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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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21 February 2008


Rights group: Prisons Authority ignores medical needs of inmates
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
A rights group says they have received over 350 complaints in the last year dealing with the treatment of prisoners seeking medical treatment while incarcerated. Doctors for Human Rights blamed Prisons Service doctors as practicing dual loyalty -often putting the concerns of their employer above those of the patients they are responsible for treating. The group issued a report detailing several particular incidents of wrongdoing, including a Palestinian prisoner who was left handcuffed to a hospital bed while he was dying of a gunshot wound, and a refugee from Darfur who was kept handcuffed while undergoing treatment for Leukemia. The rights group also said that AIDS patients incarcerated in the prison system were not informed that they were eligible to receive medical care.

Limited incursion in Rafah; Israeli forces open fire on school
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Several Israeli military vehicles conducted a limited incursion in the Ash-Shuka area in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip amidst heavy gunfire and artillery shelling on Thursday. No casualties have been reported. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that Palestinian resistance groups confronted the invading forces, firing several mortar shells. Meanwhile, Israeli forces stationed near the Yasser Arafat International airport in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip opened fire on the nearby Ash-Shuka school on Thursday morning. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that all students and faculty were detained in the school yard. Separately, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the National resistance Brigades, and Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for launching two rocket-propelled grenades at two Israeli military jeeps in Al-Maghazi refuge camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces seize 23 Palestinians; clashes near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Thursday morning apprehended 23 Palestinians from different West Bank districts, claiming they were ’wanted activists. ’ Ma’an’s correspondent in Nablus said that Israeli forces raided the northern West bank town of Beita south of Nablus, imposing a curfew and ransacking several homes before arresting 18 Palestinians. Fierce clashes erupted between Palestinian citizens and the invading Israeli forces who fired gunshots, sonic bombs and tear gas canisters injuring 17-year-old Hussain Sabri. He was shot in the shoulder and was taken to hospital. Israeli media sources said the army arrested 23 Palestinians in the West Bank overnight. Two days ago, gunmen opened fire on an Israeli bus at the main crossroads near Beita. Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

EU resolution lambastes Israel over Gaza Strip isolation policy
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
European Union lawmakers urged Israel on Thursday not to inflict "collective punishment" on Gaza’s population, saying its isolation of the territory had failed and its actions were endangering civilians. They urged Israel to lift a blockade which has cut supplies to the 1. 5 million people living in Gaza, run by the Islamist group Hamas, and let in aid and essential goods and services. "The policy of isolation of the Gaza strip has failed at both the political and humanitarian level," the European Parliament said in an adopted resolution. "The civilian population should be exempt from any military action and any collective punishment." Israeli air strikes and ground incursions into the Gaza Strip have killed some 300 Palestinians in the past year, including dozens of civilians, but have failed to prevent rocket fire, which killed two Israelis in the same period.

IOA destroys historic Islamic building in Old Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) has demolished the historic building of the Supreme Islamic Council in the occupied city of Jerusalem with the aim to build hotels owned by rich Jewish businessmen on it ruins, sources in the Aqsa foundation asserted. The foundation that caters for Muslim holy places in the city accused the Israeli occupation government of distorting the city’s Muslim identity through such demolitions. "Big Israeli bulldozers had completely destroyed the building but retaining only the front façade which will incorporated in the new construction after all signs indicating the Muslim identity of the building were distorted", asserted the AF in a statement it issued in this regard and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC. The foundation cited a number of Israeli procedures that expose the Israeli intention of judaizing the occupied...

Israel extends closure of Palestinian offices in E. Jerusalem
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Israel is keeping Palestinian institutions in east Jerusalem shut tight, despite its pledge to reopen them under a recently revived peace blueprint, Palestinian officials said Thursday. This month, the officials said, Israel renewed its order to close a leading Palestinian think tank known as Orient House, the city ’s Arab Chamber of Commerce and other symbolic buildings that are a rallying point for the Palestinians’ claims to Jerusalem’s eastern sector as capital of a future state. Israel police shut down the institutions in 2001, shortly after the relaunch of the Palestinian uprising against Israel, and has since issued orders every six months renewing the closure. Azzam Abu Saoud, director of the 72-year-old Chamber of Commerce, said the closure order was extended on Feb.

Sick, injured detainees continue to be barred from medical treatment
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
One of the lawyers of the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) visited a number of detainees imprisoned by Israel who informed him of the bad treatment and the continued negligence by the Prison Administration to their right to receive medical treatment. Ammar also stated that he also had three fingers amputated; a fracture in his arm, back pain and pain in his left leg, but is not receiving any medical treatment. He added that he needs platinum implant in his head but the prison administration is rejecting to provide him with the needed surgery and medical attention. The lawyer also met with detainee Mohammad Eshtewy from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. Eshtewy was kidnapped by the army last month and the soldiers who him in his right foot while he was standing in front of his home. His arrest came only three months after he was released from an Israeli detention facility.

The Israeli army attacks several villages near Hebron and kidnaps two civilians
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
Two Palestinian civilians were kidnapped when Israeli troops attacked several villages located near the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday. Troops attacked and searched homes in Sa’er and Sourif villages located near Hebron. Eyewitnesses said that the troops forced families out of their homes during the search. The witnesses added that soldiers ransacked the homes they searched and beat up men. Local sources identified the two kidnapped as; Sayif Abu Al Houwar, 21 and Hakeem Shaladah, 44. Moreover on Thursday afternoon the Israeli army forces invaded Sourif village again, took control of two homes and made them into army posts. [end]

The Israeli army attacks Beita village near Nablus and kidnaps 18 civilians
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
On Thursday, Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army attacked and searched homes in the village of Beita located near the northern West Bank city of Nablus and kidnapped 18 civilians there. Witnesses said army jeeps and troops stormed the village at dawn, soldiers searched and ransacked a number of village homes, then kidnapped 18 people and took them to unknown locations. Among those kidnapped were; Ziead Hilal, 40, Mussa Baraham, 20, Iyhab Mustafa, 24, and Taleb Hamaiel, 35. Sources in the village said that troops kept the village under curfew until late morning. [end]

Al-Aqsa militants wanted by Israel escape from PA jail
Avi Issacharoffs, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
A group of 14 Palestinian militants escaped from a Palestinian Authority prison in Nablus Thursday, Palestinian sources reported. The prisoners, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, had been involved in fighting against the IDF in recent months and were hiding in Nablus’ old city, the Kasba. Some six weeks ago, the group turned itself in to the PA, following a comprehensive IDF operation in the Kasba. The IDF agreed to let the militants, who are wanted by Israel, stay in the Palestinian prison on condition that the Palestinian security forces keep them incarcerated and deny them weapons and contact with terror organizations until Israel pardons them. So far, however, Israel has refused to include the men in the pardon agreement for Fatah fighters, under which Palestinians give up their arms in return for an Israeli amnesty.

Israel faces growing international pressure to change Gaza Strip policy
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
Ran Koriel, Israel’s European Union ambassador, recently warned the Foreign Ministry of a change in EU policy on Hamas, amid mounting international pressure on Israel over its handling of the situation in the Gaza Strip. The government has recently been getting strong signals that both the U.S. and Europe are deeply frustrated by lack of progress in negotiations with the Palestinians. Envoys of the Quartet on the Middle East convened in Berlin on February 11 to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip and the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). David Welch, top Middle East aide to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Mark Otte, the European Union peace envoy; UN Middle East envoy Robery Serry; and Russian envoy to the Middle East Sergei Yakovlev took part in the meeting. In the last week, a number of Israeli ambassadors in European capitals...

Worried Rice to discuss Gaza with Olmert in Japan
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice while both are in Japan next week. The meeting was requested by Rice. It is particularly surprising because Rice is due to come to Jerusalem for a working visit the following week. Government officials predicted that the meeting would focus on the situation in the Gaza Strip, and said that Rice probably wanted to express her concern over the humanitarian situation there. General William Fraser, the U.S. envoy responsible for monitoring implementation of the road map peace plan, visited Israel this week and met with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, the defense establishment and the Foreign Ministry. Fraser’s job is to determine whether both sides are fulfilling their obligations under the road map’s first stage, which include evacuating illegal settlement outposts for Israel and fighting terror for the Palestinian Authority.

PPC appeals medical treatment to a Palestinian detainee
International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
The Palestinian Popular Committees issued a press release appealing Human Rights Groups and the International Red Cross to intervene and save the life of detainee Bassam Hafith, 38, who is facing a continuously deteriorating health conditions. Human Rights Groups filed several appeals to transfer Hafith to a hospital but all appeals were rejected and his conditions is gradually declining. Azmi Shiokhy, secretary-general of the Committees stated that Hafith have three other brothers who are also imprisoned by Israel since more than one year in addition to a fourth brother who was assassinated by the army. [end]

Ha’aretz: Report: U.K. gov’t hid reference to Israel on Iraq weapons dossier
International Solidarity Movement 2/21/2008
The British newspaper The Guardian reported Thursday that the Foreign Office in London had successfully managed to conceal a reference to Israel in a September 2002 document on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, fearing harm to bilateral ties. The Guardian says that the word "Israel" was handwritten next to a statement in the "now discredited" dossier which said that "no other country [apart from Iraq] has flouted the United Nations’ authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction." According to The Guardian, "a senior Foreign Office official" says that the move was aimed at preventing any damage to relations between Israel and the United Kingdom. The Guardian report also says the Foreign Office made no effort to conceal handwritten notes listing other countries such as the U.

