Israel/Palestine News and Information Links December 18 - 20 2003

Major portions of this document are sourced from from Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel - Other sources include Information Clearing House.

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December 20 2003

Bush Administration is Undermining Democracy in Palestine By Kevin Murray, Miftah 12/20/2003
Aid to Palestinian civil society organizations has always been a tough sell in the United States, but perhaps never as tough as it is today. Images of Palestinians as doctors providing trauma treatment, human rights workers documenting abuses on all sides, or city dwellers planting urban gardens in Gaza seldom appear on the evening news. Palestinians are doing all of these things and more. Their work is central to any vision of a democratic future for the Palestinians, and a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

IDF Redefines Palestinians West of the Fence
By Amira Hass Haaretz: Sat., December 20, 2003 Kislev 25, 5764

Charedi Rabbis Rush To Disavow Anti-Gentile Book :
Leaders of the country's most prominent ultra-Orthodox yeshiva are scrambling to distance themselves from a book by one of their disciples, which argues that gentiles are "completely evil" and Jews constitute a separate, genetically superior species.

Israel: Lapid lambastes `barbaric' settlers :
Justice Minister Yosef Lapid yesterday launched a verbal assault on Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, describing their behavior as "barbaric," and accusing them of having "de facto" control in Israel.

Bush Warned: Don't Push Israel:
Leading Christian and Jewish conservatives warned the Bush administration this week not to use the dramatic capture of Saddam Hussein as the launch pad for new U.S. initiatives on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

Gush Shalom: Sharon's Speech: Tissue of Lies and Half-Truths His "Plan"
- Recipe for War and Annexation

Israel's Arabs are the real demographic threat : "A leader who considers 20 percent of the population of Israel to be a demographic threat and treats them as an existential problem, is himself a racist threat to democracy, sanity, and the rule of law - and he should be disposed of immediately for the good of both peoples."

Fertility gap fuels land debate in Israel:
Israel proper - within its 1967 borders - is an overwhelmingly Jewish state. Jews are roughly 80 percent of its 6.5 million population. But add to the map the 3.5 million people living in the primarily Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and demographically the Jewish state is doomed, population experts say, citing the Arabs' much higher birthrate.

December 19 2003

Jordan is caught between Iraq and a hard place By Rana Sabbagh-Gargour, Daily Star 12/19/2003
Jordanians are bracing for a harsh winter, their resource-poor country trapped in the shifting sands of regional political turmoil, even as daring economic reforms have yet to affect the lives of most people.

The Geneva Accord: War against Memory and Denial of Reality
Palestine Monitor/PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign 12/19/2003
The signatories and supporters of the Geneva Accord are spreading the idea that the Accord will achieve a historic reconciliation, defined primarily as each party recognizing the other's right to a state. While the Palestinians would have to recognize--for the millionth time – Israel as a Jewish state, the Israelis will recognize a Palestinian state, in whatever form it will take, at a later date. Most notable is that this reconciliation that the Accord refers to is a final resolution to the conflict in which the Palestinians will no longer be able to make any "claims related to events prior to this agreement." And yet, the main issue does not lie in the recognition of a Palestinian state, but in the composition of the Palestinian state, as the kind of state the Accord refers to is the main reason why Palestinians, overwhelmingly, reject the Accord. The fact remains that the Accord is almost totally removed from the reality of the Occupation, which, like the Wall, continues unhindered.

Subject: US "Encourages Iraq Relations" with israel

Subject: Jewish Week: Top Jewish & Christian 'Conservatives" Warn Bush: DON'T PUSH ISRAEL

News Briefs:

IOF demolishes Rafah's "Al-Tawhid" Mosque, Palestinian prisoner denied treatment

International Middle East Media Center 12/19/2003

The administration at Majeddo detention camp refuses to provide treatment to a sick detainee: In a procedure which is repeated very often in many detention camps against the detainees, the administration at Majeddo detention camp refused to transfer Mohammad Jaradat to a hospital when his health condition deteriorated after being medically neglected, currently his condition is getting worse and needs immediate medical attention. / Troops invade Rafah and demolish a Mosque: The Military supported by four tanks and three military bulldozers attacked Al-Barahma neighborhood under heavy fire coverage on the Palestinian-Egyptian border south Rafah and demolished a Mosque in that area. Sources mentioned that the army fired Tank bombs towards „Al-Tawhid‰ Mosque then the Military Bulldozers demolished it completely.

Palestinians open fire at a civilian convoy and an IDF post

Jerusalem Post 12/19/2003

Palestinians opened fire at a civilian convoy leaving Netzarim in the Gaza Strip Friday. Earlier, an IDF post in the area was fired at [?]. No casualties were reported in either event. Palestinian sources report that IDF forces, backed by helicopters and tanks, are operating in Nablus and the adjacent Balata refugee camp for the third day in a row.

IDF to probe razing of sheikh's tomb Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

The Israel Defense Forces' Military Police unit is investigating the demolition of the tomb of a sheikh in the north of the Gaza Strip. The probe is focusing on who in the IDF gave the order to demolish the tomb, a holy Muslim site, and thus to desecrate it. The incident took place a few months ago near the Dugit settlement, where the IDF was engaged in extensive operations to destroy Palestinian agricultural plots and homes.

AP: Mideast Death Toll Dramatically Down Newsday 12/19/2003

JERUSALEM -- The death toll in the third year of Israeli-Palestinian violence fell to about half the previous year's, mainly due to fewer Palestinian attacks and Israeli military strikes, according to an Associated Press count. Suicide bombings also dropped by about half. Violence continues to claim lives, children and teens remain among the most vulnerable, and the reasons for the drop are disputed. Palestinians said it's because of hopes over the past year for an end to the violence, while Israeli analysts cited the construction of a massive fence complex in the West Bank and other security measures that have severely disrupted Palestinian daily life.,0,2119515.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines

Tranquil hilltop that has become focus of struggle The Guardian 12/19/2003

Migron's hilltop pioneers expect to be the first on the prime minister's symbolic hitlist -- The tents and flags are up and there is a purposeful atmosphere. It could almost be the preparations for the end of season party at a holiday camp, but here in Migron the settlers are preparing for a fight. It appears to have been decided in Israel that this outpost will be dismantled and its 43 families evacuated, to demonstrate that the government will honour its commitment to the road map to peace, and particularly its undertakings to President George Bush.,2763,1110222,00.html

Worshippers Indicted After Entering Palestinian Areas

Forward 12/19/2003

JERUSALEM – In a move intended to deter Israelis from entering Palestinian-controlled areas, Israeli state prosecutors have filed charges against a group of Bratslav chasidim who illegally went to pray at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus last week – and were attacked by Palestinian gunmen as they left the site. Eight of the 16 Jews who entered Nablus were indicted this week in Petach Tikvah Magistrates Court for violating a military ban on entering autonomous areas under Palestinian Authority control...."We told them that 'you are going into an area that will cause terror attacks, and cause us to risk our lives to save you,'" said police spokesman Gil Kleiman. "So we weren't going to cut them any slack when it came to being arrested, saying, 'Oh, you've been through a terror attack, go home, we'll forgive you.' No forgiveness."

Israel muzzles Palestinian journalists Al-Jazeera 12/19/2003

The international press organisation „Reporters Sans Frontiers‰ (RSF) recently lambasted Israel for abusing and harassing Palestinian and foreign journalists covering the Intifada against Israeli occupation. The Paris-based group did recognise that Israel generally respected „the local (Jewish) media freedom of expression‰, but criticised Israel for violating the international covenant on civil and political rights, including press freedom, especially in the occupied territories.

World Court to Hear on Israeli Wall in Feb Reuters 12/19/2003

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The World Court said on Friday it would hold hearings in February on the legal consequences of the building of the controversial barrier by Israel in the West Bank. Earlier this month, the U.N. General Assembly voted for a Palestinian-initiated resolution to ask The Hague-based International Court of Justice -- also known as the World Court -- whether Israel was legally obliged to tear down the barrier it was constructing in the Palestinian territory.;jsessionid=0A3P0A

U.S. Warns Israel on Imposing Solution The Guardian 12/19/2003

HERZLIYA, Israel (AP) - The United States warned Israel against imposing a solution if peace efforts remain stalled, and the Palestinians called Ariel Sharon's ultimatum unacceptable. Jewish West Bank settlers, also reacting swiftly to the plan Sharon unveiled Thursday, said the prime minister's idea of moving some settlements was an illusion....``We would oppose any unilateral steps that block the road toward negotiations under the road map,'' White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. ``The United States believes that a settlement must be negotiated and we would oppose any effort - any Israeli effort - to impose a settlement.'',1280,-3526011,00.html

Senior U.S. official: Sharon speech 'a very positive development Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

A senior American administration official said Friday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech at the Herzliya security conference, in which the prime minister unveiled his plan for 'disengagement' from the Palestinians, was a "very positive development" that could restart the peace process. The official, speaking on condition of anonimity, said Sharon's speech indicated Israel's renewed commitment to the road map and to evacuating outposts and some settlements, and added that he disagreed with accusations by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia that Sharon was threatening the Palestinians by raising the possibility of unilateral moves.

