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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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24 March 2008


Israeli troops gun down unarmed Palestinian farmer in the Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Fifty-five-year-old Palestinian farmer Yousif Abu Dhahir was killed on Monday by Israeli soldiers while he was tending his land near the Israeli military installation of Kisufim east of the Palestinian city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry Abu Dhahir’s body arrived at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis riddled with bullets. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that Israeli troops opened fire at Palestinian civilians while the soldiers were re-erecting a watchtower at the military post. Israeli sources claimed earlier that Palestinian activists fired at Israeli troops south of the military position without reporting any casualties.

Qureia: Fatah signed reconciliation draft with Hamas due to mixup
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia on Monday said Fatah signed a proposal outlining a path to reconciliation with Hamas because of a mixup. Under the Yemeni plan, Fatah and Hamas agreed on the goal of uniting in a single Palestinian government. The proposal was signed Sunday by a representative from Hamas and by a senior Fatah official, former Palestinian Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmed. Qureia, who heads the Palestinian team in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, on Monday suggested that al-Ahmed was hasty. He said al-Ahmed called before the signing to get guidance from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but that Abbas was busy hosting U. S. Vice President Dick Cheney. The senior Palestinian official added that there was a misunderstanding involved in the signing. Other Abbas aides say al-Ahmed should not have signed.

Arab-American University under siege
Palestine News Network 3/23/2008
Jenin / PNN -- For going on 18 hours now, Israeli forces have besieged the Arab -- American University near Jenin City. Students are appealing for help. Via telephone, Student Council Member, Murad Abu Rabb is asking that humanitarian and media institutions intervene to lift the siege. "The presence in such density on the campus and neighboring area is unprecedented. Helicopters are circling overhead and they are launching flare bombs. "Israeli forces have arrested at least 30 students, while 10 others students and staff are still unable to leave the besieged student housing buildings. "We expect them to break down the doors at any moment. " All roads in the area are closed, while hundreds of residents, students and staff re unable to move. Director of Public Relations for the University, Jamal Sana, said that the siege on his building began "abruptly at 3:00 am. "

Israel confiscating identity of Jerusalemites
Palestine News Network 3/23/2008
Jerusalem / PNN -- Taking away the Jerusalem citizenship of elected members of Palestinian Legislative Council is another step in the process of "ethnic cleansing," as Presidents Abbas and dozens of others have said of the situation in the city - The Israeli government and its military court renewed the announcements to confiscate the identity of PLC Vice President in Jerusalem, the Minister of Jerusalem of Affairs, and 100 other PLC members currently in Israeli prisons. After the last PLC elections, Israeli forces began arresting its members. Four are from the Fateh party, one from the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the rest from Hamas. Attorney Fadi Qawasmi stressed that there is nothing in even Israeli law that provides a reasonable defense for confiscated the identities, the citizenship, of entrusted members of the Palestinian government, its Legislative Council members and Ministers.

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian homes in Hebron city, one Palestinian injured
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
Palestinian sources reported on Monday that Israeli settlers attacked a number of Palestinian homes in the old city in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on late Sunday night injuring one civilian. Sources said that a number of right wing Israeli settlers threw stones, glass bottles, and trash at Palestinian homes located in Tal Rumeida in the old city in Al-Khalil (Hebron). The settlers also chanted hateful slogans calling for killing Arabs in addition to beating up some of the men in those houses. During the attack Arowa Abu Hikal, in her 20’s, was lightly injured when a stone hit her in the head [end]

Palestinian Water Experts: Palestinian Territories Approach a Hot Summer of Waste Water Leakages
Manar Jibrin & agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
Palestinian water experts warned on Monday that the Palestinian territories are approaching a hot summer with high risks of water-shortages due to Israeli obstacles and natural dryness. Experts also warned of potential disease spreading due to contamination of underground water aquifers due to waste water leakages. In a press conference held Monday afternoon in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, the Executive Director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, Dr Ayman al Rabi, stated his expectation that the Israeli authorities will reduce the quantity of water provided to the Palestinians, and that currently represents 55% of Palestinian water needs, through the Israeli water company of Mokorot. Palestinians obtain the rest of their water from springs and wells. He added that the Ramallah district and its surroundings purchase water from the Israeli water company, while the situation.

IDF deploys new ’anti-terror’ system around Gaza
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Army upgrades its capabilities in the Gaza region: New system combines camera, machine gun and enables IDF troops stationed in operations room to identify and fire at terrorists without risking themselves - First report : A new system deployed by the IDF in the Gaza-region enables soldiers stationed in the operations room to fire at Palestinian terrorists near the Gaza fence, Ynet has learned. The systems, which are equipped with a camera and a machine gun, enable soldiers to watch any activity that takes place near the fence and if necessary to fire at the push of a button. The new system will soon be officially declared "operational. "In recent months, the IDF Southern Command has integrated the system into its operational routine and instructed IDF field intelligence troops on using it. The system was developed by the Israel Armament Development Authority.

Hit-and-run Israeli driver runs over Palestinian young man
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- An Israeli setter driving a car wounded a Palestinian young man called Jihad Sharawneh, 20, very badly when he deliberately sped up and ran over the young man near Na’lin village west of Ramallah city. Palestinian eyewitness reported that the settler fled the scene, while the young man was bleeding and groaning with pain, adding that he got fractures in his limbs. Meanwhile, another Israeli settler on Sunday kidnapped two Palestinian children called Iyad Al-Hindi, 14, and his cousin Bilal Al-Hindi, 17, as they were grazing sheep on the outskirts of the Laban village, east of Salfit in the northern West Bank, according to local sources. The sources added that the settler took the two children to the Israeli Shilo settlement and let them go after questioning them.

Palestinian man run over by Israeli settlers near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – A Palestinian man was moderately to seriously wounded when he was run over by an Israeli settler’s car on the bypass road near the central West Bank village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah. Eyewitnesses named the victim as Jihad Sharawna, a man in his twenties. The settlers drove away without aiding the visibly wounded Sharawna, the witnesses said. Settler bypass roads, some of them designated for use by Israelis only, crisscross the West Bank. [end]

Palestinian Authority forces ’arrest five Hamas members’
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Hamas movement said on Monday that Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces detained five Hamas supporters in the West Bank on Sunday evening. According to a Hamas statement, the arrestees were from the Nablus and Tulkarem districts in the northern West Bank as well as Hebron in the southern West Bank. [end]

Israeli forces seize five Palestinians near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized five Palestinians from the West Bank towns of Tammun and Tubas, north of the city of Nablus on Monday morning, witnesses said. The director of the Palestinian prisoners society in Tubas, Mahmoud Sawafta, condemned ongoing Israeli arrest raids, saying they are intended to provoke Palestinians to respond. Every night Israeli forces raid West Bank cities and towns, abducting Palestinians, without charge or trial, from their homes. There are currently more than 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention centers. [end]

The Israeli Army Kills a Palestinian Farmer in Gaza and Another Man Dies of Earlier Wounds
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
The Israeli army shot and killed a Palestinian farmer on Monday midday in the southern part of the Gaza strip. Yousif Abu Thahier, was working his land located in the southern border between Israel and Gaza near the city of Khan Younis when Israeli troops from a nearby army post opened fire; killing the 55 year old man. Witnesses said that soldiers opened fire at the farmers without any reason. Israeli media sources said that Israeli troops engaged in armed clashes with Palestinian resistance fighters in the early morning near those borders. On Monday at dawn, Nidal Shaqurah, from the Al Quds brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, was announced dead after succumbing to wounds he sustained last week. Shaqurah was injured in the town of Beit Lahyia, in the northern part of the Gaza strip, when an Israeli unmanned plane fired missiles at him and his comrades.

Palestinian old man hit in IOF shooting left to bleed to death
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- IOF troops killed a Palestinian old man east of Khan Younis on Monday after shooting at him then leaving him to bleed to death, eyewitnesses reported. They told PIC correspondent that Yousef Abu Daher, 70, was left to bleed for almost two hours after the IOF soldiers blocked ambulance vehicles from reaching him. They said that the old man was hit near his home in Abu Daher suburb, and added that the soldiers continued to fire at the area preventing citizens or ambulance cars from evacuating him. Meanwhile, two Palestinian seriously ill patients died in Gaza on Sunday as a result of inability to leave the Strip for treatment abroad in view of the tight Israeli siege and lack of appropriate medical care in the beleaguered Strip. Medical sources said that Zainab Bashir from Deir Al-Balah, and Yousef Al-Madhoun from Gaza city died after long suffering from chronic diseases.

IOF troops assault journalists, encircle American university
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- IOF troops on Sunday evening closed all roads and entrances connecting the Arab American University in Jenin to nearby villages and towns and detained hundreds of students, employees and citizens. Witnesses reported that the soldiers encircled the university and erected road barriers as warplanes hovered at low altitude over the campus. They added that landing operations were seen in nearby mountains. They said that the soldiers blocked staffers and students from leaving campus and detained them for a few hours. Meanwhile, locals in nearby Talfit village said that IOF soldiers besieged a number of buildings amidst intensified firing and launched large-scale search operations. The soldiers detained a number of families after forcing them to leave their homes and used dogs in searching the buildings, the locals said, adding that sounds of explosions were heard in water wells and animal pens owned by those people.

