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Israel Announcement on Tunnel Operation and War

Update: Israel has concluded the soldier it believed to be captured by Hamas, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was killed in battle in Gaza on Friday. A special committee reviewed pathological evidence at the scene and other information and made the determination.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today announced that Israel's tunnel operation is almost complete and by tomorrow, all known tunnels will have been destroyed. It is pulling back some troops from Gaza, but Netanyahu made it clear Israel is not ending its ground war. He said Hamas will have a heavy price to pay if it continues to attack Israel. More from his announcement:

“Every option is on the table to ensure long-term quiet to the residents of Israel,” he said. “I won’t say when we’ll finish and where we’ll go. We have no obligation outside of our security concerns.”

Hamas responds: [More...]

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U.S. Blasts Hamas for Breaking Ceasefire and Seizing Israeli Soldier

Update: Hamas' military wing, al Qassam Brigades, has released this statement:

“The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades has no information on this soldier. We have lost contact with one of our combatant groups, which was fighting in the sector where the soldier went missing and it is possible that our fighters and this soldier were killed,” the group said in a statement
They also say:

"We have no idea about where the Israeli soldier is or what is the situation. "We lost contact with the group who made the suicide mission near Rafah after it was done. "We believe everyone in this group was killed by an Israeli air strike including the Israeli soldier who the Israelis are talking about having disappeared."

[More...]

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Israel Says Fate of One Soldier in Ambush is "Unclear"

Update: since writing the post below, the Israeli Defense Forces have posted on Twitter that they are trying to "identify" (not locate) the 7th soldier. Nor do they describe him as "missing."

A vehicle carrying 7 soldiers was attacked July 20. We have identified 6 of their bodies. Efforts to identify the 7th soldier are ongoing.

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On Sunday, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prossor, denied Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier.

Yet, today the Israeli Army says the fate of the one of the seven soldiers in an armored vehicle in Shujaiyeh, Gaza that was attacked by Hamas is "unclear." He is classified as "missing" but presumed dead. [More...]

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Israel Denies Hamas Captured Israeli Soldier

Earlier today, Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed it captured an Israeli soldier, Shaul Aron. Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prossor, now denies the claim.

"There's no kidnapped Israeli soldier and those rumours are untrue," said Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor.

It appears the soldier, whose name is Oron Shaul, was one of 13 Israeli soldiers killed yesterday, but was not captured alive. Hamas may have found his identification, or it may have taken his name from this leaked list of the 13 soldiers who were killed. The list is not from an official source.

Prior to the official denial, many reporters and analysts on Twitter doubted the claim. Here's why. [More...]

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Hamas Rejects Egypt's Proposal for Cease Fire

Egypt proposed a cease-fire plan for Israel and Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted it and will bring it to a vote before the Israeli Security Cabinet in the morning. (Added: The Israeli Security Cabinet has now approved it.) cabinet has approved it.)

Hamas has rejected it.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri already rejected the proposal late Monday night on the grounds that "we are still under occupation and resistance is the right of our people."

Here is the text of Egypt's proposal.

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Israel to Treat Alleged Killers of Palestinian Child as Terrorists

Israel's Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, today said the alleged kidnappers and killers of Palestinian teen, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, believed to be Jewish extremists, will be treated as harshly as Arab terrorists. Six are under arrest for the murder.

“These debased murderers don’t represent the Jewish people or its values, and they must be treated as terrorists,” the defense minister said. “We will not allow Jewish terrorists from our midst to disrupt the fabric of the many different communities in the state of Israel, and to harm innocents just because they are Arabs.” ...“We must battle the perpetrators [of such actions], and those who deploy them, with an iron fist.”

If a Jew kills they will be put to the court like any other criminal. There is no privilege, the law is equal to all and all are equal before the law. On that there is no compromise. We do not distinguish between blood and blood. The murder of a child is reprehensible, regardless of the religion or nationality of the child. It is our responsibility to secure life and to punish those who take it away from others.”

Israeli President Shimon Press said:[More...]

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Israel Airstrikes in Syria

Israel has not yet officially confirmed the news, but everyone else, from the BBC to Al Jazeera to the New York Times, is reporting that Israel launched an airstrike in Syria. An Israeli spokesman says:

“Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, specially to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

U.S. officials on the other hand say:

US officials say the Israeli air strike happened overnight Thursday into Friday, but the aircraft did not enter Syrian airspace. [More...]

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Hamas Steps Up Bombings, Truce Plans in Jeopardy

Update: Reuters reports a ceasefire has been agreed to.

