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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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14 February 2008


Israeli forces seize eight Palestinians in the West Bank; Tulkarem closure continues
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Nablus – The Israeli military forces seized five Palestinian activists affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and one affiliated to Hamas in the northern West Bank village of Sabastiya, west of Nablus, on Thursday morning. Palestinian security sources told Ma,an’s reporter that ten Israeli military jeeps stormed the village overnight and ransacked several houses before seizing the six people. In Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians on Thursday morning after invading the city for several hours, Ma’an’s reporter said. He added that the Israeli forces re-erected a flying checkpoint at Al-Jarushiya, north of the city, after it had removed for a few hours. The Israeli forces continued to impose closure on Tulkarem. Palestinians under the age of 35 are prohibited from passing through the Al-Jarushiya...

Israeli forces seize seven Palestinians from one family in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli forces rounded up seven Palestinians from the Az-Zghayar family in Hebron after storming their home near Hebron University. Mutliq Az-Zghayar told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers broke into his family’s home and forced the residents outside before searching the house. Then they seized his sons, Ala’, Ammar, his brothers, Abd-ur-Raziq, Yousif and Zakariya, as well as his nephews Luay, and Hamdi. He added that after the family returned to the house, they heard an explosion in the stove, which they discovered was a sound grenade, that Israeli soldiers left there. [end]

Nasrallah: Mughniyah’s blood will lead to elimination of Israel
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday threatened to retaliate against Israel for the killing of militant commander Imad Mughniyah Tuesday, saying "his blood will lead to the elimination of Israel." Mughniyah, the deputy secretary general of the Lebanon-based guerilla group, was killed in a bomb blast in a residential neighborhood in Damascus late Tuesday. Israel denied involvement. Nasrallah also vowed to strike Israeli targets abroad after accusing Israel of taking the fight beyond Lebanese borders by killing Mughniyah in Syria. "You have killed Hajj Imad outside the natural battlefield," Nasrallah said, addressing Israel and referring to Hezbollah’s longtime contention it only fights Israel within Lebanon and along their common border. "You have crossed the borders," Nasrallah said in the fiery eulogy at Mughniyah’s funeral in south Beirut.

AF warns: Israel building new tunnel near the Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Aqsa foundation for the reconstruction of Islamic holy shrines revealed Wednesday in photographs that the IOA is building a new underground tunnel adjacent to the western wall of the Aqsa Mosque extending over a distance of 200 meters, calling on the Arab and Islamic countries to save occupied Jerusalem and the holy mosque before it is too late. According to the foundation, the tunnel starts from the left side of the Buraq square and extends into the old town passing under dozens of Palestinian houses up to the Hammam Al-Ein neighborhood where the foundation discovered a year ago excavations carried out under the neighborhood by the IOA in order to build a Jewish synagogue at a distance of 50 meters from the Aqsa. The foundation stated that this tunnel and the serious excavations are threatening the Aqsa Mosque and dozens of Palestinian houses with...

IOF troops kidnap 30 Palestinians in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- IOF soldiers kidnapped 30 Palestinians at dawn Thursday in the vicinity of Gaza international airport to the east of Rafah south of the Gaza Strip, local sources reported. They added that special Israeli occupation forces infiltrated into the area before dawn one day after a similar incursion that was met with stiff resistance. The soldiers broke into civilian homes and rounded up all males from 15 to 50 years old for interrogation in IOF basis. Meanwhile, the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, fired 8 mortar shells at an IOF special unit east of Khan Younis, south of the Strip, late Wednesday. The same armed wing fired 8 other mortars at a group of IOF armored vehicles in the vicinity of the airport also on Wednesday in retaliation to those soldiers’ incessant incursions and infiltrations into the Strip.

Gaza drivers halt traffic in protest of Israeli fuel cuts
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Drivers stopped their cars for a half hour in the streets of Gaza City at the request of the Popular Committee for Countering the Siege in protest against the reduction of fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Jamal Al-Khudari, a member of the Popular Committee, visited Palestine Square in the centre of Gaza City where the protesting drivers were concentrated. He said the fuel cuts have a negative affect on all dimensions of ordinary Palestinian life. He added, "The gradual reductions in fuel and cuts of electricity lessen international reactions to the Palestinian suffering." He reminded the audience that the capacity of the power plant in Gaza has already decreased since the station was shelled by the Israelis in 2006, and the new reduction of fuel supply will incapacitate the station even more.

Students protest Israeli seige in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - More than a thousand students participated in a sit-in on Thursday at the Unknown Soldier monument in the center of Gaza city in protest against the continuation of the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip which has resulted shortages of basic school supplies. Ma’an’s reporter said that the sit-in has been organized by the Islamic student bloc in Gaza City. Protesting students raised posters with signs calling an end to the siege which has further harmed the educational process in the coastal Strip. One of the students handed a letter to the director of the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which runs schools in Palestinian refugee camps, in the Gaza Strip which explains the dire situation of students and education sector in the Gaza Strip. It also contained demand to lift the siege. "The Gaza Strip has been suffering from serious shortage in papers,...

Unable to export their products, Gazan flower farmers throw away crops on Valentine’s Day
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Flower farmers in the Gaza Strip see no reason to celebrate this Valentine’s Day. Normally a boon for those in the flower business, this February the 14th, Palestinians will not be able to export any flowers to Israel’s crippling siege of the Gaza Strip. Acres and acres of floral crops are doomed to die without ever reaching the market. As a result, farmers destroyed their flower products with TV cameras rolling near the Sufa border crossing through which the flowers used to be exported. 60 flower farmers in the southern Gaza Strip have decided to abstain from planting their crops next year unless they receive international guarantees that their products will be exported rather than ending up as food for sheep as they did this year. The President of the Beit Hanoun Agricultural Association,Ghassan Qasim, explained that the area of the Gaza Strip used...

Mentally disabled Palestinian dies of wounds sustained in IDF raid
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
A mentally disabled Palestinian wounded during an Israel Defense Forces arrest operation in the West Bank a week ago died Thursday, doctors said. An Israeli human rights group called on the military to conduct an investigation into the incident. According to neighbors’ accounts, IDF troops entered the town of Qabatiya before dawn on Feb. 7 to arrest an Islamic Jihad militant. As the soldiers prepared an ambush, the mentally disabled man, 56-year-old Taysir Nazal, emerged from his home, the neighbors said. Soldiers fired three shots and hit Nazal in his legs, said relatives and a neighbor, Omar al-Sohu. "They didn’t call on him to stop, and after he was hit, they left him for a half hour," al-Sohu said. "Then two soldiers came and started to talk to him in Arabic. He said ’Let me go to my mother.

IDF bombs Gaza buildings used for launching rockets at Israel
Yuval Azoulay and Mijal Grinbergs, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
The Israel Defense Forces Engineering Corps on Thursday bombed a number of abandoned buildings in the Gaza Strip that the army said were being used to launch rockets and mortar shells at Israel. Troops began the operation late Wednesday with wide searches near the Palestinian side of the Erez Crossing. The IDF is still combing the area to pinpoint and strike structures suspected to be used by militants to carry out attacks against Israel. By mid-morning on Thursday, militants in Gaza fired four Qassam rockets at Israel. No damages or injuries were reported. 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.

Israeli military court extends administrative custody of oldest serving detainee
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
SALFIT, (PIC)-- An Israeli military court has extended the administrative detention, without trial or charge, of Walid Khaled the oldest serving detainee in the history of Palestine. Khaled, who hails from Skaka village, Salfit district, has been in administrative custody for more than six years, which brought to 14 years the overall years he spent in Israeli captivity that he served on gradual stages during which he spent only few months outside jails. The family of the detainee denounced the "oppressive ruling", and asked for his immediate release and for pressuring the IOA in this regard. Khaled, who is the director of Palestine newspaper in the West Bank, had memorized the holy Koran while in captivity and wrote a number of books and poems.

