmoud Abbas the Islamist group seized control of Gaza in a brief and bloody civil war with forces loyal to Abbas.

Turkey's Erdogan calls Israel a "terrorist state" Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan described Israel on Monday as a "terrorist state" in carrying out its bombardment of Gaza, underlining hostility for Ankara's former ally since relations between them collapsed in 2010.

His comments came after nearly a week of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. An Israeli missile killed at least 11 Palestinian civilians including four children in Gaza on Sunday.

"Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza," Erdogan told a conference of the Eurasian Islamic Council in Istanbul.

"For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts," he said.

Ties between Israel and Turkey, once Israel's only Muslim ally, crumbled after Israeli marines stormed an aid ship in 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip. Nine Turks were killed in clashes with activists on board.

Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a U.N. report into the incident released in September last year largely exonerated the Jewish state.

Earlier this month Turkey opened the trial in absentia of four former Israeli military commanders over the 2010 raid.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is to travel to Gaza on Tuesday with a group of foreign ministers from the Arab League.

Turkey's Erdogan: Israel carrying out "terrorist acts" in Gaza Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel on Monday of carrying out "terrorist acts" in its bombardment of Gaza.

"Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza," Erdogan told a conference of the Eurasian Islamic Council in Istanbul.

"For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts."

Egypt foreign minister to visit Gaza on Tuesday Reuters

Egypt's foreign minister will head to Gaza on Tuesday alongside a delegation of Arab ministers to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, following Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian territory, a spokesman for the ministry said.

Egypt is at the heart of efforts to broker a truce to end fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.

"Mohamed Amr, foreign minister, will head to Gaza accompanying an Arab ministerial delegation to express solidarity with the brave Palestinian people who are subjected to Israeli aggression for the sixth day in a row," Amr Roshdy, spokesman for the ministry, said on Monday.

Israel army takes over broadcasts on Hamas tv Sapa-AFP

The Israeli army on Monday took over programming at a Gaza-based Hamas television station "to broadcast warnings," as deadly violence between the sides entered its sixth day.

Al-Aqsa television, the official station of Gaza's Hamas rulers, said in a statement the Israeli army "is interfering with Al-Aqsa TV," with the picture going on and off for several hours and sometimes appearing scrambled.

"We took over the Hamas television to broadcast warnings," a military spokeswoman said, indicating the takeover would probably last for a number of hours.

But AFP correspondents in Gaza said they could see no warning being sent out by the army.

On Sunday, the army took over Hamas radio broadcasts in Gaza for several hours.

Also on Sunday, at least eight journalists were injured when Israeli jets bombarded two media buildings in Gaza City, with the military saying it had hit Hamas communications sites.

A statement from the Israeli army after the attack called on "international journalists... to stay clear of Hamas's bases and facilities, which serve them in their activity against the citizens of Israel."

Since violence erupted on Wednesday, 90 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza. Over 500 rockets hit Israel, resulting in three deaths.

Vandals set fire to West Bank mosque - Sapa dpa

Vandals set fire Monday to the entrance of a mosque in the northern West Bank, a local Palestinian activist said, attributing the attack to Israeli settlers.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlers' activities in the area, said a group apparently from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar entered the village of Ureef in the early morning, poured flammable liquid over the entrance of Ribat mosque and set it alight.

Daghlas said residents were awakened by the noise and the fire and rushed to put it out. The vandals had left when villagers arrived, he said. The damage did not spread beyond the mosque door.

At least eight mosques in the West Bank have been desecrated in the past two-and-a-half years, apparently in a campaign by some Israelis opposed to the uprooting of unauthorized settlements in the West Bank.

In July, attackers lit a fire inside a mosque in the village of Jaba, south-east of Ramallah, and spray-painted Hebrew slogans on the walls. Israeli authorities have condemned the acts as illegal.

Israel pounds Gaza as rocket fire wanes; talks in Egypt - Reuters

Israel bombed dozens of suspected guerrilla sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Monday and Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave dropped off as international efforts to broker a truce intensified.

Ten civilians and two field commanders from the Islamic Jihad faction were killed and at least 30 other Palestinians were hurt in the new air strikes, hospital officials said, bringing the death toll from six days of clashes in Gaza to 85.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Cairo to weigh in on ceasefire efforts led by Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza and whose Islamist-rooted government has been hosting leaders of Hamas.

Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had also been to Cairo for truce talks, though a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government declined comment on the matter.

The Gaza flare-up, and Israel’s signalling that it could soon escalate from the aerial bombings to a ground sweep of the cramped and impoverished enclave, have stoked the worries of world powers watching an already combustible region.

As Hamas and other Islamist factions spurn permanent peace with the Jewish state, mediated deals for each to hold fire unilaterally have been the only formula for stemming bloodshed in the past. But each side now placed the onus on the other.

Izzat Risheq, aide to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, wrote on Facebook that Hamas would enter a truce only after Israel “stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza”.

Listing Israel’s terms, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Yaalon also said Israel wanted an end to Gaza guerrilla activity in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai, a desert peninsula where lawlessness has spread during Cairo’s political crises.

Western support 

Israel’s operation has so far drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called its right to self-defence in the face of years of cross-border attacks, but there have also been growing appeals for an end to the hostilities.

Sympathy for Israel may wear thin as the Gaza toll mounts.

On Sunday, 11 Palestinian civilians were apparently killed during an Israeli attack on a militant which brought a three-storey family home crashing down on them.

“I am deeply saddened by the reported deaths of more than ten members of the Dalu family... (and) by the continuing firing of rockets against Israeli towns, which have killed several Israeli civilians. I strongly urge the parties to cooperate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate ceasefire,” Ban said before leaving for Egypt. He visits Israel on Tuesday.

At least 22 of the Gaza fatalities have been children.

Netanyahu said he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in Gaza.

In scenes recalling Israel’s 2008-2009 winter invasion of Gaza, tanks, artillery and infantry have massed in field encampments along the sandy, fenced-off border and military convoys moved on roads in the area. Israel has also authorised the call-up of 75 000 military reservists, so far mobilising around half that number.

A big, bloody rocket strike on Israelis might be enough for Netanyahu to give a green light for a ground offensive.

Three Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in hundreds of salvoes since Wednesday. Some rockets reached as far as Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital, but were shot down by the country’s air defence system.

As a precaution against the rocket interceptions endangering nearby Ben-Gurion International Airport, civil aviation authorities said on Monday new flight paths were being used.

There was no indication takeoffs and landings at Ben-Gurion had been affected.

Overnight lull

There was no rocket fire from Gaza between midnight and daybreak on Monday, the Israeli military said. It said a few cross-border launches followed in the early morning but there was no immediate word of casualties in southern Israel, where such salvoes usually set off sirens so residents can shelter.

Israel bombed some 80 sites in Gaza overnight, the military said, adding in a statement that targets included “under-ground rocket launching sites, terror tunnels and training bases” as well as “buildings owned by senior terrorist operatives”.

Israel’s declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and force Hamas to stop rocket fire that has bedevilled Israeli border towns for years. The rockets now have greater range, putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem within their reach — a strategic weapon for Gaza’s otherwise massively outgunned guerrillas. 

The southern resort city of Eilat was apparently added to the list of targets when residents said they heard explosions on Sunday and Monday thought to be rockets, though there was no word of casualties or damage.

Eilat is thought to be well out of the range of any rocket in possession of Hamas or any other Gaza group. But militants have in the recent past fired rockets at Eilat and its surroundings, using Egypt’s Sinai desert as a launch site.

Hamas and other groups in Gaza are sworn enemies of the Jewish state which they refuse to recognise and seek to eradicate, claiming all Israeli territory as rightfully theirs.

Hamas won legislative elections in the Palestinian Territories in 2006 but a year later, after the collapse of a unity government under President Mahmoud Abbas the Islamist group seized control of Gaza in a brief and bloody civil war with forces loyal to Abbas.

Abbas then dismissed the Hamas government led by the group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh but he refuses to recognise Abbas’ authority and runs Gazan affairs.

While it is denounced as a terrorist organisation in the West, Hamas enjoys widespread support in the Arab world, where Islamist parties are on the rise.

US-backed Abbas and Fatah hold sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank from their seat of government in the town of Ramallah. The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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Fri Sep 19 19:54:43 SAST 2014 ::