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Seven Palestinians killed in Gaza





by Adel Zaanoun :

BEIT HANUN, Gaza Strip (AFP) - Seven Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed in Gaza when Israeli infantry backed by tanks seized control of a town in a major operation in the battered territory.


Moderate Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and prime minister Ismail Haniya, who heads an Islamist-led government boycotted by the West, displayed a rare show of agreement to condemn what they branded an Israeli "massacre".


Medics said at least seven Palestinians, five of them militants, were killed and 40 wounded in the town that witnesses said was surrounded by some 60 Israeli tanks and armored vehicles.


The ruling Hamas group said four of the dead were members of its military wing while Islamic Jihad said one of its fighters was also killed Wednesday.


Israeli forces were also partially reoccupying the nearby refugee camp of Jabaliya and the northern town of Beit Lahiya.


Soldiers, hunkered down on rooftops, exchanged fire with militants in Beit Hanun as helicopters and drones flew overhead. Israeli bulldozers razed three houses in the town and another dozen homes were hit by tank shells.


The army said a soldier was killed by Palestinian fire in Beit Hanun, after the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they had killed an enemy serviceman in the besieged town.


Militants also fired two rockets into Israel , one exploding near a public library in the southern town of Sderot, lightly wounding one man and causing a small fire. The other struck in the town's industrial zone, the army said.


Meeting against the backdrop of violence to review operations underway in Gaza for the past four months, Israel's security cabinet ruled out any immediate larger-scale ground offensive.


"The meeting ended without a decision being taken on expanding operations underway, in keeping with the recommendations of Defence Minister Amir Peretz," an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.


Two days ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had warned Israel could expand its offensive in Gaza, as his chief ally, the United States, described Israeli military operations in the Palestinian territory as an issue of "self-defence."


On Wednesday, his office said only that "current security operations" would continue to increase pressure on Hamas and "other terrorist operations" to stop them from regrouping and to end rocket attacks.


An army spokesman confirmed that a "major operation" was underway, codenamed "Operation Autumn Clouds", in which three air raids had been carried out and "30 armed Palestinians were hit".


"Our goal is to significantly decrease the Qassam launching capability," Peretz was quoted as saying while touring Israeli units deployed near Gaza, even as more of the improvised rockets hit Israel.


"This military operation targets terrorist elements. Army activities will continue until soldier Gilad Shalit is released," said one military broadcast on pirated radio frequencies in Arabic in Gaza.


Shalit was captured in a June 25 raid by Gaza militants, including some from Hamas, that has sparked four months of Israeli operations that have killed some 270 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers.


Troops were also operating around the closed international airport in southern Gaza and the nearby village of Shoka, security sources said.



The Palestinian president and prime minister swiftly slammed the latest offensive in the battle-scared and impoverished territory.


"President Mahmud Abbas has strongly condemned the Israeli massacre that has left six martyrs and nearly 40 wounded in Beit Hanun," his office said.


Abbas called on the "occupation government to cease immediately all hostile actions against our people" and urged the international community to "intervene rapidly" to end the aggressions and stave off a "new deterioration".

At the opening of an emergency cabinet meeting, Haniya charged: "The massacre is the first consequence of Lieberman joining the Israeli government."


Hard-right politician Avigdor Lieberman, who became Israel's first strategic affairs minister on Monday, reportedly suggested to the cabinet in Jerusalem that Israel apply tactics used by the Russian army in Chechnya to Gaza


Israel has repeatedly said it has no intention of reoccupying Gaza, from which it withdrew troops and settlers last year after a 38-year presence.

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Israel kills 4 Palestinians in Gaza


By Nidal al-Mughrabi

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza (Reuters) - Israeli troops killed four Palestinians including two civilians and trapped scores of gunmen in a Gaza town on Thursday, witnesses said, as the army pressed ahead with one of its biggest operations in the strip in months.


The armed wing of the ruling Hamas Islamist movement said its gunmen hit a group of Israeli soldiers with an anti-tank missile in the northern town of Beit Hanoun, inflicting casualties. The army said it had no information.


Witnesses said around 60 militants were holed up inside the center of Beit Hanoun, with army helicopters circling overhead.


Soldiers loaded many residents into trucks and took them to the edge of Beit Hanoun for questioning, witnesses said. They said it was one of the biggest roundups of Gazans in years.


"I urge all women in Gaza to go to the besieged area to help stop the Israeli army from killing the Mujahideen (fighters)," one caller to a local radio station said.


The Israeli offensive has further weakened any chance of resuming peace talks between the two sides, already minimal since Hamas took office in March after winning elections. Hamas is sworn to Israel 's destruction


Hamas has said the bloodshed could also complicate Egyptian-brokered talks aimed at arranging a swap of Palestinian prisoners in Israel for an Israeli soldier abducted by militants in a cross-border raid last June.


The town of 30,000 people was effectively under an army curfew, residents said.


Although the army operation is aimed partly at halting rocket fire at the Jewish state from the area, militants launched four homemade missiles at the nearby Israeli border town of Sderot, wounding two people, medical officials said.



An Israeli army spokeswoman said all men in Beit Hanoun had been asked to gather in one place to answer questions.


"I have no doubt that the vast majority will then be allowed to return home unhindered. This is intended to avoid friction and reduce shooting incidents," she said.


The latest casualties, confirmed by hospital officials, bring to 13 the number of Palestinians killed since Israeli troops entered Beit Hanoun on Wednesday.


One Israeli soldier has been killed in the raid. More than half the Palestinians killed were militants.


"Residents are in panic as the sound of gunfire and explosions never stops.


The curfew is very, very tight," said Yamen Hamad, a local journalist in Beit Hanoun.


Relatives said one of the civilians killed on Thursday, a 75-year-old man, was shot by troops on a rooftop when he went onto the balcony of his home to take his disabled son inside.


The army said its forces were targeting only militants.



The assault is one of the biggest since Israel launched an offensive in Gaza to try to force the release of the captured soldier and to halt the rocket fire.


More than 280 Palestinians have been killed in the four-month-old offensive, about half of them civilians. Three Israeli soldiers have been killed.


