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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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6 April 2008


Palestinians: IDF shell kills 5-year-old in Gaza
Avi Issacharoff and Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
A 5-year-old Palestinian boy was killed on Sunday when an Israel Defense Forces shell exploded near his home in the al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said. Medical workers and militant groups said the boy, Abdullah Buhar, was killed during fighting between IDF soldiers and Palestinian militants in the Hamas-controlled Strip. The medical workers, who examined the boy’s body in a Gaza hospital, said he was killed by a shrapnel fragment from an IDF tank shell. The militant groups said they fired anti-tank missiles and mortar bombs at IDF troops during the fighting near the refugee camp. An IDF spokeswoman confirmed troops exchanged fire in the area with armedPalestinians but said they were unaware of casualties. The IDF force, composed of soldiers from the Givati Brigade and the Armored. . .

U.S. evangelist pledges $6 million in contributions to Israel
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
American evangelist John Hagee on Sunday announced donations of $6 million to a number of Israeli causes and declared that Israel must remain in control of all of Jerusalem. Hagee, who has been in the news lately for his endorsement of U. S. Presidential candidate John McCain and his criticism of the Catholic Church, brought hundreds of backers on a solidarity trip to Israel. Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, held a colorful rally at Jerusalem’s convention center. The mostly American audience waved Israeli flags and cheered as Hagee joined keynote speaker Likud Party Chair Benjamin Netanyahu to insist Jerusalem remain united and under Jewish control. "Turning part or all of Jerusalem over to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban," Hagee said.

IDF says killed 3 gunmen in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/6/2008
Palestinian sources report one child killed, three others injured in exchanges of fire between gunmen, Israeli forces near al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. Army says Givati force operating in area hit three armed Palestinians - Palestinian sources reported Sunday afternoon that Abdullah Baher, a five-year-old Palestinian child, was killed and three other children were injured, one of them sustaining serious wounds, in exchanges of fire between an IDF force and Palestinian gunmen in the central Gaza Strip, near the al-Bureij refugee camp. The Israeli army reported that an IDF force shot and hit three armed Palestinians near the refugee camp. According to military officials, the gunmen were spotted by a Givati force operating in the area, which shelled and killed them. The army added that the operation ended and that the forces left the area unharmed.

Report: Accelerated construction in Jerusalem since Annapolis
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/6/2008
Report published by Ir Amim organization indicates construction in east Jerusalem has accelerated since November peace summit. "˜Israel creating its own de facto borders, dangerous escalation in violence might ensue,’ foundation says - The Ir Amim Organization For an Equitable and Stable Jerusalem has published a report Saturday indicating that "the Annapolis peace conference has lad Israel to take unilateral action vis a vie east Jerusalem instead of serving as a catalyst for heightened political negotiation en route to a peace accord. "The organization’s report recommended that Israel not undertake any unilateral initiatives in east Jerusalem so as not to hamper the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The report published by Ir Amim bolsters earlier data issued by the Peace Now organization last week. It indicates that an additional 9,617 new housing units were built in

Livni: We won’t cede red lines in peace talks
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/6/2008
Foreign minister meets with Evangelical leader John Hagee, tells him international community must understand that Israel ’has no plans to compromise on its red lines’ in negotiations with Palestinians - Israel plans to set red lines for the negotiations with the Palestinians and will not compromise on them,Foreign Minister Tizpi Livni clarified Sunday. According to Livni, Israel’s red lines in terms of the security, the refugees and the holy sites will be presented toPalestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the international community. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to meet with Abbas on Monday at his official residents in Jerusalem. The meeting will also be attended by the negotiation teams, headed by Livni and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

DCI: IOF killed 49 Palestinian children since start of 2008
Palestinian Information Center 6/4/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The defense for children international organization announced that IOF troops killed 49 Palestinian children since the start of 2008 including six who were killed inside their homes. The organization’s branch in Palestine said that 33 of those victims were killed in five days during the IOF holocaust in the Gaza Strip in the period 27/2 to 2/2/2008. It pointed out that the IOF killed 55 Palestinian children in 2007 and wounded 345 others in addition to kidnapping 700 children including 30 who were retained behind bars in administrative detention, without trial or charge. The report noted that four Palestinian children at least were used by IOF troops as human shields in the course of 2007 while 17 were injured in attacks by Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The organization said that the children in the Gaza Strip are deprived of normal life due to the tight IOF siege imposed on the Strip.

Abbas will press Olmert on settlements, Erekat says
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday to discuss the peace process and Israel’s commitment to the US-backed Road Map plan, Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said on Saturday. According to Erekat, president Abbas plans to press Olmert on the fact that Israel has not fulfilled its obligations under the road map. Erekat noted that Israel has not halted settlement construction in the West Bank, a requirement under the first step of the multi-stage plan. The "performance-based" Road Map calls for Israel to halt all settlement activity in occupied Palestinian areas. In exchange, the Palestinian Authority is obligated to crack down on armed Palestinian groups.

Al Mezan condemns IOF’s continued fuel and electricity cuts; Calls for international intervention
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, ReliefWeb 4/3/2008
Reference: 42/200 - The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continues to impose a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip by restricting the flow of fuel, thereby harming the transportation sector. Many Gazans now wait for hours to find a taxi to take them from town to town. Many employees miss work and students cannot regularly attend universities. Taxi drivers are facing great difficulty finding fuel for their vehicles. Dozens have been forced to stop working owing to the lack of fuel. However, most now have to wait for hours in very long lines to get only a limited amount of fuel. Al Mezan’s field workers reported that these long lines are now commonplace in the Gaza Strip. Drivers must keep their vehicles in line for gas with only the hope that the IOF will allow fuel to enter so they can run their engines for one day.

Israeli officer wounded in Qabatiya incursion
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – An Israeli military officer was injured during an incursion in the West Bank town of Qabatiya near Jenin on Saturday, the Israeli army announced. According to the Israeli army, the officer was shot during a gunbattle with Palestinian fighters in Qabatiya. They said the officer only mildly wounded. The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, said their fighters clashed with invading Israeli forces and injured one officer. The Israeli forces invaded Qabatia on the pretext of searching for "wanted" Palestinians suspected of political or military activity. Residents of the town said the Israeli troops damaged furniture in the houses they searched. No arrests have been reported.

