Sinai now “open gateway” for Palestinian terrorists as suicide bombers hit Israeli shopping mall

February 04, 2008

* Today’s bomber placed himself near a toy shop



1. Suicide bombing in southern Israel this morning
2. Egypt continues to catch Palestinian bombers in Sinai
3. Barak: Israel urgently needs a fence along Egyptian border
4. Diskin: Border breach allowed influx of advanced armament into Gaza
5. How can Israel ever trust EU monitors again?
6. Hamas considering economic disengagement from Israel
7. Palestinian rockets explode on graves of dead Israelis
8. Hamas: We fired 540 rockets at Israel in January alone
9. Arab Parliament: Palestinians have “right” to “resistance” (i.e. to kill Israelis)
10. Not everyone in Gaza is poor
11. “Not even pretending to be fair: The New York Times on Gaza” (By Barry Rubin,
Jan. 31, 2008)

[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch relates to Palestinian affairs. Much of this information has barely been reported on in the mainstream western media despite the considerable space allocated to covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.



At least one elderly Israeli woman (and the bomber) were killed in a suicide bomb attack by a toy shop in a shopping mall in the southern Israeli town of Dimona this morning. At least 10 were wounded in the attack, one of whom is in critical condition.

A second suicide bomber was shot dead by a security guard at the shopping center as he was about to explode his device. His belt and detonator device are presently being dismantled by bomb disposal experts, at considerable risk to themselves.

One of the bombers has been identified as Mussa Arafat, a Gaza resident and a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Hamas has announced that the attack was “a glorious and heroic act”.

In an interview a few minutes ago on the Hizbullah-run television station al-Manar in Lebanon, Abu al-Walid, a senior member of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades said the other (would-be) bomber was a Fatah member.

As has become common practice after Israelis are murdered, Palestinians in “impoverished” Gaza have been handing out candy, sweets and flowers this morning in response to the attack.



Only yesterday, Egyptian security officials arrested two more Palestinians carrying a bomb in the Sinai Peninsula. The pair was picked up close to Al-Arish, an Egyptian town 20 miles from the border with Gaza. The men admitted they had been sent by Hamas.

Already by last Wednesday morning (January 30), Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper said that Egyptian authorities in Sinai had apprehended five different Palestinian suicide bombers, each with suicide belts, near the Taba crossing preparing to enter into Israel.

The paper quoted “informed sources” as saying that the Egyptian forces also arrested another terror cell that crossed into Egypt with maps with “pinpointed information about Israeli towns, buildings, bus stations, and army bases.”

According to Al-Ahram, the Palestinians had offered large sums of money to Egyptian border guards so that they would allow them to drive trucks full of explosives into the Sinai unimpeded.

And the Israeli paper Ha’aretz reported yesterday that on Friday alone the Egyptians arrested 15 more armed Palestinians in Sinai, 12 of whom were members of Hamas.



Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday called for the immediate construction of a fence along Israel’s border with Egypt.

“We must without delay begin the preliminary stage of construction, which would include two sections near Nitzana and in the Eilat area,” Barak said.

The Israel domestic security agency, the Shin Bet (also known as the Shabak), says it has located 30 points where it is possible to penetrate the border between the Sinai and Israel’s Negev desert.

Following this morning’s suicide attack, politicians from all Israeli parties have reiterated the need for a border fence with Egypt.

Even though Egyptian forces yesterday began closing the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, which was blown open on January 23 by Hamas, Israeli intelligence says that Hamas will almost certainly be able to continue crossing in the future at various points in the border fence.



Terrorist weapons are also flowing the other way, into Gaza. The head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, said yesterday that Hamas’s breach of the Egypt-Gaza border has resulted in the smuggling of a large amount of advanced weaponry, including long-range rockets, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft missiles, into Gaza.

