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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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27 April 2008


West Bank farmers face ruin after trees uprooted
Shabtai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/28/2008
JEET, WEST BANK,, 27 April 2008 (IRIN) - It was difficult for 87-year-old Jamil Khader to discover that nearly all of the 1,400 olive trees his extended family planted in February had suddenly gone missing, having been uprooted and stolen. "He became very ill when I told him. He was hospitalised and was in bed for a week," his son Khalil, from the small town of Jeet in the northern West Bank, told IRIN. The family reckon that the trees were uprooted in March but they did not find out about it until 16 April, when they got to the land, which they do not do regularly because of its proximity to the nearby Israeli settlement of Kedumim. "We only go to work the land in coordination with the [Israeli] military. I am afraid to go alone, as the settlers have pulled guns on me in the past," Khalil said. The family and aid workers blamed settlers from Kedumim for the missing trees. There have been many violent incidents against Palestinians.

Shortage of cooking gas in Gaza shuts down bakeries
Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
A severe shortage of cooking gas in the Gaza Strip caused many bakeries outside Gaza City to shut down yesterday because the bakers were unable to use their ovens. Gaza officials said that if the gas supply is not renewed, all bakeries in the Strip will close by the end of the week. Cooking gas is not available for private use either, creating a shortage of supplies in Gaza homes. Some families are using fire to cook in tabun ovens being built due to the shortage, and are using as fuel any available flammable object, including wood, plastic and alcohol. Israel stopped supplying gas to Gaza several days ago. Israel is the sole source of Gaza’s fuel, but supplies have been sporadic since Palestinian militants attacked the Nahal Oz fuel depot on the border with Gaza this month, killing two Israeli workers. A group of Palestinians, some of them armed, prevented United Nations. . .

Israel tanks roll into central Gaza Strip
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/27/2008
A number of Israeli tanks rolled on Sunday morning few hundred meters into the eastern parts of central Gaza Strip city of Deir Elbalah, Palestinian security sources reported. The sources said that the Israeli army detained two Palestinians, the army says tried to infiltrated into Israel through a border barbed-wire. Israeli bulldozers, accompanying the tanks, razed Palestinain-owned farm lands in the area, as the Palestinian resistance fighters attempted to force the tanks back by firing hand grenades and live ammunition, media sources said. In the meantime, the Saraya aL-Quds brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad group, claimed in a statement, faxed to press today, that its fighters managed to detonate an Israeli armored vehicle to the east of Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, since the early hours of morning, Israeli drones have been hovering over the central Gaza Strip.

Israel: UNIFIL is hiding information about Hezbollah from Security Council
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is intentionally concealing information about Hezbollah activities south of the Litani River in Lebanon to avoid conflict with the group, senior sources in Jerusalem have said. In the last six months there have been at least four cases in which UNIFIL soldiers identified armed Hezbollah operatives, but did nothing and did not submit full reports on the incidents to the UN Security Council. The Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry are reportedly very angry about UNIFIL’s actions in recent months, especially about the fact that its commander, Major General Claudio Graziano, is said to be leniently interpreting his mission, as assigned by Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War.

Operation Dove: Israeli settlers impede Palestinian shepherds, flocks and damage water cistern
International Solidarity Movement 4/27/2008
Hebron Region - At 10. 20am on the morning of Saturday 26 April, four Israeli national-religious settlers from Ma’on settlement threw stones at three Palestinian shepherds who were grazing flocks on their land near the village of Tuba, in the South Hebron Hills. The threatening presence of the settlers caused the shepherds and flocks to immediately leave the area. Two Italian volunteers of Operation Dove videotaped the settlers and the retreating flocks. On the morning of Friday 25 April, six settlers attacked the same shepherds, throwing stones at them while they were watering their flocks at a cistern near Tuba. When the shepherds left the area, the shepherds witnessed settlers using large stones to damage the cistern. National-religious settlers often use violence against Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills, including children.

Palestinian teen on Easter: Israeli police have filled the yard where we should be
Palestine News Network 4/27/2008
Jerusalem / PNN - Tens of thousands of Christians from the Eastern Church celebrated Easter at the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem Saturday. The Resurrection Church bells sounded as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and Armenian communities and Copts and Syriacs, emerged with worshippers from the church carrying candles illuminated. In the morning hours near the Resurrection Church hundreds sang religious hymns, and the Orthodox scouts in Jerusalem marched, playing their instruments. Among the songs was the Palestinian national anthem. Palestinian sources reported as many as 150,000 Christian pilgrims in East Jerusalem. Israeli forces deployed thousands of police officers around the city and within the alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem. The police also placed iron barriers near the church door and throughout the Stations of the Cross.

MK Ariel: Arabs should be urged to willingly emigrate from Israel
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
MK Uri Ariel on Sunday called on the government to encourage Israeli Arabs to "willingly emigrate" from Israel and from large cities within it, so as to solve the problematic situation of the country’s minorities. The National Union MK made a speech during a first-of-its-kind conference dealing with the issue of Israel’s minorities as well as with "the creeping Arab occupation", and said "the issue of Arabs living within the State of Israel should be addressed. " Ariel, who serves as faction chair, welcomed the conference’s initiative and said it marked "the beginning of a process in which participants acknowledge the problem, before possible solutions are implemented. "Ariel added that "positive signs can already be seen in the presence of core Jewish groups that stabilize the situation in cities and help prevent the drain of the Jewish community.

Settlers to move into E. J’lem police HQ
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Based on an agreement signed with former police commissioner Moshe Karadi, right-wing settlers will take up residence in a group of buildings in Jerusalem’s predominantly Arab neighborhood Ras al-Amud in the next few days. The building had hitherto served as the Samaria and Judea District Police headquarters. The buildings are slated to become the nucleus of a new Jewish neighborhood in the so-called Holy Basin area, the fate of which is supposed to be decided in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Police officials said yesterday that work began before Pesach on vacating the place, and that in the coming days they will finish moving the offices to a new facility built in controversial Area E1, which connects Jerusalem with Ma’aleh Adumim. Concurrently, right-wing settler groups filed a request with the Jerusalem Planning and Construction Committee a few days ago to approve. . .

Police move to new HQ east of Jerusalem
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
In the middle of nowhere, far from any community, stands the new headquarters of the Samaria and Judea Police District. The access road to the building is long and wide, and connects to the Ma’ale Adumim-Jericho road. This access road provides tangible evidence of the intention to turn the compound into a residential neighborhood: Three traffic circles have been built; along the road on either side run dirt paths that are destined to be paved for two additional lanes someday; the hills in the way were blown up to blast through to the district’s new home. On the adjacent rise, an extensive plot of land has been prepared for a future neighborhood. Why locate a police station away from any existing community? There are no clear answers. In the past few days, the police have begun moving the various Samaria and Judea District offices to the new building.

Israeli army wounds a Palestinian near a border fence in northern West Bank
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/27/2008
The Israeli army shot and wounded on Sunday morning a Palestinian resident when he approached a barbed wire security fence just near the Israeli settlement of Elkana to the north of West Bank. Eyewitness said the Israeli soldiers, manning the fence, opened fire at the resident’s foot, shortly after they ordered him to stop. No further details were reported. [end]

IOF kidnap two citizens in Gaza, storm West Bank towns
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces announced the kidnap of two Palestinians near the Kissufim crossing in southern Gaza Strip after trying to infiltrate into Palestinian lands occupied in 1948. Hebrew media said that the IOF soldiers detained the two unarmed Palestinians after combing the area where they were spotted. IOF troops on Saturday bulldozed Palestinian lands west of Karm Abu Salem crossing east of Rafah city in southern Gaza and on Sunday morning bulldozed cultivated lands east of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza. Palestinian resistance factions said they fired a number of mortars and RPGs at the invading troops. In the West Bank, the occupation forces stormed Jenin and a number of its villages last night and at dawn Sunday broke into Nablus and ransacked a number of civilian homes in search of alleged wanted activists.

