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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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15 May 2008


Two fighters killed east of Gaza, six Palestinians killed on Wednesday
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/15/2008
Palestinian sources reported that two fighters of the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, were killed late on Wednesday at night, and three others were injured after being targeted by Israeli shells east of Al Shujaeyya neighborhood in Gaza City. The attack took place shortly before midnight and targeted Mohammad Harara, and Ahmad Al Malahi. The bodies of the two fighters were severely mutilated, medical sources reported. Four Palestinians, including one fighter, were killed and fourteen residents were wounded during an early morning Israeli military attack that targeted Jabalia town, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, and Khan Younis in the southern part, the Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, reported on its website. Among those three killed were Ibraheem Salaha, 19, who was hit with a tanks shell and Khader Salamah, 17, who was playing on his bicycle when Israeli soldiers shot him, witnesses stated.

Palestinians mark six decades of exile from homeland
Daily Star 5/16/2008
Palestinians protested across the Occupied Territories and the region on Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, of the birth of Israel and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees. The commemoration of the Nakba - the expulsion or flight of at least 760,000 people from their homeland - came as US President George W. Bush marked the creation of the Jewish state with an address to the Israeli Parliament. Israeli troops fired live rounds to break up a rally at the border between Gaza and Israel, while sirens sounded across Ramallah as thousands joined a protest demanding the right of return for some 4. 5 million UN registered refugees in camps across the Middle East. Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and released 21,915 black balloons - one for each day since Israel’s creation - to darken the skies over Occupied Jerusalem ahead of Bush’s speech at the Knesset.

Report: Palestinian youths wounded by IDF fire near Erez
Ali Waked, YNetNews 5/15/2008
Thousands of Palestinians march to mark ’nakba’ anniversary, hundreds start advancing towards border fence, key crossing. Sources in Gaza report several young men wounded as IDF troops try to keep them at bay - Hundreds of Palestinians marched towards the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza on Thursday afternoon as part of the day’s protests in commemoration of the ’nakba’ - or catastrophe. Palestinian have reported that several youths were wounded by IDF gunfire as troops tried to prevent the group from reaching the crossing. Witnesses told Ynet that troops were also seen arresting a second group of young men. Earlier in the afternoon sources reported that soldiers had used tear gas and fired warning shots in the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Troops are still on high alert throughout the region.

Bush hails Israelis as ‘chosen people’ but ignores Palestinians on ‘catastrophe’ day
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 5/15/2008
President George Bush lavished anniversary praise on Israel yesterday, as Palestinians commemorated the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" when 700,000 were forced from or fled their homes 60 years ago. In a special address to the Israeli Knesset, Mr Bush declared that the US was proud to be the "closest ally and best friend in the world" of a nation that was a "homeland for the chosen people" and had "worked tirelessly for peace and. . . fought valiantly for freedom." And in a speech that linked together Hamas, Hizbollah and al-Qa’ida, the President likened those -- including "good and decent" people -- who urged negotiations with "terrorists and radicals", with supporters of appeasing the Nazis before the Second World War. On Iran, Mr Bush said that permitting "the world’s leading sponsor of terror" to possess "the world’s deadliest weapon" would be "an unforgiveable betrayal of future generations".

Israeli gov’t to okay hundreds of homes in West Bank: official
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 5/14/2008
JERUSALEM, May 14, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) --Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Zeev Boim will approve the construction of hundreds of housing units in the West Bank next week, local daily Ha’aretz reported Wednesday, citing an Israeli official. Roi Lachmanovitch, a spokesman for the Shas party, said Boim will on Sunday approve construction in the Beitar Illit settlement near Jerusalem and other areas, adding Boim voiced commitment to the construction in a recent conversation with Shas leaders. Shas is a member of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s ruling coalition. Shas’ announcement on Wednesday came hours before U. S. President George W. Bush is due to arrive in Israel to prod Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a long-awaited peace deal. Earlier this month, U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank affected confidence atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

Israeli settlement policy hitting eastern Beit Sahour
Palestine News Network 5/15/2008
Najib Farrag -- Some 100 Israeli settlers stormed eastern Beit Sahour City before noon Thursday. They are attempting to overtake part of Bethlehem District’s land this is marked Area C under the Oslo Accords. About thirty cars had gathered after the bypass road east of Beit Sahour, coming from several settlements, including the neighboring settlement of Har Homa erected on Abu Ghneim Mountain, between Bethlehem and Beit Sahour on the eastern side. During the onslaught a number of those settlers fired racist chants, shouting that this land belongs to them and they intend to establish a settlement there. Israeli sources reported that these ultra-fundamentalist settlers claim there is a hidden stone in the area with something in Hebrew etched into it. The settlers told the Israeli press that establishing yet another settlement is a natural response to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s policy of settlement building and expansion.

Qassam rocket strikes Sderot synagogue; no one hurt
Mijal Grinberg and Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Three Qassam rockets were fired into the western Negev town of Sderot from the Gaza Strip Thursday evening, one of which struck the yard of a preschool adjacent to a synagogue, causing extensive damage to the building but no casualties. Several passersby were treated for shock. Earlier Thursday, three rockets slammed into the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council. No injuries or damage were reported. Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Thursday against hasty military action against militants in the Gaza Strip, a day after a rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled territory hit a shopping mall in the coastal city of Ashkelon. "After the events of yesterday the blood boils and the gut wants to react," Barak said during a speech in Jerusalem. But he added: "It is more important to exercise judgment and to follow a policy of think first, act later.

Israeli authorities release East Jerusalem resident after 15 years imprisonment
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Israeli authorities freed Hamas affiliate Bader Hassen Al-Herbawi, a Jerusalem resident, on Thursday, after 15 years of imprisonment. The Wa’ed prisoners’ society said that Al-Herbawi was seized by the Israeli army when he was a 22-years-old university student and living in the Al-Thuri neighborhood near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. On his release Al-Herbawi called for more efforts to be undertaken on the issue of freeing Palestinian prisoners especially those of East Jerusalem. [end]

Palestinian prisoner held in occupation jails for 10 years without trial
Palestinian Information Center 5/15/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- Mahmoud Azzam has been held in Israeli occupation jails for more than ten years without trial or charge after Jordan refused to allow him into its territory, legal sources said on Thursday. The lawyer of the Nafha society defending Palestinian prisoners’ rights recalled that Azzam was arrested from his home on 29/10/1997 and was held in Jalama detention center for interrogation. He added that the detainee was tortured during the 50 days of interrogation rounds and was denied access to his lawyer for three weeks. Nothing was proven against him, which prompted the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) to order his deportation to Jordan, the lawyer said, adding that after two months in Jalama he was told of his deportation to Jordan which he refused in the beginning but was forced to accept on 28/12/1997 where the Jordanian authority refused to allow him into Jordan saying that he was Palestinian and not Jordanian.

Gazan man dies in Israeli hospital of wounds sustained in Israeli strike
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A 40-year-old Palestinian citizen died on Thursday in an Israeli hospital where he was being treated from serious wounds he sustained in Israeli strike on his house in Khuza’ah in the southern Gaza Strip on 4 May. Muhammad Najjar’s brother, Husam Najjar, was also killed immediately in the strike. Najjar’s wife was also injured in the same strike as well as his nephew, 24-year-old Muhammad Sameer Najjar, who sustained two gunshots to his head. Medics say he is clinically dead. [end]

Palestinian civilian succumbs to wounds sustained in IOF sniper attack
Palestinian Information Center 5/15/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- A 45-year-old Palestinian man on Thursday succumbed to serious wounds sustained when an IOF sniper hit him ten days ago while trying to help his brother. Local sources told PIC reporter that Maher Al-Najjar was pronounced dead in an Israeli hospital. Maher was trying to save his brother Husam who was hit on the rooftop of his home during an Israeli incursion in Khuza’a town east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. Husam was immediately killed in the incident while Maher was seriously wounded. Meanwhile, IOF troops stormed Nablus and Balata refugee camp east of the city at dawn Thursday and kidnapped a number of citizens, including a father and his son, after breaking into their homes, locals reported.

500 children, from Tulkarem refugee camp, attempt to march to their families homes
1948 Palestine, International Solidarity Movement 5/15/2008
Tulkarem Region - Photos - On Wednesday 14th May approximately 500 refugee school children from the city of Tulkarem, in the north-west of the West Bank, attempted to march back to their families’ homes in Jaffa, near Tel-Aviv, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Al-Nakba (the catastrophe). Waving United Nations flags and many wearing black t-shirts with 1948 blazoned across the back, the children drew attention to the fact that 60 years after the declaration of the state of Israel, which was enabled by the mass killings and forced evictions of up to 700 000 refugees from approximately 418 villages, Palestinians have still been denied their right to return home - as declared by the United Nations Resolution 194 article 11. Marching from the Tulkarem refugee camps through the city streets, the children chanted "We will not sell" - referring to the popular refusal to sell the right to return home.

Palestinians Commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Catastrophe (Nakba)
Pennie Quinton & George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 5/15/2008
Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in a number of Palestinians cities, towns, villages and refugee camps to commemorate 60 years of their dispossession by Israel in 1948. The commemoration activities were simultaneously held in the West Bank and inside Israel proper by Palestinian residents of Israel. The organizers of these events released 21,915 black balloons in the sky over Jerusalem, to remind the world and especially the Israelis of what they have done 60 years ago. The number of the balloons is equal to the number of days that have passed since the Nakba. "From our reporter on the ground Ghassan Bannoura in Bethlehem:" In Bethlehem, children performed Palestinian folklore dancing and carried signs stressing the right of return for the Palestinian refugees stated by the UN resolution 194 and the right of the Palestinian people to freedom and statehood.

