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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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27 March 2008


The Israeli army invades Gaza, Palestinian Resistance shells nearby Israeli areas
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/27/2008
Israeli army tanks and bulldozers invaded the village of Al Qarrara in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday night. Tanks and bulldozers destroyed two homes owned by local farmers in addition to bulldozing 50 Dunums of land used for farming local sources reported. (one Acre = Four Dunums). Meanwhile the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, stated that its fighters fired at least nine home-made shells at southern Israeli areas located near Gaza on Wednesday late at night. Israeli media sources reported that two Israeli civilians were lightly wounded when a Qassam shell landed in their home in the Negev area in southern Israel. [end] [end]

What’s lying behind Jerusalem’s secret tunnel?
Joseph Krauss – JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 3/27/2008
Amin al-Siyam says he is awakened nearly every night by the sound of Jewish settlers tunneling under his east Jerusalem house towards the Old City’s deeply sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound. "We hear them at night, under the house. Sometimes the whole building shakes. Then they leave the next morning, early," Siyam says. Siyam lives in the heart of one of the world’s most bitterly contested cities, his house sitting above a tunnel that has struck a new fault line in the Middle East conflict. The house faces an archaeological dig in the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan in annexed east Jerusalem, just a few hundred metres (yards) from Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest site -- which occupy the same space. Jews call it Temple Mount -- the site of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Muslims call it Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, from which they believe their prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven on a horse.

Barak to tell Rice Israel living up to its commitments
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/27/2008
US secretary of state expected to attend three-way meeting with Israeli defense minister, Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad. American diplomats tell Jerusalem visit will be different than predecessors, warn that lack of progress on the ground bodes ill for Annapolis achievements - Israel is living up to its commitments and has demonstrated a willingness to make life easier for the Palestinian population. This in the hopes of moving ahead with the peace process begun in Annapolis, towhich we are dedicated. "Having said this, Israel’s actions depend first and foremost on the need to defend its citizens", Defense Minister Ehud Barak is expected to tell US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice upon the latter’s visit to the region this weekend. Rice will arrive ahead of schedule for a round of high-profile meetings intended to inject energy into the peace process, which the US fears is losing momentum.

West Bank faces toxic waste crisis
Mel Frykberg in Ramallah, Al Jazeera 3/21/2008
The West Bank has become a dumping site for hazardous waste - which is making residents sick, say Israeli and Palestinian environmental groups. Several weeks ago, villagers from Jima’in in the Nablus district complained that Israeli trucks were again dumping waste on Palestinian land. Ayman Abu Thaher, the deputy director-general of the Palestinian Authority’s Environmental Awareness Directorate said such dumping has been going on for years. "The Israelis are using the West Bank as a cheap and easy alternative for dumping their waste at the expense of the health of Palestinians," he said. According to Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME),a joint Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian environmental group, improper dumping of contaminants and waste has over time become a threat to the region’s drinking water.

B’Tselem: IDF broke law by killing wanted Palestinians
Ynet, YNetNews 3/27/2008
Human rights group asks attorney general, chief military advocate general to investigate killing of Muhammad Shahade, three other terror suspects in Bethlehem earlier March, claiming they were killed without resisting arrest, should have been brought to trial - B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, has asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and Chief Military Advocate General, Brig. -Gen. Avi Mandelblit, to launch a criminal investigation into the killing of four wanted Palestinian suspects by IDF forces in Bethlehem earlier in March. The men in question are Muhammad Shahade, Ahmad Balbul, Imad al-Kamal and Issa Marzouk Zawahara. According to the IDF, the four, who were killed in a raid on March 12, have been involved in planning and perpetrating terror attacks against Israel.

Israel to open controversial West Bank police HQ
Middle East Online 3/27/2008
JERUSALEM - Israel is set to inaugurate a new police headquarters for the occupied West Bank in an area outside occupied Jerusalem that is at the heart of a bitter land dispute. "The building, which can house hundreds of police, will be inaugurated on Monday," a spokesman for the public security ministry said. The police station is located in the 12-kilometre (7. 5-mile) E1 corridor between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, the largest illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Continued settlement activity in the territory is seen as one of the major stumbling blocks in slow-moving peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel insists that building the police station is not linked to the settlement issue as it is a security installation. Palestinian officials warn that Israeli construction in E1 would completely block the narrow corridor of land running east of Jerusalem.

Hizbullah increases rocket range; can now reach Dimona
AP, YNetNews 3/27/2008
Anonymous Defense Ministry officials reveal Iran, Syria arming Hizbullah with new rockets ranging up to 300 km. Organization can now hit almost all major cities - With Iranian backing, Hizbullah militants have dramatically increased their rocket range and can now threaten most of Israel, anonymous Defense Ministry officials said Wednesday, explaining that the Lebanese organization has acquired new Iranian rockets with a range of about 300 kilometers. This means the guerrillas can hit anywhere in Israel’s heavily populated center and reach as far south as Dimona. During the Second Lebanon Warof 2006, Hizbullah fired nearly four thousand rockets into Israeli territory. The longest-range rockets fired, which officials said were Iranian-made, hit about 70 kilometers inside Israel. Although the Air Force managed to take out most of Hizbullah’s.

IDF: Islamic Jihad producing Grad-like rockets
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/27/2008
New type rockets can reach 12. 5-mile range, carry double amount of explosives compared to Qassams. ’The fact terror groups can manufacture their own long-range rockets is disturbing and worrying,’ army official warns - The Islamic Jihad terror group has recently began manufacturing rockets capable of reaching a 12. 5-mile range, similar to the Grad rockets already in use by terror organizations in Gaza. The new rockets are armed with a much deadlier warhead that carries double the amount of explosives compared to the regular Qassams, the IDF has recently learned. According to army data, the terror groups have made use of the new rocket at least three times since the IDF’s Warm Summer Operation in Gaza concluded. Regular Qassam rockets carry about 11 lbs of explosives and have a 4.

Israeli forces storm towns in Tulkarem district
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces stormed in several areas in the northern West Bank district of Tulkarem on Thursday morning, Ma’an’s reporter said. Our Tulkarem reporter said that an Israeli infantry unit stormed the towns of Anabta and Bal’a in eastern Tulkarem. No arrests have been reported. He added that another Israeli force closed the track road between the towns of Bazaria and Ramin using a military bulldozer. [end] [end]

Palestinian security seize 4 Hamas affiliates in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Hamas said that the Palestinian security services affiliated to the Fatah-led caretaker government in the West Bank arrested four Hamas loyalists on Wednesday evening. They said in a statement that the arrestees were from Nablus and Salfit districts in the northern West Bank as well as Hebron in the south. [end] [end]

Mossad accused of helping Mugabe steal votes
Middle East Online 3/27/2008
HARARE - Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has enlisted the services of Israeli computer experts with links to Israel’s Mossad spy agency to help steal a weekend vote, the opposition said Thursday. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary general Tendai Biti said that Mugabe has hired an Israeli company manned by IT experts who are linked to Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, to doctor the voters’ roll to help him win the tightly-contested vote with around a 60 percent majority. "We are getting, by the second, evidence of the manner in which Mugabe and his cronies are assaulting this election," said Biti. "Mugabe intends to steal this election. . . through the technical assault. They are thoroughly organised, thoroughly computerised. The voters’ roll and technology is the key vehicle of fraud which they intend to use.

Army invades a Bethlehem town
Manar Jibrin& agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/27/2008
Thursday afternoon a massive number of Israeli soldiers had invaded the al Balou’ neighborhood in the West Bank town of al Khader southern of Bethlehem. Local eyewitness reported that the soldiers are surrounding a house that belongs to Mohamad Husein Salah under the pretext of having "wanted Palestinians" inside it. [end] [end]

Female Detainee on hunger strike since 17 days
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center 3/28/2008
Lawyer of Al Hoqooq Center for Detainees Studies reported on Thursday that detainee Noura Al Hashlamoon, 37, a mother of six children, from Aqbat Tafooh area in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, is on hunger strike since 17 days in protest to her continued solitary confinement. Al Hashlamoon is detained in Al Ramla Israeli prison and subjected to ongoing violations which include ongoing solitary confinement, barring her from receiving proper food, and barring her from showering or even changing her clothes. Freed female detainee, Raja’ Al Ghoul, stated that Al Hashlamoon is threatening to continue her hunger strike indefinitely until the Israeli Authorities release her. Ra’fat Hamdoona, head of the Center, appealed several human rights groups, including the International Red Cross to intervene and save the life of Al Hashlamoon, and to act for her release in order to enable her to be among her children.

