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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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4 September 2008

Assad sends Israel proposals for direct peace talks
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday a list of proposals has been sent to Israel via Turkish mediators aimed at laying the groundwork for direct peace talks between the two foes. "We are awaiting Israel’s response to six points that we have submitted through Turkey," Assad said at a four-way summit in Damascus with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. "Our response would be positive, paving the way for direct talks after a new US administration that believes in the peace process takes office," he said. Israel and Syria, which have technically remained in a state of war for 60 years, launched indirect negotiations brokered by Turkey in May, eight years after talks were frozen over the fate of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that belong to Damascus.

Jerusalem police limit entry of Palestinians for Ramadan prayer
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Jerusalem police are severely restricting entry of West Bank Palestinians into Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque compound for the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A police statement says married men between 45 and 50 years old can enter with a permit, while those under 45 are banned, and those over 50 can enter freely. Married women between 30 and 45 need permits. In peaceful times, hundreds of thousands of Muslims crowd the hilltop holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel explains the limits by citing security. In the past, services have ended with riots. The statement released Thursday concludes, "Police are prepared to prevent all disturbance by anyone. "

Sarkozy gives Assad letter for Hamas-held Shalit
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
DAMASCUS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday said he has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a letter from the father of an Israeli soldier seized by Palestinian resistance to pass on to the captive. Gilad Shalit, who also holds French citizenship, was captured more than two years ago in a deadly cross-border raid by resistance fighters from the Gaza Strip, among them members of the democratically elected Hamas. "This is an issue I want to say very little about," Sarkozy said on a visit to Damascus, where the exiled political head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is based. "What I’m interested in is results. " But he did say that Qatar would play a role in efforts to free the conscript, who was captured in June 2006. On Wednesday the French presidency announced that Sarkozy would give the letter to Assad during a four-way summit with Turkey and Qatar.

Palestinian parliament speaker moved from one Israeli prison to another
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – The speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Dweik, has been moved from one Israeli prison to another, one of Dweik’s colleagues in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) said on Thursday. PLCmember Samira Halaykah Dweik said he was moved from Megiddo prison to Hadareim prison. Another lawmaker, Samir Al-Qadi, was moved from Ofer prison to Megiddo. Halaykah said that the Israeli prison service is abusing Dweik and the other 40 members of the PLC who are still in prison. According to Halaykah, even the transportation between prison facilities can become a means of torture, and a month ago, four lawmakers were injured while in transit between prisons.

West Bank teachers announce strike, following those in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Bethlehem –Ma’an –Palestinian teachers in the West Bank will go on strike on at 11am Monday demanding higher pay, and will walk out again on Tuesday in solidarity with teachers in the Gaza Strip. The secretary-general of the union announced on Thursday that“the problem of the teachers is ongoing. The number of the teachers whose files are finished is no more than 25%the general secretary gave the government until 25th of September to finish their files. ”The union is demanding that teachers be paid on time, and receive a pay raise in order to account for the rising cost of living. The statement said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has pledged to pay salaries for September before Eid Al-Fitr, the feast at the end of the Holy month of Ramadan. The union and the PA are also at odds over vacation time.

Israeli forces invade West Bank cities, kidnap 5
Marina Ayyoub, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
Israeli military forces kidnapped five Palestinian civilians as they invaded the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and nearby villages, on Thursday at dawn, local sources reproted. A number of Israeli military vehicles troops were seen in several streets in Nablus at dawn. Troops did house-to-house search and detained 5 civilians after breaking into the homes. In Jenin, eyewitnesses reported that a number of Israeli military vehicles and jeeps invaded the city and centered in several streets, however, no one was taken prisoner. Moreover troops invaded Jaba’ village south of Jenin. Military vehicles drove through the streets and an Israeli Special Force positioned in a building in an unfinishedbuilding in the village. Troops stayed in the village for couple of hours and later on withdrew without making any detention.

Palestinian toddler almost dies due to Israeli checkpoint
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
According to local sources, an 18-month old child from Susiya almost died while on his way to the Al Er Demat Hospital due to an Israeli checkpoint that prolonged his journey. The child, known only as ’Omar’, was suffering from a debilitating fever that caused his tongue to swell and fall back into his mouth, blocking his windpipe. He began to suffocate, and his family put him in the car and started to rush to the hospital. Normally, the trip to the hospital would take five minutes, but an Israeli checkpoint installed on the road 8 years ago makes delays inevitable. When the family saw the lines at the checkpoint, they knew from past experience (their own and many others’) that the Israeli soldiers would not allow a special exception due to the life and death situation they were facing, and Omar would surely die.

High Court says rightists can march in Umm al-Fahm
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Court orders State Prosecutor’s Office, police to find way to enable far-right flags’ procession in Arab town; but local residents threaten they will fight to block procession - The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered police to meet with extreme-right activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir, in order to devise a solution that will enable them to hold a rally in the Arab-Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm. The State Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the High Court against the activists’ intent to hold a procession of Israeli flags through the town on Wednesday, claiming that choosing to hold te rally in the middle of an Arab town would be unnecessarily inflammatory, and may result in harm to people or property. Restricted FreedomsState prohibits right-wing procession in Umm al-Fahm / Prosecutor’s Office claims before High Court that Itamar Ben-Gvir’s. . .

Right-wing Umm-el-Fahm march okayed
Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the police to find a "creative" way to allow a group of right-wing extremists to march through Umm El-Fahm waving Israeli flags even though the police warned that the event would "almost certainly" threaten public security and order. During the hearing, Justice Edmond Levy said the group, headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, who were senior activists in the Kach movement before it was declared a terrorist organization, should be allowed to march in the city and called on the police to find a "creative" way in coordination with the petitioners to let them do so. The Internet news site Ynet quoted acting Umm el-Fahm Mayor Mustafa Sohel as saying, "On the day of the march, there will be a human blockade of 50,000 people. Itamar Ben-Gvir is not wanted in Umm el-Fahm.

Israeli police to cordon off area near Al-Aqsa for Friday prayer
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli police announced late on Wednesday that Muslims hoping to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday will not be able to drive or take public transportation directly to the moqsue. Police plan to cordon off the area near the mosque, and said that parking would be provided in the As-Suwana neighborhood. In order to attend prayer at the iconic mosque, Palestinians must meet certain criteria. Married men between the ages 45-50 and married women between the ages of 30-45 who have received permission from the Civil Administration will be allow. Men over the age of 50 and women over the age of 45 will be allowed without a special permit, the Israeli government says.

EU parliament urges Israel to release Marwan Barghouthi, other PLC members
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The European parliament called on Israel to release charismatic Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi in a resolution denouncing Israeli police towards Palestinian prisoners on Thursday. “A substantial release of Palestinian prisoners,” the document says, “as well as the immediate release of the 48 imprisoned members of the Palestinian Legislative Council including Marwan Barghouti, could serve as a positive step to establish the climate of mutual trust needed to make progress in the peace negotiations. ”The resolution was passed with a majority of 416 votes to 136 and 61 abstentions. The document welcomed as a “positive step” Israel’s recent release of 198 Palestinians, but deplored the ongoing incarceration of another 11,000. The EU called on Israel to respect “minimum standards” of treatment of detainees, and deplored the harsh conditions, including torture, that Palestinians are subjected to in Israeli prisons.

Liberated prisoner: Jailors tried to push me to commit suicide
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- The Liberated prisoner Noura Al-Hashlamon said on Thursday that the Israeli jailors had tried to push her to commit suicide while in administrative captivity over the past two years. She told the PIC reporter in Al-Khalil city that Israeli jailors dropped broken glass in her prison cell during her hunger strike and when she asked them to get them out they refused. Hashlamon said she told court that she does not intend to commit suicide and that she is a believer and that her hunger strike was to protest the so-called secret file against her which was used to renew her administrative detention. The ex-detainee said that her husband was also held under administrative custody for the past 26 months without trial or charge, leaving their seven children without their parents. She recalled that she went on two hunger strikes, the first for 26 days and the second. . .

Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 28 Aug. - 03 Sep. 2008
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 9/4/2008
18 Palestinian civilians, including 9 children, were wounded by IOF gunfire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. *This number includes two fishermen who were wounded by IOF naval troops whilst near the Gaza seashore. *15 civilians were wounded when IOF used force against peaceful demonstrations organized in protest at the construction of the Annexation Wall. *IOF used a liquid with a disgusting smell to target demonstrators. *IOF conducted 35 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. *IOF arrested 29 Palestinian civilians, including five children. *IOF arrested 7 Palestinian civilians and 8 human rights defenders near the Annexation Wall. *IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT and have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

PCHR Weekly Report: 18 Palestinians injured, including 9 children
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, based in Gaza, reports that 18 Palestinians were injured during the week of August 28th to September 3rd. Nine of those injured were children, and two were fishermen who were wounded by Israeli naval troops whilst near the Gaza seashore. Israeli attacks in the West Bank:15 civilians were wounded when Israeli forces used force against peaceful demonstrations organized in protest at the construction of the Annexation Wall. During that attack, Israeli forces used a liquid with a disgusting smell to target demonstrators. On 1 September, a Palestinian civilian was seriously wounded, when Israeli forces fired at him as they went to his house to arrest his son. At approximately 03:45, Israeli forces moved into Ne’lin village, west of Ramallah. They raided and searched 2 houses belonging to ’Awad Sadiq Sorour, 40, and his brother ’Aqel, 33.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 27 Aug - 02 Sep 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 9/2/2008
Health and Education strikes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank: Humanitarian concern Health Strike- On 29 August, the Health Workers’ Union in Ramallah called for a strike in the Gaza Strip (from 30 August to 2nd September) in protest of the decision taken by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza to dismiss approximately forty employees. Of eight MoH hospitals surveyed, an estimated 48 percent of health personnel are on strike, of which 31 percent are medical doctors, 25 percent nurses. In response, the MoH in Gaza has threatened striking MoH staff with closure of their private clinics, pharmacies, laboratories, and X-ray facilities. Three MoH hospitals declared emergency status and suspended all non-emergency health service, while another seven maintained full capacity despite the strike. Twelve of 56 primary health care facilities were reportedly closed due to the strike, and. . .

