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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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6 March 2008


Eight killed when terrorist opens fire in library at Jerusalem yeshiva
Jonathan Lis Yair Ettinger and Amos Harels, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
Eight people were killed and nine others were wounded Thursday evening when a terrorist entered a crowded library at a Jerusalem yeshiva and opened fire. The head of the Zaka emergency service described the scene after the shooting as "like a slaughterhouse." Three of the wounded in the attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood were serious condition, and taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Karem. The other six were lightly hurt and taken to Sha’arei Tzedek Medical Center. One of the wounded is 15 years old. Magen David Adom emergency medical service declared the incident a "multiple casualty event." Jerusalem District police chief Aharon Franco said the terrorist entered the religious school, pulled out an automatic weapon and began firing in every direction.

6 Islamic Jihad militants killed in separate IDF actions in Gaza
Mijal Grinberg and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
Six members of the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad were killed Thursday in three separate Israel Defense Forces strikes in the Gaza Strip. IDF tanks opened fire on four militants near the Kissufim border crossing between Israel and the Strip after identifying an attempt to plant explosives, in the same spot where an explosive device killed an IDF soldier earlier Thursday. The four militants were killed. Another militant was killed earlier in an Israel Air Force strike near the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis. A source in the Islamic Jihad confirmed the dead militant was a member of the group. The strike came several hours after another member of the militant group was killed in an IAF strike targeting a rocket launching squad in the northern Strip.

Soldier killed, three others hurt in attack on IDF jeep near Gaza border
Amos Harel Yuval Azoulay, and Mijal Grinbergs and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
An Israel Defense Forces soldier was killed and another seriously wounded when Palestinian militants blew up an IDF jeep patrolling the Gaza Strip border early Thursday. The slain soldier was laid to rest Thursday afternoon, Israel Radio reported. The jeep blew up when it rolled over an explosively formed penetrator next to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, on the Israeli side of the border. The explosives were apparently activated from Palestinian territory. The slain soldier was sitting in the passenger seat of the jeep at the time of the attack, while the driver was seriously hurt. Two other soldiers, who were sitting in the backseat of the jeep, sustained minor wounds. Several other army vehicles, along with an army helicopter, arrived to rescue the wounded, but also came under fire, witnesses said.

Israeli troops loot food, clothes, furniture, equipment from Palestinian orphans
Khalid Amayreh in Hebron, Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
Hundreds of Israeli occupation troops stormed a Palestinian orphanage and a boarding school in the southern West Bank City of Hebron early Thursday, looting large amounts of frozen food, dairy products, clothes, shoes, refrigerators and kitchen equipments, local officials and eyewitnesses said. The looted material were to be used to feed and cloth as many as seven thousand orphan girls and boys, many of them attending boarding schools run by the Islamic Charitable Society. According to neighbors, the looting operation started around midnight Wednesday when soldiers stormed the al-Harayek neighborhood in Hebron where the inventory department of the Islamic Charitable Society is located." They (Israeli soldiers) forced open the main gate and outer doors and then  started loading everything on trucks they brought with them," said Muhammed Awwad, an official at the Society’s Inventory Department.

More Than One in Four Palestinians Killed in Gaza Were Children
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 3/6/2008
Ramallah, 06/03/2008. The Israeli attack on Gaza launched from Wednesday 27 February to Monday 3 March killed more than 120 Palestinians. Palestinian and international sources confirmed that 31 children had been killed, and are investigating 13 more reported child fatalities. Dr. Barghouthi MP, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, declared "œthis horrendous death toll clearly highlights Israel"™s contempt for Palestinian lives, even children. These deaths are war crimes."  Among the dead children were a 20-day-old baby, a 5-month-old baby, and a group of children playing football. Even more alarming, four children were shot dead by Israeli snipers, three of them inside their house. Dr. Barghouthi stated that "œthese are wilful killings of children, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

IMEMC: Palestinian farmer critically wounded by Israeli army gunfire in Bil’in
International Solidarity Movement 3/6/2008
Bil’in Village A Palestinian young man was wounded by Israeli army gunfire in the village of Bilin near the northern West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday afternoon. Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that Wa’am Burnat, 18 was wounded as he was working in his family’s farmland in the village. Apparently Burnat came near the wall, Israel is building on the village’s land, when the troops shot him. Burnat received at least five bullets to his, legs and thigh, and was detained by the soldiers for around half an hour. Local sources said that troops banded his wounds to stop the bleeding, until he was taken by the Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance to Sheikh Zaid hospital in Ramallah where he is being operated on. HIs condition was described as serious as he lost a big amount of blood. -- See also: IMEMC article

IOF troops kill Palestinian young man en route from his work
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- The IOF troops killed on Wednesday evening a Palestinian young man called Mohamed Aslamiya, 23, and wounded another en route from their work to the Idna town, west of Al-Khalil city in the West Bank. Palestinian eyewitnesses told the PIC reporter, that Israeli soldiers intercepted the young man and shot him dead, adding that a large number of IOF soldiers stormed the Idna town amid intensive and random gunfire imposing a curfew and announcing the area as a closed military area. Meanwhile, in the West Bank a Palestinian old woman died of heart attack when IOF soldiers broke into her home in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday, her relatives said. They said that Zakia Al-Amori was terrified due to the IOF savage storming of her home to capture her nephew who is wanted by those forces. Palestinian medics arrived to her home in Balata refugee camp east of Nablus city and tried to save her life but to no avail, the relatives said.

Clashes erupt as IDF vehicles enter south Gaza
Yuval Azoulay Mijal Grinberg and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
Some 25 Israel Defense Forces armored vehicles advanced into southern Gaza after nightfall yesterday, and troops clashed with militants, Palestinian witnesses said, just a day after the IDF ended its offensive in northern Gaza against Palestinian rocket squads. The Palestinians said the armored column entered Gaza through the Kissufim crossing. Israeli defense officials said it was a pinpoint operation targeting Gaza militants. Helicopters circled overhead near the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis as IDF soldiers surrounded the home of a militant. The Hamas-allied Islamic Jihad movement said the man was a leader of its armed wing. IDF tanks reportedly fired shells while the fighter helicopters fired missiles. A one-month-old baby girl was killed by a ricocheting bullet, Gazan medical officials said. Also, six militants and three civilians were wounded, none of then seriously, the officials said.

IOF missile raid shreds body of Palestinian
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
BEIT LAHIA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian young man was killed and his body badly mutilated in an IOF air raid that targeted a group of Palestinians east of Beit Lahia to the north of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, medical sources reported. They told PIC correspondent that the dismembered body of Nader Abu Dayer, 20, was taken to the Kamal Odwan hospital north of the Strip after an IOF missile directly hit him while another man was injured. Two other Palestinians were killed one in Al-Khalil district at the hands of IOF troops late Wednesday and an old woman in Nablus refugee camp as a result of heart attack after IOF troops savagely broke into her home in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday. [end]

VIDEO - IDF to use unmanned jeeps in conflict with Gaza militants
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for March 6, 2008. The Israel Defense Forces are set to introduce an unmanned jeep into the ongoing conflict with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. While pilotless drones are already common in the Israel Air Force, this is the first time a driverless jeep will be used by the army’s ground forces. Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries jointly developed the guardian for the IDF, and it is expected to be deployed this summer along the security fence with the Gaza Strip, replacing many manned vehicles. [end]

ISRAEL-OPT: UK aid agencies say Gaza humanitarian situation dire
Wissam Nassar/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/7/2008
JERUSALEM, 6 March 2008 (IRIN) - The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is "man-made" and worse than it has ever been since the Israeli occupation in 1967, a coalition of British organisations said in a new report released on 6 March, urging better regional cooperation and saying Hamas can no longer be ignored. Enitiled, ’A Humanitarian Implosion ’, the 16-page report details the various effects the Israeli-imposed blockade has had in the last nine months since the Hamas takeover of the enclave, and concluded that all aspects of life have been negatively affected, including healthcare, employment and education. The agencies, such as CARE, Amnesty, Christian Aid, and Oxfam, quoted UN statistics showing that aid dependency has risen significantly. While in 2006 some 60 percent of Gazans needed food aid, in 2008 that number rose to 80 percent, and is expected to increase.