Largest demonstration since the start of the second Intifada across Palestine
Stop The Wall 5/15/2008
Over 50,000 people filled the streets of Ramallah today, marking the 60th anniversary of the Nakba with the largest protest since the start of the second Intifada. Other actions were held across Palestine and in Palestinian communities in Jordan and Lebanon. In Ramallah, crowds marched from Muqata to the central Manara square, accompanied by marching bands, bringing traffic to a standstill. At the central rally speakers called for the return of the Palestinian refugees and an end to the ongoing attacks on Palestinian communities. Black balloons were released, part of mass release of balloons across Palestine, 21,915 in total – 1 for each day of the ongoing Nakba. The demonstration was organised by the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba, who released a statement calling for national unity to move forward with the campaign against the occupation.

1948-2008: From Palestinian Nakba to Israeli Apartheid
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 5/15/2008
60 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their land. Thousands were killed while refusing to leave their villages behind or attempting to return. Refugees were dispersed all around the world, and the Palestinian Nakba began. "The Nakba continues to this day", said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, Secretary General of the. "Two out of every five refugees in the world are Palestinians. Two generations of Palestinians have been born in the squalor of refugee camps and more than one-third of registered Palestinian refugees are under the age of 15," he added. "The memory of the dispossession and the thirst for justice are being handed down from generation to generation, along with keys and land titles. Palestinian refugees will not go away. Their right of return is inalienable and is enshrined in international law".

Palestinians mark the ’Nakba’
Al Jazeera 5/15/2008
Palestinians have held protests across the occupied territories to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, or "catastrophe", when they were uprooted from their homes by the establishment of Israel. In the West Bank on Thursday, rallies and sirens commemorated the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 war. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, speaking from Ramallah, called for an end to occupation and settlement building." It’s time for the occupation to leave our land. . . and for the ’catastrophe’ to come to an end," Abbas said in a televised speech. "Our Palestinian people have carried in pain the memory, and hope to return to their homeland." Black balloons were released by Palestinians in the West Bank and by Palestinian refugees in other areas of the world to mark the day.

Palestinians mark ’Naqba’ of Israel’s birth
Middle East Online 5/15/2008
Palestinians planned protests across the occupied territories on the 60th anniversary of the "catastrophe" of the birth of Israel on Thursday as the Jewish state’s army went on high alert. The commemoration of the Naqba, or "catastrophe" - the defeat of five invading Arab armies and the expulsion or flight of about 760,000 people - comes as US President George W. Bush was to address Israel’s parliament. In the occupied West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem, activists plan to release 21,915 black balloons -- one for each day since Israel’s creation in 1948 - to darken the skies over Jerusalem after a massive midday protest in Ramallah. "Sixty years ago we were pushed into exodus and suffered an injustice. Today we call upon the world to give our people justice," Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, himself a 1948 refugee, said this week.

Thousands demand right of return in Ramallah demonstration
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Thousands of Palestinians converged in the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah under the midday sun on Thursday for a demonstration to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba and to demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel. By United Nations figures, more than 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in the fighting that resulted in the creation of the state of Israel. Today, millions of refugees and their descendants now live in camps throughout the Middle East. The demonstrators first gathered at a mock refugee camp, dubbed “Awda” (“Return”) camp, set up across the street from the Muqata’a, the Palestinian presidential compound and the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority. The demonstration then moved to the central square, Al-Manara.

Public Statement of the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba at 60
Stop The Wall 5/15/2008
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, May 15th, 2008 Public Statement of the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba at 60 – Palestine Their is no Alternative to the Return to Our Homes and Properties - To the People of Palestine, Whether you live within the ’Green Line’, in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, or in exile; you shall return, there is no doubt that you shall return. Today the skies will echo as you state with one united voice: “There can be no alternative to our return”, all sounds will melt away as your voice rises to say “There can be no peace without our return to our original lands and homes. ” You who shall return, raise your voices and say “This is our land, this sky is our sky, this rock, tree, moon, and sea are our country, it will always be our Palestine. . ."

Israeli settlers attempt to found settlement outpost in Beit Sahour
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Dozens of Israeli settlers broke into an area called ’Ush Ghurab in Beit Sahour in the eastern Bethlehem district on Thursday morning, demanding the establishment of a settlement outpost. Israeli soldiers were present to protect the settlers. The area used to house an Israeli military base, which was evacuated about a year ago. Ma’an’s reporter said the soldiers denied journalists access to the area. Heated arguments erupted between settlers and local Palestinian citizens who gathered in the area. The mayor of Beit Sahour Hani Al-Hayik, as well as the governor of Bethlehem Salah Ta’mari and Fatah-affiliated lawmaker Fuad Kukali went to the site. "Such practices represent Israeli intentions which should not be underestimated," the governor of Bethlehem said. He explained that such steps were part of an overall Israeli policy aimed at enhancing and intensifying settlement construction in the Palestinian territories.

Israeli settlers occupy a land east of Beit Sahour, say they want to build a settlement there
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 5/15/2008
Israeli troops arrested Farid Al-Atrash, a lawyer from Bethlehem as he was among other Palestinians protesting the presence of Israeli settlers who occupied a piece of land east of the town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem in order to build a new settlement on that land, Thursday morning. Salah El-Taamari, governor of Bethlehem told IMEMC over the phone that "Israel is not showing any sign of positiveness towards allowing a Palestinian independent state to be built, [. . . ] they continue to occupy more land and to build more illegal settlements on them. One of the settlers who refused to disclose his name denied the existance of Palestine in this land and insisted that it is called Judea. "This is not Palestine, this is Judea, the Roman emperor Hadrian named it Palestine, but before that it was Judea, the land of Christ is Judea, and the Koran says this is the land of ’Bani Israel’ children of Israel, and we are Bani Israel," he said.

Israeli military kidnaps 19 Palestinians across the West Bank
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 5/15/2008
Palestinians sources reported that 19 Palestinians had been kidnapped from different part of the West Bank early on Thursday morning. Army kidnapped those Palestinians in military operations that were carried out in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron. Sources said that army invaded the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem and kidnapped three from several areas in the city. Sources identified them as Shehada Shehada,19 Ibrahim al-Hereimy,20, and Mohammad ’Abed Rabo,35. Four more Palestinians kidnapped in the northern West Bank city of Nablus as army invaded the city. Sourced added that there had been more Palestinians kidnapped in other West Bank cities, particularly Ramallah and Hebron but have not been identified. Translated by Nisreen Qumsieh - IMEMC News.

Army seizes 19 across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Bethlehem -Ma’an - The Israeli army carried out several invasions early on Thursday morning in different cities of the West Bank, seizing 19 Palestinians. Israeli sources confirmed that Israeli forces had seized 19 Palestinians who are on Israel’s ’wanted list’ from the cities and villages ofthe northern West Bank city of Nablus, the central West Bank city of Ramallah and the southern West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. The sources added that all of the arrestees were transferred to Israeli interrogation centers. Also on Thursday morning Israeli soldiers seized a Palestinian after breaking into his home in the Al-Daheya area east of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinian security sources said that Israeli forces seized 40-year-old Ghanem Tawfiq Sawalmeh from the area of Daheya Al-Tahta.

Young Palestinian injured in clashes with Israeli army
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 5/15/2008
On Thursday morning, a Palestinian from the town of Sa’er, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, was wounded by Israeli fire after clashes broke out in the area. Local sources in Hebron reported that Gharam al-’Eramen,17, was wounded in clashes which broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces after they invaded the town and imposed tight security measures in the area. Sources added that military intercepted the ambulance while trying to transfer the wounded Palestinian to the hospital for treatment and kidnapped him. The young man was then moved to an unknown detention center. Translated by Nisreen Qumsieh - IMEMC News. [end]

Toddler wounded in mall attack regains consciousness
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 5/15/2008
Father Adi Afgin maintains vigil at bedsides of wife, two-year-old daughter who were wounded by Palestinian rocket on Wednesday, says family will remain in Ashkelon - Two-year-old Tair Afgin, who was wounded when a Palestinian Grad rocket crashed into an Ashkelon shopping mall on Wednesday, has regained consciousness. Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center said on Thursday that the girl’s condition continues to be serious but confirm she is stable. Tair’s father, Adi Afgin, said he knew his wife and daughter were among the 15 injured when he heard the medical clinic on the mall’s second floor had been hit. At first he rushed over to the commercial center with his mother-in-law but quickly began making his way to the nearby Barzilai Hospital after he failed to locate his family in the crowd.

Palestinian military groups continue to fire projectiles at Israeli targets bordering Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing affiliated to Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility on Thursday for firing two homemade projectiles at the Israeli military post of Nahal ’Oz. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli atrocities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They added the shelling also indicates that resistance is the best way for dealing with occupation. Separately, the National Resistance Brigades, the military group affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said their fighters launched four mortar shells at Israeli military vehicles stationed east of Gaza City. They also said they fired two homemade projectiles at the Sufa crossing in a joint operation with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades.

Palestinian activist affiliated to Fatah Al-Intifada injured in clashes with Israeli forces
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian military group, Kamal Udwan forces affiliated to "Fatah Al- Intifada" said on Thursday that one of their activist has been injured in clashes with an undercover Israeli force south of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The group said in a statement that a group of their fighters was ambushed at 1 am by an undercover Israeli force. The group managed to flee the ambush after clashing with the Israeli force for more than three hours. They also fired three rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) at the Israeli troops. [end]

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades shell the Western Negev
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claimed responsibility on Thursday for shelling the Western Negev area with a homemade projectile, in addition to shelling the nearby Israeli kibbutz of Kafr Aza. The Brigades affirmed in a statement that the attacks were in response to "the Israeli escalation and massacres against the Palestinians." [end]

Al-Quds Brigades shell Israeli military post near Gaza City
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, announced on Thursday that its fighters shelled the Israeli military post of Nahal Oz east of Gaza City with five home made projectiles. In a statement the Brigades said "this shelling comes in response to the Israeli attacks and invasions of the Gaza Strip" and affirmed they would continue with the resistance track." [end]

Palestinian security forces arrest three Hamas supporters across the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Nablus - Salfit - Hamas said that the Palestinian security forces arrested three of its supporters from the West Bank on Wednesday. In a statement, the movement said that the security forces arrested Sa’ed Amer, after he was summoned for interrogation, and Yousef Abu Husien from his home both are residents of town of Dura, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The statement added that the security forces arrested Abed Ar-Rahman Au’dah a resident of Tulkarem and a student of An-Najah University. [end]

Army seizes Palestinian from Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Nablus - Salfit - Ma’an - The Israeli army seizeda 20-year-old resident of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia early on Thursday morning. Ahmad Yousif Mohammad Samarah Ishreim’s mother, Um Ibrahim, said the soldiers deliberately damaged the door of their house located near As-Sabe’ Street, ransacking its contents and intimidating the sleeping children. Ahmad has a brother who has been imprisoned in the al Naqab Israeli detention facility for several months and was expected to be released the same day as Ahmad was seized[end]

Fatah claims Hamas attacked Nakba rally in Jabalia
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Ramallah – Sources within the Fatah movement claimed on Thursday that Hamas men attacked a rally to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that more than 30 participants in the rally were injured as a result of gunfire and being beaten with clubs. Fatah’s spokesperson in the West Bank Fahmi Za’arir told Ma’an that Hamas members assaulted the participants, specifically women. "This represents the continuation of the coup that Hamas staged in the Gaza Strip, and it came on a special day in which all Palestinian forces united to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba," he said. Wafa quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Hamas men also ransacked the home of Fatah affiliate Jamal Abu Habil in Jabalia and assaulted members of the National Activity Committee.

