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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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11 May 2008


Gaza power plant closed for second day due to fuel shortage
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 5/11/2008
GAZA, May 11, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) --The sole Gaza power plant is still shutting down for the second consecutive day after Israel didn’t allow on Sunday industrial diesel for operating the plant, a senior official said in Gaza. Kan’an Obied, chief of energy authorities in Gaza told reporters that Gaza power plant is still completely closed for the second day and doesn’t supply any electricity to Gaza population due to lack of fuel. "Israel wasn’t committed on Sunday to allow fuel shipment to re- operate the Gaza power plant," said Obied, adding that "Israel had promised to ship fuel into Gaza on Sunday, but until now we haven’ t received anything." Meanwhile, chief of public relations of Gaza power plant, Jamal al-Derdisawi said Gaza suffers from a severe electricity crisis, adding that when the plant has completely closed, "the shortage of power in all Gaza Strip reached to 35 percent."

Gaza bakeries shut down due to lack of fuel supplies
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 5/11/2008
The Society of Bakeries in the Gaza Strip announced on Sunday that all bakeries in the coastal region were forced to shut down midday as fuel supplies could not be replenished due to the Israeli siege. In a press release, the Society said that "we as owners of fifty bakeries in Gaza, hereby announce that we must completely halt operations after running out of fuel supplies." The society appealed to international human rights groups to intervene and lift the Israeli blockade on the coastal region and to supply Gaza with the needed fuel "so its residents can have bread to eat." Misbah Al Shanty, the owner of Gaza’s biggest bakery told the French Press on Sunday that bakeries will remain unable to produce bread until the needed fuel is allowed into Gaza." This issue does not only affect us," he added, "it affects and harms every resident in Gaza.

Advisors to President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad interrogated by Israeli police in Jerusalem
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 5/11/2008
Palestinian sources reported on Sunday that the Israeli police in Jerusalem interrogated Adnan Al Husseini, the advisor of president Mahmoud Abbas for Jerusalem Affairs, and Hatim Abdul-Qader, the advisors of Prime Minister, Dr. Salaam Fayyad, for six hours. The Israeli police demanded the two Palestinian officials to halt their activities in Jerusalem, and threatened to prosecute them if they fail to do so. Al Husseini and Abdul-Qader stated that these threats and violations will not be successful in stopping their activates in the city. Al Husseini said that Palestinians in Jerusalem are holding seminars and talks regarding their conditions in the city, as they are facing harsh social, political, and economical conditions. They stated that Israeli police are not allowing them to publicly talk about the violations carried by the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality on the Palestinian residents.

One Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in southern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Undercover Israeli forces killed a Palestinian fighter in the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, witnesses and medical sources said. The dead body of 23-year-old Usama Al-Astal, a fighter with Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, was taken to a hospital in the city of Khan Younis. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that Al-Astal was on lookout duty east of the town of Al-Qarara, when he noticed Israeli special forces entering the area. He immediately hurled a grenade towards the Israelis, who fired back, killing him and wounding three other fighters. Separately, local Palestinian sources said on Sunday morning that undercover Israeli forces infiltrated in the Nahda neighborhood of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, amid heavy gunfire. No casualties were reported.

Despite construction freeze, winery rises near W. Bank outpost
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
A new winery is currently being set up in the West Bank, in an area three kilometers from Migron, an outpost that the state promised the Supreme Court would be removed by August. The establishment of the winery contravenes the promise made by the State of Israel to U. S. President George W. Bush, to freeze all construction outside recognized settlements. Bush is due to visit Israel this week, and in the past he declared that he intends to check whether Israel is meeting its commitments to him. The winery is being established by the Binyamin Regional Council Development company, with the backing of the regional council and permission from the Civil Administration. The area where the winery is being constructed is a mere two kilometers from the Binyamin Industrial Area, many of whose buildings have been vacant for years.

Gov’t turns once more to Gaza gas field
Lior Baron, Globes Online 5/11/2008
Israel Corp. denies talks to buy a BG Group stake in the natural gas concession. The government’s policy regarding the purchase of natural gas from the natural gas reserves of BG Group plc (NYSE: BRG: LSE: BG) located offshore from Gaza is continuing to zigzag. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that the ministerial committee for legislation is due to discuss today an amendment to the Natural Gas Law to allow the state or a government company to market and sell natural gas. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures formulated the amendment in response an appeal filed with the Supreme Court regarding the negotiations with BG Group in which the government promised not to buy natural gas from the company until the amendment was passed. The amendment is a precondition for a contract, which is estimated to be worth $3-4 billion, with the company,.

Qassam lands near school bus in Sderot
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 5/11/2008
After several hours of relative calm, fire on western Negev renewed as one rocket hits southern college’s parking lot, another lands near bus carrying children in Sderot. Woman, three children treated for shock - Palestinian gunmen fired two Qassam rockets at the western Negev Sunday afternoon. One of the rockets landed at the parking lot of Sapir College, causing a woman to suffer shock and damaging some vehicles. The other rocket landed in Sderot near a bus carrying schoolchildren. Three children suffered shock and were treated by Magen David Adom paramedics. The bus’ windows were shattered and a fire broke out nearby. Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for the shooting. Meanwhile, Israeli security forces apprehended three Palestinians who infiltrated into Israel through the Gaza border fence on Sunday. The men crossed the fence south of a western Negev kibbutz and local residents had been asked to remain indoors until the three were captured.

Israeli force re-impose dirt barrier after injuring 13
Palestine News Network 5/11/2008
Tulkarem / PNN -- On Sunday Israeli forces re-imposed a dirt barrier that activists removed yesterday. During the nonviolent action on Saturday, Israeli forces injured 13 demonstrators and journalists. A march of hundreds culminated in the southeastern Tulkarem village of Shufa. They used their hands, shovels, axes and ropes to remove the boulders and dirt blocking the road. Israeli forces attacked them in the process. Nine were hospitalized. [end]

''Hunger and Anger'' - 1500 protest in Hebron
Stop The Wall 5/11/2008
An estimated 1,500 people demonstrated yesterday in front of the government offices in Hebron. Men, women and children from villages and towns across the Hebron district turned out to participate. Above:A large number of women were present at the demonstration; many were carrying empty pots to protest food shortages and high prices. The protest, organized under the banner “Hunger and Anger”, was on one hand a demonstration to mark the 60 years of Nakba and dispossession faced by the Palestinian people. Violence, land theft and colonization is ongoing in the Hebron district, where settlements continue to expand and settler gangs regularly intimidate and attack shepherds and farmers. The residents of Hebron’s old city suffer under military restrictions and unchecked settler violence. In the south of the district, land continues to be confiscated for the construction of the Wall.

Palestinian man ’severely beaten’ at checkpoint in Azzun Atma
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers severely beat a Palestinian man at a checkopint at the entrance to the village of Azzun Atma, near the West Bank city of Qalqilia, on Saturday evening. Thirty-one-year-old Khalid Ahmad was severely bruised and wounded in the head when he arrived at the United Nations hospital in Qalqilia, sources at the hospital said. He was transferred to another hospital in the city of Nablus. Residents of Azzun Atma said this was not the first time Israeli troops have assaulted Palestinians at the entrance of the village. The village is isolated from the rest of the West Bank by the Israeli separation wall. Residents can only enter and leave the community through a gate controlled by Israeli soldiers. Ten Palestinian civilians were wounded in a confrontation that took place with Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint in mid-April.

Hamas denounces PA security for kidnapping wives of Palestinian prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 5/11/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced the PA security apparatuses in the West Banks for kidnapping at night Saturday two wives of Palestinian prisoners from their homes in Nablus, considering it a despicable behavior outside the traditions of the Palestinian people. In a statement, Hamas stated Sunday that the PA security apparatuses had stormed the houses of two prisoners in Israeli jails, namely, Riyadh Al-Nadi and Ahmed Abu Al-Izz in the Ein refugee camp in Nablus and took their wives by force in front of their children and the camp refugees to their headquarters as the IOF troops had done before with the fathers Nadi and Izz. The Movement also considered this act a new crime and dangerous behavior demonstrating further moral decline and lack of ethics of these security apparatuses which are under the command of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his unconstitutional government.

UN asks Israel to probe raid which killed Gaza teacher last week
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
A United Nations agency called on Israel on Sunday to investigate the death of a Palestinian teacher employed by the agency who was killed in her home during an Israeli raid last week in the Gaza Strip." We’re calling on the Israelis for an impartial investigation," said Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the U. N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for which Wafa al-Daghma worked as a teacher at an elementary school for refugee children." We want to see accountability." A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said they were looking into the matter. Dozens of civilians have been killed in Gaza this year in air and ground attacks that Israel says are directed against militants who fire rockets into its territory. Immediately after the violence near Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the army said troops attacked militants.

Israeli troops face more scrutiny for abuse of Palestinians - rights group
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/12/2008
JERUSALEM: The number of probes of Israeli soldiers suspected of committing offenses against Palestinian civilians more than doubled last year compared to 2006, an Israeli human rights group said on Sunday. Last year 351 inquiries were opened against Israeli soldiers suspected of offending Palestinian civilians and their property in the Occupied Territories. That figure compared with 152 probes in 2006, said a report by the Yesh Din rights group, based on figures from the criminal investigation division of Israel’s military police. The offenses include abuse, looting, illegal shooting and killing innocent people. The Tel Aviv-based rights group said while the number of inquiries increased in 2007 so did the failure rate. In 45 percent of cases the investigators could not identify the specific unit and soldiers suspected of the offense.

9 activists injured as Israeli army attacks demonstration in Shufa, Tulkarem
International Solidarity Movement 5/10/2008
Tulkarem Region - Photos - On Saturday 10th May, approximately 200 Israeli, Palestinian and international activists converged on the village of Shufa, seven kilometres south-east of Tulkarem in the north-west of the West Bank, to remove the Israeli-imposed roadblocks that deny the residents of the village freedom of movement. Organised by the municipality of Shufa, Combatants for Peace, Tulkarem Centre for Social Services, the ISM and Anarchists Against the Wall, the demonstration was part of the Nakba commemorations that are taking place throughout the West Bank from 8th-15th May. At 12pm approximately half of the activists, including village residents, carried picks, shovels and hoes to the one of the four roadblocks that cuts Shufa from nearby Izbit Shufa - which force residents to travel the one kilometre distance either by foot, or to take a 2 hour car journey.

