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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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30 March 2008


Palestinians mark Land Day, protesting Israeli theft of territory
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank and Israel to commemorate Land Day this weekend, in protest of ongoing Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land through settlement expansion and the construction of the separation wall. Land Day marks the anniversary of the killing of six demonstrators by the Israeli security forces in 1976. Palestinian citizens of Israel held demonstrations across the country to protest the expropriation of their lands by the Israeli government. Israeli forces fired on unarmed demonstrators in the town of Sakhnin. Rallies marking the killings spread from the interior of Israel to the occupied territories. "The land issue is the same, whether in the West Bank, Israel, Jerusalem, or Gaza," said Samer Jaber, who organized a 400 person demonstration in the town of Al-Khadr, near Bethlehem, where he says the Israeli separation. . .

Rice wins Israeli pledge to take down 50 roadblocks in Occupied West Bank
Sylvie Lanteaume, Daily Star 3/31/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday secured an Israeli pledge to remove 50 Occupied West Bank roadblocks to improve the daily lives of Palestinians and reinvigorate Middle East peace talks. The move was included in a package of steps Israel announced following a meeting between Rice, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad. Rice won the Israeli promise during her second trip to the region in less than a month as she sought to advance faltering peace negotiations. She later traveled on to Amman and went into talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. On a shuttle mission, Rice was to hold a working dinner with Jordan’s King Abdullah II later on Sunday and return to Occupied Jerusalem to meet for a second time with Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert on Monday.

’Progress’ continues with no actual changes on the ground
The Daily Star, Daily Star 3/31/2008
Two high-profile events over the weekend aptly illustrate the conundrum in which ordinary Palestinians and Lebanese find themselves. Both peoples have been repeatedly told that they should work through official channels to solve their problems and address their grievances, but the avenues of officialdom in this part of the world often lead to dead ends. The first big event was the visit to the region by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was engaged in yet another attempt to revive the moribund peace process. Rice began her trip by citing the need for Palestinians and Israelis to make "meaningful progress toward a better life for the Palestinian people. "Later the same day, in what the US State Department called "concrete steps" toward that end, Israel announced that it had agreed to remove 50 or so dirt mounds and other obstacles that have made ordinary movement impossible in the Occupied West Bank.

Qureia negotiating fate of Palestinian public without its knowledge
Palestine News Network 3/30/2008
Jerusalem / PNN -- Israeli sources indicate that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia have been holding secret meetings. These have been conducted outside the eye of the media, but also away from the Palestinian public, those who are the most affected by Final Status issues, which include refugees and borders. Qureia is the current head of the negotiations delegation and it was stated on Sunday that he held negotiations on Final Status issues with Livni away from the media. The sources added that the meetings have been held in hotels and apartments throughout Jerusalem in order to keep their clandestine nature in tact. A number of senior Israeli officials are said to be in the know. The Palestinian public is not.

Two Palestinians killed, six wounded in IOF shelling
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
JABALIA, (PIC)-- Two Palestinian resistance fighters were killed and a third was wounded in an IOF air raid on a group of AMB members in Jabalia north of Gaza Saturday evening while preparing to fire locally made missiles on Sderot to the north of the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for Ayman Jouda group, affiliated with the AMB the armed wing of Fatah faction, said that Rabi Mohsen and Murad Khader were killed in the missile raid. Medical sources said that a third wounded Palestinian in the same raid was hospitalized. IOF artillery shelling before the raid wounded five other citizens while a group of the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, survived a similar assassination attempt Saturday night. For its part, the Salahuddin Brigades, the armed wing of the popular resistance committees, fired a Nasser-3 home made missile at Sderot on Saturday night.

Israel delays opening of controversial police HQ
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/31/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM:Israel said on Sunday it has postponed the planned inauguration of a new regional police headquarters in the Occupied West Bank, citing technical reasons. The opening of the controversial police station east of Occupied Jerusalem on Monday would have coincided with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to region in a bid to boost the Middle East peace process. Negotiations were revived in November but have made little headway in part due to Israel’s settlement expansion in the Occupied West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem. But a spokesman for Public Security Minister Avi Dichter insisted the delay was due to "technical reasons and nothing else. "No new date was set for the inauguration, Barak Seri told AFP. The police station is located in a corridor between Occupied Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, the largest Jewish settlement in the Occupied. . .

Israeli Arabs mark 32nd Land Day with Jaffa, Wadi Ara, Negev protests
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Some 1,000 Israeli Arabs, most of them from Jaffa, marked the 32nd annual Land Day in a procession in Jaffa on Friday, which hosted the event for the first time. "We’ll redeem you, Jaffa, with spirit and blood," protesters called, some of them holding up Palestinian flags. The main Land Day procession will be held in the village of Arabeh, in the western Galilee, this afternoon. On Saturday, a protest convoy departed from Umm al-Fahm and headed toward Kalansua, where demonstrators gathered at a home facing demolition orders. In the Negev, Israeli Arab political parties and movements held events in several unrecognized Bedouin villages. The first Land Day protests were held on March 30, 1976, to protest government expropriations of Galilee land for "security and settlement purposes. "Those protests deteriorated into violent clashes with security forces, leaving six Arab protesters dead.

Israeli Arab leader on Land Day: We’ll fight Israel’s ’rising fascism’
Yoav Stern and Jack Khouri, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
The chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said Sunday that the Israeli Arab sector and its leadership would fight what he called the "rising fascism" of Israeli society. Israeli Arabs and supporters gathered Sunday across the country to mark the 32nd Land Day, an annual event protesting government policy regarding Israel’s largest minority. Speaking to protesters in Sakhnin, committee chairman Shuweiki Hatib said: "We have reached an age of a race to see who can incite more against the Israeli Arab public and its leadership. ""We have patience and we have faith and this leadership will know how ro deal with the rising fascism in Israeli society," he added. "The establishment is continuing its long-standing policy of discrimination with the intention to disenfranchise us," he added.

Thousands march to mark Land Day, warn of fascist threat
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Main ceremony commemorating Land day held in Arabeh, draws thousands of participants, including Arab political leaders. Chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee warns: We face growing fascism - Thousands of Israeli-Arabs made their way to the Lower Galilee village of Arabeh on Sunday to participate in a ceremony commemorating Land Day. The event began with a moment of silence for those killed during Land Day in 1976. Chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of Israel, Shuweiki Hatib, stated during the ceremony that "the same youngsters who protested during the first Land Day 32 years ago are the Arab political leaders of today. We will continue to struggle with our heads held high and fight for the rights that we deserve. " On Land Day Israeli Arabs annually protest the seizure of their lands and the demolition of their homes.

Palestinian Land Day breaking the Israeli myth: a land without a people for a people without a land
Palestine News Network 3/30/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farrag - Four citizens were wounded and bruised as a result of various abuses committed by Israeli occupation in the village of Umm Salamuna, south of Bethlehem during the march mass rallies commemorating Palestinian Land Day. Protests were held against the policy of land confiscation and the settlements surrounding, overtaking eight southern villages for the Wall built on local lands. The march was called for by the National Committee for Popular Resistance. Secondary school boys joined hundreds of demonstrators roaming the streets of the village in order to make their presence known during the Israeli dredging operations to establish the Wall on the territory of the villages, including Umm Salamuna. Banners were raised condemning Israeli policy which includes continued settlement expansion at the expense of Palestinian land.

Hundreds march in Nablus for Land Day
Palestine News Network 3/30/2008
Nablus / Amin Abu Wardeh -- Hundreds of people participated in Palestinian Land Day demonstrations in the city of Nablus on Sunday. Sundry institutions were on hand, as were national and Islamic groups. The mass march began at the far end of Jerusalem Street and moved to the military checkpoint of Huwara hemming the city in from the eastern side. Demonstrators hoped to break the blockade imposed on the city. Participants reported that the march was stunning with hundreds of people having been invited by the Popular Committees to Break the Barriers. Demonstrators carried banners condemning the continued blockade of barriers. Despite the nonviolent nature of the Palestinian demonstration, Israeli soldier opened intense fire on the people. They arrested two people who were later released, yet others are still being held in detention.

