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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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25 March 2008


Palestinians rebuilding demolished homes
Palestine News Network 3/25/2008
At-Tawani / CPT - Palestinian villagers from throughout the South Hebron Hills will gather Friday, 28 March, in the village of Qawewis to begin rebuilding homes demolished on Wednesday by the Israeli military. This nonviolent solidarity action will begin at 10:00 am. Israeli forces routinely destroy Palestinian homes, agricultural land, greenhouses, and barns throughout the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. To combat this, Palestinians from the southern West Bank are rebuilding, as so many others have. On 19 March 2008, the Israeli military used two bulldozers to demolish eleven structures in the agricultural villages of Qawawis, Imneizil, Ad Deirat, and Umm Lasafa. Nine of the structures demolished were homes and two were livestock enclosures. The structure demolished in Umm Lasafa was the home of a large extended family, with an estimated area of 240 square meters.

Israeli army attacks two Palestinian Radio stations and kidnaps four civilians from Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
The Israeli army searched Palestinian homes in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and nearby villages, kidnapping four civilians and attacking two Palestinian radio stations in the city on Tuesday. Israeli troops kidnapping a Palestinian civilian in Hebron - Photo by IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura -File 2008Troops searched homes in the old city of Hebron and the nearby villages of Beit Umer and Deir Samit, kidnapping three civilians. Local sources identified the three men as: Mohamed Nasser Al Deen, 52, Jameel Alqam, 62, and Imad Abu Maryia, 30. Meanwhile another Israeli force attacked the offices of Al Huriya (freedom) and Siraj Radio stations located in Hebron city and closed them down. Witnesses said that troops searched and ransacked the two offices then took computers and broadcasting equipment. Ahmad Sonokrot, a radio technician from Siraj Radio was kidnapped by the Israeli troops during the attack.

OPT: Gaza’s sewage system in crisis
ICRC, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/26/2008
JERUSALEM/GAZA, 25 March 2008 (IRIN) - Design errors, a fast growing population, the halting in recent years of development projects, and restrictions on imports have rendered the Gaza Strip’s sewage system incapable of handling the enclave’s waste, experts said. The result is the pumping of partially treated or untreated sewage directly into the sea, and the seepage of dirty water into the ground and groundwater. "The environmental situation in Gaza is bad and getting worse," an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expert on water and sanitation said in an interview with IRIN. While exact statistics are unavailable, 30,000-50,000 cubic metres of partially treated waste water and 20,000 cubic metres of raw sewage end up in rivers and the Mediterranean Sea. Some 10,000-30,000 cubic metres of partially treated sewage end up in the ground, in some cases reaching the aquifer, polluting Gaza’s already poor drinking water supply.

The Israeli army attacks a village near Hebron and kidnaps a school boy
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
Palestinian media sources reported that the Israeli army invaded the village of Beit Khiel located north west of the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday and kidnapped a schoolboy. Witnesses stated that four army vehicles stormed the village on Tuesday midday, soldiers then provoked the local schoolboys leaving school by firing at them sound bombs and tear gas, the students responded by hurling stones at the invading forces. Israeli soldiers then chased the school boys and kidnapped Wajdi Al Zuhur, 12 years old, and took him to an unknown detention camp. The clashes continued for several hours and ended when troops left the village. Medical sources reported no injures among the children.

Palestinian Authority fails in fight against terror, U.S. officials determine
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
The American officers responsible for monitoring Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the road map peace plan recently criticized the Palestinian Authority’s counterterrorism efforts. However, they have also demanded clarifications from Israel about its failure to carry out its road map obligations, which include a freeze on settlement construction and the dismantling of illegal West Bank outposts. Specifically, the Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to "contain" terror - to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah’s rule in the West Bank.

Israel still hampering efforts to clear unexploded ordnance - UNMACC
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 3/26/2008
SOUTH LEBANON: Nearly a year and a half after the 2006 war with Israel came to an end, efforts to clear South Lebanon of unexploded ordnance are still being hampered by Israel’s refusal to provide key information to the United Nations, the UN Mine Action Coordination Center’s (UNMACC) media and clearance officer Dalia Farran told The Daily Star on Tuesday. "Israel is still refusing to inform the UN of the geographic spots it littered with cluster bombs, and of the quantity and type of such ordnance," she said. The UN still does not even know the number of weapons Israel dropped north and south the Litani River, Farran added. "There are millions or hundreds of thousands. . . we do not know, despite our repetitive calls on Israel to hand over maps of the planted mines and cluster bombs. All we know is that we could get rid of 141,000 cluster bombs.

Barak approves five mobile homes for Hebron Hills settlement
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 3/26/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently approved the the transfer of five mobile homes to the settlement of Teneh Omarim in the southern Hebron Hills for evacuees from the Gush Katif settlement of Morag. The Civil Administration spokesman confirmed that the mobile homes had been set up with the full approval of the authorities. In response to a question by MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), Eitan Broshi, the minister’s aide on settlement issues, said the mobile homes "had been approved for transport and placement within an area that has a valid construction plan for lots intended for housing. "Broshi noted that the structures "constituted a substitute for [permanent] housing that by law could be implemented by virtue of the plans being valid. "Teneh Omarim is located east of the security fence, and outside the West Bank’s large settlement blocs.

Nonviolent resistance in Israeli prisons
Palestine News Network 3/25/2008
PNN -- Palestinian political prisoners do what they can to resist occupation and the conditions under which they try to survive. The Rasala Center for Human Rights said yesterday, "The suffering of Palestinians in Israeli prisons is worsened amid silence. "Leftists PFLP and DFLP condemn continued imprisonment of Rabah Muhanna. There is little international attention paid to the over 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Yet in the Palestinian street, they are on the minds of most all people. Nearly everyone has someone in the prisons, if not a family member, then a close friend. Mothers hold a weekly nonviolent demonstration in front of the Red Cross headquarters in the northern West Bank demanding the release of their children. A woman has been on hunger-strike for 10 days now in Israeli prison, another is going on 18 days.

Israeli forces storm houses, seize Islamic Jihad activist near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the West Bank town of Qabatiya south of the city of Jenin and seized an Islamic Jihad activist, witnesses said. Local sources told Ma’an’s reporter in Jenin that Israeli forces broke into several houses in Qabatiya searching for "wanted" Palestinians before they seized 22-year-old Kamal Kameel, an activist with the Islamic Jihad movement. The sources added that Israeli troops ransacked the homes of Abdul-Fattah Khuzaima, Alaa Abu Rub and Bilal Kameel, all activists in Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades. They also stormed homes of Sulaiman and Ahmad Nazzal, activists with the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) as well as home of Mu’adh Saba’nah, an activist in the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees.

Israeli forces raid Bethlehem and seize three Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces morning seized three Palestinians from the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the neighboring town of Doha on Tuesday, Palestinian security sources said. Security sources said Israeli forces raided As-Saf area in the centre of Bethlehem and apprehended 21-year-old Hamza Al-Kamil and 27-year-old Nidal Khalawi, the head of the freed prisoners’ society in Bethlehem. In Doha, Israeli forces stormed the city and seized 22-year-old Nael Muslih after ransacking several houses. [end] [end] [end]

Israeli forces storm Balata refugee camp, detain three Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded Balata refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday morning, seizing three Palestinians, local sources said. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an’s reporter that more than 20 Israeli military vehicles and a bulldozer stormed the camp at 3:00am ransacking dozens of Palestinian houses on the pretext of searching for so-called "wanted" activists. The Israeli forces also raided the nearby village of Kafr Qallil and forcibly searched several homes. [end] [end] [end]

IPA isolates 3 Palestinian female prisoners on hunger strike
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Israeli prisons authority (IPA) has isolated three Palestinian female prisoners after 18 days of starting a hunger strike protesting incarceration conditions and repeated administrative detention. Rania Al-Sakaa, one of the detainees on strike, said in a message from her cell that she was suffering from exhaustion due to her heart ailment. Abir Odeh is another detainee on strike held in the same isolation with Rania. The internees said they were protesting medical neglect, bad meals and harsh treatment by IPA while a third captive Noura Al-Hashlamon said she went on hunger strike a week ago because of renewing her administrative detention without trial or charge despite promises she would be freed, which made her end an earlier hunger strike.

IOF troops kidnap four Palestinians in Nablus
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- A large number of IOF troops invaded at dawn Tuesday the Nablus city, the Balata refugee camp and the Kufr Kalil village in the West Bank, where they broke into and ransacked many houses, and kidnapped four Palestinian citizens. Palestinian local sources reported that there is an injury in the ranks of the invading IOF troops after they engaged in armed clashes with Palestinian resistance in the camp. The IOF troops are still in the camp until this moment, where they have established many military posts there and prevented thousands of Palestinian students from going to their schools. Many Israeli military tanks and armored vehicles stormed the Yamoun town, west of the Jenin city in the West Bank and roamed its streets before withdrawing. The IOF troops invaded the Qabatiya town after midnight Monday where they came under fire by Palestinian resistance fighters and retaliated by firing intensively at the source of fire.