Students return to Gaza schools still suffering from lack of heat and electricity
United Nations Children''s Fund, ReliefWeb 2/13/2008
GAZA, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 13 February 2008 – Nearly 400 government schools in Gaza have reopened their doors to a quarter of a million students returning from winter break – but teachers and children have been met with classrooms that have neither heat nor light due to reduced power supplies. ’Even before the fuel cuts, power shortages meant that children were already cold in classrooms,’ said Saeed Harb, who runs schools in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost district. ’And many rooms didn’t have light simply because there were no longer any light bulbs in the market. Children are finding it almost impossible to learn, and you can see it in their failing marks. ’ Restrictions on all but survival basics Israel has restricted the entry of all but survival basics such as fuel, food and medicine into Gaza since June 2007, when Hamas took control.

Livni to tell Rice: Qassams must stop before end of peace talks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington, D. C. , and was expected to tell her that the ongoing Qassam rocket fire must end before peace talks are completed. Livni is in the American capital for a lighting visit in order to participate in a memorial service for Congressman Tom Lantos, who died Tuesday at the age of 80 from cancer of the esophagus. Livni was expected to stress to Rice that Israel will continue to fight Palestinian terrorism in the Gaza Strip, and at the same time will continue negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to reach a final peace deal. The foreign minister was to tell her American counterpart that Israel has no intention of allowing the creation of a terror state along its borders.

Hamas delegation visits Egypt, demands Rafah crossing be reopened
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
A top Hamas delegation crossed into Egypt on Thursday and met with Egyptian officials wanting to make clear that no further breaches of its border with the Gaza Strip will be tolerated, a security official said. The Hamas delegation, led by Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar came at the Egyptian request, after they received reports that the Islamist organization was planning to forcibly reopen the borders again at the end of the month, the official said speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Ahead of the meeting, the official said that the Egyptians planned on telling Hamas bluntly that the old self-restraint manner is over and that Egyptian security guards have been given orders to open fire on any Palestinians trying to cross the border.

Hamas, Egypt hold talks on Rafah crossing: official
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 2/14/2008
GAZA, Feb 14, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) - An aide to deposed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haneya revealed on Thursday that there are talks held between Hamas and Egypt on reopening Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. Allaeldien al-A’raj, Haneya’s economical advisor, told the pro- Hamas daily Felastin that the talks held between Haneya’s government and Egypt are semi-official. Meanwhile, sources close to Hamas in Gaza said that Mahmoud al- Zahar, another Hamas leader and former foreign minister in the Haneya’s cabinet, would soon head for talks again in Cairo with Egyptian officials on re-operating Rafah crossing. The Rafah terminal, Gaza’s only door to the outside world bypassing Israel, has been kept closed since last June when Hamas militants routed rival Fatah’s security forces and seized the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders head to Egypt for renwed talks on Egypt-Gaza border
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar lead a delegation to the city of Al-Arish in Egypt to meet with Egyptian officials to discuss the sealed Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Thursday. "The visit comes as part of a previous agreement between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities to follow up with the siege of the Gaza Strip," Hamas spokesperson Isma’il Radwan said. Radwan told Ma’an that three political and security and medica committees have been formed to coordinate with Egypt a response to the Israeli siege. Palestinians forcibly opened the Rafah border in January following months of a tightening Israeli-imposed siege. Hamas and rival Palestinian Authority (PA) officials traveled to Egypt in late January and early February to discuss a resolution to the Rafah border issue.

Egyptian official: Guards ordered to open fire at Palestinians
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/14/2008
Border breaches will not be tolerated, Egyptian official says ahead of meeting with Hamas delegation - A top Hamas delegation crossed into Egypt Thursday to meet up with Egyptian officials wanting to make clear that no further breaches of its border with the Gaza Strip will be tolerated, a security official said. The Hamas delegation, led by Mahmoud al-Zahar came at the Egyptians’ request, after they received reports that Hamas was planning to forcibly reopen the borders again at the end of the month, the official said speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "Egyptians will tell Hamas bluntly that the old self-restraint manner is over and that Egyptian security guards have been given orders to open fire on any Palestinians trying to cross the border," the official said.

Rocket barrage damages southern homes
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/14/2008
No injuries in latest Qassam attack; earlier, rockets fired from north Gaza land in open areas near Sapir College; IDF demolishes structures near Erez Industrial Zone used by Palestinians to fire mortars - Four more Qassam rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip Thursday afternoon. The rockets landed in the western Negev, including one Qassam that landed at a backyard in an area community and damages several structures. No injuries were reported in the latest barrage. Five Qassams fired from northern Gaza Thursday morning landed in open fields in the western Negev, causing no injuries or damage. Two of the rockets landed in open areas near Sapir College, within the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Another two rockets landed in an open field inside Sderot and just outside the southern town.

Condition improves for Sderot boy severely injured by Qassam
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
The condition of 8-year-old Osher Twito, who was severely wounded by a Qassam rocket outside his Sderot home and had his left leg amputated, significantly improved on Thursday. Sheba hospital said that now that Twito is capable of breathing by himself and has regained consciousness, his condition is moderate. On Wednesday, he underwent another operation, in attempt to salvage his right leg, which had sustained severe wounds. The condition of his 19-year-old brother, Rami, who was injured alongside Osher, is stable. Following the incident, medical crews rushed the two brothers to Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital. Rami’s girlfriend, Kinneret, who witnessed the strike, said they did not manage to take cover because Red Color alert had not been activated.

Palestinian military groups active in the Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades claimed responsibility on Wednesday evening for launching two mortar shells at the Israeli military post of at Erez, and a homemade projectile at the Israeli town of Sderot, north of the Gaza Strip. Separately, a joint group of the National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades launched two homemade projectiles at the military post of Kisufim. The military groups affirmed in separate statements that their action comes in retaliation for Israeli atrocities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Identity of Palestinian who stabbed Israeli soldier last Tuesday revealed
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Local Palestinian sources have revealed the identity of the person who stabbed an Israeli soldier at a flying checkpoint in the village near Jenin on Tuesday. The sources said the attacker was 17-year-old ’Ala’ Haydariyya from Jaba’. Eyewitnesses said they saw Haydariyya lying on the ground after the Israeli soldiers overpowered him. On Tuesday evening young Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint near Jaba’, injuring him slightly before the attacker was arrested. Until now the identity of the assailant has been unknown. [end]

Palestinian man stabbed to death in Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – A 21-year-old Palestinian man named Ahmad Abu Wadi was stabbed to death on Wednesday in the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia. Palestinian security sources stated that Abu Wadi was found near the Islamic College in Qalqilia bleeding after he was stabbed in the chest. He was taken to the UN hospital where he died. District Attorney Miqdad Hattab said investigations are ongoing in attempts to find the perpetrators. [end]

An-Nasser Salah Addin Briagdes fire two projectiles at Israeli military base
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, said on Thursday morning that their fighter have fired two homemade projectiles at the Israeli military position at Nahal Oz, bordering the Gaza Strip. They said in a statement that the shelling was part of their retaliation for ongoing Israeli crimes against the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Palestinian civilian shot by Israeli soldiers dies
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – 52-year-old Tayseer Nazzal from the town of Qabatiya, in the northern West Bank, on Thursday succumbed to his wounds sustained in an Israeli incursion on February 7th, Ma’an’s reporter said. Nazzal, who was mentally ill, was shot by Israeli soldiers while he was standing in front of his house. He was then evacuated to the government hospital in Jenin where he was pronounced dead today. [end]

