August 9, 2006
Ignoring international outcries for restraint and diplomacy, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were on Saturday advancing their reoccupation push into the Gaza Strip amid Palestinian, Arab and Islamic diplomatic efforts to stop the Israeli invasion, efforts that have been aborted so far by a US-led western diplomacy.
"We are determined to create a professional chaos, to jump from one place, to emerge, to use this method or another, to leave the territory and enter it again after a while," Israel’s Gaza Division Commander Brigadier General Kochavi told Ynet on Friday, after a visit by the IOF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz.
The IOF overnight Saturday reoccupied areas 500 meters deep in eastern Gaza Strip two days after reoccupying a belt of the northern Mediterranean coastal strip Israel called a buffer zone, including the sites of the three former Jewish colonial settlements of Nisanit, Elei Sinai and Dugit.
At least 38 Palestinians were killed and more than 120 others wounded, some of them critically, since the IOF invaded Gaza Strip at midnight Tuesday on July 27. Three Palestinians were also killed in the West Bank.
Much of the power, water, road and government infrastructure is bombed to rubble amid an exacerbating humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated strip - sealed off from outside world for the 15th consecutive day.
Thousands of Palestinian passengers are stranded on the Egyptian side of the border and an elderly man died on Friday while waiting to enter Gaza.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rejected an Israeli offer on Friday to allow the opening of the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) border crossing between Israel and Egypt to let more than 5000 Palestinians stranded on the Egyptian side of the border into the Gaza Strip, indicating that there was a deal sponsored by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to use the Gaza-Egypt crossing of Rafah for passengers.
The EU condemned "the loss of lives caused by disproportionate use of force" by the IOF and "the humanitarian crisis it has aggravated," Finnish PM Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said in St Petersburg on Friday.
IOF troops entered the towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza forcing inhabitants to evacuate in thousands as fighting was reported from house to house between the reoccupying forces and small groups of anti-occupation activists armed with individual weapons against tanks and armored vehicles.
President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday chaired an emergency meeting for the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Gaza City.
The Committee decided to be in held until the current crisis is over and set up a national committee to manage the crisis, chaired by Abbas and comprising representatives of the government, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the national and Islamic political groups and the civil society.
Israel claims that the aim of its invasion is to free the captured Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and stop the launching of home-made Palestinian rockets at Israeli targets.
Father of the captured Israeli soldier, Noam Shalit, called on Israel’s government Thursday to consider releasing some of more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, including more than 100 women and 413 children under 18, in exchange for his son, despite the government's refusal to negotiate with the captors.
A top Israeli government official suggested on Friday that Israel might release Palestinian prisoners as part of an Egyptian proposal to win freedom for the Israeli soldier.
Avi Dichter, Israel's minister of public security, said that once the Israeli soldier was released and the rocket attacks from Gaza stopped, "then, in a goodwill gesture, Israel, as it has in the past, knows how to free prisoners."
US, France Foiling Arab Draft Resolution
On July 6 Arab states asked the UN Security Council to demand that Israeli forces immediately withdraw from Gaza, but France and the United States criticized their proposed resolution as unbalanced.
The Arab draft resolution, introduced in the 15-nation council by Qatar, condemned Israel's arrest and detention of dozens of elected Palestinian officials and the "large-scale military assault" in Gaza launched after Palestinian anti-occupation activists seized one of its soldiers.
The draft demanded that Israel "immediately cease its aggression" against Palestinian civilians, pull its forces out of Gaza, and release the kidnapped Palestinian cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, officials and mayors.
It also expressed the council's appreciation, without elaboration, for efforts aimed at "finding a diplomatic solution for the issue of the release of prisoners including the Israeli soldier."
"It is not balanced enough, and we will propose amendments, and we think it requires a lot of work," French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere told reporters after the council's initial closed-door talks on the draft.
But Riyad Mansour, Palestinian UN observer, said the text's supporters would show "all the necessary flexibilities to make the draft resolution as balanced as possible."
UNHRC Sends Fact-finding Mission
Meanwhile the UN 47-state Human Rights Council (HRC) agreed on Thursday to send a fact-finding mission headed by John Dugard to the Palestinian territories and adopted a resolution demanding a halt to Israel's "extensive military operations" against Palestinians.
The resolution was passed by a majority vote at the end of a two-day special session of the newly formed council, called by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
The vote was 29 delegations in favor, 11 against, with five abstentions and two African delegations absent, officials said.
The 29 countries which voted in favor of the resolution were: Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Zambia.
The European Union member states on the council, including Britain, France and Germany, voted against. Finland, speaking on behalf of the EU, took the floor to say that the situation needed to be addressed in a "more balanced manner."
Canada also voted against, while China and Russia voted in favor of the resolution.
China, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Zambia were the non-OIC countries, which voted for the resolution.
John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the territories, will head the HRC fact-finding team, which will also include four UN human-rights staff and two security guards. No dates or itinerary were announced for the mission.
The resolution was presented by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC.
The resolution voiced "grave concern at the violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people caused by the Israeli occupation, including the current extensive Israeli military operations."
The council also urged "Israel, the occupying power, to immediately release the arrested Palestinian ministers," lawmakers and "all other arrested Palestinian civilians," and called "for a negotiated solution to the current crisis."
"While we gather here in this hall, Israeli tanks are moving and shelling Palestinians," Mohammad Abu-Koash, Palestinian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the council ahead of voting.
The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan once again appealed to both sides to "pull back from the brink" for the sake of all civilians in the region.
"I call again for an immediate halt to the disproportionate use of force by Israel, which has already killed and wounded many civilians; for the release of Israeli Army Corporal Gilad Shalit; and for the cessation of rocket fire into Israel," Annan, who was traveling in Germany, said through a statement released by his spokesman.
"These measures are an absolute prerequisite for defusing the tensions which are escalating every day," he affirmed.
In the statement, Annan also repeated his reminder – to both sides of the conflict – of their obligations under international humanitarian law, "which calls on them to take constant care to spare civilian populations and to refrain from any attack which may cause loss of civilian life and property."