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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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22 February 2008


More than 70 injured in non-violent demonstration near Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – At least 70 people were injured, including a number of children, during a non-violent demonstration against the Israeli separation wall in the village of Al-Khader, south of Bethlehem on Friday. 43 people, 13 of them women and children, were admitted to hospital suffering from tear gas inhalation, the demonstration organizer Samir Jaber told Ma’an. 18 people were hit by rubber bullets and were taken to Al-Yamameh Hopspital. Three people, including two children suffered severe bruising, after they were beaten by Israeli soldiers trying to disperse the crowd. Organizers said that more than 1,500 local villagers and Israeli and international peace activists attended this week’s demonstration against the Separation Wall and confiscation of village land. The protest began after Friday prayers at the southern entrance to the village.

Israeli forces kill two Palestinians in Gaza bombing
Palestine News Network 2/22/2008
Gaza / PNN -- Israeli forces bombed the Gaza Strip again at dawn Friday. The target was the central Strip with several reconnaissance planes dropping missiles into the heavily populated area. Two Palestinians were killed. Both are from Saraya Al Quds, the armed resistance wing of Islamic Jihad. Medical sources at Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital report that the bodies of Bassam Haznan and Ayman Said arrived in pieces, "fragmented by the heavy Israeli shelling." Several other citizens were injured in the attack when Israeli warplanes launched a number of raids throughout the night and into dawn today. The two people that Israeli forces killed were both from Al Maghazi Refugee Camp into which three missiles were fired directly. Two of the injured are in critical condition. Palestinian security sources report that Israeli gunships opened fire with 15 shells on the northwestern Strip.

94% of applications for construction permits are rejected by Israel
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
The Israeli Peace Now Movement released data on the Israeli policies regarding denying construction permits for Palestinians living in area C, which is under full Israeli Control, and revealed that 94% of construction permit applications filed by the Palestinians are rejected by the so-called Civil Administration Office, which is under the control of the Israeli Army. Under the Oslo agreement, area "C" is "temporarily" under full Israeli control, security and civil control. The Movement revealed that in the period between 2000 and 2007 94% of construction licensing applications were rejected by the "Civil Administration Office". Also, data collected by Peace Now indicated that the Civil Administration is demolishing one-third of the Palestinian houses built without permits while in the Jewish settlements less than 7% of the illegal constructions are demolished.

Hamas: We won’t rule out any bid for cease-fire with Israel
News Agencies and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
A Hamas spokesman praised on Friday a decision by European Union lawmakers in Strasbourg, France on Thursday calling on Israel to end the blockade and open Gaza’s border crossings. "We in Hamas are highly appreciative of the initiative and the call made by the EU parliament to end the siege imposed on Gaza," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "We consider this an important development in the European attitude." Zuhri also said that Hamas will not rule out any initiative to put an end to its armed conflict with Israel, Army Radio reported. The European Parliament, which has no executive powers, said in an adopted resolution that "the policy of isolation of the Gaza strip has failed at both the political and humanitarian level." "The civilian population should be exempt from any military action and any collective punishment," it added.

Arab leaders threaten to withdraw 2002 land-for-peace offer
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
CAIRO, Egypt - Arab officials are warning they could withdraw their landmark offer of peace and full ties with Israel in exchange for a return of Arab lands, unless Israel explicitly accepts the initiative. The warnings reflect increasing Arab impatience with the long-stalled peace process with Israel. Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have bogged down since they were relaunched at the U.S. -sponsored Annapolis peace conference last November after a seven-year hiatus. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal - whose country sponsored the Arab peace initiative, adopted by Arab nations in 2002 - warned Thursday that despair would force us to review these options, including withdrawing the proposal. He accused Israel of sabotaging the initiative, which is now facing grave danger.

Hamas sources: "An Imam dies due to torture in a Palestinian interrogation facility"
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
Hamas media sources reported on Friday that Sheikh Mohammad Abdul-Aziz Al Barghouthi, 42, the Imam of Kobar mosque near Ramallah, died in a Palestinian interrogation facility due to extreme torture. One of the relatives of Barghouthi stated that the Sheikh was moved to a hospital on Thursday evening and died at the hospital on Friday evening. The relative added that marks of torture and burn were clearly apparent on the body of Barghouthi. Barghouthi was arrested by the Palestinian security forces last week and was under interrogation since then. Also, Hamas stated on Friday that Palestinian security forces in the West Bank continued their arrest campaign against Hamas members and supporters and arrested on Thursday four members of the movement in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Tulkarem.

EUROPE: Heading for a New Security Deal with Israel
David Cronin, Inter Press Service 2/22/2008
BRUSSELS, Feb 22(IPS) - The European Union is considering new steps to deepen its cooperation on scientific research with Israel, despite admitting that previous funds earmarked for that purpose have gone to firms operating illegally in the Palestinian territories. Between now and 2013, the Israeli government is to contribute 440 million euros (652 million dollars) per year so that it can participate in the EU’s so-called framework programme for research. An unpublished document prepared by EU diplomats reveals that because much of the joint research will relate to security issues, Israel has requested a formal assurance that any information it gives to Brussels will be treated confidentially. The document, seen by IPS, says that the Israeli authorities have indicated that there is a need for an agreement with the EU because the "exchange of classified material may be necessary.

Nasrallah: We’re readying for war with Israel within months
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that operatives within Lebanon are preparing for a new war with Israel in coming months. Nasrallah, who made a speech in honor of the "Islamic Resistance Week," maintained that activists from his organization are ready for battle against the Israel Defense Forces and will fight the IDF soldiers "in every wadi" in ways they haven’t fought in the past. The leader of the Lebanon-based guerilla group spoke at a rally in front of thousands who came to honor Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary general, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus on February 12. Nasrallah also spoke about the 1992 targeted killing of his predecessor, Abbas Moussawi. "No one can protect the entire Israeli home front from our missiles," he said.

Twelve residents injured in a protest against land expropriation near Salfit
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
The National Resistance Committee reported on Friday that twelve residents were injured near the west Bank city of Salfit after the Israeli army attacked a peaceful protest against the ongoing Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands in order to pave a settler-only road. The twelve residents suffered gas inhalation as the army fired gas bombs and concussion grenades at them. The residents were protesting against the latest annexation of their lands in Kafil Hares village and the total closure of their village in addition to the ongoing construction of the Annexation Wall and the ongoing expansion of illegal settlements. Nasfat Al Khafsh, the coordinator of the National Resistance Committee expressed appreciation for the large public participation in the protest and stated that this protest is part of the series of protests against settlements, the Wall and the ongoing illegal annexation of Palestinian orchards and lands in Salfit district.

Separation Barrier completely cuts off West Bank village
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - The Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem warned on Friday that the West Bank village of Nu’man, near Bethlehem has become further isolated by the Separation Barrier, completely severing the village from both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. "Already, this isolation has gravely affected all aspects of life for the 170 residents," B’Tselem said in a statement. The organization has called on the Israeli government to dismantle the section of the Separation Wall, separating Nu’man from the rest of the West Bank, or alter its route to enable the villagers to maintain their natural connection to their surrounding area. "If the government chooses not to do this, it must grant the residents Jerusalem residency status," they said. The village lies in the southeast edge of the Jerusalem Municipality most of its residents do not have Israeli identity cards.

Israeli mayor of bombarded border town offers to break ranks and talk to Hamas
The Guardian 2/23/2008
I’ll do anything to save lives, says Sderot leader · UN agrees only political deal will stop rockets Toni O’Loughlin in Jerusalem - The mayor of Sderot, an Israeli town repeatedly targeted by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, says in order to save Israeli lives he is ready to talk to Hamas - despite the international ban on contact with the militant Palestinian organisation." I would say to Hamas, let’s have a ceasefire, let’s stop the rockets for the next 10 years and we will see what happens," said Eli Moyal, the mayor, who is a member of the rightwing Likud party. "For me as a person the most important thing is life and I’m ready to do everything for that. I’m ready to talk to the devil." Last week a child lost a leg in a rocket attack on Sderot. Moyal’s first response was to call for the assassination of the Hamas leadership and for Gaza villages to be razed.