Four Palestinians kidnapped in Balata refugee camp
Ameen Abu Wardeh, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
Israeli forces invaded the Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus city in the early hours of Tuesday morning and kidnapped four Palestinians. Sources in the refugee camp reported that the Israeli military invaded the camp from its entrances and fired rounds of live ammunition and sound bombs on students and civilians. Sources added that Israeli soldiers turned rooftops of civilians’ homes into military posts. The operation in the camp is still ongoing and clashes between Palestinian resistance and Israeli forces were reported. The clashes broke out in the northern entrance of the camp. Sources added that there had been four Palestinians kidnapped in the operation after attacking and searching their homes. Among those kidnapped were Bashar Hamadan, Diya’ Huweity, Sameer Hashash,. All have been moved to an undisclosed detention center.

Palestinian children confront invading Israeli troops near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Confrontations broke out between invading Israeli troops and Palestinian school students from the southern West Bank town of Beit Kahil, north of the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday afternoon. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli troops raided the town while students were heading home from school. Israeli soldiers seized 12-year-old Wajdi Az-Zuhur, sparking clashes with stone-throwing Palestinian children. On Monday evening, Israeli forces raided Hebron and the nearby towns of Beit Ummar and Deir Samit, detaining three PalestiniansThe head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society in Hebron, Amjad Najjar, identified the arrestees as 52-year-old Muhammad Nasser Addin from Hebron, 62-year-old Jamil Alqam and 30-year-old Imad Mariya, both from Beit Ummar

Red Crescent: Israeli army open fire on Palestinian youth
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Nablus – Ma’an - The Palestinian Red Crescent in Nablus said that the Israeli army opened fire on a Palestinian man, wounding him. The incident took place in the village of ’Orta southeast of Nablus on Tuesday. The Red Crescent told Ma’an that 18-year-old Sa’ed ’Awad was shot in the stomach and was taken to Rafedia Government Hospital, as Israeli troops attempted to arrest him while he is in the ambulance. Israeli sources said that the Israeli soldiers fired at the young man during clashes in the village of ’Orta. [end] [end] [end]

The Israeli army kidnaps three civilians from Bethlehem
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
The Israeli army invaded several parts of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem and nearby villages on Tuesday morning and kidnapped three civilians. Local sources said that the Israeli troops attacked and searched homes in Bethlehem’s city center in addition to the nearby Al Duha and Taqua villages. The sources identified the three kidnapped as; Hamzah Al Kamel, 21, Nidal Khalawi, 27, both from Bethlehem city, while Nael Abu Mofarreh, 22, from the village of Taqua near Bethlehem. [end] [end] [end]

Palestinian military groups fire at Israeli targets bordering Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Tuesday for firing six homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev. Separately, Hamas’ military wing the Al-Qassam Brigades said its fighters launched four mortar shells at the Karni crossing near Al-Qarara in the southen Gaza Strip on Tuesday. The military groups said in separate statements that their activity came in retaliation for Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people. [end] [end] [end]

Two Palestinian military groups fire projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Monday night for launching three homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot, bordering the Gaza Strip. Separately, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, said its fighters launched three homemade projectiles an Israeli military position at Nahal Oz, east of Gaza City on Monday evening. The military groups said in separate statements that "the battle with occupation is ongoing and the shelling was in retaliation for Israeli atrocities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "

Nine Hamas members ’arrested’ in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Hamas movement said on Tuesday that the Palestinian security services affiliated to the West Bank-based caretaker government apprehended on Monday evening 9 Hamas’ affiliates in the West Bank. According to a statement released by Hamas, the arrestees were from Qalqilia and Tulkarem districts in the northern West Bank as well as Ramallah in the center and Hebron in the south. The statement highlighted that Palestinian security services stormed four mosques in Hebron district during apprehension and removed posters defending Prophet Muhammad against cartoons as well as posters related to the anniversary of the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yaseen, the founder of Hamas movement.

A large-scale military operation in Qabatiya to kidnap members of Islamic Jihad
Ali Samoudi, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
Sources from Islamic Jihad in the town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin reported on Tuesday that Israeli forces kidnapped one of its members in the town in a large-scale military operation that targeted the wanted Palestinians of al-Quds brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. Sources added that at least 20 military vehicles invaded the town from several directions and surrounded homes belonging to official leaders of Islamic Jihad. Troops ransacked the houses causing damage to property, but no injuries or abductions were reported. The army withdrew later from the area with one member of the movement, Kamal Kameel. Kameel, abducted and moved to an unknown detention center. Translated by Nisreen Qumsieh - IMEMC News.

Hamas: PA forces arrest 9 of the movement members in the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
The Hamas movement reported that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ security forces had arrested nine of the movement’s members from several West Bank areas. In a press statement faxed to the press, the movement said that the arrests took place in the cities of Hebron, Tulkarem, Qalqilia and Ramallah. Among those arrested were Adnan Jaber, of the Islamic Charity Society in Ramallah in addition to the secretary of the society Ahmad Husni, Rustom Al-Qathawani, of the employees’ affairs office in the society and Salah Suliman, the accountant of the society. The movement added that Palestinian Authority forces also searched several mosques in Hebron city and confiscated photos of the late Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin, who was assassinated by the Israeli army in Gaza four years ago.

IDF arrests ’top PFLP operative’ involved in death of soldier
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
A gag order was lifted Tuesday on the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Ben security service operation that culminated in the January 15 arrest of a senior operative with the militant Palestinian group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Ibrahim Sayid Ibrahim Salem of the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank admitted during questioning to his involvement in numerous shooting attacks, detonation of explosive devices and a car bombing targeting IDF forces in the Nablus region in October 2006. Ibrahim Salem also admitted to being involved in the shooting attack against IDF troops on September 18, 2007, during which IDF soldier Staff Sergeant Ben-Zion Henman was killed. Several additional wanted PFLP operatives took part in the 2007 shooting attack, among them Majdi Mabruk who was also recently arrested.

Hamas-allied police assault deportee from Nativity church in Gaza, victim says
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip have reportedly attacked one of the Palestinian activists who was deported to the Gaza Strip from the West Bank after the 2002 siege by Israeli forces of the Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem. Deportee Khalid Salah, said he was assaulted by Hamas-allied police while waiting in his car at a gas station in the southern Gaza Strip. Salah said that, when it was his turn to refuel his car, a police officer asked him to turn back. When he refused, three police officers dragged him from the car and beat him, bruising him badly. He was hospitalized. Salah is originally from the West Bank town of Al-Khadr, near Bethlehem. With fuel shipments almost completely stopped by the Israeli blockade, fuel for automobiles has been extremely scarce in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces focus on Islamic Jihad during Tuesday arrest campaign
Palestine News Network 3/25/2008
Jenin / Ali Samoudi - Sources in the Islamic Jihad movement in the town of Qabatiya, south of the city of Jenin, report that Israeli forces arrested at dawn Tuesday arrested one of its members. Israeli forces also arrested seven Palestinians during early morning raids in Bethlehem, Nablus, and Hebron. Fateh reports that one of its members was also taken from Qalqilia, while Israeli forces have detained a young boy at Nablus’ Beit Iba Checkpoint and continued the invasion of the city and Balata Refugee Camp this morning. The Israeli invasion of Qabatiya involved at least 20 military vehicles and targeted Saraya Al Quds, the armed resistance wing of Islamic Jihad. As reported by the sources the raid on the town came from several axes. Israeli forces surrounded the home of Jihad leader, Abdel Fattah Khozimah, and the commander of Saraya Al Quds, Abu ’Ala Rabna.

Hamas under threat from both the PA and Israelis
Palestine News Network 3/25/2008
Bethlehem / PNN -- Sources in the Hamas party told reporters Tuesday morning that Palestinian Authority security services continue to target its members, as do Israeli forces. The population of Hamas members is growing in both PA jails and Israeli prisons. And members of the Israeli government have said that its leaders in Gaza are targeted for assassination, while putting the onus of the acts of Israeli forces on the party. The party says that everyday more of its ranks are arrested, yesterday nine from throughout the West Bank. They also report PA security as "storming" four mosques in the southern West Bank’s Hebron, where the PA reportedly took pictures from the Walls that commemorate Sheikh Yassin, assassinated by Israeli forces several years ago in Gaza City. Israeli forces attacked an orphanage affiliated with the party in the same city and demanded that it closes its doors by 1 April.

VIDEO - Recent incidents suggest rise in violence between Haredi, messianic Jews
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/26/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for March 24, 2008. Recent incidents point to heightened tensions inside Israel between the ultra-Orthodox community and messianic Jews, who believe in Jesus but consider themselves Jewish. In the desert town of Arad, a religious argument recently ended in an attempt by a messianic Jewish man to run over a member of Yad L’Achim, a Haredi anti-missionary organization. Edwin Beckford, a messianic Jew and resident of Arad, has been charged with assault and is now under house arrest. He says his action was a result of years of provocation and abuse. Just last week, the conflict appeared to have spread to Ariel, when a bomb seriously injured a teenage boy. Police suspect the boy’s family was targeted due to their messianic Judaism.

