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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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18 February 2008


Settlers escalate their attacks against Palestinian lands, property in Silwan
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
Over the past few days, Israeli settlers intensified their attacks against lands and properties of the residents of Silwan neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Since the beginning of this year, settlers illegally occupied several Palestinian homes, while Israel continued to dig tunnels in that area causing damage to the houses and streets. On Sunday, dozens of extremist settlers uprooted 30 newly planted olive trees from the land of the resident Mohammad Shaban in Wadi Hilwa area. The attack was carried out on Sunday at night, approximately at 11, when the settlers entered the land and started uprooted the newly planted trees. The settlers escaped when they noticed that several Palestinian youth saw them. Attorney Alesa’ Sha’ban said that he went to the land and saw approximately 30 uprooted trees and graffiti written in Arabic and Hebrew by the settlers stating "This is private property".

Sixteen Palestinians seized in West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli forces on Monday morning apprehended 16 Palestinians in several West Bank districts. Hebrew sources said the detainees were from the cities of Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah in the West Bank. Eyewitnesses told our Nablus correspondent that Israeli forces raided the city and seized an employee, 40-year-old Abdul-Hakim Al-Qadah, of the Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs. Local sources in the Palestinian town of Abu Dis in east Jerusalem told Ma’an that Israeli forces stormed the town overnight and ransacked more than ten houses under the guise of searching for "wanted Palestinian activists." They seized three young men, 18-year-old Mahir Badir, 18-year-old Raed Badir and 27-year-old Khalid Bahar. The sources added that the Israeli soldiers ransacked the home of Yousif Badir whose son Ahmad was arrested last week.

Palestinians deny Olmert’s claim to have shelved status of Occupied Jerusalem
Daily Star 2/19/2008
Palestinian officials on Monday angrily rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s claim that they agreed to delay talks on the fate of Occupied Jerusalem until the last phase of peace negotiations. The disagreement emerged a day before Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were scheduled to meet for the latest in a series of US-backed talks aimed at reaching a peace deal by the end of the year, and as a senior EU diplomat criticized Israel for its restrictions in the Occupied West Bank. Olmert, meanwhile, said on Monday that Israel would maintain the tighter blockade that it has imposed on the Gaza Strip since last month. "We will continue to apply sanctions that are hurtful to the needs of the [Palestinian] population in order for it to be clear that living conditions cannot be altered only from our side," he told the parliamentary group of his Kadima party in allusion to near daily rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel tightens closures in the northern West Bank, killing one woman
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Despite claims that movement for Palestinians in the West Bank has become easier, Israeli forces have recently started to impose the most stringent restrictions on movement in the West Bank since 2003, even leading to civilian casualties and death, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PHCR) said on Sunday. PCHR’s investigation on February 13, 2008 reported that Israeli forces closed dozens of roads, including agricultural roads, with large boulders and other barriers, and set up checkpoints on main roads, especially in the northern West Bank. Older checkpoints have been reopened, such as the Al-Badhan checkpoint northeast of the West Bank city of Nablus and the Yitzhar settlement checkpoint south of the city. Movement between governorates, and sometimes even within governorates, in the northern West Bank through stationary...

Olmert: Hamas responsible for situation in Gaza
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Prime minister tells Kadima faction members that as far as Israel is concerned, it is irrelevant whether Hamas operatives are involved in every single incident which takes place in Strip. ’What matters is that they bear responsibility,’ he says - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert clarified Monday that Hamas was responsible for everything taking place in the Gaza Strip. Speaking at the weekly Kadima faction meeting, the prime minister said that "as far as we are concerned, it is irrelevant whether Hamas members are involved in every single incident. What matters is that they bear responsibility and they will be responsible for the results of every activity taking place there." According to Olmert, "We continue to impose sanctions which could harm the population’s needs in a controlled manner, so as not to create a humanitarian crisis, but definitely in order...

Ambulances in Gaza unable to run due to fuel shortage
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Ambulances in the Gaza Strip ran out of fuel on Monday due to the reduction of fuel shipment from Israel to Gaza. The ambulance and emergency service in the Palestinian Health Ministry organized a ’sit-in’ for the ambulance drivers in protest against the Israeli decision to further reduce fuel deliveries. Muawiya Hassanain, director of ambulance and emergency service, appealed to the international Quartet and the World Health organization (WHO), as well as the United States, the UN, UNICEF and the Red Cross - asking them to end the siege of the Gaza Strip and to secure resumption of fuel delivery. Hassanain added, "Since last week, the ambulance and emergency service has received only 300 litres of Benzene and 400 litres of diesel for ambulances and other vehicles." He explained that there are 57 vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Health.

Palestinian dies of wounds sustained Sunday in Rafah
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
Palestinian medical sources reported on Monday that one resident died of wounds sustained during an Israeli military invasion into Al Shouka area in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Sunday noon. The sources identified the resident as Awni Abu Taha, 45. He was seriously wounded after he suffered a gunshot injury to his head and died on Monday at noon. He was looking through his window when an Israeli soldier fired at him and injured him in the head. He died at the Gaza- European shortly after he was announced clinically dead. On Sunday, the Israeli army killed four Palestinian fighters and injured 15 residents during an invasion into eastern Rafah. Three of the killed were members of the Salah Ed Deenbrigades of the Popular Resistance Committees and the fourth is a member of the Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

Three Palestinians injured in Hebron
Nisreen Qumsieh, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
Three residents of the southern West Bank city of Hebron were injured on Monday, two seriously as army assaulted them. The third was injured as a suspicious device left behind by the Israeli army detonated near him. Medical sources in Hebron reported, that three Palestinian residents have arrived to the emergency room in Hebron hospital as they were severely bruised. Two got bruises in different parts of their bodies as being beaten by Israeli soldiers, near the Abraham Mosque, also known as, the tomb of Patriarchs. Sources identified the two as Labib al-Fakhouri,17 and Yousef Misowadda,19. Menwhile, Hisham Abu Maria, 14, from the nearby town of Beit Omar was injured in his left arm as an explosive device, believed to be left behind by the Israeli military detonated at a close distance where Abu Maria was standing.

Rocket explodes near clinic in southern kibbutz
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Four residents suffer from shock, as two Qassams fired from Gaza hit Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. One rocket lands near clinic, causing great damage; other falls near entrance to kibbutz. Several hours later, two rockets land in Sderot, one damages house in town - Two Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit a kibbutz in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council on Monday afternoon, one of them exploding near a clinic. Four residents suffered from shock and were tended to by Magen David Adom paramedics. Another rocket landed at the entrance to the kibbutz. Several hours later, two rockets landed in Sderot, one of them causing slight damage to a house in town. Another rocket landed in an open field in the area. The Color Red alert system failed to go off in all three cases. The kibbutz houses are unfortified, and its residents demonstrated Sunday...

Nine Qassams hit Negev, one strikes yard of home in Sderot
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Monday fired a barrage of nine Qassam rockets at the western Negev, one of which struck the yard of a house in Sderot. There were no direct injuries as a result of the strike, but one woman was lightly hurt when she fell on her way to take shelter. Two of the rockets struck near an infirmary in a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. The strike caused some damage and four people were treated for shock. Two more rockets struck open fields in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, causing no injuries or damage. Seven mortar shells and four Qassam rockets were launched at the western Negev on Sunday afternoon. One of the rockets hit the yard of a house in Sderot, near a kindergarten. A number of people suffered from shock as a result of the strike and one woman...

Israeli forces raid Huwwara and Beita near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers invaded the northern West Bank towns of Huwwara and Beita, south of Nablus, and raided the headquarters of the Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs in Huwwara on Sunday morning. Ma’an’s reporter in Nablus said that the invading forces imposed a curfew on the towns and fired flash and sonic bombs. The head of Huwwara’s Municipal Council, Samir Mur’ib, said that Israeli forces forcefully entered and ransacked several homes, breaking the doors. [end]

LEBANON: Israel’s 2006 bombing of southern Lebanon could spur cluster bomb ban - HRW
Serene Assir/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/19/2008
BEIRUT, 18 February 2008 (IRIN) - As some 100 nations meet on 18 February to discuss a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised its estimate of the bombs and bomblets Israel showered over southern Lebanon in the 2006 war with Hezbollah, to as many as 4. 6 million. HRW"™s estimate - an increase on the UN figure of about 4 million - is based on information gathered from Israeli soldiers who re-supplied Multiple Launch Rocket System units with cluster bombs during the July-August 2006. The number is more than were used in recent conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq combined, it said. Israel fired cluster bombs, either US-supplied or manufactured in Israel, on nearly 1,000 individual strike sites across 1,400sqkm of southern Lebanon, an area slightly larger than the US state of Rhode Island.

