Gaza-trip MPs face Kas­sam at­tack

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY JENNI FRAZER AND AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

IN A week of re­newed vi­o­lence be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas that claimed the lives of three IDF sol­diers and re­port­edly around 20 Gazans, Bri­tish MPs saw Pales­tinian rocket fire at first­hand as Kas­sams were launched from a vil­lage near the Gaza Strip.

The MPs — three from the Labour Party and one Lib­eral Demo­crat — were on a fact-find­ing mis­sion to Is­rael and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries, or­gan­ised by Caabu, the Coun­cil for the Ad­vance­ment of Arab-Bri­tish Un­der­stand­ing.

Brian Id­don, Labour MP for Bolton South East, said the rocket at­tack came on the sec­ond day of their visit, as they made their way out of Gaza.

“Three rock­ets were fired to­gether. One lay un­ex­ploded in a car park and an­other went over­head. While mak­ing our way through the check­point, we heard an­other ex­plode. It was quite scary but I knew we would be OK where we were, and not in dan­ger,” he said.

The oth­ers were Lib-Dem Sarah Teather, MP for Brent East; the Labour MP for High Peak, Tom Le­vitt; and Swin­don South’s Anne Snel­grove.

The Kas­sams were fired from a Pales­tinian vil­lage to­wards Is­rael, but fell short of the Erez check­point.

The Is­raeli army were thought to have closed the check­point for six hours, leav­ing the MPs stranded, al­though that re­port is un­con­firmed.

But they ran out of time to meet of­fi­cials from the Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry. They were later due to visit the south­ern Is­raeli town of Sderot, a con­stant tar­get of Pales­tinian rocket at­tacks.

Ms Teather was re­luc­tant to com­ment this week, telling the JC: “Speak to me next week when I’m in the UK.”

Mrs Snel­grove, a mem­ber of Labour Friends of Is­rael, said from her ho­tel in Jerusalem: “It’s too late to talk. It’s nearly mid­night.” She put the phone down.

Wed­nes­day also saw the re­sump­tion of se­vere fight­ing around the Strip. In the morn­ing, three sol­diers of the Gi­vati Brigade — Cor­po­ral Matan Ova­dati, 19, Sergeant David Papian, 21 and Sergeant Men­hash al-Banyat, 20 — were killed when they were am­bushed as they tried to cap­ture two men pre­par­ing a bomb on the border fence.

At least 15 Pales­tini­ans, in­clud­ing two chil­dren, were killed later that day when Is­raeli air­craft fired three mis­siles at a group of armed men.

An­other round in the PR wars was played out this week around for­mer US Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter’s visit to the Mid­dle East and his meet­ings with se­nior Ha­mas lead­ers.

Pres­i­dent Carter spent most of the week in Is­rael, but was snubbed by the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, with Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert and the rest of the cabi­net re­fus­ing to meet him. The only one who did was Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres, who se­ri­ously chas­tised him.

The re­newed vi­o­lence was sparked by a Ha­mas at­tack on the Na­hal Oz fuel de­pot last week, in which Is­raeli civil­ians Oleg Lip­son, 37, and Lev Ch­er­niak, 53, were killed. Is­rael has since been en­gaged in an in­ter­na­tional me­dia of­fen­sive to blame the Ha­mas gov­ern­ment in Gaza and lay the ground­work for a new block­ade of the Gaza Strip.

Fol­low­ing the at­tack, both the EU and Is­rael said they would sus­pend fuel ship­ments to Pales­tini­ans in Gaza. When Is­rael tried a sim­i­lar sanc­tion three months ago, the Pales­tini­ans used it to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect, switch­ing off the elec­tric­ity in Gaza, even be­fore the fuel had run out, and stag­ing pro­ces­sions with chil­dren hold­ing can­dles.

Yar­den Vatikay, head of the newly formed Has­bara (pub­lic re­la­tions) Di­rec­torate, said: “We have learnt the lessons from the ‘can­dles’ fi­asco, and this time we pre­pared in ad­vance a proac­tive me­dia strat­egy to counter the Ha­mas claims, which we be­lieve has been suc­cess­ful.”

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