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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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13 April 2008


7 hurt as IAF hits Gaza home of militant behind Nahal Oz attack
Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, and Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Seven Palestinians were wounded Sunday evening in an Israel Air Force strike that partially destroyed the house of a senior militant in the Gaza Strip, local militant group said. The house belonged to Abu Haled Shigazi, of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, who was allegedly behind a recent cross-border raid which left two Israeli civilians dead at a fuel depot in Nahal Oz, near the Gaza border. Witnesses said Shigazi managed to escape without injury. One of the casualties in the attack was seriously hurt and the others were sustained light to moderate wounds. Earlier Sunday, at least three Hamas militants were killed and four wounded in an explosion in the Gaza Strip, the militant group and Palestinian medical workers said. A source in the defense establishment said the incident was due to an internal Palestinian affair.

Shin Bet admits to using relatives to pressure detainees
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 4/13/2008
’Interrogation method flawed and inconsistent with the agency’s regulations,’ top security official tells Knesset committee. MK Gal-On: In a democratic state, not everything is allowed even during times of war - Responding to claims that the Shin Bet is exerting severe and illegal pressure on the family members of Palestinians detainees in the course of investigations against them in an attempt to extract confessions, the head of the General Security Service’s investigations branch said Sunday that "things could have been done differently". Speaking at special meeting convened by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on the heels of a report released by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Shin Bet official said that in at least one case the interrogation method was flawed and inconsistent with the agency’s regulations. -- See also: PCATI Report

Part of Palestinian house in Jerusalem caves in due to Israeli excavations
Palestinian Information Center 4/13/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Palestinian local sources reported that a huge part of a Palestinian house belonging to the Osaila family in Occupied Jerusalem collapsed Thursday as a result of the ongoing Israeli excavations below Palestinian houses located in the old city. A member of the family explained that after the collapse, young men headed to the entrance of the tunnel in the Buraq square to check out the sources of workers’ voices heard coming from below the collapsed area in the house, and discovered the existence of large areas of tunnels and excavations under Jerusalemite houses. According to eyewitnesses, the height of the tunnel which passes under many houses including the Osaila’s is about seven meters. One the Palestinian young men described the place under houses, saying: "I saw a city under the houses full of tunnels and wide yards. . . "

Effects of fuel cuts in Gaza on education
Palestine News Network 4/13/2008
The Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education is in despair and sent the following. "The world stands witness today to one of the most terrific cases of racial discrimination in its history. 1. 5 million people live under siege and are unable to travel or get proper supplies of food and medicine. "The people of Gaza live under gunfire, bombardments and incursions which spare no children, women or the elderly. Above all this, we see empty streets with no cars or even ambulances to carry the wounded. "This barbaric siege has affected all aspects of human life; basic services, health, municipalities, and finally education. The siege has had a grave effect on education manifesting itself in scarcity of fuel for electrical power stations and therefore students are not able to carry out schoolexperiments, study hours are being cut down due to the lack of light. . . "

ISRAEL: New report says poor giving up on nutritious food
Shabtai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/13/2008
Mahane Yehuda market in west Jerusalem. A new report says 34 percent of Israeli citizens cannot afford to buy vegetablesand other nutritious foods - TEL AVIV, 13 April 2008 (IRIN) - A new Israeli government report has said a third of the population has stopped buying vital nutritious food and is using any spare cash to pay for such things as utility bills. The Ministry of Welfare, based on information from Israel’s National Insurance Institute (NII), one of the backbones of the state’s welfare system, released a poverty report on 1 April showing that 34 percent of citizens no longer bought vegetables and other nutritious foods, as their priority was to pay bills such as rent and electricity. The report, in Hebrew only, is entitled The Inter-Ministerial Committee for Examining the Responsibility of the State for Ensuring the Food Security of its Citizens, and the NII data. . .

Palestinian gunmen attack top Abbas aide in West Bank
Reuters, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Car of Nablus governor Jamal al-Mouhsen shot at in Balata refugee camp; one of his bodyguards slightly wounded - Palestinian gunmen attacked and destroyed the car of a close confidant ofPalestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, although the identity and motive of the attackers was not immediately clear. Local eyewitnesses said gunmen shot at the car of Nablus governor Jamal al-Mouhsen when he travelled in the Balata refugee camp in the city. He was not hurt in the attack, although one of his bodyguards was slightly wounded. An elite Palestinian force later extricated Mouhsen and his entourage from a house in which they sought refuge in the Balata camp, but the attackers later set about the governor’s car and torched it. A senior security official who declined to be named said Mouhsen, a top figure in Abbas’ secular Fatah faction which holds sway. . .

Worst year under occupation: 2008 1st quarter report on IOF violations of human rights in the Gaza Strip
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, ReliefWeb 3/31/2008
The outcome of Al Mezan’s monitoring and documenting finds that the first quartet of 2008 saw an unprecedented escalation in human rights violations in the Gaza Strip. This escalation is principally caused by a serious increase in the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) systematic breaches of human rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the Gaza Strip (Gaza). According to the information collected by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, there was a large increase in the number of victims during the first quarter of 2008 to the extent that it exceeded the total number of people killed during some of the previous Intifada years. Also, the tightening siege has destroyed the economy of Gaza and doubled the number of poor and unemployed, reaching unprecedented levels not before witnessed in the history of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Israeli Public Committee Against Torture: Israeli methods against Palestinians contravene law
Yoav Loeff, Palestine News Network 4/13/2008
The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) report published today reveals the cruel practice of the prohibited and illegal exploitation of family members to pressure of those being interrogated and force them to confess. In an extraordinary move, the report will be launched and discussed today at 1:30 PM in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Committee Chairman, Professor Menachem Ben Sasson, demanded that the GSS submit its reaction to the report for consideration by the Committee. The illegal exploitation of family members, who, in most instances, are not suspects themselves, has on many occasions caused severe psychological suffering to interrogees and to their innocent relatives. In more extreme cases, this method takes the form of psychological torture of a detainee rendering him a victim of a cruel psychological manipulation via the illegal exploitation of a close relative.

Shin Bet admits using relatives to pressure jailed Palestinians
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
The Shin Bet security services on Sunday admitted to arresting relatives of individuals under interrogation to extract confessions from the prisoners. The head of the Shin Bet’s interrogration department told the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee: "Certainly we used this method, but only on one occasion. The admission was in a response to a report submitted to the committee on Sunday by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. The group alleged in its report that the Shin Bet makes unjustified arrests of family members, or creates the pretense of such arrests to pressure suspects. The report further states that such methods are used against individuals who are already subjected to severe physical torture. In at least one case, the report states that the pressure led to suicide attempts by the individual under interrogation.

