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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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10 April 2008


Following Annapolis Summit Israeli Governmental measures in East Jerusalem erode trust
Ir Amim, Palestine News Network 4/10/2008
Instead of serving to catalyze political agreement, the Annapolis Summit has become a launching pad for new unilateral Israeli actions in East Jerusalem. Ir Amin’s Monitoring Report for April 2008 is reprinted in full. •Plans for construction of 9,617 new settlement housing units have been advanced in East Jerusalem. •Of these, 5. 247 units have been submitted for public review following the Annapolis Summit. •Progress continues on the planning, construction and populating of 471 new housing units in settlements in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods. •Ten Palestinian civil gatherings in East Jerusalem -- religious, social or political in nature -- have been blocked by the police. •Police headquarters in the E-1 area are due to open in the coming weeks. bull;The homes of 14 Palestinian families have been demolished in East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

New fuel crisis looming in the Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A humanitarian disaster is looming in the Gaza Strip as fuel supplies into the coastal region have been stopped, Mahmoud Al-Khizindar, the deputy director of the federation of gas stations in the Gaza Strip, said on Thursday. The Israeli authorities stopped supplies from entering the Nahal Oz fuel terminal after Wednesday’s shooting. "The fuel crisis has been growing since the Israeli authorities suspended fuel shipment including gas and diesel for industrial use following the military operation by Palestinian gunmen on Wednesday which resulted in the killing of two workers at the Nahal Oz terminal," said Al-Khizindar. He highlighted that the Gaza Strip could be left without electricity as diesel needed to run the electricity generating station is about to run out.

IDF: Hamas creating phony humanitarian crisis
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Senior officer: Terror group creates false display of suffering in order to score points - Hamas is presenting a distorted picture of reality in the Gaza Strip and creating a phony humanitarian crisis in order to score points, a senior IDF officer charged Thursday evening. Referring to the latest terror attack at Nahal Oz, Colonel Nir Press, who heads the Erez Crossing Coordination Office, told Ynet that the attack is part of the campaign led by Hamas, aimed at "creating a false display of crisis in order to gain international legitimacy. " The claims made by Hamas regarding a supposed humanitarian crisis in the Strip have turned out to be false, Press said. "The buds of this phenomenon emerged at the end of 2007, when we heard claims that gas used by hospitals in Gaza has run out, making it impossible to use operation rooms," the senior officer said.

As UNRWA moves toward closures, protests erupt
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 4/10/2008
Bethlehem -- Protests continue in West Bank refugee camps after UNRWA announced it would cut services. The United Nations Reliefs Works Committee has been rumored for a year, but was always met with denials. The UNRWA is "in charge" of Palestinian refugees displaced by Israeli land confiscation and major attacks in what are now its boundaries 60 years ago. This is the time of year that Palestinians memorialize Al Nakba, the Catastrophe, and the Israelis consider it their "birthday. "Since early Thursday morning the Popular Committees have protested by preventing all staff from working in the Agency. The doors were closed in the face of employees. Samir Attallah of the People’s Committee of the Services in Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee Camp said that the popular committees are sitting-in at all headquarters of the Agency in Dheisheh, Aida, and Al Azzeh refugee camps, as well as the Agency’s central headquarters.

Israeli forces seize 21 across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli press sources said the army arrested 21 Palestinian activists in the West Bank districts of Qalqilia, Jenin, Nablus, Bethlehem and Ramallah on Thursday. Israeli forces apprehended four Palestinians from the northern West Bank village of Beita near Nablus on Thursday morning after raiding several homes. Ma’an’s reporter quoted local sources as saying that the Israeli forces raided the village in the early hours of the morning and conducted house-to-house inspections before arresting four teenagers. A 37-year-old man was also arrested and released after a few hours. In Qalqilia in the northern West Bank, Palestinian medical sources said several Israeli military vehicles raided the city and arrested one Palestinian. They also dug up a field belonging to the father of Palestinian prisoner, Mahmoud Abu Ash-Sheikh, currently being held in an Israeli jail.

Terror cell planned to poison diners at Ramat Gan restaurant
Yuval Azoulay and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Two Palestinians have been arrested only days before they executed a plan to poison diners at the Ramat Gan restaurant in which they worked. A tip-off led the Shin Bet security service and Tel Aviv police to the pair of Nablus residents, who were staying in Israel illegally and working at Ramat Gan’s Grill Express. A gag order on the case, imposed after the 21-year-old Palestinians were arrested some three weeks ago, was lifted yesterday. Under interrogation, the pair admitted planning the attack after being recruited by an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade cell that received funding and instructions from Hezbollah. The cell was led by two wanted militants, Hani Kabi and Husni Tsalag. The Nablus pair were slated to receive a white, flavorless, odorless poison from Kabi and Tsalag. They planned to put the poison in meals served at the Grill Express.

State Department urges Carter not to meet Meshaal
Daily Star 4/11/2008
WASHINGTON: The United States said Thursday it has advised former US President Jimmy Carter against contacting the Palestinian Hamas group after hearing he might meet its leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Syria. "If he does go to Syria we will provide support befitting a former president," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "The State Department, however, will not participate in the planning or scheduling of any meetings with Hamas figures in Damascus and in fact we have counseled the former president about having such a meeting," McCormack added. Asked if it advised against such talks, he replied: "Yes, because US government policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and we believe it is not the interests of our policy or in the interests of peace to have such a meeting. "But McCormack denied that any Carter meeting with Hamas would undermine US policy.

PM: Israeli response to Negev attack will weaken Hamas
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday blamed Hamas for the deadly cross-border terror attack which killed two Israeli civilians a day earlier at a fuel depot near the Gaza border, and vowed that the Israeli response to the attack would considerably weaken the Islamist group. "Hamas is responsible for what is happening in the south," Olmert told lawmakers from his centrist Kadima party. "I promise you that the response to Hamas will be one such that it will not be able to continue to operate as it does today. " Olmert also told party members that Israel would simultaneously keep up "serious" negotiations for a peace agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "Alongside our war against terror and Hamas, we will continue to hold serious and responsible negotiations that can lead us to agreements with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas," he said.

Olmert talks tough on Hamas
Roni sofer, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Olmert says Israeli response to Hamas will render it incapable of operating against Israelis; PM adds that understandings with Palestinians can be reached this year, but implementation of agreement will have to wait - Tough talk: Hamas is responsible for terror originating in the Gaza Strip and will be paying the "unavoidable consequences" for its actions, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday evening at a Kadima party toast. "We don’t care which terrorist is a member of which organization," the PM said. "Hamas is the one running the show in Gaza these days. " "I promise you that the response to Hamas would be such that Hamas will be unable to continue operating against Israel’s citizens," Olmert said.

Death toll in Israeli raids on Gaza rises to 7
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip left seven people dead, including three children on Wednesday. Israeli warplanes and tanks launched a series of attacks on the northern and the eastern Gaza Strip, Ma’an’s reporter said. Dr Jum’a As-Saqa, head of public relations at Ash-Shifaa’ Hospital in Gaza City said that two dead bodies arrived at Ash-Shifaa’ hospital. He identified them as ’Aatif Al-Gharably and Mazin Abu Qumbuz from the Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City. Another man from Shuja’iyya Muhammad Abu Jabah was killed after Israeli soldiers opened fire on him in his gas station. Dr As-Saqa added that another Gazan citizen was killed in the Al-Mansoura neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip when he was hit by a missile fired by Israeli warplanes. The victim has not been identified.

