Crossfire War – Hamas Plans Offensive Demonstrations After Friday Prayers

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Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Gaza – Damascus Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – El Arish – Beirut – Baghdad – Damascus – Ramallah – Gaza/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – London – Washington – Paris – Rome; Syria-Iran Re-Affirm Regional Axis – Hamas Plans Mass Demonstrations at Erez – Rafah Terminal After Friday Prayers – British Foreign Secretary Arrives in Baghdad Unannounced – Fighting Continues in Baghdad – Two IDF Airstrikes in Gaza

Night Watch: DAMASCUS – There is an enormous amount of regional-international diplomacy taking place simultaneously all over West Asia (Middle East) right now as regional and outside powers prepare for an increase in the fighting this year. This is why you should not take seriously all the smokescreen statements by governments concerning negotiations, 1967 borders, settlements and the peace process. At least Syria President Bashar al-Assad has been decent enough to indicate as much. Asharq al-Awsat reports President al-Assad has admitted publicly he is not interested in direct negotiations with Israel until after the next U. S. administration takes office in 2009. It is the rest of the war this year which concerns us and him. [ASHARQALAWSAT]

Tehran – A more revealing indication of Damascus’ real intentions can be found as always whenever they meet their Islamic Axis partner Iran and currently the Jerusalem Post reports Syria Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem is in Tehran meeting Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to reassure Tehran their plans are unchanged and ongoing as they prepare to use one of the main flashpoints-Gaza and the Palestinian issue. President Ahmadinejad stated, “We must always be prepared to thwart the plans of the US in the region.” He told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), “The Americans are on the verge of destruction” and “anyone who sides with them will go the same way.” I suspect he was referring to the missile attacks Iran has planned for the UK/US bases in Iraq and Persian Gulf. For his part Foreign Minister Mouallem mentioned Israel’s blockade has not weakened Hamas at all, “The peoples movement of Hamas has gained strength.” [JPOST]

Erez – There is to be an example of that strength and Hamas’ ability to mobilize people on Friday. Xinhua reports Hamas’ spokesman Ashraf Abu Daia issued this warning, “We, in Hamas, have decided to organize a public and furious outbreak in front of Gaza crossings to demand the lift of the siege.” He said the demonstrations will begin after Friday prayers, which I suspect will be an Islamic version of a hate rally, even encouraging the people to embrace martyrdom. “The angry crowds will head towards Beit Hanoun-Erez crossings in the north Gaza Strip and Rafah crossing on the Gaza/Egyptian borders in southern Gaza Strip.” Violence is expected to occur and I would not be surprised if some of the demonstrators are armed even with suicide bomb vests. I assume they will also be accompanied by Hamas fighters. [XINHUA]

International Green Zone – “Mr. David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary arrived in Baghdad in an unannounced visit earlier in the day and has met Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and his Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi.” That was the terse statement released by the British Embassy in Baghdad as Foreign Secretary Miliband was secreted in and out of the country. Xinhua reports no details were released as to the discussion and for obvious reasons since the discussions were under enormous duress as the deteriorating situation in Baghdad was not what the lost alliance of London-Washington projected five years ago as they assumed they could easily control Iraq’s oil revenue with hardly a shot being fired. It is impossible to be more out of touch with regional reality. So I suspect Miliband told al-Maliki his administration may not have been set up for victory but it has been set up to take the blame for the defeat. [XINHUA]

Eastern Baghdad – As Miliband was laying the ground work for the excuse strategy the Gulf-Times/AFP report at least 21 more people were killed in fighting overnight between elements of the Iraq Army, actively supported by U. S. troops and Shia militias. The death total since fighting erupted in late March now stands as at least 366. But what is especially alarming now it seems these “Special Groups”- Shia militias, which have led the fight against the occupation since last year, now seem to be merging with the Mahdi Army. That was the message by U. S. Colonel Allen Batschelet at a media briefing in Baghdad, “These two groups are so amorphous. They cross back and forth between one another. It is difficult to say who is who. We see evidence of a guy who might be working very hard inside JAM (Jaish al-Mahdi- the Mahdi Army) to present himself as mainstream kind of compliant person, yet we have other indications that show him…kind of working you know…got a night job to do a Special Group criminal kind of stuff.” Not only is Tehran an expert at creating confusion in the mind of the enemy during negotiations but also on the battlefield. [GULFTIMES]

Beit Lahiya – In the meantime the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is continuing its air campaign against Palestinian units firing mortars and rockets. INN reports both air attacks took place in northern Gaza. One strike targeted a Hamas cell in Beit Lahiya and the other against other Palestinian militants in Beit Hanoun. Most of the rockets and mortars are fired from northern Gaza. [INN]

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.