Delayed supply convoy enters Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - After two weeks of delay, aid gathered by a coalition of Israeli groups passed into the Gaza Strip at the Sufa Border Crossing near Kibbutz Kisufim on Monday. Early on Monday afternoon the supply convoy was permitted to cross into Gaza after weeks of negotiations with the Israeli authorities. On Saturday 26th January 1,500 activists attended a protest at the Erez Checkpoint accompanying a supply convoy of collected goods; since then the Israeli military authorities held up the transfer of the goods into Gaza. The supplies included five tons of basic foodstuffs purchased from donations collected from both Israel and the rest of the world. Also included were water purification filters, much needed for public institutions in Gaza where the water is highly polluted, and two tons of personal aid packages, prepared by Israeli families as a goodwill gesture to the inhabitants of Gaza.

Gaza civilians die along with assassinated leader
Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 2/18/2008
GAZA CITY, 16 February (IPS) - Human remains mix with debris following the latest Israeli assault Friday on Bureij camp in Gaza Strip. Early reports listed nine dead and more than 50 injured. A targeted leader was killed, but many others were killed too. "It’s very hard for us to rescue, or even locate bodies beneath the building," said a medical relief worker from the local Bureij hospital. Israel has not confirmed responsibility for the missile attack by F-16 aircraft. "This is a barbaric crime," said Dr. Hassan Khalaf, head of the local al-Shifa hospital. "They bombed residential areas where people were sleeping in their houses." The attack apparently targeted the house of a top leader of the al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad party. The leader, Ayman al-Fayed, 42, was reported killed, along with two of his children and his wife. Other victims were from the Bureij camp.

Health ministry organizes sit-in after breakdown of ambulance service
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The general administration of emergency and ambulance in the health ministry in Gaza organized on Monday a picket in protest at the Israeli decision of slashing fuel supplies to the Strip which led ambulance service in hospitals to stop completely. Dr. Moawiya Hassanein, the director-general of emergency and ambulance, appealed urgently to the quartet committee, the world health organization, the UN’s organizations and the Red Cross to pressure the Israeli government to allow the entry of sufficient fuel supplies to Gaza and its hospitals.    For his part, Khaled Radi, the spokesman for the health ministry, considered the Israeli decision of reducing fuel supplies purchased by Gaza as a "death sentence" on all patients and wounded in the Gaza Strip, warning that the world would soon hear of a humanitarian disaster and thus must move urgently and immediately to stop it.

Underage detainee complains he was raped by an Israeli prisoner
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
The Israeli Army radio reported that a Palestinian underage detainee imprisoned in Ophic Israeli prison complained that he was raped by an Israeli prisoner, held for criminal charges and placed with the child in the same cell. The detainee is 16 year-oldand was under interrogation and placed in solitary confinement. The Radio reported that the Israeli police initiated a probe into the issue and transferred the Palestinian detainee to another room away from the rapist. Israel is illegally holding 350 underage Palestinian prisoners, including one female detainee identified as Ayat Dababsa, 16. A total of 90 female detainees are currently imprisoned by Israel, the Palestinian Prisoners Society reported. Nearly 11500 Palestinians are detained by Israel among them 900 who need medical attention including 500 who need surgeries and urgent treatment, the Society added.

Call for investigation into explosion at Al-Bureij Refugee Camp
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an -The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) along with the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights is calling for an investigation into an explosion that destroyed a house in Al-Bureij refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip, on Friday 15th February. The explosion resulted in the death of eight people and the injury of dozens more; five children were amongst those killed. The Centres call for the results of the investigation to be publicised. The explosion occurred in the house of 41-year-old Ayman Atallah Ahmad Fayed, an activist in the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The ground-floor of the concrete building was completely destroyed killing both the activist and his wife, 39-year-old Marwa Azzam Fayed, along with three of their children 17-year-old Ali, 12-year-old Basma and 5-year-old Ayyoub.

Israeli forces apprehend Palestinian woman in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces apprehended 22-year-old Tasbeeh Khayyat on Monday in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The Nafha Society, which defends Palestinian prisoners and human rights, said that Israeli forces stormed a street in Nablus and seized the woman after ransacking her home. Khayyat is a student in the engineering faculty at the An-Najah National University. The Nafha Society condemned the action and affirmed that there has been a notable escalation in Israeli forces seizing Palestinian women. They highlighted that seven Palestinian women have been apprehended since the beginning of 2008. [end]

Israeli forces kidnap a female university student in Nablus
Nisreen Qumsieh, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
The media department of Nafha Society for Defending Human and Prisoner Rights indicated on Monday that Israeli military invaded the northern West Bank city of Nablus and kidnapped a female Palestinian from her home. Nafha Society condemned the kidnapping, indicating there had been a visible raise of targeting Palestinian females. The Society confirmed that in addition to al-Khayyat, six Palestinian females have been abducted since the beginning of this year identifying them as, Mahasen ’Amr, Asma’ al Batran, Ahlam Jowhar, Afaf Jom’a, and Isra’ al-’Amarna. [end]

Patient dies due to inability to reach a hospital - IOF impose stringent restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, ReliefWeb 2/17/2008
IOF have started enforcing stringent restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, which hasn’t witnessed such restrictions in years. It has become noticeable that movement between different West Bank governorates is nearly impossible. This renewed siege has led to the death of a Palestinian woman by heart attack after IOF prevented the ambulance carrying her from reaching its hospital destination. In addition, IOF prevented the woman’s relatives from reaching the ambulance. PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that in the evening hours of Wednesday, 13 February 2008, IOF closed tens of roads and agricultural roads with large boulders and earth barriers. In addition, IOF erected checkpoints on main roads, especially in the northern West Bank. The IOF severity restrictions were unprecedented since 2003.

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.

UN Official: Only Diplomacy can Solve Gaza Crisis
Akiva Eldar, MIFTAH 2/18/2008
The United Nations’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs warned Israel against an invasion of the Gaza Strip and said that the crisis in the South can be solved only by diplomacy." The only thing that will make a lasting difference is a peace settlement," he said. "You can’t stop these problems militarily. They have to be solved through negotiations." In an interview with Haaretz after his visit to Sderot, Sir John Holmes said that the response to the Qassam rocket attacks must be proportional from a humanitarian point of view. The former British diplomat, who had been involved in negotiations regarding Northern Ireland, said that despite the terrorism, the British government never considered bombing that region, and sought other means to resolve the crisis. Holmes said he was aware of the domestic pressure on the Israeli government to respond to the Qassam attacks, as well as the differences between the situation here and in Northern Ireland, but said there were no magic formulas.

Egypt deports 350 Palestinians back to Gaza
Reuters, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Security forces say Palestinians transported to Rafah and from there to Gaza; group is part of at least 3,000 Palestinians left in Gaza after breaching of border several weeks ago - Egypt has deported some 350 Palestinians, rounded up in North Sinai over the past four days, to Gaza, security sources said on Monday. "The Salaheddin border gate was opened this evening and the Palestinians were transported in buses to the city of Rafah and then to Gaza," one security source said. Egyptian security forces said earlier that police had rounded up some 500 Palestinians and was holding them at a youth hostel in the provincial capital el-Arish. "The remaining... Palestinians will be deported in the next few hours," the security source said. The group is part of at least 3,000 Palestinians left inside Egypt after hundreds of thousands of Gaza...

Egyptian security officer says detained Palestinians will be allowed to leave
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
(MaanImages) Gaza – Ma’an – An Egyptian security officer allegedly promised a group of detained Palestinians in the Egyptian border town of Al-Arish that they will allowed to return to the Gaza Strip soon, one of the stranded men, Khalid Abu Hasira, told Ma’an. The promise comes after a heated argument over the lack of food and medical treatment nearly developed into skirmishes with the Egyptian police in charge of guarding the sports complex where approximately 500 Palestinians are being detained, Abu Hasira said. He also said the Egyptian police forcefully dispersed a protest organized by the detained men. The group of Gazan citizens were arrested by Egyptian police after they failed to return to the Gaza Strip when the border was resealed in early February, following the brief period of unrestricted cross-border movement.