Mortar shells rain on Negev, IDF expands range of alert system
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 5/15/2008

News in Brief - Shabak shuffle, Negev alarm system
Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
The Shin Bet security service acquired a new deputy head yesterday. D. , the new deputy to Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, had previously filled several high-level positions in the organization, including head of the northern district, head of human resources and head of command headquarters. D. will replace Y. , who served as deputy chief for the past three years but is now taking leave to study. The Shin Bet Law prohibits publication of their full names. (Amos Harel)The Color Red alarm system, which warns of incoming rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, will be expanded to additional communities in the western Negev, the army’s Home Front Command decided yesterday. Netivot and communities in the Sdot Negev Regional Council will henceforth get a 30-second warning, just as Ashkelon does. Wednesday’s rocket attack on Ashkelon was not preceded by an alarm, since the system was deactivated. . .

MI Chief: Rockets could hit Be’er Sheva within two years
Barak Ravid Amos Harel Fadi Eyadat and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008

Ashkelon mall back open after attack, but no one shopping
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008

Qassam Brigades: Ashkelon attack natural response to Israeli daily atrocities
Palestinian Information Center 5/15/2008

Arab, Israeli students of the Hebrew University hold a protest commemorating the Nakba
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
The Regional Union of Arab Students in Israeli Universities organized on Thursday a protest at main entrance of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of Palestinian disposition, the Nabka. Dozens of Arab and Israeli students of the university participated in the protest and carried Palestinian flags and posters in Arabic, English and Hebrew confirming the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees. The Israeli police and undercover forces were intensively deployed in the area and attempted to confiscate the Palestinian flags and to attack the protesters. The Union stated that the violations of the Israeli Authorities will not break the will of the students, and called for visiting the residents who were arrested last week in a protest commemorating the Nakba. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers and border guard policemen attacked Beit Hanina neighborhood, north of the city, and broke into Beit Hanina Club.

Arabs protest university’s decision to hold Student Day on Nakba
Moran Zelikovich, YNetNews 5/15/2008
Kaffiyah-clad demonstrators at Tel Aviv University wave black flags, carry signs reading ’Student Day for Jews only’ following decision to hold festivities on day Palestinians mark ’catastrophe’ of Israel’s inception; three arrested in violent confrontations -Some 200 members of Tel Aviv University’s Arab Students’ Union, as well as several Jewish students, held a rally Thursday in protest of the university’s decision to celebrate "Student Day" on the day Palestinians mark Nakba - the "catastrophe of Israel’s inception in 1948. The Kaffiyah-clad demonstrators waved black flags and carried signs reading "Student Day for Jews only" and "The Students’ Union want us to celebrate on Nakba Day" in Hebrew and Arabic. Three students were arrested after violent confrontations erupted when Jewish students attempted to prevent the protestors from waving Palestinian flags.

General Strike, protest and commemorations of the Nabka in Jerusalem
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, their political and social leaders conducted a general strike in the occupied city of Jerusalem in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Nabka, while Israeli soldiers and policemen were intensively deployed in the area. The residents were also protesting the visit of the US president Georg Bush and several other world leaders who came to "celebrate Israel’s independence" ignoring the Palestinian disposition and how Israel uprooted the Palestinian people from their lands. The residents stated that the participation of Bush and other leaders violate the Palestinian right and all international legitimacy resolutions. They confirmed their steadfastness and determination to return to their homeland and land of their fathers and forefathers. In Bab Al Amoud area, in the Old City of Jerusalem, Fateh movement held a protest in which the participants. . .

60 Years of the Palestinian Nakba, 60 Years of Ethnic Cleansing
PCHR Press Release - The Palestinian Center For Human Rights, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008

Christian Residents of Nablus commemorate the Nakba
Amin Abu Warda, Nablus, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008

IOF troops shoot at Palestinian protesters at Biet Hanon
Palestinian Information Center 5/16/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- At least nine Palestinian children and a woman were wounded on Thursday after IOF troops stationed at the Beit Hanon (Erez) crossing point north of Gaza Strip opened their fire at thousands of Palestinian citizens demonstrating near the crossing to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba and protest against the Israeli economic siege on the Strip. Hamas Movement called for the rally to mark the occasion, challenge the Israeli occupation, and in a clear demonstration of an exemplary Palestinian steadfastness and determination to get rid of the occupation. IOF troops stationed at the border crossing opened fire at the Palestinian demonstrators and Palestinian youth replied with stones. There were a number of casualties and.   Palestinian ambulances were dispatched to the clashes scene, and immediately rushed the wounded Palestinians to nearby hospitals.

Reuters demands explanation from Israel for death of cameramen
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
A month after journalist Fadel Shana was killed by an Israel Defense Forces tank crew in the Gaza Strip,renewed its demand on Thursday for a prompt explanation from the Israeli army of why it fired on its cameraman. Shana, a 24-year-old Palestinian, was killed on April 16 along with eight mostly teenage bystanders by darts known as flechettes that burst out of a tank shell in mid-air. Shana had been filming about 1. 5 km (a mile) from two Israeli tanks. The IDF army said it had completed an initial field investigation that had determined the soldiers had followed orders and acted appropriately. But military lawyers still had to study the case before the army could give a full account. "A month has passed since Fadel Shana was killed by Israeli forces while responsibly going about his professional duties," saidMiddle East Managing Editor Mark Thompson.

’Just like the Soviet Union collapsed, Israel can also disappear’
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008

Palestinians mourn 60th anniversary of ’the Catastrophe’
Rachel Stevenson, The Guardian 5/15/2008

There is no alternative to the right of return
Statement from the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba at, Palestine Monitor 5/15/2008

Balloons over Bethlehem
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 5/15/2008

Palestinians mourn their ’catastrophe’
AP, The Independent 5/15/2008

PLO Negotiations Affairs Department: Palestinian Refugees
Palestine News Network 5/15/2008

VIDEO - Palestinians mourn Israel’s 60th anniversary
The Guardian 5/15/2008
-- See also: ''They say they have the right to shoot at us and kill us''

VIDEO - Rare pics from Nakba
Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 5/15/2008
-- See also: Haitham Sabbah''s personal blog

OPT: UNRWA open day showcases youth and economic development initiatives
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 5/14/2008
UNRWA’s Open Day at the Damascus Training Centre today, 14 May, showcased its youth and economic development initiatives in support of Palestinian refugees, focusing on employment, vocational education and the microfinance and microenterprise. Mr. Panos Moumtzis, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria stressed the importance of ensuring Palestine refugee youth have the skills to productively participate in Syria’s growing economy. He also highlighted the conducive environment created by the Syrian government as well as the need for private sector support for UNRWA’s efforts. UNRWA provides a range of two-year vocational training courses to some 1000 students per year at its Damascus Training Centre. Eighty six percent of these students find employment upon graduation. The Centre plans to introduce new courses in graphic design and mechatronics in the coming school year and has recently built a dormitory for female students.

ISRAEL-OPT: Opening of Gaza’s borders not imminent - analysts
Victoria Hazou/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/16/2008
JERUSALEM, 15 May 2008 (IRIN) - The recent visit by Egyptian intelligence chief Gen Omar Sulaiman to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was supposed to help advance a ceasefire deal between the Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip, headed by Hamas, and the Jewish state. However, the likelihood of this is low, many analysts here say, with the most probable best case scenario being a reduction in the intensity of the conflict, lessening the chances of civilians on both sides of the Gaza-Israeli border getting hurt or killed. While Sulaiman was conducting meetings, a GRAD-style rocket fired from Gaza hit a commercial centre in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, just north of Gaza. Israel viewed it as one of the most serious rocket attacks by the militants, due to the nature of the missile fired and the distance it travelled.

Israel urges Egypt to resume involvement in talks to free Shalit
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Egyptian-brokered talks aimed at reaching a truce between Israel and Hamas will resume over the weekend, Haaretz has learned. Egypt’s intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman, will meet a delegation of Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip today, while the deputy head of Hamas’s Damascus-based political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzook, will travel to Cairo. Defense Minister Ehud Barak will be in Egypt on Sunday, for an international economic conference in Sharm al-Sheikh. Though Barak has no meeting scheduled with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he may take the opportunity to discuss the truce with senior Egyptian officials. Israel has asked Egypt to incorporate a deal to free abducted soldier Gilad Shalit into the truce talks. If Egypt agrees, it would mark its return to trying to negotiate Shalit’s release, after a year’s hiatus.

Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
Should a truce between Hamas and Israel prove tough to deliver, Cairo is determined to secure containment at the least - In Israel, Chief General Intelligence Suleiman tries to win over Israeli Foreign Minister Livni for a truce with Hamas while in Cairo Arab League Secretary-General Moussa announced the launch of a prompt diplomatic operation to spare Lebanon from a possible civil war Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to visit Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak early next month, Egyptian sources say, in confirmation of an Israeli account. The visit, they added, should cover recent developments on the ground in the Gaza Strip, and Egypt’s immediate and troubled backyard, including Egypt’s efforts to strike a full truce between Israel and Hamas. So far, the visit is not set to coincide with that of US President George W Bush to Sharm El-Sheikh this week, as Egypt had hoped.

Hamas receives invitation from Egypt to hear final position on truce
Palestinian Information Center 5/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman, stated that the Movement received an invitation from Egypt to meet with its intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in order to hear the final position on the truce after he tabled the Palestinian factions’ plan about the calm during his visit to Israel. Taha told the PIC reporter that the Movement’s reaction regarding the truce depends on the final position to be heard from the Egyptian intelligence director, noting that the meeting is important and therefore will determine the fate of the calm in the Palestinian arena. Other Hamas sources told the Palestine newspaper that the delegation would be chaired by Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau who is currently in Cairo, adding that the meeting with Suleiman could be held next Saturday or Sunday.

Israeli army spokesperson warns Hamas against breaching Gaza border
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - Israeli army spokesman, Avihai Adravi, warned the Hamas movement on Thursday against "attempting to breach the borders of the Gaza Strip." "We have sent a huge number of soldiers to the border areas. Wewill deal harshly with any attempt to breach the border and the response will be violent." Hamas have said on more than one occasion that it will resume gathering at the borders with Israel in an attempt to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. [end]

Bush envisions two-state solution - in 60 years
Daily Star 5/16/2008
Visiting US President George W. Bush vowed on Thursday to support Israel in battling "terror" groups as the nation marked the 60th of its creation over top Palestinian land. "America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary," Bush told the Israeli Parliament, in reference to Palestinian militant groups which have been waging a campaign of resistance against the Jewish state’s occupation forces. Bush was loudly applauded during his address marking the 60 years since the creation of Israel, an event Palestinians commemorate as a catastrophe. Bush hailed what he called "unbreakable" ties between the US and Israel, describing the Jewish state as a thriving democracy threatened by regional adversaries and their armed proxies. "Al-Qaeda, Hizbullah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists’. . ."

Arabs slam Bush’s warm rhetoric towards Israel
Ynet, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Palestinians bristle at terminology used by US president in support of Israel, say religious analogies hailing Israelis as ’chosen people’ prove Washington bias. Meanwhile Bush’s Knesset address causes furor among Democrats back home who view denunciation of appeasement as jibe against Obama - While it remains unclear if US President George W. Bush’s visit will yield any political gains in the race to achieve an agreement of any sort between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it has certainly been aneventful one; its echoes carried all the way back to the heated campaign trails leading to Washington. US Democrats were outraged at what they perceived to be an attempt to equate presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s willingness to engage Iran with those who advocated appeasing the Nazis." Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals,. . .

Bush to Knesset: U.S. stands with Israel, Masada will not fall again
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
In an historic address to the Knesset on Thursday, U. S. President George Bush reiterated America’s commitment to Israel and said his country was "proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend. "Bush, on a three-day visit to Israel on the occasion of its 60th anniversary, told a special session of Knesset that "Masada will not fall again," in reference to the Roman-era desert fortress which he visited earlier in the day. The site is a national symbol in Israel of Jewish fighting spirit and self-sacrifice against powerful enemies and overwhelming odds. Bush pledged in his address that the United States has an unbreakable bond with Israel. "Some people suggest that if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away," Bush said in his prepared address.

Barakei: Bush speech at Knesset ’tantamount to a declaration of war’
Jerusalem Post 5/16/2008
US President George W. Bush’s speech at the Knesset on Thursday "is tantamount to a declaration of war on the peoples of the region," MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) has said, according to an Army Radio report. "This is the worst speech ever made by a world leader and the most dangerous that can be heard," he said. "I call on all those who believe in peace to unite against the Israeli-American policy which harms the Palestinians and the peoples of the region." [end]

Violence flares as Bush marks Israel’s anniversary
Ilene R. Prusher, The Christian Science Monitor, ReliefWeb 5/15/2008
JERUSALEM - President Bush landed here Wednesday to join the Jewish state in its 60th anniversary gala – part of his drive to propel Israelis and Palestinians toward a landmark peace deal. But hours after his arrival, a rocket launched by Gaza militants landed on a shopping mall in Ashkelon, Israel’s southernmost city on the Mediterranean coast, injuring more than 30 people and highlighting the challenge facing Mr. Bush as he tries to push forward negotiations on a two-state solution. Earlier in the day, Israeli military strikes in Gaza killed two Palestinian civilians and three militants, the Associated Press reported, quoting Palestinian medical officials. The volley of violence follows weeks of international efforts to get Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, to agree to some kind of truce or calm in which both would promise to stop firing at the other for a limited period of time.

Hamas to Bush: Hamas will not be defeated and occupation will not last long
Palestinian Information Center 5/15/2008

Hamas warns IOF of assassinating Palestinian leaders
Palestinian Information Center 5/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has warned the Israeli occupation government of carrying out their threats to assassinate Palestinian leaders especially those of Hamas. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said that his Movement takes Israeli premier Ehud Olmert’s threats seriously. He recalled that Israel had previously murdered Palestinian leaders, but stressed that such a step would not deter resistance. Furthermore, Barhoum said that the Ashkelon attack was in retaliation to Israeli occupation escalation and the US supported Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people, adding that it makes no sense that the world is watches silently the siege on the Gaza Strip and the Israeli atrocities against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and expect the Palestinians to remain arms-folded in the face of such atrocities.

Bush: God told me to invade Iraq
Rupert Cornwell in Washington, The Independent 10/7/2005

Uncertainty abounds
Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/21/2008

Israel: Bush means business on Iran nukes
Barak Ravid and Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008

PLC member Tamlieh: Bush’s visit to Israel is an approval of settlement expansion in West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008

Negev residents ’abandoned’ due to Bush visit
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 5/16/2008

Bush appeasement slur angers Democrats
Ewen MacAskill and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian 5/16/2008
Obama outraged by president’s claim that talking to US foes in Middle East is like negotiating with Hitler - President George Bush used a visit to Israel yesterday to denounce Democratic party offers to negotiate with America’s enemies in the Middle East as comparable to appeasement of Hitler. Although Bush did not name any Democratic politician, the party’s presidential contender Barack Obama has offered to open negotiations with the Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Obama and other Democratic leaders expressed outrage at being compared to the Nazis, especially on a visit to Israel. They also condemned Bush for breaking a long-time convention against using foreign visits to score domestic points. Obama described it as a "false political attack", saying he had never advocated talking to terrorists, while Joe Biden,the. . .

Obama accuses Bush on Israel speech
Al Jazeera 5/15/2008
Barack Obama, the US Democratic presidential hopeful, has accused George Bush of launching a "false political attack" in remarks the US president made about holding talks with states accused of supporting terrorism. Obama accused Bush of implying in a speech in Israel that he wanted to "appease" countries like Iran by talking to their leaders. Bush, who is in Israel as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations, compared negotiating with "terrorists" to "appeasement" - the UK’s strategy of seeking to negotiate with the Nazis in the 1930s in an attempt to avert conflict. Bush said in Jerusalem on Thursday: "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all the time. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ’Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided."

Bush denounces Democratic negotiation offers during Israel visit
Ewen MacAskill and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian 5/15/2008
President George Bush used a visit to Israel today to denounce Democratic offers to negotiate with America’s enemies in the Middle East as comparable to appeasement of Hitler. Although Bush did not name any Democrat, Barack Obama has offered to open negotiations with the Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and with the Syrian president, Bashar Assad. Obama and other Democratic leaders expressed outrage at the comparison with Nazis, especially during a visit to Israel. They also condemned he president for breaking a long-time convention against using foreign visits to make domestic political points. Obama described it as a "false political attack", saying he had never advocated talking to terrorists, while Joe Biden, Democratic chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said: "This is bullshit. "The Democratic leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi, described Bush’s comments as "beneath the dignity of his office."

Riyadh to push Bush for progress on Palestinian front
Suleiman Nimr, Daily Star 5/16/2008

Saudis expected to press Bush on Palestinian deal to curb Iran
Middle East Online 5/15/2008

Abbas marking Nakba: Israel’s security is dependent on our security and independence
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008

Saeb Erekat: sixty years and the Palestinian Nakba continues
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008

Galloway: Oslo did not liberate one inch of the Palestinian lands
Palestinian Information Center 5/15/2008
AMMAN, (PIC)-- British MP George Galloway stated that the Oslo agreement did not liberate one inch of the Palestinian lands, admitting that he had committed mistakes in the past regarding his outlook for the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At a symposium on the Nakba of Palestine held in Jordan, MP Galloway held Britain fully responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people, saying that whatever Britain did, it can never erase the black mark caused by the Balfour declaration, pointing out that the Palestinian people embarrassed the world when they refused to become an extinct people like the red Indians. The British lawmaker also said that Tony Blair should not forget Balfour when he comes to talk about peace in the region. The lawmaker criticized the Israeli siege on Gaza, saying that it was imposed in response to the results of the Palestinian elections which were won by Hamas.

President Abbas on 60 years of Nakba: no peace with settlements
Palestine News Network 5/15/2008

Palestinian and EU officials meet in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Undersecretary of the Palestinian foreign ministry Ahmad Subih met on Wednesday evening with Mr. John Kjaer, the European Commission Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory. Palestinian ambassador to Belgium and to the EU Layla Shahid attended the meeting along with several other officials. The conveners discussed the ongoing preparations for the Euro-Palestinian committee meeting scheduled to be held on Monday 19 May. Subih affirmed that the committee has not convened since 2005. He said holding a meeting at this particular time indicated that both sides, especially the European Union, intends to play a more active role in the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Al-Maliki meets South Korean ambassador to the PA
Ma’an News Agency 5/15/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an - Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Malikiheld a meeting in his office in the central West Bank city of Ramallah with Wan Soo Park, the ambassador ofSouth Korea to the Palestinian Authority. The meeting was attended by Dr Walid Hassan, head of the Asia and Africa Department and Ahmad Salami Kabaha head of the media department. South Korean ambassador Park indicated his committment to developing the Arab-Korean relationship in general, and with the Palestinians in particular, through cooperating with the business community. He added that his country will establish industrial projects in areas of Jericho and will call for a number of Korean businessmen and experts who work in the car manufacturing industry to visit Palestine and Jericho to assess the situation. Al-Malki praised the Korean government and people’s attitude towards opening production. . .

