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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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25 May 2008


PA officials: Israel offered new West Bank withdrawal map
Associated Press, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Palestinians familiar with peace talks say three days ago Israel offered withdrawal map that leaves 8. 5 percent of territory in Israeli hands, more than Authority is willing to accept - Palestinian officials close to peace talks said Sunday that Israel has offered a West Bank withdrawal map that leaves about 8. 5 percent of the territory in Israeli hands, less than a previous plan but still more than the Palestinians are ready to accept. Also Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted as telling backers that the negotiations have achieved no progress since they were restarted last November with a pledge to US President George W. Bush to try for a full peace treaty by the end of the year. The Palestinian officials said Israel presented its new map three days ago in a negotiating session. -- See also: JPost: ''J''lem offers 91% of W. Bank in new map''

Palestinian officials to visit Cairo seeking fuel for Gaza
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 5/24/2008
GAZA, May 24, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -Palestinian energy officials will visit Cairo next week to discuss with Egyptian counterparts ways of solving fuel and power shortage problems in Gaza Strip. During their talks, the Palestinian side will ask Egypt to supply Gaza with fuel to remedy the crisis which widened after Israel reduced fuel shipments to Gaza Strip last September, said Mujahed Salama, director of Palestinian Petroleum Agency (PPA). Salama added that the Palestinians will also demand industrial diesel for the only power station in Gaza which most of the time runs on less than half of its capacity due to the Israeli restrictions on fuel deliveries to Gaza. The Palestinian delegation will comprise officials from the PPA and the Palestinian Energy Authority. They will meet with Egyptian ministers of electricity and petrol.

Eight injured in Israeli incursion in Gaza on Saturday evening
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Eight Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire on Saturday evening in Gaza City and in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, medical sources said. Muawiyah Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry said that ambulances evacuated three injured people to Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after Israeli artillery targeted a group of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades fighters. The spokesperson of the de facto Health Ministry in Gaza, Khalid Radi said the attack injured five people, two of them critically. Separately, three Palestinians were injured as Israeli military vehicles invaded the town of Khuza’a in the Khan Younis district of the southern Gaza Strip. Hassanain said that the wounded were evacuated to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. He described their wounds as moderate.

Israeli forces arrest, injure protestors attempting to block land confiscation near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli army said on Sunday that it arrested five Israeli activists who took part in a peaceful demonstration against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah. Several other protestors were injured during the rally as Israeli soldiers hurled sonic bombs towards them in attempts to disperse the rally. Israeli authorities claimed that the protestors pelted Israeli soldiers with stones. The activists say the demonstrators were peaceful and attempted only to stop bulldozers from digging up Palestinian land. An Israeli leftist who participated in the rally told the Israeli website Walla, "Israel wants to confiscate lands belonging to Ni’lin in order to expand the nearby Hashmon’im settlement." "We attempted to impede the confiscation, and the separation wall’s guards opened fire at the unarmed protestors," he added.

Two hospitalized in attempted poisoning at prime minister’s office
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Two security guards were hospitalized on Saturday evening after a man carrying a poisoned envelope arrived in the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah, Palestinian security sources said. According to the sources, two guards grabbed the suspect, and while trying to open the envelope they were poisoned. The source affirmed that the security forces arrested the suspect. The man was questioned while the envelope was sent to a laboratory for tests. "A Rash spread on the guards’ skin after they attempted to open the suspect envelope, and they were transferred to a hospital immediately. Then they were discharged later and the envelope was sent to laboratory for tests," said Jamal Zaqqut, an aide to the Prime Minister. Zaqqut said that there was no visible powder in the envelope.

Israel releases deputy mayor of Qalqilia after two years in prison
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Qalailia – Ma’an – Israeli authorities released deputy mayor of Qalqilia Hisham Al-Masri after two years in prison on Sunday. Al-Masri was seized in 2006 ago during a series of arrests of Hamas lawmakers and other officials. [end]

Community demonstrating against new round of demolition orders
Palestine News Network 5/25/2008
Nablus / PNN - The Union of Popular Committees against Home Demolition in the Triangle is organizing a sit-in for Monday. Israeli forces issued a new round of home demolition orders in Tira prompting residents to fight back by installing a protest tent and planning strikes and demonstrations. In a statement calling for participation it was noted that "sixty years ago we were deported and displaced, racial discrimination was rampant, as was the policy of land confiscation. And now they still demolish our homes and steal our land with ever increasing ferocity and brutality. Destroying 400 Palestinian villages in 1948 was not enough for them." The Israeli government is continuing to bulldoze Palestinian homes in mixed cities within its boundaries, including in the southern Negev, and the northern Galilee and the Triangle.

Five Palestinians wounded in IOF shelling
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Five Palestinian citizens were wounded at a late hour on Saturday in Israeli occupation forces’ shelling east of Gaza city, local sources reported. They said that the IOF troops fired a land-to-land missile at a group of Qassam Brigades fighters east of Gaza wounding three of them while two locals were also injured in the blast. Medical sources said that two of the injured were in a very serious condition. The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, reported that another group of its fighters survived IOF shelling in Shujaia suburb also in Gaza city. The armed wing said that its fighters fired 35 mortar shells at the invading forces. In southern Gaza, a Qassam fighter was wounded when an IOF tank targeted a group of Qassam fighters east of Khan Younis.

Gaza blockade is ’human rights crime’: Carter
Agence France-Presse - AFP, ReliefWeb 5/25/2008
LONDON, May 25, 2008 (AFP) - Former US president Jimmy Carter on Sunday described Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip as "one of the greatest human rights crimes now existing on Earth." In a speech at a literary festival in Hay-on-Wye, in Wales, the 83-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner said: "There is no reason to treat these people this way," referring to the blockade, in place since the Islamist Hamas movement seized Gaza in June 2007. While president from 1977 to 1981, Carter was the architect of the landmark 1979 peace deal between Israel and Egypt, the first such treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab country. According to Carter, the failure of the European Union to support the Palestinian cause was "embarrassing." He said European countries should be "encouraging the formation of a unity government," including Hamas and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s rival Fatah movement.

Christian clergy against actions of Israeli forces in Hebron
Palestine News Network 5/25/2008
Hebron / PNN -- A delegation from the Protestant Churches of America visited the Islamic charities threatened with closure in the southern West Bank’s Hebron on Sunday. Israeli forces shut down an orphanage, confiscated equipment from a bakery and sewing shop, and have issued closure notices for several other charitable organizations. The buildings are to be kept closed and unused, while some will be confiscated by Israeli forces. The visiting group was particularly disturbed by the targeting of orphanages and their sponsoring organizations. The delegation of dozens of Christian clergy visited several impoverished students and families throughout the city and other orphanages. Visits were also paid to the sewing shop which had provided clothing to the city’s orphans; however Israeli forces confiscated its equipment and told workers to leave.

