Thursday, November 27, 2008

thanks alot

Thanksgiving is for family, and gratitude for much else... and I am personally thankful forcompleteing two years blogging on line, from Lala Land and the Holy Land.!

This Thanksgiving I am grateful not to be stuck in Gaza. Back from there for the past two weeks, lately I have been busy all day, in full expat turkey mode here in Jerusalem. Izzy has been cooking instead of blogging for a change, so let me share some holiday sentiments, lifted from
Tim McGirk of Time magazine:

As you sit down to a Thanksgiving feast, please spare a thought for the starving Palestinians of Gaza. There are 1.5 million of them, most of them living hand to mouth, or on UN handouts, because Israel has them under siege.

It's a vicious cycle, one that's being repeated every few months or so. The Islamic militants do something crazy, Israel strikes back, the militants fire missiles into southern Israel and then the entry points into Gaza slam shut. Food and the basic necessities of life are squeezed off to the barest minimum.

And who suffers? Not the militants, not Hamas nor Islamic Jihad. As usual, it's the people of Gaza who are dazed with hunger. My friend Azmi, who has diabetes, tells me he is running out of insulin, and he can't find any pharmacy or hospital that still has supplies.

Dialysis machines are breaking down in the hospital (the rare moments when there's electricity to run them) and there are no spare parts to replace them. Bakeries have run out of flour. “I've been to the Cairo zoo,” says Azmi, “and I swear those animals are treated better there than we humans are in Gaza.”

Many stories are written about the smugglers' tunnels that honeycomb Gaza's southern border with Egypt. We write about how the smugglers bring Viagra and tiger cubs through the tunnels, as though Gaza were some big exotic shopping mall, a Neiman Marcus on the Mediterranean. But the truth his, all the stuff coming through the tunnel is expensive because it is taxed by the smugglers, and beyond the reach of most Gazans.

In the Third Act of this sorry performance, the international community and the UN start complaining loudly, and Israel lets in a few dozen trucks of food, or turns the fuel spigot on for a few hours to reduce the international outcry and show what good guys they are. That's what happened today. The Israelis let in 40 trucks. It's hardly enough. At a minimum, says Chris Guness, an UNRWA spokesman, “We need to bring in 15 trucks a day, every day.” Adds UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories Maxwell Gaylard, “This is an assault on human dignity with severe humanitarian implications.”

Then we have Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, obviously irritated by Gaza questions during his valedictory tour to Washington. He dismissed the near-famine in Gaza as nothing more than the whining of a few cry-babies, as if he expected them to make souffles out of sand, soups from stone.

Israel wants to draw a curtain around Gaza so nobody can see how it's punishing the Palestinians. That's why, for the past two weeks, they've barred the foreign press from entering Gaza. The reason, says the Israeli military, is that catch-all phrase “security”, and it is pronounced with arrogant solemnity as if to say ‘Take it from us, we have our very good reasons. Don't challenge us.”

Well, the foreign press did challenge the Israeli government. We took the matter to the high court, petitioned Olmert and got our editors to write letters of complaint. Some journalists talk of chartering a boat from Cyprus and trying to run the Israeli naval blockade. These are desperate tries, but this is a violation of the press's freedom, and the world's right to know. This is the sort of shameful attitude you might expect from Zimbabwe's Dictator Robert Mugabe, not Israel. Please.

Choking the life out of the Gazans isn't going to make them turn against their Hamas overlords. On the contrary, says my friend Azmi, “Everything that Israeli does isn't harming Hamas in Gaza. It's making them stronger.” Starving Palestinians and depriving them of medicine certainly isn't going to make them like Israelis, or their supporters in Washington, any better.

Happy Thanksgiving.

By Tim McGirk/Jerusalem

I am thankful to escape the Southern California wildfires, and that I was nowhere near Mombai, and non of my Indian friends were hurt, and hoping that the Bangkok airport will be open for us this weekend. Time to feast!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Iran executes one 'Israeli spy' and arrests another

Iran has hanged a telecom engineer convicted of spying for Israel, according to reports from Teheran quoted on the BBC. This turn of events should worry Hossein Derakhshan, an earnest Iranian-Canadian blogger who was just arrested on arrival in the Teheran. (Pictured above.) The young guy came under suspicion because he spent time last year in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, exploding propaganda myths by cavorting with the 'entity'--mainly females in bars-- and giving Israelis a 'human face' on his blog, Jahan News. Apparently, the man hailed as Hoder, the Blogfather, has already confessed to spying for Israel.

