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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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24 April 2008


One killed, six wounded in the Israeli incursion in Beit Hanoun
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A 55-year- old Palestinian man was killed when Israeli forces shelled his house in northeast Beit Hanoun during an Israeli incursion on Wednesday night. A hospital spokesman said Daoud Al-Kafarneh was dead on arrival at Beit Hanoun Hospital. The same source announced that two wounded were taken to Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Six Palestinians, including resistance fighters, were injured when Israeli helicopters fired on people who were watching Israeli military vehicles near their homes on Wednesday night in northern Beit Hanoun. Around twenty Israeli military vehicles stormed Beit Hanoun through the Erez crossing and moved towards a residential area in Al-Sika and Al-Sultan Streets. They waited on the outskirts of the town until they were joined by another thirty military vehicles, along with a number of bulldozers that began razing agricultural lands in the vicinity.

Israeli fuel embargo forces UN to stop delivering aid in besieged Gaza
Adel Zaanoun, Daily Star 4/25/2008
Agence France Presse - GAZA CITY: The United Nations stopped distributing aid to Gaza Thursday after running out of fuel as Israeli refused to reopen the terminal that supplies the besieged Palestinian. "We have just stopped the distribution of all food aid to 650,000 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip because of the lack of fuel in our storage in Gaza," said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office in Gaza. "We also stopped transporting students and officials in the Gaza Strip," he told AFP. "Not a liter of fuel came from Israel. " Israel, which maintains a punishing blockade on the impoverished territory, claimed the Islamist Hamas movement was preventing distribution of 1 million liters of fuel delivered about a week ago to the Nahal Oz terminal on the Gaza border.

Four Lebanese children wounded by Israel cluster bomb left from 2006 war
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/25/2008
The official Lebanese newsy agency reported on Friday that an cluster bomb dropped by Israel during the 2006 war, exploded near a group of children in south Lebanon and wounded four of them. The incident took place in a village in southern Lebanon as the four children, ages 10 -15, found a suspicious device while playing and carried it before it went off. Israel dropped nearly four million cluster bombs on Lebanon during the 2006 war and nearly one million bombs did not explode and remained a threat endangering civilians. Cluster bombs are considered an ’illegal weapon’ under international law, as they inevitably harm civilians. The bombs are actually made up of hundreds of ’bomblets’, which break apart on impact, spreading bomblets which explode over an area of several kilometers. Despite the fact that the weapon is banned, the Israeli military has called the use of these bombs a "concrete military necessity" in the invasion of Lebanon.

Hamas offers six-month Gaza truce with Israel
The Independent 4/24/2008
The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas today proposed a six-month truce between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip with an option to extend it to include Palestinians in the West Bank. Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, speaking in Cairo after meeting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, said the truce must include an end to the Israeli blockade of the coastal strip. "The movement agrees to a truce in the Gaza Strip. . . . fixed at six months, during which period Egypt will work to extend the truce to the West Bank," Zahar said, reading from a Hamas statement. "The truce must be mutual and simultaneous and the blockade must be lifted and the crossing points opened, including the Rafah crossing point (between Gaza and Egypt). " Other Palestinian factions, including the Islamic Jihad militant group and leftist groups based in Damascus, had preliminarily approved the offer, Zahar said.

Hebron orphanage under threat by the army, hundreds of children will be homeless
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 4/24/2008
The Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) in Hebron held a press conference on Thursday regarding the new Israeli army orders issued against them. Speakers at Thursday’s press conference included the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), Hebron, teachers and students from Al-Shari’yah Girls School in Hebron, Othman Abu Sabha of Palestinian Union of Medical Relief Committees, Doctors of the World, and Tim Rothermel, spokesperson for President Jimmy Carter. The Charitable society runs several projects in Hebron, and is also running three schools and two orphanages serving 7000 children, 300 of whom are living in the Society’s buildings. On 25 February 2008, the General of Command (GOC) of the Israeli army, ordered the closure, evacuation, and confiscation of all properties and institutions funded by the Islamic Charitable Society.

Israeli Government Seeking Destruction of Palestinian Society in Gaza says Barghouthi
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 4/24/2008
Ramallah, 24/04/08: "Thousands of lives are at stake in Gaza. Israel’s siege is pushing a whole society towards collapse. "This was how Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, today described the situation in the Gaza Strip, which has reached dramatic levels following the latest Israeli fuel cuts. Food assistance for 650,000 Palestinians is about to stop, 50,000 vaccines for babies are at risk of being spoiled, and sanitation services for half a million inhabitants have been halted. "The Gaza Strip is now back to the extreme situation it faced in January," he added. Gaza’s 1. 5 million inhabitants suffer from deep poverty, fuel and electricity cuts and malnutrition, and are under constant military attack by Israel. "International agencies are closely monitoring and reporting on the situation on the ground in Gaza.

IOF troops round up West Bankers
Palestinian Information Center 4/24/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- IOF troops at dawn Thursday kidnapped seven Palestinians in the city of Nablus including three brothers while others were rounded up in line with daily IOF arrests campaigns in various West Bank areas. Locals reported that the soldiers wreaked havoc in all houses stormed in the city and the nearby Balata refugee camp. Three other Palestinians were kidnapped at the Zatara roadblock to the east of Salift. In Al-Khalil district, ten Palestinians were rounded up from the village of Dura on Wednesday while a child was hospitalized after an Israeli settler ran over him at the entrance to Arub refugee camp south of Al-Khalil city. Witnesses said that the 6-year-old child Rafat Al-Titi was rushed to an Israeli hospital in view of his condition. IOF troops stormed Jenin at an early hour on Thursday amidst intensified hovering of Apache gunships but no arrests were reported.

Israeli forces continue killings in Gaza with air and ground attacks
Palestine News Network 4/24/2008
Gaza / PNN -- Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip continue with one dead and three injured in an air raid Wednesday night. On Thursday Israeli forces killed nine and injured several others. On Wednesday night a Palestinian citizen died and three others were wounded in an Israeli air raid just after midnight. At the same time the Israeli army carried out ground incursions in the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said that a number of armored vehicles, under the cover of attack helicopters, penetrated hundreds of meters deep into Palestinian land in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Strip. Palestinian security forces report that Israeli forces penetrated the dawn Thursday into the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip and east of the town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip amid intensive gunfire and armed clashes.

Islamic Jihad activist seized in Qabatiya
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Jenin – Ma’an - Israeli forces seized an activist affiliated to Islamic Jihadduring an incursion in the town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin on Thursday. Local sources said that Israeli forces detained ’Aqaba Musleh Abu Zaid during a raid on his house. He was taken to an unknown destination. The sources added that more than ten military vehicles raided a number of houses under the pretext of searching for ’wanted’ Palestinians, before withdrawing in the early hours of Thursday morning. Israeli military also stormed the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday morning amid heavy gunfire. [end]

Joint brigades attack on Israeli bulldozer
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, and the Al-Quds Brigades - the armed wing of Islamic Jihad - claimed joint responsibility for targeting an Israeli bulldozer with a rocket propelled grenade in the area of Abu Rahma north of Beit Hanoun at dawn on Thursday. The brigades told Ma’an that the attack was in response to "Israeli crimes. " [end]

Palestinian security services detain two Hamas supporters
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an - Hamas said that Palestinian security services arrested two Hamas affiliates on Wednesday in the West Bank. Hamas said in a statement that "the security forces arrested the head of the Islamic bloc at Birzeit University, Murad As-Sanuri as he left the university near Ramallah. " In the governorate of Nablus, the Israeli security services arrested Mujahid Al-Hamami after storming his house in the city. [end]

Three Palestinians detained at checkpoint north of Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an - Israeli forces seized three Palestinian citizens from the village of Kafr Jamal south of Tulkarem when they passed through Za’tara checkpoint north of Nablus to the north of the West Bank on Thursday. A Palestinian security source in Tulkarem told Ma’an that the three detainees are: Ibrahim Ahmed Naser, Imad Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Jabbar Mustafa and Mohamed Abdel Rahim Khalil Yared. [end]

LEBANON: Tribulations of those displaced from Beirut’s southern suburbs
Rami Aysha/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/25/2008
An apartment building in Beirut’s southern suburbs being rebuilt by contractors from Hezbollah’s construction firm Waad - BEIRUT, 24 April 2008 (IRIN) - When widow Salam Hassoun and her three children left their home in Beirut’s southern suburbs on the third day of the July 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, she did not know it would be for the last time. Israeli bombs displaced over one million Lebanese from across the country, but it was the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs, home to an estimated 850,000 people, that suffered the heaviest bombardment - some 942 air strikes during the 34-day war, according to figures from the Lebanese army. One of those bombs destroyed Hassoun’s building. Two hundred and nineteen buildings were destroyed in all. A further 150 buildings were partially destroyed and 233 buildings damaged, according to Lebanon’s Higher Relief Council (HRC).

Cluster bomb left from 2006 war wounds 4 children in S. Lebanon
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
A state-run Lebanese news agency has said that an explosion of a cluster bomb left behind by the Israel Defense Forces from the Second Lebanon War wounded four young Lebanese in the country’s south. The report says that Friday’s incident occurred in the village of Adsheet when the four children, aged between 10 and 15, found the suspicious device and held it before it went off. The four were then taken to hospital in the southern province of Nabatiyeh. Lebanon has a huge problem with bombs left behind during the 2006 war. Twenty-seven civilians have been killed and 209 wounded since. UN and human rights groups say Israel dropped about 4 million cluster bomblets during the war. One million failed to explode and now endanger civilians.