American Christian delegation denounces IOA closure of charitable societies
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- A delegation of the protestant church in the USA has toured premises of Palestinian charitable societies in Al-Khalil that are threatened with closure and confiscation by the Israeli occupation authority. The local popular campaign to aid the orphans briefed the delegates on those societies’ services to orphans and poor families in the city. The delegation, grouping dozens of sympathizers and clergymen, visited the orphanages for boys and for girls. The team members also visited the Rahma (mercy) bakery that used to supply those poor families and orphans with bread and the sewing factory that was stripped of all machines and clothes, which were providing sustenance to orphans. The clergymen expressed dismay at the IOA measures and added that they would convey to the world what they saw of unjustified persecution against Palestinian orphans.

Israeli peace activist wounded during a protest against roadblocks in Hebron
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/26/2008
Palestinian sources reported on Sunday that an Israeli peace activist was wounded and three supporters were detained after the Israeli army attacked a peaceful protest conducted by the activists at the entrance of Al Sammoa’ village, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The activists were protesting against the Israeli military roadblocks in the occupied West Bank. The sources added that one Israeli peace activists suffered fractures in her arm and bruises in several parts of her body after the soldiers severely clubbed her. Troops also arrested three supporters and detained dozens at the police station in Keryat Arba’ settlement in Hebron. The attacks took place after dozens of Israeli peace activists and local Palestinians of the Committee Against the Settlement held a peaceful protest south of Hebron in protest to a new military roadblock which was installed in the area.

Police detain 5 left-wing activists
Adva Naftali, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Combatants for Peace members arrested while attempted to remove dirt roadblocks near South Mount Hebron village. Refusenik Yonatan Shapira: No one will stop us from carrying out non-violent activities for peace - Members of the Combatants for Peace organization vowed Saturday to continue their battle against West Bank roadblocks, despite the arrest of five of the group activists. One of those detained was refusenik Yonatan Shapira, a former Israel Air Force pilot, who was released after eight hours of questioning. "We won’t be stopped, not by police officers, not by settlers and not by politicians. This is our future. If we fail to act, we won’t survive," he told Ynet upon leaving the Hebron police station. The police detained the Combatants for Peace activists after they took part in a demonstration calling for the removal of dirt roadblocks around the village of Samoa in South Mount Hebron.

Palestinian Prisoner Society visits minors in northern West Bank
Palestine News Network 5/25/2008
Bethlehem / PNN -- Among the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons there are hundreds of minors. The Palestinian Prisoner Society visited a few of them in Salem where there are 44 detainees. They are not charged with any crime, but are held under Administrative Detention. In order to be released they must pay exorbitant fines which help fund the Israeli prison system. Sameh Magid Saber is a 17 year old student from Nablus. Israeli forces arrested him on the 22nd of last month. The Salem Military Court will release him if he pays 5,000 shekels. A PPS lawyer also met with three boys from Salfit, nearby the northern West Bank’s Nablus. Seventeen year old Mahmoud Yousef Habaz can go home if he pays 10,000 shekels. Two other 17 year olds are facing similar situations there. The Palestinian Prisoner Society also met with 19 year old Mahmoud Khaddour from Jenin, 20 year old Hatem. . .

Prisoner club: A contagious virus infects Ramla prisoners, hospital hides facts
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Palestinian prisoner’s club revealed Sunday that two Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli Ramla prison are infected with a contagious virus and are being quarantined in the prison hospital which is trying in turn to conceal the facts about the gravity of this infection. In a statement received by the PIC, the lawyer of the prisoner’s club stated that the manager of the Ramla hospital told him that the two prisoners did not carry a contagious disease and their disease could be transmitted to others only if there were wounds in the body or the person had no immunity. The lawyer added that the manager inconsistently advised at the same time that visiting the two quarantined prisoners was not preferable and the visitors could talk to them from outside closed doors. The lawyer said that after he waited long time to be allowed to visit the prisoners in the quarantine. . .

Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Azzam: 10 years captive in Israeli prisons without trial
Iqbal Tamimi, Palestine Think Tank 5/25/2008
Nafha Society for the Defence of Human Rights in Palestine sent an appeal to help the Palestinian prisoner "Mahmoud Saeed Azzam" from the town of Seelet Al Harthiya in Jenin district. This appeal came after a visit to Shatta prison where he is detained. The Palestinian prisoner "Azzam" has been arrested from his home by Israeli authorities, after being raided and searched, and then he was transferred to the Centre prison of Jalamah.   During his imprisonment in the cells of Jalama, he was tied up to a small chair bounded by his hands and legs. His head was covered with a stinking smelly bag, and he was threatened that he will never see his home again. Then he was transferred to an isolation cells for 50 days, and deprived of his right of seeing a lawyer for 3 weeks. Despite the long period of detention at Jalama prison, Israeli authorities did not make any charge against him,. . .

Limited supply of fuel being allowed into Gaza Strip
Palestine News Network 5/25/2008
Gaza / PNN -- With little to no fuel imports allowed into the Gaza Strip for months, the Israeli government is reportedly allowing in a limited supply. Three tanks of fuel made it through on Sunday. Ahmed Ali said that the load included one tank of diesel, one gas and the third industrial. Israeli sources said that the fuel transfer began this morning and more may be allowed in. [end]

Israel reopens Eritz crossing and allows limited shipments of fuel into Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/25/2008
The Israeli authorities reopened on Sunday the Eritz checkpoint in northern Gaza Strip to allow entry of patients in need of medical care outside of Gaza, Israeli media sources reported. Israeli radio reported that those who will be granted access are emergency cases of patients in need of medical referral outside of Gaza. Israel closed the Eritz checkpoint last week in the wake of a failed suicide Palestinian attack on the crossing, which is the main passage for Gaza’s 1. 5 residents to the West Bank , East Jerusalem and Israel. Meanwhile, head of the Palestinian petroleum authority, Ahmad Ali, stated that the Israeli authorities resumed shipments of fuel into Gaza but in unknown quantities. " Since the early hours of today morning, three fuel trucks have been shipped with gasoline, cooking gas and industrial crude fuel", said Ali.

Police rampage in Jerusalem, Israeli bus rams Palestinian car, kills four workers
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Four Palestinian workers were killed on Sunday while five others were wounded when an Israeli bus rammed into their car on the ring road west of Ramallah city, witnesses reported. They said that the bus collided with the car head-on and completely crushed it. They added that two of the injured had sustained "very serious" injuries. Meanwhile, in occupied Jerusalem, Israeli occupation police and border guards on Sunday assaulted Palestinian vendors in downtown occupied Jerusalem. Eyewitnesses said that the policemen savagely rummaged through the vendors’ market and damaged their vegetables. The policemen detained a number of sellers and fined them while those coming from the West Bank were taken into custody. The witnesses reported that policemen mercilessly beat up the vendors, who included women and juveniles prompting some disgusted onlookers to intervene. . .

