Inside the Middle East
December 31, 2008
Posted: 1313 GMT

Check out Ed Henry's report on why some are voicing criticism over President-Elect Barack Obama's reaction – or lack thereof – to the Gaza crisis.

What do you think?

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Posted: 1227 GMT


JERUSALEM (CNN) - Israel's government has decided to continue its offensive in the Palestinian territory of Gaza despite a French proposal for a humanitarian truce, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security Cabinet met Wednesday to discuss the progress of the bombing campaign, now in its fifth day.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had proposed a truce that would allow humanitarian aid into the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, but Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Olmert and his top advisers agreed to continue the attacks.

"There is broad international consensus that the residents of the south of Israel must have a real and sustainable solution and not a Band-Aid that will just kick the can down the road," Regev said.

However, Regev said Israel would work with the international community to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Gaza.

Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner-general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said more than 150 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were allowed into the territory on Tuesday, but she said the situation in the region remains desperate.

"There's no fuel, there's no power plant, there's no electricity working now," she said.

Wednesday's air assault struck the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and the Hamas Interior Ministry, among other targets, the Israeli Defense Forces told CNN. A military statement said Haniya's office "is used as a center for the planning, support and financing of terrorist activities against Israel."

The Israeli Cabinet approved a request Tuesday for an additional 2,500 soldiers to be called up if needed.

Of the 375 Palestinians killed, most were Hamas militants, Palestinian medical sources said Tuesday. U.N. officials said at least 60 civilians were among the dead.

On the Israeli side, three civilians and a soldier have been killed in rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel since the campaign began Saturday, military officials and police said.

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Posted: 139 GMT


On the day Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly said the Gaza operation was in its infancy, pressure is increasing on Israel to declare a truce, if only to allow some aid shipments in the Gaza strip.

The notion of a 48-hour "humanitarian" ceasefire was floated by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. His country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Israeli leaders are reportedly mulling the idea while air strikes continue and Hamas militants keep launching rockets into Southern Israel.

Meanwhile, a U.S. administration spokesman has confirmed that American President George W. Bush spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss a "sustainable ceasefire."

How that could lead to a solution is unclear, since Abbas' Fattah party (based in the West Bank) is not an actor in the conflict. Israel is targetting Hamas in Gaza and Hamas is firing rockets into Southern Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss the crisis.

In all this, Arab League countries have managed little more than calling for an "emergency" meeting, which will be held tomorrow, five full days after Israeli air strikes began.

The wait is now on for a truce.

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December 30, 2008
Posted: 1826 GMT


(CNN) - The former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East said Tuesday that President-elect Barack Obama should engage with Hamas under certain conditions, and sooner rather than later.

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni said if Obama hopes to forge a peace deal, he needs to do it at the beginning of his administration.

"You make a commitment that no matter what happens, you'll stick with it," Zinni said on CNN's "American Morning." "We have enough agreements in principle that never worked out. I would say - start from the beginning, be determined, stick with it and don't repeat the mistakes of the past and the processes of the past that did not work."

In order for the new administration to engage with Hamas, Zinni said the militant group must be willing to end its rocket attacks and violence against Israel and commit to a peace process.

In the long term, Zinni said, the next administration will have to take a new approach in dealing with the problem.

"The old way of using envoys and summits and us putting plans on the table - that has never worked. I think we need a fresh start, more involved, a greater presence on the ground and a commitment to do it throughout the term of an administration," Zinni said.

What do you think? Make your views heard by adding a comment below.

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Posted: 1130 GMT


In the Mediterranean Sea, an Israeli patrol boat struck a boat carrying medical volunteers and supplies to Gaza early Tuesday as it attempted to intercept the vessel, witnesses and Israeli officials said.

CNN correspondent Karl Penhaul was aboard the 60-foot, Gibraltar-registered Dignity when the contact occurred. In a radio message, the Israelis accused the vessel of being involved in terrorist activity, its captain said.

The Dignity was carrying 16 passengers and crew who were trying to reach Gaza through an Israeli blockade of the territory. It was "very severely rammed" by an Israeli patrol boat that had been pursuing the volunteer boat for about half an hour before the collision, and the crew said their vessel was struck intentionally, Penhaul said.

But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called allegations that the vessel was rammed deliberately "absurd." He said the volunteer boat was trying to outmaneuver the Israeli vessel when it was struck.

Watch Karl Penhaul's report on the incident here.

(Photo Getty Images of the "Dignity" arriving in Tyre, Lebanon earlier today.)

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December 29, 2008
Posted: 2159 GMT


On the day he spoke with U.S. President George W. Bush, King Abdullah of Jordan donated blood to help the victims of the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

The Jordanian monarch today added that he was "upset" by the offensive on the Palestinian strip of land.

In his phone conversation with the American president, King Abdullah reportedly asked that the United States work to halt the Israeli operation over Gaza.

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Posted: 2153 GMT

According to wire reports, some critically wounded Palestinians have been allowed through the Rafah crossing point into Egypt for treatment.

About 20 patients have been let through, some in critical condition.

Meanwhile, some trucks loaded with medical supplies were able to drive into Gaza today.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has reportedly sent in fully equipped hospital aircraft to treat the wounded.

It;s unclear when they will be made available to the injured.

Rafah is the only crossing point out of Gaza that does not lead into Israel.

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Posted: 1737 GMT


GAZA CITY (CNN) - Israel allowed dozens of trucks carrying relief aid into Gaza on Monday, but the United Nations said the aid will not be enough to alleviate a worsening humanitarian situation as Israel's military assault on Gaza enters its third day.

Israeli military sources said 50 trucks carrying humanitarian aid crossed into Gaza on Monday through the Kerem Shalom border crossing and more are expected to cross later in the day.

"We had about 40 trucks yesterday, we hope [to have] about 100 today," said Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner-general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

"But we need a lot more than that because we were completely out of stock," she told CNN on Monday.

She called on Israel to open more border crossings to humanitarian aid.

Israel says its military is targeting the Islamic militants that rule Hamas and are responsible for ongoing rocket attacks on southern Israel. The Israeli military says it is taking precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

At least 62 civilians in Gaza are among the more than 300 people killed in three days of Israeli airstrikes, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said Monday.

Iyad Nasr, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Israeli sanctions had left Gaza's hospitals "almost incapable of functioning" even before the attacks, and those facilities are now "bleeding every resource available."

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December 28, 2008
Posted: 2042 GMT


So far, no public statement from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on the Gaza situation, but we are hearing from aides that he has spoken to American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an eight-minute phone call.

"The president-elect appreciated the call and the information from Secretary Rice," one aide said, adding that Obama initiated the phone call. "He will continue to closely monitor these and other global events."

Barack Obama takes office January 20th.

What do you think an Obama administration needs to do to bring a resolution to the current conflict?

Make you views heard by leaving a comment below.

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Posted: 2037 GMT


"The situation is absolutely disastrous," U.N. official Christopher Gunness told CNN on Sunday, as a second day of aerial attacks brought the death toll in Gaza close to 300. Hundreds more people have been injured.

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, a psychiatrist who runs Gaza's mental health program, says: "The children are terrified, adults are unable to provide them with security or warmth. Hospitals are stretched out of the limits. We need blood and medicine and surgical equipment."

Israel has said the airstrikes are a necessary self-defense measure after repeated rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas militants. Israeli leaders say they are trying to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.

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