Fanatic Jewish group builds new tunnel under the Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Hebrew TV has revealed on Saturday that the Jewish fanatic Al-A’ad group excavated a new tunnel in Salwan village leading the foundations of the Aqsa Mosque. According to the TV, the tunnel was part of the Israeli schemes to rehabilitate the "City of David", and that the said Jewish organization was receiving financial and political assistance from the Israeli occupation government. Palestinian citizens in the village were irked by the news, adding that they noticed cracks in the walls of their homes started to appear. Raed Salah, the prominent Muslim leader in the 1948-occupoied Palestinian lands, accused the Israeli occupation government of attempting to impose facts on the ground inside the Aqsa Mosque through a programmed plan. Salah, who was the first to expose the Israeli vicious schemes against the Aqsa Mosque, also highlighted that since. . .

Eight Hamas members ’arrested’ in the West Bank, Hamas says
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Hamas said on Sunday that Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces arrested eight Hamas supporters in the West Bank. Hamas claimed that five of their members were seized in the southern West Bank villages of Husan and Nahalin, west of the city of Bethlehem. Two others were arrested in the Hebron region one in the Tubas region. A Hamas statement added that 33 warrants were served to Hamas affiliates in Hebron summoning them to security stations for questioning. [end]

PFLP fighters fire two homemade projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Saturday night for launching two homemade projectiles from the Gaza Strip at the Israeli cities of Ashkelon and the Zekeim Kibbutz. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli atrocities against Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

HRW Urges Abbas to punish killers of Majd Barghouthi
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
NEW YORK, (PIC)-- The American Human Rights Watch organization has called on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to bring to trial those who tortured Majd Al-Barghouthi, a Mosque Imam, to death while in PA detention. Following are excerpts from the HRW report:"The Palestinian Authority should promptly implement the recommendations of the Palestinian Legislative Council’s investigation into the recent torture and death in custody of Majid al-Barghuti, Human Rights Watch said today. The Palestinian Authority should hold accountable members of the security services who violated Palestinian or international law in his death. "The evidence collected by Human Rights Watch and the PLC committee strongly suggest that al-Barghuti died from torture," said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "We hope President Abbas will help end torture by bringing to justice those who apparently killed Majid al-Barghuti.

Israel-Opt: More hope for the mentally ill in Gaza, West Bank?
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - IRIN, ReliefWeb 4/6/2008
JERUSALEM, 6 April 2008 (IRIN) - For mentally ill Palestinians hope may be on the way: The implementation of a national mental health programme has started, officials involved in the project said. "We were lacking a system before, and the work was piecemeal, without overall planning," explained Anan al-Masri, deputy minister of health, in Ramallah. "But now it’s all coming together and we are on the right track. " Since the foundation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994 health officials have talked about the need for a mental health system, as there was not one under the direct Israeli occupation which began in 1967. At the start of this decade, the World Health Organization and the ministry of health set up committees to organise a community mental health programme. The boycott of the Hamas-led PA governments from 2006 until mid 2007 hampered implementation, but the. . .

Detained Aqsa channel correspondent hospitalized
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority carried Mohammed Al-Halaika, the detained correspondent of the Aqsa TV channel, to hospital after deterioration of his health condition for the third time. Mohammed’s father said that the IOA carried his son to Ramle hospital Saturday evening after his health condition worsened anew. He said that the IOA was holding his son in very bad incarceration conditions that led to difficulty in breathing amidst refusal to treat him but he managed to obtain a court order to allow his treatment. Mohammed has been held in Ofer prison near Ramallah for the past four months and was subjected to intensified interrogation for a month and a half. He attended a number of court hearings but no verdict was passed against him so far.

5-year-old Palestinian child killed in IOF shelling
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A 5-year-old Palestinian child was killed and four other Palestinians were wounded when IOF troops shelled east of Breij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon, medical sources reported. They told PIC that Abdullah Abul Said was killed when a number of shells hit his family home while four other citizens were wounded in the same shelling that was coupled with an IOF incursion. Witnesses said that a special IOF force tried to infiltrate into the area when Palestinian resistance fighters strongly confronted it. They added that IOF reinforcements were sent into the area accompanied with indiscriminate shelling at citizens’ homes killing the baby and wounding the four others. The Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, announced its responsibility for firing a number of mortar shells at the invading force.

Boy dies as Jewish state launches new attack in Gaza
Daily Star 4/7/2008
A Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli tank fire in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Sunday, Palestinian medical sources said. Abdullah Buhar, whose age was given as either five years or eight,was hit by shrapnel to his head and chest, the officials said. Doctors said a 16-year-old boy also was wounded in the same incident between the border with Israel and the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, the sources said. The Israeli military confirmed that there was fighting in the area, saying its forces opened fire at a group of militants who attacked them. But it said it was unaware of anyone being hurt. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the incursion had been carried by ground forces with the aim of "distancing terrorists from the [border] fence" following several Palestinian shooting attacks from the area.

Ex-Border Guard officer charged with intent to sell ammunition to Hamas
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 4/6/2008
Nahad Ibrahim, two civilians arrested while trying to sell assault rifle bullets and 50,000 counterfeit dollar bills to undercover cop - A former Border Guard officer was charged on Sunday of selling assault rifle ammunition he stole from his base to an undercover police officer. According to the indictment filed by Israel Police’s Internal Investigations Unit with the Jerusalem District Court, Nahad Ibrahim was told that the ammunition he sold would end up in Hamas’ hands. He was also charged with dealing in counterfeit dollar bills. Police asked that the court grant their request to remand Ibrahim in custody, pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings. The indictment further stated that in July 2007 a Jerusalem resident asked Ibrahim to obtain an entry permit to Israel for a Ramallah resident she was engaged to.

Forty years on, they still come back to pray
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
The Great Sephardic Synagogue in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem is a story of continued social protest. Almost 40 years have passed since the municipality evicted the neighborhood’s veteran residents. Nevertheless, every Shabbat and holiday they continue to come, from all corners of Jerusalem, to the synagogue they had restored with their own hands. They hold lessons and prayers according to the traditions and melodies of the Turkish Jewish community, and they find it difficult to forget the eviction they consider an insult. The municipality evicted the Yemin Moshe residents after the 1967 Six-Day War to set up an artists’ colony in the quarter. The synagogue left behind is not merely a place of worship, but also a means of returning week after week to what once was, to the Yemin Moshe of those days.

Hezbollah No. 2: IDF drills are preparation for war on Lebanon
Barak Ravid Yuval Azoulay and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Hezbollah’s deputy leader said on Sunday that Israel’s decision to hold nation-wide military exercises this week was intended to prepare for a new war on Lebanon. Sheik Naim Kassem also warned Sunday that the Islamic militant group was fully ready to defend Lebanon if Israel attacks again. The decision to hold the largest-ever emergency drill in Israel’s history was not caused by fears of escalation on the borders with Syria and Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during a Knesset meeting on Sunday. Olmert said the goal of the exercises is only to check the ability of the various areas of the Home Front Command to carry out their responsibilities, and has nothing to do with expectations of renewed fighting in the North. "Israel is not expecting any violent clashes in the North," Olmert said, adding that the Syrians "know they have no reason to assess the drill any differently.

