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

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15 July 2008

No one allowed in or out of S Bethlehem town, including residents and journalists, 20 arrests
Palestine News Network 7/15/2008
Beit Fijar / PNN -- Israeli forces stormed the southern West Bank town of Beit Fijar on Tuesday morning. As of this afternoon they have arrested at least 20 people. Palestinian security sources told PNN that "a substantial military force of the Israeli occupation army stormed the hours since dawn today, Tuesday, the town of Beit Fijar, in the West Bank’s southern Bethlehem. " The sources went on to tell PNN the Israeli forces "transformed a four-story apartment building into a military barracks following the expulsion of its inhabitants. " People were thrown from their homes and it is unclear what is the motive of the Israeli forces. The same Palestinian security sources told PNN that the Israelis imposed curfew on the town and sealed off all entrances, preventing citizens from entering or leaving. Journalists crowded outside the town in an attempt to cover the attack, but no one is being allowed in.

Israeli troops abduct 12 Hamas members in West Bank
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/16/2008
NABLUS, Occupied West Bank: Israeli troops abducted 12 Hamas members in a dawn raid in the Occupied West Bank on Tuesday, a Palestinian security official said, as part of a widening crackdown on the Islamist movement. The troops rolled into the northern city of Nablus in about 40 jeeps and detained 12 members of the movement, including two women and two city council members, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. An Israeli Army spokesman said seven Palestinians had been arrested during what he called "routine searches" in the area. Israel has launched a territory-wide crackdown on Palestinian charities and businesses it says are linked to the movement, which violently seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after winning democratic elections in January 2006 and then facing a challenge from its rivals in US-backed President Mahmoud’s Abbas’ Fatah faction.

The Israeli army erects a Military border south- west of the West Bank city of Jenin
Rula Shahwan, International Middle East Media Center News 7/15/2008
The Israeli army erected on Tuesday morning a military border at the south- west border of the West Bank City of Jenin, and invaded the city on Monday at midnight. Eye witnesses reported that the Israeli troops erected this military border and stopped a number of Palestinian cars randomly and searched them. Moreover the Israeli troops checked the ID cards of the passengers. Official sources in Jenin reported that an Israeli military force invaded the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday midnight, as the Israeli military vehicles walked through several neighborhoods in the city and withdrew at dawn. No kidnaps were reported. [end]

Blair calls off visit to Gaza after warning ’from Israel’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/16/2008
GAZA CITY: International Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair canceled what would have been his first trip to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday because of a "security threat," his spokeswoman said. "Unfortunately we had to cancel the visit because of a specific security threat. . . We had to turn back on the road," Ruti Winterstein toldAFP. Winterstein said the former British premier was committed to visiting the impoverished territory and hoped to schedule another trip at a later time. Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency warned Blair shortly before his arrival at the Gaza border that a "terror organization" was planning to attack his motorcade, an agency official said on condition of anonymity. But the Islamist movement Hamas, which had welcomed the visit, said it had made the appropriate security preparations and accused Israel of pressuring Blair into canceling the trip.

US billionaire owns corporations sued by Palestinian villagers
Press release, Adalah-NY, Electronic Intifada 7/10/2008
Evidence gathered by Adalah-NY indicates that Brooklyn-based billionaire Shaya Boymelgreen owns the two little-known Canadian companies sued Wednesday for war crimes in Canada by the West Bank Palestinian village of Bil’in. Three Hebrew language Israeli media reports from 2005-2006 report that Boymelgreen owns the Green Park companies that are now being sued for $2 million in Quebec Superior Court for building and selling the Israeli settlements of Mattityahu East/Modi’in Illit on Bil’in’s land in violation of international law. The construction of Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory violates the Fourth Geneva Convention according to a broad international consensus. Additional evidence gathered by Adalah-NY shows that, though not a target of the lawsuit, the Israeli company Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Lev Leviev’s company Africa Israel, was contracted by Boymelgreen’s Green Park to execute the settlement construction. Billionaires Leviev and Boymelgreen were US partners from 2002-2007.

Prisoner swap includes bodies from Syria, Pakistan, Morocco, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Israel will hand over the bodies of slain fighters from Syria, Pakistan, Morocco, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey when a prisoners-and-corpses deal with Hizbullah takes place on Wednesday, a high-ranking official in the Arab Liberation Front (ALF) says. ALF Deputy Secretary-General Hussein Rahhal gave Ma’an the names of 15 people who were killed during a series of cross-border attacks in Israel in the 1970s and 80s, who he believes will be included in the deal. The ALF is a small, Iraqi-backed member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. According to Rahhal, the bodies will be exhumed from a cemetery in Israel and transferred across the Lebanese border at the Naqoura crossing at 9am on Wednesday. Among the bodies that will be released are five ALF attackers who were killed in a raid on Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel, that left three Israelis dead in 1980:1.

Israeli company, maintenance work to blame for Jenin power cuts
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli electric cuts and local maintenance work are to blame for a rash of power cuts in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, says Mohamed Abu Daqqar, the director at the electricity department in the municipality of Jenin. "The electricity service in Jenin is one of the best services provided for the Palestinian territories, but there may be cut of electricity due to development work in the region. In these cases the municipality announced that they will cut the electricity through the local media, and it is just been cut for a very short period of time, about three to four hours starting from six in the morning," said Abu DaqqarAbu Daqqar added that the municipality is working to improve the electric grid in Jenin. He was speaking to Ra’ed Abu Baker, Ma’an’s correspondent in Jenin. In addition to the repairs and additions to the grid by local authorities,. . .

Hamas-Israel prisoner swap remains elusive
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 7/15/2008
CAIRO, (IPS) - Despite intensive mediation efforts by Egyptian officials, a delegation from Palestinian resistance faction Hamas departed Cairo Saturday without securing a prisoner exchange deal with Israel. According to local analysts, fresh swap proposals -- featuring the release of long-time Israeli captive Gilad Shalit -- continue to run up against Israeli obduracy. "The respective positions of Israel and Hamas are still miles apart," Abdel-Halim Kandil, political analyst and editor-in-chief of independent weekly Sout al-Umma, told IPS. Egyptian attempts to broker a prisoner exchange have been ongoing ever since the capture of Shalit, an Israeli army corporal, by Palestinian resistance factions in 2006. Until now, however, efforts have failed mainly due to Israeli objections to the number -- and the political associations -- of proposed Palestinian prisoners.

Drought creates tension along both banks of the Jordan
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 7/16/2008
A thin trickle of murky, polluted water made its way from the Jordan River to the Dead Sea this week, the normally small amount of water further diminished by drought. The situation has made it difficult for farms and towns on the Jordanian and Israeli sides of the river to continue farming or hosting tourists on the Dead Sea’s northern shores. Last week the water crisis almost sparked a diplomatic incident between Israel and Jordan. The Jordanians said Israeli farmers dammed the river beside the Adam Bridge (also called the Damia Bridge) and stopped the flow of water southward so they could irrigate their crops. Senior Defense Ministry officials contacted the Israel Defense Forces, which quickly dispatched earthmoving equipment to clear stones from the river and prove that Israel is not deliberately stopping the river’s flow.