Israeli press: Israel presented new map of West Bank during negotiations
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/26/2008
In a report that is unsubstantiated by official sources, the Israeli newspaper, the Jerusalem Post, has reported that Israel has presented a map of the West Bank in which Israel will control 8. 5 percent of the land (including the most fertile land and the water sources). This is while negotiations are still ongoing between the Fateh-led portion of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli authorities in Egypt. According to the Jerusalem Post report, they received this information from Palestinian sources close to the negotiations. According to their sources, this new map presented by Israel is not acceptable to the Palestinian side, as the Palestinians want Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, as they are compelled to do under international law and numerous UN resolutions. According to the Israeli press report, the Palestinian negotiators are willing to concede 1. 8 % of the West Bank to Israel, but no more than that. -- See also: JPost: ''J''lem offers 91% of W. Bank in new map''

PLC condemns Israel’s extended detention of lawmakers
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) condemned on Sunday an Israeli court’s decision to extend detention of several Palestinian lawmakers from the northern West Bank. Israeli court of Salem has decided to postpone the trial of four lawmakers to 3 June on the pretext that prosecution did not manage to bring witnesses to the hearing. The PLC said in a statement, "We consider these trials nothing more than Israeli theater. This is an attempt to humiliate representatives of the Palestinian people." The statement also held the Israeli occupation responsible for the safety of imprisoned Palestinian legislators, in light of reports that many of the lawmakers are suffering health problems due to conditions in Israel’s prisons.

PFLP leader: peace negotiations stumbling
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The peace process is stumbling and has no end in sight, says Abdul-Rahim Mallouh, the deputy secretary general of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Mallouh told the media on Sunday that US president George Bush’s speech before the Israeli Knesset was not the direct reason for the impasse that the peace process reached. "Bush came to dedicate US support to Israel, and he did not care about the feelings of the Palestinian people," Mallouh said. He adds that the Arabs and the Palestinians are in a weak position, too weak to confront US State Department’s policies. "There is no Arab strategy," he said referring to the official Arab leaders. "Nobody has been able so far to reach a united pan-Arab decision and disputes have recently erupted within the one Arab country," he added.

Barghouthi: Israel lies when it talks about easing movement in WB
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mustafa Al-Barghouthi, a Palestinian lawmaker, stated Saturday that the IOA is persisting in its policy of deception through its allegation that it eased the movement of Palestinian citizens in the West Bank. He affirmed that Israel is stalling to gain time and use negotiations to cover up its crimes against the Palestinians and to impose the status quo. Commenting on the UN report on the 7% increase in Israeli roadblocks in the West Bank, Dr. Barghouthi said that the number of Israeli military checkpoints had increased from 521 to 607 roadblocks since the Annapolis conference. In a written statement, the Palestinian lawmaker underlined that the UN report "confirmed what we had earlier mentioned about Israel’s misleading policy and the increase of the West Bank checkpoints by seven per cent since September 2007".

Hamas deplores Abbas’s grief over future of talks with Olmert
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced the statements made by PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in which he expressed his fears that the corruption investigation against Israeli premier Ehud Olmert could lead to the halt of peace negotiations, calling on him to wager on the Palestinian people rather than on Olmert. Dr. Ismail Radwan, a prominent Hamas leader, expressed his shock and dismay that Abbas insists on his frivolous negotiations with the Israeli occupation, while he failed during those talks with Olmert to remove one Israeli barrier dividing the West Bank. Dr. Radwan underlined that Abbas’s contradictory statements in which he sometimes says that the negotiating process led to nothing and now he expresses his fears that Olmert’s investigations could negatively affect talks bear out that he is swinging between his positions.

PA officials ask Egypt to allow fuel into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian Authority officials asked Egypt to permit shipments of badly-needed fuel into the Gaza Strip during talks in Cairo on Sunday, while Israel allowed the first fuel shipment into the Strip in nearly a week. Representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the Egyptian Ministers of power and petroleum are meeting in Cairo today in an attempt to secure Egyptian help in resolving the energy crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip. Mujahid Salamah, the chair of the Palestinian Authority’s power corporation said the Palestinians would ask the Egyptians to ship sufficient quantities of industrial diesel to operate Gaza’s the power plant, which has been on the brink of shutting down for weeks. Regarding Monday’s shipment, the director of the Palestinian oil corporation, Ahmad Ali, told Ma’an, "The Israeli army resumed on Sunday morning partial fuel shipment, but the quantities were unknown.

European Parliament President invites Palestinians, Europeans, and Israelis and for dialogue
Alix de Mauny, Palestine News Network 5/25/2008
Jerusalem - On the invitation of President Hans-Gert Pöttering, 21 young Europeans, Palestinians and Israelis will visit the European Parliament in Brussels from 25 to 28 May. As part of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue this meeting offers young political leaders a unique occasion to exchange political and individual experiences and establish interpersonal relationships in a neutral environment. Participants will actively contribute to shaping the contents of the event. Several Members of Parliament will join the group, share their own experiences and engage in dialogue. The broad relationship between identities and politics will be at the core of the discussions. To conclude the event, participants will be given the opportunity to draft a joint message to be discussed with President Pöttering, including their recommendations to the European Union and their respective political leadership.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 14 - 20 May 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 5/20/2008
Of note this week - Gaza Strip: - The IDF killed eleven Palestinians, including two children and an unarmed civilian, and injured 20 others, including at least three children. One IDF soldier was injured in clashes with Palestinian militants in Khan Younis. - One Palestinian was killed and two injured in family disputes and ten others were injured in inter-factional violence. - Five demonstrations and two sit-ins were held throughout the Gaza Strip to commemorate the 60th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as Al Nakba. - The IDF carried out six levelling and excavation operations this week. During the operation, at least 108 dunums of agricultural land and three chicken farms with more than 70,000 chickens were destroyed. - A total of 34 rockets and 22 mortars were fired at Israel, a decrease of 19% and 29%, respectively, compared to last week.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 07- 13 May 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 5/13/2008
Of note this week - Gaza Strip: - The IDF killed eleven Palestinians (including a woman and two children) and injured 39 others (including 14 unarmed civilians). - Six Palestinians were physically assaulted by the police when Fatah members and other PLO factions organised a rally in Jabaliya Camp to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Al Nakba. The police said that the rally was organised without prior permission. - Rafah crossing was opened between 10 and 12 May. On those three days, 140 patients and 750 Palestinians holding residency permits in Arab countries and students crossed to Egypt while 550 Palestinians stranded in Egypt returned to Gaza. According to police officers at Rafah crossing, about five to seven thousand persons (including 1,700 patients) were waiting at the crossing during the week. - On four occasions, Israeli patrol boats opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats at sea.

