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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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16 April 2008


Israelis kill at least 19 in Gaza, mostly civilians
Daily Star 4/17/2008
Israeli forces killed at least 19 Palestinians, most of them civilians and including a cameraman for an international news agency, as troops backed by helicopters stormed Gaza Wednesday. The bulk of the attacks came after three Israeli troops were killed in a Hamas ambush near a border fuel pipeline. Fadel Shana, 23, a Reuters cameraman, was critically wounded when a projectile hit his vehicle in central Gaza. He died after being taken to hospital, Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza emergency services, told AFP. An AFP photographer driving behind the Reuters jeep, which had large TV and press stickers plastered across its doors, roof, and hood, said the vehicle burst into flames after a missile slammed into it. When a group of photographers rushed to try to rescue their colleague a second missile struck the area, he said.

OPT: Fuel crisis paralyzes 85% of the transportation sector and 50% of education and health services
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - PCHR, ReliefWeb 4/14/2008
PCHR is extremely worried about the continued Israeli ban on fuel supplies required for civilian life in the Gaza Strip. The stoppage in fuel supplies has led to paralyzing 50% of the educational sector as half the students in all educational levels were unable to reach their schools and universities. In addition, educational sector employees have been unable to reach their work. Furthermore, the transportation sector has nearly stopped functioning throughout the Gaza Strip. As a result all basic functions of civilian life have come to a near standstill, including drinking water delivery, sewage water disposal, and garbage collection. In addition, healthcare facilities registered a 25% drop in clients due to the transportation crisis. Furthermore, hundreds of healthcare professionals were unable to reach their work places.

Reuters demands IDF inquiry into cameraman’s death
News agencies, YNetNews 4/17/2008
London-based news agency calls for immediate investigation into death of Gaza photographer employed by company amidst day of fierce clashes between Israeli troops, Palestinian gunmen. Army expresses sorrow for incident but says journalists knowingly put their lives at risk when covering combat zones - A Reuters cameraman was killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday while filming tank movements, Palestinian medical officials said. Cameramen who rushed to the scene said they saw the Reuters jeep on fire, and 23-year-old Fadal Shana’s body lying next to the jeep, alongside other casualties. They said Shana’s jeep was marked as ’’press’’ and that the cameraman was wearing an identifying flak jacket. Video from Shana’s camera showed a tank opening fire. Two seconds after the shot raises dust around its gun, the tape goes blank - seemingly at the moment Shana was hit.

First fuel shipment in six days arrives, late, in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
By Marian Houk and Ma’an’s Gaza reportersGaza – Ma’an – After a tense day of waiting, a fuel shipment pledged by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been delivered to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon, Mahmoud Al-Khizindar, the deputy director of the Gaza federation of gas stations said. According to Al-Khizindar, 180,000 liters of industrial fuel and 88 tons of cooking gas were shipped to the Gaza Strip. The shipment did not include petrol for automobiles. Rafiq Maliha, Director of Contracts at Gaza’s sole power plant, said that only one truck, containing 45,000 liters of fuel arrived at the power plant. Each of the plant’s turbines requires 160,000 liters to operate at normal levels. Until mid-afternoon on Wednesday, it appeared that the promised fuel would not arrive. After a week of virtually no fuel shipments, Gaza’s transportation sector has ground to a halt and the power plant is on the verge of shutting down.

Report: Netanyahu says 9/11 terror attacks good for Israel
Haaretz Service and Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv on Wednesday reported that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan university that the September 11, 2001 terror attacks had been beneficial for Israel. "We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq," Ma’ariv quoted the former prime minister as saying. He reportedly added that these events "swung American public opinion in our favor. " Netanyahu reportedly made the comments during a conference at Bar-Ilan University on the division of Jerusalem as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cast doubt over the veracity of the September 11 attacks Thursday, calling it a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

Three Israeli soldiers killed in ambush near Gaza border
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Three Israel Defense Forces soldiers from the elite Givati Brigade were killed on Wednesday in an exchange of heavy gunfire with Palestinian militants next to the Gaza Strip security fence. A preliminary IDF investigation suggests that an operational error occurred during the soldiers’ raid, a senior officer in the Southern Command told Haaretz. The officer said that the army was investigating why reinforcements were not sent to back up the Givati troops and whether the soldiers were sent on the correct path. The IDF said that the clashes occurred near Kibbutz Be’eri, in the western Negev, as troops entered the Strip to arrest a band of suspicious figures. The soldiers were killed after troops spotted two Hamas militants planting a bomb near the Israeli border.

Undercover Israeli force seize ’pardoned’ Fatah activist
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized a ’pardoned’ Fatah activist in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on Wednesday. Local sources identified the arrestee as Muhammad Jabarin, who was affiliated to Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades and was due to be granted amnesty by Israeli intelligence. The sources explained that an undercover Israeli force driving a car with Palestinian license plates infiltrated into the camp from the west. They stormed Jabarin’s house and arrested him. Confrontations then erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces. Jabarin had signed the amnesty deal granted by the Israelis and was staying in the Palestinian security headquarters. Commenting on the arrest, Al-Aqsa Brigades leader, Zakariyya Zubaydi, who was also included in the amnesty deal, said he held the Palestinain Authority responsible for Jabarin’s arrest.

IOF artillery shells Palestinian hospital
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Two IOF artillery shells slammed into the Wafa’a hospital east of Gaza city at dawn Wednesday severely damaging the ground floor, X-ray department and the laboratory, the hospital administration said in a press release. The shelling also severed electricity, water and telephone lines, it said, strongly denouncing the act especially when the hospital serves hundreds of aged persons, wounded and handicapped. It noted that the eastern fence of the hospital was destroyed in the bombing, and underlined that the hospital is specialized in extending rehabilitation services and specialized surgeries. The hospital appealed to international institutions, legal groups and WHO to immediately intervene to save the health sector in Palestine, which is experiencing difficulties due to the siege and closure of crossings and now shelling.

Kibbutz homes damaged by Qassams
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 4/16/2008
At least 19 rockets fired towards Israel since morning hours, several buildings sustain damages in afternoon barrage - Nine Qassam rockets were fired towards Israel on Wednesday afternoon in the latest barrage by Palestinian terror groups in northern Gaza. The rockets landed throughout the western Negev, with one landing in Kibbutz Nir Am and damaging several homes. Another rocket landed in Sderot’s industrial zone. At least 19 rockets have been fired from the Strip since the early morning hours. No injuries have been reported in any of the incidents. Rocket shell near Sderot on Wednesday (Photo: Ze’ev Trachtman)"The rocket landed near the kibbutz’s perimeter fence, several houses were damaged by the impact and shrapnel," said Ofer Lieberman, a member of Kibbutz Nir Am. "Today it’s a little more tense, because of recent events - not that we ever truly. . .

Demolition order issued for home of soldier killed in action
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Driving along the road from Be’er Sheva to Arad, shortly before the turn toward Darijat, you can see the unrecognized Bedouin village that was home to Manhash al-Baniyat, the Israeli soldier who was killed Wednesday in a clash with Palestinian gunmen near the Gaza Strip border, across from Kibbutz Be’eri. In order to reach the village, you have to travel for several hundred meters along a dirt path, until you come to a few houses, built close together. One of these is the house Manhash built for himself in preparation for his marriage, next month. Since building permits are not granted to Bedouin, he had no choice but to build the house illegally. A demolition order has already been issued. The only water pipe leading to the village is also disconnected. Wednesday, a mourners’ tent was added to the already harsh landscape, erected by the army.

IOF artillery targets Gaza mosque
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- IOF artillery fired at and partially destroyed and burnt Al-Salam mosque in Sha’af area east of Gaza city other than demolishing fences of a religious school. The IOF shelling burnt copies of the holy Quran and the mosque’s pulpit. The ministry of Awkaf and religious affairs in the PA caretaker government in Gaza condemned the Israeli targeting of places of worship, and described the targeting of mosques and schools as a "serious pointer and a flagrant violation of the sanctity of mosques and places of worship". It said that the crime was not strange coming from the IOF "criminals" who commit daily war crimes against the unarmed Palestinian people using warplanes and all types of weaponry. The ministry asked the Arab and Islamic countries along with all freedom loving peoples to urgently act in support of Palestine and its people, mosques and holy shrines in face of the Zionist crimes.

Al-Aqaba Protests Demolition Orders in Run-up to Supreme Court Ruling
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 4/16/2008
April 13, 2008 - Dozens of Palestinians and international activists gathered yesterday in the West Bank town of Al-Aqaba to protest the Israeli military’s issuance of thirty-five demolition orders there. Another protest will take place in front of the Supreme Court this Thursday, when the court is slated to rule on the legality of the demolition orders. Two Israeli military bases are stationed near Al-Aqaba, and until June 2003, when the town won a groundbreaking victory in Israel’s Supreme Court, a third was located directly next to the village. The Israeli army frequently conducted practice military raids in Al-Aqaba, terrorizing the town’s inhabitants and forcing roughly seven hundred of them to move to neighboring areas. Although some of the exiled villagers have begun to return, Al-Aqaba’s population stands at just over three hundred today.

