With conflict stopped, Israeli military touts successes
November 21st, 2012
05:32 PM ET

With conflict stopped, Israeli military touts successes

By Adam Levine

The relentless pace of the Israeli airstrike on Gaza gave the country's military time to make a significant dent in the offensive capability of Hamas, the Israeli military said.

Over the eight day conflict, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) looked to deplete some of the estimated 12,000 rockets Hamas has in its arsenal and destroy tunnels that are said to be used to smuggle weapons.

"We are very satisfied with the achievements that we have had in this operation," Israel Defense Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said on CNN's 'Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.'

The operation was not without human cost. Nearly 150 Palestinian and Israelis, though mostly Palestinians, were killed and many more were injured.

But the IDF said the operation allowed it to accomplish "its pre-determined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities," according to a media release sent soon after the cease-fire took effect on Wednesday.

The military gains were a factor in Israel agreeing to stop the airstrikes, according to the IDF.

"These operational achievements provided the underlying framework for this evening's cease-fire agreement," the IDF release said.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Israel-Gaza 2012 • Middle East • Palestine
November 20th, 2012
09:39 PM ET

Watching Israel's missile defense

All eyes are on Israel's missile defense systems as the country's Iron Dome missiles have intercepted about 85 percent of the Hamas rockets fired at civilians.

CNN's Barbara Starr reports on why the violence may be sending cautionary signs to Iran and Hamas who will be looking for the system's potential weak spots.

Why Obama administration is avoiding 'cease-fire'
November 20th, 2012
03:46 PM ET

Why Obama administration is avoiding 'cease-fire'

By Jamie Crawford and Adam Levine

The Obama administration is stressing that the aim in talking to all parties is for a "de-escalation" of the fighting between Israel and Hamas. But while administration officials talk about trying to stop the fighting, they are assiduously avoiding using the term "cease-fire."

At a press conference Tuesday in Cambodia, National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes said he was not refraining from using the term, but then he refrained from using the term:

REPORTER:   Ben, you keep using the phrase “de-escalate the situation.” Are you avoiding using the word “cease-fire”?

RHODES: No, I mean, there are many ways that you can achieve the goal of a de-escalation. Again, what our bottom line is, is an end to rocket fire. We’re open to any number of ideas for achieving that goal. We’ve discussed any number of ideas for accomplishing that goal. But it’s going to have to begin with a reduction of tensions and space created for the situation to calm. So we’ll be discussing going forward, as we have been over the last several days, what are the various ways in which we can accomplish that goal.

At the State Department briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also emphasized de-escalation over cease-fire, saying there are many ways to lessen the violence: FULL POST

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Gaza • Israel • Middle East • Palestine
Obama's telephone diplomacy on Gaza
File photo
November 19th, 2012
06:44 PM ET

Obama's telephone diplomacy on Gaza

By Jill Dougherty

For the Obama administration, the watchword is "de-escalate." Stop the fighting, especially rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, then deal with longer-term issues.

But President Barack Obama, who continues to support Israel's right to defend itself while urging that the fighting cease, cannot do it on his own.

From Southeast Asia, where he is his first international trip since his re-election, Obama has talked several times by telephone with two of the central players: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, traveling with him, has been even busier. She's been talking by phone with Israeli, Egyptian, Turkish, Qatari, and French officials, as well as with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and then briefing the president on those conversations.
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Smuggling weapons to Gaza – the long way
DigitalGlobe image of Yarmouk Military Depot shows before and after images of an industrial complex in Khartoum, Sudan that was rocked by explosions last month.
November 19th, 2012
06:36 PM ET

Smuggling weapons to Gaza – the long way

By Tim Lister and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy

Just after midnight on October 24, a series of loud explosions shook a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Within minutes, flames shooting skyward illuminated the area, and the Yarmouk Industrial Complex was consumed by fire.

Witnesses said they heard planes in the area, and a subsequent analysis of satellite images revealed six large craters "each approximately 16 meters [52 feet] wide ... and consistent with craters created by air-delivered munitions," according to the Satellite Sentinel Project, a non-governmental organization that analyzed DigitalGlobe imagery.