Leftists hang PLO flag in West Bank outpost
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/24/2008
Group of activists tries to take over Yad Yair outpost near Ramallah, claiming it is IDF’s duty to evacuate it - A group of left-wing activists, foreign peace activists and Palestinians arrived at the illegal Yad Yair outpost near Ramallah Thursday and attempted to take over one of the caravans, which is used as an improvised synagogue. Security officials said that the activists also hung PLO flags at the place. This is the second time in a month the activists have tried to carry out the move. Yad Yair is not inhabited, but settlers from nearby settlements come there on occasion to hold prayers. The caravan has been torched by Palestinians several times, but the IDF refuses to secure the place and offered the settlers to relocate the synagogue into one of their communities.

Palestinian, international and Israeli activists reclaim settler outpost
International Solidarity Movement 4/24/2008
Ramallah Region - Photos - On 24th April, around forty Palestinian, international and Israeli activists occupied a settler outpost within an abandoned military base in the Ramallah region to protest against the illegal construction within Palestinian territory. After aggression from both the Israeli army and armed settlers, two activists, Adeeb Abu Rahme and Neta Golan, were violently arrested at the scene. Both were released later in the day. The activists used a bulldozer to remove the road block that connects Ramallah to the village of Ein Kinia before occupying the outpost. They removed the Israeli flag that was flying from the outpost and replaced it with Palestinian flags. The Israeli army then arrived at the scene, firing live ammunition and rubber bullets in the direction of the protesters, before a stand-off occurred between soldiers and the non-violent protesters.

Palestinian, Israeli activists scuffle with IDF troops in West Bank
Meron Rappaport, Ha’aretz 4/24/2008
Two dozen Palestinian and Israeli protesters are scuffling with Israeli troops at an abandoned army post in the West Bank. The protesters say settlers have taken over the site and are setting up an illegal outpost there. Thursday’s incident began when Palestinians using a bulldozer near the post pushed aside two cement blocks they say have been blocking the road linking a West Bank village to the city of Ramallah. The protesters also climbed on a green shipping container. They tore down an Israeli flag and replaced it with a Palestinian one. Troops tried to carry away the protesters and pushed several of them to the ground. The military had no immediate comment. The outpost was formerly an IDF base, and today houses a memorial to a former resident who was murdered in a terrorist attack.

Palestinian, Israeli, international peace activists take control of Israeli military checkpoint
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an - A group of Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists took over an Israeli checkpoint that separates Ramallah and the village of Ein Kinia on Thursday, reopening a road that had been closed since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000. The Israeli army evacuated the checkpoint and moved to a nearby hill, before the activists moved in, replacing the Israeli flags with Palestinian flags. Activist Mohammed al-Khatib said the action symbolised the refusal of the Israeli policy of road closures and separating Palestinians from their lands. He called on Palestinians to mobilise and open the closed roads. He also called for "resistance to barriers, settlements and the apartheid wall. "

Palestinian Rights Committee briefed on deteriorating situation in Gaza Strip, West Bank; approves programmes for Paris, Malta seminars
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 4/23/2008
Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian Peopl - The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this afternoon heard updates on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as a report of the Committee’s activities in recent months, including a Seminar held in Amman, Jordan, on assistance to the Palestinian People. Speaking for the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Nady Rasheed said that over the past month, Israeli occupying forces had continued with their illegal policies and practices against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in the Gaza Strip. On 16 April, at least 20 Palestinians had been killed in Israeli military assaults in Gaza and vast property destruction resulted.

Gaza fuel cuts: Civilians pay the price
Human Rights Watch - HRW, ReliefWeb 4/23/2008
Photos Show Impact on Daily Life - (Jerusalem/New York, April 23, 2008) - – Over the past two years, Israel has used various means to reduce the supply of electricity and fuel to the Gaza Strip, starting with bombing the only power station in June 2006. In October 2007, Israel began restricting shipments of gasoline, diesel and other fuels. Israel’s control of Gaza’s borders and its refusal to allow the movement of goods across the border with Egypt – with Egyptian complicity – means that these essential goods are only available from Israel. Israel’s stated goal is to exert pressure on Hamas, the de facto authority in Gaza, to stop firing rockets indiscriminately into civilian-populated areas in Israel – attacks that constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law. But the energy cuts have had no discernible impact on Hamas’s ability to carry out these attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Clinging to dream of Palestine village
Martin Asser, BBC Online 4/23/2008
BBC News, Iqrit, Israel - According to our Israeli road atlas, Route 899 runs from the sea along the Lebanese border to the town of Sasa, and along the way passes an "archaeological ruin" called Iqrit. The three-dot symbol on the map is one of hundreds of such locations throughout this historically rich land - but this is no biblical or Roman-era relic. Iqrit was an Arab Christian village vacated during the 1948-49 war, one of hundreds of villages in the former Palestine whose populations either went into exile or, as in the Iqritis’ case, into internal displacement in the new Israeli state. While traces of many of these deserted villages have all but disappeared, the sparsely wooded hilltop of Iqrit - against all odds - continues to play host to its former inhabitants and their children and grandchildren.

The Humanitarian Monitor, March 2008 - Significant Increase in Child Casualties
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 3/31/2008
Overview - Key Issues - Significant Increase in Child Casualties - The number of children killed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip during the first quarter of 2008 (40), exceeds the total number of children killed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip in the whole of 2007 (29). The total number of Palestinian child fatalities (28) in March due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the highest since November 2006, when 30 children were killed, the majority of whom were also in the Gaza Strip. March 2008 also recorded the highest monthly number of child injuries in the Gaza Strip since January 2005. In Israel, four Israeli children were killed and one injured in an attack by a Palestinian on a Jewish seminary (Yeshiva) in West Jerusalem. No other Israeli child deaths or injuries took place in the oPt. No Israeli children were killed in 2007 and two were killed in 2006.

PCHR Weekly Report: 17 Palestinians killed, 36 wounded in Israeli attacks
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 4/25/2008
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)’s Weekly Report, during the week of 17 - 23 April 2008, 15 Palestinians were killed, and two children died of earlier wounds inflicted by Israeli military attacks. 3 of the victims were extra-judicially executed by Israeli forces. 36 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 4 children and a journalist, were wounded by Israeli forces. Israeli attacks in the West Bank:In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinians and wounded 11 others, including 3 children and a journalist. On 17 April 2008, Israeli forces extra-judicially executed 2 activists of the al-Quds Brigades (the armed wing of Islamic Jihad) in Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin. On 18 April 2008, Israeli forces killed an activist of the Palestinian resistance in Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus.

Army kidnaps 20 Palestinian civilians from Beit Hannon in northern Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura & Rami Al Mughari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/24/2008
Palestinians sources reported that the Israeli army has kidnapped so far 20 Palestinians civilians during the ongoing military operation targeting the town of Beit Hannon in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that soldiers have taken a number of home and using them as military posts. They added that troops rounded up at least 20 men and took them to unknown location. An elderly Palestinian man from northern Gaza Strip was killed earlier on Thursday morning after Israeli army tanks rolled into the area and began shooting heavily. Palestinian medical sources said that Dawood aL-Kafarna, in his fifties, was transferred to a local hospital after having been shot dead by rounds of live ammunition. Witnesses said that more than 30 Israeli armored vehicles, including tanks, thrust a few hundred meters into the Beit Hanoun city in northern Gaza Strip as accompanying. . .

Joint statement from Palestinian civil society about closures of children institutions in Hebron
Palestine Monitor 4/24/2008
We the undersigned Palestinian civil society organizations express our grave concern over the recent Israeli military orders closing and transferring ownership of property owned by the Islamic Charitable Society in the city of Hebron in the so-called H1 area which is ostensibly under the full control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The property targeted includes residential units, two orphanages, a school under construction, several shops and two clinics. Despite the fact that the military orders are presently being challenged before the competent Israeli judicial authorities, the Israeli army has carried out military operations partially implementing the orders, including the destruction and appropriation of property belonging to civilians. The orders and consequent military operations contravene international humanitarian and human rights law, severely infringing upon the rights of thousands of Palestinian civilians - in particular children, who are the beneficiaries of the specialized services of the Society. -- See also: and Press Statement.

Flying checkpoint at Kafr Dan
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Jenin – Ma’an - Israeli forces erected a checkpoint at the entrance to the town of Kafr Dan, west of Jenin on Thursday morning, stopping cars and preventing people from entering or leaving the town. Eyewitnesses said that a number of military vehicles were visible at the entrance to the town and a number of Israeli military vehicles had stormed the town. No arrests were reported. [end]

Israel air raid kills Palestinian citizen and wounds his family members
Palestinian Information Center 4/24/2008
BEIT HANOUN, (PIC)-- An Israeli warplane bombed at dawn Thursday a house in the Beit Hanoun town, northern Gaza Strip, belonging to a Palestinian citizen called Daoud Al-Kafarnah, 52, which led to his death and the injury of a number of his family members including children. Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that an Israeli drone fired one air-to-ground missile at the house in the Damrah street, adding that many ambulances are grounded because of lack of fuel making it difficult for the emergency services to operate. The eyewitnesses added that more than 25 IOF tanks and armored vehicles advanced amid intensive gunfire towards the vicinity of the agricultural college in the town reinforced by aerial cover. Israeli drones also fired one missile at least at a group of Palestinian fighters affiliated with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, east of Beit Hanoun.