Two Palestinian collaborators sentenced to death
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/16/2008
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: A Palestinian military tribunal sentenced two men from the Occupied West Bank to death on Tuesday for spying for Israel, a security official told AFP. "Two men, a Palestinian from Yatta [near the southern town of Hebron] and his nephew, have been sentenced to be executed for giving information to Israel that led to the deaths of two Palestinians," said Suleiman Imran, the commander of forces in the northern West Bank town of Jenin. Imran declined to name the two men but said one of them had fled to Israel and the other had been detained in Jenin. The death sentence decrees must now go to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has the power to pardon the prisoners.

Palestinian police begin third stage of security plan in Salfit
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Nablus – Salfit – Ma’an – Palestinian police and other security forces in the Salfit governorate in the northern West Bank began to implement the third stage of the security plan for the region on Tuesday. This has resulted in some 50 unregistered cars being seized and the arrest of a number of suspects who are being held in Bidya police station for questioning. Security forces were deployed early in the morning to begin implementing the plan. The Salfit police information office said that the first two stages of the plan had been put in place successfully. These security measures are seen by the Palestinian Authority (PA) as an important step in the transference of the area, currently under Israeli regulation, to Palestinian control. The mayor of Bidya, one of the villages in the region, Mustafa Da’as, welcomed the security plan and promised further resources to ensure that it is fully implemented.

Two Palestinian collaborators sentenced to death by firing squad
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Hebron - Ma’an - A Palestinian military court in the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday sentenced two Palestinians to death by firing squad, after they were found guilty of collaborating with Israel. Twenty-seven-year-old Wa’el Sa’id Sa’ed Sa’ed, from the village of Yatta in the Hebron governorate was present in court when the sentence was handed down. His co-defendent Mohammad Sa’ed Mahmoud Sa’ed from Hebron was sentenced in absentia. Both men were found guilty of passing information about Palestinian resistance fighters in the West Bank to the Israeli authorities, as a result of which the Israeli army carried out a number of targeted assassinations and detentions. The issued sentences are inalienable and are ratified by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

As the army attack on Beit Fajar continues, the Israeli army kidnaps 20 civilians
Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMc News, International Middle East Media Center News 7/15/2008
The Israeli army continued on Tuesday afternoon the military opration targeting the village of Beit Fajar located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Local sources said that the army is conducting a wide scale search campaign in the village, witnesses told news agencies that soldiers have rounded up at least 20 men from the village and took them to an unknown detention camp. The witnesses identified some of those kidnapped as: Tha’er Takatka, 23, Ala Takatka, 24, Husen Takatka, 46, and Shihab Thawabtah, 46. On Tuesday at dawn a number of Israeli troops invaded Beit Fajar village and placed the village under curfew and took a building and used it as a military post. Troops did not allow journalists to move around the village to document the invasion. The Israeli army gave no reason for today’s attack on Beit Fajar.

Israeli Army kidnaps two civilians from Bethlehem
Ghada Salsaa, International Middle East Media Center News 7/15/2008
The Israeli Army kidnapped two Palestinian civilians from the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem on Monday at dawn. Official sources stated that a number of Israeli troops invaded Abu Nujeem village in the southern part of Bethlehem and ransacked the home of the Aziz al-Horeme and kidnapped his twenty- year- old son "˜Abd taking him to unknown detention camp. The army also attacked the Beit Ta’mar village east Bethlehem, the Israeli soldiers kidnapped a Palestinian youth Mohammad Soman after ransacking his family home. [end]

Israel wages war on West Bank charities in ’shameful’ bid to undermine Hamas
Daily Star 7/16/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Shopping malls. Schools. Medical centers. Charities. Orphanages. Soup kitchens. These are the latest targets in the campaign the Israeli military is waging against Hamas in the Occupied West Bank. Israeli military officials have identified Hamas’ civilian infrastructure in the West Bank as a major source of the Islamic group’s popularity, and have begun raiding and shutting down these institutions in cities like Hebron, Nablus and Qalqilyah. Last week, troops focused their efforts in Nablus, raiding the city hall and confiscating computers. They also stormed into a shopping mall and posted closure notices on the shop windows. A girls’ school and a medical center were shut down in the city, and a charitable association had its computers impounded and documents seized. This policy, officials say, is meant to deny the Islamic group the ability to use these institutions. . .

IOF troops kidnap 7 citizens including two women in Nablus
Palestinian Information Center 7/15/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- IOF troops at dawn Tuesday kidnapped seven Palestinian citizens including two women, one of them a municipal council member and the other a social activist, local sources said. They said that the IOF soldiers abducted Sheikh Abdul Rahim Al-Hanbali, the chairman of the Nablus Zakat (alms) committee from his home before kidnapping Sheikh Hussamuddin Al-Katloni, a member of Nablus municipal council, and his son Musa’ab (a journalist) and confiscated the latter’s personal computer. Other IOF units rounded up a young man called Moiuddin Al-Salos after wreaking havoc in his family home then broke into the home of Mousa Al-Tanbur, who was arrested a couple of days ago, and detained his wife for more than two hours. The soldiers also kidnapped Khulud Al-Masri, the Nablus municipality member and its deputy chairperson, along with her husband Ammar Al-Masri then abducted Hanin Darwaza, a social activist.

Detained Islamic Jihad leader transferred to administrative detention after serving a 5-year sentence
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 7/15/2008
After being sentenced by an Israeli court and imprisoned to five years, the Israeli authorities transferred Sheikh Bassam Al Sa’ady, 48, from the Jenin refugee camp, to administrative detention instead of releasing him. His wife, Nawal, who was also imprisoned by Israel, stated that he was getting ready to be released after serving a 5-year term, but he was surprised to receive an order from the Israeli Security Services stating that he will be placed under administrative detention, without any charges or trial, for six months. The family of Al Sa’ady slammed that Israeli decision and considered it illegal since he already served a five-year sentence for membership in the Islamic Jihad. His wife stated that he was wanted to the Israeli security services for a number of years and the army assassinated their twin sons Ibrahim and Abdul-Karim.

