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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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7 April 2008


Israeli bus kills Palestinian shepherd; locals say act intentional
Efrat Weiss and Reuters, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Palestinians hurl stones at bus carrying settlers near Nablus after it hits 15-year-old shepherd, who later dies in hospital. ’Bus intentionally veered from its lane,’ Palestinians say - An Israeli bus carrying settlers ran over and killed a Palestinian shepherd near the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday, local Palestinian residents said. At around 5 pm local rescue services reported that the shepherd, 15, was hit by a bus as he crossed a road on a donkey near the Jewish settlement of Elon Moreh, near the Palestinian village of Salem, where the shepherd lived. He was transferred by a Red Crescent medical team to a hospital in Nablus, where he died of his wounds a short time later. An Israeli police spokesman confirmed the shepherd was killed in what he called a road accident. Palestinians gathered at the scene and hurled stones at the bus, lightly injuring one of the passengers.

Hamas: American officers trained PA investigators to torture prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Monday that it has unequivocal information that the investigators of the PA chief Mahmoud Abbas who question and torture its cadres in the West Bank jails were trained by Zio-American officers to practice heinous ways of torture similar to those used in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons.  Hamas explained that reliable reports received from some insiders who closely know what is going on inside Abbas’s jails, clearly prove that those investigators were appointed by US generals William Fraser and Keith Dayton and affirm that the latter himself supervises the PA security apparatuses, manages their meetings, makes decisions and issues orders to them.    The Movement underlined that the assassination crime of Sheikh Majd Al-Barghouthi represents compelling evidence of the size of oppression and torture exercised against Hamas cadres and the other Palestinian resistance factions inside Abbas’s jails.

UN official: Gaza medical system in "pathetic state"
Deutsche Presse Agentur, ReliefWeb 4/7/2008
Gaza City_(dpa) -A high ranking UN official on Monday described the Gaza health system as being in a "pathetic state" and said that European prisoners had better access to basic services than residents of the coastal Strip. John Ging, the Gaza head of UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, said that access to health care and clean drinking water remained problematic. "Many prisoners in European jails have access to better basic services than ordinary decent Palestinians living in Gaza," he said, referring to reports that likened the enclave to an "open-air prison" during an event in Gaza City to mark World Health Day. Many parties were responsible for the current state of affairs in the enclave, Ging said, implying that the burden of improving conditions was on both the Israeli government and Palestinian factions.

Abbas and Olmert meet again, agree only to meet again
Ron Bousso, Daily Star 4/8/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held their first direct talks in seven weeks on Monday, hoping to make a peace deal this year but giving no hint of progress. The two "agreed to continue with the goal of reaching an historic agreement by the end of the year," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said after the two-and-a-half-hour meeting in Jerusalem. Both sides accuse the other of failing to honor their commitments under the internationally drafted peace road map that calls on Israel to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank and on the Palestinians to halt attacks on the Jewish state. "It was agreed that those concerns will not interfere with the negotiations," Regev said. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also said that both sides were maintaining the end of the year target for a deal.

Ramon: All Ofra homes built on private Palestinian land
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
All 450 homes in Ofra, the "mother of settlements" in Samaria, were built on privately owned Palestinian land, Vice Premier Haim Ramon said during a session at the Knesset State Control Committee two months ago. This is the first time such a senior government source has admitted in an official forum that the first settlement in Samaria was built on private Palestinian land. In response to an inquiry by Haaretz, Ramon’s office said the vice premier’s statements were made based on information from the defense establishment. Present at the committee session were some of the West Bank local council heads, including the director of the Yesha Council of settlements, Pinhas Wallerstein, one of the first people to move to Ofra. None of the guests challenged Ramon’s statements regarding the property ownership.

11,000 prisoners to go on mass hunger strike on the Palestinian prisoner day
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
TULKARM, (PIC)-- More than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners announced their intention to go on mass hunger strike in all Israeli jails on 17 of April on the occasion of the Palestinian prisoner day in light of the serious violations exercised by the Israel prisons authority against their human rights. The prisoners accused the concerned international institutions of neglecting the Palestinian prisoners’ file and renouncing their responsibilities for protecting prisoners’ rights.    In the same context, many institutions and organizations active in the Gaza Strip and other occupied Palestinian cities will hold activities and festivals in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. During a visit paid by the lawyer of the Nafha society for the defense of human and prisoners’ rights to the Shatta prison, prisoner Adnan Asfour, a prominent Hamas leader, charged that the. . .

Physically-assaulted female prisoner appeals to save her from losing eyesight
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
BETHLEHEM, (PIC)-- A female prisoner in the Israeli Hasharon prison called Shireen Hasan from the Bethlehem city appealed to human and prisoners’ rights organizations to intervene to save her from losing her eyesight after an Israeli interrogator beat her severely and struck her head against the wall many times. Shireen said that she is gradually losing her vision especially in the right eye and is suffering severe pain in her head, kidneys and both eyes as a result of the torture, adding that the doctor told her she urgently needs a surgical intervention outside the prison. For its part, the Nafha society for the defense of human and prisoners’ rights appealed to international human rights organizations to pressure the IOA to release Noura Al-Hashlamon, 37, a mother of six children, from Israeli jails. Hashlamon has been on a hunger strike for several weeks in protest at renewing. . .

Shin Bet warns Arab party members not to contact Bishara
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Members of Balad party claim to have been interrogated recently about communication with former leader, who fled Israel under accusations of cooperating with Hizbullah - The Shin Bet is apparently worried about former MK Azmi Bishara’s continuing involvement in Balad, the party that he established before fleeing Israel after being suspected of disclosing sensitive information to Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel claims that during the past few months 18 party members have been taken in for questioning by security forces, adding that some of them were made to promise that they would not communicate with Bishara in any way, as this could lead to recruitment into Hizbullah. The association sent a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz demanding that the interrogation be stopped immediately.

Abbas - Olmert meeting: Palestinians want change on the ground
Fadi Yacoub, Palestine News Network 4/7/2008
PNN -- The streets in Ramallah near the Muqata, the Presidential Offices, are full of Palestinian Authority security. A shop-keeper says it is because of the Abbas - Olmert meeting, even though it is being held in Jerusalem. Others say it is because of the strikes. The meeting between President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert is supposed to be "felt on the ground. "Due to the seriousness of the negotiations and the possibility of arriving at something before the end of the year, as promised by US President Bush, Nimer Hammad said today that "firm commitments to implementing promises made in Annapolis are necessary. "The Political Advisor to President Abbas continued to say that the focus of today’s meeting is to "achieve real progress that the people will feel. " Hammad told PNN on Monday that Israel appears to not want to honor its commitments and the daily arresting and continuing occupation are major indicators.

