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

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24 July 2008

Haaretz: MKs okay new West Bank homes, despite vow to freeze settlements
Haaretz, International Solidarity Movement 7/24/2008
A key panel of lawmakers on Thursday approved 20 new housing units at Maskiot in the West Bank, Israel Radio reported, despite a 2007 pledge to the United States to halt construction at the site. Jerusalem agreed to hold off on plans to build 180 new homes in the settlement, as part of a general freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank. But the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has now given approval for the construction of the housing units and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is slated to grant authorization soon. About two dozen residents of the former Gaza Strip settlement of Shirat Hayam moved into Maskiot last year. Maskiot was legally established in 1982, housed an army unit and a school and has had civilians living there for several years. Israel planned in 2006 to build within its confines homes for Gush Katif evacuees.

Settlers set fires in the olive groves surrounding Immatin village, burning 50 Dunums of land and 130 olive trees
International Womens’ Peace Service 7/24/2008
Date of incident: July 24th, 2008 - Time of incident: Approximately 1pm - Place: Immatin, Qalqiliya district - Witness/es: villagers - Description of Incident: At approximately 1pm on July 24th, settlers set fire to fields outside the village of Immatin in the Qalqiliya district. The handful of Palestinians who were in the fields during the attack reported being verbally harassed by the 6-7 settlers before they ignited the fire and left the area. The Palestinians proceeded to alert other Immatin villagers, who helped put out the blaze. The fire fighters were only able to arrive at 2:30pm, but at that time, most of the blaze had been put out. Due to this attack, 5 families lost a total of 50 Dunums of land which contained 130 olive trees. Both the Israeli army and Police arrived in the village at approximately 1:30pm to allegedly investigate the incident: villagers reported seeing roughly 100 military personnel in the surrounding fields.

ISRAEL-OPT: Nearly half of Gazans unemployed - UNRWA report
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 7/24/2008
JERUSALEM, 24 July 2008 (IRIN) - In the Gaza Strip at the end of 2007, over half the population was living below the official poverty line, and unemployment, in real adjusted terms, stood at an "unprecedented high" of about 45 percent, a new UN studyreleased on 24 July said. Most of the poor were extremely destitute, with 35 percent of Gazans living below the deep poverty line set at US$457 per month for a family of six. Overall, the unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in 2007 remained "amongst the highest in the world" at 29. 5 percent, with refugees being hit slightly harder. The socio-economic report for 2007 by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said the oPt "continued to have the worst performing economy in the Middle East-North Africa sub-region". The study was based largely on data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Obama: Jerusalem will not be capital of Palestinian state
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - US democratic candidate Barak Obama said during a press conference on Wednesday in Sderot, a city in the south of Israel, that he does not support the idea of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Obama made it clear that Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel and that he would not see the city divided. He added that this position needed to be fixed through negotiations with the Palestinians. Recent years have seen Obama’s position on Israel/Palestine shift dramatically towards the Israeli side. He previously stated that the issue of Jerusalem should be on the table of any peace negotiation, but after criticism of his ’naïve’ stance, Obama dropped this position. The press conference was held with Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who said, "Israel and the USA have a common understanding of what must happen in the region. . . "

Beit Fijar Mayor to PNN: this is not the first time
PNN, Palestine News Network 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Israeli forces violently attacked Beit Fijar Thursday, destroying 45 factories in the industrial zone of the eastern Bethlehem town. Palestinian security sources report that the attack was conducted by numerous Israeli soldiers who confiscated bulldozers, digging equipment and other industrial equipment. The mayor of Beit Fijar, Ahmed Thowabta, told PNN, "This is not the first time the Israelis have come and confiscated equipment such as this from us, and the last time it happened they kept it for 6 months. " The town was held under curfew this afternoon with no one allowed to leave their homes. Israeli forces proceeded to arrest a number of Palestinian citizens and took them to an unknown destination. The industrial zone of Beit Fijar contains a number of cement factories and quarries, which contribute vitally to its economic sector.

Israeli forces close down factories and confiscate equipment in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces accompanied by bulldozers and trucks confiscated machinery and other equipment from the industrial zone in Beit Fajjar in Hebron and imposed curfew on Thursday morning. The owners of a number of stone processing factories reported to Ma’an that Israeli forces inspected their factories and confiscated more than 20 machines including bulldozers and equipment for digging and cutting stone. They also detained a number of workers and have transferred them to an unknown destination. The industrial zone includes a number of quarries and cement factories and it is considered an important area in the development of the Palestinian economy. Salameh Bello a factory owner in Beit Fajjar said that his company expects to loose $1 million US as a result of the destruction of equipment and the loss of working hours.

Yitzhar settlers riot in West Bank
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Residents of West Bank settlement clash with IDF, Judea and Samaria police officers, as reports of violent acts stream in from Adi-Ad outpost, village of Burin, Shilo Junction - A series of violent incidents involving settlers swept through the West Bank Thursday, as dozens of settlers clashed with IDF and police forces, stoned cars and vandalized Palestinian property. The gravest incident of the day occurred in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, when during the riot a settler was able to snatch a weapon away from an IDF soldier standing next to him and began firing in midair. A second settler began firing in midair as well. No injuries or damage were reported; both men were arrested. Eralier Thursday, the Judea and Samaria Police received reports of settlers rioting in the West Bank village of Burin, near Nablus.

Police free settlers arrested for seizing soldier’s weapon
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Police release men arrested for snatching rifle from soldier after determining initial report by army had been incorrect. In second incident, IDF says settler pulled out knife during altercation with troops, pressed it to soldier’s throat. Settlers deny report, threaten to sue IDF for libel - Settlers clashed with a group of soldiers at the Havat Gilad outpost in the West Bank on Thursday afternoon. During the course of the altercation one of the settlers pulled out a knife and pressed it to a soldiers’ throat in threat. The settler snatched the soldier’s helmet and fled the scene, the soldier was unharmed. IDF troops have begun searching after the perpetrator. Military officials told Ynet that the incident was viewed severely and would be dealt with. "A red line has been crossed here, this is very serious," they said.

CPT: Israeli settlers pursue Palestinian children on their way to Summer camp; Israeli military fails to escort children
Christian Peacemaker Teams, International Solidarity Movement 7/24/2008
Hebron Region - AT-TUWANI - On Wednesday 23 July, three Israeli settlers, one masked and wielding a stick, pursued 14 Palestinian children who were on their way to a summer camp in At-Tuwani. The children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed waited 30 minutes for the Israeli military escort that should have accompanied them on the most direct road between the villages of Tuba and At-Tuwani. When the military failed to arrive, the children began walking along a long path through the hills to At-Tuwani. When the children neared the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Havot Ma’on, three settlers came out from the outpost and began walking in the direction of the children. The settlers had two dogs with them. International observers yelled to the children to alert them to the approaching settlers, who were pursuing them from behind.

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village south of Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – More than one hundred Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Yizhar south of Nablus attacked Wednesday evening the nearby village of Burin in protest of the Israeli army attempt to remove a trailer that was illegally installed by the settlers earlier that week. Israeli media sources said that the settlers unleashed their anger on the Palestinian villagers, by blocking the road to the village with burning tires, and throwing stones at them and their homes throughout the day. One of the residents of the village said that the settlers threw stones at village homes and caused damages to the residents’ vehicles. While this was going on, he said, a large number of Israeli policemen were trying to control them.

Settlers attack village south of Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Dozens of settlers from Bracha settlement near Nablus attacked residents of Burin village south of Nablus city and closed the main road between Nablus and Ramallah on Thursday afternoon. Security sources told Ma’an that dozens of settlers demonstrating near the village also knocked down electric poles causing black outs in the village. The sources added that when Israeli forces arrived in the area the settlers withdrew. [end]

Israeli settlers invade Yousuf tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus
Ghada Salsaa, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
A number of Israeli settlers invaded Yousuf tomb in the east part of the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday at dawn. [end]

Israel set to authorise more settlements
Middle East Online 7/24/2008
JERUSALEM - Israel was set to expand an illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied Jordan Valley, a senior official said on Thursday, in defiance of Palestinian and international calls to freeze such activity. "We are currently in the process of constructing 20 housing units in the Jordan Valley settlement of Maskiot," a senior defence ministry official said on condition of anonymity. Local authorities in the Jordan Valley on Wednesday published a tender for the construction, he said, but the move still requires the final go-ahead from Defence Minister Ehud Barak. "The construction still requires the authorisation of the defence minister. . . there is no reason for him not to give the authorisation. " The international community has repeatedly called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem, saying it would hamper efforts. . .

UN slams new Israeli settlement
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Ban Ki-moon says ’deeply concerned’ over reports Israel set to authorize construction of housing units in Maskiyot. Built where military base once stood, it would be first new settlement in region for over decade. Palestinian negotiator Erekat calls on US to pressure Jerusalem to reverse decision - WASHINGTON -UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on Thursday condemning Israel’s decision to authorize the construction of new housing units in Maskiyot, a small settlement community in the Jordan River Valley. "The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the announcement today of the initial approval by the Ministry of Defense of 20 residential units in the Israeli military post of Maskiyot in the West Bank. " The Secretary-General has stressed many times before that settlement construction or expansion is contrary to international law. . .

Israeli gov’t announces establishment of new settlement in the Jordan valley
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli government officially announced the establishment of a new settlement on Palestinian lands in the Jordan valley located in the eastern flank of the West Bank. The Israeli Maariv newspaper reported Thursday that Israeli settlers started to reside in the new settlement called Mashkiot which was an abandoned military post. Meanwhile, the Islamic and Christian front for the defense of Jerusalem and holy places warned that Zionist settlement societies are planning and working on seizing Arab real estate and houses in occupied Jerusalem and its environs. In a statement, the Front stated that 28 Jerusalemite families living the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood are threatened with eviction from their homes after a Zionist organization called Yeshiva Haim Ha’olam seized two Arab houses in the Khaldieh Akaba area in the old town.