Celebrities urged to cut ties to settlement financier
Omid Memarian, Electronic Intifada 7/15/2008
UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - Having successfully lobbied the UN Children’s Agency UNICEF to stop accepting donations from Israeli billionaire Lev Avnerovich Leviev, activists are urging celebrities who have made public appearances with Leviev to cut all ties with him. Leviev is the chairman of Africa Israel Investments, a global conglomerate that has been criticized by a variety of non-governmental organizations for its involvement in building settlements in the occupied West Bank. During an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz earlier this year, Leviev said that he would continue building in the Palestinian territories as long as he had permission from Israel. Seven diverse groups committed to justice, human rights and peace and representing hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of people in the US, Palestine and Israel have also called on Susan Sarandon, a UNICEF Goodwill

Israeli forces carry out wide scale detention operation across the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli forces carried out a wide scale detention operation at dawn on Tuesday across the West Bank, detaining 24 civilians. Israeli sources said that the Israeli army detained 24 “wanted” Palestinians in the West Bank cities of Jenin, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqilia and Hebron and the neighboring villages, confirming that all detainees were transferred to interrogation centers. [end]

Palestine Today 071508
Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMc -Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 7/15/2008
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 Tuesday July 15th, 2008. The Israeli soldiers attacked West Bank areas, kidnapping at least 33 Palestinian civilians, and demolishing two homes in Jerusalem. These stories, and more, coming up, stay tuned. The News cast Israeli military operations continued on Tuesday afternoon, targeting the village of Beit Fajar located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Local sources stated that the army conducted a wide scale search campaign in the village; witnesses told news agencies that soldiers have rounded up at least 20 men from the village and are holding them at an unknown detention camp. On Tuesday at dawn a number of Israeli troops invaded Beit Fajar village and placed the village under curfew.

The Israeli army invades the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia
Rula Shahwan, International Middle East Media Center News 7/15/2008
Local sources reported that the Israeli army invaded on Tuesday dawn the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia and kidnapped two civilians. Locals reported that a huge Israeli military force invaded the city at dawn and walked through its neighborhoods. The Israeli troops kidnapped 22 year-old Mu’tasem Muwafi and 19 year-old Ahmad Barham. [end]

Hamas denies sending armed groups from Gaza to West Bank
Palestinian Information Center 7/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Tuesday denied PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s intelligence’s allegations that it had sent armed groups from Gaza to the West Bank. A statement by Hamas said that the allegation was "an illogical and an irresponsible" fabrication, which is an attempt by the West Bank security apparatuses to justify their acts against citizens there, who are angered with those apparatuses’ practices. Those apparatuses over a year ago reiterated the same fabrication that Hamas was forming an "executive force" in the West Bank, the statement said. Leaders of those apparatuses should desist from further harmful practices against the people or else those people would wish they actually had an executive force, the statement elaborated. Hamas asked the Ramallah authority and its security apparatuses to stop circulating such "cheap propaganda", to end oppression against the people and to confront "the real enemy; the Zionists".

Hamas and Islamic Jihad to move offices from Syria to Lebanon, Israeli intelligence says
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hamas and Islamic Jihad are preparing to move their officesfrom Damascus to Beirut, where the two movements will work under the protection of Hizbullah’s security, Israeli intelligence sources said on Tuesday. The two groups are making the move at the request of Syria, which currently hosts the exiled leaders of both groups. The sources said Hizbullah, in collaboration with a construction company affiliated to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, began renovating two buildings at the southern area of Beirut. One of the buildings will be a security headquarters for both movements and the other will house the families of the groups’ leaders. If the move takes place, Israeli intelligence sources said Hizbullah would become the most influential outside movement among Palestinians. While both Hamas and Islamic Jihad maintain a significant presence in the. . .

European campaign: Med union should end mass punishment against Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 7/15/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign to lift the siege on Gaza has regretted the fact that the Union for the Mediterranean conference had ended without paying any attention to the suffering of the Palestinian people especially the one and a half million besieged in the Gaza Strip for the third year running. The campaign, in a message to the chairmen of the Med summit French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, reminded both that Gaza is a Mediterranean littoral Strip. The conferees should have listened to the suffering of the people under siege who have suffered in all aspects of life and who lost more than 200 patients, two thirds of them women and children, as a result of the siege, the Brussels-based campaign elaborated. It said that the summiteers should have demanded an end to the mass punishment imposed on the "big prison called the Gaza Strip".

Mohamad Radwan to PNN: Gaza crossings open, however Israel manipulates quantities of imports
Palestine News Network 7/15/2008
Gaza / PNN -- Media Spokesperson for the General Administration of the Crossings, Mohamad Radwan, told PNN on Tuesday that although the Gaza commercial crossings for import are open, the amount allowed in is routinely toyed with. "Over the past weeks since the period of ’calm’ began, Israel has been gradually reducing the amount of materials allowed into the Gaza Strip. This includes cement and building materials, foodstuffs and fuel. " Radwan continued to tell PNN today that the quantities entering the Strip do not provide a codified solution to the major problems that have arisen since the siege began over a year ago. "The problem of the market remains in the Strip; in fact it has remained unchanged. "The quantities allowed in are too small to provide for the needs of the 1. 5 million residents of the Strip.

Blair cancels Gaza visit after assassination threats, tells Ma’an he’s disappointed
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – International Quartet envoy Tony Blair’s planned trip to Gaza was cancelled on Tuesday following what was described as "specific security threats" that made the visit impossible. Blair told Ma’an that he first knew of the threats on his life yesterday evening but was still keen to go ahead with the visit. He said it was when the threats became "more specific and more credible" that he decided to cancel the trip. "I am very disappointed but this visit has been postponed and not cancelled. I intend to go as soon as I can. It would have been important to go and see for myself firsthand what’s happening in Gaza and I will continue to press for help for the people there," Blair said. Blair was not due to meet the de-facto government, but rather businessmen from Gaza. The Hamas government had however, put security measures in place, delpoying extra police officers and cordoning off areas Blair was slated to visit.

Hamas: Zionist pressures cancelled Blair’s visit to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 7/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Tuesday said that Tony Blair, the international quartet committee’s envoy, cancelled his scheduled visit to the Gaza Strip due to Israeli pressures. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, the Movement’s spokesman, said in a statement that the visit would have proven Hamas’s success in standing by its stands of refusing to recognize occupation or surrender resistance. He added that the visit would have also proven an opportunity for the international community to have a close look into the humanitarian tragedy the Strip is suffering due to the Israeli siege and aggression. He refuted the claim made by Blair’s office that the cancellation was due to security threats against him. "This allegation is not true and inappropriate and contravened the big security preparations taken by the Palestinian police to safeguard and facilitate the visit," he elaborated.

Blair call off Gaza visit because of ’threat’
Middle East Online 7/15/2008
GAZA CITY - International Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair cancelled what would have been his first trip to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday because of a security threat, his spokeswoman said. "Unfortunately we had to cancel the visit because of a specific security threat. . . we had to turn back on the road," Ruti Winterstein said. She said the former British prime minister was committed to visiting the impoverished Palestinian territory and hoped to schedule another trip at a later time. Blair, who was appointed representative of the Middle East peace Quartet more than a year ago, was to visit a waste water treatment plant in northern Gaza and to discuss humanitarian activities. He was also expected to meet the commissioner general of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, Karen Abu Zaid, and the body’s local director, John Ging.

