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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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18 April 2008


Israel plans 100 houses in West Bank settlements
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 4/18/2008
Israel’s housing ministry announced plans today to build 100 new homes in two settlements in the occupied West Bank, drawing swift criticism from Palestinian officials. In an advertisement in the Ha’aretz newspaper, the ministry invited construction companies to bid for the rights to build 48 homes in Ariel, a major settlement, and 52 homes in a smaller settlement called Elkana. It was the first time since peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians began last November that the Israeli government had announced construction in settlements so deep inside the West Bank. The talks are based on the US road map to peace, which requires Israel to freeze all settlement activity and to withdraw from some of its furthest outposts in the West Bank. However, in a wide-ranging interview with an Israeli newspaper today, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, repeated his plans to continue

Carter: Israeli blockade of Gaza an "abomination"
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Cairo – Ma’an – Former US President Jimmy Carter said on Thursday that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are being "starved to death," receiving fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. "It’s an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza," he said. "It’s a crime. . . I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on. " "I think politically speaking this has worked even to strengthen the popularity of Hamas and to the detriment of the popularity of Fatah," Carter added. Carter, the man who brokered a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1979, insists that Hamas must be included in any peace negotiations. Carter heads to Damascus on Friday to meet with exiled senior Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al. "One of the reasons I wanted to come and meet with the Syrians and Hamas was to set an example that might be emulated by others.

Body of 15 year old Palestinian boy found mutilated in Israeli settlement
International Solidarity Movement 4/18/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - At 3pm on Wednesday, 16th April, the mutilated body of 15 year old Hammad Nidar Khadatbh was found in lands of the illegal Israeli settlement of Al-Hamra by his father, who was out searching for his missing son. Hammad had left the house at 9am on Tuesday, 15th April to work on the family’s land, located near the stolen agricultural lands of the settlement. As the second eldest son, he was picking cucumbers for the family rather than going to school, to help with the income of his struggling family. At evening he failed to return home, and so his father and other family members immediately went searching for him. They found nothing. They set out again the next day, Wednesday, and found his body in a place they had searched the day before - clearly dumped overnight. Hammad’s body was naked, bloated, and tortured.

Qassam hits power lines in Sderot causing blackout
Mijal Grinberg , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
A Qassam rocket launched from Gaza hit high-tension power lines in Sderot Friday evening, causing an electricity blackout in several neighborhoods of the western Negev town and a nearby Kibbutz. Another rocket exploded in outside a residential block, slightly damaging it. Police say several people were treated for shock. Sixteen Qassam rockets were fired at Israel on Friday and hit open areas. One caused a fire, which was later contained. No damage or injuries were reported. On Thursday, 17 rockets were fired at the western Negev, including an upgraded Qassam rocket which activated the "color red" alert in Ashkelon. They all hit open areas across the region, but no injuries were reported.

73.4 percent of southern West Bank Palestinians living near contaminated waste water
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 4/18/2008
Bethlehem -- Seventy-three. four percent of southern West Bank families live in areas contaminated with waste water. These are the findings of PCBS and Arij, the Palestinian Applied Research Center. A symposium was called and in attendance were representatives of environmental and agricultural institutions in the Bethlehem Governorate. The symposium was opened by Dr. Jad Isaac, Director of Arij. He welcomed the attendees, and emphasized the importance of cooperation and integration in the conduct of research studies and surveys among Palestinians institutions and the Statistics Institute. He praised the role of Palestinians who combat the current challenge imposed upon the land and people by the Israeli government. The General Surveyor in the southern West Bank said that all data indicates that the situation has reached critical proportions, and is on the rise. -- See also: Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem

Israeli forces assassinate 22 year old in Nablus
Amin Abu Wardeh, Palestine News Network 4/18/2008
Nablus - Israeli forces assassinated Hani Ku’bi in Nablus Friday. The attack began as a "large-scale operation," as reported by residents. Twenty-two year old Ku’bi was a leader in the Balata Refugee Camp branch of the Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed resistance wing associated with Fateh. Medics report that Israeli forces would not allow them to help the injured or Ku’bi, directly contravening international law. Israeli forces also arrested another Palestinian during the morning invasion of the northern West Bank governorate. Eyewitnesses report that large numbers of Israeli military surrounded several houses and opened intensive fire. Via loudspeakers, soldiers immediately shouted that they were imposing curfew. They then moved into the heart of the camp with even more military vehicles. The local sources continued to report that Israeli soldiers began. . .

IDF places full closure on Gaza, W. Bank
Jerusalem Post 4/18/2008
The IDF declared a full closure on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Friday, to remain in effect until after the Pessah holiday. IDF vehicles drive through a street in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus during an operation Friday. As Givati Brigade soldier David Papian z"l, who was killed early Wednesday along with two of his comrades in a clash with terrorists who tried to infiltrate Israel, was laid to rest Friday on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, Kassam rockets continued to pound southern Israel. A total of 14 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, two of which landed in Sderot. One caused a fired in a kindergarten, which was empty at the time. No wounded were reported as a result of the attacks. Later Friday evening, two more Kassams landed in Sderot. One stuck a high-tension wire and caused power outages in parts of the city. No wounded were reported as a result of the attack.

PFLP’s military wing vows to continue projectile attacks
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have rejected reported remarks by the Mayor of the Israeli city of Ashkelon demanding that the Israeli government strike violently at the Gaza Strip in retaliation for two homemade projectiles that landed in Ashkelon on Thursday. The Brigades told Ma’an that: "The battle with the enemy is still going on. "They indicated that the projectiles that were launched at Ashkelon were of the latest types. The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades vowed to continue their attacks and launch more projectiles, pledging security to Israelis security as long as the Palestinian people are in danger. The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades also claimed responsibility for launching a projectile at Ashkelon at 1.

OPT: Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report - Gaza fuel crisis 17 Apr 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 4/18/2008
KEY OBSERVATIONS- The Gaza Strip is entirely dependent on Israel for fuel supplies. Since 28 October 2007, Israel has restricted fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip for both public and private use. - Last week, fuel shortages were aggravated both by a strike by Gaza fuel distributors and the halting of all fuel supplies to Gaza from 10-15 April, following a Palestinian militant attack at Nahal Oz. - Supplies of gasoline and diesel remain suspended. Limited deliveries of industrial gasoline for the Gaza Power Plant and cooking gas resumed on April 16. - The fuel cuts have generated a 31% reduction in internally-generated electrical supply, resulting in daily power outages. It is also causing severe disruption to basic services, including water distribution, sewage treatment and healthcare. Up to 280,000 of Gazans currently receive water for only 3-5 hours every four days.

