Meditation Focus #137
Being All The Harmony That We Can Be
What follows is the 137th Meditation Focus suggested for the next 2 weeks beginning Sunday, September 25, 2005.
BEING ALL THE HARMONY THAT WE CAN BE
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Vigil for the Gaza Strip
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IN PASSING THIS ON TO OTHERS
After being presented previously with two gifts, love and compassion, a third sage is stepping forward to dispense his unique, precious contribution to humanity's global awakening.
Once a soul enters the stream of a new lifetime, it is usually caught into a swirling cauldron of ever increasing tensions as its human personality is faced with the many demands of existence in the material world. But eventually all souls are presented with numerous opportunities to make time for introspective activities of the mind that often lead to a sense of greater understanding of life's goals on a spiritual level and, hence, to the emergence of a desire to bring its current life in greater harmony with the crux of these vital objectives. It is then that lies one of the greatest challenges for each soul as it strives to make way for the complete expression of what its life was meant to be as planned and agreed upon before each new incarnation.
Creating a space within where the clear understanding of where its next steps should take its human form, figuratively speaking, can be achieved only when the man or the woman seeking spiritual clarity about one's life purpose decides to actually dedicate oneself to opening up his/her heart during moments of meditative silence to the guiding inspirations and intuitively-driven promptings of his/her own calm and reassuring Presence within, often called "still small voice within." Once the inner channels of spiritual insights into one's own true life purpose and ensuing every moment synchronous harmonization with the higher will of one's soul are opened and cleared of all intellectual hindrances the certainties that he/she previously held dear before discovering the higher Truth That Is within each living being the Seeker can finally begin his/her life-long discipline of attuning with ever greater synchrony with the moment-by-moment guidance that soon becomes like a second nature and which continuously rises in a smooth flow of Knowingness that can best direct one's thoughts, feelings, words and actions so as to bring complete harmony with All That Is.
As more and more physical expressions of souls achieve this delicate inner balance in their every moment conscious interactions with other beings and throughout every possible situation, an increasingly greater harmony will exist and gradually spread in every realm of human existence, thus bringing harmony on Earth and thus contributing to anchoring harmony in this universe.
Thus through embodying Harmony, the Third Key of your Global Awakening, you step into and co-create the New Era of Peace, Love and Harmony that is now manifesting.
As you join in synchronous meditation with all other participants, worldwide, simply Be All The Harmony That You Can Be, for the Highest Good of All.
This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus137.htm
To review the previous two Meditation Focus of this 20 week series, please go at
"He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe."
- Marcus Aurelius (121 - 80 AD) Roman Emperor Philosopher
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
- Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation BOTH to the healing of the Earth as a whole and to reiterate our willingness and desire - if we so choose - to receive assistance from our space family in order to help set things on a path towards a new era of global peace, love and harmony for all. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
These times below will correspond, this Sunday April 3, to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:
Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM
+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.
* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?day=25&month=09&year=2005&hour=16&min=0&sec=0&p1=0 to find your corresponding local time for tomorrow if a nearby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION RELATED TO THIS MEDITATION FOCUS
The following suggested material may assist you in threading the consciousness path that can help bring you to a space of perfect balance, vital co-creativity and greater inner harmony.
1. Spiritual Treatment for the Upliftment of Human Consciousness
2. Global Meditation Working Principles
Meditation Focus #81: Co-Creating a New World of Peace and Harmony
A Message to Light Workers from Archangel Gabriel
The call has gone forth. An activation has occurred within the hearts of all beings who are workers in the light of God. Those who have agreed to serve in these "end" times are gathering, through a linking of their minds and hearts, in order to create a new world. Linking up with each other and with the mind of God, the light workers are uniting all over the earth to bring balance and healing to the planet. As this link strengthens, the healing will accelerate, and with the process of intention and visualization, peace and harmony will prevail. It is time to create powerful, prayerful gatherings for peace, for all beings and for the world. It is time to hold the vision of a world where human beings live in harmony, with each other and with the earth. It is time to create a vision where all will be fed, clothed and sheltered, so their focus can move from survival to the enrichment of the spirit. CLIP
SPIRITUAL TREATMENT FOR THE UPLIFTMENT OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS
It is abundantly clear to all people with almost any degree of discernment that there are many people in our world holding positions of power who do not have the best of intentions for the collective. In fact, it is clearly evident that many such powerful people are intent on doing a great deal of harm to others whom they've never met and by whom they've never been wronged at all. A case in point is the current war in Iraq. The atrocities committed and the amount of individual suffering that is being inflicted within the context of this war cannot be imagined. As you are probably already aware, more of such and similar things are being conceived, planned and organized. The powers implicated in the acts of injustice, aggression and environmental ruin are mighty and seem impenetrable and difficult to influence in a positive way. Many people live in deep fear over personal and societal issues and fear, as a prevailing state, whether conscious or unconscious is very harmful to human beings.
