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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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23 February 2008


Three Palestinians killed in Israeli bombardment near Beit Hanoun
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli artillery bombardment on the An-Nizar area, east of the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip on Saturday. Dr. Mu’awiyya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, named the victims as Muhammad Talal Az-Za’aneen, Ibrahim Zeidan Abu Jarad and Muhammad Hassanein, an employee at the Jordan Bank in beit Hanoun. All three victims were taken to Ash-Shuhada Hospital in Beit Hanoun. Residents said the three were having lunch with a friend and had just finished eating when Israeli forces fired a ground missile at the house. The three men were killed immediately the missile struck. The armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades announced that Muhammad Talal Az-Za’aneen was one of their members.

Ramon calls for evacuation of settlers east of security fence
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
Kadima and the Labor Party should pursue legislation granting settlers living east of the separation fence compensation in exchange for their evacuation, Vice Premier Haim Ramon told a gathering in Tel Aviv on Saturday. Ramon said such a move would advance final-status negotiations with the Palestinians while demonstrating to them and the international community Israel’s seriousness in its intentions to end its control over the territories. "When a right-wing government headed by the Likud and Shas determined the route of the fence, it decided for all intents and purposes that everything beyond the fence will not be under Israel’s sovereignty," Ramon said. "Indecision with regards to evacuation-compensation harms Israel’s ability to strengthen the settlement blocs west of the fence, where most of the settlers are today, and to keep them under Israeli sovereignty.

Demolitions destroy village one house at a time
IRIN, International Middle East Media Center 2/24/2008
BEQAA, WEST BANK (IRIN) - A small, overcrowded Palestinian village in the southern West Bank, under threat from Israeli-conducted house demolitions and land confiscations, is rapidly becoming poorer." Every house here has one child at least who left because we can’t build new homes. Some went to Hebron, but others left for Amman [Jordan] and places abroad" said Ghassan, a young man from Beqaa village, who is a refugee registered with the UN. Bilal Jaber, who recently received papers saying his house was illegal, is worried it will be destroyed." I saved money when I worked as a laborer to build my home," the now unemployed man said. "If the Israelis destroy it, I can’t rebuild." He said he would probably have to move to the old city of Hebron, where the Palestinian Authority provides free housing in an attempt to stop Israeli settlement expansion, though living conditions there are tough.

IDF braces for mass march on Gaza border
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Gasoline ran out in Gaza over the weekend in the wake of Israeli limits on its import except for emergency vehicles. Diesel fuel is also said to be in short supply. Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces beefed up troops along the border with Gaza, fearing thousands of Palestinians may march on the border in protest Israel’s economic sanctions. Israel fears that crowds of Palestinians might rush the border, and that large numbers of casualties will result from the army’s attempts to stop them. The concerns are based on the breaching of the Gaza-Egyptian border a month ago, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians streamed across Rafah into Egypt after Hamas blew up the wall there. Israel believes Hamas is now planning a new action, directed at Israel, to break the siege on the Gaza Strip and draw global attention to the plight of Gaza’s Palestinians.

Army officials downplay abuse allegations
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Shooting Palestinian bystanders; illegally commandeering cars and going on joyrides; torturing a youth by pressing a heater to his face and beating cuffed prisoners on their way to custody. These are only some of the reported cases of abuse for which Israel Defense Forces soldiers serving in the West Bank are currently on trial. "We’ve been hit by a tsunami," said the commander of the Kfir Brigade, members of which were recently implicated in a rampage through a West Bank town that left two Palestinians wounded, one of them seriously. Kfir is the largest IDF unit in the West Bank. "I suppose every brigade goes through low and high periods, and right now we’re in a low one." Another officer in the GOC Central Command admitted that "the brigade is in a rough patch." But some officers say that the incident, while lamentable, is not unusual; what is different about this case, they...

Settlers attack left-wing activists escorting W. Bank shepherds
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
Members of the Taayush Jewish-Arab coexistence movement were assaulted on Saturday by residents of the nearby Maon settlement as they escorted Palestinian shepherds to their West Bank grazing land. The activists said they had been surrounded by some 90 people, who physically attacked them and prevented them from leaving the site. The assailants also stood in the way of a police jeep that came to the victims’ assistance, they said. One activist told Haaretz: "We came back in the early afternoon, and passed through Maon’s grounds. Then, we were attacked by an incensed crowd. They hit us, twisted our arms and spat at us. Even the soldiers were unable to help us. [end]

Abbas orders inquiry into alleged PA torture of dead Hamas preacher
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Palestinian prime minister demands investigation into death of Hamas leader Majed Barghouti while under PA custody. Family say the 44-year-old preacher was tortured during his detention in Ramallah, agree to autopsy to prove case - A Hamas preacher died in the custody of the Palestinian intelligence service, and his family, citing reports from fellow detainees, alleged Saturday that he had been tortured. Majed Barghouti, 44, died at an intelligence lockup in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, a week after his arrest. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered an investigation of the death, which came among repeated complaints by Hamas detainees that they were mistreated by Abbas’ forces. Six West Bank legislators called for an independent investigation, and Barghouti’s family said it would agree to an autopsy, if attended by independent observers.

Hamas preacher dies while in Palestinian jail; kin allege torture
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
A Hamas preacher died in the custody of the Palestinian intelligence service, and his family, citing reports from fellow detainees, alleged Saturday that he had been tortured. Majed Barghouti, 44, died at an intelligence lockup in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, a week after his arrest. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered an investigation of the death, which came among repeated complaints by Hamas detainees that they were mistreated by Abbas’ forces. An autopsy indicated that Barghouti had died of a heart problem, said Shawan Jabareen, head of the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq, adding that he had been shown the four-page medical report. However, Jabareen and six West Bank legislators called for another autopsy, under supervision.

Hamas: Palestinian Authority worse than Israel
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/23/2008
According to autopsy, Majed Barghouti died of a heart attack after a week in Palestinian lockup in Ramallah. Relatives and Hamas activists say medical sources indicate preacher was abused - The death of Hamas activist Majed Barghouti is throwing fuel onto the fire in relations between the Islamic group and the Palestinian Authority. The 44-year-old preacher died on Friday after a week in a PA prison in Ramallah. The deceased’s relatives as well as fellow Hamas members said on Saturday that medical personnel who viewed the body reported signs of abuse. Despite autopsy reports that show that Barghouti died from a heart attack, Hamas is claiming that his death is proof that Palestinian Authority prisons have become "worse than Israeli occupation prisons with regards to prisoners’ rights.

