Thursday, January 8, 2009

The UNSC passes (14–0, with the U.S. abstaining) res. 1860, calling for an “immediate, durable, and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza” but not outlining an implementation or enforcement mechanism (see Doc. A8). Israel says it will not halt its operations until a Hamas cease-fire can be guaranteed. Meanwhile, Egypt begins intensive bilateral talks with Israeli and Hamas envoys to mediate a cease-fire.

Combat notes: The IDF carries out another 60 air strikes across Gaza, with heavy bombing of the Rafah border. Targets include more than 18 homes of senior IQB members (all believed to be in hiding), “a number of armed operatives” assassinated (not named), several groups of armed men, 15 tunnels (including some homes believed to be covering entrances to tunnels), 11 suspected weapons depots (including 1 mosque in n. Gaza), 15 rocket-launching sites, the PASF headquarters and PA Youth and Sports Min. offices in Rafah, and an Islamic Jihad office in Abasan. Target areas include Abasan, Bani Suhayla, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (city center, al-Nasser), Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis, al-Nasser (n. of Rafah), Nussayrat, Rafah. Heavy naval shelling of Dayr al-Balah and the nearby al-Qur’an area of c. Gaza is also reported. As ground operations continue, the IDF begins moving a small number of reservists into the Strip for the 1st time since OCL began. Heavy artillery and ground fire is reported in Abasan, Gaza City (al-Sha‘af, al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, alZaytun), al-Qarara. Late in the evening, IDF troops withdraw from al-Qarara; residents report at least 20 homes destroyed since the IDF took up positions in the city on 1/6.

Palestinians fire at least 15 rockets and 1 mortar into Israel, lightly injuring 4 Israelis. Areas hit by rockets include Ashdod, Ashqelon, Beersheba (4 Grads), Ofakim.

The Palestinian toll, including bodies recovered during the humanitarian lull today (see below), reaches at least 758 dead and more than 3,100 injured. In addition, a Ukrainian woman (married to a Gazan) and her toddler are killed by an IDF shell in Gaza City, becoming the 1st foreign casualties inside Gaza (1 Egyptian was killed on the Rafah border on 12/28). Today, 3 IDF soldiers are killed and 14 are wounded (1 seriously, 1 moderately, 12 lightly) during clashes inside Gaza, bringing the Israeli toll to 13–14 dead and more than 100 injured.

Humanitarian notes: IDF soldiers fire on relief workers in 3 incidents in which the UN and ICRC had fully coordinated their movements with the IDF in advance (providing the IDF with the license plates of the vehicles, giving precise times and routes of travel, and using clearly marked vehicles) and received IDF assurances that travel would be safe. One UN driver is killed and 2 other UN employees and 1 ICRC employee are wounded. The UN and other groups scale back or suspend aid deliveries to Gaza, citing security concerns.

During the humanitarian lull, the IDF allows ICRC workers back into a heavily damaged residential block of al-Zaytun (see 1/7), where they rescue 103 injured Palestinians who have been stranded since 1/5 and report finding 40–50 bodies, fearing that more dead and injured may be trapped under demolished homes. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reports (WP 1/9) new evidence that IDF soldiers stationed outside the destroyed houses were aware people were trapped but denied aid. UN Undersecy. Gen. for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes urges Israel to investigate, calling (WP 1/9) it “a particularly outrageous incident” and “absolutely horrifying.”

Israel allows 223 Palestinian dual nationals to exit Gaza via the Erez crossing for Jordan (see 1/2).

The UN estimates that 20,000 Gazans have been internally displaced by the fighting. (AP, HA, IDF, IHY, JP, MA, NYT, UNIS, YA 1/8; AFP, Daily Star, IDF, IFM, ITARTASS, MET, NYT, RFM, UNIS, WP, WT 1/9; AFP, AP, NYT, WT 1/12; AYM, JP, NYT, WT 1/13; IHY, MM 1/14; PCHR 1/15; WJW 1/16; NYT 1/17; ITIC 1/18; JPI 1/23)

In the West Bank, the IDF fatally shoots a Palestinian who allegedly attempts to set fire to a gas station outside the Ma’ale Adumim settlement e. of Jerusalem; fires live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians demonstrating against OCL in al-Fawar r.c. nr. Hebron, seriously wounding 2 (including a 12-yr.-old boy); fires live ammunition at Palestinians protesting against the separation wall in Bil‘in, wounding 1; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Nablus, in Qabatya nr. Jenin. (PCHR 1/15)

The PFLP General Command fires 4 rockets fr. s. Lebanon into Israel, 3 of which explode near Nahariya, lightly wounding 4 Israelis (5 others are treated for shock). The IDF fires 5 shells the border as a “measured response” and intensifies surveillance overflights of s. Lebanon. Hizballah, the Lebanese government, and Fatah and Hamas reps. in Lebanon condemn the fire, assuring Israel they have no intention of opening a 2d front. The Lebanese army and UNIFIL pledge to step up surveillance in s. Lebanon (ITV, MM, MNR, RFM 1/8; Guardian, HA, MM, NYT, WP, WT, SFR, al-Watan, YA 1/9; YA 1/10; AFP, AP, NYT, WT 1/12; HA, MM 1/15; JPI 1/23)