OCHA: Gaza Strip inter-agency humanitarian fact sheet (April 2008)
International Solidarity Movement 5/25/2008
Press clippings - Gaza Region - Israeli restrictions on fuel supplies to Gaza peaked in April when Israel halted supplies of diesel, petrol and cooking gas (LPG) to Gaza. UNRWA was forced to suspend its food distribution to 650,000 beneficiaries for four days due to the lack of fuel. Limited supplies of cooking gas and industrial diesel resumed before the end of the month. Market prices increased significantly in the month of April. Gazan militants attacked the Nahal Oz fuel terminal on April 9 and the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on April 18. Israeli military incursions into Gaza occurred almost every day in April, killing 21 children. -- See also: Full fact sheet and UN-OCHA

Palestinian Authority’s security forces seize four Hamas members in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Hamas movement said on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority’s security forces seized four Hamas members in the West Bank on Saturday evening. Hamas said in a statement that one of the arrestees was from Hebron in the southern West Bank. Two others were from Ramallah in the central West Bank and a fourth from Jenin in the north. [end]

Al-Aqsa Brigades confront Israeli forces in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Fatah movement, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, said on Sunday that a group of their fighters fought with an Israeli infantry force near the Sufa border crossing of the Gaza Strip. They also said the group hurled a roadside bomb at an Israeli bulldozer. The group aid in a statement that the Israeli forces were forced to retreat to their base. [end]

Corpses of three Palestinians returned to Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel returned the corpses of three Palestinians to the Gaza Strip on Sunday, including one who had been injured last Wednesday during an Israeli incursion in Al-Bureij refugee camp. All three Palestinians died at Ichilov General Hospital at Tel Aviv medical center, said Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry. Sixteen-year-old Khalid Abdul-Hadi died on Sunday of wounds sustained during Wednesday’s incursion, Hassanain said. Hassanain added that Palestinian patient Muhammad Abu Duqqa and elderly patient Muhammad Abu Ata also died of medical conditions not related to violence. [end]

Shin Bet: Hamas rockets could hit far beyond Ashkelon
Barak Ravid , Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The head of the Shin Bet security service Yuval Diskin warned Sunday that the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, now has rockets capable of striking beyond Ashkelon, and possibly reaching as far as Ashdod and Kiryat Gat. Click here for mapPalestinians have been firing homemade Qassam rockets at the Negev town of Sderot, some 5 kilometers from the Gaza border, for the past seven years. Recently, however, they have been able to reach Ashkelon, some 12 km away. Diskin’s assessment is that they have now doubled their range. The Shin Bet chief, who made the comments at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, based his assertion on information attained by the security service." As long as there is no substantial prevention of smuggling between Sinai and Gaza, and currently there is none, it is. . .

Diskin: Time favors Hamas
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Shin Bet chief updates government on Hamas’ new capabilities, claims Iranian rockets smuggled into Gaza could reach Ashdod, Kiryat Gat. Warns State must act fast, threat to Israel is steadily rising - Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin said during the weekly government meeting on Sunday that since the breaching of the Philadelphi Route Hamas has succeeded in smuggling very advanced weapons into the Gaza Strip, and that there are certain indications that the organization now has rockets able to surpass Ashkelon, and possibly even to hit Ashdod and Kiryat Gat. "There has been cooperation between Hamas and Iran, and the Shin Bet has already recognized Iranian-made rockets that have a range far greater than the Gaza Strip. Time favors Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations, and the threat on the State of Israel is steadily rising," Diskin warned.

Israeli army vacates an army post near Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/25/2008
The Israeli army vacated on Sunday a military outpost near the Gaza Strip, Israeli media sources reported." For the first time since Israel withdrew forces from the Gaza Strip, coordinator of the Israeli government in the Gaza Strip, General Yousi Mishleb, ordered the evacuation of the directorate of civil coordination and liaison in northern Gaza Strip, for fears the soldiers inside might be harmed", the sources said. The evacuated offices will be removed to the Joles army base, 17 kilometers away from the Strip, added the sources. According to Yede’out Ahronot online newspaper, some of the army commanders objected to the evacuation order, for concern over misinterpretation that the Israeli soldiers ’might be incapable of protecting the Gaza-Israel border lines in the north of Gaza’. The commanders said that the soldiers should remain bin positions , for they should be. . .

Fearing Gaza rockets, IDF moves troops, civilian staff from Erez
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Israel will transfer dozens of Israel Defense Forces soldiers and civilian employees stationed at the Erez crossing’s Coordination and Liaison Administration to a base removed from the range of rockets and mortars being launched from the Gaza Strip, it was announced Sunday. Defense officials opted for the move following Thursday’s attempted bomb attack in which a truck carrying significant amounts of explosives blew up on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing. Last year, a public outcry ensued after a Qassam rocket struck the Zikim inductee base, prompting parents to demand that the army move the soldiers to a base outside of rocket and mortar range. IDF officers were strenuous in resisting the calls, insisting that "wherever there are civilians present, soldiers will not be evacuated.

IDF soldiers to be moved from base near Gaza amid ''terror'' threats
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 5/25/2008
In unprecedented decision, army instructed to evacuate soldiers serving near Erez crossing due to volatile security situation in area. MK Orlev: This is a cowardly act. Those who run away from "terror" - "terror" will chase after them. Are they also planning to relocate Sderot, Kfar Aza and Ashkelon? - For the first time since the disengagement plan, soldiers are being evacuated from a base near the Gaza Strip due to the security situation in the area, Ynet has learned. Major-General Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories, has instructed the army to temporarily relocate the soldiers serving in the Coordination and Liaison Authority near the Erez crossing to the Julis base, located about 17 kilometers (10. 5 miles) away from the Strip. This unprecedented decision sparked a great deal of criticism in the IDF.

Israeli army invades Gaza areas as homemade shells fire continues
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/25/2008
The Israeli army troops invaded into the eastern Gaza neighborhood of Alshijaiya early on Sunday morning, as a number of tanks rolled into the vicinity of the Sufa commercial crossing in southern Gaza Strip. The Al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party, claimed responsibility for firing back at a column of Israeli tanks near the Sufa commercial crossing to the southeastern parts of Gaza Strip. In a statement, faxed to press, the brigades confirmed that at least eight mortar shells have been fired at invading Israeli forces near the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the Saraya Alquds brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, fired on Sunday a homemade shell onto the Israeli town of Sderot in southern Israel. Also, the popular resistance committees shelled the Nahal Auz Israeli fuel terminal in eastern Gaza with an 80-mm mortar.

