Liveblogging the Latest – Thursday January 24th

hamas-candles.jpgHot on the heels of yet more confirmation that Hamas had planned the “Great Wall Blast of 2008” well in advance of Israel’s so-called “siege” of Gaza, comes confirmation that Hamas staged scenes of darkness, by closing the curtains and holding candle-lit meeting at daytime. Given that it was Hamas who closed Gaza’s power plant, it is obvious that Hamas has orchestrated this entire “crisis,” in order to manipulate world opinion against Israel.

Meanwhile, there have been no Qassams or mortars fired at Israel so far today (isn’t it sad that no Qassams is news?), although some IDF soldiers were the recipients of molotov cocktails. Elsewhere, the IDF captured 7 wanted palestinians.

In other news, relations between Israel and Turkey are tense (“cold Turkey relations”) after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that no Israelis have been killed by Qassams while the IDF kills palestinians, the UN Security Council draft statement calling for Israel to end its “siege” of Gaza makes no mention of the palestinian preoccupation with Qassam rockets, and Canada plans to skip next year’s UN conference on racism since it is once again likely to be the UN Conference on Saying Nasty Things About Jews and Israel.

Note: Please Digg this post, submit it to the major blogs, and generally help spread the word. Because the word is not getting out nearly enough (to those who need to hear it).

Updates (Israel time)

10:30AM: Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai has said that Israel wants to sever connections with Gaza and cease supplying it with basic necessities, now that the Egyptian-Gaza border is open. ‘Bout bloody time.

12:15PM: Egyptian riot police have started directing traffic away from the border wall, and even used batons to beat the hoods of private cars and pickup trucks carrying palestinians into Egypt.

2:00PM: Border guards conducting a routine vehicle inspection in the West Bank have discovered weapons in a palestinian car.

3:20PM: The UN Human Rights Council has once again shown that when it comes to human rights, some are considered human, while others are not.

4:00PM: Egypt don’t like the idea of being responsible for Gaza. In other words, they support the pre-67 borders, except when it applies to them.

4:20PM: This is what Luisa Morgantini, Vice-President of the European Parliament, has to say about yesterday’s Hamas-led border breakout:

“The thousands of Palestinians crossing the Rafah border point these last hours, the breach in the wall and the breaking of the siege decided by Israel against the civil population, are all true acts of resistance and an affirmation of the freedom of that people, not the Qassam rockets being fired at Israeli civilians that contravene international law, or the bloodshed inflicted on the Palestinian civil population perpetuated by Israeli raids.

When walls fall down there’s always a sense of freedom. The images we are getting from southern Gaza, with men and women pouring into Egypt in order to buy essential supplies such as food and medicines (not to forget weapons – Aussie Dave) that are nowhere to be found because of four days of total closure and black out in the Gaza Strip, are the natural result of the inhuman siege imposed by Israel: as rightly declared by President Mahmoud Abbas, the responsibility lies with Israeli policy, which has forced people who are completely worn out to cross the borders of the cage in which they are imprisoned and collectively punished with complete disregard for humanity and international law.

This is the predictable outcome of a policy of isolation, not only towards Hamas, but also the one and a half million Gaza inhabitants, a policy that the European Union has also supported by endorsing de facto the embargo decided by Israel. Hamas risks to become stronger as a result of this situation, not weaker as can be seen by all the demonstrations that took place in the Islamic world during these cold and dark days in Gaza.

People pouring into Egypt and also people returning to Gaza after forced exile bringing any kinds of goods, show all of us the tragedy of a besieged but never resigned population, a population that has seen women in the front line of the demonstration struggling and being harshly repressed yesterday: these are the non-violent actions that should be supported and in which all Palestinians should gain renewed strength and unity.

I hope they will not be used by anyone to apply a definitive separation of Gaza and the West Bank in what should be the Palestinian State within the occupied territories of ‘67.

But for sure they are also a warning for the International Community as a whole, first and foremost the Quartet, the European Union and Egypt, which are responsible for the transit of goods and people through Rafah Crossing. Unfortunately, they have never been able to accomplish this task.

I sincerely hope that Rafah border crossing with Egypt will be immediately opened and the legal freedom of movement for people and goods be established, not the arbitrary closures by Israel. Arms trafficking can be stopped without bombing and without enclosing the population in an open-air prison.

I hope that Olmert’s government receives this message: only the end of the Gaza siege, the end of the raids and of the military occupation can guarantee security for both people and the coherence needed for the respect of all commitments to peace.”

Of course, Ms Morgantini is a radical leftist.

Speaking of Morgantini..separated at birth, or what?

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5:10PM: Arab League Secretary-General Amr “Chocolate” Moussa has accused Israel of taking steps destined to destroy the peace process. Like not lying down to die, for example.

5:55PM: Palestinian terrorists have just fired 5 Qassams into Israel. I guess their smoking break is over.

6:10PM: Ynet reports that the Counter Terrorism Bureau has asked Israelis vacationing in the Sinai to return immediately following growing terror threats in light of the breached Gaza-Egypt border. A statement published by the Bureau characterized the threat level as “high and concrete,” which, coincidentally, is how I would describe the wall blown up by the Hamas terrorists.