Palestinian human rights group worried about PA military courts
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq put out a statement on Wednesday indicating that the rights group believes the use of military courts by the Palestinian Authority could lead the Authority down a slippery slope toward authoritarianism. The group stated that the use of these courts against civilians "might lead towards an authoritarian regime, at the expenses of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Palestinians, the rule of law and the independency of the judiciary. " The statement of Al Haq comes as the Fateh party attempts to assert control of the Palestinian government (under Israeli occupation). The Fateh party has been supported by Israel in its attempts to take back control of the government from the democratically-elected Hamas government since 2006. Stronghanded tactics by the Fateh security forces have been asserted by Palestinians who support Hamas.

Hamas: PA security detained six members across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Hamas said that Palestinian security forces detained six member of thje movement across the West Bank on Thursday. According to Hamas, Fatah-allied security forces detained Ayoub Mu’ala in Nablus, and Ahmad Daqqam and Ibrahim Saba’nah in Jenin. According to the group PA forces seized Isma’il Jaber from Yatta, and Fayez Rimawi from Ramallah after summoning him for questioning, and Mohammad Majd from the village of Azzoun, near Qalqilia. [end]

Invasion of Bethlehem’s Deheisheh Refugee Camp
PNN, Palestine News Network 9/4/2008
Bethlehem -- As began to fall and it was nearly time to break the day’s fast, Israeli forces invaded Bethlehem and stormed Deheisheh Refugee Camp on Thursday. Palestinian security sources reported that dozens of young men ran to the main entrance of the camp as military vehicles, including two bulldozers, plowed through. Israeli forces fired concussion grenades, gas and bullets as youth threw stones and empty bottles. Last night and at dawn Israeli forces conducted mass arrests throughout the West Bank, including Bethlehem, where they remained in Deheisheh Camp for hours. [end]

The Israeli military forces kidnap 2 civilians from Hebron
Marina Ayyoub, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
The Israeli military forces invaded the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday dawn kidnapping 2 civilians local sources reported. Troops searched and ransacked Mahmud Jamjum aged 22, and Salamah Abu Hadeed aged 40 before kidnapping them. The two were taken to an unknown destination. Moreover, a group of Israeli settlers from Kiryat Arba’ settlement in Hebron attacked Wassim Jaber by throwing stones at him causing him scratches and an injury in the head. He was immediately transferred to a local hospital. Most of the settlers attacks go unreported or documented, a number of settler assaults against Palestinians have been documented on tape especially in Hebron. [end]

Nine Palestinians arrested, one injured by Israelis overnight
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized nine Palestinians during dawn raids in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Hebron, and Nablus. Another Palestinian was injured by settlers. In Hebron, in the southern West Bank, Israeli forces arrested 22 year-old Mahmoud Maher Jamjoum and40 year-old Salameh Abu Hadid, abducting both men from their homes, Palestinian security sources said. In addition, Wasim Akram Jaber, a Palestinian man was hospitalized after he was pelted with stones thrown by settlers from the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron. Israeli forces also raided the town of Beit Awwa, near Hebron, and seized several stolen cars. BethlehemIn the Bethlehem area, security sources said that ten military vehicles entered the village of Beit Ta’mir. In the village they raided four houses with the help of dogs.

Israeli military forces kidnap 2 civilians from Bethlehem
Marina Ayyoub, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
The Israeli military forces invaded the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday dawn kidnapping 7 civilians, as reported by local sources. Israeli military vehicles invaded the city and 2 nearby villages in addition to Aida refugee camp. Eyewitnesses reported that 10 Israeli military vehicles invaded the village of Beit Ta’mar southern the city of Bethlehem. Troops searched and ransacked 4 houses with the help of dogs after forcing the civilians out of their houses for couple of ours. Moreover, 5 Israeli military vehicles invaded the village of Tqu’, kidnapped Kamil Al Badan aged 39 after searching his house, troops took him to an unknown detention camp for investigation. The Israeli military forces also invaded Aida refugee camp, located north of Bethlehem, and kidnapped Imad Ayyad aged 35 taking him to an unknown destination.

Palestine Today 090408
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 30s || 3. 20 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org for Thursday September 4, 2008. As peace-related summits continue to be held in world capitals, Israeli military forces go on rampage in Palestinian cities rounding up Palestinian residents. These stories and more are coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast Israeli troops detained on Thursday at dawn four Palestinian residents; two from Hebron and the other two from Bethlehem. Such detention is part of almost daily Israeli military operations in different West Bank areas. Meanwhile, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will be meeting on Thursday evening with his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres in the Italian capital of Rome. The meeting comes on the sideline of a Rome special conference on Friday, addressing Arab-Israeli ties.

Secondary school strike against inhumane conditions
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 9/4/2008
Jerusalem -- The demonstrations began in East Jerusalem on Monday. Parents of students at the Shu’fat School are protesting what they refer to as a lack of the "most basic human rights and environmental and health conditions of schools. The health and lives of students at the school are in danger. "Head of the Parents Committee, Jalal Hussein, told PNN, "What is going on in this school is the mass murder of students. " The complaint is that the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem and the Israeli Education Ministry are not taking any note of the basic needs of students and refuse to make changes. The school is not in the condition for human use, the health situation is deteriorating, the smell is impossible to withstand with no windows inside and no air conditioning. The school is next to a main road which fills classrooms with fumes, while opening on to an area notorious for drug dealing.

Partisan health workers strike taking a toll in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A young Palestinian man was reported to have died on Thursday after he crashed his motorcycle and did not receive medical treatment amid an ongoing health workers’ strike in the Gaza Strip. The man is the latest casualty of a strike that is said to have more to do with partisan politics than labor rights. Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers are on strike for the sixth consecutive day in Gaza on Thursday protesting what they say is discrimination by the Hamas-led government against non-Hamas members. The health sector has been hobbled by the strike. Participation in the strike is widespread, in part because the Fatah-controlled government in Ramallah has threatened not to pay workers who do not participate. The spokesman of the Health Ministry in the Hamas-led de facto government, Khaled Radi, said on Thursday that his government is prepared to resolve. . .

Ministry of Health in Ramallah denounces ''Hamas’ attacks on workers''
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Ramallah-based government denounced on Thursday the attacks carried out by members of Hamas in the Gaza Strip against striking health workers. In a statement the ministry said, “The Hamas movement is detaining hundreds of people working in the health sector for days, forcing, them to sign papers stating that ‘they are affiliated with the de facto government headed by [Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh and they are committed to the legitimacy of this government, otherwise, the de facto government will imprison them under torture and force them to pay thousands of shekels in fines. ”Health workers have been on strike against the Hamas-led government Gaza for almost a week at the urging of the Fatah movement based in Ramallah.

PA pays workers, but currency crisis in Gaza causes delay
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Jihad Al-Wazir head of Palestinian Monetary Authority said that August salaries of governmental employees were transferred on Thursday 4 Sep 2008 for banks along with part of late payments. The minister added in a statement that the monetary authority tried all its best to provide all required shekel cash in banks of southern areas (Gaza Strip) to enable employees receive their salaries and cover their needs during Ramadan. The authority also is making intensive connections with concerned sides to allow required cash to the banks of Gaza since Israeli authorities haven’t allowed cash to the Gaza Strip yet which may cause lateness in paying salaries. The monetary authority said that they care for stability of Palestinian monetary system as one unit. On Wednesday the European Union tranferred 15.

Hamas detains senior leader of pro Al-Qaida group in Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Hamas security forces detained a senior leader of Jaysh al-Ummah, a pro-Al-Qaida group on Thursday in the Gaza Strip, one of his aides said. Abu Hafss was ordered by the Hamas internal security service to report for questioning on Wednesday, two days after Jaysh al-Ummah held an armed training session in the Gaza Strip, and has not returned since. "They imprisoned him," said the aide, who asked to remain anonymous. The aide said he believed the arrest was linked to the training session. The Hamas-run Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip had no immediate comment. Abu Hafss vowed in an interview during the training session to fight Israel and infidels. He also criticised Hamas for not implementing Islamic law in the Gaza Strip. Jaysh al-Ummah says it supports Al-Qaida ideology but is a saparate group.

Al Khudari: in effort to find freedom, voyages on a new maritime route to become routine
PNN, Palestine News Network 9/4/2008
Gaza -- Chairman of the Popular Committee against the Siege, Jamal Al Khudari, said from his home in Gaza that boats will begin running regularly between Gaza and Cyprus. The Free Gaza movement and the Committee are taking charge of the route that breaks the siege on a routine basis, allowing Palestinians some freedom of movement in spite of the Israeli-imposed closure and Egyptian complicity. Al Khudari said, "The Committee and the Free Gaza group that left last Thursday on the break the siege boats, began efforts to disseminate the idea of running a new journey of solidarity with the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza. It has been over two years of siege and other ships of solidarity and aid are expected soon. " He explained, "There is the thinking that with sustained action we can shuttle people between Cyprus and Gaza regularly in order to revitalize this route and open a line of communication with the outside world via sea.

Khudari: Searching for a firm to run a ferry service between Cyprus and Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee against the siege, said that the committee and the Free Gaza activists are making efforts to find a company that could run a regular ferry service between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip. MP Khudari said that the aim of this idea is to break the Israeli siege on Gaza through establishing a sea route connecting Palestine and Cyprus, stressing that Israeli intimidation will not stop the anti-siege trips from continuing or the Gaza people from communicating with the world. The lawmaker noted that a number of activists are due to board three boats for Gaza, one of them will be larger, adding that the boats will be also loaded with humanitarian aid. Khudari had also announced days ago that an agreement was reached with foreign sympathizers to coordinate all acts within a legal framework, and added that Palestinian territorial. . .

