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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

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12 February 2008


Prosecutor rejects appeal in case of killing of Palestinian girl
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
The State Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday rejected an appeal by a human rights group to reopen the case of a Palestinian girl killed during clashes with police last year, the Justice Ministry said. Ten-year-old Abir Aramin was critically wounded in January 2007 when she was caught between Palestinian students throwing rocks and Border Police firing rubber bullets in the refugee camp of Anata, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. She died two days later in a Jerusalem hospital. Her death became a cause for human rights groups and activists, blaming Israel Police and using the case as an example of the tactics Israeli forces use in Palestinian areas. Israeli officials rejected that version. The State Prosecutor’s Office closed the case last July, citing lack of evidence.

Minister: No freeze on Jewish construction in E. J’lem
Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Service and AP, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim denied Tuesday reports that the government is barring new housing construction for Jews in East Jerusalem, saying Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s order to freeze all construction that does not have his personal approval applies only to the West Bank. On Monday, Jerusalem city manager Yair Ma’ayan told the Knesset Economics Committee that the government was holding up construction of hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem due to the negotiations with the Palestinians. "There is no delay, limitation, or suspension of the construction of Jewish neigbhorhoods in East Jerusalem," Boim told Israel Radio. Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky also weighed in on the issue Tuesday, saying he "won’t allow Jerusalem to be turned into an illegal outpost.

Israel to build 1100 new housing units in Israeli settlements throughout East Jerusalem
Ghassan Bannoura Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
The Israeli government announced on Tuesday that it has approved the construction of an additional 1,110 housing units in two settlements in the Jerusalem municipality. According to the government statement, some 360 units will be constructed in the Har Homa settlement located within the occupied territories, between the city of Jerusalem and the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Har Homa settlement was initiated illegally during the early 1990’s on lands belonging to Palestinians from the Bethlehem area and nearby villages. The remaining 750 housing units will be added to Besghat Za’ev settlement, to the north of Jerusalem. Israeli officials said that the new houses are aimed at young Jewish couples, and to encourage Israelis to move into the Jerusalem "city suburbs", in order to achieve the "Greater Jerusalem" plan.

Israel orders demolition of 15 houses, health clinic near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 2/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli Civil Administration has issued demolition orders for 15 Palestinians houses and a health clinic in the Beqa’a Valley near Hebron, international human rights workers said on Monday. The inhabitants of the houses have been given until February 14th to quit the area on the pretext that the houses and clinic were built without hard-to-obtain construction permits, the organization Christian Peacemaker Teams says. The Israeli Civil Administration refused to grant a building permit for the health despite the difficulties residents encounter in reaching other health facilities outside of the valley. Because of this, the Palestinians in the valley have been operating the clinic out of an existing house. Between 600 and 700 people, mostly women and children, would use the new clinic for routine medical care, including prenatal checkups and vaccinations.

Top reservists: Roadblocks in W. Bank do more harm than good
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
A group of top Israel Defense Forces reserve officers are set to unveil Wednesday a new position paper according to which the 550 roadblocks in the West Bank serve to increase the motivation to commit terror attacks, and removing a significant portion of them would help calm the security situation and undermine Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Former MI heads, Civil Administration heads, and commanders of divisions, brigades and regiments operating in the West Bank and Gaza, said in the paper addressed to Defense Minister Ehud Barak that even though roadblocks prevent terror attacks in the short term, they induce frustration and infringe on basic human rights of Palestinians, thereby fueling terror in the long term. The signatories will take part in a conference in Jerusalem’s Van Leer Institute on Wednesday, and outline an alternative...

Hamas renews call for ceasefire with Israel
Middle East Online 2/12/2008
JERUSALEM - A Hamas official on Tuesday renewed calls for a ceasefire amid mounting Israeli demands for a broad military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Writing in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Ahmed Yussef, a Hamas foreign policy advisor, called for a long-term ceasefire between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces. "If the people of (the southern Israeli town of) Sderot want to know why rockets continue to land around them, they should ask their own government why it has continually rejected our calls for a ceasefire and continued its policy of daily incursions and reckless targeting that put the whole population at risk," he wrote. Yussef pointed out that his democratically movement observed a unilateral ceasefire for the nine months before it won parliamentary elections in January 2006 and for six months thereafter.

Human rights group in Gaza to sue Fayyad over salaries
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Eyad Al-Sarraj, the head of the Palestinian international campaign for breaking Gaza siege, asserted on Monday that the human rights committee in his group will file a lawsuit against the "unconstitutional" PA government of Salam Fayyad for cutting off salaries of thousands of PA employees. In an interview with the Quds Press news agency, Sarraj asserted that the decision was taken during a meeting called for by his group in the presence of representatives of a number of Palestinian legal institutions, including the Palestinian center for human rights and the Dhameer (conscience) for human rights among other concerned groups. Sarraj also pointed out that the meeting discussed the political arrests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, calling for a joint press conference between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to discuss human rights in both Palestinian territories.

IDF arrests W. Bank money changers, confiscates funds destined for terror groups
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
Israel Defense Forces troops raided 14 money-changing offices in the West Bank on Tuesday, confiscating nearly $850,000 and arresting five Palestinians on suspicion funds were transferred from abroad to militant groups, the army said. Palestinian militants in recent months have successfully increased the amount of funds they receive from abroad, allowing them to expand their operations, the army said. In the last three months of 2007, a total of $3. 4 million was transferred to Palestinian militant groups, most of it to Hamas in the West Bank, according to the statement. "The money serves as gas that fuels the terror activities|, the army said. A total of $843,000 was confiscated in Tuesday’s raids, the army said. Israel has said the money comes at least in part from Iran, although the army did not mention the country in Tuesday’s statement.

IOF troops wage campaign of piracy against Palestinian exchangers
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The IOF troops on Monday night waged a wide campaign of piracy against Palestinian exchange stores in various parts of the West Bank cities and confiscated their contents and a huge sum of money. The IOF troops raided more than 20 stores in each of Al-Khalil, Nablus, Tulkarem and Jenin after they stormed the owners’ houses and kidnapped many of them to an unknown destination. In Al-Khalil, the IOF troops confiscated computers, documents, and money from the store of exchanger Fadel Abdeen and decided to close it for six months. In Jenin, 20 Israeli armored vehicles invaded the city storming and ransacking the houses of a number of Palestinian exchangers, where they stormed the house of Mohamed Al-Saadi and confiscated checks, bonds and identity papers and kidnapped other exchangers in the city before closing their stores.

IOF troops attack Zaitun area in Gaza, Qassam repels attack
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The IOF troops at dawn Tuesday advanced into east of the Zaitun neighborhood in the Gaza Strip where they were met with ferocious resistance by the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. In a communique received by the PIC, the Qassam Brigades announced that its fighters engaged in armed clashes with the invading IOF troops and fired 73 mortar shells and seven homemade rockets at their armored vehicles, pointing out that Israeli ambulances rushed to the areas to transfer the Israeli casualties. For his part, the PIC reporter said that Qassam fighters also fired an anti-personnel RPG at the invading IOF troops in the neighborhood, adding that the clashes are still raging between the Qassam and IOF troops. The Brigades added that the intensity of its fighters’ gunfire caused great panic and confusion in the ranks of the invading IOF troops, pointing out that the Israeli enemy will hide its losses as usual.

Barak issues new warning about heavy assault on Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/13/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s top brass warned on Tuesday that its patience was wearing thin over rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, as more people were wounded in army attacks on the Hamas-run territory. Amid growing calls for an all-out assault on the impoverished strip, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the armed forces would do whatever is necessary to stop the attacks. "Israel will not refrain from taking any course of action in order to bring a stop to the fire against Sderot," Barak said, referring to the town that has borne the brunt of rocket fire. "There are reasons why we are not using all our force right now, but it will happen at the right moment," he told journalists traveling with him to Turkey, without elaborating. On Monday, the military’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gaby Ashkenazi, said the army was "prepared and ready to broaden its actions in conformity with the decisions taken.