Palestinians scorn 'these dangerous words' The Guardian 12/19/2003

Palestinians responded with a mixture of dismay and fury to Ariel Sharon's speech, which some said betrayed his desire to bypass the road map, isolate the Palestinians behind fences, and grab more than half of the West Bank. The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, said he was "disappointed" that Mr Sharon was "threatening" the Palestinians, and added that if he picked up peace talks then a settlement could come "sooner than expected". "These are ultimately dangerous words, and this type of talk is simply not acceptable," he said.,2763,1110259,00.html

EU thwarts PLO's anti-Israel move in UN Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

The European Union countries have foiled a PLO initiative to challenge Israel's credentials at the UN, specifically Israel's right to represent the territories. Early this week the PLO delegation to the UN distributed a draft resolution that said: "The PLO representative in the UN is the representative of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem."....EU representatives met with PLO Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa, telling him that exploiting the routine votes on country credentials crossed "a red line."

Sharon unveils `disengagement plan' Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office has stepped up efforts to arrange a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said last night after Sharon delivered a much anticipated speech announcing his "disengagement plan" from the Palestinians. Sharon said he would begin implementing the plan in a few months if it became evident the Palestinian Authority was not undertaking its commitments in the road map and that some elements in the plan - which he dubbed a security, not a political, measure - could begin even sooner....He also said Israel would "greatly accelerate" the construction of the separation fence and said the disengagement plan includes creating economic benefits for the Palestinians, "in coordination with Jordan and Egypt."

Sharon under heavy fire for separation plan MSNBC 12/19/2003

U.S., Israeli left and right, Palestinians, blast ultimatum -- JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon drew fire from Israel's main U.S. ally and all sides in the Middle East on Friday for a pledge to sever Israelis from Palestinians within months if peace talks fail. The plan would deny Palestinians land they want for a state and keep them behind a controversial barrier through the West Bank, but also involve shifting Jewish settlers away from Palestinian population centers to shorten security lines. The United States, Palestinians and Israeli doves condemned the threat of breaking with the U.S.-backed „road map‰ for reciprocal measures leading to a Palestinian state by 2005.

Palestinians urge roadmap execution Middle East Online 12/19/2003

Palestinians had little other choice Friday than to call on the international community to speed up implementation of the peace roadmap after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threatened unilateral measures if the peace process continued to stall. "We must intensify our efforts with the quartet to come up with timetable for the roadmap," said Palestinian negotiations minister Saeb Erakat...."We want the roadmap to be implemented the way it was adopted by the UN Security Council, and the quartet must devise a mechanism to oversee its implementation," said Erakat.

Sharon Says Israel Might Use Wall to Create Palestinian Border New York Times 12/19/2003

JERUSALEM, Dec. 18 – Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said in a major policy address today that if the current peace efforts fail to bring progress within months, Israel will begin severing links with the Palestinians by pulling out of some settlements and establishing a new "security line."...Mr. Sharon also declined to define the security line, though much of it would likely be along the barrier that Israel is building in the West Bank. "The security line will not be the final border of the state of Israel," the prime minister said. "But until the implementation of the road map, that is where" the military will be deployed.

Peres says he doesn't believe Sharon will implement new plan Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

Labor Chairman Shimon Peres on Friday criticized Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "disengagement plan" as an attempt to delay making the decisions needed to achieve peace, Israel Radio reported. In a meeting with foreign ambassadors in Israel, Peres slammed Sharon's plan, which the prime minister unveiled Thursday at the Herzliya Conference. Peres criticized the plan as giving no timeline nor specifying which settlements would be evacuated.

Quartet to meet on Middle East conflict next month ReliefWeb 12/19/2003

New York (dpa) - The four parties responsible for the so-called ``roadmap,'' the peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will hold a meeting in January, a European Union official said Friday in New York. Javier Solana, secretary-general for the Council of the E.U., said the meeting, with the date and venue still unspecified, will make another push to advance the roadmap. ``Events have taken place in the Middle East,'' Solana told reporters following a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

EU's Solana warns Israel against 'unilateral' solutions Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union on Friday welcomed some aspects of Prime Minister's Ariel Sharon's latest statement on Middle East peace, but warned "unilateral" moves would not help end the conflict. "There is no unilateral solution to this conflict. Any statements pointing in that direction will certainly not help to move the process forward," said Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief.

Text of Prime Minister's Speech at the Herzliya Conference Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

Full text of Sharon's speech

Sharon ready to sacrifice some Jewish outposts The Guardian 12/19/2003

....Mr Sharon said the Palestinians would come off worse if Israeli pursued unilateral action than if they negotiated an agreement.The plan makes Israel's border the "security fence" which has taken big chunks out of the Palestinian West Bank. Mr Sharon said this would not be the final border, but the danger is that it may become so. By closing down the outlying and vulnerable settlements Mr Sharon will concentrate Israeli army resources on the biggest settlements, making it harder to remove them in the future.,2763,1110203,00.html

Obeid stresses right of return Daily Star 12/19/2003

Minister: Palestinians must not be resettled in host countries -- [Lebanon's] Foreign Minister Jean Obeid called Thursday for increased support for the Palestinian right of return in order to dismiss all plans for resettling Palestinian refugees in their present host countries. Speaking to reporters after conferring with the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) politburo chief, Farouk Qaddoumi, the minister said "slogans opposing the resettlement plans without supporting the Palestinian right of return lead to inter-Palestinian fighting."

Lebanon's Sovereignty, Democracy 'at the Core of Bush's Mideast Policy' An Nahar 12/19/2003

Walid Maalouf, a Lebanese-American diplomat serving at Washington's U.N. mission, says Lebanon's "democracy and sovereignty" are at the heart of George W. Bush's administration, adding that Syria is wrong if it believed it could compromise on the issue. A White House appointee, Maalouf has come under fire for a recent altercation with Syria's envoy, Faysal Mikdad, over the Syria Accountability and Lebanon's Sovereignty Restoration Act, which President Bush signed this month.

Unilateral Israeli Moves Rejected By U.S. Islam Online 12/19/2003

WASHINGTON, December 19 ( & News Agencies) - Washington Thursday, December 18, warned Israel that it would oppose any unilateral Israeli move towards a Middle East settlement that falls outside the U.S.-backed road map for peace. The Palestinians also dismissed Israeli „threats‰, branding them unacceptable. The warning and rejection came after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in a speech he would implement his own „unilateral measures‰ if the Palestinians did not meet their road map commitments in the coming months, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

China vows to promote peace in the Mideast Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

China's fundamental stance on the Middle East is to promote peace and dialogue to achieve comprehensive peace of the region, Chinese President Hu Jintao told visiting President Moshe Katsav yesterday. During a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, Hu said the Israeli-Palestinian issue had been left unsettled for over half a century, and brought disaster to all nations and their peoples in the region including Israel.

Envoy Under Fire for Discussing Terror Suspect's Trial Forward 12/19/2003

OTTAWA – The Israeli ambassador to Canada came under fire last week after publicly disclosing that a Hamas official had allegedly tried to recruit a Canadian citizen of Palestinian origin to assist in terrorist attacks in North America. The Canadian Foreign Ministry called in Israeli Ambassador Chaim Divon to protest comments he made about Israel's arrest of Jamal Akkal, a 23-year-old Canadian from Windsor, Ontario. Canadian authorities said such comments could undermine Akkal's chance for a fair trial....Following Divon's initial announcement concerning the case, a spokesman for the Canadian Foreign Ministry, Raymond Doiron, was quoted saying that the Israeli envoy would be "reprimanded" for publicly airing allegations against a Canadian citizen whose case was still before a court.

Maher confers with Israeli opposition member Arabic News 12/19/2003

The secretary general of the Israeli Labor party Ofeir Benis said, after talks he had held with the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher, that the evacuation of main Jewish settlements in Gaza should take place in the context of "unilateral measures" in the interest of the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Benis said that if the Roadmap peace plan fails, there is the possibility of thinking of taking unilateral measures, especially in Gaza.

Sharon slammed for 'unilateral' threat Al-Jazeera 12/19/2003

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has earned widespread criticism for his threat to impose a deal on the Palestinians. Washington has opposed his planned unilateral moves, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have accused him of betrayal and Palestinians reject his "threatening" language. The United States "would oppose any unilateral steps that block the road towards negotiations under the road map that leads to the two state vision," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Friday.

