* One of the Grad rockets that hit a school in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon yesterday destroyed several classrooms and sprayed shrapnel in all directions
* 110 rockets and mortars fired at Israel since “ceasefire”
* Hamas rocket attacks on Israel now back to pre-January levels
* Libyan dictator Gaddafi, fresh from writing his NY Times op-ed, blames Israel for the conflict in Darfur
I attach various news items, mainly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most of these are follow-ups to items in previous dispatches.
1. Brick by brick
2. Miracle: Hamas terrorist comes back to life
3. Libyan leader Gaddafi blames Israel for Darfur crisis
4. Netanyahu appears to fail in efforts to form a centrist coalition
5. During American financial meltdown, Obama sends $1bn to Gaza
6. Hamas rocket attacks on Israel now back to pre-January levels
7. Jewish leaders blast Clinton over her Israel criticism
8. Arab League: Arab states haven’t delivered on Gaza pledges
9. Hamas: We will never recognize Israel
10. Hamas says it reserves the right to bring arms into Gaza
11. Fatah, Hamas agree on prisoner swap
12. PCHR calls for investigation into latest Gaza City murder
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
BRICK BY BRICK
Because these dispatches so often contain depressing items, here to begin with, is a more uplifting story with a Middle East connection.
An elderly British man has spent the last 30 years building an incredible model of Herod’s Temple. Brick by brick, tiny figure by tiny figure, he has constructed an astonishing recreation of Herod’s ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He also sculpted 4,000 half-inch figures to populate the courtyards. Each one takes three hours to make.
The temple, which was destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years ago, is regarded as one of the most remarkable buildings of ancient times. Today, all that remains of the temple is the Western Wall. The temple itself was located on the site where Muslims later built the Dome of the Rock.
Click here to see the pictures of his model.
MIRACLE: HAMAS TERRORIST COMES BACK TO LIFE
This video clip from January provides yet another example of how Hamas fools gullible western journalists and UN officials about Palestinian casualty figures.
(For previous such clips, please see past dispatches on this website.)
LIBYAN LEADER GADDAFI BLAMES ISRAEL FOR DARFUR CRISIS
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has blamed Israel for the conflict in Darfur. Gaddafi, who is currently the president of the African Union, said last Tuesday that “It will be no surprise to anyone when we say that we have found unequivocal proof that the Darfur problem was fomented by foreign forces.”
“We discovered that some of the main leaders of the Darfur rebels have opened offices in Tel Aviv and hold meetings with the military there to add fuel to the conflict fire,” the Libyan leader said in a speech carried live on the Al-Libya television channel.
Gaddafi urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to stop proceedings on whether to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of masterminding the genocidal policies being carried out by Arab tribes against non-Arabs in Darfur. “Why do we have to hold President Bashir or the Sudanese government responsible when the Darfur problem was caused by Tel Aviv?” he asked.
Gaddafi has a long track record of stirring up anti-Semitic sentiment in Libya and abroad, as well as promoting terrorism and countless other human rights abuses. This didn’t stop The New York Times (and its sister paper The International Herald Tribune) from recently running a top-of-the-page op-ed by Gaddafi. Was the Times perhaps attempting to fool its readers into believing that Gaddafi had somehow become a respectable statesman?
NETANYAHU APPEARS TO FAIL IN EFFORTS TO FORM A CENTRIST COALITION
Despite urging from senior members of her own center-left Kadima party, Tzipi Livni has rejected efforts by Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to include Kadima as an equal partner in an Israeli unity government.
Livni’s decision is being condemned as an act of supreme political selfishness by officials in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
She is in effect forcing Netanyahu to form a narrow right-wing government which will decrease the chances for progress towards peace, when he has done his best to form a centrist coalition. Netanyahu even offered Kadima two of the three top cabinet posts – foreign, defense and finance. He also offered Livni a full partnership in policymaking but she turned him down.