Palestinian military groups ’agree to hold fire’ in order to avoid Israeli incursion in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian military groups in the Gaza Strip have agreed among themselves to hold their fire of homemade projectiles at nearby Israeli towns fearing a major Israeli incursion, Hamas sources told the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar on Monday. "The agreement does not mean unilateral ceasefire, rather it is meant to annul any Israeli pretext to undertake more aggressive actions against the Gaza Strip," a Hamas official said. "The Palestinian de facto government learned from reliable western sources that Israel plans to assassinate prominent Hamas and Islamic Jihad military leaders so as to provoke the military groups to launch barrages of homemade projectiles at Israeli towns which will give enough justification for a major Israeli invasion into the Gaza Strip," he added. The Hamas source accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of knowing about. . .

Barhoum denies factions agreed to freeze firing of missiles
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Monday denied that the Palestinian resistance factions have agreed among themselves to suspend the firing of locally made missiles at Israeli targets near the Gaza Strip. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press release that resisting occupation is a legitimate right and Hamas would not strop retaliating to Zionist occupation’s crimes against the unarmed Palestinian people. A Lebanese newspaper ’Al-Akhbar’ quoted what it described as a "reliable" source as saying that an internal agreement among the main resistance factions in Gaza stipulated freezing the launching of those missiles at Zionist targets to strip occupation from any pretext to launch a large scale incursion into the Strip. The paper quoted the source as saying that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas is informed with the Israeli scheme that includes liquidating Hamas and caretaker. . .

Barghouti: Palestinians ready for historic reconciliation
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Jailed Fatah leader writes letter to Peace Now activists reading, ’We are ready for reconciliation that will grant ours and your own children a life devoid of the threats of war and bloodshed’ -"The vast majority of the Palestinian people, myself included, are ready for a historic reconciliation based on international resolutions that will result in the establishment of two states, a Palestinian and an Israelione, that will exist side by side in peace and security," jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti said in a letter addressed to Peace Now activists on the movement’s 30th anniversary. "We are ready for reconciliation that will grant ours and your own children a life devoid of the threats of war and bloodshed," he wrote, "to this end, we must reach a comprehensive ceasefire as soon as possible.

First death sentence handed down by Palestinian military court
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Bethlehem – Tulkarem -Ma’an – A Palestinian military court in the northern West Bank city of Jenin has sentenced to death by firing squad a 23-year-oldPalestinian military police officer found guilty of murdering 21-year-old Palestinian man from Tulkarem refugee camp in the northern West Bank. This is the first ever death sentence handed down by a Palestinian military court. Tha’ir Rmailat was found guilty of the premeditated murder of Alaa’ Suwairih in October 2006, Brigadier Abdul-Aziz Wadi, the head of the Palestinian military judiciary, told Ma’an. Brigadier Wadi explained that folowing the military court’s decision, it is now up to President Mahmoud Abbas to uphold the decision or reduce the sentence. The president may also order another hearing if new information in the case proved forthcoming. On 22nd October 2006, Tha’ir Rmailat from Tulkarem shot dead Alaa’ Suwairih.

According to proposed law, Israeli war criminals could by tried in Palestinian court
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) plans to approve a new law on Monday enabling the Palestinians to try Israeli war criminals, PLC officials said. The PLC’s legal committee has started drafting the bill to submit before the PLC for ratification. Several lawmakers, attorneys and international law experts, and humanitarian activists took part in a session during which the new rule was been discussed. [end]

Six Hamas activists ’arrested’ in the West Bank, Hamas says
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Fatah allied Palestinian security forces seized six Hamas activists in the West Bank on Sunday night, Hamas claimed. Hamas said Palestinian Authority forces detailed Muhamad Dweib and Amer Darwish Masa’deh for questioning in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The security forces arrested Basel Musa Abu Hajar in the city of Tulkarem. Hamas said Abu Hajar had been arrested twice before. In the city of Nablus, Hamas said Mu’tasem Rebhi Hanini, Baker Sa’id Bilal and Kamal Shahin, an official in the Nablus municipal government. Hamas also claimed that the imam of the Beit Dajan mosque was arrested. [end]

Israeli military vehicles dig up agricultural land in Beit Hanoun
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Eight Israeli military vehicles penetrated 600 metres into the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun on Monday morning, Ma’an’s reporter said. Eyewitnesses told our reporter that bulldozers which accompanied the invading Israeli forces started digging up agricultural lands in the area. Part of the fields belong to Jabir Sa’adah, a Palestinian farmer from Beit Hanoun. [end]

Palestinian, 15, dies after hit by bus carrying settlers in W. Bank
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Angry Palestinians clashed with Israel Defense Forces troops in the West Bank on Monday after a bus carrying Israeli settlers hit a Palestinian shepherd and killed him as he led his herd across a road. Sharid Shtayeh, 15, was riding his donkey when a passenger bus carrying destined for the settlement Elon Moreh slammed into his herd near the Palestinian village of Salem. His donkey and a number of sheep were also killed in the accident. Israel Police confirmed the shepherd was killed in a road accident and a Magen David Adom emergency medical services pronounced Shtayeh dead at the scene. Residents of Salem, where Shatyeh lived, hurled stones at the bus passengers and IDF troops had to fire into the air to disperse the angry crowd, local witnesses said. Ahmad Jabour, a member of Salem’s local council, said the shepherd was. . .

Israeli forces detain 10 Palestinians in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized ten Palestinians in the West Bank on Monday morning, claiming that they are "wanted" fighters. Israeli sources said the arrestees were from Qalqilia, Bethlehem and Hebron. All ten Palestinians were taken to interrogation centers. [end]

Barghouthi: Settlement expansion surged about twenty-fold since Annapolis
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Dr. Mustafa Al-Barghouthi, a lawmaker and the secretary-general of the Palestinian national initiative, said on Sunday that the pace of settlement expansion has surged almost twenty-fold since the Annapolis conference, adding that the total settlement units under construction are 11,332. Dr. Barghouthi underlined that the Israeli occupation is preparing for a Palestinian state with temporary borders including Israeli settlements, and is intending to separate occupied Jerusalem from the West Bank, annex and Judaize Al-Aghwar region, thus guaranteeing its control over 46 percent of the West Bank. The lawmaker called for adopting a united Palestinian position to confront the Zionist schemes and to inform the world about what is being done by Israel on the ground and to refuse any partial or transitional solutions including the mere declaration of principles again.

Fatah and DFLP fighters ’fire’ five projectiles at Ashkelon, Netiv Ha’asara
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the National Resistance Brigades, and the military wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Monday morning for launching three homemade projectiles at the Israeli city of Ashkelon and the Kibbutz of Netiv Ha’asara. The military groups said in a joint statement that the shelling came in retaliation for the Israel’s ongoing "crimes" against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. ***Updated at 11:19am Bethlehem time[end]

Two Palestinian military groups fire two projectiles at Sufa crossing
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the National Resistance Brigades, and the military wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday night for launching two homemade projectiles at the Gaza Strip’s Sufa crossing point. The military groups said in a joint statement that the shelling came in retaliation for the Israel’s ongoing "crimes" against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

UN starts mission to record West Bank damage claims
Reuters Foundation, ReliefWeb 4/7/2008
JERUSALEM, April 7 (Reuters) - The head of a U. N. body charged with collecting Palestinian claims of damages resulting from Israel’s West Bank barrier has begun his first fact-finding mission, U. N. officials said on Monday. Vladimir Goryayev, executive director of the United Nations Register of Damage caused by the construction of the barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory (UNRoD), arrived on Sunday for a week-long visit. A U. N. official said Goryayev would visit areas affected by the project in and around the occupied West Bank and will meet with "potential claimants". "This is a technical visit to establish direct contacts with the relevant parties in the region, and see the situation on the ground," the official said. Over objections from Israel and the United States, the U. N. Register was created in 2006 to establish a record of damages caused by the barrier.

