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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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26 April 2008


VIDEO - Teenage girl killed in Gaza raid
Al Jazeera 4/26/2008
A 14-year-old Palestinian girl has been killed in an exchange of heavy fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters in northern Gaza, according to medics. The Israeli military said that it had carried an air raid targeting armed men in Beit Lahiya, near the border with Israel, early on Saturday. "The air force launched two raids on Saturday morning against armed elements in the northern Gaza Strip," a spokeswoman said. Palestinian medics said that the girl was killed when an Israeli missile hit her house. Hamas officials told the Associated Press news agency that Hassan Marouf, a local leader of the group, was the target of the Israeli raid and troops withdrew after detaining him. The dead girl was reportedly his daughter, Mariam. Seven people were wounded in air raids, three of them left in a critical condition, they said. -- See also: YouTube: Fourteen-year-old girl killed in Israeli raid

Israel rejects Gaza truce offer
Dan Williams, The Independent 4/25/2008
Israel has dismissed Hamas’s offer of a six-month ceasefire in Gaza in return for lifting a blockade on the territory, on a day when a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli security guards in the West Bank in an attack claimed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Hamas offer, issued on Thursday following talks with Egyptian mediators, departed from previous demands by the group that any ceasefire apply simultaneously in Gaza and the occupied West Bank - the territories where Palestinians want statehood. Hamas said Egypt would raise the truce idea with Israel next week and that it expected a more binding Israeli decision then. Israel has been reluctant to enter any formal agreement that could shore up the hardline Islamists against their West Bank-based rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as he pursues US-sponsored peace talks with the Jewish state.

President Abbas: nothing from meeting with Bush
Palestine News Network 4/25/2008
Washington / PNN - President Abbas said that he failed to achieve any progress in his talks with US President George W. Bush in Washington. Abbas stressed to the press that he will go back to Ramallah without any results from his visit to the United States. Critics say that despite big talk by George Bush, he has yet to grasp the situation in order to act as anything other than a mouth piece for the Israelis. President Abbas expressed his pessimism about the possibility of reaching a peace agreement with Israel before the end of this year despite the statements made by the US for the conference in Annapolis last November and since then. The Israeli government has only continued its settlement expansion and not released any prisoners, while general attacks are up 300 percent. The Palestinian president said that the main obstacle to peace talks was Israel’s continued expansion of settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

Weekly demonstrations in Bil’in, Al-Khader and Shabtin villages
International Solidarity Movement 4/26/2008
Bil’in: On Friday, the villagers of Bil’in located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah conducted their weekly non-violent protest against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village land. As the case each week, villagers from Bil’in along with Israeli and international peace activists marched towards the location of the Wall which is separating the village from its land. As soon as the protest reached the gate of the Wall soldiers showered the protesters with tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets. Scores of protesters were treated for gas inhalation. The village of Bil’in has been protesting the construction of the wall on the village’s land since around three years. Today Abdullah abu Rahmeh, the coordinator of The popular committee for Wall and land defense welcomed the international supporters who came from different countries in support of the local. . .

Palestinians Pledge Fuel for Aid Agency Amid Shortages
Rory Mccarthy And Allegra Stratton, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
Palestinian fuel distributors in the Gaza Strip agreed today to provide an emergency shipment to a UN aid agency that had warned it would have to halt food distribution unless its trucks received fuel. UN food assistance to 650,000 Palestinian refugees had been scheduled to stop today due to fuel cuts, but Mahmoud al-Khuzundar, of the Association for Petrol Station Owners in the Gaza Strip, said 50,000 litres (13,209 gallons) of diesel would be delivered to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The agency said it needed 7,000 litres a day for food distribution. An Israeli official estimated that 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 1m litres of fuel. He accused Hamas of preventing its distribution. For nearly three weeks, the fuel distributors have effectively been on strike in protest at Israeli cutbacks in supplies.

IDF troops wound West Bank Palestinian trying to enter Israel
Avi Isaacharoff and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Israel Defense Forces soldiers late Saturday shot and wounded a Palestinian man after he attempted to cross the West Bank security fence into Israel near the settlement of Elkana. Troops shot the man as he jumped up onto the fence, they had earlier called on him to stop and had threatened to shoot him if he did not do so. When the Palestinian did not respond to their calls, they shot and wounded him. IDF soldiers subsequently took him for treatment in a hospital in Israel. Earlier on Saturday evening, IDF troops caught two Palestinians who had infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip near the Kissufim border crossing. Security forces detained the pair, who were apparently unarmed, for questioning and to clarify the circumstances of the incident.

Palestinian lawmakers, doctors appeal for end of Gaza siege
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmad Bahar, appealed to the leaders of Arab States and the United Nations on Saturday to "to shoulder their historical and moral responsibilities [to relieve] the ongoing disaster in the life of the people due to the embargo imposed on the Gaza Strip"Palestinian lawmakers held a rally in front of the ambulance and emergency center in Gaza City in order to amplify their demand that the international community compel Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Most ambulances have been forced to stop running in Gaza due to a shortage of fuel resulting from the blockade. Bahar warned that a "catastrophic" humanitarian situation is looming in Gaza if thes siege continues. He added that he believes that the blockade is intended to reduce Palestinians to a basic existence, forcing them to forget their. . .

Bush Meets Abbas, but Palestinians Criticize Plans for Trip
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
As he prepares for his second trip this year to the Middle East, President Bush is facing mounting criticism from some Palestinians who are upset that he will go to Israel for its 60th birthday celebration without marking the flip side of that event: the flight of Palestinians from their homes. Mr. Bush met Thursday at the White House with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. . . . The leaders are expected to meet in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, during Mr. Bush’s trip. Mr. Bush’s plans are creating consternation among Palestinians, who accuse him of being insensitive to their perspective on the events of 1948. "It’s a slap in the face,” said Dianna Buttu, a former negotiator for Mr. Abbas who now works as a lawyer in Ramallah, on the West Bank. Mr. Bush, she said, is “saying to the Palestinians, ‘You have no history, and your past does not matter. ’ He’s not visiting a refugee camp, he’s not meeting survivors of the forced expulsion.

Israeli settlers deliberately shoot Palestinian young man in Salfit
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian young man called Essam Eissa, 24, from the Yasouf village in Salfit, northern West Bank, was seriously wounded after Israeli settlers deliberately shot him Friday with internationally forbidden dumdum bullets.   His family said that Eissa was shot by Zionists of the Tafoh settlement adjacent to the village, adding that six settlers stormed the Tal area, north of the village, and intentionally opened fire at him as he was near his house. The Yasouf village suffers from round-the-clock raids carried out by settlers or IOF troops. In retaliation to the ongoing Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, the Salahuddin Brigades, the armed wing of the popular resistance committees, and Abu Rish Brigades, an offshoot of the dissolved armed wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility for attacking at noon Friday an IOF patrol near the Artah area in Tulkarem.