Security forces uncover large explosives cache in Qalqilyah
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/10/2008
Security forces on Thursday arrested two Hamas militants in the West Bank town of Qalqilyah after uncovering a large weapons cache in the city. Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces troops involved in the raid said they suspects were responsible for hording the secret cache. The operation was executed following an intelligence tip-off from the Shin Bet. During the raid, forces uncovered two barrels, one containing 100 kilograms of gun powder and the other 100 kilograms of fertilizer to be used for preparing explosives. Beside the barrels, forces found electrical switches and wires for rigging chargers and explosive sprays used for intensifying the power of the chargers. Related articles:

Palestinians: Discussion on Jerusalem to be delayed
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Ynet learns that Israel, Palestinians discussing US proposal for temporary five-year agreement to be signed by year’s end without addressing issues of Jerusalem, refugees. ’US pressure will force sides to accept offer,’ Palestinian source states - The final stage negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the issue of Jerusalem will be postponed by five years, according to a new proposal discussed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia, a Palestinian source told Ynet. The proposal, submitted by the US, states that a settlement of the refugee problem would also be delayed by a few years. Israel has yet to comment on the report. According to Palestinian sources, the two sides are to reach a general agreement on principles by the end of the year that would not include reference to the questions of Jerusalem or the Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian security arrests 7 Hamas members
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Hamas said on Thursday that the Palestinian security services affiliated to the Ramallah-based caretaker government in the West Bank seized seven Hamas affiliates on Wednesday evening. According to a Hamas statement, the arrestees were from Hebron in the southern West Bank and Tulkarem and Tubas in the northern West Bank. [end]

ISRAEL-OPT: Attack on border crossing, strike, affect Gaza fuel supplies
Shabai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/11/2008
The Nahal Oz crossing, through which fuel is transported from Israel into the Gaza Strip, has been closed after the attack - JERUSALEM/GAZA, 10 April 2008 (IRIN) - An attack by Palestinian militants on 9 April on the Nahal Oz crossing, through which fuel is transported from Israel into the Gaza Strip, left two employees of the Dor Alon fuel company dead and caused the closure of the crossing. "The crossing will be closed for the time being and activities suspended until we receive further orders from the Ministry of Defence", an Israeli military official told IRIN. All fuel supplies, including industrial diesel for Gaza’s sole power plant, are affected. Dor Alon, as well as the European Union which pays for the plant’s fuel, told IRIN it was not certain when deliveries would resume. The power plant has some reserves, but an extended stoppage would adversely affect power production.

Israel plans int’l campaign to show Hamas behind Wed. attack
Barak Ravid Amos Harel Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Israel will launch a diplomatic offensive with the United Nations and international aid organizations to emphasize that Hamas is responsible for the cross-border raid which killed two Israeli civilians on Wednesday and the consequent humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The civilians were shot dead and two others were wounded Wednesday afternoon at a filling depot close to the Karni border terminal, when four Palestinian terrorists infiltrated from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. Officials admit that with Libya on the Security Council it will be difficult to achieve anything. Israel sent letters of complaint to the UN secretary general, Security Council and international aid organizations, accusing Palestinian terror organizations of attacking a humanitarian crossing, which is a lifeline for the Gaza Strip’s population.

IDF inquiry into Nahal Oz raid highlights failures
Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
A preliminary IDF inquiry into the Palestinian raid on the Nahal Oz fuel depot on Wednesday has revealed serious failures in the way some of the forces were deployed and operated during the attack. Two Israeli civilian truck drivers were shot dead at the depot by four Palestinian terrorists. Two of the terrorists were killed by the IDF. The fuel depot at Nahal Oz, near the Karni crossing, is about 50 meters east of the Gaza border fence and about 300 meters from the Palestinian terminal, on the western side of the fence. The four terrorists ran more than 200 meters across an open area west of the fence, but nobody noticed them, despite the series of observation posts staked out in the area. The terrorists cut the fence and passed into the Israeli side, very close to an unmanned IDF guardpost. Two of them climbed over the 2.

Four escaped Fatah activists return to Jneid prison
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Four of the Palestinian activists affiliated to Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades who fled the Jneid detention centre west of Nablus in the northern West Bank turned themselves over to the Palestinian security on Wednesday night. Director of the Palestinian preventive security in Nablus, Akram Rajoub, told Ma’an’s reporter that intensive efforts had been made to secure the safe return of the activists. Palestinian security services are still endeavoring to locate eight other activists who also fled Jneid last Friday. The twelve fighters fled the Palestinian Authority (PA) prison near Nablus on Friday night after a clash with Palestinian security forces. Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh, a Nablus-based commander of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed organization linked to Fatah, said that he and the other fighters forced their way out of the Al-Jneid prison after enduring "brutal treatment" by the guards in Section Four of the facility.

PA security apparatuses and IOF troops kidnap 14 cadres of Hamas in WB
Palestinian Information Center 4/10/2008
RAMALLAH, [PIC]-- The PA security apparatuses kidnapped Thursday in different areas of the West Bank seven of Hamas cadres, while the IOF troops kidnapped seven others released recently from the PA jails in the context of the security coordination between them. The family of Musharraf Abu Ira, one of the kidnapped citizens, appealed to human rights organizations to intervene to get their son released from the PA intelligence’s jail in Tubas. The IOF troops kidnapped at dawn Thursday four Palestinian citizens from the Balata refugee camp and the Bita village in the Nablus city after breaking into and ransacking a number of houses. The IOF troops also closed the only entrance to the village and blocked the Palestinian citizens from leaving or entering. Sheikh Kamal Al-Najjar, the mayor of the Khuza’a town in Khan Younis, reported that the IOF troops under air cover invaded Thursday. . .

Hamas: Israel digging tunnels to kidnaps Hamas leaders
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Hamas interior minister claims Shin Bet purchasing houses in Gaza through local agents, plans to use them to kidnap group’s officials to Israel - Israel has dug tunnels under the Gaza Strip in order to kidnap senior Hamas leaders," Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam told the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat. In an interview published Thursday, Siam claimed that the Shin Bet has been acting through local agents across the Strip to purchase apartments that could be used as bases of operations for such kidnappings. According to the Hamas official, the security forces in Gaza recently arrested two Palestinians, a father and son, who are suspected of collaborating with the Shin Bet. The two were arrested after they bought an apartment in Gaza City located close to the house of Hamas military wing commander Raed al-Atar’s sister.

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades claim responsibility for targeting Israeli patrol
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades said on Thursday that a group of their fighters opened fire on Wednesday afternoon at an Israeli patrol which was traveling between the Karni and the Nahal Oz terminals. The group said in a statement that its fighters fired heavily at the Israeli patrol using machine guns. The claimed they hit a number of Israeli soldiers. Israeli radio announced that an Israeli soldier was killed and two others were injured. The statement added that PFLP fighters launched four mortar shells at Israeli military vehicles in the Ash-Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City in retaliation for the assassination of their leader Isma’il Abu An-Nasr, who was killed on Wednesday.

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades target Israeli military base
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Thursday morning for launching a homemade projectile at an Israeli military base east of Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli atrocities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Military wings of the PFLP and the DFLP claim firing projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades claimed responsibility on Thursday for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot. Separately, the National Resistance Brigades, the military wing affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said their fighters launched a homemade projectile at the Sufa military base east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The military wings said they would continue to resist the Israeli occupation as "resistance is the best way to respond to ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people. " [end]

Barbed wire erected to prevent Israel-Lebanon border violations
DPA, Ha’aretz 4/10/2008
Members of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon on Thursday began erecting a barbed-wire fence along the Lebanon-Israel border to prevent violations of the "Blue Line" that could jeopardize the region’s fragile cease-fire. "About 50 UN soldiers from the Spanish battalion began setting up the barbed-wire fence in the area north of the [border] village of Ghajar," said Yasmina Bouziane, spokeswoman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the UN established the so-called Blue Line to separate the Lebanese and Israeli border. The Blue Line placed a third of the village of Ghajar in Lebanon and two thirds of it a zone annexed by Israel. The decision to set up the barrier was made on April 2 at a meeting between UNIFIL commander General Claudio Graziano and officials from the Lebanese and Israeli armies, Bouziane said.

