Friday, January 16, 2009

In Washington, Livni and Rice sign the MOU on curbing arms smuggling, aimed at facilitating Israel’s acceptance of the EgyptHamas cease-fire offer (see 1/15). Anonymous Israeli military officials state that OCL is “in its final act.”

Combat notes: Early in the day, the IDF pulls back to the outskirts of Gaza City (with reports indicating that Tal al-Hawa has been devastated), but fighting intensifies again in the evening. Intensified IDF ground operations under cover of air strikes and heavy shelling are reported on the outskirts of Khan Yunis. The IDF reports hitting more than 50 targets during the day, including 15 rocket-launching sites, 13 groups of armed men, 4 suspected weapons depots, 2 smuggling tunnels, at least 1 mosque, Hamas’s Asda’ media center outside Khan Yunis (previously hit on 12/27). Air strike target areas include Bani Suhayla, Bayt Lahiya, alBureij r.c., the al-Fukhari area, Gaza City (al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa; al-Tuffah), Izbat ‘Abid Rabbuh, Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis (white phosphorous suspected), alNasser (n. of Rafah), Rafah, the al-Satar al-Gharbi area (nr. Khan Yunis), and the alTannour area (e. of Rafah). Artillery and tank fire are reported in Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah (white phosphorous suspected), Gaza City (city center and al-Sudaniyya, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya town, Khan Yunis, al-Qarara, al-Shuka, Twam, Wadi alSilqa (white phosphorous suspected). Naval bombardments center on open areas w. of Khan Yunis and in the al-Mawasi area, and in s. Rafah. Ground engagements are reported in Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, the al-Fukhari area and nearby Ma’an, Gaza City, al-Mughraqa, al-Zahra’. At least 3 ambulances are hit trying to evacuate the dead and wounded in clashes in central Gaza nr. Shuhada junction and in al-Mughraqa.

In a highly publicized incident, IDF tank shells hit a Gaza City home, killing 4 young girls (3 sisters, 1 cousin). Father of the 3 sisters, Izzeddin Abu al-Aish, a prominent Gazan doctor who appears regularly as a commentator on Israeli TV, phones ITV channel 10’s live broadcast to beg for medical assistance for his injured family, reports that his daughters are dead. In addition, an IDF air strike targets a home receiving condolence visits in Gaza City’s al-Shuja‘iyya neighborhood, killing 10 Palestinians, wounding 7. Another air strike on a home in al-Bureij r.c. kills a mother and her 5 children, ages 7–15. Gazan medical officials put the Palestinian toll at 1,140 dead, more than 5,100 wounded (470 in serious condition).

Palestinians fire 22 rockets and 5 mortars into Israel. Areas hit include Ashdod and Kiryat Gat (where at least 3 Israelis are injured, 1 seriously).

Humanitarian notes: The IDF allows up to 109 trucks of humanitarian aid entry to Gaza during the 4-hr. lull. (AFP, AP, IDF, IFM, ITV, MA, MM, REU, XIN, Zaman 1/16; IFM, NYT, WP, WT, XIN 1/17; NYT 1/18; AY, DUS, ITIC, MM 1/19; PCHR, WT 1/22; PCHR 1/29; ITV, MM 2/4; NYT 2/5)

The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Jenin, Nablus; fires rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians who attend nonviolent demonstrations against OCL following Friday prayers in Hebron (injuring 4) and neighboring Bayt Umar (injuring 3), Issawiyya (injuring 4); fires live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists taking part in weekly nonviolent protests against the separation wall in Bil‘in (injuring 5 Palestinians, 4 with live ammunition); fires rubber-coated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists taking part in weekly nonviolent protests against the separation wall in Ni‘lin (injuring 12 Palestinians, including 7 children). In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces beat and fire rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians protesting against OCL nr. al-Aqsa Mosque (injuring 1) and in Ras al-Amud neighborhood (injuring 1). (PCHR 1/22)