Demonstration at Huwarra checkpoint to mark Land day
International Solidarity Movement 3/30/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - Two people were arrested at the Huwarra checkpoint in Nablus today, when approximately 250 Palestinians and internationals protested there as part of the Land Day actions and commemorations that are taking place throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Whilst the demonstration was a collaborative effort between many local organisations, including local political parties; various health care committees; the union of women’s committees; Tanweer centre for cultural enlightenment; the Disabled society and representatives from the Nablus refugee camps and villages, organisers were disappointed with the turnout. " There are not many people here because they are afraid. These days…the soldiers will kill any person" said Myasser, a member of the Women’s Committee. The demonstration to protest against the system of checkpoints that imprisons Nablus, congregated. . .

Settlement’s rabbi attends Arab-Israeli Land Day event
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 3/30/2008
’I came to identify with the demand for justice; justice leads to peace, and this will be good for both Jews and Arabs,’ Tekoa Rabbi Menachem Froman says during commemoration ceremony in Arabeh - Rabbi Menachem Froman from the West Bank settlement of Tekoa attended the 32nd annual Land Day commemoration ceremony at the Arab-Israeli village of Arabeh on Sunday, this after Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) asked that Jews also participate in the event. "I came to identify with the demand for justice; justice leads to peace, and this will be good for both Jews and Arabs" the rabbi said. "Today they are marking Land Day - a day in which justice is sought, and if there is justice, there will be peace on earth. "I come here with a message of peace," added the rabbi, who was greeted warmly by several Arab-Israeli leaders.

Southern Front / IDF upping Gaza ground ops in face of heavier rocket fire
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
The Israel Defense Forces has been broadening its ground operations in Gaza in response to the increase in rocket fire on Israel since Wednesday. During the past three days, two Palestinian gunmen were killed in IDF operations in the Strip, and at least 10 Qassam rockets and 25 mortars were fired at Israel. On Friday, a rocket struck a kibbutz in the western Negev, and the shrapnel hit a kindergarten. No one was injured because the kindergarten teacher rushed the children into the reinforced area when the Color Red missile warning siren sounded. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of rockets fired since Wednesday. Most were fired by Islamic Jihad, but smaller groups, like the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, are also involved. Hamas is not believed to be involved.

Settlers suspected of injuring Palestinians’ sheep
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Police launch investigation into report that Jewish Mount Hebron residents fired at Palestinian shepherds’ herd - Jewish residents of the settlement of Havat Maon in South Mount Hebron have allegedly fired at Palestinian shepherds, wounding three sheep. Last Wednesday, Palestinian shepherds arrived with their herd at a field near the settlement, where they were reportedly fired at. Hafez Harini Mautwana, who was present at the area during the incident, told Ynet that "the shepherds were walking with their herds, and at one point a settler arrived from the grove, fired at the shepherds and injured three sheep. " According to Harini, "The shepherds didn’t know what to do. Police officers arrived at the area and took two of the sheep. They also collected evidence from the shepherds.

Israeli forces seize Palestinian presidential guard at checkpoint
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized an officer in the Palestinian Presidential Guards at the Atara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday. Witnesses said Israeli troops stopped a car at the checkpoint, and detained Mousa As’us, who is from the village of Muthallath Ash-Shuhada, south of the city of JeninAs’us was on his way home after taking part in a training course for the security forces in Ramallah. The Presidential Guards are affiliated to President Mahmoud Abbas. [end]

Israeli strikes leave two Palestinians dead in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli tank fire and air strikes left two Palestinian fighters dead in the northern Gaza Strip overnight on Saturday. Palestinian medical sources said that the bodies were found hours after the attack, east of Jabalia. Ambulances failed to reach the two fighters in time, and they bled to death, medics said. The medical sources named the victims as Rabea Muhsin and Murad Khadir, both activists with the armed wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades. [end]

Medics recover bodies of Palestinian fighters in Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/31/2008
GAZA CITY:Palestinian medics said on Sunday they had recovered the bodies of two Palestinian militants killed in an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip. The two men were identified as Murad Khader, 24, and Rabia Mohsin, 23, were fighters from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed group tied to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, they said. Another four militants were wounded in the Saturday evening strike near the northern town of Jabaliya in the Hamas-ruled territory, medics said. The Israeli army said it carried out an air strike against a group of armed men near the border fence separating Gaza from Israel. The raid came after a three-week relative lull in violence between Israel and Gaza following a massive operation in and around Jabaliya earlier this month that killed more than 130 Palestinians, roughly half of whom were civilians and included dozens of children.

Qassam hits western Negev, causing no damage or injuries
Haaretz Staff and Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
A Qassam rocket landed in the western Negev yesterday, causing no damage nor injuries, a day after a rocket hit between a children’s house and a nursery school in a Negev community. Israel Defense Forces troops killed two armed Palestinians in Gaza. In Friday’s rocket strike, there were no injuries as staffers and children reached shelter in time though one woman suffered from shock, and a nearby structure was damaged. In Gaza, IDF soldiers shot dead a gunman in the northern part of the territory late Friday after he hurled a grenade close the border fence with Israel. Palestinian medics were allowed to retrieve his body the next morning. Earlier Friday, troops opened fire on gunmen during an incursion into the southern Strip, killing one and wounding two others. Two other rockets fired by Gaza militants on Friday struck a Negev kibbutz and an open field.

Palestinian military groups claim three attacks on Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian fighters claimed to have fired four homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot, which borders Gaza, and the Sufa border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday evening. The National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed joint responsibility for those attacks. Separately, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, Al-Quds Brigades, said their fighters launched two homemade projectiles at the Kissufim military installation, to the east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday evening. [end]

PFLP fighters fire two projectiles at Sderot and Zekeim
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli towns of Sderot and Zekeim. They said in a statement that the shelling was a signal that resistance is the best choice to respond to Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

An-Nasser Brigades ’fire’ three projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for launching three homemade projectiles and the Israeli town of Sderot, bordering the Gaza Strip, on Saturday. The group told Ma’an that the attack was a response to Israel’s assassinations and incursions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Egypt-Gaza border tunnel collapse kills Palestinian smuggler
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
An Egyptian security official says a tunnel used for smuggling between Egypt and Hamas-controlled Gaza has collapsed and killed at least one Palestinian. The official says Sunday’s collapse occurred when the tunnel’s fragile sand ceiling fell under its own weight. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. He says Palestinian rescue workers are trying to extract the Palestinian man’s body from the Gaza side of the border where he entered the tunnel. Palestinian smugglers have used tunnels to move weapons and contraband goods from Egypt into Gaza, which was taken by the militant Palestinian group Hamas in June. Two weeks ago, an underground tunnel collapsed near Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip, burying alive one smuggler and injuring another, a security official said.

Egypt saves Palestinian smuggler trapped in tunnel
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Egypt rescues Palestinian who fell into coma while digging smuggling tunnel under Gaza border, says his condition remains critical - Egyptian security authorities recovered a Palestinian man who had fallen into a coma after being trapped Sunday for several hours inside a tunnel he was digging to smuggle goods between Egypt and Hamas-controlled Gaza. Imad Kharboush, head of the northern Sinai emergency unit, said Palestinian Abdul-Rahman Attiya Shalloub, 24, was in a deep coma and had been rushed to surgery at the El-Arish general hospital. His condition remains very critical. Earlier, an Egyptian security official said the tunnel collapsed and the man was killed while a Palestinian official said the man was simply overcome with fumes from the gasoline he was smuggling overnight.