Israeli military trials impose ’charade’ of justice on Palestinian children
Patrick Moser, Daily Star 4/14/2008
Agence France Presse - OFER MILITARY CAMP, Occupied West Bank: Mohammad, 14, barely glanced at the Israeli military judge as he was led shuffling into the cramped courtroom, his legs in shackles. The Palestinian boy had eyes only for his father, and mouthed the traditional Arabic greeting "salaam aleikum" -peace be upon you. Seven minutes later he was sentenced to four months in an Israeli prison. The prosecutor claimed the boy had hurled rocks at a watchtower and at Israel’s separation barrier in the Occupied West Bank. Upon his attorney’s advice, the boy pleaded guilty to avoid spending even more time behind bars. Human rights groups say Mohammad’s case is typical for child offenders under the military law Israel imposes on the Palestinian territory. As of March 31, 324 Palestinian children were held in Israeli prisons, according to the Geneva-based. . .

Top IDF officer narrowly escapes Gaza mortar barrage
Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 4/13/2008
The Israel Defense Forces’ top officer in the south on Sunday narrowly escaped being hit by a salvo of mortar shells fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. Mortars landed only meters away from GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant, who was on a tour of Sderot and kibbutz Nir Oz. The mortar strike caused neither casualties nor property damage. Galant was accompanied on the tour by Haim Yalin, the head of Eshkol Regional Council. Yalin told Haaretz that, "during the tour a salvo of three mortar shells was fired, which struck 20 meters away from us. " Yalim said the group came to the site in order to coordinate military activities in the agricultural areas of Kibbutzim Ein Hashlosha, Nir Oz and Nirim, all of which border on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas fighters claim responsibility for shelling senior Israeli military officer’s patrol
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian fighters fired mortar shells at a group of senior Israeli military officials who were touring Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. Israeli media reported that three mortar shells landed near the entourage of Israeli Southern Command Chief Yoav Galant and other officers. One shell reportedly landed less than 20 meters away from Galant and his group. The touring officials took cover in portable shelters. No injuries were reported. Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing five mortar shells at Israeli vehicles stationed east of the city of Khan Younis. The Al-Qassam Brigades said the shelling was a response to "ugly Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians people and the crippling siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. "

Israeli forces invade Jenin, raid Palestinian houses
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the northern West Bank city of Jenin, neighboring Jenin refugee camp, and two nearby villages on Sunday morning, witnesses said. Israeli troops ransacked home of Afif Jalilin Jenin refugee camp, looking for his son Zakariyya, who is wanted by the Israeli intelligence services. The soldiers forced the Jalil family and their neighbors into the street while Israeli troops searched their homes interrogated them. Other witnesses said that Israeli troops stormed the villages of Zububa and Rummana, conducting house-to-house searches. Separately, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, said their fighters fired at an Israeli patrol that was setting up a checkpoint at the entrance of the village of Misliya, near Jenin.

Israeli forces lay siege to West Bank village
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli forces sealed all entrances to the West Bank village of Beita, south of the city of Nablus, with massive piles of dirt and rocks on Sunday night, witnesses said. Residents of the village told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers are imprisoning residents inside the village. Israeli soldiers are keeping watch at all the roads and dirt tracks out of the village, ensuring that no one leaves. Hours before the closure, an Israeli settler’s car came under fire on a road near Beita. [end]

Israeli forces raid Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - More than 16 Israeli military vehicles raided areas around the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday evening, witnesses said. Witnesses also reported seeing Israeli undercover forces in a Palestinian-plated car in Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus. Israeli troops stationed themselves in several areas in Balata and in the city of Nablus. Palestinian security sources say Israel is expected to launch a large-scale incursion into Nablus soon. [end]

Israeli settlers invade Palestinians’ fields near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in fields near the village of Tal, west of the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, witnesses said. Umar Shtayya, the chair of the village’s local council, said that more than 40 heavily-armed settlers from the Gilad colony invaded the fields, firing in the air and throwing stones at passersby. Settlers from Gilad also attacked Palestinians’ fields last week, uprooting their trees, Shtayya said. [end]

Israeli forces seize two Palestinians near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli forces on Sunday seized two Palestinians from Al-Jalazun refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Israeli sources said. The two Palestinians were taken to interrogation centers. [end]

Gaza: 7 injured in IDF strike
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Palestinian sources say senior al-Aqsa Brigades commander escapes missile attack on his home; at least two Hamas gunmen killed in apparent ’work accident’ - Seven Palestinians were injured Sunday evening during two successive Israeli Air Force strikes that targeted the Gaza home of Abu Haled Shigazi, one the commanders of Fatah’s armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The IDF confirmed launching an attack on a target in the northern Strip. The Palestinians said Shigazi and a senior Islamic Jihad member who was visiting him escaped the missile attack on the home unharmed. Three of those injured in the attack were reportedly in moderate to serious condition. Despite the ongoing strife with Hamas, the al-Aqsa Brigades is occasionally involved in the launching of mortars and rockets toward Israel, and its gunmen have placed explosive devices. . .

Israeli forces invade northern Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli tanks, jeeps, and bulldozers entered the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalia on Sunday morning amid heavy gunfire, witnesses said. Sources on the ground in Jabalia said Israeli ground forces, with helicopters overhead, had crossed at least 500 meters past the border wall into the Gaza Strip. This is an ongoing incursion. [end]

Israeli forces and armed resistance fight in Gaza, several injuries
Palestine News Network 4/13/2008
Gaza / PNN - Palestinian eyewitnesses report that the Israeli army launched a morning attack on the town of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, just hours after Israeli incursions in the east of the town. According to medical sources there are of a number of wounded. The Palestinian armed factions claimed responsibility for firing on Sunday morning at a number of towns and Israeli military sites adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The Al Aqsa Brigades, armed resistance wing affiliated with Fateh, claimed responsibility for launching two projectiles at Sderot. Others in the group fought with Israeli forces east of Beit Hanoun, further north in the Strip. In the same context, the leftist Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed resistance wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, claimed responsibility for launching two projectiles at Sderot and the western Negev.

Israeli police attempting to remove settlement outpost near Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli police have been attempting to remove a settler’s hut build illegally on land belonging to the West Bank town of Al-Khadr, south of the city of Bethlehem, on Sunday. Dozens of Israeli settlers converged around the hut, attempting to block a planned demolition, Israeli sources reported. Israeli authorities ordered the structure destroyed because they feared that Palestinian fighters could use it as a hiding place or a position from which to fire on other settlements in the massive Etzion Bloc near Bethlehem. [end]

Palestinian military groups engage Israeli forces in Gaza, fire projectiles
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The military wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades said on Saturday evening that their fighters clashed with an undercover Israeli force that infliltrated Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. They explained in a statement that an undercover Israeli force was discovered after it entered the Al-Farta area, east of Beit Hanoun. Separately the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday morning for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot, bordering Beit Hanoun. [end]

Palestinian governor of Nablus attacked on visit to Balata camp
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/13/2008
Witnesses and security officers say the Palestinian governor of the Nablus region got a hot welcome when he visited a refugee camp next to the city. They say Palestinians opened fire on the official’s car, wounding four people. The governor, whose name is Jamal Muhaisen, ran into a house in the Balata camp to take cover. Palestinian police whisked him out of the camp, but not before residents of the camp set his car on fire. After the incident Sunday, Palestinian security officers could not say who the attackers were. The Balata camp is known as a stronghold of the Islamic Hamas, and the governor is from Fatah, led by moderate President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas overran the Gaza Strip last summer, leaving Fatah in power in the West Bank.

