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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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19 April 2008


Report: 5 killed in IAF strike in Gaza
Hanan Greenberg, Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/20/2008
Palestinian sources report five Hamas gunmen killed in two IAF strikes in northern Gaza. IDF confirms hitting Qassam cell en route to fire on Israel; probe into Kerem Shalom attack continues - Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported Saturday that five Hamas operatives were killed and one wounded in two IAF strikes on the northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabalya. According to reports, an explosion heard in the city around 10:55 pm, turned out to be a fighter jet which fired at least one missile at a moving vehicle driving near the Jabalya Civil Administration headquarters. The second strike was reported just before midnight. The Palestinians reportedly had trouble dispatching ambulances to the scene, seeing how many are literally running on empty due to the fuel shortage.

Ambulances in Gaza will stop running within hours due to fuel cuts
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Ambulances in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip will stop running completely at 6pm local time on Saturday due to a lack of fuel, a senior official in the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Muawiya Hassanain, the head of the General Administration of emergency and ambulance services in the Health Ministry, told Ma’an that after calling the owners of local petrol stations, he has determined that there is simply no fuel to keep the ambulance fleet running. Israel shut down the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, Gaza’s main crossing point for liquid fuels, after Palestinian fighters attacked the crossing over a week ago. On Wednesday Israel allowed one small shipment of industrial fuel into the Strip, but no petrol for automobiles. The closing of Nahal Oz follows nearly ten months of a crippling blockade. Hassanain noted that the fuel shortage is reaching this point during "Israeli. . .

Schools and universities in Gaza closed for third day due to fuel cuts
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Schools and universities in the Gaza Strip suspended classes for the third consecutive day on Saturday due to a paralyzing fuel shortage, education officials said. The suspension of classes was announced earlier this week after a lack of transportation sent absentee rates soaring. Israel has virtually cut the Gaza Strip off from fuel supplies, shutting down ground transportation. Without fuel for cars, busses, and taxis, students and educators have been simply unable to get to class. The spring final examinations have also been postponed until further notice. [end]

’Attack on Kerem Shalom - worst one since pullout,’ says S. Command chief
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/19/2008
Maj. -Gen. Yoav Galant visits scene of "terror" attack at Kerem Shalom’s goods crossing, says soldiers’ tenacity prevented mass casualty event -"This is the worst attack we’ve seen since the disengagement," said IDF Southern Command Chief Major-General Yoav Galant Saturday, during a visit to the scene of the "terror" attack at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing. Thirteen IDF soldiers were moderately to lightly wounded Saturday morning, as Palestinian gunmen detonated car bombs, fired mortar shells and opened fire on the troops, in what was deemed by the IDF as a foiled abduction attempt. zz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the group’s military wing, claimed responsibility for the attack. "This incident spanned the entire sector. It was an attempt to abduct and kill as many soldiers as possible," said Galant.

Palestinian child ’beaten’ by Israeli soldiers for possession of water pistol
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers beat a nine-year-old Palestinian child named Saqer Omar Abdel Hamid Al-’Aramin on his way home in the town of Al-Ezeria, east of Jerusalem, on Saturday morning, an information office for Palestinian prisoners’ issues said. Munqeth Abu-Rumi, the director of the Asarna (literally "Our Prisoners") Information office said that Israeli troops stopped Al-’Aramin in the street and assaulted him for possession of a toy water gun. Abu Rumi called on the human rights organizations, the Arab League, the International Quartet and the United Nations to intervene to protect Palestinian children from Israeli assault. [end]

200 march against Israeli separation wall in Al-Khadr
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – 200 residents of the West Bank village of Al-Khadr, near Bethlehem, staged their weekly demonstration on Friday against the construction the Israeli separation wall, which organizers say will all but annex more than 90% of the agricultural community’s land. Sixty-six men from the village attended the Friday Muslim prayer service on the road leading to the construction site of the wall. Al-Khadr’s local Imam spoke about the importance of nonviolent resistance. More than 30 heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and police blocked the road with razor wire, preventing the demonstrators from approaching the site and forcing civilian traffic to turn back. Friday’s demonstration also marked Palestinian Prisoners day. International and Israeli supports also attended the demonstration. No one was injured.

Ambulance cars in Gaza no longer operational due to lack of fuel
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The department of ambulance and emergency in the Gaza Strip announced that all ambulance vehicles in the Strip would come to a complete standstill by 0600 pm local time Saturday due to the lack of fuel. Dr. Mu’awiya Hassanain, the director of the department, said in a press release that all petrol stations in the Strip said that they were out of fuel and thus the ambulance vehicles would stop moving and would not be able to extend assistance to the wounded and patients. He pointed out that the continued Israeli shelling and incursions would necessitate availability of ambulance cars to evacuate the casualties. The health ministry in the PA caretaker government in Gaza had announced two days ago that it stopped all surgeries in Gaza hospitals due to the lack of the anesthetic nitrous oxide used for narcotizing patients during surgeries.

