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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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22 June 2008

Report: Soldiers routinely abuse Palestinian prisoners
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
A report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) to be released today claims that Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers routinely abuse Palestinian detainees and the army and law enforcement ignores the abuse. The report contains 90 testimonies by Palestinians who were allegedly abused by IDF soldiers after being arrested during and after sweeps for wanted men between June 2006 and October 2007. Many reports state that the alleged abuse occurred while the Palestinians were bound and did not constitute a risk to the soldiers. The report, compiled by attorneys Noam Hofstetter, Eliahu Abram and Dr. Yuval Ginbar, states that the alleged abuse occurs in vehicles transporting the detainees to various detention centers and at the centers.

Supplies into Gaza increase slightly, says Israel
Nidal al-Mughrabi, ReliefWeb 6/22/2008
GAZA, June 22 (Reuters) - Israel began on Sunday to gradually ease its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip by allowing additional goods into the Hamas-ruled enclave but Palestinians said the increase in deliveries was meagre. Peter Lerner, spokesman for Israel’s military coordinator for the Gaza Strip, said the army was allowing about 90 truckloads of food and commercial goods a day into the territory, up from about 60 before the truce took hold last Thursday. Israeli and Palestinian officials said trucks passed through the Israeli-controlled Sufa border crossing into the Gaza Strip in the morning. The goods were left there by the Israelis to be picked up in the afternoon by the Palestinians. Israel refuses to deal directly with Hamas. Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip a year ago from rival Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas,. . .

Palestinian groups launch campaign to stop expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 6/21/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - A network of eighteen Palestinian human rights NGOs launched a campaign on Saturday to mobilize the international community to end Israel’s de facto expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem. The Civic Coalition for Jerusalem is calling on activists and governments around the world to take concrete action to pressure Israel into ending violations against Palestinians’ housing and residency rights in the city. According to the Civic Coalition’s newly-released human rights bulletin for May, seven Palestinian homes were bulldozed in Jerusalem last month, part of a sustained campaign of demolition since January. The Coalitions sees the demolitions as part of a wider picture of rapid settlement expansion and punitive restrictions on Palestinian communities designed to ‘Judaize’ Jerusalem. Khalil Tukfaji, member of the Stop the Expulsion campaign committee. . .

Israeli troops storm ambulance center in Beit Ummar
Ma’an News Agency 6/21/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the headquarters of an ambulance service on the Jerusalem-Hebron in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar on Friday night, witnesses said. Nasir Abdul Hamid Al-Alami and Omar Odeh Al-Alami said that, in the same raid, Israeli soldiers pulled them from their homes. Israeli troops then stormed the ambulance center, breaking the main gate and several windows. The head of the Red Crescent Society in Hebron, Abdel Halim Al-Ja’afreh, condemned the attack. Al-Ja’afreh said that equipment damaged in attack is now unusable. [end]

Work day on the Jabri family farm in Hebron
International Solidarity Movement 6/22/2008
Hebron Region - On the 20th June, almost 15 internationals and Palestinians joined the Jabri family of Hebron for a mid-morning action on the Jabri family land. The Jabri land is uncomfortably nestled between two particularly notorious Jewish settlements, Kiryat Arba and Givat Ha’avot. The expansion of these settlements onto the Jabri property-meaning the theft and colonization of Palestinian land-is currently a work in progress. The Jabri family, with support from Israeli and international solidarity activists, continue to nonviolently resist this process of expropriation. Trespass is the first step in the annexation/colonization of land. Settlers first assert a claim to Palestinian land by illegally occupying it; in this case, settlers from Kiryat Arba and Givat Ha’avot have constructed a brick walkway through the middle of the Jabri land, connecting the two settlements.

Settler attacks in Asira al-Qibliya
International Solidarity Movement 6/22/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - The village of Asira al Qibliya has during the last month suffered from several attacks by Israeli settlers. The settlers usually show up each Friday and Saturday, aiming for the houses in the outskirts of Asira. During the last week at least three houses were attacked. Large parts of Salman Mountain, where the villager have their farming land and grow things such as wheat and lentils, was also set on fire by the soldiers. About 5 to 100 settlers are participating in each attackDuring the attacks the settlers have thrown stones though windows, crashed a car, stolen and killed cattle, torched fruit treas and farmland, fired live ammunition on the houses and water tanks, thrown gas grenades and painted stars of David over the house facades. The families living in the exposed houses are scared, the children can’t play freely outside anymore and the adults witnesses of troubles to sleep worrying of the settlers.

Sick detainee could lose sight while administration still denies him treatment
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/22/2008
For the third year, the Israeli Prison Administration is still denying medical attention and treatment to detainee Allam Hussein Atary, 35, from Arraba town near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Atary is now facing serious health complications and is gradually losing sight in both of his eyes. "The life of my brother is in danger", his sister Lubna said, "The occupation is responsible for what is happening to him and the suffering her is facing, my brother was never sick before his was kidnapped by the soldiers who broke into our home, kidnapped and interrogated him for several months". Atary was eventually sentenced to 25 years; he was kidnapped on June 17, 2003. The Israeli prosecution claims that he is a member of Fateh movement and that he opened fire at Israeli forces. Now, his condition is worse than before, the high pressure in his left eye affected his other eye but. . .

Israeli courts sentenced 14 Palestinians to life in prison so far this year
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Israel has sentenced 14 Palestinian prisoners to life in prison since the beginning of 2008, the Nafha Society, a Palestinian human rights organization, reported on Sunday. The Nafha Society said that Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts are often afforded the full right to defend themselvesThe following are the details of sentences:On 1 January, the military court at Ofer prison sentenced five members of Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, to life terms. Two of the defendants, Yousef Qeisiyyeh and Ra’fat Al-Battat, received three life terms each. Haitham Al-Battat received two life terms. The group was charged with carrying out a bombing attack on the Israeli city of Beer Sheba in August 2005. On 5 February, the Central Court in Jerusalem sentenced Bassel Asmar, affiliated to the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation. . .

Israeli Prison Authorities are re-interrogating detainees who are about to be released
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 6/22/2008
Attorney Bothaina Douqmaq, head of the Mandela Society which defends the rights of political prisoners, revealed that the Israeli Security Services through the Israeli Prison Administration are re-interrogating detainees who are about to be set free. Douqmaq stated that after she visited Hadarim Israeli prison and met with a number of detainees. She was informed that several detainees who finished they terms and are about to be set free, were moved to Salem prison, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and were interrogated there. The detainees are interrogated on charges they already were sentenced for, and are also asked about their opinion on the current political developments in the Palestinian territories. Douqmaq also said that dozens of detainees were interrogated over the past few days in several interrogation centers, especially in Salem prison.

IOA adjourns trial of former PA minister
Palestinian Information Center 6/21/2008
TULKAREM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority has adjourned the trial of Palestinian MP Abdul Rahman Zeidan, a former PA minister, to next month and imprisoned his bodyguard under administrative custody. Well informed sources said that Zeidan, who was the public works minister in the tenth PA government under premier Ismail Haneyya, was brought to Salem court on Friday where his trial hearing was deferred to 26/7/2008. They added that his bodyguard Thabet Mubasher was sentenced to six months administrative detention without trial or charge. Mubasher was kidnapped from his home on 3rd June 2008 and taken to Hawara detention camp. Mubasher, 43, was arrested on several past occasions by the IOA and was also frequently detained by the PA security apparatuses the latest was three months ago when he was tortured in the preventive security premises in Tulkarem in a bid to force him to say anything that could implicate minister Zeidan.

Legal center appeals for release of oldest serving administrative detainee
Palestinian Information Center 6/22/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- The Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies has urged all legal and human rights organizations to swiftly intervene and demand the release of a Palestinian detainee who has been held under administrative detention for 52 months. The center, in a statement on Saturday, said that Adnan Hamarshe, from Yabad village, Jenin district, was the oldest serving administrative detainee in Israeli occupation jails. He has been held in the Negev desert prison since his arrest on 28/2/2003. Hamarshe, 43, is the father of six children and is deprived of family visits, Ahrar said, adding that his administrative detention was renewed for ten times without charge or trial. It noted that Hamarshe, who suffers hypertension and Asthma, appealed with the Israeli higher court of "justice" but the court refused to release him at the pretext that he posed a "security threat".

Israeli non-government organization accuses IOF of abusing Palestinian detainees
Palestinian Information Center 6/22/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), a non-government organization, has accused the Israeli occupation forces of regularly abusing Palestinian detainees including minors. The PCATI, in its annual report published on Sunday, registered 90 cases of abuse in which violence was used against those detainees either on their arrest, on their way to detention or during incarceration. It said that the abuse was also reported against minors who should enjoy special protection in accordance with the international law, and added, "The soldiers do not treat the minors with care and often, as various reports show, they take advantage of their weakness". "Many reports state that the alleged abuse occurred while the Palestinians were bound and did not constitute a threat to the soldiers," the organization said in its report that covered the period from June 2006 to October 2007.

Israeli forces abduct four from village south of Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Israeli forces seized four Palestinian civilians during an overnight raid in the village of Ourta, south of Nablus on Sunday. Witnesses said that Israeli forces stormed a number of houses, detaining Bara’ Qussai Yahya ‘Awwad, Majdi Suleiman, Mahmoud Awwad and Nadim Awwad. [end]

Israeli forces seize two Palestinian teenagers in Jenin area
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized two Palestinian teenagers in Zububa, a village northwest of the West Bank city of Jenin, on Saturday night. Palestinian security sources said that Israeli forces raided civilian houses, ultimately arresting 19-year-old Adnan Sha’abneh and 16-year-old Bader Nabil Jamal. Security sources also said that at dawn on Sunday, Israeli troops invaded the city of Jenin, in the northern West Bank, deploying in city streets and firing their weapons at random. No arrests were reported. Meanwhile five Israeli military jeeps invaded the town of Qabatiya, south of the city of Jenin. Witnesses said Israeli troops hid between houses and among trees, hoping to ambush suspected Palestinian fighters. The Israeli forces later withdrew. No arrests were reported.

