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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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20 February 2008


Israeli soldiers severely beat a Palestinian boy in Tulkarem city
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Israeli soldiers harshly attacked and beaten up a Palestinian boy from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, Palestinian medical sources said. Medics added that Mohammad Abu Zant, 14, suffered bruises in all over his body after having been exposed to severe beating by the Israeli soldiers. Witnesses said that Abu Zant was arrested earlier in the day during an Israeli military incursion into the city. Local sources confirmed that the Israeli army force took prisoner 12 other residents, including teens. Israeli army attacks on the occupied West Bank take place almost on daily basis, as many Palestinians happen to be taken prisoners by the Israeli soldiers. Currently, Israel holds at least 11500 Palestinians including women and juveniles inside its jails, according to Palestinian sources.

Several children recently injured by military fire in villages north west of Jerusalem
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Palestinian medical sources reported that in recent period Israeli soldiers shot and injured several Palestinian children, and harshly attacked and clubbed others, as they were playing near the Annexation Wall in villages around Jerusalem. Sa’id Yaqeen, coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall stated that undercover forces guarding the Wall chased Mohammad Salim Abu Eed, from Biddo village and severely punched and clubbed him. The child was badly injured and lost consciousness before the soldiers transferred him to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem. After the child recovered, soldiers kidnapped him and transferred him to an unknown destination. Yaqeen added that in Qotna village, five children were injured by Israeli military fire as they were playing near the Wall. Four of the children were identified as Mohammad Nasser Al Faqeeh, 16, Moath Tabanja, Mohammad Ahmad Al Faqeeh,13, Mohammad Mustafa Shamasna.

Israeli report: Settlement activity dramatically rose after Annapolis
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli leftist movement Peace Now reported that the two and a half months since the Annapolis conference had witnessed a big increase in the Zionist settlement activity in occupied eastern Jerusalem compared with the past five years. Peace Now quoted senior Israeli officials as saying that the IOA would still publish many bids for the construction of thousands of settlement units. The movement said in its report that since the holding of Annapolis conference last November, the Israeli government had issued many bids for building a number of major settlement projects in eastern Jerusalem including 44 units in Talbiot, 300 units in Har Homa and 50 units in Gilo. In another context, Dr. Yousef Al-Mansi, the minister of endowments and religious affairs in the caretaker government in Gaza, strongly denounced the PA unconstitutional government in Ramallah for its...

Despite PM’s pledge, Israel still building in West Bank
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
A new neighborhood comprising 27 trailers is currently under construction at the settlement of Eli, north of Ramallah, even though Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed publicly after the Annapolis conference that any such building would cease. Even though some of the trailers are being set up on land privately owned by Palestinians, the authorities are taking no action. Similar unauthorized construction has taken place in the settlement of Maskiot in the northern Jordan Valley. Last December, after the Annapolis conference, Olmert promised to freeze construction in the settlements. But developments in a number of settlements suggest that the settlers are trying to initiate a new wave of construction. The most notable case is Eli, where work is underway to link the 27 trailers to infrastructure. The construction, which began about a month ago, is expected to be completed in the coming days.

IOF troops kidnap 12 Palestinians from a Tulkarm restaurant
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
TULKARM, (PIC)-- IOF troops stormed Tulkarm, north of the West Bank, on Wednesday and rounded up 12 Palestinian youths from a downtown café, local sources reported. The sources said that special IOF units stormed the restaurant that is near to the PA police station and detained all those inside it. Large numbers of IOF troops then arrived to the scene and took away 12 of the young men in the café including Omar Al-Badawi, 20, who is wanted for the IOF for his anti-occupation activity. Citizens in the neighborhood said that the Palestinian police, working under orders of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, did not show up and disappeared from the streets during the raid. In Attil village, north of Tulkarm, IOF soldiers kidnapped a 25-year-old youth after breaking into his family home, assaulting his relatives and wreaking havoc in the house.

Security Stranglehold Tightens in Hebron
Becky, International Solidarity Movement 2/20/2008
Hebron Region For a week now the security checks on Palestinians and internationals in Hebron has maintained its tightest grip since our arrival. Soldiers who a month ago limited themselves to their posts now extend their jurisdiction along whole streets; patrolling and watching in a paranoid attempt to preempt some fictitious attack. They scan the roof tops with their rifles; plausibly in case ofPalestinian fighters, of which their are none in Hebron. Yellow lines have been painted on the road indicating where locals should stop and line up before being searched. Whereas before soldiers would ask some men and youths to lift their shirts and turn around, now all members of the community, in each individual case, are being inconvenienced by more rigorous searches. These include full pat down body searches on the men; feet apart hands up against a wall; women being scanned...

PLC speaker on trial at an Israeli court
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Dr. Aziz Dwaik, the PLC speaker, is to stand trial on Wednesday at an Israeli military court after one and a half year of abduction and detention at the hands of IOF troops, a legal center reported. Al-Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies reported that Dr. Dwaik is to attend his trial hearing on Wednesday at Ofer military court. The center described the trial as a "theatrical play" that completes the illegal kidnap of the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, and added that the detained MPs do not recognize those trials. It called on the world at large to practically act to release all detained deputies, atop of them Dr. Dwaik, and all Palestinian prisoners. The center finally appealed to legal institutions in the world to swiftly intervene to block the trial, which it described as "theatrical".

Palestinian man critically wounded as he was attacked by loose pigs from a nearby Israeli settlement
Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Pigs that belong to settlers from the Israeli settlement of Areil near Salfit in the West Bank attacked a Palestinian elderly man and critically injured him. The man is still receiving medical treatment in the hospital for the past 10 days. Palestinian sources reported that pigs Abed al M’oti ar-Rimawe,53, a resident of villageof Beit Reema, while he was on his way to his orchards. Ar-Rimawe got critical and deep cuts to different parts of his body that kept him hospitalized so far for ten days. Sources added that settlers continuously drove their pigs in the Palestinian orchards, especially in Wadi Kana, most of which its orchards belong to Deir Istya town. The pigs frequently damage the crops. Palestinian police in Salfit said this is not the first time Palestinians are physically attacked by settler pigs.

