Wednesday 19 March 2008

I bow in shame over Holocaust, Merkel tells Israel’s parliament

DAILY MAIL, Wednesday 19 March

From Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem

ANGELA Merkel yesterday became the first German Chancellor to address the Israeli parliament, triggering protests from the families of Holocaust victims.
‘I can’t bear the thought of hearing German in the Knesset,’ said Arieh Eldad, a Right-wing MP who was one of a handful who boycotted the session.
‘This is the language my grandparents were murdered in.’
But those who heard Mrs Merkel open and close her speech in Hebrew applauded her.
The German leader said she bowed in shame to Holocaust victims.
‘The Shoah fills us Germans with shame,’ she said, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed. ‘I bow to the victims. I bow to all those who helped the survivors.’
She closed her speech by saying in Hebrew: ‘Congratulations on the State of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Shalom.’
Mrs Merkel, 53, the first German Chancellor to be born after the Second World War, was ending a symbolic three-day visit.
Iran’s nuclear programme was high on the agenda of her discussions with Israeli leaders.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has described Tehran’s nuclear programme as a threat to the existence of the Jewish state.
Iran denies it is seeking atomic arms and says it is pursuing its nuclear programme and uranium enrichment for power generation.
But Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’.
‘The threats the Iranian president is launching against Israel and the Jewish people are without doubt a particular cause for concern,’ Mrs Merkel said in her speech. ‘If Iran gained access to the atomic bomb, this would have devastating consequences. This must be prevented.
‘Germany is setting its sights on a diplomatic solution, together with its partners. The German government will, if Iran does not give in, continue to defend sanctions resolutely.’
In her address, Mrs Merkel, who visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Monday, said every German chancellor felt Germany’s ‘historical responsibility’ for Israel’s security.
‘I am deeply convinced that only if Germany avows itself to its everlasting responsibility for the moral disaster in German history, we can build the future humanely,’ she said, describing IsraeliGerman relations as excellent.
Prime Minister Olmert, who addressed the session, broadcast live on two Israeli television channels and three German networks, called Mrs Merkel a ‘constant friend’ and said Israel’s ‘ties with Germany have transcended grim and dark events’.

Monday 3 March 2008

We won't let up, defiant Israel tells world as 100 die in Gaza

DAILY MAIL : 3 March 2008


Israel defied international condemnation yesterday and threatened to
step up the Gaza offensive that has so far claimed 100 lives.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his cabinet: "Let it be clear that
Israel has no intention to stop the fighting for a single moment."

He spoke as the unrest spread from Gaza to the West Bank and
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas suspended contact with Israel.

Yesterday a 21-month-old girl was among at least ten Palestinians
killed. It followed more than 60 deaths on Saturday, one of the
bloodiest days in Gaza since the 1980s.

Although many of the dead were Hamas fighters, at least three women
and nine children died in Gaza on Saturday.

Israel said it was acting in self-defence to curb daily rocket attacks
from the Gaza Strip.

It threatened to intensify its ground and air campaign, despite a UN
charge it was using excessive force.

Gaza fighting

Referring to the rockets, Mr Olmert warned: "If anyone is under the
illusion that extending their range will cause us to limit our
operations, that's a serious mistake."

However, Palestinian Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the militants, said
an invasion of Gaza would not halt the rockets.

More than 25 were fired at southern Israel yesterday, scoring direct
hits on houses in Ashkelon and the town of Sderot. Nine Israelis were
slightly wounded.

"The tough Israeli attacks will only make the militants stronger and
increase their determination not to stop rocket attacks," Mr Mujahed
said in Gaza City.

Across the border Ashkelon's mayor Roni Mahatzri said he was willing
to sacrifice his residents' sense of security for the short term, but
would not accept the rockets becoming a normal reality.

"This is a state of war, I know no other definition for it," said Roni
Mahatzri, from his makeshift office in an underground bunker.

"We have no intention of allowing this to become part of our daily routine."

The areas used by the militants to fire rockets have seen fierce
battles between Israeli troops backed by tanks and Palestinian gunmen
who have laid ambushes for them. Two Israeli soldiers died in the
fighting on Saturday.

Many of the Palestinian civilian casualties have occurred when Israeli
missiles fired by helicopters, jets and unmanned drones have hit
buildings and homes that the army said were used by militants.

Israeli leaders said they did not want to stage a full-scale invasion
of the Gaza Strip, but defence minister Ehud Barak said a broad ground
operation was "real and tangible". He warned: "We won't shy from it."

Other officials said another option was a major strike on the
leadership of Hamas, which took control of Gaza last summer from the
more moderate Fatah faction.

Violent protests against Israel's action spread to the West Bank and
East Jerusalem. A boy of 13 was shot dead as he tried to cut down a
security fence in Hebron.

Earlier yesterday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon denounced the
Israelis for using excessive force but called the rocket attacks "acts
of terrorism".

The EU and the Pope also called for an end to the fighting.

Though Palestinian president Mr Abbas called off peace talks with
Israel, he stopped short of declaring dead the U.S.-brokered talks
which are opposed by hardliners Hamas.

He later spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and urged
her to put pressure on Israel.

A spokesman for Miss Rice confirmed she would go ahead with a visit
this week when she will meet Mr Abbas and Mr Olmert.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary David Miliband called on both sides to
"step back from the brink".