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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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23 June 2008

Israeli army uproot 500-year-old olive grove in Beit Hanina near Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an - Israeli army bulldozers uprooted more than two hundred olive trees in Beit Hanina north of Jerusalem on Monday morning amid resistance by Fatah activists and other national forces. Spokesman for the leadership of the Fatah movement in the territory of Jerusalem Dimitri Diliani said that Israeli soldiers went into the valley in the southern town of Beit Hanina and razed the 500-year-old olive grove. He added that Fatah activists in cooperation with other national forces tried to stop them. He said that the Israeli authorities aim is to confiscate the lands surrounding Beit Hanina as part of their policy to pressure the Arab community of Jerusalem and its surroundings. The secretary of the Fatah movement in Beit Hanina, Muhammad Hamed Matur, said that Israeli forces have used excessive force against citizens who are defending their land.

Elderly Palestinian seriously wounded by Israeli army in northern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - A 67 year-old man was shot and injured by Israeli forces in the north of the Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon. Local sources told Ma’an that Jamil Abdel Rahman Al-Ghoul was shot while he was in his garden which is 350 meters from the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army opened fire on, injuring him in the shoulder and neck. One of his relatives, Abu Ziad Al-Ghoul, said that the man was seriously injured and was taken to Kamal Adwan Hospital in the north of the sector. [end]

Sarkozy tells Israel to curb settlers, share Jerusalem
Nadeje Puljak, Daily Star 6/24/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Monday for a halt to Jewish settlement activity in the Occupied West Bank while also proclaiming his staunch support for Israel in an address to its Parliament. "There can be no peace without stopping settlement," Sarkozy told MPs. "There is a proposal backed by many members of your Knesset for the adoption of a law that would encourage settlers to leave the West Bank in exchange for compensation and relocation in Israel," he noted with approval. Israeli authorities have announced the construction of hundreds of new homes for Jewish settlers in the Occupied West Bank in recent months, infuriating the Palestinians and drawing criticism from the international community which regards all settlements on occupied land as illegal. Sarkozy also called for an easing of travel restrictions in the Occupied. . .

Jerusalem subjected to comprehensive process to Judaize the land, rights and sanctities
Palestine News Network 6/23/2008
Jerusalem / PNN - The Christian and Islamic Front for the Defense of Jerusalem and its Holy Sites, accuse the "occupying state of conducting a campaign to Judaize the holy city, its intellectual rights, land and holy shrines. " One need only look at the situation on the ground to validate the accusation. Dr. Hassan Khater, Secretary-General of the Front, said that Israeli settlement numbers are "not advertised in the media. " He continued, "Regarding settlements, what is written does not reflect the truth. The problem is much larger, as are the numerical figures. There are dozens of units built every day here without having to pass through even bidding and tendering. "Dr. Khater said, "It is enough for an observer to look at the sky in Jerusalem and see the huge volume of yellow cranes covering the city nearby the settlements, in addition to the construction equipment in most places and neighborhoods.

Frustration in Gaza despite slight easing of blockade
Joseph Krauss, Palestine Monitor 6/22/2008
SUFA CROSSING, Gaza-Israel border (AFP) - Dozens of Palestinian lorry drivers waited to load their goods in the scorching sun as Israel started to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The decision to increase the amount of humanitarian goods allowed into the besieged territory came after an Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement held for a fourth day. More than 50 empty trucks lined the road on the Gaza side of the Sufa crossing as Israeli hauliers unloaded goods on the other side. Many of the drivers said they had been waiting for more than 24 hours. "We are told there is a ceasefire and the blockade will be lifted, but so far nothing," said fruit trader Hani Abu Shanab, 40, who sought refuge from the relentless sun under his truck, where he played backgammon with a friend. There’s been no shooting for days, but still nothing has come in," he said.

High Court rejects Shalit family petition against Gaza truce
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Court dismisses appeal filed by family of captive IDF soldier against ceasefire agreement between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Strip, which does not include prisoner exchange deal for his return -The High Court of Justice dismissed Monday evening a petition filed by the family of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit against the ceasefire agreement between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza, which went into effect Thursday morning. The Shalit family filed the appeal after it was made know that it did not include a prisoner exchange deal that would bring Gilad home. Gilad’s father said following the court’s ruling that the family has yet to decide on what its next steps will be. "I just heard about it (ruling) on the news. I don’t know what to do next or how to react," Noam Shalit told Ynet.

Israel seeks new talks with BG on Gaza gas
Lior Baron, Globes Online 6/23/2008
The move follows proposals by the Egyptian government to raise the price of its natural gas. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Israel wants to renew talks with BG Group plc (NYSE: BRG: LSE: BG) to buy natural gas from its reserves offshore from Gaza. The Palestinian Authority is a partner in the concession. The move follows proposals by the Egyptian government to raise the price of its natural gas. The government has informed BG that it was prepared to renew negotiations on natural gas purchases. Energy market sources say that the Ministries of Finance and National Infrastructures want to renew the negotiations because Egypt wants to reopen the gas delivery contracts signed with Israel. Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks.

Livni, Qureia to brief Rice in Berlin
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia will meet in Berlin today to update U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on progress in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The three officials will be in the German capital for a conference on the PA security force. A similar briefing was held a week ago when Rice visited Israel. Since then, Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams have met twice to discuss the peace talks. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Europe Union representatives and the Quartet’s Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, will also attend the conference in Berlin. Organizers hope to raise some $200 million for projects led by the European Union in cooperation with the PA police force.

Occupied Palestinian Territories: Donors should press security forces to end abuse
Human Rights Watch - HRW, ReliefWeb 6/23/2008
Berlin Conference Chance to Improve Rights (Berlin, June 23, 2008)– Donors to Palestinian security forces in the West Bank should condition their aid on concrete efforts to end serious abuses by all forces, Human Rights Watch said today. When providing security aid and training, donors should require the Ramallah authorities to build law enforcement institutions that are transparent, accountable and in compliance with international human rights standards. More than 40 senior officials from European Union member states, the United Nations, the Arab League, the United States and elsewhere are joining Palestinian and Israeli officials on June 24, 2008, in Berlin for a conference to support the Palestinian civil police and rule of law in the West Bank. ’Berlin is an opportunity to strengthen human rights protections for Palestinians in the West Bank, who suffer abuses. . .

Egypt says Hamas phones bugged by Israel
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reports Hamas delegation to Cairo warned that Jewish state’s intelligence monitoring phone calls to Gaza, Damascus - Egypt has warned members of a Hamas delegation to Cairo that the Israeli intelligence is monitoring their phone calls to Damascus and Gaza, the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Monday. Israel and Hamas are expected to launch a series of indirect talks in the Egyptian capital in about two weeks in order to agree on a deal for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. According to a Palestinian source quoted by the paper, Egypt will house both missions in the same hotel, but in separate wings, and the Egyptian mediators will travel between them until an agreement is reached for the release of Shalit in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Sarkozy urges Israel to halt settlements, meets with prominent Palestinian figures
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – French President Nicholas Sarkozy told the Knesset that Israel should stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank on Monday. "There can be no peace without stopping settlement," Sarkozy told Israeli legislators. Sarkozy also called on Israel to ease restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank, and called for the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. In addition to addressing the Knesset on Monday, Sarkozy also visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial, and held a meeting with prominent Palestinian figures. While hailed by Israelis as a sign of extremely strong French-Israeli relations, at least some in Palestine’s ruling elite view Sarkozy’s visit also as a sign that France intends to play a significant role in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Palestinian national reconciliation conference scheduled for Tuesday
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – A national reconciliation conference aimed at bringing together the Palestinian political rivals Fatah and Hamas will take place in four cities across the Middle East on Tuesday. Simultaneous sessions, organized by the Popular Committee for National Reconciliation, will be held in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Gaza City, the Egyptian capital Cairo and the Qatari capital Doha. The committee’s independent chairman Dr Hassan Khreisha said that the Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa will attend the session in Ramallah and the Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani from Doha will also address the conference, demonstrating wider Arab support for the initiative and the efforts of the local committee. The initiative proposes a two-sided solution. First is to call for the release of political prisoners on both sides and to agree. . .

Hezbollah insists on the release of hundreds of Palestinians detainees in a swap deal
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/23/2008
Israeli sources reported on Sunday that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group insists on the release of hundreds of Palestinian political detainees in exchange for releasing two Israeli soldiers captured by the group in Lebanon in 2006. The two soldiers are Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. The Israeli government was informed of the demands of Hezbollah last week in Berlin by the German mediator, Gerhard Conrad. Israeli sources reported that the government discussed these demands during a meeting of the security cabinet at the office of Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, Army Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, Head of the Mossad, Me’er Dugan, head of the Shabak, Yuval Diskin, special envoy, Ofar Dekel, and Elan Beran, who was in charge of the file of Ron Arad the Israeli Air-Force Lieutenant Colonel who has been missing in action since 1985.

IDF rabbi to rule if Regev, Goldwasser are dead
Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The chief military rabbi, Brigadier General Avihai Ronsky, began deliberations yesterday on whether the kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev can be declared killed in action. He will judge based on intelligence information and Jewish law. Sources close to the talks with Hezbollah over a deal to release the two soldiers from Lebanon say the move means the deal is off. The soldiers’ families criticized the move and demanded that Olmert quickly bring the deal to a cabinet vote. (See Story, Page 2) Over the past few days, after an agreement with Hezbollah seemed close, a delay ensued for reasons not fully known. But yesterday it became clear that it was Olmert who was holding back and that a process was beginning to declare the two soldiers dead. Defense officials said that even if Ronsky determines that Goldwasser and Regev are dead, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi. . .

Sarkozy to Knesset: A nuclear Iran is intolerable
Ariel Zilber Sara Miller and Noa Yachot, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking at a special session of the Knesset in his honor, vowed Monday that France would always defend Israel in the face of any existential threat - a direct reference to Iran and its nuclear program, which he called unacceptable. "A nuclear Iran is intolerable," Sarkozy said. "Anyone trying to destroy Israel will find France blocking the way. " And, to applause from the assembled politicians, judicial leaders and assorted dignitaries, Sarkozy declared: "Israel must know it is not alone in the battle against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. " Turning to the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the French prseident said that the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state was a condition for peace.

Party in Olmert’s coalition votes for dissolving Knesset
Ron Bousso, Daily Star 6/24/2008
Agence France Presse OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s Labor party on Monday decided to support a motion to dissolve Parliament this week, a move that could bring down embattled Premier Ehud Olmert’s government, officials said. Fifteen of the center-left party’s 19 MPs voted in favor of Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to support the opposition’s dissolution bill on Wednesday, a senior party official toldAFP Barak earlier this month threatened to quit Olmert’s coalition government if the prime minister did not resign over suspicions that he had illegally accepted cash from an American businessman. Labor is Olmert’s key partner in government and without its support the premier’s fragile coalition would not have the required 61 seats for a majority in the 120-member chamber. Olmert on Sunday warned that any Labor minister who voted in favor of dissolution. . .

