1. report: Israeli troops training for new Gaza war
Israeli occupation forces completed a large-scale military drill in the Negev, the country’s Channel 10 news reported, preparing troops for a military offensive against the Gaza Strip. The report, aired Tuesday evening, speculated that the training could even be seen as preparation for a re-occupation of the area….According to Channel 10, training saw occupation soldiers educated in the use of a new digital device on Merkava Tanks, the largest of the armored vehicles, which allows soldiers in the units to track troops on the ground in densely-populated areas. It is intended to prevent “friendly fire” incidents.
2. Israel closes Gaza crossing after Palestinian mortar fire
GAZA, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) — Israel shut down a main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip on Thursday in response to Palestinian mortars at Israeli army posts near Gaza commercial crossings. Ten mortars landed near Kerem Shalom crossing, a major passageway used by Israel to deliver humanitarian aid and fuel to the besieged territory [what aid??? - ed.], and a military site near the closed Kissufim crossing in southeast Gaza, said Palestinian security sources. No injuries or damage were reported in the mortar attacks. Following the incident, Radio Israel said that Kerem Shalom crossing was sealed off. …Also on Thursday, Israeli planes dropped flyers in northern Gaza Strip, warning residents to stay away from an electric fence between the Hamas-controlled coastal Strip and Israel. The leaflets, printed with telephone numbers and emails, urged people to inform the army of any activities of the Palestinian militants in the border area.
3. Israel blames Lebanon for Israel’s failure to withdraw from Ghajar
Israel is not withdrawing from the northern part of Ghajar because of Lebanon’s “adamant refusal” to reach an understanding with Israel over security arrangements in the Lebanese part of the village, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday. “The Lebanese government, apparently under pressure from Hizbullah, is not willing to provide any kind of commitments” that would allow a UNIFIL plan on Ghajar to be put into practice, The Post said. Beirut “fears” that the plan’s adoption would be seen as giving Israel legitimacy, according to the newspaper. “The talks, therefore, are solely between Israel and UNIFIL, with Lebanon unwilling to participate even indirectly,” the Israeli daily said. “The negotiations with UNIFIL are over what security arrangements and commitments UNIFIL - not the Lebanese - will provide.”
Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal and his team are scheduled to hold a second round of talks with UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano and his staff Thursday. The first round of talks on the Ghajar issue was held in early December.The Israeli government has reportedly approved a plan to turn over control of the northern half of the village to UNIFIL. Under the plan no physical barrier would be built between the northern and southern parts of Ghajar, but rather UNIFIL would patrol both the northern half and the perimeter. Graziano is to be replaced by Spanish Maj.-Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas on January 28. The Post said Israeli officials denied that Graziano’s departure was a deadline for “closing” the Ghajar deal, saying the Jewish state would continue talking to UNIFIL about the issue until it gets a commitment. According to Haaretz daily, Gal is also expected to congratulate Graziano on finding explosives near the Lebanese town of Khiam on December 26.
4. Lebanese man killed in Ukraine
The body of a 47-year-old Lebanese, who was killed in Ukraine, arrived in Beirut overnight as his family urged Beirut authorities to ask officials in Kiev to follow up the investigation into the murder of Mounir Abdo Mansour. The National News Agency quoted Mansour’s family members as saying Thursday that they are planning to visit the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut to urge judicial authorities in Kiev to probe the man’s murder.
The family told NNA it was not the first time that a Lebanese was attacked in the Ukrainian capital. It said authorities there have also previously tampered with evidence at crime scenes to cover up the “heinous crimes” rather than bringing perpetrators to justice. “Lebanese youth are killed without restraint from anyone,” Mansour’s sister, Rima, told NNA. “Involved officials should interfere to follow up the issue.”
5. Syrian parliament speaker: expansion of relations between Muslim states foils plots
In a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here in Tehran on Thursday morning, al-Abrash said, “Tehran-Damascus strategic relations is effective in the region.” He also called for using all opportunities of the two neighbors to mature bilateral ties, the Iranian students news agency reported. Ahmadinejad on his part called for strengthening relations between the two sides and said, “The resistance of nations including Iran and Syria has caused a deadlock in policies of Arrogant System in economic, political and military sections.” He also turned to presence of bulling powers’ forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen and said, “The enemies’ plots will harm themselves.”