Report: UK erased mention of Israeli nuke arsenal
Ynet, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Israel mentioned in connection with Iraqi nuclear weapons program in secret dossier, but British Foreign Office has it erased it before document is released to public to avoid damaging relations between two countries - The British government instructed a mention of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal to be erased from a secret government document before it was released to the public in order to avoid damaging relations between the two countries, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian on Thursday. The document was part of the now discredited dossier on Iraqi nuclear weapons programs. According the report, the main cause for concern with the dossier was a handwritten mention of Israel next to a line reading "no other country (apart from Iraq) has flouted the United Nations’ authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Report: U.K. gov’t hid reference to Israel on Iraq weapons dossier
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
The British newspaper The Guardian reported Thursday that the Foreign Office in London had successfully managed to conceal a reference to Israel in a September 2002 document on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, fearing harm to bilateral ties. The Guardian says that the word "Israel" was handwritten next to a statement in the "now discredited" dossier which said that "no other country [apart from Iraq] has flouted the United Nations’ authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction." According to The Guardian, "a senior Foreign Office official" says that the move was aimed at preventing any damage to relations between Israel and the United Kingdom. The Guardian report also says the Foreign Office made no effort to conceal handwritten notes listing other countries such as the U.

VIDEO - News / Diplomatic crisis erupts in Arab states over Mughniyah killing
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for February 21, 2008. In this edition: A diplomatic crisis breaks out between Lebanon, Syria, Hezbollah and the Persian Gulf states over the assassination of Imad Mughniyah. Police commissioner David Cohen dismisses officers over October 2007 Peki’in clashes. Sderot residents in Tel Aviv protest against government policy on Qassam rocket fire. [end]

Kuwaiti newspaper: Israel could launch more attacks against Hizbullah before they retaliate
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Bethlehem – The assassination of Hizbullah’s military leader Imad Mughniyya was the first stage of a series of attacks Israel intends to undertake against the Lebanese resistance movement, against Hamas, and probably against Iran, sources in Jerusalem told the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Jarida on Wednesday. The sources added that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad could start the second phase of this plan before Hizbullah’s expected reaction to the assassination of Mughniyya in Damascus. "A major confrontation is looming and the side behind the assassination realized that number one coordinator between Iran and the world, rather than in Syria and Lebanon only, has been terminated. They also realize what repercussions could erupt," the sources added. The sources highlighted that the Israeli authorities have extended the term of the Mossad chief Meir Dagan one day after the assassination of Mughniyya.

Report: Barak warns Syria IDF planning Hezbollah op
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned Syria through Turkish mediation that the Israel Defense Forces is planning to escalate its military operations against Hezbollah and Hamas, the London-based daily Al-Hayyat reported on Thursday. On his visit to Turkey last week, Barak asked Turkish President Abdullah Ghoul to urge Syrian President Bashar Assad to adopt a different stance toward Hezbollah, according to Al-Hayyat. The defense minister reportedly informed Turkey of Israel’s intentions to widen its operation in Gaza and asked the Turkish leader to consider sending troops on an international mission to Gaza geared toward ending Qassam rocket fire and protecting the border. This multi-national force will comprise representatives from Qatar, Malaysia and Jordan, according to the report.

Barak to Assad: We’ll escalate fight against Hizbullah
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/21/2008
London-based al-Hayat newspaper reports defense minister conveyed message to Syrian president through Turkish president, calling on Damascus not to intervene in military battle against Lebanese, Palestinian groups if it seeks future peace negotiations - Defense Minister Ehud Barak conveyed a message to Syria during his visit to Turkey earlier this month, stating that Israel might escalate its military battle against Hizbullah and Hamas , the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Thursday. According to the report, Barak stressed that Jerusalem expected Damascus to take a different stance against Hizbullah, as a goodwill gesture for future peace negotiations between the two countries. The defense minister warned Syria to refrain from supporting Hizbullah should a conflict erupt between Israel and the...

Ehud Barak warns Syria not to interfere between Israel and Hizbullah
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has sent a stern message to the Syrian president Bashar Al-Asad through Turkish president Abdullah Gol, asking Syria not to interfere if Israel decides to escalate military action against Hizbullah and Hamas, the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper reported on Thursday. Barak promised to push forward the political negotiations with Syria if they comply with the request. Israeli political sources have recently been quoted as saying that Barak is preferring to focus on negotiations with Syria rather than with the Palestinians, as agreement is more likely to be reached with the Syrians than with the Palestinians. In a different regard, the electronic website of the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said on Thursday that Israel informed Turkey that the government will allow 800 Turkish laborers to work in Israel for the next three years.

LEBANON: This Assassination Could Change the Region
Analysis by Mona Alami, Inter Press Service 2/21/2008
BEIRUT, Feb 21(IPS) - For many in the Middle East, politics is essentially a matter of converging interests -- and the life and death of Imad Fares Moughnieh is no exception. His assassination in Syria has resonated across the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Iran. At 10. 30 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 12, a powerful blast disrupted the posh residential neighbourhood of Kafr Susseh in Damascus, Syria. Residents witnessed a silver Pajero SUV set ablaze by an explosion, as nondescript charred remains scattered on the road. Syrian security forces, several headquarters of which are located in the area, quickly intervened, removing the remains and sealing off the area. Few knew at the time who was inside the burning vehicle. Approximately 12 hours later, Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance movement, announced that its deputy leader Imad Moughniyeh, to FBI one of the most wanted terrorists, had been killed in the explosion.

Hezbollah head’s death act of terror - Italian FM
Meron Rapoport, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema termed the assassination of Imad Mughniyah "terror" in an interview to be published today in the popular Italian weekly L’espresso. He also said that Israeli assassinations of Hamas officials "serve as an alibi for terror." Concerning Mughniyah’s killing, "by my definition, the car bomb in the middle of Damascus was terror," he said. Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s chief operations officer, was responsible for attacks that killed hundreds of people around the world over the last quarter century. D’Alema also termed Israeli assassinations of Hamas operatives in Gaza an "unacceptable practice." "Targeted killings have not bolstered the West’s image, and they serve as an alibi for terror," he said.

America wants an operation in Gaza
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
WASHINGTON - As the Second Lebanon War raged, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger paid a visit to Major General Dan Harel, who was then army attache in Washington and is now deputy chief of staff. The war had not yet been described as a failure, nor had anyone thought about setting up the Winograd Committee. But Kissinger already had things to say, and he may not have been the only one. Some Israelis believed that this was the way for someone in the Bush administration to express dissatisfaction with Israel’s conducting of the war, by criticizing through an unofficial channel. Kissinger, who is still invited to the White House to advise the president, was a natural candidate for such a task. The Israeli operation in Lebanon had left Kissinger unimpressed, and he made this clear to Harel.

Israel considers a U.S-like invasion of Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
The Israeli government has been reportedly approved a military plan, similar to the U. S invasion of Iraq in 2003, within underway preparations to massively attack Gaza. According to the Jewish Press online website on Wednesday, Israeli sources said that a plan, drafted by the Israeli general staff, has been endorsed by the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak. The website also reported that such a planned invasion has been discussed by several panels of the Israeli cabinet, involving many cabinet members. A part of the plan, Israel is intending to diminish the Hamas regime in Gaza, with targeting the Hamas leaders and controlling most areas of the Gaza Strip, in a way that dejects momentum of likely international response. At least 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers, backed by warplanes and warships and battle tanks, will be employed in the Gaza invasion, to be deployed at four main access, including the Mediterranean sea side.

No ironclad guarantees
Reuven Pedatzur, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was surprised to learn last Sunday that the Iron Dome defense system, which was approved last year and was supposed to protect Israel’s citizens against Qassam rockets, is not capable of alleviating the distress of Sderot inhabitants. "Recent tests found the system to be effective against rockets fired from more than four kilometers away, but not against those fired from closer range," Haaretz noted that same day in its lead story. Because Sderot is less than two kilometers from Beit Hanun, from which the rockets are being fired, Iron Dome will be helpless against them. The upshot is that the prime minister, who just two months ago declared that "we will not fortify ourselves to death," was compelled to approve recommendations to fortify 8,000 homes in Sderot and the communities of the "Gaza envelope," to the tune of NIS 300 million.

Sderot residents set up protest tents in Tel Aviv
Roi Mandel, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Rabin Square becomes encampment’s permanent residence. Mayor of rocket-battered town: We have come to shatter the ’Tel Avivian bubble’ - After folding up their protest encampment in Jerusalem, Sderot residents on Thursday moved their tents to Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. The Sderot Municipality’s operations will also be conducted in Tel Aviv until further notice. The encampment was visited by council heads from southern Israel , including the mayors of Beersheba, Dimona and Arad. Other mayors are expected to arrive at the protest tents throughout the day in solidarity with the residents of the rocket-battered city. Beersheba resident Yehuda Alush arrived in Tel Aviv from the Jerusalem encampment , and he plans to sit there and protest as long as it takes. "We are here to tell Tel Aviv’s residents that people can no longer ignore the situation which Sderot residents face on a daily basis.

