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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.

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
20 July 2008

VIDEO - Ashraf Abu Rahme shot by Israeli army while handcuffed and blindfolded
Video, International Solidarity Movement 7/20/2008
Ramallah Region - Bil’in Village - In video footage released on the 20th July by B’Tselem, Ashraf Abu Rahme of Bil’in village, can be seen being handcuffed, blindfolded and then shot at close range by the Israeli army. Ashraf was taking part in a solidarity demonstration attempting to break the siege of Ni’lin when he was detained by the army. While clearly handcuffed and unable to see, an Israeli soldier can be seen shooting Ashraf in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet from extremely close range, while another soldier holds him by the arm. The footage was filmed by a resident of Ni’lin who showed it to international solidarity activists living in Ni’lin on the 19th July. The ISM activists were shocked by the footage and quickly passed it on to B’Tselem who have released it to the local, Israeli and international media.

VIDEO - Elderly Palestinian couple hit with guns by Israeli soldiers
International Solidarity Movement 7/20/2008
Hebron Region - Video - Photos - On Friday the 18th of July settlers from Karmeel disrupted an old couple in the village of Um al Khaer. This happened at about 11. 15 am, when the couple and a donkey were on their way back from the fields after having collected wood. The settlers called the army, who soon arrived at the spot. The couple reported that the soldiers hit the old couple with guns and they also insulted the woman verbally. At 12:15pm Israeli and international activists arrived and attempted to get in touch with the soldiers responsible for the assault. Instead a settler responsible for "security" met the activists and tried to unlawfully detain one of them. Following this illegal detainment an Israeli Human Rights Worker (HRW) tried to intervene, but was kicked to the ground by the "security" man from the settlement.

Palestinian farmers have their home destroyed and belongings stolen by settlers
International Solidarity Movement 7/20/2008
Hebron Region - On the 18th July, in Samoa, near the illegal outpost of Asaeel, approximately 25 settlers attacked a Palestinian farmer. The settlers tore down the tent of a Palestinian farmer and stole every proof of Palestinian residence at the location. At 9. 30pm 25 settlers arrived by car to Palestinian land near the illegal outpost of Asaeel. The settler mob walked up to the home of a farming family and told them to leave, whereupon they started to tear down the tent, stealing everything in the household: from gas ovens to teapots. Asked who they were, they claimed to not being locals but inhabitants of Hebron settlement Kiryat Arba. Trying in vain to stop the stealing of his property, the Palestinian farmer managed to stop an army jeep. The soldiers however told the man to call the police, even though the soldiers witnessed all belongings of the Palestinian family being stolen and stuffed in to cars.

Brown pledges aid to Palestinians, calls for settlement freeze
Robin Millard, Daily Star 7/21/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED BETHLEHEM: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday pledged new aid to the Palestinians and called for a freeze on Israeli settlement building to bolster the Middle East peace process. "We have pledged $500 million for economic development in Palestine over three years to 2011," Brown said after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. in the Occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem. "I can announce today a further commitment of $60 million," Brown said on his first visit to the region as Britain’s premier, bringing total British aid in 2008 to $175 million. Brown called for a freeze on Jewish colonies in the Occupied West Bank, echoing criticism by the United States, saying their expansion had "made peace harder to achieve. " Settlement expansion "erodes trust, it heightens Palestinian suffering, it makes the compromises Israel will need. . . "

Palestine Youth Orchestra rehearses for regional tour focusing on Jerusalem
Palestine News Network 7/20/2008
Ramallah / PNN - The Palestine Youth Orchestra of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music is in the midst of their training in preparation for a round of musical performances in Palestine, Jordan and Syria. The training is taking place at Ramallah’s Birzeit University in a type of summer camp between 17 and 26 July. For the tour and local performances they will accompany an orchestra from the University of Bonn in Germany. Eighty young musicians are rehearsing a program that will tour regionally under the title, "Jerusalem is the Song. "The Palestine Youth Orchestra has already played three times in Amman, Jordan, culminating in last year’s performance in Bonn. This year will be different because the focus is on Jerusalem. The Director of the Bonn project said, "My mission in Palestine has a different target.

Daily arrest campaign in West Bank
Palestine News Network 7/20/2008
Ramallah / PNN -- During the reoccurring pre-dawn raids, Israeli forces struck Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah. Early Sunday soldiers took two Palestinians from the northern and southern West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron, claiming they were "wanted" for questioning. Both were taken to interrogation centers. Elsewhere, Israeli forces stormed at dawn today the Jalazone Refugee Camp in northern Ramallah and the neighboring city of Al Bireh. Palestinian security sources reported that several Israeli military surrounded the refugee camp without any reported arrests. [end]

Israeli warships fire at Gazan fishermen
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli warships opened fire at Gazan fishermen for three hours on Sunday morning. Security sources in the Hamas de facto government in the Gaza Strip told Ma’an that Israeli warships fired a number of anti-tank missiles at fishermen’s boats and opened fire heavily at them while fishing in the Sudaniyya area north of Gaza City and Ash-Shati camp west of Gaza City. The shots were fired between 3 and 6 in the morning. Sources explained that the missiles horrified fishermen and damaged several boats. No injuries have been reported. There has been a ceasefire in place in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian factions for one month, however the ceasefire has been breached repeatedly by Israeli forces. Palestinian factions, on the other hand, have succeeded in preventing the launch of homemade projectiles towards Israeli towns after minor factions tried a few time to launch homemade projectiles.

Agriculture ministry condemns IOF firing at Palestinian fishermen
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA agriculture ministry on Sunday lashed out at Israeli occupation forces for constantly firing at Palestinian fishermen at sea and even at the beach. The ministry in a press release said that the IOF gunboats fired at the fishing boats off Sudania area to the northwest of Gaza city open Sunday morning causing damage to those boats, which were anchored at the shore. It said that the IOF troops fire at fishermen at sea and during their work in fishing nets on the beach in absolute disregard of the calm that went into effect a month ago. "Fishermen in Gaza never really sensed the IOF commitment to the calm", it added. The ministry asked the international and legal organizations to monitor those violations and to denounce them and not to allow the occupation to fight the fishermen in their sole source of sustenance.

Shabak blocks departure of 14 critically ill Palestinians from Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israel’s general security service the Shabak has blocked the travel of 14 critically ill Palestinians including two blind brothers from leaving the Gaza Strip for treatment abroad at security pretexts. The Israeli physicians for human rights said in a report that the number of Palestinians allowed to leave the Strip for treatment has drastically dropped to 15 or 20 patients daily. Quds press on Sunday quoted the society as saying that over the past two months about 120 patients pleaded with the society after the Israeli occupation authority refused to grant them travel permits. The society noted that the two blind brothers are children 13 and 14 years old, and noted that the Israeli replies to its queries on those requests were not convincing. For its part, the Islamic Jihad Movement said that the calm between Palestinian resistance factions and Israel was collapsing. . .

Europeans plan to break the siege on Gaza using boat
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The "Free Gaza Movement" has announced on Saturday that it was preparing to sail to the Gaza Strip from Cyprus with the aim to break the two-year old Israeli siege on Gaza Strip using a boat. In a telephone contact with Dr. Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the anti-siege popular committee in Gaza, coordinator of the Movement Dr. Paul Larudee confirmed that the vessel would sail from Cyprus to Gaza as scheduled on the 5th August with 45 members, including Richard Falk, the next UN envoy to Palestine, and other European parliamentarians and artists on board with the aim to break the blockade on Gaza. According to Larudee, the team of the vessel also comprises legal activists of different nationalities rejecting the unjust Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip where 1. 5 million Palestinians are living in very harsh conditions.

Escalating settler violence in Hebron: Settlers attack internationals with pepper spray
International Solidarity Movement 7/20/2008
Hebron Region - On Saturday settlers on two occasions attacked internationals with stones and pepper spray outside the Kiryat Arba in Hebron. The last days, following the arrival of a new Israeli troops with a decidedly more brutal and oppressive attitude, several incidents of harassment against Palestinians has taken place in Tel Rumedia and throughout the city. After the arrival on Thursday of a new unit of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) the overall situation in Hebron has worsened considerably, according to both international activists and observers. Inside Tel Rumeida, the number of detentions of Palestinians have increased dramatically and seemingly random harassment and restrictions are abundant, making every day life for Palestinians even more difficult than usual. On Sunday the military arrested several persons from a Palestinian family for working their lands, and soldiers

212 Palestinians dead awaiting permission to leave Gaza for treatment
Palestine News Network 7/20/2008
Gaza / PNN -- The People’s Committee against the Blockade announced another medical death on Sunday. He was 44 year old Mahmoud Abu Rizk of Gaza City waiting for Israeli permission to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment. The death toll of medical patients awaiting permits has reached 212. Late last week Wasim Iyad Hamdan died at just 11 months old. He was from the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. [end]

Israeli forces arrest two Palestinians in Nablus and Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested a young Palestinian man from Balata refugee camp east of Nablus in the northern West Bank Sunday morning after storming the camp overnight on Saturday. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an’s correspondent that Israeli forces raided the camp overnight and apprehended 19-year-old Rasim Hashash. The young man was taken to an unknown location. Israeli sources confirmed that he was arrested. In the south of the West Bank, Israeli sources said its army arrested one man in Hebron. [end]