Homes in northern Arab al-Ramadin threatened with demolition
Stop The Wall 3/6/2008
Occupation forces delivered five military orders to five homes in northern Arab al-Ramadin on the 19th of February. The threatened homes are built of canvas, wood and sheet iron and provide shelter for 15 people, all of whom are part of a large extended family. The community of northern Arab al-Ramadin is located northeast of Qalqilya city. Encircled by the Wall, it falls about 700m from the Zufin settlement and only meters from an Occupation military base. Northern Arab al-Ramadin is one of Palestinian villages in the Qalqilya district that is surrounded on all sides by the Wall and in great danger of being wiped out. The Occupation has constructed a military gate and only residents with special permits are allowed to exit through it. The community is comprised of 100 structures, consisting of both residential buildings and animal pens.

Gaza man assassinated and run over, baby shot in the head
Report, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 3/6/2008
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) escalated their aggression against the population of the Gaza Strip. Following its withdrawal from north Gaza on 4 March 2008, the IOF continued air strikes yesterday. IOF penetrated the Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip, assassinated one man, and killed an infant less than one month old. The number of the people killed by the IOF since 28 February 2008 has reached 120, including 72 civilians. Among the civilians were six women and thirty children. According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, at approximately 7:45pm on Tuesday 4 March 2008, five IOF military vehicles and four tanks penetrated one kilometer into eastern Wadi al-Salqa village. They surrounded the home of 40-year-old Yousef Sulaiman al-Smiri, which is located by the Kisufim Road north of the village. Incidentally, 35-year-old Khalid Abu ’Aser, his wife, 30-year-old Nadia, and their 20-day-old baby, Amira, were visiting al-Smiri’s family.

Consequences of the PMRS bombing on the health system in Gaza
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 3/6/2008
This article is based on an interview Palestine Monitor had with Magali Thill and Asier Rodriguez from the Spanish NGO ACSUR. The massacre that the Israeli military has been inflicting upon the civilians of the Gaza strip during the last couple of days is one of rarely seen proportions. Over one hundred people were killed in just a few days time, hundreds of others injured, the vast majority of them unarmed citizens. This indiscriminate slaughtering of men, women and children was the most violent Israeli attack on Gaza in several years, but for the people living there, it"™s just another cause of suffering. Years of occupation, violence and bloodshed have totally exhausted the 1. 5 million citizens who are living as prisoners in this tiny strip of land. Since Hamas took over power in the Gaza strip, and Israel and the international community imposed very severe sanctions, the living...

Sanctions causing Gaza to implode, say rights groups
Ian Blake, The Guardian, Palestine Monitor 3/6/2008
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living through their worst humanitarian crisis since the 1967 war because of the severe restrictions imposed by Israel since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power, a report says today. Movement is all but impossible and supplies of food and water, sewage treatment and basic healthcare can no longer be taken for granted. The economy has collapsed, unemployment is expected to rise to 50%, hospitals are suffering 12-hour power cuts and schools are failing - all creating a "humanitarian implosion", according to a coalition of eight UK humanitarian and human rights groups. The data was collated before the recent escalation in Hamas rocket fire and Israel’s incursion, which saw 106 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians, killed in five days alone. One Israeli civilian and two soldiers were killed in the same period.

Gaza "man-made" crisis: rights orgs.
Report, Electronic Intifada 3/6/2008
JERUSALEM, 6 March (IRIN) - The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is "man-made" and worse than it has ever been since the Israeli occupation in 1967, a coalition of British organizations said in a new report released on 6 March, urging better regional cooperation and saying Hamas can no longer be ignored. Entitled "A Humanitarian Implosion," the 16-page report details the various effects the Israeli-imposed blockade has had in the last nine months since the Hamas takeover of the enclave, and concluded that all aspects of life have been negatively affected, including healthcare, employment and education. The agencies, such as CARE, Amnesty, Christian Aid, and Oxfam, quoted UN statistics showing that aid dependency has risen significantly. While in 2006 some 60 percent of Gazans needed food aid, in 2008 that number rose to 80 percent, and is expected to increase.

UN Human Rights Council condemns IDF actions in Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s military action in Gaza at the behest of Pakistan and other Muslim states on Thursday. The UN’s top human rights body agreed on a resolution proclaiming that the Israel Defense Forces incursions into the Palestinian territory inflicted collective punishment on the civilian population. The resolution also calls for Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza into Israel to be stopped. More than 120 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed over the past two weeks in military actions and rocket strikes. The 47-member rights body approved the resolution by 33 votes to one after a debate on the situation in Gaza. Thirteen countries abstained. Russia, China and India supported the resolution. European countries abstained. Canada voted against.

Gaza residents tell of sniper attacks on homes
The Telegraph, Palestine Monitor 3/4/2008
Palestinians described yesterday how civilians were killed while hiding in their homes as Israeli ground troops stormed through northern Gaza suburbs this weekend searching for Hamas militants. Raad Abu Seif held his 12-year-old daughter in his arms as she died after she was shot in the stomach as she stood several metres from a window. "I stroked Safa’s hair," said Mr Abu Seif, his voice hoarse. "And then her eyes rolled backwards in her head." "I tried to massage her heart for a minute, two minutes, three minutes, I don’t remember. And then I felt there was nothing." Mr Abu Seif, 40, described how his extended family had bunkered down inside their home in the Zimo Square area of Jabaliya when it was infiltrated by Israeli ground troops supported by tanks in the early hours of Saturday. Mr Abu Seif, who used to work in a car paint shop, and his wife, Sama, 38, told their seven children to stay down and avoid looking out of the windows.

Bush: J’lem shooting attack ’barbaric, vicious’
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jerusalem Post 3/7/2008
US President George W. Bush told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday that the United States stands with Israel, following a gunman’s attack on Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav Yeshiva that killed eight and wounded 11. I condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack in Jerusalem that targeted innocent students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva," Bush said in a statement released at the White House after the president spoke with Olmert on the telephone. "This barbaric and vicious attack on innocent civilians deserves the condemnation of every nation." Bush said that in his call with Olmert, he extended condolences to the victims of the attack against rabbinical students in Jerusalem. "I told him the United States stands firmly with Israel in the face of this terrible attack," Bush said.

Egyptian anger over Israel "approaching boiling point"
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 3/6/2008
CAIRO, 6 March (IPS) - Fury erupted on the streets and in parliament this week following violent Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. But as protests were held nationwide in support of besieged Palestinians next door, Cairo continued to keep the volatile Rafah border crossing -- the only means out of the strip not under direct Israeli control -- tightly sealed. "By keeping the border closed, the government has kept us from sending material and financial support to Gaza," Magdi Hussein, secretary-general of the frozen Socialist Labour Party and leading member of the popular Egyptian Committee Against the Siege of Gaza, told IPS. "Egyptians have no way of expressing their solidarity except by participating in demonstrations." On Monday (3 March), Israel concluded a six-day military incursion into the Gaza Strip that left an estimated 120 Palestinians dead, including a number of civilians.