Concerned Secretary-General urges Israel to freeze all settlement activity
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 7/24/2008
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the announcement today of the initial approval by the Ministry of Defence of 20 residential units in the Israeli military post of Maskiyot in the West Bank. The Secretary-General has stressed many times before that settlement construction or expansion is contrary to international law and Israel’s commitments under the Road Map and the Annapolis process. The Secretary-General urges Israel to heed the call of the Quartet to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. [end]

Israel to construct 20 new houses in Jordan Valley settlement
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Israeli Ministry of Defence and civil administration approved the building of 20 new houses in the settlement of Maskiot in the north of the Jordan valley on Wednesday. This decision is still contingent on the approval of Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. Only one year ago Israel scrapped a plan to build 180 new houses at the settlement due to demands made by the US administration. In recent visits to the area both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Premier Gordon Brown, have called for an immediate freezing of all settlement expansion in the West Bank. [end]

''Business is not as usual''
Ari Libsker, Globes Online 7/24/2008
Palestinian millionaire Munib al-Masri refuses to deal with Israelis and fears the economic gap between Israel and the Palestinians will only worsen. "Globes" talked to him. Munib al-Masri is probably the wealthiest man in the West Bank. Some estimate his fortune at $500 million. The number of occasions on which he almost became prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Yasser Arafat’s days, led "Newsweek" to describe him as the "Palestinian Ross Perot", after the US millionaire who ran in the presidential election of 1992. Munib al-Masri is chairman of the Palestinian Development and Investment Company (PADICO), a corporation that controls one third of the business activity in the PA. It owns, among other things, businesses in the food, industrial, hotel and telecommunications sectors, as well the PA’s mobile phone operator, Jawwal.

Price index rises dramatically
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) announced on Thursday that the wholesale price index rose by 5. 09% during the second quarter of 2008. This is an increase of 13. 79% on the figure for the same period last year. This announcement comes in an atmosphere of apprehension around global price rises. There are fears that the rise in prices will have a particularly detrimental effect on the well being of the worlds poor. [end]

More than half of Gaza households slump below the poverty line; youth hardest hit by unemployment
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 7/24/2008
Jerusalem, 24th July, 2008: The number of households in Gaza below the poverty line has reached an unprecedented high of nearly 52 per cent, according to a newreport by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In its report published today UNRWA says that ’the number of households in Gaza below the consumption poverty line continued to grow, reaching 51. 8 per cent in 2007, despite significant amounts of emergency and humanitarian assistance’. By contrast, household poverty levels in the West Bank fell to just over 19 per cent, ’likely driven down by the lifting of the international embargo on the Palestinian Authority’. The UNRWA report, which is based on figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), says that ’the real average unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory (as a whole) remained amongst the highest in the world at 29.

Prolonged crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory: Socio-economic developments in 2007
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 7/24/2008
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Palestinian economy continued to perform badly in 2007. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2007 – estimated at about USD 4. 1 billion – was virtually unchanged from 2006, itself a year of severe economic regression. There was a rebound in the public sector after mid-2007 due to the end of the fiscal crisis that began in 2006 with the Government of Israel (GOI) and donor boycott of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and public employee strike. But this was offset by continued stagnation in the private sector. GDP in 2007 remained around 8. 3 percent below its 1999 level. With population growth of about one-third during the intervening period, per capita GDP in 2007 was almost a third below its 1999 level. The occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) continued to have the worst performing economy in the Middle East North Africa sub-region (MENA).

Over half of Gazan households slump below poverty line
Maan News, Palestine Monitor 7/24/2008
The number of households in Gaza below the poverty line has reached an unprecedented high of nearly 52 per cent, according to a new report by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) released on Thursday. The UNRWA report, which is based on figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), goes on to say that between July and December 2007 unemployment in Gaza reached an astonishing 45. 3%, almost four times the average unemployment rate for the Middle East and North Africa. UNRWA Spokesman, Christopher Gunness said that the hardest hit by unemployment are the youth, adding that, "If you deprive young people of an economic future, you deprive them of hope and when that hope vanishes, what is left? How better to prevent despair and economic misery taking hold of a whole generation than to. . .

Egypt seizes fuel due to be smuggled into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Egyptian security sources said on Wednesday that security forces in the north of Sinai seized fuel from an illegal store that was destined for Gaza. The source said that they found 24 thousand liters of fuel in 1200 plastic bottles in a tunnel in the Al-Barahmeh area, near the border with Gaza. Also discovered was a system of pipes leading to the Gazan side and an electric pump to enable the quick transfer of the fuel to the Palestinian side. No suspects were detained in the raid and Egyptian security forces were due to destroy the tunnel late on Wednesday. [end]

Give ''˜Free Gaza Movement’ thumbs up!
Debbie Menon, International Solidarity Movement 7/24/2008
Press clippings - International Actions - Gaza Region - Edward Said reminded the world shortly before his death in 2003 that it is easier for the West to demonise the Palestinian - through "˜the vicious media and government campaign against Arab society, culture, history and mentality’ - than actually attempt to humanize what they don’t fully understand. The Gaza imprisonment in the summer of 2005, paraded as an Israeli generous withdrawal, produced the Hamas and Islamic Jihad homemade missile attack and capture of an Israeli Occupation soldier. Even before the capture of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army bombarded indiscriminately the Gaza Strip. Putting a human face to the Palestinian people and explicitly saying Israeli policies towards Palestinians are immoral should be acceptable in Western democratic mainstream news media.

Japanese lawmaker urges his government to cut funding to UNRWA
Jerusalem Post 7/24/2008
A Japanese parliamentarian said this week he will urge his government to reduce funding to UNRWA, the UN body dealing with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, in the wake of continuing criticism of the organization. Yoshitake Kimata, a member of the House of Councilors, the upper house of Japan’s National Diet, was in Jerusalem to attend an Israel solidarity conference of Asian politicians and evangelical Christian leaders. The event included a session by Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Martin Sherman on the differences between UNRWA and UNHCR, the UN’s main refugee agency. Israel has long said some Palestinian members of UNRWA’s staff are linked to terrorism, an accusation UNWRA denies.

Hamas: PLO statement reveals deceptiveness of Abbas’s call for dialog
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Thursday said that the statement by the PLO’s executive committee on Wednesday describing Hamas as the "separatist group" reaffirms deception of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s call for dialog. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press release that the PLO statement reveals the ill intention of the Ramallah authority and its followers in the PLO. "They only wish to bypass Hamas, impose early elections and form a government that serves their agenda," he explained. "This group is still living in the illusion of the possibility of weakening and toppling Hamas in service of partisan and foreign agenda", he said, noting that they ignore the de facto situation that resulted from the general elections, which Hamas won. Those people should end their illusion and sit at the dialog table and respect their representation in the Palestinian street, he said.

Fateh meeting promotes unification of West Bank and Gaza Strip leadership
PNN, Palestine News Network 7/24/2008
Ramallah - Fateh General Commissioner Ahmed Qureia Abu Ala’ chaired a meeting Wednesday, bringing together heads of organizations and mobilization committees with secretaries of the West Bank governorates. Adnan Samara, a member of the Revolutionary Council of Fateh, was present as well. Qureia reviewed local and national Palestinian political issues. He stressed the importance of further work programs in order to embody national objectives of the Fateh movement. The need for strengthening the infrastructure of Palestinian government was also discussed. Qureia stressed the need for collective action and solidarity within the West Bank, even under limitations imposed by Israeli forces. A preparatory committee will be held next week in Amman in preparation for a conference discussing social, economic, health and educational frameworks to be presented to grassroots organizations.

Sources: Fayyad gov’t intends to cut salaries of all civil servants in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Informed Palestinian sources revealed that the unconstitutional government of Salam Fayyad seriously considers cutting the salaries of all civil servants in the Gaza Strip after it cut the salaries of half of them at the pretext that they work against the Palestinian legitimacy. The sources told the Quds Press that the Fayyad government is intending to cut the salaries of civil servants in Gaza, most of them are either affiliated with Fatah or worked in the former security apparatuses. The sources pointed out that the European donors told Fayyad to cut the salaries of civil servants in Gaza as long as they do not work. In the event of implementing such arbitrary measure, the poverty level in Gaza would escalate especially since most of the Gaza families fall below poverty line as a result of the ongoing Israeli siege and closure of crossings.

Fatah condemns Hamas’ detention of PLO executive committee members
PNN, Palestine News Network 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Fatah Spokesman Fahmi Azaarir condemned the detention of Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee members at the Beit Hanoun border crossing in the northeastern Gaza Strip. Hamas detained Dr. Zakaria Agha and Dr. Riyad Al Khudry after confiscating their identification cards, preventing them from attending meetings with the PLO in Ramallah Wednesday evening, Azaarir reported. Hamas has defended the detention of the two members by saying that they were not abiding by the Beit Hanoun border crossing law. Azaarir also reported that Hamas does not appear to be interested in a national dialogue and reaching an agreement among Palestinian factions. [end]

Hamas to remove all images of President Abbas after term ends
PNN, Palestine News Network 7/24/2008
Jerusalem -- Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said Hamas intends to remove all photographs of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in most official institutions in the Gaza Strip when his term ends in January 2009. There is a strong push from politicians in Ramallah to impose change in the Palestinian government. Abbas has refused to hold presidential elections for the Palestinian National Authority, Al Quds Al Arabi reports. Abbas was elected in January 2005 as the PNA President. In the midst of intense conflict between Fatah and Hamas over the continued legitimacy of Abbas, the possibility of a new Palestinian government headed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has become a likely solution. Fayyad, who has gained support from Palestinian Liberation Organization factions and political forces in the West Bank, will respond to Hamas’ intention to remove images of President Abbas.