Islamic Jihad fighters fire two projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to the Islamic Jihad, Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility on Sunday for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot in western Negev. They said in a statement that the shelling came as natural retaliation for the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Qassam causes fire in Sderot
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 4/27/2008
Two rockets fired from northern Gaza land in Sderot Sunday afternoon. One rocket hits local cemetery, another lands near house, sets fire to gas tanks. Earlier Sunday rocket lands in kibbutz south of Ashkelon - A Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza landed at the Sderot cemetery Sunday afternoon. Another rocket landed near a house in town, causing substantial damage to the building. Gas tanks nearby caught fire as a result of the rocket’s explosion. Fortunately, the house’s residents were not there at the time of the attack. A rocket fired from northern Gaza earlier Sunday landed near the local garage in a kibbutz south of Ashkelon. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack. Damage caused by rocket (Photo: Ze’ev Trachtman)On Saturday, a Qassam rocket landed in an open field in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, causing no injuries or damage.

Four Qassams strike western Negev, causing damages but no injuries
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Sunday fired three Qassam rockets at southern Israel. Two of the rockets struck the western Negev town of Sderot. One exploded in the yard of a home, causing damage to the building. A second rocket exploded in an open field in the city. No injuries were reported in either incident. Earlier Thursday, a rocket exploded in Kibbutz Zikim, south of Ashkelon. No damages or injuries were reported. Israel is waiting for the results of talks between Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups in Cairo this Wednesday before it takes a position on an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. 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.

Al-Aqsa Brigades ’attack Rabbis’ car’ near Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Gaza/Qalqilia – Ma’an –A group of fighters affiliated to the armed wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday for opening fire at the car containing a number of Israeli rabbis near the Immanu’el settlement, east of the West Bank city of Qalqilia. The group said in a statement that they used machine guns to fire at an Israeli car in which the rabbis were traveling. Separately, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, said their fighters launched a homemade projectile at the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Sunday. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians arrested for allegedly crossing into Israel from Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli authorities announced on Saturday evening that the Israeli army arrested two Palestinians who crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip near the Israeli military installation at Kisufim. Israeli media reported that military forces in the Kisfuim area are now on high alert after news spread that two Palestinians crossed the border with the aim of undertaking a military operation. Israeli helicopters are surveying the area from the air, while Israeli authorities called on the residents of the area to stay in their homes. [end]

Israeli forces raid Al-Yamun, near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the northern West Bank town of Al-Yamun, west of the city of Jenin, and ransacked several Palestinian homes after midnight on Sunday. No arrests have been reported. Palestinian security sources said that 13 Israeli military vehicles raided the town at 1:30am searching for "wanted" Palestinian activists. Eyewitnesses said that the Israeli troops fired live ammunition in the air and detonated sonic bombs. Israeli military vehicles patrolled the town till the early morning hours. [end]

Islamic Jihad fighters attack undercover Israeli forces in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday for hurling an explosive device at an undercover Israeli force which they discovered east of Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The military group said in a statement that the bomb hit its target and that the operation came in retaliation for "ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people. " [end]

Israeli military forces invade Kafr Qaddum
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – More than twenty Israeli military vehicles invaded the northern West Bank town of Kafr Qaddum, east of Qalqilia, overnight, witnesses said. The invading forces surrounded home of Wisam Shtaiwi and Ahmad Jum’a, forcing the residents of the houses into the street before searching the houses. [end]

Israeli forces detain five Palestinians in overnight raids near Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces on seized five Palestinians in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem. Israeli sources said that the Israeli army raided the town of Al-Khadr, south of Bethlehem, and apprehended five allegedly wanted activists. [end]

Demonstration in Nablus to commemorate International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners
International Solidarity Movement 4/27/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - On Saturday 26th April, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Committee in Nablus organised a demonstration to commemorate the 4th International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. Sponsored by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, the Ministry of Prisoners, Palestinian Women’s Union and Palestinian political factions, the demonstration started in the centre of Nablus, before marching through the city to the main park in Nablus, where approximately 300 people congregated to protest against the incarceration of more than 11000 Palestinian political prisoners. Once in the park, speeches took place, with a number of speakers, including Sameh Gazelle, a representative of joint Palestinian Factions, as well as May Mir’ee, who spoke on behalf of prisoners and martyrs, calling for the issue of Palestinian political prisoners to be made a top priority in Annapolis negotiations.

Refugees protest suspension of UN food aid in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Dozens of Gaza Strip refugee families rallied on Sunday in front of the headquarters of UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, in Gaza City in protest of a decision to halt aid deliveries to the Israeli-imposed fuel shortage. UNRWA suspended deliveries to more than 650,000 refugees in Gaza after running out of fuel for its vehicles. After months of deeper and deeper cuts in the fuel supply, Israel closed Gaza’s only fuel terminal in mid-April. The protesters raised banners reading, "UNRWA can treat us as Darfur or Kosovo" or "No to the embargo on Gaza. " They sent a message to the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon saying: "Your silence is part of the siege. We expect the UN to do a lot, and you can end the siege. "

Seven Palestinian patients leave Turkey after completing treatment
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
ISTANBUL, (PIC)-- Seven wounded Palestinians out of 59 Palestinians who sustained injuries during the Israeli aggression on Gaza in recent months completed their medical treatment in Turkey and left for Egypt after three weeks of continuous health care, while 52 other patients will remain in Turkey until finishing their treatment course. According to the PIC reporter, the scenes were emotional during the farewell moments, where the seven patients shed tears at the end of their therapeutic journey for departing their fellow patients and the Turkish medical crew who took great care of them. The father of Mahmoud Bulbul, 12-year-old boy who lost hearing and eyesight in the Israeli aggression, said: "The Turkish doctors treated my son, and he would be able to hear and see by 30 percent; we offer our heartfelt thanks to the people of Turkey and the relief committee IHH which brought us here.

Algerian hackers break into Bank of Israel site
Erez Wollberg and Zeev Klein, Globes Online 4/27/2008
The central bank’s website is "temporarily closed". The Bank of Israel is "temporarily closed", after Algerian hackers broke into the site on Friday to leave a message: "Hear me Jews, you’re a nation whose fate is sealed and sooner or later you will lose in war. "Senior bank officials, away on their Passover holiday, were unaware of the break-in until they learned about it on "Globes", which broke the story. "Globes" has obtained an image of the Bank of Israel’s website after the break-in. The text goes on to say, "Victory will come, inshallah and the scenario of Chechnya will be repeated and we will drive you out. Millions of young Muslims are willing to die for al-Quds, which belongs to us. "This is the first time that hackers have succeeded in planting their own message on an official Israeli website.

Men who hacked into Israel Bank site were motivated by Islamism
Guy Grimland, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Contrary to previous reports, the computer hackers who commandeered the Bank of Israel Web site early Friday and filled it with virtual anti-Israel graffiti in Arabic, are nationals of various Arab countries and not solely Algerian. The hackers belong to a group called MaXi32, which is considered one of the world’s leading groups of computer hackers. "The hackers who attacked the Bank of Israel site were motivated by ideology," said Moran Zavdi, the chairman of Israeli internet security company Securevision, who is in contact with the hackers. Zavdi said that the hackers are motivated by their zealous Islamism and believe that anyone who does not believe in the Prophet Mohammed is a valid target. Zavdi also believes that one of the hackers is able to read Hebrew and follows the Israeli media reports on the cyber-attack.