Egypt to deport 500 Palestinians who crossed in border breach
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Egyptian police have rounded up some 500 Palestinians in the northern Sinai Penninsula over the past four days and plan to deport them back into the Gaza Strip shortly, Egyptian security sources said on Monday. The Palestinians are some of at least 3,000 left inside Egypt after hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents crossed the border in January, when Hamas militants blasted through the frontier fence. Egyptian police are holding the 500 Palestinians at a youth hostel in the provincial capital El Arish preparing for their repatriation, one security source said. Police have been raiding furnished apartments and chalets in north Sinai in search of Palestinians, the source added. But other Palestinians are staying with relatives and friends in El Arish, the nearby town of Sheikh Zuweid and in the border town of Rafah, he said.

Egypt uncovers 100 kg explosives cache near Gaza border
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Explosives cache containing TNT hidden in sacks near country’s volatile border with Strip; police act on tip from local Bedouins - Egyptian security forces on Monday uncovered an explosives cache containing 100 kilograms (220. 5 pounds) of TNT hidden in sacks near the country’s volatile border with the Gaza Strip, a police officer said. The cache, found buried a few feet deep in the soil in a deserted area of the northern Sinai peninsula, came after police acted on a tip from local Bedouins, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media. The find took place near Sheik Zuwiyed town, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The Bedouins led the authorities to the location of the explosives.

Livni to Rice: Israel is to wage a large-scale military assault on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Hebrew media reported that Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni told her American counterpart Condoleezza Rice during their last meeting in Washington that Israel is preparing to wage a large-scale military operation against the Gaza Strip. Israeli Ma’ariv newspaper’s website quoted Israeli sources that attended the meeting as saying that Livni confirmed to Rice that the Israeli government is studying the efficiency of the economic sanctions and pressures it imposed on Gaza before waging a military land operation. In another context, the information office of the Nafha society for the defense of prisoners and human rights stated the IOF troops killed during only two weeks in February 38 Palestinians including six children and one woman 75 percent of them were killed in the Gaza Strip.

UN humanitarian chief: Only a just and lasting peace can end human suffering in Israel and Palestine
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 2/17/2008
John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, today travelled to the town of Sderot in west Negev, Israel, an area severely affected by the rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip. During his visit, Mr. Holmes was able to see for himself the impact of violence on the daily lives of Israeli families. Upon his arrival in Sderot, Mr. Holmes met with the city’s Mayor, who briefed him on the difficulties faced by local civilians as a result of almost daily rocket attacks. According to local officials, the seven years of violence have taken a significant toll on the city and lives of its residents. Numerous houses have been hit and damaged since 2001, commercial activities have considerably slowed, and as many as 12 percent of some 22,000 Sderot residents have chosen to leave the town.

French FM urges Israel to lift Gaza blockade
Middle East Online 2/16/2008
JERUSALEM - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and to freeze its policy of building settlements in the West Bank, at the start of a visit to the region on Saturday. "The economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza is especially bad. The blockade directly affects the entire economy and living conditions as well," he said in an interview with Al-Quds newspaper. "We call for the Gaza blockade to be lifted -- there must be free movement of both people and goods," Kouchner told the main Arabic daily in the Palestinian territories. Israel has kept Gaza under effective lockdown since last June following the territory’s takeover by the democratically elected movement Hamas, and on January 17 it tightened the blockade before easing it again slightly. The Israelis say the measure is in response to rockets being fired at it by Palestinian militants inside the impoverished coastal territory.

Orient House in Jerusalem reopens, official says
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has re-emloyed thirty to forty people at the Orient House in East Jerusalem, a high ranking Palestinian official said on Monday. Hatim Abdul-Qadir, a Fatah leader and presidential aide for Jerusalem affairs said that he and other Palestinian officials have been holding meetings with foreign dignitaries at the building, which has been closed by Israeli authorities for years. The PLO used to employ over 140 people at the facility, which used to be a central Palestinian institution in Jerusalem. Palestinian security and intelligence officers are also no using the Orient House to a small degree. He explained that they do not carry weapons, nor do they wear military uniforms, and they are not authorized to make arrests. They rather help resolve certain problems and collect information about the construction of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

VIDEO - News / Israel, Hamas reportedly make progress on Shalit deal
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for February 18, 2008. In this edition: Israel and Hamas reportedly make progress on deal to free abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. An IDF Second Lebanon War veteran appeals to the government to approve cutting-edge medical treatment for his paralysis. Jerusalem braces for a rare second snowfall of the winter, as a storm that blanketed parts of Greece and Turkey makes landfall. [end]

Muzaini: European parties approaching Hamas over Shalit deal
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Osama Al-Muzaini, one of the Hamas political leaders, affirmed on Monday that a number of European parties were having contacts with Hamas to mediate a prisoners’ exchange deal with Israel but nothing concrete has been reached yet. Muzaini in a press statement said that talks were made but no agreement was reached so far, explaining that an agreement was reached 11 months ago but the Israelis rejected it. He said that Hamas is insisting on its demand for the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners including women, children and those serving high sentences. The Israeli occupation authority at first agreed to the deal but when the names were given, it retracted its approval, he said. The Hamas leader refused to accept Israel’s selection of prisoners to be released and impose its conditions.

Report: Progress made in deal to free abducted soldier Shalit
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Israel and Hamas have agreed on the identities of 230 Palestinian prisoners, currently being held in Israeli prisons, to be released in exchange for the freedom of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Palestinian militants in June 2006, Army Radio reported Monday. According to the report, the two sides still disagree on the remaining 120 prisoners that Hamas demands be released in the first stage of the prisoner exchange deal, but Israel refuses to free. The breakthrough in the negotiations came after Israel decided to "loosen" the definition of "blood on their hands" - a euphemism used in Israel to describe Palestinians who were involved in murdering Israelis. The term is often used to justify Israel’s refusal to release a given prisoner. Prior to the loosening of the "blood on their hands" criteria, decided upon by a special...

Livni: Halting negotiations will serve Hamas
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Responding to criticism by opposition factions over government’s decision to hold talks with Palestinians despite rocket fire on south, foreign minister says, ’It is our duty to create a better future for the children of Sderot and the children of Israel’ - Halting ongoing peace negotiations with the Palestinians will simply play into Hamas’ hands, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday during a no-confidence discussion at the Knesset. The no-confidence motion was submitted by Yisrael Beiteinu, following the government’s decision to continue talks with the PA despite the rocket attacks on Israel. According to Livni, "the negotiations are intended to set and preserve Israel’s principles, which are being eroded with the passage of time." "If there are no talks, will terror stop? " Livni rhetorically asked the Knesset plenum.

Prisoners exchange deal between Hamas and Israel moving forward
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Discussions of an expected prisoner exchange between Hamas and the Israeli government has witnessed a major progress, Israeli Army Radio said on Monday. According to the radio station, both sides have agreed on 230 out of 350 names of prisoners Hamas wants freed. There are still 120 prisoners that Israel refuses to set free. Progress has been made after a special Israeli ministerial committee has eased the criteria for releasing Palestinian prisoners to include what they call "prisoners with blood on their hands" for military activity against Israel. Army Radio said that 44 Palestinian prisoners who fall in that category have been placed on the lift for the prisoner swap. In order for the deal to succeed, it must be submitted to the Israeli government for approval, and if most of the cabinet rejects it, it will be aborted.

Hamas demands guarantees for Shalit deal
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Senior organization member tells Ynet no breakthrough made in negotiations for kidnapped IDF soldier’s release. ’The Palestinians are waiting for an Israeli confirmation on the identity and number of the prisoners who will be released and want to know how Israel will implement its part in the agreement,’ he says - Despite the optimistic reports in Israel on progress being made in the talks for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit , a senior Hamas member told Ynet on Monday that "no breakthrough has been made in the negotiations. "The Palestinians are waiting for an Israeli confirmation of the identity of the prisoners who will be released and of the number of prisoners who will be freed." According to the source, "The Palestinians are demanding guarantees on the way Israel plans to implement its part in the hostage exchange agreement.