PLO chief negotiator calls for immediate Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Jericho – Ma’an – The Chief Negotiator of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Saeb Erekat, called on the international community to exert every possible effort to impose a comprehensive ceasefire between Palestinians and Israelis on Tuesday. Erekat’s call came during a meeting he held with two members of the British House of Commons from the Labour party, John Robertson and John Spellar. Erekat stressed that Israel’s imposition of "facts on the ground" in the form of settlements, especially in East Jerusalem, have become a threat to efforts to make the year 2008 one of peace. Erekat also reiterated his condemnation to the Israeli military escalation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip saying that violence leads only to more violence. He went on to say that Israel’s continuation to construct settlements and to build the separation Wall as well as arrests and checkpoints will only broaden the cycle of violence.

Ramon: Agreement of Principles, Not Full Peace Deal, Likely in 2008
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 2/12/2008
Vice Premier Haim Ramon on Monday appeared to scale back expectations for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians this year, saying instead that Israel hoped the two sides would reach a declaration of principles and not necessarily a final agreement. On a January visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, President George Bush said that an Israeli-Palestinian "peace agreement should happen, and can happen, by the end of this year." Ramon told reporters the target was not a fully detailed agreement, but a document detailed enough to set out a program for establishing a Palestinian state over the course of two to three years. He also said he thought the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers would be deposed within a matter of months - an Israeli condition for implementing any peace deal. Ramon said with Israel’s war against Gaza militants escalating, Israel and the moderate Palestinians with whom it is engaged in peace talks needed to intensify their efforts in order to reach a declaration of principles by the end of 2008.

Barak: Ministers’ calls for military operation in Gaza Strip ’dangerous’
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
ANKARA - Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday criticized calls by other ministers for stepped-up military action in the Gaza Strip, claiming that such ministerial remarks give the enemy detailed and damaging information. He made the statements after arriving in Ankara for a two-day visit, during which he will meet with Turkey’s president, prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister and chief of staff. Speaking to the Israeli correspondents who accompanied him, Barak said that he saw no danger in journalists speculating about a major military operation, but "it becomes dangerous when people with security experience give the names of targets for attack. The targets will simply disappear." He was apparently referring to proposals that Israel assassinate Hamas’s political leaders, which has been suggested by several ministers, including Shaul Mofaz, who has previously served as both defense minister and army chief of staff.

Israeli police seize Palestinian Prime Minister’s advisor in Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – The Israeli police arrested Hatim Abdul-Qadir, the Palestinian Prime Minister’s advisor for Jerusalem affairs on Tuesday morning. Ma’an’s reporter said that Israeli police seized Abdul-Qadir as he left his house in the Shu’fat neighborhood in northern Jerusalem and took him to an interrogation centre in the Israeli settlement of Nevie Ya’aqov in northern Jerusalem. Abdul-Qadir presided over a meeting of a reform committee aimed at resolving community issues among Palestinians in Jerusalem on Monday night. The Palestinian Cabinet ordered the creation of the committee. During the meeting, Abdul-Qadir called on Palestinian officials who coordinate with the Israeli police, to quit and join the newly-founded council.

Fayyad says Israel fails to keep Road Map promises
Reuters, YNetNews 2/12/2008
In visit to US Palestinian prime minister faults Israel for failing to adhere to its Road Map commitments, namely freezing settlement construction and removing checkpoints - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Monday accused Israel of failing to keep its commitments to freeze Jewish settlement activity and to ease checkpoints that limit Palestinian mobility on the West Bank. In a speech to Arab Americans, diplomats and journalists, Fayyad complained of a lack of progress on these issues more than two months after the US-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, where the two sides agreed to start negotiations with a goal of reaching a peace agreement by the end of this year. "Annapolis was a major step forward, but I cannot say we are not having difficulties. In the two months following Annapolis, Israeli incursions and bombings on Palestinians and their...

ISRAEL-OPT: West Bank herders afflicted by drought
Shabtai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/13/2008
A sheep tries to find grass in what used to be grazing land, but now turned barren by this winter’s drought SOUTH HEBRON HILLS, WEST BANK, 12 February 2008 (IRIN) - Herders in the southern West Bank are facing hardship due to a drought this winter, which comes on top of previous troubles, including rising fodder prices and land access restrictions by the Israeli military, a new UN document said. "The 2007-08 winter has seen a drastic drop in rainfall for the entire West Bank. The average rainfall has been 26 percent of the expected amount," the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report released at the end of January entitled Drought: The Latest Blow to Herding Livelihoods In the very affected south Hebron Hills, which received only 13 percent of expected rain, livestock nibbled at the barren land which normally in February would have stalks 10 cm high.

Israeli police arrest seven Palestinians, one Israeli near site of controversial settler dig in East Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli police detained seven Palestinians and one Israeli in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan after residents complained to police about settler harassment in the area. Silwan resident Jawad Siam said he and two other men, Mohammad Siam and Israeli Ranan Iskanowith went to the police to complain about settlers’ harassment of Palestinians in the neighborhood. Instead of investigating these claims, police arrested all three men, and rounded up five other Palestinians from Silwan. Siam named the other arrestees as Nihad Siam, Ahmad Siam, Nasim Siam, Omar Siam, and Mohammad Al-Banna. These five are still under house arrest, while the other three will have to pay a 2,500 fine. For months the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), with funding from the settler organization Elad, has been digging under the private property of Silwan residents.

Refugee stories - Letters from Gaza (6) …between Gaza and Sderot
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 2/12/2008
It was such a quiet evening; my kids were sleeping after a long day at school, I’d finished my house work and was just thinking it was time to relax. It was almost eight o’clock when I went into the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee. Suddenly, I heard a huge explosion and the sound of broken glass. I was terrified. I rushed into the kids’ bedroom to see if they were OK. Then I checked the other rooms, looking for the broken glass. I didn’t find any. Later, I learnt that most of the houses near ours had had their windows shattered by the force of the explosion. We were lucky. After the Dimona suicide bombing, Israel said it would increase military action in Gaza and I knew that the situation would get worse, yet I would never have imagined it would be so close: just a few metres away from my home. Maybe it’s a protective mechanism when we convince ourselves that we’re safe in our homes.

Ma’an Exclusive: Haniyeh ignores Israeli death threats, goes about "daily life as usual"
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Gaza – Ma’an Exclusive – The Hamas-run de facto government in the Gaza Strip says that Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh will ignore Israeli assassination threats and will go about is daily life as normal. A Hamas government spokesperson said standard security measures would be in place to protect Haniyeh’s life. However, Reports that Haniyeh had gone into hiding, spokesperson Tahir An-Nunu said, are no more than"distasteful Israeli jokes." "That was incorrect. He did not go into hiding, neither did he run away. Haniyeh did not panic, and he practices his daily life as usual," An-Nunu added. Asked about reports that Haniyeh moved to a new house, An-Nunu said only that Hamas has taken security precautions, but not to the degree of sending its leaders into hiding. Hamas spokesperson Isma’il Radwan also commented on the Israeli news.

Nunu: Haneyya exercising his duties normally
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman of the PA caretaker government in Gaza, has affirmed that premier Ismail Haneyya was exercising his duties normally despite Zionist threats. The Zionist government in Tel Aviv had decided to liquidate leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and named Haneyya in particular. Nunu, in a press release on Monday, said that the Palestinian government was holding periodical and special sessions as always and was not terrorized by the Zionist threats "although it is taking those threats seriously". The spokesman held the Zionist occupation government responsible for any "foolish or criminal step that it might adopt in this regard". Retorting to media reports that Haneyya went underground after those threats, Nunu said that the premier is following up his duties on daily basis and is in full control of the authority.

Hamas: Ramon’s statement points to the political dimension of the war on Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement said Tuesday that the statement of Israel’s deputy premier Haim Ramon in which he disclosed his government’s intentions to overthrow the rule of Hamas and bring back the rule of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to the Gaza Strip bears out that the war being waged by the Israeli occupation has clear political dimensions. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, stated that Ramon’s statement points out that the war waged against the movement is not related to the firing of rockets, as Israel tries to portray, but rather is related to political objectives that center on the desire to topple Hamas and its government in the aftermath of wining the last legislative elections. During a meeting of the foreign affairs and security committee held Monday in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), Ramon added that Israel would be working on...

