a different side of Israel

Tag: Palestinian (page 9 of 12)

War Updates

Haifa was bombed today with three salvos of Katyusha missiles. Some Missiles landed on buildings and some landed near the industrial zone and the distillation factories.

One missile landed on an apartment building, which has collapsed. Although the apartments were mostly empty since the residents were in the shelters, four people were lightly injured and evacuated to the hospitals. There was some concern that people may have been trapped beneath the rubble. Fire forces put out the fire that has burst in the place while in the meantime searched for possible trapped people using dogs.

Zefat was also bombed again today, and a building was hit with a direct hit. Fortunately the building was already evacuated for the fear of an attack. The neighbors reported of panic and fear. The mayor of Zefat, Ishai Maimon, has been receiving complaints from citizens that said that the town is not well equipped with shelters. Residents who do not have relatives to flee to in the south are saying they’re feeling neglected.

At noon a few Katyusha missiles landed in Carmiel. One of the missiles hit a duplex house and penetrated the house of one family. Once again the family was fortune enough to leave their houses prior to the attack.
Many families in the central area and south of the country have opened their houses for people from the north. Hundred of people have left their houses, mainly families with small children, and are being hosted in the houses of Jewish families all over the country.

In the meantime Israel is still heavily bombing southern Lebanon, infrastructures and Hezbollah facilities. This morning the Lebanese media has reported that an Israeli aircraft has being shot down above Lebanon, however the IDF spokesman denied it.

At noon the Minister of Security, Amir Peretz, had a small press- conference and announced that Israel will not stop the attack until its goals have been achieved. He mentioned the vast support Israel is accepting from the international community. He also said that has far as the information he has, there was no plain crash in Lebanon.

A third front may have been started this morning, when Osher Damri, a warrior in the platoon Harub, was killed in an attack during an operation in Nablus. This operation comes as many Palestinian organizations are trying to send suicide bombers into Israel, to help Hezbollah.

The heat is apparently getting to the east, as Iran today offered a cease-fire in exchange to the release of Palestinian prisoners and the Israeli soldiers.

On the tourist trail in the Holy Land – Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series by Jill Cartwright

The WallWe got lost on the way to Bethlehem of course and ended up circling around Jerusalem’s Ein Karem hospital getting confused by the signposts – or rather lack thereof.

Jerusalem is the city equivalent of a pretentious designer boutique whose luxurious and minimalist displays don no price tag – and, as the saying goes, if you have to ask you can’t afford it. In Jerusalem if you have to ask, you shouldn’t be there.

The attitude I get, and get every time I have driven in the city or been a passenger car with someone else in the city, circling round and round looking for just one sign to the bloody train station, is that Jerusalem has stuck its nose up at me, too good to put up signs for low-life Tel Aviv ragamuffin like me.

But we shouldn’t really have needed a sign post, it should have been obvious from the confused looks on the faces of people we asked – that the road to Bethlehem would be the emptiest road in the whole of Jerusalem. Three lanes all to ourselves. Finally a road in Israel where no one cut you off, stuck to your bumper, cursed and swore at you and burned past you on the inside lane.

A vast car park stood empty on the Israeli side of the entrance to Bethlehem and by it a recent system of signs and roadways that led through the new checkpoint. And running along the side, the dark grey concrete separation wall jutted out into the afternoon skies.
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A Matter of Perspective

During the midst of Israel’s last military confrontation in Lebanon, known then as Operation Peace for Galilee, The Israeli military had boxed the entire Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO) into a virtual corner in West Beirut, forcing their leader, Yassir Arafat, to agree to go into exile with other PLO leaders and a number of faithful cohorts, many of whom are still alive and active in the same organization, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazan). Israel had a golden opportunity to rid itself once and for all of the leadership of an organization responsible for numerous acts of heinous terror against the Jewish State since the PLO’s founding during the early to mid 1960’s. Israel’s agreement to let Arafat and Co. sail away into exile on a cruise ship bound for eventual docking in Tunis is history now, but one can only wonder what would have transpired in both Israel and in the areas known as the “occupied territories” had the Israeli military decided to rid it’s country once and for all of these people who, after a sojourn in Tunisia, were later allowed to return to their ‘homeland’ following a now defunct peace agreement known as the Oslo Accords.

That agreement resulted in Mr. Arafat being chosen, along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to receive the world’s most revered award for peaceful pursuits: The Nobel Peace Prize.