Islamic Jihad says hacked Israeli websites
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/30/2008
London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quotes statement by al-Quds Brigades saying group’s ’electronic surveillance unit’ defaced ’Zionist websites’ - Islamic Jihad operatives have been able to hack into several Israeli websites, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Sunday. "The electronic surveillance unit of the media warfare division has been able to hack into several Israeli websites and take them over," said a statement by the al-Quds Brigades, quoted by the paper. According to the report, the operatives were able to plant images of Hassan Shakura, the former head of the Jihad’s media warfare division in Gaza, who was killed by the IDF, on the sites; along with other images and Jihad videos. Hacking "Zionist websites," said the statement "was part of our response to the elimination of the head of the media warfare office in Gaza, as well as a token of our allegiance to the blood of our troops. "

New terrorist traps attempt to fool troops
Yossi Yehoshua, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Palestinian terrorists deploy new booby-traps: Bombs meant to explode in soldiers’ hands hidden in books, canteens, shampoo bottles. IDF special task force: ’There is no room for error’ - ’Yahalom’, a special task force of the Engineering Corps, is battling a revolution in the world of terrorism these days. A few months ago a unit of troops from the force was doing a routine scan of a seemingly ordinary tunnel dug by Hamas militants near the Karni Crossing in Gaza, when they discovered that the hen-house blocking the entrance was actually a ticking time bomb. This is one of the many examples of sophisticated terrorist plots the task force has come in contact with lately, in which Palestinians hid bombs inside of mundane objects. Recently Yahalom soldiers have seen booby-trapped books, egg trays, canteens, and even baby shampoo bottles.

Police lift high state of alert in Bat Yam
Avi Cohen, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Alert level in central Israel raised, large forces deployed in area for fear of terrorist infiltration; four suspects arrested, questioned - The police on Sunday lifted the heightened state of alert declared in central Israel after arresting four illegal Palestinian residents in the city of Bat Yam. At around 9:15 am, the police raised the alert level in the Bat Yam and Holon area and deployed large forces in the two cities for fear of a terrorist infiltration. In addition, roadblocks were set up along the Seam Line and in central routes in the Tel Aviv area. The police used a helicopter in a bid to locate the infiltrators. Four suspects were later arrested in Bat Yam and taken in for questioning. The security checks at the roadblocks caused traffic jams in the Ayalon Freeway in the Bat Yam and Holon area.

Seven Hamas members arrested in the West Bank, Hamas says
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Nablus – Fatah-allied Palestinian Security forces detained seven Hamas members in the West Bank, Hamas claimed. Hamas released a statement on Sunday saying arrestees are from Tulkarem, Jenin, Qalqilia, Bethlehem and Ramallah. According to the statements, three of the detainees are university students and is was a physician. [end]

Educated Arab Israelis unlikely to find jobs
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
His mother left school when she was 10. His father dropped out in the eighth grade. Now, 29-year-old Arafat Shalata from Sakhnin has had more years of schooling than his parents combined. In this respect, Shalata with a master’s degree in a branch of statistics (quality studies) from the University of Haifa is typical of the academic revolution among Israeli Arabs. The official data supports the impression that for them academic studies have become a necessity, though once an unaffordable luxury. The education level in the Arab sector has risen considerably. But don’t try to get a job. In the 1960s, only 50 percent of adult Arab Israelis had more than one year of schooling. By 2005, half of them had more than 11 years of education. The Jewish sector has also seen an impressive, albeit less drastic, increase in education. In the 1960s, half of all Jewish adults had less than eight years of schooling. By 2005, more than 50 percent of adult Jews had more that 12 years of education.

Eat, drink local only
Palestine News Network 3/30/2008
Hebron / PNN - Preparations are under way Sunday to begin a collective boycott. The title is "Eat, Drink Local Products Only. " The implementing institution is the mobile "Library On Wheels," a nonviolent campaign and organization in the southern West Bank city that put books in shared taxis to read while waiting at checkpoints, and that brings books to villages without libraries. Several local governmental and non-governmental organizations, and a number of local companies, are also organizing the boycott. A meeting is planned with the local government of Hebron for Monday at 2:00 pm, when the boycott will be officially underway. Store shelves are overflowing with Israeli products due to closures and restrictions on imports and exports. Israeli forces have also undertaken a lengthy procedure of destroying production facilities and agricultural lands, intended to increase Palestinian reliance on Israeli goods.

Press Release: International Action in Solidarity with Gaza
Action Alert, International Solidarity Movement 3/30/2008
International Actions Gaza RegionEUROPEAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE SIEGE OF GAZA: International Action in Solidarity with Gaza End the siege of Gaza!End the world complicity to the Israeli occupation and crimes against the Palestinian people! A group of international participants decided to act against our countries’ complicity to the inhumane and devastating siege of the Gaza Strip. A delegation including participants from the Basque country, Austria, Scotland, Norway, Italy, Netherlands, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, America and India intend to reach the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza in order to deliver a truckload of food and medicine and in protest against the inhuman siege imposed on the people of Gaza, with the complicity of our own governments. We protest against the genocide of the Palestinian people and condemn the hypocrisy. . .

VIDEO - Adalah-NY: New Yorkers protest Leviev’s Israeli settlements, commemorating Palestinian "Land Day"
International Solidarity Movement 3/30/2008
International Actions - Video - Boycott & sanctions - New York, NY, March 29 - Forty New Yorkers commemorated the Palestinian national holiday Land Day Saturday with the eighth protest at the Madison Avenue jewelry store of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev. The protest included songs, theater and testimonials from villages threatened by Leviev’s settlements. Land Day marks Palestinians’ ties to their land, in defiance of Israeli efforts to displace them. "We targeted Leviev’s New York store on Land Day because his companies have recently built Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in at least four different locations in the Israeli-occupied West Bank," said Issa Mikel, a spokesperson for Adalah-NY. "He has also financed the Land Redemption Fund, a settler organization accused of using fraud to secure Palestinian land for settlement construction.

Arab League warns of review of peace offer to Israel if provocations continue
Daily Star 3/31/2008
An Arab summit, subdued in the absence of leaders critical of Syria, told Israel on Sunday Arab countries would review an Arab peace offer unless the Jewish state changes its behavior. Arab leaders sent the warning at the end of the two-day meeting in the Syrian capital Damascus. They did not say what options were under consideration or when the review would take place. "The Arab side continuing to offer the Arab peace initiative is tied to Israel executing its commitments in the framework of international resolutions to achieve peace in the region," a Damascus Declaration said. The Arab initiative of 2002 offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in and occupied against international law since the 1967 war. Successive Israeli governments have either ignored or rejected the offer, which would require. . .

Syrian leader calls for deadline on Arab land-for-peace offer
Daily Star 3/31/2008
Assad: alternatives may be needed if Israel keeps rejecting deal - In his speech opening the two-day Arab League in Damascus on Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Assad questioned how long Arab nations could keep offering Israel a land-for-peace proposal, as Arab League chief Amr Moussa called for Arabs to meet later this year to evaluate negotiations with Israel. The two spoke at the opening of the deeply divided Arab summit that leaders of top Arab allies of the US boycotted to protest Syria’s hard-line stances in nearly every crisis in the Mideast. In his speech, Assad said peace was the only way for Israel to gain security in the region, and "peace will not come except through withdrawal from occupied Arab land and giving back [Arab] rights. "He warned that Arab countries may have to seek alternatives to a 2002 Arab peace plan if Israel continues to refuse to accept it. The proposal offers Israel full peace with Arab nations if it withdraws from Arab lands and allows the creation of a Palestinian state.

Official: PM wrote to Assad to test desire for peace
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dispatched some 20 messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad during the past year to better assess Syria’s intentions before the possible resumption of talks between the two countries, according to a senior minister also in the security-political cabinet. But the same source said Assad’s responses did not meet Israeli expectations and Olmert believes that at this time it is not possible to initiate negotiations with Syria. For his part, the Syrian president blamed Israel yesterday for the lack of progress. "Israel has rejected all peace initiatives that have been brought before it during the past three years and has responded with massacres and construction of settlements," he told the Arab League summit which began in Damascus yesterday. According to the senior Israeli minister, most efforts for contact with Syria were made through Turkish. . .