Bombers seized near Bethlehem, Israeli sources say
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Bethlehem – Israeli sources claimed on Wednesday afternoon that an undercover Israeli unit seized two Palestinians near Kfar Etzion to the west of Bethlehem in the southern West Bank. The sources claim the two men were on their way to undertake a military operation inside Israel. The sources said the arrest came after an intelligence lead indicated that Palestinians were planning to conduct a bombing operation inside Israel. As a result of the information, the Israeli secret service, the Shin Bet, cancelled a visit to the Etzion area by Israeli opposition leader Benyamin Netanyahu. [end]

Weekly Report on Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 03 - 09 Apr 2008
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, ReliefWeb 4/9/2008
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)- 8 Palestinians, including a child and a farmer, were killed by IOF in the Gaza Strip. - 5 of the victims, including a child and his uncle, were killed in a series of attacks launched by IOF against the east of Gaza City in less than 5 hours. - A Palestinian child was run down to death by an Israeli settler. - 25 Palestinian, including 5 children, were wounded by IOF in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. - IOF conducted 30 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and 7 ones into the Gaza Strip. - IOF arrested 65 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children and a girl, in the West Bank and 10 others, including 3 children, in the Gaza Strip.

Parents of Briton shot by Israeli soldier seek talks with ambassador
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 4/11/2008
Five years after their son was fatally shot by an Israeli soldier in Gaza, the parents of the British student Tom Hurndall are still pressing the Israeli government for compensation and a formal apology as they try to build a criminal case against senior Israeli army officers. Hurndall, a 22-year-old photography student, was shot five years ago today during a demonstration in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. This week his parents, Jocelyn and Anthony Hurndall, wrote to the Israeli ambassador in London, Ron Prosor, asking for an urgent meeting. As well as compensation and an apology, the family are still trying to gather sufficient evidence to bring war crimes charges in Britain against several Israeli army officers. The family has not revealed the amount of compensation they are seeking. A report in the Israeli press last week put the amount at £500,000, although the correct figure is believed to be higher.

Ibrahim Sayyid, Syria, "You have to study hard to escape life in a tent"
Lachlyn Soper/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/11/2008
". . . we decided that living in the desert was safer than being Palestinian in Baghdad. . . "- Ibrahim Sayyid studied for his exams while living in a tent in al-Tanf camp. Having passed his exams, the 15-year-old now studies plumbing in Damascus - DAMASCUS, After his sister was kidnapped in Iraq, 15-year-old Ibrahim Sayyid and his family fled Baghdad for the Syrian border in the summer of 2006. Staying in the no-man’s land camp at al-Tanf, Ibrahim focused on his studies, braving freezing winters, scorching summers and a fire in his tent. He eventually won a scholarship and is now in Syria, unlike the rest of his family. "I have always been at the top of my class," said Ibrahim as he described his journey from Baghdad to Damascus. "I attended school up to seventh grade in the Baladiyat suburb of Baghdad. Then my sister was kidnapped.

Shin Bet thwarts mass restaurant poisoning
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Two Palestinian employees detained mere days before they planned to lace food at Ramat Gan grill bar with tasteless, odorless toxin -The thwarting of an alarming terror plot was cleared for publication on Thursday, almost three weeks after a joint Shin Bet and police operation led to the arrest of two Palestinian employees of the ’Grill Express’ restaurant in Ramat Gan. The men, Eihab Abu Rial and Anas Salum, both 21-year-old residents of the West Bank city of Nablus, had planned to lace dishes served at the establishment with a powerful toxin without odor or taste, in the hopes of killing as many patrons as possible. The two did not have working permits and were residing in Israel illegally. While in Nablus, they had been recruited to the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Bridges, the military wing of Fatah, under the guidance and funding of Hizbullah. The men were arrested by police investigators following information obtained by the Shin Bet, several. . .

VIDEO - News / 2 Palestinians arrested for plot to poison Ramat Gan diners
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for April 10, 2008. In this edition:Two Palestinians are arrested for a plot to poison Ramat Gan diners. The IDF blames Dor Alon gas station chain for not posting guards at the site of Wednesday’s Gaza infiltration attack. Tycoon Arkady Gaydamak is accused of the improper handling of vast sums in an deal between Russia and Angola. Police arrest 11 suspected members of a crime ring operating in the South, including an officer in the Israel Defense Forces. [end]

Activists urge boycott of Jerusalem literature festival
Statement, Alternative Information Center, Electronic Intifada 4/10/2008
The first International Writers’ Festival is scheduled to take place 11-15 May 2008 in Jerusalem, just three days after Israel’s official celebrations of 60 years of independence. Substantially financed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, this festival must necessarily be seen in the context of the Israeli government’s wider public relations campaign to bring international artistic, cultural and political figures to brighten the state’s image on the international stage. Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the international cultural center in West Jerusalem that is organizing and hosting the event, will publicize the official festival program here on 11 April. However, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz newspaper, the international authors who have confirmed their attendance include: Nadine Gordimer (South Africa), Jonathan Safran Foer (US),Nathan Englander (US), Russell Banks (US), Anita Diamant (US), Lidia Jorge (Portugal). . .

Elderly man: What are Rice and Bush doing here if they cannot stop demolition of one small home?
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 4/10/2008
Jerusalem - Jerusalem municipality bulldozers demolished the home of Khalid Shoman in the Abu Saleh district of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem. The home housed six people, including several children, and was 160 square meters. The Israelis used the pretext for the demolition that the home was not permitted by the Israelis, although East Jerusalem is Palestinian under international law. Six years ago the family built the home. Israeli bulldozers arrived, accompanied by Israeli police, intelligence, border guards special forces. They surrounded the area and prevented citizens from approaching then proceeded with the demolition. Khalid Shoman is 60 year old. He said that the municipal police had come to his house early this month and informed him that his house would be demolished in the coming days.

Israel threatens Hamas after latest fighting
Patrick Moser, Daily Star 4/11/2008
Agence france Presse -OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel warned Thursday it would retaliate against Hamas, blaming the Palestinian Islamist group for a deadly explosion of violence that the Jewish state initiated in the Gaza Strip a day earlier after a month of relative calm. Israeli authorities said they temporarily shut down the Nahal Oz fuel terminal following Wednesday’s attack, but insisted they would continue providing minimal fuel supplies to the Palestinian territory that has been under a crippling blockade for months. "We will settle the score with Hamas, which bears sole responsibility for what happened in the Gaza Strip. We will choose the time and the place," Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel’s Army Radio. Hamas said such statements clearly showed that Israel was preparing the ground for a new military operation against Gaza, where a tense calm reigned on Thursday.

PM to IDF commanders: Think of Palestinian suffering at roadblocks
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called on IDF commanders in the West Bank to understand that the roadblocks are causing suffering to the Palestinians, whose needs should be appreciated to avoid a worsening of relations between the two peoples. Olmert made these comments during a closed-door meeting with brigade commanders of Central Command. "Take all the Palestinians who were stripped at the roadblocks, only because there was concern that some of them were terrorists. Take all those who stand at the roadblocks where there is concern that a car bomb will pass through," Olmert said. "This can become a boiling pot that can explode and cause terrible burns, and it can also be something else, which only depends on your understanding and abilities to conduct yourselves with wisdom and determination. "Olmert also told the officers that "sooner or later" Israel would have to operate in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli think tank: Hamas has 20,000 armed men in Gaza Strip
Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
An Israeli think tank said in a study it released on Thursday that Hamas’ military buildup is at its peak, despite the international blockade on the Gaza Strip. In an estimate of the current strength of the militant group’s forces, the think tank said Hamas had organized 20,000 armed forces and acquired long-range rockets and advanced anti-tank weapons. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center also said that Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza enabled the militant Palestinian group to boost its power in the coastal strip, over which it gained control in a violent takeover in June 2006. "The Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 created a new situation which accelerated the establishment of an area fully controlled by Hamas. It was quick to use its increased military power to make political capital in internal Palestinian affairs," the study states.

Barak to request 5,000 work permits for W. Bank Palestinians
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday he would submit a request to the government next week to issue 5,000 new permits for Palestiniansresidents of the West Bank to work in Israel. The permits were part of a package pledged during a visit by U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel says the package was meant to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank. Palestinians say the changes will have little impact on daily life. Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attended a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November. U. S. President George W. Bush would like a deal before he leaves office in January. But there has been little outward sign of progress so far. Barak’s office said the number of Palestinian construction workers with permits would increase from 14,000 to 19,000.