Israel insists nationwide exercise poses no threat to Lebanon, Syria
Daily Star 4/7/2008
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sought to reassure Syria and Lebanon on Sunday that Israel did not want a major missile attack drill to worsen tensions along its northern border. "The goal of the exercise is to check the authorities’ ability to carry out their duties in times of emergency and for preparing the home front for different scenarios," Olmert told a weekly Cabinet meeting. "There is nothing else hidden behind it. All the reports on tension in the north can be moderated and cooled down. We have no secret plans," he added in reference to the "Turning Point" drills. In Beirut, various Hizbullah officials warned that the party was prepared for any eventuality. "We know that we have the forces. . . the enemy should reconsider before committing any stupid act," said MP Hussein Hajj Hassan. Senior Hizbollah official Mohammad Yazbek said that "a plan against Lebanon, Syria,. . .

Olmert: Emergency drill is not cover for attack on Syria
Barak Ravid and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Israel’s largest-ever emergency drill starts today to test the authorities’ preparedness for threats such as a missile attack on central Israel. Ministers will go over various scenarios in which thousands of missiles and rockets are fired at Israel, incurring many civilian causalities. There will also be scenarios including the use of non-conventional weapons. "The drill is no front for Israeli bellicose intentions toward Syria," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. "Its aim is to check the various authorities’ ability to carry out their functions. ""The Syrians know they have no reason to interpret this drill in any other way," Olmert said. He addressed news reports over tensions between Israel and Syria, and said talk about the possible outbreak of hostilities should be toned down. "We still have an interest to carry out peaceful negotiations with the Syrians, who know what. . .

Israel lets special PA force deploy in Jenin, but not Hebron
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Israel has rejected the Palestinians’ offer to deploy their national security force’s special battalion in the West Bank city of Hebron. After talks between the two sides and consultations with the United States, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that the battalion would be stationed in the West Bank city of Jenin instead. Israeli security officials said the Palestinian Authority considered it important for the 620 soldiers in the special force to be stationed in Hebron, to strengthen Palestinian Authority and Fatah control there and counter Hamas’ strong network. As Haaretz reported yesterday, the battalion is being trained in Jordan. But the Israeli security establishment opposed the Hebron option, mainly because of the tension between Israelis and Palestinians there. Unlike Hebron, Jenin is relatively isolated and is not next to an Israeli population center.

IDF razes 10 more roadblocks in bid to ease West Bank mobility
Yuval Azoulay and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
The Israel Defense Forces over the weekend dismantled 10 dirt roadblocks in the West Bank, bringing to 60 the total number of security barriers removed in the last week, the Defense Ministry said. Most of the dirt mounts were removed from side roads, as part of Israeli efforts to ease freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin on Sunday blasted the defense ministry’s decision to remove the roadbloacks, saying such a move was risky so long as the separation fence remained under construction. Diskin told cabinet ministers during their weekly meeting that the current checkpoints kept Jerusalem from danger while the fence was still incomplete. The IDF removed 50 "dirt mound" roadblocks across the West Bank last week, a measure Defense Minister Ehud Barak undertook to implement at a meeting with U.

Diskin: Egypt doing more to stop arms smuggling; PM, Abbas to meet today
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Shin Bet security services chief Yuval Diskin told cabinet ministers yesterday that Egypt is doing more to prevent weapons smuggling from Sinai into the Gaza Strip along the Philadephi strip. "The Egyptian activity isn’t perfect and much more must be done but they are preventing more smuggling attempts," Diskin said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today. The two are expected to discuss the future of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Abbas said yesterday that he intends to hold a referendum on any peace treaty reached with Israel. He also announced that he would permit the prosecution of any teacher who takes part in sanctions called by the Palestinian teachers’ union in the wake of announced public sector salary cuts. The union said in response that it intended to hold strikes in schools this week.

Abbas says peace deal will not come ’at any price’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/7/2008
RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday he would not accept a peace deal at any price a day before he was to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the first time since February. "We are negotiating seriously and we are striving to arrive at a solution for all the final status issues, but it will not come at any price, " Abbas told a meeting of local officials in the Occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Abbas and Olmert were set to meet on Monday at the premier’s residence in Jerusalem for the first time since February in a bid to bolster recently revived peace talks, officials said. The Palestinians cut contacts with Israel at the beginning of March after an Israeli military operation in Gaza killed more than 130 Palestinians, but US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convinced him to restore ties days later.

Hamas official: Israel refused offers for temporary cease-fire
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
A senior member of the militant Palestinian group Hamas said Sunday that Israel has refused its offers for a temporary ceasefire proposed through Egyptian mediation. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau said that Israel has responded negatively via the Egyptian mediators to an offer for a truce with the group both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Abu Marzouk also said that if Israel does not release 350 Palestinian prisoners, it will never get kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit back alive, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported Sunday. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas that the militant group will negotiate with Israel over Shalit’s bones if the prisoners are not released. Palestinian militants captured Shalit in 2006.

Hamas ’will only free Israeli solder as part of swap’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/7/2008
KUWAIT CITY: An Israeli soldier held by Hamas since 2006 will be released only in exchange for 350 Palestinian prisoners, a senior official of the radical Islamist group was quoted as saying Sunday. "Hamas refuses to free Gilad Shalit before the release of 350 Palestinian prisoners demanded by Hamas," the deputy head of the group’s political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzuk, told Kuwait’s Al-Qabas daily. "Otherwise he will remain with us and we will negotiate over his bones," Marzuk said. Last week, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said in a Sky News interview that Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants in June 2006, was still alive and being treated well. Shalit was seized from an army base near Gaza by militants from three groups including Hamas, which evicted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group from the territory in a week of bloody clashes last June.

Hamas leader threatens: If talks fail, ’we’ll negotiate return of Shalit’s remains’
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/6/2008
’If Israel does not release 350 Palestinian prisoners as we demanded, we will hold on to Shalit and eventually negotiate on the return of his bones,’ Abu Marzouk says - Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy of Hamaspolitburo chief Khaled Mashaal, said the Islamist group would not release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit unless Israel releases 350 Palestinian prisoners. In an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, published Sunday, Abu Marzouk said if Israel does not comply with Hamas’ demands "we will hold on to Shalit and we will negotiate the return of his bones (to Israel). " Abu Marzouk told the newspaper Israel rejected Hamas’ proposal for a ceasefire in the West Bank and Gaza, which, according to him, was conveyed through Egyptian mediators. He added that Hamas would cease to recognize Mahmoud Abbas as a legitimate president once his term ends at the end of the year.

