3 ISRAELIS KILLED IN ROCKET STRIKE FROM GAZA; INTENSIVE ISRAELI ASSAULT LEAVES 15 PALESTINIANS DEAD
By Karin Brulliard, Abigail Hauslohner, and Debbi Wilgoren
Nobemver 15, 2012 (updated 4:39 AM PST)
KIRYAT MALAKHI, Israel -- Three Israeli civilians were killed by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip overnight, and the death toll in Gaza from Israeli shelling rose to 15, as leaders of nearby countries warned that the escalating violence could destabilize the entire region.
Israel’s military said it had targeted more than 200 “terror activity” sites inside Gaza, including weapons depots and rocket-launching squads and locations, and had intercepted more than 80 rockets lobbed at Israel using the “Iron Dome” missile defense system.
At the same time, more than 180 rockets have landed inside Israel since Wednesday afternoon, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. Every city in southern Israel has been hit.
At 8:00 a.m. Thursday (1:00 a.m. in Washington [and 10:00 p.m. Wednesday on the West Coast]), a missile slammed into the top floor of a four-story apartment building in this modest town near Ashkelon, decimating one apartment and severely damaging another.
Two men and one woman were killed, Israeli officials said, and an 11-month-old baby was critically injured. Three Israeli soldiers also have been wounded by rocket fire in southern Israel, the military said.
In Gaza, officials from the Hamas-run health ministry told news services that 15 people have been killed in two days of Israeli strikes, including Jabari.
The health ministry said seven of the dead were militants, including three people killed by an air strike as they were riding a motor bike in Khan Yunis refugee camp. The other eight were civilians -- at least two of them children, the Associated Press reported.
At least 120 people, many of them civilians, have been injured.
Israel’s offensive, aimed at ending the barrage of rocket attacks, began with the air strike that assassinated Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari on Wednesday.
The violence -- by far the most intense since Israel’s controversial invasion of Gaza nearly four years ago -- drew concern and outrage from leaders of Arab countries and Iran, significantly increasing tensions in a volatile region that over the last two years has seen extensive political upheaval and realignment.
“The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region,” Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told his nation in a televised address Thursday afternoon.
Morsi said he had called on the Cairo-based Arab League to convene an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers, and had also placed early morning calls to President Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton seeking international intervention in the conflict.
In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. State Department urged Israel to “take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” but also criticized Hamas for the rocket campaign and said Washington supports “Israel’s right to defend itself.”
“We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence,” the statement said. “. . . Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause.”
Cairo withdrew its ambassador to Tel Aviv in response to the Israeli offensive. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry updated its Facebook page with a picture of the Palestinian flag, and warned violence could soon “escalate out of control.”
But leading Egyptian politicians and activists, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which helped put Morsi in power, said those measures were insufficient. “We called on Morsi to cut off all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel and to urge all Arab and Muslim countries to do the same,” said Mahmoud Ghozlan, a high-ranking leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Newspaper headlines warned of imminent regional war that could engulf Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Syria and Lebanon also denounced Israel and, like Morsi, called on the international community to intervene.
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has killed thousands of its citizens since 2011 in a brutal effort to contain a widespread revolt, condemned the “barbaric, reprehensible crimes committed by the Israeli army against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
Many observers in Lebanon watched for a reaction from Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and party that fought the Israeli military to a standstill in a bloody conflict in 2006. The group has traditionally had close ties with Hamas, though the conflict in Syria has led to a split, with Hezbollah supporting Assad’s government and Hamas leaders supporting the opposition.
In Iran, the death toll in Gaza, which has been governed by Hamas since 2006, was a top story on state-run media all day Thursday. Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian called Jabari’s killing and the continued shelling “cowardly” and warned that “the new players and atmosphere in the region will deprive the criminal Zionists of the opportunity for any aggression.”
In Gaza, Israeli jets and drones hit dozens of targets overnight, Israeli military officials said. Residents said militants had begun firing at Israeli targets from inside teeming Gaza City, making direct Israeli strikes on the populous city likely.