Nazzal: Carter-Mishaal meetings ''positive''
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The meetings between Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal and former American president Jimmy Carter were "positive", Mohammed Nazzal, political bureau member of the Hamas Movement said on Saturday. He told the Aqsa TV that the meetings proved to the US administration, Israel and a number of Palestinian and regional parties that Hamas could not be isolated. Nazzal said that his Movement knows quite well that Carter does not have any political power but it is also sure that he owns an ethical power. Carter enjoys political weight and is respected by all, he elaborated. Nazzal appreciated Carter’s statements about racism of the Israeli occupation government and his rejection of besieging the Palestinian people. Carter held a second meeting with Mishaal on Saturday in the Syrian capital to continue discussing a proposed calm between Palestinian factions and the Hebrew. . .

IOF officer killed, 13 soldiers wounded in Qassam attack
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- An Israeli officer was killed and 13 others were wounded in a daring attack launched by fighters of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, on the Israeli occupation forces’ position in Karm Abu Salem near to the south of the Gaza Strip on Saturday. Hebrew media acknowledged the casualties in the Qassam’s attack on the IOF base in Karm Abu Salem crossing east of Rafah, south of the Strip. They said that army choppers carried the casualties to Soroka hospital, and added that most of the injured soldiers were either slightly or moderately wounded. Israeli hospital sources said that the injuries were a result of blasts, adding that the soldiers sustained penetrating wounds and burns. For his part, Abu Obaida, the Qassam spokesman, described the raid as "qualitative", and stressed that the Israeli casualties were bigger than announced by the Israelis.

Hamas claims responsibility for car bombing near Kerem Shalom crossing
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Six Israeli soldiers were injured when Palestinian fighters blew up a three cars near the Kerem Shalom crossing point in the Gaza Strip on Friday. Three Palestinians who carried out the operation were killed, Israeli sources said. Abu Ubeida, the spokesperson for the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said that the Al-Qassam Brigades are responsible for the attack. He said the operation was a response to the poor living conditions imposed on the residents of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli blockade. Abu Ubeida said that fighters used cars rigged with explosives. He said that clashes erupted between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers at that time, and that the explosion was heard as far away as Gaza City. He called the operation "a success for the Palestinian resistance" and a step towards breaking the siege of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas car bomb injures 13 Israelis
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 4/19/2008
Hamas suicide bombers in two military-style Jeeps yesterday blew themselves up at a Gaza border crossing, wounding 13 Israeli soldiers. The Israel Defence Forces said the vehicles were detonated after driving through a border fence on the Israeli side. Four Hamas militants, including two in an armoured vehicle accompanying the Jeeps, were killed in the 6am bombing -- timed for the first day of the Jewish Passover holiday. In a second incident close to the kibbutz of Nirim, a tank detonated an armoured vehicle before it could reach the fence. [end]

Barak: Hamas will pay for attack on Gaza crossing
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/20/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told senior officers at the Israel Defense Forces Gaza Division Saturday that Hamas will pay for the attack on the Kerem Shalom Crossing earlier in the day which left more than a dozen soldiers injured. Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi visited the division and were briefed on the military’s activity following the attack on the Gaza crossing earlier in the day. Two explosive-laden vehicles disguised as military jeeps exploded at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Saturday morning, leaving 13 Israel Defense Forces soldiers hurt - one moderately to seriously, two moderately and the rest lightly. Eight soldiers were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva and the rest were treated on the scene.

Gaza OP Possible After Bush Visit
Herb Keinon, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
There is a heightened sense in the security establishment that a broad-scale ground incursion inside the Gaza Strip is necessary this summer to deal a severe blow to Hamas’s infrastructure, sources in Jerusalem said Wednesday, following the death of three soldiers in a Gaza ambush. According to the sources, the incursion - similar but more difficult than Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002 - would not take place until about a month or a month-and-a-half after US President George W. Bush’s planned visit here in mid-May. By then, the last of the world’s leaders to have come here to celebrate the country’s 60th anniversary would have left. The timing would also place the operation in the middle of summer, considered an optimal time for this type of operation. The sources said there was recognition that such an operation would be extremely costly, both in terms of soldiers and Palestinians killed.

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza crossing raid
Middle East Online 4/19/2008
GAZA CITY - Three Palestinians were killed and 12 Israeli soldiers wounded on Saturday when Hamas resistance fighters, including suicide bombers, stormed a Gaza border crossing with explosives-laden vehicles. Fighters in four vehicles attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza under the cover of mortar fire and heavy morning fog just hours before Jews begin the week-long Passover holiday at sundown on Saturday. Two vehicles exploded at the entrance to and inside the Israeli-controlled crossing, while two other vehicles entered the site, where they engaged in heavy exchanges of fire with troops, the Israeli army and Hamas said. Three Palestinians were killed in the blasts and exchanges of fire, and at least 12 Israeli soldiers were wounded in the attack, the fifth on the Gaza border this week, an army spokeswoman said.