One West Bank village confronts settlers with smiles
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Daily Star 6/24/2008
Inter Press Service - USH GHRAB, Occupied West Bank: East of Beit Sahour in Ush Ghrab, the tree line stops and the bronze, rocky desert begins. In a flat clearing on this hilltop, a small, abandoned military post is being slowly transformed from an assorted collection of cement-gray barracks into a virtual oasis for the region’s children, families and tourists. A former watchtower now has bright flowers painted on the roof; what was once a stark administrative office is now painted blue and pink, with a sign above the entrance reading "The Nest Cafe" in red block letters. The revitalization of this remote area is important, local activists say, not just to reclaim land used in the past to control and intimidate the people of Beit Sahour, but also to pre-empt a possible land steal by radical Israeli settlers.

PCHR commends UNICEF stance against illegal Israeli settlements
Palestine News Network 6/23/2008
Gaza / PCHR - The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the decision of UNICEF to reject any further support from Israeli businessman Lev Leviev, who owns companies actively involved in constructing illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Lev Leviev, one of the richest men in Israel, had, until just a few days ago, been involved in fundraising for UNICEF, whilst at the same time being directly involved in building homes in illegal settlements across the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Companies owned by Lev Leviev have built homes in settlements including Ma’ale Adumim in East Jerusalem and Har Homa in Bethlehem, as well as settlements near the West Bank towns of Jayyous and Bil’in. Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) are illegal under International Humanitarian Law, constituting a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention that amount to war crimes.

Palestinian medical student murdered in Ukraine
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an report – The body of a Palestinian medical student who was murdered in the Ukraine on June 19 will arrive on Monday by plane to Jordan then to his home village Sourif, sources close to the Palestinian embassy in Russia told Ma’an. Head of Palestinian students’ union in Russia told Ma’an that 28-year-old student Methfer Anwar Abu Faradied after being hit over the head with a metal bar by two assailants in the early hours of the morning on 19 June. Cultural attache to the Palestinian embassy in Ukraine Da’oud Jloud confirmed that Russian police have arrested two Ukrainian men in connection with the incident – a 20-year-old and a 30-year-old. One of the suspects was arrested an hour after the crime and the other was arrested the next day. The embassy confirmed that a number of such attacks on Palestinian students have occurred in the Ukraine.

The Jerusalem Centre for Women at Jericho workshop
Palestine News Network 6/23/2008
PNN’s Rana Al-Arja was among those in attendance at a women’s empowerment conference that was held in December. Although the report is late in coming, the work of the Jerusalem Centre for Women is unending. Al-Arja sends this along. The JCW website reads, "It is our goal to stand up to the unjust occupation, oppression, war, apartheid, humiliation, and poverty affecting Palestinian women. Simultaneously, we seek to advance a women’s perspective in peace-building with political principles based on respect for human rights, mutual trust, and morality. "The Jerusalem Centre for Women is a Palestinian non-governmental women’s centre located in East Jerusalem working for the advancement of women and human rights in the region and were among the attendees of a major workshop in the eastern West Bank’s Jericho, the oldest and lowest city on earth.

Accountability must replace impunity for acts of forced displacement in Israel/Palestine
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, ReliefWeb 6/20/2008
On this World Refugee Day, BADIL and COHRE announce here the results of proceedings before the UN Human Rights Council Complaints Procedure, in which international justice has failed petitioners seeking due restitution of land, housing and property. In so doing, BADIL and COHRE reaffirm that accountability must replace impunity – also in the case of Israel and the Palestinian people, in particular Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2007, after extensive efforts to secure justice in Israel, persons representing dispossessed Palestinian persons and communities filed a petition under the confidential ‘1503’ mechanism, providing a complaint procedure to the Human Rights Council. The petition concerned members of the Palestinian communities of (i) Kafr Bir’im, a village near the Lebanese border, forcibly removed from their land in 1948, and (ii)

UNRWA Emergency Appeal progress report, Jul - Dec 2007
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 12/31/2007
Introduction - Palestinian living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) deteriorated further during the second half of 2007. Following Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in mid-June, after several months of clashes with the rival Fatah movement, the Government of Israel (GoI) imposed a series of punitive measures, which caused major hardship for the 1. 4 million residents. These included the closure of major crossing points, restrictions on the entry of ‘non-humanitarian’ goods and a de facto ban on exports, and reductions in power supplies. Following continued firing of rockets and mortars into Israel from Gaza, the GoI declared Gaza ‘a hostile entity’ in September and enforced further reductions in supplies, including fuel. The impact of the sanctions imposed by Israel was widespread. A range of basic food commodities, including fresh meat and dairy products, became. . .

Palestinian woman wins Samir Kassir Award for Press Freedom
Fadi Abu Sa''ada, Palestine News Network 6/23/2008
Ramallah - The European Commission awarded this year’s Samir Kassir Award for Press Freedom to Naela Khalil, a 31-year old Palestinian journalist from the West Bank. Fadi Abu Sa’ada caught up with her in Ramallah for an exclusive interview. The 2008 Samir Kassir Freedom of Press award winner Naela Khalil had the journalistic bug from an early age. But, her family had different plans. "I wasted a whole year studying economics in university because journalism was not a career for girls," she told Abu Sa’ada. Despite strong family pressure to finish her degree in economics and marry, she defied her family’s wishes and decided to study journalism, a move she said she has never regretted. Indeed, Khalil’s award-winning story - "Palestinians pay the price of hatred - Political arrests: a settlement of accounts between Fatah and Hamas" - was confirmation. . .

Fierce sectarian clashes in north Lebanon
Middle East Online 6/23/2008
TRIPOLI, Lebanon - One person was killed on Monday in fierce sectarian clashes that erupted at the weekend in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, bringing the death toll to six, a security official said. Fighters in the densely populated Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen districts traded heavy machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades as the army sought to contain the violence. Several homes as well as a gas station were on fire as people fled the area or hid in underground shelters. On Sunday at least four people were killed and 33 wounded when the fighting erupted, pitting supporters of the ruling majority against Alawites loyal to the Hezbollah-led opposition. One of those wounded died on Monday. Another 55-year-old man was killed early Monday by a stray bullet as he drove along the main highway linking Tripoli with Syria.

Arab countries to foot half the bill for Lebanese Palestinian camp
Agence France-Presse - AFP, ReliefWeb 6/23/2008
VIENNA, June 23, 2008 (AFP)- Four Gulf states will foot around half of the bill of rebuilding a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon destroyed last year during clashes between Islamist militants and the Lebanese army, Lebanon’s prime minister said Monday. "The contribution made by the four Arab Gulf States -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates -- will be about 50 percent and the remainder will be made by the international community," Fuad Siniora told a news conference here. Arab and European leaders were meeting in the Austrian capital to raise funds for the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon which was reduced to rubble during clashes between Islamist militants and the Lebanese army last year. Siniora did not give any concrete figure with regard to the four states’ contribution.

London summit focuses on plight of Jewish refugees from Arab states
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Jewish groups from around the world are meeting in London to highlight the plight of Jews who were forced to flee from Arab nations in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded, the British BBC website reported Monday. The conference is organized by the American-based group "Justice for Jews," which aims to "ensure that justice for Jews from Arab countries assumes its rightful place on the international political agenda and their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity. "The group says some 850,000 Jews lived in Arab nations before Israel was founded and that most were forced to flee due to hostility. The group, which campaigns for compensation for Jewish refugees, says that the international community has placed a lot of emphasis on the plight of the Palestinian refugees, ignoring their Jewish counterparts.

Palestine Today 062308
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 6/23/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 4 m 0s || 3. 66 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Monday June 23rd, 2008. The truce in Gaza continues for the fourth day, while in the West Bank the Israeli army kidnaps five civilians, these stories and more coming up. Stay tuned. The News Cast The Hamas movement warned that if Israel implements the Israeli high court decision not to open the border crossing with Gaza until the abducted Israeli soldier in the Strip is released, the Hamas movement will no longer recognize the truce deal. On Sunday the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the Israeli government to keep border crossings to the Gaza Strip closed until noon today. The court decision was in response to a petition filed by the family of a captured Israel Soldier in Gaza, Gilad Shalit.

The Israeli army invades a village near Ramallah and kidnaps five civilians
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/23/2008
Five Palestinian civilians were kidnapped by the Israeli army during an invasion targeting the village of Dier Abu Mish’al located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday morning. Witnesses said that at least 15 Israeli jeeps invaded the village on Monday at dawn at around 2:00 AM. Witnesses added that soldiers conducted a wide scale house-to-house search in the village and used police dogs. During the search soldiers forced all the families that reside in the attacked homes to stay out, which also included children, local sources said. The military attack ended on Monday morning, troops left the village after kidnapping five civilian men, local sources identified those kidnapped as; Tha’er Abu Taha, 30, Ghassan Abu Taha, 23, Tarik Abu Harb, 21, Fou’ad Shuhadah, 20, and Nasser Attalah, 29.

IOA bulldozes thousands of dunums of Palestinian lands
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation authority’s bulldozers on Monday morning started destroying thousands of dunums of Palestinian lands in Beit Hanina village in occupied Jerusalem. Saleh Da’ajna, head of the village’s municipal council, said that the IOA bulldozers were paving the lands for construction of the separation wall. He pointed out in a statement to the PIC reporter that the destruction was going on in the southern area of the village. Da’ajna said that the Israeli occupation forces were blocking village inhabitants from approaching their lands in the area after it was declared a closed military zone. The municipal council announced that the separation wall seized 2,000 dunums of village lands in the first phase and the new construction would confiscate 5,500 dunums more.

Israeli bulldozers raze lands in Beit Hanina to construct separation wall
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - Israeli bulldozers started to raze agricultural lands in the village of Beit Hanina At-Tahta on Monday morning, to construct a new part of the separation wall on the village lands. Beit Hanina’s village council said lands were dug up in part of the village near the Israeli settlement of Ramot. Israeli forces prevented residents from approaching their land, after declaring the area a closed military zone. According to the council, the initial stage of the wall took 2,000 dunums of land from Beit Hanina and the second stage will take another 5,500 dunums. [end]

Israeli forces close Al-Bathan and Checkpoint 17 until further notice
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli forces closed the Al-Bathan Checkpoint and checkpoint 17 to the north and east of Nablus on Monday afternoon until further notice. One civilian at the Al-Bathan checkpoint said that Israeli forces informed civilians that the checkpoint was closed on both sides for security reasons and will stay closed until further notice. Thousands of Palestinians cross Al-Bathan and Checkpoint 17 daily to reach the West Bank city of Nablus. [end]

Mortar fired at Negev despite ceasefire; no injuries
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 6/24/2008
Shell fired by Palestinian in Gaza lands near Israeli community in first breach of agreed upon truce -A mortar fired by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza Wednesday night landed in Israel’s western Negev region. The shell landed in an open area in close proximity to a community, but no injuries or damage were reported. The incident was the first breach of the ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in the Strip, which went into effect Thursday morning. According to theEgyptian-mediated deal, after a few days of calm Israel is supposed to begin easing restrictions and allow the transfer of large amounts of food, gas, construction materials and other goods into Gaza through the Karni and Sufa crossings. Residents of the western Negev were skeptical of the ceasefire’s chances to succeed.