Israeli forces raid journalist’s home near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the home of Palestinian Journalist ’Aasim Jaradat, in the West Bank town of Silat Al-Harithiya, west of Jenin, on Wednesday, witnesses said. Israeli forces besieged Jaradat’s home and his father’s home at 3am, witnesses said. Jaradat told journalists that Israeli soldiers called the residents of both houses through loudspeakers and ordered them into the street. When the soldiers discovered that Jaradat was not present, they damaged the interiors of both houses. Jaradat added that the soldiers interrogated and assaulted his older brother Fayiz in an attempt to locate him. Jaradat is the director of a local Islamic Jihad-affiliated radio station called "Voice of Jerusalem. "

Two Palestinian toddlers die due to Israeli siege
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Two Palestinian toddlers died in Gaza over the past 24 hours after the Israeli occupation authority refused to grant them permits to leave the Strip for treatment abroad. The spokesman for the popular committee against the siege, Rami Abdo, said in a press release said that the seven-month-old Nur Al-Huda, from the Nusseirat refugee camp, died after inability to find proper treatment in Gaza hospitals. Meanwhile, medical sources said that the 63-day-old infant Mohammed Al-Ajala died of AVSD after the IOA twice refused to grant him permit to leave via Beit Hanun (Erez) crossing for treatment outside the Strip. His family tabled the request twice on 9/4 and on 14/4 and both were denied even after they changed the name of the family member who was to accompany him. Abdo said that the increasing number of siege victims reflects the "tragic situation" of the patients. . .

Obama criticizes Carter’s Hamas meeting
Reuters, YNetNews 4/16/2008
Presidential hopeful tells Jewish supporters he disagrees with former president’s decision to meet with Hamas leaders, says US should engage in direct talks with Iran - Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama on Wednesday disagreed with former President Jimmy Carter’s overtures toward Hamas, saying he would not talk to the Islamist group until it recognized Israel and renounced terrorism. The Illinois senator, campaigning in Pennsylvania which holds the next presidential voting contest on Tuesday, told a group of Jewish leaders he has an "unshakable commitment" to help protect Israel from its "bitter enemies. " "That’s why I have a fundamental difference with President Carter and disagree with his decision to meet with Hamas," Obama said. "We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel’s destruction. "

Obama slams Carter for meeting Hamas, tries to reassure Jewish voters
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
PHILADELPHIA - U. S. Senator Barack Obama on Wednesday criticized former U. S. President Jimmy Carter for meeting with leaders of the Islamic terrorist group Hamas as he tried to reassure Jewish voters that his presidential candidacy is not a threat to them or U. S. support for Israel. The Democratic presidential candidate’s comments, made to a group of Jewish leaders in Philadelphia, were his first on Carter’s controversial meeting scheduled this week in Egypt. Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain called on Obama to repudiate Carter in a speech Monday. Obama told the Jewish group he had a fundamental disagreement with Carter, who was rebuffed by Israeli leaders during a peace mission to the Middle East this week. "We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel’s destruction," Obama said.

Barak: Our suffering is more important than that of Gazans
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
The plight of Gazans is a concern, but secondary to the security of Israeli civilians nearby who are suffering as a result of attacks launched by Palestinian militants, Defense Minister and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak told party members at a rally yesterday. "We see and are aware of the Gazans’ suffering. The situation there is tough, but the suffering of [Israeli] civilians in Gaza-area communities in Sderot and Ashkelon and of Israel Defense Forces soldiers who are protecting that area is more important to us," Barak said. Barak, who has recently been criticized by the left for intentionally taking a hard line in order to ingratiate himself with center-right voters, said Israel is taking actions to assuage Palestinians’ suffering. "Part of this war is not to act out on a whim or on a gut feeling, but using judgment.

Jubilant Hamas officials head for Cairo to meet with Carter
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/17/2008
RAFAH: A Hamas delegation crossed into Egypt from Gaza Wednesday for talks with Jimmy Carter after Israel barred the former US president from visiting the Palestinian territory. The delegation, which includes leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam and four others, headed to Cairo by car as at least 19 Palestinians were killed in Gaza violence, including two children and a cameraman, in addition to three Israeli soldiers. Carter and his wife Rosalynn flew to Cairo from Tel Aviv in a private jet, said an airport official. Zahar, a former foreign minister, hailed the prospective meeting with Carter, although Carter Center officials would neither confirm nor deny plans for the encounter. "President Carter can break all the Israeli retraints they place between him and Hamas and so we and our brothers in Damascus are determined to meet with him," Zahar told reporters at the Rafah border crossing.

Palestinian Leader Mustafa Barghouthi Meets Former US President Jimmy Carter in Ramallah
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 4/16/2008
Ramallah, 16/04/2008. Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, met former US President Jimmy Carter yesterday in Ramallah to discuss the situation in Palestine and the need to protect Palestinian democracy and restore Palestinian unity. Dr. Barghouthi praised Jimmy Carter’s stance on the conflict and declared that "Jimmy Carter is showing the way that the international community should follow to put an end to the occupation and achieve a real and lasting peace".

Jimmy Carter meets with former Hamas cabinet minister
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Former US President Jimmy Carter met with Nasser Addin Ash-Sha’ir, the former minister of education in the elected Hamas government of 2006, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Ash-Sha’ir said he explained the situation of the Palestinian people under Israeli policies such as the siege of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank separation wall, and the construction of illegal settlements. Ash-Sha’ir told Ma’an that he asked him to push Israel to lift the siege of Gaza and urge the United States to deal with both Fatah and Hamas, since they are both parts of the Palestinian people. Ash-Sha’ir, a political independent who served in the Hamas government, said he did not deliver any official messages from Hamas. "It is not necessary that I deliver messages since he [Carter] will meet with Khalid Mash’al in Damascus.

Hamas says Carter will meet 2 of its leaders
Reuters, YNetNews 4/16/2008
Former US president to meet Mahmoud al-Zahar, Saeed Seyam in Cairo at his own request, Islamist group says, adding ’he wants to hear our vision regarding the situation’ - Hamas said on Wednesday that former US President Jimmy Carter would meet two of its leaders from Gaza in Egypt, in further defiance of Israel leaders, who have shunned him over his contacts with the Islamist group. Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters senior leaders Mahmoud al-Zahar and Saeed Seyam would travel to Cairo later in the day for talks with Carter, who began a Middle East visit on Sunday. "Mr Carter asked for the meeting. He wanted to hear the Hamas vision regarding the situation, and we are interested in clarifying our position and emphasizing the rights of our people," Taha said. Carter’s delegation in Israel declined to comment.

Haneyya renews invitation to Carter to visit Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the Palestinian Prime Minister, renewed his invitation to former President Jimmy Carter to visit Gaza to see for himself the magnitude of the tragedy experienced by its people, expressing hope that Egypt would secure his arrival in the Strip after Israel refused to allow him to visit it. Carter is expected to meet with a Hamas delegation from the Gaza Strip in Cairo. Before leaving Gaza on his way to Cairo, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a prominent Hamas leader, praised the initiative taken by Carter  to meet with Hamas leaders and said that this should serve as a message to those who choose to ignore the legislative elections results and raise doubts about the legitimacy of Hamas. The former American president had supervised the legislative elections in 2006 and expressed respect for the results after Hamas won a landslide victory.

UN agencies "gravely concerned" about Gaza fuel crisis
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – United Nations agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian territories issued a rare joint statement on Wednesday expressing "grave concern" Isreal’s ongoing limitations on fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip. The UN said that the fuel cuts have forced normal transportation to a halt, thereby paralyzing civilian life. They called for fuel shipments to be reinstated in order to "allow for Palestinians to go about their normal daily lives. " The statement reads as follows:"United Nations humanitarian and development agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territoryare 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.

EU: Israel resumes supply of fuel to Gaza power plant
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Israel allowed the resumption of European-funded fuel supplies for the Gaza Strip’s only power plant on Wednesday, an EU official said. The fuel has started to go through," said the official, hours after an attack by Hamas militants killed three Israel Defense forces soldiers near the Nahal Oz fuel terminal and put in doubt a promised resumption of deliveries. Army spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibowich had said the attack on the soldiers near the Nahal Oz fuel terminal prompted Israel to cancel plans to resume fuel shipments. Israel cut off the flow of fuel to the Palestinian territory last week after Gaza militants killed two Israelis in an attack on the fuel terminal. The Defense Ministry said earlier this week it would renew fuel deliveries on Wednesday. Kanan Abaid, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority in. . .

Major demonstration for Palestinian Prisoners Day
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 4/16/2008
Bethlehem -- A massive march took to the streets of Bethlehem on the occasion of Palestinian Prisoners Day. Tomorrow is the official day, with West Bank activities planned for Ramallah. The Palestinian Prisoner Society hosted the demonstration which began at the new Red Cross headquarters in the southern West Bank city. People in the streets hoisted photos of their imprisoned loved ones, some 11,000 Palestinians are currently in Israeli prisons. Others held banners in memorial of those who "defend the dignity of our people" and those who have "fought for our national rights without tiring. " Upon the arrival of the march in front of the office of the International Red Cross, Ibrahim Njarjh, Director of the Office of the Ministry of Prisoners in the province of Bethlehem, spoke. "The families of the prisoners and all national figures from the Palestinian. . .