Israeli settlers take over house in village near Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli settlers seized control of a Palestinian house in the southern West Bank village of Artas, near Bethlehem, on Saturday evening. According to Khalid Al-Azza, the head of the Popular Committee against settlement construction and the separation wall in Bethlehem, large numbers of Israeli settlers took control of the 120 square meter house which belongs to the Christian monastery in Artas. They surrounded the house with barbed wire. [end]

Israeli settlers in Hebron protest roadblock removal
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Dozens of Israeli settlers protested an Israeli government decision to remove a roadblock in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday. Witnesses said that dozens of settlers gathered near the roadblock, in the southern part of the city, attempting to prevent its removal by the Israeli military. Israeli police then intervened, dispersing the settlers. The President of the regional council of south Hebron settlements had sent a message to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asking him to annul the decision to open the road, claiming that removal of the roadblock endangers settlers’ lives. The roadblock removal has been postponed for the second time within a weekThe Israeli government pledged to remove dozens of roadblocks and checkpoints in in the West Bank in late March. There are more than 500 such barriers to Palestinian movement.

Officials: Suleiman visit last-ditch effort to prevent IDF strike in Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/12/2008
Egyptian intelligence chief due in Israel Monday morning with draft proposal for truce between Israel, Palestinian terror groups in Strip. ’This is not peace, but a temporary ceasefire that will serve Hamas and the other Palestinian terror organizations,’ Minister Boim says - Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman’s visit to Israel marks a last-ditch effort to try and end the Jewish state’s ongoing battle with the Palestinian terror organizations without an IDF strike in Gaza, senior officials in Jerusalem said Sunday night after yet another day of rocket fire on the western Negev and harsh criticism cast on the government over its inability to stop it. Suleiman, who serves as the chief mediator between Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian factions in the Strip, is due to arrive in Israel Monday morning with a draft of a truce agreement he had formulated with the Palestinian organizations’ consent.

Gaza plunges into darkness as Israel cuts fuel supplies
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/12/2008
The besieged Gaza Strip faced new blackouts on Sunday as its only power plant shut down after receiving no fuel from Israel in four days, senior Palestinian officials said. Meanwhile, Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert on Sunday blamed Hamas for all attacks from the Gaza Strip and warned that "calm" would be imposed by force if they did not cease." Hamas is the dominant force in the Gaza Strip. It is responsible [for all attacks] and will be called to bear the consequences of its activities. We do not intend to accept this reality," Olmert told a weekly cabinet meeting." This reality has to change. . . Either there is calm or Israel will use such force that will lead to calm," he added. Israel launched three air raids on the Gaza Strip on Saturday against what it said were two Hamas-run police stations and a group of gunmen approaching the border fence, killing five Hamas militants and wounding another two.

Energy authority: Israel blocks shipments of industrial diesel to Gaza’s power plant
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/11/2008
The Palestinian energy authority said on Sunday that the Israeli authorities blocked on Sunday morning delivery of industrial crude diesel to Gaza’s power plant, which generate’s electricity to Gaza’s population. Abdelkarim Abdeen, director of the energy authority, told media outlets in Gaza today that despite contacts with the Israelis for the resumption of shipments of industrial diesel to the power plant, the Israelis refused to allow them in under security pretexts, mainly at the Nahal Auz fuel terminal in eastern Gaza. The energy authority had earlier declared that the Gaza’s power plant would have to shut down completely very soon due to lack of fuel, needed to generate electricity. This would mean a total deficit of power supply, estimated at %55 percent of the original need of Gaza’s 1. 5 million residents.

Hamas: Retaining Rafah closed is a decision to continue killing Gaza people
Palestinian Information Center 5/11/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement called on Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing to break the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip in case Israel rejected the truce plan, considering that retaining the crossing closed in the face of the Gaza people is a decision of continuing to kill them. In a press statement to the Quds Press, Mohamed Nazzal, a member of the Hamas political bureau, stated that those who declare their solidarity with the Palestinian people have to take the initiative and open the Rafah crossing, adding that if Egypt refrained from such a step it would be an accomplice in besieging Gaza. Nazzal expressed his belief that the logical solution to the crisis is linked to the Arab and Egyptian political will to deal with the Israeli siege, but unfortunately this will is absent. The Hamas leader underscored that wagering on any political stand made by the PA. . .

Gaza blacked out for second night due to Israeli fuel cuts
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – More than 800,000 people in the Gaza Strip are spending the second consecutive night without electricity on Sunday. The Gaza Strip’s sole power plant shut down due to a lack of fuel on Saturday afternoon, Kan’an ’Ubaid, the deputy chair of the Palestinian power and natural resources service said. By sundown on Monday, a promised shipment of fuel had not yet arrived. ’Ubaid said during a press conference in Gaza City on Saturday that 30-35% of homes in the Strip, and fully half of homes in Gaza City are now without electricity. Israel, which controls Gaza’s borders, has limited fuel supplies since last September, culminating in an almost complete shutdown of the Nahal Oz fuel terminal after an attack on the crossing point in April. The diesel-burning power plant supplies electricity to more than half of Gaza’s 1. 5 million residents. Additional electricity flows into Gaza from Israel and Egypt. The European Union pays for the fuel for the power plant.

Nunu: Power outage in Gaza threatens lives of thousands
Palestinian Information Center 5/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government in Gaza headed by Ismail Haneyya has warned of an imminent humanitarian disaster as a result of the power outage that affected large areas in the Gaza Strip. Taher Al-Nunu, the government’s spokesman, said in a press release on Saturday night that Gaza had plunged into darkness and life came to a standstill after 80% of transport means came to a halt." Lives of thousands of people are in real danger", he said and demanded an Arab, Islamic and international stand against such an unprecedented situation where an entire population is threatened with death. Shifting to the issue of the Rafah crossing, which was opened by Egypt for three days before patients and humanitarian cases, Nunu said that it was a step in the right direction but not enough. He explained that the crossing was in fact still closed.

Fuel shortage forces Gaza blackout - power station
Reuters Foundation, ReliefWeb 5/10/2008
GAZA, May 10 (Reuters)- A fuel shortage forced the Gaza Strip’s main power station to shut down on Saturday, leaving much of the Hamas-controlled territory without electricity, a senior official at the generating plant said. "We are shutting down because we have run out of fuel. . . we cannot meet the demand for electricity," said the official who did not want to be named. An Israeli official said fuel shipments would resume on Sunday, adding there had not been any deliveries for a few due to Israel’s independence day celebrations and because of repeated militant mortar attacks on the supply point. Gaza has been facing a fuel shortage in recent months because of Israeli restrictions on supplies. Fuel for the power plant which supplies electricity to 800,000 of the strip’s 1. 5 million people, is funded by the European Union.

Hundreds of Palestinian patients cross into Egypt for treatment
Palestinian Information Center 5/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hundreds of Palestinians in dire need of medical treatment have crossed into Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Saturday including 200 wounded in IOF attacks on the Gaza Strip, medical sources announced. Muawia Hasanein, the director of ambulance and emergency in the Shifa hospital in Gaza, said in a statement to Palestine newspaper published on Sunday that 550 Palestinian patients left via the Rafah border terminal. He said that they would be treated in Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and hoped that another batch would get out on Sunday. The health official said that 30 of the patients were in critical conditions while 70 were children less than 18 years old. He hoped that the terminal would continue to operate permanently to end the Palestinians’ suffering in the Gaza Strip especially patients.

Rice: Israel, Palestinians need to show progress
Associated Press, YNetNews 5/11/2008
According to Western diplomats, during her recent Mideast visit US secretary of state told Israeli, Palestinian leaders they will need to show progress in secret peace talks or risk potentially fatal erosion in public support for process - The Bush administration has told Israeli and Palestinian leaders they will need to show progress in their secret talks soon, or risk a potentially fatal erosion in public support for a process now in its sixth month without any obvious successes. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice passed that message during meetings with both sides a little more than a week ago, Arab, US and other Western diplomats said. Rice was reacting mainly to the increasingly pessimistic Palestinian assessments of the talks, but she warned that confidence was fragile among Israelis, too.

Gaza bakeries stop working due to lack of fuel, electricity
Palestinian Information Center 5/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Owners of bakeries in Gaza Strip on Sunday announced that their bakeries had closed down due to the lack of fuel, gas and electricity that were blocked by Israeli occupation authority. They told a press conference that their 50 bakeries in the Strip would stop functioning completely. They called on all parties concerned to secure the necessary mechanism to ensure regular supplies of fuel to bakeries to guarantee continued service to the public. One of those bakers called on all legal and human rights organizations and the world community at large to act and lift the siege on Gaza. [end]

Israel is yet to respond to an Egyptian-mediated truce offer
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/11/2008
As Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Sulieman is set to hold talks on Monday with Israeli officials over Cairo-mediated Palestinian ceasefire offer, the Israeli cabinet discussed on Sunday the current situation. Isreali media sources reported that Sunday’s meeting tackled the latest developments in Gaza, where the Israeli army actions go unabated, whilst Palestinian homemade shells fire continued over the weekend, claiming the lives of five Hamas men and an Israeli citizen in southern Israel. Suleiman, whose country helped guaranteeing a ceasefire initiative by the ruling Hamas party, will carry tomorrow the truce proposal, which includes halt of Israeli military attacks on Gaza and end of the underway siege, in return for stopping homemade fire attacks by Hamas and other resistance factions, for a period of six months.

Gov’t to back Postal Bank on Palestinian financial services
Eran Peer, Globes Online 5/11/2008
The bank has requested indemnification in the event it is prosecuted for offenses under money laundering or anti-terrorism legislation. The government is to indemnify the Postal Bank against future prosecutions arising out of the provision of banking services to banks in the Palestinian Authority (PA). Officials are currently thrashing out the extent of the indemnification and the manner in which it will be provided with Ministry of Finance Accountant General Shuki Oren. Israel Post Company Ltd. director general Avi Hochman has made it clear that without the guarantee of full indemnification by the state, Israel Post would not provide banking services to Palestinian banks. The Postal Bank has requested indemnification in the event it is prosecuted for offenses under the Prohibition on Money Laundering Law (5670-2000), or the Prohibition on Terrorist Financing Law (5765-2004). -- See also: Israel Post threatens layoffs

10 Palestinians injured during Nakba commemoration protest
Stop The Wall 5/11/2008
Ten Palestinians were injured today in Shufa village, south of Tulkarem, when Israeli forces attacked a demonstration on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba. Members of the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba had gathered with grassroots organisations from Tulkarem to protest with the villagers against the ongoing attacks on Palestinian lives and land. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the Apartheid Wall and calling for the return of the Palestinian refugees as they moved to the roadblock at the entrance to the village. The protestors then began to dismantle the roadblock, which has effectively closed the entrance to the village for the last four years. As they did so, the occupation forces attacked with teargas and rubber bullets.