Al-Aqsa Brigades, Al-Quds Brigades shell Israeli military position
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah’s armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades and Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility on Thursday morning for launching two mortar shells at an Israeli military position near Juhor Ad-Dik in the Gaza Strip. They said in a joint statement that the shelling was in response to cartoons published about Prophet Muhammad. [end]

Israeli forces raid Jenin, seize man in Qabatiya
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – The Israeli forces detained a young Palestinian man from Qabatiya, near Jenin in the northern West Bank after storming several houses on Thursday morning. Local sources named the arrestee as 19-year-old Jasir Zakarna. In a different regard, an Israeli force raided Jenin from the west and the south amidst heavy gunfire. [end]

Palestinian security forces seize eight Hamas members in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Fatah allied Palestinian security forces detained eight Hamas members in the West Bank on Wednesday night, Hamas said. Hamas released a statement in which they claimed that the arrestees were from the northern West Bank districts of Salfit, Nablus, Jenin and Qalqilia. Two of the arrestees were school teachers [end]

Palestinian youth seized near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The Israeli forces seized a Palestinian youth named Badr Az-Zain from the southern West Bank town of Yatta south of Hebron, on Wednesday evening, eyewitnesses said. Israeli sources claimed the arrestee was in possession of a pistol and a rifle as well as ammunition. [end]

This Week’s Message
Gush Shalom 2/14/2008
REVENGE STOP IT! What exactly did the commission inquire? The Gaza blockade has been broken End the siege! THE VISIT WONDERFUL YEAR! WAR CRIME? CEASE FIRE! 3WEEKS LATER Accomplices Rubber checks AN EMPTY CEREMONY The crucial sentence POLITICAL ARMY Red Herring HOW TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF ITZHAK RABIN Quite an average week Ehud & Ehud PRISONERS More... REVENGE Experience shows That nothing good Comes out of Assassinations. An assassination Is followed by Revenge. Dozens of innocents Are killed in the Vicious circle of Revenge and bloodshed. Experience shows That the place Of the assassinated, Is almost always Taken by a More talented Enemy. See under: Mussawi. * *Hizbullah leader Abbas Mussawi was assassinated in Lebanon by Israeli attack helicopters in 1992.

ISRAEL-OPT: Israeli experts propose radical changes to West Bank closure regime
Tom Spender/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/15/2008
Palestinians queue at Beit Iba checkpoint north of Nablus JERUSALEM, 14 February 2008 (IRIN) - A team of Israeli security experts has devised a plan to replace the existing closure regime in the West Bank with an alternative system which they say will offer Israel security while easing restrictions on Palestinians and allowing their economy to grow. Admitting that the current matrix of earth mounds, concrete roadblocks and checkpoints is anachronistic and harmful to the Palestinians, the former defence establishment officials suggested the current system be scrapped - the first thorough overhaul proposed by such senior figures. The new scheme would include removing major obstacles in the West Bank, while pushing for deeper Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation and projects to improve the Palestinian economy, in order to facilitate a political way forward to end the conflict.

Ballistic expert: Israel ignoring option of U.S. anti-rocket system
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
Dr. Nathan Farber is a ballistic expert who has been persistently trying, to no avail, to present to the Defense Ministry what he sees as a possibly imminent solution to Qassam fire from Gaza. Farber’s suggestion is to deploy American artillery batteries called Phalanx around the Qassam-battered town of Sderot, to intercept the rockets fired by Palestinians. The U.S. army has been successfully operating the system in Iraq, where it provides its bases with protection from rockets and mortar shells. Canada is also considering deploying it in Afghanistan. Farber told Haaretz his suggestion should not be rejected out of hand. He said that the system could be tested with a budget of no more than $1 million, even in the "battlefield" itself, by deploying one or two Phalanx batteries near Sderot.

VIDEO - Sderot students: We want ministers to look us in eyes
Rona Tal, YNetNews 2/14/2008
Youngsters from terror-stricken southern town travel to Jerusalem, hold classes next to Knesset building. ’We came to have fun, step out of our daily routine,’ says student - Not a regular field trip: Maayan, a 10-year old fourth grader from Sderot elementary school Alon Madaim, made a chilly track to Jerusalem Thursday. She and other Sderot students, in conjunction with the town’s parents’ committee, held their classes in a protest tent perched outside the Knesset building in the capital in order to demonstrate against the government’s treatment of the rocket-battered town. "Sderot is not just a little town somewhere in Israel," said Maayan, "lots of kids were born here and can’t just leave their home."  Qassam victim regains consciousness. Video: Infolive. tv As part of this planned protest, three classes from Sdeort will make the trek to Jerusalem every single day.

Palestinian from Bethlehem seriously injured by grenade left behind by Israeli soldiers
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Eighteen-year-old Ala Ubayat was seriously injured in the West Bank city of Bethlehem when a grenade left behind by Israeli soldiers exploded in his hands, sources in the Palestinian police told Ma’an on Thursday. Bethlehem Police Chief Dawood Abu Ghaith said the man was seriously injured when he tried to split the grenade open using an electric cutting machine in his father’s blacksmith workshop. Ghaith added that police engineering unit rushed to the place and found another unexploded grenade, and defused it. Police have opened an investigation into the incident, he said. He blamed the Israelis for the explosion and warned Palestinian citizens to be careful when they find unexploded Israeli ordinance, urging them to inform the Palestinian police immediately when they find any suspect devices.

Palestinian Rights Committee, Government of Jordan to convene Seminar on Assistance to Palestinian People, in Amman, 19-20 February
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 2/14/2008
Seminar Comes at ’Very Difficult Time’ for Palestinian People, as Conditions Worsen in Occupied Palestinian Territory, Basic Humanitarian Needs Remain Unmet The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, with the agreement of the Government of Jordan, will convene the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People. The Seminar will take place on 19 and 20 February, at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman, and it will be held in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly mandate by which the Committee is requested to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian People. The Seminar comes at a very difficult time for the Palestinian people. In the last several months, political, economic and social conditions have continued to deteriorate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Secretary-General, in message to Palestinian Rights Committee, says improving situation on ground urgent, but events this year have hindered progress
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 2/14/2008
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, as delivered by Vijay Nambiar, Chef de Cabinet, to the opening of the 2008 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in New York today: Allow me to first send my congratulations to the Chairman and other distinguished members of the Bureau on your unanimous re-election to the leadership of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. You are opening this year’s session at a time when recent positive developments on the diplomatic front provide some hope that a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East can finally be reached. At the same time, the escalation of violence at the start of the year reminds us of the fragility of the situation on the ground.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator begins a five-day visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 2/14/2008
(New York/Geneva/Jerusalem, 14 February 2008): John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, today arrived in Ramallah in the West Bank to begin a five-day visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. During his mission, Mr. Holmes plans to assess the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Sderot. ’I come here in solidarity with the people of this region, who have suffered great misery and insecurity. Many people in Gaza are facing grave humanitarian consequences. In the West Bank, the regime of closures is damaging economic life and hitting ordinary people. In Sderot, whole communities are living in fear of rocket barrages. I have come here to see for myself what is happening on both sides,’ said Mr. Holmes.