Home Rebuilding Camp Offers Hope to Victims of House Demolition
Rafat Shomali, Palestine News Network 4/16/2008
Bethlehem - In the year 2007, 208 houses in the West Bank and 78 in East Jerusalem were destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, leaving hundreds of families homeless and impoverished. In a new twist on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Holy Land Trust is restoring hope to these families in need—one house at a time. This summer Holy Land Trust will host its third annual Home Rebuilding Camp, inviting international volunteers to come and rebuild a demolished home for one worthy family. This summer the house to be rebuilt is that of Walid Ahour, whose house was built on the land in Area C of the West Bank—the 60 percent of the land under Israeli security and civil control that houses Israeli settlements, by-pass roads and security buffer zones. He received demolition orders on the basis his residence was on land intended for the building of the security wall.

As Palestinian Prisoners Day approaches, Israeli forces take 23 more
Palestine News Network 4/16/2008
Bethlehem / PNN -- During pre-dawn invasions on Wednesday, Israeli forces arrested 23 Palestinians throughout the West Bank. According to Israeli sources, all have been taken for "questioning. " These are daily raids throughout the West Bank which Palestinians report "hit civilians and activists alike. " Israeli forces arrested at dawn today three citizens from the city of Bethlehem in the southern West Bank. They stormed several central Bethlehem homes, forcing residents outside and destroyed personal property within the homes. Thirty-eight year old Hamid Soman, 20 year old Ahmed Ibrahim Hadia and 18 year old Mohamed Ahmed Al Balboul are among those taken. Al Balboul is the young son of Ahmed Al Balboul who was assassinated by Israeli special forces in the city last month. He was killed along with three others in the city.

Rights groups: Population Admin. in contempt of court
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Five civil rights groups yesterday initiated contempt of court proceedings against the Population Administration for non-compliance with a December court ruling to make public its procedures and regulations. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), Moked - Hotline for Foreign Workers, Kav La’oved (Worker’s Hotline for the Protection of Workers’ Rights) and Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual have asked the Administrative Court in Jerusalem to compel the Population Administration, a branch of the Interior Ministry, to comply with the court verdict requiring it to publish all its procedures and instructions. Among other things, these procedures pertain to the awarding of citizenship to spouses of Israelis, the annulment of citizenship and the granting of refugee status.

Former intelligence officer tortured, killed in Gaza
Report, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 4/16/2008
At approximately 9:00am on 15 April 2008, the family of Sami Khatab was informed by the police that his body was found on the ground about 700 meters north of Palestinian International University and about 200 meters east of the coastal road in Gaza City. Paramedics from Shuhda’a al-Aqsa Hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah were summoned to the area by the police after the body was found. According to Al Mezan’s preliminary investigations, at approximately 9:00pm on 13 April 2008, there were three cars heading to a small clothing store. Khatab owned the store, which is located in the Hikir al-Jami’ area in Deir al-Balah. One of the cars stopped about 100 meters from the store, while the other two approached it. Two armed men came out of the cars, one masked and another in civilian dress, and took Khatab to one of the cars. They then left the scene. It is noteworthy that 35-year-old Khatab is married and has six children. He was a captain in the Palestinian National Authority’s General Intelligence.

Police on high alert ahead of Passover, Israel 60 celebrations
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 4/17/2008
Security forces step-up counterterrorism efforts throughout coming months, though police urge Israelis to ’go out and celebrate. ’ In Sderot, many fear Passover seder will be ruined - Police have raised their alert level throughout the country on Wednesday ahead of the Passover holiday and a series of events related to Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations. The defense establishment cites nine specific alerts based on intelligence information warning of viable terror plots. This in addition to dozens of general warnings. These will result in closures on the West Bank, due in part to the threats of retaliation against Israel for the recent assassination of senior Hizbullah commander Imad Mugniyah in Damascus. Thousands of police officers, Border Guard officers and Civil Guard volunteers are being dispatched throughout the country, while Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen cancelled all the vacations and trainings toward the effort.

20 Palestinians, including Reuters man, killed in heavy Gaza clashes
Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Twenty Palestinians were killed yesterday, including a Reuters cameraman, in Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip, making yesterday one of the bloodiest days in recent times in Gaza. Most of the clashes came in the afternoon in the center of the Strip, not far from the place where three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hamas ambush earlier in the day. The fierce day of fighting started at around midnight on Tuesday, when a patrol from the Givati infantry brigade, accompanied by armored and artillery forces, entered the Sajawiya neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City. The soldiers exchanged fire with armed Palestinians, mostly from Hamas. One Givati soldier was moderately wounded in the thigh by a sniper. The soldiers killed four Hamas gunmen. According to military sources, the Palestinians even fired from the minaret of a mosque, and the IDF returned fire at the mosque and later blew up explosive devices found inside the mosque.

Eighteen dead as Gaza erupts in violence
Allegra Stratton, The Guardian 4/16/2008
Fifteen Palestinians, including at least four members of Hamas, and three Israeli soldiers have been killed in separate clashes inside the Gaza Strip today. According to Hamas, eight Palestinians were killed this afternoon when Israeli helicopters fired four missiles into central Gaza. Different accounts by Palestinian witnesses said they heard separate explosions. The Israeli army confirms a helicopter fired at a group of armed Palestinians. Earlier today, three Israeli soldiers and 4 Hamas gunmen were killed in clashes near Gaza’s main fuel terminal. Hamas said Israeli soldiers backed by helicopters killed four of their members during fighting east of Gaza city, a few hundred metres from the Nahal Oz border terminal used to supply fuel to the coastal territory. An army spokeswoman, Major Avital Leibowich, said the soldiers were killed in a battle with Palestinian gunmen who were approaching the fuel terminal.

In an IOF massacre: Twelve Palestinian civilians killed
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- An IOF missile raid targeting a group of citizens in central Gaza Strip on Wednesday killed 12 Palestinians while many others were wounded, medical sources reported. They said that the massacre was committed near Ihsan Mosque east of Juhr Al-Dik in central Gaza, and noted that among the martyrs were a mother and her son. Eyewitnesses said that six IOF Apaches fired four to six missiles at a group of citizens including children who were playing near a field in Juhr Al-Dik. Paramedics said that most of the martyrs’ bodies were dismembered as a result of the shelling. The number of Palestinian martyrs so far on Wednesday rose to 17 after the death of a Palestinian citizen this afternoon in two IOF air raids in Beit Lahia north of Gaza that also wounded five citizens. Four members of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, were killed at dawn Wednesday while confronting an IOF incursion east of Shujaiah suburb in Gaza city.

Four Qassam fighters killed during confrontations with IOF troops in Gaza city
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, mourned the death of four of its fighters including a field commander called Abdelkarim Al-Khaisi, 35, during confrontations at dawn Wednesday with IOF troops that invaded the east of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood in Gaza city. The armed wing had announced Tuesday evening that its fighters managed to detonate an anti-personnel explosive device and fire a number of mortar shells at an Israeli special force that infiltrated into the neighborhood. The IOF troops admitted the injury of one of its soldiers. In the evening of the same day, Palestinian medical and security sources told the PIC reporter that a fighter of the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, called Abdullah Al-Ghussein was killed and three others were wounded when an Israeli warplane fired an air-to-ground rocket at Ghussein while riding his motorcycle in the Falluja area, north of the Gaza Strip.

Israelis kill 19 in Gaza, claim to stop non-existent fuel supply due to death of 2 soldiers
Palestine News Network 4/16/2008
Gaza / PNN -- Israeli forces killed 19 Palestinians Wednesday in the Gaza Strip. Beginning this morning they killed four members of Hamas and one from Islamic Jihad in the Al Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City. Two Israeli soldiers were killed. Later Israeli forces killed another Palestinian and two soldiers were injured in Beit Lahiya in the northern Strip. And at 5 pm, nine Palestinians were blown apart in the central Strip’s Al Bureij Refugee Camp, the site of days of destruction and killing. Among them was Reuters cameraman, Fadal Shana’a, and throughout the day a high number of children. Mohammad Dahlan sent his condolences. As of 9:30 pm the death toll is nearly 20, with a large proportion being children as attacks against Al Burjeij continue. In a targeted bombing of homes in Al Bureij Refugee Camp in the central Strip, Israeli forces killed nine more Palestinians and injured 20 just after 5:00 pm.

Cameraman among 20 dead as violence in Gaza escalates
The Independent 4/16/2008
At least 17 Palestinians -- including a Reuters cameraman filming tank movements -- and three Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday in the heaviest day of Gaza bloodshed since early March. In the most lethal incident, an Israeli helicopter fired four missiles which landed near the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza killing nine Palestinians including two youths, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The air strikes came after three Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinian militants -- in an apparent ambush -- when they advanceda few hundred metres into central Gaza in what the Army said was an operation against gunmen who had approached the border fence. The casualties, many of them apparently civilians, dimmed still further any hopes of attempts -- supported by among others the former US president Jimmy Carter, currently touring the Middle East -- to broker. . .