What’s up, Doc? Carrot crops grow costly in face of Gaza fire
Fadi Eyadat and Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Farmers at the kibbutzim Nir Oz and Ein Hashlosha in the western Negev are considering changing the type of crops they grow near the border with the Gaza Strip because the carrots, potatoes, peanuts and wheat already there require a lot of work - and that means sending soldiers and tanks to guard the workers from cross-border attacks, adding an element of risk and cost that kibbutz officials think may no longer be worthwhile. "Working near the fence costs a lot more money," said Moshe David, who is in charge of the produce grown at Nir Oz. "Going out into the field is an entire operation every time. It’s soldiers and tanks for security. It’s more personnel. When I take workers out to the field, I bring out an additional tractor with them to protect the workers from gunfire, it’s flak jackets and helmets for the workers, it’s added danger.

Three Palestinians killed in explosion in Jabalia refugee camp
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Three Palestinians were killed and two others injured on Sunday in an explosion in Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Sources in the Interior Ministry of the Hamas-led de facto government said the explosion was "internal," and not related to any fighting. Ma’an learned that the explosion was at home of Hamas fighter Hasan Al-Mutawwaq who was assassinated by Israeli forces. Director of the Kamal Udwan Hospital, Bassam Abu Warda, said that at least two of the men suffered severe burns. The two injured Palestinians were also treated at Kamal Udwan. Hamas identified one of the victims as 15-year-old Hussain Al-Mutawwaq. ***Updated at 15:41 Bethlehem time

VIDEO - News / Shin Bet admits to using terror suspects’ relatives to extract confessions
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for April 13, 2008. The Shin Bet security service admits to using relatives of terror suspects to extract confessions. Former U. S. President Jimmy Carter arrives in Israel. A mother from Netivot is charged with having sexual relations with her two young sons. [end]

IDF probing why Palestinians were held 16 hours at checkpoint
Aiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
The Israel Defense Forces has opened an investigation into allegations that 46 Palestinians were detained for no reason at a West Bank checkpoint for 16 hours last week, and their car tires punctured. The human rights group MachsomWatch (which overlooks IDF activity at checkpoints) filed a complaint about the incident with the army. According to a MachsomWatch report, IDF troops at the checkpoint, located along Highway 5, stopped the Palestinian job-seekers, males aged between 14 and 50, on suspicion of trying to enter Israel along with five drivers suspected of ferrying illegals. The Palestinians were detained early in the morning, and kept standing for hours, on the grounds that "when they sit down they make trouble. "They were barred from using the restrooms adjacent to the checkpoint, compelling them to use the thorny field, in plain view of those passing through the checkpoint.

56 MKs sign petition calling to raze home of Mercaz Harav gunman
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Fifty-six members of Knesset on Sunday signed on to a petition calling to demolish the home of a Palestinian gunman who killed eight students at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva last months. The petition was submitted to Public Security Minister Avi Dichter by David Eldar, whose brother Yehonatan was killed in the attack. The petition was signed by coalition members, including Ministers Ya’akov Edrey and members of the Shas party. Dichter himself said that while he was in favor of demolishing the house, ultimately the decision was the Israel Defense Forces’ and subject to legal proceedings. In a meeting with the parents of five of the victims, Dichter said he destroying the home would serve as a deterrent force. The attacker, East Jerusalem resident Ala Abu Dhaim, walked into the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem in early March and began firing.

56 MKs ask Dichter to demolish Mercaz Harav terrorist’s Jerusalem home
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 4/13/2008
’Destroying the terrorist’s house is an act of deterrence,’ internal security minister says - Fifty-six Knesset members submitted on Sunday a letter to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter in which they call on him to work to demolish the home of the terrorist who carried out last month’s attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, which left eight students dead. The terrorist’s house is located in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Earlier Dichter met with the victims’ family members, who also asked that he work to have the house razed. Dichter told the relatives that he was one of the first to support the demolition, explaining the legal processes such a move entails. "I believe that destroying the terrorist’s house is an act of deterrence, but the legal aspect will determine whether this will happen," he said.

Gaza health ministry issues urgent appeals to humanitarian organizations
Palestinian Information Center 4/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The health ministry in Gaza issued Sunday an urgent appeal to all humanitarian organizations to move rapidly to stop what it termed as a "criminal series" in Gaza, holding the international community fully responsible after it preferred to step aside and remain silent watching the Israeli crimes committed everyday against the Palestinian people. In a press statement received by the PIC, the ministry stated that ambulance service stopped transferring injuries and patients after fuel supplies were depleted and Palestinian doctors are unable to reach their work places because of lack of sufficient transport means, while patients in hospitals are surrounded by the specter of death. Gaza hospital suffer from sever shortage of all types of blood units because of the increasing numbers of Palestinians wounded by the ongoing Israeli aggression in addition to average patients who are hospitalized everyday.

PA official: Olmert won’t commit to Cairo proposal for Gaza truce
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has refused to commit to an Egyptian initiative for an unofficial cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said following unexpected talks between the prime minister and Palestian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday in Jerusalem. Olmert and Abbas got together for surprise talks in Jerusalem on Sunday, just days before the Palestinian leader was scheduled to set off for Washington to meet U. S. officials. Erekat said Abbas asked Olmert to agree to the Egyptian proposa; to arrange an unofficial truce, but that Olmert would not make any commitments on the matter. Israel refuses to deal with Hamas. An Israeli official said Abbas and Olmert - who met just a week ago - would coordinate peace moves before Abbas’ trip.

Erekat: Abbas asked Olmert to accept Egyptian initiative for Gaza truce
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Palestinian president arrives at prime minister’s residence for second time in one week, following previous agreement to meet before Abbas leaves for Washington. White House’s national security advisor to visit region on Wednesday in bid to speed up negotiations - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Sunday evening for the second time in one week, following a previous agreement between the two leaders to meet before Abbas leaves for Washington. The meeting was kept a secret till now as per the Palestinians’ request. The tête-à-tête meeting began at around 5:30 pm at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and lasted for about an hour. The two leaders discussed different issues raised in the diplomatic negotiations between the two sides, which will be presented to US President George W.

Olmert reportedly calls for halt of projectile fire in ceasefire proposal
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has outlined his conditions for a ceasefire with Palestinian military groups in the Gaza Strip, the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan reported on Sunday. According to Al-Watan’s Palestinian sources, Olmert’s demands are:First: Hamas should stop launching projectiles from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli targets. Hamas should prevent other Palestinian military groups from firing such projectiles. Second: Hamas and other Palestinian military groups should stop manufacturing projectiles. This ban should be monitored to make sure there are no violations. Third: Hamas should stop smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. According to the anonymous sources, these conditions must be met before Olmert will agree to a ceasefire with Hamas and the other factions in Gaza.