Five thousand exiled Gazans given family reunification permits
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A list of five thousand names was published by Ma’an Thursday revealing those who have been included in a recent family reunification program. Hussein Ash-Sheikh, chief of the Palestinian civil affairs department sent the list to Ma’an, after receiving the decision from Israel. All names were those of Palestinians applying for reunification with families in Gaza. According to Ash-Sheikh a second list will be published next week with names of applicants for West Bank family reunification. Ash-Sheikh commented that the approval of permits for thousands of Palestinians to re-enter or stay legally in Palestine "comes out of the efforts made by president Abbas. " He said he "congratulates all those who were approved" and urged those whose names were on the list to head to the Civil Affairs office in Gaza to get their papers in order.

Twelve Palestinians injured in Ni’lin anti wall protest
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Twelve Palestinians were injured with rubber coated metal bullets and dozens inhaled tear gas after being attacked by Israeli soldiers during a peacefuldemonstration in protest of the construction of a section of the separation wall near the village of Ni’lin. Mohamad Surur, member of the committee against the wall said that Israeli soldiers surprised protestors and showered them with rubber coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters before they even reached the current construction site of the wall. Mohamad Hasan Nafe’, Hamed Zrul a’meerah, and children identified as Mohamad Ahmad A’meerah and A’qel Srur, all residents of Ni’lin, were all injured with the rubber coated bullets. Surur added that Israeli soldiers attacked many demonstrators with batons and the bottom of their rifles.

Officer, soldier injured by stones in Naalin
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Some 150 Palestinian, left-wing and foreign activists stage anti-fence protest in village west of Ramallah, hurl stones at security forces - A Border Guard officer and an Israel Defense Forces soldier were lightly injured Thursday by stones hurled by protestors near the West Bank village of Naalin, west of Ramallah. The officer was evacuated to a Jerusalem hospital for medical treatment. Some 150 Palestinian, left-wing and foreign activists staged an anti-fence protest in the area, violating a restricted military zone order and hurling stones at the forces. The soldiers responded with crowd dispersal means. IDF officials claim that left-wing activists’ demonstrations have caused damages of NIS 500,000 (about $143,500) to the security fence in the Binyamin region. The village residents are protesting the army’s plan to confiscate half of. . .

Continued military closure in Susiya
International Solidarity Movement 7/24/2008
Hebron Region - On the morning of the 23rd of July, the shepherds of Susiya went out to graze their sheep in the valley between their homes and the nearby settlement. A film team from NBC and four internationals followed them. When they had just crossed the valley the soldiers came up to them and told them to go back. They were told that they were in a closed military zone. The shepherds argued for a while to at least get permission to go to their well. Soldiers agreed on that and went back. After the NBC-team le ftthe soldiers came back. This time together with a settler. They tried to push back the shepherds once more, but the shepherds claimed their right to go to the well. The Palestinians were then let to go to the well, but they had to walk very fast, preferably run, while they were not allowed to let any sheep graze.

Father of girl who filmed Ni’lin shooting and Canadian activist arrested in Ni’lin
International Solidarity Movement 7/23/2008
Ramallah Region - Photos - On the 23rd July, the father of the girl who filmed the Israeli shooting of a detainee in Ni’lin and a Canadian activist were arrested during a non-violent demonstration again in Ni’lin against the construction of the apartheid wall. The arrests occurred at a non-violent women’s demonstration again the construction of the wall in which the two were arrested after observing the march towards the construction site. When the Israeli army attacked the demonstration, Amirra went in to protect the demonstrators, while Victor MacDiarmid, a Canadian citizen, took photographs. The two men were arrested within minutes. Interviewed on Palestinian TV this morning, the 14 year old girl expressed concern that her family would be targeted by the Israeli army due her film being publicized. Her footage was broadcast throughout the world and has caused shock waves in Israel, where a soldier has been arrested and an official investigation launched.

PLC Deputy Miriam Farahat ''must be treated outside Gaza'' after heart attack
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Miriam Farahat had a major heart attack early on Thursday morning and was transferred to the Ash-Shifa’ hospital in Gaza city for treatment. Medical sources described Farahat’s condition as serious and said that she is being treated in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. The source added that it was essential that she be transferred to a hospital outside the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister of the de facto government in Gaza, Ismael Haniyeh visited her in hospital and appealed to the Egyptian government to open the Rafah crossing to enable Farahat to receive the treatment she requires abroad. He said, "it is time for the crossing to be opened, it is unacceptable and unbelievable that we have to continue with this situation, neither Arab dignity nor ethics can justify a situation where more than 215 deaths have been caused by the blockade.

Haneyya calls on Egypt to allow MP Farahat to travel for medical treatment
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, called on Egypt to urgently open the Rafah border crossing in order to facilitate the travel of MP Mariam Farahat who had a severe heart attack in addition to dozens of patients who need to travel for medical treatment. On the sidelines of his visit to MP Farahat at the Shifa hospital, premier Haneyya stated that the MP is one of dozens of patients who need to travel for medical treatment abroad, deploring the ongoing closure of the crossing despite all this suffering. Palestinian medical and parliamentary sources told the PIC reporter that MP Farahat was transferred Wednesday to the hospital after the heart attack and underwent heart catheterization, but her health status deteriorated badly. The medical sources stated that MP Farahat is suffering from clogging of four heart arteries and was admitted into. . .

The Israeli army confiscates bulldozers and equipment from stone quarries in Bethlehem
Rula Shahwan, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
The Israeli army invaded Faggar village in the southern part of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday midday and confiscated 45 stone quarries in the area. Local sources reported that a number of Israeli military vehicles accompanied by Israeli trucks invaded the industrial zone. After having searched and ransacked the area, they confiscated equipment and a number of bulldozers at an estimated worth of several millions of dollars. Locals added that stone quarries are considered a source of livelihood for many Palestinians and called for humanitarian institutions to interfere immediately, noting that this is not the first time an attack of this kind has occured. [end]

Doctor arrested for possession of a vegetable knife
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Jenin – Ma’an - A Palestinian doctor was arrested and detained for a whole day on Wednesday for the possession of a knife used for the preparation of vegetables in Barta’a village, southwest of Jenin. The doctor, Abla Al-Farri, told her story to Ma’an, saying, "I was heading to my job at the Medical Center in Barta’a village, but when I arrived at the village gate I was stopped by the Israeli forces and they searched the car and found a vegetable knife so they kept me for the whole day and for a complete inspection process. " "I was taken to a room where an Israeli soldier forced me to take off some of my clothes, and then took me to an electronic inspection small room where I was forced to stay for 3 hours. She asked me so many questions that I now have no recollection of the incident," She added. The soldiers then turned their attention to the car and removed the seats and even inspected the motor.

Israeli forces arrest man in Jenin raids
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Jenin – Ma’an - Israeli forces detained a local from Ta’naq, a village north of Jenin, after stroming his home on Thursday as part of a wider campaign of raids in the Jenin area. Security sources said that Israeli troops detained Mohammed Abdul-Ghani Kezilih, 22, after braking into his house and destroying property. Israeli forces also carried out a major incursion into the centre of Jenin raiding several houses, but detaining no one. In Muthallath Al-Shuhada, in the west of Jenin, Israeli troops surrounded the house of Jihad Sa’id Washahi and called on his two sons Iyad and Muhammad to surrender. The troops then broke into the house but no one was arrested. [end]

The Israeli army invades Al Manya village in Bethlehem and kidnaps a civilian
Rula Shahwan, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
The Israeli army invaded Al Maniya village in the southeastern part of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday midday and kidnapped a civilian. 6 Israeli military vehicles invaded the village and imposed a closure lasting a couple of hours. Israeli troops searched and ransacked several houses forcing civilians out of their homes according to local sources. The troops kidnapped Nawaf Abu Nur, 44, after damaging his residence. [end]

The Israeli army shoots three Palestinians and kidnaps eleven in Hebron City
Rula Shahwan, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
The Israeli army invaded several villages in the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday at dawn, kidnapping 11 Palestinians and shooting 3 others. [end]

Terror victims’ relatives file NIS 450m suit against PA, Barghouti
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 7/25/2008
The relatives of terror victims on Thursday filed a NIS 450 million class action lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization and jailed Fatah leaderMarwan Barghouti The plaintiffs, who filed the suit at the Jerusalem District Court, are the families of Givat Ze’ev residents Ronen Landau and Yoela Hen, who were killed some four years ago in two separate shooting attacks near their home. Ronen landau was 17 when hew was killed in an ambush while on a highway traveling home with his father from Jerusalem. Yoela Hen, a mother-of-two who died at the age of 45, was killed while en route to a family wedding. Barghouti has been in prison since April 2002, when he was convicted for a succession of terrorist activities against Israeli civilians in his capacity as the West Bank head of the Fatah-affiliated Tanzim militia.

Bereaved families file class action suit against Barghouti
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Two families who lost loved ones in terror attacks in Jerusalem file $128 million suit against Palestinian Authority, former Fatah secretary-general. Latter ’should be held accountable for plaintiffs’ emotional anguish,’ says motion -Two families who have lost loved ones in terror attacks have filed a class-action suit against the Palestinian Authority, former Fatah Secretary-General in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti, and seven other terrorists held in Israel. Barghouti, who was arrested by the Israeli Defense Forces in 2002, was convicted of the murder of five Israelis and was sentences to five consecutive life terms and 40 years - a total of 165 years. The other seven, who were all convicted of various terror offenses, are also serving long-term prison sentences. Shady Deal? ’Israel to free Barguti for Shalit’ / Roee Nahmias Diplomatic. . .