Heavy exchanges of fire in Gaza; 10 Qassams fired at Negev
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/16/2008
Givati Brigade force enters Strip after identifying gunmen near security fence, two soldiers sustain light to moderate wounds in ensuing clashes; IDF soldiers operating near Khan Yunis detain a number of Palestinians. Rockets fired toward Negev region land in open areas; no injuries reported - The IDF launched a series of aerial attacks against targets in Gaza late Tuesday and during the early hours of Wednesday morning, while IDF ground forces clashed with Palestinian gunmen at several points in the Strip. Israeli troops had entered central Gaza after midnight in what the military spokesman said was a routine operation to target militants launching rockets. Wednesday morning a Givati Brigade force identified a group of gunmen near the security fence separating Israel from Gaza, near Kibbutz Be’eri.

VIDEO - 3 IDF soldiers killed in Gaza battle
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/16/2008
(Video) Givati Brigade suffers three fatalities forces enter Gaza in pursuit of Palestinian terrorists who approached security fence near Kibbutz Be’eri; ’Soldiers only buffer between terror organizations, Israeli citizens,’ says IDF official - VIDEO -Givati Brigade’s Corporal Matan Ovdati (19) from Moshav Patsih in the western Negev, Corporal Menahesh Albinath (20) from the Negev town of Kuseife and Corporal David Papian (21) from Tel Aviv were killed Wednesday morning during intense clashes with a Palestinian terror cell near the security fence in central Gaza. Three other soldiers sustained light to moderate injuries in exchanges of fire that erupted in the area. Corporal Ovdati was promoted to the rank of sergeant posthumously.

Islamic Jihad fighters fire 13 projectiles at Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility on Wednesday for launching 13 homemade projectiles at Israeli towns and communities bordering the Gaza Strip. They said in a statement that a barrage of three projectiles was launched at the town of Sderot, three others at Miftaheim to the east of Khan Younis, and two projectiles at the city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza. The military group said in more than one statement that they also targeted an Israeli residential community near the southern Gaza Strip as well as the town of Kfar Azza town with two projectiles. Israeli media reported that 10 projectiles landed in Israeli territory.

Israeli forces arrest two activists near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested two Palestinian activists affiliated to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank town of Kafr Ra’i south of Jenin on Wednesday. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that several Israeli military vehicles raided Kafr Ra’i, searching several homes before arresting two activists. Furthermore, Ma’an’s reporter said that Israeli forces raided the town of Qabatia south of Jenin. No injuries have been reported. In the Al-Faris refugee camp in Nablus district in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian was injured as confrontations erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli troops. [end]

Israeli forces raid Nablus, arrest 8
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the northern West Bank city of Nablus and the nearby Balata refugee camp on Wednesday, arresting eight Palestinians. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an’s reporter that the Israeli forces in several Israeli military vehicles entered Nablus and Balata camp after midnight and stormed several neighborhoods before seizing eight Palestinians. [end]

Fatah’s military wing fire projectile at Sufa crossing
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility on Tuesday evening for launching a homemade projectile at the Sufa crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. They said in a statement that the shelling was part of their retaliation for Israeli attempts to assassinate the group’s leaders the last of which was Muhammad Hijazi. [end]

Islamic Jihad’s military wing fires 6 projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility on Wednesday for launching six homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot in western Negev. The group said in a statement that the mission came in retaliation for Israeli crimes against the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

VIDEO - Clashes in Gaza
Reuters, The Guardian 4/16/2008
Israeli soldiers and Hamas gunmen killed in fighting during fuel embargo [end]

Hamas operation meticulously planned
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
The Hamas operation yesterday that killed three Israel Defense Forces soldiers in an ambush in the Gaza Strip was meticulously planned and designed to prevent repeated IDF incursions into the Strip, a Hamas spokesman said yesterday. The ambush was set up using two lines, with the front line used to bait IDF soldiers. When the IDF troops approached the front line, the back line then closed in on them and opened fire with rifles and anti-tank missiles, Hamas said. "Our fighters managed to exchange fire with the force from a distance of less than five meters, which increased the casualties and caused confusion," the spokesperson said. The Islamic group’s spokesman said that none of the eight gunmen who took part in the operation - code-named "Killing Field" - were killed. "The Gaza Strip will remain a flaming stone that will crush the sick dreams of the Zionist enemy," the spokesman said.

War, what war? It’s 8 kilometers away
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
"Hello, Erez! How’s it going there? I heard on the news there’s a war," thundered a worried voice from the speaker of Erez Manor’s cellular phone. Manor is director of the La Medavesh ("the pedaler") bicycle center at Kibbutz Be’eri. "What are you talking about? It’s 8 kilometers away from here. It’s in El Bureij [a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip]," Manor said, trying to calm down his caller. "Good. I’ll speak to you. . . I need to hang up," the voice from the phone said. "That was a doctor from [Be’er Sheva’s] Soroka Hospital," Manor said after the call ended. "This weekend we are having a bicycle [competition] from the Southern Workplaces League here. He must have seen the wounded and dead from this morning’s incident. "The telephone call is the best example of the lives of operators of tourism and recreational facilities and other businesses in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Barak: Do not lose judgment in times of grief
YNetNews 4/16/2008
Barak: Do not lose judgment in times of grief. Defense minister addresses situation in Gaza, says that while mindful of suffering of Palestinian population Israel’s top priority remains the suffering of its citizens in communities near border. Top IDF officer says initial probe into conduct of Givati force during morning’s clashes indicate casualties were result of ’tactical errors. Ehud Barak addressed the clashes in Gaza during a Labor faction meeting on Wednesday afternoon and said these incidents "remind us that some of our enemies refuse to accept the fact that we are here for good. " We have triumphed over difficult challenges in the past," he said, "this is not a case of ’bang and we’re done. A senior IDF officer from the Southern Command said that the preliminary inquiry into the soldiers’ deaths indicates that the force acted in accordance with regulations but apparently made several tactical errors, which are being studied.

Palestinian security forces seize two Hamas members, Hamas says
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces seized two Hamas members on Tuesday night, Hamas said. According to a statement released by Hamas, Palestinian security arrested a member of the municipal council of the town of Za’tara, near Bethlehem, named Mahmoud Dhwaib. Another Hamas’ member was seized in the Salfit district in the northern West Bank. [end]

Israeli forces arrest three Palestinians near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested three Palestinians from the northern West Bank villages of Ya’bad and Arraba west of Jenin on Wednesday. Local Palestinian sources said that Israeli military vehicles raided both villages overnight and searched several homes before arresting three men in their twenties. [end]

Hamas: Israel’s escalation against Gaza is a war of attrition
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Wednesday that the dangerous Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip comes within the framework of a war of attrition waged by the Israeli occupation with the aim of eliminating the Palestinian resistance especially Hamas, its leaders and armed wing, and committing new massacres against the Palestinian people. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that the Israeli occupation entertains criminal intentions to commit more massacres against the Palestinian people, taking advantage of the official Arab silence, the European complicity and the unlimited American support in order to carry out these intentions. Barhoum highlighted that the Palestinian people’s resistance is legitimate and legal as long as there is occupation, holding the Israeli occupation responsible for the consequences of its criminal policies exercised on the Palestinian lands.

Mussa: Palestinian state by end of 2008 unlikely
Middle East Online 4/16/2008
VIENNA - There is no sign of a Palestinian state being created by the end of the year, said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa in Vienna Wednesday, blaming Israel for "paralysing" the peace process. "There haven’t been any concrete results concerning the Annapolis initiative and the promise to create a Palestinian state by the end of 2008," said Moussa. "It’s almost early May and I can’t see any effort in this direction," he told a joint press conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in Vienna. "The continued colonisation is paralysing the entire peace process," he added, referring to Israeli settlements being built in the West Bank. Moussa noted that the Arab League remained "totally committed to implementing the Annapolis initiative" and was prepared to recognise the state of Israel if it fulfilled its pledge to revert to its pre-1967 borders.

MKs: Terror warnings not enough, we must block entry into Sinai
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Likud MK Yuval Steinitz called Thursday for the border between Israel and Sinai to be closed during Passover in order to block the entry of Israelis into Egypt due to a number of terror alerts in the area. Egyptian security forces on Tuesday were searching in Sinai for multiple terror cells believed to be planning attacks against foreign nationals - especially Israelis. The Counterterrorism Bureau has issued a severe warning against visits by Israelis to Sinai during the upcoming Pesach holiday. "Just aswe close off areas of the Negev when there are kidnap alerts, the proper thing to do now is to block the entry of our citizens into Sinai until the danger has passed," Steinitz said. National Union-NRP MK Aryeh Eldad called the Counterterrorism Bureau chief to "not only warn Isralies not to go Sinai and then have to deal with victims and hostages.

European campaign: Israel deceives the world on Gaza fuel
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- Officials in the European campaign for the lifting of the siege on Gaza Strip condemned on Wednesday the Israeli occupation government for not allowing enough fuel supplies into the Gaza Strip. The officials of the campaign also asserted that the grip of the Israeli economic embargo on the populated Strip has intensified further after Israel blocked basic needs from getting into the Strip for the seventh successive day, underlining that the Israeli occupation government was deceiving the world on the issue of the Gaza fuel. Amin Abu Rashid, the chairman of the campaign, underscored, in a press statement he issued in the Belgian capital Brussels, that Israel’s claims that it would supply the 1. 5 million Palestinians living in the Strip with the minimum level of their actual needs of the basic necessities wouldn’t solve the human crises there.