It is helpful to know why that is so; the reason is twofold. First, it is our consciousness that is the real creative engine of our lives. That means that what we think about and feel is energized every time we think it or feel it, until sufficient attention/power has been given to it to render it concrete as a real event, state or situation. In other words, what we fear on regular basis is in fact what we are bringing into our life experience. Second, our soul or spiritual center, which is a veritable powerhouse and our connection to all of Existence, exists on the frequency of peace, harmony, love and compassion. It is our most valuable resource of infinite good. To be connected to it we need to be able to experience these states. When we are in fear, we are disconnected from our true nature, and as a result were very seriously handicapped. Moreover, fear is not the only state that disconnects us from who we are; some other states that produce the same effect are suppressed anger, rage, guilt, shame, blame, resentment, depression, lack of self worth, and a whole slew of erroneous limiting beliefs charged with negative feelings. If you are new to these ideas, please consider reading more about it, ruminating and meditating on it. These are very likely some of the most important things any human being ought to know about being human. I also encourage you to commit never to yield to fear as a state of being. Temporary fear over something is a warning, and can be helpful; however, living in a state of fear with feelings of apprehension, anxiety and insecurity is most harmful. It disempowers us more than anything, and we become a lost cause, so to speak, unable to help ourselves or others. The underlying truth is that each person is a very powerful being able to affect very positively every aspect of their being, life and experience if they but understand the mechanics of being human and apply the knowledge.
A great deal can be said about all of this, and I'd be happy to, in a different context But this message has a very specific purpose, and that is, to remind us all that we do have the power to affect world events in a positive way. To some of you this may appear like a pipe-dream and that's OK. If none of this makes much sense to you please feel free to dismiss it and proceed to busy yourself with whatever makes sense to you. However, if what is expressed here does make some, or a lot of sense to you, please use it to enhance your own remembrance of the truth of your being. Time is of essence, so the sooner and the more of us remember, the better for all of us.
As human beings, we appear as separate and distinct to one another, but the invisible life that animates our forms cannot in fact be confined to any one form. So beyond the level of body and organs and cells and atoms, we are pure energy, conscious, aware, wise, loving, discerning, and interconnected with everything else. Our thoughts, feelings, articulated words as well as the actions that we take with our physical bodies are all aspects of the energy that we are. Most people predominantly express their energy through action, because this is how we've all been conditioned. We value action, whereas thought and feeling and even speaking are not considered as important. These however are all precursors to action, and as we grow in our awareness of ourselves we must learn to increasingly heed and work with our thoughts, beliefs, mental imagery and feelings to create change. This is not to say that action is unimportant. It certainly is, but action is greatly facilitated when inner preparatory work has been done on the level of thought, imagery and feeling. These three are the building blocks of life experience; they determine our words and actions and also the degree of effectiveness of our actions; they fashion our world.
Many times there are situations where taking outer action is impossible or unadvisable; even expressing ourselves verbally can sometimes be unproductive or counter-productive. What we CAN always DO, when we have the awareness, is use our invisible inner construction tools to affect reality in a positive way. And these, as I mentioned earlier, consist of thought, mental imagery and feeling. When we have allowed ourselves to be peaceful and relaxed, becoming even more peaceful and very relaxed, when we have embraced a clear, undisturbed mind and heart, then that which we imagine, and feel in our imagination, becomes the blueprint for our outer reality. The more often we do that (suggested is at least 10-15 minutes a day, for at least 21 days), the faster the seed of our new reality will germinate and bear fruit. Furthermore, if we will formulate a statement, often called Positive Affirmation, that describes clearly and succinctly the positive mental image we're working on, and then verbalize that statement frequently and repetitively, our endeavor of conscious creation will advance much more rapidly and effectively. Speaking positive statements out loud is a powerful way to energize our creations, for sound has greater energy than thought. An example of a positive affirmation for health, for instance is: "Every day, with every breath, I feel more and more healthy and vibrantly alive".