2 rockets hit building near Nahal Oz
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Qassams fired from northern Gaza cause damage to Israeli building; no injuries reported - Two Qassam rockets hit an Israeli building near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel on Wednesday night. There were no reports of injuries. Three rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening. Two landed within the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, and the third rocket landed on Palestinian territory. There were no reports of injuries, despite the fact that the Color Red alert system was not activated for an unknown reason. Home Front Command Chief Brigadier-General Yair Golan said Tuesday that a decrease in the number of Qassam rockets fired from Gaza at Israel had been registered in 2007, compared to the previous year. According to data presented by Golan during a meeting of the Knesset’s State Control Committee,...

Israeli army carries out an incursion into Rafah city
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
The Israeli army carried out early on Thursday a small-scale incursion into the southern Gaza Strip of Rafah. Witnesses in Rafah told news agencies that the Israeli army tanks fired several cannons towards the Shuka village in eastern Rafah city, with no injuries reported. The Palestinian resistance groups encountered the tanks with mortar shells, forcing them to roll back, added the witnesses. Meanwhile, the national resistance brigades ad the aL-Aqsa martyrs brigades, claimed responsibility for firing two mortar shells against Israeli tanks to the east of Maghazi town, in central Gaza. A joint statement, faxed to press, read that the shelling of the Israeli armored vehicles came in response to the continued Israeli attacks on the coastal region.

Khalil people bid farewell to martyrs of Dimona operation
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Large masses of Al-Khalil people marched on Wednesday evening in the funeral procession of Mohamed Al-Hirbawi and Shadi Al-Zaghir, the Qassam fighters who carried out the human bombing operation in the Israeli Dimona settlement. The IOA had handed the bodies of the two Qassam fighters to their families earlier the same day after three weeks of detention. The martyrs had carried out their raid near an Israeli trade center in the settlement which led to the death of an Israeli nuclear scientist working for the Dimona nuclear reactor and the injury of many others. [end]

Palestinian security arrests 6 Hamas members in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Nablus – Hamas said on Thursday that the Palestinian security affiliated to the Fatah-led government in the West Bank arrested 6 Hamas members on Wednesday. They said in a statement that the Palestinian security apprehended the Mayor of Bidya town in the district of Salfit in the northern West Bank, along with two other Hamas affiliates. According to the statement two other members of Hamas were seized in the northern West Bank village of Jayyous in Qalqilia district, and one was apprehended inthe village of Tammun in the district of Tubas in the northern West Bank. [end]

Hamas developing unmanned planes with Iran’s assistance
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israel fears that Hamas is using knowledge it acquired from Hizbullah to develop unmanned drones, the daily Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth reported on Wednesday. Hamas is supposedly utilizing the expertise of many experts who came from Iran in addition to the help of members of Palestinian universities that specialize in different sciences such as electronic and physical engineering to help them develop their air capabilities, the Israeli security forces fear, according to the newspaper. According to the newspaper, Israeli security services also unleashed their anger on Egypt which they accused of double standards in dealing with Hamas because the Egyptian authorities arrest their members during the day only to release them at night. The newspaper added that Egypt also turns a blind eye to the smuggling operations that Hamas carries out between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas police seize suspect in failed Haniyeh assassination plot
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas-affiliated police have seized a former Fatah intelligence officer accused of being involved in a plot to assassinate deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh, the Gaza-based de facto Palestinian interior ministry announced on Wednesday. Muhammad Shabat was a brigadier in the previous Fatah-affiliated intelligence service in the Gaza Strip. "Shabat was the main source who funded the terrorist group, and he coordinated everything with Palestinian intelligence chief, Tawfiq Tirawi and secretary general of the Palestinian presidency At-Tayyib Abdul-Raheem," the de facto interior ministry said in a statement. "This arrest came after intensive efforts by the interior ministry to reveal and apprehend those suspected of attempting to assassinate Haniyeh," the statement added. Last week, the de facto Palestinian interior ministry published details...

Hamas’s parliamentary bloc condemns trial of Dwaik, says it is illegal
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The change and reform parliamentary bloc which is affiliated with Hamas Movement deprecated on Wednesday the Israeli decision of putting Dr. Aziz Dwaik, the speaker of the PA legislature, on trial, describing it as illegal. According to the bloc, Dwaik was duly elected by the Palestinian people and became the speaker of the PA parliament and therefore Israel couldn"™t just easily put him on trial as he enjoys immunity by virtue of his position. "Indeed what the Israelis are doing reflects the Israeli defiance and indifference of international laws, and also reflects the weak Palestinian stand of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas who meets with criminal [Israeli premier Ehud] Olmert despite the latter’s decision of prosecuting the head of the Palestinian legitimacy", asserted the bloc in a statement it issued and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC.

PA justice minister refutes Hamas accusation of selling land to foreigners
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Al-Khashan refuted Hamas’ accusations that the West Bank-based Palestinian caretaker government plans to sell Palestinian land to foreigners on Wednesday. The new rule, according to Al-Khashan, only applies Palestinian holders of foreign passports, and not foreigners. He affirmed that the list which the Lands Department submitted to the cabinet for ratification included only Palestinians from living in exile who decided to buy lands in their own villages and towns of origin. The Palestinian cabinet has to approve each such deals after they studying each one separately, and Palestinian law does not prohibit Palestinians of buying land in their home country regardless of other forms of citizenship they may hold, Al-Khashan explained. The Palestinian minister said that he personally checked the list, which contained 20 to...

Civil servants in Gaza Strip to receive salaries next Monday
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Monthly salaries for civil servants in the Gaza Strip will be paid next Monday, ’Ala’ Al-Batta head of the Gaza Strip’s union of civil servants said on Thursday. Al-Batta explained that 2,000 employees will receive salaries every day, including military employees and those who have not been paid by the Palestinian Authority. Military employees will receive their salaries first, followed by civil servants. In a different regard, the de facto government in the Gaza Strip has decided to pay 120,000 US dollars to the Ministry of Labor for repairs to the buildings which have been damaged by Israeli bombardments. The information office affiliated to the de facto cabinet released a statement saying the government has also decided to pay a 100,000 NIS to fund a shop for prisoners at the Nafha prison.

Border Guard officer to face disciplinary hearing for harming settler
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Police Internal Affairs Bureau cites Border Guard’s Judea and Samaria sector commander for conduct unbecoming an officer, dismisses allegations of undo force, malice, obstruction of justice. Rightists slam decision, say appeal is underway - The Police Internal Affairs Bureau announced Wednesday that it would pursue legal action against Brigadier-General Shlomi Even-Paz, who heads the Border Guard Command in Judea and Samaria, for conduct unbecoming an officer. The IAB further stated it found no evidence for obstruction of justice and so will not recommend any criminal be brought against the officer. The Border Guard Command has turned the case over to the Police National Headquarters’ disciplinary branch. The event for which Even-Paz was cited for dates back to the summer of 2007, when right-wing activists and settlers from the Homesh First, arrived at the location...

Palestine Today 022108
Ghassan Bannoura- Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
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 Thursday February 21st, 2008. The Israeli army invades southern Gaza and opens fire at school children, while in the West Bank Israeli troops kidnap 20 civilians, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Palestinian school children in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah came under Israeli army gun fire on Thursday morning as resistance fighters clashed with the invading troops. The Israeli army forces invaded the city of Rafah on Thursday morning, opened heavy gun fire on Palestinian school children as well as local residents’ homes. During a short time the invading tanks and bulldozers exchanged fire with local resistance fighters and resistance groups announced that they...

Israeli Authorities demolish several Arab constructions in the Negev
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
The Israeli Authorities in the Negev area demolished on Thursday morning four houses, one shop and a public facility in al Far’a, Wadi Al Ni’am and Um Amatan unrecognized Arab villages in the Negev. One house was demolished in Al Far’a village, one shop in Um Amatan village, a public facility in Al Hawashla village, and one house in Wadi Al Ni’am village. Hussein Rafay’a, head of the Regional Council of the Unrecognized Arab Villages in the Negev, stated that the demolishing of the construction is part of the of an ongoing campaign by the Israeli authorities against the Arab villages in the Negev as the government is expanding and construction Jewish-only settlements in the area. Rafay’a added the dozens of houses and constructions were demolished in several villages although the lands are owned by the villagers but "Israel insists on emptying the area from its Arab residents in order to construct and expand the settlements".

School children in Rafah exposed to Israeli army gunfire
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
Palestinian school children in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah have been reportedly exposed to Israeli army gun fire on Thursday morning, as resistance fighters clashed with the army forces. The Israeli army forces in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah opened heavy gun fire on Palestinian school children of the Shuka village, witnesses said. Witnesses added that the children have been stranded at the school as the Israeli army has exchanged gun fire with resistance fighters in the area. Local families have appealed to all concerned bodies to protect their children, who came across fire. Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli army carried out a small-scale incursion into the aLshuka, as resistance fighters claimed firing mortar shells towards the invading force. The Rafah city has been recently exposed to a series of Israeli army attacks, with the Gaza International...