U.S. Warns Israel Against Steps That Harm Peace Plan New York Times 12/19/2003

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 – The Bush administration, responding coolly to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement of a possible "disengagement plan" in the West Bank, warned Israel on Thursday against taking unilateral steps that effectively abandoned the American-sponsored peace plan, called the road map, which would establish a Palestinian state....Behind the speech, some administration officials said, was a tacit agreement between Mr. Sharon's aides – particularly Dov Weisglass, his chief of staff – and top aides to Mr. Bush that the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, is proving to be a disappointment....The senior administration official said Thursday night, however, that Mr. Sharon had made enough conciliatory gestures in his speech to warrant a renewed attempt to get Mr. Qurei back to the negotiating table.

Mid-East press on Sharon speech BBC 12/19/2003

Press review: While the Arab press was unimpressed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ultimatum to the Palestinians to make progress on peace talks or face a unilateral separation of territories, several Israeli commentators noted that he had made a significant political shift.

Analysis / Arik still beats Sharon Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

If life were a movie - Harry Potter, for example - and it was possible with a magic wand to turn Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's words into immediate reality, the political system in Israel would be experiencing a major shock right now. Evacuating Gaza of its Jews and moving dozens of isolated settlements in the West Bank, as implied by Sharon in last night's Herzliya speech, would once and for all have disengaged the Likud from its ideology, and caused an internal split between it and the right, and the establishment of a secular government with Likud, Labor and Shinui. It would have been the Big Bang everyone's been talking about for so long.

Eiland set to organize Sharon's plan Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

Major General Giora Eiland, who will be appointed as head of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office next month, is the leading candidate to orchestrate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, which was revealed Thursday during a speech at the Herzliya Conference on security issues....Eiland has already devised troop deployment in the territories, as part of hypothetical scenarios, during his current role as head of the Israel Defense Forces Planning Department. He has proposed evacuating settlements in the Gaza Strip and seven isolated settlements in the West Bank to enable Palestinian territorial contiguity and a better line of defense.

Claim: `Weak pupils' were banished before exams Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

Yusuf Ban'at, 10, from the village of Sheikh Danun in the western Galilee did not go to school at the beginning of this week. On Thursday last week, he says, he and a friend, Ala Bader, were told to leave their fifth-grade class before the start of a national proficiency examination in Arabic comprehension, so as not to affect the general level of the class's grade. Ban'at, hurt and offended by his classification as a weak student, refused thereafter to return to school.

Mofaz blasts defense budget as worst ever Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

The NIS 32.4 billion allocated for defense in the 2004 budget does not provide solutions to all Israel's defense needs, and never has a defense budget been prepared as improperly as this one, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Knesset subcommittee on the defense budget yesterday. He added that this financial plan could potentially result in "the dismantling of the defensive force." The Defense Ministry prepared a minimal NIS 36.5 billion budget, to include basic changes in the Israel Defense Forces and a cut of billions from last year's budget. But the treasury is submitting a NIS 32.4 billion budget - four billion less than the ministry planned.

Right: Sharon will be judged by his actions Jerusalem Post 12/19/2003

The National Religious Party and the National Union will remain in the government until it decides to dismantle settlements, the leaders of the two parties said Thursday night in response to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Herzliya Conference speech. With a December 31 vote on the state budget on the horizon, Sharon purposely made sure that his call for an eventual unilateral withdrawal from settlements would not endanger his coalition...."The NRP will judge Sharon according to his actions," party leader Effi Eitam said. "We will not be a partner in a government that uproots Jewish communities and endangers the Zionist enterprise as a whole.

Netanyahu not conspiring against Sharon Jerusalem Post 12/19/2003

Sources close to PM Ariel Sharon are dismissing allegations that Finance Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is trying to undermine Sharon's political plans, as outlined in the PM's Thursday speech to the Herzliya Conference, reports Army Radio.

Jerusalem issues Christmas terror alert for Israelis abroad Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

The Foreign Ministry issued a travel alert for Israelis tourists on Friday, warning that terrorist groups could target public gatherings during the Christmas and New Year period. Israelis were warned to stay clear of mass celebrations, which the intelligence community fears could be the target of a terror attack.

Public, businesses flock to stock market Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

The drop in interest rates and the stock market's take-off in 2003 have led to a huge number of new bond issues and stock sales. In total NIS 9.3 billion have been raised in the markets since the beginning of the year. The rising tide in the stock market, in addition to the sharp drop in bond yields that followed the bull market, have combined with the bank credit crunch and the decrease in government bond issue, to bring about a real flowering of corporate fund-raising.

Italy and Israel Here on Earth Israel National News 12/19/2003

Israeli and Italian national manufacturers and international business associations signed two complementary industrial, scientific and technological cooperation agreements this week. The signatories to one agreement were the Israel Manufacturers Association and the Italian Manufacturers Association, and the signatories to the other were the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute and the SIMEST fund, established by the Italian government to assist Italian companies in business cooperation with non-EU countries.

Over and out Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 18 - 24 December 200

Like everyone else Israelis and Palestinians were enthralled by the images of Saddam Hussein's capture, but for different reasons -- "One picture is stronger than a thousand missiles," wrote Israeli analyst, Ben Caspit, in Maariv on Monday morning. He was referring to the photograph that by then had been beamed across every network throughout the globe: the fallen Saddam -- hunted, haggard and bowing to his captors like a lamb in a pen. "Less a symbol," remarked another Israeli commentator, "more a shadow"....Among Palestinians the gamut of emotions was almost exactly opposite. Some took to the streets in Nablus and Gaza to salute their long-lost champion and nemesis of their enemies. But most felt a confused mix of shame and betrayal. "Many Palestinians preferred to die under the rubble of their homes than surrender to the Israeli army. Saddam has proved that he is the biggest coward on earth," said Anwar Shtayeh, a Hamas supporter in Hebron.

Pilgrims rely on local generosity to facilitate marathon walk Daily Star 12/19/2003

Richard Bois and Mehdi Alioui plan to trek 8,000 kilometers around the region -- Emile Issa, 19, a law student at Universite Saint Joseph, doesn't usually stop for strangers, but when he saw two men with what seemed very heavy backpacks with the emblem of a scallop on one of them - the symbol of pilgrims - he was curious to find out who they were and what they were doing in Beirut....Bois, a Christian, and Alioui, a Muslim, are on a trip they call Ensemble, or Together. „Our tour has been called a tour for peace,‰ says Bois. "But we are walking together for peace, together for ecology, together for however people will interpret it."

Palestinian comic manages to find humor at Israeli checkpoints Daily Star 12/19/2003

Mohammed Faqih says making people laugh at roadblocks eases tension -- NABLUS: Mohammed Faqih is in trouble. His oldest son Ayman is about to start college and he doesn't know where to get the money to pay for his son's studies. His dilemma is a common one among Palestinians in the West Bank, where poverty is rampant and the economy in ruins. But unlike most Palestinians, Faqih, 41, plans to use laughter to make his fortune. Faqih is a comic impersonator, and while there is little official work for a comedian in the Occupied Territories, there are plenty of opportunities for performing at venues where audiences are guaranteed to be captive: checkpoints.

Reality TV program has positive effect on Israeli society Daily Star 12/19/2003

Show's Arab winner promotes peace -- LONDON: Reality TV isn't often trumpeted for its positive effects on society, but that's exactly what has happened following the victory by Israeli-Arab Firas Khoury in Israeli TV show Project Y. Khoury has since become an important media celebrity in Israel, helping bridge the divide between the Arab and Jewish communities there. This week he published a personal seasonal message of goodwill, wishing the public of the region, "of all communities and sectors, Jewish and Arab, rich and poor, young and old, a year of peace, tranquillity and success. Let us learn to love one another, and forgive those who would hate us."

Palestinians and Israelis sceptical of Sharon plan Financial Times 12/19/2003

RAFAAT/MIGRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's words are giving an added sense of chill to the driving rain at the West Bank village of Rafaat. Not far up the road at the Jewish outpost of Migron, settlers also feared Sharon's threat to impose separation if a U.S.-backed peace plan fails -- uprooting some settlements but hardening Israel's hold on areas Palestinians want for a state. For very different reasons, Israelis and Palestinians alike were sceptical that Sharon's plan would end decades of troubles over the land they contest.

Thousands of Palestinians mark Hamas' 16th birthday Hindustan Times 12/19/2003

Braving torrential rain, thousands of sympathisers of the hardline Palestinian Islamic group Hamas took to the streets in Gaza City on Friday to mark the group's 16th birthday. Waving Hamas' trademark green flags and other Palestinian flags, the marchers converged on the town centre just after midday prayer, among them several masked men wearing military fatigues and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles. Others bore five black coffins on their shoulders, upon which were written the names of numerous failed Israeli-Palestinian agreements.,001300380000.htm

US sanctions on Syria draw closer as Europe embraces Damascus

Daily Star 12/19/2003

Timing of EU association deal is political, economic boost - Syria Accountability Act has further polarized ties with United States - and muddied the waters in the process -- ATHENS: When Syrian President Bashar Assad finally signs on the dotted line of an association agreement with the European Union early next year, he will be acting out the last scene in five years of often tortuous negotiations between Damascus and Brussels. With US and Israeli pressure on Syria mounting recently - including an Israeli air strike against a suburb of Damascus in October and last week's rejection of peace negotiations over the occupied Golan Heights - the development could represent a boost for the country's president in confronting an apparently belligerent Bush administration.