Hamas: Abbas-Olmert meetings encourage Israel to escalate its bloodshed
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement charged on Sunday that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s ongoing meetings with Israeli premier Ehud Olmert only encourage the Israeli occupation to escalate its "bloodshed and brutality" against the Palestinian people. In a statement to the Quds Press, Ismail Redwan, a Hamas spokesman, lashed out at the PA chief’s passivity towards the Israeli crimes committed against the Gaza people the latest of which was the Breij massacre. Redwan added that Abbas, despite the ongoing Israeli aggression against his people, insists on holding and bragging about his meetings with Olmert, which gives the Israeli occupation a green light to escalate the pace of its assaults. The spokesman highlighted that the barbaric Israeli escalation aims at undermining the fortitude and steadfastness of the Palestinian people and forcing them to raise the white flag, but the Israeli...

Abbas does not agree to postponing talks on Jerusalem
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbs is opposed to Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert’s willingness to postpone talks on the issue of Jerusalem, expected to be finalized by end of 2008. In remarks to a Jordanian newspaper, Abbas denied consent over Olmert’s stance, saying that the Jerusalem and the refugees issues should be on top of the two sides’ negotiations’ agenda. Nimer Hammad, Abbas’s political advisor, said Monday that the issue of Jerusalem is a core one that can not be postponed and the president did not agree to Olmert’s proposal. Such developments come shortly before the two leaders meet tomorrow Tuesday within a series of regular meetings to help advance their peace talks, which have been revived since the last November’s Washington-hosted Annapolis summit meeting. Prime Minister Olmert, declared on Sunday that his talks with Abbas are meant to reach an understanding...

Prisons Service refuses early release of man charged with giving Hezbollah information
Yoav Stern and Jack Khourys, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Israel Prisons Service on Monday rejected an appeal to shorten the sentence of Nissim Nasser, an Israeli accused of giving Hezbollah information damaging to Israel’s security. Nasser, who immigrated to Israel from Lebanon, was sentenced to six years imprisonment after he was accused of having contact with an enemy agent and of transferring information with a view to undermining national security. The IPS rejected the petition to shorten Nasser’s sentence on advice from the Shin Bet security service, who charged that Nasser still has contact with Hezbollah. Nasser told Haaretz via his lawyer that he did not expect the petition to be rejected. "I’ve been in prison for six years and will be out in two months," he said. "I am not a danger to the public, but they (the Shin Bet) think I am in contact with Hezbollah."

Sources: Israel deploys Patriot missiles fearing Hezbollah strike
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Israel has deployed a battery of U.S. -made Patriot air defense missiles near the northern port city of Haifa as part of precautions against a possible attack by Hezbollah in response to the assassination last week of the group’s top commander Imad Mughniyah, Israeli security officials said Monday. The officials said the battery was put on standby Sunday for the first time since Israel’s month-long war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, when the Lebanese guerrillas fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel. Patriot batteries were first deployed in Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, but they failed to stop most of the 39 Scud missiles launched by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. They were originally designed to intercept aircraft, and Israeli media reported their role in the current situation would be to shoot down bomb-laden pilotless planes as well as rockets.

Two Palestinians kidnapped in Tulkarem by Israeli military
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
Israeli military kidnapped two Palestinians from the village of Thennaba near the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Monday at dawn. Palestinian sources reported that a number of Israeli military vehicles invaded several homes in the village and kidnapped two residents from their homes. Palestine News Agency "“ WAFA- quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the military invaded the neighborhood Abed al Hameed Bani Odeh,18 and assaulted his mother Salha 57. The mother was then checked into the hospital for treatment. Her wounds were described as moderate. Troops also kidnapped Omar al-Shahed, a university student, from Tulkarem city and moved him to an unknown location. The number of kidnapped Palestinians has raised noticeably in the past couple of months. So far, there are around 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, including children, women, elderly and Parliament Members.

Condition of fighter injured in Gaza improves
Meital Yasur-Beit Or, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Soldier regains consciousness at Beersheba hospital after being hit by Palestinian sniper - An IDF soldier seriously injured in the Gaza Strip on Sunday has regained consciousness and his condition is now defined as moderate, the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba reported Monday. The soldier was hit by a Palestinian sniper during an infantry and combat engineering forces’ operation in southern Gaza, between Rafah and the Kerem Shalom crossing. He was evacuated to hospital by helicopter. The Soroka Medical Center reported that the soldier was still hospitalized in the intensive care unit. He was suffering from gunshot injuries in his shoulder and chest. Abu Mujhid, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, told Ynet the shooter was a senior member of his organization who was subsequently killed in clashes with the IDF.

IOF rounds up more West Bankers
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces at dawn Monday rounded up 16 "wanted" Palestinians in various West Bank areas and held them in interrogation center, Hebrew press reported. IOF soldiers kidnap Palestinians on daily basis in the West Bank at the pretext of being members or supporters of resistance factions. IOF incursions late night Sunday and early Monday were also reported in Nablus and Jenin districts. The soldiers imposed a curfew on Hawara and Beita villages in Nablus district after a settlers’ car came under machinegun fire at the main street passing near those two villages. Meanwhile, a liberated prisoner said that an Israeli military court had extended the imprisonment of Wadha Fukaha for ten more months. Rajaa Al-Ghoul said that Wadha was about to complete her two years sentence when the court decided to extend her term.

Three ’Hamas members’ arrested by PA security forces in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Hamas movement claimed on Monday that Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces arrested on Sunday evening 3 Hamas’ affiliates in the West Bank. According to a statement released by Hamas, the Palestinian security forces seized Sheikh Abdul-Majeed Amarna, the Mufti of Bethlehem, after they stormed the headquarters of "Dar Al-Fatwa" in the city. Amarna telephoned Ma’an and denied that his arrest was related to any political affiliation. However, he said was treated badlyby the security forces as he was arrested after he intervened as a mediator in a dispute between his neighbors. He was released later on Monday. They also seized another Hamas member from Bethlehem and third from Salfit in the northern West Bank, Hamas claimed.

Al-Quds Brigades claim two military actions
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing three homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev on Sunday evening. Separately, they said that their fighters launched a 40-kilogram explosive device at an Israeli infantry force which allegedly infiltrated the area of Juhor Ad-Dik, east of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. They claimed that several Israeli soldiers were injured in the attack, noting that helicopters were seen flying over the area which suggests that soldiers were being evacuated. They said that their military actions will continue in response to Israeli crimes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

VIDEO - Sderot kids at J’lem protest speak of their distress
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for February 18, 2008. School kids joined other Sderot residents in Jerusalem last week toprotest against government policy toward the town battered by daily rocket barrages launched from the Gaza Strip. One of the children on the trip was Morel Dadon, who was celebrating her birthday. She said her feelings of anxiety eased as she left the rocket-weary south. [end]

First homemade Palestinian projectile fired at Netivot
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades said on Sunday evening that their fighters launched a homemade projectile at the Israeli town of Netivot. The spokesperson of the military group Abu Mujahid told Ma’an via telephone that it was the first time a Palestinian resistance group has targeted that city. [end]

Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades fire two projectiles at israeli military base
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
during a training course (MaanImages) Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility on Monday morningfor launching two homemade projectiles at the Israeli military base of Zakeim north of the Gaza Strip. They said the operation came in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. [end]

Israeli military kidnaps a Palestinian in Jenin
Nisreen Qumsieh, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
Israeli army invaded the village of Kufur Ra’ii near Jenion in the northern West Bank area and kidnapped a Palestinian man, on Monday morning. Also, the army besieged several civilian builfings, claiming they are looking for claimed wanted Palestinians. [end]

Israel hits Gaza as PM pledges rocket protection
Sakher Abu El Ou, ReliefWeb 2/17/2008
GAZA CITY, Feb 17, 2008 (AFP) - Israeli troops killed four Palestinians, three of them militants, in the latest assault on the Gaza Strip on Sunday as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unveiled plans to protect nearby homes from rockets. Troops supported by helicopters moved into the southern Gaza Strip overnight, killing a civilian and three militants from the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement that has ruled the territory since June, medics said. The operation was aimed at "infrastructures of terrorist organisations," an Israeli military spokesman told AFP. "We attacked armed men." The army arrested 80 Palestinians over the course of the operation and took them back to Israel for questioning, the spokesman said. An Israeli elite soldier was "seriously wounded" during exchanges of fire and was evacuated by helicopter to a nearby hospital, the army said.