Rights group condemns detention of three journalists by Palestinian intelligence service
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issued a statement on Sunday condemning the detention of three journalists by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service (GIS) in the West Bank last Thursday. PCHR conducted an investigation into the arrests, which took place in Bethlehem and Qalqilia, and wrote the most detailed account that has surfaced to date of Thursday’s arrests. PHCR said such arrests "constitute an attack on press freedoms and the right to freedom of expression, which are ensured by the Palestinian Basic Law and international human rights instruments." PCHR’s report follows:According to investigations conducted by PCHR and the testimony of cameraman Aseed ‘Abdul Majeed ‘Amarna, 23, at approximately 12:00 on Thursday, 8 May 2008, ‘Amarna was photographing a march organized in Bethlehem on the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian. . .

PCHR condemns detention of 3 journalists by...WEST BANK INTELLIGENCE (!?)
Palestine Think Tank 5/11/2008
PCHR strongly condemns the detention of 3 Palestinian journalists and a columnist by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service (GIS) in Bethlehem and Qalqilya towns in the West Bank on Thursday, 8 May 2008. PCHR believes that such arrests constitute an attack on press freedoms and the right to freedom of expression, which are ensured by the Palestinian Basic Law and international human rights instruments. According to investigations conducted by PCHR and the testimony of cameraman Aseed "˜Abdul Majeed "˜Amarna, 23, at approximately 12:00 on Thursday, 8 May 2008, "˜Amarna was photographing a march organized in Bethlehem on the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (the uprooting of the Palestinian people from their land in 1948). When the march arrived in al-"˜Azza refugee camp, north of the town, a person wearing civilian clothes approached "˜Amarna.

13 injured as Israeli forces crack down on demonstration near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces violently dispersed a demonstration in the village of Shufa, near Tulkarem, on Saturday afternoon, wounding 11 Palestinian and Israeli peace activists and two journalists. The organization Combatants for Peace organized the action, which was aimed at removing roadblocks at the entrances of the village in order to ease the movement of residents in and out. Hundreds of international, Israeli and Palestinian activists took part in the rally along with local residents. Using rope and ordinary tools to move boulders, the protestors were able to remove one roadblock. When the protestors attempted to remove another roadblock, Israeli troops attacked them, firing rubber-coated metal bullets, sonic bombs, and tear gas. As a result, thirteen people were injured, including one Israeli and one from a third country.

Blast kills Gaza teacher in front of her children
Donald Macintyre in Khan Younis, The Independent 5/11/2008
The UN is demanding an investigation into how the Israeli military killed one of its Palestinian school teachers by blasting open the front door of her Gaza home with explosives in the presence of three of her children. Wafer Shaker al Daghma, 34, a teacher at a local UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) elementary school, was killed last Wednesday as she stood preparing to open the wooden door of her home to the troops. According to UNRWA and relatives who found her body, the military used an explosive device on the door which blew most of her head from her body. They then confined the traumatised children -- aged from two to 13 -- for five hours while the body lay outside the door of the room where they were held. Although the soldiers finally left the house -- in darkness because of a blackout -- at around 9pm, Mrs al Daghma’s 13-year-old daughter Samira was. . .

Three Qassams hit Negev, one explodes near schoolbus
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets at the western Negev on Sunday, one of whiche exploded next to a schoolbus carrying children. Two of the rockets, fired Sunday afternoon, hit populated areas in Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no injuries in either of the strikes. The first rocket landed near Sapir College, damaging a local construction site. The second Qassam struck near a local gas station, causing damage to the school bus. There were no casualties reported, but several people were treated for shock. Earlier Sunday a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza hit an open area in the western Negev. On Friday, Israeli civilian Jimmy Kdoshim, 48, was killed by a mortar shell fired by Hamas militants. Kdoshim was struck while tending the garden of his home on Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

A Palestinian man killed as Israeli army sweeps into Rafah
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/11/2008
Palestinian medical sources in the Khan Younis city in southern Gaza Strip said that Osama Alastal, 23, was killed Sunday morning. Witnesses said that Alastal was among a group of resistance fighters of the Alqassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party, to the east of Qarrara town, on Israel-Gaza border lines. Meanwhile, local Palestinian sources said that an Israeli army undercover unit swept early on Sunday morning into the Alnahda neighborhood, to the east of Rafah city in southern Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that the Israeli force opened fire towards residential houses, with no injuries reported. [end]

Security source: Terrorists firing mortars to avoid retaliation
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 5/12/2008
Increased use of ’soft’ weapon such as mortars attempt by Gaza organizations to continue with terror-related activity without drawing Israeli response, security official says - The rise in the number of advanced mortars fired from Gaza has exposed a problem in the ability to warn Israeli residents of the incoming shells. The problem, according to a security source, stems from the short-range mortars’ very limited flight time." We must examine how to reduce the risk posed to the citizens of Israel in the face of the mortar threat," the official said. On Friday a 48-year-old Jimmy Kdoshim was killed by a mortar shell while working in his garden in Kibbutz Kfar Aza. IDF data reveal that the terrorists prefer the use of mortars over rockets and other missiles in their possession.

Three homemade shells fired from Gaza into Negev
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/11/2008
According to Israeli sources, three shells fired from the Gaza Strip hit areas inside Israel on Sunday afternoon. Two of the shells allegedly hit near populated areas. The third hit in the western Negev desert, far from any populated area. The shells fired by Palestinian fighters are crude and lacking in any explosive capability. There is also no way for the fighters to aim the shells, which are fired blindly across the border with Israel into the one Israeli town built provocatively close to the sealed border with the imprisoned Gaza Strip. Israeli sources stated that one of the shells hit near a schoolbus. No injuries were reported in any of the strikes. [end]

’Suspected Executive Force members’ arrested in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority’s security forces have arrested two people who are charged with being members of Hamas’ Executive Force in the West Bank city of Hebron, security sources said on Saturday. The sources claimed the suspects were detained in the center of Hebron, and that they were in possession of "banned material." The suspects have been taken to interrogation centers. The Executive Force is an internal security force maintained by Hamas, predominantly in the Gaza Strip where the movement holds sway. [end]

Islamic Jihad’s military wing fires three projectiles at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility on Sunday afternoon for firing three homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot, which borders the Gaza Strip. The military group said in a statement that the shelling was an act of retaliation for Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They also said the shelling was to show that resistance is their strategy for opposing the Israeli occupation. [end]

Projectiles fired at Kerem Shalom crossing
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades and Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility on Sunday for launching three homemade projectiles at the Kerem Shalom crossing point in southern Gaza. They said in a statement that fighters from both groups cooperated to fire three projectiles in retaliation for ongoing Israeli attakcs against the Palestinian people. [end]

Israeli soldier shot in Khan Younis, Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades say
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, (PFLP) the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, said on Sunday that their fighters shot and injured an Israeli soldier near the Sufa landfill in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. They said the shooting was in retaliation for Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people[end]

Four Hamas members ’arrested’ in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Hamas movement said on Sunday that Fatah-allied Palestinian security arrested four members of the movement in the West Bank on Sunday. Hamas said in a statement that wives of two arrestees have were also seized in Al-’Ein refugee camp in the city of Nablus. Two men have been were seized in the cities of Tulkarem and Jenin. [end]

ISRAEL: Dozens of refugee children outside school system
Tamar Dressler/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/12/2008
TEL AVIV, 11 May 2008 (IRIN) - Hope may be on the horizon for dozens of children of refugees and asylum-seekers who fell through the cracks and have been left out of the education system since the school year started last September, the Tel Aviv Municipality said." The Tel Aviv Municipality is well aware of the shortage of available places in the schools in the southern Tel Aviv neighbourhoods," spokesman Hillel Fartuk told IRIN, singling out the section of the city where refugees tend to congregate." We are doing our best to supply [education to] the children who fall under the primary education criteria," he said, adding that it would like to find places for them in other locations and "open a kindergarten suited to their special needs". Despite Israel’s progressive primary education law - specifying that all children. . .

Leftists mark Palestinian ''˜Nakba Day’
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 5/11/2008
Israeli left-wing activists and Arabs commemorate 60 years since ’catastrophe’ of Israel’s inception with march in central Jerusalem - Two hundred left-wing activists and Israeli Arabs marched on Sunday from the Jerusalem Theater square to the Nature Museum on Emek Refaim Street in the capital marking 60 years since "Nakba Day", or "catastrophe" of Israel’s inception in 1948. During the procession, protestors stood near houses they claimed once belonged to Palestinians, telling the proclaimed history of each house. Amongst the protestors was an elderly Palestinian woman accompanied by her family members who shared her experiences from pre-1967 Jerusalem. Four right-wing extremists, including Baruch Marzel arrived on the scene calling, "Israel is ours, we will cause you a lifelong "˜Nakba’". Police removed two right-wing activists.

Palestinian refugees mark Nakba
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Several dozen Palestinian refugees, public figures and Israeli left-wing activists conducted a tour yesterday of the West Jerusalem neighborhoods of Talbieh and Baka to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nakba ("the Catastrophe"), as the Palestinians refer to the events surrounding Israel’s independence in 1948. The tour began in the homes next to the Jerusalem Theater in Talbieh, with the organizers showing photographs taken of those homes and their Palestinian inhabitants before the War of Independence. Palestinian refugees described their pre-war experiences and what happened to them during the war itself. At 20 Hovevei Zion Street in Talbieh, those who joined the tour looked at the inscription "A. K. 1925," forged in iron on the front of the building." This is the home of my father’s grandfather, Assad Hadad.