Report: Gaza beach polluted as a result of the Israeli siege
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian ecologists have warned on Wednesday that the Gaza beach was exposed to various contamination factors as a result of the Israeli economic siege on the Gaza Strip, in addition to wrong practices of some Palestinian citizens. They also recommended strengthening the system of monitoring potable waters in order to ensure that the 1. 5 million Palestinian individuals living in the Strip were drinking clean water. They attributed the problem to a number of factors, asserting it was mainly because of the Israeli economic sanctions against the Strip, and the closure of the Gaza crossing points. Amal Sarsour, the head of the health division in Gaza governorate, opined that frequent and long blackouts, the high temperature, the lack of fuel, and the increase of Palestinian population in the tiny Strip had all contributed to such contamination.

New siege-breaking boat to sail on 22 September
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – International human rights advocates plan to stage another siege-breaking voyage to the Gaza Strip on 22 September after two boats challenged an Israeli military blockade in August. Palestinian lawmaker Jamal Al-Khudari, head of the Popular Campaign Against the Aiege, announced on Thursday that the activists will set sail from Cyprus, and that the new boat will have on board members of the European Parliament and doctors. The Boat will also pick up nine international activists who are stranded in Gaza following the first voyage of the Free Gaza Movement. Among the stranded foreigners is British journalist Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Free Gaza movement also announced on Thursday that it would deliver mail to Palestinians in Gaza.

New ''Break the Siege'' ship to sail to Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
Legislator Jamal Al Khodary, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, stated on Thursday that a new Break the Siege ship which includes European legislators, physicians, reporters and international figures will sail to Gaza from Cyprus on September 22. Al Khodary added that physicians on board will remain in Gaza to perform surgeries and relief work for sick and injured Palestinians residents. He added that on its way back to Cyprus, the ship will carry nine internationals who remained in Gaza after arriving on board the first ship in addition to nine Palestinians who could not leave after visiting the coastal region. The nine internationals, including the sister of Tony Blair’s wife, arrived on board the SS Liberty and Free Gaza ships on August 23 and delivered aid and essential supplies to the residents.

Anti-siege boats to return to Gaza with a bigger third one, more relief material
Palestinian Information Center 9/3/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The two boats that broke the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip are to return to the Strip along with a bigger third boat that would carry more solidarity activists and more medical aid. The foreign activists, who remained in Gaza after departure of the two boats, said that the boats are expected back in the Strip within the few coming days and would bring more relief material. The international sympathizers said that their continued presence in Gaza would unmask the Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, charging that regional parties were participating in besieging Gaza along with Israel. The foreign activists asked the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah border terminal with Gaza and allow them to return home to their families. They lashed out at both Israel and Egypt for not allowing them to leave the Strip via Rafah and Erez crossings, charging. . .

Hamas: The attempt to assassinate Sheikh Beitawi crossed all red lines
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement strongly denounced the attempted assassination of Sheikh Hamed Al-Beitawi, a lawmaker and the head of the Palestinian scholars association, which took place outside a mosque in the Rujaib village, Nablus district, saying that this assault crossed all red lines. In a statement received by the PIC, Hamas underlined that this outrageous assault was carried out in light of the exchange of roles between the Israeli occupation and the PA in Ramallah. It charged that the assault indicates that the PA is morally and nationally declined and that its calls for dialog are just lies. The statement warned that the PA’s persistence in assaulting Hamas leaders and cadres in the West Bank will prompt the Movement to reconsider its positions towards all issues and to take action to protect its cadres, calling on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to end the crimes of his security apparatuses and the Fatah faction immediately.

Sheikh Betawi to PNN: attackers serve interests of occupation
Fadi Yacoub, Palestine News Network 9/4/2008
PNN -- Security chaos in the West Bank is ongoing as the two-year internal conflict between the two governments leads Hamas and Fateh party members to target one another. Sheikh Hamed Al Betawi is a Palestinian Legislative Council Deputy and an attorney. He spoke with PNN on Thursday after his car was shot at in eastern Nablus’ Rujib Village. He accused the attackers of being those who "serve the interests of occupation. "The Sheikh explained that he was leaving the village mosque at the time of the shooting in the parking lot. He immediately called the Palestinian Preventative Security to find the culprits. Al Betawi told PNN that fighting must be "against the Israeli occupation of our Palestinian land," not internal, adding that "occupation soldiers often do this type of thing to add confusion and foment sedition in Palestinian society. "

Gun men fire on Hamas lawmaker’s car in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Gunmen opened fire on Wednesday evening on a car belonging to Shiekh Hamid Al-Bitawi, a Hamas-affiliated member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, just after he entered a local mosque or prayer. Ahmad Al-Bitawi, Sheikh Bitawi’s son told Ma’an that his father parked his Volkwagon in front of the Roujib Mosque, in the east of Nablus. Moments after he went inside the building, armed min fired 15 bullets into the car, then fled the scene. No one was injured. Al-Bitawi asked the Palestinian Security forces to investigate the incident. The Hamas-run de facto government in Gaza denounced the attack, calling it an “assassination attempt. ”[end]

Car of PLC Member Fired upon by Unknown Persons in Nablus
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 9/4/2008
On Wednesday evening, 3 September 2008, unidentified gunmen fired at the car of a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in Nablus. The car was heavily damaged. This attack is part of the security chaos prevailing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 19:40 on Wednesday, 3 September, unidentified gunmen fired at the car of Sheikh Hamed Suleiman Khudair (al-Beitawi), a PLC Member from the Change and Reform Bloc of Hamas, whilst his car was parked in front of the Roujib Mosque, southeast of Nablus. Al-Beitawi and his son were praying in the mosque when the car was attacked. [end]

’Commandos nearly exposed in Syria’
David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post 9/5/2008
Aware that some members of both the American and the Israel intelligence community were not entirely convinced that President Bashar Assad was building a nuclear facility in the summer of 2007, Israel in mid-August sent 12 members of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit into Syria in two helicopters to collect soil samples outside the nuclear site. But the commandos’ mission was almost exposed when a Syrian patrol drove past the landing site where the helicopters were parked. This is one of the dramatic revelations contained in a new book by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman that is being published next week in the US. The daring mission to Syria was a success, Bergman writes. "The results provided clear-cut proof of the joint nuclear project. "The following month, the Israel Air Force destroyed the facility.

Assad: We won’t cut our ties with Hezbollah, despite Israel talks
Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid , Haaretz Service, and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 9/5/2008
Bashar Assad on Thursday said he will not cut Syria’s ties with Hezbollah, despite other statements the Syrian President made during the day signaling progress in peace talks with Israel. A key Israeli demand in the indirect negotiations is that Syria cease its support for the Lebanese militia. Speaking to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, Assad said: "I don’t see any way to give up on Hezbollah. Our stance is as clear as always. " "We do not believe that our interest is to give up on resistance. . . Our position is stable and has not changed, and it doesn’t appear that it will change until the facts of occupation themselves change. " The notion of armed "resistance" is often used in the Arab world to mean attacks on Israel and support for militant organizations such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist group. . .

’Peace talks to commence in 2 weeks’
Tovah Lazaroff, Staff And Ap, Jerusalem Post 9/3/2008
A fifth round of indirect talks between Israel and Syria will take place in two weeks and will last two days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Thursday in Damascus. There was no word on where the talks were scheduled to take place. The fifth round of talks, which were initially scheduled for early next week in Istanbul, were postponed due to the political situation in Israel and the resignation of Turbowitz, Syrian President Bashar Assad said earlier Thursday. Assad was speaking at a summit with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Erdogan in Damascus. According to Assad, the fifth round of talks was supposed to be significant as it was to pave the way for direct peace negotiations with Israel.

Sarkozy brings Assad in from the cold
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
The presidents of Turkey and France and the emir of Qatar are set to meet today in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a step that symbolizes an increase in Syria’s power in the region and the end of the isolation that has been imposed on it. Speaking at a press conference on the arrival of French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Damascus yesterday, Assad denied that Syria was promoting a "new regional axis. "However he stressed that all the participants in the summit were leading countries: France being the current president of the European Union, Syria as current chair of the Arab Summit, and Qatar as current chairman of the Gulf Cooperation Council. One of the central issues the two presidents discussed was the Syria-Israel peace process. French sources told the Arab media outlets that the next round of talks between Syria and Israel would begin on Sunday in Turkey.

Assad: We won’t recognize Israel
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 9/4/2008
In interview with Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV Syrian president says country ’doesn’t see interest in abandoning resistance against occupation in Lebanon, Palestine;’ rejects possibility of recognizing Israel before peace deal -Syrian President Bashar Assad says his country will not recognize Israel before a peace accord is reached, and that democracy is not a goal for Syria. In a television interview to France 2, Assad says ’’it is impossible for recognition to occur before a peace accord. ’’ He says there would be ’’reciprocal recognition’’ if and when such an accord is reached. He said democracy is ’’not a goal’’ for Syria. He said Syria’s goal is stability and that democracy is a ’’means to improve the country and reintroduce freedoms. ’’Just hours after receiving his French counterpart Nicholas Sarkozy in Damascus, Assad said that while he supports peace efforts, he continues to stand behind the Shiite Hizbullah.

Assad peace pitch looks to shed Syria’s pariah image
Compiled by, Daily Star 9/5/2008
Syria’s leader made a move Thursday to shake off the country’s pariah image, saying Damascus had put forth a proposal for peace with Israel. But President Bashar Assad also said he would not break off ties with Hizbullah and Palestinian resistance groups - a key Israeli demand for Mideast peace. Assad’s comments came after meetings with France’s leader and regional mediators in talks focusing on Mideast peace and Iran’s nuclear program. France hopes that warmer relations with Syria, Iran’s ally, could help the West in its efforts to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program. Assad said his proposal for Israel was intended to serve as a basis for direct talks. He said he would wait for a similar document laying out Israel’s positions before any face-to-face talks. So far, talks between the two foes have been held indirectly through Turkish mediators.