“We are at the start of the event and not at its end,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, pledging to do “whatever is necessary to restore quiet to the south.”
Representatives of Hamas, which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization, said they also have no intention of backing down. The assassination of Jabari “is a serious crime, and they crossed the red line,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. “It’s time to declare war.”
While Hamas said it had fired a rocket into Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, Rosenfeld dismissed that claim as propaganda and said there had been no strike there.
Inside Gaza, the streets were quiet, save for a rush of the injured to local hospitals after each air strike, and lines at some bakeries, gas stations and food shops.
Hamas officials announced a ban on price increases and tried to reassure residents that there were ample supplies of food and gas.
But the health ministry said there were shortages of medicine and medical supplies, and it reported that hospitals had used the equivalent of a month’s worth of emergency supplies since the Israeli assault began Wednesday.
--Hauslohner reported from Cairo. Wilgoren reported from Washington. Islam Abdul-Karim and Reyham Abdul-Karim in Gaza City, BabakDehghanlisheh in Beirut, Jason Rezaian in Tehran and Muhammad Mansour in Cairo contributed to this report.
FAMILY MOURNS GAZA BOY SHOT BY ISRAELI FORCES WHILE PLAYING FOOTFALL
By Rami Almeghari
November 15, 2012
Thirteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Daqqa vividly recalls the moment his friend and cousin Ahmad Abu Daqqa was killed outside his southeast Gaza home while they were playing football last Thursday afternoon.
“Suddenly, Ahmad fell on the ground and I was surprised to see him sort of bleeding right beneath his heart. An Israeli helicopter was buzzing overhead and other Israeli military jeeps and tanks were seen near the border line,” Muhammad explained.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), the life of the football-obsessed 13-year-old was cut short when a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers stationed nearby hit him in the stomach (“New Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip,” 11 November).
Ahmad Abu Daqqa was born and raised in Abbasan al-Kabira town, a rural area east of Khan Younis. The boy is one of several Gaza children who have been killed by Israeli fire in recent days; two teen cousins, 16-year-old Muhammad Harara and 17-year-old Ahmad Harara, were also killed by Israeli fire while playing football near Gaza City on Saturday, according to PCHR.
Ahmad Abu Daqqa’s mother, who goes by Um Bilal, was at the home a relative to greet pilgrims who had recently returned from Mecca when her son was killed. She learned that a member of her family was shot through the news broadcast on a TV in the home she was visiting.
In a lowered voice, Um Bilal said through her tears, “The broadcaster announced the news, and at that moment my nephew screamed. . . . At this moment I felt my heart was taken out of me and I rushed to verify the news, as I had a feeling it was my son Ahmad.
“I went to the hospital directly to find my husband Abu Bilal holding Ahmad in his arms. It was such a horrible, heartbreaking moment, and I burst into sobs,” she said.
The grieving mother sighed, and recalled how her active son was known for helping not only his immediate family but his extended family as well.
“His aunts and others in the family used to always ask Ahmad for help -- such as getting something from a grocer, or bringing water. Ahmad was my eye with which I see, Ahmad was my hand with which I create things, Ahmad was my leg with which I walk,” Um Bilal said, as her eight-year-old daughter Noor sat beside her.
“He was so helpful -- to the extent that once he asked me to teach him how to cook for his eldest sister, Taghreed, who is a university student and spends much of her time studying,” Um Bilal added.
SISTERS, FATHER MOURN
Noor proudly displayed a poster of her slain older brother and recalled watching Tom and Jerry with Ahmad, who was devoted to the Real Madrid football club.
Older sister Taghreed, who studies chemistry, said that Ahmad excelled at school and dreamed of becoming a computer engineer. Ahmad was a friend as well as a brother and would escort her on family visits or to the nearby market and help her with anything related to the computer, she explained.
Ahmad’s father, Younis Abu Daqqa or Abu Bilal, had just returned from the European Gaza Hospital where he works on the administrative staff. Abu Bilal, who is in his late fifties, couldn’t hold back as he recalled his son with a shaking voice.
