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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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13 February 2008


Former CIA official: Mossad behind Mugniyah killing
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Evidence in Damascus car bombing points to Israel, says Bruce Riedel, former advisor to three US presidents on Middle Eastern affairs. ’This proves Israel has infiltrated Hizbullah,’ he notes, adding that Nasrallah has genuine reason for concern - WASHINGTON - While Israel has formally refuted allegations it was involved in the assassination of Hizbullah ’operations officer Imad Mugniyah in Damascus on Tuesday, former CIA official Bruce Riedel says all signs seem to indicate the Mossad was behind the killing. Riedel, who spent over 30 years with the CIA before serving as a senior advisor on South Asian and Middle East affairs under three US presidents, said Israel has already carried out similar operations in Syria. Currently a senior fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, he...

The hit / Not merely revenge
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
The establishment has been embroiled for several days in a heated debate over killing Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, but when the first lethal blow fell, it was in Damascus. The victim of Tuesday night’s assassination was Hezbollah’s deputy secretary general, Imad Mughniyah. Despite Hamas recent successes, he is a considerably more deadly and sophisticated terrorist than anything the Palestinian sister-movement has ever produced. Like numerous assassinations of Lebanon- and Syria-based terrorists, from Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki (who was killed in Malta) to Hamas and Hezbollah members, Mughniyah’s killing will remain, officially at least, a mystery. This is not the kind of operation for which states tend to take public credit. The prime minister’s bureau’s comment yesterday was more an evasion than a denial.

Israeli tanks re-enter southern Gaza; DFLP fighter wounded in earlier incursion
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli military vehicles re-entered the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, hours after an earlier incursion on Tuesday night that wounded one Palestinian fighter. Witnesses said five Israeli tanks have positioned themselves near the abandoned Yasser Arafat International Airport near Rafah. The military wing of Hamas claimed to have fired several mortar shells at the invading tanks, who are still in the area at the time of writing. On Tuesday night, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the National Resistance Brigades, said that one of their fighters was injured while fighting undercover Israeli forces near the airport. They said in a statement that a group of their fighters confronted the invading forces using machineguns and grenades.

Israeli army kidnapps 85 Palestinians in the West Bank in one day
Jessica Frederick & Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
The Israeli army on Wednesday invaded both the city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, and the village of Beit Ummer, located near the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank. In total, at least 85 Palestinian civilians were abducted by the invading military. Israeli troops stormed the village of Beit Ummar at around 1:00 am on Wednesday. Troops searched and ransacked scores of homes, with local sources stating that the army placed the village under curfew, not allowing families to leave their homes. As the military operation continued, residents reported that, so far, the army had kidnapped 40 men from the village, their ages ranging from 18 to 45. Israeli troops are still in the village and are not allowing Palestinian ambulances or journalists to enter the village, eyewitnesses reported. When IMEMC photojournalist Ghassan Bannoura arrived at the entrance of the village,...

Ma’an exclusive - new initiative for ceasfire between Palestinians and Israelis in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Hebron - Ma’an - Muhammad Al-’Awawi- Ma’an has obtained a copy of an unprecedented document that includes an initiative for a ceasefire in Gaza between Palestinians and the Israelis with an agreement to lift the Israeli siege of Gaza in exchange for a halt to the firing of rockets towards Israel. Journalist Khaled Al-Amayra, who prepared the initiative told Ma’an, "the initiative is still being studied by the concerned parties and the ball is now in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s court, after the leaders of Hamas, both in Gaza and in exile, agreed to the terms of the initiative." Al-Amayra said that he initiated this agreement as an independent Islamic personality that does not belong to any party, after he attained the agreement of Rabbi Manahem Fruman, who assured him that many of the Rabbis and someex-Israeli politicians, including former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and many authors and journalists support this initiative.

Japanese activist shot near the eye in Bil’in may not regain his eyesight
International Solidarity Movement 2/13/2008
Kaoru Kishida, a Japanese activist shot near the eye by a rubber-coated steel bullet in Bil’in, has just been operated on in St. John’s Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. The doctors still don’t know if he will regain his eyesight. Kishida was shot on January 25th, in a non-violent demonstration against the Annexation Wall in the village of Bil’in. When he was shot, three Israeli activists came to his help. While walking him away from the demonstration, they were all shot, one in the leg, one in the behind, and one near the eye. All of them have since recovered. For more information, contact: Kaoru Kishida, St. John’s Eye Hospital 02-5828325 (press 7 for English, extension 230 for the male ward) Mieko Galiko 0546597415

CPT: Israeli military arrests approximately 40 Palestinians and places Beit Ummar under curfew
International Solidarity Movement 2/13/2008
HEBRON Since 1 am on 13 February, the Israeli military placed the village of Beit Ummar under curfew and arrested approximately forty men between the ages of 18 and 25. Since early morning, Israeli soldiers have been entering homes. The military has closed four different areas inside the village. Soldiers are stationed around the local mosque area and throughout the village, with two bulldozers and DCO jeeps. The military are denying travel to people in cars or on foot, restricting the freedom of movement for goods and medicine. The military denied entry to an ambulance attempting to enter the village. Israeli police showed members of Christian Peacemaker Teams ( CPT ) in the area an order and a map for Beit Ummar as a closed military zone. Israeli authorities stopped CPTers and informed them they needed to leave immediately.

Israeli forces seize 56 Palestinians in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
West Bank – Ma’an – Israeli military forces launched a major campaign of early morning raids throughout the West Bank on Wednesday, seizing 56 Palestinians in the course of a few hours. Most of the arrests took place near the city of Hebron, in the southern West Bank. Witnesses said that more than 30 Israeli military vehicles stormed the town of Beit Ummar, conducting house to house searches, seizing 43 young men and imposing a curfew. The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) said that the Israeli military has closed four different areas inside the village since 1am. Soldiers are stationed around the local mosque and throughout the village, with two bulldozers and DCO jeeps. The military are denying travel to people in cars or on foot, restricting the freedom of movement for goods and medicine. The military also denied entry to an ambulance attempting to enter the village, CPT said.

Al-Quds Brigades fire at Israeli settlement near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility on Wednesday for opening fire at the Israeli settlement of Harmeish east of the town of Qaffin in the northern West Bank district of Tulkarem. Al-Quds Brigades leader Fadi Kittana said that a group under his command conducted the shooting and withdrew before Israeli forces pursued them, storming the village. Israeli intelligence have been pursuing Kittana for a year and a half. [end]

IOF troops storm Jenin shortly after soldier stabbed
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- IOF soldiers mounting dozens of armored vehicle stormed Jenin city shortly after midnight Tuesday and broke into many civilian quarters in the city after ordering inhabitants out of their homes, locals reported. They said that the occupation forces were calling on the people via loudspeakers to get out of their homes then they ransacked those homes. Two citizens were kidnapped in the operation, one of them is reportedly a Hamas supporter. The sources noted that the Palestinian teenager who attacked an IOF soldier with a knife was identified as Alaa Abdul Latif. IOF sources claimed that the teen confessed to attacking the soldier to avenge the occupation forces’ aggressions in Palestinian lands. The IOF siege on the Jenin district is still in force for the second week at the pretext of warding off human bombing attacks.

Qassam strikes a Sderot house causing damage but no injuries
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Israel Defense Forces A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday directly struck a home in the southern town of Sderot. The house was empty at the time of the strike and no one was hurt, but the house sustained damage. Two Qassam rockets were fired at the Western Negev Wednesday. On Tuesday, one rocket and ten mortar shells struck open fields in communities bordering Gaza, causing no injuries or damage. Israel Defense Forces troops carried out two operations in Gaza before dawn Wednesday, wounding seven Palestinian militants. An IDF patrol battalion operated in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring several militants. One IDF soldier was moderately injured in the exchange of fire. Also on Wednesday, an armored corps battalion spread throughout the northern Negev and struck a terrorist cell that was preparing to launch anti-tank missiles in the soldiers’ direction.

Qassam rocket strikes Sderot house
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Several hours following foreign minister’s visit to southern town with 70 foreign diplomats, terror organizations fire two rockets at city. One rocket believed to have landed in PA territories, other causes damage to Sderot building; several people suffer from shock - Two Qassam rockets were fired Wednesday afternoon from the northern Gaza Strip towards the southern town of Sderot. One of the rockets directly hit a house in the city, causing damage. Several people suffered from shock. The rocket hit a three-story building. One of the tenants told Ynet, "The building has three floors with a tile roof. The rocket caused damage inside the house, where a newlywed couple, married about three month ago, lives. "By chance they arrived at their apartment a fem minutes after the rocket fell, and were amazed to see what happened inside.

