Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Israel Completes Gaza Withdrawal

Posted by gaetanoditommaso su 21 gennaio, 2009

GAZA — After more than three weeks of fighting, Israeli troops completed their withdrawal from Gaza early on Wednesday, the military said, but residents reported the continued sound of what they said was naval gunfire in the waters off the Mediterranean coastline here.

The troops did not go far: they were redeployed on the perimeter of the war-battered enclave, where more than 1,300 Palestinians died in the Israeli campaign against Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, also died during the 22-day offensive, according to military officials.

Separately, the Israeli Army said it had begun an investigation into reports by some non-governmental organizations that it used white phosphorous weapons illegally during the Gaza war.

A military spokesman in Tel Aviv said such weapons were not prohibited under international law if they were used to create smoke-screens or for marking battlefield areas. The spokesman said Israel only used legal weapons.

Human rights groups are concerned about the Israeli use of white phosphorous, illegal if used against civilians, because it can burn flesh like a kind of napalm.

The Israeli spokesman said: “in response to the claims of non-governmental organizations and claims in the foreign press relating to the use of phosphorous weapons, and in order to remove any ambiguity, an investigative team has been established in the Southern Command to look into the issue.”

The spokesman said the investigation was first announced on Jan. 16 and was repeated on Wednesday after the newspaper Haaretz reported that the military was “investigating whether a reserve paratroops brigade made improper use of phosphorus shells during the fighting in Gaza.”

“The brigade fired about 20 such shells in a built-up area of northern Gaza,” the Haaretz report said. “Aside from this one case, the shells were used very sparingly and, in the army’s view, in compliance with international law.” The United Nations has said its headquarters building in Gaza was hit by three such shells, sparking a huge blaze last week.

As the Israeli troops withdrawal wound down on Wednesday, a military spokesman in Tel Aviv, speaking in return for customary anonymity, said: “The last troops left Gaza this morning and they redeployed around the Gaza Strip.” In their new positions, he said, the troops were “prepared for any occurrences.”

The spokesman also said reservists called up during the offensive, which ended with separate cease-fires declared last weekend by Israel and Hamas, were being discharged “little by little.”

But the spokesman had no immediate comment on what Gaza residents said seemed to be naval gunfire that persisted Wednesday. On Tuesday, Israeli gunboats offshore occasionally fired warning shots at boats that ventured too close.

During the offensive, Israel moved against Hamas by land, sea and air in a campaign aimed in part at preventing Hamas from firing rockets and other weapons out of Gaza into southern Israel.

On Tuesday, however, Israeli troops twice came under fire, and eight mortar shells were shot at Israel, all falling short. Israel responded with air strikes on launching sites.

On Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians supported Hamas at four rallies here while the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, visited to express support for those who had suffered in the war. An Arab meeting in Kuwait aimed at helping Gaza ended in disarray.

Mr. Ban, the highest-ranking international figure to come to Gaza since the war, visited the United Nations compound, damaged by an Israeli strike. He called the attack “outrageous” and demanded an investigation. He said Israel had used excessive force in Gaza. After touring the area, Mr. Ban called the destruction “shocking and alarming.”

Later, he visited Sderot, the southern Israeli town that has long borne the brunt of Hamas rocket fire, and said using rockets against civilians violated international law. Still, he said, Israel should lift its border closing on Gaza, strangling its economy.

The pro-Hamas rallies in Gaza, in four cities, produced a blaze of green Hamas flags as marchers walked past the devastation from Israeli air raids. In Gaza City, the march passed the United Nations headquarters as Mr. Ban spoke, and Gaza’s main security headquarters, now rubble, ending in front of the Parliament building, also in ruins.

A Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, told the crowd that Israel had not achieved its goals. To several questions, the crowd roared a response. “Have they killed Hamas?” he asked. “No!” “Have they killed the government?” “No!” “Have they dismantled the resistance?” “No!”

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, said Israel had achieved its objectives in the war and had sent Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, and Iran a message that it would respond if attacked. She opposed any dialogue with Hamas, adding, “It is a terrorist organization.”

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told the visiting Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, that Israel would take part in reconstructing Gaza only if Hamas did not lead the process.

Ethan Bronner reported from Gaza and Alan Cowell from Paris. Michael Slackman contributed reporting from Kuwait City, Taghreed El-Khodary from Gaza and Steven Erlanger and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.




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