UNRWA Chief Meets with Education Minister: bringing supplies into Gaza despite Israeli siege
Palestine News Network 4/6/2008
Gaza / Yousef Joudeh - The Minister of Education and Higher Education, Dr. Mohammad Al Agha and Deputy Minister Dr. Mohammad Abu Shuqeir met with the Gaza Director of UNRWA Operations John Ging at the Ministry Headquarter in Gaza. The meeting comes as a reinforcement of the cooperation between the two parties in dealing with the educational situation in Gaza. This comes as some United Nations Relief Works Agencies in the West Bank are closing their doors; cutting back on services. At the beginning of the meeting Al Agha expressed his gratitude to the UNRWA for its efforts in developing education in Palestine and in helping the Ministry overcome the educational obstacles caused by the Israeli blockade on Gaza, especially its help in supplying printing paper for the second term school books. The Minister also asked for more coordination and cooperation between his ministry. . .

Egypt returns 41 impounded automobiles to Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Egyptian authorities retuned 41 impounded Palestinian own-vehicles to the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The automobiles were confiscated after the Gaza-Egypt border was re-sealed in February, the director of Gaza’s border crossings, Zuhair Shaheen said. He added that a number of vehicles remain in Egypt, and the Egyptian authorities have pledged to eventually return them all. Some of the detained vehicles were still loaded with goods bought from Egyptian after the borders at Rafah were forced open in late January, when hundreds of thousands of Gazans flocked to Egypt to shop for supplies made scarce by Israel’s months-long blockade. [end]

Health ministry denounces world silence over growing number of Gaza victims
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The health ministry in the PA caretaker government has denounced the world silence over the growing number of victims of the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip that reached 124. The ministry in a press release on Sunday wondered what the world was waiting for and what number of victims it was waiting for to act and save the patients in the Gaza Strip. It said that the continued Zionist oppressive siege on the Strip constituted a capital punishment against thousands of patients in the absence of a serious Arab official stand towards those occupation crimes that are done under the very eyes of the world community. The health sector is passing through a catastrophic condition, the statement said, adding that death is looming over women and children patients. The ministry, noting that one third of the victims were children, said that more than 71% of Gaza children are suffering malnutrition.

Source in Hamas: Egypt is losing balance in dealing with inter-Palestinian rift
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A responsible source in Hamas Movement has called on Egypt on Sunday to reevaluate and to correct its stand vis-à-vis the Fatah-Hamas political rift, and not to take a biased stand against a party in favor of the other party. In an interview with the Quds Press news agency, the source asserted that Egypt started to "lose balance" in dealing with the political rift between the two biggest Palestinian factions in the Palestinian arena Hamas and Fatah. "Egypt is no longer taking a neutral stand in the internal Palestinian rift and that is indeed a regrettable thing which we in Hamas don’t wish for because we are very much interested in maintaining warm and good rapport with Egypt. "The source also added that while Hamas prominent leaders are received by Egyptian security officials, Fatah leaders, even those who failed the elections are received by high ranking officials including the Foreign Minister.

Hamas warns of IOF aggression, refuses deployment of Arab force
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday warned of an imminent large-scale IOF aggression on the Gaza Strip and added that it welcomes Arab forces into Gaza to confront that aggression and not to govern the Strip. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, doubted the Hebrew TV allegation that an Arab force is to be deployed in the Strip, adding that Egypt had clearly declared that it would not directly intervene in the Strip. He said in a press release that his Movement would welcome such an Arab force if it came to confront the occupation and not to rule the Palestinian lands. The spokesman said that reporting such news might herald a new IOF military adventure into Gaza, citing the current IOF maneuvers as a possible preparation for that invasion. Abu Zuhri, however, warned the IOF of trying to invade the Strip, stressing that the entire Gaza population would turn into martyrs because they would not allow IOF tanks to enter Gaza.

U.S., Israel to pressure N.Korea on nuclear deals with Iran
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
The United States and Israel seek to pressure North Korea to cease its nuclear cooperation with Iran, which is one of the motives behind their agreement to disclose details on the air-force strike in Syria last September. According to foreign press reports, the strike targeted a nuclear installation built with North Korean assistance. According to information obtained by Washington and Jerusalem, North Korea transferred technology and nuclear materials to Iran to aid Tehran’s secret nuclear arms program. U. S. and Israeli officials agreed last week that the talks between the U. S. and North Korea, scheduled to take place in Singapore tomorrow, should be used to pressure Pyongyang to disclose its nuclear cooperation with countries in the Middle East. As a pressure tactic, U.

Hamas: No free calm with occupation
Palestinian Information Center 6/4/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- One of the Hamas Movement leaders in southern Gaza has asserted that the Palestinian resistance factions would not grant a free calm to the Israeli occupation. Addressing a rally organized by the Islamic bloc in the Open Quds University in Khan Younis on Saturday evening in commemoration of the assassination anniversary of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin the founder of Hamas, Dr. Yousef Farahat said that resistance missiles would not stop as long as Israeli aggressions persist. The Hamas leader asked the PA leadership in Ramallah to return to reason and to stand alongside its people and to open dialogue with Hamas away from American and Zionist pressures. He criticized PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his advisor Nabil Amre who recently declared that the PA would not halt negotiations despite Israeli settlement activity and denial of Palestinian rights.

Diskin: Complete fence before gestures
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Shin Bet chief warns cabinet against easing restrictions on Palestinians while separation fence remains breached. Aide to defense minister says Barak is working to locate budget for fence’s completion, adds diplomatic considerations taken into account as well - Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin has warned that continuing to ease restrictions on the Palestinians while the separation fence remains breached puts Israel at risk. According to Diskin, the completion of the eastern barrier must be considered before making any decisions on additional gestures. " The Israeli government must manage risks. The decision to ease restrictions belongs to the political echelon," the Shin Bet chief clarified Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting. Diskin made the remarks several days after Defense Minister Ehud Barak presented US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with a 35-page booklet containing gestures to the Palestinians.

