news on the middle east


Friday, July 25, 2014

Gaza Report 7

This report is the seventh in a series on the current confrontation between Gaza and Israel.

ISRAEL: The following is the perspective of an Israeli diplomat close to the NCF (name withheld):

We are horrified by the scale of the civilian death toll in Gaza. There is no question about that. But how are we to stop these rocket attacks? We have placed that down as an open question to our allies. What do they think we should do? If we could find another way to do what we have to do to secure the safety of Israel we would do it.

ISRAEL 2: The following is the perspective of one of our most senior Israeli NCF members (name withheld):

It’s devastating what’s happening. It has been a nightmare. But I feel that in some strange way it has unified Israelis. Before we were conflicted, particularly in the Diaspora where there was J-Street in the States and their counterpart in the UK.

People that were on the right and on the left before this crisis now think differently because this is not the West Bank, this is Gaza, this is a part of Palestine from which we have vacated.

Also it’s more than that. Of course there was this blockade – but there was a reason for that. I understand the Hamas standpoint. I understand they want the blockade lifted. I don’t agree but I understand.

It would be an absolute miracle if there was a cease fire now. But what we need is not a mere cease fire. We need an effective peace process.

THE WEST: The following is the perspective of one of our most senior British NCF members (name withheld):

No one in the world gains from a batch of this every four or five years. We lack an Israeli with sufficient vision to lead his nation to peace with the Arabs. It needs to be someone from the right wing.

GAZA: The following comment comes from the NCF office in Gaza. 

All of us OK but today it was most deadly because of the Israeli massacre in southern Khuzaa and Abassan villages to the East of Khan Younis, where Israeli shelling left dead and wounded under rubble. In Khuzaa village 31 were killed and more than 1,100 injured.

But tonight there was a massacre against the "Kaa-Albir'' school in Beit Hanoun which was hit by four shells fired by IDF forces. 17 were killed and 170 injured. All of them were new refugees in an UNWRA shelter.

It has been a bloody day, especially in the last few hours. At the same time Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they killed several Israeli soldiers in the Eastern Gaza Strip and Beit Hanoun in the South Gaza Strip.

(Conversation interrupted by an air strike)

Khalid Mishal said they will continue until they end the siege and stop the war and agreesion – but especially to end the siege.

Maybe Israel will stop unilaterally without a cease fire. But without a cease fire and deal it will be very bad because crossings must be reopened. And because if no end to the siege it means no rebuilding of the houses and now we have more than 250,000 homeless which is too much.

Hamas and all the factions will continue to hold to this condition to end the siege because without it the misery will continue. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and Abu Mazin’s Fateh are all united on this. This is the first time from Abu Mazin to speak like this. Now all the factions including Abu Mazin are on the same side. This is the first time.

Ban ki-Moon left with nothing but I am sure the international community will do something.

‘Till now the Israeli side says 32 dead. Hamas says they killed 8 Israelis just today so their figure is higher.

Ramadan ends in three days but this war will continue. It’s really very bad. The human situation is more and more difficult. There is no food. No clothing. All the banks are closed.

Also bad from the Egyptian side. 22 injured were transferred for treatment via Rafa. Just 22. Why just 22? The reason is Egypt’s hatred for Hamas. There have been many appeals to reopen Rafa for the injured but Egypt does nothing. 600 injured wait to cross. Technically they say Rafa is “re-opened” but there is no entrance for anyone. You cannot understand why this is happening from Egypt. Today Hamas asked the Egyptian side to reopen Rafa for aid but nothing. Yesterday an Emirates convoy did bring medicine but left the same day.

COMMENT: Today's comment is from New Israel Fund boss, Rabbi Brian Lurie. And was forwarded to us by Adam from the NIF. They were published in Haaretz.