The Ahmadinejad regime obviously gets very annoyed about any links between Israel and its Iranian citizens. Hence the execution of Ashtari, pictured below.

Ali Ashtari, an Iranian, was convicted in June of spying for Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. A video said to be of his confession was broadcast on TV.

He was convicted of sending "sensitive information on military, defence and research centres" for three years.

Israeli officials were quoted in June as saying that Israel was not familiar with the case.

Announcing the execution, which reportedly took place on Monday, Iran's official news agency said the case against the 45-year-old was clear and his appeal was summarily dismissed.

"He had spied for Mossad for three years," the state news agency quoted the intelligence ministry's director of counter-terrorism as saying.

Officials said Ashtari was recruited by Israeli secret services to intercept the communications of Iranian officials working in the military and its controversial nuclear programme.

Broadcasting his apparent confession, state TV showed Ashtari sitting down wearing an open-necked shirt and jumper.

"It was my mistake and perhaps I feared going to the intelligence ministry, and this fear was the reason why I kept choosing the wrong path," he said, speaking into the camera.

"Do not repeat the mistakes that I made."

The case unfolded throughout the year against a backdrop of concerns in Iran that Israel was planning to launch a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear facilities.

Israel is a leading advocate of strong action against Tehran, which it believes is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran denies that charge, saying its nuclear programme is intended for energy supply only.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hebrew papers running Palestinian ads

The Palestinian Authority placed ads in Hebrew papers, to try and reach some kind of conflict resolution over contentious core issues through an outreach to the reading public inside "the so-called Jewish entity". Can they revive a six-year-old peace plan? Clearly, the Pal pals are pre-occupied. The BBC elaborates:

The Palestinian Authority has placed a full-page advert in Israel's Hebrew newspapers to promote an Arab peace plan first proposed in 2002.

The plan offers pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for an end to Israel's occupation of land captured in the 1967 Arab-Israel war.

It also proposes what it calls a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

Israel has noted "positive aspects" in the plan but has not formally accepted it, largely over the refugee issue.

In a BBC interview coinciding with his presidential visit to the UK, veteran Israeli politician Shimon Peres praised the plan as a "sea-change" in Arab policy.

Adopted by Arab League in 2002 and relaunched in 2007
Calls for "full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967"
All Arab states would establish "normal relations... with Israel" and "consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended"
Calls for a "just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem"

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said it could "serve as the basis" for negotiations.

Renewed interest in the Arab plan has arisen after a year of Israeli-Palestinian talks made no tangible progress and indirect contacts were revived between Syria and Israel, but also without achieving anything concrete.

Countering 'distortion'

The PA advertisement appears in the three main Hebrew dailies and is headed by the Palestinian and Israeli flags.

The text reads: "Fifty-seven Arab and Muslim countries will establish diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for a full peace accord and the end of the occupation."

The advert includes the full text of the seven-point initiative and is framed by the flags of 50 Arab and Muslim countries.

Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo said it was aimed at explaining the Arab peace initiative to the Israeli public.

He suggested that Israelis were unfamiliar with the details of the plan and have only heard partial and distorted versions from Israeli officials.

The Arab peace plan, originally devised by Saudi Arabia, was adopted by an Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002 and re-launched at the Riyadh summit in 2007.

Israeli reports described the direct appeal to Israelis by Palestinian leaders over the heads of Israel's politicians as an extraordinary event.

Many Israelis agree on returning most of the land occupied in 1967 but hold strong views on two elements of the plan - making East Jerusalem capital of a future Palestinian state, and discussing Palestinian refugees in the context of a peace deal.

Israel has proclaimed all Jerusalem, including the occupied eastern half, as its "eternal, undivided" capital, and has rejected any responsibility for the flight of refugees during conflicts since 1948 when Israel was founded.