De facto government court postpones trial of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida’s chief editor
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The magistrate court in the Gaza Strip postponed the trial of the chief editor of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Hafidh Barghouthi on Monday to April 10 at the request of attorney Majid Ja’farawi. Employees of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in the Gaza Strip rallied on Monday in front of the court building demanding cancellation of the trial considering it illegal. They carried posters calling for freedom of speech. Protestors also appealed to international, Arab and regional press organizations to stop what they called "the show of trying Barghouthi. "More than a month ago, the Hamas-run de facto government sent a fax to Barghouthi telling him that a legal case had been filed against him for publishing articles slamming the de facto government. In his reaction to the de facto government’s accusations, Hafidh Barghouthi said that the alleged order was an attack on press freedom and a violation of Palestinian law.

Two Palestinian patients die due to Israeli blockade of Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
Two Palestinian patients reportedly died in Gaza on Sunday after they had been delayed access outside of the coastal region, due to ongoing Israeli closure of the enclave. Medics confirmed that Zainab Bashir, 55, of the Deir Elbalah town and Yousef Al-Madhoun, of Gaza city, died yesterday of chronic diseases, bringing to the death toll of patients whose access outside the Strip has been delayed because of the siege to 117 Lives of a big number of other patients have been threatened after their exit from Gaza for referral at outside hospitals, or because access to medications has been made difficult due to the Israeli measures against the Mediterranean Strip since June of last year. [end]

Entire Palestinian family held in occupation jails
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- A Palestinian family from the Jama’in village, south of Nablus, has three of its four members in Israeli occupation jails, the Nafha legal society catering for prisoners’ affairs reported. It said that the father Jasser Abu Omar, 33, was serving a 45-month sentence in the Megiddo prison while his wife Khawla Zeitawi, 28, was serving a two-year sentence in Hasharon jail along with her one and a half year old daughter Ghada who was born in prison. A three-year old child called Salsabil is the only member of this family that is out of jail and is living with her aunt. The society wondered how could human rights organizations ignore such facts, and questioned their role towards the tragedy of an entire people who are still under occupation.

Arab MKs storm out of Knesset when Lieberman speaks
Shahar Ilan Haaretz Correspondent, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Members of the Arab political parties and of the left-wing Meretz Party stormed out of the Knesset plenum on Monday when the Chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, entered the hall. This move was reminiscent of a practice instituted in the days of the late right-wing extremist Meir Kahane. Those who walked out were protesting Lieberman’s recent campaign against Arab MKs, and his express desire to "take care of them. "Lieberman entered the hall precisely when his fellow party member Lia Shemtov was presenting the party’s no-confidence proposal over the state’s powerlessness in handling the Arabs. Following the terror attack at the Jerusalem yeshiva Mercaz Harav three weeks ago, Lieberman said "what joy there was in Gaza after news of the murder became known. "He explained to the Arab MKs that "the current government is made up of wimps, but believe me, it is temporary, just as you all are temporary here.

15 people in ar-Ra’as threatened with demolition
Stop The Wall 3/17/2008
Occupation forces issued a military order to Yusif ‘Ali Badirat demanding that he leave his home in the village of ar-Ra’as. The village, which is located south of Tulkarm, has been split into two parts by the Wall. The order gives Yusif three days to appeal to the Occupation court; if he does not do so the Occupation administration will demolish his home at his expense. The two-story house is located 200 meters beyond the Wall is home to Yusif and his family. This includes his two married children Khalid and Fu’ad, along with their families. In total, 15 people share the dwelling. Occupation authorities have claimed that they are destroying the home because it has been modified without a permit. However, it is clear that the Occupation is demolishing the home because of its close proximity to the Wall.

Hamas and Fatah at odds over interpretation of Yemeni-brokered agreement
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hours after signing an agreement in Yemen on Sunday, the rival Hamas and Fatah movements began to argue over the meaning of that agreement. The Palestinian presidency issued a statement arguing that the agreement called for implementation of certain demands, while Hamas viewed it merely as a pledge to begin dialogue, sources told Ma’an. Meanwhile a dispute erupted within Fatah over the process that led to the signing of the declaration. Presidential aide Nimir Hammad accused Fatah’s speaker in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Azzam Al-Ahmad, in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV, of signing the document without consulting the president about the complete text. Al-Ahmad dismissed Hammad’s accusations: "It seems my brother Nimir does not know anything, and when I represent any side, I know the boundaries of my jurisdiction, and I was in contact with the president during negotiations in Yemen.

Israel threatens to sever relations with PA if Palestinian unity talks succeed
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
According to Israeli sources, top officials in the Israeli government have threatened to cut all ties with the Palestinian Authority if a ’national unity’ agreement is made between Palestinian factions. "If Abbas decided to return to a unity government with Hamas, Israel would not carry out negotiations with him and would stop the talks on the permanent status", said an unnamed source from the Israeli government, on Israeli army radio Monday. The source was referring to talks between the major political factions in the Palestinian territories, Hamas and Fateh, that are currently ongoing since Sunday. The Hamas party was elected in democratic elections in 2006 to head the Palestinian government. But Israel and the United States refused to recognize the results of the election, claiming that Hamas is a "terrorist" organization.

Fatah leaders warn of repercussions of failure of Yemeni initiative
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an - The Fatah leadership has warned that failure of the Yemeni initiative for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah would have serious repercussions for the Palestinian cause, Fatah leader Hatem Abdel Qader said on Monday. Controversy surrounds the deal which top aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas say was signed without the go-ahead of Abbas and should not have been signed at all. On Sunday senior Fatah official and former Palestinian Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmed, and senior Hamas representative Moussa Abu Marzouk signed the initiative calling for the creation of a national unity government and the rebuilding of security forces loyal the government rather than the rival political factions. Hamas and Fatah ruled together in a National Unity government from March 2007 until Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, resulting in days of bloody fighting between the two sides.

Resheq: A trend within Fatah trying to abort the Sana’a declaration
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Ezzat Al-Resheq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, charged that a trend within the Fatah faction was working on aborting the Sana’a declaration, hailing the agreement signed under the auspices of Yemen between Hamas and Fatah delegation on initiating dialog to end the estrangement. "There is a trend within Fatah which is upset about the Sana’a declaration, and now it is trying to disturb it and restore things to point zero, and this is what we have observed through the statement of PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh and political advisor of the PA chief Namir Hammad who attacked the head of Fatah delegation," Resheq underlined. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Salah Bardawil, the spokesman for the Hamas parliamentary bloc, stated on Monday that the criticism and rejection voiced by parties in Fatah and the PA towards the Sana’a declaration just few hours.

Doubt cast on Palestinian agreement
Al Jazeera 3/24/2008
An agreement signed by Hamas and Fatah negotiators in the Yemeni capital Sanaa has stirred controversy after conflicting interpretations by the two Palestinian sides. Azzam al-Ahmed, a Fatah politician, and Mousa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas negotiator, signed the reconciliation deal on Saturday and agreed to hold direct talks. The factions had resumed negotiations that were on the brink of collapse, after a personal plea by Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president. Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June last year, ending a violent power struggle. Soon after the signing ceremony, the two sides expressed disagreement over the Sanaa declaration’s meaning. Critics said the deal appears to have little substance, with Fatah and Hamas agreeing only to open talks on a number of issues.

Fatah reneges on Sana’s deal; says no talks with Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC) -- Just few hours after it signed an agreement with Hamas Movement in the Yemeni capital Sana’a to open national dialogue and to patch up inter-Palestinian differences, Fatah faction reneged on that deal on Sunday, describing it as a "mistake". Nemr Hammad, the political advisor of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas asserted that Fatah’s envoy to Sana’a Azzam Al-Ahmad "committed a mistake by signing the deal without consulting Abbas about it". Although he acknowledged that Al-Ahmad was authorized by the Fatah faction and the Ramallah-based PA leadership to negotiate and sign the agreement, Hammad alleged that the authority wasn’t an absolute one as he (Al-Ahmad) should have referred the matter to Abbas before inking the deal. "The main purpose of sending that Fatah delegation to Sana’a was the Yemeni initiative. . . "

Arab MKs: Fatah won’t recognize Yemeni initiative
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Israeli lawmakers meet with Fatah officials in Ramallah, say Abbas’ movement won’t agree to reconcile with Hamas as long as Islamist movement maintains control over Gaza. MK Zahalka: Israel looking to shatter the Palestinian nation, divide it into subgroups - Fatah will not recognize the Yemeni proposal outlining a path to reconciliation with Hamas as long as the Islamist movement maintains its control over the Gaza Strip, this according to Arab Knesset members who met in Ramallah Monday with representatives of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’organization. Under the Yemeni proposal, signed Sunday, Fatah and Hamas would agree in principle to unite in a single Palestinian government. However, in several days of talks in Yemen, the bitter rivals failed to resolve the crucial question of how they should share power.