From a ’card’ to a vital interest
Calev Ben-Dor, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Following the meeting earlier this week between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and reports of another summit being planned to coincide with U. S. President George W. Bush’s visit in May, negotiations seem to have returned to the frequency and seriousness of the pre-Intifada period. A decade, though, is a long time in politics, especially in the Middle East. Yet despite this truism, Israel seems to be approaching negotiations with exactly the same mindset as in the past - a position that may undermine its ability to achieve its interests. Since the Oslo Accords, Israeli policy has been guided by the assumption that the goal of the Palestinian national movement was the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Israel viewed its decision to "grant" its adversaries such a state as a negotiating "card" that could. . .

The rabbi, the preacher and love of Israel
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
WASHINGTON - Maybe it’s preacher John Hagee’s punishment for a comment that revealed his opinion of the Reform movement. It happened only a month ago, when he appeared at a Reform synagogue in Los Angeles. Already then there were some people in the Jewish community who had reservations about inviting him for a dialogue with Rabbi David Woznica - claiming that Hagee is a controversial, extremist figure. But Hagee was invited. He also behaved well, all in all. During the discussion he almost incidentally blurted out this comment: "Jesus, who was a Reform rabbi. . . "- as far as he is concerned, certainly a big compliment. The audience, composed mostly of Reform Jews, smiled - before taking in that this was a kind of trap. Hagee has met with many Jews in recent years. Most came to these encounters with suspicion, and left with a sense of relief.

Evangelist to Yoffie: ’i’m Not Trying to Undermine Peace’
Shmuel Rosner, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
Televangelist John Hagee sounded a bit irate when he read his response to the accusations leveled at him and the organization he founded, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union for Reform Judaism. Hagee, who is currently in Jerusalem with 1,000 Christian pilgrims, delivered his response via conference call to U. S. reporters. He said that had Yoffie and his followers asked him directly about his opinions, they could have avoided many of their alleged mistakes. Hagee said, for example, that he has not called the Catholic Church a "great whore," nor is he trying to dictate Israel’s security and political policies. Hagee will support Israel whether or not it carries out withdrawals, he repeatedly said, adding that this is something its citizens will decide. Last week, Yoffie urged Jewish organizations not to cooperate with Hagee’s Christian Zionists, arguing that they hurt Israel’s interests.

Qassam kid gets gift from evangelicals
Ze''ev Trachtman, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Amputee Osher Twito, hit by rocket two months ago, gets electric ATV from Christian group - Gift from America: Eight-year-old Osher Twito, who sustained serious wounds and lost his leg two months ago after being hit by a Qassam rocket, will be able to move around more easily now that he received a surprise gift from an evangelical group. The Christian group, Hugs for Israel, provided Twito with an electric all-terrain vehicle. Group members wanted Osher to feel that he is one of the strongest kids in his neighborhood andshow others that he is moving on with his life, the group’s founder and president, Brenda Giles, told Ynet Thursday. Giles, who lives both in Israel and in the United States, said that she turned to various Israel supporters after hearing about the injuries sustained by Osher and his older brother Rami.

Gaza: Hamas Welcomes Deployment of Arab Troops
Saleh Al Naeimi, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
The Hamas movement has announced that it welcomes the advent of Arab forces to Gaza only if the objective is to assist the Palestinian people resist the occupation and liberate their land. Commenting on what the Israeli news agencies had reported last Saturday (5 April) that Egypt had suggested deploying Arab forces in Gaza to help break the deadlock, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied that the movement had received such a proposal from the Egyptian government. Recently, there have been frequent meetings between Egyptian officials and representatives from the Palestinian factions in the city of al Arish. In his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Barhoum stressed that Egypt, or any other Arab state, would not consider deploying Arab troops in Gaza when "there is a national unity government that governs and has its security mechanisms, which it implements to the full extent. "

Olmert and Abbas Resume Meetings after Hiatus
The Jordan Times, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met for the first time in nearly two months on Monday with Palestinians cautioning that settlement expansion undercut the chances of a peace deal. Abbas’ aide Saeb Erekat described differences over building in Jewish settlements, especially around Jerusalem, as "very deep", but Israeli officials said the leaders agreed not to allow such issues to interrupt the US-brokered negotiations. Abbas last month briefly suspended the talks, which have shown little outward sign of progress, after an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip that killed more than 120 people. " The peace process has credibility that needs to be restored. The continuation of settlement activities eats up this credibility and undermines the possibility of reaching a peace agreement," Erekat said after the meeting, the first between the leaders since mid-February.

Jerusalem newspaper: Livni to transfer Atarot airport to PA
Jerusalem Post 4/10/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority negotiator Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) have agreed to transfer the Atarot airfield near Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority as part of their secret negotiations, local Jerusalem newspaper Kol Hazman reported Thursday. The paper quoted senior sources in the foreign ministry as saying that an agreement had already been reached on the matter and that Israel had given its final approval. According to the report, the decision was reached as a result of Israel’s recognition of the need to strengthen the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank in order to counterbalance Hamas’s rule in Gaza. [end]

Barghuti Says Palestinians Ready for Peace
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
Jailed senior Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti said on Tuesday Palestinians were ready for peace with Israel in a letter congratulating the Israeli Peace Now movement on its 30th anniversary. " 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," he said in a letter to the group. " We are ready for reconciliation that will grant ours and your own children a life devoid of the threats of war and bloodshed. . . to this end, we must reach a comprehensive ceasefire as soon as possible," he wrote. Peace Now on Tuesday celebrates 30 years of pressing for peace with the Palestinians and campaigning against Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Barghuti, a senior West Bank leader considered to have been the mastermind of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, was jailed in 2004 and is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in deadly attacks.

Fayyad’s government slams Nahal Oz operation
Palestinian Information Center 4/10/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The unconstitutional government of Fayyad in Ramallah, which has strong relations with the Israeli government, condemned the heroic Nahal Oz operation carried out Wednesday by the Palestinian resistance and resulted in the death of one Israeli officer, two soldiers, and the injury of many others. "While efforts being made to reach calm and end the issue of Gaza crossings which could alleviate the suffering of our people in the Strip, some parties deliberately give [Israelis] pretexts for the closure of crossings and depriving Gaza citizens from fuel supplies," an official source in the Fayyad government said. The Israeli occupation had been imposing a suffocating siege on Gaza for more than ten months and closing crossings before such operations were carried out. Israeli political sources said Wednesday that Hamas would pay dearly for the operation carried out. . .

QB to IOF troops: You will face death if you invade Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 4/10/2008
GAZA, [PIC]-- Abu Obaida, the spokesman of Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades (QB), has warned the IOF troops on Thursday that they will face death if they take the risk and invade the tiny Gaza Strip. In a press statement he issued in Gaza city and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC, Abu Obaida confirmed that the Palestinian resistance factions were well-prepared to fight the IOF troops "any time they wish". "We don’t fear our enemy as our fight with [Israeli] occupation is long and all doors are open before us in fighting the enemy", Abu Obaida asserted, adding "The accusation of the leaders of terrorism in this world against the Palestinian resistance of being terrorist adds more honor to us because we know that we are fighting for the freedom of our country and for the liberation of our people, and we are ready to pay a high price for that".

Israel says to ’settle the score’ with Hamas
Middle East Online 4/10/2008
TEL AVIV - Israel blamed Hamas on Thursday for an explosion of violence in the Gaza Strip and said it would "settle the score" with the Palestinian democratically elected movement group at a time of its choosing. "We will settle the score with Hamas which bears sole responsibility for what happened in the Gaza Strip," deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai told army radio. "We will chose the time and the place. " Israel Wednesday had started with an early morning attack on Gaza that left an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian gunman dead, prompting Gaza resistance fighters to breach the border with Israel under cover of mortar fire, killing two Israeli contractors, and moved into Israel. In all, seven Palestinians – four of whom are civilians that include a 15 year old boy - and three Israelis were killed in a day of violence.

Rice to visit Gulf states for talks aimed at stabilizing Iraq, bolstering peace talks
Lachlan Carmichael, Daily Star 4/11/2008
Agence France Presse WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Gulf Arab states this month for meetings aimed at stabilizing Iraq and bolstering the Arab-Israeli peace talks, her spokesman said Wednesday. Rice is due in Bahrain on April 21 to meet the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) composed of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. "I would expect they’d talk a lot about Iraq," spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. Rice will also discuss with her Arab counterparts "the importance of Arab states supporting" the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks launched at an international conference in the US last November. Egypt and Jordan as well as all of the GCC states - except Kuwait - were represented at the conference in Annapolis.