British Foreign office highlights relations with Syria Arabic News 12/19/2003

British Foreign Ministry Spokesman described on Thursday the relation between Britain and Syria as good and based on a serious and constructive dialogue. In a brief interview with SANA in London, the spokesman said that President Bashar al-Assad has adopted a reform program and the British government is observing the steps of this program referring to the imminent the Syrian - European Partnership agreement.

US criticizes lack of religious freedom in Middle East Daily Star 12/19/2003

Report cites Saudi Arabia and Iran as worst offenders -- The United States on Thursday assailed Iran and Saudi Arabia as the worst offenders of religious freedom rights in the Middle East, but also criticized its key Middle East ally, Israel, for intolerance toward religious groups. Iran and Saudi Arabia - along with pre-war Iraq - were listed in the State Department's annual report on international religious freedom as nations in which there is "state hostility toward minority or non-approved religions."

Congress To Aid Lakewood Yeshiva Forward 12/19/2003

Congress is set to allocate $500,000 to Beth Medrash Govoha, known as the Lakewood yeshiva, for the establishment of a "Holocaust library." The grant was included in the 2004 Omnibus Appropriation Conference Agreement that is expected to be signed by President Bush later this month. According to congressional staffers, New Jersey's two senators, Democrats Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg, inserted the money into the bill after being lobbied by Rabbi Aharon Kotler, brother of the yeshiva's foremost religious leader, Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler. The allocation comes as attention is focusing on a book written by Rabbi Saadya Grama, a graduate of the yeshiva, arguing that gentiles are "completely evil" and Jews constitute a separate, genetically superior species.

Canadians Pick Jewish Activist As Top Lawman Forward 12/19/2003

MONTREAL – Irwin Cotler, the outspokenly pro-Israel legal scholar sometimes known as Canada's Alan Dershowitz, has been promoted from a backbench member of Parliament to the high-profile posts of justice minister and attorney-general in the new Cabinet announced last week by Paul Martin, Canada's new prime minister.


Richard the Lionhearted: With President Bush having just waived the Jerusalem Embassy Act, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri is challenging the president to move America's embassy to Israel's capital... / Blasting Baker: The campaign of retired general Wesley Clark is pointing out that the candidate opposed President Bush's appointment of James Baker III as the administration's special envoy dealing with Iraq debt. An earlier statement the campaign sent to the Forward noted only that Clark opposed Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's suggestion about sending Baker as an envoy to create Israeli-Palestinian peace. But it seems that was not the general's final word.... / Slapping Soros: The chairman of President Bush's re-election bid, Marc Racicot, is using "billionaire liberal" George Soros as the target for a "grassroots" effort to strike back at what Racicot is calling "the smears and invective" of the Democratic candidates....The solicitation also selectively quotes former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Gephardt and Lieberman to illustrate what Republicans have labeled as political "hate speech"...

American academic criticizes US policy in Middle East Daily Star 12/19/2003

Ann Lesch says Bush's approach is "dangerous" - Critic says Washington has abandoned consistency -- US policy in the Middle East has changed tremendously since the end of the Cold War, with consecutive administrations gradually moving toward increased unilateralism, a visiting American academic said Wednesday. Lesch, a professor of political science at Villanova University, made the comments during a lecture at the Lebanese American University. She said US foreign policy entered a whole new level when President George W. Bush - especially after Sept. 11 - introduced a "moral right" for the US to do whatever is in its interest to do, irrespective of the international community.

Sharon's hopeless vision By Michael Brown, Electronic Intifada 12/19/2003

   As feared, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech on Thursday, December 18 at the Herzliya Conference provided very little hope for 2004. Sharon acknowledged there will be a Palestinian state, thereby recognizing Israel cannot control all the land between the river and the sea, but said nothing about the size of the Palestinian state. He offered no tangible vision for the Palestinians to latch on to which suggested that after decades this man is now addressing Palestinian concerns seriously.

Searching for a cease-fire By Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 18 - 24 December 200

   The Egyptian-mediated inter-Palestinian cease-fire talks resumed in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday amid fresh indications that Hamas and Islamic Jihad might soften their conditions for a new truce with Israel -- The resumption of cease-fire talks coincided with the arrival in Gaza of two high-ranking Egyptian security officials who had played pivotal roles in initiating and overseeing the last round of talks that ended indecisively in Cairo on 7 December. The two officials, Mustafa El-Beheiri and Mohamed Ibrahim, held talks with Palestinian Authority security officials and later with the leaders of the main resistance factions, including Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

Sharon's Speech: Tissue of Lies and Half-Truths His "Plan" – Recipe for War and Annexation By Gush Shalom, Arabic Media Internet Network 12/19/2003

   "Ariel Sharon’s speech of today is a masterpiece of misrepresentation, half-truths and outright lies," Gush Shalom declared immediately afterwards. "The polished formulations are hiding the clear intent of annexing more than half the West Bank, while giving up a few far-away and isolated settlements that are the army consider as a burden."

Racism thrives at Israel's Herzliya conference By Arjan El Fassed, Electronic Intifada 12/19/2003

   Speaking at the third annual Herzliya conference, Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his audience: "It is not the Palestinians who pose a demographic threat, since one day they will benefit from self-determination, but the Israeli-Arab population. The most important thing is maintaining the Jewish majority in the country and improving the economy to encourage more Jews from the Diaspora to immigrate." If the Palestinians in Israel "reach 35 to 40 percent of the Israeli population, Israel will become a state with two nationalities," he said. Palestinians currently represent more than 20 percent of the total population in Israel.

Film star helping make the world a better place to live in By Daoud Kuttab, Jerusalemites 12/19/2003

FIRST met Richard Gere about six months ago. I was scheduled to take him on a tour of Ramallah, when that same morning, the Israeli army unexpectedly declared curfew on the Palestinian city. To his credit and despite strong objection from his handlers and bodyguards, the American movie star insisted on going ahead with his plans to visit Ramallah.

Tony Benn: Labour of love By Gamal Nkrumah, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 18 - 24 December 200

   Abandoning the House of Commons to "devote more time to politics" -- My knowledge of Tony Benn has been gleaned from either the British media or from a few friends and acquaintances who have had the opportunity to work with him. The former has, over the decades, been largely unsympathetic to both the man and the causes he has championed while the latter heap lavish praise on Benn, stressing in particular his honesty, sincerity, warmth and strength of character. I also knew that in 1964 Benn introduced a private members bill in the House of Commons to boycott South African goods, a gesture that endeared him to Africans and supporters of the anti-apartheid and African liberation struggles.

A Wall Through Arab Families By Michal Schwartz, Challenge November - December

   On July 31, the Knesset amended the Citizenship Law (1952), denying citizenship to applicants who are spouses of Israelis if these spouses come from the West Bank or Gaza. The amendment will stand for at least one year and then come up for renewal. It will immediately affect more than 20,000 families, while limiting the marital prospects of many more. -- NO ISRAELI LAW prevents Arab citizens from marrying Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. A new amendment to the Citizenship Law, however, makes such marriages impossible unless the Arab citizen leaves Israel. It freezes all naturalization procedures aimed toward family unification, where these concern Palestinians who have already married Arabs in Israel. It even forbids their continuing to reside in Israel as non-citizens. It does not help if the spouse has long been living here, has children here, and was well underway toward family unification.

Myth laid bare By Hani Shukrallah, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 18 - 24 December 200

   Why is it that absurd choices are consistently presented as the only ones available? Why are local tyrants manufactured into the only alternative to global tyranny? What if some of us think there is absolutely nothing to choose between imperial hegemony and national humiliation and oppression on the one hand and nationalist/Islamist despotism on the other? Why is it that supporting Hamas and Jihad's morally abhorrent and politically ruinous suicide bombings is posited as an inescapable expression of our solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for emancipation from the daily horrors of a heartless and brutal Israeli occupation? And why, for that matter, shouldn't I join millions of Iraqis in celebrating the capture of the murderous thug called Saddam Hussein?

Hardly alone By Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line 18 - 24 December 200

   It was not a cheerful sight, and it did little to brighten an essentially sad situation. The dictator fell in April and no one has ever suggested that his remaining alive was essential to the future of Iraq. So what has changed?

Hebron: Power is Vested in Settlers' Hands By Ahmad Jaradat, Alternative Information Center 12/19/2003

   During the Israeli cabinet meeting of 7 December 2003, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz had asked prime minister Sharon "how can you explain what some dozens of Jews are doing in Hebron, an Arab city of a quarter million Arabs?" The prime minister replied, "How can you dare think that Jews won't live in Hebron? How can we leave Hebron where 700 Jews are buried!" Poraz retorted, "There are 900 Jews buried in Prague, but that's no reason why we have to take control there" (Haaretz, 8 December, 2003).