6:25PM: Confirmation of what I have been telling you since yesterday: terrorists are exploiting the situation, and it is not just food and cigarettes making its way into Gaza.

And somewhere in the teeming crowd, came people anxious to exploit the day for their own less innocent purposes.

Fertiliser, broken down into half bags for lugging through the many tunnels that arms smugglers normally use for delivery into Gaza, was to be seen as it was manhandled overland.

It was white, oily, crystalline and a dab on the tongue left a sharp, burning sensation.

In most countries fertiliser has a perfectly innocent function but in Gaza militants use it to make explosive.

“Hey, hey, hey,” shouted a man as I took a photograph of a pile of fertiliser half bags.

His aggressive tone jarred with the mood the crowd as he grabbed my camera lens firmly.

And it’s not just weapons; it’s also terrorists:

Along one teeming road in the Egyptian part of Rafah, a Hamas security official who had been stranded on Egypt’s side of the border since June — fearing arrest by Israel during a crossing if he tried to return — met his mother and sisters in the surging crowd. “Eight months I haven’t seen him!” his mother exclaimed after a flurry of hugging and kissing.

The man excused himself for not talking. “I’m on the wanted list,” he explained.

Israel accuses Egypt, increasingly sharply, of allowing smugglers to bring arms and explosives into Gaza. It was clear Wednesday that contraband and gunmen could cross the border that day with little chance of being stopped.

Agreements between Egypt and Israel restrict the number of Egyptian guards at the border to a few hundred. Seven or eight Egyptian border guards stood lined up along one stretch of no man’s land, which was thick with milling Palestinians and livestock.

The Egyptian guards watched but did not move. “Don’t speak to us! Don’t even look at us!” one Egyptian officer shouted after someone in the crowd moved toward them.

Thanks to Elder for drawing my attention to both of those stories.

8:10PM: Forget 99; try 4,200 red balloons.

As the United Nations Security Council debated a response to the situation in the Gaza Strip and Sderot, Israel’s New York Consulate held a protest in front of UN headquarters on Thursday, in which they placed 4,200 red balloons on the UN’s doorstep. The number of balloons signified the 4,200 Kassam rockets fired into Israel from Gaza since the 2005 disengagement from the Strip.

You mean we disengaged from Gaza? Try telling Egypt that.

8:37PM: Here’s some photographic evidence of Hamas staging scenes of darkness (via a commenter at LGF).

hamas-curtain.jpg

Blackout
The Israeli embargo has left the Gaza Strip without electricity. The Palestinian Parliament was forced to meet by candlelight on Tuesday night.

Notice the light coming through the curtains at the top left.

10:25PM: I smell a rat.

wheelchair-man.jpg

A Palestinian carries a wheelchair bought in Egypt across the border back to Gaza after militants exploded the border wall between Gaza Strip and Egypt, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008. Masked Palestinian gunmen blew holes into the Gaza-Egypt border wall Wednesday, and thousands of Gazans trapped in their territory by a tight blockade poured into Egypt to buy food, fuel and other supplies that have become scarce. Egyptian border guards and Hamas police took no action as Palestinians hurried over the border and began returning with bags of food, boxes of cigarettes and plastic bottles of fuel. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

I suspect there’s a connection between that photo and this one (which I blogged about a few days ago):

Palestinians who were disabled by Israeli air strikes attend a protest in front of the gate of the Rafah border crossing, calling Egypt to open the border January 22, 2008. Hundreds of Palestinian protesters stormed the Rafah border crossing with Egypt from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to protest against an Israeli blockade, and an Egyptian police officer was shot, security and border sources said. Israel has no presence at Rafah although a U.S.-brokered deal between the Jewish state and the Palestinians says the crossing cannot be opened without Israeli consent. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA)

It’s a miracle. I can walk again!

11:40PM: There have been 2 simultaneous terror attacks, with one person killed and 3 injured.

In one attack, palestinian terrorists approached the northern entrance of the Shoafat refugee camp and fired towards a group of Israelis, killing a man, and seriously wounding a young woman. The terrorists fled the scene. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – affiliated with “Moderate” Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, claimed responsibility.

In the other attack, two terrorists broke into a yeshiva (seminary) in Kfar Etzion, between Jerusalem and Hebron, armed with a gun and a knife. They stabbed 2 Israelis, who sustained light to moderate wounds. A number of counselors at the yeshiva shot the terrorists to death.

11:45PM: Arutz Sheva has more information on the terror attacks.

In the Shoafat attack, the victims were Border Police officers. The woman is in critical condition.

In the Kfar Etzion attack, the terrorists were dressed in IDF uniforms, which could explain how they got in to the school. They ordered the students and counselors to put their hands up, and after a counselor realized they were terrorists, he drew his personal firearm and opened fire. Others joined in and the terrorists stabbed three people before being shot dead. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for this attack as well.

12:15AM: A new low for Ynet:

Fatah activists belonging to the “Brigades of Return” and to “Black September” claimed responsibility for carrying out the shooting attack in Shoafat Thursday evening. The attack left one Israeli dead and another one seriously wounded.

Activists?!

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, told Ynet that the attackers (in the Shoafat attack) “returned to their base safely.”

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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