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ConHome has published four posts on the situation in Gaza:

Pasted below is a briefing just emailed out to supporters of Conservative Friends of Israel (of which I am one).

Tim Montgomerie

"Key points: Latest update on rocket launches against Israel, and humanitarian supplies to Gaza:

  • 110 rockets have been fired into Israel since Saturday. In the past week over 300 rockets, missiles and mortar rounds were fired from Gaza by Iranian backed Hamas and other militants at Israel. More than 563 were fired since Hamas escalated rocket firing on 4 November. Israel maintained restraint until now hoping for a return to calm.
  • The recent escalation is the result of Hamas’s decision to renew attacks after the end of the Gaza ceasefire. Since then, Israel refrained from military actions and continued talks with Egypt to broker understandings. Hamas rejected diplomacy and chose to deliberately escalate the situation.
  • 250,000 Israelis in the south of the country are in range of Gaza rockets.
  • On Friday, Israel allowed approximately 90 trucks of medicine, fuel, cooking gas and other vital goods into Gaza. The shipment included more than 500,000 litres of fuel and 200 tons of natural gas.
  • On Saturday, 27 December, over 40 rockets were fired at the cities of Ashkelon, Netivot, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and additional communities through the south. Hamas has ordered its operatives to attack Israel with missiles, rockets and mortar rounds. Israeli residents throughout the south of the country have been ordered to remain in bomb shelters.
  • An Israeli man was killed and four others were seriously wounded when a missile hit a house in Netivot. Another man was seriously wounded when a rocket struck at the community of Mivtahim later this afternoon.
  • Hamas unilaterally broke the truce with Israel: hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israeli towns in past week
  • The truce provided cover for massive Hamas rearmament campaign
  • Israel strikes at terrorist infrastructure – as would any other sovereign nation in its position
  • The international community should lend its support to the war on Hamas terror

Israeli Action:

  • Israel has exercised maximum restraint, but – after eight years of missile barrages from Gaza – must come to the defense of the 250,000 Israelis living within range of Hamas attack.  Any other sovereign nation would do the same.
  • The objective of the IDF operation is to cripple the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, impairing the ability of Hamas and its allies to launch attacks on the citizens of Israel; IDF action would have been unnecessary had Hamas abandoned the path of terror.  Israel is engaged in self-defense, and will respond assertively to any provocation by other parties in the region.
  • Israeli air strikes were launched on Saturday (27.12) against Hamas targets in Gaza, a week after Hamas decided not to renew the six-month-long ceasefire.
  • Israel has hit targets in all Gaza’s main towns, including Gaza City in the north and Khan Younis and Rafah in the south.
  • All the targets of  Israeli attack are purely militant, which Hamas uses for its terror activity.
  • More than 210 targets were hit in the first 24 hours.
  • "Israel will continue until we have a new security environment in the south, when the population there will no longer live in terror and in fear of constant rocket barrages," Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev.

Fatah Reactions:

  • US ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad has suggested Hamas held the key to restoring calm. "We believe the way forward from here is for rocket attacks against Israel to stop, for all violence to end,"
  • Khalilzad was implicitly backed up from Cairo by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who claimed the current situation could have been avoided had Hamas renewed the ceasefire before it lapsed and ceased all violence towards Israel.
  • Israel is committed to working towards achieving a peaceful solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Fatah continues to be a partner for peace and real inroads have been made towards a peace deal
  • Israel has always been committed to giving up land for peace and withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 precisely to further this goal, however Hamas seized control of Gaza, turning the area into a launch pad for terrorism against Israel.
  • Hamas refuse to accept the Quartet principles (recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of previous peace agreements).

Background: The Hamas threat to Israel

  • Israel withdrew all military and civilian presence from Gaza in August 2005. Since then, more than 5000 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian neighbourhoods.  In the first four months of 2008, the rate of rocket attacks was one every three hours.
  • Under cover of the truce, Hamas engaged in a major campaign to upgrade its terrorist capabilities, manufacturing and smuggling massive quantities of weapons into Gaza – including rockets, explosive charges and machine guns – and constructing a network of underground tunnels for combat purposes.  Israel cannot acquiesce to the presence of a Hizbullah-like organization on its southern border.
  • Since 2004, 92% of Sderot residents (a town of 20,000 inhabitants) have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their or an adjacent street. 16 Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets and hundreds have been injured and maimed.
  • Israeli civilians have 15 seconds of warning period before the rocket strikes.
  • Hamas are opposed to the peace process being conducted between Israel and the Palestinian moderates under Mahmoud Abbas and committed to the destruction of Israel.
  • Hamas belongs to the "A" League of extremism, alongside Iran, Syria, Al Qaida and Hizbullah.  The United Nations and a majority of its member states have designated Hamas a terrorist organization and will not engage in any contact with its representatives."
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