‘CAST LEAD’ – DAY 20 [01/15/2009]
* Hamas’s interior minister, Said Siam, was killed along with his brother Iad Siam and his son, as well as another senior Hamas man in an IAF strike on a house in the Jabaliya neighborhood in Gaza City, Israeli defense officials said. In the Palestinian hierarchy the interior minister is in charge of all security apparatuses and is the equivalent of a defense minister. He is the most senior Hamas operative killed since Hamas took over Gaza Strip in 07/2007. Salah Abu Shrakh, the head of the Hamas general security service, was also killed in the air strike. Israel began to conduct a men hunt after Hamas leaders in Gaza in order to maximize the impact of operation Cast Lead on Hamas for the years to come.
* Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to arrive to Washington, USA, on Friday 01/16/2009, to sign and Intelligence and security pact to form a joint international task force that will follow the path of the weapons smuggled to Gaza from Iran to Sudan and Eritrea, from there with speed boats to the Bedouins of Southern Sinai and through the Tribal Area of Sinai to Rafah Tunnels . For Israel it is a major achievement (see – Cast-Lead 19 ).
* While Hamas toughens its conditions for cease fire, Israel is still considering the Egyptian initiative and is asking for more clarifications. An Israeli special envoy, Amos Gilad, was sent to Cairo for further talks with the Egyptians. Hamas position believes that Israel is obliged to cease fire before the swearing in of Barack Obama as the new USA president, on 01/20/2009, and tries to pull time.
* Three events drew the International attention:
A. UNR”A installation was hit by Israeli shells while 700 people found shelter in the compound. No one of the refugees was hurt and the director of the place admitted that fire was opened on IDF soldiers from near by the compound. The event happened during a 3 hours Humanitarian cease fire declared unilaterally by Israel to enable the distribution of basic needs to the civilian population of Gaza. The event outraged the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who just began his visit in Israel to promote cease fire.
B. A 15 story building, which hosts offices of several international Media channels, came under Israeli fire – two journalists from Dubai where lightly wounded. In this case the Hamas took over the two first floors and locked the journalists on the upper floors, possibly as a shield from an Israeli air attack. Some of the journalists contacted their Israeli counterparts and colleagues and explained the situation asking, indeed, the IDF to hold fire.
C. Several smoke shells hit a UNR”A store. The shells inflamed a diesel oil reservoir. Later the fire spilled over to nearby sacks of food. The black smoke covered, for many hours, large part of Gaza City, although no one was hurt in the event, and was broadcasted all over the world time and again.