Palestinian on horse run down by Israeli Jeep
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – A Palestinian young man was seriously injured on Sunday when an Israeli military jeep chased him down and ran him over while he was riding a horse between Qalqilia and the nearby town of Habla in the northern West Bank. Eyewitnesses identified the young man as 21-year-old Khalid Dughmush. They said he was seriously injured and an Israeli ambulance evacuated him to unknown destination. The witnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that the soldiers deliberately hit the young man on his horse while they could have easily arrested him if they had wanted to. [end]

Three Palestinians die after fighting breaks out in Ain al-Hilweh
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
AIN AL-HILWEH: Three Palestinians were killed after an argument between rival factions in a refugee camp in South Lebanon turned violent, a Palestinian official said on Sunday. The fighting broke out late on Saturday in Ain al-Hilweh camp, the largest in Lebanon, between Islamist group Jund al-Sham and a joint force of Palestinian factions which polices the camp. Those shot dead were Walid Sallum, an Islamist member of a committee formed to resolve differences between rival factions, a Jund al-Sham leader, Shehade Jawhar, and Jund al-Sham member Abed Jawali. Jawhar, who was wanted in Lebanon for murder and who had fought in Iraq, died on Sunday from gunshot wounds, the Palestinian official told AFP. The funerals of the three men took place under heavy Lebanese army security in Taamir, a district adjoining the camp where tensions remained high but efforts were under way to prevent a further violence.

Jund Ash-Sham clash with Fatah in Lebanon; one killed and one injured
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Lebanese media sources said on Saturday that one man was killed and another was injured as fierce clashes erupted between Fatah and Jund Ash-Sham in Ein Al-Hilwa refugee camp south of Beirut on the coast of Lebanon. The sources stated that clashes began after heated argument between two members of both movements which developed to heavy shooting, then to fierce clashes killing one member of "Jund Ash-Sham" and injuring another affiliated to Fatah movement. Clashes lasted 15 minutes before Islamic forces and the camp’s follow up committee intervened and ended the clash. Jund Ash-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant/Damascus) is an anti-Fatah movement started by Palestinian refugees living in the ’Ein Al-Hilwa refugee camp.

Two Palestinians and four internationals arrested in Susiya
International Solidarity Movement 7/20/2008
Hebron Region - Photos - On Sunday 20th July, four two Palestinians and four internationals were arrested in Susiya, South Hebron Hills, after settlers confronted them as were out grazing sheep. The group were arrested despite the fact that only the day before the Israeli army had confirmed that they were allowed to graze the cattle in that area. As the group set out early in the morning, a settler, with his face covered, ran towards them in an attempt to chase the sheep away while screaming "this is my land". He was soon joined by four other settlers carrying sticks, who forced the Palestinians and internationals to move quickly from the area. Israeli soldiers then immediately turned up and detained the group, despite the fact that all they had done was to take sheep to a previously agreed area and film while settlers attacked.

Ni’lin demonstrations continue to succeed in halting construction
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 7/20/2008
Hundreds of people from Ni’lin and the surrounding villages, supported by some internationals, marched again to their threatened land. The people managed to halt construction work, causing the Occupation force stationed in the area to respond violently. The demonstration began at 11:00 in the village centre. Given the recent victories against the bulldozers, soldiers have been making serious efforts to keep demonstrators out of the vicinity of the construction zone. As the march approached, soldiers fired sound and gas bombs. This failed to halt the demonstrators, and as the people came closer, soldiers physically attacked the leaders. When bulldozer operators realized that the army would fail to stop the villagers, they halted work and fled the area.

Trapped Gazans accepted at overseas universities: ''Gordon Brown help us''
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Palestinian students ask British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday to press Israel to let Gazan students that have been accepted at foreign universities go to school in September. Students trapped in the Gaza Strip together with representatives of the British campaign of “Let Palestinian Students Study” sent a message to Gordon Brown upon his arrival to the Palestinian territories. The message was signed by Rami Abdu representative of the British campaign and Wa’el Ad-Dayeh coordinator of the trapped students committee. The message said:“Dreams of the students in Gaza faded away day after day and hour after hour, despite the guarantee of freedom of movement and transportation in humankind’s human rights. It is time to relieve the students’ pains and it is time for them to be allowed to study, we hope to receive a serious decision to let us leave to rejoin our college.

Khudari asks Brown to intervene to halt Israel’s collective punishment
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular anti siege committee, on Sunday addressed a message to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown asking him to intervene to stop Israeli crimes. Khudari said that Israel was still pursuing the policy of mass punishment against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip in flagrant violation of the international laws and human rights. He said that the continued Israeli penal measures had gravely affected all aspects of life in the Strip and caused the death of more than 210 patients due to closure of crossings and lack of adequate treatment in the besieged Strip. The siege led to the closure of 3,500 workshops after closure of crossings blocked entry of raw material and other necessary equipment and led to the consequent unemployment of 140,000 workers, the MP noted.

Brown to warn Iran in first ever Knesset speech by British PM
Reuters, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
In the first speech to the Knesset by a British prime minister, Gordon Brown on Monday will warn Iran it faces growing isolation if it rejects an offer from major powers on its disputed nuclear program. Brown will pledge to stand by Israel and condemn threats against the country by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to excerpts of the speech released by his office in advance. "Iran now has a clear choice to make: suspend its nuclear program and accept our offer of negotiations or face growing isolation and the collective response not of one nation but of many nations," Brown will say. "Just as we have led the work on three mandatory sanctions resolutions of the United Nations, the U. K. will continue to lead - with the U. S. and our European Union partners - in our determination to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program," Brown said in the excerpts.

Brown to target Iran in historic first speech from Knesset floor
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 7/21/2008
Gordon Brown will today use the first ever speech by a British prime minister to the Israeli parliament to issue a clear threat of tougher international action if Iran fails to halt steps towards becoming a nuclear military power. "Iran now has a clear choice to make: suspend its nuclear programme and accept our offer of negotiations or face growing isolation and the collective response not of one nation, but of many nations," Mr Brown will say from the Knesset floor. The threat will be coupled with a strongly personal restatement of his affection for Israel, inherited from his father, a Church of Scotland minister who had learnt Hebrew. Mr Brown yesterday visited the Yad Vashem memorial museum commemorating the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and today will stress his lifelong affinity with Israel and declare that it is "totally abhorrent for the President of Iran to call for Israel to be wiped from the map of the world.

British Prime Minister meets President Abbas in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the presidential compound in Bethlehem. Abbas welcomed Brown to the city of the birthplace of Jesus, "the messenger of love and peace. " During the meeting Abbas stated his worries over the lack of Israeli commitment to the Annapolis conference held in the US in November 2007. President Abbas also referred to the Arab peace initiative launched in 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League. He said that the plan would see a Palestinian state established with Jerusalem as its capital, and Israeli forces withdraw from the region in order to give Palestinians autonomy of the area within the 1967 borders. He said that the proposal was still waiting for an Israeli response. In the mean-time, said the President, the Palestinian Authority. . .

British PM promotes UK-Palestinian business ties during visit
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed his support on Sunday for a new Palestinian-British business council and a conference in London later this year to support the Palestinian economy. "You are making history," Brown told the assembled businessmen and women, praising both the proposed council and conference. Brown was speaking to a gathering of Palestinian and British business leaders in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The meeting was attended by 31 Palestinian business figures, including four from the Gaza Strip. Two Gazan businessmen were barred from attending the meeting by Israeli authorities. Brown, a former finance minister, is promoting an economic model of peacemaking on his first trip to Israel and Palestine. "We will make the cost of returning to violence ever so high," Brown said, by building up the Palestinian economy.

Brown calls for end to Israeli settlement building
The Guardian 7/20/2008
Brown calls for end to Israeli settlement building Matthew Weaverand agencies guardian. co. ukSunday July 20, 2008 Gordon Brown today called Israel to stop settlement construction in the West Bank as he offered financial help and police training to the Palestinian government. Speaking at a press conference with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Brown said "settlement expansion has made peace harder to achieve". He added: "It erodes trust, it heightens Palestinian suffering, it makes the compromises Israel will need to make for peace more difficult. So we are very clear - not just Britain but the whole of the European Union - what should be done. " But he that terrorism was also proving a "major obstacle" to Palestinian statehood. Brown announced an extra £30m of support for the Palestinian Authority.

The Brown Visit / Opening for The Beatles
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
"Poor Gordon Brown," a senior official in the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday, "he just happened to visit Israel the same week U. S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is expected to arrive and isn’t receiving much attention. "Indeed, visiting Israel on the same week that Obama is expected to arrive is like being the opening act for the Beatles. There were few signs on the streets of Jerusalem yesterday that the prime minister of one of Israel’s most important allies and the leader of one of the most important countries in the world was in town. For some reason, Union Jack flags were nowhere to be seen in the capital. Brown’s arrival is also in the shadow of the recent visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarah Brown may be a founding partner in a public relations firm and a supporter of charities, but she’s no Carla Bruni.

