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Thread: Israel Air Strikes On Gaza Kill 155

  1. #31
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Israel rebuffs Gaza truce call and mobilises more troops

    By Nidal al-Mughrabi

    GAZA (Reuters) - Israel on Wednesday said the time was not right for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and stepped up preparations for a possible ground offensive after Hamas's long-range rockets hit another major population centre.

    "If conditions will ripen and we think there will be a diplomatic solution that will ensure a better security reality in the south, we will consider it. But at the moment, it's not there," an aide quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying.

    "We didn't start this operation just to end it with rocket fire continuing as it did before it began," Olmert said, according to the aide. "Imagine if we declare a unilateral cease-fire and a few days later rockets fall on (the town of) Ashkelon. What will that do to Israel's deterrence?"

    Foreign pressure has grown on both sides to end hostilities.

    France had proposed a 48-hour truce that would allow in more humanitarian aid for Gaza's 1.5 million residents. Olmert made the remarks -- which did not rule out a cease-fire in the future -- to his security cabinet, which had rebuffed the plan.

    Hamas said it was prepared to study proposals for a cease-fire.

    "We are for any initiative that will bring an immediate cessation to the aggression and lift the siege entirely," Hamas official Ayman Taha said, referring to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, territory controlled by the Islamist group.

    Diplomats said the deadliest conflict in the Gaza Strip in four decades appeared close to a tipping point after four days of air strikes that have killed 393 Palestinians, at least a quarter of whom, U.N. figures showed, were civilians.

    Palestinian medical officials revised the number of wounded to 1,650 after figures arrived from medical centres that had not reported their casualty statistics earlier. Three Israeli civilians and a soldier have been killed by rockets.

    Along the heavily-fortified border fence, Israeli tank crews prepared for battle while Islamist militants, hiding as little as a few hundred yards (meters) away, laid land mines and other booby traps should a ground war break out.

    Inside Gaza, for the first time since the fighting began, many residents ventured outside their homes to stock up on supplies, taking advantage of a lull in Israeli air strikes that have turned Hamas government buildings into piles of rubble.

    Some children played happily in the rain, as one parent remarked they were finally able to run free after what he called three days of "house arrest."

    Despite the pressure from foreign powers for an end to the violence, public anger in Israel over the widening of the rocket attacks to include Beersheba, 40 km (24 miles) from Gaza, could prompt the government to hit Hamas even harder.

    Israeli officials said they were open to amendments to the French proposal and alternatives being put forward by international parties.

    Cabinet ministers, however, approved the mobilisation of 2,500 army reservists, expanding on an earlier call-up of 6,500 soldiers for the garrison on the Gaza border, officials said.

    Israel said it was doing its part to let humanitarian supplies into Gaza despite the rocket fire. More than 100 truckloads of food and medicine were expected to enter on Wednesday, defence official Peter Lerner said.

    With Palestinians increasingly enraged over the Gaza offensive, aides said President Mahmoud Abbas would ask the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.

    Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo to seek a common position in response to the Israeli attacks, but the Arab world is deeply divided in its attitude towards Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip last year after fighting a brief civil war with the secular Fatah faction loyal to Western-backed Abbas.

    The diplomatic moves coincided with an escalation in Hamas rocket fire deeper inside Israel.

    At least four of the longer-range Grad rockets hit Beersheba, the city Israel calls the capital of the Negev, its southern region. One struck a school that was empty. Municipal authorities had cancelled classes after rockets landed in Beersheba on Tuesday evening for the first time.

    Other long-range rockets hit the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. Dozens of short-range rockets pelted border towns.

    Israeli aircraft had carried out six air strikes in the Gaza Strip so far on Wednesday, the lowest number since the campaign began, targeting smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt frontier and Hamas government offices in Gaza City. Palestinian medics said four people -- two militants, a doctor and a paramedic -- were killed.

    Rain over the past few days and fresh showers on Wednesday could delay any push soon by Israeli tanks into the territory and also limit air operations. Forecasters predicted several days of clear skies starting late on Thursday.

    Gaza City taxi driver Mazen Ahmen called the rain "a truce imposed by God."