Israeli army thrusts into Beit Hanoun, kills an old man
Rami Almeghari and Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/24/2008
A Palestinian old man from northern Gaza Strip was reportedly killed on Thursday after the Israeli army tanks rolled into the area and began shooting heavily. Palestinian medical sources said that Dawood aL-Kafarna, of his fifties, was evacuated to a local hospital after having been shot dead with live ammunition. Witnesses said that more than 30 Israeli armored vehicles including tanks thrust few hundred meters into the Beit Hanoun city in northern Gaza Strip as accompanying bulldozers began razing vast areas of Palestinian-owned farm lands there. Witnesses added that the Israeli forces, using loudspeakers, ordered the local inhabitants to get out of their houses for interrogations. In response to the Israeli incursion , the aL-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, opened heavy fire at a number of tanks, while the brigades fighters engaged in gun battles with the invading. . .

Palestinian Today 042408
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 4/24/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 4 m 0s || 3. 66 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Thursday April 24th, 2008. Israeli army invades Gaza, kills one civilian, and kidnaps 20 others, while in the West Bank troops attack a peaceful protest and kidnap two activists. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast Palestinians sources reported that the Israeli army has kidnapped 20 Palestinians civilians so far during an ongoing military operation targeting the town of Beit Hannon in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that soldiers have taken a number of houses and are using them as military posts. They added that troops rounded up at least 20 men and took them to an unknown location. A elder Palestinian man from the northern Gaza Strip was killed earlier. . .

Fuel crisis in Gaza forces suspension of UN food aid delivery
United Nations Radio, ReliefWeb 4/24/2008
Listen to the News - The UN humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, has been forced to shut down its food distribution in Gaza because a promised shipment of fuel from Israel has not arrived. The agency warned yesterday that it is running out of gasoline for its trucks that deliver aid to 650,000 residents of Gaza. The Deputy Commissioner General for UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, told UN Radio, that the agency has been in this situation of uncertainty many times this year, because of the Israeli closure of crossings into Gaza. "To run an operation, which is very, very large – 200,000 children in schools, supporting hundreds of thousands of food aid beneficiaries -- it is unthinkable to continue to do so in a situation of logistical uncertainty. Not to mention the consequences on the rest of the population of Gaza, of course, but even looking only at our operation, the situation is disgraceful.

Emergency supplies to fuel UN aid efforts in Gaza
Reuters, The Independent 4/24/2008
Palestinian fuel distributors in the Gaza Strip agreed today to provide an emergency shipment to a UN aid agency that cautioned it would have to halt food distribution unless its trucks received petrol. Mahmoud al-Khuzundar of the Association for Petrol Station Owners in the Gaza Strip said 50,000 litres of diesel would be delivered to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA said yesterday it would be forced to suspend food distribution to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians today, citing a shortage in fuel supplies in the Hamas-controlled territory. UNRWA said the 50,000 litres should be enough to last about a week. An Israeli official estimated storage tanks on the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz crossing - the only border terminal used to pump fuel to the Gaza Strip - contained about a million litresof fuel.

Gaza fuel crisis forces UN to stop food aid deliveries
Eric Silver in Jerusalem, The Independent 4/24/2008
The United Nations has suspended food aid to 650,000 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip after it ran out of fuel for its delivery vehicles. At the request of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), distributors sent an emergency tanker to the Nahal Oz terminal through which Israel transfers petrol and diesel, but it was turned back by 1,500 farmers protesting that they needed fuel just as urgently. The driver was held for three hours, and then forced to return empty. Palestinian distributors have been on strike for the past four weeks, demanding that Israel step up supplies and guarantee a steady flow. Both sides agree that storage tanks on the Gaza side of the terminal are full, with stocks of up to 1 million litres of fuel. But Mahmoud Khozendar, the distributors’ vice-chairman, said that was only enough to meet three or four hours’ demand.

EU Commission demands Israel to guarantee entry of fuel into Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/25/2008
Luis Michel, the European Union Commissioner urged Israel on Thursday to ensure that entry of fuels into the Gaza Strip. The statement came after the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that it would be forced to halt the transfer of food to more than 650. 000 refugees in the Gaza Strip, Israel claims the crisis in Gaza is not as bad as it is reported and accused Hamas of "fabricating the fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip". On Wednesday, the United Nations office said that it cannot continue the distribution of food aid among the ongoing fuel crisis in Gaza. Yet, Israel claimed that it allowed the transfer of 1 Million Liters of fuel into the coastal region, and added that this amount is enough to enable the continuation of human services. Yet, nearly 800. 000 Liters of fuel are currently held at the Nahal Oz fuel terminal and did not make it into Gaza.

European campaign: IOA trying to retain Gaza in state of clinical death
Palestinian Information Center 4/24/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign against the Gaza siege has condemned the continued Israeli occupation authority’s ban on fuel supplies to Gaza, warning that the condition in Gaza was heading to a "serious humanitarian crisis". The campaign’s spokesman, Madi Arafat, said in Brussels on Thursday that the limited fuel supplies to Gaza to operate the power station for a few days without allowing other kinds of fuel was an attempt to retain besieged Gaza in a state of clinical death. Arafat repeated his call on Egypt to open the Rafah crossing especially when the UN had warned of a real humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He also pointed to UNRWA’s decision to halt its relief work that covers around a million Palestinians in Gaza. The European campaign asked the world community to adopt a speedy and effective stand regarding what is going on in Gaza, warning of remaining silent vis-à-vis the execution process in the biggest prison in history.

EU Commissioner Louis Michel calls for assurance on Gaza fuel supply
European Commission - Humanitarian Aid Office - ECHO, ReliefWeb 4/24/2008
Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, has called upon Israel to ensure delivery of fuel supplies to Gaza. This follows the United Nations warning that its humanitarian efforts there would have to stop in the coming hours because of lack of fuel for its vehicles. The United Nation’s said on Wednesday that unless petrol was allowed into Gaza, then its humanitarian relief agency UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) and the WFP (World Food Programme) would be forced to discontinue their food assistance to more than over a million Gazans. Commissioner Michel stated, "It is unacceptable that the UN should find itself having to consider suspending its humanitarian operations simply for a lack of fuel for its vehicles. It is also unacceptable that public services, such as garbage collection, sewage treatment, or hospitals, are at the brink of collapse for the same reason.

UN: Food aid to Gazans halted due to Israeli fuel cutoff
Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
An official has said the United Nations stopped distributing food to Palestinian refugees in Gaza because its vehicles have run out of fuel following Israel’s blockade of the Strip. The official, Adnan Abu Hasna, said 700,000 Palestinians who depend on the UN for basic food packets, won’t be getting them. He said the United Nations Relief Works Agency used the last of its fuel on Thursday. That forced it to stop distribution. Israel shipped fuel to Gaza to run its electricity power plant but maintains a ban on gasoline and diesel fuel, following a deadly terror attack at a fuel depot in Nahal Oz on April 9, which left two Israeli civilains killed. On Wednesday, the Hamas organization issued notices calling upon the public in the Gaza Strip to arrive en masse at the crossings on the border with Israel after Friday prayers.

Hamas set to agree on staged truce starting in Gaza Strip
Avi Issacharoff Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
A delegation from Hamas on Thursday told Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that Hamas is prepared to accept a temporary cease-fire with Israel, to begin in the Gaza Strip. The deal would extend after a predetermined time to the West Bank. Hamas had previously demanded that a truce apply simultaneously to both areas, but Israel refused. In accepting Egypt’s compromise proposal, Hamas can claim that it pushed Israel into agreeing to a cease-fire in both places. The delegation from Gaza that met with Egyptian mediators included senior Hamas representatives Mahmoud Zahar and Saeed Seyam, who arrived in Cairo after consultations with Hamas leaders in Damascus. According to Hamas’ truce announcement, Israel will immediately cease all military activity in the Gaza Strip: arrests, assassinations and field operations.

Hamas ’leaning toward’ phased truce
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/25/2008
GAZA CITY: Hamas confirmed Thursday that it is considering agreeing to a phased truce that would only extend to the Occupied West Bank in a second stage in return for an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza. "Hamas is leaning toward the idea of a truce that begins in the Gaza Strip and is then extended to the West Bank in a second stage, on condition that the enemy cease its aggression and reopen the [Gaza] border crossings, including the Rafah crossing with Egypt," Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told AFP. A Hamas delegation led by former Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar was in Cairo Thursday to discuss a truce with Israel. Egypt has been serving as go-between in the talks with Israel, which considers Hamas a terror group and refuses direct contact. "Any period of calm between us and Israel must be reciprocal, simultaneous and comprehensive, and must include lifting the blockade and ceasing. . .