Haneyya lashes out at American congress’s draft resolution against Aqsa TV
Palestinian Information Center 7/15/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government in Gaza, has lashed out at the American Congress’s draft resolution that considers a number of satellites stations including the Aqsa TV as "terrorist organizations". Haneyya, during a solidarity visit to the Aqsa TV on Monday, said that the American resolution "does not bother us but rather it is a medal of honor for the Aqsa TV". He declared his absolute rejection of the decision, expressing conviction that it would not weaken the determination of the Aqsa TV to continue in its message in defense of the Palestinian people’s rights. Haneyya also decried the charges against Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir by the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court, describing it as evidence of the "arrogance of the American administration and its allies".

Peres pardons Kuntar, says ’no forgiveness in my decision’
Ha’aretz 7/16/2008
President Shimon Peres on Tuesday pardoned the notorious Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, ahead of his release as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah scheduled for Wednesday. Kuntar, who has been serving multiple life sentences in Israel, was convicted of murdering four Israelis in a 1979 terror attack in Nahariya. Kuntar and four Hezbollah fighters imprisoned in Israel will be transferred to Lebanon in exchange for two Israel Defense Forces reservists, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whom Hezbollah abducted in July 2006. In the pardon letter submitted to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Peres wrote that "I made this difficult decision after speaking with the Shahar, Keren and Haran families- the families of the victims of the despicable murderer Samir Kuntar.

Moment of truth at hand for prisoner swap
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/16/2008
Israel’s cabinet gave the final go-ahead on Tuesday for a prisoner swap with Hizbullah, despite complaining that the Lebanese resistance movement had not fully lived up to its end of the bargain. The decision set the ball rolling for the release on Wednesday of five Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Kontar, the longest-serving Arab prisoner by Israel, in exchange for two soldiers captured by Hizbullah in a deadly 2006 raid that Israel used as a pretext to launch a devastating a 34-day war. "The government has ratified the deal," Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai told reporters after the cabinet meeting, which adopted the measure by a vote of 22-3. The families of the two Israeli soldiers - Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - have never been told by Hizbullah of their fate, although both are widely believed to be dead.

Report: Dalal Mughrabi’s body will not be included in Israel-Hizbullah prisoner exchange
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The body of slain Palestinian fighter Dalal Mughrabi will not be included in an exchange of prisoners and bodies between Israel and Hizbullah slated for Wednesday, Israeli channel 10 reported on Tuesday night. The exact reason for the last-minute exclusion of Mughrabi’s corpse from the exchange is not known. Dalal Mughrabi was a Palestinian woman who at the age of 19 lead a brazen bus hijacking in the Israeli city of Herziliya, killing 70 Israelis and the Palestinian attackers in 1978. The attack led, three days later, to Operation Litani, the first major Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Along with the release of notorious Lebanese prisoner Samir Quntar, the handover of Mughrabi’s remains was among the most anticipated aspects of the politically and emotionally charged exchange. On Wednesday morning Hizbullah will hand over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

VIDEO - Kuntar’s brother: I’ve dreamt of his release all my life
YNetNews 7/15/2008
(Video) Lebanese terrorist to receive hero’s welcome; fireworks, gatherings and billboards prepared to mark his return in framework of prisoner exchange. Nabih Berri: Slain Hizbullah gunmen hurt Israel’s deterrence - VIDEO - Final preparations were being made Tuesday evening on the Lebanese side of the border for the prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbullah, with gunmen belonging to the Shiite group setting up a stage adorned with the photos of Samir Kuntar and the four other terrorists who are slated for release on Wednesday. Israel is expected to free the five terrorists in exchange for the return of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured by the Lebanese Shiite group in 2006 and are presumed dead. Kuntar, Israel’s longest-held Lebanese prisoner, reviled by Israelis as a man with blood on his hands, will get a hero’s welcome when he returns home on Wednesday.

Ahead of prisoner swap: IDF declares Rosh Hanikra area restricted military zone
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 7/15/2008
Military lays temporary claim to tourist site at Rosh Hanikra in preparation for prisoner exchange deal between Israel, Hizbullah; sets up roadblocks, tents, communications center - Gearing up for the prisoner exchange deal: Dozens of IDF soldiers have been making the final preparations at Rosh Hanikra’s border crossing Tuesday, ahead of Israel’s prisoner swap withHizbullah, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning. The IDF declared the area a restricted military zone on Tuesday night. The order will stay in effect until all stages of Wednesday’s deal are completed. Rosh Hanikra houses a popular tourist site, which was left undisturbed throughout the day, despite the IDF notification to its managers, that the ongoing army activity in the area may hinder business. Those visiting the site were able to see IDF troops setting up roadblocks, fences, tents and sheds.

Finance Ministry reports hike in real-estate dealings in Lebanon
Daily Star 7/16/2008
BEIRUT: The number of real-estate sales operations in Lebanon in the first five months of 2008 rose by 19. 4 percent compared to the same period of 2007, according to the figures released by the Directorate of Real Estate at the Finance Ministry on Tuesday. The ministry added that the number of property transactions went down by 3. 1 percent in the reported period to reach 60,800 transactions, while the number of sales operations saw an increase of 19. 4 percent to reach 28,048 operations. This was coupled with a significant rise in property taxes receipts of 55. 2 percent to reach LL204. 7 billion. The ministry said in a statement the value of properties sold in Lebanon over the past five months of this year rose by 72 percent to reach $1. 993 billion. Bank Audi said that the increase in the number of sales operations was in line with the surge in real-estate demand.

US Central Command officer visits Lebanon, announces new funding
Daily Star 7/16/2008
BEIRUT: Major General Robert R. Allardice, director of strategy, plans and policy for the US military’s Central Command visited Lebanon July 13 through July 15, a statement issued by the US Embassy said Tuesday. Bill Grant, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission, and Allardice met with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) command officers during the visit. Allardice and Grant also announced that the US government has increased its support to the LAF by $32. 5 million. "The overall goal of US military assistance to Lebanon is to strengthen the LAF and increase its capacity to defend Lebanon’s borders," the embassy statement claimed. The statement added that the United States was committed to building the capabilities of the LAF "and it will continue to support the government of Lebanon and the LAF as they continue their efforts to safeguard the peace, unity and sovereignty of Lebanon. . . "

Sleiman says Lebanon is now back on ’global map’
Nafez Qawas, Daily Star 7/16/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Sleiman said on Tuesday his visit to Paris to attend the Mediterranean Union summit was a "success," adding that Lebanon had returned to its position as "a state on the international, global map. ""Lebanese-Syrian relations will return to normal through meetings that join the Lebanese and Syrian presidents," Sleiman told reporters upon his return from Paris. Sleiman said Lebanon should play a "key role in resolving inter-Arab disagreements in addition to consolidating Arab-Arab relations. " The president said he felt widespread Arab and European support for Lebanon. "The international community is keen on preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty, and maintaining good relations between Lebanon and Syria," he said. He added that Saudi Arabia had expressed its desire to aid Lebanon in restoring its relationship with Syria.