VIDEO - The blockade and the smugglers
The Guardian 5/11/2008
Israel’s fuel blockade has ground Gaza’s infrastructure to a halt. In response, smuggling gangs bring fuel in from Egypt through underground tunnels - Source: Guardian Films [end]

Police: woman found dead in Abu Dis was from Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian police in the West Bank city of Bethlehem announced on Sunday that a dead body that was found at the entrance of a mosque in the town of Abu Dis in east Jerusalem last Wednesday has been identified. Deputy Director of the Bethlehem general detectives service, Ayman Qawasm, told Ma’an, "The corpse was identified, and it was a woman from the Gaza Strip who had been living in Ar-Ram in east Jerusalem." Qawasmi added that the victim’s brother identified the corpse; but he would not name either of them. He said the body will be sent for an autopsyAfter being discovered in Abu Dis last Wednesday, the body was taken to the government hospital in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 23 - 29 Apr 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 4/29/2008
Of note this week Gaza Strip:- The IDF killed nine Palestinians, including five children aged 1, 3, 4, 6, and 15 years, and injured 27 others. Four children, their mother and a Palestinian man (all unarmed civilians) were killed and 12 others were injured when an IAF helicopter fired two missiles that hit a Palestinian house during an IDF ground operation northwest of Beit Hanun. - The IDF demolished six houses and uprooted 200 dunums of olive trees during its incursion east of Deir El Balah. - The lack of sufficient fuel supplies continues to undermine all aspects of daily life in Gaza, including the use of wooden ovens, flooding of some sewage facilities, the closure of bakeries, and paralysis of the public transportation system. - Following fuel shortage, UNRWA resumed its food distribution on 29 April and extended its hours of operation in an effort to reach those beneficiaries affected by the cessation of services since 25 April.

Sudan agrees to accept 2000 Palestinians displaced from Iraq
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Khartoum – Ma’an/Agencies – The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed an agreement on Saturday afternoon with the Sudanese government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to transfer some 2000 Palestinian refugees stranded at the Syrian-Iraqi border to Sudan. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the agreement was signed at the Sudanese Foreign Ministry in Khartoum. The Palestinian ambassador to Sudan, Sayyid Al-Masri, signed the agreement of behalf of Palestine; Sudanese Minister of State Abbas Jum’ah signed on behalf of the Sudanese government. According to Jum’ah, the Palestinian refugees will stay in the Sudanese capital at Al-Quds farm which the Sudanese government had donated to the Palestinian people years ago.

Olmert, Mubarak to meet ’within weeks’; Suleiman here Monday
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to visit Egypt in the coming weeks, where he will meet with President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip, the framework for a cease-fire agreement and the continuing negotiations with the Palestinians on the core issues of a permanent settlement. The Chief of Egyptian Intelligence, Omar Suleiman, is scheduled to arrive in Israel Monday for meetings on the outcome of recent talks between representatives of Egypt and Hamas and the other Palestinian factions in the Strip. Olmert’s visit to Egypt was agreed to in principle during a conversation with Mubarak on April 30, before the Talansky Affair broke. Mubarak had told Olmert that he is interested to talk in private about the situation in Gaza and the negotiations with the Palestinians, and the two agreed that the PM would visit Egypt in the wake of President George W.

Joint PA-Israeli patrols roaming Al-Khalil streets
Palestinian Information Center 5/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli military vehicles along with patrol cars boarded by PA security elements were seen Sunday morning roaming intensively Al-Khalil streets, in the southern West Bank, as part of the security cooperation between the PA leadership and the Israeli occupation. Palestinian eyewitnesses reported the PA patrols rounded up two Palestinian citizens at the pretext that they were suspected of being affiliated with the executive force. Meanwhile, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Haj, an imprisoned member of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, called on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to issue immediate orders to his security apparatuses to release the wives of Palestinian prisoners Riyadh Al-Nadi and Ahmed Abu Al-Izz who were kidnapped Saturday. In a letter written in the Megiddo prison, Haj said: "The arrest of Palestinian prisoners’ wives is a crime which no one can commit unless he has departed from. . .

Ex-IDF Chief: Hezbollah rule in Lebanon may help Israel beat it
Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid , Haaretz Service and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak said Sunday Hezbollah’s persistent attempts to take over Lebanon could eventually benefit Israel in its struggle against the militant group." If an armed conflict erupts it will be simpler to strike Lebanon when Hezbollah is the legitimate ruler," Shahak told the Army Radio. Earlier on Sunday, Israel’s Vice Premier Haim Ramon told cabinet members that Lebanon must be viewed as a "Hezbollah state," after the Shiite guerilla group seized control over the western part of the Lebanese capital over the weekend." Lebanon has no government. It is a fiction, there is only Hezbollah," Ramon said during the weekly cabinet meeting." Hezbollah is directly responsible for everything that happens [in Lebanon], and the organization completely controls the state.

Barak leads chorus of Israeli worries over unstable situation in Lebanon
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/12/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday called the situation in Lebanon "serious" after deadly clashes between pro-government and opposition forces, some of which are backed by Israel’s arch-foe, Iran." Hizbullah’s taking of control [in western Beirut] is a serious development," Barak said during the weekly cabinet meeting, public radio reported. Barak’s view was shared by other Israeli ministers who raised doubts about the ability of the Lebanese government and army to control Hizbullah and its allies, which briefly seized control of large parts of the capital before withdrawing on Saturday and Sunday. Gunmen from Hizbullah and its opposition partners withdrew after the army on Saturday revoked government decisions taken against the Shiite movement. However, fighting erupted Sunday in mainly Druze areas southeast of Beirut, pitting supporters of the government against rivals from the Hizbullah-led opposition.

Ramon: ’Lebanon has no gov’t’
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Israel’s vice premier Haim Ramon told cabinet members Sunday that Lebanon must be viewed as a "Hezbollah state," after the Shi’ite guerilla group seized control of the western part of the Lebanese capital over the weekend." Lebanon has no government. It is a fiction, there is only Hezbollah," Ramon said during the weekly cabinet meeting. At least 46 people have been killed in clashes between Hezbollah and pro-government fighters over the last five days. Also during the meeting, Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said Lebanon had been embroiled in a political crisis since former Lebanese president Emile Lahoud completed his term and stepped down, last November. Yadlin said there is a consensus that army commander General Michel Suleiman should become the new president, but said that Hezbollah’s intentions "go far beyond the selection of a president.

Thousands demand justice for Palestine in London demonstration
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
London – Ma’an – Thousands attended a rally in London to mark the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba and call for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land on Saturday. The Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, spoke at the rally, which called for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historic Palestine. Thousands of people participated in the rally including a number of members of the British parliament as well as former minister Tony Ben, Palestinian and Arab dignitaries and leaders of the Palestinian community in London." Israeli citizens make 30 times what Palestinians do, settlers take 48 times the water of Palestinians, Palestinians are denied entry to Jerusalem," Barghouthi said. Speakers also included Richard Burden MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine,. . .

Hamas: The Palestinian people cannot be blamed if they break the siege
Palestinian Information Center 5/12/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Saturday that the Israeli occupation turned the Gaza Strip into a dark tomb, warning that the Palestinian people cannot stay passive towards that and cannot be blamed if they break the siege by their own means. In a press conference, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that the ongoing Israeli siege and the power outage as a result of the lack of fuel are war crimes in every sense of the word. Dr. Abu Zuhri added that Hamas leadership made contacts and gave chances to all efforts to lift the suffocating siege on Gaza, but the Israeli occupation persists in cutting fuel supplies and refuses to lift the siege. Gaza has plunged into darkness since Saturday evening due to the depletion of fuel supplies from the main power station which is threatening unprecedented humanitarian and health disasters.

Barak: We strive toward peace, but IDF ready for any challenge
Yuval Azoulay and Avi Issacharoff, and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday emphasized Israel’s peaceful intentions alongside affirming the army’s readiness for any eventuality, speaking at a ceremony marking 63 years since the victory over Nazi Germany." We strive toward peace, but everyone knows that the Israel Defense Forces and the security establishment are following, watching and ready for every challenge and every test which is likely to be forced upon us," Barak said at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. The defense Minister also stated: "In these very days, one eye watches and views what is happening in the Gaza Strip, while the second eye watches what is going on in Lebanon and Syria. And, of course, both also view the developments in Iran." Earlier Sunday, President Shimon Peres said that in due time, Israel would see a future free from the threat barrages from the Gaza Strip, saying, "Hamas has rockets, but no future."

Palestinian source: Livni-led government would be fragile
Ali Waked, YNetNews 5/11/2008
Senior official tells Ynet police probe against Olmert has Palestinian Authority vigilant; adds any halt in peace process may result in new talks between Hamas, PA officials - The Palestinians are deeply concerned about the possible results of the police investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: A senior Palestinian source told Ynet Sunday that despite the lack of serious boost to the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority would rather see Olmert stay in office. A government headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (which may take over as acting prime minister should Olmert resign), will innately be a "weak, fragile government, unable to push any significant political move," said the source. According to the source, should the peace process come to a halt as a result of the police probe against Olmert, the PA will have no choice but to revert to negotiating with Hamas.

Hail to the chief (and his massive cargo planes)
Zohar Blumenkrantz, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Preparations for U. S. President George W. Bush’s arrival in Israel this Wednesday have moved into high gear. Five enormous C-17 cargo planes carrying mainly security equipment for the visit are scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion International Airport today, Haaretz has learned. The cargo includes armored cars, and helicopters that will escort the president throughout his visit to Israel. Bush will be welcomed at the airport Wednesday with an official state ceremony, which will follow the same format as the one held in honor of his previous visit a few months ago. A dress rehearsal for the ceremony will take place tomorrow. Bleachers will be erected for invitees to the welcome ceremony, who include Israeli ministers, police commissioner, Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Supreme Court president, chief rabbis and other VIPs.

