Sderot under fire: 3 hurt in rocket strike
Further escalation in south: At least five Qassam rockets fired at southern Israeli communities Wednesday afternoon. Rocket explodes in Sderot parking lot, three people sustain light wounds; eyewitness: Children were crying
|Three people were wounded after at least seven Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel Wednesday afternoon and evening. One rocket exploded in the parking lot of a large commercial center in the southern town of Sderot. Two people sustained light wounds in the attack after being hit by shrapnel, while another man suffered damage to his ears. Magen David Adom ambulance service teams treated the wounded, who were later taken to hospital in Ashkelon. Medical teams also treated numerous anxiety victims at the scene.
Aftermath of attack: Nearby supermarket (Photo: Ze'ev Trachtman)
The rocket landed in the area while hundreds of shoppers were at the site. Vehicles and a nearby store sustained extensive damage in the strike.
Sderot resident Yair Madmon told Ynet: "I arrived at the supermarket…when I stood by the entrance, I heard the loud whistle, and then the explosion, which happened right before my eyes. The rocket landed close to me…it was scary."
"Qassams landed in my backyard twice in the past, yet this time it was much scarier," he said. "There was chaos at the site. Products flew off the shelves, people started screaming and running away, and many children were crying. It was simply scary to see it; I'm still frightened by what had happened."
A short while after the attack, the Air Force fired at a rocket launcher in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF said the launcher was ready for use.
Earlier Wednesday, the Palestinians fired 10 Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.Seven rockets landed within the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage in the earlier strikes. Shortly afterwards, a mortar shell landed within the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, without causing injuries or damage. Another rocket landed in the same area later in the day.
"We woke up to the sounds of the Color Red alert system and explosions," Ella Fox, a community manager in one of the council's kibbutzim, told Ynet. "We are strong, but this situation is unbearable. Instead of starting our day like any other citizen in the State of Israel, we're forced to start it like this."
Minister Yishai demands Gaza action
Shas chair urges cabinet to make operational decisions in light of ongoing Qassam fire on south
|As the rocket fire on the western Negev increases and as the election campaign accelerates ahead of February 10, the government's policy of restraint is taking center stage.
"Blood and pain have stained this ceasefire. I urged the cabinet to make operational decisions. Stop selling a virtual calm," said Shas Chairman and Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai.
Wednesday saw at least 17 Qassam rockets fired from northern Gaza at the western Negev. One of the rockets hit a busy shopping center in Sderot, causing three people light injuries and several others to suffer shock. Other rockets landed in open areas, causing no harm.
The IAF struck a rocket launcher in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun Wednesday evening, in response to the fire.
"The terrorists are targeting Sderot and the Gaza vicinity communities like they were on a dart board, as our leaders seen to have turned into pillars of salt when it comes to making decisions, and pillars of ice when it comes to feelings," Yishai said. "Those trying to butcher us should know that we have targets of our own. No one is immune."
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu added that the government's current policy proves conducive to the escalating rocket fire, saying that the situation will change "only when we go from being passive to taking actions that restore Israel's deterrence, which has been eroded to the point of nonexistence."
"The current policy does not contribute to peace, just to terror," he said, pledging that a Likud-led government will not agree to divide Jerusalem or to release any more Palestinian prisoners.
Amnon Meranda, Shmulik Hadad and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report
Netanyahu off to Paris to meet Sarkozy
Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who told EU ambassadors last week he would continue with the Annapolis process - albeit with some red lines - were he to become prime minister, is taking that message on the road, going to France Wednesday for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
Netanyahu is scheduled to leave Wednesday evening for a brief visit to Paris where, in addition to Sarkozy, he is also expected to meet Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and some Jewish leaders.
Netanyahu spokesman Ron Dermer said Netanyahu wanted to let Sarkozy know what his policies were and what he intended to do in the future.
Dermer said Netanyahu was going to speak to Sarkozy about how he would conduct negotiations, his ideas for "economic peace," and how the situation could be changed on the ground.
"France is a very important, leading European country, and he wants to make his policies clear," Dermer said.
Netanyahu's office disputed charges by Foreign Ministry officials that the embassy in Paris was not informed in advance of the visit, and said that Israel's ambassador to France would take part in the meetings with Kouchner and Lagarde.
In Netanyahu's meeting with the EU ambassadors on Friday, he assured them that he would continue with the Annapolis process, but with a number of "red lines."
Among them were that Israel must control the air space and electromagnetic spectrum of a future Palestinian state, and that entity would have to be de-militarized. In addition he said that a unified Jerusalem would have to remain under Israeli control, and there would have to be an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Netanyahu and Sarkozy have known each other for some seven years, and are considered to have a close relationship.
Following Sarkozy's election in 2007, Netanyahu wrote an article in Yediot Aharonot praising Sarkozy and saying he and the French president "see many things eye-to-eye, first and foremost in terms of some of the international perceptions, the social perceptions and the economic perceptions."
A little boy named Adolf Hitler
The father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell, denied a birthday cake with the child's full name on it by one New Jersey supermarket, is asking for a little tolerance.
Heath Campbell and his wife, Deborah, are upset not only with the decision made by the nearby ShopRite, but also with an outpouring of angry Internet postings in response to a local newspaper article about the cake.