Thousands protest in Hebron against charity closures
Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron protested onThursday against Israeli raids and closures of orphanages andcharities linked to Islamist group Hamas. Israel says the charities, which helped Hamas build support among Palestinians and win a 2006 parliamentary election, provide help to militants. The charities say they are simply aiding ordinary Palestinians. According to organisers, some 4,000 protesters including children protested in Hebron. They chanted anti-Israeli slogans, waved green banners - the color of the Hamas flag - and held placards reading "They even took our bread". Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, Israel has stepped up raids targeting the group’s charities and schools in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah faction holds sway.

Continuing demolitions: Hebron and Jerusalem under attack
Stop The Wall 3/20/2008
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, March 20th, 2008Occupation forces demolished homes and property across the West Bank, with the Jerusalem and Hebron municipalities the most adversely affected. Homes were demolished in al-Jeeb in northwest Jerusalem and Hizma in the northeast, all under the pretext that they were built without permits. The Occupation municipality systematically refuses building permits to Palestinians in order to prevent the expansion of Palestinian communities, in accordance with the Masterplan 2000 scheme for the Jerusalem that aims to promote an expanded ‘Greater Jerusalem’ as the capital of the Jewish state. At around 8:30 on Thursday morning, Occupation forces arrived at the house of Mahmoud Jarabia’ Mohammed Ka’abni to the east of al-Jeeb, accompanied by jeeps and heavy machinery. There were clashes as the Israeli forces began to demolish the family’s home, during which Mahmoud’s mother was hospitalized. The family are now staying with neighbours, considering where they should go now. Ka’abni bought the land in 1994 and has lived there with his six family members in a four-room house for the last four years. The Occupation municipality issued a demolition order for the property last year. The bulldozer destroyed another house nearby also owned by Mahmoud Ka’abni, home to three families, of Mahmoud Rabiya Ka’abni and his brothers Fouzi and Mohammed. Fifteen people living in the house are now homeless with nowhere to go.

UNIFIL beefs up patrols after Israeli incursion
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 3/28/2008
TIBNIN: The Spanish contingent serving as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) conducted extensive patrols on Thursday in the southern area stretching between the occupied town of Ghajar and the Wazzani River. Media reports on Wednesday said that an Israeli force composed of two armored humvees and a tractor crossed the Blue Line toward the area of the Wazzani River. UNIFIL, meanwhile, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the Israeli Army informed the peacekeeping force it would be doing repair work within an area north of the occupied village of Ghajar. UNIFIL said it asked the Israeli Army to stop its work and respect the coordination arrangements agreed upon so as to avoid further unnecessary escalation in the region. In separate developments, UNIFIL’s Belgian-Luxembourg contingent donated 20 pieces of specialized equipment to extinguish forest fires.

Halabeyya: IOA Cancellation of MPs residency permits in O. Jerusalem illegal
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Rapporteur of the Quds committee in the PA legislative MP Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabeyya has strongly condemned the Israeli decision of canceling the residency permit of three Jerusalemite lawmakers Dr. Mohammed Tutah, Mohammed Abutair, Ahmad Attun, and former Jerusalem affairs’ minister Khaled Arafa. Halabeyya also described the decision of the Israeli Ofer military court as "unjust, repressive, and politically motivated" that aims at driving Palestinian Jerusalemites out of the holy city in preparation to Judaize it. "The decision constitutes strong violation of human rights in occupied Palestine, in general, and in the occupied city of Jerusalem in particular and it puts additional psychological pressures on the Palestinian people", Halabeyya added. The three Palestinian MPs won their seats in the PLC through clean, transparent, and honest general elections under the banner of Hamas Movement.

60 seriously injured Palestinians arrive in Istanbul for medical treatment
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
ISTANBUL, (PIC)-- Under the auspices of IHH, a Turkish relief committee, 60 Palestinians from those who sustained serious injuries in the last Israeli aggression on Gaza arrived aboard a private plane in Istanbul to receive medical treatment in Turkish hospitals. The seriously wounded Palestinian will be receiving appropriate medical treatment and surgical operations in Turkish hospitals. Many of the survivors of the Israeli massacre in Gaza will be provided with prostheses and will be provided with psychological support within an integrated program during their stay in Turkey.    For its part, IHH announced that it held meetings with the Egyptian government prior to the travel of the wounded Palestinians to Istanbul which resulted in the latter’s approval to allow 60 cases to travel for medical treatment. IHH underlined that there are dozens of serious injuries in the Egyptian.

Palestinians ’Tortured’ in Egypt
Mohamed el-Sawwaf, MIFTAH 3/27/2008
Palestinians who were detained in Egypt after crossing from the Gaza Strip accused Friday, March 21, Egyptian security forces of torturing and abusing them to get tips on the resistance movement Hamas and its armed wing. " We were beaten, kicked and electrified, to mention but a few examples," Saber Al-Dremli told IslamOnline. net. Al-Dremil was arrested by Egyptian forces along with dozens of Palestinians after crossing the Gaza border wall into Egypt in January to stock up on desperately-needed supplies as Israel has been slapping a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip since June. Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June after routing rival Fatah. Since then, the impoverished Strip has been subject to a massive US-led economic boycott and Israeli sanctions including crippling closures. Al-Dremil charged that Egyptian security services threw Palestinians in tiny cells without water or toilets.

MK Elon: Palestinian refugee issue fuels terrorism
Ynetnews, YNetNews 3/27/2008
’Placing refugee issue in UNRWA’s hands a serious mistake,’ head of the Israeli Initiative tells foreign journalists - "The perpetuation of the Palestinian refugees is the gas fueling the terror," Knesset Member Benny Elon (National Union - NRP), head of the Israeli Initiative, said during a meeting with the Forum of Foreign Journalists in Jerusalem this week. According to Elon, "many US congressmen understand the serious error of placing the refugee issue in the hands of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and they are greatly helping us in promoting the ideas regarding this issue as proposed within the framework of the Israeli Initiative. We are also working vigorously in other countries. " "The Israeli Initiative is the first in proposing a humanitarian solution, not a political one, to the refugees’ suffering," said the MK.

Egypt holds new talks with Hamas, Jihad over truce with Israel
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
Egypt held a new round of talks with Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Thursday as part of efforts to strike a truce between the Palestinian militant groups and Israel, Egyptian sources close to the talks said. Egypt, with U. S. blessing, has been trying to negotiate a cessation of hostilities between Israel and the militants from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The sources, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the talks were held on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing and attended by Hamas official Jamal Abu Hashem and Khaled al-Batsh of Islamic Jihad. General Mohamed Ibrahim, a senior aide to Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, represented Egypt, they added without elaboration. Thursday’s meeting also addressed the release of a Hamas leader who was detained by Egypt and accused of planning suicide attacks inside the country.

Delegates of Hamas and Islamic Jihad visit Egypt to discuss crossing, calm
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Delegations of the Hamas Movement and the Islamic Jihad Movement headed Thursday morning to Egypt to resume discussions about a number of issues especially the temporary calm with the Israeli occupation and the opening of the Rafah border crossing. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, stated that the Movement’s position towards the truce is clear and stipulates that any calm must be reciprocal, simultaneous and comprehensive. Dr. Abu Zuhri also said the repeated threats of Israeli premier Ehud Olmert against Gaza reflects Israel’s insistence on continuing its aggression on the Palestinian people, adding that Hamas is always ready for all options and for the defense of the Palestinian people. The spokesman, in another context, called on the Arab summit which will be held in Damascus during the next two days to necessarily develop.