VIDEO - East Jerusalem Arabs pay taxes, but have no running water
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for June 22, 2008. Earlier this month, when Israel marked 41 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, residents of the eastern part of the city saw no cause for celebration. Like most of the Arab homes in East Jerusalem, residents of the neighborhood of A-Tur are forced to live without infrastructure, paved roads and regular garbage collection. R oughly one quarter of a million Arabs, all of whom hold Israeli identification cards, live in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after the 1967 Six-Day War. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, 130 million of them have no running water. Related articles: Jerusalem’s demolition derbyIsrael razes Arab home in J’lem over illegal building permit Israel to build over 800 new homes in East Jerusalem areasAlso on Haaretz.

Minister Ayalon: Israeli Arabs should have ’cultural independence’
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Minister Ami Ayalon said on Sunday that Israeli Arabs should be granted "cultural independence. " Addressing a conference in Haifa on Israeli Arabs and the peace process, organized by the Organization for the Advancement of Democracy in the Arab Sector in Israel and the Geneva Initiative, Ayalon said that "we should form a reality whereby an ’Israeli’ [identity] exists, without overriding other identities. ""The State of Israel should grant equality, cultural independence and a sense of belonging to the state," he said. Ayalon is a minister without portfolio, who is in charge of the national civil service, a scheme which is intended to constitute an alternative to military service, mainly for the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arab sectors. According to Ayalon, Israeli Jews don’t understand the identity dilemma of Israeli Arabs.

Jerusalem resists Israeli uprooting of olive trees
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 6/21/2008
Jerusalem / Maisa Abu Ghazaleh - Under the slogan "No to the Wall, no to Colonization" Palestinians protested yesterday afternoon in East Jerusalem. Dozens of residents of Beit Hanina demonstrated against the latest Israeli land confiscation scheme in an East Jerusalem town that has seen more than its share of attacks on its lands, homes and livelihoods. The Israeli authorities have decided to uproot hundreds of olive trees. The Friday demonstration began with noon prayers on the threatened land. There was an intense presence of Israelis who attempted to stop the prayers and demonstration in Palestinian East Jerusalem. The Palestinian National Liberation Movement was the name coined as sponsor of the event in cooperation with national forces and the village of Beit Hanina. Chants were loud in condemnation of the Israeli disregard for Palestinian rights in the city.

Deportation: brothers, families, torn apart by Israeli military courts
Palestine News Network 6/22/2008
Jerusalem / Maisa Abu Ghazaleh -- Alyan Suhayb was offered two choices. He could remain in Israeli prison, or he could be deported to Brazil. The Jerusalem man’s mother is of Brazilian nationality, but holds a Palestinian identity card. The ruling came down from the Israeli military court in Berseba. He can remain out of prison after 14 months if he agrees to leave his homeland. If he does not leave, he will be put back in Israeli prison. His brother, Husam, must stay inside. His brother, Husam, must remain behind Israeli bars breaking the hearts of the family. But the Israeli forces are not pursuing the dreams of Palestinian families. The 21 year old said, "The taste of freedom is invaluable, particularly as I did not expect to be stranded in a desert prison. But after the decision when I was walking to the Beitunia Checkpoint, the crossing gate, I expected at any moment that the gate would be slammed in my face.

Sarra and Qussin hold joint demonstrations as part of the Summer Against Apartheid
International Solidarity Movement 6/22/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - On 21st June the villages of Sarra and Qussin, near Nablus, organised simultaneous demonstrations against the apartheid road system that denies them freedom of movement. Organised as part of the Summer Against Apartheid campaign, both villages marched towards the respective roadblocks that enable the existence of the Israeli-only road stretching from the Beit Eba checkpoint to the Jit checkpoint. In Sarra approximately 200 residents and internationals attempted to remove the earthmound roadblock, using spades and shovels to dig away at the mass of earth, rocks and rubble that blocks the villagers from accessing the Beit Eba - Jit road. Holding a banner that read "This is apartheid!", protesters continued to work at removing the roadblock for approximately 20 minutes before Israeli soldiers finally arrived.

Praying against the apartheid wall in Ni’lin
International Solidarity Movement 6/21/2008
Ramallah Region - Photos - On Friday 20th of June the villagers of Ni’lin gathered to pray on the construction ground of the apartheid wall. Ni’lin is the last village of this area where the wall is not yet completed. The closure of the wall will separate the village from the land that they are dependent on, meaning the village will suffer big economical consequences. Starting one month ago, the villagers go to pray against the wall every Friday. Since it’s start the manifestations have become more and more popular among the villagers. Today around 300 men gathered on the farming land that the wall will cut them off from. The manifestation was observed by soldiers and vehicles of the Israeli army, but they never engaged. Still many villagers are too anxious about Israeli military violence to participate. Live ammunition shells and empty tear gas grenades scattered on the ground illustrate that this fear is not without reason.

Demonstration in Wadi Qana against Israeli system of apartheid
International Solidarity Movement 6/22/2008
Qalqilya Region - Salfit Region - Photos - On 21st June, approximately 100 residents of the Qalqiliya region, as well as international and Israeli activists, and six Palestinian officials, joined the residents of Wadi Qana, a small village on the Qalqiliya/Salfit border, surrounded by seven illegal Israeli settlements, to protest against the system of apartheid that has stolen their land and water; demolished their houses; and destroyed their livelihoods. Israeli soldiers initially attempted to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the village by blocking the single access road to the village, in an attempt to prevent the protesters from showing solidarity with the village. The villager’s protest took the form of a small festival, with children playing traditional Palestinian music, and singing traditional songs. The demonstration was designed to highlight the difficulties of life in Wadi. . .

Five civilians injured in protest against separation wall in Nil’in
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Five Palestinian civilians were injured by Israeli forces during a sit-in protest against land confiscation and the separation wall called by Popular Committee for Resisting the Wall in the village of Nil’in, west of Ramallah, on Sunday. Three were hit by rubber-coated metal bullets, and two were suffocated by tear gas bombs. Salah Al-Khawaja, coordinator of the Popular Committee in Nil’in, described the events: "This morning, Nil’in residents, farmers and foreign solidarity activists headed towards the Israeli bulldozers for a sit-in protest to obstruct the military vehicles and stop them uprooting our olive trees. Israeli forces showered them with gas bombs, which changed the peaceful protest into a confrontation between the Israeli forces and the young men. " He added that an Israeli soldier was hit in the head by a stone, and that the bulldozers had been prevented from razing land for two hours.

UN: Politics responsible for food insecurity in Palestine
FAO, UNRWA, WFP, Palestine Monitor 6/21/2008
The main driver of Palestinian food insecurity is of a political nature, as key elements of vulnerability are rooted in the military and administrative measures imposed by the Israeli occupation - closure regime, permits, destruction of assets - as well as settlement expansion and derived infrastructure multiplication - access to land and water, bypass roads, etc. Soaring food prices, falling incomes and growing unemployment are jeopardizing the livelihoods of Palestinians, leading to heavy debt and changes in family eating habits. Previously self-reliant families are progressively falling into the poverty trap and are unable to escape from their situation in the absence of job opportunities. There is evidence of the positive effects of aid in mitigating the increase of Palestinians’ food insecurity. However food security remains poor and there are real imminent threats to the livelihoods and nutrition of a growing proportion of the population.

Israel opens Gaza border crossings
Deutsche Presse Agentur - DPA, ReliefWeb 6/22/2008
Tel Aviv_(dpa) _ Israel opened two crossing points into the Gaza Strip Sunday, three days after a six-month truce with Palestinian militants in the salient went into effect. An Israeli spokesman said that in addition, a third crossing point would be opened soon. The opening of the crossing points is one of the provisions of the truce, which began Thursday at 0300 GMT and ended months of violence between the sides. Israel had imposed a blockade on the Strip in response to near-daily rocket and mortar attacks from the enclave at its southern towns and villages. It had further tightened the stranglehold after Hamas seized sole control of Gaza in June 2007. However, Israel’s High Court was slated Sunday to hear a petition against the opening of the crossings, submitted by the parents of an Israeli soldier kept captive in the Strip for two years after being snatched in a cross-border raid.

New ceasefire could ease the burden
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 6/21/2008
CAIRO (IPS) - An Egyptian proposal for a "calming" of hostilities, or tahdia, between Israel and Palestinian resistance faction Hamas officially came into effect Thursday. The deal follows several months of three-way talks between Israeli officials, Palestinian delegations and Egyptian mediators. "Both sides have pledged to halt all hostilities and all military activities against each other," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki declared. The deal is aimed at ending a year-long round of violence that has raged since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip last summer, after winning an election in 2006. Since the takeover, more than 400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed by punishing Israeli military operations in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Resistance factions have responded to the Israeli assaults -- which are launched on an almost daily basis

Israel to increase shipments of goods and commodities to Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/22/2008
Israel will begin Sunday allowing increased shipments of goods and commodities into the Gaza Strip, Israeli radio reported. According to the radio, shipments will increase by 30 percent and that these increased quantities, involving food items and medicines, will enter through the Sufa commercial crossing in southern Gaza. Currently , Israel will not reopen other Gaza crossings and that only the Sufa crossing will be reopened. Last Thursday, Israel and Palestinians began implementing an Egyptian-mediated truce deal, which stipulates halting homemade shells fire onto nearby Israeli towns and gradual reopening of Gaza’s crossings, closed since June2007. [end]

Israeli security said to be satisfied with Hamas commitment to ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an – Israeli security officials say that they are satisfied with Hamas’ level of commitment to the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire with Israel. The Israeli news website "Wallah" quoted an Israeli general saying that Hamas has committed itself "completely" to a truce. The general reportedly said that Hamas’ ongoing commitment to the ceasefire would correspond with improvements in living conditions for ordinary Gazans. These improvements will be made possible as Israel gradually reopens Gaza’s border crossingsThe Chief of Israeli military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, presented a report about the truce to the Knesset’s foreign affairs committee. [end]

Drivers at Sofa Crossing Wait in Hope
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - PCHR, Palestine Monitor 6/21/2008
From PCHR’s "Narratives Under Siege" series (16) - 11am, Thursday, June 19. The Tahdiya, or "˜Lull’ between Hamas and Israel started just hours ago, at six "˜clock this morning. At Sofa Crossing, in the south eastern Gaza Strip, it looks like business as usual for the Gazan drivers who are patiently waiting to collect their cargo so they can start distributing across the Gaza Strip. "It is too early to say what will happen next" says Wael. "But we hope the Tahdiya will go well. I usually wait here for twenty four hours to collect five tons of fruit. I just hope all the Gaza borders will open, and then we’ll be able to work properly - and to live. " Wael is one of the approximately seventy drivers waiting at Sofa this morning: he arrived here at 4pm yesterday, so he’s already been at Sofa for almost twenty hours.