Egyptian security chief discusses Rafah crossing with his Israeli counterpart
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, discussed with his Israeli counterpart, Amos Gil’ad, in Cairo earlier this week the reopening of Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza, according to the London-based Alhayat Arabic newspaper. The newspaper reported that the crossing’s operation protocol, signed in 2005’ under U. S mediation, was among the most important issues discussed by both officials, given the great deal of embarrassment Cairo has been facing due to the closure of the terminal. Suleiman urged his Israeli counterpart that Israel needs to loosen position regarding the issue by allowing the reopening of the crossing, whose closure has created a lot of trouble to Egypt, given its proximity to the Gaza Strip. Also, Suleiman voiced his country’s concern over recent Israel threats against the coastal territory, particularly, targeting leaders of the ruling Hamas in Gaza and large-scale invasions into the area, the paper revealed.

EGYPT: Border Breach Raises Fundamental Questions
Analysis by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service 2/20/2008
CAIRO, Feb 20(IPS) - Authorities sealed the border with the Gaza Strip earlier this month after more than a half million Palestinians flooded into Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in late January. But while most have since returned home, the episode served to highlight Egypt's tenuous control over its border with the troubled territory next door. "The incident confirmed the precarious nature of the frontier with Gaza," Abdel-Halim Kandil, political analyst and former editor-in-chief of opposition weekly al-Karama told IPS. "But it could also represent a chance for Egypt to regain a measure of sovereignty over its own border." On Jan. 23, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flocked into North Sinai from the Gaza Strip after the 14-km border wall was partially levelled by a series of explosions. Most of those crossing into Egypt seized the opportunity to buy essential foodstuffs and medicines not available in Gaza.

Israel holds talks with Egypt over Rafah crossing
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/20/2008
Defense Ministry representative Amos Gilad meets with senior officials in Cairo to discuss possibility of reopening Egypt-Gaza border crossing. Countries in disagreement over Israel’s refusal to allow Hamas assume control over Palestinian side of crossing - Israel and Egypt have been conducting EU-backed negotiations in an effort to reopen the Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border. The main bone of contention is Egypt’s insistence that Hamas supervise the crossing on the Palestinian side, a demand Israel vehemently opposes. Amos Gilad, head of the political-military bureau at the Defense Ministry, returned from Cairo two days ago after holding talks on the matter with his Egyptian counterparts, Ynet has learned Tuesday night. In the meantime, Egypt and Hamas are also engaged in dialogue over the border arrangements.

P.A security arrests six Hamas supporters
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Palestinian security forces arrested on Tuesday six supporters of Hamas movement in several parts of the West Bank, Hamas media sources reported. In Salfit district, security forces arrested Sheikh Imad Ed Deek, a previous official at the Ministry of Waqf and Islamic Affairs and the Imam of the Big Mosque in Kufr Ed Deek village, west of Salfit. Ramadan Shatat, mayor of Bidya village, west of Salfit, was also arrested after the security forces broke into his home and confiscated him personal computer. Member of Bidya village council, Engineer Iz Ed Deen Ibrahim was also arrested and transferred to Betunia prison in Ramallah. It is worth mentioning that Shatat was kidnapped by the Israeli army last year and was imprisoned for two months. In Qalqilia district, Palestinian security forces arrested Saher Nofal and Ahmad Nabeel from Jayyous village.

Salah Eldin brigades claims its fighters wounded Israeli soldiers in southern Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
The Salah Eldin brigades, the armed wing of the popular resistance committees said Wednesday it clashed with an Israeli army undercover force near the Kussofim military post to the south of Gaza Strip. In a statement, faxed to press, the brigades claimed that the armed clash with the Israeli army caused a number of injuries among the soldiers. The statement read that such a clash comes as a part of the group’s responses to continued Israeli army attacks across the Gaza Strip. No further details were reported. The Israeli army has been engaged in a series of military incursions and small-scale attacks on Gaza areas, bordering Israel, in different parts of the coastal region. The Israeli military claims its actions against Gaza are meant to prevent firing of homemade shells from the Hamas-ruled territory onto nearby Israeli towns.

Ashkenazi warns Israel may face conflict in near future
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/20/2008
Prime minister, chief of staff speak at ceremony marking completion of officer’s training course, discuss military’s future 18 months after Second Lebanon War - "I cannot promise we will not find ourselves facing a difficult trial in the near future," IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said on Wednesday at a ceremony for cadets graduating from the officers’ training course. "Our hands are outstretched in peace, but they are also ready for battle," said Ashkenazi. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who spoke before Ashkenazi, said that "even when many of the young officers here today enlisted after the echoes of the war fell silent, I know without a shadow of a doubt that if we are once again called on to face another conflict in that region or any other, you will embody the noble and tangible essence of the spirit of the IDF and serve as Israel’s defensive shield.

IDF Chief of Staff: I can’t rule out military conflict in near future
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday that he could not rule out the possibility that Israel will face a military conflict sometime in the near future. "The achievement demanded of the IDF is swift victory in any type of conflict," said Ashkenazi during an officers’ training course graduation ceremony. "I can’t promise that we will not face such a test in the immediate future." "The job of the IDF was and still is to be a true safety net for the continued existence and success of the State of Israel," he added. "We cannot meet all these [obligations] without excellent commanders." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also addressed the ceremony, saying, "the lessons of the Second Lebanon War are being implemented at all levels of the IDF chain of command.

Construction continuing in West Bank settlements despite PM’s pledge
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
A new neighborhood comprising 27 trailers is currently under construction at the settlement of Eli, north of Ramallah, even though Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed publicly after the Annapolis conference that any such building would cease. Even though some of the trailers are being set up on land privately owned by Palestinians, the authorities are taking no action. Similar unauthorized construction has taken place in the settlement of Maskiot in the northern Jordan Valley. Last December, after the Annapolis conference, Olmert promised to freeze construction in the settlements. But developments in a number of settlements suggest that the settlers are trying to initiate a new wave of construction. The most notable case is Eli, where work is underway to link the 27 trailers to infrastructure.