Fayyad hopeful about security in Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad expressed optimism about the security situation in the Jenin district of the West Bank, where Palestinian security forces are poised to take over at least partial control, during a visit there on Sunday. During a press conference at the Palestinian Authority (PA) headquarters in Jenin, Fayyad said that the PA is in discussions with Israel about allowing Palestinians living in Israel to cross into Jenin. He also said that Israel has approved the establishment of an industrial zone near the border with Israel, which he said will create thousands of jobs. Fayyad also stressed that stable internal security will encourage entrepreneurs to invest in Palestine, and that Jenin district has achieved a great deal in that respect. Fayyad was hosted by the governor of Jenin, Qaddura Mousa, and the district’s security commander, Abu Al-Fath.

’Gaza still poses a major challenge’
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/27/2008
Southern Command chief warns IDF’s mission in Gaza far from over at evening honoring exemplary servicemen. Field commander who received citation says troops ’were fighting a Hamas organized like a proper army’ - "Our mission in Gaza has not yet been completed and a period of difficult trials lies ahead," said Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant on Sunday evening at a ceremony for Golani Brigade troops who took part in combat efforts against terror groups in the Gaza Strip over the past few months. Gallant, who heads the army’s Southern Command, conferred citations to a number of soldiers and officers who were singled out for exemplary conduct. The 51st Battalion, said Gallant, displayed determination, perseverance and daring during its time in Gaza from July 2007 to February 2008. Among the recipients was Lt.

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Cattle breeders: Cancel Independence Day celebrationsThe Israeli Cattle Breeders Association is calling for the cancellation of the state’s 60th anniversary festivities in the wake of a cow-poisoning incident Saturday, in which the cattle breeders are accusing Arabs of fatally poisoning 17 cows with the intention of taking control of the pastureland. The farmers and the animal-protection organization Let the Animals Live are also requesting that animal poisoning be treated as a felony rather than a misdemeanor, which would lead to a harsher sentence for convicted poisoners. (Eli Ashkenazi) Sheetrit rejects leaving IACC legal status unchangedInterior Minister Meir Sheetrit yesterday rejected a compromise proposed by lawyer Yaakov Neeman that would allow The Israel Association of Community Centers’ legal status to remain unchanged.

Fatah is skeptical over Israel’s willingness towards regional calm
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 4/27/2008
Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas cast doubts Sunday over Israel’s willingness towards calm, and denounced the Israeli military escalation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In a statement, faxed to press from the West Bank city of Ramallah, the party condemned the Israeli military actions against the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and said that Israel is apparently unwilling to maintain a state of calm in the region. " In a time, Palestinian President Abbas voices strong commitment to a comprehensive mutual calm, the Israeli army continues to inflict death and destruction on the Palestinian people", read the statement. The statement also pointed out a series of meetings, Abbas has recently held with his Egyptian counterpart, Husni Mubarak, saying that the Egyptian role has been a major supportive of the Palestinian people to end the Israeli aggression.

Haaretz - Abbas: I failed in US, no progress in peace talks
International Solidarity Movement 4/27/2008
Article published in Haaretz, 26th April 2208. - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday that he failed to achieve any progress in Middle East peace talks with U. S. President George W. Bush and he is returning home from Washington with little to show for his visit. In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, the Palestinian leader sounded pessimistic about the prospects of achieving any deal with Israel this year, despite a big U. S. push that began five months ago at a Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland. "Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved. But we are still conducting direct work to have a solution," Abbas said. On Thursday, Abbas asked Bush to tighten American monitoring over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. "We demanded the Americans implement the first phase of the road map that. . .

President Abbas: all parties concerned are exerting efforts to reach peace
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/27/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that all parties concerned in the region are exerting efforts to reach peace between Palestinians and Israel by the end of 2008. In a pres briefing, following a meeting with Egyptian president Husni Mubarak in Cairo, Abbas revealed that he asked President of United States , Gorge W. Bush, during a meeting in Washington recently, to help halt Israeli settlement activities and advance the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. "the Palestinian Authority is supportive of any dialogue with the Syrian brothers to reach a comprehensive peace deal by the end of this year", Abbas made clear in reaction to latest Israeli willingness to resume peace on the Syrian track. The president maintained that he would meet with Bush and the Egyptian president during a three-way summit meeting, slated for May17 in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm Elshiekh.

Abbas leaves Washington: US not exerting pressure on Israel to abide its commitments
Palestine News Network 4/27/2008
PNN - President Mahmoud Abbas warned of the "very difficult dilemma" faced after his failed meeting with US President George Bush in Washington. On Sunday he is in Sharm Al Sheikh discussing the results, or lack thereof, with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Abbas told the press from AFP on board the plane that carried him from Washington to Glasgow, Scotland, "If the Bush era ends without an agreement, as it seems it will, we have reached an impasse that is very difficult and we Palestinians must examine the next step. "He added that Bush, with whom he met on Thursday in the White House "was fully aware and knows that the remaining period is short, but had hope that he can achieve anything. " Abbas went on, "This enthusiasm and conviction from him that there is a chance we must use. "The Palestinian President called on the US to use the "application of the Road Map and his influence, his vision of two states.

World Bank: Israel limits impact of aid to Palestinians
Reuters, YNetNews 4/27/2008
Despite $7. 7 billion in aid pledged to Palestinians, economic growth in PA muted due to Israeli-imposed restrictions on travel and trade, new World Bank survey reveals. Figures show 96% of industrial operations in Gaza suspended - Billions of aid dollars pledged to the Palestinians to bolster peace talks with Israel are having a muted economic impact because of Israeli restrictions on travel and trade, the World Bank said on Sunday. The lending agency told donor nations in a report that per capita income in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 2008 would be static, if not lower, despite the $7. 7 billion in aid pledged to the Palestinians in December. The World Bank said modest gains in economic growth in the occupied West Bank, where western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas government holds sway, were not sufficient to offset the "severe contraction" seen in Hamas controlled Gaza.

Gaza’s economic growth has halted, World Bank says · Israeli blockade strangling territory, report warns
Toni O''Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian 4/28/2008
Olmert spokesman denies expansion of settlements - Gaza’s economic growth has ground to a halt and will continue to shrink unless Israel lifts its economic blockade on the beleaguered Palestinian territory, a new World Bank report says. After three years of warning that Palestinian businesses were on the brink of collapse, the World Bank yesterday reported that Gaza’s economy had recorded zero growth in 2007. The report comes 10 months after Israel imposed tough economic sanctions to break Hamas’s control of Gaza, after the Islamist militants ousted their political rivals, Fatah, in bloody clashes last year. It also warns that the West Bank, which is administered by the US-backed Palestinian Authority, will struggle to grow, despite the international community’s pledge to inject $7. 7bn (£3. 9bn), over the next three years to bolster the economy.

Deprived of fuel, Gazans keep public transport alive with junk autos and sesame oil
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – With busses and shared taxis absent from the streets of Gaza due to Israel’s fuel cuts, Palestinians are turning to Fiats manufactured before 1970 for public transportation. Gazans are rolling these ancient autos out of garages and dumps because their owners do not care about ruining their engines by powering them with what fuels are available: sesame oil mixed with diesel or kerosene. Not everyone is happy with this makeshift solution. One passenger waiting at Umar Al-Mukhtar Street in Gaza City told Ma’an’s reporter, "Even those very old cars would not stop to carry you, and when they do they charge you double the normal transportation fare. They do not take you to the desired destination; they just take you close to that destination. " Israel sealed the Gaza Strip’s borders last June and instated a series of devastating limitations on fuel imports.

