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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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15 April 2008


Joint statement of United Nations organizations on the fuel situation in Gaza
United Nations Children''s Fund, ReliefWeb 4/15/2008
Jerusalem, 15th April 2008 - United Nations humanitarian and development agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory(1) are gravely concerned about the limited fuel supplies in the Gaza Strip which are having a severe impact upon daily life for the population, and UN operations. Israel’s announcement that it will resume deliveries of fuel to the power plant is a positive step, but is insufficient to address the severe shortages of fuel used for transport and generators. . . - United Nations Development Programme (UNICEF) - United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNDP) - United Nations Population Fund (OCHA) - United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNFPA) - United Nations World Food Programme (UNSCO) - World Health Organization (WFP). . .

Barak in Sderot: ’Despair in Gaza is result of choice made by residents’
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 4/15/2008
’We are committed to providing security for all communities surrounding the Strip, but it won’t be achieved tomorrow or next week,’ defense minister says during visit to Qassam-battered town -"The widespread despair in Gaza is the result of choice made by the residents to have Hamas lead them", Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday while touring the Qassam-battered town of Sderot, adding that the Islamist group was responsible for the terror and rocket attacks emanating from the coastal enclave and would "suffer the consequences". Following a request issued by Egyptian leaders, Barakordered on Monday the renewal of diesel fuel shipments to Gaza’s power plant. Only the minimal amount required to maintain the station’s operations will be transferred. Barak talks (Video: Infolive.

Israel agrees to settlement expansion in exchange for clearing outposts
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Israel has agreed to let settlers build new houses in existing West Bank settlements in exchange for dismantling unauthorized settlement outposts, residents and defense officials said Tuesday. Palestinians criticized the Israeli action, saying it went against a U. S. -sponsored effort to work out a peace deal by the end of the year. The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank as part of their future state, and are demanding an end to all settlement construction as well as the dismantling of outposts. The deal is meant to avoid violent evacuations of the unauthorized outposts, as occurred at the Amona outpost in 2006. On Monday, settlers moved three mobile homes from an oupost into the nearby Mevo Horon settlement, west of Jerusalem. Defense officials confirmed on Tuesday that settlers would receive permits to build permanent housing in Mevo Horon and other areas.

2 killed in Gaza; soldier hurt
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/16/2008
Gaza strikes continue: Senior Islamic Jihad member killed in IDF attack Tuesday evening, another Palestinian dies in separate strike around midnight. Troops operating in Strip since morning hours, soldier shot by sniper sustains moderate wounds; several Palestinians detained - War on terror in Gaza continues:Palestinian sources in the Strip say that a senior member of Islamic Jihad’s military wing, Abdullah al-Rasin, was killed Tuesday evening and two others were wounded after an IDF aircraft fired at them in the Jabalya refugee camp. The three were walking on the street when they were attacked. The IDF confirmed the strike and said that it was carried out in conjunction with the Shin Bet security service. Around midnight, Palestinian sources reported that one person was killed and several others were injured. . .

Islamic-Christian front warns of scheme targeting Arab presence in Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Dr. Hasan Khater, the secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian front for the defense of Jerusalem and holy shrines, warned that the IOA started a few days ago to implement a dangerous scheme targeting the Arab and Islamic presence in occupied Jerusalem through promoting a new ID card as a prelude to imposing it on Jerusalemite Palestinians. Dr. Khater added that after the IOA re-formed and re-designed the geography of Jerusalem according to its schemes and colonial ambitions through the apartheid wall, settlements, it moved these days to a serious scheme threatening the Arab presence in the holy city and turning them into a minority. The Palestinian leader pointed out that the IOA would impose the new card by intimidation and temptation on a part of Jerusalemites who meet special conditions, most importantly, to reside within the apartheid wall’s borders,. . .

Carter meets Hamas official in West Bank, but Jewish state keeps him out of Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/16/2008
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Former US President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that he wanted to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on his current Middle East tour Israel had refused to authorize the trip. "I haven’t been able to get a permission to go to Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission but I was turned down," Carter told reporters in Ramallah ahead of a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Israeli authorities did not immediately comment. Carter’s nine-day sweep through the region has drawn fire from the United States and Israel, which have urged him not to go through with a planned face-to-face meeting with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus. The Islamist Hamas movement, which seized control of Gaza in June after ousting security forces loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, and the European Union.

IDF troops raid Ramallah
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/16/2008
Palestinian sources: Army encircling 10 Hamas members’ homes in West Bank city area. IDF says engaged in routine arrest operation - West Bank operation: Palestinian sources reported Tuesday night that the IDF was encircling 10 Hamas members’ homes in different areas in the West Bank city of Ramallah and in Bituniyah. One of the homes encircled by the troops was reportedly located near the house of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians reported of large forces deployed in the area. According to the sources, one of the encircled houses belongs to Hamas lawmaker Dr. Myriam Salah, who is jailed in Israel. Another house belongs to senior Hamas member Omar Hamdan. The IDF said it was engaged in a routine arrest operation. Meanwhile, Palestinian sources in Ramallah reported that IDF soldiers asked PA intelligence forces. . .

Israeli settlers from Efrat attack Palestinian farmers in southern Bethlehem
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 4/15/2008
Bethlehem -- Settlers from Efrat attacked farmers and their families in Bethlehem’s Al Khader yesterday. The Palestinians were working on their lands that are now dangerously close to the Wall as it expands through southern Bethlehem. Efrat, illegal as all Israeli settlements are under international law, is built on the lands of several southern Bethlehem towns. Around noon on Monday the settlers began hurling insults and derogatory remarks. And then came the stones. The Israeli settlers began pelting the farmers with stones in an attempt to drive them off their own lands. President of the Village Council, Mahmoud Zoaharah, said that Israeli soldiers stood by and watched. The farmers refused to leave their own lands and kept working. He said that settlers aim to intimidate Palestinians into leaving, as do soldiers.

Several injured in shoot-out between PA security forces and escaped fighters
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Several civilians have been injured in armed clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus between Palestinian security forces and Al-Aqsa Brigades fighters who escaped the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Al-Jnaid prison two weeks ago, witnesses said. Fighting erupted when security forces attempted to seize escapee Umar Akkuba in Nablus’ old city. Several bystanders were wounded in the crossfire. Witnesses added that additional security forces arrived and began to search the old city for the escapee. Twelve fighters, all affiliated with Fatah’s armed wing, fled the prison about two weeks ago. The 12 detainees had turned themselves in to the PA, agreeing to give up violence and serve three months in prison in exchange for amnesty from Israel.

Palestinian police clash with escaped militants in Nablus chase
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/15/2008
Palestinian police on Tuesday were exchanging gunfire with a group of escaped militants, chasing them through the streets of Nablus in the West Bank. Police are ordering residents to stay indoors. The group of 14 militants escaped from jail by breaking down the doors to their cells 10 days ago. They say they broke out because a promised amnesty from Israel didn’t come through. Four bystanders were seriously wounded in the exchanges of fire on Tuesday, hospital officials said. Palestinian police said they deployed more than 100 officers to catch the fugitives. The escaped militants are members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent offshoot of the Fatah movement headed by moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Schools and universities in Gaza forced to close due to fuel cuts
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel’s punitive cuts of fuel supplies have hobbled Gaza’s educational system, forcing many schools and universities to close, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday. Gaza’s two most prominent universities, Al-Azhar and the Islamic University, have announced a suspension of classes until Saturday. In January, the last time Gaza ran out of fuel due to the Israeli blockade, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Gazans "can walk. "Students and educators have been forced to do just that this week. Without fuel for automobiles, most students and teachers simply cannot get to class. Since Israel cut off fuel supplies completely last Thursday, absenteeism rates have skyrocketed. On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would allow renewed shipments of industrial fuel for Gaza’s power plant, but would not allow deliveries of petrol or other ordinary fuels.