Egypt grapples with Palestinian dilemma
Ian Black, The Guardian 4/16/2008
Omar Suleiman is the man to watch when it comes to Egypt’s most sensitive national security interests. But President Hosni Mubarak’s trusted intelligence chief prefers the shadows to the limelight as he tries to manage the dangerous conflict between Israel and the Palestinians "” and its alarming propensity to spread trouble elsewhere. General Suleiman, 73, is bald and moustachioed and despite his military bearing has a penchant for discreet dark suits and striped ties. In 1995 he saved the president’s life during an assassination attempt in Ethiopia. Now he is working quietly behind the scenes to keep the violent crisis in the Gaza Strip from exploding again - as it did so spectacularly in January with a mass breakout onto Egyptian soil. Prospects for success are not looking good "” and the frustration is starting to show.

Palestinian minister of information meets with Norwegian education minister
Ma’an News Agency 4/16/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian foreign minister Dr Riyad Al-Maliki met with the Norwegian minister of culture Trond Geske and the acting Norwegian representative to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Wednesday in Ramallah in the central West Bank. They discussed bilateral relations between Norway and the PA as well as the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians along with ways of pushing the peace process forward. [end]

’Continued colonization is paralyzing the peace process’ - Moussa
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/17/2008
VIENNA: There is no sign of a Palestinian state being created by the end of the year, said Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa in Vienna Wednesday, blaming Israel for "paralyzing" the peace process. "There haven’t been any concrete results concerning the Annapolis initiative and the promise to create a Palestinian state by the end of 2008," the Arab League chief said. "It’s almost early May and I can’t see any effort in this direction," Moussa told a joint news conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in Vienna. "The continued colonization is paralyzing the entire peace process," he added, referring to Israeli settlements being built in the West Bank. Moussa noted that the Arab League remained "totally committed to implementing the Annapolis initiative" and was prepared to recognize the state of Israel if it fulfilled its pledge to revert to its pre-1967 borders.

UN calls for disarming of Hezbollah, Israel-Lebanon solution
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
The UN Security Council called Tuesday for the disarming of Hezbollah and all other militias in Lebanon and greater progress toward a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution to the conflict between Lebanon and Israel. A statement adopted by consensus by the 15-member council reiterates its commitment to the full implementation of all provisions of Resolution 1701 which ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in August 2006. That resolution reiterates a call for the disarming of all militias and bans arms transfers to them. It calls on the government to secure its borders and entry points to prevent the entry into Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel. It also calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution based on full respect for the UN-drawn Blue Line along their. . .

IDF officials predict Hamas PR campaign against blockade
Amos Harel and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/16/2008
Israeli military officials believe Hamas is likely to launch a public relations campaign shortly over Israel’s economic blockade of the Gaza Strip. In addition, they foresee a possible attempt to breach the Egyptian border at Rafah or possible to organize a mass march from Gaza into Israeli territory. 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.

Meretz youth to Mashaal: Release Shalit, recognize Israel
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 4/16/2008
’We were encouraged by your recent statement according to which Hamas’ political goal was to establish independent Palestinian state ’67 borders,’ leftists say in letter relayed to exiled Islamist group letter by Jimmy Carter’s wife Rosalynn - A group of young Meretz Party activists sent a letter on Wednesday to Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal calling on him to release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, recognize the State of Israel and launch negotiations on a ceasefire to promote the establishment of a Palestinian state. "We were encouraged by your recent statement according to which Hamas’ political goal was to establish an independent Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967 borders," the letter, which was relayed to the exiled Hamas leader, who resides in Damascus, with the help of former US president Jimmy Carter’s wife, Rosalynn.

Fayyad: IDF operation in Gaza ’crime against humanity’
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/16/2008
Clashes, airstrikes continue throughout day as IDF troops engage Palestinian gunmen. Officials in Gaza put death toll at 18 - including two youths, local photographer. Palestinian Authority declares day of mourning - The Palestinian government, headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, declared a nation day of morning will commence on Thursday following the deaths of 18 Palestinians in IDF strikes in the Gaza Strip. Fayyad’s cabinet harshly condemned the Israeli operations, calling them "crimes against humanity. "Since the early morning hours on Wednesday the death toll in Gaza has risen to 18, several of whom are said to be youths. Ten people were reported killed in an IDF strike near the region where three IDF soldiers were killed earlier in the day during an exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen.

Polish president: We will take a firm stance on Iran
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
WARSAW - During a private meeting here yesterday with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, President Shimon Peres called on Poland to take a clear stand on Iran within the European Union. Peres argued that a nuclear-armed Iran along with Islamic terrorism are concrete threats to Europe and the entire world. In that meeting, as well as at the press conference that followed, Kaczynski used harsh language to condemn Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who he termed one of "the mad leaders," and also agreed that Poland must make its voice heard on the issue of Iran. Hinting at the conduct of other EU members, Kaczynski said that Poland has no intention of being a "puppet" in the EU on this or any issue. However, asked outright whether Poland would intervene if Iran poses a manifest threat to Israel, Kaczynski took a more cautious position, saying: "Poland is a NATO member and will be among the countries that try to prevent plans hatched by madmen.

PM: Iran will not be nuclear
David Landau and Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
"I want to tell the citizens of Israel: Iran will not have nuclear capability," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a pre-Passover interview. According to Olmert, the international community is making an enormous effort, in which Israel has a part, to prevent Iran from attaining nonconventional weapons capabilities. "And I believe, and also know, that the bottom line of these efforts is that Iran will not be nuclear," Olmert said. In his holiday interview, his first to the print media in a year, Olmert declared that since the Annapolis summit in November, the possibility of reaching an understanding between Israel and the Palestinians during 2008 has grown. The prime minister said that the issue of Jerusalem has not yet been discussed at all, neither in his talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas nor as part of the talks headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with Ahmed Qureia.

Israel may import Qatari gas
Barak Ravid and Avi Bar-Eli, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Israel and Qatar agreed to examine a possible cooperation on importing of natural gas to Israel, at a meeting held between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Qatar’s energy minister, Abdullah bin Hamad. The parties agreed to continue discussions between experts on behalf of the two countries. Qatar currently commands 15% of the global liquid natural gas market, and is the largest supplier in the world. In a formal preliminary meeting, Ben Hamad rejected the proposal to hold commercial negotiations between the two countries, saying that Qatar’s gas supply capacity is exhausted until at least 2011, after recently signing a series of gas supply contracts, including a huge contract with China. The possibility of Israel buying natural gas from Qatar was first raised in the mid-1990s, after initial diplomatic relations between the two. . .

Opulence of Qatar leaves impression on visiting Livni
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
QATAR - Some 20 minutes before her motorcade departed for Doha’s international airport, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was taking a timeout at her hotel’s private beach. After her tediously-tight set of meetings, she spread out on one of the deck chairs and looked into the distance at the Persian Gulf. For a few minutes, she felt just like any other tourist. "I’d come here for a week to rest," she had said a day earlier, just before meeting with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The night before, Livni wanted to go out and see Doha’s large market. Her security guards, however, convinced her to stay in the hotel instead. Had she have gone out, Livni would have seen Qatar’s exotic and relaxed nightlife, which is very different than that in the rest of the Arab world.

Livni hosts US official to compare notes on region
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/17/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday held talks about the Middle East peace process and sanctions against Iran, officials said. The two "discussed the necessity of continued international action to increase sanctions" against Iran, a Foreign Ministry statement said. "During the meeting, the two also discussed the political process with the Palestinians, with emphasis on Israel’s security requirements in any future settlement," it said. [end]

Swedish court reduces Palestinian terrorist’s life sentence
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A Swedish court ruled Wednesday that an Egyptian-born Palestinian found guilty of terror attacks against U. S. and Jewish targets in the 1980s can have his life sentence commuted to a 30-year prison term. The decision means Mohammed Abu Talb could be released in two years because he started serving his term in 1990, and prisoners in Sweden are normally released after having served two-thirds of their sentences. Abu Talb was sentenced to life in prison for a Synagogue bombing and an attack against a U. S. airline office in Denmark that killed one person and left several injured in 1985. He was also found guilty of involvement in the bombing of an Israeli airline office in the Netherlands. Abu Talb, who came to Sweden in 1983, was an early suspect in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,. . .

New US Jewish group aims to counterbalance AIPAC
Jim Lobe, Daily Star 4/17/2008
Inter Press Service - WASHINGTON: A new group of prominent US Jews who believe that the so-called "Israel lobby" has been dominated for too long by neoconservatives and other Likud-oriented hawks has launched a new organization to help fund political candidates who favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a stronger US role in achieving it. Almost two years in the making, the "J Street" project plans to spend some $1. 5 million - about half of which has been pledged to date - in its first year of operation, a portion of which will go to supporting half a dozen Congressional campaigns for candidates who share its pro-peace and pro-Israel views. "For too long, the loudest American voices on Israel have come from the far right," noted Jeremy Ben-Ami, a founder and director of J Street and its political-action affiliate, JStreetPac.