Behind the scenes at Sanaa, bargaining and concessions on both sides
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hamas acquiesced to pressure from the Yemeni president to hold early elections in Palestinian in exchange for a pledge from Fatah that the governments of both the West Bank and Gaza would be restructured, Hamas-affiliated sources told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper. Those are just some of the reported details of the intense negotiations that have emerged since the announcement that Hamas and Fatah signed a Yemeni-brokered agreement to resume talks aimed at restoring Palestinian unity. Crucially, Al-Hayat reported, the term "Hamas coup against the Palestinian Authority (PA)," was removed, so that the document called for "resuming dialogue to restore the Palestinian situation as it was before the events in Gaza as part of maintaining national unity in the Palestinian territories.

Hamas: Palestinian security forces storm Islamic Society in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Hamas has accused West Bank Palestinian security forces of storming the offices of the Islamic Society in Ramallah, arresting a number the organizations employees. Hamas released a statement saying that the Palestinian security arrested the Islamic Society’s director, Adnan Jabir, secretary Ahmad Hosni, accountant Salah Sulaiman, its human resources manager Rustum Al-Kithwani, postman Fayiz Wardah and the principal of the Islamic school affiliated to the Islamic Society Raed Hamid. [end]

Hamas still mulling unity talks plan
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
SANAA - A Yemeni initiative to bring representatives of the main Palestinian factions together to start reconciliation talks awaits Hamas’s response, the Yemen foreign minister said on Saturday. "The representatives of Hamas have requested some time to consult" their leadership, Abu Bakr al-Kurbi told reporters after a new Yemeni attempt to broker an agreement on starting talks between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). "We have reached agreement on a final draft for the agreement which will be, God willing, signed by the representatives of Hamas and Fatah," he said, adding that Fatah delegates had already agreed to the draft. The agreement, which sets the framework for the unity talks, calls for a return to the political status quo that existed before Hamas seized control of Gaza in June, routing forces loyal to Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas.

Gaza Strip Interior Ministry rejects suggestion that kidnapping case is ’internal PFLP matter’
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-run Palestinian Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip expressed astonishment on Monday at the assertion by a leader of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP) that a recent alleged kidnapping is an internal PFLP matter. The Interior Ministry said they summoned PFLP leader Rabah Muhanna for questioning after the Darabiya family accused Muhanna of being involved in the alleged abduction of Hani DarabiyaThe Ministry said they released Muhanna after a 15-minute interrogation. The government says the investigation, including further questioning of Muhanna, will go forward. [end]

MK demands probe into rabbi who decreed against employing Arabs
Yoav Stern and Nadav Shragai Haaretz Correspondents, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Arab MK Taleb Al-Sana on Monday demanded an investigation be opened against a settler rabbi who issued a halakhic ruling last week stating it is forbidden by Jewish law to employ Arabs or rent homes to them. In his request to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, the Ra’am-Ta’al chairman said: "These comments are discriminatory and illegal. . . We are not surprised by these words and by the harsh words of the extreme right. " "It’s a shame that a rabbi speaks like this, especially since the Jewish nation suffers from anti-Semitism," Al-Sana added. "These words remind us of the darkest regumes. "The halakhic ruling was issued five days ago by the chairman of the Yesha rabbinical council and chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Dov Lior. In an interview published by "Eretz Israel Shelanu" (Our Land of Israel), to be distributed this Saturday. . .

US Vice President ends Mideast peace push
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
US Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday wrapped up a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories aimed at energising the faltering Middle East peace talks. Cheney had breakfast with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and was later to fly out to Turkey for the last leg of a regional tour that has also taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Arriving in the Holy Land during the Easter weekend, Cheney vowed Washington’s "unshakeable" defence of Israel’s security, assured the Palestinians of US "goodwill," and said both sides would have to make "painful concessions" if they were to strike a deal to end their decades-old conflict. The vice president also discussed what he called "darkening shadows" in Israel’s arch-foe Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement.

Cheney accuses Iran and Syria of sabotaging peace process
Compiled by, Daily Star 3/25/2008
US Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday hit out at Iran and Syria as he wrapped up a Middle East peace push, saying the two countries were undermining the renewed but faltering Israeli-Palestinian talks. Iran and Syria "are doing everything they can to torpedo the peace process," Cheney told reporters in Occupied Jerusalem as he wrapped up a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories before heading to Turkey. During his talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, "I reaffirmed the president’s commitment to help the process forward," Cheney said. US President George W. Bush has said he hoped the two sides could strike a deal before he ends his term in January 2009. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who met twice with Cheney during his visit, "reaffirmed his commitment to the president’s vision and his willigness to do everything he can to achieve a result in 2008 although he is well aware of the difficulties," Cheney said.

Cheney warns against anti-Israel violence
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank - US Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday warned the Palestinians that attacks on Israel were killing hopes for their "long overdue" state. Cheney made his first trip as vice president to the West Bank for talks with president Mahmud Abbas, following a string of meetings with Israeli leaders, with whom he also discussed Israel’s arch foe Iran. "A difficult but immutable truth must continue to be told: Terror and rockets do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people," Cheney said. But Cheney and his host did not address news out of Yemen that Abbas’s Fatah faction and its bitter rival, the democratically elected Hamas movement, had agreed to open direct talks under Yemeni auspices. Hamas routed pro-presidential forces in June to seize control of the Gaza Strip, from which they have fired.

Israeli forces seize Palestinian presidential aide
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Monday afternoon seized a Palestinian attorney, Ahmad Ruwaidi, who is in charge of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian Presidency. According to press sources, the man was detained on his way from his home in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem to Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in the central West Bank. [end]

Primier Fayyad: Settlement Activity Must Stop and General Calm Should be Achieved
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
The Palestinian Prime Minster of the caretaker government, Dr. Salam Fayyad, stated on Sunday that Israel should stop its settlement activity in the West Bank including Jerusalem because the situation is "unbearable" as he described it. The Palestinian official made his statements during his meeting with the US Vice-President Dick Cheney; in the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, Fayyad told the American official that the settlement activity is a real threat to the peace process. Fayyad reiterated the Palestinian demand that Israel most stop attacking the Palestinians in both the Gaza strip and the West Bank in order to create an atmosphere of calm for the Palestinian Israeli talks to continue. The Palestinian Israeli talks were resumed during the one-day American sponsored Annapolis conference last November.

PA and Israel embarking on plan to eliminate Hamas charitable work in WB
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper revealed that the PA leadership is embarking nowadays, in collaboration with the Israeli government, on a plan to establish a social network in the West Bank in order to eradicate the effective social network of the Hamas Movement there. According to the newspaper, this plan would receive the assistance of the quartet committee and its envoy Tony Blair as well as Major General Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of the Israeli government activities in the Palestinian lands and the Israeli ministry of welfare. According to the plan, the PA will establish a system of unemployment insurance and assistance for the disabled. During its first phase the donor countries will finance the plan with an amount of $120,000,000 to be earmarked for about 60,000 Palestinian citizens in the West Bank.

Barak: We’ll ease W. Bank plight, but checkpoints to stay for now
Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Israel will soon begin making life easier for West Bank Palestinians, but that it won’t remove checkpoints for now. Barak said that Israel would facilitate the construction of several industrial zones meant to provide thousands of jobs and boost the Palestinian economy. Many of the projects, funded by foreign governments, have been held up because of Israeli security concerns. However, Barak gave no timetable for the projects and did not say how he intended to move them forward. Visiting a crossing terminal between the southern West Bank and Israel, Barak said Israel would soon take steps to expedite movement through the hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks Israel has built in the West Bank. Israel sees the barriers as a key element of a military policy that has dramatically reduced Palestinian attacks in recent years.

Nazzal: USA, Israel foiled Russian ME efforts
Palestinian Information Center 3/24/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Mohammed Nazzal, member of the Hamas political bureau, has charged that the USA and Israel had foiled the Middle Eastern tour of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. He told Quds Press that Lavrov’s tour ended without any tangible progress whether on issue of calm between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions or on lifting the siege on the Palestinian people. Nazzal said that his Movement informed the Russian chief diplomat with its position regarding calm, siege and national dialogue. Lavrov could not achieve any breakthrough in any of those basic questions due to the American administration’s hegemony on the Middle East file and its refusal to allow any other party to intervene, he underlined. "The USA does not want a partner in its peace efforts and is interested in aborting any effort in this direction," Nazzal said, adding that Israel also is.

Abbas: Israeli settlements, incursions, arrests slowing peace talks
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Settlement construction, incursions, and imprisonment of Palestinians are the real impediments to progress in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a joint press conference with American Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday afternoon in Ramallah. "Peace and security can’t be achieved through expanding settlements, erecting military checkpoints, military escalation against the Gaza Strip, frequent incursions in the West Bank cities and villages, and apprehensions which left more than 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails," Abbas added. The Palestinian president also reiterated his opposition to the Palestinian homemade projectiles that are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli towns. He said, "We believe in real peace which brings to an end the chronic conflict which is the core of tension in the region and may be in the whole world even.