1,000 Africans estimated to have infiltrated Israel in 2 weeks
Tani Goldstein, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Some 10,000 refugees enter Israel through Sinai over past five years; only 600 infiltrators from Darfur receive official refugee status, while 2,000 refugees from Eritrea receive permanent status. Others live in deplorable conditions, some become involved in crime - An unusual number of 1,000 African refugees have infiltrated Israel over the past two weeks, official sources told Ynet on Monday. According to police and IDF estimates, some 10,000 people have entered Israel from Africa over the past five years through the Egyptian border. The breached border has made the infiltration very simple. African civilians suffering from hunger, plagues and wars or those who seek to improve their living conditions choose to go a long war and live in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of African refugees are living in Egypt and being pursued by the authorities,...

Interior Min. mulls ’absorption grant’ for T.A.’s African refugees
Yigal Hai, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
The city of Tel Aviv will set up a municipal team to expedite the transfer of government grants to African refugees staying there, officials said Sunday. According to Deputy Mayor Yael Dayan (Meretz), Interior Ministry officials informed them of the plan to give each refugee a NIS 2,000 "absorption grant" at a meeting Thursday with representatives of city hall and refugee aid organizations. A statement yesterday from the Interior Ministry said such a plan was indeed presented, but had not received final approval yet, nor has it been decided which government ministry would foot the bill. The government initiative is aimed at reducing the number of refugees staying at severely overcrowded shelters in Tel Aviv. Some 1,000 currently live in shelters in the city’s southern neighborhoods.

Siniora: Lebanon wants friendly ties with all states except Israel
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 2/19/2008
Aoun defends hizbullah’s right to defend itself - BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Monday that Lebanon wanted good relations with all countries in the world except for Israel, "which is our only enemy." Siniora added Lebanon was seeking "good relations" with Syria and Iran. "However, relations must be based on mutual respect. It is not acceptable for Iran to view Lebanon as an arena for conflicts," he said. Siniora told Future News, Al-Hayat and LBC television stations after he arrived in London that Iran and Syria were "financially and militarily" supporting the opposition in Lebanon. "As for the March 14 Forces, we are mostly dependent on the support of the Lebanese people in addition to our regional and international friends," he said. Siniora commented on the recent clashes that took place in different areas of Beirut and accused the groups that were triggering internal strife of serving Israel’s interests.

Iran predicts Hizbullah will soon destroy Israel
Daily Star 2/19/2008
Jewish state deploys patriot air defense missiles near haifa as part of precautions - Israel said on Monday it had "no illusions" about Iran’s intentions after the head of the Revolutionary Guards said the Jewish state would be destroyed by Hizbullah. Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev said he would not comment directly on the remarks by Revolutionary Guards chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, but added: "We are not harboring any illusions about the Tehran regime’s true intentions nor its extremist agenda." The remark by the head of Iran’s elite force came in a condolence message to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah after the murder in Damascus last week of a top commander of the group, Imad Mughniyeh. "In the near future, we will witness the destruction of Israel, the aggressor, this cancerous microbe Israel, at the able hands of the soldiers of the community of Hizbullah," Jafari said.

Fadlallah warns Israel may try to make use of security ’chaos’
Daily Star 2/19/2008
BEIRUT: Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah stressed on Monday the need to "focus" on what Israel is planning to do amid the ongoing political chaos in the country, saying that the situation "is likely to turn into security chaos." "Israel might make good use of that [situation]," he said. According to Fadlallah, Lebanon is still the arena where regional and international "winds blow in all directions." "Lebanon’s curse resides in the freedom that has been turned into chaos," he said. "And the Arab world’s curse is in the oil that constitutes the second center of attraction of the US administration after Israel." Fadlallah said the US is providing Israel with "political cover" in a bid to violate Islamic and Arab security. The sayyed criticized fiery political speeches, which he said "attack the bases of the relationship between the Lebanese.

Israel complains to UN over Iranian general’s remarks
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Israel up in arms following Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander’s comment likening Israel to cancerous growth and alluding to its destruction - The Foreign Ministry instructed the Israeli delegation to the UN on Monday to issue a letter of complaint and protest to the president of the Security Council regarding the comments made by General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian general sent a letter of condolences to Hizbullah saying he believed "the cancerous bacterium called Israel" would vanish soon, according to report by the Iranian news agency Fars on Monday. "Jaafari’s remarks express hope for the destruction of Israel. This is an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic and racist remark," the Ministry said in a statement. "We hope that the Security Council will address Israel’s complaint...

Washington accuses Syria of killing of Imad Mughniyya; Israel expects quick revenge
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell suggested that Syria or internal Hezbollah factions could have been behind the assassination of Hezbollah’s military commander, Imad Mughniyya in Damascus last week. "There’s some evidence that it may have been internal Hezbollah. It may have been Syria. We don’t know yet, and we’re trying to sort that out," McConnell told reporters on Sunday. The United States intelligence agencies are investigating these claims. The US official said that Israel is expected to be the main target of Hezbollah’s threats for revenge, however, the US is also taking preventive security measures because they consider that Mughnayya was number two killer of American citizens after Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda. Sources close to the Israeli intelligence services expect Hezbollah to take revenge as soon as February 22.

Defense Min. in Singapore set to publicly attend weapons expo
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrived in Singapore on Monday for a secretly-planned visit billed by sources close to him as ’significant’. The visit is aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries, whose relations are seen as fragile. Barak is expected to participate in an international defense industry exhibit as well as an Israeli defense industry exhibit. Sources close to Barak said that during his visit, other Israeli officials of varying rank would also publicly participate in a weapons exhibit, rather than maintaining secrecy as they have done on past Singapore visits of this kind. Israeli-Singapore relations have been clandestine for years, mostly at Singapore’s firm insistence that they remain so. However, assertions that the countries have engaged in weapons deals and trade while keeping their dealings ’low profile’ have frequently been published in the press.

Palestine Today 021808
IMEMC Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 2/18/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 4 m 0s || 3. 66 MB Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Monday February 18th, 2008. A number of Palestinians were kidnapped in different areas in the West Bank, while a prisoner swap deal seems to be likely. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast Medical sources in Hebron reported that three Palestinian residents were taken to the emergency room in Hebron hospital with severe bruising. The two received bruising as a result of being beaten by Israeli soldiers, near the Abraham Mosque, also known as, the tomb of Patriarchs. Sources identified the two as Labib al-Fakhouri,17 and Yousef Misowadda,19. Meanwhile, Hisham Abu Maria, 14, from the nearby town of Beit Omar received an injury to his left arm as an explosive device, believed to...

Wildman promises to convey Gaza suffering to the American public
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- David Wildman, the executive secretary for human rights and racial justice in the United Methodist Church in New York, stated during a short visit to the Gaza Strip that he would be working on conveying the suffering of Gaza people to the civil society in the US and putting them in the picture of what is really going on. During his short visit, he met with MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee against the siege, who explained to him the daily humanitarian situation in Gaza under the Israeli siege. MP Khudari underlined that the Israeli siege endangers the lives of one million and a half Palestinian citizens in the Strip and deprives them from living a decent life. The lawmaker highlighted that the most serious impact of the siege is on the health sector, pointing out that more than 90 Palestinian patients in Gaza died and thousands others are being...

Dwaik: Inter-Palestinian differences caused by Zio-American intervention
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Aziz Duwaik, the PLC speaker detained in Israeli occupation jails, has charged that Zio-American intervention in the internal Palestinian affairs was the reason for the inter-Palestinian discord. Duwaik, in an interview in his cell a copy of which was obtained by PIC, said that relations between captives of the Hamas and Fatah movements were good and that contacts and understanding between them were ongoing. "All wishes that problems outside (prison) would be solved and that national cohesion would be restored", he elaborated. The speaker, who has been held in occupation prisons for almost a year and a half, denounced the IOA arbitrary measures against prisoners especially the MPs on their transfer from prison to courts and vice versa. He said that they are deprived of food and toilets during the transfer to court.

Captive’s mother opposes release of Hizbullah agent
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Mickey Goldwasser publishes letter urging parole IPS board not to allow release of man who aided Shiite group - Mickey Goldwasser, the mother of kidnapped Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser, announced Monday her objection to the release from jail of a former Israeli citizen convicted of aiding Hizbullah. Six years ago, Nissim Nasser, who immigrated to Israel from Lebanon in 1982, was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of maintaining contact with a foreign agent and transferring information to the enemy with the aim of undermining the state’s security. The Israel Prison Service parole board rejected Monday Nasser’s appeal for an early release. He is now scheduled to be freed in April. Nasser, a former Israeli national, relinquished his citizenship while in prison.

