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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

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20 March 2008


Three Palestinians killed in separate incidents in Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Three Palestinians have been reportedly killed in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip, medics and media sources reported. Palestinians security sources said early on Thursday that farmer Hassan Abu Abed, 60, was shot dead by the Israeli army fire to the east of Qarrara town, in southern Gaza Strip. Medics confirmed that Abu Abed was shot in the chest with a live bullet. Witnesses said that the Israeli soldiers, manning the Gaza-Israel border line, opened fire at Abu Abed, causing his instant death on the spot. Israeli media sources reported that the Israeli army claimed its soldiers spotted a figure near the border-fence with Israeli, just east of aL-Qarrara town. The al-Qarrara town is an agricultural area, where many Palestinians have farm lands and earn a living. Meanwhile, conflicting reports said two Palestinian resistance fighters of the aL-Qassam brigades,. . .

Israeli teenager seriously injured in ambiguous explosion
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli teenager sustained serious injuries to the head, chest and neck after a parel exploded in his house in the Ariel settlement near Nablus in the northern West Bank, Israeli media sources said. Israeli police said the cause of the explosion is unclear and could have been caused by a firecracker during the Purim celebrations. The website of the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the injured boy has been taken to Bellinson Hospital for medical treatment. They quoted the boy as saying that he was trying to open some sort of food delivery which exploded in his hands. Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for sending a parcel bomb to an Israeli settler in Ariel near Nablus. They said in a statement, "Fighters of the Al-Aqsa Brigades – Struggle and Return Battalion - detonated a new kind of explosive device through a parcel mailed to the Ariel settlement near Nablus. "

Palestinian civilian shot dead
Al Jazeera 3/20/2008
A Palestinian civilian has been shot dead by Israeli troops near the border wall between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Hassan Abed, 60, was farming his land on Thursday in al-Qarara when he was shot, according to medics and witnesses. The Israeli military said it was examining reports of the incident. Israeli troops often shoot at Palestinians close to the border fence as fighters have previously tried to plant explosives there or cross into Israel unnoticed. The death came as two members of the armed wing of Hamas died in a explosion south of Gaza City. Hamas initially claimed that the explosion was caused by an Israeli air raid, but later acknowledged that the blast was accidental. An Israeli military spokesman had already denied any role in the blast saying: "The armed forces have nothing to do with the Gaza explosion. "

Israeli settlers attack shepherds near Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
A group of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds from Towani village, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday. Villagers told IMEMC that several boys and old women were grazing their family herds on village land near the Ma’oun Settlement, a group of settlers and Israeli soldiers attacked them and beat them. Witnesses to the attack added that settlers stole some herbs gathered by the shepherds. Villagers called Israeli police who arrived at the area of the attack, who refused to press charges and told the villagers that if they want to file charges, they must go to the settlement. The Israeli army forbids locals entrance to the settlement. Ma’oun along with other two Israeli settlements is built on land stolen from the farmers of Towani in late 80’s.

Israeli settlers attack Christian volunteers in southern West Bank’s Hebron
Palestine News Network 3/20/2008
Israeli Settlers attacked Christian monitors in the South Hebron Hills yesterday morning. On the morning of 19 March, two international observers working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) were attacked and chased by two settlers while they attempted to monitor the escort of the children from Tuba to At-Tuwani. The settlers, whose faces were covered, used a slingshot to fire stones at the internationals. CPTers Cassandra Dixon and Eileen Hanson were monitoring the escort of children from Tuba To At-Tuwani from a new location due to problems with the escort in recent weeks. The Israeli military escort has failed to accompany the children the entire route as ordered, and settlers have threatened the children while they are coming and going from school. All Israeli settlers and settlements in the West Bank exist in direct contravention to the Geneva Conventions and several United Nations resolutions.

Palestinian ’peace talks’ still alive
Reuters and Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Fatah representatives agree to resume discussions after Yemen talks hit a snag earlier - Palestinian peace talks to go on: Yemeni-brokered talks on reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah are still alive. Earlier Thursday, Fatah negotiators said they were returning to the West Bank without a deal, aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said. However, Fatah representatives later changed their mind and decided to stay in Yemen and continue the talks. The main point of contention appeared to be Fatah’s demand, included in the Yemeni proposal, for Hamas to give up control of the Gaza Strip. " The matter has ended in failure because Hamas refused to accept the Yemeni initiative as is," said Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo earlier. "Our delegation will come back home tomorrow but it is ready to head back to Yemen once Hamas accepts the initiative as is.

Israeli "Civil Administration" demolishes three Palestinian houses near Jerusalem
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Bulldozers belonging to the so-called Civil Administration Office, which is under the Israeli army control in the occupied territories, demolished on Wednesday three Palestinian houses in two villages near Jerusalem. Two houses were demolished in Hizma village and one house was in Al Jeeb village. The first demolished house belongs to resident Sa’id Arman, who was kidnapped by the army several months ago and is currently detained in Hadarim Israeli prison. The house is located close to the Hizma secondary School for Boys and is close to the Annexation Wall. The father of Sa’id, Abu Thaher, said that he presented a construction license to the soldiers but they went on and demolished the house. The house was constructed five years ago and included four rooms, bathroom and a balcony. Abu Thaher lived in the houses along with his wife and four children.

Young settler woman who rejected court’s authority released after 3 months
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
An 18-year-old girl, who remained in police custody for more than three months because she refused to pay bail, recognize the authority of the court or respond to the indictment against her, was acquitted by a court yesterday. Citing lack of evidence, Kfar Sava Magistrate’s Court Judge Nava Bachor ruled that Zvia Shriel could not be found guilty of attacking a Palestinian in an olive grove near her house in the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh. "Shriel’s behavior in court is outrageous, ugly and worthy of condemnation," Bachor wrote. "Worse still are her remarks regarding the court’s lack of authority to try her because it does not operate according to the [rules of the] Torah. Nonetheless, the judge concluded that "there is no evidence that [Shriel] was anything other than present at the site during the incident. "

McCain backs peace talks for Israel and Palestinians
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 3/20/2008
The Republican presidential candidate John McCain yesterday endorsed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, amid growing fears that time is running out for the process. He told the Jerusalem Post that both Hamas and Hizbollah were "dedicated to the extinction of everything that the US stands for". He said that American citizens would require "pretty vigorous actions" in the face of cross-border attacks like those made from Gaza. Mr McCain’s remarks came as the leading Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, drew attention to a new poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research showing a sharp fall in support for Mr Abbas and an equally sharp rise in support both for Hamas and for the use of violence since the Annapolis summit last November. "

Hamas vows to share Gaza if Haniya reinstated
Middle East Online 3/20/2008
SANAA - Hamas’ number two Mussa Abu Marzuk said on Wednesday the Islamists would share control of the Gaza Strip if Hamas’ Ismail Haniya was reappointed prime minister by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Abu Marzuk said Hamas would accept a "return to the situation which existed before June 13 including a return of the government of Ismail Haniya in its capacity as a government of national unity. " Hamas seized control of Gaza in June after routing forces loyal to Abbas in a week of deadly street battles. Abbas then dismissed Haniya from his role as prime minister and suspended talks with Hamas, which he has refused to reopen until the Islamists relinquish control of Gaza. Abu Marzuk made the proposal during a visit to Sanaa at the same time as a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organisation was also in Yemen’s capital for separate talks with Yemeni officials on Palestinian reconciliation.

Israeli army carries out ethnic cleansing near Hebron for settlement expansion
Khalid Amayreh in Hebron, Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
Israeli army bulldozers, backed by soldiers, on Wednesday swooped on four Palestinian hamlets in southern Hebron hills, demolishing 11 homes and structures and rendering dozens of men, women and children homeless. The wanton demolitions are  ostensibly  aimed at expanding  adjacent Jewish colonies  inhabited by fundamentalist settlers advocating ethnic cleansing of all non-Jews in Palestine. The demolitions took place at the agricultural villages of Qwawis, Emnezil, Al-Dirat and Umm Lasafa. Nine of the demolished structures were residential homes and two were livestock enclosures. According cartographer and settlement expert Abdul Hadi Hantash, the purpose of the demolitions is to  "ethnically cleanse the area of Arabs" so that  recent Jewish immigrants from France and Russia could  live in there on stolen Arab land.

Egypt to take over supplying Gaza power in draft deal
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Israeli and Egyptian representatives agreed in principle yesterday to a deal that would have Egypt replace Israel as the Gaza Strip’s sole electricity provider. Under the deal, Egypt would set up a new power line from the Sinai Peninsula town of Arish to the nearby Gaza Strip. The 150-megawatt line would cost $35 million to set up, and would be operational within two years. Egypt currently provides the Gaza Strip with only 7 megawatts of power, while Israel provides 124 megawatts via 10 different lines. A local power station produces the remainder. Security sources say the agreement will effectively free Israel from supplying Gaza with electricity, even though it does not specifically say so. Israel decided to reduce power supplies to Gaza in February to protest Qassam rocket fire on Israel by Palestinian militants.

Boy hurt in West Bank attack
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 3/20/2008
West Bank terror: 14-year-old boy sustains light to moderate wounds in terror attack in south Mount Hebron area Thursday night; Earlier, Palestinians fire at bus traveling south of Nablus, no injuries reported - Terror attack in West Bank: A 14-year-old boy sustained light to moderate wounds Thursday night after the vehicle he was traveling in came under attack in the south Mount Hebron area. The army initiated a search for suspects shortly after the attack was reported. According to initial reports, the vehicle was targeted by shooters, but later the IDF said it found traces of an explosive device that was apparently detonated near the car. Army sappers were dispatched to the scene of the attack and examined the area. According to the initial report received by the IDF, the vehicle that came under attack managed to reach Kiryat Arba, where the wounded boy was treated by rescue services volunteers.

