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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

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11 June 2008

Gaza: Four Palestinians killed in Israeli invasion of Al-Qarara, air strikes on Jabalia
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Four Palestinians have been killed since Wednesday morning by Israeli bombing and artillery in the Gaza Strip, and at least six others have been wounded. 26-year-old Yasser Abu Haleeb was killed and three other civilians were injured by Israeli artillery shelling targeting a group of civilians east of the town of Al-Qarara near Khan Younis on Wednesday afternoon. Head of Ambulance and Emergency Services, Dr Mo’awiya Hassanein, told Ma’an that Abu Haleeb’s body and those injured were transferred to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, describing their cases as serious. Among those received at the hospital was 3-year-old Wa’ed Fayyad, who suffered serious shrapnel injuries from Israeli tank shelling. Earlier on Wednesday, an Al-Qassam brigades fighter and a young girl were also killed by Israeli bombing in Al-Qarara.

Israeli tank fire kills girl in Gaza, Palestinians say
Reuters, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Medics say 9-year-old girl’s remains recovered from house hit by IDF tank east of Khan Younis; army spokesman says ground force attacked gunmen attempting to launch rockets into Israel from built-up area -Israeli tank fire killed a 9-year-old Palestinian girl in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Palestinian medical workers said. They said the girl’s remains had been recovered from a house in the village of Qarara, east of Khan Younis, which had been struck by the tank fire. She was inside at the time of the shelling. An Israeli military spokesman said a ground force had attacked Palestinian militants in the central Gaza Strip who had been attempting to fire rockets into Israel from a built-up area. He said he was unaware of any civilian casualties. Israel regularly sends its ground and air forces into Gaza in what the military says is a necessary. . .

Palestinians: Israel Transfers Delayed Tax Money, but Millions Missing
Barak Ravid, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
Israel transfered vital tax funds to the Palestinian Authority Tuesday, after holding up the money for a week, a Palestinian offical said. The transfer was delayed after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on the European Union and OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) not to upgrade their relations with Israel. Yusuf Zumor of the Palestinian Finance Ministry says the $54 million arrived on Tuesday. But he says an additional $20 million is missing. Zumor says Israeli officials didn’t say why they cut the amount. Israel said it would deduct some NIS 70 million from the PA’s money to cover debts. A senior Israeli official blasted Fayyad, saying: "He stabbed Israel in the back." Relations between Israel and the PA have been tense in the last few days due to Israel’s withholding the Palestinians’ tax money. Holding up the money has caused several days’ delay in paying wages to some 150,000 Palestinians employed by the PA.

UNRWA Commissioner-General welcomes signs of Palestinian ''rapprochement''
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 6/10/2008
PRESS RELEASE No 15/2008 Damascus:The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Karen AbuZayd, today welcomed indications of a rapprochement between the leaders of Hamas and Fatah. Speaking at a meeting in Damascus of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, she said "any and every opportunity to achieve conciliation and cessation of conflict must be grasped and actively nurtured by the international community". On the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, AbuZayd said that "poverty and unemployment" were "rife, while movement restrictions and grave human rights abuses continued to deny to Palestinians the dignity and human security which should – under international law – be theirs by right". The Commissioner-General also turned her attention to the situation at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in the north of Lebanon, which she said would be a "massive undertaking. . .

Supreme Court endorses administrative detention of ’unlawful combatants’
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law aims to remove militants from terror circle threatening Israel, even at cost of violating personal freedoms - The Supreme Court has ruled in favor Wednesday of the law allowing the detention of those termed "˜Unlawful Combatants. ’ However, the court reduced its scope in determining the criteria for the confinement of such militants. In doing so, the court rejected the appeal made by two Palestinian residents of Gaza, who were incarcerated in Israel not as war captives. The Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law, which went into effect six years ago, allows for the administrative detention of those participating in terror acts against the State of Israel. In their verdict, the judges stated that the purpose of the law is "worthy and based on the public’s need, which may justify violating the personal freedoms.

Brutal attack in Susiya
International Solidarity Movement 6/11/2008
Hebron Region - Photos - On Monday 9 June six masked Jewish settlers from the nearby outpost of Havat Ya’ir, armed with automatic weapons and cudgels, attacked a small group of Palestinians, mainly women, in their tent village in the Susiya location of the South Hebron Hills. Susiya, which lies within sight of the West Bank’s southern border with Israel, is now a series ofinhabited tents and caves. Approximately 300 people still live there, on land to which they have legal title. Since 1985, when the Israeli armed forces destroyed the old town, the local farmers have rebuilt their dwellings three times, only to have them bulldozed in an effort to force them to leave their lands. Their wells have been filled in and the people, living in isolated and vulnerable family groups are under constant threat of attack and harassment by armed gangs from the surrounded Israeli settlements.

Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 7/1
United Nations Human Rights Council, ReliefWeb 6/6/2008
Human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the recent ones in the occupied Gaza Strip - Introduction - 1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 7/1 of 6 March 2008 on human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the recent ones in the occupied Gaza Strip, in which the Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to report to the Council, at its eighth session, on the progress made in the implementation of that resolution. 2. In its resolution 7/1, the Council ‘condemns the persistent Israeli military attacks and incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the recent ones in the occupied Gaza Strip, which resulted in the loss

Health ministry warns of rapid rise in death of patients because of siege
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The health ministry in the Gaza Strip warned of the dreadful rise in the number of patients who die as a result of the Israeli siege, calling on the organization of doctors without borders and health-oriented organizations to move immediately to save the Gaza patients from the specter of death. In a statement, the ministry, which suffers from an acute shortage in medical supplies, described the Israeli siege as an organized massacre that is aimed to annihilate one and a half million people. It strongly denounced the "terrible silence" of the Arab and Muslim world towards what is happening in Gaza. The ministry stated that 16 Palestinian patients have died during the first third of June as a result of the lack of medicines and the Israeli restrictions imposed on travel for medical treatment, which increased the number of the siege victims to 187 patients including children and young men in the prime of life.

Livni: Future Palestinian state must fit Israel’s security needs
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 6/12/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday that a future Palestinian state must be established according to Israel’s security needs, including supervision of border crossings and the disarming of militants. According to Army Radio, Livni told U. S. envoy James Jones on Monday that as long as Palestinian territory remained a nest of terror activities, it would be harmful to the interests of both the Israelis and the Americans. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday he believed it would be impossible to reach a peace deal with Israel this year. Talks on Palestinian statehood have shown little progress since their launch at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November. Washington has said it hoped for a framework deal before U. S. President George Bush leaves office in January 2009. But Fayyad cited Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank as an obstacle to progress in the negotiations.