This is just a brief summary of a multifaceted process that is well worth delving into more deeply and mastering. All kinds of pertinent information is available if you seek it out. If you need help, please feel free to contact me. Also please do not forget to ask questions deep within yourself, for within you is truly a Well of infinite depth, scope and beauty if you will but take the time to access and explore it.
What I am offering here is a formula, also called a Treatment that you can use in the privacy of your own home, to affect world events in a way that is for the highest good of all. It does work. Even if you are somewhat incredulous you may wish to give it a try and experience it for yourself. Utilizing this treatment for the benefit of others, will affect you in the same positive way, for we cannot offer something for the benefit of others without benefiting from it ourselves. This is a spiritual law.
There is an old adage that expresses the same idea in another way; it says: "The only things that we keep forever are the things that we give away".
Please feel free to also use this treatment expressly for yourself or for individuals of your choosing. The only thing that you would need to change is the Statement of Intent where we are called to identify the person(s) that the Treatment is intended for, and change the pronoun in the body of the Treatment accordingly.
So, let us begin.
Sit in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor. Allow yourself to relax. Allow yourself to relax even more deeply now. (take a few moments to relax yourself)
Focus on your breath for a minute or two.
As you breathe in, simply be aware that you're breathing in
As you breathe out, simply be aware that you're breathing out
Allow your breath to slow down and deepen, as it surely will all on its own as you allow it.
Imagine a sphere of Silver Light about 3 feet under your feet.
Hold that image for a minute or two.
Now imagine a sphere of Golden Light about 12 inches over your head.
Hold that image for a minute or two.
In the next minute or so, as you take a breath in bring both of these spheres into the area of your Heart.
Hold that image for a minute or two and imagine this unified Light from above and below radiate throughout your body and outward.
KNOW YOURSELF AS A SPIRITUAL BEING IN A HUMAN BODY, A DIVINE BEING OF
LIGHT, PEACE, LOVE, COMPASSION, WISDOM AND POWER.
Say silently: "I DESIRE AND INTEND TO REMEMBER THE TRUTH OF MY BEING IN EVERY PART OF MY BEING"
Know that when you feel peace, harmony, love and compassion, desiring that which is for the highest good of all, you are in alignment with God, for Peace, Harmony, Love and Compassion are all aspects of God.
When you are so aligned, what you think, imagine and say has great power. God can thus work through us to balance and harmonize other parts of His Creation.
Please choose now to feel Peace, Harmony as well as Love and Compassion for all life.
When ready, proceed with the following Statement of Intent. (State aloud, if possible):
"This treatment is intended for all the members of the US government, the FBI, the CIA, the industrial-military complex and all of their agencies; it is further intended for all the world leaders and workers in the field of politics, industry, economy, finance, telecommunications, the printed media, education, the medical and pharmaceutical fields, agriculture, animal husbandry, food production, exploitation of natural resources, social sciences and science; this treatment is further intended for all the members of the secret government that is the power behind many of the governments of the world and seems intent on world domination. Finally, we intend that this treatment have a harmonizing, uplifting and healing effect on all those human beings not yet included in the above categories, whoever and wherever they are."
(Because in spirit we are all interconnected and all ONE, we can address all of the above from where we are, without any physical contact, and from our own spiritual awareness we can issue or articulate commands that by spiritual law must be heeded by them, for like us they are animated by a Divine Spirit that will abide by these commands. Such is the nature of our spiritual power.)
And now, the Treatment.
(Please speak aloud if possible, with as much confidence and conviction as you can muster.)
"From my spiritual center and with the spiritual power vested in me I now declare, that you are spiritual beings, each one of you, and NOT just physical beings, and as such you are each a perfect reflection of the Divine Nature. (Visualize the Silver Light from below and the Golden Light from above merged in the area of a person's heart and intend this to apply to all those listed above.) You are each a being of Loving Light, of Divine Peace and Understanding. You are each a center of Divine Intelligence, Divine Harmony, Wisdom, Goodness and Divine Perfect Action. Your Divine Nature is now anchored in you and It prevails over all aspects of your human personality. (Imagine the Light radiate throughout the person's body and outward.) Your Divine Nature now dissolves all error in human thought and perception from your entire field of consciousness It also dissolves all effects of error. Your Divine Nature of Loving Light, Peace and Wisdom now manifests on the level of your thought, word and action. Your Divine Nature now manifests, in you and through you, and creates Divine Peace, Harmony, Justice, Order, Balance and Beauty in the world. God's Will is being done now in you and through you.