“Ahmad was a part of me,” Abu Bilal said, surrounded by neighbors who had come to support the grieving family. “But I want to only say, I thank God for this and may he rest in peace with the angels. May God take revenge upon them [the Israeli soldiers]. What did my son do to deserve to be killed by them? Was his ball that he was playing with a rocket or a machine gun?”
Since the death of Ahmad Abu Daqqa, approximately twenty other Palestinians have been killed in increasing Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip, where the civilian population has nowhere to flee.
Israel ended an effective truce with armed groups in Gaza yesterday when it extrajudicially executed Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari. Israel says its military activity in Gaza is aimed at stopping crude rocket fire in Gaza. Between the beginning of the year through 6 November, 71 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza while 19 Israelis were injured by Palestinian fire from Gaza and none killed, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (“Protection of civilians weekly report”).
Back at the Abu Daqqa family home, Taghreed had the following message for Israel: “Do whatever you want, kill whoever you want; you should know that you are strangers on this land and one day you will go away.”
--Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.
ISRAELI PREMEDITATED OFFENSIVE AGAINST GAZA
** The assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday was the beginning of Israel’s military operation against the Gaza Strip. The operation, Pillar of Defense, was not a reaction to five days of military escalation on the Gaza border, but a premeditated offensive prepared several months ahead by the Israeli army and General Security Services (GSS). **
Alternative Information Center
November 15, 2012
The Israeli offensive came despite signs that Egypt has managed to broker a truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions that would have ended a surge in violence over the past week.
During the week preceding the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, Israel’s air force attacked civilian facilities as well as several training sites of the Palestinian resistance. In addition, Israeli forces killed six Palestinian civilians, including three children, and two members of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip. That same week 53 civilians, including 12 children and 6 women, were wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza.
On November 8, Israeli forces killed a child during an incursion into ‘Abassan village, east of Kahn Yunis. At approximately 8:00 a.m. that day, Israeli forces moved east of the al-Qarara village, located northeast of Khan Yunis, leveling lands amidst indiscriminate shooting. The leveling operation moved southwards to the ‘Abassan village a few hours later as Israeli soldiers continue[d] to fire indiscriminately. An Israeli helicopter gunship, which assisted Israeli troops, also fired at the area.
At approximately 16:30, as a result of the indiscriminate shooting, 13-year-old Ahmed Abu Daqqa was seriously wounded by a bullet to the abdomen when he was playing football with his friends in front of his house.
Mohammed Abu Daqqa, 14, who was playing with Ahmad, says that Ahmad was wearing sports clothes and he played as a goalkeeper. Mohammed adds that they felt safe despite the Israeli military incursion “because we were relatively far from the affected area.”
“At 4:30 I saw a bullet hitting the door of Ahmed’s house. I soon saw Ahmed falling onto the ground. He then stood up, putting his hands on his abdomen and was screaming.”
Ahmed Abu Daqqa died as a consequence of his injuries as he was evacuated to hospital.
Palestinian mortar shells lightly injured an Israeli soldier along the border later in the day.
The next day, on November 9, Palestinians fire an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep on patrol along the Gaza border, wounding four soldiers. Immediately afterwards, tanks fired into the al-Shoja’iya neighborhood, east of Gaza City, killing five Palestinians, two of them children, and wounding 38. Palestinians later fire[d] a number of Kassam rockets into southern Israel. One of the wounded died on November 13.
On November 11, 2012, a member of the Palestinian resistance was killed in a drone attack. One civilian was wounded when Israeli forces fired artillery shells at Gaza International Airport, southeast of Rafah.
On November 13, 11 civilians, including five women and two children, were wounded when Israeli forces fired two artillery shells at Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis. One Palestinian combatant, a fighter with the Al Quds brigades, was killed in the northern Gaza Strip when an Israeli drone attacked a number of members of the al-Quds Brigades (the armed wing of Islamic Jihad) in the northern Gaza Strip.
Later in the day Egypt managed to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian factions, guaranteed by Hamas. Both sides conditioned their silence on the other side's halting of attacks.