Palestinian police officer shot by Israeli settlers
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli settlers shot a Palestinian police officer near the West Bank village of Yasuf, south of Nablus, before fleeing on Thursday, witnesses said. Twenty-four-year-old Issam Abdel Kader Isa said that six Israelis, apparently from the nearby Kfar Tappuah settlement, opened fire at him while he was standing near his house on Thursday. Isa was treated at Yasser Arafat Hospital in the town of Salfit for wounds on his hands. Medics called his injuries "moderate. " Isaa works at a training center for Palestinian police officers near the West Bank city of Jericho. [end]

Relatives banned from visiting detained MP for 20 months
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Israeli prisons authority has been barring relatives of detained Palestinian MP Mahmoud Musleh from visiting him in Ofer jail ever since his detention 20 months ago despite suffering acute rheumatism. The MP told the lawyer of the Nafha legal society that ever since his arrest on 27/8/2006 no clothes or any other personal needs were allowed for him. The lawmaker was arrested along with more than 50 of his PLC colleagues and ex-ministers on that same day. The lawyer met eight detained PLC members during his recent visit to Ofer and Nitzan prisons. [end]

Charities targeted in Hebron
Palestine News Network 4/25/2008
Hebron / PNN - Israeli forces stormed the sewing factory of the Islamic Charitable Society in Hebron Saturday morning. The Israelis issued a mandate in the occupied southern West Bank city that the employees must evacuate within two days. Ownership will be overtaken and the Israelis will close the factory. A number of workers report that Israeli soldiers also stormed the house of the operator which is also an orphanage. Israeli authorities are confiscating the orphanage and closing it as of 28 April for three years. Israeli soldiers threatened personnel and workers that if they maintained a presence after this date, they would be arrested for five years. It is noteworthy that Israeli forces stormed the orphanage and sewing factory weeks ago, detained workers and confiscated equipment. The same situation occurred in the charitable bakery.

Three Palestinians seized from Tulkarem refugee camp, including one industrial zone worker
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized three Palestinians from Tulkarem refugee camp in the northern West Bank at dawn on Saturday, one of them a worker at the Israeli industrial zone where two guards were killed by Palestinian fighters on Thursday. Palestinian security sources said that a large number of Israeli troops invaded the camp from the west. The Palestinian security forces, on a request from the Israeli military, withdrew from the streets before the raid began, the sources said. Israeli soldiers detained Jihad Riyad Al-Maghrebi (age unknown), 29-year-old Thaer Ibrahim Abed Rabbo, and 26-year-old Nimr Abu Tammam. Abed Rabbo currently works at the industrial zone, and Abu Tammam worked there until six months ago, local sources said. Witnesses said Israeli troops searched dozens of houses, including one belonging to Muhamad Kheryoush, a resident of the refugee camp.

Israel: Gaza cease-fire only if small factions join
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Israel is waiting for the results of talks between Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups this Wednesday before it takes a position on a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The talks are due to take place in Cairo. Security officials have said that if Hamas cannot restrain the smaller groups, first and foremost Islamic Jihad, there will not be much point to the agreement. Without completely restraining the smaller groups, the firing of Qassam rockets from the Strip will soon resume, they say, as has happened in the past. Israel is not officially a party to the agreement being discussed, which would be between Hamas and Egypt. But the offices of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni receive steady reports on talks between Egypt, Hamas and other groups. If Egypt reaches an agreement with all the groups, its intelligence chief coordinating the talks, Omar Suleiman, may soon come to Israel.

Border games
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
If Israel rejects Hamas’ terms for a cease-fire, then Cairo will consider unilaterally opening its border with the besieged Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said yesterday. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Abu Zuhri said Hamas’ proposal was drawn up with Egypt, which allegedly guaranteed it would be implemented. Whether Egypt actually made any such guarantees to Hamas over the cease-fire is of little importance. What matters is that Hamas made Cairo responsible for opening its border crossing with the Gaza Strip. If it fails to do so, Hamas may stage a storming of the border like the one that took place in January. If Egypt opens the border unilaterally, however, it will precipitate a crisis with Israel. Hamas is banking on the Arab public coming to its aid in the event of a border breach. Yesterday speakers at a Hamas-organized protest in Gaza threatened to punch a hole through the re-erected fences.

Israeli incursions sinking hopes of truce, Islamic Jihad leader says
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel’s military attacks are thwarting Egyptian efforts at brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian military factions, an Islamic Jihad leader asserted on Saturday. "The Israeli incursions and invasions aimed at foiling the Egyptian efforts to reach the calm in the region to result in the opening of the crossing and breaking the blockade," Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al-Batsh told Ma’an. "The occupation forces are continuing their aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank aimed to exert pressure on the Palestinian people and its resistance factions," he added. The most recent Israeli incursion on Saturday morning in the Gaza Strip left a 14-year-old girl dead and seven others wounded after Israeli forces caused a shootout while attempting to arrest a Hamas leader.

Abbas to leave Washington ''empty handed''
Saed Bannoura & Agenices, International Middle East Media Center News 4/26/2008
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said that his talks with the US President, George Bush, and US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, have failed in achieving any positive results. Abbas stated that the talks failed to address the core issues of an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a halt of Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. The president added that he will be heading back to the Palestinians territories "with no, or little to show". Israeli Ynetnews reported that Abbas told the Associated Press that it does not seem that a peace deal would be achieved with Israel this year. He added that one of the biggest obstacles in front of peace talks is the issue of Israel’s ongoing expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. "We demanded the US Administration to implement the first phase of the Road Map Peace Plan which talks about. . .

Hamas advises Abbas to declare failure of settlement, return to internal dialog
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Saturday urged PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to officially declare the failure of the settlement talks with Israeli occupation and to return to internal, national dialogue. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said in a press release that Abbas’s visit to Washington had ended in complete failure as affirmed by Abbas himself in a statement to the AP. Such failure proved that American president George Bush’s allegation of supporting the creation of a Palestinian state before end of his term in office by the end of 2008 was a sheer lie and deception. Hamas calls on Abbas to return to talks with Palestinian forces to build a solid internal front in face of Israeli aggression, Abu Zuhri concluded. For his part, Abbas told Reuters in another interview before leaving Washington that "necessary concessions" should be made on the part of both Israel and. . .

Abu Zuhri calls on Abbas to declare the failure of peace talks
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/26/2008
Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesperson of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, called on the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to officially declare the failure of peace talks with Israel and the United States. Abu Zuhri stated that Abbas ended a visit to Washington without achieving any progress as the US President, George Bush, and his associates failed to give any guarantees, especially regarding a Palestinian State, within the boundaries of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital. "Everything is now back on square zero", Abu Zuhri stated, "The occupation is still ongoing with its attacks, settlement construction and expansion". Abu Zuhri added that Abbas himself told the Associated Press that he was leaving the Unites States empty handed. "All talks on a Palestinian State are lies and delusions", Abu Zuhri added, "The US is clearly rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital".

Olmert and Abbas Lose Support over Stalled Peace Process
Sheera Frenkel, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
Israeli and Palestinian leaders were pursuing diplomatic initiatives on three fronts yesterday as both fought for their political survival. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, both suffer from discontent in their ranks and low poll ratings that have refused to recover as US-brokered peace talks fail to make significant progress. Mr Abbas met President Bush in Jordan yesterday in an effort to put pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank and open up road blocks. An official in Mr Abbas’s Fatah government said that failure to see progress on those two key points was causing disillusionment among Palestinians over his ability to lead. “If [the Israelis] want us to continue to lead and the West Bank not to fall into the hands of the Hamas, they must take some effort to follow through on the promises they made to us,” the official said.