Israeli forces seize charity worker and driving instructor near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Hebron - Ma’an - Israeli forces detained two civilians in the town of Dura, west of Hebron, after storming and searching their houses on Wednesday morning. Security sources said that the army detained 50-year-old Hashem Arjoub in the Wadi Abu Al-Qumra neighborhood. Arjoub is an employee in Dura Islamic Society for Orphans and member of the administration of the Al-Basha’er Charitable Society. They also detained Khilaf Hawatmeh, who owns a driving school. [end]

Israel ’supports’ Gaza truce - and prepares invasion
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/12/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel threw its weight on Wednesday behind Egyptian efforts to broker a truce with Hamas in and around Gaza but at the same time ordered its armed forces to prepare for a possible offensive against the Palestinian territory. Hamas, the Islamist movement which has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 2007 when it routed rival Fatah forces who refused to accept its win in democratic elections, mocked Israel for talking of further cease-fire negotiations while still threatening military action. A senior Israeli government official said while there was little hope the talks would bear fruit, "for the time being we decided to give them a chance. ""The Security Cabinet decided this morning to support Egyptian efforts to achieve calm in the south and end the daily targeting of Israeli civilians by the terrorists in Gaza," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev said.

Israel: No Gaza raid, we’ll give truce talks a chance
Barak Ravid and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 6/12/2008
Israel’s leadership on Wednesday decided not to launch a much-touted invasion of the Gaza Strip, in order to give Egyptian-brokered truce efforts more time to succeed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev announced the decision in an official statement on Wednesday afternoon. Regev warned that although there will be no broad military action for the time being, the Israel Defense Forces will continue its preparations in case the truce talks fail. The announcement came after a meeting of the diplomatic-security cabinet on the issue of the proposed truce with Hamas in Gaza. Egypt has been trying to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers for the last several months. Earlier Wednesday, Vice Premier Haim Ramon called for Israel to immediately embark upon a broad military operation in Gaza in order to oust Hamas from the coastal strip.

Cabinet Ministers: Large-Scale Gaza op Needed
Roni Sofer, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
"Israel must launch a large-scale operation in Gaza against Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations," Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim said prior to Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, "everyone understands that any ceasefire would only be temporary. Hamas is under pressure. The blockade did its job." According to Boim , any truce agreement would only serve Hamas’ interests and give it time to regroup. At the onset of the meeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert updated the ministers on his recent trip to Washington and the State Budget, but did not raise the Gaza issue. Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said he too was against a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist group. "It (truce) won’t last. Hamas will violate it and say that it has no control over the other groups on the ground," he said, but added that the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit would change matters. According to Deputy Prime Minister and Shas chairman Eli Yishai, Israel "cannot agree to a virtual ceasefire agreement without Shalit.

An old man killed in fresh Israeli raid
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
JABALIA, (PIC)-- A 60-year-old Palestinian man was killed along with an Islamic Jihad activist while two other citizens were injured one of them a child, who is reportedly in a serious condition, as a result of a fresh Israeli air raid on Jabalia, north of the Gaza Strip. Medical sources told PIC reporter that Mohammed Asalia was killed when an Israeli warplane fired a missile at a group of people east of Jabalia on Wednesday afternoon while two other civilians were wounded. They said that the girl was in a very serious condition. An Islamic Jihad activist, Yasser Abu Halib, was killed when IOF special forces, entrenched in one of the citizens’ houses east of Qarara, fired at him killing him instantly on Wednesday evening. A member of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, and an 8-year-old girl had been killed at dawn Wednesday in an Israeli occupation forces’ incursion into Qarara, Khan Younis district, southern Gaza.

Israeli forces arrest two Palestinians from Balata camp near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli forces invaded Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus, and arrested two Palestinian youth on Wednesday at dawn. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an’s reporter in Nablus that Israeli forces arrested 17-year-old Anas Bassam ’Oweis and 18-year-old Fahmy Salah Musallam after storming their houses shortly after midnight. [end]

Israel to pardon twelve prominent Al-Aqsa brigades members in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli authorities have decided to pardon twelve prominent and wanted members of the Al-Aqsa brigades, Fatah’s military wing, who are detained in Al-Juneid prison west of Nablus, a Palestinian security source told Ma’an on Wednesday. The source confirmed to Ma’an that Israel officially informed the Palestinian Authority of this decision after midnight on Tuesday. The understanding reached by the Palestinian government and the Israeli authorities is that these twelve prisoners will be offered amnesty and a chance to return to their normal lives, although some of them will first spend five months under supervision at the Palestinian security services headquarters. According to the Palestinian security source, those who will be pardoned include:Ja’far As-Samhan, ’Allam Al-Ra’i, Sufian Qandeel, Saleh Abu Al-Hayyat, ’Ala’a ’Aqouba, Yousef Abu Mustafa, Mohammad Al-Khalili, ’Ammar ’Aqouba, and Shawkat Ba’ara.

Hamas: Gaza will become graveyard for IDF soldiers if raided
Ali Waked, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Spokesman for Islamist group warns Israel not to invade Strip, says Olmert’ government ’weakest in Israeli history’ -"The current Israeli government is the weakest in the country’s history,"Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said Wednesday ahead of the national security cabinet’s crucial meeting regarding possible Israeli responses to the situation in Gaza. "The Israelis are unable to deal with the Palestinian organizations and the rockets," he said, "they know they cannot launch a wide-scale operation in Gaza because (if they do) the Strip will become a graveyard for Israeli soldiers." Despite the threats, al-Masri stressed that Hamas was willing to reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel "that would include the lifting of the blockade on Gaza". Israel’s national security cabinet, consisting of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud. . .

Gaza demonstrators urge Hamas and Fatah to unite
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Hundreds of Palestinians rallied in Al-Jundi Al-Majhoul square in central Gaza City on Wednesday morning to urge rival Palestinian factions to unite. The demonstrators, in a protest organized by Palestinian civil society organizations, called on Hamas and Fatah to turn a new page and enter into direct dialogue. They said unity would strengthen the Palestinian stance against Israeli military aggression, the blockade of Gaza, and ultimate further the struggle to establish a Palestinian stateGaza Governor Mohammad Al-Qudwa and representative of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, applauded Abbas’s call for national unity. Al-Qudwa said that Abbas’ bold call expresses how much the leader cares for his people. Al-Qudwa continued by saying that by heeding Abbas’ call for unity, Palestinians would further Palestinian national goals, ’returning every Palestinian to his land, every prisoner to his house.