Hamas and Fatah exchange accusations over prisoner death
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Fatah and Hamas have been exchanging accusations of the ill-treatment of prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, since the death of a Hamas affiliate in a Ramallah prison on Friday evening. Majd Al-Barghouthi was found dead in his cell. Fatah-affiliated security services say he died of natural causes, but Hamas claim he was badly beaten before his death. For its part, the de facto government in the Gaza Strip described Al-Barghouthi’s death as a "terrible crime". De facto government spokesman Taher An-Nono said that Al-Barghouthi was exposed to severe torture during questioning by the security services. Dr. Ahmed Bahr the head of the Legislative Council also blamed Abbas’ security services for Al-Barghouthi’s death. He called on Abbas to dismiss the official Palestinian intelligence service in the West Bank as they were "directly responsible for the crime.

Israeli army invades Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Tulkarem - Ma’an - The Israeli army invaded the city of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank on Friday night, amid gunfire and sound bombs. According to our correspondent, quoting from Palestinian security sources, the Israeli army had informed the Palestinians of its intention to expand its security checks in the city but without specifying its goal. This warning was followed by the invasion of Israeli forces into the city. The troops opened fire on shops, forcing their owners to close and also stopped a number of passing cars in the city especially around Gamal Abd An-Nasser Square, Ma’an’s correspondent said. The city of Tulkarm then witnessed clashes between young men throwing stones and the Israeli soldiers.

Israeli soldiers desecrate Koran, rob villagers, during Beita invasion marked with arrests, house occupations, and injuries
International Solidarity Movement 2/22/2008
Nablus Region - On Wednesday 20th February 2008 at 11pm, the Israeli army invaded the village of Beita, located 13km south-east of Nablus. The village of 10,000 residents was woken by the shooting of sound bombs, tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets, and the repeated announcement that a curfew was imposed - forcing residents to stay in their homes under threat of arrest. The curfew lasted until 3pm on Thursday 21st, prohibiting the function of schools and shops. One youth, Hussein Sabri Hamdan, aged 18 years, was shot in the shoulder with a rubber bullet at 11am on Thursday, as he was heading into the mosque to pray. Hamdan reports that there were no soldiers on the street where he was shot, and only one bullet was shot, so he presumes it was the act of a sniper. Villagers report that approximately 30 people were arrested during the invasion, and taken to the military base at Huwarra.

The Israeli army kidnaps four civilians from the southern part of the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/23/2008
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army kidnapped four Palestinian civilians during two invasions targeting the southern part of the West Bank on Saturday morning. Two civilians were taken from the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem when Israeli soldiers invaded the city and searched homes there. Local sources identified the two as Adham Al Arraj, 28, and Khalil Rabayi’ah, 35. Also today the Israeli army invaded the town of Sourif, located near Hebron city in the southern part of the West Bank and kidnapped two civilians. Local sources said that Israeli troops stormed and ransacked several homes then kidnapped Ahmad Al Howwuar, 22, and Mos’ab Al Howwuar 23 and took them to unknown locations.

Israeli forces seize Palestinians in West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an - Israeli forces seized four citizens from the town of ’Atil north of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, at dawn on Saturday. Ma’an’s correspondent reported that the Israeli army stormed the town on Friday evening, raiding several houses and arrested 19-year-old Leith Muhammad Ekteish, 23-year-old Mamoon Badawi, 21-year-old Sulaiman Badawi and 20-year-old Bilal Jalal Salim. Our correspondent added that the four men were taken to an unknown destination. Meanwhile also on Saturday, Israeli forces apprehended two men from the town of Sourif northwest of Hebron, in the southern West Bank. [end]

Israeli activists attacked by Israeli settlers on Palestinian land
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/24/2008
A group of Israeli peace workers were attacked Saturday near Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, as they escorted Palestinian shepherds to their grazing land. According to Israeli sources, the attackers came from the nearby settlement of Maon, built on land illegally seized from the Palestinians. The victims report that they were surrounded by ninety armed settlers who shouted epithets, threw rocks at them and physically attacked them. Settlers in the Hebron area are among the most violent of the nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians in the Hebron area report attacks by Israelis settlers on a nearly-daily basis, although the Israeli police in the area consistently refuse to investigate the attacks. As a result, international and Israeli human rights activists often station themselves in Hebron to try to protect the Palestinian...

Over 20 activists hurt in clash with IDF at anti-separation fence rally
Meron Rappaport, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
More than 20 activists were wounded Friday as Israel Defense Forces troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas grenades at protesters marking three years of struggle against the West Bank separation fence in the West Bank town of Bil’in. Among the wounded was an American activist. The IDF spokesman’s office said that one soldier was hurt when a rock was hurled toward him, but that the IDF has no knowledge of wounded activists. More than 1,000 people attended the milestone demonstration Friday, though the event is a weekly occurrence with several dozen activists gathering in Bil’in every Friday over the last three years to protest the separation barrier that imposes hardship on Palestinians living in the West Bank. Jonathan Pollack, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said that Friday’s protest came six months after the High Court of...

Three injured as the army invades Nablus
Ameen Abu Wardeh, International Middle East Media Center 2/23/2008
Three Palestinian civilians were injured when Israeli troops stormed al-Ein Refugee camp located in the northern West Bank city Nablus on Saturday morning. The army surrounded the house of Majdi Mabruk, 30, and fired a number sounds bombs and detonated explosives near the house injuring Mabruk sister Nabeelah. One man identified as, Sabah Salam and one child were lightly wounded by shrapnel of the sound bombs. Eyewitnesses reported that soldiers hand-cuffed and blind-folded Mabruk and took him to an undisclosed location. Local sources said that Mabruk is a leader of the Abu Ali Mustafa brigade, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) and has been wanted by the Israeli army since three years. Witnesses stated that the military operation lasted for several hours, during which at least 17 military vehicles roamed in the camp and troops searched scores of homes in the camp.

3 Palestinians killed in IDF strike in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/23/2008
IDF confirms troops operating in northern Gaza targeted cell en route to launch rocket attack against Israel. But Palestinians say all three were civilians, with one report claiming they were bankers holding a picnic - Three Palestinians were killed and five more were wounded in an IDF operation in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon. The IDF confirmed forces operating in the Strip targeted a Palestinian cell en route to launch rocket attacks from against Israeli towns. The casualties have yet to be identified, largely due to the fact that the bodies were reportedly charred. It is unclear if those killed are indeed gunmen or civilians. Contradictory Palestinian reports say the three were either Fatah political operatives unaffiliated with the movement’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades or - according to a report by the Associated Press - three...

Three Palestinians killed in IAF strike on Gaza
Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies, By Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Three Palestinians were killed yesterday afternoon in an Israel Air Force air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said. Family members of the three men killed identified them as an employee of a Jordanian bank, a former government employee and a student. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the air strike, but said it targeted Palestinian militants on their way to fire mortar shells at Israel. The air strike came a day after an Israeli missile killed two Palestinian militants and wounded a third in central Gaza, according to Palestinian medical staff and Hamas security officials. 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. Israel frequently carries out missile strikes and raids against militants in the...