Abducted Palestinian female attorney released in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Ma’an news agency learned on Thursday that the kidnapped Palestinian female attorney Amani Abu Arqub has now been released by her abductors and is in the headquarters of the preventive security service in Ramallah in the central West Bank. Details of the motive behind the abduction have not yet been released. Abu Arqub from Hebron was abducted about two weeks ago by unidentified people in Ramallah in the central West Bank. [end]

Red Cross delegation visits the Palestinian ministry of prisoners affairs
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – A delegation representing the International Committee of the Red Cross met with the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Ashraf Al-Ajrami, on Tuesday evening. The group from the Red Cross included the head of the Red Cross delegation to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Christoph Harnisch, the Director of Logistical Operations, and the director of the West Bank delegation. The director of the minister of Prisoner’s Affairs office and the director of administrative affairs also attended the meeting. The Palestinian minister updated the visitors on the latest developments and obstacles that impede the ministry’s performance. He explained that the Israeli Prison Service refuses to improve living conditions for Palestinian prisoners, which would enable them to live in dignity as required by the fourth Geneva Convention.

Education Ministry report shows increased sexual violence in schools
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Incidences of sexual violence in schools increased 26 percent last year, the Ministry of Education’s Psychological Counseling Service (Shefi) said Wednesday. Annual incidents of abuse, meanwhile, soared from 186 seven years ago to 404 last year. Shefi’s department for combating child abuse is handling 24 percent more cases. Shefi head Shosh Zimerman said sexual abuse among youths "is much more prevalent than people think, because society is not aware of what exactly constitutes sexual abuse. Comments on body parts or showing off pornographic pictures are often seen as normal adolescent behavior." The law and the Education Ministry require the school staff to report every incident of sexual abuse to the welfare authorities, police and ministry inspectors. Shefi is frequently called on to find educational and therapeutic ways to help...

Rights group slams Egypt for shooting African migrants on Israel border
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
CAIRO, Egypt - Amnesty International on Thursday accused Egypt of using excessive force against illegal migrants trying to sneak into Israel, and called on authorities to launch an investigation into the recent killings of five Africans on the border. The London-based human rights group urged the Egyptian government to protect the human rights of individuals intercepted at the border with Israel and immediately launch a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the recent killings. The five Africans - two women and three men from Sudan, Eritrea and Ivory Coast - have been killed in separate incidents near the Egypt-Israel border since late January. They were believed to have paid hundreds of dollars to human traffickers to help them cross into Israel. Israel estimates that 2,800 people - mostly from Africa - have entered the...

Business in Brief
Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
WIZO: Increase in firings of pregnant women There was a steep rise last year in the number of women who complained they were fired or had their work conditions significantly worsened because they were pregnant, or after they returned from maternity leave. The numbers were published by WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, in Israel. The number of complaints from women who claim they were fired while pregnant, undergoing fertility treatment or immediately after returning from maternity leave was up 64% last year. It is illegal to fire women in all these cases, unless the employer has received special permission from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor. The number of women asking for advice about these matters rose 70% in 2007 compared to 2006. According to WIZO, the increase is partly the result of women’s increased awareness as to their rights.

’Slap on the wrist’ for top police officer following Peki’in riots
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Internal investigation determines senior command failed to adequately prepare in advance for operation to disperse riots in Druze town, criticizes field officers for failing to equip troops with protective gear - An internal police committee of inquiry into the Peki’in riots of October 2007 revealed a series of worrying failings in both the preparation and execution stages of the operation to contain the public disturbance. The findings were released on Thursday. But despite the committee’s grave report detailing the errors in judgment evident throughout the operation, Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen chose to end the disciplinary proceedings by issuing a reprimand against Northern District Commander Maj. Gen. Shimon Koren. Cohen has already voiced his support of Koren and said he would continue to command his district for an additional three years.

UN chief vows ’firm’ response to Iran’s threats against Israel
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon promised yesterday 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. The Israeli diplomat requested the meeting after Ahmadinejad called Israel a "filthy microbe" earlier yesterday, in remarks broadcast on Iranian television. The president also said that Israel was a "bloodthirsty beast" that was "created and unleashed on the region’s people" by the Western powers. His words came just days after a top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard called Israel a "cancerous germ" which would be wiped out by Hezbollah. Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by the Fars News Agency on Monday as saying: "In the near future, we will witness the destruction of the cancerous germ of...

Iranian official: Countdown to Israel’s destruction has begun
Yossi Melman, Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam Hadad has warned that the "countdown to Israel’s destruction has begun," in an interview published Thursday in an Iranian newspaper. Hadad’s comment was one of a number of scathing remarks made by Iranian officials regarding Israel this week, a trend apparently escalated by the assassination of Hezbollah’s second-in-command Imad Mugniyah earlier this month. Also Thursday, an adviser to Iran’s most powerful figure said Mughniyah’s assassination would accelerate Israel’s demise at the hands of outraged followers of the Shi’ite Lebanese group. Yahya Rahim Safavi, a former commander-in-chief of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Mughniyah’s killing in a car bomb in the Syrian capital Damascus had angered thousands of young members of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Mughniyeh hit accelerates ’certain death’ of Israel - Khamenei adviser
Daily Star 2/22/2008
The assassination of a top commander of Hizbullah has hastened the "certain death" of Israel, the top military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Thursday. General Yahya Rahim Safavi, in the latest of a spate ofverbal attacks by Iran, said the murder of Imad Mughniyeh in a Damascus car bombing last week had enraged thousands of young members of Hizbullah. "With this anger, the certain death of the Zionist regime had been brought forward," he said, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. Iran has stepped up its rhetoric against Israel since the Mughniyeh hit, which it blamed on the Jewish state. Israel has denied any involvement but expressed support for whoever killed Mughniyeh. Safavi, who was for a decade top commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, again accused Israel of carrying out the attack that killed Mughniyeh...

Presidential Primaries 2008 / McCain’s unconditional support for Israel likely to draw Jewish voters
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
WASHINGTON - A little while after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, a group of Israelis visited Senator John McCain in his office, armed with maps. Among them was the IDF military attache, Major General Dan Harel, and ambassador Danny Ayalon. The maps were laid out, a briefing was made, and McCain did not hesitate much at the end to declare the just cause behind the Israeli offensive. In one of his speeches during that time, at a fundraiser in a St. Louis golf center, he said: "My dear friends, you have probably seen our European friends say, ’Well, the Israelis have got to stop. ’ But what would we do if somebody came across our borders and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers? Do you think we would be exercising total restraint?" Here is a subject with which McCain identifies a great deal more with Israel than some of the members of the current U.

EU advisers to PA police seek $221 million for training, prisons
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
European Union advisers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ police force are seeking a $221 million infusion of funds to step up training and expand prisons as part of a Western-backed security crackdown. The cost estimate is 10 times the $22 million committed so far under the EU’s police training program, EU officials in the region said on Thursday. Western powers plan to hold a conference in Berlin in March or April that will focus on the funding needs of Abbas’ police force and the crumbling penal system in the occupied West Bank, organizers said. Abbas’ Western-backed government launched a security crackdown in the West Bank late last year, seeking to showcase Palestinian efforts to comply with the long-stalled "road map" peace plan. Abbas’ government and some Western officials have accused Israel of undermining the...

Nunu: PA’s confusion over declaring independence reflects failure of negotiation
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government said the confusion of the PA leadership over declaring Palestine as an independent state, after Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary-general of PLO’s executive committee, announced the PA’s intention to declare one-sided independence, reflects the crisis it reached after the failure of its negotiation policy. In a press release to the Palestine newspaper published on Thursday, Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman for the government, underlined that this state of indecisiveness came after the frivolous negotiation with the Israeli occupation proved its failure and after the PA negotiator made a lot of concessions to Israel and collaborated with it against the Palestinian resistance. Nunu added that all these attempts made by the PA negotiator did not appease the Israeli occupation which is not satisfied with all the concessions made, but wants all the Palestinian lands and rights and to turn the PA into its subordinate.

MP Mansour: The issue of Palestinian detainees is one of the central issues
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- MP Mona Mansour, a member of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, stated that the question of Palestinian prisoners is one of the core Palestinian issues and one of the biggest humanitarian and legal issues today.    In a press statement received by the PIC, MP Mansour elaborated that there are about 11,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails living in harsh conditions and being deprived from the most basic human needs, adding that the Israeli judiciary passes oppressive sentences against prisoners lacking the minimum legal standards and based on instructions received from the Israeli intelligence.   The statement touched on the issue of imprisoned MPs in Israeli jails whose number amount to 48 detainees including the PLC speaker Dr. Aziz Duwaik, considering it a dangerous precedent that never happened before in any country in the world, a violation of international laws and blatant interference in the internal Palestinian affairs.

Hamas rejects any plan to deploy international forces in WB
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has expressed its utter rejection of any plan to deploy international forces in the West Bank, charging that the plan aimed at replacing the Israeli occupation with another one. In an exclusive statement to the PIC on Wednesday evening, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, stated that what was published by Israeli newspapers about an American proposal to dispatch NATO forces to the West Bank after the withdrawal of the IOF troops are intended for giving the impression that there is a solution in sight, while on the ground no solution has been achieved. Dr. Abu Zuhri underlined that the Palestinian people want to end the occupation and to exercise their right to self-determination rather than replacing Zionist occupation with another. The Israeli daily, Jerusalem Post, reported that General James Jones, the American security envoy to the region, raised this idea during his recent talks with Israeli officials.