Hamas spokesman: an agreement with Egyptians to relieve Gaza residents
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/27/2008
Spokesman of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, Ayman Taha, was quoted by media sources today as saying that his party’s talks with Egyptian officials were fruitful. Taha was speaking to Palestine Information Center, an online media website, linked with Hamas. " the meeting involving Hamas and Islamic Jihad members was positive and would relieve the Gaza’s residents under the tightened Israeli siege", Taha said. He pointed out that his party reiterated its position that any truce deal with Israel should be reciprocal and include the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Taha maintained that the Egyptian authorities agreed to release the remaining Palestinians who have been put into custody after the January’s breach of Gaza-Egypt border lines by crowds of besieged Palestinians.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad truce talks end without deal
Reuters, YNetNews 3/27/2008
Talks between Palestinian groups, Egyptian mediators on truce with Israel end without agreement, after factions demand Israel stop all raids in Gaza and West Bank, open border crossings - A new round of talks between Egypt and the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad ended on Thursday without agreement on striking a truce with Israel. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they rejected a ceasefire unless Israel stopped all raids in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, ended its Gaza blockade and reopened the coastal territory’s border crossings. " In Hamas we stressed our position that calm must be simultaneous, reciprocal and comprehensive," said Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha. Over the past two weeks, Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have refrained from carrying out rocket attacks against Israel.

’Wanted’ Palestinian activists granted amnesty
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Nablus – Ma’an Exclusive – A number of Palestinian activists who have been pursued by Israeli intelligence told Ma’an on Thursday that they have been granted final amnesty after they spent four and a half months in Palestinian custody. Hasan Rimawi, one of the pardoned activists told Ma’an that 36 activists from the West Bank have been granted amnesty. The Israelis handed a list of 78 ’wanted’ activists to the Palestinian Authority on November 9th 2007. The activists were alleged to have been involved in military activities against Israel. [end] [end]

Bush invites Abbas to U.S. for talks on Palestinian state
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
U. S. President George W. Bush has invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House in early May for talks aimed at advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Thursday. Abbas has been invited for around May 1, though the details of the visit are still being worked out, Johndroe told reporters on Air Force One as the president was en route to Ohio to deliver a speech on the Iraq war. Aides to Abbas said on Wednesday the Palestinian leader had been invited for April 24. The White House meeting with Abbas is part of a continuing effort "to work with the Palestinians and the Israelis as well as other countries in the region in realizing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel," Johndroe said.

QB: IOF repeated dismantling of outposts new achievement for resistance
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, underlined that the IOF repeated dismantling of army posts near to the Gaza Strip reflected a qualitative achievement for Palestinian resistance. Abu Obaida, the QB spokesman, told the armed wing’s website on Wednesday that the IOF step is an honor to all Mujahideen who insisted on fighting the "usurping enemy". He said that the determination of the resistance fighters and the steadfastness of the Palestinian people forced the "enemy" to flee the position despite its military might and huge military arsenal. The IOF command dismantled on Wednesday the Mintad outpost east of Qarara, in Khan Younis district south of the Gaza Strip, to evade constant shelling and attacks by QB fighters over the past few days. It was the second military base to be dismantled.

IOF troops kidnap Palestinian young woman
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- IOF soldiers at dawn Thursday kidnapped a 26-year-old Palestinian young woman from her parent’s home in Rafidia suburb, Nablus city, local sources reported. The sources said that the soldiers broke into the home of Samir Kenan and abducted his daughter Hanadi after ransacking the house. Relatives of the young woman said that the troops violently stormed the family home before taking away Hanadi, who is a post graduate student at Najah University. They recalled that the IOF troops had earlier kidnapped Hanadi’s brother. In another unrelated development, detained PLC speaker Dr. Aziz Dwaik is scheduled to attend a hearing into his case in Ofer detention center on Thursday along with other detained MPs affiliated with Hamas’s parliamentary bloc. The Israeli occupation authority is holding 47 Palestinian MPs in custody including Dr.

Israeli settler attacks Palestinian woman on road near Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – An Israeli woman from the Tappuh settlement near Qalqilia in the northern West Bank attacked attacked a Palestinian woman as she waited for a taxi by the side of the road on Thursday. Rawda At-Tabib was attacked as she was on her way to work in the Bureau of Social Affairs in Salfit in the northern West Bank, she told Ma’an. She explained that the Israeli woman suddenly began hitting her with a club whilst uttering a stream on invective. Israeli soldiers came and took away the settler. According to Palestinian medical sources in Qalqilia, the Palestinian woman sustained serious bruises to her leg. [end] [end]

Palestinian military groups fire projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility on Thursday morning for launching three homemade projectiles at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Separately, the military wing affiliated to the Popular Resistance Committees said a group of their fighters fired two homemade projectiles at the Israeli Kibutz of ’Ein Hashlosha east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday morning. The Brigades said in separate statements that their activities came in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end] [end]

Israeli forces demolish three houses, farm and groves in southern Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli forces demolished three houses in Al-Qarara in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening, Ma’an’s reporter said. Eyewitnesses told our reporter that Israeli military vehicles raided the area in the evening under cover of a military helicopter, withdrawing at 10pm after demolishing three houses belonging to Hisham, Nasser and Yasser Abu Mudeif. Israeli forces also demolished a poultry farm belonging to the Abu Shamas family as well as bulldozing 13 acres of olive trees. [end] [end]

Israeli forces arrest 3 Palestinians near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the small village of Jbara, south of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank on Thursday morning, imposing a curfew before apprehending three men. Ma’an’s reporter quoted Palestinian security sources as saying that the arrestees were taken to the Qidomeim settlement near Tulkarem. Local sources named one of them as 44-year-old Tahsin Awad while the identity of the other two remains unknown. [end] [end]

PFLP’s military wing fires two projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades claimed responsibility on Thursday for launching two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people. [end] [end]

Identity of NCO charged with spying for Hizbullah revealed
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 3/27/2008
Louai Balut meets with family for first time since arrest on espionage, drug charges. Continues to insist allegations are conspiracy - The Haifa Military Court on Thursday remanded to custody for an additional four days First Sergeant Major Louai Balut, a 34-year-old from the village of Fasuta in the Upper Galilee accused of aiding Hizbullah. In addition the court released his name for publication. Military Prosecution representatives stated in court that an indictment will be filed against Balut by next Monday. He is accused of contact with a foreign agent and espionage, and was detained on illegal drug charges, as well as charges of assisting Hizbullah operatives and handing sensitive military information over to them. On Thursday, for the first time since his arrest, Balut met with his family, but was not permitted to speak with them.

Rights group: Deaths in IDF Bethlehem raid were apparent executions
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has requested a criminal investigation into the deaths of four wanted Palestinian militants in Bethlehem on March 12, saying that the deaths during the Israel Defense Forces raid appeared to have been an execution. In a letter to the attorney general and the IDF Military Advocate General, the group says that its own investigation raised serious suspicions that the wanted men had not been killed during an exchange of fire or while trying to escape, as intimated by the IDF. B’Tselem said that if the men were in fact executed, the IDF is guilty of severely violating a High Court ruling stating that the state is prohibited from intentionally killing Palestinians if less harmful means of maintaining security are available, meaning arrest and due process.

