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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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19 July 2008

Israeli forces attack summer camp
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 7/19/2008
Jerusalem -- Israeli forces attacked East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina Social Club late this week. They scattered the contents of the rooms on to the floor, turning furniture upside down and terrorizing the 220 boys and girls who were there for summer camp. Head of the Gathering of Civil Institutions in Jerusalem, Hazem El Gharably, denounced this attack which comes as part of the Israeli campaign targeting Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and private organizations. He stressed that such acts lead to a blurring of the political horizon and the possibility of coexistence and a peaceful solution on the issue of Jerusalem. The Israeli actions and its quest to annex East Jerusalem to the Israeli government, which is being cleansed of its population while they are imprisoned by the Wall and settlements at the same time, contravene all international law.

Pending Eviction in East Jerusalem - Settler organisation attempts to occupy Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jerrah
International Solidarity Movement 7/19/2008
Press clippings Jerusalem RegionSince Wednesday evening, a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international solidarity activists are camping out to protest against a Palestinian family being threatened with eviction from their home in East Jerusalem Map from The Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ)The eviction order was announced on Monday, requesting the family to leave by Wednesday under constant threat of forcibly being evicted. The neighbourhood, Al Sheikh Jarrah, with a long history of legal struggle, has organized a local committee in an attempt to save the house - which they fear is just the beginning of a full eviction of the whole Palestinian neighbourhood. At the moment, the family the neighbourhood committee are facing a nervous wait, afraid to be evicted at any time, while trying to overrule the court ruling.

''Free Gaza'' initiative to try and enter Gaza by sea and open port
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A small shipping vessel will set sail for Gaza from Cyprus on 5 August expecting to be illegally detained as it enters Gazan waters. The waters off the Gaza Strip are patrolled by Israeli naval vessels, and Israel enforces a "Fishing Limit" that is 6 nautical miles (11. 1 km) from the Gaza shore. These restrictions on access and borders are enforced despite the 2005 Israeli "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip. There will be 60 people aboard the "Free Gaza" vessel including a Holocaust survivor a survivor of the Palestinian Nakba, and members of the international Palestinian diaspora. The crew intends to travel into the Gaza strip, past the international waters boundary, the 1996 Oslo accords boundary (20 nautical miles from the Gaza coast), the 2002 Bertini agreement boundary (12 nautical miles and 22.

Clothes allowed into Gaza for the first time in a year
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation authority allowed on Friday the entry of 67 trucks loaded with foodstuff and various goods that included cement, clothes and shoes for the first time in a year. The IOA re-operated the Sufa and Nahal Oz crossing allowing access to fuel supplies along with the other goods. Mohammed Odwan, the crossing department’s spokesman, said that the IOA allowed entry of seven trucks loaded with clothes and shoes through the Sufa crossing for the first time since the calm went into effect a month ago. They were not allowed into the Strip since the IOA tightened its siege on it over a year ago. He added that six trucks loaded with cement were also allowed through the same crossing. Meanwhile, in the West Bank where the calm agreement is not yet applied the Israeli occupation forces escalated their aggression on various areas.

Journalist bloc denounces preventive security’s detention of Al-Jazeera reporter
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian journalist’s bloc has denounced the continued detention of Al-Jazeera. net correspondent Waddah Eid in Qalqilia in the West Bank for the third consecutive day. The bloc in a statement on Saturday warned that the PA security’s policy against journalists was no longer a passing incident but rather a systematic security policy aimed at silencing voices that exposes those apparatuses’ violations against Palestinian citizens in the West Bank. "Regretfully the security apparatuses’ campaign against journalists and the media in the West Bank coincides with a ferocious Israeli campaign against the same media channels," the statement underlined. It asserted that the security measures would not silence the truth.

Ralliers injured in Bil’in anti-wall demonstration
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Residents of the central West Bank village of Bil’in west of Ramallah rallied on Friday against the separation wall, confiscation of Palestinian lands for Israeli settlements as well as the crippling siege and daily killing of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israeli forces. The demonstrators toured the village raising posters condemning Israeli assaults as well as pictures of Dalal Al-Mughrabi, the Palestinian woman who led a commando operation and was killed in a battle with Israeli troops following the hijacking of a bus in Tel Aviv on 11 March 1978. The rally the headed towards the separation wall in an attempt to cross to the village lands confiscated in order to build the wall. Israeli forces blocked the demonstrators by firing rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters.

Israel Cancels Decision to Close West Bank Shopping Centre
Deutsche Presse Agentur, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
The Israeli military cancelled Thursday an earlier decision to shut down the West Bank’s largest shopping centre, located in the northern city of Nablus, its owners said. The cancellation, however, did not affect the assets of one company, which owns several of the shops and businesses in what is known as Nablus Mall. The Nablus Mall was built four years ago through the cooperation of several Palestinian companies and entrepreneurs and most of its 80 shops and business offices were either sold or leased. Some of the major shareholders in the mall kept for themselves a number of offices, from where they run their businesses. One of the owners, who declined to be named, of the company whose assets Israel was still after said it would start legal proceedings to cancel the seizure order. He said the company, which has over 1,400 shareholders, the majority of whom are small investors but nine are major investors, owns a small number of the shops and businesses in the mall.

House invasions, arrests and abuse by army in Madama and Asira al Qiblyia
International Solidarity Movement 7/19/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - In the early morning of July 18th the villages of Madama and Asira al Qiblyia, south of Nablus, were invaded by the Israeli army. A total of twelve houses were invaded and the families, in many cases with small children, were brutally awoken by sound bombs exploding inside their houses. Fifteen young men were arrested without explanation. Many of their family members were physically and verbally abused and their possessions damaged. In the village of Madama seven families had their houses invaded between 3 am and 6 am on the morning of July 18th. Soldiers broke through the front doors, damaging windows, locks and walls. The soldiers then threw sounds bombs inside the houses, in several cases dangerously close to highly explosive propane gas canisters. The families where forced to wait outside while the soldiers searched the houses.