Sderot protest moving to Tel Aviv
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/20/2008
Residents of battered Negev town decide to move massive tent housing their protest against state’s inability to stop Qassam fire from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Meanwhile municipal leaders from across the country visit Sderot in show of support, say they regret not acting sooner - The Sderot Municipality is planning to move resurrect its protest tent in Tel Aviv on Thursday as part of the town’s ongoing struggle to raise awareness of the grave security situation in the Gaza vicinity communities. The tent, which up until recently had been pitched outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office in Jerusalem, was recently dismantled on police orders out for fear it may collapse on the demonstrators due to the inclement weather conditions in the capital. On Wednesday a group of 20 municipal leaders from across the country visited the battered western Negev town to offer their support.

Gaza boy ’killed in Israeli raid’
BBC Online 2/19/2008
Israeli troops have killed a 10-year-old boy during a raid into central Gaza, Palestinian medics say. Israeli military officials said troops responded when a group of Palestinians opened fire on them, and only gunmen were identified as having been hit. An armed Palestinian was also shot dead by Israeli troops while trying to plant a bomb near the Israeli border. The violence came as Palestinian and Israeli leaders met in Jerusalem to try to promote progress to a peace deal Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were reviewing peace negotiations nearly three months after they were launched at a US-hosted conference. Correspondents say the negotiations appear to be stalled as violence has been on the rise in Gaza Whoever thinks stopping negotiations will stop terror is not in touch with reality Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

Palestine Today 022008
IMEMC - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Wednesday February 20th, 2008. Israeli army intensifies attacks in the west bank and attacks Tulkarem and kidnaps ten Palestinians, these stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast Local sources reported that forces attacked Na’eem and Khaleel Abu Hasana’s home in ’Ateel, and kidnapped and transferred them to an undisclosed detention center. While in the town, troops broke into and ransacked a number of civilian homes, claiming that they found a missile during the invasion. Later in the day, a large Israeli force invaded the city of Tulkarem and broke into a café in the downtown and took ten Palestinians prisoner. One of those was Omar Badawi, said to be leader of the Islamic Jihad in the city.

OPT: Attack on Christian library in Gaza prompts heightened security fears
YMCA Gaza, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/21/2008
JERUSALEM/GAZA, 20 February 2008 (IRIN) - A recent attack on a Christian library in the Gaza Strip has caused concern among civil society organisations that such violence might escalate unless police arrest the perpetrators. There is talk of "security chaos" in the Strip, and apprehension about a further decline in personal security. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes condemned the attack while speaking to reporters during his recent trip to the region, and noted that he had held positive talks with civil society groups during his visit. The attack on the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) library in the early hours of 15 February caused severe damage to the building and to most of its 10,000 books - used mainly by students in high schools and universities.

UN humanitarian chief says Gaza situation "grim"
IRIN, Electronic Intifada 2/20/2008
JERUSALEM, 19 February (IRIN) - John Holmes, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has said he is shocked by the "grim and miserable" situation in the Gaza Strip, and he called for the opening of crossing points into the enclave and for Palestinian militants to stop rocket fire into Israel. Wrapping up a five-day trip on 18 February, he said he had come to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to see the situation on the ground and do what he could to increase movement into and out of Gaza. "The conditions in Gaza are grim and miserable and are not in accordance with the standards of human dignity," Holmes told reporters in Jerusalem. He expressed concern about the quality of nutrition, especially amongst children, noting that 73 percent of the population received food aid, and levels of dependency were rising. Water quality and availability had declined, he said.

Palestinian woman impersonates Israeli to undergo surgery
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 2/20/2008
Haifa police investigating fraud by Jenin woman who used fake ID in order to be admitted at Rambam Medical Center. Hospital staff knew of swindle, chose to treat patient, report incident only after she was better - A 44-year-old Palestinian woman was detained Wednesday for alleged fraud, after doctors at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa suspected she impersonated an Israeli resident of the northern town in order to undergo an operation. Rambam staffers reportedly found out about the scam before the surgery, but decided to treat the woman, reporting the incident to the authorities only after she was on her way to recovery. The woman came to the hospital’s emergency room about a fortnight ago, where she was diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Presenting herself under a pseudonym "“ believed to be a relative’s - she was hospitalized and prepped for surgery.

Palestinian woman poses as Israeli in order to undergo surgery
Fadi Eyadat, and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
A 22-year-old Jenin resident was arrested Wednesday for posing as an Israeli citizen in order to receive medical treatment. According to suspicions, the young Palestinian woman passed herself off as an Israeli in order to undergo complicated lung surgery at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital. The woman arrived at the hospital a week and a half ago and presented herself as a citizen of Israel. During the course of her treatment, the hospital staff discovered that that her blood type does no match that that of the Israeli woman whose identity she stole. Despite this, and because of her sensitive condition, the suspect underwent the operation. Hospital staff only notified the police of the crime after the patient was healthy enough to be discharged. Haifa Police chief Dudu Ben-Atia said that because of the sensitive nature of the case...

IOA releases Palestinian woman after paying fine
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- An Israeli military court has ruled the release of Palestinian detainee Suad Al-Amad after one month incarceration in return for a fine of almost 2,000 dollars. The lawyer of the Nafha legal society said that the Israeli military court of appeals held a hearing on Sunday at the request of the lawyer and on Tuesday she was released after paying the fine. Amad, 29, was kidnapped on Monday night 17/1/2008 during an IOF incursion into Nablus. She was held in Petah Tikwah interrogation center where she was subjected to psychological pressures and was deprived of seeing a lawyer to force her to "confess". [end]

Netanyahu: Olmert government taking measures to cede Jerusalem
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Likud leader and chairman of the opposition MK Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the Olmert government is taking measures to divide Jerusalem, and urged the key Shas party to bolt the coalition and topple the government in order "to save Jerusalem." Netanyahu was reacting to ongoing wrangling between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over Olmert’s assertion that the sides had agreed to defer discussions over the status of Jerusalem to a future final phase of negotiations. "This weak government is prepared to give away Jerusalem, and is acting in order to give it away," Netanyahu said. "All its denials and attempts at whitewashing will do no good." Officials of the ultra-Orthodox Shas have warned Olmert that they view negotiations over a future division of the city as a red line that would spur them to part ways with the ruling coalition.