Three people feared buried in collapsed Gaza tunnel
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/19/2008
AL-ARISH, Egypt: An Egyptian security official said three people were feared buried on Friday under the rubble of a collapsed tunnel used by smugglers to ferry goods to and from the Gaza Strip. "Palestinian authorities informed us that the tunnel has collapsed," the official told AFP. "We suspect that three people are trapped inside. "Authorities are searching for the opening of the tunnel on the Egyptian side of the divided border town of Rafah, the official said. Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of doing too little to counter alleged arms smuggling through tunnels dug from Gaza into Egypt. The accusations have been vehemently denied by Cairo. [end]

Israel: PA can reopen 20 police stations in West Bank
Avi Issacharoff and Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
Israel told the Palestinian Authority on Friday that it agrees to the reopening of 20 police stations under Palestinian control across the West Bank, as part of a security drive aimed at bolstering peace negotiations, officials said. This is the first time Israel has approved such a measure since 2001. According to Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA’s Civil Affairs Ministry, the police stations were abandoned after clashes erupted in September 2000. The stations are located in the West Bank’s Area B, where under 1993 interim peace accords, Israel retains the right to deploy troops against suspected militants. The police will be authorized to engage in law enforcement activities, chiefly in Palestinian villages such as Tufah, which is near Nablus, Sarir, which is near Hebron, and Tekoa, which is near Bethlehem.

PA to build 20 police stations in West Bank
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/18/2008
Israelis approve reopening of stations in B areas controlled by Israel in bid to help Abbas enforce security plan. Palestinians training in Jericho to man stations - Israel and the Palestinians reached an agreement Friday to reopen 20 police stations in the West Bank in a bid to assist the Palestinian Authority in enforcing its security plan in the area. According to the agreement, most of the stations will be established in the B areas, which are under Israel security control. Some of the stations were open until the start of the second intifada in 2000. They were later closed by Israel and some of them were demolished. "The goal is to boost security in the West Bank and enforce law and order," said Hussein al-Sheikh, who is in charge of the coordination on the Palestinian side.

Three survive collapse of tunnel underneath Gaza-Egypt border
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an –Three people survived the collapse of a tunnel underneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Friday in the town of Rafah, local sources said. Witnesses told Ma’an that the tunnel collapsed late on Thursday night in the As-Salam neighborhood at the Egyptian border. Three people were pulled from the rubble. No one was killed. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry said that Gazan hospitals did not treat anyone for wounds resulting from the collapse of the tunnel. [end]

Hamas, Islamic Jihad fighters claim several attacks in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for launching four homemade projectiles at an Israeli special forces position in Juhor Ad-Dik, in the Gaza Strip, on Friday at dawn. Separately, the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching two missiles at Israeli sites named "Nair Tshak" and "Holit," east of the city of Khan Younis. The Al-Quds brigades also said that they launched a homemade projectile at the city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza. The groups also said that their fighters survived Israeli shelling in the northern Gaza Strip. [end]

Israeli forces seize 10 Palestinians near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the West Bank village of Beita, south of the city of Nablus, at 1am on Friday and seized ten young Palestinian men, witnesses said. Witnesses said 15 Israeli military vehicles entered the village. Israeli troops stormed several houses. Local sources identified some of the detainees as: 21-year-old Luay Taysir Barham, 18-year-old Khalid Mohammed Hamdan, his brother 20-year-old Mu’ath Hamdan, 20-year-old Ayoub Hamad Salim A’deely, 26-year-old Sharida Hamad Jabali and Mutaz Ahmed Jabali 22-year-old and 18-year-old Ma’moun Hamid Jabali and 22-year-old Fahad Rashid Hamayel. [end]

Abu Ali Mustafa brigades fire projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Friday for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot. They said in a statement that their fighters launched the projectiles as a response for Israeli massacres in Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli media reported that six projectiles have landed in Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip, including three in Sderot, on Friday afternoon. No injuries were reported. One projectile was reported to have caused a fire near a school. [end]

Al-Quds brigades fire projectiles at Israeli Kibbutz
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at the Israeli Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha and neighboring Nirim, near the Gaza Strip, on Friday. The group said the attack was a response to "Israeli massacres in the Gaza Strip and the assassination of Palestinian leaders and activists affiliated to the movement in Jenin. " Israeli forces assassinated two Al-Quds Brigades leaders on Thursday in the West Bank town of Qabatiya, near Jenin. [end]

Islamic Jihad fighters claim projectile attack
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility on Friday for shelling Al-Majdal, to the north of the Gaza Strip. The statement says that the attack came in response to the ongoing Israeli crimes on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza strip and for the assassination of two Al-Quds Brigades leaders in Jenin on Thursday. [end]

Three Hamas members ’arrested’ in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces arrested three members of Hamas in the West Bank on Thursday, Hamas said. In a statement Hamas said that the security forces arrested Amjad Zamel from his home in the city of Nablus, and Ramez Abu Salha and Samir An-Nakib during a march marking Palestinian prisoners’ day. [end]

The Al-Quds brigades launch two mortar shells against Kissufim
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility on Friday for firing two mortar shells at a control room at the Israeli military installation at Kisufim, near the Gaza Strip. The Al-Quds Brigades vowed to continue to resist Israeli occupation. [end]

7 Qassams land in south; no injuries
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 4/18/2008
Three rockets land in Sderot, one explodes near school causing a fire. Earlier Friday four Qassams hit western Negev, kibbutz south of Ashkelon. Non injuries reported in any of the attacks - Seven Qassam rockets landed in Sderot and the western Negev since Friday noon. No injuries were reported in any of the attacks, but a fire broke out in the southern town. The latest barrage hit at 5:30 pm, when a Qassam landed near the entrance to the town, causing no injuries or damage. Earlier, three Qassam rockets were fired at Sderot. Two of the rockets landed in town; one fell near a school and caused a fire. The third rocket fell within Palestinian territory. Shortly after noon Qassams landed in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council, near a kibbutz in the Sdot Negev Regional Council and in a kibbutz south of Ashkelon.

Qassam lands in Sderot; 2 women suffer shock
Ze''ev Trachtman, YNetNews 4/18/2008
Rocket hits yard near house in southern town Friday evening; two local women treated for shock, one evacuated to hospital. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for attack. Seven Qassams land in Sderot, western Negev earlier - A Qassam rocket landed in the yard of a house in Sderot Friday evening. Two women suffered shock; one of them was evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. Shortly after 9:45 pm the Color Red alert system was heard in town, followed by a loud explosion. Magen David Adom emergency services, police units and firefighters were called to the rocket’s landing site. Damage was caused to a nearby house and to a portable shelter in the area. Officials at the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council reported of a power outage in one of the kibbutzim near town due to the attack.