’5 Palestinians die while awaiting treatment in Israel’
Meital Yasur-Beit Or, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Physicians for Human Rights: Delays in issuing entry permits into Israel risk Palestinian patients; Shin Bet: Palestinians bribe doctors to acquire forged documents - Five Palestinian patients died in recent weeks while awaiting entry permits for treatment in Israel. The five patients were terminally ill, with little hope for recovery. The Physicians For Human Rights advocacy group thus maintains that there was no foreseeable need for the Shin Bet to classify these patients as a "security risk" and deny them entry into Israel for life-saving treatment. One of the aforementioned patients was a 65-year old woman who died while awaiting emergency surgery to replace a defective pacemaker. Another deceased patient was a 77-year old woman who waited six months for entry permits allowing her to be treated for a cancerous tumor at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center.

IOA expands tunnel beneath Omeria School in occupied Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Palestinian citizens in occupied Jerusalem said that the IOA is carrying out excavations inside the western tunnel beneath the Omaria School in the old city with the aim of expanding it. In its issue published on Thursday, the Palestine newspaper quoted the citizens as saying that workers were removing and transporting large quantities of soil from the tunnel. The citizens told the newspaper that the workers were removing mud from the pond inside the tunnel in order to expand it and build a bridge over it. For his part, Hayel Sandouqa, a researcher in settlement issues in the old town, said that these excavations affect the vulnerable foundations of the Dome of the Rock mosque, adding that the tunnel extends from the Buraq wall to the Islamic council. In another context, Arab Knesset MP Abbas Zakkour accused the Israeli occupation police of complicity. . .

Israel, U.S. commanders test ’extreme’ scenarios in joint drill
Amir Oren, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
The Israel Defense Forces and the United States European Command (EUCOM) completed a military headquarters training exercise in Tel Aviv last night. The exercise was part of Juniper Falcon, an ongoing series of training exercises conducted by the U. S. Air Force in Europe and Israel. The four-day exercise was held at the Aviv camp, situated near the Palmach History Museum in Ramat Aviv. Officers from the IDF General Command and from the Israel Air Force and Israel Navy participated in the exercise. The head of the Israeli team was Brigadier-General Yossi Heiman, head of the Division for Strategic Planning and Foreign Relations in the Planning directorate. The U. S. team was headed by Marine Brigadier General Mark Brilakis, deputy director for Operations Directorate EUCOM Plans and Operations Center. Last night also marked the end of an IDF Southern Command exercise, Coiled Spring,. . .

Rocket damages Negev house; Medics: IDF kills Gaza civilian
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Israel Defense Forces troops killed a Palestinian civilian near the border fence with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, medical officials said. The officials said the 60-year-old farmer was shot dead riding on his donkey near the frontier fence east of Khan Younis in the central part of the Hamas-controlled territory. An IDF spokeswoman said she was looking into the report. A statement from the IDF spokesman’s office earlier reported that a roadside charge was detonated as an army patrol passed along the border fence, also in the central Gaza area. No injuries were reported in the blast and it was not clear if the two events were related. In a separate incident, the Islamist group Hamas said two members of its armed wing were killed by an Israel Air Force strike on a training camp in Gaza City.

2 killed in blast at Hamas base
Ali Waked and AP, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Palestinian security officials report of explosion at a beachfront facility in Gaza Strip. According to initial report, two people killed in incident, one injured. Palestinians say IDF struck in area; Israeli army denies claim -Palestinian security officials reported Thursday of an explosion at a beachfront facility of the militant Hamas organization. According to an initial report, two people were killed in the incident and one was injured. Palestinians claimed that the facility was attacked by the IDF, but the Israeli army denied striking in the area. Sources in Gaza did not rule out the possibility that the incident was a "work accident". The blast took place in a Hamas training base, where ammunition and explosives are being held. Hamas members prevented photographers from entering the site.

Two Qassam fighters die in yet unknown explosion
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Two members of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, were killed on Thursday in an explosion south of Gaza city, medical sources said. The sources told PIC that Noor Jundia and Mohammed Banar were killed in the explosion, which the QB did not explain so far. The blast rocked the Badr position of the QB, the sources said, noting that two others were wounded in the incident. Reports said that it was the result of an IOF shelling while others said that it was an internal incident. No official report from QB was available so far. [end]

Israeli air raid on Gaza City leaves two dead
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Two Palestinian activists affiliated to Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades were killed on Thursday when Israeli warplanes attacked their base in Tal Al-Hawa in Gaza City. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry named the victims as 18-year-old Noor Jundiyya and Muhammad Banar. He added that a third activist was seriously injured. [end]

Midday GMT Two killed in explosion at Hamas base
Fred Attewill, The Guardian 3/20/2008
Two Palestinians handling explosives at a Hamas training base have died in an accidental blast in Gaza today. Hamas initially blamed Israel for the deaths, but later said the men had died on a "holy mission" at the base, south of Gaza City. The deaths were confirmed by Palestinian medical officials, who also said Israeli forces had shot and killed a 60-year-old Palestinian farmer on a donkey cart near the border of the territory. Israeli army officials said the report was being investigated. Amid an overall decrease in violence, there are tentative signs that Hamas and Israel could be preparing for a ceasefire after Israeli officials talked to Egyptian mediators. A Hamas spokesman today confirmed that talks had taken place in Cairo. "As we have always said, the ball is in Israel’s court," he said.

IDF denies involvement in death of Palestinian farmer
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Palestinian officials report 65-year-old man riding his donkey killed near Gaza border fence; Israeli army denies troops opened fire. Earlier Thursday morning, gunmen detonate explosives against Israeli patrol along border, causing no injuries - Palestinian sources in Gaza reported on Thursday morning that IDF troops shot dead a 65-year-old Palestinian farmer near the security fence along the border with Israel. The army denied soldiers had opened fire in the region but said it was still looking into the claim. The farmer is said to have been riding his donkey to tend to his fields, located east of the town of Khan Younis. Earlier on Thursday a roadside charge was detonated as an army patrol passed along the border fence, also in the central Gaza area. No injuries were reported in the blast.

IOF troops kill Palestinian old man
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- IOF soldiers on Thursday shot at and killed a 65-year-old Palestinian man east of Khan Younis district, south of the Gaza Strip, medical sources reported. The sources told PIC correspondent that the old Man, Hussein Abed, was hit with a bullet in the chest fired by those troops who advanced into the area east of Qarara town. Witnesses said that the old man was riding a donkey-driven cart when the bullets hit him while many other citizens miraculously survived the shooting. They said that the soldiers were mounting three tanks and escorting tractors that bulldozed agricultural areas near the Sreij gate in Qarara and fired at the old man who was heading to his field. Meanwhile, the Islamic women movement in Hamas issued a statement denouncing the IOA’s renewal of administrative detention of captive Noura Al-Hashlamoun, a mother of six children, for the seventh time running.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian farmer near Khan Younis
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A 60-year-old Palestinian farmer was killed on Thursday morning by Israeli forces east of Al-Qarara north of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry said the body ofHasan Abu ’Abid was takene to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. He said the man died of a gunshot to his chest. [end]

Israeli forces seize four Islamic Jihad activists near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces apprehended four Islamic Jihad activists in the northern West Bank town of Qabatia in the southern Jenin district on Thursday morning after ransacking several homes. Local sources told Ma’an’s reporter that the Israeli troops damaged furniture and other contents in the homes they raided. According to local sources, the arrestees were 38-year-old Amin Nazzal, 21-year-old Ammar Tazaza, 24-year-old Muhammad Saba’nah and 32-year-old Nadeem Kameel. The sources added that the soldiers also handed warrants to the families of Sulaiman Nazzal, Mu’adh Saba’nah, ’Alaa Abu Rub and Bilal Kameel telling them to turn themselves over to the Israeli authorities.

Israeli forces arrest 11 Palestinians in Hebron and Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Hebron – Bethlehem – Ma’an- Israeli forces stormed the southern West Bank towns of Surif, Halhul, Beit Sahour and Al-Khadir on Thursday morning, seizing 11 people. Ma’an’s Hebron reporter said Israeli forces raided Surif and apprehended six Palestinian men. He added that one Palestinian was also arrested in Halhul - 45-year-old Khadir Mubarak, head of educational guidance in Hebron. In the Bethlehem district, Israeli forces arrested three teenagers from Al-Khader south of Bethlehem and a Palestinian policeman from Beit Sahour to the east of Bethlehem. [end]

Israeli forces arrest Palestinian near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces apprehended a Palestinian man from Balata refugee camp east of Nablus in the northern West Bank on Thursday after storming several neighborhoods in the city. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli forces stormed Balata camp and the old city of Nablus and conducted house to house raids, claiming they were looking for ’wanted’ Palestinian activists. The sources named the only arrestee as 21-year-old Ayyub Shtaiwi from Balata camp. [end]

PRC fighters clash with Israeli force
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades announced on Thursday morning that a group of their fighters clashed with an undercover Israeli force which infiltrated near the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. The military group said in a statement that there were casualties amongst the Israeli force. [end]

Israeli forces raid several West Bank cities
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces apprehended twelve ’wanted’ Palestinians on Thursday morning after raiding several West Bank cities. Israeli sources said the army raided Qabatia and Nablus in the northern West Bank as well as Hebron and Beit Sahour in the south and Ramallah in the centre. They said all arrestees were taken for interrogation. [end]

Palestinian security arrest three Hamas affiliates in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Palestinian security services affiliated to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority seized three Hamas members on Wednesday evening, a Hamas statement said. The statement explained that the arrestees were from the districts of Jericho in the eastern West Bank, Tulkarem and Qalqilia in the northern West Bank. [end]

Palestinians open fire at Israeli bus south of Nablus
JPOST.COM STAFF, Jerusalem Post 3/20/2008
Palestinians opened fire at an Israeli bus near Hawara, south of Nablus, on Thursday evening, Army Radio reported. No casualties or damage were reported. [end]

Rachel Corrie’s parents speak at Nablus demonstration to remember those killed in Gaza
Photos, International Solidarity Movement 3/20/2008
Nablus Region Rachel CorrieToday approximately 200 residents of Nablusand internationals gathered to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrieby Israeli forces in Rafah, Gaza, as she tried to prevent a bulldozer from demolishing a family home. The demonstration also protested the ongoing attacks on Gaza by the Israeli army, and the occupation of Iraq- taking place on the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion. Present were bereaved parents of Rachel Corrie, Craig and Cindy Corrie, who were visiting Nablus for the first time. The Corries expressed their gratitude for the continuing remembrence of their daughter, but stressed the importance of focussing on the atrocities carried out against Palestinians everyday. Her mother stated:"While we remember Rachel, it is important to remember the children of Palestine, because. . .