Egypt considers Israeli continued settlements activity in Jerusalem a threat to the peace process
Ghada Salsaa, International Middle East Media Center News 7/19/2008
Egypt warned from the continued Israeli settlements construction in Jerusalem is harmful to the peace process. The comments were made by the Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Abu Al Ghayit talks with Didiah Fariti, the Swaziland envoy to the Middle East, on Friday evening in Cairo. Husam Zaki the spokesperson of the Egyptian external Affairs Ministry stated that Abu Al Ghayit confirmed that the world must work side by side with the Palestinians in order to make justice and help the Palestinians to take their rights back. Zaki added that this meeting is part of the Egyptian efforts to create an international purser on Israel in order to push the peace process forward. [end]

Haniyeh: Deal with Hizbullah paved way for us
Ali Waked, YNetNews 7/19/2008
Speaking at Gaza’s Islamic University on Saturday, Hamas PM vows no concessions will be made in forthcoming negotiations for release of Gilad Shalit; says ordered his government’s interior minister to issue Samir Kuntar diplomatic passport - Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Saturday that the prisoner exchange deal between Hizbullah and Israel paved the way for Palestinian organizations to achieve their objectives and "bring to the release of our heroes from prison. " Speaking at a conference at the Islamic University in Gaza, Haniyeh added that Hamas "promises its prisoners that the dawn will come, the moment will come when we hold celebrations for joy and freedom and victory, Allah willing. " The Hamas PM asserted at the conference that the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip in an attempt to force the Palestinian’s hand - has failed.

Masri: An honorable swap deal is near
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Mushir Al-Masri has expressed conviction that an honorable prisoners’ exchange deal was the in the offing between Palestinian resistance factions capturing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and Israel. Masri, a member of Hamas affiliated bloc in the PLC, asked Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation jails to maintain patience and steadfastness, opining that it was only a matter of time before the swap deal was concluded. The MP, who was speaking at a rally organized by Hamas in Gaza city on Friday, said that his Movement was adamant on resistance as the "strategic" option to restore usurped rights and to liberate prisoners from occupation jails. The Israeli occupation government is the one delaying the prisoners’ swap deal, he said, and congratulated the Lebanese Hizbullah party on the swap deal that freed the Lebanese prisoners in occupation jails topped by the dean of Lebanese prisoners Samir Al-Kuntar.

Hamdan: Hamas did not ask France to mediate in prisoners swap deal
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has denied seeking to replace the Egyptian mediation or asking France to mediate in the prisoners’ swap deal with Israel. Osama Hamdan, the Movement’s representative in Lebanon, told Quds Press that a number of Palestinian leaders and families of prisoners have asked for an international role to conclude the swap between the resistance factions and Israel especially after the success of the exchange between Hizbullah and Israel. He underlined that Hamas’s position toward the swap deal did not change regarding the demands and the mediator’s role. Hamdan explained that the French offered to mediate but Hamas did not ask them to do so, and added that his Movement did not decide on the matter yet. The Hizbullah swap deal with Israel displayed that Hamas’s demands were "reasonable", he said, adding, "We are not revising our stand or the list of names presented (to Israel)".

Mishaal: Hizbullah swap deal with Israel big victory for resistance
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of Hamas, has described as "big victory" the prisoners’ exchange deal between the Lebanese Hizbullah party and Israel, a press release by Hamas said. Mishaal, in two messages addressed to the Lebanese president Michel Suleiman and Hizbullah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah, said that the victory is for Lebanon and for the resistance. The Hamas leader said that the victory is an indication of the effectiveness of resistance and the correct bet on its ability. He explained that resistance "purges lands, confronts aggression and liberates prisoners" while the frivolous negotiations and bargaining only lead to "wasting dignity, blackmailing stands and beautifying image of the enemy".

One month into the truce: ceasefire on thin ice, negotiations on Shalit stalled
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements on Saturday questioned Israel’s commitment to implementing the ceasefire agreement, characterising its behavior over the past month as haggling and slow. Leaders of both movements stressed to Ma’an that they are still committed to the ceasefire agreement, in an effort to bolster its chances of success. "About a month into the ceasefire agreement, Israel is haggling over implementation of its articles, despite the Palestinian commitment to it," said senior Islamic Jihad leader Nafith Azzam. He explained, "Israel has not allowed goods to enter the Gaza Strip to the extent decided, and they have not opened the crossing points as agreed. Instead there have been numerous Israeli violations. In general, we can say that there have been few noticeable changes on the ground for Palestinians.

Fatah: Hamas takes control of Ash-Shuja’iyya Sports Club; Gaza national committee condemns attack
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Sources related to the Fatah movement reported on Saturday that armed elements belonging to Hamas took over the Ash-Shuja’iyya Sports Club on Friday, in the Ash-Shuja’iyya neighbourhood of eastern Gaza City. The sources added that a number of Hamas gunmen took control of the club and prevented the young men and boys from using its services. Fatah spokesman Fahmi Az-Za’arir told Ma’an that Hamas is "drowning in the consequences of the coup, which influences not only the political affairs in the Gaza Strip, but also the social activities and the youth. " He added that this latest attack brings the number of youth and sport clubs seized by Hamas or Hamas affiliates in recent months to 26 clubs. For its part, the National Committee in the Gaza governorate on Friday condemned the security services affiliated with the de facto Hamas government for attacking. . .

Change and Reform bloc denies that imprisoned PLC member Aziz Dweik received surgery
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
[Ma’anImages archive] Gaza – Ma’an – The Change and Reform legislative bloc on Saturday denied that Dr Aziz Dweik has received any surgical operation. Dweik is the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) speaker and a Change and Reform member who has been detained in Israeli jails for more than two years. It was reported earlier this week that Dweik would receive surgery to remove gallstones at Ramle prison. In a statement received by Ma’an, the bloc said that Dr Dweik desperately needs surgery, but Israeli authorities have refused to authorise the operation. The bloc said that the Israeli authorities are fully responsible for the life of the PLC speaker, and demanded that humanitarian organisations and the Red Cross intervene urgently in order to save Dr Dweik’s life. The bloc noted that Israeli doctors decided to peform the surgery following medical tests confirming. . .

A 44 year old Palestinian women attacked by a female settler at the Zat’ara checkpoint
International Womens’ Peace Service 7/19/2008
Date of incident:March 27th 2008 - Time of incident: Approximately 9am - Place: Checkpoint Zat’ara, Salfit district - Witness/es: Victim - Description of Incident: On 19th July IWPS volunteers were informed about an incident on 27th March 2008, when a 44 year old Palestinian woman from Izbat at Tabib, Qalqiliya district, an employee of the Ministry of Social Affairs, had been attacked by an Israeli female settler in her late twenties. The victim recounted the following:At approximately 9am she arrived at the Zat’ara checkpoint on a public transportation van and got off in order to change to another car, which would take her to her work place in Salfit. While waiting at the bus shelter, she saw three female Israeli settlers, who were between 25 and 30 years old, coming towards the shelter where she was sitting. She recognized one of the settler women to be one who had attacked her verbally,

The Israeli Army invades Kufor Ra’ee near Jenin
Ghada Salsaa, International Middle East Media Center News 7/19/2008
The Israeli Army invaded on Saturday at dawn Kufur Ra’ee village near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Local sources reported that Israeli vehicles invaded the village searched and ransacked homes then left after some time. No kidnappings were reported during Saturday’s attack. [end]