Palestinian factions back comprehensive, national dialogue to heal internal rift
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- "The alliance of Palestinian forces" in Damascus has advocated a comprehensive, national dialogue in order to heal the internal Palestinian rift with the participation of all factions and parties. In a statement issued on Wednesday at conclusion of a meeting on Tuesday evening in the Syrian capital, the factions appreciated the positive atmosphere that has prevailed in the Palestinian arena lately. They said that national unity was the most important shield in face of dangers and hostile projects. The conferees said that the dialogue, based on the Cairo and Sana’a declarations and the national concord document, should end up in a political and organizational formula that would reactivate the PLO that would then serve as the higher national leadership of the Palestinian people. They asked the Arab League and its chairmanship, the OIC and the Arab and friendly. . .

British spokesperson: UK supports Palestinian unity
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Bethlehem/Ramallah - Ma’an Exclusive - Jon Wilks, the official Arabic-language spokesperson of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said on Tuesday that Britain supports the Palestinian President’s efforts to unite the Palestinian people. During a visit to Ma’an’s Bethlehem news center on Wednesday morning Wilks said: “We want to unite the Palestinian people and we appreciate Abbas’ efforts for a dialogue with Hamas on the bases of the two governments and negotiating with Israel. ”Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for renewed dialogue with the rival Hamas movement who won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and currently control the Gaza Strip. Abbas dismissed a Hamas-Fatah unity government last June after Hamas seized control of Gaza. He added: “We support the efforts of Abbas and Egypt towards ceasefire.

Mishaal calls for national unity in face of Israeli threats
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the supreme leader of the Hamas Movement, has called for Palestinian national unity to confront the Israeli threats against the Gaza Strip. Mishaal told reporters before a meeting for representatives of 8 Palestinian factions in Damascus that national reconciliation would be the focus of the talks, hoping that recent developments in Palestinian arena would boost the chance of concluding reconciliation. He pointed out that the meeting fell in line with his Movement’s call for dialogue, adding, "We are meeting to exchange opinions on a program that would help provide positive atmosphere for reconciliation". The Hamas leader underscored that the "Zionist threats" to the Gaza Strip would be on agenda of the meeting, adding that the Palestinian factions would discuss means of dealing with those threats.

Mousa: Fayyad’s conditions for dialogue not acceptable
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Yehya Mousa, one of the Hamas Movement’s leaders in Gaza, castigated Salam Fayyad, the premier of the illegitimate government in Ramallah, for setting conditions for national dialogue. Mousa, who is a PLC member, said in a press statement published on Wednesday that Fayyad’s conditions that Hamas must accept all agreements and international legitimacy for the sake of ensuring success of inter-Palestinian conciliation talks were not acceptable. Fayyad himself lacks legitimacy because he was chosen without being endorsed by the parliament, the MP said, charging that Fayyad was a "puppet in the American hands".

IOA demolishes three Palestinian houses in Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The IOA demolished on Tuesday three Palestinian houses in the areas of Beit Hanina, Al-Salam, Attor in occupied Jerusalem at the pretext of being unlicensed, while the Israeli police blocked the targeted areas and prevented citizens form getting out or in until the end of demolitions.  The Israeli central court also decided to demolish for the second time the house of Ihab Attawil in the Beit Hanina area which was built two years ago on the ruins of his previous one that was demolished in 2005 by Israeli bulldozers. Attawil said that he and his family are living in a state of fear everyday that Israeli bulldozers will come again to demolish their 50-square-meter tin-roofed house.  Attawil, who spent eight years in Israeli jails, stated that it is unfair to demolish Palestinian houses while Israel builds thousands of settlement units throughout occupied. . .

Wa’ed appeals to Red Cross to save Palestinian young man from getting blind
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Wa’ed society for detainees and ex-detainees appealed Tuesday to the human rights organizations and the Red Cross to intervene with the IOA in order to allow medical treatment for prisoner Hani Abu Reidah, 20, after he lost his sight in the right eye and now became threatened to lose sight in the other eye. In a telephone call with the society, Suha Abu Reidah, the sister of the prisoner, said that her brother was subjected to brutal torture and psychological pressure which led him to lose his sight in the right eye, adding that the Ramla prison administration rejects to transfer him to the prison hospital to follow up his health status. In a new development, the IOF troops stormed amid heavy gunfire the Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus, and went on the rampage through the camp. Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that the invading IOF troops kidnapped two Palestinian. . .

Likud to Bring Motion to Dissolve Knesset before House Next Week
Amnon Meranda, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
The Likud Party has openly announced Tuesday it would bring a bill calling for the disollusion of the current Knesset before the House within a week. MK Silvan Shalom informed the faction that "on June 18 we will bring forth a motion calling for the dissolution of the Knesset in order to hurry the coming election in the most dignified way possible… The decision has been made. Olmert’s government has reached the end of the road. All it cares about now is political survival." Shalom went on to urge Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to end his government’s tenure "in an appropriate manner. We shouldn’t have to see a government, a prime minister, resign disgracefully." Opposition and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Shalom’s sentiment, saying "the good of the State demands we seek new elections… Israel cannot allow the burning issues to be held hostage by political considerations." The Israeli public must be allowed to vote for a new government which can take care of things," he added.

Olmert gives green light to Kadima primaries
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Prime minister approves internal Kadima elections that may see him ousted; move’s objective is to lift Labor’s threat to bolt coalition. Olmert associate: He was left with no choice but he feels he suffered an injustice - Olmert’s domestic trouble: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Wednesday with Kadima’s Steering Committee Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi and with Faction Chairman Eli Aflalo. The three discussed the possibility of proceeding withKadima primaries in order to elect the party’s leader. Olmert, who earlier met with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, gave the green light to embarking on this political move. UncertaintiesKadima ministers prepare to replace Olmert/ Roni Sofer Ruling party’s four senior ministers - Livni, Mofaz, Dichter and Sheetrit - working hectically below the surface ahead of possible primary elections following potential resignation by prime minister.

