Friday, January 9, 2009

The Israeli security cabinet reportedly begins internal debate on opening phase 3 of OCL, which would involve deep incursions into Gaza’s built-up areas to deal a crushing blow to Hamas. Israeli military and intelligence sources warn that the new goal would require deep, sustained incursions into Gaza’s densely populated areas, likely resulting in months of combat and heavy casualties.

Combat notes: Heavy IDF aerial, naval, and ground assaults across Gaza continue. The IDF reports carrying out more than 110 air strikes, in many cases to support troops battling on the ground. Targets include 20 “terror operatives” (possibly assassinations), more than a dozen rocket-launching sites and squads, more than 20 suspected weapons depots (including homes of 3 Hamas mbrs.) and other outposts, at least 10 homes and 1 apartment building, 2 tunnels on the Rafah border, a market in Bayt Lahiya, 1 ESF post in Gaza City, a mosque in Dayr al-Balah. Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr alBalah, Gaza City (city center and al-Nasser, Shaykh Ridwan), Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis, Khuza, Nussayrat, al-Qarara, Rafah, Shati’ r.c., open areas in central Gaza.

At least 1 air strike on a residential area e. of Jabaliya involves white phosphorous munitions that cause extensive fire damage to 4 homes. Another air strike hits the rooftop of a Gaza City building housing the offices of some 20 international press agencies, destroying broadcasting equipment and wounding 1 journalist.

IDF ground forces take up new positions in Juhur al-Dik and al-Mughraqa in c. Gaza, and al-Shuka in s. Gaza (bulldozing 13 homes). Heavy tank and artillery fire are reported in Bayt Lahiya, Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Shuja‘iyya, alTuffah, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya. Heavy closequarter combat is reported in Gaza City and nr. Bayt Lahiya, with Palestinians firing antitank weapons and mortars and sniping at ground troops, moderately wounding 1 IDF soldier and lightly wounding 7.

Palestinians also fire 30 rockets and 1 mortar into Israel (including several Grads that hit Ashqelon), causing no reported damage or injuries.

At least 35 Palestinians are killed during the day, bringing the estimated Palestinian toll to around 795 dead and 3,300 wounded.

Humanitarian notes: The UN and other relief groups resume humanitarian aid transfers after receiving assurances fr. the Israeli government that they will not be targeted. During today’s 3-hr. humanitarian lull, Israel allows 41 trucks carrying food and medicine into the Strip. (Committee to Protect Journalists, Daily News, IDF, MA, MM, YA 1/9; IDF, NYT, WT, WP 1/10; NYT 1/11; PCHR 1/15)

Israel seals the West Bank through 1/10 citing unspecified security concerns. The IDF fires rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades at Palestinians demonstrating against OCL after Friday prayers in Bayt Umar nr. Hebron (injuring 2), Hawara s. of Nablus, Hebron (injuring 4), Issawiyya, Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem; also fires rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists attending weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the separation wall in Bil‘in (injuring 3 Palestinians, arresting 5), Jayyus (injuring 9, including 2 wounded by live ammunition, which is not used at the other rallies), Ni‘lin (injuring 5 Palestinians); conducts late-night house searches in Azmut nr. Nablus. Jewish settlers fr. Shilo nr. Ramallah beat and fire on 2 Palestinians collecting water at a well nr. the settlement, wounding 1. (IDF 1/9; PCHR 1/15)