Low morale and rebellion among troops of elite Israeli brigade
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2008
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- Hebrew media sources reported that a collapse in morale and a state of rebellion have surfaced in the ranks of the IOF troops stationing along the Gaza Strip after the Israeli Givati brigade, one of the elite units in the Israel army, refused to carry out their military assignments near Gaza. The Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper said on Friday that at the height of the military preparations to wage a large-scale incursion in Gaza, many veteran officers of the Givati brigade refused on Thursday to stay in the Sufa military base near the Strip and disobeyed military orders. The aforementioned military base is constantly exposed to rocket attacks waged by the Palestinian resistance factions atop of them the Qassam Brigades. Meanwhile in retaliation to Israeli incursions, the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, announced that it clashed at...

IDF nabs senior PFLP member in Nablus
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Majdi Mabruk was behind several suicide and shooting attacks against Israel targets, security officials say. During arrest terrorist was in possession of an M-16 assault rifle, a hand grenade and 15 bullet cartridges - IDF forces operating in the West Bank during the early hours of Saturday morning apprehended a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the Nablus refugee camp of Ein Bet Ilmeh. He was taken in for questioning by security personnel. According to army sources, during his arrest Majdi Mabruk was in possession of an M-16 assault rifle with a telescopic lens, a hand grenade and 15 bullet cartridges. During the activity Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the soldiers several times, but no injuries were reported. The soldiers returned fire. Officials in the security establishment said Mabruk, 30, was involved...

Israeli raid kills Palestinians
Al Jazeera 2/23/2008
At least three Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli missile attack in the northern Gaza Strip, according to health department and Hamas officials. A Hamas official said the attack occurred near the Israel-Gaza border on Saturday. Moawiya Hassanain, a Palestinian health ministry official, said two people were injured by the missile fired between the towns of Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya. Relatives of the three people killed said they were all civilians - employees of a Jordanian bank who were having a picnic in an open field when the missile struck. Israel frequently carries out missile strikes and raids against fighters in the Gaza Strip. Officials say the raids are intended to stop the fighters from launching rockets into southern Israeli towns.

Israeli forces seize senior Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades commander
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Nablus – Ma’an - Israeli forces stormed Al-Ein refugee camp west of Nablus on Saturday, arresting one of the senior commanders of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). His relatives told Ma’an that special Israeli forces surrounded his house at dawn on Saturday with around 15 Israeli military vehicles. They used explosives to blast through the front door of the house, before detaining 30-year-old Majdi Mabruka. Majdi Mabruka has eluded capture for three years since Israel put him on their ’wanted’ list. He is one of the senior leaders of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades in the West Bank. [end]

Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youths clash in Anbata
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an - Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli troops in the town of Anbata east of Tulkarem north of the West Bank on Saturday. According to our correspondent, quoting eyewitnesses, three Israeli military vehicles stormed the town amid gunfire and sound bombs. No injuries were reported. [end]

Palestinian children’s playground partially demolished by Israeli forces
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 2/24/2008
On Friday, February 22, the Israeli military demolished half of a playground built for the children of Jayyous and Azzoun villages by USAID and YMCA funds. [end]

Palestinians in Syria protest against Gaza closure
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Thousands demonstrate against sanctions imposed on Hamas-controlled Gaza, reprinted Muhammad cartoon. ’I’m here to defend our religion and our prophet against the harmful cartoons and to call for lifting the siege on Gaza,’ says protestor at mosque - About 2,000 angry Palestinians took to the streets near Damascus on Saturday protesting the continued Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip and a drawing in Denmark portraying the Prophet Muhammad. The protesters carrying Hamas and Palestinian flags and shouting slogans against Israel and Denmark gathered near Al-Wasim mosque at the Yarmouk refugee camp." I’m here to defend our religion and our prophet against the harmful cartoons and to call for lifting the siege on Gaza," said protester Arabiah Mohammed al-Masri, 40. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted access to Gaza after Hamas’ takeover of the coastal strip in June.

Khudari lays cornerstone for memorial to siege victims in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee against the siege, laid Saturday morning the foundation stone for the memorial to the siege victims in the Katiba square, west of Gaza city, stating that the memorial would bear witness throughout history for the injustice and the oppressive siege of the Israeli occupation." Today we stand before the gravest and most sensitive issues affecting the lives of humans because the siege claimed the lives of dozens, and victims fall daily before the eyes and ears of the world until their number has become 99 victims so far," MP Khudari told reporters. The lawmaker added that thousands of Palestinian patients in Gaza are expecting to be numbers in the list of the siege victims because they are banned from traveling for medical treatment and deprived from receiving appropriate medication.

Hamas calls for massive participation in the world day to break the siege
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Saturday invited the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic masses and all men of honor and freedom in the world to interact and participate in the world day to break the siege, considering the response to this call the minimum religious and humanitarian responsibility towards the Palestinian people.    In a statement, Hamas pointed out that the events of the world day to break the siege started on Saturday morning as an expression of solidarity with the besieged Gaza people. At the invitation of Hamas, a massive march is to be held this Saturday evening in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus. In the same context, Hamas stated that it organized on Friday massive marches in three Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in order to call for lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and for supporting its people, where the participants also...

General strike in Gaza on the world day to break the siege
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A general commercial strike was observed on Saturday morning in the Gaza Strip as part of the events of the world day to break the siege at the invitation of the popular committee against the siege, where the Palestinian citizens keenly responded to the strike. A series of solidarity events are also supposed to be held in 30 countries around the world on this day to support the besieged Gaza people and to call for lifting the unjust siege. For his part, MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee against the siege, hailed the Palestinian businessmen and merchant’s stands in defense of their rights against the Israeli arbitrary measures, explaining that the Gaza businessmen’s goods which are being impound in Israeli ports cost them losses estimated at $150,000,000, in addition to daily losses estimated at $1,000,000.

Israel Extends Closure of Palestinian Offices in Jerusalem
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
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. Peace Talks Olmert: We didn’t discuss Jerusalem; Palestinians: Yes we did / Ali Waked Prime minister says Jerusalem wasn’t discussed during Tuesday’s meeting with Abbas; Palestinian version completely different Full Story 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. Israeli 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.

Bar-Ilan scholar recants controversial blood libel theory
Adi Schwartz, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
A Jewish historian over the weekend published an edited version of his book on the killing of a Christian child in the Italian city of Trento in 1475, denying that the Jews implicated in the murder were in any way involved. In the new edition, Bar-Ilan University Professor Ariel Toaff writes: "Jews were not involved in ritual murder, which was an entirely Christian stereotype." "There was no relationship whatsoever between the so-called ’ritual of blood’ and ritual infanticide," Toaff stated. Toaff caused controversy when he wrote in his 2007 book that he did not rule out the possibility that the murder was carried out by Jews who intended to use the youth’s blood in a Passover ritual. The remark sparked a huge backlash from Israeli and foreign historians who said his claims were unsubstantiated and demanded its immediate removal.