International Writers Festival opens in Jerusalem
Shiri Lev-Ari, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
In a country as conflicted as Israel, hosting a group of highly respected authors from around the world who come to talk about literature and life is not a feat to be taken for granted. So when hundreds of people gathered in the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center yesterday for the opening of the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem, the first such meeting to take place in Israel, it looked almost like a dream. The writers festival - which features authors including South African Nobel Prize laureate Nadine Gordimer; U. S. Jewish writers Anita Diamant, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander; and writers from Portugal, the Netherlands and Albania - is taking place the same week that U. S. President George W. Bush is visiting Israel. It is also happening as the Israeli public gets riled up over the latest corruption investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Jerusalem planners okay route of new bridge to Mugrabi Gate
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Jerusalem’s City Hall on Sunday said its planning commission has approved the route of a new bridge to the hotly disputed Temple Mount, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. An earthquake damaged the old bridge to the site. When Israeli workers tried to repair the damage last year, that set off demonstrations by Palestinians. They charged Israel was trying to undermine the Al Aqsa Mosque inside the gate. On Sunday the Jerusalem municipality said its planning commission has approved the route of the new bridge. It will be built on a few columns, guiding it over archaeological findings discovered when the old bridge was destroyed. The original plan for the bridge, which leads from the Old City’s Dung Gate and the Western Wall to the Temple Mount’s Mugrabi Gate, raised hackles in the Arab world when it was presented last year, due to allegations that it would damage the site.

Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad: PA is going ahead with security reforms
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/11/2008
Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, confirmed on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is going ahead with a comprehensive security plan across the entire West Bank territories." the PA is determined to reform the security conditions in the West Bank, in light of latest success of security arrangements in the cities of Nablus and Jenin". During a field visit to Nablus on Sunday, Fayyad said that there has been some sort of optimism towards wrestling full security control over the West Bank areas, in away that guarantees a better security situation. Fayyad reiterated the PA’s plan to rehabilitate and train the various security services for the best of improved security conditions for the entire population over there. On another note, the Palestinian premier declared that his cabinet had endorsed some 200 micro-projects, half of them have been already executed in different parts of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Fayyad pays surprise visit to Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad paid a surprise visit to the city of Nablus on Sunday, reaffirming his plan to impose law and order in the Occupied Territories. Fayyad said the Palestinian Authority has arranged for the Palestinian security forces to undergo training courses, some of which will take place in Jordan." We are planning to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Fayyad said. The Palestinian Prime Minister also said he was happy with the results of a plan to impose order in Nablus, which began with the deployment of hundreds of Palestinian security personnel last November. The security clampdown has since extended to other cities, most recently Jenin. Fayyad also stated the importance of the Palestine Investment Conference which will take place in the city Bethlehem later this month.

Ministers back PM’s decision not to step down
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/11/2008
Weekly cabinet meeting sees show of support Olmert’s decision not to resign pending results of new police investigation against him; Foreign Minister Livni is only minister to keep silent. Transportation Minister Mofaz: Olmert innocent until proven guilty - As his lawyers prepared for the legal fight, and while political figures questioned his ability to govern while being investigated by the police, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received support from his fellow party and government members Sunday. A Kadima ministers meeting Sunday morning turned into a show of support for the prime minister, on the backdrop of the developments in the Talansky affair. Most of the party ministers – including Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim – stood by Olmert." The prime minister, like any other citizen, has the right of innocence. He is innocent until proven guilty," said Mofaz, adding that the prime minister’s remarks on Thursday evening were clear.

Talansky’s funds paid debts from PM’s mayoral campaigns
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
The debts of an organization that campaigned for Ehud Olmert’s election as mayor of Jerusalem were covered out of funds received from American businessman Morris Talansky, Haaretz has learned. According to information obtained by Haaretz, Talansky initially agreed to serve as a guarantor for the organization’s debts. But after the organization failed to repay the money, Talansky’s guarantee was called in. Talansky has apparently not yet been fully repaid for that outlay, and police are investigating whether this constituted an illegal transfer of funds. The organization’s name cannot be published due to the gag order on the case. During Olmert’s mayoral race, the organization handled his campaign’s finances. It later received reimbursement from the state for some of its campaign expenses, in accordance with the law, but because Olmert’s faction won fewer seats than expected. . .

Police suspect money transferred to Olmert outside campaign season
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
The investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s alleged illegal receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars from American businessman and fund-raiser Morris Talansky is currently focused on Olmert’s tenure as industry and trade minister in the Sharon government - not on the mayoral election campaigns in which Olmert participated, the funding for which he said he had received from Talansky, sources involved in the probe told Haaretz. Olmert said Friday that the investigation dealt with donations to the 1999 and 2002 campaigns for the Jerusalem mayoralty and the Likud primary. The prime minister further said the funds were also intended to cover losses. He said he had met Talansky 20 years ago and acknowledged receiving funds from him, saying they were campaign contributions when he twice ran for mayor of Jerusalem and that he never kept any money for himself or took bribes.

Kadima members berate Livni for silence over Olmert probe
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has come increasingly under fire from fellow Kadima party members for keeping mum on the latest investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but "has behaved as she saw fit and will continue to do so," sources close to her said Sunday. In contrast to Livni’s marked silence, fellow Kadima ministers Shaul Mofaz, Roni Bar-On, Meir Sheetrit, Ruhama Avraham Balila, and Vice Premier Haim Ramon spoke out Sunday about Olmert’s right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. Olmert told a meeting of Kadima’s ministers Sunday: "I have no complaints about the State Prosecutor’s Office or the police, and I find no fault with them." His comment followed Public Security Minister Avi Dichter’s concern lest the meeting give rise to the impression that Kadima ministers are against the law enforcement authorities.

In Talansky case, Olmert’s bonds with cronies beginning to crack
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
One thing police investigators hope to accomplish in their investigation of the Ehud Olmert-Morris Talansky affair is to break the long-standing bonds of loyalty between the prime minister, attorney Uri Messer and Olmert’s former office manager, Shula Zaken. The rifts in the three-way relationship are already apparent: Olmert, when questioned, said Messer and Zaken were responsible for handling Talansky’s donations, while Messer told the police that Zaken gave him the money to hold, and he later returned it to her, but never knew who it came from or how it was used. Zaken has thus far refused to talk, but Olmert, like Messer, directed the police’s attention to her, saying she was the one who arranged his meetings with Talansky and then transferred the money to Messer.

Olmert to appeal early testimony decision
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/11/2008
"Ma’ariv" claimed Olmert aide Uri Messer said, "I gave Olmert envelopes full of cash." “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) reports that the attorneys of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last night decided to appeal to the Supreme Court the decision of the Jerusalem District Court to allow law enforcement agencies to collect early testimony from US businessman Morris Talansky, who is a key witness against Olmert. The attorneys said that, so long as the Israel Police investigation against Olmert has not been completed and they have not received the material in the file, no effective cross examination of Talansky can be made. The attorneys for Olmert’s former director of the Prime Minister’s Bureau, Shula Zaken, are expected to join the appeal. Last week, the district court accepted the request of the police and State Prosecutor’s Office to collect early testimony from Talansky.

Gov’t official accused of forging entry visas for Russian mafia
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/11/2008
A senior official in the Interior Ministry was arrested Sunday on suspicion that he approved the entry of dozens of criminals wanted by Israeli authorities in return for bribes. The suspect is believed to have carried out a series of crimes, including taking bribes, fraud, forgery, and violation of trust. Three additional suspects were also arrested, none of whom work for the Interior Ministry. The arrests came as a result of an undercover investigation carried out by police and the Interior Ministry, which took over a month. The investigation determined that the suspect illegally doled out dozens of entry visas to people not allowed to enter Israel, including a number of known criminals suspected of being involved with the Russian mafia. The suspects will be brought before a remand hearing Sunday at 2 pm in Petach Tikvah. . .

Olmert says doing everything to protect Israel from its enemies
Neta Sela, YNetNews 5/11/2008
’We must deal with enemies from the north and the south that are looking to wipe us off the map,’ prime minister tells JNF conference in Jerusalem. Barak: Israel strives for peace, but IDF prepared to face any challenge - "I am doing everything so this country will be able to defend itself against its enemies and so that our children and grandchildren won’t live their lives filled with the suffering prevalent here," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday evening during a Jewish National Fund (JNF) conference held at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. Addressing the incessant Qassam rocket fire emanating from Gaza and the internal crisis in Lebanon, Olmert said, "We must deal with enemies from the north and the south that are looking to wipe us off the map, but we will always be prepared. You can count on it."

VIDEO - News / Talansky denies wrongdoing in the case against Olmert
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 5/11/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 special news bulletin for May 11, 2008. U. S. businessman Morris Talansky denies wrongdoing in the case against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Clashes rage on in Lebanon for the fifth day. Businessman Benjamin Gaon is laid to rest after losing his battle with cancer. [end]

Talansky: Don’t know how Olmert spent funds I gave him
Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis and Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
American businessman Morris Talansky, a key witness in an ongoing investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s suspected financial corruption, on Sunday denied any illegal activities or wrongdoing in the alleged affair. In an interview with Channel 10, Talansky said that the money he had given Olmert prior to the prime minister’s victory in the 2006 elections was not "in any way illegal or wrong." Talansky said he thought the money he raised was for Olmert’s election campaigns. He added that while he had not heard otherwise, he could not now verify how the prime minister had spent the money. He heatedly denied trying to bribe Olmert and declared that he has no business interests in Israel and had no intention to make money there." It never crossed my mind," he said.

State employees suspected of smuggling foreign workers into Israel
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 5/11/2008
Immigration Administration investigators arrested eight residents of southern Israel Sunday for smuggling dozens of foreign workers into the country. The eight are suspected of illegally brining the foreign workers to Israel and cheating them out of money. The arrests mark the conclusion of a four-month-long covert investigation. A Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment employee and a National Insurance Institute employee are among the suspects. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment is responsible for issuing work permits for foreign workers, while the National Insurance Institute is in charge of authorizing senior citizens and the handicapped to employ workers from overseas as nurses. The suspects will be brought before The Ramle Magistrate’s Court for the extension of their remand Sunday afternoon.

Lieberman: I would join Netanyahu gov’t if I got defense post
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, would be willing to join a coalition government led by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu if he is appointed defense minister, he told the Russian-language Web site newsru. com yesterday. In the interview, Lieberman criticized the current defense minister and Labor Party chief Ehud Barak, saying that Barak does not have the stuff leadership is made of. Lieberman thereby ruled out joining a Barak-led coalition. Lieberman served until last January as Ehud Olmert’s strategic affairs minister. However, the timing of his statement has some political observers baffled. Netanyahu and Lieberman recently held a series of talks at which they agreed to coordinate their efforts. Appointing Lieberman defense minister never came up. Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.