IFJ calling for renewal of cohesion of Palestinian journalists
Palestine News Network 3/25/2008
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Hamas leadership in Gaza over the show trial of a newspaper editor as part of a continuing campaign against independent journalists. The IFJ says the trial of Hafez Barghothi, editor of the daily Al-Hayat Aljadeeda, and continuing ban on distribution of Al Ayyam newspaper in the Gaza Strip and the trial and conviction of its editor Akram Haniyeh and cartoonist Baha Bukhari are violations of journalists’ rights. They are all being targeted because of their work. "This intimidation and political bullying of journalists does great damage to the Palestinian cause," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It undermines efforts of journalists throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip to work together to build a unified media movement in favor of stability and democratic development. "

An Israeli army force nabs a Palestinian farmer in northern Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
Palestinian media sources reported that an Israeli army force nabbed Tuesday a local Palestinian farmer from the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun. Zamel Shallouf, 23, was kidnapped by an army special force in the Beit Hanoun city, after the force had swept into farm lands on the Israel-border line over there. Witnesses said that an Israeli force, including infantry troopers, swept into the Beit Hanoun city and detained Shallouf. Palestinian farmers, bending down in labor on Gaza-Israel border lines, have been exposed to various Israeli actions. A number of them have been killed, others wounded and many others arrested. Currently, the coastal region observes a state of calm, after the Israeli army killed more than 120 Palestinians, including 40 children, earlier in March.

MK, activists demand probe into rabbi who banned employing Arabs
Yoav Stern and Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
An Arab MK and a group working for Arab-Jewish reconciliation Monday urged the attorney general to order an investigation against a prominent settler rabbi who issued a halakhic ruling stating that Jewish law forbids employing Arabs or renting homes to them. The 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 in various synagogues, Lior said that "since this is a matter of endangering souls, it is clear that it is completely forbidden to employ them and rent houses to them in Israel. Their employment is forbidden not only at yeshivas, but at factories, hotels and everywhere. "In his request to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, MK Taleb Al-Sana said: "These comments are discriminatory and illegal.

Abu Alkass Mini-Market, Gaza city
From PCHR''s Narratives Under Siege series - 7, Palestine Monitor 3/25/2008
Anwar Abu Alkass displays one of the empty refrigerators in his central Gaza city store. Due to the closure, there are now chronic shortages of many foods, including fresh dairy products, across the Strip. "There have been rapid price increases over the last few months because of the closure. Three months ago, for instance, a litre of corn oil cost 19 Shekels (the equivalent of $4. 5). Now it costs 29 Shekels ($7). The price of flour has also doubled; three months ago a kilo of flour was 2 Shekels. Now our customers have to pay 4 Shekels. " The Abu-Alkass mini-market has been a popular feature of central Gaza city for more than thirty years. Anwar Abu-Alkass has worked here since he was a teenager, and now manages the mini-market with his brother. "We used to have a lot of fresh goods on sale, but now the majority of our goods are dry products" he explains, as we wander round the mini-market aisles.

Counselling sessions help children cope with their fears after recent violence in Gaza
United Nations Children''s Fund, ReliefWeb 3/24/2008
GAZA, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 24 March 2008 – A renewed round of fighting that began late last month brought chaos and destruction to Jabalia, located at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. The violence exacerbated an already deteriorating humanitarian situation stemming from the near total blockade of Gaza since June 2007. At least 25 children in Gaza were reportedly killed during military incursions that followed cross-border rocket attacks into southern Israel. In the aftermath of the fighting, UNICEF, in partnership with the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), has been working to help distressed children through group counselling sessions. Children frightened by violence ’Life was horrible,’ recalled Ahmad, 12. ’The fighting was so intense for days. The situation was really bad.

Shahed warns of scheme to resettle Palestinian refugees in host countries
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- The Palestinian institute for human rights "Shahed" warned on Tuesday of projects to resettle Palestinian refugees in host countries especially in Lebanon. Shahed issued a statement also calling for dealing with those refugees in Lebanon in a humanitarian manner away from internal political wrangling. The institute’s statement followed a report by DPA on Monday revealing that the project to resettle Palestinian refugees in Lebanon was in its "final touches", and explained stages and programs of implementation of that project. Shahed said that the Palestinian refugees’ right of return does not contradict with granting them rights in accordance with international human rights codes. The statement affirmed that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon refuse resettlement in that country and had repeatedly announced their position, but noted that they could be forced to immigrate due to their acute economic hardships.

International Community Must Take Moral and Political Stand towards Israel on Gaza Patient Deaths
Palestine Monitor 3/25/2008
Barghouthi: Israeli policy of denying medical treatment to Gazans illegal and a moral disgrace - Ramallah, 25-03-08: Zainab Bashir and Yousef Al-Madhoun have become the 116th and 117th Gazans to be added to the long list of patients who have died after Israel delayed or denied their access to essential treatment outside of the Strip. Bashir, of Deir Elbalah town, and Al-Madhoun of Gaza city, died on Sunday of chronic diseases. "While the health system in the Gaza Strip is collapsing under the weight of Israel’s siege, patients in need of life-saving treatment face an inhuman Israeli policy of delays or denials. In such a context, delaying the access of patients to treatment available outside the Strip is often a matter of life or death, while the complete denial of access is tantamount to a death sentence," said PNI Secretary General Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP. "

In Jaffa, a war wages over graves
Yigal Hai, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
Protests and demonstrations continue to disrupt the peace and quiet of Jaffa. In addition to the ongoing protests against the local authority’s lack of assistance in solving the housing problems, for the first time Arab organizations will be holding a Land Day demonstration along the city’s streets this Friday. Jaffa’s residents, who initiated this procession on the day Arabs protest discrimination against them, say one of the reasons for this event is their fear of a housing complex being built on part of the city’s only Muslim cemetery. The plans to build on the cemetery, say Jaffa’s residents, are grounds for a struggle. This past January, the Supreme Court approved the sale of half the land in the Tasso Cemetery to private developers, thus ending a 35-year-long legal saga. According to Jaffa’s residents, building a neighborhood on cemetery land will require the relocation of hundreds of graves and the allocation of an alternative burial site.

Israeli forces seize Palestinian man near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized 31-year-old Palestinian man Faris Mahdawi on Monday evening a Palestinian 31-year-old Faris Mahdawi from the village of Izbat Al-Jarad east of the city of Tulkarem city in the northern West Bank. Israeli army sources said the man was accused of trading weapons. Meanwhile, security sources said he was affiliated to Hamas. [end] [end] [end]

Israeli forces besiege Palestinian house near Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – Israeli forces have besieged a Palestinian house amidst heavy gunfire in the town of Azzun east of the West Bank city of Qalqilia, local sources said on Tuesday. The sources say the house, located in the center of the town belongs to Isam Hannun, and that Israeli forces have detained some of the members of the family. Azzoun is subject to frequent Israeli raids and is often placed under curfew. [end] [end] [end]

Police lower alert in hunt for suspected terrorist near Hadera
Ruth Sinai and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
Police on Tuesday afternoon were searching for a woman near the town of Hadera, in the Sharon region, whom they suspected of intending to carry out a terror attack. Police had initially declared a high alert in the Sharon region, which is north of Tel Aviv, but subsequently lowered it despite continuing to search for the woman. The woman was described as wearing glasses, black trousers and a red shirt, and carrying a bag. Following the alert, there was a heightened presence of police forces in the Sharon region. Police used helicopters and erected roadblocks to aid their search. Related articles: Eight killed when terrorist opens fire in library at Jerusalem yeshiva Hamas claims Dimona attack, says bombers came from Hebron

IDF soldier critically hurt in gun cleaning accident at army base
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
An Israel Defense Forces Soldier was critically wounded Tuesday morning when he was accidentally shot at a military base in northern Israel. The soldier’s family has been notified of the incident. The victim received first aid at the base and was later transferred to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for further care. An initial investigation into the incident revealed that one of the soldiers in the unit had accidentally fired his gun while cleaning it, and hit the victim. A high ranking officer was appointed to investigate the incident further, while a simultaneous military police investigation is also underway. Meanwhile Tuesday, an IDF reserves officer was moderately injured by an explosion that occurred during a training exercise at a base in southern Israel.

An Amalek in our times?
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
Purim 5768, just two weeks after the terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, transforms the annual, almost traditional, discussion over the image of Amalek and his offspring, Haman, into one that is more alert and pointed than ever. The embodiment of the eternal evil, the one that attacked the weakness of the children of Israel as they left Egypt and which, according to a Torah commandment, must ostensibly be obliterated from the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), is each year associated by many in the religious public with Israel’s enemies in contemporary times. The attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva intensified this association. Numerous sermons, articles and classes are being devoted this year to the relevance or lack thereof of the obliteration of the memory of Amalek in practical terms in our day and age.

Palestine Today 032508
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio dept, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
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 Tuesday March 25th, 2008. The Israeli army attack several parts of the West Bank, troops storm local radio stations and kidnap a school boy, meanwhile in Gaza, Palestinian resistance fighters target Israeli army posts at the borders, these stories and more coming up. stay tuned. The News Cast The Israeli army invaded several parts of the West Bank on Tuesday and kidnapped at least 14 Palestinian civilians. Five of those kidnapped were taken from the West Bank city of Hebron and nearby villages where the army also attacked two Palestinian radio stations. Israeli forces attacked the offices of Al Huriya (freedom) and Siraj Radio stations located in the city of Hebron, shutting the stations down.