Arab League renews peace initiative
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Damascus – Ma’an – The Arab League’s annual summit in Damascus ended on Sunday afternoon by agreeing to renew the Arab Initiative for peace with Israel, despite calls by some Arab leaders to scrap the six-year-old proposal. The Initiative asks Israel to relinquish control of Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967 and allow the return of Palestinian refugees in exchange for normalized relations with Arab states. On Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad opened the meeting by urging Arab leaders to consider withdrawing the proposal to Israel’s failure to respond to it. Libyan President Muamar Qaddafi called for the creation of one democratic state for Israelis and Palestinians on all the land of historic Palestine. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in mid-2008 to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Hamas holds Abbas fully responsible for aborting Yemeni initiative
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement held PA chief Mahmoud Abbas fully responsible for aborting the Yemeni initiative that was signed a few days ago between Hamas and Fatah under the patronage of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press release on Sunday that Hamas appreciates the Arab summit’s support for resistance and condemnation of Israeli siege and aggression. However, he noted that the summit, similar to past summits, did not agree on any serious mechanism to apply its resolutions. "We, in Hamas, regret the state of Arab weakness and division that was reflected in the summit," he elaborated. As for the Yemeni initiative, the spokesman said that the summit was not specific about it and apparently responded to Abbas’s pressures to foil the initiative, which he frankly declared in his speech before the summiteers.

Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al: talks stalled on captive Israeli soldier Shalit
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Damascus – Ma’an – When Arab leaders including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas converged in Damascus on Saturday for the Arab Summit, there was a sense that Hamas, while physically absent from the meeting, was nonetheless present, either as an issue or a force to be dealt with. Wanting to know Hamas’ views on the Damascus conference, Ma’an and other Arab journalists spoke with Khalid Mash’al, Hamas’ exiled political chief, at his office in Damascus. Having reached the Mash’al’s building, we were warmly welcomed by Mash’al’s guards and escorts. We did not wait long before he arrived along with two other members of Hamas’ politburo. From the first moment, Mash’al seemed intensely attentive to every single detail. He seemed intelligent and highly capable of understanding body language and facial expressions.

On land day Hamas renews adherence to constants, rejection of settlement project
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement called on the Arab rulers and ruled to support the Palestinian people and the resistance option. Hamas, in a statement on 32nd anniversary of the land day, asked the Arabs to be aware of the Zionist maneuvering and illusionary peace claims that are marketed by the "terrorist government at a time it is committing bloody massacres against our people, confiscating lands and property and besieging and destroying lands and trees". The Palestinian people would never accept "peace projects" that sidestep their constants, it said, adding that all Zionist attempts to judaize Jerusalem and confiscate lands would not change the conviction of the future posterity that Palestine is for the Palestinians and is an Islamic Wakf (endowment) land that could not be surrendered to Zionist occupation.

UN: Let UNIFIL control N. Ghajar
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
The United Nations has proposed that UNIFIL troops take over security in the northern half of the border village of Ghajar, so that IDF forces can withdraw behind the Israel side of the international border. Israel has rejected this proposal and says any future consideration of the matter requires that the Lebanese government agree to it in writing. The new plan was presented to Israel during a number of meetings between UNIFIL officials and senior Israeli figures, including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who met last month with the commander of the UN forces in southern Lebanon, Major General Claudio Graziano. According to the UN plan, UNIFIL will assume control and full responsibility over security in the northern part of the village. It will also provide all necessary services to the residents there. During his meeting with Ashkenazi, Graziano noted that details of the. . .

Nahr al-Bared residents see long wait for camp to rise from ashes
Rima Abushakra, Daily Star 3/31/2008
Agence France Presse - NAHR AL-BARED: One man was able to recover only a family photo album. Another desperately sought the key to his home in what was once Palestine. And a woman sifted through the rubble for hours, but like most others, could not salvage anything. They are among thousands of families allowed to return to the old part of the devastated Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon to recover what belongings they can before the bulldozers move in. "All I saw was total destruction," said Haitham Awad, 35, a shopkeeper, as he left the old camp empty-handed. "It looks like Nagasaki or Hiroshima. It was indescribable. "The area known as the old camp used to have a bustling marketplace and was home to most of the camp’s 31,000 residents. But fighting last year between the Lebanese Army and the Islamist militant group Fatah al-Islam reduced it to uninhabitable rubble.

Hizbullah predicts demise of US agenda in region
Daily Star 3/31/2008
BEIRUT:Hizbullah international relations officer Nawwaf Moussawi said Saturday that the coming months would witness the crash of the US administration and its allies in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. "The war against Syria has nothing to do with the International Tribunal and the presidential elections in Lebanon," Moussawi said. Instead, he added, the anti-Syrian campaign aimed at "cutting the roots of the resistance. "In a ceremony celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, Moussawi said that the current authority in Lebanon would not reach an agreement because it had already made a decision which implied continued confrontation. Guided-missile destroyers, hotel conferences and other media tricks were only "empty drums" which would be settled by the resistance’s "final word on the ground," he added. In an allusion to Premier Fouad Siniora, Moussawi said that the end summer war of 2006 which. . .

Gaza protesters demand that Egypt release Hamas militants
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Palestinians in Gaza demanded Sunday that Egypt release the rest of the Hamas militants they are holding in prison. About 200 Hamas supporters demonstrated peacefully Sunday at the Gaza-Egypt border. They threatened that if necessary, they would take further action to free the men. The demonstrators didn’t say what they meant. But it was assumed to be a reference to January’s breakthrough at the border. With Hamas policewatching then, hundreds of thousands of Gaza Palestinians streamed into Egypt, defeating a blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and the West. The border was open for almost two weeks. Since then, Egypt has reinforced the border. Egypt has already released 34Hamas activists, but Hamas says a few more are still in custody. Later Sunday, a scuffle broke out between Egyptian police and hundreds of Palestinians and Egyptians stranded on the Gaza side.

Barak says will allow establishment of Palestinian city
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Israeli source says US Secretary of State Rice was ’amazed’ by Israeli gestures to Palestinians presented during three-way meeting with defense minister, Palestinian prime minister - Condoleezza Rice was amazed by the Israeli gestures to the Palestinians, an Israeli source reported Sunday following a three-way meeting between the US secretary of state, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Palestinian leader refused to issue a joint Palestinian-Israeli-American statement, which was supported by Barak due to the Israeli gestures to the Palestinians presented during the meeting. Rice eventually delivered a short statement, and the three officials were photographed and bid farewell. During the meeting, the US secretary of state received a 35-page booklet in English, prepared by Barak’s assistants in three days. Barak demanded that the booklet include a series of real gesturers, which would manifest Israel’s seriousness without harming the security of Israel’s citizens.

MK Netanyahu: I will not allow for the division of Jerusalem
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Likud chairman says he informed Rice that he would not endorse declaration of principles calling for a return to 1967 borders. ’Israel would be taking a great risk if it currently commits to territorial concessions,’ Netanyahu says - Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) met with Condoleezza Rice Sunday, and stated that he informed the visiting US secretary of state that he would not endorse a declaration of principles calling for a return to 1967 borders and the division of Jerusalem. "Security establishment estimates indicate that if we withdraw from the West Bank, Hamas will set up base there. I told the secretary that I do not plan on supporting the transfer of the responsibility for Israel’s security to subcontractors," the Likud chairman told reporters following the meeting. "Time is not on our side because Hamas, under Iran’s leadership, is taking control of more and more territories. The situation is very similar to Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon," he said.

VIDEO - News / Rice pressures Israel to ease restrictions in W. Bank
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for March 30, 2008. In this edition: Condoleezza Rice pressures Israel to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. Fearing a terror attack, police arrest four Palestinians in Bat Yam. Israeli Arabs and Palestinians mark the 32nd Land Day. [end]

Netanyahu: No substitute for Israeli control in West Bank
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday slammed the defense ministry’s decision to ease access and freedom of movement for West Bank Palestinians, saying there could be no substitute for Israeli control in the territory. Israel and the Palestinians on Sunday agreed to a series of concrete steps aimed at paving the way for a final peace agreement later this year, beginning with anIsraeli pledge to remove some 50 roadblocks in the West Bank. Responding to the defense ministry’s announcement, Netanyahu said: "Nobody, not even Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas], can do our job. If the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] leaves the territory, Hamas and Iran will come in. "Netanyahu added that his Likud party would not agree to any agreement that would require the division of Jerusalem.

