Monday, December 29, 2008

As Israel continues widespread air and naval bombardment of Gaza for a 3d day, Israeli DM Barak declares “all-out war” on Hamas. The IDF declares a 2-mi. buffer zone around the Strip a closed military zone and continues amassing tanks and troops there, indicating further preparations for a ground invasion. Israeli military officials speaking anonymously say they have expanded the IDF’s target list to include Hamas’s support network and symbols of Hamas power, stating that “there are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorists against Israel” and that “anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target.”

Israeli actions: The IDF reports hitting 100 sites today, including more Islamic University buildings (including the engineering dept., library); homes and offices of Hamas leaders; PA government buildings (including the Interior Min., Finance Min., Foreign Min., Labor Min., Construction and Housing Min., and a PA presidential guest house); Bani Suhayla’s municipal building; the alZawiyya Mosque in Jabaliya r.c. and Omar Bin al-Khattab Mosque in al-Bureij r.c.; more civil and naval police stations; more tunnels along the Rafah border; the headquarters of Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV; Gaza’s port (for a 2d day); and 1 Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades training site. Target areas include Abasan, Bani Suhayla, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (city center, al-Rimal, al-Sabra, Shaykh Ajlin, Tal al-Hawa), Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis, Nussayrat r.c., al-Qarara, Rafah, Shati’ r.c., Tal al-Za‘atar. Just before strikes on Rafah, Israeli Military Intelligence makes 10,000 automated calls to Rafah residents warning of pending air strikes, breaks into Palestinian radio broadcasts to urge residents across Gaza to move to city centers. Palestinian medical officials report at least 364 Palestinians dead, 1,500 wounded since 12/27.

Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 66 rockets, 14 mortars into Israel (twice as many as in the previous 24 hrs.), killing 3 Israeli civilians (1 each in Nahal Oz, Ashdod, Ashqelon; 1 of them an Israeli Palestinian) and wounding 5 (3 of them Israeli Palestinians), with 2 rockets hitting 23 mi. north in Gan Yavne/Ashdod. A Palestinian mortar hits an IDF base in Netivot, s. and e. of the Nahal Oz crossing, killing 1 IDF soldier (a Druze), seriously wounding 1, lightly injuring 4. The Israeli toll stands at 4–5 dead, about 20 injured. Reports circulate (e.g., NYT 12/30) of Hamas gunmen executing at least 5 accused collaborators with Israel inside hospitals; the 5 had been jailed for collaboration and transferred to hospitals after being wounded in IDF air strikes on jails.

Humanitarian notes: Israel allows 40 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza; Egypt allows 23 truckloads of emergency goods in, some wounded out through Rafah. International aid groups (including Amnesty International, the UN) say aid transfers are insufficient, warn that the death toll is rising in part because of lack of medicines and medical supplies, food, and fuel.

Of note: One Israeli air strike heavily damages the UN Special Coordinator’s Office (UNSCO) headquarters in Gaza City, prompting the UN to issue a formal complaint. Egyptian TV reports that captured IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit has been wounded in an Israeli air strike in recent days; Hamas does not comment. (BBC, CNN, HA, Houston Chronicle, IFM, REU, White House press briefing, YA 12/29; BBC, IDF, Independent, NYT, WP, WT 12/30; IDF, UNOSAT 12/31; JP, PCHR, WJW 1/1; ITV 1/2; IDF 1/3; NYT, WP 1/4; WT, UNOSAT 1/5; IFM 1/8; Committee to Protect Journalists 1/9)

In the West Bank, the IDF fires rubbercoated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas at Palestinians demonstrating against OCL in Issawiyya, Shu‘fat r.c., al-Tur neighborhood in East Jerusalem, causing no serious injuries; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in East Tura village nr. Jenin, Hebron. (PCHR 1/1)