Approach the Israelis
Ori Nir, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
The League of Arab States has re-adopted its six-year-old peace initiative, offering comprehensive peace and normal relations with Israel by all its members in return for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, and a resolution of all outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians. This initiative is to be commended, but it has a major flaw: it is addressed to the international community at a time when the Arab League really needs to focus on the Israeli public. The initiative, reaffirmed in Damascus at the meeting of several Arab nations, was aimed at showing the world that Arabs are concerned about finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Muhammad Sobeih, the Arab League assistant secretary general for Palestinian affairs, told reporters. But any such political initiative must garner wide popular support in Israel to be successful. An element of drama – like directly addressing the Israeli public, as Egyptian president Anwar Sadat did 30 years ago – could be a transformative step.

Egypt sends troops to Gaza border
Al Jazeera 4/10/2008
Egypt has sent more than 1,000 extra troops to the border with the Gaza Strip, after Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement warned that it could be breached if Israel’s blockade of the territory continued. The reinforcements were sent to the the Rafah border crossing and the Sinai coastal city of Al-Arish on Thursday. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians streamed across the border in January after Israel stopped deliveries off fuel, food and other basic necessities. A security official said that lorries heading for the border were being stopped at the Suez Canal, in an a bid to remove the economic incentive for Palestinians to break out of Gaza and defeat Israel’s lockdown of the territory. Hundreds of central security forces have arrived at their headquarters in El-Arish, northern Sinai, and are ready to be deployed in the border town of Rafah," the official said. Reinforcements have come from Cairo and the canal city of Ismailiya.

Israel, PA: Hamas confiscates half of all fuel to Gaza Strip
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Hamas seizes half the fuel Israel sends to the Gaza Strip and uses it in part for its military wing’s vehicles, Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials said yesterday. Israel cut off the only source of fuel for Gaza’s 1. 4 million people yesterday after Wednesday’s deadly attack on the only fuel transfer point into the territory. But Israeli defense officials indicated that the cutoff would not last past the weekend. Nir Press, commander of the military liaison unit for Gaza, said Hamas takes about half the fuel transferred to the Gaza Strip. Hussein al-Sheikh, a PA official, told Haaretz that Hamas seizes some 400,000 of the 800,000 liters of diesel transferred to Gaza weekly and intended for uses such as generators, hospitals, water pumps and sewage pumps. Israeli sources said Hamas was preventing the pumping of all the fuel from the Nahal Oz depot’s reserves and funneling it to the Strip’s gas stations.

FM Livni says will save Pesach seat for abducted IDF soldiers
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday called for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers during a conference of solidarity with the soldiers in Ashdod, saying "the world must act" for their release. The minister further demanded that the "Red Cross insist on visiting them and having unconditional access to see them. This is not a political matter, but a humanitarian one. " Relatives of the missing soldiers’ attended the conference, as well diplomatic officials. The Ashdod Museum of Art is currently exhibiting paintings and illustrations in honor of Gilad Shalit’s book. Livni said it was "highly symbolic that this simple and charming story was written by Gilad Shalit, who lost his freedom after being abducted by a terrorist organization. "She also revealed that during her Passover Seder meal, she intended on saving "an empty seat for the missing sons".

Israeli authorities return body of activist involved in Nahal Oz shooting
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli authorities on Thursday morning handed over the body of a Palestinian activist affiliated who took part in Wednesday’s shooting near Nahal Oz, which left two Israeli workers dead. 23-year-old Hasan Awad was a member of the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades. Spokesperson of Islamic Jihad’s military wing the Al-Quds Brigades, Abu Ahmad said on Wednesday that he lost contact with two of the activists who conducted the operation near Nahal Oz. However, on Thursday morning, he announced that one of them had returned to the Gaza Strip and that the body of the other activist was returned by the Israeli authorities. The An-Nasser Brigades, the military wing affiliated to the Popular Resistance Committees, the Al-Mujahidin Brigades, a military group affiliated to Fatah and the military wing of Islamic Jihad,. . .

PLC condemns Arab indifference to the plight of Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 4/10/2008
GAZA, [PIC]-- Acting speaker of the PA legislature MP Dr. Ahmad Bahar has unequivocally condemned on Thursday the Arab "indifference" to the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza Strip, urging the Egyptian government to open the Rafah crossing point before them. Bahar, in this regard, regretted Egypt’s rejection to listen to calls of Palestinian children and women to open the Rafah terminal along the Egyptian border with Gaza Strip. The crossing point is the only exit that connects the 1. 5 million Palestinian citizens in the Strip with the rest of the world. "Egypt, to my regret, is negligent in helping the Palestinian people in Gaza Strip. . Fuel is no longer available, and foodstuff and medicine are barely found; yet we appealed to them (Egyptians) to save Gaza children, women, and sick people by opening the borders"¦ Gaza has no fuel but Egypt has, and she sells that fuel. . .

Swedish foreign minister visits Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – A conference to offer political support to the Palestinians is to be held in the German capital Berlin in June, according to the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt. During a press conference in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday,Bildt affirmed that the international community including the European Union supports the efforts to push forward the peace process in the Middle East. However, he said, peace can only be achieved once the Israelis and the Palestinians reach an agreement. Sweden is one of the major European donor countries who support the Palestinian people and it has support plans for the next three years, explained Bildt. He also criticized the Israelis for the annexation of more Palestinian lands for expansion of settlements emphasizing that his country is exerting pressure on the Israelis to stop the expansion.

European, N.American Christians show solidarity with Hebron’s persecuted orphans
Khalid Amayreh in Hebron, Palestinian Information Center 4/10/2008
In a conspicuous contrast to Christian Zionists who rabidly support Israeli repression of Palestinians, scores of Christian activists from Europe and North America this week arrived in this southern West Bank town  to show solidarity with the Islamic Charitable Society, Palestine’s largest charity. A few weeks ago, crack Israeli soldiers rampaged through orphanages and boarding schools affiliated with the charity,  terrorizing children, vandalizing property and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of clothes, furniture, food, and kitchen appliances as well as  cars and buses. The Israeli army campaign also targeted the Muslim Youth Association and affiliated nurseries and kindergartens catering for hundreds of poor children. In mid February,  the occupation army’s local commander issued a military decree, shutting down and confiscating. . .

State Department: Carter should not meet Hamas chief
Reuters, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Former President Jimmy Carter advised to refrain from meeting Khaled Mashaal - The US State Department said on Thursday it had advised ex-President Jimmy Carter against meeting the leader of Hamas in Syria next week, saying it went against US policy of isolating the group. Carter has in recent days discussed with the State Department’s point person on Israeli-Palestinian issues, David Welch, his plans to meet Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. " We have counseled the former president about having such a meeting," said State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, adding the advice was not to go ahead with such talks. "US government policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and we don’t believe it is in the interests of our policy or in the interests of peace to have such a meeting," he told reporters when asked about Carter’s plans.

Turkey seeks to block Knesset debate on Armenian genocide
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Turkish parliament, Hasan Murat Mercan, has asked the Prime Minister’s Bureau to cancel a scheduled discussion in the Knesset on the Armenian genocide. Mercan was in Israel this week at the head of a Turkish parliamentary delegation for talks with their Israeli counterparts. Talks included discussions on Iran, the Palestinians and Syria, but the main issue the Turkish delegation raised was an upcoming Knesset debate on the Armenian genocide. "The Armenian issue is very sensitive for Turkey," the visitors told Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turgeman, two of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s most senior aides, adding that, "We would prefer if this discussion would not take place at this time in the Israeli parliament because it may harm the relations between the two countries.