Gunmen reportedly fire mortar shell into Israel in breach of truce
JPOST.COM STAFF, Jerusalem Post 6/24/2008
Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip fired a mortar shell into Israel Tuesday night, several media outlets reported - the first apparent breach of the cease-fire since it went into effect five days ago. There were no reports of casualties or damage. [end]

Hamas interior minister acknowledges ''mistakes'' in ruling Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Interior Minister in the Hamas-run government in Gaza, Sa’id Siyam, admitted that Hamas’ security forces had ‘made mistakes’ in consolidating its control over the Gaza Strip. Speaking in regard to a conference held in Gaza to evaluate the performance of the security forces since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip a year ago, Siyam said, "We have many mistakes and we are not angels but we want to work on the success of this national project. " The Hamas-aligned forces, especially the Executive Force, have been criticized for harsh and repressive practices. Seven Palestinians were killed when the security forces opened fire on a massive Fatah-organized demonstration in Gaza last November. Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, civil society institutions, ministers, and security officers participated in the evaluation.

Al-Aqsa Brigades claim attack by de facto affiliated police in Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Fatah’s military wing, the Al- Aqsa Brigades, claimed on Monday that the police force affiliated to the de facto government in the Gaza Strip attacked a number of their activists who were staging a sit-in at the Red Cross headquarters in the Gaza Strip. The brigades told Ma’an that the activists were protesting against the treatment of prisoners when they were attacked. "The allied police attacked the Fatah movement activists, taking down the yellow flags and banners and the Palestinian flags and confiscated them," the brigades added. [end]

Feature: Security key to Palestinian development
Mike Swanson, ReliefWeb 6/22/2008
Berlin_(dpa) _When Palestinian police conducted a security swoop in the northern West Bank recently, they were forced to release some of the criminals they caught because there was not enough prison space to hold them. One of the reasons was the huge backlog in the creaky courts system which has left around 80 per cent of the prisoners in Palestinian jails still awaiting sentence. Upgrading the police force and judicial system are two of the issues that will be addressed at a ministerial conference on Palestinian security that takes place in Berlin on Tuesday. More than 20 foreign ministers from the Arab world, Israel, Russia, the United States and the European Union will be looking at ways to help the Palestinians prepare for the time when they run their own state. Without a functioning judiciary and security apparatus, there can be no Palestinian state and without a Palestinian state there can be no resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, experts agree.

ISRAEL-OPT: Israel’s blockade of Gaza eased slightly
Shabtai Gold/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/24/2008
Israel said more humanitarian goods, such as food and medicines, have been allowed into Gaza - JERUSALEM/GAZA, 23 June 2008 (IRIN) - On day five of the ceasefire between the Islamist group which controls Gaza, Hamas, and Israel, calm continued in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, but there has been little visible change in the sanctions regime imposed on the Palestinian enclave. On 22 and 23 June Israel said a somewhat larger than usual number of trucks carrying humanitarian goods, such as food and medicines, were allowed into Gaza. Israeli officials said the 90 or so trucks per day represented an increase of about a third on the exceptionally low traffic after Palestinian militants attacked the border crossings in April. Since April, Israel said the average had been about 60 trucks a day. "There is an increase, but it does not go beyond humanitarian goods at the moment," said Maj Peter Lerner from the office of the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a section of the Ministry of Defence.

Most Israelis see Gaza Strip truce as calm before the inevitable storm
Peter Hirschberg, Daily Star 6/24/2008
Inter Press ServiceOCCUPIED JERUSALEM: The rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza have stopped for now. So have the Israeli raids into the coastal strip. But the majority of Israelis are deeply skeptical that the truce with Hamas, which went into effect last Thursday, will endure. Many also believe that it represents a major achievement for the Islamic movement, not for Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who ultimately agreed to the truce, reflected public doubts when he said that the government had "no illusions. The calm is fragile and likely to be short-lived. Hamas has not changed its skin. These are bloodthirsty and despicable terrorists who even today are doing all they can to harm Israeli civilians. " Yossi Alpher, former director of the prestigious Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, who has written extensively on Arab-Israeli peacemaking,. . .

Gaza ceasefire between success and failure
Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 6/23/2008
The main Palestinian political factions in Gaza agreed last week to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and the ruling Hamas party. According to Hamas officials in Gaza, the truce will lead to a gradual ease of the one-year-old Israeli blockade on Gaza as well as a halt to Israeli army attacks on the coastal territory. In return, Palestinian factions will commit to ceasing all homemade rocket fire from Gaza onto nearby Israeli towns for a period of six months. In addition, Palestinians and Israelis will start negotiating over the release of a captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and the reopening of Gaza’s border crossings, including the Rafah Terminal, the main outlet to the outside world for Gaza’s population. How long the ceasefire will hold is dependent on Israeli and Palestinian actions. However, based on the reactions of Palestinians across all levels of society to the

Khazandar: No change in fuel quantities entering Gaza Strip
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Khazandar, the deputy-head of the association of fuel companies’ owners in Gaza Strip, has affirmed on Monday that the Israeli occupation government hasn’t increased the amount of fuel it sends to Gaza Strip as stipulated in the calm agreement. According to Khazandar, only 100 tons of home gas were allowed into the Strip on Sunday, in addition to 150,000 liters of diesel, and 400,000 of industrial diesel that is needed to operate the power station in Gaza. Yet, Khazandar confirmed than not a single liter of petroleum was received from the Israeli occupation government, disclosing that the Strip needs 350,000 liters of diesel, 350 tons of home gas, 120,000 liters of petroleum, and 350,000-450,000 liters of industrial diesel to operate the power station on daily basis. "They [the Israelis] always allege that lifting the ban on fuel supplies to Gaza needs. . .

As Gaza cease-fire holds, Israel eases economic blockade
Joshua Mitnick, The Christian Science Monitor, ReliefWeb 6/23/2008
Some analysts says that Hamas’s ability to enforce the Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel could widen international acceptance of the militant Islamist organization. By Joshua Mitnick | Correspondent of TEL AVIV - After three days without a single shooting violation of an Israel-Hamas cease-fire, Israel on Sunday boosted supplies of food and medicines into the Gaza Strip by about 50 percent and said it’s considering further relaxations of the months-long siege on the war-weary enclave. For all the official playing down of the Gaza cease-fire declared Thursday between Hamas and Israel, as well as predictions of its imminent demise, the agreement may mark a break with a long-standing Israeli and American boycott of the Islamic militant organization. Israel’s de facto recognition of Hamas’s rule in Gaza, analysts say, holds the prospect of widening international acceptance. . .

Hamas warns: Israeli obstruction of any calm condition absolves us of commitment
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Monday warned Israel of trying to exploit an appeal filed by father of the captured soldier Gilad Shalit with an Israeli court to suspend one of the calm conditions. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, told the PIC on Monday that if the Israeli occupation authority exploits the court order that issued on Sunday a temporary injunction prohibiting any change in the situation of "border crossings" between Gaza Strip and the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948 then "we will also absolve ourselves of our commitments". "We as a Palestinian party (to the agreement) are not concerned with political wrangling within the Zionist entity or any ruling passed by the so-called higher court of justice on the condition of crossings with the Strip," he elaborated. Barhoum underlined that the IOA declared its commitment before the Egyptian party to abide. . .

Hamas: It is too early to say whether IOA abides by calm
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has said that it was still too early to decide whether the Israeli occupation authority was abiding by the calm conditions, which stipulate among other things lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said in a press release on Sunday that the IOA on the fourth day of calm allowed entry of doubled quantities of different materials into the Strip. He said, however, that those materials were not "basic materials", and explained, "We want the entry of materials that were banned during the siege especially raw materials for factories and reconstruction in addition to fuel and others". Hamas will continue to monitor the IOA "actions" in this regard before passing a final ruling on the extent of its commitment to lifting the siege, he concluded. For his part, Ziyad Al-Zaza, the economy minister in the PA caretaker. . .

Hamas: if Israel violates any of the truce terms, the movement will not recognize the deal
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/23/2008
The Hamas movement warned that if Israel implements the Israeli high court decision of not opening the border crossing with Gaza until the abducted Israeli soldier in the Strip is released; the Hamas movement will not recognize the truce deal anymore. On Sunday the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the Israeli government to keep border crossings to the Gaza Strip closed until noon today. The court decision was in response to a petition filed by the family of captured Israel Soldier in Gaza Gilad Shalit, his family demanded clarification on the terms of the Gaza cease-fire deal. The petition that was filed against the Israeli state, Prime Minister Ehod Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, demands that the Israeli government justifies why the truce between Israel and Hamas was not conditioned upon Gilad’s release or his transfer to Egypt.

Little increase in goods reaching Gaza through Sufa crossing
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Five days into the truce between Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel, vital supplies of goods are continuing to trickle into the besieged enclave. Israel allowed 80 lorry loads of goods into the Gaza Strip on Monday - twenty more than the number allowed in per day before the truce was agreed, a Palestinian security source at the Sufa crossing told Ma’an. The source confirmed to Ma’an that under the truce an increase of 30% in food supplies was agreed. But what is actually being allowed in is no more than 20%, which is not sufficient for the 1. 5 million residents of the Gaza Strip. Agriculture Minister in the de-facto government Mohammad Ramadan Al-Agha said that what has been shipped to the Gaza Strip in the first few days of the truce amounted to nothing more than basic necessities and agricultural supplies.

Haneyya: Siege did not achieve its goals
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, on Monday said that the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip did not achieve its goals of illegalizing resistance and dwarfing major issues such as refugees, Jerusalem and prisoners into one of humanitarian concerns. Haneyya told a press conference after visiting Gaza municipality that his government did not receive any of the funds channeled by donor countries to the PA in Ramallah. The premier expressed optimism that the situation in the Strip would improve in a way reflecting on all aspects of life if the Israelis abided by the calm conditions. He stressed, however, that it was too early to decide whether Israel was completely abiding by the calm, and called for patience until the tenth day of calm where the Israelis had promised to lift all restrictions on all commercial crossings.