Study: Suicide bombers ’not mentally unstable’
Rhonda Spivak, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
TORONTO - In an extensive study of Palestinian suicide bombings, three University of Toronto researchers have concluded that the bombers were not psychologically unstable and were often motivated by personal vengeance, not religious zeal. The study was carried out by political sociologist Robert Brym, with the assistance of two Ph. d students, Palestinian Bader Araj and Israeli Yael Maoz-Shai. Writing in the academic journal Social Forces, Brym noted, "The organizers of suicide attacks don’t want to jeopardize their missions by recruiting unreliable people. It may be that some psychologically unstable people want to become suicide bombers, but insurgent organizations strongly prefer their cannons fixed." He also found that the suicide bombers did not experience extraordinary high levels of economic deprivation.

Half are in shelters, half in apartments - but nearly all are unemployed
Vered Lee, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
Fifty refugees from Eritrea arrived in Tel Aviv on Thursday of last week, on a bus that brought them from Ketziot Prison, in the south of the country. They had spent two months in detention, after crossing the Egyptian border into Israel. Now, they are scattered to the winds. About half are staying with friends and relatives. The remainder sleep in dank shelters at night and spend the days wandering the streets, trying to survive until their temporary permits allowing them to stay in Tel Aviv expire. Vanos and Ibrahim were both on the bus. In their 20’s, they attended the same school back home and traveled together to Israel. In Sudan, young people are conscripted into the army, where they have no rights, no salary and no demobilization date. Vanos explains that he and Ibrahim fled from the draft and when it became too dangerous to remain in Sudan they escaped to Egypt.

At least 70 injured in mass-protest in Al Khader
International Solidarity Movement 2/22/2008
Bethlehem Region - Today roughly fifteen hundred people, including Palestinian and Israeli activists, international Human Rights Workers and journalists, gathered in the village of Al Khader, in the Bethlehem region, as part of a weekly demonstration against the Apartheid Wall. Once the demonstration was gathered, the Israeli Army gave a five minute period in which to leave or else they would begin shooting. The demonstration began with a speech and the noon time prayer. Some young boys were without prayer mats and were using banners which read “Free Palestine,”"End the Occupation, ”and “Feed The Gaza Children” to kneel on. After praying the procession was lead by a group carrying a banner of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which today celebrated it’s thirty-ninth birthday.

Egypt security officials warn Hamas against future border violations
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
For the third time in 10 days, a senior Hamas delegation crossed into Egypt Saturday to discuss the tenuous situation on the Gaza border, while top Egyptian security officials warned against any threats to the frontier. The six-person Hamas delegation, led by senior Gaza Hamas officials Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siyam, crossed into Egypt from Rafah terminal to meet Egyptian security officials in nearby el-Arish, a security official familiar with the discussions said. Egyptian officials repeated warnings to Hamas to stay away from the border and not even think of reopening it by force as they did on Jan. 23, when explosives blew several holes in the frontier and sent hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into Egypt to shop for supplies. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Hamas convoy heads to Egypt for talks about the Rafah crossing
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center 2/23/2008
A Hamas convoy headed by Dr. Mahmoud Al Zahar, a leader in the Islamic movement, is expected to leave the Gaza Strip and head to the nearby Egyptian town of Al Ariesh on Saturday. Fauzi Barhum, the Hamas movement spokesperson, said that the convoy will meet with Egyptian officials. Barhum added that borders, crossings and the stranded Palestinians at the Gaza Egypt borders will be the main issues discussed in the meetings. The Hamas movement, elected in January 2006, but prevented from taking power by Israeli and US pressure, took control of the Gaza strip in June 2007 after several months of bloody infighting with the rival Fatah party, led by the US-supported Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Since then, Israeli forces have completely sealed the Gaza Strip’s borders, leading to a severe humanitarian crisis inside Gaza.

Hamas delegation returns to Egypt to finalise crossing deal
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - A Hamas delegation left for the Egyptian city of Al-Arish on Saturday to complete talks with Egyptian officials on reopening the Rafah crossing. The delegation is headed by prminent Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahhar, accomapnied by Jamal Abu Hashim, and Sa’id Siyam. Hamas leader Ayman Taha told Ma’an, "The delegation left to complete the discussions of previous meetings and the rest of the outstanding issues such as the Rafah crossing, Palestinian dialogue and other issues." Taha added that there had been positive responses and Hamas are waiting for the Egyptian authorities to finalise the deal. Regarding the case of Palestinians detained by the Egyptian authorities, Taha said, "We have information that they have been exposed to severe torture, but the Egyptian authorities are denying this.

Egypt meets with Hamas delegation, warns against any new border violation
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Cairo reiterates warning to Hamas against any threats to once again breach their shared border, delegation led by Hamas officials Mahmoud Zahar, Said Siyam makes way to el-Arish for talks with Egyptian counterparts in hope of resolving tensions - For the third time in 10 days, a senior Hamas delegation crossed into Egypt Saturday to discuss the tenuous situation on the Gaza border , while top Egyptian security officials warned against any threats to the frontier. The six-person Hamas delegation, led by senior Gaza Hamas officials Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siyam, crossed into Egypt from Rafah terminal to meet Egyptian security officials in nearby el-Arish, a security official familiar with the discussions said. Egyptian officials repeated warnings to Hamas to stay away from the border and not even think of reopening it by force as they did...

Arab Leaders Say the Two-State Proposal is in Peril
Michael Slackman, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
Arab leaders will threaten to rescind their offer of full relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands unless Israel gives a positive response to their initiative, indicating the Arab states’ growing disillusionment with the prospects of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At an Arab League meeting next month in Syria, the leaders are planning to reiterate support for their initiative, first issued in 2002. The initiative promised Israel normalization with the league’s 22 members in return for the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital, and a resolution of the issue of Palestinian refugees. But this time, “there will be a message to Israel emphasizing the need to respond to the initiative; otherwise, Arab states will reassess the previous stage of peace,” said

Sit-in at Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem: Archbishop Attallah Hanna calls for end to Gaza siege
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an - A vast crowd staged a sit-in in the courtyard of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem on Saturday in solidarity with the people of Gaza. They prayed for the support of the Palestinian people, led by Archbishop Atallah Hanna, the Archbishop of the Roman Orthodox Church, who delivered a speech calling for the lifting of the siege on the coastal strip." We in Jerusalem stand with our people in Gaza and call for the lifting of the blockade against our people there. Gaza was always together with blessed Jerusalem. Our solidarity is with the people of Gaza who are suffering from tragic, harsh and difficult circumstances with the ongoing siege imposed on them and the continuous targeting of stone, humans and even the trees," he said. Archbishop questioned the legitimacy of blockading more than one and a half million people in Gaza, denying them access to electricity, food and medicines.