The Army of Islam target Israeli soldier east of Al-Qarara
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Army of Islam claimed responsibility for targeting an Israeli soldier east of Al-Qarara in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning. They said that this attack was in response to insulting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The Army of Islam is a little-known Palestinian resistance faction who held BBC journalist Alan Johnston captive for 114 days in the Gaza Strip in 2007. [end]

Opposition to national service in Israel’s Arab sector is bitter
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
A few weeks ago, pandemonium broke out at the University of Haifa while it was hosting a conference on the subject of a state-sponsored national service program for Israeli Arab youth. Inside, at the conference, Israeli Arab academics lashed out at their colleagues who carried out a survey polling the willingness of young people from the sector to participate in the program. Speeches for and against were made, while each side accused the other of misinterpreting the poll’s data. Meanwhile, Arab young people from both sides of the debate almost came to blows outside the building, and university security rushed to the scene to separate them. The battle of Israel’s Arab citizenry for equality is being waged on a number of fronts. But in the past few months, it seems attention has focused on one major issue - the state’s national service program.

Jewish towns have twice as many doctors
Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
A considerable disparity exists in the availability of doctors in Jewish and Arab settlements in Israel, according to a Doctors for Human Rights report published yesterday. The report, which was made public on the World Health Day, claims the number of doctors per 1,000 people was more than twice as high in Jewish towns than in Arab ones. For instance, the Israeli Arab town of Umm El Fahm has 1. 47 doctors per thousand people in relation to the Jewish town of Netivot that has 2. 78. "Health indices are improving both in the Arab and Jewish sectors," the report stated. It added, however, that the Arab sector still lagged behind the Jewish one in terms of health. (Yuval Azoulay)Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, jailed in Israeli for his part in terror attacks, wrote a letter set to be read out at a Peace Now rally in Rabin Square today.

Police close English radio aimed at Israeli-Palestinian coexistence
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Police on Monday closed the Jerusalem studio of Ram FM, an English-language West Bank radio station that plays Western music in a stated mission to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. "We instructed the police to close the station in Jerusalem because they were broadcasting without a permit," said a Communications Ministry official. "They interfere with airwaves and endanger airport signals," he added. The station replied in a statement that it had not broken the law. Police shut down the transmitter and closed the studio, taking staff for questioning and hauling away equipment in Monday’s raid, but the station remained on the air via its West Bank frequency 93. 6. Owned by a South African Jewish businessman, it is modeled after a South African station that provided a venue for reconciliation after apartheid.

Israel detains ’peace radio’ staff over license
News agencies, YNetNews 4/7/2008
RAM-FM Station broadcasts in English in favor of peace between Israelis, Palestinians. Station to continue broadcasting from headquarters in Ramallah - RAM-FM, an English-language radio station broadcasting from a Jerusalem studio, was shut down by police on Monday for transmitting without a proper permit. The West Bank station broadcasts Western music in an attempt to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together. The station’s headquarters are located in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where it broadcasts on 93. 6 FM. It set up an office in Jerusalem and a local transmitter on another frequency to overcome airwave interference in the city. Police shut down the transmitter and closed the studio, taking away staff for questioning and hauling away equipment. " We instructed the police to close the station in Jerusalem because they were broadcasting. . . "

IRAQ-SYRIA: Some 40 stranded Palestinian refugees resettled in Chile
Phil Sands/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/8/2008
Almost half the refugees at al-Tanf are under 18 years of age, many of whom have developed asthma as a result of the desert conditions and suffer from high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting - DAMASCUS, 7 April 2008 (IRIN) - Thirty nine Palestinian refugees from Iraq - stuck at al-Tanf refugee camp in no-man’s land on the Iraq-Syria border - have been resettled in Chile. "Until last year it felt like the doors were closed for moving the Palestinian refugees. The desert conditions at al-Tanf are extremely inappropriate for the refugees to live in. Finally a window of opportunity opened with Chile," said Laurens Jolles, head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Syria. The resettlement is the first of its kind since Palestinians fleeing violence in Iraq werefirst interned in tents at al-Tanf in May 2006. An earlier plan to resettle some of the Palestinians in Sudan was delayed after some of the refugees rejected the idea.

Ging: Prisoners’ lives around the world much better than living in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- John Ging, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza stated during a ceremony held Monday by the agency and the WHO on the occasion of the world health day that lives of prisoners all over the world are much better than the besieged Gaza people’s lives, describing the Israeli siege as "unjust and illegal". "Journalists always refer to Gaza as an open prison, and when we talk about the levels of services and livelihood in Gaza, we could say that the jails’ conditions abroad are much better than (living condition) in Gaza," Ging said, pointing out that a prisoner in Europe receives health care better than the people of Gaza can get. In the same context, Dr. Basim Naim, the health minister in Gaza, warned that the health condition is close to the edge of the abyss and the death became closer to Gaza patients from the jugular vein.

Demolition of houses near the Separation Barrier, Far’un village, Tulkarm district
Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, ReliefWeb 4/6/2008
On 31 January 2008, the Civil Administration delivered to two homeowners in Far’un, a village south of Tulkarm, notice that orders had been issued to demolish their houses, which lie close to the Separation Barrier. In 2007, the Civil Administration demolished seven houses in the village that were situated near the route of the barrier. The authorities claimed that the houses were constructed without a building permit. One of the two houses belongs to Husam Salim Hassan ’Asi. The house was built in 1998, four years before the barrier was built near the village, and lies 150 meters east of the barrier. ’Asi and his family have lived in the house since 1999. The house has two floors: on the first floor, ’Asi and his elderly mother live, and his brother Bassem lives on the second floor with his wife and their two children.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 26 Mar - 01 Apr 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 4/1/2008
Of note this week Gaza Strip:- The IDF killed six Palestinians and injured eight others. One Islamic Jihad member also died of wounds sustained during the IDF incursion into Jabaliya on 1 March. - One Israeli man was injured at a kibbutz near the Gaza border when armed Islamic Jihad members opened fire at a group of Israeli engineers performing maintenance work. - On 26 March, two IDF bulldozers, supported by 10 IDF tanks, entered approximately one kilometre east of Khan Younis, carried out a levelling and excavation operation, uprooted 50 dunums of olive trees, and demolished three houses and a chicken farm. - Gaza bakeries began a strike in different areas of the Strip to demand an increase in the price of bread in accordance with the overall rise in the prices of flour, yeast and fuel due to the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip and their short supply on the market.