16-year-old arrested at Huwwara checkpoint for possessing a firework
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces closed the Huwwara military checkpoint south of Nablus in the southern West Bank on Thursday morning, banning the passage of Palestinians in both directions, eyewitnesses told Ma’an. Ma’an’s reporter said that Israeli soldiers closed the checkpoint and seized 16-year-old Muhammad Hammad from Beita near Nablus, saying he was in possession of explosives. The soldiers summoned sappers and experts only to discover the boy was carrying a firework. "I was surprised when I received a phone call telling me that my son was apprehended for having explosives. Eyewitnesses told me he had a single firework worth one shekel," the boy’s father said. [end]

VIDEO - West Bank farmers struggle under occupation - 27 March 08
YouTube 3/27/2008
VIDEO - West Bank farmers struggle under occupation [end] [end]

Fatah in Tulkarem warns of "organized attack" against Fatah leadership
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – The Fatah movement in Tulkarem on Thursday warned of what they described as an "organized attack" against the movement’s leadership by "enemies of the movement. " "The Fatah movement is now paying the price for its struggle and insistence on countering the enemies of the Palestinian question inside the Palestinian territories and abroad, and we are paying the price for our commitment to our people’s legitimate rights," they said in a statement. The statement said that negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis have faltered because Palestinian negotiators can not give up Palestinian inalienable rights despite Israeli pressures. [end] [end]

Israeli rabbi calls for ’terrible revenge’
Middle East Online 3/27/2008
TEL AVIV - A prominent Israeli rabbi has called on the state to exact "terrible revenge" against Palestinians for the recent killing of eight teenagers at a religious school in occupied Jerusalem, drawing heavy criticism. In an article on the front page of a Jewish nationalist pamphlet, Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of the northern city of Safed, blasted the state for failing to avenge the March 6 attack. "Two weeks have passed since the attack in Merkaz Harav Yeshiva and we have yet to hear of an Israeli retribution. Something has gone wrong with the decision makers. This used to be one of Israel’s basic policies," he wrote in the latest issue of the weekly publication. "We must call a spade a spade. Revenge, revenge, revenge. We must not forget. We must exact terrible revenge for the Merkaz Harav attack. "I am talking about the state. "

Palestine Today 032708
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio dept, International Middle East Media Center 3/27/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Thursday March 27th, 2008. The Israeli army attack Gaza and level a home, a new round of talks takes place in Rafah between Hamas and Egypt over a possible truce, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Israeli army tanks and bulldozers invaded the village of Al Qarrara in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, on Thursday at dawn. Tanks and bulldozers destroyed two homes owned by local farmers in addition to bulldozing 50 Dunums of land used for farming local sources reported. (One Acre = Four Dunums). Meanwhile the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, stated that its fighters fired at least nine home-made shells at southern Israeli areas located near Gaza on Thursday at dawn.

Duweik calls on Arab leaders to prioritize the Palestinian Cause
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/27/2008
Detained head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Aziz Dweik, called on the Arab leaders participating at the Arab Summit which will be held in the coming days in Damascus, to place the Palestinian cause on the top of their agenda. Dr. Dweik, imprisoned by Israel along with dozens of Hamas legislators and officials, urged the Arab leaders to act in order to protect Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque, and demanded the Arab countries to act against the Israeli siege on the Palestinian people, and to support the Palestinian struggle for justice and independence. He called on the Arab leaders to support the Palestinian rights, demand Israel to release all Palestinian detainees and to close all of its prisons and detention facilities. Dr. Dweik, talking on behalf of the imprisoned legislators and ministers, called on the Arab leaders to act effectively in order to break the siege imposed on the Palestinian people.

Hamas to Arab leaders: You are capable of breaking the unjust siege on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has urged on Wednesday the Arab leaders to shoulder their national and religious duty in supporting the Palestinian people, asserting that Arab leaders were capable of ending the unjust siege on the Gaza Strip. The Hamas’s call was made through a memo sent to the upcoming Arab summit in the Syrian capital Damascus and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC in which it invited those leaders to strongly adopt and back the Yemeni initiative that was signed by Hamas and Fatah Movements in Sana’a on Sunday. "We call on you [Arab leaders] to carry out your national and brotherly responsibilities in sponsoring a Palestinian-Palestinian dialogue, especially between Fatah and Hamas Movements to put an end to the current political rift in the Palestinian arena", The Movement underlined in the memo.

Arab FMs to relaunch Mideast peace plan
Middle East Online 3/27/2008
DAMASCUS - Arab foreign ministers on Thursday agreed to relaunch the Arab peace initiative in its current form, despite earlier suggestions by the Syrian minister that the initiative could be rethought. "We agreed on maintaining the Arab peace initiative and there is no intention on the ministers’ part to amend it," Mohammed Sobeih, Arab League assistant secretary general for Palestinian affairs, told reporters. "It was also agreed that the initiative will be relaunched to the international community in order to stress Arab concern for finding a solution to the Arab Israeli conflict," Sobeih said. At the opening of the ministers meeting in Damascus earlier on Thursday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem hinted at the possibility of reconsidering the initiative if Israel did not prove its intention to establish peace in the Middle East.

Hamas calls on Yemen to pressure Abbas to abide by Sana’a declaration
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement called on Yemeni president Ali Saleh to pressure the Fatah faction and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to respect the agreement they signed with Hamas in Sana’a which they repudiated just hours after signing it. In a press release, Dr. Khalil Al-Hayya, a prominent Hamas leader, stated that Hamas negotiators are ready to initiate dialog with Fatah as soon as possible, pointing out that the ball is now is in the court of Fatah and the PA leadership and they should abide by what they signed. Dr. Hayya added that the Sana’a declaration clearly confirms that it is "principles for dialog", but the PA chief and his entourage is the party that flagrantly announces its unwillingness to start dialog and the Palestinian people and the Arab Nation realize that well. For his part, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, expressed his Movement’s rejection of the statements.

Fuel for discussion
Gamal Essam El-Din, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/27/2008
Parliamentary deputies from the leftist opposition parties joined forces with the Muslim Brotherhood on Sunday and Monday to protest against reports on the commencement of exports of natural gas to Israel late last month. They also cried foul that the People’s Assembly had been left in the dark over the Egyptian-Israeli agreement. Parliamentary speaker Fathi Sorour surprised MPs by suggesting that the government had committed an error not only when it failed to submit the gas export agreement with Israel to parliament, but also by failing to explain why it had done so. Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab did his best to contain the anger of MPs on Sunday. The following day Sorour decided that the whole matter should be referred to the assembly’s Industry Committee. Headed by NDP business tycoon Mohamed Abul-Enein, the committee said it will summon Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmi and other officials next week to question them over the controversial deal.

Mizhir: "Abbas’ upcoming visit to the US will not make a difference"
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/28/2008
Member of the Central Committee of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Jamil Mizhir, stated on Thursday that the upcoming planned visit of president Mahmoud Abbas to the US will not lead to any positive change as the US is still biased towards Israel, considers it as its strategic ally in the Middle East. Mizhir added that the Unites States regards Israel as the "guardian of the US interests in the Middle East". He called on president Abbas to reconsider his policy and stop betting on the US administration and the "fruitless peace negotiations" as they, according to Mizhir, only brought more hostilities, killing, siege and disregard to the Palestinian rights. Also, Mizhir said that the only alternative is more internal unity and a unified Arabic stance which practices pressure on the US administration in order to adhere to the legitimate. . .

Stabilize Ain al-Hilweh to help Lebanon - Hamas envoy
Anthony Elghossain and Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 3/28/2008
BEIRUT: Osama Hamdan, the Hamas movement representative to Lebanon, said Thursday that the stability of the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp was vital to the stability of Lebanon in general. Hamdan linked the recent clashes in Ain al-Hilweh to the situation in Lebanon after a meeting with Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa at the ministry in Beirut. Commenting on the meeting, Hamdan said it "was aimed at discussing Palestinian affairs and certain aspects related to the work of the Interior Ministry. "He added that most of the discussion focused on the latest developments in Ain al-Hilweh and stressed that "the security and stability of the camp forms a large part of the security and stability of Lebanon. " "We agreed that these problems can be solved through the presence of a Palestinian authority in Lebanon," said Hamdan.