Hamas: We shall remain the guardians of Palestinian national constants
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement affirmed on Tuesday that it will remain the guardian of the national constants of the Palestinian people, and that it will never secretly negotiate with the Israeli occupation or betray the Palestinian people. Hamas’s sound remarks apparently came in denial of remarks uttered by Naif Hawatmah, the secretary-general of the DFLP, who, in an interview with the Saudi Okath newspaper, warned Hamas not to open channels of negotiations with the Israelis, alleging that "Hamas’s strive to contact Israel meets Israel’s desire to reduce the Palestinian struggle into security issues". "Hamas isn’t the Movement that negotiates with the Israeli enemy at the back of the Palestinian people as it will never betray the Palestinian people’s national constants at all cost", the Movement asserted in a statement it issued in refuting Hawatmah’s remarks and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC.

Ramon: We will topple Hamas and bring Gaza back to Abbas
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli deputy premier Haim Ramon has unveiled on Monday a military scheme of his occupation government that aims at toppling Hamas Movement in Gaza Strip and bringing the Strip back to the control of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas. According to Ramon, the Israeli occupation government will work within few months or at a maximum of one year to quash "Hamas’s rule" in Gaza, and it will bring back Abbas and his security forces back to rule the Strip. Defunct PA security apparatuses under Abbas’s command in Gaza Strip in addition to the mutiny trend in Fatah faction led by Fatah man Mohammed Dahalan failed last June in toppling Hamas’s legitimate authority in the Strip despite the strong military and financial support from Israel and the USA. Hamas won the battle. During a meeting of the foreign and security committee of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), Ramon...

Qassam: We won’t stay passive if Israel dared to harm our leaders
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, warned that it would not stay passive if Israel dared to harm the Movement’s leaders, adding that its retaliation would be drastic and painful. In a press release on Monday, Abu Obeida, the Qassam spokesman, considered that the Israeli threats of assassinating Hamas politicians and leaders are used for domestic consumption as well as a face-saving attempt to absorb the protests of Israeli settlers especially in Sderot and Ashkelon and to mitigate the ongoing accusations of incompetence and cowardice against the IOF troops. Abu Obeida highlighted that the Brigades are geared up to confront any Israeli incursion or threat by all possible means. The spokesman opined that the official Arab silence reflects the considerable inability of the Arab regimes as a result of their blind subordination to the western oppressors, adding...

Siyam: Former PA security conspires with Israel to assassinate Hamas leaders
Palestinian Information Center 11/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Saeed Siyam, the head of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, on Monday revealed that coordination between certain quarters in the PA leadership in Ramallah, its former security elements in the Gaza Strip and the IOA was ongoing to carry out Israeli threats of assassinating politicians affiliated with Hamas atop of them premier Ismail Haneyya. MP Siyam, whom Israeli ministers also called for assassinating, did not rule out the existence of cooperation between those who masterminded the previous botched attempt to assassinate Haneyya and the Israeli intelligence, underlining that Hamas takes the current Israeli threats seriously. The lawmaker pointed out that the picture about the attempted assassination of Haneyya became clear despite the escape of some criminals to Egypt, adding that the confessions of the detained criminals will be broadcast soon.

Muzaini to Barak: We would burn the ground if Hamas leaders were targeted
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Senior Hamas political leader Dr. Osama Al-Muzaini affirmed on Tuesday that his Movement has many open options and means to avenge any Israeli attempt to target Hamas’s senior leaders. On Monday, Israeli war minister Ehud Barak threatened to kill Hamas’s prominent political leaders, including premier Ismail Haneyya, as requested by the mayor of Sderot colony. "I advise him not to carry out his threats because we will burn the ground under his feet if he targeted any of Hamas’s leaders", asserted Muzaini, underlining that Hamas’s reprisal to any Israeli foolishness of this kind will be "very painful". He also explained that his Movement "possesses more options"¦ more than what was available in the past", and that it was capable of humiliating the enemy if he dared to harm Hamas’s leaders. But he made it clear to the Israeli occupation government that "Even if the...

IDF soldier moderately hurt in stabbing attack near Jenin
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
An Israel Defense Forces soldier was moderately wounded on Tuesday when a Palestinian stabbed him in the back at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Jenin. Security forces detained the assailant and the soldier was taken to the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Ramle for treatment. According to an initial investigation, the assailant is a member of the Islamic Jihad militant organization. Also on Tuesday, IDF troops raided 14 money-changing offices in the West Bank, confiscating nearly $850,000 and arresting five Palestinians on suspicion funds were transferred from abroad to militant groups, the army said. Overnight, the Israel Air Force carried out an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, wounding two civilians, Palestinian sources said.

Israeli army kidnaps one in Tulkarem, two from Jenin and continue their attack on the money changers
Nisreen Qumsieh, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
Israeli military continued their attacks on Tuesday morning on the places of money exchange in several areas of the West Bank. The attacked started in the northern West Bank city of Nablus; the army kidnapped eight of Money changers and the operation extended to the central part of the West Bank in Ramallah city when the army kidnapped another money changer. Eyewitnesses reported that the operation coincided with the continuous attack against the places of money exchange as army attacked several places in the city of Tulkarem, confiscating computers and other documents. In Jenin, forces kidnapped two brothers from the town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin and invaded several homes of money changers. Sources added that several military vehicles invaded the town, besieged several civilian homes and kidnapped the brothers Mohammad,20 and Tha’er abu al Rab,24.

A Palestinian is kidnapped by Special Forces of Israeli army
Nisreen Qumsieh, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
On Tuesday morning the Special Force of the Israeli army kidnapped a Palestinian from the village of Kafr Qdoum, north of Qalqilia city in the West Bank. Sources indicated that the objective of the operation was not known and the abducted man was moved to an unidentified detention center. [end]

Undercover Israeli forces abduct Palestinian activist near Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – An undercover Israeli force on Tuesday abducted a Palestinian activist from the northern West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum in the eastern Qalqilia district. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that Israeli soldiers were disguised in civilian clothes and were traveling in a Palestinian-plated microbus when they kidnapped 21-year-old Faysal Ubeid from his shop. [end]

Palestinian security forces ’detain 11 Hamas members’
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces have detained 11 Hamas members in the West Bank, Hamas claimed on Tuesday. Hamas said in a statement that five of the arrestees were from Salfit district in the northern West Bank; two others from Ramallah in the centre; two from Tulkarem in the north; one from Jenin, also in the north and one from Nablus in the northern West Bank. [end]

Israeli forces seize six Palestinians in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli forces seized six Palestinians in several West Bank cities claiming they were wanted activists on Tuesday morning. Hebrew sources said that one was arrested in Ramallah in the central West Bank, four in Hebron in the south and one in Nablus in the north. [end]

Palestinian-Israeli group claims responsibility for drive-by shooting in the Golan Heights
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Ahrar Al-Jalil ("Free People of the Galilee") Brigades, a militant Palestinian-Israeli group, has claimed responsibility for a shooting attack that left two Israelis injured in the Golan Heights on Monday night. The Israeli police expect that the shooting came from a speeding car near Waset Junction. Several checkpoints have been set up in the region in attempts to arrest the perpetrators. According to Israeli sources, the injured were taken to Ziv Hospital in Safed. Ahrar Al-Jalil claimed responsibility for killing an Israeli soldier in the Old City of Jerusalem in 2007, and vowed to carry out more attacks inside Israel’s borders. [end]

Two Palestinian military groups fire at Israeli targets near Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility on Monday evening for launching a homemade projectile at an Israeli military position at Kisufim east of the Gaza Strip. Separately, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, said their fighters fired a homemade projectile at the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Monday evening. The military groups said in separate statements that they will continue to respond with more resistance to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. [end]

Israeli forces arrest DFLP activist in Tubas
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – The Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian activist affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) from the northern West Bank city of Tubas after raiding the city on Monday evening. Local sources told our correspondent that the Israeli forces ransacked home of 31-year-old Najib Maslamani before seizing him. [end]

Hamas sources: "PA security arrest 11 supporters"
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
Media sources close to the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, reported that Palestinian Security Forces, loyal to Fateh movement in the West Bank, arrested 11 members and supporters of the movement in several West Bank areas. The sources stated that in Salfit district, security personnel arrested Abdul-Ghani Canaan and his brother Suleiman after breaking into their shop in Jama’een village, near Salfit. Security forces also arrested Mohammad Suleiman and Nael Khafsh from Marda village, north of Salfit. Resident Ali Al Qaoud was arrested from the nearby village of Kafr Al Deek. In Ramallah district, north of Jerusalem, security forces arrested Farid Shreitih and his brother Mreshih. In Tulkarem district, in the northern part of the West Bank, security forces arrested Mahdi Hasan. In Nablus district, also in the northern part of the West Bank, security forces arrested Taiseer Sawalma from his shop in Aseera Al Shimaliyya village.