Nafha: ''Occupation forces kidnapped 250 Palestinians in April''
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 4/26/2008
Media Office of the Nafha Society for Defending Detainees Rights and Human Rights published a report on Saturday stating that Israeli occupation forces kidnapped 250 Palestinians since the beginning of April. The Society added that 90 of the kidnapped residents were from Nablus, and the rest were from Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilia and Salfit. The Society said that soldiers kidnapped 40 children and two women in April. The two women aged 20 and 28 are from Hebron and Balata refugee camp in Nablus. 11 of the kidnapped children are from Nablus, 10 are from Tulkarem, 6 are from Hebron, 3 from Salfit, 2 from Qalqilia, one from Bethlehem and one from Jenin. The Society added that soldiers also kidnapped a political analyst identified as Ali Jaradat after breaking into his home in Ramallah, and also kidnapped Hazim Dweik, the son of the detained head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr.

Report: IOF troops killed 60 Palestinians including 16 children in April
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Mizan center for human rights reported Saturday that the IOF troops had killed since the beginning of April until this Saturday morning 60 Palestinian citizens including 16 children and wounded 120 others. With these new statistics, the number of Palestinians killed by the IOF troops since the beginning of this year reached 341 victims. In a statement received by the PIC, the center condemned the Israeli occupation for its increasing use of mass punishment against the Gaza Strip through slashing quantities of fuel supplies allowed into the Strip, pointing out that such actions seriously undermine human rights and are incompatible with the protection afforded by international humanitarian law for civilians under occupation. The center called on the international community to take a stance against what is happening in the Strip and to pressure Israel to stop its. . .

STC: Incarceration conditions of Palestinian children in Israeli jails shocking
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
LONDON, (PIC)-- Britain-based Save the Children organization revealed facts described as "shocking" related to incarceration conditions of Palestinian children in Israeli occupation jails, pointing out that the most disturbing phenomenon observed by international organization was that Israel arrests children and issues sentences against them harsher than others.   According to the organization, the IOF troops kidnapped 6,000 Palestinian children since the beginning of the Aqsa Intifada eight years ago, and there are currently more than 320 children detained in Israeli jails, adding that the IOA detains on average about 700 children every year. Greg Ram, the deputy director of international operations of the organization, underlined that the Israeli measures represented by the arrest of Palestinian children even for simple reasons deprive hundreds of them from enjoying their natural rights.

Druze hold protest against construction projects in North
Jacky Khoury, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Over a thousand Druze rallied at the Ha Tishbi Junction in the North of the country Saturday to protest a series of upcoming construction projects they say will cause many Druze to lose large tracts of privately held land. The land in question includes large agricultural areas owned by the Druze towns of Daliat al-Carmel and Osfayah. The rally was peaceful and ended without incident. Demonstrators say they were not consulted on the 12 planned construction programs and were not offered compensation. Hundreds of Druze communal and religious leaders gathered at the spot, led by Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafek Tarif. Arab Israeli Knesset members Ahmed Tibi, Mohammed Barakeh, and Jamal Zahalkha also attended the rally. Daliat al-Carmel Mayor Acram Hason spoke to demonstrators at the rally, saying that the Druze "give far more to the country than we get in return.

Israeli air raid kills Palestinian teen in Gaza
Middle East Online 4/25/2008
GAZA CITY - The teenage daughter of a Hamas chief was killed and eight people were wounded in an Israeli air raid at dawn on the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Palestinian health officials said on Saturday. The 14-year-old, Maryam Talat Maruf, died when a missile fired by an Israeli aircraft hit her house in Beit Lahiya north of Gaza City, they said, adding that the eight others were wounded. Hamas, which controls the inside of Israeli-occupied Gaza, said in a statement that "Israeli forces Saturday killed the daughter of Hassan Maruf," a local leader in the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed branch of the democratically elected Palestinian movement. Witnesses said Maruf was detained by Israeli soldiers who entered the area supported by tanks. An Israeli military spokeswoman said that "the air force launched two raids on Saturday morning against armed elements in the northern Gaza Strip.

14-year-old girl killed by Israeli troops in northern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli forces killed a 14-year-old girl, Maryam Tal’at Ma’rouf, and injured her mother, Samyah Ma’rouf, along with six others during an incursion in Beit Layiha, in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, witnesses said. Israeli special forces, with helicopters hovering overhead, invaded Beit Layiha at dawn, surrounding the house of Hamas leader Samyah Ma’rouf. Witnesses said the Israeli troops opened fire on the house, killing the child. Israeli troops engaged in a heavy exchange of fire with Palestinian fighters in the area. The Israeli forces withdrew at 7:30am after seizing Tal’at Ma’rouf. Muawiyah Hassanein, the director of emergency and ambulance services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, identified some of the wounded: 40-year-old Saleh Ma’rouf, Saleh Ma’rouf, 27-year-old Zuhair Sobh, Ziad, 28-year-old Mustafa Sobh, 25-year-old Ahmad Abd al-Muttalib Al-Kahlout, 14-Year-old Al-Kahlout.

IOF troops kill Palestinian girl, wound 10 citizens
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
Beit Lahia, (PIC)-- A Palestinian child was killed and ten other citizens were wounded in an Israeli occupation forces’ incursion that started shortly after midnight Friday and continued till dawn Saturday, medical and local sources reported. The medical sources told PIC correspondent that that the little girl, Mariam Marof, was killed in the IOF troops’ shooting west of Beit Lahia, and added that two women and two members of the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, were among the wounded. Local sources said that an IOF unit encircled the home of a Hamas activist in Beit Lahia, north of Gaza Strip, before violent clashes erupted in the vicinity of the house which was set ablaze. The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, said that one of its groups spotted the infiltrating IOF unit and engaged its members before blasting four devices in the advancing force.

Manhunt over: IDF nabs 2 Palestinian infiltrators
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/26/2008
Two Palestinians who crossed Gaza Strip border fence north of Kissufim Crossing Saturday night captured by IDF troops; high alert lifted. Earlier, area residents ordered to stay home for fear of terror attack - Gaza manhunt over:IDF forces captured two Palestinians who crossed the Gaza border fence north of the Kissufim Crossing Saturday night. Earlier, the IDF surrounded the Kissufim area, which was sealed off after the two infiltrators were spotted within Israeli territory. The infiltrators, who were spotted by the IDF around 8 pm Saturday, were apparently armed and wearing bullet-proof vests. Immediately following the infiltration, residents in the southern communities of Nir Oz, Re’im, Nirim, Kissufim, and Ein Hashlosha were ordered to stay indoors and community security teams were called in.