Israel conditions halt of homemade shells and weapons smuggling for ceasefire
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/27/2008
Israeli media sources reported Sunday that the Israeli government has conditioned halt of homemade shells as well as weapons smuggling through the Egypt-Gaza border lines as a precondition for a ’non-binding ceasefire with the Palestinians’. The Israeli sources said that Israel will have no pretext to carry out military attacks on the Gaza Strip, once such a condition is guaranteed. The sources added that such an Israeli position came after the ruling Hamas party in Gaza offered last Thursday a ceasefire initiative that is meant to end homemade shells fire onto Israel as Israel would lift the Gaza siege and halt military attacks. According to the Israeli radio, Israel never negotiates with Hamas and any ceasefire with the Palestinians, should not come within an agreement. Tomorrow, representatives of the Palestinian factions in Gaza will be meeting in Cairo with Egyptian mediators, who received the Hamas offer on Thursday.

Mishaal: Israel should bear the consequences of refusing calm
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
DOHA, (PIC)-- Khalid Mishaal, the Hamas supreme leader, has warned that Israel should bear the consequences if it did not respond positively to the Egyptian efforts regarding the calm issue. He underlined that his Movement would never accept a one-sided truce or give its final approval to it unless there are specific commitments from Israel. In an interview with Al-Jazeera satellite channel, Mishaal pointed out that Hamas agreed to start the truce in Gaza and then in the West Bank in order to lift the siege and alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, highlighting that if Israel does not want calm, then it will be the other way. The Hamas leader underscored that the truce is a conflict management tactic and a step within the square of resistance, adding that as long as there is occupation, there is resistance, but the resistance should take into account the general circumstances.

Mash’al: Hamas open to a truce, but prepared for escalation
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Exiled Hamas political leader Khalid Mash’al says that Hamas is open to a tactical truce with Israel, but is prepared to escalate violent attacks if Irael rejects an offer for a ceasefire. Mash’al made these comments during an interview with Al-Jazeera television after a day of meetings with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been mediating between Hamas and Israel. Mash’al said that his movement is still waiting on Egypt’s official stance on the issue of a six-month ceasefire. He said: "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. " "In 2003, there was a ceasefire and then the operations were resumed. " "We are ready to cooperate seriously from a place of power," he added, warning, "If Israel does not accept, then we welcome confrontation.

Zahhar: IOA rejection of calm a declaration of war
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, the prominent Hamas leader, has warned that the Israeli occupation authority’s rejection of a reciprocal and simultaneous calm with Palestinian resistance factions would mean a "declaration of war". Zahhar, a former PA foreign minister, told Al-Aqsa satellite channel in an interview Saturday night that reciprocal calm is in the interest of all parties in the region. "Israel’s rejection of calm means that it wishes to declare war and we will confront it," he asserted. He opined that Israel wants calm to avoid the resistance’s strikes but due to its arrogance was refusing to announce its acceptance of it. Hamas would not receive Israeli reply to the six-month truce offer via the media but would rather wait for Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman’s visit to Israel where the final response would be made, Zahhar underlined, adding "We expect the response to be positive".

PRC vows to continue firing rockets until ceasefire
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/27/2008
Spokesman for Popular Resistance Committees responds to Hamas’ offer for six-month truce with Israel, says ’Palestinian organizations will not beg for a lull’ - The Palestinian organizations are preparing for another round of talks in Egypt in regards to the offer for a truce with Israel. According to estimates, the parties will accept the proposal presented by Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar over the weekend. The desire to reach a ceasefire, however, is not preventing the Palestinian gunmen from continuing to shower the residents of southern Israel with rockets. Al-Zahar convened a press conference Thursday following his meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, and declared that his movement was ready for a six-month lull. "The ball is on the Israeli side, and it is our right to use any means necessary to end the siege," al-Zahar said.

Sharm Al Sheikh meeting for all factions: Zaki hopes Israelis will be sincere in cooperating
Palestine News Network 4/27/2008
Cairo / PNN - The Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Hossam Zaki, said that the Egyptian representatives of Palestinian factions will meet on Sunday in Cairo with the aim of crystallizing a unified Palestinian position on the issue of pacification with Israel. Zaki told reporters that Egypt hopes that these efforts will achieve a calm atmosphere, lift the siege on the Gaza Strip and ease the suffering of the Palestinian people. Zaki expressed his hope that all Palestinians parties and factions can act as one and stand behind a single position in order to reach the goal that they seek to achieve. He pointed out that "one of the objectives that we seek to achieve is a complete cessation of any Israeli military action and reopening the crossings and lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip, in addition to the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners in return the Israeli soldier.

PRC leaders join Palestinian factions in Cairo for ceasefire talks on Monday
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A delegation representing the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) will head to Cairo on Monday at Egypt’s invitation in order to discuss a possible ceasefire with Israel, a prisoner exchange, and Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip. According to PRC spokesperson Abu Mujahid, PRC Secretary-General Hajj Kamal Nayrab, known as "Abu Awad," and Muhammad Al-Baba, the director of the PRC’s information office will attend the Egyptian-sponsored meetings. Abu Mujahid said that "the PRC believes Israel has always broken previous ceasefire agreements. "He said a ceasefire should be bilateral and comprehensive, meaning that it must halt all Israeli hostilities and lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. There must be guarantees that Israel will stick to any agreement that may be signed.

Representatives of Palestinian factions to discuss ceasefire offer with Egyptians
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/27/2008
Representatives of a umber of Palestinian factions in Gaza will head to Cairo tomorrow for talks over national consensus on a ceasefire initiative, the ruling Hamas party had presented last Thursday to Egyptian mediators. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Islamic Jihad group and the Popular Resistance Committees, will be attending the discussions on Monday. The meetings came upon an invitation from the chief of Egyptian intelligence service , Omar Sulieman, a principal ceasefire broker. According to Palestinian sources, the Palestinian groups will confirm to Egyptians that the current ceasefire offer should be mutual and reciprocal by both Israel and the factions. Abu Mojahed, spokesman of the resistance committees, told media outlets in Gaza that the talks will be focused as well on the outstanding prisoners swap deal, between Israel and the Palestinian groups.

Hamas: Arab and Egypt’s national security is a red line
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement categorically denied that it planned to carry out an operation threatening Egypt’s national security, highlighting that the national security of Egypt and Arab countries is a red line that cannot be overstepped. In a press release, Mohamed Nasr, a member of the Hamas political bureau, accused parties described as "hostile" to the Palestinians, Arabs and Egypt of working on driving a wedge between Hamas and Cairo by spreading such fabrications. "The relationship between Egypt and Hamas are managed with great transparency and clarity; I do not think that such news would affect it, but that does not deny that certain parties are tampering within this square, working on damaging those relations and portraying things differently," Nasr stated, pointing out that Hamas is fully alert to those parties and their malicious intentions.

Bardawil: Egypt committed to open Rafah terminal if IOA refused calm
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Dr. Salah Bardawil, one of the Hamas political leaders in Gaza, has affirmed that Egypt was committed to opening the Rafah border crossing between it and Gaza in the event the Israeli occupation authority refused the Egyptian-proposed calm. Bardawil, in a press release late Saturday, said that the agreement with the "Egyptian brothers is clear" and that an agreement was reached on the form and mechanism of calm. "We tabled our speculation to the brothers in Egypt and they welcomed it," he explained. The MP stressed that Cairo promised to alleviate suffering of the Palestinian people and to lift the siege imposed on them in the event the IOA refused or negatively dealt with the calm initiative. Even if calm was reached then Israel breached it, Egypt is committed to retain the crossing open, he elaborated.

Hamas urges Palestinian fuel association to end strike in Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Hamas’ government in the Gaza Strip asked a striking Palestinian fuel association on Sunday to resume deliveries in the impoverished territory, a Hamas official said. Israel has sharply cut back on the amount of fuel pumped into the Gaza Strip, which Hamas Islamists seized after routing forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June. The association said it went on strike to protest against the limited supplies, preventing 1 million liters in fuel tanks on the Gaza-side of a border crossing from being delivered. Israel has accused Hamas and the association of preventing those supplies from reaching UN aid agencies and ordinary Gazans. The largest UN aid agency in Gaza last week announced the suspension of operations, citing the shortage of fuel.