Reports from the ground: weekly non-violent struggles in Bethlehem and Ni’lin
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 7/19/2008
1. Bethlehem: Israeli army prevents weekly march against the apartheid Wall - Bethlehem, 18-07-08 - On Friday the 18th of July, the peaceful weekly march against the apartheid Wall held in the town of El Masara, South of Bethlehem, was intercepted immediately after the participants reached the new section of the Wall, by a huge amount of Israeli occupation forces. The IOF prevented the peaceful demonstration and attacked the participants by using sound grenades and sticks. Clashes took place between the demonstrators and the soldiers. The spoke person of the media campaign for the popular resistance against the Wall in the Governorate of Bethlehem, Mohammed Barijya, stated that "the barbaric policy made of occupation and repression will not discourage our people to keep on the popular resistance" and called for the recognition of the rights "of people who refused to surrender and to live as slaves 60 years ago.

Khudari welcomes Kucinich’s message on Gaza siege
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular anti siege committee, has welcomed the message of American congressman Dennis Kucinich to the American president George Bush in which he held Israel responsible for the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza Strip in its capacity as an occupying power. Khudari said that the Israeli oppressive siege on Gaza had awakened many people all over the world, noting that the congressman was moved by the inhuman, unethical and illegal conditions befalling one and a half million people in Gaza. Any human being, regardless of his/her affiliation or belonging, would sympathize with the great human tragedy in Gaza, which turned into a big prison for its people, the MP elaborated. Kucinich in his message published on his website on Wednesday said that he was "troubled" over a message by the American state department that said Hamas was responsible for the Gaza crisis.

Palestinian flags fly over Lille to commemorate Nabka, reject Gaza siege
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
PARIS, (PIC)-- Tens of white balloons carrying Palestinian flags flew over the northern French city of Lille last week in one of a series of rallies organized by the charitable committee to support Palestine in France. The committee, in cooperation with the Brussels-based European campaign to life the siege on Gaza, organized a series of rallies to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba or the disaster in which Zionist armed gangs usurped Palestine. Dozens of Palestinians living in France along with other French figures took part in the rally held in front of the Lille municipality. A group of Palestinian children from Nablus city were also present at the rally. The committee facilitated travel of the children in cooperation with the Lille municipality especially when both cities had signed a twinning agreement a few years ago.

Brown to hit back at UK lecturers’ boycott on visit to Israel
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 7/20/2008
A major new academic exchange programme, which will help to undermine attempts to boycott Israeli universities, will be announced by Gordon Brown and the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, tonight. Mr Brown, on his first visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as Prime Minister, will hold talks with Mr Olmert before unveiling the Britain and Israel research and academic exchange partnership. The programme, which already has funding of more than £700,000 over five years, will strengthen opposition to the latest attempt by the British lecturers’ union to ostracise Israeli academics -- action that has been taken despite advice that the union’s 2007 boycott call was illegal. While the move will be welcomed in Israel, Mr Brown -- who tomorrow becomes the first British prime minister to address the Knesset -- is expected to criticise some Israeli policies,. . .

President Abbas to meet the British Prime Minister in Bethlehem on Sunday
Ghada Salsaa, International Middle East Media Center News 7/19/2008
Palestinian sources reported that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. This is Brown’s first visit to Palestine as the Prime Minister of Britain. British business men are expected to accompany Brown during his visit, where they will meet their Palestinian counterparts to support investment in the Palestinian areas. Brown, served as the British Minister of Finance when Tony Blaier was the Prime Minister, he is known for his support to investment and development in the Palestinian areas. The British official will arrive in Israeli on Saturday where he is expected to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehod Olmert and Defense Minister Ehod Barak. Prior to Brown’s visit, Palestinian and British officials said that UK is studying the possibility of holding an investment. . .

British PM not to visit Sderot
Palestinian Information Center 7/19/2008
LONDON, (PIC)-- The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has opted not to visit Sderot, adjacent to the Gaza Strip, during his visit to Israel on Saturday, the Jewish Chronicle reported. The London-based Jewish paper noted that Brown’s visit to Israel is the first since he assumed office last year, and added that he is slated to meet Israeli premier Ehud Olmert and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. Press reports indicated that Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni had proposed to accompany Brown on a tour of Sderot, which is targeted by resistance rockets fired from Gaza in retaliation to the Israeli aggressions. However, the proposal was turned down by London. The British government apparently refused the Israeli offer because it considered it as propaganda for Israel.

Freed Prisoners Vow to Fight Israel
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
Five militants who were freed as part of a prisoner swap with Israel prayed Thursday at a slain Hizbollah military commander’s grave, pledging to follow in his footsteps and continue fighting Israel. Wearing military fatigues, the five men walked down a red carpet laid out for them outside Imad Mughniyeh’s burial spot at a cemetery south of Beirut. They laid wreaths and gave a military salute as supporters showered them with rice. Mughniyeh, a shadowy figure Israel and the West accuse of masterminding terrorist bombings in the 1980s and 1990s, was killed in a car bomb in neighbouring Syria in February. Hizbollah and its supporters regard him as a hero of almost mythical stature. The militant group dubbed Wednesday’s prisoner exchange "Operation Radwan" in reference to Mughniyeh’s nom de guerre, Hajj Radwan. " We swear by God.

Hizbullah leader: swap proved Lebanese unity, paves the way for Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Deputy Secretary General of Hizbullah, Sheikh Na’im Qasim said on Saturday that the prisoners swap with Israel achieved the best that could have been achieved. In an interview with the Qatari daily newspaper Al arab, Qasim spoke about the two year long process which culminated in the Wednesday swap. According to Qasim, the long wait was on account of Hizbullah resistance negotiators wanting to get the maximum benefit out of the deal. "Given the fact that the captured Israeli soldiers were dead bodies," Qasim said, "the price we got in exchange was very high. "He added that the success of the negotiations "paves the way" for the Palestinians to get a "high price" for captured soldier Gilad Shalit. According to the original deal, there was some indication that 20 days following the release of the five live prisoners from Israeli custody, there might be. . .