Alperon hit blows open Tel Aviv underworld

Bloody aftermath of mob hit in Tel Aviv's streets

Tel Aviv is often a blast, but this time it's gangster warfare, not political conflict. Not some deluded martyr blowing up a bus, but a mundane car-bomb planted in a rental car.

The murder of Yaakov Alperon, crime kingpin, had all the hallmarks of a mobster's targetted assassination and now local cops are braced for a vengeance free-for-all in the mean streets of the Mediterranean metropolis. At the showy funeral earlier this week, the scion of Israel's erstwhile Tony Soprano vowed: "I'll find my father's killer and I'll cut off his head. Smash his balls!" Not your usual kaddish.
See Time magazine for a full report on how in the Tel Aviv underworld extortionists are exterminated what is expected next. (Snapshot of Yaakov and son in Tel Aviv.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bedouin Obama's Baklava

A platter of sweets, all dripping with honey, is proffered at the Jerusalem bureau of the venerable Times of London. The occasion? Some 8000 Bedouin Obamas from northern Israel are hailing America’s new chief and claiming him as one of their own. And how exactly does this tribe link their blood line to the new American leaders? Ah, that evidence is still out. But it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

James Hider, the Times’ intrepid man in the Middle East, was bemused when Abdul Rahman Sheikh Abdullah, a 53-year-old local Bedouin elder from Bir al-Maksour, started whooping and hollering over the electoral victory of a long-lost relative. And a Bedouin connection to Barack Obama is mind-boggling, since the Kenyan and Kansas clans are so well documented. Still, the Bedoins consider how the president-elect’s lifestyle has been semi-Nomadic, shifting from Hawaii to Indonesia and back, then California, Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington DC. As soon as the tribe in Israel started to gather and share the sweet news of the family’s good fortune, word reached the inquisitive Times reporter, who hauled his share of cellophane-wrapped pastries back to the office rather than splotch his notebook with honey.

Now Sheikh Abdullah is determined to hold a large barbecue in Obama’s honor and slaughter a dozen goats to feed the villagers. The action will take place up in Northern Israel, near the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is believed to have walked on water a couple thousand years ago. At least it's not at Armageddon.

According to Hider, the elderly mother of the sheikh first spotted the family resemblance when she watched the charismatic Illinois senator on television. She insists that Obama is a dead ringer for an African migrant laborer who once worked for a wealthy sheikh in British Mandate Palestine during the 1930s. At 95, the mother’s memory of the distant past seems remarkably sharp.

“The Africans would sometimes marry local Bedouin girls and start families, though, like many migrant workers, would just as frequently return home after several years,” Abdullah told the Times.

One of those men was a relative of Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother, Sheikh Abdullah maintains.

He estimates that his tribe extends to as many as 8,000 members, all of them loosely connected to the president-elect.”

Long-lost relatives are bound to start appearing from all branches of the Obama family tree and try to converge on the White House. These Galilee Bedouins may represent a rather shady offshoot that rambled quite a distance off in the Holy Land. An undeniable surge of affection for the new American leader is transcending distance and going around the globe. That’s going to be some inauguration party! (Meanwhile, one of Hider's colleagues at the Torygraph divulged a hot tip that the new American leader could have feet of clay: A set of garden gnomes in East Jerusalem is also asserting Obama lineage.

cross-posted from Feral Beast.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Found in Jerusalem: One Earring, 2000 years later. And 12,000 ago, a shaman laid to rest

One large pearl inlaid in gold with two drop pieces, each with an emerald and pearl.
Anybody seen the other one?

This lucky find is described in Haaretz The lady's earring was discovered during excavation of the ruins of a Byzantine era building, dating from around the fifth century A.D. It was discovered outside the old city walls, beyond the Kotel, near Silwan and the so-called City of David.

Well, there is ancient and then there is well and truly old. The discovery of shamaness in the Galilee, buried hunched, 50 tortoise shells ritually surrounding the tomb must be rife with symbolism. She's like the first Jewish mother, someone quipped. The female force, the she-Eve.

Female Shaman's Grave Found in Israel
Tuesday, November 04, 2008

By Jeanna Bryner

The grave of an elderly woman buried about 12,000 years ago included a plethora of animal remains.