Hamas pleads with striking Palestinian fuel association
Reuters, YNetNews 4/27/2008
Efforts to end Gaza fuel crisis continue as Hamas officials demand workers end strike, transfer fuel delivered by Israel to Palestinian residents. Israel pledges to resume pumping once tanks are emptied - Hamas’ government in the Gaza Strip asked a striking Palestinian fuel association on Sunday to resume deliveries in the impoverished territory, a Hamas official said. Israel has sharply cut back on the amount of fuel pumped into the Gaza Strip after Hamas seized control of the territory in a bloody coup against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June. The association said it went on strike to protest against the limited supplies, preventing 265,000 gallons in fuel tanks on the Gaza-side of a border crossing from being delivered. Israel has accused Hamas and the association of preventing those supplies from reaching UN aid agencies and ordinary Gazans.

Arab League: Fuel crisis deprived a million Palestinian from relief aid
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
CAIRO, (PIC)-- The Arab League warned Saturday that the forced suspension of UNRWA’s relief operations in Gaza as a result of the fuel crisis caused by Israel had deprived about one million Palestinians from humanitarian aid, considering it an alarm bell portending further deterioration of a situation already catastrophic. In a statement, Hisham Yousef, the spokesman for the Arab League, underlined that the new circumstances in addition to the ongoing Israeli military attacks on the Palestinians in Gaza herald an unprecedented humanitarian disaster.   Meanwhile, during a press conference on the sidelines of a picket held by Palestinian MPs in front of the ambulance and emergency center in Gaza, Dr. Hasan Khalaf, the deputy health minister, warned that the patients in Gaza are threatened with death at any moment due to a shortage of fuel and the consequent collapse of ambulance service.

Arab League: Israel responsible for no fuel, siege, attacks, no UNRWA in Gaza
Palestine News Network 4/27/2008
Cairo / PNN -- The Arab League expressed its deep concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The League is deeply troubled that the United Nations Agency for Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced it would stop providing food aid to the Gaza Strip, which is under total siege and cannot import. Gazan agriculture land is also a target of Israeli forces. The UNRWA said it would stop its aid program because the Israelis will not allow fuel imports into the Strip therefore it cannot do its job. This is not the first time that international, and certainly local, concern over a total humanitarian disaster has been expressed regarding the Gaza Strip populated by 1. 5 million people. The Arab League also said that the Israeli military targeting of the people of the Strip, the "offensive against the Palestinians," threatens to result in a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented levels.

Arab states league concerned over the humanitarian conditions in Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 4/27/2008
The Arab states league expressed Saturday concern over the increasingly deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip amidst the Israeli closure and lack of essential living items including food and fuel. " the Arab league voices deep concern over the situation in Gaza after the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been forced to stop delivering aid to the Palestinians", Hisham Yousef, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa’s chief of staff, said in a statement. " the Israeli closure of Gaza as well as the Israeli military actions against the Palestinians will lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip, for which the Israeli government will be held solely responsible", Yousef made clear. He stated that the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the cutting off essential supplies are ’unacceptable and silence over the situation can not continue’.

Hamas criticizes US pronouncement of Israel as ’homeland of Jews’
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas expressed a vigorous objection on Sunday to resolutions passed in both houses of the United States Congress this week stating American support for Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. "Hamas reiterates refusal of these biased decisions and considers them dangerous racially-motivated decisions. The movement also affirms its intention to counter by all means such decisions which are aimed to cancel the right of repatriation of the Palestinian refugees," Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told Ma’an. "US president’s George Bush recent ’illusionary’ pledges to the Palestinian president emphasize that the US administration is beating around the bush in order to give Israel time to complete its plots," Barhoum added, referring to US-backed peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Hamas deplores US congress decision to consider Palestine homeland for Jews
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced Sunday the American congress for passing a resolution stipulating that Palestine is a homeland for Jews, considering it a very grave racist decision. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that the Movement would keep resisting such projects which aim to write off the right of return, liquidate the Palestinian cause and sanction new dislodgement of the Palestinians inside the green line (Palestinian lands occupied in 1948). Barhoum opined that this resolution proved that US president George Bush’s positions and delusional promises during recent meetings with PA chief Mahmoud Abbas were elusive and disingenuous aiming to gain more time for the benefit of the Israeli occupation. The spokesman added that this resolution also bears out that the Zionist lobby fully controls the US political institutions and its foreign policies. . .

Turkish mediator on his way: Focus on bridging Syrian preconditions to talks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Turkey is trying to find a compromise that would allow peace talks between Israel and Syria to begin, a source in Jerusalem said yesterday. Recent proposals to begin negotiations between Syria and Israel stalled after Syrian President Bashar Assad demanded an assurance from Israel that it will withdraw from the Golan Heights as a prerequisite for peace talks to begin. Turkish Prime Minister RecepErdogan plans to send an emissary to Jerusalem to brief Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on his recent talks with Assad in Damascus. Erdogan will apparently send his foreign policy advisor, who is also in charge of talks with Syria and has in the past met with Olmert adviser Yoram Turbowicz in Ankara. Olmert decided to pursue talks with Syria, with Turkish mediation, after he realized that the United States would not object.

Syria said demanding Israeli guarantee on Golan pullout
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Syria is demanding that Israel commit in writing to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, Syrian President Bashar Assad told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the Qatari newspaper Al-Watan. The paper based its report on Syrian sources, who claim to be in possession of the "Rabin Pledge,"referring to understandings reached between Israel and Syria in the 1990s, before the 1995 assassination of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Assad told the newspaper on Sunday that the time has not yet come for peace because "the Israeli side has still not given its guarantee. " Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he supports Turkish mediation of Israeli-Syrian peace talks and would back any agreement reached between the two longtime enemies.

Official: Peace with Syria in Israel’s interests, if...
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/27/2008
Senior Jerusalem official stresses that while Israel is interested in peace with Syria, only a breaking-away of Damascus from axis of evil will be considered positive progress - "Peace with Syria is in Israel’s interests, on the condition that Damascus is cut off from the axis of evil," a senior Israeli official said Sunday, following reports on Turkish mediators’ plans to bring Israeli and Syrian representatives together in an effort to advance the peace process. However, the official stressed that negotiations could take time and required patience, and that while the Turkish channel between Israel and Syria did exist, expectations regarding the issue should be kept realistic. " If Syria breaks away from the axis of evil, if the transfer of arms to Hizbullah is halted and if Jihad and Hamas bases are removed from Damascus -. . .

VIDEO -Assad: Regional warfare will remain conventional
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/27/2008
(Video) In interview to Qatari newspaper al-Watan Syrian president continues to deny facility bombarded by Israel in September was nuclear reactor, but stresses that his country opposes weapons of mass destruction - VIDEO - Syrian President Bashar Assad maintained Sunday that his country had no intentions to develop nuclear weapons, and that a Syrian facility bombarded by Israel last September was a military site under construction. Video courtesy of Infolive. tv In an interview to Qatari newspaper al-Watan published Sunday, Assad stressed that Syria opposed weapons of mass destruction, while supporting Iran’s right to obtain nuclear energy. "We support the right of all world nations, not just Iran, to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but we are against weapons of mass destruction," he stated.