Egypt’s ambassador to Washington: my country wants Gaza no more isolated
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
The Egyptian ambassador to Washington, Nabil Fahmy, stated yesterday that his country will not allow Gaza to be isolated from the outside world. " Cairo will make every possible effort in order to reopen the borders with Gaza for entry of essential supplies to the coastal region", Fahmi was quoted as saying. The Egyptian diplomat warned of what he termed ’punishing the Gaza population, saying that Egypt will not allow starving the Palestinian people. He maintained that Cairo has been in constant contacts with the concerned parties, including the ruling Hamas in Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel, the United States and Europe, in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis to Gaza’s residents. Fahmy’s remarks were reported by an American think tank website (AHN). Late on January, the Egyptian authorities sealed off a breached border line with Gaza, after...

Prisoner exchange deal including Gilad Shalit, Marwan Barghouthi moving forward, officials say
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – There has been progress in a controversial proposed prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Palestinian captors of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a Palestinian minister from the Hamas-run de facto government in Gaza revealed on Thursday. Meanwhile, a spokesperson of one of the groups who have held Shalit since 2006 confirmed the news, but he said that the deal is not yet complete. The Palestinian minister of detainees and freed detainees in the de facto government, ’Atif Udwan, was speaking prisoners’ families during their weekly demonstration in Gaza City. "Happy endings are nearing as there has been noticeable progress in the prisoners deal. The deal will include prisoners who have served more than 15 years in Israeli jails, and they will be amongst us soon," he said. For his part, the spokesperson of the Popular Resistance Committees, Abu Mujahid...

Saudi minister: Arab peace initiative will fail without Israeli response
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
The olive branch put forward by the Arab nations in 2004, offering to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace that both sides could agree upon, will soon fail if Israel continues to ignore it, said Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Wednesday. Since George Bush, the current US president, held a one-day ’peace summit’ in October, the Arab nations have been pressing Israel to use the occasion to finally respond to the united Arab call for peace. Unfortunately, according to al-Faisal, Israel has failed to respond, and this may lead the Arab nations to re-think their position. "We hope that Israel responds positively to our quest and efforts, to avoid desperation that would force us to review our options," said al-Faisal Wednesday in a speech he gave in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a meeting of Latin American and Arab leaders.

Ahmad Yousuf: Gaza will explode if international community does not intervene on siege
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The political advisor of the Foreign Ministry of the de facto government in Gaza, Dr. Ahmad Yusuf, warned on Wednesday that the situation will explode with surprising consequences if the international community does not make serious efforts to end the siege on Gaza and allow Hamas into the international community. Dr. Yusuf pointed out in a press release sent to Ma’an that Gaza is seen by some as a time bomb waiting to explode as he warned everyone not "to count on Gaza’s patience." "Hamas talked about a truce more than once, but Israel wants to have a free hand to continue its killings, assassinations and incursions. This policy requires a response from the resistance by all necessary means. It is our right as long as there is an illegal occupation in our land," he said. "Our vision for a truce is holistic and timely..."

Building Palestinian state is no longer dream, but strategic viable objective, Jordan’s ambassador says as seminar concludes
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 2/20/2008
Observer for Palestine Urges a ’Tripling’ of EffortsTo Prevent Annapolis, Paris Conferences from Joining Other Failed Endeavours - AMMAN, 20 February -- Asserting that the creation of a Palestinian State was no longer a dream, but a strategic viable objective, Jordan’s Ambassador warned that any procrastination would be at the expense of the peoples on both sides of the conflict. Picking up on the theme of the two-day United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and hosted by the Government of Jordan, the representative said that the political, social and economic fabric necessary for the creation of a Palestinian State was more ready than at any other time in history.

Planning ministers, economists consider ways to bolster sagging Palestinian economy, on Jordan seminar’s second day
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 2/20/2008
AMMAN, 20 February - The mix of ingredients for a viable Palestinian economy was the focus of the Seminar’s plenary this morning, with the Planning Minister from the Palestinian Authority, an Israeli economist, and the head of operations of the European Commission’s Technical Assistance Office among the panellists offering recipes for improving the dire economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The General Director of the Tel Aviv-based Macro Center for Political Economics, Roby Nathanson, said that there had been a window of opportunity after Oslo for economic development and cooperation between the two sides for a future Palestinian State, but the process had been derailed by the second intifada and, in 2006, by the election of Hamas.

Palestine investment conference postponed due to expected Israeli restrictions
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – An internationally backed conference to encourage investment in Palestine will commence Wednesday 21 May and run until the 23rd, the executive director of the conference Hasan Abu Libda said on Wednesday. Abu Libda said the timing of the conference was set at the request of the Palestinian government and the conference steering committee. The Palestinian economic conference was scheduled to be held during the first week of May, but it was postponed out of fear that many delegations and entrepreneurs might not be able to attend it on that time due to Israeli travel restrictions as that are expected to coincide with the Israeli celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel.

State official: ’Act against Tehran before it’s too late’
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Ynet learns Israel intends to demand UN Security Council assemble to debate third round of sanctions against Islamic Republic after release of IAEA report. ’’We hope IAEA is aware of the price the entire world may end up paying for its lenient approach towards Iran,’ says top Jerusalem official - Israel will seek to call a session of the United Nations Security Council to demand the tightening of sanctions against Iran "“ Ynet learned on Thursday. The request to convene the council will be made after the release of an additional report on Tehran’s nuclear program authored by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei. A senior State official told Ynet that the report is expected to see light this coming weekend or early next week. "We hope the IAEA is aware of the price the entire world may end up paying for its lenient approach towards Iran," said the official.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu: Level Beit Hanoun
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Safed’s rabbi believes Qassam fire will not stop because of ’a few children hurt here and there in a targeted killing,’ calls on IDF to erase Palestinian town. ’Instead of acting like Jews we act according to Christian morals,’ he tells Ynet - If we don"™t want to destroy Sderot we must destroy the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun, Safed’s Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu ruled Wednesday following the ongoing Qassam rocket fire targeting the southern Israeli town. "We don"™t have to kill the people living there, but we must definitely destroy Beit Hanoun," he added. According to Rabbi Eliyahu, there is no chance that the rocket fire will stop due to "a few children hurt here and there in an IDF targeted killing" because they are perceived as shahids (martyrs), and therefore leveling the northern Gaza Strip town is "the only efficient solution".

Minister Eitan: Jerusalem Arabs oppose division of capital
Nadav Shragai and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Minister of Pensioners’ Affairs Rafi Eitan on Thursday said that Jerusalem must not be divided as part of the peace process with the Palestinians, saying "we took a poll and found the [Arab] residents themselves don’t want to leave. They like it with us." Speaking during a conference in Jerusalem, Eitan said that he did not believe that the Palestinian government was able to fight terror, "and therefore we must keep the capital whole, and fight to have it all under Israeli control." Eitan 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. On Wednesday, Likud leader and chairman of the opposition MK Benjamin Netanyahu said that Olmert’s...

EU lawmakers urge Israel not to inflict collective punishment on Gaza residents
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
On Thursday, several European Union lawmakers urged Israel to refrain from inflicting collective punishment on the Palestinian residents in the Gaza Strip, and stated that the Israeli blockade over the coastal region had failed and the Israeli actions are putting civilian lives under danger. The lawmakers said that the Israeli blockade over Gaza resulting in cutting supplies to 1. 5 million Palestinians and called on Israel to allow aid and essential goods into the area/ The EU stated in an adopted resolution that the civilian population should not be subjected to any military action or any sort of collective punishment. After more than 300 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip last year due to Israeli air strikes and ground offensives, Israel still failed to stop the firing of homemade shells fired by fighters into adjacent Israeli towns.

Hebrew state asks Egypt to retain Rafah crossing closed
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- An Israeli official has asked Cairo to retain the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip closed in a bid to tighten the hermetic siege imposed on the Strip for almost nine months. The Hebrew radio reported that Amos Gilad, the head of the political-military bureau at the war ministry, on Wednesday met his Egyptian counterpart Hussein Tantawi and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman during a visit to Cairo. The broadcast noted that the discussion tackled security conditions along the borders, and added that Gilad informed the Egyptian officials of the Israeli plan to build a security fence along the borders. Both parties agreed on maintaining contacts over the few coming weeks until reaching a final agreement on the security fence and the Rafah crossing. The Rafah border terminal is the only crossing for the Gaza inhabitants to the outside world.

US rejects call for unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence if peace talks fail
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Agencies – The United States on Wednesday rejected the comments made by senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Palestinians should follow the example of Kosovo and unilaterally declare independence if Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations fail. Following Tuesday’s meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said, "If things are not going in the direction of actually halting settlement activities, if things are not going in the direction of continuous and serious negotiations, then we should take the step and announce our independence unilaterally," adding, "Kosovo is not better than us. We deserve independence even before Kosovo, and we ask for the backing of the United States and the European Union for our independence.

EU commissioner asserts importance of opening Gaza crossings
Palestinian Information Center 2/21/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The European commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner has expressed deep concern over humanitarian, economic and social conditions in the Gaza Strip. She underlined that the EU would continue working to alleviate the suffering of the Gaza inhabitants through a number of measures including humanitarian assistance. Waldner in a message to MP Jamal Al-Khudari, head of the popular anti-siege committee, thanked him for his letter about the Gaza siege. She said that the EU ministerial council and the international quartet committee had clearly voiced their concern over the conditions in Gaza and in a meeting last December the ministerial council reiterated calls on all parties concerned to re-open the Gaza crossings for humanitarian reasons and for commercial traffic. The commissioner also said that the EU had asked Israel to restore fuel supplies...