Hamas Urges EU to Up Pressure on Israel Over Gaza
Reuters, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
Hamas called on the European Union on Friday to step up pressure on Israel to lift its economic and military blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist group." We urge the European Union not to limit its action to purely calling for an end to the siege but also to apply political and practical pressure on Israel," Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said. On Thursday, EU lawmakers urged Israel not to inflict "collective punishment" on Gaza’s population, saying its isolation of the territory had failed and its actions were endangering civilians. Zuhri said Hamas welcomed the parliamentary resolution. Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza last June after Hamas routed forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and seized control of the impoverished coastal territory. Israel said its tightened restrictions were in response to cross-border rocket fire by Gaza militants.

Morgantini: EU should adopt urgent measures to lift the Israeli siege on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- Luisa Morgantini, the deputy chairman of the European parliament, has said that the European Union had no more excuses and should adopt immediate measures to carry out the parliament’s call for ending the Israeli siege on Gaza. She said that the Israeli collective punishment against civilians in the Gaza Strip should come to an end, noting that 98 patients in Gaza had died including 17 children as a result of the siege. The MP noted that the European parliamentary delegation that recently toured the Strip had visited the Shifa hospital in Gaza city and saw 30 children in incubators whose lives could be in danger if generators stopped functioning due to the lack of fuel and supplies as a result of the Israeli siege. She described the siege as "illegitimate and inhuman". Morgantini said that the parliamentary decision clearly affirmed that the policy of isolating...

Where’s Dubya?
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
Just like Waldo, U.S. President George W. Bush is nowhere to be seen. But unlike the "Where’s Waldo" books, where all you have to do to spot the character in question do is look closely and maybe turn the book around, in the case of Bush the situation is much more serious. The president is not in the picture. All that’s left from the Annapolis Conference and from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s vacation trips is the faded logo of the "peace process." It alone can serve to remind us of what was once there. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas still meet, like two old men at the doctor’s office who meet up to chat before returning home for their afternoon nap. In the doctor’s waiting room is a sign promising that soon, this will be the location of a new branch of the peace process.

Analysis: Threats of Unilateral Independence Rocks Sleepy Peace Talks
Avi Issacharoff, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
For a minute it seemed that the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the media focus surrounding it, were shaken awake. Following three sleepy months since the end of the Annapolis conference, and with nearly no diplomatic headlines, Yasser Abed Rabbo - the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization central committee, and until recently a member of the negotiating team - managed to bring some drama to the process." If the situation does not progress toward putting an end to the construction in the settlements and toward a serious and continuous negotiations," he threatened Wednesday on Radio Palestine, "we must undertake steps similar to that in Kosovo and unilaterally declare independence." It’s possible that the storm stirred by Abed Rabbo’s statements led to the crowding in the briefing room of the "PLO department of negotiations.

Mubarak: ’Slow progress’ in Israel -Palestinian talks
Reuters, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Egyptian president says America must help sides overcome differences, hopes agreement can be reached before US President Bush leaves office in 09’ - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has seen signs of "slow progress" in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and hopes an agreement can be reached this year, Egypt’s state news agency said on Saturday." There are indications of slow progress between the two negotiating teams, but follow-up - especially from the American side - is important and necessary to overcome the difficulties facing the talks," Mubarak said in remarks carried on state news agency MENA. Mubarak, an ally of Washington whose country was the first in the Arab world to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, gave no details on the kind of progress being made. The United States hopes to get a peace treaty between Palestinian President Mahmoud...

Economic Reform Key to Mideast Stability - UN
Linda Hindi, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
Delegates attending a UN conference yesterday stressed economic reform as the key for stability in the occupied territories and the basis for building a foundation for a viable two-state solution. But they added that sustainable growth cannot be achieved without a political settlement. These concerns were at the centre of discussions during a two-day United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People. The meeting, which concluded on Wednesday, sought to highlight deplorable living conditions for Palestinians and encourage countries to support Palestinian economic reform. More than 50 countries participated in the talks led by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Participants called on Israel to remove checkpoints, freeze settlements and permit free movement of goods as some of the conditions crucial for peace.

Mayor of the Israeli town of Sderot wants a truce with Hamas
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center 2/23/2008
Mayor of the border Israeli town of Sderot, Eli Moyal, expressed willingness to talk with Hamas over halt of Gaza-based homemade shells fire, offering a 10-year-long pause of hostilities. Moyal was quoted by the British Guardian newspaper as saying that he is ready to negotiate with the ruling Hamas in Gaza, despite the international ban on any dialogue with the Islamist party, if such a talk would save Israeli lives. " 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", Moyal said. T he right-wing Israeli official, added " 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." . Moyal’s position has apparently changed after a homemade shell that landed in Sderot last week caused a boy’s leg to be amputated.

Barak to hold consultations Sunday on proposed Egypt border fence
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak will hold consultations Sunday on a proposed fence along Israel’s porous border with Egypt. Defense Ministry Director-General Pinchas Buchris will present Barak with a plan formulated in recent weeks that calls for the construction of a fence along two sections of the border -a 14-kilometer-long section in the Eilat area, and a 70-kilometer section south of the Gaza Strip. The plan calls for both sections to be a smart electronic fence, and would also include beefing up the Israel Defense Forces deployment in the area, the expansion of military bases and intelligence gathering. Ministry sources said Barak believes the project could be completed within months of budgetary approval by the treasury. Barak will also hold consultations Sunday on the issue of asylum seekers who enter Israel illegally through the Egypt border.

Ben-Eliezer: Israel must release Barghouti
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/23/2008
National infrastructure minister says strong Palestinian leader needed to conclude peace accord, recommends releasing jailed Tanzim head Marwan Barghouti; says Israelis ready for agreement with Syria - National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said on Saturday that a strong Palestinian leader is needed to conclude a peace accord with Israel and that Israel should release former Tanzim head Marwan Barghouti from prison at an assembly for the One House movement in Tel Aviv. "Unfortunately, people relying on Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) don’t know what he is about. I respect him and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. They’re good people, (they) understand, but I want to achieve results. Real results and the ability to conclude a deal are only possible (when you have) a strong leader across from you.

UK opposition chief criticized over ’Auschwitz gimmick’ comment
Reuters, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Conservatives defend David Cameron’s labeling of government-funded school trips to Nazi camp as ploy used by Prime Minister Brown to gain political points, say opposition leader was not attacking visits themselves but rather government’s unwillingness to cover their full cost - British opposition leader David Cameron faced demands for an apology on Saturday after he called government funding for school visits to the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz a "gimmick". Cameron accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government in a speech on Friday of being "obsessed with short-term gimmicks," including a recommendation to schools to make "trips to Poland"." We’ve had a gimmick for every week that Gordon Brown has been prime minister. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious," the Conservative leader said.