Palestinian fighters shell Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Two Palestinian military groups claimed responsibility for attacking the Israeli town of Sderot, which borders the Gaza Strip, on Saturday. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Saturday for firing a mortar shell at Sderot. Separately, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for launching a homemade projectile at Sderot, on Saturday morning. Both organizations told Ma’an that their actions were a response to Israel’s deadly attacks in the Palestinians territories. [end]

Israeli tanks, bulldozers enter southern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Five Israeli tanks and two armored bulldozers entered the Gaza Strip near the Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem) crossing point just after noon on Saturday, witnesses said. Witnesses added that the bulldozers are clearing the area where Hamas fighters attacked the crossing point with car bombs last week. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were wounded in that attack. [end]

Probe finds serious faults after fatal terror attack
Yuval Azoulay Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Authorities began yesterday to investigate Friday’s shooting attack at the Nitzanei Shalom industrial zone, in which two Israeli security guards were killed. Preliminary findings of the investigation, in which the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the private firm securing the site are involved, have revealed serious problems with the way the site, near the West Bank city of Tul Karm, was secured. The victims of the attack were Shimon Mizrahi, 53, of Bat Hefer, and Eli Wasserman, 50, of Alfei Menashe. A third guard fled after the gunman opened fire. Military officials said they believe the gunman was a Palestinian militant. Islamic Jihad, Hamas and a number of Fatah factions all claimed responsibility for the killings. Investigators have not ruled out personal motives in the attack, however.

Demining body cleared 287,255 square meters during March
Daily Star 4/26/2008
BEIRUT: The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) issued their report for the month of March on Friday, detailing efforts made in clearing Israeli munitions that litter the South. During the month of March, MAG successfully cleared 287,255 square meters of land "through hand, electronic, and visual techniques. "The group also removed and destroyed 231 cluster bombs and other unexploded munitions, including 219 sub-munitions and 12 items of unexploded ordinance. MAG teams operate in 15 southern villages, including Yohmor, Zawtar West, Arnoun, Adshit, Jebshit, Kfar Ruman, Qosaybeh, Nabatieh and Habbouche, among others. The United Nations and international human rights groups say that Israel dropped about 4 million cluster bomblets on Lebanon during the 2006 war. At least one million of those failed to explode and continue to pose a lethal threat to civilians in South Lebanon.

Bedouin woman seriously injured in dud blast
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 4/26/2008
Negev resident’s hand severed by shell dud in IDF firing zone. Woman’s husband claims she was looking for lumber - A 42-year old Bedouin woman from the Negev was seriously injured Saturday after a dud exploded in an IDF training zone. Paramedics reported that the woman’s hand had to be amputated due to the injury, and she was evacuated by helicopter to receive treatment in Beersheba. According to the report, the woman was injured when she attempted to pick up an IDF shell dud, which exploded in her hand. The police launched an investigation into the incident. The woman’s husband said they had come to the area to herd their sheep. He said his wife had gone to look for lumber for a fire, when suddenly he heard a blast. When he saw his wife’s bleeding limb, he drove her to the nearest IDF base, where a doctor treated her.

Rightist Ben-Gvir blames police for Hebron clash with leftists
Meron Rapoport and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir on Saturday accused Hebron police of "making possible the left-wing activists’ provocation" which led to clashes earlier in the day in the West Bank town between settlers and leftist demonstrators. Earlier Saturday, Hebron settlers attacked leftists on a protest march through the center of Hebron. According to the police, the settlers "tried to carry out a pogrom" on the demonstrators. Ben-Gvir, however, charged that the leftists blocked the city’s main road and did not allow Jewish traffic to move along it, as well as attacking a settler who was in need of medical treatment. "If the situation had happened the other way around, police would have arrested them in good time. We don’t deny that we pushed them and defended ourselves. Lawbreakers need to understand that we will not turn the other cheek for their behavior.

European left joins Palestinian nonviolent resistance
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 4/25/2008
Bil’in -- The weekly nonviolent resistance against the Wall and settlements in western Ramallah’s Bil’in Village continues, but Friday’s demonstration was brutal. Demonstrators have been undeterred despite beatings, shootings and arrests, but yesterday left dozens injured from gas inhalation. The noxious gas can leave a person choking, unable to breath or see, and in an utter state of chaos as a form of nerve damage sets in, permanent or not. After Friday prayers Bil’in residents left the central village mosque, along with dozens of foreign and Israeli supporters. Deputies from the European Left Party came in solidarity as well. Palestinian leftists from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Palestinian People’s Party (PPP), and the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) were also in Bil’in to support the massive and ongoing nonviolent efforts to stop the contraventions of Palestinian rights.

IMF Praises PA for ’Bold Reforms,’ Strides Toward Fiscal Sustainability
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
The International Monetary Fund on Friday praised the Palestinian government for what it calls ’bold reforms’ and said it was making strides toward fiscal sustainability. The agency’s report Friday praises President Mahmoud Abbas’ government for freezing public sector hiring and wage increases and reducing utility subsidies. But it says the deficit remains high. The Abbas government has promised international donors to try to reduce spending, and especially the government payroll. The IMF issues regular progress reports on the government’s performance. The reports are part of a Palestinian development plan underwritten by $7. 7 billion (4. 9 billion) in international aid. The IMF report also calls on Israel to ease movement restrictions to help the Palestinian economy recover. Source: The Associated Press, 25 April.

Israeli authorities deny fuel shortage in Gaza Strip
Palestine News Network 4/25/2008
Gaza Strip / PNN -- The Israeli authorities are denying human rights reports, those of the United Nations, the Ministry of Education, and from Gazans themselves, that there is a fuel shortage in the Gaza Strip. Cars are unable to run for the most part, while periodically cooking fuel is allowed to be imported. It was reported that Israeli forces allowed in enough fuel to run the power plant for three days yesterday. Israeli military sources said on Friday that heycannot transfer more quantities fuel into the Strip since the fuel tanks are filled. The Vice President of the Assembly of Owners of Fuel Companies in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Alkhozndar, had said last night that the Assembly was unable to transfer the amount of 50 thousand liters of diesel from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in urgent aid to avoid stopping the activities of this agency in the Strip.

Gordimer may bow to pressure, skip Israel writers meet
David B. Green, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
South African writer Nadine Gordimer may pull out of her appearance next month at Jerusalem’s International Writers Festival in the face of a widespread campaign pressuring her to cancel. The 84-year-old Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature, is scheduled to make three appearances at the festival, which runs at Mishkenot Sha’ananim May 11-15. Other writers slated to attend include Americans Nathan Englander, Jonathan Safran Foer and Russell Banks, as well as Israelis David Grossman and Amos Oz, the latter of whom is scheduled to share the stage with Gordimer on May 12. "I am dealing with the issue now," Gordimer told Haaretz in a telephone conversation from her home in Johannesburg on Friday. She declined to comment further on the controversy, except to say she would soon make a public statement on her decision.