Chairman of pro-Israel group from US Congress addresses Knesset
Ynetnews, YNetNews 2/21/2008
US Congressman addresses Knesset Christian Allies Caucus about greater cooperation with American group - The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) met on Thursday with US Congressman Dave Weldon, co-Chairman of the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus (CIAC), a pro-Israel organization comprised of members of the US House of Representatives. The CIAC was established in July 2006 in response to the initiative of its sister caucus, the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. Opposition leader and Chairman of Likud, MK Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as many Christian leaders attended the meeting. The participants discussed cooperation between the KCAC and the CIAC. At the event, MK Benny Elon (National Union), chairman of the KCAC, and Congressman Weldon ratified a joint resolution between the two sister groups. "œThis resolution will act as a blueprint for political cooperation between the KCAC and its sister caucuses.

Arab summit ’needs a Christian Lebanese president’
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 2/22/2008
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Thursday that Lebanon must be represented in the upcoming Arab League summit in Damascus by a Maronite Christian president in order to demonstrate the country’s "true diversity." Siniora told reporters in Paris ahead of a meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy that Lebanon has not yet received an official invitation to take part in the summit, scheduled for March. "The invitation must be sent to the president. Lebanon must be represented at the summit by its president," he said. "It is crucial to have a Christian president represented in a meeting among 22 Arab states," he said, adding that this would demonstrate that "Lebanon represents true diversity... and civil peace." The premier said that Lebanon can serve as a model of coexistence and provide an example that counters the model of the state of Israel.

Tank deal hinges on permits for Turkish workers
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak will seek cabinet approval on Sunday for a deal to extend the work permits of 800 Turkish construction workers in exchange for a contract from the Turkish government to upgrade hundreds of tanks. This is effectively an extension of an existing deal that expired in December. Turkey requested the extension during Barak’s visit to Ankara last week. The original deal, signed in 2002, gave Israel Military Industries a $700 million contract for the tank upgrades. In exchange, Turkey would benefit from the workers’ repatriated earnings, expected to total tens of millions of dollars over the life of the five-year contract. However, the extension may face a legal challenge. The Hotline for Foreign Workers had petitioned the High Court of Justice against the original deal, claiming that the Turkish labor contractor that supplied the workers was mistreating...

IDF spends $6-7m on VMware virtual servers
Shmulik Shelah, Globes Online 2/21/2008
20 virtual servers can run on one physical server. The IDF’s immense expenditures on computerization and its importance has forced the army to rethink its spending model. The IDF recently closed a $60-70 million three-year servers tender, considered the country’s largest tender in this field. The tender includes virtual server solutions. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that VMware Inc. (NYSE:VMW) will supply $6-7 million worth of virtual server solutions over the coming years. The VMware environment simulates the operation of servers on enterprise networks. The company’s software provides a range of computer resources on a physical server irrespective of the server hardware or the amount of memory on it. The main advantage of virtual servers is that they better exploit existing physical servers (an ordinary server is used only 10% of the time), which enables 20 virtual servers to operate off one physical server.

Russia offers to host, finance Israel 60 anniversary events in Moscow
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Russia has offered to host and finance events to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary, but an official source in Jerusalem cautioned that there are no free lunches in Moscow. The source said the Kremlin’s "embrace of Israel" would bring it political benefits. "There are no free lunches where the Russians are concerned. They are doing this to gain influence and they won’t hesitate to pour money into the Israel anniversary events," the source said. A few days ago the minister in charge of the 60th anniversary celebrations, Ruhama Avraham Balila, met senior Russian officials in Moscow. Vyacheslav Nikonov, the executive director of the Russian World Foundation, arranged the visit. The foundation was established by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wishes to reinstate Russia’s past national glory, particularly among Russian expatriates.

Livni: Palestinian people have no future under Hamas rule
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Thursday that the Palestinian people had no future under Hamas, adding that Israel would continue its campaign against the terror created by the Islamist group. Livni met Thursday with her Romanian counterpart, amid mounting international pressure on Israel over its handling of the situation in the Gaza Strip. "Europe must internalize that Hamas is not an organization interested in the establishment of a Palestinian state," Livni said, following the talks with Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Cioroianu. "It is not asking for Palestinian rights, but rather wants to take rights away from others." She added: "All the indirect support for Hamas - even if nade through discussions on opening border crossings or on the humanitarian situation - only weakens those interested in reaching an agreement.

USAID helps young and old Palestinians hear again
United States Agency for International Development, ReliefWeb 2/21/2008
Bethlehem, West Bank - USAID is launching a $702,679 initiative to respond to the needs of deaf children and elderly Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Through its Emergency Assistance Program (locally known as Rafeed), USAID will provide hearing aids to 1,260 children and elderly Palestinians suffering from moderate to severe hearing impairments. Hearing impairment is one of the most common disabilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Untreated deafness can isolate and impoverish. Without hearing aids, deaf children perform poorly at school. Likewise, deaf adults struggle to find work and deaf elderly become anxious and depressed. Sadly, good quality hearing aids cost more than the average household monthly income. As a result, few Palestinian families can buy hearing aids for their deaf children and elderly relatives.

Monopoly Website drops country names after Jerusalem row
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Monopoly, the iconic game of capitalism, has been drawn into the dispute over Jerusalem. Monopoly manufacturer Hasbro Inc. issued an apology Thursday after an employee, responding to complaints from pro-Palestinian groups, eliminated the word Israel after the city in an online contest to select names for a new Monopoly board game: Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition. The company also pulled all country names from other cities on the site when even more people complained because Jerusalem was listed as the only city without a country. The Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based company is asking people to vote at the Monopoly Web site on which cities will be included in the new edition. Until Tuesday, every city on the site listed a country, including Paris, France; Cairo, Egypt and Jerusalem, Israel.

U.S. victims of Palestinian terror await gov’t stance on compensation
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
U.S. has two weeks to give opinion on lawsuits filed by relatives of Palestinian terror victims against PA, PLO. WASHINGTON - Dr. Katherine Baker, a microbiologist from Pittsburgh, says it wasn’t by chance that she decided to research germs. "People," she says, "are too difficult to understand." Last Thursday afternoon she stood at the entrance to the office of Congressman Mark Kirk, exhausted after three days of meetings with people - those creatures she finds so difficult to understand. Each time she mentions the morning of July 31, 2002 her eyes water up. She recalls how she woke up in the morning intending to plan a birthday party for her son who was just about to return from Israel, and how by the end of that day she was planning his funeral instead.

Shas official suspected of indecent acts
Avi Cohen, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Head of Histadrut Labor Federation’s welfare division questioned by police on suspicion of sexual harassment. Both Shas, Histadrut suspend official pending outcome of investigation - Shas’ David Yifrach, head of the Histadrut Labor Federation’s welfare division was taken in for police questioning Thursday, after being suspected of sexual harassment and of performing indecent acts on three of his female office employees. Along with Yifrach, the police questioned a municipal rabbi from central Israel , suspected of obstruction of justice. In late November 2007, the Histadrut’s chief legal counsel, Attorney Alon Levin, received an anonymous letter by a woman, detailing sexual harassment allegedly performed by Yifrach in plain view of several of his female subordinates. Levin, who also serves as the Histadrut’s sexual harassment ombudsman, spoke with...

MK Melchior said to have known of plan to breach Gaza border
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) knew of Hamas’ plans to breach the Gaza-Egypt border some 48 hours before it occurred, yet did not notify Israel Defense Forces officials, according to an Army Radio report released on Thursday. According to the report, Melchior received information on the planned breach from a religious leader in the Gaza Strip. Melchior apparently did not report Hamas’ intentions because he thought that the IDF already know of the plans to break down the border fence. Former National Security Council chief Giora Eiland said in response to the report that "it is desirable that any information that can fill out the intelligence picture be reported to the relevant officials." Ya’akov Perry, former Shin Bet chief, said the "question of whether Israel knew about the breach is of little importance since the Egyptians allowed the fence to be torn down.

Echoes of the fractured reality of Palestinian existence
Ayman Oghanna, Daily Star 2/22/2008
Ibrahim Nasrallah’s ’Inside the Night’ exposes the torments of life in exile - Review - BEIRUT: Missing an arm, a moustache and a homeland, two nameless narrators arrive at an ambiguous Arab airport. Although forgotten, they fail to forget and from this point of departure they wander lost through time and space, their experiences conveyed through a splintered and shattered selection of stories. The distinctly disparate narrative at the core of Ibrahim Nasrallah’s "Inside the Night" - translated from Arabic to English by Bakr R. Abbas and published late last year by the American University in Cairo Press - is a blurred tapestry of these wanderings as the narrators interlace past and present, youth and manhood, sex and love and, most tragic of all, a massacre. The result is a novel whose disjointed style echoes the fractured reality of Palestinian existence and exile. Nasrallah himself is no stranger to exile.

