Israel Gaza Pipeline motive
British Gas, Israel to freeze Hamas out of $4b. gas deal -- By MATTHEW KRIEGER
Israel and the British natural gas company BG Group Plc will move ahead with controversial plans to drill for natural gas in the Gaza Marine field, despite Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip last month, The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday.
The two sides have arrived at an "understanding" that will transfer funds intended for the Palestinian Authority's Palestinian Investment Fund into an international bank account, a BG source told The Post.
"Both Israel and BG intend that until the PA is able to remove Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip, the money will be held in an international bank account," the source said. "Neither side wants the money to go to fund terror-related activities."
According to the plan, BG will drill for natural gas 36 kilometers off of the Gaza coast, in an area that was designated as PA territory following the Oslo Accords. The gas will then flow four km underwater in a pipeline 850 meters below the surface to an Ashkelon refinery. The field, which BG purchased in 2000 and to which Hamas now claims rightful ownership, contains 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas worth an estimated $4 billion, with Israel set to become the sole consumer of the resources.
"I cannot deny that Israel and BG are making attempts at arranging a payment plan to accommodate the PA [and completely exclude Hamas]," an official in the Infrastructure Ministry said, while adding that along with officials from the Finance Ministry, negotiations are still underway, despite the shaky security situation in Gaza.
Ronen Moshe, the Infrastructure Ministry spokesman, claimed, however, that he doesn't know anything about an "understanding" between BG and Israel regarding payments to the PA, but did say that right now the two sides are negotiating over the price that Israel will pay for the gas. Similarly, the spokesman's office in the Finance Ministry claimed no knowledge of any "understanding" between Israel and BG concerning the transfer of funds to an international account, while the Prime Minister's Office said nothing new has happened since the cabinet decided earlier this year to form a negotiating team to meet with BG representatives.
According to the original bilateral arrangement between Israel and the PA, some 60 percent of the revenues from the sale of the gas will go to BG; 30% will go to BG's partner in the deal, the British energy company CCC, and 10% of the revenue, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is to be designated for the PA's Palestinian Investment Fund, under the auspices of the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"However, now that the PA is no longer in control of the Gaza Strip, or the marine area off of its coast, Israel, should it purchase the gas, would no longer be making payments to the PA, but rather would have to pay Hamas," explained the BG source.
Israel is obviously opposed to the money ending up in the hands of Hamas, and British law mandates that should a British organization enter into any sort of negotiations with a terrorist group, that organization's leaders will be brought to trial and may be sentenced to jail, the source said.
"Therefore, Israel and BG have come to a new understanding of transferring the money into an international account - allowing the deal to go through," he said.
The deal appears to exclude Hamas from receiving any of the revenues from the gas sales.
Hamas, meanwhile, intends to ask for changes in the agreement with BG, Bloomberg reported two weeks ago. "It is unreasonable that the owner of the gas, Palestine, gets 10% only," Mohammed al-Madhoun, the director of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya's office, told the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas Web site. "The government has no problem cooperating with the British gas company but only after modifying some points of the 1999 contract."
Earlier this week, Finance Ministry Accountant General energy coordinator Uri Shusterman confirmed that a dispute over prices is the official cause for the delay in the signing of a contract with British Gas, and that statement was the first comment by a government official about the negotiations with BG Group.
"Despite the disagreement, the government is determined to buy gas from the company's reserves offshore from Gaza, as an alternative to Egyptian gas," said Shusterman.
He added that Israel is seeking to diversify its supplies of gas, which it now buys domestically and also from Egypt, in order to ensure a competitive market. He noted that the country planned to buy 1.5 billion to 1.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from BG over 12-14 years.
"It's critical that Israel come to an agreement now with BG, because the longer it waits to sign, the more likely it is that gas prices are going to rise even further and the less likely it is to begin receiving gas at its desired 2011 target date," said BG.
Once Israel and British Gas arrive at an agreement, the project will take three years to complete. "Right now there is nothing in the water, as soon as we can, we need to build a gas rig, get the drill ready and build the pipeline," said the BG official, adding that he hoped the two would finish the negotiations and sign an agreement within the next week.
"There are already clear intentions as to how to handle the Hamas situation, and plans have already been worked on regarding the construction of the pipeline, now we just need to finalize a price," he said.
Israel began talks with BG in February 2006 and said in May of that year that it expected to buy 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas from BG annually starting in 2009. Soonafter, BG broke off talks with Israel and said that it preferred bringing gas to Egypt to be liquefied and then shipped by tankers to the US, Europe and the Far East. The talks resumed in July 2006 and in April of this year the cabinet voted 21-to-three to grant a negotiating team formal permission to hold talks with BG on the purchase of gas from the Gaza Marine field.
JERUSALEM - Photographic evidence has emerged that proves that Israel has been using controversial white phosphorus shells during its offensive in Gaza, despite official denials by the Israel Defence Forces.
The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made white phosphorus munitionThere is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorus against civilians is prohibited under international law.