British PM’s wife visits Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Sarah Brown, the wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, visited Aida refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday in order to learn about the situation of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian Minister of Tourism Khuloud Daibes accompanied Brown on a tour of a school run by UNRWA, the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine refugees. UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd briefed Brown on the harsh living conditions faced by most Palestinian refugees in the crowded camps administered by UNRWA throughout the Middle East. The residents of Aida camp, some 5,000 people, face a doubly harsh situation, as the Israeli separation wall cuts them off from Jerusalem and from nearby Palestinian communities. Many in the camp used to work in Jerusalem before the construction of the wall and the imposition of strict permit system used to keep most Palestinians out of the capital.

VIDEO - Soldier who fired in Naalin incident arrested
Ali Waked, YNetNews 7/21/2008
(VIDEO) Criminal investigation launched against soldier caught on tape firing towards bound Palestinian. Regarding late response to incident, military officials say that despite presence of officer at scene, investigation was launched only after tape was submitted - VIDEO -The incident in which an IDF soldier fired rubber bullets at a bound Palestinian who had been arrested in Naalin reached the Investigating Military Police (IMP) only after the military advocate general watched the documentation of the incident, despite the fact that it was witnessed by an Armored Corps regiment commander and several other soldiers in the vicinity. Military officials told Ynet that the firing soldier had been arrested. According to one source, "he was questioned a short while after the incident, but only today, after the military advocate general watched the video tape, a criminal investigation was launched.

Israeli soldier shot bound Palestinian, video shows
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: An Israeli soldier shot an arrested and bound Palestinian in the leg with a plastic bullet, footage released by an Israeli human-rights group showed on Sunday. B’Tselem’s video shows the Palestinian demonstrator - identified as Ashraf Abu Rahman, 27 - with handcuffs and a blindfold, as a lieutenant colonel holds him by the arm. Abu Rahman was lightly wounded in the incident which took place on July 7 in Nilin, a West Bank village where regular protests are held against Israel’s separation barrier by stone-throwing demonstrators, the group said. The Israeli Army, which says five border guards, three soldiers and two laborers working on the wall were injured during protests in June, announced the launch of an inquiry after the video was shown on Palestinian television. Israel says the barrier is needed to stop potential attackers from infiltrating Israel and. . .

VIDEO - IDF soldier documented firing towards bound Palestinian
Ali Waked, YNetNews 7/20/2008
(VIDEO) Palestinian teen films soldier aiming towards bound demonstrator arrested in Naalin, firing rubber bullets while officer holds man’s arm; Palestinian claims was injured by fire. IDF: This serious incident negates army values - VIDEO -The IDF has begun to investigate an incident in which rubber bullets were fired towards a bound Palestinian man who had been apprehended during the demonstrations against the border fence in the West Bank village of Naalin. A 14-year old girl from the village filmed the incident from the window of her home, and the tape has reached Ynet, though the first few seconds immediately following the shooting are missing. The IDF has stated that the incident is serious and negates the army’s values, and that the Investigating Military Police (IMP) have launched an inquiry into the matter after receiving the tape.

Abbas’ advisor criticises European Commission for basing TEMPUS office in Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Hatim Abdul-Qadir, the advisor to the Palestinian president, criticized the European commission on Sunday for basing the Israeli branch of Trans-European Mobility Programme for University Studies (TEMPUS) in Jerusalem while the Palestinian branch has been based in Ramallah in the central West Bank. According to Abdul-Qadir, this European procedure was unprecedented and it has political connotations which can’t be overlooked. He said that the move uncovers support for the de facto situation where Israel is trying to claim sovereignty over Jerusalem. He requested an explanation from the European Commission, especially since the final status of the Palestinians in Jerusalem is up for discussion with several dignitaries in the coming months. He wondered of there would be further actions by the European Commission that would recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Ma’an Exclusive: Interview with PM Salam Fayyad
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an Exclusive – "Israeli deals with the West Bank lands as public property which the Israelis exploit as they like and when they like," said appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In an interview with Ma’an’s chief editor Nasser Lahham recorded on Saturday afternoon, Fayyad answered questions about why he bothers to insist on the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River when Israel continuously thwarts his efforts. The interview will be aired on Palestine TV and on Ma’an’s local TV stations soon. "Israel is just one player," he said, "and can not decide [to play] alone. "His government’s role, he continued, is to "enhance the steadfastness of the people and support them to in their efforts to resist the separation wall and to remain on their lands. " "The idea of establishing Palestinian state" he asserted, "is acceptable and. . .

Abbas requests follow up on medical condition of PLC member Ad-Dweik
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Ramallah- Ma’an special- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked chief of civilian affairs Hussein Ash-Sheikh to check on Ad-Dweik and his medical condition in Megiddo prison. Sources told Ma’an news that Abbas requested a follow up on Palestinian legislative council for Hamas Aziz Ad-Dweik, who has been in prison for two years. Medical staff at Ar-Ramla hospital had previously decided to operate on Ad-Dweik who was discovered to have gall stones. The stones have remained untreated and have caused Ad-Dweik a great deal of pain during his detention. Abbas asked Ash-Sheikh to visit Ad-Dweik in prison and to monitor his medical treatment. For his part, Ash-Sheikh made required communications with an Israeli liaison to plan a visit to the Israeli prison as soon as possible. Ad-Dweik has been detained along with 44 other Hamas deputies and ministers.

Olmert: We will not rest until Shalit is home
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 7/20/2008
PM tells cabinet meeting ’our values differ from those of our enemies. What some may consider a weakness is the foundation of our solidarity and the basis of Israel’s moral strength’ -"We will not rest until Gilad Shalit is back home, safe and sound," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting. "I told the Shalit family on Thursday that we have a moral obligation to bring soldiers home," he said. "It is neither simple nor easy, but we won’t rest until we bring Gilad home. " Turning his attention to last week’s Hizbullah, in which Israel released five Lebanese prisoners for the bodies of IDF reservistsEhud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, Olmert said "on behalf of the Israeli government, I wish to console the families of the brave soldiers, who were laid to rest here at home.

Report: High-ranking Israeli officials doubtful Hamas prisoner deal will pass
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Israel has agreed to release just 70 prisoners from a list of 450 Hamas wants freed in exchange for the release of an Israeli soldier held by Palestinians in Gaza, an Israeli newspaper reported on Sunday. The Hebrew-language daily Maariv quoted high-ranking sources in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office asserting that the remaining prisoners on the list are “killers” whose release will harm Israel’s security. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz called the prisoner negotiations "deadlocked. " Other high-ranking sources suggested that these reservations about the prisoners on Hamas’ list means that a deal between Hamas and Israel is still not within reach. Hamas is hoping to reach a deal on the prisoners in the wake of a historic exchange of prisoners and bodies last week between Israel and the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah.

Barak: Israel will do all it can to bring Shalit home
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday evening that Israel would do everything in its power to see the safe return of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. "We have a sense of moral and commanding obligation to do everything possible and appropriate to bring Gilad home whole," Barak said during an event honoring Israel’s 1948 generation in Tel Aviv. At the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem earlier Sunday, Barak proposed imposing a full military censure on the Shalit talks, saying that less transparency will increase the chances that negotiations will succeed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet he believes Shalit will return to Israel alive and well. "I have called the Shalit family and promised them in all our names that we would do everything possible to bring Gilad Shalit home alive, healthy and whole as soon as possible," he said.

State officials: Shalit deal will require Israel to pay painful price
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 7/21/2008
Following swap deal with Hizbullah, Israel prepares for actualizing swap for Gilad Shalit; to this end committee headed by Haim Ramon will convene to decide whether Israel should ease its stance on prisoners Hamas is demanding - Less than one week after the return of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser’s bodies to Israel in caskets, the State is preparing for the promotion of the deal to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. A committee headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon is set to convene in the near future in order to discuss rendering Israel’s stance on the issue of prisoner release more flexible. A State official told Ynet on Monday that "in the end, despite the strict negotiations we will hold with Hamas, Israel will have to pay a hefty price in murderers in order to bring Gilad home. "Olmert on ShalitOlmert: We will not rest until Shalit is home/ . . .

Betancourt calls for Gilad Shalit’s release
Reuters, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Colombian-French politician holds kidnapped Israeli soldier’s picture as she urges rebels to free all hostages during Paris rally - Ingrid Betancourt urged Colombian rebels to free all hostages as she addressed a rally in the French capital on Sunday that was part of a series of demonstrations around the world to protest against kidnappings. Thousands gathered near the Eiffel Tower to hear Betancourt, a Franco-Colombian politician rescued from captivity this month after spending more than six years as a hostage of Colombian rebel forces. Betancourt held a large sign with kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s photo. The sign read, "Gilad Shalit, kidnapped since June 2006. " "We want freedom for everyone," said Betancourt, drawing loud applause from the crowd, many of whom chanted the Spanish word for freedom "Libertad!".