Brussels: New court to try Israel for war crimes
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 2/22/2008
Civil court established by human rights organizations to begin operations in Belgium Friday. First issue on the agenda: Israel’s alleged war crimes in Lebanon, Gaza - A new civil court founded in Belgium by human rights organizations will convene for the first time Friday evening and discuss war crimes Israel had allegedly committee during the Second Lebanon War and war crimes the groups claim it is currently committing in the Gaza Strip. Over the past year, human rights groups, in cooperation with Arab and European intellectuals, have been working on establishing the new court, which will be tasked with addressing different issues related to human rights violations and war crimes. The first matter on the court’s agenda will be Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip. Human rights organizations, as well as the victims of these alleged crimes, will appear before the court.

Appeal granted in the case of UK arms-related licenses agreements to Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The British Court of Appeal will hear a legal case challenging the British government over arms-related licensing agreements with Israel, the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq announced on Friday. On 19 November 2007, the UK High Court of Justice denied the claim lodged under the name of 60-year-old Palestinian man, Saleh Hasan, against the British Secretary of State for Trade and Industry claiming the UK government is in breach of international law by granting licenses to British arms companies to export weapons to Israel, which may then be used "for internal repression" against Palestinians. Mr. Justice Collins found that while the UK government could provide the information requested, it would involve a “considerable amount of work” and that the UK Parliament, through the Quadripartite Committee already exercised a sufficient level of oversight over arms-export licensing, making the claim unnecessary.

JPOST: US peace activist hurt in Bil’in protest
International Solidarity Movement 2/22/2008
Press clippings Bil’in Village Some 2,000 Palestinians and left-wing activists gathered in the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday to commemorate three years of their struggle against the security barrier in the area. According to the organizers of the demonstration, 10 people were wounded in clashes with security forces, including a US peace activist who was hit in the head by a rubber bullet and evacuated in moderate condition to a hospital in Ramallah Among the demonstrators were Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti and Hadash Chairman Muhammad Barakei. Several of the protesters, including Barakei, were reportedly hurt after inhaling smoke from grenades which were thrown by the IDF troops and border policemen in order disperse the demonstration. Half a year ago, the High Court of Justice accepted the petitions by residents of the village, located north...

Israeli Court frees 8 Jewish youth who plan to attack Arabs and burn their homes in Tel Aviv
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
An Israeli Court in Tel Aviv released on Wednesday eight Jewish youth who planned to attack Arab residents in Tel Aviv area, and burn their homes. The release was unconditional and only stated that they vow to obey orders to interrogate them is requested. Israeli media sources reported that that eight were arrested on suspicions that the planned to attack Arab residents and suspicions to commit a crime, in Shkhonat Hatikva area in Tel Aviv , and that they also were involved in fistfight with Arab residents. A police source in Tel Aviv stated that the police fears clashes between Jews and Arabs in the city following the release eight. [end]

Tourist moderately hurt during Bilin protest
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/22/2008
Palestinians, Israelis and foreign peace activists hold rally in village of Bilin marking three years since struggle against separation fence was launched in area. American tourist injured by rubber bullet, MK Barakeh hurt after inhaling teargas - An American peace activist was moderately injured Friday afternoon after Border Guard officers and IDF soldiers fired rubber bullets and teargas at demonstrators in the Palestinian village of Bilin, participants reported. The activist was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital. Dozens of other protesters, including Hadash chairman, Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh, were hurt after inhaling teargas, witnesses said. Barakeh’s assistant fainted and was evacuated to hospital. An elderly men required hospital treatment. Some 2,000 people attended the rally, which marked three years since the struggle against the construction of the separation fence near the village was launched.

Four Injured, including two children, when Israeli troops attacked peaceful protest near Bethlehem
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
Four unarmed Palestinian civilians were injured when Israeli troops attack a peaceful protest in Al Ma’ssara village located south of Bethlehem city, in the southern part of the West Bank. Around 70 Palestinians from the village along with international and Israeli supporters organized a protest against the illegal wall Israeli is building on the village land. Protesters marched to the village entrance where the army blocked it with raiser wire. The villagers wanted to reach their lands, as soon as villagers tired to cross over the military checkpoint Israeli troops attacked them with batons and injured four of them. Witnesses told IMEMC soldiers also spit and yelled at the young men at the protest to provoke violence but without success. The four injured were identified as Hareth Ibrejeyiah, 6, Baraa Zawahrah, 8, Hassam Ibrejeyiah 38, and Mohamed Zawahrah 36.

The army attacks peaceful protest west of Bethlehem and hurts 70 civilians
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
On Friday, the Israeli army attacked a nonviolent protest organized by the villagers of Al Khader near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. At least 70 civilians were hurt in the attack. The Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Al Khader organized a protest to demonstrate against the illegal construction of the annexation wall on land owned by village farmers. Officials and members from The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine DFLP joint the villagers of Al Khader today. Around 1500 villagers, along with a handful of foreigners, and Israeli peace activists marched toward the nearby Israeli settlers’ road which is separating the village from it’s farm lands. The protest started after Friday prayers were held at the side of the road. Two speeches were delivered during the protest; one was by Taysser Khaled, a DFLP leader and Samier Jaber...

IOF troops kidnap 10 Palestinians in the West Bank
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- IOF troops kidnapped 10 Palestinians in different parts of the West Bank on Thursday night and Friday morning according to Israeli military sources. The IOF described the Palestinians kidnapped as "wanted persons" for the occupation. Six of the Palestinians were kidnapped from the villages of Zeita and Atteel near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, two others were kidnapped near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilya, one was kidnapped in the Abu Deis village near Jerusalem and another was kidnapped from the village of Sourif, near Bethlehem. These kidnappings are taking place in a joint campaign where IOF troops make night raids in various parts of the West Bank and Abbas’s security forces make day raids. On Thursday, security forces answerable to Abbas kidnapped four Hamas supporters in the West Bank, three in the Tulkarem district and one in the Ramallah district.

Israeli forces seize 10 Palestinians across the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Israeli forces apprehended ten Palestinian citizens, in different parts of the West Bank, on Friday claiming that they are ’wanted. ’ Israeli sources said the 10 were seized in the cities of Tulkarem, Bethlehem and the village of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, stressing that they had been taken to all investigation centers for questioning. [end]

IOA plans to seize Muslim cemetery in Yafa
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
YAFA, (PIC)-- Well-informed Palestinian sources in the 1948-occupied city of Yafa exposed on Friday an Israeli plan to seize the Taso cemetery which is the only Muslim cemetery in the city in order to build investment projects on it. The revelation of the Israeli plan irked Palestinians citizens in the city as they, along with Arab members in the Israeli Knesset (parliament), warned the Israeli occupation government not to touch the graveyard. A state of disgruntlement was prevailing in the city over reports that the Committee of Trustees of the Muslim Awkaf, which was established by an Israeli order had secretly sold 40 dunums (1 dunum = 1,000 sq. meter) to Israeli parties three decades ago. "The committee has no authority to sell any of the Muslim Awkaf (endowment) as it was assigned by the Israeli occupation authority and not elected by Muslims in the city", said the Arab member of the Israeli Knesset MP Jamal Zahalka.

