Hamas: We will not accept Israel cease-fire demands

Hamas will not accept Israeli conditions for a cease-fire in Gaza and would continue armed resistance until the offensive ends, Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Palestinian Islamist group, said on Friday.

Speaking at the opening of an emergency meeting on Gaza in Doha, Meshal called on the leaders present to cut all ties with Israel.

Meshal joined Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in making the surprise appearance at the summit, aiming to show their weight in diplomatic efforts surrounding the Gaza crisis.

Hamas is set to send a delegation to Cairo later on Friday to discuss Egyptian efforts to mediate a cease-fire in Gaza, a Hamas official told Al Jazeera television. [continued…]

Turkish PM: Israel should be barred from UN

Turkey’s prime minister on Friday said Israel should be barred from the United Nations while it ignores the body’s calls to stop fighting in Gaza.

“How is such a country, which totally ignores and does not implement resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of the UN (headquarters)?” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s comments reflected a growing anger in Turkey, Israel’s best friend in the Muslim world, over Israel’s Gaza operation.

He spoke before U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Ankara to discuss the conflict. Ban is on a weeklong trip to the region to promote a truce after both sides ignored a U.N. resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire.

“The U.N. building in Gaza was hit while the U.N. secretary-general was in Israel,” Erdogan said. “This is an open challenge to the world, teasing the world.” [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Erdogan is right: Israel is thumbing its nose at global opinion with a conviction — so far well-founded — that it can act with impunity. Likewise, the killing of Hamas’ Interior Minister Said Sayyam, one of the group’s three most senior leaders, in an airstrike on Thursday, was, Haaretz reported: “apparently an attempt by Israel to deliver an image of victory in its offensive against Hamas.”

A victory blow in the minds of Israel’s leaders, but is this the way to secure a ceasefire? Israel’s leaders seem to have acquired the diplomatic finesse of the Soprano Family.

By mid-week, it seemed as though the imminent inauguration of Obama along with Israel’s desire to cut a deal on an intelligence agreement for which Condoleezza Rice’s signature would be needed before she left office today — that these factors in combination with a widening consensus that Israel could not accomplish any more militarily, seemed to suggest that before the end of the week an agreement would be reached on an initial ceasefire.

What the Israel’s don’t seem to have grasped is that is that if a ceasefire comes into effect before Obama takes office, this will serve Israel’s interests much more than Hamas’.

Israel now appears to be acting out a victory lust. Israel and its leaders have become intoxicated by their destructive capabilities to a point where they have lost their grip on reality. Israel is in a state of national psychosis.

Hamas after the Gaza war

“The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people”, said Moshe Yaalon, the then Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief-of-staff in 2002. The war launched by Israel in the Gaza strip at the end of 2008 is designed in part to force the Hamas movement too to internalise this belief. It will not and cannot work; indeed, it is my argument that the war will have the opposite effect.

After three weeks of intense and round-the-clock attacks by air, land and sea, Israel is far from achieving either its immediate aim of halting rocket-attacks from Gaza or the larger “psychological” aim enunciated by Moshe Yaalon. It has become apparent that the war itself will instead convince many more Palestinians that their ability again to withstand an assault by the fourth most powerful army in the world is a source of their power rather than their weakness.

In this, the 1.5 million Palestinians under siege in Gaza are writing a new chapter in their own uncompleted modern history. They are also demonstrating a more general lesson of warfare: that wars and armed conflicts have unexpected consequences, including often the creation of a new reality quite different from what it was launched to achieve. [continued…]

Someone must stop Israel’s rampant madness in Gaza

Someone has to stop this rampant madness. Right now. It may seem as though the cabinet hasn’t decided on the “third stage” of the war yet, Amos Gilad is discussing a cease fire in Cairo, the end of the fighting seems close – but all this is misleading.

The streets of Gaza Thursday looked like killing fields in the midst of the “third stage” and worse. Israel is arrogantly ignoring the Security Council’s resolution calling for a cease-fire and is shelling the UN compound in Gaza, as if to show its real feeling toward that institution. Emergency supplies intended for Gaza residents are going up in flames in the burning warehouses. Thick black smoke is rising from the burning flour sacks and the fuel reserves near them, covering the streets.

In the streets, people are running back and forth in panic, holding children and suitcases in their hands, helpless as the shells fall around them. Nobody in the diplomatic corridors is in any hurry to help those unfortunates who have nowhere to run. [continued…]

How the Gaza war could end: three scenarios

Pressure is mounting on Israel and Hamas to find a way of ending the war in Gaza. Both sides have responded positively, if tentatively, to Egyptian proposals for a phased truce that would begin with a lull in fighting for a defined period (10 days by some accounts). That interlude would then allow for the brokering of a more comprehensive cease-fire. But each side’s goals from any truce remain antagonistic to those of the other, and reaching an agreement that bridges the vast gap between them remains a Herculean diplomatic challenge.

Even before the Israeli invasion began late December, Hamas had offered to renew its six-month cease-fire with Israel on condition that the border crossings from Egypt and Israel into Gaza be opened. Those crossings have been closed as part of a strategy of imposing economic deprivation on the people of Gaza in the hope that they would turn on Hamas; Israel remains reluctant to agree to reopen them as part of a cease-fire deal, since that would be claimed as a victory by Hamas. Hamas also insists on a full and immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza. Israel is reluctant to comply until mechanisms are in place to prevent Hamas rearming.

Israel’s declared purpose in launching Operation Cast Lead was to halt Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza, and prevent Hamas from being able to rearm through smuggling weapons from Egypt. Israel remains committed, however, to a long-term goal of ending Hamas control of Gaza, and it insists that the movement should gain no “recognition” or “legitimacy” as part of any truce — a tough call since Hamas is the key combatant on the Palestinian side. [continued…]

Inquiries show Olmert version of UN Gaza vote spat closer to truth than Rice’s

Inquiries with people uninvolved in the spat between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reveal that his version of the lead-up to America’s vote on last week’s Security Council resolution is closer to the truth than hers.

Last Wednesday, the only proposal on the council’s table was a completely one-sided Libyan resolution. Since it was clear to everyone that the United States would veto it, Israel had no reason to worry. But then, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former senior World Bank official, decided that this was the moment to make use of his Washington connections.

Fayyad persuaded the Americans to support a softened version of the resolution, which called for a prompt cease-fire, hoping that such a resolution would speed up the ongoing truce talks. He asked the British and French for help, and they agreed. Rice signaled her French and British counterparts, Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband, that she was on board. [continued…]

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