MI chief warns of attacks on northern, southern fronts
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Maj. -Gen. Amos Yadlin briefs ministers on aftermath of Hizbullah prisoner exchange deal, Iranian nuclear program, general terror assessments; says Israel’s enemies disinterested in war at present time - Director of Military Intelligence Major-General Amos Yadlin told the cabinet Sunday that Israel’s enemies have no interest in provoking any military conflict while US President George W. Bush is still in office. The military, he warned, does believe a limited military campaign, which will probably not escalate into a full-fledged war, is possible. " We have intelligence indicating terror activities are possible both on the northern and southern fronts. Hizbullah may choose to use one of their still disputed subjects, such as the Shaaba Farms or Imad Mugniyah’s assassination," he told the cabinet. Cabinet MeetingOlmert: We will not rest until Shalit is. . .

Swap boosted Hizbullah’s image, analysts say
Rima Abushakra, Daily Star 7/21/2008
Agence France Presse BEIRUT: As Hizbullah boasted of victory in this week’s prisoner swap with Israel, analysts said that the exchange gave the resistance group increased political leverage at home. On Wednesday Israel handed over its last five Lebanese prisoners, including the longest serving detainee in Israeli prisons Samir Kontar, and the bodies of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters. In exchange Hizbullah returned the bodies of Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev who were captured on July 12, 2006. Israel responded to the border incident by launching a devastating 34-day war on Lebanon. "This doesn’t change anything in the equation of Hizbullah and Israel," said Timur Goksel, former spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon. "It just closes one subject, but there are still other issues.

Haneyya: We are ready for immediate, unconditional national dialog
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, has underlined that his government was ready for immediate Palestinian national dialogue and discussing all pending internal issues without any conditions attached. Haneyya, speaking at a ceremony organized on Saturday evening by the Islamic University in Gaza to honor its outstanding graduate students, said that he would never retract his position. He avowed keenness on national unity and internal dialogue to end the discord and restore unity and cohesion. The premier also opined that the Israeli siege on the Palestinian people would inevitably collapse in face of Palestinian steadfastness. Haneyya expected another ceremony in the near future to celebrate the freedom of Palestinian prisoners from occupation jails. For his part, MP Jamal Al-Khudari, who is the chairman of the University’s board of. . .

Haniyeh and Abbas advisors call for change to end unity crisis
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has had two calls on Sunday to take action in order to end the crisis of national unity. Ahmad Yousif the political advisor Ismail Haniyeh, called on Sunday for president Mahmoud Abbas to "kick off national dialogue. " Yousif stated that Hamas welcomed dialogue "anyplace and anywhere. "He expressed his disappointment that even though Abbas launched his initiative for dialogue on 4 June, no dialogue has taken place. He also regrets Abbas’ decision to exclude HAmas leader in exile Khalid Mash’al from his meetings with other Palestinian factions in Damascus. "Several mistakes have been made in the Palestinian street, and may be crimes," Said Yousif. He said that he regretted the bloodshed over the issue of national unity, and added that the PAlestinan people can now choose to continue on this path, or to sit down and talk,. . .

Abu Marzouk: Internal conciliation benefits Abbas
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, said that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas stands to benefit considerably from any internal reconciliation. Abu Marzouk in an interview with Palestine daily published on Sunday said that Abbas is responsible for the internal Palestinian division that happened during his term in office. Abbas has to restore national cohesion to the Palestinian arena, the Hamas leader said, opining that Abbas’s political program championing negotiations with Israeli occupation could not accomplish anything without Palestinian unity. It is in the interest of Abbas to prepare the adequate atmosphere for the upcoming presidential election that is only few months away, Abu Marzouk elaborated. He said that his Movement in its Arab and Islamic tours discussed the basic questions of internal dialog, Gaza siege and supporting the. . .

Preventive security officer arrested in Gaza City
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Ramallah – Sources within Fatah in the Gaza Strip said on Saturday evening that the security forces affiliated to the Hamas’ de facto government seized an officer in the Palestinian Authority’s preventive security service. The man arrested wasMarwan Al-Gharabili from the Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City. Sources told Ma’an that a large number of security forces besieged Al-Gharabili’s house before apprehending him without explanation. [end]

Bardawil warns of political agreement by Abbas surrendering rights
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has warned of the dangers of a political agreement between PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli premier Ehud Olmert that would declare establishment of a Palestinian state on 1967 areas without including a solution to the issues of Jerusalem, refugees and prisoners. MP Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesman for Hamas’s parliamentary bloc, said that an agreement is currently being prepared between the Palestinian negotiating team and Israel that would include recognizing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders without referring to Jerusalem, refugees or prisoners. He said that such an agreement could not be implemented on the ground but rather would be exploited for political ends in order to save the PA, Israel and the Republican Party in the USA from their worsening conditions. The lawmaker referred to Olmert’s scandals, the American Republican Party’s. . .

Military court of de facto government sentences collaborator to death
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The high military court of the de-facto government in the Gaza Strip sentenced 35-year-old Iyad Hamed Diab Sukkar a resident of the Gaza Strip to death convicted of collaborating with Israelis for more than five years. The decision of the high court was made during its session on Sunday 20 July 2008. Ihab Al-Ghussein of the interior ministry of the de-facto government said in a statement that the defendant participated in aggressions against Palestinian people and resistance fighters including Munir Sukkar who was assassinated. In addition, said the ministry, Sukkar passed information about a number of other fighters on to Israelis. Some of the information was about the activities and whereabouts of Mohammad Al-Widdiyeh who was also assassinated. Al-Ghussein confirmed that according to law the sentence will be handed over to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to review it and give his approval.

Nablus police uncover and arrest two separate gangs of burglars
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Palestinian police in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday arrested two gangs of burglars. The two groups had been robbing homes and shops in the area, according to a statement by the Police information office. The statement says that one of the gangs used to take advantage of Israeli incursions into Nablus to infiltrate into shops and steal goods. Police estimated that stolen items are worth about 29,400 USD, and that the gang broke into 16 shops over the past four months. Most of the stolen goods were cell phones, phone cards, SIM cards, computers, and cigarettes. According to the statement, the gang had three members; two who were responsible for stealing the items, and a third who would sell them. At least one third of the stolen gold appears to have been melted down in local jewelry workshops.

Dangerous fireworks seized in Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Tulkarem police in the northern West Bank seized a Palestinian on Sunday in possession of dangerous fireworks. According to Palestinian police, the fireworks were confiscated. Fireworks are ubiquitous in wedding, engagement or Tawjihi success parties all over Palestine. They are readily available in many local shops and generally affordable. According to the information office, 12 people have been injured in the West Bank in the last year as a result of fireworks accidents. In most cases fingers or hands had to be amputated. According to Tulkarem police, they have been able to decrease the use of fireworks during wedding parties and other celebrations.

Jordan urged to free killer of Israeli schoolgirls
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
AMMAN: King Abdullah II was urged on Sunday to pardon a Jordanian soldier who is serving a life sentence for killing seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997. "After around 12 years in prison, Ahmad Dakamseh deserves your majesty’s special pardon," a group of 70 Islamists, unionists, lawyers, human rights activists and former officials said in a signed letter to the king. In March 1997, Dakamseh fired an automatic weapon at a group of Israeli schoolgirls as they visited Baqura, a scenic peninsula on the Jordan River near the Israeli border, killing seven and wounded five others as well as a teacher. "Following the recent release of Arab prisoners, we hope to see Dakamseh free again," they said, referring to Israel’s prisoner swap with Lebanon’s Hizbullah last week. The signatories Islamic Action Front secretary general Zaki Bani Rsheid, former prime minister and intelligence department director. . .

Barack Obama to arrive in Israel Monday
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
U. S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is scheduled to land in Israel on Monday for a visit, which will include meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Obama is scheduled to dine with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tomorrow, and will later visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Over dinner, the prime minister plans to discuss Israel’s military intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program and stress the importance of maintaining diplomatic pressure on Tehran. Obama, who was in Afghanistan yesterday, will be accompanied by 100 U. S. reporters. On Wednesday morning, he will meet with officials including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Livni to join tourLivni will then accompany Obama on a tour, including. . .

Prof. Gabriela Shalev named new UN ambassador
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Israel’s first female UN ambassador to replace Gillerman in few weeks’ time. Livni: I am confident in her ability to represent Israel -The government approved Sunday the appointment of Professor Gabriela Shalev as Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said it was important for Israel to appoint a woman to the coveted position. Shalev, 67, is to replace current UN Ambassador Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s candidate for the job was former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas, who is hailed as an expert in US politics. Defense Minister Ehud Barak also backed Pinkas, as did President Shimon Peres and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. Shalev is rector of the Ono Academic College and has also served as chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, as a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Trustees and. . .

Talansky: I can’t remember details of cash transfers to Olmert
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
"I’d appreciate if you didn’t call me a liar," Talansky told Olmert attorney Eli Zohar after the lawyer asked whether his testimony "is a truth or a lie. " Talansky previously told police he gave Olmert $150,000, much of it in cash-filled envelopes, before Olmert became prime minister in 2006. Both Olmert and Talansky have denied any wrongdoing. The focus of Sunday’s cross-examination was a $25,000 payment Talansky told police in May was meant to finance an Olmert family vacation to Italy and a $72,500 Talansky described as a donation to Olmert’s election campaign. Olmert’s lawyers showed video clips from police interrogations showing Talansky changing his account of the sums he gave, even within the space of a single police session. Zohar accused Talansky of telling police what they wanted to hear so they would stop intimidating him.