Israel to let Palestinians police West Bank city
Compiled by, Daily Star 3/26/2008
Israel will allow up to 600 members of a Palestinian security force trained in Jordan under a US program to be deployed in an Occupied West Bank city once considered a hotbed of militant activity, a senior Defense Ministry official said on Tuesday. The official said Israel hopes the decision, announced ahead of a weekend visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will help blunt Western and Palestinian complaints that Israel was not doing enough to bolster US-backed peace talks and a Palestinian "law and order" campaign in the occupied West Bank. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was to discuss the specifics of the deployment Wednesday with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, part of continuing peace talks between the two sides, the official told AFP. "Palestinian security forces have demonstrated they are capable of handling the areas in which they deploy," Fayyad told reporters in Ramallah.

Israel ’allows’ Jenin police force
Al Jazeera 3/25/2008
Israel’s defence minister has said that he will allow the deployment of 600 Jordanian-trained Palestinian police officers to Jenin as part of an agreement to help the Palestinian government bolster security. However, the Palestinian interior minister said on Tuesday that it was not up to Israel to tell it where to place its forces. "They are not the ones to decide where to deploy them," Abdel Razak Yehiyeh told the Associated Press. "That’s up to us, and we haven’t decided yet where to deploy them. Usually, we co-ordinate the deployment of forces with the Israelis for the deployment. In this case, we didn’t ask yet. " Speaking to reporters at an Israeli army base in the West Bank, Ehud Barak said he would discuss the issue with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, at a meeting on Wednesday.

Barak renews threats to target Hamas leaders
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli war minister Ehud Barak has renewed threats to target Hamas leaders in the event Palestinian home made missiles continued to fall on Israeli positions adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Israel will continue to strike Hamas whenever it sees a need, he said in a statement on Monday, adding that Hamas should stop smuggling weapons into Gaza and should halt launching missiles along with other "terrorist acts". The minister also expressed concern over escalating Lebanese Hizbullah party threats against Israel in retaliation to the assassination of its military commander Emad Mughniyeh in Damascus. The party blamed the Israeli foreign intelligence, the Mossad, for his murder. Barak said that Israel was seriously taking the Hizbullah threats, adding that the situation was "very sensitive" and dangers were growing and Israel must keep its eyes wide open to ward off those threats.

PA Agriculture minister condemns Israel for killing Palestinian farmers
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mohamed Al-Agha, the agriculture minister in the PA caretaker government, strongly denounced the Israeli occupation for targeting Palestinian farmers while working in their lands the latest of them was farmer Yousef Abu Daher, 55, who was shot deliberately by IOF troops in Khan Younis. In a press statement received by the PIC, Dr. Agha warned that the ongoing Israeli aggression in the Gaza border areas would double the suffering of unarmed Palestinian citizens especially farmers who suffer greatly by bulldozing their farmland and the closure of crossings before their agricultural products. He also deplored the Israeli uprooting of hundreds of yielding trees and damaging about 90 dunums of agricultural lands north of Al-Khalil city in the West Bank, pointing out that the daily losses of the agricultural sector in Gaza alone is estimated at about $200,000 as a result of the Israeli siege and aggression.

European Parliament Vice President, in Nablus, demands end of Gaza blockade
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – European Parliament Vice President Luisa Morgantini visited An-Najah National University in the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday, calling for Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to fulfill its obligations under international law. "This is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace in order to give more credibility to the peace process through reinforcing the negotiations based on the UN resolutions and on the right of Palestinians and Israelis to live in two States, in peace and security," Morgantini said. Speaking to a large audience of students and professors, Morgantini noted that Israel, as the occupying power, is bound by the Geneva Conventions to guarantee the flow of humanitarian aid and essential services to the Gaza Strip. Morgantini that the European Union, out of respect for international law, should pressure Israel end its occupation of Palestinian land.

Minister (of Interior) Al Yahya and General Dayton Inspect Palestinian Security Training at the International Centre Near Amman and Witness a Field Exercise with Weapons and Live Ammunition
Amman – Abdulla Al Qaq, MIFTAH 3/25/2008
The Minster of Interior Abdul Razzaq Al Yahya and the American General Dayton inspected the almost 1000 members of the Palestinian Police (National Security Force) and the Presidential Guard battalions that are currently training at the Jordanian International Police Training Center (JIPTC). Their training includes security apparatus, human rights, riot control and civil disturbance. Minister Al Yahya and General Dayton expressed satisfaction with this advanced training that is under American supervision and was developed to aid the security apparatus in the West Bank and to provide law and order throughout. Al-Quds was the only Arabic newspaper to take part in this demonstration where the Center’sAdjutant Colonel Abdurahman Hasan Abdul Qader presented a synopsison the training process in different fields and emphasized the importance of the Center and its role in providing the needed

Cheney says Syria and Iran are sabotaging talks
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/25/2008
The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, yesterday accused Syria and Iran of using the Islamist movement Hamas to "torpedo" peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. Cheney, who for the second time in two days met the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in Jerusalem, was on a visit intended to encourage the faltering peace talks, which, four months since they were launched, have achieved little. "It is clearly a difficult situation, in part, because I think it’s true, there’s evidence, that Hamas is supported by Iran and Syria and that they’re doing everything they can to torpedo the peace process," Cheney told reporters after the meeting. The vice-president met Palestinian leaders on Sunday and said "painful concessions" were required by both sides if an independent Palestinian state was to be created. Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, said his government was not prepared

Cheney Says a Palestinian State is ’Long Overdue’
Ashraf Khalil, MIFTAH 3/25/2008
Declaring that an independent Palestinian state was "long overdue," Vice President Dick Cheney said on Sunday that the success of the U. S. -sponsored peace negotiations depends on the Palestinian ability to rein in militant groups that favor armed resistance over negotiations. " Terror and rockets do not merely kill civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people," Cheney said after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "The future belongs to the advocates of peace and reconciliation. " Abbas is largely unable to limit the activities of the largest Palestinian militant group, Hamas. After a unity government between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party collapsed in June, Hamas gunmen drove Fatah forces out of the Gaza Strip, leaving Abbas in control of only the West Bank.

’Painful Concessions’ Needed, Says Cheney
Mohammed Mar’i, MIFTAH 3/25/2008
US Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday that a Mideast peace agreement will require “painful concessions” by Israelis and Palestinians who must work together to defeat those “committed to violence. ”After meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Cheney stressed the US commitment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state, saying it was “long overdue. ”While emphasizing that “painful concessions” were needed from all sides, Cheney added: “It also will require a determination to beat those who are committed to violence and who refuse to accept the basic right of the other side to exist. ”“Terror and violence do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Cheney said. In their meeting, Abbas asked Cheney to help stop Israeli settlement expansion and military operations targeting militants, said Saeb Erekat, an Abbas aide.

Abu Zuhri: American conditions on Hamas-Fatah conciliation "rude"
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Tuesday described American vice president Dick Cheney’s declaration that any Hamas-Fatah conciliation should be conditional to Hamas’s giving up power as "rude and unacceptable". Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press release that Cheney’s statement constituted a "flagrant intervention in internal Palestinian affairs" and reflected the degree of American intervention in and control over the Palestinian decision making. "We call on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to stop policies that allow American administration the opportunity to control the internal Palestinian affairs in favor of Israeli occupation", he elaborated. The spokesman said that the decision on internal dialogue should be "purely Palestinian", and explained that failure of previous rounds of talks was due to the PA policy of allowing the American administration to.

Hamas: Cheney’s statement an attempt to evade promises about Palestinian state
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced American vice president Dick Cheney’s accusation that Hamas is trying to torpedo peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, saying that such statements confirm that the American administration is trying to evade its promises about establishing a Palestinian state. In a press release received by the PIC, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, stated that Cheney’s statements against the Movement bear out that all the American promises to the PA chief in Annapolis and Paris had been deceptive and aimed at gaining more time in favor of the Israeli occupation. Barhoum elaborated that Cheney wanted to hold the Palestinian people and Hamas responsible for disrupting the establishment of a Palestinian state and to say that the American administration and Israel could give nothing to the PA chief, highlighting that Cheney’s.

Siyam: Fayyad gov’t responsible for IOF recruiting agents
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Sa’eed Siyam, the head of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc and former PA interior minister, held the unconstitutional government of Salam Fayyad responsible for Israel intellignece’s recruitment of agents in the Palestinian arena. He explained that Fayyad’s severance of salaries of civil servants in the Gaza Strip led the Israeli intelligence to exploit the need of those employees and try to recruit them. Investigations with many detained suspects proved that they were contacted by "Zionist officers" and offered job opportunities or salaries in return from giving information to occupation about resistance fighters and leaders, Siyam elaborated. He described the phenomenon as "very serious", and asked all loyal forcers to hurry up and find a solution to it. The Hamas MP called for prosecuting those responsible for such "serious, criminal behavior", and noted that.

Al-Aqsa Brigades activists transferred from Tulkarem to Jericho prison
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an - The Palestinian military intelligence service transferred four Al-Aqsa Brigades members on Monday from the intelligence headquarters in Tulkarem to the Jericho intelligence headquarters, sources related to Al Aqsa Brigades have revealed. Nader Abu Zant told Ma’an that he and three other activists, Yusuf Barhush, Issa Abu Hantash, Ahmed Nasr Allah, were transferred from Tulkarem to Jericho after security coordination between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. He added that they are demanding to be sent back to Tulkarem to be close to their families, adding they were not informed they were to be transferred. He said that the Palestinian intelligence services told them that they were transferred to Jericho for protection until they are granted a full pardon by the Israeli authorities.