Ramon: Push forward ’evacuation-compensation’ for settlers east of fence
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon says ’evacuation-compensation’ for West Bank settlers east of security fence will prove to world, Palestinians that Israel is serious about peace - Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said on Saturday that the Labor party and Kadima should push forward a plan for evacuation-compensation for West Bank settlers living east of the separation fence. According to Ramon, this would prove to the Palestinians and the international community that Israel is serious about achieving peace. The initiative is intended to provide a framework by which settlers living in West Bank communities excluded from the fence can move out of their homes in return for financial compensation without having to wait for the implementation of permanent arrangement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli source: Israel must pay high price for Shalit’s release
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli source said on Saturday that Israel will have to pay a high price for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The Israeli daily newspaper Ma’ariv said an unnamed source who is playing a pivotal role in the efforts to secure Shalit’s release, said that Israel must accept the list of Palestinian prisoners that Hamas wants released in exchange for Shalit. "We cannot implement the deal. Anyone who sees the list of prisoners Hamas wants released knows that. It is difficult to agree to this price, even for anyone who wants to see progress on the deal and believe it’s necessary to pay such a high price to make it happen," the source added. Ma’ariv added that this statement reflects the standpoint of the Israeli Security Apparatus - the Shabak - that rejects the prisoner exchange.

Nasrallah: Israel to be destroyed within years
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Israel will be destroyed "within a few years," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told a rally in Beirut yesterday. "Destroying Israel is an inevitable outcome, a historic law, a divine doctrine," Nasrallah said. "When Israel won’t have an army it won’t survive, and that’s what I said about Mughniyah’s blood leading to the elimination of Israel." Nasrallah, who spoke on the occasion of Islamic Resistance Week, mentioned former Hezbollah chief Abbas al-Musawi and senior Hezbollah official Imad Mughniyah, killed in a bomb blast in Damascus last week. The group has accused Israel of assassinating the terrorist who was wanted by a number of governments for his involvement in a series of attacks on Israeli and Western targets over the past 20 years. "I swear to you Haj Imad, your blood will not go to waste," Nasrallah concluded.

Caretaker gov’t: Barghouthi’s killers are a group of outlaws
Palestinian Information Center 2/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government, headed by Ismail Haneyya, mourned on Friday the death of Sheikh Majd Al-Barghouthi who was killed under torture by PA intelligence elements, considering his murderers a "group of outlaws". In a statement received by the PIC, Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman for the government, called for ostracizing this criminal category and exposing the PA leadership’s schemes which are based on appeasing the Israeli occupation.    Nunu underlined that this crime confirmed what had repeatedly been said that there are crimes committed by PA intelligence and security interrogators inside Ramallah jails. For its part, the Hamas Movement underscored that the blood of Sheikh Barghouthi would be a curse on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage like Tirawi, Dahlan and Abu Shibak. Hamas called on the Palestinian factions and forces, and human rights and civil...

PA Won’t Follow Kosovo Model, All Agree
The Jerusalem Post, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas quickly dismissed a top aide’s call Wednesday for a unilateral declaration of statehood if negotiations with Israel fail. The Palestinians are committed to reaching a negotiated peace agreement this year, Abbas said in a statement." If we are unable to do that... We will return to our Arab [brothers] to take the appropriate decision," he said. Earlier in the day, Abbas’s aide, Yasser Abed-Rabbo, said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Kosovo, which on Sunday declared independence from Serbia. The first option was successful negotiations, Abed-Rabbo told a number of media outlets, but if this failed, a unilateral declaration was one alternative." If this doesn’t happen, we have another option," he said in an interview. "Kosovo is not better than Palestine.

Jews of the world: Israel stands with you
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Prime Minister"™s Office considering new initiatives to strengthen bonds between Israel, Diaspora Jewry. On the agenda is establishing new Israeli cultural centers abroad, as well as Jewish university in Israel - How can the faltering bonds between Israel and Diaspora Jewry be strengthened? The Prime Minister"™s Office has been recently considering initiatives to accomplish just such a goal with a project entitled "œenhancing the bond between Israel and world Jewry, and the affiliation of Jews aboard to the State of Israel."  A conference was furthermore held this week on this new Jewish initiative, organized by Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel with the support of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Attending the conference was a broad-based panel of experts including, among others, Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Cohen, Jewish Agency Chairman Ze’ev Bielski, Professor Aliza Shenhar, Dr.

What America Wants from an Operation in Gaza
Shmuel Rosner, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
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. Even worse: Kissinger told him that Israel’s erratic progress was undermining U.S. interests.

Foreign Ministry: IAEA report proves Iran still developing nuclear weapons
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Israel says report released Friday by International Atomic Energy Agency validates international community’s concerns over Tehran’s ongoing pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Iranian President Ahmadinejad touts report as ’victory over West,’ says UN sanctions meaningless - Israel on Saturday issued its first official response to the report released on Friday by the International Atomic Energy Agency. "The IAEA report concludes that Iran is involved in activities key to the development of a nuclear weapon," the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a written statement. The report asserted that while Iran was being more open with IAEA monitors than before, Iran was still pursing means to speed up their enrichment of uranium." The report reiterates and validates the concerns voiced by Israel and the international community that Iran continues to strive...

Tehran is buying time
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Iranian delay tactics continue. They make a pretense of cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They show them this or that document. They respond truthfully to this or that question and go back to their malevolent ways. They deny. They lie. They refuse to respond, or they claim that the material they are shown is fabricated. Thus Iran’s evasive tactics have persisted for five years, all with the goal of playing for time. It seeks to deflect pressures and to please at least some governments, particularly Russia and China, considered the weak links in the international effort of the major powers, to expose the Iranian deceit and impose more sanctions. The new IAEA report - 15 reports have already been written about Iran’s nuclear project - like its predecessors, finds it hard to decide where Iran is headed; whether its nuclear plans are really for peaceful purposes...

MKs: Continue sanctions until full transparency provided by Iran
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Member of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee say IAEA report proves Tehran conceal true objective of its nuclear program. ’World will regret any delay in imposing fresh sanctions,’ MK Hasson says. Iranian official says ’positive report undermines US efforts’ - Members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee called for a third round of sanctions on Iran following the publication of a report that said Tehran failed to fully cooperate with UN atomic investigators and did not answer key questions about its nuclear past. Knesset Member Israel Hasson of Yisrael Beiteinu said the transparency provided by Iran in its dealings with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was "insufficient"." When you see a cat on the street that meows like a cat and scratches like a cat, you don"™t need a DNA test to prove it"™s a cat," the former deputy chief of the Shin Bet internal security service said.