Hamas pushing Israelis toward calm in Gaza and West Bank
Palestine News Network 4/24/2008
PNN - Press sources reporting from Cairo confirmed Thursday that Hamas would accept a ’calm’ with Israel in the Gaza Strip to be followed by the West Bank. An Egyptian high source disclosed that its Minister of Intelligence Omar Suleiman will travel to meet with Israeli officials next week to discuss the possibility of reaching an agreement for a ’cease-fire. ’The sources said that Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahhar and Said Siam, who arrived in Cairo Wednesday, presented new ideas to achieve a comprehensive ’calm’ to last for several months in the Gaza Strip. The plans were completed after a meeting with the head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khalid Mashaal, held in Damascus. Zahhar and Siam’s proposals include the start of pacification in Gaza first, to be applied in the West Bank after an agreed period.

Zahhar: ''Hamas accepts a six-month bilateral truce''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/25/2008
Hamas political leader, Mahmoud Zahhar, stated on Thursday that the movement accepts a truce in Gaza under a national agreement, and added that this truce should be extended later on to the West Bank. Zahhar added that during the truce period of six months, Egypt will be mediating to extend the truce to the West Bank. The Hamas leader said, in a press conference after he concluded a visit to Egypt, that Hamas delegates met with the Egyptian security chief, Omar Suleiman, and agreed with him on the truce as long as it is bilateral with Israel. He said that Egypt will be opening the Rafah border terminal even if Israel withdraws from the truce deal. Zahhar stated that Hamas demanded Egypt to supervise a truce deal with all factions, and that this deal will be declared as part ofnational conciliation. Furthermore, Zahhar said that he agreed with Suleiman to call on all factions. . .

Israel claims Hamas causing fake fuel shortage in Strip
Yuval Azoulay and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
Israel claims that Hamas is refusing to pump a large amount of fuel that is in storage tanks on the Palestinian side of the border in order to create a fabricated crisis and blame it on Israel. A spokesman for the coordinator of the Israeli government’s activities in the territories, Peter Lerner, said that the Palestinian side of the fuel depot at Nahal Oz contains about a million liters of fuel - 800,000 liters of diesel and another 200,000 or so liters of gasoline, but Hamas is preventing its distribution. The head of the Coordination & Liaison Administration at the Erez crossing, Colonel Nir Press, yesterday accused the Hamas regime of sabotaging United Nations relief work in the Gaza Strip. Press said that a fuel tanker that left Gaza yesterday headed for the Nahal Oz depot to pump fuel for UNRWA’s use was halted by thousands of Palestinians who blocked one of the intersections en route to the depot.

Hamas calls for popular revolt at Rafah on Friday
Palestinian Information Center 4/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement called for a popular revolt at the Rafah border crossing at noon Friday in protest at the Israeli siege which prevents the entry of minimum basics of life to Gaza. Ashraf Abu Daya, the spokesman for the popular action of Hamas, said the Palestinian masses will be marching at noon towards the crossings of Beit Hanoun and Rafah, pointing out that these angry marches will be a message to everyone to move urgently to put an end to this unjust siege which became intolerable. In a related context, the Mizan center for human rights appealed Wednesday to the international community to intervene urgently and swiftly to rescue the besieged Gaza Strip from a serious humanitarian disaster. In a statement received by the PIC, the center underlined that the Israeli siege paralyzed most of the public utilities and private businesses including the education, health. . .

Palestinian detainees tortured in Israeli custody, PLC member says
Ma’an News Agency 4/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - A member of the Palestinian Legislative Council said on Thursday that the Israeli army policy of abuse and humiliation of Palestinian detainees is illegal. Issa Qaraqe’ issued a press statement in which he claimed Palestinian civilians are being illegally tortured during official investigations and these torture tactics are being ignored by senior army officials and often take place in Israeli military jeeps. "This policy isn’t aimed at getting information from the detainees as much as it is an act of revenge and constitutes sadistic and immoral behavior exercised by the Israeli army and border guards against Palestinian prisoners, and these practices are barbaric," Qaraqe’ said. Qaraqe revealed that 85% of detainees, and especially children, are subject to abuse, beatings and humiliation before and during questioning.

Al Nakba memorial beginning its official period
Palestine News Network 4/24/2008
PNN -- Although the memorial began at the beginning of the year as it hit "60 years since Al Nakba," meaning the "the Catastrophe," or the creation of the state of Israel, official memorials are now underway. The "Forum of Managers and Heads of Arab Societies" and the offshoot of the Federation of Associations held a special meeting yesterday in Haifa, a city within Israeli boundaries that was one of those severely affected by 60 years of Israeli actions. During Al Nakba, over 400 Palestinian towns were destroyed and millions of refugees created throughout the years. The Forum met to discuss the campaign "Sixty years of Catastrophe" and offered activities and events planned for organizing the various sectors of Arab society, ways of integrating the roles, networking and joint action for success. The meeting stressed the importance of standardization in activities. . .

Arab lawyer invited to train kinder, gentler Israeli soldiers
Kim Sengupta, The Independent 4/24/2008
Wafa Fahoum felt she had to make a stand when her nine-year-old daughter Nadine -- an Arab representing Israel at tennis -- was singled out for questioning by airport security staff while her Jewish team-mates simply walked through. Ms Fahoum’s campaign to stop others being subjected to such treatment eventually led to her teaching Israeli security guards about how it feels to be an Arab citizen facing daily indignities. Now she has been asked by the Israeli military to organise similar training for soldiers. The initiative follows revelations from former Israeli troops about their abuse of Palestinian civilians. The Independent has highlighted cases ranging from casual mistreatment to vicious assaults during routine patrols. One veterans’ pressure group, Breaking the Silence, stresses on its website the need "to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created" in the occupied territories.

Israeli envoy to UN calls Carter ’a bigot’ for meeting Meshal
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday called former President Jimmy Carter "a bigot" for meeting with the leader of the militant Hamas movement in Syria. Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, "went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas," Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a luncheon briefing for reporters. The diplomat was questioned about problems facing his country during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters lasting more than an hour. The briefing was sponsored by The Israel Project, a Washington-based, media-oriented advocacy group. The ambassador’s harsh words for Carter came days after the ex-president met with Meshal for seven hours in Damascus to negotiate a cease-fire with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Hamas shows Carter its pragmatic face
Middle East Online 4/24/2008
BEIRUT - Former US President Jimmy Carter extracted a whiff of pragmatism but no policy shift from Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in talks that irritated US, Israeli and Fatah leaders bent on isolating the democratically elected Palestinian group. After meeting Meshaal in Damascus at the weekend, Carter said that his conditional agreement to a two state-solution is proof that Hamas would "accept Israel’s right to live in peace. " Meshaal himself later made clear Hamas would not formally recognise Israel, but would accept a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital, full sovereignty and the right of refugees to return. No such peace deal is even remotely on the horizon as Israel rejects each of these widely shared Palestinian demands, even though they are based on UN resolutions and the general consensus of the international community.

UN walkout over Gaza ’Nazi’ remarks
Al Jazeera 4/24/2008
The Western UN ambassadors walked out of the meeting in dismay by the approach - The US, Britain, France and other members have walked out of a closed meeting of the UN Security Council after Libya compared the situation in Gaza to Nazi concentration camps in World War II. Diplomats said France’s UN ambassador walked out, followed by his Western colleagues, after the Libyan envoy made the remarks during a debate on Gaza. Council members were meeting privately on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of issuing a compromise press statement that would have highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza while also contributing positively to efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. The walkout was a rare protest by diplomats on the UN’s most powerful body against one of their own members. Libya is the only Arab representative on the council.

Libyan representative to the UN compares the situation in the Gaza Strip to Nazi Holocaust
Manar Jibrin, International Middle East Media Center News 4/24/2008
Representatives of some Western countries walked out of a session of the UN Security Council on Wednesday after a speech which was delivered by the deputy of the Libyan representive, Ibrahin Al Dabashi. In his speech, al Dabashi compared the situation in the Gaza Strip to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Diplomats at the Security Council said that "these comments came during a session that was held over the Middle East". After that, the diplomats left the session in protest of these comments. Among those senior diplomats who left the session were the envoys of the United States, France, Britain, Belgium and Costa Rica. One of the Diplomats said that "we are trying to be tolerant when it comes to different points of view, but with limits. "Al Dibashi made these comments while discussing a draft statement proposed by Libya and other countries expressing their deep concern over the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Golan leaders to Turkey: Push Syria talks without sacrificing Golan
Eli Ashkenazi and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
Golan Heights community leaders on Thursday urged Turkey to continue advancing peace talks between Israel and Syria without conditioning negotiations on an Israeli withdrawal from the contentious region. In a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Golan leaders asked the advancement of talks be based on the same model used by Turkey and Syria to resolve its dispute over Hatay - a region annexed by Ankara in 1939. That dispute led to years of tensions between the two states until Syria relinquished its demands over the region in 2004. "Turkey has prove its ability to establish peace with Syria after a difficult dispute of many years," wrote Katzrin local council head Sammy Bar Lev and Golan regional council head Eli Malkha in their letter to Erdogan.