Terror victims’ kin sue PA, Barghouti
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 7/24/2008
The claimants are demanding NIS 450 million in compensation. The families of victims of terrorist attacks today filed a lawsuit with the Jerusalem District Court against the Palestinian Authority, the former head of the Fatah Tanzim units in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, and seven other terrorists now in prison in Israel. The claimants are demanding NIS 450 million in compensation from the respondents. Barghouti was arrested by the IDF in April 2002 during operation Defensive Shield. He was convicted of the murder of five Israel in four separate terrorist attacks and sentenced to five life terms plus 40 years. The 14 claimants are relatives of Ronen Landau and Yoela Hen, who were murdered in two terrorist attacks in Givat Zeev outside Jerusalem. The attack that killed Hen was carried out at the direct order of Barghouti in revenge for the killing of Raad Karmi.

Lawsuit against PA, PLO, Marwan Al-Barghouthi and 7 other prisoners in Israeli central court
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A lawsuit against Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Marwan Al-Barghouthi and another seven Palestinian prisoners was put before the Israeli central court on Thursday. The case was proposed by 14 Israelis who lost two of their relatives in operations carried out by Palestinian militants. The claimants hold all of the parties charged responsible for the deaths. They are seeking compensation to the tune of 450 million shekels. The two operations in which the Israelis were killed took place seven years ago near the settlement of Givat Ze’ev northwest of Jerusalem. [end]

Palestinian Prisoners Society meets to support prisoners
Doris Norrito, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
About fifty members of the Palestinian Prisons Society met nearby the Red Cross headquarters in Bethlehem at 11 am on Thursday. The Society meets once or twice a month to show solidarity and give support for more than 11,000 detainees suffering under bad conditions in Israeli prisons. A poster displayed the faces of resisters sentenced to life terms by the Israeli court. About fifty children under the age of eighteen are presently in prison. Some are pressured to make them collaborate with the Israelis, a spokesperson said. Most of the men who came to the meeting said they had served terms in prison and were there to show solidarity in their support for the others still imprisoned. Mothers and relatives held pictures of detainees. Some such as Issa Abed Rrabbo and Marwan Barghouthi had been sentenced to life terms for resistance activities and have already spent twenty five years in prison.

Az-Zubeidi speaks to Ma’an about the feeling of freedom
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an Exclusive – "The feeling of freedom is something nice," said Zakareiyah Az-Zubeidi, "especially as it came after being chased for seven years during which I was disguised, had little sleep, was on the look out constantly, and spent my time moving from one house to another. " Az-Zubeidi is one of the resistance fighters recently pardoned by the Israeli army, and released a special statement to Ma’an on Thursday. In the statement he expressed his happiness and to be able to move freely between West Bank cities and towns. When he arrived at some of the Israeli checkpoints scattered throughout the area, however, he told Ma’an that he felt resentful, seeing Palestinians waiting for long hours. Watching his fellows standing outside for so many hours, he said, made him feel sad. Speaking to Ma’an by phone from Ramallah, Az-Zubeidi said that he was thankful to. . .

Tali Fahima: Zakariya Zubeidi is Israeli security service’s whore
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 7/25/2008
Tali Fahima, a Jewish Israeli woman who was tried and convicted for her contacts with Zakariya Zubeidi, former Jenin chief of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, criticized Zubeidi on Thursday, saying that he had turned into the "whore of the Shin Bet security service. " Speaking to Channel 10 news, Fahima complained that Zubeidi, who was once on Israel’s most wanted list for his role in the Palestinian resistance, was now on friendly terms with the Shin Bet when it served his purposes. Fahima referred to Zubeidi’s recent request that the Shin Bet allow him leave the West Bank city of Jenin and undergo eye surgery in Ramallah. The Shin Bet had removed Zubeidi from its most wanted list in a gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last year, along with other militants who turned in their weapons, on on the condition that they refrain from leaving the city in which they live, under close Palestinian police supervision.

Abbas Serious about Withdrawing Forces from Nablus – Erekat
Kuwait News Agency, MIFTAH 7/24/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is serious about withdrawing Palestinian forces from Nablus if Israel does not stop executing incursions into the city, a Palestinian official said Wednesday. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio station that the Palestinians would not allow the continuation of incursions into Palestinian cities, especially Nablus, adding that that was to the disdain of the Palestinian authority. Israel Army forces have executed incursions into Nablus many times over the past two weeks. On Monday, it arrested 26 people, including Member of the Legislative Council Mona Mansour. Israeli forces broke into and damaged mosques, schools, shops, charity and humanitarian organizations, and a large number of homes. Meanwhile, Erekat announced that Abbas would not be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday, pointing out that the talks would instead be held during the first week of August.

EU renews support to Palestinian authority through PEGASE PA arrears scheme
European Commission - EC, ReliefWeb 7/24/2008
PR/028/2008 Jerusalem -The European Union has provided a further €4. 7 million (over NIS 25 million) to help the Palestinian Authority to settle bills owed to the private sector. Through this assistance, the European Union provides critical support to both the private sector and to the Palestinian Authority in a bid to revive the economy and to ease the continued difficult financial situation of the PA. This is the fourth transfer of its kind under the new European mechanism for assistance to the Palestinians, PEGASE, bringing the total amount to just under €20 million this year. 95 businesses will benefit from the payment, mostly small and medium sized enterprises; these companies provide a variety of goods and services to the PA. 48 of these companies are based in the Gaza Strip. "Meeting current expenditures remains a key challenge for the Palestinian Authority", explains Mr.

Britain wants Mideast two-state solution
Middle East Online 7/24/2008
AMMAN - The British government warned on Thursday that any substitute for a two-state solution to help end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would be "horrifying. " "We don’t see any other peaceful solution but a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with the Palestinians and Israelis sharing Jerusalem as capital," British government Middle East spokesman Jon Wilks told reporters in the Jordanian capital Amman. "Any other substitute for this solution would be a horrifying solution and would increase tensions and conflicts. " Israel occupied Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war it started and later annexed it -- a move that is against the international law. It has since insisted it regards the whole city as its "eternal, indivisible" capital. Speaking in Arabic, Wilks said Britain wants a "just" settlement for the Middle East conflict.

Sweden increases its support to the Palestinian National Authority
Government of Sweden, ReliefWeb 7/24/2008
Today the Government decided to earmark SEK 50 million for direct support to the Palestinian National Authority. "The Palestinian National Authority is in a difficult economic situation and risks collapse if wage and other payments cannot be made. A functioning Palestinian National Authority is a prerequisite for a peaceful and sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Consequently it has been a matter of urgent concern to us to be able to give Prime Minister Fayyad a speedy and positive response," says Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson. Sweden is one of the largest donors to the Palestinians. Total Swedish support for 2008 is estimated at approximately SEK 700 million. A small part of this Swedish aid has already been transferred as direct support earlier this year.

’To Hell with the Ceasefire’ if Israel Doesn’t Let Up, Hamas Says
Mel Frykberg, MIFTAH 7/24/2008
In an unusual display of frustration, moderate Hamas official Ahmed Yousef, the adviser on foreign affairs to de-facto Gaza prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, has told the Middle East Times that Hamas’ patience with Israel is wearing thin. " I don’t know what game the Israelis are playing but quite frankly if the siege isn’t lifted and Gaza’s borders remain closed, the ceasefire can go to hell, Yousef said by phone. Although Israel has opened Gaza’s borders intermittently, following the announcement of the ceasefire and allowed a trickle of goods through, the territory remains virtually sealed. This has exacerbated the chronic humanitarian conditions on the ground due to shortages of fuel, food, medicines and construction material. Furthermore, vital spare parts for machinery needed to keep the strip’s infrastructure working, such as water and waste management plants, are not able to be replaced or repaired.

UNRWA: Israeli siege inflicts real catastrophe on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Head of operation of the UNRWA in Gaza Strip John Ging has affirmed that the unjust Israeli economic blockade has inflicted tragic conditions on all aspects of life in the tiny Strip where 1. 5 million Palestinians, more than half of them were children, are living. Ging’s remarks came after he met with PA health minister Dr. Basim Na’im in Gaza, and listened to detailed report from him on the adverse repercussions of the siege on all sectors in Gaza Strip, particularly the health sector. According to Na’im, the Israeli occupation government blocked entry of badly needed medicines, stopped fuel supplies needed to run vital medical equipments, and banned foreign doctors, planning to train health employees in the ministry, entry into the Strip. Na’im also explained that tens of the ministry’s projects, including construction of hospitals and medical centers among others. . .

Report: Israel committed more than 51 violations since the truce started
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, stated Thursday that the IOF troops had committed more than 51 violations and 400 military assaults, and kidnapped 300 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank since the truce took effect. In a report monitoring the Israeli violations of the calm, the Brigades said that in the fifth week of the truce, Israel committed eight violations during which a Palestinian citizen was wounded north of Gaza and two others were kidnapped in Khan Younis. The report pointed out that these violations were added to about 43 others committed earlier during the first weeks of the truce during which the IOF troops targeted many times Palestinian fishermen and farmers. The report also included the Israeli violations in the West Bank and the ongoing assaults on charitable and humanitarian institutions there.

Barhoum: Closure of Gaza crossings, including Rafah, no longer justified
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, on Thursday said that retaining the Gaza crossings, including the Rafah border terminal, closed was no longer justified. He said in a press release that Hamas abided by the calm agreement and tabled a comprehensive plan on means of running the Rafah terminal. The delay in opening the Rafah crossing coupled with Egyptian stalling on the convening of the tripartite committee that should meet according to the Cairo understanding on the calm were obstructing the Palestinian people’s interests and keeping them under siege, he elaborated. The spokesman asked Egypt to pressure the "Zionist occupier" to open all commercial crossings on permanent basis and to lift the siege on the Palestinian people according to the calm agreement. He also asked Egypt to adopt a speedy decision to open the Rafah border terminal.