Olmert, Abbas meet, vow to fast-track final status talks
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas emerged from an intensive four-hour meeting yesterday and announced their intention to fast-track negotiations over a final status agreement. The two made the announcement despite both side claiming that the other had violated the road map peace plan. During the meeting, Olmert and Abbas were briefed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia on progress in the talks. The two leaders then met alone for more than an hour. Both agreed that despite continued terror attacks and construction in West Bank settlements, an agreement should be reached by the end of 2008. The Palestinians, members of the Fatah movement forcibly expelled from Gaza by Hamas last year, voiced concern over the humanitarian situation in the coastal territory.

Hamas: Abbas-Olmert meetings pose great dangers to Palestinian rights
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement charged on Monday that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s meetings with Israeli premier Ehud Olmert pose the greatest danger to the rights and constants of the Palestinian people for which they sacrificed their lives and became prisoners in Israeli jails. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said that Abbas can do nothing but to obey the American dictates especially after he isolated himself from the Palestinians and became wholly dependent on those orders so as to protect his personal interests at the expense of the higher interests of the Palestinian people.   Barhoum also highlighted that Abbas became himself a danger to the interests of the Palestinian people especially after he made a series of grave concessions in favor of the Israeli occupation. For his part, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that Abbas contradicted himself when he claimed that. . .

Erekat: Reports on removal of IDF roadblocks in West Bank a ’PR stunt’
Ynet, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Chief Palestinian negotiator says following Olmert-Abbas meeting that ’the situation on the ground indicates that the Israeli siege and closure continue to be hermetic. ’ Adds: West Bank becoming prison like Gaza - Israel’s recent declarations regarding the removal of IDF roadblocks throughout the West Bank in order to ease the movement of Palestinians are "nothing more than a PR stunt," Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday afternoon. "The situation on the ground indicates that the (Israeli) siege and closure continue to be hermetic," Erekat said shortly after the Jerusalem meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which the leaders reiterated their commitment to the Annapolis process and to reaching a historic peace agreement by the end of the year.

VIDEO - Report: Progress made in kidnapped soldiers’ bid
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/7/2008
(Video) Lebanon’s as-Safir daily reports of ’accelerating talks’ between Israel, Hizbullah to free captive soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev. Should move materialize it may lead to breakthrough in Gilad Shalit case - VIDEO - The negotiations betweenIsrael and Hizbullah regarding kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev have been given a "serious boost" by Israel in recent weeks, the Lebanese as-Safir daily newspaper reported Monday. According to Palestinian sources quoted in the report, the boost came from an unexpected direction: Israel’s decision to hold anationwide emergency drill "apparently prompted the Israeli powers to send acalming message (toSyria and the Hizbullah), thus the acceleration in the talks. " Video: Infolive.

Barhoum: Ramon’s call for dialogue with Hamas over exchange deal mere propaganda
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has described as "mere propaganda" the statement of Haim Ramon, the Israeli deputy premier, on his readiness to open dialogue with Hamas and Hizbullah to free the soldiers they captured. Fawzi Barhoum, one of the Hams spokesmen in Gaza, said in a press release on Sunday that the Israeli occupation government had miserably failed in dealing with the issue of the captured soldier Gilad Shalit and the other captives with the Lebanese resistance. "Now they are trying to cover up for this failure through such media fabrications by that minister," he explained. He said that Israel was trying to picture Hamas and Hizbullah as the parties responsible for failure of the prisoners’ exchange deal while in fact the Egyptian efforts over the past few months were always met with Israeli government’s delays and maneuvering, which proved that it does not want the. . .

Hamas renews refusal of deployment of troops in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has renewed its refusal to the deployment of Arab or foreign troops in Gaza, saying that such deployment would create a new problem in the Strip. Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in the Strip, said that entry of such troops into the Strip without his Movement’s consent would create new problems because the step would be regarded as an intervention in internal Palestinian affairs. Taha in a statement to Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper published on Monday ruled out that Egypt had agreed to the Israeli proposal on deployment of Arab and Egyptian forces in Gaza, adding that the news report is completely baseless. "I don’t think Egypt would accept the deployment of its troops on the ruins of the Palestinian people who are under the yoke of Israeli occupation," He elaborated. Meanwhile, Taha also denied that his Movement was informed of any meeting in Cairo for Palestinian factions in a bid to end the internal rift.

UNRWA staff go on strike in Jordan
Middle East Online 4/7/2008
AMMAN - Thousands of staff of the cash-strapped UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in Jordan held a one-day strike on Monday to demand pay rises to meet rising living costs in the kingdom. "The majority of UNRWA’s 7,000 employees in Jordan went on strike today, affecting the agency’s educational and health services," agency spokesman Matar Saqr told AFP. They are pushing for a second rise of around 50 dinars (more than 70 dollars) a month, Saqr said. "UNRWA employees have already received increases of between 45 to 50 dinars at the beginning of this year, but the workers feel that they need another raise to meet the current high living costs," he said. They plan to go on indefinite strike from April 14 if their demands are not met, he added. "As a humanitarian agency, UNRWA believes that going on strike is not a solution.

AI, Church of England delegates visit charities threatened with IOA closure
Palestinian Information Center 4/7/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Delegations from Amnesty International and the Church of England visited Palestinian charities in Al-Khalil city that are threatened with closure at the hands of the Israeli occupation authority (IOA). The popular campaign supporting those charities said in a statement that an AI team and more than 50 clergymen from the Church of England visited the threatened charities and expressed solidarity with them. The statement said that the local campaigners had sent messages to UNICEF and the AI informing them of the Israeli occupation army’s decision on 26/2/2008 that stipulated the closure and confiscation of all property of the Islamic charitable society and the Muslim youth society, which mainly cater for orphans, without any charge leveled against them. The messages read, "We ask you to save 7,000 students, 4,000 orphans, 5,000 poor families and 800 employees. . .

Israeli forces have killed 49 Palestinian children so far this year
Amin Abu Wardeh, Palestine News Network 4/7/2008
Nablus -- The Global Movement of Defense for Children International’s Palestine Branch reported today that Israeli forces have killed 49 Palestinian children thus far in 2008. The report indicates that 39 of those children were not participating in any actions against Israeli forces. Thirty-three children were killed in just five days: 27 February through 3 March during the major military operation against the Gaza Strip. Six of those children were killed while inside their homes. In 2007 Israeli forces killed 55 children, indicating that 2008 is off to a bad start. Fifty out of the 55 killed last year had no involvement with resisting the occupation. Additionally, the report states, at least 345 children were injured and 700 were arrested. Thirty of those children were not given a charge or trial, but instead were held in what is termed "Administrative Detention. -- See also: Defense for Children International-Palestine

UNRWA Chief Meets with Education Minister: bringing supplies into Gaza despite Israeli siege
Palestine News Network 4/7/2008
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. . .