Hamas Rejects Arab-League Proposal for Truce with Israel
The Media Line, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
Hamas has turned down a recent proposal by the secretary general of the Arab League, ‘Amru Mousa, for a unilateral truce stopping rocket firing into Israel, sources in Gaza said. The proposal, which was presented to Hamas leader, Khalid Mash’al during Mousa’s visit to Damascus last week, also suggests declaring a unilateral cease-fire with Israel. The plan, according to the League’s sources, was meant to stop the current military operation against Hamas and avoid further escalation and a likely massive Israeli invasion of Gaza. Mash’al refused the proposal and insisted that any cease-fire with Israel should be part of a mutual truce leading to the lifting of the siege and opening all terminals, including the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border with Gaza. Hamas is also still refusing an Egyptian plan to reopen the Rafah terminal despite the fact that it gives the Islamic group a key role at the terminal, and wants a new deal excluding both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Egypt hosts Gaza ceasefire talks
BBC Online 3/6/2008
Delegations from the Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have begun talks in Egypt about a possible ceasefire with Israel. Egyptian officials hope to broker an agreement that would end rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip. The groups have indicated that, in return, Israel would have to stop all attacks on Gaza and lift its blockade. The US has sent top state department official David Welch to Cairo to support Egypt’s mediation efforts. Aides of Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met officials from the two groups in the city of al-Arish, security officials said. Hamas officials said one of the group’s senior leaders, Mahmoud al-Zahhar, was heading its delegation. Hamas leaders have been in hiding in recent days because of the threat of assassination attempts by the Israeli military.

An assault on the heart of Zionism
Calev Ben-davi, Jerusalem Post 3/7/2008
In striking the flagship institution of the religious Zionist movement, a Jerusalem landmark whose history is linked with the founding and fulfillment of the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel, the gunman aimed his weapon at the heart of the Zionist enterprise. If the goal was to outrage the general public and to inflame that particular segment of it most skeptical of the possibility of Israel one day coming to terms with its most immediate Arab neighbors, then the bullets struck home with deadly and accurate force. Beyond that, as the first terrorist attack on this scale in nearly two years - since a Tel Aviv suicide bomber killed nine in April 2006 - the impact of this incident will be profound. This will be a sharp blow for those Israelis, especially Jerusalemites, who have allowed themselves to let their psychological guard down since the second intifada petered out.

Religious Zionism / Hitting where it hurts
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert knows the study hall of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem very well. Up to a few years ago he was the mayor of Jerusalem and a regular guest of honor at the main event organized by the yeshiva, the annual Jerusalem Day celebration. Olmert would make his crowd-pleasing speeches about the unity of Jerusalem, and a sea of knitted skullcaps carried him on high. A lot of bad blood has passed between Olmert and his former knitted skullcap-wearing fans since then. The pleasant memories have turned into real bitterness against the man they consider to have betrayed them and converted. The bloody terror attack on the flagship of the religious Zionism movement will only make their attitude toward Olmert more extreme. After the funeral, or even possibly during them, religious MKs, and other bodies such as the Yesha Settlers Council and other right-wing,...

Terror in Jerusalem / No intelligence ahead of attack
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
After a week of failed efforts to settle scores with Israel for the casualties caused by its operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terror organizations scored a string of successes yesterday. The day began with the bombing of an army jeep along the Gaza border, which was videotaped by Islamic Jihad. It continued with a direct rocket hit on a house in Sderot that wounded several people, and ended with the deadly shooting attack in Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, the flagship institute of the religious Zionist movement. The latter was the worst terror attack to take place inside Israel in almost two years. It provided a grim reminder of those days at the height of the second intifada, when Jerusalem was hit by a string of murderous terror attacks. What Israel’s security services have accomplished in the West Bank over the last three years is a virtual miracle in professional terms:...

The yeshiva attack / Served cold
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
The celebratory shooting in the air in Gaza that followed the terrorist attack in Jerusalem last night showed that the penetration of Merkaz Harav was viewed as an unusual political and military achievement for the group responsible. The attack brought something to a wide public in the Gaza Strip that it had been waiting for all week - revenge. The horror scenes from Gaza at the beginning of the week sent Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups racing for a terror attack, knowing that whoever managed to pull one off first would score major points in the Arab and Palestinian street. The Israel Defense Forces’ attacks in Gaza, which caused the death of many civilians, provided the legitimacy for yesterday’s brutal attack. Political significance aside, the terrorist demonstrated he could carry out an attack that required prior intelligence gathering.

The national-religious camp’s flagship yeshiva
Yair Sheleg, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
The Mercaz Harav rabbinic college is the most prominent yeshiva in the religious Zionist world. It trained the movement’s leading rabbis as well as many yeshiva heads, city rabbis, and teachers in religious colleges and high schools. The school was central in shaping the evolution of religious Zionism. As the flagship of national-religious yeshivas, the religious right is bound to attribute greater symbolic meaning to a terrorist attack here than anywhere else. Founded in 1924 by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, then chief Ashkenazi rabbi during the British Mandate, it is seen as the first yeshiva to be Zionist in spirit. Rabbi Kook called it "the central world yeshiva," wishing to set it as a model for a new yeshiva concept, integrating traditional Talmud studies with Jewish philosophy, Bible and even Jewish history, geography and literature.

VIDEO - News / At least 7 killed in terror attack at J’lem yeshiva
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for March 6, 2008. In this edition: At least seven people are killed in a terrorist attack at a Jerusalem yeshiva. Palestinian militants kill one soldier and wound three others in an attack on an IDF jeep near the Gaza border. Four people are wounded as a Qassam rocket hits a home in Sderot. Related articles: At least 7 killed in terrorist attack at J’lem yeshiva Soldier killed, 3 hurt in attack on IDF jeep near Gaza border Four people wounded as Qassam rocket hits Sderot home Also on Haaretz. com TV: IDF to use unmanned jeeps in conflict with Gaza militants News / Tempers flare in Knesset as Eitam calls for Arab MKs’ expulsion News / IDF kills 18 Palestinians in Gaza as rockets pound Negev

Terrorist kills eight in attack on Jerusalem yeshiva
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 3/6/2008
A terrorist attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva (rabbinical college) in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood this evening has left eight people dead and eight wounded, five of them severely, according to official police reports. According to Galei Tzahal (Israel Army Radio) the terrorist entered the yeshiva and opened fire in the library. One of the students at the yeshiva, Yitzhak Danon, eventually managed to hit the terrorist. "I climbed on the roof of the study hall with my gun after I heard the sound of gunshots. The firing continued while I lay on the roof with my weapon cocked. Suddenly he came up, and started spraying bullets in the air. I fired two shots at his head, and saw him stagger," Danon said. The terrorist was finally killed by a paratroop officer, a student at the yeshiva who lives close by and came to the scene with his weapon at the sound of gunfire.

Gaza ambush kills Israeli soldier
Al Jazeera 3/6/2008
An Israeli soldier has been killed and near the separation wall between Israel and the Gaza Strip, despite efforts to broker a truce after a week of Israeli military action. Three other soldiers were injured when a bomb detonated in the path of an Israeli patrol near the Kissufim crossing on Thursday, an Israeli military spokesman said. Al Jazeera received a statement from the Ahmed Abu al-Rish Brigades, a Fatah-aligned armed group, claiming to have planted explosive devices near the border overnight. Israeli helicopters landed at the scene and ambulances rushed to evacuate casualties. Exchange of fire - After the explosion, tanks stormed into Gaza near the town of Deir Al-Balah, with an exchange of gunfire erupting between the soldiers and Palestinian fighters, witnesses said.

IOF soldier killed in resistance attack
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- An IOF soldier was killed on Thursday after Palestinian resistance elements detonated an explosive device in an IOF jeep near the Kissufim military position east of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip. Hebrew media reported that the soldier was killed while others were wounded in the attack. Eyewitnesses in the area said that jeep was directly hit and completely destroyed by the ensuing fire. An eyewitness told PIC correspondent that the blast directly exploded in the jeep putting it on fire. He added that the blaze continued for 15 minutes before a number of IOF armored vehicles arrived to the scene accompanied by a military ambulance vehicle and a helicopter to evacuate the casualties. Violent clashes were reported in the area between IOF troops and resistance fighters during which the IOF troops fired at civilian neighborhoods, locals reported.