Khudari: Allowing limited quantities of fuel into Gaza doesn’t end crises
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Chairman of the anti-siege committee in Gaza Strip MP Dr. Jamal Al-Khudari said  on Tuesday that the Israeli decision of permitting limited quantities of fuel into Gaza Strip doesn’t solve the problems in the besieged Strip. According to Khudari, the populated Strip urgently needs seven million liters of diesel and three million liters of petrol to return life to the Gaza Strip which was exhausted after almost a year of an unjust Israeli economic embargo amidst clear indifference on the part of the international community. "For the sixth successive day, the [Israeli] occupation blocked supplying Gaza with fuel that badly affected all aspects of the Palestinian people’s life, especially the health and the education sectors as sick people couldn’t reach hospitals and students couldn’t reach their schools and universities due to lack of transportation although their. . .

Protest as Israeli forces continue to target Islamic charities, confiscate bread making machinery
Palestine News Network 4/15/2008
Hebron / PNN -- Israel is on a mission to target Islamic charities in Hebron. First it was closing down the orphanages, and then it was issuing orders to shops, apartments and charitable offices to close by Sunday. On Tuesday morning Israeli forces hit a bakery, confiscating its equipment. Its owner is the Islamic Charitable Society, the real Israeli target. Eyewitnesses report that a large number of Israeli forces broke down the doors and began destroying contents, while taking others with them, including machinery for bread making. This bakery was the sole provider for student orphans in one of the charitable schools. The people in the streets of Hebron and elsewhere condemned the campaign against orphans and bakeries. Eyewitnesses said that the suffering of orphans will increase. Some called this morning’s confiscation a "heinous crime against orphans.

IOA bulldozers flatten Palestinian home in occupied Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli-controlled municipality of occupied Jerusalem has demolished the home of Younis Subaih in Enata village in occupied Jerusalem at the pretext of lack of construction permit. IOF troops encircled the area and blocked traffic during the demolition which was also ordered because the house was located in the path of the apartheid separation wall. The soldiers beat up sons of the landlord when they tried to object to the demolition and fired teargas canisters at citizens to keep them away. Subaih’s daughter fainted in the event and was carried to hospital. IOF soldiers at dawn Tuesday stormed the Asker refugee camp east of Nablus city and broke into many civilian homes but no arrests were reported. The troops also burst into a number of villages west of Nablus city and burnt the electricity transformer station in Surra town.

Gaza students protest at UN HQ, warn of collapse in educational process
Yousef Joudeh, Palestine News Network 4/15/2008
Gaza - Hundreds of Palestinian students protested yesterday against the damage caused to the educational sector as a result of the severe cuts in fuel supplies which have paralyzed traffic in the Gaza streets. Students and teachers are not able to get to their schools, leaving the entire educational process under threat. Israel again stopped allowing fuel for cars into Gaza last week. Students and teachers marched through the streets of Gaza on Monday carrying banners denouncing the 10-month old Israeli siege on Gaza. They gathered at the United Nations Headquarters where they carried out a sit-in citing their demands to lift the Israeli blockade. Manal is a teacher at the Al Sheikh Radwan School. She said, "The continued siege and fuel shortages threaten the whole educational process as teachers and students cannot get to their schools.

Ten Palestinians injured in confrontation at entrance to Azzun ’Itma
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – Ten Palestinian citizens were injured on Monday evening at the entrance to the northern West Bank village of Azzun ’Itma, south of Qalqilia. The head of the local council, Azmi Salamah, was one of the injured. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that school students went on a trip outside the village and when they returned to the village in the evening Israeli troops refused to let them in. Families then rushed to the checkpoint at the entrance to the village to remonstrate with the soldiers. The Israeli troops maintained they would not let the students in and confrontations erupted between the residents and Israeli troops who fired at the families and the students injuring ten people. Two were evacuated to Israeli hospitals and others were sent to local hospitals. The village is located on the Israeli side of the separation wall.

IWPS House open again
International Womens’ Peace Service 4/15/2008
We are happy to announce that, after four months of closure, the International Women’s Peace Service house in Haris in the Occupied West Bank is once again open and up and running. Over the next few weeks and months, IWPS will be looking to re-establish our presence in the Salfit district and are keen to get working on a range of different projects and activities to support non-violent resistance against the occupation and to continue to document human rights violations and non-violently intervene to prevent them. We are keen to make contact once again with the different Palestinian, Israeli and international solidarity groups and would appreciate if you could update us with what projects you are currently working on and if IWPS can contribute or assist in anyway. We are very excited to be back and to have the house reopen.

UNRWA commissioner: Situation in Gaza "disastrous, tragic"
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Karin Abu Zaid, the UNRWA commissioner general, has warned that the situation in the Gaza Strip was "disastrous and tragic", calling for doubling efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Abu Zaid, during a meeting with the popular committee against the siege in Gaza on Monday night, said that she would ask the UN agencies and donor institutions to visit Gaza and have a first hand look into its conditions. MP, Jamal Al-Khudari, who is chairing the popular committee, explained in detail the situation in Gaza especially after Israel blocked entry of fuel for the past six days. He noted that slashing fuel supplies before completely blocking it had already entailed "very serious repercussions". He said that diesel supplies were reduced by 70% and petrol by 90%, which led to paralyzing life in Gaza.

Seven RAM-FM Staff released as police investigation continues
Marian Houk, Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - At one minute after ten o’clock on Tuesday, the seven RAM-FM radio staff members arrested in a police raid on their Jerusalem studio a week ago were released from “house arrest” which confined them to Jerusalem by order of Jerusalem District Court. But they remain under gag orders barring them from speaking to each other about the case, while the police investigation continues. In another week, they will be allowed to return to work. No charges have yet been filed. The Jerusalem office of the Ramallah-based English-language radio station RAM-FM was raided by Jerusalem Police and officials of the Israeli Ministry of Communications on April 8, and its staff members were detained, and equipment confiscated, on charges that it has been operating a small transmitter in Jerusalem “without the necessary broadcasting permit in Jerusalem”.

Al Mezan demands international community to intervene immediately to stop Gaza Strip’s humanitarian crisis
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, ReliefWeb 4/14/2008
The ongoing siege imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continues to exacerbate an already unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip after six-months of severe fuel restrictions. The IOF continues to intentionally reduce fuel supplies and has now reached unprecedented low levels that cannot meet the needs of the population. Al Mezan, through continued monitoring and documentation, considers the restriction of fuel threatens the lives of the population and poses a dangerous risk for a worsening humanitarian crisis. It causes a total violation of human rights, including economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights and of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, work in governmental and nongovernmental institutions has stopped due to lack of transportation between cities, towns, and refugee camps within Gaza.

Hamas denies rumours about intention to assault Egyptian borders
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement categorically denied what was alleged by the Egyptian Al-Ahram newspaper in its Tuesday issue about its intention to breach the border wall between Egypt and Gaza and to wage an attack on Egyptian soldiers, describing the news as "unfounded lies. " In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, underlined that what was said in the newspaper’s report about deploying mortar guns along the Egyptian-Palestinian borders is sheer fabrication taht can be verified by any journalist visiting the border areas. Dr. Abu Zuhri said that the continuing lies published by Al-Ahram over the past few days until today only come in the context of an attempt to influence the Egyptian public opinion and prevent it from supporting the Palestinian cause, and on the other hand, to incite Egyptian soldiers at the borders against the Palestinians.

Olmert: Israel preparing for breaching of Rafah border
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/15/2008
Prime minister tells Ynet IDF prepares for possible attempt by Palestinians to break through border with Egypt or breach Israel border. ’I’m not concerned, but I remain vigilant,’ he states - Israel is preparing for the possibility that Hamas will again try to breach the border between Gaza and Egypt, or even try to break through the border with Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Ynet Tuesday. "I’m not concerned, but I remain vigilant, always vigilant," Olmert added. During a tour of the Adulam region, the prime minister stated in reply to a Ynet question on the subject: "We are aware of what goes on there and are watching the developments closely. " We are coordinated on this with the Egyptians, and are also prepared for the possibility that Hamas will try to breach the border with Israel. . . "

Hamas denies media reports of plans to breach Egypt’s borders
DPA, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Egypt’s official newspaper reported Tuesday a detailed plan by the Palestinian Hamas movement to blow up the concrete wall along the border at Rafah and to kill Egyptian security forces. The Islamic movement was quick to deny the reports. The Egyptian al-Ahram newspaper reported Tuesday that, according to unnamed Palestinian sources, Hamas has prepared a plan to breach the border with Egypt and to attack Egyptian security force members, after a Fatwa authorizing the killing of border troops was issued. Hamas planned to attack the border fortifications by blowing up the tunnels beneath, sources told al-Ahram in a telephone interview. As part of the preparations, Hamas has planted explosives along four kilometres of the border, between the western area of Tal Zarab to the eastern Brazil and Salam areas, the reports said.