Palestinian Premier Fayyad to meet Israeli Defense Minister Barak on Wednesday
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
Palestinian and Israeli media sources stated on Tuesday that the Palestinian Prime Minister of the caretaker government Salam Fayyad will meet with the Israeli Defense Minster Ehud Barak in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Barak told Israeli media today that he intends to inform Fayyad of his decision to allow 600 Palestinian security officers, currently undergoing a US funded training course in Jordan, to enter the northern West Bank city of Jenin to resume policing duties in the city. Kadura Mussa the Governor of Jenin said that he has not yet been informed of the Israel decision. Last November Israel allowed the Palestinian Authority to bring in 700 security officers to the northern West Bank city of Nablus under the pretext of enforcing law and order.

Qurei denies reports that 3 million US dollars was diverted to his joint bank account
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an - Head of the Palestinian negotiating team Ahmed Qurei has denied reports published by a number of news websites that three million US dollars has been diverted to a joint bank account he holds with two unknown persons. Qurei told Ma’an that the money is part of five million dollars given to Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the bank account mentioned in the news reports is the bank account of the Palestinian National Fund in the Arab Bank in Amman. He said he did not know who was behind the news stories or what was the motive behind publishing such accusations and demanded legal action should be brought against those who were trying to discredit him. "I would like to clarify that this amount is part of the five million dollars for the benefit of both Fatah and the PLO, and that the account number 111444/713 noted in the letter named "Adli.

Palestinian political reconciliation campaign to march for unity on Wednesday
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian Popular Campaign for National Reconciliation is holding its first event in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Scouts, Palestinian dignitaries, and representatives of more than 160 politically unaffiliated NGOs will take to the streets in a rally to call for rival Palestinian factions to unite. The campaign’s coordinator in southern Gaza Strip, Samir Maqadma, said Palestinian civil society has the right to express its opinion. He said ordinary people are those who suffer the worst from the political paralysis that the Hamas-Fatah rivalry has caused. He explained that the campaign aims to launch a popular initiative for national reconciliation based on what he calls "flexible dialogue within the PLO and the Palestinian security services. " Representatives of Hamas and Fatah signed a nonbinding agreement to resume dialogue. . .

Hezbollah says prisoner swap talks go on
Middle East Online 3/25/2008
BEIRUT - Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah announced Monday that UN-mediated negotiations for a prisoner swap with Israel were continuing despite the recent assassination of a top militant commander blamed on Israel. Nasrallah spoke at the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. "Although the Israelis have killed the pillar of the resistance, we did not halt the negotiations on a prisoner exchange," he said, saying that meetings were recently held with UN mediators. "We will not stop the negotiations. . . because we want to achieve one of the aspirations of martyr Imad Mughniyeh, that is, to see our prisoner brothers free among their parents and loved ones," Nasrallah said. Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, declined to comment on Nasrallah’s remarks.

ANALYSIS / Nasrallah threatened punishment for Mughniyah, not revenge
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches, especially those aimed at Israeli ears, have long been a source for warnings of terror attacks, and Monday’s speech was no exception. The Hezbollah leader told Israelis that the punishment not revenge for Imad Mughniyah’s assassination would surely come. In his view, such "punishment" is necessary, to deter Israel from assassinating other key Hezbollah figures. In practice, Nasrallah added nothing to the warnings that senior Israeliofficials have been issuing for 40 days now. But coming from the mouth of the person responsible for ordering the anticipated attack, his warnings have additional credibility. Unlike Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose anti-Israel violence has few broader regional implications, Nasrallah has the ability to set off a regional chain reaction: For instance, his actions could implicate Syria or draw Israel into another war in Lebanon.

Eritrean ambassador: Jerusalem must repatriate ’deserters’
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
The vast majority - about 2,800 - of the Africans who have entered Israel illegally from Egypt via Sinai are from Eritrea. Israel and Eritrea have full diplomatic relations, with embassies in Asmara and in Tel Aviv, but there is no active dialogue on the refugee issue. A few weeks ago, Eritrea’s ambassador to Israel even registered an official protest with the Foreign Ministry, in which he complained about Israel’s failure to repatriate the Eritreans. "These are not political refugees, but rather work migrants or army deserters," the protest said. (See more coverage, Page 3) The Eritrean ambassador, Tesfamariam Tekeste, noted yesterday in an interview with Haaretz that his letter of protest included several issues of concern to his government. First, he said, at least half of the infiltrators represent themselves as Eritrean while in fact they are from other African states, such as Sudan or Ethiopia.

Araj: Rafah terminal close to opening
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ala Al-Araj, the economy advisor to the PA caretaker government’s premier Ismail Haneyya, has revealed presence of positive signs on re-opening Rafah crossing. Araj, in a statement to Palestine newspaper published on Tuesday said, "We are waiting for Egypt’s response on current efforts, but so far we have not been informed on details of opening the crossing or the procedures of the next stage". The opening of the border terminal is not easy as it needs regional approval especially when the basic player in this deal is the Hebrew state that did not divulge any concrete positions in this regard. The Hebrew radio quoted Amos Gilad, the advisor to the Israeli war minister Ehud Barak and his envoy for talks on the issue and other issues to Cairo, as saying that Israel will not agree to end the siege as a pre-requisite for calm but could allow a "partial opening of the (Rafah) crossing".

Secretary Rice to the region soon
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
U. S Secretary of States, Condoleezza Rice, will arrive in the region by the end of this week, within U. S’s efforts to fill in the gab between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, right, U. S president Bush, middle and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, left, during the Annaspolis summit of last NovemberSpokesperson of the U. S State Department was quoted as saying yesterday that Rice’s visit will aim at getting both Israelis and Palestinians closer in terms of contentious issues in a bid to advance the peace process. Rice’s trip this week, which will start by Friday through next Sunday, is a part of a series of visits, Rice paid to the region in the past several months. In November of last year, a Washington-sponsored Annapolis summit between Palestinians and Israelis kicked off the stalled peace process in an attempt to reach a two-state solution by the end of 2008.

Mubarak: Gaza tension brings Iran threat closer
Barak Ravid Yoav Stern and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
"The situation that has developed in the Gaza Strip in recent months has led to Egypt in practice having a border with Iran," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told a senior European diplomat about three weeks ago. According to Haaretz’s source, who requested anonymity, Mubarak told the diplomat he was concerned over Iran’s growing influence in the region. He also compared the situation in Lebanon to that in Gaza, saying that "in both places, the problems and the crises stem from the growing influence of Iran. "Israeli government officials have repeatedly said that Hamas’ breach of the Gaza-Egypt border in January sparked a significant change in Egypt’s approach to the situation in Gaza, and Cairo is now taking problems such as arms smuggling over this border much more seriously. This process was bolstered after Hamas fired an Iranian Grad rocket at Ashkelon, which Egypt viewed as proof of Iran’s penetration of the Strip.

Secretary-General urges continued talks despite recent bloodshed in Middle East
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 3/25/2008
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today praised Palestinian and Israeli leaders for their commitment to the Middle East political process despite the recent spike of violence, and urged that the targets for a settlement that were set in last year’s talks be kept. Opening a Security Council briefing and debate this morning that included over 20 other speakers, the Secretary-General recalled that the parties projected reaching an agreement by the end of 2008 when they met in Annapolis, United States in November 2007. ’It is my hope that we can achieve this ambitious goal,’ he added. ’I believe all of us must ask ourselves, and the parties, two simple questions: If not this, what? If not now, when? ’ He commended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for their commitment to the process, despite the death toll in Gaza and Israel that peaked earlier this month and the ongoing high tensions.

Israeli defense sources: Hamas wants to maintain Gaza quiet
Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 3/26/2008
Hamas is interested at this stage in maintaining the lull in fighting against the Israel Defense Forces along the Gaza Strip border, defense officials suggested Monday. Likewise, Egypt is keeping up heavy pressure on Hamas leaders in Gaza not to deviate from the understandings reached with it regarding the suspension of fighting. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that if the rocket fire from the Strip and arms smuggling cease, "The door to another reality will open," but he added that "we are still far" from that reality. Barak added that Israel will not negotiate with Hamas, "except for indirect talks regarding kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. "Under the agreement Cairo reached with Hamas three weeks ago, Hamas would stop launching rockets at Israel for a week-long trial period.

Blair: Middle East peace is a race against time
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/26/2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Former British prime minister Tony Blair on Tuesday warned stakeholders in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that they were facing "a race against time. ""It is possible to get this resolved, but we need to be aware that we are racing against time now," the envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - The United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia - told a European Parliament panel in Brussels. Blair set a planned mid-May visit to Israel by U. S. President George W. Bush as the next pointer in the Middle East peace process timeline. By then, he said, Israelis, Palestinians and the international community need to clearly show that "we are in a different and better position than the position we are in today.