Jerusalem yeshiva student: I shot the terrorist twice in the head
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
A student at the Jerusalem yeshiva where eight people were killed in a terrorist attack Thursday evening shot the gunman who opened fire inside the religious school’s crowded library, neutralizing him before a soldier killed him with an automatic rifle. Yitzhak Dadon said he climbed onto the roof of a nearby building, armed with a rifle, and waited for the gunman to emerge." He came out of the library spraying automatic fire... the terrorist came to the entrance and I shot him twice in the head," he said. Witnesses described a terrifying scene during the shooting, with students jumping out the windows of the building to escape. Yehuda Meshi Zahav, head of the Zaka rescue service, entered the library after the attack. "The whole building looked like a slaughterhouse.

IDF tracker killed by roadside bomb
Yuval Azoulay Mijal Grinberg and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
Suliman Abu-Juda, 28, was killed yesterday morning when the jeep he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb near the border fence in the Kissufim area of the central Gaza Strip. Abu-Juda was a tracker on routine patrol with the Tzabar Battalion of the Givati Brigade. He was sitting next to the driver of the jeep, who sustained critical injuries in the blast. Two soldiers in the vehicle’s backseat suffered minor injuries. Soldiers in a second jeep were not injured in the explosion. The injured were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva by helicopter. The driver was hospitalized in Soroka’s trauma ward, while the two soldiers with minor injuries were treated and released. The head of the trauma unit, Dr. Gadi Shaked, said the driver’s legs were badly damaged, and he had shrapnel wounds. He was operated on and taken to the intensive care unit.

’Guys lay dead, with holy books around them’
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/7/2008
The alert from the Merkaz Harav religious seminary came so soon after the attack began that medics were on the scene while shots were still ringing out. Yerach Tucker, a medic with the United Hatzalah volunteers, said before even thinking of saving lives, the rescue team had to save themselves: "We came a few minutes after getting the call and there was still shooting. We had to crouch down to avoid being hit. There was shooting from the window." Dozens of ambulances had arrived at the scene in Kiryat Moshe, just off the main roads at the entrance to Jerusalem. By the time the medics got inside, the extent of the carnage had become clear. "There were young guys - 16, 17, 18 years old - lying on the floor with blood all over them and the holy books lying around them," Tucker said The lone gunman, a Palestinian reportedly from East Jerusalem, slipped into the seminary at about 9pm. He had disguised...

Yeshiva students pledge not to let terror prevail
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
The Mercaz Harav yeshiva was supposed to mark the first day of the Jewish month of Adar with a party last night. Some 300 students of the Yeshiva L’Tze’irim - the yeshiva high school attached to Mercaz Harav - had waited eagerly for the event known as one of the high points of the year. The food and the musicians had already arrived, as had guests from other yeshiva high schools. Then the shots were heard." At first, we thought it was firecrackers that someone was setting off in honor of Rosh Hodesh," said one student, referring to the minor holiday celebrated on the first day of every Jewish month. Mercaz Harav, the ideological cradle of the religious Zionist community, has been the scene of many historic events. But yesterday’s was surely the most tragic." You see students sitting, deeply engrossed in the Torah, and the next minute, you see them lying on the ground, bleeding,"...

Seven Israeli student-soldiers killed in revenge attack for Gaza massacres
Khalid Amayreh in Occupied E. Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
In an apparent retaliation for the recent  Israeli massacres in the Gaza Strip, (or the assassination in Damascus by Israeli agents last month of Imad Mughniya, a leading Hizbullah figure)  unidentified  guerillas on Thursday attacked the headquarters of the  religious messianic Zionist movement  in West Jerusalem, killing and injuring a number of settlers and soldiers. According to Israeli media reports, at least six settler-soldiers were killed and several others wounded. At least one Palestinian guerilla was killed. There was a lot of gunfire and hysteria," a woman who lives across the street from the school told the radio. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The shooting, which was highly expected, is believed to be a revenge attack for the killing by the Israeli army this week of more than 120 Palestinians, the vast bulk of them innocent civilians, including more than 13 children and toddlers.

Zionist rabbis says Torah permits killing Palestinian civilians
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)--The association of rabbis for the people and land of Israel headed by extremist rabbi Dov Lior issued on Wednesday a religious ruling legitimizing the shelling of Palestinian civilian gatherings by IOF troops at the pretext of responding to the rocket attacks carried out by the Palestinians. According to this ruling, the Torah permits the shelling and bombing of Palestinian rocket sources even if there are civilians living there and considers that the Israeli army must sometimes respond to the source of fire immediately without giving any advance warning to the Palestinian civilians. This ruling also says that if the Palestinian civilians are concerned about their lives, they should stop the Palestinian resistance from firing rockets on Israeli settlements. In another serious development, the Israel TV channel two revealed on Wednesday that the IOF troops...

Eye-Witness Abed Rabbo St, East Jabaliya
From PCHR''s Narratives Under Siege series - 6, Palestine Monitor 3/6/2008
6 March 2008 "I heard shooting, then screaming. I rushed upstairs to see what had happened, and they were both on the floor. Jaqueline was already dead, but Iyad was still alive. The neighbours called an ambulance and we ran to the hospital with him, but he died as soon as we arrived."  East Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip bore the brunt of Israel’s latest military incursion into Gaza. The incursion, which was launched in the early hours of Thursday February 28, lasted four days and nights. In that time Israeli troops killed 108 Palestinians, including 54 unarmed civilians, 26 of whom were children. The Palestinians who live in and around Abed Rabbo Street in east Jabaliya suffered intense air strikes by F16 planes and helicopters, tank shelling, snipers, and having their houses invaded and vandalised by Israeli soldiers, who tied adults up with ropes, or else locked whole families...

LEBANON: ICRC completes primary water supply to ruined refugee camp
Hugh Macleod/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/7/2008
BEIRUT, 6 March 2008 (IRIN) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has completed rebuilding the primary water supply network in currently accessible areas of the ruined Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, north Lebanon. Up to 90 percent of the water infrastructure in the areas of Nahr al-Bared outside the official boundary of the "œold camp" was damaged or destroyed in a 15-week battle in the summer of 2007 between the army and Islamist militants, according to the ICRC. The conflict reduced the "œold camp" - the original square kilometre of cinder block houses which comes under the jurisdiction of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA - to rubble, and also inflicted huge damage on the new camp, where Palestinians had built homes on land rented from local Lebanese.

Health situation in Gaza, 03 Mar 2008
World Health Organization, ReliefWeb 3/3/2008
- According to the MoH, 116 Palestinian were killed (incl. 39 children) and 350 people were injured (incl. 75 children) since 27 February. - Five ambulances have been hit during the IDF actions in Gaza Strip as reported by the MoH. - The MoH has issued referral documents for eleven urgent cases to be treated in Israeli hospitals. Seven of these patients are waiting for the Israeli permits to cross Erez Crossing. The remaining four patients are waiting for hospital appointments. - A total of 39 patients have been referred to Egyptian hospitals on 2 March through the Rafah border crossing. Another 34 cases will be referred by the end of 3 March. Health Facilities Update The MoH hospitals continue to work within the declared state of emergency. The provision of some health services has been reduced due to the shortage of drugs, medical supplies, lab reagents; some medical equipment is no longer functioning.

Hamas, Jihad meet Cairo officials to discuss truce, opening Rafah crossing
Avi Issacharoff Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives met with Egyptian intelligence officials in the Egyptian city of El-Arish yesterday to discuss the possibility of opening the Rafah border crossing and of reaching a truce with Israel. After the meeting, Ayman Taha, Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza, said that Hamas was open to a tahadiyeh - a temporary cease-fire - on condition that it be bilateral. In addition to an end to Israeli military operations, Taha said, Israel must also lift the blockade on Gaza. Khader Habib, who headed the Islamic Jihad delegation at the meeting, said that Israel must also agree to a comprehensive cease-fire in the West Bank that includes an end to arrests of suspected militants. Israel opposes such restrictions. The Hamas delegation was headed by Mahmoud Al-Zahar. Taha said that Hamas is open to having members of the presidential guard of the Palestinian...