Canada lawsuit charges local Lebanese bank financed Hizbullah
Ohad Fass, YNetNews 7/19/2008
Four Israelis with dual citizenship file $6. 15 million civil damages suit against Beirut-based Lebanese-Canadian Bank for allegedly subsidizing terrorist group during Second Lebanon War - TORONTO - Four Israeli-Canadian citizens have filed a civil damages suit against a Lebanese-based local bank, claiming it had a part in subsidizing theHizbullah terror organization. The four - Sarah Yefet and her daughter Shoshana Sappir of Safed, and a couple, Rochelle and Oz Shalmoni of Carmiel - are demanding $6. 15 million in damages. In their claim statement, the four said that the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), which has a Montreal office, provided banking and financing services to Hizbullah and two additional Lebanese organizations that serve as financing hubs for the Shiite organization.

Azzam Al-Ahmad condemns ICC decision on Sudan, calls for Arab solidarity with Sudanese president
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc, Azzam Al-Ahmad, on Saturday warned all Arab leaders and governments not to yield to the request of International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir be prosecuted for genocide. Al-Ahmad warned that the ICC request represents a dangerous development going beyond the Court’s established powers and jurisdiction, noting that Sudan has not ratified the establishment of the ICC. He argued that the decision was influenced by political dimensions rather than purely legal considerations, that it aims to pressure Sudan, and that it represents an obstacle towards resolving the Darfur problem and achieving national reconciliation in Sudan. He noted that efforts for internal Sudanese reconciliation had been boosted by a 2006 agreement with the Eastern Front, a coalition of groups that had been fighting the government in eastern Sudan.

Qaddoumi sees ICC action on Sudan as violation mirroring Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Farouq Qaddoumi on Saturday condemned the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to prosecute Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir for masterminding a genocidal campaign in Darfur, and claimed that the ICC decision on Sudan mirrors other international occupations. Farouq Qaddoumi, head of the PLO Political Department in Tunisia, said in a statement sent to Ma’an that the motive behind the move to arrest the Sudanese president is political. The ICC’s actions, he maintained, will make the situation in Sudan come to resemble the situations in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The proceedings and their fallout are aimed at worsening the situation in Sudan, he continued. Casting doubt on the altruism behind the actions of the court, Qaddoumi pointed out that the accusations of the prosecution coincide with a recent statement by US President George W.

Israel to warn Obama against Iraqi withdrawal
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Democratic candidate to receive privileged welcome upon landing in Israel on Tuesday, political echelon expected to confront him with recent backtracking on Jerusalem’s unity, concern over Iraqi withdrawal plans. British PM already in Israel for short visit, agenda to center mostly on Iran - Jerusalem is faced with pursuing several crucial strategic objectives pertaining to the Iranian nuclear threat this week as it prepares for two high-profile state visits. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown landed in Israel on Saturday evening for a two-day visit and US Democratic candidate Barack Obama is expected here on Tuesday afternoon as part of his overseas campaign tour. The Israeli leg of Senator Obama’s trip will follow stops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan. He is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Affairs Minister. . .

U.S. Plans Peace Talks with Israelis, Palestinians
Sue Pleming, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to host peace talks in Washington with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on July 30, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Thursday. Rice met a Palestinian delegation in Washington on Wednesday and offered to host the three-way meeting between herself, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurie and his Israeli partner, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Erekat said. The top U. S. diplomat is mediating efforts to reach a peace agreement this year between the Palestinians and the Israelis, in the waning months of Bush administration, which ends in January 2009. Erekat said efforts were also under way for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next week, but he had no further details. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to confirm the July 30 date for three-way talks but he said Rice would continue to work hard on Palestinian statehood negotiations and this included such meetings.

Poll: 55% of American Jews See Mideast Peace as ’Core’ U.S. Interest
Shmuel Rosner, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
Can you imagine a J Street poll suggesting that most American Jews oppose a vigorous Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Can you imagine such a poll asserting that American Jews oppose any American pressure on Israel to make compromises? If you can’t, this is your lucky day. J Street just released a public opinion pollwith no such surprises. Not if you read the press releases accompanying it. American Jews, the poll says, want peace, readily support American pressure, and believe that Middle East peace is "a core American interest" (55 percent). Case closed: American Jews support the J Street agenda. Or do they? Let’s take a look at a couple of interesting numbers from this poll:1. J Street’s press release reads the following: "Instead of holding the hawkish, hard-line positions often expressed by many established Jewish organizations and leaders, American Jews actually overwhelmingly support assertive peace efforts and an active U.

Even the Arab Envoys Came to Bid Farewell to Israel’s UN Ambassador
Shlomo Shamir, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
Ambassadors from Arab countries and the Gulf states were among the guests at a reception yesterday for outgoing United Nations Ambassador Dan Gillerman, who is completing a six-year tour of duty. One veteran UN reporter for an American television network told viewers he could not recall such an impressive Arab turnout for a diplomatic event for a senior Israeli official. The envoys from Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Oman were seen at the reception, which took place in the official apartment of the Israeli ambassador in Manhattan. A particular surprise was the attendance at the party of the Palestinian observer at the UN, Riyad Mansour, the senior Palestinian envoy, who usually eschews Israeli diplomatic events and who embraced Gillerman. At a recent Security Council meeting Gillerman and Mansour exchanged heated remarks. In his words of thanks at the reception, Gillerman noted his particular appreciation for the Palestinian representative for coming, despite criticism of his doing so.

Obama launches overseas tour to build up credentials
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 7/19/2008
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama heads to Europe, Middle East in bid to assert prowess on foreign, defense issues - WASHINGTON- US Democratic presidential contender Senator Barack Obama kicked off an overseas campaign tour of volatile Middle Eastern countries and sparkling European capitals in the hopes of selling American voters on his foreign affairs and defense credentials. With star broadcasters on the scene, US media outlets plan to give outsized coverage to Obama’s trip abroad; Republican rival John McCain’s campaign has sought to portray Obama as a relative neophyte on international affairs. There was no such media firestorm for McCain’s own trip to Europe and the Middle East in March, and the Republican senator’s camp has started grumbling. News organizations have tripped over each other to get coverage deals for the Obama tour,. . .

Obama less popular among Jewish voters
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
NEW YORK - White House hopeful Barack Obama is still struggling to convince some wary Jewish voters to close ranks behind his campaign despite their traditional support for Democratic candidates. Obama has taken steps to reassure American Jews of his steadfast support of Israel in recent months, but polls show he has more work to do to win over a large majority of the key electorate for the November 4 election. In May, a nationwide Gallup poll showed that 61 percent of Jews supported Obama compared to 32 percent for Republican contender John McCain. While the margin is wide, it is disappointing for a Democrat who should normally count on even more backing from Jews, who heavily lean Democratic. One notable exception was in 1980, when then-president Jimmy Carter got 45 percent of the Jewish vote compared to 39 percent for Ronald Reagan, who won the election.

