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This shabbos my shul hosted one of my favorite people,Head of the NGO-Monitor Professor Gerald Steinberg, who among other things said to us that Ban Ki-moon the new UN Secretary General will be tons more neutral in middle east issues than his predecessor, Kooki Koffi Annon. And as if to prove Professor Steinberg correct.

In an emergency meeting of the council last night, Mr. Ban condemned the relentless Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel and called for “the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism,” according to Reuters news agency.

“While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children,” Mr. Ban said. He also called on Israel to “cease such attack

That, my friends is 100x more balaced that would have come out of Kookie Koffie’s Mouth.


Gaza siege halts peace talks

March 2, 2008
By Joshua Mitnick – TEL AVIV — The Palestinian Authority suspended peace talks yesterday with Israel after the deadliest day of Israeli military incursions since Hamas took over Gaza left at least 54 Palestinians dead — about half of them civilians.

Israeli infantry and armored units pushed into the northern Gaza Strip yesterday to hunt down militants involved in launching rockets into southern Israel. Two soldiers were killed and seven were wounded in the operation, but militants were able to fire about 50 projectiles into southern Israel anyway.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and asked for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to help end the “massacres” in Gaza, an Abbas aide said, according to Reuters news agency.

In an emergency meeting of the council last night, Mr. Ban condemned the relentless Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel and called for “the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism,” according to Reuters news agency.

“While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children,” Mr. Ban said. He also called on Israel to “cease such attacks.”

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe expressed regret for loss of civilian life on both sides, but put most of the blame on the Palestinians.

“There is a clear distinction between terrorist rocket attacks that target civilians and action in self-defense,” he said in a statement.

Earlier today, Israeli aircraft destroyed the office building in Gaza City used by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, witnesses said. Five persons were slightly wounded in the raid.

Meanwhile, Mr. Abbas said Palestinians face “more than a holocaust,” echoing an Israeli official’s use of the Hebrew word for the World War II genocide regarding the fighting in Gaza. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Friday that Palestinians in Gaza face a “shoah,” if the fighting escalates.

A U.N. official in Gaza called for international intervention to put a stop to the “inhuman suffering” of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there.

During the sharp escalation in violence over the past four days, many of the Palestinian civilian casualties have been women and children. Israel is targeting rocket-making and storage infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, much of which is located in residential neighborhood, according to the Israelis.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned: “If the Israeli escalation and aggression continue, it will bury the peace process in the rubble.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning to return to the region this week to push peace talks forward.

President Bush has expressed hope that the sides could reach a peace accord by the end of his term, but there hasn’t been any significant progress since the U.S. hosted a Middle East peace conference last fall in Annapolis.

On Friday in the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of Fatah said he doubts the sides will reach a peace agreement this year.

Israeli officials said the operation in Gaza will widen if the rocket attacks continued, but that they will continue to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority despite the deteriorating situation in and around Gaza.

At least seven Iranian-made rockets landed in and around Ashkelon, an Israeli city of about 120,000 just 11 miles from Gaza. Several people were injured but none seriously.

Israel escalated its response to the rocket fire after militants began targeting Ashkelon, which has strategic infrastructure and one of the largest populations of any Israeli cities.

“The rocket fire on Ashkelon is what brought the army to go on the offensive,” wrote Ron Ben Yishai, an Israeli military analyst on Israel’s Ynet.com news Web site.

“In the last 48 hours, it hasn’t been Hamas that’s [escalating] the conflict according to its needs and considerations — but the [Israel Defense Forces].”

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said soldiers killed at least 25 militants in the fighting. The army claimed that its air force destroyed a truck with 160 missiles ready to be launched into Israel.

Ynet.com reported that at least two Hamas political activists were killed.

The Palestinians claimed that a much smaller proportion of the fatalities were militants. About 80 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army since Wednesday.

Soldiers backed by tanks and aircraft conducted house-to-house searches in Jebaliya and took up positions on rooftops as they clashed with militants detonating land mines and firing heavy machine guns, assault rifles and mortar rounds.

The U.N. shuttered 37 schools it runs in northern Gaza because of the fighting, affecting about 40,000 students, a U.N. official told the Associated Press. A three-day strike was declared in Gaza, and publicly run schools and universities were closed.

Mosques across northern Gaza and Hamas-affiliated radio appealed to civilians to stay home. Hamas closed off roads to evacuate security compounds and to keep residents away from potential air-strike targets. They also turned off street lights, apparently so militants wouldn’t be seen from the air, the AP reported.

Pressure has been mounting in Israel for months for a broad invasion into Gaza to wipe out the rocket fire and derail Hamas’ military buildup.

On Wednesday, an Israeli civilian was killed by a rocket that landed in the city of Sderot — the first missile casualty in eight months.

But the prospect of a long-term return to Gaza is viewed warily by Israelis, who are not keen to risk soldiers’ lives to reoccupy an enclave seen as a burden. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

In Damascus, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said: “I say to the Zionist leaders, if they decided to raid Gaza, they will be fought not by dozens, … but … by 1.5 million people.”

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