Abbas slams Jerusalem attack; Israel: Peace talks will go on
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
Israel said Thursday it would continue with U.S. -backed peace talks with the Palestinians despite a terrorist attack at a Jerusalem yeshiva that killed eight people." These terrorists are trying to destroy the chances of peace but we certainly will continue the peace talks," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said. For his part, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the shooting attack." President Mahmoud Abbas condemns the attack in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of many Israelis and he reiterated his condemnation of all attacks that target civilians, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis," said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat. In Gaza, Hamas welcomed the terrorist attack. "We bless the [Jerusalem] operation. It will not be the last," Hamas said in a statement.

Gaza Clashes Cloud Rice’s Trip
Tim Mcgirk, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
In the southern Israeli port city of Ashkelon, the bull’s-eye of Palestinian rocket attacks, pharmacists noted that the sale of tranquilizers shot up by more than 60% in the past week as residents sought to calm their shattered nerves. But with Ashkelon’s 120,000 citizens now in the range of the Russian-made Grad rockets recently hauled out of Hamas’ arsenals to escalate the confrontation, the drug of choice for Israeli leaders and U.S. officials trying to revive peace talks is more likely to be aspirin or any other pain reliever to help treat their frequent headaches. The fighting in Gaza that left more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis dead last weekend has turned a routine visit to the region by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday into a desperate mission to salvage U.S. -sponsored peace negotiations.

Arab Initiative Still the Best Deal Around
Alon Ben-meir, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
The Arab summit, scheduled for the latter part of March in Damascus, is in serious trouble even before it begins because of several political discords among Arab states as well as the region’s continuing violent conflicts. Whereas a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon over the selection of a new president seems a prerequisite to holding the summit in Damascus, no one expects its leaders to even attempt to resolve the many other crises that have plagued the Arab world. The one critical issue that will resurface in Damascus is what to do about the languishing 2002 Arab Peace Initiative with Israel to prevent it from becoming another relic in the annals of the unending Arab-Israeli conflict. This is not the time to threaten to withdraw the initiative or to present Israel with an ultimatum to either accept or face the consequences, as some Arab leaders have suggested.

Arab League Vows to Drop out of NPT if Israel Admits it has Nuclear Weapons
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
Arab countries will walk away from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if Israel ever officially acknowledges it has nuclear weapons, the Arab League announced in a statement Wednesday. As Arab foreign ministers met at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League to prepare for their annual summit at the end of the month, they also issued a series of statements on regional issues, including extremely sensitive matter of Israel’s refusal to join the NPT. As soon as Israel announces it has nuclear weapons, the Arabs will announce their withdrawal from the Nonproliferation Treaty, the statement said. Israel is widely believed to be the only country in the Middle East to have nuclear weapons, though it maintains a policy of ambiguity, insisting it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region, without confirming or denying their existence.

Nazzal: Hamas possess strong evidence to indict Dahalan over Gaza events
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Senior Hamas political leader Mohammed Nazzal has affirmed on Thursday Hamas Movement posses "amazing" evidence on the role of Mohammed Dahalan in carrying out an Israeli-US scheme to oust Hamas from power after it won the elections. According to Nazzal, who is also a member of Hamas’s political bureau, the news revealed by an American news paper a couple of days ago which unveiled a secret plan concocted by the US administration purposely to ignite a Palestinian civil war were supporting Hamas’s claims that the Movement was defending itself and its cadres when it decided to put an end to Dahalan’s mutiny trend in Gaza last June. In press statements he made, Nazzal asserted "They (Dahalan and his mercenaries) were working for Israel and US interests [against the interests of their own people.

VIDEO - Khaled Meshaal Interview
YouTube, Al Jazeera 3/6/2008
A report released this week by the American magazine Vanity Fair disclosed a plan by the US administration to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas by arming rival Fatah forces through millions of dollars worth of weapons. This as Israel waged its deadliest round of attacks on Gaza since 2000. Al Jazeera’s Hashim Ahlbarra meets with Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal – head of the group’s political bureau, and asks him about the report. In this episode of Talk to Jazeera, Meshaal, talks about the leaked US plan of arming Fatah and instigating a civil war in Gaza. He also talks about rocket fire from the coastal strip and answers questions about a possible truce with Israel. Meshaal says the surfacing of this report vindicates Hamas’s seizing full control of Gaza, claiming that it was a pre-emptive measure forced upon them to preserve their existence and the voice of those who voted for them.

Rice: Abbas agreed to resume contacts with Israel
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s statements on Wednesday revealed that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s allegations of suspending negotiations with Israel until it stops its military offensive against Gaza were only for media consumption and lacked minimum credibility. In a press conference with Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni in the occupied Palestinian lands, Rice stated that both sides informed her of their intentions to resume talks and that they are in contact with each other, affirming that Abbas’s call for a calm by Israel as a prerequisite before resuming talks with it was not a condition. Abbas had said on Sunday that he decided to suspend negotiations with Israel in protest at the Israeli massacres. Rice also underscored that Israeli and PA officials would meet next week in the presence of US General William Fraser who was delegated in January...

Olmert says he will not attack Gaza if homemade missiles are halted
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- After failing to stop the resistance homemade missiles through brutal military means, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, announced on Wednesday evening that the IOF will not attack Gaza if the Palestinian resistance stops firing homemade missiles at Israeli colonies." If there is no Qassam fire on Israel, there will be no Israeli attack on Gaza" Olmert said according to the evening bulletin of the Israeli radio. Olmert claimed that the whole aim of the IOF campaign was to prevent shooting at Israeli residents. Olmert’s change of heart was apparently prompted by his conviction that his occupation army has failed in its mission to stop the Palestinian resistance missiles from slamming into Israeli settlements despite its five day murderous campaign which resulted in the death of more than 120 Palestinians, half of them non-combatants and 25 of them were minors.

Rice: Peace deal could happen by year’s end
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
Israel and the Palestinians can still reach a peace agreement by the end of the year, despite the recent violence in the Gaza Strip, visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday. Rice, who met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah, urged both parties to return to the negotiation table as soon as possible. "What we are trying to achieve is not easy... but I do believe it can be done," Rice said at a joint press conference with Abbas." We need very much for everybody to be focused on peace," he added. For his part, Abbas said that "peace and negotiations are our strategic choice," but fell short of announcing a resumption of peace talks that his government cut off after the upsurge in fighting in Gaza." I call on the Israeli government to halt its aggression so the necessary...

Rice Encircled by Mideast Troubles
Sana Abdallah, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
The mission of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations was Tuesday facing serious challenges as the Palestinian leadership insisted that Israel first halt its military operations in the Gaza Strip. Following talks with Rice in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said he was committed to the peace process, but blamed the Israeli attacks and the siege of Gaza for sabotaging the negotiations." I insist on the necessity of installing a comprehensive truce in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank so that we can reach our goal of making 2008 a year of peace," Abbas told reporters. "The choking siege around Gaza has also sabotaged the negotiations. Therefore, I call on the Israeli government to cease its aggression in order to provide the environment necessary for the negotiations."

Batesh: Arabs should revoke "peace initiative", support resistance
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Khaled Al-Batesh, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza, has called on the Arab foreign ministers to revoke the Arab "peace initiative" and to support resistance in Gaza. Batesh in a press release on Wednesday said that results of the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo were not enough to protect the Palestinian people, who are the target of daily massacres at the hands of the "Zionist enemy". Israel’s crimes against civilians, including the killing of children, and against buildings, including the demolition of mosques and homes, call on all to rescind the initiative that was rejected by Israel itself, the Jihad leader emphasized. Batesh renewed calls for breaking the siege and opening crossings before Palestinians in Gaza and supporting resistance there against the "Zionist aggression" and not to heed American calls for continuing talks and normalization with Israel.