Assad: After Bush, we will be able to talk directly with Israel
Yoav Stern and Shahar Ilan and Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
A former U. S. envoy and Mideast negotiator yesterday called for peace talks in which Israel would yield the Golan Heights to Syria in return for a peace treaty and withdrawal of support for Hezbollah. However, he said Syria was not likely to negotiate with Israel without an American presence. Martin Indyk, former U. S. ambassador to Israel, told the House Mideast subcommittee that Israel had enlisted Turkey to help register its interest in peace negotiations to Syria. But Indyk, who was a U. S. negotiator during former President Bill Clinton’s efforts in 2000 to mediate an agreement, said, "Syria will not sit down with Israel without the United States in the room. "Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday that Israel was genuinely interested in restarting talks with Syria.

Assad confirms ’Israeli pledge’ to quit Golan
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/25/2008
DOHA: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirmed in remarks published on Thursday that Turkey has relayed a message from Israel expressing a readiness to swap the Golan Heights for peace. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "informed me of Israel’s readiness to withdraw from the Golan in return for peace with Syria," Assad was quoted by the Qatari daily Al-Watan as saying. In excerpts from an interview to be published in full on Sunday, the paper quoted Assad as saying that Ankara has been mediating between Israel and Syria since April 2007. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assured Erdogan of his readiness to return the Golan, and this was relayed to Syria a week ago, Assad said, confirming reports of Turkish mediation that emerged on Wednesday. "What we now need is to find common ground through the Turkish mediator," Assad said, adding that any negotiations with Israel would be conducted via Ankara.

Settlement leaders in Golan call for further construction of settlements
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/25/2008
Leaders of settlements in the occupied Golan Heights stated on Thursday that settlement construction and expansion in the occupied Syrian area will continue and will advance. The leaders said that "any attempt to harm the Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights inflicts danger on the Israeli security, and will fail", the Arabs48 news website reported. The statement came following a meeting held on Thursday with the participation of Eli Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council, Sami Barlev, head of the local council of Katzrin settlement, former member of Knesset Yihoda Hariel, and others. Several members of Knesset slammed the notion of a withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria. The Golan Heights are Syrian territories illegally annexed by Israel after the 1967 war. Member of Knesset Ze’ev Elkin, from Kadima party which is headed by Israel’s Prime. . .

Attempt to cede Golan doomed to fail, say local leaders
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 4/24/2008
Recent statements regarding Olmert’s willingness to withdraw from Golan Heights prompt emergency meeting of regional council heads. ’The Golan belongs to Israel, we will never give it up,’ they say - Leaders of communities in the Golan Heights held a special meeting in Katzrin on Thursday following recent reports suggesting Prime Ministe Ehud Olmertis willing to cede Israeli control of the Golan in exchange for comprehensive peace with Syria. A statement issued after the meeting concluded asserted that "all construction and development projects in the Golan are going ahead as planned, propelled by the certainty that any attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty in the Golan will cause severe damage to state security and thus is doomed to fail. "

Israeli Restrictions Behind ‘Modest’ Jordan-PA Trade
Omar Obeidat, MIFTAH 4/24/2008
Stringent Israeli restrictions have hindered Jordan-Palestine efforts to increase trade volume, officials from the two sides said on Tuesday. " Strict Israeli measures are impeding the flow of goods between the two countries because Israel is trying to control the Palestinian economy," Jawad Naji, an adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said. Naji told The Jordan Times that the size of trade between Jordan and Palestine is still less than expected, noting that trade volume stood at around JD50 million in 2007, a figure he described as “modest”. The Kingdom’s exports to Palestine were JD27. 1 million and imports JD21. 9 million, compared to a gross trade volume of JD3. 5 billion between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, which controls all conduits of cargo bound to the Palestinian lands. Naji was among a Palestinian delegation headed by National Economy Minister Mohammad

Demand for vote gains momentum
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
The Pensioners Party will back a law calling for a referendum on any government decision to pull out of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The party’s seven MKs, plus some Kadima rebels and right-wingers, may give MK David Tal (Kadima) the majority he needs to push the bill forward. "It’s the prime minister’s prerogative to hold talks with Syria, but the Golan as far as Israel is concerned is different from the Gaza Strip, because Israeli law applies to it," Pensioners Party leader and Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan said. At least five Kadima MKs object to a withdrawal from the Golan and will support Tal’s bill. Tal said on Wednesday that he would speed up legislation following reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is prepared to pull out of the Golan in exchange for peace. The dramatic reports did not raise a political furor, due to the Passover holiday and the Knesset recess.

The Islamic Jihad in Gaza says Abbas-Olmert meetings ’complete loss’
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/24/2008
The Islamic Jihad group in Gaza said today that Abbas-Olmert meetings are ’complete loss’, because they are held at the end of U. S’s President Gorge W. Bush term in office. In a statement, faxed to press on Thursday, the group called on President Mahmoud Abbas not to produce any concessions to the Israeli side and rather focus on working out a real reconciliation among the Palestinian people. Khaled aL-Batch, a local leader of the group in Gaza, described the Bush’s pledges during last November Annapolis summit, to realize a Palestinian state on 1967 borders by end of 208 as " checks without an account , the one who issued them can not make them valid. Bush can never pressure the Israeli side". Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have so far failed to come out with an agreement on contentious issues between the two parties, as Washington has been unable to forge such an agreement up to this moment.

Israel pardons 10 Fatah operatives
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/24/2008
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades operatives disarmed, put on probation, then pardoned as part of amnesty agreement between Israel, PA - Israel agreed to pardon 10 more wanted gunmen from al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s military wing, as decided during a security meeting between Israeli representatives and Palestinians. The amnesty was granted to men who refrained from terrorist acts and honored an agreement, which commanded them to disarm and spend a probation period living under harsh conditions in Palestinian prisons. At least 17 of the pardoned men are from Nablus. Israel has also decided to extend the probation periods of 150 other wanted men, who will have to prove that they are no longer involved in anti-Israel activities. The amnesty agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority commenced in July of last year, and stated that Israel would. . .

Dweik: The release of MPs won’t be at the expense of detainees of high sentences
Palestinian Information Center 4/24/2008
KHALIL, (PIC)-- Dr. Aziz Dweik, the kidnapped speaker of the PLC, stated that the imprisoned MPs have to be released, as a demand related to the Palestinian sovereignty, but not at the expense of prisoners of high sentences, hailing the Hamas political leadership’s position towards the suggestion tabled by the former US president in this regard. "We believe that any prisoners’ exchange deal with the occupation must include our fellow prisoners of high sentences and all national and Islamic factions and must not be confined to the release of the Palestinian MPs and the few other humanitarian cases," Dr. Dweik stated in a statement leaked from the Megiddo prison. The speaker added: "We are paying the price for our political positions and we have to be released, but all Palestinian captives are prisoners of freedom and the national struggle and are detained on the background of their. . .

Regev: Stop the talking, do something
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 4/24/2008
Kidnapped soldiers’ families take part in ceremony held by organization encouraging youths to enlist. Goldwasser: They have to be careful and alert - "I am asking my prime minister, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to stop the talking and the declarations. It’s time to do something and return our boys to us. While we are celebrating the holiday of freedom (Passover), they have none," Zvi Regev, father of kidnapped soldier Eldad Regev, said at an event organized by ’Aharai’ - a group working to encourage youths to enlist in combat units. Over 500 students involved with the organization participated in the ceremony, which was held under the banner of ’banishing the apathy,’ in honor of Israel’s kidnapped soldiers. The event was preceded by a two-week hike to the Carmel mountain near Haifa as part of Aharai’s efforts to prepare the youths for the physical trials. . .

Bush: Palestinian state ’defined’ by January
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 4/24/2008
Abbas meets with US president, prods for US pressure to halt Israeli settlement in West Bank. Bush confident Palestinian state can be established by end of his term - WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush sought to boost the Middle East peace process Thursday by voicing fresh optimism about the creation of a Palestinian state. During a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he said he remained confident that the definition of a state for the Palestinian people would be reached before he leaves office in January. "I believe it’s in Israel’s interests and the Palestinian people’s interest to have leaders willing to work toward the achievement of that state," Bush said during the meeting held at the White House. Abbas headed into the meeting with the goal of prodding the Bush administration to pressure Israel to stop settlement activities in the West Bank.

Chief Palestinian Justice slams continued Israeli colonization of East Jerusalem - Ramallah
Palestine News Network 4/24/2008
Ramallah / PNN - Chief Justice of Palestine’s Supreme Council and Forensics, Sheikh Taysir Al Tamimi, condemned on Thursday the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality for ratifying 400 more settlement units in Qalandiya between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The land he is discussing is Palestinian, yet the Israeli government continues to contravene international law with its rapidly expanding Jewish settler policy in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Tamimi told the press today that these new steps are aimed at splitting the city of Jerusalem completely from its Palestinian life and population for the use of the occupation. He continued to state that the Israeli settlement scheme aims at Judaizing Jerusalem and is part of the ethnic cleansing process that reaches beyond the city that is aimed to be the capital of the Palestinian state.