Israeli tanks roll into eastern Rafah, southern Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
Israeli tanks have rolled into the eastern parts of Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip, leaving one resistance fighter injured. Witnesses in the area said that at least five Israeli tanks invaded the vicinity of Gaza International Airport, an area which has suffered frequent Israeli attacks since the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada [’uprising’] in September 2000. Witnesses added that today’s incursion directly followed last night’s incursion, which lasted just a few hours. The National Resistance Brigades of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed that one of their fighters was shot and wounded during a clash with the invading Israeli troops. Meanwhile, the Izzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement declared that their fighters shot a barrage of mortar shells towards the incoming tanks.

An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades shell invading Israeli forces
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades claimed that their fighters launched five mortar shells at Israeli military vehicles east of Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Separately, Fatah’s armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Tuesday night for launching two mortar shells at Israeli military vehicles east of Gaza City. They said in a statement that the shelling came in response to the Israeli incursions into Gaza. Meanwhile the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed responsibility on Wednesday for launching a homemade projectile at the Israeli military post at Sufa. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Despite Dimona bombing, no precedence for Hebron fence
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Defense Ministry opts to complete building security fence around Jerusalem with limited budget already spread thin instead of Mt. Hebron region where suicide bombers crossed into Israel two weeks ago - While the IDF and Shin Bet continue to trace the apparent path taken by the two suicide bombers from Hebron who carried out the Dimona attack in early February, defense officials have decided not to complete the construction of the security fence in the South Mount Hebron region, Ynet learned on Wednesday. However the defense establishment has, in the same breath, authorized the renewal of construction around Jerusalem. Within three weeks efforts to complete the fence in the Jerusalem vicinity region will be relaunched after an extended period of suspension due to budgetary constraints.

Researchers say 2006 war left many children in targeted areas with emotional scars
Daily Star 2/14/2008
BEIRUT: A new study issued on Wednesday showed that 14. 4 percent of children and teenagers in South Lebanon and Beirut’s southern suburbs suffered from war-related psychological symptoms after the summer 2006 war with Israel ended, adding that 15. 4 percent of teenagers might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders. The study was conducted over the past year by Idrak, a social research organization, upon the request of the Higher Council for Childhood and was financed by the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and the EU’s Handicap International program. According to the study, female teenagers are more vulnerable to postwar psychological disorders than males. "The more teenagers experience war incidents the more they are [likely to exhibit] a certain psychological disorder," the study said.

Israeli Knesset to discuss the demolishing of 246 homes in Al Teera
Saed Bannoura - MEMC & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/14/2008
The Israeli Knesset discussed on Wednesday demolishing orders which were issued against 246 houses in Al Teera Arab town within the Israeli boundaries. The deliberations were made after Sheikh Abbas Zakkour, from the Arab United Bloc, filed a proposal to discuss this issue at the Knesset session. At the end of the session, the Knesset approved transferring the case for discussion at the Internal Parliamentarian Committee. In his speech in front of the Knesset, MK Zakkour slammed the Israeli policies of demolishing Arab homes and said that the consecutive governments carried these violations without aver attempting to discuss and explore that real issues that force the residents to build their homes without obtaining a construction permits. He added that the residents pay every penny they have and go into debt to build those homes, while the bureaucracy of the state and its development...

Court okays soldier’s 15-month jail term for Hebron rampage
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
The officer in charge of an army unit that went on a wild rampage in the West Bank and shot a Palestinian without justification last July was sentenced to 15 months in prison Wednesday and demoted to rank of private by a military court in Jaffa. The court okayed the 15-month prison term that had been reached in a plea bargain the week before, but decided to demote the commander to private instead of only to sergeant. Lieutenant Ya’akov Gigi’s sentence was the result of an agreement between his attorneys and the Military Advocate General (MAG). MAG has not yet presented any charges against First Sergeant Dror, who actually pulled the trigger, despite promising that it would do so. Dror claims that the way the Palestinian looked at him was enough to classify him as a "suspect" and to justify opening fire.

Tulkarem locked down for sixth day by Israeli military
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – The Israeli military continued to impose heavy restrictions around the West Bank city of Tulkarem for the sixth day in a row on Wednesday, erecting flying checkpoints at the entrances to the city. A flying, or ad hoc, checkpoint is still present in the village of Al-Jarushiya, cutting Tulkarem off from the surrounding villages. Ma’an’s reporter said Palestinians are waiting in long lines to enter and exit the city there. Palestinians under 35 are still prohibited from passing through two permanent checkpoints, Inav and Jubarah, where soldiers are intensively searching each car, taking up to 20 minutes to inspect a single vehicle. Israeli soldiers attacked a Palestine TV correspondent in Tulkarem, Mu’in Shadid, and Palmedia News Agency photojournalist Hazim Bleidi while they were filming near Al-Jarushiyya checkpoint in northern Tulkarem.

International volunteers join Palestinians to plant olive fields threatened by Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Twenty-six international volunteers joined Palestinian activists to plant olive trees in areas threatened by Israeli settlements, military occupation, and the separation wall this month in a program organized by the Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) of the East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA and the Alternative Tourism group, JAI said on Wednesday. The volunteers planted 770 trees in the villages of Al-Walaja, Al-Jaba, Al-Khader and Tequ, all around Bethlehem. "The campaign is important in increasing civil solidarity with Palestinians … and to confront the uprooting of olive trees by Israel," said campaign officer Baha’ Hilo. Volunteers from the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway joined this years program, braving occasional harassment from Israeli soldiers and border police. Heavily armed Israeli soldiers looked on, guns poised when the group worked in Al-Khader and Al Walajeh on February 4th and 5th.

IOA extends administrative detention of Hamas leader
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- An Israeli military court has decided to extend the detention of Sheikh Saleh Al-Aruri, one of the Hamas leaders in the West Bank, for the second time running without trial or charge, legal sources reported. They said that Aruri, 40, was arrested on 23rd June last year and then was held under administrative detention for six months, which was renewed for a similar period on Tuesday. Aruri had served 15 years in occupation jails at the early days of the first intifada that broke out in 1987 on charges of forming Hamas’s armed wing in the West Bank, he then served a number of administrative detentions. He was released only a few months ago. In the same context, Israeli military courts agreed to the Zionist intelligence’s request to extend the administrative detention of Sheikh Bajes Nakhla for six new months.

Israeli prisons authority refuses to treat seriously ill captive
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- Relatives of Yasser Nazzal, held in Israeli occupation jails, have called for his immediate release after being denied badly needed medical treatment in captivity. The relatives along with the prisoner’s committee expressed absolute concern over the life of Nazzal, who is suffering a serious medical condition. The committee in a statement appealed to the human rights and international organizations to pressure the Israeli prisons authority (IPA) to extend urgent treatment to him. It said that the IPA transferred Nazzal from Megiddo jail to Shatta jail and refused his request to be held for treatment in Ramle prison hospital. The committee said that Nazzal, who has been held in custody for more than a year, suffers chronic inflammation in the chest and lung deficiency. He was under intensified medical care before his arrest.

Red Cross: Situation in Gaza worsening
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The director of the Red Cross office in Gaza on Wednesday warned that the situation in the Gaza Strip was worsening as a result of long hours of power outage, reduction in fuel supplies and shortage of basic materials. He said that the ICRC was facing great difficulty in sending medicine and relief material into the besieged Strip. The infrastructure in the Strip is greatly damaged, he said and doubted the possibility of revitalizing it. The Red Cross official said that the only solution is building it anew. MP Jamal Al-Khudari, who received the Red Cross director in his office, said that the international institutions should exert more efforts to help the Gaza population. Khudari, who is also heading the popular anti siege committee, said that those institutions should work on pressuring the Zionist occupation to end the siege on Gaza and to expose the Zionist practices against the Palestine populace.

IOA demolishes 30-year-old Palestinian home
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli-controlled municipality of occupied Jerusalem has bulldozed a Palestinian home built in Wadi Al-Joz suburb over 30 years ago, the proprietors said. Saadi Aramin, the son of the owner Aisha Aramin, said that his mother had repeatedly tried to obtain a construction permit but to no avail, and noted that his grandfather and uncles had resided in that house. He said that the municipality tractors arrived to their home on Tuesday without prior notice and flattened the small house after Israeli occupation policemen and border guards sealed off the entire suburb. Aramin said that the municipality ordered the demolition of the house three years ago but his mother managed to win a court ruling blocking the act on temporary basis. The municipal court held a hearing two months later and ordered his mother to pay a fine, which she could not afford, he elaborated.