PCHR Weekly Report: 8 Palestinians killed, 13 wounded by Israeli forces
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)’s Weekly Report, during the week of 14 - 20 February 2008, 6 Palestinians were killed, 2 died from earlier injuries, and 13 were injured by the Israeli military. One of those killed this week was an 11-year old child. Of the injured, one is a woman, and one is a journalist. Israeli forces conducted 23 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank this week. During the invasions, Israeli forces abducted 48 Palestinian civilians. One patient died because Israeli forces obstructed her access to medical treatment in the West Bank. On 14 February, a Palestinian civilian died from an injury sustained on 7 February during an incursion by Israeli forces into Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin. On the same day two Palestinian civilians were wounded in ’Anabta village, east of Tulkarm, when Israeli forces opened fire during an incursion into the village.

Minister criticizes Palestinian revenge attacks
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Minister of Religious Endowments criticized on Friday what he described as "the growing number of Palestinian on Palestinian revenge attacks." Sheikh Jamal Bawatneh was speaking during Friday prayers at the in At-Tashrifat mosque in the presidential headquarters in the city of Ramallah, attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The minister said that Palestinians taking the law into their own hands and attacking the community is considered nationally, religiously and morally a sin, noting that retribution in Islam is the task of the master and not people. He added that any act of extra-judicial revenge attack is illegal, calling on people to seek justice through the proper security agencies, rather than taking the law into their own hands. Bawatneh also denounced the attacks on citizens and Palestinian National Authority institutions...

Demonstration in Azzoun against the planned destruction of a children’s park
International Solidarity Movement 2/22/2008
Qalqilya Region At 10am, February 21st, a demonstration took place at the children"™s park of Azzoun. Approximately 50 children came together with their teachers, other Palestinians, internationals and Israelis to play and have fun together in what is now left of the park. About three weeks from now, on March 15th, the park is due to be demolished. What was a day full of playing in the sun for the children from the kindergartens of Azzoun, was also a protest against the upcoming demolition. Local leaders, Israelis and international activists gave speeches as a mass of demonstrators waved flags and held up signs protesting the demolition order. After the demonstration the gathered people marched together down to what used to be the main gate of the village, but for two weeks now has been closed by the army. There the peaceful and non-violent demonstration continued at the top of...

Chief Palestinian Justice: nonviolent resistance in Bil’in is national example of steadfastness
Palestine News Network 2/22/2008
Bil’in / PNN- During the weekly nonviolent demonstration against land confiscation and the Wall, western Ramallah residents of Bil’in Village were joined by Sheikh Taysir Tamimi. The Sheikh, as Chief Justice of Palestine, delivered the Friday prayer, addressing the Israeli forces who continue to build the illegal Wall and expand illegal settlements, despite international condemnation and the illegality of such land grabs and ethnic cleansing. He called, as the International Court of Justice has, for compensation for Palestinian citizens who have suffered from the damage caused by occupation and its destruction of lands, homes and livelihoods. Sheikh Tamimi described the Wall around Jerusalem as part of Judaization scheme to create facts on the ground that will deceive the international community and isolate Palestinians from their own city and land.

Fifteen injured at the weekly protest of Bil’in.
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
The villagers of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with international and Israeli supporters, conducted their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall being built on village land. Israeli troops attacked the protesters. As is the case each week for over two years now, the protest started after Friday prayers, with participants marching from the village center towards the construction site of the Wall. This week the theme of the protest was to mark the third anniversary of the continuous nonviolent struggle of Bil’in village and the 39th anniversary of the Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). As soon as the protestors left the village and walked towards the village’s confiscated land it was met with a military barricade set up by the Israeli soldiers.

Israeli violence increases our resolve to stand up for freedom and independence
Palestine News Network 2/22/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farraj -- The nonviolent resistance continued Friday in southern Bethlehem where Israeli forces are confiscated lands from eight villages to expand the Efrat Settlement and impose further portions of the Wall. Israeli forces attacked the post-prayer demonstration, injuring four nonviolent protesters, including two children. A nine year old is suffering from a broken hand, while three others are hospitalized. The march began on the Palestinian lands slated to be confiscated in Umm Salamuna with dozens of residents and supporters calling for freedom. Israeli soldiers beat demonstrators with clubs as the people arrived at barriers and barbed wire imposed on their lands near the expanding Efrat Settlement. Soldiers pushed the demonstrators, refusing to let them pass, walk or stand in place.

Abbas"™s Mukhabarat tortures Palestinian man to death on Israel"™s behalf
Yasser al Rimawi, Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
Occupied Ramallah, (PIC)-- A middle-aged Palestinian man from a village near Ramallah has died, apparently of severe bodily torture at the hands of the PA Mukhabarat or General Intelligence. According to family sources, Majd Abdul Aziz al Barghouthi, 42, died Friday after he was subjected for seven days to severe physical torture at the Mukhabarat dungeons in Ramallah. A relative told this reporter that Barghouthi, an imam at the local Mosque of the village of Kobar, near Ramallah, was rushed to hospital Friday afternoon after he lost consciousness. "œHe was in a critical condition as a result of harsh beating, burns, and other forms of torture," said Muhammed al Barghouthi. "œSigns of torture and burns were all over his body.

On this sunny Friday afternoon nonviolent resistance abounds, leftist DFLP marks anniversary
Palestine News Network 2/22/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farraj - Many of the injured Palestinians fainted and vomited from inhalation of noxious gas in the weekly nonviolent demonstration against land confiscation and Wall expansion in the Bethlehem town of Al Khader. Dozens of Israeli soldiers shot bullets and gas at residents of this small town that is being overtaken by expansionist measures. The Israeli attack began after Friday prayers when hundreds of demonstrators began a massive march against the Wall and during which they marked the 39th anniversary of the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Among the participants was Taysir Khalid, a member of the Political Bureau of the DFLP. Hundreds of Palestinians held their flags and banners with messages condemning Israeli practices against the people.

Israeli soldiers break up protest
Al Jazeera 2/22/2008
Palestinian and foreign activists have clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah. The troops fired tear-gas shells and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse the demonstrators on Friday after some of them threw rocks at the soldiers. A Palestinian photographer was wounded. He was shot in the head by a rubber-coated bullet. The activists joined local residents to mark the third anniversary of the beginning of weekly protests against Israel’s separation barrier. Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh, reporting from Bilin, said that the activists as well as the journalists covering the protest inhaled the tear gas, and a number of people were injured. She said: "There is an increasing number of people injured by the rubber bullets."

U.S. to announce new aid plan for West Bank, Gaza Strip
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
The United States plans to announce tens of millions of dollars in new aid for the West Bank and Gaza next week to ease the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, U.S. officials said on Friday. The funds will be channeled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, which handles U.S. and other assistance for food, health, education and other areas, said U.S. officials, who declined to provide the exact figure as the official announcement will be made during a trip to the region next week. Condoleezza Rice to discuss Gaza crisis with Olmert in Japan 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.

US plans new aid to Gaza, West Bank
Reuters, YNetNews 2/22/2008
Officials say US will announce tens of millions of dollars in new aid next week to ease humanitarian crisis in Palestinian territories. Exact figure not provided; funds to be channeled through UNRWA - The United States plans to announce tens of millions of dollars in new aid for the West Bank and Gaza next week to ease the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, US officials said on Friday. The funds will be channeled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, which handles US and other aid for food, health, education and other areas, said US officials, who would not give an exact figure as the announcement will be made on a trip to the region next week. A large chunk of the funding will go to Gaza, where an economic blockade has led to a worsening humanitarian crisis, culminating in hundreds of thousands of people...