Refugee stories - No running water for Dheisheh residents
Vicky Samantha Rossi, UNRWA, ReliefWeb 6/11/2008
Dheisheh Camp, West Bank, June 2008 -For the last 15-20 days(1), people living in the highest parts of Dheisheh camp have not received running water. "When people have no water, they come to friends’ and relatives’ houses, located lower down in the camp, to fill jerry cans and carry them back home," says Mohammad Adawi, UNRWA’s Hebron Area Sanitation Officer. The water supply in Dheisheh is greatly affected by the seasons. Like other camps and towns in the Palestinian territory connected to the water network, Dheisheh residents tend to have water on tap 24 hours a day during the winter months. From May to October, however, people have become accustomed to bracing themselves for a water shortage, particularly residents who live in high-lying areas. The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), which regulates the water supply to Dheisheh, has seven wells in the Bethlehem and Hebron Governorates.

Tourists witness hardship of West Bank life
Middle East Online 6/11/2008
HEBRON - In a minibus with European and American tourists, Ziad Abu Hassan explains why he leads tours to the occupied West Bank, riddled with tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers and soldiers. "I want you to see the reality on the ground, the daily life for Palestinians," he says. "And when you go home, tell others what you have seen. " Feelings run high in the divided city of Hebron, where political and religious strife is part of daily life. The photo-snapping visitors follow their guide through the narrow streets of the old quarter, which is covered by a wire mesh to catch bottles, bricks and rubbish hurled at Palestinians by hardline Jewish settlers who live above the shops. Israeli soldiers with bulky M16 rifles, who barely look the 18-year-old draft age, run out of a building after an apparent search and block off the road for 15 minutes before allowing a few locals and the tourists to pass.

Man lightly injured in mortar attack on Negev kibbutz
Yonat Atlas, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Factory in Nir Oz hit for second time in a week by two mortars fired from Gaza; workers evacuated after fire breaks out. ’Government must put an end to the attacks launched against us,’ kibbutz secretary says - A week after the deadly attack on the Nirlat factory in the western Negev kibbutz of Nir Oz, two mortars fired from Gaza landed at the site Wednesday morning, leaving one person lightly wounded from shrapnel. Factory workers were evacuated from the area after a fire erupted as a result of the mortar landing. Magen David Adom paramedics treated the wounded man at the scene and then evacuated him to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center. Kibbutz secretary Haim Peri told Ynet following the attack that "the factory is within the (mortars’) range and there is nothing we can do about it, unless the government decides to act toward putting an end to the attacks launched against us.

Al-Aqsa brigades fire two mortar shells at Erez crossing
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - A unit of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing affiliated to the Fatah party, claimed responsibility for firing two mortar shells at the Israeli intelligence base in the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening. The brigades said in a statement that this action reaffirmed their commitment to confronting the Israeli occupation, and came in response to recent Israeli invasions of Gaza. [end]

PFLP-affiliated fighters launch projectile at Nativ Ha’asara
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for launching one homemade projectile at the Israeli community of Nativ Ha’asara, which borders the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday noon. The group said in a statement that this came in retaliation for ongoing ’Israeli atrocities. ’[end]

Hamas fighters launch homemade projectiles at Israel
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of “Ayn Shlishit” from the Gaza Strip at noon on Wednesday. The Brigades said in a statement that this came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli attacks along the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. [end]

Israel Strike Kills 3 Gaza Militants Firing Mortar
Matti Friedman, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
An Israeli airstrike killed three Palestinians firing mortars at southern Israel on Tuesday, while Israel’s leaders debated whether to pursue a truce with Gaza’s Hamas rulers or launch a broad military offensive against militants in the coastal strip. In a related development, the father of an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza by Hamas said his son pleaded for his life and appealed to the government not to abandon him in a newly received letter. The Israeli attack came after militants bombarded southern Israel with 20 mortar rounds in the space of an hour, and Hamas said the strike killed three members of one of its mortar squads. At the time, Israel’s top three officials - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - were discussing what to do about Gaza. With four Israeli civilians killed by rocket and mortar attacks this year, Israel’s

IOF troops kill Qassam fighter and 6-year-old girl in Khan Younis
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- The IOF troops killed at dawn Wednesday a Palestinian fighter affiliated with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, called Ibrahim Al-Masri and a 6-year-old girl called Hadeel Sumairi during an incursion in Qarara town, east of Khan Younis. Palestinian medical sources told the PIC reporter that the little girl was killed and a number of her relatives were wounded by an Israeli tank shell fired at their house east of Qarara, adding that the ambulance crews had difficulty in reaching the targeted scene where they transported the casualties one hour after the shelling.   Local sources reported that the Israeli military helicopters which reinforced the IOF troops on the ground started at dawn to fire their machine guns at the resistance’s advanced points to pave the way for tanks and bulldozers to penetrate into the area, adding that the invading troops stormed a number of houses and bulldozed agricultural lands.

Palestinians: Jihad gunman killed in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Gaza sources report Jihad military wing operative killed by IDF fire near southern Strip town of Khan Younis; overall death toll in Gaza said to be four -Palestinian sources reported earlier that an Israeli Air Force fighter jet fired at a group of Palestinians east of northern Gaza neighborhood of Northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabalya, killing one man. The western Negev saw fire Wednesday as well, as Palestinians fired two mortar shells at Kibbutz Nir Oz, just one week after the deadly attack on the Nirlat factory. One man suffered light shrapnel injuries. Palestinian sources reported earlier that an Israeli Air Force fighter jet fired at a group of Palestinians east of northern Gaza neighborhood of Northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabalya, killing one man. The western Negev saw

Sderot protest draws small crowd, community leaders undeterred
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/12/2008
Some 30 protesters showed up on Wednesday to demonstrate outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem to demand that the government reach a decision regarding rocket attacks, Army Radio reported. The turnout was much smaller than expected, compared to other protests held over the last month which drew crowds in the hundreds. The state had prepared itself for a large demonstration, stationing police officers on horseback outside the office from the early hours of the day. Photographers were ready with their cameras and an ice cream truck stood nearby prepared to serve a large crowd. Sha’ar Hanegev regional council head Alon Schuster said he was not discouraged by the sparse turnout, adding that Gaza area residents were resilient and would keep fighting for their demands.

Top MI Officer: Hamas Fears Broad IDF Gaza op
Amoss Harel, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
A senior Israel Defense Forces military intelligence officer told Tuesday’s cabinet session that Hamas both fears a broad IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, and is expediting its preparations for such an incursion. Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, the head of the research division of Military Intelligence, added that the militant Palestinian group was currently most interested in achieving calm in the Gaza Strip, which it controls, but was simultaneously continuing to smuggle weapons from Egypt. Baidatz was speaking at a session attended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and top military brass, which focused on the issue of whether to pursue a truce with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, or embark on a broad military operation against militants in the Strip. The meeting came amid mortar shell and Qassam rocket attacks perpetrated by Gaza militants on the Western Negev.

