Below is the latest news from BICOM with thanks.

A three-month-old baby girl was injured by shrapnel when a Grad rocket hit her house in the town of Gedera, only 30 km from Tel Aviv.

Four Israel Defence Forces soldiers were killed in two separate incidents when errant IDF tank shells hit areas in which they were operating.

Israeli leaders met with EU representatives as diplomatic efforts to reach a viable ceasefire continue.

Key statements: Responses to Gaza events

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the conditions of the ceasefire in Gaza (6/1): “We are tired of gestures. We honoured the ceasefire despite being fired at on a daily basis. Now is the time for action. We are ready for a ceasefire only in exchange for actions, not empty words.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the conditions of the ceasefire in Gaza (5/1): “We will not be able to come to a compromise when Hamas is able to fire in another month or two on the Israeli population. Before the ceasefire, Hamas had rockets that could reach as far as 20 kilometres. After the ceasefire, the range of their rockets grew to 40 kilometres, threatening the lives of a million Israelis. We cannot reach a compromise that would enable Hamas to fire at yet more cities and towns in Israel.”

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the ceasefire with Hamas (5/1): “We all share the same understanding of what Hamas means. Israel is part of the international community, and all of us need to understand that the clear demand coming from the international community is to stop terror and violence… This is a fight against terrorism, and it is not going to be settled in an agreement with terror.”

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on EU stance regarding Gaza truce (5/1): “The European Union’s view is that a ceasefire should be established as soon as possible. Of course, the rocket attacks on Israel have to stop first, but we have to work for a ceasefire as soon as possible. Maybe we have a slightly different view of things, which we discussed during our lunch.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres on EU diplomatic initiatives (6/1): “Europe needs to open its eyes with respect to the fighting in Gaza. None of the European countries would tolerate rocket fire on their citizens, and they must understand that Hamas is a terror organization of the worst order that uses its population of women and children as human shields.”

Situation on the ground

Over 40 Qassam and Grad rockets were fired Monday from Gaza at southern Israel striking Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, Kiryat Malakhi (near Ofakim), Netivot and Be’er Sheva. A number of people in Sderot were treated for shock. In Ashdod a rocket nearly destroyed a kindergarten, which was empty at the time.

The infantry forces advanced yesterday into areas known to be Hamas strongholds. The Israel Air Force continued to target tunnels on the border at Rafah, to prevent their renewed use by Hamas as supply tunnels along the Philadelphi Route.

A three-month-old baby girl was injured by shrapnel when a Grad rocket fired from north Gaza exploded in the city of Gedera, only 30 km from Tel Aviv, on Tuesday.

Four Israel Defence Forces soldiers were killed in two separate incidents on Monday night while battling Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, taking the army’s death toll to five in the ground operation launched Saturday against Hamas. All four apparently died when errant IDF tank shells hit areas in which they were operating.

According to Palestinian sources, over 550 Palestinians have been killed and approximately 2,500 injured since Operation Cast Lead began. According to Israeli sources, 88% of the casualties are combatants, while UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes suggested that the figure stands on about 75%. Civilian casualties are the result of Hamas’s intentional use of densely populated areas for its operations and the use of houses and public buildings, like mosques, schools and hospitals, for weapons’ storage and bases of operation.

In diplomatic developments:

European foreign ministers, headed by Karel Schwarzenberg of the Czech Republic, came to Jerusalem after visiting Cairo, and briefed Livni on their meeting with Mubarak. Inter alia, they reportedly told her that Mubarak had said Hamas “must not be allowed to emerge from the fighting with the upper hand.”

The UN Security Council is set to meet today to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip, and France is currently residing as its president. Israel does not believe the UNSC holds the key to advancing a viable solution to Hamas’s ongoing threat to Israel.

According to initial reports, an Egyptian ceasefire proposal requires Israel to end its military operation and withdraw from Gaza, while Hamas would have to end rocket fire into Israel The border crossings into Gaza would reopen, but PA officials would be stationed at the Rafah crossing with Egypt. In addition, Egypt is demanding that Hamas resume reconciliation talks with Fatah.