UN examines damage caused by Qassam rockets, Israeli sanctions
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
JERUSALEM - A senior United Nations humanitarian official said Thursday he would examine the consequences of Palestinian Qassam rocket fire on Israeli communities, as well as the damage caused to residents of the Gaza Strip by Israeli sanctions, during a four-day tour. John Holmes, the UN’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said he would visit the Gaza Strip and try and find ways to get more humanitarian aid in. The impoverished Gaza Strip has been under blockade since the Islamic Hamas party wrested control over the coastal territory last year. Israel allows only emergency humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza through the border crossings it controls, tightening its restrictions as Palestinian rocket fire from the Strip persists. "I come to the region to look at it from a humanitarian viewpoint," Holmes told reporters in Jerusalem as he embarked upon his mission.

Syria: We’ll sue US for arming Israel
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/14/2008
Syrian foreign minister says his country to ’punish US’ for decision to impose fresh sanctions against Syrian officials - Syrians are preparing to sue the United States for supplying weapons to Israel that later killed Syrians during the Second Lebanon War, said Syria’s foreign minister, a day after Washington announced new sanctions against Damascus. Speaking at a press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, Walid Moallem promised that Syria would punish the US for its decision to impose fresh sanctions against Syrian officials. "This time I tell you we will punish the United States... There are scores of Syrians who became victims during the Israeli war against Lebanon, they will file lawsuits against America," which provided Israel with the weapons, he said. ’No country more corrupt than US’ - On Wednesday, US President George W. Bush, in an executive order, said he was expanding sanctions against senior government officials in Syria...

Nasrallah: Hezbollah ready for "open war"
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah promised to wage an open war against Israel, saying that Israel chose war when it allegedly assassinated Hezbollah’s military leader, Imad Mughniya. Mughniya was killed in a car bombing in the Syrian capital, Damascus on Wednesday. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the attack. Nasrallah was delivering a eulogy before the burial of Mughniya in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Lebanese capital. He said that Israel committed a "great folly" when they chose to assassinate Mughniya. He pointed out that the world historians have to start chronicling this date as the beginning of the collapse of the state of Israel. Nasrallah said that Israel lost the war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 considering that the war is still ongoing as no ceasefire has been announced.

Syrian FM: Car bomb that killed Mughniyeh is under investigation By
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jerusalem Post 2/14/2008
Investigations are under way into who was behind the car bomb that killed Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Thursday, adding that he expected the perpetrators to be found soon. "Syrian security forces are continuing investigations into this terrorist crime and we hope you will hear results soon," he said at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki. "We as a state will show with full proof the party involved in this crime and who stands behind them." Moallem described the killing of Mughniyeh, who has been implicated in a string of attacks against Americans, Israelis and Jews, among others, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as a blow to peace.

Syrian FM: Syrians will sue US for selling weapons to Israel
Jerusalem Post 2/14/2008
Syrians will sue the United States for providing Israel with weaponry that was used to kill Syrian citizens during the Second Lebanon War, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem threatened Thursday, a day after the US administration announced a new set of sanctions on the Assad regime. "We will punish the United States," Mouallem said during a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. "There are Syrians who were sacrificed during the Israeli was against Lebanon, and they will file a law suit against America, Which provided Israel with the weapons." [end]

VIDEO - News / Nasrallah: Mughniyah’s blood will lead to Israel’s end
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
VIDEO - Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for February 14, 2008. In this edition: Hezbollah leader Nasrallah says the killing of his deputy will lead to the elimination of Israel. The government warns Israelis traveling abroad of likely abduction attempts following Imad Mughniyah’s assassination. French President Sarkozy says he would not shake the hand of any world leader who does not recognize Israel. [end]

Israel goes on high alert, warns citizens of possible retaliation for Mughniyeh hit
Daily Star 2/15/2008
Israel went on alert Thursday as Hizbullah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, accused the Jewish state of responsibility for the assassination of one of the group’s top commanders, declared the attack act of "open war," and said the resistance ws ready to respond in kind. The government’s anti-terrorist office also urged Israelis abroad to take extra precautions over their movements. The military’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gaby Ashkenazi, "ordered land, air and naval forces on alert to ensure defense of the northern border and of other interests in the country" following the death on Tuesday in a Damascus bombing of Imad Mughniyeh, an army statement said. "The army is closely following the evolution of the situation and will take the appropriate measures," it added. Shortly afterward, in a tough speech broadcast from Mughniyeh’s funeral in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Nasrallah condemned the slaying.

Nazzal: Security precautions are taken to protect Hamas leaders
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Mohammed Nazzal, member of the Hamas Movement’s political bureau, has charged the American and Zionist intelligence with masterminding the assassination of Emad Mughniyah the military commander of the Lebanese Hizbullah party. He said that Hamas strongly condemns the crime, and expressed belief that either the American or the Zionist intelligence was responsible for the crime. Nazzal underlined that Hamas knows quite well that its leaders are also targeted and adopted the necessary precautions. He explained that such precautions are not adopted in reaction to an assassination here or there but rather is a fixed policy. He ruled out, in a statement to Quds Press, that the assassination pointed to an Israeli military escalation such as invading Gaza. For his part, Mohammed Al-Hindi, one of the Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza, denounced the assassination of Mughniyah,...

Security at US synagogues stepped up
Roni Sofer and AP, YNetNews 2/14/2008
FBI puts anti-terror squads on high alert in wake of Hizbullah commander’s assassination; senior official in Jerusalem warns that Israel will view any attack on Jews abroad as anti-Semitic act - The FBI has put its domestic anti-terror squads on the alert for any threats against synagogues and other potential Jewish targets in the United States after the killing of Hizbullah commander Imad Mugniyah. Meanwhile, a senior political source in Jerusalem said Thursday evening that any Hizbullah attack on any Israeli or Jewish institution worldview would be severely viewed by Israel. US Law enforcement officials say there have been no specific threats so far against any Jewish centers. On Thursday the FBI ordered terrorism task forces nationwide to reach out to community sources for any information about stepped-up Hizbullah activity following Mugniyah’s death Tuesday.

US ’not satisfied’ with Egyptian efforts to scrap tunnels
AFP, YNetNews 2/14/2008
’Cairo falling short in its efforts to stop Palestinians from trafficking weapons to Gaza,’ Rice says - WASHINGTON Egypt is falling short in its efforts to stop Palestinians from allegedly trafficking weapons to the Gaza Strip through tunnels from Egypt, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday. "I think it is fair to say that we have not been satisfied with Egypt’s efforts on the tunnels, but that in fact those tunnels have been there for a long time and it has been hard to stop smuggling," Rice said. "We are in conversations with the Egyptians and the Israelis about how that might be done better," Rice told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs during a hearing on US foreign policy. On January 14, a security source said Egyptian authorities discovered explosives in a new tunnel near the border with the Gaza Strip.

MAD in the Middle East
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
Seven weeks after they dealt a serious blow to the United States’ plans to use military force against Iran’s nuclear sites, several of the American intelligence officers who were involved in the drafting of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), according to which Iran suspended its secret nuclear military program back in 2003, are due to visit Israel. They will take part in a closed discussion at the Herzliya Conference, scheduled for next week. Their panel will focus on the threatening scenario in which, despite the report’s estimate, Iran will possess a nuclear weapon and other nations in the region may follow suit. Dr. Shmuel Bar, a researcher at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center and one of the discussion’s initiators, believes that the U.S. can still prevent Iran from reaching the next stage in its program of nuclear development.