Palestinian killed in West Bank
Al Jazeera 4/18/2008
Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have killed a Palestinian fighter, a military spokeswoman said. Hani al-Kaabi, 26, a local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, died from an exchange of fire on Friday. Local medical sources said the fighter had more than 10 bullet wounds throughout his body and it appeared that he was shot dead after he was wounded. Having escaped from a Palestinian prison earlier this year, al-Kaabi was wanted by Israel for conducting and planning attacks, the military spokeswoman said. She claimed he had masterminded a foiled plot to poison food in a restaurant near Tel Aviv. Palestinian sources said al-Kaabi was killed by Israeli special forces members disguised as Palestinians.

Israeli forces assassinate Al-Aqsa brigades leader in Balata refugee camp
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli special forces assassinated a prominent leader in the armed wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, injured a Palestinian woman and arrested two others during a raid in Balata refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday morning. The Israeli forces killed 26 year-old Al-Aqsa Brigades fighter Hani Al-Qa’bi and seized 28-year-old Samer Abu Leil, a fighter affiliated with Islamic Jihad, who was also wounded in the attack near the old mosque in the center of the camp. 29-year-old Ruwaida Abu Leil was injured, witnesses said. Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of the camp, carrying Al-Qa’bi’s body, shouting nationalist slogans and calling for revenge. The Israeli intelligent services accused Al-Qa’bi of an attempt to poison dozens of Israelis. Two Palestinians from Nablus confessed that Al-Qa’bi provided them with poison.

QB: Operation "death field" disturbed IOF calculations
Palestinian Information Center 4/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Abu Obaida, the spokesperson of the Qassam Brigades (QB), the armed wing of Hamas Movement, said on Thursday that the IOF calculations were confused after the stunning QB attack on IOF troops east of Gaza city Tuesday. Three Israeli occupation soldiers of the elite Jivati brigade were killed and five others were wounded in the QB attack near the Zaitun suburb, east of Gaza city. In press statement he made Thursday in Gaza city, the QB spokesman confirmed that the Israeli occupation army had lost a new round, and the attack eroded elements of the myth the Israeli deterrent force. "We dubbed this operation as the death field because it was indeed a death field for the infiltrating Jivati soldiers who were surprised by the attack", Abu Obaida said. Answering questions on Hamas’s schedule for retaliation, Abu Obaida underlined that the QB was capable of responding. . .

Israel issues settlement tenders
Al Jazeera 4/18/2008
The Israeli government has announced plans to build 100 new homes in two settlements in the occupied West Bank. An Israeli housing ministry advertisement, published on Friday, offered tenders for 48 homes in the settlement of Ariel and 52 homes in the smaller enclave of Alkana, despite strong protests from the Palestinians. Israel confirmed the plans in a written statement to Al Jazeera. In the statement, the housing ministry said the "52 housing units in Alkana substitute old housing units, which were built when the settlement was created 25 years ago". "The 48 housing units in Ariel were approved by the ministry of defence many months ago, and they are inside an existing neighbourhood," the statement said. The 2003 "road map", reaffirmed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders at a conference hosted by George Bush, the US president, in November last year, requires a halt to all settlement activity on occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood.

Bids for 100 new homes in settlements issued
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 4/18/2008
Construction in settlements continues as Housing Ministry decides to lease plots owned by government in towns of Ariel, Elkana. Peace Now: Government destroying chances for peace. Yesha Council: This is not enough - The Housing and Construction Ministry on Friday issued bids for the leasing of plots on which 100 new residential units are scheduled to be constructed in the West Bank settlements of Ariel and Elkana. The Peace Now movement said in response that "the government is destroying the chance to reach a settlement with the Palestinians, and turning the Annapolis peace summit into an irrelevant joke. " According to Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer, "The bids are a deadly blow to the political peace process. In order to appease the settlers, the government is allowing the construction of thousands of homes in the Palestinian territories, and torpedoing any chance of reaching a peace agreement.

IDF: Reuters reporter risked his life by going to Bi’lin
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
The Israel Defense Forces spokesman on Friday said the Reuters writer who was lightly to moderately wounded by IDF fire near the West Bank separation fence in Bi’lin put his life in danger by going to the area. "It upsets us when photographers are hurt, but it should be noted that a photographer or any other civilian that enters a violent, closed military area is putting himself in danger of serious harm," the IDF spokesperson’s statement read. The statement also said that "today in the afternoon, around five Israeli civilians came to this area, along with foreigners and Palestinians, with the goal of damaging the fence and harming security personnel. These constitute dangerous, illegal disturbances that require IDF commanders establish a closed military area in the vicinity, and to use the means necessary to prevent an attack on soldiers, border patrolmen and the fence.

Media watchdog slams Israel’s killing of cameraman
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/19/2008
VIENNA: The International Press Institute (IPI), a media watchdog, condemned on Friday the killing in the Gaza Strip this week of a Palestinian cameraman working for the Reuters news service. "IPI condemns this killing in the strongest possible terms and calls on the Israeli military to conduct an independent, timely and transparent investigation into the incident," IPI director David Dadge said in a statement. The media watchdog also noted that journalists working in conflict areas were protected under the Geneva Conventions and must not be targeted. Fadel Shana, 23, was killed on Wednesday by a shell fired from an Israeli tank he was filming from several hundred meters away during a military incursion into Gaza that killed 17 other Palestinians, Reuters said. The agency noted that he had been standing next to a jeep clearly marked with "TV" and "Press" stickers.

Tank shell that sprays deadly darts killed cameraman in Gaza, say doctors
Donald Macintyre in central Gaza, The Independent 4/18/2008
Bordered by lemon trees on one side and an olive grove on the other, the country lane leading to Joher Al Dik, where Fadel Shana was killed doing his job, was all but deserted yesterday afternoon. But two teenage boys from the Nusseirat refugee camp displayed half a dozen of the dull, black, inch-long darts which they said they had found among the cactus growing along the verge opposite where Mr Shana had parked his unarmoured SUV to film a tank on Wednesday afternoon. According to doctors who examined the body of the 23 -year-old Palestinian Reuters cameraman at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, it was controversial darts like those, flechettes, fired from an Israeli tank shell that explodes in the air, that caused his death. X-rays displayed to Reuters showed several of the flechettes embedded in the dead man’s chest and legs, and more were found in his flak jacket, clearly emblazoned, like his vehicle, with "TV" and "Press" signs.