In the Gaza Strip Mohammed Jabari, Hamas military chief, instructed his troops to thwart attempts to fire missiles on Israeli territories. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warns of future strikes, saying "I am responsible for choosing the right time to exact the highest possible price -- and so it will be."
The next day, November 14 in the afternoon, Israel assassinates Mohammed Jabari, starting a major offensive on the Gaza Strip. Israeli Minister of Defense, Ehud Bara claims “Wednesday's strikes mark the beginning, not the end, of military operations.”
FEROCIOUS ASSAULT ON GAZA KILLS A LEADER OF HAMAS
By Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram
New York Times
November 14, 2012
JERUSALEM -- Israel on Wednesday launched the most ferocious assault on Gaza in four years after persistent Palestinian rocket fire, hitting at least 20 targets in aerial attacks that killed the top military commander of Hamas, damaged Israel’s fragile relations with Egypt and escalated the risks of a new war in the Middle East.
The Israel Defense Forces coupled the intensity of the airstrikes with the threat of a ground invasion of Gaza, recalling its three-week operation in the winter of 2008-9, shifting infantry brigades and calling up some specialist reserves. The Israelis also warned all Hamas leaders in Gaza to stay out of sight or risk the same fate as the Hamas military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, who was killed in a pinpoint airstrike as he was riding in a car down a Gaza street.
“We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a Twitter message. Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the military spokesman, said, “If I were a senior Hamas activist, I would look for a place to hide.”
The escalation in hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the militant organization regarded by Israel as a terrorist group sworn to its destruction, prompted Egypt to recall its ambassador and demand meetings of the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League.
Israel had already been facing growing tensions with its Arab neighbors. Israel has confronted lawlessness on its border with Sinai, including cross-border attacks. It recently fired twice into Syria, which is caught in a civil war, after munitions fell in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and it has absorbed more than 750 rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel this year. The rockets have hit homes, caused injuries and frightened the population. On Saturday, Gaza militants fired an antitank missile at an Israeli Army Jeep patrolling the Israel-Gaza border, injuring four soldiers.
Both the rocket fire and the buildup of advanced weaponry in Gaza have increasingly tested Israeli officials and prompted such an intense attack, according to military experts in Israel.
“Deterrence has to be maintained,” said Gabi Siboni, a colonel in the reserves who leads the military and strategic affairs program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “It was only a question of time until this moment arrived.”
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said the Israeli attacks killed at least five others besides Mr. Jabari, including a baby and a 7-year-old girl, and had wounded at least 40.
The ferocity of the airstrikes provoked rage in Gaza, where Hamas said the campaign amounted to war and promised a harsh response. It quickly launched dozens of rockets into southern Israel. Several barrages struck the city of Beersheba, shattering windows and damaging cars but causing no injuries.
Civil-defense authorities in Israel, anticipating retaliation, instructed residents within a 25-mile radius of Gaza not to go to school or work on Thursday. Many remained indoors or congregated in bomb shelters.
General Mordechai said the operation “would continue and grow.” The military said it was designed to “severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership.”
By targeting Mr. Jabari, 52, the Israelis said they had killed the mastermind of virtually every attack to come from Gaza in recent years, including the kidnapping in 2006 of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Mr. Jabari was involved in the negotiations to release Mr. Shalit, whose five years as a prisoner was a source of national anguish. When he was finally released through Egypt, Mr. Jabari made a rare public appearance alongside him.
The attacks on Gaza were undertaken at a delicate time for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, nine weeks before elections, and may have partly reflected his administration’s own sense that it needed to send a message of deterrence beyond Gaza. In a statement, Mr. Netanyahu praised the military for the operation and said: “We will not accept a situation in which Israeli citizens are threatened by the terror of rockets. No country would accept this.”
The Israeli journalist Barak Ravid wrote on the Haaretz Web site that Mr. Jabari was Mr. Netanyahu’s Osama bin Laden.