Gaza Decision in Days
Alex Fishman, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
“The sand in the hourglass is running out,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised Thursday in a meeting with municipal leaders in the Gaza region. His words could be understood to mean that a significant IDF operation in Gaza is in the cards, and that we are not talking about months or weeks from now, but rather, something that will take place within days. The military blow, he said, will come before the lull. Barak is attempting to blur his message and refrain from giving Hamas any clues, but it appears he already decided – even before the cabinet meeting and consultations with other ministers – that a truce with Hamas without a military blow that precedes it is no longer a realistic option. It appears that on this issue he is in agreement with the prime minister. The IDF chief of staff also decided that there is no other way but a military operation, even though the political leadership is unable to point to a required diplomatic achievement that would stem from this high-risk military move.

Gaza Groups Unfazed by Possible IDF op
Ali Waked, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
Israel’s security cabinet is expected to make the pivotal decision of when – and more importantly if – the Gaza will see a wide-scale military operation meant to crush militant infrastructure; but the various armed groups in the Strip seem unfazed by the prospect. Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) all believe that the political state of mind in Israel will not allow such an operation to materialize." The letter relayed from Gilad Shalit put an end to any such notion," a senior militant source told Ynet. "The Israelis have realized that any large operation would carry severe consequences, both because we have Shalit and because (IDF) training has proven that it would suffer a great deal of casualties in the first hours to any operation. All they (Israel) can do now is just keep threatening." The Israeli reports of an imminent attack, added the source, are meant to serve the Israeli public opinion and nothing more.

Southern residents: Politicians are scared
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 6/11/2008
In wake of Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, Gaza-region residents fed up with government indecision in face of ongoing rocket attacks. Southern farmer says "˜politicians chose not to decide because they are scared to make dramatic moves’ - Southern residents fed up:Gaza-region residents are infuriated over Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, which ended on an indecisive note with ministers agreeing to give lull efforts a chance while preparing for a military operation in Gaza. The residents, who have been dealing with ongoing rocket and mortar attacks, are already planning their next protest moves and charge the government with ignoring them in favor of political interests. Shaar Hanegev Regional Council Head Alon Shuster, who protested along with other southern residents outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem Wednesday, says he fails to understand the cabinet’s hesitant decision.

Hamas: Israel mini-cabinet decision reveals its previous intents against Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 6/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)--The Hamas Movement stated Wednesday that the decision of the Israeli mini-cabinet to wage a large scale offensive against the Gaza Strip if the truce efforts failed reveals Israel’s premeditated intentions to justify its aggression on the Strip. Hebrew radio reported that the mini-cabinet called during its meeting at noon today on the Israeli war ministry to get prepared to wage a large-scale military operation against Gaza if the Egyptian efforts failed to reach calm with Hamas. In a press release received by the PIC, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that this Israeli declaration of war on Gaza had received the blessing of the American administration during the Israeli premier’s last visit to Washington. In light of this serious Israeli announcement, Hamas called on Egypt to determine its position clearly towards the Israeli military escalations on the. . .

Negev residents demand cabinet’s final decision on Gaza
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Gaza vicinity residents stage demonstration outside cabinet meeting in protest of government’s lack of action in southern front. It’s time to end south’s Russian roulette, they say - Some 100 of the western Negev’s residents demonstrated Wednesday across from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, demanding the government take the necessary actions to ensure their safety, in view of the mortar barrages that hit the area in the last few days. The protestors, carrying signs reading " Israel needs leaders who can make up their mind," called on the cabinet, which was discussing the escalating situation in Gaza at the time, to stop procrastinating and come to am immediate decision on whether Israel will launch a military operation in the Strip or opt for accepting the temporary ceasefire brokered byEgypt.

Rice: Hamas’ power must come with responsibility
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 6/11/2008
US secretary of state reflects on situation in Gaza, Middle East peace talks, claiming negotiations must lead to effective fighting of terrorism, improve Palesitinians’ living conditions apart from resolving border issues - WASHINGTON - Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian Authority elections helped expose its weakness, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claims in an extensive essay published in the Foreign Affairs journal. "When Hamas won elections in the Palestinian territories, it was widely seen as a failure of policy. But although this victory most certainly complicated affairs in the broader Middle East, in another way it helped to clarify matters," said Rice, who is due to leave for Paris on Wednesday and arrive n Israel early next week, attempting to salvage the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Syria plays down chances of direct talks with Israel
Middle East Online 6/11/2008
A senior Syrian official said on Tuesday no direct negotiations will be held with Israel until it recognises what Damascus regards as requirements for a deal. Indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel are expected to resume soon in Turkey, which has been mediating between the two sides since last year. The Damascus government and Israel have kept secret the details of the talks. Syria seeks full return of the occupied Golan Heights and Israel has linked a peace agreement to Syria distancing itself from Iran and severing ties with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas. Israel occupied the Golan Heights, a water-rich plateau, in the Middle East war four decades ago. It annexed the territory in the 1980s in a move declared null and void by the United Nations Security Council. "I think it is too early to resume direct talks.

Politicians’ machinations continue to spur clashes
Michael Bluhm, Daily Star 6/12/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians ostensibly agreed in the May 21 Doha accord to extinguish the violence that was then engulfing the country, but their continuing manipulation is propelling the near-daily clashes that have erupted throughout Lebanon since the ruling class returned from Qatar, analysts toldThe Daily Star Wednesday. Violence, mostly between Sunnis and Shiites, has broken out during the last three weeks, including armed clashes in Tripoli, Batroun, Aley, and at various sites in the Bekaa and in the neighborhoods in Beirut where Sunnis and Shiites live together: Qasqas, Barbir, Ras al-Nabaa and Tariq al-Jadidah. Some of the battles simply represent the "aftershocks" of early May’s civil strife, when the political chasm that had grown over 18 months of deadlock turned into Lebanon’s worst bout of internal violence since the 1975-90 Civil War, said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center.