After killing 1 from Reuters in Gaza, Israeli forces open fire on demo in WB, injuring colleague
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 4/18/2008
Ramallah - Demonstrators in the village of Bil’in took off in massive march after Friday prayers in solidarity with the prisoners confined in Israeli prisons. After killing a Reuters cameraman in Al Buriej Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip earlier this week, Israeli forces shot and injured another in Bil’in today. The Israeli group working for Palestinian human rights, B’Tselem, confirms that internationally banned flachettes were used to kill Fadal Shana’a. The nonviolent demonstrations are a weekly event, sometimes coinciding with specific events such as today, but most times in protest against the Wall, settlements and land confiscation. But Palestinian Prisoners Day was Thursday, so Friday’s march was in solidarity with the approximate 10,000 imprisoned Palestinians. Families from Bil’in, many people from Ramallah and neighboring towns, foreign and Israeli supporters, all walked together.

Protest outside UNRWA building, Nablus, after more killings in Gaza
Photos, International Solidarity Movement 4/18/2008
Nablus Region - Gaza Region - On Wednesday 16th April, 2008, up to fifty people protested outside the office of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Nablus, in repsonse to attacks that have taken place in Gaza by the Israeli army. The protesters called on UNRWA to take action in regards to the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, and to pressure Israel to lift the siege. The peaceful demonstration, organised by a coalition of leftist political parties in Nablus, attempted to deliver a letter demanding action to UNRWA - the UN agency that provides basic relief in the form of food, clothing, housing and healthcare to refugees - as over three-quarters of Gaza’s 1. 4 million residents are registered refugees. Recent attacks have also been focussed on refugee camps in Gaza, such as the regular attacks on Jabalia camp, during which many civilians have been killed.

People of Nablus show solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners
International Solidarity Movement 4/18/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - On Thursday 17th April, 2008 approximately 800 protesters marched through the streets of Nablus as part the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. Organised by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Socieity, demonstrators protested against the imprisonment of the 11500 Palestinians currently being held in Israeli prisons, demanding their release. Since 1967 over 650,000 Palestinians have been illegally imprisoned by Israel, which forms 40 percent of Palestine’s male population. The current number of prisoners includes 360 children and 99 women. There are also 1200 in administrative detention, a process which allows for the arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians for an unlimited period under the pretext of "security reasons". Since 1967, 197 Palestinians have died in prison, among them 48 who died of medical negligence.

Bil’in demonstrators march in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners
Ma’an News Agency 4/18/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinians organized a mass demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in to protest Israel’s separation wall and to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Thursday was Palestinian Prisoners’ day. Demonstrators made the case that the 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails should be a priority in any future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The prisoners’ parents, residents ofthe village and a group of international and Israeli supporters joined the demonstration holding banners and shouting slogans calling for the release of prisoners. Before reaching the wall the Israeli army showered the demonstrators with bullets, sonic bombs, and teargas. A journalist, Reuters photographer Ammar Awad, was injured.

Israel closes off West Bank and Gaza for duration of Passover
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
Israel has imposed a complete closure on the West Bank and Gaza for at least a week, the duration of the Passover holiday. The closure, which went into effect early Friday, will be in effect until the end of the holiday on April 26, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces. The move comes a day after Gaza militants attacked a vital crossing, raising the possibility of a large-scale IDF offensive within weeks. The state usually imposes closures on the territories during the holidays, which are considered a sensitive security time. Palestinians are banned from entering Israel, except for humanitarian cases, doctors and lawyers, the army statement said. "The [military] regards the holiday period as a highly sensitive time, security-wise," the statement said.

Gaza Strip inter-agency humanitarian fact sheet, Mar 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 3/31/2008
The first two days of March saw the intensification of ongoing Israeli army air and ground operations throughout the Gaza Strip. The Israeli code-named ‘Hot Winter’ operation which took place in northern and eastern Gaza between 28 February and 2 March resulted in a total of 107 killed and 250 injured. This was one of the most violent incursions in Gaza since the granting of limited autonomy to Gaza in 1994. The Gaza Strip remains closed to the outside world, with the exception of limited humanitarian imports and the movement of a small number of international visitors, patients and Israeli-approved Palestinians. Fuel shortages have begun to have a more profound effect on all aspects of life in Gaza, as private reserves have been depleted and the needs of the harvest and fishing season have increased demand.

Carter defies US and Israeli critics to meet Hamas leader
The Independent 4/18/2008
The former US president Jimmy Carter met the exiled leader of Hamas yesterday, despite US and Israeli objections to talks with a man accused of masterminding kidnappings and suicide bombings against Israelis. In Israel, the cabinet minister Eli Yishai said he had asked Mr Carter earlier this week to arrange a meeting with Hamas to discuss a prisoner exchange. Israel refuses to deal with the militant group, which is pledged to its destruction. Mr Carter’s convoy arrived yesterday afternoon at the Damascus office of Khaled Mashaal under tight security. Earlier in the day he met the Syrian President Bashar Assad after travelling to Syria from Egypt. Mr Carter has already met Hamas officials twice this week. In Cairo on Thursday, he asked senior officials from Gaza to halt rocket attacks against Israel. And in the West Bank on Wednesday, he angered Israelis by embracing a Hamas representative.

Carter meets Hamas leader Meshaal in Damascus
Ahmad Khatib, Daily Star 4/19/2008
Agence France Presse - DAMASCUS: Former US president Jimmy Carter met exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Syrian capital on Friday despite strong opposition from Israel and the White House. The controversial meeting was being held at a Hamas office and attended by top Islamist leaders Moussa Abu Marzuq and Mohammad Nazzal, an AFP photographer at the scene said. Abu Marzuq said Carter and Meshaal would discuss the fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants in June 2006. "They will also hold talks on a truce [with Israel] and ending the sanctions on the Palestinian people," he told AFP ahead of the meeting. Carter, who is on a regional tour to promote Middle East peace, earlier met Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria’s state news agency SANA later said they discussed the peace process and relations between the two countries.

Carter calls Israeli blockade of Gaza ‘a crime’
Middle East Online 4/18/2008
CAIRO - Former US President Jimmy Carter called the blockade of Gaza a crime and an atrocity on Thursday and said US attempts to undermine the democratically elected Palestinian movement Hamas had been counterproductive. Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders from Gaza, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being "starved to death", receiving fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. "It’s an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It’s a crime. . . I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on," Carter said. Israel has been blockading Gaza most of the time since Hamas took control of the impoverished coastal strip in June last year, allowing only basic supplies to enter. Israel has not accepted Hamas proposals for a truce including an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. . .

Berlin protests after Israeli settlers threaten MPs
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/19/2008
BERLIN: The German government expressed its consternation on Friday after Israeli settlers in the Occupied West Bank city of Hebron threatened and insulted a visiting German parliamentary delegation. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said it had sent a note of protest to Israel’s Foreign Ministry about Wednesday’s "regrettable" incident and that it had contacted the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "This is a very unhappy incident that we took note of with great surprise," the spokesman said, without giving further details about what happened. Delegation member Jerzy Montag said Wednesday that Israeli police did nothing to protect them and that they have changed the program for their one-week visit as a result. The incident follows an historic visit to Israel in March by German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she pledged her unwavering support for the Jewish state 60 years after it was founded in the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust.