Renewed Egyptian ceasfire attempts undermined by Israel
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 3/24/2008
In the wake of a series of deadly Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip early this month, Egypt has stepped up efforts aimed at brokering a ceasefire between Palestinian resistance groups and Tel Aviv. "Egypt is talking to representatives from [Palestinian resistance factions] Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Israel in order to arrive at a tacit easing of hostilities," Mohamed Basyouni, head of the Shura (upper parliamentary) Council’s committee for Arab affairs, and former Egyptian ambassador to Israel, told IPS. Egyptian mediation efforts come in the wake of a ferocious six-day Israeli military incursion into the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip in early March that left more than 120 Palestinians dead. According to Tel Aviv, the assault was launched in retaliation for short-range rocket fire from the territory targeting nearby Israeli towns and settlements.

Palestinian resistance groups claim three attacks in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian resistance groups claimed responsibility for three separate attacks on Israeli targets in and around the Gaza Strip on Sunday and Monday. Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades claimed that their fighters shot and injured an Israeli soldier east of the town of Al-Qarara in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoonThe military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday for firing three mortar rounds at the Gaza Strip’s Sufa border crossing. They said in a statement that the shelling was meant to emphasize that resistance is their choice to counter Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Separately, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility for launching a homemade.

Israel eases closure of West Bank, high alert along northern border
Deutsche Presse Agentur, ReliefWeb 3/24/2008
Tel Aviv_(dpa) _Israel early Monday eased a closure of the West Bank, imposed five days ago to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants during the Jewish festival of Purim (Lots), the military said. During the closure, no Palestinians were allowed through military checkpoints into Israel, with the exception of special medical or humanitarian cases. Israeli media, however, reported that the Israeli army was on high alert along Israel’s northern border, as Lebanon’s Hezbollah was commemorating 40 days since the assassination in Damascus of its top military commander, Imad Mugniyeh. Israel did not claim responsibility for the assassination, but Hezbollah’s deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, was quoted as charging Friday his radical Shiite organization had "clear proof" that Israel was behind his killing.

Israeli authorities sentence Al-Aqsa Brigades activist to 5 years
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an - An Al-Aqsa Brigades activist found guilty of committing a failed bomb attack was sentenced to five years in prison by an Israeli military court on Monday. 19-year-old Majdi Samir Abu Sfaqa from Tulkarem had been in custody on remand since April 7 last year, his father told Ma’an. Majdi was sentenced for his membership to the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, and planting an explosive device that failed to detonate at a crossroads used by Israeli settlers near Tulkarem. [end]

Hamas: PA forces arrest five members of the Movement from several parts of the W.B.
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
The Hamas movement stated on Monday that the security forces of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had arrested five Hamas activists from several parts of the West Bank on Sunday. According to the statement the arrests were made in the cities of Hebron, Tulkarem, and Nablus. Meanwhile Bassel Idwedar, a Hamas member who is being held in the PA Jericho prison, announced on Monday that he is on hunger strike in protest of his arrest. Idwedar was arrested by the Palestinian Authority forces a week ago. [end]

An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades ’fire RPG’ at Israeli bulldozer in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, claimed responsibility on Monday for launching a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an Israeli military bulldozer east of Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. The group said in a statement that the shelling was in retaliation for ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people. [end]

Fatah man arrested on suspicion of weapons trading
Jerusalem Post 3/24/2008
A Fatah operative was arrested in Khirbat-a-Taykh, southeast of Tulkarm on suspicion of weapons dealing, the army announced Monday. The man, Faras Ma’adui, 31, was arrested in a joint IDF-Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operation. He was transferred to security forces for interrogation. [end]

Al-Aqsa brigades bomb Israeli military jeep near Khan Younis
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa brigades claimed responsibility on Monday for bombing an Israeli military jeep near Khaza’a, east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. The brigades told Ma’an that the attack was in response to "Israeli crimes. " [end]

Rabbi Melamed: Soldiers must refuse orders contradicting Jewish law
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 3/23/2008
In op-ed published prior to Purim, prominent Zionist rabbi notes that IDF troops must boldly and directly defy orders instead of evading acting as ordered - In an op-ed released prior to Purim, prominent Zionist Rabbi Zalman Melamed stated that "when an IDF soldier is given an order which contradicts halacha or Jewish law, he must not find ways to evade acting as ordered or make excuses for not following orders, but state outright and directly that he refuses to act in any manner which contradicts halacha. "The article was published in the Komemuyot Movement’s pamphlet. In an illustration stemming directly from the story of Purim itself, the rabbi noted that Mordechai’s adamant refusal to bow down to Haman, as told in the Book of Esther, teaches us that soldiers must proudly refuse to follow orders which contradict Jewish law, even if this comes at great personal risk.

Report: Iranian, Syrian missiles to pound Israel in next war
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Secret report paints grim picture: Thousands of casualties, nationwide power outages - Hundreds of dead, thousands of injured, missile barrages on central Israel, full paralysis at Ben-Gurion Airport, constantly bombed roads, nationwide power outages that last for long hours, and whole regions’ water supply being cut off - this is what the next war could look like. A secret report recently distributed among government ministries and local municipalities details various wartime scenarios. The report deals with very harsh possibilities, including some that are downright horrifying, formulated as part of the lessons drawn in the wake of the Second Lebanon War. Notably, the document does not aim to predict future developments with certainty, but rather, only aims to serve as a guideline for civilian war preparations.

Nasrallah: The Zionist entity can be wiped out of existence
Yoav Stern Haaretz Correspondent, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday told tens of thousands of supporters in Beirut that Israel could be eliminated and that the prowess of its army had been exaggerated by "Zionist-American propaganda. " "The Zionist entity can be wiped out of existence," Nasrallah said in his address via video link, referring to Israel. "Our nation is stronger now than ever before," he added. Nasrallah’s speech was broadcast live at a rally marking the end of the 40-day mourning period for slain Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyah, who was assassinated in a car bombing in Damascus last month. The Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah has repeatedly blamed Israel for the assassination of the group’s second in command, but Israel has categorically denied any involvement.

Nasrallah: Zionists control media
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Hizbullah holds memorial service for assassinated top commander; Nasrallah tells crowd via satellite, ’we see unprecedented Zionist and American infiltration of the media; can Israel disappear? A thousand times, yes’ - Hizbullah marks 40-day anniversary of Mugniyah killing:Thousands of Hizbullah supporters made their way to southern Beirut Monday in order to take part in a rally in the honor of Hizbullah’s top commander, Imad Mugniyah, assassinated in Damascus in February. Speaking via satellite, Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallahtold the crowd "we found in our enemy nothing but concern and fear of Mugniyah’s spirit, blood, revenge, way, and pledge. "We are celebrating 40 days to the death of the martyr commander. These are festive days for Muslims and Christians," he said.

Barak: Hizbullah threats must not be taken lightly
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 3/23/2008
As Shiite terror group prepares to mark 40 days since assassination of its top commander Imad Mugniyah in Damascus, defense minister says Israel ’must keep its eyes open’ - Hizbullah’s threats must not be taken lightly, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday as the days of mourning over top organization commander Imad Mugniyah came to an end. Hizbullah was expected to mark 40 days since Mugniyah’s assassination in a rally in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Monday afternoon, while Israel declared a heightened state of alert. Speaking during a visit to the Tarkumia crossing in southern Mount Hebron, Barak suggested that Israel "keep its eyes open. "We are in the midst of a much more delicate timing, with more risks, and we will get through them as well," he added.

IDF soldier suspected of disclosing information to Hizbullah
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Indictment to be filed against non-commissioned officer suspected of disclosing sensitive information to Hizbullah terrorists in south Lebanon as part of drug-smuggling operation -An IDF non-commissioned officer (NCO) was arrested about a month ago by the Galilee Sub-District’s central police unit for suspicion of smuggling drugs fromLebanon and disclosing sensitive information regarding Israel’s military activity toHizbullah, it was cleared for publication on Monday. Abed Zuabi, a 30-year-old resident of Nazareth, who is believed to have headed the drug-smuggling operation, was arrested along with26-year-old Shir Haib of Tuba-Zangriya, also in northern Israel, while in possession of two kilos of heroin worth an estimated NIS 1 million ($350,000). According to the investigation, the NCO, who is familiar with the territory around the Israel-Lebanon border, assisted the two drug smugglers for a fee.

Five Jordanians plead not guilty to watching Israeli Embassy for Hamas
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Five Jordanian men pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of receiving secret information from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas that could jeopardize Jordan’s safety. They also denied watching the Israeli embassy in Amman for Hamas. Jordan’s military prosecutor said during the trial’s opening hearing that Hamas provided the alleged militants with military training in an unnamed neighboring country and tasked them with monitoring military installations and the Israeli Embassy. The defendants, two of whom are of Palestinian origin, were identified in the prosecutor’s charge sheet as Thabet Abul-Hajj, 37, Salim al-Hosani, 27, Azzam Ahmed Jaber, 36, Mohammed Rabee al-Khojah, 43 and Talib Hassan Abdullah, 46. The men allegedly succeeded in monitoring military sites on Jordan’s borders with Israel and Syria and sent the information back to Hamas members, according to the charge sheet.