Israel withdrew its army and Jewish settlers from Gaza last year after a 38-year occupation, but tension increased along the frontier when Hamas took office and rebuffed Western demands to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

That prompted the West to impose sanctions on the Palestinian government.


While opposed to explicit recognition of Israel, some Hamas officials have tried to formulate wording that suggests a softer position as part of efforts to agree a unity government with the Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate.


Palestinians hope such a government would help restore direct Western aid. Political sources in Gaza said there might be an announcement about progress on a unity administration later on Thursday.

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Israeli military offensive kills seven in Gaza


by Adel Zaanoun



A militant died and another two were badly injured when this van was hit



GAZA CITY (AFP) - Seven people, including a teenager and five gunmen have been killed in the Gaza Strip as Israel pressed an offensive on militants that has left 42 Palestinians and one soldier dead in four days.


The bloodshed followed one of Gaza's deadliest days in months, when 19 people were killed as Israel continued with an operation launched early Wednesday aimed at stopping rocket fire into Israeli territory.


Two brothers, aged 25 and 26, as well as a 16-year-old boy were killed in an afternoon helicopter raid in Jabaliya on Saturday. The armed wing of the ruling Islamist Hamas movement said the brothers belonged to the faction.


Earlier a local Hamas militant commander was killed in an air raid in Gaza City that wounded four other militants, medics said.


A Hamas militant and a 46-year-old man were killed in Beit Hanun, and another Hamas militant died of wounds sustained in an artillery strike on nearby Jabaliya, which wounded four other gunmen.


One Israeli soldier was also seriously wounded in overnight clashes, the army said.


Faced with the mounting death toll, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who has slammed the operation as a "massacre," called on the United Nation Security Council to convene to discuss the issue, his spokesman told AFP.


The president "has sent a message to the head of the Security Council asking him to convene immediately to discuss the tragic situation in Gaza because of Israeli aggression, which has killed 42 Palestinians so far," Nabil Abu Rudeina said.


Abbas also called the Arab League chief Amr Mussa to "initiate an Arab League meeting to discuss the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."


In Beit Hanun, which has been reoccupied by Israeli forces since the start of the operation, residents who have been cooped up inside their homes since Wednesday got a brief respite after the army suspended patrols for three hours to give them a chance to step outside.


Israel says the town, which has borne the brunt of "Operation Autumn Clouds", has become a launchpad for the rocket fire.


"Most of the time, because of the combat, we're calling on people that it's best to stay at home," an army spokesman said.


"Today between 8 am and 11 am (0600 and 0900 GMT) humanitarian organizations were allowed into Beit Hanun and we stopped many of our patrols in order for people to leave their homes, open their stores."


The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, delivered water, food and other basic assistance into the town, with its Gaza director John Ging saying that the situation inside the town was "desperate".


"Death, destruction and despair are the terms to describe the situation," Ging told reporters afterward.


"The situation is very grim. The civilian population is living in a very difficult situation. There is shortage of food, of water, there is destruction and devastation everywhere... The entire population is now living in fear, it's extremely dangerous."


"We have to make an appeal to end the violence because the cycle of violence results in innocent civilians paying the price, often with their lives," he said.



In all, 42 Palestinians, including at least 21 militants, and one Israeli soldier have died and more than 90 Palestinians have been wounded in the operation, which has also seen around 100 people detained.


Israel says it launched the operation to stop militants from firing rockets, an almost constant curse in communities bordering the Gaza Strip since Israel left the territory last year and closed the curtain on a 38-year occupation.

But the latest military blitz has failed to stop the fire, with one rocket falling in Israel on Saturday and 17 in all since the start of the operation on Wednesday, lightly wounding at least three people.


To protest the operation, businesses in the West Bank went on strike Saturday, with shopfronts in Ramallah remaining shuttered after a call to do so by the Al-Aqsa Brigades, a militant group loosely linked with president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party.



On the international front, Britain, France and the United Nations called for restraint and avoiding further civilian casualties, but Israel's most powerful ally the United States put the blame for the violence on Palestinian militants and said the Jewish state was defending itself.


Egypt, one of two Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, Saturday condemned the operation's "excessive use of force and lack of regard for civilians."

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit also called on all Palestinian factions "to stop launching rockets in order not to provoke a reaction by the Israeli forces, and not to give them a pretext to carry out other intensive military offensives which do not spare civilians."

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Israel pulls out of Gaza town, eight Palestinians killed


by Adel Zaanoun



BEIT HANUN, Gaza Strip (AFP) - Israeli troops have left Beit Hanun as eight people were killed elsewhere in Gaza, raising to more than 60 the Palestinian death toll in the beleaguered territory in a week.


Soldiers departed overnight from a town the military charged had become a launchpad for rocket attacks against Israel , repositioning elsewhere in the northern Gaza Strip and leaving behind scenes of destruction.



"We withdrew our forces from Beit Hanun after having completed our mission," a military spokesman confirmed after daybreak.


Roads were left gouged out. Homes, two mosques and a school were destroyed. The historic old town was pockmarked with bullet holes and shell craters, electricity pylons ripped from the ground and sewage spewing in the streets.


Residents picking their way through the wreckage mourned their "martyrs", eyes red with fatigue, filled with hate and tears, an AFP reporter said.


The army said troops had seized a large amount of weaponry, including rocket launchers, anti-tank missile launchers and grenades. Dozens of Palestinians "suspected of terror involvement" were also taken for questioning, it said.


In Gaza for crunch talks with the Hamas-led cabinet on forming a unity government, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas condemned Israel's attacks, charging that Palestinian casualties were no guarantee of its security.


"If Israel wants peace and security, the path of Palestinian blood is not the one to be followed," Abbas told AFP.


"The Israelis announced that they had left Beit Hanun and we thought they had finished, but unfortunately they've begun again," he added.


"This proves Israel is determined to continue its aggression not only in Beit Hanun but in the entire Gaza Strip."


Five militants and a woman were among the eight Palestinians killed Tuesday in a string of incidents in which Israeli troops opened fire.