Middle East Talks in Moscow Get Scant Support
Nicholas Kralev, MIFTAH 4/24/2008
A planned follow-up to November’s highly-touted Middle East peace conference in Annapolis will likely be postponed or even canceled because of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ reluctance to take part, Western and Palestinian diplomats said yesterday. The diplomats said Mr. Abbas, who meets with President Bush at the White House tomorrow, is doubtful that anything of value would be accomplished at the conference, set to take place in Moscow in June. " President Abbas is not that keen on a conference in Moscow anymore," one Arab official said. "It’s not clear what exactly its focus would be and what results it will produce. " A Russian official said no decision had been made, but he insisted that the idea is still on the table. It is "being discussed among Quartet members," he said in reference to the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. More than 50 countries participated in the Annapolis conference in November.

US denies giving Israel green light to expand settlements
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/25/2008
WASHINGTON: The United States denied a report Thursday that it gave the green light to Israel to expand settlements that it would retain as part of a final peace deal with the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, quoted by The Washington Post, said this week that President George W. Bush four years ago gave a letter to Olmert’s predecessor, Ariel Sharon, allowing Israel to expand those Occupied West Bank settlements. "The answer to that question is in the story itself. . . and that is ’no,’" State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters when asked if the story were true. McCormack was referring to denials attributed in the story to Daniel Kurtzer, the former US ambassador to Israel, and White House National Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe. Under the 2003 "road map" for Palestinian-Israeli peace drafted by the US and key partners, Israel is required to freeze settlements and the Palestinians to stop violence.

Israel’s defense industry up in arms over Lockheed Martin talks
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 4/24/2008
Israel is in talks to procure 100 F35s. - Sources say that top Israeli defense industry executives claim that the Ministry of Defense’s negotiating tactics with Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) for the purchase of the Air Force’s next-generation combat jet are liable to cost them billions of dollars in lost contracts related to the plane and in reciprocal contracts that are the norm in deals of this size. The sources added that defense industry executives are bitter about the ministry’s conduct in the negotiations, but have been divided whether to initiate a direct confrontation with the ministry, and some concluded that going public would serve their interests. At issue is the largest arms deal in Israeli history - the procurement of more than 100 F35 Lightening II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), at a cost of $100 million each for a total contract of over $10 billion.

Abbas asks Bush to keep closer eye on settlement expansion
Shmuel Rosner , and New Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
WASHINGTON -Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday asked President George W. Bush to tighten oversight over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. Abbas told his host in Washington that the continued construction in the settlements would make it difficult for him to convince the Palestinian people that his peace talks with Israel may reach a breakthrough. The Palestinian leader, who has been in Washington for several days, also told Bush about the good atmosphere in his talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But he said progress was slow and that there were still many issues on which there was no agreement. Meanwhile, U. S. President George W. Bush said he remains confident that both sides in the Mideast peace process can agree on the definition of a Palestinian state by the end of his term next January.

PM mulls bill urging settlers to leave West Bank voluntarily
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
When the Ventura family moved to the Karnei Shomron settlement in the West Bank from a Tel Aviv suburb 20 years ago, they sought open spaces and mountain air. But years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting have scared away their children and grandchildren. Now the retired couple wants to move back. "We came here for quality of life when there were no worries here," said Tzuri Ventura, 68, a retired truck driver. "We just want to get out of here. . . but we don’t have enough money. "A new bill would compensate West Bank settlers like the Venturas who voluntarily leave their homes, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to decide within days whether to support it. The idea is to get a head start on the evacuation of West Bank settlements that would have to be dismantled anyway in a final peace deal with the Palestinians.

American Accused of Spying for Israel in 1980s
Richard B. Schmitt and Richard Boudreaux, MIFTAH 4/24/2008
Federal authorities arrested an 84-year-old former Army engineer Tuesday on charges of passing American military secrets to an Israeli agent in the 1980s, accusations that suggest that one of the most famous spy cases in U. S. history may have been more widespread than previously known. Ben-ami Kadish, a U. S. citizen who worked at an Army base in New Jersey, acknowledged to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had given the Israeli agent 50 to 100 classified documents related to nuclear weapons, fighter jets and missiles, according to a criminal complaint filed in U. S. District Court in Manhattan. Kadish was accused of reporting to the same Israeli government handler who was the main contact for imprisoned spy Jonathan Jay Pollard. Pollard is serving a life sentence in federal prison in North Carolina after pleading guilty to espionage charges in 1986 in a case that roiled relations between the U.

Israel Braces for Fallout from U.S. Spy Case
Jeffrey Heller, MIFTAH 4/24/2008
Israel was tightlipped on Wednesday over the arrest in the United States of an 84-year-old American suspected of providing it with U. S. military secrets in the 1980s, a new case that has opened old wounds. " We received an official update from the Americans. We are following the developments," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said, a day after suspect Ben-Ami Kadish made an initial appearance in a federal court in New York. The case, linked to the Jonathan Pollard spy scandal that has been an irritant in the U. S. -Israel alliance, raised fears in Israel it would cast a pall over President George W. Bush’s visit next month to celebrate the Jewish state’s 60th birthday. But Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, a former senior security official, predicted that Israel’s relations with the United States would not suffer.

US claims video shows North Korea helped build Syrian reactor
Mark Tran, The Guardian 4/24/2008
The White House was today set to reveal video images it claims support allegations that North Korea was helping Syria to build a nuclear reactor. The suspected reactor was destroyed by Israeli planes last September in a raid reminiscent of its 1981 raid on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. Little remains known about the raid seven months later, and today’s evidence has been keenly anticipated. US media reports said the video images - believed to have been obtained via Israeli intelligence - show Korean faces among the workers at the Syrian plant. The reports said the video also revealed that the Syrian reactor core’s design was the same as that of the North Korean reactor at Yongbon, including a virtually identical configuration and number of holes for fuel rods. Following the Israeli attack, Syria kept relatively quiet about the bombing raid on its territory, bulldozing

Israel: Syria may rethink retaliation in light of nuclear revelations
Amos Harel Barak Ravid and Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
The closed-door hearings of the House Intelligence Committee regarding a site in Syria that the Israel Air Forces bombed last September were closely followed Thursday by senior officials in Israel. U. S. officials said that the Israeli strike destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor built with North Korean design help. Senior Israeli defense sources said Thursday night that it was still early to gauge how Damascus would react to the news, but warned that the Syrians may now reconsider and decide to retaliate against Israel in some way. In recent internal discussions, senior Israeli defense establishment officials expressed concern that the official American release of details about the strike would embarrass Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and lead him to take a more aggressive stance toward Israel.

VIDEO - News / Top U.S. official: Syria site threatened to spread nuke arms technology
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for April 24, 2008. In this edition: A top member of the U. S. House of Representatives intelligence committee says the suspected nuclear site in Syria that Israel attacked last year threatened to spread nuclear weapons technology. The Prime Minister’s Office says Israel is genuinely interested in peace with Syria. The postponement of the Amos 3 communications satellite’s launch causes presidential embarrassment. [end]

North Korea Nuclear games in the desert
Leader, The Guardian 4/25/2008
Seven months after an Israeli air strike destroyed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor, US officials yesterday made public two still pictures of North Koreans working at the site. The images, taken before the structure was attacked, indicate that North Korea helped build the reactor, which closely resembles the one at Yongbyon which they have just disabled. Israel’s motives in attacking the site in Syria are clear, even though the reactor was in a less advanced state of construction than the one Israeli jets destroyed in Osirak in Iraq in 1981. (It would have been years before Syria could have reprocessed the spent fuel into bomb-grade plutonium. ) Israel needed to re-establish its power to deter Damascus after losing it in the disastrous Lebanon war. It wanted to signal to Tehran that the same could happen to Iran’s nuclear installations and it was interested in testing the reaction of its Arab neighbours.

Report: Israel provided US with video of Syrian site
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 4/24/2008
Washington Post reports videotape taken inside Syrian facility bombarded by Israel last September convinced Israel, US that North Korea was helping Syria build nuclear reactor. Tape to be presented to US lawmakers on Thursday - A video taken inside the Syrian facility bombarded by Israel last September persuaded the US administration that North Korea was helping Syria construct a nuclear reactor, the Washington Post reported Thursday. According to the Post the video, which shows North Koreans inside the site codenamed al-Kibar, "played a pivotal role" in Israel’s decision to bomb the facility. The tape will be presented to the House and Senate intelligence, armed services and foreign relations committees on Thursday. Senior US officials said that the tape also indicates that the site’s design is identical to the North Korean nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

U.S. official: No green light for IAF strike on Syria nuclear facility
Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
The United States did not green light an Israel Air Force strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in September 2006, a U. S. official said Thursday, shortly after American intelligence officials heard details of the alleged incident. The White House on Thursday urged Syria to "come clean" about the nuclear facility, which a senior U. S. official said had been near completion when it was destroyed by the Israel Air Force in September 2007. "The Syrian regime must come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities," White House press secretary Dana Perino said, shortly after U. S. intelligence officials presented lawmakers with evidence that Pyongyang had assisted Syria’s secret nuclear program. "We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria’s covert nuclear. . . "

Ex-envoy Indyk: Syria won’t talk to Israel unless U.S. present
Yoav Stern and Shahar Ilan and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
A former U. S. envoy and Mideast negotiator called Thursday for peace talks in which Israel would yield the Golan Heights to Syria in return for a peace treaty and withdrawal of support for Hezbollah militants, but said Syria was not likely to negotiate with Israel without American presence. Martin Indyk, former ambassador to Israel, told the House Mideast subcommittee that Israel had enlisted Turkey to help register its interest in peace negotiations to Syria. But Indyk, who was a U. S. negotiator during former President Bill Clinton’s efforts in 2000 to mediate an agreement, said, "Syria will not sit down with Israel without the United States in the room. "Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday said that Israel was genuinely interested in restarting talks with Syria.