The blockade begins to ease; some vital goods allowed into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – As the Gaza Strip ceasefire enters its fourth successful day, Israel began to allow the shipment of basic goods that have been made scarce in Gaza by a year-long Israeli-led blockade. Gaza’s Israeli-controlled border crossings opened at 9:30 on Sunday morning. Witnesses at the Sufa crossing point, in southern Gaza, said that the goods are being placed 500 meters inside the Palestinian side of the border. By 3pm, when the transfer is complete, the goods will be distributed to aid agencies and commercial distributors. An Israeli security source said that 90 truckloads of goods passed through the Sufa crossing on Sunday. A large portion of Sunday’s shipment is food and medical supplies for UNRWA, the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees, the World Food Program and various health organizations.

Israeli promise to ease Gaza siege sees trucks line up on both sides of border
Joseph Krauss, Daily Star 6/23/2008
Agence France Presse - SUFA CROSSING, Gaza-Israel border: Dozens of Palestinian truck drivers waited to load their goods in the scorching sun on Sunday as Israel said it had started to ease its blockade of Gaza on the fourth day of a truce in and around the territory. Some 50 trucks lined the road on the Gaza side of the Sufa crossing as Israeli workers unloaded goods on the other side. Some of the Gaza truckers said they had been waiting for more than 24 hours. "We are told there is a cease-fire and the blockade will be lifted, but so far nothing. There’s been no shooting for days, but still nothing has come in," said fruit trader Hani Abu Shanab, 40, who sought refuge from the relentless sun under his truck. Israeli authorities had pledged to gradually ease the restrictions from Sunday as part of an Egyptian-mediated truce deal with Hamas, the Islamist movement that seized control of Gaza a year ago.

OPT: Hamas says Gaza commercial crossings to open Sunday
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 6/21/2008
GAZA, Jun 21, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) --Hamas-led interior ministry in Gaza said on Saturday that Israel will open commercial crossing points to the coastal strip on Sunday. According to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which came into effect on Thursday, the commercial crossing points are to open on Sunday, said Ihab al-Ghussein, spokesman of the deposed government. Al-Ghussein said the six-month ceasefire deal, in its initial stage, will allow 30 percent of goods into Gaza. After 10 days of the lull, Israel will resume sending other supplies to the Hamas-controlled territory ’except materials that Israel claims the resistance can use in producing rockets,’ he added. Israel imposed a siege and increased military operations in Gaza when Hamas took over the territory by force last June.

Abbas and Sarkozy to announce plan for new industrial zone in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 6/21/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will announce an ambitious plan for a new industrial zone in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, during Sarkozy’s visit to the city on Tuesday, the chairman of Bethlehem’s Chamber of Commerce, Samir Hazboun said on Saturday. Hazboun said the industrial zone will be built with French cooperation, in accordance with a plan issued by the Palestinian Authority. Sarkozy is visiting Israel and Palestine for the first time since he was elected president. According to Hazboun, the plan enjoys the strong support of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has sought to open the occupied Palestinian territories to international investment. Hazboun said that Fayyad is personally working to facilitate the implementation of the plan.

Sarkozy pledges allegiance to Israel at start of three-day visit
Philippe Alfroy, Daily Star 6/23/2008
Agence France PresseTEL AVIV: French President Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed his friendship for Israel at the start of a three-day visit on Sunday but also said Israeli security depended on the creation of a Palestinian state. "I have always been Israel’s friend," Sarkozy said upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. The visit is the first to Israel by a French president in almost 12 years. "I am more convinced than ever that the security of Israel will only be truly guaranteed with the birth of a second state, a Palestinian state," said Sarkozy, whose visit will also take him to the Occupied West Bank. He expressed certainty a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians can be reached in the near future, adding "this agreement would enable the two peoples to live in security. "Sarkozy and his wife - supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy - were greeted by Israeli President. . .

Sarkozy arrives in Israel; welcomed by Peres
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 6/22/2008
French president lands in Tel Aviv with wife Carla Bruni for first official visit since taking office as countries continue to thaw relations. President Peres offers warms welcome, extols role French played in establishment of Israel - French President Nicolas Sarkozy landed in Israel with wife Carla Bruni on Sunday for his first official visit to the country since taking office, in honor of the State’s 60th anniversary. At the welcoming ceremony held at Ben Gurion Airport, President Shimon Peres praised Sarkozy’s "brave words" on the Iranian nuclear threat as well as his talk of peace, which "reverberated throughout the Middle East. " Sarkozy was accompanied by over 100 French industry leaders as well as prominent members of the Jewish community and several French ministers. In his speech Peres spoke of the close ties between the two countries, which have dramatically. . .

Sarkozy brings France’s business elite to Israel
Calcalist reporters, YNetNews 6/22/2008
French president to land in Israel Sunday afternoon accompanied by senior ministers, 100 of Paris’ prominent businessmen. Trip devised by Israeli Export, International Cooperation Institute in attempt to boost business ties between countries -French President Nicolas Sarkozy will arrive in Israel Sunday afternoon, along with his wife, Carla Bruni, seven of his senior ministers, the heads of the French Jewish community and about 100 of France’s top business men and women. Among the 100 businessman arriving with Sarkozy are the head of the Industrialists’ Association of France, France Telecom’s marketing director, the CEO of Peugeot, head of the Crédit Agricole Private Equity Bank, the CEO of EDF Energy and the marketing director of Edas France. The business delegation is scheduled to meet with prominent Israeli businessmen.

Sarkozy: Construction in settlements detrimental to Israel
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 6/22/2008
French president meets with Peres; criticizes expansion of settlements, east Jerusalem. ’Only guarantee for State of Israel is democratic Palestinian state at its side,’ he says - "You have made some bad decisions, like the expansion of settlements and east Jerusalem, where the construction is not good for Israel," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his visit to President Shimon Peres’ Residence in Jerusalem. He added that "the best and only guarantee for the State of Israel is an independent, democratic Palestinian state at its side. " Regarding the state of the Middle East, Sarkozy said, "France believes that for a long time now there has been too much suffering and death. France believes there is no point in waiting for more years to count more deaths. What for? There is an immediate need for peace.

Hamas deplores US support for Abbas’s security against resistance
Palestinian Information Center 6/21/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced Saturday the statements made by the US consulate on the sidelines of a graduation ceremony for a new Palestinian security batch in Jericho which said that these forces are designed for supporting the PA and fighting "terrorism" (the usual term used by US to describe its opponents) in the region. In a press release received by the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that these statements reflect the American involvement in the inter-Palestinian disputes and in supporting one Palestinian team with training and armament against another team. Dr. Abu Zuhri underlined that the PA’s persistence in mobilizing its security forces against the Palestinian resistance does not conform with PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s call for dialog and deepens the gap in the Palestinian arena because these forces will be working side by side with. . .

Iran dismisses Israeli exercises as ’psychological operations’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/23/2008
TEHRAN: Iran on Sunday dismissed reports that Israel had been practizing for air strikes against its nuclear program as "psychological operations" but warned of a limitless response to any attack. The New York Times cited US officials Friday as saying that a major Israeli military exercise over Greece earlier this month appeared to be a dry run for a potential strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. "It seems a series of psychological operations have been taken to intimidate Iran and force it to renounce its absolute and legitimate right" to nuclear power, Fars news agency quoted Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar as saying. "But the Islamic Republic will not be intimidated by these threats and will not renounce its right," he added. Israel and its number one ally, the United States, say they fear Iran could use its uranium-enrichment program to make an atomic weapon, and have never ruled out launching a military strike against it.

US sees Israel as ''wild card'' in Iran policy
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 6/22/2008
"The New York Times": Bush administration officials say Israeli actions could force the US’s hand. "The New York Times" quotes two senior administration officials as saying that barring a move by Israel, which one characterized as “the wild card” on the Iranian issue, the Bush administration would not be likely to pursue military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. "The New York Times" notes that President George W. Bush himself seemed to signal as much at the start of his European tour last week in Slovenia, when he said of Iran that he expected to “leave behind a multilateral framework to work on this issue,” a statement that seemed to suggest that military action against Iran may no longer be on the table. However, foreign policy analysts and diplomats said that there remains the possibility that Israel could force the hand of the Bush administration.

Olmert meets secretly with planner of 1981 attack on Iraqi nuclear reactor
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli press sources reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a secret meeting on Friday with Aviam Sela, the main planner of Israel’s 1981 attack against the Iraqi nuclear reactor. The two reportedly discussed the details of a potential attack against Iranian nuclear installations. The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported that the meeting was not recorded in Olmert’s daily agenda in order to keep it secret. Once news of the meeting was leaked, people close to Olmert tried to minimize its importance. Israeli governmental sources eventually confirmed that the meeting had taken place in response to an inquiry from Ma’ariv. Sela is considered the father of the technique of refuelling warplanes from the air, and was slated for a high-level appointment in the Israeli air force before being implicated in the Jonathan Pollard case.