Abbas: It’s time to end the Nakba of the Palestinian people
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008

Israel protests UN chief Ban Ki-Moon’s use of term ’nakba’
Rotem Sela, TheMarker Correspondent, and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
The Israeli mission to the United Nations is seeking clarifications after an official communique released by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s bureau made specific reference to the word "nakba," according to a report broadcast on Israel Radio early Friday morning. The report said the UN chief telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express his solidarity with the Palestinians on the day they mark the "nakba," the Arabic word meaning "catastrophe" that is used in reference to the founding of the state of Israel. Danny Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told Israel Radio that the term "’nakba’ is a tool of Arab propaganda used to undermine the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel, and it must not be part of the lexicon of the UN.

Statement by Robert H. Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
ReliefWeb 5/13/2008
Statement by Robert H. Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, following today’s announcement by Quartet Representative, Tony Blair - Following today’s announcement by Quartet Representative Tony Blair of an initial package of measures to improve the social and economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry said during a meeting of the Local Development Forum in Ramallah:"I welcome the initial set of measures announced today by Tony Blair, in particular its focus on improving movement and access and opening up trade routes. I hope this marks the beginning of improved mobility, economic growth, security and confidence. The UN will work to support Tony Blair and the parties to ensure the swift and full implementation. . ."

Identical letters dated 22 April 2008 from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Securit
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 5/9/2008
I write to inform you of a terrorist attack that occurred earlier today, in which one Israeli civilian was killed by a Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli civilian, a man in his forties, was killed after a mortar shell hit his home in Kibbutz Kfar Aaza. Three others were wounded in the attack; one sustained moderate injuries and the other two were lightly injured. Hamas claimed responsibility. As we have written so many times before, Israel will not stand idly by as its citizens are under constant attack. Israel reserves the right to defend itself from all armed attacks, as any other nation would, according to its inherent right under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva unveils detailed plans for Red Sea-Dead Sea canal
Ora Koren, Ha’aretz 5/15/2008
Real estate mogul Yitzhak Tshuva on Thursday unveiled his construction plans for the building of the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, which is to run from the Israeli port city of Eilat on the Red Sea, 200 km to the Dead Sea. The Israeli billionaire told the "Facing Tomorrow" presidential conference in Jerusalem that Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal, whom he had met at his Plaza Hotel in New York earlier this week, had voiced willingness to invest in the project, which aims to provide electricity and potable water to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Tshuva said that the prince was ready to begin working on the project immediately, in coordination with Jordan. He quoted the Saudi prince as saying that peace and economy go hand in hand, and that it is inconceivable that a peace accord is signed by people who can’t afford to feed their children.

Tshuva unveils his Peace Channel plans
Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Yitzhak Tshuva unveiled his plans for building the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal yesterday, known as the Peace Channel, which is to run 166 kilometers from Eilat on the Red Sea north to the Dead Sea. The Israeli billionaire told the "Facing Tomorrow" President’s Conference in Jerusalem that Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal had expressed a willingness to invest in the project, which aims to provide electricity and potable water to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Tshuva said the prince was ready to begin working on the project immediately, in coordination with Jordan. He quoted Prince Walid as saying that peace and economies go hand in hand, and that it is inconceivable that a peace accord could be signed by people who can’t afford to feed their children. Tshuva announced that leading business people from around the world had also expressed interest. . .

At ’Israel’s Davos,’ there to see and be seen
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
In the lobby of the Israel Convention Center (ICC) in Jerusalem, one of President Shimon Peres’s assistants was running around urging participants in the President’s Conference to enter the auditorium. On the dais sat a former U. S. under secretary of state, the chair of the Russian senate, a senior Chinese diplomat and the person who may well be the next U. S. secretary of state, about to begin a discussion about the global geopolitical situation. There were only about 20 people in the auditorium. The hundreds of conference participants preferred to rub shoulders outside the auditorium. Only 25 minutes after the scheduled time were there enough people inside for the discussion to begin. "What do they want? " complained a deputy editor of a daily newspaper. "What’s important in an event like this is the mingling." And in fact, it seemed that most of the conference participants found it. . .

Peres: Conference ’promoted Israel around the world’
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
President Shimon Peres expressed satisfaction yesterday as he summed up the three days of his "Facing Tomorrow" conference in Jerusalem: "It was an amazing thing whose like has never been seen before - and not only in Israel. "Next week, teams will summarize the conference discussions and draft position papers to give the government and international Jewish organizations. Peres rejected press criticism of the prestigious conference as being alienated from the Israeli reality. "I don’t know what the media are talking about," Peres told Haaretz. "I saw what happened at the conference. Thirty-five panels with the world’s leading speakers, including the number-one statesman, Henry Kissinger; the number-one philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy; Elie Wiesel; economist Abby Joseph Cohen. I know of no conference where you could hear all of them together.

Netanyahu: We’ve made mistake of ceding land before
Ynet, YNetNews 5/15/2008
Foreign Affairs Minister says two-state solution only viable when ’nakba’ stricken from Palestinian lexicon while Opposition leader Netanyahu warns Israel must learn from past, refuse to give up land with no return -"With the establishment of a Palestinian state, we wish to see the end of the conflict. The Palestinians will be able to celebrate their independence if on that same day they also strike the word ’nakba’ from their lexicon," Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni said on Thursday afternoon in her speech at the president’s conference in Jerusalem. Livni addressed the events being held throughout the day by the Palestinian Authority in commemoration of 60 years since the ’nakba. ’ "The need to sustain Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation brings us to the fact that we must let go of part of the country, this decision has already been put into words," said Livni.

Rupert Murdoch: Spreading technology in region can help Mideast peace
Sara Miller, Ha’aretz 5/15/2008
Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch told a panel in Jerusalem on Thursday that promoting technology throughout the Middle East could help advance peace. - "When people have the skills - to build better lives for themselves and their families, their societies become more peaceful and Israel will have better neighbors," Murdoch said during a debate on new media and the internet at President Shimon Peres’ "Facing Tomorrow" conference. "We’ll continue to do what we can to help Israel maintain its competitive edge. Yet we must also look for new ways to expand human capital throughout the Middle East." He bemoaned the fact that there are still many people in the region who do not have access to the evolving technological world, even though their countries have the resources to facilitate such access.

Driver: I personally handed Olmert envelopes stuffed with cash
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Avi Sherman, a limousine driver who drove Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his tenure as mayor of Jerusalem, testified to police on Thursday that he personally gave Olmert envelopes stuffed with cash from several businessmen, among them U. S. businessman and fund-raiser Morris Talansky and American billionaire Daniel Abraham. Olmert is currently facing a criminal investigation over suspicions that he took bribes from Talansky during his tenures as Jerusalem mayor and later as trade minister. Channel 2 on Thursday aired excerpts from Sherman’s testimony. "When Olmert would arrive in New York," Sherman is heard saying in one of the excerpts, "he would coordinate his trip with Shula Zaken, and I would go to the offices of the non-profit organization raising funds for Sha’arei Tzedek - which was headed by Talansky - and I would collect an envelope from his secretary."

A little help from his friends
Gidi Weitz, Ha’aretz 5/15/2008
In November 2005, Sheldon Adelson, an American Jew who is one of the biggest casino and hotel tycoons in the world, received a letter asking him to help out "a dear and close friend. "The letter was from the Israeli minister of industry, labor and trade at the time, Ehud Olmert, and the friend was Morris (Moshe) Talansky, who was then working as the proprietor of a business for operating mini-bars in hotels, and is now the person at the center of the latest affair involving the prime minister. Olmert had written: "I am enclosing with this letter the details of a company run by a dear and close friend of mine, Mr. Morris (Moshe) Talansky, who has asked me to pass this on to you. I hope that there may be the possibility of considering using some of the services offered by his company in some of your hotels and other endeavors.

PM petitions court against Talansky deposition
Ofra Edelman and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his former office manager, Shula Zaken, petitioned the High Court of Justice yesterday against the prosecution’s decision to have a court depose American fundraiser Moshe Morris Talansky. The petition will be heard on Monday by a panel of three justices. Attorneys for Olmert wrote, "Were it not a case involving the prime minister, the prosecution would not have considered seeking a deposition from Mr. Talanksy. "Since it is not even clear what crimes their client is suspected of, they argued, there are no grounds for asking the court to hear testimony from Talansky now, and doing so would undermine Olmert’s ability to cross-examine the witness effectively. The premier’s attorneys also accused the prosecution of speaking out of both sides of its mouth regarding Talansky: "Talansky is presented as a suspect who may be indicted for the offenses about which he is being asked to testify.

Don’t say you didn’t know
Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Don’t say you didn’t know. You knew. You, Ehud Olmert’s coddlers, knew that the prime minister was a nouveau riche who made his fortune during his years as a public servant. You, the people who form Olmert’s circle of protection - who include senior journalists - knew that the prime minister is a lawyer who operates in the borderline dark-gray regions. You knew that back when he was a Likudnik, Olmert escaped by the skin of his teeth from the affair of the Likud’s fake invoices. You knew that as mayor of Jerusalem, he regularly stayed in expensive hotel suites in distant climes. You knew that as minister of trade and industry, he finagled appointments and bestowed dubious benefits. You knew that as finance minister, he tried to sell Bank Leumi to one friend by means of another. You knew that he sold his house worth millions to a mystery corporation in the Virgin Islands.