MP Halabia calls on Arab and Islamic masses to protest Aqsa violations
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Ahmed Abu Halabia, the chairman of the Quds committee in the PLC, has called on the Arab and Islamic peoples to immediately act and end their silence towards Zionist desecration of the holy Aqsa Mosque and other Islamic and Christian shrines. Abu Halabia told a press conference on Wednesday that the Zionist violations should come to an immediate halt, asking PA chief Mahmoud Abbas not to resume negotiations with the IOA under any justification. He stressed that all PLC members should activate their legislative and monitoring roles, and to contact all concerned parties to protest violations against the Aqsa. All Arab and Islamic parties and organizations should support the Palestinian people and the holy shrines in Palestine, Abu Halabia stressed. The lawmaker addressed a message to the UN Secretary General asking him to pressure the Hebrew state into abiding by all international resolutions.

Forward from Gaza: How the U.S. can Lead (Interview With Daniel C. Kurtzer)
S. Daniel Abraham, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
The problem right now is that everyone is looking only at tomorrow. There is no long-term thinking or activity taking place. The Israelis and Hamas are engaged in an effort to hurt each other. Hamas finds it in its own very significant interest right now to not only inflict some pain on Israel but to demonstrate that it has the capacity to hit Ashkelon and to withstand Israeli incursions. Israel, not wanting to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas, believes that it must inflict pain on Hamas and some degree of pain on civilians in areas from which Hamas is operating in order to raise the price for Hamas to continue operating. The one exception to this rule was Prime Minister Olmert’s statement at the cabinet on Sunday in which he said that as Israel continues to operate against Hamas it hopes that negotiations with the Palestinians would continue. But that was soon responded to by President Abbas, who said that he needed to suspend the negotiations because of Palestinian discontent within the West Bank population.

New U.S. envoy to Israel is fresh to region
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
James B. Cunningham has been named as the next United States ambassador to Israel. He is to replace Richard Jones, who is expected to wind up a three-year term this summer. Cunningham is a career member of the Foreign Service. He is currently U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, a post he has held for three years. He previously served in diplomatic postings to Rome and Stockholm. He also served as the acting United States Ambassador to the United Nations in 2001. He was subsequently appointed Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a post he held until 2005. Cunningham will replace current ambassador Richard Jones. This will be Cunningham’s first diplomatic posting to the Middle East. He does not have significant experience in issues related to Israel or the Arab states. Jones is among several candidates for the position of U.

UNIFIL dispels rumors of Blue Line violation by Israeli Army
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 3/7/2008
KHIYAM: The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s (UNIFIL) spokeswoman denied on Thursday rumors that the Israeli Army crossed the Blue Line, established by the UN to demarcate the border with Israel after the latter withdrew from most of the South in 2000. In a press release, Yasmina Bouzianne said the Israeli Army did not cut across the Blue Line through the town of Ghajar, nor was the army lined up along the Wazzani River, contrary to information that was circulated by the press earlier Thursday. "The Israeli Army did not extend past its area of operations. They are working in the area under their control," Bouzianne added. Separately,Japanese Ambassador Yoshihisa Kurodam, UNICEF representative Roberto Laurenti, and South Lebanon Water Authority Director Ahmad Nizam inaugurated a new water reservoir in the Southern village of Khiyam Thursday.

Defense chiefs warm to idea of multinational force in Gaza
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
A major offensive could include reoccupying parts of northern Gaza and occupying or imposing a closure on the area around the city of Rafah in the south of the enclave. This reoccupation would be expected to last about a month, after which the army would round up fugitives and seize weapons and materiel over six or seven months. IDF sources say such an operation would gradually reduce the rocket fire and could delay the increase in Hamas’ military power, which is based on smuggling from Egypt via Rafah. The deployment of a multinational force in Gaza is part of the defense establishment’s "exit plan" after a big operation. The idea was raised in unofficial talks with leaders of Arab and Muslim countries, some of whom viewed the issue favorably. Israeli officials believe that the participation of Arab states in a multinational force would help to legitimize it in the eyes of the Palestinian public.

Israeli daily says Iran flies arms through Turkey to Syria for shipment to Hizbullah
Daily Star 3/7/2008
Iran is arming Hizbullah via Turkey and some of the missiles could reach the Dimona area, the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted a senior government source as saying on Wednesday. The source told Haaretz that Brigadier General Yossi Beiditz, head of the Israeli Army research department, informed European Union ambassadors in a briefing last week that Iran continues to transfer arms and equipment to Hizbullah." Some of the weapons include long-range missiles that are being transferred through flights using Turkey’s airspace, as well as overland though Turkey, under the guise of civilian cargo. "From Turkey, the missiles are transferred to Syria and then Lebanon. Turkey has not permitted the use of its territory for such transfers," Haaretz reported on its Web site. The same source said that according to Beiditz, some of the missiles have a maximum range of 300 kilometers, and are "capable of reaching the Dimona area from Beirut.

Three held in Manila over plot to bomb U.S., Israeli embassies
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
Philippine authorities say they have arrested three suspected Middle Eastern militants suspected of involvement in a plot to bomb the Israeli and three other foreign embassies in Manila. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita says one man was arrested in Manila, while the others were separately captured recently in the south." There is a high probability that they are involved in some kind of plan to sow trouble," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters on the sidelines of an annual anti-terrorism and business security conference. One of the militants was arrested in Manila and the two others were separately captured in the southern Philippines recently. Ermita refused to provide details, but two senior Filipino security officials told The Associated Press that investigators were verifying intelligence information...

To help alleviate hardship of Palestinians, European Commission allocates EUR 28.3 million
European Commission - Humanitarian Aid Office, ReliefWeb 3/5/2008
Distributions of flour and oil, sugar and rice - but also seeds and livestock - will continue.   In order to support vulnerable Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the European Commission has adopted a food aid decision allocating EUR 28. 3 million ($ 43M). The aim is to reach 300. 000 Palestinian families – about 1. 8 million people - most of them within the Occupied Territories, but also refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.    This decision is part of a global package of food aid worth EUR 160 million ($ 243) targeting an estimated 18. 7 million people living in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Caucasus and North Africa. This funding decision, the largest ever launched by the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO),  aims to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people facing food shortages due to natural catastrophes, economic and political crises, and armed conflicts.

The German government invests in the education of young Palestine refugees
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 3/3/2008
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on 3 March inaugurated a prefabricated school, funded by the Government of Germany, in the area adjacent to Nahr el Bared camp. The inauguration was held in the presence of the German Chargé d’Affaires in Lebanon, his Excellency Mr. Hansjoerg Haber, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon Mr. Richard Cook, as well as representatives from the PLO and representatives of the local community and active organizations in the camp. Germany has traditionally been a major donor to UNRWA. In the aftermath of the Nahr El Bared crisis, it responded quickly to the emergency needs generated by the crisis, contributing more than $3 Million to the Flash Appeal and Emergency Appeal launched by UNRWA for North Lebanon. The money donated was used for food and for installing three prefabricated schools, 2 in Beddawi camp and a third in the area adjacent to Nahr El Bared.

Nahr al-Bared disaster wrecked local economy, too
Don Duncan, Daily Star 3/7/2008
NAHR AL-BARED: This has been Lebanon’s coldest winter in 25 years and Rafae Rafae and her family are struggling to make ends meet. Their home, in the village of Bibneen in the North, is not equipped for such harsh weather. There is no fireplace, so when evening begins to draw in, Rafae lights a fire outside on the patio and huddles around it with her five sons and six daughters. They talk and pass the time, looking down the hill from their village at the Mediterranean below as it fades into the night. The current Lebanese economic winter has lasted a little longer. The rate of inflation has risen sharply since the 2006 summer war with Israel. With unemployment estimated at at least 20 percent and with about 28 percent of its population beneath the poverty line, Lebanon has its fair share of hardship, and it’s a hardship which is intensifying.