Israel to remove roadblock near Nablus, PA says
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israel has informed the Palestinian Authority (PA) that it plans to remove checkpoint number 17 north of the Wet Bank city of Nablus, and will allow the Palestinian Authority to open a police station in a village near Nablus. Ghassan Al-Masri the PA’s spokesperson for Nablus told Ma’an: "Israel officially informed the Palestinian Authority about the removal of the barrier on the coming Monday. There will facilitation of the movement of people around Nablus. " Al-Masri added that the decision came after a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli officials on Friday. The Palestinian side demanded the removal of the notorious Huwwara checkpoint, south of Nablus, and Beit Iba checkpoint, to the east of the city. Neither request was granted. Israel has also reportedly agreed to allow the PA to open a police station in the village of Beit Furik, east of Nablus.

Report: Hamas trying to develop explosive UAV
Roee Nahmias and AP, YNetNews 4/26/2008
Palestinian terror group collaborating with Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on obtaining or developing drones that could be used against Israel, state-run Cairo paper a-Ahram reports - The Egyptian authorities are investigating the possibility that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are cooperating on the development of explosive drones, state-run Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram reported Saturday. Egyptian security forces detained four people and have accused them of plotting to buy fuel for a pilotless aircraft for Hamas, security sources said on Saturday. Two of those detained were members of Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood. Sources said the two men had given $3,700 to two other Egyptians to buy fuel and a remote control device for a small aircraft. The small aircraft was meant to be loaded with explosives for an attack on an unknown target.

Hamas denies cooperating with Egyptian brotherhood cell to manufacture drone
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Saturday denied Egyptian press reports claiming that the Movement cooperated with the Muslim brotherhood group in Egypt to purchase components of a drone capable of carrying explosives. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, in an exclusive statement to the PIC, said that the news report published by the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram was a "big lie". He charged that publishing such news fell in line with the campaign led by Al-Ahram and a number of other papers against Hamas and the Palestinian people. He explained that the report was an attempt by certain parties to link Hamas with the Egyptian brotherhood and then involve Hamas in internal Egyptian differences. The spokesman reminded those parties that Hamas is a Palestinian national liberation movement and not an Egyptian movement. He asked those inciting parties to stop incitement against the Palestinian people.

Hamas denies Egyptian paper’s report on obtaining drones
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/26/2008
The Al Ahram Egyptian Newspaper reported Saturday that Hamas movement is collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in order to obtain or develop drones that could carry explosives and be used against Israel. Hamas movement totally rejected the claim. The newspaper said that Egyptian Authorities are currently investigating a possible collaboration between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in order to develop or obtain drones. The newspaper added that security forces in Egypt arrested four persons and accused them of plotting to buy fuel in order to be used for the unmanned drones. Two of the detained residents are members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Israeli Ynetnews reported. The Ynetnews added that the two of the detained men gave an amount of 3700 USD to two other men in order to buy fuel and a remote control device for a small drone.

Muslim Brotherhood denies aiding Hamas in developing drones
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
The Muslim Brotherhood is denying charges Saturday brought by Egyptian authorities alleging that members of the Islamist organization aided Hamas by providing components used to build aerial drones. Egyptian security forces detained four people and have accused them of plotting to buy fuel for a pilotless aircraft for Hamas, security sources said on Saturday. The sources said two of those detained were members of Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood. They said the two men had given 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,700) to two other Egyptians to buy fuel and a remote control device for a small aircraft. Mohamed Mursi, a member of the Brotherhood’s governing Guidance Office, said the accusations were "completely baseless" and denied any Brotherhood involvement in such a plan.

’No deal because of Israeli prisoners’
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 4/26/2008
Arab MK says disagreement on release of Arab-Israeli prisoners hindering Shalit deal - A deal for the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is being delayed because of disagreement on the release of Arab-Israeli prisoners, Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka said Saturday. The common perception until now was that a prisoner swap was being held back because of disagreements over the identity of Palestinian prisoners to be freed in such deal. However, Zahalka said there was another issue at play. "One of the biggest obstacles to the Gilad Shalit deal and a deal on the captives in Lebanon is the demand to release Arab-Israeli prisoners," he said. "The government refuses to discuss this. " The Balad Knesset member was speaking in a ceremony at a Galilee village to mark Arab Prisoner Day.

Israel to allow six Palestinian police stations reopened in West Bank Area B
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Israeli government has approved the reopening of six Palestinian police stations in the Area B of the West Bank, where, as designated by the Oslo accords, the Israeli military dominates the security situation, informed sources told Ma’an on Saturday. The Palestinian forces will begin the process in the coming days of reopening police stations in villages around the city of Nablus, such as Asira Ash-Shamaliya, Tell, Beit Furik, Aqraba, Beit Amrein and Talfit. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak pledged at the end of March to take steps to ease Palestinian life in the West Bank by removing checkpoints and allowing the Palestinian Authority to reopen police stations.

Abbas warns of ’difficult impasse’ in peace talks
Middle East Online 4/25/2008
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned on Saturday of an "extremely difficult impasse" if a peace deal is not reached with Israel before US President George W. Bush leaves office in January. "If President Bush’s term ends without an accord we will find ourselves at an extremely difficult impasse, and we Palestinians will have to look at what measures we can take if that is the case," Abbas said on board his flight back to the Middle East which made a stopover in Scotland. Abbas was in the White House on Thursday to meet Bush who is pushing for a peace deal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the end of his term early next year. The Palestinian leader said that Bush "clearly realises that time is short, but he remains hopeful of being able to achieve something. " Bush said after meeting Abbas that a Palestinian state was "a high priority, for me and my administration. . .

Israeli Law Would Pay Settlers to Leave West Bank
Laurie Copans, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
When the Ventura family moved to this West Bank settlement 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. Olmert and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank are trying to conclude such an agreement by year’s end, despite enormous obstacles.

Abbas doubts deal with Israel possible this year
Reuters, YNetNews 4/26/2008
Palestinian leader skeptical following US visit but vows to ’negotiate until very end’ - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he was uncertain after talks in Washington this week that a peace deal with Israel was possible this year, but vowed to pursue negotiations. "The gaps between us and Israel on final status issues are wide. Will we reach a deal by the end of the year? I don’t know, we will see," He said in an interview as he flew from Washington to Sharm el-Sheikh for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "But my option is to negotiate. I will continue to negotiate until the very end," Abbas said, after aides said he had been disappointed by his talks with US officials. He said an agreement was possible only if Israel adopted "more realistic positions" in the negotiations.

PFLP leaders heading to Cairo for talks on efforts at Palestinian unity
Ma’an News Agency 4/26/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A delegation of leaders from the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) will travel to Cairo on Monday to meet with senior Egyptian officials to discuss efforts at mending the ongoing political split in internal Palestinian politics, a PFLP source said on Saturday. The delegation will include Abdul Rahim Mallouh, a member of the PFLP’s executive committee, Deputy Secretary-General Maher At-Taher, Jamil Al-Majdalawi and Rabah Mhanna. The PFLP source said that the talks would also include Egypt’s efforts to lift the Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip, and attempts to stop the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Another left-wing faction, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also received an invitation from the Egyptian Government to attend talks in Cario.