Eyal Regev: Fear for captive soldiers’ increased after Mugniyah killing
Raanan Ben-Zur, YNetNews 2/23/2008
Brother of kidnapped soldier says family worried they may find themselves in situation similar to family of missing navigator Ron Arad but adds recent assassination of Hizbullah commander may advance talks for captives’ release - Eyal Regev said his family’s concerns for the well-being of his brother Eldad and fellow IDF reserve soldier Ehud Goldwasser, who were kidnapped by Hizbullah terrorists in a cross-border raid on July 12th 2006, have increased following the assassination of Imad Mugniyah." We’re worried that we may enter a situation similar to the one Ron Arad’s family found itself in," he told a cultural forum held at Moshav Beit Yitzhak, "on the other hand, the assassination could advance negotiations between the sides (on the captives’ return to Israel). Mugniyah, a senior Hizbullah commander and a terror mastermind, was killed in a blast in Damascus on February 12th.

Abducted IDF soldier’s brother: We’re afraid he’ll be next Ron Arad
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
The brother of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Eldad Regev said Saturday he is worried that his brother could become the next Ron Arad, an Israel Air Force navigator who has been missing since he was captured when his plane went down over Lebanon in 1986." We are worried and concerned that we will reach the situation of Ron Arad’s family," Eyal Regev said during a cultural event at Kibbutz Yitzhak. "With the passage of time the concern grows, but we hope and believe that the two will return soon." Regev was abducted along with fellow IDF reservist Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser by Hezbollah on July 12, 2006, in a cross-border raid that sparked the Second Lebanon War. Eyal Regev also expressed hope that the assassination of Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus last week would lead to a breakthrough and accelerated...

Obama’s Brain Trust Taking Shape
Eli Lake, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
WASHINGTON — When it comes to foreign affairs, Senator Obama’s inner circle of advisers includes a Swahili-speaking Air Force general he met on a trip to Africa; a 30-year-old speechwriter who helped draft the final report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, and President Clinton’s first national security adviser, who in 2005 converted to Judaism under the tutelage of the Navy’s chief Jewish chaplain. Those advisers in order are Scott Gration, Ben Rhodes, and Anthony Lake. They are part of a nine-person team, in contact every day, often by e-mail. The team develops policy positions, clears language for use in comments to the press, and prepares the Democratic candidate who has won all the primaries since Super Tuesday for a dangerous world and a global war. Who advises Mr. Obama and whom the candidate would appoint to key foreign policy posts if elected president has raged as the topic

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 2/23/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is to leave today on a four-day trip to Japan, accompanied by some 20 business people. Olmert is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese prime minister. Israel is seeking a Japanese commitment for direct flights from Tokyo, which Japan has rejected over the years, and a free-trade agreement. Japan wants to promote the joint Israel-Jordanian-Japanese-Palestinian "peace corridor" in the Jericho area. (Barak Ravid) The Knesset is set to open a new breastfeeding room for workers and visitors today. The initiative was launched after two of MK Michael Melchior’s staff members, who had returned from maternity leave, complained they had nowhere to pump milk in the Knesset. Melchior contacted Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, who allocated a room. "I hope this will serve as an example for other establishments, thereby easing the return of women to the work force after they give birth," Melchior said.

Palestinian-born lawyer wins prestigious UK award
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Palestinian-born Michel Massih has won a prestigious award in the UK for outstanding members of the legal profession. At a major function of over six hundred lawyers, Mr Massih was awarded the coveted title of Outstanding Criminal Lawyer of the Year. In presenting Michel with the award, The President of the Law Society said, "Michel is a Palestinian by birth - coming from Jerusalem and came to the UK as a young boy on his own to study for his ’A’ levels. As he was studying for his exams the Arab Israeli war took place and Michel at the age of 16 had to work in order to support himself." Michel worked as a waiter and as he was thus employed until he was spotted by a BBC producer and at the age of 17 began broadcasting for the BBC World Service. He became a barrister in 1979 and a Queen’s Counsel in 1999.

Unscrupulous Gaza street dealers selling fuel at double designated price
Ma’an News Agency 2/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Israeli fuel embargo on the Gaza Strip has led to petrol being sold at 20 shekels (5 US dollars) a litre on the streets of Gaza by unscrupulous dealers. With no controls on quality or prices, some Gazans, eager to cash in and are selling fuel that is a mixture of Egyptian petrol, brought into the Strip when breaches in the border wall allowed huge quantities to be imported, and the remains of Israeli gasoline that was supplied by fuel stations in the Gaza Strip. Some dealers are buying large quantities of gasoline from fuel stations at the price imposed by the Ministry of Finance, estimated on Saturday to be 5. 76 Agorot (around 1. 5 US dollars). They then mix it with Egyptian petrol and sell it on for more than double price. Vice President of the Petrol Station Owners Assembly in Gaza Mahmoud Al-Khaznadar said, "The street sellers are nothing to do with the fuel stations and unfortunately no one is controlling them.


Israel’s Settlement Activities Under Way
Mohammed Mar’i, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
      The Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, Peace Now, yesterday said that 27 new mobile homes are currently under construction at the settlement of Eli, north of West Bank city of Ramallah, even though Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed publicly after the Annapolis peace conference that any such building would cease.
     The group said that the Israeli authorities are taking no action to stop the construction even though some of the homes are being set up on land privately owned by Palestinians. Peace Now remarks came a day after Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in Jerusalem to push the stalling peace process.
     The homes were placed on land near the Palestinian village of Luban Al-Sharqiyah, on the other side of Route 60, connecting Jerusalem and Nablus. They are near the Kinor neighborhood at the Eli settlement. According to Hagit Ofran, who heads the monitoring of settlement activity for Peace Now, the mobile homes were brought to Eli in pieces and assembled there to evade military restrictions on moving completed homes to settlements.

Israel’s new settlements

Hassan Nafaa, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/21/2008
      US schools are becoming a major focal point for the Zionist movement, writes I am not naturally inclined to exaggerate the power of Israel or that of the ubiquitous lobby that defends it. More often than not, I tend to attribute the Zionist movement’s advantage over us to our relative weakness, as opposed to their superior might. I have also always stressed the importance of distinguishing between Judaism and Zionism.
     Not all Jews are Zionists or knee-jerk supporters of Israeli policies, as some suggest. Moreover, history is filled with illustrious examples of Jews who devoted their lives to the defence of values and human dignity and who were unflagging in their support for oppressed and underprivileged peoples around the world, regardless of their national, ethnic, ideological or religious affiliations, and however powerful and ruthless their oppressors and exploiters. These facts, however, should not divert us from monitoring the means and methods by which the Zionist movement operates and expands its influence both within and outside of Jewish communities.