Erekat urges Egypt to broker ceasefire in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, announced on Sunday that he asked Egypt to press forward with efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian military organizations in the Gaza Strip. Erekat said he made the request during a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit and Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Sulaiman. Erekat also met with the Arab League’s secretary general, Amr Mousa. After that meeting he said that a ceasefire could help protect the Palestinian people. He also appealed to all Palestinian military groups to cooperate with Egypt’s diplomatic efforts in order to to avoid the disaster of another major Israeli incursion in Gaza. Erekat also asked Hamas to comply with a Yemeni-backed agreement signed in March that calls for the resumption of direct talks between Hamas and Fatah.

Defense panel chief: Terror attacks endanger Gaza fuel supply
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 4/13/2008
Senior government officials said Sunday that the fuel terminal between Israel and the Gaza Strip would remain closed only for the duration of an investigation into a deadly terror attack at the site last week, but warned that ongoing attacks on Israelis would endanger the continued delivery of fuel into Gaza. Two civilian workers were killed Wednesday when terrorists from Gaza infiltrated the Nahal Oz fuel terminal and opened fire. Two of the terrorists were killed by Israeli security forces, and the others fled back into the Strip. MK Tzachi Hangebi, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Army Radio on Sunday morning that attacks would lead to the closure of the fuel terminal. "Whoever fired on the terminal must not think it will remain open without limits," he said.

Minister: Hamas an assailant posing as a victim
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Government members express their rage over Palestinians’ claims that Israel has cut off fuel supply to Gaza, causing a humanitarian crisis - Government ministers on Sunday slammed Hamas’ claims that Israel was causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza by cutting off fuel supplies to the Strip. " Hamas shamelessly carried out a terror attack and murdered those operating the fuel terminal, and then dares to cry out that ’there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. ’ This is a lie, this is an assailant posing as a victim," Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Boim (Kadima) said before the weekly cabinet meeting. Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) noted that "there is no crisis in Gaza. The crisis is false. "He added, "This is a Hamas lie aimed at creating international pressure. . . "

Palestinians, internationals and P.A. Minister gather in Al-Aqaba to protest Israeli demolition orders
International Solidarity Movement 4/13/2008
Tubas Region - Photos - Palestinian and international activists from Ramallah, Budrus, Bil’in, Al-Khader, Um Salamona and Jenin gathered in the village of Al-Aqaba in the Jordan Valley on Saturday to express solidarity with the villagers in their effort to maintain their presence in spite of Israel’s attempt to wipe their village off the face of the map. Also joining the gathering were Palestinian Minister of Tourism, Ms. Khuloud Daibis, representing the Palestinian Authority Cabinet of Ministers and the Governor of Tubas, Dr. Sami Musallem. Israeli activists were invited and attempted to join but were prevented by Israeli soldiers at the Tayasir checkpoint from entering the village. Upon arrival, activists gathered under the almond tree that serves as the office of the local village council. The head of Al-Aqaba’s village council, Haj Sami Sadeq, welcomed everyone, thanked them. . .

Abbas, Olmert meet for new round of hastily arranged talks
Joseph Krauss, Daily Star 4/14/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Occupied Jerusalem on Sunday for talks which were announced only at the last minute less than a week after the two last met. Olmert and Abbas met one-on-one Sunday afternoon at the premier’s residence to continue their discussions toward a peace agreement which the two hope to ink before US President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009. They last met Monday for the first time in more than seven weeks after Abbas suspended contacts following a massive Israeli blitz on Gaza in late February that killed upward of 130 Palestinians, half of them civilians. The two agreed last week to meet secretly before Abbas heads to Moscow and then to Washington, where he will meet Bush, an Israeli official told AFP.

Carter ’quite at ease’ about meeting Hamas’ Mashaal
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Former US president arrives in Israel as part of week-long Mideast tour, defends his scheduled Damascus meeting with Hamas leader. ’It’s very important that at least someone meet with the Hamas leaders to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel and cooperate with Fatah,’ he says - Former US president Jimmy Carter, who arrived in Israel Sunday as part of a ’study mission’ that runs until April 21, met with the parents of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. Carter met earlier with President Shimon Peres shortly after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. The president criticized Carter’s plans to meet with exiled Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in Damascus this weekend. Following reports of the scheduled talks with Mashaal, Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not meet with Carter due to what the Likud chairman’s associate

Cool welcome for Carter in Jerusalem
Haaretz Staff and Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
President Shimon Peres accused former U. S. president Jimmy Carter of causing significant damage to Israel and the peace process in recent years, during a meeting between the two men yesterday at the President’s Residence, officials at the residence said. Peres criticized Carter for comparing Israeli policies to apartheid in his hotly debated recent book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," according to the officials. He also said it would be a mistake for Carter to carry through with his plans to meet with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus, saying Meshal is responsible for Hamas’ violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. Members of the press were not invited to the meeting. Ahead of his Mideast trip, Carter defended his reasons for wanting to engage Hamas. "I think there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process. . . "

Carter: ’Israel must talk to everyone’
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Former United States president Jimmy Carter, who arrived in Israel yesterday, rejects the criticism he’s been subjected to over his planned meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal. According to Carter, peace cannot be achieved without talking to all the relevant people, and he will use the meeting to promote efforts to release Gilad Shalit and to uncover the fate of soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Carter told Haaretz yesterday in an exclusive interview that he intends to check Meshal’s willingness to accept the Arab League peace initiative. Carter says that acceptance of this plan by Hamas would be a very positive step. Carter said ignoring a large segment of the Palestinian people would make it impossible to achieve peace. Carter also said no one from the U. S. State Department had tried to dissuade him from holding the meetings, and that they were aware of his schedule.

Carter kicks off Mideast trip, defends plans to meet Hamas
Ron Bousso, Daily Star 4/14/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Former US President Jimmy Carter on Sunday defended his plan to meet with Hamas leaders as he kicked off a trip to the Middle East, amid criticism from Washington and Israel. Carter, who reportedly plans to meet exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Syria, said he viewed Hamas’ inclusion in peace talks as "very important" and stressed he was not traveling as an official US negotiator. "It’s very important that at least someone meet with the Hamas leaders to express their views, to ascertain what flexibility they have, to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel and to cooperate with e Fatah as a group that unites the Palestinians," Carter told ABC news. "There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door. . .