UN agency eases woes of Lebanese hit by housing crisis since 2006 war with israel
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 2/13/2008
SOUTH LEBANON: More than 5,000 Lebanese civilians in South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley have benefited from the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT), according to the program’s coordinator, Dania Abdel-Malek. "Some 1,000 families in the South and 250 families in the Bekaa have benefited from the project," Abdel-Malek said on Saturday during a meeting in Beit Lif, west of Bint Jbeil. "Our project aims to rebuild thousands of homes that were destroyed or damaged in Israeli raids" during the 2006 war with Israel, she explained. "It consists of drawing maps, delimiting borders and preparing lists of the needed construction materials." The project is financed by the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and is being executed in collaboration with the Danish Refugee Council, according to Abdel-Malek. The project’s director, Hassan Bazih, said the importance of the project...

VIDEO - Sderot resident recalls Qassam attack that cost brother his leg
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for February 12, 2008. Rami Twito recalled on Monday the moments immediately after a Qassam rocket attack on his Sderot home on Saturday night. At first, Twito thought that the rocket had killed his younger brother Osher, who was more seriously hurt in the attack, after which doctors were forced to amputate his leg. [end]

Israel continues to expand settlement in Jerusalem
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
The Israeli Housing Ministry declared on Tuesday that preparations are being carried out to build at least 1100 houses for settlers in east Jerusalem and its surrounding Arab areas. The Ministry said that the Jerusalem Municipality released bids to build 750 houses in Pesgat Zeev area and 370 houses in Jabal Abu Gheim, a green mountain near Bethlehem which was illegal annexed by Israel and its trees were uprooted when Israel built houses for settlers. Israeli Housing Minister, Ze’ev Boim, said that his ministry will build anywhere in Jerusalem and around it, while his assistant stated that the new bids for the 370 houses will not be released until the results of a previous bid for 307 houses are officially released. Israel surrounded Jerusalem with illegal settlements and the illegal annexation wall and always accelerated settlement construction and expansion in the city in...

UNRWA gets under way with plan to rebuild Nahr al-Bared
Michael Bluhm, Daily Star 2/13/2008
Agency stresses enormity of project, keeps details private - BEIRUT: The authorities leading the rebuilding of the war-torn Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon launched the reconstruction’s master plan on Tuesday, but they did not release the plan to the public and they have yet to gain full access to the area of the camp hit hardest by the conflict there in mid-2007. Without a firm budget or timetable for the rebuilding, Tuesday’s launch ceremony at the Grand Serail served largely to remind various groups - potential donors, displaced camp residents and Lebanese worried about the refugees’ permanent resettlement - that the reconstruction of the battered camp is moving forward. "The reason behind this press conference is to show a very strong message to the Palestinians, to the Lebanese and the whole world that the government of Lebanon has delivered on its promise to rebuild Nahr al-Bared," Ambassador Khalil Makkawi, head...

LEBANON: Ray of hope for Beirut squat on edge of Shatila refugee camp
Hugh Macleod/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/13/2008
Resident of the Gaza Buildings Fawzie Ali Serhan, 65, says she just wants to live a couple of clean days before she dies BEIRUT, 12 February 2008 (IRIN) - Mirna Abu Nader woke up just in time. "We had noticed that the iron girders had started to bend from the huge pressure on the roof," said the 24-year-old mother of two toddlers. "I was sleeping when I heard a creak and then a huge slab of concrete fell into our room. I only just managed to grab the baby in time."  Welcome to life in the Gaza Buildings: the slum inside a slum; a former Palestinian hospital just outside the Shatila refugee camp south of Beirut turned squat for the poor and destitute. Built in the 1970s by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Gaza Buildings were intended to better lives. The complex of four tower blocks arranged around a central courtyard originally housed a hospital run by the...

Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
United Nations Human Rights Council, ReliefWeb 1/21/2008
A/HRC/7/17 HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL Seventh session Item 7 of the provisional agenda Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard Summary This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian territory. Israel’s obligations as an occupying Power have not diminished as a result of the prolonged nature of the occupation. Israel remains the occupying Power in Gaza despite its claim that Gaza is a "hostile territory". This means that its actions must be measured against the standards of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Judged by these standards Israel is in serious violation of its legal obligations. The collective punishment of Gaza by Israel is expressly prohibited by international humanitarian law and has resulted in a serious humanitarian crisis.

Several Female detainees suffering bad health conditions, violations
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
One of the lawyers of the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) visited a number of female detainees in Hasharon Israeli detention facility and met with a number of detainees who informed him of cases of detainees suffering from various health issues and not receiving the needed medical attention. The lawyer met with detainee Latifa Abu Thra’, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus, who informed him of the bad living conditions the detainees are facing in addition to the lack of medical attention for sick detainees. Abu Thra’ was kidnapped by the Israeli forces on December 19, 2003, and was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. She is a mother of seven children. The lawyer also met with detainee Shereen Al Sheikh Khalil from Gaza and was living in Ramallah, Khalil was kidnapped on July 13, 2003 and was sentenced to six years.

JORDAN: UNRWA concerned by impact of rising costs on aid deliveries
Dana Hazeen/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/13/2008
The UNRWA headquarters in Amman. The agency has warned that rising prices of fuel and basic commodities will affect its ability to provide humanitarian aid deliveries to refugees in Jordan AMMAN, 11 February 2008 (IRIN) - The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has said it is concerned that rising prices of fuel and basic commodities will affect humanitarian aid deliveries to refugees in Jordan. "The increase in fuel prices and consumer commodities will have an obvious effect on our services to refugees in Jordan, because our operational costs will increase and the financial burden will become greater," Sheldon Pitterman, director of UNRWA operations in Amman, told IRIN. On 8 February the Jordanian government increased fuel prices by 3-76 percent, as it is phasing out subsidies. Domestic fuel and kerosene prices went up by 76 percent...

Palestine Today 021208
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 3. 67 MB || Time 4m 0s || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Tuesday February 12th, 2008. The Israeli army invades Gaza city leaving one Palestinian resistance fighter and an Israeli soldier injured; whilst in the West Bank the Israeli army seizes 17 Palestinian civilians. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast A number of Israeli army tanks from an undercover unit arrived in the eastern neighborhood of Gaza City on Tuesday morning. Local Palestinian sources said that the Israeli troops clashed with a number of resistance fighters, who were deployed in the area, in defense of the civilian population. Medical sources confirmed the slight injury of two fighters during the first few hours of gun fire.

Hoenlein: Obama’s spirit of change could harm Israel
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
The head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, expressed concern yesterday regarding the atmosphere that has surrounded Democratic Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for president, while making it clear he has no problem with Obama himself. "All the talk about change, but without defining what that change should be, is an opening for all kind of mischief," Hoenlein said at a press conference in Jerusalem. Obama has made change a central theme in his campaign. Hoenlein is in Jerusalem for the annual leadership mission of the Conference of Presidents, which will take place this week in Georgia and next week in Israel. Hoenlein was careful to stress, "It’s not the candidates themselves we are concerned about," pointing out that Obama, like the other major candidates, has signed on to found a national committee to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary in the U.

Hizbullah still trying to define new role for itself
Mona Alami, Daily Star 2/13/2008
Inter Press - BEIRUT: The year 2000 heralded the end of Israel’s occupation of Lebanon, with the exception of the much disputed enclave of the Shebaa Farms, located at the country’s southwestern tip between Israel and Syria. Since then, concern over Hizbullah’s new role has been in the political spotlight, leading to a continuous rise in tensions, especially following the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. "Hizbullah is a national actor with a transnational ideology," says Patrick Haeni from the think tank International Crisis Group. "Hizbullah believes in using its experience as a resistance movement against Israel as a successful management model for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict." The doctrine of Hizbullah is built on two pillars: moqawama ("resistance" against Israeli occupation of Arab land) and moumanaa ("immunization" against Western influence).