Feature - Child victims of Gaza war lie close, but apart
Rebecca Harrison, ReliefWeb 2/13/2008
TEL HASHOMER, Israel (Reuters) - Child victims of the same war, the two young boys lie just metres apart in hospital, bruised, bandaged and fighting for their lives. One is Israeli, the other Palestinian. They were wounded on opposite sides of a conflict fought out daily between the Jewish state and the Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip. Osher Twitto, eight, had his leg blown off last week when a rocket attack fired by Palestinian militants slammed into a street near his home in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. A few weeks earlier, 6-year-old Yakuub Natil was dancing at an uncle’s wedding in Gaza City when debris from an Israeli air strike crushed his legs and chest. Now the two boys, both breathing by ventilators, lie in the emergency ward of Israel’s Safra children’s hospital near Tel Aviv.

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians from commando cell
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Two days ago Israeli forces killed two Palestinians, believed to be part of a commando cell, on the border with Egypt, credible sources told Ma’an. The men are alleged to have been part of a group of fighters that came from Gaza to the Israeli-Egyptian borders through the Sinai desert and were caught in an Israeli army ambush. The sources added that the premature announcement of the identities of the alleged Dimona bombers alerted Israeli security forces to the existence of another cell that was on its way from Gaza. After this information was revealed, the Israeli security forces on the border with Egypt went on high alert and were able to detect the armed men and to ambush them. Ma’an also learned that their bodies were left at the scene of the ambush, on the Egyptian side of the border after the Israeli special force refused to bring them into the...

Ashkenazi: Public must also prepare for next war
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Speaking at memorial ceremony for 73 soldiers killed in 1997 helicopter disaster, army chief says Israeli society also has role in future conflicts. Defense minister: There is no escaping the laying down of lives in war - Bereaved families, Defense Minister Ehud Barak IDF Chief of Staff Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and one very warmly welcomed Arcadi Gaydamak gathered at the Har Veguy High School in Kibbutz Dafna on Wednesday evening to mark 11 years since the deaths of 73 IDF soldiers who were killed in Israel’s deadliest aviation accident in February 1997. The billionaire Gaydamak recently donated funds for the construction of a monument in the memory of the fallen soldiers, a tribute bereaved parents had long demanded from the Ministry of Defense. "Lebanon has claimed a heavy price from us over the years..."

Issam Fares Institute program tackles needs of Palestinian refugees, hosts
Daily Star 2/14/2008
BEIRUT: The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut has launched a new multi-disciplinary, multi-pronged program on "Public Policy and Governance Challenges of Palestinian Refugee Camps in the Arab World," a statement issued by the university said on Wednesday. The program, which was launched through a public lecture held by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd on February 12 in West Hall, is jointly managed by the AUB Center for Behavioral Research. "The program aims to address the needs of the camps as well as the host communities so that the interests of everyone are well served," said IFI director Rami Khouri. "This will be done by creating rigorous, honest and objective intellectual exchange among all researchers and NGOs who are involved in studying and working on camp issues in the region.

Army experts suggest ’surprise’ roadblocks
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
Military experts presented alternatives to the policy of roadblocks in the West Bank, suggesting instead surprise roadblocks, Palestinian Authority-coordinated patrols, and more fences around Israeli settlements, at a conference in Jerusalem yesterday. The current method, and the large number of roadblocks it employs, drew heavy criticism at the Van Leer Institute conference, where experts said it harms both the Palestinian population as well as the Israel Defense Forces. At the conference, the experts presented a position paper asserting that the West Bank checkpoints motivate terror, and that reducing their number will help calm the atmosphere in the West Bank and undermine the status of Hamas in Gaza. The team behind the paper includes senior reserve officers - including former heads of Military Intelligence and the Civil Administration, and division, brigade and battalion commanders in the territories.

Call for entries: Expressions of the Nakba
Announcement, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Electronic Intifada 2/13/2008
The year 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (the catastrophe): the expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is soliciting entries for a commemoration of the Nakba through personal expressions in the form of visual arts, essays, poetry, music, video and digital media. "Expressions of al-Nakba" is an international competition which seeks to present the extraordinary narrative of a dispossessed people through a diverse range of expressions that interpret the collective identity, historic struggle, and emotional experience of the Nakba for Palestinians. The competition strives to highlight the ongoing effects of the Nakba on the contemporary life of Palestinian refugees along with a deeper exploration of the many emerging notions of being in "exile" today.

Palestine Today 021308
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Wednesday February 13th, 2008. Israeli tanks invade Gaza and injure one resistance fighter while Israeli troops in the West Bank kidnap 70 civilians. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast Israeli tanks have rolled into the eastern parts of Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip, leaving one resistance fighter injured. Witnesses in the area said that at least five Israeli tanks invaded the vicinity of Gaza International Airport, an area which has suffered frequent Israeli attacks since the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada [or ’uprising’] in September 2000. Witnesses added that today’s incursion directly followed last night’s incursion, which lasted just a few hours.

Hezbollah accuses Israel of assassinating senior Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyya; Knesset members congratulate Olmert
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – After a 20-year pursuit, the Israeli intelligence services assassinated Hezbollah’s military chief, Imad Mughniyya, blowing up his Mitsubishi jeep in Damascus, Hezbollah officially announced on their satellite channel, Al-Manar. A booby-trapped car exploded in the Syrian capital on Tuesday evening killing Mughniyya and injuring another man, witnesses said. They added, "We saw security officials pulling out a corpse from the area." Another eyewitness said, "Dozens of police and intelligence officers hurried to the place. People panicked because we were not used to such things in Syria." The bombing took place in an upscale Damascus neighborhood, near an Iranian school and a Syrian police and intelligence station. Who is Imad Mughniyya? Known by his nom de guerre, Hajj Radwan, the Hezbollah leader was born into a Palestinian family in 1962.

Behind the scenes / Their life’s work ended with his life
Omer Barak, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
They woke up every morning with him, drank coffee with him, drove with him to meet his wife - or lover - and went to sleep with him. Every day, for years. They were not the best friends of Imad Mughniyah, the senior Hezbollah leader who was killed when his car blew up in Damascus, but it seems they knew him much better than his friends did. Some of them may even have known him better than he knew himself. Even if Israel is not responsible for ending the career of its most wanted terrorist, several Israelis saw their whole lives’ work end with Mughniyah’s life. Their jobs were to collect every fragment and sliver of information on him - every day, for years. They spent hours at it every day, the Sisyphean task of collecting and analyzing every detail of the non-routine life of someone whose physical appearance they barely knew.

Senior Hezbollah commander killed in Syria
Middle East Online 2/13/2008
A senior Hezbollah commander on America’s most wanted list was killed in a car bombing in Syria that the Shiite militant group blamed on Israel on Wednesday, an accusation the Jewish state denied. Imad Mughnieh, who headed Hezbollah’s special operations unit, died in car bombing in a residential neighbourhood of the Syrian capital late on Tuesday, Hezbollah officials said. Syrian state television reported only that one person had died in the bombing without identifying the victim but Hezbollah confirmed that it was Mughnieh who had died and accused Israel of killing him. "A great jihadist from the Islamic resistance in Lebanon has become a martyr," Hezbollah said in a statement. "Haj Imad Mughnieh died a martyr at the hands of the Israeli Zionists." In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office denied that Israel was behind the killing.

Israel denies any role as US celebrates killing of ’terrorist’
Daily Star 2/14/2008
Israel officially denied on Wednesday any involvement in the assassination of a top Hizbullah commander in Damascus, but news of Imad Mughniyeh’s death was widely hailed by Israeli and American officials. Meanwhile, Iran accused the Jewish state on Wednesday of carrying out the assassination, the state IRNA news agency said. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini "strongly condemned the terrorist operation which led to the martyrdom of Imad Mughniyeh," describing it as "yet another clear example of the organized state terrorism of the Zionist regime." "The record of Mughniyeh, who had spent a lifetime fighting against usurping occupiers, is a golden page in the history of popular resistance against Zionist aggressors," Hosseini said. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied that Israel had played a role in the killing.

The Mughniyah killing / When and how will they respond?
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
Whoever carried out the operation demonstrated very impressive capabilities, in particular in collecting intelligence. Such an operation requires the most exact planning for months in advance. Precise information is needed, which must come from the target’s inner circle. They must have provided details on his daily routine, movements, hiding places and security arrangements. Planning such an operation also requires precision in getting the operators where they need to be, and even more important, they must know how to get away. And all this must be done without leaving a trace. Such information is needed for almost every specific killing, but the mission of killing Mughniyah was much harder. For many years he was in the sights of Israeli intelligence and the CIA, as well as other Western intelligence agencies such as Britain’s.