Turkey PM in Syria on peace mission
Al Jazeera 4/26/2008
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, is in Damascus to discuss the possible resumption of peace talks between Israel and Syria. Before his departure from Ankara on Saturday, Erdogan said that improving ties with regional countries had allowed Turkey to step up efforts to facilitate peace in the Middle East. "The atmosphere of trust makes it necessary for Turkey to act as a mediator," he said at Ankara’s Esenboga airport. Turkey is said to have secured assurances that Israel is willing to return the Golan Heights to Syria which it has occupied for more than 40 years. Israel seized the strategically important plateau from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and annexed it in 1981. Opponents warn that a deal with Israel could increase tensions between Syria and Iran.

Would-be peacemaker Turkey pushing for Isarel-Syria meeting
and AP, By Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Turkey will try to organize a meeting with senior Syrian and Israeli officials, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday in Ankara following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. "There was a request from Syria and Israel for this kind of effort and Turkey will do its best in this regard," Erdogan said. "This effort will start with lower-level [officials] and if they are successful, God willing, they will end with a higher-level meeting. "Before leaving for Syria, Erdogan outlined his mediation. Erdogan said Turkish efforts to mediate between Syria and Israel were part of a broader effort by Ankara to play the role of regional peace maker. "I believe that our peace diplomacy will, God willing, make positive contributions to [peace] in Iraq, between Syria and Israel or between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

Turk PM in Syria to discuss mediation with Israel
Middle East Online 4/25/2008
DAMASCUS - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday to discuss Turkish attempts to help relaunch peace talks between Syria and Israel. Turkey, a Muslim country with close ties with Israel, has been relaying messages between Syria and Israel for months, diplomats say. Syrian officials say Erdogan called Assad last week to tell him Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had told Turkey that Israel was willing to give back all of Syria’s Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria. "The trust Turkey has makes it almost obligatory to take on a mediating role," Erdogan told reporters in Turkey before flying to the Syrian capital. "The peace diplomacy we carry out will have a positive contribution. . . whether in Iraq, between Syria and Israel or between Israel and Palestine.

Assad will tell you what’s happening
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
oming an aggressive opposition, of convincing people that the withdrawal is necessary, and with clearly demonstrating how Israel will benefit from this. How was Olmert planning to present the "painful concessions to the public? In a whisper? Through hypnosis? "Olmert’s silence" was so successful that the Syrian-Turkish disclosures on Israel’s position raised only questions concerning Syria: Why now? What does Assad gain from this? Is Assad serious? Can he deliver? As if Israel is the one that for years has stood on the border in the Golan Heights, waving peace offers while the Syrians have kept silent. Assad’s speeches and interviews to the international media about his desire for peace talks with Israel were forgotten. The framework he presented in July 2007, listing the demands and the stages of the negotiations needed to achieve the results his father, Hafez Assad, wanted - forgotten.

U.S. fumes after Gillerman brands Carter ’a bigot’
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
The United States registered an official protest with Israel against its ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, for calling former U. S. President Jimmy Carter an "enemy of Israel" prior to Carter’s recent visit to the region. A senior Foreign Ministry source said yesterday that the U. S. Embassy in Tel Aviv asked that Gillerman be made aware of the U. S. administration’s dissatisfaction with the disrespectful comments about the former U. S. President. In addition, the State Department is planning to issue a public statement condemning comments made by Gillerman at a press conference in New York on Thursday, where he called Carter a "bigot. "Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas," Gillerman told reporters.

US Congress: Israel homeland for Jewish people
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 4/26/2008
In honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary, Congress passes resolution pledging to strengthen US-Israel bond; Israel’s US Ambassador: Resolution testimony to America’s unwavering support - WASHINGTON - On the same week the Ben-Ami Kadish espionage affair threatened to harm US-Israeli relations, the US Congress has passed a resolution in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary that describes the bond between the two countries and pledges to boost it in the future. In the resolution, the US "recognizes the historic significance of the 60th anniversary of the reestablishment of the sovereign and independent State of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. "The resolution, which passed in a unanimous vote on Tuesday and Thursday that saw all the 100 senators in the two houses of Congress participating, recognizes "the 60th anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel and reaffirming the bonds of close friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel. "

McCain says Obama is candidate of Hamas
Middle East Online 4/25/2008
WASHINGTON - Republican John McCain took a shot at Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Friday, saying he was the candidate for the democratically elected Palestinian movement Hamas. "I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States," said McCain, his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, in a conversation with conservative bloggers. According to a transcript posted on the website of the Weekly Standard magazine, he said: "I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare. . . If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly. "Obama says he considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and he condemned the recent meeting between Democratic former president Jimmy Carter and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.

Hamas: McCain’s statement proves no hope in American foreign policy change
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement said on Saturday that the American republican party’s presidential nominee John McCain’s statement that if elected he would be "Hamas’s worst nightmare" was a clear proof of the strength of Hamas. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, one of Hamas’s spokesmen in Gaza, said in a press release that the statements prove that all in the incumbent and future American administrations were taking Hamas into account. The name of Hamas has become a major part of the American presidential candidates’ campaigns, he noted. The spokesman further noted that the statement proves that there was no hope in any change in the American foreign policy, and that all candidates were absolutely backing Israeli occupation at the expense of Arab and Palestinian rights in addition to constantly provoking against resistance.

U.S. Briefing on Syria Sets off Tension in Israel
Media Line Staff, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
A CIA briefing to members of Congress about Syria’s nuclear capabilities is causing tension in Jerusalem, which is rumored to be engaged in negotiations with Damascus over the Golan Heights. The Bush administration is presenting lawmakers with proof that the Syrian facility Israel is suspected of having bombed last September was, indeed, a nuclear weapons facility being built with the assistance of North Korea. Since the raid, neither the U. S. nor Israel has been willing to confirm Israel’s role or provide details. CIA Director Michael Hayden plans to show legislators video revealing North Korean personnel inside the reactor site and providing visual proof that the facility itself is identical to the Yongbyon reactor in North Korea. The administration plans briefings for both House and Senate intelligence, armed services and foreign relations committees. Reports out of Jerusalem indicate Israeli leaders are uneasy about the Bush administration’s plans to release the information.

Getting carried away
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Even though briefing Congress and the press kept Central Intelligence Agency Director, General Michael Hayden, busy last week, he still found time last Thursday to meet with senior officers in the agency and to praise them. He told them that they could be proud of the team effort and cooperation that exposed Syria’s secret construction of a nuclear reactor, and complimented them for their skillful intelligence gathering and its careful analysis. Even though it is obvious the CIA only revealed a smidgen of all it knows, its seems that the director got a little carried away with his praise. The CIA had intelligence about the construction of the suspicious structure in Syria from the onset, most likely since 2001. It seems that most of the information was based on spy satellite photos. This intelligence was bolstered by information received following the investigation into the activities of Dr. A. Q. Khan. . .

UN: Syria must explain reactor
Amos Harel Yossi Melman and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak postponed a trip to Washington scheduled to begin today in the wake of Thursday’s CIA briefing to Congress over Israel’s September 2007 airstrike on a Syrian nuclear installation. Barak was slated to meet with senior U. S. officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during the two-day visit. Barak made the decision a few days ago. The postponement is aimed at avoiding the impression that his meetings were in any way connected to the U. S. decision to disclosure information on the Syrian facility. Sources close to Barak also cited his desire to closely follow developments in talks over a cease-fire with Hamas as a reason for the deferment. . . . " A nuclear plant exposed to satellites in an open area in the heart of the Syrian desert? ," [Assad] was quoted. . .