Two of the militants were from Islamic Jihad, which claimed a Monday attack in which a Palestinian woman blew herself up alongside Israeli troops, one from the military wing of Hamas and two from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.


A woman, Nahla Shanti, and Abdel Majid Ghirbawi were killed when a shell struck the home of Hamas lawmaker Jamileh al-Shanti where the two were staying.


The army said it returned fire after militants fired two rocket-propelled grenades at its forces in the area.


An Israeli military spokesman said forces "identified hitting 10 gunmen" after six incidents in which gunmen approached the army or troops came under attack in northern Gaza as well as one air strike on a militant cell.


The six-day reoccupation of Beit Hanun failed to halt rocket fire, with some 40 rockets hitting Israel since the start of Operation Autumn Clouds.


Gaza militants carried out their deepest rocket attack into Israel in months Tuesday, when four projectiles struck the town of Ashkelon, causing no damage, after the army rumbled out of Beit Hanun. Another rocket fell further south.



The latest Israeli incursion, following four months of military activity in Gaza in which more than 300 Palestinians have been killed since a soldier was captured in late June, was condemned by the international community.


Israeli officials have repeatedly vowed that they have no intention of permanently reoccupying Gaza, from whichn the Jewish state withdrew troops and settlers last year after a 38-year occupation.


In all, 64 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in a week, including more than 50 and one Israeli soldier who died during Autumn Clouds.


Despite the bloodshed, Abbas was due to hold another round of crunch talks Tuesday with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya on a unity cabinet.


Abbas has tried in vain for months to persuade the Islamist party to agree to a moderate platform acceptable to the international community in order to lift a crushing economic and political boycott of the Palestinian territories.

In Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem expressed support for a

Palestinian unity government after talks with Khaled Meshaal, the hardline exiled leader of Hamas, the official Sana news agency reported.

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IDF fire kills 20 Palestinians in Gaza


Palestinians put their political difference aside on Wednesday to join forces in strongly condemning the killing of 19 people, among them seven children, in Beit Hanun, with some calling for a new wave of violence against Israel and others demanding international protection.


Some Fatah leaders joined their Hamas counterparts by urging Palestinians to target Israeli citizens inside Israel. "All the organizations must retaliate for what happened in Beit Hanun," said Jamal Obaid, a senior member of Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades. "It's blood for blood and we must avenge the blood of our martyrs."



Several Palestinian leaders and spokesmen described the tragedy, in which 19 people were killed, as a "well-planned massacre" against innocent civilians. The Palestinians later declared a three-day general strike in mourning. In Gaza City, Palestinians hurled stones at the offices of the European Union headquarters, but no one was hurt.


Sources in the Gaza Strip said 11 of the victims belonged to the Athamnah family and that the children's ages ranged between 12 months and 15 years. The building that was targeted belongs to brothers Saed and Sa'di Athamnah.


The Beit Hanun incident could disrupt efforts by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to convince Hamas to make political concessions to pave the way for the formation of a unity government. However, some Palestinians predicted that the incident would bring Hamas and Fatah closer than ever to an agreement.


Earlier this week, sources close to both Hamas and Fatah disclosed that the two sides were on the verge of signing a unity government deal with the hope that such a move would persuade the international community to resume financial aid to the PA.


Abbas, who is in Gaza City for the unity talks, denounced the Beit Hanun killings as "despicable and barbaric." On Wednesday evening, Abbas held a surprise meeting with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to discuss the current situation in the Gaza Strip and the possibility of resuming the unity talks.


Speaking to reporters shortly after the incident, Abbas said: "We want to tell the world that Israel does not want peace and stability. The Israelis apparently feel comfortable with the claim that there is no partner on the Palestinian side for negotiations. That's why they are doing these things fearlessly. They feel there is no one there to stop them."


Abbas declared Beit Hanun a "martyr" and vowed to provide $1 million in urgent aid to assist the victims' families and other residents.


Calling on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss

Israel's "aggression," Abbas said he phoned a number of Arab and Western heads of state on Wednesday to urge them to exert pressure on Israel to halt its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. He claimed that the timing of the attack was designed thwart efforts to establish a national unity government.

But Abbas managed to anger Hamas by condemning as "fruitless acts" the firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli towns and cities. "These rockets don't bring us any results," he stressed. "They only provide Israel with an excuse to pursue its aggression on our people. The rocket attacks must stop instantly."



In response, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called upon Abbas to apologize for condemning the rocket attacks. "He must apologize to the women and children of Beit Hanun," he said. "The Israeli occupation does not distinguish between an area from which rockets are fired and another area where nothing is happening. Look what happened this morning in the village of Yamoun, near Jenin, where Israel killed five members of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades."


Haniyeh, commenting on the Beit Hanun tragedy, said the killings were "further proof that the Zionist mentality is based on the destruction and killing of all Palestinians." He also claimed that the killings were intended to bring the

Palestinians to their knees and extract political concessions from them. But, he added, "The Palestinians will never give up their rights, including the right to continue the resistance operations against Israel."


He too called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and to consider the possibility of setting up an international commission of inquiry to investigate Israel's "war crimes."


Nizar Rayan, a prominent Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, called for resuming suicide bombings inside Israel to avenge the Beit Hanun killings. He also called for kidnapping soldiers to trade them for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad, who has often expressed relatively moderate and pragmatic views and is a frequent interviewee in the Israeli media, went as far as calling for the elimination of Israel. "Israel is a bloody state that was established on blood and it never finds comfort unless there's bloodshed," he said. "Israel should therefore be wiped off the map."



Pictures http://www.coldplaying.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1866460#post1866460

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Israel on the defensive after Gaza deaths


by Marius Schattner

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Forced on the defensive over the deaths of 18 civilians in Gaza, Israel expressed regret and said the killings were a mistake, but underscored its need to combat Palestinian militant rocket fire.


Army artillery shells killed mostly women and children in the northern town of Beit Hanun Wednesday, sparking worldwide outrage and vows of renewed Palestinian suicide attacks inside the Jewish state.