During the negotiations, Netanyahu surprised many people by the lengths to which he was willing to go to appease Livni and demonstrate that he was serious about his offer. He even offered her a veto on other coalition partners that would join the government.
Livni’s own party colleagues as well as officials from the Obama administration and European governments, are pressing her to accept Netanyahu’s offer.
Livni put an end to the negotiations with a scathing personal attack on Netanyahu, accusing him of being “more extreme” than right winger Avigdor Lieberman.
Without Kadima, Netanyahu will be forced to invite pro-settler and ultra-orthodox parties into government, parties opposed to or skeptical of talks with the Palestinians.
Livni is apparently hoping that a Netanyahu government will fail and Israel will hold fresh elections in a year or two. Both leftist and rightist Israelis have criticized her for making such a reckless decision at a time when Israel needs national unity to deal with the economic crisis and the impending Iranian nuclear threat.
Among those who publically rebuked Livni is the deputy Kadima leader, Shaul Mofaz. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former prime minister who heads the Labor party, has also turned down Netanyahu’s offer to enter the coalition, deciding instead to take his party into the opposition.
LIEBERMAN: I TOO SUPPORT A PALESTINIAN STATE
In an article published on Friday in the New York Jewish Week, Avigdor Lieberman, head of the secular right wing Israel Beitenu Party, again said he “too supported the creation of a viable Palestinian state” so long as it had a peaceful intent towards Israel.
DURING AMERICAN FINANCIAL MELTDOWN, OBAMA SENDS $1BN TO GAZA
While the United States is in the midst of a serious financial crisis, the Obama administration announced last week that it would give almost another $1 billion to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Much of the past money handed to UNRWA has ended up in the bank accounts of corrupt Palestinian officials and it has also enabled other funds to be diverted to buy bombs, weapons, and ammunition, instead of building a decent society for Palestinian children.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to formally make the $900 million pledge at the Cairo donors’ conference tomorrow. (This money – being dubbed a “bailout to Hamas” by its critics – is in addition to the $85 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money pledged to Gaza earlier in the year.)
I have previously written on this website of how UNRWA, which employs Hamas personnel, stood by as blankets, food and arms were stolen from two of its aid warehouses by Hamas militiamen, and how its allows schools under its auspices to teach hatred of Israel and the West.
HAMAS ROCKET ATTACKS ON ISRAEL NOW BACK TO PRE-JANUARY LEVELS
110 mortar shells and rockets have now been fired at Israeli civilians since Israel ended its operation in Gaza on January 18, including eleven rockets so far this weekend alone. About 20 people have been injured in total, mostly lightly. The numbers of injuries has been kept down as more Israelis are spending the night in bomb shelters.
One of the Grad rockets hit a school in the southern city of Ashkelon yesterday, penetrating the fortification used to protect the building from rocket fire.
Experts said it had the potential for “massive damage” but luckily the school was empty at the time. The rocket destroyed several classrooms and sprayed pieces of shrapnel in all directions. Two cranes were required to pull the rocket from the ground in which it had become lodged.
ISRAELI CHILDREN PULLED OUT OF SCHOOL
Israeli security forces said three of the Grad rockets that landed in Ashkelon yesterday (two in the morning, one in the evening) were new and improved models, capable of greater destruction than those usually fired from Gaza.
Other targets for attack by Qassam rockets yesterday included Kibbutz Shaar HaNegev.
Some schools in Ashkelon have been closed following the attacks and children have been told to remain at home or in shelters.
The Israeli army said it foiled a “large-scale terror attack” last Monday when it apprehended two Palestinians trying to cross into Israel with explosive devices.
JEWISH LEADERS BLAST CLINTON OVER HER ISRAEL CRITICISM
CBS television in New York reports that Jewish leaders are profoundly disappointed with a series of statements by Hillary Clinton last week which they said were hostile to Israel.
They say she appears to have a made “a swift about face from her views as New York’s senator, when she made statements sympathetic to Israel” and fear she may now be returning to her previous self, reports CBS.