Knesset approves public holiday for Golan referendum vote
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
The House and Law committees approved on Thursday a nationwide vacation day in the event of a national referendum on the Golan Heights, and agreed that public funds should not go towards party propaganda on the issue. The committees assembled in the Knesset to discuss a bill that would require a national referendum before the government could agree to cede the Golan Heights to Syria as part of any potential peace deal. The committee members agreed that a national vacation day would be required for such a referendum, despite the cost to the economy of NIS 1. 3 billion. A national referendum would require the positioning of ballot boxes in neutral locations, mainly schools and educational institutions, as well as the hiring of 50,000 people to staff them, said Tamar Edri, the director-general of the central elections committee.

Assad: 5th round of Israel-Syria talks delayed
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Syrian president tells Sarkozy next round of indirect negotiations, which was scheduled to begin Sunday, postponed due to ’domestic situation in Israel’ and resignation of Israeli representative Yoram Turbowicz. Sarkozy: Iran taking great risk by pursuing nukes -Syrian President Bashar Assad announced Thursday morning that the fifth round of indirect talks between Israel and Syria, which was scheduled to begin this coming Sunday, has been postponed due to the resignation ofPrime Minister Ehud Olmert’s top diplomatic aide Yoram Turbowicz. Assad’s statement confirmed an the Al-Arabiya TV report, which quoted the Syrian President as telling his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy that the talks have been frozen due to "the domestic situation in Israel" and the "resignation of the Israeli emissary".

Hamas confirms excellent rapport with Syria
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has categorically denied Wednesday reports published on a Kuwaiti newspaper alleging that Hamas’s supreme political leader Khaled Mishaal was planning to settle in Sudan after Syria asked him to leave its soil. "These reports are categorically false and aim at spoiling the excellent relationship between Hamas and Syria", asserted Ezzat Al-Resheq, member of the Movement’s political bureau, in an interview with the Quds Press. He also underlined that Hamas’s relation with the Syrian authorities was on its best levels, and that the Movement had enhanced such relation further by opening new channels of communications with many Arab and foreign countries. The Kuwaiti Al-Ray newspaper alleged on Tuesday that Mishaal was thinking of settling in Sudan on request of the Syrian authorities.

Peres, Abbas off to Italy for ’mini-Davos’ conference
Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
President Shimon Peres left for Italy on Thursday afternoon to participate in an economic forum, which, according to the Boston Globe, has been billed as a mini-Davos. Participants include Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, US Vice President Dick Cheney, European Commission President Jose Manual Borrosso, high ranking government figures from several countries and senior executives of major multinational business corporations, who will gather at the luxury Villa de’Este resort overlooking Lake Como. The annual forum is sponsored by Ambrosetti, a Milan-based management consulting group. Cheney, who will arrive in Italy after delivering an American aid package to Georgia, will address the forum on "Intelligence on the World, Europe and Italy.

Palestinian president to meet with his Israeli counterpart Thursday evening
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas will be meeting his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres on Thursday evening in Italy. Israeli sources said that both leaders will be discussing outstanding political issues, security and economic concerns. The meeting comes ahead of a special conference in Rome on Friday, over relations between Israel and the Arab World, where Peres is suppose to meet with the vice-President of the United States, Dick Cheney, as well as the representative of the European Union, Manuel Brosu, the sources revealed. [end]

Barak sees Israel ceding Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem
Reuters, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Some Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem could become the capital of a future Palestinian state as part of a final peace agreement, Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview broadcast yesterday. Barak did not say whether these neighborhoods would include all of Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. "We can find a formula under which certain neighborhoods, heavily-populated Arab neighborhoods, could become, in a peace agreement, part of the Palestinian capital that, of course, will include also the neighboring villages around Jerusalem," Barak told Al Jazeera television. U. S. -sponsored peace talks were launched last November by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the goal of reaching an agreement in 2008. But the negotiations have been marred by violence and disputes.

Public Works Minister: unilaterally announcing Palestinian state will not end occupation
PNN, Palestine News Network 9/4/2008
Ramallah - Mohammad Ishtaiya told Thursday that negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have been at a standstill since the 1991 Madrid Conference and asked rhetorically how long will the current bout of negotiations continue. He is the Palestinian Public Works Minister, a member of the Strategic Studies Group for Palestinian Negotiations, and the former head of the Palestinian Economic Council. Ishtaiya emphasized the necessity to impose a time table on the negotiations. As Israeli confiscation of lands and settlement building continues, particularly in Jerusalem, the culmination may or may not be with the declaration of the principle of a two-state solution. He told this afternoon, "The Israelis must realize that the Palestinians will walk out, that we have the option to end the most important negotiations, and the dynamics can change.

Plan to give compensation to settlers who voluntarily leave West Bank
PNN, Palestine News Network 9/4/2008
Jerusalem -- On Sunday Israeli officials intend to discuss a new plan to compensate settlers if they leave the West Bank voluntarily, said an official statement coming from the Israeli government. This plan would be implemented in the event of an agreement with Palestinian officials during Final Status negotiations. The statement does not mention settlements in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership insists it will not sign any agreements with the Israelis if East Jerusalem is not the guaranteed capital of the independent state of Palestine. The Israeli statement was issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. It said that this plan was developed by Deputy Prime Minister Chaim Ramon, and pointed out that the issue would be discussed but would not be put to a vote "at this stage. "The statement added, "The Prime Minister wants to hear the comments of members of the government on this initiative.

Abbas and Peres to meet in Italy
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Israeli President Shimon Peres in Italy on Thursday, Israeli sources said. The sources reported that the two leaders will discuss political, economic and security issues. Abbas and his Israeli counterpart will attend a conference in Rome on Friday addressing relations between Israel and the Arab world. Peres is also expected to meet US Vice President Dick Cheney and EU officials. [end]

VIDEO - Ehud Barak talks to Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera 9/4/2008
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, speaks to Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland from central command in Tel Aviv. Just two weeks before Israel gets a new prime minister and potentially a new government Barak discusses his own political aspirations. He also talks about Israel’s military preparations for any threat posed by Iran, about controversial Jeiwsh settlements and his country’s security fence. [end]

Hamas: The calm agreement failed to achieve its goals
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Wednesday that the truce agreement which the Palestinian people resorted to as a means to break the siege and stop the aggression did not succeed in achieving its goals especially with regard to lifting the siege, announcing its intention to organize many events in protest over the closure of the Gaza crossings. In a press conference held at the Ramattan news agency, Ashraf Abu Daya, the spokesman for the Hamas popular action, called on the Arab political parties and figures to activate their role in solidarity with the besieged Gaza people. Abu Daya also urged the citizens to participate in the anti-siege events which will be held soon in the Gaza Strip. The spokesman hailed Egypt for opening the Rafah border crossing at the beginning of this week on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, calling for finding a mechanism to open the. . .

Court allows rightists to march through Israeli Arab town
Tamar Zarchin and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Itamar Ben GvirThe High Court of Justice on Thursday instructed the state to formulate a plan within 15 days that would allow for right-wing activists to hold a procession through the Israeli Arab town of Umm el-Fahm. The rightists, among them former Kach movement activist Itamar Ben Gvir,claimed that the police’s refusal to permit the march is a gross violation of their right to freedom of expression. In their defense to the court, the police argued that allowing the march could spark unrest that would endanger the public. The justices rejected this argument, and also dismissed a police proposal to move the march to an alternative site on the town’s periphery. Hadash chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said the High Court ruling crosses a dangerous line by giving a stamp of approval to an organization "that has terrorist characteristics and should be outlawed.

State admits outpost built on private Arab land
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
North of the settlement of Beit El, at the outpost of Jabel Artis, two new homes were recently built, and eight Israeli families moved in. The homes are barely a kilometer from the headquarters of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, and were built on land that according to the registry is private Palestinian land. This apparently did not prevent the Civil Administration from issuing an order for military use of the plot and that made it easier for the settlers to drive the land’s owners off of it. Now, the Civil Administration admits that issuing the order was wrong, and that it was issued for the wrong plot. This admission makes little difference to the owners of the property, now that the construction is completed. Mahbuba Yassin Abdullah, a resident of the nearby village of Dura al-Qara, is the owner of plot 39 of the village properties on which Jabel Artis sits.

Dozens of Israeli settlers arrested attempting to place caravan near Shufat camp
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Dozens of right-wing Israeli settlers were arrested after attempting to place a mobile home near Shufat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem on Thursday. Israeli sources reported that the settlers were attempting to lay claim to the area, which lies on land Israel occupied in 1967. [end]

Sarkozy warns Iran it risks Israeli strike on nuke program
Reuters, Ha’aretz 9/5/2008
French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Iran on Thursday it was taking a dangerous gamble in seeking to develop atomic weapons because one day Israel could strike to foil its nuclear aspirations. Western powers accuse Iran of seeking the atom bomb under the cover of a civilian nuclear program but Tehran denies the charge, insisting it only wants to master atomic technology in order to generate electricity. The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if the dispute cannot be settled through diplomacy. "Iran is taking a major risk in continuing the process to obtain a military nuclear capacity," Sarkozy told a meeting in Damascus with the leaders of Syria, Turkey and Qatar. "One day, whatever the Israeli government, we could find one morning that Israel has struck," Sarkozy added.

Sarkozy warns Iran of possible Israeli strike
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
DAMASCUS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Iran on Thursday that its determination to press on with its controversial nuclear drive risked an Israeli strike that would be a "catastrophe. " "Iran is taking a major risk by continuing the process of seeking nuclear technology for military ends," Sarkozy said at a four-way summit in Damascus with the leaders of Syria, Qatar and Turkey. "Because one day, no matter which Israeli government is in power, one morning we will awake to find Israel has attacked," Sarkozy said on the second day of a landmark visit to Syria. "It’s not a question of whether it is legitimate or intelligent or not. . . It would be a catastrophe, and we must avoid such a catastrophe. " Iran has consistently denied that its nuclear programme is aimed at building an atomic bomb and says it wants only to generate energy for its growing population.