As the smoke cleared the next day, Sudanese officials blamed Israel for the airstrike, which destroyed a large part of the complex, including an ammunition plant and some 40 shipping containers.

The Satellite Sentinel Project said: "Nothing remains of the 60-meter [197-foot] building, which appears to have been pulverized in the blast."
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Filed under: Egypt • Gaza • Israel • Sinai • Sudan
U.S. sends warships near Israel in case evacuation needed
File photo of USS Iwo Jima
November 19th, 2012
02:34 PM ET

U.S. sends warships near Israel in case evacuation needed

By Barbara Starr

Three U.S. Navy amphibious warships are returning to the eastern Mediterranean to remain on standby in the event they are needed to assist Americans leaving Israel in the coming days, according to two U.S. officials.

The officials stressed an evacuation remains an extremely remote possibility and the Obama administration is not currently planning for one. Americans who wish to leave the region now are able to do so using commercial airlines.

But the decision to send the ships even if the event is such a remote contingency underscores the growing concern about where the Israel-Gaza conflict could be headed.

"This is due diligence. It is better to be prepared should there be a need," one official said Monday. Both officials said the ships would be used only for assisting Americans and not for any combat role.

Why Israel might hesitate to start a ground invasion

The most immediate impact will be on the ships' crews and the estimated 2,500 Marines on board. They had been scheduled to return to Norfolk, Virginia, just after Thanksgiving; their homecoming will now be delayed several days depending on events, the officials said.

The ships involved are the USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York and the USS Gunston Hall. At the end of last week the ships were west of Gibraltar, before the decision was made to turn them around and send them back to the eastern Mediterranean, where they will remain for now.

The U.S. military also maintains three to four ships off the coast of Israel that are capable of shooting down ballistic missiles. That deployment has stretch for some months in the face of a potential ballistic threat from Iran.

Clinton heads to Middle East

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Navy • Palestine • Security Brief
November 19th, 2012
12:03 PM ET

CNN Poll: 57% of Americans say Israeli attacks in Gaza are justified

A majority of Americans say that Israel's current military strikes against Gaza are justified, according to a new national survey.

CNN/ORC International poll released Monday indicates that 57% of the public says Israel is justified in taking military action in Gaza against Hamas, with one in four saying the attacks are unjustified.

The fighting began last week with rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza, to which Israel responded with an aerial offensive. Palestinian emergency services said Monday that nearly 100 people have been killed in Gaza, with around 750 injured. The Israel Defense Forces said three people in Israel have been killed, with nearly 70 injured.

The fighting has raised fears of a widening conflict, and the possibility of a repeat of Israel's 2008 invasion of Gaza following similar rocket attacks by Hamas into Israel.

"Although most Americans think the Israeli actions are justified, there are key segments of the public who don't necessarily feel that way," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Only four in ten Democrats think the Israeli actions in Gaza are justified, compared to 74% of Republicans and 59% of independents. Support for Israel's military action is 13 points higher among men than among women, and 15 points higher among older Americans than among younger Americans."

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Middle East • Palestine
November 19th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Israel puts trust in Iron Dome

By Michael Martinez

Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system is figuring prominently in the unfolding aerial conflict with Hamas' military wing in Gaza.

Iron Dome is being credited with protecting Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities by blocking some of the rockets fired from Gaza.
Over the past three days, 737 rockets from Gaza were fired upon Israel: 492 landed, but 245 were intercepted by the system, Israel Defense Forces said Saturday.

The name Iron Dome evokes an image of a protective bubble over a city. In practice, Iron Dome is a defense against short-range rockets and mortar shells: the system targets incoming rockets and fires an interceptor missile to destroy them midair.

Each battery has a firing-control radar to identify targets and a portable missile launcher. The system is easily transportable, with just a few hours needed to relocate and set up.

The missile is highly maneuverable. It is three meters, or almost 10 feet, long; has a diameter of about six inches; and weighs 90 kilograms, or 198 pounds, according to the security analysis group IHS Jane's.

The warhead is believed to carry 11 kilograms, or 24 pounds, of high explosives, IHS Jane's said. Its range is from 4 kilometers to 70 kilometers - or 2.5 miles to 43 miles.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Middle East • Palestine