Israel, embassies on high alert after assassination of Terrorist No. 1 / Imad Mughniyah killed in Damascus
Barak Ravid Yoav Stern and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
Israel denied yesterday any involvement in the assassination of Hezbollah’s most senior military commander, Imad Mughniyah, 45, in an official statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Bureau. However, Syria, Hezbollah and its patron Iran accused Israel of being behind the blast in Damascus, which killed the chief of operations of the Lebanese Shi’ite organization believed to be responsible for a decades-long series of mass terrorist attacks throughout the world. Washington welcomed the demise of Mughniyah, who is believed to be the mastermind, most famously, behind attacks on the Marines barracks in Beirut in 1983, as well as the hijacking of American citizens in Beirut during the 1980s. The assassination occurred late Tuesday night when the SUV Mughniyah had entered exploded in an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, not far from an Iranian educational institution.

PLC slams the assassination of Hezbollah senior official
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC),dominated by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), issued a statement denouncing the Tuesday nightassassination of Imad Mughaniya, deputy leader of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah party, in the Syrian capital Damascus. Al Mughaniya was killed by a bomb which ripped his vehicle in a neighborhood in Damascus. The PLC said that this attack is "another Zionist crime against all Arab and Muslim fighters, and is considered a new proof that Israel is persistent to continue its violations to the basic principles of Human rights, and continues to violate the sovereignty of the Arab states". The PLC called on the Arab and Islamic states to expose the Israeli violations against the Palestinian People and the Arab countries, and added that all Arabs and Muslims must now stand united to counter the "ongoing Zionist attacks".

Resheq: Assassination of Mughniyah a link in the chain of Israel’s crimes
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Ezzat Al-Resheq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, strongly denounced Wednesday the Israeli assassination of Emad Mughniyah, a prominent Hizbullah leader, in Damascus, considering it a link in the chain of the ongoing Israeli crimes against the peoples of the region. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Resheq opined that the Israeli crimes, no matter how brutal they are, would never undermine the spirit of resistance and fortitude instilled in the Arab and Islamic peoples, but rather it would increase their adherence to the option of resistance against the "criminal Zionist terror" which has no geographical boundaries. In another exclusive statement to the PIC, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, stated that this crime is an example of Israel’s conspiracy and its defilement of Arab and Islamic arenas, adding that this crime reflects Israel’s...

Iran: Mugniyah killing result of Israeli ’state terrorism’
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Tehran praises assassinated Hizbullah leader as ’golden page in the history of mankind’s fight against Zionists. ’ Syria: Assassination a cowardly act of terror. Washington welcomes death of man on FBI’s most wanted list, says world ’a better place’ without Mugniyah - Iran on Wednesday accused Israel of assassinating senior Hizbullah leader Imad Mugniyah and said his death was a result of ’’state terrorism by the Zionist regime. ’’ Iranian state television said Mugniyah, a leader of the Lebanese Shiite militant group allied to Iran, was killed by a car bomb blast in Damascus, Syria late Tuesday night. Hizbullah officials confirmed his death, without giving details on where it happened, and also pointed fingers at Israel. Jerusalem has denied it had any role in the killing.

Slain Mugniyeh’s townsmen remember ’legend’ with pride
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 2/14/2008
TAIR DEBBA: Anger swept the hometown of top Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bombing in Syria blamed on Israel, as residents of Tair Debba, 90 kilometers south of Beirut, mourned their elusive "legend" on Wednesday. A coffin holding Mughniyeh’s body was placed on a podium in Hizbullah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs, where the group planned a memorial service for the "martyr" on Thursday. It was not clear, however, where Mughniyeh, who was killed on Tuesday in Damascus, would be buried. "He was a legend. We always heard of his victories against Israel although we never knew him personally," said Ahmad, a 22-year-old man, as he climbed an electricity pole to put up a black flag. "Today each one of us has become an Imad Mughniyeh" against Israel, he said. For over 20 years Mughniyeh eluded Western and Israeli intelligence services...

Who is Imad Mughnieh?
Middle East Online 2/13/2008
Shadowy Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughnieh, who was wanted by Interpol and the United States in connection with bloody attacks around the globe, was killed in Syria in a car bombing. An official with the Shiite militant group in Lebanon said that Mughnieh, in his late 40s, was killed on Tuesday night in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and blamed Israel for his murder. But Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television, which announced the assassination, did not say when or where it took place. The elusive Mughnieh had been in hiding since the end of the 1980s, after his name was linked to the abductions of Westerners during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war and to criminal activity overseas. "Mughnieh frequently changed identities and even went through numerous plastic surgeries," said the Israeli newspaper Haaretz website.

Israel takes dozens of foreign ambassadors to Gaza border
Barak Ravid and Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Israel took nearly 70 foreign ambassadors to its border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday as part of a diplomatic campaign to enlist international support for tougher action against the enclave’s Hamas Islamist rulers. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the envoys at the Erez crossing into Gaza that cross-border rocket fire by militants had created an "unbearable" situation that would only get worse. "Israel must act in order to reduce these threats," she said But a large-scale military offensive in densely populated Gaza, where an Israeli blockade has already fuelled fears of a humanitarian crisis, could prove tough to convince the world to support. Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, the ambassador of the European Union to Israel, condemned the rocket fire and called for it to stop immediately and unconditionally.

U.S. Secretary Rice plans March visit to Israel, Palestinian Authority
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she planned to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority early next month to help both sides narrow their differences in Palestinian statehood talks. The administration headed by U.S. President George W. Bush is trying to get both Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a peace deal before Bush leaves office in January 2009, but talks that were launched in Annapolis last November have so far gotten off to a slow start. Rice told U.S. lawmakers that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were trying to continue their discussions "without much public glare" and the United States was doing everything it could to help. "I will probably return to the region at the beginning of March, senator, to see if we can help them," Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Olmert to Shas: No talks underway on division of Jerusalem
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday evening assured Shas Chairman Eli Yishai that no secret talks on the division of Jerusalem were being held by anyone, referring to reports earlier Wednesday that secret talks were underway on core issues, including a plan to divide the capital. "Foreign Minister [Tzipi] Livni and I are supervising the negotiations together. There have so far been no agreements on the fate of Jerusalem," Army Radio quoted the prime minister as saying. Yishai also met with Cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel Wednesday in regard to the escalation in the party’s threats to quit the coalition. Shas has declared repeatedly that the division of Jerusalem signifies a ’red line’ for the party and that they would leave the government should the issue be raised. Olmert’s associates later reported that they believed that Shas had been appeased, and...

Sarkozy says will visit Israel this spring for state’s 60th anniversary
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would visit Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of country’s establishment. The trip will be his first visit to Israel since taking office last May. Sarkozy did not give an exact date for his trip, but Israel traditionally celebrates the anniversary of its founding in May. Speaking before one of France’s leading Jewish organizations, the French leader said he would address the Knesset during the visit - which he said came in response to an invitation by President Shimon Peres, who visited Paris last March. Sarkozy, who is seen as closer to Israel than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, reiterated his pledges to stand by Israel. France will always be at Israel’s side, he told the audience of about 1,000 people at an annual event hosted by the Representative Council of Jewish Organizations in France, or CRIF.

Olmert optimistic over borders of Palestinian state as Qurai slams Israeli settlement building
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared optimistic yesterday towards reaching an agreement with the Palestinians regarding borders of a future Palestinian state, considering the issue of borders the simplest among the other two main issues of the status of Jerusalem and the issues surrounding Palestinian refugees. Olmert was speaking to reporters on Tuesday following a three-day official visit to Berlin, in which he met with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. However, Olmert dismissed the possibility of reaching an overall agreement with the Palestinians by the end of 2008, as envisioned by U. S President George W. Bush during last November’s Washington-sponsored Annapolis peace summit. The Israeli PM hinted that both the Israelis and Palestinians agreed to delay talk on the issues of Jerusalem and the problem of Palestinian refugees.

Negotiator Eriqat warns of Israeli invasion of Gaza, denies talks on Jerusalem delayed
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
Head of the Palestinian negotiations department, Saeb Eriqat, believed today that once Israel reoccupies the Gaza Strip, a humanitarian disaster would emerge in the most densely-populated part of the world, where 1. 5 million residents live. Eriqat’s remarks came on the side line of a meeting with Brazilian foreign minister, Silso Amorim, in the West Bank city of Jericho. The Palestinian official said that a state of calm in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has become an imperative to preserve the peace process. To better achieve this goal, the Fatah-loyal official called on the ruling Hamas movement in Gaza to renounce control over the coastal region. He also demanded an immediate ease of the Israeli closure and siege of the Gaza Strip in order to avert a humanitarian crisis there. On another issue, Eriqat denied media reports that Palestinians and Israelis...