Hamas commander involved in Kerem Shalom attack killed by IDF
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/19/2008
Senior commander of Hamas military wing purportedly involved in terror attack on key goods crossing earlier on Saturday targeted in IAF strike. Spokesman for Islamist group declares assault on crossings on Passover Eve ’a great success’ - Several short hours after the combined attack on the Kerem Shalom goods crossing in southern Gaza - one of the Hamas commanders behind the assault has been reported killed in an IDF airstrike on a vehicle transporting armed gunmen in city of Rafah. Hamas has confirmed the identity of the man killed as Muaa’in Abu Hamduna, a senior official in the group’s military wing - the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades - a resident of the Beit Lahiyah region in northern Gaza. Several other Hamas operatives were wounded in the missile strike on Abu Hamduna’s car.

DFLP fighters attack Israeli bulldozer in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed responsibility for launching a rocket-propelled grenade at an armored Israeli bulldozer in the Ash-Shajaiyeh of Gaza City. Israeli forces entered Gaza on Saturday morning. Earlier, three Palestinian fighters were killed in an assault on the Israeli military-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing point. The DFLP’s fighters also claimed to have launched a homemade projectile at the Israeli town of Sderot, which borders the Gaza Strip. The group vowed to continue to resist the Israeli occupation. [end]

One killed, four injured in Israeli airstrike in Rafah
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – An Israeli warplane bombed a jeep in city of Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, killing a police officer and wounding four other others, among them a young girl on Saturday, witnesses and medics said. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said that 22-year-old Mu’in Hamdona was dead when he arrived at Abu Yousef Najjar Hospital. Among the four injured was a 12-year-old girl, Shadia Attiya bin Hassan. Witnesses said an Israeli plane fired a missile at a police jeep belonging to the Gaza Strip’s de facto government. [end]

IOF missile raid kills Palestinian, wounds three others
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- A Palestinian man was killed and three others were wounded in an IOF air strike that targeted a Palestinian police jeep near the Rafah crossing south of the Gaza Strip at noon Saturday. Medical sources said that Mu’in Hamdouna was a mechanic and was repairing the jeep when the raid took place, which also injured three civilians. A member of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, was killed earlier Saturday in a similar Israeli aerial bombing. [end]

Teenager seized by Israeli troops in dawn raid near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Nablus – Ma’an- Israeli occupation forces arrested at dawn today on Saturday a Palestinian youth from the village of Burka west of Nablus after raiding his home. Palestinian security sources said to our correspondent in Nablus that the occupation forces raided the village and arrested the young man Muhammad Walid Fathi Qasim 19 year –old from his house before their withdrawal from the village. [end]

Israeli artillery shell civilian houses near Khan Younis
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli artillery forces fired rockets on Saturday morning at civilian houses in the Al-Farahin area, east of the city of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses said. No casualties were reported. [end]

Reuters demands independent investigation of Shana’s killing
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The director of Reuters office in Palestine has charged in a press conference that IOF troops had deliberately fired at and killed his agency’s cameraman Fadel Shana. Shana, a 23-year-old Palestinian, was killed in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday while covering events in the enclave for the international news agency. He had been filming an Israeli tank dug in about 1,000 yards away, Reuters said. The director told the press conference on Thursday that Shana’s camera recorded an Israeli tank firing at him two missiles, one killed him and the other destroyed his car. He said that the Reuters team visited the scene of the incident where it found out that the Israeli projectiles contained metal darts some of which penetrated Shana’s body and killed him. The team affirmed that Shana along with Reuters soundman Wafa Abu Mizyed, 25, who sustained a shrapnel wound, were adhering. . .

Amnesty calls for investigation into killing of cameraman and other civilians
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
London, (PIC)-- Amnesty International has called on the Israeli government to immediately order a full and independent investigation into the killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. At least 18 Palestinians, including children and other unarmed civilians, were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. More than 30 others were injured in attacks by Israeli planes and by ground forces using tanks in the Gaza Strip. Those killed included Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, who was struck by fire from an Israeli tank. He had travelled to the scene in a car clearly marked "TV-Press". He was killed as he started to film the tank. "Yesterday’s strikes, which the Israeli army launched after the killing of three soldiers in combat, appear to have been carried out with disregard for civilian life," said Amnesty International in a press release on Thursaday. -- See also: AI: Call for investigation into killing of cameraman and other civilians

Haaretz: IDF - ''Reuters reporter risked his life by going to Bil’in''
Original article published in Haaretz on the 19th April 2008, International Solidarity Movement 4/19/2008
Bil’in Village - 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 Bil’in 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.

Palestinian women, children demonstrate at Erez crossing demanding end of Israeli blockade
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Dozens of Palestinian women and children staged a sit in at the Erez border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday to protest the ongoing closure of the Strip by the Israeli military. Protesters carried banners denouncing the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip nine months ago. Some signs demanded the opening of Gaza’s border crossings and the introduction of food, medicine and fuel to residents in the Strip. Umm Mohammad, a 55-year-old woman attended the protest. "The Israelis killed two of my sons, aged 12 and 14 years, while they were playing in front of the house. What did they do to deserve to be killed? We are being killed and no one is defending us and protecting us," she said. A 12-year old girl named Rahma said she thinks the international community should intervene and open the border crossings.