Germany objects after Israeli settlers threaten lawmakers
AFP, YNetNews 4/18/2008
German government sends note of protest to Israel’s Foreign Ministry over Hebron incident during which local settlers insulted visiting delegation of German parliament members - The German government expressed its consternation Friday after Israeli settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron threatened and insulted a visiting German parliamentary delegation. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said it had sent a note of protest to Israel’s Foreign Ministry about Wednesday’s "regrettable" incident and it had contacted the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "This is a very unhappy incident that we took note of with great surprise," the spokesman said. Delegation member Jerzy Montag said Wednesday Israeli police did nothing to protect them and they have changed the program for their one-week visit as a result.

Putin, Abbas discuss plan for Moscow-hosted peace summit
Nick Coleman, Daily Star 4/19/2008
Agence France Presse MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met on Friday to discuss plans for a Middle East peace conference to be hosted in June by Russia, as Moscow seeks a greater diplomatic role in the region. In talks at Putin’s residence, "special attention" was to be paid to possible steps by Russia, including its initiative to hold a Moscow meeting on the Middle East, a Kremlin official said on condition of anonymity. The official noted continued attacks by Palestinian militants on Israel and Israel’s "disproportionate" response and said Putin and Abbas would discuss how to stabilize the situation and restore Palestinian unity. Earlier in his visit, Abbas said a Moscow peace conference was urgently needed as Israeli-Palestinian negotiations begun in Annapolis in the US last November were "not advancing at the required pace or yielding the necessary progress.

Egypt: ’Good progress’ made in Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
WASHINGTON - Egypt said on Friday it was making good progress trying to negotiate a tacit cease-fire, including a prisoner exchange, between Israel and the militant Palestinian group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said his government was speaking with both sides to get a "period of quiet," which would help Israeli and Palestinian negotiators achieve a deal more easily in U. S. -mediated Palestinian statehood talks that exclude Hamas. "Hamas wants to call it a period of quiet. That suits the Israelis because they do not want to reach a signed, written agreement with Hamas," Gheit said of Egypt’s mediation attempts in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "We are making good progress [mediating] but the difficulty we face is that often, certain trends inside Israel challenge the idea and certain trends inside Gaza challenge the idea and maybe, maybe there could also be a foreign element," he said with a smile, referring to the United States.

Rice: Syria ’most certainly an issue in nuclear proliferation’
Shmuel Rosner and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters on Thursday that "Syria is most certainly an issue in proliferation. " Responding to reporters’ questions, Rice spoke at length about the talks between the U. S. and North Korea, which also addressed the issue of North Korea’s relations with Syria. The U. S. is demanding that North Korea reveal all past activity relating to nuclear proliferation, including its ties to Syria. These came to light followingSeptember’s airstrike in Syria, which foreign reports have attributed to Israel. Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan reported on Thursday that Syrian technical teams are in Russia to take delivery of an advanced antiaircraft missile system, the Pantsyr-S1. This is part of a large Syrian-Russian deal, paid for by Iran, to supply new missile defense systems to the Syrian army.

Hamas: Gaza explosion is imminent if siege not lifted soon
Palestinian Information Center 4/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas Movement has made it clear and sound on Thursday that neither she nor the Palestinian people would accept the crushing Israeli siege on Gaza Strip to continue longer; warning all concerned parties that the zero hour for the popular explosion in Gaza was fast approaching. In a statement it issued in this regard, Hamas called on the Arab rulers to stop mortgaging themselves [to foreign parties], and to immediately stand up in support of the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza. "There is no excuse for the Egyptian leadership and the Arab rulers in retaining the Rafah crossing point sealed off", the Movement asserted in the statement, urging Arab and Muslim peoples around the world to go on massive demonstrations against the siege, and in support of the Palestinian people. The Movement also underlined that the Israeli threats of disabling the Movement, and of targeting. . .

Islamic Jihad: Assassinations of resistance fighters ordered by Dayton
Palestinian Information Center 4/18/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- A responsible source in the Islamic Jihad movement in the West Bank stated that the assassinations and arrests of resistance fighters will not achieve its goal of liquidating the "makers of the intifada". The source said in his statement on Friday that the assassination of Quds Brigades commanders yesterday in Jenin and the assassination today of an Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) commander and wounding of a Jihad commander are within the framework of the attempts by the PA to liquidate all those who refuse to give their arms and accept the so called amnesty and that these assassinations were ordered by the US General Dayton. The source stressed that the resistance factions have information from reliable sources that the PA has handed Dayton lists of names of tens of resistance fighters who refuse to surrender their weapons and informed him that it is unable to do anything. . .

Hamas: targeting our leaders means the occupation wants it an open war
Palestinian Information Center 4/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)--The Hamas Movement has warned the Israeli occupation government on Thursday that targeting the movement leaders as threatened means a declaration of an open war. The movement also stressed on the resistance option as a means to liberation. The warning was made in a statement the movement issued on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi who was assassinated a few weeks after the Israeli occupation assassinated the founder of the movement, Shiekh Ahmad Yassin. The Movement paid tribute to Rantisi, saying he had planted the principles of sacrifice and challenge among the Palestinian people, and he taught them a lesson in the meaning of martyrdom after he paid the ultimate sacrifice for the liberation of his country and people. "We will remain faithful to the path of our martyrs as their blood will remain the fuel that. . .

Hamas: Shalit won’t ’see light’ until Palestinian prisoners freed
Akiva Eldar , and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
A senior Hamas official on Friday said abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit "will not see the light" until Palestinian prisoners are released in a prisoner exchange. "Gilad [Shalit] will not see the light, will not see his mother, will not see his father, God willing, as long as our heroic prisoners do not see their families, in their houses," Mushir al-Masri said in a speech Friday. Shalit was kidnapped during a raid on an IDF army post near Gaza in the summer of 2006, and is being held in the coastal strip. Egyptian-led talks over a prisoner swap have been bogged down. Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of prisoners. Israel has agreed to release some inmates, but has balked at some of those on Hamas’ list. Highlighting the importance of the prisoner issue to the Palestinian national agenda, Palestinian. . .