Christian eyewitnesses: Israeli settlers attack Palestinian school kids in Hebron
Palestine News Network 3/20/2008
PNN - "An Israeli settler yelled threatening remarks and wielded a rock at young Palestinian children on their way to school in the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills" Thursday morning. Regular data on Israeli attacks in the southern West Bank governorate of Hebron against Palestinian children is collected by a group of Christian volunteers who live in the community, the Christian Peacemaker Teams. About 20 children from the villages of Tuba and Magayer Al Abeed walk to the elementary school in At-Tuwani each day. This is not as simple as it sounds. They are accompanied by an Israeli military escort past the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Maon (Hill 833). The Children’s Committee of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, ordered the escort in 2004 after being pressured by human rights groups due to a series of settler attacks on the children.

Settlers attacks international activists in Hebron
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
The Christian Peace Maker Teams (CPT) stationed in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, reported that two extremist Israeli settlers attacked on Wednesday two international observers who attempted to monitor the escort of Palestinian children to their school as the settlers continuously attack the children enroot to their schools. In its statement, the CPT said that Cassandra Dixon and Eileen Hanson were monitoring the escort of children from Tuba to At-Tuwani area, in the southern Hebron Hills, from a new location due to problems with the escort in recent weeks. The Israeli military escort has failed to accompany the children throughout the entire route as ordered, and settlers have threatened the children while they are coming and going from school. One of the settlers yelled threatening remarks at the children and hurled a rock at them.

5 girls being held in ’inhumane’ conditions
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
The Israel Prisons Service is holding five teenage girls in filthy rooms and barring them from showering or receiving medical attention, the Israel Bar Association stated in a critical report on the police holding center in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. The girls were arrested in connection with right-wing disturbances in the East Jerusalem village of Jabal Mukkaber last week. Committee members were "astonished by the humiliating and inhumane conditions in which the minors were held," stated the report by the IBA’s Israel Prison Service Committee, which is chaired by attorney Michael Atia. Some of the teens had been placed in a cell with a woman of about 60, whom officers said had severe mental disorders and suicidal impulses. The report stated the beds were dirty, the mattresses filthy and the blankets gave off a stench.

Women of the Underworld: On Being Thrown Out of Israel
International Solidarity Movement 3/20/2008
Denial of entry - What stays with me most from the last few days is the kindness of women. Just ordinary women, caught in bad circumstances, being nice to one another - I’ve spent a lot of the last week being searched, questioned, detained, jailed, and ultimately denied entry and deported from the State of Israel–that land which I had been raised to believe would always be the ultimate refuge for anyone born Jewish. But not, apparently, for me. I was refused entrance because of work I have done in the past with the International Solidarity Movement, a group which supports nonviolent resistance against the Occupation. ISM works in the West Bank and Gaza, bringing internationals as witnesses, moral and practical support for nonviolent Palestinian initiatives–like the ongoing campaign against the Wall which the Israeli military is building to protect the illegal settlements which have encroached deeply into the territory once designated for a Palestinian state.

Qassam rocket lands in western Negev kibbutz
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council suffers another hit as rocket narrowly misses residents’ homes, causes mild peripheral damage - Not such a placid Purim after all. Despite of the overall feeling of calm in southernIsrael, a Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council’s limits Thursday, causing no injuries, but damaging several buildings. "The rocket landed very close to one of the houses. There was a loud explosion and several houses’ windows were shattered by the blast," Ami Rabin, the security officer of the kibbutz which was hit, told Ynet. "Unfortunately, the kibbutz homes are not fortified, a process we are hoping to accelerate," he added. The Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council was hit by another Qassam rocket Wednesday, as Palestinians fired two Qassams at the area.

Boy hurt in blast; cult involvement suspected
Raanan Ben-Zur, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Ariel teen severely injured after opening package he believed was Purim basket; Police investigating all possible leads, including cult involvement - Is a cult responsible for an explosion that severely wounded an Ariel teen? The 15-year-old teenager opened a package that he believed was a Purim gift Thursday, and was severely wounded in the intense explosion that followed. Ariel police said they are investigating all possible leads on this incident, including the suspected involvement of a cult. Investigators are looking into the possibility that the attack is related to that fact that the boy’s parents are messianic Jews. The explosion occurred around 2:30 pm local time, and Magen David Adom medics as well as police officers were immediately dispatched to the scene. Yarkon Area MDA medic, Nir Katua, said that the teen sustained severe neck injuries.

No limits on rules of engagement to avoid abduction of soldiers
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday that the Israeli army instructed troops deployed at the Gaza-Israel borders to do whatever it takes in order to foil any abduction attempts of Israeli soldiers, even if that leads to causing harm to the abducted troopers. The Israeli Radio announced on Thursday that Israeli reserve troops were instructed during the briefing before the last operation in the Gaza strip to fire at the fighters abducting the soldiers even if that means endangering the life of the abducted soldiers. The commander who informed the reserve troops of the new orders said that if that procedure was done during the abduction of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, Palestinian fighters would not have managed to abduct him. Shalit was abducted by thee Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza two years ago during an attack that targeted an army post on the border area in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Palestine Today 032008
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio dept, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Thursday March 20th, 2008. The Israeli army kills three Palestinians in Gaza, and kidnaps 13 civilians in the West Bank, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Three Palestinians have been killed in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip, medics and media sources reported. Palestinians security sources said that early on Thursday farmer Hassan Abu Abed, 60, was shot dead by the Israeli army to the east of Qarrara town, in southern Gaza Strip. Medics confirmed that Abu Abed was shot in the chest with a live bullet. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers, manning the Gaza-Israel border line, opened fire at Abu Abed, killing him instantly.

Rabbi Lior speaks out against hiring of arabs
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Kiryat Arba rabbi rules Jews must not employ or rent houses to Arabs, following murderous terror attack at Mercaz Harav yeshiva -"It is strictly prohibited to hire Arabs, or to rent houses on Israeli land to them," head of the Yesha Rabbis Council and chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, Rabbi Dov Lior ruled this week. "Their employment is out of the question, not only in the yeshivas but also in hotels or factories; basically anywhere," he added. Lior’s statement comes a week after senior Lithuanian Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky ruled that Arabs were not to be hired at all, and especially in yeshivas. In an interview for the pamphlet ’Our Land of Israel’, of which about 100,000 copies are expected to be handed out this weekend in synagogues throughout Israel, Lior remarked that he expects the "difficult situation in the country" to deteriorate further in the near future.

OCHA-oPt protection of civilians summary data tables: Reports to the end of Feb 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 3/20/2008
1. Overview The Protection of Civilians database contains information collated from the published OCHA Protection of Civilians - Weekly Briefing Notes. OCHA-oPt has compiled and published these weekly reports since May 2003. The reporting format underwent several revisions since this time and the current content and structure was introduced in March 2005. From this time there has been comprehensive and detailed reporting of individual incidents, particularly those concerning physical protection. Quantifiable data from the Weekly Briefing Notes from 1st January 2005 onwards have been compiled into a Protection of Civilians database from which these tables have been developed. They present information, reported on a daily or weekly basis, as monthly figures with geographical breakdowns to the governorate level. These data may be used freely for information and analysis purposes; however the source must be cited.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 05 - 11 Mar 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 3/20/2008
Of note this week Gaza Strip:- 6 Palestinians were killed and 5 others were injured by the IDF in the Gaza Strip. - An IDF soldier was killed and 3 others were injured when Islamic Jihad members detonated a roadside bomb under an IDF jeep patrolling the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. - Following the attack on a Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in West Jerusalem, armed Palestinians throughout the Gaza Strip took to the streets and opened fire in the air. Throughout these rallies, four injuries from stray bullets were reported. - Two demonstrations were organised to protest the IDF military operation in the Gaza. Strip. A further demonstration took place protesting against the Israeli siege of Gaza. - 28 home-made rockets and 35 mortar rounds were fired out of the Gaza Strip at Israel. According to Israeli media reports, one Israeli civilian was injured when a home-made. . .

Rights group says airport’s racial profiling violates Israeli law
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Airline security faced a legal challenge yesterday from a civil rights group charging that its practice of ethnic profiling is racist because it singles out Arabs for tougher treatment. At a Supreme Court hearing, civil rights lawyers demanded an end to the policy, which they say violates Israeli law. Such profiling is illegal in the U. S. , where passengers must be singled out for security checks on a random basis. But some terrorism experts say Israel’s measures are effective precisely because they take ethnicity into account - and warn that equality at the airport could cost lives. No attacksin decades Israel is considered a prime target for hijackers and other attackers because of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and extremist Islamic rejection of the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Egyptians stranded in Gaza go on hunger strike
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – More than fifty Egyptian citizens stranded in the Gaza Strip announced on Thursday that they are going on hunger strike. They have been stranded on the borders between the Gaza Strip and Egypt since Rafah border crossing was forced open two months ago. The stranded Egyptians did not leave Gaza before the borders were sealed, and the Egyptian authorities have refused to let them in. A spokesperson for the group, Ibrahim Zu’rub, says the 2,500 Egyptians detained in the Gaza Strip are suffering under dire conditions. Some of them have found shelter at relatives’ homes in the Strip, but fifty of them remain homeless and are being housed in Rafah sports club, among them children and elderly.