Olmert lawyers try to crack key witness testimony
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Lawyers for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday they would prove that the testimony of a US millionaire at the heart of a corruption probe of the embattled premier was "null and void. ""We are going to prove in this cross-examination that the testimony of Morris Talansky is null and void," Eli Zohar, a member of Olmert’s legal team, told reporters ahead of the hearing. "Today is going to be very interesting. "His remarks came at the start of the third day of questioning of Talansky, a Jewish-American financier who in May testified that he steered some $150,000 in campaign contributions to Olmert before he assumed office in 2006. The 75-year-old Talansky had said much of the money was handed over in cash-stuffed envelopes when Olmert was Jerusalem mayor and trade minister, and may have gone to financing his penchant for luxury hotels and fine cigars.

VIDEO / Olmert’s lawyer: Police pressure shaped Talansky testimony
Barak Ravid and Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s defense attorneys on Sunday accused the police of trying to sway the testimony of the key witness in a corruption probe being waged against the premier, and suggested the suspicions be brought before the State Comptroller for review. The prosecution’s key witness, Jewish American businessman Morris Talansky, said Sunday stated Olmert’s attorneys were trying to destroy his good name and his privacy and accused them of trying to "tear me apart" over things he said they know little about. Talansky entered a third day of cross-examination by Olmert’s defense team on Sunday in the corruption investigation against the prime minister dubbed the "cash envelopes" affair. Olmert is suspected of having illicitly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Talansky over the course of 15 years.

Talansky says police statement forced out of him
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Third day of cross-examination proves dramatic as PM’s legal team gets key witness to admit police investigators pressured him into less than truthful statements. Olmert’s lawyers: Talansky probe may be investigated by state comptroller - Court drama: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s legal team has been able to back American BusinessmanMorris Talansky - the State’s key witness in the current investigation against the PM - into a corner during their Sunday’s cross-examination, making him admit his police deposition was less than truthful. Talansky is the State Prosecutor Office’s major - if not only - asset in the investigation, which is probing allegations indicating Olmert had illicitly received vast amounts of money from Talansky across a 15-year period. Online CelebrityKey witness Talansky’s credibility questioned / Efrat Weiss Witness. . .

Kadima MKs: We’ll overthrow PM if no primary is set
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
Knesset members from Kadima are threatening to cast a no-confidence vote against their own government if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to "block the efforts" to set an early primary election. Kadima is expected to finish voting on whether to set a primary later this week. In fact, the party was supposed to vote on changing Kadima’s charter tonight, but it appears that not enough Kadima members will attend the vote. Their absence, the rebel MKs say, is due to Olmert’s efforts to block the vote. Some members of Kadima’s council claim that they have been contacted over the weekend by Olmert’s associates who urged them to object to changing the charter, or at least skip the event or abstain. The charter requires a minimum of 91 votes to pass changes to the charter. So far only 75 members have voted on the issue.

Government fails to decide on Shochat Report
Moran Zelikovitch, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Prime minister delays talks on acedmia’s financial fate as dozens of students protest against budget cuts, exclusion from government discussions, saying finance minister’s threat to hike tuition will not go unfought - Government fails to decide. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Sunday that he is not planning to invite Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and Education Minister Yuli Tamir to continue discussions on the Shochat Commission Report. The Shochat Commission was established in November 2006 as a public committee meant to examine the state of higher education inIsrael. The commission headed by former Finance Minister Avraham Shochat did not include the students in its discussions, which led to struggle that resulted in the government’s obligation not to raise the tuition. Financial DrainFinance Ministry cuts university budgets by $275M / Moran. . .

IDF: Increase in indictments filed against draft-dodgers
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Cooperation between IDF, police resulting in more arrests of draft-dodgers, senior officer says, adding that military courts handing down harsher sentences to deter youngsters who are considering evading army service -Since July 2007 some 370 indictments have been filed against Israeli youngsters who have evaded military service, as opposed to only a few dozen indictments filed a year earlier. According to Lieutenant-Colonel Morris Hirsch, special military advocate for absentees and deserters, the hike is due mainly to increased cooperation between the IDF and Israel Police. A year ago Ynet revealed a plan initiated by Brigadier-General Avi Zamir, who was recently appointed chief of IDF personnel, aimed at apprehending as many draft-dodgers as possible by disclosing to Israel Police information on deserters and youngsters who have evaded army service. . .

Governmental committee to discuss new Arab city
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Fourteen ministers vote in favor of inter-ministerial committee to advance establishment of new city in Galilee; four ministers vote against move. Interior minister says seeks to build ’a modern town, where every young couple will be able to buy a house’ - The government decided Sunday to task an inter-ministerial committee with advancing the establishment of a new Arab city in the Galilee. The committee is scheduled to submit its recommendations till the end of 2008, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit announced. Fourteen ministers supported the decision and four voted against it. The committee will be chaired by Interior Ministry Director-General Aryeh Bar, and its members will be other ministries’ director-generals, including the Defense Ministry director, and Treasury officials. Sheetrit, who initiated the move, welcomed the decision and said that it was a significant step.

New Arab city nears creation, as ministers okay planning committtee
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 7/20/2008
The Cabinet voted on Sunday to form a ministerial committee to focus on the establishment of a new Arab city in the Galilee. The committee, which would be under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, will deliberate on proposals brought before it regarding the establishment of the city and its characteristics. If the city is established, it will be the first new Arab city since the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 - save permanent housing projects developed for Bedouins in the Negev. There is widespread Arab public support for creating the new city, although some say the government should invest in the development of existing Arab cities rather than building a new one. The proposal was supported by Arab MKs when Sheetrit initially made it public in February.

Aliyah officials: Regional instability could double immigration from South Africa this year
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
Zimbabwe’s impending collapse will serve to double immigration from South Africa this year, absorption professionals in Israel and Johannesburg told Haaretz yesterday. On Monday, 100 newcomers are scheduled to be welcomed at Ben-Gurion International Airport, after arriving on the largest flight of its kind from South Africa, leaving earlier Monday morning. In the past few years, Telfed (The South African Zionist Organization), Israel’s largest organization for former Southern Africans, has seen an annual average of 150-200 new immigrants. Basing themselves on a recent record-breaking demand for services by prospective immigrants, Telfed officials are expecting up to 500 new arrivals by the beginning of 2009. Today’s new arrivals will attend a two-day welcoming and orientation seminar at a hotel in Jerusalem, prior to taking up residence across the country.

Business sector debt ''ticking bomb'' says bank exec
Eran Peer, Globes Online 7/20/2008
"There are likely to be a phenomenal number of defaults and firms will go under". There is growing concern in the banking sector over the prospect of a crisis in the economy and the extent of the debt owed by the business sector to institutional entities. "What we have here is a ticking bomb. Firms have raised tens of billions of shekels in bond issues over the last two years, and there isn’t anyone to repay the principle. The capital market has dried up and can no longer hold up the bubble it created. There are likely to be a phenomenal number of defaults and firms will go under," a top executive in the banking sector told "Globes. " The source explained that this could be a crisis of the type that has never been seen in Israel before, since in contrast to previous crises, the principal exposure to business sector debt will not be that of the banking sector, but the general public. . .

Manpower sees drop in employment demand
Shay Niv, Globes Online 7/20/2008
The banking and finance sector saw sharp falls in June compared with the preceding month. The Manpower Israel demand for workers index shows a drop in demand in June 2008 compared with both the beginning of 2008 and the corresponding month of 2007. The index fell 2. 4% compared with May and 9. 6% compared with June 2007. Demand for workers in the second quarter was down 3. 7% compared with the first quarter and down 7. 9% compared with the corresponding quarter of last year. The sharpest drop in demand for workers was in the banking, finance, and insurance sector. Demand for workers was 6. 8% lower in June than in May and 16. 8% lower than in June 2007. Demand for managers was 26. 1% lower in June 2008 than in June 2007. Manpower Israel CEO Orna Segal said, "The present global economic environment is affecting the Israeli market, and Israeli employers are taking a cautious policy.

Rice says Israeli strike in Iran ’a speculation’
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 7/20/2008
US secretary of state refuses to address reports on Jewish state’s plan to attack Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities. US, Israel committed to diplomatic route, but President Bush leaving all options open, she tells CNN - WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State has refused to discuss the possibility of an Israeli strike inIran, saying this was only "a speculation". In an interview with CNN aired Sunday, Rice said the United States and Israel hold regular discussions, cooperate and are committed to the diplomatic route, but that President George W. Bush was keeping "all options open". Geneva TalksUS says Iran faces cooperation or conflict / News agencies (Video) State Department says time for Iran to decide between ’negotiations or further isolation,’ demands Tehran give clear answer to EU on latest nuclear proposal.

Iran gets two-week deadline to respond to incentives offer
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
Stuart WilliamsAgence France Presse TEHRAN: Iran was on Sunday facing a two-week deadline to give a final answer to world powers seeking a breakthrough in the nuclear crisis, after talks with the EU foreign-policy chief ended in stalemate. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana hailed their latest talks in Geneva Saturday as "constructive" but Solana lamented that Tehran had still not given a final response. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the talks as a "step forward" in the nuclear standoff, which has raised fears of regional conflict and sent oil prices spiraling. Solana, who presented Iran with a major package aimed at ending the standoff on behalf of world powers last month, said he was waiting for a decision from Tehran on an initial deal to start pre-negotiations.