Despite siege, UN Food and Agriculture Organization helping Gaza farmers
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Despite Israeli restrictions on imports, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) say they are helping to restore agricultural production and improve farmers’ livelihoods in the Gaza Strip through a series of emergency projects. Eighty percent of Gaza’s population is currently dependent on food aid and locally-grown produce is a vital source of fresh food. FAO currently has 14 projects running in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the bulk of activities involving the West Bank. But according to experts the most serious area of humanitarian concern is Gaza, where agriculture and fisheries have been badly hit by the Israeli siege, with constraints on farm exports and restrictions on fishing areas. The lower volume of assistance going to Gaza largely stems from the fact that getting international goods and equipment into the area is almost impossible...

Israel tightens security on airliners
Daily Star 2/23/2008
Israel has ordered airlines to require passengers to return to their seats earlier prior to landing as a precaution against would-be hijackers, the Transport Ministry said Friday. The measure follows the assassination last week of top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh. The Lebanese group blamed the killing on Israel and has threatened revenge. Israel has denied any involvement, but is taking no chances and has been beefing up security at home and abroad. The Transport Ministry has ordered all airlines to have passengers in their seats from a distance of about 290 kilometers, or half an hour, from the Israeli coast, ministry spokeswoman Ora Salomon said. Until now passengers were asked to sit and fasten their seatbelts only when the plane was about 150 kilometers, or 15 minutes, from shore. Yediot Ahronot newspaper said "it was feared terrorists would infiltrate a plane...

Flights to Israel to buckle up half-hour before landing due to Hezbollah hijacking threats
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
Israel is requiring that passengers on all incoming flights be confined to their seats in the half-hour before landing as part of heightened precautions against hijacking, aviation security sources said on Friday. They said the Transport Ministry order, issued to local and foreign airlines on Wednesday, cited threats by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas to avenge the February 12 assassination of their operations chief by waging "open war" against Israel. "Our new policy is that planes lock their flight-deck doors and activate the ’please fasten seat belts’ signs when 290 km away from Israel," one Israeli security source said. "It’s a precaution against hijackers storming the cockpit in the final approach, given the current terrorist threat level," the source said, adding that previously it was up to the airlines to decide when to ask passengers to remain seated.

South Lebanese dread renewed conflict with Israel
Jihad Siqlawi, Daily Star 2/23/2008
Threat of fresh war with Jewish state drives many to mull emigration, but diehards remain - Agence France Presse - AL-HALLOUSIYEH: In this South Lebanese village which suffered heavy destruction during the summer war of 2006, Hassan busies himself digging a shelter in the mountainside. In another village nearby, Iman is desperate for a visa to any country that will grant her one. They are among many residents across South Lebanon fearful of a new conflict following the threats unleashed at the Jewish state in recent days by the head of Hizbullah and its ally, Iran. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel after the assassination of a top Hizbullah commander in Damascus last week that if the Jewish state wanted "open war," his organization was ready to respond in kind. Iran also stepped up its rhetoric against Israel after the killing. The threats have sent jitters across Lebanon. The fear is worst in villages in the South where residents have yet to recover...

Nasrallah writes off Jewish state as ’temporary’ aberration
Daily Star 2/23/2008
Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed again on Friday to avenge the death of one of his group’s top commanders, warning that the "resistance will not stand silent" if Israel launches a war against Lebanon. "The disappearance of Israel is inevitable, it is divine law," Nasrallah said in a speech delivered by video link to thousands of supporters taking partin a ceremony to commemorate fallen Hizbullah members. Those honored included two of Nasrallah’s predecessors, Abbas Moussawi, who along with his wife and children was assassinated in a 1992 Israeli helicopter strike, and Ragheb Harb, killed by the Israelis in 1984, along with senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, killed by a car bomb in Damascus the group has blamed on the Jewish state. "The presence of Israel is but temporary and cannot go on in the region," Nasrallah added.

Nasrallah: Israel’s disappearance an established fact
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/22/2008
In a televised speech broadcast to thousands of Hizbullah supporters in Beirut mosque, Shiite organization’s secretary-general states that Jewish state’s actions targeting Hizbullah leaders will not weaken group, says members ready ’to defeat Israel in another war’ - Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that Israel’s disappearance was an established fact and that "the murder of (Hizbullah commander) Imad Mugniyah is a preliminary step Israel is planning for Lebanon and the region." The Hizbullah leader promised the Jewish state that the next war against his organization would be "something you have never seen." According to Nasrallah, who spoke in a televised speech broadcast to thousands of supporters at a Beirut mosque, Israel’s defeat in the Second Lebanon War has marked the beginning of its decline.

Nasrallah promises revenge for Mughniyya’s death
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Hizbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that he is convinced Israel was responsible for the assassination of Hizbullah military chief Imad Mughniyya, promising revenge. "I swear to you, Imad that your blood was not shed in vain," Nasrallah said. Nasrallah described Mughniyya’s assassination as the beginning of a pre-emptive war by Israel on Lebanon, calling on all the Lebanese people to prepare for war. "Everyone should be prepared for war. The assassination was an indication of war by Israel," he said. He added that Israel’s demise was inevitable, saying that his party was ready to confront Israeli troops once again. "I swear to you Zionists, we are in a new war and we will fight with you until the end and when you lose your army that will be a sign of your end," he said.

’UNIFIL will not be discouraged’ - Graziano
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 2/23/2008
NAQOURA: The commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major General Claudio Graziano, said Friday that his peacekeepers were determined to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war with Israel. "UNIFIL will not be discouraged by threats or attacks; on the contrary, all such incidents will make us even more determined to pursue our mission and preserve peace and stability in South Lebanon," Graziano said during a ceremony at the force’s headquarters in the coastal border town of Naqoura. Also Friday, UNIFIL’s Italian contingent received a new batch of helicopters from ITALAIR to replace older ones. During the ceremony, Graziano decorated departing Italian peacekeepers with honorary medals. The ceremony was attended by Italian Ambassador Gabriel Chechia and representatives from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

Ahmadinejad: If we remain quiet, Zionists will act against us
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 2/22/2008
Iranian president explains why his country is developing nuclear project, why he keeps on attacking Israel - If we remain quiet in light of the Zionists’ crimes they, we will be unable to do anything tomorrow if they act against us, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday, according to the Iranian news agency Fars. Speaking before bereaved families, Ahmadinejad said, "There were those inside and outside the country who asked us why we are defending Palestine and speaking against the Zionists, in the midst of all the attacks on the nuclear plan. I answered them in private meetings that today we can still do it openly. "You saw that when we spoke about the Zionists’ ideology, the enemy’s ground was undermined, and they who speak about freedom (of speech) began crying out and had no possibility of creating unity and taking an active role," he added.

McCain, a supporter of Israel with a ’Judeophile’ brother
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
McCain is not a typical Republican, but in case he runs against Obama, that may help him draw Jewish voters. 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?"

Palestinian Rights Committee bureau visits camps for Palestine refugees in Jordan
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 2/21/2008
AMMAN, 21 February -- ’This morning, we saw the real face of Palestine outside of Palestine,’ the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People told the community leaders at the Irbid camp for Palestine refugees in northern Jordan today, capping the conclusion yesterday of the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, in Amman. Joining Paul Badji of Senegal in a first ever official tour of Palestinian refugee camps by a Committee delegation were the other members of the Bureau: Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz ( Cuba) and Zahir Tanin ( Afghanistan), Vice-Chairmen, and Saviour F. Borg ( Malta), Rapporteur. The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, joined the ambassadors, along with the Chief of the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights, Yuri Gourov, and the Committee Secretary, Wolfgang Grieger.

Two fighters killed, one injured, in the central Gaza Strip
Saed Bannoura & Rami aL-Meghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
Palestinian medical sources reported on Friday at dawn that two Palestinian fighters, members of the Al Quds Brigades the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, were assassinated and one was injured in an Israeli military shelling to Al Maghazi refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip. The shelling targeted a group of fighters who gathered east of the camp, local sources reported. The two slain fighters and the injured fighters were moved to the Al Aqsa Hospital in Dir Al Balah. The assassinated fighters were identified as Ayman Abu Sa’id and Mohammad Al Hazeen. The bodies of the two fighters were severely mutilated. Eyewitnesses reported that an Israeli military helicopter fired missiles at the fighters and the Al Quds Brigades confirmed that the two are members of the group. The Brigades added that the fighters were monitoring undercover Israeli forces that infiltrated into the...