Diskin said that the breach also allowed dozens of operatives from terrorist organizations based in Syria, Iran, and Egypt to infiltrate into Gaza. He added many of these terrorists had been trained in Iran, and they had brought more sophisticated rockets and other equipment into Gaza for use in terror attacks against Israel.



As part of the agreement by which Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005, European Union monitors were meant to observe and report on the Egypt-Gaza border. They have completely failed to do so.



In an interview on Saturday with the London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, Ahmed Yousef, the senior advisor to Hamas leader and “Gaza Prime Minister” Ismail Haniyeh, said that Hamas is seriously contemplating severing the Gaza Strip’s economic ties with Israel. Instead, he said, Gaza would seek economic unity with Egypt, which would supply Gaza with fuel and electricity.

When asked by the pro-Hamas daily Palestine whether he supported Yousef’s comments in al-Sharq al-Awsat, Haniyeh said yes.

Some on the Israeli right and center said they welcomed this idea, whereas the Fatah movement reacted with anger. Fatah spokesman Fahmi Al-Za’areer, said it would be a “disaster and divide the (Palestinian) state as Israel has always longed to do.”

Any economic disengagement may prove complicated as the Palestinian Authority has signed several binding economic accords with Israel.



Qassam rockets continued to be fired at Israeli civilian houses over the weekend from supposedly poverty-struck Gaza.

Several houses were hit as well as the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council building. On Saturday, two Palestinian rockets even exploded in the Sderot cemetery, where the Israeli victims of previous Palestinian rocket attacks and suicide bombings are buried.

Some in Israel said this reminded them of the way neo-Nazis in Europe attack the graves of Holocaust victims, in effect “killing them some more” – if that were possible.



The website of the “military wing” of Hamas, the Izzadin Al Qassam Brigades, proudly announced that in January 2008, it fired 540 Qassam rockets and mortars at Israel.

When the website talks of “Zionist settlers,” it is of course referring to Israeli civilians peaceably living inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel.

(For example, in the sentence: “The Brigades fired 66 Qassam rockets in a single day, resulting the injury of 26 Zionist settlers and caused damages in some buildings.”)

Much of the money used to buy this Palestinian military arsenal comes from the enormous European and American aid grants.

The level of reporting about these attacks in western media is low.

I don’t believe any other western country would sustain such a quantity of missile attacks on its civilian population in a single month and do so little in response.



The Arab world’s first regional parliament, which had its inaugural meeting in Cairo at the end of December under the auspices of the Arab League secretary-general (and former Egyptian foreign minister) Amr Moussa, has stressed that the Palestinians have a “divine and human” “right” to “resist” the “Zionist entity”.

Its first extraordinary session for 2008 was held this past weekend. It called on Arab and Islamic states to cut any relations or contacts with “the enemy” and reimplement a “full boycott”.

(The above information comes from SANA, the Syrian government news agency.)

Tom Gross adds: The new Arab Parliament has 88 members, four from the parliaments or advisory councils of each Arab League member. However, it does not yet have any binding legislative authority and for the time being can only give opinions. It will be based in Syria, and meet twice a year.



The Palestinian Authority – including Gaza – has in recent years received more money per capita than any other territory in world history. For example, the Palestinians have received about five times more per capita than European countries did under the post World War Two-Marshall plan.

Given the very high level of corruption by both Fatah and Hamas (and some of the Palestinian NGOs) the money has not, of course, been spread evenly among the population. Yet many in Gaza remain well off. See, for example, this picture and caption.

For background, please see previous dispatches on this list, including:
Israel’s economy soars ahead, while Palestinians squander millions.


I attach one article below, by Middle East expert and author Barry Rubin.

My own previous in depth analysis of The New York Times’s Israel coverage can be read here.

Many of the points I made about The Times remain as true today as when the article was written.

Steven Erlanger has, however, been an improvement on many of the previous New York Times Jerusalem bureau chiefs, but The Times still has a long way to go if it wants to cover this conflict fairly, as Rubin’s article points out.

