Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – DAMASCUS WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Nablus – Beirut – Damascus – Gaza/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; Rocket Hits Ashkelon Hours After Visit by Israel PM Olmert Ending Four Day Lull in Attack and Response – Hamas /Egypt Agree to Open Rafah Terminal – Agreements Permits Weapons and Militants to Pass Freely as Palestinians Re-Arm
Night Watch: ASHKELON – Just hours after Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited the damaged Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon Tuesday a rocket, fired from the Gaza Strip, hit one of the city’s southern districts. It confirmed warnings he had been making by admitting there were no guarantees rocket fire would not resume. Haaretz reports the attack ended the four day lull, the first attack since the killing of eight Jewish seminary students in Jerusalem Thursday night. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took credit for the rocket fire but Jerusalem, through government spokesman Mark Regev blamed Hamas, “Hamas controls Gaza and they are responsible for every missile fired from Gaza into Israel. We have no illusions to the extreme and hateful agenda of Hamas.” [HAARETZ]
Based on current statements from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri their agenda is not ceasefire or peace with Israel, “Hamas leaders seek martyrdom and will never bargain over the blood of their people like others do.” The last part of his statement could be directed a Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is now blaming Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak for sabotaging the peace process, an illusion if there ever was one, because Abbas claims Barak has personal animosity toward him. If so, and I would not be surprised, it may be because Abbas is not at all reliable and is mostly serving his own self-interests. I don’t think either side really takes him seriously. At best the peace process was a false hope but in reality it was really nothing more than a five year publicity stunt by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. An image making enterprise for Bush’s legacy but Abbas cannot let go of it since his playing along was the basis of his financial aid. A foreign policy charade to publicize while Washington and London assumed an easy profitable occupation of Iraq’s economy as they fantasized regime change in Iran-Syria.
Gaza – Leaders of Islamic Jihad are also denying their negotiations with Egyptian officials are to establish a ceasefire with Israel to protect their leadership. Xinhua quoted one of their officials, Khaled al-Batash, based in Gaza, “The leader’s blood was not dearer than the blood of any ordinary member of Islamic Jihad. The Islamic Jihad does not seek or request the truce.” [XINHUA]
El Arish – It is now obvious what Tehran – Damascus – Hamas used this brief truce for; to arrange, through Egyptian authorities, the re-opening of the Rafah Terminal for a continued stream of weapons and fighters. Debka reports the negotiations were led by the head of Egypt’s Minister of Intelligence General Omar Suleiman and that was why he kept canceling trips to Israel. This of course means the only cooperation between Cairo-Jerusalem will be hap-hazard at best, no serious joint operations against militant groups and no joint military operation. Cairo has agreed to allow the Rafah Terminal, the transit point between Egypt-Gaza, to remain open a few hours a day to meet what are called “requirements in Gaza.” “Requirements” meaning the weapons and supplies Hamas and Palestinian militants require on a daily basis to sustain their war effort against Israel. This also permits a constant stream of fighters to and from Gaza-Syria-Lebanon-Iran. [DEBKA]
In return Hamas (Iran) have agreed not to attack the new border wall Egypt is constructing along the 7 mile (13 km) Philadelphi corridor on the Egypt/Gaza border. Hamas has also agreed not to dig any new smuggling tunnels which are an empty promise since there is not time to dig any new ones anyway since heavy fighting could resume at any moment. Old tunnels will continue to be used. This releases thousands of Egyptian troops from monitoring Hamas and the Gaza border. As always Egypt is only concerned about its own security.
Belgrade – As expected reports are saying Serbia Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had decided to form a new coalition with the Serbian Radical Party before his Saturday’s announcement of the current government no longer able to function. B92/Blic report Kostunica and Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic, who was supported by Kostunica in February’s Presidential election, spoke together on Thursday-Friday leading to Saturday’s announcement of a collapsed government due to disunity over Kosovo. Kostunica leads the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) while the Radicals (SRS) are by far the most popular single party in the country. The government is to be officially dissolved by President Boris Tadic on Thursday, March 13, with new elections set for May 11 and already Kostunica is calling on Serb voters to use the election to make a statement on Kosovo. Knowing the violent responses in Serbia to Kosovo’s declaration of independence I doubt if the voters will disappoint him in what will also be an anti-European Union (EU) statement. Serbia will elect to be in Russia’s sphere of influence. [B92]