Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – BEIRUT – DAMASCUS WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Ankara – Baghdad – El Arish – Nablus – Gaza – Damascus – Beirut/Jerusalem – Paris – Rome – Cairo – Amman – London – Washington; Israel Cabinet Makes Official War Resolution to Defeat Hamas Government – Destruction of Urban Areas Used for Rocket Fire Discussed – Israel Defense Forces Cross into Lebanon One Mile
Night Watch: KNESSET – Wednesday, in an unusually long cabinet meeting, the government of Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made for the first time an official resolution to destroy all rocket-missile fire from the Gaza Strip and to defeat the Hamas government. INN reports in the past seven days 180 rockets have been fired including at least 20 Katyusha (Grad) missiles manufactured and shipped from Iran. Coordination with Egypt in overthrowing the Hamas regime was also planned but as always I suspect whatever cooperation they receive from Cairo will be spotty at best. The Debka wire service has just mentioned today Egypt has allowed 200 Hamas militants, trained in Iran-Syria, to re-enter Gaza. I assume the blockade will still be maintained but it seems to have had little impact on weapons shipments into the strip. Just one hour after a convoy of trucks were allowed to enter Gaza Israeli authorities discovered chemicals in a sealed container that were meant to be used in Qassam rockets. Officials have known for some time a lot of the “humanitarian aid” never reached the people it was intended for. Sacks marked “sugar” have been found to be full of explosive making materials and sources in Ramallah have said millions of dollars from the Gulf state of Qatar have been stolen by Hamas to purchase advanced weaponry. [INN]
The Olmert cabinet also decided to maintain negotiations toward an official Palestinian state with the Chairman of Fatah Mahmoud Abbas based in Ramallah, West Bank.
Gaza – Of course no details of Israel’s offensive were released publicly but Debka’s sources have reported senior officials of both Hamas and Jihad Islami will be targeted, especially the officials in their military wings which may have merged. Institutions of both organizations, including their police stations will also be destroyed. There seems to have been some discussion on the possibility of destroying urban areas in Gaza that have been used as rocket launching pads after first evacuating the population. Recently that idea was expressed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and I’m not surprised it’s being taken seriously. I suspect the cabinet also considered the military responses of Hezbollah-Damascus-Tehran-Beirut when they see Gaza under massive air and ground attack. [DEBKA]
Ghajar – In anticipation of hostile moves by Lebanon’s army Xinhua reports units of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) have entered the Ghajar area of south Lebanon overlooking the Wazani river. Initial reports came from Lebanon’s Future TV and New TV which aired the unit penetrated one mile into the country. No doubt Jerusalem heard Lebanon’s Army Commander General Michel Suleiman, Lebanon’s unofficial President, order his forces into a high level of combat readiness earlier this week to prepare for war with Israel. The Ghajar-Wazani river area is extremely strategic since it is where the borders of Lebanon-Syria/Israel meet, this same area saw intense fighting two years ago between Israel/Hezbollah. Then, Lebanon’s army was a spectator but that is not the case now and with IDF units here they can monitor and intercept any attempt by Beirut to coordinate any joint operation with Damascus. General Suleiman specifically mentioned Lebanon is to block any Israeli moves to attack Syria and now, with this move by the IDF, Israel is in a position to do just that. [XINHUA]
This is one of the best indications Israel will be much more aggressive and offensive minded than in 2006. Jerusalem is of course fully aware of not only the extent of Hezbollah’s re-arming but also the moves Damascus-Beirut-Tehran will be making as they enter the war. And I doubt if Israel expects any serious cooperation from the 13,000 European units in south Lebanon with UNIFIL pursuing their policy of non-interference.
Suez Canal – The Gulf-Times/AFP report the USS Cole, which arrived off Lebanon Feb. 28, has just passed through the Suez Canal enroute to the Persian Gulf. Other reports indicate the Cole will be replaced by another warship to join the U. S. ships on station off Lebanon. [GULFTIMES]