Frontline USA: Lobbying for Israel
Al Jazeera 4/6/2008
It is said to be the most powerful interest group in Washington DC - but what is the Israel lobby? And how exactly does it operate? As the race to the White House heats up, there is one policy on which all the presidential candidates can agree - the US relationship with Israel. Israel is the world’s largest recipient of US aid, taking in roughly $3bn in direct assistance every year. It is an aid relationship unlike any other in the world - and by far the most generous foreign aid programme ever between any two countries. Yet for decades, the US has criticised Israel for its policy of building settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Every president from Jimmy Carter to George Bush has warned Israel to put a halt to its settlement expansion - and yet the settlements continue to go up, and the aid money continues to pour in. How could this be? Many have attributed it to the so-called Israel lobby - a powerful coalition of interest groups working to promote a pro-Israel agenda in Washington DC.

Foreign Ministry opens Sderot bureau
Neta Sela, YNetNews 4/6/2008
New office introduced in rocket-battered southern city in order to see to needs of foreign media reps, officials visiting area - The Foreign Ministry can now add a new bureau to its list of Israeli offices worldwide - the bureau of Sderot. The ministry inaugurated its new bureau in the southern city of Sunday, saying it was designed to accommodate the needs of the growing number of foreign media representatives present in the city, covering the situation in the area. The new office will also provide for the various - and many - overseas delegations and foreign officials visiting the Qassam-ridden areas of Sderot and the Gaza vicinity communities. "The bureau will be able to direct attention to the realities of the city," Aviv Shir-On, the ministry’s deputy director-general for media and public affairs, told Ynet.

The kosher space shuttle
Yaniv Halily, YNetNews 4/6/2008
Jewish American astronaut taking part in space shuttle mission in May to take two mezuzahs designed by Israeli artist on board - NEW YORK -NASA’s Discovery space shuttle is set to undertake a six-month-long research mission on the international space station in May. Aside from the usual team of astronauts, however, this "kosher" shuttle will also be carrying some very precious cargo on board in the form of two unique mezuzahs. Jewish-American astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, who will be part of the Discovery crew, will place the mezuzahs, designed by Israeli jeweler Laura Cowan, on the door post near his shuttle bunk. The astronaut noted that these mezuzahs will serve as a constant reminder of home, and give him a sense of Jewish identity. These unique mezuzahs’ personal odyssey began some 10 years ago, when 37-year-old Cowan went to study jewelry design in London.

Report: Details of Israeli attack on Syria to be disclosed
Associated Press, YNetNews 4/6/2008
US, Israel to coordinate release of details concerning mysterious Israeli Air Force strike in syria - An Israeli newspaper says Israel and the United States are co-ordinating the release of details on a mysterious Israeli Air Force strike in Syria. According to the Haaretz newspaper report Sunday, US officials might disclose details of the September6 strike later this month during congressional hearings. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not comment on the report. Israel has maintained almost total silence since the attack, which Syria said hit an unused military installation. Foreign reports have claimed that Israel targeted a nuclear installation Syria was building with North Korean assistance. Damascus denies having an undeclared atomic program, and North Korea says it was not involved in any such project. -- See also: Haaretz: Israel, U.S. plan to release details on Syria attack

Palestine’s war of words
Al Jazeera 4/6/2008
Since Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip the political schism between the main Palestinian parties has had clear geographical boundaries. The Listening Post’sSalah Kadr looks at the equally fierce propaganda battle taking place on the airwaves and presses of the media. When Hamas forces took control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah last year, the fighting between the two groups was not restricted to the ground. A media war, nearly as fierce, is being conducted in the Palestinian territories and has had serious consequences with both groups attempting to use television programmes and news bulletins to their political advantage. According to Laila El Haddad, a freelance journalist and blogger who works in Gaza, the local Palestinian media is as divided as the parties themselves and tends to focus on issues that pertain to their individual loyalties. " The feeling of needing to absolve individuals in either party - or even the party itself - of certain accusations or acts drives this media war," she says.

Palestinian Authority locked in confrontation with employees over right to strike
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian civil servants in the West Bank, including teachers and health workers, will go on strike on Monday in what has become an escalating confrontation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the right to strike itself. The union is calling for the government to reverse an executive order that allows the Palestinian high court to force striking workers to return to their jobs. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued the order on Sunday at the request of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who sought more leverage against teachers who on strike for better pay. The decision to strike "was governed by balance between three dimensions: Insistence on our employment demands; taking into account the public interests of citizens who need our services and keeping tight relations with our employer the legitimate Palestinian government led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad," the union said.

Marwan Barghouthi expects to win next Palestinian presidential election
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi expects to win the next Palestinian Presidential, an interview published on Sunday reports. The Italian newspaper La Stampa spoke with Barghouthi in his cell in Israel’s Hadareim prison. "Once Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] resigns, I will run in the presidential election, and I will win thanks to Fatah support," Barghouthi said. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has often mentioned Barghouthi as a potential successor. Meanwhile the London-based pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper reports that senior Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al will travel to Cairo soon in order to seal a prisoner exchange deal with Israel. Barghouthi is high on Hamas’ list of prisoners it wants freed in exchange for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Palestinians in 2006 voted against the collapse of the peace process, against. . .

Former PLC speaker’s driver ’admits’ smuggling cell phones
Ma’an News Agency 4/6/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Raja’i Abu Zaydah, who worked as driver for the former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Rawhi Fattouh, has reportedly admitted to having attempted to smuggle 3,000 cell phones from Jordan, Palestinian Attorney General Ahmad Al-Mughanni said on Sunday. Al-Mughanni told Ma’an that the defendant has been charged with evading customs and taking advantage of public employment. An investigation is underway to discover who else, if anyone, was involved in the attempted smuggling. The Fatah Central Committee stripped Fattouh of his responsibilities after customs agents seized the contraband phones from his car on 19 March. Fattuoh denied knowing that the phones were present in his VIP car when he was crossing from Jordan to the West Bank, claiming that his driver was responsible for the incident.

PLC speaker: Haneyya entitled to expand government
Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting PLC speaker, has affirmed that Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, is entitled to expand his government after tabling a request to the effect with the PLC. Bahar, in a press statement on Sunday, said that the decision to expand the government was "constitutional", and that the PLC did not object to the step. The PLC speaker, meanwhile, refused PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s call for early legislative and presidential elections, explaining that it was in violation of the article 113 of the Palestinian basic law, which stipulates that the PLC is "the master of itself". He urged Abbas to have such elections for the PLO, and noted that article 38 of the basic law does not entitle Abbas to hold early elections.