Also – Smadar and Sami from the Tsofen orgainisation sent this comment piece. Thank you

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Under fire, Israel must still stand up for human rights

Israel's human rights community and their supporters are committed democrats and also patriots – even when they must implicate or criticize the Israeli military's abuses of power.
By Brian Lurie in Haaretz

Now, again at a time of violent conflict, there is a concerted effort by some in Israel to disparage and discourage the work of Israel’s human rights groups. Several Negev mayors signed an ad in the Jerusalem Post addressed to me, asking the New Israel Fund to refrain from supporting this work.
The nature of human rights work, especially during conflict, is hard for some to understand. From where I live in San Francisco, I cannot pretend that I fully appreciate the rush to bomb shelters under the threat of Hamas’ long-range rockets. Nevertheless, I remember how it felt to live in Jerusalem for several days during the Six Day War, being in and out of bomb shelters. Again in 1990, I sat in a sealed room during Saddam Hussein’s attacks on Israel. Therefore, I have great sympathy for what Israeli civilians are now enduring and I join others in loathing Hamas’ strategy of indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets. Were it not for the Iron Dome, the casualty rate on the Israeli side would be much larger. I am thankful for the foresight that put this protection into place.
The NIF's support for Israel’s human rights organizations in no way contradicts our condemnation of Hamas’ tactics. Rather, it flows from our commitment to Israeli democracy. Human rights watchdog groups operate in every democracy worldwide. They ensure that there is an independent voice reporting on government activity and they serve as a check and balance on potential abuses of power. Every democracy should have its own human rights community examining the behavior of its military. If there is no such mechanism operating in Gaza, then that is just another black mark against the Hamas regime.
Moments like this one test the character of society. When human rights groups are ignored, silenced or are not allowed to do their work, societies fail the test. Nations like Russia, Egypt and Iran prohibit, limit or defund human rights activities, and that behavior is an infallible signal of anti-democratic and authoritarian intent. Israel aims higher than that.
Because human rights abuses are more common in the chaos of war, the role of human rights organizations is all the more important during those times. Many of their reports will implicate or criticize military behavior, which of course angers many Israelis. This is particularly true when the IDF is moving against Hamas in Gaza, where the difficulty in discerning legitimate military targets amidst a crowded civilian population is a recipe for tragedy and disaster, as we saw with the loss of so many young children in this latest conflict.
No matter how unpopular the work of ACRI, B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights and other Israeli watchdog groups, no matter how painful and difficult their reportage may be, NIF will not back away from our support for them. Israel’s democratic character and future is too important to us. Israel’s Military Advocate General and other officials have acknowledged that these reports change military operations for the better. After Operation Cast Lead in 2009, the IDF specifically credited B’Tselem’s information as a factor in changing operational procedures to better protect civilian lives and property.
Some of the Israeli leadership’s distaste for human rights activity comes from the fallout from the Goldstone Report, which first accused the IDF of deliberately targeting civilians and whose principal author then backed down from that claim. As it happens, when that report came out, some human rights groups we support actually objected to that particular conclusion and said that it was not substantiated by the evidence.
And, despite the well-funded lies from extremist organizations associated with the ultranationalist right, the Goldstone report was almost entirely based on publicly-available information and statements by the Israeli government and military sources. Had the Israeli government launched its own investigation of Cast Lead, as had been done for every military operation preceding it, the Goldstone Report might not have
happened or at least would have been contextualized.
The reports generated by human rights organizations are always publicly available and are thus sometimes used by Israel’s enemies to attack it.
This happens to every democracy; my own country was implicated in the abuses at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison because of information gathered and disseminated by our ACLU and there was worldwide outrage as a result. Attempting to silence human rights organizations because their output does not always help Israel’s image is shortsighted. In the long run the fact that Israel has a critical human rights community ensures that
friendly allies understand that it is still a liberal democracy with safeguards in place to guide its own behavior.
While reports issued by Israeli human rights organizations receive coverage and attention across the globe, we at NIF strongly believe that the most important audience for Israeli human rights organizations to address is their fellow Israelis, including the Israeli judicial system. Israel has a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of official commissions and committees of inquiry.
Reports of wrongdoing must be presented there. We disagree with organizations now calling for international intercession, especially before Israel has even has had a chance to examine its own decisions and activities.
We also object to, and will not fund, any organization filing a lawsuit outside of Israel attempting to bring Israeli officials to trial in foreign courts. As the leading organization working for democracy and equality in Israel, our job is to work with Israelis seeking to strengthen democratic institutions, including the judicial system and commissions of inquiry.
At the end of the day, the human rights community of Israel and their supporters are also patriots. Their work is extraordinarily difficult at times like this. We want to hold Israel to the standard it has set for itself as a liberal democracy with a moral army that respects human life and as a nation that searches its own soul in even the most difficult of times to ensure the fundamental decency of its actions. The NIF is committed
to helping Israel be the liberal democracy envisioned by its founders. That’s why we will always stand by Israel’s human rights champions.