Rehovot mayor to be indicted for fraud
Eli Senyor, YNetNews 5/11/2008
Kadima-backed Mayor Shuky Forer to be indicted for alleged breaches of election funding law following hearing -The State Prosecutor’s Office has informed Rehovot Mayor Shuky Forer on Sunday that it plans to indict him for breach of trust and conspiracy to commit a crime. Other senior municipality officials will be indicted for even graver offenses. The investigation against Forer was launched in 2003, but only recently materialized into an indictment. The suspicions against Forer date back to 1998, the year he became mayor, and relate to alleged breaches of the election funding law. The State Prosecution informed Forer’s attorneys Sunday that he may be charged with perjury, conspiracy to commit a crime, breach of trust and other offenses. The decision on whether or not to indict the Kadima-backed Rehovot mayor will be finalized following a hearing scheduled to be held this week.

Interior Ministry continues HP talks on smart ID cards
Shmulik Shelah, Globes Online 5/11/2008
The talks are unusual, given that a tender was cancelled last November. The Ministry of the Interior has informed a Jerusalem court that it is continuing to negotiate withHewlett Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ ) over the smart ID card. A tender was cancelled in November 2007. Last week, the ministry notified the Jerusalem Administrative Affairs Court, which is hearing HP’s claim against the government over the cancellation, that it was continuing negotiations with the company. The talks are unusual, given that the tender was cancelled, and the ministry is continuing talks under special authorization to deal with a single supplier, without a bidding process. The cancellation was the second time in five years that the smart ID card tender was cancelled. HP was the only finalist in the second tender. The ministry and HP are negotiating over the price of the smart ID. . .

Negev council head: Government busy with investigations instead of security
Yonat Atlas, YNetNews 5/11/2008
Eshkol Regional Council head says government views inhabitants of communities surrounding Gaza Strip as ’pawns’ - "Israel is shutting its mouth and dealing with internal investigations instead of worrying about its citizens’ security" said Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yalin to Ynet on Sunday. According to him, the Israeli government is using the inhabitants of the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip as ’pawns’. Yalin spoke after attending the funeral of Jimmy Kdoshim, who was killed Friday evening when a mortar shell fired from Gaza hit his house in Kibbutz Kfar Aza." The government needs to put an end to this situation. The situation is one of war and the government needs to act accordingly," Yalin added. The council head praised Jimmy and said, "We buried him, a friend who loved humankind and who helped everyone."

One-third as talkative as Israelis
Ziv Amitai, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
One look at Paltel’s Web site is all it takes for one to be able understand the anomalous situation of the Palestinian Authority’s economy. The cost of phone calls is listed in Israeli shekels, but the company’s financial results are in Jordanian dinars, and CEO Abdel Malik Jaber speaks in dollars. Whatever the currency, the communication habits in the Palestinian market are easy to learn. The average Palestinian talks for 132 minutes a month, compared to 345 for the average Israeli. Paltel’s average monthly revenue per user is $18, while Israeli companies earn about $37 from each customer. Like other emerging economies, there are far more cellular phones than land lines. Paltel’s cellular subsidiary, Jawwal, has 1. 1 million subscribers, and another 700,000 Palestinians subscribe to Israel’s four cellular operators.

Israel Post threatens layoffs
Shay Niv, Globes Online 5/11/2008
Israel Post accuses the communications minister of not implementing agreements guaranteeing the company’s financial standing. Israel Post Company Ltd. is threatening to lay off 150 employees immediately and cancel the planned hiring of 700 contract employees as regular employees because of a dispute with Minister of Communications Ariel Atias. The company is also threatening to cut executive salaries by 10% and reduce the marketing budget because the company lost NIS 90 million in 2007, more than double the projected loss. Israel Post claims that Atias still has not moved forward on agreements between the company, Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) and Ministries of Communications and Finance regarding the promises to guarantee the company’s financial standing. The agreements were reached a year ago when the parcels market was opened to full competition. -- See also: Gov''t to back Postal Bank on Palestinian financial services

Microsoft CEO Ballmer to visit Israel
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/11/2008
Steve Ballmer will inaugurate a new R&D campus. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will visit Israel on Wednesday, May 21, to inaugurate the new R&D campus of Microsoft Israel Ltd. in Herzliya Pituah. President Shimon Peres will attend the ceremony. Ballmer will hold a press conference followed by a presentation entitled "Innovation and Impact". [end]

Junior lecturers to disrupt studies in protest against work conditions
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 5/11/2008
Junior academic staff on Monday will start disrupting studies at universities across Israel in protest against the employment conditions of external lecturers. Danny Shpruch, of Tel Aviv University’s junior academic staff, declared: "Our patience is about to run out. The members of our organization are employed on starvation wages as contracted workers, without any sort of pension or social rights." "We request of the university heads: Show responsibility. Let’s not lose the semester because of redundant obstinacy," Shpruch said. A general meeting will be held from 12:00-14:00 at Tel Aviv University in order to explain the lecturers’ demands, during which there will be no classes. On Tuesday, another such meeting will be held at Haifa University between 12:00 and 14:00, at which time classes will also be cancelled.

Largest Israeli real estate firms double assets
Michal Margalit, Globes Online 5/11/2008
Yet D&B Israel finds that real estate firms are having a difficult time raising funds. Israel’s top 50 real estate firms increased their investment by 94% to an aggregate NIS 203 billion, reveals Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Israel’s Dun’s 100 Real Estate company rankings. The five largest real estate firms in Israel in 2007, by investment in assets and lands, areGazit-Globe (TASE:GLOB Delek Real Estate Ltd. (TASE: DLKRJerusalem Economic Corp. (TASE:ECJM ), (JEC),Electra Real Estate Ltd. (TASE:ELCRE ), and Africa-Israel Properties (TASE:AFPR ). The survey reveals that the combined equity of the top 50 companies totaled NIS 61 billion, a 132% increase compared with 2006. The Dun’s 100 survey ranks the 72 largest companies, by investment in assets and lands, income for activities, and equity.

Israel gets first look at prototype of revolutionary electric car
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Israelis got a first demonstration Sunday of the electric car that developers hope will revolutionize transportation in the country and serve as a pilot for the rest of the world. The silver car doing circles in a Tel Aviv parking lot looked like a regular sedan - except it had no exhaust pipe and there was an electric socket where the mouth of the gas tank should have been. The Silicon Valley start-up Project Better Place hopes the fully electricprototype will be on Israel’s streets in large numbers beginning at the end of 2010. Backers of the project say the car will drastically reduce dependence on oil, cut emissions and put Israel at the forefront of international efforts to develop more environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Israel’s government endorsed the project in January, and a Danish energy company also has joined as a partner.

Fatah leader elected president of the Palestinian Football Federation
Ma’an News Agency 5/11/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Jibreel Rajoub, the former director of the Palestinian Preventive Security service in the West Bank, was elected president of the Palestinian Football Federation on Saturday evening. Rajoub won an uncontested election after his only opponent, Jihad Tummali, withdrew last week. A longtime member of Fatah, Rajoub was once considered a candidate to succeed Yasser Arafat as Palestinian President. The members of the Federation’s governing body were also elected on Saturday. A number of nominees from Jerusalem split votes among themselves, and no one from Jerusalem was ultimately elected. A representative of FIFA, the world football federation, attended the election, which took place in the town of Al-Birah, in the central West Bank. Elections did not take place in the Gaza Strip as a result of a decision by the minister of youth and sport in the Hamas-run de facto government, Basim Na’im.

Cartoon film on Nakba describes Jews as ’enemies of homeland’
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Jewish fighters are shown shooting Palestinians and bombing their villages in an animated film by Gaza-based women marking 60 years since Israel was founded and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced." The Tale of a Key" describes the Jews as "enemies of the religion and enemies of the homeland" and is meant to highlight what the illustrators called the "holy" right of dispossessed Palestinians to return to land that is now part of Israel. The women behind the film, who run a production company in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, say they are not politically aligned but want to teach Palestinian children and adults about the events that drove them from their homeland." It tells of the suffering, the killing and displacement," said Moamena Abu Hamda, director of the JohaToon company in Gaza City.

Review: The last enormous change
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
Fidelity, by Grace Paley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 83 pages, $20 - Grace Paley’s newest book of poetry was published in the quiet interval between March’s icy grip and April’s melting promise. Loyal readers worldwide have, for the past two decades, received every new poem with the same gratitude with which they received every new story during the three decades before that. Although Paley’s first love was poetry, it remained unrequited so long as the lives of first-generation Americans, women, Jews (most of her characters were all three) demanded to be transcribed into the grainy prose that would become her trademark. Her language was utterly faithful to the Yiddish- and Russian-accented English in which she had marinated in her childhood in the Bronx, to the politically inflected conversations of her coworkers in the. . .

Review: Getting to the promised land
Marcus Rubin, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
The Hebrew Republic - How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last, by Bernard Avishai, Harcourt, 304 pages, $26 - To a soft-power, peace-loving European like me, the solution to Israel’s problems often seems so obvious that it’s difficult to grasp why the Israelis -- otherwise such a resourceful and ingenious people -- did not choose it long ago. Which is exactly why reading the political economist Bernard Avishai’s new book, "The Hebrew Republic," is an unmitigated pleasure. Here, at last, is someone who gets it. A Jewish patriot who came to Israel to volunteer in ’67, and has lived on and off in the country since then, Avishai is able to cut through the endless discussions and proposals and in clear-cut prose explain what Israel should do to get out of the quagmire with the Palestinians and the occupation.

LEBANON: Opposition continues military takeover, enforces siege
Hugh Macleod/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/12/2008
BEIRUT, 11 May 2008 (IRIN) - Lebanon’s worst sectarian violence since its 15-year civil war ended in 1990 has spread from Beirut to the Druze heartlands of Mount Lebanon and on to the second city of Tripoli in the north as Hezbollah and its opposition allies continued their military takeover of the country. Druze leader Waleed Jumblatt, who for many years has controlled the mountain areas southeast of Beirut, ordered his fighters to stand down and requested his rival Hezbollah-allied Druze leader Talal Arsalan to hand the area over to the army." I tell my supporters that civil peace, coexistence and stopping war and destruction are more important than any other consideration," Jumblatt told local TV station LBC. Eye-witnesses in Aley, the Druze-majority town at the heart of the clashes, said Shia Hezbollah fighters patrolled the streets, firing into the air, following fierce clashes with Jumblatt’s Progressive Social Party (PSP) militants.