British MPs urge Quartet to include Hamas in peace talks
Ynet, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Cross-party committee in British parliament calls on Quartet’s Mideast envoy Tony Blair to use ceasefire between Israel, Hamas to include latter in peace process, facilitate reconciliation between Palestinian factions - After a long period of politically sequestering the Hamas government ruling the Gaza Strip, a group of British statesmen are willing to reestablish official relations with the group. According to a report in the British Guardian, a cross-party group has called on the Quartet’s Middle East envoy Tony Blair to open a dialogue with Hamas, saying "until now there has been no engagement between the Quartet and Hamas, but now we think it is time". The international community, said the Members of Parliament, should "seize the opportunity" presented by the

IOF troops kidnap 80 Palestinians in one week
Palestinian Information Center 7/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Palestinian center for human rights has affirmed that the Israeli occupation forces had rounded up 80 Palestinians over the past week in the West Bank including a parliament member. In its weekly report, the center said that the IOF soldiers wounded three civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip including a child in the same period despite the calm agreement. It said that the troops launched 32 incursions in the West Bank and kidnapped the 80 citizens, who include 47 from Nablus alone. The report underlined that the settlement activity and settlers’ attacks in the West Bank continued unabated against the Palestinians. The IOF troops continued to isolate the Gaza Strip from the outside world and imposed severe restrictions on civilian traffic in Nablus district. Such serious violations, some of which were tantamount to war crimes, continued despite the calm that prevailed in the Strip, the report underlined.

International Solidarity Foundation: Israel has killed 801 Palestinians this year
Amin Abu Wardeh, Palestine News Network 7/24/2008
Nablus - A paper prepared by lawyers Imad Salah al-Din and Ahmed Sameer al- Tubasi from the International Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights documents the killing of 801 Palestinians by Israelis between June 2007 and June 2008. The paper also reports targeted assassinations against journalists and violations against Palestinian shrines, charities and cooperatives. Of the 801 Palestinians killed by Israelis, 107 were children and 33 were women. The document also states that 5,437 Palestinians were arrested within the year, many of them now held in administrative detention centers. More than 11,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails. Israeli attacks against journalists included: detention, killing, injury, storming of press institutions, and closure of local news stations.

Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 17 - 23 Jul 2008
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - PCHR, ReliefWeb 7/23/2008
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied PalestinianTerritory (OPT) - 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child, were wounded by IOF gunfire in the West Bank and the GazaStrip. - IOF conducted 32 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. - IOF arrested 80 Palestinian civilians, including a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council; 74 of these civilians were arrested in Nablus. - IOF arrested a Palestinian civilian whose daughter filmed an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian civilian in Ne’lin village, west of Ramallah. - IOF raided a charity and a kindergarten in Jericho. - IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT and have isolated the GazaStrip from the outside world. - IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attacks Palestinian civilians and property.

Obama to PM: Talks with Iran necessary to legitimize action
Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 7/25/2008
Near the close of his visit to Israel on Wednesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A major topic of their long conversation was Obama’s declared willingness to engage in direct dialogue with Tehran. Obama reportedly told Olmert that he is interested in meeting the Iranians in order to issue clear ultimatums. "If after that, they still show no willingness to change their nuclear policy, then any action against them would be legitimate," an Israeli source quoted him as saying. Obama said it is clear that the Iranian nuclear issue will be a top priority for him as president, but said that as part of the diplomatic effort to end Tehran’s enrichment program, the Iranians must be given an opportunity to change. The presumptive nominee also emphasized the importance of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Security is paramount, Obama tells Israel
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 7/24/2008
Barack Obama repeatedly promised Israel’s leaders yesterday that its security would remain "paramount" while he promoted efforts to resolve their conflict with the Palestinians early in his first term if elected. The Democratic nominee went out of his way to reassure Israelis and Jewish voters in the US that an Obama presidency would even strengthen "the historic and special relationship" between the two countries -- "one that cannot be broken". Mr Obama also sought to allay Israeli anxieties about his willingness to meet Iranian leaders if he thought it would serve US interests. A nuclear Iran would be a "game-changing situation" that "would pose a grave threat, and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said. Standing in front of a symbolic display of exploded Qassam rockets at the police station in Sderot, which has borne the brunt of attacks from. . .

US is Israel’s true friend, says Obama at Western Wall
Neta Sela, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Democratic presidential hopeful rounds up visit to Israel by praying at holiest Jewish site, meeting with Wall’s rabbi. America, he stresses, will continue to look out for Israel’s security needs - US Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama arrived at the Western Wall Thursday, before leaving Israel in favor for the European leg of his political tour. Obama placed a note within the Wall’s stones and read a chapter from the Book of Psalms with the Western Wall rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. America loves Israel and the Jewish people and will stab be the Jewish people, he said, standing at the Wall. The US, he added, will continue to look out for Israel’s security need and is Israel’s true friend. The presidential hopeful’s visit to the Western Wall was initially planned for Wednesday night, but was postponed due to his tight schedule.

''I hope that Obama holds a change in the US foreign policy in the Region''
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 7/24/2008
Ramallah, 23-07-08: Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, the General Secretary of the , said that as Senator Barak Obama comes from a background more sensitive than any other US presidential candidate to the issues of fairness and justice; he called on him to support and be sensitive to the injustices suffered by the Palestinian people during the 60 years of displacement, homelessness, and -if he wins the presidency- that he will commit to working toward ending the occupation. Barghouthi made clear that it is impossible for America to act as mediator in the peace process whilst being pro-Israeli. To him: "Obama faces a dilemma of how to reverse the previous administration’s policy -full aligned alongside Israel- in order to be an honest and neutral broker and an influential power in the Region. " He added that there is no doubt that Obama realized during his visit that. . .

Obama vows cooperation with Israel on Iran
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Discussion centers on Iranian threat as Democratic candidate dines with PM Olmert in Jerusalem following dizzyingly hectic tour across length, breadth of Israel for Obama on Wednesday. Earlier he visited Sderot, offered hawkish rhetoric in face of Gaza rocket attacks -Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hosted visiting US Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, at his Jerusalem residence on Wednesday evening for a low-key dinner. While the discussion between the two covered a range of topics, theIranian nuclear threat topped the agenda. Obama pledged e intends to focus on the matter in coordination with Israel, which he said would be included in the process. "Israel estimates the Iranians will obtain the necessary components to build a nuclear bomb by mid-2009, at the latest in 2010," Olmert told Obama.

Barack Obama tells Haaretz: Two states for two peoples
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
If elected, Barack Obama has no intention of wasting time on consolidating an "Obama peace plan. "He would rather dive in and promote the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of existing American initiatives, associates of the U. S. presidential hopeful said Wednesday during his visit to Israel. "I believe the next U. S. administration should move quickly," Obama told Haaretz. "I have had in-depth discussions today with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and encouraged all of them to make as much progress as they can in their negotiations this year," the presumptive Democratic Party nominee added. "The next U. S. administration should. . . help the parties build on the progress that has been made thus far, and continue to work toward the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security. . . "

Islamic Jihad expresses mistrust around Obama visit
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Islamic Jihad expressed its mistrust in the Obama visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel on Thursday. Islamic Jihad told Ma’an that Palestinians will not wait for America to provide them with support. All past American aid, said the spokesman, has gone to encourage Israel. "All of the foreign officials who came to Palestine," he said, "came to please the Israelis and no more. " "Obama came to the region to repeat what previous US presidents have said about Jerusalem," the spokesman added. He concluded by asking "what will the Arab and Islamic leaders think about the visit? "[end]

Ashkenazi: All options open against Iran
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 7/24/2008
IDF chief of staff tells reporters in Washington that Israel prefers to find diplomatic solution for Iranian nuclear threat, but must prepare for all scenarios. ’My duty is to ready the army for war, to fight and to win,’ he says during reception - WASHINGTON - IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkemazi said Wednesday night thatIsrael prefers to solve the Iranian nuclear problem through diplomatic means, but hinted that the Jewish state must also prepare for the scenario of a military strike. Ashkenazi, who is on an official visit to Washington, met Wednesday with US Vice President Richard Cheney and with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. Major-General Benny Gantz, the military attaché in the United States, hosted a reception for Ashkenzi on Wednesday night, which was attended by senior officials in the American army.

Ashkenazi in U.S.: All options are on the table regarding Iran
Haaretz service and Reuters, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, on his first official visit to Washington, warned Thursday that Israel would not rule out any course of action regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel Radio reported. "We are all united in the view that Iran needs to be prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon. There is no doubt that diplomatic activity and sanctions are preferable, but we all understand - we and the Americans - that we need to prepare all options," the radio report quoted Ashkenazi stating after meeting with senior United States officials. Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear program. Iran denies that, saying its atomic program is to generate power so it can export more of its valuable oil and gas.

AG: Olmert obstructing graft probes against him
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 7/25/2008
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz criticized the prime minister on Thursday saying that Ehud Olmert was deliberately obstructing the corruption investigation currently underway against him. In response to a petition submitted by journalist Yoav Yitzhak asking the High Court of Justice to declare Olmert incapacitated and remove him from office, Mazuz said "the police have faced serious difficulties in setting dates for questioning of the prime minister, as well as in determining the length of the questioning. ""These are difficulties that the police have not faced while investigating any other public figure, including previous prime ministers," Mazuz went on to say. Yitzhak petitioned the High Court of Justice asking the court to declare the prime minister incapacitated for a pre-determined period of time, during which he would. . .

Olmert back in interrogation room next week
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Prime minister’s attorneys consent to new round of questioning on various corruption charges next Friday. Attorney General Mazuz admonished Olmert earlier, saying he no public official had ever made such difficulties for police investigators - Several hours after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz harshly criticized him for obstructing police investigation against him, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has agreed to another round of questioning at the hands of police interrogators investigating corruption allegations against him. Olmert’s legal team informed the police of their consent to meet next Friday for what will be the fourth such interrogation of the PM - however the police have yet to confirm the date. Mad MoneyTalansky: Olmert always said he’d return the money/ Aviad Glickman On last day of cross-examination, key witness in corruption case asked by. . .