VIDEO - W. Bank rabbi, Hamas supporter draft Hamas-Israel truce deal
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for February 14, 2008. Rabbi Menachem Froman of the West Bank settlement of Tekoa has for years been involved in interfaith dialogue toward Israeli-Palestinian peace. After a series of interfaith meetings, Rabbi Fruman and Hamas-allied friend Khaled Amayreh succeded in drafting a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The two submitted the document, which covers the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, to the cabinet and to the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. According to them, Hamas leaders have agreed to the deal’s terms, but Israel has rejected them. [end]

Gazans celebrate Valentine’s Day as Hamas looks the other way
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
The odds against celebrating Valentine’s Day in Hamas-ruled Gaza are almost impossible: The holiday is considered haram, or forbidden by Islam, most Gazans don’t have money for frills and even the requisite red roses must be imported. Yet Gaza managed to mark Eid el Hob, or the Feast of Love, with a few bright splashes of red Thursday. Flower shops in Gaza City’s better neighborhoods, displaying rows of flower-filled buckets and heart-shaped decorations, catered to women in Islamic headscarves and dutiful husbands. Hamas police looked the other way despite the religious taboo, reflecting the Islamic militants’ policy of not going against popular consensus when it comes to social norms. For example, since seizing control of Gaza in June, Hamas has upheld a ban on alcohol but has not forced women to cover their hair.

Hamas allegedly wants Palestinian newspaper editor arrested
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The chief editor of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said on Thursday that the Hamas-controlled de facto government in the Gaza Strip has asked the Palestinian police in the West Bank city of Ramallah West Bank to seize him and hand him over to Hamas-affiliated security forces in the Gaza Strip. Hafizh Barghouthi said, in an article published on Thursday, that the alleged order was an attack on press freedom and a violation of Palestinian law. He also argued that Hamas’ June 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip was illegal in nature. "They are adopting a certain policy, it seems, as their government has decided to ban the distribution of Al-Ayyam newspaper in the Gaza Strip. The deposed Hamas government actually impedes the freedom of speech and expression in media thatbecause exposes their practices and aggressions," Barghouthi told Ma’an via telephone.

US to seek Israeli clarification of East Jerusalem settlement expansion
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said on Wednesday that the American administration will demand explanations from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office on a massive new settlement project in Jerusalem. McCormack said that the United States does not doubt the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian president’s commitment to achieving peace. However, he pointed out that the Israeli announcement of the settlement project will have negative influence on the ongoing negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis and might impede the two-state solution. "Both sides realize that reaching an agreement is a mutual interest, and for our part, we will do our best to help them and recruit international support for them," McCormack added. Israeli Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim announced on Tuesday that Israel plans to build...

Bahar hails Bahraini parliament’s urgent aid to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting PLC speaker, has hailed the Bahraini parliament’s decision to extend 10 million dollars to the Palestinian government in urgent assistance. Dr. Bahar, in a telephone contact with Sheikh Khalilfa Al-Dhahrani, the Bahraini speaker, highlighted the solid Palestinian-Bahraini relations, which were further enhanced following the Bahraini parliamentary delegation’s visit to Gaza. The acting speaker appreciated the urgent assistance, which is expected in Gaza within the few coming days, and noted that Bahrain was the first country to expedite a delegation to Gaza when the borders were opened in a popular act against the siege. Dhahrani said that the Bahraini aid was part of its commitment to its Palestinian brothers, and renewed his country’s backing to the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, establishment of the independent state...

Caretaker gov’t: Accelerating Judaization points to failure of PA negotiations
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The caretaker government headed by Ismail Haneyya has stated that Israel is speeding its Judaization schemes in order to create a geographical and demographical change settling the argument over Jerusalem by turning it into a capital of the Hebrew state, adding that these schemes are fresh evidence of the failure of PA’s frivolous negotiations.   In a press release received on Wednesday by the PIC, Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman for the government, underlined that these accelerating schemes coincides with Israeli premier Ehud Olmert’s statements that the PA negotiator agreed to defer any discussion on the question of Jerusalem. Nunu underscored, in another context, that the exchange of roles and the security coordination between the PA security apparatuses and the Israeli occupation through kidnapping Palestinian resistance fighters and turning them in later after releasing...

Abu Marzouk: Israel’s cowardly crimes reflect its barbaric nature
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, stated Wednesday that choosing Damascus to assassinate a Hizbullah leader like Emad Mugniyah means that "Zionist terrorism" has no geographical boundaries. Such terrorism poses a threat to all countries in the region, he emphasized and charged that Israel’s "cowardly crimes of assassination" reflect its "barbaric nature". In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Abu Marzouk underlined that the timing of the assassination coincided with preparations being made for holding the Arab summit next month in Damascus, expressing hope that the Arab regimes would rise to the required level to confront the Israeli danger which targets all countries in the region. The Hamas leader opined that the death of Mugniyah is a loss for Hizbollah and all advocates of resistance who call for enshrining justice in the region.

Israelis, Palestinians up War of Words
The Media Line, MIFTAH 2/14/2008
Israeli threats to invade Gaza and target Hamas leaders in retaliation for rocket firing have elicited sharp responses from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. P. A. Chairman Mahmoud ’Abbas threatened on Tuesday to announce the failure of the ongoing peace negotiations in protest at what he calls Israeli ’stubbornness’, which is impeding progress in the talks, sources at his office said. Final talks between Israel and the P. A. resumed last December following the U.S. sponsored Annapolis conference. Meanwhile, P. A. Prime Minister Salam Faya’d, who is currently visiting the U.S. , has accused Israel of doing nothing to help his government restore security and stability to the West Bank. In a lecture at the Aspen Institute, Faya’d expressed disappointment over what he terms Israel’s failure to alleviate Palestinian suffering due to closures and checkpoints. "Israel has done nothing to help my government execute its own plans…They keep saying it’s a good idea, this plan is not bad, but practically they did the opposite."

Brazilian FM: Assad ready to launch dialogue with Israel
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
Syrian President Bashar Assad is prepared to launch a dialogue with Israel, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told President Shimon Peres on Thursday, the president’s office said in a statement. Peres and Amorim met at the President’s official residence in Jerusalem Thursday. According to Peres’ statement, the Brazilian minister arrived in Israel directly from Syria, shortly after meeting with Assad. Amorim told Peres that he and the Syrian president discussed the option of launching peace talks between Syria and Israel. Peres told Amorim that though Israel is a peace-seeking country, it cannot ignore Assad’s past deceptions. "He can’t hold out one hand to peace, and with the other hand fund and arm terrorist organizations, namely Hamas and Hezbollah," Peres said.

Terror expert: Assassination strong message to Syria
Roni Gal, YNetNews 2/14/2008
Researcher says Damascus deliberately chosen as site for assassination of Hizbullah military commander Mugniyah. Another expert says finding suitable replacement for terror chief to take long time - Syria was not chosen at random to be the site of Hizbullah military commander Imad Mugniyah assassination, Lt. Colonel (Res. ) Moshe Marzouk, senior research fellow at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism said Thursday. "The time, place and manner in which Mugniyah was assassinated sends a very clear message to Syria, a country which harbors and aids terrorist organizations and stands behind many terror attacks, yet denies that it does so," Marzouk said. Marzouk stated that he "congratulates whoever carried out this assassination," and noted that Syria was chosen as the site for Mugniyah’s assassinations as this "links Syria intimately to this arch-terrorist.

Palestinian President Leaves Bahrain
Kuwait News Agency, MIFTAH 2/14/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left Manama on Wednesday following a two-day official visit that came as part of his tour of Arab countries. He was bid farewell by Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak al Khalifa, ministers, senior military officers, the Muharraq governor and Palestinian ambassador to Bahrain. During his visit, Abbas held talks with the kingdom’s leadership on bilateral ties, the latest developments in Palestine and Arab and international issues of mutual concern. At a press conference, the Palestinian president hailed the fruitful results of his talks with King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa that tackled the Palestinian issue, results of the Annapolis conference and the Paris conference and the political process and current negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. the talks also covered the internal Palestinian situation and ties with Hamas.

