Am Abend berichtet ein Sprecher der al-Quds-Brigaden von drei weiteren getöteten Kämpfern des Islamic-Jihad bei den Gefechten vor dem Flüchtlingslager al-Maghazi. Palästinensische Mediziner berichten von insgesamt acht verletzten Zivilisten, darunter ein reuters-Tontechniker. Auf israelischer Seite werden fünf Soldaten durch einen Granattreffer verletzt, einer schwer. Derzeit wird verstärkter Granatbeschuß aus dem Gaza-Streifen gemeldet.
Widersprüchliche Aussagen gibt es zum Thema Waffenstillstand: Israel is examining a Hamas ceasefire proposal delivered by Egypt, defense officials said Thursday. .. A senior official in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office denied Thursday that Israel was holding contacts with Hamas over a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. .. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Hamas proposal was limited to stopping the rocket fire from Gaza in exchange for a halt in IDF operations in the Strip. They said Hamas gave assurances it could impose the truce on the militant groups that are firing the rockets - Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees. There was no immediate comment from the Egyptian government. .. Also Thursday, the Palestinian Pal Press agency quoted "informed Arab sources" as saying that Hamas's Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal and Hamas headquarters in Syria were behind the telephone call from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to a Channel 2 reporter during which the Hamas leader reportedly offered Israel the "hudna." According to the report, Mashaal instructed Haniyeh to call the reporter and convey to the Israeli government the message that Hamas was interested in negotiating a ceasefire. Mashaal also reportedly demanded that Haniyeh's forces maintain quiet along the border with Israel. Israel and Hamas have engaged in dialogue in the past "via indirect tracks," according to the sources quoted by the report. For instance, they said, the two sides had negotiated the departure of pilgrims from amongst the ranks of Hamas to the haj in Saudi Arabia. [Helena Cobban: "Hamas-Israel ceasefire ahead?": AP's Sarah el-Deeb has an intriguing story on the wire today with background about a ceasefire proposal that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh transmitted Tuesday to a reporter for Israel's Channel 2 t.v., Suleiman al-Shafi. This, while Haaretz reports today that Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz-- who was previously first the IDF chief of staff and then briefly Defense Minister-- has said publicly that, "Israel should not rule out indirect negotiations with Hamas in an effort to halt Qassam rocket fire at southern Israel."]
While a senior Military Intelligence officer said Thursday the IDF was limited in its ability to stop Kassam attacks, The Jerusalem Post has learned that the Defense Ministry is holding high-level talks with the Pentagon on purchasing a rapid-fire cannon to protect strategic installations from the primitive Palestinian rockets. The costs of a Gaza invasion. The system under consideration was developed by leading American defense firm Raytheon and is an offshoot of a model designed to protect against ship-to-ship missiles that is today installed on Israeli missile vessels. Each land-based system would cost about $15 million. The cannon uses a 20 mm M61A1 Gatling gun firing 3,000 or 4,500 M-246 or M-940 self-destruct rounds per minute. Called the Phalanx B, or C-Ram, the system was sent to Iraq last year and is used by the Americans to protect the Green Zone in Baghdad and by the British to protect their forces in the country's south. The C-RAM is a variant of the American Vulcan Phalanx, a 20 mm cannon designed to defend navy ships from missiles, and is controlled by an advanced radar system that detects and locks in on incoming enemy projectiles. [Each land-based system would cost about $15 million". - Mit dem neuen Eagle-300 360°-Sensor ausgestattet $17 Million]
Ich halte das für eine Zeitungsente [Tony Blair], da die Vereinbarung sicher schon länger existiert: The Defense Ministry on Thursday started setting up a special passage into Bethlehem to be used by Christian pilgrims before and during Christmas, following an official request made by Tony Blair, the Quartet's special envoy to the Middle East. Blair raised the issue during his last meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He said that due to the careful security checks at the checkpoint leading to Bethlehem, pilgrims are subject to long lines on their way into the West Bank city. The new passage is being erected on the site of the old checkpoint, and will be open to Christian pilgrims only. Palestinians wishing to enter Bethlehem will have to travel via the currently operating checkpoint. More than 20,000 are expected to attend Christmas mass in Bethlehem, and the Tourism Ministry is coordinating with both its Palestinian counterpart and the security services in an effort to ensure they can get there and back easily.