Palestinian Muslims asked to give eight shekels each to the poor during Ramadan
Ma’an News Agency 9/4/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Muslim high religious council raised the amount of money each Muslim is asked to give to the poor during the holy month of Ramadan on Thursday. The council said in a statement that each Muslim is asked to give eight shekels (about two dollars and 25 cents) to the poor this month. Those who can give more are free to do so. The statement added that those who cannot fast this month due to sickness or old age should make the donation to another so that they can eat. Ramadan, a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, began on Monday. [end]

NCO who spied for Hizbullah jailed for 11 years
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Former Israeli NCO Louai Balut expresses regret at military court hearing after being convicted of passing sensitive information to Lebanese terror group. Despite severity of charges, judges hand down 11-year prison sentence - The Tel Aviv Military Court on Thursday sentenced First Sergeant Major Louai Balut to 11 years in prison after convicting him of spying for the Hizbullah terror organization. Balut was convicted of espionage and aiding the enemy while serving as tracker in the IDF Northern Command. The court also ordered he be discharged from the IDF. Balut, 35, resides in the village of Fasuta in the Upper Galilee. According to the indictment, from December 2007 to February 2008 Balut was in contact with a Lebanese citizen and Hizbullah operative known as Abu Hassan. In cellular telephone conversations between the two, Balut provided the. . .

IDF court jails Israeli Arab tracker for spying for Hezbollah
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
A Tel Aviv military court on Thursday sentenced an Israeli Arab tracker in the Israel Defense Forces to 11 years jail time for spying for the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. The court convicted Sgt. Maj. Louai Balut, the army’s first Christian tracker, of giving the Shi’ite group sensitive military information and holding contact with a foreign agent while serving on Israel’s northern border. The material he handed Hezbollah agents pertained to the deployment of IDF forces. In addition to the jail time, the court also ordered Balut’s discharge from the army. The tracker protested during the trial that he was "no traitor and no spy. "Balut’s conviction was the result of a plea bargain, according to which the prosecution removed graver charges of treason and aiding the enemy in wartime.

’We won’t disarm after lands returned’ Staff, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
Hizbullah’s goal is freeing the Shaba farms and the northern Rajar village, but even once these lands are liberated the organization will not disarm, as the weapons will be used to defense Lebanon from Israel, Nasrallah stated in televisedspeech on Thursday. "We are a threatened country and Israel aspires to control us and threatens Lebanon," Hizbullah leader said. Nasrallah also said that the MIA issue had not been resolved, meaning that Hizbullah still demands that Israel hand over all bodies not included in the latest prisoners’ exchange deal. "We will not give up on any of those resistance activists who were killed," he said. However, Nasrallah did not explain how Hizbullah meant to achieve this goal. "My hostility towards Israel is the greatest possible hostility, but I don’t think Israel cheated," he said.

Nasrallah: We still seek fallen guerillas’ bodies
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hinted Thursday he still wants Israel to return the remains of missing guerillas despite the 197 such bodies Israel handed over in aJuly prisoner swap "The matter of the missing is not over. . . We will not give up on a single one of the all the resistance movements’ fallen," Nasrallah said. The Lebanese militia’s leader did not explain what his group would do to end the issue. "My hostility toward Israel is as great as possible, but I don’t think that Israel cheated," he added. Nasrallah was referring to the prisoner swap in which Hezbollah returned the bodies of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, while Israel handed over terrorist Samir Kuntar and four Hezbollah militants, as well as the 197 bodies.

Assad warns against ’fragile’ security in Lebanon
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned on Thursday that the security situation in Lebanon was "fragile" and urged Beirut to combat foreign-backed extremism in the north of the country. "Anything positive in Lebanon would be worthless without a solution to the problem of extremism and salafists in northern Lebanon who are officially supported by some countries," he said, without naming them. "The situation in Lebanon is still fragile," the Syrian leader said at a four-way summit in Damascus. "We are worried about what is happening in Tripoli," he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. At least 23 people have been killed since violence erupted in May in Tripoli between backers of the Lebanese opposition and the majority in Lebanon’s parliament.

LEBANON: Belligerence on the Rise Again
Mona Alami, Inter Press Service 9/4/2008
BEIRUT, Sep 4(IPS) - Except for the Western looking houses along the horizon on the northern side of the blue line that separates Lebanon from Israel, little seems to separate Lebanon from Israel. Away from the picturesque landscape, however, whether in Israel or Dahiyeh -- a Beirut suburb and Hezbollah’s headquarters -- belligerent talk is on the rise. Accusations are coming from both sides of the border with increasing frequency -- and violence. In recent weeks, Israeli security officials have voiced growing concern about Lebanon, especially after Hezbollah obtained official legitimacy for its resistance activities from the ministerial declaration adopted by the newly formed unity cabinet on Aug. 4. The new Lebanese policy statement allowed Hezbollah to keep its weapons, and underlined the right of Lebanon’s people, army, and resistance (referring to Hezbollah’s military organisation). . .

IMEMC joins a partnership of TV, Radio and News Network under the name ''United''
George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
Normal0 falsefalse falseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table. MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5. 4pt 0cm 5. 4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:. 0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10. 0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;}The International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) is now part of the "Palestine News Network -- United" which contains, The Network of United Radio Stations, (NUR) and SADA TV Company and Palestine News Network (PNN). Normal0 falsefalse falseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }/* Style Definitions */ table.

VIDEO - After years of losses, Palestinian stock exchange looks to bright future
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for September 3, 2008. After three years of losses the Palestine Securities Exchange is enjoying increased investor confidence in the Palestinian economy. Better known as the Nablus Stock Market, the PSA was established in 1997 during a period of optimism regarding peace prospects between Israel and the Palestinians. But between 2004 and 2007, the year Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, the PSE lost 50% of its value. Though investors have regained confidence in the Palestinian economy, infighting and Israeli military raids are constant threats to a prosperous future. [end]

Counter Terrorism Bureau tells Israelis: Leave Sinai immediately
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
The government’s counterterrorism unit on Thursday warned of concrete terror threats against Israelis travelling abroad, especially in Sinai, Thailand and Turkey. While the Counter Terrorism Bureau already issued the warning a number of weeks ago, it chose to reiterate it ahead of the Jewish High Holidays at the end of September, a time when many Israelis holiday abroad. The bureau, a branch in the Prime Minister’s Office, advised Israelis currently in Egypt, and in particular in Sinai, to leave immediately. Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday confirmed that Israel security forces had recently foiled two attempts by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah to kidnap Israeli businessmen abroad. Last month, new intelligence on Hezbollah’s intentions to abduct Israelis abroad prompted the bureau to issue a warning to travelers, who were advised to take special precautions.

Israelis warned not to travel to Sinai
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
Hizbullah has stepped up its efforts to kidnap Israelis in recent weeks, a top official in the Counter-Terrorism Bureau told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, as a new travel advisory was issued warning Israelis not to travel to Sinai and southern Thailand. "Hizbullah wants to harm and mainly kidnap Israelis," said Brig. -Gen. (res. ) Elkana Har-Nof, a top official in the bureau. "The group has increased its efforts in recent weeks. " The bureau’s new travel advisory comes ahead of the High Holy Days later this month, when tens of thousands of Israelis are expected to travel abroad. Last month, the bureau issued a general travel advisory warning of Hizbullah’s plans to kidnap Israeli nationals in retaliation for the February assassination of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, which Hizbullah blames on the Mossad.

Ramadan gift from UAE Red Crescent to Gaza
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 9/4/2008
Amman, 4 September 2008 - UNRWA welcomes a new food aid contribution from the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent (UAERC) for the refugees in Gaza. The Israeli blockade has had a disastrous impact of the lives of Gaza people. Food prices have risen this year by 32% in Gaza, according to a recent survey undertaken by UNRWA, WFO and FAO. As a result of these price increases, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are now forced to spend around 67 percent overall –73 percent amongst the poorest sector– of their income on food. The UAERC is responding to this crisis and the distress of people in Gaza through the provision of food parcels composed of chickpeas, cheese, luncheon meat, and other items to 7,000 families. The distribution of food will start on Monday, 8 September 2008. UNRWA’s Deputy Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi commended the UAERC for yet another sign of. . .

Jericho receives a new courthouse
United States Agency for International Development - USAID, ReliefWeb 9/4/2008
Jericho, West Bank -On Thursday, September 4, 2008, David Harden, Deputy Mission Director for the U. S. Agency for International Development West Bank-Gaza Mission, participated in the inaugural opening of the Jericho Serious Crimes Court. The event was presided over by Prime Minister Fayyad. The opening of this Jericho judicial facility is another step in the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to strengthen the Palestinian judicial system. USAID’s support for establishing the new Jericho Courthouse included design, furniture, equipment, a signage system and court chambers. Mr. Harden cited this as just one example of U. S. government support for strengthening the Palestinian judiciary, saying, "We share your hope for a Palestinian state living in peace and security, and strengthening of the judicial system is an important step toward achieving that dream.

Palestinian civil servants and pensioners receive European Union support through PEGASE
Alix de Mauny, Palestine News Network 9/4/2008
Jerusalem - In line with its continued support for the Palestinian public sector through PEGASE[1], the European Union has provided €15. 62 million (NIS 81,004,776) that will today reach the bank accounts of over 78000 civil servants and pensioners. The payment is part of the €40 million committed recently by the European Union on top of its Paris pledge for the budget of the Palestinian Authority. The payment also contains an additional contribution by the Maltese government. The EU’s PEGASE contribution will be added to this month’s payment of salaries and pensions by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, reaching 78,493 beneficiaries. "Without the European Union’s ongoing support, it would be difficult for the Palestinian Authority to ensure the timely payment of salaries and pensions," said Mr.

