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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09TELAVIV121 2009-01-15 17:06:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

GAZA HUMANITARIAN UPDATE, JANUARY 15, 1700 HRS

Tags:   EAID PTER EFIN PREL MOPS PHUM PINS KWBG IS 
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0051
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 7981
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PTER EFIN PREL MOPS PHUM PINS KWBG IS
SUBJECT: GAZA HUMANITARIAN UPDATE, JANUARY 15, 1700 HRS

REF: TEL AVIV 0115



1. (SBU) The Joint Coordination Room (JCR) convened a 9:30
meeting to introduce the newly appointed Minister for
Humanitarian Affairs, Yitzhak Herzog, to the diplomatic and
international organizations communities in order to
demonstrate the GOI's priority on maintaining humanitarian
aid for Gazan civilians through the creation of a
cabinet-level policy coordination position. As the Minister
listened to the international community's concerns, including
overnight shelling near an ICRC residence in Gaza and IDF
soldiers surrounding two UNRWA hospitals and preventing entry
and egress, the situation suddenly took a turn for the worse
(reftel). In real time, participants learned that two
hospitals, Al-Qods and Tal al-Hawa, had been hit during
nearby close-quarters firefights between IDF and Hamas
militants. Moments later, the UNRWA compound in Gaza had
been hit and was burning, and flames threatened to ignite the
center's fuel storage tanks.



2. (SBU) As of 1600 hours, a fire at Al-Qods Hospital
resulting from the morning's incident had been extinguished
and some 500 patients were being moved to other hospitals;
several UNRWA workers near the al-Qods hospital had also been
injured. Local and ICRC fire crews, escorted by the IDF,
reached the UNRWA compound headquarters, and had brought this
blaze under control, but apparently too late. While the IDF
managed to move UN fuel trucks so that they did not catch
fire, the UNRWA warehouse and many tons of foods and
medicines were destroyed by the fire.



3. (SBU) PM Olmert apologized to UNSYG Ban Ki-Moon, in Israel
today, for today's shelling of the UNRWA compound, but
appeared to justify the action by claiming that "Hamas
attacked FROM WITHIN the UNRWA building during our
humanitarian pause." (Comment: Since UNRWA and other UN
officials reported the compound being hit by Israeli shells
and the flammable phosophorus debris -- likely to have come
from IDF smoke rounds -- well BEFORE the 1100 humanitarian
pause, as confirmed also by constant USG contact with UNRWA
personnel in the compound, Olmert,s statement appears
patently inaccurate.) Ban Ki-Moon also met with MinDef
Barak, who said that Hamas is using UN installations for
cover and using civilians as human shields. But Ban Ki-Moon,
in his press conference with FM Livni, reported that Barak
had apologized for this "grave mistake" and "assured the
UNSYG that extra attention would be paid to the UN facilities
and that this should not be repeated." (Note: Embassy also
lobbied IDF contacts along these lines. END NOTE). ICRC
President Kellenberger met with FM Livni and MinDef Barak in
Jerusalem today. Livni asked Kellenberger to request access
to captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit to assess his condition.



4. (SBU) Repairs and refueling of the Bayt Lahiya sewage
lagoon and pumping plant were completed by the Gazan
operator, CMWU. Two Palestinian repair teams, escorted by
the ICRC, are working daily to restore power lines at Shifa
hospital and have restored 74% of the pre-incursion
generation capacity.



5. (SBU) 71 truckloads of humanitarian supplies (34 food, 5
medical supplies) transited through Kerem Shalom today.
Karni was expected to handle 60 truckloads of grain and
animal feed, but nothing passed through due to fighting in
Gaza City. UNRWA did not run any trucks today. Nahal Oz was
open, but fuel could not be transferred because the tanks on
the Gazan side were still full. Erez was open or
humanitarian cases, but none came to the crossing. At Kerem
Shalom, the addition of a fourth lane and a second fuel line
should be completed by Sunday. These improvements will
double fuel handling capacity and increase throughput to up
to 150 trucks per day. JCR chief Spiegel told EconCouns that
the GOI had also agreed with the Egyptians to allow convoys
of Egyptian supply trucks from Nitzana through Kerem Shalom.



6. (SBU) Kerem Shalom should be open tomorrow. Erez should
be open for coordinated movement of international community
staff and for humanitarian cases. The JCR would like Karni
and Nahal Oz to open, but the final decision rests with the
Southern Command.



7. (SBU) Following on today's pilot four-hour humanitarian
pause, tomorrow's and Saturday's pauses will also last four
hours, at which point a decision will be taken as to whether
to extend four-hour pauses. Today's four-hour pause was
totally ineffective within Gaza City. Thousands of Gaza City
civilians tried to flee, but but had nowhere to go.



8. (SBU) There was a small, noisy but peaceful demonstration

TEL AVIV 00000121 002 OF 002


in front of Embassy Tel Aviv (20-30 young Israelis)
supporting ongoing IDF operations and demanding the return of
Gilad Shalit.



9. (SBU) Rockets from Gaza continued to hit Israel today. 17
rockets from Gaza hit Israel before the pause; another ten
hit during the humanitarian pause. A rocket that hit a car
in Be'ersheva injured six; two, a woman and a child, were
injured seriously.



10. (U) Israeli media, citing Palestinian sources, announced
that an IAF strike on Gaza City killed two of Hamas' most
senior officials: Interior Minister Said Siam and security
apparatus head Salah Abu Shreh. Six other Hamas operatives
were reportedly killed in the same strike.




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