Mishaal: If Israel breached the calm all options are open before the resistance
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, stated Sunday that his Movement is committed to the six-month truce which took effect last Thursday but in case the Israeli occupation breached the calm agreement all options would be open before the Palestinian resistance to act accordingly. During a meeting held by the higher follow-up committee which emerged from the Palestinian national conference, Mishaal underlined that the Palestinian steadfastness led to the creation of a new balance of forces in the region, pointing out at the same time that the Palestinian factions approved the truce because its conditions were meant to protect the Palestinian people. The Hamas leader called on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to urgently hold comprehensive national dialog to realize national interests and get the whole situation back on track.

Israel anxious over possible European relations with Hamas after truce
Palestinian Information Center 6/22/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation government has started an international diplomatic campaign with the aim to stop a possible European inclination to open dialogue with Hamas Movement after the Movement reached, with Egyptian mediation, a truce with the Israeli occupation, Hebrew sources confirmed. According to the sources, the wide international welcome of the agreement worried the Israeli occupation government after the truce bolstered Hamas’s position in the international arena, and proved that the Movement was enjoying an overwhelming popular support and couldn’t just be easily ignored. A political source in the Israeli foreign affairs ministry asserted that the ministry along with the Israeli embassies abroad unleashed diplomatic campaign in more than 70 countries with the aim to convince them not to establish relations with Hamas.

European Union to provide vehicles, uniforms, radio equipment to Palestinian Civil Police
European Union - EU, ReliefWeb 6/23/2008
PR/024/2008 The European Union today announced a €5 million contribution to provide vital equipment to the Palestinian Civil Police, one day ahead of a major international conference in Berlin to shore up efforts for the Palestinian justice and security sector. An agreement was signed today by Mr. John Kjaer, the European Commission Representative in Jerusalem, and handed over to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UN OPS), the implementing organisation that will procure the equipment on behalf of the Palestinian Civil Police. Speaking to the press in Ramallah, Mr. Kjaer said "The EU is working on a number of fronts to help build a professional, civilian police, a key component for a functioning, democratic state, based on the rule of law. This is a professional police force made up of officers who have shown exemplary dedication to their work in often difficult circumstances.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner participates in Berlin Conference on Palestinian Civil Security and Rule of Law
European Union - EU, ReliefWeb 6/23/2008
International support for improving Palestinian Civil Security and strengthening the respect for rule of law will be in the centre of a conference on 24 June in Berlin. Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner will be one of the keynote speakers during the opening session of this conference and confirm the high level of commitment of the European Commission in continued support for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people. Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: "Increased security in the Palestinian Territory is one fundamental factor for reviving the economy and thus achieving tangible results for Palestinians in their daily life. I believe that there can be mutual reinforcement between Palestinian security efforts and increased Israeli trust. Continued efforts by the Palestinian Authority on the security sector reform are crucial.

Conference on Palestinian security to begin in Berlin Tuesday
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - An international conference to support the police and judiciary in the Palestinian territories will begin in the German capital Berlin on Tuesday and is expected to raise 187 million dollars. Forty states have been invited to participate in the one-day conference to approve a series of programs aimed at strengthening the legal and security systems of a future Palestinian state. The international Quartet, which includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, will also take part. The European Union will be represented by the representative for Foreign Policy Javier Solana and the Quartet Committee for Middle East representative of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Palestinian delegation to the conference will be headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will represent the Israelis.

Qureia and Livni to meet in Berlin with Rice
Palestine News Network 6/23/2008
Ramallah / PNN - A Palestinian official reported on Monday that the two major Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, Ahmed Qureia and Tzipi Livni will meet in Berlin tomorrow in the presence of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that this meeting will center on the ongoing difficult negotiations to reach an agreement before the end of the year. The meeting comes after those held by the three officials in Jerusalem mid-month during Rice’s last visit to the region. The three will meet again in two weeks in Jerusalem. The source said that Qureia would attend along with senior Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Sa’eb Erekat. In addition to Rice, Assistant Secretary of State, David Welch, will be in tow. Berlin is hosting a conference tomorrow to support the Palestinian police and judiciary.

Families of abducted soldiers tell Olmert, Barak: We’ve waited enough
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The families of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers who are being held captive in Lebanon yesterday demanded that the prime minister and defense minister bring a deal for their sons’ release to the cabinet’s approval this week. "We’ve waited long enough. Now that the deal has been drafted and the ministers support it, there is no reason to keep delaying the decision," a representative of the families said. IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hezbollah guerillas in a 2006 raid that sparked the Second Lebanon War. The families have met with ministers over the past few days to persuade them to vote for the deal releasing the abducted soldiers; the deal was drafted by Hezbollah and Ofer Dekel, the prime minister’s representative in the negotiations. The families said that while the ministers supported the deal, most were unfamiliar with the details.

Ex-IDF chief: Sometimes hostages must be sacrificed if ransom is too high
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Amid talk over a possibly imminent prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hezbollah, former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon addressed the topic of prisoner exchanges between Israel and its enemies, saying that sometimes, the ransom paid for Israeli soldiers is much higher than the cost of losing them. "When it comes to the question of a deal, I am one of those people who say that we should give away the minimum of the minimum, and in certain situations I would even say that we should be willing to sacrifice [the hostage] in the face of the price we are asked to pay, because sometimes the price of the ransom is much higher than the cost of losing the hostage," Ya’alon said. The former chief of staff added that "this is a very complex dilemma, and each case should be examined individually. . . "

IDF: Israel may declare two soldiers captured by Hezbollah killed in action
Amos Harel Yuval Azoulay Jack Khoury Barak Ravid and Eli, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The chief military rabbi, Brigadier General Avihai Ronsky, began deliberations on Monday on whether the kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev can be declared killed in action. He will judge based on intelligence information and Jewish law. Sources close to the talks with Hezbollah over a deal to release the two soldiers from Lebanon say the move means the deal is off. The soldiers’ families criticized the move and demanded that Olmert quickly bring the deal to a cabinet vote. Over the past few days, after an agreement with Hezbollah seemed close, a delay ensued for reasons not fully known. But on Monday it became clear that it was Olmert who was holding back and that a process was beginning to declare the two soldiers dead.

Army Chief Rabbi considers declaring the two MIA soldiers as killed in action
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/23/2008
Israeli sources reported on Monday that the Israeli Army Chief Rabi, Brigadier General Avi Ronsky, is currently assessing the fate of the two soldiers, captured by Hezbollah, in order to decide whether the two are alive or to be declared as killed in action with an unknown place of burial. The two soldiers are Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, there were captured by fighters of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah party in July 12, 2006. The Military Rabi received intelligence information and will determine whether to declare the soldiers as MIA or killed in action with an unknown place of burial, Israeli Ynetnews reported. Israeli military sources stated that if the soldiers are declared to be Killed in Action, then the outcome of a prisoner-swap deal would be different as "the price which Israel has to pay for the bodies is lower than the price for captured soldiers who are alive".

Israel threatens to pull out of prisoner exchange deal
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – The German-brokered prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hizbullah, which was expected to be concluded in the next few days, has been postponed, Israeli media sources reported on Monday. Israeli TV analysts are saying that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will call off the exchange deal if Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah insists on the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Sources close to Hizbullah have said that Nasrallah has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners along with the seven Hizbullah prisoners that have been held by Israel since the 2006 33-day war. Olmert’s representative for the return of kidnapped soldiers, Ofer Dekel, who had just returned from Germany confirmed that this latest development was discussed in meetings on Sunday between Olmert and senior officials in the defense establishment.

Hezbollah deal delayed over demand to include Palestinian prisoners
Amos Harel Barak Ravid and Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
The deal between Hezbollah and Israel for the return of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two reservists abducted during a cross-border raid on July 12, 2006, which sparked the Second Lebanon War, will be delayed. In meetings held Sunday between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior officials in the defense establishment, a number of issues were raised that appear to have delayed Israel’s response to the German mediator, Gerhard Konrad. The delay will stall the deal, which until late last week was expected to be finalized in the coming days. Olmert, according to a political source in Jerusalem, is inclined to reject the deal for the prisoner exchange as it is currently framed. Olmert’s stance on the issue of a deal with Hezbollah had been favorable until several days ago, in spite of the troubling issue of the release. . .

IDF rabbi considers declaring Goldwasser, Regev ’killed in action’
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Military rabbi receives relevant intelligence information, to determine whether or not do declare captive soldiers as ’killed in action and whose place of burial is unknown’. Regev’s brother: IDF’s conduct humiliating -IDF Chief Rabbi, Brigadier General Avi Ronsky began the process of assessing the fate of captive IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Ronsky received the relevant intelligence information and will determine whether or not do declare the two soldiers "killed in action whose place of burial is unknown". The chief military is the only one authorized to make such an assertion. Regev and Goldwasser were captured by Hizbullah gunmen during a cross border raid on July 12, 2006.

Moussa perplexed by Lebanon’s latest squabble
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 6/24/2008
BEIRUT: Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said on Monday that rival Lebanese leaders were the only ones to be blamed for the delay in forming a new government. "I feel sorry for how things are turning out in Lebanon ; The delay in forming a new cabinet is reflecting negatively on the security situation," he said, referring to clashes in the North between government and opposition supporters. Moussa expressed surprise over the dispute on distributing the sovereign portfolios in the new cabinet. "I don’t understand why such a dispute should block the formation of a new government," he said. Also Monday, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun accused Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora on of intentionally delaying the formation of the new cabinet. "Siniora is not in a hurry to form the new cabinet despite the fact that the country cannot afford any more delays,". . .

Gulf states picks up half of tab to rebuild Nahr al-Bared
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/24/2008
VIENNA: Four Gulf states will foot around half of the bill to rebuild the Nahr al-bared Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli, destroyed last year during clashes between Islamist militants and the Lebanese Army, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Monday. "The contribution made by. . . Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates - will be about 50 percent and the remainder will be made by the international community," Siniora told a news conference here. Arab and European leaders were meeting in the Austrian capital to raise funds for Nahr al-Bared, which was reduced to rubble during clashes between Islamist militants and the Lebanese army last year. Siniora did not give any concrete figure with regard to the four states’ contribution. His spokesman, Aref al-Abed, told AFP that the countries would meet in Riyadh on July 1 to fix the exact sum.