Palestinian officials: Israeli missile kills two Gaza militants
Reuters and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/22/2008
An Israeli missile killed two Palestinian militants and wounded a third in the central Gaza Strip, close to the border fence with Israel on Friday, Palestinian medical staff and Hamas security officials said. The Hamas officials, who did not wish to be named, said the militants were members of the Islamic Jihad group who were on foot east of the Maghazi refugee camp when they were targeted. The militants had been posted in central Gaza near the Israeli border to observe army movements, Islamic Jihad said. An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman confirmed an air strike had been carried out against "terror elements" in the Gaza Strip. Israel frequently carries out missile strikes and raids against militants in the Gaza Strip in what it says is an effort to stop them launching rockets into southern Israeli towns and planting bombs along the border that target IDF soldiers.

Report: 2 Palestinian gunmen killed in IDF strike in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/22/2008
Palestinian sources say IDF missile killed Islamic Jihad operatives in central Gaza; IDF confirms striking ’terror elements’ in area - Two Palestinian gunmen, both members of Islamic Jihad’s military wing the al-Quds Brigades, were killed Thursday night by an Israeli missile in the central Gaza Strip, sources in Gaza reported. An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed an air strike had been carried out against "terror elements" In the area. Three days ago, Palestinian sources reported that a 10 year-old boy was killed by IDF fire during an army operation in central Gaza. The sources identified the dead child as Tamer Abu Sha’ar. According to the sources, several other people were wounded after soldiers opened fire at Palestinians in the Khan Younis area. Earlier, medics said that the boy underwent surgery and that his condition was critical.

Palestinians killed in Israeli raid
Al Jazeera 2/22/2008
An Israeli air attack has killed two Palestinians and wounded a third in the central Gaza Strip. Palestinian medical sources and witnesses said Israel launched at least one missile during the attack near Bureij early on Friday morning. The attack killed two 20-year-old members of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, Ayman Abu Said and Mohammed al-Hazin, the medics said. Officials from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, confirmed the men were members of Islamic Jihad, who had been on foot close to the fence with Israel. An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed an air assault had been carried out. Israel frequently launches missiles on the Gaza Strip in what it says is an effort to stop armed groups fighting the Israeli occupation from launching rockets into southern Israeli towns and planting bombs along the border that target its soldiers.

This Week In Palestine - week 8 2008
Ghassan Bannoura- Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 12. 8MB || Time 14m 0s || This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. IMEMC. org, for February 16th through to February 22nd, 2008. The European parliament lambasted the Israeli government’s actions on the Gaza Strip, and Israeli attacks on the region leaves 17 killed this week. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. Nonviolent Resistance We begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank, IMEMC’s Jane Smith with the details: Bil’in The villagers of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with international and Israeli supporters, conducted their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall being built on village land. Israeli troops attacked the protesters.

National Resistance brigades attack Israeli military jeep
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front, claimed they attacked an Israeli military jeep near the Sufa crossing in the southern Gaza Strip at dawn on Friday. They told Ma’an that they scored a direct hit on the jeep and clashed with the soldiers, before safely withdrawing to their bases. The brigades said that this comes within the framework of the responses by the National Resistance Brigades, in response to "the Israeli occupation’s crimes against our people." [end]

Security agencies detain 4 Hamas supporters in West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Nablus – Ma’an - Hamas said that the Palestinian security services arrested four of the supporters of the movement in the West Bank on Thursday. A Hamas spokesperson told Ma’an that the security services in Tulkarem arrested Aseed Basheer Badran, Abdullah Laqman Qa’dan and Zeyad Habasheh from the nearby town of Deir al-Ghosun. In the governorate of Ramallah, security services arrested Musa Zahran. He was taken to an unknown destination. [end]

Al-Aqsa brigades launch projectile at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Aqsa Brigades, Fatah’s military wing, claimed responsibility for launching a projectile at the Israeli town of Sderot on Friday morning. The brigades said that they heard the emergency alarms in Sderot, adding that this attack comes as a response for the Israeli crimes against Palestinians. [end]

National Resistance target Israeli military base
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front, claimed responsibility for launching two missiles at the Kissufim Israeli military base on Friday morning. The brigades said that the attack was in response to "occupation crimes against Palestinian people." [end]

Thousands in Sderot for solidarity shopping
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/22/2008
People from across Israel arrive in rocket-battered town to do their Shabbat shopping, show their support for residents. ’It’s amazing, people have no idea how much this is helping local businesses,’ one Sderot resident says. Sderot mayor: The people have said ’enough,’ the government can no longer take its time - A motorcade of several hundred cars arrived in Sderot on Friday morning carrying thousands of people from across Israel who came to do their Shabbat shopping in the rocket-battered town. While the visitors were still on their way, a rocket fired from northern Gaza landed in an open field north of town, causing no injuries or damage. The convoy left from several rendezvous points in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Raanana early Friday. The visitors were briefed by the police and the Home Front Command on how they should act in the case of a rocket attack.

Thousands show solidarity with Qassam-stricken Sderot
Yigal Hai, and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
More than 10,000 people came on Friday to the western Negev town of Sderot to show their solidarity with the rocket-battered town. To boost the town’s faltering economy, the visitors bought groceries for Shabbat in the town’s shops. "This is one big carnival," Ilan Cohen, on of the organizers of the event, told Army Radio. "Thousands of people are on their way; 500 vehicles have departed from Tel Aviv. I’m urging everyone who can to come down here. We have all sorts of people." Anti-Qassam protests continue On Thursday, dozens of residents of Sderot and neighboring communities in the western Negev held a protest in Tel Aviv, where they called for the government to take swift military action to fight the daily onslaught of Qassam rockets targeting their communities.

Abbas to meet with Egyptian President on Tuesday
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - agencies - Munthir Ad-Dajani the Palestinian Ambassador in Cairo announced on Friday that the summit meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the latest situation in the Palestinian territories will be held in Cairo next Tuesday morning. "President Abbas will brief President Mubarak on the results of his recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and will look into the conduct of negotiations with the Israeli side," Ad-Dajani said in a press statement. He added that Abbas’ visit to Egypt comes within the framework of continuous and permanent coordination between the Palestinian president and President Mubarak on the overall situation of Palestinian internal and external. He expressed his deep appreciation at the role of Egypt and President Hosni Mubarak’s efforts to support the Palestinian cause.

Israeli diplomats warn of European inclination of recognizing Hamas Movement
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
NAZARETH/ BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- Israeli diplomatic sources have warned on Thursday of possible change in the European policies towards Hamas Movement that could lead the EU to recognize Hamas’s legitimacy and could break the EU siege on the Gaza Strip. In its Thursday edition, the Hebrew Haaretz newspaper asserted that the Israeli envoy to the EU Ran Koriel sent a message to the Israeli foreign ministry warning it of signs of possible changes in the EU policies towards Israel and the PA that could ultimately lead to an EU recognition of Hamas Movement. According to the Israeli envoy, an atmosphere of dissatisfaction was growing in Europe over the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza Strip as a result of the Israeli economic blockade on it, adding that high-ranking officials in the EU were issuing statements condemning the Israeli measures against the Strip.