Noam Shalit: The fact that Carter isn’t pro-Israel may be beneficial
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Noam Shalit, the father of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit who was captured by Hamas in June 2006, said Sunday after meeting with former U. S. president Jimmy Carter that the fact that Carter is not considered pro-Israel could be beneficial in securing his son’s release. "This could help him reach certain people and raise certain ideas that may be received with suspicion coming from someone more pro-Israel," Shalit said after the Jerusalem meeting, Army Radio reported. Rumors had been circulating over recent weeks that Carter was planning to meet with Damascus-based Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal as he travels to Syria later in the week. Shalit met with the former president in hopes that the latter may be able to help secure the captive soldier’s freedom, perhaps at his meeting with Hamas leaders.

Noam Shalit: Carter’s anti-Israeli stance helpful
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Kidnapped soldier’s parents meet with former US president as part of his Middle East tour. Carter scheduled to meet with Hamas leader Mashaal over weekend, plans to discuss Shalit’s situation - Following his meeting with former US president Jimmy Carter, kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit, told Ynet "the fact that Carter is not considered pro-Israeli, as American tradition dictates, could make it easier for him to meet with certain officials and raise ideas that would be subject to distrust had they come from others’ mouths. "Carter is scheduled to meet Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus over the weekend, and he has requested to assist in the process of Shalit’s release. The meeting between Carter and Shalit, which included both Shalit’s and Carter’s wives, took place at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Mashaal: Palestinian ’baby making machine’ never stops
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/13/2008
In his daughter’s wedding, Hamas’ political leader urges couple to create new ’generation of liberation’ - "The Palestinian reproduction machine works 24 hours a day," Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashaal declared this week during his daughter’s wedding in Syria. London-based newspaper al-Hayat reported extensively Sunday on the wedding of Mashaal’s daughter, Fatma to Tarek Irshid, a Palestinian residing in Syria. The event, which was schedule to take place in Damascus, was moved to a secret location at the last minute due to security concerns. The wedding was reportedly attended by many high-ranking Syrian officials, including Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, senior army officers, head of the Palestinian factions residing in Damascus, Islamic Jihad head Ramadan Salah and Arab countries’ ambassadors.

At the wedding of a Hamas leader’s daughter, jokes and political oratory
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Fatima Mash’al, the daughter of exiled senior Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al, was married in Damascus, Syria on Saturday. The wedding party, attended by Palestinian, Arab, and other leaders, became a forum for political oratory, the Al-Hayat newspaper reported. Among the subjects the leaders addressed: demographic warfare. "This marriage means to me that the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their territories occupied in 1948 can’t be given up," Khalid Mash’al said. He hopes that the bride and groom will raise a "generation that will free Palestine. ""The Palestinian reproductive machine is active 24 hours," Mash’al said warning Israel of future Palestinian generations. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mu’allim attended the party along with several retired Syrian officials as well as the Damascus-based leaders of the Palestinian factions.

Mashaal: The Palestinian people will impose siege breaking on Israel and US
Palestinian Information Center 4/13/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mashaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, stated Saturday that the Palestinian people would impose siege breaking on the Israeli occupation and the American administration, and their will on the international and regional community, pointing out that the Palestinian people can no longer be patient with this grievance.   In an interview with the Aqsa satellite channel, Mashaal underlined that that the Arab decisions are not allowed to be implemented because there is Zio-American oversight on these decisions. "Everybody must be convinced that we have spared no effort to break the siege; there is a Zio-American veto, an Arab and Islamic official disability and international weakness, so the explosion is coming if the siege continues," the Hamas leader said. The Hamas leader highlighted that the Palestinian people have the right at this moment to move. . .

Livni to tell Gulf leaders: Iran the threat, not Israel
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
DOHA, Qatar - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni arrived here yesterday to attend the 8th annual Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade, at which she has been invited to give a keynote speech. Senior Lebanese and Iranian officials responded by canceling their participation. "The Arab states cannot continue sitting on the fence when it comes to support and backing for the peace process," Livni told Haaretz yesterday. The most prominent cancellation over Livni’s speech came from the Lebanese parliament speaker and leader of the Shia Amal movement, Nabih Beri. Beri was scheduled to address the forum as well, and to hold talks with senior Qatari government officials concerning the political crisis in Lebanon. Others boycotting the conference are former Lebanese foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh, who has close ties to Hezbollah, and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

Both smiles and frowns greet Livni in Qatar
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/14/2008
DOHA:Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni attended the opening of a forum on democracy in Qatar on Sunday on a rare visit to the Gulf that sparked boycotts by other invited guests. The leader of the gas-rich emirate which hosts US Central Command, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, opened the three-day forum shortly after Livni was welcomed by Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani. Livni did not speak to reporters but was heard chatting with the Qatari prime minister after sitting at a dinner table at which Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah was also seated. "I have seven cancellations because of your arrival. Don’t cause any more problems," Hamad bin Jassem jokingly told Livni. "We [Arabs] have to blame the Israelis, always," he added. Livni was in Qatar to address the forum on democracy and meet leaders of. . .

Israel, U.S. sign nuclear accord
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Israel and the United States signed an agreement several days ago to step up cooperation in the field of nuclear safety. The move is part of Israel’s efforts to receive foreign assistance in ensuring that the aging nuclear reactor at Dimona continues to operate safely. The new agreement broadens and upgrades previous accords between the two countries in this field, which were signed over the past two decades. It will enable the Israel Atomic Energy Commission to access most of the latest nuclear safety data, procedures and technology available in the U. S. The agreement was signed by the director of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Shaul Horev, and the chairman of the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Dr. Dale Klein. Horev also met in the U. S. with his American counterpart, Thomas D’Agostino, who is the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Evangelicals urge police to act on harassment of messianic Jews
Daphna Berman, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
A leading evangelical organization in Israel has called on local police to stop "overlooking" cases of "harassment, intimidation and even physical violence" against messianic Jews, in the wake of last month’s attack, which seriously injured a member of Ariel’s small Christian missionary community. In an open letter released yesterday, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem condemned the attack against 15-year-old Ami Ortiz, son of prominent messianic pastor David Ortiz, breaking some three weeks of silence on the subject. "We urge Israeli authorities to take this criminal assault seriously, and to commit all the resources, manpower and willpower necessary to see the investigation through to conclusion and to prosecute to the fullest those deemed responsible," the statement read. "The ’Purim gift basket bombing’ has caught the attention of the Christian world and Israel. . .

Egypt to blame for failing to end Israel’s siege of Gaza, Islamic Jihad leader says
Ma’an News Agency 4/13/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Arab and Islamic countries, and especially Egypt, are to blame for failing to break Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip, the Deputy Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad movement, Ziad Nakhala, said on Sunday. He told Ma’an, "The Palestinian citizen realizes that Israel is an enemy of the Palestinian people, yet he finds it difficult to understand how the Arab countries, namely Egypt, fail to help break the Israeli siege. " "When we talk about Egypt, we are addressing our main strategic dimension, yet it is at the same time we are surprised at the campaign led by some Egyptian journalists who devote efforts to get us to be obsessed in confrontations with Egypt while we know our battle has always been with the Israelis. This war the journalists wage is unjustifiable," Nakhla explained. Nakhala urged Egypt to open its border with the Gaza Strip as a show of solidarity in the face of Israeli occupation.