The Times has identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from high-resolution images taken of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border this week. The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made WP munition. The shell is an improved version with a more limited dispersion of the phosphorus, which ignites on contact with oxygen, and is being used by the Israeli gunners to create a smoke screen on the ground.
The rounds, which explode into a shower of burning white streaks, were first identified by The Times at the weekend when they were fired over Gaza at the start of Israel's ground offensive. Artillery experts said that the Israeli troops would be in trouble if they were banned from using WP because it is the simplest way of creating smoke to protect them from enemy fire.
There were indications last night that Palestinian civilians have been injured by the bombs, which burn intensely. Hassan Khalass, a doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told The Times that he had been dealing with patients who he suspected had been burnt by white phosphorus. Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, an emergency medical technician in the city, said: "The burns are very unusual. They don't look like burns we have normally seen. They are third-level burns that we can't seem to control."
Victims with embedded WP particles in their flesh have to have the affected areas flushed with water. Particles that cannot be removed with tweezers are covered with a saline-soaked dressing.
Nafez Abu Shaban, the head of the burns unit at al-Shifa hospital, said: "I am not familiar with phosphorus but many of the patients wounded in the past weeks have strange burns. They are very deep and not like burns we used to see."
When The Times reported on Monday that the Israeli troops appeared to be firing WP shells to create a thick smoke camouflage for units advancing into Gaza, an IDF spokesman denied the use of phosphorus and said that Israel was using only the weapons that were allowed under international law.
Rows of the pale blue M825A1 WP shells were photographed on January 4 on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border. Another picture showed the same munitions stacked up behind an Israeli self-propelled howitzer.
Confronted with the latest evidence, an IDF spokeswoman insisted that the M825A1 shell was not a WP type. "This is what we call a quiet shell - it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it," she said.
"We shoot it to mark the target before we launch a real shell. We launch two or three of the quiet shells which are empty so that the real shells will be accurate. It's not for killing people," she said.
Asked what shell was being used to create the smokescreen effect seen so clearly on television images, she said: "We're using what other armies use and we're not using any weapons that are banned under international law."
Neil Gibson, technical adviser to Jane's Missiles and Rockets, insisted that the M825A1 was a WP round. "The M825A1 is an improved model. The WP does not fill the shell but is impregnated into 116 felt wedges which, once dispersed [by a high-explosive charge], start to burn within four to five seconds. They then burn for five to ten minutes. The smoke screen produced is extremely effective," he said.
The shell is not defined as an incendiary weapon by the Third Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons because its principal use is to produce smoke to protect troops. However, Marc Galasco, of Human Rights Watch, said: "Recognising the significant incidental incendiary effect that white phosphorus creates, there is great concern that Israel is failing to take all feasible steps to avoid civilian loss of life and property by using WP in densely populated urban areas. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting WP projectiles at relatively low levels, seemingly to maximise its incendiary effect."
He added, however, that Human Rights Watch had no evidence that Israel was using incendiaries as weapons.
British and American artillery units have stocks of white phosphorus munitions but they are banned as anti-personnel weapons. "These munitions are not unlawful as their purpose is to provide obscuration and not cause injury by burning," a Ministry of Defence source said.
Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian war surgery specialist working in Gaza, told The Times that he had seen injuries believed to have resulted from Israel's use of a new "dense inert metal explosive" that caused "extreme explosions". He said: "Those inside the perimeter of this weapon's power zone will be torn completely apart. We have seen numerous amputations that we suspect have been caused by this."
"There is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip." - Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, 1 January 2009.
In 1925, Adolf Hitler, writing in Mein Kampf, defined .The Big Lie.. He called it a lie so enormous that people "would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."
By now it should be obvious that Livni and other Israeli officials have decided to do just that; utilizing the same technique in service of their public relations campaign to justify the atrocities taking place in Gaza, they simultaneously claim they do not exist.
Indeed, it is yet another astonishing example of how practices from such an ignominious period of history have become incorporated into the military and propaganda armamentarium of the Israeli government and the behavior of the settler community, without even the batting of an eye to reflect its historical irony.
Take, for example, the recent riots by Israeli settlers in the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil, also known as Hebron. It is home to 200,000 Palestinians and 500 extremist settlers, protected day and night by Israeli soldiers. In early December and under the order of Israel.s High Court, they were evicted from a disputed building (quite gently of course) by those soldiers. During the confrontation between the two, a group of settlers went marauding through Hebron, shooting indiscriminately at Palestinian civilians while attempting to lynch others, setting cars on fire and burning down houses. A few weeks earlier, mosques in Hebron had been spray painted and desecrated with virulent anti-Islamic, anti-Arab slogans and houses had Stars of David painted on them. The reports and images of their December rampage were so disturbing that even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could find no words to describe it other than calling it a "pogrom".
In the case of the current Gaza onslaught, Livni.s remark in Paris that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and everything is "completely as it should be" is an excellent example of The Big Lie. Its propagation has no doubt been aided by the Israeli government prohibiting journalists from entering Gaza (despite a High Court ruling ordering them to lift the ban).
But facts always run contrary to The Big Lie. According to the agencies of the United Nations and multiple international relief organizations:
Eighty percent of Gazans were dependent on humanitarian assistance during the crippling 18-month siege of Gaza but before the outbreak of hostilities.