A 12,000-year-old burial site in Israel contains offerings that include 50 tortoise shells and a human foot, and appears to be one of the earliest known graves of a female shaman.

The remains were discovered in a small cave called Hilazon Tachtit, which functioned as a burial site for at least 28 individuals. The grave woman, likely a shaman, was separated from the other bodies by a circular wall of stones.

Other grave goodies buried within that wall included tail vertebrae from an extinct type of cattle called an auroch, skulls from two stone martens (members of the weasel family), bony wing parts from a golden eagle, the forearm of a wild boar and a nearly complete pelvis from a leopard.

"What was unusual here was there were so many different parts of different animals that were unusual, that were clearly put there on purpose," said researcher Natalie Munro, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Connecticut.

Great pains were likely taken long ago to collect the animal remains for the grave, not to mention the long trek that must have been made from the closest domestic site at the time, about 6 miles (10 km) away, say the researchers.

This care along with the animal parts point to the grave belonging to both an important member of the society and possibly a healer called a shaman, the researchers conclude in their research published this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Such healers mediate between the human and spirit worlds, often summoning the help of animal spirits along their quests, according to the researchers.

Life was tough

The woman was about 45 years old when she died and based on measurements of the skull and long bone, she stood at about 4.9 feet (1.5 meters).

Wearing of her teeth and other aging signs on the bones suggested the woman was relatively old for her time. And she likely had a limp or dragged her foot, the researchers speculate, due to the fusion of the coccyx and sacrum along with deformations of the pelvis and lower vertebrae.

The human foot lying alongside the body came from an adult individual who was much larger than the women.

"What's interesting is it's only the foot," Munro told LiveScience. "She hasn't been disturbed, but a part of another human body was definitely put into the grave. It could be related to the fact they were moving body parts around sometimes, but we don't know why."

At least 10 large stones had been placed on the head, pelvis and arms of the buried individual, which the researchers suggest helped to protect the body and keep it in a specific position, or possibly to hold the body in its grave.

Scattered around the body and beneath it were tortoise shells. Before arranging the shells inside the grave during the burial ritual, humans cracked open the tortoise shells along the reptiles' bellies (so as not to crack the back part of the shell) and sucked out the meat, possibly for food.

"So they took the insides out by breaking the belly, but they left the back intact and that was probably meaningful," Munro said.

Rituals begin

The woman was part of the Natufian culture, a group of hunter-gatherers who lived from 15,000 to about 11,500 years ago in the area that now includes Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The finding is particularly interesting since the Natufians were on the verge of becoming a more sedentary, farming society.

Finding an early shaman grave during this transition makes sense, Munro said.

"With the beginning of agriculture we seem to see an intensified ritual behavior," Munro said. "When things change dramatically, people tend to try to reestablish the legitimate order of things by using ritual and religion to deal with change."

She added, "These people are starting to live in more permanent communities; they're in more contact with one another from day to day. It's not surprising that we start to see evidence for those ritualized behaviors at this point in time."

Copyright © 2008 Imaginova Corp. All Rights Reserved.

This is a topic that Izzy will research further. But first, a close look at that lovely stray jewel set in burnished gold.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yawning gap between rudeness and discipline

Sometimes official ceremonies are just a big yawn, and there's no disguising it. But for one dozy squaddie, failure to stifle his boredom has sent him to lock-up for three weeks. Haaretz reports today on the yawning gap between what's rude and what's jail-worthy:

The Israel Defense Forces has sentenced a soldier to 21 days in jail for yawning during a recent memorial service for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Officials report the soldier yawned while the commander of the Ramat David Israel Air Force base was delivering a speech during last week's memorial ceremony for Rabin. The senior officer paused for a few minutes after the yawn, which was described as long and loud.

The soldier was subsequently arrested by the army, tried for his "disrespectful act" and sentenced to 21 days in military prison. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit noted that the soldier is able to request a pardon, which will be considered according to military regulations.

The soldier's mother told Israel Radio that her son was not disrespectful, but tired. She said that her son deserves to be punished for inappropriate behavior, but the verdict is disproportionately harsh.