Deputy PM heads to US, says ball in Syria’s court
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/28/2008
Israeli strategic dialogue delegation embarks for Washington. Minister Mofaz warns prior to meeting with Secretary Rice that Damascus must decide ’whether it wants to abandon the axis of evil or continue to be led by Iran’ - "The ball is in the Syrians’ court," Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Sunday evening prior to his meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington. " Syria is entangled up to its neck with aiding Hizbullah and other terror groups like Hamas. Now it must decide, does it want to continue to allow Iran to lead it by the nose or does it want to abandon the axis of evil," he said. Mofaz is in the US as part of an extensive Israeli delegation, which includes Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security bureau and Foreign Affairs Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitch as well as senior officials from the IDF’s Military Intelligence and the Mossad.

Netanyahu: Olmert acting like an amateur
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 4/27/2008
Opposition leader slams prime minister for reportedly agreeing to cede Golan Height. ’Golan must remain in our hands"¦ otherwise Iran will get there,’ he says. Olmert’s office: Bibi agreed to cede Golan without negotiations - Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that "the Golan Heights must remain in our hands at times of peace as well, otherwise Iran will get there. "Addressing the recent reports on talks being held between Israel and Syria, Netanyahu added, "I find it very surprising that the prime minister is ready to cede all of the Golan Heights before the negotiations have even begun. He is acting recklessly and like an amateur. This is not the way to attain peace. "

VIDEO - Olmert isn’t the first to refuse to give up land - only to change his mind
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for April 27, 2008. Last week’s report that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered to cede the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria doesn’t come as a surprise, historically speaking. Olmert joins a tradition of prime ministers refusing to give up land for peace, only to change their minds in light of geopolitical realities. Related articles: Netanyahu: PM promised Golan to Syria before talks ever began Syria said demanding Israeli guarantee on Golan pullout Peace or real estate Also on Haaretz. com TV: Neighbors of suspected U. S. nuclear spy can’t believe charges American rabbi practices peacemaking in Damascus Evangelicals visit for Israel’s 60th, call the sound of the mosque ’evil’ For more video news and features, visit Haaretz. com TV

Haneyya’s gov’t urges Abbas to stop wagering on wrong horse
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Legitimate PA government of premier Ismail Haneyya publicly urged on Saturday PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to return to the Palestinian mainstream, and to stop betting on the "promises" of the United States. It also asserted that the statement uttered by US president George W. Bush of having a "new definition of the Palestinian state" leaves no doubt that the US wasn’t interested in finding a just solution to the Palestinian question, expressing hope that the Egyptian government would succeed in convincing Abbas to stop blocking the opening of the vital Rafah terminal. After meeting Bush in the White House a couple of days ago, Abbas declared that the meeting was a failure, and that the Palestinian party reaped nothing out of it. "We told Abbas and warned him that he was navigating in the wrong direction, and that neither the US nor the Israeli occupation government. . .

Higher committee on Nakba asks UK to apologize to the Palestinian people
Palestinian Information Center 4/27/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The higher committee to commemorate the Nakba (Palestine usurpation at the hands of Zionist gangs in 1948) has asked Britain to apologize to the Palestinian people for issuing the notorious Balfour Declaration that offered Jews a homeland in Palestine. The committee held a press conference on Sunday on the occasion of the approaching date of the Nakba, which means catastrophe in Arabic, affirming the Palestinian people’s right to return to their homeland from which they were forcibly expelled in its capacity as a legitimate and legal right. The committee described the right of return as "inalienable" and would never be relinquished even if negotiators signed on agreements surrendering it. The people of Palestine will never give up constants including the right of return despite the elapse of six decades on the Nakba, the committee said, noting that the Palestinians. . .

Israel to sign cooperation deals with African countries
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 4/27/2008
The International Christian Chamber of Commerce organized several hundred meetings for its congress in Jerusalem this week. A delegation of five hundred businessmen and executives, members of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce, will arrive in Israel within the next few days to participate in an international business congress, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. The meetings will be from April 28th until May 1st. During the congress with the theme, "Approaching A New Era," government leaders of Israel and of four African countries - Rwanda, Burundi, Benin and Liberia - will sign a unique document to promote commercial and economic cooperation between them. The International Christian Chamber of Commerce - ICCC - reports that in recent years those African countries have been experiencing their strongest growth and lowest inflation in over 30 years.

IAF Chief: Hitler wasn’t believed, we can’t make that mistake with Ahmadinejad
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
The Commander of the Israel Air Force, Major General Eliezer Shkedi, said in a television interview that "in Nazi Germany, people didn’t believe that Hitler meant what he was saying. I suggest that we refrain from repeating that line of reasoning and prepare ourselves for anything. " Shkedi made these remarks in a special interview with "60 Minutes" in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary, excerpts of which aired on Channel 2 television Sunday. Shkedi was asked in the interview about the nature of the threat posed by Iran and the commander answered that "this is a very serious threat, to Israel, but more importantly, to the entire world. "He explained that he was referring to "what they [Iran] think of Israel ? the desire to destroy and wipe it off the map. "Shkedi is expected to conclude his term as the IAF commander and retire from the Israel Defense Forces soon, after 33 years of service.

Rightist editor: Olmert and Livni should be executed for treason
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni should be tried and sentenced to death for treason for holding negotiations over the future of Jerusalem, the editor of a right-wing Israeli journal said Sunday. "Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, who are leading open negotiations over the handing over of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, must according to international law and guidelines on treason be sentenced to death," Aryeh Stav, editor of Nativ said on Sunday. In response to a questionnaire submitted by Haaretz, Stav said "statesmen who hold negotiations to hand over control of their capital is something that simply does not take place any where in the world. "Stav added that in Israel, "the laws on this matter are clear, but no one enforces them or makes sure that the criminals who violate these laws are prosecuted.

New education c’tee to promote Jews and Arabs living together
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
A new organization of academics and Education Ministry officials is establishing a committee to define, for the first time, ministry policy on education that helps Jews and Arabs live together in Israel. The group met recently with Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who participants said expressed support for the initiative. "As long as the Education Ministry has no policy on the matter, the existing activity - which is on the decline - will continue to be based on the goodwill of nonprofit associations and private individuals," said Prof. Gabi Salomon of Haifa University, who has received the Israel Prize in education. A position paper put out by the group two weeks ago said racist speech has permeated Israeli society. "On the one hand, educating toward living together has stagnated and awaits an updated vision, and on the other hand, we will fight for its existence in n the absence of widespread public support or sufficient financial support. . . "

Israeli Arab to run for mayor of Haifa for first time since 1948
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Attorney Walid Hamis has announced that he is running for Haifa mayor, representing the first time an Arab candidate has run for the city’s top post since 1948. Hamis, who served as Haifa’s deputy mayor at the beginning of Mayor Yona Yahav’s term, quit after the Second Lebanon War broke out. "Haifa’s Arabs are not some candidate’s vote reservoir. We want to be full partners in running the city," Hamis said. Haifa’s Arab voters have in the past tilted the balance in favor of Labor candidates - or whoever runs against the right. This was especially true in the last elections. Opposition to Hamis’s campaign has been led by the Arab communist party Hadash, who have stated that it violates agreements reached by left-wing parties in the city to run under a unified banner for leadership of the city.

Israeli MP convicted of corruption
Al Jazeera 4/27/2008
An Israeli court has sentenced a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and former minister to 18 months in jail on corruption and fraud charges, automatically suspending him from parliament. Shlomo Benizri, 48, was also told on Sunday to pay a $23,000 fine in addition to the jail term, after state prosecutors demanded a stiffer sentence. Benizri was found guilty of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes while serving in several government posts, including a stint as health minister, between 1996 and 2001. Under Israeli law, an MP who is found guilty of severe offences is automatically suspended from parliament. Shas has 12 seats in the Israeli parliament and is a key member of the governing coalition led by Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister.