Hizbullah denies Israeli claims of drug trafficking
Daily Star 3/28/2008
BEIRUT: Hizbullah denied on Thursday claims made in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on Wednesday that the group is flooding the Israeli market with drugs. The paper had also reported that the Israeli Army and police forces caught a shipment of 32. 8 kilograms of narcotics into Israel from Lebanon. "The resistance, which has made the greatest sacrifices, cannot see its image disfigured and harm done to the memory of its martyrs by such false accusations," Hizbullah said in a statement. It added that these accusations were part of the Israeli campaign "to defame the resistance. "[end] [end]

President Abbas meets the Jordanian Monarch
Manar Jibrin& agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/27/2008
Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, held a meeting on Thursday with King Abdullah of Jordan, in Amman, and renewed his rejection of withdrawing or modifying the Arab peace initiative which he described as "valuable", and called on Israel to accept it as it is,Abbas said that some of the most important issues which he discussed with the Jordanian Monarch were peace talks with Israel, internal Palestinian dialogue and the upcoming Arab summit. Commenting on his talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, Abbas said that negotiations are ongoing and will not stop, but added that, so far, no agreement has been reached. On his part, the Jordanian monarch, renewed Jordan’s support to the Palestinian Authority and its peace talks with Israel. King Abdullah added that it is essential to create a positive atmosphere in order to discuss all issues of the final status.

Rice heads to Middle East in bid to revive talks
Sylvie Lanteaume, ReliefWeb 3/26/2008
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2008 (AFP)- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is headed to the Middle East for the second time in three weeks in a bid to revive peace talks following an increase in violence and defiance on both sides. Rice leaves Washington on Friday for three days of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, leaders who have not resumed talks since suspending them on March 2. Abbas froze negotiations in protest at massive Israeli army raids on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip aimed at stopping rocket fire from the territory. The Israeli military incursions killed more than 130 Palestinians, including civilians and children. The standoff deepened when on March 6 a lone Palestinian gunman opened fire on students at a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem, killing eight before being gunned down himself.

Ereikat asks EU to pressure Israel to commit to the Road Map
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/27/2008
The head of the Negotiations Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO, Dr. Sa’eb Ereikat, asked the EU, USA, UN, and Russia to but more pressure on Israel to commit to the Road Map Peace Plan. Ereikat made his comments during a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Luxemburg John Isiluroun, in the West Bank city of Jericho on Wednesday evening. The Palestinian official told the visiting EU official about the catastrophic effects of the Israeli illegal wall, settlement construction, mass political detention and the Israeli siege on Gaza on the life of Palestinians and the peace efforts. The Palestinian-Israeli peace talks were revived last November during the one day U. S sponsored Annapolis conference on the bases of the Road Map Peace Plan. The American sponsored Road Map of 2003 included an Israeli agreement to freeze all. . .

Hamas warns Olmert not to commit follies against Palestinian people
Palestinian Information Center 3/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement warned the Israeli occupation against perpetrating any follies against the Palestinian people in the wake of the threats made by Israeli premier Ehud Olmert to intensify the aggression on Gaza, holding it responsible for repercussions of its terrorist policy against the Palestinian people. In a press statement received by the PIC, Fawzi Barhoum underlined that those threats confirm Olmert’s intention to commit more massacres against the Palestinian people, adding that these crimes would be a cover for Israel’s settlement expansion in the usurped Palestinian lands. In another context, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, called in her speech during a symposium in occupied Jerusalem on the PA to intensify its oppressive operations against the Palestinian resistance if it wants the negotiations to go on.

Syria: Israel does not want peace
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/27/2008
As Damascus readies for Arab summit commencing this weekend, Syrian foreign minister says Israel ’does not yet harbor the political will to truly make peace’ - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Thursday, in the run-up to the Arab summit opening in Damascus on Saturday, that it is possible that Arab countries would reassess their peace initiative with Israelduring the summit, "provided Israel proves it is willing to make peace in the Mideast. "  This is unequivocally not the case according to Moualem. Speaking at an Arab foreign ministers meeting ahead of the summit, al-Moualem stated that "Arab countries are all for a just an all-encompassing peace in the Middle East, however Israel, with American support and backing, does not yet harbor the political will to sign such a peace accord"¦.

Mubarak praises peace with Israel
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/27/2008
In a surprising statement honoring 29th anniversary of peace treaty with Israel, Egyptian president commends Sadat initiative. Former ambassador to Cairo: Peace with Egypt stable - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak praised the peace with Israel this week, on the 29th anniversary of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. This came as a surprise to many Israeli officials, considering the recent tension between the two countries due to the ongoing smuggling on the Philadelphi route. In an interview with Mubarak, published by the Polish Warsaw Gazette, he commended former Egyptian President Muhammad Anwar Sadat’s groundbreaking move, the signing of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and

Israel’s Barak makes West Bank gestures: Israeli statement
Agence France-Presse, ReliefWeb 3/26/2008
JERUSALEM, March 26, 2008 (AFP) - Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak offered goodwill gestures to Palestinians on the West Bank on Wednesday during talks with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, an Israeli statement said. "Barak told the Palestinian prime minister that Israel would proceed with a lightening of its security measures for the population of Judaea-Samaria while respecting our priority of protecting Israeli civilians," the statement said. Judaea-Samaria is the Israeli term for the West Bank. The two-and-a-half hour discussions at Barak’s home in Tel Aviv -- part of US-backed peace negotiations that have faltered since their revival four months ago -- were described as "sincere, serious and frank". An Israeli defence ministry spokesman refused to elaborate on Barak’s proposals to alleviate conditions for Palestinians.

Livni: Gaza ops help negotiations
Jerusalem Post 3/26/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Wednesday that "activities against Hamas do not harm the political negotiations, rather they assist them. " "I expect the Palestinian partner to continue to negotiate even as we operate in Gaza. The fact that we are conducting negotiations with [the Palestinian Authority] will not change the situation in Gaza, which must be handled as terrorists are handled," Livni said. Livni said Hamas’s success was not only Israel’s problem or the PA’s problem, but a sign for all extremists in the surrounding nations that an extremist ideology could be enforced via democratic means. [end] [end]

Daniel Barenboim shuns Israel’s 60th anniversary
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/27/2008
Controversial conductor to lead orchestra of Israeli, Palestinian youths in concert ’against ignorance’ in Jerusalem, says he will not partake in upcoming festivities marking Israel’s independence out of respect for Palestinian suffering - Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim will lead an orchestra of 33 young Israeli and Palestinians in Jerusalem Friday in what he called a concert ’’against ignorance and lack of curiosity’’ on both sides of the conflict. At a news conference Thursday in the concert hall of the YMCA on the Jewish side of the city, Barenboim said Friday’s two performances, entitled ’’A concert for two peoples,’’ will be the first time the young musicians have played together in public. Barenboim, who was born in Buenos Aires and grew up in Israel, has drawn much criticism for his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his decision to perform the works of Hitler’s favorite composer, Wagner.

Gaza bakeries strike
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – More than 50 bakeries in the Gaza Strip staged a one-day strike on Wednesday, demanding a rise in the official price of bread in accordance with the overall price increase. According to Ma’an’s reporter, bakers want a 12% rise in bread prices, but the de facto government in the Gaza Strip is refusing their demand, claming that after a recent 12% rise, bakers’ profits will treble. Hatim Awaida, the director of the de facto ministry of the economy’s bureau said that about 25 bakeries resumed work on Thursday and others promised to resume work soon. If some bakers insist on remaining closed, other bakeries will be asked to increase their capacity to cope with demand, added Awaida. He denied rumors that the Palestinian Legislative Council in the Gaza Strip has summoned the minister of economy Ziad Dhadha for questioning over the bread issue.

Lieberman stripped of attorney-client privilege in bribery probe
Ofra Edelman and Jonathan Lis Haaretz Correspondents, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday authorized the police to examine documents seized from the office of MK Avigdor Lieberman’s lawyer, rejecting the claim that the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege. However, the court deferred implementation of the decision for 30 days to give the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman time to appeal it to the Supreme Court. Police suspect Lieberman of having taken hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes while serving as a cabinet minister from 2001 to 2004. The bribes, which police believe were paid by businessmen Martin Schlaff and Michael Chernoy, were allegedly transferred via companies owned by either Lieberman or his daughter, Michal Lieberman-Galon. Police also suspect that Lieberman continued to engage in private business while serving as a minister, in violation of both the law and the affidavit that he submitted to the state comptroller.

