Nach derzeit noch etwas unterschiedlichen Angaben trifft eine von drei [andere sprechen von sechs] abgefeuerten Qassam-Raketen die israelische Grenzstadt Sderot. Der Einschlag wird auf 50 Meter Abstand zu einer Grundschule bemessen, mehrere Schulkinder erleiden Schockzustände. Während einer Operation israelischer Panzer nahe der Flüchtlingslager al-Brij und al-Maghazi werden bei Kämpfen insgesamt vier Milizionäre unterschiedlicher Fraktionen getötet, fünf Palästinenser und ein israelischer Soldat zum Teil schwer verletzt. Es sollen sich drei Zivilisten unter den Verletzten befinden. Am Morgen waren vier Granaten auf den Kissufim-crossing abgefeuert worden. Nach unbestätigten Angaben sollen israelsiche Truppen auf eine Gruppe von Journalisten gefeuert haben. Ein reuters-Photograph sei verletzt worden. In der Westbank werden bei verschiedenen Verhaftungsaktionen insgesamt vierzehn Palästinenser verhaftet. Zudem wird von der Nichtmilitärfront in der israelischen Regierung die jüngste Spekulation über Hamas-Führer Haniyehs Absichten einen Waffenstillstand aushandeln zu wollen propagandistisch ausgeschlachtet. ["All of these...comments, and the messages coming in all kinds of strange ways, all of these things are a kind of smoke screen that just shows that Israel's recent policy toward Palestinian terror is bearing fruit," Vice Premier Ramon told Army Radio. "If Palestinians stopped firing rockets into Israel, Israel would have no reason to attack," Ramon said.] Zuvor hatte sich der militärisch erfahrenere Flügel eher positiv geäußert. Die Begründung liefert ein noch Berufenerer: Israel's ability to counter and deal with the threat of Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip is limited and almost non-existent, Chief Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen. Yuval Halamish, said Thursday. Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv University on the use of Electro-optics on the future battlefield, Halamish said that sometimes luck plays more of a factor when facing the Kassam than Israel's military capabilities. "This is a close threat that has an impact on the home front as well as the national morale," Halamish said. "Our ability to deal with this threat is difficult until being almost impossible in certain places." Halamish said that Iran and Syria were transferring know-how to the Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip and that the characteristics of warfare in Gaza today were similar to those used against the IDF by the Hizbullah in Lebanon and against American troops in Iraq. Halamish said that the use of rockets by terror groups was due to their understanding that ground forces are limited in their capabilities. Von gestern: A Palestinian youth, aged 17, tried to stab one of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers stationed at the Hawara checkpoint in the West Bank on Wednesday. The troops manning the checkpoint, located south of Nablus, successfully subdued the Palestinian teen, confiscated the knife and took him in for questioning. No one was hurt in the incident. Earlier Wednesday, an Israeli civilian was lightly wounded, Army Radio reported, when Palestinians hurled rocks at his car on route 443, which runs from Jerusalem to Modi'in.
Amos Harel, "Experts: Extreme rightists will use violence if settlements are evacuated": Extreme right-wing activists are expected to use severe violence to disrupt any move to evacuate outposts or settlements, even the destruction of a few homes, according to an evaluation recently presented to the government by the security establishment and law enforcement officials in the territories. The evaluation states that the violence during any attempt at evacuation would be more serious than that seen during the evacuation of Amona two years ago. However security officials do not at this stage foresee an increased threat to the lives of senior politicians, because the extreme right does not appear to believe the Annapolis process will succeed and therefore the settlements are not in danger. After the evacuation of Amona two years ago, the ideological foundations and plans of actions were reformulated against future evacuations. In a booklet distributed at one of the extreme-right rallies, the message was that violence might deter the government from additional evacuations.
In an about-face from a day earlier, Housing and Construction Minister Ze'ev Boim on Thursday said he never intended to pursue a massive construction plan for east Jerusalem that sparked Palestinian outrage and a chilly reception from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. ... His office issued a statement saying "there are no plans for the building of a neighborhood at Atarot, Jerusalem."
The mechanism for an international security presence in the Gaza Strip "could be devised quickly" if Israel and the Palestinians reach an agreement on the matter, EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Otte said there is "definitely more interest than in the past" for the idea from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. "After the [Second] Lebanon War, the sides see the merit in an international security presence," Otte said, referring to the international force in southern Lebanon. At the same time, he said, "we are a long way away from implementation." Otte said that the EU was currently "in a listening mode" on the matter, adding: "We must make sure that all the parties are interested." [Ein Belgier, die kennen sich mit Sterbehilfe aus.]
Israel said Thursday it is opposed to Russian plans to stage a Middle East peace conference in Moscow within the coming months as a follow-up to the recent Annapolis summit. In explaining their reservations, government officials in Jerusalem cite the need to focus on bilateral talks with the Palestinians "and not be dragged onto a slippery slope of opening negotiations on other issues like Syria and Lebanon during the present time."
The Israel Defense Forces conducted an improved "Patriot" missile launching experiment Tuesday in cooperation with armament company RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems in southern Israel, the IDF announced Wednesday. The experiment, declared a success, was part of a series of improvements added to the missile's operational system, geared toward increasing the cover and detection ranges via a new radar system.
Iran's first nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russia, will not operate until late 2008, Russian news reports said Thursday. "I can say with certainty that the plant won't be launched before late 2008," Sergei Shmatko, the head of the Atomstroiexport company building the nuclear plant in the southern port of Bushehr, said on a trip to China, according to the ITAR-Tass, RIA Novosti and Interfax news agencies.
Carlo Strenger, "Zionism? Post-Zionism? Just give arguments": Moshe Arens has written an op-ed in these pages claiming that the following culprits are "post-Zionists": Prime Minister Ehud Olmert because he has empathy for Palestinian suffering and because he thinks that without a Palestinian state Israel is finished, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni because she supports this agenda, and Education Minister Yuli Tamir because she has introduced the Palestinian nakba into history textbooks. Both the secular and the religious right have been using the ploy of presenting themselves as the owners of the brand-name "Zionism" for quite some time, and utilize "post-Zionism" as a pejorative term that indicates a lack of pride and backbone as well as Jewish self-hate. The question is whether using such terms does anything to clarify Israel's existential issues.
For news and comments for Syria and Lebanon read Joshua Landis, "Lebanon and the art of Kabuki Theater" + The March 14 leaders issued an ultimatum to the opposition after a late nigh meeting yesterday urging a fruitful meeting to amend the constitution and elect a president this Saturday or the government will act alone and amend the constitution as needed.
Danold McIntyre, "Saudis US$ 1.4B support for Palestinians now in doubt": Saudi Arabia has so far refused to commit to budget support for the emergency government set up by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a political move casting a shadow over Monday's international donors' conference in Paris. The kingdom, along with the Gulf states which normally follow its lead, has declined ahead of the conference to promise around half the $1.4bn (£700m) a year needed to meet the Ramallah government's annual deficit, according to diplomatic and Palestinian sources. One key reason is thought to be Saudi Arabia's reluctance to be seen to be throwing all its weight behind one of the two parties to the coalition deal which it brokered and which then collapsed in bloody internal conflict and Hamas's seizure of control in Gaza in June.