Germany Backs Israel all the Way
Peter Hirschberg, MIFTAH 3/25/2008
German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed that her country would always stand by Israel, that she was committed to halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and that rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza on Israeli towns and cities were a criminal act. Merkel did not utter a critical word about ongoing Israeli construction in settlements in the West Bank. She did not call on Israel to act with restraint in retaliating TO the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. And she did not demand an easing of the crippling travel restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians in the West Bank. But the focus of Merkel’s visit was never going to be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- not with the history of the relations between the two countries and the fact that the visit by the German chancellor and at least half of her cabinet was meant to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state, which was born

Caretaker gov’t: We refuse to stake the Palestinian cause on American dictates
Palestinian Information Center 3/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The caretaker government headed by premier Ismail Haneyyal expressed its utter rejection of staking the Palestinian cause on the American dictates, considering the PA’s attempt to disclaim its responsibility towards the Sana’a declaration comes in response to those dictates. Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman for the government, stated that the conflicting statements issued by PA officials confirmed that the PA leadership was not serious at all about Sana’a talks from the beginning, adding that the PA’s repeated talk about its keenness on dialog and ending the inter-Palestinian crisis is a mere allegation to improve its image before the Palestinian people. "We agreed in Cairo, but they did not implement the agreement, we agreed on the national accord document, but they did not respect it and even after they signed an agreement in Makkah, they torpedoed it dissolving the national unity government and forming a minority one," Nunu said.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister visits West Bank and meets with Abbas
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/25/2008
Ratnasiri Wickremanayake the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka visited the West Bank on Tuesday. The visit started in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, where Wickremanayake met Palestinian Authority officials including the Governor of Bethlehem Salah Ta’mari and the Mayor of Bethlehem Victor Batarseh. Wickremanayake made a short visit to the Church of the Nativity. During his stop in Bethlehem the visiting Prime Minister said that the Israeli illegal wall is "unnecessary" during a time when nations of the world are seeking openness to one another. Later on Tuesday Wickremanayake headed to the central West Bank city of Ramallah were he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of the caretaker government Salam Fayyad as well as Palestinian businessmen.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister visits West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, began a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories beginning with the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The Prime Ministers said that the Israeli separation wall, which snakes through Bethlehem, is "unnecessary" at a time when the nations of the world should be opening to one another. Wickremanayake was hosted by the governor of Bethlehem Salah Ta’mari who accompanied the guest to the historic Nativity Church, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The Mayor of Bethlehem Victor Batarseh along with police commanders and Palestinian national security officers. After touring the Nativity Church, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka headed to Ramallah in the central West Bank. The Palestinian ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Anwar Al-Agha, said the Sri Lankan leader would hold meetings with Palestinian.

Negotiations only way to Middle East peace, Secretary-General tells UN Security Council, expressing deep concern over prospect of renewed Israeli-Palestinian violence
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 3/25/2008
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the open meeting of the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, in New York today, 25 March: I am grateful for this opportunity to address the Council on what is undoubtedly one of the most important items on your agenda and mine -- the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Three weeks ago, I briefed you on the tragic developments then under way in Gaza and southern Israel. While I am glad that the violence has abated somewhat since then, tensions remain high. I am deeply concerned about the prospect of renewed violence, and what this would mean both for the civilian populations in the conflict zone and for the peace process we are all trying to advance. Despite many difficulties on the ground -- difficulties that must be addressed --. . .

EU releases €300 million in aid for Palestinians
Middle East Online 3/25/2008
BRUSSELS - The European Commission released 300 million euros (467 million dollars) in aid for the Palestinian Territories Tuesday, from the 440 million euros the EU executive has pledged for this year. Of the total, 71 million euros is earmarked to go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), a commission spokeswoman said. The rest is to go to a new EU mechanism - dubbed PEGASE - intended to channel aid to help build a Palestinian state, with 176 million euros destined for supporting public services. At the Paris donors’ conference last December, Europe pledged more than half of the total 7. 481 billion dollars (4. 8 billion euros) in aid commitments to support the Palestinian Authority and recently revived peace talks. At the time, the commission pledged 440 million euros in aid for the Palestinians this year.

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
Families of PA terror victims appeal to Barak - The families of individuals killed by Palestinian police officers yesterday requested an urgent meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak to discuss Israel’s decision to permit 500 Palestinian police officers to deploy in the West Bank city of Jenin. The appeal was made through the Almagor terror victims association. Nahman Zoldan, whose son Ido was murdered near Kedumim last November by two Palestinian policeman, expressed in a letter to Barak his fears that the officers would become involved in anti-Israel terror. Zoldan also protested the government’s approval of the transfer of armored vehicles to Palestinian Authority security forces. (Nadav Shragai)

Palestinian caretaker government to pay 50% of civil servants’ back pay
Ma’an News Agency 3/25/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Palestinian caretaker government in Ramallah will pay 50% of the backpay owed to Palestinian civil servants and military employees for more than a year, knowledgeable sources told Ma’an on Tuesday. The government has taken the decision to stop the treatened protests and strikes which were being organized by unions unless the monies were paid, the sources said. The sources also affirmed that the secretary general of the Palestinian cabinet Sa’di Al-Krunz had informed representatives of the employees’ unions of the decision. A final meeting between Palestinian officials and the employees’ unions is scheduled to be held next Thursday in Ramallah in the central West Bank to arrange the payment of the remaining 50%, the source added. This is expected to be paid in a few months time.

Education Ministry ditches Limor Livnat’s ’100 Zionist concepts’ program
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
One of the curricular cornerstones of the previous minister of education, aimed at teaching Zionism, democracy and cultural heritage to the country’s junior-high students, is to be scrapped from next year in favor of a program based on primary texts. Instead of "100 Concepts in Heritage, Zionism and Democracy" and its accompanying, nationwide examination, students will choose from among a number of basic topics, the teaching of which will be based on original texts, including passages from the Bible and the Talmud as well as Hebrew fiction, poetry, essays and journals. Instead of a standardized exam, each school will decide its own evaluation methods. 100 Concepts was one of the major projects introduced by former education minister Limor Livnat. Taught in the seventh to ninth grades, it was based on a list of 100 core concepts, most of which were taught in all state schools.

Knesset: Criminal records will be expunged after 7 years
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
The Knesset approved a law on Tuesday stipulating that criminal records will automatically be expunged after seven years, given that the case of the crime has been closed. The new law further states that employers will be precluded from obtaining or demanding to see the criminal records of job applicants and that doing so will constitute a criminal offense with a maximum two-year imprisonment sentence and a fine of up to NIS 200 thousand. MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Effie Eitam (National Union) initiated the bill, which refers to misdemeanor charges in cases closed for lack of public interest or lack of evidence. The police believes that there are about 280 thousand such cases, principally of crimes such as possession of marijuana or shoplifting. Knesset Constitution Committee Chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson says the law. . .

New law removes statute of limitations from murder of PM
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
The Knesset Plenum on Tuesday approved a law stating that there will be no statute of limitations on crimes relating to the assassination of a prime minister. The new law would include crimes such as assisting an assassination and conspiring to assassinate a prime minister. The law was proposed by MK Zvi Hendel (National Union - National Religious Party), who said that "the law aims to quiet mutual suspicions that remain on the left and the right that not everyone involved in the traumatic murder [of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin] has peen prosecuted. "Hendel was referring to claims from the right that Rabin’s killer Yigal Amir had accomplices, and to claims of left wingers that say that the rabbis who approved the assassination must also be prosecuted. "The assassination of a prime minister in a democratic Jewish state is a crime that. . .

Ben-Eliezer relies on increased desalination
Dalia Tal and Lior Baron, Globes Online 3/25/2008
"Israel is the Silicon Valley of water". "The water shortage can be solved by technology," says Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. He added that if desalination production is boosted to 525 million cubic meters a year, it would supply 70% of Israel’s household water consumption, thereby solving the water crisis. The Ministry of National Infrastructures will shortly publish a tender for a 100 million cubic meter a year desalination facility at Soreq and a tender to boost output by current tenders by 75 million cubic meters a year, which Ben-Eliezer says will solve the water problem. He also hinted that had the Ministry of Finance approved the desalination facilities in time, "it is doubtful that we’d be faced with such a severe crisis today. " Ben-Eliezer added that Ministry of National Infrastructures was also working hard on the reuse of treated wastewater,.

Katsav trial delayed as sides argue over evidence
Ofra Edelman and Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
The trial of former president Moshe Katsav, which was supposed to begin today, has been postponed for two weeks at the request of both sides, after prosecution and defense failed to reach an agreement on which evidentiary material Katsav’s attorneys were entitled to receive. By law, the prosecution is supposed to give all relevant material to the defendant. In the prosecution’s view, this means only the material relevant to the charges included in Katsav’s plea bargain. Katsav is being charged with sexual offenses against two former employees. However, the defense is insisting on receiving all material collected by the police during their investigation against Katsav, including material related to women whose complaints were ultimately not included in the plea bargain. What the defense wants most is material relating to the women who do appear in the indictment, including.

Environment Ministry warns air pollution levels excessively high in Israel
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
The Environment Ministry warned that air pollution levels were particularly high on Tuesday for the second time in a week. The ministry announced that those suffering from respiratory difficulties should take health precautions until the evening when winds were expected to disperse the pollution. The cause of the pollution was said to be large quantities of dust which had blown inform Egypt. During periods when air pollution levels are high, tiny particles can enter the respiratory tract, causing damage. Those particularly at risk are the children and the elderly as well as pregnant women and sufferers of heart disease. The ministry warns these groups to avoid exertion until pollution has subsided. Around 120 individuals received medical attention for breathing difficulties caused by elevated pollution levels last week.