Barak refuses to exempt 1,000 Haredi men from army service
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is refusing to exempt 1000 ultra-Orthodox students studying at new yeshivas from army service. Barak instructed a team of officials in his ministry, headed by attorney Rut Bar, to reexamine the criteria of the yeshivas whose students are exempt from serving in the military and prepare possible changes to the current policy. Barak’s refusal to exempt the ultra-Orthodox comes after he was shown data in which he discovered that 900 yeshivas in Israel are exempt from army service, which amounts to some 50 thousand students." The minister is fighting the draft dodgers," an official from the Defense Ministry said. "Barak refuses to be a rubber stamp on this matter." If Barak continues to block the students’ exemption, they will be sent draft invitations soon.

’WE need Judaization’
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
MOSCOW - Two weeks ago oligarch Boris Spiegel, a senator and an influential figure in Russian politics, who is also the president of the World Congress of Russian Jewry, celebrated his 55th birthday at a well-attended party in a luxurious venue in this city. In honor of Lev Leviev’s arrival, the organizers arranged for a special table with kosher food only. Leviev claims that Jews have to demonstrate their Judaism proudly, and is convinced that most Israelis are ashamed of their Jewishness. He even attributes the rise in anti-Semitism to that. "We’re ashamed of what we are," he says. "That’s why we feel that we have to get rid of the values of our glorious history and run to learn from other, new nations. Don’t I look to you like a man of the world? Don’t I speak to the leading businessmen in the world? And it’s no problem that I’m a Jew, and a proud Jew who wears a skullcap everywhere, and that’s my symbol and my identity.

Study: Israelis think philanthropists give to further personal interests
Ido Solomon, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
Two-thirds of the non-religious Jewish population believes that the motives behind philanthropic contributions are the advancement of personal interests such as prestige, power and exposure, as well as advancing political interests. Another suspected motive is the establishment of ties with those in power, according to a survey conducted by Prof. Hillel Schmid and Avishag Rudich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Center for the Study of Philanthropy in Israel. Nevertheless, the view of non-religious Israeli Jews to philanthropists is overwhelmingly positive, 81%. The figures among the ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations are also extremely high, 90% and 80% respectively. The participants’ responses regarding the role of the government and philanthropy during the Second Lebanon War vary according to sector:...

Palestinian Drag Queens at Odds with Nearly Everyone
Dion Nissenbaum, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
His friends call him "The Bride." This night, he was standing behind a storefront art-gallery window in a bloodied wedding dress. His face was ghostly, and he was clutching a large rock in his right hand. A small crowd had gathered on a south Tel Aviv street as The Bride opened his mouth and began to sing — in Arabic. To be more accurate, The Bride was lip-synching the words of a political anthem by one of Lebanon’s best-known divas." Let the jails’ door be destroyed," he sang as bewildered Israelis on dates wandered by. "Let this madness be defeated, and let anyone who betrays us become stones." The show was a public coming out for "The Bride of Palestine," a 26-year-old performance artist who’s one of a new generation of gay Arab-Israelis struggling to define themselves, their sexuality and their political identity.

Wertheimer no longer the wealthiest Israeli
Tali Tsipori, Globes Online 3/6/2008
The highest ranking Israeli on Forbes’ list is now nearly a $7 billion man. Sami Ofer has passed Stef Wertheimer as Israel’s wealthiest man. According to "Forbes" Billionaires List 2008, Samy Ofer’s fortune totaled $6. 7 billion, thanks to the success of holdings in Israel Corp. (TASE: ILCO) and its cash cow subsidiaries, Israel Chemicals Ltd. (TASE: ICL Oil Refineries Ltd. (TASE: ORL ), and Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. , which is set to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. He is ranked 140th on the list of the world’s billionaires. Ofer’s fortune was estimated at $3. 9 billion in the 2007 list. Wertheimer took the number one ranking as the wealthiest Israeli last year from Shari Arison, the controlling shareholder in Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI ; LSE:80OA), Housing and Construction Holding Co.

Average salary climbs
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 3/6/2008
The highest average salary was in the R&D sub-sector of high-tech, at NIS 19,260 per month. The average gross monthly salary of Israeli employees rose by 2% (in constant prices) in 2007 to NIS 7,767 from NIS 7,576 in 2006, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today. Salary figures fluctuated sharply during last year: the average salary rose from NIS 7,711 in January to NIS 7,989 in June, then fell to NIS 7,498 in October, and rose sharply in the last two months of the year to NIS 8,260 in December. The total number of Israeli employees rose to 2. 72 million in 2007 from 2. 6 million in 2006, while the total number of employees, including Palestinians and foreign workers rose to 2. 81 million in 2007 from 2. 67 million in 2006. There were 70,100 legal foreign workers and 18,800 Palestinian workers in Israel last year.

Finance Ministry chief meets NY bankers
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 3/6/2008
Yarom Ariav met Citigroup and Lehman Brothers executives on how to turn Israel into an international financial center. Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav today met in New York senior US financial executives to hear their recommendations on how to turn Israel into an international financial center. The executives, mostly from Citigroup and Lehman Brothers, are members of the advisory committee that the Ministry of Finance established to assist the Ariav committee on capital market reform. The ministry’s representative in New York, Zvi Halamish, heads the committee. A second committee was set up in London. In an interview with "Globes", Ariav said that in addition to the subject on how to turn Israel into an financial center, the advisory committee would also discuss how to facilitate access by small and mid-sized businesses to the capital market and dilute the concentration in Israel’s capital market.

Israel records another balance of payments surplus
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 3/6/2008
Direct foreign investment represented over 75% of all foreign investment in the country in 2007. Israel’s balance of payments reached a current account surplus of nearly $5 billion dollars in 2007, following an $8. 5 billion surplus in 2006, and a $4. 3 billion surplus in 2005. The current account balance includes imports and exports of goods and services, income, and transfers. There was a marked 19. 1% increase in imports of goods and services, which rose to $73. 7 billion from $61. 9 billion in 2006. Exports of goods and services rose 13. 4% to $71. 4 billion from $63 billion in 2006. For 2007, imports of goods were more than $5. 5 billion higher than exports, while services exports outweighed services imports by $3. 1 billion. The Central Bureau of Statistics attributed the import and export sums to fluctuations in the dollar’s value relative to other currencies as well as the increased cost of raw materials worldwide.

Regulator demands cos report sub-prime exposure
Hadas Magen, Globes Online 3/6/2008
The demand applies principally to companies with real estate investments in the US, but also those with past exposure through indirect investments. The Israel Securities Authority has ordered dozens of companies to report the extent of their exposure to the sub-prime crisis. The demand applies principally to companies with real estate investments in the US, but also those with past exposure through indirect investments. The Securities Authority recently mapped carried out an internal mapping of the companies which purportedly could have exposure of varying degrees to the sub-prime crisis. Following this, dozens of companies were asked by the Securities Authority to provide details of the extend of their exposure, and today’s announcement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) by BSR Projects (TASE: BSRP ) is the outcome of this initiative.

9 black market turtles seized in Bethlehem
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
Environmental inspectors conducting a routine inspection of hazardous waste treatment at a factory in Bethlehem were stunned to discover a crate containing nine tortoises that had apparently been taken from the wild illegally for commercial purposes. The inspectors, from the civil administration in the territories, turned the tortoises over to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. People who hunt the animals in order to sell them are one of the two greatest threats facing the local tortoise, whose population has declined markedly in recent years. The other is damage to their breeding grounds due to development. According to Boaz Shaham of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, tortoises are frequently smuggled into Jordan, and thence to Europe, where they are in great demand among breeders.

Syria, Iran vow to beef up ties to ward off enemies
Daily Star 3/7/2008
DAMASCUS: Regional allies Syria and Iran voiced their determination on Thursday to bolster their economic and political ties to overcome their foes, Israel and the United States. "We will continue to reinforce strategic cooperation in all sectors with our brothers in Iran because we are in the same trench, confronted to an abject and greedy enemy," Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otri said in reference to Israel and the US." Cooperation between Syria and Iran could serve as an example for relations between Iran and Arab countries," Otri told a news conference with Iranian First Vice President Parviz Davoudi. Davoudi described ties between the two states as "strategic, warm and privileged" and said Iran was "working hard to develop ties with Syria." Davoudi also had talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad on bilateral cooperation and regional developments, including the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories, state-run SANA news agency said.