Iran: Arabs must closely watch Israeli drill
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Spokesman for Iranian Foreign Ministry says Israel’s ’provocative actions’ should be brought to the attention of international community - "The states of the region must closely watch the Israeli drill. These provocative actions should be brought to the attention of the relevant officials in the international community," an Iranian official said Monday referring to the nationwide home front maneuver being held by Israel this week. According to Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, "These actions are aimed at boosting the morale of the Israeli commanders and their soldiers. " Hosseini also claimed that the drill was a direct result of US Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent visit to the Mideast. "Unfortunately, after every visit of senior American officials in the region and the occupied territories we witness similar actions by the Zionist regime.

US Labor and Gaza
Larry Adams, Michael Letwin, and Brenda Stokely, MIFTAH 4/7/2008
New York City Labor Against the War joins the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions in denouncing Israel’s recent massacres in Gaza, the victims of which include at least 130 Palestinians -- half of them civilians, including dozens of women and children -- since February 27. Who Are the Terrorists? Israel claims that it is fighting "terrorism" in Gaza. This is the same hollow excuse with which the U. S. seeks to justify war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the erosion of civil liberties and labor rights at home. In fact, Israel’s attacks are part of a relentless, U. S. -orchestrated campaign of collective punishment -- with complicity of the corrupt Palestinian Authority -- to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government. Long before its latest massacres, Israel had turned Gaza into the world’s "largest open air prison," assassinating activists, and cutting off essential goods and services to 1. 5 million people. Only as a result did Hamas abandon a unilateral two-year truce.

’If Iran strikes we’ll run it to the ground,’ warns Ben-Eliezer
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/7/2008
National emergency drill sees Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer visit ministry’s situation room. Any Iranian attack on Israel will have severe repercussions for Islamic Republic, he says - National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Monday that "an Iranian strike on Israelwill lead to an Israeli response that will devastate the Iranian nation. " The national emergency drillheld in Israel this week, he added, "does not simulate a fictitious situation. I think the future will be much harder that the reality we are familiar with. " As part of the drill, dubbed "Turning Point 2" Ben-Eliezer visited the National Infrastructure Ministry’s situation room, where the minister and the heads of the Israeli energy commissions such as the water, power and gas administrations, will gather in a time of national crisis.

Barak: We have our eyes on Syria, Lebanon
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Defense minister attends memorial service for soldier killed on Gaza border, blames Hamas for his death and ’every rocket fired from Gaza’ - Israel continues to send messages to Damascus, and this time from the mouth of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He participated in a memorial service for First Sergeant Major Liran Banai, a Givati Brigade soldier who was killed a month ago by an explosive device on the Gaza border. Banai served as his deaf-mute parents’ eyes and ears, so his loss was especially painful. "We are ready, and have our eyes on Syria and Lebanon," Barak comforted the other participants. "There is still some tension; maybe because they blame us for (assassinated Hizbullah commander Imad) Mugniyah’s death, but I have made it very clear that Israel is the strongest country in the region.

JFN announces plan to open Israel office
Ynetnews, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Philanthropy Jewish Funders Network expands its location to Jerusalem following request made by Israel-based funders - The Jewish Funders Network (JFN) announced Sunday its plan to open an Israel branch of its office. The decision, made as a result of a request made by a group of Israel-based funders, will allow JFN to better meet the needs of its growing membership in Israel, the organization said in a statement. "Our ability to open an office in this location marks a new stage of maturity for the Israeli philanthropic community. It will offer a place for Israel based funders to come together to compare experience, access information, and create partnerships," said JFN President Mark Charendoff The organization set a new record of attendance this week at its annual conference which happened to be held this year in Jerusalem.

Israel seeks extradition of rabbi from Canada, suspects man of child abuse
Associated Press, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Rabbi fled to Canada after arousing suspicion of abuse of two children belonging to his followers - Police say they have begun extradition proceedings against a rabbi who fled to Canada after being suspected of abusing the children of one of his followers. Police say Rabbi Elior Chen and his followers are suspected of abusing two children, aged three and four, who were burned and severely beaten with hammers, knives and other instruments. The three-year-old suffered permanent brain damage, he added. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says the rabbi hasn’t been charged with a crime. But he says Chen is a suspect and definitely connected to the abuse. The children’s mother has already been charged with abuse. Rosenfeld says Chen fled to Canada in the past few days. Officials at the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv were not immediately available for comment Monday.

Home Front civil defense drills to continue with 10 A.M. siren
Barak Ravid and Yuval Azoulay and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak assembled the new National Emergency Authority on Monday as part of thehome-front preparedness exercise being conducted this week throughout the country. As part of the drill, known as Turning Point 2 (Nekudat Mifne 2), a siren will sound Tuesday morning at 10:00 A. M. for a minute and a half. There will be no alarm sounded for the drill in Sderot and the rest of the area bordering Gaza. Before the warning sirens sound, the Home Front Command will inaugurate its new broadcast studio in the command’s Ramle headquarters with a live TV broadcast on Channel 33 on proper emergency procedures. After the sirens sound, school and nursery school children will be taken to the closest shelters, and will spend an hour learning about emergency procedures.

Gaydamak, Pensioners poised to form new Knesset faction
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
The party of billionaire businessman Arcadi Gaydamak, Social Justice, is expected to reach the Knesset in the next few weeks, long before parliamentary elections. Barring a last-minute change, Social Justice officials are expected to team up with three members of the Pensioners Party to form the Social Justice faction in the Knesset. According to the agreement, Social Justice will become a Knesset-represented party on April 18. This is the first step of Gaydamak’s much-bigger plan to add MKs from various parties to form a faction of 18 MKs by the next Knesset elections. The new faction will be eligible to have one of its members appointed a minister, according to the current arrangement. The minister could be one of the three MKs quitting the Pensioners Party - Moshe Sharoni, Elhanan Glazer or Sara Marom Shalev - one of the new members, or even Gaydamak himself.

Kadima members double to 55,000 ahead of local vote
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Kadima has doubled its membership to 55,000 after a long recruiting slump, according to new voter lists that closed yesterday before local elections this autumn. "This is only the beginning. The results speak for themselves, and we now have more members than the Labor Party," said Kadima director general Adi Sternberg. "Apparently Kadima was mourned prematurely. It is now clear that we have a large active grassroots base. "Labor had around 100,000 members on the eve of its leadership primary last May, but most of them did not renew their membership and today the party has some 44,000 registered members. Labor sources said these figures did not indicate a drop in the party’s strength as the number of members tends to increase before party showdowns. Likud has the largest number of registered members - around 128,000.

Phone smuggling Fateh leader apologizes but shirks responsibility
Palestine News Network 4/7/2008
Ramallah / PNN - Fateh movement leader and former short-term President, Rawhi Fattouh, apologized on Monday; sort of. Fattouh, having filled in as President for six months between the death of President Arafat and the election of President Abbas, was found bringing 250 mobile phones through the Allenby Bridge Crossing with Jordan last week. "Officials are allowed a small amount of technological devices, but as much whisky as the want," said one annoyed Ramallah resident Sunday night. "How can I think of these people as my leaders? People like Fattouh and Fayyad who are crooks, looking out for themselves only? "During a press conference in Ramallah today, he said that although the legal responsibility goes to the driver of his car, he is "well aware of the ethical and moral responsibility. "He is denying knowledge of the phones being the car, saying they were in place before he entered the car.