Hamas welcomes EU parliament call for lifting the Gaza siege
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
GAZA/BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has welcomed on Friday the call of the EU parliament to end the unjust economic blockade on Gaza Strip, asserting that the move should be translated into practical steps towards lifting the siege. Fawzi Barhoum, the spokesman of Hamas in Gaza Strip, said in a press statement he issued in Gaza city that the EU parliament call indicates a growing positive action within the European institution towards ending the economic sanctions on Gaza Strip and towards putting and end to the suffering of the Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation. He also pointed out that the call should spur other European parties into pressuring their governments to take decisive stand towards stopping the human tragedy in Gaza Strip that was, in the first place, caused by the Israeli rejection of the results of the Palestinian democracy.

Acting PLC head welcomes EU call for lifting the Gaza siege
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/22/2008
The Acting head of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Dr. Ahmad Bahar, from the Hamas party, issued on Friday a press release welcoming the a statement by the European Union calling for lifting the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. Dr. Bahar added that the PLC appreciates the EU position against the ongoing Israeli assaults and siege against the Palestinians people and added that dozens of patients died as a result of the siege as Gaza hospitals ran out of medical supplies and the patients who are seriously sick and need medical treatment abroad are barred from leaving the Gaza Strip. He also said that the Palestinians expect an actual implementation of the EU declaration as soon as possible as more than 1. 5 million Palestinians are living under this siege which is suffocating them and inflicting slow death on the civilians.

Hamas welcomes European Parliament initiative to end Gaza siege
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Hamas on Friday welcomed a European Parliament initiative to end Israel’s crippling blockade on the 1. 5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, most of whom are dependent on aid. Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri said he welcomed the resolution, adding that Hamas is ready to study any initiative that will contribute to stopping Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. Abu Zuhri told Ma’an that the main problem lies in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, along with the siege imposed on the people of the Gaza Strip and the ongoing Israeli attacks on the sector. "We in Hamas appreciate the call by the European Union to end the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and their invitation to the Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas for the resumption of dialogue with the Hamas movement," he said.

Peres: Muslims not our enemies
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 2/22/2008
President meets with secretary-general of All-India Association of Imams and Mosques, two leaders express joint hope peace will arrive in region soon - President Shimon Peres met Friday with a delegation of the All-India Association of Imams and Mosques, and discussed with Maulana Jameel Ahmed Ilyasi, the organization’s secretary-general, peace in the Middle East and ways to strengthen ties between Judaism and Islam. Ilyasi represents half-a-million imams and a community of some 180 million Muslims in India. "This proves that the Muslims are not our enemies, and that Muslims realize we are not their enemy," Peres told his guest. "This is not a war between religions, and if we have one God, why shouldn’t we be one family?" the president added. The president also said that Israel must achieve peace...

Inside Track: Nato’s West Bank Nightmare
Ted Galen Carpenter, MIFTAH 2/21/2008
Washington is sending up a trial balloon about stationing NATO troops as peacekeepers on the West Bank. The Jerusalem Post reports that former NATO supreme commander General James Jones, now the Bush administration’s special envoy to the Middle East, is floating the idea to various European countries. It is a spectacularly bad idea. If there is a silver lining to Jones’s initiative, it is that U.S. policy makers are at least not contemplating including American troops in such a force. Apparently, Washington believes that masochism is stronger among European populations than it is among the American people. One wonders, though, whether U.S. leaders would be able to resist the inevitable call from other NATO members for equality of sacrifice and for the exercise of U.S. alliance leadership. Even if the United States can avoid direct involvement in such a peacekeeping venture, the proposal is fraught with serious problems.

Fayad to ’Post’: 2008 Peace Deal in Peril
Tovah Lazaroff, MIFTAH 2/21/2008
If Israel and the Palestinians don’t change their behavior faster in the West Bank, they will fail to finalize a peace agreement in 2008, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. He spoke with the Post briefly in the aftermath of a rare address to the annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is meeting in Jerusalem this week." There must be a greater focus. What we need to do is to pay close attention to the road map," said Fayad. For a deal to be struck this year, he said, it was important for both sides to push harder "to meet those obligations." It was a point he underscored during his hour-long speech to the conference, which took place in advance of Tuesday night’s meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the latest in a series of ongoing negotiations between both sides toward a 2008 deal.

Jordan Warns Israeli Practices Yield to Extremism
The Jordan Times, MIFTAH 2/21/2008
Jordan on Tuesday warned of Israeli measures that lead to exacerbating the living conditions in the Palestinian territories, describing these practices as a recipe for extremism. Israeli sieges and closures of roads contribute only to worsening the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Nasser Judeh told the opening session of a two-day seminar by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Judeh, who is also the acting foreign minister, urged Israel to stop aggressions on the Palestinian people and land, including settlement activity and the separation wall, saying the Jewish state should direct its efforts towards ending the state of despair and frustration among the Palestinian people. The official complained that hopes of progress in the peace process have not yielded benefits on the ground.

Abbas and Olmert Struggle to Move Talks Forward
Isabel Kershner, MIFTAH 2/21/2008
The Israeli and Palestinian leaders met here on Tuesday amid growing dissonance over the content of their talks and the kind of agreement they are trying to achieve. The prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, met in the evening at Mr. Olmert’s official residence, first accompanied by their negotiating teams and then alone, a spokesman for Mr. Olmert said. Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas have met twice a month since attending the American-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Md. , in late November. There, they pledged to begin negotiations on all the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “in order to conclude a peace treaty,” and to “make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008. ”The negotiating teams have met frequently in recent days, and have honored an agreement not to disclose details of the talks.

Kouchner Believes Israelis Heard him on Settlements, Palestinian Issues
Kuwait News Agency, MIFTAH 2/20/2008
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who returned February 17 after a two-day visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel, believes that he was heard by Israel when he brought up a number of important issues relative to the peace process and Palestinian development, officials here said. Kouchner raised a series of questions relative to slow Israeli compliance with the commitments to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian areas, including Gaza, and failure to give a strong political signal that there is progress on key issues like on the need to freeze settlements." He had the feeling he was understood particularly on settlements," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani. The French official also noted that Israel had reacted immediately and positively to a request to deliver cement supplies to Gaza to help repair a damaged sewage plant that has ruptured and overflowed, creating a health hazard for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Olmert Says Gaza Blockade to Continue
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 2/20/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday that Israel would maintain the tighter blockade that it has imposed on the Gaza Strip since last month." We will continue to apply sanctions that are hurtful to the needs of the (Palestinian) population in order for it to be clear that living conditions cannot be altered only from our side," he told the parliamentary group of his Kadima party in allusion to near daily rocket fire from Gaza." Hamas bears responsibility for everything that goes on in the Gaza Strip, and it matters little whether it is or is not directly responsible for any given incident," army radio quoted him as telling the MPs. Military sources said four rockets were fired on Israel on Monday, without causing any casualties. Olmert was speaking just two days after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged Israel to lift the blockade, saying the situation in the impoverished territory was "intolerable."

Racism against Palestinians inside Israeli boundaries admitted by Speaker of Knesset
Palestine News Network 2/22/2008
Jerusalem / Kristen Ess –Knesset Speaker of the House, Dalia Itzik, recognized discrimination against Palestinians living within Israeli boundaries. This may seem an obvious fact: that Palestinians face racism in myriad forms within the boundaries of Israel, but for the Speaker of the Israeli Parliament to admit to such a thing is newsworthy. Palestinian members of the Knesset have been driven from their posts for making similar statements, while one such as Azmi Bishara is now living in exile after facing prosecution for visiting Arab countries and holding meetings with Syrian and Lebanese leaders. In reasonable fear for his saftety and freedom, Bishara now moves from one place to another within the Arab world. His family remains in historic Palestine. In 1992 Bishara was accused by the Knesset of "endangering the security of the Israeli state," for remarks made in Syria.