Haniyeh announces scholarships for 34 students in Gaza; grant for West Bank students
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian de facto Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh announced on Saturday that top Tawjihi student Asma Abu Nimir will be awarded $10,000 and granted a scholarship to study at a university in Gaza. In a statement, Haniyeh congratulated the students with top marks on the Tawjihi (university entrance exam) despite the dire conditions that pervade Palestinian life. The award to top student Asma, said Haniyeh, is meant to support the family and help to pay for a new apartment. The family’s home was destroyed by Israeli forces in 2005. Haniyeh also called on the housing ministry in his government to follow up on securing a new house for the family. Haniyeh also announced that his government would fund scholarships for the 34 students who came first in the Gaza Strip, and an equivalent grant for the first students in the West Bank.

US will not help broker Israel-Syria talks, releases conditions of diplomatic relations
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The United States on Friday turned down a Syrian invitation to take part in negotiations between Syria and Israel. In response to the invitation US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released a statement which listed a number of pre-conditions which Syria must commit to if they want to improve relations with the US. Amongst these pre-conditions is to stop supporting "terrorist organizations," in order to prevent the infiltration of terrorists from Syrian territories to Iraq, and to establish normal diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon. The statement also affirmed that the Syrian government must improve its behavior towards its own people as well as improving its records in the field of human rights.

Syrian-Lebanese embassy exchange welcomed
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
DAMASCUS - French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced the development after he met Lebanese president Michel Suleiman and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Paris last week. Analysts say that while it is too soon to say what impact diplomatic representation might have on Syrian-Lebanese relations, the step is a significant one for two nations that have struggled to establish boundaries in their relationship. “I never expected an embassy exchange,” said Muhanned al-Hasani, who heads the Damascus-based non-governmental organisation Sawasiya. “Although [Syria] created security and military stability for a long period of time [in Lebanon], relations with the Lebanese people were neglected,” he said. “The Syrian presence was a security and military one rather than social and humanitarian. ” Syria, which controlled Lebanese politics and security from the early Nineties until 2005,. . .

Syrian drug smuggler shot, killed on border
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 7/19/2008
IDF force patrolling border fence kills armed Syrian citizen, injures another after they are identified as conducting drug deal. Two Israelis caught with 15 kg of narcotics arrested - IDF soldiers shot and killed on Saturday a Syrian citizen near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights, and injured another man who was with him at the scene. Sources said the two had arrived in order to conduct a drug deal. Meanwhile, two 35-year old Israeli citizens, residents of the northern town of Majdal Shams, were apprehended by police after 15 kg of heroin and cocaine were found on their persons. According to the sources these drugs were part of the deal conducted with the Syrian citizens. The incident took place around midnight, while an IDF force was patrolling the fence. The force identified two suspicious figures inside of Israel’s territory, on the Syrian side of the border fence.

Gazan naval police officer killed in his Jabalia home, one man arrested
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Unidentified gunmen murdered a member of naval police in the Gaza Strip, Abdul-Salam Abu Taqiyya aged 23 on Saturday morning. According to the interior ministry of the de facto government in the Gaza Strip, the suspected killer was arrested late Saturday morning. Police say that a family dispute was behind the crime. The man was shot dead in his house in Ber An-Na’ja neighborhood of Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian medical sources affirmed that the victim’s body was taken to Kamal Udwan Hospital at 5:00 am. Police transferred the case to a team of forensic scientists to help with the investigation. Eyewitnesses said Abu Taqiyya was an officer in the naval police and that he was affiliated with Fatah.

Gunmen kill a policeman in the Gaza Strip
Ghada Salsaa, International Middle East Media Center News 7/19/2008
Palestinian sources reported that a group of unknown gunmen shot and killed a Palestinian Police officer in the northern part of the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning. The sources said that a group of gunmen opened fire at 23-year Abd Al Salam Abu Taqia in his home at Jabalia refugee camp in northern part of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said that Abu Taquia is a member of the Fateh Movement. Hamas took total control in Gaza in June 2007, ending a year long of infighting with the Palestinian President Fatah party after the latter won the Palestinian Legislative elections in 2006.

Palestinian Popular Struggle Front creates military wing
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) announced on Saturday that it has founded its own military wing. The "Popular Struggle Brigades" commemorates the 41st anniversary of the creation of the PPSF. The group said in a press conference Saturday that the military wing is meant to support other Palestinian factions’ military wings in their struggle against Israeli occupation aimed at liberating Palestine. PPSF representatives also stated that they will act within the interests of Palestinian national unity. [end]

Major Prisoner Swap as Nablus Remains an Israeli Target [July 13 – July 19]
MIFTAH, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
The week began on Sunday, July 13 with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledging to free Palestinian prisoners unconnected to proposed prisoner deals with Hamas and Hizbullah, as a gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert made the pledge at a meeting with Abbas and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the sidelines of the Union for the Mediterranean summit in France. Speaking at a press conference following the three-way meeting, Olmert claimed that a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has never been closer. " It seems to me that we have never been as close to the possibility of reaching an accord as we are today," Olmert told reporters standing alongside Abbas and Sarkozy. At the same time, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mash’al renewed his movement’s commitment to the Yemeni initiative for internal Palestinian reconciliation during a meeting with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

Choose negotiation or isolation, U.S. tells Iran after nuke talks
Reuters and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 7/20/2008
The United States said on Saturday after inconclusive international talks with Iran’s nuclear envoy that Tehran must choose between cooperation or confrontation and give up sensitive nuclear work. "We hope the Iranian people understand that their leaders need to make a choice between cooperation, which would bring benefits to all, and confrontation, which can only lead to further isolation," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack after the Geneva talks attended for the first time by senior U. S. diplomat William Burns. He said Burns did not meet separately with any member of the Iranian delegation and that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Iran it must give a "clear answer" to an offer made by world powers within two weeks. Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled out discussion of a major powers’ demand to suspend. . .

Iranian VP: We are friends of the nation in Israel
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 7/19/2008
While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad frequently refers to Israel as an enemy regime, his deputy, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei declares on Saturday that Iran has no enemies, is ’a friend of the people in the United States and Israel’ - The world is all too familiar with the less-than-friendly epithets directed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against the "Zionist entity. " One wonders, then, how he will take to the surprising statements made his vice president on Saturday in which he proclaims Iran "a friend to the nation inIsrael and the United States. " Speaking at a tourism convention in Tehran, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei said: "No nation in the world is our enemy, Iran is a friend of the nation in the United States and in Israel, and this is an honor. We view the American nation as one with the greatest nations of the world.