Agha: The situation in Gaza portends real famine
Palestinian Information Center 2/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mohamed Al-Agha, the agriculture minister in the PA caretaker government, warned Sunday that the agricultural sector and food security in the Gaza Strip are facing a disaster after Israel decided to sever its economic ties with the Strip, adding that the situation in Gaza portends real famine. In a press conference, Dr. Agha called on the UN organizations and the concerned sides to assume their responsibilities and to visit Gaza to see closely the tragic reality there. The minister explained that as a result of the closure of crossings in the face of Gaza exports and imports, the daily losses of the agricultural sector are estimated at $200,000, adding that the area of agricultural lands deliberately destroyed by the Israeli occupation amounts to 200 square kilometers, where this number does not include the lands which were reclaimed and destroyed again.

Mauritania releases 8 detained after Israeli embassy attack
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Mauritanian authorities have released eight people who had been detained in connection with an attack this month on the Israel Embassy in the northwest Africa country, officials said Monday. Seven of the detainees, including two Tunisian citizens, were held for 10 days and interrogated before being released Monday for lack of proof, judge Ould Moustapha said. An eighth person was released last week shortly after his arrest, also because there was not enough evidence to hold him. Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for the Feb. 1 shooting attack. [end]

Finance Ministry warns on budget framework
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 2/18/2008
There are threats of a budget blowout only two months after the 2008 budget was passed. Ministry of Finance officials are warning against a 2008 budget blowout. Only two months after the Knesset passed the budget, threats to the budget framework amount to more than NIS 10 billion as a result of government decisions for budget supplements for certain ministries and private member bills by MKs. The Ministry of Finance officials wants to apply a kind of mini economics arrangements law that will freeze a number of outlays caused by recent cabinet decisions and Knesset legislation. The ministry officials cite, among other measures Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s announcement of a NIS 350 million budget allocation to protect 8,000 homes in Sderot and communities along the Gaza Strip, an extra NIS 1 billion in teachers’ salaries, and higher budgets caused by the cancellation of freezes on pensions and cancellation of the health tax on housewives.

Israelis 30 times more likely to be wiretapped than Americans
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
The number of wiretaps performed by the police rose 22 percent last year, from 1,128 in 2006 to 1,375, despite Knesset members’ complaints that this tactic is overused. Over the last five years, the number of court-approved wiretaps has risen 42 percent. By comparison, only 1,839 [wiretaps were carried out in the entire United States in 2006. [Not counting wholesale tapping of entire US phone system by telcoms working for Bush administration - Ed. ] According to Professor Yoram Shahar of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, this means that per capita, Israeli policemen use 20 times as many wiretaps as do their American counterparts, and a random Israeli is 30 times as likely to be wiretapped as a random American. The 2007 data was given to the Knesset Constitution Committee on Monday by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, in compliance with a law that requires annual reports on the extent of wiretapping.

Rabbinical courts’ authority to be upgraded
Tova Tzimuki, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Secular-religious status-quo may tilt as Ministerial Committee on Legislation passes bill expanding rabbinical courts’ authorities to include property settlements, despite Justice Ministry’s objections. Bill defies religious courts’ original purpose, says ministry - The Ministerial Committee on Legislation decided Monday to support a bill extending the authorities of rabbinical courts over all matters regarding marriage and divorce. Should the bill pass its Knesset readings, it would serve to upgrade the rabbinical courts’ judicial authority over seemingly civil matters, such as property settlements; and would allow them to issue subpoenas and warrants "“ just like the civil courts. According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) initiated the bill contrary to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann’s stand on the matter.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi to retain position despite AG opposition
Yair Ettinger, and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger will end his suspension and return next month to his position as a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court and as a member of the committee that appoints religious court judges, the Justice Ministry’s appointments committee approved on Monday. The committee decided to ignore Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s advice and unanimously endorsed Metzger’s decision to end his voluntary suspension. Metzger is expected to succeed Sepharadic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in six weeks’ time. Several organizations of the religious Zionism’s progressive wing called on Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to call off the meeting, citing conflict of interests. They said they deem unacceptable the fact that two members of the religious court judges appointments committee are required...

Metzger to remain chief rabbi despite Mazuz report
Neta Sela, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Government committee decides to allow chief Ashkenazi rabbi to remain in post despite attorney general’s demand to dismiss him due to improper conduct - Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger would be allowed to continue serving in his post despite a report by the attorney general that harshly criticized Metzger’s conduct and called on him to resign, the committee on appointing rabbinical judges ruled Monday. Following the decision, Metzger would also be permitted to assume the post of president of the supreme rabbinical court in place of current president, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Moshe Amar, as required by law. In April 2006, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz published a report stating that the chief rabbi would not be indicted for receiving perks from the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, due to insufficient evidence in the case.

Minister Majadele undergoes head surgery
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Doctors diagnose hemorrhage between culture minister’s skull and brain. Majadele regains consciousness following operation, tells Ynet, ’I feel fine’ - Culture, Science and Sports Minister Raleb Majadele underwent surgery to repair a hemorrhage in his head Sunday night at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. The minister regained consciousness Monday morning and spoke to his wife and assistants. He later told Ynet, "I feel fine and hope things will work out." Majadele was hospitalized at the neurological department, where former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was treated after suffering two strokes. The minister was rushed to hospital on Sunday after feeling unwell at the end of the government meeting. According to the doctors’ diagnosis, he did not suffer a stroke. A hemorrhage was found between his skull and brain.

Minister Majadele stable after surgery to stop bleeding on his brain
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
MK Raleb Majadele (Labor) is in stable condition at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after undergoing surgery on Monday to stop bleeding on his brain. Majadele, who serves as the science, culture, and sport minister, told media outlets shortly after regaining consciousness that he "feels fine." Doctors said the bleeding was not from the minister’s brain but rather an area in the back of his head outside his skull. Majadele is expected to stay under medical supervision over the coming days. Majadele began his Knesset tenure in mid-2004, and has served since as the chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. Last October, he made waves in Israel when then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz appointed him the first ever Arab minister in the history of Israel.

Plan to merge local authorities frozen
Tani Goldstein, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit’s plan to consolidate 69 local authorities into 27 put on hold in wake of political opposition - A plan announced by Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit last month to merge 69 of Israel’s local authorities into 27, was put on hold on Monday after encountering stiff opposition from politicians. The majority of local council heads who were supposed to see their municipalities combined with others, opposed the proposal and pressured their political representatives to cancel it. As part of the campaign to neutralize the measure, MK Avishay Braverman (Labor) drafted a proposal to bar completion of the unification plan before the upcoming elections. The idea won the support of over half of the Knesset plenum. National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) suggested in a cabinet meeting on Sunday that Sheetrit should annul his proposal.

Longest landing field in Middle East to be constructed in Nevatim
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Israel Air Force base soon to be converted into transport base, complete with 2. 5-mile airstrip allowing planes to take off, land with far greater ease - The Israel Air Force is moving house in style. The Nevatim Air force Base in southern Israel is now being converted into a new IAF base, complete with the longest landing strip in the Middle East stretching a staggering 2. 5 miles. These aerial photos attained by Ynet clearly show that construction in the area is coming to an end, and the new runway is now virtually complete. Longest airstrip in Middle East - Construction of this new IAF transport base, which will replace its old counterpart in Lod, was no simple architectural feat, mainly due to the type of terrain found in the Negev and southern Israel. Special bulldozers were flown in from oversees to complete the project and provide the...

Rabbis call against forced integration in military service
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Thirty-two of Religious Zionism’s rabbis issue manifest calling on IDF chief not to force religious soldiers to take part in activities involving women in service for mere sake of integration - The recent controversy sparked when four hesder yeshiva soldiers refused to participate in a class given by female instructors seems to refuse to calm down, as dozens of rabbis and educators in the Religious Zionism published a halachic manifest Sunday, stating such mixed classes pose "a grave problem". The manifest, signed by 32 prominent religious figures of the likes of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Zalman Malmad, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Israel Ariel, Rabbi Abraham Zukerman and Rabbi Israel Rosen, to name a few, calls on the IDF to refrain from imposing such classes on religious soldiers.