Finance Minister: All illegal migrant workers will be expelled by 2013
Moti Bassok TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Finance Minister Roni Bar-On will present a plan to the government at the end of the month, aimed at reducing the number of legal and illegal migrant workers in Israel by 70,000 within the next two year, and ridding Israel of all illegal migrant workders by 2013. The proposal, which calls for the deportation of all 125,000 illegal migrant currently in Israel, is part of a comprehensive effort to consolidate national policy regarding migrant workers. There are an estimated 250,000 migrant workers in Israel today, half of which are in the country illegally. This does not include the approximately 8,000 workers and refugees from Africa in the country who have infiltrated the border with Egypt. Out of all the migrant workers in Israel, about 50,000 are Palestinian. According to the treasury, years of tough measures against migrant workers led to great success in limiting their numbers.

Olmert: Don’t turn leavened food debate into cultural war
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/6/2008
’During my stint as mayor of Jerusalem, I learned that religious and secular Jews must live in harmony,’ PM says in response to court ruling allowing restaurants to sell bread on Passover. Livni: Tensions result of haredi parties’ monopoly over Jewish affairs - The recent Jerusalem municipal court ruling according to which restaurants are not public domains and can thus sell bread and leavened goods on Passover "should not be made into a cultural war," Prime Minister Ehud Olmerttold the cabinet on Sunday. The ruling caused a storm within Israel’s religious sector and brought the debate regarding the relationship between state and religion back to the forefront. Minister of Religious Services Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) said in response to the ruling that "authorizing the selling of leavened foods on Passover is akin to pointing a gun to Israel’s head".

Shas: Selling hametz on Passover ’black stain on Israel’s Jewish identity’
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
The raging debate over a recent court decision to allow the sale of hametz (leavened products) during Passover reached the Knesset on Sunday, with Shas leader Eli Yishai calling the move a "black stain on Israel’s Jewish identity. "Yishai further claimed that public opinion was mostly opposed to the decision, and called on Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to order an appeal by the State Prosecutor. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset that the State must not allow a court ruling to turn into a "culture war. ""We must preserve unity and remember we are one nation. " Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that religious parties’ monopoly over all issues relating to Judaism in Israel had provoked unnecessary anger and tension. "I disagree with religious parties on many things," she said, "however I have a vested interest in the preservation of symbols and values of a Jewish state.

Israel’s diamond jubilee to come with NIS 98 million price tag
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Israel’s government is promising a lavish 60th anniversary party this summer, with aerial displays, concerts, and a nationwide laser light show in a package with a NIS 98 million price tag. At a news conference Sunday to announce the events, Cabinet minister Ruhama Avraham Balila said some of the budget would go on projects with a lifespan beyond this year’s celebrations. One is a 1,200 kilometer trans-Israel cycle trail, a footpath circling the Sea of Galilee and renovation of war memorials around the country. World leaders and other VIPs are expected to visit Israel for the birthday celebrations. U. S. President George W. Bush is scheduled to arrive on May 14. Another project scheduled on behalf of Israel’s anniversary is a youth drive to collect 1. 5 million marbles, representing the number of Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust.

VIDEO - Dichter: Public indifferent to rocket attacks on south
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/6/2008
(Video) ’Most Israelis completely oblivious to plight of Qassam-battered communities,’ internal security minister says, adding that additional Israeli concessions to Palestinians must be accompanied by anti-terror activity on PA’s part - "Yesterday some 120,000 residents of the south were forced to flee to shelters after the siren warning of an incoming rocket from Gaza sounded, but the majority of Israel’s citizens were completely oblivious to this," Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. "The recent Palestinian sniper attack on an observation point near Kibbutz Nir Am would have passed without significant media coverage if my assistant had not been inured in the incident," he said, referring to Friday’s attack on his entourage during a tour of Israel’s southern region with members of a pro-Israeli Canadian organization.

Israel stages major security drill
Al Jazeera 4/6/2008
Israel has begun a five-day home-front security drill, simulating responses to war and other emergency situations, including a large-scale terrorist attack or natural catastrophe. The drill codenamed Turning Point covers various government arms - notably, the Israeli army, the local authority, health department and educational sector. And it puts into consideration lessons learnt from the last Lebanon conflict. The exercises include bombings, missile strikes and operations using chemical and bacteriological weapons. The Israeli manoeuvres are considered to be the largest and most significant since the 2006 war with the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, according to Israeli media sources. Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters fought a 34-day war in the summer of that year.

IDF checkpoints force Palestinian rally drivers to race indoors
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Palestinian rally drivers, unable to fully show their skills on open roads because of Israel Defense Forces roadblocks, sought to promote motor sports in the West Bank by staging indoor races. "It’s hard to drive fast around the West Bank," said Jamal Tofaha on Sunday, revving his engine before the start of indoor speed tests for modified street cars near the city of Hebron. A 3,000-strong crowd cheered 38 rally drivers from around the West Bank at a makeshift racing circuit in a converted hangar filled with smoke from screeching tires. "We are here to challenge the occupation and to advertise a sport which requires lots of open space," said Tofaha, who won the 2006 Palestinian rally held within the city limits of Jericho. . . . A Palestinian telecommunications company sponsored the Hebron event, deciding to hold races in different West Bank cities rather than try to chart a course across the checkpoint-filled territory.

Yeshiva students enroll in investment consultancy course
David Regev, YNetNews 4/6/2008
Project "Dignified Livelihood" - Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor launches project aimed at incorporating ultra-Orthodox into workforce. ’Not everyone is suited for the yeshiva way of life,’ student says - Those praying for a surge in the Israeli stock market indexes received spiritual reinforcement from an unexpected source: Twenty-five yeshiva students have enrolled in a special two-and-a-half-year course that will train them to become investment consultants and portfolio managers, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday. The course is being given in the framework of project "Dignified Livelihood", which was launched by the minister of industry, trade and labor in cooperation with the Open University and the Jewish American Joint Distribution Committee with the aim of incorporating ultra-Orthodox Jews into the workforce. The majority of the 1,000 yeshiva students who have already attended. . .

Ultra-Orthodox passengers riot aboard El Al plane over screening of film
Zohar Blumenkrantz, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Ultra-Orthodox passengers on an El Al flight to Kiev caused a serious commotion Sunday morning after, according to their testimony, a movie was screened on board the plane. The Haredi men, en route to Uman, Ukraine to visit the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, said that the airline had promised not to show a film during the flight. When the screens began to unfold in preparation for the screening, the ultra-Orthodox men began going wild. "It was a pretty frightening sight," a passenger on the plane described the events. According to witnesses, the men began shouting and physically trying to prevent the movie screens from unfolding. This is not the first time that El Al is faced with problems with ultra-Orthodox people on board flights to religious sites.