Jordan: Collapse of Israel-Palestinian talks ’threatens region’
Roee Nahmias and AP, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Unilateral measures taken by Israel main obstacle for peace, King Abdullah tells Rice during Amman meeting; stresses importance of increasing America’s role in process - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to Amman from Jerusalem on Sunday to meet with Jordanian King Abdullah. The king warned that failure to achieve progress toward (Israeli-Palestinian) peace would ’’threaten the region’s future’’, according to a statement from his palace. During his meeting with Rice Abdullah accused Israel of taking unilateral measures, particularly regarding the expansion of the West Bank settlements. According to the king, these measures are the main obstacles to regional peace. Jordan’s official news agency, Petra, reported that King Abdullah stressed the importance of increasing America’s role in the peace process, including the transfer of economic aid to the Palestinians.

Mishaal: Palestinians entitled to resist occupation with all available means
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the chairman of the Hamas political bureau, has stressed that the Palestinian people were entitled to resist occupation with all available means including military means. Mishaal, speaking during a meeting with a delegation of the organization of Islamic conference headed by its secretary general Dr. Kamal Eddin IhsanOglu, said that the attack carried out by Ala Abu Dehaim in Jerusalem was against a "den for Zionist extremists" that graduated thousands of "terrorists and criminals" and was not against a civilian target in the known meaning of the word. The Hamas leader held Israel responsible for aborting all efforts exerted by Arab, regional and international parties to realize a "comprehensive, simultaneous and reciprocal calm". Mishaal exchanged frank, deep and extensive discourse with IhsanOglu during which he reiterated his Movement’s backing to the Yemeni initiative.

Fatah declares death of Yemeni initiative, asks for Arab alternative
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
CAIRO, (PIC)-- The Fatah movement officially announced that the Yemeni initiative to reconcile it with the Hamas movement was dead and asked for an Arab initiative that would serve as an alternative to the Sana’a declaration. Abdullah El-Efranji, one of the Fatah leaders, told reporters after a meeting in Cairo on Saturday with Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul Ghait that the Sana’a declaration was over. "We now need a comprehensive Arab initiative," he said. He said that Abul Ghait tabled his country’s position towards the Palestine conditions, which was in conformity with Fatah stand. Well informed sources in Damascus said that PA chief foiled Yemeni and Arab mediation efforts to bring him together with Khaled Mishaal, the supreme Hamas leader. They attributed Abbas’s refusal to American pressures. In his address before the Arab summit, Abbas lashed out at Hamas and said. . .

Hamas: Rice-Fayyad-Barak meeting prepares for new round of aggression
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday said that the tripartite meeting grouping American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Israeli war minister Ehud Barak and premier of the illegal PA government Salam Fayyad was security in nature. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that the meeting targets preparing for a new round of war against Palestinian resistance. He said in a press release that the three discussed boosting American-Israeli-Palestinian security coordination in a bid to wipe out resistance in the West Bank and to prepare for a new aggression against Gaza. Rice’s tour in the region also aims at giving the impression that success was achieved in the settlement process in addition to blocking any Palestinian reconciliation, Abu Zuhri added. He said that the American state department’s announcement that Israel had promised to remove 50 roadblocks. . .

Israel ’planning to remove West Bank checkpoints’
Ma’an News Agency 3/30/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel plans to announce the removal of a major checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Jericho, thereby allowing Palestinians access to the Dead Sea, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Sunday. Another one or two checkpoints, and some minor roadblocks will also be removed, the newspaper reported. A spokesperson for Israeli government activity in the occupied territories could not confirm the planned removal of a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Jericho, but said that the government is "looking into" removing some West Bank checkpoints. The report added that Israel is considering allowing Palestinians to open police stations in Area B, a zone designated to be under Israeli security control in the Oslo accords. Israel is also reportedly planning to issue thousands of new permits to allow Palestinian merchants to enter Israel.

Israel makes checkpoints pledge
Al Jazeera 3/30/2008
Israel has pledged to remove about 50 roadblocks from the West Bank as part of a series of "concrete steps" aimed at paving the way for a final peace deal. The move was announced after Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, met Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, and Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister. Israel "will remove some 50 barriers to allow vehicle movement between the towns of Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya and Ramallah," the defence ministry said on Sunday. However, the measure would affect only a fraction of the more than 500 roadblocks and checkpoints across the territory. Israel says that the barriers and travel restrictions across the West Bank are needed to prevent attacks but the Palestinians say they are excessive and have devastated the economy.

France calls for joint European position regarding talks with Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
SLOVENIA, (PIC)-- France announced support for the Yemeni initiative that targeted to reconcile Hamas and Fatah movements and hoped that the European countries would adopt a joint stand regarding opening dialogue with Hamas. French external affairs minister Bernard Kouchner told a press conference on Friday in Slovenia that his country backed the Arab initiatives aimed at Palestinian reconciliation. The Palestinians should decide for themselves the time to sit together and talk whether publicly or secretly, he opined, adding that he backed dialogue between them. He hoped that the 27 members of the European Union would adopt a unified stance regarding dialogue with Hamas, describing unilateral talks with the Movement as "not positive". However, Javier Solana, the higher coordinator of EU foreign policies remained adamant on his position refusing any dialogue with Hamas.

Khudari holds Arab countries responsible for 150,000 Palestinian workers
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege , has held the Arab countries responsible for 150,000 Palestinian workers in the Gaza Strip who are now out of work due to the Israeli siege. Khudari, speaking at a rally organized by the professional syndicates on Saturday, asked the Arab summit in Damascus to be fair and to find a solution to those workers. The MP also asked the UN and human rights organizations to find suitable solutions to this problem. Workers attending the rally hoisted placards denouncing the Zionist siege and the Arab silence towards it. Meanwhile, a two-month old infant died in Gaza after his parents failed to obtain permit for his treatment abroad. The baby Yousef Wasim suffered from kidney failure. The number of those who died as a result of the Israeli siege thus rose to 119 patients.

Yishai says willing to negotiate with Hamas, Hizbullah to release captives
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/30/2008
’I’m willing to do anything to fulfill the mitzvah of returning captives,’ Yishai says, adding ’government not doing enough to bring them home’ - Deputy Prime Minister and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai told Ynet on Sunday that to secure the return of Israel’s kidnapped soldiers he would be willing to negotiate with Hamas or Hizbullah. "For the return of the captives Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser I am willing to do anything. I am willing to travel to Egypt, Jordan or any other country to fulfill the mitzvah of returning captives. It is our duty to resolve this matter for their families. We cannot allow this issue to drop from our agenda," said Yishai. The Shas leader said the government has not done enough to bring the captives home. In breaking from the unified line presented by the government, Yishai, a member of the National Security Cabinet,. . .

MP Mansour affirms insistence on historical Palestine
Palestinian Information Center 3/30/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- MP Mona Mansour on Sunday affirmed that Palestinians would never give up their right to the historical land of Palestine and would never recognize the Hebrew state. Mansour in a statement on the occasion of the land day said that accepting the de facto presence of an occupation state on the lands occupied in 1948 does not mean surrendering those lands and does not mean forsaking the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their indigenous lands. "We will never acquiesce to giving up an inch of our lands to the occupiers," she asserted. The lawmaker underlined that the historical land of Palestine is an Islamic Wakf (endowment) land that could not be wholly or partially ceded, Mansour explained. She called on the Arab and Islamic world and the international community to put an end to the 60-year-old Zionist occupation of Palestine.

Bush: Israeli-Palestinian accord possible by 2009
Reuters, YNetNews 3/30/2008
German paper reports US president upbeat regarding prospects of pushing ahead with Middle East peace deal before term ends, says agreement will take shape once Road Map conditions are fulfilled -US President George W. Bush is optimistic Israel and the Palestinians will sign an agreement defining a Palestinian state before the end of his term in office, a German newspaper quoted him as saying on Sunday. "I hope that President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert can sign an agreement before the end of my presidency (in January) that defines a clearly-outlined Palestinian state," daily Die Welt quoted Bush as saying. "This could then immediately take shape when the conditions of the ’Road Map’ are fulfilled," he said. "But the first step must be the clear definition of the Palestinian state.