UNIFIL adds special twists to Easter weekend
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 3/25/2008
MARJAYOUN: The Spanish contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) organized an "Egg Hunting Day" at its base in the Southern village of Qlaya over the Easter weekend. Meanwhile, charitable associations sold handicrafts during a fair organized by UNIFIL in the Southern village of Marjayoun. The fair was aimed at reinforcing the local economy. More than 30 stands displayed the works of charities and social organizations as well as products created by disabled people. Handicrafts and traditional foods such as jams and dried fruits, as well as soaps and essential oils, were exhibited during the two-day bazaar. The fair was managed by the commander of UNIFIL’s Eastern sector, Brigadier General Casimiro Jose San Juan. He visited the site with the Spanish contingent’s commander, Colonel Salvador Sanchez Tabia, as well as other senior UNIFIL officers.

Palestine Today 032408
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 3/24/2008
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 Monday March 24th, 2008. Two Palestinians reported dead in Gaza, while the Israeli army attack a Palestinian University in the West Bank and attack journalists, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast The Israeli army shot and killed a Palestinian farmer on Monday midday in the southern part of the Gaza strip. Yousif Abu Taher, , was working his land located at the southern Gaza Israeli borders near the city of Khan Younis when Israeli troops from a nearby army post opened fire killing the 55 year old man. Witnesses said that soldiers opened fire at the farmers without any reason. Israeli media sources said that Israeli troops engaged in armed clashes with Palestinian resistance fighters in the early morning near that borders.

Haaretz: High Court ruling closes off Route 443 to Palestinians
International Solidarity Movement 3/24/2008
Ramallah Region PhotosOriginal article printed in Haaretz on the 19th March 2008. For the original article click hereThe interim decision issued 10 days ago by the High Court of Justice on the use of Route 443 marks the first time the justices have issued a ruling to close a road traversing occupied territory to Palestinian use, for the convenience of Israeli travelers. The interim ruling on a petition by six Palestinian villages adjacent to the highway, which links the coastal plain to Jerusalem, gave the state six months to report progress on the construction of an alternative road for Palestinian use. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which submitted the petition on behalf of Palestinians who have been injured by the travel ban, noted that had the justices sincerely sought to consider opening the road to all, without regard to race or nationality, they. . .

Land Day Demonstration in al-Masara
Action Alert, International Solidarity Movement 3/24/2008
Hebron Region ISM Media AlertsOn Friday, March 28th the villagers of al-Masara will hold a non-violent demonstration to commemorate Land Day and voice their opposition to the annexation wall and settlement expansion. This will be the 60th demonstration held in the village since 2007. Land Day falls on March 30 and marks the 1976 killings of Palestinian Israelis who were holding non-violent demonstrations against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. The Israeli army and Israeli police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing six. Since then, March 30 has been a celebration of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation and continued land theft. Israel’s most successful land theft tools are the annexation wall and the settlements. Al-Masara is highly affected by both, with much of the village’s land stolen by the wall and the settlement of Efrat very nearby.

ISRAEL-OPT: TB cases down but arguments over numbers persist
Tamar Dressler/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/24/2008
JERUSALEM, 24 March 2008 (IRIN) - The Palestinians’ lack of control over their borders plays a small but not negligible role in the low tuberculosis rates in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), health officials said. Israel’s jurisdiction over all crossing points, with its own system of screening and treatment, helps keep rates in the Jewish state down to about 5. 7 per 100,000, an Israeli Ministry of Health official said. In the oPt, a tightly enforced vaccination system, easy access to anti-TB drugs and a low number of HIV/AIDS patients, are the main reasons for the few outbreaks. Efforts by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, such as inoculation programmes dating back to the 1950s, are additionally credited as being effective. These were complemented by the governmental system set up by the Palestinian Authority shortly after its creation in the 1990s.

Exchange of notes for grant aid to the Republic of Lebanon through UNRWA for the agency’s emergency appeal for northern Lebanon
Government of Japan, ReliefWeb 3/19/2008
1. The Government of Japan has decided to extend Grant Aid for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding of 588 million yen, through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), for the implementation of the programmes of the Agency’s Emergency Appeal for Northern Lebanon. Notes on this aid were exchanged on March 17 (Mon) (same day local time) in the capital city Beirut between Mr. Yoshihisa Kuroda, Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon, and Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of UNRWA. 2. The main points of the programme are as follows: (1) Content of the programme This programme provides funding necessary for assistance in housing, education, mental care and daily life conducted by the UNRWA for the Palestine refugees in Nahr El-Bared camp situated in northern Lebanon.

UNRWA: Present dilemmas and future prospects - Statement by Filippo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner-General
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 3/15/2008
International Workshop The Palestinian Refugees: A Comparative Approach Law Institute, Bir Zeit University, 15 March 2008 Ladies and Gentlemen, It is impossible to choose a moment in the past six decades in which the situation of Palestine refugees was not difficult. Complex, often dramatic challenges, after all, characterize the refugee condition everywhere in the world and at any time in history – and those who fled Palestine during the nakba, and their descendants, have not escaped the harsh rules of flight and refuge. Multiple conflicts, economic and social hardship, renewed displacement as is the case for Palestinians presently trying to flee Iraq, the political intractability of the Palestinian refugee problem, and the mere passing of time in the absence of a solution, have compounded the challenges of forcibly living away from home, and aggravated the pains of exile.

Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories - Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of resolution S-6/1
United Nations Human Rights Council, ReliefWeb 3/14/2008
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL Seventh session Agenda item 7 Human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza StripI. INTRODUCTION 1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-6/1 on human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in which the Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to report to the Council, at its seventh session, on the progress made in the implementation of that resolution. 2. In its resolution S-6/1, the Council expressed grave concern at the repeated Israeli military attacks carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied. . .

Rosner’s Guest: Daniel Kurtzer
Shmuel Rosner Haaretz Correspondent, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Former U. S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and current advisor to Senator Obama will discuss his new book. Readers can send questions. The former U. S. ambassador to Israel and to Egypt, and current advisor to Senator Obama will discuss his new book. Readers can send questions. Daniel C. Kurtzer holds the S. Daniel Abraham Chair in Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Kurtzer retired from the United States Foreign Service at the end of 2005 with the rank of Career-Minister in the Senior Foreign Service. During 29 years of public service, Kurtzer held a number of senior policy and diplomatic positions, including the U. S. Ambassador to Israel (2001-2005) and the U. S. Ambassador to Egypt (1997-2001), speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz and a member of the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, Deputy Assistant

Al-Qaeda deputy calls for attacks
Al Jazeera 3/24/2008
The second-ranking leader of al-Qaeda has called for new strikes against Jewish and American interests. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s appeal came in an audio speech issued by the group’s As-Sahab information network and monitored by the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group on Sunday. In the radio address titled "Rush to Support Our People in Gaza", he tells Muslims that "today is your day. Strike the interests of the Jews, the Americans, and all of those who participated in the attack on the Muslims". He urges the faithful to "monitor the targets, collect the money, bring the equipment, plan accurately, and then - while depending on Allah - storm, seeking martyrdom and paradise". Al-Zawahiri criticises what he sees as collusion between the US, Israel, Egypt and other Arab states against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and its people.

Israel hands over remains of Jordanian soldier killed in 1967 war
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Jordan’s Petra news agency reported Monday that Israel handed over the remains of a Jordanian soldier killed in 1967 Six Day War. According to the report, the hand-over took place at the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and Israel, with the Jordanian army taking part in the ceremony. Authorities did not identify the soldier, but Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah named the man as Mohammed Mahmoud from the northern Jordanian city of Al-Ramtha. Petra added that the soldier was killed in the East Jerusalem suburb of Anata during the war, while other news agencies reported that he was injured there, and died later. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in June 1967, where the Jordanian garrison fought. Jordan concluded a peace treaty with Israel in October 1994.

Diplomats: Foreign Ministry heading for collapse
Neta Sela, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Employees at Diplomatic Division furious over what they see as questionable appointments, preparing to declare labor dispute - Angry diplomats preparing for fight:The Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Division employees are preparing to declare a labor dispute over what they claim is favoritism in making new appointments. The labor dispute will comprise 400 employees, including about 200 Foreign Ministry workers currently employed at Israeli missions abroad. The immediate cause that prompted the planned action is the appointment of a new division head. The workers claim that the figure selected for the post, Eran Etzion, is much less qualified than other candidates and say that the latest appointment is the latest in a serious of questionable decisions. ’Recent moves created anarchy’The employees sent a document to Foreign Minister Tzipi.

Passover travel warnings issued for Israelis abroad
YNetNews 3/23/2008
Counter Terrorism Bureau warns against possible abductions, cautions Israelis to refrain from gathering in large groups -Just a little over three weeks remain until Passover Eve, and on Monday the Counter Terrorism Bureau issued travel warnings and published a statement giving a general overview of the situation abroad. The Bureau emphasized that there was nothing new in these warnings, but in light of the new circumstances brought on by the 40-day anniversary of Hizbullah commander Imad Mugniyah’s assassination in Damascus, Israelis abroad must be more alert. 40 Days AfterHizbullah ’100% certain’ Israel killed Mugniyah / Dudi Cohen Terror group’s deputy secretary general says it has ’solid evidence’ Israel assassinated its top commander in Damascus last February; Hizbullah to hold rally Monday to mark end of mourning. . .