US claims North Korean link to Israeli bombing of Syria
Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian 4/24/2008
The mystery over the Israeli bombing of Syria took a new twist today when US intelligence agencies showed a video claiming that the target had been a nuclear plant being built with North Korean help. After seven months of silence and evasion from the Bush administration, the CIA director, Michael Hayden, briefedmembers of the Senate and Housearmed services, intelligence and foreign affairs committees, saying his weapons specialists found the evidence compelling. US officials said today the Bush administration was putting the information out in order to clear the decks before doing a deal with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programme. A US official who had seen the video said: "We cannot move forward (on a deal with North Korea) unless you acknowledge we are doing this with our eyes wide open. . . "

Israel’s ’separation wall’ is no barrier for drug dealers
Majeda El Batsh, Daily Star 4/25/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: At the foot of the wall Israel has built to cut off East Jerusalem from the Occupied West Bank, a Palestinian man, seeing no police around, furtively removes a packet from a hole in the gray concrete. The controversial barrier splits Palestinian villages and separates them from Jewish settlements. It is no obstacle for drug dealers, however. Traffickers are using the 6-meter-high wall as a distribution center. Holes in the wall were designed to let rainwater - not people - pass through, but they are large enough for a hand to reach to the other side. One 36-year-old dealer, who gave his name as Zoher, said his business is growing, "particularly among young Palestinians who take ecstasy pills or LSD, which are sold outside schools, as well as hashish and marijuana. "He also boasted that the wall "is not the only way to sell drugs" and that mail boxes are also used as drop-off points.

Israelite Samaritans mark Passover with blood and fire in West Bank
Middle East Online 4/24/2008
Men chant in ancient Hebrew over the sheep, their white garments and knives lit by the fading dusk as they ready a sacrifice for the God of Israel in the heart of the West Bank. The voice of the high priest crackles from a megaphone, the chanting reaches a climax and they wrestle dozens of animals to the ground, slitting their throats in a 5,000 year-old Passover ritual that may predate Judaism. The faithful are Samaritans, a community of 710 people living in Israel and the occupied West Bank who trace their lineage to the ancient Israelites Moses led out of Egypt, an event they remember every year on a grassy hilltop near the Palestinian town of Nablus. "We put blood on our foreheads so that our God will know we are the children of Israel," says Naif Ismail, a middle-aged father of three, his smiling face and white coveralls spattered with sheep’s blood.

Oil and food prices could fuel interest rate hike
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 4/24/2008
Inflation in the second quarter is expected to reflect an annual rate well above the target range. The Bank of Israel might raise the interest rate for May by 25 basis points because of concerns about rising inflation caused by sharp hikes in prices for fuel and food. The measure would partly reverse the 100-basis point cut in the interest rate made in the past two months. Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer will announce the May interest rate on Monday. Chances are currently 50/50 that he will keep the interest rate unchanged at 3. 25% or raise it to 3. 5%. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0. 3% in March, confounding analysts’ predictions that it would fall by up to 0. 3%. Analysts now predict that the CPI will rise by more than 1. 7% in the second quarter: 0. 9% in April, 0. 5% in May, and 0.

Amos-3 launch delayed
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 4/24/2008
A technical problem may keep the Israeli satellite on the ground for several days. The launch of the Amos-3 satellite has been delayed, Galei Tzahal (Israel Army Radio) reports. . The launch of the communications satellite, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP. B1) and Spacecom Satellite Communications Ltd. (TASE:SCC), was supposed to have taken place today from the Bikanu Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but a technical fault has caused a postponement, and the launch may now be delayed for a few days. The fault is reported to be in the mechanism for separation of the launcher from the support pier. Amos-3 is an improved commercial satellite which is designed to replace Amos-1which is being taken out of service after 12 years. The Amos-2 was launched in 2003 and will remain in orbit for a further seven and a half years.

Syria built nuclear reactor with North Korean help - US
Olivier Knox, Daily Star 4/25/2008
Agence France Presse - WASHINGTON: The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency told key US lawmakers in secret Thursday that North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear reactor at a site destroyed by an Israeli raid in September, officials said. Washington also took its case to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), alleging that Damascus violated its obligations under the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a US official said. In Congress, top US officials were laying out the charges - which Syria flatly denied - behind closed doors in a video presentation that includes photographs of the facility, a top US official said on condition of anonymity. Another US official, who also requested not to be identified, said the reactor could have produced plutonium, potentially to feed nuclear weapons, but was destroyed before it ever began to operate.

Syria denies N Korea nuclear link
Al Jazeera 4/24/2008
Syria has denied US claims that North Korea is helping it to build a nuclear reactor, as US legislators met in Washington for a briefing on the issue by intelligence chiefs. Co-operation between the two countries was mainly economic and had "nothing" to do with building such a facility, Sami al-Khiyami, Syria’s envoy to the UK, told Reuters. The denial came as US legislators on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees met in Washington DC for a briefing by intelligence chiefs, including Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, over the claim. However some lawmakers said the claims could wreck vital six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme. " By waiting so long to be briefing the intelligence committee and other committees. . the administration has made it much more difficult that if they do reach some kind of an agreement with the six-party talks," said Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said.

Lebanon prisoners seize guards
Al Jazeera 4/24/2008
Riots have erupted in Lebanon’s biggest prison after inmates took seven security officers hostage. Smoke could be seen coming from one part of the jail in Roumiyeh, northeast of Beirut on Thursday. Early reports suggest inmates set fire to some of their belongings. Officials said negotiations were being held to try to secure the release of the wardens before resorting to force, although they would not release the hostagetakers’ demands. They said the rioters included Palestinian as well as Lebanese prisoners. The jail is made up of several buildings and is known to hold four senior security officials accused of having a role in the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, as well as members of the armed group Fatah al-Islam.

UN: Armed Hezbollah a key challenge to Lebanon
Middle East Online 4/24/2008
UNITED NATIONS - Hezbollah’s continued armed strength poses a key challenge to Lebanese sovereignty, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report this week, prompting criticism on Wednesday from the Shiite movement. "Hezbollah’s maintenance of a para-military capacity poses a key challenge to the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force," Ban said in his seventh report on implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559. He reiterated his view that the disarming and disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, called for under the resolution which was adopted in 2004 should take place through "an inclusive political dialogue. "Ban said Syria and Iran "bear a significant responsibility in supporting such a process, for the sake of Lebanon’s and the wider region’s security, stability and welfare. " He pointed to an incident on the night of March 30-31 in which a UN. . .

Iraq PM: Factions to rejoin cabinet
Al Jazeera 4/24/2008
Iraqi political groups boycotting the government of Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, have agreed to put aside their differences and rejoin the government, according to an official statement. The statement, issued on Thursday, quoted what al-Maliki told David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, on a visit to Baghdad. According to the statement, al-Maliki told Miliband that "national reconciliation has been a success and all political parties will return to government". " We have political support from all entities for the measures taken by the government," the statement quoted al-Maliki as saying. [end]

Chicago to welcome Arab city leaders for 3-day forum
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jerusalem Post 4/25/2008
More than 40 leaders from Iraq to Yemen and the West Bank, are expected to attend a three-day US-Arab Cities Forum in Chicago starting Monday. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said the focus will not be on international problems, but on issues that hit cities closer to home like education, transportation, crime and infrastructure. The event is staged with Chicago’s sister city partners of Amman, Jordan, and Casablanca, Morocco. Building relationships with cities around the globe is key for Chicago, said Jerry Roper, head of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. [end]

VA Debated PR Plan on Vets’ Suicides
Jason Leopold, Middle East Online 4/24/2008
Senior officials at the Veterans Administration debated internally how to downplay evidence of a stunning number of suicides and suicide attempts among veterans who were treated or had sought help at VA hospitals around the country, according to newly disclosed internal VA e-mails. On Feb. 13, 2008, Ira Katz, the VA’s mental health director, and Ev Chasen, the agency’s chief communications director, exchanged e-mails discussing P. R. strategy for handling this troubling news, according to evidence made public Monday in a federal court case in Northern California. The exchange came in the context of how to handle inquiries from CBS News, which was reporting on the surge of suicides among US veterans – reaching an average of 18 per day – with part of that rise attributed to soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


A long view from a small cage
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 4/24/2008
      On Saturday two weeks ago, the trip from the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron to City Hall, which should be just a few minutes’ drive, took more than 45 minutes. And this was without being stopped at an Israel Defense Forces checkpoint, or being required to present ID cards or being delayed by military convoys - challenges Hebron residents have to contend with practically every day.
     All we had to do was to maneuver between manned checkpoints, metal gates that prevented passage between neighborhoods, and large mounds of dirt put in place by the army between streets. The logical route to take, which leads straight from the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the city center, was closed some time ago, when Shuhada Street became King David Street and the settlers took over this "compound." The 1997 Hebron agreement, which divided the city into two areas, the Arab H1 and the Jewish H2, also thrust a barrier into the heart of the city and physically divided the Jewish part from the Arab part.
     According to the agreement, Israel Defense Forces soldiers are forbidden to cross into area H1 without a Palestinian escort. During the day, foot patrols of soldiers go about the area as if it were theirs. At night, the army arrives to carry out arrests, and just instructs the Palestinian security forces to remain in their headquarters and not to intervene, as if they were its servants.