New Yorkers & Palestinians call on Dubai to boycott Leviev jewelry
International Solidarity Movement 4/19/2008
Bil’in Village - New York, NY, April 18 - New York human rights activists, and representatives of the West Bank Palestinian villages of Bil’in and Jayyous called on the government and the people of the United Arab Emirates to boycott the jewelry stores of Israeli billionaire and diamond magnate Lev Leviev over his companies’ construction of Israeli settlements. According to a flurry of recent media reports, Leviev is opening jewelry stores in Dubai during 2008. "We call on the government and people of the United Arab Emirates to join the growing international campaign to boycott Lev Leviev’s companies due to their construction of Israeli colonial settlements, and their human rights violations in Angola," declared Daniel Lang-Levitsky of Jews Against the Occupation-NYC. "A major Israeli violator of Palestinian rights and international law should not be opening jewelry stores in Dubai," added Adalah-NY spokesperson Issa Ayoub.

IOA to build 100 settlement units in West Bank
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) on Friday published two tenders for the construction of 100 new settlements units in the West Bank. The Hebrew radio said that the new units would be allocated for families who were evacuated from the Gaza Strip settlements following the Israeli withdrawal. It pointed out that the construction decision was adopted by the housing and construction ministry two months ago. Israeli premier Ehud Olmert had told PA chief Mahmuod Abbas during their meeting earlier this month that his government would continue to build in settlement blocs in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem as they would be part of the Hebrew state in any future agreement with the Palestinians.

Gaza terror cell attempts to infiltrate southern border
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/19/2008
Thirteen IDF soldiers moderately-lightly wounded as Palestinian gunmen detonate car bomb, open fire on troops in apparent abduction attempt near southern border. Hamas claims responsibility for what IDF deems ’biggest incident since disengagement’ - Two soldiers were moderately wounded and 11 more sustained light wounds early Saturday morning after a Palestinian terror cell detonated a car bomb at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing near the security fence along the border in the southern Gaza Strip. Exchanges of fire ensued as IDF troops engaged the Palestinian gunmen, who were apparently attempting to infiltrate the crossing under the cover of heavy fog. A second car bomb, which had also been driven into the crossing, failed to detonate. The bombing constitutes the fifth Palestinian assault on Gaza border crossings since last week.

Gaza up in Flames, Again [April 13 – April 19]
MIFTAH, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
The vicious cycle that is Gaza reached yet another violent peak this week with nearly 30 people killed in the past seven days, 21 on a single day of Israeli bombing. The Israelis were not without loss, however, losing three Israeli soldiers of their own. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were wounded on the morning of April 19 when Hamas’ Izzedin Al Qassam Brigades detonated three car bombs near the Karem Shalom Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Three Palestinian operatives died in the operation. Ihab Abu Amro, a 21-year old Qassam activist was also killed in a raid in Gaza City. The bloodiest day by far, however, was April 16 when Israeli air and ground strikes killed a total of 21 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip including five children. The bombing was concentrated in the Gaza City district, with the heaviest shelling in the Shujayieh quarter of the city and the adjacent Breij refugee camp.

Palestinians Demand Release of Prisoners Held by Israel
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
Palestinians held demonstrations across the Occupied West Bank Thursday in honor of Prisoner’s Day and over 11,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. In the north around 2,000 people gathered in the heart of Nablus, waving Palestinian flags and holding large, framed portraits of loved ones, an AFP correspondent said. " The issue of Palestinian and Arab prisoners is very importantand we cannot talk of peace with the [Israeli] occupation without the release of all Palestinian prisoners," said Nablus Governor Jamal al-Muhaisen. Demonstrators held banners reading "No peace without the release of prisoners" and "Prisoners, Jerusalem, refugees, and borders are red lines for all the Palestinian people. " Others held portraits of Marwan Barghouti, a popular West Bank leader arrested in 2002 and sentenced two years later by an Israeli court to five life terms after being convicted of involvement in deadly attacks.

Israel OKs PA West Bank Police Stations
United Press International, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
Israel has agreed to allow the Palestinian Authority to open 20 police stations in the West Bank under Palestinian civilian control, officials said. It is the first time since 2001 that Israel has given the green light to such a move. The facilities will be permitted to deal with criminal matters in villages near Nablus, Hebron and Bethlehem, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported Friday. The development followed a meeting between the head of Israel’s Civil Administration and the chief of the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Ministry. The additional police stations under local control are intended to improve the lives of Palestinians, an issue that was discussed during the recent visit of US. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Haaretz says. Source: United Press International, 18 April.

France calls for opening Gaza crossings, ending siege
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
PARIS, (PIC)-- The French external affairs ministry has called for ending the Gaza Strip "isolation", opening its crossings and allowing entry of electricity and basic materials into the Strip. Pascale Andreani, the official spokesman of the ministry, said in a press release on Thursday that Israel’s announcement of re-supplying Gaza with fuel was "positive" but added that "isolation" of Gaza should come to an end. She warned that such isolation was leading to "political, economic and security dangers". France is concerned about the return of "violence" to the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, Andreani said. She expressed regret over the Israeli incursions that lead to the fall of victims among the civilian population in Gaza.