U.S. billionaire Daniel Abraham: I never gave money to Olmert
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/15/2008
American billionaire Daniel Abraham, who was questioned by police under suspicion that he gave envelopes filled with cash to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, denied all allegations against him Thursday in an interview with Army Radio. Abraham, a philanthropist who made his fortune as founder of Slim-Fast food products, is a close friend of Olmert’s and has been mentioned as a key figure in two investigations against the prime minister. "Of course I never gave any money to Ehud Olmert. The very question is insulting to me," Abraham told Army Radio. "This is my reputation at stake and I have no reason to risk it. "Abraham also told the radio station that while he was questioned by police, they confronted him with the testimony of a cab driver who says that he witnessed Abrams giving Olmert envelopes filled with money a few years ago.

Beilin: Exempt religious, conscientious objectors from IDF
Ynet, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Debate on future of Haredi community in Israel unearths opinions on army service, separation of religion from State. Beilin: Haredi laws a stain on Israel’s democracy - "Any Israeli who does not wish to serve in the army, due to religion or conscientious objections, should be allowed the right to refuse," Knesset Member Yossi Beilin (Meretz) said Thursday during his speech at President Shimon Peres’ ’Facing Tomorrow’ Conference. Beilin was first to speak during the discussion entitled ’The haredi society in Israel: How can we live together and apart? ’ According to him, the haredi community is growing rapidly, and is set to compose 20% of all Israeli people within the next few years. Rabbi Dudi Zilbershlag, one of the haredi community leaders present at the discussion, surveyed the community’s history and its gradual incorporation within Israeli society.

Freedom of Information Law gets low marks, 10 years on
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Ten years after Israel enacted its Freedom of Information Law, there is a debate over its accomplishments: Some experts believe the law had little impact, while others say it made the situation worse. Among those who think the situation has worsened is MK Dov Khenin (Hadash). At a meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee last December, he explained that in the past, one would ask an official for permission, and unless there was particular reason to refuse the request, it was granted. "Now," said Khenin, "there is a law, so fill out the forms and pay the fee. "Ro’i Peled, chairman of the Movement for Freedom of Information, does not think the situation has become worse, but neither is he happy with the situation. He noted that two committees, one public and one parliamentary, worked to prepare the bill and invested a great deal of effort in it.

IDF reservists complain of food shortage during 5-day training
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 5/15/2008
A number of Israel Defense Forces reserves officers complained Thursday that they had been forced to undergo five days of training in the intense Negev heat without proper food supplies. The reservists, who serve in an artillery corps, recently completed their training at the Tse’lim base. They said that the army did not provide them with enough food during the training, adding that the little that was supplies had to be divided among seven teams of 11 soldiers each. "It was embarrassing, like there wasn’t a war, like there wasn’t the Winograd Commission, like the system wasn’t shaken up," one reservist told Haaretz. "Each team received one container of canned corn, black olives, a few slices of dry challah and two or three cans of tuna. That’s it. When we started complaining that there wasn’t enough food and that we were hungry, we were told that we were far away from the base," he said.

Amir Peretz’s wife running for mayor of Sderot
Yuval Karni, YNetNews 5/15/2008
Ahlama Peretz tells her family she’s decided to ’live out her dream’, run for mayor of Qassam-battered town in November elections. ’I can change the city,’ she says - The wife of former defense minister and Labor chairman Amir Peretz is entering politics, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday. After much deliberation, Ahlama Peretz told her husband and four children Wednesday that she has decided to "live out her dream" and run for mayor of Sderot in the upcoming November elections. Amir Peretz began his political career when he was elected mayor of the Qassam-battered town in 1984. His wife said after the announcement that she has the ability to change Sderot and "fight for every child". In an interview that will be published Yedioth Ahronoth’s weekend edition, Ahlama Peretz spoke of what she referred to as the "injustice" that was done to her. . .

Gaza runner faces hurdles on long road to Beijing
Middle East Online 5/15/2008
JERICHO, West Bank - Every morning at dawn Nadir al-Masri runs circles around a trackless field at an empty stadium in the occupied West Bank, his coach clocking distances and timing him on a stopwatch. The lack of a proper track is just one of many obstacles the 28-year-old long distance runner has encountered on his journey from the besieged and war-torn Gaza Strip to the Beijing Summer Olympics. "I came to Jericho because I cannot train in Gaza with the political circumstances there. I faced huge problems in coming here," he said one morning after a long workout. The married father of three usually lives in the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza, where Israel has carried out several raids and air strikes aimed at halting rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian resistance fighters aiming to free their land from long and illegal Israeli occupation.

Israeli film at Cannes explores 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
A daring new animated documentary follows Israeli director Ari Folman as he tries to piece together memories of the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila camps. Folman was a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces when it invaded Lebanon earlier that year. It allowed Christian militiamen into the refugee camps and stood by as they went on a killing spree shortly after the assassination of their leader, Bashir Gemayel. In "Waltz With Bashir," in competition at the Cannes film festival this year and screening as Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary, a soldier among those surrounding the camps witnesses the execution of a family by militiamen. It also features a reporter describing a telephone conversation he had with then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon about rumors he was hearing of the massacre.

Waltz With Bashir’ bids for top Cannes prize
Middle East Online 5/15/2008
Repressed memories, the horrors of war and Israel’s dubious role in a notorious Beirut refugee camp massacre are the themes of the Cannes film festival’s first ever fully-animated documentary. "Waltz With Bashir," said Screen magazine in one of the first reviews, "could easily turn out to be one of the most powerful statements of this Cannes and will leave its mark forever on the ethics of war films in general." Ari Folman’s anti-war movie, in the running for the Palme d’Or top prize, is premiered here as Israel celebrates its 60th year of existence and its neighbour Lebanon hits yet another political crisis pushing it to the brink of civil war. Opening with thumping rock music as snarling dogs hurtle through city streets, the highly personal tale recounts the director’s quest to fill the holes in his memory of his stint as a 19-year-old conscript in Israel’s army.

Drawing on experience
Nirit Anderman, Ha’aretz 5/15/2008
Can an animated film be a documentary? Can animation offer unique solutions for filmmakers seeking to describe events that took place in other times and places? Two films released last year in Europe and in the United States, and another production - which happens to be Israeli and debuted yesterday at the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival - are making these questions more relevant than ever. Exactly a year ago, at the 60th Cannes festival, one of the films featured in the official competition caused a media uproar. "Persepolis," an animated French film, aroused the anger of officials in Iran. In an outraged letter addressed to the French embassy in Tehran, they protested its screening at the festival and claimed that "it presents an unrealistic aspect of the achievements and the outcome of the magnificent Islamic Revolution.

Cartoon of the day
Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 5/15/2008
Source: Imad Hajjaj’s Daily Cartoons [end] -- See also: Imad Hajjaj''s Daily Cartoons

CPI rises more than expected
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/15/2008
Interest rates may now be increased even more than the previously expected 0. 5%. The April Consumer Price Index (CPI) shot up 1. 5%, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported, well above even the highest forecasts by analysts. This was the highest monthly CPI rise for the month of April since April 2002. Inflation for the past 12 months was 4. 7%, well beyond the 3% ceiling of the price stability target. Excluding housing, inflation over the past 12 months was 5. 6%. The sharp rise in April CPI and expectations of more to come in the coming months leaves little maneuvering room for Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer, and he will be forced to raise the interest rate at the end of the month. A rate hike of more than the expected 50-basis points is not out of the question. The clothing and footwear item in the April CPI rose by 6.

Warning bells are ringing in the central bank
Motti Bassok, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
The Israeli economy is fast slipping into serious inflation. All the analysts predicted that March’s Consumer Price Index would be negative, somewhere in the -0. 3% range. Instead, prices actually rose by 0. 3%, surprising everyone. In April, something similar happened. Forecasts were for inflation in the 0. 9% to 1. 0% range, but lo and behold, they were off - though by only 50% this time: Prices in April rose 1. 5%, a six-year high. So what can we learn from the unexpectedly high inflation of recent months? First, and least important, Israeli analysts do not know how to measure the CPI. There have been too many wrong forecasts recently. Second, and much more important, the Israeli economy is rapidly slipping into an inflationary period - and this is very bad news. This inflation is partly imported, but also partly of our own making.

Peres and Fischer discuss Israel as financial center
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/15/2008
The politician and the economist spoke at a panel on Israel’s economy at the Israel President’s Conference. President Shimon Peres and Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer today discussed the idea of turning Israel into an international financial center at a panel at the Presidents "Facing Tomorrow" conference in Jerusalem. Peres praised the conference. "There were extraordinary panels this morning. I’ve never seen an event like this. We heard a survey about modern industry. I learned that the more we rely on technology, the more we rely on people. "Peres also praised Fischer, saying, "Stanley is the first economist I’ve known who says something and it happens. I’ve met a lot of pessimistic economists, but he always figures out how to improve the situation." As for turning Israel into an international financial center, Peres said, "I look around me.

One third of software in Israel is pirated
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/15/2008
The cost to software companies reached $121 million in 2007. The Fifth Annual Piracy Study by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and International Data Corporation (IDC) for 2007 finds that a third of software in Israel is pirated, the same level as in 2006. Piracy rates in Israel are higher than in the US, UK, and Japan. The study found a 20% increase in financal damage caused to software manufacturers operating in Israel as the result of piracy, to $121 million in 2007 from $102 million in 2006. The BSA/IDC study found that 38% of the software installed in 2006 on personal computers worldwide was obtained illegally in 2007 compared with 35% in 2006. The financial damage rose to $48 billion from $39. 5 billion. Naomi Assia & Co. Law Offices and Notary represents the BSA in Israel. Naomi Assia said that the situation in Israel was especially dire among. . .

