Israeli navy shells Gaza on sixth day of ceasefire

As Hamas and Israel entered the sixth day of the ceasefire, the Israeli navy shelled coastal areas of the Gaza Strip. Injuries were reported as the UN Security Council expressed "grave concern" for the existing humanitarian crisis in the Strip. While Israel says its navy was targeting smugglers' tunnels, MENASSAT's Olfat Haddad reports that Gaza's armed factions are losing patience with the ceasefire.
Israeli gunships off the Gaza coast today. Israel has full control of Gaza's territorial waters. R.R.

GAZA, January 22, 2009 (MENASSAT) – A day after the Israeli military confirmed the withdrawal of ground troops from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources confirmed that 7 Palestinians were injured, including 5 fishermen, when Israeli warships bombed areas in the northwest Gaza coast near the Al-Shati refugee camp.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses said that the naval shelling along the coast began with no warning at 3 am firing dozens of shells and causing panic among residents and causing many to flee and seek shelter further inland.

Israeli navy ships also fired in areas near the Egyptian border that were aimed at destroying smugglers’ tunnels during the 23-day offensive against the Gaza Strip.

Israel appeals to EU

All of this takes place amid the backdrop of Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s trip to Europe to try and corral support for a joint-US Israeli memo of understanding that conditions its own ceasefire on the stoppage of weapons smuggling into Gaza.

Israel had clearly stated that Operation Cast Lead was an attempt at stopping Hamas rocket attacks and arms smuggling. Hamas and other armed factions in Gaza have actively used tunnels along the 8-mile long border with Egypt to smuggle weapons.

But news videos on Israeli television on Wednesday showed Palestinian smugglers straddling fuel tanker trucks with fuel smuggled in from Egypt – evidence that the tunnels have also been used to smuggle more basic goods and materials into Gaza because of a near two-year Israeli siege that has crippled the territory.

MENASSAT talked to representatives from a number of Palestinian resistance factions who agreed with Hamas to a week-long ceasefire to allow for Israel to pull back its troops.

But numerous fighters interviewed told MENASSAT the Israeli ceasefire violations like the navy shelling today would not be ignored.

One fighter who refused to be named said, “Israel has continued to breech the ceasefire since the weekend, and the resistance will answer back at the right time and by any means it sees adequate.”

UN response

The UN Security Council issued a statement yesterday calling for the temporary ceasefire in Gaza to be turned into a durable truce with guarantees to ensure that all border crossings are permanently reopened – one of three conditions that Hamas has required for it to adhere to its own ceasefire.

All 15 council members approved the statement, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said much more remained to be done on both humanitarian and diplomatic fronts.

During his tour of the Middle East last week, Ban slammed Israel for attacks against UN facilities during Operation Cast Lead including a bombing of the UN Relief and Works Agency headquarters on January 15.

Ban called them "outrageous" during Wednesday’s UN Security Council meeting and said he expected those responsible to be held accountable.

Envoy for the Israeli Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, planned to go to Cairo for talks with the Egyptian government on Thursday after Egypt had expressed reservations about a U.S. agreement to share intelligence with Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe.

Sources report that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said his country would not allow foreign naval forces to operate in its territorial waters to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza.

"The resistance takes the threats seriously"

This afternoon as Israeli foreign minister Livni announced EU officials had in fact agreed that “a durable and sustainable ceasefire also means a full cessation” of weapons smuggling into the Gaza, Abu Moujahed, spokesman of the Salaheddine Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, told MENASSAT fighting was not over in the Gaza Strip.

“We can’t keep quiet regarding the continuous Israeli violations in the Gaza Strip. We have two martyrs and many injuries due to the firing from the Israeli warships and artillery in the north, east and south of Gaza since the weekend. This calls for the resistance factions to search for the right response,” Moujahed said.

He added that all of Gaza’s armed factions have been uniting to come up with a cohesive defense strategy for the territory if Israel attacks again.

“The resistance takes the Israeli threats seriously, and is ready for any new offensive against Gaza.”

Meanwhile, a Palestinian human-rights group said today that the number of dead Palestinians in the three weeks assault stood at 1,284 - 894 of them civilians, including 280 children or teenagers.
The Israeli military says 500 Palestinian militants were killed. Gaza's armed factions say they lost 158 fighters.

Thirteen Israelis also were killed, 10 of them soldiers.