Both Afarat and Rabin are dead now, Rabin partially as a result of winning that esteemed award. And despite numerous gestures of good will on behalf of Israel, including pulling out of part of these ‘territories’, Israel now finds itself in the middle of yet another confrontation, not only with her old Palestinian enemies, but with an even more threatening and potentially dangerous adversary, the Hezbollah, led by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. In the coming days, it may very well be that the IDF will succeed in ‘boxing’ up Nasrallah and his ilk in a similar corner as Arafat and friends were back in July, 1982. Nasrallah, who has been Israel’s northern Public Enemy No.1 for years now, never misses an opportunity to rub his verbal ‘salt’ into Israel’s wounds, each time something occurs along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Since Israel pulled it’s army out of southern Lebanon in May, 2000, several events, including the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers, gave the Sheikh a virtual field day to direct his hate filled ‘lectures’ toward Israel and anyone else who oppose his grand plans to “Islamize ” the entire region, beginning with Lebanon. If he and his cohorts are not killed, but cornered as Arafat his PLO followers were, will Israel offer him the same opportunity to go into exile as well; possibly to Iran?

The events of the past two days have now given the Israeli government the ‘window of opportunity’ it has been looking for since its controversial dis-engagement from Lebanon. Will the window be ‘opened ‘ wide enough to accomplish the job of ridding both itself, and the world for that matter, of a very dangerous man and the organization he heads? Or, will that opportunity slip by and Nasrallah and Co. be allowed the same gesture, as Arafat was? If allowed to leave, perhaps, the Sheikh and a future Israeli leader may even stand together one day in that pristine palace in Oslo, Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize as well. After all, back in 1982, who would have thought Arafat would have done so? Let’s all hope this possible déjà vu doesn’t come to pass.

War In The North

Katyusha missiles were fired today at the Israeli settlements in the north. One resident, a forty years old woman was killed when a missile hit her bedroom. Twenty-three others were injured. The Israel bombed tonight bridges and infrastructures in Lebanon, including the international airport of Beirut. The operation, which was nicknamed “Rightful pay” has escalated after the goverment’s emergency meeting yesterday.

In the meantime Hizballa admitted of firing new kind of missiles at Israel, Raad missiles. The word “Raad” is in Arabic and translate into deterring. These new missiles have a longer range then Katyusha missiles and make more damage.

Israel raised the level of alertness to level C, the last level before a national emergency. Aside from fighting Hizballa in the north, Israel is still fighting Hamas in the Gaza strip as well.
Reserves were sent for to reinforce the forces.

This new round of violence started with Hamas’ abduction of the soldier Gilad Shalit, during a raid on an IDF post in which three other soldiers were killed. Then it was escalated after Hizballa has also broke the international border and kidnapped two other soldiers who were patrolling the border, killing eight others.

Some in Israel wondered about the relative silence of the world at the Palestinian and Hizballa’s violation of international border and law, as but peripheral condemnation by the Europeans and the UN, no real action has been taken or even plotted to be taken against the offenders. Some voices in the UN accused Israel of exercising to much power. It appears that violations of international law are acceptable, when they are performed against Israel.

In coordination with the war in the north, many Israeli web sites were attacked and damaged by Arab hackers. The sites were deformed and messages against Israel were written in them. Israeli hackers are reported to have already retaliated by doing the same to high grade Arab sites.

Summer Rain or Summer Cloudburst – Is Israel Going Too Far?

Israel’s current military maneuvers in the Gaza Strip appear to keep going on with no one really knowing how for it will go. Initiated from the outset due to the continuous barrage of Palestinian launched Kassam missiles, and actually sparked off by the commando-like attack by Palestinian militants on an Israeli armor unit that resulted in the deaths of two IDF soldiers and the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the operation seems to have reached a point where many people are wondering where it will end. Demands by Cpl. Shalit’s kidnappers appear to be changing as well; from Israel releasing at least 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, to a much smaller group including women and ‘long term’ prisoners – many of whom actual terrorists. Regarding the new demands, this time by the Hamas organization itself, one might understand their willingness to help find a solution to this problem as a number of their own governmental ministers and other higher ranking cohorts are currently ‘guests’ of the Israel government, who regard them as bargaining chips in any negations to free Shalit.