IOF snipers can shoot Palestinian protestors "lawfully"
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- IOF soldiers can now lawfully fire at Palestinian demonstrators protesting at the apartheid-wall being built by the Israeli occupation according to a report in Maariv. A Justice Ministry official stated on  Wednesday that the Israeli attorney general has relaxed the rules of engagement for the IOF allowing the boarder guard snipers to fire at the legs of demonstrators. However, the IOF troops are not allowed to shoot at Israeli or foreign citizens. Over the past month, 13 Palestinians have been wounded in the legs, by IOF snipers taking advantage of the new rules, in the Jerusalem area, according to the paper. [end]

Palestinian killed in tunnel collapse in Rafah
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A young Palestinian man was killed on Thursday when a tunnel collapsed on top of him in the As-Salam neighborhood of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources said. According to the sources, 23-year-old Ashraf Ataya was dead on arrival at Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah. Medical checks revealed the man suffocated under the debris when the tunnel collapsed. Another Palestinian was killed in a similar incident in the same neighborhood on March 14th. [end]

Body of Palestinian returned to Gaza from Egypt
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The body of a Palestinian who died while stranded at the Egyptian side of the Gaza-Egypt border have been returned to the Gaza Strip, Ma’an’s reporter said on Thursday. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry affirmed that the body of Sa’d Abdul-Raziq was delivered from Egypt through the Kerem Shalom crossing. [end]

Some 2,400 African refugees have entered Israel this year
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Some 2,400 African refugees have crossed the border into Israel from Egypt since the beginning of 2008, officials told Haaretz on Thursday. The total number of African refugees that have successfully entered Israel is estimated at 6,000. A large number of the refugees are in Tel Aviv. According to Elisheva Milikovsky, a volunteer who works with the refugees, there are some 2,600 African refugees in Tel Aviv. Many of these refugees live in abysmal conditions at shelters and parks spread throughout south Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai announced on Tuesday that the refugees will be moved to a new tent compound with improved conditions. Tents will be set up in the wooded area between Herzl Street and the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, and will house some 700 people.

Abbas’s authority record of crimes against journalists
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
GAZA (PIC)-- The Hamas information office revealed in a detailed report issued on Wednesday that the PA security apparatuses had committed 100 assaults on press and media personnel and institutions since Hamas won the legislative election in 2006. In a copy received by the PIC, the report explained that the PA security apparatuses executed three journalists, kidnapped 33 others, carried out 26 assaults on media institutions and journalists’ property and 22 physical attacks on journalists and media crews, opened fire at them nine times and threatened them seven times. The report underlined that this repressive policy shows that the PA leadership and its unconstitutional government wants media only conveying what they wish in order to serve their narrow factional and personal interests.

Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories - Draft resolution
United Nations Human Rights Council, ReliefWeb 3/18/2008
. . . Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination - The Human Rights Council, Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular the provisions of Articles 1 and 55 thereof, which affirm the right of peoples to self-determination, and reaffirming the need for the scrupulous respect of the principle of refraining in international relations from the threat or use of force. . . . Recalling further the conclusion of the International Court of Justice, in its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004, that the construction of the wall by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, along with measures previously taken, severely impedes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination Recalling the resolutions adopted in this regard by the Commission on Human Rights, the last of which was resolution 2005/1 of 7 April 2005. . .

Middle East peace talks stalled, say negotiators · Palestinians see no hope of change on the ground
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/20/2008
Effort to isolate Hamas has backfired, says thinktank - Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians are stalled and are unlikely to produce a significant agreement within the year, a growing number of voices in the Middle East are warning. Saab Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, admitted yesterday that his side had failed to convince the Palestinians that the current peace process would bring any change on the ground. At the same time, the International Crisis Group thinktank said efforts to isolate Hamas in Gaza were "bankrupt" and had backfired, damaging the credibility of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is leading the peace talks. The peace process is at a standstill," the group said in a report. Last week Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers - the EU, the UN, the US and Russia - admitted that without change on the ground it was unlikely that the negotiations, launched four months ago in Annapolis, Maryland, would succeed.

Hamas spokesman: PLO is no longer representative of the Palestinian people.
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Spokesman of the ruling Hamas in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, stated on Thursday that his party is still considering the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), not to be the representative of the Palestinian people. Abu Zuhri’s remarks come while a PLO delegation is supposed to hold talks with a Hamas seniors in the Yemeni capital of San’a, over a new unity government deal after the collapse of the 2007’s Mecca deal, which brought to surface the first ever Fatah-Hamas unity government. Hamas’s remarks also came after Azzam aL-Ahmad, head of the Fatah party’s parliamentary bloc, revealed that the Palestinian presidency will urge the Arab states summit, due to be held soon in Damascus, to reaffirm legitimacy of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. Over the past four decades, the PLO has been the mouthpiece of the Palestinian people worldwide, until the 2006’s. . .

Five PLO factions welcome the Yamani initiative
Manar Jibrin& agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Five Palestinian factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization including "the Palestinian Arab Front, Palestinian Liberation Front, Popular struggle Front and Palestinian Democratic Union (Feda)", had welcomed on Thursday the Yemeni initiative of national reconciliation and talks between Fateh and Hamas movements. In a press conference that was held on Thursday in Gaza city, representatives of the five factions affirmed that Hamas should relinquish power over the Gaza Strip, and should resort to the people’s choice through the democratic process once again as a way to end the current crises. They added that the national dialogue should be within what has been previously approved among the Palestinian factions in the Cairo declaration and the national reconciliation document. They also called for comprehensive talks that would include all of the Palestinian factions in order. . .

Latest bid to reconcile rival Palestinians fails
Middle East Online 3/20/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank - The latest attempt to reconcile the Palestinian movement Fatah and its democratically elected rival Hamas ended in failure on Wednesday, with each party blaming teach other. The announcement came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Syria that Palestinian reconciliation was key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initiative, sponsored by Yemen, called for a return to the political status quo that existed before Hamas seized control of the impoverished Gaza Strip in June, routing forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Abbas, who also leads Fatah, claimed Hamas rejected the proposals. Hamas "did not accept the formula proposed by Yemen and expressed reservations that voided it of substance," said Abbas. Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina claimed Hamas refused to engage in dialogue with the Palestinian. . .

Abu Zuhri: Abbas’s statements are an attempt of not holding talks with Hamas
Manar Jibrin& agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Sami Abu Zuhri, media spokesperson of Hamas affirmed on Thursday that the statements of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the withdrawing of the PLO delegation from Yemen contradict with the efforts to achieve reconciliation. He added that "the president’s statements over the atmosphere of the meetings held in Yemen do not reflect the reality of what had happened there. Yemeni officials had affirmed that both sides [Fatteh and Hamas] welcomed the initiative which is considered as paving the way for a direct meetings between the two delegations over the initiative. He clarified that President Abbas’s accusations to Hamas movement of aborting the Yemeni efforts are not correct and contradict with the movement’s statements and statements of Yemeni officials over accepting the initiative. Abu Zuhri had revealed that a bilateral meeting was held between Fatah and Hamas. . .

Fatah delegates to leave Yemen without Hamas deal
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Yemeni-brokered talks on reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah have failed and Fatah negotiators are returning to the West Bank without a deal, aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday. "The matter has ended in failure because Hamas refused to accept the Yemeni initiative as is," said one of the aides, Yasser Abed Rabbo. "Our delegation will come back home tomorrow but it is ready to head back to Yemen once Hamas accepts the initiative as is. " Hamas voiced willingness on Wednesday to talk to Fatah as part of a Yemeni reconciliation initiative but said the secular faction must drop its demand the Islamist group first give up control of the Gaza Strip. "We do not accept it as a condition to restore dialogue," Hamas spokesmanAyman Taha said.

Hamas: No hope for change in American strategy towards Arab-Israeli conflict
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced the statements of John McCain, the republican party candidate for the presidential elections in the USA, in which he considered occupied Jerusalem as the capital of the Hebrew state. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that these statements reflects the American strategy which is biased in favor of Israel against the rights of the Palestinian people. Abu Zuhri also stated that these statements and similar ones made earlier by Barack Obama, a democratic party hopeful, confirms that there is no hope that any American administration would change its strategy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. Republican senator McCain had announced in statements in the Jordanian capital Amman that he recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Moscow proposes Middle East talks
Al Jazeera 3/20/2008
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, have discussed the possibility of Moscow hosting a Middle East peace conference. They also spoke about the political crisis in Lebanon, where Syria was the dominant political and military force for decades, during Thursday’s meeting in the Syrian capital Damascus. Andrei Zaitsew, a Russian embassy spokesman, said the talks covered "Middle East problems, particularly Lebanon, and the possibility of holding a peace conference in Moscow". Ties between the countries a have strengthened in recent months with Moscow delivering air defence weapons to Damascus. Russia said it aims to hold a peace meeting to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which was kickstarted in November at a US conference in the city of Annapolis.

Mishaal discusses with Lavrov Palestinian developments
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, met on Wednesday with Sergi Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, in the Syrian capital Damascus during which they discussed a number of issues related to the Palestinian cause. Mishaal briefed the Russian minister about the developments in the Palestinian arena and the negative impacts of the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza. For his part, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas said in a press release to the Russian Vremya Novosti newspaper that he does not welcome the idea of conducting talks between Lavrov and Mishaal in Damascus. Lavrov responded to Abbas in an interview with the Russia Today TV channel saying that Russia has good relations with Hamas and its contacts with it will continue in order to achieve one goal which is to help restore the Palestinian unity.

Peres to Lavrov: We don’t believe Syria
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/20/2008
President Peres tells Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that Israel distrusts Syrian peace overtures; Earlier, Lavrov meets with Assad, says Moscow peace conference aims to restart Israel-Syria talks - Israeli skepticism ahead of Moscow peace conference:Syrian peace overtures have been met with distrust on the part of Israeli officials, President Shimon Peres told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during their meeting Thursday evening. According to Peres, arms transfers from Syria to the Hizbullah organization in Lebanon continue unabated. Lavrov responded by claiming that Russia is unaware of any weapons being transferred from Syria to Hizbullah. However, Peres noted during the meeting that Russia has a significant role in regional peace talks. " Russia can serve as a major player in the process," the president said.

Hamas: PA leadership will try to exploit Damascus summit for its own interests
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Thursday warned that the PA leadership in Ramallah was planning to exploit the Arab summit in Damascus to support its position in the internal Palestinian rift. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that commitment to the Cairo and Makkah agreements precede demanding an Arab recognition of the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. He criticized statements of Azzam Al-Ahmed, the head of Fatah’s parliamentary bloc, which called for such recognition from the summit in the name of the PA presidency. He argued that such a demand displayed that the issue was still open for discussion and that there was no Palestinian agreement in this respect and finally that the Ramallah authority was trying to steer the Damascus summit into strengthening a certain party in the internal Palestinian dispute.