    Basic food supplies in the Gaza Strip were running low and power cuts were affecting much of the territory. Hospitals were struggling to cope with the high number of casualties from the offensive.

    Olmert's centrist government launched the operation six weeks before a February 10 election that opinion polls predict the opposition right-wing Likud party will win, with the goal of halting rocket attacks by militants in Gaza.

    The current violence erupted after a six-month cease-fire brokered by Egypt expired on December 19 and Hamas intensified rocket attacks from the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

    France said it would host Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday and an Israeli official said French President Nicolas Sarkozy planned to visit Jerusalem next Monday.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #32
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    Jan 2005
    Protesters worldwide keep up pressure over Gaza


    Protesters denouncing Israel's deadly bombardment of the Gaza Strip returned to the streets in demonstrations around the world to keep up the pressure for an end to the violence.

    As Israel, under increasing diplomatic pressure, mulled a proposed 48-hour truce and the death toll from its onslaught rose to at least 373 Palestinians, the protesters made their voices heard again.

    In France, more than 7,000 protesters marched in a dozen cities across the country to denounce the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which continued for the fourth day running Tuesday.

    In Paris, around 3,500 people according to police -- 5,000 according to the organisers -- marched towards the French foreign ministry on the Quai D'Orsay by the River Seine, shouting slogans and carrying banners denouncing Israel.

    Police said another 700 marched in the western city of Nantes, while demonstrations in at least a dozen cities and towns across the country each attracted hundreds of protesters.

    In London, between 200 and 300 demonstrators protested peacefully outside the Israeli embassy, after the two previous days' rallies had descended into violence.

    This demonstration was smaller than on Sunday and Monday, when scuffles erupted between police and protestors against Israel's air raids, leading to a total of 17 arrests over the two days.

    Iranian demonstrators stormed the British diplomatic compound in Tehran Tuesday evening to protest London's stance towards the Israeli onslaught, state news agency IRNA reported.

    "A large group of people and students entered the Gholhak gardens, which are occupied by the British embassy to protest at Britain's policies in supporting the Zionist regime and put up the Palestinian flag there," IRNA said.

    A media officer at the British embassy in Tehran confirmed the report.

    In Washington, between 2,500 and 5,000 people protested outside the US State Department chanting slogans like "Stop the Killing, Stop the War, Stop the Genocide of Palestinians" and with some carrying banners saying "Stop US Aid to Israel".

    In Los Angeles, around 500 protestors and pro-Israel activists faced off peacefully near the Israeli Consulate.

    At a separate demonstration attended by around 100 protesters in Westwood, actor Mike Farrell, a star of the hit 1970s television series "MASH", said he was "one of those people horrified by Israel's over-response."

    "Not that I'm in favor of Hamas by any means, because firing rockets into Israel is not the way these things get resolved in a productive way," he said.

    In Tunis, hundreds of lawyers and trade unionists joined opposition activists to defy a police ban and protest the bombing of Gaza, several sources reported.

    As some protesters shouted slogans denouncing the lack of response from Arab countries in general and Egypt in particular, police headed off the demonstration as it headed towards the courthouse, said witnesses.

    Tunisia's government has already condemned the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

    Saudi Arabia's interior ministry denied a report by Shiite news website that hundreds had demonstrated Monday afternoon in heavily Shiite Al Qatif, just west of Dammam, leading to several arrests.

    Shiite news website reported that police had fired rubber bullets to break up the demonstrations Monday afternoon, which were attended by hundreds of people. But an interior ministry spokesman told AFP there had been no such demonstration.

    Demonstrators in the Yemeni port city of Aden briefly broke into the Egyptian consulate to protest Cairo's response to the Israeli offensive, a security official said.

    The protesters, mostly students from the university of Aden, "vandalised furniture before they were removed peacefully from the building," the official said, asking not to be identified.

    Egypt has come in for strong criticism from Islamists and their sympathisers around the Muslim world for not fully opening its border with Gaza in the face of Israel's devastating air blitz.

    In Algeria, about 100 people staged a protest in the capital Algiers after a call from politicians and editors of writers' and artists' magazines. They observed a minute's silence in memory of the dead.

