Israel is upping the ante today by not only securing the north end of Gaza but buzzing the home of Syrian President Assad because he is harboring those who masterminded the kidnapping:
Less than 24 hours after the IDF entered Gaza in the biggest operation since disengagement last summer, Defense Minister Amir Peretz gave the green light on Wednesday evening for the second part of the IDF Gaza incursion. The IDF was poised to enter northern Gaza.
IAF planes will distribute flyers on Wednesday night in the Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun areas in the northern Gaza Strip, warning local residents that they are endangering their lives by being in the vicinity of Kassam launch sites. …
The Hamas-led Palestinian government called for a prisoner swap with Israel, saying the Gaza offensive would not secure the soldier’s release. Hamas-affiliated militants holding the hostage previously made that demand, but this was the first time the government did. Israeli has ruled out a deal.
Earlier, IAF aircraft struck a Hamas training camp in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah on Wednesday afternoon, witnesses said.[…]Meanwhile, Palestinian residents of the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah began fleeing, reportedly by the thousands, to areas east of the city. Armed men took positions on rooftops and asked remaining residents to leave, Israel Radio reported.
Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Hamas’ Syria-based political chief, Khaled Mashaal, was “not immune” from Israeli reprisal.
“Khaled Mashaal, as someone who is overseeing, actually commanding the terror acts, is definitely a target,” Ramon told Army Radio. The station interpreted his comments as meaning Mashaal was a target for assassination.
Israel tried to poison Mashaal in Jordan in 1997. But Mossad agents were caught and King Hussein forced Israel to provide the antidote in exchange for their release.
Israeli fighter jets also flew over Assad’s summer home in an overnight raid near the Mediterranean city of Latakia in northwestern Syria, military officials said. Israeli TV said four planes were involved in the low-altitude flight, and Assad was there.
The flight caused “noise” on the ground, the military officials said on condition of anonymity, according to military guidelines.
The officials said Assad was targeted because of the “direct link” between Syria and Hamas.
Syria said its air defenses fired at the jets, forcing them to flee.
Sure, that’s why they flew away. Not because they finished what they were supposed to do, which was to send a message.
Meanwhile the Palestinian’s have offered a prisoner swap, Israel so far as turned them down:
The militants who seized Shalit have demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails in exchange for information about him.
Olmert repeated that Israel will not negotiate with militants.
Later, the Palestinian Information Ministry said it was “natural logic” to carry out a prisoner exchange.
“Previous Israeli governments have done so … and this is what other countries do in conflict situations,” the statement said.
High-ranking Hamas officials in exile also demanded a prisoner exchange. If Israelis do not negotiate a swap, Palestinians militants will conclude “that they should capture more soldiers,” Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told The Associated Press.
Unfortunately this can be tied to the past when Israel would agree to these prisoner exchanges. You deal once with terrorists then they will take more and more.
As many of us predicted when Hamas took over, the long slide of the Palestinians is becoming steeper and steeper with every passing day.
UPDATE 06/28/06 1750HRS PST
Tanks are rolling into Northern Gaza:
Palestinian witnesses said Israel Defense Forces tanks and bulldozers moved into northern Gaza before daybreak Thursday.
The witnesses said the vehicles moved into an unpopulated area of northern Gaza, the day after forces rolled into southern Gaza in an operation aimed at forcing militants to release a soldier captured Sunday.[…]Just before tanks rolled in early Thursday, Palestinian witnesses said an Israel Air Force plane fired a missile at the Islamic University in Gaza City. No one was hurt, but university officials decided to evacuate all 60 guards from the complex after the attack. The IDF said the missile hit an open field next to the university.
The IDF distributed flyers warning residents of the northern Gaza village of Beit Hanun, from where Qassam rocket crews have been shooting at Sderot, to leave their homes as the army will begin targeting populated areas in response to the Qassam fire. Flyers were also distributed to residents of the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City.
UPDATE II 06/28/06 1814HRS PST
They may have found the missing civilian’s body:
The Arab news agency in Judea and Samaria reported that the body of an Israeli has been found, which is assumed to be that of kidnapped teenager Eliyahu Asheri.
UPDATE III 06/28/06 1835HRS PST
The terrorists claim to have executed the teenager:
An unconfirmed report from the Popular Resistance Committees said early Thursday that it executed 18-year-old Eliyahu Asheri, an Israeli settler kidnapped earlier in the week in the West Bank.
Animals! Just plain animals.
The PA is announcing that up to 30 lawmakers have been arrested:
Israel Defense Forces troops launched early Thursday a major arrest operation against Hamas officials, detaining more than 30 of the ruling militant group’s ministers and parliamentarians in the West Bank, Palestinian security officials said.
The arrests took place in Ramallah, Qalqilyah, Hebron, Jenin and East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian reports.
In Ramallah, forces arrested Palestinian Authority deputy prime minister Nasser al-Shaer, two other cabinet ministers and four lawmakers, all from Hamas, in a raid on a complex of buildings, Palestinian security officials said.
Earlier, Labor Minister Mohammed Barghouti was stopped on his way to his village, Kabur, just north of Ramallah. Military jeeps stopped his car, ordered him out of the vehicle and took him away, the officials said.