She further said her son was raised upon Rabin's legacy, and that yawning is known to be an uncontrollable physical act.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Secular City Hall- Meet Nir Barkat

The gamble that the Arab voters would swing the election did not work. Jerusalem's new-look City Hall will be headed by Nir Barkat, a nerdish techno-innovator and tycoon who drifted right during the campaign and came out pro-settlements.
This photo is from his FaceBook page. (He joined last summer, and his page has more than 800 fans.)

Here's Mayor Barkat's rather glowing resume, according to the Israel Project.

Nir Barkat, born in Israel in 1959, spent his entire childhood and adult life in Jerusalem. Serving six years in the IDF, as a member of the paratrooper’s brigade, Nir completed his service with the rank of Major.
Nir received his Bachelor's degree in computer science (BSC), and completed extensive studies towards an MA in business administration at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
In 1988, Nir Barkat founded the BRM Group. BRM was one of the first entities worldwide to develop anti-virus software. As CEO, he initiated joint ventures with U.S. companies. BRM later became a technological incubator, investing in companies such as BackWeb and Checkpoint Software. Nir served as chairman of Checkpoint for its first four years.
At the beginning of 2000, Nir was a founding partner of BRM Capital, a $150 million Venture Capital Fund which focuses on software and communication infrastructures, specializing in investments in Israeli related companies and helping them become global leaders in their field.
Prior to his decision to dedicate himself to the city of Jerusalem full time, Nir Barkat became involved in the promotion and introduction of innovative educational and community focused projects.

• Nir supports and serves on the Board of Snunit, an organization advancing the use of computers within the Jerusalem elementary school system.
• He was the driving force behind the creation of the Holistic Project - the creation of new local leadership and community program development in Jerusalem neighborhoods.
• Nir was one of the founding members of the Israel Venture Network (IVN), which was founded in the spring of 2001 by a group of American and Israeli high tech magnates. The mission of this committed group is to further a pluralistic and harmonious society in Israel through the deployment of innovative and venture-based strategies.

In January 2003, Nir resigned from all of his business responsibilities and participated in the Jerusalem municipal elections for Mayor. Nir served as a full-time Jerusalem municipal councilmember, and was involved with numerous entrepreneurial projects in the city.
In addition to being the Founder and Vice-Chairman of StartUp Jerusalem, Nir is also the Founder and Chairman of "New Spirit," a non-profit helping to promote the students in Jerusalem.
Nir is married to Beverly, and is father of three daughters.

Headlines in Haaretz newspaper said Barkat scorned municipal waste and announced that he was prepared to dismantle the Calatrave "bridge of discord" and disrupt the light railway system which has become a symbol of bad planning, over-spending. Izzy doubts he'll go through with wholescale disuption, but was just playing the rightwing crowd for victory cheers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Porush Comes to Shove- Jerusalem election gets underway

A whitebearded ultra-Orthodox candidate with a formidable scowl banks on voters being charmed by a cartoon of himself, while a Russian tycoon who speaks little Hebrew considers himself the dark horse in Jerusalem's bizarre mayoral race. Forget that nasty brawl in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where monks have not learned to take turns in more than a millenium. The real free-for-all will happen as ballots are tallied tonight to determine who'll be in charge of Jerusalem's City Hall.

The candidates are a cast of characters:


Secular Israeli businessman who heads opposition on city council


MP since 1996 for United Torah Judaism, an ultra-Orthodox party


A Russian-born businessman running under his adopted Hebrew name Arieh Bar-Lev


A former director of public television turned bar owner, Biron is running on behalf of the Green Leaf party and is calling for legalisation of cannabis.

Around the city, campaign posters have been shredded as soon as aides stick them up, and some religious parties balked at allowing any photographs of women candidates--some 33 are running for a varity of municipal positions--to be displayed on public buses. Oy veh.

Ben Lynfield, a locally-based journalist, reports how today's poll lays bare Jerusalem's tribal divides.

In a city usually dominated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, today's mayoral election in Jerusalem has lain bare its deep rifts as an ultra-Orthodox rabbi takes on a hi-tech entrepreneur for control of city hall.

