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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Excerpts: Saudi Abdullah and PA Abbas hold talks. Jordans Syrian refugees. Rockets from Gaza November 13, 2012

Excerpts: Saudi Abdullah and PA Abbas hold talks. Jordan's Syrian refugees.
Rockets from Gaza November 13, 2012

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 13 Nov.’12:”(Saudi) King holds talks with
Palestinian President”
SUBJECT: Saudi King Abdullah and PA President Abbas hold talks’

FULL TEXT:King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, holds talks with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Riyadh, Monday. The two leaders
discussed the Palestinian issue and the obstacles facing the peace process
in the region in addition to the latest situation in the occupied
Palestinian territories. — SPA

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 13 Nov.’12:Registered Syrian refugees in Jordan
reach 100,000”
SUBJECT: Jordan’s Syrian refugees
QUOTE:”A total of 100,000 Syrians out of around 230,000 refugees in Jordan
are now registered with the UN Refugee Agency”

FULL TEXT:AMMAN — A total of 100,000 Syrians out of around 230,000 refugees
in Jordan are now registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Anmar
Hmoud, government spokesperson for Syrian refugee affairs, said Monday[12
Nov.].

The government seeks to encourage Syrian refugees to register with the
agency in order to enable their children to enrol in schools and to provide
them with the needed healthcare and food to ease the burden on the Kingdom,
Hmoud added.

He urged donor countries to assist the Kingdom to reduce the negative impact
of the rising number of Syrian refugees on Jordanian municipalities and
cities, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Over 408,000 Syrians have now been registered as refugees in countries
neighbouring Syria, according to the UNHCR, Agence France-Presse reported.

Hmoud noted that Saudi Arabia has donated 2,500 trailers to replace tents in
the Zaatari Refugee Camp, indicating that the first batch will arrive on
Thursday[13 Nov.], Petra reported.

A total of 183 Syrians entered the Kingdom on Sunday[11 Nov.], he added

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 13 Nov.’12:”Israel’s next waar may be with Gaza,but
not with Syria”,Reuters
SUBJECT: Rockets from Gaza
QUOTE:” If a rocket should,say, hit a school and kill children Israel’s
reaction would be ferocious”

FULL TEXT:OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — If Israel goes to war with any of its
neighbours before this year ends it will be with Gaza not Syria, despite
appearances.

The Israeli army fired into Syria on Monday for the second day in a row,
after a Syrian mortar round from fighting across the disengagement line hit
the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Sunday’s Israeli missile was a warning shot. Monday’s tank fire scored a
direct hit, the army said. There was no immediate word on any casualties.
But it was the “message” Israel had warned would come.

“There were five incidents of supposed errant fire from small arms or
mortars,” Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told army radio on
Monday[12 Nov.] before the second incident.

“We sent verbal messages. This didn’t help. So yesterday, for the first
time, we sent a physical message,” he added. “If the message was understood,
good. If the message was not understood, we will need to send other messages
of the kind.”

Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad have been fighting
his army for months in towns inside and adjacent to the area of separation
between Israel and Syria, along the disengagement line drawn at the end of
their 1973 war.

Technically they are still at war, but it is a cold war.

For almost 40 years the Golan has been one of Israel’s quietest fronts, and
despite the close-up view of the Syrian civil war they now have from windy
Golan outposts, Israeli generals are not expecting things to heat up in the
north.

“In my estimation, there is almost no doubt that he as no interest in
opening a front,” Yaalon said of the beleaguered President Assad. “All he
needs now would be for us to hit him.”

But down south, real war clouds are gathering over the Gaza Strip, the
blockaded coastal enclave from where Islamist Palestinian fighters are
firing rockets at Israel, and in return are being picked off by Israeli air
force strikes.

“In the past month, over 20 terrorists and some civilians have been killed
in the Gaza Strip and dozens have been wounded,” Israeli Defence Minister
Ehud Barak said on Sunday. “The shooting has not stopped even today, even at
this hour.”