Rabbi Brian Lurie is President of the New Israel Fund.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gaza Report 6

This report is the sixth in a series on the current confrontation between Gaza and Israel. 

Note: More than 600 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since these latest hostilities commenced. The UN states that 70% of the dead are civilians. The number of Palestinian wounded rose to 3,700 today. On the Israeli side, 30 are reported dead (actual numbers and details are unclear but that is not unusual as the Israel Army rarely gives comprehensive lists of all casualties – this must therefore be regarded as a minimum figure). The IDF announced this morning that the soldier Hamas named yesterday as having been captured, is indeed missing. The UN is belatedly pushing in serious fashion for a cease-fire in the Strip (UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Israel today).

ISRAEL: The following is the perspective of our most senior Israeli NCF membership:

What would happen if England were bombed every single day? It’s awful.

The problem is not the past. The problem is the future. We can’t talk about the future until the dust settles. And the dust should settle in about ten days.

GAZA: The following comment comes from the NCF office in Gaza. Again the words are quoted verbatim. Note that the NCF office in Gaza is located in the Gaza Press Centre.

They attacked the Al Jazeera office in our building. All of them left. They have moved to (location withheld). This was a shooting against Al Jazeera as a warning. They are afraid. Because a lot of houses were destroyed in this fashion. It was a warning. We immediately phoned the Israel Army to ask if we could stay but they said that they “could not guarantee our safety if we returned to the office.”

Some of the AP office (located on the same floor as Al Jazeera) have returned. The Gaza Centre for Media Freedom (on the fourth floor of the building where the NCF office is located) is in the same building. We have all left.

620 Palestinians have been killed so far and 3,700 injured, mostly civilians. More than 500 houses have been completely destroyed and 15,000 partly damaged. And the exchange of fire continues. 2 Israelis were killed today morning making a total of 27 Israeli soldiers dead according to the Israelis. According to Hamas it is twice that number.

Abu Mazin has returned to Ramallah because he is very angry at everyone including Egypt (though he doesn’t say he’s angry with Egypt). We expect a big speech from him this evening.

The news of the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier is true. Israel confirmed today that they had missed one soldier and gave the same name that Hamas gave two days ago. This complicates things. In the next 48 hours maybe there will be something. Inshallah there will be a cease fire.

GAZA 2: The following comment was forwarded to us from Adel Zanoon at the Gaza Centre for Media Freedom. Adel is the most senior member of the NCF in Gaza.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms(MADA) considers targeting of Al-Jazeera office by the occupation forces in Gaza city today is a part of occupation forces' trials to silence the  press in Gaza Strip, and an attempt to terrify  journalists.

Safwat kahlout,41, in Gaza city reported  The producer of Al-Jazerra office to MADA: "Today morning at 09:00 am, While we were doing our work at Al-Jazeera office which locate at Al-Jalla tower,11th floor, in Gaza city, we heard a sound of opening fire. All of us were shocked since we were not able to identify the source of this sound. A few seconds later, the second shelling happened which source was unknown for us. Then we understood that the first sounds were warning sounds and Al-Jazeera office will be targeted after the warning statement of Lieberman (Israeli foreign minister) to close all Al-Jazerra offices.
No casualties were reported and the material damages small”.
Israeli occupations forces also continued shelling journalist's houses. The journalist and producer Rima Mahmoud  Abu Sabha,26, reported that Israeli occupation forces shelled their house at about 12:00 am by two rockets without a previous warning. Therefore, her father was killed, and their one-floor house, where 11 people live, was destroyed. 8 people, who live in her uncle's house which is next to their house, were injured. Israeli occupation airplanes shelled the remaining of the
house again today morning at 07:00 am, straightening it with the ground. 

The Journalist Hamad Khamis Dahlan, 31, who works for Al-Ahed TV reported to MADA: "At 07:50 pm, our house was shelled by an Israeli drone airplane. At 08:10 pm, the three floor- house was shelled by a F16 rocket, no casualties reported since one of our family members was told ten minutes before shelling by a phone call. The house, which locates in Al-Nasser neighborhood in Gaza city, where 40 people live who belong to 6 families (we, my three uncles and some of my family members) whom were displaced as a result the last aggression,  was completely destroyed”. The journalist Dahlan is married, and he has three kids.