December 18 2003

Ford takes steps to reverse funding for anti-Israel groups
JTA 12/18/2003
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (JTA) – The Ford Foundation has taken its first steps to fulfill a pledge made last month to reverse its funding for organizations engaged in anti-Israel agitation. In the pledge to U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and a group of Jewish organizations, Ford president Susan Berresford promised immediately to stop funding the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights, also known as LAW....[Ford VP of communications] Wilde did not respond to specific questions about the PNGO boycott campaign. But he did say that like all other Ford grantees, future funding to PNGO "will be subject to our new and expanded worldwide program of grantee audits, our continuing investigation into the events surrounding the Durban conference, and new grantee contract language that prohibits any organization receiving Foundation funds from promoting or engaging in violence, terrorism, bigotry, or the destruction of any state."

Gulf Arab firms create Islamic investment giant Daily Star 12/18/2003

Initial paid-in capital set at $100 million -- MANAMA: Gulf Arab investment firms and investors set up a giant Islamic insurance and assurance firm in Bahrain with a paid-in capital of $100 million and issued capital of $300 million to cash in on promising markets such as Saudi Arabia. The new firm, Solidarity, will initially operate in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but will extend its activities at a later stage to other markets in the Middle East and Asian Islamic countries.

Anti-Apartheid Wall Fact Sheet: Negligence of International Law By Nabil D. Baddour, Miftah 12/18/2003

   Israel boasts a history decorated with defiance of international law and regulations, a tradition that remains today. Violations continue daily with the construction of the Separation Wall, amid hushed criticism from the international community. The most evident exploitation of Israel's breach of convention is the implementation of new borders within the West Bank, an occupied territory. This effective annexation of land, alongside combined violations of basic human freedoms including freedom of movement, destruction of private property, and collective punishment of the civilian population have highlighted Israel's selfish and destructive policies. The current construction of the first phase of the wall will take with it 2% of the West Bank as it curls around the Green Line, effectively cutting off 200,000 civilians form their lands and workplaces. Over 100,000 trees have been uprooted and over 6,000 jobs are expected to fall victim in the first phase alone. The following fact sheet outlines the present neglect Israel is exhibiting with respect to International Humanitarian Law. For detailed reference to the effects of the construction refer to The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign: The Wall’s First Phase fact sheet, as well as weekly updates.

The wisdom of Shin Bet chiefs By Meron Benvenisti, Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

   Shin Bet security service chief Avi Dichter's appearance at the Herzliya Conference was a rare event, but not simply because he was there. Still more unusual was the content of his remarks, his points of emphasis, the internal contradictions that surfaced, and the deviation into areas unconnected to his own professional expertise.

Mideast Peace Initiatives Editorial, Arab News 12/18/2003

   The newly signed Geneva Accord, which though unofficial, has generated considerable interest. But the possible steps envisaged by both Sharon and his Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are the antithesis of a peace initiative. Their main premise is that peace initiatives are futile, a negotiated agreement is out of reach and, therefore, Israel must take unilateral measures. Olmert's plan is said to fundamentally change the situation in the Middle East. Israel, Olmert said, will have to remove a "considerable" number of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and draw a border around the rest to bring about a separation between the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel, he said, will "definitely" not withdraw to the 1967 lines, and will keep "the united city of Jerusalem."

Fischer points out the obvious: Israel’s choice is clear Editorial, Daily Star 12/18/2003

   Joschka Fischer dispensed some friendly but serious advice to the Israeli government on Wednesday. "It is my firm conviction," he said during a speech at a security conference near Tel Aviv, "that Israel has now reached a historic fork in the road, possibly the most important since its foundation." The poignancy of the Jewish state receiving recommendations of this sort from a German foreign minister was broad and deep. And yet it remains to be seen whether the strongest, most democratic country in the Middle East has the maturity to see for itself what is so painfully obvious to observers like Fischer.

Another giant step Globes 12/18/2003

Spacecom CEO David Pollack hopes the Amos 2 satellite will finally take off as scheduled. -- It's a bit like going into labor, but before giving birth. Nine months after its original launching date, Amos 2, the second Israeli telecommunications satellite, is still on the ground, hoping for a launch on December 27 from Baikonur, the renowned former Soviet imperial launching pad in Kazakhstan. No one, however, is really sure that the date is final.

Rabbis issue prohibition against evacuating settlements :
The government is forbidden by a total religious prohibition to evacuate any outpost or settlement, and has no right to give away parts of the land of Israel to strangers, and anything done toward this aim is void,"

U.S. lawmakers urge Iraq relations with Israel:
The Bush administration should try to ensure that the next Iraqi government has diplomatic relations with Israel, two U.S. lawmakers said Wednesday while visiting the Jewish state.

CIA Report: No Comprehensive Peace Arrangement Beforel 2020:
The Middle East section of the NIC's global assessment warns about the possibility of a war between Israel and Syria, or some other Arab state

Thousands Expected to Arrive in Migron Israel National News 12/18/2003

With leading rabbis of the religious-Zionist public presiding, hundreds of people rallied in Migron last night to declare that they will make sure to stop any plans to uproot a Jewish community anywhere in Israel. The rabbis promised that they would arrive with thousands of their students to block any attempt to destroy the flourishing "outpost" of 43 families.... "Thousands of people arriving here can stop the expulsion," he said. "It depends only on us."

Israel's army phases out country's iconic Uzi submachine gun USA Today 12/18/2003

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel's military is phasing out the legendary Uzi submachine gun, calling it antiquated and replacing it with more sophisticated, electronics-outfitted weaponry, an army spokesman said Wednesday. But the Uzi, a national icon and the country's most famous contribution to the arms industry, will still be produced and exported, to the presumable delight of drug dealers, gang members, Secret Service agents and Hollywood action stars alike.

Netanyahu: Israeli Arabs - a demographic problem; ACRI Protests Association for Civil Rights in Israel 12/18/2003

ACRI conveyed an urgent protest to the Finance Minster, Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu, in response to his speech (as reported in the Israeli media) this morning, 17.12.03, at the Herzliya conference, in which he referred to the Israeli Arab population as a „demographic problem‰. ACRI Director, Rachel Benziman, sent a letter to the minister to strongly protest his reference to a fifth of Israel’s citizens as no more than a "demographic problem".

India and Israel in Outer Space Israel National News 12/18/2003

Top Israeli scientific officials will go to India next week to sign an agreement which will provide for the installation of Israeli space telescopes on an Indian satellite. Science and Technology Minister Eliezer Sandberg (Shinui) and Aby Har-Even, Director-General of the Israel Space Agency, will visit New Delhi and India's hi-tech hub Bangalore on their upcoming trip due to take place December 22nd -25th.

Jerusalem issues Christmas terror alert for Israelis abroad Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

The Foreign Ministry issued a travel alert for Israelis tourists on Friday, warning that terrorist groups could target public gatherings during the Christmas and New Year period. Israelis were warned to stay clear of mass celebrations, which the intelligence community fears could be the target of a terror attack.

Public, businesses flock to stock market Ha'aretz 12/19/2003

The drop in interest rates and the stock market's take-off in 2003 have led to a huge number of new bond issues and stock sales. In total NIS 9.3 billion have been raised in the markets since the beginning of the year. The rising tide in the stock market, in addition to the sharp drop in bond yields that followed the bull market, have combined with the bank credit crunch and the decrease in government bond issue, to bring about a real flowering of corporate fund-raising.

Italy and Israel Here on Earth Israel National News 12/19/2003

Israeli and Italian national manufacturers and international business associations signed two complementary industrial, scientific and technological cooperation agreements this week. The signatories to one agreement were the Israel Manufacturers Association and the Italian Manufacturers Association, and the signatories to the other were the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute and the SIMEST fund, established by the Italian government to assist Italian companies in business cooperation with non-EU countries.

U.S. lawmakers urge Iraq relations with Israel Anchorage Daily News 12/18/2003

WASHINGTON (December 17, 2:34 p.m. AST) - The Bush administration should try to ensure that the next Iraqi government has diplomatic relations with Israel, two U.S. lawmakers said Wednesday while visiting the Jewish state. "Will Iraq turn out to be pro-American and anti-Israel? We need to make sure it is not," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., a member of the Republican leadership. Kyl and Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, spoke in a telephone interview. Iraq is to establish a provisional government next year as it moves toward drafting a constitution and holding elections in 2005. Kyl said the United States must approach the issue of Iraq's relationship with Israel as "a matter of finesse," persuading Iraq that support for Israel is in its own interest.

