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Cablegate: Jerusalem Media Reaction (12/31): "Gaza Is Dying...What Are

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STATE PASS BBG
STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD
WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
NSC FOR ABRAMS
CMC WASHINGTON DC FOR POLAD

JERUSALEM ALSO FOR ICD
LONDON FOR HKANONA AND POL - TSOU
PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO

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TAGS: PREL KMDR KPAL KWBG KPAO IS
SUBJECT: JERUSALEM MEDIA REACTION (12/31): "Gaza is dying...what are
Arabs waiting for?"

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Main Stories:
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All the Palestinian dailies lead with the ongoing Israeli offensive
in Gaza, with black banner headlines reading "The Massacre in its
Fourth Day" (Al Ayyam), "The Air Force Continues to Spread Death and
Destruction in Gaza" (Al Hayat Al Jadeeda), and "The Air Force
Destroys More Public Buildings and Grad Missiles [Hit] Beersheba"
(Al Quds). Above-the-fold photos in Al Ayyam and Al Hayat Al
Jadeeda show demolished buildings in Gaza, while the one in Al Quds
show Gazans lining up to buy bread. Al Quds reports that according
to an updated medical report from Gaza, 1750 Palestinians have been
injured in the Israeli strikes and 387 killed-half of them
civilians. Al Ayyam reports that 23 Palestinians were killed, and
120 injured, on the fourth day of the Israeli offensive in Gaza. In
further reporting, Al Ayyam states that the Israeli cabinet agreed
to mobilize 2500 military reservists in an apparent preparation for
a land offensive in Gaza, and cites AFP in quoting the Israeli
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai as saying that Israel is ready
for weeks of combat against Hamas. The paper also cites the
Israeli radio quoting Israeli security sources that the next two
days will be decisive in determining whether a land operation will
be launched against Hamas in Gaza. Al Quds reports on Hamas
missiles hitting the Israeli city of Beersheba in the south, and
adds that the Israeli woman who was killed by a Hamas rocket in
Ashdod on Monday, December 29, was the sister of the Israeli
Minister of the Interior, Meir Sheetrit.

The three papers front-page US efforts to achieve a ceasefire in
Gaza and report on a phone call yesterday between President Bush and
President Abbas to discuss the requirements for a ceasefire, and add
that Washington seeks to involve Egypt and Jordan in a long term
truce agreement in Gaza, on the condition that Hamas commits to such
an agreement first. The front pages of Al Ayyam and Al Hayat Al
Jadeeda quote Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refusing to open the
Rafah border crossing to Gaza "in order not to fall into the Israeli
trap of sustaining Gaza's separation from the West Bank," and
further report that Mubarak will not open Rafah without an
international mechanism and the presence of Palestinian Authority
police forces at the crossing. Al Quds' front page reports that
Egypt will present a draft action plan to the Arab states, proposing
that the Rafah border crossing be opened after a ceasefire has been
achieved, and operate under international or Arab mechanisms to
ensure full compliance with the agreement. Al Quds further reports
on a French proposal for a 48-hour ceasefire for humanitarian
purposes, which is being considered by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud
Barak, according to news agencies. The paper also cites Reuters
reporting that French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who will receive
the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on January 1 in Paris,
might visit Israel next Monday to discuss the Gaza situation. All
the papers report that the EU has demanded an immediate ceasefire on
humanitarian grounds and that the EU will send a ministerial
delegation to the region very soon.

Al Ayyam carries on an inside page the full press release announcing
the US donation of 85 million dollars to UNRWA for humanitarian
assistance to Palestinian refugees. Al Hayat Al Jadeeda front-pages
a general report on Arab and international humanitarian assistance
to Gaza, highlighting details of the US donation.

An Al Quds inside page reports on a poll conducted by Near East
Consulting, revealing that 58% of Palestinians oppose Hamas'
declaration ending the truce with Israel, 68% support peace with
Israel, 65% want Hamas to change its stance on Israel, 60% would

JERUSALEM 00002318 002 OF 002


re-elect PA President Abbas if elections were held, and 59% support
Abbas remaining in the PA Presidency.

All the papers report on rallies held in different Palestinian and
world cities to protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. An Al
Ayyam inside page reports on a small rally in front of the US
consulate in Jerusalem, demanding US intervention to stop the
Israeli attack. Al Hayat Al Jadeeda reports on an inside page that
the US Consul General Jake Walles met Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO
Negotiation Department, in Jericho yesterday to discuss the ending
of hostilities in Gaza.

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BLOCK QUOTES:
------------

1) An Al Quds editorial entitled "Gaza is dying... what are Arabs
waiting for?" (12/31) comments that: "The way to end violence in
Gaza is to release the Gaza Strip and the citizens there and end
their suffering, and for the peace process to progress and bear
fruit. As long as Israel does not prove its seriousness and
credibility towards the peace requirements, violence and counter
violence will continue, and there is danger that the violence will
expand to include the Arab and Islamic world, and perhaps beyond.
Aggression should stop, and the border crossings-starting with
Rafah-should be opened."

2) Hani Habeeb opines in Al Ayyam under the title "What's the need
for an Arab summit?" (12/31): "The summit conference, if held, would
not discuss the Israeli aggression, but would discuss a marginal
issue, namely the Rafah crossing, with the intention of pointing the
compass needle towards Cairo and holding it responsible for what has
happened and is happening, although all parties understand that
opening this crossing requires in the first place a clear consent,
even if implicit, from Israel, which controls all the factors for
using or not using this crossing, considering the current balance of
power that is known to everyone. Perhaps moving the northern front
and Hezbollah forces is the action that can ease the Israeli
offensive on the Gaza Strip, but this front remains silent, just
like the Syrian front!"

WALLES

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