Hamas: IOA truce offer in Gaza media fabrication
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has described the Israeli occupation authority’s reported truce offer in Gaza Strip in return for relaxing siege on crossings was a mere "media stunt". Ayman Taha, one of the Hamas leaders in Gaza, said that the IOA wants a truce without any concrete benefit  for the Palestinians in return, adding that the use of "easing [the Israeli] position" regarding the crossings was vague. The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper had quoted Palestinian sources as saying that the IOA tabled the offer through Egyptian officials to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad Movements. It said that the offer included halting firing of the locally made missiles at Israeli settlements for a period of six to twelve months in return for a promise that the IOA would "ease" its position regarding the closed crossings. Taha said that the calm should be reciprocal and comprehensive, explaining. . .

Security around MK Eitam boosted after anti-Arab speech
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 4/15/2008
Bodyguard assigned to rightist lawmaker a few weeks after he told Arab MKs ’day will come when we will banish you’ - The Knesset has recently assigned a bodyguard to Effie Eitam following a vehement speech in which the National Union-NRP member told Arab-Israeli lawmakers that "the day will come when we will banish you from this house (Knesset) and from the national home. "In his speech last month the rightist Knesset member added: "You (Arab MKs) should be expelled to Gaza, where your people, who are fighting us, dwell; that is where you belong. " After delivering the speech, while making his way to the apartment rented for him by the Knesset in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood, Eitam was approached by a man who said to him in an Arabic accent "don’t think you can expel us from here; we heard what you said.

DFLP leader killed in Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A National Resistance Brigades leader, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) was killed in an Israeli air strike on Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday night. Two bystanders were also injured. Palestinian medical sources identified the victim as 34-year-old Ibrahim Abu ’Ilba. He was targeted by an Israeli missile as he was walking down a street. In a different regard, Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades said that their fighters were involved in armed clashes with Israeli troops east of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. They said in a statement that Israeli warplanes launched three missiles in the area of the clashes.

Gaza fighter killed in Israeli raid
Al Jazeera 4/15/2008
A Palestinian fighter in the Gaza Strip has been killed in an Israeli air raid that left another man wounded, police officials said. Police identified both men, who had been riding a motorcycle in the Jabalya refugee camp when they were hit in a missile attack on Tuesday night, as members of Islamic Jihad. Several bystanders were also wounded in the attack. An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed an air raid had taken place but did not immediately provide details. Israel frequently raids Gaza in what its officials say are efforts to stop cross-border rocket fire and other attacks. Hamas seized control of Gaza in June last year, pushing the rival Fatah faction back into the West Bank. Signs of torture - Earlier on Tuesady, Hamas denied being involved in the killing of a Fatah security official whose body was discovered south of Gaza City, a day after he was kidnapped from his home.

Israel launches Gaza raid
Al Jazeera 4/15/2008
The Israeli army has entered the south of the Gaza Strip and carried out searches accompanied by exchanges of fire and explosions, the AFP news agency reports quoting Palestinian security officials and witnesses. The incursion comes hours after an Israeli missile strike killed a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (DFLP), a group that has claimed responsibility for recent rocket attacks against Israel. About 20 armoured vehicles, accompanied by bulldozers and twohelicopter gunships, early on Tuesday moved 1. 5km inside the Hamas-governed territory near the Kissufim crossing point with Israel. They searched a school and other buildings in El Karara and Wadi al-Salka. Exchanges of fire took place between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians and a number of explosions were reported.

3 wounded as gunmen, police clash in Nablus
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/15/2008
Exchanges of fire erupt as PA security force enters West Bank city’s casbah in bid to arrest wanted Fatah man who escaped from jail 10 days ago - Exchanges of fire broke out Tuesday in the West Bank city of Nablus between Palestinian security forces and gunmen who escaped from a Palestinian Authority jail 10 days ago. At least three bystanders were injured in the clashes. The gunmen are members of Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. A PA force arrived at the casbah of Nablus in order to arrest one of the wanted men, who escaped with the group from the Palestinian jail, where he had been held as part of an amnesty agreement between Israel and the PA first reported by Ynet. Fourteen inmates escaped from the prison on April 4, after complaining about their imprisonment conditions.

Palestinian intelligence officer found dead in Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A member of the Palestinian intelligence services was found dead in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, local sources said. The body of 35-five-year-old Sami Khattab, from the city of Deir Al-Balah, was found near the abandoned Israeli settlement Netzarim. Medics at Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City said the body showed signs of torture. Local residents said Khattab had been kidnapped last week. Khattab’s family accused the Palestinian internal security services of murdering him. The family claimed that the security forces arrested Khattab 24 hours before informing him that he was found dead, with his name written on his body. The Interior Ministry of the de facto government in the Gaza Strip said that an investigation has been opened in the case. The Ministry vowed to find and punish those responsible.

Israeli forces penetrate southern Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli forces penetrated the town of Al-Qarara in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning accompanied by bulldozers. Local sources said that clashes erupted in the area between the invading Israeli forces and Palestinian resistance fighters. No casualties have been reported. The invading Israeli forces exceeded the border fence into the Gaza Strip by 1,200 meters. They occupied five Palestinian homes as well as Al-Ma’arry school near Kissufim and stationed themselves there. Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that their fighters detonated a land mine near an Israeli military vehicle in the area. Earlier, the Al-Qassam Brigades claimed they launched three rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) at Israeli vehicles.

DFLP and PFLP military groups fire projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), theAbu Ali Mustafa Brigades, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s military wing, the National Resistance Brigades, claimed responsibility on Tuesday morning for launching two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot. They said in a joint statement that the shelling came in retaliation for Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the assassination of National Resistance Brigades’ leader Ibrahim Abu ’Ilba, who was killed in an Israeli air stirke on Monday night. [end]

Letters: Demolition of Palestinian homes
Linda Ramsden, Director, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK, The Guardian 4/16/2008
Since 1967, more than 18,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the Israelis and fewer than 10% have had anything to do with security reasons (Area C strikes fear into the heart of Palestinians as homes are destroyed, April 15). There are many "legal" pretexts, but essentially homes are destroyed to free up land for Israeli settlements, to build settler-only highways, to construct the "separation barrier" and to build massive military installations. Through house demolitions, over 100,000 Palestinians have been made homeless. This is part of a long-term strategy that aims to inflict collective punishment on Palestinians and break their will to resist the occupation of their land. It is part of the silent ethnic transfer which will make life so unbearable that Palestinians will leave their country. This strategy prevents the creation of a viable Palestinian state and ensures permanent Israeli control of the occupied territories and their resources.

Abu Hussein: All we are guilty of is their hatred for us
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 4/15/2008
Jerusalem -- Bulldozers and heavy machinery from the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality demolished another Palestinian home in East Jerusalem yesterday. Younis Sobeih lived with his family in the suburban town of Anata. At the time of demolition on Monday Israeli forces claimed that his home was unlicensed and is in the path of the Wall route. The Israeli police and border guards cordoned off area, accompanied by police dogs, and prevented citizens from approaching the house during the demolition. A lawyer was working until the last minute to stop the demolitions, along with sons in the family, dealing with municipal employees and representatives to the Israeli Defense Ministry. The family slept throughout the early morning hours, unaware of the danger. When the moment of destruction came, Israeli forces drug out a daughter and other family members without allowing them to take their furniture.