So be it. And so it is. Amen."
"Thank you Mother Father God for my ever-growing awareness and ability to heal myself and the world."
Repeat the above treatment at least 3x in a row, once or more daily, then release it from your mind and heart and have a peaceful, happy day. If at any time you should be overcome by fear, dissolve it by resorting to this or other similar spiritual treatment to help correct and harmonize all conditions that you fear as well as to dissolve your fear patterns. A great source of many wonderful treatments and an excellent guide for formulating treatments of your own is THE SCIENCE OF MIND book by Ernest Holmes. His other books can also be very helpful. Please also consider learning and utilizing the EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) modality for eliminating harmful or negative patterns from your body-mind system.
Finally, I wish to offer a paraphrased message of Matthew Ward that sheds a little more light on the value of the above approach:
"Love is the most powerful force in the Universe. It heals pain and fear. Pain and fear is what motivates people to conceive and execute horrible acts of violence to create pain and fear in others. Light and Love cure hatred, prejudice, revenge, oppression, killing. Please send Love and Light telepathically to all souls lost in darkness so they may find their way back to the peacefulness and fulfillment within Love. And please teach others about this." Thank you Matthew.
With profound appreciation for your participation in the above and with deep Love, I am
Global Meditation Working Principles
When it comes to defining what sort of inner awareness and attitude is necessary to successfully participate in a meditation where one actively seeks to send out to the world thoughts, energies and vibrations of Peace, Love and Harmony, such as in the weekly global Meditation Focus, it is very hard from the onset not to get caught in the trap of words and mental misinterpretation. Often, in fact, most of the time, we each give a different value to certain words, or concepts represented in words and sentences, and it is therefore almost impossible to make sure one conveys exactly what one wants to say, when using words and "artificial" human mental explanations.
But we can all relate to pictures and images which usually can describe more precisely, albeit more subjectively, what is present in the mind of a person trying to communicate an idea or a sentiment. That is why good writers always use analogies and visual examples to portray what they feel and understand within to future readers. That way, the true essence of the creative process going on in the writer's mind is expressed without excessive distortion, as long as the reader accepts to put aside his or her own views to admit within his or her mind the undiluted, undistorted expression of creativity so depicted.
Now concerning the matter of this subject, the working principles behind any global meditation, we can but hope to do our best to avoid the trap of excessive mental discourse and try to pinpoint with "talking" analogies and visual examples what is at the heart of the intimate personal experience of attunement with planetary transforming energies and vibrations. First, we will ask the reader to put aside for a moment any strongly held belief and assumptions to open, for a few minutes, a space where the architecture and spiritual design of this subject can be erected. We will ask patience when what is being expressed seems obscure or unrelated to any previous experience; for it's often only when actually trying to do what is going to be expressed, that one may truly understand and sense what the concepts and explanations meant.
In fact, an example here can help... Only when actually tasting a piece of orange in his or her mouth and feel the flavor and sensation it creates can someone really knows what the taste of an orange is. Hours of explanations and descriptions of what this taste is can never replace one second of actually tasting it. So it is for the inner world of spiritual sensations and meditative attunement when, acting like genuine cosmonauts of the invisible worlds of Spirit, we immerse ourselves in its myriad expressions of subtle sensations, visions and revelations. Transposing to the mind of an unacquainted person what could be felt and learned requires much patience on both sides and a gradual initiation to the domain of spiritual experience and beingness.
This initiation process normally takes years to accomplish and hours of dedicated and disciplined work in the quietness of silence and the stillness of mind. Motivations must be pure, or purified, objectives must be clear, or clarified, and results must be sought without any personal desire for gratification, nor personal attachment. Like an artist patiently working for years with an apprentice until the student can truly master the essence of his art, the inner guide of our soul, speaking through the small voice within, gradually opens our mind to new perspectives and understanding, and lovingly inspires the part in us which aspires to eternal unity and blissful ecstasy until it blossoms through our heart in a Fountain of Love and luminescent Radiance. This is what we are now going to achieve, step by step, opening successively many doors until you, the reader, can begin to see beyond the walls of confining ideas and insufficient experience.