Fatah pushing major revamp in run-up to next vote
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
RAMALLAH - Fatah is undergoing unprecedented internal reforms to democratize the ailing movement in the face of the electoral threat from political rivals such as Hamas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The reforms include organizing its membership rolls in a move that could reduce widespread fraud and holding regional elections in the West Bank and Gaza ahead of a primary election for its top leaders - the first such leadership elections since 1989. "Over the last few months, Fatah has undergone a change the likes of which have not taken place in the past 19 years," Azzam al-Ahmed, a Fatah leader in the West Bank, said in an interview with Haaretz. "The movement understood that without closing ranks, reorganizing from the administrative perspective and rejuvenating the cadre of members, we will have difficulty facing the two most significant challenges: Hamas and Israel.

Peres: If we’re fired upon, we must hit back without hesitation
Amos Harel, and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday that "if were are being fired upon we must hit back without hesitation and without compromise," referring to the ongoing Qassam rocket fire launched from the Gaza Strip to Israel. Peres, who spoke at a conference for National Service volunteers from the kibbutz movement, reiterated that "we don’t want to hurt innocent citizens, but we won’t let our enemies hurt our citizens." The president added that, "we cannot be satisfied only with talk. I trust the IDF, and even if complete solutions to the Qassam fire will take time, there is no doubt that the IDF will leave with the superior hand." Peres harshly criticized Hamas leaders, maintaining that "Hamas leaders in Gaza must know that ultimately those hurt will be those who are breaking the [international] law themselves.

MK charges Ukrainian Embassy of anti-Semitism, discrimination
Zohar Blumenkrantz, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
The Foreign Ministry is investigating complaints of discrimination and anti-Semitism in the Ukrainian Embassy’s treatment of a Hasidic travel agency, Ma’ayanot Hahaim Tours. The complaints were filed by MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) and attorney Gadi Elbaz, who represents the local Bratslav Hasidic community. Bratslav Hasidim are the agency’s major clients, since the grave of the movement’s founder, Rabbi Nahman of Uman, is a major Bratslav pilgrimage site. In their complaints, Porush and Elbaz detailed three incidents. In one, on January 22, two Ma’ayanot Hahaim employees who came to arrange visas for their customers were denied entry for about 90 minutes, and finally admitted only after the company’s lawyer intervened, even though travel agency workers are normally allowed free access to file visa applications.

Aliyah is no longer main focus of Jewish Agency
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
KIEV - "I no longer know what they want of me," a veteran Jewish Agency emissary (shaliach), who is now serving his third tour of duty in one of the former Soviet countries, complained last week. "They sent me here to bring Jews to Israel, and now the agency chairman comes along and talks to us about the need to work on preserving existing communities. And what about Zionism?" Yet other emissaries, especially the younger ones, like the new focus. "I understand that our job today is less to bring Jews to Israel and more to bring Israel to Jews," said one. The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) spent hundreds of thousands of shekels last week to bring all its staffers in the former Soviet Union to a week-long seminar in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. All the senior JAFI officials also came. Executives answered questions about wages and benefits, and there were social and cultural activities.

FM Livni to attend Lantos ceremony, may meet with Rice
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
WASHINGTON - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to visit Washington tomorrow to represent Israel at a memorial ceremony for California Congressman Tom Lantos, who died Monday, aged 80. Livni will stay in town for only a few hours, but is expected to hold a meeting with her counterpart, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Lantos was among Israel’s closest friends in the House of Representatives in recent decades. Pro-Israel organizations in Washington published death notices honoring the Hungarian-born Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress. Similar notices were issued by the White House, the State Department and the office of President Shimon Peres. The foreign minister will be accompanied at the memorial by senior diplomats from the embassy in Washington including Ambassador Sallai Meridor and his predecessor, Danny Ayalon.

PM: Borders easiest issue to solve
Barak Ravid and Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
BERLIN and WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says it is possible to advance significantly the resolution of the issue of borders in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in spite of a shared concern by officials of both sides, and the United States, as to their ability to realistically achieve a detailed agreement by the end of 2008. The prime minister is convinced that the question of borders is the simplest of the three "core issues" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - the other two being refugees and Jerusalem - and said that sufficient preparatory work had been done for progress to be achieved. "If we do not want to run straight into an impasse, it is best to begin negotiating over other issues [not Jerusalem and the refugees] like borders," Olmert told reporters in Berlin after completing a three-day official visit to Germany.

Arab-EU summit ends in Malta
Al Jazeera 2/12/2008
Amr Moussa, the head of the the Arab League, has criticised a lack of progress in the Middle East peace process after EU and Arab foreign ministers ended two days of talks in Malta. "We see no progress. We want to send a message, a message of concern," he said after the talks, the first between the two blocs at the level of foreign minister. Moussa recalled last year’s US-hosted meeting in Annapolis where leaders had agreed to try to conclude a peace deal by the end of this year. He said: "We all supported the process with the hope that it will bring peace in 2008. We are now asking what happened, why no progress?" A senior Israeli minister said on Monday that Israel was not aiming for a peace treaty with the Palestinians this year, but only a declaration of principles.

VIDEO - News / Olmert to Merkel: Iran is covertly seeking nuclear arms
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for February 12, 2008. In this edition: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on a visit to Berlin tells German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Iran is covertly seeking nuclear weapons. A Palestinian stabs and moderately wounds an Israel Defense Forces soldier near Jenin. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter labels drug smugglers arrested in the Arava on Monday as ’terrorists. ’ [end]

The Palestinian PM: Israeli is not fulfilling it’s obligations
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
On Tuesday, the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad accused Israeli of not fulfilling its obligations regarding the freezing of all settlement activity in the West Bank and not removing the checkpoints which restrict the Palestinians freedom of movement. His statement came during a speech he delivered in the US capital Washington to an audience of American and Arab diplomats in addition to journalists. Fayyad said that even after two months of the American sponsored Annapolis conference nothing of what had been agreed has been achieved " Annapolis was an important step forward but I can’t say that we do not have difficulties. In the same month of the conference the Israeli attacks on the Palestinians left 165 killed and over 521 injured in addition to the damage of property." The Palestinian Prime Minister added "What is not happening that should happen is progression...

Hamas downplays Israeli threats against the group, follows security precautions
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
The ruling Hamas movement in Gaza considered yesterday the latest Israeli threats against its ranks ’serious’, yet it said such threats wont deter the movement from keeping up. Mosheer aL-Masri, a Hamas lawmaker and influential Hamas leader, stated Monday " the threats wont deter Hamas from keeping up in the path of resistance". He pointed out the Israeli media terminology in reference to the Hamas’s reaction to the threats as ’ failed attempts to defuse momentum of the movement’s steadfastness’. Israeli media reports said yesterday that the Hamas’s leadership has begun hiding out in fear of the Israeli military warnings to target top Hamas leaders, including prime minister, Ismail Haniya. In response to these reports, Taher Alnunu, spokesman of the Hamas government confirmed that prime minister Haniya, is undertaking everyday activities normally with some precautions.

Zobeidi denies reports of Israel pardoning him
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
Leader of the Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fateh movement, denied media reports by the French Press Agency which claimed that Israel has pardoned him and that he handed his weapon to the Palestinian Authority in Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank. Zobeidi stated that he did not make any statement regarding the claimed pardon and that Israel still considers him wanted although the Palestinian Authority is practicing efforts to end this file. He also said that his name is still among the wanted lists that the Israeli soldiers carry as they operate in the occupied West Bank. Two days ago, Israeli sources stated that the Israeli Security Services pardoned 35 wanted resistance fighters of the Al Aqsa brigades, but the list did not include the name of Al Zobeidi and dozens of other fighters as the security services delayed the deliberations on their cases until further notice.