DFLP commemorates its 39th anniversary
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) celebrated the 39th anniversary of its founding on Friday, in a sports arena in the Palestinian camp of Ein El-Hilweh in Lebanon. Representatives of various factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization and representatives of the Palestinian associations and organizations attended the event. A commemorative torch was lit, followed by a march. The participants carried Palestinian and Lebanese flags, as well as DFLP flags, and photographs of late President Yasser Arafat, Secretary General of the Democratic Front Nayef Hawatmeh and assassinated leader Imad Mughniyya. The march ended in the Martyrs Cemetery in the camp, with a wreath laying ceremony on the tomb of the unknown soldier. DFLP member Khaled Abu Swed delivered a speech, calling for rebuilding Palestinian unity on the basis of the national accord and the Cairo Agreement.

PLC: Fayyad’s decision to sell Palestinian lands to non-Palestinians unlawful
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmad Bahar, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), said that the PLC have passed an act which makes all decisions taken by the "illegitimate government of Salam Fayyad" pertaining to the sale of Palestinian land to non-Palestinians, null and void. He described Fayyad’s decisions as "illegitimate decisions taken by an illegitimate government." He also said that the PLC’s act also extends to all illegitimate, non-patriotic decisions taken by Fayyad’s government. The PLC’s act, which was passed during its second extraordinary session between 19-21 February 2008, considers any laws or decisions taken by the Fayyad government null and void and are not legally binding, because the Fayyad government is itself illegitimate that does not have the backing of the PLC. The PLC expressed concern that Fayyad’s decision to allow the sale of Palestinian...

Abu Zuhri: Abbas and Fayyad fully responsible for death of Barghouthi
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas held President Mahmoud Abbas and his "illegitimate" Prime Minsiter Salam Fayyad fully responsible for the death of  Sheikh Majd al Barghouthi, the Imam of the Mosque at the village of Kober in the Ramallah district as a result of being tortured by the Abbas’s general security men. Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press conference: "this crime constitutes a serious precedent that reflects the extreme torture supporters of Hamas are being subjected to in Abbas’s Prisons." Abu Zuhri also said that the torture suffered by Hamas supporters in Abbas’s jails surpasses the torture suffered by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation jails, adding that this crime provokes concern for the life and well-being of Hamas prisoners in Abbas’s jails and thus "hold the PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his illegitimate Prime Minister Salam Fayyad fully and...

DFLP chief calls for inter-Palestinian talks
YNetNews 2/22/2008
Nayef Hawatmeh urges Hamas to renounce its control of Gaza Strip, Fatah to stop negotiations with Israel and launch comprehensive Palestinian talks - Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) chief Nayef Hawatmeh on Friday urged Hamas to renounce its control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah to stop talks with Israel and open inter-Palestinian negotiations instead. "Hamas must renounce its control over Gaza and Abu Mazen (Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas) must stop talking to Israel so that comprehensive Palestinian negotiations can be opened," he said in a speech at the Yarmuk refugee camp near Damascus Hamas must cease its armed hegemony over the Gaza Strip which is separated from the West Bank and Jerusalem," he said, referring to last June’s Islamist takeover after Hamas ousted forces loyal to Abbas following a week of deadly fighting.

Palestinian police back on Hebron’s streets
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The chief of police in Hebron said on Friday that Palestinian police are now back on the streets of Hebron, after a 12-day ban by Israeli authorities. Brigadier Majed Al- Hawwari’s statement came after Palestinian police in Hebron arrested 25 Palestinians, suspected of a number of recent crimes in the district. Al Hawwari told Ma’an: "The criminals thought that the period of the Palestinian police’s absence from the streets would last longer. But we are back and we will come back strongly, to beat those criminals." Israeli authorities had banned the Palestinian security services from operating in Hebron, ordering them to stay in their offices for 12 days after the Dimona attack.

Specialized Opinion Poll on the Status of Palestinian Women and Gender Relations
Arab World for Research and Development, MIFTAH 2/21/2008
The Arab World for Research and Development, (AWRAD) has conducted a specialized opinion poll dated 2-5 February 2008 on the status of Palestinian women and gender relations. A representative sample, of 2400 Palestinians representing all districts in the West Bank and Gaza was interviewed. This poll is part of a study that AWRAD has launched to address gender-based relations and the status of Palestinian women and men. The results of this poll will be incorporated in the study that seeks to understand the internal and external factors that affect women’s participation in social, economic and political life. It also seeks to assess the status of women’s rights and the relationship structures among women and men. More importantly, the study will provide women’s and human rights organizations with an opportunity to reassess their approaches and tools in serving Palestinian women and society.

US wants new Iran sanctions fast
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/22/2008
Top State Department official says Washington seeking quick action to punish Tehran for refusing to roll back its disputed nuclear program, as new report by United Nations nuclear watchdog strengthens case for additional sanctions - The United States wants quick action to punish Iran for refusing to roll back its disputed nuclear program and a new report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog strengthens the case for additional sanctions, a top State Department official said Friday. Iran failed to cooperate fully with UN investigators and left key questions about its nuclear past unanswered, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said. Burns said he will meet Monday with diplomats from world powers that have twice punished the oil-rich nation over its nuclear drive, and wants the UN Security Council to approve new penalties soon afterward.

IAEA: Iran more open on atom work, bomb fears remain
Reuters, YNetNews 2/22/2008
UN nuclear watchdog says Tehran has revealed some nuclear advances earlier off-limits to UN Inspectors, but a failure to clarify explosives and missile work relevant to atom bombs is a ’serious concern’. Six powers to meet on Iran next week, diplomat says - Iran has revealed some nuclear advances earlier off-limits to UN Inspectors, but a failure to clarify explosives and missile work relevant to atom bombs is a "serious concern", the International Atomic Energy Agency said. In a report on Friday the IAEA said Iran was being more open with monitors than before, but added that Iran was testing technology that could give it the means to enrich uranium much faster. The Iranian moves were further defiance of international demands that Tehran halt all sensitive nuclear activity or be hit with broader UN sanctions.

Iraqi Shiites rally against Danish reprint of Mohammed cartoon
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Thousands of supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated Friday against Denmark and Danish newspapers for reprinting a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed. The demonstrations in the sprawling Shiite Sadr City slum, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf and in neighboring Kufa came after Friday prayers. "There is no God but God and Denmark is the enemy of God," they chanted as they carried banners demanding that Iraq sever diplomatic ties with Denmark. "We demand from the Iraqi government to break off relations with Denmark," al-Sadr aid Sadiq al-Eisawi said during his sermon in Sadr City. The rally also condemned the U.S. presence in Iraq, while protesters burned American and Israeli flags. In Copenhagen, Iraqi religious and political leaders meeting in Denmark condemned Danish newspapers for reprinting a caricature of...


Israel Says ’No’
Ran Hacohen, MIFTAH 2/20/2008
      On Jan. 23 Ha’aretz readers were utterly embarrassed. Just as the quality paper was printing its top headline, based on Israel’s omniscient "security sources" – "New Israeli Policy in Gaza: Border Crossings Will Stay Closed" – the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt were being opened; a few hours later, they didn’t exist anymore. Once again, the regional power was caught in surprise; Hamas won by breaking the siege.
     A good indication for a declining empire is its inherent tendency to say "no" to reality. The Soviet Union gave the English language the interjection "nyet." Long ago, it was the Arabs who said "no" – no to negotiations, no to normalization, no to recognition, no to peace. This changed, at the latest, with the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. Now it’s Israel that has become the nyet-sayer. Get prepared to look up "lo," the Hebrew "no," in the Oxford English Dictionary.
     The Israeli border town of Sderot is under attack. Rockets from Gaza are fired at the civilian population on a daily basis. No country can tolerate that for long, but the attacks have been going on for seven years. Military operations have all failed to stop or even significantly reduce the fire. Any rational adviser would say (1) protect or evacuate the inhabitants of Sderot; (2) talk to those firing the missiles and see what they want. Israel, however, says "no" to both suggestions.

