Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Gaza – Beirut Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Countdown to Israel Offensive into Gaza Continues – Israel Security Cabinet to Convene – Sunday/Tuesday to Discuss Offensive – Palestinian Rocket – Mortar Barrages Constant – Sapir College Hit
Night Watch: KNESSET – Momentum is building for a major Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip to finally put an end to the eight year Qassam rocket attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militant units. Momentum is building not only within Israel’s population but also within the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Jerusalem Post/AP report on Thursday, after Olmert’s Wednesday discussions with President George W. Bush during his three day visit to Washington, centered on Iran’s nuclear weapons program and Gaza, Olmert stated, “As it looks now its closer to a military operation than to another arrangement.” He then stated the main reason for realizing this was the Egyptian negotiations “are not ripening in a way that can bring a ceasefire.” And of course from the continuing Palestinian rocket-mortar attacks no ceasefire can be realistically expected. [JPOST]
Nir Oz – Palestinian militants have continued to confirm the need for an offensive as they unleash constant rocket-mortar fire on Israeli settlements and cities within range of the Qassam-Katyusha rockets ten to twenty miles from the Gaza Strip. Debka reports overnight Palestinian groups not only hit the Kibbutz of Nir Oz with rocket and mortar fire but continue to attack one of the factories with automatic fire and anti-tank missiles. An earlier attack killed an Israeli resident and the ongoing attacks even disrupted the funeral held today for him. [DEBKA]
Beit Lahiya – As usual the Israel Defense Force (IDF) continued its response of air strikes and specific ground attacks against active rocket-mortar sites. This has been their main tactic for more than a year in addition to the year long blockade of the Gaza Strip which has only had a minimum impact on the rocket-mortar fire and it has not prevented Hamas from receiving the more powerful Katyusha rocket and now the new vehicle mounted multiple -launch rocket systems from Iran. The Jerusalem Post reports the IDF began another operation overnight Thursday and engaged in firefights with Palestinian gunmen in central Gaza as IDF tanks and bulldozers advanced into the territory to suppress rocket fire. At the same time the Israel Air Force (IAF) destroyed the Hamas base in the north Gaza town of Beit Lahiya which was directly responsible for the rocket-mortar attacks on Nir Oz. [JPOST]
Sapir College – Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the Nir Oz site of Thursday attack and stated the offensive is not only closer but will take place before any ceasefire. But despite these serious warnings coming out of Jerusalem there is no sign Tehran is having Hamas-Palestinian militants reduce the fire coming from Gaza in fact quite the reverse. INN is reporting rocket-mortar fire continued on Friday morning into the afternoon with the greater Sderot area hit and the coastal region near Ashkelon ten miles north of Gaza. Sapir College, on the outskirts of Sderot, was hit with one building and six cars damaged. [INN]
Latest news reports from the above links mention two upcoming Knesset cabinet meetings, Sunday/Tuesday, in which the military offensive into Gaza will be discussed. Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit has repeated his suggestion that in order to have a serious impact on the rocket-mortar attacks entire neighborhoods in Gaza would have to be destroyed after warnings were first given to allow the resident’s time to evacuate. This is what the IDF-IAF did in 2006 in its month long war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Leaflets were dropped on villages and neighborhoods in south Beirut before Israel air attacks on enemy positions.