Palestinian fighters confront ongoing Israeli incursion in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli forces continued an incursion in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City for a second day on Sunday while Israeli military vehicles continued to operate near the Sufa border crossing in southern Gaza. Eyewitnesses said that several Israeli military vehicles began destroying farmland near the Sufa crossing, near the city of Rafah. Israeli fire left eight Palestinians injured on Saturday night, medical sources had earlier reported. Meanwhile, Palestinian military groups attempted to confront the invading forces in both Rafah and Gaza City. Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing eight mortar shells and one homemade projectile at the Israeli military vehicles east of Gaza City and the nearby Al-Maghazi refugee camp. Separately, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed to have fired. . .

Palestinian teenager seized in Israeli raid near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 5/25/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the northern West Bank town of Zeita, north of the city of Tulkarem on Sunday. Palestinian sources said that Israeli forces stormed the town and ransacked several houses before they seized 17-year-old Tha’ir Abu Sharqiyya from his home. Israeli forces also patrolled Tulkarem city and refugee camp. [end]

Barak adviser meets with Egyptian mediators for more negotiations on Gaza truce
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/26/2008
CAIRO: A top Israeli official met Egyptian mediators in Cairo on Sunday in the latest bid to find a truce with Hamas in the Gaza Strip but Israel’s internal security chief cast doubt on the chances of success. Amos Gilad, a senior aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, met Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been mediating between Israel and Palestinian militant factions, including the Islamist movement Hamas which has ruled Gaza for almost a year. Israel refuses to talk directly to the Islamist group, which it considers a terrorist organization. Hamas has demanded the lifting of the crippling blockade of Gaza, which Israel says it imposed in a bid to force militants to stop attacking it with rockets and mortar rounds. The violence in and around Gaza has cast a shadow over peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians which were revived in November but have made only faltering progress.

Sarkozy tells Livni talks with Hamas a ’blunder’
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/25/2008
French leader alleviates Israeli fears that his country softening its support for political isolation of Islamist group. Livni to Paris event honoring Israel’s anniversary: We will do everything possible in order to reach a peace agreement with our Arab neighbors - "The meeting between the French envoy and representatives from Hamas was a blunder," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Sunday. "France will not hold any talks with Hamas, Sarkozy added after France appeared to be softening its support for the US-led policy of isolating the Palestinian Islamist group. Last week French Foreign Minister confirmed a report in the French daily Le Figaro quoting a retired ambassador who it said he had met senior Hamas officials about a month ago. According to members of Livni’s entourage, the atmosphere during her meeting with Sarkozy was pleasant.

Amos Gilad returns from Cairo talks on ceasefire with Hamas
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Senior Defense Ministry participated in round of negotiations towards ceasefire in Gaza, without firm conclusions. Egyptian mediator calls on both sides to show flexibility - Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s military-political department, returned to Israel following a series of meetings in Cairo in which he represented Israel in negotiations on a possible truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions, mediated by Egypt. Following preliminary reports, the government has decided to suspend any decisions about an extensive military operation in Gaza. Gilad met with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, who urged both Hamas and Israel to show flexibility in efforts to reach a ceasefire. Officials in Jerusalem are awaiting Gilad’s full report, which is scheduled to be delivered to Defense Minister Ehud Barak Sunday evening.

Abu Hashem: Hamas insists on factions’ conditions for calm
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Jamal Abu Hashem, one of the Hamas political leaders, has said that his Movement insists on the conditions for calm with the Israeli occupation authority that were unanimously approved by all Palestinian factions. Abu Hashem in a statement to Palestine newspaper published on Sunday explained that the conditions include ending Israeli occupation forces’ aggression, lifting the siege on Gaza and opening all its crossings especially the Rafah terminal in return for a reciprocal and simultaneous calm. He said that the outcome of the latest round of Hamas’s talks with Egyptian official in Cairo showed that the IOA was not responding favorably to those conditions. He added that the Hamas delegation listened to what Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had to say about the calm and received the "Zionist reply".

Qatari premier calls for immediate end to Gaza siege
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Al-Thani, the Qatari premier, on Sunday affirmed the importance of lifting the "oppressive" siege on the Gaza Strip that is threatening the lives of one and a half million Palestinians. He told Al-Jazeera TV channel that the Arabs should channel food, medicine and electricity to the Strip that has been under siege for two years. "I hope that we in the Arab League would agree on this issue (lifting the siege) and let us hand food, medicine and fuel assistance to the Red Cross and Crescent societies so that they would channel them to Gaza," he elaborated. The Qatari premier also hoped that the Palestinian parties would put national interest above any other interest and implement the agreements which they signed in Makkah. He said that the third party (Israel) was the only one benefiting from inter-Palestinian differences.

UNRWA hails security situation in Gaza under Hamas administration
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Karen Abu Zayed, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, hailed Saturday the security situation in Gaza under the administration of the Hamas Movement, adding that the Movement is very close to and respected by the Palestinian people and there is no one in its institutions who exercise corruption. In a press release in Gaza, Abu Zayed called for giving the Palestinian people the right to live like the other peoples in the world, pointing out that the Gaza people struggle daily to secure their livelihood because everything became paralyzed as a result of the fuel crisis. Regarding her opinion about the Hamas takeover of Gaza, the UN official said that Hamas cadres are characterized by good organization and self-discipline, adding that since Hamas run the Strip, the crime rates have plummeted and the foreign relief staff feel safer and are no longer afraid of being kidnapped.

European campaign renews its appeal to Egypt to break the siege
Palestinian Information Center 5/25/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign to lift the siege reiterated Sunday its appeal to the Egyptian leadership to respond positively to the popular and official Arab and Islamic initiatives to break the Israeli suffocating siege on the Gaza Strip imposed for two years especially the efforts to provide the Strip with fuel supplies and humanitarian aid. In a statement received by the PIC, Dr. Arafat Madi, the spokesman for the campaign, said that in light of the Israeli persistence in imposing its siege and its manipulation of the fuel quantities allowed into Gaza, Egypt is invited at this particular time to take an urgent decision to open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, which is considered the only Arab vent before the Palestinians to the outside world. Dr. Madi pointed out that Qatar, Algeria and Iran expressed their willingness to provide adequate fuel free of charge. . .

Iran vows to care for Hamas after Israel-Syria peace deal
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Tehran officials tell Hamas politburo chief his organization must not negotiate with Israel, reconcile with Abbas, or worry about shortage in weapons, funds following talks between Jerusalem, Damascus - Iran has promised to continue supporting the Hamas movement even if Syria signs a peace agreement with Israel, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Sunday. According to the report, based on an Iranian source involved in the talks held over the weekend by Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in Tehran, Iran promised to send the Palestinian organization weapons, funds and "moral aid" in case of a peace agreement between Damascus and Jerusalem. During his visit to the Iranian capital, Mashaal met with senior diplomatic and defense officials, including the Revolutionary Guards commander and top members of the Iranian military industry. His hosts told him the Islamic republic was developing advanced missiles, some of which would be delivered to Hamas.