Madhoun calls on Qatar and donor countries to follow up funds they give to PA
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mohamed Al-Madhoun, the head of the civil servants bureau, appealed Wednesday to Amir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Al Thani and the donor countries, that give the PA grants earmarked for the payment of civil servants’ salaries, to follow up the mechanism in which their funds are dispensed. In a statement received by the PIC, Madhoun said that the funds granted to the PA are dispensed according to partisan inclinations, calling for forming unbiased committees to investigate the funds sent to the Palestinian people especially which are sent to cover the salaries of the education and health sectors. Sheikh Al Thani promised premier of the PA caretaker government Ismail Haneyya during his visit to Qatar that he would secure the payments of the health and education sectors.

Knesset C’tee opposes Jerusalem lot transfer to Russian gov’t
Orit Bar-Gil, Globes Online 9/4/2008
The transfer agreements was not approved by the cabinet or submitted to the Knesset for ratification. The Knesset State Control Committee is calling on the government to review the issues and considerations related to the transfer of the Sergei Compound in Russian Compound in Jerusalem to the Russian government. A number of MKs and organizations, including the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, are seeking to block the transfer of the Sergei Compound to the Russian government. Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On is due to hand over ownership and part of the holding of the property to the Russian government under an agreement reached between the parties. At a State Control Committee discussion of the issue on Tuesday, several MKs objected to the agreement reached by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because it was not approved by the cabinet or submitted to the Knesset for ratification.

Transport Ministry hesitates on new Russia designated carrier
Dalia Tal, Globes Online 9/4/2008
There are fears that there could be a shortage of seats from January. The Ministry of Transport has not yet selected a second designated Israeli carrier for Russian routes, even though passenger numbers are set to increase from September 19, when the cancellation of visa requirements for travel to and from Russia goes into effect. There are fears that there could be a shortage of seats on a route considered one of the most potentially lucrative to the local tourism industry. The cancellation of the visa requirement will mean a saving of $120 per passenger - 5% of the cost of an organized tour to Russia and 20% of the air fare, but also and perhaps most importantly, it will save a lot of the bureaucracy that obtaining a visa entailed. The revoking of the visa requirement will reportedly cause a 20% increase in the number of Israelis wishing to travel to Russia, with Moscow and St.

’Sarkozy to give Assad Schalit letter’
Tovah Lazaroff And Ap, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
Noam Schalit has appealed to Syrian President Bashar Assad to help deliver a letter to his son Gilad, held captive in Gaza by Hamas for over two years. Schalit, who holds dual French-Israeli citizenship, asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy to pass along the letter to Assad during Sarkozy’s visit this week to Damascus, in the hope that Assad would then pass it on to Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. According to officials close to Sarkozy, the letter was delivered to Assad on the sidelines of Thursday’s talks. The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported on Thursday that a French source had told the paper that "Assad said that he was willing to accept the letter, but has no intention of handing it directly to Mashaal because he doesn’t want to be considered a mediator between Israel and Hamas.

ANALYSIS / France elbows U.S. aside in Syria negotiations
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
A senior diplomatic source close to the Turkish-mediated talks between Israel and Syria said the United States has been persuaded that it should take part in the talks, but that France has "pushed itself" into Syria; and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s participation in talks in Damascus have led the U. S. to cancel its decision for now. The source said that U. S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch was to have participated as an observer at the coming Israeli-Syrian meeting in Turkey, but that Washington was not prepared to be "a tail" to the French and so Welch’s participation was called off. The source also said Welch’s participation was to have kicked off direct talks between the Israelis and the Syrians and it is not clear now when such talks will begin.

Police recommendation on Olmert ’in a few days’
Compiled by, Daily Star 9/5/2008
Israeli police are likely to recommend Sunday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert be indicted on corruption charges, Israeli media reported on Thursday. A police source declined to comment on what investigators would advise the state prosecution. But he said police would announce their recommendations in the long-running case "within the next few days. " With Olmert committed to resigning after his Kadima Party holds a leadership election on September 17, a police recommendation to bring charges against him will have no immediate impact on his tenure and does not guarantee an indictment will be filed. Newspaper and radio reports said police had completed three of five corruption probes against Olmert and would on Sunday issue their findings to the state prosecution and likely recommend that he be put on trial. Senior police officials met on Thursday to examine the evidence in three. . .

Likud employee indicted for NIS 2 million embezzlement scam
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Woman who served as head of party’s financial department charge with forging signatures, transferring funds to her mother, aunt’s personal bank accounts - An indictment was filed with the Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court Thursday against Tamara Minsharov, a 40-year-old resident of Holon, suspected of embezzling NIS 2 million (approx. $550,000) during her tenure as head of the Likud’s financial department from 1993 to 2005. Minsharov was charged with a series of offenses, including larceny, attempted theft, forgery and the use of a falsified document. According to the indictment, the accused trained herself over the years to forge the signatures of authorized personnel in order to deposit Likud checks in the personal bank accounts of her mother and aunt, who gave her cash in return. The indictment further stated that Minsharov knew that the money in some of the. . .

Mofaz ups attacks on Livni as Kadima primary vote nears
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Less than three weeks before the election of a new Kadima leader, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz has racheted up his criticism of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who leads Mofaz and two others in the race. "Livni is not loyal," Mofaz told Haaretz in an interview, after a threat by one of her supporters, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, that a Mofaz win would cause Livni and her ranks to bolt the party. (See full interview in tomorrow’s paper)Recent polls predict that Mofaz will lose his bid to head the party. Mofaz said Livni is identified with integrity "because she is always coming out against [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert. But the voters do not want a disloyal leadership, and Livni. When your number two is breathing down your neck, that places further burdens on you and makes it difficult for you to function.

Port workers ordered to return to work
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
Port workers started to return to regular work on Wednesday, ending a week of labor disruptions, after National Labor Court President Steve Adler issued back-to-work orders. Late Tuesday night, Adler told the Finance Ministry to put a controversial clause on ports reform from the 2009 Economics Arrangements Bill on hold until the court’s next hearing on September 21. "The National Labor Court made the right decision, balancing between the need to bring the port workers back to work and to prevent the government from making unilateral legislative decisions within the framework of the Economics Arrangements Bill without negotiation with the Histadrut Labor Federation, as is the norm," said Shai Teken, head of the Histadrut’s legal division. Until the next hearing, Adler ordered Finance Minister Ronnie BarOn, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini to conduct intensive negotiations in an effort to solve the dispute.

Slave trade heads to Israel
Mona Alami, Asia Times 9/5/2008
JERUSALEM - Israel continues to be a favorite destination for the trafficking of women for the sex industry - also known as the white slave trade - and for a form of modern slavery where migrant laborers from developing countries are exploited. The US State Department placed Israel in Tier 2 position in its 2007 Trafficking in Persons report. Also, an Israeli court ruled against the country’s work visa policy which forces foreign workers into indentured labor with a single employer. " Israel was only upgraded to Tier 2 last year," said Romm Lewkowicz, a spokesman from Israel’s Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group which defends the rights of foreign workers. The US State Department divides countries into three tiers. Tier 1 is for countries that have successfully implemented measures to control trafficking (most Western countries fall into this category).

Tax revenue plunged in August
and TheMarker Staff, By Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Not a few economic indicators continue to show that Israel has been weathering the financial storms wracking the globe with distinction. Granted, economic growth slowed in the second quarter of the year compared with the first, to 4. 2% in annualized terms, compared with an annual pace of 5. 6% in the first three months of the year. But analysts warn against sanguinity and the tax collection figures for August are grounds for concern. Evidently the concern has spread to the stock market. Shares of the two big banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, were hammered on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange this week. Bank Hapoalim stock lost 6. 6% of its value and Leumi retreated by 7. 5% in a show of investor worries: bank stocks are considered a bellwether of the state of the economy. The logic is that if the economy is doing well, the banks will do well, and vice versa.

Thu: Tel Aviv 100 falls to 900
Mishel Udi, Globes Online 9/4/2008
The Tel Aviv 25 index closed below 1,000 points for the third time this week, and ended at its lowest level since March 17. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) fell today. The Tel Aviv 25 Index fell 0. 61% to 984. 31 points, the Tel Aviv 100 Index fell 0. 55% to 900. 86 points, and the Tel-Tech fell 1. 16% to 243. 58 points. Turnover was NIS 1. 57 billion. The Tel Aviv 25 index closed below 1,000 points for the third time this week, and ended at its lowest level since March 17. The trigger for today’s drops was yesterday’s mixed session on Wall Street and the publication of contradictory US macroeconomic figures. Rising factory orders were offset by job losses. The TASE was also dragged down by losses on European markets as they waited for the Bank of England and European Central Bank to announce their interest rate decisions.

IMI hiding going concern warning
Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Defense Ministry director general Pinhas Buchris is leading a floatation of 30% of the government-owned Israel Military Industries, as part of a renewed privatization effort, a move supported by the Finance Ministry, government sources say. But the sources added that in spite of improved sales and reduction of operational losses in 2007, compared to 2006, IMI’s financial condition is still dire. The firm, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this week, is suffering from a severe cash crunch, and the company has yet to publish its 2003 financials because they cannot be signed without a going concern warning, an indication that the company is in peril of collapse without external support. Without published financials for 2003, the IMI cannot obtain financing from banks or other private-sector sources.

’Take if you need, give if you can’
Rotem Sella, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
It runs homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other projects, but the crowning achievement of the Lasova nonprofit association is offering a lifeline to youths at risk It is 8 A. M. Gilad Harish is on the phone, trying to persuade one of his organization’s donors to accompany him on a trip to Mitzpeh Ramon. "There’s a graduation ceremony today for our young counselors course - 150 youths, who joined our network of centers as students and then became tutors," he proudly tells the person on the other end of the line. Harish’s body language leaves no room for doubt: He will not take no for an answer. "It’s one of our laws: Take if you need, give if you can," he says, ending the conversation. More than 20 years ago, Harish, a lawyer by profession, founded Lasova, a nonprofit organization that has expanded around the country and which he continues to head.