Budget faces NIS 4b shortfall
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 4/7/2008
Automatic spending items already add up to NIS 20 billion in 2009. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On today failed to reach a decision on a large budget cut of NIS 2-4 billion in the 2008 budget at their meeting today. Present were Prime Minister’s Office director general Ra’anan Dinur, National Economics Council head Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav, and Budget Director Ram Belnikov. Ministry of Finance officials presented the need to cut the 2008 budget and to make even deeper cuts in the planned 2009 budget in order to maintain the budget framework and avoid a breach in the deficit and government expenditure targets. They made it clear that the 2008 budget faces a shortfall of NIS 4 billion more than originally planned because of the budget supplements approved by the cabinet for defense, police, evacuees. . .

Haredi parties rally to amend Bread Ban Act by Passover
Neta Sela, YNetNews 4/7/2008
MK Ravitz files motion to amend Passover Bread Ban Act, would like Knesset to drop term ’publicly’ from law, thus categorically forbidding sale of bread throughout Israel during Passover holiday - The bread wars are not over yet. MK Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) on Monday proposed an amendment to the Passover Bread Ban Act, whereby the word "˜publicly’ will be dropped from this legislation, effectively generating a categorical ban on the sale of bread and leavened foods throughout Israel during the Passover holiday. The MK wrote a letter to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik Monday, urging her to call a special Knesset session in order to deliberate the proposed amendment before the upcoming Passover holiday. MK Ravitz stated that "the (ruling) judge’s interpretation of the Bread Ban Act was far too convoluted and subjective.

Aharon Barak breaks silence: Friedmann’s reforms will make Israel a third-world country
Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak declined to give interviews when he finished his tenure, but he has now decided to speak out in the face of what is happening in Israel’s legal system. "I have had enough. I never believed things could happen at such a pace and with such intensity," said Barak adding that he hoped Daniel Friedmann would understand that his role as justice minister is to defend the legal system. "I cannot say that Minister Friedmann’s actions were a surprise to me, but nevertheless, they have surprised me. You know, that is how it is with death: It never surprises, but it comes as a surprise," added Barak. The former high court president said he understood that Friedmann’s appointment was dangerous when the minister set out to change the law in order to limit the Supreme Court president’s term to only seven years, as it is for the presidents of other courts.

Too little money, too few mothers
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Judge Magen Altuvia’s ruling to the effect that part of working parents’ outlays for child-care expenses is to be recognized for tax purposes is not going to have much of an impact on the bleak reality by which women do not work outside the home because they would have to spend more money for childcare than they would be likely to earn. In a situation in which 60 percent of the working women in Israel earn a salary that is so low they do not reach the tax threshold, and in which the proportion of mothers working in part-time jobs is constantly increasing, recognition of child-care expenses is bound to affect only a very small part of the workforce. When the payment to a day-care center is about NIS 1,800 a month, and the tax break for someone who earns the average wage will come to about NIS 200 - it is doubtful whether it is possible to talk about a revolution.

Unsafe medicines seized in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 4/7/2008
Bethlehem – More than 80 boxes of unsafe medicines have been seized from a shop in the southern West Bank village of Husan, near Bethlehem, the director of the the Palestinian Health Ministry’s office in Bethlehem, Muhammad Rizq, said on Sunday evening. Rizq told Ma’an that Health Ministry officials seized the medicine in cooperation with the Palestinian Preventive Security Service. Some of the medicines were expired, while others were anesthetics that cannot be sold without a prescription. Still others were smuggled illegally from Israeli medical centers. [end]

Running out of room under the rug
Meirav Arlosoroff, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Israel has a stable economy that’s resting on shaky foundations, warns The Economist in a special review on Israel in honor of the nation’s 60th independence day. The respected British magazine calls Israel an economic miracle, but warns the country isn’t taking the steps it must to preserve that miracle in the long run. The two main problems are the great inequality in Israeli society, most notably the poverty among the Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations. The second, which confers the greater threat to Israel’s long-term prosperity in The Economist’s opinion, is the situation of the education system. We apparently needed somebody else’s view from afar to see the glaringly obvious - between the deterioration of education quality and the deepening poverty among the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs, and the degree to which the combination threatens Israel’s very future.

Merrill Lynch finds Israel less safe but still a haven
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 4/7/2008
"Israel’s standing as a defensive market for investment is starting to look shaky. " Merrill Lynch warns that Israel’s standing as a defensive market for investment is "starting to look shaky" even as the most recent Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey finds "Israelis gaining favor with investors. "However, Israel has the weakest earnings momentum of all emerging countries, as earnings have collapsed relative to the region year to date. Merrill Lynch warns, "We expect Israel to be hurt by the slowdown in the US. Historically, about 30% of the country’s GDP can be linked to US economic growth. Early economic indicators point to a slowdown in exports and there are initial signs of an overall cooling of economic activity. We now expect economic growth to slow from 5. 3% in 2007 to 3. 5% in 2008. However, while such a scenario incorporates a significant decline in economic activity (down 30%), these are still relatively healthy growth figures.

Union leader halts TASE strike
Haim Bior, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
It took the personal intervention of Ofer Eini, leader of the Histadrut labor federation, to reopen the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange yesterday. "Nobody is showing any leadership and ending this whole disgraceful affair," commented one TASE worker yesterday, as the sanctions by workers entered their fourth week. "What was Eini waiting for? For investors to start leaving Israel? He should have intervened two weeks ago. " Be that as it may, the dispute between the TASE management and workers reached a new low yesterday when the workers shut down the computer systems serving the stock exchange and the clearing houses. Never before has the Tel Aviv exchange been paralyzed by its employees. In response, the management shut down trading. But after Eini’s move, the management reopened the session at 1:15 P. M. Trading lasted until 5:30 P.

Near unanimous decision on interest rate cut
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 4/7/2008
The Bank of Israel now expects the slowdown in US growth to continue through 2009. Minutes of the recent meeting of Bank of Israelmonetary policy committee in late March show a near total consensus on Governor of the Bank Stanley Fischer’s decision to make a further 50-basis point cut in the interest rate at the end of March, bringing the total cut to one percentage within two months. "One of the members of the committee participating in the discussion recommended reducing the interest month for the month of April by 25 basis points. Four members of the committee recommended reducing the rate of interest for April by 25 basis points. These members of the committee stated that they attribute great weight to the expected effect of the global slowdown on the Israeli economy," said the minutes. In the previous meeting in late February, three members supported a 25 basis point cut and just two were in favor of a cut of 50 basis points.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef declines to sign boycott letter
Ilanit Hayut and Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 4/7/2008
The rabbinical leader supports negotiations with Alon Group. Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as well as top Lithuanian rabbis have decided to withdraw from the threat of a boycott of retail chain Shefa Shuk, a unit of Alon Israel Oil Company Ltd. , owned by chairman David Weissman. A mediator betweenBlue Square Israel Ltd. (NYSE:BSI ; TASE:BSI ), which owns the retail chain, and haredim (ultra-orthodox) said, "As of now, there is a dispute between the rabbis because some of the hassidic leaders are determined to confront David Weissman because another of his retail chains, AM:PM is open on Shabbat. The hassidic rabbis refuse to sit down for negotiations. " Aides of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said today that he refuses to sign the boycott letter on which other leading rabbis have signed.