Day 5: Lebanese dare to hope worst is over
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 5/12/2008
BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army deployed heavily in the Aley district southeast of Beirut late Sunday following fierce clashes between gunmen loyal to Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader MP Walid Jumblatt and fighters from Amal and Hizbullah, leaving eight people dead. The army was eventually successful in ending most of the clashes, which raged on until 9 p. m. despite a decision to implement a cease-fire that was supposed to be put in effect at 6 p. m. However, fighting later broke out in several part of the Chouf Mountains. The cease-fire agreement, brokered by Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan, a Druze rival of Jumblatt, proposed handing over the situation in Aley to the Lebanese Army. A security source told The Daily Star that the cease-fire was not immediately implemented because PSP supporters refused to lay down their arms before the deployment of army troops.

US warship heads back to Mediterranean amid Lebanon crisis
AFP, YNetNews 5/11/2008
USS Cole making its way back to Mediterranean as crisis between western-backed coaltion and Hizbullah-led opposition escalates - A US warship, which was deployed off Lebanon in February amid concern over Beirut’s political crisis, crossed Egypt’s Suez Canal on Sunday on its way to the Mediterranean, an official with the canal authority told." The USS Cole has crossed the Suez Canal and is headed to the Mediterranean," the official said, adding he did not know its exact destination. The United States sent the guided-missile destroyer to waters off the coast of Lebanon on February 28, in what US officials said was "a show of support for regional stability" amid concerns over Lebanon’s protracted political crisis. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had defended the earlier deployment saying it was designed to show Washington’s readiness to defend the interests of its allies in the region.

Arab foreign ministers split over whom to blame for crisis
Mona Salem, Daily Star 5/12/2008
Agence France Presse - CAIRO: Arab foreign ministers holding crisis talks in Cairo on Sunday were divided over a draft resolution that would implicitly condemn Hizbullah for deadly clashes in Lebanon, delegates said. The draft resolution put before the ministers underlined the Arab League’s "rejection of the use of armed violence to achieve political goals outside the framework of constitutional legitimacy, and the need for a withdrawal of all weapons from the streets," according to a text obtained by AFPThe text was drawn up by Egypt and put forward with the support of six other pro-Western governments - Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, delegates told AFP. They said Syria, which was represented by its ambassador to the Arab League instead of Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, was not alone in having objected to the draft.

Truce brings peace to Baghdad’s Sadr City - for now
Jacques Charmelot, Daily Star 5/12/2008
Agence France Presse - BAGHDAD: Guns fell silent in Baghdad’s militia bastion of Sadr City on Sunday after the movement of hard-line Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr struck a deal with Iraqi officials to end the fighting in the district. The concrete barricade which the US military has been erecting in the southern section of the impoverished area - and which had emerged as a key factor in fierce clashes over the past several weeks - remained in place, however. US military spokesman Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll said the 14-point agreement between the Sadrists and the government had led to a "decline in operations from last night" in Sadr City. Since late March, the district - a stronghold of Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia - had reverberated with gunfire, shelling and air strikes as militiamen clashed with American and Iraqi government troops.

Arab delegation going to Lebanon to try to broker a settlement
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jerusalem Post 5/12/2008
CAIRO, Egypt - Arab foreign ministers urged warring Lebanese factions to immediately cease fighting and said Sunday they will send a delegation to try to broker a settlement between the Hizbullah-led opposition and US-backed government. Arab League foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo on the Lebanon crisis two days after Iranian-backed Hizbullah took control of most of Muslim west Beirut in a showdown with the government. The fighters withdrew on Saturday. The Arab League issued a statement at the end of the meeting implicitly criticizing the Shiite militant Hizbullah. "The ministers reject the principal of resorting to armed violence to achieve political goals," it said.

Hizballah, in opposition, takes charge
Mona Alami, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 5/11/2008
BEIRUT, 10 May (IPS) - At least 11 people are dead and 30 injured during ferocious gun battles pitting opposition Shia Amal and Hizballah fighters against members of the Sunni Future Movement, which is part of the majority March 14 alliance in government. As the opposition’s militia men clamped down on government headquarters, the balance of power seems to have been shifted permanently in the Land of the Cedars. Since the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005 -- allegedly at the hands of the Syrians -- and the subsequent resignation of Shia ministers from government, conflict between the opposition and majority factions has been brewing. The government is comprised of the Sunni Future Movement (headed by Saad Hariri, son of slain prime minister Hariri), the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), the Christian Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb party.

Fighting moves outside Beirut
Zeina Karam, Associated Press Writer, The Independent 5/11/2008
Lebanon hung between fears of all-out war and hopes of political compromise yesterday even as government supporters and opponents battled with rockets and machine guns in the mountains overlooking the capital. Clashes shifted to outside Beirut over the weekend. Sunday’s fighting saw the collapse of pro-government forces in the Aley region near the capital, a stronghold of anti-Syrian Druse leader Walid Jumblatt. Beirut was quiet a day after Hezbollah gunmen left the streets, heeding an army call for the Shiite fighters to clear out. The city had been the focus of four days of Sunni-Shiite clashes that culminated with Hezbollah seizing large swaths of Muslim West Beirut — demonstrating its military might in a showdown with the government. So far, 38 people have been killed in clashes that began Wednesday, the worst sectarian violence since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

VIDEO - Hizbullah battles Druze east of Beirut, 8 dead
Reuters, YNetNews 5/11/2008
(Video) At least eight people killed, 12 wounded during heavy exchanges of fire between Shiites loyal to Lebanese opposition group and supporters of ruling coalition in mountains overlooking Beirut. Arab FMs meeting in Cairo appeal for ceasefire - VIDEO - Shiites loyal to Lebanese opposition group Hizbullah battled Druze supporters of the ruling coalition east of Beirut on Sunday, adding to the worst civil strife since the 1975-90 war. The fighting in Aley, a town in the mountains overlooking Beirut, and nearby villages was the latest violence between followers of Hizbullah, a group backed by Syria and Iran, and supporters of the US-backed governing coalition. At least eight people were killed and 12 wounded, bringing the number of dead in five days of fighting throughout

’Ghost city’ Mosul braces for assault on last bastion of al-Qa’ida in Iraq
Patrick Cockburn in Mosul, The Independent 5/11/2008
Mosul looks like a city of the dead. American and Iraqi troops have launched an attack aimed at crushing the last bastion of al- Qa’ida in Iraq and in doing so have turned the country’s northern capital into a ghost town. Soldiers shoot at any civilian vehicle on the streets in defiance of a strict curfew. Two men, a woman and child in one car which failed to stop were shot dead yesterday by US troops, who issued a statement saying the men were armed and onemade "threatening movements". Mosul, on the Tigris river, is inhabited by 1. 4 million people, but has been sealed off from the outside world by hundreds of police and army checkpoints since the Iraqi government offensive against al-Qa’ida began at 4am on Saturday. The operation is a critical part of an attempt to reassert military control over Iraq which has led to heavy fighting in Baghdad and Basra.

IRAQ: Residents, NGOs welcome Sadr City truce
DefenseLINK, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/12/2008
BAGHDAD, 11 May 2008 (IRIN) - Aid organisations and residents of Baghdad’s mainly Shia district of Sadr City welcomed on 11 May a truce between Shia militiamen loyal to radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr and US-backed government forces, ending seven weeks of clashes that left daily life almost paralysed since 25 March." We welcome and encourage any act, agreement and dialogue that helps end the bloodshed of Iraqis and helps aid organisations do their work properly in reaching all needy persons," said Basil al-Azawi, head of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (ICCSE), a coalition of over 1,000 Iraqi non-governmental organisations (NGOs)." The deteriorated security situation that Sadr City witnessed over the past seven weeks hindered all aid operations and, in our estimation, only 1 percent of the City’s medical, food and public services needs are being met.

Report: Iran, IAEA to resume nuclear talks on Monday
Reuters, YNetNews 5/11/2008
Iran’s ambassador to Vienna-based UN agency says this week’s talks on Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear program will last around three days - Iran and the UN Nuclear agency watchdog will resume talks on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program in the Iranian capital on Monday, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Sunday. The head of the Iranian delegation, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, did not give details, but the two sides held two rounds of discussions in Tehran last month on intelligence allegations the Islamic Republic researched how to make nuclear bombs. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in April Tehran had agreed on steps to clarify the intelligence reports by the end this month. Up to now Iran has denied the information, but has not backed up its position with evidence.


Sea blockade sees dry patch for Gaza’s fishermen
Rory McCarthy in Gaza, The Guardian 5/12/2008
      Palestinian fishermen are in trouble as high fuel costs and an Israeli navy blockade makes finding profitable catches almost impossible - The sun had not long set into the Mediterranean and the fishing launch was motoring out into the rolling sea, only an hour into what was to be a long night spent in search of shoals of sardine.
     Without warning, a sudden burst of machine gun fire came rattling a few feet overhead, the red tracer bullets arcing into the night sky above the fishermen. Abdul Salam al-Hissi and his crew instinctively crouched to the deck.
     The high-speed Israeli naval ship, invisible in the darkness, shone its powerful searchlight and Hissi turned his boat around and headed briefly back inland. So began another night in the sea off Gaza, a night of brinkmanship between a Palestinian fishing fleet in rapid decline and searching in vain for a decent catch, and the Israeli navy that patrols these waters, and is intent on keeping the fishermen close to shore.

Report: Ethnic cleansing continues in Jaffa

Report, Arab Association for Human Rights, Electronic Intifada 5/11/2008
      "The war that began in 1948 to purge Jaffa of its Arab residents has never ended and continues to this day. In 1948 it was waged by force, and today they use legal and economic means. The state claims that these are the rules of the market, in full knowledge that they will work against the Arab population." - Attorney Hisham Shabaita
     On 19 March 2007, Amidar Israel National Housing Company (Amidar) published a document entitled "A Review of the Stock of Squatted Properties in Jaffa -- Interior Committee, Israel Knesset." The document reviewed properties managed by the company in the Jaffa-Tel Aviv area. Section 5 noted that "the project includes a total of 497 squatters, constituting 16.8 percent of the total properties managed by Amidar."
     Section 5 of the document relates, in fact, to 497 orders received over the past 18 months by Palestinian families living in the Ajami and Jabaliya neighborhoods in Jaffa to vacate their homes or businesses. These homes are owned by the state and managed by Amidar in its name. The grounds for eviction range from "squatting" in the property to "building additions" to properties undertaken by the Palestinian tenants of these properties without approval from Amidar and without obtaining a permit from the planning and building authorities.