US cautiously supports Mediterranean summit
Middle East Online 7/15/2008
WASHIN: GTON - The US State Department gave cautious support Monday to a Mediterranean summit in Paris aimed at spurring on Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. "We don’t have an observer there. We don’t have a place at the table. But I think, generally, it’s an effort that we can, at the least, be supportive of," spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "What the specific outcomes of this grouping will be, you now, we’ll see. We’ll see. But it would appear that they had a good first meeting," he said. The United States hosted an international conference in Annapolis, Maryland last November that launched the first serious Palestinian-Israeli peace talks in seven years, but no concrete progress has been announced. In Paris on Sunday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and more than 40 leaders launched a new Union for the Mediterranean, hoping to inject momentum in Middle East peace efforts.

Arab and Jewish youth to take part in five-day campaign in Jaffa
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Jaffa – Ma’an – Reut, a Jewish-Arab movement in Jaffa, south of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, has initiated a five-day campaign of joint participation calling for a better future for Arabs and Jews alike. Through the project they say they want to move towards changing what they call the unjust conditions under which the Palestinian people have been living since the creation of Israel 60 years ago. Their mission is embodied in the campaign’s slogan, "no peace can be achieved without justice. We can create a better future together. " The young people will spend five days and nights in Jaffa taking part in a wide range of activities. In an attempt to tell the untold story the participants will ask passersby to share their own life stories. This is also seen as a means to restore the use of Arabic in public places, to which end they will also write out the names of shops in Arabic as well as painting murals in public places.

Tremors felt across Israel after 6.8-scale quake hits Greek isle
Haaretz Service and Agencies, Ha’aretz 7/15/2008
Tremors were felt across Israel on Tuesday, after a strong earthquake measuring 6. 8 on the Richter scale struck the Greek island of Rhodes early in the morning. The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the quake struck at 6:26 A. M. local time, with its epicenter located 445 kilometers southeast of Athens, beneath the seabed south of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. The quake sent residents and tourists fleeing their homes and hotels. Dodecanese prefect Yiannis Mahairides said on Antenna radio that one woman died of head injuries when she tripped and fell on a staircase in her home in a village on Rhodes. Local authorities appealed for calm, and seismologists said that while Rhodes lies in a seismically active area, major aftershocks were not expected due to the depth of about 70 kilometers.

Anti-terror bureau issues Sinai travel warning
Ynet, YNetNews 7/15/2008
Counter-Terrorism Bureau warns of possible attempts by terror cells operating in Egypt to kidnap Israeli tourists in near future, calls on Israelis to leave peninsula immediately -Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau updated its travel advisory to Sinai on Tuesday and warned of possible attempts by terror cells operating in the Egyptian peninsula to kidnap Israeli tourists in the near future. "Terror elements have been looking for some time now to kidnap Israelis in Sinai and may execute an abduction attack very soon," the bureau said in a statement. "The bureau has been aware of a substantial risk to the safety of Israeli travelers all throughout Egypt for quite some time. The threat level is very concrete. "The bureau advised Israelis to avoid visiting Sinai and called on those already there to leave immediately.

Joint secular-observant Jewish school system approved
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 7/16/2008
The Knesset Tuesday approved the creation of a new state school system for both secular and observant Jews. A few dozen schools will probably adopt the new system, designed to increase understanding among Jews. The bill calling for the new system, introduced by MKs Michael Melchior (Labor) and Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu), passed its second and third readings Tuesday, becoming law. "This an educational revolution and a response to the divide in society," Melchior said. There are currently four Jewish school systems: Secular, national religious, Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox and Sephardi ultra-Orthodox. The Ministry of Education says the new system will teach Jewish values and emphasize tolerance and understanding between ultra-Orthodox, national religious and secular Jews.

VIDEO - ’Don’t expect any drama,’ says Talansky of upcoming court date
Tal Rabinovsky, YNetNews 7/15/2008
(Video) Key witness in corruption investigation against Prime Minister Olmert meets reporters, says upcoming cross examination by premier’s legal team will prove anticlimactic - VIDEO -Just two days before taking the stand once more and undergoing what is sure to be a grueling cross examination, American businessman Morris Talanksy, who is considered the key witness in the corruption investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, promised his follow-up testimony will prove uneventful. Talansky, well aware of the media pandemonium surrounding both the investigation and histestimony, tried to play down his part in the case, saying that the story may not be as dramatic as the media has portrayed it, and predicating an anticlimactic end to the whole affair. Video: Ohad Avidan keiner"Some people want to cut me to pieces, but don’t worry, they won’t," he told reporters Tuesday.

Fragments of diary revive saga of missing Israeli airman
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 7/16/2008
The mysterious fate of Ron Arad, the missing Israeli airman captured by Shia guerrillas 22 years ago, has been propelled back to the heart of public debate here ahead of this morning’s prisoner swap at the Lebanese border. The exchange, given final approval by a large majority of the Israeli cabinet yesterday, will see the return of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two soldiers-now presumed dead by the Israeli government, whose abduction by Hizbollah triggered the 2006 Lebanon war. In return, Israel will hand over five imprisoned Hizbollah militants, along with Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese infiltrator convicted for the notorious murder of four Israelis in 1979. But as part of the German-brokered deal preceding the exchange, Hizbollah has handed over fragments of a diary kept by Ron Arad, along with what Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime minister, has described as an "absolutely unsatisfactory". . .

Nasrallah twists the knife
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 7/16/2008
Nothing is over until it is over, but if there are no last-minute surprises, it seems that the deal with Hezbollah will be done by this afternoon, including the return and identification of the two kidnapped soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. The cabinet voted in favor of the swap yesterday, for the second time in two weeks, removing another obstacle. But until the swap takes place, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah seems bent on tormenting the Goldwasser and Regev families - and perhaps all Israelis. Yesterday’s report from Lebanon, that one of the two may be alive, seems like another ugly trick by the man who did not hesitate a few months ago to publicly traffic in the remains of Israeli soldiers. But Nasrallah was not the only one to make the families anxious yesterday: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also did so.

Mother of Kuntar victim: How can you pardon him?
Ofra Edelman and Anshel Pfeffer, The Associated Press and Haaretz, Ha’aretz 7/16/2008
President Shimon Peres met Tuesday with the families of the victims of the Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, who is slated to be released on Wednesday as part of the prisoner swap with Hezbollah scheduled for Wednesday. Earlier Tuesday, the exchange deal was ratifiedin a cabinet vote by 22-3. Peres later pardoned Kuntar in preparation for his transfer to Lebanon in Wednesday’s exchange. Israel is to release four Hezbollah fighters jailed in Israel alongside Kuntar, who was jailed in 1979 for the murders of four Israelis. In exchange, Hezbollah will return two Israel Defense Forces reservists captured by the Lebanese militia in July 2006, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Thecondition of the two are a mystery , although a majority of reports surmise that the two were killed at the time of their capture.