Arab mediators clinch deal to defuse Lebanon crisis
Middle East Online 5/15/2008
BEIRUT - Arab mediators clinched a deal on Thursday to defuse the latest crisis that pushed Lebanon to the brink of civil war, after two days of talks with rival factional leaders, a pro-government official said. "We have been informed by the Arab League delegation that a deal has been brokered," said an official with the ruling majority, who did not wish to be named. He added that the accord, aimed at defusing a paralysing political crisis that boiled over into six days of deadly sectarian battles, would be unveiled shortly by the Arab delegation headed by the Qatari prime minister. Arab leaders have been scrambling to end the standoff between the government and the Hezbollah-led opposition, a dispute regarded as part of a wider conflict between US regional allies and its foes in Syria and Iran. Hopes of a deal have been raised since the government, in a major climbdown, cancelled. . .

Battle lines drawn in Lebanon’s Tripoli
Middle East Online 5/15/2008
In Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli, the scene of deadly sectarian clashes between pro- and anti-government forces, battle lines are being drawn as tensions simmer unresolved. "Our standard is our faith and we do not fear their armies. It is a decisive period between us and (Hezbollah leader) Hassan Nasrallah, a "battle hardened" former soldier said, adding he would "cut off the head of anyone who touches even a hair on the head of one Sunni." Lebanon’s second city, home to almost 400,000 residents, witnessed bloody violence as Sunni pro-government supporters clashed with Alawites, the breakaway Muslim sect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, loyal to the Shiite Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Iran and Syria. The weekend fighting was part of a wider armed conflict in Beirut and other parts of the country pitting opposition fighters against government loyalists that had raised fears of a return to all-out civil war.

Lebanese resistance turns back rightist offensive
John Catalinotto, Palestine Think Tank 5/15/2008
Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, popular because of their successful resistance to past Israeli attacks on the country, have answered a provocation from the U. S. - backed Lebanese government and at the same time handed a sharp military defeat to rightist forces, especially in Beirut. By May 12 heavy fighting between the Hezbollah-led opposition and rightist political factions in the government had died down in the capital, but it continues in Tripoli in the north. (AP, May 12)The Bush administration is without hesitation behind the Fouad Siniora government. In early May the U. S. once again named Hezbollah a "terrorist" group. Bush, on his way to Israel May 12 to celebrate its takeover of Palestinian land 60 years ago, condemned in a statement what he called "Hezbollah’s recent efforts, and those of their foreign sponsors in Tehran and Damascus, to use violence. . .

Lebanon conflict puts army unity to the test
Middle East Online 5/15/2008
BEIRUT - Armed conflict in Lebanon between various factions has put the army’s unity to the test, threatening to split an institution seen as a bulwark against a new civil war. The fighting -- Lebanon’s worst internal strife since the 1975-90 civil war -- has placed great strain on an army whose ranks reflect the country’s sectarian mosaic. The military lacked both the will and means to stand in the way of the powerful Shiite Hezbollah and its allies when they took over Beirut last week, drawing criticism from leaders whose followers were routed in the campaign. "There is a central problem which is the unity of the army," said Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s most leader of the ruling coalition. The United States has promised military aid in response to the campaign against its allies by the strong and the extremely popular Hezbollah.

Hezbollah declares crisis over after Lebanon gov’t climb-down
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheik Naim Kassem said Monday that the Lebanon-based militant group was willing to return to a state of normalcy, after the government decided to reverse crackdown measures that had triggered days of conflict. Kassem’s comments Thursday came after meeting with an Arab delegation that was working find a solution to Lebanon’s worst crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Clashes between supporters of the government and the Hezbollah-led opposition broke out last week after the Cabinet decided to sack the airport security chief for alleged ties to Hezbollah and declared the militants’ private telephone network illegal. The government reversed those decisions Wednesday. Kassem’s comments signal Hezbollah may end its civil disobedience campaign and reopen roads in Beirut.

Tripoli clashes open old sectarian wounds
Amer Ouali, Daily Star 5/16/2008

Israeli general says Hizbullah proved strength
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/16/2008

Lebanon rivals agree to Doha talks
Al Jazeera 5/15/2008

Lebanon government revokes anti-Hezbollah move
Middle East Online 5/15/2008

Dialogue to resume in Doha under Arab League watch
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 5/16/2008

Untouchable’ Hezbollah emerges victorious
Jocelyne Zablit, Middle East Online 5/15/2008

Americans admit holding about 500 minors at prisons in Iraq
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/16/2008
WASHINGTON: Around 500 minors are currently detained by the US army in Iraq, as well as nearly a dozen juveniles in Afghanistan, a US civil liberties group revealed on Wednesday. "Since 2002, the US has held approximately 2,500 individuals under the age of 18 at the time of their capture. . . in Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan," said a US government report for the UN children’s agency, made public by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "As of April 2008, US forces held approximately 500 juveniles" in Iraq, where "all detainees, regardless of age, are held by US forces as imperative threats to security at the request of the sovereign Iraqi government and pursuant to a UN Security Council Resolution," the report said. A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the report was true but gave no further comment.

Iraqi forces round up hundreds of Al-Qaeda suspects in Mosul
Marwan Ibrahim, Daily Star 5/16/2008
Agence France Presse - MOSUL: Iraqi security forces carried out mass arrests in the main northern city of Mosul on Thursday as a major crackdown against Al-Qaeda entered its second day, officials said. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who traveled to Mosul on Wednesday to spearhead "Operation Mother of Two Springs," spent the night there and vowed to rid the province of Al-Qaeda operatives, the interior ministry said. A statement said the premier declared that the "operations will be short and specific" in targeting "terrorists and gunmen," and security forces will not allow a free reign to militants. On Thursday, Maliki held talks with tribal leaders on the security situation in what US commanders say is Al-Qaeda’s last urban bastion in the country. About 275 people were detained overnight on top of 560 people seized since Tuesday, Defense and Interior Ministry officials said.

Gates encourages American citizens to visit Iran
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/16/2008
WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday he thought more visits to Iran by private American citizens might help bridge differences between the two countries. But Gates, who in 2004 advocated greater diplomatic engagement with Iran, said he believed it would not be useful now to negotiate with the government headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage with the Iranians and then sit down and talk with them," he said in a talk at the American Academy of Diplomacy, referring to general US relations with Tehran. "If there is going to be a discussion then they need something, too," he said. "We can’t go to a discussion and be completely the ’demandeur’ with them not feeling they do not need anything from us. "But he said the United States should look for ways outside of government "to open up the channels and get more of a flow of people back and forth. . ."

THE ROVING EYE The US-Iran sound bite showdown
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 5/16/2008
They just can’t keep from going at each other’s throats. Just in time for President George W Bush’s special guest appearance at the 60thanniversary of the founding of Israel, his ultimate nemesis, Iranian PresidentMahmud Ahmadinejad, unleashed another rhetorical shot across the bow as his own way of "celebrating" the anniversary. And once again the substance of what Ahmadinejad actually said risks being lost in (mis)translation. According to Agence France Presse (AFP), quoting the Fars news agency,Ahmadinejad, speaking in the Iranian northern province of Golestan in one ofhis popular provincial tours, said, "They [Israel] must know that the nationsof the region hate this counterfeit regime. And if there is the slightest chance, they will uproot this counterfeit regime." Reuters had a much more bellicose take.


Project tabula rasa
Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      In the Galilee, Jonathan Cook hears how erasing all traces of Palestine and its people was the lynchpin of the Zionist agenda
     Amin Mohamed Ali (Abu Arab), 73, is a refugee from the village of Saffuriya, three miles northwest of Nazareth. The village, home to 5,000 Palestinians, was one of the largest in the Galilee and among the first to be bombed from the air, according to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe. It was occupied on 16 July 1948. Most of its refugees ended up in Lebanon, but some fled to nearby Nazareth, where they established a neighbourhood, Safafra, named after their village. Abu Arab’s home overlooks his family’s former lands, now farmed by a Jewish community called Zippori. His old home was destroyed, now covered by a pine forest planted by the Jewish National Fund. He is one of the founders of the Saffuriya Cultural Association and organised this year’s Nakba procession to Saffuriya.
     "It started at Iftar, the meal breaking the fast at the end of the day during the holy month of Ramadan, when two Jewish planes flew overhead dropping bombs. We ran outside to see what was happening and, afraid the houses would collapse on us, fled into the fields and nearby caves to hide. We thought it would be over in a few minutes and we could return, but the attack lasted two hours. I later heard that three people were killed by the bombs..."

Storm clouds in Gaza

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Egypt’s efforts at mediating have no chance as Israel prepares for more aggression.
     One of the policemen noted a pilot-less, Israeli reconnaissance plane in the sky, and they all rushed out of their headquarters into a nearby orange grove. Their headquarters is located on the coastal road connecting Khan Yunis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, and they acted on the basis of orders issued by their superiors. Five of their colleagues had been killed, and 10 others wounded, in an attack by such planes on two police headquarters in the same area at the end of last week. These security precautions, devised to deal with the Israeli military escalation, came as efforts to reach a truce between the Palestinian resistance movements and Israel climaxed. They also coincided with Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman landing in Tel Aviv to brief Israeli leaders on the details of the Egyptian truce proposal.
     Yet Israel did not only welcome Suleiman with a military escalation in the Gaza Strip. It also put forth new stipulations and insisted that the Egyptian initiative include other clauses, such as an Egyptian commitment to preventing arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip, which is seen as contributing to the military strength of Hamas. Another demand is that events in the Gaza Strip not be tied to the West Bank under any circumstances.

Suleiman Returns with more Conditions

Caelum Moffatt, MIFTAH 5/15/2008
      Egypt’s Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman was made to wait two weeks to present his brokered peace proposal which bound Hamas with the other 12 politically-affiliated resistance groups operating in Gaza to an initiative for a “comprehensive and reciprocal period of calm to be applied progressively, first in Gaza and then in the West Bank”. Despite the escalation in violence and the initial perception of the agreement as “not serious”, Israel extended an invitation to the Egyptian mediator to present the proposal, but only after Israel had finished celebrating the 60th anniversary of their independence.
     Finally, Omar Suleiman arrived in Jerusalem to discuss the potential for a “period of calm” [tahdi’a] on May 12. As Egypt’s intelligence chief had been eclipsed by the commemoration of Israel’s independence previously, this time his meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak occurred just two days before the arrival of President G.W. Bush. The incumbent US President “will come not as somebody who demands but somebody who encourages”. Instead, the president of the world’s sole superpower will be fully focused on marking 60 years of Israeli freedom and democracy.