Palestinian - Israeli investment conference

Fadi Abu Sa''ada, Palestine News Network 4/24/2008
      Since we are still under the Israeli occupation, Israel has a certain level of control over the Palestinian Investment Conference. It is expected that 100 Palestinian businessmen from the Gaza Strip to join the conference which will be held in Bethlehem in the third week of May. However, their participation, and the participation of a number of foreign businessmen and entrepreneurs is pending Israel’s permit.
     The idea to hold an investment conference in Palestine started in late 2005, however, the latest developments, including Hamas’ electoral victory and the economic blockade imposed on the Palestinian Authority, by Israel, the United States and the European Union and all its consequences delayed holding such a conference. The idea was revived following the Donor countries conference in Paris in December 2007 and the conference will be held despite of the political situation in Palestine.
     No doubt that the conference organizers are marketing Palestine in general and specially Gaza very successful way. It is obvious that they are using very soft words describing the internal situation in Palestine. This was clear when Dr. Hasan Abu Libdeh, director of the conference used the term, “negative dialogue” among Palestinians hinting to the internal infighting which reached its peak in June of 2007, which led to a geographical and political split.

Uneasy balance

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/24/2008
      General Yoav Galant, commander of the southern zone in the Israeli army, doubled his inspection tours of the positions manned by the elite Givati Brigade, now engaged in military operations against Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza. Israeli media say that the frequent visits by Galant to army sites are intended to boost the morale of the soldiers, who lost many of their comrades in recent operations by Ezzedine Al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas.
     Israeli military commanders, including General Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, admit that Hamas has become "creative" in its attacks since it stopped firing homemade rockets at nearby Israeli settlements. Israel’s Infrastructure Minister General Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that the recent spate of attacks shows that the Israeli offensive of last March, in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, failed to discourage Hamas.
     Maariv commentator Ben Kasbit says that many Israeli commanders feel frustrated by the unusual resilience of Hamas. "What else can we do to stop them? We’ve nearly tried everything. We carried out targeted killings and abductions. We destroyed homes and businesses. We used economic pressures and collective punishment. Nothing is working," Kasbit cited one general as saying.

The essence of an illusion

Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 4/24/2008
      "The Illusion of Return" by Samir El-Youssef, Halban Publishers, 160 pages, 12.99 pounds sterling (translated into Hebrew by Niv Savriago as "Ashlaiyat hashiva," Yedioth Ahronoth Books)
     Samir El-Youssef’s novel lay on the corner of my coffee table for a long time. The first page of it was folded over and a pencil was stuck between the binding and the title page - a sort of promise that one day I would really write a review of it. Almost every day I held a somewhat childish dialogue with the title of the book, "The Illusion of Return": Is it "return" that you want? I will return yet in your illusions. Because Palestinian literature, especially about the right of return, is in fact Israeli literature - only in reverse.
     The right of return is an Israeli "flag" as much as it is a Palestinian symbol. As long as there is no Palestinian return, an Israeli can feel confident in his strength, and well protected from the moral arrows of those who passed on this right - which is properly anchored in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 - to its "owners." The right of return is the opposite of the Jewish Israeli’s right to self-definition. Give the Palestinian a return, and you’ve lost the country with which you identify.

A Dissipating Agreement

Uzi Benziman, MIFTAH 4/24/2008
      This week Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised that "when the time comes," Hamas will pay for its aggression; two years ago, Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert promised that Israel will be a country that is "fun to live in"; during the Second Lebanon War, the government promised a "strong home front"; during last week’s interviews granted on the eve of the holiday, Olmert promised that "Iran will never go nuclear"; the diplomatic and security effort this government is focused on these days is meant to secure a tahdiyeh (lull) in the South during the coming month, so that the Independence Day celebrations, and especially the visit by U.S. President George W. Bush, will not be marred; and the epitome of this method - Israel is conducting negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to reach a "shelf agreement," which it has no intention to implement.
     The modus operandi selected by Olmert to conduct state affairs is drawn from the world of entertainment and anchored in the dominant media culture: He simulates reality and paints virtual solutions to real problems.

Opening to Hamas

Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/24/2008
      This was a week for Egypt and the region in general -- and maybe beyond -- to assess whether Hamas may or may not be engaged by a diplomatic drive aimed at setting long-stalled and ineffective Palestinian-Israeli peace talks back on track.
     "We are making good progress [mediating between Israel and Hamas]," Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit this week said in Washington. The foreign minister made his statement in the wake of a series of meetings held with senior US officials over several issues, primarily the fate of Middle East peacemaking in the remaining months of the tenure of US President George W Bush.
     As he elaborated, addressing months of Egyptian diplomatic/security mediation in an attempt to strike a truce -- or rather "period of quiet" -- between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Abul-Gheit acknowledged that whatever progress he was trying to make was hampered often by "certain trends inside Israel [that] challenge the idea, and certain trends inside Gaza [that also] challenge the idea," and that maybe "there could also be a foreign element."

Israel suspends family visits to prisoners

Report, Electronic Intifada 4/24/2008
      JERUSALEM/GAZA, 22 April 2008 (IRIN) - For families in the Gaza Strip with sons or daughters in Israeli jails, the past 11 months have been especially hard, as they could no longer visit their imprisoned relatives and have only had contact through brief written messages.
     "This issue is a humanitarian concern for us, for the families and the prisoners," Katharina Ritz, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jerusalem, told IRIN.
     "It is very important the families have contact with the people in jail; and psychologically, for the prisoners, it is important to have contact with the family," she said, noting that families bring books and clothes for their relatives.
     According to the Israeli rights group B’tselem, over 760 Gazans, including four women, are in Israeli jails. They are all there for "security" crimes -- anything from alleged membership of an "illegal group" to proven acts of militancy.

This land was theirs

Hannah Mermelstein, Electronic Intifada 4/24/2008
      On 20 March 1941, Yosef Weitz of the Jewish National Fund wrote: "The complete evacuation of the country from its other inhabitants and handing it over to the Jewish people is the answer."
     On this day in 1948, almost two months before the first "Arab-Israeli war" technically began, the 1,125 inhabitants of the Palestinian village Umm Khalid fled a Haganah military operation. Like their brethren from more than 500 villages, they likely thought they would return to their homes within a few weeks, after the fighting blew over and new political borders were or were not drawn.
     Instead, more than six million Palestinian people remain refugees to this day, some in refugee camps not far from their original towns, others in established communities in Europe and the US, all forbidden from returning to their homeland for one reason: they are not Jewish.

Yes, it is apartheid

Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 4/25/2008
      The anchorwoman was clearly shocked: I don’t have time now to respond to what you have said, she told the former U.S. president, allowing Jimmy Carter to make a narrow escape from her clutches. Then she added that she did not want to imagine what would happen to him if he bumped into her colleague from the security affairs desk in Channel 2’s dark alley. And the pundit sitting there, sunk in deep thought as always, nodded his heavy head, confirming: He’s lucky, the bastard, that we didn’t gang up on him and cut him to shreds.
     That’s how it is here: The rulers set the tone, and the media begins to gripe: Not only did Carter’s mission not help, it did damage. He alone was the reason Gilad Shalit was not ransomed out of captivity during the holiday. That’s what happens when an enemy of the human race, the twin of the Twin Towers’ bin Laden, sticks his nose where it does not belong.
     ....The white Afrikaners, too, had reasons for their segregation policy; they, too, felt threatened - a great evil was at their door, and they were frightened, out to defend themselves. Unfortunately, however, all good reasons for apartheid are bad reasons; apartheid always has a reason, and it never has a justification. And what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck - it is apartheid. Nor does it even solve the problem of fear: Today, everyone knows that all apartheid will inevitably reach its sorry end.

Remembering the past

Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/24/2008
      It takes more than seminars and conferences to resurrect ways of thinking. Renovation is a process undertaken by individuals at the intersection between the needs imposed by the socio-historical process and the course of the history of ideas. One of the most pressing needs is for thinkers of the type that embraced the concept of the "Arab idea" and who made their mark in the first half of the 20th century. Conferences and seminars will not produce them, just as they will fail to produce any other kinds of innovative thinkers. Ultimately the task of renewal falls upon the individual who must engage in a creative intellectual process.
     Since Arab national thought is not uniform we should not expect any renewal to be so. The factors that distinguish it from other trends of Arab thought are few, but they make all the difference. Even so, the difference is not sufficient to establish a distinct way of thought. Nationalism that is liberal democratic in outlook is a world away from nationalism that is fascistic. Nationalism is not a way of thought but the politicisation of an affiliation and it is as easy to imagine democratic bearers of the idea of politicising national affiliation as a platform for the realisation of sovereignty as it is to imagine fascist ones.