The painful unilateral pullout from Gaza by Israel, in which 22 settlements were dismantled and many of their occupants literally carried out of their homes, was hoped to solve a lot of problems concerning Israeli-Palestinian relations by giving the Palestinians an entire parcel of real estate upon which to begin building what might eventually become a homeland and country for them. Subsequent events occurring afterwards, including a continuance of Kassam launchings, as well as the Hamas landslide political victory in January 2006, began to indicate that the Hamas-led PA Authority not only has no intention of making peace with Israel but has even formed closer bonds with countries like Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Islamic Republic of Iran. Even Al Qaeda is alleged to be operating in PA areas in even greater numbers, and are suspected of being jointly involved in Palestinian terror operations as well.
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On the tourist trail in the Holy Land – Part 2

At the Garden Tomb
Continued from part 1
Nazareth, Kfar Kana (where the water was turned to wine), the Sea of Galilee (in whose waters we dipped our feet), and all the churches around it, from the cool simplicity of St Peter’s of the Primacy to the stunning manicured gardens of the Mount of the Beatitudes, the silent pillars at Capernaum and the humble quiet of the church at Tabgha (of loaves and fishes fame).

And at each site, busload upon busload of tourists – in a veritable cacophony of languages, from Europe, from America, South America and the Far East, tourists with parasols and cameras and name tags, bursting into impromptu hymn inside the stony recesses of Christianity’s first temples and sitting in shaded enclaves reading from their Bibles, in the throes of what was quite clearly a very moving experiences.

In Jerusalem, the tiny alleys of the Via Dolorosa swelled with hoards of pilgrims; they gathered in the Garden of Gethsemane and swarmed in the over-ornamented gaudiness of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Even in the tranquil leafiness of the Garden Tomb, where the highly enthusiastic guide, relapsing into an evangelical sing-song sermon about Christ the living saviour detailed his argument as to why it was actually here that Jesus was buried and rose from the dead and not at the more famous site within the city walls (most convincing, too – I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the Holy Land), groups of clear-faced Christians gathered as in mini parishes, reading from the Book and softly, with closed eyes, offering up their prayers.

But Bethlehem, Bethlehem, O little town thereof, where the whole story started, the place every schoolchild across Europe knows; Bethlehem of stars and shepherds and myrrh and little donkeys, Bethlehem was like a ghost town.

“Why are you going there?!,” my Israeli friends asked in horror, as if I’d told them I was just taking a quick jaunt to Basra. “That’s Palestinian territory. Are you crazy! It’s not safe!”

I can’t say I wasn’t a little troubled by the warnings; suddenly my association of the scene of the nativity was replaced by the siege in the Church of the Nativity; “how still we see thee lie” hadn’t been relevant for a while, with the images of tanks and fighting that had emanated from the famous town in recent years, and there certainly didn’t seem to be any wise man in sight.

However, my mind was made up: I’d been singing about the place every December for the past 31 years; I wanted to see what it was all about…

And so with not a little trepidation, we loaded up the rental car and set off on our way …

Gaza Good News Bad News

Israel’s “Summer Rain” military operation into Gaza, as well as into Ramallah’s P.A. Administration offices, has all the makings of a story in which the Palestinian narrator is telling his audience: “Folks regarding this situation, I’ve got good news and bad news. First the good news (for some Palestinians, anyway): for the moment, anyway, Israeli P.M. Olmert has decided not to send his army into Northern Gaza, including Gaza City, of course. Now, the bad news: the Israeli military is still pounding the hell out of much of Gaza; by land, sea, and air. In other words, don’t go to the beach, the souk, to school (if still even in session), or anywhere else during this time.” The announcer forgot to mention about going out of one’s house or even staying in one’s house, for that matter.

In other words, things aren’t going so well for the people of Palestine, especially since more than 70 of their government and legal officials are now ‘guests’ of the Israeli military, including that guy with a (dyed) red beard who is often characterized on the comic news spoof show “Eretz Nehedert” (lovely land). Of course, all this didn’t had to happen if the P.A. hadn’t decided to do the things they have done since becoming the new landlords in their territory following their sweeping electoral victory – brought about largely because most Palestinians were tired of being ‘ripped off’ by the Fatah-led previous government headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and his predecessor, good old Yassir Arafat who is now most likely watching this entire tragedy from his seat in Paradise). Arafat’s widow, Sulha, is safely situated far away in Gay Paree’ still trying to keep Ismail Haninya and his Hamasnicks from getting to all those millions her dear husband thoughtfully squirreled away for her.
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Settler Eliyahu Executed

The body of Eliyahu Ashri from Itamar was found last night by soldiers of the IDF. Eliyahu was taken by Palestinian terrorists on Sunday and according to the chief coroner’s findings, he was murdered soon after being taken. His funeral will was held today at 14:30. He was laid to rest in the cemetery Mount Olive in Jerusalem.