    In Panama City, around 200 people protested outside the Israeli embassy to condemn Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip.

    In the Bulgarian capital Sofia, about 200 protesters called on the Bulgarian government to support the peace efforts. Demonstrators carried pro-Palestinian banners and others denouncing Israel.

    Earlier Tuesday, about 200 people carrying flowers and candles offered a one-minute prayer in front of the Israeli embassy, with a Buddhist monk ringing a bell for the souls of the victims.

    "This is nothing but a bloodbath," organiser Hiroshi Taniyama told demonstrators, who included Arabs living in Japan.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  3. #33
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    Jan 2005
    Egypt cancels New Year’s Eve over Gaza ‘massacres’


    CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt has cancelled official New Year’s Eve events in solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinians being “massacred” in Gaza, the state-owned Al-Ahram daily reported on Wednesday.

    “In solidarity with the painful events in the Palestinian territories and the massacres which Gazans are faced with … the ministries of culture and information have decided to cancel New Year’s festivities,” the paper said.

    Cancelled events include a special concert by famed Egyptian singer Mohammed Munir set to be held at Cairo’s Opera House and a variety performance hosted by the ministry of information due to be broadcast on state television.

    Egyptian state television official Ossama al-Sheikh said on Tuesday that the launch of new channel “Nile Comedy,” set for January 1, would be delayed “out of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

    Since Israel unleashed its massive aerial attack on Hamas and the Gaza Strip on Saturday, at least 374 Palestinians, including 39 children, have been killed and 1,720 wounded, Gaza medics say.

    During the same period, four Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  4. #34
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    Jan 2005
    'Boycott Israel again because it is an enemy,' Kadhafi tells Arab states

    Agence France-Presse
    Published: Wednesday December 31, 2008

    TRIPOLI (AFP) — Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has called on Arab states to take a firm stand and boycott Israel because of its onslaught on the Gaza Strip, the official JANA news agency reported on Wednesday.

    Speaking to foreign ministers of the five North African Maghreb states in Tripoli late on Tuesday ahead of an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, Kadhafi also branded a league peace plan a "plot" and a "masquerade."

    The league adopted a Saudi proposal in 2002 which called on Israel to withdraw from territory it occupied in 1967, in return for diplomatic relations with Arab states. The plan was relaunched at a Riyadh summit in 2007.

    "We must close this door firmly and boycott Israel again because it is an enemy," JANA quoted Kadhafi as saying. "We have found that negotiations serve only the Zionist programme on the path to our extermination."

    "We could give Israel a deadline and say to them 'you have one month and after that the door to peace talks will be firmly closed. We will be in a state of war and Israel will be boycotted."

    He threatened to turn his back on the Arab world and focus fully on Africa, saying he intended to travel on Wednesday "to resolve the problems of Guinea, Somalia, Congo and Chad."

    "I'm going to Africa. The interests of my country lie in Africa, and its future is in Africa," Kadhafi told the foreign ministers of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

    The Libyan leader had been expected in Sierra Leone on Monday, but postponed his trip because of the Israeli air raids on the Islamist-controlled Gaza Strip that have killed at least 390 Palestinians since they began on Saturday.

    Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League were meeting in Cairo on Wednesday to forge a common stance in the face of the Israeli offensive.

    On Sunday Kadhafi lambasted Arab leaders for what he called their "cowardly" response, and vowed to boycott any Arab summit on the Gaza crisis.

    "How many times have you called an emergency summit on Palestine?" JANA quoted him as asking his counterparts rhetorically.

    "What action has ever resulted? ... For my part, I'm tired of listening to this stuck record. This sort of cowardly, defeatist reaction is shameful."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  5. #35
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    Jan 2005
    There's plenty of blame to go around for Gaza's war


    Israel must defend itself. And Hamas must bear responsibility for ending a six-month cease-fire this month with a barrage of rocket attacks into Israeli territory.

    Still we fear that Israel's response - devastating airstrikes that represent the largest military operation in Gaza since 1967 - is unlikely to weaken the militant Palestinian group substantially or move things any closer to what all Israelis and all Palestinians need: a durable peace agreement and a two-state solution.