Homeless woman dies near Tel Aviv Municipality
Avi Cohen, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Alcoholic woman freezes to death near City Hall parking lot overnight; another homeless man evacuated to hospital in stable condition - Cold spell claims another victim: The body of a homeless woman was found Sunday night near the Tel Aviv Municipality. A Magen David Adom crew dispatched to the area proclaimed the woman dead, apparently after freezing to death overnight. Ten homeless people have already died from hypothermia since the beginning of the winter. On Sunday night, the MDA and police received a report on two unconscious homeless people found near the City Hall parking lot in Tel Aviv. The woman, recognized as an alcoholic, was proclaimed dead on the spot, while the other homeless man was evacuated to the Sourasky Medical Center in the city in stable condition. Uri Levin, an MDA paramedic, said that passerby had alerted the emergency services.

Intel to build new Jerusalem fab
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/18/2008
MK Reuven Rivlin: Intel and Jerusalem are symbols. Intel Corporation (Nasdaq: INTC) is staying in Jerusalem. The company has reached an agreement with the Knesset Finance Subcommittee on Intel, the Israel Tax Authority, and the Investment Promotion Center to close the company’s outdated Fab 8 in the city and replace it with a new fab that will employ advanced technology and employ hundreds of people. Intel will obtain $150 million in tax breaks over ten years. The tax break comes on top of the $525 million in grants from the Investment Promotion Center in exchange for the company’s commitments to keep R&D and manufacturing in Israel. Intel undertook to employ at least 100 employees in manufacturing at the new fab. Investment Promotion Center director Hezi Zaieg told the Finance Subcommittee that Intel would soon complete Fab 28 in Kiryat Gat, which will employ 2,200 people.

Securities Authority nixes Africa-Israel issues
Hadas Magen and Roy Meltzer, Globes Online 2/18/2008
The Israel Securities Authority is tightening the sanctions it is applying on public companies whose controlling shareholders fail to comply with accepted norms. Today, it took the unprecedented step of banning [Lev Leviev’s] Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE: AFIL; Pink Sheets: AFIVY) from offering to public any securities, including through shelf prospectuses, until April 15, 2008. Until now, the Securities Authority was satisfied with warning company shareholders and officers who gave ostensible "buy" recommendations for their stock through improper channels. The Securities Authority took the step following comments at a diamond convention last week by Africa-Israel chairman Lev Leviev to the effect that the company "is the best bargain on the market." The Securities Authority added as a clarification that the company that the sanctions did not apply to the...

Manufacturers revise growth forecast
Yael Gross-Englander, Globes Online 2/18/2008
A global slowdown, particularly in the US, is expected to lower business product. The Manufacturers Association of Israel has revised its 2008 economic growth and business product forecasts downwards. It cut its GDP forecast to 3. 5% from 4. 3% and its business product forecast to 4% from 5%. GDP growth averaged 5. 3% a year in the past four years, and business product growth averaged 6. 6%. The Manufacturers Association also cut its forecast for exports of goods and services growth to 4. 6% from 7. 4%. Exports of goods and services grew by 8. 7% in 2007, compared with 2006. The Manufacturers Association cut its forecasts because of the global slowdown, especially in the US, as well as the sharp appreciation in the shekel against other currencies.

Peer makes successful Doha debut
Al Jazeera 2/18/2008
Shahar Peer is hoping her presence at the Qatar Open will help bring promote peace - Shahar Peer created history by becoming the first Israeli tennis player to compete in a tour event in the Gulf region when she defeated Slovakia’s Andreja Klepac 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the WTA Qatar Open in Doha. Peer, a quarter-finalist at both the Australian and US Opens in 2007, arrived in Doha as the 12th seed for the $2. 5 million tournament, transcending simmering political tensions in the region to play in the newly elevated Tier 1 event. "The second I decided to come everyone was very supportive," Peer said at the post-match press conference. "When I came here I was a little excited because I didn’t know what to expect, just like every new tournament and every new place you go. "I find the people are really nice here. I got a very warm welcome."

Tourist entries set record pace
Dalia Tal, Globes Online 2/18/2008
A US slowdown may still affect tourist visits over the course of the year. 182,000 tourists visited Israel in January 2008, 57% more than in the corresponding month in 2007, and 7% more than in January 2000, the previous all-time high, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today. 121,000 tourists arrived by air, 27% higher than in the corresponding period in 2007, of which 2,400 took direct flights to Eilat. There were 31,000 day trippers mainly from Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, who entered Israel through the border crossing at Taba and from Jordan, a fivefold increase over January 2007. The Ministry of Tourism has set a target of 2. 8 million tourists for 2008, against 2. 1 million in 2007. This target has not been changed for the time being, although sources in the tourism sector fear that the economic crisis in the US could reduce the number of tourists from this country over the year.

GII director: Friday’s earthquake caused damage
Zvi Lavi, YNetNews 2/18/2008
Head of seismology division in Geophysical Institute reveals last earthquake to hit Israel damaged buildings in country’s north, was followed by several aftershocks. Customary building methods may lead to fatalities in future quakes, he warns - Last Friday’s 5. 3-magnitude earthquake was followed by several aftershocks, the director of the Seismology Division in the Geophysical Institute of Israel (GII) revealed Monday. According to Dr. Rami Hofstetter, the aftershocks measures 2-2. 5 on the Richter Scale and were to be expected, since medium to large quakes are often followed by aftershocks. "I can’t negate the possibility that this earthquake preceded a larger one, but (according to noted seismic activity) things look like they’re calming down," said Hofstetter, who was invited to speak before Knesset members; adding that Friday’s earthquake damaged several...

Jerusalem girds for rare snow rerun as storm makes landfall
Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Service, and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/18/2008
Jerusalem city officials braced for a rare second snowfall of the winter, as a storm that blanketed parts of Greece and Turkey made landfall in Israel Monday evening. The storm, which was expected to dust mountains in the north and central regions, left about 200 villages stranded in heavy snowfalls across Greece and forced Greek airport authorities to cancel dozens of flights. The first flakes began falling in the north and in the Judean Hills in mid-afternoon, as temperatures across Israel dropped sharply. "It will come in force, in one blow," said meteorologist Boaz Dayan of the storm, which was forecast to send temperatures plunging as snow began to fall in the Hermon region and the Galilee highlands. "It’s very similar to the previous storm, but unlike that one, it will not come in two waves, but in one ongoing wave.

Palestinian weather forecast; snow expected
Ma’an News Agency 2/18/2008
Bethlehem – The Palestinian Meteorological Department predicts that a low pressure front accompanied by a cold air mass will move across the country, starting in the north then moving southwards, on Monday. Clouds will appear gradually, followed by rain, then hail and thunder storms in the afternoon. Snow will begin to fall at altitudes more than 750 meters above sea level on Monday night and will continue into early Tuesday morning. Temperatures are expected to fall below the yearly average. Winds will by southwesterly and moderate, becoming brisk in the afternoon, and sea waves are expected to be moderate to rough. The forecast department has warned that floods are possible in valleys and other low altitudes, and that very low clouds may cause poor visibility. Rain and snow are expected to continue on Tuesday during the day, but the weather will become gradually more moderate at night.

US-Islamic forum in Doha endorses Barack Obama
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/19/2008
DOHA: Delegates at a US-Islamic forum voiced support on Monday for US presidential hopeful Barack Obama, although some warned against expecting any radical policy change irrespective of who captures the White House. Obama won overwhelming support in a mock election by more than 200 American and Muslim delegates at the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha. His Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates won a handful of votes. About 280 public figures and academics from 32 countries, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, attended the fifth edition of the forum due to end in Qatar later Monday. Islamic television preacher Amr Khaled told the forum that he speaks "on behalf of millions of Muslim youth who seek work, respect and freedom," and urged the next US administration to "solve the political problems in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, and not to mix Muslims and extremists..."


