Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The IDF significantly increases attacks on Gaza for the 2d straight day, as international mediation efforts led by Egypt to secure a cease-fire also intensify.

Combat notes: The IDF tightens the cordon around Gaza City (focusing attacks on the outlying neighborhoods of Shaykh Ajlin, Tal al-Hawa, and al-Zaytun and open areas n. of the city), with troops reportedly taking fire from Palestinian rocket-propelled grenade antitank missiles and mortars. The IDF also launches a major incursion into Jabaliya under heavy shelling, engaging in heavy exchanges of fire with Palestinian gunmen, killing at least 13. In s. Gaza, the IDF continues heavy attacks on Khuza, including air strikes, intense shelling, and widespread bulldozing of some 50 houses and farms; Israeli fire is so heavy and constant that residents report being unable to reach the injured or flee their homes to seek shelter outside the village; IDF troops pull back fr. Khuza after nightfall.

The IDF reports carrying out more than 160 air strikes across Gaza. Air strike target areas include Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (al-Sabra, Shaykh Ridwan, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya r.c., Khan Yunis, Khuza, Nussayrat r.c., Rafah, al-Shuka, Tal al-Za‘atar, and the Twam area. Israeli gunboats shell Nussayrat r.c. Heavy tank and artillery fire are reported nr. Bayt Lahiya (white phosphorous suspected) and in Dayr al-Balah, Jabaliya town, Khan Yunis (white phosphorous suspected), Khuza, Nussayrat r.c. (confirmed use of flechette shells). For a 2d day, nearly half of the air strikes take place after nightfall, targeting Gaza City. Palestinians report 12 hrs. of constant Israeli bombardment of the Rafah border, with the IDF claiming to destroy 90 smuggling tunnels. (The IDF also demolishes 1 tunnel on the Gaza–Israel border nr. the Nahal Oz crossing.) Specific targets include a Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, 31 groups of armed men, 25 rocket-launching sites, and 13 suspected weapons manufacturing and storage facilities.

On the ground, the IDF reports a total of 6 soldiers wounded (2 moderately, 4 lightly) in 2 exchanges of gunfire with Palestinians. In a 3d incident, IDF reservists open fire on an IDF paratrooper unit, seriously wounding 1 and moderately wounding 3. Palestinians report around 70 Gazans killed today, putting the estimated Palestinian toll at 971 dead and 4,400 wounded. The Israeli toll stands at 13–14 dead, more than 125 injured. (Israeli military intelligence confirms that 1 soldier killed on 1/6 or 1/8 was targeted by a suicide bomber, stating that several Palestinian suicide bombers, including some women and some dressed as IDF soldiers, have approached combat units.)

Palestinians fire about 11 rockets and 6 mortars into Israel, causing no reported damage or injuries.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF observes another 3-hr. lull, allowing 102 truckloads of aid into Gaza. (The IDF states that 1,028 truckloads of humanitarian goods have been allowed into Gaza since 12/27.) During the lull the ICRC rescues 100 Palestinians trapped in Jabaliya. Heavy IDF attacks in Rafah force UNRWA to close a medical center just n. of the border to ensure the safety of patients and to open more shelters for displaced residents. Human Rights Watch calls Israel’s 3-hr./day breaks to facilitate humanitarian aid “woefully insufficient.” Other aid groups (including Doctors Without Borders, the ICRC, the UN) complain that they are still able to import and distribute only a fraction of the emergency supplies available for Gaza because of Israeli delays and restrictions. (BBC, HA, IDF, IFM, MA, MM, REU, YA 1/13; AYM, IDF, IFM, MM, NYT, WP, WT, YA 1/14; NYT, PCHR, WP, XIN 1/15; ITIC 1/19)

In the West Bank, IDF troops at the Tarqumiyya crossing nr. Hebron fatally shoot a Palestinian who allegedly attempts to grab the gun of a border patrol officer after being denied permission to cross the checkpoint. Late in the evening, the IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in Bayt Awa, Dura, and Kafr Khalil (all nr. Hebron). A Jewish settler driving nr. Azun village e. of Qalqilya opens fire on Palestinian youths who stone his car, killing 1 Palestinian teenager, wounding 2. (HA 1/13; PCHR 1/15)

A Jordanian soldier fires on an Israeli border patrol unit operating along the Negev border with Jordan n. of Elat. The border police return fire. No injuries are reported. (MM 1/13; WT 1/14; JPI 1/23)