Israel, US stage 4-day military training exercise
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Drill involving participation of some 200 American, Israeli counterparts aimed at boosting ’interoperability, understanding and cooperation’ between armies. IDF says exercise unrelated to actual events -The Israeli military said Thursday that around 200 US and Israeli officers had staged a computer-based battle simulation designed to improve coordination between the two countries’ armed forces. The four-day exercise, codenamed ’’Juniper Falcon’’ was part of a standing agreement between the two strategic allies to hold regular joint training to boost ’’interoperability, understanding and cooperation’’ a military statement released on Thursday said. The statement stressed that the exercise, which ended on Wednesday, had been planned a year in advance and was not related to actual events. Defense officials said that in addition the Israeli military’s. . .

US warns Palestinian Americans of delays in Israel
Reuters, YNetNews 3/20/2008
State Department says Israeli authorities may question US Palestinians on arrival in Jewish state, require them to obtain PA travel documents. US Arab groups: Bush administration saying in effect that Arab Americans are second-class citizens - Israeli authorities may question Palestinian Americans on arrival inIsrael and require them to obtain a Palestinian Authority travel documents, the US State Department said on Wednesday. The comments drew quick criticism from an Arab American group that argued the Bush administration was acquiescing in Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Americans as second-class US citizens. "American citizens whom Israeli authorities judge may be of Palestinian origin are likely to face additional, and often time consuming, questioning by immigration and border authorities," the State Department said in a "travel warning" to US citizens.

US: Israel must stop discriminating against Arab-Americans
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/20/2008
State Department says US repeatedly told Israel that Palestinian Americans must be treated like any other US citizen at border crossings; However, Spokesman McCormack says issue is a ’continuing problem’ - The United States has told Israel repeatedly that Arab-American Palestinians must be treated as American citizens at border crossings or anywhere else, the State Department said Thursday. Still, said spokesman Sean McCormack, "it’s a continuing issue. It’s a continuing problem. "McCormack’s comments were in response to question about a letter that Arab-American community leader James Zogby sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that complained of the problem as "an issue for many decades" for Arab-Americans. "Our view, as expressed by Secretary Rice, former Undersecretary (Nicholas) Burns, former Assistant Secretary Maura Harty, our ambassador, the acting. . .

Erekat: PA might collapse if peace agreement is not reached in 2008
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – The Palestine Liberation Organization’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat warned that the Palestinian Authority (PA) might collapse if a peace agreement with Israel is not reached in 2008, the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported on Wednesday. "If a peace agreement is not reached in 2008, we could disappear, and the repercussions will expand to the whole region," Erekat told journalists. Erekat highlighted that the popularity of Fatah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dropped recently because no progress has been made in the peace talks, as was revealed in a recent poll. "People are disappointed in us, and the explanation for that is our failure to fulfill what we promised," he added. He added that Israel’s stubbornness and refusal to remove military checkpoints and halt settlement activity in the West Bank has helped reduce. . .

Egyptian security arrests Turkish charity delegation en route to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Egyptian security authorities arrested a Turkish team grouping representatives of charitable societies while on its way to enter Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, Turkish sources said. They said that the five arrested Turks included journalists and charity officials and were rounded up near the Rafah border terminal on Tuesday. The five, including a woman, were transferred from Rafah to Cairo where they are still in custody, the sources said, and quoted one of them as saying that they were taking photos of Gaza from a building near the new border wall that the Egyptians had recently build between Egypt and Gaza. He said that the Egyptian security men told them they were taking photos in a military zone and confiscated their cameras. He said that they saw destroyed buildings in Gaza and ambulance cars getting in and out of Rafah crossing.

McCain: Iran threat to U.S. troops linked to aid for Hamas
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Here in Israel, U. S. Senator John McCain said the Iranian threat to American troops in Iraq was linked to Tehran’s aid for Hamas and Hezbollah. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, even stressed that the U. S. should not leave Iraq quickly because it would invite increased Iranian influence. In their discussions, Israeli officials emphasized the importance of stopping Iran’s nuclear program and headway into the Palestinian territories, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Olmert added that deterrence can stop the rocket fire from Gaza without Israel having to conquer the Strip. McCain, who toured Sderot yesterday, agreed that the situation in the south was "untenable," and offered an American correlation: "If they were to fire at residents of a town in Arizona, the U.

PM says worried Russian arms will reach Hezbollah
Barak Ravid and Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed concern over Russia’s continuing supply of sophisticated weaponry to Syria and Iran during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Jerusalem on Thursday. Olmert stressed Israel’s fear that these weapons, including advanced anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missiles, could find their way into the hands of the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, which has threatened to destroy Israel. Lavrov responded by saying that Russia has no knowledge of Hezbollah possessing Russian weapons, and that if Israel has any information on the topic, Russia would be happy to look into it. During the meeting between the two officials, the Russian minister mentioned the Middle East peace summit to be held in Moscow in the coming months as a follow-up to last November’s U.

Israel to gain access to Soviet archives
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Russian counterpart sign agreement allowing Israel access to sensitive information from Soviet archives dating back to 1953-1967 - Access to a troubled era:Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday signed an agreement allowing Israel access to sensitive information from the old soviet archives. The two foreign ministers held a joint press conference at a Tel Aviv hotel and announced that Israel would now have access to documents from the Soviet archives dating back to the period between 1953 to 1967. The archived information dates back to a troubled era in Israeli-Russian relations. During the Sinai Campaign of 1956, as well as the 1967 Six Day War, the USSR had supported the Arab nations and had supplied both Egypt and Syria with arms.

Jewish Agency to close immigration department
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
The Jewish Agency is planning to close one of its most historically important branches, the Immigration and Absorption Department, as part of a radical restructuring plan, Agency sources said yesterday. The plan, which Agency officials consider to be a major change in the identity of the organization that predates the creation of Israel and has existed in its current form since 1948, will introduce reforms aimed at addressing a series of financial and political blows that have plagued the organization in recent years. "The Agency has been taking punches from every direction in recent years; politically, organizationally and [in terms of] its image," a senior Agency official said. Donations made by individuals in the U. S. Jewish community, which account for two-thirds of the Agency’s annual budget, have been in steady decline in recent years.

Jewish group seeks to purge YouTube of anti-Semitic videos
DPA, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Hamburg - Germany’s national Jewish body said Thursday it has filed suit against YouTube and its parent company Google, demanding a court order for the site to be permanently purged of anti-Semitic videos. Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in Hamburg, "we charge Google with aiding and abetting racial hatred and discrimination on its YouTube video- platform subsidiary. "We applied this week for an injunction from a court in Hamburg. "He said one example was a video clip that showed a late president of the Central Council, Paul Spiegel, being burned alive. He charged that it had been available for download for months on end. YouTube allows users to flag videos as inappropriate, leading to a review by YouTube editors who can delete videos that breach the platform’s terms of use.

VIDEO - McCain in Holy Land; Evangelicals satisfied
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 3/20/2008
(Video) US presidential hopeful’s visit to Israel aimed at gaining US Jews’ support, but also that of Evangelical Christians who believe Jewish state fulfills biblical prophecy about Jesus’ Second Coming, Time Magazine reports - WASHINGTON -John McCain’s "Holy Land pilgrimage" was aimed at gaining the support of the Jewish community in the United States, but more crucially, the support of Evangelical Christians who are a large part of the Republican Party base, Time Magazine reported Thursday. The US presidential hopeful, who is accepted by the independent voters and moderate Republicans but considered an alien corn among the party’s religious conservatives, sought to strengthen his ties with the Evangelicals. A visit to Israel and a show of support for the Jewish state was a right step in that direction.

’Situation in Sderot is compelling’
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
"Seeing it firsthand, the situation here is one that is very compelling," presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain said yesterday after touring Sderot with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "The residents obviously live under very severe stress. That is not a way for people to live. "McCain was accompanied by U. S. Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, who is Jewish. McCain voiced support for Israel’s reprisal policy, saying: "No nation in the world can be attacked incessantly and have its population killed and intimidated without responding. That’s one of the first obligations of government, to provide security for its citizens. "He added that the situation only makes a peace process more critical, and vowed to actively pursue talks based on the principles drafted by the U. S.

Israel-Palestine dispute moves on to Facebook
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 3/20/2008
The conflict over land in the Middle East is fought out not only on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Now the pages of social networking site Facebook have become the latest scene of dispute. Jewish settlers living inside the occupied Palestinian West Bank complained when they found their addresses identified them as living in Palestine, rather than Israel. More than 400,000 people live in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, all of which are widely considered illegal under international law. In true Facebook style, they set up groups to petition their cause. [end]

Live from Sderot
YNetNews 3/20/2008
The "One Family" organization, which assists terror victims, is holding a rally in support of Israelis in seven locations worldwide. The first rally is in Sderot. Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain will deliver pre-recorded messages. Ynetnews offers live coverage of the event. [end]

Third Emergency Services Support Project
The World Bank Group, ReliefWeb 3/19/2008
March 2008 - With the aim of supporting the Palestinian Authority in mitigating the deterioration of essential public services in education, health and social services, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved on December 13, 2007, the launching of the Third Emergency Services Support Project (ESSP 3). The ESSP 3, financed through a US$10 million grant from the Trust Fund for Gaza and West Bank, is an integral part of the PA’s emergency program in the social sectors. It accompanies the ongoing Bank administered ESSP Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF); both mainly finance non-salary recurrent expenditures. These companion operations will help maintain essential social services operational during the protracted crisis that the West Bank and Gaza is undergoing. The design of ESSP 3 will allow faster disbursement than has been possible under previous ESSP phases as the bulk. . .

