Israel news

Doubt cast on Hamas fatality numbers

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 29, 2009

Two weeks after the fighting in the Gaza Strip has ended, the battle over the exact number and identity of the Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead is still raging. Most of the international media has unquestioningly accepted the Hamas figures of 1,300 fatalities but there are other reports that put the numbers significantly lower.

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Free Shalit is Olmert’s final goal

By Yaakov Katz, January 29, 2009

With general elections two weeks away and Israel’s operation in Gaza against Hamas seemingly completed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has set a new goal for himself before he leaves office — the return of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.

Despite the military action, the likelihood of a prisoner swap being agreed in the coming weeks is believed to have grown since Israel ended Operation Cast Lead.

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Avigdor Lieberman looks an election winner

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 29, 2009

The Received wisdom was that there would be two main political beneficiaries from Operation Cast Lead: Ehud Barak as Defence Minister, and Binyamin Netanyahu, who could claim prescience over his warnings that Hamas had to be confronted.

But while Barak’s Labour has slightly improved its position and Netanyahu’s Likud is still ahead of Kadima, the unexpected beneficiary has been Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party If recent polls are anything to go by, Lieberman has surged ahead of his previous marginal status and is now tying with Labour for third place.

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Lauder remains WJC head

January 29, 2009

Ronald S. Lauder has been re-elected as president of the World Jewish Congress at the 13th Plenary Assembly in Jerusalem. Eduardo Elsztain of Argentina was elected chairman of the WJC Governing Board, while the UK’s Flo Kaufmann was re-elected as a vice-president.

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Renewed hope for talks to free Shalit

January 22, 2009

Israel hopes to renew negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit, writes Yaakov Katz, if the new ceasefire holds, defence officials said this week.

Talks over Mr Shalit’s release have been suspended since the last ceasefire between Hamas and Israel took effect in June. But military officials said it was now possible that Operation Cast Lead will cause the group to ease its demand for the release of 1,400 Palestinian prisoners.

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IDF to fight ‘war crimes’ charges

By Yaakov Katz, January 22, 2009

The IDF and Foreign Ministry are preparing to combat dozens of lawsuits they fear will be filed against IDF officers on war crimes charges.

Several NGOs have accused Israel of using disproportionate force during its three-week Gaza campaign. Amnesty International accused Israel of “indiscriminate” military force resulting in war crimes. Oxfam International has accused Israel of “massive and disproportionate violence... in violation of international law.”

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PR battle to continue

By Yaakov Katz, January 22, 2009

The Israeli Foreign Ministry is implementing a “day after” hasbara plan to counter claims that the IDF perpetrated war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has appointed Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog to lead the post-war battle over public opinion and to coordinate aid to Gaza.

During the war, journalists were not allowed into the Gaza Strip and Hamas prevented access to areas where the IDF was operating to local journalists.

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Settlers return as soldiers

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 15, 2009

Soldiers from the evacuated Gush Katif returned this week to some of the ruined settlements abandoned after Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005.

“I cried when our tank passed by the ruins of Netzarim and made a symbolic small tear in my uniform as a sign of mourning,” said one soldier interviewed through his parents and whose name cannot be used due to IDF restrictions.

An Israeli flag had been planted on the ruins and the road to Netzarim was being used by the 401th Armoured Brigade to cut Gaza City off from the southern part of the Strip.

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The television pundits criticising israel — and their ‘expert’ analyses

January 15, 2009

Abdel Bari Atwan

Regularly invited on to BBC and Sky as a Middle East expert, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of London-based Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi (or Arab Jerusalem), is a seasoned propagandist. Born in the Gaza Strip, he was a journalist in Libya and Saudi Arabia before joining al-Quds. According to Mr Bari Atwan, al-Quds is “known for its strident Arab nationalism and defence of the Palestinian cause”.

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IDF gets a fresh face

By Yaakov Katz, January 15, 2009

A Manchester-born soldier has become one of the public faces of the IDF during Operation Cast Lead.

Former paratrooper Elie Isaacson, 28, made aliyah in 2000 and heads the North American Desk in the IDF Spokesman’s Unit.

The work, he said, is extremely interesting. “We are dealing with press from all over the world and it is a challenge but we are more on top than ever before,” he said. “The fact that I have a combat background gives what I say a bigger punch since when I talk about the field I know what I am talking about. I have been there and have seen it.”

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