New Jewish-American lobby wants to be alternative to AIPAC
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Test of the ’J Street Project’ will be how it affects U. S. policy and how much public support it can engender. - WASHINGTON - On Monday night, Samuel Lewis spoke from a small stage in one of the banquet halls of Washington’s Mayflower Hotel to an audience of Anti-Defamation League activists seated around the dinner tables at their annual conference. Lewis, a former U. S. ambassador to Israel, was sharing fond memories from the days of the peace treaty with Egypt. Thirty years have passed, but Lewis still gets emotional when recalling that period, and so do his listeners. The next day Lewis skipped skillfully from the memories of the past to policies of the future when discussing why his part in the new Jewish-American dovish lobby, whose purpose is to promote meaningful American leadership, and push Israel (and its neighbors) toward peace.

Hamas calls on Abbas to stop the defamation campaign against it
Palestinian Information Center 4/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has urged PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to stop the defamation campaign against it, which, it said, only serves the Israeli occupation. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in the Strip, denied in a press release the report published by Wafa, Abbas’s news agency, that charged Hamas elements with trading in the black market. "Hamas categorically denies this allegation and affirms that they fall in line with the campaign of lies waged by media outlets affiliated with Abbas against Hamas," he said. Abu Zuhri said that his Movement tabled an official complaint with the general prosecutor against the Wafa director general. He has either to prove his claim or be prosecuted for defamation, the spokesman concluded. In the same defamation context, Hamas accused Mohammed Dahlan, the leader of the mutiny trend within Fatah faction, of fabricating the news report. . .

Treasury hedges dollar debt
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 4/16/2008
90% of the government’s foreign currency debt is dollar denominated. The Ministry of Finance Accountant General Division has been hedging Israel’s external debt over the last two months, with the aim of reducing exposure to the acute volatility of the shekel-dollar exchange rate. Part of the debt was also hedged against the possibility that the dollar could change direction and strengthen on financial markets overseas. To reduce exposure to volatility in the exchange rate, currency swap trades were carried out for the first time. Also transacted for the first time were forward trades totaling $700 million, which entailed the purchase of dollars at a guaranteed exchange rate when payment is due. Finance Ministry officials insisted that the ministry is not gambling on the shekel-dollar rate and that it did not have tools or the ability to predict whether the dollar would continue to fall or change direction and strengthen.

Peres to declare reconciliation between secular and ultra-Orthodox
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
President Shimon Peres intends to call for a reconciliation between the ultra-Orthodox community and secular Israelis on Independence Day, the ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpacha reported in the edition to be published today. "You cannot be Israeli without being Jewish," Peres told Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Migdal Haemek Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, the publication reported. The president blasted the secular public’s attitude toward religious and ultra-Orthodox people. "I totally reject the scorn (displayed) toward the religious and ultra-Orthodox Jew, whether he wears a capote (a long, black jacket) or a four-fringed garment. There is no place for condescension, derision or mockery. Such behavior heightens the barriers between us," Peres said. Peres opened his campaign for reconciliation between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox three weeks ago during a visit to the Weizmann Institute.

No election, no challengers, no choice
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Last week, the appointed mayor of the Negev town of Yeruham, Amram Mitzna, held a town meeting in the cultural center, the third in as many months. From the stage, Mitzna told the audience about his achievements in the years since he was appointed. He presented slides showcasing the extensive refurbishing of the community center, laptops distributed to teachers for the first time in Israel, and a computer for every four children, as opposed to the national average of a computer for every 15. Mitzna spoke about plans to turn the Yeruham Lake park into an overnight campground to be reached by bike trails, and plans for a cinemateque. One would think he was running for office, but it seems more likely that he is trying to calm the concerns of those who oppose his continued service in an appointed capacity. "There are no politics in our system today," Mitzna told the audience of hundreds.

For Chief Rabbinate, click here
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 4/16/2008
Prime Minister’s Office, alarmed by poll showing 40% of public believes Rabbinate obsolete, launches new initiative meant to make religious services accessible, friendly to general public - The Prime Minister’s Office is exploring several reforms in the National Authority for Religious Services - the Chief Rabbinate, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday. The PMO’s move came after several surveys conducted in the matter, indicated that the Israeli public has lost its faith in the services provided by local religious councils. One of the options taken under advisements calls for granting the public access to some of the services provided by the Chief Rabbinate - such as applying for a marriage license or issuing bachelor certificates - through the internet. According to the report, the Prime Minister’s Office formed a team, consisting of representatives. . .

Through the Palestinian looking-glass
Esther Zandberg, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
The color photograph shows Hadara Hassan Agbaria and her husband, Ahmad Khalil Agbaria, at their home in the Wadi Ara village of Musharrafieh. They are wearing traditional garb, their hands are interlocked and they are looking straight at the camera of Shai Aloni, a member of Kibbutz Geva. Aloni captured these members of "the stooped generation" standing upright and looking festive. Aloni persuaded Hadara Hassan to come out and be photographed, as opposed to hiding behind the scenes, as is the Palestinian woman’s custom. He also persuaded the couple to wear traditional garb, "because in regular clothing they look like kibbutzniks, and I wanted to stress their special, authentic identity. "The couple also agreed to Aloni’s request to hold hands, a somewhat forced agreement to judge by how their fingers are placed. This is one of 50 captivating photographs of "community elders" in Wadi Ara’s Arab villages.

Letters to the Editor: Expansionism foiling two-state solution
James Adler, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Israel’s settlement expansionism is reversing the long post-World War II decline in anti-Semitism. Haaretz reports that the "construction in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem is continuing full speed ahead" (Haaretz Editorial, "Fooling Ourselves," April 1) and that the momentum for settlement construction is unprecedented. After Iraq occupied Kuwait, it was sent back to its borders. Tragically Israel, certainly "the only democracy in the Middle East," now seems also to have become "the only expansionist in the Middle East. "Exacerbating the anti-Semitic resurgence is the fact that Israel denies any fundamental barrier between state and religion, so settlement expansion is done not in the name of Israeli but Jewish state identity. Palestinians, less interested in European history and more in the continuing confiscation of their. . .

Bethlehem University student elections: Fateh clear winner before polls even opened
Palestine News Network 4/16/2008
Kristen Ess - The polls finally closed as of late Wednesday afternoon in the most obnoxious student elections to date at Bethlehem University. Fateh won 18 seats and gunshots were fired as students cheered and music blasted in the streets. Days upon days of students chanting, "Shabiba, Shabiba, Shabiba!" the Fateh Youth Party, in the streets and on campus, have left the university district with a collective headache. They are taking full advantage of the larger current political strife. Students are walking through neighbor’s gardens, sporting their party gear. Since early this morning the University has blasted disco music. They are still shouting, "Shabiba!" Palestinian Authority security has the streets cordoned off. The Hamas party boycotted the entire affair. Certainly they knew they had no chance at winning, considering the international campaign against the party at large.

Haredi extremists plan Jerusalem protests over chametz ruling
Tomer Zarchin Shahar Ilan and Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Tuesday announced that the state will not appeal a Jerusalem court’s decision earlier this month to withdraw charges against local business owners who had displayed chametz on their premises during Pesach in previous years. Magistrate’s Court Judge Tamar Bar Asher-Zaban ruled that the businesses had not displayed the leavened products during Pesach in public, as prohibited by law. Mazuz said the Festival of Matzot Law was not intended to prohibit the sale or consumption of chametz, but only its public display for sale or consumption. As such, it would preclude the display in the public space, such as a street stall, an open-air market or a display case facing the street, but not within the closed confines of a place of business.

ADACH presents live tribute to Arabic music
Middle East Online 4/16/2008
ABU DHABI - The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) organizes for the first time ever in the Emirati capital, a festival of Arabic music which will be held May 1-6, 2008 at the Cultural Foundation. The ADACH has chosen 2008 as the first year of a modest beginning, which aims to offer an eclectic mix of sounds and styles from a uniquely complex musical heritage. The ADACH aims to make the festival an annual event, to expand and ensure the artistic calendar of every music lover in the Arab World includes Abu Dhabi every May. The first evening belongs to Omar Khairat, the second to the Al Fayha Choir, the third to Furat Qaddouri and Tariq & Julia Banzi, the fourth to Jahida Wehbe, the fifth to Rida Popular Arts Group and Nadia Mustafa and the final evening to Farida. Encompassing a history of more than two thousand years, the music of the Arabs is unique among the world’s various musical cultures.

Public sector wage agreement to be signed
Shay Niv, Globes Online 4/16/2008
The deal was reached nine months ago. Unless a last-minute surprise occurs, the public sector wage agreement will be signed nine months after a pay raise was agreed upon. 700,000 public sector employees will receive a 5% pay raise spread over three years: 1. 5% retroactive to January 2008; 1. 5% in December 2008; and 2% in December 2009. As "Globes" first reported, for the first time the pensions of public sector pensioners will be detached from the average public sector salary and wage agreements. Instead, pensions will be linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure that is considered a victory for the Ministry of Finance, although the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) claims otherwise. The prolonged delay in signing of the wage agreement was mainly due to the opposition of the Government Companies Authority to apply the agreement to employees at government companies, including Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).

