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Cablegate: Gaza Update December 31, 1300 Local: Decreased

VZCZCXRO7852
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #2320/01 3661206
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 311206Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3634
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JERUSALEM 002320

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, NSC FOR ABRAMS/PASCUAL/RAMCHAND

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWBG IS PTER MOPS ASEC
SUBJECT: GAZA UPDATE DECEMBER 31, 1300 LOCAL: DECREASED
AIRSTRIKES IN OVERCAST SKIES; ROCKETS ATTACKS CONTINUE

1. (SBU) Summary. From 1800 December 30 through 1300 on
December 31, two Palestinians were killed and at least 12
were injured in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, and at
least 40 more rockets hit Israel (including several
long-range rockets). At least 364 Palestinians have been
killed and 1200 injured (requiring hospital attention) in
airstrikes through 1300 on December 31. Clashes continue in
the West Bank near Qalandiya and Tulkarm, in which at least
10 Palestinian youths have been injured. A pre-recorded
speech by President Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) will air at 1800
to commemorate Fatah's anniversary, and is expected to
outline PA positions on Gaza violence. End summary.

Two Killed, 12 Injured in Decreased Airstrikes;
Rocket Attacks Expand Threat Zone
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) Palestinian medical contacts report two
Palestinians were killed and at least 12 were injured in
airstrikes from 1800 December 30 through 1300 December 31.
Gaza-based contacts report fewer airstrikes compared to
previous periods amidst overcast and rainy weather. Israeli
press report IAF airstrikes targeted Hamas offices and
government buildings, rocket crews in northern Gaza, and
western border areas with Egypt. Palestinian press report a
paramedic (Mahmud Abu Hasira) was killed early December 31
and two were injured in an airstrike in Jabaliya. Political
contacts in Rafah report heavy ground vibrations throughout
the city after bombs struck suspected tunnel areas. They
added that dozens of houses near the border were heavily
damaged in the strikes. These contacts and Palestinian press
report more airstrikes in the same area of western Rafah at
1200 on December 31. Gaza City-based contacts report that
Israeli fire hit several areas near Bayt Hanun, killing one
Palestinian, and Israeli naval forces shelled the shoreline
in Gaza City. Gaza City contacts report hearing airborne
drones overhead regularly through the morning of December 31.

3. (SBU) Two Grad-type rockets landed in Be'er Sheva early
December 31, causing no injuries and minor property damage.
A barrage of Grad-type rockets also landed in/around Be'er
Sheva late December 30, damaging an empty kindergarten.
Israeli press report that at least five other grad-type
rockets landed in the Ashkelon area (lightly injuring an
Israeli) and Yavneh the morning of December 31. Three other
Grad-type rockets hit Ashkelon and near Ashdod late December
30, according to Palestinian press, injuring one Israeli. At
least 30 Qassam rockets also struck Israel from 1800 December
30 to 1300 December 31. The Hamas military-wing claimed
responsibility for all of the Grad-type rockets.

West Bank and Jerusalem Clashes
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) According to West Bank security sources, an Israeli
motorist reported that shots were fired towards his car at
around 2300 on December 30 near Ithna village by Hebron,
without causing injuries or damage. At 2330, a pipe bomb was
thrown towards an Israeli car near Turqumia, but did not
cause injuries. Several Palestinian youths were lightly
injured in clashes with the IDF in Tulkarm following a
demonstration the afternoon of December 30. An Israeli child
was lightly injured in a car stoning incident late December
30 near Hebron. An Israeli settler driving by Yitzhar (near
Nablus) also reported his car was stoned. There were
frequent stone-throwing incidents and clashes between
Palestinian youths and the IDF/border police near Qalandiya
checkpoint, resulting in several injuries from rubber-coated
bullets. Jerusalem organizers staged a protest with roughly
50 people attending at Damascus Gate mid-day December 31.

5. (SBU) The IDF arrested 22 Palestinians in the West Bank
late December 30, including 16 in Bethlehem. Hamas outlets
claimed the PA arrested 27 of its members in the West Bank
December 29-30, including nine in Hebron.

Political Reactions
-------------------

6. (SBU) President Abbas is in Jordan and will meet with
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on December 31 to discuss
ceasefire proposals. Abbas' pre-recorded Fatah anniversary
speech will air at 1800 local on Palestinian TV. Palestinian
media reported that President Bush called Egyptian President
Husni Mubarak, PA President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam
Fayyad to discuss the crisis in Gaza.

7. (SBU) Fawzi Barhum and other Hamas spokesmen increased

JERUSALEM 00002320 002 OF 002


anti-PA propaganda on December 30, accusing the PA of
conspiring with Israel against Hamas. Barhum said Abbas has
formed two operations centers, one led by Presidential
Secretary-General Tayib Abd al-Rahim to collect information
on the secret whereabouts of Hamas leaders and military wing
activists for Israeli targeting, and the other led by the PA
Interior Ministry and security chiefs to prepare to assume
control of Gaza after an Israeli invasion. Barhum said the
PA refuses to release Hamas prisoners and arrests more Hamas
activists daily.

8. (SBU) Senior Hamas leaders told Palestinian press
December 30-31 that they have received private messages that
the GOI is interested in a ceasefire, but reject these
proposals as disingenuous and designed to serve Israeli
interests.
WALLES

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