ITEM: Israeli military denying/delaying aid to wounded civilians
Reporting from Los Angeles and Jerusalem -- The Red Cross today accused Israel of preventing rescue workers from reaching Gaza City homes where the relief agency said it found 15 bodies and 18 wounded, including children, needing treatment after Israel shelled the area.
In a blistering report, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the Israeli army refused to grant rescuers access to the site in the Zeitun neighborhood for four days, a delay the agency said it considers unacceptable...
"The ICRC/PRCS team found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses," the statement said. "They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses."...
The Israeli army had built earth walls, making it impossible to bring ambulances into the neighborhood, the report said. "Therefore, the children and the wounded had to be taken to the ambulances on a donkey cart," it said...
Israeli soldiers also ordered the rescue team to leave the area but the team refused to depart, the report said.
ITEM: UN stops food shipments after 3rd worker killed by Israeli forces
JERUSALEM, Jan. 8 -- The United Nations on Thursday said it was indefinitely suspending all humanitarian aid deliveries in the Gaza Strip, citing a series of Israeli attacks on U.N. facilities and personnel during the 13-day Israeli offensive.
The suspension appeared likely to deepen a sense of crisis in Gaza, where more than half the territory's 1.5 million people live on food aid from the United Nations and where water, power and cooking gas are all in short supply.
The decision came after a convoy of three U.N. vehicles was fired upon Thursday by Israeli forces during a mission to recover the body of a U.N. worker who had been killed in a previous Israeli attack, according to United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness. He said three U.N. workers have been killed by Israeli fire so far and that aid will not resume until "the Israeli army can guarantee the safety and security of U.N. personnel."
Gunness accused Israel of "deliberately targeting" aid workers. He said the locations of U.N. facilities and the movements of its workers are communicated to the Israeli military.
The United Nations suspended its food aid deliveries into Gaza on Thursday after one of its contract drivers was killed during an Israeli attack on a delivery convoy at a border crossing, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said.
Three forklift trucks operated by the only trucking company authorized to carry out deliveries near the Israeli-Gaza border were collecting food at Kerem Shalom crossing when they came under Israeli fire at 9 a.m. on Thursday, killing one of the drivers, named as Bassem Quta, 32, an official of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said.
"We have suspended all food distribution because of lack of security," according to the official, Andrew Whitley, director of the United Nations relief agency office in New York.
He said the delivery had involved prior coordination with the Israeli military and food deliveries would be suspended until Israel could guarantee the safety of its convoys.
The latest incident followed a similar attack on Monday when two trucks were hit by missiles from a helicopter as the trucks were leaving a garage in Gaza City, Mr. Whitley said. That attack left two dead.
ITEM: Dead refugee children weren't militants
United Nations investigators say they have uncovered no evidence to support a claim by the Israeli military that Hamas fighters were holed up in a Gaza school, prompting a deadly attack by Israeli forces that killed 40 civilians, many of them children.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office asserted that militants fired mortars from inside the school at troops...
But after a preliminary investigation of the Jan. 6 attack at the Fakhura girl's elementary school, "we're 99.9% sure that no militants were at the school," says Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The agency questioned survivors, including UNRWA staff that run the school under U.N. auspices.
Before the school was hit by Israeli bombs, some 400 Palestinians fleeing shelling of the Jabalya refugee camp had taken shelter inside Fakhura, hoping that the U.N. flag would shield them from harm, according to survivors. Earlier, the U.N., which oversees relief efforts for more than 800,000 Palestinians in Gaza, had passed along the coordinates of all its schools and buildings to the Israeli military so that its humanitarian missions would be spared attack.
ITEM: Gaza war is good politics in Israel
JERUSALEM — A few weeks ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was considered a dead man walking in Israeli politics. Members of his Labor Party were plotting to replace him after elections on Feb. 10, if not before. Under his leadership, the storied party of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir had sunk so low in the polls that there was serious talk it might disappear.
No one is talking like that now. Twelve days into a punishing war that he is leading against Hamas in Gaza, Labor’s poll numbers are spiking. Mr. Barak is everywhere, in sunglasses and leather jacket, striding among his military commanders, talking strategy, calculating the next move.
"The respect I get when I go into schools since the war is amazing, and it is all about Barak," remarked Daniel Ben-Simon, a Labor Party candidate for Parliament. "Israel’s MacArthur is back."
ITEM: Gaza war is good politics in U.S.
The U.S. Senate voiced strong support on Thursday for Israel's battle against Hamas militants in Gaza, while urging a ceasefire that would prevent Hamas from launching any more rockets into Israel.
The chamber agreed on a voice vote to the non-binding resolution co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican party leaders in the chamber.
"When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel, by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said before the vote.
Noting that Israel was bent on halting Hamas rocket fire into its southern towns, Reid said: "I ask any of my colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States. Rockets and mortars coming from Toronto in Canada, into Buffalo New York. How would we as a country react?"
Co-sponsor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican said before the vote: "The Israelis ... are responding exactly the same way we would."
ITEM: Gaza war is all about death and destruction
The role of retribution in Israel’s military thinking
ISRAELI generals call it restoring "deterrence". This concept is not, as in the cold war, an arcane reckoning of missile warheads and of future nuclear annihilation. For Israel it is an immediate accounting of blood, guts and broken masonry. For a powerful but small country, in the midst of hostile peoples, deterrence means showing a readiness to fight, and to inflict enough death and destruction so that foes think twice about attacking.
In Israel’s view, Hamas has been rocketing Israeli towns with impunity from the safety of Gaza’s teeming masses; it had to be shown that civilians provide no shield. Israeli armed forces say they try to avoid hitting civilians, sometimes warning them before buildings are bombed. That said, civilian pain is part of the "price" Hamas must pay for its attacks. Yossi Kuperwasser, a former intelligence man, says Hamas has been thumped: "Many people have been lost and there has been heavy damage to infrastructure. Hamas’s claim to be able to run the place looks baseless."
The Gaza economy had been destroyed long before the Israeli bombardment and ground assault started. Now, following 13 days of death and destruction, even the most basic infrastructure required for private sector activity lies in ruins.
"No one talks about business now," says Faysal Shawa, general secretary of the Palestinian Businessmen Association. "Everything has been shut down for months and now we are suffering even more."
Israel’s long-running closure of the Gaza Strip has starved companies of raw materials and robbed them of the chance to ship goods and agricultural produce abroad. The results have been nothing short of catastrophic: 98 per cent of industry was shut before the assault started, according to the World Bank. During the past week, even small bakeries have closed owing to a lack of electricity.
There is particular worry about long-term damage to vital pieces of infrastructure. Power, water and sewage networks have all been hit in the bombing raids. The United Nations says at least five out of 10 electricity lines from Israel are not functioning and Gaza’s only power station remains closed because of lack of fuel. Damage to the water and sewage systems has triggered another crisis: the lack of drinking water is pervasive and raw sewage is spilling into neighbourhoods and fields.
Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, The Economist, The Financial Times