Coalition offered Shas millions to back choice of Finance Committee
Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
The Shas party was offered a quarter billion shekels for increased child allowances in exchange for supporting Avishay Braverman’s appointment to chair the Knesset Finance Committee. The offer was conveyed by representatives of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Shas faction chairman Eli Yishai, who is also the minister of industry and trade. Yishai rejected the offer on the grounds that Shas insists on an addition of NIS 30 to NIS 35 per child. The party argues that the extra money would lift half a million children in Israel above the poverty line. Braverman, a member of the Labor Party, is an economist by profession. Shas members on the Knesset House Committee had opposed his appointment to the committee, but ultimately party members simply skipped the vote Monday. Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin spoke in praise of Braverman ahead of the vote, but left the room before the poll began.

Yeshivas to receive State funds without teaching basic subjects
Neta Sela, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Knesset approves bill granting ultra-Orthodox education institutions funds without requiring them to uphold Education Ministry curriculum, including subjects such as math, English. Meretz: New law scandalous - The Knesset approved a bill on Wednesday underlining the independence of the ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and supplying them with funds without subjugating them to the Education Ministry and its teaching curriculum. The bill was passed by a majority of 39 MKs, and was opposed by just six. According to the new law, the ultra-Orthodox community, as a "unique cultural group", will be permitted to operate post-primary learning institutions as long as the values of those institutions do not contradict Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic State. The Education Ministry will not pedagogically inspect the yeshivas on issues that are not technical, yet the yeshivas. . .

Spanish court issues arrest warrants for Israeli war criminals
PNN, Palestine News Network 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - A Spanish court issued arrest warrants for seven high ranking Israeli officials for war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip in 2002. An Israeli airstrike targeting the house of Palestinian activist Salah Shehada killed at least 14 other Palestinians, including children, and injured many more in the 2002 bombing. Gaza City’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) filed the case on behalf of six Palestinian survivors and was accepted by the National Court of Spain. The Israeli officials include former Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, former Commander of the Airforce Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff Moshe Yalon, the retired Senior General Doron Almog, and former Military Adviser Michael Herzog. The arrest warrants authorize the arrest of the officials once they enter Spanish territory. The accused may also lose the diplomatic immunity they currently enjoy in Israel.

Palestinian workers fear backlash
Heather Sharp, BBC NEWS, Palestine Monitor 7/24/2008
The recent digger attack in a Jerusalem street, the second such incident in three weeks, has left Palestinians who work in the construction industry in the city tense and fearing a backlash. Anas al-Koraen, like Tuesday’s attacker, is a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, and spends his days driving an earth mover on one of the city’s many building sites. "When I saw the television footage, and that the digging machine was just like my machine - then I was really worried," he says. A civilian and a policeman shot the digger’s driver dead just a few minutes after he began to ram his vehicle into cars and a bus. Mr Koraen now fears any slight altercation could spiral out of control. "I feel scared - because any crazy person could hit me on purpose and then I could get shot," he says.

Hizbullah delivers bodies of 100 fighters to Syria
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Hizbullah delivered the bodies of 100 Syrian resistance fighters, transfered to the Lebanese group as part of the prisoner swap with Israel, back to their homesoil on Thursday. The bodies were delivered amongst sccenes of joy, at the Al-Masna’ border crossing as part of a celebration attended by hundreds of supporters including Damascus Govenor Nabil Omran. Syrian presidential guards greeted the bodies before they were transferred to Al-Umawiyyin square at the entrance of the Syrian capital Damascus. This event follows similar exchanges to hand over the bodies of militants to the different Palestinian factions in Lebanon last week. [end]

LEBANON: Bodies Swap Brings Uneasy Triumph
Mona Alami, Inter Press Service 7/24/2008
BEIRUT, Jul 24(IPS) - The image of 199 coffins covered with Lebanese, Palestinian and Hezbollah flags neatly aligned in a southern Beirut compound was broadcast last week on all national Lebanese TV stations. On Tuesday this week, 144 of these remains were transferred to Syria, their final place of rest. Such images have stirred varying emotions among the Lebanese population. On Jul. 16, a massive prisoner swap operation between Israel and Hezbollah -- the eighth since 1991 -- took place on the southern Naquoura Lebanese border, leading to the release of the last five Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails and 199 bodies of Lebanese and Palestinian fighters. About two years after the July 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel -- which erupted after Hezbollah crossed the border and captured two Israeli soldiers, paving the way for the prisoner exchange -- the Lebanese are again divided.

US backs out of talks with Syrian delegation
Middle East Online 7/24/2008
WASHINGTON - In a turnabout, the US State Department Wednesday backed out of rare talks with a visiting Syrian delegation, citing conflicting schedules as among reasons. "Representatives from the State Department will not meet with this group from Syria," said department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos. "Upon review of their program and changes in schedules, ultimately this did not work out. " He declined to be specific on why Washington, which had agreed to the meeting, backed out abruptly. The decision came after a key member of the Syrian group, Riad Daoudi, the legal adviser to the foreign ministry, at the last minute cancelled his trip to Washington, where the delegation was scheduled to attend a private forum. Daoudi, a Syrian lead negotiator with Israeli officials in Turkey, reportedly had to remain in Damascus for talks with a Turkish delegation.

POLITICS: Bush, U.S. Military Pressure Iraqis on Withdrawal
Analysis by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 7/24/2008
WASHINGTON, Jul 24(IPS) - Instead of moving toward accommodating the demand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a timetable for U. S. military withdrawal, the George W. Bush administration and the U. S. military leadership are continuing to pressure their erstwhile client regime to bow to the U. S. demand for a long-term military presence in the country. The emergence of this defiant U. S. posture toward the Iraqi withdrawal demand underlines just how important long-term access to military bases in Iraq has become to the U. S. military and national security bureaucracy in general. From the beginning, the Bush administration’s response to the al-Maliki withdrawal demand has been to treat it as a mere aspiration that the United States need not accept. The counter-message that has been conveyed to Iraq from a multiplicity of U.

Somalia: Time to Pay Attention
Frankie Martin, Middle East Online 7/24/2008
Washington, DC - While the world looks elsewhere, Somalia is in flames. The nation just topped a list of the world’s most unstable countries by Foreign Policy magazine, and the United Nations has declared the humanitarian situation there "worse than Darfur. " In the next three months the number of people requiring immediate food aid will reach 3. 5 million. Over one million refugees have fled their homes. Due to a raging insurgency against the current transitional government – which has support from both the West and Ethiopia – Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has earned the nickname "Baghdad on the sea. " In Somalia, there are no diplomatic superstars like Condoleezza Rice or Kofi Annan, who rushed to Kenya to settle its election crisis; there are no celebrities like Mia Farrow, Stephen Spielberg, or Jim Carrey to urge international action and awareness as they did in Sudan and Burma.

IRAQ: Local NGOs appeal for more financial support
Charles W Gill/US Army, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 7/24/2008
BAGHDAD, 24 July 2008 (IRIN) - An umbrella group of over 1,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) appealed on 24 July for large-scale financial support from the government and "effective rather than symbolic" assistance from international organisations. "Iraqi NGOs get no direct financial support from the Iraqi government, unlike other NGOs around the world," said Basil al-Azawi, head of the group, which is based in Baghdad and known as the Commission for Civil Society Enterprises. "The only support local NGOs get is from international bodies and this support is subject to annoying bureaucratic measures; it is also limited and conditional," al-Azawi added. He explained that international funding, for example, could not be used to pay staff salaries or rent offices. "As a result, some local NGOs cheat, using the money to cover other expenditure, and this of course affects the quality of projects," he said.

Palestine Today 072408
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 74 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Thursday July 24th, 2008. The Israeli Army invades several areas in the west bank and kidnaps 15 civilians. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News cast Today in the west bank city of Bethlehem, the Israeli army invaded villages at midday; troops kidnapped three civilians taking them to unknown detention camps. The Israeli troops searched and ransacked several houses causing damage and destruction. Moreover the Israeli troops shot tear gas and sound bombs panicking civilians in the village. The Israeli army also invaded Faggar village located at the southern part of the city of Bethlehem. The army entered the industrial zone in the village and invaded 45 stone quarries in the area.

The Israeli army kidnaps a Palestinian from a village near Jenin city
Rula Shahwan, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
The Israeli army invaded the west Bank city of Jenin on Thursday morning kidnapping a Palestinian man from nearby Ta’nik village. [end]

The Israeli Army invades villages in Ramallah city
Ghada Salsaa, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
The Israeli Army invaded Al Berieh and Beteen villages, east of the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday at dawn. [end]

The Israeli army kidnaps two Palestinians from Husan village nearby Bethlehem
Rula Shahwan, International Middle East Media Center News 7/24/2008
The Israeli army kidnapped two Palestinians from Husan village, western the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Thursday at dawn. [end]

Youths Injure Two Arabs in Jerusalem Assault
The Jerusalem Post, MIFTAH 7/24/2008
Several hours after Tuesday’s terror attack in Jerusalem, a group of youths assaulted two east Jerusalem residents, Army Radio reported. The incident occurred in the Makor Baruch neighborhood, home to both Orthodox learning institutions, and hardware stores and other such outlets that draw many Arab shoppers and employees. According to eyewitnesses, two battered and bleeding Arabs barged into the yard of a family sitting shiva (the seven-day Jewish mourning period), followed by a mob of furious yeshiva students. The family of the house protected the two men and repelled the mob. One member of the family said students had yelled at him from the balcony of the yeshiva, which overlooks the house, calling to "kill Jews who protect Arabs. " The two east Jerusalem residents were taken to the capital’s Hadassah-University Hospital for treatment. The family that protected them remained mostly unscathed, but one of them was also attacked.