Top IDF officers oppose ceasefire deal
YAAKOV KATZ, Jerusalem Post 3/19/2008
Top members of the IDF General Staff have expressed their opposition to the deal Egypt is trying to broker between Israel and Hamas in an effort to obtain a cessation of violence in the Gaza Strip, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. On Tuesday, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, who has been mediating between Israel and Hamas on the deal. Gilad, defense officials said, told Suleiman that Israel would not be able to agree to any type of cease-fire with Hamas if the border between Gaza and Egypt were not first sealed and the smuggling of weapons completely stopped by the Egyptian troops deployed there. "A continuation of the smuggling into Gaza will defeat the purpose of a cease-fire," one defense official said.

Federal Foreign Office supports the Palestinian police with 20 patrol cars
Government of Germany, ReliefWeb 3/18/2008
At the Middle East Conference in Annapolis (27 November 2007) and the Donor Conference in Paris (17 December 2007), the international community committed to continue to actively support the Middle East peace process and promote the growth of state structures in the Palestinian territories. The primary goal is to build a modern and efficient Palestinian police force and to develop a state based on the rule of law. The EU Action Plan for the Middle East proposed by Federal Foreign Minister Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier also attaches priority to the security sector, along with promoting economic and civil-society development. The aim is for the Palestinian authorities to be able to guarantee internal security in the long term. During a trip to the Middle East in November 2007, Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited Nablus where he was able to assess the situation in the Palestinian. . .

PA Security: Hamas responsible for smuggling medicine in to the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
Palestinian Preventative Security Forces in the West Bank apprehended on Wednesday at night 11 million NIS worth of medicine that was hidden in a wedding hall in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The security force said that the medicine was illegally smuggled into the Palestinian city , and that samples were sent to the lab to be checked in order to decide if the medicine is for human consumption, and to check if this medicine has any relation to the amount of medicine that was found in Nablus city in the northern part of the West Bank last week. Palestinian medical sources said that an amount of expired heart medicine was also found in Ramallah at the same time when the PA security forces found the hidden medicine. Maher Dweikat, director of the Palestinian Preventative Security Forces in Ramallah, blamed Hamas movement for smuggling the medicine into the Palestinian areas to keep the state of lawlessness in the West Bank.

Palestinian security seize smuggled medicines near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – The Palestinian preventive security service seized a large amount of smuggled medicines in a wedding hall in the city of Al-Ram south of Ramallah in the central West Bank on Wednesday evening, Palestinian security sources said. The sources told Ma’an that the value of the seized medicines was estimated at 11 million NIS. Samples of the medicines were taken for laboratory testing. Palestinian medical sources also told Ma’an that large amounts of medical equipment for use in heart surgery with forged expiration dates were also seized. Earlier on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry recalled 4,000 tons of flour in Nablus because it was unfit for human consumption.

Palestinian customs services storm cell phone shops
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Tulkarem – Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian customs services and military intelligencehave launched a wide-scale campaign against cell phone shops in the West Bank, confiscating cell phones on which import duty has not been paid, reliable Palestinian sources told Ma’an on Thursday. Ma’an’s reporters in Bethlehem, Nablus, Tulkarem and other West Bank districts affirm that the campaign is ongoing. Meanwhile, cell phone shops in Tulkarem in the northern West Bank closed in protest at the confiscation of their stock on Wednesday. These included authorized agents of the Palestinian telephone company, Jawwal, as well as Nokia and Mosaico in Tulkarem. They closed their shops went to the governor of Tulkarem seeking explanation. Mu’tasim Na’aluh, manager of the Tawasul gallery for cell phones explained that shop owners also went to the customs service in Tulkarem.

Bahar: The democracy pretenders conspired against the PLC
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the PLC, stated Wednesday that the democracy pretenders who testified to the fairness of the Palestinian democratic elections along with the Israeli occupation and its allies in the PA security apparatuses conspired against the PLC through kidnapping more than 45 MPs and putting them in Israeli jails. During the open meeting held by the independent Palestinian commission for citizen’s rights, Dr. Bahar underlined that in spite of this conspiracy, the council succeeded in holding 19 sessions during the first year and approved 32 bills in the same year, the most important of them were the prohibition of torture and the prosecution of Israel for its crimes against the Palestinian citizens. In response to those who question the performance of the PLC, Marwan Abu Ras, a member of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, said that the present council. . .

Feature-Fatah seeks new blood in bid for Palestinian state
Mohammed Assadi, ReliefWeb 3/20/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank, March 20 (Reuters) - The once-dominant Fatah faction is looking for younger members as it struggles to draw popular support from its Islamist rival Hamas, and overcome deadlock in Palestinian peace efforts with Israel. With a survey earlier this week showing support waning for Fatah’s leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, the U. S. -backed Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is bidding to recover its political viability. "We don’t want members whose pockets are filled with medications. We want an infusion of new blood," said Qaddoura Fares, a member of Fatah who calls for reforming the group, in disarray since its shock loss of legislative elections to Hamas Islamists in January 2006. Abbas is widely expected to convene select members this year, for the first time since 1989, for internal votes at which a "young guard" of grassroots leaders will try to win posts in two key decision-making bodies.

PA security returns Israeli settler who infiltrated into Al-Khalil
Palestinian Information Center 3/20/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The website of the Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported on Wednesday evening that the PA security apparatuses handed to the IOF troops an Israeli settler who infiltrated into the Daheria village in Al-Khalil, southern West Bank, alleging that he lost his way. In the framework of the security coordination with the Israeli occupation, the PA security apparatuses surrendered more than 12 Israelis who entered the West Bank including Israeli spies that carried out assassinations against Palestinian resistance fighters during the past few months. This PA cooperation with Israel comes at a time when the Palestinian resistance fighters are making attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and settlers to swap them with Palestinian prisoners including children and women in Israeli jails.

Pressure? What are you talking about?
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Nobody, not even the U. S. administration, has bothered to ask Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if he plans to run for a second term in a year. WASHINGTON, D. C. - "To tell the truth, I didn’t ask him," Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch said in response to a question from U. S. Representative Gary Ackerman (Democrat, N. Y. ). The person who wasn’t asked was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the question that wasn’t asked was whether he planned to run for a second term in a year. Maybe that’s the "truth," but it’s not necessarily the whole truth. The U. S. administration does not know whether Abbas is planning on mounting another campaign, but a few of his senior officials believe that he isn’t. And so, Abbas’ peace-process clock, that of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is ticking.

Bin Laden: Palestine can only be retaken by force
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Osama speaks out again: Al-Qaeda leader says holy war only way to end Palestinian suffering, slams Arab states for backing war on terror; Bin Laden adds that Iraq Jihad will lead to liberation of Palestine - Osama speaks out again: The only way to reclaim Palestine is through force, al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden said in an audiotape published by the al-Jazeera network Thursday evening. " Palestine cannot be retaken by negotiations and dialogue, but with fire and iron," Bin Laden said in the tape. "Our enemies did not take over Palestinian through negotiations, but rather, by force. " According to the al-Qaeda leader, "Jihad, rather then negotiations, is the only way to put an end to the Palestinian suffering, which has lasted for 100 years now. " Bin Laden added that "the siege imposed on Gaza is one of the results of the Annapolis Conference.

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Fayyad: U. S. to give $150 million to PA - three tons of potassium nitrate stopped near Qalqilyah - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced yesterday that the United States will soon transfer $150 million in aid, part of its pledge to give the PA more than half a billion dollars over the next three years. The funds are to go toward the PA budget, not for special projects. Fayyad praised the U. S. for this step at a ceremony marking the signing of an economic agreement with Jake Walles, U. S. consul general in Jerusalem. (Avi Issacharoff) An Israeli truck carrying three tons of potassium nitrate was caught at noon yesterday at a crossing near Qalqilyah, in the course of a joint operation by the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet and the Civil Administration. IDF sources said the substance in question is barred from entering the West Bank because it has been used to produce explosives.

250,000 Palestinians sign petition demanding national reconcilliation
Ma’an News Agency 3/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution PCDCR announced on Thursday 250,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have signed a petition demanding national reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. The centre said in a statement that a team of volunteers have been collecting signatures since the beginning of March and are aiming to collect half a million signatures as part of the popular campaign for national reconciliation. The centre also called on the Palestinian public to take part in a rally next Wednesday in Gaza City. [end]

Former watchdog: State didn’t follow own water rules
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
The government has failed to implement decisions reached six years ago to manage the water crisis, a former water commissioner said yesterday at a conference of the Israeli Water Association. Shimon Tal, association president, addressed the current state of water resources with two other water commissioners from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. They drew an extremely grave picture of water shortages and severely deteriorating quality. Tal says only 130 million cubic meters of water is produced today, which is 40 percent of the amount the government had decided to produce (350 million cubic meters). Also, 25 percent less waste water is treated and recycled for irrigation than had been planned. A master plan prepared by the Water Authority to encourage conservation "is lying on a shelf collecting dust," Tal said.

VIDEO - Seeing Israel through the lens of its collective memory
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for March 19, 2008. Israel’s history doesn’t lack documentation, but many of the young country’s most memorable images came from the camera of one man. David Rubinger, now 83 years old, is one of Israel’s most influential photojournalists, whose pictures frame the collective memory of a young nation. He was there almost from the beginning - from the United Nations announcement of the Partition Plan for Palestine, to Israel’s many wars, and everything in between. [end]

Meretz leader strives to recapture voters
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Newly elected Meretz leader MK Haim Oron yesterday said his main goal as party leaders is to bring back voters that have deserted the left-wing party in recent years alongside attracting new ones. The party’s first meeting after Oron’s election on Monday will be held in the Qassam rocket-stricken city of Sderot, as an act of solidarity with the residents. "We need to turn the empathy and support toward us into political power," Oron said. "They say of us that we are respected and good MKs, and then they vote for different parties. It’s a challenge we’ll have to meet. "Meretz, which was once a party with a strong following among first-time voters, has aged considerably in recent years. Participants at its conferences tend to be older. Some 5,000 of the 15,000 Meretz members live on kibbutzim, of which only 250 are below the age of 35.