State prosecutor likely to appeal Benizri sentence
Tomer Zarchin, Yair Ettinger and Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
The state prosecutor will apparently appeal the 18-month sentence handed down to Shas MK Shlomo Benizri for corruption, a senior justice official said on Sunday. The verdict itself, in which Benizri was acquitted of the indictment’s major bribery charges, may also be appealed. Jerusalem District Court Judge Jacob Zaban on Sunday sentenced Benizri to 18 months in prison, 8 months suspended sentence and a fine of NIS 80,000, and further determined that his acts involved moral turpitude. Benizri’s political and spiritual patron, Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, was handed a suspended sentence of eight months in prison and a fine of NIS 120,000. In early April, the court ruled that Benizri had received hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of services from contractor Moshe Sela, while serving as health minister, deputy health minister and labor and welfare minister, between 1996 and 2001.

The message does not deter
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Judge Jacob Zaban yesterday sentenced MK Shlomo Benizri to 18 months in prison. The former minister was convicted of bribery, breach of trust, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. The very fact that a senior public figure was indicted and convicted is a form of proof that the rule of law applies to government leaders as well, no matter how important. Nonetheless, the question of a suitable punishment for government corruption, which impairs the public’s trust in the system, is still open. Haim Cohen, one of Israel’s most respected judges, once said that "offenses of those with white collars, who are meticulous about the cleanliness of their clothes and neglect the cleanliness of their hands, are several times worse than an offense committed by an ignoramus and a pauper. "The Supreme Court saw bribery as "the source of evil" and said it was. . .

Fatah leader plotted to assassinate PA representative in Lebanon, newspaper reports
Ma’an News Agency 4/27/2008
Lebanon – Ma’an – The Fatah movement denied news reports on Sunday that the secretary of Fatah in Lebanon, Sultan Abu Al-’Aynayn, planned to assassinate the Palestinian Authority’s representative to Lebanon Abbas Zaki. "What has been published on the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar newspaper about Abu Al-’Aynayn planning the assassination of Abbas Zaki is false and baseless news. The writer of the article has contacts with a regional embassy, and he tries to sell the newspaper through false news. There are certain political groups behind such journalists trying to defame the Fatah movement," an official statement by the Palestinian media office in Lebanon said. The statement denied the existence of any disagreement or dispute between Zaki and Abu Al-’Aynayn affirming that they worked together for the Palestinian cause.

Ramallah refuses to dance to Hamas’ cue
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Half an hour later than scheduled, the lights were dimmed and the audience quieted down at Ramallah’s packed Kasbah Theatre. City luminaries, humble villagers and Europeans garbed in smart suits sat side-by-side to watch a performance by the Italian dance troupe, Bottega. For an instant, one might have thought that the well-dressed crowd had assembled in Tel Aviv or a European city. But the large number of smokers who filled the mezzanines revealed the event’s actual location. Khaled Elian, the organizer of the Contemporary Dance Festival, took to the stage. He looked emotional and perturbed. In the past week, a number of articles calling for the festival to be canceled have appeared on television channels and Web sites run by the Islamist group Hamas. One article claimed the event was akin to "dancing on the blood of the martyrs".

Katsav’s lawyers want police to investigate complainant
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Former president Moshe Katsav’s legal team is demanding that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador investigate what they contend are unresolved matters pertaining to the complainant known as A. from the Tourism Ministry, on whom the amended indictment against Katsav is expected to be based. In a letter sent yesterday to Irit Baumhorn, the lawyer overseeing Katsav’s case at the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office, copies of which were sent to Mazuz and Lador, Katsav’s lawyers - Avigdor Feldman, Zion Amir, and Avraham Lavi - requested the seizure of A. ’s medical record. They cited the fact that she has received psychotherapy and/or psychiatric care in recent years, and to the best of their knowledge also during or close to the period relevant to the incidents of the case. Katsav’s lawyers also want an investigation into an allegedly false sexual harassment complaint A.

F-16I squadron resumes operational activity
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/28/2008
Several weeks after grounding fighter jets due to detection of hazardous formaldehyde emissions, IAF clears all but seven F-16Is for flight - The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced Sunday that the military’s F-16I fighter jets will resume regular training and operational activity on Monday. The F-16I "Storm" squadron was grounded in mid March after routine inspection detected presence of formaldehyde in three jets. IAF Chief, Major General Eliezer Shkedi, ordered the Storm squadron’s activity be resumed after further testing done by the corps. Seven jets, in which traces of formaldehyde were detected, remain grounded, but the rest of the squadron was cleared for flight. In mid March, the air force received complaints from several airmen who reported harsh chemical odors in the cockpits of the F-16I.

On the border between two languages
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Ten years ago, when Dr. David Sagiv began preparing the Arabic-Hebrew-Hebrew-Arabic dictionary he recently completed, he was still more optimistic than he is today. At that time, he and his wife, Marcelle, would go every year to Cairo, where he had established contact with some of the most important intellectuals in Egypt. The shelves of his bookcase in Jerusalem are filled with Arabic books, some of which contain dedications from Egyptian authors. For several years, it seemed as though cultural relations between Israel and Egypt were gradually being woven. But in the last few years, since the Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out, David and Marcelle Sagiv no longer visit Egypt. "Today we are less in touch with our friends in Egypt," Sagiv says. "There is a serious process of deterioration in ties. Perhaps it is their fault, perhaps it is ours, but it is not a good thing. . . "

Easter in Jerusalem for the lucky allowed to attend: Miracle of Holy Fire
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D, Palestine News Network 4/27/2008
Jerusalem - Pilgrims from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem today to witness the greatest of all miracles-the Miracle of the Holy Fire. The miracle has turned into a magnificent cultural event but many simply could not get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre. The heavy presence of armed soldiers and police, the large crowds, the noise, the drums of the Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts anxiously waiting to receive the Holy Fire from the Life Giving Tomb of Christ is a day long adventure. It was an exciting celebration with the sound of many languages at the same time where representatives of many churches from all over the Holy Land come to receive the Holy Fire and carry it back in small lanterns to their particular churches for the Midnight Resurrection Service. Special permits were issued for Christians from Gaza to enter Jerusalem but the large crowds meant no entry to the Holy Sepulchre.

Experts: Food costs could keep rising for years
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
The current rise in food prices is the most serious in the last century and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon, according to agricultural economist Prof. Yakir Plessner of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot. A colleague, Professor Ayal Kimhi, foresees the crisis causing political shock waves in sensitive areas of the world. These will in turn lead to higher oil prices and further increases in food prices. "We see the first signs of political instability throughout the world," Kimhi says. "Poor populations are the most vulnerable. We are talking about more than a billion people who live on less than a dollar a day. The political instability can lead to unpredictable results. Nigeria, for example, is an important oil producer sitting on a political powder keg. A blowup there could adversely affect the price of oil and make the food price crisis worse," Kimchi says.

Local rice prices increase by up to 65 percent
Rina Rozenberg, Lior Dattel and Barr Hayoun, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
The global rice crisis is hitting Israeli consumers in the pocket, with prices rising between 33 percent and 65 percent yesterday in the Super-Sol supermarket chain, the largest in the country, in accordance with the price update of local sugar and rice company Sugat. The second-largest supermarket chain, Blue Square, has not yet updated its prices but is expected to raise them soon. Sugat said demand for rice increased by hundreds of percent over the weekend, "because everyone heard about the global shortage and the expectation of a price increase and ran to the stores," said Sugat CEO David Franklin. A senior source in the retail field confirmed that rice sales late last week were three times higher than on peak sale days. However, concern over a rice shortage in Israel has dissipated. Super-Sol has lifted its brief two-package per customer restriction, saying that "in. . .