Netanyahu: Olmert planning to divide Jerusalem
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 2/20/2008
Opposition chairman says Olmert’s government intends to divide capital, warns Jerusalem will become ’Mecca of global terror’ if Israel withdraws from eastern neighborhoods - Israel must not, under any circumstances, withdraw from Jerusalem and allow another terrorism base to be established in the heart of the country," Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu stated Wednesday. Speaking during the Jerusalem Conference held at the Hyatt Hotel in the capital, the Likud chairman added, "It should be made clear that Hamas would enter any place we withdraw from. Signing an agreement with the weaker elements in the Palestinian Authority makes them even weaker." According to Netanyahu, "Islamic fundamentalism constitutes a conventional and unconventional threat to Israel. The Iranians are building bases in the Middle East.

Bodies of Dimona attack’s bombers, extradited to the Palestinian side
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Bodies of two Palestinian fighters who carried out a bombing attack in Israel last month, were reportedly extradited to the Palestinian side on Wednesday. Mohammad aL-Herbawi and Shadi al-Zaghir, of the West Bank city of Hebron, carried out last month a suicide bombing attack in a mall inside the southern Israeli town of Dimona, in which one woman was killed and 11others were wounded. The Islamic Hamas movement, which holds a sway in Gaza, had claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the two fighters were sent out by the group to carry out the bombing. One of the killed was shot dead by an Israeli police personnel on the spot, as the other managed to blow himself up in the Dimona mall. Shadi, 20, used to work for a plastic factory in Hebron, while Mohammad, 20, used to work for a paper factory in the same city, according to their parents.

MKs to fan out globally to warn of Iran threat
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
Some 15 Knesset members from a broad spectrum of parties will soon embark on a tour of Europe and the Far East to explain the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and urge that sanctions against the Islamic Republic be intensified. Sometime in March, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet for another discussion of Iran’s nuclear program, and a few weeks later, the Security Council will meet to discuss a third round of sanctions against Tehran, in light of its continued defiance of the council’s demand that it cease enriching uranium. Therefore, the next few weeks are critical in drumming up support for harsher sanctions. Israel’s stepped-up lobbying effort is in part a response to the release by the United States late last year of a new National Intelligence Estimate, which claimed that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program.

UN Chief: Ahmadinejad’s verbal attacks on Israel intolerable
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon promised Wednesday to respond "firmly" to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s verbal attacks on Israel, which he called "intolerable." Ban made the promise in a meeting with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman, who requested the meeting with the UN chief following the Iranian president’s Wednesday attack calling Israel a "filthy germ." Ahmadinejad’s remarks were broadcast on Iranian television on Wednesday, in which he called Israel a "filthy germ" and "savage beast" established by Western states in their bid to dominate Middle East nations. The comments came just days after a top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard called Israel a "cancerous germ" which would be wiped out by Hezbollah, Army Radio reported.

Ban Ki-moon slams Ahmadinejad over ’microbe’ remark
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 2/20/2008
In meeting with Gillerman, UN secretary-general says Iranian president’s recent anti-Israel statement ’intolerable and inexcusable’. Israeli ambassador demands multinational UN force in Lebanonact vigorously to prevent Hizbullah breaches of Resolution 1701 - WASHINGTON - Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, met on Wednesday with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to protest Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s labeling of Israel as "a dirty microbe." Ki-moon called Ahmadinejad’s words "intolerable and inexcusable" and vowed he would address the controversial remarks. During the meeting, which lasted over an hour, the Israeli envoy demanded that the UN officially denounce Ahmadinejad’s statement. "The secretary-general was appalled by the Iranians’ remarks, even before hearing Ahmadinejad’s most recent statement," Gillerman told Ynet after the meeting.

Hamas denies fabricated statement against Kuwait
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, has accused certain circles known for previous anti-Kuwait and anti-Hamas stands of fabricating a statement in the name of Hamas attacking Kuwait. Hamdan in a statement on Tuesday said that those who issued the statement were trying to harm Kuwait’s commitment to the Palestine cause and to harm Hamas’s relations with Kuwait. He said that those people are annoyed over Kuwait’s appreciation of Hamas’s resistance and Jihad against occupation. Those fabricating the statement were also dismayed at Kuwait’s assistance to the Palestinian people in Gaza in support of their steadfastness in face of the "oppressive Zionist siege", he underlined. The Hamas representative stressed that his Movement’s stable policy does not allow any attack or harm against any Arab country or institution "even if they lashed out at us so how...

The Hamas-led government slams a new decision to sell lands to foreigners
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
The deposed Hamas government in Gaza slammed Wednesday a latest decision by the care-taker government to sell state-owned lands to foreigners. Responding to the Hamas’s accusations, aL-Khashan denied totally that the decision will include non-Palestinian foreigners. " All the applications that have been submitted by the Palestinian lands authority for the cabinet’s approval, have been filled in by Diaspora Palestinians", the justice minister made clear. The Palestinian minister of endowment and religious affairs of the Hamas-led government, Yousef aL-Mansi, earlier denounced the Ramallah cabinet’s decision, saying that ’such transactions are void and null, while those involved are committing a ’ great treason’". " the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf territory and any inch of which can never be ceded", aL-Mansi maintained.

Nazzal: Barghouthi’s name removed from prisoners’ list at Abbas’s request
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Mohammed Nazzal, member of Hamas political bureau, has revealed that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage had asked the Israeli government to remove the name of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Al-Barghouthi from the list of Palestinian prisoners to be freed in return for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He told Quds Press that mediators returned the list of names with the name of Barghouthi removed and when asked about that they quoted the Israeli officials as saying that Abbas had personally asked for the removal of his name. Nazzal said that Abbas and his team did not like to have Barghouthi out of his jail at this particular time when preparations were under way for convening the sixth Fatah general congress because it would mean that he might be chosen as the new leader of Fatah in place of Abbas.

Caretaker gov’t: We won’t allow PA negotiators to surrender Palestinian rights
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The caretaker government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya stated that it would never allow the PA negotiators who do not have a legal and constitutional authorization to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people to relinquish the Palestinian inalienable rights especially in occupied Jerusalem and the right of return. These statements came during the weekly cabinet meeting held on Tuesday which focused on the latest field and political developments in the Palestinian arena. The government examined the ominous consequences of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s frivolous meetings with Israeli officials which are held on the beat of the Israeli massacres, settlement activities and siege and denounced the ongoing military and media cooperation between the PA leadership and the IOA against the Palestinian people.