COMMENT: Today's comment is from NCF member Justin Alexander who has shared this link to the article he has published in the Economist Intelligence Digest today


Also – NCF member Tony Klug sent us this letter he wrote to the Guardian:

• Seumas Milne argues that the price of Israel's occupation needs to be raised. One way of doing this is to challenge Israel's claim that it is and is not an occupation.
This convenient ambiguity has enabled it to cherry-pick the Geneva convention and justify treating the occupied Palestinians differently from Israeli citizens while simultaneously annexing, expropriating and settling chunks of their territory. After 47 years, it is time to call the Israeli bluff. The Palestinian thinker Sam Bahour and I have proposed that a firm deadline be set for Israel to make up its mind definitively one way or the other. If it is an occupation, Israel's – supposedly provisional – custodianship should be brought to a swift end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian.
The key is to remove the status quo as the default option. So, should Israel choose not to choose, other states may interpret this to mean in effect that it intends to hold on to the occupied territories indefinitely and hold Israel accountable to the equality benchmark. The clutch of international laws pertaining to apartheid rather than occupation would then come into force. The hope is that the Israeli people would rebel against the pariah status this would entail and vote in a new government ready to do a genuine two-state deal before it really is too late.

Tony Klug


Finally, as a matter of record we copy the following article on the missing Israeli soldier:


22 July 2014

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military announced on Tuesday that the remains of one of its soldiers presumed to have been killed on Sunday in Gaza had still not been found or identified, two days after Hamas’s military wing said it had kidnapped a soldier.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, during a fierce battle between Israeli ground forces and Hamas militants in Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza City, an aged Israeli armored personnel carrier carrying seven soldiers was hit by an antitank missile, according to the military.

It was one of the deadliest encounters since Israel sent ground forces into Gaza late Thursday, after 10 days of aerial bombing, which Israel says is aimed at severely damaging Hamas’s rocket-firing capabilities and underground tunnel network.

“The identification process of six of the soldiers killed has been completed and confirmed,” the military said in a statement on Tuesday. “The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined.”

Until now, the military had said it was “looking into” Hamas’s assertion that it had abducted a soldier, saying it was unable to confirm or deny the claim. Tuesday’s announcement was the military’s first attempt to explain the confusion.

The Israeli military identified the seventh soldier in the personnel carrier as Sergeant Oron Shaul, 21, a combat soldier of the Golani brigade from Poria in northern Israel. That name corresponded with a name Hamas had provided in Arabic when it claimed the kidnapping of the soldier.

Hamas also provided an Israeli identity number for the soldier.

The statement said the families of the seven soldiers “who were involved in the incident were briefed on the circumstances of the attack.”

Motti Almoz, the military’s chief spokesman, told Israel Radio that the military was “clarifying the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

Fighting continued in Shejaiya overnight, where the Israeli military said it had struck weapons stores, command and control positions and other infrastructure. So far, the military said it had uncovered some 23 underground tunnels in Gaza and 66 access points to the tunnels, many of them in Shejaiya, which lies close to the border with Israel.

Some of the tunnels have been used by Hamas militants to carry out incursions into Israeli territory and there have been several deadly clashes between militants emerging from tunnels on the Israeli side of the border and Israeli soldiers. Israeli officials say the tunnels were also designed for attacks on Israeli civilian communities.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gaza Report 5

This report is the fifth in a series on the current confrontation between Gaza and Israel.
Note: Thus far 508 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza during Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’. During fierce fighting in eastern Gaza on Saturday night, 13 Israeli soldiers lost their lives. The number of Israelis killed to date is unclear but it is a total of at least 20. Hamas’ Qassam Brigades have kidnapped one Israeli soldier.

ISRAEL: The following is the perspective of two Israeli women (as at 11 am GMT this morning). Both are members of the NCF and both are active in promoting peace:

It is not easy for everyone. We hope it will end quickly. It needs to stop from both sides. We need to hope and pray that it will do so. The situation is really bad, the worst we have experienced. Civil society activism has become really difficult. There is a lot of racism around now. People’s reactions are very violent. It is very hard and depressing. Everything is so polarized. Palestinians on the West Bank we have known for years have now refused to talk to us. It is so depressing. The whole situation is terribly messy.

GAZA: The following comment comes from the NCF office in Gaza. Again the words are quoted verbatim (as at 11:30 am GMT this morning).