Resisting the Nakba

Joseph Massad, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      The viciousness of Israel is testament to its knowing that Palestinians will always remain steadfast and defeat its past and present attempts to erase them, writes One of the most difficult things to grasp in the modern history of Palestine and the Palestinians is the meaning of the Nakba. Is the Nakba to be seen as a discrete event that took place and ended in 1948, or is it something else? What are the political stakes in reifying the Nakba as a past event, in commemorating it annually, in bowing before its awesome symbolism? What are the effects of making the Nakba a finite historical episode that one bemoans but must ultimately accept as a fact of history?
     I will suggest to you that there is much at stake in all of this, in rendering the Nakba an event of the past, a fact on the ground that one cannot but accept, admit, and finally transcend; indeed that in order to move forward, one must leave the Nakba behind. Some have even suggested that if Israel acknowledges and apologises for the Nakba, the Palestinians would forgive and forget, and the effects of the Nakba would be relegated to historical commemorations, not unlike the one we are having this year.

Memory for forgetfulness

Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1941 in the village of Birwe, in Upper Galilee. Birwe was destroyed in 1948 after its inhabitants were made to flee the village. The extract which follows is taken from a memoir Darwish wrote during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In it, he remembers his first encounter with Beirut in 1948, before his family stole back into what has since become Israel, where Darwish remained until 1972 .
     The sky of Beirut is a huge dome made of dark sheet metal. All-encompassing noon spreads its leisure in the bones. The horizon is like a slate of clear grey, nothing colouring it save the playful jets. A Hiroshima sky. I can, if I want, take chalk in hand and write whatever I wish on the slate. A whim takes hold of me. What would I write if I were to go up to the roof of a tall building? "They shall not pass"? It’s already been said. "May we face death, but long live the homeland"? That’s been said before. "Hiroshima"? That too has been said. The letters have all slipped out of my memory and fingers. I’ve forgotten the alphabet. All I remember are these six letters: B-E-I-R-U- T.


Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 5/15/2008
      One day, I hope, a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", on the South African model, will be set up here. It should be composed of Israeli, Palestinian and international historians, whose job will be to establish what really happened in this country in 1948.
     In the 60 years that have passed since then, the events of the war have been buried under layer upon layer of Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and Arab propaganda. A quasi-archeological excavation is needed in order to expose the bottom layer. Even the eye-witnesses who are still alive sometimes have problems distinguishing between what they actually saw and the myths that have twisted and falsified the events almost beyond recognition.
     I am one of the eye-witnesses. In the last few days, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary, dozens of radio and television interviewers from all over the world have been asking me to describe what actually happened. Here are some of these questions and my answers to them. (If I repeat things I have already written about, I apologize.)

Israel’s twilight years

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Palestinians are increasingly rejecting the crumbs of a two-state solution in favour of justice for all in a single state, Palestine, writes in Ramallah As Israel ostentatiously celebrates the passage of 60 years since its creation in Palestine in 1948, more than nine million Palestinians at home and in exile are commemorating the Nakba, the violent seizure of their ancestral homeland by Zionist Jews and the dispossession, expulsion and dispersion of the bulk of Palestinians to the four corners of the globe.
     This year, activities are taking place in many parts of the world where Palestinian refugees and expatriates reside, dreaming of and awaiting a return to their homeland that appears nowhere on the horizon of political reality.
     Palestinians, irrespective of their political affiliations, are not only reasserting the legal and moral status of their right to return to the homes and villages from which they were expelled at gunpoint, or otherwise made to flee 60 years ago, but are also emphasising to all who will listen, including their own leaders, that the right of return remains -- and will always be -- the heart, soul and centrepiece of the Palestinian issue.

This state cannot survive

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      A growing number of Israeli intellectuals believe their state may soon implode by force of its contradictions and failures.
     When Amnon Rubinstein speaks, many people in Israel listen. As an intellectual who has held the posts of minister of education and of justice, Rubinstein commands the respect of the Israeli elite regardless of their intellectual and political leanings. And yet Rubinstein surprised Israelis when in interview with Hebrew Radio in mid-April he anticipated that the Israeli state would not survive. Rubinstein is not the only person to have reached this conclusion. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s establishment, Israeli intellectuals teemed with pessimistic predictions about the future. An increasing number of politicians and Zionists have begun to openly express the belief that the entity of Israel is on a path to oblivion.
     Since these predictions were made public, the Israeli press has dubbed them "visions of the end of time". They have gained weight because they undermine the appearance of confidence that Israel’s leaders are keen to convey at any opportunity, but also because their proponents have played important decision-making roles or have long been connected to the establishment and are not merely members of elite intellectual circles on the margins of society. These intellectuals explain that their conclusion results from three basic factors: external threat; lack of confidence in the state’s future; and severe polarisation among society’s components. Rubinstein holds that Israel has failed counter Arab threats, in particular failing to extinguish the desire of Palestinians to obtain their rights in struggle against Israel.

Nakbah, 60 Years or Long Before?

Mohamed Kamel, Middle East Online 5/15/2008
      Most of us remember 1948’s catastrophe, The Nakbah; the days when almost 900,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes and become refugees, the worst refugee crisis in history. Citizens, that should have been refugees for a few days ended up being so for 60 years and amount to more than 4 millions.
     But this Nakbah did not start in 1948 it started long before; and it is well known to many of us but not to all.
     The Nakbah really started in 1825, in Arrarat, when Mordechai Emanuel Noah[i] purchased the Grand Island, near Buffalo New York, as a homeland for demoralized Jews.
     The Nakbah was renewed in 1890, with the scandal known as “The Dreyfus Affair” [ii]. That political scandal, with anti-Semitic overtones, is what divided France from the 1890s to the early 1900s. It involved the wrongful conviction for treason, in 1894, and the degradation and imprisonment on Devil’s Island, of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young and promising French artillery officer who was in advanced training with the Army’s General Staff.

We remain

Mustafa Barghouti, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Nothing can annul the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination.
     Sixty years on what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba -- the catastrophe -- but what might be more accurately termed the inauguration of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, one is struck by a remarkable irony. Both Palestinians and Israelis appear engaged in a neck-and-neck contest to enter the greatest number of precedents in the Guinness Book of Records.
     Palestinians in Bethlehem created the largest key in the world, to symbolise the right to return, and the largest flag in the world, to symbolise the Palestinians’ thus far denied right to self-determination. And they wrote the longest protest letter ever, on behalf of thousands of Palestinian political detainees and in defence of the cause of freedom.
     The Israelis, meanwhile, cooked the largest ever dish of hummus, symbolising their resolve to appropriate Palestinian culture after having seized most of Palestinian land and appropriated Palestinian political rights.

Nakba ongoing

Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Unseen and unreported, Israeli police attacked children and parents who wished to remember the Palestinian national tragedy that is the flipside of the birth of Israel.
     It has been a week of adulation from world leaders, ostentatious displays of military prowess, and street parties. Heads of state have rubbed shoulders with celebrities to pay homage to the Jewish state on its 60th birthday, while a million Israelis reportedly headed off to the country’s forests to enjoy a national pastime: the barbecue.
     Click to view caption Palestinian refugee Mahmud Obied, 112, from the Dheisheh refugee camp holds the key of his former house near a huge 10-metre long iron key displayed at a workshop in the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
     But this year’s Independence Day festivities hid as much as they revealed. The images of joy and celebration seen by the world failed to acknowledge the reality of a deeply divided Israel, shared by two peoples with conflicting memories and claims to the land.

Settlement stumbling blocs

Lara Friex, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
      Last month, The Washington Post reported that the Bush administration had entered into a secret agreement with Israel to permit continued construction in areas of the West Bank popularly known as "settlement blocs." The story focused on the alleged agreement (the existence of which administration officials strongly deny), but missed the real point: Secret agreement or not, Israeli construction in and around "settlement blocs" has continued without pause throughout the tenure of President George W. Bush, and continues to this day, with only token opposition from the U.S. So, too, has relentless construction of roads and other infrastructure, to facilitate the expansion of those blocs and integrate them into Israel. So, too, has the entrenchment of a comprehensive "security" regime, sealing off the West Bank from these areas and isolating the Palestinians trapped inside them.
     "Settlement bloc" is an informal term. Israel has never formally defined the blocs. Neither the Palestinians nor the international community (including the U.S.) recognize settlements in blocs as having any special status, compared to other settlements. And construction in the blocs is clearly barred under Phase I of the road map, which states: "[The government of Israel] freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements..."

When we returned back to Palestine

Salim Nazzal, Palestine Think Tank 5/15/2008
      While as a nation moving towards commemorating the Nakba day each Palestinian has a story about that day. Among the Palestinians in Lebanon in the sixties the tradition was to raise black flags to commemorate the 15th of May and people stay at home to tell new generations what happened to them in 1948.
     On the 14th of May teachers used to devote the last two hours to tell pupils about the events of that period and how they lived it. We the pupils of that period would hear many stories of how Zionist terror organizations attacked their villages and pushed them to move on foot until they reach the Lebanese borders. Teachers told us stories about the resistance which the villagers with their limited resources showed to the invading Zionist terror organizations, and also about the tragedy which occurred in various places in Palestine.
     There was a particular teacher whose account was particularly vivid. He was perhaps the only teacher who did not only tell of the brutality of the Zionist organizations but was critical of our ways of resisting the Zionist project. He went further and analyzed cultural and social patterns in the Palestinian culture in his efforts to understand what was wrong with us that we lost our homeland. Even though it was not always easy to understand what he said, he was the first teacher who told us not to be satisfied with the current culture which blames the Arab regimes alone for the failure of keeping Palestine. However from him I heard the first time the words that even if we are out of Palestine, Palestine is not out of us - words which I have repeated many times in my life.