European campaign: Mass death in Gaza during the coming five days
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)--The European campaign to lift the siege on Gaza warned that Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip are going to die in large numbers if the Israeli occupation continues to prevent the entry of necessary fuel supplies. In an urgent appeal issued in Brussels and received by the PIC, the campaign explained that a complete power outage in Gaza which is expected to happen at the end of this week would stop feeding hospitals with energy necessary for the operation of medical equipment which definitely would result in mass death among patients especially those who are in intensive care units and those who depend on respirators and dialysis machines as well as babies inside incubators. The campaign added that the Israeli siege tightened its ropes around the Palestinian patients’ necks when ambulances stopped transporting patients and casualties and doctors became unable to reach their jobs because of scarcity of transport means.

Carter meets Hamas official, calls for group to be included in peace talks
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Former U. S. President Jimmy Carter met an ex-minister in Hamas’ government on Tuesday, defying Israeli leaders who shunned the Nobel Peace Prize laureate over his contacts with the Islamist group. Following the meeting in Ramallah, Carter called for Syria and Hamas to be included in negotiations for a final peace agreement, saying: "Since Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in the final peace agreement, they ought to be involved in the discussions leading up to. . . peace. " Naser Shaer, who served as deputy prime minister in the Hamas-led government that the United States and other Western powers boycotted, was greeted by Carter with a hug and kisses to both cheeks, a member of Carter’s delegation said. "Mr. Carter wanted to listen to the positions of different Palestinian figures. . . "

US Ex-President Carter visits Arafat’s tomb
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Former US President Jimmy Carter laid flowers at the tomb of the late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat in an official ceremony at the Muqata’a, the Palestinian presidential compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday. Carter stood in respectful silence for one minute, then remarked on the historic role that Arafat played, saying that Arafat was a personal friend of his. It was the first visit by a high-ranking American official to Arafat’s grave. The Secretary-General of the Palestinian Presidency, At-Tayyib Abdul-Rahim, applauded Carter for visiting the occupied Palestinian territories. Another spokesperson of the Palestinian Presidency noted that, in accordance with the late president’s wishes, Arafat’s tomb will be moved to Jerusalem when it is liberated.

Carter: Arafat fought for just causes
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/15/2008
Former US president visits Ramallah gravesite of deceased Palestinian leader, embraces senior Hamas official. Israel dodging implementation of Annapolis agreements, he says - Yasser Arafat fought for the advancement of the Palestinians and other just causes in the world, former US president Jimmy Carter said after laying a wreath Tuesday on the grave of the deceased Palestinian Authority chairman in Ramallah. Carter was greeted at the gravesite by Abed Elrahim, general secretary of the Palestinian presidency, who said the Palestinians hope to transfer Arafat’s bones to Jerusalem. The former American president, who is on a week-long tour of the region, also met with Nasr a-Din Shaar,

Carter lays wreath for Arafat
Al Jazeera 4/15/2008
Jimmy Carter, the former US president, has laid a wreath at the grave of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, further defying Israeli leaders already critical of his plans to meet Hamas. Carter was refused permission to enter the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but met a leading Hamas figure in the West Bank. A member of Carter’s delegation in the West Bank city of Ramallah said that Israel had rejected Carter’s request to visit the Strip. Your ViewsShould Jimmy Carter meet Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal? Send us your views"I haven’t been able to get permission to go into Gaza. . . I asked for permission, but I was turned down," Carter said. "But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don’t know yet. "All of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza are controlled by Israel and Egyptian forces are stationed at Gaza’s southern border, which is largely closed.

Israel security refuses to guard Carter, Israeli officials shun him
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- American sources said that the Israeli security apparatuses refused to assist the US secret service guarding former US president Jimmy Carter, while Israeli premier Ehud Olmert and other officials refused to meet him. This cold reception came in protest at Carter’s plan to meet with Khaled Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, in Syria and at his description of the Israeli policies in Palestine as  "apartheid" in his book published in 2006. The sources told the Reuters news agency that the Israeli security apparatus called Shin Bet which routinely assists in protecting visiting dignitaries refused to meet the head of secret service agents guarding Carter or to help the agents as practiced during such visits. Before his visit to the occupied Palestinian lands, Carter defended his willingness to meet with Hamas leaders in an interview with. . .

Israel to renew limited fuel supplies to Gaza Strip
Deutsche Presse Agentur, ReliefWeb 4/14/2008
Tel Aviv_(dpa) _Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the renewal of fuel deliveries to the Gaza Strip, almost one week after they were cut off following a Palestinian-militant shooting attack on a border fuel terminal which killed two Israelis. Israel Radio reported that diesel fuel for the Gaza power station, and cooking gas are included in the minister’s decision, but petrol for motor vehicles will not be delivered. Israel in recent months has cut back on the fuel it delivers to the strip, to protest continued Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. The fuel supply was suspended last week, after militant groups attacked the Nahal Oz terminal - the main entry point for fuel into the salient - last Wednesday and killed two Israeli civilians. The head of the Palestinian Petrol Corporation in Gaza, Mujahid Salama, warned Monday that Gaza’s main power plant would be closed by Tuesday due to the shortage of fuel.

Barak orders shipment of gas and diesel for Gaza power plant
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Bethlehem – By Ma’an’s Gaza correspondents and Marian Houk – Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday gave directives to the Israeli army to renew shipments of industrial diesel fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip starting on Wednesday. In the statement, Barak said that he would only allow the transfer of this type of industrial diesel fuel that is used only for Gaza’s one power plant, but not ordinary diesel used for back-up and stand-by generators or – along with gasoline – used by private vehicles. The Israeli liaison department at Erez crossing told Ma’an that diesel will be shipped for operating the power plant in the Gaza Strip. According to the website of the Israeli daily newspaper the Jerusalem Post, Barak’s decision came at the request of the Egyptian government. They affirmed that Barak refused to ship fuel for transportation to Gaza.

Mistake prompts Ashkelon siren scare
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 4/15/2008
Local residents rush to protected spaces after rocket alert system mistakenly activated - False alarm:The rocket alert siren was mistakenly activated in the southern city of Ashkelon Tuesday afternoon, prompting residents to rush to take cover. The siren could be heard across Ashkelon around 4 pm, but a short time later it turned out that no rockets were fired at the city. The latest incident does not mark the first time that the siren in Ashkelon goes off by mistake. A month ago, a similar incident took place, prompting thousands of concerned residents to contact police. In another incident about two weeks ago, many deaf residents of the city were under the impression that Israel was facing a rocket offensive, after the special beepers they received from the IDF Home Front Command informed them of incoming rockets.

IWPS calls for new volunteers
International Womens’ Peace Service 4/15/2008
IWPS calls for new volunteers - Peace and human-rights volunteers needed in Palestine - Are you a woman who is interested in working for international justice? - Do you want to support Palestinian non-violent resistance? - Are you willing to accompany farmers while they harvest their olives in the fall? - Are you able to spend two weeks to three months in the rural West Bank? The International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) is a team of international women based in Haris, a village in the Salfit governorate of the West Bank. IWPS provides accompaniment to Palestinian civilians, documents and non-violently intervenes in human rights abuses, supports acts of non-violent resistance to end the military occupation of the Palestinian Territories – particularly Palestinian women’s resistance – and opposes the Wall.

African migrants arrested while attempting to cross into Israel
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/15/2008
An Egyptian security official says border guards have arrested six African migrants trying to cross illegally into Israel. The official says five men and a woman from Nigeria and the Ivory Coast were caught Tuesday in an area in central Sinai about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the main Egypt-Gaza crossing. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media. The official says the migrants allegedly paid $500 (315 Euros) to human traffickers for shelter in the Egyptian desert and a ride to the Israeli border. Guards shot at one of the migrants when he tried to escape, causing him to stumble and injure himself lightly, the official said. A hospital official says he was hospitalized with non-life-threatening wounds.

Prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel is forthcoming, Palestinian official says
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Egyptian-brokered prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel is imminent, the Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, Ziad Abu Ein, said on Tuesday. Abu Ein, who claims to have spoken to officials with knowledge of the secret negotiations, said that the deal will involve the release of all Hamas-affiliated lawmakers, mayors of Palestinian cities, and other Palestinian prisoners, in exchange for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The coming agreement, Abu Ein says, also includes a ceasefire between Palestinian military groups and Israel, bringing cross-border fighting in and around the Gaza Strip to a halt. Arrangements will also be made to open some of Gaza’s border crossings and ease Israel’s nine-month-old siege of the Strip. Shalit was taken prisoner by Palestinian fighters in June 2006.