CNN: Two stories, one news agency By Michael Brown, Electronic Intifada 12/18/2003

   Casualties in Tel Aviv. Casualties in Rafah. Where does CNN go? Tel Aviv. And it was absolutely right to go to Tel Aviv. It's failure came in an inexcusable unwillingness to send a second crew to Rafah.

International solidarity against occupation By Stefan Christoff, Jordan Times 12/18/2003

   I TRAVELLED to Jordan from Montreal, Canada, at the end of November with plans to cross the Israeli controlled border into Palestine to work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). I was refused entry into Israel after being held for more than five hours, and deemed a „security threat‰, according to information provided to border officials by the ministry of the interior. I had planned to work in Palestine with the ISM, a Palestinian-led movement which brings together Palestinians and internationals from all over the world to work on the ground in the occupied territories and stage campaigns of nonviolent direct action against the Israeli occupation.

Four Palestinians Killed During an IOF Wide Scale Invasion of Nablus International Press Center 12/18/2003

NABLUS, Palestine, December 18, 2003 (IPC + Agencies)-- Four Palestinian citizens were killed today morning and more others were wounded in Nablus City of the West Bank during an IOF large-scale invasion. Palestinian medical sources stated that Aladin Da'awiyeh, 25, a bakery worker, was killed during the Israeli invasion of the old town of Nablus. Da'awiyeh was going to his workplace when the Israeli soldiers opened fire at him; he was left bleeding for two hours until he breathed his last breath....Palestinian security sources told IPC correspondent that one of the Israeli soldiers held the family of Safwat Al Assi in one room of the house and fired a tear gas canister inside the room before firmly closing the door when the family asked the soldiers to give them back the stolen money and jewelry they robbed from the houses.

IOF Shoot Dead Boy, Teenager and 5 Palestinians in Nablus Palestine Media Center 12/18/2003

Elderly Denied Medical Access, Dies at Israeli Military Roadblock -- Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot dead seven Palestinians in 48 hours in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including a 13-year-old boy and a teenager, while an elderly died after the occupation troops denied him access to a hospital through a military roadblock. At least fifty IOF military vehicles, including tanks and backed by helicopter gunships, invaded Nablus from the west early Wednesday, and imposed curfew on the northern West Bank city, opening sporadic gunfire and conducting house-to-house searches, WAFA reported.

Palestinian family wounded in Zionist campaign in Balata Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2003

Nablus - The ongoing Zionist army campaign in the Palestinian refugee camp of Balata, to the east of Nablus city, yesterday led to the injury of 12 Palestinians including the entire members of one family. Medical sources said that six members of Al-Asi family along with six other civilians in the camp were wounded in the Zionist assaults. Eyewitnesses said that occupation soldiers broke into the house of Al-Asi family and crammed its members in one room then stole large amounts of money. When the family members argued with the soldiers they fired a big number of teargas canisters at them and closed all doors of the house.

Rabbis issue prohibition against evacuating settlements Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

The rabbinical council representing the West Bank and Gaza Strip issued a public statement Wednesday saying the government must not evacuate settlements and outposts. "The government is forbidden by a total religious prohibition to evacuate any outpost or settlement, and has no right to give away parts of the land of Israel to strangers, and anything done toward this aim is void," said the statement from the Yesha rabbinical council, named for the Hebrew acronym for the territories.

News Briefs: IOF delays ambulance near Nablus, wounded man dies International Middle East Media Center 12/18/2003

Troops delay an ambulance on a check point near Nablus , the patient dies: Yesterday noon, Hafez Dar Mohammad, 65 years old, died on a checkpoint near Nablus while he being transferred to a hospital in an ambulance.... / Four Palestinians Killed in Nablus: Earlier this morning, the troops killed four Palestinians in a wide military operation which targeted the old city...

Shin Bet finds sharp drop in Israeli Arabs' terror involvement Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

According to the numbers, shown here for the first time, the Shin Bet knew in 2003 (so far) of 43 Arab citizens detained for suspected involvement in terrorist activity against the state. This followed a steep rise of four consecutive years and at its peak in 2002, the list included 78 citizens. The latest number represents a 45 percent drop since 2002 and a 16 percent drop from 2001, when the Shin Bet reported on 51 Arab citizens detained for suspected involvement in efforts intended to harm Jewish citizens.

Five Israelis lightly injured in two separate W. Bank incidents Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

Five Israelis were lightly injured Thursday evening in two separate West Bank incidents. Four people were lightly injured near the West Bank town of Bethlehem after stones were hurled at their vehicle. An Israeli resident of Ramat Gan suffered light injuries after shots were fired at his vehicle Thursday evening at the Idna Junction west of the city of Hebron in the West Bank. The man continued driving to the Tarqumiya check post, where he received medical treatment. The cross-Judea road, where the shooting attack took place, was closed.

Israeli troops murder five Palestinians in 24 hours Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2003

Occupied Jerusalem - Israeli occupation forces continued to kill Palestinian civilians under the rubric of fighting Palestinian freedom fighters struggling for independence from Israeli military occupation. Medical sources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip reported Thursday that Israeli troops killed at least five Palestinian civilians in the past 24 hours. On Thursday, at least four Palestinian inhabitants of Nablus, the largest town in the West Bank, were shot and killed in a manner eyewitnesses said resembling an execution.

Lethal Israeli raid on Nablus Al-Jazeera 12/18/2003

Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinians during a raid into the West Bank city of Nablus, one man being shot nine times in the chest. Palestinian hospital sources identified one 25-year-old victim on Thursday morning as Ala al-Din Dawaya. Dawaya, a bakery worker, was shot in the chest nine times along with three others whose identities are not yet known, the sources said. Our correrspondent added Israeli occupation forces shot the four as they were looking for "wanted activists".

Israel Kills 4 Palestinians, Ends Separation Wall By 2005 Islam Online 12/18/2003

GAZA CITY, December 18 ( & News Agencies) – Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces in a fresh incursion into the West Bank city of Nablus in the small hours of Thursday, December 18, as Israeli officials vowed to complete the construction of the widely-criticized separation wall by 2005. Israeli sources admitted shooting dead three people in ensuing clashes after the incursion, claiming automatic weapons were found by their bodies, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP)....In the meantime, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced that the separation wall, which has drawn a barrage of international criticism for snaking through large swathes of Palestinian territories, should be completed by the end of 2005.

Breaking News: Six Palestinians arrested, one immediately expelled to Jordan International Press Center 12/18/2003

13:00-- At least six Palestinian citizens have been arrested by the Israeli troop during storm-ins campaign on the Palestinian citizens in Hebron city and Bni Naeim , Al Thaheryia and Beit Owrra towns. One of the arrested, named Mohammed Abed Al Razeq Abu sharekh, 20, has been expelled to Jordan, immediately after his arrest as standing before „Hebron University‰, Palestinian prisoner society said./ 10:00-- Israeli occupying forces (IOF) arrest three Palestinian citizens from the town of Qabatya, south of the city of Jenin, during a house-to-house search and vandalize campaign of the town, IPC.

Israeli army raids Nablus, kills five Palestinians Al-Bawaba 12/18/2003

Israeli forces killed five Palestinians early Thursday in Nablus. The operation, which began Tuesday, is directed at Fatah-Tanzim cells in the West Bank city, which Israel claims are responsible for the most recent attempts to send suicide bombers to carry out attacks inside Israel. According to Israeli reports, in one of the incidents, three Palestinian fighters were killed in a fire exchange near an abandoned building in the old city.

Occupation forces prevent twenty farmers from reaching their farms Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2003

Ramallah - Zionist occupation forces have prevented more than twenty Palestinian farmers over the past couple of days from heading to farm their plantations to the west of Ramallah city. The occupation soldiers told the farmers in the villages of Madiya and Na'leen that the plantations were the Hebrew state's natural sanctuaries. Taha Al-Khawaja, Na'leen mayor, said that the farmers were told that they would be arrested in the event they insisted on going to their lands.

Waiting to See the Sun: Palestinian Female Political Prisoners in Israeli Jails Reach 75 - Part I International Press Center 12/18/2003

As part of its continuous policy of humiliation to all the sectors of the Palestinian people, the Israeli occupation continues to hold and arrest more than 74 Palestinian female political prisoners in its jails, suffering daily torture and harsh detention conditions. Gathered from all of the Palestinian territories in the same cell, sharing the bitterness of life and the oppression of the occupation; a mother, a sister or a wife of a Palestinian martyr, prisoner or a wanted resistance activist. They were either abducted in the middle of the night or at one of the hundreds of Israeli military checkpoints.

4 killed as Israeli occupying forces invade Nablus Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 12/18/2003

Israeli occupying forces committed 1 willful killing and used excessive force in the slaying 3 other Palestinians, during a wide-scale incursion into Nablus on Thursday, 18 December 2003. These excessive military measures by the Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories represent a continuous escalation of the conflict. PCHR is gravely concerned by this escalation and calls upon the international community to fulfill its legal obligations to stop Israeli war crimes....At approximately 03:30, Israeli soldiers fired at 25-year-old 'Alaa al-Din Dawaia, wounding him with a live bullet in the chest.No ambulances were permitted access to the area and Dawaia remained on the ground bleeding until 04:00.At that time, a number of Israeli soldiers moved towards him and shot him dead with 8 live bullets.