Chabad, Inc.
Nati Toker, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Its donors include the brightest stars in Hollywood, it owns assets and runs annual programs costing tens of millions of dollars and its centers are scattered around the globe. The big business of bringing Jews back into the fold Matt LeBlanc, a. k. a. Joey Tribbiani of the popular television series "Friends," does not look like a follower of Chabad, one of the largest Hasidic sects. In fact, he is not even Jewish. Nor has movie-star-turned-California-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ever shown much interest in Hasidism. Yet both of them, along with other Hollywood stars, have close ties to Chabad. Both LeBlanc and Schwarzenegger have appeared on an annual West Coast Chabad telethon, the movement’s biggest charity event, broadcast on the major networks to some 30 million viewers. LeBlanc was even shown sitting on a sofa, like in the good old days of "Friends," phoning Chabad to donate "a big matzah.

Elad ultra-Orthodox school rejects Sephardi first-graders
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 9/5/2008
The ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov school in Elad is refusing to accept girls into its first-grade class if they attended the Agudat Yisrael preschool, where most of the children are from Sephardi families. The school belongs to the Ashkenazi independent school system that is funded by the Education Ministry but has broad pedagogic freedom. The parents of one of the girls filed an administrative petition against the school earlier this week at the Tel Aviv District Court. Until a ruling is handed down, the girl will be staying at home. "We are sticking our neck out for a large number of families in Elad who cannot get their daughters into Beit Yaakov," said the girl’s mother on Tuesday. This week the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a similar petition against the Emanuel Local Council and the independent education system over. . .

VIDEO - New ’chameleon’ uniforms meant to boost IDF performance in different environments
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
The Israel Defense Forces is currently negotiating with an American company in a bid to acquire recently developed state-of-the-art camouflage uniforms. To improve readiness on both Israel’s northern and southern fronts, the IDF is seeking uniforms that can adapt to different physical surroundings and even seasons. T he U. S. Army developed the Chameleon Uniforms, following research on animal camouflage patterns, as a result of its presence in Afghanistan. Related articles: Four wheels and an electronic brain: Meet IDF’s newest soldierIDF to spend NIS 550 million on reservist units in coming year IDF to reestablish unit aimed at monitoring military telephones

Syria seeks French role in peace talks
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
DAMASCUS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy winds up a two-day visit to Syria Thursday with a four-way summit including Turkey and Qatar aimed at boosting the roles of France and the European Union in Middle East diplomacy. Sarkozy, whose country holds the revolving EU presidency, hopes that France and the EU can rank alongside the United States as peacemakers, notably between Israel and Syria. At the start of his visit Wednesday Sarkozy held talks with Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, who told reporters afterwards: "We have asked France to play a role in the indirect talks with Israel. Indirect talks is the only way now. "We are in the process of building foundations for the peace talks. After that we can talk about direct negotiations, which require the United States and other parties. " Assad said they also discussed Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.

New Israel-Syria talks on September 18-19
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
ANKARA - Israel and Syria will hold a new round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria will be held on September 18-19, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday. "The process is continuing in a positive manner and the fifth round of talks will be held on September 18-19," Erdogan said in televised remarks from Damascus where he attended a four-way summit on Middle East peace efforts. He did not say where the talks would be held. The fifth round of negotiations were due to be held on Sunday, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday the talks were postponed because of the resignation of the Israeli negotiator. Israel and Syria launched indirect negotiations, brokered by Turkey in May, eight years after they were broken off over the fate of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights which belongs to Damascus. Print

Frustrated Israel watches Syria break out of isolation
Herb Keinon And Ap, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
Israeli diplomatic officials viewed the four-way summit in Damascus among the leaders of Syria, France, Turkey and Qatar on Thursday with some frustration, saying Syrian President Bashar Assad had effectively broken out of his international isolation without having given anything in return. Assad hosted a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani following his one-on-one meeting with Sarkozy on Wednesday. "He no longer needs to negotiate with us," one senior Israeli diplomatic official said Thursday, following a statement Assad made Thursday morning that indirect negotiations with Israel had been postponed because of the resignation of Yoram Turbowicz, the head of the Israeli negotiating team, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff.

Zahhar: prisoner swap negotiations frozen
Palestinian Information Center 9/4/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, one of the Hamas Movement’s prominent leaders, has stressed that negotiations with the Hebrew state over prisoners’ exchange were frozen due to Israeli obstinacy. Zahhar told Qatari newspaper Al-Arabi published on Wednesday that his Movement did not receive any message through the Egyptian mediator asking for lowering the level of its conditions for the release of Israeli captured soldier Gilad Shalit. He underlined that no talks were currently in progress between Hamas and Egypt over the deal, adding that the Israeli occupation authority did not abide by conditions of the calm in the Gaza Strip and has to pay for its intransigence and continued siege of the Palestinian people in the Strip. Zahhar noted that Egypt was exerting efforts to end this deal but the IOA was not ready to pay the price yet.

Syria sets basis for peace talks
Al Jazeera 9/4/2008
Damascus has sent a proposal to Israel laying out the basis for direct peace talks, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has said. " We are awaiting Israel’s response to six points that we have submitted through Turkey," he said on Thursday. " Our response would be positive, paving the way for direct talks after a new US administration -that believes in the peace process - takes office," al-Assad said at a four-way summit in Damascus involving Turkey, Qatar and France. Al-Assad’s proposal came after Israel pulled out of talks earlier on Sunday following the resignation of the chief Israeli negotiator. A senior Israeli official said the government was trying to set a new date for a fifth round of indirect neogitations with Syria after a session planned. . .

Syria awaits Israeli response to peace proposals after talks postponed
Mark Tran and agencies, The Guardian 9/4/2008
Syria today said a round of indirect talks with Israel had been postponed because of the resignation of the chief Israeli negotiator, as Damascus waited for a response to its latest proposals. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, said Turkish mediators had been given an outline of Syria’s general principles for peace and it was waiting for a similar document from Israel before holding any face-to-face negotiations. "We are now discussing a document of principles, which talks about general principles of the peace process which will be the basis for direct negotiations," Assad said at the opening of a summit in Damascus with the leaders of France, Turkey and Qatar to discuss peace efforts in the Middle East.

Assad: Syria will not recognize Israel before peace accord is reached
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
Syrian President Bashar Assad said his country will not recognize Israel before a peace accord is reached, and that democracy is not a goal for Syria. In a French television interview, Assad said that "it is impossible for recognition to occur before a peace accord. "He said there would be "reciprocal recognition" if and when such an accord was reached. Assaid said earlier Thursday that Syria had put forth a proposal for peace with longtime foe Israel. Assad held talks in Damascus with France’s president. Assad added that Syria’s goal was stability and that democracy was a "means to improve the country and reintroduce freedoms. " [end]

Assad’s charm offensive
Jerusalem Post 9/3/2008
Something is afoot in Syria, though to judge its significance is a matter of no small complexity. Yesterday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Damascus on the first visit by a Western leader to Syria since the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. He is joined there today by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa for a summit meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Sources: Next round of Israel-Syria talks to focus on borders Sarkozy’s visit comes on the heels of Damascus’s declared intention to open an embassy in Beirut for the first time, thereby recognizing Lebanon as something other than Greater Syria. The summit also comes after news that another round of indirect talks between Israel and Syria is set to begin on Sunday.

Chabad envoy to Alaska: Palin staunch friend of Jews
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 9/5/2008
The Chabad envoy to Alaska on Thursday praised State Governor and recently nominated Republican candidate for Vice President Sarah Palin for her steadfast support for Israel. "Based on my personal acquaintance with Governor Palin, I can confidently say that if she is elected, the Jewish people and the State of Israel will have a great friend and admirer in the White House," Rabbi Yosef Greenberg told Haaretz. Greenberg has lived in Alaska for the past 17 years and he is coordinating Chabad activities in the state, where some 6,000 Jews live. He said that he meets the governor for friendly chats on a regular basis and that he has almost free access to her office. Even in her previous role as the mayor of Wasilla, Greenberg continued, she maintained very good relations with the local Jewish community.

Police to probe removal of Obama’s note
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 9/4/2008
State orders police to investigate scandalous extraction of US presidential candidate’s private note from cracks of Western Wall, says probe necessary to prevent defilement of holy site -Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan ordered the police on Thursday to launch an investigation into the events surrounding the publication of US Senator Barack Obama’s private note of prayer, which he placed in the Western Wall in Jerusalem during his visit to Israel in June. The note written by the Democratic presidential candidate was extracted from the wall by a yeshiva student and published the following day by Israeli daily ’Maariv. ’A complaint filed with the prosecution claimed that the note’s removal and subsequent publishing violated Obama’s right of privacy as well as the laws pertaining to religious sites.

Giuliani to GOP: Obama backtracked on undivided Jerusalem
Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz U.S. Correspondent, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA - Former Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday lashed out at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, saying Obama’s positions were inconsistent, including his views on Israel. "When speaking to a pro-Israel group, Obama favored an undivided Jerusalem, until the very next day - when he changed his mind," Giuliani said in his speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. The former New York mayor then compared Obama’s ambivalence toward Israel to his stance on Georgia, saying Obama favored "showing restraint" to taking action. Voicing his support of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, Giuliani stressed McCain’s military experience and his voting in favor of the surge in Iraq, even when the surge was "unpopular.

State orders police to probe publication of Obama’s Western Wall note
Tomer Zarhin, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan on Thursday ordered police to investigate Israeli daily Maariv’s publication of a prayer note placed in the Western Wall by United States presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Senator Obama visited the site in Jerusalem’s Old City on a trip to Israel in July and placed a note in the cracks of the wall, as is customary. The note was subsequently removed from the wall (see video above provided by independent producer David Cohen), and was then printed Maariv, which said a religious student gave the note to the newspaper. A complaint submitted to the State Prosecutor’s Office against Maariv charged that the note’s publication infringed on Obama’s privacy, hurt the feelings of worshippers and visitors at the Western Wall and damaged the status of the site.

