1. ISRAEL STEPS UP ACTION IN KHAN YOUNIS, THREE DEAD BUT SHELLING CONTINUES… The Israeli military is continuing its seemingly vain efforts to stem the flow of mortars and missiles aimed at its communities in the Gaza Strip. In the early hours of Thursday morning, three Palestinians were killed when an Israeli missile was fired into Khan Younis, which has become the focal point of efforts to end the mortar and missile launches. As has been the pattern, the Israeli effort was closely followed by a Palestinian response. This time it was the firing of a mortar at an Israeli community in the Gush Katif bloc. A 20-year-old woman was lightly injured. Israeli troops, supported by tanks, encountered armed resistance when they rolled into Khan Younis shortly after midnight, searching for Palestinians responsible for launching Qassams and mortars. It was the third such raid in a week.
2. ‘ABBAS CONTINUES TO CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISRAELI RED-LINES… The campaign of Mahmoud ‘Abbas, the odds-on favorite to win the January 9 Palestinian presidential election, continues to pick up steam while his opponents are finding it more difficult to maneuver. Of three other candidates, Mu’stafa Barghouthi was detained by Israeli police for two hours on Monday because of a problem with his permit that allowed him to be in Jerusalem; and according to Palestinian sources, Hussein Barakeh and ‘Abd Al-Karim Shbeir have yet to receive permission despite Israeli pledges to ensure the free movement of candidates. On the stump, ‘Abbas continues to pound away at issues that Israel views as red-lines: including demands for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the release of all Palestinian prisoners, and the tearing down of the security barrier Israel built to keep suicide bombers away from its population centers. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has officially endorsed Mu’stafa Barghouthi.
3. SHARON TAKES SECURITY FENCE DEEPER INTO POST-1967 LAND TO ENCOMPASS MORE JEWISH COMMUNITIES… Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled his revisions for the route of Israel’s controversial security barrier. In spite of intense international pressure to adhere strictly to pre-1967 borders, the new routing will cut deeply into post-1967 areas to include the Gush Etzion area comprising 10 Israeli communities and a population of about 50,000. Sharon will reportedly bring the changes to his cabinet for approval only after the January 9 Palestinian presidential election. Confrontation with Palestinian leadership over the revised map is considered inevitable, given the size of the incursion into post-1967 land and the fact that the plan will leave four villages, 18,000 Palestinians and a considerable amount of Palestinian land near Bethlehem on the Israeli side of the barrier. This, despite what the Israelis believe is a concession by coming closer to the “Green Line” (1967 demarcation line) than originally planned in the south Hebron Hills area.
4. SAUDI TERROR WAVE CONTINUES; POLICE KILL SEVEN AFTER TWO RIYADH CAR BOMB ATTACKS… Saudi Arabian Police killed seven people they say were responsible for setting off two car bombs in the capital city of Riyadh on Wednesday night. One person died in the first explosion, set off near the interior ministry, and four were injured in the second, detonated during an attempt to ram the vehicle into a special forces center. Each car bomb was part of an attempt to drive an explosives-laden vehicle into a government building. After the attacks, Saudi police raided a house in Riyadh, killing all seven suspects. The double bombing is the latest in an 18-month old spate of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. An audio tape that surfaced two weeks ago with a voice purported to be that of Al-Qa’ida leader Osama Bin Laden urged an uprising against Saudi leaders.