Nearly all food shops have closed and there is currently a severe shortage of flour, rice, milk and canned goods.
One quarter to one half of Gaza.s 1.5 million people are without water. Seventy-five percent have been without electricity for over a week. Fuel is in short supply and with winter at hand, this has caused terrible hardship to the majority who live in unlit, unheated homes (and who are also forced to keep their windows open to prevent shattering glass from nearby explosions).
Cooking gas is extremely scarce since the tunnels into Egypt -- the lifeline that kept Gaza barely afloat during the siege -- were bombed.
Supplies of regular diesel -- the only means hospitals have for running backup generators and which they now exclusively run on -- are very low. According to the United Nations, these generators are "close to collapse." Diesel is also needed to run water and sewage pumps; absolute necessities in providing adequate sanitation and preventing the outbreak of disease.
Even before the military campaign commenced, 75 percent of Gaza.s children were malnourished, 46 percent anemic and 30 percent suffered from stunted growth.
The United Nations Human Rights Council.s Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Dr. Richard Falk, said that Israel was ". allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease."
A hallmark of The Big Lie is its repetition.
"Hamas is trying to create the appearance of a humanitarian crisis, but together with the international organizations, we are preventing this from happening."
- Colonel Moshe Levi, Commander of the Israeli army's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, 1 January 2009.
John Ging, head of the United Nations Relief and Words Agency (UNRWA), the organization responsible for feeding half of Gaza.s 1.5 million residents:
"We have a catastrophe unfolding in Gaza for the civilian population. The people of Gaza City and the north now have no water. That comes on top of having no electricity. They're trapped, they're traumatized, they're terrorized by this situation . The inhumanity of this situation, the lack of action to bring this to an end, is bewildering to them" (Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan 2009).
"Gaza was already bad enough but what I saw today was utter devastation. It's just horrible to see this, horrible to see civilians caught up in this. Gaza went through .crisis. a long time ago and what I saw today was a catastrophe in the making" (The Guardian, 5 Jan 2009).
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UNRWA:
"When you look at the Israeli assertions about the humanitarian situation it is very hard to square this with the extraordinarily dire situation on the ground in Gaza. Any claims about human need at this stage need to be grounded in reality" (Daily Telegraph, 1 Jan 2009).
Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories:
"By any definition this is a humanitarian crisis and more" (AFP, 3 Jan 2009).
"The WFP [World Food Programme] stopped sending food in there because their warehouses are full to the top."
- Major Avital Leibovitz, military spokesman, 4 January 2009.
Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP representative in Gaza (reported to be "furious" at the above comment):
"The current situation in Gaza is appalling, and many basic food items are no longer available on the market" (Press TV, 2 Jan 2009).
Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories:
"Conditions for parents and children in Gaza are dangerous and frightening. It is absolutely crucial that there is an end to the fighting. Without it, more civilians will continue to be killed. Without the violence stopping, it is extremely difficult to get food to people who need it" (The Scotsman, 3 Jan 2009).
"Electricity and communications are down over much of the strip both on account of lack of fuel and damage to critical infrastructure. Over a million people are currently without power, and over a quarter million without running water, some for up to six days" (Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2009).
The Associated Press, 4 Jan 2009:
And in the central Gaza refugee camp of Nusseirat, Munir Najar said he only had another day's worth of flour to feed his family of seven, but ventured out to find streets deserted and shops closed.
"There's not a loaf of bread to be found," said Najar, 43.
"There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
- Israeli Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, 4 January 2009.
The New York Times, 5 Jan 2009:
Many here would dispute that [Yehezkel.s statement]. With power lines down, much of Gaza has no electricity. There is a dire shortage of cooking gas.
Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian who was allowed into Gaza last week to give emergency medical aid, and who has worked in many conflict zones, said the situation was the worst he had seen.
The hospital lacked everything, he said: monitors, anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts. Israeli bombing nearby blew out windows, and like the rest of Gaza, here the severely limited fuel supplies were running low.
Dominic Nutt, spokesman for Save the Children:
"We need to deliver more food and blankets to ensure that children do not die of hunger and cold" (Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan 2009).
Sadi Ali, project manager for the Palestinian Water Authority:
"There is a risk of the spread of all sorts of water borne diseases such as dysentery and cholera" (Daily Telegraph, 4 Jan 2009).
Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of Operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):
"There is no doubt in my mind that we are dealing with a full blown and major crisis in humanitarian terms. The situation for the people in Gaza is extreme and traumatic as a result of ten days of uninterrupted fighting. In that sense, their situation has clearly become intolerable" (ICRC.org, 6 Jan 2009).
The truth, as always, runs in stark contrast to the utterances of those peddling the latest of Israel.s Big Lies. Just as in 1948 when the .people without a land for a land without a people. myth was used as cover to expel 700,000 indigenous inhabitants from historical Palestine, The Big Lie is once again being employed to obfuscate the reality of the crimes being committed in Gaza.
Let us hope this time, they do not get away with it.
Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds.