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IDF Operation Autumn Clouds In Gaza To Continue

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said that Operation Autumn Clouds will continue in northern Gaza “until our goals have been achieved,” namely reducing the number of Qassam rocket attacks from the Beit Hanoun area into Israeli towns. But an Israeli Army Radio broadcast suggested that operations may only last a few more days.

With 48 Palestinians and one IDF soldier killed in the 4-day operation thus far, Olmert said that Israel has no intention of re-occupying the Gaza Strip, “[b]ut we do intend to put a halt to terrorism from Gaza.” Terrorist groups in Gaza have other plans. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees groups on Sunday threatened a renewed wave of suicide bombings in 48 hours if Israel did not withdraw from Gaza. A spokesman for the PRC, also the group that claimed responsibility for the attack that netted the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, said that the IDF operation would jeopardize negotiations for his release. The negotiations for his release have been reportedly ongoing for months to no avail thus far. An Israeli government official dismissed the PRC and PIJ threats, saying “We do not accept ultimatums.”

As the Israeli Prime Minister stood firm regarding the purpose of the operations, Israel fielded criticism from around the world once more. Turkey called for a halt to the Israeli operation, which it said do not serve anything but damage basis of peace and deepen problems of the Palestinian people.” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan also called for an Israeli withdrawal because operations in populated areas inevitably result in civilian casualties “including women and at least one Palestinian child.” At least two of the women killed were acting as human shields when they were shot.

Pope Benedict condemned the violence on both sides and expressed “closeness to the civilian populations who are suffering the consequences of acts of violence.” The Arab Parliament in Damascus, Syria, called an emergency meeting Monday in order to condemn Israel as a group. The European Union released a statement that it ‘deplores’ the civilian losses in Gaza and added, “The right of all states to defend themselves does not justify disproportionate use of violence or actions which are contrary to international humanitarian law.”

Meanwhile, Hamas has said that a unity Hamas-Fatah government is now possible, with Hamas reserving the right to choose the Prime Minister post. While the new government would not include any recognition of Israel’s right to exist on the part of Hamas, the group’s Ahmed Yousef said that Hamas has “gotten hints from the U.S. and Europeans that the creation of this (new government) will at least result in lifting the embargo.”

But regardless of the round international condemnation or potential new Palestinian unity government, larger troubles loom for Israel. As Hizballah continues to retake and rebuild its positions and arms in southern Lebanon and the Hamas weapons buildup and tunnel system development continues in southern Gaza, Syria has now begun talking about armed resistance against Israel in the Golan Heights.