Settler holds knife to IDF soldier’s throat in West Bank riot
Yuval Azoulay, and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
A settler attacked an Israel Defense Forces soldier at the West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad Thursday afternoon, holding a knife to the soldier’s throat and forcibly removing his helmet from his head. The attacker then fled the scene. The incident occurred during a confrontation between settlers and Israeli soldiers in the area, west of Nablus. Other settlers at Havat Gilad set Palestinian olive groves on fire, sparking several field fires. Earlier Thursday, Palestinian security officials said that more than 20 settlers had attacked another Palestinian village in the West Bank, Burin, smashing cars and windows and cutting electricity wires. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, however, said settlers never entered the village itself although there were scuffles between Palestinians and Israelis outside Burin on the road to the nearby settlement of Yitzhar.

Palestinians attack electrician with hammer
Tova Dadon, YNetNews 7/24/2008
According to initial report, two laborers working in kibbutz in southern Israel lightly injure Jewish man, flee scene - Two Palestinian workers attacked a Jewish electrician with a hammer at a construction site in Kibbutz Masuot Yitzhak in southern Israel on Thursday afternoon. The man was lightly injured and the two laborers fled the scene. The police are searching for them in the area. It is still unclear what prompted the attack. The electrician, 38-year-old Avi Turjeman of Kiryat Gat, said he had no early contact with the assailants. "I had no argument with them and did not talk to them," he noted. "They attacked me from the back, one hitting me in the head and hand with the hammer, and the other helping him near the door. I managed to grab the hammer and jump out of the window.

Obama promises commitment to Mideast peace
Middle East Online 7/24/2008
JERUSALEM - Barack Obama headed for Europe Thursday after holding talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah where he promised to support the Middle East peace process. "I will not wait until a few years into my term or my second term if I am elected in order to get the process moving," Obama said of Middle East peace efforts. "I think we have a window right now that needs to be taken advantage of. " Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said that Obama told Abbas "if he wins the election in the United States he will be a full and positive partner in the peace process and will not lose a single moment in pursuing it. " Obama also vowed to forge an "unshakeable" bond with Israel if elected the next US president. The Democratic White House hopeful paid a brief visit to the Wailing Wall before leaving Ben Gurion airport for Germany on the European leg of his international tour.

An agenda for a friend of Israel
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
Barack Obama came to Jerusalem to deliver an old message on the need to "reaffirm the historic and special relationship between the United States and Israel, one that cannot be broken. "Even if Israel’s security is hinged on its close relationship with the U. S. , this is not enough. The significance of these ties is in their ability to serve as leverage for the goal of reaffirming Israel’s security. Regional threats require more aggressive diplomatic activity, which the Bush administration has failed to propose or implement. Obama offers the American voter "something new. "Therein lies his charm. Israel and the rest of the region’s countries need diplomatic innovation as well. But it seems that Obama - like his opponent John McCain and like U. S. President George W. Bush before him - is attempting to assure potential Jewish voters at the expense of promoting the peace processes in the region.

Obama tours Sderot, and says all the right things
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Barak Obama, visited Sderot yesterday during his brief visit to Israel, which included a visit to the home of the Amar family, which had sustained a direct hit by a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Obama later visited the police station in the city, where he toured the "Qassam Museum" containing the remains of hundreds of rockets fired at the city. He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. In contrast to his speeches before American audiences, Obama was careful in his words when talking to the citizens of Sderot. In reference to the rocket attacks, Obama said that "I think that no country would accept missiles landing on the heads of its citizens. "Obama emphasized Israel’s security, saying, "I came to Sderot with a commitment to Israel’s security.

Barghouthi: Obama offers hope
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, said on Thursday that U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Obama, offers a greater hope for a favourable resolution of the Palestinian situation than any other candidate. Barghouthi says he believes that Obama is more sensitive to the needs of the Palestinians and that he will work seriously to end the occupation if he wins the US presidential elections this autumn. He added that at present it is clear that America cannot act as mediator in the peace process but if Obama wins then it may be possible for the U. S. to act honestly in this role. His comments come after Obama announced that he will not support the division of Jerusalem. Barghouthi, however, urged the presidential hopeful to never forget that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and that it is the most important issue for Palestinians.

ADL condemns anti-Semitic cartoons of Obama, McCain
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
Numerous cartoons have appeared recently in the Arab press that portray presumptive U. S. presidential candidates senators Barack Obama and John McCain as lackeys controlled by Israel and by American Jews. The allegations are in a report released Wednesday in New York by the Anti-Defamation League. ADL director Abe Foxman said leading media outlets "from Gaza to Ramallah, from Bahrain to Damascus, from Cairo to Riyadh," were printing the cartoons. "Once again, the Arab media does not miss an opportunity to promote classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Jewish control over Washington, the media and the democratic process," Foxman said. The report includes samples of the cartoons. Related articles:Turkey angered by new ADL stance on Armenian ’genocide’ ADL denounces ’shocking’ UN inaction on J’lem terror. . .

Obama urges global fight against terror
AP, The Independent 7/24/2008
Barack Obama stood before more than 200,000 people in Berlin and summoned Europeans and Americans to work together to bring the war in Iraq to an end, defeat terrorism and "dry up the well of extremism that supports it. " Obama said America and Europe must stand together in telling Iran to "abandon its nuclear ambitions" and insisted that "we must renew our resolve" to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Speaking in the Tiergarten, a park not far from where the Berlin Wall once stood, the presumptive Democratic nominee urged Americans, Berliners, and people of the world to work together for a better world. "A new generation — our generation — must make our mark on history," he said. Police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski said the speech drew more than 200,000 people. No incidents were reported.

Shekel crosses 3.5/$
Sharon Baider, Globes Online 7/24/2008
Finotec: If the Israel-US interest rate gap narrows, the shekel will come under more selling pressure. The shekel-dollar exchange rate broke through the NIS 3. 50/$ level this morning for the first time in three months, rising by 0. 8%. The shekel-euro rate also rose this morning, but by less. Foreign currency trading is taking place against expectations about next Monday’s announcement by theBank of Israel on the interest rate for August. Market sources believe that Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer will leave the interest rate unchanged, given that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by just 0. 1% in June. In the US, the prevailing belief on Wall Street is that US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will have to raise the interest rate as inflation in the US continues to spiral. The narrowing gap interest rate gap between the shekel and dollar has bolstered the greenback.

First half tourism up 32%
Dalia Tal, Globes Online 7/24/2008
Hotel overnights by Israelis fell 7%. The number of tourists overnights at hotels was 32% higher in the first half of 2008, compared with the first half of 2007, the Israel Hotel Associationreports. On the other hand, hotel overnights by Israelis fell 7%. The Hotel Association attributes the decline to the shekel’s appreciation against other currencies, which prompted many people to take vacations abroad, including the popular destination of Turkey. The Hotel Association notes an especially large jump in the number of day tourists who are staying in neighboring countries and making side trips to visit holy sites in Israel. Hotel Association director general Shmuel Zurel predicts that 400,000 day tourists will visit Israel this year, 200% more than in 2007. He warned that this trend should alarm decision-makers, because day tourists put considerable pressure on tourist. . .

Britain, Bethlehem, Basra and Northern Ireland
Nasser Lahham, Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an Exclusive – During his first visit to the region as the Prime Minister of Britain, Gordon Brown - former Chancellor of the Exchequer - visited the West Bank city of Bethlehem, accompanied by 20 managers of the biggest British companies who held meetings with Palestinian businessmen in the Intercontinental Hotel in Bethlehem. During his visit Brown announced a pledge of 60 million US dollars to support the budget of the Palestinian Authority (PA). His spokesperson said Brown discussed with Israeli and Palestinian leaders different ways of pushing the peace process forward and focused on economic reconstruction and development in the region. Brown, perhaps on account of his background in the British Treasury, places the empowerment of the Palestinian economy as a mainstay of his policy towards the region and argued that the security and political situation. . .

Internal report details Bank of Israel disarray
Stella Korin-Lieber and Zeev Klein, Globes Online 7/24/2008
Conflicts of interest and other managerial deficiencies are listed in the report. "A ticking bomb" is how Bank of Israelsources describer an internal report by the bank’s Internal Auditor Shula Mishli that discloses suspicions of financial and administrative irregularities in contracts, the hiring of friends and relations in exchange for cash and by improper means, and conflicts of interest in contracts. One of the conflicts of interest listed regards a contract withNess Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq:NSTC ), the vendor of SAP systems for the Bank of Israel. Aharon Fogel simultaneously serves as both chairman of Bank of Israel advisory council and as chairman of Ness. At the time, and until recently, Ness has an exclusive license to distribute SAP AG (NYSE; XETRA: SAP). The Bank of Israel signed a contract with Ness over the objections of some members of. . .

Study: Tel Aviv more expensive to live in than New York
Hadar Tadmor, TheMarker, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
Tel Aviv is more expensive to live in than New York, according to the 2008 cost of living surveycompiled by the Mercer human resources consultancy firm. The survey also found that Tel Aviv has risen to the 14th place in its list ranking the 50 most expensive cities in the world to live in, jumping three places over the last two years during which it was ranked the 17th most expensive city. Israel’s economic hub was given 105 points on the survey’s cost of living index, as opposed to 97. 7 last year. In the survey, Mercer ranked 143 cities on 6 continents according to a comparison of the prices of 200 different goods and services to be found in them. These included housing, transport, food, clothing, entertainment and products for the home. The company set New York as the index’s base, giving it 100 points, against which it then rated the other cities.

MP4 replaces MP3 on the Haredi contraband list
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 7/24/2008
"Terrorists! Terrorists!" shouted the boys. In the early afternoon, with the sun playing games with their senses, passersby in Jerusalem’s Sabbath Square thought for a moment that some devilish Arabs had holed up in the small store. A closer look, however, revealed none other than the "Sicarii," a radical Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) group from the capital’s Mea She’arim neighborhood, demonstrating against some new perceived threat to religious observance. The group had declared holy war on the MP4, the portable digital video player that can be used for viewing movies. When one of the demonstrators yelled, "terrorists, terrorists are hiding in this store," he was actually referring to the harried sales staff who sell the "impure device" in broad daylight. Even though MP4s are sold at several stores in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Geula. . .