Two Iranian Guards die in clashes with rebels
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
TEHRAN: Rebels in northern Iran have killed two members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the latest deadly clashes in the region, the Fars news agency reported on Sunday. "Two Revolutionary Guards were killed on Saturday in the East Azarbaijan province in clashes with rebels," Reza Rezvani, the regional head of public relations for the Guards told the agency. He added that the Revolutionary Guards had also killed several rebels in recent days. There were no further details on the identity of the rebels or the exact location of the clashes. East Azarbaijan province has borders with the neighboring states of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Iranian forces in northern Iran have in recent months engaged in a series of deadly clashes with Kurdish rebels from the [US-backed] Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) which operates from rear-bases in northeastern Iraq.

US military jails in Afghanistan ’legal black holes’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
KABUL: US human rights lawyers charged Sunday that US military prisons are "legal black holes" and the force is detaining journalists to "shut people up" about activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. A vast detention camp planned for the main US base in Afghanistan will be a "second Guantanamo" where laws do not apply, they said at a press conference about an Afghan reporter in US military custody without charge for nine months. The US military is holding Jawad Ahmad, who has worked with Canadian Television (CTV), at its detention facility at Bagram north of Kabul on allegations he is an "unlawful enemy combatant. " Ahmad is among 650 people being held at Bagram without trial, US-based International Justice Network executive director Tina Monshipour Foster told reporters. "Many people in Afghanistan and in Iraq that have been targeted for detention are local journalists covering the. . .

US forces kill son, nephew of Iraqi governor
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
TIKRIT: US forces on Sunday shot dead the son and a nephew of the governor of northern Iraq’s Salaheddin Province during a raid, police said. Governor Hamid Hummud al-Shakti’s son Husam and his nephew Udai were shot dead in the town of Baiji, a police officer from Baiji told AFP. When asked, the American military said its troops killed two armed men in Baiji who were related to the governor. "When the force entered the target buildings, they encountered two armed men. Perceiving hostile intent, coalition forces engaged and killed them," a military statement said. "It was subsequently determined that the two armed men killed in the event were related to the governor of Salaheddin Province. "- AFPLONDON: One of five Britons kidnapped in Iraq more than a year ago has committed suicide, the group holding them claimed in a video to a Sunday newspaper here, prompting condemnation from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Sunni bloc rejoins Iraq’s government
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 7/21/2008
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s main Sunni Arab bloc on Saturday ended an almost year-long boycott of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government, in a major boost for reconciliation in the deeply divided country. Parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the appointment of six ministers from the country’s main Sunni bloc, the National Concord Front, in a session attended by 190 of the assembly’s 275 MPS. The lawmkers also approved the appointment of four independents to replace ministers from the political bloc of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, which has boycotted the government since April last year. One of the six Sunni ministers, Rafie al-Issawi, was voted in as a deputy premier to Maliki. Issawi was minister of state for foreign affairs between 2005 and 2007. Sunnis will also hold five other posts - the higher education, culture and communications portfolios, as well as ministers of state for foreign affairs and women’s affairs.

Shores apart -- still
Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
Flamboyant attempts to re-launch cooperation around the Mediterranean might well yield results"We agreed on one thing at the ministerial meetings and we found something else after the summit. "This was how one Arab diplomat who participated on Sunday in the Paris summit for the Mediterranean cooperation summarised the "incomprehensible" disappearance of a reference to the Arab Peace Initiative from the joint declaration of the summit. The 20-page, predominantly vague, inconclusive and indecisive document, that is supposed to pave the way for the hopefully successful re-launch of cooperation around the Mediterranean is supposed to offer all essential guidelines and requirements for the execution of such a regional collaboration. For the Arab League and seven Arab countries that participated in the summit this week along with Israel, Turkey, members of the European Union (EU) and four other

British prime minister urges Israel to stop settlement
Associated Press, YNetNews 7/20/2008
UK’s Gordon Brown arrives in Israel for first official visit since taking office. Tells president Peres region needs ’economic road map for peace’; pledges financial aid to PA -British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived in Israel Sunday, for his first official visit as Britain’s premier. Brown’s two-day Mideast visit has been overshadowed by a claim from a Shiite militia holding five British hostages in Iraq that one of the captives killed himself. Arriving in Israel, Brown met withPresident Shimon Peres. In a brief statement at the president’s residence, he said the region needs an "economic road map for peace," including the development of industrial parks and housing projects and support for small businesses. Brown said he supported those who understand that "the prospect of prosperity encourages people that the return to violence is something that is an unacceptable price to pay, and something that should be rejected.

British PM visits Palestine and Israel meets top officials
International Middle East Media Center News 7/20/2008
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown ended a visit to Bethlehem where he, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad headed a Palestinian-British Business meeting attended by a number of Palestinian and British businessmen. The meeting yield in UK pledging 500 million USD for three years, 2008 -- 2011. Abbas described the aid as generous while other Palestinian businessmen thought that enhancing economy is the way to peace in the region. Mounib Al-Masria prominent Palestinian businessman and owner of the Palestinian telecommunication and cell phones companies said "through business, I think we can make the peace process nicer and easier to do. " Brown arrived in Bethlehem on Sunday morning, where he and Abbas held a press conference at the presidential palace in the city.

Hopes high for Lebanon-Syria ties on eve of Moallem’s visit to Beirut
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 7/21/2008
BEIRUT: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem is to visit Beirut on Monday a week after Lebanon and Syria agreed to establish diplomatic relations between the adjoining nations. Moallem is to deliver an invitation to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman from his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to visit Damascus - a trip the Lebanese press said would take place within a week or 10 days. Moallem last visited Beirut on May 25 to attend the election of Sleiman. Sleiman and Assad met last weekend at the sidelines of the Mediterranean Union summit in Paris and reportedly agreed on establishing diplomatic ties for the first time since their independence from French colonial rule more than 60 years ago. "It is expected that the question of diplomatic relations will be raised during the visit. We hope it will mark a new step in Syrian-Lebanese ties," said Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government.

Najjar: Hariri tribunal not linked to Justice Ministry
Daily Star 7/21/2008
BEIRUT: Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said Sunday the International Tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri had begun its work, and was "not dependent on the work or identity of the justice minister. "He added that the work of the tribunal "is directly linked to the Lebanese government rather than the justice minister. "In an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio station, Najjar said the court was not in danger of being frozen, "but the pace of implementation is unclear for reasons I am unaware of. "Commenting on the first Cabinet meeting last week, Najjar said the atmosphere was "positive" and both President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora "looked comfortable and confident about the national unity government. ""The ministerial committee is working on drafting a compromise ministerial statement," he said, adding. . .

Malaysia sends new batch of UNIFIL peacekeepers
Daily Star 7/21/2008
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has sent a new batch of peacekeepers (Malcon III) to replace those currently serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Malaysia’s The Star newspaper reported on Sunday. The 160 soldiers are the first batch of two, with an additional 200 leaving next week. The official handing over of duties will be carried out on July 29. Consisting of personnel from the army, navy and air force, Malcon III will be stationed in South Lebanon for nine months. It will also have two batches of 10 women officers who will serve for four and a half months each. Malcon III team commander, Colonel Mohd Ezam Wan Chik, said the duties of his team would not differ much from what the current team Malcon II, is doing. "The only thing different now is that we will have our own sector to look after in the surrounding [of the Lebanese southern town of] Kawkaba," he said.

South Korea to rotate peacekeeping units
Daily Star 7/19/2008
SEOUL: The Defense Ministry said Friday a group of 359 South Korean troops will head to Lebanon in two batches during July to replace all of Seoul’s forces stationed there as part of UN peacekeeping operations. The move will mark the second replacement of troops since Seoul dispatched the first batch of its troops one year ago to serve as part of the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon, according to the Defense Ministry. The latest deployment includes nine counter-terrorism specialists, a change prompted by the kidnapping of 23 South Korean citizens in Afghanistan last year, a ministry official said. The ministry said that the third batch of troops consisting of 359 service members specializing in engineering, communications, medicine and transportation who will continue to carry out the mission of the Dongmyeong unit. - AgenciesTags: Defense, Forces, Korea, Korean, Lebanon, South Korea Printable. . .

Parents of kidnapping victims pray for Shalit’s return
Roni Lifshitz, YNetNews 7/21/2008
Lieutenant Hanan Barak, Staff Sergeant Pavel Slutzker were killed by terrorists who abducted Gilad Shalit into Gaza. Now their parents call on government to do everything in order to release their crew member. ’I feel like Hanan is with Gilad and still helping him even after his death,’ mother tells Ynet - On the day Corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped out of a tank at the Kerem Shalom post, his fellow crew members, Lieutenant Hanan Barak and Staff Sergeant Pavel Slutzker, were killed by the terrorists. Today, more than two years after their personal tragedy began, the two fallen soldiers’ parents are asking the government to do everything in order to bring Shalit back home. David Barak, Hanan’s father, visited the families of fallen IDF soldiersEhud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev on Sunday. Freedom for AllBetancourt calls for Gilad Shalit’s release / Reuters . . .