Yesterday afternoon, a member of the group that kinapped Eliyahu was arrested by the IDF. Wasam Abu Ragila was interrogated and told the soldiers about the kidnapping and the execution that followed it. He also gave specific information about the body’s whereabouts.

The settlement Itamar is in mourning. Eliyahu is the fourteenth member to be murdered from the settlement in the last two years. “We lost the best of the bunch. The difference is so eminent, the difference between his smile and radiating goodness and the evil and brutality the other side radiates.” Said Rabbi Itzhak Nisim, the head of the school where Eliyahu studied. Later he continued lamenting Eliyahu, saying, “We owe him. We all do. He was and optimistic person, one who loved helping others, a boy of faith and rooted to his country.”

At the same time the body was being discovered, an unprecedented arrest operation was raging through the Gaza strip and the West Bank. About sixty Hamas political officials, some members of the Palestinian government, some members of Parliament, were arrested. Amongst others Naser A-din Sa’ar, the deputy to the Palestinian Prime-Minister was arrested, along with Muhama Barguty, the minister to the affairs of the Jerusalem. The Palestinians were shocked by the arrests, and threatened to retaliate with terror in Israeli cities. Some suggested that Israel took these people in order to trade them back for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Simultaneously with the arrests, the IDF attacked Hamas infrastructure tonight as well. Palestinian spokesman said about these actions “It is a declaration of war against the Palestinian people”.

I guess until now we were basking in the warmth of peace…

Incidents Turn to the worst in Gaza

Israel’s expected retaliation to Sunday’s attack by Palestinian insurgents is now in full swing in Gaza. The continuing military action, involving air and ground forces has so far caused considerable damage to the Palestinian’s already disastrous infrastructure, including causing severe damage to the PA’s only electrical power station, as well as knocking out two land bridges that has literally “cut Gaza in two”. The massive military action came as a result of a diplomatic impasse which has occurred concerning efforts to gain the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, PFC Gilad Shalit. This impasse appears to have occurred despite a world wide effort to free the young soldier by negotiators in various world capitals, including Damascus Syria.

Though international statespersons, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have asked all sides in the conflict to “give diplomacy a chance”, it now appears that Israel, which has been massing it’s forces on the border with Gaza for days now, finally decided that enough is enough. Israeli P.M. Olmert, his Defense Minister Amir Peretz, as well as IDF General Commander Dan Helutz, now say that Israel will not negotiate with terrorists, and that no prisoner exchange will take place.

The abduction of Shalit, alleged to have been carried out by ‘right-wing’ members of Hamas, the very party which now rules the P.A., has resulted in his captors declaring that they will only release him within the framework of a general prisoner exchange involving numerous Palestinian prisoners, many with ‘blood on their hands’, being held in Israeli jails. To further complicate the entire bowl of ‘fruit salad’, another young man,from a settlement on the West Bank, is missing and alleged to have been kidnapped as well.

The militants holding Shalit issued statements that the soldier is alive, and that they are holding him “a secure place where the Zionests cannot reach”. During these actions, Palestinian launched Kassam missiles have continued to be launched at Israeli targets, including the nearby town of Sderot, injuring several people. Both European and American government officials are taking all of these events very seriously, as it now appears that there is virtually no chance whatsoever to restart any peace negotiations between the two sides, now literally at war. Israeli P.M. Olmert even declared that the “entire territory of Gaza is completely closed, from the Sea to all its Borders with Israel”.

Some ‘behind the scene’ negotiations are continuing, however, including those for a prisoner release. The critical question now is whether these efforts will succeed to gain PFC Shalit’s release, as well as to bring about a cease fire. No details have been released, and most likely will not be divulged due to fear for Salit’s safety.