Syrian envoy to U.S.: Photos of alleged nuke site fabricated by CIA
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Syria’s ambassador to the United States said Friday that the CIA fabricated pictures allegedly taken inside a secret Syrian nuclear reactor and predicted that in coming weeks the U. S. story about the site would implode from within. "The photos presented to me yesterday were ludicrous, laughable," Ambassador Imad Moustapha told reporters at his Washington residence. He refused to say what the building in the remote eastern desert of Syria was used for before Israeli jets bombed it in September 2007. Senior U. S. intelligence officials said Thursday they believe it was a secret nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, which can be used to make high-yield nuclear weapons. They alleged that North Korea aided in the design, construction and outfitting of the building.

The blame game
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Damascus officials were not impressed with the U. S. ’s take on Israel’s alleged attack on the suspected nuclear installation in northern Syria’s Deir ez-Zur region in September 2007. Syrian officials presented three arguments in an effort to refute the U. S. ’s claims. They categorically denied any intention to build a nuclear installation of any kind. They also blamed Washington for allegedly instigating the attack and and participating in it. According to Damascus, the Bush administration gave the mission a green light to justify its own aggressive policies in the Middle East. Syrian officials quoted an argument raised by a Damascus think tank that Israel itself had announced it did not perceive Syria as a nuclear threat. Syria, which is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation agreement, announced it would cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headed by Mohamed ElBaradei.

PM hints at IAF strike in Syria, says Israelis know gov’t can protect them
Mijal Grinberg and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
For the first time since the Israel Air Force strike on an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor last September, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday hinted at Israel’s involvement in the attack. "Today we can say that the residents of Israel know that they have a government that will protect them," Olmert said. The comments came at a Mimouna celebration, a Morrocan Jewish folk holiday of at the end of Passover, in Ofakim, a few days after the U. S. released information regarding the strike in a congressional hearing. "While there are threats on Israel, the government will know how to deal with them and make sure that those threats are removed," Olmert added. On Thursday, Senior U. S. intelligence officials said they believe the site of the alleged Israeli attack was a secret nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, which can be used to make high-yield nuclear weapons.

Mashaal: Truce a ’tactic’ in Palestinian struggle
AP, YNetNews 4/26/2008
Hamas leader tells al-Jazeera ceasefire with Israel part of ’normal’ strategy for ’any resistance’ - Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Saturday that the group would accept an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire with Israel but it would be a "tactic" In the group’s struggle with the Jewish state. The Damascus-based Mashaal said in an interview with al-Jazeera television that Egypt had proposed a six-month truce between the Hamas rulers of Gaza and Israel. He said his group was ready to cooperate but added: "It is a tactic in conducting the struggle. . . . It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people’s interest. . . to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit. . . the battle is to be run this way and Hamas is known for that," he said. "In 2003, there was a cease-fire and then the operations were resumed. "

Israeli Imbroglio
Jacob Heilbrunn, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
If secret agents are supposed to be handsome, or seductive, masters of derring-do, then America’s latest spy scandal has to come as something of a disappointment. The octogenarian Ben-Ami Kadish, whom the Justice Department is accusing of operating as an Israeli spy from 1979 to 1985 and who faces four counts of conspiracy, clad in a blue windbreaker and black sweatpants as he headed toward the courthouse, simply doesn’t cut the mustard. But his arrest has already created an uproar in Israel, where officials are scrambling to deflect blame. Kadish allegedly handed over documents related to the Patriot missile-defense system, F-15 fighter jets and nuclear technology between 1979 and 1985. Old news? Maybe. But Kadish apparently had the same handler as former civilian Naval intelligence officer Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison and whose early release Israel and a number of American Jewish organizations have been urging.

Gaza is on the verge of bread crisis
Palestinian Information Center 4/26/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Many of Gaza bakers warned that the Strip is on the verge of acute bread crisis because their bakeries would stop working during the coming few days due to scarcity of cooking gas and the depletion of flour. The bakers said that Gaza is suffering from flour crisis after many suppliers failed to deliver the remaining quantities of flour in their warehouses to bakeries because of lack of fuel supplies for their trucks.  The flour suppliers reported that the coming days would witness the shutdown of majority of bakeries, adding that the Israeli occupation had not allowed in flour quantities for more than a week because of the closure of the Mintar crossing. In a related context, the agriculture ministry in Gaza categorically denied Saturday the fake allegations of Mahmoud Al-Habbash, a minister in the PA unconstitutional government in Ramallah, about preventing farmers in the Strip from receiving their quotas of fuel.

Business in Brief
Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Rice prices will rise 70% this week, and other basic goods such as tuna, flour, coffee, oil and sugar will also become more expensive - though by about only 10%, said Super-Sol vice president Eli Gidor. He said no shortage is expected of such products, but conditions in the global food market may lead to such problems in the future. Other supermarket chains expect smaller increases in rice prices after Passover, by about 30 to 50%. World prices for rice have risen by about 50% so far this year, along with significant increases in prices for milk, meat, sugar and flour. Part of the problem is increased demand from countries such as China, while increased use of biofuels as well as bad weather and droughts have taken their toll. (Adi Dovrat and Ophir Bar-Zohar) Iscar chairman Eitan Wertheimer is busy arranging a tour for Warren Buffett and other Berkshire Hathaway executives in Europe.

Thousands attend Easter ritual at holy shrine in Jerusalem
Middle East Online 4/25/2008
JERUSALEM - Thousands of worshippers crowded Christianity’s holiest shrine to celebrate the Easter Week holy fire ritual, police said. Hundreds of police were deployed in and around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Saturday to control an estimated 10,000 pilgrims. Greek Orthodox, Armenians and other Eastern rite Christians mark Easter on Sunday, several weeks after observances by other Christian denominations. The two groups adhere to different calendars. On the day before Easter, Eastern rite churches mark the holy fire ritual. Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried where the church now stands. The ritual is in honor of the belief that a holy fire appears spontaneously from Jesus’ tomb as a message that he has not forgotten his followers.

Jordanians turn to Facebook to protest rising food prices
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/26/2008
Young Jordanians use social online network to call for general strike in protest of skyrocketing prices - As anger grows across the Middle East in the wake of a dramatic rise in food prices, young Jordanians have turned to Facebook in their struggle against the food crisis. At least 6,000 Jordanians signed an online petition on the popular social network within a day, after a message called on Jordanians to strike in solidarity with Egyptians who are also protesting the rising food prices. "For the sake of solidarity with our brothers who are striking in Egypt, let’s strike on May 4th. We will hold a general strike and stay at home until 11 a. m. ," the message read. "We are not talking about a political protest, but rather, popular, popular, popular!"The young Jordanians characterized their struggle as an effort to change the Middle East and see it reborn.