Ahmadinejad: Israel weak, collapsing
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 4/10/2008
Iranian president calls on Muslim countries to support Palestinians, slams ’Israeli crimes’ - Eternal optimist:Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that the State of Israel is weak and collapsing, Iranian news agency IRNA reported. " The time has come to see the weakness and collapse of the Zionist regime and its supporters," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying. "They are doing everything in order to save it, but they will not succeed. " In a meeting with Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, Ahmadinejad called for Muslim countries to support the Palestinians and added that "the most despicable crimes against humanity are taking place in Palestine today. " "The crudest trampling of rules is being undertaken in an inhumane manner," he said. The Iranian president has made his views on the Palestinian issue known numerous times in. . .

Secretary-General condemns terrorist attack by Palestinian militants against depot in southern Israel
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 4/9/2008
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attack today by Palestinian militants against the Nahal Oz depot in southern Israel, in which two Israeli civilian contractors working to supply fuel to the Gaza Strip were killed and others injured. He is gravely concerned at the prospect of an escalation in violence and, while recognizing Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence, deplores the reported civilian casualties among Palestinians during Israeli military operations this afternoon. The United Nations calls for the protection of all civilians in the conflict. [end]

Civil servants union official denies holding meeting with cabinet representative
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The secretary of the Palestinian civil servants union Mu’in Ansawi on Thursday denied that the union has met with the secretary general of the Palestinian cabinet Sa’di Al-Krunz or any other representative of the government. "I only met with Al-Krunz accidentally at a café, and that can’t be described as an official meeting during which the union receive directive on behalf of the Palestinian prime minister. Circulating news about the union this way reflects the government’s bad intentions" Ansawi explained. Ansawi pointed out that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has asked for a meeting with union representatives, but he stipulated that the Palestinian lawmakers reconciliation initiative should not be discussed. Fayyad wanted to sign an agreement with the union without the intervention of any other party and it is for that reason that the union refused to meet with him.

Palestinian government and civil servants union agree deal to end dispute
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Ramallah – The Palestinian government and the union of civil servants on Thursday agreed to discuss the initiative suggested by the Palestinian parliamentarian blocs regarding the current stalemate between the government and the unions, Azzam Al-Ahmad, Fatah’s speaker in the Palestinian Legislative Council PLC announced. Al-Ahmad told a press conference in Ramallah in the central West Bank that both sides in the dispute have agreed to end the current crisis. Under the deal the government will cancel all punitive measures against striking civil servants who in turn have agreed to suspend their protests, including strike action. The parties will then meet to discuss a way of reaching agreement on the union’s demands. The Palestinian Higher Judicial Council on Wednesday ruled that striking civil servants must return to work.

Artas Lettuce Festival
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 4/10/2008
Hundreds of Palestinians spent Thursday afternoon in Bethlehem’s Artas Village, surrounded by the mountains and an Italian-built monastery. The occasion was the annual "Artas Lettuce Festival. "Also on display are tradition crafts. An elderly woman cuts huge heads of lettuce from both outside and inside greenhouses. On a makeshift stage is the Governor of Bethlehem, Salah Tamari, and several other dignitaries. Speeches denounced the occupation and its measures to destroy Palestinian life. Others spoke of the persistence of the Palestinian farmer and the beauty of showcasing local goods. The elderly woman, who says she does not like to talk about politics, said that she sells her lettuce in Bethlehem, and when it’s not lettuce season she does the same with cucumbers and eggplant. This is a pesticide free zone, with organic farming practices being the norm.

Training in a war zone: Gaza’s running man
Donald Macintyre, The Independent 4/10/2008
When the athlete Nader al-Masri was allowed to leave Gaza yesterday, it marked the first step in a journey he hopes will end in Olympic glory. But others are not so lucky. - A misfired Qassam rocket recently hit his house. His Adidas running shoes are badly torn round the instep from over-use. He has been training on dusty, cratered dirt roads having been banned for the last four months from using a Qatari visa to train on purpose-built running tracks. And when a lethal clan dispute put his home town of Beit Hanoun under curfew, he was reduced to running endlessly up and down the narrow 200-metre alley next to his home. So when Nader al-Masri, the fastest distance runner in Gaza, was finally allowed yesterday by Israel to leave for the West Bank, it put him on the path to realising his 10-year-old dream of competing in the 5,000 metres at the Beijing Olympics. "I’m so happy," he said after leaving through the Erez crossing. "This feels even better than when I heard I was in the Palestinian team for Beijing.

Israel concludes civil defense drills with mock evacuation of hospital
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/11/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel wound up its largest-ever civil defense exercise on Thursday with a simulation of a chemical-weapons attack on a hospital and claimed the five days of drills worked well. In the final drill a hospital in the northern city of Afula was evacuated during a simulated chemical weapons strike, a military spokesman said. The exercise was aimed at preparing Israel for possible attacks involving conventional weapons as well as missiles equipped with chemical or bacteriological warheads. The drills, which began on Sunday "worked very well, everything worked according to what we planned. We thought we would have many more problems," said Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror. The drills also aimed to prepare the country for possible attacks by Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. The exercise raised tensions with Syria and Lebanon, but Israel insisted the drill was defensive in nature.

Four released in medicine smuggling case
Ma’an News Agency 4/10/2008
Nablus – The Palestinian magistrates court in the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday ordered the release of four men who had been accused of trading unsafe medicines after the prosecution failed to prove they were guilty. Reliable sources told Ma’an’s reporter that the court accepted an appeal by the suspects’ lawyers to release them on 2,000 Jordanian Dinars (3,000 US dollars) bail. Scientific tests revealed the medicines were safe, but some of them were smuggled from Israel. [end]

Falashmura dream of aliyah fades as deadline approaches
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
GONDAR - Walelah Alemo last saw her granddaughter four years ago. She knows the child now has an Israeli name, but she doesn’t know what it is. Alemo also doesn’t know where in Israel her son lives with his family, or what he does for a living, but says she just wants to join him and her brother and sisters who also live in Israel. Alemo is a widow raising five more unmarried children. For the past five years, the Alemo family has lived in uncertainty in this northern Ethiopian city, where they came hoping to immigrate to Israel on a permit for Falashmura. But now, two months before Israel plans to stop the Falashmura immigration, the family’s chances seem smaller than ever, along with another 12,000 Falashmura waiting in Gondar. Many say they don’t understand why they are not being allowed to move to Israel. They seem to have made peace with their situation, although they believe they will eventually get to Israel.

Charities, homes, shops, orphanages forced to close in Hebron
Palestine News Network 4/10/2008
Hebron / PNN- Israeli forces stormed Thursday morning the central market in Hebron and gave notice to Islamic charities to vacate. The direct threat is against the Islamic Charitable Society. Several shopkeepers in the central market were also told at gunpoint that they must close by Sunday. Other cars were stopped, with those inside harassed. Israeli forces also raided a number of shops in general. Amara Qasimi said,"They called upon us immediately to vacate our shops and apartments before Sunday under the pretext of orders issued by an Israeli military judge. " The operator of a sewing factory was also threatened with expulsion while it was filled with employees. It is noteworthy that Israeli forces issued a decision against the Assembly of Islamic Charities and the Muslim Youth Association more than a month ago to close.

Tycoon Gaydamak said to have made fortune in Russia-Angola deal
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
A civil lawsuit has been filed against Russian-Israeli business tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak, Channel 10 reported Thursday. The prosecutors allege that the Russian-born billionaire made his fortune from a deal worth $365 million between the governments of Russia and Angola, in which he served as mediator. The money was supposed to have been transferred to the Angolans but is reputed to have been deposited by Gaydamak into his personal bank account in Luxemburg. One of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit told Channel 10 that Gaydamak confessed to him over three years ago that the money had indeed been deposited in his own account. This also seems to have been the reason for the Angolan government’s refusal to renew the billionaire’s passport. According to the report, the sum of money transferred from the deal quickly turned into a fortune of 1.