70% of Palestinian youth describe themselves as ''politically inactive'' or ''nearly inactive''
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An overwhelming majority (70%) of Palestinian youth in the West Bank and Gaza describe themselves as politically inactive or nearly inactive, says new poll conducted by a Palestinian research organization called Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD). Nonetheless, 61% of Palestinian youth aged 16 to 25 say they intend to vote in any upcoming national election. The poll, with a sample of 1,200 young men and women from Gaza and the West Bank, found that a majority of 53% said they would vote for Fatah in a national election, while 28% would vote for Hamas. The survey also found that Ma’an’s website is the most popular source of online news for youth in the Palestinian territories, beating the Al-Quds Newspaper website, Dunia Al Watan, and Firas Press website. Al-Jazeera is the most watched television news.

Finance Minister calls to slash the defense budget
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 6/11/2008
"Despite all the challenges we face, we’ll continue to pursue a responsible fiscal policy." Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On told the cabinet yesterday that it was necessary to slash the defense budget, even at the price of missing the Brodet committee targets, which necessitated adding NIS 100 billion to the defense budget over the next ten years. "Among other things, we must ask whether we went too far with the defense budget framework we undertook with the Brodet committee, and the social costs it involves," he said. Bar-On added, "Along with all the challenges we face, we’ll continue to pursue a responsible fiscal policy that emphasizes a rapid and steady reduction of the debt/GDP ratio as the necessary condition for ensuring the functioning of the defense establishment in times of crisis, and to free up resources for social issues.

Bush on Iran: All options are viable
News Agencies, YNetNews 6/11/2008
US president meets German chancellor in Berlin to discuss Iranian threat, global warming, war in Afghanistan. Both leaders want to stop Iran’s nuclear program, but while US is pushing for conclusive action, EU wishes to exhaust diplomatic avenue first - President George W. Bush said on Wednesday he wants to solve the Iran issue peacefully but reiterated that "all options are on the table"." The first choice is to solve it diplomatically and that’s exactly what we’re doing. The message to the Iranian government is very clear," Bush said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Meseberg, Germany. DuressBush on Mofaz’s threat: We must pressure Iran together/ Ynet US president tells The Times Israeli minister’s assertion that attack on Iran was unavoidable ’should be viewed as the need to continue to keep pressuring Islamic. . .

Unsafe food products confiscated and recalled by PA
Ma’an News Agency 6/11/2008
Hebron - Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority seized 4,400 kilograms of ginger deemed unfit for human consumption the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said. Sources in the Ministry of National Economy told Ma’an that the goods were confiscated after PA inspectors discovered them in a Hebron market. Meanwhile the Palestinian consumer protection department in Ramallah announced a recall of some 200,000 wrapping packets, used for packaging coffee and nuts, that do not meet Palestinian standards. The sources said that the packets, made of paper with an aluminum foil lining, react with food in such away that could threaten consumers’ health. The General Director of the Ministry of National Economy, Ziad Tou’meh, said that the ministry ordered consumer protection workers to seek and recall the packaging.

Treasury: Reform will narrow social gaps
Zeev Klein, Globes Online 6/11/2008
Advanced training fund tax exemption mainly benefits high earners. The Ministry of Finance explains the decision to tax savings in advanced training funds as a measure that will narrow social gaps, and ensure a fairer and more balanced distribution of income in Israel. To justify the move, the Finance Ministry has published charts, which, it claims, prove the lack of justification for giving a tax exemption on advanced training fund savings. The Finance Ministry claims that although funds like these are not meant to be a form of pension savings, they qualify for tax breaks that are excessive. Tax exemptions on advanced training funds amount to NIS 3. 7 billion, NIS 2. 2 billion of it in income tax. The Finance Ministry has been claiming for years that only 37% of salaried employees benefit from the advanced training fund tax breaks, and that this proportion rises in line with the level of income.

Histadrut threatens general strike over tax plan
Shay Niv, Globes Online 6/11/2008
Histadrut chair Ofer Eini: The Finance Ministry has sent us back to the policies of Netanyahu in one day." The Finance Ministry has sent us back in just one day to the policies of Netanyahu, who would wake up one morning and cause damage to hundreds of thousands of workers. If the Finance Ministry does not withdraw its plan within 14 days, the Histadrut will launch a general strike," said Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) chairman Ofer Eini. He was speaking at a special press conference this afternoon in response to the Ministry of Finance’s tax cuts program, at the center of which is the cancellation of the tax exemption on savings in further training funds. Eini is outraged at the proposal, which will affect 750,000 public sector employees, the Histadrut’s strongest member group. Union of Clerks, Administrative Public Service Employees chairman Arnon Bar-David,. . .

No chance
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 6/11/2008
The tax cuts are politically impossible and socially flawed. If Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On wanted to be in the headlines for a few hours, the press conference he held today achieved that goal. The minister’s name was blazoned on an "economic plan", television cameras and radio microphones were trained on him. Not a bad day’s political work for someone who, in a few weeks’ time, will be battling for his place in the next Knesset. These things need to be mentioned because of the life expectancy of the finance minister’s proposals. Does he really think that the Histadrut will agree to abolition of the tax exemption on advanced training funds? Does he think that the Knesset finance Committee, which only a few months ago objected to abolishing tax benefits for people with company cars, will agree to the abolition of exemptions for a far larger group of workers, and to do so. . .

Finance Minister presents new tax cuts plan
Histadrut threatens strike, Globes Online 6/11/2008
Treasury: Plan will narrow social gaps Hadas Magen and Zeev Klein11 Jun 08 12:45At a special conference today, Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On presented a multi-year tax cutting plan to be implemented between 2009 and 2015. At the same time, various tax exemptions will also be abolished. The top marginal income tax rate will be cut from the current 47%, to 46% in 2009, and then to 42% in 2015. The company tax rate will be cut from the current 27%, to 25% next year, and to 20% in 2014. Beginning in 2009, the income tax exemption on advanced training funds will be abolished. The exemptions on National Insurance levies and the health tax will stay in place. The income tax cuts are skewed towards low-income wage earners. The marginal income tax for an employee earning a gross month salary of NIS 7,810-11,720 will fall from 26% today to 23% in 2009 and 17% in 2015.

Israel seeks Russian, Azeri gas to offset Egypt deal
Lior Baron, Globes Online 6/11/2008
Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is due to meet Gazprom executives, while Azeri oil officials are due to arrive in Israel. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is due to hold another round of meetings with Gazprom executives in ten days in order to promote natural gas imports from Russia. The sources added that following Ben-Eliezer’s trip to Azerbaijan, there has also been progress in the talks Azeri natural gas deliveries to Israel. The moves follow pronouncements by Egyptian government officials that Egypt planned to review the natural gas agreements with Israel, which prompted the Israeli government to seek alternative suppliers. Six weeks ago, a delegation of Gazprom officials visited Israel for talks on natural gas deliveries via the Turkish infrastructure corridor.