Danny Haran’s mother: I wasn’t loud enough
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 7/15/2008
With swap deal approved by cabinet, one last painful task remains for President Shimon Peres- pardon notorious terrorist Samir Kuntar along with four other Lebanese prisoners -Following the government’s decision Tuesday to approve the release of murderer Samir Kuntar as part of the prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah, President Shimon Peres is expected to meet withNina Keren, mother of Danny Haran, who was killed with both of his daughters by Samir Kuntar in the terror raid on Nahariya in 1979. Keren told Ynet that she still hopes the murderer who killed her son and two granddaughters will not be freed: "I can’t stop crying. I am in complete shock. I never thought they would let him go. They always told me that people with blood on their hands would not be released. I only hope to be respected in the meeting (with Peres); after all, I am the mother of murdered son and granddaughters.

VIDEO - Hizbullah: Israel’s approval of prisoner swap official admission of defeat
Associated Press, YNetNews 7/15/2008
(Video) Shiite group’s commander in south Lebanon says upcoming prisoner exchange ’humiliating failure in confronting the resistance militarily and politically’ - VIDEO -A senior Hizbullah official said the government’s approval Tuesday of a prisoner swap with his organization is an official admission of Israel’s defeat. Hizbullah’s commander in southLebanon, Sheik Nabil Kaouk, says an upcoming prisoner exchange shows Israel’s "humiliating failure in confronting the resistance militarily and politically. "  The cabinet approved the deal Tuesday, a day ahead of the expected return of five Lebanese prisoners, including terrorist Samir Kuntar, in exchange for the two IDF captive soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured by Hizbullah in July 2006. Kaouk said he considers the approval an "official admission of defeat.

Shlomo Goldwasser: If they’re dead - killers must pay
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 7/15/2008
Father of captive soldier responds to reports in Arab media contradicting Israeli belief kidnapped troops are dead, says if boys ’come home in coffins’ revenge must be exacted on their killers -Ahead of the imminent captive exchange deal with Hizbullah, Shlomo Goldwasser, father of kidnapped IDF soldier Ehud Goldwasser, said on Tuesday: "Our basic assumption has been that they were kidnapped alive. If they return in coffins it would mean they were killed. Those who killed them must pay with their lives and should join Mugniyah if that is the case. " Hizbullah operations commander Mugniyah was assassinated in Damascus earlier this year. The Lebanese group has blamed Israel for his death, though Jerusalem denied any involvement on its part. Goldwasser stressed however that he was not in any way seeking to dictate the government’s policy.

Israel prisoner swap boost Hezbollah standing
Middle East Online 7/15/2008
BEIRUT - Its prisoner swap with Israel boosts the standing of Hezbollah which vowed to secure the release of all Lebanese detainees through "resistance," even at a high cost for Lebanon, analysts say. The exchange is set to take place on Wednesday, almost exactly two years after a cross-border raid in which Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips to demand the releases. That raid sparked a July-August 2006 war during which more than 1,200 people were killed in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers. "Israel has set a very dangerous precedent," said Hezbollah expert Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, author of a book called "Hezbollah: Politics and Religion. " "It actually confirms that the only way Israel understands is force and violence," he said. The lesson was that "abduction works.

Hamas condemns war crime charges against Sudanese president
Palestinian Information Center 7/14/2008
GAZA, DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas has strongly condemned the war crime charges submitted to the International Criminal Court against Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir at the backdrop of Darfur conflict. The chief prosecutor of the ICC accused Bashir of "committing crimes against humanity" in the western Sudanese province of Darfur, which Sudan had categorically denied. "This step [of the ICC prosecution] proves beyond reasonable doubt that the UN and its arms were hijacked by the US administration, and turned into tools it mobilizes and utilizes for its political ends," the Movement asserted in a statement it issued and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC. The Movement also said that the step was a clear indication of the double-standards by which the US deals with states, parties and movements.

Increasingly brazen Taliban attacks spell trouble for coalition forces
Bronwen Roberts, Daily Star 7/16/2008
Agence France Presse KABUL: Afghanistan has been hit by a surge in attacks that show more skill and planning than routine Taliban violence, suggesting the influence of more hardened militants, perhaps from Iraq, analysts say. The spike has raised alarm, with Afghan officials accusing neighboring Pakistan of being an "exporter of terrorism" and US presidential hopeful Barack Obama saying more troops and equipment should be sent to battle the militants. "We see the regular type of attacks by the Taliban but also a number that are different, which require a high level of planning and execution," said analyst Haroun Mir from the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies. "This is something that should be a cause of concern to everyone. "An attack on Sunday on a remote military outpost left nine US soldiers dead - the highest number of foreign soldiers to die in a single. . .

Ahmadinejad says talks with US ’possible in near future’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/16/2008
TEHRAN: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has struck a more moderate tone toward the United States ahead of a key meeting on Iran’s nuclear program, suggesting he was looking forward to talks between the two countries. "It is possible that in the near future talks in different fields will take place with the United States," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in an interview with state television late on Monday. Washington broke off relations with Tehran in 1980 in the wake of the Islamic Revolution, and ties have remained severed ever since. Tensions have been particularly acute over Iran’s nuclear program. However the United States is also one of six big powers which have offered Iran negotiations on a package of incentives if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Obama: US should use all tools to pressure Iran
Reuters, YNetNews 7/15/2008
Presidential hopeful says preventing Iran from acquiring nukes in America’s vital interests. ’No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table,’ he says -Democratic US presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Tuesday preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon was in America’s vital interests and vowed to use all tools to pressure Tehran. "No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table," Obama said in a speech covering broad national security issues, including Iraq and Iran. " I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, starting with aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy - diplomacy backed with strong sanctions and without preconditions," Obama said. Obama’s rival in the November election, Republican John McCain, has criticized past statements by the Democratic candidate indicating a willingness. . .

Saudi king to open inter-faith conference
Middle East Online 7/15/2008
MADRID - Saudi King Abdullah opens an international conference in Madrid on Wednesday aimed at allowing representatives of the world’s great religions "to get to know each other," the organisers said. The conference is organised by the Muslim World League from an initiative by King Abdullah, whose country hosts Islam’s two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king "has been calling for this type of dialogue between religions for the past three years," Saudi Deputy Culture and Information Minister Saleh al-Namlah told a news conference Monday. Around 200 participants are expected, including representatives of the world’s major religions: Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Among them are the secretary general of the World Jewish Congress Michael Schneider and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, in charge of dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims.