Prime Minister Haniyeh of Hamas welcomes initiative for calm
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/12/2008
In a statement faxed to press on Tuesday, Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas movement expressed willingness to reach "a state of calm" in the region, saying that any offer or initiative to achieve this "will be considered by his government". The statement read that the Palestinian government in Gaza has been closely watching the latest developments on the ground, "particularly the continued Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip and the West Bank". Haniyeh stated that "the Israeli occupation’s threats against the Palestinian government and Hamas’ ranks indicate that Israeli policies have failed to make the Palestinian people succumb." The Hamas leader also stressed that the Palestinian people have been looking forward to "freedom on the national soil, with Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state".

Haniyeh: de facto government willing to consider any initiative to end Israeli occupation
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh on Tuesday indicated that his government would be willing to consider any initiative which would establish peace through ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. He also called for a halt to Israeli aggression as well as the recognition of the inalienable Palestinian rights. "There is no justification in keeping the status quo," he said. In a statement received by Ma’an, Haniyeh affirmed that the Israeli threats on his life as well as well as to target other Hamas leaders and Palestinian activists from other factions indicate that "the Israelis are confused after they failed to achieve their goals especially in Gaza City." Haniyeh also reiterated that the Palestinian people are looking forward to establishing their independent state on all the Palestinian territories with Jerusalem as its capital.

Olmert: Israel will continue to fight "Palestinian Terrorism"
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - During a visit to Berlin, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, declared on Tuesday that Israel will continue to fight Palestinian terrorists "forcefully and without a let up". During a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Olmert stated that "we will continue to fight the terrorists. We will not stop. We will do that by applying relentless force and determination. Israel is absolutely determined to face the challenge of terrorism with all applicable and effective means." "At the same time we will continue our negotiations with the Palestinian Authority," Olmert added. In the past week Israel has increased its threats to assassinate Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the firing of missiles by Palestinian resistance factions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that "time was running out" for reaching a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Rome Orthodox Patriarchy wins court battle over Jerusalem properties
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - The Rome Orthodox Patriarchate won an important legal battle on Tuesday in the ongoing process to defend the Orthodox properties, especially in Omar Bin Al-Khattab Square at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. This success comes a month after the Patriarchate successfully argued against Israeli settlement agencies that tried to take control of Orthodox properties at the same location. This time the legal battle started after a well known settlement agency called Richard Marketing, represented by the attorney for "Uteirat Kuhanem Yusi Rechter" establishment, petitioned the Central Court against any renovation or building activities to the Imperial Hotel in addition to preventing the Rome Orthodox Patriarchate from practicing its rights as the owner of the hotel building, which included receiving payments for rent.

Israel and Hamas: a tacit agreement?
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Bethlehem - Gaza - Ma’an report - Israel continues to beat the drums of war at the gates of Gaza while waging a wide promotional campaign to prepare Israeli and world public opinion for a big military operation in Gaza, and continues its threats to assassinate the leaders of Hamas, especially deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. While all this was happening, Ismail Haniyeh hinted on Tuesday his government’s readiness to steady any initiative that leads to security and peace and brings an end to the Israeli occupation. In addition, his political advisor Ahmad Yusuf stated Hamas’ readiness to start negotiating in place of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas according to an article that he wrote for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. All this casts doubts on Israel’s blind policy of threatening Hamas with escalation and assassination of its leaders and to hand over the Gaza Strip to President Mahmoud Abbas.

German Jewish leader: No need for aliyah agency like Nativ here
Barak Ravid and DPA, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
BERLIN - German Jewish leaders told visiting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday they were not interested in Israel’s offers to expand the Nativ agency’s operations to Germany. Nativ, a semi-covert agency founded within the Prime Minister’s Office in the 1950s, deals mainly with helping Jews from the former Soviet Union immigrate to Israel. During his tenure as minister of strategic affairs, MK Avigdor Lieberman proposed opening a Nativ agency office in the Israel Embassy in Berlin, and to start encouraging immigration to Israel among some 200,000 Russian-speaking Jews who have recently emigrated to Germany. Stefan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of German Jews, said following talks with the prime minister on Monday that there was no need for such a program to draw Jews to make aliyah, as recommended by Lieberman during his tenure as minister of strategic affairs.

Namibia invites Israeli companies to help polish its diamonds
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
Namibia’s commissioner of diamonds said Tuesday that while his country was committed to getting more of its rough gems cut and polished locally, it was hoping to do that in partnership with major processing centers, like Tel Aviv, Antwerp and Mumbai. Speaking at an international conference on rough diamonds in Tel Aviv, commissioner Kennedy Hamutenya said developing Namibia’s capability to turn rough diamonds to finished stones did not mean shutting out foreign expertise. "We’ve invited investors from Israel, from Antwerp [Belgium], from India to come and do business in Namibia," he said. "We actually expect investors... to import skills to our work force. We want a commitment to really transfer skills to Namibia." Africa accounts for about 60 percent of the world’s rough diamond mining.

Hamas: Don’t Rule Out More Border Breaches
The Jerusalem Post, MIFTAH 2/12/2008
"Don’t rule out the possibility of hoards of Palestinians bursting through the borders of Israel and Jordan just like they did at the Rafah border crossing into Egypt," Hamas’s deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk warned on Saturday. In an interview with Qatari newspaper Ayam, Marzouk said that Hamas would carry out suicide bombings "as required," and insisted that Israel could not break the spirit of the Palestinian people. When asked if the Palestinians were likely to mass on the Israeli and Jordanian borders, Marzouk responded, "I believe that all possibilities and options are open," adding that if left with no choice, the Palestinian people would be prepared to carry out actions like breaching the borders. Hamas’s deputy leader went on to say that as far as he is concerned, by such actions, Palestinians would rid themselves of the siege imposed on them by Israel.

Statement by the UNRWA Commissioner-General, Karen Koning AbuZayd on Nahr el-Bared camp Master Plan
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 2/12/2008
Press Conference with Prime Minister Siniora, 12 February 2008 We have an immense challenge in front of us. Reconstructing Nahr el-Bared camp will require a massive effort and it will be a long undertaking. What we must do is build a whole town out of the ashes of the old: houses, mosques and places of business, allowing thousands of people to return to the place they have called home for decades. This will not be easy and we should be aware of the difficulties that may lie ahead. No one organization can do this alone. UNRWA will be working closely with the Lebanese Government and the Palestinian Community but we also need to rely on other UN agencies and NGOs, and we will need the sustained backing of the donor community. We must all work together if we are to succeed. On behalf of UNRWA, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Siniora for his commitment to the task ahead of us.

Senior Shas officials: Rabbi Yosef not ready to quit coalition
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Senior Shas officials have criticized the escalation in recent days by party chairman and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai of his threats to quit the coalition. They say that the party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, does not want to leave the government at this stage. In addition, they say, the calls to leave contradict the position taken by the Council of Torah Sages three weeks ago, according to which Shas will leave the cabinet only if and when the issue of Jerusalem is discussed in negotiations with the Palestinians. The Shas sources say that because Yosef does not believe that the negotiations will lead to real results on their current trajectory, due to the weak position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he sees no need for Shas to intensify its threats.

PPP criticizes Hamas’ decision to ban Al-Ayyam newspaper
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) criticized on Tuesday a decision taken by the de facto government in the Gaza Strip to bam the distribution of the Al-Ayyam newspaper in the coastal strip. Walid Al-Awad, a member of the political center in the party and media representative, described the decision as part of the continuing violations in Gaza against freedom of expression and political diversity. He also said that the decision comes under the framework of suffocating journalists and media organizations, which is dangerous to the democratic process. He also reiterated the PPP’s objections to any violation against members of the press in the West Bank and Gaza. Al-Awad called on the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip to reverse its decision and to allow the two daily Gaza-based newspapers Ar-Risalah and Palestine to be distributed in the northern provinces.

Majadele: New Arab city will bolster our sense of belonging
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
Israeli Arab minister Ghaleb Majadele said on Tuesday that Israel’s plans to construct a new Arab city - the first since 1948 - would strengthen the sectors’ "sense of belonging" in Israel. The sports, science and culture minister added: "The current government has internalized that the Arab population has equal rights." Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said on Tuesday during a visit to the Arab city Umm al-Fahm that he is working to lay the foundations for a new Arab city. Sheetrit said he is "promoting plans for the new city. It will be a modern city, where young couples can afford to buy property and live just like in any other city in the world." The interior minister is also expected to declare the Arab village of Kafr Qasem a fully-fledged city. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, not a single new Arab...