Olmert: We’re facing a historic agreement with Syria
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Prime minister discusses resumed talks with Damascus during weekly cabinet meeting, says dialogue won’t be held through media. ’We will hold the negotiations according to the current reality and not according to the situation 10 years ago,’ he tells ministersThe controversial peace negotiations with Syria, which have been labeled by right-wing and left-wing politicians as a political spin, reached the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning. "Ever since the announcement was made, we have heard many speculations and interpretations," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the start of the meeting. "I would like to say at this time that we have no plans to hold negotiations through the media or by blowing slogans, but rather by using the required caution and responsibility. "Israel has experience in holding negotiations, the prime minister claimed, defending the need for a certain level of secrecy. "In the past too, the public in Israel knew that negotiations were being held, but was unaware of its details.

Iran hails ’strategic’ Syria ties
Reuters, YNetNews 5/26/2008
’Robust Iran-Syria ties neutralize and weaken threats against the line of resistance,’ Defense Minister Najjar quoted by IRNA as saying -Iran’s defense minister hailed his country’s "strategic ties" with Syria on Sunday, just days after Israel called on Damascus to distance itself from Tehran, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported. Israel and Syria on Wednesday announced they had begun an open dialogue with the aim of a comprehensive peace, the first confirmation of negotiations between the long-time enemies in eight years. But Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday said Syria needed to "distance itself completely" from "problematic ties" with Iran. Syria, she said, must also stop "Supporting terror"”Hizbullah, Hamas", groups backed by Iran. In Tehran on Sunday, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar described Syria as a strategic ally before talks with his Syrian counterpart Hassan Turkmani, IRNA said.

VIDEO - Report: Syria already reaping ’fruits of peace’
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/25/2008
(VIDEO) Following agreement between Lebanese factions, resumption of dialogue with Israel, French foreign minister seeks to lift boycott, meet with his Syrian counterpart. Damascus expects fresh start in its relations with Arab, European states - VIDEO - Syria earning first political gains? French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has asked his country’s embassy in Damascus to organize a meeting for him with his Syrian counterpart, Wallid Mouallem, during Sunday’s festive Lebanese parliament session, the London-based Arabic-language al-Hayat newspaper reported. Video courtesy of Infolive. tv Paris is still boycotting the Syrians, following a decision made by President Nicolas Sarkozy. Many Arab and international dignitaries are expected to arrive at the parliament in order to take part in a meeting which will approve the appointment of Lebanon’s army chief Michel Suleiman as the country’s next president.

G-30 meets in Jerusalem
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 5/25/2008
The prestigious economic forum is comprised of senior economic leaders. The G-30 is meeting in Jerusalem today for a series of discussions on global economic conditions, including the weakening dollar and re-emergence of inflation. The meetings are behind closed doors, the G-30 policy since it was founded in 1978. Few outside members of G-30 are invited to its sessions, and they are invited as observers only, without the right to speak. A number Bank of Israel executives and former deputy governor Prof. Zvi Eckstein, as well as Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav will attend the Jerusalem meeting in this capacity. Former Bank of Israel governor Jacob Frenkel is the G-30 chairman, and current governor, Fischer, is a member. Other current members include Prof. Paul Krugman of Princeton University, Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King, European Central. . .

Iranian-born Israeli charged with passing information to Tehran
Jonathan Lis and Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
An Iranian-born Israeli was charged Sunday with passing defense information to Tehran, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Rosenfeld said the man, who lives abroad, was arrested by police and agents of the Shin Bet security agency on May 8 after arriving in Israel for a visit. He was questioned on suspicion of having contacts with an Iranian intelligence agent, Rosenfeld said. The suspect told interrogators he had repeatedly visited the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and gave the Iranians names of acquaintances he said served in Israel’s defense establishment. A court banned publication of the suspect’s name or further details of the case. The suspect was charged in the Tel Aviv district court on Sunday. The suspect, who has been living abroad, was brought to Israel for investigation a few days ago.

Israeli accused of relaying information to Iran
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 5/25/2008
State charges Iranian-born Israeli citizen with contacting a foreign agent, relaying information to an enemy state, fraudulently obtaining goods. Man maintains innocence - Cleared for publication: A 55-year-old Iranian-born Israeli citizen was arrested by Israeli authorities on suspicion of spying for Iran. The man, was reportedly arrested in the Ben Gurion International Airport on May 8. The indictment, filed with the Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court, includes counts of contacting a foreign agent, relaying information to an enemy state, theft and fraudulently obtaining goods. The indictment further states that the man agreed to cooperate with Iranian intelligence and supply them with information regarding security establishment personnel. The man was apprehended in a joint police- Shin Bet operation.

Yishai, Mofaz promise to fight withdrawal from Golan
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Ministers meet with Golan residents, promise to lend hand in the battle against handing Heights to Syria under future peace agreement. Yishai: We must not abandon Israel’s security to Syrians, Hizbullah - Representatives of Israeli communities in the Golan Heights met on Sunday with Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. The representatives said upon leaving the meeting that they had received the full support of both ministers in their battle against any agreement that would return the Golan to Syria. Yishai promised the residents that Shas would stand beside them in order to prevent any attempt to evacuate them from the Golan."

Palestinians report $1.4 billion pledged by investors
Voice of America - VOA, ReliefWeb 5/23/2008
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says delegates at an investment conference in Bethlehem have pledged to invest nearly $1. 5 billion for Palestinian business projects. Mr. Fayyad says the proposed businesses could create up to 35,000 jobs, mostly in the West Bank. He was speaking Friday at the end of a three-day conference convened in Bethlehem to attract foreign investment in the struggling Palestinian economy. The West Bank’s economy has been hampered by hundreds of Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints that restrict Palestinians’ movement. Israel says those measures are needed for security reasons. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says Israel can do more to ease restrictions in the West Bank without compromising security, and should do so. Addressing the Bethlehem conference, Kouchner says excessive restrictions imposed by Israel obstruct. . .

United Nations International Meeting on Question of Palestine to be held in Malta 3-4 June, under theme ’Advancing peace process - Challenges facing the parties’
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 5/23/2008
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will convene the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine at the Dolmen Hotel in Qawra, Malta, on 3 and 4 June, under the theme ‘Advancing the peace process -– Challenges facing the parties’. The Meeting will be held in accordance with themandate to mobilize international support for the Middle East peace process. The objective of the Meeting is to foster greater support by the international community for the creation of a climate conducive to the advancement of the permanent status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Participants in the Meeting will discuss the impact of the settlement construction on the current political process and the need for the parties to meet Road Map commitments.

