Gaza incursion deepens as attempts to 'deflect' diplomatic pressure continue

By staff writers
January 4, 2009

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has told her Cabinet that the “intensive diplomatic activity in recent days is aimed at deflecting the pressure for a cease-fire to allow enough time for the operation to achieve its goals.”

The Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip has now effectively cut the territory in two. Recent reports suggest a further 50 Palestinian deaths, bringing the total to over 500, and the loss of one IDF soldier bringing total Israeli losses to five.

The government of Israel has made a global propaganda campaign a key part of its strategy, employing the considerable resources of its National Information Directorate formed eight months ago.

The directorate acts across government ministries and decides key messages on a daily basis. Among its core messages for the media has been the claim that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements with Israel; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Hamas is a terror organisation targeting Israeli civilians.

"In general, we think we are succeeding in getting the message across," says directorate chief Yarden Vatikai.

Israel is barring all international journalists from Gaza, preventing them from seeing what is going on directly. The BBC and other agencies are relying on radio, local reporters and humanitarian bodies for information.

It is now clear, say analysts, that the Gaza bombing and incursion has been planned for many months - but particularly after an Israeli attack on 3 November breached the ceasefire with Hamas and resulted in a resumption of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

World leaders are calling on both sides to cease their aggression, but the scale and overwhelming force of Israeli military action, combined with the long-standing blockade of Gaza and the resulting humanitarian crisis there has led to more anger about Israel's action.

The chief exception is US President George Bush who, along with the Czech leader, has fixed the blame for the current crisis firmly on Hamas.

The difference of opinion was reflected in the recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which was unable to formulate a resolution or action plan for a ceasefire, leading to angry reactions from the Arab world.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on the United Nations Security Council and the Quartet (the EU, the USA, Russia and the UN) “to confront the humanitarian consequence of this aggression of the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner criticized Israel’s decision to send in ground forces and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is “deeply concerned over the serious further escalation.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for an immediate cease-fire contingent on guarantees to Israel that arms shipments to Gaza will be stopped and rocket attacks on Israeli towns halted.

The European Union has called for the “facilitation” of aid to Gaza and Jordan’s King Abdullah said the humanitarian situation in Gaza had deteriorated to the point where “silence is unacceptable.”

Global church and faith leaders have called for a cessation of violence and action towards a mediated settlement as soon as possible.

Demonstrations against the Gaza bombing and invasion by Israel have now taken place in nearly 80 cities across the world.

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