Sunday, June 25

Abducted soldier believed seriously wounded; Cabinet okays large-scale IDF operation

The IDf officer and soldier killed in today's assault:
  • 1st-Lieutenant Hanan Barak, 20, of Arad
  • St.-Sgt. Pavel Slotzker, 20, of Dimona
The captive soldier is 19-year-old Gilad Shalit, of the Galilee community of Mitpze Hila near Carmiel. He is one of three siblings. (Thanks to Carl for the image)

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, in a brief statment to the press at 17:15 IST, said that if Shalit was harmed in any manner, "his blood would be upon the heads" of his captors and the Palestinian leadership, in a pointed reference to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Shalit reportedly sustained stomach wounds in the assault and abduction on the IDF outpost, according to The Jerusalem Post. His whereabouts are unknown and the IDF is said to be preparing possible rescue scenarios.

A particularly ghoulish aspect of the incident is a Palestinian claim that the captors are holding body parts of the slain Israelis, as well, to increase the pressure on the Israelis to accede to their demands, among them, the release of Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Channel 2 News reported shortly after 20:00 that the security cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided on a large-scale, graduated operation against Palestinian targets in southern Gaza. The extent and aims of the operation were not revealed.

Troops searching for Shalit discovered the entrance of the nearly kilometer-long tunnel, which extended some 300 meters into Israeli territory.

IDF spotters said that that they'd had intel warnings for over a month of a tunnel in the vicinity, although massive army backhoes digging in the area were unable to find it in time.

"Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to ask they urge Palestinian Authority Chair Mahmoud Abbas to secure Shilat's release. She also relayed the message that Israel considers the abduction a test to Abbas' leadership, and expects him to stay in Gaza to help resolve the crisis.

"Livni also spoke with her European Union and Spanish counterparts, and is set to speak with foreign ministers from Great Britain, France, Russia and others."

Meanwhile, "Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas invited leaders of various Palestinian terror organizations to his office Sunday afternoon and informed them that he had received an ultimatum from the Israeli government warning that if the kidnapped soldier was not released safely within a matter of hours, IDF forces would enter Gaza and the organizations would bear responsibility."

Gaza escalation: (Exclusive Podcast Interview, Ch. 10 live video)

Israel Channel 10 live video feed on Hamas-led attack against IDF outpost near Gaza.

IDF armored personnel carrier hit by Palestinian grenades in infiltration alongside Gaza. The vehicle was empty during the attack. (Photo: Ynet)

the IDF Spokesman's Office update on this rapidly-escalating report.

From Haaretz:

"Two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and another was reported missing when Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups attacked an IDF post within Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip border, in the pre-dawn hours Sunday.

"Shortly afterwards, IDF tanks and troops entered Gaza near the site of the attack, an IDF position close to the Kerem Shalom crossing. Military sources said the incursion was part of a manhunt for the missing soldier."

From The Jerusalem Post:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday he holds the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-ruled government responsible for an attack on a military outpost near the Gaza Strip earlier in the day.

"We in Israel view the Palestinian Authority, headed by Chairman [Mahmoud] Abbas and the Palestinian government, responsible for this incident, with all that implies," Olmert said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio "Israel will wipe out all those who are involved in terrorism. Their organizational affiliation will not protect them."

Former Gaza commander Yom-Tov Samia said the IDF was "making every effort to secure the release of the soldier reported kidnapped by Palestinians. The soldier's condition was unknown."

Fatah, according to one report, is threatening to renew shooting attacks on Jerusalem’s southern Gilo neighborhood if Israel enters Gaza. (I'll update you about that report from here: I live in Gilo - ed.)

"IDF ground troops entered the Gaza Strip Sunday morning after Palestinian operatives infiltrated southern Israel through the coastal strip, attacking a military post and two vehicles in an operation that touched off a gunbattle with soldiers that left at least six IDF troops hurt and four gunmen dead.

"Two Apache helicopters were flying low over the area as the troops entered."

Six soldiers hurt in large-scale firefight with Gaza infiltrators (Updated)

At least six IDF soldiers were wounded and at least four Palestinian gunmen were killed in a still-developing clash near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom early Sunday morning, according to Israel Army Radio.

"Hours after the raid, IDF tanks and troops entered the Strip near the site of the attack, an army position near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Military sources said the incursion was part of a manhunt for the remaining gunmen.

"The attack on the IDF tank was claimed by Palestinian militants, including the Hamas armed wing. The Popular Resistance Committees also later claimed responsibility for the attack," Haaretz reported.

An unspecified number of Israelis were medivaced to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, as of the 07:30 Army Radio update, as the IDF brought helicopters, tanks and large forces into rapidly- evolving operation.

Army Radio is cautiously using extreme terms in describing the fast-developing incident, terminology commonly used in the past when referring to severe IDF and/or civilian casualties, before receiving the go-ahead from the army censor.

"A Palestinian security source told Ynet that there is a possibility that the terrorists who fired a missile at an IDF post near the Sufa crossing infiltrated Israel from Sinai.

"The official said that the fact that the gunmen were heavily armed and that their access to the area was almost uninterrupted hints to the possibility they arrived from the Egyptian side, and from the Palestinian side, which is secured by IDF soldiers."

Five soldiers were killed in a similar attack at the same location, when Palestinians detonated a large bomb in a tunnel beneath the facility four years ago.

Kibbutz Kerem Shalom manager Ilan Regev said the Palestinian gunmen used a tunnel to bypass the security fence with Israel, in the surprise assault by several Palestinian groups, including Hamas, on a nearby IDF position and tank.

Kibbutz member Iris Lavie, speaking with Army Radio said they were awakened at 05:00 by the sounds of the firefight.

Repeated bursts of machine gun fire heard in the background punctuated radio interviews with both members.

Kerem Shalom's residents were instructed to enter "safe rooms," early Sunday morning as the firefight between the two sides escalated, some 300 meters from the kibbutz. The army requested that residents of other Israeli communities also remain indoors, and deploy civilian perimeter security squads.

Severe security alerts have kept the nearby Sufa cargo crossing point with Gaza, alongside the Egyptian border closed for the last week.

This just in: Bush embarrassed to discover Gaza Strip has nothing to do with sex

Washington DC - President Bush today decried the Gaza Strip as both an “immorally seductive dance” and a place of “gross and unadultemerated iniquity” in an apparent confusion over the hotly contested area of land. The misunderstanding arose during current negotiations involving Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The President, upon hearing debate over who should claim responsibility for the Gaza Strip, began a tirade against the land, apparently believing that it was some sort of sexual strip tease, or a reputed place of prostitution. “The United States, with its great heritage of morality, will have no part in negotiating who should lay historical claim to perverse dances, or areas of land dedicated strictly to the promotion of illicit sexual acts” stated the President.

While the statement added to an already tarnished image of the President as being a less than cosmopolitan leader, it did establish common ground in the negotiations. Leaders from both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, as well as representatives from Egypt and the militant organization Hamas all agreed that the President is indeed not the “fastest camel in the herd.” After having a good laugh, all parties involved in the negotiations approached the talks with a much more amicable attitude.

Reached for comment, the President’s staff insisted that while he had been to one or two “gentlemen’s clubs” Bush had never actually “touched.”

Remember, I said I liked good parody...

And how was your Shabbat?


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