Talansky questioned again in Olmert corruption probe
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 5/25/2008
American financier suspected of transferring cash-filled envelopes to PM questioned just two days before court expected to hear his preliminary testimonyThe Jerusalem District Court is expected to hear Talansky’s preliminary testimony this coming Tuesday. He is expected to meet with senior State Prosecution officials on Monday as preparation for his scheduled court appearance the following day. It is estimated that Olmert’s attorneys won’t cross-examine Talansky during Tuesday’s hearing. Olmert himself was questioned by Fraud Unit investigators for the second time on Friday. The prime minister was reportedly cooperative, but failed to explain several key points, claiming he does not recall details. Olmert denied the allegations that Talansky funded several of his private trips abroad and that he helped the American citizen advance arms deals in South America. The investigation is focusing on cash-filled envelopes that were transferred to Olmert by Talansky and what the American financier may have received in return.

State says indictment against PM expected by summer’s end
YNetNews 5/25/2008
Police, State Prosecutor’s Office sources report of tense session between National Fraud Unit investigators, Prime minister Olmert. Latter said to be cooperative, sketchy on cardinal details. Police say he failed to refute suspicions against himThe State is expected to finalize an indictment against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by the end of the summer, a senior source at the State Prosecutor’s Officer told Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday. Legal sources familiar with the ongoing investigation against the prime minister, however, stressed that any indictment would by subject to a hearing – a legal precedent set by former President Moshe Katsav’s case – and therefore "we may still be surprised. "National Fraud Unit investigators questioned Olmert for the second time over the weekend. The prime minister was reportedly cooperative, but failed to explain several key points, claiming he does not recall details.

Former police investigations head sees Olmert indictment
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 5/25/2008
Yossi Sadbon expects an indictment within 3-4 months. "Galei Zahal" (IDF Army ) radio quotes former Israel Police Head of Investigations Division Major General Yossi Sadbon as saying that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could face an indictment within the next few months. Sadbon says the evidence that investigators have already amassed will provide an adequate basis for charges. "It is difficult to predict exactly how long an investigation will take," he said, "but in this case, as it is being claimed that money changed hands, and there’s a witness that can confirm it, three to four months is a fairly accurate estimate." Olmert denied taking bribes when he was questioned by police for a second time on Friday. Olmert placed the responsibility on his former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, and his business partner, Adv.

Tax benefits for new immigrants get nod
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 5/25/2008
The tax exemption covers all types of foreign income. The ministerial committee for legislative affairs today approved extending tax breaks for new immigrants and returning Israelis as part of the country’s 60th Independence Day celebrations. The breaks include a ten-year exemption on reporting and paying taxes on foreign income. The exemption covers all types of foreign income, including interest and dividend payments, salary and income from work, and revenue from a business and sale of foreign property. The plan will be submitted to the cabinet and then the Knesset for approval, and will come into effect on 1 January 2009. Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On, who was one of the initiators of the plan, said that returning Israelis would enrich the country with their international experience and know-how, and improve the country’s economic performance and competitiveness.

MK Ephraim Sneh launches new party - Strong Israel
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Former deputy defense minister, long-time Labor member announces departure form political alma mater, induction of new party. ’I feel there’s a need for a new party to fill the political void,’ he says - Knesset Member Ephraim Sneh held a special press conference Sunday, announcing he was leaving the Labor Party and forming a new party, named "Strong Israel". The name, said a proud Sneh, "symbolizes both social and military resilience. ""Two things are threatening the future existence of Israel - the internal social divide and the external threats," he told reporters. "On the inside, the polarization within Israeli society is widening, the quality of education and social services is declining and the sense of partnership and mutual guarantee is fading. "On the outside, those who wish to destroy us are getting stronger. . ."

’Jews for Jesus’ in Israel demand inquiry into burning of bibles by Orthodox Jews
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/25/2008
After a massive ’bible burning’ by the deputy mayor and orthodox Jewish students in the town of Or Yehuda, in Israel, a group of Messianic Jews, or ’Jews for Jesus’ as they are known, have called for an inquiry into the incident. Apparently the Ethiopian Jews living in the town were visited by Messianic Jewish missionaries, who believe in Jesus as their saviour. The missionaries dropped off bibles and pamphlets for the residents to peruse. Several days later, the deputy mayor of the town went through the town shouting through a loudspeaker for everyone to hand over the bibles to a group of Orthodox Jewish students who were going around and collecting them. The students then piled up the bibles and burned them. The incident brings out an increasing tension between Orthodox and Messianic Jews in Israel. Orthodox Jewish groups have cheered the book burning, while Messianic Jews. . .

Rolling with the Na Nachs, the most high-spirited and newest Hasidic sect
Adam Molner, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
There is no escaping them. They have left their mark everywhere in Israel, in the form of a cryptic mantra painted in bold Hebrew lettering on security fences, sleek skyscrapers, graveyard walls, freeway billboards and sheer mountain cliffs. Dressed in characteristic woven white skullcaps, adherents perform leaping dances on street corners in the secular bastion of Tel Aviv, to techno-Hassidic music blasting from vans bearing the slogan "Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me’uman," which has informally lent its name to the newest of Hasidic sects. The Na Nachs, as some of the group call themselves, are an offshoot of the Bratslav Hassidim, followers of the late Rebbe Nachman (1772-1810), great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism. But what separates Na Nachs from other Bratslavers is their belief that a mysterious letter found in 1962 by Rabbi Israel. . .

Cartoon of the Day
Skulz Fontaine, Palestine Think Tank 5/25/2008
By Skulz Fontaine [end]

Water Authority mulls drastic cuts due to low reservoir levels
Amiram Cohen, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The Israel Water Authority on Sunday warned Golan Heights farmers and agriculture sector workers that the water level in the country’s main reservoirs, including the Sea of Galilee and the coastal aquifer, is expected to dip below the red lines this coming June. The chairman of the authority, Professor Uri Shani, predicted that the level will reach the so-called "black line" in November. Shani added that the situation requires the country’s residents to cease watering their gardens, raise the rates of water usage for all sectors of society, and to enact further cuts in the water alloted to the agricultural industry. Shani provided statistics which he says indicate that the reasonable quota for agricultural consumption of water annually over the next two years will stand at just 284 million cubic meters, a 40 percent drop from the 454 million cubic. . .

Gov’t to push for liquefied natural gas tender
Lior Baron, Globes Online 5/25/2008
Advisors are being lined up for one of Israel’s largest energy projects. The government is continuing to press forward with preparations for publication of the tender for the import of liquefied natural gas, as the economy braces itself for shortages of natural gas. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that the joint Ministry of Finance and Ministry of National Infrastructures tenders committee is expected to complete within two weeks the selection of the financial, legal and engineering consultants to support what is now considered the largest project ever undertaken in the energy economy. Two months ago, the government approved the issue of a combined tender for the supply of natural gas and the building of a terminal for the storage of imported liquefied natural gas which will be able to handle four billion cubic meters of gas a year.