VIDEO - Abbas aide says declaring independence a possibility
News agencies, YNetNews 2/20/2008
(Video) Member of Palestinian negotiating team Yasser Abed Rabbo says if talks with Israel continue to falter, Palestinians should unilaterally declare independence. President Abbas states proposal premature, voices his commitment to peace negotiations - Palestinians should declare an independent state unilaterally if peace talks with Israel continue to falter, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Abed abbo, said on Wednesday. But the Palestinian president said the proposal was premature and pledged to keep negotiating until the end of the year. In a statement, Abbas said that he remained committed to reaching a negotiated peace agreement this year. "If we are unable to do that... We will return to our Arab (brothers) to take the appropriate decision," he said.

Abbas cool to aide’s call for Kosovo-like declaration of statehood
Barak Ravid and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, responding to an aide’s call on Wednesday for a unilateral declaration of statehood if peace talks with Israel continued to falter, ruled out taking any such step soon. "We will pursue negotiations in order to reach a peace agreement during 2008 that includes the settlement of all final status issues including Jerusalem," Abbas said in a statement. "But if we cannot achieve that, and we reach a deadlock, we will go back to our Arab nation to take the necessary decision at the highest level," he said, without mentioning any options. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team with the Israelis, told Reuters that if they could not reach a deal with Israel, the Palestinians could consider declaring independence like Kosovo did on Sunday.

Palestinians ’should declare independence like Kosovo’
Daily Star 2/21/2008
A senior Palestinian official on Wednesday called for a Kosovo-like declaration of independence in the absence of progress in peace negotiations with Israel. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that he would continue negotiating and that he was "optimistic and hopeful" about the talks. "Our people have the right to proclaim independence as the people of Kosovo did. We were occupied long before the Kosovo problem emerged," Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the Palestinian negotiators, told AFP. Kosovo on Sunday declared independence from Serbia. Several countries - including the United States and Britain - have recognized Kosovo as a new state, but Israel has said it "will formulate its position later on." "Measures must be taken with a view to a unilateral declaration of independence as Kosovo did, and the world will then have to ensure the end of the occupation of our land," Abed Rabbo said.

Anti-siege activities to be held in 20 Arab and foreign countries next Saturday
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- The popular committee against the siege announced Tuesday that different activities marking the International day to break the Israeli siege on Gaza would be held at its invitation next Saturday in 20 Arab and foreign countries. In a press statement received by the PIC, the committee stated that many anti-siege organizations all over the world communicated with it in order to coordinate activities and demonstrations during that day and to maintain their momentum. The committee underlined that the Israeli siege imposed two years ago endangers the lives of one and a half million Palestinian citizens and deprives them from living a decent life. In another development, a two-year-old Palestinian child was proclaimed dead on Tuesday in Gaza as a result of lack of medicines needed for the treatment of his liver disease; thus, the number of patients who died because of the unjust siege rose to 98 victims most of them women and children.

Yousef: Imminent flare-ups if the world did not move urgently to end the siege
Palestinian Information Center 2/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Yousef, the political advisor to PA premier Ismail Haneyya, on Wednesday warned that if the international community did not move seriously to end the siege on Gaza and try to communicate with Hamas, there would be imminent flare-ups surprising everyone. In a statement received by the PIC, Dr. Yousef pointed out that the Gaza Strip from the viewpoint of some people is a burnable powder keg not subject to mere calculations and logic of others, warning the international community not to wager on Gaza patience. Regarding the issue of conducting a truce with Israel, the advisor stated that any calm with the Israeli occupation should be reciprocal and comprehensive and entail the ending of all forms of the siege imposed on Gaza. The advisor reiterated that Hamas as a government and movement never thought to separate Gaza from the Palestinian land, re-stating that there is no state in Gaza and there is no state without Gaza.

Israel, PA talks to venture outside three ’core issues’
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed yesterday to expand their negotiations to topics beyond the "core issues" of borders, Jerusalem and the refugees: Within two weeks, teams will be set up to discuss at least seven other issues. The decision was made at a meeting in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The two assigned the heads of the negotiating teams on the core issues - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia - the job of deciding exactly which issues the new task forces should begin discussing, and Livni hopes to reach an agreement with Qureia on this matter soon. While the foreign minister would prefer the talks on the core issues to take place in maximum secrecy, the talks on the new issues will be conducted with far greater openness, which she hopes will attract media attention and thereby create a feeling of momentum in the negotiations.

Jordan seminar told negotiated political solution on final status precondition to sustainable economic growth in Palestinian areas
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 2/19/2008
GA/PAL/1076 United Nations Workers in West Bank, Gaza Paint Grim Picture; Quartet Envoy Adviser Says Work ’Major Walk Up Very Steep Hill’ (Received from a UN Information Officer. ) AMMAN, 19 February - Constraints and challenges to Palestinian economic development, especially in Gaza and the West Bank, were detailed this afternoon by senior United Nations officials from the region, while the Donor Coordination Adviser in the Office of the Special Envoy in Jerusalem said a negotiated political solution on the permanent status issues was a precondition to any sustainable growth in the Palestinian areas. Participants in the two-day United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People heard a striking account of the ’very significant’ impediments to a reasonable standard of living in the West Bank, by Rosemary Willey, Field Coordinator for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs there.

Nexus between economic development, statehood is focus of United Nations Seminar on Assistance to Palestinian People
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 2/19/2008
GA/PAL/1075 Secretary-General Says Only Permanent Political Settlement Can Alter Economic, Humanitarian Problems of Palestinian People (Received from a UN Information Officer. ) AMMAN, 19 February - Only a permanent political settlement, which ended the occupation and gave Palestinians their independence, could fundamentally alter the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people and bring lasting security for Israel, the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People was told today, in an opening message by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General acknowledged in his remarks to the two-day gathering in Amman of internationally-renowned experts, which included Israelis and Palestinians, members and observers of United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations, parliamentarians, civil society and the media,...