Rice acknowledges US policy shift on Iran
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
WASHINGTON - The United States has shifted position on diplomacy with Iran by sending a senior envoy to Geneva to participate in nuclear talks with Iran’s top negotiator, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed on Friday. But she insisted that Tehran must suspend its enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear materials for substantive talks with Washington. "The United States doesn’t have any permanent enemies," Rice said in response to a reporter’s question on the unexpected move to send a diplomat to meet directly with Iran’s negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva on Saturday. "We have been very clear that any country can change course," Rice added. "This decision to send Undersecretary (William) Burns is an affirmation of the policy that we have been pursuing with our European allies. . . for some time now.

US says Iran faces cooperation or conflict
News agencies, YNetNews 7/19/2008
State Department says time for Iran to decide between ’negotiations or further isolation,’ demands Tehran give clear answer to EU on latest nuclear proposal. Earlier Iran ruled out possibility of halting uranium enrichment as world powers convene in Geneva to discuss contested nuclear program - The United States said on Saturday after inconclusive talks in Geneva with Iran that Tehran had a choice between cooperation or conflict and negotiations could begin with Washington only if sensitive nuclear work ended. Just before the talks began, Iran ruled out freezing its enrichment program. In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Iran has two weeks to ’’give a clear answer. ’’’’Iran has a choice to make: negotiation or further isolation,’’ McCormack said. " We hope the Iranian people understand that their leaders need to. . .

Bush, Maliki, agree on ’time horizon’ for troop cut
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
TUCSON, Arizona - US President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki have agreed to set a "time horizon" for US troop withdrawals as part of a long-term security pact. But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Friday any reduction in the US force presence "would be based on continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date for withdrawal. " The two leaders, speaking by videoconference on Thursday, also settled on a "common way forward" in stumbling talks to craft a long-term pact governing diplomatic ties and the US military presence, said Perino. Washington says the agreement is necessary to lay the ground rules for US forces that will still operate in the war-torn country after 2008. But the talks have sputtered over the Baghdad government’s demands for a timetable for US troops to withdraw as well as Washington’s demands that its soldiers and other staff be immune from Iraqi prosecution.

Iraq parliament approves return of Sunni ministers
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi parliament on Saturday voted for the return of six Sunni ministers to the cabinet of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, giving a fresh boost to the country’s reconciliation programme. Parliament also voted in four independent candidates as ministers to replace those from the political bloc of Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, which has boycotted the government since last year. The six ministers representing the country’s main Sunni bloc the National Concord Front include Rafie al-Issawi, who was voted in as the Sunni deputy prime minister to Maliki, a media correspondent present in parliament said. Issawi was minister of state for foreign affairs between 2005 and 2007. Sunnis will also hold five other posts -- the ministers for higher education, culture and communications, and ministers of state for foreign affairs and women’s affairs.

Britain’s PM says no to Iraq troops withdrawal timetable
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
BAGHDAD - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking after talks with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad, said on Saturday he wanted to cut the number of Britain’s troop in Iraq but ruled out a timetable. "Our intention is to reduce our troop numbers but I am not going to set out an artificial timetable," Brown told reporters in the capital where he was meeting Iraqi leaders. After a nearly hour-long meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, Brown went into a meeting with President Jalal Talabani. He also met several MPs. Brown later in the day headed to Basra, where he was to greet British troops based at the airport on the outskirts of the southern oil city. He has made it clear that Basra province, where Britain’s 4,000 troops are based, is the main focus of British efforts in Iraq.

Iraq struggling to protect its ancient treasures
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
Experts are calling for Iraq’s archaeological sites to be protected, saying that many have been severely damaged as a result of theft, illegal excavations and trespassing. According to the Iraqi government, the country – which was once home to Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian and other ancient empires – has around 10,000 archaeological sites. Most are located in central Iraq, an area badly hit by the chaos and lawlessness that has gripped the country over the past several years. While some of the country’s best known Mesopotamian sites, including Ur near modern-day Nasiriyah, are well-protected, many have no security. The Iraqi government has just 1,200 guards to keep an eye on all of its sites, said Qais Rashid Hussein, director-general of excavations and inspection at the ministry of archaeology and tourism.

Saudis praised for calling interfaith conference
Middle East Online 7/19/2008
MADRID - Saudi Arabia won praise Friday for taking a leading role in an interfaith conference, with participants saying it was another sign the conservative kingdom is opening up. Rabbi David Rosen, the only Israeli who attended the three-day meeting led by Saudi King Abdullah, said he believes the oil-rich Persian Gulf kingdom also wants to reaffirm leadership in the Muslim world for fear of greater instability. "The Saudis are definitely opening up," said Rosen, who heads inter-religious relations for the American Jewish Committee and is a former chief rabbi of Ireland. "I have heard from the Saudis that this is a culmination of a process that began the moment Abdullah ascended to the throne and that he actually wants to open up Saudi society. " The Saudi monarch unexpectedly called the conference about a month ago.

Madrid Dialogue Shows Unity: Ban
Badea Abu Al-naja, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid as a symbol of unity among different faiths, adding that he hopes it will contribute to healing divisions and building a more secure and stable world. In a message to the three-day conference, the UN chief thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah “for this welcome and timely initiative. ”King Abdullah arrived in Casablanca yesterday from Madrid, where he opened the conference on Wednesday. “There have been few periods in history when the need for dialogue among world religions has been greater. At a time of increasing divisions along cultural and confessional lines, faith communities have a crucial role to play in fostering mutual understanding and in promoting a consensus on common values and aspirations,” Ban said in his message.

cartoon of the day
Palestine Think Tank 7/19/2008
Omert and Palestinian prisoners [end]

Saturday’s weather
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian weather forecast expects Saturday to be clear with scattered clouds. Temperatures are not expected to change noticeably from Friday, and winds will be southwesterly to northwesterly and moderate. The sea will be calm to moderate. On Sunday, the weather is expected to be clear and temperatures are expected to rise slightly. Winds will be southwesterly to westerly and moderate. The sea will be calm. Expected temperatures are as follows (°C:)Jerusalem: 18 to 31 / Ramallah: 18 to 31 / Qalqilia: 23 to 33 / Salfit: 18 to 31 / Nablus: 22 to 33 / Jenin: 23 to 35 / Tubas: 22 to 34 / Hebron: 17 to 30 / Jericho: 25 to 40 / Gaza City: 25 to 34 / Khan Younis: 25 to 34 / Rafah: 24 to 35

IDF says troops shot and killed Syrian drug smuggler
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 7/20/2008
Israel Defense Forces troops killed a drugs smuggler from Syria and wounded another on Saturday as they crossed a fence into territory controlled by Israel on the occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli army said. An IDF spokesman said troops on routine patrol along the heavily fortified fence in the northern part of the Golan Heights spotted four men in the area and opened fire at them, they later found large quantities of drugs at the scene. "A routine joint army and police patrol working in the area to prevent smuggling spotted a group of men and opened fire at them. . . one of the suspects was killed and another was wounded. Two others were apprehended shortly afterwards," the spokesman said. He added that the two men who had been hit were Syrian nationals and that the body of the dead man and the wounded, who was being treated in hospital, were taken to Israel.