Palestinian Official Says Talks with Israelis Yield Little
Isabel Kershner, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister on Thursday offered an unusually bleak assessment of the negotiations with Israel and said President Mahmoud Abbas would seek more active American intervention when he meets with President Bush in Washington this month. Riad Malki, the foreign minister and minister of information in the West Bank-based government, told the Foreign Press Association here that the talks on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had so far yielded “no results. ”The Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to the talks at the American-sponsored peace conference at Annapolis, Md. , last November. The stated goal was to reach an accord by the end of 2008 based on Mr. Bush’s vision of two states living side by side. “Yes, they are talking,” Mr. Malki said. “All the issues are on the table.

Heavy Fighting in Gaza Casts Doubt on Egyptian-Led Talks
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
Gaza’s worst day of violence in a month, in which at least 20 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers died, appeared to jeopardize Egypt’s efforts to mediate a Middle East cease-fire. Wednesday’s death toll was the highest since a broad Israeli military offensive in early March that killed more than 120 Gazans, including dozens of civilians. Since then, Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers appeared to be honoring an informal truce, though punctuated with Palestinian rocket attacks, some Israeli airstrikes and minor border skirmishes. That changed suddenly on Wednesday, with no apparent trigger — indicating that the relative calm was more coincidence than plan. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the violence cast doubt on Egyptian cease-fire efforts. A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo for planned talks with former President Jimmy Carter on Thursday. " There can be no discussion of a truce in the midst of these crimes," Zuhri said, threatening revenge against Israel.

Gaza ’ready to explode,’ Hamas leader says
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Saturday’s car bombing attack on the Karem Shalom crossing point was a warning of what could be a popular explosion in the face of Israel’s ten-month siege of the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders said on Saturday. Hamas called on Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully in front of the Erez terminal, the main crossing into Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas officials said that a protest at Erez would refute reports that Hamas is planning to topple once again the Rafah border wall into Egypt. Hamas leader Ayman Taha called for action to ease life in Gaza before Gazans explode in anger. He warned that Israel would respond violently to any such outburst. He told Ma’an: "Israel should expect more of such explosions. " He added: "The Gaza Strip is facing death in every moment and the world must rulfill its responsibilities before the outbreak of fire and before the occupation loses its senses.

Nunu: Ending siege, aggression basic conditions for calm
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
CAIRO, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government has asserted that opening all Gaza crossings, ending the siege and all forms of Israeli aggression were basic conditions for discussing calm with the IOF. Taher Al-Nunu, the government spokesman who is currently in Cairo along with the Hamas delegation, said that the team members met with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and discussed various issues including calm. He said that the Hamas delegates insisted that all crossings must be reopened before discussing calm with the Hebrew state, which was met with understanding on the part of the Egyptians. Nunu said in a press statement on Friday that the Rafah border terminal with Egypt should be opened with no Israeli control over it, and added that mechanism for opening the terminal was being discussed by all parties concerned.

Hamas warns: End the siege or else more operations would follow
Palestinian Information Center 4/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Saturday warned that the "qualitative" raid on the IOF Karm Abu Salem military position would not be the last of its kind if the siege persisted on Gaza. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in the Strip, said in a press release that Hamas "blesses the raid by the Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas)", and recalled that his Movement had repeatedly warned that its patience would not be for long and that it would resort to all options in face of that siege. He said that the raid was the start of the "explosion" that his Movement had warned of. He added that if the concerned parties did not rapidly act to save Gaza that is dying due to the siege then Hamas would work on breaking that siege with all available means. Meanwhile, IOF sources expressed shock at the "daring" attack that left 13 Israeli soldiers wounded, two of them in serious conditions, according to Hebrew media.

Carter meets Mashaal in Damascus, again
Associated Press, YNetNews 4/19/2008
Former US President holds second meeting in as many days with exiled Hamas politburo Khaled Mashaal after four-hour meeting night before. ’Political isolation of Hamas by America has begun to crumble,’ says top Hamas official - Former US President Carter defied US and Israeli warnings and met twice this weekend with the exiled leader of Hamas and his deputy, two men the US government has labeled terrorists and Israel accuses of masterminding attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians. Carter is the most prominent American to hold talks with Khaled Mashaal, whose group claimed new legitimacy from the meeting along with two other sessions the Nobel laureate held with Hamas leaders in the Middle East this week. ’’Political isolation (of Hamas) by the American administration has begun to crumble,’’ Mohammed Nazzal, a top figure in Hamas’ political bureau, said after Friday’s meeting at Mashaal’s Damascus office.