Olmert heads cabinet session on Shalit deal
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli premier Ehud Olmert is to head a special consultative meeting for the council of ministers on Sunday to discuss means of resuming negotiations with Palestinian factions holding the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Hebrew radio reported. The broadcast said that the session is to be attended by representatives of security apparatuses, and added that Ofer Dekel, in charge of the Shalit file, is expected to head for Cairo this week for talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on the issue. The radio quoted daily Yediot Ahronot as saying that Olmert might ask Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to intensify efforts to speed up concluding a prisoners’ exchange deal. Meanwhile, the prisoners’ studies center said in a statement on Saturday that 358 Palestinian prisoners have served between 15 to 31 years in occupation jails.

QB: Capturing IOF soldiers still an option
Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Abu Obaida, the spokesman of the Qassam Brigades, has confirmed on Saturday that capturing more Israeli soldiers still an option for the Palestinian resistance in order to pressure the IOA into releasing Palestinian captives. In an interview with the local Palestine newspaper, Abu Obaida asserted that "the recent Hizbullah-Israeli prisoners’ swap deal proved that it is possible to break the Israeli standards [in releasing captives], and that it is also possible to achieve big victories on the occupation under the pressure of the resistance". But although he expressed hopes that the Hizbullah swap would help achieve another swap deal in the Gaza Strip, Abu Obaida explained that the Gaza swap deal would be more complicated than that of Hizbullah due to the extraordinary conditions in Palestine under the occupation and due to the Israeli siege on Gaza.

Sun shines on Obama’s Iraq debut
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent 7/21/2008
Barack Obama arrives in Iraq just as the political situation there is turning in his favour. The Iraqi government is for the first time asking for a timetable for a military withdrawal ofUnited States forces. This is in keeping with the Democratic presidential nominee’s plan for a pull-out of American combat troops over 16 months and makes the strategy of his Republican rival, John McCain, to retain US troops in Iraq until all America’s opponents are vanquished, look out of date. Mr Obama, like other official visitors to Baghdad, will not see anything of Iraq outside the Green Zone or heavily protected US bases. But he will learn that the political landscape of Iraq has changed considerably over the past six months, though not necessarily to the advantage of the US. The most important development is that the Iraqi state has become stronger.

Homeless out of Gush Katif
Ariel Rosenberg, Globes Online 7/20/2008
Three years after their traumatic evacuation, as mutual recriminations continue apace, many former residents of Gush Gatif and Gaza appear no closer to finding a permanent home. In this special report "Globes" looks at the plight of the 1,700 families and finds out why some of them feel the country has let them down. The recent Independence Day found the former residents of Gush Katif in extremely melancholy mood as they marked 1,000 days since the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Almost three years have now passed since the evacuation went ahead on August 15, 2005, yet despite endless government promises, nearly 80% of the evacuees are still without a permanent housing solution. Even today, it is still difficult to make sense of all the claims and counterclaims, the mutual recriminations, and accusations of prevarication on the one hand, and lack of cooperation on the other.

Friedmann seeks to split attorney general position
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 7/20/2008
Ministerial committee discussing private bill calling to split position into two posts: Attorney general and public prosecutor. Justice minister: Attorney general’s position includes built-in conflict of interest -Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann announced Sunday an initiative that would lead to splitting the attorney general position into two separate posts: Attorney general and public prosecutor. Friedmann made the announcement in a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Affairs. A ministerial committee overseeing the initiative has decided to delay its vote on the matter until Friedmann’s position is finalized. [end]

VIDEO: IDF soldier shoots bound Palestinian at short range
Haaretz Service and DPA, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem on Sunday released a video showing an Israel Defense Forces soldier shooting a Palestinian youth with a rubber bullet at short range, his arms and legs bound by a high-ranking Border Police officer. According to B’Tselem, the shooting was witnessed by several other soldiers and officers, including the lieutenant colonel who bound the teen’s limbs. The organization allegedly demanded an investigation be opened into his role and that the soldier who fired the gun "be brought to justice. " The incident occurred on July 7, in the West Bank village of Na’alin, B’Tselem said. Palestinians and leftists have increased their protests in recent months against the separation barrier in the town, and the demonstrations have at time culminated in violent clashes.

Israeli soldier shoots a bound Palestinian in Ni’lin
George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 7/20/2008
A video showing an Israeli soldier shooting a bound Palestinian in the village of Ni’lin near Ramallah raised uproar among human rights organizations. The tape, which was released on Sunday by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, shows an Israeli soldiers shooting Ashraf Abu Rahme with a rubber coated-steel bullet at a short range while his arms were bound almost two weeks ago. B’Tselem said that other soldiers witnessed the shooting but moved no limb to stop it, and demanded an investigation to be opened into the incident. The shooting took place July 7, during an anti-wall demonstration in the village. The video shows Abu Rahme being taken to the military jeep by one soldier, while the other points his gun form a very short range at Abu Rahme and shooots him in his left foot. The video was filmed by a Palestinian girl, 14, from a window in her home in the village.

B’Tselem video shows Israeli soldier shooting bound Palestinian at close range
Ma’an News Agency 7/20/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released on Sunday a video showing an Israeli soldier firing a rubber-coated steel bullet at close range at a bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainee. The shooting took place in the presence of a lieutenant colonel, who was holing the Palestinian’s arm when the shot was fired. B’Tselem suspects that there may have been a cover-up of the incident. The incident took place on 7 July, in the West Bank village of Nil’in, which is now famous for its weekly nonviolent demonstrations against Israel’s separation wall. A Palestinian demonstrator, 27-year-old Ashraf Abu Rahma, was detained by soldiers, who handcuffed and blindfolded him for about thirty minutes, during which time, according to Abu-Rahma, they beat him. Afterwards, a group of soldiers and border police officers led him to an army jeep.

Israeli occupation soldier shoots blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian detainee
From Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank, Palestinian Information Center 7/20/2008
An Israeli occupation army soldier earlier this month shot from a close range and injured a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee, an Israeli human rights group revealed Sunday. According to B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,  the incident took place on 7 July, in Nil’in, a village in the central West Bank. Palestinians and foreign peace activists hold regular and mostly non-violent protests against the confiscation by Israel of private Palestinian land for the construction of the "Separation Wall," the gigantic barrier Israel is building in the area. Vast swaths of Palestinian farms, orchards and groves have been seized  by Israel under the pretext of building the wall, most of which is built deep in the West Bank far away from the so-called Green Line, the former. . .

LEBANON: Peace still precarious
Hugh Macleod/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 7/21/2008
NAQOURA, 20 July 2008 (IRIN) - Hezbollah’s claim to victory over Israel in its 16 July prisoner swap undermines moderate Arab states and leaders, and may encourage armed struggle across the region at a time of upheaval in the relations between the West and the Middle East, a number of observers have said. "This sends a very dangerous message that Israel only makes concessions if you use violence against it," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, an expert on Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia political party. "The exchange has also laid bare that, in Lebanon at least, national power is not in the hands of the state, but with a non-state actor," she said. " This sends a very dangerous message that Israel only makes concessions if you use violence against it," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, an expert on Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia political party. "The exchange has also laid bare that, in Lebanon at least, national power is not in the hands of the state, but with a non-state actor," she said.

Syria: Courting time
Bassel Oudat in Damascus, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
Sarkozy is trying to heal the rift with Syria but has little to show as yet. The beginning was rather auspicious. When Bashar Al-Assad was still an officer in the Syrian army, former president Jacques Chirac invited him to Paris and gave him a magnificent reception in the Elysee Palace. Observers took that to be a French endorsement of the future president of Syria. The goodwill was mutual. As soon as Al-Assad junior took power, he voiced hopes for closer ties with France across the board. The French responded by sending experts to help out with administration, banking, finance, the judiciary, and other aspects of the Syrian economy. Chirac appointed one of his top aids as ambassador to Syria and told him to make sure things go nice and easy at the other end. Worried about Washington’s intentions, Al-Assad wanted France on his side.

Divided we stand
Salama A Salama, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
Sarkozy’s proposals for the Union for the Mediterranean were greeted with scepticism, even among senior French politicians. Jacques Attali, former adviser to Mitterrand, said the project is based on an idealistic vision and lacks realism. It would be better to focus first on turning the Mediterranean into a safe and peaceful region, with some level of cooperation going on among its littoral countries, before moving forward. Former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine expressed similar views. Most French politicians were pessimistic about the union. And yet 43 heads of state and government showed up for the Paris summit, hoping at best for a perfunctory statement about peace and cooperation. In their talks, they praised the Arab Peace Initiative and said that the region should be freed from all weapons of mass destruction -- a point Israel chose not to hear.