15kg of heroin and cocaine seized, one killed and three arrested near Syrian border
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces kill one and injure another in a suspected drug smuggling attempt at the Israel-Syria border on Friday night. Radio Israel reported that Israeli border guards near Syria in the Golan Heights noticed two men crossing the area at midnight and opened fire at them killing one and injuring the other. It is believed that the men were attempting to smuggle drugs into Israel. The wounded infiltrator was evacuated to hospital in Israel. Police sources said that two Israeli men in their thirties were arrested after the incident in Majdal Shams village in the Golan Heights. They were in possession of 15 kilograms of heroin and cocaine which police believe were received from the infiltrators before they were shot.

In Israel, a Nation Mourns with the Families of Slain Soldiers
Ilene Prusher, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
For Israelis, their Second Lebanon War, fought in summer 2006, came to a close only on Thursday, when the two soldiers whose capture became the cause for launching the conflict were laid to rest before their families and the eyes of a solemn nation. But even in their return – which transpired a day earlier as part of a swap with Hezbollah, who traded the men’s bodies for the remains of some 200 Lebanese plus five Lebanese prisoners – there is still unease about the lopsided trade-off and questions about balancing the interests of affected families against those of the state. Under a sweltering July sky at the Nahariya military cemetery, which overlooks the same Mediterranean that hugs the Beirut coastline where Hezbollah continued victory celebrations Thursday, many family members and friends who eulogized "Udi" – Ehud Goldwasser – seemed to want to shift the sentiment that Israel had somehow lost to Hezbollah.

US papers call Kuntar welcome ’repulsive’
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 7/19/2008
Editorial contributors in US react to warm welcome received by newly released terrorist in Lebanon, calling prisoner swap ’a deal with devils’. British papers critique Israel for mismanaging war, empowering Hizbullah - News agencies in the US heaped criticism on the welcoming ceremonies held in Lebanon in honor of the return of convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar, who was freed from an Israeli prison as part of the prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah, which brought home the bodies of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. " There is something morally repulsive in the hero’s welcome given the most famous - or notorious - of the Lebanese prisoners released by Israel," a Boston Globe article entitled "A strange kind of hero" said on Friday. Live and LearnHamas says learned from Hizbullah deal / Ali Waked Hamas source says Islamist group expects. . .

Detainees’ Studies Center praises released prisoner Samir Quntar
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Detainees’ Studies Center in the Gaza Strip on Saturday praised the released Lebanese prisoner Samir Quntar. The Center’s director Ra’fat Hamdouna said in a statement that Quntar’s emphasis on the use of resistance to liberate Palestinian prisoners echoes the sentiments of his organization. "The position of Samir Quntar," he said, "deserves the respect of all Arabs and Palestinians. " According to Hamdouna, 348 Palestinian detainees have been imprisoned by Israel between 15 and 31 years. He noted that according to Israel, most of these prisoners have "their hands stained with blood. "Hamdouna argued that in contrast to Israel’s characterisation of these men as terrorists, they are members of the Palestinian resistance and "the crown over the heads of the Palestinian people. "

Jibreel Rajoub congratulates Samir Quntar by phone
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Member of Fatah Revolutionary Council Jibreel Rajoub on Friday telephoned the Lebanese prisoner Samir Quntar, who has been recently released from custody after a prisoners swap between Hizbullah and Israel, congratulating him and his fellows for being released from Israeli jail. Rajoub also expressed his appreciation to Hizbullah for including Palestinian prisoners and bodies of "martyrs" in the prisoners swap. He wished the deal would be a glimpse of hope for all Palestinian and Arab prisoners to be released from Israeli jails in the coming months. Rajoub and Quntar met in Israeli jails while Rajoub served a 17-year term after which he was released in a 1985 prisoners swap between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command.

Process of identifying bodies released by Israel begins in Lebanon
Ma’an News Agency 7/19/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) announced on Saturday that 43 out of the 197 bodies released by Israel on Wednesday as part of the prisoner swap with Hizbullah are those of DFLP fighters. The DFLP’s Central Information Office in Lebanon reported that it had received the bodies of 43 DFLP-affiliated fighters, out of some 167 DFLP-affiliated fighters whose bodies are buried in the ’Cemeteries of Numbers’ inside Israel. The bodies, which were not identified when returned by Israel, are currently being screened in hopes of matching them with names of Palestinian fighters. DNA tests are being used to identify some of the bodies. Israel buries the bodies of Palestinians killed in attacks on Israeli targets in unmarked graves in secret locations.


Unease Over West Bank Raids
Griff Witte, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
      When Faris Abu Hasan was deciding where to send his two young daughters to school, one factor stood out above all others: test scores.
     So Abu Hasan opted against the beleaguered local government school, and chose instead the Islamic Basic School for Girls, where the classes were small and the teachers offered individual attention in math, science, history and English.
     "I wanted them to go to the best school in Nablus. And this is the best school in Nablus," said Abu Hasan, a lawyer.
     But the school is associated with Hamas, the Islamist movement that Israel considers a terrorist organization. One night last week, the Israeli military raided the school -- confiscating computers, trashing desks and ripping student artwork from the walls. The school was ordered shut for three years.
     The operation was part of a much broader crackdown that Israel has recently initiated in the occupied West Bank against Hamas’s extensive social services network. While Hamas is probably best known for its military wing -- which champions attacks against the Jewish state -- it is the group’s sponsorship of schools, medical centers, orphanages and food banks that gives it much of its power and helped it sweep Palestinian elections in 2006.

Israeli Attacks Backfire, Unite Hamas, Fatah

Mel Frykberg, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
      During the last few weeks Israeli troops have raided and closed down mosques, medical centers, charities, soup kitchens and shopping malls in Nablus, confiscating computers and buses, and causing extensive damage, as they target Hamas-linked institutions which they claim are "supporting terrorism," in a bid to stem the growing influence the Islamic organization has over the West Bank.
     Not only has this move failed to stem the enthusiasm and empathy many Palestinians have for Hamas, and the support it provides for disadvantaged Palestinians; but it also appears to be backfiring with the moderate and pro-Western Palestinian Authority (PA) and in the process, narrowing the gap, however minutely, between the PA and Hamas.
     In an act of solidarity, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad paid a visit to the shopping mall and encouraged shop owners and business managers in the center to reopen their shops despite threats from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which stated it would shortly take over ownership.