Hamas vows not to surrender Palestinian captives in Israeli jails
Palestinian Information Center 4/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, stressed on Thursday that it will keep the issue of the Palestinian captives on top of its priorities, asserting that all options were open before the Palestinian people to free their sons from captivity. Hamas’s remarks came in a statement on the occasion of the Palestinian Prisoner day, remembering the more than 11,700 Palestinian citizens held in captivity in different Israeli jails throughout occupied Palestine. "All options are open before the Palestinian resistance men to free Palestinian captives from the occupation’s jails regardless of the price they would pay [to achieve that goal]", the Movement emphasized in the statement. In this concern, Hamas urged Arab, Muslim, and international parliaments and legal institutions to rally behind the just cause of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and to expose the. . .

VIDEO - News / Olmert: Israel’s intentions with regard to Syria are peaceful
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/18/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for April 17, 2008. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insists Israel has peaceful intentions with regard to Syria. The final footage from the camera of Fadel Shanaa, the Reuters journalist killed in Gaza on Wednesday, shows the Israel Defense Forces tank shell that killed him. IDF soldiers kill one Palestinian militant on the Israel-Gaza border, foiling an attempted infiltration and attack. [end]

Israel defies international calls for freeze on West Bank settlement expansion
Marius Shattner, Daily Star 4/19/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel on Friday invited bids to further develop two settlements in the Occupied West Bank, despite international calls to freeze such activity seen as a major obstacle to Middle East peace efforts. The Housing Ministry invited bidding for the construction of 100 housing units in the El Kana and Ariel settlements, both in the northern Occupied West Bank. The move drew immediate criticism from Palestinian officials and Israeli anti-settlement activists, who say expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territory undermines already arduous peace talks. The internationally drafted 2003 "road map" that forms the basis of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks requires Israel to freeze settlement construction. The United States and Europe have pressed Israel to halt settlement activity, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. . .

Israel invites bids for West Bank settlement housing
Middle East Online 4/18/2008
Israel on Friday invited bids to further develop two settlements in the occupied West Bank, despite international calls to freeze such activity seen as a major obstacle to Middle East peace efforts. The housing ministry invited bidding for the construction of 100 housing units in the El Kana and Ariel settlements, both in the northern West Bank. The move drew immediate criticism from Palestinian officials and Israeli anti-settlement activists, who say expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territory undermine already arduous peace talks. The internationally drafted 2003 roadmap that forms the basis of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks requires Israel to freeze settlement construction. The United States and Europe have pressed Israel to halt settlement activity, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on March 26 that construction would continue at settlements in the West Bank.

Boim: ’Natural growth’ reason for 100 new settlement homes
Nadav Shragai and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Boim on Friday dismissed Peace Now’s criticism of a plan to build 100 new housing units in West Bank settlements, noting that the plan was aimed at providing an answer to the settlements’ natural growth. Peace Now’s ideology is not new, and from their point of view construction in Jerusalem, in its municipal boundaries, is also ’settlement building,’" Boim said, referring to Israel’s largest anti-settlement group, which promotes a platform of land-for-peace. The minister added: "The current construction is intended to provide an answer to the internal needs of natural growth. "Boim spoke after the publication by his ministry on Friday of tenders for 48 new homes in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel and 52 more in the settlement of Elkana.

Netanyahu says 9/11 was a good thing for Israel
Khalid Amayreh in Occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 4/18/2008
Likud Leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has once again described the 9/11 terrorist attacks as "very good for Israel. "  "We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq,"  the Ma’ariv newspaper reported this week. "These events swung American public opinion in our favor. "  Netanyahu made the comments recently during a conference at Bar-Ilan University on the future of Occupied Jerusalem. This is not the first time Netanyahu makes such remarks. In a televised  interview soon after the landmark terrorist attack, Netanyahu remarked that "this is good for Israel,’ But prevaricated when asked by the interviewer how he could describe a horrible act as being good. -- See also: Report: Netanyahu says 9/11 terror attacks good for Israel

UNIFIL troops promote peace through sport
Jihad Siqlawi, Daily Star 4/19/2008
Agence France Presse - TYRE: Her bright red veil framing her young face and contrasting sharply with her white uniform, Walaa Ayoub kicks up a storm as she practices the taekwondo moves her South Korean trainer has taught her. Ayoub, 11, is among hundreds of young Lebanese benefiting from the martial arts know-how f South Korean troops stationed in the country as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The training has gained in popularity across villages and towns in the south of the country, even overtaking soccer as the South Korean soldiers try to build bridges with the local population and promote peace through sport. "We have suffered the atrocities of war just like the Lebanese," said Li Sang-Hyuk, one of three South Korean soldiers who volunteer their time for training and who are part of their country’s national taekwondo team.

Partitioning the past
Neil Asher Silberman, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
All too often in archaeology - especially in the archaeology of Israel - things are not what they seem. Finds can be fakes. Discoveries can be misinterpreted. And the public significance of historical evidence often depends on the particular community being addressed. Despite mountains of data and painstakingly detailed excavation reports, archaeology is far from an exact science, and few of its conclusions are indisputable - much less binding, legal proof of modern territorial and religious claims. No one can doubt the pride, the passions and the possessiveness that archaeological conflicts can spark in this land. Archaeological icons such as Masada, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the biblical sites of Tel Dan, Hazor, Lachish and Megiddo - among many others - embody the archaeological roots of Israel’s national consciousness.

Iraqi forces surround Sadr office
Al Jazeera 4/18/2008
Iraqi troops have surrounded an office block used by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Shia al-Mahdi Army, in the southern city of Basra. Al-Sadr’s supporters criticised the move on Friday as a "provocation", but the government said its operation was aimed only at recovering offices unfairly occupied by political groups. Sheikh Harith al-Athari, the head of the Basra office, said: "The police and the army have laid siege to Sadr’s office in Basra. " They have also stopped people from attending Friday prayers. The forces, backed by armoured vehicles, have asked us to leave the building. "General Abdel Karim Khalaf, an interior ministry spokesman, said the operation had been approved by Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister. He said that al-Maliki had ordered government troops to take possession of all government buildings in Basra within 48 hours.

US marks 25th anniversary of bombing of Beirut embassy
That attack was followed by a lot of other heartbreak, Daily Star 4/19/2008
BEIRUT: The US Embassy in Lebanon commemorated the 25th anniversary Friday of the bombing of the diplomatic mission in Beirut in which more than 60 people were killed. Charge d’affaires Michele Sison welcomed survivors and family members of the victims at an embassy ceremony which was also attended by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch. Welch, who was a desk officer for Lebanon at the State Department at the time of the attack on April 18, 1983, recalled his horror on learning of the bombing, at the time the deadliest ever on a US diplomatic mission. "That attack was followed by a lot of other heartbreak," he said. "There was the attack against the marine barracks later that year in October, quickly followed by the attack on our embassy annexe in 1984. "And the attacks continued," he added.