National Day for the city of Qalqiliya Palestine Monitor 12/18/2003

INVITATION: The GIPP network (Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People), along with The Committee Against the Wall and the Union of Palestinian Women, are about to launch a full program of demonstrations, actions and related activities to take place across the Palestinian Occupied Territories by end of this month (from the 24th to the 31st of December).

New Palestinian resistance camp, ISM in the Daily Star International Solidarity Movement 12/18/2003

A group of Palestinian, international, and Israeli activists have chosen the village of Deir Ballut, in the Salfit Governorate, as the site for the next round of activities in opposition to Israel's continued building of Phase II of the Apartheid Wall.Building on the lessons of the successful Mas'ha camp, which brought enormous international attention to the political motives behind the wall, these activists will create a two-week continual presence on their land that is threatened by the building of the wall. Activists have chosen a primary school that is now under construction approximately in the path of the on-coming wall.The camp will function as a center for the dissemination of information about the Apartheid Wall, a planning and strategy forum for resistance to the Wall, and a starting point for various resistance activities in Deir Ballut and neighboring villages.

PM: Unilateral steps if Palestinians don't follow road map Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Thursday pledged his commitment to the internationally-brokered road map to Middle East peace, and said that the implementation of the plan was both possible and necessary. Speaking at the Herzliya Conference on issues of Israeli security, Sharon said, however, that Israel would "not wait indefinitely" for peace talks with the Palestinians, and said he would take unilateral steps if the Palestinians failed to stick to the road map....He said that the "disengagement" plan would involve the redeployment of Israel Defense Forces troops and changing the distribution of settlements to reduce the number of Israelis near centers of Palestinian population, and that uninhabited settlement outposts would be removed, "period." The prime minister said that any measures would be coordinated with the United States, which received the contents of the address several hours before it was delivered.

Political source: Sharon to give Qureia 6 months Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to tell the Herzliya Conference on Thursday evening that his political plan for a settlement with the Palestinians is based on a commitment to implement the U.S.-sponsored road map. He will note, however, that if - within a few months - it emerges that Israel has no Palestinian partner and that the Palestinian Authority is not fighting terror, he will consider a series of security measures that will include a redeployment in the territories and also the relocation of settlements.

Palestinian militants rebuff new Egyptian efforts to halt attacks against Israelis Daily Star 12/18/2003

Mediators fail in latest effort to revive "road-map" as troops kill teenager in Gaza -- Palestinian militants on Wednesday rebuffed fresh overtures from Egyptian mediators to halt all attacks against Israelis as part of a proposed cease-fire aimed at reviving a US-backed "road map" to peace. The Egyptian mediators wrapped up their latest effort without any progress being reported.Underlining the obstacles to new diplomatic efforts, violence flared in the Gaza Strip. A 17-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire in the impoverished refugee camp of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, following the detonation of two bombs near an Israeli guard post, causing significant damage but no injuries, the army said.

Palestinian groups reject one-year truce proposed by Egypt Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

Palestinian organizations have rejected an Egyptian proposal aimed at forging a one-year cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians. And while attempts to work out a truce continue to falter, attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip appear to be escalating: Hamas militants detonated a large explosive on an IDF base at the southern end of the strip yesterday. Heads of the Palestinian groups claim that the cease-fire proposal is unworkable because it does not call for a sufficient level of U.S. involvement. In addition, Israel is not offering enough concessions in exchange for the truce, they said.

Wolf won't return until bomb probe advances Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

U.S. officials have informed the Palestinian Authority that special road map envoy John Wolf will not return to the region until progress is made in the investigation of a Gaza Strip terror attack in which three American guards were killed two months ago. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and other officials have delivered a series of sharp messages to PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and other Palestinian officials over the lack of progress in the probe.

German Foreign Minister slams Israel for building fence Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer criticized Israel on Wednesday for the building of the West Bank separation fence, saying it made no sense from a security standpoint for it to cut into Palestinian territory. "No one questions Israel's right to defend itself against the terrorist threat," Fischer said, commenting on the barrier of fence, razor wire, trenches and cement that slices deep into the West Bank in some places.

Draft Resolution Over Israel's UN Membership International Press Center 12/18/2003

GAZA, December 18, 2003 (IPC + Agencies)-- The United Nations General Assembly is to vote on a draft resolution set forth by the Arab states to question the membership of Israel at the United Nations by arguing that Israeli is not entailed to represent the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. The Arab states resolution is a strategic landmark in the Palestinian National Authority endeavors, which took the observance representing of Palestine at the United Nations (UN). Such attempts had started in 1982.

Report: Mubarak may visit in Israel as Tel Aviv ''very pleased'' by warming of ties with Cairo Al-Bawaba 12/18/2003

Egyptian President Hosni Muarak may pay his first official visit to Israel, the London-based Al Hayat newspaper reported Thursday. Mubarak has not visited Israel in an official capacity since becoming president in 1981. Mubarak did visit Israel in 1995, however, when he attended the funeral of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday, in an effort to push forward talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Egyptian minister is expected to hold talks with his Israeli peer and with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Foreign Ministry denies Mubarak weighing visit to Israel Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday denied a report by the the London-based Arab-language newspaper Al-Hayyat that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is considering a visit to Israel. Mubarak has not visited Israel in an official capacity since becoming president in 1981, and his arrival would signify an improvement in ties between the two countries, as well as an improvement in relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Foreign Ministry chief: Europe willing to cooperate with Israel Globes 12/18/2003

Israeli Ambassador to the EU Oded Eran: Upgrading Israel's current status is better than full membership in the EU. -- Israeli diplomacy is still over-dominated by military and security figures, said Ministry of Foreign Affairs director-general Yoav Biran yesterday at the Institute of Policy and Strategy's annual Herzliya Conference session on possibilities and opportunities in Israeli-European relations....EU External Relations Directorate General deputy director-general Dr. Michael Leigh listed five key areas in an EU proposal for creating new cooperation with Israel...

Arafat’s aide says one unitary state in Palestine is the solution Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2003

Occupied Jerusalem - A prominent Fatah leader and senior aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has voiced his support for a unitary state in all of mandatory Palestine „where Jews, Muslims and Christians live peacefully and equally? Sakhr Habash, a veteran Fatah leader, told the PIC that "everyone realizes that only the one-state solution would work." Habash argued that Zionism didn't achieve its main goals, pointing out that there are as many Palestinians as Jews in Israel/Palestine now.

Netanyahu’s "Racist" Remarks Under Fire Islam Online 12/18/2003

Netanyahu: "If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens." -- GAZA CITY, December 18 ( & News Agencies) – Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that the Israeli Arab population posed a demographic threat to the country came under fire from lawmakers, Israeli Arab leaders and Israeli civil rights groups. Knesset member Azmi Bishara (National Democratic Alliance) branded as "racist" describing the original residents of the land as a demographic problem. "No people in the world like to hear that their actual existence causes a demographic problem," he told Thursday, December 18.

Justice Minister Lapid slams 'barbaric' behavior of settlers Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

Justice Minister Yosef Lapid on Thursday launched a verbal assault on residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip settlements, describing their behavior as "barbaric," and accusing them of having "de facto" control in Israel. Lapid said that the settlers "in their heart of hearts dream of the transfer of Palestinians to the [Eastern] banks of the Jordan [river], a solution which is not only barbaric but also utterly impossible."Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, a showcase conference on Israeli security, Lapid said that, "Even though Israel is an exemplary democracy, it is de facto controlled by a small minority of Yesha settlers who represent a minority within the settlers themselves.

Court temporarily halts fence land grab Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

For the first time since the separation fence started going up, the High Court of Justice has issued an injunction against confiscating land for building it. Dozens of petitions have been filed with the court in the past few months over the confiscation of land including in East Jerusalem....This week, the state was ordered to say within three weeks whether if it was prepared to cancel the confiscation order and change the route of the fence so that it would run within the municipal borders of Jerusalem.

MKs slam Netanyahu's remarks about Israeli Arabs Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

Left-wing Knesset members and a civil rights group severely criticized the remarks Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made Wednesday, in which he said Israel's Arab citizens constitute a threat to the Jewish state because of their increasing numbers, prompting accusations of racism. "Netanyahu's demographic bomb is a stink bomb and racism," MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash) said. "The day is not far when Netanyahu and his flock will set up roadblocks at the entrance to Arab villages in order to tie Arab women's tubes and spray them with spermicide.