The situation is becoming more and more difficult, especially since at least 13 Israeli soldiers have been killed Saturday night. Today morning it was bad in Khan Yunis in the southern region of the Gaza Strip. 28 people were killed there, all from one family. We have more than 3,200 injured so far. Sometimes even now there are exchanges of fire between Hamas and the Israelis. There are still heavy tanks in Gaza particularly in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza city and in the Beit Hanoun area of northern Gaza Strip. So far 160,000 people have left their homes. 2,200 houses have been completely destroyed. 16,000 have been party destroyed. The humanitarian situation is bad. Maybe Ramallah will send some trucks of medicine tomorrow. It will be a catastrophe if this continues. There is talking still going on but until now there has been no result.

GAZA: The following comment comes to the NCF from a member of the Gaza “House of Wisdom” think-tank (again verbatim).
Gaza now is facing very dangerous threats by the Israeli-Egyptian blockade which is growing day by day and exacerbating the situation of Gaza. The situation is escalating every day.

USA: The following comment comes from former State Department diplomat, Jonathan Müller.

The thing about Israel is that it is a democracy, with a diversity of opinion, and somewhere in that diversity there is an Israeli Dr Klerk. But where, and how to bring him (or her) forward. For sure there has to be an honest counterpart on the Palestinian side.

COMMENT: Today's comment is from the OneVoice movement:

The OneVoice Movement issued the following joint statement today on behalf of OneVoice Israel and OneVoice Palestine:

OneVoice once again reaffirms its call for both parties to urgently seek a ceasefire agreement that de-escalates this increasingly dangerous situation and avoids further loss of life. The tragic events of recent weeks show how unstable and unjust this status quo is.

It is essential that following any agreement, we do not allow the situation to merely revert to that same status quo, which by its very nature, guarantees another round of violence. We urge Israelis, Palestinians, and international parties to be both creative and bold in pursuing an arrangement that allows the citizens of Palestine and of Israel the dignity, freedom, and security necessary to forge ahead in achieving the only thing that can truly end this dynamic: an end to occupation and conflict, and the establishment of a two-state solution.
The following, slightly more subjective comment, comes from the Palestinian ex-NCF member Sharif Nashashibi:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gaza Report 4

This report is the fourth in a series on the current confrontation between Gaza and Israel.

Note: Israel launched a very limited ground offensive into part of the Northern Gaza Strip close to the border this afternoon.

ISRAEL: The following is the perspective of Gershon Baskin, a senior member of Israel's establishment and Israel's former negotiator with Hamas augmented with comments from a senior Israel civil servant:
THE CIVIL SERVANT: An Hamas tunnel targeting Kibutz Karem Shalom was intercepted and stopped.
The Hamas demands are very high. They talk about an airport. Let's have a cease fire first and then we can talk.

We need people of good will in the world to support us at this time. If there is a problem and you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.
GERSHON BASKIN: We have had a temporary cease fire that lasted two hours and then there were three mortars. This short five or six hour cease fire negotiated by the UN was supposed to enable people in Gaza to get supplies. But when Hamas breaks the temporary cease fire it becomes harder to believe they will honour the real cease fire.

There were hopes that there would be a full cease fire at 6 am tomorrow morning between Israel and Hamas and Fatah.
EGYPT: The following comment comes from an Egyptian intelligence officer. The words are his: Not yet. There will be no cease fire yet. It is premature.
GAZA: The following comment comes from the NCF's office in Gaza. Again, the words are quoted verbatim:

We had a humanitarian truce from 10 am to 3 pm. This was imposed from the Israeli side but afterwards the fighting resumed from both Hamas and Israel and Hamas even shelled Tel Aviv. Seven Palestinians have been killed since the end of the humanitarian cease fire in a total of 45 air strikes thus far.

In Cairo Israel appears to be talking to the deputy head of Islamic Jihad. There seem to be some developments in regard to the Hamas conditions. So now there will be a new Egyptian paper, maybe tomorrow. Egypt wants to involve the Arab League.

But Hamas wants direct contact with the Egyptians plus the Rafa crossing reopened.

Maybe tomorrow Abu Mazen will meek Erdogan of Turkey. Today he met Sisi of Egypt.

I think talks will take place between Abu Marzouk (Moussa Abu Marzouk,deputy to Khaled Mishal), and Sisi. These will be fruitful and should produce a new deal. Maybe Mishal will visit Turkey. It's fruitful, positive. It is possible Abu Mazen will meet Mishal. After this meeting maybe we will have a deal and Mishal will fly to Cairo and we will have an announcement within two hours.
Hamas want Rafa open daily and no siege. Also they want Karim Shalom and Karni crossings reopened for building materials. This is the first stage. In the longer term Hamas want a seaport opened to Turkey. If this happens it means we have Gaza State.

