Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The IDF expands Operation Summer Rains overnight, sending 50 tanks, troops back into n. Gaza in and around Gaza City, engaging in intense clashes with and conducting air strikes on Palestinian gunmen, leaving at least 7 Hamas mbrs., 5 Islamic Jihad mbrs., 9 civilians dead, at least 57 Palestinians wounded, bulldozing wide tracts of land. In at least 3 incidents in Jabaliya r.c., the IDF phones Hamas mbrs. warning them to evacuate their houses, then conducts air strikes destroying the homes. The IDF also closes the Qarni crossing. Palestinians fire 13 rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, lightly injuring 1 Israeli in Sederot. In the West Bank, the IDF sends undercover units in a car with Palestinian license plates into Kafr Qadim nr. Qalqilya, surrounds a home, evacuates and checks residents, demolishes the home, arrests 1 Palestinian, injures 1; bars a Palestinian heart attack victim fr. crossing a checkpoint to reach a Qalqilya hospital, allowing him to die; patrols, searches cars in Yatta nr. Hebron; conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Hebron, and in al-Fara‘a r.c. nr. Jenin, Nablus. In Rafah, a Palestinian is killed in an exchange of fire btwn. PA security forces, armed Palestinians. Israeli security sources reveal that Israeli-Canadian citizen Falah, arrested on 7/8 and held without access to a lawyer, was detained for photographing a military antenna nr. Ras al-Naqura, alleging that he was sent “to photograph and report where rockets have landed in Israel,” noting that he visited Beirut, Tehran within the last 2 yrs.; Falah, who was arrested before Hizballah’s 7/12 cross-border raid and the firing of rockets into Israel, said the photos were for academic purposes, he did not know the antenna was military, and his trips to Lebanon, Iran were public knowledge. (REU, NYT, WP 7/26; NYT, WP, WT 7/26; PCHR 7/27; OCHA 8/2; PCHR 8/3)

The IDF faces intense fighting in s. Lebanon, where some 100 Hizballah mbrs. ambush an elite IDF Golani Brigade unit in Bint Jubayl, pinning them down for 1 hr. under a heavy barrage of mortars, antitank rounds, RPGs, and small-arms fire before they could return fire, killing 8 IDF soldiers, wounding at least 22; the IDF estimates that it killed around 20 Hizballah mbrs. A 9th IDF soldier is killed, 5 are wounded by antitank fire in clashes nr. Maroun al-Ras. Meanwhile, the IDF continues air strikes nr. Beirut and in s. Lebanon, including hitting an Amal command center and the Hizballah headquarters in Tyre. In Anjar nr. the Syrian border, a truck carrying emergency food, medical supplies donated by the UAE (see 7/18) is hit, killing the Syrian driver. Hizballah fires around 150 rockets into Israel, striking Carmiel, Haifa, Jish, Safad, Tiberias. Israel allows 2 Jordanian military transports carrying humanitarian aid to land at Beirut airport, though it still will not provide safety guarantees for trucks transporting the supplies southward on the coastal highway or across the border fr. Syria, where relief goods for 20,000 people have been stockpiled. The UN moves 5 convoys of supplies (containing wheat, soap, diapers, water purification tablets, medical kits) to the south on 5 routes approved for one-time use by the IDF. (NYT, WP, WT 7/27)