Some 65 percent of eligible Israeli voters cast their ballots in the state’s general elections on Tuesday. This was approximately 2.5 percent higher than the number of votes gathered by the same time during the last elections in 2006.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak voiced harsh criticism against Hamas on Wednesday, accusing the Islamist Palestinian movement of being responsible for the shedding of Arab blood.
An Israel Air Force aircraft bombed smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt on Tuesday after a rocket launched from the Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip struck the southern port city of Ashkelon, Gaza residents and Hamas officials said.
President Barack Obama pledged on Monday that his new Middle East envoy George Mitchell would engage “vigorously and consistently” in the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace and would seek concrete results.
The Israel Defense Forces began a partial withdrawal of ground troops from the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening, hours after ending a three-week offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory. The move also came shortly after Gaza’s Hamas rulers announced a one-week cease-fire, despite continuing rocket fire on southern Israel.
Nine human rights organizations joined forces on Wednesday to call for emergency humanitarian relief for the population of the Gaza Strip. At a meeting Wednesday, they warned of a complete collapse of the health system in Gaza, with at least 850 chronically ill patients and hundreds of wounded who have not been treated. They also fear outbreaks of infectious diseases resulting from the collapse of the water and sewage systems in Gaza.
Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public — all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces “Cast Lead” operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he has decided not to contend in the Kadima primary election and would resign as soon as the new party leader was chosen, due to the criminal investigations that have embroiled him in recent months.