10 000 police will guard Bush during Israel visit

Israeli officials in Jerusalem are to deploy more than 10 000 police officers in a vast security operation ahead of the arrival this week of George Bush, the first United States president to visit in a decade. Graffiti are being cleaned off walls, road markings are being repainted and hundreds of American flags are being put up across the city. The floodlights which illuminate the stone ramparts of the Old City will stay on for an extra two hours every night, until 2am, to give the president the chance to catch the view.

Hundreds of hotel rooms across Jerusalem have been booked for Bush’s group, as well as for the media and even Israeli officials, who fear they might not be able to make it home in the evenings.

Bush, who arrives on Wednesday for his first visit as president, will stay at the King David hotel. Eight truckloads of equipment have already arrived in advance of his two-night stay. All the hotel’s rooms will be taken by his entourage — tourists have had their bookings cancelled.

The security precautions, dubbed Operation Clear Skies by the Israeli security services, are immense. Roads around the hotel will be blocked, despite the huge traffic jams that will entail. A force of 10 500 police and security staff will be deployed and Bush will be flown in to the hotel by helicopter from the airport near Tel Aviv. ”There will be so much security nobody will be able to get anywhere near the president,” said Micky Rosenfield, Israel’s police spokesperson.

On Sunday an American militant linked to al-Qaeda, Adam Gadahn, released an Arabic language internet video calling for attacks on Bush during his Middle East visit. In Jerusalem some protests are expected from right-wing groups, particularly from a vocal organisation that lobbies for the release of Jonathan Pollard, who was jailed in the US in 1986 for spying for Israel. Pollard’s supporters have taken out adverts on Jerusalem buses in Hebrew and English that read ”Bush, free your captive”. The president is pictured alongside Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, and Hassan Nasrullah, the Hezbollah leader. Beneath them are pictures of Pollard alongside three Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas and Hezbollah last year.

Separately on Sunday, the crisis afflicting Gaza worsened when Palestinian officials said they would now have to cut off electricity for eight hours every day, because Israel has sharply cut fuel supplies. Israel says the cut in supplies is to stop militants firing rockets into its territory.

Kanan Obeid, chairperson of the Gazan energy authority, said the strip, home to 1,5-million Palestinians, had only 35% of the power it needed because of fuel shortages. The power plant is to shut down one of its two gas turbines, reducing output further. Water and sewerage systems are now particularly vulnerable.

Three Palestinians, civilians according to local officials, were killed in Israeli raids in Gaza on Sunday. Several Israel soldiers were injured in the fighting. – Guardian Unlimited Â

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