The Hamas-dominated government says truce is now in Israel’s court
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
The Hamas-dominated government in Gaza says that any truce ’Tahdiya’ declaration, is now in Israel’s court and linked with the Israeli actions on the ground. In a statement, faxed to press, the Hamas government believes that ’ the Palestinian people wont present a free Tahdiya to Israel until the Israeli aggression comes to a halt’. The statement accused the caretaker Palestinian government in Ramallah of what it termed ’ circulation of roles’ in terms of cracking down on Palestinian resistance fighters in the occupied West Bank. The Gaza-based government also confirmed it has been following up the developments on the ground very closely, in light of what the government says ’ Israeli plans to undermine the Palestinian national project’. " What is going on in the occupied east Jerusalem , mainly the Judizing of the Arab city by constructing 111 housing units as well as planned...

Salam Fayyad: Israel failed to take tangible steps to help Palestinians since Annapolis
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel has not taken any tangible steps to assist the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tueday evening in a speech at the American nonprofit Aspen Institute. Fayyad expressed a Palestinian feeling of disappointment towards what he called Israeli failure to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people. They have not removed checkpoints from the West Bank in the two months since the peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in the US in November. Fayyad added that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have so far achieved very limited progress since that peace conference. "The environment improved very much, yet the military checkpoints have increased instead of decreasing. We held good and friendly meetings. There have been promises that they will consider this or that, and that was reasonable," Fayyad explained.

Fayyad: "The Palestinians are seeking a democratic state"
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salaam Fayyad, stated on Wednesday that the Palestinians are seeking the establishment of a Democratic Palestinian State, based on law and security, and that this state needs a serious commitment from Israel, the Palestinians, the US, the Quartet, Arab countries and the International Community. Dr. Fayyad added that the state should be open, democratic, based on human rights and religious tolerance. "In short, we will build a state which will make every Palestinian proud of", Dr. Fayyad stated, "My government will be a role model for everyone". Recently, the US Congress decided to transfer 218 Million US Dollars, out of 555 M, which the American government vowed to transfer to the government of Fayyad in December 2007. Fayyad said that the role of the United States in the Peace Process is very helpful especially after the Annapolis Conference...

Washington to ask for clarification from Israel regarding new settlement activities
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/13/2008
Spokespman of the U. S State Department, Jhom Mackromk, stated on Wednesday that the American administration will ask for clarifications from Israel with respect to a new settlement project on the occupied east Jerusalem. However, he maintained that the latest Israeli declared plans to embark on new settlement projects would negatively reflect on underway Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, in a way that would undermine the two-state solution. The American official added that both sides realize that they have a joint interest in reaching a deal and that the United States will be helping them to keep momentum. Senior Palestinian negotiator, Ahmad Qurai, slammed today the new Israeli settlement project, which includes building 111 housing units on a settlement based in the occupied east Jerusalem, Palestinians want as the capital of their future Palestinian state.

Abbas visits Palestinian Social Commission in the UAE
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday, where he visited the Palestinian Social Commission in Abu Dhabi to mark the organization’s fifth anniversary. Abbas was presented with the group’s fifth anniversary publication, Al-Bayyara. This year’s pamphlet was titled "We have on this earth that makes life worth living," a line from the preeminent Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The booklet documents the Commission’s activities over the last five years. Abbas was received by the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE, Ammar Al-Karaki, who is also the president of the Social Commission. [end]

Negotiating team chief Qurei’: East Jerusalem settlement expansion is aggression
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – The head of the Palestinian negotiating team, former Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei’ criticized an Israeli plan to build 1000 new Jewish apartments in occupied Arab East Jerusalem on Wednesday, calling the decision a continuation of an aggressive Israeli settlement policy. Qurei’ said the plan is aimed at turning Jerusalem into a purely Jewish city, stealing all of its Palestinian land. Israeli Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim announced the dramatic expansion of East Jerusalem settlements on Tuesday. Qurei’ called the announcement dangerous and a threat to any serious and credible negotiations aimed at creating a lasting peace. It is like ’waging war against the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights,’ added Qurei’. Qurei’ urged the international Quartet and the United States fulfill their responsibilities and stop the Israeli aggression.

Bush imposes, then waives, PLO sanction
Middle East Online 2/13/2008
Was it all just a photo op? - WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush temporarily downgraded, then reinstated, the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in the United States, the White House said Tuesday In a memorandum for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, dated Monday, Bush extended permission for the PLO to keep a Washington office and spend money in the United States for another six months. The United States has routinely done so every six months since 1994. Bush’s order lapses in 180 days or until a new report on Palestinian activities is submitted by the White House. Bush said he was waiving sanctions "so we can continue to work with the PLO and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, through their office in Washington," according to the memorandum.

Palestinians Ask U.S. to Intervene in Suits Over Terrorist Attacks
Glenn Kessler, MIFTAH 2/13/2008
The State Department is considering supporting the Palestinian Authority in its quest to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments won by American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel, according to Palestinian officials and defense lawyers involved in the cases. U.S. officials insist that no decision has been made regarding the complex litigation, which could force the Bush administration to choose between supporting compensation for victims of terrorism and bolstering the Palestinian government as the United States presses for a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Testimony in Israeli courts has connected senior Palestinian leaders -- such as the late Yasser Arafat -- to specific terrorist attacks involved in the lawsuits. But Palestinian officials have argued that it makes no sense for the United States to be providing millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority while U.S. courts are threatening to bankrupt it.

Settlements, Gaza Cloud Israel-Palestinian Talks
Adam Entous, MIFTAH 2/13/2008
Israeli plans to build 1,100 new homes in and around Arab East Jerusalem came under fire on Tuesday from Palestinians who see the city as the capital of their future state, clouding already troubled peace talks. Israeli officials cited "progress" after negotiators met for the first time on two consecutive days. But comments from ministers threatening new attacks on the Gaza Strip and vowing to expand Jewish settlements angered Palestinian leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is under heavy pressure from both domestic opponents and rivals in his fragile coalition to take a tougher stance in Gaza and put off negotiations on the hotly contested issue of Jerusalem. Criticized on both sides for a lack of progress since U.S. President George W. Bush helped relaunch long-stalled peace talks in November, the chief negotiators -- Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurie -- met on Monday and Tuesday, Livni’s spokesman said.

Not meddling - involved
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
WASHINGTON - Israel’s Washington embassy unveiled a Facebook fan page a few days ago. It features a recommendation, among other things, for a March 4 performance by the singer Shalom Hanoch. And no, this is not a political statement. True, on the very same day there will be a decisive round of primaries between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but there is no concern that the singer’s performance in Washington will affect voter turnout in the states holding the contests, Texas and Ohio. The embassy, if the message didn’t get through, is monitoring, not meddling. The past few weeks have brought several small scandals that mention Israel in connection with Obama’s sweeping campaign. Israelis "are worried" - some openly and some anonymously - by his candidacy. On the one hand, such concern seems excessive at this stage.

Israel Sees Hamas Gone from Gaza in Months
Reuters, MIFTAH 2/13/2008
Israeli leaders vowed on Monday to step up their war against Hamas and predicted the Islamists’ grip on the Gaza Strip would end within months. Two days after a rocket from the enclave wounded an Israeli child and prompted dramatic headlines, Defence Minister Ehud Barak pledged to step up the Israeli military campaign. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel was at "war" and his deputy, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, said he expected Hamas, which seized control in June, to be forced out within the year." I believe a combination of steps against Hamas in Gaza will bring an end to the Hamas regime in Gaza," Ramon said. "It will take a few months, maybe it will take a year." Hamas sources said Hamas leaders were keeping a low profile, apparently to avoid assassination attempts. Asked who Israel could be targeting, minister Shaul Mofaz said: "Everyone, without exception."

Hamas: Despite Judaization, Jerusalem would remain eternal capital of Palestine
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated that the ongoing Israeli attempts to Judaize occupied Jerusalem through confiscating Palestinian lands, building new settlement units, carrying out excavations under the city and the like would not change the fact that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine and the city of Arabs and Muslims. "Jerusalem would remain a Palestinian, Arab and Islamic city and its people would remain its protective shield and would defend it until liberated despite the attempts to render it empty of its people," Hamas underlined in a statement received by the PIC in response to Israel’s announcement about its intention to build thousands of settlement units in Jerusalem. Hamas strongly denounced the PA leadership in Ramallah for its persistence in holding negotiations and meetings with the Israeli occupation despite its threats of carrying out incursions,...