Iran warns of ’limitless’ response to any military strike
AFP, YNetNews 6/22/2008
’With determination and using all the options - without limit in time and space - we will give a destructive response to any hostile action,’ defense minister Najar says amid reports of Israeli Air Force drill - Iran on Sunday dismissed reports that Israel had been practicing for air strikes against its nuclear drive as "psychological operations" but warned of a limitless response to any attack. The New York Times on Friday cited US officials as saying that a major Israeli military exercise over Greece earlier this month appeared to be a dry run for a potential strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. "It seems that a series of psychological operations have been taken to intimidate the Islamic republic and force it to renounce its absolute and legitimate right" to nuclear power, Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said.

Reports of preparations for Iran attack push up oil prices
and Reuters, By Nimrod Halperin, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
World oil prices rose another 2% last Friday to over $136 a barrel on reports that Israel had conducted military exercises in preparation for an attack on Iran. But there were other causes, too, such as a further weakening of the dollar, which raises demand for commodities as a hedge against the falling greenback. In addition, Gold futures broke the $900-an-ounce barrier, up 3. 5% for the week. Oil prices actually fell sharply Thursday after Chinese officials announced higher local fuel prices, by at least 17%, which was expected to lower the country’s demand for oil. But the winds of war more than made up for that decline the following day. The New York Times reported on Friday that Israel had held a large exercise at the beginning of June, seemingly in preparation for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

ANALYSIS / An Israeli strike on Iran is still on the agenda
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
Even though the New York Times story on June 19 about a large-scale air force exercise in the eastern Mediterranean was received from a source in Washington, not Jerusalem, it seems to have been in line with Israel’s aims. Unlike the storm that the threats of Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz stirred two weeks ago, the report that the Israel Air Force (IAF) carried out a large scale exercise as part of its preparation for a scenario requiring the targetting of Iran’s nuclear facilities, the message was received clearly. According to the senior Pentagon official quoted in the New York Times report "they [the Israelis] wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know. "There is little new in the fact that the IAF is preparing for the Iranian challenge.

Iran promises devastating response to any Israeli attack
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Iranian defence minister was quoted on Sunday as saying that Iran would confront any attack on the country with a devastating military response. The statement follows large-scale Israeli military training exercises on Friday, confirmed by Israeli and US officials, which appear to have been a practice run for a possible bombing raid on Iranian nuclear installations. Iranian governmental television broadcast Iranian Defence Minister Mustafa Muhammad Najjar saying that the recent exercises were part of Israel’s "psychological war" against the Islamic republic. Najjar said that Iran hasn’t started any conflict, but that it will utilise "all available means" if attacked and will unleash a "devastating" response with no time limit.

Iran dismisses Israeli threat to nuclear facilities
Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian 6/21/2008
Iran dismisses Israeli threat to nuclear facilitiesEwen MacAskill in Washington,Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem and agenciesguardian. co. uk Saturday June 21, 2008An Israeli Air Force F-16 jet fighter as it drops flars while maneuvering over a Negev Desert air base in the south of Israel. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA Tehran today denounced Israel as a "threat to global peace" after Israel held a large military exercise in an apparent dress rehearsal for a potential attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. An Iranian government spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Elham, dismissed suggestions of an attack by Israel as "impossible", the official IRNA news agency reported. He said "the threats and the claims of [the] Zionist regime" proved Iran’s view that Israel was "dangerous and a threat to the global peace and security".

IAEA investigators leave Vienna to see Syrian site
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/23/2008
DAMASCUS: Senior UN atomic experts were to begin a three-day mission in Syria on Sunday to inspect a mysterious site bombed by Israel last year amid US allegations that it was a nuclear facility. The team, led by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy chief Olli Heinonen, left Vienna in the morning but their arrival was still not announced several hours later, as Syria kept the visit under tight wraps. "We are now traveling to Damascus, we will meet tonight our counterparts and then we start to gather facts," Heinonen told journalists at Vienna airport before boarding a plane to Syria for the unprecedented visit. "What will be waiting there, we will see when we get there. "The team is due to visit Al-Kibar in a remote desert area of northeastern Syria on the Euphrates River during its three-day trip. The United States claims that the site attacked by Israel in September. . .

Sarkozy: There won’t be Middle East peace without Syria talks
Barak Ravid and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sunday, at the start of a three-day visit to Israel that Middle East peace cannot be achieved unless Damascus is brought to the negotiating table. "If we do not talk with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad there will notbe peace in the Middle East," Sarkozy told President Shimon Peres during their meeting. Sarkozy is on his first presidential to Israel, accompanied by his spouse, Carla Bruni. The French president landed in Israel Sunday afternoon and was welcomed with a red-carpet reception, as Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert eagerly awaited him along with a full army band and honor guard. Airport. In his welcome speech, Olmert said, "In all my meeting with the French president I have encountered a deep understanding for the security needs of the State of Israel and the. . .

France cooling to Syria, Sarkozy will tell Olmert in Jerusalem visit
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
France has pledged to Israel that it will slow down its rapprochement with Syria until Syria shows its willingness to distance itself from the extremist axis, particularly Iran. That is the message French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to bring Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at their meeting on Sunday in Jerusalem, according to diplomatic sources in Israel and France. Preparatory talks for Sarkozy’s visit were held last week in Paris between Olmert’s advisors Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turgeman and Sarkozy’s advisers Jean-David Levitte and Claude Gueant. Two days previously, the teams had met with senior Syrian officials - the French in Damascus and the Israelis in Istanbul through Turkish mediators. Turbowicz and Turgeman have reportedly asked France to tread carefully in its contacts with Damascus, because Syria has still done nothing to gain international legitimization.

IDF Intelligence warns Syria trying to deceive IAEA
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Chief of Military Intelligence says Damascus apprehensive of upcoming visit by UN nuclear inspectors, planning to prohibit entry of foreign media to country - IDF Military Intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin briefed the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Sunday ahead of the upcoming inspection of Syria’s nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Yadlin also discussed the recently renewed indirect peace negotiations between Israel and Syria as well as other political and defense-related developments in the region. Speaking of the IAEA inspection, Yadlin told the committee that the Syrians were concerned about the inspection and were trying to conceal their actions by prohibiting foreign correspondents to enter the country until the inspection is over.

IAEA inspectors begin mission to Syria amid allegations of hidden nuclear program
Associated Press, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Damascus expected to place strict limits on UN nuclear investigators during fact-gathering trip amid allegations Syria hiding secret atomic activities. "Will the Syrians tell the truth, or will they lie and stonewall? "former IAEA nuclear inspector David Albright asks -UN nuclear sleuths looking into allegations that Syria is hiding secret atomic activities expressed hope Sunday that a fact-gathering trip to Damascus will be the start of a thorough investigation. The International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors face a daunting task. Syrian officials are expected to place strict limits on where they go and what they see during their three-day visit. Still, IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen spoke optimistically of the mission’s chances before boarding the flight to Damascus on Sunday.

Hezbollah wants Palestinians included in prisoner swap
Barak Ravid and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Hezbollah has renewed its demand for the release of Palestinian prisoners as part of an exchange with Israel that would see the return of two Israeli reservist soldiers snatched in a raid across the Israel-Lebanon border almost two years ago. The Hezbollah demand was presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday by Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel, after being passed on by the German team mediating the swap efforts. Israel strongly opposes the demand to release Palestinians - a message it passed on to the mediation team some two months ago. Olmert held consultations on Sunday with defense officials, ahead of approving the deal with Hezbollah to return kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Security sources told Haaretz that previous reports notwithstanding, Defense Minister Ehud Barak supported the outlines of the proposed deal.

Hizbullah backtracks in negotiations
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Nasrallah throws wrench in works of burgeoning prisoner-exchange deal by demanding Israel release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in return for kidnapped soldiers, thereby ending weeks of optimistic progress. Olmert vehemently rejects new stipulation - Hizbullah has returned to its original demand that Israel release not only several Lebanese prisoners but also hundreds of Palestinian ones in exchange for kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, Ynet has learned. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s specially appointed envoy overseeing MIA affairs, Ofer Dekel, heard the renewed stipulation at a meeting with German mediator Gerhard Conrad in Berlin last week. The demand was on the agenda at Sunday’s security discussion at Olmert’s office. The prime minister convened representatives from the various intelligence and defense administrations involved in the negotiations for a special meeting.

Israel: If Hamas isn’t flexible, no Shalit deal
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
Israel intends to demand that Hamas alter significantly the list of Palestinian prisoners it wants released for freeing abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. Israel will state its case in a message to be passed on by Egyptian mediators. The Israeli demands are expected to be presented to Egypt’s chief of intelligence, Omar Suleiman, by Ofer Dekel, the prime minister’s negotiator for the release of Israeli soldiers held in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Dekel will stress that "flexibility in the Hamas demands is a condition for a [swap] deal from Israel’s point of view. " Dekel’s visit to Egypt this week will signal the resumption of negotiations for a deal over Shalit, following many months in which the matter had been on hold. The Israeli negotiator will be briefed by Suleiman on Hamas’ most recent positions on the Shalit question, and on the ways Cairo expects to resume contacts between the two sides.

Barak: Ceasefire will not free Shalit
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Defense minister tells cabinet that while ceasefire agreement with Hamas likely won’t result in release of kidnapped soldier, move provides opportunity for genuine negotiations for his return - "Anyone who lives in the Middle East and thinks that the ceasefire itself or the opening of border crossings will provide enough leverage to result in the immediate return of Gilad Shalit would do well to come back down to Earth," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday as the cabinet met for its weekly session. "We’re not deluding ourselves," said Barak, "opening or closing gates won’t make it possible to retrieve Shalit. " However, said Barak, "the ceasefire provides us with an opportunity for intense negotiations over Shalit, and we will have to make some tough decisions. "The defense minister also briefed the cabinet on the easing of restrictions in Gaza following the truce.