ISRAEL: How to tackle the current drought?
Shabtai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/16/2008
A public park is watered during the day in Jerusalem. Conservationists are urging people to cut back on water usage JERUSALEM, 16 April 2008 (IRIN) - Israel is suffering from a water crisis and immediate steps must be taken to resolve the problem, Uri Shani, the head of Israel’s Water Authority, told the cabinet on 13 April. He said there was a gap between supply and demand that needed to be closed. Over the next five years, the country would be below the "red lines" at all water sources, and there would be a need to significantly increase the amount of water produced by desalination, he said. The government recently issued a tender for bids to build a new desalination plant to produce 100 million cubic metres of water a year. Officials told IRIN this was only one of several new plants to be constructed in the coming years.

Israel faces 350 million cubic meter shortage in water supply
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
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 yesterday. 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. "But we don’t want to spread panic.

10 groups control 30% of Tel Aviv market
Ran Rimon, Globes Online 4/16/2008
The proportion controlled by the top ten groups is among the highest in the world. A Bank of Israel study reveals that ten privately owned business groups own 30% of companies listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE). 20 business groups, nearly all of them family-owned, control 160 publicly-traded companies with a 40% share of the market. The study, by Konstantin Kosenko, noted that the market share of the ten largest groups is among the highest in the West. The holdings of the business groups in Israel are widely diversified among the different sectors of the economy, but with a heavy emphasis on the financial sector where half of the companies can be classified as affiliated to business groups. On average, companies affiliated to business groups in Israel tend to be notable for considerable maturity, lower growth, lower investment in R&D and a higher risk than unaffiliated companies.

Leviev to open 2 more Dubai jewelry stores
Tali Tsipori, Globes Online 4/16/2008
One store will open in the Burj Dubai Mall. - Lev Leviev Diamonds has announced that it will open two stores in Dubai this year. Leviev has never concealed his business activity in the United Arab Emirates, and in the past has noted that his Israeli identity is well known and has never been a business problem. One Leviev store will be a flagship boutique located in the most prestigious section of the Burj Dubai Mall, billed as the world’s biggest mall, under the world’s tallest building, the 2,000-foot Burj Dubai Tower. Construction of the store will begin in the fourth quarter of 2008, when the mall will be ready for tenants, and will be inaugurated when the mall opens to the public. The store will include elegant design elements, a private salon, and several thousand carats of extraordinary diamonds. The second store will be a mini-boutique in the lobby of the new Atlantis Hotel on Jumeirah Palm Island, due to open in September 2008.

Egyptians hunt terrorists planning Passover attacks
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Egyptian security forces searched in Sinai yesterday for multiple terror cells believed to be planning attacks in the area against foreign nationals, especially Israelis. The Counterterrorism Bureau has issued a strong warning to Israelis against visits to Sinai during the upcoming Pesach holiday. Late last night, meanwhile, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was moderately wounded when he was shot by a Palestinian sniper in the central Gaza Strip. Egyptian military sources told foreign reporters that its forces were searching for four pickup trucks thought to be carrying carrying terrorists 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. "Following reports of plans by Hamas to repeat its breach of the border at Rafah, Egyptian security forces at the border went into high alert yesterday.

US forced to import bullets from Israel as troops use 250,000 for every rebel killed
The Independent 4/16/2008
US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed - that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel. A government report says that US forces are now using 1. 8 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition a year. The total has more than doubled in five years, largely as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as changes in military doctrine. "The Department of Defense’s increased requirements for small- and medium-calibre ammunitions have largely been driven by increased weapons training requirements, dictated by the army’s transformation to a more self-sustaining and lethal force - which was accelerated after the attacks of 11 September, 2001 - and by the deployment of forces to conduct recent US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq," said the report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

More aid needed for Iraqi refugees
Institute for War and Peace Reporting - IWPR, ReliefWeb 4/16/2008
Syria continues to receive a stream of Iraqi refugees despite the tighter visa regulations and the poor living conditions the incomers face, which are not expected to improve in the near future, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. April marks the fifth year since the United States-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. The chaos and sectarian violence since 2003, and especially since early 2006, have forced many Iraqis to flee the country. The vast majority – approximately 1. 5 million of them – live in Syria. Between February 2006 and October 2007, between 30,000 and 60,000 refugees poured into Syria each month. In October, Syria imposed visa regulations which had the effect of stemming the influx. The government also made it more difficult for Iraqis to remain under their current visas.

Fresh fighting erupts in Iraq
Al Jazeera 4/16/2008
Fresh fighting has erupted in Iraq a day after the country suffered one of its deadliest wave of bombings in recent months. The violence comes just days after Washington heard evidence from David Petraeus, the US general in Iraq, that the US troop ’surge’ strategy in Baghdad was working. At least six people werekilled in fighting between Iraqi government forces and Shia fighters on Wednesday. Four Shia fighters died in a US air raid in the southern city of Basra, while two other people died in fighting in the Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad. Security fearsDespite the US military’s claim that thousands of extra troops are helping to bring stability to Iraq, many civilians told Al Jazeera that they are living in constant danger.

Iraqi PM in EU energy talks
Al Jazeera 4/16/2008
Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, has held talks with European Union officials in Brussels on ways to enhance political and economic relations, especially with regards to energy. EU officials had earlier said they hoped to reach an outline deal with Iraq to import Iraqi gas via a planned pipeline across Turkey. The 27-nation bloc is keen to diversify its gas supplies away from reliance on Russia, which provides one-quarter of the EU’s needs, and to find additional suppliers for its planned Nabucco gas pipeline across Turkey to central Europe. The issue was discussed at an early morning meeting on Wednesday between Andris Piebalgs, the EU energy commissioner, and Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi oil minister, who is accompanying al-Maliki.

China hosts Iran nuclear talks
Al Jazeera 4/16/2008
China is hosting talks on Iran’s nuclear programme. Delegates from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany are set to discuss in Shanghai on Wednesday whether to offer Tehran more incentives to curb its nuclear work. The talks come a week after Iran defied international sanctions, saying it plans to expand its nuclear work by installing another 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz plant in addition to the 3,000 already there. Bigger role - China has stayed away from the Iranian dispute in the past to avoid falling out with a key oil supplier, but at the same time harbours fears of a nuclear arms race if Iran gains the ability to make nuclear weapons. [end]

PKK denies casualties after Turkish air strikes in Iraq
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/17/2008
ANKARA: Turkish warplanes attacked a group of separatist Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq as they attempted to sneak across the border into Turkey, the Turkish military said Wednesday. A statement said the armed group was "rendered ineffective" in the raid, which took place on Tuesday in the Avasin-Basyan area of northern Iraq, without saying how many rebels were killed. Ahmad Danis, the spokesman for the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) confirmed the air raids and said similar strikes were carried out on Wednesday morning. "There was a Turkish air strike against some old PKK bases in Zaqkros mountain near Amediyah but there were no casualties," he told AFP by telephone from a rebel hideout in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq. "Turkish aircraft targeted the same area this morning again without causing any casualties," he added.

US frees Iraqi photographer - after more than two years
Jay Deshmukh, Daily Star 4/17/2008
Agence France Presse - BAGHDAD: The US military on Wednesday freed an Iraqi photographer working for The Associated Press after detaining him for two years on accusations of aiding terrorism in the country, a military official said. Bilal Hussein, 36, was "turned over" to members of his organization by US military officials at 3:45 p. m. on Wednesday, Major Matt Morgan from US detainee operations in Iraq said. Hussein, who was part of an AP photo team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, was released after the US military conducted a review and concluded that he was no longer a threat. "The turnover was at an entry checkpoint near Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport," Morgan said referring to a key American military base. Hussein had been detained since April 12, 2006, after he was arrested in Ramadi, 100 kilometers west of Baghdad.

Survey: Nasrallah is the most admired leader in the Arab world
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
Hezbollah chief Sheikh Nassan Nasrallah is the most admired leader in the Arab world, according to a poll released recently by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. Nasrallah seems to be gaining in popularity, with some 26 percent of respondents voicing support for him. Syrian President Bashar Assad also won an increase in popularity, according to the poll. The survey also found that the majority of Arab public - in contrast to their governments - does not view Iran as a major threat. Respondents said they believe Iran should be free to pursue its nuclear program and are opposed to international pressure to halt development. Some 44 percent of respondents said the outcome of a nuclear Iran would be beneficial for the region.

Iranian president voices doubts about 9/11 attacks
Stuart Williams, Daily Star 4/17/2008
Agence France Presse - TEHRAN: Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday reaffirmed his doubts about the accepted version of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, describing the strikes as a "suspect event. ""Four or five years ago a suspect event took place in New York," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to a public rally in the holy city of Qom broadcast live on state television. "A building collapsed and they said that 3,000 people had been killed, whose names were never published. . . Under this pretext they [the United States] attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and since then a million people have been killed," he said. This was the third time in just over a week that he has publicly raised doubts about the September 11 attacks on the US. He first raised the theme at a ceremony on April 8, Iran’s national day marking its controversial nuclear. . .