Haneyya: Israel’s threats point to its confusion
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the caretaker government, stated that Israel’s threat of targeting the government’s officials and the Palestinian resistance leaders is evidence that the Israeli occupation is confused because of the failure of its oppressive policies against the Palestinian people in Gaza. "These threats do not intimidate us, our people or their leadership and cannot undermine our determination and steadfastness," Haneyya highlighted in a press statement on Tuesday. The premier underlined that the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank look forward to freedom and independence and sacrifice themselves for that, expressing his belief that the Palestinian people would achieve that goal and enjoy freedom under the umbrella of their independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Caretaker gov’t: Hamas is hard to eliminate
Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government headed by Hamas renowned leader Ismail Haneyya stated that Hamas could not be eliminated because it represents more than half of the Palestinian people who gave it a vote of confidence during the last legislative elections. In a press release, Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman for the government, opined that if the IOF troops tried to invade Gaza, they would not depart victorious because any triumph is related to a conflict of wills. Regarding the contradictory statements of Israeli war minister Ehud Barak who announced his intention to wage a military operation against Gaza, but later he said that Gaza invasion would not bear fruit, Nunu explained that these statements refer to the conflicting decisions made by the Israeli government and to the presence of arguments over making an adventure in Gaza.

OPT: HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal gives US$ 100,000 to the people of Gaza
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 2/13/2008
Gaza – His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has announced a contribution of $100,000 in response to the Special Appeal for Gaza launched by the United Nations Agency for Relief and Works (UNRWA). The Agency launched its $9. 8 million appeal on 24 January, focusing on urgent requirements of food, fuel and cash for the poorest refugees. UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd thanked the Prince warmly for the donation: ’We are using this donation to buy much-needed fuel. It will make a tangible difference to the Agency’s ability to respond to the needs of the people of Gaza’, she said. ’After the reclosure of the border with Egypt and continued tight restrictions by Israel the need for urgent external assistance is once more becoming acute. We hope that Arab and other donors will follow the examples set by the Kingdom Foundation and...

Barkat: Secret agreement to divide Jerusalem reached
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Jerusalem municipal opposition leader accuses Prime Minister Olmert, Vice Premier Ramon of ’deceiving Israeli citizens’. Ramon aide: This is nonsense - Israeli and Palestinian representatives have reached an agreement to divide Jerusalem, the capital’s municipal opposition leader Nir Barkat said Wednesday. "(Vice Premier) Haim Ramon and the prime minister are deceiving Israel’s citizens," Barkat added after exchanging letters with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the negotiations with the Palestinians. Barkat based his accusations on information from "senior sources" which he refused to reveal, claiming that Ramon and Palestinian tycoon Muhammad Rashid had agreed in secret talks on Jerusalem’s division. "Livni refuses to reveal the fundamental information she has, according to which there is a secret channel which is not being led by the Foreign Ministry.

Barghouthi - "Invasion and assassination will not bring security to anyone"
The Palestine Monitor, ReliefWeb 2/11/2008
Ramallah, 11-02-08: ’Invasion and assassination will not bring security to anyone,’ was the response of PNI Secretary General, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, to reported Israeli plans to launch a wide scale attack on Gaza and to step up its assassination of Palestinians in the Strip. ’Israel continues to use security as a pretext to its aggression against Palestinians and to evade any commitments to peace,’ said Dr. Barghouthi. He underlined that since Annapolis, Israeli attacks have increased by 220%, and that Israel has carried out a massive 880 attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 28 November 2007, the day after the Annapolis peace meeting. These attacks have killed 178 Palestinians (18 in the West Bank and 160 in the Gaza Strip, including 3 children), and injured a further 617 (191 in the West Bank and 426 in the Gaza Strip, including 8 children).

New Hamas TV show features ’Jew-eating’ Bugs Bunny lookalike
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Following the "demise" of the Hamas Mickey Mouse character "Farfur" at the hands of a belligerent Israeli soldier, Hamas’ television station has introduced a Bugs Bunny lookalike who declares "I will eat Jews," a British newspaper reported Wednesday. According to the Daily Mail, Hamas-controlled TV in Gaza has introduced ’Assud’, a rabbit, claiming that he sneaked into Gaza from Egypt after the border was breached last month. Farfur, the Mickey Mouse lookalike who called for the terror attacks against Jews was beaten to death by an Israel Defense Forces soldier, only to be succeeded by Nahul the bee. Nahoul was killed a week later when an Israeli siege prevented him from receiving medical treatment. The Hamas TV show faced global condemnation - and the threat of a lawsuit from Disney - before Farfur was taken off the air.

Shas party won’t quit Israel coalition
Middle East Online 2/13/2008
TEL AVIV - The spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas is not ready to quit Israel’s governing coalition and has criticised the group’s chairman for intensifying threats to do so, senior party officials were quoted on Wednesday as saying. The Shas chairman, Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai, threatened on Tuesday to pull out of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government if peace talks go on with the Palestinians continues. But party officials quoted by the Haaretz daily said that contradicted the position taken by the party’s governing Council of Torah Sages three weeks ago, under which Shas would quit only if and when the ultra-sensitive issue of Jerusalem is discussed with the Palestinians. For Shas, whose spiritual leader is Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, the issue of Jerusalem is key. The Shas sources said that because Yosef does not believe the peace talks will lead...

Lebanese government’s plan to rebuild Nahr al-Bared
Report, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 2/13/2008
UNRWA estimates that up to 85 percent of Nahr al-Bared’s homes have been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. (Lucy Fielder/IRIN) BEIRUT, 13 February 2008 (IRIN) - The government launched a preliminary master plan on 12 February to rebuild Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, destroyed in a battle last year between the army and militant Islamists. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said losses from the battle were great on all levels. "As we release the preliminary plan, we look to the Arab and international communities to meet us with the necessary assurances and funding to ensure its success," he told reporters at a news conference in Beirut. The plan focuses on the "old camp" -- the original square kilometer of camp which comes under the jurisdiction of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, and was pulverized during the fighting.

Suleiman promises military will prevent outbreak of civil war
Daily Star 2/14/2008
BEIRUT: The commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces vowed Wednesday that civil war will not take place in Lebanon, adding that while the LAF was working to keep the situation under control, "politicians manage to stir tensions." "There will be no returning back to the 1975-1990 Civil War because the LAF will not remain passive," General Michel Suleimantold An-Nahar Youth weekly supplement in an interview to be fully published on Thursday. Meanwhile, Lebanon braced on Wednesday for a mass rally by supporters of the Western-backed government to commemorate the third anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination. Pro-government leaders have called on hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to converge Thursday on Martyrs Square in central Beirut, near the seafront site of the car bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on February 14, 2005.

MIDEAST: For the World, Gaza Is Reality TV
Mohammed Omer, Inter Press Service 2/13/2008
GAZA CITY, Feb 13(IPS) - "We are being starved, killed, tortured, and besieged -- and all this while the world just watches," says Abu Wael at the funeral of the latest group of Gazans killed by Israeli forces. The death toll is mounting, even if much of the media is taking little note of killings on the Gaza side. Gaza's health ministry spokesman Khaled Radi said that in just one 24-hour period last week, 17 Palestinians were killed and many more injured. The dead include seven policemen who were targeted in southern Gaza's Khan Younis police station while praying at dawn. Four of the Palestinians were killed in Jabalyia refugee camp in the north of the Strip. An Israeli air strike near al-Tuffah, north of Gaza City, killed two and wounded four, three of them seriously.

Two-thirds of Israelis still believe summer war of 2006 was justified - survey
Compiled by, Daily Star 2/14/2008
Most Israeli Jews believe that the summer 2006 war was justified, even after the Winograd Committee published its final report last month, according to a survey conducted by the Peace Index Project published by the Israeli media on Wednesday. The Peace Index Project is conducted at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University, headed by professors Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann. The telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv University from February 4 to 6, 2008, and included 595 interviewees who represent the adult Jewish and Arab population of Israel (including the territories and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4. 5 percent. Results have shown that a more dramatic change occurred, however, in assessing the committee’s toughness toward the military and political echelons.

Barak: Government must strengthen northern communities
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Defense minister meets with northern council heads, who slam decision to cut confrontation line residents’ tax attributes - The government must work to strengthen the northern communities, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday in a meeting with northern council heads in the Upper Galilee. Barak praised the council heads, who protested the government’s plan to cut the confrontation line residents’ tax attributes. "You represent residents who have withstood the fighting for years and are now at the front of the periphery," he said. At the start of the meeting, Upper Galilee Local Council head Aharon Valenci thanked the defense minister for years of contribution to the north in terms of security. "Barak is the most suitable person for the role of defense minister at this time, but we’re having trouble with the fact that the Israeli government is not doing what it should for the north," he noted.

Ovadia’s son, at least, is criticizing the gov’t
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
The son of Shas’ spiritual leader has apparently joined the right wing in criticizing the movement for staying in the governing coalition despite negotiations with the Palestinians. "As long as Shas stays in the government, it is betraying the resolutions of its own council," Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was quoted as saying recently in an interview published in a leaflet titled "Our own Land of Israel." Shas sources say that over the past few months, Yaakov Yosef was removed from positions of power in the party and excluded from its decision-making process because of his attitude on negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. The right wing has pressured Shas to leave the coalition because of reports alleging that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is negotiating the partition of Jerusalem. Shas has vowed to leave the coalition if the future of Jerusalem comes up for discussion.