Elevated prices mean higher profits, headaches for Negev wheat growers
Fadi Eyadat and Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
Wheat growers in the northern Negev yesterday said they were pleased with the hike in the price of their commodity, which shot up from $120 a ton in 2006 to $280 in 2008. They said the increase in revenue will yield greater profits, allow them to expand the area under cultivation and raise the value of their property. Some farmers, however, complained that the worldwide increase in the price of wheat, barley, soy and corn will raise the cost of feed for their livestock. Hanan Broude, of the Western Negev kibbutz of Miflasim, says only 10 percent of wheat consumed in Israel is locally grown, with the rest being imported from abroad. One of the key causes for the rise in wheat prices is a worldwide shortage in seeds. This could cause shortages in animal feed and consequently set off a chain reaction of increases in food prices.

Food crisis reaches Israel, stores ration rice sales
Bar Hion, Adi Daveret, and Ophir Bar-Zohar, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Branches of Israel’s "Supersol" and "Blue Square" supermarket chains have placed limits on the amount of rice they will allow customers to purchase, according to an investigation by TheMarker. Cashiers at the branches probed said the limits were enacted in response to an expected worldwide shortage of rice, something that Israeli market leaders have said will not affect the supply of rice in Israel. Nonetheless, a senior business official has stated that rice prices in Israel will rise by 70 percent, along with price hikes for other staple goods like tuna, flour, coffee, cooking oil, and sugar. Other food items made from rice, such as breakfast cereals and snack foods are expected to become more expensive as well, though it is not clear at this point by how much. Since the beginning of the year, there has been a 50 percent hike. . .

Blue Square, Super-Sol: No restrictions on rice sales
Ilanit Hayut and Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 4/27/2008
Global prices for rice are soaring. Israel’s two largest supermarket chains,Blue Square Israel Ltd. (NYSE:BSI ; TASE:BSI ) andSuper-Sol Ltd. (TASE:SAE ;Pink Sheets:SSLTF), today denied media reports that they were placing restrictions on rice sales to customers. A Blue Square executive said that the reports were groundless. Last week, "Globes" was the first to report that Sugat Ltd. , would raise its price of rice by 50% immediately after the Passover holiday. The company is Israel’s largest rice importer and the main supplier to retailers. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that the Rishon LeZion branch of Hezi Hinam supermarket chain almost completely sold out its rice on Sunday morning. Rising food prices worldwide, especially for rice, has led producers to halt or limited exports of basic rice, including Indonesia, Vietnam, China, and India.

Agriculture Minister: No food shortage expected in Israel
Ofri Ilani, Rina Rosengerg, and Bar Hayoun, Ha’aretz 4/27/2008
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon on Sunday said that Israel could potentially grow itself the grains that it currently imports, but it chooses not to because the high cost of water makes the venture unprofitable. "We can grow more grains, if we decide that it is necessary. But it is not productive, because we don’t have the water for it. We are facing a serious water crisis, and that is our main problem right now, more than the food crisis. In Israel, the water is a bigger problem than the cost of food," Simhon told Haaretz. The minister made these remarks after a senior business official recently stated that rice prices in Israel will rise by 70 percent, along with price hikes for other staple goods like tuna, flour, coffee, cooking oil, and sugar. Simhon said that due to the global food crisis, the government would postpone carrying. . .

Discount NY money laundering settlement costs grow
Eran Peer, Globes Online 4/27/2008
2008 costs can reach 15% of the profit recorded in 2007. Israel Discount Bank(TASE: DSCT) US subsidiary Israel Discount Bank of New Yorkis facing further increases in the costs of its money laundering settlement, which will also impact the bank’s results for 2008. Discount Bank New York has reported that it will incur a further $5-6 million in costs, a sum equal to about 15% of its profit for 2007. It is becoming clear with each quarter that passes, that Discount Bank New York’s estimates’ have been surpassed repeatedly, and that the cost of the requisite improvements and reviews are far higher than anticipated. The bank’s current estimate puts the accrued settlement costs, including improvement and review expenses, at $51-52 million, for which provisions were been made in the years 2005 through 2008.

Jumblatt slams Hizbullah after detention of French lawmaker
Associated Press, YNetNews 4/27/2008
French Socialist official attending conference in Lebanon says he was taken for interrogation after Hizbullah spotted him taking pictures of a mosque. Hizbullah cites concerns Israeli agents may pose as tourists but anti-Syrian politician Walid Jumblatt slams incident as example of Hizbullah acting as state within state - A French Socialist official attending a conference in Lebanon said Sunday he was detained for four hours by members of the Hizbullah group south of Beirut. Karim Pakzad said he had been touring the area considered to be a Hizbullah stronghold in a convertible car and taking pictures when he was detained Saturday along with a companion and interrogated for four hours before they were both released. Hizbullah said the two men were spotted near a Hizbullah official’s residence in the suburb of Haret Hreik, ’’one of them taking a lot of pictures in a way that aroused suspicion.


Israel is suppressing a secret it must face
Johann Hari, The Independent 4/27/2008
      How did a Jewish state founded 60 years ago end up throwing filth at cowering Palestinians?
     When you hit your 60th birthday, most of you will guzzle down your hormone replacement therapy with a glass of champagne and wonder if you have become everything you dreamed of in your youth. In a few weeks, the state of Israel is going to have that hangover.
     She will look in the mirror and think -- I have a sore back, rickety knees and a gun at my waist, but I’m still standing. Yet somewhere, she will know she is suppressing an old secret she has to face. I would love to be able to crash the birthday party with words of reassurance.
     Israel has given us great novelists like Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, great film-makers like Joseph Cedar, great scientific research into Alzheimer’s, and great dissident journalists like Amira Hass, Tom Segev and Gideon Levy to expose her own crimes.
     She has provided the one lonely spot in the Middle East where gay people are not hounded and hanged, and where women can approach equality.
     But I can’t do it. Whenever I try to mouth these words, a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit. Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become a poison.

Getting their act together

Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
      The first time Samar wore an Israel Defense Forces uniform was also his last time. It was a difficult experience. Samar Awad, a 12th grader at the regional school in Sheikh Danoun, an Arab village in the western Galilee, put on the uniform when he played the part of an Israeli soldier in scenes from Hanoch Levin’s first satirical cabaret, "You, and me and the next war." The piece was produced in Arabic by his high school’s theater track.
     Even before taking on such controversial materials, the school made history when, at the initiative of principal Samahar Zini, it introduced the first theater track in Israel’s Arab sector some three years ago. Add to that the cooperation with the theater track of the nearby regional high school at Kibbutz Cabri and the choice of particularly difficult material, and reality takes on a complexity nothing less than theatrical. "It was difficult for me, even though I wanted the part," Samar says. "The main problems came from my village, Mazra. Friends told me not to do it and asked why I wanted to be a soldier. But I didn’t listen to anyone. I wanted to play a soldier who is opposed to war."

Above all, Olmert must want peace

Uzi Benziman, Ha’aretz 4/28/2008
      It’s not clear whether Ehud Olmert’s situation regarding the possibility of initiating peace moves with Syria resembles that of the man who wants to but can’t, the one who can but doesn’t want to, or the one who can’t and convinces himself that he doesn’t want to anyway.
     Despite his efforts, Olmert has not managed to shake off the image of a hurried person whose judgment is in question. Two years ago he rushed to wage war in Lebanon; now he appears to be sending peace messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad, even though the prime minister has spent his entire term of office rejecting Assad’s conciliatory signals. But whether Olmert’s position has genuinely changed or he is merely making a tactical move, it is worth taking into consideration the public response to it.
     A survey conducted by Mina Tzemach and published in Yedioth Ahronoth a few days ago found that just 32 percent of the public is ready for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights; among Jewish respondents, this willingness shrinks to 25 percent. Seventy-four percent of the overall population and 80 percent of the Jewish population does not believe that Assad is genuinely interested in peace.