Yesterday a truce between Israel and Hamas seemed very close. Hillary Clinton traveled from Israel to Egypt for further truce talks. Today, a truce seems less likely. As to what's changed?

Hamas has stepped up its rocket launches into Israel, firing 80 missles into southern Israel in the past 24 hours. 20 were intercepted, in Ashkelon, Beersheba, Be'er Tuviya, Hof Ashkelon and Ashdod.

A package bomb was placed on a bus in Tel Aviv today (no deaths, several injured, seems to be the work of amateur terrorists). On al Aqsa (Hamas) TV: "G-d willing, we will soon see black body bags."

In Gaza yesterday, a Hamas gunman executed 6 people believed to be Israeli collaborators. The bodies were then tied to a motorcyle and dragged through the streets. Photos here, video here. [More...]

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Israel-Gaza Day 6

The fighting continues as do truce talks. According to Israel Defense Forces:

Today 67 rockets fired from #Gaza hit #Israel. Overall, more than 650 rockets hit Israel in the last six days.

Israel says Hamas is using Palestinians as human shields. (Video here and here.)They are prepared to move to ground attacks if the rocket attacks don't stop.

The Iron Dome has stopped about 90% of the rockets fired into Israel. Here's how the Iron Dome works. [More...]

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Israel and Hamas: Bombings Intensify

Israel has called up 75,000 reservists and struck Hamas Government buildings. Hamas has claimed credit for firing rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Israeli military said some 150 rockets fired from Gaza had hit Israel since Friday and at least 83 more were intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Gaza is a small place with a lot of people, and there have been at least 38 civilian casualties, some of them children. Israel says it is acting in self-defense, and the rockets Hamas is firing at them come from Gaza.

This morning, Hamas fired 20 rockets at Israel. Israel says Operation Pilar Defense will continue. [more...]

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Bob Simon's Heroic Act of Journalism

If you have not seen Sixty Minutes correspondent Bob Simon's piece "Time Running out for a Two-State Solution" stop everything you are doing and watch it now.

It is that good. And it is that heroic. In the piece, Simon boldly lays out the truth about what Israel's encroachment on Palestinian land -- and what the lack of a peace deal -- means for the future of the country:

"Without a separate Palestinian state the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank, or they could give the Palestinians the vote. That would be the democratic option but it would mean the end of the Jewish state. Or they could try apartheid - have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians, but apartheid regimes don't have a very long life."
[More...]

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Israel Declares Ceasefire in Gaza

Israel has declared a ceasefire in Gaza.

Troops would remain in Gaza for the time being and if Hamas held fire, the military would "consider pulling out of Gaza at a time that befits us". If militant rocket fire into Israel continued, Israel would respond with force, the Israeli leader added.

Hamas isn't pleased:

Israel must withdraw completely, lift its economic blockade of Gaza and open border crossings, the spokesman said.

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Obama's Options for the Israel-Gaza Conflict

President Elect Barack Obama's support for Israel grew during the course of the campaign. This weekend he received briefings from Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice. In three weeks, he will be President and shortly thereafter, Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State.

David Axlerod, on Face the Nation today, was asked what Obama's response to the crisis would be. He waffled a bit, noting that it would inappropriate for Obama to take a strong position while Bush was still President, but repeated what Obama had said when visiting Israel this summer:

“If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that,” he told reporters in Sderot, a small city on the edge of Gaza that has been hit repeatedly by rocket fire. “And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

So, what will Obama do once he is President? The New York Times lays out two options: [More...]

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Israel Expected to Continue Strikes Against Hamas

From what I gather in the news about Israel's air strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip:

  • There was a cease fire but it ended earlier this month.
  • Most of the 225 killed were militant Hamas policemen, since a principal target was Hamas police headquarters, although hundreds were injured and there were some civilians and children who died. Most of the strikes were on security compounds and militant bases.
  • Israel had been planning the attacks for some time due to Hamas's refusal to stop sending rockets into Israel
  • The Bush Administration blames Hamas. Condoleeza Rice blames Hamas because it kept sending rockets into Israel
    "We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there. The ceasefire must be restored immediately and fully respected."
  • This can't be good news for Obama, who will take office with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan already on the front burners. And neither he, nor any American president, may have much control over what goes on between Israel and Hamas.

Daniel Levy at Huffpo adds his perspective. Your Thoughts?

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Obama to Visit Israel and West Bank Next Week

Sen. Barack Obama is headed to Israel and the West Bank next week:

U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama will visit Israel and the occupied West Bank next week, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Monday. Obama will be in Israel on July 22 and 23 and hold talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, an Israeli official said.

Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said Obama would also meet President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah next Wednesday.

More...

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