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Daily Archives: January 19, 2008

Quotes of the week

Lucky escape "I won the lottery today."— Fernando Prado, a passenger who walked away unharmed from a British Airways flight that crash landed at London Heathrow airport.  Olympic spirit "It is true that they are all tall, with good figure and pretty faces. But that is not discrimination against women. It is just what the post requires."— Liu Wenjun, a vice principal at school where Olympic victory ceremony volunteers are trained, responding to criticism from rights group.  British humour "Your president is certainly very energetic … in all areas."— Former British prime minister Tony Blair, talking at a conference of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling conservative UMP party, about Sarkozy, whose relationship with Italian former supermodel Carla Bruni dominates the French press  Mission Impossible "As distasteful as it is to have to say it, Mr. Hubbard's sperm was never frozen"— The Church of Scientology in a statement refuting allegations made in an authorized biography of Hollywood star Tom Cruise about Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.  Taking on an icon "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when president Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done,"— Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in a comment seen as an attack on the civil rights movement that sparked a storm of controversy on the US election campaign  Been there, done that "During my first mandate I visited each of the 14 regions at least twice. In this country, I know all the roads, all the bends. I have 18 years of work behind me."— Czech President Vaclav Klaus speaking of the surprise challenge from a Czech-American who is vigorously campaigning around the country ahead of an election in February  Recipe for success "Swiss cheese isn't going to work when it comes to the territory of a state."— US President George W. Bush talking about the challenge of setting up an independent Palestinian state.  Good advice "If you believe that at 55, you're retiring, you're going to read books, play golf and drink wine, then I think you're done for."— Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, 84, in comments in The Straits Times urging retirees to keep active. 

Mourning Gazans reel from deadly Israeli strikes

by Joseph Krauss* The man awoke before dawn to the roar of tanks, bulldozers and helicopters. By nightfall his son and 18 others had been killed in the deadliest Israeli assault on Gaza in more than a year."At night there is no noise in this area because everyone is asleep," said the 53-year-old, asking to be identified only as the father of his 24-year-old son Ahed Ashur, killed during the Israeli incursion."But we heard the planes, the tanks, the bulldozers… and we knew they had come," he added.Tuesday's operations marked the start of a spiralling escalation of violence between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza, amid warnings that the bloodshed could derail recently revived peace efforts.All but two of the Gazans killed that day, most of them militants, fell in Ashur's village of Zeitun — a collection of squat concrete tenements nestling among olive groves on the edge of Gaza City.The Israelis moved in just before dawn, with special forces soldiers in civilian clothes knocking on doors, shoving their way inside and silently taking up positions on the roofs of the buildings, residents said.Minutes later helicopters swooped in as bulldozers carved wide dirt roads through the nearby orchards so tanks could avoid the roads and the threat of mines, they said.As the growling of tank engines echoed through the winter night the men of the village seized their weapons and headed for the fields as women and children stayed inside, crouched on the floor away from windows, they said."Our weapons are old but we grab whatever we have," said Faraj Samuni, a 22-year old fighter who says he does not belong to any specific group."When we hear them bulldozing the land what are we supposed to do? It's our livelihood," he said.As they ran into the streets Israeli snipers on rooftops opened fire, killing several fighters, witnesses said.Samuni's 52-year-old uncle was one of the first to fall. Eyewitnesses said he dropped his weapon and raised his hands into the air before he was shot."It was an execution. He was one of the first to be killed so we could not recover his body until hours later. When we found him his arms were frozen in place, raised above his head," Samuni said."He was not a fighter, he was a farmer. He was just defending his land."In a statement released after the operation the Israeli army said that "in a number of different instances, IDF (military) forces exchanged fire with armed Palestinian gunmen."The Palestinians used assault rifles, mortars and anti-tank missiles, but did not wound any Israeli troops, the statement added.Forces on the ground called in three air strikes, two of them against rocket launching cells and one on a car full of gunmen, it said.The Zeitun raid ushered in the sharpest escalation of violence between the Israeli army and Hamas since before the Islamists seized control of Gaza in mid-June last year.Since then, continuing Israeli raids have killed another 15 people, mostly gunmen, and Hamas has fired some 150 mortar bombs and rockets into Israel, causing light injuries — the first time it has launched rockets in months.The violence has sparked warnings from moderate Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas that it could sink the peace efforts he and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert officially revived in late November after a seven-year freeze.The people of Zeitun do not see peace on the horizon."There is no hope here, so the people join the resistance," said Silmi Salama, 55, who lost a son and a nephew — both aged 20 — in Tuesday's fighting. His eyes are red and weary, but the tears have dried."Look at these kids," he said, gesturing to a group of wide-eyed boys perched on plastic chairs beneath a canopy of green Hamas banners and professionally produced posters of martyrs."They see the fighting, they see the people dying, and then they want to take up weapons and join the resistance."As he spoke there was a distant whistling — another homemade missile soaring out of Gaza towards Israel.The men tensed for a moment as their eyes flicked towards where the sound came from, before looking back again, exchanging the easy smiles of a small, shared triumph. 

* AFP

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