A-G wants charges against top Shas lawmaker Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein intends to recommend that Shas Knesset faction chairman MK Yair Peretz lose parliamentary immunity due to suspicions that he fraudulently accepted an academic degree. If the indictment is not completed by the end of the month, when Rubinstein ends his term as attorney general, the charges will be finalized by State Prosecutor Edna Arbel, who will serve as interim attorney general until a replacement is appointed....According to police suspicions, Peretz studied at the Tel Aviv branch of Vermont's Burlington College between 1996-1998, where he pursued a degree in educational psychology. Police believe that Peretz never completed the program requirements and fraudulently accepted an academic degree.

Israeli developers to build storage, logistics facilities at Karny checkpoint Globes 12/18/2003

The warehouses will facilitate the movement of goods between Israel and Gaza, and prevent the destruction of agricultural produce transported by trucks as a result of delays. -- Groups of Israeli developers are planning to build storage and logistics facilities adjacent to the Karny checkpoint, near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, at a cost of millions of shekels. Sources inform "Globes" that the developers plan to construct warehouses, refrigeration buildings, packing plants, and storage space for Israeli and Palestinian merchants at the Karny checkpoint.

Suppressed inflation: Wholesale prices up 3.5% this year Globes 12/18/2003

The wholesale price index is a general indicator for the CPI, after an 8-12 month lag. - Israel has had 1.75% deflation since the beginning of 2003. -- Despite the deflation, there is still potential for price rises next year. Wholesale industrial prices rose 3.5% in January-November 2003, compared with the corresponding period in 2002. The wholesale price index is generally an indicator for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), after an 8-12 month lag.

Tunnel network housed illegal Palestinian workers Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

A policeman shining a flashlight into one of the tunnels found last night under a house in the village of Ba'ana in the north. Ten Palestinian laborers without permits to be in Israel were staying in the tunnels, which had been dug from the home's basement and around its foundations, and included escape holes.

Number of legal foreign workers down 26% in January-September Globes 12/18/2003

There were 65,700 legal foreign workers in September. The number of legal foreign workers has fallen 33% since January 2002.-- The number of legal foreign workers fell 26.4% in January-September 2003 to 65,700 in September, from 89,300 in December 2002, a decline of 23,600 people. The number of legal foreign workers has fallen 33%, or 32,100 people, since January 2002.

Book review: Resistance - My Life for Lebanon
By Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada 12/18/2003

The greatest struggle in Soha Béchara's life was not plotting to assassinate Antoine Lahad, the Lebanese chief of militia in Israeli-occupied Southern Lebanon during the 1980s. Rather, her true test was somewhat parallel to that of her home country of Lebanon -- to survive living under the tyranny of the occupying Israelis. But in Béchara's case, her prison was a literal one. Born to a family of secular Greek Orthodox Christians, she grew up during Lebanon's fratricidal fighting. Béchara doesn't describe it as religious fighting (Christian vs. Muslim), but as the left versus the right, and she skips over much of the details regarding the Christian minority's struggle to keep the majority of political power from the demographically stronger Muslims. What she does emphasize is that as bad as the fighting during Lebanon's civil wars was, it was nowhere near as horrible as what happened after Israel occupied Lebanon in 1978.

Fallen angels: 2 new exhibits examine the spiritual impulse Daily Star 12/18/2003

Gates of the soul, life in the ash offer different views - Nizar Sabour, associate professor at Faculty of Fine Arts of Damascus, is fascinated by ancient religious images -- „This man sees the Angels,‰ writes author Mounzer Masri in his book about the artist Nizar Sabour. Sabour is fascinated by images used in ancient Christian, Muslim or Pharaonic art. In his current exhibition, Les portails de l'ame (The gates of the soul), at Aida Cherfan Fine Art Gallery, he incorporates tiny figures with haloes, Arabic calligraphy and Egyptian goddesses.

At the 2nd International Exhibition of Small Format Art, all the world’s a stage Daily Star 12/18/2003

UNESCO Palace event features 200 works by 100 artists from 40 countries -- Efforts to re-establish Lebanon as a hub for international dialogue have become increasingly evident in recent years. Through economic, political, medical and cultural vessels, Lebanon is taking significant strides in returning to its pre-war diplomatic status. The Francophone, Arab and Geneva summits, as well as recent visits from the Brazilian and Iranian presidents, and increased foreign investment are just a few examples.


US citizens in Saudi Arabia advised to depart Al-Bawaba 12/18/2003

The United States said it would allow its nonessential diplomats to leave Saudi Arabia due to increased security fears, and advised US citizens in the kingdom to consider departing, news reports said late Wednesday. Due to security concerns, the State Department has authorized the departure of family members and non-emergency employees of the US embassy and consulates on a voluntary basis, an official announcement said.

Damascus, Ankara sign security understanding memorandum Arabic News 12/18/2003

Turkey and Syria yesterday in Ankara signed during a visit by the Syrian minister of the interior, Ali Hammoud, a security agreement aimed at fighting criminality and terrorism.This coincided with the statements declared by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that "two neighboring countries cannot live under tension." The Turkish minister of the interior, Abdul Qader Akso, said that Syria and Turkey "stressed they have agreed that cooperation in the field of fighting terrorism is an important matter for regional security."

Al-Assad wants good relations between Greece and Turkey; a region free of nuclear weapons Arabic News 12/18/2003

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and the Greek Prime Minister Constantinous Costa Simitis held a meeting attended by members of the Syrian delegation and the Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, his Deputy and the Greek Ambassador to Syria. Following the meeting, Simitis told the reporters in a statement that President Bashar al-Assad's visit expresses good relations between the two countries, stressing that there is a deep understanding on various issues of joint cooperation.

Palestinian Cabbie Exonerated from U.S. Embassy Bombing Attempt An Nahar 12/18/2003

A Palestinian taxi driver arrested for a suspected role in a recent attempt to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon has been released, security officials said Thursday. Ibrahim Serhal was detained Dec. 10 outside the fortified embassy compound along with Abed Mreish, who was carrying a suitcase packed with a kilogram explosives. A third man, Mehdi al-Hajj Hasan, was arrested two days later on a charge of masterminding the bombing attempt.

Amnesty Urges Lahoud to Suspend 25 Death Sentences An Nahar 12/18/2003

Amnesty International has urged [Lebanese] President Lahoud to "immediately" commute 25 death sentences upheld by Lebanon's clemency commission, the London-based humanitarian organization said in a statement recently received in Beirut. "Amnesty International is strongly urging President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon to use his powers to immediately commute the death sentences," said the statement dated December 15.

Church of Nativity deportee held for major theft in Belgium Ha'aretz 12/18/2003

LONDON - One of the 13 Palestinians deported from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in May 2002 was arrested Tuesday in Belgium on suspicion of participating in a number of robberies in which more than $250,000 were stolen. Khalil Mohammed Abdullah al-Nawara received asylum in Belgium following the siege on the church.

Saudi battle against Barbie escalates with new import ban Al-Bawaba 12/18/2003

The Saudi government has banned imports of female dolls and stuffed animals, giving storeowners three months to clear out any remaining merchandise, reported Al-Riyadh. Imposed by interior minister Prince Nayef, the restrictions were dispatched to shopkeepers around the country by the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The newspaper did not explain the reasons behind the ban, which could not be confirmed by government officials. In addition to dolls and plush toys, the ban also forbids importations of non-Islamic religious symbols.

Hang together on American civil liberties By Marwan Kreidie, Daily Star 12/18/2003

   In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US, this phrase by Benjamin Franklin seemed apt: "(T)hey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Although the Bush administration must be familiar with the words uttered by one of America's most distinguished statesmen, it apparently hasn't taken them into consideration. That's because there are no signs that the assault on civil rights mounted by President George W. Bush and Attorney-General John Ashcroft in recent years have made the US any safer.

Which politics for Arab poetry? By Rana F. Sweis, Daily Star 12/18/2003

   The key to understanding the hearts and minds of Arabs is through shiir, or poetry, their greatest art. The Iraq war and its aftermath fueled mixed emotions in the Arab world - resignation, reflection, rage - that are now being articulated in verse.

Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories 11-17 December 2003

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 12/18/2003

10 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 1 woman, killed by Israeli forces /5 of the victims were killed during an Israeli military incursion into Rafah / Israeli forces conducted a series of incursions into the West Bank and Gaza Strip / 31 houses in Rafah and Khan Yunis were destroyed / More areas of agricultural land were razed / Houses were raided and a number of Palestinians were arrested / Construction of the "separation wall" in the West Bank continued / Indiscriminate shelling of Palestinian residential areas continued and a number of Palestinian civilians were injured / A Palestinian house in Hebron was destroyed and the widow of a deceased Palestinian was arrested by Israeli forces as part of the continuing campaign of retaliation against the families of Palestinians accused of involvement in attacks against Israeli targets / Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose a total siege on the OPTs / 1 woman was killed and a number of other civilians were injured or arrested by Israeli soldiers at military checkpoints

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