Court: Lieberman’s actions bear criminal aspect
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 3/27/2008
Judge rejects MK’s appeal to bar police from using documents found at his attorney’s office in investigation against him - The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court rejected Thursday MK Avigdor Lieberman’s appeal to ban the police from using materials seized at his attorney’s office during the investigation against him, stating that Lieberman’s actions suggest an alleged involvement in criminal dealings. Lieberman is suspected of taking bribes through a consulting firm in which his daughter, Michal, used to work. The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman is also suspected of fraud, breach of trust and infraction relating to money laundering. As part of the investigation, the police confiscated documents from his attorney Yoav Menny’s office. Lieberman and the lawyer claimed that the documents enjoy attorney-client privilege and should therefore be excluded from the investigation.

VIDEO - News / Judge calls evidence in Lieberman fraud probe ’worrying’
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for March 27, 2008. In this edition: A judge describes as "worrying" evidence pertaining to a fraud probe into former minister Avigdor Lieberman. Tel Aviv turns off its lights as part of the global "Earth Hour" campaign. There is a rise in injuries and deaths in the Israel Defense Forces caused by accidents. Police request remand extension for a man suspected of complicity with his wife in the abuse of their 12 children in Ramat Beit Shemesh. [end] [end]

Two years and counting
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
On Monday morning, the defense minister visited a Tel Aviv branch of the ORT vocational high-school network and met with senior students. It was the third school visited by Ehud Barak within a few days. Next week he is slated to visit another two. It’s not by chance that he has asked his staff to fill every hole in his schedule with meetings with youngsters who were a mere 10 years old in 2001, when he was drummed out of office. They do not remember the way he treated colleagues or his "secular revolution" or Camp David and the intifada. The next election will be their first as voters. At Barak’s insistence, these meetings are closed to the media. A transcript of his meeting at the ORT school, set out on 15 densely printed pages, was made available to Haaretz. In the first part, Barak sets forth his political, security, economic and moral worldview.

Israel receives 4 new F-16I jets
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/27/2008
Air Force says government won’t renege on deal with Lockheed Martin despite discovery of carcinogenic substance in fighter jet of same make last week - Four new F-16I (Storm) fighter jets arrived in Israel Thursday evening as part of a deal signed in 2000 with Lockheed Martin Corp to purchase 102 planes of the same model. The two-seater F-16I, known in Israel as the "Storm", was designed specifically for the Israeli air force. The new jets will be equipped with Israeli-made systems. The US defense contractor began delivering the planes in 2004, and Israel Air Force officials said Israel would not renege on the deal despite the discovery of a cancer-causing substance in one of previously delivered jets. IAF officials estimated that the majority of fighter pilots who have flown in F-16I’s have been exposed to the carcinogenic substance which was. . .

MKs okay state-funded center commemorating Gaza settlers
Nadav Shragai Haaretz Correspondent, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
The Knesset approved a bill Thursday to commemorate and document the Jewish settlements of Gush Katif that was evacuated during Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the 2005 disengagement. National Union - National Religious Party MK Uri Ariel initiated the bill with the support of 27 MKs from Kadima, the Pensioners party, Shas, Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and United Torah Judaism. The government opposed the bill at first, but following an appeal by Shas MK Izhak Cohen, decided to support the new law. According to the bill, a center memorializing the 23 Gush Katif settlements will be established in a fashion similar to the Yizhak Rabin Center. The center will include a research institute, memorial, archive and museum. The center will hold seminars, educational programs, exhibits and activities for Israel Defense. . .

Druze colonel appointed to be president’s next military secretary
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
President Shimon Peres and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Thursday appointed a Druze officer to be the president’s next military secretary. Colonel Hasson Hasson is the first Druze to be appointed for this position in Israel’s history. Upon hearing the news, Hasson wished to thank Peres and Ashkenazi for choosing him. "This is a unique and sensitive job that requires coordination among the security establishment, the intelligence community, Israel Defense Forces and other public organizations," Hasson said. He will replace Brigadier General Shimon Hefetz, who has served as military secretary for the past 15 years. [end] [end]

Pharmacists’ union head still being questioned
Ma’an News Agency 3/27/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Palestinian general prosecution on Thursday extended the detention of the head of the Palestinian union of pharmacists, Mahmoud Salaymah, for a further 15 days, his lawyer Adnan Abu Layla told Ma’an. "The court in Nablus has decided to extend the detention of Salayma for further interrogation concerning expired and counterfeit medicines," explained Abu Layla. He also denied that Salayma has confessed to any of the accusations. Salaymah was arrested on Monday afternoon at the request of the Palestinian attorney general. [end] [end]

Weighing their words with care
Ruta Kupfer, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
It’s not by chance that at the bilingual school in Jerusalem, where a conversation took place on Wednesday between film actress Debra Winger, who is on a visit to Israel, and writer and journalist Sayed Kashua, language is of central importance. The actress seems to be weighing her words, as if she’s hearing them for the first time, absorbing her own words as if she is her own listener. Every word, however routine, suddenly acquires symbolic import, every metaphor a literal quality. A case in point: She wonders, perfectly naturally, whether Kashua has continued on his path. She uses the term "soldiering on" but then, abruptly, is uncertain whether the martial term is appropriate. She then talks about her visit to the Jerusalem International Film Festival two years ago, where she first met and befriended Kashua - "and then the war broke out," she says, adding quickly, "if you can put it that way. "

’My identity is the cinema’
Nirit Anderman, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
Hiam Abbass wrecked Eran Riklis’ plans. One day during the shooting of his new film "Lemon Tree," the director related that after making "The Syrian Bride" four years ago, he intended to avoid politics and deal with a lighter subject. However, his desire to collaborate with Abbass again - in addition to his discovery of a story about a Palestinian woman who set out to defend her orchard - changed the course of events. In "Lemon Tree," which opened in theaters yesterday, Abbass plays a strong woman who rejects the conventions of the conservative society in which she lives. This was also the case in several other films, including "The Syrian Bride," in which she played Amal, the sister of the Druze bride who is not satisfied with her marriage, and dreams of higher education and independence, and in "Red Satin" (2002).

Treasury official: Economically, Israel is a bi-national state
Mijal Greenberg,, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
The Finance Ministry’s budget supervisor, Ram Belnikov, said Thursday that Israel is a bi-national state on the economic level due the income rift between residents in different parts of the country. Belnikov explained that there is an "intolerable" difference in per capita income between residents of central Israel and those living in the periphery. An a meeting with MKS in the town of Omer, Belnikov said that in the upcoming budgetary year the periphery will qualify for economic affirmative action. "If there is need for an MRT machine, we will buy if for the periphery and not for the center," Belnikov said, and added that the same rule would apply to the sphere of education. Belnikov noted that although state services provided to residents of central Israel could be harmed as a result of the shift in policy, and despite. . .

Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed train delayed
Lior Baron and Dalia Tal, Globes Online 3/27/2008
Israel Railways failed to plan for earth removal. Another national infrastructure project is likely to be delayed because of a planning failure. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that work on digging the tunnels for the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed railway will likely be delayed until early 2009 because Israel Railwayshas been unable to solve the problem of how to dispose of the earth removed. The tunnels will cost NIS 1. 6 billion to build. The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed train is the flagship project of Israel Railways’ development program. The total cost of the line is NIS 6 billion. The line will link Jerusalem and Tel Aviv via Modi’in and Ben-Gurion Airport. The section between Tel Aviv and Modi’in has been completed. The delay in digging the tunnels will cause a further delay in opening the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed train from 2011 to 2013-14.

