Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The IDF carries out at least 8 predawn air strikes on the n. Gaza no-go zone (causing no casualties) and a predawn air strike on al-Mughraqa s. of Gaza City (tearing up a main street, damaging water and phone networks, but causing no casualties). Early in the day, the IDF warns of the imminent launch of Operation Blue Skies, dropping leaflets on n. Gaza that warn residents to stay away fr. the border area and the sites of vacated n. Gaza settlements, saying that anyone in the zone after 6:00 P.M. local time risks being shot; maps on the leaflets show the no-go zone as roughly corresponding to the n. Gaza settlement areas evacuated under disengagement, though also including areas 1.5 miles into Gaza housing some 100,000 Palestinians, whom the IDF recommends evacuate for “a limited period of time”; reportedly no Palestinians leave. Shortly before the deadline, AMB mbrs. fire 4 rockets at Sederot and a nearby IDF base, causing no damage or injuries; the IDF begins several hrs. of artillery fire (at least 25 strikes), fire fr. helicopters on the n. Gaza zone (wounding 1 Palestinian militant, 1 teenage bystander) and mock air raids breaking the sound barrier over the Strip, marking the start of the operation. Late in the evening, the IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem, Hebron. AMB mbrs. angry over the Fatah party list submitted today for the 1/25 elections seize election offices in 5 towns in Gaza, wage shoot-outs with the PA police, leaving 1 Gaza City policeman wounded. In Rafah, Palestinian gunmen kidnap a British aid worker, her parents; immediately begin negotiating with the PA for their release. (AFP, IMEMC, Israeli FMin. press release, JAZ, NYT, XIN 12/28; DS, IMEMC, JTA, NYT, PCHR, PMC, WP, WT, YA 12/29)