Rabbi linked to systematic child abuse flees to Canada
Uri Blau Yair Ettinger Jonathan Lis and Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Rabbi Elior Chen, the spiritual authority behind a group accused of systematically abusing children in a Jerusalem family, has fled to Canada with one of his supporters, Haaretz has learned. Chen is supposed to meet the other members of the group in Canada, where the family of one of the members lives, according to a friend of Chen’s who is familiar with the group but doesn’t belong to it. The friend said Chen fled with Joseph Fisher, whose name was not mentioned in an indictment filed yesterday against the mother of the children suspected of being abused by Chen’s followers. The remand of the mother was extended yesterday until April 14. Jerusalem police and the state prosecutor’s office are considering the possibility of issuing an international warrant for Chen’s arrest. During a search of his home Thursday, police found evidence that appears to link the rabbi to the abuse, including journals that document the violence.

New York conference focuses on outsourcing to Israel
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 4/3/2008
The outsourcing market could create thousands of local jobs. - Many US corporations are beginning to rethink the advantages of outsourcing call centers services for their customers. Does the lower labor cost overseas really justify the erosion in the company’s reputation among its domestic customers who may not be satisfied with the process or results of the interaction with those employees? The US market is beginning to develop an appetite for alternatives. Companies are seeking a new India - countries that can provide high-quality outsourcing services at low cost. Israel is trying to fill this new need. The outsourcing market could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue and create thousands of local jobs. On this assumption, the first conference of its kind was held in Manhattan yesterday with the goal of alerting the US business community that Israel is an. . .

Due to rabbis’ pressure, grocery chain closes some branches on Sabbath
Adi Dovrat and Nati Toker, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Following severe pressure from religious groups in Israel, the AM:PM chain of grocery stores in Tel Aviv has decided to close some of its branches on Sabbath. The decision is the latest in the ongoing dispute between a committee of rabbinical leaders and the Dor Alon group, which owns AM:PM as well as gas stations and the Blue Square and Shefa Shuk supermarkets. Discussions between the rabbis and Dor Alon’s controlling shareholder, David Wiessman, have been unsuccessful. As TheMarker reported last week, Shefa Shuk CEO Uri Kaminsky resigned after consulting with the rabbis. This is not the first time the two rabbis - the Admor of Gur and Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv - have taken part in the ultra-Orthodox community’s battles against the desecration of the Sabbath.

VIDEO - Ultra-Orthodox target supermarket chain open on Sabbath
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for April 6, 2008. The battle that pits Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population against secular businesses has resumed. This time, the battleground is AM:PM, a supermarket chain that is open 24 hours a day - including the Sabbath. Because of AM:PM’s business hours, the Rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of the Sabbath has called on Israel’s ultra-Orthodox to avoid businesses owned by David Weissman, who owns both AM:PM and Shefa Shuk, the Haredi supermarket chain. [end]

Basra fighting exposes cracks in US claims of progress since surge
Bryan Pearson, Daily Star 4/7/2008
Agence France Presse - BAGHDAD: A week of bitter clashes that rocked Iraq’s Shiite areas has exposed the fragility of recent security gains, even as Washington mulls a new drawdown of its forces. The Basra assaults quickly fueled clashes in other Shiite regions of Iraq, including in Baghdad. When the dust settled, at least 700 people had been killed and 1,500 wounded, according to United Nations figures. The fighting subsided after Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mehdi Army fighters off the street on Sunday following days of fierce fighting. Defense analysts said the inconclusive clashes exposed the limitations of Iraq’s security forces, showed the power the cleric yields in Shiite areas and battered Maliki’s image. Few would not argue that other factors too have played a significant role in reducing the bloodshed, including Sadr’s decision to order a halt to his. . .

Iraq calls for disbanding militias
Al Jazeera 4/6/2008
Iraqi leaders have called on all political parties to disband their militias before provincial elections due to be held by October. The political council of national security, which includes the president, prime minister and the heads of parliament’s political blocs, made the call in a statement late on Saturday. The political council did not mention any groups by name but the move came after Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shia leader, called his fighters off the streets following fierce clashes with Iraqi security forces in several cities. The 15-point statement called on all parties "to immediately disband their militias and hand over their weapons to the government. . . as a condition for their participation in the political process and elections". t also also urged parties that withdrew from the government of Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, to send their ministers back to the cabinet.

Army faces new torture claims over arrest of Shia leader
Robert Verkaik, The Independent 4/6/2008
The testament of a respected Shia elder, aged 70, suggests brutal treatment of civilians is still continuing - The British Army faces new allegations of torture and abuse over the arrest and detention of a Shia tribal leader and his family who claim they were hooded and beaten by soldiers based at Basra airport last year. The allegations could prove highly damaging as they come just days after the Government said that abuses committed by British soldiers had been limited to 2003 and 2004 and involved only a "very small minority" of servicemen. In the new claims, which are being prepared for legal action in the UK courts, Jabbir Hmoud Kammash, 70, the leader of a sub-division of the Albu-Darraj tribe in southern Iraq, alleges that a group of 20 soldiers raided his home in Al-Gzaizah, Basra, in the early hours of the morning in April last year.

Assad’s brother-in-law ’detained for exposing Syrian role’ in Mughniyeh hit
Daily Star 4/7/2008
BEIRUT: Major General Assef Shawkat, head of Syria’s military intelligence and President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law, is under house arrest, former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam said in remarks published Sunday. Speaking from his self-imposed exile in France, Khaddam told Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal daily that Shawkat’s house was under security watch and he was banned from traveling. He said Assad decided to tighten the noose around Shawkat since June 2005, four months after the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Khaddam believed that Assad "benefited" from the assassination of top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus on February 12 to remove Shawkat from his post and appoint his [Assad’s] cousin Brigadier General Hafez Makhlouf with the task of taking charge of the investigation into Mughniyeh’s killing.

At Interpol, hunt still on for Mugniyah
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/6/2008
Organization’s website displaying most-wanted offenders still lists Hizbullah commander assassinated in February. Meanwhile, Syrian officials say inquiry into murder points to involvement of Arab intelligence services - News of the death of Hizbullah’s notorious operations officer Imad Mugniyah has been greatly exaggerated. At least if you ask Interpol. The organization’s online database of still lists Mugniyah most-wanted Lebanese offenders, months after his assassination in Damascus. Interpol’s website offers three outdated photographs of the terrorist regarded as Hizbullah’s top operations officer who masterminded attacks resulting in the deaths of hundreds and details additional information regarding his history and appearance. Mugniyah’s is wanted for the following categories of offense according to the Interpol international warrant: crimes. . .