Israeli officials were quick to express regret for the killings, order an investigation and offer humanitarian aid to the wounded.


But at the same time, officials presented the strike as an accident in a legitimate battle against Gaza-based militants, who have continuously fired rockets into the Jewish state since Israel withdrew settlers and troops from the coastal strip last year after a 38-year occupation


"It is quite clear that it was a tragic error, criticized in Israel itself and for which we have expressed our regrets," foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.


"But you have to put the attack in the context of the continuing rocket fire by Palestinians -- which the Palestinian government has done absolutely nothing to stop -- after we left Gaza Strip in September 2005, without any intention of coming back, having dismantled our settlements," he said.


Militants say their attacks are justified as long as Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and control the borders of Gaza.


Israeli military operations have failed to stem the rocket fire -- during a week-long operation in Beit Hanun that preceded Wednesday's deaths, more than 50 Palestinians, including some 30 militants, were killed, but according to the Israeli army, more than 50 projectiles fired from Gaza landed in Israel.


Most of the homemade rockets land harmlessly in Israeli farmland, but they have killed eight people inside Israel since the start of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000 and keep residents in border communities on constant edge.


Israel says that its military operations in Gaza are justified self-defense against the rockets.


"Every country in the world has an obligation to protect its citizens," wrote columnist Ben Caspit in the nation's second-largest daily Maariv.


"The truth is that until they stop firing... rockets upon Israel, Israel must keep firing back.


"They want to uproot us from here, wipe us from the face of the earth. And what can we do -- we do not intend to allow that to happen," Caspit wrote.


But Palestinians and Israeli critics say the military operations in Gaza amount to indiscriminate force against civilians.


"No country would remain indifferent to rocket fire on its cities," wrote Zeev Schiff, a columnist for the liberal Haaretz daily. "The only problem is the lack of proportionality regarding Israel's response.


"Indeed, even in a clear case of self-defense, the killing of many innocent civilians, and especially children, is intolerable," Schiff wrote.


In a report released on the day of the Beit Hanun deaths, Physicians for Human Rights called for Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza, saying the majority of those killed since late June have been civilians.


"Experience shows that it is impossible to fire shells and missiles at the centers of cities in the densely-populated Gaza Strip without harming civilians," it said.

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Tears and anger as Gaza buries its dead


By Nidal al-Mughrabi

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Palestinians wept and screamed for revenge as they buried 18 civilians killed by Israeli shelling in a massive funeral in Gaza on Thursday.


"Killers in Israel , you will never be able to defeat one Palestinian child," Abdul Hakim Awad, an official of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying he was very distressed by the deaths of innocents, blamed the carnage on a "technical failure" by Israeli artillery.


Groups of militants, some masked and firing weapons in the air, flanked the procession as it snaked through the streets of Beit Hanoun, where Wednesday's attack took place, before the dead were laid to rest in a new cemetery.


The bodies, including seven children and four women, were each wrapped in a yellow flag, the symbol of the Fatah movement, and held aloft on stretchers among a vast crowd of tearful and angry mourners.


Cries of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) filled the air as the bodies were placed in their graves. The youngest was an 18-month-old girl laid in the ground by her weeping father.


Speaking at a business conference in Tel Aviv, Olmert reiterated his readiness to hold a summit with Abbas, a moderate leader locked in a power struggle with the governing Islamist militant group Hamas.


"He will be surprised, when he will sit with me at how far we are prepared to go. I can offer him a lot," said Olmert.


The Israeli leader did not elaborate. Abbas has been seeking a substantial release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in return for an Israeli soldier seized by militants in June.



"We say, an eye for an eye and a soul for a soul. There will be no security in Ashkelon, no security in Tel Aviv or Haifa, until our people in Beit Hanoun are made secure," Awad said.


Palestinian leaders have called Wednesday's attack a massacre. Some Hamas lawmakers have threatened that its armed wing would resume suicide attacks against Israel.


The Israeli army said it was targeting rocket launchers using the Beit Hanoun area as a staging ground to fire makeshift missiles at the Jewish state.


After the incident, Israel's defense minister ordered a halt to artillery fire in Gaza pending the outcome of an inquiry that was to be completed by Thursday.


Without directly referring to the inquiry, Olmert said the artillery shells had been fired in the wrong direction.


"The (intended) direction was entirely different, (toward) an orange grove where we spotted shooting seconds before. But I can't promise you that when we shoot here by some technical failure it won't go there."


The Beit Hanoun killings rallied Palestinians after months of factional infighting between Fatah and Hamas, which is dedicated to Israel's destruction.


But Damascus-based Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, urged retaliation. Hamas declared a truce in March 2005 that expired at the year-end. It has not carried out suicide bombings in Israel since 2004.


While EU said it was "appalled" by the Gaza shelling, an initial response by the United States stopped short of reprimanding Israel. Olmert is due to meet President George W. Bush in Washington on Monday.



The Beit Hanoun killings brought together the moderate Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who have been at odds over a proposal to create a unity government that might help lift a Western aid blockade.

Abbas and Meshaal later spoke by telephone, in a further sign of greater cooperation between the rival movements, suggesting progress could soon be made on a unity government.


(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem)

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Palestinians bury victims of Gaza attack


By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer


Many of the bodies were draped in the yellow flags of Fatah


BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip - Israel will keep targeting Palestinian rocket squads in Gaza despite the risk of inadvertently hitting civilians, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday, as tens of thousands of Palestinians buried 18 victims of an errant Israeli artillery strike.


Women collapsed in grief, gunmen fired in the air and a man hoisted his dead baby aloft during the funeral procession in the northern Gaza border town of Beit Hanoun, where several Israeli shells struck a residential area early Wednesday. All of the dead belonged to a single extended family.


Amid the anguish, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas picked up the phone and called his main political rival, Hamas' supreme leader Khaled Mashaal — a move that could help prevent the Islamic militant group from renewing attacks on Israel and also pave the way for a moderate Palestinian government.



Abbas and Mashaal, who lives in exile in Damascus, Syria , agreed to meet after agreement has been reached on a new government of experts, to be appointed by Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement, said a senior Palestinian official who sat in on the conversation. Both sides hope that such a government will be acceptable to the West and end a crippling international aid boycott.