Iraq, Afghanistan wars creating new arms markets
Middle East Online 7/15/2008
UNITED NATIONS - The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are undermining efforts to destroy surplus weapons by creating new markets for countries to sell their unwanted firearms, according to a survey published here Monday. Although the world is witnessing "the largest systematic destruction of military small arms and light weapons since the end of World War II," countries that would normally have destroyed their surplus weapons are now being encouraged to export them, the Small Arms Survey 2008 said. "The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created a revolution in the market for second hand weapons," said Aaron Karp, a senior consultant with the Survey. "We were building up momentum in favor of destruction throughout the early 2000s and that momentum has shifted because of the creation of new export opportunities," he added.

Bedouin women in Israel are still being circumcised
Nir Guntaj, YNetNews 7/15/2008
"˜Khitan’, female genital mutilation, still highly prominent amongst Bedouin communities in Negev; but authorities at loss for how to combat tribal secrecy practice is shrouded in - In June of 2008, Dr. Alex Rabinowitz took one look at a 16-year-old Bedouin female on a Soroka University Medical Center hospital bed and knew what was wrong. The young woman arrived at the emergency room in critical condition, unconscious and suffering from genital hemorrhaging. A more in-depth examination proved Rabinowitz’s theory true, the girl had undergone the customary Bedouin ritual of "Khitan," or female circumcision. The procedure, which is carried out on many Bedouin girls her age, was apparently conducted by an inexperience woman from her tribe. Fatal TraditionDoctors shocked: 16-year old Bedouin girl circumcised / Zvi Aloush Teenager rushed to hospital with. . .

Anti-Darwinists turned away by Israeli academia
Avital Lahav, YNetNews 7/15/2008
Turkish scientists receive last minute cancellation from Hebrew University who fears Jewish-Muslim reconciliation conference may give stage to anti-Darwinist propaganda -A group of Muslim religious scholars arriving from Turkey to participate in a reconciliation conference at the Hebrew University claim that the head of the Social Sciences Faculty refused to greenlight the event, calling it off in short notice. Professor Boaz Shamir, Dean of Social Sciences explained his decision citing the lack of proper coordination between the Students’ Union, which was in charge of organizing the event, and the faculty’s secretariat. Receiving EndIsraeli ambassador says Britain ’hotbed of anti-Israeli sentiment’ / AFP ’Attempts by academics to boycott Israeli universities are against British values,’ Ron Prosor writes in comment piece for the Daily Telegraph,. . .

Flour prices drop in the Palestinian market
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The price of flour dropped in the Palestinian territories for the first time on Tuesday after months of soaring worldwide food prices, merchants announced. The price of a fifty kilogram sack of Haifa flour dropped from 170 NIS to 153 NIS, and sixty-kilogram sack dropped from 200 NIS to 184 NIS. According to Faysal Darras, the official agent of Haifa Mills, prices dropped as a result of speculation in the market. Meanwhile, a merchant from Ramallah in the central West Bank said prices dropped also because merchants began to import flour from Ukraine and Egypt. Owner of a bakery in Ramallah says he buys fifty-kilogram sacks of Haifa Mills flour for 149 NIS. He explained a fifty-kilogram sack of Ukrainian flour costs just 130 NIS. He added that he would await a decision by the union of bakeries’ owners to determine the price of bread for consumers.

Earthquake felt in Israel
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 7/15/2008
The Geophysical Institute has warned of an increased danger of earthquakes in the north. The earthquake registering 6. 8 on the Richter Scale that hit Crete this morning was felt across Israel. There were no reports of injuries or damage. Last month, the Seismology Division at the Geophysical Institute of Israel warned that the probability of a strong earthquake in the north had measurably increased. It noted that there were 500 tremors in the preceding two months, indicating extraordinary seismological activity. Geophysical Institute head Dr. Rami Hofstetter said, "The change in the rate of activity raises the probability of a stronger earthquake. "Hofstetter told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) that the earthquake’s epicenter was in Greece and was unrelated to recent earthquakes felt in Israel whose epicenters were in southern Lebanon.

CPI rises just 0.1% in June
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 7/15/2008
The low rise gives Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer room to maneuver on interest rate decisionThe Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose just 0. 1% in June, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today. The rise was well below market expectations of a rise of 0. 5-0. 6%. The low rise gives Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer some maneuvering room for the upcoming interest rate decision, and he may decide to keep it unchanged at 3. 75%. Clothing and footwear rose 11. 9%, transport rose 0. 8%, and food rose 0. 4%. However, fruits and vegetables fell by 10. 3%. Inflation in the first half of 2008 was 2. 3%, and inflation excluding housing was 3. 3%. Inflation excluding fuel was 2. 1%. However, inflation in the past 12 months was 4. 8%, inflation excluding housing was 5. 8%, and inflation excluding fuel was 3. 9%

Palestinians polled: government should take control of inflation but is unable to
Palestine News Network 7/15/2008
Bethlehem / PNN -- Prices are skyrocketing as the dollar is falling so sharply against the shekel that most Palestinians, rich or poor, cannot keep up. PNN’s weekly poll indicates that 61. 22 percent of those who answered the questions believe that while the Palestinian government should take a major role in ameliorating the crisis, it will not. A mere 36. 48 percent still have faith in the ability of the government to turn this crisis around, which includes the price of bread, rice, flour, gasoline and all items in between. Those polled who answered simply, "I don’t know," came in at approximately 2. 3 percent. [end]

Palestinian students anxiously await Tawjihi results
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Seventy-seven thousand Palestinian students are anxiously awaiting the announcement of their college entrance exams, called the Tawjihi, which will be announced between Thursday and Saturday. Jihad Musa, at Al-Khader high school, near the city of Bethlehem, said she can’t sleep at night because she is nervous about hearing her score. She does not expect to score higher than 80%. She complained that the examination was significantly more difficult than last year’s. Nour Jamal a student at the Islamic school in Ar-Ram, north of Jerusalem, said her whole family is tense about the exam results. [end]

Weather Forecast: Tuesday
Ma’an News Agency 7/15/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Tuesday’s weather will be partly cloudy to clear with a slight rise in temperatures. Winds will be northwesterly and moderate. The sea will be calm. Wednesday’s weather will remain similar. Expected temperatures are as follows (°C):Jerusalem: 21 to 31 / Bethlehem: 20 to 30 / Ramallah: 20 to 30 / Tulkarem: 21 to 31 / Qalqilia: 21 to 31 / Salfit: 21 to 31 / Nablus: 21 to 32 / Jenin: 24 to 35 / Tubas: 23 to 34 / Hebron: 20 to 30 / Jericho: 25 to 41 / Gaza City: 24 to 31 / Khan Younis: 24 to 31 / Rafah: 23 to 32[end]

cartoon of the day
Mary Rizzo, Palestine Think Tank 7/15/2008
Obama’s new direction. [end]