No referee

Unlike the Golan, where 1,000 United Nations peacekeepers patrol the
farmland and hills separating Syrian and Israeli army positions, Gaza has no
referee to keep the peace. It is fenced off, but the Israel army patrols
both sides of the fence.

In December of 2008, repeated rocket fire that was spreading fear and misery
among communities in southern Israel triggered an Israeli onslaught.
Operation Cast Lead began with a week of bombing and shelling, followed up
by a ground offensive.

Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, the majority civilians, and 13 Israelis
lost their lives. Israel was strongly condemned by critics who called it a
disproportionate use of force.

But after a years-long spell of relative calm, the low-level conflict with
Gaza has intensified this year, with waves of retaliatory violence flaring
ever more frequently.

The last burst was just two weeks ago. Ominously, the Islamist Hamas
movement, which rules the enclave and dominates smaller militant groups, has
stopped trying to keep the peace and reverted to firing its own rockets
along with Islamic Jihad and others.

Barak says the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will respond.

“Under my instruction the IDF... is exploring the possibilities of
increasing the reponse to Hamas and the other terror groups and we will hit
the terror groups at an ever-growing pace,” he said on Sunday[11 Nov.].

“If we are forced to go back into Gaza in order to hit Hamas and restore
calm, we will not hesitate to do so.”

Helped by Iran and the flourishing contraband trade through tunnels from
Egypt, Gaza militias have smuggled in better weapons since the war of
2008-09, including longer-range Grad rockets and anti-tank missiles, one of
which they fired last week at an IDF patrol vehicle.

But Gaza’s estimated 35,000 Palestinian fighters are still no match for
Israel’s F-16 fighter-bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, Merkava tanks and
other modern weapons systems in the hands of a conscript force of 175,000,
with 450,000 in reserve.

Yet this massive deterrent is not working.

Yaalon says there is no “bang and we’re done” solution to a Gaza enclave
ruled by a group which refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist and
demonstrates its commitment to “resistance” by fighting, even if it courts a
hammer blow.

But in the past, the minister said, “targeted killings of Hamas leadership
brought months of quiet”. Quoting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he
said: “We will need to toughen our response until Hamas will say ‘enough’
and end the fire.”

On Monday[12 Nov.], with stormy weather perhaps helping to keep a lid on
further clashes, an official in Gaza said Egypt was once again stepping into
the breach to mediate a ceasefire.

“Nothing has yet been formalised. Israel and Hamas maintain their usual
position: calm for calm and escalation for escalation,” he said. “Egypt is
trying to get Islamic Jihad and others to stop rockets in return for Israel
stopping strikes.”

Hamas has been emboldened by the Arab Spring, which toppled the
Western-backed Hosni Mubarak and placed Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood
of President Mohamed Morsi. He has kept his distance from Israel, though he
has not endorsed Hamas attacks.

“War against Gaza is no longer a picnic,” Youssef Rizqa, an adviser to Hamas
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, wrote in Felesteen newspaper of the region’s
new diplomatic environment.

“The Gaza question has become confusing for leaders of the occupation state.
There is no real answer to the Gaza question.”

Morsi was now Gaza’s “safety net”, he wrote, quoting the Egyptian president’s
recent pledge that “we will not allow a new war on Gaza and Palestinian
blood is our blood”.

There might be more Israeli assassination attempts on Hamas leaders, he
said, but another all-out invasion was unlikely.

If that is the Hamas calculation, it is a risky gamble.

On Sunday[11 Nov.], a Jewish family had a narrow escape when a rocket from
Gaza hit their house, and a motorist was hurt when another nearly blew his
car off the road. If a rocket should, say, hit a school and kill children,
Israel’s reaction would be ferocious.

The same sort of tripwire is strung along the Golan Heights, where another
Syrian mortar round hit the Israeli side of the disengagement line on
Monday. It exploded harmlessly.

Had it inflicted casualties, Israel would have fired back in earnest. But
there would be no invasion of Syria on the agenda

==========
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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