Palestinians say militant hub is now safe town; Israel unconvinced
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/14/2008
Nablus emerges as testing ground for Israeli-PA cooperation; Israel reluctant to cease counter-terror activity in city but Palestinians say PA control will not take hold unless IDF eases its grip - Local Hamas activists have pledged to obey the law, Mideast envoy Tony Blair has taken a stroll through once gunman-infested neighborhoods and policemen are now the only ones carrying weapons in public in this former militant hub. The West Bank’s second-largest city presents itself as a law-and-order town these days, the first success in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ campaign to wrest control from militias. But Israel says it’s still too soon to remove its tight ring of roadblocks choking Nablus, raising questions about the formula underlying peacemaking - better Palestinian security performance in exchange for greater freedom of movement for 2.

Yedioth Ahronoth: Polished Protest
Yaniv Halili, our correspondent in New York, International Solidarity Movement 2/14/2008
(Translation from Hebrew by Adalah-NY) - eebruary 10, 2008 - London and New York: Demonstrations Opposite Lev Leviev’s Jewelry Stores - "Lev Leviev’s diamonds are a crime’s best friends." This was not the least of that which around 100 demonstrators chanted yesterday outside Lev Leviev’s diamond boutique on elite Madison Avenue in Manhattan. The demonstration, which was organized by the American chapters of the organizations "Adalah" and "Justice in Palestine," was designed to strike at the entrance of the Leviev boutique during an important time from a business point of view: Valentine’s Day. The demonstrators have been known to call out to customers, telling them not to buy jewelry for their wives on Valentine’s Day, which will take place on Thursday.

Gaza siege: Cut off from food, water and fuel
Presbyterian World Service & Development, ReliefWeb 2/12/2008
Continuing political chaos, and the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip has left thousands of Palestinians isolated and cut off from needed supplies, including food, water and fuel. Your help is needed to support people living in dire conditions. PWS&D responds: Food and medical support Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) has contributed $30,000 to provide essential food, medical supplies and services to chronically ill people. Make a donation online, or call PWS&D today at: 416-441-1111 or 1-800-619-7301, ext. 291 Background Under the terms of International Law, Israel is responsible for the well-being of the population living in Gaza as Israel controls border access and airspace. As a response to rocket attacks from Gaza into Southern Israel, Israel cut off vital services including water, electricity, gasoline and severely restricted the flow of goods.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 30 Jan - 06 Feb 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 2/6/2008
Of note this week Gaza Strip: - The IDF killed four Palestinians and injured 12 others in the Gaza Strip. - 3 February: Egyptian security forces and the Palestinian police sealed the border between Gaza and Egypt. Egyptians attempting to enter Gaza were sent back to Egypt following ID checks and Palestinians were returned to the Strip. Egyptian police were deployed along the makeshift fence to prevent any new cross-border movement and a wire fence and iron barriers were erected along the border (Rafah). - 34 rockets and 13 mortar shells were fired towards Israel. As a result, three Israelis, including one woman, were injured. - Two demonstrations took place to protest against the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, one was organised by Hamas the other by the Contractors’ Union. - On six occasions, IDF patrol boats opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats at sea (Rafah).

A ’humanitarian disaster’ next door
Nurit Wurgaft, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
About two months ago, businessman and entrepreneur Yossi Kucik saw a report on the "Mabat" nightly news program about African refugees in Israel. One of those mentioned in the report was Nahom, a pregnant woman who is disabled, a refugee and a daughter of refugees from Eritrea. She was born in Sudan to parents who had fled the civil war in Ethiopia, married a refugee from Eritrea and together they decided to flee to Egypt and from there to Israel. Why to Israel? Mainly for fear that they would be sent back to Eritrea, a country that Nahom has never visited, but where she and her husband may face imprisonment and perhaps even torture. In Israel, the two were imprisoned separately and met again only after her husband took a risk and escaped from the moshav where he had been sent to work as an alternative to detention.

Dignitaries honor Tom Lantos; Livni: World lost a great leader
Shmuel Rosner and Ron Kamara, Ha’aretz 2/15/2008
American and foreign dignitaries gathered at Capitol Hill’s Statuary Hall on Thursday for the memorial service for Representative Tom Lantos, who died Tuesday at the age of 80. Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress, announced approximately a month ago that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni addressed the mourners, saying "the free world has lost a great leader, and Israel has lost a great friend." "Tom Lantos represents in our eyes - as a man - what we aspire to represent as a nation," Livni said. "In the Holocaust, Tom lost his family and all that was dear to him, but he never abandoned his values or lost his self-respect." The memorial service was attended among others by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Shas: We won’t stay in a gov’t that scrimps on Israel’s children
Ruth Sinai and Yair Ettingers, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
Deputy Prime Minister and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai on Thursday threatened to leave the government after report showed that disturbing numbers of children live below the poverty line. "We (Shas) will not remain in a government that scrimps on the children of Israel. Even National Insurance Institute experts say the only solution is to reinstate pension payments," said Yishai. Nearly 45 thousand Israelis slipped below the poverty line in 2007, including 30 thousand children, according to the NII’s biannual poverty report that was released Thursday. The report, which focuses on the first six months of 2007 shows that the poverty rate in Israel continued to rise from 24. 4 percent in 2006 to 24. 7 in 2007. According to the report, 1,674,800 Israelis are now below the poverty line which stands at a monthly income of NIS 2,028 per person and NIS 5,191 for a family of four.

State offers to halve settlers’ personal debts to NIS 350M
Amiram Cohen, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
The state is offering to forgive NIS 350 million in personal debts of 3,500 settlers in 140 communities in the West Bank, Jordan Valley and Golan Heights, who owe a combined NIS 700 million. The debts originate in 30-year loans the state provided between 1978 and 2007. Loans that were granted to settlers in communities in Gush Katif and northern Samaria were erased in a decision by the ministerial disengagement committee. But it isn’t clear whether this erasure will be legally enforceable, and whether the evacuated settlers will be liable for partial payment of the debt. Although debtors are being urged to take advantage of the program, government sources think they may not, because of the political uncertainty clouding their future.

Report: Standard of living rises, poor remain impoverished
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 2/14/2008
National Insurance Institute report indicates no change in poverty indicators, despite overall rise in standard of living and wages. Rise in amount of elderly living under poverty line - Deprived in a land of plenty: While the overall standard of living in Israel has risen this year, a report published Thursday by the National Insurance Institute (NII) indicated that poverty in Israel has not shown a commensurate decline. The news was somewhat unexpected given the fact that there have been wages and employment rates have been on the rise which has led to a higher standard of living in the country. Researchers were also surprised to find a 2% increase in poverty indicators among Israel’s elderly, which constitute 20% of all Israeli households. There is also a continuing trend of impoverishment among working families, which can be explained by low-income jobs as well as part-time employment.

IMF praises Israel’s economic performance
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 2/14/2008
The IMF’s report projects 3. 5% GDP growth for Israel in 2008. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released a positive report on the Israeli economy in 2007, together with projections for 2008. The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund praised Israel’s economic performance in 2007, calling it "exceptional." . "Executive Directors welcomed the Israeli economy’s exceptional performance, which reflects both sound policy implementation and strong global growth," the report says. The Executive Board expresses total support for continuation of the fiscal policy of Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On, which led to fiscal balance in 2007, and for the monetary policy of Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, which stabilized inflation. For 2008, the IMF Executive Board sees a GDP growth rate of just 3.

