Johara Baker, "The Gaza Quagmire": Apparently, the Gazans have had enough. This morning, after two days of demonstrating at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, armed Palestinians dynamited several holes in the barrier and scores of angry and beleaguered Gazan citizens surged into Egyptian territory to stock up on basic supplies. Citizens brought back food, fuel, clothes and even cigarettes after months of a brutal Israeli-imposed siege and two days of total darkness. On January 17, Israel refused to allow fuel into the Strip, forcing Gaza’s main power plant to shut down. The majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents were plunged into darkness during two of the coldest days of the year. The suffering endured by Gaza’s residents is obvious – Israel has clamped a tight siege on the Strip ever since Hamas overtook the 360 square kilometer territory last June, only opening the border crossings intermittently to allow basic necessities through. Israeli military operations have been ongoing, escalating at times while ebbing at others. Since January 15, 39 Gazans have been killed by Israeli operations, many of these unarmed civilians.
Amira Hass, "They neither see nor remeber": The security establishment was quick on Monday to boast of the success of its tactic of escalation against Gaza: Look, the number of Qassams declined. By the time these lines are published, the security establishment may spin another logical axiom: Since we renewed the supply of diesel fuel on a one-time basis, the Palestinians have gone back to firing Qassams. The conclusion: Continue the escalation. The logic of escalation is the middle name of the current defense minister, Ehud Barak, and many Israelis are adopting it. Barak was prime minister in September 2000, when the Israel Defense Forces responded with escalation to popular demonstrations against the Israeli occupier and to the throwing of stones: lethal fire against civilians, among them many children. Not surprisingly, the Palestinians did not understand the lesson and turned to escalation tactics of their own. That is how we reached the point where we are now - homemade rockets of all kinds, which become even developed, the more Israel escalates its punishment measures in response to them.
Caellum Moffat, "Olmerts Conundrum": Commentators have completed their detailed analysis on US President George Bush’s arrival to the Holy Land; hotel employees have cleared up the president’s suite and the meeting rooms he graced while event coordinators and sound technicians have dismantled all the equipment used in projecting his promises of peace in conference halls. The public is gradually reverting back to their daily routines after the initial excitement induced by the visit of the most powerful man in the world. However, a week after this “historic” trip, all the time and effort that went into arranging the president’s busy schedule, his security and ensuring his daily routines were kept on his first trip to the area as president, may have been proven pointless following recent movements within the Israeli political sphere. The president had hoped that his presence would incite pressure and urgency into proceedings between Israelis and Palestinians. G. W. Bush, almost overemphasizing his close personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the hope of offering credibility to the unpopular prime minister, appealed to the Knesset to stand by the Kadima leader and allow him to direct them to a peace agreement before the end of 2008.