Peace brokers proclaimed a breakthrough in efforts to halt the Gaza conflict Jan. 7 as Israel’s cabinet considered a Franco-Egyptian initiative and Russia pressed for a diplomatic solution in talks with Hamas. Israel stopped short of saying whether the plan floated by the presidents of Egypt and France after a summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh would be accepted. Hamas representatives also said the plan was under consideration. (Middle East Online, Jan. 7)
Civilian casualties still mounting—despite “lull”
Even as diplomatic initiatives moved forward, Israeli air-strikes killed three Palestinian civilians the afternoon of Jan. 7, during what Israel had earlier declared to be a unilateral three-hour halt in its attacks on Gaza. Medics at Kamal Udwan Hospital confirmed that three sisters—aged two, four and six—were killed by Israeli fire in the east of Jabaliya refugee camp.
Gaza medical officials report that 682 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli offensive began 12 days ago, and more than 3,000 have been injured. Among the dead are an estimated 185 children and 41 women.
Red Cross teams managed to enter the Zaytoun neighborhood of southern Gaza City, which has witnessed intense fighting in the last 24 hours. Rescue workers removed two more bodies from the rubble of a house destroyed by Israeli air-strikes, where more than 20 members of the same were feared dead. With the removal of the bodies, 10 members of the Samuni family have been confirmed killed. (Ma’an News Agency, Jan. 7)
Rockets from Lebanon strike Israel
Four rockets struck northern Israel from Lebanon early Jan. 8, wounding two people, Israeli authorities reported. The rockets hit near the city of Nahariya, six miles from the Lebanese border. The Israeli military said it returned fire toward the source of the rockets after the attack. Schools were closed in Nahariya and the nearby town of Shlomi, the Israel Defense Forces reported. The Israeli military warned civilians in the western Galilee region to stay close to shelters. (CNN, Jan. 8)
UNRWA: Gaza still under occupation
Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), told “Democracy Now!” that under international law, Gaza is still considered under Israeli occupation—despite claims to have ended the occupation in 2005. “In international law, there’s the concept of effective control: if you control the airspace, the land and the sea borders of a place, you occupy it. And from the UN’s point of view, there is one occupied territory… Gaza has continued to be occupied.”
He added that most media outlets have failed to report this crucial fact when reporting on the conflict. “Until the underlying cause of this, the occupation, is addressed and the strangulation, which is part of that occupation, is addressed, I fear for the people of Sderot,” said Gunness. (Middle East Online, Jan. 7)
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UN: Israel shelled Gaza house crowded with civilians
UN officials Jan. 9 cited witnesses saying Israeli forces evacuated about 110 Palestinians into a house which they then repeatedly shelled 24 hours later, killing about 30 people. The report said that “according to several testimonies, on 4 January Israeli foot soldiers evacuated approximately 110 Palestinians into a single-residence house in Zeitun (half of whom were children) warning them to stay indoors. Twenty-four hours later, Israeli forces shelled the home repeatedly, killing approximately 30.” The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called it “one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations” by Israeli forces in Gaza on Dec. 27. (Middle East Online, Jan. 9)
Leaflets dropped from the air on Gaza City Jan. 4 said, “Hamas is getting a taste of the power of the Israeli military after more than a week and we have other methods that are still harsher to deal with Hamas. They will prove very painful. For your safety, please evacuate your neighborhood.” (IHT, Jan. 5)