Lebanese leader appeals for refugee camp funds
Deutsche Presse Agentur - DPA, ReliefWeb 6/23/2008
Vienna_(dpa) _ Lebanese and Palestinian leaders appealed to the international community to fund the reconstruction of a destroyed Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, as a donor conference opened in Vienna on Monday. "We have to rebuild the camp, but also to rebuild relationships between Lebanese and Palestinians," Lebanese premier Fouad Siniora said in his statement. The Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon was largely destroyed in summer of 2007, when Lebanese government units fought extremists of the Fatah al-Islam group who had taken control of the camp. Around 33,000 refugees were evacuated before fighting began. "We cannot afford to bear the additional burdens" of the Palestinian issue, Siniora said in his appeal for international funds to reconstruct a new town for 27,000 refugees, complete with schools, health facilities and UN infrastructure.

Fighting rages in north Lebanon for 2nd day
Reuters, YNetNews 6/23/2008
(Video) Security sources say nine people killed, 50 wounded in clashes in Tripoli. Fighting continues on outskirts of mainly Sunni Muslim port city despite ceasefire agreement between government, gunmen close to Hizbullah-led opposition - VIDEO - Sectarian fighting raged for a second day in north Lebanon on Monday, further denting a Qatari-brokered deal to end the country’s political crisis. Video courtesy on infolive. tv Security sources said nine people had been killed and 50 wounded in the clashes in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city. The fighting, which broke out at dawn on Sunday, continued on the outskirts of the mainly Sunni Muslim port city despite a ceasefire agreement between Sunni supporters of the government and Alawite gunmen close to the

Germany increases assistance for refugees in Lebanon
Government of Germany, ReliefWeb 6/22/2008
An international donor conference on the reconstruction of the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el Bared in Lebanon and the development of the surrounding area in the north of the country will take place in Vienna on 23 June. Minister of State Gloser will attend on behalf of the Federal Government. In May 2007 heavy fighting broke out in the refugee camp between the Lebanese army and the extremist group Fatah al-Islam, which had taken over the camp. Nahr el Bared was destroyed in the clash, leaving 30,000 residents seeking temporary shelter in neighbouring camps and communities. Last year the Federal Government provided over 14 million euro for emergency relief and immediate infrastructure measures. At the donor conference, the Federal Government will pledge a further six million euro, of which four million will come from the budget of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation. . .

Sarkozy to Knesset: Share Jerusalem with Palestinians
Jonathan Lis and Anshel Pfeffer, and Agencies, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday that there could be no Mideast peace unless Israel drops its refusal to cede sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians. Speaking to a packed Knesset plenum at a special session in his honor, Sarkozy called on Israel to put an end to West Bank settlement. But he tempered his address by assuring Israel that it could count on France’s support in halting Iran’s nuclear program. "A nuclear Iran is intolerable," Sarkozy said. "Anyone trying to destroy Israel will find France blocking the way. " He vowed that France would always defend Israel in the face of any existential threat - a direct reference to Iran and its nuclear program, which he called unacceptable. Amid applause from the assembled politicians, judicial leaders and assorted dignitaries, Sarkozy. . .

French envoys working to ease Syria tension
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The U. S. and France have agreed to try to lessen Syria’s political isolation in the hope that this will undermine its ties with Iran, French diplomats recently told their Israeli counterparts. As part of the strategy, two senior aides of French President Nicolas Sarkozy have visited Damascus to end a feud that lasted for months over Syria’s involvement in Lebanese politics. In addition, Syrian President Bashar Assad is expected to visit Paris for the creation of the Mediterranean Union next month, and Sarkozy has announced that he plans to visit Damascus soon. French sources added, however, that the West’s relations with Damascus are expected to remain strained as long as George W. Bush is U. S. president. Regarding the Shaba Farms, France has urged Israel to withdraw to ease tensions in Lebanon.

Israel keeps tabs on French nuclear deals with Arab world
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Israel is following with interest the closer nuclear ties France is forging with the Arab world. The Foreign Ministry has declined to go on the record on the issue, but ministry officials say that though they are concerned about the matter, they do not oppose it. They say it is better for Israel that France is supplying nuclear technology to Arab countries and not less friendly nations such as Russia or China. Last Saturday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon signed a cooperation agreement on nuclear issues with his Algerian counterpart while touring the North African country. Algeria has been suspected in the past of conducting a nuclear project for military purposes. France is also in close contact on this subject with other North African and Arab countries, as well as states in the Persian Gulf.

Sarkozy urges Israel to share sovereignty over Jerusalem
The Guardian 6/23/2008
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy told Israel today to share sovereignty over Jerusalem with the Palestinians and to stop building settlements in the occupied territories. In an address to the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, Sarkozy also promised France’s support in helping to halt Iran’s nuclear programme and he praised Israel’s democracy, comments for which he won applause. However, he also spoke strongly about what he expected of Israel as part of the peace process with the Palestinians. "There cannot be peace without an immediate and complete halt to settlement," he said. "There cannot be peace without recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of two states and the guarantee of free access to the holy places for all religions. Although his comments do not mark a change in French policy towards the Middle East, they were nonetheless unusually frank for a Knesset address and went a long way further than a similar speech at the Israeli parliament last month by the US president, George Bush.

Ramon urges cabinet to discuss evacuation-compensation bill
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Vice premier ’happy to learn’ of France’s support of bill, says time has come for matter to be settled. ’Government morally bound to enable those who want to evacuate to do so,’ he says -Vice Premier Haim Ramon welcomed French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s unexpected support of the evacuation-compensation bill on Monday. "I was happy to learn that the idea of voluntary evacuation was supported by the intended president of the European Union," said Ramon. "It is time the government gave it some serious discussion. "According to Ramon, "Many of those living beyond the (security) fence are willing to leave voluntary. The fence has created a reality, which in the future would mean that Israel will no longer exercise its sovereignty on its east side. The Israeli government is morally bound to enable anyone living east of the fence and wanting to evacuate to do so. "

French interior minister visits Al-Aqsa, pays respects to Faisal Al-Husseini
Ma’an News Agency 6/23/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – French Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie visited the Haram Al-Sharif in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday evening, and laid a wreath at the grave of the late Palestinian political leader Faisal Al-Husseini. Alliot-Marie was received by Al-Husseini’s children, Abdul-Qadir and Fadwa, the General Director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein. The French minister entered and left the Old City through the Lion’s Gate, a lesser-used entrance that links the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to Palestinian East Jerusalem. A longtime leader in the PLO and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, Faisal Al-Husseini headed the Palestinian delegation to the historic Madrid peace conference in 1991 and later became minister of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian Authority.

Sarkozy says no peace without resolution of refugee plight
Khalid Amayreh in East Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, Monday,  drew ambivalent reactions from Israeli leaders and political parties. Israeli government officials, including  Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, applauded Sarkozy for voicing  commitment to the security of the Zionist state and especially for his  strong words against the Iranian nuclear program. Speaking at a special session of the Knesset in his honor, Sarkozy said a nuclear Iran would be intolerable. "Anyone trying to destroy Israel will find France blocking the way. "  Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East with a stockpile of more than 200 nuclear bombs and warheads. Predominantly Muslim nations in the Middle East and beyond view Israel’s nuclear weapons as constituting  a direct strategic threat to the region.

Carla Bruni steals the limelight during Sarkozys’ Israeli visit
AP, The Guardian 6/23/2008
In his first presidential visit to Israel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said Israeli-Palestinian peace is immediately attainable, talked tough against Iran’s nuclear program and delivered an address to parliament. But nobody has seemed to notice. Instead, most of Israel’s attention has been showered on Sarkozy’s wife, the model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The front pages of today’s newspapers were filled with pictures of a smiling Bruni-Sarkozy overshadowing her husband. In Ha’aretz, a close-up of Bruni-Sarkozy, taken upon the first couple’s arrival yesterday at Israel’s international airport, dominated the front page. Sarkozy and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, meekly appeared in the background. The front pages of today’s newspapers were filled with pictures of a smiling Bruni-Sarkozy overshadowing her husband.

Olmert due in Egypt for talks on soldier held in Gaza Strip
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/24/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert was scheduled to visit Egypt on Tuesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak focused on the Gaza truce and Cairo’s efforts to mediate a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas. The meeting in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh was announced by Olmert’s office just hours after the Egyptian-mediated cease-fire in the Gaza Strip took hold last Thursday after months of bloodshed. Both sides have since observed the truce as Palestinian militants halted all rocket fire at the south of Israel, which in turn ended its raids across Gaza and started easing its punishing blockade on the territory. Egypt played a key role in the talks as Israel rejects direct contact with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which it blacklists as a terrorist group. The deal earned Olmert heavy domestic criticism for not making the truce conditional. . .

High Court rejects Shalit family bid to keep Gaza crossings shut
Tomer Zarchin and Amos Harel , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The High Court of Justice on Monday rejected a legal bid the parents of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to keep the Gaza-Israel crossings closed. The family was seeking to halt the reopening of the crossings on the grounds that the release of their son was not part of last week’s cease-fire agremment with Gaza rulers Hamas. Defense officials said in advance of the ruling that they believed the court would opt not to interfer with the government’s plans. Upon reviewing the petition Sunday, the court ordered the state to keep the border crossings to Gaza closed until noon Monday. The temporary injunction was issued to give the government time to clarify the terms of the Gaza cease-fire. The petition - filed against the State of Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister. . .

State replies to Shalit’s petition against lull; family refuses to pull plea
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Prosecutor’s Office tells High Court Defense Ministry will keep kidnapped soldier’s family up-to-date on progress in talks for his release. Family deems reply insufficient, refuses to pull petition -The State Prosecutor’s Office filed on Monday its response to kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s family’s High Courtpetition against the Gaza ceasefire. The family filed a motion demanding the court order the State to halt opening the Gaza crossings until such time their son is returned, or they receive concrete assurances that his release in imminent. "In accordance to the High Court’s order, head of the Defense Ministry’s Security-Diplomatic Bureau Major-General Amos Gilad (Res. ), met with Noam Shalit on Sunday. The meeting was two hours long and at its conclusion, Maj. -Gen. Gilad promised to periodically brief the Shalit’s on any developments made in their son’s case," said the State in its response.

State to High Court: Impeding ceasefire can be disastrous
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 6/23/2008
’There is no room for court to intervene in cabinet’s decision on truce with armed groups in Gaza,’ State rep says during hearing on Shalit family petition against ceasefire -"Any delay of the ceasefire arrangements can be disastrous; therefore, we believe that there is no room for the court to intervene in the cabinet’s decision," the State’s representative said during the High Court’s hearing on thepetition filed by the family of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. During the hearing, the State representative said that the cabinet’s decision to reach a truce with armed Palestinian groups in Gaza was lawfully made. "The ministers knew what they were voting on; the information was presented to them in full," she said, adding that "there is concern that if the State doesn’t uphold the cabinet’s decision, the other side will not adhere to what it agreed to.