In the first stage also the 57 prisoners rearrested that were part of the Shalit deal should be released. But that is not a big deal. That is not as important as the Rafa crossing.

But things may escalate if there is no deal. It is not easy now that Israeli tanks have started to enter Gaza.

COMMENT: Today's comment is from Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Israel-Palestine Journal. For Hillel's perspective click here

Gaza Report 3

This report is the third in a series on the current confrontation between Gaza and Israel.

ISRAEL: The following is the perspective of a senior member of Israel's establishment. The words are his:
We have had the first Israeli casualty of this war, a man delivering sandwiches in a small truck.

We have demolished Zahar's home (Dr Mahmoud Zahar, arguably the real leader of Hamas). Israel is poised to enter Gaza. We have called on citizens of the two Northern neighborhoods and the neighborhood to the East of the Gaza strip to vacate their homes.

There was an Abu Mazin plan which looked very good indeed to me but Hamas has already rejected it. Abu Mazin presented it to Sisi. It involved the manning of the Rafa and Eretz crossings and the Philadelphia border by Palestinian Authority troops. Plus Israel was to release the prisoners from the Shalit prisoner exchange that they had re-taken and then there would be a cease fire.

The idea was from the Palestinian Authority. There is some question as to whether Israel would agree but Israel didn't need to agree because Hamas rejected it.

Tony Blair is back on the scene in Palestine, offering reconstruction and development in Gaza post any cease fire.

Hamas for their part offered a ten year cease fire for a deal that included a seaport and an airport for Gaza.

Israel is holding off on the ground operation. Abu Mazin is going from Cairo to Turkey to meet Erdogan because the Turks have a proposal they want to make.

The Israel cabinet voted to draft another 8,000 reservists in addition to the 40,000 already authorised. I am put in mind of Teddy Roosevelt's words: "The best way not to use a big stick is to carry it."
GAZA: The following comment comes from the NCF's office in Gaza. Again, the words are quoted verbatim:
The situation is bad, very bad. The Israelis are now against children. You know the beach next to the Deira Hotel? Nine children were killed whilst playing on the beach. Then an air strike from a drone killed another five and injured four. It is very difficult.

The Hudna is still far away because Hamas are still talking to the Egypt side about the latest Egypt initiative.

For Hamas, Ghazi Hamad said this initiative is still under discussion because we have told the Egyptian side to change it so that it is acceptable:

  1. They want a complete end to the way Israeli troops surround Gaza and put it under siege, and that means the opening of the crossings, and
  2. They want the release of the prisoners re-taken by Israel who were originally released under the Shalit deal.
Hamas is not going to change its demands easily. Hamas will continue our response. 214 Palestinians have been killed since the start of this current confrontation until now. We had several air strikes in the last few hours.

For our part the shelling from Hamas has been very little today. They have sent very few rockets today.

Maybe it will be difficult tonight, with lots of air strikes, like it was last night.

However, you should understand the one basic thing. Any effort without communication with Hamas directly from Egypt and Abu Mazin (i.e. rather than through third parties) will fail.
COMMENT: Our comment tonight is given to the NCF by a prominent Israeli (name withheld):

Clearly the original kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli kids was done to break the Hamas / Fatah deal. It was done by Hamas from Hebron.

I understand the Hamas position on wanting people to talk to them direct but they signed a deal a few weeks ago so they should honour that and accept that Abu Mazin speaks for them.

Like I say, those three Israeli boys were killed by Hebron Hamas that wanted to break the Fatah-Hamas deal. There was no instruction from Gaza.

That said, Hamas could and should have condemned the killing. They did not. Instead they endorsed it, making themselves effectively culpable.

But even in the early days, the rocket strikes on Israel were primarily from Islamic Jihad, not Hamas. Hamas did not need this at this time and they have had opportunities to step back from it which they are not taking.

Gaza Report 2

This report is the second of a series on the current confrontation between Gaza and Israel.