Rabbi Elyashiv asks for American aid
Neta Sela, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Lithuanian leader meets with US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones, asks Americans to help Israelis ’in light of severe security threats. ’ Jones: We are working for peace, but not at expense of Israelis’ security - Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, leader of Israel’s Lithuanian non-Hasidic haredi Jews, has asked US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones to help the people residing in Zion in its distress. The two met at Rabbi Elyashiv’s home on the eve of Purim. The meeting was mediated by Matityahu Cheshin, known as "the haredi consul," and was also attended by Beitar Illit Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus and the rabbi’s right hand, Rabbi Yekutiel Efrati. Sources who were present at the meeting reported that the American envoy listened attentively to the person who referred to as "the greatest religious leader in Israel.

World Bank strategy for a prosperous and viable Palestinian State
The World Bank Group, ReliefWeb 3/20/2008
2008 is an important juncture for economic development and fiscal stability in the West Bank & Gaza. Following the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), Annapolis, and Paris Pledging conferences in 2007, the stage is now set for the implementation of the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP) for 2008-2010, envisioning a the establishment of an economically sustainable Palestinian State. The vision described in the PRDP is ambitious, requiring simultaneous tripartite actions from the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel, and the international community. The World Bank is committed to the fulfillment of this vision. To this end, and in close consultation with the PA, the World Bank West Bank and Gaza program has recently finalized its strategy proposal for 2008-2010, and will present it to the to the Board of Directors in Washington DC next month.

World Bank note on Palestinian Reform and Development Plan Trust Fund
The World Bank Group, ReliefWeb 3/20/2008
The PA has presented a Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP 2008-2010) containing a 3-year fiscal framework, on the basis of which donors have committed substantial budget and development support at the Pledging Conference in Paris in December, 2007. Equally important to the high level of donor commitment is the quick translation of pledges into disbursements to support the PA. While this is best achieved through direct channeling of funds to the Single Treasury Account (STA), the World Bank has created a mechanism to help pool and accelerate transfer of funds to the PA, the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan Trust Fund (PRDP-TF). Managed by the World Bank, the PRDP-TF aims to support the PA policy agenda as expressed in the PRDP by channeling budget support for its implementation over the three year period of 2008 - 2010.

Palestinian police arrest head of pharmacists’ union
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Palestinian police affiliated to the West Bank-based caretaker government arrested the head of the Palestinian union of pharmacists on Monday afternoon, security sources told Ma’an. The sources affirmed that Palestinian police in Nablus in the northern West Bank seized Dr Mahmoud Salaymah at the request of the Palestinian attorney general. The sources refused to give any further details about the arrest. [end]

Government opposes proposal to annul Tal Law
Neta Sela, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Labor MK Pines submits bill cancelling law which allows yeshiva students to postpone their military service, claiming that ’the implementation of the law is a complete failure. ’ Minister Yishai: Bill contradicts coalition agreements - The Ministerial Committee on Legislation decided Monday not to support a bill submitted by Knesset Member Ophir Pines-Paz ( Labor) for the annulment of the Tal Law, allows yeshiva students to postpone their military service and which was referred to by Pines as "the draft-dodging law. " Labor Party MKs attempted to postpone the discussion on the bill, but Shas chairman, Minister Eli Yishai, insisted that the discussion be held as planned Pines explained his bill by saying that "the implementation of the law is a complete failure. Only a tiny minority of yeshiva students have chosen to serve in the security forces, and their ability to contribute through national service hardly exists in practice.

Maj.-Gen. Stern speaks out against use of religion to dodge draft
Tal Rabinovsky, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Head of Israeli Human Resources Directorate points finger of blame at girls claiming to be religious to evade army service, claims IDF in need of soldiers of both sexes. Calls on employers to prefer candidates who served in army - Major-General Elazar Stern has made the fight against evasion of compulsory army service his personal agenda. Lately the head of the IDF’s Human Resources Directorate has spoken out against draft-dodging by religious Zionists and Tel Aviv residents, and has now focused his attention on girls who claim to be religious in order to evade service. On Monday Stern spoke in front of an assembly of representatives from the Israel Management Center, claiming the IDF is in need of soldiers, male and female alike. He added that 85 percent of IDF jobs are open to both sexes. "We are in need of women, so how can it be that false claims of religion are.

Palestinian Government: summer time begins midnight Thursday
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Cabinet decided at its meeting on Monday to begin Summer Time in the Palestinian territories from midnight on Thursday. Clocks will go forward an hour from midnight on March 27. [end]

Building a Palestinian State - Towards peace and prosperity
Palestinian National Authority, ReliefWeb 3/23/2008
Executive Summary - This document lays out our vision of an independent Palestinian state. It highlights steps we have already taken to restore good governance and the rule of law to the West Bank - steps we believe demonstrate our commitment to realizing this vision and steps we aspire to replicate in Gaza. Whilst the stalled peace process and the tightening grip of the occupation have played a powerful role in shaping events, we acknowledge we have given insufficient attention to shortcomings in governance, law and order, and basic service delivery. We are now absolutely determined to rebuild the trust of our citizens and our international partners in the Palestinian National Authority by embarking on a challenging reform and development agenda for stabilization and recovery.

61% of Gaza Strip residents support ceasefire with Israel, poll reveals
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – There is increasing support amongst Gaza residents for a ceasefire between Palestinian military groups and the Israeli forces, a poll published on Monday has shown. The poll of 563 adults living in randomly selected locations in the Gaza Strip was conducted by the Community College of Applied Science and Technology in Gaza. It also showed most of the respondents believe that the Egyptians will fail to convince the Israelis to abide by a ceasefire. 61% of the respondents support a ceasefire between the Palestinian military groups and Israeli forces while 39% oppose a ceasefire. 61% of the respondents also believe that the beneficiaries of a ceasefire agreement will be the Palestinian people, while 39% believe a ceasefire will benefit the Israelis. Regarding commitment to a ceasefire, 66% of the respondents believe that Palestinian factions will comply with.

Palestinians celebrate Easter despite Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement and worship
Palestine News Network 3/23/2008
Bethlehem / PNN - On Sunday morning hundreds of Palestinian families gathered to hunt for Easter eggs and break the fast of Lent together. Many from Bethlehem were denied Israeli "permission" to attend services at East Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Some held the perception that, "All Latin’s received permission. "Regardless of being denied the freedom of worship, the celebrations went on for the sects of Palestinian Christians who follow the western calendar. After a month without animal products, the main menu for breakfast is cheese, milk and the hunted eggs. They are colored in heating pots of flowers, tied with string, creating remarkable patterns. Children and adults race through the gardens planted with flowers, beans, cactus and wild grass in search of the hidden eggs. The yearly tradition continues with some families not arriving home the night before.

Ramallah dance festival resists crushing of culture
Palestine News Network 3/23/2008
Ramallah / PNN -- The Ramallah Dance Festival is preparing for its third year with 14 groups and 140 artists. "We are expressing what remains of the surge in our life-force, as survivors, at time that the occupation would have us crushed. "We are defending ourselves against the violence we endure that would take away our culture and our civilization," Director Khalid Alian said Monday. The Ramallah festival of contemporary dance will run from 17 April through 5 May with the participation of European dance troupes, in addition to the Palestinians. Featured will be traditional works through hip-hop. The festival comes during the memorial of 60 years of Al Nakba, the Catastrophe, that marks the founding of the state of Israel. "This commemorates the plight of Palestine and reaffirms the steadfastness of the people who have remained on their land. "

Christian pilgrims celebrate Easter Sunday in Jerusalem
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
JERUSALEM - Christian pilgrims from around the world on Sunday flocked to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem’s Old City where many believe Jesus to have been resurrected after his crucifixion. Thousands of faithful filled every nook and cranny of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where most churches believe Jesus to have been buried. "It’s great to be here where it happened," Manuella Anduku of the Philippines said as she attended the chaotic service inside one of Christianity’s most revered sites. "It seems more real. " Inside the church, uneasily shared by several Christian denominations, the pilgrims pushed and shoved as they jockeyed for position to get a better view of the slow-moving Catholic procession. Although Western Christians were celebrating Easter on Sunday, the Orthodox churches do not mark the festival until April 27.

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No 33
Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
Background After Israel banned sending fuel and victuals to the Gaza Strip except in limited amounts, it launched a military attack on the Strip. Several countries and organizations condemned the attack and the Palestinian Authority (PA) suspended peace talks with Israel. Since the cessation of the Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip, conditions relating to the siege are still the same and one of the residents of East Jerusalem made an attack inside West Jerusalem. The internal Palestinian crisis still persists; both of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas continue to adhere to their positions towards solutions to end the crises. Yemen has made an initiative to end the crises and representatives of both Fateh and Hamas headed to Yemen to negotiate on the principles of the Yamani initiative. The Results Following are the results of the Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No.

Bearing witness to past bombs through poetry and music
Laura Wilkinson, Daily Star 3/25/2008
Review - Theatre Monnot hosts a Good Friday of ’Les Poetes Temoignent - BEIRUT: Good Friday offered a reminder that Beirut also has a calmer face. In some city neighborhoods, dusk unveiled processions of families making their way through the streets sharing the burden of a cross, waving palms and carrying lanterns while candle-lit churches filled quietly. Away from the comforting Easter celebrations, though, in Theatre Monnot, "Les Poetes Temoignent" ("Poets Bearing Witness") offered an evening of performed poetry focusing on war and suffering, with the destruction inflicted on Lebanon during the summer war of 2006 receiving particular attention. "Poets Bearing Witness" provided a stark contrast to the Easter scene outside - which may have accounted for the event’s relatively low turnout - and offered a different kind of solace: one to be found within Lebanon’s fiery and resilient poetry circles.