CLIP - Read the rest at http://www.earthrainbownetwork.com/MedPrinciples.htm
4. PEACE VIGIL FOR THE GAZA STRIP
Please also keep this situation in mind during your prayers and meditations over the coming weeks so as to help foster a peaceful and permanent resolution of all conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians.
This information below may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to this situation. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing.
1. Israel opens 'prolonged' offensive against Hamas
2. Crisis looms for water-starved Gaza Strip
Israel considering invasion of Gaza Strip by ground forces (24 September)
Tel Aviv - The Israeli Security Cabinet decided to carry out a broad military operation against the Gaza Strip in retaliation against the recent rocket attacks from Palestinian militants against Israeli towns in the Negev desert. The retaliation was opened by three airstrikes directed against buildings in the refugee camps of Khan Younis, Jabaliya and in Gaza City. According to the israeli on-line news "Ynet", the restricted Israeli Security Cabinet has also decided to resume targeted killings against Palestinian individuals and what is deemed the "terrorist infrastructure". The invasion by ground troops is to follow in the coming days, unless the Palestinian National Authority succeeds to effectively disarm what is called "terrorists". For tomorrow, Sunday, the Israeli Security Cabinet plans to hit at the Gaza Strip population with artillery gunfire by troops deployed behind the Strip's border. The Israeli escalation follows a mysterious incident that took place yesterday, during a manifestation of Hamas, as the violent explosion of a vehicle caused the death of 19 people leaving 85 others wounded. While Hamas accused Israel to have launched an air strike at the demonstrators, Israel denies any involvement with the explosion which the Palestinian National Authority later declared as an "internal incident".
Analysis: Israel is seeking deterrence (Sept 24)
Israel is seeking deterrence. It has no intention of liquidating the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip nor of wiping out its leadership. The government's goal for the defense establishment is to create a deterrence that will halt any attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israeli towns, villages and farming communities. Creating deterrence requires that the other side truly believe the threats that are being made. IDF generals consistently say Israel has never made any military threat it has no intention of carrying out, if ordered. This was the case concerning numerous alerts along the Lebanon border since Israel pulled out and this is the case now with the Palestinians. There is a lot of bluffing and posing, but a heavy-handed Israeli air, land and artillery assault on terrorists is certainly an option no doubt about it. The IDF has amassed armor along the border and, for the first time, has deployed artillery, which would definitely mark a major change in tactics if used. Psychological warfare was also employed by dropping anti-Hamas leaflets in the Gaza Strip as fighter jets broke the sound barrier in a further expression that the times were changing. But military sources said that, for now, the reaction to the heavy Kassam rocket strikes will be limited to pinpoint strikes against specific targets and a renewal of targeted assassinations. The reactions won't be limited to the Gaza Strip, though. Arrests will continue in the West Bank. Clamping a closure on the West Bank and Gaza is not punishment but rather a security precaution to prevent bombers from getting in. Israel's reaction now is crucial because it will set the pattern for the future. Israel has said the rules of the game are different now, just like it did with Hizbullah when it pulled out of Lebanon five years ago. The latest Kassam barrages were not unexpected. It was a script known ahead of time only the timing was uncertain. Now the new rules are being tested. Israel wants to extract a price for this unprovoked attack. In the Middle East, deterrence is a difficult thing to measure. The deterrence in the mind of one country that is extremely vulnerable to civilian casualties cannot be measured on the same level as a people whose leaders have different regard for human life. To save lives, Israel must act with great ferocity. Additionally, more is at stake here than deterrence vis- -vis the Palestinians. If the IDF does not deliver a firm message that the rules have really changed, it could have grave ramifications in the north with Hizbullah, not to mention across the region.
More attacks on Gaza Strip as Israel launches massive arrest raid in West Bank (25-09-2005)
Israeli warplanes have carried out a new air strike on a Palestinian school which is operated by Hamas in Gaza on Sunday. Palestinian sources and eyewitnesses said that an Israeli plane attacked Dar El-Arqam school in El-Tofah neighborhood in the East of Gaza city causing massive damage for the school and houses in the area. Palestinian medical sources confirmed that at least 10 Palestinians have been injured in this latest air strike. In the West Bank, occupation forces late Saturday and early Sunday arrested 207 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank, including senior West Bank Hamas officials Sheikh Hassan Youssef, Sheikh Fathi al Karawi, and Mohammed Ghazal. "Our forces have taken 207 fugitives into custody, most of them from Hamas or Islamic Jihad," an army spokeswoman said. The raids, carried out in Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Qalqilyah, Ramallah, Tulkarem and Nablus, came as the Israeli cabinet late Saturday approved the use of artillery fire on the Gaza Strip, Haaretz reported.