Gaza Breakout: Strategic Issues Exposed
Nicola Nasser, MIFTAH 2/18/2008
      The breaches created by bombs and bulldozers in the border wall between Gaza and Egypt have been described as "the biggest prison breakout in history". For a brief moment, Palestinians hemmed in by the Israeli blockade caught the air of relative freedom. The question now is whether the breach will be made permanent, which is possible if Palestinians engage in national dialogue, as Hamas and Egypt have urged, or whether it will become cause for broadening the internal Palestinian rift, a spectre raised by the Palestinian president’s determination to return to Gaza via that very breach Hamas opened, but under Israeli auspices. As this would be contingent upon security coordination with Israel, the Rafah crossing would revert to being one of Gaza’s prison doors, open and shut at Israel’s whim, as was the case before June 2007.
     Nevertheless, this appears to be the direction in which Mahmoud Abbas is heading. In a 27 January meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert he asked that Rafah be reopened in accordance with the border crossing agreement of 2005. Following that meeting, he announced that he would reiterate that request in his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Hamas immediately rejected Abbas’s proposal, which can only signify that the crossing will remain officially closed and that the beleaguered people of Gaza will have to take matters in their own hands when necessary, as occurred during the last pilgrimage season and the breach two weeks ago.

Blood and Champagne

Uri Avnery, MIFTAH 2/18/2008
      EVERY PEOPLE elevate the profession in which they excel.
     If a person in the street were asked to name the area of enterprise in which we Israelis excel, his answer would probably be: Hi-Tech. And indeed, in this area we have recorded some impressive achievements. It seems as if hardly a day passes without an Israeli start-up company that was born in a garage being sold for hundreds of millions. Little Israel is one of the major hi-tech powers in the world.
     But the profession in which Israel is not only one of the biggest, but the unchallenged Numero Uno is: liquidations.
     This week this was proven once again. The Hebrew verb "lekhassel" - liquidate - in all its grammatical forms, currently dominates our public discourse. Respected professors debate with academic solemnity when to "liquidate" and whom. Used generals discuss with professional zeal the technicalities of "liquidation", its rules and methods. Shrewd politicians compete with each other about the number and status of the candidates for "liquidation".

Who’s he Kidding?

Akiva Eldar, MIFTAH 2/18/2008
      Essentially, the Sderot residents are a new version of "the victims of peace." Government spokesmen explain that an invasion of the Gaza Strip may strike a fatal blow to Mahmoud Abbas, the partner, because peace negotiations with the West Bank Palestinian leadership cannot take place under the shadow of scenes of hundreds of Palestinian casualties caused by an Israeli invasion of the Strip.
     On the other hand, a cease-fire with Hamas will be considered a victory for the group fighting Israel, and would boost its support among Palestinians at the expense of its Fatah rival. If Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is interested in nurturing the Palestinian partner and making it easier for him to reach an agreement, the Israeli citizens bordering the Gaza Strip must be secured, aided and supported. However, according to Olmert himself, and in light of the realities in the territories, the residents of Sderot are victims of a make-believe peace.

Guidelines of a new Egyptian policy toward Gaza

Gamal A. G. Soltan, Daily Star 2/19/2008
      The recent breach of Egypt’s border with Gaza accentuated the risks implied in the current situation in the territory. Losing control over that border for 10 consecutive days proved to be embarrassing for Cairo. Bending to the plot implemented by Hamas operatives embarrassed Egypt even further. Far more serious than just the embarrassment, the infiltration of suspect terrorists into Egypt is a major security concern for a country that has been in a continuous war on terror for 30 years.
     The collapse of order at Egypt’s border with Gaza encouraged both Hamas and Israel to capitalize on the developing situation. Seeking both de facto recognition as the legal authority in Gaza and the relaxation of the Gaza blockade, Hamas demanded the dismantlement of the multilateral arrangements regulating the crossing between Egypt and Gaza, allowing Hamas a say if not a monopoly on the operation of the Palestinian side of the crossing.

Meet the Lebanese Press: A cold civil war

Hicham Safieddine, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 2/18/2008
      If civil wars are born equal, they don’t all progress or die the same. Lebanon is no stranger to civil wars, which usually erupt from a single or a series of violent clashes that snowball into all-out confrontation. But it remains to be seen whether this latest round of civil strife will follow the same path as previous ones. After three years of political disagreements, assassinations, and war with Israel, the stage seems ripe for internal conflict, and violent street clashes in Beirut this past week confirmed in the minds of many that the war has begun in all but name. Yet, the rules of the game this time around could point to a Cold War-style conflict rather than full-blown confrontation, unless regional factors come intractably into play. So far, one can reasonably conclude that the different Lebanese factions remain either incapable or unwilling to unleash a full-fledged war with each other in isolation of their surroundings.
     On one hand, the government-controlling March 14 movement may have the will for a violent confrontation but not yet the means. Their fractured political makeup and lack of military preparedness makes them a weak force unless they receive full backing from the internal security forces or army units, a possible scenario but improbable as long as no one is willing to shoulder the blame for starting a civil war. The opposition, on the other hand, seems to have the means (Hizballah is well armed and its members are trained to fight, though not for street fighting) but not the will given the negative impact such a fight would have on the group’s declared objective of aiming its weapons at Israeli targets. This means that save a regional outbreak of conflict, a kind of cold, low-intensity civil war is in the making, with street fights and confrontations unclaimed by the political leadership.

Living with the certainty of war

Rania Masri writing from Beirut, Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 2/18/2008
      For a while now, we’ve been talking about it. For a while now, I’ve been talking about it. Yes, there will be another war. I have said so during radio interviews, during dinner conversations, during phone calls with my family in the US. Yes, there will be another war of Israeli aggression on Lebanon. It is just a question of time, this summer or next summer, this year or next year, but, yes, there will be another war.
     Why are we talking of war? There are the constant rumblings from Israel, the rumblings of an arrogant, expansionist military power that was defeated and refuses its defeat. Hard to deny the comings of another war when we have our history with Israel showing us a series of wars every few years, and when the Israeli government continues to issue promises and preparations for another war against Lebanon. Talk of war has thus become quite regular, more common than talk of the weather. There are also the domestic rumblings, the cries from sect leaders Walid Jumblatt, Saad Hariri and Samir Geagea in which they rather openly state "bring it on" in their references to a possible civil war. Nevertheless, while we talk about the probabilities of a civil war, we only talk about the timing of an Israeli war. We are certain of that war.

An Interview with Rafiq Husseini - Falling into a Trap

Bitterlemons, MIFTAH 2/18/2008
      bitterlemons: There has been criticism that Palestinian-Israeli negotiations will be fruitless because of the divide between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. What is your response to this?
     Husseini: This is a pretext. Palestinians, led by the PLO, the president of the Executive Committee of the PLO and the president of the Palestinian Authority, have the full right to negotiate with Israel. Once we negotiate a deal that is acceptable to the president and the PLO it will be put to the people. So the objection is not valid.
     bitterlemons: Israeli critics of the peace process say that the PA cannot fulfill its obligations under the roadmap since it does not have control over Gaza. What do you think of such criticism?
     Husseini: Again, this is a way to get out of negotiations. There are obligations on both sides. The Palestinian side has done almost everything that it is obliged to do. The issue of security in Gaza is a difficult one, and we can’t do it because we are not there any more. But that does not mean that we are not working very hard to achieve security in the West Bank. Security is a process, not an end result. It is an ongoing process that we are working very hard on.

Boycott group to UNESCO: Protect heritage of all cultures

Open Letter, Dr. Gabi Baramki and Dr. Carmela Armanios Omary, Electronic Intifada 2/18/2008
      The following is an open letter sent to Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura on 14 February 2008:
     Dear Mr. Matsuura, On behalf of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), we are writing to express our deep concern about your statements, quoted in The Jerusalem Post (7 February 2008), during your recent visit to Israel. These statements were one-sided, completely ignoring Israel’s continuous crimes against Palestinian history and heritage.
     Tel Aviv’s "White City" is now one of five Israeli locations named in the World Heritage List under the auspices of UNESCO. It is known that UNESCO [the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] aims to preserve ancient buildings and protect them as part of human heritage, but that should apply to all cultures. While preserving such sites in Israel, UNESCO is expected to explain what role it has played to date in stopping Israel from or holding it accountable for destroying ancient Palestinian buildings, irreversibly damaging Palestinian landscapes, littering them with illegal colonies and apartheid roads; systematically covering up and/or expropriating historical Islamic and Christian sites that attest to the deep-rooted Arab civilization in Palestine, especially in Jerusalem; and the unethical and illegal use of architecture and archaeology to reinvent the place’s history, as documented in several ground-breaking studies by conscientious Israeli, among other, scientists.