Israel’s next aggression

Galal Nassar, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/21/2008
      Brazenly, Israel is planning a full-scale attack on the starved people of Gaza. Will the world and Arabs just watch, asks Galal Nassar Former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin used to wish that he would wake up one morning and Gaza would be gone, sunk in the sea along with its inhabitants. Many Israelis now share the same thought, with only one difference. They want to make it happen.
     The Israeli government assumes that it has no further obligations towards Gaza, not since Ariel Sharon’s plan of withdrawing from the Strip and evacuating Jewish settlements was carried out in September 2005. Quite a strange assumption, if you ask me, considering that Israel still controls Gaza’s shores and airspace as well as most of its borders. Its army keeps launching incursions, and it is the sole source of electricity, fuel, water and basic supplies for Gaza’s 1.5 million people.
     Israel’s religious extremists suddenly discovered that Gaza is not part of Biblical Israel. They joined a chorus of Israelis who want Gaza to disappear from the map. Even peace activists seem to agree. A Peace Now leader recently wrote an article in Yediot Aharonot claiming that: "Israel has exhausted all possibilities for alleviating the fanaticism of Hamas through self-restrained action in Gaza. So now it is time to do what it takes to get rid of the Strip, even if that involves sending the Gaza population into shock through starvation, liquidation of political leaders, and even bombardment of residential areas... Perhaps hundreds will die... Perhaps a quarter of a neighbourhood in Gaza would do the trick."

Egypt and the new globalised world

Anouar Abdel-Malek, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/21/2008
      Anouar Abdel-Malek charts the way to reversing the tide of Western hegemony.
     When few years ago the Egyptian TV drama Liyali al-Helmiya (Helmiya Nights) was being aired, a great many spectators used to heave a sigh while listening to the opening song wondering "where did all this melancholy come from?"
     The answer, perhaps, lies in the changing times. Melancholy in Egypt in this day and age is made of breadlines, traffic jams, youth struggling to find jobs and scrape together enough money to marry, people deprived of a respectable amount of freedom to participate in and derive enjoyment out of political and cultural life, and other such concerns that touch upon the human rights as they are understood in the context of independent nation- states in which people have obtained such rights
     But things grow a little foggier as we shift the focus outward. What about the impact of climatic change and global warming on Egypt’s north coast and the Delta? What’s the truth regarding the end of the era of inexpensive food? Now that the myth of peace and prosperity that was constructed along the road from Camp David to Annapolis has crumbled, what do we have to say about the collapse of a segment of our northern border and the flood of Palestinians from Gaza into the Sinai, fleeing from the criminal Israeli starvation siege?

If Kosovo, why not Palestine?

John Whitbeck, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/21/2008
      It is time for the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership to challenge the international community on Palestinian independence, writes As expected, Kosovo has issued its unilateral declaration of independence, the United States and most European Union countries, with whom this declaration was coordinated, rushing to extend diplomatic recognition to this "new country". This course of action should strike anyone with an attachment to either international law or common sense as breathtakingly reckless.
     The potentially destabilising consequences of this precedent (which the US and the EU insist, bizarrely, should not be viewed as a precedent) have been much discussed with reference to other internationally recognised sovereign states with strong separatist movements practising precarious but effective self-rule, such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transniestria, Ngorno-Karabakh, Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as to discontented minorities elsewhere. One potentially constructive consequence has not yet been discussed.

Why the Arabs were defeated

Dina Abdel-Mageed in Cairo, The Palestine Post, Al Jazeera 2/17/2008
      Jewish immigration to Palestine between 1933 and 1939 resulted in widespread domestic unrest that culminated in a number of violent incidents involving Jews and Arabs.
     The situation was further exacerbated when despite Arab rejection, the United Nations approved a plan to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states on November 29, 1947.
     While preparing for their withdrawal, the British paid little attention to the turmoil to which Palestine had fallen prey.
     On May 14, 1948, General Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner, left what was known then as the mandate of Palestine.
     John Marlowe wrote of the last few minutes of British rule in the book, The Seat of Pilate, "The Union Jack was lowered and with the speed of an execution and the silence of a ship that passes in the night British rule in Palestine came to an end."

Livni’s real worry

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
      On midday Wednesday, minutes after it was reported that Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo had threatened to follow Kosovo’s example and unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state if the talks with Israel stalled, chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) was on the phone to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Abed Rabbo, he told her, was fantasizing, adding that an official denial was on the way. Livni did not seem concerned. What was worrying her was the possibility that her talks with Abu Ala might not lead to a Palestinian state.
     In effect, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) long since declared an independent state conforming to the 1967 boundaries. This November will mark the 20th anniversary of the unborn state. The declaration was issued in 1988 at a meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers, which also recognized a Jewish state existing alongside the Palestinian state. Now it appears that if, as Abed Rabbo warned, the negotiations will reach an impasse at the end of the year, that declaration will end up on the trash heap of history.

Jerusalem first

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 2/24/2008
      One could not believe in the negotiations Israel is conducting with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank; one may also believe that the parties want to succeed, but cannot. One also may think that talks cannot proceed without the elected representation of the Palestinian people, who chose Hamas. There are also no negotiations without Gaza. And now, after we have properly frowned on all these negotiations, we may also decide that for the moment, that’s all there is: Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni on one side and Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat on the other - with all their weaknesses.
     The talks they are conducting are not meant to bring peace; even they do not pretend that is the case. After 40 years of occupation and bloodshed, all that is on the agenda - shamefully - is a "shelf agreement" that no one can implement at the moment. It is precisely for this reason that this paper, bearing no expectations, will not shame those who sign it. Precisely because it is only a document with mere declarative and symbolic significance - and in this sense it may be a landmark document - it is important that it touch on the core issues.

Correspondence: The Stakes in Gaza

Nabil Fahmy, MIFTAH 2/23/2008
      Crises in the Middle East have a tendency to exhibit a peculiar pattern. While they appear to be limited in scope, they almost invariably reveal a broader dimension, which is what makes such crises potentially so destabilizing. The situation created by Hamas’ dramatic breach of the border between Egypt and Gaza, and the ensuing influx of Palestinians into Sinai, presents a clear example of this pattern. Far from being a simple border issue, it has the potential to escalate in a manner that can entangle the security interests of regional actors, and further erode the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
     Beyond the immediate task of maintaining order in the eastern Sinai after the entry of 700,000 Palestinians, the situation presented Egypt with two immediate challenges. First, Egypt could not ignore the humanitarian plight of Gaza’s population that was precipitated by Israel’s collective punishment, a policy that was not only illegal, but morally and politically untenable. Egypt therefore allowed unarmed Gazans to stock up on basic necessities in the Sinai border towns in order to alleviate what was clearly becoming a humanitarian crisis. Secondly, Egypt, adamant about preserving the security and sanctity of its own border, was faced with the challenge of reaching a new arrangement governing the border with the agreement, or at the very least acquiescence, of Israel, the PA, the European Union and Hamas, at a time when the first three parties would not collaborate with the latter. In meeting these challenges, Egypt insisted that the resolution of the crisis not embolden Palestinian or Israeli rejectionists of the two state solution.