Barak to bereaved families: Olmert should have resigned
Ynet, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Defense minister says PM should have stepped down following publication of Winograd Commission’s findings on Lebanon war. Bereaved parents urge Barak to keep his own promise and resign -"I agree with you that(Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert should have taken responsibility and resigned shortly after the publication of the Winograd Commission’s findings regarding the government’s conduct during theSecond Lebanon War Defense Minister Ehud Baraktold a group of bereaved families on Sunday. According to bereaved father David Einhoren, Barak refused to specify when he planned to resign from the government, as he had promised prior to the publication of the Winograd report. "We asked if it will be in a year or two, and he answered ’sooner than you think’," Einhoren told Ynet, adding that the atmosphere during the meeting was tense.

Barak to bereaved parents: Labor to quit gov’t sooner than anticipated
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
The Labor Party’s departure from the government coalition could be sooner than anticipated, party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday during an address to the parents of Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed in the Second Lebanon War. He made the comments after one of the parents asked whether he saw the party quitting within the next year or two. Participants in the forum said the defense minister refused to give a time frame. According to participants, Barak said during his address that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should resign over his role in the war. By continuing in his role as defense minister, some of the parents said, Barak was giving legitimacy to the survival of Olmert;s government. Ahead of the publication of the Winograd Committee’s report on the war, the parents had demanded Barak quit in order to allow for the coalition to be toppled.

PMO taking charge of 2009 budget process
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Ra’anan Dinur, the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, is taking on the treasury: For the first time the PMO is taking an active role in preparing next year’s state budget - and is formulating its own detailed plan without the Finance Ministry. Dinur hinted how he would like to see the 2009 budget, including large investments in education and defense. This would prevent adding any more money to almost all other ministries, which would be forced to settle for moving existing levels of funding around within the ministry. The very active participation of the PMO in the budgetary process has caused quite a bit of anger in the treasury, and in particular within the Budgets Division. Until now, the treasury has had responsibility for preparing the budget. This is another step in the policy of Dinur, and his boss, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to strengthen the powers. . .

Bank of Israel: Cabinet’s multi-year plan endangers the economy
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
The 2007 cabinet decision to promote a multi-year plan for welfare, infrastructure, defense and social spending is likely to expose the economy to financial dangers, to stop Israel economic and fiscal measures from reaching the norms of developed nations and will increase the interest payment burden in coming years. These are some of the conclusions of the Bank of Israel’s 2007 annual report, which will be released on Tuesday. According to the report, the multi-year budget plan contradicts the 2005 law limiting annual increases in government expenditures to only 1. 7%. If the multiyear plan takes effect, government spending will have to rise an average of 4% a year from 2009 to 2012. Non-defense spending will rise 4. 6% per year, and the 2009 budget deficit will be over 2% of GDP - and increase in following years. Other implications are a rise in public spending compared to private. . .

Barak authorizes nationwide emergency drill
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/30/2008
Defense establishment, government and cabinet all to participate in exercise simulating crisis situation as part of upcoming national emergency drill to be held in April. Drill part of implementation of lessons from Second Lebanon War - Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized on Sunday evening the plans for a national emergency drill, which is scheduled to take place in two weeks time. The exercise, which will be led by Barak’s deputy Matan Vilnai, was conceived as part of the lessons learned following theSecond Lebanon War in 2006 and will incorporate all government offices and public bodies. The drill will simulate a series of emergency situations and require those participating - ranging from localmunicipalities, schools, firefighters and paramedics, the IDF Home Front Command and even the cabinet itself - to respond to the developing events.

Palestine Is Still The Issue
John Pilger, YouTube 3/30/2008
John Pilger returns to the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza where, in 1974, he filmed a documentary with the same title about the same issues, a nation of people - the Palestinians - forced off their land and later subjected to a military occupation by Israel. He hears extraordinary stories from Palestinians, though most of his interviews are with Israelis whose voices are seldom heard, including the remarkable witness of a man who lost his daughter in a suicide bombing. But for Palestinians, the overriding, routine terror, day after day, has been the ruthless control of almost every aspect of their lives, as if they live in an open prison. This film is about the Palestinians and a group of courageous Israelis united in the oldest human struggle - to be free.

Israeli play makes link with Palestinians - Leading Jewish actor to portray Arab peace activist
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/31/2008
One of Israel’s most popular Jewish actors, whose son was killed while serving in the military, is to play the part of a Palestinian peace activist whose young daughter died in a bitterly disputed encounter with the Israeli border police. Bassam Aramin’s daughter, Abir, 10, was killed by a blow to the head in January last year as she walked home from a school maths exam in the village of Anata, just inside the occupied West Bank. Witnesses and lawyers for her family believe she was hit by a rubber-coated bullet fired by an Israeli border police unit. Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone over her death. But her father has kept up a long campaign for a full inquiry and a trial of the policemen involved. In the new play, a one-man, Hebrew-language drama, Abir’s father will be played by Shlomo Vishinsky, whose son Lior was killed nearly four years ago in Gaza

Gene study charts arrival of Islam, Crusaders in Lebanon
Daily Star 3/31/2008
BEIRUT:A new study has found genetic traces of both the arrival of the Crusades and of the expansion of Islam in Lebanon, as reported by the National Geographic Magazine on Friday. The findings not only confirm well-documented history but also present a rare genetic trail showing the movement of two major religions into Lebanon, scientists say. "Lebanon has always had a rich history of receiving different cultures," said the study’s lead author, Pierre Zalloua, an associate professor at the Lebanese American University. " This study tells us that some of them did not just conquer and leave behind castles. They left a subtle genetic connection as well. "Unlike previous studies that have relied on mitochondrial DNA - which is passed on maternally - to unlock secrets of human migration, researchers in the current study focused on the paternally provided Y chromosome, as it is thought to provide more detailed information.

Genealogy Web site attempts to map out entire Jewish people
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
In the near future, provided Dan Rolls realizes his vision, any Jew in the world could easily visit a Web site where he would be able trace back his genealogical trecoe in a way that would show him his or her family connections with thousands of relatives he had never known about across the globe. Rolls and his partners at Famillion believe that they need 300,000 Jews - figure that constitutes 2 percent of the Jewish people - to upload their genealogical tree. So far, Famillion’s servers have received the genealogical tree of 70,000. The idea came to him eight years ago when he went with his wife for genetic testing. "We needed to each write down our genealogical tree and list various pathological disorders among our parents and relatives," he recalls. "The geneticist who treated us put the pages we had filled out in a drawer.

VIDEO - Israelis reach out to Gazan mother in Ashkelon following TV report
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for March 30, 2008. A televisionreport last week on Iman, a Gazan woman who give birth to twins in Israel, resulted in a rare show of cross-border humanism amidst bitter violence. While Iman gave birth several weeks ago, fierce fighting was taking place between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza, and rocket fire from the Strip reached the grounds of the Ashkelon hospital where she was hospitalized. After a television report on Iman, the Barzilai Medical Center became swamped by hundreds of offers from Israeli citizens who wanted to help. [end]

Police: Bnei Brak has by far the highest rate of sexual offenses
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Police investigating suspicions that a sex predator is wandering about in Bnei Brak said Sunday that they believe there are more cases of sex-related crimes in that city than in any other locale in Israel. "The number of sex offenses in the Bnei Brak area is higher than any other city by tens of percentage points, and it is clear to us that we do not know about many cases that are not even reported because of the well-known fact that in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, there is great reluctance about reporting such incidents," a senior police officer in the Tel Aviv District said. The Dan Region police received reports of 10 sexual assaults of girls in recent months. Two cases involved rape; the rest were instances either of attempted rape or indecent assault. In all cases the girls, aged approximately 12, gave a similar description of their. . .

ISRAEL: River Jordan a "sewage pipe"
Tamar Dressler/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/31/2008
Murky, polluted water in the Kishon river near Haifa TEL AVIV, 30 March 2008 (IRIN) - The continued dumping of untreated or partially treated sewage into rivers and streams is the number one source of dangerous pollution in Israel, the Ministry for Environmental protection has said. Municipalities are responsible for sewage treatment, but high costs of treating sewage and building new treatment plants have prompted many local councils to dump the sewage wherever they can, ministry officials said. Critics have said the fines imposed on municipalities that break the law are so low as to encourage dumping and non-treatment of waste water. In 2003, for example, Raanana Municipality, in central Israel, admitted to having knowingly contaminated Poleg beach via Poleg river for several years, and was fined 480,000 shekels (about US$100,000).