IDF: Army unequipped to deal with infiltrations from Egypt
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Commander of division entrusted with sealing Israel-Egypt border says lacking infrastructure, absence of fence and adherence to strict moral codes undermine forces’ ability to curb infiltrations -"The State of Israel has lost it deterrence because it is unequipped to deal with infiltrations (from Egypt)," Brig. -Gen. Yoel Strik, commander of the Edom Division stationed on the Israel-Egypt border admitted recently. According to Strik, the Egyptian security forces are perceived by infiltrators as "much tougher" than the Israeli forces. "This infiltrator fears the Egyptians much more. He knows that if he is not killed on the Egyptian side - in Israel he will be safe and sound," Strik explained. Strik made the statements in his testimony to the Southern Command Military Court during a hearing in the trial of a soldier convicted of assaulting a Sudanese infiltrator about a year and-a-half ago.

Jordanian Islamist warns of an unprecedented reaction if Gaza siege persisted
Palestinian Information Center 4/13/2008
AMMAN, [PIC]-- Dr. Ruhayyel Al-Gharayba, the deputy secretary-general of the influential Islamic Action Front party in Jordan, has slammed the stand of the Arab regimes vis-à-vis the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Gharayba also warned of "strong" popular reaction that could break all expectations and could turn political scales in the region up-side-down. When asked about the US and Israeli role in blockade, Gharayba asserted that the USA doesn’t care the catastrophe that could come to the region if she and the Israeli occupation government implemented their "destructive and horrifying" agenda in the region, highlighting that the USA and Israel don’t mind about the fate of their local agents in the region. "Arab leaders who wager on the USA and Zionist strength we deluded as experience tells that neither the USA nor Israel makes account to their agents’ interests. . .

Hamas: Israel wants to cover its crimes when alleging we create human crisis
Palestinian Information Center 4/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Sunday that the allegations issued by head of foreign affairs and war Knesset committee Tzahi Hanegbi and minister of settlements Zeev Boim that the Movement is creating unnecessarily a phony humanitarian crisis is an attempt to cover up the crimes resulting from the unjust Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. In a press statement received by the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, added that one of Israel’s siege crimes is its decision to stop supplying Gaza with Fuel supplies. Dr. Abu Zuhri explained that the Israeli claim that this procedure taken in response to the Nahal Oz operation is misinformation because the fuel supplies was already slashed by the Israeli occupation before this operation was carried out by the Palestinian resistance, where these supplies reached 20 percent in the best conditions.

Bank of Israel officials met Palestinian banks supervisor
Eran Peer, Globes Online 4/13/2008
The parties discussed temporary arrangements until a permanent arrangement is formulated through the Postal Bank. The Bank of Israel and the Association of Banks in Israel are formulating rules for activity with Palestinian banks. Last week, representatives of the Banking Supervision Department and commercial banks met Palestinian Monetary Authority director Riad Mustafa Abu Shahada and representatives of Arab banks operating in the Palestinian Authority to discuss the effect of certain clauses of an anti-money laundering ordinance, which is coming into effect. Israeli commercial banks have reduced or suspended activity altogether with their Palestinian counterparts in order to avoid breaches in the Prohibition of Money Laundering Law (5760-2000) and the cabinet decision in October 2007 to declare the Gaza Strip "hostile territory".

World Bank continues support for the Palestinian people
The World Bank Group, ReliefWeb 4/12/2008
WASHINGTON DC, April 12, 2008- The World Bank yesterday signed a Grant Agreement with the Palestinian Authority for the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan multi-donor budget support Trust Fund (PRDP-TF). This agreement reflects the Bank’s support for the Palestinian people, who are weathering adverse circumstances. The signing took place following discussions at the World Bank Headquarters between the World Bank Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub and Palestinian Minister of Planning H. E. Mr. Samir Abdallah. The PRDP-TF is part of the overall donor effort to alleviate the Palestinian fiscal crisis and to support implementation of the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan which was presented on December 17, 2007. The Government of Norway and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contributed the currently available PRDP-TF funds totaling $83.

PA source warns: Sheikh Eliewi may face the same fate of slain Barghouthi
Palestinian Information Center 4/13/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- A PA security source in the Junied prison warned that sheikh Sameeh Eliewi, a prisoner in the PA intelligence’s jails may face the same fate of martyr Majd Al-Barghouthi who was tortured to death at the hands of PA security apparatuses. The sources revealed, on condition of anonymity, that sheikh Eliewi, 46, was transferred from the PA intelligence headquarters in Ramallah to the Junied prison and then to a hospital in Nablus, pointing out that the sheikh is suffering from diabetes and hypertension. The source underlined that sheikh Eliewi’s health condition is deteriorating very badly, where he sometimes cannot move himself, and his legs and hands becomes paralyzed, adding that the sheikh often loses his ability to speak and recognize anyone surrounding him.  The source said that when the sheikh’s family was allowed to visit him, he could not move out of his cell. . .

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
The Education Ministry has backtracked on a decision not to include Arabic language studies in the required secondary school core curriculum. Thus, Arabic will continue to be taught for three hours a week in grades 7 to 9. Education Ministry officials said the ministry had taken Arabic out of the core curriculum in an attempt to create a core curriculum the ultra-Orthodox system would support, but the latter rejected any compromise. The need to create the core curriculum arose following a Supreme Court ruling that secondary schools must teach a core curriculum to receive state funding. (Or Kashti) A drama teacher arrested Saturday night on charges of commiting indecent acts on an 18-year-old female student was remanded yesterday for a further two days by the Safed Magistrate’s Court. Two incidents allegedly occured in which the suspect touched the student’s chest, once last year and once a month ago.

Masri: Abbas and his team trade Palestinian blood for political gains
Palestinian Information Center 4/13/2008
GAZA, [PIC]-- Prominent political leader of Hamas Movement in Gaza Strip MP Mushir Al-Masri has unequivocally accused on Sunday PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiating crew of participating in the siege on Gaza, and of trading the blood of the Palestinian people to achieve political gains. According to Masri, Abbas and his team in the Ramallah-based PA leadership connived against the Palestinian people and helped tighten the grip of the crushing economic siege imposed on the 1. 5 million Palestinian citizens living in the tiny Strip. "Certainly, the harsh economic blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza has generated a sense of hatred in the hearts of the Palestinian people against Abbas and his retinue after it became obvious to all that he (Abbas) and his associates were effectively participating in the blockade [wrongly] thinking it could break the Palestinian resistance and it could help ousting Hamas from power", asserted Masri.