West Bank: Still Ticking
Uri Dromi states that he was surprised last week, when the evacuation of Israeli settlements and armed forces from Gaza was completed, that it only took one day for an Israeli leader, Shimon Peres, to declare that the Israeli presence in Gaza over 38 years has been "a grave historical mistake."
More related news
Israel opens 'prolonged' offensive against Hamas
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) Israeli aircraft blasted suspected Palestinian weapons facilities and other militant targets throughout the Gaza Strip on Sunday, at the launch of what the military said would be a "prolonged" offensive against Hamas militants for bombarding Israeli towns with rockets.
In the West Bank, the military arrested 150 Palestinian wanted men, in an operation that began late Saturday and remained underway Sunday morning. Most of the militants belonged to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, the military said, revising its earlier report that 190 wanted men had been detained.
The offensive in Gaza dashed hopes that Israel's recently completed Gaza withdrawal would help restart peace talks and left a seven-month-old cease-fire on the brink of collapse. The fighting also raised already intense pressure on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to confront militants.
The Israeli Security Cabinet, a group of senior officials led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, approved the military operation at an emergency meeting late Saturday after Hamas militants fired nearly 40 rockets from Gaza at southern Israeli towns. The rocket barrage, which slightly wounded six Israelis, was the Islamic group's first major attack since Israel concluded its Gaza pullout last week.
"It was decided to launch a prolonged and constant attack on Hamas," said Maj. Gen. Yisrael Ziv, the army's head of operations, hinting that Israel was preparing to resume its assassination of top Hamas leaders, a practice suspended after the February cease-fire. Asked whether the leaders were in danger, he said: "Let them decide for themselves."
Israel killed dozens of Hamas leaders, including the group's founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, during more than four years of violence.
The crisis erupted ahead of a major challenge to Sharon's leadership of the hardline Likud Party and could strengthen the hand of Sharon's main rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, who cautioned that the Gaza pullout would encourage militant attacks. A Likud vote Monday could determine whether Sharon quits the party _ a move likely to bring early elections and lead Sharon to form a new centrist party to capture mainstream voters.
Israeli security officials said "Operation First Rain" would include artillery fire, air strikes and other targeted attacks. The operation will grow in intensity, leading up to a ground invasion in several days unless Abbas's Palestinian Authority halts the rocket attacks or Hamas ends the attacks itself, officials said.
The ground operation would require final approval from the full Cabinet, they added. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicize the operation's details.
Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa called the plan a "serious escalation that will lead to a new era of violence."
Shortly after the ministers' decision, Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets throughout Gaza, including three weapons-storage facilities and a Gaza City school the military said served as a front for Hamas. Other targets included the offices of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small militant group.
Nineteen people were slightly wounded in the attacks, and the facilities were heavily damaged.
The Popular Resistance Committees, another armed group, said the home of one of its commanders was targeted. The commander, Amer Karmout, survived the attack but two relatives were wounded, the group said.
Israeli military officials said the attacks were aimed at any group possessing weapons. But the offensive was focused on Hamas, the largest Palestinian militant group.
The Gaza City air strike caused heavy damage to the Al-Arkam school, which Yassin founded. The army said Hamas used the building to raise funds for attacks, recruit militants and assist families of suicide bombers.
The attack occurred in a crowded neighborhood, damaging at least five nearby homes, knocking out electricity and covering the area with an acrid odor. Fifteen people were slightly wounded, medical officials said.
On Saturday, an Israeli aircraft struck two cars carrying Hamas militants, killing two local field commanders. The attack signaled a resumption of targeted killings, albeit of relatively low-level militants.
The chain of events began Friday afternoon, with an explosion at a Hamas rally in Gaza's crowded Jebaliya refugee camp, in which at least 15 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.
Hamas blamed Israel for that blast, and said its rocket attacks on Israeli towns were meant as retaliation. However, the Palestinian Authority held the Islamic militants responsible, saying weapons were mishandled.
In a speech Saturday, Abbas renewed demands that armed groups stop flaunting their weapons in public. "We are required more than ever before to end this frequent tragedy that resulted from chaos and military parades in residential areas," he said.