ISRAEL: The following is the perspective of a senior member of Israel's establishment. The words are his (as at 9 am this morning):
The Israeli cabinet just voted to accept the proposal for a cease fire. It involves the slight opening of Rafa crossing (between Gaza and Egypt). The Israeli cabinet are saying that since some of Hamas will regard this as a failure for them, we can regard it as acceptable. It is a victory for the Egyptians. This is the only party it strengthens. It resolves none of the problems of Gaza. It is just a temporary time out. It is a return to the 2012 cease fire arrangement and leaves other issues unresolved.

GAZA: The following comment comes from the NCF's office in Gaza. Again, the words are quoted verbatim:

Hamas directly rejects the Egypt initiative because it brings no end to the siege. Hamas wants to reopen all the crossings including Karim Shalom (a goods crossing between Israel and Gaza). There will be no cease fire without an end to the siege. It also wants to stop the salary blockade. To stop the aggression against Gaza and the West Bank. There will be more and more aggression from the Israel side.

Hamas wants direct contact with Egypt. Currently there is only indirect contact via Islamic Jihad and via the Palestinian Authority. This is not good for Hamas. Hamas is very angry. Hamas has opened a very small, very narrow, negotiations channel with the US and the EU.

Hamas wants this situation to move. To take something like an end to the siege. To end pressure on the movement. But I think that in the next 24 hours there will be something because there is more and more effort from Qatar, the EU and the USA because they want an end to this.

The problem is not on the Israel side, the problem is in accommodating Hamas. For them the closure of the Rafa crossing (between Egypt and Gaza) is a problem. President Sisi of Egypt doesn't want Rafa open because he wants more and more and more pressure on Hamas.

Under the reconciliation agreement (between Fatah and Hamas) Rafa was supposed to be reopened (subject to various conditions including Palestinian Authority guards from the West Bank at the border). But the Egyptian side, after the announcement, said why did you announce this about the Rafa crossing? This is sensitive because Sinai is sensitive. So the crossing never was reopened.

If there is pressure from the USA on Egypt, then there will be a cease fire. Hamas cannot agree without Rafa. Another thing that is especially important to them is Karim Shallom (the goods crossing between Israel and Gaza through which construction materials are no longer allowed to pass)which needs to be opened for building material.

Hanniah (the Hamas Palestinian Prime Minister) said last night, "We have nothing to loose". For us the problem is the situation in Gaza, not the absence of a cease fire. If Hamas take Rafa and Karim Shallom (i.e. these crossings are fully reopened for people and goods respectively) then all will be fine because Hamas really want a cease fire.

The most people are suffering in Gaza. People here are very very tired. But even those who hate Hamas do not want to return to the situation before the war. People want to change the situation. Hamas want a cease fire.

Hamas needs to take something for the Hamas movement - not just the Gaza people. Hamas people cannot travel outside Gaza since June one year ago. Hamas want to take something.
Hamas believes Israel is not ready to completely reoccupy Gaza.

EGYPT: The following comment comes from an Egyptian intelligence officer. The words are his: We are aware that Hamas rejects the cease fire. Be patient. We understand Hamas anger at the fact that there are no direct talks and because there is no Rafa crossing. I know they are frustrated. We must wait.
COMMENT: Imad Karam from Initiatives of Change who lost fifteen members of his brother-in-law's family in air strikes on Gaza last night made the following comment at 12 noon today:

To trust one another we need to forgive. Trust is a by product of forgiveness. Then we need empathy. Then we can re-humanise the other.

Trust is not easy to come by. There hasn't been anyone at the political, public level that can bring the people together. When there are so many factions within that are not keen on building trust, what can we do?

We haven't yet seen an acceptable level of trust building.

Ariel Sharon once said "Enough is enough. It is enough to control the destiny of another people." That was the most courageous statement by an Israel leader since Yithak Rabin.
We have not seen those kinds of statements today.

The Palestinian side have not had a united front for peace or for war. This whole escalation has been to stop Palestinian conciliation. Similarly Israel has nothing but coalition government and has no real strategy.

We are emotional and it is no bad thing to acknowledge those emotions as long as we do not become controlled by them.

We have a Palestinian Mandela in the shape of Marwan Barghouti but we lack an Israeli de Klerk.
As for what the rest of us should do: We need to seek the truth. Truth is the first casualty of war. We need to challenge our friends about what is right - not about who is right.

There is something that I have learnt through marriage. Love may wax and may wane, it may go up or go down. But trust, if it goes down, is hard to build again.
FURTHER COMMENT: The International Crisis Group is an organisation with a variable reputation, however its latest comments on the Gaza crisis make for useful background: CHECK THIS LINK