Israeli archaeologists find Second Temple coin
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/20/2008
Coin dating back to days of biblical Second Temple found in 2,000-year-old drainage ditch in Jerusalem - Israeli archaeologists in Jerusalem say they’ve found an ancient coin that played a role in Jewish ritual at the biblical Second Temple. The silver coin is a shekel denomination. In the Bible, Jews are commanded to contribute half a shekel each for maintaining the Temple in Jerusalem. The archaeologists say the coin they found near the Old City of Jerusalem is the type the ancient Jews used to pay the tax. The Second Temple was built in the sixth century BC and was standing in the time of Jesus. The coin was found in a 2,000-year-old drainage ditch. The archaeologists say the coin must have been dropped there by accident - just as sometimes a coin drops out of someone’s pocket today and gets flushed down a sewer.

Israeli ex-security guard solves 38-year-old math problem
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
A mathematical mystery that has baffled top minds in the field of symbolic dynamics for nearly four decades was cracked last year by a 63-year-old former Israeli security guard. Avraham Trakhtman, a mathematician who worked as a laborer after immigrating to Israel from Russia, succeeded in solving the elusive Road Coloring Problem. The conjecture assumes that it is possible to create a universal map that would direct people to arrive at a certain destination, at the same time, regardless of their original location. Experts say this proposition, which seems to defy logic, could actually have real-life applications in the fields of mapping and computer science. "In math circles, we talk about beautiful results. This is beautiful and it is unexpected. Even in layman’s terms it is completely counterintuitive, but somehow it works,". . .

Teva spends big on US lobbyist activities
Shira Horesh, Globes Online 3/20/2008
The generic drug firm supported an initiative to allow generic biopharmaceuticals. A US government document shows that Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) spent $2. 3 million on lobbyist activities in Washington in 2007. Teva lobbied in support of legislation that would allow the FDA to approve generic versions of new biotechnology treatments. Generic pharmaceutical companies are authorized to market cheaper versions of relatively simpler drugs, but the FDA is not authorized to approve generic versions of biotech-developed drugs. Teva supported a bill (H. R. 1038) known as the “Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act” introduced by Democratic US Representative from California Henry Waxman and others, including US presidential candidate New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that would "establish a process through which the FDA will be able to approve lower cost copies of biotech drugs.

Economic Developments and Prospects - Mar 2008
The World Bank Group, ReliefWeb 3/20/2008
1. Following the Oslo accords in the early nineties, it was expected that the Palestinian economy would enter a period of sustained and rapid growth. While performance was not as strong as hoped, there was steady growth and by 1999 real GDP had grown to $4,512 million. However, since the Intifada in 2000, when Israel instituted a strict closure regime, the Palestinian Economy has been on a downward trend (Figure 1). GDP fell to $3,557 million at the height of the violence and Israeli incursions in 2002 and then recovered slightly in 2004 and 2005. But, with the continuing growth in settlements, continuing closures, and the cut off in direct aid after the election of a Hamas government, GDP fell again in 2006. 2. Real GDP in 2007 is expected to be about $3,901 million, some 14 percent lower than its peak in 1999. Because of the rapid population growth during the same period, per capita GDP is off nearly 40% from its peak.

Spectronix wins more contracts from U.S. army
Yoram Gabison, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Spectronix yesterday reported winning two new contracts worth $10 million from none other than the defense giant BAE. The Israeli company, which is situated in missile-studded Sderot, will be supplying BAE with fire extinguishing systems and bomb-detonation extinction systems for armored combat vehicles. The equipment is for the American army and Marines project MRAP - which stands for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. The idea is to create a fleet of vehicles that can continue trucking on under attack, including ambushes with roadside bombs. So far Spectronix has received $22 million worth of work pursuant to MRAP. The company already delivered some of the equipment in the first quarter of 2008. Also, the MRAP project was responsible for about 75% of the company’s annual activity in 2007, which makes it heavily dependent on the favor of BAE.

In surprise move, Fischer to increase foreign currency reserves
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
The Bank of Israel is instituting an exceptional plan to increase Israel’s foreign currency reserves, just one week after shocking the market by suddenly reversing policy and intervening in the currency market. In a plan almost without match around the world, Governor Stanley Fischer aims to increase Israel’s foreign currency reserves by $10 billion in two years, by buying an average of $25 million every business day during that time, all on the Israeli capital market. The plan, which Fischer has been discussing with government officials for weeks, will come into force on Monday. Fischer advised Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On about his plan weeks ago and met with them again Thursday morning. Both support the concept. Bar-On applauded the plan especially in light of the dollar’s feebleness against the shekel.

Foreign residents no longer vying for Jerusalem properties
Rinat Nahum-Halev, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
Until recently, apartment buyers from overseas would say "the market inthe holy city has no price. "Nowadays real estate agents in the city say that even if this remains the case, there is a limit to what they actually are willing to pay. Banks, assessors, brokers and even sellers are now admitting that theJerusalem real estate party is on its last legs. "We had an Arab house with construction rights and a 500-year-old carob tree on the property, the oldest in Israel, certified by the Agriculture Ministry," says Dalia Bikovitski, the RE/MAX franchise owner in the German Colony. "The house was on the market for a month, and sold for $560,000. In the past, there would be many contenders for a bargain like that, and the property would have sold within a week.

IEC to nearly double natural gas purchases
Lior Baron, Globes Online 3/20/2008
The company is due to begin receiving of gas from EMG in which Joseph (Yossi) Maiman is a partner. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) will nearly double its purchases of natural gas to NIS 2. 15 billion in 2008 from NIS 1. 1 billion in 2007, following the commencement of supplies to the company by Egypt’s East Mediterranean Gas Co. (EMG) in which Joseph (Yossi) Maiman is a partner. Figures obtained by "Globes" reveal that IEC is due to purchase a total of 4. 6-4. 7 billion cubic meters of gas (3. 3 million tons), from EMG and Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) subsidiary Yam Tethys Ltd. The figures show that IEC paid an average $2. 70 per British Thermal Unit in 2007.

Senior Yahoo! executive to visit Israel
Noa Parag, Globes Online 3/20/2008
Yahoo! looks to Walla! to join its search battle against Google. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Ettore Leale, general manager for search and marketing in emerging markets at Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) will arrive in Israel tomorrow for a visit lasting several days. Leale will hold a series of meetings with the management of local search portal Walla Communications (TASE: WALA ), with the aim of deepening the existing collaboration between the two companies, and looking at further opportunities for collaboration in the future. Walla signed a long-term strategic agreement on search technology with Yahoo! in January. The two companies seek to provide competition to Google’s dominance of the search market in Israel, and offer an alternative to advertisers who rely on search-based advertising.

Thirsty Jordan desperate for blue gold
Middle East Online 3/20/2008
The desert kingdom of Jordan, one of the 10 most water-impoverished countries in the world, is scrambling to find new resources to meet a chronic shortage of its diminishing "blue gold". Beset by years of drought, the authorities are focusing their energies on two mega projects to develop water resources in a country where 92 percent of the land is desert. They plan to draw water from the 300,000-year-old Disi aquifer in southern Jordan and build a massive canal to bring water from the Red Sea to the slowly evaporating Dead Sea - the lowest point on the face of the earth. "The two projects are vital," Munir Oweis, the water ministry secretary general, said ahead of World Water Day on Saturday. The government wants to dig 65 wells to extract water from the Disi aquifer, 325 kilometres (200 miles) south of Amman, in order to pump 100 million cubic metres (3.

Iraq’s internally displaced
Shaista Aziz, Al Jazeera 3/18/2008
Five years after the invasion and occupation ofIraq , an estimated 1. 9 million Iraqis are displaced inside their own country while an estimated two million Iraqis have fled to neighbouringSyria. It is estimated there are a further 1. 5 million Iraqis inJordanSulaimaniya, a city in northern Iraq, is home to an estimated 60,000 displaced Iraqis, many of whom have fled to escape sectarian violence and killings further south. The vast majority of the displaced come from Baghdad, Diyala and MosulThe Iraqi refugee crisis since 2003People who were formerly middle-class now rent houses and garages that have been converted into living spaces.

Cheney meets Oman sultan with spotlight on Iran
Middle East Online 3/20/2008
US Vice President Dick Cheney met Oman’s Sultan Qaboos on Wednesday for talks expected to focus on US efforts to contain Iran’s influence and curb its nuclear programme. The two leaders reviewed "cooperation between Oman and the United States in all fields in light of the close relations" between their countries, the sultanate’s state news agency ONA without giving details. Cheney’s stop in Muscat, which has good ties with both Iran and Washington, came after a surprise Iraq visit to kick off a nine-day tour of the Middle East and Turkey, with regional peace efforts and Afghanistan high on the agenda. As well as Iran, which faces Oman across the Straits of Hormuz entrance to the oil-rich Gulf, the broader US-led "war on terrorism" was also expected to figure in the Qaboos meeting, a senior aide said in Washington.

Russia says Iraq invasion caused 300,000 deaths
Middle East Online 3/20/2008
MOSCOW - Russia’s foreign ministry said Thursday the invasion of Iraq five years ago had turned the country into "one of the most dangerous places on the planet" and led to the death of up to 300,000 people. "The results are clear," Mikhail Kamynin, a ministry spokesman, said in a statement, referring to the casualties of "a huge military operation without UN approval" launched by the United States and its allies. "Up to 300,000 people, according to different estimates, have been killed since the invasion," Kamynin said. "More than two million people have left their homeland and the number of internal immigrants is more than 2. 5 million," he continued. "Iraq has turned into one of the most dangerous places on the planet. " Russia opposed the US-led war on Iraq that toppled president Saddam Hussein. The war began on March 20, 2003 when US planes dropped the first bombs on Baghdad.