Study: Israel leads the world in number of computers per capita
Yaron Hoffman, TheMarker, Ha’aretz 4/10/2008
Israel is ranked number one in the world in computers per capita, with seven computers for every 100 people, according to the World Economic Forum’syearly report that was released Thursday. Canada is second with 5. 26 computers for every 100 people. The United Kingdom and the United States are ranked seventh and eight, respectively. Israel was once again ranked 18th in the world in the quality of their communication networks for the fourth year in a row, which places it above the likes of Japan (19th place) and France (21st place). Denmark tops the list with the most developed communications networks in the world, followed by Sweden and Switzerland. [end]

IRAQ: "Acute shortages" in clash-hit Baghdad suburbs
IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/11/2008
Residents of Sadr City, Baghdad, are suffering acute shortages of food and medicines BAGHDAD, 10 April 2008 (IRIN) - A humanitarian crisis is looming in two sprawling Shia suburbs in Baghdad, as clashes continue between government forces (backed by US soldiers) and Shia militants, members of parliament and residents said on 10 April. "Sadr City and Shula are in a very tragic humanitarian situation as residents are suffering acute shortages of food and medicines," Iraq’s parliamentary committee on human rights said in a statement. "Just as we demand that everyone respect Iraq’s constitution and laws and the government’s authority to impose law and order, so we also demand that the government respect human rights and not neglect the humanitarian side," said committee member Amer Thamir, a MP from the eastern from Baghdad’s eastern constituency of Mashtal, in the statement.

Six Killed in US air strikes kill on Sadr City
Middle East Online 4/10/2008
Two US air strikes in Baghdad’s embattled Sadr City district on Thursday killed six people as fighting flared for a fifth straight day between Shiite militiamen and security forces, officials said. Violence in other parts of the Iraqi capital and across the country killed another eight people, among them a policeman and a soldier, security and medical officials said. An air strike mid-morning in the heart of Sadr City on a building crammed with oxygen cylinders -- which can be used to make roadside bombs -- killed two people and wounded four, the officials said. They added an earlier air raid, around midnight, killed four and wounded six near Al-Albaith mosque in the centre of Sadr City, stronghold of Shiite radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr whose Mahdi Army militiamen are fighting Iraqi and US forces. Among those killed were two brothers, both adults, according to the security officials.

US ’sabotaging’ cluster-bomb treaty
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/11/2008
BRUSSELS: A leading group working on behalf of disabled people has accused the United States of pressuring European and African countries not to join a new treaty next month banning cluster bombs. "Five weeks before the conclusion of the historic Cluster Munition Treaty, Handicap International urges states to resist the growing pressure from the US and other arms-producing countries," the group said in a statement on Wednesday. Cluster bombs are notorious for killing and maiming civilians. They contain smaller bomblets, which scatter over a wide area and can explode decades after a conflict has ended. The treaty banning the weapons is expected to be published in Dublin during an event involving almost 100 countries from May 19 to 30. "We got evidence from a number of states they have been lobbied, sometimes very aggressively, by the US," said Stan Brabant, head of the non-governmental organization’s Belgian section.

Mehdi Army truce ’will definitely be lifted’ if Sadr City siege continues
Herve Bar, Daily Star 4/11/2008
Many civilians, including women and children, have been killed By Agence France Presse - AFP - BAGHDAD: The movement of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Thursday said it was "under siege" by security forces in its Baghdad bastion and warned its militia were ready to take up arms again. "Today, 3 million inhabitants of Sadr City are under siege. They are prevented from leaving and from reaching food supplies," said Salman al-Fraiji, head of the Sadrists in the sprawling Baghdad district. "We will obey the orders of Muqtada al-Sadr but if the violence against the Iraqis continues, if the blood of Iraqis continues to be spilled, the cease-fire will definitely be lifted," he said, referring to a truce being observed by Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia since August. Residents of Sadr City, Fraiji said, are continually being targeted by US military snipers and bombed by American warplanes.

Lebanese increasingly feel inflation’s pinch
Middle East Online 4/10/2008
Loretta Beayni works 10 hours a day, six days a week in a Beirut beauty salon, earning a mere 400 dollars a month, which goes in the blink of an eye on household bills and helping out her parents. Like many Lebanese, she has a hard time making ends meet in a country where inflation is hefty and where many are forced to take on two jobs to survive. Beayni, 40, has been working at the beauty salon for 15 years, and says she manages to stay afloat largely thanks to tips. "But once I pay all my bills, I have nothing left," she says. "I haven’t purchased any new clothes for two years and even had to borrow money to buy a black outfit so I could go to my uncle’s funeral. "Last month, she was even forced to cancel a doctor’s appointment because she did not have the money. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), nearly one million Lebanese, or 28.


Gazans’ Latest Crisis: Fuel Cuts
Ibrahim Barzak, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
      Muin Abdul Ghani sleeps in his car, parked among dozens of other vehicles at a gas station, unwilling to give up his place in line in his desperate scramble for gasoline.
     It’s one way Gaza’s embattled 1.4 million residents are adjusting to their newest crisis: a protest by gas station owners who have refused to sell the small amounts they have in stock or accept future shipments after months of restricted Israeli fuel supplies.
     Gaza residents also wrestle with high black market prices and overstuffed taxis. They have turned to bicycles, liquid gas for their cars and homemade fuel recipes to try to deal with the shortage.
     Israel has restricted fuel supplies since September to pressure Palestinian militants into halting rocket fire at neighboring Israeli communities, but with no apparent results.
     "We are like street dogs looking for bones," said Abdul Ghani, a 44-year-old taxi driver, smoking by his car at a gas station in the northern Gazan town of Jebaliya. Around 200 cars, taxis, delivery trucks and farm machinery vehicles were parked there, waiting for the gas station to distribute rationed supplies. Some drivers abandoned their cars, while others sold their places in line.

Genocide announced

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/10/2008
      Bombs would fall under other circumstances, but when influential rabbis call for the total annihilation of the Palestinians the world watches without blinking.
     "All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women, infants, and even their beasts." This was the religious opinion issued one week ago by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director of the Tsomet Institute, a long-established religious institute attended by students and soldiers in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. In an article published by numerous religious Israeli newspapers two weeks ago and run by the liberal Haaretz on 26 March, Rosen asserted that there is evidence in the Torah to justify this stand. Rosen, an authority able to issue religious opinions for Jews, wrote that Palestinians are like the nation of Amalekites that attacked the Israelite tribes on their way to Jerusalem after they had fled from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. He wrote that the Lord sent down in the Torah a ruling that allowed the Jews to kill the Amalekites, and that this ruling is known in Jewish jurisprudence.
     Rosen’s article, which created a lot of noise in Israel, included the text of the ruling in the Torah: "Annihilate the Amalekites from the beginning to the end. Kill them and wrest them from their possessions. Show them no mercy. Kill continuously, one after the other. Leave no child, plant, or tree. Kill their beasts, from camels to donkeys." Rosen adds that the Amalekites are not a particular race or religion, but rather all those who hate the Jews for religious or national motives....

Occupation in fragments

Ibrahim Nawwar, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/10/2008
      Intra-Shia strife is further evidence that after five years the US occupation cannot provide stability in Iraq.
     The six-day war between the Mahdi Army militia of Moqtada Al-Sadr and Iraqi government armed forces supported by the United States in the last week of March reveals a lot about the situation in Iraq after five years of US occupation. The new political system in Iraq set up by the US is not respected enough to ensure stability. Armed groups in the country are strong enough to challenge the government in Baghdad, including its armed forces. The conflict that lasted six days in Basra, the capital of the south, and in Baghdad, has also highlighted that intra-Shia strife is a severe problem despite all US propaganda that disgruntled Sunnis are responsible for Iraq’s current instability.
     American support for the government of Nuri Al-Maliki during the conflict is clear proof that there exists a "grand deal" between the US administration and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) under Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim and the Daawa Party under Al-Maliki to divide Iraq into three federal regions: one, which is already there, for Iraqi Kurds; a second for Iraqi Shias in the southern provinces; and third for Iraqi Sunnis in the west of Iraq. Sadr has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the idea of a federal southern Iraq, as has Mohamed Al-Yaaqoubi, leader of the Fadhila Party. Many Iraqi secular political leaders, such as Iyad Allawi, and Sunni religious leader Harith Al-Dhari also oppose federalism. The fierce military confrontation in Basra and Baghdad was a culmination of tension between the two sides as members of the Mahdi Army came under heavy pressure from government- backed militias, mainly the Badr Brigades and Al-Baqir, and the Iraqi police and armed forces.