Hizkiyahu to check banks’ policies in periphery
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 3/25/2008
"If I were a bank manager today, I’d open branches in the Negev. " "If I were a bank manager today, I’d open branches in the Negev. Not opening branches there makes no business sense," Supervisor of Banks Rony Hizkiyahu told the Knesset Economics Committee yesterday. He was commenting on a proposal by MK Amira Dotan (Kadima) and MK Colette Avital (Labor) to open a branch in the Bedouin town of Rahat. Hizkiyahu added that the Bank of Israel would examine the banks’ conduct in outlying areas, particularly in Arab communities, and why the banks don’t open branches in them. He made it clear, however, that the Bank of Israel had no legal authority to force the banks to open branches or to intervene in the banks’ considerations. "Profits are the banks’ sole consideration," he said.

Lebanon to boycott Arab summit in Damascus
Siniora cabinet may opt to send message to be read, Daily Star 3/26/2008
BEIRUT: After Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa urged the Lebanese to take part in an Arab summit this weekend in Damascus, the Lebanese government on Tuesday decided to boycott the summit without ruling out the possibility of sending a message that could be read at the summit. "Lebanon’s absence from the summit does not imply any negative stands against Syria, but rather an occasion to assert Lebanon’s democracy, sovereignty and independence," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters when reading the minutes of the Cabinet meeting. Moussa had earlier said he hoped Lebanon would not miss the March 29-30 summit. "I hope that Lebanon will not be absent from the summit," Moussa told journalists on arrival in the Syrian capital, shortly after a parliamentary session to elect a Lebanese president was postponed for the 17th time.

Russia and Egypt sign nuclear deal
Al Jazeera 3/25/2008
Russia and Egypt have signed an agreement opening the way for Russian firms to bid for contracts to build nuclear power plants in Egypt. The deal was signed on Tuesday after Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, and Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leader, met near Moscow for talks which also covered Russia’s plan to host a Middle East peace conference. Egypt wants up to four nuclear power stations. An international tender to build the first of them may come as early as this year. Mubarak said: "Egypt, in co-operation with its international partners and the International Atomic Energy Agency is going to develop this sector, including through the agreement we have just signed. Tuesday’s agreement clears the way for Russia’s state nuclear contractor to bid for the project.

Mubarak seals atomic energy deal with Russia
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/26/2008
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin oversaw the signing Tuesday of a dealthat will enable Moscow to bid for the construction of Egypt’s first atomic power station. The head of Russia’s Rosatom nuclear energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, and Egyptian Energy Minister Hassan Younis signed the civilian nuclear cooperation accord at Putin’s residence just outside Moscow. The agreement, which has taken years to draw up, will allow Russia to bid in an international tender for a $1. 5-$1. 8 billion reactor project on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. Mubarak said that the deal was reached after "difficult" negotiations, Interfax news agency reported. Putin praised Egypt as "one of the leaders of the Islamic and the Arab world" and said Russo-Egyptian relations were of "strategic importance.

US, Egypt in dispute over Suez Canal shooting
Middle East Online 3/25/2008
US officials on Tuesday denied reports that a an Egyptian was killed when a US Navy chartered ship opened fire on small boats near the Suez Canal, confirming the incident but insisting no one was hurt. Egyptian accounts however said one man was shot dead and two other people injured on Monday when the US ship fired on barges approaching the vessel wanting to sell merchandise. The Global Patriot "fired warning shots at a small boat approaching the ship as it was preparing to transit the Suez Canal Monday evening," a statement from the US embassy in Cairo said. "Initial reports from the Global Patriot indicate that no casualties were sustained on either vessel. "US warships in the Middle East have previously been harassed or attacked by small boats. Egypt’s official MENA news agency said that "an Egyptian citizen was killed and two others injured when a US military vessel opened fire at a small boat," citing preliminary reports.

Sadr threatens civil revolt as Iraqi, US troops battle Mehdi Army
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/26/2008
BAGHDAD: Moqtada al-Sadr’s militiamen battled Iraqi and US troops in four Iraqi cities Tuesday, including Baghdad and Basra, as the hard-line Shiite cleric threatened a countrywide campaign of civil revolt. Heavy clashes broke out between Sadr’s Mehdi Army fighters in the southern oil city of Basra, killing at least seven people and wounding 48, and in Kut and Hilla, both south of Baghdad, officials said. As evening fell, Mehdi Army fighters fought with Iraqi and US forces in their Sadr City bastion in eastern Baghdad for the first time since last October, a security official and witnesses told AFP. Troops had surrounded the sprawling, impoverished neighborhood of 2 million people, and armed Shiite fighters were roaming the streets, a witness said. The fighting, which severely strains a cease-fire declared by Sadr in late August and renewed last month, prompted the cleric to issue.

China calls on Lebanese to ’double efforts’ to elect president immediately
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 3/26/2008
TYRE: Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Liu Zhiming said Tuesday that the ongoing presidential vacuum was likely to have "negative repercussions on the overall situation" in the country. "A new head of state should be immediately elected; the Chinese government urges all Lebanese groups to double efforts to elect a new president as soon as possible," Liu said during a ceremony to decorate departing Chinese peacekeepers serving as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with peace medals. The departing peacekeepers will be replaced by fresh troops as part of ordinary rotation schedulesThe ceremony was held in the Southern village of Henniyeh, near the coastal city of Tyre. "The Chinese contingent serving as part of UNIFIL is determined to exert all efforts to have peace reign in South Lebanon," Liu added.

US raps Lebanon over money laundering
Daily Star 3/26/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanon remains one of the worst money laundering offenders in the Middle East, despite government efforts to crack down on the activity, according to a report released by the US State Department. The US State Department’s international narcotics control strategy report also identified the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Cyprus as countries that need to do more to crack down on money laundering. The United States and several European countries also made the list of major money laundering states. Lebanon has in recent years made numerous changes to laws and regulations in an effort to crack down on money laundering. As a result, the Financial Action Task Force (FATC) removed Lebanon from a list of countries that it says have failed to combat money laundering. The Lebanese central bank has said that money laundering activity has drastically diminished since 2001, after Parliament approved a new law on money laundering.

Saudi King plans first interfaith conference to include Jews
Yoav Stern and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/26/2008
In a rare departure from government practice, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is planning to convene an interfaith conference for Muslims, Christians and Jews, according to the Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. The call for religious dialog to include Jews is the first by the monarch, whose country’s regulations prohibit the importation of non-Muslim religious objects including crucifixes and stars of David. The Saudi King said representatives of the three major monotheistic faiths need to work together "to defend humanity" from harm, speaking in an address he delivered in Riyadh on Monday. Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which is published in London, quoted King Abdullah as saying he had discussed idea of a summit to promote religious dialog a number of months ago with the Pope.

US, Bahrain sign nuclear energy deal
Middle East Online 3/25/2008
WASHINGTON - The United States and Bahrain signed a deal Monday on peaceful nuclear energy cooperation, holding it up as a model for the Middle East that contrasts with Iran’s disputed atomic program. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) on nuclear energy cooperation was signed by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa during a ceremony at the State Department. The two top diplomats shook hands without delivering any remarks to journalists. The State Department said the MOU is a "tangible expression of the United States’ desire to cooperate with states in the Middle East, and elsewhere, that want to develop peaceful nuclear power in a manner consistent with the highest standards of safety, security and nonproliferation. " In so doing, they will "serve as models for the responsible pursuit of the benefits of nuclear technology," the department said in a statement.

Iraq’s women: Our life was better under Saddam
Middle East Online 3/25/2008
Iraqi women say they are now worse off than they were during the rule of Saddam Hussein and that their plight has deteriorated year by year since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Now they are demanding not just equal rights but the very "right to live", says Shameran Marugi, head of the non-governmental organisation Iraqi Women’s Committee. "The ’right to live’ is a slogan that we have begun using because a women’s life in Iraq is being threatened on all sides. Laws are not being implemented equally and society is ignoring women," Maguri said. "Before the 2003 invasion it was possible for a woman to lead a normal life as long as she followed state policy," she said. "It was even possible for a woman to engage in political and economic activities through the official Union of Iraqi Women," added Marugi. "When the regime change occurred in 2003, women, men, and children went out on to the streets to celebrate.


We heard you, Mr. Boim
Kadura Fares, Ha’aretz 3/25/2008
      Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim explained away the construction of 750 new housing units in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev by saying that the permits had been issued in 1999, but that construction had stopped due to, as he put it, the "outbreak of violence." That is, the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising. According to Boim, the contractors went to court, and as a result of their petition, the government ordered the construction’s approval. Boim was talking, it seems to me, to Israelis and overseas leaders critical of the renewed construction. He did not notice that Palestinians were also listening to him.
     I am one of those who listened, and I understood from his statements that Boim is inviting us - the Palestinians - to start another intifada. Boim’s statements reminded me how, at the end of the last decade, at the height of the peace talks, when we were closer to the finish line than ever before, the Israelis continued unremittingly to build settlements. That is the case today: After Annapolis, the Paris conference, and the renewal of talks on the highest level, Israel is once more expanding its settlement construction.