Study: 60% of Israel’s poor are ultra-Orthodox and Arabs
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Some 60 percent of Israelis living below the poverty line come from the ultra-Orthodox or Israeli-Arab sectors, according to a report to be released by the Bank of Israel on Wednesday. These sectors have seen a steady rate of worsening poverty, despite recent improvements in the Israeli economy, the report says. The report also examines the effects of reductions in National Insurance Institute stipends in recent years, as well as the subsequent entry of higher numbers of ultra-Orthodox into the workplace. According to the report, the rising emploment rates has in fact led some within the community to benefit from growth in the Israeli economy. As opposed to the ultra-Orthodox community, the Israeli Arab sector has not experienced any significant economic improvement over the past decade.

Budget problems force closure of top Druze science school
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 3/30/2008
A specialty high school in the Galilee village of Yarka geared towards science studies and which is attended by 220 Druze students every day has been shut down due to mounting financial problems, the non-profit organization which runs the school announced Sunday. The group added that the closure will be permanent unless the school does not receive the necessary funds to continue operation. The school’s principal, Dr. As’ad Araidi, said the school has encountered budget difficulties over the course of the last few months. Araidi said the Druze municipalities and local townships as well as the Education Ministry have failed to provide the needed support to back the school, which the principal said is unique in that it has earned a reputation for churning out students who excel.

Ben-Gurion Airport witnesses fourth accident in a week
Zohar Blumenkranz, Ha’aretz 3/30/2008
Less than 24 hours after a Lufthansa aircraft was hit by an Israel Airports Authority (IAA) All-Terrain Vehicle, Ben-Gurion International Airport witnessed another fault in aviation safety on Sunday, the fourth within a week. A private jet deviated from the runway during landing, hitting a number of torches. Subsequently, the runway was briefly closed. On Saturday, an IAA ATV severely damaged a German Boeing 747-400 as the crew was preparing to open the flight for boarding. Following the accident, the flight was postponed to Sunday afternoon. On Wednesday, an IAA vehicle hit the door of the Italian Mistral Air cargo aircraft. Two days earlier, airport staff removed four wheel brakes from a stationary Falcon 900 private jet. The aircraft rolled down 40 meters.

US Document Confirms Iraq Dungeon
Jason Leopold, Middle East Online 3/30/2008
A classified memo written by the top US military officer in western Iraq reveals that a prison in downtown Fallujah is so overcrowded and dirty that it does not even meet basic “minimal levels of hygiene for human beings. ”“The conditions in these jails are so bad that I think we need to do the right thing in terms of caring for the prisoners even with our own dollars, or release them,” says the memo, written in late February by Maj. Gen. John Kelly, commander of US forces in western Iraq. The classified document, leaked to the Web site Wikileaks where whistleblowers can "reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations," was authenticated by the organization and has not been challenged by the US military when asked about it. The memo contains other shocking revelations about conditions at the jail, including a massive shortage of food and water. The prison is said to be run by Iraqi officials. US Marines oversee operation of the facility.

Sadr pulls his fighters off Iraq’s streets, Maliki welcomes move as ’right’ step
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/31/2008
Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his fighters off Iraq’s streets Sunday in a move which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed as a "step in the right direction" after several days of heavy fighting. "We want the Iraqi people to stop this bloodshed and maintain Iraq’s independence and stability," Sadr said in a statement with his seal released by his headquarters in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf in central Iraq. "For that we have decided to withdraw from the streets of Basra and all other provinces. "Sadr’s call came after battles since Tuesday between Shiite fighters and Iraqi forces in the southern port city of Basra, Baghdad and several other Shiite regions had killed at least 270 people. He made the decision as it was his "legitimate responsibility to stop the bleeding of Iraqis, to maintain the reputation of Iraqi people, the unity of land and people, to prepare for its. . . "

IRAQ: Curfews and clashes cripple Baghdad, Basra
DefenseLINK, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/31/2008
An overview of Sadr City, Baghdad, where ongoing clashes and a curfew have restricted the movement of aid workers BAGHDAD, 30 March 2008 (IRIN) - Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) appealed to the Iraqi authorities on 30 March to facilitate their distribution of relief materials in Baghdad andBasra , 545km southeast of the capital. Both cities are under an indefinite curfew due to ongoing clashes between government forces and the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia led by Moqtada al-Sadr. "We call upon the [Iraqi] government to allow local and international aid organisations to move during curfew time and get into conflict areas to do their job," Basil al-Azawi, head of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (ICCSE), a coalition of over 1,000 Iraqi NGOs, told IRIN. "It is a really dangerous situation and must be focused on.

NGO launches project to boost economy of South by aiding farmers
Anthony Elghossain, Daily Star 3/31/2008
BEIRUT: Recovery is under way in South Lebanon in spite of the tense political and military situation in the region. Among the many institutions aiding the recovery is the International Labour Organization (ILO), which has launched a program aimed at the short-term rehabilitation and long-term development of areas affected by the summer 2006 war. Although much attention given to recovery has focused on reconstruction and the associated politicization of that process, important steps to improve the situation in the South have also been taken by international agencies and local non-governmental organizations. Some of these efforts have focused on helping affected Lebanese stand on their own two feet instead of providing a crutch for the near term. This is precisely what the ILO is attempting in partnership other UN agencies, the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, and other public and private organizations.

Arab summit ends with no Lebanon breakthrough
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 3/31/2008
Damascus Declaration calls on Lebanese leaders to implement three-point plan - BEIRUT: An Arab summit failed on Sunday to clinch a breakthrough on Lebanon, spotlighting the rift between hosting Syria and stay-away US allies which blame Beirut’s political crisis on Damascus. Meanwhile, all eyes are focused on whether Arab League chief Amr Moussa would return to Lebanon to pursue the implementation of a three-point Arab initiative to end Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis. A Damascus Declaration - which Moussa read out at the end of the two-day summit - called on Lebanon to elect a consensus president. "Arab leaders stress their commitment to the Arab initiative to solve the Lebanese crisis, and call on Lebanese leaders to elect consensus candidate [commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces] General Michel Suleiman at the time agreed," the declaration said. The declaration also said that Lebanese-Syrian relation should be put on the right track.

Moallem says Syria ready in case of US military strike
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/31/2008
DAMASCUS: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said on Sunday that Damascus was prepared for all scenarios in its worsening relationship with Washington, including the use of US military force. "A prudent person must make all his calculations, especially when we have to deal with an administration which knows how to strike but does not know how to withdraw," Moallem told reporters at the end of an Arab summit in Damascus. He was referring to Iraq, where almost 160,000 American troops are stationed five years after invading the country to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 4,000 US soldiers have since died there. Moallem was responding to a question over whether Damascus feared "a US strike against Syria or Iran" if US diplomatic efforts fail to isolate Syria. "We hope that this will not happen.

Dimming the lights on Arab satellites
Marwan M. Kraidy, Daily Star 3/31/2008
After years of rhetoric about the need for a pan-Arab satellite television framework, Arab information ministers last February 12 adopted a charter that provides the tools to penalize broadcasters who attack leaders or air socially unacceptable content. The charter is broad ranging, covering news, political shows, and entertainment - even sports programs. In the weeks before the emergency meeting in Cairo, the Egyptian and Saudi information ministers lobbied their colleagues to pass the document, prepared by a committee of experts during the preceding six months. Even Syria, currently engaged in a media war with Saudi Arabia over Lebanon, signed off on the charter. While the charter’s passage seemed sudden, momentum toward action against satellite media has been building since the 2006 Lebanon war. When hostilities broke out, Egyptian and Saudi leaders at first condemned Hizbullah’s "adventurism,"

CIA chief believes Iran seeks nuclear arms, but stands by agency’s assessment
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/31/2008
WASHINGTON:CIA chief Michael Hayden expressed his personal belief Sunday that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but also stood by the agency’s assessment that the program was suspended in 2003. "Personal belief, yes. It’s hard for me to explain. This is not court-of-law stuff," the Central Intelligence Agency director said on NBC television. Iran’s defiance of Security Council sanctions showed the Islamic Republic had something to hide with its production of enriched uranium, Hayden said. The Iranians would not pay that price "if they did not have at a minimum. . . the desire to keep the option open to develop a nuclear weapon" and to produce "fissile material not under international control," he said. In December, the CIA and rest of the US intelligence community said Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that US charges about Tehran’s atomic goals had been overblown for at least two years.