Livni ends Qatar visit
Middle East Online 4/15/2008
DOHA - Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni left Qatar on Tuesday after a rare visit to an Arab country during which she lobbied for support against Iran’s nuclear drive and urged Arab states to forge ties with Israel. Livni arrived in Doha on Sunday to address a democracy forum, but she also met Qatari leaders and her Omani counterpart during her stay. The only Arab countries which Livni visited previously were Egypt and Jordan, both of which have peace treaties with Israel. Gas-rich Qatar, a close US ally, has political contacts with Israel and hosts an Israeli commercial interests office, but does not have full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Livni on Tuesday met Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, but she declined to say if their talks covered the possibility of Qatari gas being supplied to Israel.

Top Lebanese cleric calls Livni’s Qatar visit an ’insult’ to Muslims
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Lebanon’s top Shiite Muslim cleric sharply criticized Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s visit to Qatar and said Tuesday that her comments about Hezbollah and Hamas reflect brazenness and arrogance on the part of Israel. Livni’s two-day visit to Doha was her first to any Gulf state. Qatar has no diplomatic ties with Israel, but the two nations maintain low-level trade relations. Speaking at a democracy and trade forum Monday, Livni said Israel and Arab states are mired in the same struggle with extremists like Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Hamas. "We, the moderates of the region, are all members of the same camp," Livni said. On Tuesday, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah issued a statement calling Livni’s trip and her remarks "a big insult" to all Arabs and Muslims.

Peres, at Warsaw uprising memorial: Israel will avenge Holocaust through peace
Lily Galili , and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
President Shimon Peres delivered an address at a ceremony marking 65 years since the Warsaw ghetto uprising, stating that peace is the way in which Israel must avenge the horrors of the Holocaust. "During times of intifadas and [Iranian] uranium enrichment, it is through peace that the forces of light can avenge the actions of the forces of darkness. " On Monday, Peres did not grant the Poles penance or absolution on Monday. Nevertheless, when he said at the foot of the memorial at the Treblinka death camp: "It is difficult to stand here, not because of you, but because of what was here," Peres was saying out loud, alongside Polish President Lech Kaczynski, what the Polish people had been hoping to hear. For years the Poles have been waiting for recognition that even if the horrors of the Holocaust may have taken place on their soil, they did not carry them out.

U.S.: Iranian threats to ’eliminate’ Israel justify int’l sanctions
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
In a new round in the war of words between Jerusalem and Tehran, the Iranian army’s deputy chief threatened Tuesday to respond to any military attack from Israel by ’eliminating’ it. The U. S. State Department said on Tuesday that the comments showed the international community was right to sanction Iran. It is "more unbelievable rhetoric out of the leadership of the Iranian government about attacking a fellow member of the United Nations," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "Any civilized person finds that disturbing. "Iran’s Deputy Chief of Staff Mohammed Rada Ashtiani was quoted earlier by the semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr as saying: "If Israel wants to take any action against the Islamic Republic, we will eliminate Israel from the scene of the universe. . . "[who translated? Ed. ]

Arrow successfully simulates intercept of mock Shihab missile
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
The Arrow anti-ballistic missile system successfully simulated an interception of a rocket designed to mimic the Iranian Shihab missile on Tuesday. This was the first successful test involving a Blue Sparrow missile,manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The missile is a newer version of the Black Sparrow, which was built to resemble the ground-to-ground Scud A and B missiles. During the test, a Blue Sparrow was fired from an Israel Air Force F-15 at a height of 90,000 feet. The missile splits into multiple warheads, making it harder for the Arrow to intercept it. However, the Arrow’s radar tracked the missile, simulating an intercept. Another test is scheduled to take place in six months. In this test, an actual Arrow missile will try to intercept a Blue Sparrow.

Israel test-fires ’Iran’ missile
Al Jazeera 4/15/2008
Israel has conducted a test of a ballistic missile aimed at simulating an Iranian attack on Israel. The test of the "Blue Sparrow" on Tuesday came after Israel’s foreign minister said in Qatar the day before that Iran represented "the extremists in the region" and was "a threat and challenge to the entire region". Mohammed Rada Ashtiani, the deputy commander of the Iranian army, responded on Tuesday by saying that they would "eliminate it from the global arena" if Israel took any action against them. Israel’s missile test follows confirmation from a senior Israeli defence official that the US has agreed to connect the Jewish state to its ballistic missile early warning system "to protect" the regime against any missile attack. Israel asked the US to connect to its ballistic missile early warning system as part of its efforts to defend itself from missile attacks. "The US has agreed to the request," he said.

Egyptian newspaper claims Hamas plans to break through border
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Ahram on Tuesday revealed a Hamas plan to breach the Gaza-Egypt border. "The Hamas movement continues its religious and political incitement against Egypt, while reliable Palestinian sources revealed that Hamas militias have formulated a plan to break through the Egyptian borders," the newspaper reported. According to Al-Ahram’s Palestinian sources, the first stage of the plan is to shell the borders with mortars that have already been deployed along the border. The second stage is to fire on Egyptian border guards. A special Fatwa was issued last Friday legalizing the killing of Egyptian soldiers. Then Hamas fighters will surround Egyptian military bunkers through a network of underground tunnels. Some of the bunkers will be blown up with explosives planted in tunnels, running underneath them, Al-Ahram reported.

Bahar: Explosion against siege targets occupation
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting PLC speaker, said on Tuesday that the Israeli occupation is responsible for any Palestinian explosion against the siege on Gaza. Bahar told a rally held at the Rafah border crossing that the explosion is against occupation and not against Egypt, although he asked Cairo to assume its responsibility and to speed up opening the Rafah border terminal. He asked the Arab League to turn its decision about lifting the siege on Gaza into deeds in order to save one and a half million Palestinians from slow death. Bahar appealed to all Muslims to shoulder their responsibility vis-à-vis such a humanitarian tragedy, stressing that the Palestinians defend their legitimate rights. He finally said that the Palestinians rather than Israelis should be supplied with Egyptian oil and gas.

Mothers call for kidnapped soldiers’ release
Neta Sela, YNetNews 4/15/2008
Dozens of women demonstrate outside prime minister’s Jerusalem residence. ’It’s only a matter of time before every mother will refuse to send her son to defend the State,’ one of protestors says - Dozens of women demonstrated Tuesday outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Jerusalem residence, urging him to bring the three kidnapped IDF soldiers - Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - back home. "It’s only a matter of time before every mother educates her son to stay home and refuses to send him to defend the State," Osnat Vaturi, one of the protestors, told Ynet. " Stop being indifferent, bring the sons back," Vaturi chanted during the demonstration. She warned against the grave results of the prime minister’s conduct.

OPT: Report No. 60 - Implementation of the agreement on movement and access, 20 Feb - 04 Mar 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 3/4/2008
The United Nations is submitting the 60th bi-weekly report on the implementation of the 15 November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), covering the period 20 February – 4 March 20081. Overall Progress: The Karni and Rafah crossings remained closed for the movement of goods and people to and from Gaza, except for wheat grain and animal feed at Karni. From 2-4 March, Rafah crossing was partially opened for Palestinian medical patients who were injured during the IDF ’Warm Winter’ operation in Gaza. Sufa crossing= was open on all scheduled operating days, while Kerem Shalom was exceptionally open on one day. Erez crossing remained closed for all Palestinians with the exception of a limited number of medical cases, traders and Palestinian staff working for international organizations. Overall, a total of 863 truckloads, including 157 from humanitarian agencies, were. . .

Barak: Syria supplying Hizbullah with rockets
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/16/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Syria is supplying Lebanon’s Hizbullah militia with rockets in violation of Resolution 1701, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak charged on Tuesday. "Resolution 1701 is not being applied. The transfer of rockets from Syria to Lebanon is continuing and Hizbullah’s military buildup is continuing," Barak’s office quoted him as saying during a visit to an air force base. "I think the Security Council has to act and see how the resolution is applied and enforced. " The resolution, which put an end to a 34-day war in July-August 2006, demanded the pullout of the Israeli Army from South Lebanon and its replacement by a UN-backed Lebanese Army deployment. It also called for the disarming of all militias - an allusion to Hizbullah and Palestinian militant groups - and the prevention of illegal arms sales and smuggling operations in Lebanon.