Abbas had refused to talk to Mashaal since April, when the Hamas leader harshly criticized the Palestinian president in a speech. However, with violence threatening to escalate further after the Beit Hanoun strike and militants calling for revenge, he contacted Mashaal to try to lock up a coalition deal. A key sticking point is the choice of a new prime minister who has ties to Hamas, but would also be acceptable to the West.


In Jerusalem, Olmert said that while he regrets the latest deaths, Israel will press ahead with strikes against Palestinian militants firing rockets at Israeli border towns.


"The military will continue as long as there will be Qassam shooting," he said, using the name for Hamas' homemade rockets. "We are not going to stop."

"We will take precautions in order to avoid unnecessary mistakes," he said. "We will do everything in our power to avoid it. I think it would not be serious to promise that it may not happen. It may happen."


Olmert said the artillery was meant to hit an orange grove from which troops saw rockets fired seconds earlier, but instead hit homes in Beit Hanoun, some 500 meters (yards) away. A top commander said Thursday that artillery aiming devices had malfunctioned, though a formal investigation was still under way.

Beit Hanoun has been the focus of a week-long Israeli offensive meant to halt rocket the attacks. Wednesday's shelling came a day after Israeli ground forces pulled out of Beit Hanoun.


The shells landed as residents were still asleep, and witnesses said many were killed as they fled their homes in panic. The 18 dead was the highest Palestinian civilian toll in a single incident since the current conflict erupted in September 2000. The highest toll of Israeli civilians was 29 killed in a Palestinian suicide bombing at a Passover gathering in March 2002.


In Thursday's funeral, the bodies arrived at the cemetery in a convoy of 18 ambulances which drove from the local hospital through the artillery-scarred cluster of apartment buildings. Cries of "God is greater than Israel and America," punctuated by gunshots, rang out as the bodies were brought out on stretchers.


"I will avenge, I will avenge!" screamed one of the victims' relatives as he fired his weapon, voicing a common sentiment among the mourners.


"The Zionist enemy understands only the language of force and therefore I say, 'an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose,'" chanted Abdel al-Hakim Awad, a Fatah spokesman. "The residents of Sderot, the residents of Ashkelon, even the residents of Tel Aviv, are not going to enjoy security or peace as long as you are suffering, our beloved people in Beit Hanoun."


The freshly dug graves were lined up in a single row, each marked by a concrete block. A Palestinian flag fluttered over each one.

Two Israeli unmanned aircraft buzzed overhead.


All of the dead belonged to the al-Athamnas, a prominent family in town that includes several doctors and professionals. Family members said they had fled during the recent Israeli offensive, returning home after Tuesday's pullout.

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U.S. vetoes condemnation of Gaza strikes


By JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - The United States vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution Saturday that sought to condemn an Israeli military offensive in Gaza Strip and demand Israeli troops pull out of the territory.


U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the Arab-backed draft resolution was "biased aganist Israel and politically motivated."


"This resolution does not display an evenhanded characterization of the recent events in Gaza, nor does it advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace to which we aspire and for which we are working assiduously," he told the Security Council.


The draft received 10 votes in favor and four abstentions, along with the U.S. vote against. Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia all abstained.


It was the second U.S. veto this year of a Security Council draft resolution concerning Israeli military operations in Gaza. The U.S. blocked action on a document this summer after Israel launched its offensive in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked Palestinian militants.


In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the resolution was "very one-sided."


"It's good that it wasn't accepted by the Security Council," he said.


The Palestinians' Hamas-led government, however, was furious at the U.S. veto.


"This decision by the U.S. government gives unlimited cover to commit more massacres of innocent Palestinians," spokesman Ghazi Hamad said. "This is a shame on the American administration, which says it is trying to promote human rights and democracy in the Middle East."


Qatar's Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser also said the failure of the Security

Council to act on the draft will lead to continued Israeli violence against Palestinians.


"Any lukewarm reaction or response on our part gives the impression we are shirking from our humanitarian responsibilities," said Al-Nasser, who sponsored the resolution on behalf of the Palestinians. Qatar is the only Arab nation on the council.


Palestinians strengthened calls for Security Council action after an early morning Israeli artillery barrage in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun killed 19 people Wednesday.


In an open session of the General Assembly on Thursday, Mansour called the attack "state terrorism" and said the perpetrators should be held accountable under international law for war crimes.


Israel has expressed regret for the loss of life in Beit Hanoun but has said it will continue operations to stop militants from launching rockets into Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to visit Washington on Sunday to meet with President Bush.


The draft resolution had been weakened slightly in recent days to help improve its chances of passage. A section was added demanding the Palestinian Authority take immediate action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets into Israel.


It also called for the U.N. secretary-general to establish a "fact-finding mission" to probe Wednesday's attack in Beit Hanoun, a step below ordering a full investigation.


In addition, it backed off calls for U.N. observers to be placed on the Gaza-Israel border, asking instead for the "possible establishment of an international mechanism for protection of the civilian populations."



But in his remarks to the Security Council, Bolton said the draft was still too one-sided. He said it compared legal Israeli military operations with the firing of rockets into Israel — an act of terrorism. He called the fact-finding mission unnecessary and said the text failed to condemn the ruling Hamas party's refusal to renounce terrorism.

Both Bolton and Deputy British Ambassador Karen Pierce voiced support for returning to the internationally backed "road map" peace plan, which has been stalled for years.


But Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, said the fact that the council allowed the draft to go to a vote showed the world's frustration with the U.S. not involving other members of the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators in recent decisions on Israel. The other members are the U.N., the EU and Russia.


"They don't have a stake in the talks and they are more willing now to force our hand," he said. "A lot of times the world has felt (the U.S.) has been too pro-Israel, but in this case, people are just fed up."

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Palestinian factions say close to deal on new PM


By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Rival Palestinian factions were close to agreeing on Monday on a new prime minister to replace Ismail Haniyeh, but the candidate required the endorsement of President Mahmoud Abbas to be made final, officials said.