Jordanian committee urges Mishaal to include their detainees in swap deal
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
 AMMAN, (PIC)-- Rapporteur of the Jordanian national committee on prisoners in Israeli jails and missing in action Maisara Malas called on Khaled Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, in a letter to include all imprisoned and missing Jordanians in any prisoner swap deal concluded with the Israeli occupation. The letter addressed on Saturday stressed that the national committee and the prisoners’ families hope that Hamas would include Jordanian prisoners in any forthcoming prisoner exchange deal. The letter enclosed the names of 28 Jordanian prisoners and 25 missing persons. In another context, the wife of prisoner Fakhri Al-Barghouthi appealed in a telephone conversation with the Ahrar center for prisoner studies to the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance to include the name of her husband who has been in Israeli jails for 30 years in any prisoner swap deal.

Shalit’s parents fight Gaza truce, step up public campaign
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Noam Shalit, the father of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, tends to serve as the public face for the campaign to secure his son’s release. But after it became clear that a cease-fire agreement in Gaza, which went into effect last week, didn’t include Gilad, the soldier’s mother sat for an interview in an effort to step up the struggle for her son’s release. I n the framework of that effort, the Shalit family petitioned the High Court of Justice to learn why Gilad was left out of the Egyptian-brokered agreement. In the hearing, they released a letter written by their son, which they received roughly two weeks ago. 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 ’We have no ray of light’

Shalit deal stuck on 100 prisoners demanded by Hamas
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
The High Court of Justice is set Monday to rule on a petition by the parents of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. The Shalits hope to prevent the government from opening the crossings into the Gaza Strip. Defense officials say they believe the court will opt against interfering with the government’s plans. Reporting on the talks for the soldier’s release, the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam reported meanwhile that the current snag in negotiations concerns 100 Palestinian prisoners whose release Hamas is demanding. Israel has reportedly agreed with Hamas on the number of prisoners to be released, but not their identity. The dispute, according to Al-Ayam, concerns 100 of the 350 prisoners that Israel is expected to release in the first phase of the deal.

U.S. weighs opening interest section in Tehran
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The Bush administration is considering setting up a diplomatic outpost in Iran in what would mark a dramatic official U. S. return to the country almost 30 years after the American embassy was overrun and the two nations severed relations. Even as it threatens the Iranian regime with sanctions and does not rule out military action over its nuclear program, the administration is floating the idea of opening a U. S. interests section in Tehran similar to the one the State Department runs in Havana, diplomatic and political officials toldon Monday. Like the one in communist Cuba, an interest section, or de facto embassy, in the Iranian capital would give the United States a presence on the ground through which it could communicate directly with students, dissidents and others without endorsing the government, one official said.

Ahmadinejad target of Italy murder plot, aide says
AFP, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Fars news agency quotes advisor as saying Iranian president was the target of an assassination plot at the UN food summit in Rome earlier this month, as well as on his trip to Iraq in March. ’Plots in line with order given by Bush to kill Iranian leaders,’ he says -Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the target of an assassination plot at the UN food summit in Rome earlier this month, as well as on his trip to Iraq in March, an aide said on Monday. Ahmadinejad last week himself revealed the purported Iraq murder plot -- an announcement greeted with cynicism in some sections of the local press -- but this is the first time a conspiracy has been linked to his Italy trip. "The actions of the president over the three previous years have endangered the illegitimate interests of many people in Iran and outside," said Ali Zabihi, according to the Fars news agency.

Olmert asks Sela about striking Iran’s nuclear reactor
Palestinian Information Center 6/23/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM- Informed Israeli sources revealed that premier Ehud Olmert met last Friday with former air force officer Aviam Sela, the architect of the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in June 1981, to listen to his opinion about carrying out a similar attack on Iran. The importance of Olmert-Sila meeting emerged following the news which revealed that Israel carried out a large military drill in the Greek island of Crete designed to simulate an attack against nuclear installations in Iran. For his part, Ma’ariv columnist Amir Rappaport opined that the statements made recently by US presidential candidate Barack Obama that Israel has the right to defend itself against Iran left the impression that Israel would attack Iran without receiving any help from US. Rappaport warned that making the Iranian nuclear program a mere Israeli problem is a serious development. . .

EU states agree new sanctions on Iran
Reuters, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Fresh sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to meet demands to curb nuclear include asset freeze on its biggest bank, but EU says door remains open to possible talks over international package of incentives - European Union states agreed on Monday to impose new sanctions against Iran, including an asset freeze on its biggest bank, over its refusal to meet demands to curb its nuclear program. However the EU said the door remained open to possible talks over an international package of incentives for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment delivered to Tehran earlier this month by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The new sanctions, coordinated with the United States at a summit earlier this month, will target businesses and individuals that the West alleges are linked to Iranian nuclear and ballistic programs, an EU official said.

Iran says Israel not capable of threatening it
Reuters, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Tehran official says Jewish state’s threats to attack Islamic republic rooted in ’number of domestic crises,’ warns any attack will meet ’devastating response’ -Iran said on Monday thatIsrael cannot threaten it, a few days after a US newspaper reported that Israel’s air force had apparently rehearsed a potential bombing raid of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran and Israel have engaged in a sharp exchange of words this month over suspicions Tehran is looking to develop nuclear weapons, helping to push global oil prices higher. Practice Makes PerfectIsraeli source: IAF drill a ’dress rehearsal’ for attack on Iran/ Ynet Political official, described as familiar with military exercise held earlier this month, tells The Times ’Iranians should read the script before they continue with their program for nuclear weapons.

Official in Tehran: Israel is incapable of threatening Iran
Reuters, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Iran said on Monday Israel could not threaten it, a few days after a U. S. newspaper reported that Israel’s air force had apparently rehearsed a potential bombing raid of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran and Israel have engaged in a sharp exchange of words this month over suspicions Tehran is looking to develop nuclear weapons, helping to push global oil prices higher. "They do not have the capacity to threaten the Islamic Republic of Iran," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference. He was asked about a New York Times report on Friday that quoted U. S. officials as saying Israeli jets conducted a long-range Mediterranean exercise this month that appeared to be a practice for a mission against Iran. "They (Israel) have a number of domestic crises and they want to extrapolate it to cover others. . . "

Nuclear Iran unacceptable, Sarkozy tells Knesset
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 6/23/2008
"France will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel against anyone who calls for its destruction. " President of France Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni arrived at the Knesset today where he spoke before the plenum. Speaking in French, Sarkozy said that France would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel against anyone who called for its destruction. "Israel is not alone. France is Israel’s friend, and it will always stand alongside it when its security and existence are threatened. Those who scandalously call for the destruction of Israel will always - always - find France blocking their way," he said. Sarkozy continued, "Iran’s nuclear program requires a determined response by the international community. I say in the clearest way possible that, as far as France is concerned, a nuclear Iran is completely unacceptable.

Sarkozy: Israel not alone against Iran
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 6/23/2008
(Video) French president arrives at Israeli parliament, accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni. During special session, he says ’those who scandalously call for Israel’s destruction will always be faced and blocked by France. ’ Knesset Speaker Itzik warns, ’The nuclear facility being built in Iran, and the Islamic terror in Europe and worldwide, will also reach Paris’ -VIDEO - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni arrived Monday at the Knesset, where a festive reception was held in their honor. Video courtesy on infolive. tv In a sympathetic address at the Knesset plenum, the French president vowed is country would always stand byIsrael against those who call for its destruction. "Iran’s nuclear program requires a firm response on the part of the international community.

State, employers and Histadrut reach new deal on manpower workers’ rights
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Businesses commissioning services from a human resources agency, such as security guards or cleaners, will have to pay the workers’ salaries if the agency defaults, according to an agreement reached between Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Eli Yishai, employers’ organizations and the Histadrut labor federation. The Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry hopes the agreement, to be translated into an amended bill - the first protecting the rights of manpower workers, the weakest of the country’s employees - will satisfy social rights groups and MKs who had opposed an earlier version of the bill. "These are the last concessions we are going to get from the employers," Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry legal counsel Michael Atlan said. The cabinet-proposed bill was to have been based on agreements reached last year between employers and the government, and employers and the Histadrut to protect human-resource agency workers.

New dam planned as Kinneret water level drops
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Just how dire the state of Lake Kinneret is may be gleaned from the decision reached in recent days by the Mekorot water corporation to build a new dam at the point where the Jordan River emerges from the lake. Mekorot is worried that toward the end of the summer, the Kinneret’s level will be so low that water will not reach the pumps stationed near the Deganya dam, leaving consumers in the area high and dry. The pumps in question are big, and capable of drawing up to 5,000 cubic meters per hour. The water is intended for some of the Jordan Valley communities, and nearly 50 million cubic meters of it are transferred to Jordan under the peace treaty with Israel. Some water is drawn in the winter from the Yarmuk River, "stored" in Lake Kinneret, and returned to the Jordanians during the summer.

Fischer reacts to inflation with rate hike
Moti Bassok Sharon Shpurer and Nathan Sheva, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Israeli interest rates for July will rise by 0. 25% to 3. 75%, the Bank of Israel announced Monday night. The rate hike had been exactly as expected across the board. "The rate hike was designed to show that the Bank of Israel is doing something to fight inflation and restore confidence in the bank," said Eyal Klein, the chief strategist at Tel Aviv-based investments firm I. B. I. Meanwhile, however, the retail banks are raising the interest they charge on credit by more than the central bank rate hikes, evidently to compensate themselves for an anticipated (and involuntary) cut in fees. Discount Bank widened its spreads yesterday, a month after banks Mizrahi and Hapoalim. Discount’s maximal margins widen to 0. 6% to 1. 35% for corporate clients (depending on the fee type), and 1.

Minister warns of devastating earthquake risk
Lilach Weissman and Lior Baron, Globes Online 6/23/2008
Since February the region has been experiencing unusual seismic activity. Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has warned that the recent seismic activity in Lebanon could be a signal that Israel is about to be hit by a devastating earthquake. Speaking at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Ben-Eliezer briefed ministers on the tremors that have affected South Lebanon in recent weeks, and said that since February the region had been experiencing irregular seismic activity in an area ten to 15 kilometers west of Metula and Kiryat Shmona, and 20 kilometers east of the Lebanese city of Tyre. "The seismic history of South Lebanon is similar to the earthquake in 1956 which registered 6 on the Richter scale, and which caused 160 fatalities and damage to 6,000 buildings," said Ben-Eliezer, adding that until 2008, seismic activity in the region was minimal, and that since. . .

