Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has urged UN Secretary-General “Banky” Ban Ki-moon to withdraw his call for an international investigation of Israel’s Gaza flotilla raid.
“We conveyed our position that as long as flotillas are on their way (to Gaza), it would be best to shelve the international investigation while we progress with our own internal probe, which is independent and credible,” Barak told reporters Sunday after meeting Ban at the UN headquarters in New York. “The Turkel commission of inquiry should be allowed to conduct its work.”
Barak said, “We consider conducting an (international probe) while organizations that support terror are trying to send more ships to Gaza to be an irresponsible act. We ask that everyone join us and transfer goods to Gaza through Ashdod.
“We will not permit any direct sails to Gaza,” the defense minister added.
Addressing the Lebanese aid flotilla, which is expected to reach the area over the weekend, Barak said, “We will hold Lebanon responsible for the consequences. This may lead to violence.”
The defense minister reminded reporters that goods entering the West Bank also pass through the Ashdod Port. “We cannot allow the free travel of ships to Gaza. It is controlled by the terror group Hamas, which fires rockets to cause stir fear among our citizens,” he said.
During his meeting with Ban, Barak gave the UN chief details on Israeli steps aimed at easing the blockade on Gaza, stressing that “weapons and ammunition” will not be allowed into the coastal enclave.
As for cement and iron, the defense minister said these materials will only be allowed into Gaza at the request of UN officials who “are in charge of Gaza’s rehabilitation.”
Barak also told reporters, “We have nothing against the million and a half Palestinians, most of whom are innocent. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There are a million and a half people in Gaza, but only one who is being denied basic rights, and his name is Gilad Shalit, the captive Israeli soldier.
“As we ease the entry of goods into Gaza, we expect the international community to bring an end to Shalit’s captivity,” he said.
I really wish Barak hadn’t fallen asleep during English class.
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
4:32PM: According to an uncorroborated report in Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai, Hizbullah almost assassinated a senior Israeli figure.
The newspaper reported that Hezbollah “managed to follow” an Israeli official deemed a “fat fish” while he was on vacation at a resort. Reportedly, Hezbollah cells stationed on the site nearly assassinated the Israeli, but the operation was called off at the last minute over the Gaza-bound flotilla raid three weeks ago.
According to the sources, Hezbollah chose to cancel the hit so as not to provide Israel an opportunity to diverge world attention from “the Israeli piracy operation on international waters.” The sources claimed that the Israeli official was “rewarded his life” and that he was called to return to Israel in order to deal with various aspects of the flotilla affair.
Ever since the February 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Hezbollah has emphasized that the organization will respond when and where it sees fit.
Hmm, I wonder who this “fat fish” could be. I do recall Prime Minister Netanyahu having to return from Canada to deal with the flotilla crisis..
The newspaper also reported that a “shadow war” is being waged between Israel and Hezbollah. The newspaper quoted a report from Russian news agency Novosti at the beginning of the month that Israel nearly assassinated Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
According to the Russian report, Israel had at least two opportunities to assassinate him in recent months. It was also reported that an Israeli manless drone located Nasrallah near the Hezbollah security headquarters in the Dahiya quarter of south Beirut.
The newspaper also reported that Hezbollah has declined comment on the publication, but that sources close to the organization reported that Hezbollah leadership has already issued directives on how to respond should Nasrallah or any other top-ranking leader, be they military or political, be assassinated.
According to these sources, the directives stipulate that hundreds of missiles be launched towards a bank of targets in the Dan metropolitan area and thousands of other missiles be fired into other areas in Israel. According to the newspaper, the organization will view the assassination of Nasrallah as a declaration of war. As such, the newspaper reported, the response will be automatic and will not require any additional authorization from the organization’s leadership.
It was also reported that the bank of targets within Israel will be pre-prepared, and their coordinates laid out. The targets reportedly include military, security, and leadership targets. They emphasized that Hezbollah will not respond with “tolerance” in the next conflict as it did when Mughniyeh was assassinated, though they have yet to abandon their threat to avenge his death.
3:55PM: Photo of the day:
It’s amazing how these protests invariably involve kids holding candles, no matter what time of the day they take place.
Also notice how the starvation seems to have taken its toll, especially on the kid on the right.
9:48AM: Western Australian Labor senator Glenn Sterle in a Senate debate on June 17th:
It is with a heavy heart that I rise this evening to pass on my thoughts about the unfortunate circumstances that the world saw off the coast of Israel and Gaza not that long ago. I do not wish to go into the issues for and against in detail. I saw the images of peace activists attacking soldiers with bars and then the unfortunate situation that followed. But I do want to just add that there is a lot of hysteria and, quite rightly, concern about the lack of a peace process in the Middle East.
As someone who has been there on a number of occasions and thoroughly enjoyed those visits, I had the opportunity to experience everyday life for Israelis living in Israel. To live with the constant threat of someone wanting to do whatever they can to kill or maim you or your children is alarming. Unfortunately in Australia we experienced something like that very close on our doorstep in Bali and it shocked us all into thinking that the world is not the safe place that we all grew up in and thought it would be. I have talked to Israelis who live with the constant threat, as I said, of mindless, senseless killing and the constant threat of attack from the north with the Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza. To know that the regime in Iran have said they will do anything they can to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth and that they fund these despot regimes with arms, bombs and anything else they can be supplied with is very frightening.
I have been to a place in Israel called Sderot. I went to the back of the police station with other colleagues. I note my good colleague across the chamber Senator Colbeck from Tasmania was on the same trip. There are rockets that rain in from Gaza and are directed—or as directed as they can be—at schools, with the sole purpose of maiming or killing children. I do feel for those Palestinians who are trapped in Gaza. I really do feel for them because I know the whole population of Israel wants peace. We cannot grasp the concept of not having that peace. They have to live under the constant threat of violence against their own people if they speak out against Hamas. I can only pray that we in Australia never ever have to be confronted with that.
There is a lot of heartfelt anger on both sides. I am probably one of the strongest supporters of the state of Israel. I am strongly supportive of their need to protect their population against indiscriminate, violent terrorist attacks. I understand the constant threat that they face from the government of Iran and from terrorist groups that are funded by the state of Iran. Like all Australians and most people in the world, I hope in my lifetime not only that I see the peace process kick back in but that we achieve the two-state solution. I hold my hand on my heart and hope that happens. I am a friend of Israel and I am a very proud friend and supporter of the Australian Jewish community. I am also a very strong advocate for the two-state peace solution.
Hat tip: Advocating for Israel
6:12AM: Scenes from the “Islamic Conference to Save Gaza.”