A financial center? Israel??
Laura Goldman, Globes Online 2/14/2008
Deep changes are needed to realize Finance Ministry chief Ariav’s vision. When Yarom Ariav, the new director general of the Finance Ministry, declared that he wanted to make Israel a financial capital on a par with London, Hong Kong, and Switzerland, I laughed out loud. Israel being crowned a financial center seemed as likely as snow in the sweltering heat of Israel’s August. My curiosity was piqued at the audaciousness of his idea, so I set out to explore the possibilities of a new world where finance, not high tech, was king in Israel. The first stop on my listening tour was a visit with two employees of the Finance Ministry, Amnon Kraus and Arik Peretz. Kraus is a consultant to the Director General and Peretz is the Deputy Commissioner of Capital Markets, Insurance, and Savings. Like all Israelis, I like to bash the incompetence of our government and bureaucrats.

Housing prices drop
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 2/14/2008
Prices fell in the fourth quarter of 2007 despite higher demand from foreign buyers. Housing prices fell nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2007, the Bank of Israel reports in the Survey of Economic Developments - July-December 2007. The Housing Prices Index fell by 2. 3% in the fourth quarter after rising by 4. 7% in the third quarter. There is a wide variance in housing prices between high demand areas and prices in outlying areas. Prices rose sharply in the former, while falling in the latter. The Bank of Israel noted a number of factors boosting housing demand, including rising demand for apartments by foreign residents last year, but said that the industry did not respond to the increase. The number of housing starts and completions remained at the low points reached in recent years. Housing starts rose by 2%, but housing completions fell by 9%.

Canadian energy giant mulls Negev project
Dalia Tal and Lior Baron, Globes Online 2/14/2008
The 250-MW solar power station will produce 2. 5% of Israel’s electricity needs. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Canadian renewable energy company SkyPower Corporation may participate in the tender for the solar energy power station to be built at Ashelim in the Negev. The $600-700 million tender is due to be published by the end of the month. A SkyPower delegation recently visited Israel and held preliminary talks about cooperation with some of the Israeli companies planning to bid in the tender. SkyPower also asked for full information about the project from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of National Infrastructures, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. SkyPower is one of Canada’s largest renewable energy companies. It specializes in the development, construction, and management of wind farms and solar energy power stations.

Striking an ancient chord
Hagai Hitron, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
Sounds, archaeological finds and scientific hypotheses all play major roles in an exhibition entitled "Sounds of Ancient Music," which opened last week at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. Focusing on musical developments in ancient Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria and other cultures of the Ancient Near East, through the periods of the Kingdom of Judea, Greece and the Roman Empire, the exhibition features 137 objects - among them, rare musical instruments that have been preserved from antiquity, as well as full-sized replicas of instruments from those early eras. Among other items on display are a flute, fragments of which were discovered in a burial cave in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem and dating back to the Second Temple period, as well as the well-known stone from that same period bearing the inscription, "To the House of Trumpeting to the k.

Moallem vows response in kind to Bush’s new sanctions
Daily Star 2/15/2008
Syrian Foreign Minister WalidMoallem said on Thursday Damascus would retaliate with its own sanctions after US President George W. Bush said on Wednesday he waswidening US sanctions against Syria. "This is not the first time the United States has taken measures against Syria. But this time we will impose our own sanctions on the US," Moallem told a joint news conference with visiting IranianForeign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Referring to Israel’s 34-day war on Lebanon in 2006, Moallem said "dozens of Syrians who became victims in the Israeli aggression against Lebanon will start proceedings against the US because Israel used American arms" against them. On Wednesday Bush ordered new sanctions targeting officials engaged in "public corruption," amid charges that Damascus is allegedly trying to undermine stability in Iraq and undercut Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Mass tributes honor Hariri, Mughniyeh
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 2/15/2008
’Our hand is extended’ to the opposition - BEIRUT: Hundreds of thousands of government supporters braved bad weather to rally in Downtown Beirut on Thursday to commemorate the passage of three years since former Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination. Demonstrators came from across the country to converge on Martyrs Square, where like last year, March 14 supporters had to share space with their rivals in the opposition, whose tents have occupied the upper half of the square since December 2006 in a protest to demand more say in the government. Addressing the crowd, Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri accused the Syrian regime of being an "Israeli product." The same accusation was made against Lebanon’s anti-Syrian government by Syrian President Bashar Assad a few days after the end of the 2006 war with Israel.

Prophet cartoon sparks boycott call
Al Jazeera 2/14/2008
Muslims across the world have reacted angrily to the reprinting of political cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by Danish newspapers, which they claim are offensive. A Kuwaiti politician on Thursday called for a boycott of Denmark after 17 Danish newspapers ran an illustration of the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, with a lit fuse. "We must impose a total political and economic boycott of Denmark," Waleed al-Tabtabai told the Kuwaiti parliament. "This is a provocative and insulting act and we must take a strong reaction." In the Gaza Strip, Hamas joined in the condemnation, saying the cartoon was an "offence to the feelings of tens of millions of Muslims". The Palestinian organisation called for those responsible to be put on trial.


Israeli army carrying out rampage of terror, sabotage in Palestinian town
Khalid Amayreh, Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2008
      BEIT UMMAR, (PIC)-- For the third consecutive day, hundreds of Israeli occupation soldiers and agents of Israel’s chief domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, are savaging and terrorizing this small Palestinian town of 10,000 inhabitants, located just a few kilometers north of Hebron in the southern West Bank.
     The occupation forces declared the town "a closed military zone" as crack soldiers moved from house to house, terrorizing civilians, beating youngsters, and vandalizing public and private property.
     According to residents reached by telephone, Israeli soldiers were "carrying a wave of collective punishments sweeping arrests."
     "First, they ordered all males from 12 to 70 to school yards and streets in sub-zero temperature, and then heavily armed soldiers moved from house to house, beating..."

Intifada redux

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
      The intifada is back. Maybe not in full force, but the sights we saw last weekend suddenly brought us back 20 years. Israel Defense Forces bulldozers blocked the main entrance to the village of Azoun. Its roads were strewn with stones; Molotov cocktails were thrown; the IDF distributed threatening fliers; a curfew was imposed; and dozens of young men gathered on streetcorners, slingshots in hand, waiting for IDF jeeps - just as then.
     Just as then the smell of burning tires filled the air, and the half-deserted streets were frightening. Only the young people dared to leave their shuttered homes. In Azoun they say that since the IDF officer named "Captain Joe" arrived in town, their lives have changed. They speak of harassment of schoolchildren, guns fired at the knees of the boys, patrols and arrests.
     In handwritten and poor Arabic - there is hardly a word without a spelling mistake - photocopied fliers were distributed over the weekend in the streets: "We demand that the residents of Azoun stop throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. If you don’t stop the riots, Captain Joe will enter the town and begin lethal firing at the residents, arrest the children and close the shops. This is our decision. If you don’t stop the riots, everyone will be responsible. This is a final warning - Captain Joe."

How the EU helps Israel to strangle Gaza

David Morrison, Electronic Intifada 2/14/2008
      How is Israel able to strangle the Gaza Strip when there is supposed to be an international crossing between Gaza and Egypt not controlled by Israelis?
     Certainly, free movement was the promise held out in the comprehensive Agreement on Movement and Access, signed more than two years ago by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The first of the six components of this agreement was that there would be a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah, controlled by the PA and Egypt. At the time, this was hailed as an historic step on the road to a Palestinian state -- for the first time, it was said, Palestinians would have access to the outside world free from Israeli control.
     So, how was Israel still able to impose a suffocating blockade on the Strip, home to almost 1.5 million Palestinians, eighty percent of them refugees? After Palestinian forces opened the border wall on 23 January, breaking the siege, many Palestinians blamed Egypt for not doing the same much earlier to relieve the suffering and deprivation that had brought Gaza to within days of running out of food and medicine. But however complicit Egypt may have been it was not alone.