French Consul visits Nablus
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/20/2008
Allen Remy, the French Consul to the Palestinian Authority, visited on Wednesday the northern West Bank city of Nablus and described the conditions there as "calm". He also said that France transferred 24 Million Euros in support to the Palestinian Authority. He said that the EU is committed to transferring donation to the Palestinian Authority for development projects, and added that development cannot be achieve while the Israeli roadblocks and obstacles are barring the residents from moving and from conducting their daily issues. Remy also said that France, along with Egypt, is seeking unity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On his part, Mheisin welcomed the Consul and said that this visit is very important since it enables the international community to observe closely the suffering and obstacles the Palestinians have to face on daily basis.

Sweden accused of persecuting civil servant for pro-Israel views
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
An employee of the Swedish Migration Board sued the organization last month for what he considers unlawful demotion for his support of Israel and the U.S. , which he expressed in his personal Web site. The parties met last week at the Goteborg District Court for a first hearing on the case. Lennart Eriksson, 51, told Haaretz by phone that his boss, Eugene Palmer, had demoted him last September from the position of manager of an asylum assessment unit - which he had held for six years - to manager of one of the board’s shelters. Eriksson maintains that in effect, the demotion constitutes dismissal. The board - the government body handling immigrants - disagrees with this. Eriksson, who is not Jewish, also said he viewed his demotion as a form of political persecution. According to Eriksson, Palmer told him he had seen Eriksson’s Web site and that Eriksson’s views were both "unusual and controversial.

Russian-Israeli tycoon: Russian aliyah absorption unsuccessful
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
MOSCOW - Russian-Israeli business tycoon Lev Leviev said Wednesday that Israel was unsuccessful in absorbing the mass Russian immigration, adding that many of the immigrants are leaving the country. Leviev himself left Israel recently and transferred his business to London. The tycoon made the comments to Israeli journalists after the celebratory opening of a new food and aid distribution center for needy Jews in Moscow, run by the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, which Leviev heads. Leviev criticized successive Israeli government’s handling of the Russian aliyah, saying "aliyah to Israel does not need to be based on [fleeing] difficulty, but rather on an ethical decision emanating from a connection to Judaism and the Jewish people," he said. "They should have acted in accordance with the idea of bringing people of a high intellectual level."

LOG head: ’Open war’ is for others
Daily Star 2/21/2008
BEIRUT: The head of the Lebanese Option Group (LOG), Ahmed al-Assaad, on Wednesday rejected the prospect of an open war with Israel that he said would lead Lebanon to destruction, referring to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s promise to avenge the assassination of a top commander in Damascus last week. "We are fed up with open wars," Assaad told a news conference." We have no problem if Arab states and Iran participate in this war. But we will not accept that this war be our responsibility, and especially the responsibility of the Shiite community. This is not acceptable anymore." Assaad said he denounces any assassination, referring to last week’s of Imad Mughniyeh. "Violence is not a solution, for it only leads to more violence," Assaad said. During Mughniyeh’s funeral last Tuesday, Nasrallah warned that if the Jewish state wanted "open war," the resistance was ready to respond.

Analysts: Solution to Lebanon’s crisis tied up in tug-of-war between US, Iran
Michael Bluhm, Daily Star 2/21/2008
Analysis BEIRUT: The ongoing regional standoff between the United States and Iran is largely dictating the course of the likewise seemingly intractable political impasse bedeviling Lebanon for more than a year, through each country’s surrogates here, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Wednesday. "Lebanon is being used as a battleground to exchange messages between Iran and the US," said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. "Lebanon is the proxy battlefield to score goals back and forth." Lebanon’s deadlock shares its role as front line in this new cold war with the Iraq conflict and the Palestinian-Israeli morass, he added. "This kind of cold war or hidden war is going on here," Safa said. Developments in Lebanon do not function merely as a mirror of the US-Iran face-off, as the equation involving the factors of Lebanon’s political...

VIDEO - News / Shi’ites across Mideast hail Mughniyah as religious hero
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for February 19, 2008. In this edition: Shi’ites across the Middle East hail slain Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah as a religious hero. Police arrest a widow suspected of faking cancer to receive donations. A lawyer is jailed for fraud in dealing with Jews’ pensions in Germany. [end]

Companies in north told to return compensation
TheMarker, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
About 1,000 business owners in the northern part of the country recently received a letter demanding they return all or part of the compensation they received from the state following the Second Lebanon War. The business owners were surprised, and appalled, to learn that according to the Tax Authority calculations, the compensation paid them was too high because, the Authority says - the damage to their businesses was not caused directly by the 2006 war, but by a combination of causes. The businesses in question are vendors who received compensation in the framework of the so-called "green track," which utilized an assessment formula drawn up by the Tax Authority. The compensation was calculated automatically. The formula was based on the difference between a business’s turnover before the war and during five-week hostilities.

Israeli legislator blames gays for earthquakes
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/21/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: An ultra-Orthodox member of Israel’s Parliament on Wednesday blamed homosexuals for last week’s earthquake that shook his country and the region. Speaking at a parliamentary committee on preparedness for quakes, Shas MP Shlomo Benizri lashed out at homosexuality, considered an abomination under Jewish law and in its religious text, the Gemara. "We are looking for earthly solutions, how to prevent them," Benizri said. "I have another way to prevent earthquakes. The Gemara says that one of the reasons earthquakes happen - which the Knesset [Parliament] legitimizes - is homosexuality." "God says you shake your genitals where you are not supposed to and I will shake my world in order to wake you up," he added. The Knesset decriminalized homosexuality in 1988, and has since passed several laws recognizing gay rights.

Labor minister appeals bill ’empowering’ rabbinical courts
Tomer Zarchin and Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
A Labor Party minister appealed to the cabinet yesterday against the Ministerial Legislation Committee’s decision to approve a bill that would expand the authority of the rabbinical courts. Unless overturned by the cabinet, the committee’s decision technically obligates coalition members to back the bill in the Knesset. The bill contains two elements. First, it enables rabbinical courts to hear civil cases if all parties to the dispute agree and at least one litigant is Jewish (or, if the litigant is a corporation, Jewish-owned). Second, it allows a divorced couple who worked out their own financial settlement and had it approved by a rabbinical court to ask that court to resolve any subsequent financial disputes between them. The bill was forwarded to the ministerial committee by Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and minister for cabinet-Knesset liaison Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima).