One-room houses in the stories of struggle and hunger

Amin Abu Wardeh, Palestine News Network 7/19/2008
      Nablus -- Poverty and destruction are ravaging the Old City of Nablus as Israel forces continue to the attacks and closures. More families are living in smaller spaces, with one room becoming common. Bringing food for a family is increasingly difficult.
     The Old City has a population of 30,000 and it has been referred to as a "disaster area." The ancient buildings are frequently destroyed, while the tanks or bulldozers that periodically plow through shake the underground Roman city to the point of further destruction.
     The Al Aqaba family is representative of hundreds of families in the Old City who are facing unemployment, overcrowding, and imprisoned family members.
     The room they live in does not exceed six meters square which is used during the day to receive guests and at night the children whose parents are imprisoned sleep there along with their grandmother. They are 11 year old Samah and her brother, 12 year old Jihad. Their parents were sentenced to 18 and 13 years in Israeli prison.

A West Bank Town’s Fight to Survive

Neve Gordon, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
      "Jerusalem bulldozer ’terrorist’ kills 3 in rampage," read the headline of a CNN article describing the recent attack of a Palestinian construction worker that left three Israelis dead and scores wounded. A Google news search indicates that the brutal assault was mentioned in 3,525 news articles. USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera as well as all the other major media outlets covered the incident. Lesser-known media sources, such as the Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates, the Edmonton Sun in Canada and B92 in Serbia, also featured the event. Indeed, one could safely assume that almost all news outlets around the globe provided some type of coverage of the attack.
     Another Google news search, this one using the name Ni’lin, produces only seventy-five results. A few major outlets have carried the story about the brave resistance to Israeli seizures of land staged by the residents of this Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank, but CNN, the LA Times and USA Today have not. Sources like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times provided a short caption, no more. Considering that over the past two months the residents of Ni’lin have managed to make a mark on the history of popular opposition, the limited coverage of their campaign is not a mere oversight.

Militants Cast Doubt on Gaza Ceasefire

Omar Karmi, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
      Amir al Sharif is keen to talk. For nearly two hours he does so almost non-stop, opining that Hamas was originally supported by Israel’s Shin Bet security service to challenge the PLO and Fatah. He said since then the Islamist movement had never missed an opportunity to weaken Fatah and complained that since Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire with the “Zionist enemy”, it was acting as “Israel’s policeman” in the Gaza Strip.
     A few years ago, almost the exact same rhetoric would have been heard from a Hamas leader in hiding. But the tables have turned in the Gaza Strip, and where Islamist militants once were on the run from both the direct rulers of Gaza – in the shape of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority – as well as the Israeli army, it is now Fatah militants.
     And with ordinary Gazans yet to feel any tangible change in their daily lives as a result of the Gaza ceasefire, opposition to an otherwise broadly supported ceasefire may grow.
     Mr Sharif, 34, is the leader of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a militant group affiliated to Fatah, in the Gaza Strip. In the wake of the Gaza ceasefire, the Brigades fired rockets across the border almost wrecking the hard-wrought Egyptian-mediated agreement. Mr Sharif is now wanted by Hamas.

Different Planets

Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 7/19/2008
      I spent the whole day flipping between the Israeli channels and Aljazeera.
     It was an eerie experience: in a fraction of a second I could switch between two worlds, but all the channels reported on exactly the same occasion. In one section of the breaking news, the events happened at a distance of a few dozen meters from each other, but they could just as well have happened on two different planets.
     Never before have I experienced the tragic conflict in such a stunning immediacy as last Wednesday, the day of the prisoner swap between the State of Israel and the Hezbollah organization.
     The man who stood at the center of the event personifies the abyss that separates the two worlds, the Israeli and the Arab: Samir al-Kuntar.
     All Israeli media call him "Murderer Kuntar", as if that were his first name. For the Arab media, he is "Hero Samir al-Kuntar".
     29 years ago, before Hezbollah had become a significant factor, he landed with his comrades on the beach of Nahariya and carried out an attack that has imprinted itself on the Israeli national memory with its cruelty. In the course of it, a four year-old girl was murdered, and a mother accidentally suffocated her small child while trying to keep it from giving away their hiding place. Kuntar was then 16 years old - not a Palestinian, nor a Shiite, but a Lebanese Druze and a communist. The action was set in motion by a small Palestinian fraction.

Shebaa Farms can Create Momentum for Peace

Cesar Chelala, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
      Shebaa Farms is a sliver of land located in the border area between Israel, Lebanon and Syria. It can play an important role, much larger than its size. An agreement on that area – located some 16 square miles on the western slopes of the Hermon Mountain range – can help create a much-needed momentum for peace in the region.
     After Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah justified its attacks against the country by claiming Israel’s withdrawal was incomplete, that the Shebaa Farms belonged to Lebanon. Neither Israel nor the United Nations shared this perspective at the time. But there is now renewed interest in that area. During a visit to Lebanon last June, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “The United States believes that the time has come to deal with the Shebaa Farms issue.” Ms. Rice also called on the United Nations to use its “good offices” to deal with this issue.
     The Shebaa Farms were captured during the 1967 Six Day War—concurrent with the capture of the Golan Heights from Syria, at a time when Lebanon was not an active participant of the war. Israel considered the area part of Syria, and extended Israeli law when it annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. This unilateral annexation was not recognised by the United Nations in its non-binding 497 resolution. That resolution, adopted unanimously, states that “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”

Ruling Palestine Ii: The West Bank Model?

International Crisis Group, MIFTAH 7/19/2008
      In June 2007, as Hamas took control of Gaza and a new government was formed in the West Bank, observers ventured two scenarios. The West Bank might become a model, whose economic revival and improved relations with Israel and the wider world contrasted with Gaza’s sorry fate; or, given continued occupation and the structural dysfunctionality of the Palestinian Authority (PA), it would see little progress. Both were wrong. Under Salam Fayyad’s competent leadership, it has made gains, particularly in law and order.
     But a model it is not. The advances are insufficient to persuade Israel to loosen the closure regime or halt military incursions deemed critical to its security. Absence of a functioning parliament and Palestinian security services’ harsh tactics against Hamas sympathisers are inconsistent with accountable, transparent, legitimate governance. Israel and the PA should improve coordination; their international partners should prod them to do so, while giving significant financial aid. But ending the geographic division and restoring parliamentary democracy are critical for longer term stability.