More water conservation efforts needed, say experts
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated, ReliefWeb 3/23/2008
JERUSALEM, 23 March 2008 (IRIN) - With the rainy season in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory nearly over, water experts are concerned that after the dry summer months there may be a serious water shortage, especially if conservation efforts are not stepped up. Population growth, rising levels of consumption and below average rainfall in some areas in recent years threaten to cause increasing problems, experts say. According to Eli Ronen of Israel’s national water company Mekorot, this winter was the fifth relatively dry year in a row, with only about 60 percent of the expected amount of rain in certain parts of the country so far. The company sells to the Palestinians about 55 percent of the water consumed in the West Bank and also exports water to Jordan.

Forgery suspects seized in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 3/24/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Two Palestinians accused of forging banknotes were arrested by Palestinian military intelligence services and the Palestinian national forces in Hebron in the southern West Bank on Monday. Ma’an’s reporter quoted a senior Palestinian security source as saying that banknotes and a printing press for making banknotes were also seized. He added that the suspects were apprehended after a thorough investigation. The source told our correspondent that the suspects were accused of forging US dollars, New Israeli Shekels as well as official documents. [end]

Bank of Israel cuts interest rate to lowest level in history
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
Stanley Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel, cut the rate by half a percent to 3. 25 percent on Monday. The goal is to stop the drop in the value of the American dollar against the Israeli shekel. Israeli manufacturers complain that the high shekel value is harming Israeli exports. The dollar dipped to the lowest value against the shekel last week, less than 3. 4 shekels to the dollar. At that point Fischer ordered his central bank to start buying dollars to prop up the exchange rate. Fischer is a former Wall Street banker. His interest rate cut had an immediate effect, sending the exchange rate up more than three and a half percent, to 3. 52 shekels per dollar. The drop in Israeli interest rates has been supported by the United States, where the Federal Reserve last week dropped interest rates by. 75 percent. The 1. 5 percent gap between interest rates in Israel and the United States is expected to encourage speculation and investment in Israeli markets.

Elbit Systems signs first UAV deal with France
Efrat Peretz-Harpaz, Globes Online 3/24/2008
The IDF successfully operated the Skylark mini-UAV during the Second Lebanon War. Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq:ESLT ; TASE:ESLT ) will supply Skylark I mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems to France’s Special Forces, after winning a tender involving ten top UAV manufacturers worldwide. This is Elbit Systems’ first UAV contract with France. Market sources estimate the contract to be worth several million dollars. Elbit Systems VP and general manager UAV Division Haim Kellerman said that there is a worldwide growing demand for UAVs for Special Forces, counter-terrorism units, border security, and sensitive facilities protection units. He added that France’s selection of the Skylark attests to its ability to meet the sophisticated challenges of the modern battle field, and that the company considers the contract as a milestone in entering the French market and.

Leumi mulls US bank acquisition
Eran Peer, Globes Online 3/24/2008
It feels the credit crisis has created opportunities for strong banks to expand their business. Bank Leumi (TASE:LUMI) is considering acquiring a US bank. Leumi, under the management of CEO Galia Maor, believes that the credit crisis has slashed prices for financial institutions, thereby creating opportunities for strong banks with stamina to expand their business by buying up assets. Bank Leumi intends to acquire either a small bank of financial company, which will be merged into Bank Leumi USA. Bank Leumi has $300-500 million available for this purpose. Bank Leumi said in response that it constantly examined available options in the domestic and international arenas. Bank Leumi reevaluated its international strategy last year. In contrast to Bank Hapoalim (TASE:POLI; LSE:80OA), which is expanding in emerging markets and has acquired banks. . .

ITL wins US Army order
Avi Shauly, Globes Online 3/24/2008
The firms’ recent acquisition of Fraser Volpe has helped in military bids. ITL Optronics Ltd. (TASE: ITL ) subsidiary Fraser Volpe LLC has won a $14 million order from the US Army for electro-optical systems to be delivered through 2010. ITL acquired 73% of Fraser Volpe a few months ago for $7 million in cash as part of the company’s strategy to expand activity in the US market. This is important for ITL because some US Army tenders stipulate that only US companies may participate. Fraser Volpe has a security classification for carrying out defense projects and participating in US military tenders. The company is the exclusive supplier for night-vision lenses for M25 stabilized binoculars.

Emergency appeal as food costs soar
Al Jazeera 3/24/2008
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced an "extraordinary emergency appeal" for $500m to prevent cutbacks in its operations due to soaring food and fuel costs. The agency said on Monday that it had sent a letter to donor governments requesting money by May 1 or it will have to start cutting rations to impovershed nations. The WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian agency, said the unprecedented situation meant some of the world’s poorest people faced going hungry. Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director, said the steadily climbing cost of food means that people are "simply being priced out of food market". The agency estimates that in Darfur alone it needs to provide emergency food for around three million people daily. The organisation, which gives food to as many as 70 million people worldwide, says it needs to buy food several months before it can get it to the hungry.

Clashes end at refugee camp in Lebanon
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
SIDON, Lebanon - Quiet returned to Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp on Saturday after a ceasefire between militants and fighters of the mainstream Fatah faction ended heavy clashes. The hundreds of civilians who had fled the fighting in the densely populated Ain al-Helweh camp outside the southern port city of Sidon began returning to their homes after the truce took hold, a media correspondent witnessed. Fatah fighters exchanged rocket fire with militants of Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of Damascus) for some four hours in the camp’s main street late on Friday prompting the exodus of civilians. Gunshots were subsequently heard in Sidon itself, with a Fatah leader saying at least four people had been wounded in the fighting. "There is a ceasefire. . . the regrettable clashes that took place have ended" following mediation by another group, Usbat al-Ansar (Band of Supporters), Fatah official Munir al-Maqdah said.

Lebanon delays presidential vote again
Reuters, YNetNews 3/23/2008
Lebanon postpones presidential elections for 17th time, continuing long-standing political crisis in country. Arab divisions debate upcoming summit in Damascus - BEIRUT - Lebanon on Monday postponed its presidential election from March 25 to April 22 in the 17th delay of a vote that has been derailed by the country’s months-long political crisis. The delay, announced by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, means that there will not be a Lebanese president at the March 29-30 Arab summit in Damascus. Arab divisions over Lebanon have already undermined the meeting, with Saudi Arabia announcing earlier in the day that it would send a low-level delegation to the annual summit. Lebanon’s political crisis, its worst since the 1975-90 civil war, has paralyzed government, left the presidency vacant since November and led to bouts of deadly sectarian violence.

US wants Britain to lead ’surge’ in southern Iraq
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
LONDON - The US plans to urge Britain to launch a "surge" in Basra to combat increasing insurgency in the southern Iraqi region, the Sunday Mirror newspaper reported. Britain, which has around 4,100 troops in Iraq, transferred control to Iraqi forces in December last year but it could now be asked to step up its role again amid top-level concern about the situation, the paper said. It quoted an unnamed senior US military source saying: "Three big militias are currently engaged in a particularly bloody battle in southern Iraq. "US and Iraqi forces are involved in a huge operation to attack an Al-Qaeda stronghold in Mosul. "But after that, the plan is to turn the coalition’s attention on to Basra and we will be urging the British to surge into the city. "If they do not have enough troops, then they will be offered US Marines to help out.

Mortar fire slams into Baghdad Green Zone
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
BAGHDAD - Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone was hit by two waves of mortar fire on Sunday that caused no casualties but sent panicked US embassy staff scurrying into bunkers, officials and witnesses said. Black smoke was seen rising from the Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government and the US embassy also known as the International Zone, immediately after the 6:30 am (0330 GMT) and 10:30 am (0730 GMT) attacks. US attack helicopters were also seen circling above the sprawling complex, which once served as Saddam Hussein’s presidential compound. US embassy officials said there were no immediate reports of casualties while witnesses said some buildings had suffered minor damage and some fires. An employee in the Green Zone, Mohammed al-Dulaimi, who witnessed the second attack, said eight mortar rounds fell near the US embassy complex and two a little distance away in a residential area.

The forgotten dead Iraqis of the war
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
While the number of US troops killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion stands at 4,000, up to three times as many Iraqi soldiers have died -- and the number of civilians killed runs into tens and probably hundreds of thousands. The icasualties. org web site, based only on published reports, shows that around 8,000 members of the Iraqi security forces have died since the March 2003 invasion. Last year however the Iraqi government put the figure at 12,000. There is no agreement when it comes to civilian casualties, particularly as many deaths are never reported in the media. In January, a joint UN World Health Organisation and the Iraqi government study concluded that between 104,000 and 223,000 Iraqis had died violently since the invasion. As of March 24, the independent Iraq Body Count website, based solely on incidents reported by the media, spoke of close to 90,000 deaths, of whom over a quarter - 24,000 - died in 2007.