Carter Calls Israel Treatment of Palestinians a Crime
Jeffrey Fleishman, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
Former President Carter told a university audience here Thursday that the treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military was "a crime" but that there were "officials in Israel quite willing to meet with Hamas" and that may happen "in the near future. " Carter spoke to students and faculty at American University in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and a separate three-hour meeting with Hamas officials. The Bush administration and Israel have set rules to not talk to the militant Palestinian group, which controls the Gaza Strip, but Carter said, "I consider myself immune" from such restrictions. He added that he wasn’t acting as a negotiator or mediator, but hoped that he "might set an example to be emulated" by others. The former president’s meetings with Hamas in recent days have outraged Israelis, but Carter was undeterred, even suggesting that

Carter Meets Hamas Chief in Syria
Bassem Mroue, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
Former President Carter defied U. S. and Israeli warnings and met Friday with the exiled leader of Hamas and his deputy, two men the U. S. government has labeled terrorists and Israel accuses of masterminding attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians. Carter is the most prominent American to hold talks with Khaled Mashaal, whose Palestinian militant group claimed new legitimacy from the meeting along with two other sessions the Nobel laureate held with Hamas leaders in the Middle East this week. " Political isolation (of Hamas) by the American administration has begun to crumble," Mohammed Nazzal, a top figure in Hamas’ political bureau, told The Associated Press after Friday’s meeting at Mashaal’s Damascus office. A senior Hamas official in Damascus, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to represent the group publicly, described the meeting as "warm. "

Carter in Riyadh after Hamas talks
Al Jazeera 4/19/2008
Jimmy Carter, the former US president, has met King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, hours after holding controversial talks with Hamas. Details of the talks in the Saudi capital have not been disclosed, but they follow meetings held on Friday and Saturday between Carter and Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’ political leader. Israel and the US, which both consider Hamas a terrorist group, have criticised the former US president’s efforts to broker negotiations. Carter has proposed a ceasefire by Hamas and talks between the group and Eli Yishai, Israel’s deputy prime minister, on an exchange of prisoners. Muhammad Nazal, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, told Al Jazeera that the group will consider Carter’s ideas, but "not at any price".

Abbas Turns to Russia for Help
Sana Abdallah, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
As fighting continues to rage in the Gaza Strip and progress bogs down in the U. S. -sponsored peace negotiations with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned to Russia for help. Abbas was in Moscow Thursday calling to convene a conference in the Russian capital "as soon as possible" because the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations that were re-launched at Annapolis in November were not moving forward. " I regret to say that there are obstacles hindering the application of what was agreed upon in Annapolis," Abbas said in a lecture at Moscow University, from where he earned a history doctorate degree in the 1980s. " The negotiations are not advancing at the required pace or yielding the progress necessary for us to reach the agreed objectives by the agreed dates," he added, in reference to concluding a peace deal before U.

Israel Sets Plans for more Homes in West Bank Settlements
Sarah El Deeb, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
Israel announced plans Friday to build 100 more homes in two West Bank settlements, one deep inside the territory sought by the Palestinians for their future state. Israel’s housing minister said Israel never promised to freeze all such construction, although a U. S. -backed peace plan calls for a moratorium on settlement building. In a television interview, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the expansion of settlements has emerged as a key obstacle to progress in peace negotiations with Israel. The talks resumed after a U. S. -hosted peace conference in November, but there has been little visible progress. Since November, Israel has announced several building projects in areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians. Friday’s announcement marked the first time that the government has approved construction deep inside the West Bank, in the settlement of Ariel.

Israelis abroad celebrate Passover under heavy security
Adva Naftali, YNetNews 4/19/2008
From Australia to Los Angeles, Chabad centers worldwide host seder meals for thousands of travelers away from home for Passover. Israeli security guards and local police forces undertake hefty operation to keepy everyone’s holiday safe -Many young Israeli globetrotters will be absent from their families’ Passover seder tables this year, but they will be keeping tradition alive from afar courtesy of Chabad centers all over the world. In light of increased threats to Israelis abroad, the holiday will be celebrated under intense security. Expert teams have been dispatched from Israel to coordinate security efforts with local law enforcement and a call has also been issued to the travelers themselves, asking for a higher state of alertness. Hikers in Nepal prepare for Passover (Photo: col.

Israel: 60 years of hope and despair
Sam Kiley in Tel Aviv, The Guardian 4/20/2008
As the anniversary of its independence approaches, Israel remains haunted by conflicts of the past and is split along racial, religious, economic and ideological lines. Terrorist attacks are commonplace. But there is also pride mixed with self-criticism, and a yearning for a fresh start on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide. Uri Ben Ami washed down a mouthful of squid with a Maccabee beer and sighed as he sank into the folds of a padded deckchair on Tel Aviv’s beachfront while Lycra-clad women sprang past on the wet sand. ’This,’ he said. ’Is as good as it gets. ’ He chose to ignore the thrumming approach of two Apache helicopters returning from a sortie over Gaza to the south where dozens of Palestinians have died in attacks by their Hellfire missiles over the past months. Uri, a graphic designer, wanted to enjoy the modern wonder that is Israel.