Toronto Palestine Film Festival seeking entries
Announcement, Toronto Palestine Film Festival, Electronic Intifada 2/21/2008
The Toronto Palestine Film Festival (TPFF) is now accepting entries for the first annual festival to be held in October 2008. Conceived by Palestine House, the festival is an important component of the year-long activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Nakba. Cinema represents a powerful means for visually interpreting the collective identity and historic struggle of the Palestinian people. The festival will present in film the extraordinary narrative of a dispossessed people living in exile or under Israeli occupation and will introduce Canadian audiences to the rich variety of Palestinian cinema. While highlighting the work of Palestinian filmmakers the festival will showcase the diverse and creative work of all filmmakers (any nationality) exploring both historic and contemporary themes related to Palestinian culture, experience, and narrative.

Palestinian photojournalist wins international awards
Ma’an News Agency 2/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Agence France Presse photojournalist Mahmoud Al-Hams has won two prizes for his war photography in international competitions in the US and Japan. Al-Hams, from the Gaza Strip, was awarded third place in the "Days of Japan International Photo Awards" for a series of eight photos. One of the winning photographs was of an Israeli missile launched from an F16 fighter jet landing on the police headquarters of the Hamas-affiliated Executive Force in the central Gaza Strip in May 2007. Other photographs in the series were taken during funeral processions of Palestinian victims of Israeli bombardments. The final photograph of the series was of a Palestinian man embracing his son in a hospital ward. The photograph of the Israeli air-to-land missile falling towards the police headquarters also won a prize in a competition in Missouri University in the United States.

ISRAEL: Cold weather kills 14 homeless people
Shabtai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/22/2008
One of Jerusalem’s main streets in the city centre during the January snow storm - TEL AVIV/JERUSALEM, 21 February 2008 (IRIN) - Two spells of very cold weather in the past five weeks have left 14 homeless people dead, according to local media. On 18 February the latest fatality, a 40-year-old woman, was found under the Tel Aviv municipality building where many street dwellers seek shelter as hot air vents from the underground car park provide a basic form of heating. Prior to the cold snap, municipalities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem had increased their efforts to gather homeless street-dwellers into shelters and other lodgings, but many remained outside exposed to the cold. Isaac Herzog, the minister of social affairs (MoSA), urged the public in January to report cases of homeless people in distress, and set up a special hotline at the ministry.

PM: ’Israel’s non-Jewish residents suffer from inequality’
Jerusalem Post 2/21/2008
What’s this? "Israel’s non-Jewish residents suffer from inequality," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday. Speaking at a conference for the economic development of minority sects in Israel, Olmert said: "We cannot ignore the fact that we live in a society in which 20 percent of people who are not Jewish have for many years suffered from inequalities in several fields of our lives." Olmert pledged that he would place high on his agenda practical solutions to deal with the problem of minorities and to close the gaps between different sectors of the population. [end]

A law contrived in secret
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
Following 60 years since the historic error of not separating religion from the state, the government is now expanding the authority of religion in the judiciary. Instead of heading the opposite way and taking away from the rabbinical courts their monopoly in matters of marriage and divorce, the state is now granting them further decision making powers in civil matters. According to the bill prepared by the ministerial committee on legislation, the citizens of Israel will not be able to choose what kind of court will deliberate their disputes on capital, property and contracts. Will they choose to be judged according to the law of the Torah, or according to the law of the Knesset? All this was contrived nearly in total secret in the prime minister’s bureau, in order to please Shas, with the assistance of ministersYitzhak Herzog and Ruhama Avraham.

Ministry holds up power imports
Lior Baron, Globes Online 2/21/2008
Officials were meant to draft regulations on imports from neighboring countries over a year ago. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that the Ministry of National Infrastructures has been holding up the introduction of regulations governing electricity imports from neighboring countries such as Egypt and Jordan for the last eighteen months. Publication of the regulations has been delayed due to disagreements in the ministry’s legal department over their final wording. Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer instructed officials to draw up the regulations governing electricity imports from neighboring countries more than a year ago, after the proposal was approved by the government. With the energy economy’s reserves now running low (just 5% of production capacity) the government is in favor of importing electricity from neighboring countries, with the aim of boosting Israel...

Rejoining the Diaspora
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
Every Passover, about 10 Israelis who had lived in Paris for some time would gather at Eyal Spielman’s apartment in the Fourth Arrondissement. "Secular Israelis also want to feel some kind of connection to the sacred texts, or at least to their childhood," says Spielman, who had an apartment rental business in Paris and says he served as a linchpin of the Israeli community there. However, he feels these celebrations actually emphasized the Israelis’ alienation and anomie. "It really is a poor man’s feast. Several people, some of whom don’t know one another, sit around and celebrate the holiday out of some undefined longing. These are people who have tried to assimilate in France, and some of them live with a French partner, but they definitely are not French, nor are they Israeli."

Trickle of rain fails to please
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
The storm earlier this week seriously disappointed environment watchers who had hoped its rains would boost the nation’s water coffers. This winter’s meager rainfall has done nothing to replenish shrinking Golan Heights streams or the mountain and coastal aquifers, and concern is growing again for the country’s water supply. "Cute little trickles like this will not save Lake Kinneret," Yeruham Kantman, director of the Keshet Nehusha field school in Moshav Keshet on the Golan Heights, said. Kantman and guides from the school toured the area yesterday to examine the slow flow of the Zavitan Stream and its tributaries. "Instead of being eight meters wide it is only one meter," Kantman said, observing one unnamed stream flowing into the Zavitan. "It’s frustrating because we feel responsible for the Kinneret and and it hurts that it is so far from its uppermost limit.

Leviev and Boymelgreen’s Florida dreams shattered
Michael Rochvarger, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
This dream has turned into a nightmare. Four years ago Lev Leviev, the controlling shareholder in Africa Israel, and Israeli-American businessman Shaya Boymelgreen, embarked on a fabulous real estate venture in South Florida. The project’s trumpeted plans included residences, hotels, offices and more, with a total investment of $1. 5 billion. Now reality has struck back hard, and the two entrepreneurs find themselves in an uncomfortable predicament. Only one part of the project, the 306-unit Marquis residential tower, is actually being built. After each side hurled accusations at the other - concerning the stiff competition in the region; the worsening economic climate and the partners’ inability to leverage their plans; the disintegration of the Leviev Boymelgreen’s management team and delays in various payments - their partnership was dissolved.

Ernst & Young sees Israel as India’s main arms supplier
Yael Gross Englander, Globes Online 2/21/2008
"Business Standard": India is the world’s largest arms importer. India’s "Business Standard" cites an Ernst & Young reports that claims that Israel will become India’s largest arms supplier. The report says that, at $6 billion in 2005-06, India is the world’s largest importer of military hardware, ahead of Saudi Arabia and China. India’s defense budget is $23 billion. According to the report, Russia sells India $1. 5 billion worth of arms a year. Israel sells $1 billion, and is expected to surpass Russia in sales. The report adds that global arms sales reached $1. 02 trillion in 2006, 3. 5% more than in 2005. The report attributes the increase to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world’s largest arm’s market, the US, is projected to reach $1. 01 trillion by 2040. The report’s findings are backed by this week’s DefExpo 2008 Land and Naval Exhibition in New Delhi, in which many Israeli companies participated.

S&P warns on Alon USA ratings
Shira Horesh and Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 2/21/2008
The energy firm’s other refineries operate in lower margin areas. Standard & Poor’s has put itsratings for Alon Israel Oil Company Ltd. subsidiary Alon USA Energy Inc. (NYSE: ALJ ) on "CreditWatch with negative implications" following the explosion at the company’s Big Spring Refinery in Texas earlier this week. S&P’s ratings for the company include a "B+" corporate credit rating. S&P credit analyst Paul B. Harvey noted, "The CreditWatch action reflects potentially lower liquidity and cash flows following Monday’s explosion and fire at the company’s Big Spring refinery. We estimate that the refinery in Big Spring, Texas, accounted for more than 70% of operating income from refining operations through the nine months through September 2007. We are concerned that if the extent of the damage and loss to the Big Spring refinery are more severe than Alon’s current...

Russian oligarch builds biggest private estate in Israel
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 2/21/2008
"Yediot Ahronot": The oligarch bought five villas for $11 million and demolished them. "Yediot Ahronot" reports that Benjamin Netanyahu and Arcadi Gaydamak are to get a new neighbor in Caesarea. A Russian oligarch purchased five villas and demolished them to make way for the largest private estate in Israel. According to the report, the five properties, occupying a total of 11 dunams (2. 2 acres) of land, were purchased by a woman of Russian origin reportedly on behalf of a Russian oligarch. Local realty brokers say this is the largest ever purchase of property in one transaction. The estimated cost of the purchase of the villas totaled more than $11 million, with the cost of building the new estate estimated at $50 million. According to one of the contractors on the project, the estate will include a swimming pool, tennis court and gardens like those in the Versailles Palace.

72.5% of Jews in Israel use Internet, 52.5% of Arabs
Shahar Zadok, Globes Online 2/21/2008
The gap stems from the fact that Arabs have less exposure to the Internet than Jews to the Internet at work. As many as 20% more Jews than Arabs are exposed to the Internet despite use becoming increasingly widespread, according to a new survey. The rate of Internet use among the Jewish sector is now 72. 5% compared with 52. 5% in the Arab sector. The gap stems from the fact that Arabs have less exposure to the Internet than Jews at work. This means that nearly half the Arab population does not use the Internet. The survey, which was compiled by Asmaa Ganayim, will be presented at a 2008 technology conference next week. The difference in computer use and surfing habits between Jews and Arabs was also studied in a nationwide poll of 1,400 people conducted in July 2007 by Professor Gustavo Mesch of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Haifa.

