[A-List] Rockets Fired From Lebanon Into Israel’s North
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Thu Jan 8 01:29:29 MST 2009
January 9, 2009
Rockets Fired From Lebanon Into Israel's North
By STEVEN ERLANGER
JERUSALEM — Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza threatened to broaden
on Thursday as at least three rockets were fired into the north of
Israel from Lebanon.
The rockets, presumably launched in support of Hamas, could presage
the opening of a second front. The Israeli Army, in a brief statement,
said it "responded with fire against the source of the rockets," which
landed near the town of Nahariya. Two Israelis were slightly wounded,
the police said.
Lebanese security sources told Reuters that they believed it was
unlikely that the rockets were fired under instructions from the
militant group Hezbollah. But there was no confirmation or denial from
In 2006, after the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier just outside Gaza,
a large Israeli operation there was overshadowed by Israeli's massive
response to an attack in the north by Hezbollah, which turned into
what is known as the Second Lebanon War.
On Wednesday, Israel had said that it would send senior officials to
talk with Egypt about halting the conflict in Gaza, but there were no
immediate signs of a diplomatic breakthrough, and fighting between
Israel and Hamas militants continued after a three-hour lull for
humanitarian aid to be distributed.
International pressure for a negotiated cease-fire intensified after
Israeli shells killed some 40 people at a United Nations school in
Gaza on Tuesday. Israel said Hamas militants had fired mortar shells
from the school compound prior to Israel's shelling.
Israel suspended its military operations in Gaza for three hours on
Wednesday to allow humanitarian aid and fuel for power generation to
reach Gazans, who used the afternoon break to shop.
But fighting resumed soon afterward. In the evening, the Israeli Army
dropped leaflets warning the citizens of Rafah, next to the border
with Egypt, to leave their homes. Israel has been bombing the tunnel
networks through which arms and consumer goods are smuggled from Egypt
The rockets from Lebanon fell in residential areas. Shimon Koren, head
of the northern district police, instructed residents of Nahariya and
Kabri to enter bomb shelters and he instructed residents in nearby
localities to open their shelters. School was cancelled in Nahariya
and nearby Shlomi. The Israeli government said it welcomed the efforts
of France and Egypt to work out a durable cease-fire. It said it would
end its assault if Hamas stopped firing rockets into Israel and ended
the smuggling of weapons from Egypt. It said that if a durable
cease-fire took hold, it would reopen border crossings into Gaza for
goods and people. But Israeli and Hamas officials both denied an
assertion by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, that a cease-fire
had been agreed upon.
"There is an agreement on general principles, that Hamas should stop
rocket fire and mustn't rearm," a senior Israeli official said
Wednesday evening. "But that's like agreeing that motherhood is a good
thing. We have to transform those agreed principles into working
procedures on the ground, and that's barely begun."
The government spokesman, Mark Regev, said that "the challenge now is
to get the details to match the principles."
There were early signs that a formal diplomatic negotiation could
begin after 12 days of fighting. Egypt's chief of intelligence, Omar
Suleiman, is expected to serve as a go-between for Israel and Hamas.
Two Israeli officials — a senior aide to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
Shalom Turgeman, and a senior defense official, Amos Gilad — are
expected to go to Egypt on Thursday to begin discussions, Israeli
The United States has been involved behind the scenes, senior Israeli
and French officials said, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
"constantly on the phone" with Mr. Olmert, according to one Israeli
In Washington, the White House spokeswoman, Dana M. Perino, said of
talks about a cease-fire: "As I understand, the Israelis are open to
the concept, but they want to learn more about the details; so do we."
At the United Nations, several Arab delegates said Wednesday night
that they thought they now had enough votes to approve a Security
Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. That would
likely put the United States and other Western powers, which oppose a
binding resolution, in the awkward position of having to veto a
A senior French official in Paris said that Mr. Sarkozy's earlier
comment about an agreement on a cease-fire was misunderstood: "The
plan is not a cease-fire; the plan is a road map toward a cease-fire."
One crucial aspect of any deal is how to prevent new smuggling tunnels
from being built under Egypt's border with Gaza.
The senior Israeli official raised the possibility of reaching "tacit
agreements" with Hamas to end rocket fire, while also persuading Egypt
to allow American and perhaps European army engineers to help seal its
border with Gaza above and below ground.
Hamas is insisting that any new arrangement include the reopening of
border crossings for trade with Israel and the reopening of the Rafah
crossing into Egypt for people.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has said that a 2005 agreement on the
Rafah crossing, reached with Israel and the Palestinian president,
Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, must be respected. That agreement called for a
Palestinian Authority presence at the crossing, supervision by
European Union monitors and Israeli video surveillance of who entered
Hamas wants to control the crossing itself and is not eager to
cooperate with Fatah, its -rival.
In Washington, President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that upon
taking office he would "engage immediately" in the Middle East crisis
and that he was "deeply concerned" about the loss of life on both
"I am doing everything that we have to do to make sure that the day I
take office we are prepared to engage immediately in trying to deal
with the situation there," he said at a news conference. "Not only the
short-term situation but building a process whereby we can achieve a
more lasting peace in the region."
In Gaza, John Ging, the director of Gazan operations for the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency, visited the school in the Jabaliya
refugee camp where Israeli shells fell Tuesday. He denied that Hamas
militants had fired mortar shells from within the school compound and
called for an international investigation into the attack, which he
said had killed 40 people.
Israeli officials said they were continuing to investigate, but
reiterated that Hamas had been using the school as a base. Mr. Gilad,
the defense official, told Israeli Army radio: "This school served as
a base for Hamas men whose identity we know. They fired from inside
the school compound, and the army fired back at the source. The time
was after school hours, and this school is an example of the cynical
and cruel use Hamas does with civilian facilities."
Casualty figures are hard to verify, but officials at Shifa Hospital
in Gaza City and the Gazan Ministry of Health said 683 Palestinians
had died since the conflict began Dec. 27, including 218 children and
90 women. They said 3,085 had been wounded. The Palestinian Center for
Human Rights in Gaza said 130 children age 16 or under had died. The
United Nations estimated a few days ago that a quarter of the dead
But Palestinian residents and Israeli officials say that Hamas is
tending its own wounded in separate medical centers, not in public
hospitals, and that it is difficult to know the number of dead Hamas
fighters, many of whom were not wearing uniforms.
Israel says it has killed at least 130 Hamas fighters. Ten Israelis
have been killed during the offensive, including three civilians. Most
of the seven dead Israeli soldiers were killed in so-called friendly
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