Negotiators from the Islamist group Hamas and its more moderate rival Fatah said separately they were near agreement that Mohammad Shbair, the former head of the Islamic University in Gaza, should replace Haniyeh.


Shbair was the front-runner for the nomination, but his candidacy has to be endorsed by Abbas, who heads Fatah, and it was not clear that Hamas was ready to see Shbair named until all the other members of the new cabinet were determined.


"We can say that Fatah did not give any objections. Mohammad Shbair is a candidate by Hamas, and Fatah has no objection. Therefore, he has a big chance," said Rudwan al-Akhras, a spokesman for Fatah's parliamentary bloc.


He added, however, that Abbas, who was due to travel to Jordan for a two-day visit starting on Monday, was required to formally announce the name.


Even though Hamas has proposed Shbair, an Islamist who is described as close to but not a member of Hamas, it was not willing to say he was the definitive candidate.


"It is not yet suitable to announce the name of the prime minister," Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told Reuters.


"The announcement is pending on some issues under discussion, among these issues the name of the next prime minister," he said. "When all these issues are finalized, and we hope that would happen very soon, we will be able to declare the government, the prime minister and the agenda to the people."


Palestinians hope a new prime minister and a unity government will ease Western sanctions.

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But it was an accident!! :dozey:


Accidents happen, sadly but thats life. When a accident happens by Israel innocent palestinians die along with guilty ones(sometimes), yet when innocent Israeli's die, its a success for the palestinians....:\ see the moral high ground? ONe sides accidents is another sides victory


My point one goes out to kill innocents, the other goes out to get the guilty. One sides goal is another sides accident.

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How can steamrolling into villages and killing everyone (including women and children) be an accident? Especially with Israel's sophisticated army. America could have at least condemned this' date=' it wouldn't have taken much effort?[/quote']


Accidents happen war. the sophistication of their army has limited the amount of innocent dead by far but not all. No matter how sophisticated the miitary becomes their will still be a few innocent people who die, sad but its better then the ways use to be where many more innocent people would die


Palestine could live in peace and have a good economy if they'd let it happen, the majority and their obsession with kicking out the jews and taking land keep that from happening. Alot of them and leaders would rather spend most their time and money on destroying israel then working for peace and the better good of the people. As long as the corrupt run a war the majority will pay the price. Israel did not start this nor can they stop it until the palestinian side wants to. They're are reaping what they sow and sadly innocent people on both sides are caught in the middle. That is why i support Israel, they have done wrong, but they are in the right. They are fighting for survival while the other side is fighting to take land.

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Accidents happen war. the sophistication of their army has limited the amount of innocent dead by far but not all. No matter how sophisticated the miitary becomes their will still be a few innocent people who die, sad but its better then the ways use to be where many more innocent people would die


Palestine could live in peace and have a good economy if they'd let it happen, the majority and their obsession with kicking out the jews and taking land keep that from happening. Alot of them and leaders would rather spend most their time and money on destroying israel then working for peace and the better good of the people. As long as the corrupt run a war the majority will pay the price. Israel did not start this nor can they stop it until the palestinian side wants to. They're are reaping what they sow and sadly innocent people on both sides are caught in the middle. That is why i support Israel, they have done wrong, but they are in the right. They are fighting for survival while the other side is fighting to take land.


What? Are you kidding us?


You said that firing 13 shells on civilians was an accident, if it's one shell maybe we say it's an accident but 13. It's ridiculous .


They Zionists thugs said that the shells missed it's goal about 500 meters:dozey:

If by the all these tech they missed the goal by 500 meters what about the others armies, sure they will missed their goals about 500 KM.


Shame to believe in this

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You would have us believe the palestinians are innocent victim and Israel the evil agressor' date=' when the palestinians kill many innocent out of hatred and many israeli's are killed because of hate.....[/quote']


Israeli killed because of hate


What's hate?

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Israel presses Gaza operation, kills 2 Palestinians


By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli forces killed two Palestinians in northern Gaza on Thursday, a day after the government decided to press on with raids but not order a massive assault in response to daily rocket attacks.


On the Palestinian political front, sources from the ruling Hamas Islamist movement said Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had met President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah in Gaza, a sign that unity government negotiations were back on track.


Hamas sources described the meeting as "positive" but did not elaborate. Unity talks aimed at lifting Western sanctions were suspended on Monday partly because of disputes over distribution of cabinet seats.


An Israeli airstrike killed a militant east of the Jabalya refugee camp, hospital officials said. The army said it was checking the report.


Residents said troops backed by tanks earlier thrust into the town of Beit Lahiya. Tanks firing machineguns stormed a housing project, killing a 19-year-old male civilian, hospital officials


Israel said troops were operating in suburbs around Beit Lahiya, but denied forces were in densely populated areas.


At least six Palestinians were wounded in other incidents, hospital officials said. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded by anti-tank missiles, the army said.


Residents said it was one of the biggest raids into Beit Lahiya since Israel launched an offensive in late June after gunmen, including Hamas members, abducted a soldier in a cross-border raid from Gaza.




Militants fire rockets from northern Gaza at Israeli towns and villages. Rockets killed two Israelis in the past week.


Israel has killed more than 370 Palestinians in Gaza, about half of them civilians, since it began the offensive, hospital officials and residents say. Three soldiers have been killed.


Israel has said the raids would not stop until the soldier, Gilad Shalit, was freed and rocket attacks stopped.


In a sign of possible progress in efforts to arrange an exchange of Palestinian prisoners in Israel for Shalit, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrived in Cairo on Thursday to discuss Egyptian mediation efforts for a swap, a Hamas official said.


Meshaal lives in exile in Damascus.


Some Israeli ministers had wanted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to approve tougher action to halt rocket attacks from Gaza.


But a large-scale offensive holds political risks for Olmert, whose popularity plummeted after Israel failed to crush Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas in a July-August war.


The security cabinet ordered the military to prepare plans for a broader operation.



Palestinian militants say the rockets are a response to Israeli assaults.


Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers quit Gaza more than a year ago after 38 years of occupation.


Palestinians hope a unity government will lead to the lifting of a Western embargo imposed on the Hamas government because of the group's refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.


Hamas took office in March after trouncing the once dominant Fatah in parliamentary elections.

(Additional reporting by Corinne Heller in Jerusalem and Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Damascus)

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Palestinian rockets hit Israel in threat to fledgling ceasefire


by Sakher Abu El Oun

GAZA CITY (AFP) - Israel has ordered restraint after Palestinian militants fired a salvo of rockets at the Jewish state, violating a fledgling ceasefire less than two hours after it took effect in the Gaza Strip.


The rocket strike threatened the ceasefire agreement that came into effect at dawn and in which militants promised to halt rocket attacks in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the impoverished coastal territory.


The Israeli army completed its withdrawal from Gaza shortly after dawn, a military spokeswoman said Sunday.


The armed wings of the ruling Islamist Hamas movement and the radical

Islamic Jihad, both of which signed on to the ceasefire accord, each claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks which hit the Israeli town of Sderot shortly before 8:00 am (0600 GMT), causing no casualties.


The attacks, which were condemned by both the Hamas-led government and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, marked an inauspicious start to the ceasefire which came into play at 6:00 am (0400 GMT).


But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, vowing restraint and patience in the coming days, said he had ordered the army not to respond to the attacks.


"We will show restraint and patience in order to give the ceasefire a chance," said Olmert, speaking at the inauguration of a school in the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel.


"I took into account the possibility that ceasefires do not materialize immediately to their fullest extent without any violations," he added. "There are violations of the ceasefire on the Palestinian side, but I instructed the security establishment not to respond."


Olmert said he was optimistic the ceasefire would soon be extended to include the West Bank.


Abbas condemned the rocket attacks and ordered Palestinian security forces to deploy across the northern Gaza Strip to prevent further violations of the ceasefire, according to senior Palestinian security officials in Gaza.


Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, meanwhile, insisted the ceasefire agreement stood and said the circumstances surrounding the morning's rocket strikes were being reviewed.


"There is a renewed commitment to the (ceasefire) agreement," Haniya told reporters in Gaza City after speaking with faction leaders. "We call on all to respect and help prevent any violations of this agreement which all the factions and forces have agreed to."


Despite his reassurances, however, Islamic Jihad renounced the ceasefire after Israel launched fresh operations in the West Bank overnight, a spokesman for the group's armed wing Suraya al-Quds told AFP.


"This morning there were incursions in (the northern West Bank city of) Jenin and also arrests," said Abu Ahmed. "We will not abide any ceasefire as long as the Zionist enemy does not totally adhere to it as well."


Under the ceasefire accord Palestinian militant groups were to stop firing rockets at Israel from dawn Sunday, with Israel in exchange promising to halt military operations and withdraw from the Palestinian territory.


The Palestinian Authority and Israel agreed to the ceasefire after a phone conversation between Olmert and Abbas, during which Abbas told the Israeli premier that the Palestinian factions were willing to stop firing rockets, according to Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.


In exchange, Israel promised to "respond favorably" and withdraw its forces which were mostly deployed in northern Gaza in a bid to combat the rocket fire, according to the army.



The United States welcomed the ceasefire agreement as a step toward peace.

"We welcome the announcement and see this as a positive step forward," said White House spokesman Alex Conant. "We hope that it leads to less violence for the Israeli and Palestinian people."


The five-month offensive in Gaza to counter Palestinian rocket attacks, which have become a near daily event since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, has taken a hefty toll.


More than 400 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers have been killed since the military launched a massive counter-offensive in late June aimed at rescuing a captured soldier and ending the constant rocket menace.

But Israel has conceded it is helpless to stop the homemade projectiles from striking Israel. Although the rockets are inaccurate and rarely cause casualties, in the past two weeks they have killed two Israelis.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hamas says Abbas seeks war


By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - The ruling Hamas group accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah of starting a war after his security forces opened fire on Friday on a Hamas rally in the West Bank and firefights broke out in Gaza.


"What a war Mahmoud Abbas you are launching, first against God, and then against Hamas," senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya told a Gaza City rally of 100,000 Hamas supporters, who chanted "God is Greatest" and fired guns into the air.


At least 32 Hamas supporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah were wounded by gunfire from Abbas's forces, hospital officials said. Several were in critical condition.


Tensions were at their highest in a decade and followed months of failed talks to form a unity government between the ruling Hamas Islamist faction and Abbas's once-dominant Fatah.


Hayya said Hamas would not agree to holding an early election or a referendum on the issue, a move that Abbas could announce in a speech planned for Saturday in an attempt to break the political deadlock. Hayya did not say what Hamas would do if Abbas made such a dramatic announcement.


The fresh violence broke out after Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Authority accused a Fatah strongman and Abbas's presidential guard of trying to kill Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.


Although Israel was not involved in the latest fighting, its decision -- with U.S. backing -- to prevent Haniyeh from entering Gaza with $35 million intensified the standoff in which Haniyeh's convoy came under fire late on Thursday.


"We know who opened fire (on Haniyeh's convoy) and they will be punished hard. From now on they will never relax and they will never sleep tight in their homes," said Hamas leader and Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar.


One of Haniyeh's bodyguards was killed in the incident at Rafah on Thursday. Another bodyguard, the prime minister's son and a political adviser were wounded.


Hayya's comments was Hamas's strongest personal attack yet against Abbas.

Friday's fighting in the occupied West Bank was the fiercest since Hamas came to power in March after trouncing Fatah in January elections.


Outside Ramallah's main mosque, Hamas supporters taunted Abbas's security forces. "You look like Israeli soldiers. You are spies," they shouted.


Dressed in riot gear, the Fatah-dominated forces used clubs and rifle-butts to beat back the Hamas demonstrators before shooting broke out.

At about the same time, Hamas and Fatah forces in Gaza opened fire on each other on the streets. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.


Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan singled out by name Fatah strongman and lawmaker, Mohammed Dahlan, as being behind the shooting attack late on Thursday on Haniyeh's convoy as it was leaving the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.