Peace Index: February 2008 / Most Israelis believe Lebanon war justified
Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
But they want the current government out, even though they cannot think of a suitable replacement for the prime minister. Most Israeli Jews believe that the Second Lebanon War was justified, even after the Winograd Committee published its final report last month. The majority is now even larger than after the committee’s interim report in the spring. A more dramatic change occurred, however, in assessing the committee’s toughness toward the military and political echelons. Whereas after the interim report, the prevailing view was that the committee had been equally tough on both these sectors, with a tendency to be slightly tougher on the politicians, the dominant view today is that the committee was tougher on the military. The findings show that more Israelis disagree with assigning more responsibility to the military than agree with it.

Olmert’s Career Barely Surviving
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 2/12/2008
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political career has managed, by the skin of its teeth, to survive the recent Winograd Report, which lambasted the Israeli government and the Israeli military’s handling of the second Lebanon War in 2006. However, if the bereaved parents of the Israeli soldiers who died and the reservists who survived the war have anything to do with it, Olmert will soon be history. Last week, shortly before a visibly relieved Olmert delivered his Winograd speech to the Israeli Knesset or parliament – which subsequently approved it in a non-binding symbolic vote, by a majority of 59 to 53 with one abstention – a commotion broke out as bereaved parents began screaming at Olmert." You are not my prime minister. I relinquish my citizenship!" shouted Elipaz Baloha, who lost his son during the fighting in the summer of 2006. Baloha was subsequently removed from the Knesset and the rest of the bereaved parents who had come to censure Olmert followed him in solidarity.

South Lebanon quake shakes local area, Israel and Syria
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 2/13/2008
SIDON: A moderate earthquake rattled South Lebanon on Tuesday, causing some panic among local residents but no major damage, the meteorological department said. The quake, which shook the Southern port cities of Sidon and Tyre and surrounding villages, registered up to 4. 2 on the Richter scale. Some residents in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and neighboring Syria and Israel, also felt the earthquake. "I live in downtown Sidon, and knowing that the buildings there are old and not so well maintained, my family and I panicked a lot," said Ahmad Wehbeh, the owner of a coffee shop in Sidon. Lebanon was hit by a devastating quake in 1958 which left dozens killed. "I couldn’t go back to sleep after the quake... I was terrified," said Abu Mohammad Batsh, another Sidon resident. The Lebanese Bhannes Center for Seismic and Scientific Research said the quake struck at 1:47 a.

IEC lays groundwork for natural gas from Egypt
Lior Baron, Globes Online 2/12/2008
IEC’s board has approved a 15-year delivery contract with Israel Natural Gas Lines. The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) board, headed by chairman Mordechai Friedman, has approved a draft contract with Israel Natural Gas Lines Ltd. for the delivery of natural gas. The 15-year NIS 2 billion contract is for the delivery of gas to all of IEC’s power stations. The Alon Tavor power plant in Afula and the Haifa power plant will be the last two stations to convert to natural gas in 2009. IEC said that contract for the delivery of natural gas will cost $50 million a year when all the gas-driven power stations come on line. IEC has signed a contract with East Mediterranean Gas Co. (EMG) for the purchase of 1. 7 billion cubic meters of gas a year for 15 years. IEC has an option to extend the contract by five years and increase the order by 25%.

Israeli police seize three undocumented Palestinian workers in Herziliya
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli police seized three Palestinians on Tuesday after storming an under-construction building in the city of Herziliya. Israeli authorities claim the workers were staying and working in Israel without permits. The arrests took place after the Israeli police tried to stop a Palestinian in the area. He ran and jumped into a well hidden by a pile of sand. The police discovered other workers in the well. [end]

Palestinian journalist killed in car accident near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 2/12/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian journalist Hajj Mahir Salamah has been killed in a automobile accident near the central West Bank village of Abud in northern Ramallah district, and his wife was seriously injured. Six other Palestinians were injured in the accident, local sources told Ma’an. Sources in the Palestinian Information Ministry told Ma’an that an Israeli helicopter evacuated Salamah to Tel Hashomer Hospital where he died of his injuries. The body was transferred to the government hospital in Ramallah. Israeli medical sources said that two of the injured people were seriously injured. 48-year-old Salamah was an official in the Palestinian Information Ministry.

Sound and effects courtesy of the IDF
Nirit Anderman, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
While in Israel people are waiting impatiently to see whether "Beaufort" will be the first Israeli film to win an Oscar, and after the local film industry experienced particularly impressive momentum at the important international festivals, there are signs of awakening among our neighbors to the east and the north. The film industries of Jordan and Lebanon have recently produced interesting films, and there is increasing curiosity worldwide about films originating in the Middle East. This year, 983 films were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival Independent Feature Film Competition, which took place last month in Utah. Sixteen of them ended up being chosen to participate in the competition, and of those, three came from the Middle East. The triple summit in Utah included the Jordanian film "Captain Abu Raed," directed by Amin Matalqa, the Israeli "Strangers" (Zarim), directed by...

Dov Alfon tapped to replace David Landau as Haaretz editor
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Dov Alfon is to be the next editor of Haaretz, it has been decided by the company’s board of directors. Guy Rolnik, deputy publisher of the Haaretz Group, said yesterday that "the choice of Alfon was natural, and signals our commitment to lead the newspaper to growth and to the significant expansion of our audience of readers, in continuation of the significant growth in recent years." Alfon is expected to take up the position on April 15. He will replace current editor David Landau, who is completing a term of four years. Landau will remain at Haaretz as a member of the editorial board. Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken noted that Landau took up the position of editor-in-chief during a difficult period for the newspaper and its editorial board. During his term, said Schocken, Landau succeeded in expressing the commitment of Haaretz to the values of pragmatic Zionism, and he completes...

In Gaza, Cars are Cooking with Gas
Oakland Ross, MIFTAH 2/12/2008
At least one line of business still seems to be booming in this benighted land, and it does not involve firing rockets. It involves tinkering with cars." We are under siege," says Ali Awad, 48, an automobile mechanic who is especially adept at a certain procedure ideally suited to the strapped circumstances that nowadays prevail in the Gaza Strip, where punitive sanctions imposed by Israel have crippled an already stumbling economy." We have to survive. We cannot just go out and steal." Instead, Awad and tradespeople like him are performing a kind of modern-day alchemy, somehow keeping cars on the road in a territory where just about every gasoline station has been closed for weeks, owing to an acute and persistent shortage of fuel supplies. Gasoline for automobiles has been especially hard hit, and not by accident.


Dissolve the Palestinian Authority
Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 2/13/2008
      The Annapolis process is moving in slow gear, and on the ground Israelis and Palestinians are back to the routine of daily clashes, the firing of rockets, assassinations and threats of more to come. Few people seem to have any idea about how to break out of this stalemate and move toward a permanent, comprehensive, fair resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
     One man who offers some intriguing fresh thinking, though, is Adnan Abu Odeh, a Jordanian-Palestinian who has remained loyal to both sides of his Palestinian and Jordanian identity. Abu Odeh, a former minister, ambassador and chief of the royal court in Jordan, is among the smartest and most insightful analysts in the Arab world. I always make it a point to sound him out when I am in Amman, as I did a few days ago.
     Abu Odeh suggests that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should seriously consider unilaterally dissolving the Palestinian Authority, because it no longer serves a useful function for Palestinians, and instead assists Israel in its long-term designs to control Palestinians land.