The Islamist conundrum
Amr Hamzawy, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
While state repression naturally leads to the hardening of Islamist groups, this hardening calls into question the extent to which these groups can serve the wider public good, writes The elections within the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan for its Shura Council in March and the elections for the central bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in June drew the attention of observers of political Islam. All were struck by what appeared to be a victory of hardliners over moderates in both elections. Indeed, the positions of Hamam Said and his followers on domestic and foreign policy issues in Jordan are considerably more hawkish than those of his predecessor as head of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood branch Salem Falahat. Similarly, with perhaps one exception (People’s Assembly member and head of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc Mohamed Saad Al-Katatni), the newly elected members

The big chill
Graham Usher, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
There is a new cold war in South East Asia -- between the US and Pakistan, writes in Peshawar Relations between Pakistan and the United States are at their coldest since Islamabad became a reluctant convert to the "war on terror" in September 2001. The chill is felt in official and unofficial American complaints that Pakistan’s peacemaking with pro-Taliban tribesmen on its Afghan borderlands is the cause of a spike in Taliban attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan. Sometimes the criticism is more tangible. On 11 July six Pakistan soldiers were wounded by mortar fire from the other side of the Afghan-Pakistan border, "whether by foreign [NATO] or Afghan forces is yet to be determined," said an angry army spokesman. The rage is understandable. The hit came a month after 11 Pakistani soldiers were killed by US missiles at their frontier post, the worst case of "friendly fire" in seven years of US- Pakistan cross-border cooperation.

Highest school drop-out rate in non-Jewish sector
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 7/21/2008
An unrecognized Bedouin village has the highest school dropout rate in the country this year - 13 percent - according to data recently released by the Education Ministry. The high rate in the village of the Azazma clan, south of Be’er Sheva, is indicative of the large proportion of Israeli Arab dropouts in general: Some 35 percent of all Arab students drop out; they constitute just 25 percent of the entire number of Israeli high-schoolers. The data cited are for grades 9-12. "If our students have to travel in very crowded minibuses and on unpaved paths to school, there is no reason for them to want to continue to study, and that’s without even getting into the question of the pedagogic content," said Dr. Iwad Abu Farih, coordinator of the Forum for Arab Education in the Negev.

Highest Tawjihi score goes to Jenin girl
Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 7/20/2008
Jenin -- Congratulations came from as far away as Sweden for Hala Al Ahmed who received the highest score in Palestine in the Tawjihi exam. Mahmoud wrote to PNN English that the entire Palestinian community in that country sent their best wishes. Her family and friends crowded around her in the northern West Bank’s Jenin bestowing well-deserved praise. Amid tears of joy in her father’s embrace, Hala thanked God for helping her to achieve her dreams. She earned a score of 99. 1 percent in the high school completion exam. All Palestinian high school students spend their last year studying for this exam, which ensures that they will be able to move on to higher education. Hala took the Humanities track. There is also a possibility to take the Science track. She thanks her family and her teachers, while saying with the most joy, "My father is proud of me.


No closer
Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
      As Fatah seeks to extend the presidency of Abbas by diktat, it is Abbas that is resisting by all means national reconciliation dialogue with Hamas.
     During their recent meeting in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad failed to convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to them meeting together with Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas’s Damascus-based politburo. An informed source told Al-Ahram Weekly that Abbas justified his resolute refusal to meet Meshaal on account that Meshaal had sent a letter to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa blaming Abbas’s call for dialogue for opening an Israeli military campaign against the Gaza Strip.
     Abbas told Al-Assad that he considered the letter a blatant accusation of conspiring with Israel in planning attacks on Gaza. Ahmed Youssef, top advisor to dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, holds that Abbas’s reasons for refusing to meet Meshaal are untenable, adding that his reference to Meshaal’s "supposed" letter to Moussa is meant to "cover the presence of a US-Israeli veto over dialogue, for Abbas has no intention of angering Tel Aviv and Washington."

Met with silence

Khaled Amayreh in Nablus, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
      Recent Israeli army aggressions against Palestinian charities, beauty salons and shops show unequivocally that Israel is morally lost.
     If you still think there are red lines that Israel has not crossed with regard to its treatment of Palestinians, don’t be too sure. In recent days and weeks, the Israeli army has been vandalising, ransacking and confiscating Palestinian civilian institutions in the West Bank’s largest towns and cities, including Ramallah, the seat of the so-called Palestinian government.
     Frustrated eyewitnesses and tearful victims spoke of "unprecedented brutality" and "Gestapo-like behaviour" as Israeli occupation forces moved throughout the central and northern West Bank to destroy what was left of the Palestinian charity sector upon which thousands of impoverished Palestinian families depend for their livelihood.
     Israel had been targeting orphanages and boarding schools as well as soup kitchens and sewing workshops serving orphans in the Hebron region. The campaign of terror, with many hair- raising scenes of cruelty and moral callousness, has seriously raised the level of hostility and hatred for Israel.

Palestinian hope withers, Hizb al-Tahrir flourishes

Omran Risheq, Daily Star 7/21/2008
      The failure of the Palestinian national movement and its shaken credibility in the public eye are giving strength to religious movements, which are expanding to fill a widening gap. But the movements that are gaining are not Hamas or Islamic Jihad, which gained their legitimacy more or less as other Palestinian movements did: by taking part in the liberation struggle while upholding the aspiration to establish an independent national state. Rather, there are now other Islamist parties and groups that deny the national project and are hostile toward democratic and social freedoms.
     Perhaps the most influential of these movements, and the one with the clearest political platform, is the Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (the Islamic Liberation Party), which was founded in Jerusalem in 1953 by the Islamic judge Taqieddine al-Nabhani. Hizb al-Tahrir made the idea of resurrecting the caliphate a permanent watchword of its political activity and a religious duty, in addition to being a panacea for the political, economic, and social problems of the world’s Muslims. According to its beliefs, the caliphate will not be founded through popular revolution, but rather through a military coup in a Muslim country. The caliph will then proceed to conquer the world, including liberating Palestine from the Jews. It is worth noting that this theory largely replicates the Marxist-Leninist vision of revolution as led by a vanguard adopting its ideas as a way to take power.

Arab order options in Iraq

Sameh Rashed, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
      The US and its Iraqi clients are to sign a long-term security agreement, rejected by the Iraqi people. The Arabs must take a position and act.
     As intense as the controversy over Iraqi-US negotiations on a security agreement has been and as diverse as the opinions have been on both sides, not a single Arab position on the issue has yet emerged. One cannot help but to wonder at the total Arab silence on a development that will affect the security and very future of an Arab country that serves as a gateway to the entire Arab region. Surely this seeming indifference conflicts with considerations of Arab national security and strategic regional interests. Even from the perspective of the interests and welfare of each individual Arab country one would think that Arab officials would show a little more concern for a possible contractual arrangement for perpetuating the US occupation of Iraq because such a precedent could be repeated in other Arab countries.

The dogs of virtual war

Amira Nowaira, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
      Dutch politician Geert Wilders’s film Fitna is an alarming new episode in the ’clash of civilisations,’ this time fomented in cyberspace.
     A new global war has broken out. But this war is not taking place in any geographical or political location we know of. Instead, the arena is cyberspace. Here, the tools of destruction are not the smart missiles or cluster bombs one might expect to find in modern warfare. In this battle the participants brandish videos and flaunt words in a "holy struggle" against their opponents, using multimedia munitions and the well-known strategies of warfare: cunning, deceit and unapologetic exaggeration.
     This is certainly the feeling I got the moment I entered the five letters of the Arabic word fitna into a Web browser to search for Dutch politician Geert Wilders’s short "documentary" film of the same name. This has not ceased to elicit conflicting responses since its release in March 2008, ranging from angry denunciation and vehement condemnation by Muslims and Muslim supporters, to unquestioning approbation by right-wing factions and sympathisers, as well as by those throughout the western world who are in the grip of holy terror of anything and everything Muslim.

A warrior’s rest

Amira Howeidy, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
      This week’s prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hizbullah marks a new chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
     The images transmitted from South Lebanon and northern Israel spoke volumes. Broadcast around the world at 9:30am yesterday from Lebanon, footage showed two plain black boxes -- coffins -- containing the corpses of Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev captured by Hizbullah two years ago. Across the border, five healthy looking handcuffed Lebanese prisoners held by Israel completed the story that took two years and a war to end.
     The seven -- two dead, five alive -- were swapped in a high- profile exchange deal between Hizbullah and Israel. In the deal, Hizbullah was due to receive the remains of 190 Lebanese, Syrian, Libyan, Palestinian and Tunisian fighters who died resisting Israeli occupation over the past three decades. For its part, Israel also was to gain information on an Israeli soldier who went missing in Lebanon 22 years ago.

Still illegal

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/17/2008
      Four years on, Palestinians still demand that the World Court’s ruling on Israel’s apartheid wall be implemented, writes in the West Bank Click to view caption Palestinian demonstrators gather at the apartheid wall during a protest marking the fourth anniversary since the International Court of Justice called for partial demolition of the wall in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanin On 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled as illegal the so- called "separation wall" -- the gigantic barrier Israel had been building in the West Bank.
     The wall has not yet been completed, mainly due to procedural and financial problems. But when completed, it would devour nearly 46 per cent of the West Bank, 10 per cent of which would be isolated on the "Israeli" side of the barrier. This almost certainly means annexation.
     This is added to East Jerusalem and surrounding Arab villages, which constitutes four per cent of the occupied West Bank. Israel has already cordoned East Jerusalem, with its estimated quarter of a million Palestinians, with an eight- metre high barrier, cutting them off from the rest of the West Bank.