Beyond despair

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/21/2008
      Israel and Fatah are pushing Gazans over the edge, with no help from Egypt in sight, warns Click to view caption Israeli soldiers walk over blindfolded Palestinian men checking their handcuffsIt was a moment that Mohamed Youssef, 44, had never experienced throughout his career of 20 years. Youssef is in charge of the emergency section in the health department of Rafah city, the furthest point south in the Gaza Strip. The unprecedented moment came when his cell phone rang at dawn 15 February. He learned that people had been killed and others left injured and bleeding in the area near the Gaza international airport east of Rafah after the occupation army raided the area and opened fire randomly.
     Youssef was placed in an extremely difficult situation, as for the first time he and his staff were unable to reach the area with ambulances because there was simply not enough fuel to run them. After an extremely short moment of hesitation, Youssef and his staff headed out on motorcycles offered by people to help the first aid team perform their duties, even if in a humble manner. When they arrived and began to perform first aid, they found that two of the injured had died and that of the 10 others three were in critical condition. Youssef ordered that the dead and those with light injuries be transported on donkey carts belonging to residents in the area, while those in critical condition be transported to the nearest hospital in private gas-fuelled vehicles belonging to area residents.

The killing of Imad Moughniya

Raid Khoury, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 2/22/2008
      Imad Moughniya’s death, like his life, will remain shrouded in mystery and secrecy, but what few things we can learn for certain about this person’s life we already have. First, the image of the man created in the Western media, especially the US corporate media with its typically superficial, and simplistic "good vs bad" story lines should be dismissed as a largely fictional account. The focus on a single, elusive, shadowy figure lurking somewhere in the dark preparing to kill Americans and Jews in cold blood is good for ratings, and compatible with the overall anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bias that characterizes US news coverage but can hardly be considered reliable journalism. This Hollywood-type approach is not new. Before Moughniya, Carlos "the Jackal" and Abu Nidal were featured stars in the sensational news-entertainment industry. As a result we do not have an accurate picture of Moughniya (which may not be possible anyway), but more importantly, we have been presented with a distorted reality of the decades-long, bloody struggle between Israel and Hizballah.

A wilderness of paradox on the Mideast

Danielle Pletka, Daily Star 2/23/2008
      Of the many tired shibboleths in Washington, the tiredest is the assertion that back in a mythical day US foreign policy partisanship stopped at the water’s edge. If anyone still nurtured this saccharine illusion, the Iraq war and the subsequent battle to draw down troops effectively dispelled the notion. And certainly the race to take over the White House in 2009 has had the predictable effect of deepening partisan divisions.
     Ironically, however, as the chasm between true believers in the electorate has deepened, the distinctions among the top candidates have paled. When it comes to the Middle East and the challenges of the war on terror, all support Israel, believe in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and are tough on Iran; and all endorse an increase in the size of the military. Only on the question of Iraq do the differences remain stark and uncompromising.

Guidelines of a New Egyptian Policy Toward Gaza

Gamal A. G. Soltan, MIFTAH 2/20/2008
      The recent breach of Egypt’s border with Gaza accentuated the risks implied in the current situation in the territory. Losing control over that border for 10 consecutive days proved to be embarrassing for Cairo. Bending to the plot implemented by Hamas operatives embarrassed Egypt even further. Far more serious than just the embarrassment, the infiltration of suspect terrorists into Egypt is a major security concern for a country that has been in a continuous war on terror for 30 years.
     The collapse of order at Egypt’s border with Gaza encouraged both Hamas and Israel to capitalize on the developing situation. Seeking both de facto recognition as the legal authority in Gaza and the relaxation of the Gaza blockade, Hamas demanded the dismantlement of the multilateral arrangements regulating the crossing between Egypt and Gaza, allowing Hamas a say if not a monopoly on the operation of the Palestinian side of the crossing.
     On the Israeli side, some watched with joy as Hamas took former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan with Gaza a step further. Shifting the burden of Gaza from Israel to Egypt and the elimination of Israel’s legal responsibility over Gaza is an Israeli dream that is coming true thanks to Hamas. Moreover, the farfetched proposals entertained by some in Israel to enlarge the tiny but overpopulated Gaza Strip through the annexation of adjacent Egyptian territories demonstrated the recklessness in dealing with pillars of regional security and order encouraged by Hamas’ plot.

Israel’s Absurd Identity

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 2/20/2008
      While all may be in consensus that the Annapolis peace conference held last November went belly up, Israel still prides itself on one achievement – insisting that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “I do not intend to compromise, in any way over the issue of the Jewish state,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on November 11. “This will be our condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state.”
     Unsurprisingly, no groundbreaking solutions came out of that conference. Since then, the leaders have been dawdling back and forth between empty meetings and broken promises, casting plenty of blame on each other for the obvious failure of any real progress in the peace process.
     Still, Olmert, unlike his predecessors, set yet another obstacle in the way of any real conciliation between Israel and its neighbors with his impossible condition for “peace”. Recognizing the Jewish nature of Israel is basically demanding that the Palestinians – being non-Jewish – accept their second rate status in any dealings with Israel. This, no doubt, is pretty hard to swallow, even for the most malleable of Palestinian negotiators.

Nasrallah is tarnishing the value of all he has done for Lebanon

Editorial, Daily Star 2/23/2008
      Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on Friday confirmed that Lebanon is in serious danger of losing yet another of the few political assets it has had in recent years. Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was taken from us by assassination. The hopeful early message of the March 14 Forces has been lost in a cacophony of contradictory and counter-productive rhetoric. And now Nasrallah is diminishing his own stature by emulating the pointless politics wielded by lesser men of meaner goals. Unless the resistance leader changes course very soon, this departure from everything we have known about him risks becoming permanent.
     That would be a great loss for Hizbullah, of course, but the most painful implications would be for Lebanon as a whole. After all, in a political arena long dominated by empty talk, Nasrallah has traditionally been relatively short on words and long on deeds.

Israel is lying to the world about Gaza

Khalid Amayreh in Occupied E. Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2008
      For the past few weeks, I made strenuous efforts to reach a dignified ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in coordination with some peace-minded Jews. Our goal was to save lives and prevent further escalation, and give the starved and thoroughly-tormented people of Gaza a respite from daily killings and bombings by the Israeli occupation army.
     Our efforts bore some fruit, and the Palestinian authorities in Gaza assured us of their willingness to reciprocate any genuine Israeli measure toward lifting the harsh blockade and putting an end to daily Israeli atrocities which have killed and maimed thousands of Palestinians, the vast bulk of whom are innocent civilians.
     Even the western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) regime in Ramallah voiced a certain readiness to get involved and accept a prospective balanced agreement that would restore a semblance of calm and normality of life  to the Gaza Strip.

For the Sake of the ’People’?

Caelum Moffatt, MIFTAH 2/21/2008
      Undoubtedly everyone has been warned or informed, at some stage in their life that “violence solves nothing”. Whether this response is issued by a concerned friend or even an authoritative figure, be it a family member or a person whom one considers wise and speaking from experience, the meaning is rather self explanatory.
     The phrase is so universally known and seemingly irrefutable it compels us to trust it and apply it to our daily life even when every day we see that violence seems to have more gains than pacifism in a range of political situations. The state of Israeli itself was born out of violence.
     In the ongoing fray between Israel and the governing body in Gaza, people on both sides are indoctrinated into thinking that violence solves everything, is ultimately in their collective interests and the key to their salvation.
     In a world where people expect their leaders to be blessed with the characteristic of accepting responsibility, this trait is evidently forgotten in the very place where it is imperative for peace to prevail.