In East Jerusalem, lawmakers Mohammed Abu Tir, Wael al-Husseini and Ahmed a-Tun were arrested.
Also, the Hamas mayor of the West Bank town of Qalqilyah and his deputy were detained, security officials said.
An IDF spokeswoman said troops had carried out an operation in Ramallah but declined to give details, saying the military operation was still underway.
The arrests are part of several moves designed to increase pressure on the militant group to free a captive soldier. Israel blames Hamas for the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit, kidnapped Sunday by militants who attacked an IDF post near the border with Gaza.
The operation Thursday night came amidst IDF operations in the Gaza Strip aimed at securing Shalit’s release.
You have to love Israel. They do not eff around.
UPDATE IV 06/28/06 1918HRS PST
the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is claiming to have launched chemical weapons at the Israeli’s:
A spokesman for gunmen in the Gaza Strip said they had fired a rocket tipped with a chemical warhead at Israel early on Thursday.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the claim by the spokesman from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.
The group had recently claimed to possess about 20 biological warheads for the makeshift rockets commonly fired from Gaza at Israeli towns. This was the first time the group had claimed firing such a rocket.
“The al-Aqsa Brigades have fired one rocket with a chemical warhead” at southern Israel, Abu Qusai, a spokesman for the group, said in Gaza.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army had not detected that any such rocket was fired, nor was there any report of such a weapon hitting Israel.
UPDATE V 06/28/06 1953HRS PST
Confirmation on the death of Asheri:
The IDF confirmed early Thursday a report the Popular Resistance Committees issued from Gaza that it had executed Eliyahu Asheri, 18, of Itamar, who was kidnapped earlier this week in the West Bank.
IDF combat engineers on patrol late Wednesday night in Ramallah found Asheri’s body in an abandoned car in an open field. The youth appeared to have been shot to death, and initial findings indicated that he may have been killed as early as Sunday, Israel Radio reported.
And Israeli radio is announcing that they have arrested a militant in connection with his death, no story yet out on the wires, just a newsflash from Haaretz.
UPDATE VI 06/29/06 2100HRS PST
It seems Israel has halted the planned invasion of Northern Gaza to give diplomacy a chance, while at the same time they bombed the Palestinian Interior Ministry:
Israeli warplanes struck the Palestinian Interior Ministry early Friday, setting it ablaze as Arab leaders tried to forge a deal that would halt the Israeli offensive and free a 19-year-old soldier held by gunmen allied with the ruling terrorist Hamas group.
The bombing was one of more than a dozen across the Gaza Strip after midnight, though Israel called off a planned ground invasion of northern Gaza on Thursday in order to give diplomacy another chance.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said terrorists agreed to a conditional release of the kidnapped soldier but that Israel had yet to accept their terms, which he did not specify. Israel said it was not familiar with any such offer.
No one was hurt in the strike on the Interior Ministry in downtown Gaza City. The Israeli military said the ministry office, controlled by Hamas, was “a meeting place to plan and direct terror activity.” The Interior Ministry is nominally in charge of Palestinian security forces, though moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas removed most of its authority.
Israeli warplanes also hit a Fatah office and a Hamas facility in Gaza City as well as roads and open fields. During the day, aircraft and artillery pounded sites across the coastal strip, including suspected weapons factories, an electrical transformer and militant training camps.[…]Gideon Meir, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, said Israel did not know of such an offer and would have no comment until later Friday.
“The soldier will only be released unconditionally and there will be no negotiations with a gang of terrorists and criminals,” Meir told The Associated Press. “There is nothing to talk with them about.”
Earlier, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said significant diplomatic developments were possible, though he did not indicate there had been a breakthrough.
“Right now, our thoughts are focused on the unconditional liberation of the kidnapped soldier,” he said in a speech to air force graduates. “The efforts to bring about his return are being carried out intensively through various channels.”
Israel said the crisis will end when Cpl. Gilad Shalit is released.
“If the Palestinians act now to release Cpl. Shalit and hand him back to us … we would immediately initiate a dramatic reduction in tension,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. “He is the primary issue, he is the primary reason for the crisis.”
Haaretz is reporting that the soldier is being held in Southern Gaza:
IDF artillery units fired more than 400 shells at the Gaza Strip on Thursday.
Givati infantry troops and the Armored Corps, whose soldiers were to receive orders to move on Beit Hanun around nightfall, remained poised in their positions at the north Gaza border.
Mediators involved in contacts to help free Shalit from Palestinian captivity told Haaretz that Egypt communicated to Jerusalem its wish that talks be allowed to continue.
Although the talks have yet to yield a breakthrough, negotiations with Hamas officials in the territories as well as outside of the country are ongoing, mediators said.
According to information gleaned by the Palestinian Authority, Shalit is being held in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in southern Gaza. Peretz said Thursday afternoon that the IDF would sustain its blockade on the Gaza Strip until Shalit is brought home safely.
Below is a picture of the hole blown into the wall which seperates Egypt from the Gaza Strip allowing people to flee into Egypt.
Palestinian security personnel guard a hole in the border wall between Gaza Strip and Egypt June 29, 2006. Masked Palestinian gunmen blew a 13 foot wide hole on Thursday in the border wall between the Gaza Strip and Egypt after Israel launched a military campaign to free a kidnapped soldier, witnesses said.