US Treasury warns banks Iran engaging in deceptive practices
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jerusalem Post 3/21/2008
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration issued a fresh warning Thursday to US banks that Iran is using "an array of deceptive practices" to hide its alleged involvement in nuclear proliferation and terrorist activities. The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network alleged that Iran is resorting to such alleged practices to evade detection and skirt financial sanctions. For instance, the agency said that the Iran’s central bank, also known as Bank Markazi, and Iranian commercial banks have requested that their names be removed from global financial transactions to make it difficult to "determine the true parties in the transaction. "[end]


Naftul and Arabesque
Doron Rosenblum, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
     In the shadow of the bloodshed, between the appalling terrorist attack at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva and the rioting by right-wing protesters in East Jerusalem, at the height of the raging passions and the calls for revenge and reprisal for the revenge, we met for a conversation with Rabbi Shmuel Naftali ("Naftul") Haron-Aff-Al (Plontrovich), one of the unofficial leaders of "precipice youth," author of "Hewed to pieces by Samuel" and head of the Spill Your Wrath Yeshiva, which is located on the roof of a house in the Palestinian village of Odrov.
     Anyone who imagines Rabbi Haron-Aff-Al as an extremist angry prophet of the fire-and-brimstone spitting type will undoubtedly be "disappointed" at the sight of this cordial fellow who speaks quietly as he runs his hand softly through his white-flecked reddish beard. Few know that the rabbi, who recently added his signature to a petition calling for "the scalping of the Palestinian leaders and their children," the "crushing of Amalek" and the declaration of a "war of Gog and Magog" "without mercy or compassion for the other side (or for the Arabs)," is considered one of the moderate voices of the extreme right. Indeed, it is said that only his moderation prevented the formulation of a really extreme petition.

Rachel Corrie’s case for justice

Tom Wright and Therese Saliba, Electronic Intifada 3/20/2008
      The darkness is infinite As I leave the curtain’s edge It is filled with watchers Silent judges - Rachel Corrie, about 11 years old As their plane touched down in Tel Aviv recently, Cindy and Craig Corrie marked five years since their daughter’s death. On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, 23, was crushed to death beneath an armored Israeli bulldozer. The Corries are a short distance from Gaza, where Rachel was killed, and where in the past few weeks, an Israeli military incursion killed over 100 Palestinians, including many women and children.
     This week, the Corries come to Israel to attend the first Arabic-language performance of the acclaimed one-woman play, My Name is Rachel Corrie. Compelling though her story was -- an American peace activist killed trying to block the demolition of her Palestinian host family’s home, killed by the military of her own government’s major regional ally -- Rachel’s story might well have faded quickly, subsumed in the weekly news cycle just three days before the "Shock and Awe" of the attack on Iraq. But her family’s instinct, even in the first hours of grief and bewilderment, felt imperative: "We must get her words out." Rachel’s emails home during her month in the Gazan border town of Rafah, volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), had stirred and shaken her family and friends. Having traveled from her comfortable life in her hometown of Olympia, Washington, she had sat smoking late into the night, passionately reporting the other-worldly scenes of violence and destruction from the military occupation around her.

2008 International Day Against Racism Marked by Deepening of Israel’s Apartheid System

Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 3/20/2008
      March 21 will mark the International Day on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, but for Palestinians, there is little to celebrate in this respect.
     In a context whereby Israel’s ongoing occupation is steadily mutating into a system of Apartheid, the text of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, has become of greater pertinence than ever before in any case outside of that of the former Apartheid regime in South Africa.
     "Palestinians under occupation are now facing a fully-fledged Apartheid system characterised by systematic discrimination," said PNI Secretary General, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP.
     "Tell me of any other case in the world where roads are segregated on the basis of ethnicity? Where a population of illegal settlers consumes 48 times more water per capita per year than the local population? Where an occupied people pay twice the amount for basic utilities such as water and electricity, than those who occupy them? Where Palestinians are obliged to purchase goods at the same market prices as Israelis - whose income per capita is 30 times higher - and who are prevented from building their own independent economy? Where the chronically ill are denied access to health treatment because of their nationality, and are simply left to die?"

Houseless on a Hillside

Pennie Quinton, International Middle East Media Center 3/20/2008
      The Christian Peacemaker Teams, a human rights action group based in the area telephoned the office of IMEMC (the International Middle East media Centre) in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. "Three houses belonging to Palestinian villagers are being destroyed by the Israeli army with bull dozers."
     Drive for 1 hour south of Hebron, through steep rock scattered hills, used for centuries by Palestinian shepherds and farmers for grazing their herds and olive growing.Yet despite this being the West bank, and technically Palestine, the Israel occupation is visible from every hill-top, the red roofed houses of illegal settlements cluster on every summit, land stolen by Israeli settlers, using force, no contracts or money has been exchanged with the families who have cared and nurtured these hills for hundreds of years, this land was taken from them at the butt of a gun.
     Along a deserted road we reach the remains of a home, now a mass of broken concrete and twisted metal.About ten women and children sit on a dry stonewall their backs turned to the road.The Red Cross unload emergency supplies.The entire family, in total around 20 people seem very quiet and contained as they attempt to deal with this catastrophe.

Western Ramallah village ringed by Israeli settlements

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 3/20/2008
      The road west of Ramallah is lush with grass, pine trees, cactus and the immortal olive tree. It is a four kilometer trip up hill on gravel and dust once we have passed the turn-off to Bil’in Village where weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the Wall and settlements are held. A colleague who is from this small town is walking through the fields, next to the sheep, being careful not to step on the flowers.
     He says, "It’s a four kilo detour to get here. The Israelis want to take the beautiful areas, confiscate what is the best. And part of the Israeli strategy is to take the high areas and put their settlements there. So we now, because the road from our town to Ramallah is closed, we have to take a longer route because they took our road and put in another settlement. Now as you can see we’re taking a four kilometer detour since we can’t drive on our own street anymore for the settlement. And last year, or two years ago, there was another road that was even better, but they took our land again, put in another settlement, and made our lives with a different route even harder."

Scapegoat upon scapegoat: Angela Merkel addresses the Knesset

Raymond Deane, Electronic Intifada 3/20/2008
      German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s historic speech to the Israeli Knesset on 18 March 2008 has been almost universally applauded, and has been described by Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Central Council of German Jews, as having "opened a new chapter in the relationship between Israel and Germany."
     Given the huge influence of Germany within the European Union, it is imperative to subject Merkel’s speech to a close reading and to question the assumptions implicit both in the speech itself and in the German media response to it.
     Having expressed Germans’ "shame" for the Holocaust, she goes on to point out that "while we are speaking here, thousands of people are living in fear and terror of Hamas’s rocket-attacks and terrorism." Her clumsy choice of words seems to emphasize the failure to mention the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are living in daily fear and terror of Israeli incursions, home demolitions, assassinations, air-strikes, arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture.

Gaza’s situation: frustration and determination

Rami Almeghari writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 3/20/2008
      A few kilometers from where the Israeli army attacked Gaza’s coast, a coalition of 27 women’s organizations held a festival marking International Women’s Day.Organized by the Women’s Affairs Center based in Gaza City, the event titled, "Gaza women defy the Israeli siege," was held at the Beach Hotel along the coast.
     The hall overlooking Gaza’s shore is crowded with dozens of attendees and a number of booths selling various products. One woman sells traditional folk dresses, while another delivers homemade Palestinian foods, and another stand offers homemade accessories and household items.
     Exhibit organizer Reem Elneerab. Reem Elneerab, organizer of the exhibition says that today’s festival is "exceptional as it comes during a crippling siege," enforced by Israel since June 2007. "The exhibition is sending out a message of steadfastness by Gaza women that despite the Israeli closure and measures, the Palestinian women can emerge with more creativity and ability to sustain," she explains.

On violent and nonviolent struggle: what about our personal responsibility?

Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestine News Network 3/20/2008
      Mazin Qumsiyeh - What is your position on Israeli violence? Palestinian violence? What do you think Israelis and Palestinians should or should not do? What do you think of Barak Obama? What makes Christian Zionists support Israel?
     These and many other questions came during over 30 talks given over the past three weeks as Qumsiyeh and others tour the United States.
     In a few minutes available in a Q&A segment, addressing these questions is by nature limited to making few comments and summarizes a lot of available material from my and other books and data available. But these questions also always give us opportunity to ask about personal responsibility. After all, the only people you and I can change are ourselves. Sometimes this leads to follow up conversations over dinners and via emails and phones about where we go from here.

Shocked, awed and left to rot

Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 3/20/2008
      Future non-biased historians may well regard March 19, 2003, as a crucial mark in the annals of Western imperial arrogance. Five years later, the pre-emptive war celebratory fireworks have turned to dust. For months now Iraq has been an invisible American war. It’s seldom on TV. It does not "sell". Thus, it does not exist. US Vice President Dick Cheney, one of its key architects, has just been to a whirlwind Baghdad tour. He said he sensed "phenomenal changes" since his last whirlwind tour 10 months ago. He praised security progress as "dramatic".
     The "dramatic" progress was celebrated in style by a Sunni Arab female suicide bomber who managed to detonate her payload under her black abaya near the ultra-protected Imam Hussein shrine in holy Karbala, killing at least 42 Shi’ites and wounding 73.
     Cheney did not see the real Baghdad, drowning in sewage, desperate for water and plunged in the dark - lacking 3,000 megawatts of electricity (it may take as many as 10 years before the city gets power 24 hours a day; so much for "reconstruction"). As no US official was suicidal enough to take Cheney, for instance, to a real life suicide bomber-targeted vegetable market in Sadr City - or to Imam Hussein’s shrine in Karbala for that matter - these "phenomenal changes" warrant examination.

Twilight Zone / When disaster strikes

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 3/20/2008
      It looks, terrifyingly, like Gaza. Behind tin fences, at the northern entrance to the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, hides a compound characterized by poverty, one of the most miserable we have seen. Brown hens peck at garbage in the backyard, a yard that has become much larger since the Israel Defense Forces demolished one of the two buildings in the compound. Two crushed and shattered skeletons of cars - a yellow taxi and a white private car - were destroyed beneath the ruins of the building and lie like a silent memorial in the front of the yard. Only the floor of the demolished building is left.
     The only housing that remains to the extended family - 40 souls, most of them children - is a three-story heap with a dangerous staircase. The third floor was added hastily after the destruction of the adjacent building. Walls of unplastered gray brick, alcove after alcove of neglect and darkness, some of them with sand floors. Broken furniture, clothing and torn blankets thrown on the floors. A torn sack of flour from the UN food program is one of the only items of food in the filthy kitchen.