Iran summons Dutch ambassador over anti-Islam film
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/31/2008
TEHRAN:Iran summoned the Dutch ambassador to Tehran on Sunday to protest about a film deemed insulting to Islam posted on the Internet by an MP in the Netherlands, state media reported. Dutch ambassador Radinck van Vollenhoven was summoned to the Foreign Ministry as well as a representative of Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, state television reported. The film "Fitna" by Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders, which features images of attacks in New York and Madrid intertwined with Koranic texts, has provoked widespread condemnation. Iranian media quoted the Dutch ambassador as saying after the meeting that he had voiced sorrow about the broadcast of the "anti-Islamic" film and emphasized that it was condemned by the Dutch government. According to the student ISNA news agency, top Foreign Ministry official Mustafa Dolatyar told van Vollenhoven that Wilders. . .

Vatican: Islam surpasses Roman Catholicism as world’s largest religion
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday. "For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims haveovertaken us," Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with theVatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. Formenti compiles the Vatican’s yearbook. He said that Catholics accounted for 17. 4 percent of the world population - a stable percentage - while Muslims were at 19. 2 percent. "It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer," the monsignor said. Formenti said that the data refer to 2006. The figures on Muslims had been put together by Muslim countries and then provided to the United Nations, he said, adding that the Vatican could only vouch for its own data.


Palestinian Land Day: time for reflection and demonstration
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 3/30/2008
      For Palestinian Land Day, some just walked on the land, did not really demonstrate, but instead took in the air, reflected, watched the subtle steps of the hills.
     For others it was a day to shout at occupation forces and hold nonviolent demonstrations. In Umm Salamuna, between Hebron and Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, there was demonstration of between 150 and 200 people around 1:00 pm, the number estimated by residents.
     I walked with a friend from Umm Salamuna. He told me that Israeli soldiers had arrived at 7:00 am and began blocking the roads. "They put up rolls of barbed wire. You could get in, but you couldn’t get out."
     Another woman who I did not know before, also from Umm Salamuna, walked with me and her three little kids before sending two to their grandparent’s house. "Are you afraid?" She asked me as a larger than usual jeep pulled up in front of us. "No," I answered plaintively. She laughed. She was not afraid either.

What Journalists Avoid Asking About Israel

Stuart Littlewood, Middle East Online 3/30/2008
      The abysmal performance of Western TV and radio interviewers when dealing with issues surrounding Israel – that “rogue regime” or “Zionist entity”, as many now call it – is not only embarrassing, but a blot on the escutcheon of journalism.
     Even the most fearsome inquisitors purr like a pussycat. Their rottweiler instincts evaporate, their investigative skills desert them, objectivity takes a nosedive. Penetrating questions are seldom asked, lies go unchallenged. Any Israeli spokesperson or cheerleader is guaranteed an easy ride.
     Have the nation’s truth-seekers fallen under some wicked Zionist spell? Are their researchers on strike? Did somebody nobble the programme editors?
     While we wait with mounting frustration for our broadcasters to get their act together, here are 20 simple questions the BBC and others seem anxious not to ask:
     On rockets and sieges.
     1) The numbers of home-made Qassam rockets launched at Israel are diligently counted and quoted, but how many sophisticated munitions have Israel’s F-16s, helicopter gunships, armed drones, tanks, occupation troops and navy patrol boats fired into the crowded humanity that packs the Gaza Strip? We are never told...

‘Death to the Arabs!’

Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 3/30/2008
      Tomorrow will be the 32nd anniversary of the first "Day of the Land" - one of the defining events in the history of Israel.
     I remember the day well. I was at Ben Gurion airport, on the way to a secret meeting in London with Said Hamami, Yasser Arafat’s emissary, when someone told me: "They have killed a lot of Arab protestors!"
     That was not entirely unexpected. A few days before, we - members of the newly formed Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace - had handed the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, an urgent memorandum warning him that the government’s intention of expropriating huge chunks of land from Arab villages would cause an explosion. We included a proposal for an alternative solution, worked out by Lova Eliav, a veteran expert on settlements.
     When I returned from abroad, the poet Yevi suggested that we make a symbolic gesture of sorrow and regret for the killings. Three of us - Yevi himself, the painter Dan Kedar and I - laid wreaths on the graves of the victims. This aroused a wave of hatred against us. I felt that something profoundly significant had happened, that the relationship between Jews and Arabs within the state had changed fundamentally.

Her ongoing silence

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
      It happened exactly 30 years ago: the first demonstration by Peace Now. There were 40,000 people in the square that was then called Malkhei Yisrael. On April 1, 1978, they demonstrated in favor of accelerating the peace talks with Egypt. One of the energetic organizers was the princess of the extra-parliamentary left in those days, Yuli Tamir.
     Scion of the aristocracy of the Israeli workers’ movement, Tamir stood out among the founders of Peace Now. When, a short time later, the question arose as to whether to demonstrate against the demolition of houses in the territories, Tamir was among those who enthusiastically called for taking to the streets and protesting. Afterward she became an activist in the Ratz party in the 1980s and the chair of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in the 1990s. Her academic activity also related to similar issues: One of her books discussed liberal nationalism. Isaiah Berlin was her teacher and mentor.
     Thirty years after that demonstration Tamir is the minister of education. Her last two projects: granting Israel Prizes for contribution to society to eight different organizations, including the Manufacturers Association and the Jewish Agency, and the initiative Derech Eretz V’Shamayim (a play on words meaning both "the Golden Way and the Sky" as well as "Across Land and Air"). In this initiative, 8,000 army officers and soldiers visited schools across the country last week to speak to the students about values and national pride. In a nutshell, these two projects tell the entire story of the long way Tamir has come from then until now. When Shulamit Aloni was minister of education, she battled to award the Israel Prize to Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz; Tamir will award the prize to the Manufacturers Association. She sent the Israel Defense Forces officers to schools to impart values to our children. Post-leftist.

Palestinians march to call for healthy generation of refugees

Tzovig Seferian, Daily Star 3/31/2008
      BEIRUT: Hundreds of Palestinians marched through the alleys of the Burj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp Sunday morning, carrying banners and chanting slogans, while drawing the attention of many sleepy households adjusting to Daylight Savings time in Lebanon.
     But their message was quite different from what one might expect. "Yes for dialogue, no for hitting," one banner showed, held by small children dressed in traditional Palestinian robes
     "Use soda to clean your sinks, drink water to clean your body," shouted Khaled Masri, aged 13, and his younger sister, Mona, aged 12, whose family originated in Kabri village, near Acca in Palestine.
     These camp inhabitants, mostly women and children, were calling for a healthy generation of Palestinians who might one day return to their country.
     "Land needs healthy people, both physically and mentally, to look after it," explained Olfat Mahmoud, director of the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization (PWHO), a local women’s non-governmental organization launched in 1993 with the goal of empowering Palestinian women and children. Their mandate has since expanded to include working with entire communities, as well as other refugee populations in Lebanon.

No impunity, whether in Iraq or Lebanon

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 3/29/2008
      It is depressing but not surprising that almost exactly five years after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and the dissolution of the Baathist-led regime and state, we now witness just about every conceivable possible party fighting one another in Basra, Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
     Ironically, I have been following this during a trip between Geneva, London and Boston. I say ironically, because the United States and the United Kingdom chose to launch this war that has caused immense damage and suffering, while in Geneva I was involved in meetings at the International Committee of the Red Cross, where among the issues discussed were crimes against humanity and impunity for war crimes.
     For now, we continue to witness the consequences of the war that the Americans and British unleashed after decades of brutal governance by the Baathist regime headed by Saddam Hussein. Whether he and his partners in crime and cruelty will be the only ones held accountable for their conduct will not be determined for some years. The issue is critical, though, if the Middle East is ever going to emerge from its evil and painful custom where crime is a policy tool and a routine mode of conduct.