The Egyptian ceasefire proposal does not allow Hamas to present any significant achievements at the end of the fighting. Egypt wants Hamas to stop fighting with no preconditions for an unlimited period, and to enter negotiations with no timetable. Egypt also apparently intends to act more seriously to stop the smuggling into Gaza from its territory. Cairo sees the Israeli operation as the chance to settle accounts with Hamas for not renewing the dialogue with Fatah.

Tally of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza

Since 4 November: 750 rockets and mortar shells
Since 19 December: 685 rockets and mortar shells
Since Israel began Operation Cast Lead on 27 December: 530 rockets and mortar shells
For a daily tally of rockets and mortars fired into Israel, see: BICOM Statistics: Total number of identified rocket and mortar shell hits since 2001 and daily tally for 2008.

Humanitarian aid to Gaza

Israel is conducting the latest operation while making sure that food, basic supplies and medical needs are constantly transferred into the Gaza Strip. Israel maintains ongoing contact with humanitarian agencies and enables the constant flow of goods and supplies into the strip.

Since the beginning of operation in Gaza, 401 truckloads of humanitarian aid (8,919 tons) have been transferred at the request of international organisations, the Palestinian Authority and various governments. Israel does not wish to see the humanitarian situation in the strip deteriorate. Preparations are underway to facilitate further shipments expected to arrive in the coming days.

5 January 2009

49 trucks carrying 1,119 tons of food and medicines were transfered to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing, including four with medical equipment and medicines. The aid was donated by international organisations – UNRWA, WFP and the ICRC – and by several countries, including Egypt and Jordan. In addition, 215,000 litres of diesel fuel for the power plant, 93,000 litres of diesel for the use of various UN organisations and 50 tons of cooking gas for domestic uses were transferred via the Nahal Oz terminal.

The evacuation of dual nationals is continuing.

2 January 2009
Israel transferred 64 trucks carrying 1,530 tons of humanitarian aid (including basic foodstuffs, medicines and medical supplies, tents and generators) via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

1 January 2009
60 trucks, with approximately 1,360 tons of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and medication were conveyed through Kerem Shalom cargo terminal.

31 December 2008
93 truckloads carrying some 2,500 tons of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and medications were transferred through the Kerem Shalom crossing. The World Food Programme notified the Israeli authorities that their food warehouses in the Gaza Strip are full, with a two-week supply, and they do not require further shipments.

The Nahal Oz fuel crossing remained closed due to continuing fire in the area.

Twelve Palestinians, including two children, were transferred to Israeli hospitals.

30 December 2008
93 truckloads carrying 2,366 tons of humanitarian supplies as well as five ambulances donated by Turkey were transferred to the Gaza Strip. A Red Cross plane arrived with medical supplies for the hospital operating room. The aid included food and medicine provided by the World Food Programme, UNRWA, UNICEF, the ICRC, the World Health Organisation, Doctors without Borders, and Care International, as well as donations from Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Turkey.

29 December 2008
63 trucks with 1,545 tons of humanitarian goods (food, medicines and medical supplies) were delivered via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Most of the aid was provided by the International Red Cross, UNRWA, Doctors without Borders, and Care International. Five ambulances from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in Ramallah passed through, at the request of the International Red Cross (ICRC). 1,000 units of blood donated by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan were also delivered.

Erez crossing: Four people (patients and their escorts), and ten international staff, including a pregnant employee of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and her Palestinian husband, left the Gaza Strip and crossed into Israel.

28 December 2008
At the request of international organisations (the International Red Cross, UNRWA, WFP) and of the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah, 23 truckloads of humanitarian goods such as flour, medicines and medical supplies were transferred via Kerem Shalom crossing.

However, the transfer of additional aid through the crossings is being delayed by the high risk of terrorist attacks on the crossings themselves. There is a long history of such attacks, including:

22 May 2008: a Palestinian bomber blew up an explosives-laden truck on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing, causing substantial damage.
20 April 2008: Hamas gunmen wounded 13 Israeli soldiers in an assault with mortar shells, explosives-laden vehicles and gunfire against the Kerem Shalom crossing.
9 April 2008: Two Israeli civilian fuel truck drivers working at the Nahal Oz fuel depot – which supplies fuel to Gaza – were killed in an attack by Gaza militants.

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