1. QUARTET TO P.A.: KEEP HAMAS OUT OF GOVERNMENT… The Quartet [U.S., U.N., E.U., Russia] has told the Palestinian Authority to keep Hamas and other groups dedicated to violence out of the new cabinet following January’s legislative election. In a written statement, the supporters of the Road Map peace plan said the cabinet “should include no member who has not committed to the principles of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism.” Israel has said it will not conduct negotiations with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. The Quartet statement also called on the P.A. to “take immediate steps to ensure law and order, prevent terrorist attacks and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.”
2. ISRAEL INSTITUTES ‘NO-GO’ ZONE IN NORTHERN GAZA STRIP… Heavy self-propelled artillery pieces are in place along the northern border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, prepared to enforce Israel’s self-imposed ‘no-go’ zone. It’s the latest attempt to silence the daily barrages of Qassam rockets fired into Israel from Gaza. While the Israelis admit they have no plans to assign enforcement to ground troops, constant air patrols will complement the ground artillery in forcing Palestinians out of the zone. Initiation of the zone began at six o’clock local time on Wednesday evening, according to leaflets dropped earlier in the day by the Israeli air force. The flyers warned that anyone that ventures inside the area “is placing his or her life in immediate danger.” The area declared to be the no-go zone comprised three Israeli communities before the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last fall. Several explosions that were heard inside Gaza shortly after 6 p.m. were said to be Israeli shelling to drive home the point that the ‘no-go’ zone is open for business.
3. LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER CONDEMNS SHELLING ACROSS ISRAELI BORDER… In a rare statement of its kind, Lebanon’s prime minister has condemned Tuesday’s shelling of Israel from Lebanese territory. In a statement carried by the Lebanese news agency, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that, “These acts — the firing of rockets and the Israeli raids and air violations — are eventually aimed at undermining stability in Lebanon and distracting attention from efforts to continue internal dialogue on major issues.” Siniora instructed Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry to inform the United Nations that his nation intends to find those responsible for Tuesday’s shelling and prevent a recurrence of such attacks.
4. ISRAELI MILITARY INDUSTRIES CREATES QASSAM-PROOF ROOF… While Israel’s politicians were planning to leave the Gaza Strip, thereby moving the front closer to population centers, Israel’s military industries were looking for practical answers to the heightened security concerns. One result is a new roofing material said to be impervious to Palestinian Qassam rockets. The homemade missiles don’t rank very high on the list of lethal weapons, but are, nevertheless, a considerable nuisance – and a potentially lethal one. A Qassam rocket causes damage by its weight as it descends on its target rather than through an explosive payload. The new roofing material developed by Israel Military Industries was described by Globes financial newspaper as “a unique composite of materials for an inexpensive but effective application for all types of roofs in an especially short time, and attractive architectural lines.”