Neighborhood memories

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
      When I hear Israelis propose that a Gazan neighborhood be obliterated, I see Yafa, 15, in her neighborhood. I’ve known her since she was a year old. Always-curious eyes, now behind thin-rimmed eyeglasses, a slightly husky voice, bouncy and quiet, persistent, good in English and math, helps out at home and tries to calm down her two younger sisters - balls of energy who, unlike her, are talkative. She likes to surf the Internet and chat with her friends online. Within a range of hundreds of meters from her home, in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawwa neighborhood, a few houses already have been obliterated by Israeli bombs.
     I remember the name of the neighborhood, of course: Saja’iyya. I have forgotten the name of the young woman who had just begun to publish her poetry: personal poems, in a minor key. The pages of the newspaper in which they appeared were laid out, with great excitement, on the table in the rented apartment.
     "Obliterate a neighborhood," and even I don’t know in which Khan Yunis neighborhood M., a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, lives. Her sharp, critical tongue is aimed at officials of every rank. She was the first woman I ever saw smoke a nargileh (water pipe) in Gaza. I believe she is among the few women who still go out bareheaded. Unfortunately, we have lost touch. I occasionally receive reports about her from a mutual friend, such as how close she was to a missile fired by an Israeli army helicopter.

Palestinian revenge was inevitable

Ahmed Yousef, Ha’aretz 2/12/2008
      Last week’s bombing in Dimona was the first martyrdom operation committed by Hamas in more than five years. For some time, we have been warning the world that the relentless pressure on our people would eventually tell. In the last two months, more than a hundred people have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip, including many civilians, women and children.
     Thirty people have died in the last month for lack of medical care brought on by the embargo. Only two weeks ago, we saw the appalling sight of over 40 women and children seriously injured when an Israeli F-16 dropped an enormous bomb in the middle of the densely populated Gaza City, a few meters from a wedding party. This kind of atrocity, piled onto the daily death toll, has finally tested the patience of Palestinians, and after lengthy restraint, revenge was inevitable.
     To many in Israel and the West, this act of resistance will be judged in isolation. They will no doubt say that it justifies the inhumane embargo on the people of Gaza and the arrests of more than 500 people and daily torture of innocents in the West Bank by both Israelis and the puppet government imposed on us by the U.S.

"Where are you from?"

Rima Merriman writing from Jenin, occupied West Bank, Electronic Intifada 2/12/2008
      I live in an apartment building adjoining the Arab American University - Jenin (AAUJ) on a hill surrounded by farmland and quiet villages.As I write, the wind outside my leaky windows has been howling for hours, adding to the desolation of the campus. The protracted semester, beset by student and faculty unrest, has finally ended. It is time to take stock and to plan ahead for the following semester.
     When the weather is good, the view from the roof of my apartment building is breathtaking. There isn’t a single Israeli settlement in sight to mar the gently rolling hills and the Palestinian villages nestled among them. (As with any part of the West Bank, though, one doesn’t have to go far to come up against illegal Israeli settlements and the illegal wall).Here and there, one can see the start of development -- the first ragged impression of a road slicing through a field, hills being divided into "lots," a stone building coming up much too close to the dilapidated main road blocking the poverty behind it.

Book review: "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations"

Raymond Deane, Electronic Intifada 2/11/2008
      Much debate on conflict in the Middle East is beset by contradictions and unanswered questions. These include: If the war in Iraq was motivated by oil, then why was it opposed by so many within the oil industry itself? Was the US incited by the omnipotent Zionist lobby to a war that is opposed to America’s vital interests (and is the lobby omnipotent?)? Or is Israel merely a tool of the US establishment, seen as a vital defender of Western interests in the recalcitrant Orient?
     In his second book, Nazareth-based English author Jonathan Cook seeks to cut these Gordian knots, and in the process proposes an uncompromisingly grim diagnosis of what is happening in the world’s most unstable region, and why it is happening.
     Borrowing analysis by Greg Palast, Cook accepts that the oil industry wished to see Saddam toppled, but maintains that it envisaged "a US-backed coup by a Ba’athist army general; the new strongman would be transformed into a democratic leader by elections held within three months." There would ensue "the creation of an Iraqi state-owned company that would restrict production, staying within quotas and shoring up Saudi Arabia’s control of OPEC ... The neocons, on the other hand, wanted the Iraqi oil industry privatized so that the global market could be flooded with cheap oil and the Saudi-dominated cartel smashed."

Striving for Justice in Gaza

Caelum Moffatt, MIFTAH 2/11/2008
      The innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip are currently experiencing what it is like to be the sacrificial byproduct of a power struggle and subsequently relegated to a political expedient. While Egypt, Hamas, the PA and Israel all exchange rhetoric of warnings and consequences, expressing their opinions in conference halls and on camera, the 1.5 million residents in the coastal strip are the ones paying the price for their respective standpoints.
     The border, which was forced open on January 23 and stayed open for nearly two weeks in order for Palestinians to replenish their supplies, has now been closed. The blockade has now resumed. OCHA [The Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs] reports that since January 18, only 32 trucks have been allowed to deliver supplies into Gaza a day, whereas prior to Hamas’ takeover in June 2007, 250 trucks used to make the journey into Gaza daily. The World Food Program has stated that it has been unable to reach 84,000 of its usual relief recipients. In addition, out of Gaza’s six crossing points, while Rafah and Erez are reserved for the transportation of people [in reality, the restriction of movement is a far more apt description], Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings have been closed while Nahal Oz is only permitting 75% of Gaza’s electricity requirements...

Left waiting

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/7/2008
      Immediate economic conditions in Gaza appear largely dependent on Abbas accepting the invitation of Hamas to reach rapprochement.
     Although they knew the chances of success were near nil, Munir Al-Areir and his cousin Mustafa, who come from Al-Shajaiya in eastern Gaza City, were among dozens of Palestinians who insisted on waiting in front of the Salaheddin Gate at the Gaza-Egyptian border on Monday morning. Despite agreement between Egypt and Ismail Haniyeh’s government to reseal the crossing, Al-Areir refused to let the flicker of hope he’d had of extricating himself -- even temporarily -- from his life’s destitution die out.
     "Before they opened the border, I was unemployed and my family and I were living off charity. When they opened it, I would return home every day with $100 in my pocket. My life changed completely and now it’s hard to imagine that my source of income has suddenly been cut off again." The 45-year-old merchant had sold his wife’s jewellery in order to get back into business. He purchased various goods from Northern Sinai -- tobacco, almonds, livestock and even diesel -- to sell back in Gaza. His prospects were looking so good that he was able to buy his four school-age children new clothes. Like most others in front of the Salaheddin Gate, Al-Areir hopes that the border crossing will soon work normally as Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zaher promised.

Israeli foreign ministry’s token Arab

Yaman Salahi, Electronic Intifada 2/12/2008
      Ishmael Khaldi has been all the rage amongst Israel advocacy groups in the United States, especially in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area. An Arab Bedouin who embraces his Israeli citizenship and has worked for the Israeli police as well as Israel’s occupying army, he was a dream come true for the Israeli consulate, which decided to hire him as Deputy Consul to San Francisco in December 2006. The timing and destination could hardly have been more opportune given growing efforts by activists in the Bay Area to bring awareness to the apartheid realities of Israeli state policies within and beyond the 1967 borders. What better way for the Israeli government to prove that it’s not racist than by having an Arab with an Israeli passport denounce the claim, in an official capacity?
     Indeed, for some (Israel’s advocates in the US not excluded) this type of tokenism is sufficient and meaningful. We need look no further than the discourse surrounding the Democratic Party primaries to see this phenomenon in effect today, and to understand why it is that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs thought it prudent and effective to send Khaldi to San Francisco. Where we should be looking for the first devoted anti-racist in office this fall, we look instead for the first black man. Where we should be looking for the first devoted anti-sexist, we look instead for the first woman. We do these things as if the two were synonymous: and Israel’s advocates note Khaldi’s position as if "anti-racist" and "anti-apartheid" were synonymous with there being an Arab employee of the state.

The US helps itself by helping Palestine

Samir Abdullah, Daily Star 2/12/2008
      In his final State of the Union address, US President George W. Bush said he believed that a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal would be a reality by the end of his term. Despite the optimism that his remarks generated in the Palestinian government, the goal of reaching a Palestinian-Israeli agreement by the end of 2008 - which Bush set at the Annapolis summit last year and again during his visit to Ramallah last month - remains subject to question, and this is a matter that merits immediate attention.
     In the broadest terms, what we in the Palestinian government want is support in creating a new kind of political environment, one in which moderates can translate their goals and aspirations into credible policies while sustaining the confidence of the Palestinian public. This is why we presented a bold economic and administrative reform plan at the Paris conference in December 2007.