    Israel must make every effort to limit civilian casualties. The leaders of Hamas, especially those safely ensconced in Damascus, are unconcerned about their people's suffering - and masters at capitalizing on it.

    Before the conflict spins out of control, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries will have to find ways to cajole or more likely threaten Hamas (or its patrons in Syria and Iran) to accept a new cease-fire.

    President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should be pressing Cairo and Riyadh to use all of their influence with Hamas, and they should be pressing Israel to exercise restraint.

    By Monday, some 350 Palestinians - mostly Hamas security forces - were reported killed. A Hamas security compound was among dozens of structures pummeled in the attacks, and the group's leaders were supposedly driven into hiding. The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, promised a "war to the bitter end."

    We hope he does not mean a ground war. That, or any prolonged military action, would be disastrous for Israel and lead to wider regional instability. Barak and Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, both candidates to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in elections set for February, must not be drawn any further into a competition with the front-runner, Benjamin Netanyahu, over who is the biggest hawk.

    There can be no justification for Hamas' attacks or its virulent rejectionism. But others must also take responsibility for the current mess. Hamas never fully observed the cease-fire that went into effect on June 19 and Israel never really lived up to its commitment to ease its punishing embargo on Gaza. When the cease-fire ran out, no one, including the Bush administration, made a serious effort to get it extended.

    Meanwhile, the peace process Bush launched with such fanfare in Annapolis last year is moribund. There is plenty of blame to go around for that, too. Olmert's government failed to halt settlements and give the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas - Hamas' sworn enemy - the support he needed. Bush refused to press Olmert to do what was needed but politically unpalatable. Arab leaders never did enough to boost Abbas, or to persuade or pressure Hamas to cut its ties with Iran and join peace efforts.

    Rice once hoped to make a Middle East peace her legacy. It is too late for that. But she should do her job. That means getting on a plane for Cairo and Riyadh - now - to enlist their help in brokering a new cease-fire. Then it will be up to President-elect Barack Obama to quickly pick up the pieces and fashion a Middle East peace strategy that may actually bring peace.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  6. #36
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    Jan 2005
    Hamas defiant as Israel rejects Gaza truce


    Hamas vowed on Wednesday to fight "until the last breath" if Israel makes good on threats to send ground troops into Gaza after rejecting calls for a truce and pressing on with its air assault.

    "We in Hamas are ready for all scenarios and we will fight until the last breath," senior official Mushir al-Masri told AFP as warplanes pounded Gaza for a fifth day and the enclave's Islamist rulers hit back with rockets.

    "Israel will embark on a veritable adventure if it decides to invade Gaza. We have prepared surprises for them," he vowed.

    Despite international appeals for the bloodshed to end, Israel's security cabinet rejected proposals for a ceasefire.

    "The cabinet decided to continue with the military operation," a senior government official told AFP earlier on Wednesday.

    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the meeting conditions were not yet ripe to halt the bombardment, launched in response to persistent rocket fire from the territory that Hamas has run for a year and a half.

    "We did not launch the Gaza operation only to end it with the same rocket firing that we had at its start," the official quoted Olmert as saying.

    Amid mushrooming protests worldwide, diplomats have been scrambling to find a way to stop one of Israel's deadliest-ever offensives on the Gaza Strip that has so far killed at least 393 Palestinians.

    There was no let-up in the violence on Wednesday, with Israel conducting nearly 60 air strikes and Hamas firing more than 60 rockets.

    Hamas said it would consider any ceasefire proposal that includes an end to the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza since the Islamists took power.

    The exiled head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, speaking by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, voiced "readiness to cease armed confrontation but on condition of the lifting of the blockade of Gaza," the Russian ministry said.

    The White House said it was up to Hamas to make the first move.

    "I think President (George W) Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets, and that is what will be the first steps in a ceasefire," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

    Secular Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas threatened to abandon peace talks with Israel so as not to support its deadly "aggression" against Gaza.

    Israel has warned that its "all-out war" on Hamas could last for weeks. It has massed tanks on the Gaza border, authorised the call-up of 9,000 reservists and warned of a ground invasion.

    Since it was launched on Saturday, the Israeli offensive has killed at least 393 people, including 42 children, and wounded more than 1,900, according to Gaza medics.