''I do not struggle alone''
Dina Awad and Hazem Jamjoum writing from Ramallah, occupied West, Electronic Intifada 7/15/2008
      Ibrahim Bornat, 25, from the village of Bil’in in the occupied West Bank, was shot three times in the left thigh with dum-dum bullets by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on 13 June 2008. Like he does every week, Ibrahim was protesting against the construction of the separation wall in his village, which will effectively result in the annexation of 58 percent of the lands by Israel. One of the bullets Ibrahim was shot with that day hit the major artery in his leg, expanding and causing major nerve damage. He lost so much of his rare AB+ blood type that an urgent alert was sent out on the radio, the Internet and at local mosques for blood donations. As Ibrahim currently lies in pain at Ramallah Hospital, he does not know if he will ever be able to walk again.
     "It felt like they were trying to shoot my leg off," says Ibrahim about the 13 June incident. The Israeli army frequently uses live ammunition at Bil’in, injuring many peace activists, sometimes quite seriously. Ibrahim, by his own admission, had been fired at and hit 77 times prior to this instance, which brings his total number of injuries to 80. Most noticeable on his body is a large gash in the center of his forehead, which comes courtesy of an Israeli soldier firing a tear gas canister at his head from close range. Ibrahim’s skull was fractured from the impact and he suffers serious memory problems.

Tel Aviv conference organizes around the right of return

Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada 7/14/2008
      Late last month a conference on the Implementation of the Palestinian right of return was organized by the Israeli human rights organization Zochrot (Hebrew for "The Remembering"). Zochrot is an anti-Zionist, pro-justice group that works diligently to raise awareness within Israeli Jewish society about the Palestinian Nakba or forced displacement that began in 1948 and continues to this day. Zochrot defines the Nakba as "ground zero of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," from which all discussions on justice, equality and security for both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians should be centered.
     Ironically, the conference was held at the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) House, the only conference center in Tel Aviv that Zochrot claimed would agree to host the program. Apparently, capitalism trumped ideology as ZOA is a private organization that doesn’t receive money -- or directives -- from the Tel Aviv municipality, which was "concerned" about the context of the conference and therefore made it hard for Zochrot to find a venue. The lecture halls were filled with attendees ranging across different generations of Israeli society --from anti-Zionist elderly survivors of the Nazi Holocaust to young Tel Aviv hipster activists in Che Guevara t-shirts.

Too much Damage Already Done

Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 7/14/2008
      There is consensus among Arab politicians and analysts that the past seven-and-a-half years of US President George W. Bush have been the worst period of US policy for the Middle East in history. The Palestinian-Israeli process deteriorated into violent confrontations; the occupation of Iraq was disastrous on both immediate and strategic levels while the general trend of radicalization combined with stagnation in economic and social development can be attributed at least partially to the US administration’s approach to the Middle East in addition to poor governance by America’s allies in power in most Arab countries.
     However, there appear to be differing expectations for the remaining period of Bush’s tenure, especially since the administration has been showing greater interest in Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy. That and a few additional new developments are causing some politicians and observers to suggest that there are opportunities to be seized in the remaining months. Apparently Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are among them.

Assad: Syria Ready for Peace

Alain Gresh, Middle East Online 7/14/2008
      Alain Gresh discusses with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad his concerns for a “Mediterranean Union”: that it is contingent on an Arab-Israeli settlement, and unless such a settlement is reached, extremism and terrorism will grow.
     Just before his visit to Paris for the Mediterranean Union summit, Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, said that economic relations between the countries of the Mediterranean could not be developed while there were ongoing regional conflicts -- especially the Arab-Israeli conflict.
     We talked for two hours. He thinks that if there is no political dialogue and peace between Arabs and Israelis, the region will move towards conservatism and extremism. Terrorism, he said, is a state of mind and has no borders: Syria now has home-grown al-Qaida terrorism, not related to the organisation but to a state of mind. If peace is not achieved, all the reforms the Arabs need (economic development, education, culture) will fail to come about and the whole region will be destabilised.

Robert Fisk: ’Europe has a duty to educate the US about Middle East’

Robert Fisk, The Independent 7/15/2008
      Walid Moallem leans forward in the armchair of the Paris Intercontinental Opera. "It’s all on the record," he snaps. It usually is. The Syrians can be up- front when you least expect it. Syria’s Foreign Minister is one of their top negotiators, a man who knows Israel’s diplomats almost as well as they know themselves, who understands all the traps of the Middle East.
     Tell me who murdered Rafiq Hariri, I ask him. And Mr Moallem grins bleakly and reaches into his jacket pocket. His beefy hand emerges clutching a wad of pale green Syrian hundred-pound notes. "Tell me the answer and you can take all my money," he says.
     He may see evil among Syria’s enemies but he will speak no evil, certainly not of the French. "We are building trust with the French," he says. Syria is ready to co-operate on the prevention of illegal immigration, against "what you in the West call ’terrorism’" and opening a developed economic partnership. And Mr Moallem can be a bit preachy into the bargain.
     "You in the West have a moral duty in Europe to educate the United States more about the Middle East. If they don’t listen to you, they will not listen to us. They will continue with their mistakes." I don’t think they’re going to listen, I mutter. But Mr Moallem is in full flow.

The President’s State

Samah Sabawi, MIFTAH 7/14/2008
      (Based almost entirely on the story The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson)
     Once upon a time, in a land called Occupied, there lived people who yearned to have a State of their own. Two powerful scoundrels wanted to control these people and divert their quest for statehood - so they came up with a plan.
     We heard about your desire to have a State of your own and we can help,” they told the people of Occupied. “We have created an extraordinary process that will lead to the establishment of a State so amazing and so large, but it is one that only peaceful and smart people can see. In fact our State is invisible to anyone who is too stupid, radical, extremist or incompetent to appreciate its quality.
     Many in Occupied heard the scoundrel’s strange story and after decades of being stateless, they were eager to believe it is true. The scoundrels asked the people of Occupied first to appoint a prime minister and a President for how else can a State be created.

Crossing the Line interviews Dr. Sami al-Arian’s daughter

Podcast, Crossing the Line, Electronic Intifada 7/13/2008
      This week on Crossing The Line: Supporters of Dr. Sami al-Arian, a Palestinian political prisoner being held in the US, are outraged at a new indictment after al-Arian refused to appear before a grand jury probing an Islamic charity in northern Virginia. Host Naji Ali gets an update from Dr. al-Arian’s daughter, Laila, regarding this latest indictment.
     Also this week, after enduring four months in captivity in Iraq at the hands of a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigades, a Canadian human rights worker attempting to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories is detained for four days, refused access to a lawyer, physically assaulted and denied entry by the Israeli authorities. Ali speaks with nonviolent activist Harmeet Sooden about his ordeal.
     Lastly, Crossing the Line presents an audio documentary feature on the architecture of the occupation then and now, produced by David Parker of CKDU 88.1 FM in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.