Siniora says Welch’s visit achieved no breakthrough
ussein Abdallah, Daily Star 4/19/2008
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Friday that US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch’s visit has not achieved any breakthrough in the ongoing political standoff in Lebanon. Siniora added that the Lebanese must depend on themselves if they really wanted to break the impasse. Welch said on Friday that the US was not in favor of maintaining the current status quo in Lebanon, referring to the five-month old presidential vacuum. Welch said after meeting Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir that the United States supported Lebanon’s Christian community. "We believe that a president should be elected in accordance with the Lebanese Constitution. . . this president should be a Maronite. . . it is simply illogical that the leading Christian post in Lebanon has been vacant sine almost five months," Welch said.

Fadlallah hits out at American interference in political crisis
Daily Star 4/19/2008
BEIRUT: Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah accused the US on Friday of hampering solutions to Lebanon’s political crisis. "Lebanon is still moving inside an impasse controlled by the American intelligence services and their political administration in order to keep the current crisis complicated," Fadlallah said in his weekly Friday sermon from the Imam Hassanayn Mosque in Haret Hreik. "Everybody knows that the issue, with its political complications, is not Lebanese," he added. "It is rather subject to America’s playing with the Arab situation. "Sayyed Fadlallah also commented on recent media reports that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is seeking the extension of the current Lebanese Parliament’s term. Addressing the Lebanese and Arabs, Fadlallah asked: "Has the US administration left you anything to hide behind? Does anybody still have any doubts about. . .

Senior Iranian cleric calls on Islamic Republic to defend Muslims worldwide
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/19/2008
TEHRAN: A high-ranking Iranian cleric on Friday said the country should grow into a military superpower to defend all Muslims, following an army parade at a time of mounting tension with the West. "In a not so distant future, we should reach a point to have the most powerful military equipment in the world, so that no one even think about invading our borders," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in his Friday prayer sermon carried live on state radio. "And not only that of the Islamic Republic, but also the borders of Islam. . . We must defend oppressed Muslims everywhere, so that the enemies do not dare to attack Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq. " On Thursday’s annual Army Day celebration in Tehran, dozens of fighter jets and other aircraft flew over the parade ground in a bid to show the power of the air force. Also on display was Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, whose range includes Israel and even the fringes of Europe.

There is more to be mourned than Iraq’s ancient treasures
Laura Wilkinson, Daily Star 4/18/2008
BEIRUT: "My scholarly identity," declared art historian Nada Shabout, "is concerned with the destruction of Iraq and its modern art. "A professor of Art History at the University of North Texas and a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Shabout is in town for Home Works IV, Beirut’s yearly forum of cultural practices. Her comments were delivered in a lecture earlier this week called "Usurping History: Iraqi Art, Monuments and Artists. "Though the subject of daily (if proscribed) news coverage, the devastation inflicted upon Iraq over the last five years is hard to quantify. Alongside the human tragedy - loss of life and livelihood, obliterated social structure and an unprecedented number of displaced persons (estimated to be as high as 4 million people) - the dissolution of Iraq’s cultural patrimony only deepens the tragedy.

Bush’s Torture Quote Undercuts Denial
Jason Leopold, Middle East Online 4/18/2008
President George W. Bush’s comment to ABC News – that he approved discussions that his top aides held about harsh interrogation techniques – adds credence to claims from senior FBI agents in Iraq in 2004 that Bush had signed an Executive Order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees. When the American Civil Liberties Union released the FBI e-mail in December 2004 – after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit – the White House emphatically denied that any such presidential Executive Order existed, calling the unnamed FBI official who wrote the e-mail “mistaken. ” President Bush and his representatives also have denied repeatedly that the administration condones “torture,” although senior administration officials have acknowledged subjecting “high-value” terror suspects to aggressive interrogation techniques,. . .


Testimonies from Hebron: Soldiers choke, beat Palestinians
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/18/2008
      Soldiers serving in Hebron testify to violent acts unleashed by troops, settlers on Palestinian residents. Four testimonies below.
     "Everyone there feels like they are doing something wrong. At least my friends felt they were doing something wrong." This was the opening sentence in a pamphlet over 100 pages long, which tells the stories of dozens of soldiers who have served in Hebron over the last few years.
     The pamphlet was published by an organization called Breaking the Silence, and includes horrifying descriptions about the behavior IDF soldiers have adopted towards the Palestinian residents of Hebron, and that of the settlers.
     Representatives of Breaking the Silence claim that their goal is "to encourage a public debate about the moral price paid by Israeli society as a whole due to the harsh reality faced by young soldiers forced to take control of a civilian population."
     According to the organization, all testimonies were investigated fully before being printed and cross-referenced with witnesses’ testimonies and archives of other human rights organizations.
     One of the organization’s activists said that the situation in Hebron has not changed much during recent years, and that Breaking the Silence has been hearing a lot about the "moral deterioration" of the system as a whole and the soldiers subjected to it. He added that Israeli society has a duty to listen to the soldiers and take responsibility for what is being done in its name.
To read the pamphlet in full, click here

Our reign of terror, by the Israeli army

Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 4/18/2008
      In shocking testimonies that reveal abductions, beatings and torture, Israeli soldiers confess the horror they have visited on Hebron.
     The dark-haired 22-year-old in black T-shirt, blue jeans and red Crocs is understandably hesitant as he sits at a picnic table in the incongruous setting of a beauty spot somewhere in Israel. We know his name and if we used it he would face a criminal investigation and a probable prison sentence.
     The birds are singing as he describes in detail some of what he did and saw others do as an enlisted soldier in Hebron. And they are certainly criminal: the incidents in which Palestinian vehicles are stopped for no good reason, the windows smashed and the occupants beaten up for talking back – for saying, for example, they are on the way to hospital; the theft of tobacco from a Palestinian shopkeeper who is then beaten "to a pulp" when he complains; the throwing of stun grenades through the windows of mosques as people prayed. And worse.
     The young man left the army only at the end of last year, and his decision to speak is part of a concerted effort to expose the moral price paid by young Israeli conscripts in what is probably the most problematic posting there is in the occupied territories. Not least because Hebron is the only Palestinian city whose centre is directly controlled by the military, 24/7, to protect the notably hardline Jewish settlers there. He says firmly that he now regrets what repeatedly took place during his tour of duty.

All avenues must be explored to break the war and death cycle

Editorial, Daily Star 4/19/2008
      There is more than ironic timing to the fact that former US President Jimmy Carter is meeting with senior Hamas officials on the same day that Americans and Lebanese in Lebanon commemorated two tragic mass killings - the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, and the 1996 Israeli attack against the UN peacekeepers’ base at Qana in South Lebanon. The element beyond coincidence is compelling political consciousness - the imperative to learn from the past and to come to grips more forcefully with the realities of waging war and making peace in this region. Lebanon and much of the Middle East still suffer political violence and a widening circle of warfare, occupation, resistance and civil strife. The coincidence of these three events in the past and present should be an opportunity to pause for a few moments and ponder more rigorously the options before us. Further warfare and bombings can continue for decades, and escalate to claim many more victims on all sides - Arabs, Israelis, Iranians and anyone else who happens to be passing through a hotel, restaurant or airport in the region. A better option would try to resolve some of the persisting conflicts, and thereby reduce the likelihood of more mass killings.