’A more private occupation’

Daniel Levy, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
      Imagine Philippe Starck and Daniel Libeskind are commissioned to design an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank - imposing exterior, breezy interior, daring splashes of light and color. Sometimes it seems this is the image being promoted by the newly privatized and civilianized checkpoints and crossings popping up in the territories. When it comes to dress codes, the drab olive of military fatigues is decidedly passe, having been replaced by the crisp uniforms of private security contractors.
     A half-dozen such terminals are operated by private companies - from Al-Jalama near Jenin, to Sha’ar Ephraim near Tul Karm, from Reihan to Tarqumiya. According to a recent Channel 10 news report, the Israel Defense Forces is planning to privatize all the checkpoints in the seam area. No more wasting soldiers’ time. The IDF is selling the idea in win-win terms: better security for Israelis,better service for the Palestinians.
     That we should still be exploring modalities for reinventing and improving the occupation, rather than ending it, after more than 40 years, is troubling enough in itself. But the decision by the state to outsource so basic a national security function with barely an eyebrow raised or question asked, will likely prove, in time, another example of how what we sow in the territories we later reap back home.

We Need Real Peace, Not a Shelved Piece of Paper

Walid Awad, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
      Unconfirmed reports circulating in the media say that Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is now busy with Palestinians drafting a preamble to a comprehensive peace agreement, a sort of another “declaration of principles”. A shelved document that will spell out all the core issues, and be adopted by the Quartet, the Security Council, and “moderate” Arab countries, to be signed by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, witnessed and co-signed by President George W. Bush in West Jerusalem during his visit to Israel next month.
     Many recent statements made by American, Palestinian, and Israeli leaders point to a framework agreement being worked out ready for signing in the not too distant future. Therefore, one should not be surprised by the emergence of yet another “Declaration of Principles”. The fact is, such a document will serve many purposes, not necessarily to the advantage of the Palestinian people. Signing another DOP, the implementation of which will be deferred to some future date, will give Israel the time it needs to change realities on the ground. Bear in mind that immediately after the signing of the first DOP in Oslo in 1993, Israel built more Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory than ever before. Furthermore, most of the so-called bypass roads in the West Bank were built in the same period.

State recycles promise to remove dozens of roadblocks in the West Bank

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/11/2008
      More than half of the roadblocks Israel committed to lifting as part of the first stage of measures meant to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank are temporary obstacles that the state had promised the High Court a month ago to remove.
     On March 11, the state promised to lift 27 dirt obstacles that were used to "separate" the northern West Bank from other parts of the territories, following the February terrorist attack in Dimona, and as a check on the potential movement of cars laden with explosives.
     These roadblocks did not appear on the official map of United Nation’s OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) from last December.
     Responding to a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the heads of Palestinian villages in the area, the state attorney’s office said that the orders concerning the movement of Palestinians (which prevented males aged 16-35 from the area of Jenin to exit the area) had expired, and that temporary extensions were issued on February 12 and 20. This was the state’s argument for asking the court to reject the petition against the original restrictions.

More hopeless talks

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/10/2008
      As Israel engages in nationwide defence drills, Abbas is told that settlement expansion will continue, reports from RamallahIsraeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held another round of talks in West Jerusalem 7 April. Like numerous previous meetings, however, the latest encounter yielded no substantive results towards a breakthrough in Palestinian- Israeli peacemaking.
     According to Israeli press sources, the two leaders were updated on "secret talks" being held by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei on final status issues such as Jerusalem, the right of return, Jewish settlements and the borders of a prospective Palestinian entity in the West Bank.
     During the meeting, which lasted for three hours, Olmert and Abbas agreed to hold biweekly meetings and keep up the "secret talks channel" in the hope of reaching a peace agreement before the end of 2008.
     Mark Regev, a senior Israeli spokesman, was quoted as saying that, "it was agreed that despite concerns that both parties have regarding issues on the ground, negotiations will continue with the goal of reaching a historic agreement by the end of the year."

The Palestinians are Under Inner and Outer Siege

Bassem Eid, MIFTAH 4/10/2008
      Before Oslo, Palestinians primarily desired unity and an end to the occupation. But as soon as the first intifada began to fade, divisions among Palestinians emerged. Throughout the Oslo years, these rifts continued to widen. While scores of Palestinians took to the streets, armed with stones and kitchen appliances, during the first intifada, the present uprising is increasingly characterized by the deadly firepower of small arms.
     In December 2002, then Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas warned of the increased use of weapons - an evolution that he hoped to reverse. His short-lived government was ill-equipped to tackle the problem, and his successor, Ahmed Qurei, proved no more capable of confronting the weapons chaos in the region. The failure to reach a substantive and acceptable peace agreement has given rise to strong feelings of betrayal and futility. As a result of these internal divisions, Palestinians also turn their aggression and feelings of futility against fellow Palestinians.

Israel puts freedom of expression under ‘house arrest’

Amy Teibel - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 4/10/2008
      Israel put seven employees of a pro-peace radio station under house arrest Wednesday, two days after police raided the station’s Jerusalem office and seized its transmission equipment, the station said.
     The English-language station, RAM-FM, is headquartered in the West Bank city of Ramallah, with operations in Jerusalem. It plays Western music and tries to bring Israelis and Palestinians together through its broadcasts.
     Israeli police raided RAM-FM’s Jerusalem office Monday, saying the station was broadcasting without a license. Employees detained during the raid were jailed overnight and released Tuesday.
     The station said the seven were placed under house arrest Wednesday for one week and forbidden to speak to anyone but their families. For the eight days after that, they’ll be allowed to leave their homes, but won’t be able to go to work or contact other station employees, news editor Xolani Gwala said.

UNICEF: Distance yourself from tainted money

Open letter, The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, Electronic Intifada 4/9/2008
      The following is an open letter dated 9 April 2008 from the Palestinian Boycott Campaign’s National Committee to Executive Director of UNICEF Ann Vennemen:
     Dear Ms. Venneman:
     In response to a letter authored by human rights activists in New York, calling upon [UN agency for children] UNICEF to refrain from accepting any contributions from Mr. Lev Leviev, Israeli diamond tycoon and developer of illegal Israeli settlements, due to his "unlawful and unethical activities," UNICEF asserted that: "where UNICEF is the beneficiary of events that are organized by approved partners, UNICEF does not, as a matter of course, conduct diligence on sponsors or advertisers identified by those partners." The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign’s National Committee (BNC) finds this defense morally and politically problematic, if not untenable.
     Would UNICEF have accepted indirect donations from a South African businessman involved in illegal and racist activity during the apartheid era? Would UNICEF accept, even now, indirect financial support from a company that is proven to be complicit in violations of international humanitarian law in Darfur, occupied Iraq or Colombia?

Barely half the story

Ramzy Baroud, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/10/2008
      When it comes to Iraq, reporters appear intent on omitting or fabricating news.
     The latest battles in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city and a vital oil seaport, furnished ample instances of misleading and manipulative practice in corporate journalism today. One commonly used tactic is to describe events using self-styled or "official" terminology, which deliberately confuses the reader by giving no real indication or analysis of what is actually happening.
     Regardless of the outcome of the fighting that commenced upon the Iraqi army’s march to Basra 24 March, and which proved disastrous for Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, we have been repeatedly "informed" of highly questionable assumptions. Most prominent amongst them is that the "firebrand" and "radical" Moqtada Al-Sadr -- leader of the millions-strong Shia Sadr Movement -- led a group of "renegades", "thugs" and "criminals" to terrorise the strategically important city. Naturally, Al-Maliki is portrayed as the exact opposite of Al-Sadr. When the former descended on Basra with his 40,000-strong US- trained and equipped legions, we were circuitously told that the long-awaited move was cause for celebration. The media also suggested we had no reason to doubt Al-Maliki’s intentions when he promised to restore "law and order" and "cleanse" the city, or to question his determination when he described the Basra crusade as "a fight to the end". If anyone was still unsure of Al-Maliki’s noble objectives they could be reassured by the Bush administration’s repeated verbal backings, one of which described the Basra battle as "a defining moment".