Judging from all of these events, and in respect to actions taken by the Hamas-connected terrorists, it reminds many of a statement made once by the international arch terrorist, Carlos the Jackal, who said in regards to his alleged enemies: “Shit is thicker than blood – make shit out of them”. It now looks like the Israeli forces, anyway, are heeding his advice in regards to present dealing with their Palestinian ‘neighbors’.

Another Abduction

By Raz Koller
Eliyahu Hushery, an 18 year old from the Samaria settlement of Itamar, was apparently kidnapped and is being held hostage somewhere in the Rammalla area. That is the IDF and police’s assessment after the teenager had disappeared on Sunday. He was last seen by a Yeshiva student from Itamar. He met him on the French Hill and Elyahu was trying to hitch a ride.

Spokesman of the Palestinian organization The Committees of the People’s Opposition, Muhamad Abed El-Al, told the press: “The settler was taken on Sunday”, but refused to approve or deny if he was alive. “An announcement will come when the time is right”, said the terrorist, “The organization has created special units in the West Bank, aimed at kidnapping soldiers and settlers”. One might add that this happens when the Israeli government is preparing the ground for Olmert’s major plan of withdrawal from the West Bank.

In the meantime, a vast force made out of police and soldiers are looking for Elyahu. The search is circled around Beit-Lechem and Rammalla. After the abduction of the soldier Gilad in Gaza, there are estimates that the Palestinians will try to kidnap more soldiers and civilians in an attempt to make Israel release prisoners in Israeli prisons.

Elyahu’s family in the meantime is praying in Itamar, along with people from the settlement. “We have an emergency team with the family at all times.” said Arie Goldberg, a member of the settlement’s secretariat, “We are a formed and unified community.”

The Outcome of Violence

By Raz Koller

The Kasam rocket attacks and kidnappings have finely lead to the avoidable violence in the Gaza strip. The IDF has been operating in the Gaza strip since late last night. The military is bombing from the air Palestinian terror nests and infrastructure, intend to sabotage terror activities. Thus a small transformer was bombed last night (along with several bridges) and half of Gaza was blacked-out.

The operation was nicknamed “Summer Rain”, and according to military factors it is a “rolling operation with no established time frame”. But government sources within the Israeli government reassured that Israel has no intention of going back into the Gaza strip permanently. “Israel did not leave Gaza just to return to it” said Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livnie. Prime-Minister Ehud Olmert also clarified today that Israel has no intention to occupy Gaza again, but “the operations will continue. There will be no terrorist immunity. We have a primary goal – bring Gilad home“.

Gilad Shalit was kidnapped during a terrorist attack on one of the IDF’s posts within Israel’s borders during the last weekend. The past days raised concerns about his health in captivity. The Hamas terrorists who have him demanded Israel stop the operation in the Gaza strip or they will execute him. Israel on its side refuses to negotiate with terrorists but said that the release of the soldier and the settler that was kidnapped on Sunday might bring the operation to an end.

HamasIn the meantime Israel accuses not only the Palestinian, but also the Hamas leaders who sit in Syria, and the country that shelters them. “The USA and the international community can not stay indifferent to the fact that Syria is giving custody to the Arch-terrorists who had lad to these acts.” said Minister Haim Ramon.

And in the soldier Gilad Shalit’s home, many people have come to show support to the devastated family. One of the guests yesterday was Azam Azam, the Israeli citizen who was jailed in Egypt for the false charge of spying for Israel, and was released after seven years due to Israel’s massive diplomatic efforts. “Captivity is not simple, only inner-strength can help Gilad survive” said Azam yesterday.

Civilian Deaths Caused by IDF Actions: Are They Avoidable?

Deaths in Gaza Photo: Reuters
New investigations into the deaths of additional Palestinian civilians by IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, are adding to an increasing controversy, and pressure being brought on both Israel’s military as well as in the world political area. Following on the heels of an air strike in which three Palestinian children were killed, yesterday’s attack killed a 35 year old pregnant woman, as well as a Saudi man who was visiting relatives in Gaza. These incidents, following continued Kassam missile strikes launched by the Al Aqsa Brigade, Islamic Jihad, and possibly Hamas itself, only add fuel to an increasingly escalation of violence that has been instigated by terror elements in both Gaza and the West Bank.