As First Lady, Clinton raised eyebrows when she kissed and hugged Yasser Arafat’s wife Suha immediately after she (Suha Arafat) had made a speech reminiscent of medieval blood libels, in which she accused Israel of poisoning the water supplies to Palestinian areas.
“I am very surprised, frankly, at these new statements from the secretary of state,” said Jewish leader Mortimer Zuckerman, who is close to Hillary.
“I don’t believe that we should be in a position at this point to do anything to strengthen Hamas,” Zuckerman said. “We surely know what Hamas stands for and that they are the forward battalions of Iran.”
“I liked her a lot more as a senator from New York,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat, said. “Now, I wonder as I used to wonder who the real Hillary Clinton is.”
ARAB LEAGUE: ARAB STATES HAVEN’T DELIVERED ON GAZA PLEDGES
A senior Arab League official told The Associated Press at the weekend that Arab countries have not yet delivered any of the more than $1 billion they pledged to Gaza after the Hamas-Israel fighting in December and January.
The money was pledged in mid-January. Most Arab states are very reluctant to give the money to the Islamist group Hamas and prefer to give it to its relatively secular rival Fatah. Saudi Arabia alone pledged $1 billion for Gaza reconstruction, Qatar $250 million, and Algeria $100 million. Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007.
At least 72 governments will attend tomorrow’s international meeting on Gaza reconstruction in Egypt. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of much poorer and more distressed areas of the world than Gaza, but none of these receive anything like the levels of international aid and attention that Gaza does. Unlike many other parts of the world, not a single person has been reported as malnourished in Gaza, where living standard remains higher than in many parts of neighboring Egypt, for example. There is no acute hunger in Gaza because Israel, which supplies humanitarian aid on a daily basis, would never allow this to happen.
By contrast, a homeless Israeli man died of cold and hunger last night in Tel Aviv, reports Israel radio today. Last winter 12 homeless Israelis died on the streets.
HAMAS: WE WILL NEVER RECOGNIZE ISRAEL
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that any unity government with Hamas would have to agree to a two-state solution with Israel, a demand quickly rejected by Hamas.
Hamas official Ayman Taha said Abbas’s comments undermine chances for reaching a unity agreement. “Hamas will never accept a unity government that recognizes Israel,” he said. Hamas says its founding charter that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state is “sacrosanct”.
A dozen Palestinian factions including Fatah and Hamas began reconciliation talks in Cairo on Thursday to try to agree on a unity government by March 20. Previous efforts by Arab negotiators to reconcile Fatah and Hamas have failed.
HAMAS SAYS IT RESERVES THE RIGHT TO BRING ARMS INTO GAZA
Gaza-based Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar also declared last week that his group “reserves the right to bring arms into Gaza.”
FATAH, HAMAS AGREE ON PRISONER SWAP
Hamas and Fatah agreed on Wednesday to exchange prisoners as part of a deal still being negotiated to reconcile the bitterly divided groups. In a “goodwill gesture,” Fatah went ahead and released 42 Hamas detainees in the West Bank and promised to release more.
PCHR CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO LATEST GAZA CITY MURDER
The nonprofit PCHR (Palestinian Centre for Human Rights) today called for there “to be an immediate investigation into the murder of Hamza Mahmoud al-Shoubaki, age 40, who was abducted by unidentified gunmen on Thursday, 26 February and subsequently died.”
Al-Shoubaki was the latest Gazan to be killed by gunmen linked to Hamas. International media outlets have included dozens of Gazans executed by Hamas in statistics that wrongly suggest Israel killed them.
Al-Shoubaki’s body was brought to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Friday after he had been shot dead by two gunshots to the head.
Western journalists, despite continuing to file daily reports from Gaza, are barely mentioning these ongoing murders by Hamas, and hence the issue is not on the agenda for tomorrow’s Gaza donors’ conference.