Palestinian youth reaches finals of Super Star Arab talent contest
Ma’an News Agency 4/19/2008
Jericho – Ma’an - Murad Soaiti, a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Jericho, has qualified for the final round of Super Star, a popular talent search show in Lebanon along the lines of American Idol. Eleven participants from all Arab states reached the semifinals, battling for just five places in the finals. Soaiti’s mother said that Jericho is celebrating and that her son is a source of pride for the Palestinian people, especially in a time of hardship for Palestinians. [end]

Ben-Gurion airport placed on high alert over hazardous material leak
Zohar Blumenkrantz, Ha’aretz 4/19/2008
Ben-Gurion International Airport was placed on high alert Saturday afternoon after an EL Al pilot on a cargo plane from the Belgian city of Liège reported a possible hazardous material leak from the aircraft’s cargo hold. After the plane landed, an airport security team boarded the plane and found a small amount of coal that was not accounted for in the plane’s inventory list, in the cargo area. The security team removed the material from the plane and sent it to be analyzed. [end]

Iraqi troops capture Shia militia stronghold
Aref Mohammed in Basra and Bushra Juhi in Baghdad, The Independent 4/19/2008
Massive bombardment by US air force and British artillery in Basra supports government offensive against Mehdi Army fighters - Iraqi government troops said they captured a stronghold of fighters loyal to the anti-US Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Basra yesterday following a massive show of force by US warplanes and British artillery. Explosions and gunfire could be heard at dawn, under the heaviest bombardment since the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, launched a crackdown on Mr Sadr’s followers late last month in the southern city. The commander of Iraqi forces in Basra, Lieutenant-General Mohan al-Furaiji, said his said his troops had seized the centre of the Hayaniya neighbourhood, one of the main strongholds of Mr Sadr’s Mehdi Army. "We are chasing fugitives and arresting them," he said. "We expect within the next few hours that the operation will be concluded successfully. "After several hours, the fighting appeared to die down, but sporadic gunfire could still be heard.

America’s allies in Iraq under pressure as civil war breaks out among Sunni
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent 4/19/2008
"God is Great," screamed a man seconds before he blew himself up, killing 10 people in a restaurant in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq. A series of suicide bombings have shown over the past week that al-Qa’ida in Iraq, though battered by defections over the past year, is striking back remorselessly at Sunni Arab leaders who ally themselves to the US. In another attack in the village of Albu Mohammed, south of Kirkuk, an elderly man thought by guards to be too old to be a bomber, walked unsearched into a tent filled with mourners attending the funeral of two Sunni tribesmen who had been killed after they joined al-Sahwa, the Awakening Council, as the pro-US Sunni group is called. The man detonated the explosives hidden under his long Arab robes, killing at least 50 people. A vicious civil war is now being fought within Iraq’s Sunni Arab community between al-Qa’ida. . .

Former Pentagon official: Iraq war ‘major debacle’
Middle East Online 4/19/2008
WASHINGTON - In a scathing analysis, a former senior Pentagon official has called the war in Iraq "a major debacle" that created an incubator for terrorism and emboldened Iran. "Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle," Joseph Collins wrote in "Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and its Aftermath. " Published by the National Defense University, Collins’ paper is striking in that it comes from one whose position from 2001 to 2004 put him near the center of decision making that led to the war. He was deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations when the United States invaded Iraq, only to find itself mired in the now five year old struggle to pacify the country. Collins said the price of the war has been damage to US standing in the world, strains on the US military, and a negative impact. . .

Iraqi raids target Shia militias
Al Jazeera 4/19/2008
At least 12 people have been reported killed in overnight clashes in Baghdad’s Sadr City district as Iraqi forces step up a campaign against Shia armed groups. In the southern city of Basra, Iraqi troops took control on Saturday of a neighbourhood which has seen clashes between security forces and followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia leader. Major-General Abdel Karim Khalaf, a military spokesman, told the AFP news agency: "We launched an operation in the morning. There was some exchange of fire. " The operation is now over in Hayaniya without any strong resistance. "Hayaniya has been the scene of intense fighting since March 25, when Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, ordered a crackdown on militias in the southern port city.

Mate: EU should not only shelter Iraqi Christians
Middle East Online 4/19/2008
LUXEMBOURG - The European Union’s Slovenian presidency rejected on Friday a German proposal to offer preferential asylum treatment to Iraqi Christians. "I think the right of asylum should be provided without consideration of religion or race," said Slovenian Interior Minister Dragutin Mate upon his arrival at a meeting of his EU counterparts in Luxembourg. "It seems to me to be difficult to operate in this sense" of preferential treatment, he added. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wanted to persuade other EU countries to offer asylum to thousands of Iraq’s minority Christians because of violence against them in Iraq. His plan was initially mooted by Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches who are powerful allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party. The churches, along with non-governmental organisations, showed outrage at the kidnapping and killing of the Chaldean Christian archbishop of Mosul, Faraj Rahou.

Brothers at Bay
The Economist, MIFTAH 4/19/2008
Egypt’s government battles with the Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt’s higher military court has handed out stiff sentences against 25 people associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, including the banned group’s third-in-command, Khayrat Shater, in a case that focused on the organisation’s sources of financing. The verdict came at a time of increasing tension between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, both on the domestic front, amid popular protests at food inflation and bread shortages, and in relation to Egypt’s embroilment in Gaza. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the effectively besieged territory, has strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The sentences, ranging between three and ten years in jail, were the harshest to be delivered by the military court since it assumed responsibility for cases involving the Muslim Brotherhood in 1995.


