Yesterday, Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) assets, including infantry, tanks, combat engineers, artillery and intelligence, continued operations against Hamas’ infrastructure throughout Gaza.

In one incident, forces from the Golani Infantry Brigade reported hitting a number of armed terrorists during clashes in northern Gaza.

In a number of cases, ground forces directed air attacks against groups of armed terrorists.

Israeli intelligence disclosed that Israel Air Force (IAF) aircraft had attacked at least 10 targets Monday night, including five armed Hamas operatives, four weaponry storehouses in the houses of Hamas operatives, two tunnels dug under houses of Hamas operatives, one smuggling tunnel located under Gaza the border with Egypt and one rocket-launching position.

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Israeli warships accompanied the ground and aerial forces, providing assistance against Hamas targets.

Meanwhile, an IDF officer was badly injured and three soldiers were lightly injured in explosion of a booby-trapped house.

The patrol was hurt after an explosive device was detonated against them in a booby-trapped house that they were searching. Different kinds of weapons were uncovered while searching the house, including a machine gun and a vest.

The IDF officer, Aharon Karov, had been married for 24 hours when he was called up for battle.

Hamas Bans Reports About Terrorist Casualties

Last Saturday, Hamas transmitted a message – sent by a surfer known as Samed, the forum’s supervisor – to participants on its PALDF Internet message board.

The message noted, in keeping with the policies of the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, it was forbidden to publicize photographs, names or personal information about the “resistance members who had either died or been injured until after the “Israeli aggression” in Gaza was over.

Last week, the names of photographs of the Hamas dead were mostly absent from PALDF and other Hamas media.

Hezbollah adopted a similar policy in the Second Lebanon War. This Hamas policy has three aims:

  • Preventing the demoralization of the Hamas rank and file as a result of the deaths of its members in the course of the operation;
  • Instilling the message Israel has failed to make any achievements in its ground offensive;
  • and improving Hamas’ negotiating position in advance of the end of the fighting.

Hamas also hopes to create the impression – with the help of Al-Jazeera and other media – that the IDF was directing its military operations against the civilian residents of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Mayors Demand Anti-Missile System

The continued rocket-fire on southern Israel, as with the Katyusha rockets that were fired at northern Israel last week, have led the heads of the local regional councils in Israel to invest in bringing the sophisticated Nautilus laser anti-missile system to the country.

Twelve heads of local authorities from southern and northern Israel sent an urgent letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak in which they demanded that he ask the Americans to expedite the arrival of the joint U.S.-Israeli system.

The heads of the local authorities criticized Israel Defense Ministry director, General Pinhas Buchris, who they said vehemently opposed to importing the defense system. Last March, Gen. Buchris was arrived in the U.S. to attend a test. He reported upon his return that the test had been a failure. Some of the mayors alleged that the Defense Ministry’s examination had not been adequately comprehensive.

Israel Defense Ministry Spokesman Shlomo Dror said in response: “Defense Ministry Director General Pinhas Buchris visited the company’s site in the United States and examined the system from up close. The company’s representatives told him that the system was not for sale and was not operational. Furthermore, it does not provide an answer to Qassam rockets. A committee of 30 experts from the academic world and from the Defense Ministry examined a number of options and established that the Nautilus was not good.”

Report: Iran Limiting Aid To Hamas At This Time

Iran has limited its military aid to the Hamas government in an effort to facilitate reconciliation with the United States, according to a credible report issued by the Washington Institute of Near East Studies.

According to the report, Iran views the President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming administration as an opportunity to protect its nuclear program.

In the report, the Iranian government allegedly had decided on restraint amid calls for military assistance to the Gaza Strip.

“It appears that Iran prioritizes its nuclear program and national security over its military support for Hamas against Israel,” the report, authored by senior fellow Mehdi Khalaji, titled “Iran Says Much, Does Little on Gaza,” said. “It is likely that Iranian leaders are hedging their bets at this point, waiting for President-elect Barack Obama to take office.”

Recently, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have aided Hamas. It also sponsors Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. But IRGC commander Gen. Ali Jafari, amid his denunciation of Arab countries, said Tehran would not militarily aid Hamas in its war with Israel.

“So far, it seems that Iran’s support for Hamas is limited to political and diplomatic efforts,” the report said.

An Iranian envoy has been consulting Lebanon and Syria regarding the Gaza hostilities. The emissary identified as Supreme National Security Council secretary Said Jalili is regarded as a more moderate voice in the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Iran could have sent Foreign Minister Manoucher Motaki, who is close to hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for its meetings with Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had it wished to irritate Arab leaders and increase their fears of Iran’s influence over Hezbollah and the militia’s potential actions in support of Hamas,” the report said.