Dutch students from Amsterdam University visit Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – A delegation of Dutch students from Amsterdam University visited the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday and met with the governor Dr Hussein Al-A’raj. He explained that the Palestinian residents of Hebron are suffering because of the presence of Israeli forces and settlers, especially in the city. The governor said the visit was important as it enabled the students to see the situation in Hebron firsthand. He also talked about the 400 Israeli settlers who live in the middle of Hebron, explaining that they often assault Palestinian residents and take control of Palestinian schools, homes and shops. [end]

Alternative US Jewish lobby formed
Al Jazeera 4/15/2008
A group of prominent US Jewish activists has launched a lobbying group and new political action committee in a bid to promote a new Arab-Israeli peace deal, organisers say. The J Street lobbying group and its action committee, JStreetPAC, has an advisory council of more than 100 government officials, academics and activists, it says. The organisation was formed to counter conservative groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and evangelical Christian organisations whose pro-Israel stances have dominated US foreign policy, the group said. "For too long the loudest voices heard in the US, when it comes to Israel, are those of the far right," Jeremy Ben Ami, executive director of the organisation and an advisor to former US president Bill Clinton, told Al Jazeera. -- See also: J Sreet

Government and civil servants’ union reach agreement
Ma’an News Agency 4/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Ramallah-based Palestinian caretaker government and the civil servants’ union reached a deal on Monday evening to end a 4-month-long pay dispute that has resulted in a series of strikes. Palestinian public employees, especially teachers, have held a number of strikes since January demanding increased pay. The government promised to pay all the backpay owed to civil servants within no more than six months. Many civil servants have not received their full salaries for over a year. The government has also agreed to increase transportation reimbursement by 50%, backdated to 1 April. According to the head of the civil servants’ union, Bassam Zakarna, agreement was reached during a meeting between representatives of the Palestinian government and the civil servants union. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Health Minister Fathi Abu Mughli. . .

Hamas: Abbas’s statements prove he is not fit for his post as president
Palestinian Information Center 4/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s statements in which he defends the Israeli crimes and condemns the Palestinian people and their resistance prove that he cannot serve at all as a president of the Palestinian people. In a press release received by the PIC on Tuesday, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, strongly denounced Abbas for describing once again the Palestinian resistance’s rockets as frivolous and threatening the security of Palestine, saying that Abbas’s statements are frivolous not the rockets because Israel is the one which threatens the security of the Palestinian people. As for Abbas’s accusations that Hamas poses a threat to the security of Egypt, Dr. Abu Zuhri underscored that such statements are cheap exploitation because none of the Palestinian factions had threatened Egypt’s security.

Mazuz endorses selling of bread on Passover
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 4/15/2008
Attorney general publishes legal brief supporting recent Jerusalem court ruling that authorized selling of leavened goods on Passover, as long as they are not displayed publicly - Attorney General Menachem Mazuz published a legal brief Tuesday endorsing a recent court ruling that authorized the selling of leavened goods on Passover, as long as they are not publicly displayed. The Jerusalem Municipal Court ruled that leavened goods may be sold inside stores and restaurants, as long as they are not put on display outside or at the shop window. Mazuz noted that the State Prosecutor’s Office did not intend to appeal the controversial ruling, as it fell in line with the State’s stance. He stressed that this stance in no way constituted a change in policy, on the contrary: "This has been the State’s consistent policy over the years.

J’lem mayor implores local businesses to avoid selling chametz
Yair Ettinger Shahar Ilan and Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski on Tuesday implored city business owners to avoid selling "chametz" or leavened bread, during the Passover holiday. "I don’t believe in coercion, I support discussion. I come to you with the request that this year we work together to preserve the local in Jerusalem of considering the sensibilities of the city’s residents," Lupolianski said in a statement to local merchants. Shas leader Eli Yishai on Tuesday announced that by 2009 it will be impossible to sell chametz, speaking only hours after the Attorney General ruled the state will not appeal a Jerusalem court’s controversial decision to allow the sale of the foods by certain businesses during the Jewish holiday. "The People of Israel can relax, by next year it be impossible to sell chametz," said Eli Yishai, who is Employment, Trade and Industry Minister as well as heading the ultra-Orthodox party.

Israel’s water demand will hugely outweigh supply during 2008
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Israel is 350 million cubic meters of water short of supplying expected demand over the coming year, without seriously endangering the quality of its water reserves, it was revealed Tuesday. According to data presented at an emergency meeting, no precipitation was measured in the central coastal or mountain areas over the months of April or May for the first time since records began, precipitating the current crisis. The meeting, called by the Water Authority and the Israel Water Association, discussed a number of tough water-saving measures proposed by an ad hoc committee that included a complete ban on watering new municipal parks and gardens. "In the next two or three years we’ll have to learn to swim in empty swimming pools," said Professor Uri Shani, head of the Water Authority.

Part of Jerusalem’s Western Wall crumbling
Middle East Online 4/15/2008
Part of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the holiest site for Jews, has started crumbling and needs to be fixed to protect worshippers who bow in prayer before the massive ancient stones, officials said on Tuesday. Each year, some six million people visit what is also known as the Wailing Wall, revered by Jews as the remnant of their Second Temple and Israel’s biggest tourist attraction. Ironically, the layers of stones that predate the 70 AD destruction of the temple are in fine shape, while smaller ones at the top of the wall, added less than 100 years ago, are showing signs of wear. "There are two types of stone. Some are from the Second Temple more than two thousand years ago and they are in a good state, generally speaking," said Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall. "The problem is with the stones added during the British Mandate. "

VIDEO - Western Wall stones crumbling
Nissan Straukler, YNetNews 4/15/2008
(Video) Stones added to top of wall in 19th century show concerning signs of disintegration. ’Renovations will be done with cooperation of Israel Antiquities Authority, in accordance to Jewish law,’ says Western Wall rabbi - VIDEO - A routine inspection of the Western Wall’s stones has revealed that some of then are falling apart, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday. The stones in question, oddly enough, are those atop the upper wall - an addition built in the 19th century. The stones in the bottom of the wall, which date back to the days of the Second Temple, show no more than minor damage. Video courtesy of infolive. tv - Some simple maintenance work is all that is needed in order protect both the integrity of the stones and the safety of those praying at the wall; but since the Halacha prevents removing or changing any of the Wall’s stones, scaffolding. . .

Provocative new play evokes sympathy for Jews, Palestinians
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/15/2008
A Jewish couple raises an abandoned Palestinian child. Decades later the boy’s two mothers meet, and, after an agonising and high-octane exchange, they tentatively embrace. The scene is charged with symbolism, heightened by the fact it comes from an Israeli stage production of a Palestinian novella, and is performed by a Jewish and Arab cast to mark Israel’s 60th birthday. "The Return to Haifa", a provocative new play by one of Israel’s leading theatres, explores the personal suffering behind the decades-old Middle East conflict, from both an Israeli and Palestinian perspective. "What’s so special about this production is that it gives an arena for people of both sides to listen to each other’s narratives," director Sinai Peter told Reuters ahead of the opening night in Jaffa, south of central Tel Aviv.

Shekel-dollar rate pummets
Erez Wollberg, Globes Online 4/15/2008
Clarification of remarks by the Governor of the Bank of Israel has not held back the sharp drops. The drop in the shekel-dollar exchange rate has intensified over the course of the day, with the exchange rate down 2. 4% by early afternoon to NIS 3. 478/$. The shekel-euro rate is also down sharply, falling a nearly identical 2. 45% to NIS 5. 5098/€. Yesterday afternoon, the Bank of Israelissued a statement in which it clarified that Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer "estimated that the shekel would strengthen over the course of the next few years, not in the upcoming days". The central bank explained that in over a short time period it is not possible to predict the movement in the exchange rate. On Sunday, the Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer had claimed that the shekel would continue to strengthen in the near and medium terms.