’Almost two-thirds’ of compensation for damage from 2006 war paid out
Daily Star 3/7/2008
BEIRUT: The head of the Central Fund for the Displaced, Fadi Aramouni, says that 63 percent of the promised compensation has been paid to victims of the summer 2006 war with Israel from funds allocated to Mount Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, Beirut and its southern suburbs. An additional 18-19 percent is now ready for delivery, he told Tele Liban on Wednesday. The 34-day war in 2006 was fought mostly on Lebanese territory, with over 1,200 killed, most of them civilians, and alabout 1 million displaced. Aramouni said that the obstacles preventing the displaced from returning to their homes were financial in most areas. "The first barriers in some areas are moral," he added, "but reconciliation will come about soon." He expressed his hope that "all officials and political sides" would assist in payments in cooperation with the Ministry for the Displaced, the fund, and the Cabinet.


Twilight Zone / A great darkness has fallen
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
      Operation Warm Winter ended without a single Israeli journalist setting foot on the Gaza side of the Erez border crossing with Israel. Even the military correspondents, who usually recount the brave acts of our forces from inside their jeeps and armored vehicles, were not taken this time to report on the raids in Jabalya and Sajiyeh. A handful of other correspondents, those who are still interested in what the Israel Defense Forces leaves behind after its campaigns of killing and destruction, stayed home. They have been holed up in their houses for over a year and a half already.
     Don’t believe the microphones you sometimes see in TV reports on Gaza, adorned with the logo of the Israeli television channels. They are meant only to deceive us. Don’t believe the meager reports in the press from Gaza that are written by Israeli correspondents. They are all done by phone, with all the limitations that involves. Not one local journalist, neither Jewish or Arab, neither Shlomi Eldar nor Suleiman al-Shafi, neither Amira Hass nor this writer, has passed through the Erez terminal since the end of November 2006.

Crossing the Line interviews Israeli historian Ilan Pappe

Podcast, Electronic Intifada 3/6/2008
      This week on Crossing The Line: The word "genocide" is one of the most powerful words used to describe criminal killing and destruction. It has been used to describe the Nazi holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, and Rwanda. More recently, Israeli author and historian Ilan Pappe has used this word to describe Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. Host Naji Ali* speaks with Pappe about why he sees Israel’s ongoing occupation and killing of Palestinians in Gaza as genocide.
     As always, Crossing the Line begins with "This week in Palestine," a service provided by The International Middle East Media Center Listen Now [MP3 - 14.9 MB, 37:07 min] Crossing the Line is a weekly podcast dedicated to giving voice to the voiceless in occupied Palestine. Through investigative news, arts, eyewitness accounts, and music, Crossing the Line does its best to present the lives of people on the ground.

’Birthright Palestine’ Mimics Jewish World’s Flagship Program

Haviv Rettig, MIFTAH 3/6/2008
      A new Palestinian NGO is taking a page out of the Jewish educator’s handbook in its search to strengthen the connection of Palestinians overseas to their "historic homeland" and Palestinian society.
     The name of the program leaves no doubt as to its intent, or its inspiration. Birthright Palestine is described on its Web site as a "program created by native Palestinians for diaspora Palestinians."
     The program, which will begin its first session in May, is run by the newly established Palestine Center for National Strategic Studies, which says it is a "nonprofit, nongovernmental Palestinian organization" based in the Dehaishe refugee camp in Bethlehem.
     The group is not shy about its motivation. Its Web site explains: "Simply coming back to visit the land that your parents or grandparents were forced to flee from is a form of active nonviolent resistance against the illegal Israeli occupation. This is because this simple act opposes everything that the ’State of Israel’ was founded on (the idea to ethnically cleanse the Holy Land/Palestine of all Arabs, so as to create a purely Jewish state)."

Water, water everywhere

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 3/6/2008
      By now, Clemens Messerschmid’s friends in Ramallah and Jerusalem understand the message of his dagger-like stares when they’re caught washing dishes with the tap water flowing nonstop. Even when he is not around, they close the tap, thanks to this 43-year-old hydrogeologist from Germany.
     Messerschmid cheerfully confirms this. But this place, he says, is far from being an arid country with meager water resources, as is commonly thought. In Berlin and Paris, he notes, annual rainfall is less than in Jerusalem and Ramallah, respectively: 550 millimeters in Berlin compared to 564 millimeters in Jerusalem, based on a 150-year average (the Israel meteorological service puts the figure at 554 millimeters). Paris gets an average of 630 millimeters, while the yearly average in Ramallah, from 1975-2004, was 689.6 millimeters.
     When Palestinians say there is not enough water in the country, this is one of four Palestinian misconceptions that Messerschmid lists. When the Israelis say the same thing, it is a myth that serves a specific purpose - preserving an unjust distribution of water resources that discriminates against the Palestinians. This is one of five Israeli "water myths" on another list.

Daze of reckoning in Gaza

Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
      It took the Palestinian Authority investigative committee, headed by Tayeb Abdel Rahim, 49 sessions, 29 days and 128 hours to investigate the capture of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007. An original name was found for the committee: "The Investigative Committee on the Matter of the Failure of the Confrontation with the Illegal Armed Militias."
     This is fascinating reading material, not only for the Palestinian leadership that kept the report secret until it was leaked, and not only for Palestinian citizens. It paints a terrifying picture of military and political helplessness, internal disputes, family loyalties, a lack of talent and ability to administer military and political forces, a huge waste of money (Mohammed Dahlan received $25 million to build a trained military force, which collapsed in one moment), an absence of coordination between headquarters and the forces in the field, many cases of fear along with some demonstrations of courage, and personal and party hatred between members of Fatah themselves, not to mention toward Hamas.

What Israel has done for them lately

Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 3/7/2008
      Instead of trying to explain why Israel killed 100 Palestinians in Gaza last week, the Los Angeles-based pro-Israel news site Israel21c informed Americans about a new Israeli drug which could help them lose weight. During a visit to Israel last month, Israel21c’s executive vice president, Larry Weinberg, told Anglo File this strategy of focusing on Israeli contributions to society rather than on the Middle East conflict uniquely suits the U.S. public.
     Israel21c appears to be an American success story. During its six years of existence, this online newsletter-turned-news site has placed hundreds of positive Israel-related stories in U.S. media and vastly increased its readership to around 20,000 subscribers. Last month the site upgraded its look, offering video content and a slick new design.
     But even the proud Weinberg concedes his nonprofit’s editorial strategy would probably crash and burn in Europe. "Americans don’t want to know what the Arabs and Israelis did in 1948," Weinberg says at a Yemenite restaurant in Tel Aviv. "Also, people in America don’t know anything about Israel’s contribution to medicine and technology. If you ask them about the system of government, many say they think Israel is attempting democracy."

Refugee stories - Letters from Gaza (7) - thinking and knowing

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 3/2/2008
      Have you ever lived knowing this moment might be your last? Have you ever lived wondering if you will see another sunrise or the faces of your children again? Have you ever chosen not to remember the first word your child says because you know it could be her last and all you will have is the pain of that memory? Have you ever lived wondering what your son will grow up to be and what he will look like, knowing you might not have the chance to see for yourself?
     Each day in Gaza, we live with these thoughts and with this reality.
     Have you ever lived knowing you could wake up to find yourself alone, without your loved ones by your side for no other reason than because they are Palestinian? I’m preparing for the worst – for the possibility that I might lose my children and my husband or that they might lose me. The TV images are evidence that there’s no respect for humanity or for the innocence of childhood. There’s no room left for forgiveness or tolerance. All that remains is anger, enormous bitterness and a growing desire to take revenge.