-- Tom Gross



Not Even Pretending to be Fair: The New York Times On Gaza
By Barry Rubin
January 31, 2008

The New York Times coverage of the Middle East, especially Steven Erlanger (who will soon be leaving) has often been terrible. Naturally, the Times and Mr. Erlanger will dispute this, but they will not do so by examining the specific stories filed and what these articles do – and do not – say.

Anyone who analyzes the articles themselves will find many points which seem slanted, and all the slants seem to lean in the same way.

Consider, for example, the January 28 article, “Israel Vows Not to Block Supplies to Gaza.” By presenting this decision as a negative rather than a positive (Israel will let supplies flow; Israel wants to avoid any humanitarian crisis in Gaza, etc) it seems as if the newspaper is grudgingly admitting that Israel is doing something good but trying to minimize it.

Then comes a spin slanted against Israel: “Israel would no longer disrupt the supply of food, medicine and necessary energy into the Gaza Strip and intended to prevent a ‘humanitarian disaster’ there.”

The obvious and intended implication here is that Israel has been blocking three things, thus threatening to unleash a humanitarian disaster.

In fact, Israel has never blocked food and medicine, and while it has reduced energy supplies slightly – to a level reducing the Gaza electricity by no more than 20 percent – it has not blocked “necessary” energy but only made a marginal reduction.

Thus, in a masterfully crafted but factually inaccurate sentence, the newspaper accuses Israel of something it has never done and implies that it has committed inhuman crimes. (Or to put it another way, Congratulations, you have stopped beating your wife.)

Oh, we’re just getting started as Mr. Erlanger is a master of bias. Dig this sentence:

“Last Wednesday, the Hamas rulers of Gaza broke open the border to Egypt, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to seek goods that Israel had restricted in its clampdown on the region.”

Now it would be fair to say that Palestinians went to Egypt to buy lots of things and not just goods Israel has restricted – which, remember, we have been just falsely told include food and medicine. In addition, as other reporters have noted, it is not just availability but the fact that many things are cheaper in Egypt than in Gaza, a fact that was also true before the restrictions.

Speaking about restrictions, it might be worth mentioning that there are no such Israeli restrictions on the West Bank. Why is that? It is because the Palestinian Authority regime there doesn’t systematically encourage and facilitate terrorist and rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. This, then, is the central issue pertaining to the Gaza Strip, and not the apparently motiveless meanness that much media coverage makes it seem to be Israel’s reason for so acting.

There are 16 paragraphs remaining in the New York Times article. Do you think that we will be told that some of the restricted goods Palestinians bought in Egypt are guns, ammunition, explosives, and material for making rockets? Of course not.

Every paragraph is a gem. Here’s the next one:

“As an indication of the altered Israeli attitude the government told the Supreme Court, which was meeting to hear a petition against Israeli efforts to cut electricity and fuel to Gaza, that industrial diesel fuel needed to run Gaza’s main power station would be supplied regularly, although in amounts that would not meet Gaza’s needs for uninterrupted electricity.”

This, too, is a well-crafted lie. For even if the proposed Israeli cuts were implemented, any blackouts would be minimal at most. It would be fair to say that Gaza’s total electricity supply would be reduced but certainly not far short of what is required for “uninterrupted electricity.”

Moreover, in a further flaunting of bias we are never told that Israel supplies directly 70 percent of Gaza electricity. After all, a reader might think that is pretty humane to give power to an entity next door whose leadership openly states its intention of destroying Israel and killing its people, while that same leadership permits daily attacks on Israel.

The author goes out of his way not to tell us about Israel’s direct supply. Consider for example the next paragraph:

“The government also said that supplies of gasoline and regular diesel fuel to Gaza would be resumed although in diminished amounts.” But no mention of direct electrical supply which is almost four times larger than the total amount made using fuel.