20 arrests in Palestinian fuel affair
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 6/23/2008
The suspects are alleged to have evaded tax by buying fuel in the Palestinian Authority and selling it in Israel. Israel Police detectives and Israel Tax Authority investigators this morning arrested 20 people on suspicion of tax evasion amounting to tens of millions of shekels. Investigators believe they used the well-known method of buying fuel in the Palestinian Authority and selling it in Israel, using counterfeit invoices. The suspects were detained in raids carried out by 260 detectives from the Police National Economic Crimes Unit and other units, and by 80 investigators from the Tax Authority Customs and VAT investigations division in Tel Aviv, following an undercover inquiry lasting more than a year. Searches were carried out at 40 homes across Israel, where investigators seized substantial a quantity of documents, accounting paperwork and computers.

Barak ignores Olmert threat, vows Labor will vote to dissolve Knesset
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak said yesterday 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 ministers who 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 this afternoon to vote on Barak’s decision. Labor ministers Yuli Tamir are Ghaleb Majadele are leading the fight against Barak. Other Laborites who oppose the move include MKs Amir Peretz and Nadia Hilou. Tamir said yesterday 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.

Labor Party to support disbanding the Knesset
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The government coalition is expected to collapse tomorrow if the Labor Party votes to disband the Knesset, as it announced yesterday. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed to fire Labor ministers immediately after the vote, ending the ruling partnership between Kadima and Labor. Olmert’s associates slammed Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "Barak is sabotaging moves of national importance because of his own political interests," one associate said. "Everything is tricks with him. He’s creating an opposition within the coalition. "The associate said that in these circumstances Olmert prefers elections over "national paralysis. We don’t need such a partner. " Barak’s associates dismissed these charges and said Olmert had been a full partner in formulating the truce deal. One of Barak’s aides said the cease-fire had been reached at the recommendation of the most. . .

PM seeks to redefine Israel-Diaspora relations
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
In his address yesterday to the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for a dramatic change in the financial relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, arguing that the "situation in which Diaspora Jews are the philanthropists and Israel is the recipient cannot continue. " As a result, the Agency will form a new steering committee for the preparation of a plan for the implementation of the government’s new policy vis-a-vis the Diaspora, as presented by Olmert in his speech. Today, the board will convene to discuss the subject of coordination between the Agency’s leadership and the cabinet, as well as to appoint the new steering committee, whose plan of action is intended to be brought before the governors next year. The prime minister went on to say that Diaspora Jews have nurtured Israel over the last 60 years, and that for the next six. . .

Labour backs dissolution bill to force Olmert out
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 6/24/2008
Israel’s Labour Party yesterday took a first step towards backing a bill to dissolve parliament in a move designed to increase the pressure on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign in response to corruption allegations. On the face of it, the decision puts Labour’s leader Ehud Barak on a collision course with Mr Olmert, who has threatened to sack ministers in his party who vote for the bill tomorrow. But Mr Barak has also left himself some room for manoeuvre. The bill requires three successive votes to be implemented and the Labour leader also said the party would have to reconsider if the ultra-orthodox party Shas does not also vote for dissolution. Shas, whose religious adherents traditionally have large families, is pressing for an increase in child allowances as a price of remaining in the coalition. Mr Barak’s tactic is aimed at forcing a leadership contest within Kadima. . .

Olmert considers resigning in coming days, aides say
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 6/24/2008
Aides say PM will hand in resignation to president in case Knesset dissolution bill approved in Wednesday’s vote. ’If motion passes and ministers are fired, Israel will have a minority government that would not be able to function and would be considered a joke,’ associate says -Prime Minster Ehud Olmert is considering handing in his resignation toPresident Shimon Peres in the coming days should the motion calling for the Knesset’s dissolution pass a preliminary vote on Wednesday, sources in the PM’s Office told Ynet Monday night. According to the sources, Olmert has yet to consult with his advisors on the issue, but his associates have already examined the possible outcomes of such a move and are expected to present their position to the prime minister. Last Days of KnessetLabor decides to back Knesset dissolution/ Party members adopt. . .

Olmert’s calculations
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Ehud Olmert will fire the Labor ministers - or not. Shas will develop cold feet at the last minute in exchange for a fistful of child allowances - or not. A few rebels and infiltrators from here and there will nibble away at the guaranteed majority for dissolving the Knesset - or maybe not. What does it really matter? The maneuvering and meddling that are keeping the Knesset busy are no more than the last gasps of a dying man. Let’s say, for example, the prime minister is saved in tomorrow’s preliminary vote on dissolving the Knesset. Will this government be able to function when its senior ministers are not speaking to the prime minister? Can this coalition survive when it is constantly embarrassed in the Knesset plenum? The Labor faction decided yesterday to support the bill for dissolving the Knesset. The pale faces of senior MKs and ministers told the whole story.

Olmert’s silence speaks volumes
Ze''ev Segal, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
The new argument being promulgated by the prime minister’s advisers can be summarized by the words "wants to but can’t. ""I want to" is what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann when he asked the premier to publicly respond to the accusations against him. "But," said Olmert, "my lawyers tell me that this is liable to be considered obstruction of justice. " Friedmann checked the matter with an "authorized legal source," who said the prime minister can make a public statement on the condition that it is first vetted by the legal establishment, Yossi Verter reported in Haaretz. In light of this, Olmert decided to remain silent because he was prohibited from putting forth his statement as he sees fit, according to the report. It is difficult to accept the description of the prime minister’s hands being tied as his lawyers and the. . .

PM fails to budge Shas in vote on dispersing Knesset
Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Shas yesterday rejected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of benefits totaling NIS 1. 5 billion in exchange for not voting in favor of a bill to disperse the Knesset, whose preliminary reading is tomorrow. After Labor’s decision yesterday to support the bill, the balance of power indicates that the bill could pass by a majority of 70 MKs, making Shas the decisive vote. Olmert, with the assistance of Vice Premier Haim Ramon, is pressuring Shas leaders to stop the move to dissolve the House. Olmert held a lengthy meeting yesterday with Shas’ chairman, Industry Trade and Employment Minister Eli Yishai, proposing a benefits package for the poor to counter Shas’ demand for child allowances to be increased in exchange for its opposing vote on the Knesset bill. Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said yesterday he would resign if child allowances were increased.

Olmert courts Shas ahead of dissolution vote
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 6/23/2008
Prime minister tries tempting religious party with NIS 1. 5 billion in attempt to prevent approval of Knesset dissolution bill - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Monday evening withShas Chairman Eli Yishai in order to try and pursuade the religious party not to vote in favor of the Knesset dissolution bill this coming Wednesday. Olmert met with Yishai to discuss Shas’ demand to enhance child welfare payments. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On expressed his opposition to the increase in the stipends and for this reason the prime minister suggested an alternative to their demands in exchange for their support. Still, Yishai rejected Olmert’s proposal of registering the gains under Shas. Senior Kadima officials said that Olmert presented Shas with generous offers amounting to NIS 1. 5 billion (approximately $445 million) in compensation for their backing.

Labor MKs vote in favor of backing bill to dissolve Knesset
Mazal Mualem , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Lawmakers from the Labor Party decided Monday afternoon to cast a yes vote during the preliminary reading of a bill Wednesday to disperse the Knesset, in line with a pledge by party leader Ehud Barak. Barak made the call Sunday, despite Prime MinisterEhud Olmert’s threat to dismiss Labor ministers who vote in favor, as well as opposition to the move from Labor MKs. The Labor leader last month demanded that Olmert step aside in light of a corruption investigation against him. Barak gave Olmert until June 25 to step aside, or face the dissolution of the Knesset. Party 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.

Police off to U.S. to quiz Olmert’s son, others in corruption probe
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
Police say Israeli investigators have left for the U. S. to question people in connection with the corruption probe involving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The premier’s son, Shaul Olmert, is also expected to face questioning, Israel Radio reported Monday. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says the investigators flew to the U. S. on Monday and are expected to be there about two weeks. He had no further details. But Israel Radio reported that the officers will conduct inquiries at offices, banks and hotels in New York, Washington and Las Vegas. The key witness in the case is Jewish American businessman Morris Talansky. He has testified to giving the Israeli leader hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. No charges have been filed yet in the case, and Olmert denies wrongdoing.

Beijing 2008 / Israel sending 38 athletes to Olympics
Rami Hipsh, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
Guy Starik yesterday became the 38th athlete who - assuming that nothing untoward happens between now and August 8 - will represent Israel at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The veteran marksman was awarded an honorary place at the Games by the International Practical Shooting Confederation, thanks to his remarkable achievement at the Grand Prix event in Munich last month - where he scored a world-record 600 points. As a result, Starik was given a ticket to the 2008 Games - which will be his fourth in total. The total number of Israelis participating in the Beijing Games could drop to 37, however, if long jumper Niki Palli fails to meet the 2. 27 meter criteria by the end of the Israeli Championships, which will be held in Hadar Yosef next month. Palli was given a place in the Israeli Olympic roster thanks to his achievements in the youth category, but last weekend only managed to record a score of 2.

Poll: 77% of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world
Bradley Burston, Ha’aretz 6/24/2008
A recent opinion poll conducted by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found that 77 percent of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world. The survey of 1,721 Israelis, both Arab and Jewish, also showed that 73 percent of the Jews and 94 percent of the Arabs want Israel to "be a society in which Arab and Jewish citizens have mutual respect and equal opportunities. " The Kennedy School said in a statement that the poll produced a number of results it termed surprising, pointing to a higher level of co-existence than might have been anticipated. The research comes at a period of simmering tensions in some sectors of the Arab-Jewish divide within Israel. The release of the poll coincided with celebrations, accompanied by widespread Israeli Arab boycotts, of the 60th anniversary of the state’s declaration of independence.

Community art
Tamar Rotem, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
No one expects to see tents pitched in front of an art gallery. But the "Station of Contemporary Art" that Bezalel Academy of Art and Design students erected in Ramle of all places strives to surprise. And that appears to be somewhat reasonable when one considers that a provocative artist like David Vekshtein, who is fond of addressing subjects like the Holocaust, is the project’s director. German students were invited to "Camp Ramle," a week-long marathon of art work in galleries that took place last week at the Station of Contemporary Art. They slept in field conditions together with Vekshtein’s Arab and Jewish students. Some of the guests, art students from Bauhaus University Weimar in Germany, were not even aware of the associations with the Holocaust invoked by the marathon’s title - until the middle of last week.

Cartoon of the day
Mariali, Palestine Think Tank 6/23/2008


No Defense: Soldier Violence against Palestinian Detainees
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI, Palestine Monitor 6/22/2008
      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 been arrested, bound, and no longer present a danger to the soldiers. Abuse occurs at various junctions - immediately following arrest, in the vehicle transporting the detainees, and during the time they are held in IDF military camps prior to their transfer to interrogation and detention facilities. At times abusive practices involve dogs that are employed by the military forces during arrest operations and transported in vehicles along with Palestinian detainees. On certain occasions, the ill treatment of Palestinian detainees is highly violent resulting in serious injury. At other times, abuse manifests itself in a routine of beating, degradation and additional abuse. Minors, who must be granted special protection under both Israeli and International Law, are also victims of abuse. The soldiers who carry out arrests do not treat minors with special care and at times - as revealed by various testimonies - exploit their weakness.