Officials butt heads over new Arab city
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
Government officials are at odds over the status of a planned Arab city in the Galilee, which would be the first Arab city founded since Israel’s establishment. Shamai Assif, who heads the Interior Ministry planning administration, told the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee yesterday that no location has been found for the city, there is no timetable for building it and there had been no decision of who would be responsible for the matter. "There is no designated land," said Assif. "Thousands of dunams are needed. Israel is crowded." However, Ilan Teichman, the Housing and Construction Ministry responsible for urban planning and construction, said his ministry has been pushing a plan for founding an Arab city south of Jadera Makar, in the Acre region, for the past five years. He said the plan, for some 7,000 housing units, has already been discussed by the district committee.

Rabbinate: Import meat only if "˜morally slaughtered"™
Neta Sela, YNetNews 2/20/2008
At Orthodox Union and Israeli Chief Rabbinate"™s insistence, only meat slaughtered in more humane fashion not causing animal undue distress to be given kosher certification. Importers take note - PETA and the Torah? Following the lead of The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to animals, which has long protested against cruel "œlift and bind" slaughter techniques practiced in many United States and South American slaughterhouses, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has also decided to work to eliminate such techniques. At a recent conference involving the Chief Rabbitate"™s Kashrut Committee as well as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, a decision was made to only sanction meat imported to Israel as having undergone a kosher shechita (ritual slaughter) if the animal was killed utilizing the relatively more humane "œboxing" technique.

Beit Hakerem - The last secular holdout in Jerusalem
Tamar Rotem, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
It took about a decade for the small north-Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamivtar to change its skin. Now, after most of its well-to-do secular households have been replaced with ultra-Orthodox families, the metamorphosis seems almost complete. For Yael Bar-On, the decision to leave was made four years ago, when it came time to enroll her 6-year-old son for elementary school. That presented a problem, because by then, the Bar-Ons were among the few remaining secular families in the neighborhood. "The population of young couples with children had slowly disappeared," she recalled recently. "Only the older residents remained. The neighborhood’s kindergarten and its secular schools just kept losing students." Increasingly, the families replaced those who departed came from Ramot Eshkol, the Haredi neighborhood to Givat Hamivtar’s west.

Poll: 75% of young Israeli Arabs support voluntary national service
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
Seventy-five percent of Israeli Arabs between the ages of 16 and 22 support voluntary national service, according to a poll released Wednesday. The poll, conducted by the dean of Haifa University’s social sciences department, Professor Sammy Smooha, was carried out among 910 participants. The study also polled 78 public figures from the Israeli Arab community, dividing them into two groups - those who are identified with the Jewish establishment, and those who are not. Smooha said the study shows that the government must launch a campaign challenging those Israeli Arab leaders who oppose the national service. According to the poll, the vast majority of the Arab public is unaware of the national service, with 77. 4 percent overall and 79. 6 percent of youth saying they know little or nothing about the program.

Making the desert profit
Tahel Frosh, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
"If you are looking for prostitutes, drugs or weapons, this is an excellent place to be," says Eran Raz, referring to the dry Nahal Tzin river bed that runs within the municipal boundaries of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev. Raz set up a vineyard on 40 dunams in the area - the first venture established in the framework of the Language of the Desert project, an agricultural and tourism initiative in Mitzpe Ramon. Meanwhile there are no smugglers in sight, but between the vines, one can glimpse Bedouin women on donkeys, trying to get a herd of goats together. Prime minister David Ben-Gurion would certainly have been pleased with Raz’s attempt to get the desert to bloom. "The State of Israel cannot tolerate the reality of a desert in its midst," he said in 1955. "If the state does not destroy the desert, the desert is likely to destroy the state."

State of the Economy Index rises
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 2/20/2008
A slight increase was led by the manufacturing and trade sectors. The State of the Economy Index rose 0. 3% in January 2008, the Bank of Israel reports. The Bank of Israel also revised downward the indices for November 2007 from 1. 1% to 0. 7% and for December from 1. 2% to 0. 4%. It attributed the downward revision to "the volatility in the indices of foreign trade in goods and services." The Bank of Israel noted that January’s increase in the index indicates "continued increase in economic activity, but at a more modest rate than in previous months." It added that the increase was led by the rise in manufacturing production and the index of trade and services revenue, which was offset by foreign trade in goods and services. A breakdown of the State of the Economy Index’s components was as follows: manufacturing production rose by 0.

Business in Brief
Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
Alon USA refinery to be down for 2 months Alon USA Energy Inc. says the Texas refinery that exploded Monday could be out of commission for two months. The company doesn’t know what caused the blast at its Big Spring, Texas, plant, but says it occurred near a propylene splitter unit. The fire is now out and an investigation will begin soon. All but one of the four workers hurt in Monday’s explosion were released from the hospital Monday. The company says the fourth employee is being treated for burns and is thought to be in stable condition. (The Associated Press) El Al raising ticket prices by 3. 5% El Al Israel Airlines is raising its ticket prices, again, this time by 3. 5%, from February 26. The company explained yesterday that various inputs flew skyward in price, including jet fuel but also other products, because of the weakness of the dollar in world markets.

Nochi Dankner’s new Middle East
Ora Coren and Avi Bar-Eli, Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
Nochi Dankner’s IDB group is holding preliminary talks to import liquefied natural gas to Israel from Qatar - even though the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. And the negotiations are in no way under the table: Israel’s national infrastructures and foreign ministries are both involved in the talks. If anything comes of this, the initial costs involved will run into billions of dollars. The vision is to import large enough quantities of LNG to justify the tremendous investments. Not only is transportation via pipeline and tanker required, but also facilities to change the gas to liquid and back to gas. The people at IDB promoting the idea are Zvi Livnat and Avi Fischer, who co-own the company along with Dankner. If the concept pans out, a newly formed company would probably be run by Livnat, but would be directly subject to Dankner himself.