Kadima MK warns Religious Zionism has become ’cult’
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Otniel Schneller speaks at Religious Zionism conference on education, economy society, says sector has lost its way and is demonstrating cult-like characteristics. ’Religious Zionism cannot stay closed up within itself, it will suffocate,’ he says -"Religious Zionism has lost its true substance and has become a cult," said MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) Wednesday at the Religious Zionism conference on education, the economy and society. Dozens of rabbis, educators and public figures took part in the conference, which marked 60 years of Religious Zionism. The conference held various panels on subjects such as the breakdown of the educational system, the conversions crisis, the growing use of internet services among the religious sector, military prep-schools and the challenges the religious sector may face in view of the coming elections.

LAF: Force will be used to contain security flare-ups
Daily Star 6/12/2008
The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) said on Wednesday it may resort to force to contain ongoing security violations. The LAF statement said that young people were gathering in different areas of Beirut and provoking the authorities, which "is a source of concern to citizens going to work or home." The statement also called on the Lebanese to bring an end to such provocations in order to reduce the existing tension in the country and to help strengthen security and stability in the capital. "People committing infractions will be properly dealt with and arrested, even if this necessitates the use of force," the statement added. The volatile security situation in Lebanon cast a shadow on political efforts to form a cabinet of national unity and promote stability, with clashes and shootings occurring in most regions of the country.

Lebanon insecurity undermining political deal
Middle East Online 6/11/2008
BEIRUT - Repeated clashes between feuding factions in Lebanon are undermining a political accord struck last month and reflect deep-seeded rivalries that remain unresolved, analysts said on Wednesday. "We’re not in the clear yet, but we are not in the red either. We are hovering in between," said Oussama Safa who heads the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies. The May 21 peace deal brokered in Qatar ended an 18-month political deadlock that had brought the country to the brink of civil war and saw the Shiite militant group Hezbollah mount a spectacular takeover of large swathes of Sunni west Beirut. But no sooner had the ink dried on the accord than clashes between Sunni supporters of the ruling bloc and the mainly Shiite opposition flared up in several areas leaving one soldier dead and several people wounded.

Karim Makdisi discusses the Doha Agreement and Lebanon’s economic crisis
Stefan Christoff, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 6/11/2008
In May of this year, tension between the US-backed March 14 governing coalition and the Hizballah-led March 8 opposition culminated in armed clashes in Beirut and elsewhere around Lebanon. Soon after, the feuding sides were invited to Doha, Qatar where a deal was struck that began the process of forming a new government and selecting a new president for the country. But after Doha, many are skeptical that the agreement is a long-term solution for the country, especially given the current state of the Lebanese economy. Neo-liberal economic policies adopted by successive political parties since Lebanon’s 15-year civil war came to an end in 1990 have left the country in economic ruins. All of the main political parties neglect the growing poverty rates, crumbling economy and staggering emigration in Lebanon today.

1 killed, 2 soldiers hurt in gunfight in south Lebanon refugee camp
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 6/11/2008
Security officials say a shootout between Lebanese troops and gunmen on the edge of a Palestinian refugee camp has left a gunman dead and two soldiers wounded. The officials say the shooting occurred when gunmen riding in a car opened fire as they tried to run away from an army checkpoint at an entrance to the Ein el-Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon. They say soldiers returned fire, killing one of the gunmen and injuring another. The officials say an army officer and a soldier were wounded in the Wednesday night gunfight. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Ein el-Hilweh is notorious for violence among militants. On Monday night, gunmen assassinated a militant.

Yemen bristles at US criticism over jailed editor
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/12/2008
SANAA: Yemen on Wednesday said US criticism of a jail sentence meted out to a journalist was "political pressure. "The US criticism "is surprising given the silence over [American] violations of human rights at Guantanamo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, as quoted by the official Saba news agency. "Questions of human rights should not be used as means of political pressure," he added. The US State Department on Monday condemned Yemen’s jailing of the editor of Zaidi weekly Al-Shura, Abdel Karim al-Khiwani, for six years, saying it points to a "distressing trend" in which Yemeni courts muzzle independent media. Khiwani was among 12 people who were given jail sentences after being convicted of forming an armed group and killing two security officers. A Zaidi rebel was also condemned to death in the case, but the State Department only commented on Khiwani’s sentence.

’They hate us because of our policies’ - US legislators
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/12/2008
WASHINGTON: Anti-Americanism is at record levels thanks to US government policies such as the war in Iraq, and Washington’s apparent hypocrisy in abiding by its own democratic values, a panel of US lawmakers said Wednesday. A House of Representatives committee report based on expert testimony and polling data reveals US approval ratings have fallen to record lows across the world since 2002, particularly in the Islamic world and Latin America. It says the problem arises not from a rejection of US culture, values and power but primarily from its Washington’s policies, such as backing authoritarian regimes while officially promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. "Our physical strength has come to be seen not as a solace but as a threat, not as a guarantee of stability and order but as a source of intimidation, violence and torture," said Democrat Bill Delahunt, chairman. . .

Are Gulf States eyeing Iraq role to counter Iran?
Middle East Online 6/11/2008
DUBAI - Gulf Arab rulers’ pledges to revive high-level diplomatic ties with Iraq reflect a growing awareness that only engagement with the Shiite-led government can counter the spreading influence of Shiite Muslim Iran, some analysts say. Sunni Arab governments who once funded Iraq’s 1980-1988 war against Iran have held back from establishing top diplomatic ties with Baghdad since the US-led invasion in 2003, citing security concerns and extensive Iranian sway. No Arab ambassador has been stationed in Iraq since Egypt’s envoy was kidnapped and killed shortly after arriving in 2005. But in a step toward easing Iraq’s diplomatic isolation, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan on Thursday became the first Gulf Arab foreign minister to visit Iraq since the war. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have all pledged to reopen their embassies. . .

Ahmadinejad: West failing to halt our nuclear victory
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 6/12/2008
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that U. S. President George W. Bush’s era has come to an end and he has failed in his goals to attack Iran and stop its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad, addressing thousands of people in this central Iranian city, also described the U. S. president as "wicked." "This wicked man desires to harm the Iranian nation. [Bush] made plans, moved into Afghanistan and then Iraq, and announced that Iran was the third target," he said. "I tell him. . . your era has come to an end. With the grace of God, you won’t be able to harm even one centimeter of the sacred land of Iran," he said. On the what he said was the failure of the West to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambition, Ahmadinejad said, "In the past two-three years, they employed all their might, resorted to propaganda. . ."

