NEW YORK TIMES: JERUSALEM — The grinding urban battle unfolding in the densely populated Gaza Strip is a war of new tactics, quick adaptation and lethal tricks. Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say. Unwilling to take Israel’s bait and come into the open, Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.
To avoid booby traps, the Israelis say, they enter buildings by breaking through side walls, rather than going in the front. Once inside, they move from room to room, battering holes in interior walls to avoid exposure to snipers and suicide bombers dressed as civilians, with explosive belts hidden beneath winter coats. And the Israelis, too, are resorting to tricks. Israeli intelligence officers are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans, Gazans say and Israel has confirmed. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood. MORE
OASIS: Street Fighting Man
NEW YORK MAGAZINE: “I can play guitar better than Noel so I don’t know how playing him is really going to work.” —Daniel Craig responds to Noel Gallagher’s declaration that he would like Craig to play him in a movie [NME]
SHOCK: Bush Kiboshed Israeli Strike On Iranian Nukes
NEW YORK TIMES: President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.
White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike before the United States protested, or whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was trying to goad the White House into more decisive action before Mr. Bush left office. But the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country’s only known uranium enrichment plant is located.
The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily. But the tense exchanges also prompted the White House to step up intelligence-sharing with Israel and brief Israeli officials on new American efforts to subtly sabotage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, a major covert program that Mr. Bush is about to hand off to President-elect Barack Obama. MORE
WHY PANETTA IS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR HEAD OF CIA: Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama must decide whether the covert actions begun by Mr. Bush are worth the risks of disrupting what he has pledged will be a more active diplomatic effort to engage with Iran. Either course could carry risks for Mr. Obama. An inherited intelligence or military mission that went wrong could backfire, as happened to President Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. But a decision to pull back on operations aimed at Iran could leave Mr. Obama vulnerable to charges that he is allowing Iran to speed ahead toward a nuclear capacity, one that could change the contours of power in the Middle East. [via NEW YORK TIMES]
WIKIPEDIA: The Bay of Pigs Invasion (also known as Playa Girón), was an unsuccessful attempt by a U.S.-trained force of American immigrants exiled from Cuba to invade southwest Cuba with support from the United States Air Force and overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion—planned and funded by the United States government beginning in 1960—was launched in April 1961, several months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban military, trained and equipped by the Soviet Union, defeated the invading force in a matter of days and the event accelerated a rapid deterioration in Cuban-American relations. This was exacerbated the following year by the Cuban Missile Crisis. MORE
RELATED: Within seventy-two hours all the invading troops had been killed, wounded or had surrendered. Bissell had a meeting with John F. Kennedy about the Bay of Pigs operation. Kennedy admitted it was his fault that the operation had been a disaster. Kennedy added: “In a parliamentary government, I’d have to resign. But in this government I can’t, so you and Allen (Dulles) have to go.” MORE