Israel begins daylight savings time
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 3/27/2008
Clocks move forward one hour at 01:00 on Friday March 28. Israel moves to daylight savings time ("summer time") on Friday, 28 March, at 02:00. At that time, clocks should be moved forward by one hour to 03:00. Israel will return to standard time ("winter time") on Sunday, October 5, 2008, at 02:00, when clocks will be moved back by one hour to 01:00. [end] [end]

IRAQ: Humanitarian situation deteriorates in Basra
Afif Sarhan/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/27/2008
A child in Basra. Aid workers have expressed deep concern for Basra residents, particualrly the most vulnerable BAGHDAD , 27 March 2008 (IRIN) - The humanitarian situation and aid operations continued to deteriorate in Basra as heavy fighting between government forces and militiamen of the Mahdi Army led by radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr entered its third day, Salih Hmoud, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society’s office in Basra, told IRIN. "The humanitarian situation is getting worse by the minute - not the hour or the day - due to clashes taking place in the streets; as a result, the humanitarian effort has been severely hampered and paralysed," Hmoud said on 27 March. "Shootings, explosions and roadside bombs are preventing our teams from getting out and reaching people in need of our humanitarian aid, and we can no longer reach government hospitals to supply them," Hmoud said.

105 killed in battles in Iraq’s Shiite areas
Middle East Online 3/27/2008
Fighting rocked two Iraq cities on Thursday as security forces battled Shiite militiamen for a third day in clashes that left 105 people dead, while saboteurs blew up a key oil export pipeline. Fighting which began on Tuesday in Basra when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his troops to crack down on "lawless gangs", spread on Thursday to the central city of Kut where at least 44 people died in early morning fighting, police said. In Basra, where clashes broke out in a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr soon after dawn, saboteurs blew up one of Iraq’s two main oil export pipelines, an official said. In Baghdad, meanwhile, Sadr’s followers staged noisy protests against the crackdown in Basra, demanding the resignation of Maliki, who is overseeing the military operations. The police chief of Kut, Abdul Hanin al-Amara, said that among those.

JORDAN: Cost of health care a major hurdle for Iraqi refugees
IMC, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/27/2008
Only 4 percent of Iraqis living in Jordan can afford proper medical care AMMAN, 27 March 2008 (IRIN) - The high cost of drugs and medical care in Jordan is a major problem for impoverished Iraqi asylum-seekers, according toa survey by the International Medical Corps (IMC) and the US Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) released on 26 March. Only four percent of respondents said they could afford medical assistance, according to the survey conducted among an undisclosed number of Iraqi patients in health clinics run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Amman. Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, over half a million Iraqis have settled in Jordan, most from the middle class, but many have used up their savings and are now relying on basic medical help offered by NGOs. Nearly 50 percent of respondents said they spent at least one quarter.

Same as it ever was
Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/2/2008
The seat of the Lebanese permanent delegate was empty last Monday at the start of the preparatory meetings for the Arab League summit in DamascusIn the Syrian capital Damascus, Arab foreign ministers are meeting today to prepare for the annual convocation of the Arab summit on Saturday and Sunday. In theory, the ministerial meeting should revise the agenda of the summit and draft resolutions to be adopted by top-level attendees. This year, however, things are looking different. The anticipated -- and in fact leaked -- news of the absence of several Arab leaders, including President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah, is likely to make today’s ministerial meeting more tense than the average pre-summit session. With around 12 of the 22 member states of the Arab League expected to be represented at the foreign minister level, the summit itself -- notwithstanding formalities and tradition

Egypt leads Arab nuclear power race
Middle East Online 3/27/2008
By signing a deal this week with Russia, Egypt is pushing forward with its desire to stay at the head of a nuclear family Arab nations are creating to counterbalance Iran and Israel. A handshake between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sealed the nuclear cooperation deal that looks set to cause some concern in the West. "Western countries can be intrigued and a little concerned, even if nothing has yet been concluded on a commercial level," Antoine Basbous, director of the Paris-based Arab World Observatory said. Russia, which is close to completing Iran’s controversial first nuclear facility in Bushehr, is keen to re-establish a commercial and diplomatic presence in the Middle East. Putin praised Egypt as "one of the leaders of the Islamic and the Arab world" and said Russian-Egyptian relations were of "strategic importance.

GLOBAL: Killer wheat fungus a threat to global food security?
Kamila Hyat/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/27/2008
Pakistan’s wheat crop is vital to the country’s 160 million inhabitants. With the long distance travel of rust spores, Ug99 could soon affect farms in the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and East AsiaDUBAI, 27 March 2008 (IRIN) - The Ug99 strain of the killer wheat fungus (stem rust), which recently infected wheat farms in western Iran, is a serious threat to global food security, agricultural scientists have warned. They have said the fungus may affect additional wheat-producing countries. Mahmoud Solh, director-general of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA ), was quoted in a 20 March ICARDA press release as saying that he and his fellow scientists were convinced that Ug99 would quickly spread beyond Iran and that, with the long distance travel of rust spores, Ug99 would soon affect farms in the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and East Asia.


The Gaza I live
Tom Garofalo/Catholic Relief Services, ReliefWeb 3/27/2008
      Most Americans think of Gaza as a place of suffering and militancy, but the reality is that Gaza is home to some of the most inspiring and creative people in the Middle East. For the past two years, as the area’s representative for Catholic Relief Services, I’ve traveled there as much as I can. I see what the front-page newspaper photos don’t show you: this tiny sliver of land on the Mediterranean is a place of energy and dynamism, of humor and warmth and unbelievable hospitality, of delicious fish and crabs and the romantic fragrance of apple tobacco.
     But these days, heartbreakingly, it is a place of fear and pain. In mid-January, Gazans took matters into their own hands and tore down the wall separating them from Egpyt. After a few days of freedom, the borders were closed and they returned to life on a strip of land usually cut off from supplies and short on opportunity; 40-50% of

Gaza’s suffering children

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/27/2008
      The Israeli occupation and its relentless attacks destroy the mental health and lives of children of Gaza.
     The Israeli occupation and its relentless attacks destroy the mental health and lives of children of Gaza, writes Click to view caption A Palestinian woman holding a her country’s flag and photos of some of the 9,000 prisoners held in Israeli jails during a protest calling for their release outside the International Red Cross building in Gaza Every once in a while Ibrahim Hawash, 42, calls his wife Noha from his nightshift job to make sure that she has followed the treatment course prescribed by their family doctor for the involuntary urination of their four children, who are in primary school. The doctor says that the four children lost their ability to control urination due to the fear they underwent when Israeli army jets bombed a home near theirs in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip during the "Warm Winter" military campaign three weeks ago. The four children still remember the terrifying night when they woke frightened up to the sound of a thundering explosion in the area and found that the glass of their home’s windows had fallen onto their bed. Hawash, who works in one of the Palestinian security agencies, says that his children refuse to sleep alone, insisting on sleeping in the same room as their parents because they are scared of the night. He adds that he exerted great efforts to convince two of his children to go back to school, for they were afraid that they would be killed in an Israeli bombing operation on their way there, or while at school. Thousands of Palestinian children have experienced what Hawash’s four children are undergoing. Mohamed Kharsa, 10, lives in the Tufah neighbourhood northeast of Gaza City, which has been subject to severe Israeli attacks. He runs away to his family home whenever he hears the roar of Israeli planes in the sky.

Food prices double in besieged Gaza

Report, PCHR, Electronic Intifada 3/27/2008
      "There have been rapid price increases over the last few months because of the closure. Three months ago, for instance, a liter of corn oil cost 19 shekels [the equivalent of $4.50]. Now it costs 29 shekels [$7]. The price of flour has also doubled; three months ago a kilo of flour was two shekels. Now our customers have to pay four shekels."
     The Abu al-Kass mini-market has been a popular feature of central Gaza City for more than 30 years. Anwar Abu al-Kass 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. "Every business has been affected by the closure -- we used to sell lots of fresh milk and different kinds of cheese -- but now we are forced to depend on two Israeli companies for our dairy imports. Their products are expensive for us, but we have no choice."

Separation or unity

Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/27/2008
      The first and second Intifadas in the West Bank and Gaza steered the Palestinian liberation project away from unity with the rest of Palestine. In his second instalment on Israel’s historic options, argues that there is no reason now why unity cannot be recaptured.
     Negotiations on the "two-state solution" have been voided of all substance. The Palestinian national liberation movement has lost all its sources of strength as a liberation movement, including its ability to rely on the Arab community instead of the "international community". It lost and forfeited its sources of strength before ever becoming a state and securing national sovereignty. It became the Palestinian Authority, an entity totally dependent upon negotiations, America’s and Israel’s good intentions, Israeli public opinion and other such factors. Negotiations over the Palestinian state have been reduced to a process of blackmail in which concessions are demanded and offered and fundamental rights are bartered away.
     From the attitude that negotiations are an alternative to resistance, as opposed to the culmination of resistance, a new Palestinian leadership was born, a leadership so bound to the negotiating process that it is existentially dependent upon it. Israel knows that; we know that. Moreover, in this process, what is most essential to the concept of negotiation has been drained and replaced by Israeli handouts and the tokens of good intention that this leadership needs in exchange for laying siege to, hunting down and killing those Palestinian forces that have chosen and adhered to the path of resistance.

Blaming the victim

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 3/27/2008
      Ghassam Burqan’s wife was tired of doing all the laundry by hand. With five children at home, the couple decided to buy a washing machine. Now, says Burqan with a bitter smile, had he known what buying a washing machine would get him into, he would have passed on this particular luxury, and his wife could have gone on doing all the laundry by hand forever. Because of that washing machine, Burqan is now holding a plastic bag containing his bloodstained clothes, the result of the night of terror he says he was subjected to after some soldiers, and Border Police officers especially, attacked and abused him for an entire night, while he was bound, blindfolded and bleeding from a blow to the head from a rifle butt. If his description is accurate, this would be a particularly severe story of abuse.
     Meanwhile, the upshot is not what one might expect: An indictment was issued against Burqan for assaulting Border Police officers.

Useless conferences

Salama A Salama, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/27/2008
      Angela Merkel, German chancellor, was not yet born when the Nazis came to power and proceeded to commit crimes of war and genocide, of which the Jews were among the victims. She doesn’t need, therefore, to recreate the guilt a previous generation must have felt. But for utterly pragmatic reasons, she did. Since World War II, German governments have made a point of placating the Israelis, mostly for reasons related to Israel’s international influence.
     The recent visit by Merkel to Israel was full of symbolism. The chancellor reiterated her country’s lasting support for Israel and apologised for a crime in which she, and her entire generation, had no part. The move was criticised by German academics. A statement by 25 university professors said that Germany has paid its debts for the Holocaust in full and must stop favouring Israel and embrace a more even-handed policy in the Middle East.
     Merkel wasn’t willing to listen. Unlike some German politicians, including Gerhard Schroeder, who had the vision to take a relatively impartial stand on the Middle East conflict, Merkel, with her fragile coalition, chose to take sides. The German chancellor voiced her support to Israel despite the latter’s sabotaging of peace efforts and its building of settlements on Palestinian land. Merkel, who denounced at length Iran’s nuclear programme, had nothing to say about Israel’s stockpiling of nuclear warheads and its opposition to the creation of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East.

A de facto calm

Khaled Amayreh from Jerusalem, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/27/2008
      The fragile truce between Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza and Israel is holding
     While Israeli officials continue to deny they are engaged in either direct or indirect talks with Hamas, the uneasy calm along the Israel-Gaza border has held for a third consecutive week, despite Israeli provocations.
     On 24 March the Israeli army shot and killed a Palestinian farmer working in a field inside the Gaza Strip. Youssef Abu Dhair, 55, was killed east of Khan Younis by soldiers erecting a watchtower in the area. Two days earlier Israeli troops killed a member of the resistance group Islamic Jihad, prompting the faction to threaten to retaliate if Israel did not halt its attacks.
     The tahdia (calm) has been made possible thanks to intensive diplomatic efforts by Egypt. Egyptian officials have been meeting with representatives of the Gaza-based resistance factions, particularly Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, in a bid to convince them to observe a ceasefire with Israel. According to both Egyptian and Palestinian sources, Egypt and Hamas reached a "tacit understanding" under which Hamas would stop firing homemade rockets at Israeli settlements for a week in return for Israel halting any operations in Gaza for the same period of time. Earlier this month representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad met with Egyptian officials in Arish where a general -- unannounced -- agreement was reported to have been reached on Egypt’s ceasefire proposals.

Precarious accord

Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/27/2008
      No sooner signed than ignored, reactions to the Sanaa Declaration are indicative of deep rifts that persist in the Palestinian Fatah movement.
     Representatives of Fatah and Hamas this week signed a generally worded agreement in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, with both sides hoping it would end the present national rift between the two largest Palestinian political factions.
     The Sanaa Declaration, drafted under the auspices of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, called for ending the internal struggle between Fatah and Hamas and returning the Gaza Strip to the "status quo preceding the events of June 2007", an allusion to Hamas’s counter- coup that ousted forces answerable to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.
     "We, the representatives of Fatah and Hamas, agree to the Yemeni initiative as a framework for resuming dialogue between the two movements to return the Palestinian situation to what it was before the [June 2007] Gaza events," the document reads.

Normality in the West Bank

Maria Urkedal York writing from Nablus, occupied West Bank, Electronic Intifada 3/27/2008
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     A familiar scenario takes place in front of me. A little boy, no more than four years old, is laughing as he runs back and forth between the line of adults’ feet, feet twice the size of his. Typically, with a combination of innocence and courage only found in children’s eyes, he is testing how far he can go before his mother will call him back. The reason why this ordinary scene remains in my consciousness is that it is took place at Huwwara military checkpoint, one of the manned posts restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the West Bank town of Nablus. Although the boy is laughing, making some of us waiting in the line smile, he is also about to be checked by young armed soldiers before he is let out on the other side where dozens of yellow taxis are waiting to take people traveling from Nablus to Huwwara, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qalandia, and the elsewhere in the West Bank.

Nazareth, the neglected city of Jesus

Christine Bro, Electronic Intifada 3/27/2008
      Last weekend, Catholics in Nazareth and around the world celebrated the most holy and significant events to Christianity, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a man in Biblical times known simply as "Jesus of Nazareth." However, today Nazareth faces a slow and painful death in the face of land theft and colonization.
     In 1948, during what Palestinians call the Nakba, over 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes and country through direct physical expulsion, ethnic cleansing or psychological warfare, leaving only one third of the original inhabitants in historic Palestine. Even the indigenous Palestinians who remained during the period of 1947-49 became internally displaced refugees in the newly created state of Israel, due to laws passed by the Israeli government that transferred land to the state by declaring it a military zone and did not allow for Palestinians to return to their original homes. Until today, these internally displaced refugees have no right to return to their original land, towns or villages and presently account for more than 355,000 refugees inside Israel.

Al Nakba of 1948: How Long will it Persist?

Khalil Nakhleh, MIFTAH 3/27/2008
      I am not really certain when we started labeling what happened to our people and our country, following the establishment of the state of Israel, as "Al- Nakba". But this is not really the important point. What is important, from my perspective as a Palestinian, is that there is a need to understand what happened to us in and around 1948; and why it happened the way it did; and what should we do to circumvent Al-Nakba from persisting into our future.
     As it has been characterized officially, Al-Nakba, or "the catastrophe", is a short-hand euphemism for the disaster that befell the Palestinian people and society in historical Palestine, in and around 1948, when Israel declared itself to be an independent country. Thus, we started equating and associating the "independence" of Israel, or the 15th of May of every year since 1948, with our "catastrophe".

A Gaza Diary: Tale of Two Families

Najwa Sheikh, MIFTAH 3/27/2008
      Gaza, the land of the continuous pain, and the unfolded stories, the lines of Gaza days are curved by the blood of it’s people, while its nights are drawn by the screams and cries of its inhabitants, of those who recall their bitterness, their loss, and found that the silence of these nights as their chance to show their pain without any fears, any limitations.
     In Gaza every day have it own devastating story, a story that it is special of the details it has, special of the pain it holds, and of the misery of its characters. Every story shows the real face of the occupation that haunted us, of the ugly force of hearted that directed towards us not as humans, but as Palestinians.
     The story of Abu Salameh family from Jabalya camp shows how the life of the Palestinians in Gaza can hold all the misery and sufferings that no one can hold, after the last IDF operation in the northern Gaza, Abu