Sderot sought support, Shas head offered prayers
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
The Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, met residents of Sderot yesterday but would not be drawn on political questions such as whether the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party might quit the government. "I can do nothing but pray for you," said Rabbi Yosef to his guests, who met him in his synagogue. "What I can do is to send messengers to the defense minister to take a hard line. There is nothing to do but have faith in our heavenly father." In recent days, Shas leader Eli Yishai has threatened to take his party out of the government due to the peace talks with the Palestinians. Rabbi Yosef, meanwhile, had agreed to a request from the leaders of Sderot synagogues to be granted an audience. About 20 representatives met with him, including some from the protest camp set up by Sderot residents in Jerusalem.

Jewish Agency envoy arrested over fraudulent conversions
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
The Immigration Police arrested the Jewish Agency Aliyah envoy to South America on Wednesday on suspicion that he provided immigration papers to 200 Venezuelan citizens despite the fact that he knew that they had undergone fraudulent conversions to Judaism. On Wednesday, the Ramle district court extended the remand of Ilan Architecter, 66, a well respected employee of the Jewish Agency who ran the absorption center in Ra’anana for many years. According to police the suspect confessed to the allegations, saying that he knew the Rabbi who converted the Venezuelans was suspect. Most of the Venezuelans were of indegenous descent who were convinced to convert by receiving promises of Aliyah benefits from the state. The envoy told police that he wanted to be acknowledged as an excellent employee and therefore wanted to bring as many immigrants to Israel as possible.

IDF trackers suspected of smuggling drugs
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Seven soldiers arrested at end of investigation in which large quantities of drugs confiscated under suspicion of smuggling narcotics - Drug smuggling in the IDF: Seven soldiers, including two non-commissioned officers, were arrested on Tuesday under the suspicion of being engaged in narcotics smuggling while wearing IDF uniform. The men were arrested after an intensive investigation by Military Police that included wiretapping and physically trailing the suspects. The majority of the servicemen serve as trackers in the Jordan Rift Valley and Arava desert near the border with Jordan. It seems the suspects used their status as military men in order to facilitate the smuggling of the drugs across the border. During the investigation, police found 53 lbs of hashish, 3. 3 lbs of heroin and 500 ecstasy tablets.

Knesset votes against civil marriage
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Bill granting all married couples’ rights to couples wed in Israel without a rabbi rejected by vast majority of MKs. Bill’s initiators, Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem: Labor, Kadima and Likud spat in the face of the freedom-seeking public - The Knesset on Wednesday rejected two bills calling for the recognition of couples not wed by an Orthodox rabbi. The bills were submitted by Knesset Members David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners Party). Fifty-nine MKs voted against Rotem’s bull while 20 opposed it, and 48 voted against MK Sharoni’s similar proposal while only 19 supported it. MK Sharoni told Ynet after his bill was rejected, "This is a testimonium paupertatis to my fellow faction members who did not support the bill. We discussed the bill at a faction meeting on Monday.

Ma’an producing new docudrama
Ma’an News Agency 2/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Ma’an network has begun filming a new television docudrama entitled Kafa (Enough) which reflects on the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and the negative repercussions of these events within Palestinian society, namely, in the West Bank. The screenplay was written by the Palestinian writer Saleem Dabour, and the film consists of 33 scenes about a Palestinian family living in one of the cities of the West Bank. The younger members of the family are, like many other Palestinian families, affiliated to different factions including Hamas and Fatah. The film attempts to show how the events in the Gaza Strip influenced the individual behavior of average Palestinians at home and in the streets. Creative production crew The film is directed by Yousif Ad-Deik who is aiming the production at a highly-educated audience.

Residents of north: Israel has declared Jihad on us
Jack Khoury and Eli Ashkenazis, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Residents of the northern border communities near Lebanon rallied Wednesday in protest of the treasury’s decision to cut their tax benefits, carrying signs reading "Israel has declared Jihad on the North." Dozens of residents from Kiryat Shmona and Metula gathered at ’the Good Fence’ on the Lebanese border and began marching towards Kiryat Shmona. They briefly blocked the entrance to the city as well. "I say to the prime minister: Without the Galilee there is no Israel, " said Maalot-Tarshiha Local Council Chairman Shlomo Buchbut, who headed the protest. "We will fight for our tax benefits without letting up." "Young couples will not come to the north, the industry will not develop. Even now the industrial zone in Metula is dead," said Haim Katz, head of the Metula local council.

CLS Bank: Shekel to become fully convertible in three months
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
The shekel is finally gaining international recognition, and within three months it will become fully convertible in the international currency markets, along with 15 other currencies. The Mexican peso also is set to join the list. These two additions will bring the list to 17. This means that Israel’s shekel will be traded in the global markets, with international financial institutions and speculators buying and selling it in exchange for any of the other 15 convertible currencies of the developed nations. Also, shekels will be available at all the major commercial banks in about 80 developed and developing nations around the world. The change improves Israel’s status among institutional and private investors, and no less importantly, among the international credit rating agencies Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch.

Major Danish newspapers republish Muhammad cartoon
Reuters, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Papers circulate picture of founder of Islam which sparked riots worldwide; three men arrested in Denmark for planning to kill cartoonist at newspaper that published original picture in 2005 - Denmark’s five major daily newspapers republished on Wednesday one of the 12 drawings of the Prophet Muhammad which angered Muslims around the world, as a protest against a plot to murder one of the cartoonists. A Danish citizen of Moroccan descent and two Tunisians were arrested on Tuesday in western Denmark for planning to murder 73-year-old Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist at Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that originally published the drawings in September 2005. The five newspapers"”Jyllands-Posten, Politiken, Berlingske Tidende, BT and Ekstra Bladet"”on Wednesday republished Westergaard’s cartoon, which depicts the founder of Islam with a bomb in his turban.

Report: Iran puts uranium gas in centrifuges
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/13/2008
Diplomats say new generation of advanced centrifuges begin processing small quantities of gas that can be used to make fissile core of nuclear warheads - Iran’s new generation of advanced centrifuges have begun processing small quantities of the gas that can be used to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads, diplomats told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The diplomats emphasized that the centrifuges were working with only minute amounts of the uranium gas used as the feed stock for Iran’s uranium enrichment program. And one of them said Tehran had set up only 10 of the machines - far too few to produce enriched uranium in the quantities needed for an industrial scale energy or a weapons program. Still, the information revealed previously unknown details of the state of the Islamic Republic’s experiments with its domestically developed IR-2 centrifuges, which...

Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyah killed in Damascus blast
Yoav Stern and Yossi Melmans, and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
The Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah announced Wednesday that the group’s Deputy Secretary General Imad Mughniyah had been killed Tuesday night in a bomb blast in a residential Damascus neighborhood, and accused Israel of responsibility for the explosion. "With all pride we declare a great jihadist leader of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon joining the martyrs... The brother commander hajj Imad Mughniyah became a martyr at the hands of the Zionist Israelis," said a statement carried on Hezbollah’s television station. The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem initially declined comment, but later issued a statement denying Israeli involvement. Mughniyah headed Hezbollah’s operations branch serving in a role similar to chief of staff, and had been wanted by Israel and the United States for years due to his role in numerous...

Syria: We condemn Mughniyah killing as a cowardly terrorist act
Yoav Stern and Yossi Melmans, Ha’aretz 2/13/2008
Syria’s Interior Minister Brig. Gen. Bassam Abdul-Majid confirmed Wednesday that a Damascus explosion Tuesday night had killed a senior member of the Lebanese-based guerilla group Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyah, the state-run news agency SANA reported. It was the first official comment from Syria since Tuesday night’s explosion in the Damascus neighborhood of Kfar Sousse. "Syria condemns this cowardly terrorist act," SANA quoted Abdul-Majid as saying. The agency also reported that Abdul-Majid said an investigation into the blast was underway. "The ongoing investigation over the car bomb in the residential Kfar Sousse neighborhood last night has proven that it targeted Lebanese combatant Imad Mughniyah," SANA said, quoting Abdul-Majid. Syria also accused Israel of masterminding the assassination, with Syrian parliament member Mohammed Habash saying that Israel and its "Zionist agents" were behind the act.