Gov’t okays more construction workers from Judea, Samaria
Ariel Rosenberg, Globes Online 4/15/2008
The decision is a victory for the Association of Contractors and Builders. The cabinet approved the addition of 5,000 Palestinian construction workers at its weekly meeting on Sunday. The decision was a victory for the Association of Contractors and Builders in Israel, which had been lobbying for months for increased manpower. The industry has not been able to attract Jewish workers. The decision boosts the number of Palestinian construction workers by 30% from the current 14,250. The workers will come from the Palestinian Authority, but not the Gaza Strip. In early 2007, the government decided to gradually cut the quota of foreign construction workers from the current 15,000 to zero by 2010. Contractors said that the decision did not provide an alternative source of manpower.

Science Minister claims brain drain of 20,000 people
Shahar Zadok, Globes Online 4/15/2008
Rad Bynet Group CEO Yehuda Zisapel: We drove out textiles, and now it’s the turn of high-tech. "We’re heading for a crisis and everyone is partying,"Rad Bynet Group CEO Yehuda Zisapel told the "Forbes" conference marking Israel’s 60th anniversary yesterday. "In the past, we drove out textiles, and now it’s the turn of high-tech. The government must intervene to prevent a crisis. "He made the comment at the conference panel on "Israeli opportunities in the world of technology". Minister of Science, Culture and Sport Raleb Majadele told the panel on "Brain drain" that R&D in Israel was waning. "The lack of investment in R&D has resulted a brain drain of 20,000 people in recent years," he said. Commenting on the brain drain, Zisapel said that the educational system adhered to a mistaken concept that higher budgets meant better education.

IFN wins contract with Mapping Center of Israel
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 4/15/2008
The Mapping Center will set up a central system to serve users who want to access documents online or at the center’s regional offices. Enterprise content management companyIFN Solutions Ltd. has won a contract with theMapping Center of Israel to supply and integrate a content management system. The company did not disclose the value of the contract, but it is estimated to be worth several million shekels. IFN will integrate an enterprise knowledge management system at the Mapping Center archive. The archive includes large numbers of maps, property registration papers, and field survey documentation. The system will combine the Mapping Center’s geographic information management system and billing system. It will replace the Mapping Center’s existing computerized archiving system with a customer-facing web-based customer-facing system.

Egyptian security forces hunting multiple terror cells in Sinai
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Egyptian security forces on Tuesday were searching in Sinai for multiple terror cells believed to be planning attacks against foreign nationals, especially Israelis, in the area. The Counterterrorism Bureau has issued a severe warning against visits by Israelis to Sinai during the upcoming Pesach holiday. Egyptian military sources told foreign reporters on Tuesday that its forces were searching for four pickup trucks thought to be carrying carrying militants to a target site. Roadblocks were set up throughout Sinai in an effort to apprehend the cells, which are believed to be part of "World Jihad. " Israeli officials fear a terror attack with mass casualties at a tourism site popular with Israelis, as well as attempts to abduct Israeli citizens, possibly with intent to take them to the Gaza Strip and use them as bargaining chips. . .

Jordan ’set to face more riots’
Al Jazeera 4/15/2008
Fears of further riots are growing in Jordan after three people were killed in two days of prison protests in the country. The prison protests come amid mounting pressure on the Jordanian government to tackle soaring food and energy prices in the country. Jordan’s main opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), warned on Monday that social unrest was likely as a result of "insufficient" government policies to tackle soaring prices in the cash-strapped country. Food prices have risen and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)projects inflation of nine per cent in 2008, up from 5. 4 per cent lastyear. Limited patience - "People’s patience has limits, and I think that in the comingdays there will be an explosion, a very big explosion, and nobody can predict its repercussions or results," Zaki Bani Rsheid, secretary general of the IAF, told AFP.

Uproar in Jordan over ’hidden’ privatisation deals
Middle East Online 4/15/2008
Several multi-billion dollar deals reached quietly with foreigners, including the sale of Jordan’s only Red Sea port at Aqaba, have provoked MPs to demand explanations from the government over "hidden" privatisation projects. "The problem is the lack of transparency. Such contracts are required to be made public," former prime minister and current senator Taher Masri said. "The government must explain the circumstances of these investments, which happen in the dark. " He criticised the government for seeking "non-Jordanian" investors. "The Jordanian people might not feel the positive effects of privatisation plans, which will only benefit a small group of the rich," Masri said. On Sunday, the government announced a five-billion-dollar deal with a United Arab Emirates firm to develop the port of Aqaba. The company has already paid 500 million dollars to the government. . .

’Worse than Saddam:’ Maliki pays price for clash with Sadr
Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail, Daily Star 4/16/2008
Inter Press Service - BAGHDAD: Many Iraqis have come to believe that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is just as much a dictator as Saddam Hussein was. "Maliki is a dictator who must be removed by all means," 35-year-old Abdel-Riza Hussein, a Mehdi Army member from Sadr City in Baghdad told IPS. "He is a worse dictator than Saddam; he has killed in less than two years more than Saddam killed in 10 years. " Following the failed attempt by the US-backed Maliki to crack down on the Mehdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the situation in Iraq has become much worse. Fierce fighting has broken out between the Mehdi Army and Maliki’s army and police forces in Baghdad, which comprise mostly the Badr Organization militia, the armed wing of the political group, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC).

Dozens dead as violence hits several parts of Iraq
Salam Faraj, Daily Star 4/16/2008
Agence France Presse BAGHDAD: A spate of bombings across Iraq which the US military blamed on Al-Qaeda and a fresh surge of fighting between Shiite militiamen and US forces in Baghdad killed at least 62 people on Tuesday. A car bomb outside a courthouse in the central city of Baquba, an Al-Qaeda stronghold, killed at least 40 people and wounded 80 in the most devastating attack in the violence-wracked country in a month, police said. Medical officials said many of the victims were charred beyond recognition and people were crowding the local hospital trying to identify the remains of relatives. Three minibuses were destroyed and 10 houses damaged in the blast, which sparked pandemonium, an AFP correspondent said. "At least 40 people were killed, including one woman and a police officer, when a car bomb exploded outside the main courtroom in Baquba," said a police official who declined to be identified.

Poll: Israel, US greatest threats to Middle East
Jim Lobe, Electronic Intifada 4/15/2008
WASHINGTON, 14 April (IPS) - Despite renewed US efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement this year, popular views of the United States in the Arab world have actually worsened since 2006, according to a major new survey of public opinion in six Arab states. Nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, of more than 4,000 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said they held a "very unfavorable" attitude of the United States, up from 57 percent in late 2006, while 19 percent more said their views were "somewhat unfavorable" -- roughly comparable to the results of 17 months ago. At the same time, support for Iran and its nuclear program appears to have risen over the same period, according to the new survey, the sixth in a series designed by University of Maryland Prof.

US sinks even lower in Arab world’s esteem - poll
Jim Lobe, Daily Star 4/16/2008
Inter Press Service - WASHINGTON: Despite renewed US efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement this year, popular views of the United States in the Arab world have actually worsened since 2006, according to a major new survey of public opinion in six Arab states. Nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, of more than 4,000 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they held a "very unfavorable" attitude toward the US, up from 57 percent in late 2006, while 19 percent more said their views were "somewhat unfavorable" - roughly comparable to the results of 17 months ago. At the same time, support for Iran and its nuclear program appears to have risen over the same period, according to the new survey, the sixth in a series designed by University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami and carried out by Zogby International since 2002.

Press conference by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations Department of Public Information, ReliefWeb 4/14/2008
Reporting on his recent visit to the Gulf region, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said today there was a recognition by Governments and humanitarian organizations there of the advantages of working more closely with the international system to meet today’s humanitarian demands, as well as the demands for transparency and accountability. Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, Mr. Holmes said he was ’reasonably optimistic’ that, over time, the discussions he had had in the Gulf region -- aimed at encouraging those Governments to channel more of the assistance they already gave bilaterally through multilateral channels -- would bear fruit. However, he was not expecting ’instant results right now; it’s not that kind of discussion and not that kind of partnership that we are seeking’.