Palestine’s only zoo to receive hippopotamuses
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – The municipal council of the city of Qalqilia in the northern West Bank has recently begun to build a new pool for hippopotamuses within the complex of the city’s park and zoo. The old pool was too small for hippopotamuses, mainly aquatic animals, because it was designed originally for elephants, who do not need to submerge their whole bodies in water. The director of the zoo told our reporter that the Israeli Safari Park in Ramat Gan has agreed to send more than one hippopotamus when the new pool is ready. In the same regard, the Safari Park sent six deer to the Qalqilia zoo and will send 13 more soon. The director of Qalqilia zoo said the municipal council hopes to obtain more wild animals such as lions, tigers, hyenas and snakes as part of efforts to improve the park as it is the only one of its kind in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Forgery ring discovered in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 2/21/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an exclusive – The Palestinian preventive security service in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem revealed on Thursday they have caught a gang alleged to be part of a forgery ring. The gang, including merchants and lawyers, are accused of forging formal documents. The case has been submitted to the general prosecution in Bethlehem. Ma’an learned that two people have been arrested so far and preparations are ongoing to carry out other arrests. [end]

VIDEO - Total eclipse over heart of Jerusalem
Ynetnews, YNetNews 2/21/2008
(Video) Stunning footage of this year’s only full lunar eclipse over the Holy City’s skyline; next full eclipse expected in 2010 - VIDEO: Video courtesy of Infolive. tv [end]

US imposes economic sanctions on prominent Syrian businessman
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/21/2008
Sanctions part of effort to punish officials in Damascus for alleged efforts to undermine governments of Iraq, Lebanon. ’Assad regime’s cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect,’ Treasury Department undersecretary says - WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday imposed economic sanctions against a prominent Syrian businessman as part of an effort to punish officials in Syria for alleged efforts to undermine the governments of Iraq and Lebanon. The Treasury Department said the sanctions would be imposed on Rami Makhluf, who was identified as a prominent Syrian businessman and regime insider. President George W. Bush last week signed an executive order that expanded penalties against senior government officials in Syria and their associates who are judged to have benefited from public corruption.


Covering Palestine: How US Media Betrayed Its Public
Hasan Afif El-Hasan -, International Middle East Media Center 2/21/2008
      Free media is an important institution in a democracy. The media in a democratic society must be responsible for conveying the sort of facts and analysis that is necessary for an informed perspective of the issues at hand. The public that watches television, listens to radio and reads newspapers and magazines depends on journalists to tell them the truth and offer honest opinion as they see it. The media has a strong influence on the public political thinking by ascribing social acceptance to some ideas and rejection of others.
     The media has the power of rearranging the priorities of the issues among the public. It can focus on a subject that looks irrelevant at first glance, and after frequent coverage, it can be elevated in importance in the minds of the public. The US media was very effective in swaying public opinion to support the government policies toward Iraq by provoking the emotions of fear, anger, and patriotism prior to Iraq invasion.

British police failed to arrest Israeli war criminal

Report, PCHR and Hickman and Rose, Electronic Intifada 2/21/2008
      On 10 January 2002 Israeli bulldozers flattened 59 houses in the Rafah refugee camp on the Gaza Strip.Residents fled their homes in heavy rain, most losing all their possessions in the process.Among those made homeless were a number of children who were terrified and traumatized by what happened.It appears that the motive for the destruction was retaliation for an unrelated attack by militants that resulted in the death of four Israeli soldiers.The commanding officer who authorized the demolitions was Major General (Reserve) Doron Almog.
     The extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The collective punishment of civilians is also forbidden under the Geneva Conventions.Over the years, many Palestinian civilians have tried to obtain redress, peacefully and lawfully, through the Israeli courts for incidents of this nature.Sadly, the courts have declared these matters to be non-justiciable (itself arguably a further Convention breach).

A third way

Haidar Eid, Electronic Intifada 2/21/2008
      "You are either with us, or with the terrorists," said US President George W. Bush a couple of days after the horrendous 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Prior to this statement, Bush had made it clear that his is a "crusade" against "terror" and "the powers of darkness." This simplistic binary approach employed by the American president and his right-wing administration -- supported wholeheartedly by the powerful CNNized media -- attempts to close the door in the face of a third way: a more rational, secular and democratic one that fights terrorism whether nihilistic or state-sponsored.
     Its reductive, hegemonic right-wing, orientalist ideology that informs most western politics deliberately ignores the simple rational fact that the existence of Arab terrorists does not, and should not, by any means lead to the sweeping condemnation of the Arab Nation. If one is to follow the same logic that informs such ideology, one, then, should condemn the US, and Christianity for that matter, for the terrible crime committed by Timothy McVeigh.

Hamas and Israel should sign a cease-fire agreement

Gershon Baskin, Daily Star 2/22/2008
      The war in southern Israel rages on with increased rocket fire from Gaza into the Jewish state and escalating Israeli responses. The Hamas and Jihad leadership in Gaza has gone underground in fear that Israel will resume its policy of targeted killings against them. At the same time, Rabbi Menachem Froman of Tekoa and Palestinian journalist Khaled Amayreh have worked out a "draft agreement" for a cease-fire that Amayreh claims has the backing of the Hamas leadership, including Khaled Meshaal.
     I spoke with Hamas leaders in Gaza and received verification that if Israel would support the agreement, Hamas would declare its support as well. Hamas leaders have also agreed to the idea of involving the Egyptians in negotiations if Israel wishes to make changes in the draft agreement. The agreement includes a call for a full cease-fire between Israel and all of the factions in Gaza.

The generals’ new clothes

Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
      Amos Oz expressed his view: A return to Gaza would be a bad move on Israel’s part; after going in, Israel will never know how and when to get out. Soldiers will be killed, but Sderot will not be liberated. When the moment comes for a retreat, the entire situation will revert to what it was before.
     Brigadier General (res.) Oded Tira was up in arms. After publishing an angry ad in the newspaper, he repeated his drivel on television: "Writers, you are not strategists, just hold your tongue." It is truly regrettable that a former chief artillery officer in the Israel Defense Forces cannot hear the sound of history’s wings, which are invariably black. We can recall the times and places where the "professionals" ordered the intellectuals to hold their tongues, where epaulets won the day, and the results were disastrous.
     The ad has renewed a controversy: Who has the right to express an opinion on questions of war and peace? The issue is not just the questions but also the answers, and it is not just an issue of "freedom of expression" but the right to shout to the high heavens, as one sees in the works of classic modern Hebrew author Yosef Haim Brenner. In such times, intellectuals cannot and must not be silent. Does that mean that we must listen solely to loud-mouthed warriors? When intellectuals face off against generals, should the former be silenced? Must we adhere to a simplistic version of "When the cannons roar, the muses are silent"?

Freedom of occupation

Photos by Yuval Tebol, By Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
      On the table in the mobile home of Hagit and Amihai Carlebach, in the illegal West Bank outpost of Mitzpeh Lachish, amid the remains of the vegetarian Sabbath-eve meal, are an empty bottle of red wine, empty beer cans and a bottle and a half of arak that was laced with raspberry syrup and drunk in shot glasses. Around the table are the Carlebachs; Shmuel Friedman, a friend serving in the Haredi Battalion of the Nahal Brigade; Yael Bilia, a neighbor, and her boyfriend; and a soldier from the Lavie Battalion, which is in charge of rotecting the outpost.
     The Carlebachs’ trailer is at the edge of the outpost, which is not fenced. Only a few hundred meters separate it from the first houses in the Palestinian village of Beit Awa. Some of the mobile homes are surrounded by concrete barries, erected after the terrorist attack on the nearby settlement of Negohot on Erev Rosh Hashanah 2003, in which Eyal Yeberbaum and Shaked Avraham, a seven-month-old infant, were murdered. There is no fence around Hagit and Amihai’s trailer, but their blood alcohol level is high, like their mood. Somewhere in the room are a rifle and a pistol, but for now, atop this lovely quiet hill, with everyone’s stomach full and Hagit handing out books of Hebrew folk songs, it’s easy for everyone to want nothing more than to go on drinking and singing.

Twilight Zone / Hitting them in the pocket

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 2/21/2008
      Next to an improvised stall in Manara Square in the heart of Hebron, crowded and bustling, just like in its better days, stand two young men holding piles of bills, changing money. Dinars, Saudi riyals, Gulf currencies, dollars, shekels, euros - all of these change hands. Behind the stall is the shop of Fadel Abdeen, the biggest money changer in Hebron. A large and colorful sign, showing a vulture with wings spread, one touching an American dollar and the other a Jordanian dinar, hangs above the entrance to the shop, but the place is locked. An injunction was issued for a half-year’s closure, on orders of the head of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command.
     Signs on the shop direct the customers to the phone numbers of other branches of the network, which remain open. Now money changer Abdeen is standing in the noisy street and observing from a distance as his sons run an improvised stall, a substitute for a substitute. The IDF says that this money-changing agency was friendly to terror organizations that used it to transfer money. Abdeen denies this accusation out of hand. He says that the Palestinian Authority supervises all movement of money so that it is not transferred to Hamas and its ilk. Whatever the case, the money is gone. The soldiers and police came at night and confiscated everything.