Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sarkozy and Mubarak, with U.S. support, jointly call for an immediate ceasefire followed by talks on Israel’s siege and Palestinian smuggling.

Combat notes: IDF ground forces expand operations in s. Gaza overnight, surrounding Khan Yunis (taking up positions in Abasan and al-Qarara, where heavy artillery fire is reported). Fighting intensifies in and around Gaza City, with the IDF tightening its cordon around the city and making forays into built-up areas for the first time. Heavy exchanges are also reported on the edges of the Dayr al-Balah and al-Bureij r.c.s in c. Gaza. IDF air and naval bombardments continue, with the IDF reporting strikes on 40 targets, including 8 smuggling tunnels, more than 10 groups of gunmen, 16 suspected weapons storage and production facilities, 5 rocketlaunching sites. Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Rimal, al-Tuffah, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya r.c., Juhur al-Dik, Khan Yunis, al-Maghazi, Nussayrat, al-Qarara, Rafah, Shati’ r.c., Yibna r.c. One IDF air strike targets the home of Hamas’s chief rocket engineer Imad Siyam; Israel claims he is assassinated, but there is no independent confirmation.

In the single deadliest attack since OCL began, a mortar attack by IDF ground forces in Jabaliya hits outside at an UNRWA school being used as a shelter, killing 42 Palestinians and wounding around 55 civilians (15 critically; 1 of whom dies on 1/12, bringing the comprehensive toll in this attack to 43). The dead include 2 wanted Hamas mbrs. passing through the area and 40 civilians in and around the school, including 16 children (most of whom were lined up outside the building as UN workers registered their entry). Another IDF airstrike on a residential area of al-Bureij r.c. injures 7 UN workers at a medical clinic.

Palestinians fire 30 rockets and 5 mortars into Israel, including 1 Grad rocket that lands in Gadera, 28 mi. n. of Gaza, lightly injuring a 3-mo.-old Israeli child and marking the farthest rocket strike to date.

At least 85 Palestinians are killed during the day, bringing the toll to around 640 Palestinians killed, 2,900 injured; 1 IDF soldier is killed, 9 are wounded in clashes with Palestinians, bringing the Israeli toll to 10–11 dead.

Humanitarian notes: Israel says it will open “humanitarian corridors” into Gaza beginning 1/7 to prevent a humanitarian crisis, halting attacks for 3 hrs. every other day (in practice, they occur daily) in predetermined areas where Palestinians could receive needed food and supplies. Save the Children warns that Gazan children are at particular risk for hypothermia because there is no electricity or fuel to provide heat in the freezing cold, and many families are keeping windows open to prevent injuries if they shatter during Israeli bombing raids. (AP, AYM, BBC, Dept. of State press release, HA, IFM, ITV, JAZ, REU, WP 1/6; AYM, Hurriyet, JAZ, MM, NYT, QA, RFM, RIA, WP, WT 1/7; IFM, MM, NYT, PCHR, QA, WJW, WP 1/8; MM, YA 1/9; NYT 1/11, 1/12; JP 1/14; NYT 1/17; HA 1/21; WP 2/7)