Mario Vargas Llosa: How Arabs have been driven out of Hebron
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Independent 4/19/2008
      Hebron is the image of desolation and pain. I’m talking of the H-2 sector, the oldest part of this ancient city, which is under Israeli military control and where some 500 colonos -- settlers -- live in four settlements. It is one of the holiest places of Judaism and Islam, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where in February 1994, the settler Baruch Goldstein machine-gunned Muslims at prayer, killing 29 and wounding dozens.
     To protect these settlers, the zone bristles with barriers, camps and military posts, and is overrun by Israeli patrols. But such mobilisation will soon be unnecessary because this part of Hebron, subject to ethnic and religious cleansing, will soon have no Arab residents.
     Its centuries-old market, which was once as multi-coloured, varied and bustling as that of Jerusalem, is now empty and the doors of all the shops are sealed. Travelling around, you feel in limbo. So too when you walk through the surrounding deserted streets, with shopfronts shuttered with metal sheets and on whose roofs you glimpse military posts. The walls of this entire semi-empty neighbourhood are filled with racist inscriptions: "Death to the Arabs".

Thousands attend funeral of slain Gaza journalist

Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 4/18/2008
      GAZA CITY, 18 April (IPS) - Fadel Shana’a just had to go to the scene of the Israeli bombing. As a Reuters cameraman, that was his job. He wasn’t the only one killed, but through his pursuit of attacks as they happen, he was always more at risk than most others.
     Fadel Shana’a was killed Wednesday because he was in the firing line, but also because, eyewitnesses said, he had begun to film the tanks that were firing. A barrage of metal shrapnel pierced his body as a tank missile landed close to him.
     Fadel Shana’a, 23, had been injured in August 2006 in the north of the Gaza Strip in an Israeli missile attack. This time he wasn’t lucky enough to survive.
     After the first missile that killed Fadel, a second tank missile directly hit the Reuters vehicle in which Fadel had been traveling, killing two children and another civilian close by, and injuring 12 others, including five children. Wafa Abu Mezyed, 25, a Reuters sound man, was injured.

No peace without Hamas

Mahmoud al-Zahar, Electronic Intifada 4/17/2008
      US President Jimmy Carter’s sensible plan to visit the Hamas leadership this week brings honesty and pragmatism to the Middle East while underscoring the fact that American policy has reached its dead end. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acts as if a few alterations here and there would make the hideous straitjacket of apartheid fit better. While Rice persuades Israeli occupation forces to cut a few dozen meaningless roadblocks from among the more than 500 West Bank control points, these forces simultaneously choke off fuel supplies to Gaza; blockade its 1.5 million people; approve illegal housing projects on West Bank land; and attack Gaza City with F-16s, killing men, women and children. Sadly, this is "business as usual" for the Palestinians.
     Last week’s attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot should not surprise critics in the West. Palestinians are fighting a total war waged on us by a nation that mobilizes against our people with every means at its disposal -- from its high-tech military to its economic stranglehold, from its falsified history to its judiciary that "legalizes" the infrastructure of apartheid. Resistance remains our only option. Sixty-five years ago, the courageous Jews of the Warsaw ghetto rose in defense of their people. We Gazans, living in the world’s largest open-air prison, can do no less.

Double Standards and Dialogue

Georges Corm, Middle East Online 4/19/2008
      BONN, Germany - Georges Corm is convinced that as long as the West pursues double moral standards and applies international law unequally, its attempts to establish dialogue with the Muslim world cannot be taken seriously. Mona Sarkis, a freelance journalist, spoke to the social scientist and former Lebanese Finance Minister:
     Mr. Corm, in your most recent book, Histoire du Moyen Orient (History of the Middle East) you devote a lot of attention to what you refer to as the geographic "arabesque" that historically characterises the Middle East, by which you mean the present Arab territories, the Mashriq, Turkey, and Iran. Why devote so much space to this concept?
     Georges Corm: Because talk of "Muslim society" – as if it were one unified ethnic or national body – is out of touch with reality and I just wanted to show the diversity that has existed at the geographical level since ancient times. Persians, Turks and Arabs are not a homogenous group that is held together by religion. It is absurd to view Moroccan and Iranian society as one and the same. This presupposes that Islam is a living, unified being that exists in a precisely defined territory.

Between games and propaganda: the removal of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 4/19/2008
      At the beginning of April, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak announced to US Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice the removal of 61 roadblocks throughout the West Bank. This was supposed to "make life easier for Palestinians" and to show that Israel is doing its best to prepare for peace talks later this year.
     The United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has examined the Israeli claim carefully and has found that only 44 roadblocks had been removed, well short of the promised 61. According to OCHA, 6 more of the roadblocks on Barak’s list have been left in place. The remaining 11 simply never existed.
     A close examination of the 44 roadblocks which existed and were removed reveals that most of them had no implications whatsoever for Palestinians’ freedom of movement. Only 5 of these 44 obstacles were classified by the U.N. as "significant" for Palestinians living in the area. The remaining obstacles were classified as of "little", "no", or "questionable" significance, often noting that there were other major roadblocks nearby, that they were located in insignificant areas (such as open fields) or even that some had been built and removed on the same day.