Shalit meets Amos Gilad, says ’actions more important than sentiments’
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Following meeting with Defense Ministry official under court orders, Noam Shalit says family more concerned with State’s actions than its concern for his son. Gaza crossings remain closed, for now -The head of the Defense Ministry’s Security-Diplomatic Bureau, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad (res), met with Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, late on Sunday evening under orders from the High Court of Justice. The court ordered the meeting to resolve their points of contention. "Sentiments are less important to us than actions," said Shalit after the meeting. He is expected to hand over an update on the family’s position to the court at 10:00 am Monday morning. The State will then be given until 11:00 to reply, after which the court will determine how to proceed. In any event, the court ruled, Gaza’s border crossings will not be opened before noon.

Zahhar: Shalit would not be released until Hamas’s conditions are met
Palestinian Information Center 6/22/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a Hamas prominent political leader, has underlined that his Movement would not sanction the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit until its demands were met. He told a group of intellectuals and notables in the Rafah district during a meeting Saturday night that Hamas demands an end to the Israeli ban on the release of Palestinian prisoners who had "Israeli blood on their hands". The MP charged that Israeli leaders, soldiers and settlers all had Palestinian blood on their hands. He also called for a halt to the theatrical plays in Israeli courts against release of those prisoners. A second demand is the release of prisoners who serve multiple life sentences and who spent tens of years behind bars, he elaborated. Zahhar said that the Israeli premier should endorse the prisoners’ swap deal or else he would be held responsible. . .

Haneyya: Priority to economic plans
Palestinian Information Center 6/22/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, has affirmed that priority should be given to economic plans in the Gaza Strip in the upcoming stage to assist Palestinian citizens and boost their steadfastness. During a meeting with businessmen last night, Haneyya briefed them on articles of the calm agreement with Israeli occupation forces especially the one related to opening commercial crossings, difficulties facing the agreement and positions of the resistance factions. He also touched on the issue of national dialogue, and explained that there should be practical steps to be coupled with the "beautiful speeches" on the issue. "We are keen on restoring national cohesion and ending division," he asserted. For their part, the businessmen welcomed the calm agreement that went into effect last Thursday and expressed their support for it.

PA security cracking down on street vendors in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 6/21/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Preventive Security forces are launching a campaign in the West Bank city of Bethlehem to crack down on unlicensed and sometimes bothersome street vendors. The head of Preventive Security in Bethlehem, Mustafa Ad-Dahdar, said the campaign would be coordinated with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism. Ad- Dahdar told Ma’an: "This campaign is aimed at firstly seizing the unlicensed street vendors, obliging all of the licensed stores to sell Palestinian products, secondly to check the license papers of the tourist organizations, offices, stores and tourist guides. Thirdly preventing the begging trend that annoyed and sometimes those tourists were exposed to thefts while the visiting mainly the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. " Tourism is Bethlehem’s main industry.

3 dead, 30 wounded in Lebanon clashes
Reuters, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Sectarian violence leaves three killed in Tripoli as Sunni Muslims exchange fire with Alawite supporters of Hizbullah - At least three people were killed and 30 wounded on Sunday in sectarian clashes in Lebanon ’s second largest city Tripoli, security sources said. Explosions and machinegun fire rocked the city as Sunni Muslim supporters of the government and Alawite gunmen close to the Hizbullah-led opposition battled on the outskirts of the mainly Sunni Muslim port. Lebanese army units deployed in the area and tried to end the fighting and local leaders held talks to contain the conflict. Dozens of families fled the scene of the clashes that tapered off after both sides agreed a ceasefire, the sources said. Several homes, shops and cars were damaged in the clashes that left the streets of the city largely deserted.

Four killed as supporters of rival camps clash in Tripoli
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/23/2008
Omar Ibrahim - Agence France Presse - TRIPOLI: Four people were killed, including a policeman, and at least 33 others wounded in North Lebanon early on Sunday morning in clashes between armed opponents and supporters of the parliamentary majority. The clashes subsided during the day, but in the evening there were reports of renewed violence. Policeman Samer Rashid was hit by a stray bullet inside his home in the Al-Qobbeh district of the Northern port city of Tripoli, a security official said. Another man, Bourhane al-Khatib, died after being hit by a bullet in the heart during clashes at Jabal Mohsen, a medic said after the 22-year-old was taken to a hospital in the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Beddawi. Ahmad Hussein al-Sayyed and a member of the Abdullah family were also killed. According to a security official, many of those wounded were caught in the crossfire or hit by stray bullets while inside their homes.

LEBANON: UNRWA ''not satisfied'' with pace of reconstruction in Palestinian camp
Hugh Macleod/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/23/2008
Richard Cook, director of UNRWA affairs in LebanonBEIRUT, 22 June 2008 (IRIN) - One year on since the fighting between Islamist militant group Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army destroyed most of the northern Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp and displaced up to 40,000 of its residents, the pace of reconstruction remains grindingly slow. The old camp, inside the official boundary, is mostly rubble and is the responsibility of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) to rebuild. In the larger adjacent areas, commonly known as the new camp,UNRWA has a limited remit to operate. Some 2,000 families of the 5,553 displaced have now returned to accessible areas, mainly in the new camp, and most to rented accommodation or temporary shelters. On 23 June in Vienna, UNRWA will be asking international donors for US$445m for the reconstruction and recovery of both. . .

Aid convoy reaches camp of Palestinian refugees on Syrian-Iraqi border
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Relief Committee for Palestinians in Iraq organised an aid convoy to the At-Tanaf refugee camp, on the Syrian-Iraqi border, to coincide with International Refugee Day on Friday, in cooperation with the Turkish charity LHH. At-Tanaf is a relatively new camp housing Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendents who were living in Iraqi cities and towns until the Iraq war broke out in 2003. As the civil strife in Iraq increased, Palestinians were increasingly targeted by different Iraqi factions, and many fled for Jordan or Syria. The refugees in At-Tanaf were refused entry to Syria and are still living in tents in the desert on the Iraqi-Syrian border. The number of refugees in the camp has increased to over 700 and continues to rise as Palestinian refugee families are returned from Syria and arrive at the At-Tanaf camp.

Report: Bomb wounds terrorist in Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon
Jerusalem Post 6/22/2008
BEIRUT, Lebanon - An explosion has wounded the leader of a Palestinian terrorist group in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon, according to Lebanese security officials. The officials said that Imad Yassin, the emir of the Jund al-Sham, a group which follows the extremist ideology of al-Qaida, was wounded along with two others while on his way home Sunday evening. They said that the bomb was apparently placed in a garbage tank on the side of the street. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. [end]

US-funded network airs anti-Israeli reports
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 6/22/2008
New investigation into US government-funded Arabic news network reveals anti-Israeli content including Hizbullah leader’s speech, live coverage of Tehran Holocaust deniers’ convention - American taxpayers are paying for an Arab television network that broadcasts anti-Israeli diatribe, according to a joint investigation by 60 Minutes and ProPublica, an independent, non-profit investigative journalism newsroom led by Paul Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. The anti-Israeli content was aired despite the fact that Al Hurra management promised Congress nearly two years ago that they would take measures to prevent such mistakes, which had occurred repeatedly before. The joint investigation will be broadcast on 60 Minutes on Sunday.

Olmert: I’ll fire Labor ministers who try to topple government
Mazal Mualam and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened on Sunday to fire cabinet ministers from the Labor Party, his main coalition partner, if they backed a parliamentary move to topple him over a corruption scandal, officials said. Ejecting Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Labor Party from the government would leave Olmert without a legislative majority and open the way for an early election likely to disrupt Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinians. Barak, a former prime minister, has said he expected Labor would support in a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday legislation proposed by the opposition Likud party to dissolve the Knesset - a process that could stretch past a summer recess. Government officials said Olmert handed out notes to Labor ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting, saying he would find it very difficult to continue to have them in the government if they voted for the measure.

Barak ignores Olmert threat, vows Labor will vote to dissolve Knesset
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak said Sunday he was determined that members of his party would vote Wednesday in favor of a preliminary reading of a bill to disperse the Knesset, despite Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s threat to dismiss Labor ministerswho do so and opposition to the move from Labor MKs. In light of the differences of opinion within the party, the Labor faction will meet Monday afternoon to vote on Barak’s decision. Labor ministers Yuli Tamir and Ghaleb Majadele are leading the fight against Barak. Other Laborites who oppose the move include MKs Amir Peretz and Nadia Hilou. Tamir said Sunday the Labor Central Committee should be convened immediately to decide on the matter. "If Labor ministers are interested in leaving the government, a Central Committee meeting must be held immediately and make a clear decision in the party’s institutions, as required," she said.

Ministers nix bill to move Bedouin living near toxic disposal site
Mijal Grinberg , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
The Ministerial Legislative Committee ruled on Sunday that the government would oppose a bill seeking to ban residence within a five-kilometer radius of the national hazardous waste disposal site at Ramat Hovav. The bill, submitted by MKs Ophir Pines and Yossi Beilin, also stipulates that people who would have to be relocated would be entitled either to an alternative plot of land or to financial compensation. Last week, an Environment Ministry panel unanimously recommended the evacuation of people residing around Ramat Hovav, including a 2,400-student Bedouin school situated merely two kilometers from the site. The panel was set up following a leak of hazardous chemicals in April. MK Pines said that the Ministers’ Legislative Committee decision "defies the Environment Ministry recommendations, and neglects the well-being of the population residing in the environs of Ramat Hovav.