Iran has reined in pro-Hamas supporters, 70,000 of them, including members of the Basij militia, who volunteered to fight Israel. At the same time, Iran’s parliament has been drafting a bill that would allocate a special budget for the Gaza Strip.

The report said Iranian leaders were bracing for a thaw in the freeze in U.S. relations. Mr. Obama has pledged to launch direct talks with Iran.

“Iranian leaders are undoubtedly wondering, in light of Obama’s campaign pledges to open direct talks with Iran, what his administration will offer their country and the extent to which a diplomatic deal is possible,” the report said. “In the meantime, Tehran may not want to muddy the situation, complicate their relations with Arab countries, or darken the prospects for potential negotiations with the new U.S. administration.”

Israel Changes Passenger Flights Near Gaza

The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Israel has revised the flight paths of civilian aircraft to avoid missile strikes from the Gaza Strip.

Israel Air Force has ordered the distancing of civilian flight paths from the Gaza Strip. They said the air force has determined that the Hamas regime has acquired anti-aircraft missiles that could knock out low-flying passenger and other aircraft.

“The new rules will affect mostly aircraft that spray insecticides on crops,” an official said. “They fly low and could be a target of Hamas SAMs (surface-to-air missiles).”

The IAF has determined that Hamas has acquired up to 150 Soviet-made SA-7 and other surface-to-air missiles. They said the SA-7s would not endanger fixed-wing aircraft deployed by the air force.

It has already revised combat helicopter missions over the Gaza Strip to prevent SA-7 attacks. Officials said American-made helicopters such as the Apache and Cobra attack helicopters have been ordered to fly higher to avoid being struck by SAMs.

So far, Hamas, nor its Palestinian militia allies, have not been reported to have fired SA-7s or other anti-aircraft missiles. But officials said the air force has detected Hamas SA-7 squads around Gaza City that were waiting to attack low-flying Israeli aircraft.

On Dec. 31, the Israeli government approved a plan to equip passenger jets that could protect against shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. A cabinet committee said the Israeli-origin systems, developed by such companies as Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, would be installed on all Israeli passenger jets.

“The decision is part of the continuing effort to provide a response to existing terrorist threats against the state of Israel around the world,” an Israeli cabinet statement said. “The Israel Transportation Ministry will be responsible for the project, in cooperation with the security establishment and the security industries.”

US Oil Firms Sued For Financing Hamas

The Middle East Newsline has also confirmed that two U.S. energy companies have been sued on charges of financing the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.

U.S. attorneys, acting for victims of Hamas attacks, have filed a suit in federal district court in Washington, D.C. against two Texas-based oil companies. El Paso Energy Corporation and Bayoil Inc. were accused of financing Hamas and related groups in what has resulted in attacks on civilians.

“The victims allege that defendants knowingly funded the 21 terrorist attacks in Israel and aided and abetted the financing of genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, extrajudicial killing and terrorism by conspiring with known terrorists and clandestinely transferring tens of millions of dollars to terrorists, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Arab Liberation Front in violation of U.S. and international laws,” a statement by the attorneys for the plaintiffs said.

The suit, filed on Dec. 30, was said to represent nearly 200 Israeli and American citizens, victims of Hamas and other attacks in the Middle East. The suit also named Oscar Wyatt and David Chalmers, principal shareholders of El Paso Energy and Bayoil.

Attorneys Gavriel Mairone and Michael Miller said they gathered evidence that El Paso Energy and Bayoil paid the families of Hamas and other suicide bombers. They said the payment was channeled through numerous fronts in tax havens.

“Those profiting or financing terrorism should at least pay the victims monetary compensation for the damages caused by the terrorists,” Mr. Mairone and Mr. Miller said in a statement.

The two attorneys have filed a series of suits on behalf of victims of terror attacks against Americans and Israelis. In August 2008, Mr. Mairone and Mr. Miller filed a $30 billion suit against Sudan, Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on behalf of 221 victims “for providing financing and material assistance to al-Qaida in connection with the bombing of the United States Embassies in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998.”

Mr. Mairone has also been involved in a multi-billion-dollar suit in U.S. federal court against a major international bank. The bank was sued by more than 1,500 victims of attacks attributed to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“It is our goal to help these victims, and force the cruel financiers of international terrorism to be accountable for the murder, maiming and destruction of so many families and innocent children, women and men,” Mr. Mairone said.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.