12-Uhr mittags: U.S. President George W. Bush told a White House press conference Thursday that his patience with Syrian President Bashar Assad had run out long ago. "Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon," Bush said when asked whether he would be willing to talk to Assad about stabilizing Lebanon, which is caught up in a political crisis. The Bush administration has tried to isolate Damascus diplomatically, though Syria sent representatives to the Annapolis peace conference hosted by the U.S. last month. "My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago," Bush said. "The reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq and he destabilizes Lebanon," Bush said. + Lebanon's highest Shiite cleric called Thursday for the election of a president either on a consensus base, or directly by the people. Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, deputy head of the Supreme Shiite Council, made the remark after holding telephone consultations with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri, according to state-run National News Agency. + Syria says working for end to Lebanon crisis: Moualem said he was due later on Thursday to discuss Lebanon in a phone call with Claude Gueant, Sarkozy's chief of staff, who visited Damascus twice since November. The election in parliament has been postponed nine times by differences between Lebanese leaders. The next parliamentary session has been scheduled for Saturday. Acknowledging that Syria wields influence over its Lebanese allies, Moualem said Damascus was helping relay the demands of the Lebanese opposition on the composition of a new unity government to foreign mediators. + Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem criticized on Thursday the United States in the Lebanese presidential crisis, accusing it of allegedly blocking Syrian and French efforts to end the deadlock that has paralyzed Lebanon. The remarks by Moallem followed a visit to Lebanon by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, who this week accused Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition of obstructing the vote for the country's top post. + The daily al-Hayat quoted [Parlaiment speaker Nabih] Berri as telling visitors he is "less optimistic" regarding convening a parliamentary session scheduled for Saturday to elect a new head of state. The vague atmosphere prevailed over the presidential crisis after U.S. Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch concluded a two-day assignment in Beirut aimed at re-assuring the March 14 majority that Washington is anew leading international pressure to facilitate the election of a Lebanese president without foreign intervention. Al-Hayat quoted senior sources in the majority as saying Welch has outlined that Syrian President Bashar Assad "refuses to facilitate the election of a president in Lebanon." Washington "gave Paris time to carry out a last attempt with Damascus, But French President Nicolas Sarkozy realized that his Syrian counterpart has not delivered on his promises and commitments and that Damascus is hiding behind its allies in the opposition by implying that they are not against electing Suleiman, but they have political demands related to the formation of the government" that should rule when a new head of state assumes power, Welch was quoted as saying. + C. Sydow: Syrien geht gegen Oppositionelle vor - Syriens Behörden sind in den letzten Wochen verschärft gegen Regimekritiker vorgegangen. Seit Anfang Dezember sind mindestens sieben Dissidenten festgenommen worden. Sie alle gehören zu den Unterzeichnern der sogenannten "Damascus Declaration", einer gemeinsamen Erklärung kommunistischer, nationalistischer, liberaler und kurdischer Gruppen, die im Oktober 2005 veröffentlicht wurde.
"My Letter to Santa: What will you bring me and Syria next Christmas?": Dear Santa, I want to write and tell you about my Christmas of last year in 2006 which I regret to say was spent grovelling in a dark hole of Bashar Al-Assad's Underground Prison, which is the home to many of Syria's Political Dissidents. Instead of usually hearing your Christmas bells and cheer, I would only hear the screams of torture and crying as the whips lashed the skin of my fellow prisoner mates, it was no Xmas by all means Santa, it was more like hell spent in Assad's Chamber of Torture.
Randa Takkiedine, "Sarkozy, Arabs and Lebanon": President Nicholas Sarkozy's recent visit to Algeria, the article published by an Algerian minister prior to the visit about the Zionist inclinations of the French president and his bias to Israel, the lukewarm reception of the French president by the Algerian street which contrasts sharply with the reception of his predecessor Jacques Chiraque - all these issues made Sarkozy realize the need to correct his image in the Arab world. In this context, Sarkozy headed an international conference to fund the Palestinian state where he delivered a balanced speech on the Palestinian cause and people to the point that League of Arab States Secretary General Amro Moussa commented that the content of the speech denies the allegations made about Sarkozy's bias to Israel. Sarkozy also made it clear to the Israelis that it was time to end the occupation and settling, and to seek a real peace with the Palestinian people which would allow the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. + Elias Harfouche, "Who is threatening the 'opportunity' of General Suleiman?": General Michel Suleiman, the consensus candidate for the Lebanese presidency, can be envied for his patience and ability to tolerate the continuing political bickering that has so far derailed the opportunity for his move from the Army commander's headquarters in Yarze for the Presidential Palace in Baabda. This is despite the fact that more than three weeks have passed since his name was put forward as a serious candidate for the top position in the state.