Hamas, Fatah to mark 60th anniversary of Palestinian uprooting
Associated Press, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Rival factions to hold separate ceremonies marking ’catastrophe’ during 1948 war over Israel’s creation - Hamas and Fatah say they plan rival ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation. Palestinians refer to the displacement in 1948 as their "Naqba," or catastrophe. In recent years, they have marked the May 15 anniversary with sirens, speeches and rallies. On Sunday, planners from Hamas and Fatah announced separate plans for the memorials. This underscores the growing ideological rift within Palestinian society. The Islamic militant Hamas seized Gaza by force last June. Since then, a Hamas government has ruled Gaza and pro-Western moderates have been in charge in the West Bank. Israel plans a large 60th birthday bash in May, with world leaders in attendance.

Netanyahu: Israel’s government has no leadership or direction
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Likud Chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused the current government coalition of being "detached from reality" and devoid of leadership and direction. "The government is detached from reality, security is faulty, the economy is receding and education is collapsing due to the absence of leadership and the absence of a path," Netanyahu told delegates at a conference in Tel Aviv’s Likud center. Netanyahu sharply criticized Israel’s current government and its leader, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying that the government was immersed in a "cynical preoccupation with survival. "According to Netanyahu, Olmert is on the verge of repeating former prime minister Ehud Barak’s mistake of relinquishing everything to the Palestinians and getting terror in exchange.

Government dismantles Strategic Affairs Ministry
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Cabinet annuls ministry, which was founded after Yisrael Beiteinu joined coalition in 2006. Former Minister Avigdor Lieberman: This is a strategic mistake -The government decided Sunday to dismantle the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, which was founded after theYisrael Beiteinu faction joined the coalition and was headed by former Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman said he laments the decision and called it "a strategic mistake. "The problem in Israel, he added "is that there is no ’second opinion,’ only one opinion - that of the defense Ministry. " According to Lieberman, "The prime minister is preoccupied with political matters like the primaries, and needs someone to assemble all government data for him. Now there will be no such body. " Several forums on strategic affairs had operated under the auspices of the ministry, which was founded in December 2006.

Shas: We’ll defy gov’t on ’Passover Law’
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Shas’ request to discuss ’Passover law’ doesn’t enter weekly cabinet meeting. Shocked by court ruling, haredim appeal for quick amendment of law - Shas continues to jeopardize the government’s stability. Party Chairman Eli Yishai said Sunday, "We will fight to advance ’the Passover Law’ amendment without delay, even if it’s against government wishes. "The party expressed its discontent with the cabinet meeting failing to discuss their proposal to amend ’the Passover Law’, after a Jerusalem court ruling has permitted the sale of leavened goods during Passover. A Jerusalem Municipal Court Judge decreed last week that the indictments against four restaurant owners charged with selling bread and leavened goods on Passover be scrapped.

Gaydamak pledges to help renovate survivors’ homes
Ofer Petersburg, YNetNews 4/13/2008
Russian billionaire to donate some $8 million to renovate dilapidated homes of Holocaust survivors. "˜Gov’t will not help, we need donations,’ says CEO of public housing company - He helped fortify the city of Sderot and sent its residents on much needed vacation from the rocket-battered town. He helped establish a tent city for beleaguered residents of the north during the Second Lebanon War. He funded the establishment of a monument for IDF soldiers who perished during the 1997 helicopter disaster. Now, according to reports by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Russian businessman Arcadi Gaydamak is stepping in to aid needy Holocaust survivors. [end]

The art of authentic forgery
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
Criminal case 482/04, the State of Israel v. Oded Golan and others, lays out the details of one of the biggest forgery scandals ever in the history of archaeology. According to the indictment, those miseld by Golan, a well-known Tel Aviv antiquities collector, included renowned experts who were ready to confirm the authenticity of the many and controversial findings he supposedly discovered, such as the Jehoash Tablet inscription and an ossuary that supposedly held the bones of James, the brother of Jesus. And yet, today, three years after the start of the trial, after more than 70 witnesses for the prosecution have taken the stand, and the defense has started to present its arguments, the state prosecutor’s office and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), which initiated the indictment, face a problem. . .

Expand Networks wins US Army deal
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 4/13/2008
The firm’s technology will enable communications between soldiers and battle planners. Network optimization solutions developer Expand Networks announced that the US Army and General Dynamics C4 Systems (GDC4S) awarded it a battle communications system contract. Expand will port its Accelerator Operating System to the Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 23 TCP Performance Enhancing Proxy. The Expand performance enhancing proxy will operate in a mobile ad-hoc environment where dynamic outbound links are created and broken frequently, and will have to provide soldiers with maximum communications efficiency on the move as well as at the halt. According to GDC4S, WIN-T is the US Army’s high-speed, high-capacity backbone communications network, which links ground level soldiers with commanders and the Global Information Grid, the US Department of Defense’s worldwide network-centric information system.

VIDEO - A growing line of people in need of food for Passover
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/13/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for April 13, 2008. With the Passover Holiday on its way, the line of people in need of food donations is only getting longer. The humanitarian organization Pitchon Lev began giving out food supplies last week. Because of the volume of people needing the organization’s services, its operations were divided among four different national centers. [end]

Israel keeps place on World Economic Forum ranking
Shmulik Shelah, Globes Online 4/13/2008
Israel is ranked first in the Networked Readiness Index for computers per 100 persons. Israel is ranked 17th in the World Economic Forum Networked Readiness Index for 2007-08, tied with Taiwan, with a score of 5. 18, out of 127 countries covered. However, Israel’s ranking in several components of the index fell sharply compared with last year. Compared with the previous report, Israel fell from first to third place in the availability of scientists and engineers, and it fell from second to fifth place in the availability of venture capital funds. On the other hand, Israel was ranked first in the number of computer’s per 100 persons, at seven per 100, well ahead of second-ranked Canada, with 4. 26 computers per 100 persons. The World Economic Forum jointly produces the Global Information Technology Report with INSEAD, under the sponsorship of Cisco Systems Inc.

Israeli firms optimistic after Texas visit
Globes Online 4/13/2008
High-tech companies hope to rope in deals from investors. The largest-ever delegation of Israeli high-tech companies to visit Texas returned to Israel today after three days of intensive talks. Both the visitors and hosts believe that the visit was a great success and will have a long-term affect on Israel’s high-tech industry, including investment from Texan institutional investors in Israeli venture capital funds and in other investment channels. STARTech Early Ventures founder and managing partner Matthew Blanton told "Globes", "This visit opened the eyes of both sides. Unfortunately, many Texans think that Israel is big desert full of camels. Texans who have never been exposed to Israel learned from this delegation the fact that if there are any camels in Israel, it does not contradict the fact that it is a high-tech powerhouse and great source of innovation.