Gaza running on near empty
Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 4/6/2008
      GAZA CITY, 5 April (IPS) - Ayman Eid stands as motionless as his orange Hyundai taxi. Never mind taking a passenger somewhere, Ayman has no idea how he will ever get home.
     The queue at the petrol station seems endless. Drivers have run out of petrol even to queue up in their cars; they just queue up themselves, empty cans in hand. Only the lucky leave with a full can by the end of a day.
     Others park near petrol stations and sleep in their cars, in hope that an oil truck will turn up some time. The roads are desolate, emptied of transportation and life.
     Gaza needs 850,000 liters of fuel every week, says Mahmoud al-Khozendar, vice-president of the Petrol Station Owners Association in Gaza. Israel allows in just 70,000 liters of it. He said Gaza also needs 2.5 million liters of coal gas a week. Only 800,000 liters per week comes in.
     Israel has cut fuel and electricity supply since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah party in June last year. That was after winning a democratic election in 2006. The cuts have been made more severe after firing of home-made rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory.

Building the Palestinian Contras

Khalid Amayreh in Occupied Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 4/6/2008
      Israel, the Bush Administration and the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Mahmoud Abbas, are collaborating to build a depoliticized Palestinian security force whose main task and raison d’etre will be to crush any popular uprising against a prospective "peace deal" imposed upon the Palestinians.
     The new force, whose members are being trained in neighboring countries, particularly Jordan, is being prepared to gradually replace the vast bulk of existing Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank.
     The PA, acting on instructions from the donor countries, especially the US, has already laid off thousands of Fatah soldiers and officers for a variety of reasons, including retirement age, financial difficulties and the necessity of restructuring PA security agencies, notoriously plagued by corruption, nepotism, cronyism, indiscipline and lack of professionalism.
     Many of the people being laid off, however, are in their early and mid 40s, which suggests that the PA is trying as much as possible to "dispose of" elements deemed "too patriotic" and "indoctrinated in hostility to Israel and Zionism".

The lie of peace and the nonsense of security

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
      Presumably there is a strange but legitimate dispute between a leader who comes from the right, who believes that if Israel continues to hold on to the territories the Jewish state will be in danger, and a leader who comes from the left, who claims that if Israel stops holding on to the territories Jewish lives will be in danger. Ostensibly one proposes a reaching a quick solution to the conflict by negotiating with Fatah, and the other prefers long-term resolution via a military struggle with Hamas.
     In effect, the argument between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is divorced from reality. The prime minister’s proximity to a diplomatic solution is more or less identical to the defense minister’s distance from a military solution.
     In his speech at the Annapolis conference last November, Olmert promised that in the upcoming period Israel would conduct intensive negotiations and "we will not avoid any subject, we will deal with all the core problems." In other words, borders and Jerusalem, of course. How does this promise coincide, for example, with approval for building 48 residential units in the settlement of Ariel? As far as we know, the Palestinian negotiating team has not surrendered the "Ariel panhandle," which penetrates deep into the West Bank.

Tony Blair’s Palestine

Chris Patten, Middle East Online 4/5/2008
      Attempts to destroy Hamas - whether politically or physically - have not worked and cannot work. The Americans and Europeans committed a major error in conspiring to destroy the Fatah-Hamas national unity government.
     LONDON—Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has many positive attributes, including great charm. He will need all his skills to address the bewildering range of global tasks that he has taken on since being shoehorned out of office by his dour successor, Gordon Brown.
     His initial daytime job, after running Britain, was to bring peace to the Middle East by helping establish the governing institutions of a Palestinian state.
     Since then, Blair has become an adviser to banks (which need all the advice they can get these days), is touring the world to promote a sensible policy on global warming and climate change, has created a foundation to help bridge the divide between different faiths, and will lecture on religion at Yale. All that is left is to restore the fortunes of England’s national football and cricket teams. Perhaps he could fit that in on weekends.

Palestinians, Israelis Split over Efforts

Joshua Mitnick, MIFTAH 4/5/2008
      Within days after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finished another round of Middle East shuttle diplomacy, Israelis and Palestinians are already at odds over a series of confidence-building measures aimed at breathing new life into the stuttering peace process.
     Israel said yesterday it has completed the removal of 50 roadblocks around the West Bank as it promised the U.S. over the weekend, but the Palestinians said they could discern no changes and called on the State Department to confirm the Israeli claim.
     Miss Rice said earlier this week that the U.S. special envoy, Lt. Gen. William Fraser, would systematically assess how each side is doing in upholding its commitments. An official at the U.S. Embassy said Gen. Fraser, who accompanied Miss Rice on her three-day visit, is expected to return to the region soon to begin monitoring work.
     "I call on the Americans to please dispatch General Fraser to the ground, and say what has changed," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. "Because to my knowledge, nothing has changed. It’s all PR."

Peace Now, for 30 years

Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/7/2008
      Peace Now will be holding a ceremony in Rabin Square tomorrow to mark 30 years since its inception, but its slogan - "Peace Now - Leading Israel Toward Peace for 30 Years" - raises significant questions about the relevance of the organization.
     Although Peace Now is considered to be a breakthrough movement, in 2008 its political agenda is practically the consensus and does not cause consternation even within the Likud, but still remains little more than a vision.
     What is left of the protest movement that fought for years against illegal settlement in the West Bank but on the eve of the release of the Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War protected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has consistently avoided evacuating outposts and gives in to Shas every time the "division of Jerusalem" comes up? And it’s all in the name of the "Annapolis process," a process that even the security-oriented National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer referred to over the weekend as "virtual".

Palestinian child’s day 2008

Defence for Children International/Palestine Section, ReliefWeb 4/6/2008
      Last November we celebrated the 18th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – a universal legal instrument providing all people with standards and tools to promote and protect the fundamental rights of children.
     Today we celebrate Palestinian Child’s Day; and as Palestinians, parents, teachers, doctors, politicians, police-officers, child rights advocates and children, we come together to demonstrate our commitment towards greater respect for the rights of Palestinian children- in Palestine and abroad.
     Today we celebrate the Palestinian child, despite there being little cause for celebration…
     Generations of Palestinian children have never known peace or self-determination. In May this year, we will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba. In June last year we marked 40 years of Israeli occupation. Hundreds of children have been killed, thousands injured, forced to leave their homes or their country, separated from their families, arrested and detained for months or years, used in military and intelligence activities, beaten-up, humiliated and harassed on a daily basis, prevented from going to school or from receiving medical care; prevented from playing, laughing and living normal lives. Israeli occupation policies and practices represent a system of institutionalised violence and discrimination that pervades and distorts every aspect of the life of every Palestinian child.