Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rockets Still Screeching Over Sderot

Kassam rockets continue falling on the southern Israeli town of Sderot, only a few kilometers from Gaza, as they have for the last five years. Parents have kept their school aged children at home in protest over the continued rocket attacks from Gaza. According to media reports, more than half of the parents are now sending their children out of Sderot for education. The controversy over the bomb proofing of the schools continues. Parent’s committees claim that only a few of the schools have been bomb-proofed, and the rest are vulnerable to Kassam rocket attacks.

The Israeli government has decided again not to okay a large ground invasion of Gaza. The invasion was meant to stop the rocket attacks on Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that sooner or later such an invasion must take place. Photographs of Israeli soldiers who entered Gaza in a commando operation show five rocket launchers, each a flimsy assembly of thin iron rails that look more like over sized clothes hangers than deadly firing mechanisms. According to the Haaretz newspaper, eleven rocket launchers were captured Wednesday during an IDF raid on Gaza.

A press release by the Prime Minister’s office stated “the security establishment, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and the relevant legal bodies, has been instructed to prepare a plan – taking all military and civil considerations into account – to disrupt the services that the State of Israel provides to the Gaza Strip in response to the continued criminal and indiscriminate attacks against the Israeli civilian population." Those in opposition to the move questions the legality, since Israel may be perceived as in charge of Gaza in certain interpretations.

According to a statement by PM Olmert on September 3, 2007, "The IDF has been instructed to destroy all launchers and target anyone involved in the attacks. We will hit all those in the chain of command who harbor terrorists and act against the State of Israel."

Both the Maariv and Yideot Achranot daily newspapers ran editorials on Thursday about the Kassam rockets. Yideot’s editorial said, “Considered, measured and continuous economic sanctions will cause the Hamas regime to think carefully before firing Kassams." The editorial in Maariv called for more innovative leadership and urged the Government to stop allowing Islamic Jihad and Hamas to set the pace of events
Meanwhile negotiations continue between PM Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas over a two-state solution to the problem. But some believe Olmert is merely trying to deflect criticism of his policies. According to the Haaretz Newspaper, the Winograd committee investigating Olmert’s decisions during the War in Lebanon II have postponed issuing their findings, which are expected to be very harsh in their criticism of Olmert, then Defense Minister Peretz, and then Chief-of-Staff Halutz. The committee wants to give those expected to be damaged most by the findings a chance to appear again before the committee and state their case before the results are released. A new date for the findings is reported to be sometime in the spring of 2008.

The Israeli army Wednesday night sealed the Nablus offices of the Da'wa charity which the IDF claims is a front for a Hamas terrorist financial center. The Israeli forces confiscated documents and digital media from five different offices affiliated with the Hamas organization.

The Israeli government declared the Da'wa organizations illegal due to the financial support Da’wa provides for families of suicide bombers and imprisoned terrorists. According to the IDF spokesman, Da’wa actively encourages terrorism and this financial contribution of millions of dollars a year provides incentive for terrorists to carry out attacks and increases public support for terror organizations. The statement also said that Da’wa funds kindergartens which incite against Jews and Americans, support families of suicide bombers and other Palestinian terrorists who have died or are imprisoned in Israel.

An Israeli army statement said that the level of influence which these institutes hold over various groups within the Palestinian public varies. These institutes organize activities ranging from kindergartens in which children are incited against Jews (Israelis in particular) and Americans, to providing funds and guidance to students in higher levels of education, to supporting families of suicide bombers ('martyrs') and other Palestinian terrorists who have died or are imprisoned in Israel. It is important to note that these institutes, which are funded by millions of dollars per year, actively encourage terrorism.

The Maariv daily newspaper reported on Thursday that Israel will begin new procedures for punishing draft-dodgers. According to some of the proposals, the IDF proposes to suggest legislation that would cancel drivers' licenses, block eligibility to practice medicine and block all possibility of Government employment. Lately it has become a problem in Israel to enforce the draft. Many young men prefer to seek their livlihood in the marketplace or start their careers rather than serve in the armed forces.

His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum on Friday, September 7, 2007. He planted a tree in honor of his grandmother Princess Alice who was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1993, for rescuing the Cohen family in Greece during the Holocaust. In 1994, her son, HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh planted a tree in her honor at Yad Vashem.

The prince also placed a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance, as well as visiting the Children’s Memorial in honor of the one and a half children who were killed by the Nazis during World War II. This was the first visit of British Royalty in nearly a decade. The Prince arrived on private visit to Israel continuing the royal family's tradition of not making official visits to Israel. Some political analysts claim this is a form of boycott of Israel by the royal family.

While music lovers of the world mourned the death of Luciano Pavarotti at the age of 71 in his home town of Modena, Italy, (Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last July), the Israel Cancer Research Fund honored this years grant recipients at the Caesarea home of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard H. Jones. The ICRF has donated over $35 million towards cancer research. The cancer drug Glevec was developed by ICRF researchers. Two of the ICRF’s recipients, Dr. Aaron Ciechanover and Dr. Avram Hershko were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2004. In this year’s ceremony the ICRF handed out grants of nearly $1.5 million.

Israeli warplanes soared over Syrian airspace on Thursday sparking concerns of an outbreak of hostilities between Syria and Israel. Syria reportedly fired anti-aircraft missiles at the planes, to no effect. According to Syrian news sources, Israeli fighter planes flew into Syria and dropped bombs in the desert. Al-Arabiya television reported that the incident occurred in north-eastern Syria, close to the border with Turkey.

A Syrian analyst told Hebzollah's Al-Manar television that the plane was likely dumping munitions in order to maneuver, and was not carrying out a bombing raid.

This latest flap comes amid concerns of growing tensions between Israel and Syria that some analysts feared might result in a war. During the last few months both Syrian and Israeli officials kept saying they had no interest in hostilities. Analysts say however that a misunderstanding on either side could spark an unwanted engagement of forces.

Israel has flown over Syrian airspace in the past without sparking hostilities, said Israel's Science, Sport and Culture Minister Ghaleb Majadele (Labor Party) on Friday.
Military analayst speculated that the Israeli planes might have been testing the Syrian air defense systems in the event that hostilities do break out in the future.