The Bush Team’s Geneva Hypocrisy
Jason Leopold, Middle East Online 4/25/2008
Newly released US government documents, detailing how Bush administration officials punched legalistic holes in the Geneva Convention’s protections of war captives, stand in stark contrast to the outrage some of the same officials expressed in the first week of the Iraq War when Iraqi TV interviewed several captured American soldiers. Then, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush and other administration officials orchestrated a chorus of outrage, citing those TV scenes as proof of the Iraq’s government contempt for international law in general and the Geneva Convention in particular. “It is a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention to humiliate and abuse prisoners of war or to harm them in any way. As President Bush said yesterday, those who harm POWs will be found and punished as war criminals,” Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said on March 24, 2003.


Palestinian kids and the zoo
Fadi Abu Sa''ada, Palestine News Network 4/25/2008
      For over four years now -- which is my child’s age - I have not succeeded in taking him to the zoo. I want to begin teaching him about simple things, such as the animals.
     The reason for the inability to do so is not simply that I am out of money. I do not I have permission to enter occupied Jerusalem to accompany him to the zoo, as it is the closest zoo to my town of Bethlehem, which is also occupied in the West Bank.
     Last Thursday a group of friends decided to take their kids on an adventure, the destination was the zoo in occupied Jerusalem, I asked them to take my child with them, as I can not leave my work to join them. After a long discussion whether my child, Majd, will be able to cross the military checkpoint at the northern entrance of Bethlehem alone, without parents, without a birth certificate, my friends decided to take him and give it a try.

Ignoring the madness in Gaza is no different from approving it

Editorial, Daily Star 4/26/2008
      Through its silence, the international community is effectively sanctioning one of the most shameful examples of inhumanity to have occurred in the 21st century. Some 1.5 million people, nearly half of them children under the age of 14, are being denied basic necessities like food and medical services for one simple reason: They live in the Gaza Strip
     For nearly a year now, Israel has imposed a blockade on the territory in what it says is an effort to crush Islamist militants there. But without access to the outside world, the humanitarian situation in Gaza has rapidly deteriorated. Food prices have risen dramatically, garbage is overflowing into residential streets, children are becoming increasingly malnourished and basic health services are being denied for lack of fuel and other supplies. This week, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other international aid organizations were forced to halt many of their vital operations in the besieged territory, including food-distribution services, due to a lack of fuel.

Israeli Ex-Soldiers Expose Abuse of Palestinians

Ilene Prusher, MIFTAH 4/26/2008
      Doron Efrati was assigned to the Kfir Brigade, part of an infantry battalion that was especially created to serve in the West Bank following the outbreak of the second intifada.
     He figured if he was going to be drafted anyway, he would agree to serve in the Israeli-occupied territories, "to see what really happens, and maybe to change things," he says. "But I didn’t succeed."
     Today, he is one of 39 recently discharged soldiers whose testimonies are part of a grim new report on the situation in the West Bank city of Hebron, where the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) oversee a volatile population of 700 to 800 Jewish settlers living amid nearly 170,000 Palestinians. The 118-page report, which tells of systematic mistreatment of local Palestinians by both soldiers and settlers, was released during this week’s Passover holiday.
     The timing is not coincidental. Forty years ago this week, a small group of far-right religious Israelis, led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, wrangled with a reluctant Israeli military establishment to hold a Passover seder in Hebron, revered as the burial place of several biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. Rabbi Levinger, who saw in Israel’s 1967 military victory over the Arabs a heralding of a Messianic-era redemption, rented hotel rooms for himself and his followers the following Passover, and refused to leave. Today, his flock constitutes the only Jewish settlement inside a Palestinian city.

Does anyone really miss Azmi Bishara?

Meron Rapoport, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
      To judge by the quantity of verbiage spilled over the years by politicians and journalists on both the right and the left to describe the threat posed by Azmi Bishara, Israel should be a better, safer place today, a year after his departure for Jordan with no intention of returning.
     But nothing has changed. The Arabs in Israel do not feel less Palestinian or more Israeli because Bishara is no longer addressing the Knesset, publishing opinion pieces or appearing at rallies.
     Bishara, who seemed to be a significant figure in Israeli - not only Arab-Israeli - public life, faded away, and he is definitely not missed.
     That’s not true for everyone, of course. Last week the party he founded, Balad (the National Democratic Alliance), mark[ed] the one-year anniversary of the "conspiracy" that forced Bishara into exile.

Peace or real estate

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
      Israel should be grateful to Syrian President Bashar Assad. It is he who heads a most troublesome regime, who has instigated discord in Lebanon, who has ties with Iran, who supports Hezbollah, who hosts Hamas and who is trying to develop nuclear weapons. It is he, of all statesmen, who is bringing Israel close to its moment of truth. For the first time in its history, Israel must face the fateful, clear and unambiguous choice - peace or real estate.
     Anwar Sadat also placed this choice before us, but at that time real security considerations were still involved. In this new technological age, when the danger of missiles from Tehran and Damascus lurks for Israel, it is no longer possible to disguise real-estate considerations with security arguments - especially as peace with Egypt has proven that the best guarantee of Israel’s security is peace with its neighbors.
     .... If Israel rejects the opportunity it might get now, if the government misses this chance as well - if indeed it is a chance - then we all, both Israel and the rest of the world, will know that this is not a peace-seeking country but a real-estate-seeking country, not to mention a country that provoked war...

Test Hamas’ offer of a 10-year truce

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 4/26/2008
      Is Hamas’ offer of a 10-year truce with Israel sincere? Is it a plausible gesture that should be carefully studied as a possible prelude to a comprehensive peace?
     Hamas clearly is sending strong signals that it is prepared to play the diplomatic game - but not at any price, as Fatah and Yasser Arafat did for years. Hamas’ offer of a long-term truce with Israel is neither permanent peace nor recognition of Israel. Those might follow from future negotiations, but only if Palestinians enjoy their equal national rights simultaneously, and this requires rules of the diplomatic game that are more even-handed.
     Two pertinent issues are involved here. The first is whether Islamist movements like Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood can be trusted and taken at their word when they speak of accepting democratic pluralism or negotiating with Israel. Many in Israel, the West and parts of the Arab world view these groups as insincere opportunists and deceitful tricksters who will speak the language of democracy and peace while actually planning to grab power and turn the region into one large Islamic theocracy or Iranian puppet theater.

Demonizing Jimmy Carter

Patrick Seale, Middle East Online 4/25/2008
      Why did Israel treat the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter so rudely during his recent visit to the Middle East? Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior ministers refused to meet him. The Shin Beth, Israel’s security service, refused to provide him with the protection usually given to distinguished foreign guests. Israel’s lobby in the United States vilified and insulted him, dismissing his brave peace efforts as the work of an ignorant and bumbling old man.
     The most extraordinary outburst came from Israel’s United Nations ambassador, Dan Gillerman, who told journalists that Carter "went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas."
     How can such scandalously undiplomatic language be explained?
     One would have expected Israel to be eternally grateful to Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the man, after all, who had handed Israel what was possibly the greatest single strategic prize of its history. He brokered the Israeli-Egyptian peace of 1979, which, by removing Egypt from the Arab military line-up, confirmed Israel’s military supremacy over its Arab neighbours.