The loathsome smearing of Israel’s critics

Johann Hari, The Independent 5/10/2008
      In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence -- and to a large degree, it works. There is nobody these self-appointed spokesmen for Israel will not attack as anti-Jewish: liberal Jews, rabbis, even Holocaust survivors.
     My own case isn’t especially important, but it illustrates how the wider process of intimidation works. I have worked undercover at both the Finsbury Park mosque and among neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers to expose the Jew-hatred there; when I went on the Islam Channel to challenge the anti-Semitism of Islamists, I received a rash of death threats calling me "a Jew-lover", "a Zionist-homo pig" and more.
     Ah, but wait. I have also reported from Gaza and the West Bank. Last week, I wrote an article that described how untreated sewage was being pumped from illegal Israeli settlements on to Palestinian land, contaminating their reservoirs. This isn’t controversial. It has been documented by Friends of the Earth, and I have seen it with my own eyes.

Our Cultural Heritage

Reham Alhelsi, Palestine Think Tank 5/11/2008
      As Palestinians all over the world commemorate the Nakba and 60 years of on-going zionist ethnic cleansing, murder and apartheid, there is one aspect of our Palestinian identity that survived despite all zionist attempts of elimination: our cultural heritage. The Palestinian cultural heritage is full of popular songs, poetry, sayings, stories handicrafts and other forms of folklore. They are the bridges that connect generations and unite Palestinians all over the world, binding us together and forming our cultural identity.
     Looking back, I think of both of my grandmothers (God rest their souls). They both survived the Nakba and were witnesses to it in their own way. My grandmother from my father’s side came from a Bedouin family and lived in the outskirts of Jerusalem. When they heard about the zionist attacks in other parts of Palestine, the men went to defend their homes while the women gathered the children and sought refuge in the nearby caves. Years later, my father, who was a kid himself at the time of the Nakba, took us kids to see these caves and told us about their daily life at that time. I remember how I looked around investigating these holes, and thinking that if we had our own state, this place would have been made into a museum....

For Some Palestinians, One State with Israel is Better than None

Richard Boudreaux and Ashraf Khali, MIFTAH 5/10/2008
      Frustrated by years of on-and-off peace talks with Israel, Palestinians are losing hope for an independent homeland, and some are proposing a radically different cause: a shared state with equal rights for Palestinians and Jews.
     A "two-state solution" has been the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for nearly 15 years and remains the declared aim of both groups’ highest elected leaders and the Bush administration. But its advocates are increasingly on the defensive, and not just against militant Islamists and Jewish settlers who have long opposed partitioning the land.
     Majorities on both sides dismiss the current U.S.-backed peace talks as futile. And a small but growing number of moderate Palestinians contend that Israel’s terms for independence offer less than they could gain in a single democratic state combining Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
     As a result, the 60th anniversary this month of Israel’s birth is a time of insecurity and flux. Conventional wisdom about the long-standing formula for peace is being turned on its head.

Middle East Peace Requires Forgiveness

Ghassan Rubeiz, Middle East Online 5/10/2008
      PALM BEACH, Florida—Peace requires forgiveness. Jimmy Carter’s meeting in Damascus last week with the leadership of Hamas has aroused strong emotions. If compromise of principles disqualifies parties from peace making, the Middle East is doomed forever. The Damascus visit involves five main parties: Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, the United States, and former President Carter. There is no uncompromised party among the five listed. Hamas compromised in violence, the Palestinian Authority in corruption, Israel in a harsh occupation, the United States in nursing erosion of justice, and Jimmy Carter in over-tolerance of Arab autocracy.
     I am a strong critic of Hamas for not recognising Israel and for not exploiting non-violent resistance—the most powerful weapon that Palestinians can muster for liberation from an oppressive Israeli occupation. But whether one supports Hamas or not, this grassroots movement did win the last parliamentary national elections. This historical election authorised Hamas to lead the government of the Palestinian communities – under Israel’s occupation – in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Young people, be fairies. Only a weak Israel can put us back on the right track

Benny Ziffer, Haaretz Hebrew Edition, Palestine Think Tank 5/11/2008
      On Sunday, one of my students (I am a lecturer in a course from four to six at Tel Aviv University) approached me after the class and told me that she was the producer of an alternative Memorial evening, which also takes into account cruelty to Palestinians, that would take place on the eve of Memorial Day at the Tmuna theatre. And they would be very honoured if I went. I went.It was filled to capacity with Tel Aviv leftists. There was a handful of Palestinians, activists from the Combatants for Peace organization. There was just a handful of them because the Occupied Territories are under closure and the others were not permitted to come. One of the female Palestinian activists from Combatants for Peace was filmed beside her house in Tul Karem and the film was shown in the Tmuna theatre. The evening had all the aromas of an evening of latte-sipping Sheinkin Street “beautiful souls”. Beside me sat a group of scary and aggressive masculine women of the type spoofed on the show “Eretz Nehderet”. But at the same moment I felt that I should not be finicky, as everyone in this camp of people must be in agreement at least to do this one simple thing, that is to share with our Palestinian neighbours the right to feel the pain of bereavement and loss.That is no small matter, because we have been taught from a tender age that for Arabs, life is not valued as much as it is by Jews. That lie was forcefully drilled into our heads in order to convince us, the Jews, that to kill Arabs is maybe not nice but on the other hand it is also not all that dreadful either. Because, after all, there are a whole lot of Arabs all of whom look alike, so what’s the difference if one or two or ten or a hundred of them get killed. In order to be cured of this lie we need a lot more than one evening a year. We need to travel to the Occupied Territories and meet Palestinian bereft parents, we need to knock down the walls that we have built in our minds.

Bush should stay home

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 5/12/2008
      If George Bush were a true friend of Israel, he would seize the investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as an excuse to stay home tomorrow. Unless he has a rabbit in his hat, this will be the third time in the past half year that the U.S. president shows the Palestinians and the entire Arab world that they are wasting their time by trying to end the occupation by peaceful means. Not only have matters not improved since he troubled dozens of leaders from around the world to come to Annapolis in late November, 2007; since then, the occupation has been progressing, while the vision of two states has been receding. The number of new buildings erected in the settlements in the last few months rivals only the number of roadblocks that have been added since Bush last visited Jerusalem, in January.
     Bush is an accomplice to an offense far worse than all of the criminal offenses of which Olmert is suspected combined. Every speech made by the president is one more bit of exposure of the nakedness of the Palestinian circles who tied their collective fate to the Annapolis declaration, which pledged to "make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008." In light of the stasis in the negotiations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) seems likely to resign even before Olmert does.

The time zones of Lebanon

Rami Zurayk writing from Beirut, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 5/11/2008
      10 May 2008 This is what I have to say about the latest series of political speeches in Lebanon: Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks as if there is no future, but March 14 government coalition leaders Walid Jumblat, Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora speak as if there is no past. For Nasrallah, the past performance and actions of the Loyalists is the only reference point. The past (?) collusion of some of them with Israel, their current alliance with the US and the intersection of some of their positions with the Israeli agenda, as well as the incapability of the Lebanese state to liberate the south and to protect the resistance appear to be the only unit of measure.
     On the other hand, the trio Jumblat-Hariri-Siniora has been delivering speeches and addresses as if the past did not exist, as if the resistance was not under threat of physical elimination by the Loyalists’ very allies, as if members of the Loyalists had not destroyed Beirut many times and invited and supported the Israelis when they invaded it, as if there had not been a number of youth killed by the thugs of the Future Movement in Beirut’s Tariq al-Jadide and Ard Jalloul, as if there was no Future Movement militia in Beirut brought from the north (seen by many on TV and in the streets before the fighting) or Progressive Socialist Party (Jumblat) militia (which has murdered Druze political opponents in the mountains), and as if the state was all powerful, belonged to all its citizens, and capable of extending its authority onto the four corners of the country and to fend off Israeli agendas. When you start so far away from each other, the next stop is Xanadu, as my friend Anna would say. The first thing these guys should do is get into the same time zone. This is if they want to find a way out.

Lebanon in crisis: an interview with editor Samah Idriss

Stefan Christoff, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 5/10/2008
      Lebanon is currently facing a major political crisis, as armed battles have erupted in multiple districts of Beirut between pro-government and opposition forces forces led the Lebanese resistance movement Hizballah. Hizballah-led opposition forces took control of West Beirut, and handed certain areas over to the Lebanese army as the political standoff in the country continues.
     Today Lebanon’s government has maintained a contested hold on official state power in Lebanon without representation from Hizballah since they withdrew their ministers over one year ago. This week the government declared illegal Hizballah’s independent communications network operating in Lebanon partly prompting the current crisis. Hizballah’s independent communications system is considered to be a critical element to the success of the Lebanese resistance group’s halting of Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon.The fate of Hizballah’s weapons is at the heart of Lebanon’s political impasse pitting the pro-US government coalition versus the opposition -- fitting into the larger polarized pattern in the region.

Breakfast in Beirut

Rami Khouri, Middle East Online 5/10/2008
      BEIRUT -- As often happens in this strange world, it was my water turtle Jerry who brought home to me the tough choices we make in times of war. This happened on Friday morning, when bullets and rocket-propelled grenades were exploding all around our apartment near the Hamra area of west Beirut, during the latest episode in Lebanon’s long-running civil strife and political showdown.
     We went to bed Thursday night amid repeated rounds of automatic rifle and handgun fire, punctuated by the occasional roar of a loud explosion that was probably a rocket-propelled grenade. The fighting stopped around 1 a.m., soon after a serendipitous spring rainstorm engulfed Beirut.
     The fighting resumed in the early morning. One of our balcony window panes shattered just after we woke up at 7:30 a.m., pierced by a bullet or a ricocheting stone. A few minutes later, as we prepared coffee in the kitchen that we thought was shielded from the shooting in the streets below, a bullet hit the balcony above us. Shattered stones fell past our balcony to the street below. We ducked and quickly got out of the kitchen, but with our coffee in hand.