    At least 25 percent of those killed have been civilians, the United Nations said.

    The intensive bombardment has reduced much of Hamas's administrative infrastructure to rubble but has failed to stop rocket fire into Israel.

    Since the start of the onslaught, Gaza militants have fired more than 250 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, killing three civilians and one soldier and wounding several dozen people.

    Five of the rockets fired since late on Tuesday slammed into the desert town of Beersheba some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Gaza border -- the deepest yet that its projectiles have reached inside Israel.

    Hamas has also threatened to stage suicide attacks inside Israel for the first time since January 2005.

    As protests were held in countries from the United States to Iran, Israel's regional ally Turkey condemned the offensive as "ruthless."

    "The attacks on Gaza should stop immediately and a permanent ceasefire should be urgently secured to prevent irreversible developments in the region," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

    The bombardment has raised concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a tiny, aid-dependent territory of 1.5 million people that Israel has virtually sealed off since Hamas seized power from forces loyal to Abbas in June 2007.

    Bush called Olmert, who assured him Israel was taking "appropriate steps" to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, the White House said.

    Israel opened one of its border crossings with Gaza again on Wednesday, bringing to 179 the number of lorryloads of supplies delivered since the Gaza bombardment began, the army said.

    Meanwhile, several Arab countries cancelled New Year's Eve festivities in solidarity with Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, celebrations are low-key at the best of times and were expected to be particularly subdued.

    At the same time, civil defence officials urged residents in southern Israel to stay indoors.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  7. #37
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    Jan 2005
    Cynthia McKinney: Oh What a Day!

    By Cynthia McKinney

    Oh What a Day!

    I'm so glad that my father told me to buy a special notebook and to write everything down because that's exactly what I did.

    When we left from Cyprus, one reporter asked me "are you afraid?" And I had to respond that Malcolm X wasn't afraid; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't afraid. But little did I know that just a few hours later, I would be recollecting my life and mentally preparing myself for death.

    When we left Cyprus, the Mediterranean was beautiful. I remember the time when it might have been beautiful to look at, but it was also filthy. The Europeans have taken great strides to clean it up and yesterday, it was beautiful. And the way the sunlight hit the sea, I remember thinking to myself that's why they call it azure. It was the most beautiful blue.

    But sometimes it was rough, and we got behind on our schedule. We stayed on course, however, despite the roughness of the water and due to our exquisite captain.

    There were no other ships or boats around us and night descended upon us all rather quickly. It was the darkest black and suddenly, out of nowhere, came searchlights disturbing our peace. The searchlights stayed with us for about half an hour or so. We knew they were Israeli ships. Who else would they be?

    They were fast, and they would come close and then drop back. And then, they'd come close again. And then, all of a sudden there was complete blackness once again and all seemed right. The cat and mouse game went on for at least one half hour. What were they doing? And why?

    Calm again. Black sky, black sea. Peace. And then, at that very moment, when all seemed right, out of nowhere we were rammed and rammed again and rammed again the last one throwing me off the couch, sending all our food up in the air; and all the plastic bags and tubs--evidence of sea sicknesses among the crew and passengers--flew all over the cabin and all over us. We'd been rammed by the Israelis. How did we know? Because they called us on the phone afterwards to tell us that we were engaging in subversive, terroristic activity. And if that if we didn't turn around right then and return to Larnaca, Cyprus, we would be fired upon. We quickly grabbed our lifevests and put them on. Then the captain announced that the boat was taking on water. We might have to evacuate. One of my mates told me to prepare to die. And I reflected that I have lived a good and full life. I have tasted freedom and know what it is. I was right with myself and my decision to join the Free Gaza movement.

    I remembered my father's parting words, "You all will be sitting ducks." Just like the U.S.S. Liberty. We were engaged in peaceful activity, a harmless pleasure boat, carrying a load of hospital supplies for the people of Gaza, who, too are sitting ducks, currently being bombarded in aerial assault by the Israeli military.