Thursday’s weather
Ma’an News Agency 7/24/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Palestinian Meteorological Center expects Thursday’s weather to be clear to partially cloudy, with a slight drop in temperatures to around the annual average. Winds will be westerly to northwesterly and calm and the sea will be calm. Friday’s weather is expected to remain the same with slight drop in temperatures. Expected temperatures are as follows:Jerusalem: 21 to 30 / Ramallah: 20 to 29 / Nablus: 20 to 30 / Qalqilia: 21 to 30 / Jenin: 23 to 33 / Salfit: 20 to 29 / Tubas: 22 to 32 / Gaza: 25 to 30 / Hebron: 20 to 29 / Khan Younis: 25 to 30 / Jericho: 26 to 39 / Rafah: 23 to 30 /[end]

VIDEO / Another delay in Katsav sex crimes indictment as case transferred
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 7/25/2008
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador decided on Thursday to transfer the sex crimes case involving former president Moshe Katsav from the Jerusalem District prosecution to attorney Ronit Amiel at the Central District prosecution. The decision was made as a result of the conclusion that the Jerusalem District prosecutors held polar views regarding the case and could not reach a consensus on an indictment against Katsav. Katsav has been accused by several female ex-employees of various sex crimes, including rape in some cases. His attorneys reached a plea agreement with the attorney General last June under which Earlier the rape charges against him would have been dropped and he would have served no active jail time. However, Katsav later withdrew from the agreement, opting for a trial.

Ultra-Orthodox, immigrants discriminated by local authorities
Zvi Lavi, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Troubling results from poll conducted by Knesset Research and Information Center pushes MK Ophir Pines to revise anti-discriminatory bill to include Haredim, immigrants on after women, Israeli-Arabs, disabled - Reevaluating discrimination:Only 10 of the 4,623 people employed by the Haifa Municipality are ultra-Orthodox, and only 5% of Ashdod’s municipality consists of new immigrants - even though 35% of the city’s residents are recent olim. These figures and others similar to them were presented Thursday during a session held by the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, and succeeded in convincing the committee to amend a new bill proposal. A study conducted by the Knesset Research and Information Center among eight municipalities shed light on a oft-overlooked situation: While the ultra-Orthodox sector comprises 2% of the population, they represent only 0.

State comptroller launches probe into Ramon wiretapping
Yuval Yoaz, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Micha Lindenstrauss summons various police, state prosecution officials to explain decision to use wiretaps during police, court proceedings againstvice premier -Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz have all been summoned to appear before State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, Thursday. Lindenstrauss is probing allegations that the police and the State Prosecutor’s Office conducted an illegally wiretapping operation Ramon during his investigation and subsequent trial forsexual harassment. The committee of inquiry formed by the state comptroller held its first meeting on Tuesday. Chief-Superintendent Gadi Sciso, head of the police department’s wiretapping division, briefed the committee on police wiretapping procedures: When and why such measures are taken, the. . .

Barak briefs Netanyahu on security situation
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 7/24/2008
Defense minister meets with opposition leader in his Tel Aviv office; aides say meeting did not deal with political issues - Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Thursday morning with Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) at his Tel Aviv office. Sources at the two officials’ offices said Barak briefed Netanyahu on security issues. Despite the official statement, it was believed that the two would also discuss political issues. The meeting was also attended by the defense minister military secretary, Brigadier-General Eitan Dangot, head of the Defense Ministry’s Security-Diplomatic Bureau Amos Gilad, and Barak’s chief of staff, Mike Herzog. Sources at the defense minister’s office said that the two would not converse in person, although this may take place at the end of the security briefing for several minutes.


The Wall at the End of History
Phyllis Bennis, Middle East Online 7/24/2008
      Today, the Silk Road stops in Abu Dis. The road no longer goes through Jerusalem, and can no longer reach the sea. That grimy, garbage-strewn dead end marks the end of 2,202 years of history.
     Beginning around 100 BC, the fabled Silk Road brought goods and travelers from China and Central Asia, through the lands of Persia and Mesopotamia, and over to Palmyra in Syria. One branch of the road then turned south, crossing through Bethany, the biblical village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, as it headed west from Jerusalem to Yoppa (today’s Jaffa) and the Mediterranean Sea.
     Today the town of Bethany is known as Abu Dis. It is still on the outskirts of Jerusalem. And the ancient road is still there. Dusty and pothole-filled, it winds through the center of the Palestinian town, with auto-parts yards and small dingy shops selling vegetables and furniture lining both sides. The road then comes to an abrupt stop, blocked by the towering, graffiti-covered cement slabs of Israel’s separation wall.
     Today, the Silk Road stops in Abu Di The road no longer goes through Jerusalem, and can no longer reach the sea. That grimy, garbage-strewn dead end marks the end of 2,202 years of history.

Really living here

Raja Shehadeh writing from Ramallah, occupied West Bank, Electronic Intifada 7/24/2008
      For the past four decades I have been a passionate walker. For much of this time the hills northeast of Ramallah, my favorite wandering ground, were largely empty of settlements and I could walk freely, without constraint. However, this situation changed dramatically after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995. Since then, settlement activity has reached unprecedented levels, spreading in many cases over lands that are privately owned by Palestinians. Overall, the population of West Bank settlements increased by at least 40 percent between the signing of the Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000.
     As the Israel-Palestine peace process flounders, aggressive behavior by Jewish settlers and their supporters in the Israeli army is making the countryside of the West Bank an increasingly dangerous place for Palestinians. Behind this development is the belief that there is no room in "Greater Israel" for the Palestinians. That it is either us or them.

Opportunities for dialogue

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 7/24/2008
      Ultimately, it could as well be Israeli intransigence that brings Fatah and Hamas together.
     Despite the sharpening pitch of statements made by Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian and Arab efforts to push the two sides towards dialogue are continuing. Mediators appear optimistic about their efforts given that the conflicting parties know they are in the midst of a major crisis and that maintaining their rift could seriously damage both of them and the Palestinian national cause. Thus a number of committees have recently become active in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the goal of convincing the two sides to sit down and dialogue. One of these committees formed in Gaza calls itself the Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee and is composed of political leaders and independent national figures as well as the directors of numerous civil society organisations. It seeks to develop formulas that could serve as a basis for resolving differences between Fatah and Hamas.
     The diversity of the committee’s members and their intellectual orientations reflects the hard- won consensus by which the committee functions. It includes the mufti of Gaza, Sheikh Abdul-Karim Al-Kahlut, the head of the Orthodox Church in Gaza, Father Manuel Musallam, the heads of all human rights organisations, and the heads of universities and even some writers for the Palestinian press. Noteworthy is that one of the most prominent active figures in this committee is Ghazi Hamad, coordinator for relations with the Palestinian factions in the cabinet of dismissed premier Ismail Haniyeh.

What Obama missed in the Middle East

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 7/24/2008
      When I and other Palestinian-Americans first knew Barack Obama in Chicago in the 1990s, he grasped the oppression faced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation. He understood that an honest broker cannot simultaneously be the main cheerleader, financier and arms supplier for one side in a conflict. He often attended Palestinian-American community events and heard about the Palestinian experience from perspectives stifled in mainstream discussion.
     In recent months, Obama has sought to allay persistent concerns from pro-Israel groups by recasting himself as a stalwart backer of Israel and tacking ever closer to positions espoused by the powerful, hard-line pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. He distanced himself from mainstream advisers because pro-Israel groups objected to their calls for even-handedness.
     Like his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, Obama gave staunch backing to Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon, which killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the blockade and bombardment of the Gaza Strip, calling them "self defense."

Obama, Israel and Palestine

Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 7/23/2008
      Barack Obama has finally made his long-awaited pilgrimage to Israel, a rite of passage that no aspiring American politician, let alone a presidential candidate, can afford to miss or ignore.
     There (or rather here), Obama uttered all the politically-correct words that Israeli leaders and especially Israel-firsters back home would want to hear.
     He called the creation of Israel in Palestine in 1948 a “miracle,” utterly ignoring the near obliteration of Palestine and expulsion to the four corners of the world of the vast bulk of its indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants.
     The presidential hopeful told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that “I have come to communicate to you my fervent support for Israel.”
     In Sderot, in southern Israel, Obama was quoted as saying the following: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything in my power to stop that, and would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

Administrative Detentions: a report from the Israeli Association for Palestinian Prisoners

Israeli Association for Palestinian Prisoners, Palestine Think Tank 7/24/2008
      The Case of Dr. Ghassan Khaled, the law faculty of Al Najjah University, Nablus
     Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial, and without informing the detainees or their lawyers of the charges against them.Moreover, neither they nor their attorneys are allowed to see the evidence.*
     Administrative detention serves as a convenient tool of harassment by the Israeli regime to use against political activists and members of parliament, peace activists leading non-violent resistance to the occupation, students and other people who cannot be put to trial because of the lack of evidence against them.
     In recent years, 8% of the political prisoners in Israeli jails have been administrative detainees. At present there are about 730 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons.

Rap music evokes feeling of national unity in Jenin

Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 7/23/2008
      Jenin - Jenin Refugee Camp revived its Palestinian identity last week not through political speeches or nonviolent demonstration, but through the power of rap music. DAM, a Palestinian rap group, performed at the Freedom Theatre in the camp last Monday, 14 July.
     "Jenin Refugee Camp is no different from any spot in the world," the Freedom Theatre General Director Juliano Mer Khamis said. "It is a place of culture, art and theater. But, it’s also a place of struggle -- a place enduring the occupation."
     According to Khamis, the DAM concert was a success, bringing a large and distinguished audience to the camp.
     "We have proved that the people of the camp are normal people that love theater and life," he said. "This concert was like any other in New York or Tel Aviv. The difference between us and them is the fact that we live under occupation. It is not a mental difference. The success of the show proves that the camp wants to be free and liberated."