IRAQ: Parliament urges government to reallocate development money to those in need
Afif Sarhan/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/13/2008
The needs of Iraq’s 2. 8 million displaced people grow by the dayBAGHDAD, 13 April 2008 (IRIN) - The Iraqi parliament on 12 April urged the government to reallocate US$5 billion earmarked for investment in infrastructure and services to social welfare programmes, a food rationing system and to meet the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs). "We believe that $5 billion will serve the citizens well if the funds are used in an appropriate way and a mechanism is established for the fair distribution of the funds among the citizens by boosting food rations, social welfare programmes and by helping displaced families," Sheikh Sabah al-Saidi, head of the Iraqi parliament’s anti-corruption committee, said. "But if this amount is allocated for development and reconstruction projects then it will lead to increased corruption; the money will be lost and the citizens will gain nothing. "

’Betrayed’ Iraqi staff in test case over UK’s refusal to offer asylum
The Independent 4/13/2008
Iraqi interpreters, clerical staff and labourers who face death threats and persecution after risking their lives working for British forces are challenging the Government’s refusal to grant them sanctuary in the UK. A test case in the High Court will accuse the Government of abandoning former Iraqi staff who have fled their homes after being branded "spies and collaborators" by the Shia militias. Many have seen their homes bombed, family members killed or have received death threats. All hoped they would receive help under the terms of the UK Government’s resettlement and compensation scheme set up last year. But their hopes have been dashed by what they say are harsh rules which have betrayed Iraqis who came to Britain’s aid when it needed them most. Ishmael, 44, (not his real name) clutches a handful of glowing job references written by the British Army during 19 months as an interpreter.

PKK offshoot threatens to launch attacks in Iran
Shwan Mohammed, Daily Star 4/14/2008
Agence France Presse - QANDIL MOUNTAINS: A Kurdish rebel group based in northern Iraq threatened Sunday to launch bomb attacks inside Iran if Tehran fails to halt what it called anti-Kurdish policies. PEJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) warned that it has the ability to "carry out bombings against Iranian forces" inside Iran. Ronahi Ahmed, a member of PEJAK’s political bureau, told AFP from the group’s hideout in northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains that the rebels were ready for a long fight with Tehran. "We can’t stand handcuffed when Iran is chasing us on a daily basis. We have the ability to confront Iran inside Tehran. We are not accepting threats from anybody," she said. "We don’t accept the religious suppression that is being carried out by the Iranians. We totally reject it. "Ahmed said the group had recently attacked Iranian forces across the border.


Israelis stage daring saga of the abandoned Palestinian raised as a Jew
Donald Macintyre in Jaffa, The Independent 4/13/2008
      In one of the many electric moments in The Return to Haifa, the Cameri Theatre’s compelling new play opening in Hebrew here tonight, there is a heart-rending struggle between the adoptive mother of a young soldier in the Israeli army and the natural mother who has arrived with her husband in the desperate hope of reclaiming their son 20 years after she last saw him.
     "Your legs did not hurt when he was in your belly," the natural mother exclaims. "Your ribs didn’t hurt when he was beating you from inside. When you kissed him for the first time after he was born, your lips weren’t filled with blood."
     Breaking down, the adoptive mother, a much older woman, declares: "I taught him to eat, to walk, to speak, and to love. When he had bad dreams he called me ’mum’. Please go. For the kid. I’m asking. Begging."
     As sheer human drama, the play, which will switch to the Cameri’s main theatre in Tel Aviv next week, would be powerful enough. But what makes the – distinctly allegorical – subject matter unprecedented for one of Israel’s leading theatres to tackle is the historical context: the natural mother is a Palestinian refugee who involuntarily abandoned her baby son, Khaldun, in the flight from Haifa during the Jewish-Arab war in April 1948. The adoptive mother is a refugee too, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who took over the Palestinian couple’s house – and brought up their son under the name of Dov.
     There will be many glitzier events to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel’s foundation as a state next month. But there is unlikely to be one more intellectually daring than this production – with a uniformly impressive mixed Jewish and Arab cast – of Israeli writer Boaz Gaon’s play. Daring first because it is adapted from a famous novella by Ghassan Kanafani, widely regarded as the 20th century’s greatest Palestinian writer.

Alternative media: what role is it actually playing

Fadi Abu Sa''ada, Palestine News Network 4/13/2008
      Across most of the Arab world, the local media have often been likened to official state-run media, even when they are not. Analysts say they are almost uniformly non-independent and most often reflect only one point of view -- that of a political party or another interest group. Others have pointed to what they say is an epidemic of unprofessionalism in the media.
     Against this backdrop, a debate is emerging in the occupied Palestinian territories as to what role if any the alternative media are playing.
     The vast majority of alternative media projects in the Palestinian territories are based on Western funding, whether from the European Union directly, or from European media outlets, or from projects financed by the U.S. State Department, or American media institutions.
     A few days ago, the European Union signed on to a number of media projects in the Palestinian territories. Some of these address specific women’s and children’s issues, others focus on the training of journalists working at local radio stations, while still others hope to promote democracy and respect for human rights through television programming.

The other evangelicals

Ben White, Palestine News Network 4/13/2008
      Earlier this week, Lee Marsden wrote about how Republican presidential candidate John McCain has managed to pick up the support of Christian Zionist heavyweight John Hagee.
     While Hagee praises McCain’s position on Israel, McCain himself is presumably happy to receive the endorsement of a man whose Christians United for Israel (CUFI) organisation links up with thousands of potential voters.
     From the mobilising might of CUFI and televangelists, to Jerusalem marches and the 65 million copy-selling Left Behind series, to be an American evangelical has become synonymous with fanatically pro-Israel politics. Nor is the image a purely domestic affair. In the Middle East, local Arab evangelical Christians have sometimes found themselves targeted by association.
     However, there is now an increasingly confident and eloquent alternative emerging from evangelicals who are challenging the Christian Zionists with a biblical vision of justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. Despite lacking the resources of their self-confident, flag-waving co-religionists, incremental and discernible progress is being made.

Don’t go to Masada

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/14/2008
      It is unfortunate that Ehud Olmert chose to invite George Bush for a tour of Masada of all places. Perhaps it is still possible to alter the program and offer the guest of honor for the 60th Independence Day anniversary celebrations a visit to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, where Israeli scientists are working on life-saving medicines. But if the prime minister insists on providing a close-up examination of the legend of brutal and pointless Jewish radicalism, it is not necessary to drag the president’s entourage to the shores of the Sea of Death. There are sites of collective suicide throughout the territories occupied by Israel.
     In order not to give the guest the impression that bleeding-heart military shirkers are pulling him to the left, a few officers, veterans of elite units, can take him on a tour of Masada-Now. Major General (res.) Ami Ayalon, of the naval commando unit and the Shin Bet security service, will surely be thrilled to introduce Bush to the residents of the "quality of life" settlements that have turned into dying communities. There he will find hard-working people who wanted "a home with a garden," and found themselves stuck in a battle zone. Ayalon will tell Bush that a few have left, but many are unable to find anyone who wants to buy their home. The minister will inform the president that the prime minister supports the proposed legislation providing compensation for those settlers who voluntarily leave the West Bank, which was put forth by 16 MKs, but because he fears the extremists, Olmert has abandoned these poor souls to their fate.