    It's been a long day for us. The captain was outstanding. Throughout it all, he remained stoic and calm, effective in every way. I didn't know how to put my life jacket on. One of the passengers kindly assisted me. Another of the passengers pointed out that the Israeli motors for those huge, fast boats was U.S. made--a gift to them from the U.S. And now they were using those motors to damage a pleasure boat outfitted with three tons of hospital supplies, one pediatrician, and two surgeons.

    I have called for President-elect Obama to say something. The Palestinian people in the Gaza strip are seeing the worst violence in 60 years, it is being reported. To date, President-elect Obama has remained silent. The Israelis are using weapons supplied to them by the U.S. government. Strict enforcement of U.S. law would require the cessation of all weapons transfers to Israel. Adherence to international law would require the same. As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, let us remember that he said:

    1. The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and
    2. Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter.

    I implore the President-elect to not send Congress a budget that contains more weapons for Israel. We have so much more to offer. And I implore the Congress to vote "no" on any budget and appropriation bills that provide more weapons transfers, period.

    Israel is able to carry out these intense military maneuvers because taxpayers in the U.S. give their hard-earned money to our Representatives in Congress and our Congress chooses to spend that money in this way. Let's stop it and stop it now. There's been too much blood shed. And while we still walk among the living, let us not remain silent about the things that matter.

    We really can promote peace and have it if we demand it of our leaders.

    The shock, awe and heart attacks that followed Madoff's confession that he was 'running a Ponzi scheme' drew as much anger for the money lost and the fall from the moneyed class as for the embarrassment of knowing that the world's biggest exploiters and smartest swindlers on Wall Street, were completely 'taken' by one of their own. Not only did they suffer big losses but their self-image of themselves as rich because they are so smart and of 'superior stock' was utterly shattered: They saw themselves as suffering the same fate as all the schmucks they had previously swindled, exploited and dispossessed in their climb to the top. There is nothing worse for the ego of a respectable swindler than to be trumped by a bigger swindler. As a result, a number of the biggest losers have so far refused to give their names or the amount they lost, working instead through lawyers fighting off other losers.

    --James Petras

    "And advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."

    --PNAC, Rebuilding America's Defenses, p. 60

    The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can "throw the rascals out" at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.

    --Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in our Time
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  8. #38
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    Jan 2005
    Gaza puts damper on New Year's celebrations worldwide

    Agence France-Presse
    Published: Wednesday December 31, 2008

    SYDNEY (AFP) — New Year celebrations kicked off in lavish style in Australia Thursday -- but the Gaza conflict, memories of Mumbai and global economic downturn left partygoers elsewhere feeling flat as 2009 crept steadily westwards.

    Indeed, 2009 greeted Thailand with tragedy, when a fire ripped through a Bangkok nightclub early Thursday, killing at least 54 New Year revellers, a local administration official said.

    Up to 1.5 million Australians and tourists converged on the site surrounding Sydney's world-famous Opera House for the city's biggest-ever -- and multi-million-dollar -- fireworks display.

    Sydney was the first major world city to see in the New Year, although New Zealand also staged a dramatic fireworks display from Auckland's Sky Tower two hours earlier and 2009 officially kicked in on Kiritimati, or Christmas Island, in the Pacific Ocean, at 1000 GMT.

    Not everyone was in the mood -- with India set for a subdued New Year's Eve and several Arab states cancelling planned celebrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the Islamist-run Gaza Strip who suffered a fifth straight day of Israeli bombardment on Wednesday.

    Egypt, Jordan, Dubai and Syria all cancelled festivities including concerts by renowned Arab singers, with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum giving the order "as a sign of solidarity with the brotherly Palestinian people...," his office said.

    Morocco even cancelled state television broadcasts, judging the mood inappropriate, according to Rabat's information minister.

    Tight security was planned in Mumbai, which is still coming to terms with the trauma of the November terror attacks that left 172 people dead. Police were keeping an especially close watch on traditional boat parties along Mumbai's famed waterfront.

    Some of the militants who took part in the November attacks slipped into Mumbai from the sea, and joint police commissioner K.L. Prasad said partygoers on boats would not be allowed to return to shore once celebrations had begun.

    "It may create a sense of fear among the crowd if they see somebody alighting from the boat," Prasad said.