Heath Campbell, who is 35, said in an interview Tuesday that people should look forward, not back, and accept change.
Heath Campbell, left, with his wife Deborah and son Adolph Hitler, 3, pose in Easton, Pa., Tuesday.
"They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what (Hitler) did," he said.
Deborah Campbell, 25, said she phoned in her order last week to the ShopRite. When she told the bakery department she wanted her son's name spelled out, she was told to talk to a supervisor, who denied the request.
Karen Meleta, a spokeswoman for ShopRite, said the Campbells had similar requests denied at the same store the last two years and said Heath Campbell previously had asked for a swastika to be included in the decoration.
"We reserve the right not to print anything on the cake that we deem to be inappropriate," Meleta said. "We considered this inappropriate."
The Campbells ultimately got their cake decorated at a Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania, Deborah Campbell said. About 12 people attended the birthday party on Sunday, including several children who were of mixed race, according to Heath Campbell.
"If we're so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?" he asked.
The Campbells' other two children also have unusual names: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell turns 2 in a few months and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell will be 1 in April.
Heath Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because "no one else in the world would have that name."
On Tuesday he wore a pair of black boots he said were worn by a German soldier during World War II.
Campbell said his ancestors are German and that he has lived all his life in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, which is across the Delaware River from Easton.
US, UN try to handcuff Israel before Netanyahu is elected
At the urging of the US government, the UN Security Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution declaring peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians "irreversible."
The resolution makes no room for changing circumstances or non-compliance by the parties involved. It appears to have been passed in response to Israeli prime ministerial frontrunner Benjamin Netanyahu's stated intention to alter the flow of the peace process as a result of Palestinian non-compliance.
The opening the resolution, which was co-sponsored by the US and Russia, refers to the Security Council's "commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Various UN officials who spoke at the session clarified the meaning of the resolution by insisting that the coming year must see a headlong rush to birth a Palestinian Arab state on most, if not all, of Israel's biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.
But Netanyahu, who all polls show becoming Israel's next prime minister in February, has said that due to more than a decade of Palestinian non-compliance, the pace, and perhaps the entire focus of the peace process needs to be reexamined.
In practical terms, Netanyahu plans to continue talking to the Palestinian leadership, but put a hold on land concessions. Instead, he wants to focus on boosting the Palestinian economy and quality of life in the Palestinian-ruled areas, both of which are currently used as an excuse for Palestinian terrorism.
The new resolution also seems to be a swipe at the traditional Israeli position that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That position has allowed Israel to test different peace offers over the years without prematurely committing to concessions that the Israeli electorate may not accept.
The results of a public opinion poll published on Tuesday showed that nearly two-thirds of Israelis still oppose surrendering Judea, Samaria, the eastern half of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in exchange for recognition from the Palestinians and the wider Arab world.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both welcomed the new resolution, despite the fact that just a month ago Israel's Channel One News reported that both the leaders firmly opposed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's plans to introduce the document.
Livni said that Israel was pleased with the resolution because it props up the understandings reached at last year's Annapolis Summit and the US-authored "Road Map" peace plan, both of which are performance-based initiatives that on paper require the Palestinians to eliminate the threat of anti-Jewish terrorism before receiving any significant concessions.
However, the reality since the Road Map was introduced in 2003 has been that continuing Palestinian violence is overlooked in the name of expediting a final status agreement.
Messianic Jews Detained at Airport
- TEL AVIV, Israel - A Messianic Jewish couple spent more than eight hours in detention at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport Sunday, charged with alleged missionary activities.
Jamie Cowen, a US immigration attorney, and his wife, Stacy, in Israel to visit their two daughters, one an Israeli citizen and the other awaiting citizenship status granted by Israel's High Court several months ago, were not freed until they signed a document promising not to engage in missionary activities.
"This type of religious discrimination would be expected of Iran, not Israel," Cowen said.
"In the US, we imprison individuals suspected of terrorism. Here, apparently one can be jailed for his religious convictions. This is a case of blatant discrimination against basic rights. It is a story of a bureaucracy run amok. Someone has to crack down and bring in people of integrity," he said.
Cowen, who has visited Israel frequently, has brought substantial humanitarian aid into the country.
"I've brought $100,000 in humanitarian aid to Israel. We've provided lone IDF soldiers with about $50,000 in aid. This is unbelievable," he said.
The Israeli Interior Ministry, which ordered the couple's arrest, claimed to have "classified information" on their alleged missionary activities.
"The Immigration and Population Authority has reliable information that the Cowens were involved in missionary activity prohibited by Israeli criminal law during their last visit to Israel," an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
"This is the reason they were detained. As soon as they agreed to refrain from any missionary activity, they were allowed in," he said.
Israeli attorney Calev Myers, chief counsel of The Jerusalem Institute
, said that a lot of the clerks in the Interior Ministry are ultra-Orthodox Jews.
"During the years that [the ultra-Orthodox] Shas controlled the ministry, they made sure to appoint clerks who were willing to carry out their policies," Myers said.
"As a result, Israel is the only Western country where basic freedom of religion is denied. Today, those being discriminated against are Messianic Jews. Tomorrow it will be Conservative and Reform Jews," he said.
Source: The Jerusalem Post