Israelis flock to Facebook
Noa Parag, Globes Online 2/20/2008
The past three months saw an 80% increase in membership. Social networking website Facebook reports an 80% increase in membership of Israelis over the past three months. In November 2007, 210,000 of Facebook’s 57 million members worldwide were Israelis; it now has 382,000 Israeli members. As a proportion of the total population, Facebook has been a resounding success in Israel. Israel has 382,000 Facebook members out of a population of seven million. For the sake of comparison, Germany bas 339,000 Facebook members out of a population of 82 million, and France has 1. 05 million Facebook members out of a population of 60 million. [end]

Markets in Brief
Ha’aretz 2/20/2008
... The Israel Securities Authority is furious at Lev Leviev, who yet again stated publicly that he believes his company Africa Israel is seriously underpriced ("Africa Israel stock is the biggest bargain possible in the market"). The watchdog punished the chatty billionaire by forbidding his company to issue any securities to the general public for two months - not even a shelf issue. However, it may still issue securities to institutional investors during that time. Officially, the ISA explains that Africa Israel might be perceived as issuing securities without a prospectus. (Michael Rochvarger) [end]

Iranian opposition: Tehran accelerated nuclear weapons program
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/20/2008
Paris-based Iranian opposition group claims Tehran established command and control center to work on nuclear bomb - An exiled Iranian opposition group on Wednesday claimed that Tehran has accelerated its alleged nuclear weapons program, including the production of nuclear warheads. "The Iran regime entered a new phase in its nuclear project," said Mohammad Mohaddessin, a representative of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran. He claimed that, for the first time, Tehran had established a command and control center to work on a nuclear bomb and that southeast of the capital it was also setting up a center to produce warheads. Iran has steadfastly denied it is working to obtain a nuclear bomb, arguing that its nuclear program is purely civilian. In December, the US National Intelligence Estimate said that Iran halted a nuclear...


If the land isn’t private?
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
      Not long ago the greengrocer in Ramallah recalled - between weighing locally grown zucchini and stripped hyssop leaves - that his family owns the land on which the gas station at the old entrance to the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank is located. He would not be surprised by the figure that the Peace Now movement has succeeded in officially extracting from the defense establishment, after more than a year of fighting for the freedom of information: About one-third of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank (44 out of 120) were built on privately owned Palestinian land that was seized, by means of confiscation orders, for "security needs."
     From the data it emerges that at least 19 of the 44 settlements were built on private land, even after prime minister Menachem Begin decided in 1979 that the construction and expansion of settlements would take place only on state-owned land.
     Peace Now has revealed here another act of hypocrisy, even though the Supreme Court is no longer impressed even by this: It did, after all, legitimize the construction of the settlement of Matityahu on land owned by inhabitants of Bil’in.

Nahr al-Bared and the right of return

Hannah Mermelstein writing from Ramallah, occupied West Bank, Electronic Intifada 2/20/2008
      I left Lebanon more than a week ago and am only now starting to find words. I have never before been in a place that has seen so much war. Occupation, yes.Injustice, yes. Death and destruction and uncertainty, perhaps. But something felt different about Lebanon. I have not wrapped my mind around it enough to feel confident that what I write will accurately represent my own thoughts, let alone the actual situation. But I do want to tell you about Nahr al-Bared.
     You may have heard of Nahr al-Bared, one of the Palestinian refugee camps in the north of Lebanon, when the Lebanese army almost completely destroyed it this past summer. All of the residents were forced to leave, made refugees for at least the second time, and most people are still forbidden by the army from returning. I visited the area with a friend who has spent a lot of time there. We stopped first at Baddawi refugee camp, where many of Nahr al-Bared’s residents are living inside the UN schools (because of this, the schools have been closed since the beginning of the school year). I have never seen such obvious displacement. People have reconstructed a sort of life in this school, with different families in different rooms, or often many families in one room with a tarp separating them. All their belongings are there, with makeshift closets and bureaus for clothes and small ovens to cook food. The schoolyard is full of clotheslines and small stores sell snacks at the base of the school.Life almost seems normal, though the setting completely absurd. I could blink and imagine the people back in their camp, or even in their villages that they have not seen since 1948.

Tracing Gaza’s chaos to 1948

Mark Levine, Al Jazeera 2/17/2008
      The roots of Gaza’s misery today can be traced back to the late Ottoman period, decades before the war of 1948 transformed the Gaza Strip from a minor port and agricultural hinterland into one of the most overcrowded places on earth.
     It was then, in the middle of the first great age of globalisation, that Gaza’s fate was sealed, although it would take half a century for it to unfold.
     At the end of the 19th century, the Ottoman empire was undergoing a process of modernisation that was opening provinces like Palestine to greater economic and cultural penetration by Europe.
     It was during this period - the heyday of high imperialism - that Zionism arrived on Palestinian soil.
     By the early 20th century, thousands of young and relatively unskilled East European Jews were arriving each year in Palestine desperate for work and housing.

A state of war and peace

Hasan Abu Nimah, Electronic Intifada 2/20/2008
      The car bomb assassination in Damascus of Imad Mughniyeh has created a heightened state of tension in the region. Almost every commentator, no matter what perspective he/she comes from, expects the killing to spark a fresh round of deadly violence; as if the region had room for more.
     It is hard to speculate on the outcome of this serious development, but it is very unlikely that it will pass without dire consequences, for Lebanon and the region.
     Unfortunately, neither tension nor violence is unusual in our part of the world. Wars, active or dormant, are the norm between Israel and its neighbors. This state of affairs was once described as "no war no peace," but in fact it is an unstable state of "war and peace" at the same time.
     Israel is in an active and deadly war against the Palestinians, and at "peace" with them at the same time. Every day, Israeli occupation forces and settlers inflict brutal violence on the Palestinians, killing and kidnapping innocent people, destroying houses and confiscating land for colonization.

House demolitions force Palestinians from village

IRIN, Electronic Intifada 2/20/2008
      BEQAA, WEST BANK, 19 February (IRIN) - A small, overcrowded Palestinian village in the southern West Bank, under threat from Israeli-conducted house demolitions and land confiscations, is rapidly becoming poorer.
     "Every house here has one child at least who left because we can’t build new homes. Some went to Hebron, but others left for Amman [Jordan] and places abroad" said Ghassan, a young man from Beqaa village, who is a refugee registered with the UN.
     Bilal Jaber, who recently received papers saying his house was illegal, is worried it will be destroyed.
     "I saved money when I worked as a laborer to build my home," the now unemployed man said. "If the Israelis destroy it, I can’t rebuild."
     He said he would probably have to move to the old city of Hebron, where the Palestinian Authority provides free housing in an attempt to stop Israeli settlement expansion, though living conditions there are tough.