In Washington, the White House issued a carefully worded statement saying President Obama had spoken with both Mr. Netanyahu and President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, reiterating to both that the United States supports Israel’s right to self-defense from the rocket attacks. The statement said Mr. Obama had urged Mr. Netanyahu to “make every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” and that Mr. Obama and Mr. Morsi “had agreed on the importance of working to de-escalate the situation as quickly as possible.”
Nonetheless, the Israeli attacks further complicated Israel’s fragile relations with Egypt, where the Islamist-led government of Mr. Morsi, reversing a policy of his ousted predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, had established closer ties with Hamas and had been acting as a mediator to restore calm between Israel and Gaza-based militant groups.
In the first crisis in Israeli-Egyptian relations since Mr. Morsi came to power, he called the Israeli actions “wanton aggression on the Gaza Strip” in justifying his decision to summon home the ambassador.
Egyptian state news media said Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr had “warned Israel against the consequences of escalation and the negative reflections it may have on the security and stability of the region.”
Mr. Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party, rooted in the same Muslim Brotherhood origins as Hamas, posted a video on its Web site of what was described as the burned body of a Palestinian child said to have been killed in the Israeli attacks, in an attempt to stoke anger at Israel. His party also issued a statement saying: “The wanton aggression against Gaza proves that Israel has yet to realize that Egypt has changed and that the Egyptian people who revolted against oppression will not accept assaulting Gaza.”
A spokesman for Hamas, Fawzi Barhoum, said the Israelis had “committed a dangerous crime and broke all redlines,” and that “the Israeli occupation will regret and pay a high price.”
Military officials in Israel, which took credit for killing Mr. Jabari, said their forces had carried out additional airstrikes in Gaza targeting what they described as “a significant number of long-range rocket sites” owned by Hamas that had stored rockets capable of reaching 25 miles into Israel. The statement said the airstrikes had dealt a “significant blow to the terror organization’s underground rocket-launching capabilities.”
The Israel Defense Forces said Mr. Jabari had been targeted because he “served in the upper echelon of the Hamas command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the state of Israel in the past number of years.”
A video released by the Israel Defense Forces and posted on YouTube showed an aerial view of the attack on what it identified as Mr. Jabari’s car on a Gaza street as it was targeted and instantly blown up in a pinpoint bombing. The Israel Defense Forces later posted a Twitter message showing a mug shot of Mr. Jabari overwritten by the word “eliminated.”
Mr. Jabari led Hamas forces when they took control of Gaza in 2007, ousting the rival Palestinian faction Fatah and the Palestinian Authority two years after the Israelis withdrew from the territory captured in the 1967 war.
Israeli forces went back into Gaza in the winter of 2008-9 after years of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants into Israel. The Israeli invasion killed as many as 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and was widely condemned internationally.
Since then, Hamas has mostly adhered to an informal, if shaky, cease-fire and at times tried to force smaller militant groups to stick to it, too. But in recent months, under pressure from some of the Gaza population for not avenging deadly Israeli airstrikes, Hamas has claimed responsibility for participating in the firing of rockets.
Mr. Jabari once belonged to Fatah, the mainstream nationalist movement, but joined Hamas while serving time in an Israeli prison. After Hamas took over Gaza, Mr. Jabari became the architect of the Hamas military there, organizing the forces into companies, battalions and brigades, Israeli experts said.
Married to two wives and the father of 14 children, Mr. Jabari was born in eastern Gaza City. A Hamas militant who worked closely with him, and who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Dujana, described him as “extraordinarily religious, to the point of refusing to do things that are normal, like watching an unveiled anchorwoman on television.”
Abu Dujana said that he last saw Mr. Jabari last month in Mecca, where he was performing the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage. He described Mr. Jabari as stubborn and uncompromising.
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military, said Mr. Jabari had “a lot of blood on his hands.”
--Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, and Fares Akram from Gaza. Reporting was contributed by Mayy El Sheikh and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo; Gabby Sobelman from Jerusalem; Rina Castelnuovo from Beersheba, Israel; and Rick Gladstone from New York.
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