The 10 commandments of the peace process

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 3/26/2008
      In the few days I have spent in Geneva this week discussing such issues as Europe’s role in the world, the relevance and application of international humanitarian law, and Switzerland’s experience in impartially promoting conflict-resolution negotiations, the conversation inevitably returns to the Middle East. My pleasure at absorbing the lessons of Switzerland’s dynamic neutrality has been partially offset by the irritation of following US Vice President Dick Cheney in his travels around the Middle East.
     Cheney speaks about promoting peace, but spends most of his time scheming to confront those nationalist and Islamist forces in the region that happen to represent a majority of citizens in Arab-Islamic societies. Defeating Hamas and Hizbullah and checking the Iranian and Syrian governments have become his primary diplomatic focus, rather than offering the United States as an even-handed and dynamic mediator that could make a historic contribution to peace if it really wanted to.

The world has betrayed the Israelis and Palestinians who want peace

Editorial, Daily Star 3/26/2008
      The Palestinian-Israeli peace process has been unmasked, not as failed diplomacy, but as poor fiction. As a commentary in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper noted earlier this week, a parade of high-profile visitors continues to wend its way through the region, all prostrating themselves in Israel in this 60th year since its foundation, some flitting through the Occupied West Bank, but few so much as casting a glance at the eyesore in the Gaza Strip. They fall over themselves in an effort to congratulate the Jewish state on its imagined good fortunes and its supposed good deeds. In so doing, they are ignoring the Palestinians, lying to themselves, and betraying those Israelis for whom they claim to have so much respect.
     They all have their reasons, but none of these is worth the damage being done to all concerned. Some are rightly ridden with a sense of national guilt at the appalling crimes committed against European Jews during World War II.

The dollar crisis only heightens Palestinian misery

Sam Bahour, Daily Star 3/26/2008
      As if the Palestinian economic reality was not complicated enough, the rapid drop in the value of the dollar has put many Palestinians between a rock and a hard place, not knowing how to make ends meet and not seeing an end to this perplexing situation. The Palestinian market uses four main currencies. The Israeli shekel is traded in daily purchases; the Jordanian dinar (JD), euro and US dollar are used for business and real estate transactions. The JD is pegged to the dollar at 0.709 so any devaluation of the dollar directly devalues the JD.
     The vast majority of private-sector employee contracts are in either JDs or dollars. Very few employee contracts use the Israeli shekel, mainly due to its historic fluctuation and because using it is a sign of Israeli dominance over the Palestinian market, which many prefer not to contribute to. And while all civil servant contracts are in shekels and thus the devaluation of the dollar benefits public employees, this is not so for the other major employment sector, the NGO sector, which is very reliant on the dollar and where the devaluation is deeply felt.
Gaza and the failure of Israel’s deterrence strategy

Daoud Kuttab, Daily Star 3/26/2008
      Every day in the Gaza Strip, strategic deterrence - the inhibition of attack by a fear of punishment backed up by superior military power - is being put to the test. The escalating spiral of violence by Israel and Gaza militants indicates not only that deterrence is failing, but also that its effectiveness depends on adherence to fundamental standards of morality.
     Some security strategists and just war theorists argue that there may be nothing morally objectionable about deterrence in cases where the lives and welfare of a civilian population are not directly affected. The threat of retaliation that underpins its strategic effectiveness remains implicit and hypothetical. However, when deterrence becomes indistinguishable from collective punishment - barred under international law by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention - it is far less likely to achieve its intended result.

Transforming Israel

Miko Peled, Electronic Intifada 3/25/2008
      Now that Kosovo is the newest independent state to emerge out of the ruins of the former Yugoslavia parallels are being drawn between the Balkans and the Middle East. One response to this development came from Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who said that as she does not mind if the Palestinians follow the Kosovars and declare statehood; what worries her is that Palestinians will demand equal rights with Israelis.
     Adding to Israeli fears of the impending demand for equal rights, in an article published recently in The Guardian, Ahmad Khalidi wrote that the state now being offered to the Palestinians is less attractive than ever and that Palestinians may just opt to "evoke Olmert’s worst nightmare" and call for a "genuine partnership of sharing the land." Both Livni and Olmert have stated that the possibility of equality keeps them awake at night, and with good cause. Once the discourse moves from "self determination to that of freedom and democracy" as Ahmed Khalidi puts it, the Zionist brand of apartheid will have to fold and a secular democracy will have to emerge in its place.

The Vision of an Arab-Free Knesset

Shahar Ilan, MIFTAH 3/25/2008
      MK Zevulun Orlev’s rage was not provoked by last week’s pogrom at Jabel Mukkaber, where right-wing protesters attempted to storm the house of the terrorist behind the Mercaz Harav attack; rather, the National Religious Party lawmaker’s anger was sparked by a remark made by Balad chairman MK Jamal Zahalka, who claimed Jerusalem was occupied land and that he refused to recognize a law stating otherwise. "If each member of the Knesset decides which laws to recognize on an individual basis, then you will be the first to suffer," he informed Zahalka, "and I will see to that personally."
     Truth be told: As a member of a party that supports illegal outposts, Zevulun would be best advised to keep a low profile on the subject of the rule of law. But what really matters in this story is the new habit of threatening Arab Knesset members; the dizzying increase in incitement, curses and insults leveled at them, a spike that has gone almost without protest or the involvement of the Knesset Ethics Committee.

The Science of Terror

Jim Miles, Middle East Online 3/25/2008
      Sometimes the science community, hiding behind the guise of empirical research, cannot see its own bias even while correctly analyzing a situation.The latter statement may seem contradictory, but given the manner in which it studies ‘terror’ and then applies those findings and definitions only to some ‘other’ group, it ignores the reality of terror at home and the reality of terror perpetrated by the ‘homeland’.Not ‘home grown terror’ such as the Timothy McVeighs of the world, nor the terror inflicted on the people by the very infrequent acts of foreigners acting on the homeland, but the terror of the country itself, the acts of the people in government, in the military, in politics, in religion, who either spread terror themselves or spread the fear of terror in order to control not only the domestic audience but foreign audiences as well.
     This has been presented before with the National Geographic magazine’s “World of Terror”[1] article that dutifully recorded acts of terror throughout the world without recognizing the United States’ historical and current acts of terror in the homeland and abroad. From that geographical perspective, one man’s terror is another man’s “civilizing mission”, bringing the benefits of superior technology and enlightened wisdom to the masses of the world who are otherwise disenfranchised “others” with little value until they embrace the “freedom” of the market place and their rightful place in it.

Winter Soldier

Laila Al-Arian, Middle East Online 3/25/2008
      While on tank patrol through the narrow streets of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, Pfc. Clifton Hicks was given an order. Abu Ghraib had become a "free-fire zone," Hicks was told, and no "friendlies" or civilians remained in the area. "Game on. All weapons free," his captain said. Upon that command, Hicks’ unit opened a furious fusillade, firing wildly into cars, at people scurrying for cover, at anything that moved. Sent in to survey the damage, Hicks found the area littered with human and animal corpses, including women and children, but he saw no military gear or weapons of any kind near the bodies. In the aftermath of the massacre, Hicks was told that his unit had killed 700-800 "enemy combatants." But he knew the dead were not terrorists or insurgents; they were innocent Iraqis. "I will agree to swear to that till the day I die," he said. "I didn’t see one enemy on that operation."
     Hicks soberly recounted this bloody incident to a packed auditorium in Silver Spring, Maryland, as part of Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, a summit hosted March 13-16 by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Modeled after the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation -- in which Vietnam veterans, including John Kerry, testified in Detroit about US atrocities in Vietnam -- this incarnation featured more than fifty veterans and active-duty service members testifying about engaging in or witnessing atrocities and war crimes against Iraqi and Afghan civilians. As a precondition for participation, IVAW required veterans to provide corroborating evidence such as photographs, videos and additional witnesses. Former marine Scott Camil, 61, who spoke at the first Winter Soldier event, attended the conference along with seven fellow Vietnam-era witnesses. "When we came home, the World War II and Korean War veterans did not support our activities. I know how that feels," Camil said quietly. "We’re not going to let it happen to these guys."

Towards a viable academic boycott campaign

Laith Marouf, Electronic Intifada 3/24/2008
      For the past few years student and academic groups in North America and Europe have been openly campaigning for the boycott of Israeli academia. Some actions produced results (even if not long lasting) and some were unsuccessful. It is important for us working towards the defense of Palestinians’ human rights to learn from these experiences so we may meet our goals in the future. One thing is clear, the stakes are very high and all the major Zionist organizations are responding accordingly.
     Let us first look at the boycott campaign in the UK led by the British Committee for Universities in Palestine. The campaign was a well-thought-out initiative, though it was taken on a wild roller coaster ride. The leading organizers worked for over three years educating fellow academics about the case for boycott.
     Professors succeeded in getting pro-boycott motions passed by two major academic unions, the Association of University Teachers and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education. At that time, these two unions were also in the process of merging. The day after the merger, the executive of the new union, the University and College Union (UCU), claimed to have no mandate for a boycott. Pro-boycott professors mounted a new campaign and triumphantly passed a motion for boycott in the first UCU General Assembly. In response, Harvard Law School’s Alan Dershowitz threatened to unleash an army of lawyers ready to file perpetual lawsuits that would "devastate and bankrupt" any union that boycotted Israel. The UCU lawyers balked and eventually the campaign was vetoed by the UCU executive.