Shin Bet: Terror activity, arms smuggling stepped up in Gaza
Barak Ravid and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Diskin addressed the Egypt-brokered cease fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which went into effect Thursday morning, saying that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement supported the deal, but "felt that they had received the short end of the deal and exchanged hushed messages about it. " Diskin added that two major terror attacks were in the works on the eve of the cease-fire. On June 22, Hamas planned to drive two booby-trapped vehicles into Israel through a hole in the fence to have been made by an armored tractor. One of the booby-trapped vehicles exploded in a Hamas operative’s home. There was also intelligence regarding a complex terror attack, to have been carried out by Army of Islam, which was planned and authorized by Hamas. "We attacked the operatives on an intelligence alert and the bombing was foiled," Diskin said.

Hamas interior ministry orders deployment of forces near border crossings
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/22/2008
The Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza ordered Sunday deployment o of security and police forces near Gaza-Israel border crossings. In a statement, delivered to press by the ministry, stated that the interior minister, Said Siyam of Hamas, ordered crackdown on all those ’involved in messing up with the interests of the Palestinian people’. According to the ministry’s order, scores of national security personnel and police members will be deployed in the vicinities of Gaza’s crossings, which border Israel, in order to maintain calm for the flow of goods and commodities. Israel decided on Sunday to allow increased shipments of goods and commodities, mainly food items and medicines into Gaza, after Israel and Palestinians agreed last Thursday to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire. Yesterday night unknown assailants rubbed a cement factory in eastern Gaza, apparently exploiting calm on border areas, the interior ministry statement explained.

Peace crept up as Israel was looking the other way
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
There are short moments like these. Rare ones. As one turns the kaleidoscope, slowly and carefully, among the scenes we have seen hundreds of times, something surprising appears: a new shape, still flickering and not yet clear, but with promise. As long as our hand doesn’t shake and make the image disappear. So these are the scenes in general terms: Israel is negotiating with Hamas; Egypt is minding the border with the Gaza Strip; the negotiations with Hezbollah are reaching a conclusion; there is "significant progress" in the Israel-Palestinian Authority dialogue, according to the prime minister; Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has made it clear that Bashar Assad will not shake Ehud Olmert’s hand in Paris, but they will sit around the same table; the head of the new government in Lebanon has declared that there will be no direct negotiations with Israel.

UNRWA: The Israeli siege destroyed life in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 6/21/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Karen Abu Zaid, the UNRWA commissioner-general, called Friday for lifting the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip two years ago immediately, pointing out that it destroyed life in the Strip in which half and one million Palestinians, mostly refugees, are living. In a statement on the occasion of the world refugee day, Abu Zaid said: "In Gaza, the policies of closure and indiscriminate punishment devastate lives, causing mass despair, threatening to destroy hopes for peace. ""Palestine refugees also face exclusion from the justice afforded by international law, the aim of which is to offer the protection, security and dignity taken for granted in a world where respect for human rights and the rule of law have become guiding principles of global governance," the UN official added. "As we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the universal declaration of human. . .

French President and wife to visit Bethlehem despite Israeli reports to the contrary
Palestine News Network 6/22/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farrag -- Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Dr. Khalud Deibs, is hosting the wife of French President Sarkozy as he visits with the Israelis. The Israeli press regaled us with the news yesterday, Saturday, that the French President Nicolas Sarkozy would begin a three-day visit with the Israelis beginning on Sunday, but that he would not be visiting the West Bank’s Ramallah, the Gaza Strip, or any Palestinians. Instead his wife, a former fashion model turned singer, is in Bethlehem visiting the Church of Nativity where Jesus is thought to have been born 2,000 years ago. Wife, Carla Bruni, will be making a tour throughout occupied Palestine. The Palestinian Minster Deibs told PNN that the first visit is the Church. She will also visit the French Hospital in central Bethlehem where many Palestinian women give birth to their babies.

Nunu: The premier had no scheduled meeting with Fatah delegation
Palestinian Information Center 6/22/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Taher Al-Nunu, the caretaker government’s spokesman, said that premier Ismail Haneyya was not scheduled to meet the Fatah delegation that visited Gaza from Ramallah. Nunu expressed surprise in a press release late Saturday night that Hikmat Zeid, one of the Fatah delegation, had claimed that he refused to meet Haneyya in his capacity as premier. The spokesman said that Zeid had repeatedly asked for meeting Haneyya and in the premier’s office, but Haneyya had earlier schedules and what the media reported about his meeting was the one in which he met a number of government and Hamas officials. Nunu charged that Zeid’s statement did not reflect a true or serious intention to open national dialogue and end the internal rift as included in the PA presidency’s call. In another context, the Islamic Jihad Movement denounced the PA security apparatuses’ continued detention of Palestinians for political affiliation.

Newly-proclaimed Palestinian resistance faction claims allegiance to PLO, condemns internal divisions
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A statement announcing the formation of the Nusour Palestine Brigades, a new Palestinian resistance faction, was published on Sunday, marking the launch of another resistance faction from within the Palestinian territories during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. For more than forty years, Palestinian resistance factions announced themselves and issued statements from the Arab capitals. Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, several resistance factions have been launched from within the Palestinian territories. The statement emphasized that the Nusour Palestine Brigades are independent and not related to any military, political or popular organization or faction, but also said that they consider the PLO to be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. There is no information concerning the head or spokesperson of this new faction yet.

Palestinian lawmaker says ''Israel is punishing us for refusing to die''
Khalid Amayreh in Hebron, Palestinian Information Center 6/22/2008
A Palestinian lawmaker recently released from Israeli captivity has accused Israel of "adopting Nazi tactics" nd applying them to Palestinian prisoners. Bassem al, Za’arir, 45, who lives  in the town of Sammou,  south west of Hebron, won a seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections  in the January, 2006. However, a few months later , Za’arir and dozens of other  Islamic-oriented lawmakers,  cabinet ministers, mayors and other elected officials,  were  violently abducted by undercover Israeli soldiers as part of a sweeping  crackdown on Hamas supporters and sympathizers. Israel said the abductions were in response to the capture by  Palestinian  freedom fighters of an Israeli occupation army soldier.   However, Hamas maintains that  Jewish  enmity to Islam was the main motive behind the widespread crackdown which also witnessed. . .

Marital status of kidnapped soldier’s wife discussed during meeting with Yishai
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Families of Hizbullah-held soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev meet with Shas chairman in attempt to have party support prisoner exchange deal. Halachic definition of Karnit Goldwasser’s marital status said to be one of party’s considerations - Will halachic concerns be made part of a future prisoner exchange deal? Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) met Sunday with the parents of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. The meeting was preceded by the families’ meeting with Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Yishai told the families that Shas’ decision on whether or not to support the government’s decision on a pending prisoner exchange deal, which could guarantee their sons’ return, would be made only after the party heads would meet with Rabbi Yosef. After meeting with Rabbi Yosef, Shlomo Goldwasser, Ehud’s father,. . .

Most ministers said to support prisoner swap
Amos Harel Jack Khoury and, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
Barak RavidPrime Minister Ehud Olmert will hold security consultations today ahead of approving a deal with Hezbollah to return kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Security sources told Haaretz that previous reports notwithstanding, Defense Minister Ehud Barak supported the outlines of the proposed deal. Most other ministers are also said to favor the swap. A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Bureau said yesterday the deal with Hezbollah would not be completed this week. An internal cabinet meeting has been set for Wednesday, but a deal with Hezbollah will not be on the agenda. "Even if a vote is taken this week, it will take a few more weeks until the deal is complete," the source said. A government source close to talks with Hezbollah said Israel is still demanding clear information on the soldiers’ condition before a swap can be approved.

VIDEO - News / Frustrated, Gilad Shalit’s parents fight the Gaza cease-fire
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for June 22, 2008. Aviva Shalit, mother of Gilad, expresses her frustration with the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The Shalit family releases Gilad’s letter to the High Court of Justice/ F rench President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives in Israel for a three-day visit. Related articles: High Court to state: Keep Gaza crossings closed until Monday Gilad Shalit’s letter: I am dreaming of the day of my release Sarkozy: France will never compromise on Israel’s security Also on Haaretz. com TV: Palestinian contraband smugglers offer an inside look Environmentalists win decade-long war against Eilat fish farms Retail shops and hotels lower costs to lure penny-pinching Israelis For more video news and features, visit Haaretz. com TV

Fighters’ spokesperson: Shalit’s parents should demand prisoner swap
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The official spokesperson of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, Abu Mujahid, urged the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to pressure the Israeli government to complete a prisoner swap deal. Abu Mujahid, who often speaks on behalf of Shalit’s captors, argued that if Shalit’s parents ask the government to revoke the Gaza ceasefire, it will not bring the release of their son any closer. Shalit’s mother and father have petitioned the court to explain why the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal was not conditioned on their son’s release. Primarily, the Shalits believe that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip should not be lifted until their son is free. Abu Mujahid said that the ceasefire was a positive step towards Shalit’s release. In the deal, Israel and Hamas reportedly agreed to move forward with talks towards a prisoner exchange involving the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails.

Justice minister: Gaza truce strategic mistake
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/22/2008
’If we open crossings before Shalit is returned, this will prove that the entire system has gone mad,’ Friedmann says - Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann referred Sunday to the ceasefire agreement with the armed Palestinian organizations in Gaza as a "strategic mistake". "The country cannot afford the price (of the ceasefire)," said Friedmann. "If we open the crossings before (kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is returned, this will prove that the entire system has gone mad. "Last week Vice Premier Haim said "I oppose the lull, because it’s another victory for radical Islam, which won in Lebanon and now it will be winning in Gaza. So why be moderate? After all, why is Hamas seeking an agreement? Because this will be its chance to represent Gaza as Hamastan state. "Ramon himself abstained in the cabinet vote Wednesday where ministers decided to advance the truce before embarking on a military operation in Gaza.