    The resort state of Goa has banned its famous beach parties -- a huge draw for foreign tourists -- and extra paramilitary troops have been deployed to ensure security.

    A sombre note will also be sounded in neighbouring Pakistan as December 31 falls on the second day of the Muslim mourning month of Muharram, which marks the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson in the seventh century.

    "There are no New Year's functions at the hotel due to Muharram," said Jamil Khawar, a spokesman for the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which reopened at the weekend, three months after it was gutted in a suicide truck bombing.

    In the southern port of Karachi, luxury hotels are not planning events due to Muharram but people were expected to gather on the city's Arabian Sea beaches to ring in 2009 -- with hundreds of paramilitary police on watch.

    Apart from the carnage wrought by militant violence, the global financial meltdown has also dampened spirits.

    In Tokyo, laid off workers are camping out in the city's Hibiya Park during the holidays after companies -- including leading carmakers -- cut tens of thousands of jobs.

    Japan's Emperor Akihito in his New Year message called on the nation to unite in fighting its recession, saying it "grieves my heart that many people have been left in difficult conditions."

    "This year ended with the realisation of a growing economic and social crisis which from now on affects the entire world: a crisis which calls for more restraint and solidarity to help those people and families who have got into serious difficulties," said Pope Benedict XVI in his traditional end-of-year message.

    In Hong Kong, the Times Square shopping mall said it had prepared "cheering sticks" printed with phrases of blessings in Chinese characters for its countdown event, such as "everyone's got a job" and "a blooming stock market."

    China's main festivities will come later in the month with a week-long holiday for the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.

    In the Philippines the authorities were bracing themselves for traditional New Year's Eve festivities marked by gunfire and firecrackers. Hospitals are on alert for injuries while the police and military are being warned against firing their guns into the air.

    As the celebrations moved towards Middle Eastern and European time zones, Italian men were waiting to see if a group of Naples women would carry out their threat to refuse them sex if they insisted on playing with fireworks at midnight...

    Special meals, however, were served up to hundreds of would-be migrants stuck in cold weather in the French port of Calais, hoping to begin a new, more prosperous life in Britain.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  9. #39
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    Jan 2005
    UN takes up resolution calling for immediate Israeli ceasefire


    UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Libya presented a draft resolution from the Arab League to a UN Security Council emergency meeting that calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

    The draft resolution "strongly condemns all military attacks and the excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by Israel, the occupying power, which have led to the death and injury of scores of innocent Palestinian civilians, including women and children."

    It calls for "an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect by both sides."

    It also calls on Israel "to scrupulously abide by all of its obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly under the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in time of war."

    The emergency council meeting was convened at the behest of Egypt, which assumed the Arab League presidency in December.

    The 15-member council is now expected to convene a public debate on the draft resolution that includes representatives from Israel, Egypt, the Arab League and the Palestinian territories.

    The British and American ambassadors to the United Nations said the resolution needs to be amended before possible adoption because it fails to mention the ongoing Hamas rocket attacks on Israel that motivated the current Israeli military operation.

    "This resolution as currently circulated by Libya is not balanced and therefore, as currently drafted, it is not acceptable to the United States," US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters.

    Sudan's UN ambassador Abdalmahmud Abdalhaleem Mohamad and Arab League representative Yahya Mahmassani said the Council would likely meet at the foreign minister-level in the coming days, with at least eight Arab countries participating.

    Foreign ministers from Arab League nations meeting in Cairo Wednesday called for a binding UN resolution requiring an immediate halt to hostilities.

    A delegation headed by chief Saudi diplomat Prince Saud al-Faisal with foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, a Palestinian representative and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa will likely come to UN headquarters to argue the Arab League's case, Mohamad said.

    The Sudanese ambassador said a Security Council meeting with these representatives could be held Sunday or Monday.

    The draft resolution also calls "for the immediate and sustained opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip," and the resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries to its population.

    It "stresses the need for restoration of calm in full in order to pave the way for resolving all issues in a peaceful manner within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

    The text appears to have been amended since an initial version was released to the press in Cairo. It no longer includes a call for Israel to stop its "barbaric" aggression, lift its blockade of Gaza and stop the "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people.

    Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas also appealed Wednesday for a UN resolution imposing a ceasefire.

    Abbas is set to meet Monday with the UN Security Council to discuss the situation.

    Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting Abbas loyalists in June 2007. Despite winning Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas has since been boycotted by much of the West for refusing to recognize Israel.

    Israel's pounding of Gaza began after the December 19 expiry of a six-month truce with Hamas brokered by Egypt and a resumption of rocket fire by Gaza-based militants.

    The Arab League talks were taking place as Israel rejected world calls for a truce and vowed to press ahead with its deadly Gaza offensive.

    The actions have so far lasted five days, killed nearly 400 Palestinians and left more than 1,900 wounded, according to Gaza emergency services.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  10. #40
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Israel ordered to allow journalists into Gaza

    By Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem
    Wednesday, 31 December 2008

    Israel’s Supreme Court ruled today that the Israeli government must allow journalists entry into Gaza to cover the ongoing conflict.

    The decision came in response to a petition by the Foreign Press Association which has been campaigning for access to the besieged Palestinian enclave since a media ban was imposed more than two months ago.

    The legal battle highlights the propaganda war being waged behind the bombs and rockets of the latest conflict. Israel cites as one of the main reasons for blocking foreign journalists from Gaza its belief that the reporting has been unfair and one-sided.

    This is hardly the first time that the Israeli government has complained about perceived bias in the foreign media, but this time it is also putting unprecedented resources into getting its message across.

    There is a consensus among many Israeli officials that the last war in Lebanon was, in many ways, a public relations disaster for Israel with Hezbollah winning the propaganda war. The same is not being allowed to happen with Hamas in Gaza. Israel has mobilised politicians, diplomats and supporters world wide to present its case.

    Correspondents and reporters based in Israel are receiving dozens of SMS messages offering briefings, interviews, facility trips. One team has even been established to concentrate on bloggers.

    A country which has fought its many wars by mobilising a citizens’ army has mobilised for the information offensive. A headline in the Jerusalem Post stated “Netanyahu Joins Gaza Op PR Effort”. At the invitation of outgoing premier Ehud Olmert, the opposition Likud leader is now part of the campaign, giving the first in a series of interviews about Gaza to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News channel.

    Meanwhile, foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who as the Kadima party’s candidate will run against Mr Netanyahu in the forthcoming elections briefed more than 80 international representatives at a media centre set up by the government at Sderot, a town which had become totemic after receiving daily Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza.

    Ms Livni also undertook a telephone marathon stating the Israeli justification for the Gaza attacks to Condoleeza Rice, David Milliband, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France and Germany, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

    Foreign ambassadors to Israel had been taken on a guided tour near the Gaza borders and Israel’s own diplomats, serving and retired, are being pressed into service. Ms Livni declared: "many voices are making themselves heard throughout the world today in English, French and Arabic, and in a clear, strong voice. We are telling them all the truth that is not broadcast on television in the Arab world - and this is the truth that needs to be voiced from this podium to the entire world.”

    Some of the interviews with Israeli politicians and officials for the international media have been organised by pro-Israeli think tanks such as BICOM (British Israeli Communications & Research Centre) based in the UK and the Israel Project with its HQ in America.

    Mark Regev, the urbane spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, has been one of the most prominent advocates for Israel in the world’s media. Earlier this week the Israel Project gathered 600 journalists for a telephone interview with him.

    Mr Regev complained that claims by Hamas on casualties are being reported without questioning by news organisations. “There was a guy in Gaza, supposedly a doctor, who said that only 10 per cent of the casualties were combatants and the rest were innocent civilians - and this was put out as fact on the news” said Mr Regev. “Why was no attempt made to find out whether this was true or not ?”

    One obvious reason, of course, is the ban on journalists going into Gaza. Mr Regev argues that this has happened in international conflicts. However, his sympathies, he says “ are intrinsically with the media and hopefully the situation will change in the very near future. We would welcome the examination of the claims that Hamas have been making.”

    Hamas has, in fact, its own relatively efficient information system which is superior to that of rival Palestinian faction Fatah. The organisation has demonstrated that it understands the needs of the media and knows how to exploit them.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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