Any last shred of pretence that the election is anything other than tribal warfare between the ultra-Orthodox and secular collapsed when the rabbi, Meir Porush, 53, suggested to supporters that a vote for him would be part of an ongoing ultra-Orthodox takeover of all of Israel's cities.

"Within 10 years there will not be a secular candidate at all in any city, except maybe in an abandoned village," he said. The father of 12 made the comment in Yiddish last week, but unbeknown to him, the remarks were being recorded and were later aired on Israeli television with Hebrew subtitles, harming his effort to win over secular voters.

The comment seemed to touch on the worst fears of secular Jerusalemites. In West Jerusalem's Kiryat Yovel neighbourhood, where secular residents have mobilised against plans to establish an ultra-Orthodox kindergarten, the election is seen as holding the key as to whether the area "falls" to the ultra-Orthodox.

"Kiryat Yovel has been a pluralistic place but now it is changing," said Judith Sudilovsky, a mother of two young children. "Neighbours are being told by the ultra-Orthodox not to use their washing machines on Saturday because it disturbs the Sabbath. I'm concerned that two markets that serve non-kosher food, where I buy shrimps, will be shut down."

Mr Porush's office has dismissed such fears. "Anything that is open today will not shut down except for economic reasons," a spokesman said.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews – who gained control of city hall for the first time five years ago – account for just over a quarter of the electorate, while secular voters make up more than 40 per cent. But with rabbis encouraging the faithful to vote for ultra-Orthodox candidates, voter turnout among that group is higher.

Israeli doves have no real choice in this election. Like Mr Porush, Nir Barkat, the entrepreneur, is vowing to build a new Jewish neighbourhood in Arab East Jerusalem, and he also supports settlement within existing Arab areas.

Also standing is Arkady Gaydamak, a Russian-born businessman and owner of Jerusalem's nationalist Beitar football team, who is being tried in absentia by a Paris court for allegedly selling arms to Angolan rebels during the 1990s. The fourth mayoral candidate is Dan Biron, a bar owner , representing the Green Leaf party, which is calling for the legalisation of cannabis.

Palestinians are expected to boycott the polling in line with Palestinian Authority directives not to lend legitimacy to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. But there is growing tensions in the area, with Israeli police evicting a disabled Palestinian man and his wife from their home over the weekend in what is seen as a move towards expansion of the Jewish settler presence in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Gaza navel-gazing

What to do about bloody Gaza? This cartoon, by Lautuff, dates from last year but things have not changed much. Even Izzy Bee is feeling the Gaza Strip squeeze, as she is stuck fast like a mollusc and prevented from moving around here on work assignment due to "security issues".
Join the club, say the Gazans. Such limitation and powerlessness is standard for 1.5 million people in this enclave who lose their freedoms due to the actions of a handful of militants. Gaza is a potentially beautiful place, mired in misery for now. If only people could look to a shared tomorrow, instead of tossing rockets and recriminations at one another. Who did what when is irrelevant. Draw a line and reboot.

As soon as Erez reopens, I'll go back to Eretz Israel...or is that ersatz Israel? So few of the intelligent and cynical folks I've met here can have any hope of doing the same or going anywhere at all.

Mrs Mary Robinson, a former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, has just revisited the Strip briefly after a gap of eight years and told the BBC about her despair at witnessing the deteriorating conditions of this overcrowded and under-employed enclave.

" I am taken aback with the terrible, trapped situation of the families.Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I'm not exaggerating.It's almost unbelievable that the world doesn't care while this is happening." --Mary Robinson

And now, after the discovery of a new tunnel which the Israelis say was part of an apparatus designed for kidnapping IDF soldiers, troops moved into the Palestinian territory near Al Bureij camp to blow it up. Hostilities ratcheted up. Shots were fired and IDF soldiers were spotted some 300 meters inside. An IDF airstrike destroyed one house nearby. Drones hover overhead and the 5-month truce appears more fragile than ever. In the night, we heard more distant booms and sirens, and learned of more deaths, 7 in all since Tuesday night.

Interesting doublespeak here:
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak vowed further military offensives against the Gaza Strip. "We have no intention of violating the quiet," Barak said on a tour of southern Israeli areas bordering Gaza. "But in any place where we need to thwart an action against Israeli soldiers and civilians, we will act."