JORDAN: Water rationing strategy to combat shortages
Maria Font de Matas/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/24/2008
Jordan is considered among the 10 most water impoverished countries worldwideAMMAN, 24 March 2008 (IRIN) - The Jordanian government has put in place an emergency strategy to deal with a severe water shortage to meet rising demand among its 5. 7 million population and hundreds of thousands of refugees. A plan will be implemented to reduce the amount of water pumped to households: Water would be rationed with each house getting it once or twice a week, for three to five hours at a time. The amount of water pumped to farmers for irrigation would be reduced by at least 50 percent and only crops that do not require much water will be allowed, said Adnan Zubi, a spokesman of the Ministry of Water. Officials hope to introduce new irrigation technologies that can save water. The ministry is currently trying to work out how much water will be pumped June-September, said Zubi, noting that a decision will be taken on this within a week.

Egypt: US-flagged ship involved in Suez canal fatal shooting
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jerusalem Post 3/25/2008
An Egyptian man was shot dead and two others wounded in an incident involving a US-flagged cargo ship traversing the Suez Canal in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea, Egyptian security officials reported late Monday. After sunset, a motor boat carrying three Egyptians approached the "Global Patriot" with the intent of selling products when the ship opened fire on it with tracer bullets killing Mohammed Fouad and wounding the other two occupants, said an Egyptian navy official on customary condition of anonymity. A police official in Cairo, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the incident, adding that some hundred other boat vendors had since gathered near the cargo ship and were demanding an investigation into the shooting.

Saudi king snubs Damascus summit
Al Jazeera 3/24/2008
Saudi Arabia has said that neither King Abdullah nor Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, will attend this week’s Arab summit in Damascus amid a long-running row over Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia accuse Syria, which wielded political and military power over its neighbour for decades, of blocking attempts to elect a president. The summit is normally attended by the heads of state of the participating Arab countries. However, Ahmad Qattan, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Arab League, said on Monday that he would lead his country’s delegation at the conference. The decision to send the relatively low-ranking diplomat reflects the strained ties between Riyadh and Damascus. Postponed votesEmile Lahoud’s term as Lebanese president ended in November.

Cheney, Saudi king find common ground on oil
Middle East Online 3/23/2008
RIYADH - US Vice President Dick Cheney and Saudi King Abdullah discussed chaotic energy markets here, focusing primarily on medium- and long-term ways to promote stability, a US official said Saturday. In meetings that also included Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi, there was "a lot of commonality in their assessment about the structural problems confronted by the global energy market now, and some discussion of probably the way forward," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. Cheney and his hosts discussed "the way forward, how we work together to try to stabilize the market and what can be done and what could be done shorter term, but probably more about what’s necessary to do over the medium and longer term," the official told reporters. Over nearly five hours, Cheney and the king also discussed "Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, energy, Israeli-Palestinian.


Gaza’s Situation: Frustration and Determination
Rami Almeghari, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
      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.
     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

High Court ruling closes off Route 443 to Palestinians

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
      The interim decision issued 10 days ago by the High Court of Justice on the use of Route 443 marks the first time the justices have issued a ruling to close a road traversing occupied territory to Palestinian use, for the convenience of Israeli travelers. The interim ruling on a petition by six Palestinian villages adjacent to the highway, which links the coastal plain to Jerusalem, gave the state six months to report progress on the construction of an alternative road for Palestinian use. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which submitted the petition on behalf of Palestinians who have been injured by the travel ban, noted that had the justices sincerely sought to consider opening the road to all, without regard to race or nationality, they would not have requested details on the building of an alternate route, which entails the destruction of additional land and costs tens of millions of shekels.

The Jewish Advocate : This land was theirs

Hannah Mermelstein, International Solidarity Movement 3/24/2008
      On March 20, 1941, Yosef Weitz of the Jewish National Fund wrote: "The complete evacuation of the country from its other inhabitants and handing it over to the Jewish people is the answer." On this day in 1948, almost two months before the first "Arab-Israeli war" technically began, the 1,125 inhabitants of the Palestinian village Umm Khalid fled a Haganah military operation. Like their brethren from more than 500 villages, they likely thought they would return to their homes within a few weeks, after the fighting blew over and new political borders were or were not drawn.
     Instead, more than 6 million Palestinian people remain refugees to this day, some in refugee camps not far from their original towns, others in established communities in Europe and the US, all forbidden from returning to their homeland for one reason: they are not Jewish.

The PA Dissolution Discourse

Caelum Moffatt, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
      Emotions are running high and tempers are flaring amongst Palestinians - a populace becoming increasingly beset by exhaustion and frustration. The end of March marks four months since the Annapolis Summit took place and four months since President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, under the eyes of the international community, agreed to meet regularly, implement stage one of the roadmap and strive towards a peace agreement by January 2009.
     Has any progress been made? It seems as if Palestinians gave up on the definition of “progress” and all its implications long before Annapolis Some analysts and academics trace the problems of the present back to the Oslo Accords of 1993 and their subsequent failure. Why is the Palestinian Authority, an interim governing body established under the Oslo Accords that was to be bolstered by a state after five years, still representing

When Disaster Strikes

Gideon Levy, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
      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.

Blogging from Gaza

Suzanne Baroud, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
      "I am writing to let you know that in less than 2 hours the last turbine of the Gaza Strip’s only power plant will stop working. The fuel for the power plant … will run out in 2 hours," blogs Mona El-Farra, a mother from Gaza.
     There are new blogs popping up all the time, and several of them coming out of Gaza are a very much welcomed addition to web-based media. From a doctor and feminist in Gaza city to a college-aged young man in Rafah, their message of hope, determination, and humanity penetrates the vindictive Israeli siege. Thanks to these citizen journalists, anyone in the world can capture a glimpse of life in Gaza, their blogs are like little windows into their caged world.
     The Gaza Bloggers’ accounts contribute many things, but mostly a strong affirmation of the failure of world media who has decidedly determined to omit, ignore, and totally disregard countless crimes that are

An Interview with Ahmed Yousef - No Way to Avoid Hamas

Bitterlemons, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
      bitterlemons: Have there been any official or unofficial contacts between Hamas and Israel on a ceasefire?
     Yousef: There have been no official contacts between Hamas and Israel. What has happened is that the Egyptians approached Hamas regarding a short ceasefire, to allow Cairo time to mediate an end to the embargo on Gaza, perhaps an opening of the gate to Egypt and maybe the other crossings into Israel. The calm is meant for a short period, but I hope it will open the door for a more comprehensive and reciprocal ceasefire.
     bitterlemons: You say a short period. Is there a timeframe?
     Yousef: We are talking about a week, ten days of calm, in the hope that this will lay the foundation for further Egyptian mediation. Right now Cairo is consulting with everybody regarding the terms for a ceasefire.

Scapegoat upon Scapegoat: Angela Merkel Addresses the Knesset

Raymond Deane, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
      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

Only in Gaza

Yossi Alpher, MIFTAH 3/24/2008
      The past two weeks witnessed a familiar pattern of events. Israel retaliated against Palestinian terrorists firing rockets from Gaza at Israeli civilians. This produced an escalation, in the course of which the city of Ashkelon with its 100,000 inhabitants was brought into the circle of hostile rocket fire. Israel responded with a modest ground and air operation that took a heavy toll in Palestinian lives, mainly Hamas combatants. Egypt intervened with a proposal for a tahdiya, or pause in the fighting. Israel and Hamas, both wary of the wages of further escalation, appeared to signal their agreement.
     PM Olmert denied that Israel had agreed to a pause; his cabinet had just issued a directive to the IDF to eliminate all rocket-firing capability from Gaza--an impossible task. Defense Minister Ehud Barak continued to talk of preparations for a massive attack on the Strip.

Loving Jesus, fearing the neighbors in Ariel

Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 3/24/2008
      Police and sappers were once again dispatched to Ariel’s IDF Street during the Purim holiday Friday morning. A few minutes earlier, a man had knocked on the door of the Leibovitz family home and left a cardboard box with the boy who answered the door. "It’s mishloach manot, a Purim gift basket," explained the visitor before disappearing.
     The boy and his older brother trembled with fear. Their parents, who were out of town, ordered the boys by phone to get away from the package and call the police. In another residential building, 50 meters away, a bomb planted in a Purim gift basket had exploded the day before.
     "This is not hysteria; it is alertness," police told the two boys after they finally opened the box to reveal candy and other treats from the ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement in honor of the holiday.
     This is only one example of the tension that has gripped city residents after the booby-trapped gift basket injured a boy on Thursday.

Two Americas

Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 3/23/2008
      "War is much too serious a thing to be left to military men," in Talleyrand’s memorable words. In the same spirit, one could say: The American presidential elections are much too serious to be left to the Americans.
     The US is now the only super-power on earth. It will remain so for quite some time to come. The decisions of the President of the United States affect every human being on this planet.
     Unfortunately, the citizens of the world have no part in these elections. But they may, at least, voice an opinion.
     Availing myself of this right I say: I am for Barack Obama.
     First of all I must confess: my attitude towards the US is one of unrequited love. In my youth I was a great admirer. Like many others of my generation, I grew up on the legend of the new, idealistic country of pioneers, the world’s torch of freedom.