Legal Analysis / The authority and its essence
Ze''ev Segal, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
The Shalit family’s High Court petition, which seeks to prevent an arrangement for the opening of the Gaza Strip crossings without the release of kidnapped Gilad Shalit or guarantees of his release, touches a sensitive nerve in Israel. The ministerial committee for security issues has the legal authority to act on security-diplomatic issues, and its decisions are binding as cabinet decisions. The committee’s discretion is very wide, and it is difficult to imagine judicial intervention by the High Court on the reasonableness of such decisions. In fact, in the past the High Court has ruled that it would see as "non-justiciable" the nature of the discretion with regard to the release of terrorists. However it has also been made clear that the High Court will not hesitate to intervene in questions involving the essence of the authority. . .

Shalits petition court: No cease-fire without Gilad
Tomer Zarchin and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
The parents of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit petitioned the High Court of Justice last night, requiring Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior ministers to justify why they agreed to a deal with Hamas in the Gaza Strip that does not include the release of their son. Noam and Aviva Shalit filed the petition on behalf of their son, arguing that his most recent letter - delivered from the Gaza Strip via the Carter Center in Ramallah two weeks ago - he has empowered them to turn to the court. In their petition, the Shalit family is asking the court to issue an injunction instructing the government to justify the reasons for implementing a deal that would reopen the crossings to the Gaza Strip and lift economic sanctions on the Strip, without ensuring Gilad Shalit’s release or guarantees that he would be freed.

Unicef cuts ties with Leviev
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 6/22/2008
The United Nations organization responded to a New York-based Arab rights advocacy group. Galei Zahal (IDF Army) radio reports that the UN’s children’s fund UNICEF has announced that it is severing its ties with Africa-Israel chairman and controlling shareholder Lev Leviev "due to his suspected involvement in building settlements in the West Bank. "An official source at UNICEF said on Friday, that such involvement amounted to a blatant violation of the organization’s principles. Leviev was unavailable for comment, since the UNICEF announcement was released following the commencement of the Sabbath. He has supported UNICEF with direct contributions and indirectly by sponsoring UNICEF fund-raisers. UNICEF was informed of Leviev’s alleged activity by the New York branch of Arab rights advocacy group, Adalah, which claimed that companies in the Africa-Israel group were building properties in settlements.

High-tech industry sees slowdown loom
Shlomit Lan and Vered Kelner, Globes Online 6/22/2008
Jerusalem Global’s Shlomo Kalish: We mustn’t live in a fool’s paradise. "I cannot remember such a situation in my 15 years in the industry," Kodak Israel co-general manager Avi Waldman told "Globes" about the high-tech industry’s fears of a recession and layoffs. Kodak Israel has 900 employees. High tech accounts for 42% of Israel’s exports, a far greater proportion than any other industry. Waldman said, "We’re getting hit from every direction. The slowdown is here. In the coming year, if something doesn’t change in the shekel-dollar exchange rate, we’ll see less project development, there will be layoffs, growth will stop, and exports will shrink. I’d say that we’re on the brink of a national disaster. " Manpower Information Technologies CEO Erez Banovich says, "Salaries that customers are willing to pay for systems engineers and UNIX programmers, for example, have fallen by 5-10%.

Turning the desert into a wasteland
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
Heads of state including President Shimon Peres, tycoons, World Bank officials and plain old visionaries have been furiously preoccupied of late with the Arava region and the Dead Sea. They propose to "make it bloom" by developing lakes, hotels and a host of other building plans, and to desalinate massive amounts of water using a canal that would conduct water from the Gulf of Eilat to the Dead Sea. That will stop the decline in the level of the Dead Sea. Here are a few facts about the vision’s status: No official body currently possesses a clear plan under which we could ascertain the cost of turning the desert into a wasteland, and of carving out a canal stretchingmore than 100 kilometers. To date, no one has studied the feasibility - engineering, economic or environmental - of the canal’s route, and it is not clear where it would go.

Finance Ministry cuts university budgets by NIS 920 million
Moran Zelikovich, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Higher education council revokes millions already handed to universities, colleges according to Shochat report on higher education in Israel; also freezes additional funds that were to be transferred later. University heads, students outraged - The Council for Higher Education (CHE) notified the presidents of the universities and colleges on Sunday that it was demanding reimbursement for the funds it had transferred to the institutions according to the conclusions of the Shochat report. Furthermore, additional funds that were to be transferred later have been frozen. This means an additional budget cut for Israel’s higher education facilities, which have already suffered losses of 20% of their budget since 2003, altogether NIS 1. 3 billion. Lower Education’Government ignoring higher education crisis’ / Sever Plocker Following lack of government response to Shochat Report about higher education in Israel, Prof.

Messianic Jews say they are persecuted in Israel
Associated Press, YNetNews 6/22/2008
Members of tiny community who believe Jesus was the Messiah complain of threats, harassment and police indifference. ’It is their right according to freedom of religion to maintain their religious lifestyle,’ rights group says -Safety pins and screws are still lodged in 15-year-old Ami Ortiz’s body three months after he opened a booby-trapped gift basket sent to his family. The explosion severed two toes, damaged his hearing and harmed a promising basketball career. Police say they are still searching for the assailants. But to the Ortiz family the motive of the attackers is clear: The Ortizes are Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Israel’s tiny community of Messianic Jews, a mixed group ofThe March 20 bombing was the worst incident so far. In October, a mysterious fire damaged a Jerusalem church used by Messianic Jews, and last month ultra-Orthodox. . .

Olmert extends Mossad chief’s term citing ’exceptional success’
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 6/22/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday extended the tenure of the Mossad intelligence chief for a second time, testament to the hawkish spymaster’s role in crafting policy on Iran and other regional foes. A statement from Olmert’s office Sunday cited Meir Dagan’s exceptional success. It said he’ll remain in his job until the end of 2009. The statement said the covert organization’s list of achievements under his six years of leadership is very impressive. According to the statement, more, of course, cannot be said. Dagan, an army ex-general, took over the Mossad in 2002 with what security sources described as a mandate to step up Israel’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s military moves and the countries’ ties to Islamist factions. "Meir Dagan is doing his job with exceptional success and the list of Mossad’s. . .

Olmert set to fire Labor ministers who vote against gov’t
Globes correspondent, Globes Online 6/22/2008
Olmert’s strategic adviser, Tal Zilberstein said that no one could serve as a cabinet minister and at the same time support a no-confidence vote on it. "Galei Zahal" (IDF Army) radio reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends to fire Labor cabinet ministers who vote on Wednesday for the bill to dissolve the Knesset. Olmert’s strategic adviser, Tal Zilberstein said that no one could serve as a cabinet minister and at the same time support a no-confidence vote on it. "A minister who calls for the replacement of the prime minister cannot continue sitting in government," said Zilberstein, who stressed that he was expressing his own opinion but believed that his views were also shared by Olmert. Zilberstein hinted that Olmert would advise Minister of Defense Ehud Barak of his intentions at today’s cabinet meeting.

Olmert threatens to sack Labor ministers over dissolution bill
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 6/22/2008
PM enraged by Labor’s intent to back Knesset dissolution motion, says if Labor ministers vote in favor of bill they will be fired immediately; adds such parliamentary behavior is unacceptable -Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed Labor ministers on Sunday that should they vote in favor of the motion to disperse the Knesset, which is up for a preliminary vote on Wednesday, they will be fired. The dismissal will take effect 48 hours later. The Labor ministers left the government meeting in order to confer with Labor Chairman Ehud Barak. One of the ministers who witnessedthe scene told Ynet that "The Labor ministers were seriously spooked and immediately left to ask Barak what they should do. The prime minister has proven to them that they won’t be able to keep their jobs while undermining the government.

Israeli troops ’routinely’ abuse defenseless Palestinian detainees, report says
Ma’an News Agency 6/22/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers routinely abuse bound and defenseless Palestinian detainees, a report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) says. The report, published on Saturday morning, reveals a widespread pattern of abuse of bound Palestinian detainees, and what the committee says is the "absolute indifference" of the Israeli military, the Israeli ministry of defense and the Knesset towards this problem. The report, titled “No Defense: Soldier Violence against Palestinian Detainees,” focuses on a large number of incidents of violence against detainees after they had been arrested, and could not possibly present a danger to the soldiers. PCATI compiled 90 detailed testimonies between June 2006 and October 2007. According to the report, Israeli troops abuse Palestinians as various junctures: immediately following arrest, in the vehicle transporting. . .

Israeli human rights report on torture against Palestinians in Israeli prisons
Palestine News Network 6/22/2008
"No Defense: Soldier Violence against Palestinian Detainees" is the title of the report published on Sunday by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI): IDF soldiers routinely abuse bound and defenseless Palestinian detainees. The military and those who oversee it disregard this phenomenon and take no steps to eradicate it. A report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) published this morning reveals the widespread phenomenon of violence against bound Palestinian detainees by IDF soldiers and the almost absolute indifference of the IDF, the Ministry of Defense and the Knesset towards the existence of this phenomenon and the need to take action in order to eradicate it completely. The report titled "No Defense: Soldier Violence against Palestinian Detainees" focuses on a large number of incidents of violence against detainees after they had. . .

IDF troops admit to taking bribes from Palestinians at checkpoints
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Two soldiers caught red-handed during investigation into rumors they accepted bribes from Palestinians seeking to enter Israel - Two IDF soldiers from the Kfir Brigade were arrested last week following suspicions they had accepted bribes from Palestinians seeking to pass through West Bank roadblocks, Ynet has learned. The soldiers’ commanders launched a covert investigation following rumors of the soldiers’ actions. The two were caught in the act and promptly arrested by military police. The affair began several days ago, when unit commanders grew suspicious that a number of soldiers manning roadblocks near the West Bank city of Tulkarm were allowing Palestinians to cross without examination - for the price of several hundred shekels. An investigation into the matter was launched after the suspicions were reported to the brigade commander.