No ambulance, call the radio
Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 4/12/2008
      GAZA CITY, 12 April - "I am bleeding uncontrollably, I need an ambulance." That was not a call to emergency services, it was an appeal broadcast live on radio in Gaza City.
     Who knows whether there will ever be an ambulance or not. But this way the ambulance services still hear the appeal broadcast on al-Iman FM Radio Station, one of few independent radio stations in Gaza. And if the emergency services cannot help, someone else who hears the appeal might.
     The ambulance dispatcher announces he cannot get the ambulance to the man. An Israeli bulldozer is blocking the road, and an Israeli tank on a hilltop has been firing at the ambulance, he says. Nobody can say if anyone else got to help the man. But at least his SOS could have been heard.
     Appeals again went on air after the Friday attacks on Bureij refugee camp, where the death toll climbed to 16 by the weekend.
     The deaths included six children among nine people killed Friday. Again, ambulance crews confirmed they could not reach many of the injured. But the appeals were made on radio for all to hear.

How Palestinian children really learn

Carol Scheller, Electronic Intifada 4/15/2008
      On 22 March, The Miami Herald published an article entitled "Dreaming of a peaceful Mideast." The initial reaction to such a headline is naturally one of pleased interest. Reporter Frida Ghitis praises the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information for "working to create" a "culture of peace" in order to "put a stop to incitement and hatred." However, Ghitis goes on to state: "It is absolutely imperative to recast the poisonous message drilled into Palestinian children. In Gaza, in particular, even the youngest children are taught that killing Jews is a duty of Muslims ..."
     This is the stuff of much sensationalist, biased journalism which does its best to neutralize all genuine attempts to foster trust and cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. Having visited and lived in Gaza four times since a month before the beginning of the second intifada and known many families and children there, I was deeply dismayed.
     It is a common mistake to hold religion as the core issue in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. This is incorrect and harmful. The issue is territorial: two peoples lay claim to the same land, land which they are going to have to somehow share, someday, no matter what form of religion they happen to profess, if they indeed practice a religion. Ghitis’s statement is empty of everything except the very things she criticizes: "incitement and hatred."

The Politics of Archaeology in East Jerusalem

Yigal Bronner and Neve Gordon, MIFTAH 4/15/2008
      "Archaeology has become a weapon of dispossession," Yonathan Mizrachi, an Israeli archaeologist, said in a recent telephone interview with us. He was referring to the way archaeology is being used in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in the oldest part of Jerusalem, where, we believe, archaeological digs are being carried out as part of a concerted campaign to expel Palestinians from their ancestral home.
     That effort is orchestrated by an Israeli settler organization called Elad, a name formed from Hebrew letters that stand for "to the City of David." For several years, Elad has used a variety of means to evict East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers. Today Silwan is dotted with about a dozen such outposts. Moreover, practically all the green areas in the densely populated neighborhood have been transformed into new archaeological sites, which have then been fenced and posted with armed guards. On two of these new archaeological sites, Jewish homes have already been built.
     Although the balance of power is clearly in the settlers’ favor, Silwan’s residents have begun a campaign, "Citizens for Silwan," to stop the excavations. They are joined by a number of noted international scholars and a handful of Israeli academics, who are trying to help them remain in their homes.... -- See also: Part of Palestinian house in Jerusalem caves in due to Israeli excavations

They’re Routinely Tortured for Throwing Rocks

Patrick Moser, MIFTAH 4/15/2008
      OFER MILITARY CAMP, West Bank - Mohammed, 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 Alaikum” - peace be upon you. Seven minutes later he was sentenced to four months in prison.
     The prosecutor said 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 Mohammed’s case is typical for alleged 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 Defense for Children International (DCI), an international rights group. With conviction rates above 95 percent, Mohammed didn’t stand much of a chance, said his lawyer, Iyad Misk.

An Interview with Ziyad Abu Zayyad - Moving, but Going Nowhere

Bitterlemons, MIFTAH 4/15/2008
      bitterlemons: Damascus came out in the last couple of weeks saying that recent Israeli military exercises were targeted at Syria. Is there a serious chance of conflagration between Syria and Israel at the moment?
     Abu Zayyad: I think both sides understand the serious consequences of confrontation, one of which is that other parties will be involved. I exclude a bilateral confrontation between Israel and Syria unless it starts somewhere else, like Lebanon or even Iran.
     bitterlemons: But if both sides are aware of the consequences, why the ratcheting up of the rhetoric?
     Abu Zayyad: We should not forget that at the same time as this military exercise in Israel there was a kind of exchange of statements from both sides on the necessity of solving the mutual problem and being involved in a political settlement to the conflict.

Complex Regional Rivalry Muddying the Waters

Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 4/15/2008
      The tension between Israel, Syria and Lebanon has carried indirect negative consequences for Palestinians. Even though it is correct to say that at the moment there is no serious or promising peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis to be disrupted, the tension, on the one hand, and Syria and its regional alliances on the other, can play an important role in influencing the domestic Palestinian situation as well as Palestinian-Israeli relations.
     Recent years have witnessed a growing interrelationship between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other regional conflicts. This in turn has increased the influence and role of regional actors both on the conflict and on domestic Palestinian affairs. This influence has become especially pronounced with the gradual weakening of the Palestinian leadership that resulted from the deterioration and ultimate failure of the peace process upon which this leadership had gambled so much.
     It has become evident that Palestine, like Lebanon and Iraq, is being affected by the ongoing regional rivalry between Iran and the United States that started with the Iraq invasion and US attempts to weaken Iran and interfere in its domestic affairs including with its nuclear program. With an American military presence on its borders in Iraq, the Arab Gulf and Afghanistan, Iran has been motivated to play its cards against this growing American hegemony. These developments coincided with the collapse of the peace process, the moderate and secular leadership associated with it and the rise of Hamas and its victory in Palestinian elections and subsequent takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Through an Iranian Prism

Yossi Alpher, MIFTAH 4/15/2008
      Currently, relations between Israel and Syria are very tense. Any deterioration in the situation--or for that matter, any improvement--could have far-reaching ramifications for Israeli-Palestinian relations. But from Israel’s standpoint, there is more to the picture than just Syria and Palestine.
     The immediate backdrop to the current Israeli-Syrian tension is the assassination in early March in Damascus of Hizballah security chief Imad Mughniyeh, for which Hizballah blames Israel. Now that the 40-day Shi’ite mourning period has passed, Israel anticipates a Hizballah revenge attack that could escalate into new fighting in Lebanon and Israel. Jerusalem believes that Damascus can restrain Hizballah if it has the necessary incentive. Hence it has redoubled Israel’s security preparations in the north, carried out a massive combined military-political-civil defense exercise and threatened Syria that it could suffer as a consequence of any renewed fighting.
     There are numerous intriguing nuances and twists-and-turns to the drama unfolding on Israel’s northern front. For one, Hizballah has an additional incentive to strike against Israel: diverting attention from its prolonged failure to compel the Lebanese political establishment to grant it more power within the country’s faltering political system. On the other hand, Syrian opposition sources claim that the Mughniyeh assassination has brought about an internal shake-up in President Bashar Assad’s entourage, and that Syria’s own investigation of the assassination points to Saudi Arabia, not Israel, as the perpetrator.

The Very Annoying Washington Post

Robert Parry, Middle East Online 4/15/2008
      One of the many annoyances about living in George W. Bush’s Washington is to read the commentaries about the Iraq War on the editorial pages of the Washington Post. Possibly never in modern times has a major newspaper been more wrong, more consistently with more arrogance than has the Post on this vital issue.
     Beyond getting almost nothing right – from the Post’s certitude over Iraq’s WMD to its reverence for Colin Powell’s UN testimony to its excitement over the purple-ink elections to its enthusiasm over whatever latest corner has been turned – the Post also has this obnoxious tendency to mock Americans who don’t share the paper’s wisdom.
     One might have thought that editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt and the Graham family would have learned a few lessons in humility from their wretched record as cheerleader for what even many Republicans now acknowledge has been a disastrous war.