The US Palestine-Israel fairytale

Ramzy Baroud, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/17/2008
      The US is so awash with untruths about the Palestinians and Israel that freedom of conscience on the issue for most Americans is virtually unimaginable, writes A memorable quote in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) still carries a wealth of relevance. He writes, "They own the [holy] land, just the mere land, and that’s all they do own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven’t any business to be there defiling it. It’s a shame and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them."
     Recently an influential pastor, John Hagee of the Dallas’s Cornerstone mega-church, followed his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain with some telling remarks. "What Senator McCain, I feel, needs to do to bring evangelicals into his camp is to make it very clear that he is a strong defender of Israel and that he has a strong 24 years of being pro-life. And I think on those two issues they will get on common ground and have a common understanding."
     Such are the views of a man who has ever- growing influence among an ever-swelling culture in the US -- the evangelical Christian bloc. No mention was made of the well being of Palestinians, even Christian Palestinians, many of who are descendants of the early church.

Borderlines and frontlines

Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/17/2008
      Quiet prevails on the border between Egypt and Gaza, for now. Below the surface, however, tension between Egypt and Hamas is seething. Statements made by Hamas spokesmen last week about a potential replay of January’s mass breakout of ordinary Palestinians over the border "inevitably" led to a firm Egyptian response, threatening "a harsh reaction" while beefing up visible security on the border.
     By Wednesday, Cairo’s fears, high at the weekend, about a potential breakout and its political and humanitarian consequences were somewhat relaxed. "But we are still on standby," insisted one Egyptian official. For its part, Hamas is not ruling out a possible breach of the border. It would be, the movement says, a simple reaction of 1.5 million Palestinians to suffocation via siege. Hamas appeals for Egyptian assistance rather than its fury, spokesmen say.
     In a recent briefing attended by Al-Ahram Weekly, the Damascus-based deputy chairman of Hamas’s politburo, Moussa Aboumarzouk, insisted that it is not in the interest of Hamas to undermine Egyptian national security. "We want to work with, not anger Egypt. This is in our interest and it is in the interest of the Egyptians as well," he said.

The Controversy Surrounding Carter and Meshaal’s Meeting

Tariq Alhomayed, MIFTAH 4/17/2008
      Huge controversy surrounds former US president Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal. Carter has stated that during his meeting with Hamas’s leader in Damascus; he will strive to convince him to accept a peaceful solution with Israel and Fatah.
     It is common knowledge that Saudi Arabia has tried to resolve the Palestinian problem through the Mecca Agreement, but after the utmost faith and the emotional speeches that we saw and heard in Mecca; Hamas, under Khaled Meshaal’s leadership, staged a military coup in Gaza and overthrew the Palestinian Authority (PA). Moreover, Hamas has evaded Egyptian and Yemeni attempts [for reconciliation] while Gaza, under Hamas’s leadership, has transformed into a pressure front [exerting pressure] on Egypt.
     Carter’s meeting with Meshaal cannot be described as anything but an [internal] American skirmish; the outcome of which will be fruitless for the region and the Palestinian cause. In fact, it can only exacerbate the crisis in the region. There is nothing to indicate that Hamas, under Khaled Meshaal’s leadership, will commit to a resolution that unites all Palestinian efforts.

Israel doesn’t want to know Carter any more

Peter Hirschberg, Electronic Intifada 4/17/2008
      JERUSALEM, 17 April (IPS) - Three decades after he brokered the first-ever peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country, former US president Jimmy Carter has become persona non grata in the Jewish state.
     Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to meet with him during his four-day visit here. So did former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused Carter of holding "anti-Israel views in recent years."
     In a highly irregular move, Israel’s Shin Bet security service refused to assist US agents guarding Carter. The Shin Bet, which is overseen by Olmert’s office, is routinely involved in assisting with the protection of visiting dignitaries.
     Israeli leaders are furious over the former president’s plans to meet with Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal during his trip to Syria this week. Some Israeli politicians have called Carter’s readiness to meet with an organization whose founding charter calls for Israel’s destruction and which has carried out most of the suicide attacks and rocket attacks on Israel a "legitimization of terror."

Israel’s war on orphans

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/17/2008
      The fate of hundreds of orphans is in the balance after Israel’s army attacked their schools and residence, writes in HebronIsrael has of late been waging a dirty war against established Islamic institutions in this southern West Bank town of nearly 200,000, the largest in the West Bank, Hebron.
     Under the rubric of fighting Hamas, Israeli troops and agents of the Shin Bet, Israel’s notorious domestic security agency, have been raiding and vandalising charities, orphanages, boarding schools and affiliated businesses.
     The unprecedented campaign began mid-February when Israeli troops stormed two orphanages run by the Islamic Charitable Society (ISC), one of the oldest charities in Palestine, and the local Muslim Youth Association building. Having thoroughly terrorised hundreds of sleeping children, the soldiers moved to one building after the other, confiscating furniture, smashing glass, looting valuable items and leaving a trail of destruction.
     Before they left, the Zionist vandals handed charity officials a tersely worded order signed by the local army commander stating that all the schools, orphanages, eateries, apartment buildings and support businesses owned by the charity were confiscated and that the Israeli army was the sole legal proprietor of all the expropriated premises.

Thieves in uniform

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 4/17/2008
      At about midnight, the house was surrounded by soldiers. Mohammed Abu Arkub, a barber, woke up frightened at the sound of loud knocking on the door and the shouts demanding it be opened. Abu Arkub rushed to open the door and the soldiers pulled him outside and ordered him to take all the members of the household outside immediately. His wife Lubna and his two young daughters were sleeping, along with Lubna’s two younger sisters, who live with them. He woke them up and ordered them to go outside. His brother, Rami, who lives alone in the adjacent hut, was also called to go outside.
     The night of March 19, the village of Wadi al-Shajneh in the South Hebron Hills, south of the town of Dura. The family stood outside for about 10 minutes, half asleep in the cold night air, and then the soldiers ordered them to all go inside Rami’s hut. Two soldiers stood at the door, guarding the family so they wouldn’t go out. The rest of the soldiers in the force entered the home of the barber and his wife and began to conduct a search. Abu Akrub asked to be present during the search, but the soldiers prevented him from doing so. The routine of the occupation.