IRAQ: Doctors still unable to work normally in Baghdad suburb
Afif Sarhan/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/8/2008
Treating patients in Iraq’s hospitals is becoming incresingly dangerous - BAGHDAD, 7 April 2008 (IRIN) - Despite the Iraqi premier’s order to relax security measures in two Baghdad suburbs which have seen fierce clashessince 25 March, doctors and medical staff in one of these suburbs are still unable to operate normally, according to the head of a local hospital. Abbas Owaid, director-general of Fatima al-Zahra hospital, one of four hospitals in Baghdad’s mainly Shia Sadr City, said continuing clashes made it very hard for medical personnel to move around, andhospitals were still in dire need of medical supplies. "Practically, this decision [to relax security measures] has not yet been implemented on the ground, as clashes and military operations are still going on, and that makes it very hard for our ambulances and workers to move freely," Owaid told IRIN, adding:. . .

IRAQ: UN agencies call for international help to clear mines
Mike White, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/8/2008
BAGHDAD, 6 April 2008 (IRIN) - Marking the third annual International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on 4 April, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for a global effort to help Iraq in its mine clearance operations. "In addition to insecurity, Iraqis live amid one of the greatest concentrations of landmines, unexploded ordnance [UXO] and other explosive remnants of war [ERW] in the world," the agencies said in a joint statement. David Shearer, Deputy Special Representative for the UN Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, called for increased efforts to cleanse Iraq of ERW. "They inflict life-long injuries, deny access to productive land and undermine freedom of movement, including for the delivery of humanitarian relief.

Official from UN’s Hariri tribunal stresses ’irreversibility’ of probe
Michael Bluhm, Daily Star 4/8/2008
BEIRUT: The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon will not need "years" before it begins trying suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, said a senior official from the UN Office of Legal Affairs, which is establishing the tribunal. "Nobody is talking about years; nobody is talking about tomorrow" for a trial to begin, Radhia Achouri, senior communications adviser to UN Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel, Monday told a group of journalists in Beirut. "Ultimately, there will be people who will be named" in indictments for Hariri’s killing, she added. The UN Security Council formally created the tribunal last May 30 in Resolution 1757, after the dormant Lebanese Parliament never met to vote on the bilateral agreement between the UN and Lebanon to form the tribunal. The tribunal has become another element dividing the country’s polarized political camps, with. . .

Lebanese parliament speaker to meet Assad
Middle East Online 4/7/2008
BEIRUT - Lebanese parliament speaker and opposition leader Nabih Berri is in Syria for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a bid to resolve Lebanon’s protracted political crisis, his spokesman said. "This visit comes after Berri’s announcement to launch a dialogue to resolve the crisis. He will meet with President Assad as well as other officials," Ali Hamdan said. Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Sunday accused Syria of holding Lebanon hostage by blocking the election of a new president, following talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Siniora told reporters he saw the Lebanese-Syrian relationship as one of siblings and "one sibling cannot kidnap his brother and keep him hostage in the hope of getting a ransom," he said. He urged Arab foreign ministers to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the political deadlock in Lebanon and the country’s strained relations with Syria.

Iran ’looking into’ more talks with US on security in Iraq
Daily Star 4/8/2008
Tehran says it has received invitation from Washington - Iran announced on Monday that it had received a request from the US to hold a fourth round of talks on security in Iraq. Easing a diplomatic freeze lasting almost three decades, Iranian and US officials met three times in Baghdad last year, but a planned fourth meeting has been repeatedly postponed. US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, held face-to-face talks in May and July last year, the highest-level public contacts between the two sides for 27 years. "We have received a new request from US officials through a formal note for holding talks on Iraq and we are looking into the issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters. Hosseini said Monday that Iran will "continue the talks with necessary conditions. "He did not give a possible time.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood calls for election boycott
Reuters, YNetNews 4/7/2008
Country’s largest opposition force calls on Egyptian public to boycott ’rigged’ local council elections set for Tuesday - The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition force, called on Egyptians on Monday to boycott local council elections due on Tuesday in protest at the disqualification of most of its candidates. The group said its members had received more than 3,000 court rulings recognizing their right to stand in the elections, and close to 900 court rulings ordering a halt to the ballots when the government failed to comply. Husain Mohamed Ibrahim, deputy leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary block, told Reuters: "There are court rulings that invalidate the president’s call for elections on April 8 in almost half the constituencies. . . We call on our public to boycott these rigged elections, which the judiciary has already ruled should not be held.

US study draws dark picture of Iraq political progress
Middle East Online 4/7/2008
WASHINGTON - The United States faces the risk of a costly, open-ended quagmire in Iraq because of a lack of political progress in the divided country, said a report by US experts released on Sunday. "Political progress is so slow, halting and superficial, and social and political fragmentation so pronounced, that the US is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago," said the US Institute of Peace (USIP) study. The US commitment to Iraq "carries a massive cost, both human and financial," in addition to the global interests the US is sacrificing, it added. The report comes ahead of pivotal testimony this week before Congress by General David Petraeus, the commander of US troops in Iraq, and the US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker. "Even if progress in Iraq continues," USIP said, "the results may not be worth the cost.


A Gaza Diary: We can’t Endure Forever
Najwa Sheikh, MIFTAH 4/7/2008
      It is March, the month of flowers, and good weather, however since yesterday it was burning, with hot dry winds. I thought summer is coming so fast this year, and with this idea I have to think of other things, like summer cloths for the kids, enjoying the daily showers of cold clean water, and sitting on the beach sharing with my kids the fun of playing with the sand because we can not enjoy swimming on a sea full of sewage. However, this lovely image is not the true one for the Palestinians who live in Gaza, as since Gaza was sealed, and the borders are closed, Gaza and its people are suffering not only from the brutal Israeli invasions and continuous strikes but also from the lack of both basic and luxurious goods, medications, papers for books, vaccines and many other basics that any person in the world would enjoy these privileges as a guaranteed thing in their life.
     Today in my way to work, I saw long cues of cars in front of the petrol stations; they have been waiting since the early hours of the morning. Drivers of these vehicles were much grumbled as they did not work for weeks, and they have families to support, the taxi they own was their main source of income. Therefore, by the lack of fuel they lost this source and join the unemployed sector in my society. Though we heard that there is fuel in the stations but the owners of these stations keep it so they can sell it in the black market for higher costs.