First ever Arab-Muslim becomes kibbutz member
Arnon Lapid, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Qalansawe’s Amal Carmiya accepted as new member of Kibbutz Nir Eliyahu. Kibbutz residents say she is ’exceptional person’ - On the eve of Shavuot, Amal Carmiya, an Arab Muslim from Qalansawe, along with four additional families, was accepted as members of Kibbutz Nir Eliyahu. This is the first time ever that the Kibbutz Movement has accepted an Arab Muslim as a member. Neta Be’eri, the movement’s demographic growth team coordinator refused to refer to this as an historical occurrence. "This is not a symbolic or demonstrative act and this is also not part of some credo of ours. This is a process that matured naturally."  The ties between Carmiya and the Sharon-region kibbutz started 18 years ago when she sent her two children Aya and Adam to the kibbutz kindergarten, just like some other families from nearby Arab communities do.


The Unforgotten City and its Forgotten Suffering
Reham Alhelsi, Palestine Think Tank 5/28/2008
      Jerusalem, the holy city, a city once the religious, social and economic center of the Palestinians for thousands of years, has turned into a ghost city under Israeli occupation. Moslems, Christians and Jews lived peacefully here until the Zionists started implementing their plans of establishing a Zionist state in Palestine. A city that was open throughout the centuries has become a closed city under the rule of what Bush and others call "the only democracy in the Middle East"! In what other country in the world is the original Moslem and Christian population prevented from living in their own city and reaching their holy places?
     The last time I was in Jerusalem was almost four years ago. After the tiresome and somewhat dangerous trip, I remember how shocked I was to see a ghost city. This isn’t the Jerusalem I knew. I remember the daily trip to Jerusalem as a pupil, and sitting in a bus over-filled with people on their way to their schools and work places, to the old city, to Salah-Eldin Street or other streets in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the center of our livelihood. Our first stop was always the newspaper stand at the central bus station, where my father used to buy Al-Quds newspaper, and on Mondays we were rewarded with the Samir and Micky Mouse magazines....

Israel accelerates settlement expansion after Annapolis

Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada 6/11/2008
      Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George W. Bush follow contradictory policy tracks. In the major media offensive accompanying last November’s US-sponsored Annapolis peace conference both leaders presented themselves as the peace makers of the region. In Annapolis, Olmert committed to freezing settlement expansion. However, since that time according to numerous sources ranging from Israeli newspapers, to Peace Now, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the websites of the Israeli Central Bureau, and the Ministry of Construction and Housing, Olmert’s government has been accelerating illegal settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land.
     Six months since Annapolis the planning of settlements has accelerated. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the construction of almost 1,000 housing units in several settlements in the West Bank. Furthermore the Israeli authorities announced plans, approved by Olmert, for the construction of an additional 2,900 units in settlements in the West Bank, including 750 units in Giv’at Zeev, and 1,900 housing units to be built this year for settlers who had to leave Gaza in 2005. In addition, Israel worked on the advancement of another 9,500 housing units in and around East Jerusalem, of which over 5,000 units have already been submitted for public review. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz the municipality of Jerusalem started the process of approving a plan for a new settlement complex with a synagogue in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UK and his deception

Khalid Amayreh, Palestine Think Tank 6/10/2008
      Israeli ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor has once again claimed that the United Kingdom is becoming a "hotbed" of anti-Israeli propaganda.
     In an opinion piece published in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph, Prosor alleged out that Israel was facing an intensified campaign of delegitimization, demonization and double standards.
     "Britain has become a hotbed for radical anti-Israeli views and a haven for disingenuous calls for a one-state solution," he ranted.
     Ignoring the criminal role Israeli universities and academic institutions are playing in consolidating the Israeli occupation and tormenting Palestinians, Prosor criticized efforts by the British University and College Union to sever links with Israeli universities.
     Finally, Prosor castigated "disingenuous calls" for a one-state solution, which he called "a euphemism for the destruction of Israel.

A Neocon Curtain Call

Rami Khouri, Middle East Online 6/11/2008
      WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On my first day in Washington, D.C. at the start of a two-month summer fellowship, I was reminded of the special and unique qualities that define erratic foreign policy-making in the United States. A story in Monday morning’s Washington Post reviewed remarks last week by former State Department senior official Elizabeth Cheney to the leading pro-Israeli lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
     What was striking about her remarks was her capacity to continue out of office the same intensity and breadth of incompetence and failure that defined her years as principal deputy assistant secretary of state until early 2006. The gist of her comments included statements that the Annapolis peace process was misguided. The United States had not pressured Syria enough. The United States was at its best when it was tough and decisive.

Chances for a Ceasefire are Minimal

Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 6/11/2008
      Egyptian efforts to secure a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza are continuing, but the different parties’ interests and their definition of what a ceasefire should constitute are throwing obstacles in the way.
     Egypt simply wants a ceasefire. However, one of the issues that has to be settled is that of movement through Rafah, which is very problematic for Cairo. For one thing, opening Rafah while keeping almost all other crossings closed means that the Israeli strategy of handing responsibility for Gaza to Egypt is working. Secondly, such a situation will create certain domestic problems for Egypt, particularly by facilitating relations between Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
     The other problematic issue for Egypt is the Israeli position of holding Egypt responsible for what happens at the Gaza-Egypt border. Cairo might like to remind Israel that when the Israeli army was in charge of the border, neither Israel nor Egypt managed to stem weapons smuggling there.

Hawks still circling on Iran

Jim Lobe, Asia Times 6/10/2008
      WASHINGTON - Once again, notably in the wake of last week’s annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference and the visit to the capital of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, there’s a lot of chatter about a possible attack by Israel and/or the United States on Iran.
     Olmert appears to have left the White House after meeting with President George W Bush and an earlier dinner with Vice President Dick Cheney quite satisfied on this score, while rumors - most recently voiced by neo-conservative Daniel Pipes - that the administration plans to carry out a "massive" attack in the window between the November elections and Bush’s departure from office, particularly if Democratic Senator Barack Obama is his successor, continue to swirl around the capital.
     What to make of this? Is this real? Or is it psychological warfare designed to persuade Tehran that it really does face devastation if it doesn’t freeze its uranium-enrichment program very, very soon and/or to warn Russia and China that they have to put more pressure on Tehran or deal with the consequences of such an attack?