There follows several paragraphs about the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas and some material about the situation on the Egypt-Gaza border. What ensues, far down in the article, is the closest thing to explaining why Israel is acting:

“Israeli has restricted supplies into Gaza, which it has labelled a ‘hostile entity,’ to try to push Hamas to stop any militant group from firing into Israel. But the move backfired when Hamas breached the border, letting Gazans cross to buy supplies.”

Two points on the above paragraph. First, it is amusing that the reporter doesn’t say what Hamas has been firing – rockets and mortar shells in large numbers – so the reader could be forgiven for thinking it might be an occasional burst of automatic weapons’ fire.

Second, it is not clear that “backfired” is the right word here. But the reason for the phrase becomes clear in the next paragraph:

“The Israeli statement to the court on Sunday was a kind of concession that the policy had failed, but it made clear that Israel would continue restrictions to keep Gazans uncomfortable.”

The problem here is that Israel had been backing off the limited restrictions before the border breakthrough took place. Moreover, if the reporter is going to be balanced he would say that if the policy had “backfired” it was because Hamas was left in a position in which it could continue to incite and implement attacks against Israel; gain some international popular sympathy (thanks to misleading media coverage like this one); maintain a policy of seeking Israel’s extermination; and still get everything required to conduct that military campaign and avoid pressures that might turn Gaza’s population against it.

The author will not do this, however, because he wants to minimize the reasons why Israel needs to make Gazans “uncomfortable.” After all, at a time when there were no restrictions on supplies the Gazans were making Israeli civilians “uncomfortable.” But only the Palestinians are permitted to be portrayed as having a reason to be aggrieved and to be victims.

Naturally, only one side within Israel is quoted on this issue:

“Sari Bashi, director of an Israeli advocacy group, Gisha, which was part of the court case, said, ‘This is part of a stop-start game that continually pushes Gazan residents to the brink, pushing them over, then pulling them back temporarily.” She said that ‘for the last seven months, Israel has been slowly reducing Gaza residents to desperation.’”

No one is quoted from Israel saying that residents of Sderot and the region are being hit by rockets, that their children are being terrified, that Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier as hostage, etc. (Yes, Erlanger has covered this occasionally in other articles but it also belongs here as a balancing quote.) It is fairly typical, of course, that Israelis are usually only quoted when they are being critical of Israel and supportive of the Palestinians.

Ah, but there is an Israeli quoted in the next paragraph which goes like this:

“Separately, as expected, the Israeli attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, said he would not indict police officers involved in the deaths of 13 Arab civilians in 10 days of Arab-Israeli demonstrations in October 2000. In a legal opinion, he upheld a decision by the Justice Ministry in September 2005 to close the investigation of the case.”

The reader would be left to think that this is a whitewash and that people who murdered Arabs are being let off the hook. The reader is not told that the report on the demonstrations (whose violence also goes unmentioned) said that the police acted reasonably given the difficult situation they faced at the time.

A detailed examination of this one article shows a pattern of one-sidedness that can be repeated in hundreds of others, showing clearly the bias in certain specific media outlets and by certain reporters.

To cite only one example, the Los Angeles Times ran an article simply transmitting false Hamas propaganda about the horrors of Israeli cutbacks. And this, to take the cake, was published – with no mention of this fact, after the far more limited reductions had been rescinded.

Speaking of cakes, a Boston Globe op-ed piece lambasted Israel for starving Gaza of flour – though its estimate was somewhat skewed by the fact that the deprivation was based on the provision of a half-ton of flour daily for each Gaza resident. At any rate, there have never been any food shortages in Gaza that would lead to deprivation, as is admitted even by international institutions.

Naturally, none of this critique is ever going to appear in the mainstream media which will, at most carry pieces ridiculing this critique and proclaiming what a great job they are doing. This doesn’t mean that many newspapers and other media aren’t doing a good job – they are – but the ones that aren’t will not engage in honest self-criticism or work hard to root out the bias they are showing.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.