Middle East News: World Press Roundup

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announces that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reportedly agreed on a French-Egyptian truce plan for Gaza (1). The United Nations rejects the Israeli military's claim that Gaza militants were operating out of the UN school attacked yesterday (2). Israel's security cabinet postpones a vote regarding expansion of operations in Gaza, amid growing bids for a truce (3). Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeals to the UN Security Council for an end to the violence (4). Israel continues to obstruct foreign journalists from entering Gaza (5). President-elect Obama breaks his long silence on the conflict (7) (9). Daoud Kuttab explores the quagmire of attempting to assign blame for the current situation (11). An interview with outgoing National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley provides his commentary on the issue (14).

Sarkozy says Israel accepts Gaza truce plan
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday Israel and the Palestinian Authority had accepted a truce plan for Gaza announced by Egypt on Tuesday. "The president is delighted by the acceptance by Israel and the Palestinian Authority of the Franco-Egyptian plan presented last night in Sharm el-Sheikh by (Egyptian) President (Hosni) Mubarak," said a statement from Sarkozy's office. "The head of state calls for this plan to be implemented as quickly as possible for the suffering of the population to stop."

UN rejects IDF claim Gaza militants operated from bombed-out school
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar, Amos Harel, Amira Hass, Avi Issacharoff, Anshel Pfeffer - January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

The United Nations on Wednesday denied Israel Defense Forces claims that there were Palestinian militants in the Gaza school bombed by Israel on Tuesday. Christopher Gunness of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the organization is 99.9 percent certain there were no militants or military activity in its school. That does not necessarily contradict Israel's claim that the militants were operating close by, Gunness said.

Israel defers vote on expanding Gaza ground op amid growing truce bids
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday postponed a vote on whether to expand the Israel Defense Forces 12-day-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, political sources said. The sources said ministers discussed whether to implement the "third stage" of an operation launched on Dec. 27 but decided to defer the decision on whether to approve it to an undisclosed date. Israel's political leadership gathered in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning to discuss widening the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip at a time when most of the aims of the operation have been met.

Abbas Appeals at UN for End of Israeli ‘Genocide’ in Gaza Strip
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bloomberg
by Bill Varner - January 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is “genocide” and appealed for urgent action by the United Nations Security Council to stop the 11-day assault. “The entire world opinion will accept no less than an urgent intervention by the Security Council to stop the fighting and deter the aggressor,” Abbas said at the UN in New York late today. “This is the message I am bearing.”

Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Ethan Bronner - January 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza. The reporters were to be permitted in to cover firsthand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza. Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and other foreign citizens were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told to not even bother going to the border.

For Battered Gazans, Few Places Left to Hide
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Reyham Abdel Kareem, Sudarsan Raghavan - January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

It was shortly after noon Tuesday when Intisar Sultan walked through the clusters of dirty children and fatigued adults, leaving behind a U.N. school that had been turned into a refuge for families hoping to escape the fighting around them. She walked out its doors without her son, Abdullah, 19, who had died along with two cousins hours earlier in an Israeli airstrike that hit the school in Gaza City. They had been returning to bed from the bathroom.

Unintended Consequences Pose Risks for Mideast Policy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Glenn Kessler - January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

President-elect Barack Obama will inherit a perilous situation in the Middle East, with Israel under increasing pressure to halt its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, key Arab leaders close to the United States greatly weakened and the Hamas militant group earning resurgent popularity in the region. After days of studied silence on the Gaza conflict, Obama promised yesterday "to hit the ground running" on achieving a broad Middle East peace deal.

Mideast Mediators Seek Anti-Tunnel Plan
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Craig Whitlock - January 6, 2009 - 1:00am

The biggest hurdle to winning a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, according to diplomats and Israeli military officials, is a problem that has bedeviled Israel for years: how to stop Hamas from digging tunnels into Egypt in order to bring tons of rockets and other weaponry into Gaza.

Restrained Obama leaves many displeased
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Paul Richter - January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

As civilian casualties mount in the Gaza Strip, President-elect Barack Obama is coming under intensifying pressure to end his disengagement and begin working for a halt to the fighting. Obama has argued that President Bush remains in charge of U.S. foreign policy until the inauguration on Jan. 20. But critics say hundreds may die in the next two weeks while the president-elect stands by.

Hamas and the Continued Turnaround
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Hassan Haidar - (Opinion) January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas - like Hezbollah, the other devout follower of the Syrian and Iranian regimes - is an expert at changing notions and truths, and using words in a manner that is contrary to their definition. Hence, simply staying alive becomes a "victory"; the increase in the number of deaths and injuries becomes the ability to "resist"; "scratching" the Israeli cities with a few rockets becomes a "strategic balance", and the lack of readiness for battle and of surveillance of the enemy's intentions, as well as being surprised by the extent of the enemy's response become "betrayal".

Selective memory, conflict chronology
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Daoud Kuttab - (Opinion) January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

A much repeated Arab saying dealing with conflicts states: the initiator [of a conflict] is the wrong one. So if one is trying to figure out who is wrong in the current round of violence in Gaza, all one has to do is figure out who started it. But the moment one begins this search, one finds oneself in a more complicated, bind, namely figuring out what is the starting point, time-wise.

Children pay a high price for turmoil
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Financial Times
by Vita Bekker - January 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Medical officials in Gaza said on Tuesday that at least 115 children had died since the Israeli assault began 11 days ago, amid warnings that the bombardment and continuing blockade could spur a new generation to embrace violence. Said Ghabayen, a doctor and father of six living north-east of Gaza City, said the din of nearby artillery fire and air strikes for almost four hours on Monday night was the worst his family had experienced in the 11-day assault. “The kids were screaming, clinging to us, shutting their ears with their hands and all I could do was hug them,” he said.

How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Avi Shlaim - January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

The only way to make sense of Israel's senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders".

Transcript: Stephen Hadley
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Wall Street Journal
by John D. McKinnon - (Interview) January 7, 2009 - 1:00am

The Journal's John McKinnon sat down with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley at his office in the West Wing. They talked about the situation in Gaza, the U.S. relationship with Russia, Iraq and more in an interview previewing a valedictory speech Mr. Hadley plans to deliver Wednesday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview. * * * The Wall Street Journal: Talk a little about the challenges, as well as the opportunities, that the next administration is going to face.

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