Gaza Strip News
International Solidarity Movement supplied the Guardian with footage of the aftermath of the Israeli air raid. The town of Rafah was heavily battered from bombing.
In other news: President-elect Obama intends to have back-channel talks with Hamas.
The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush presidency's ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.
The Guardian has spoken to three people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive. A tested course would be to start contacts through Hamas and the US intelligence services, similar to the secret process through which the US engaged with the PLO in the 1970s. Israel did not become aware of the contacts until much later.
The Bush policy of not talking to Hamas hasn't worked. I am not sure Obama's attempts at dialogue will be anymore productive. Hamas does not want an independent state, living peacefully with Israel. Hamas wants the destruction of Israel. The Europeans, Canada and Australia recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization. Where is the middle ground?
Hamas has become extremely popular in the occupied territories for providing social services. The corrupt Afafat regime failed to take care of the Palestinian people. The first thing Obama needs to do is get the Israelis and Palestinians away from the other's throat. Clinton was good at that. President Bush told Colin Powell: "I don’t see much we can do over there at this point." We see what Bush's lack of interest has done to Israel. Obama appears to be engaged. That is a promising start.