Mughniyeh - like Hizbullah - was a product of outside aggression
Editorial, Daily Star 2/14/2008
      In the wake of his death, Imad Mughniyeh has been described as both a dangerous villain and a courageous hero. The task of reconciling these diametrically opposed assessments will be left to a future generation of historians who no longer have to contend with the politicizing influences of the Arab-Israeli conflict. For now, all that we know is that Mughniyeh was undoubtedly involved in armed resistance for more than 20 years, and has been accused - but never convicted - of many operations that employed questionable and even condemnable tactics. But in the absence of a universally accepted history or formal judgement by a court of law, the exact extent and scope of his involvement in these activities remains a mystery.
     Whether one chooses to condemn or praise Mughniyeh, it is worth recalling the context in which he arose to become one of the most wanted men in the world. Mughniyeh had not yet been born in 1948, when Israeli forces entered Lebanon and killed dozens of civilians in the village of Hula, and he was just a toddler when the Jewish state sent commandos to Beirut International Airport to blow up 13 passenger planes. During Mughniyeh’s childhood and early adolescence, Israel systematically destroyed dozens of Muslim, Christian and Druze villages in Lebanon, making much of the South of the country uninhabitable and forcing scores of civilians to flee from their ancestral homes to the southern suburbs of Beirut. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Mughniyeh’s response to the criminal brutality that he witnessed in his formative years, one cannot deny the role that these events played in making him the man that he eventually became: Mughniyeh, like Hizbullah itself, arose as a direct response to Israeli aggression.

Jerusalem off the radar

Ben White, Electronic Intifada 2/13/2008
      Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was reported to have suggested that the question of Jerusalem would be "left to last" in negotiations with the Palestinians. This was apparently on account of the issue being "too sensitive and complex," as well as fears that talks on Jerusalem would cause the departure of religious right-wingers from Olmert’s ruling coalition.
     Domestic political considerations will certainly have played a part in the prime minister’s thinking, but there is another possible motivation for leaving this "final status issue" for further down the road. In recent weeks, and indeed, going back to the December announcement of the expansion of West Bank settlement Har Homa, the Israeli government’s approach to Jerusalem has been at best contradictory, and at worst, deeply cynical.
     During January there was a rash of reports -- barely covered in the Western media -- about Jewish construction in occupied East Jerusalem. On 23 January, it was reported Agence France-Presse that 30 percent (almost 2,500 housing units) of newly-authorized construction in Jerusalem municipality was slated for areas in occupied or illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Just last week, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that plans were advanced for 200 Jewish homes in a "strategic location" in East Jerusalem requiring "Palestinian buildings" to "be demolished to make room."

Gagging the Written Word

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 2/13/2008
      On February 3, a court under the deposed Hamas government in the Gaza Strip ordered a ban on the distribution of the Palestinian daily, Al Ayyam. Apparently, the court order came after complaints about a three-month old cartoon published in the pro-Fateh newspaper depicting Hamas’ Palestinian Legislative Council members, bearded and in the image of deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The word “illegitimate” [al-lashariyyeh] appears on the bottom right corner of the cartoon, drawn by famed Palestinian cartoonist Baha Al Bukhari.
     Al Ayyam, one of the widest circulated and read Arabic-language newspapers in the Palestinian territories, was never halted in the Gaza Strip, even after Hamas took power there in June, 2007. However, Hamas lawmakers in the Strip complained that the cartoon was defamatory, disrespectful and bordering on blasphemous. However, this was not the cover under which Hamas carried out its campaign and ultimately got a court ruling banning the daily.

Gangsterly state

Khalid Amayreh in occupied E. Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 2/13/2008
      Is there a real difference between a criminal state and a criminal individual?  Is there a  difference between classical  gangsters and armed robbers who hold-up people and steal their money at gunpoint, and a state,  which claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East and a light upon the  nations of the world, that commits very much the same crime?
     On Monday, 11 February,  and in broad day light, Israeli occupation soldiers raided dozens of homes, money changers and  businesses throughout the West Bank after ordering  "forces"Â  answerable to Palestinian "Authority" Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to stay indoor until a further notice.
     According to one of the victims in the city of Hebron, the soldiers behaved "very much like gangsters, thugs and common criminals.

Palestinian Divisions Serve No One

Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 2/12/2008
      Palestinians themselves are first and foremost to blame for the breakdown in their internal relations and the split between Fateh and Hamas and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is especially true of the fierce military clashes in Gaza that led to this division between the two major Palestinian factions and the two main areas of Palestinian territory.
     However there are also significant external factors that have provoked this domestic division. Hamas, for example, was partly encouraged to oust Fateh from Gaza by regional interests, including those of the regional Islamic Brotherhood Movement that Hamas is part of, those of Syria, which hosts the Hamas leadership and those of Iran, the main provider of military, financial and other kinds of support to Hamas.
     But the most significant external factor is of course Israel. Over the past seven years, the parties in power in Israel, that is the Likud under Ariel Sharon and then Kadima under first Sharon and now Ehud Olmert, have made clear their opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state on all occupied territory including East Jerusalem. One tactic that Israel has pursued in order to undermine Palestinian aspirations for such statehood has been to divide the Palestinians and their territory.

Beyond redundancy

Amr Hamzawi, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/7/2008
      Opinion polls recently conducted in Arab countries cast into relief four significant phenomena: an increasingly heightened sense of the intricacy and severity of the world’s problems; a growing conviction that these problems extend beyond the political crises and generally poor human development indexes in most Arab countries to touch on the very foundations of Arab society and the relationship between the state and society; a growing antipathy towards the role played by outside powers -- the US and Israel above all -- in tandem with increased awareness of the responsibility of ruling Arab elites for the problems faced by Arab populations and hence the need for democratic reform and a continuing concern for common Arab causes - unity, the Palestinian cause -- and a concomitant opposition to attempts to fragment the Arab world.
     Subject these opinion trends to any kind of serious analysis and you find they delineate the contours of the challenges currently facing the Arab world and, hence, provide the parameters for any discussion of possible solutions and future scenarios. It is clear that the Arab world is gripped by a protracted crisis that can only be solved if Arab thinkers pool their energies and channel them into new and bold modes of thought that probe the heart of the problem while combining theoretical analysis with the development of practical political alternatives....

Border collision

Salama A Salama, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/7/2008
      The inevitable finally happened. Thousands of Palestinians broke through the barriers at the Gaza- Egypt border as guards watched helplessly. A desperate human situation, caused by Israel’s brutal stranglehold on Gaza, spilled over into Rafah. The Egyptians didn’t have a choice. They couldn’t be accomplices in Israel’s attempts to starve, kill and humiliate the Palestinians. Without electricity, water and medicine, the huddled masses of Gaza walked towards Egypt and Egypt had to let them pass.
     The same thing happened before. Remember when Palestinian pilgrims got trapped on the border and Egypt had to open Rafah amid Israel’s protests? There is a pattern developing here. Israel and America are trying to bring Gaza to its knees. They are trying to make the Palestinians bow to conditions imposed by the likes of Olmert and Barak. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be able to stop them.
     Arab inability to help Gaza came as a shock to many. Gaza endured a brutal, murderous siege, while the world looked on and declined to intervene. It was only upon an UNRWA call for humanitarian aid that Israel deigned to allow fuel and food to reach Gaza, and that was a one-off measure. Israel was pushing Gaza into a corner: Bring down the Haniyeh government or suffer endless horror. Travel on foot, live in the dark; bleed until you die, or do what you’re told. The pressure went on and on.

Olmert slips the noose

Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/7/2008
      With Winograd mincing its words, Israel’s hapless prime minister hangs on, for now
     The families of some of the 119 soldiers killed during Israel’s attack on Lebanon 18 months ago, backed by disgruntled reserve army officers and the Likud Party, stepped up their calls for the head of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week after publication of the much-delayed Winograd Report. But for the moment it looks as though Olmert will cling on to power, if only by the skin of his teeth.
     In the 600-page document, the government-appointed Winograd Committee produced a long and scathing list of failings by both the general staff and the government in the handling of the war, a 34- day assault on Lebanon that laid to waste much of the country and killed some 1,000 Lebanese civilians.
     But the focus of retired judge Eliyahu Winograd’s enquiry was not the destruction of Lebanon. Nor did he consider whether waging war was justified after Hizbullah attacked a border post, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two more.

Sign of the Times

Amira Hass, MIFTAH 2/11/2008
      Everything was ready for the arrival of the two guests: instructions for using the heaters, towels and linens, the phone number of a neighbor who is also a good friend, and who was supposed to meet them at the Qalandiyah checkpoint and escort them to my apartment in El-Bireh while I was away. Both landscape architects, the visitors had been invited to speak at an international academic conference at Bir Zeit University last November entitled "Conservation and Management of Landscape in Conflict Regions."
     Last April the organizers of the conference had accepted the two women’s jointly proposed topic for the lecture: "Nature, Nation, Native, Nakba: Landscape Narratives in Israel’s National Parks." [Nakba, literally "catastrophe" in Arabic, is the Palestinians’ term for the 1948 war and its consequences]. In July, the two submitted the final version of their talk, which was approved by the conference’s scientific committee.