Crushed childhoods, cruel choices

Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Daily Star 4/8/2008
      Ayman is a soft-spoken 14-year old boy from Jabalia City, Gaza. His family is poor, as his father has been unemployed since March 2006. Ayman’s parents have already sold almost all their furniture to pay for food and schooling for their children. Recently, after collecting a governmental food handout, Ayman’s father had to sell the milk to get the money for the journey back home.
     Ayman works very hard in school. He dreams of a future career. But with 47 students in his cramped classroom and double shifts the norm, his learning environment is very stressful. Home is no refuge: The recent incursion of Jabalia was 200 meters from where Ayman lives. The shooting and shelling so terrorized his 5-year old sister that she still wakes up screaming in the night.
     Ayman’s experience is all too familiar in Gaza’s crowded, crippled neighborhoods, where those who are least to blame for the troubles are the ones who are suffering most. Indeed, among Gaza’s 840,000 children, out of which 588,000 are refugees, Ayman has a luckier story than many. Since the recent escalation of violence that began last month, at least 33 Palestinian boys and girls have been killed and many more injured or maimed - caught in the crossfire, shot in their living rooms, struck by explosions in their own backyards. On February 28, four children playing soccer were hit by a missile, which dismembered them so completely their own families could not identify their bodies.

EU "closer than ever" to Israel

David Cronin, Electronic Intifada 4/7/2008
      BRUSSELS, 4 April (IPS) - Israel has been described as "closer to the European Union than ever before" by a leading Brussels official, even though a new EU report laments the ongoing killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
     This week, the European Commission published a series of progress reports on its relations with countries neighboring the 27-country bloc.
     Benita Ferrero Waldner, the EU’s external relations commissioner, used the occasion to indicate that she is keener to foster closer ties with Israel than with almost any other country in the Mediterranean region.
     As well as remarking that Israel is "closer to the European Union than ever before," she said that a "reflection group" is studying how relations between the two sides can be upgraded to a "truly special status."
     Formed in March last year by Tzipi Livni, Israel’s deputy prime minister, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, the reflection group has been tasked with paving the way for Israeli participation in implementing EU policies.

Palestinian Authority brings in security forces to stop armed resistance

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 4/7/2008
      Jenin -- Palestinian Authority security forces have begun the new campaign in Jenin which includes US weapons, night-vision goggles, and the like. This is seen as a major play by the United States and Israel to force the hand of the PA to do their bidding.
     And the PA is going right along with it, begging the question: who is the PA working for? Is the new idea of "security," fully sanctioned this time?
     The US deems this a criterion to test the ability of Palestinian forces to work and rein in the armed factions with "less interference" by the Israelis.
     American and European officials with sanction the deployment of troops in the northern West Bank city within weeks, using current members of the National Security Force of President Abbas and the police.
     Jenin is considered a stronghold of the armed resistance, legal under international law for any population under occupation. Yet the PA is working so closely with the US and Israelis, it is unclear what the outcome will be.

The Arrest of Israeli Activist Jeff Halper

Eileen Fleming, MIFTAH 4/7/2008
      On April 3, 2008, the Associated Press in Jerusalem reported, "An Israeli wrecking crew knocked down Shadi Hamdan’s home in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem in just a couple of hours, reducing the upholsterer’s savings to a pile of grey rubble…Since 2004, Israel has leveled more than 300 homes in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, citing a lack of building permits. However, critics say the permits are virtually impossible to obtain and consider the demolitions part of a decades-old policy to limit Palestinian population growth in the disputed city."
     "Were Israelis and Palestinians to have an equal chance to get a building permit ... it wouldn’t be a human rights issue. It’s a human rights issue because it’s intentional and purposeful housing discrimination."- Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights
     The Hamden home was first demolished by Israel in 2005 but volunteers rebuilt it last July. "Former Jerusalem city council member and Meir Margalit, one of Hamdan’s supporters, said his group won’t be deterred and plans to rebuild again."

Israel must Make a Choice

Osama Al Sharif, MIFTAH 4/7/2008
      To say that time is running out for a just and peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a gross understatement. But it is a fact that few in today’s world understand its true meaning and harrowing consequences. Israel’s planned celebrations of the 60th anniversary of its ’independence’ is a brutal reminder that, six decades later, the Palestinian people are still struggling to gain their freedom and exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.
     To separate Israel’s celebrations from the ongoing plight of the Palestinians is criminal, hypocritical and irresponsible. It is like attending a wedding party when the neighbors are mourning the loss of a dear one. The birth of the Jewish state in 1948 continues to exact a heavy price, not only through the trauma of its 40-year-old occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, but in terms of the affront to international laws and conventions over which Israel has trampled for years.
     In fact, it is this organic attachment of both issues, and both peoples, which makes it impossible to view one event in isolation of the other. Israel’s celebrations can never be complete or free of the historical offense and guilt, unless the grievance of its twin, Palestine, is addressed courageously and fairly. Sixty years ago, two creatures emerged from the dark womb of British Mandate in Palestine, but only one was recognized and allowed to thrive. Israel’s birthday is not the property of the Jewish people alone; it marks the beginning of one of the longest and most sinister chapters in the century-old Palestinian odyssey.

Who Is Committed to the Security and Defense of the Palestinians?

Hasan Afif El-Hasan, MIFTAH 4/7/2008
      The two day-Arab League summit meeting held in Damascus last March called on Israel to accept the Arab land-for-peace initiative that had been offered by Saudi Arabia in 2002 to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, and had been rejected by then Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and ignored by the US. The Arab leaders sent a warning, that they would review the six years old peace offer unless Israel changes its behavior, without stating when such a review would take place and what would be the plan of action should Israel continues to ignore their offer. But, most disappointing was the absence of any reference to the present conditions of the 1.5 million Gazans and the rift between Fatah and Hamas.
     The statement read by the League chief Amr Mousa did not mention how to deal with the siege of Gaza, the suffering of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the fate of the refugees languishing in the camps across the Middle East. The leaders ignored the disastrous humanitarian situation inflicted on the Palestinian population in Gaza by Israel as a collective punishment in response to the firing of Qassam rockets by militants. While the foreign news media and the Palestinian people treated the summit as a non-event gathering, it was Condoleezza Rice who stole the limelight by securing an Israeli pledge to remove a small number of the more than five-hundred roadblocks in the West Bank, although it is doubtful that Israel will fulfill its pledge. The Israelis rejected the Arab land-for-peace initiative before and they will reject it again because they have unqualified support of the US and many European states.

I want the Palestinians to win

Bradley Burston, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
      Results of the most recent poll conducted jointly by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, between March 12 and 17, 2008:
     Among Palestinians: An overwhelming majority of 84% support and 13% oppose the shooting attack that took place in a religious school [Merkaz Harav] in West Jerusalem. Support for this attack is greater in the Gaza Strip (91%) compared to the West Bank (79%).
     64% support and 33% oppose launching rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon.
     Among Israelis:
     41% think that Israel should carry out ad-hoc military operations against the shelling and then get out. 29% believe Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip and stay there.
     27% believe that if the shelling of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip continues, Israel should use primarily diplomatic rather than military steps.