Obama Remains Mum on Middle East Flare Up

via Mail Online

Barack Obama remained silent over the violence in Gaza as Israel today threatened to continue its attacks for weeks.

Instead, the President-elect is continuing his 12-day Christmas holiday in Hawaii and was seen enjoying a round of golf.

He joined a group of friends at a private club near his £6million rented, beach-front holiday home yesterday.


Shh: Mr Obama, who is staying silent on the Israeli attacks, asks the crowd to be quiet as he finishes his putt

Meanwhile, 9,000 miles away in the Middle East, Israel today rejected any truce with Hamas and said it was ready for ‘long weeks of action’ in the Gaza Strip.


 Observers said that at least ten people were killed and another 40 injured as up to 16 bombs were dropped by Israeli warplanes during early morning attacks.

The targets included the offices of Hamas prime minister Ismael Haniyeh, police stations and Gaza’s treasury and foreign ministry buildings.

Palestinian officials say more than 385 people have been killed since Saturday. Four Israelis have died in rocket fire.

Sites linked to Hamas’ military wing Izzadin Kazzam were also hit, including the home of the Gaza division commander.

The death toll so far in Gaza is estimated at 320, with five Israeli fatalities, and hundreds of injuries.


Grief: Palestinian mourners carry the body of four-year-old Haya Hamdan in Gaza

World leaders, including Gordon Brown and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, have called for an immediate ceasefire.

Mr Ban even said that Israel’s attacks on Gaza amounted to an ‘excessive use of force’.

But Mr Obama has made the decision to leave all comments to outgoing President George Bush, who has so far chosen only to attack Hamas.

On the golf course, his security team even turned away a letter from pro-Palestinian campaigners urging him to help stop the four-day-old violence.

Pensioner Robert Steiver, 65, of Honolulu, said he was disappointed that the President-elect was not echoing the condemnation of other world leaders.

He told the Honolulu Advertiser: ‘I don’t think he’s taking a vacation, he’s preparing to be the next president.

‘I’m deathly afraid he’ll continue the failed policies of the Bush administration. I’ve been suffering with the Palestinians for years.’

rocket fired from Gaza

A rocket fired today by militants from the Gaza Strip towards an Israeli target. The repeated rocket attacks on Israel are the reason for the current assault on Gaza


Palestinians look at destroyed houses after an Israeli air strike in Rafah, Gaza

Earlier this week, his chief adviser David Axelrod said that Mr Obama ‘recognises the special relationship between the United States and Israel’.

But despite trying to stay quiet, Mr Obama – who was wearing sunglasses, a white shirt, khaki shorts, white and brown golf shoes, and a red baseball cap – still couldn’t avoid any drama.

He was greeted by applause  when he walked up to the 18th green – and then, motioning for them to be quiet by putting a finger to his lips, finished with a 20-yard putt.

‘That was pretty good, right?’ he said to more cheers as he went to meet his fans.

It was Mr Obama’s third visit to the Mid Pacific Country Club course in Kalilua while on holiday.

But he may not be able to remain tight-lipped about Gaza for too long.

Protesters demonstrate in front of the Israeli embassy in Vienna

As well as air strikes, Israel has also massed tanks, artillery and soldiers on the border with Gaza in preparation for a possible ground assault on the territory, with its defence minister warning that the country is engaged in a ‘war to the bitter end’ against Hamas and its allied militant supporters.

Israel’s deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai said today that his country was prepared for a prolonged struggle to protect its citizens from the repeated missile attacks which have been launched from Gaza over recent months.

‘The army is prepared for a long operation,’ he said. ‘We have made preparations for some long weeks of action.’


Anguish: An Israeli woman in Sderot screams after Hamas rockets hit houses

Hamas said that its squads had fired 43 home-made rockets, 17 longer-range Grads and six mortar shells at Israel; other militant groups have also fired rockets at Israel.

Further details have emerged of earlier attacks by Israel against Hamas targets.

A grainy video taken by an Israeli drone plane showed several men loading a pick-up truck with what the Israeli military said were medium-range Grad rockets.

Moments later, a big explosion from an Israeli missile strike envelops the image.

In another air assault, an Islamic Jihad commander was killed walking near his house, said Abu Hamza, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad’s military wing.

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