A Gaza Diary: Nakba for Me
Najwa Sheikh, MIFTAH 4/16/2008
      In a few weeks, Palestinians the world over will commemorate their Nakba (catastrophe) -- the loss of their homelands, their identity, dignity and their life.
     Many countries and organizations that are interested in the Palestinian dilemma will help in this commemoration. The Nakba for them is to speak about the sufferings and loss of a nation, to tell stories from those who witnessed the real event and fled from their homeland with one hope -- that one day they will return.
     As a third generation Palestinian, the Nakba to me is different in terms of the pain and suffering it holds. I am totally aware of the great loss that my grandparents, my parents have to experience when they fled from their homeland in 1948. I know how devastating it is to lose the place that gives you all the feelings of security, and the identity that tells who you really are. The pain that my grandparents held during the years of their life in the camp until they died with their only wish to see their home again is heart breaking. The dreams that my father holds on behalf of his parents, and his own dreams of returning back home, is also heart breaking.

Israel moves to shut Hebron orphanages, schools

Report, Electronic Intifada 4/16/2008
      HEBRON, 14 April (IRIN) - A Palestinian charity in the West Bank city of Hebron is concerned it will be shut by the Israeli military and forced to close its orphanages and schools, employees at the institution told IRIN.
     The Israeli military has ordered the closure of buildings rented by the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS), saying it is working for Hamas.
     "At first we thought maybe they were just taking the business side of the charity, but now, after we appealed to the Israeli high court, our lawyer realized the orders mean they really want to close everything, including the schools and orphanages," said Rashid Rashid from the ICS.
     Some 240 boys and girls aged 5-18 live at the orphanages, while thousands of other children, many of whom have lost at least one parent, receive schooling, food and clothing from the charity.
     The ICS has received support from both the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron and the Israeli Rabbis for Human Rights.
     It also said the Israeli military had seized US$157,000 worth of goods -- including rice, oil, sugar, clothing and first aid kits -- from its warehouse. The bakery’s equipment, worth over $43,000, was confiscated, along with items at the administrative office.

Israel’s Strategy in Gaza

Caelum Moffatt, MIFTAH 4/16/2008
      A lot has been made of Israel’s intentions towards the Gaza Strip over the last few months. Commentators have analyzed and deconstructed the Israeli government’s fierce rhetoric with respect to Gaza and its ruling authority Hamas, evaluated its actions against the coastal strip and formulated parallels in the hope of deciphering Israel’s objectives concerning this small and overpopulated entity which continues to incessantly lodge itself under the skin of Israel.
     What does Israel have in store for Gaza and Hamas? Arguments normally fluctuate between three possible theories. First, there is the option of invading Gaza. This is a notion given credence and reinforced by two observations. Israeli ministers and officials use stern language and adopt an effusive manner when it comes to warning or threatening breaches of Israeli security. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai adopted the term “shoah” to describe what Palestinians could expect in the future if aggression continues [shoah, which literally means “disaster” in Hebrew is normally reserved for the holocaust]. In addition, Vilnai declared that Israel would “settle the score” with Hamas following the attack on the Nahal Oz fuel terminal on April 9. Even the Prime Minister employs this same tactic in keeping the public guessing as to what his actual plans for Gaza may be. After the recent infiltration of four Palestinian activists into Nahal Oz and the shooting of two truck drivers – the fourth offensive which resulted in the deaths of Israeli citizens in three months – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert personally promised that “the response against Hamas will be such that Hamas will no longer be able to act against Israeli citizens”. Preceding operation “Hot Winter” on February 29, an offensive that killed 112 Palestinians in five days, the Prime Minister informed the public that “no one in Hamas…will be immune against this war”.

Is Art the Answer?

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 4/16/2008
      Art, in all its forms, has always been an elevated expression of reality. Good art has the ability to see beyond the obvious and delve into the unknown, finding hidden secrets and human emotions not seen to the naked eye.
     This week, a new play opened in Israeli theaters, which tells the story originally written by renowned Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani. The play, adapted by Israeli playwright Boaz Gaon, is based on Kanafani’s “Return to Haifa”, an emotionally-charged novella about a Palestinian family who, in their haste, left their baby son behind as they fled their war-torn city in the 1948 War. In 1967, the couple briefly returns to their home in Haifa and find that their son, Khaldun is now an Israeli soldier, taken in by the Jewish couple that occupied their home after Israel won the war.
     In Kanafani’s work, the story ends with the despondent father proclaiming that only another war could rectify the wrongs of the past. In a poignant and impassioned soliloquy, Khaldoun’s (known now by his Israeli name, Dov) father seals the fate of what would prophetically become the Palestinians’ struggle for their right of return. “You can stay in our house temporarily,” he says to the Jewish inhabitants who now call his son their own. “This can only be settled by another war.”

Leading article: A voice in the wilderness

The Independent 4/16/2008
      Yet again, a toxic combination of violence and strategic myopia is pulling Israelis and Palestinians towards the darkness. There were intense battles in Gaza yesterday. Three Israeli soldiers and four Hamas gunmen were killed in firefights, after Palestinian fighters approached the Nahal Oz crossing. This was followed by an Israeli airstrike on the Bureij refugee camp, which killed eleven Gazans, including two children.
     Israel has resumed fuel deliveries to Gaza’s power station, but the blockade on transport fuel continues; so does the ban on exports. Virtually all economic activity in Gaza has dried up. All that is keeping many Gazans from starvation are humanitarian aid deliveries.
     Meanwhile, attempts by the Egyptian government to mediate a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel have stalled. And, ominously, the Israeli government seems to have hardened its line. A few months ago Israeli ministers were holding out the prospect of an agreed ceasefire if the rockets attacks on southern Israel ended. But now they are talking up a military solution, through air strikes and incursions. The goal increasingly seems to be to crush Hamas at any cost.

Carter’s visit with Hamas’ Meshal

Hasan Abu Nimah, Electronic Intifada 4/16/2008
      "Carter seems more comfortable with terrorists than with friends like Israel." So said a newsflash on the Israeli daily Haaretz’s website last Sunday.
     The statement was attributed to the American pro-Israel group, the Anti-Defamation League, and was obviously a reaction to news that former US president Jimmy Carter was planning to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal during an upcoming visit to Damascus.
     If Carter does meet with Meshal, and that has not been confirmed, I do not think many sensible people would imagine that Carter’s intent is to seek the comfortable company of a terrorist as a better alternative to meeting peace-loving Israelis.
     Carter may not be counted amongst Israel’s most stalwart supporters, at least compared to other US presidents or the current candidates for office. But in reality, he has done more for Israel than any other US president, and perhaps even any other world leader.
     Without the determined effort and the intense personal diplomacy of president Carter, Israel would not have achieved the one landmark breakthrough in its troubled history: the peace treaty with Egypt.

Two Arab Worlds Drift Further Apart

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 4/16/2008
      BEIRUT - As oil prices and income to some Arab producers continue to rise, we can witness sharper polarization between the wealthy energy-producing, small population states of the Gulf, on the one hand, and the more populous, energy-importing Arab countries all around it in the Levant region, the Nile Valley, and further west into North Africa. Any person who travels to such places as Dubai, Doha, Bahrain, Amman, Cairo, Casablanca and Beirut moves between two very different worlds that are united by investment and labor flows but are being pushed further apart in most other spheres of life.
     A set of polarizations defining the Arab world today lie along fault lines largely drawn by way of income levels, but also comprising other criteria. The Arab world is steadily disaggregating into two very different sub-worlds, characterized by the following polarizations:
     1. Wealth vs. poverty: The continued rise in oil and gas prices has seen the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) amass enormous sums of cash income -- trillions of dollars in the past decade -- which they cannot spend, and may increasingly have trouble investing safely. Per capita real incomes and real purchasing power in the rest of the Arab world remain flat and, in some cases, are even in decline...

It’s time to free Vanunu

Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
      Next week the interior minister will renew, for the fifth time, the order banning Mordechai Vanunu from leaving Israel. This comes on top of restrictions issued by the Home Front Command, relying in part on British Mandate Emergency Regulations, forbidding Vanunu from approaching foreign embassies and from speaking with foreigners. He has been confined to Jerusalem, and must report his movements outside the city. The restrictions effectively continue to punish him for his crimes, for which he already has paid.
     Vanunu’s harassment by the Israel government is unprecedented and represents a distortion of every accepted legal norm. Vanunu, who in the 1970s and 1980s worked as a junior technician in the Dimona nuclear reactor, gave Israel’s nuclear secrets to The Sunday Times in 1986. As a consequence, he was abducted by Mossad agents while in Italy, drugged, transported back to Israel, tried, convicted on charges of espionage and treason and sentenced to 18 years in prison, some of which he spent in solitary confinement that nearly drove him insane.

In Gaza, fueling cars with cooking oil

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 4/16/2008
      Amna Abu Sido was waiting for a ride at the so-called Universities Junction in the heart of Gaza City on Tuesday afternoon when she explained how difficult her commute has become.
     "I take at least two taxis to go back home to the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood from the school I teach at in Talatini street. Taxis are scarce nowadays and this is really adding to our difficulties," said the 45-year-old schoolteacher from Gaza City.
     Transportation has been crippled by Israel’s reduction of fuel imports since last autumn when it declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity" after the democratically-elected Hamas government took control of the area. The 25-mile-long coastal enclave has about 4,600 taxis, but the majority of them have stopped operating since last Wednesday, when Israel imposed a closure of fuel imports following an attack by Palestinian resistance fighters on a fueling depot, killing two Israelis. The two fighters were killed by Israeli forces, as well as two Palestinian civilians.