Hamas called Abbas' position "a stab in the back of the martyrs" and a blow to efforts to work out differences between the factions.
Abbas has been trying to co-opt Hamas by inviting it to compete in upcoming elections, and has rejected calls by Israel and the international community to confront and disarm the militants. Israel wants Hamas barred from participating in the vote as long as it remains armed.
Hamas vowed to avenge Saturday's deadly air strike, calling on its militants in a statement to strike Israel "in every spot of our occupied land." At least four more rockets fell in Israel after the air strike.
As the Israeli air strikes continued through the night, large numbers of ground forces deployed near northern Gaza, the launching area for most rocket attacks.
In an unprecedented step, Israel set up five artillery cannon elsewhere on the border. In the past, Israel retaliated for Palestinian rocket fire with missile strikes from the air or with ground incursions. Artillery fire is less precise than missiles, and artillery shells fired into densely populated Gaza could cause many casualties.
Israel indefinitely sealed the West Bank and Gaza, barring thousands of Palestinians from jobs in Israel. Officials also said the army planned to order residents of northern Gaza to leave their homes so Israel could create a "buffer zone."
Ziv, the Israeli commander, and other officials said they hoped the military campaign would encourage Palestinians to put pressure on Hamas to halt its activities. "We are calling on the Palestinian population to stand up for their rights and ... see where the Hamas is taking them," Ziv said.
The army on Saturday dropped flyers throughout Gaza saying Hamas had sparked the escalation. Hamas' lies are "driving you to destruction and despair," the flyer said.
Crisis looms for water-starved Gaza Strip
September 23, 2005
GAZA CITY, Gaza -- The Gaza Strip's dangerously low drinking water reserves, dilapidated decontamination facilities and a nearly dry water table are warning signals of a looming crisis, Palestinian experts say.
"We are heading toward an ecological catastrophe," said Shaddad Al Atili, water and ecological affairs advisor to the Palestinian Authority (PA), citing Gaza's rapidly growing population.
Some 1.3 million people, 900,000 of them refugees, currently live in Gaza.
It has one of the world's highest population densities, with 3,457 people per square kilometer (8,642 people per square mile), and the population is expected to climb to 2.2 million people in 10 years, according to official statistics.
UN environmental experts are expected in Gaza next week to evaluate damage to the territory's water system, caused by pollution in the water table as well as poor drainage, decontamination and purification facilities.
The team is also to investigate the possible presence of industrial pollutants in the water table and the burying of solid waste at Israeli settlements that were evacuated in August.
Palestinian water expert Said Abu Jalala said that another area of focus would be the impact of sand mining by Israeli companies.
"Tens of thousands of tons of high-quality sand have been taken out of Gaza by the Israelis for their industrial glass and building needs, thereby depriving the water table of its natural filter," Jalala said.
In addition, water reserves are low, experts say.
Atili said that natural rainwater alone is not enough to sustain the Palestinian territory, which receives between 45 million and 55 million cubic meters (1.5 billion to 1.9 billion cubic feet) of rainwater per year but consumes about three times that amount.
"Water is scarce in Gaza and its only water table on the coast is in the process of draining," he said.
"Besides, Israel has not authorized us to import water from regions outside Gaza," Atili added.
Israel has offered to sell them desalinated water for $1 per cubic meter, which the Palestinians find too costly.
Water allocation is part of late-stage negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the creation of an independent Palestinian state, along with other sticky points such as border drawing, the status of Jerusalem and the return of refugees.
Scarce water has caused Gaza residents to dig unauthorized wells.
Some 4,300 wells are allowed by law, but another 2,400 have been dug without permission, illegally draining 70 million cubic meters from the already low water table, Atili said.
The extra drainage has the effect of making the drinking water saltier.
In some regions the salt level reached 300 milligrams per liter, or 12 times higher than international standards of 25 milligrams.
In other regions the salt level tops 400 milligrams per liter, said Atili, who added that pollution is also a major problem.
"Some 30 million cubic meters of water is polluted each year by fertilizer and industrial byproducts that infiltrate the water table due to the decontamination facilities or because of their poor conditions," said Atili.
In a bid to reduce the strain on Gaza's water supply, the US Agency for International Development has planned to install a desalination center for seawater that would have an initial annual capacity of 22 million cubic meters and could reach 55 million cubic meters by 2018.
However, the project has been held up by security concerns and the Palestinian uprising, or intifada, which began in 2000.
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