The EU is marginalizing itself in Gaza

Stuart Reigeluth, Daily Star 2/15/2008
      Two years have passed since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections. Two years in which the international boycott has ostracized and further radicalized the Islamic movement, leading to its takeover of the Gaza Strip last July, in a move that consolidated its geographic and political separation from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
     Two years, also, which recently culminated in the breaching of the southern Gaza border with Egypt and renewed Israeli preparations for a massive offensive against the strip. The European Union has expressed concern as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has deteriorated to unprecedented levels during the two years in which EU monitors were meant to supervise the passage of Palestinians at the Rafah crossing, but now find themselves restricted to the Dan Gardens beach resort in Ashkelon.

"I feel as if I were living in South Africa"

Saady Abu-Hatoum, Arab Association for Human Rights, Electronic Intifada 2/14/2008
      In the United States and other Western countries, the symbol of the campaign for nuclear disarmament has gradually become a recognized emblem of peace. In the Middle East, however, peace is symbolized by a dove bearing an olive leaf. This symbol has its origins in the Biblical story of Noah, who stayed in the ark until he sent out a dove to see whether the flood was over. When the dove returned to the ark with an olive leaf in its beak, he understood that the waters had receded and the ark could be opened.
     In Middle Eastern culture the olive tree has become the main symbol of stability, tranquility and peace. The olive tree also symbolizes the eternal bond between humans and the land. On 13 November 1974, when Yasser Arafat spoke at the UN Assembly in New York for the first time as the representative of the Palestinian people, he famously commented: "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

No Valentine break for Gaza flower producers

Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 2/14/2008
      RAFAH, Gaza Strip, 14 February (IPS) - After generations of occupation, Valentine’s Day has meant little in the Gaza Strip. But the flowers that lovers presented in Europe has.
     Majed Hadaeid, 43, knows that better than most, as he watches livestock make a meal of the flowers he had hoped to export to Europe.
     "I have 130 dunams [32 acres]," he says. "All carnations, in 30 different colors, and varieties yielding 16-17 million blossoms per year."
     In all, about 480 dunams of plantation produce on average 60 million flowers a year in Gaza between mid-November and mid-May. The seasonal export brings five million dollars in revenue, and means 4,000 jobs.
     Hadaeid’s nursery is one of the largest. Farmers like him usually sell to the European floral exchange in the Netherlands for distribution. Valentine’s Day on 14 February brings the largest sales.
     This year, it did not.

Gaza Diary: Life after the party

Omar, a humanitarian worker in partnership with Oxfam, Al Jazeera 2/14/2008
      My two daughters turned seven today. I had been saving for months so that I could afford to make their birthday celebrations special. There is very little children can look forward to these days, so this is important for them – and me.
     I invited as many families and friends as possible for their party. But, only a few came in the end. Some of them did not tell me why, perhaps because they did not want to admit to the sad truth – they could not afford to attend this family event or even buy presents.
     Transportation is difficult given the trickle of fuel that is being allowed into Gaza at the moment. This means that travel costs have soared and many families, including mine, do not have fuel to put into their cars or the money to pay for taxis.

Battle dress

Tamara Traubmann and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
      About 15 students, most of them Jewish, were waiting for the filmmaker Nizar Hassan when he got to the restaurant outside Sderot. They hugged and kissed him. Their relations seemed open and warm - a far cry from the image of the aggressive and contemptuous lecturer that has clung to Hassan for the past few months, since he reportedly threw an army-reservist student out of his class for showing up in a uniform.
     The students met with Hassan last Wednesday, after demonstrating on his behalf, along with other students and a few lecturers, on the campus of Sapir Academic College in the western Negev town of Sderot. Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir and a group of young followers of the late ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane gathered for a counter demonstration, which the students had organized in support of reserve soldiers. Numerous journalists were on the scene as well, but Hassan chose to keep his distance from them. In his opinion, the Israeli media not only published erroneous information about what happened during the lesson, but also prejudged him in their militaristic discourse.
     Hassan did not, in fact, eject student Eyal Cohen, a lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces reserves, from the classroom. Rather, he told him: "I am absolutely unwilling to have people bearing arms and in uniform - whether of the police, of Fatah or of Hamas - come to my class." However, since November, when the mistaken reports were first published, Hassan has been under public attack by senior IDF officers and politicians, and behind the scenes by senior staff and students at the college, where he has worked for the past four years."

What should be done with Gaza

Tom Segev, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
      "...if the refugees receive civil rights", he said, "they will demand their land, and their land is located in Nir Am and in Nahal Oz and there is no other land."
     A few weeks after the Sinai Campaign, which took place in October 1956, justice minister Pinhas Rosen was sitting in a Tel Aviv restaurant. A nice young soldier, as the minister described him, approached his table and said, "Mr. Minister, I’m sitting here with a member of the Gaza Council and his wife. His name is Hussein; his wife is Christian, totally European, they speak quite a good English." Rosen agreed to speak to the man and asked him to whom he would want to transfer rule in Gaza: Israel, Egypt or the United Nations? Those were the alternatives that were being discussed in the cabinet at the time. Hussein said he would like the UN to govern, and Rosen reported this at the cabinet meeting held on December 31, 1956.
     The minutes of that session and another one held on November 25 are now open for perusal in the Israel State Archives. As far as can be learned from them, the man the justice minister met by chance was the only one of the Strip’s 300,000 residents who was asked about his preference. The essence of the minutes is as follows: Everyone agreed that Gaza should remain in Israeli hands; everyone wanted to get rid of the inhabitants. Nobody knew what to do.

Poets in an ’enemy’ language

Meron Rapoport, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
      At a certain point during our conversation at Cafe Yafa, I started feeling stupid. Across from me sat two young poets from Jaffa, Samaa Shakra, 18, and Muhammad Agwani, 20, talking about their poetry. Both are Arab, and both write in Hebrew. Poets use language so intimately, I said. Isn’t it strange for you to write in a language that’s not your mother tongue? "I’ve been learning Hebrew all my life," Shakra replied. "I feel comfortable in Hebrew. I like the language." "It’s easier for me to express my pain in Hebrew," Agwani added.
     Actually, why should that be surprising, I thought to myself. To find other historical examples, there is no need to go as far afield as Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian who wrote wonderful English, or Irishman Samuel Beckett, who wrote in French: Jewish history is replete with writers and poets who spoke Yiddish or Ladino at home, but wrote in Russian, German or Arabic.

Listen to the children

Dafna Golan, Ha’aretz 2/14/2008
      It’s a pity Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did not stay to listen to the youthful participants at the Israel Model United Nations (IMUN) conference last month and to answer their questions.
     She explained there that one could not compare between a child who is wounded in Sderot to one wounded in the Gaza Strip. Had she bothered to devote a few more minutes to the 150 teenagers, she could have learned a lot from them.
     Pupils from 10 Jerusalem schools attended the conference, Jews and Arabs, religious and secular. But the foreign minister did not listen to them. She came to speak about the world’s double standard, and revealed her own and Israel’s double standard.
     IMUN was established with much work, talent and good will to enable the youth to learn how the UN works, to learn to listen and formulate other perspectives on politics, and to try to persuade each other politely and respectfully.