These follow the still publicized ‘beach incident‘; in which it has now been revealed that the Palestinian family who lost so many members may actually have been killed by an unexploded Israeli artillery shell that suddenly went off. World wide condemnation against Israel, including increasingly outspoken remarks by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan, greatly overshadow the trauma, injuries and damage caused by the Palestinian launched Kassams. While Israeli Air Force spokespersons try to assure that the best efforts are made by IAF pilots to minimize Palestinian civilian injuries and deaths when making these targeted strikes, it must be understood that the places in which these ‘targets’ are often located are usually in one of the most densely populated areas, making it very difficult not to inflict some injuries. Another factor is that the suspected terrorists often have family members riding in the same target vehicles or occupying the buildings where they are found in. Call it what you wish, use of ‘human’ shields’ or simply unfortunate circumstances, the end result is still the same.

Still, however, where are the world condemnations of Palestinian ‘air strikes’, i.e. by Kassam missile launchings, as well as suicide missions in which more than 2,000 Israelis have been killed and several thousand injured (some for life) during the past years? It’s as if they (the Palestinians) can do no wrong, and Israelis can do no right!

Following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in August, 2005, Palestinians continued to launch their home made missiles, although on less frequent intervals, until a brief hudna or truce was called following the Hamas led victory in the Palestinian elections. This truce was short lived, however, and terror attacks, as well as Kassam launchings continued again, now with increasing regularity. Actual ‘on the ground’ terror attacks, by suicide bombers, etc., have only been lessoned due to increased diligence on behalf of the Israeli Police and other security forces, and definitely not from lack of trying by Palestinian terror groups. Their unfortunate ‘success’ included the recent one in Tel Aviv which killed 12 people including a 16 year old American tourist, who sustained horrific wounds and lingered between life and death for more than three weeks.

Israeli military forces would be ready to cease these attacks if the Palestinian side are prepared to reciprocate in kind. Unfortunately, this is not the case, with Hamas even declaring that its main goal is the elimination of the Jewish State.

So, who’s really the blame, anyhow?

Waiting for Gilad Shalit

I don’t know much except for what I hear on TV and the bits of information floating around. Most importantly, his name is Gilad Shalit and he’s 19 years old. He lives in the Western Galilee (North) in a small town called Mitzpe Hila. He is the middle of three kids, quiet, shy, an introvert. The army found his blood stained armored vest on the fence separating the Israeli and PA area. Walking tracks have been found and it seems clear that he was lead away in good health. He is alive.

We got caught with our pants down. No two ways about it. The various army branches are slinging accusations back and forth. The General Security Services claims there were warning and the army says there wasn’t.

What we know of the event? An 800 Meter tunnel was dug from the PA area to an army post in Kerem Shalom. The outpost had an armored personal carrier and a tank near by. The attack was well coordinated – 3 teams 8 people. The personal carrier was empty but was destroyed by two people. Three more attacked the outpost, 2 attackers were killed, IDF has 7 wounded. The last team attacked the tank, killing the tank commander Second Lieutenant Hanan Barak 20 and an infantry sergeant Pavel Slotzker 20. Gilad was wounded and was taken hostage.

Voices on the other side vary. What was initial glee has now turned to regret and some calls for the release of the hostage. Olmert in his first real security crisis sent a message, he holds the Palestinian Authority directly responsible for the welfare of the soldier. Hamas in what seems like an odd appeal release a statement – in Hebrew no less – calling for the well being and release of the soldier. Some sources are saying that Hamas never intended to kidnap the soldier and that this was part of an attempt to save face after the recent events in the PA.

In the meantime, we are waiting for Gilad Shalit.

All Smiles: Olmert and Abbas Meet Despite Continued Bloodshed

By Maurice Picow

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s meeting with P.A. Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Petra, Jordan, appeared great from a public relations point of view. However, present circumstances, including the confrontation between IDF ground forces and Palestinian terrorists, show that a lot more needs to done before all those hugs and duo-cheek kisses eventually pan out into something more realistic.

Sunday’s Gaza attack, in which an IDF amour unit was attacked by a group of terrorists armed with RPG’s, explosives, and a variety of small arms, has resulted in two IDF soldiers being killed and at least one soldier kidnapped. This attack followed on the heels of an earlier confrontation in which at least 4 Palestinian terrorists were killed while in the process of trying to infiltrate into Israel to carry out a terror attack. Judging from the amount of weapons found on these men, including explosives, their intensions were plainly evident.