He called on Abbas to remove his presidential guard from the streets.

Dahlan said on Al Arabiya television that the accusations "are not worth answering." He blamed Hamas "gangs" for the violence, which has surged since unidentified militants shot dead three young sons of an intelligence official loyal to Abbas outside the boys' school early this week.


"It (Hamas) is pouring oil on the fire," said Abdel-Hakim Awad, a spokesman for Fatah in Gaza.


Abbas still plans on Saturday to outline his options in the wake of months of failed talks with Hamas to form a unity government, Palestinian officials said.

Some Abbas aides say he might announce he has no choice but to call a referendum on elections, although he may not set any dates and leave the door open to fresh talks. Abbas might also decide emotions are too high, and refrain from overt threats.


"Mohammed Dahlan bears the direct responsibility for the assassination attempt which targeted the prime minister and he bears responsibility for the blood of the martyrs in the incident," Rudwan told a news conference in Gaza.


Rudwan offered no evidence of Dahlan's involvement.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah)

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  • 1 month later...

Hamas, Fatah declare new cease-fire


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Warring Hamas and Fatah factions in Gaza declared a cease-fire early Tuesday and said it would take effect within hours.


Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas said the truce would go into effect at 3 a.m. local time. He spoke after a meeting between Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and a representative of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, with the participation of Egyptian mediators. They flanked him during his statement.


Zahar said clashes that have taken more than 60 lives are to halt, security forces are to return to their bases and suspects in killings are to be handed over. As he spoke, gunfire could still be heard in Gaza City.

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  • 1 month later...

Palestinian PM unveils unity team


_42684497_leaders203ap.jpg Haniya (L) hopes the deal will start a new chapter for Palestinians


Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has unveiled a national unity cabinet after months of negotiations between his Hamas movement and Fatah.



The key posts of finance, interior and foreign ministers will go to men who are not members of Hamas or Fatah.


The list will be submitted to parliament on Saturday for approval.


Israeli officials have criticised the new government's platform which they say does not contradict Hamas's core principle of not recognising Israel.


US and European Union officials say they are waiting for the final outcome of the unity talks before deciding whether to lift economic sanctions imposed on the outgoing Hamas-led government.


Key tests


Israeli officials have made it clear they see the agreement as a step backwards, as it does not address their demands that the new government recognise Israel and sign up to past Israeli-Palestinian deals.



"It is difficult to see anything positive in this," an official told the BBC.

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says the unity deal has had a difficult birth and there is still deep mistrust between Hamas and Fatah, the two factions whose bitter rivalry brought the Palestinians to the brink of civil war.


"We hope that this government will mark the start of a new era and enable us to turn the page," Mr Haniya told journalists after handing the list to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, of the rival Fatah faction.

Mr Haniya said if the Palestinian parliament approved the cabinet list, as it is expected to do, the ministers could go straight to Mr Abbas to be sworn in so the government could start work.



The key position of interior minister is being given to an independent academic, Hani Kawasmi.


Analysts say the main test he faces will be over whether he can impose control over Hamas and Fatah military chiefs who currently exercise huge power and autonomy.

The test for the incoming finance minister, Salam Fayyad, will be to reverse a trend in which money has flowed to the Hamas-led government through unofficial channels, because of the international boycott.

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  • 10 months later...

Israeli blockade deepens hardship in Gaza

Mon Jan 21, 2008 5:15am EST


By Nidal al-Mughrabi


GAZA (Reuters) - Gaza hospitals will run out of drugs and fuel for generators within a few days unless Israel eases the border blockade it imposed to curb Palestinian rocket attacks, international organizations said on Monday.


Residents of the Hamas-controlled territory awoke to nearly traffic-free streets and shuttered shops, with petrol in short supply due to Israeli restrictions and

Gaza's main power plant shut down since late on Sunday.


Palestinian officials have warned the standoff could harm U.S.-spurred efforts with Israel to reach a peace deal this year.


"There is no fuel, meaning there is no work," said Abu Mahmoud, a fisherman.

"We have seen bad times before, but never worse than these days."


Michele Mercier, an ICRC spokeswoman, said the organization was trying to persuade Israel to reopen Gaza's borders at least to humanitarian supplies and fuel deliveries.


She said the ICRC was monitoring the situation in Gaza's hospitals closely. European Union officials said the EU was pressing Israel to allow it to resume supplies of industrial fuel oil to the shuttered power plant as early as Tuesday.


"They (hospital) still have stocks but it won't last for more than two or three days," Mercier said. "If no more stocks are available, you can imagine what it means for the treatment of wounded and ... everyday medical care would be affected."


The EU officials said the hospitals, many now using generators, were running out of fuel to keep the power on.


Khaled Radi, spokesman of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, said many hospitals were performing only emergency surgery.

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to around 1.5 million people, has also stopped U.N. aid shipments that include food and other humanitarian supplies.


But UNRWA, which provides food to refugees, estimated it had two months' worth of supplies stored in Gaza.


Israel has said the blockade would end if militants halted rocket launchings.

"There is not a humanitarian crisis. It's not correct. Certainly, Israel will do everything in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis," said Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defence Ministry official, accusing Palestinians of waging a propaganda campaign.




European Union-funded fuel for the power plant is being held in storage at the Nahal Oz crossing, awaiting Israel's decision on resuming supplies. Once Israel authorizes the transfer of the fuel, it will take more than 12 hours for the plant to begin operating, the officials said.


"If the Qassam (rocket) fire on Israel does not stop, Israel will continue with its pressure on Gaza," Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Army Radio. "It is illogical for a country that is attacked by rockets to supply the attacker with power, fuel and water," he said.


Despite its tough public line, Israel has not cut off its direct supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip. Egypt also provides power, to the southern part of the territory.


While Gaza's power plant provides only 30 percent of the territory's electricity, its shutdown is affecting a far greater proportion of the population because of the way the power grid system works.


Gaza City, home to nearly half of the strip's residents, receives almost all of its electricity from the shuttered power plant.


(Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Adam Entous, Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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