Palestinian high school students going forward with exams in spite of Israeli-imposed difficulties
Palestine News Network 6/22/2008
Gaza / Yousef Joudeh - Secondary School students in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank show, yet again, that they have the courage and the stamina to defy Israeli occupation policies. They show that they are determined to carry out their School Graduation Exams ( Tawjihi) despite the crippling and wearing blockade on the Gaza Strip with all its repercussions and devastating effects on everyone living here. And in the West Bank, students defy roadblocks, incursions and the danger of being arrested while going to schools and are no less determined to pass their exams with flying colors. Dr. Mohammad Abu Shqair, Deputy Minister of Education and Higher Education, said that the Secondary School Final Exams (Tawjihi) for this year are going ahead as planned with no serious obstacles thanks to the help of the supervisors and policemen who spare no effort in keeping things under control inside and outside of the exam halls.


Burnt land policy, the language of settlers with Palestinian villages
Amin Abu Warda, Nablus, Translated & Edited by Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/21/2008
      Black burn spots covered vast areas of farmlands that belong to residents of Boreen and Aseera Al Qibliyya villages, south of the northern West Bank city o Nablus; hours after Israeli settlers burnt their lands and uprooted hundreds of trees.
     The residents managed to enter their lands several hours after the settlers, who came from Yitzhar settlement, return to their colony after vandalizing the Palestinian lands while the Israeli army watched and listened without any intervention.
     The soldiers were there, and eyewitnesses said that the army just stood there and watched the settlers burning the lands. They even bared for several hours Palestinian fire-trucks and civil defense teams from entering the area in an attempt to distinguish the fire .
     After the firefighters were allowed through , they started fighting the blaze which already ate most of the lands that became a daily target for those extremist settlers.

Palestine Popular Conference and two petitions

Mazin Qumsiyeh, International Solidarity Movement 6/22/2008
      The walls of silence, hatred, and pettiness are crumpling all around us. The hot winds of wars dissipate as they encounter the rooted resilience of the spirit of community. People who act on their good conscience are standing up everywhere to make a better future. It is great to be living at this historic time of dramatic change as power shifts from colonizers to colonized and from the few to the many. There are a number of conferences this summer that are relevant and that we will attend including the Ramallah Federation Convention (Detroit, July 4th), the Green Party Convention (Chicago, July 10), and the National Assembly against the War in Cleveland (next week). But especially exciting is the the last conference I will attend before moving to Palestine: the popular conference in Chicago, IL, August 8-10 (see registration info below). This is because it is not organized by a single group/political strand of thought but a grass root effort focused on productive team work. Over 20 workshops from participants ensure engagement as activists (not spectators or pupils to be talked to) and collective and inclusive decision making. Hundreds of younger open-minded individuals are taking matters into their own hands and deciding that their voices will not be silenced by self-appointed “leaders”. Just like the two young women in the Hijab who refused to be told not to sit on the stage behind Senator Obama, these activists are saying: no one can tell us where to sit and what to do. This strengthens our hope in the future of Arab Americans, all Americans, and all of humanity. Anyway, I hope to see ALL (even those skeptics) join and participate in inclusive events that advance activism for justice. After all, as Kahlil Gibran once wrote (and John F Kennedy later used in a speech): “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Here are two petitions to sign and the info to register/attend the Chicago Palestine Popular Conference.

Christian Zionist gathering mired in controversy

Bill Berkowitz, Electronic Intifada 6/17/2008
      OAKLAND, California (IPS) - The battle lines over Pastor John Hagee have been drawn, redrawn, and are no doubt being drawn again as this is being written. The San Antonio, Texas-based mega-preacher with the multi-million-dollar empire has always been controversial, but these days, the pastor is a lightning rod for critics.
     And as the days pass leading up to Hagee’s annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conference in Washington next month, new revelations of his anti-Semitism have come to light.
     At last year’s CUFI conference, US Senator Joseph Lieberman called Hagee "an Ish Elochim," saying he is "a man of God, and, like Moses, he is the leader of a mighty multitude."
     When it was first revealed that Hagee had made a series of anti-Catholic remarks, critics, including Bill Donohue of the conservative Catholic League, went ballistic. Hagee apologized. When Hagee blamed gay people for causing Hurricane Katrina, many were offended. Hagee offered up a half-hearted apology and quickly moved on.

Stunted growth

Richard Silverstein, The Guardian 6/18/2008
      Israel’s high-tech industry is robust, but the country’s economy could be doing even better.
     You remember that famous quote: "Everything for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Well, that defines Tom Friedman’s perspective on Israel and his perspective on the ability of global trade to triumph over the all the world’s ills. Ostensibly, the subject of Friedman’s recent New York Times column was to compare the indomitable economic engine Israel has become with the lumbering "dinosaur" that is Iran. Friedman’s proof positive was Iscar, one of the newer additions to Warren Buffett’s stable of companies. Here is some of his cheerleading:
     From outside, Israel looks as if it’s in turmoil, largely because the entire political leadership seems to be under investigation. But Israel is a weak state with a strong civil society. The economy is exploding from the bottom up. Israel’s currency, the shekel, has appreciated nearly 30% against the dollar since the start of 2007.

Forced apart by law

Toni O''Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian 6/20/2008
      Toni O’Loughlin reports on the fate of an Israeli-Arab man and his Palestinian wife, which reflects what some see as a wider effort to banish Palestinians from Israel.
     Morad Asonah’s honeymoon ended abruptly when he returned home to Israel with his bride, Abir, to discover they - and thousands of other Israeli-Arab and Palestinian couples like them - had been banned from living together.
     The government said the ban, which forced Palestinians like Abir back to the West Bank and Gaza and separated parents from children, was a temporary measure to combat suicide bombers when it introduced the law in 2003.
     But now the law is set to be renewed a fourth time amid growing concern among human rights groups that couples like the Asonahs will be consigned to a permanent limbo.

Quiet is muck

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
      A great disaster has suddenly come upon Israel: The cease-fire has gone into effect. Cease-fire, cease-Qassams, cease-assassiations, at least for now. This good, hopeful news was received in Israel dourly, gloomily, even with hostility. As usual, politicians, the military brass and pundits went hand in hand to market the cease-fire as a negative, threatening and disastrous development.
     Even from the people who forged the agreement - the prime minister and defense minister - you heard not a word about hope; just covering their backsides in case of failure. No one spoke of the opportunity, everyone spoke of the risk, which is fundamentally unfounded. Hamas will arm? Why of all times during the cease-fire? Will only Hamas arm? We won’t? Perhaps it will arm, and perhaps it will realize that it should not use armed force because of calm’s benefits.
     It is hard to believe: The outbreak of war is received here with a great deal more sympathy and understanding, not to say enthusiasm, than a cease-fire. When the warmongers get started, our unified tom-toms drum out only encouraging messages; when the all-clear is sounded, when people in Sderot can sleep soundly, even if only for a short time, we are all worried. That says something about society’s sick face: Quiet is muck, war is the most important thing.

Hamas’s wise step

Khalid Amayreh, Palestinian Information Center 6/20/2008
      The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) is, ostensibly at least, a wise, dignified and expedient step for several reasons.
     To begin with, the ceasefire deal would suspend the daily acts of murder and terror carried out by the Israeli occupation forces against the nearly totally unprotected people of the Gaza Strip.
     For years, the Gestapo-like Israeli army used excessive force, including tanks, warplanes, heavy artillery and other lethal machines of death  to wreak death, havoc and terror on the  civilian population of Gaza, resulting in the murder and maiming of thousands of innocent people.
     Thus, the latest arrangement  would give the thoroughly tormented Gazans a certain respite, however uncertain, from Israeli terror and criminality.

Face to Face with the Wall in Tulkarem

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 6/21/2008
      At 8 o’clock in the morning, Dr. Faraq Al-Taych and nurse Khadeje Aknaar are preparing themselves to leave their base at the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) clinic in Tulkarem, for a day providing residents of the small villages around the city with medical care through PMRS’ mobile clinic.
     Founded in 1979 to fill the gap in health services left by the deliberate de-development of the health sector by Israeli Occupation Authorities, PMRS has been working in the Tulkarem district for over 20 years.
     Since the Apartheid Wall was built in 2003 however, the stories the doctors tell about their work have changed significantly. While they continue to face the usual problems in their daily work - occupation-induced poverty and underdevelopment, and injuries, and the associated impacts on health - they now regularly face situations where the absurdity of the entire occupation unveils itself.
     Six days a week, the mobile clinic travels through the surrounding areas, stopping in specific places each day. On Saturday, the team first unloads at a community health post in Falami, a village at the southern edge of Tulkarem district, where children, women and men suffering from colds, headaches, allergies, rheumatism or other ailments visit the doctor. The same procedure is repeated a few hours later in Kufr Aboush, the next village to which the team travels.

Don’t travel on Route 443: The Apartheid Road - Silence of the Judges

Boaz Okon, Yediot Aharonot, June 10, 2008, International Solidarity Movement 6/21/2008
      Boaz Okon is a prominent jurist, was a judge on the Jerusalem District Court and registrar of the Supreme Court, and since his resignation in 2006 is the juridical commentator of Yediot Aharonot. The following article appeared not only on the op-ed page, but also with a box, containing a summary, placed conspicuously on the paper’s front page - which is quite exceptional. Exceptional in the opposite direction is the fact that this article, unlike many others of Okon’s, was not included in the Y-net website nor translated to English. This I have decided to do myself. - Adam Keller
     There are acts for which in retrospect we would not be able to forgive ourselves. Moments for which we would ask ourselves how we could have been so stupid.
     Our Supreme Court is approaching such a moment. On its desk is the appeal against the decision of the Defense Minster to block to Palestinian traffic the part of Route 443 which goes through the West Bank, and allowing passage to Israelis only. The Defense Minster gave the order to create a network of alternative roads for the Palestinians, which came to be knows as the “Fabric of Life Roads”. Which means: in the 1980’s, a narrow village road was widened into a full-fledged inter-city highway, the present Route 443. In order to achieve that, the land of Palestinian villagers was confiscated; now, these villagers are forbidden to use that route, and face new confiscation of lands in order to have new routes, with a tempting and cynical names, created for their use.