Olmert’s arranged meeting with Abbas, brought about largely through the efforts of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, finally enabled the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to get together after several previous scheduled meetings were cancelled. Obviously, it was a bit difficult for these two to meet, when so many Kassam missiles were being launched by Palestinian ‘militiamen’ and Israeli forces were reciprocating with numerous ‘selective’ air and ground strikes, resulting in a number of Palestinian civilians being killed and wounded.

The overall climate is now very murky with today’s attack causing the Israeli ministerial cabinet to meet in emergency sessions, and blame for this latest event placed on the shoulders of both Ismail Haninyah, the P.A. Prime Minister, and on Abbas as well. Abbas, despite his possible good intentions, doesn’t seem to have much influence on the Hamas Party Prime Minister and his ministers, all of whom also come from Haninyah’s same religious and political camp.

Both Egyptian President Hosnei Mubarek, as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah, are probably a bit worried about these recent developments, to say the least. Israel’s newly formed government must now rise up to these new challenges, and Amir Peretz, Israel’s Defense Minister now faces an even bigger test than just dealing with the barrages of Kassams, many of which have fallen on his home town of Sderot.

When aging rock star Roger Waters and his Pink Floyd group did their gig at Neveh Shalom last Thursday night, he attracted a lot of attention by visiting the security wall that now separates much of Israel from the West Bank, an area still being contested by both Israel and the Palestinians. Waters wrote a message on the wall; a message which he integrated into the performance he put on later that night. His message to all who were present was the hope that the wall would someday be torn down, just as other controversial walls (including the Berlin Wall) had been for the sake of peace.

Despite his good intentions, and the favorable responsible he received from the more then fifty thousand who attended the concert, the walls of hate and fear seem to be fixated more than ever. One wonders if these ‘walls’ of hate will ever be torn down, in light of recent events.

Magen David Adom Final Admittance into the International Health Care Federation

By Maurice Picow

Magen David AdomAfter being in existence for even longer than the State of Israel itself, Israel’s Magen David Adom health organization appears to have finally been recognized by the International Federation of Red Cross and admitted to that world body as a full fledged member. Despite having one of the finest emergency medical organizations in the entire region, the MDA was shut out from the world health organization that was founded in Switzerland, and has been in existence since 1863. The Red Cross, using an inverted symbol of Switzerland’s national flag, allowed the Arab or Muslim version of the organization to use a red colored crescent (also a religious symbol for devout Muslims) since its admittance into the world health body at end of World War II.

Red Crystal ?The rejection of Israel’s MDA from this organization, has always been for ‘political reasons’ despite MDA’s proving time and time again that it is more than capable of providing superb emergency health care services, often to members of the Palestinian community as well. A compromise has appeared to have reached concerning the symbol that will be used by the Israeli affiliate on its vehicles, flags, and other logos that are often in display by the MDA, with a red diamond or ‘crystal’ being set forth as the one Israel will use. Although provisions have been made to allow a Star of David, the MDA’s standard symbol, to be ‘positioned’ within this red crystal, the question is how this will be done to serve both Israel’s requirements as well as those of the Parent Organization, based in Geneva; endeavoring not to ‘offend’ those who use the red crescent for their accepted symbol.

Since nationhood, Israel’s MDA has treated all religions living within Israel’s borders, as well as many living in other places as well. MDA field hospitals have often been in place side by side with those of the Red Cross in the aftermath of natural emergencies, such as earthquakes, and have often offered to send medical teams even to countries with whom Israel has no diplomatic relations, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia. Literally thousands of Palestinians have been cared for and treated by MDA emergency units with the sole purpose of saving lives.

The Swiss Embassy in Tel Aviv has been very helpful in correcting this matter, and their efforts are appreciated. The real momentum began to occur with Israel’s decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, a move which helped to thaw the impasse that had been in existence for so long. It would have been very nice if the Swiss delegation and other concerned bodies would have helped to persuade the world organization’s headquarters to allow Israel to proudly display the symbol it has used for so long. Is the MDA to use two symbols – the old one for use within Israel, and the ‘Red Crystal’ for international business, such as sending emergency medical teams abroad when natural disasters strike?

For a world organization which turned aside when millions of Jews were being slaughtered by the Nazis a mere 65 years ago; who used the Red Cross symbol to mislead Jews arriving at death camps like Auschwitz, a better gesture should have been forthcoming. In any respect, at least we living in Israel can now say: “better late than never”.

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