’To place a flower on the grave after 60 years’

Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/23/2008
      Salwa Salaam-Kubati will celebrate her 60th birthday at the end of next month. As a birthday gift, she would like one wish to come true: to be able to visit the grave of her father, in what was once a Christian cemetery in the village of Malul. On the ruins of the village, next to Nazareth, the Israel Defense Forces set up a military base.
     Kubati, who is a social worker for the city of Nazareth, never had the chance to know her father, Fares Salaam, nor has she ever visited his grave. A train engineeer during the time of the British Mandate, Salaam was murdered in 1948, while her mother was pregnant with her.
     "On March 24, 1948, my father was on his way to work in Haifaú in a bus from Nazareth," says Kubati, as she takes a picture of her father from her purse, the only memento she has of him. "When the bus was near Kiryat Tivon, Jews opened fire at it. My dad and one other passenger were killed and several people were wounded."
     "My mother was near the end of her pregnancy, and I am sure that as a fetus in the womb I felt that trauma and heard her screams when they brought the body to our home," she says. Her father was buried in the Christian cemetery of his village, "close to the grave of my cousin who had been killed a few months prior to that," she adds.

Stolen days in Israel

Stolen Words Stolen Days blog, International Solidarity Movement 6/23/2008
      I never anticipated these problems. I asked so many people, so many questions. When I entered Israel I thought I might be questioned because of my name but not what ended up happening. When I approached the non-Israel passport stand, the woman asked me my father’s name, probably because I was born in Iran that questions started coming. When I said Mohammad Reza I was pretty sure I would be questioned further. She asked me my grandfather’s name, I didn’t know, I didn’t have relations with him. She told me to stand on the side of the counter. I waited. Then I was taken to an office to be questioned. They asked me why I was coming there, where I was coming from, what I was doing there, who I knew here, how I knew them, did I have family here, what I studied, where I studied, my contact info, my friends’ contact info. Then I was asked to wait in this room. I was then questioned again, this time more aggressively. The woman again asked me the same questions, asked me about my flights, then she saw my papers, some of my papers were about volunteering in Nablus. The woman accused me of lying, saying I wanted to volunteer instead of sight see or visit friends. She wanted me to log into my email so she could go through it because she didn’t believe me and said since I emailed my friend that she wanted to see. I refused, saying I couldn’t “as an American.” This meant nothing here.
     You mean nothing here. This was then followed by her taking my papers then me waiting more. Then I was taken to find my bag, they then went through all my things, x-rayed them, wiped them down for explosives, everything. They kept questioning me, the same questions, different people. Emptied my bags, excavated them. I was padded down, or frisked as well. They also x-rayed my jacket and shoes. Then after this humiliation I was made to wait again. I was told I wasn’t getting into Israel. I asked them why and the woman said that I lied, when I asked what I lied about she just told me to sit in the room. There’s a high arrogance about them. As if I was being let into the Garden of Eden or something. They are also extremely ignorant. For people with such official positions, I feel they barely had a high school degree. The women at the passport counters just looked like housewives. It is like a military state, where everyone has to run it, with no training except to intimidate and be aggressive. My mistake is to assume good, being naïve, being honest and open.

A window into Gaza

Simon Allison, Asia Times 6/24/2008
      JERUSALEM - Sometimes, the devil’s in the details. And sometimes, when the Israeli security forces make you practice shot put in an X-ray machine rather than cross into Gaza, the smallest details are all there is to work with.
     Erez border crossing, a modern steel and glass construction, a jewel set in the northern part of the long, grey concrete wall between Israel and Gaza, is the principal Israeli crossing point for people going to and from Gaza, and has been closed for more than a year. On Sunday, it opened for business again, as part of Israel’s ceasefire agreement last Thursday with Hamas, reached after several months of three-way talks between Israeli officials, Palestinian delegations and Egyptian mediators.
     But the crossing is not open for much business. The list of people given permission to leave Israel from this point is very select: diplomats, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists who have been through the 15-day screening process to receive an Israeli press card. I was not among this distinguished company, but I thought I would try my luck anyway, along with a couple of other journalists without the necessary paperwork, or the patience to wait more than two weeks for the right document.

Nobody’s Perfect but they are Still Human

Yasmin Abou-Amer, MIFTAH 6/23/2008
      This weekend, I spent a lot of time travelling around Palestine, which inevitably meant having to cross through many of the Israeli-manned checkpoints scattered throughout the West Bank.I was travelling on public transport, sharing the bus with predominantly Palestinians.Being a British citizen, however, means that, unlike the Palestinians, I do not have to get down and walk through the checkpoint terminals.The Qalandia checkpoint, serving as a border between the West Bank town of Ramallah and Jerusalem, is perhaps one of the most glaring examples of the separative manner of the Israeli army.
     Once the bus arrives at the checkpoint, any Palestinians who have a permit to travel to Jerusalem or possess a Jerusalem ID but are under 60 years of age, must alight from the bus and walk through hostile and uninviting metal turnstiles whereby the soldiers sitting behind the reinforced glass windows check the validity of their passes. Of course, this could easily be done if all the passengers remained on the bus.Certainly, the Israelis offer the timeless pretext of “security reason” for having to ask Palestinians to leave the bus and go through the terminal.However, it is actually purely for political reasons; surely if security is that much of an issue, everybody, regardless of their nationality or age, would be required to get off the bus.After all, terrorism is surely not confined to Palestinians under the age of 65, in possession of a Jerusalem ID or a travel permit.If security was truly the priority, every person on the bus would get down to go through the terminal and have their luggage scanned.

All Quiet on the Gaza Front

Uri Avnery, MIFTAH 6/23/2008
      AND SUDDENLY: quiet. No Qassams. No mortar shells. The tanks are not rolling. The aircraft are not bombing.
     In Sderot, sighs of relief. Children venture out. Inhabitants who have exiled themselves to other towns return home.
     And the reaction? An outburst of jubilation? Dancing in the streets? Applause for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense, who at long last have come to their senses?
     Not at all. The expression on the nation’s face is a grimace of disgust. What kind of thing is that? Where is our victorious army?
     The people of Sderot are really angry. OK, so there are no Qassams, but this was supposed to happen only after the army had entered Gaza and wiped it out.
     Haaretz headed its front page with the mendacious headline: "Israel pays with deeds - and gets promises".
     "It’s fragile," Ehud Olmert soothes us, it can come to an end any minute. And the other Ehud, Barak, who pushed for the cease-fire, has an excuse: we have to go through the motions before starting the Big Operation in Gaza. For the sake of Israeli and international public opinion.

Breathing Space

Safwat Kahlout, MIFTAH 6/23/2008
      Ever since Hamas won an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections in 2006, Palestinians have been paying the price for practicing democracy.
     From the beginning, the international community refused to deal with the result of the elections and preferred to treat them as an atonal interlude in the international political symphony. Instead of engaging Hamas, the international community imposed the three well-known Quartet conditions that Hamas, for equally well-worn reasons, rejected.
     Accordingly, international financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority stopped and along with it ended the salaries of state employees. Public sector employee salaries are the engine of the Palestinian economy and as they ended, others felt the knock-on effect and unemployment and poverty rose.
     At the time it was felt that that was as bad as it was going to get, but after Hamas ousted Fateh-affiliated security forces in Gaza, people here discovered that it could get a whole lot worse.

Divide and Conquer

Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 6/23/2008
      The ceasefire agreement that was reached between Israel and the Hamas leadership through Egyptian mediation and that has been observed successfully by the two parties since Thursday marks a very significant development with potentially far reaching consequences.
     The fact of the agreement spurned a lot of contradicting reactions and analysis mainly because Israel has always expressed a principled position that it will not deal with "terrorists". Secondly, on previous occasions the several ceasefire arrangements that were reached in the past under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority were always unilateral and were never recognized or even acknowledged by Israel.
     Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the agreement is thus the fact that Israel was able to reach such an agreement with Hamas over Gaza-related issues while it hasn’t been possible to reach any kind of agreement on anything with the PA over West Bank-related issues. That includes political issues that are being negotiated between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Chief Negotiator Ahmed Qureia on the Palestinian side and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the Israeli, with extensive mediation from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It also includes the practical day-to-day economic and security issues that are being dealt with by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with extensive mediation and facilitation by the Quartet’s envoy Tony Blair.

Our vision for peace in the Middle East

Miguel Angel Moratinos, Daily Star 6/24/2008
      I just returned from accompanying His Majesty the King of Spain on his tour of several Gulf countries, and I was recently in Lebanon for the election of its new president. I also just made a brief visit to Syria. The week before, I had traveled to Egypt and also to Israel, where I spoke with the Israelis and the Palestinians.
     In all of these places, I have been able to confirm my impression that in this spring of 2008, the Middle East has entered a new phase, when, for the first time in a long time, our reasons for hope can prevail over the shadows that - let us not forget - still hang over the peoples of this region. Everything seems to indicate that we are witnessing the birth of a new paradigm.
     A string of major advances has occurred these days. Lebanon has elected, by consensus, President Michel Sleiman, and I believe that he is a figure capable, with the help of all the other political forces, of bringing the Lebanese people together around a common project. The agreement was reached in Doha, resulting from the successful Arab mediation presided over by Qatar and the Arab League, with a European role, as well, especially on the part of Spain, France, and Italy.

On Humiliation, and Gaza’s Dying Children

Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Online 6/23/2008
      A six-year-old Palestinian girl from Gaza was killed by Israeli fire on 12 June. "Medics say the girl was decapitated by a [tank] shell," Associated Press (AP) reported the next day. The Israeli military said the soldiers opened fire in retaliation against "militants launching rockets into Israel". AP dispassionately elaborated that, "Gaza militants fire rockets and mortars into Israel almost daily." The story of a few lines ended with another corroboration of the claims made by the Israeli military: "The shelling occurred near the border where militants fired 30 rockets into Israel on Tuesday."
     This is not another tirade about dehumanising media reporting in which the death of innocent Palestinians is so often blamed, one way or another, on the "militants". Neither is the evoking of this freshest tragedy -- the child victim is later named Hadeel Al-Smeiri -- intended to underscore the daily crimes committed by the Israeli military against Palestinians in the occupied territories, crimes that largely go unnoticed, buried in the not-so-important news items, nor to accentuate cold-hearted assertion that the Palestinians are to blame for forcing Israel to carry out such tragic "acts of retaliation".