Boosting small business in the Palestinian territories
United Kingdom Department for International Development - DFID, ReliefWeb 5/23/2008
At a meeting this week of world business leaders, Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, announced a £3 million boost to small businesses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). Encouraging enterprise - The pledge, made at the Palestinian Investment Conference in Bethlehem, represents a real opportunity for both the economy of the OPTs and for peace in the region. Making the announcement, Douglas Alexander spoke of the importance of greater investment in Palestinian business: ". . . aid alone is not enough to help (the Palestinian people) overcome their problems. Economic growth is vital to the search for a lasting economic and political settlement in the Middle East." The money will help companies develop new markets and products, enabling them to become bigger exporters.

Economy grows faster than anticipated
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/25/2008
GDP growth in the first quarter was above Finance Ministry and Bank of Israel projections. Israel’s GDP rose by an annualized 5. 4% in the first quarter and business product rose by 6. 1%, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today. The results belie the pessimistic forecasts of 4. 3% GDP growth by the Ministry of Finance and 3. 2% by theBank of Israel The growth is slightly slower than the 5. 8% growth in the fourth quarter of 2007 and the 5. 9% rate in the third quarter. Business product growth slowed from 7. 6% in the fourth quarter and 7. 3% in the third quarter. The Central Bureau of Statistics also reports that exports of goods and services rose by an annualized 12. 6% in the first quarter, after rising by 14. 7% in the preceding quarter. Imports of goods and services rose by an annualized 18. 7% in the first quarter from 6.

Visiting dignitaries, local officials react warmly to election
Daily Star 5/26/2008
BEIRUT: Local and visiting international figures expressed hope that Sunday’s election of President Michel Suleiman as the new head of state will mark the beginning of a new era of political stability in Lebanon. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Lebanon was entering a "positive phase. ""What Lebanon is experiencing now is a positive phase, and I’m pleased that I was invited to this important event, even if we had hoped to reach this agreement in a more democratic manner," he said, in reference to street clashes earlier in May between pro-government and opposition supporters, which led to Hizbullah and its allies temporarily taking control of the western sector of Beirut. "The important thing about the Doha agreement lies in the fact that various Lebanese groups were able to reach an agreement, and that is what France and the international community long sought," Kouchner. . .

Suleiman elected president, goes straight at toughest issues
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 5/26/2008
New head of state picks up 118 votes out of 127 cast - BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Parliament elected the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Michel Suleiman as president on Sunday, ending six months of presidential vacuum. Suleiman got 118 out of the 127 votes cast, with six blank ballots and three invalid ones. The votes counted as invalid were cast for Nassib Lahoud, Jean Obeid and "slain former Premier Rafik Hariri and the martyred MPs." The election took place in the presence of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, his Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, members of the Arab ministerial committee which brokered the recent Doha agreement, Arab League chief Amr Moussa, and a number of senior Arab and international figures (see the complete list of attendees on page 8). After Suleiman was sworn in, the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora resigned in. . .

Lebanon elects army chief Suleiman as president
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/25/2008
As part of deal with Hizbullah, Lebanese government elects Gen. Michel Suleiman as next president, ending six-month waiting period for vote as well as 18 months of political instability - Lebanon’s parliament elected army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as its twelfth president on Sunday in a long-delayed vote that was a key step toward restoring political stability after an 18-month crisis that threatened to erupt in civil war. The Hizbullah-led opposition and Western-backed government agreed last week to elect Suleiman as part of their deal to end the 18-month political crisis. The presidential vote had been postponed 19 times since November when the last president, Emile Lahoud, left office. Suleiman’s inauguration speech attempted to cater to the opinions of both the US-backed Lebanese government and its opposition, Hizbullah.

World leaders hail Lebanon vote
Al Jazeera 5/25/2008
World leaders have praised the election of Michel Suleiman as Lebanon’s new head of state. Suleiman, Lebanon’s army chief since 1998, was overwhelmingly voted into power in a parliamentary vote on Sunday, four days after Lebanese leaders reached a power-sharing deal. George Bush, the US president, said: "I am confident that Lebanon has chosen a leader committed to protecting its sovereignty, extending the government’s authority over all of Lebanon, and upholding Lebanon’s international obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions. We look forward to working with president Suleiman in pursuit of our common values of freedom and independence. "Suleiman’s election in Lebanon’s 127-member parliament was observed by leaders from Qatar Iran Syria France and the EU.


My Turn: The other side of Israel´s 60th
Sister Miriam Ward, Burlington Free Press, VTJP 5/16/2008
      Two peoples living on the same land will observe a 60th anniversary throughout May. For Israel, it will be independence, a modern state for Jews anywhere in the world. For Palestinians it will be the Nakba, the catastrophe.
     Israel has much to be proud of -bringing to life an ancient language, their inestimable contributions to the musical and cultural life of their own society and to the world, theirremarkable contributions to science and medicine. For these accomplishments and much more there should be celebration.
     Palestinians will not be celebrating. The bottom line: the founding of the State of Israel meant the dispossession, displacement and dispersion of the Palestinian people. Palestinians thus affected fall into three categories:
     *From 1947-48 through the 1950s 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Some 400 Palestinian villages were deliberately destroyed. Whether the Palestinians fled to avoid hostilities or were forced to leave, they were not allowed to return. They live in the refugee camps of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. A sub-category would be Palestinians scattered throughout the world.

Olmert’s Peace Spin

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 5/25/2008
      Yesterday Olmert assured Haaretz that the negotiation with Syria is nothing less than an ‘historic breakthrough’. He is absolutely correct.  It’s the first time in Israel’s history that a PM initiates a peace negotiation just to escape a police probe into his own unlawful doings. Apparently, Olmert is seeking a quick escape route that would bring the investigation of his corruption to an immediate halt. 
     The Israeli Knesset has always been a haven for Israeli criminals and Jewish gangsters who seek to take advantage of the immunity membership guarantees. This is nothing new, unlawful activity is rather common amongst Israeli leaders.
     The list of villains and convicts within Israel’s political world is endless. A few years ago an Israeli survey revealed that 60% of Israeli Knesset members had a criminal record. As we know the previous President of the Jewish State, Mr Moshe Katsav lost his prestigious post because he was charged for sex crimes, rape and sexual molestation, no less, as well as the more banal offence of wire-tapping. Sharon’s son Omri, Knesset member under both Likud and Kadima, has been indicted for bribery. Ariel the father was lucky enough to become a vegetable just in time to save himself the embarrassment of being thrown out of the PM office for involvement in the same criminal affair.