Israeli army open fire of Gazan fishermen and international activists
International Solidarity Movement 9/4/2008
Gaza Region - On the 1st September 2008, the first day of Ramadan, several volunteers with the Free Gaza Movement and the International Solidarity Movement accompanied a small fleet of seven fishing vessels from Gaza City port. The fishermen exercised their right to fish in Gazan territorial waters, providing them with a livelihood and providing food for the besieged people of Gaza. The fishing fleet reached approximately nine miles offshore and began trawling along the Gazan coast, well within international limits. Usually the Israeli Navy prevents Gazan fishing vessels from accessing beyond six miles and in many cases only three miles, by attacking the boats, sometimes lethally, or by arresting the fishermen. However, this day’s fishing resulted in a highly successful catch due to the ability to access richer fishing grounds further offshore.

President Sarkozy delivers a message from Shalit’s father to President Assad
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 9/4/2008
French president , Nicolas Sarkozy, will deliver a message from the father of captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit to President Basshhar aL-Assad, French presidency sources reported. The sources added that the message delivery will take place indirectly, as the Syrian president does not wish to appear as if he were a mediator between Israel and Hamas party, which holds Shalit in Gaza. During a meeting of the Quartet Committee in Damascus today, the French president is expected to hand the message over to his Syrian counterpart, who in turn will deliver it to Prince of Qattar, then to Khaled Masha’al, the exiled leader of Hamas. Sarkozy has repeatedly pledged to move the Shalit case forward, as Shalit holds a double Israeli-French citizenship. Corporal Gil’ad Shalit, was captured in June2006, by Hamas and two other Palestinian groups during a cross-border attack in southern Gaza.

Sarkozy gives Assad letter from Noam Shalit to his son Gilad
Jack Khoury and Yoav Stern , and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday passed a letter from Noam Shalit, the father of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, to Syrian President Bashar Assad, officials from Sarkozy’s office said. The officials, who were speaking anonymously in accordance with presidential policy, said the letter from Noam Shalit is to be handed over to the emir of Qatar, who is to pass it to Khaled Meshal, the Damascus-based leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Gilad Shalit has been held captive by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip for two years. French daily Le Monde reported Thursday that the French president would like Assad to lean on Meshal to forward the letter to the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, so that it can deliver the letter to Gilad Shalit.

France gives Syria letter for Shalit
Reuters, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Official close to President Sarkozy says letter from Noam Shalit to his captive son handed to Syria in hopes it will reach Gaza, adding ’Assad made a commitment to push Khaled Mashaal to ensure letter reaches its destination; emir of Qatar will do the same’ -France handed Syria on Thursday a letter for an Israeli soldier held by Hamas Islamists for two years, hoping the message from his father Noam will reach him, an official close to President Nicolas Sarkozy said. Gilad Shalit, who has dual Israeli and French citizenship, was captured on the border with Gaza in June 2006. Israel and [end]

US forces detain Reuters photographer in Iraq
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
BAGHDAD - Ibrahim Jassam, an Iraqi photographer working for Anglo-Canadian news group Reuters, has been arrested by American forces just south of Baghdad, the US military and the agency said Wednesday. "He has been detained because he has been assessed to be a threat to the security of Iraq and coalition forces," US army lieutenant Patrick Evans said. A statement issued by Reuters said: "Ibrahim Jassam, an Iraqi who has supplied photos and video to Reuters on a freelance basis for about two years, was detained in a raid on his home in Mahmudiya by US and Iraqi forces early on Tuesday morning. " Following Jassam’s arrest in Mahmudiyah, Reuters demanded he be released or charged. "We are concerned to hear about Jassam’s detention, and urge the US military to either charge or release him once an initial investigatory stage is concluded," Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger said in a statement.

Palin: US troops in Iraq on ’task from God’
Middle East Online 9/4/2008
ALASKA - Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin told students at her former church in Alaska that United States troops in Iraq were sent on a "task that is from God", a video showed Wednesday. Palin, who was due to give an address at the Republican National Convention later Wednesday, made the comments in a speech to ministry students at the Wasilla Assembly of God in June. Palin, whose eldest son Track is due to be deployed to Iraq later this year, asked students during her speech in June to pray for US troops based there. "Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right," Palin said. "Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [soldiers] out on a task that is from God," she said. "That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.

’Attack on Iran could be catastrophic’
Jpost Staff And Ap, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
The Iranian nuclear program is a dangerous gamble which may lead to a "catastrophic" Israeli military strike, French President Nicholas Sarkozy warned on Thursday. "Iran is taking a very big chance when it continues with the process of attaining nuclear weapons - and on that we are certain," Sarkozy said during a press conference in Damascus. "We may wake up to the day when Israel - regardless of who is in charge - attacks. " "The question here is not whether an attack of this sort is legitimate or worthwhile," he continued. "The question is what will be done in that instance. " "It would be a catastrophe and we must prevent it," Sarkozy concluded. [end]

Curbing freedom of speech
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
The High Court ruling last week approving the banning of a political ad is a harsh blow to freedom of speech. That freedom, according to Justice Miriam Naor, who wrote the decision, is "a basic right and a precondition to ensuring the existence and faithful protection of most other basic rights," without which "democracy loses its soul. "But the ruling reflects a significant retreat in the protection the court gives to this basic right. The ruling involved the decision by the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s director general, Mordechai Sklar, to strike down a political ad by The People’s Voice, which was promoting its initiative for solving the conflict with the Palestinians. The reason: It was "a political issue that is publicly controversial. "Five High Court judges on the seven-member bench rejected the petition by The People’s Voice and backed disqualifying the ad.

Shas weekly ignores reports Deri considering J’lem mayoral bid
Gilad Shenhav, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Yom Leyom reports on Sarah Palin, Olmert investigation but fails to mention former party head’s possible candidacy for Jerusalem mayor -While Shas officials were quick to respond to recent reports that the party’s former chairman Aryeh Deri was considering running for Jerusalem mayor in the upcoming municipal elections and said that they would back his candidacy, the party’s weekly, Yom Leyom, has ignored the reports altogether. Yom Leyom’s current issue, published Thursday, tackled a host of domestic and international political issues, such as the ongoing corruption investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but did not mention Deri’s possible candidacy or Shas Chairman Eli Yisha’s announcement that that his party would endorse Deri should he decide to join the race. The weekly also featured an article on Senator John McCain’s running mate in the US presidential election, Alaska Gov.

Gaydamak sells off Israeli assets to run for J’lem mayor
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Arcadi Gaydamak has decided to cease his business activity in Israel and concentrate all his efforts on a political career, which includes a candidacy in the upcoming mayoral race in Jerusalem. The controversial billionaire said that he intends to sell all his businesses in Israel in order to turn his attention to politics. Gaydamak’s associates said that the Russian-born tycoon has reached the conclusion that his business activities are undermining his political work. "When the stock market crashes and [the billionaire Lev] Leviev loses, that is a small headline in the newspapers; when the same happens to Gaydamak, precisely the same thing, it fills entire pages," an associate said. As such, the strategy of the Gaydamak election committee is for him to hit the "Jerusalem street by the end of September," so as to be able to to retain the media’s attention until as close as possible to election time.

Police to probe Obama note stealing Staff And Ap, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
The police was instructed by Assistant State’s Attorney Shai Nitzan on Thursday to investigate the incident in which US presidential candidate Barak Obama’s prayer note was removed from the Western Wall and published by Israeli media in July. Nitzan explained that removing the note from within the cracks of the Western Wall and publishing its contents infringed on Obama’s privacy, hurt feelings of worshipers and damaged the public status of the holy site. "The tradition of putting prayer notes between the stone of the wall has become a well-known symbol of the Western Wall, and people of all nations and religions follow the tradition and put their private prayers into the wall’s cracks," Nitzan wrote. He stated that if police did not investigate the incident it could turn the holy site into a source for information on leaders and public figures from Israel and from all around the world.

Rabbi Eliyahu backs Barkat in Jerusalem elections
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Former chief rabbi of Israel endorses secular candidate Nir Barkat in mayoral race, says Barkat better candidate than ultra-Orthodox opponent Porush -While the capital’s ultra-Orthodox community mulls the possibility of former Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri’s possible mayoral candidacy, one of Jerusalem’s head rabbis is surprisingly voicing support for secular candidate Nir Barkat. Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the National Religious Party’s highest authority on halacha and one of the most prominent rabbis leading the Religious-Zionist movement, reportedly meets with Barkat often, and has said that he would make a better mayor than his ultra-Orthodox opponent, Meir Porush. Eliyahu, 79, served as Israel’s chief rabbi until 15 years ago. In recent years his relations with the NRP have waned, however the rabbi’s influence is still tangible in many of. . .

Police likely to recommend indictments against Olmert
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
The Police’s Intelligence and Investigations Unit is likely to announce on Sunday that is has amassed sufficient evidence to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The premier is being investigated for alleged financial irregularities in theRishon Tours case, theMorris Talansky "cash envelopes" affair, and for alleged cronyism and patronage in theInvestments Center matter. The head of the police’s investigations unit, Major General Yohanan Danino, is expected to convene his staff on Thursday for a marathon perusal of the material that has thus far been gathered against Olmert. On Sunday, police officials will once again examine whether more evidence is needed. If police reach the conclusion that they have exhausted all possible leads, they will then formulate a recommendation which will be passed onto state prosecutors.

Court nixes Jerusalem housing plan
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 9/4/2008
The development near Ramot was opposed by local residents and environmental groups. The High Court of Justice today cancelled Jerusalem Regional Outline Plan 47/1, which called for the construction of a 2,000-unit residential neighborhood on Givat Mitzpeh Naftoah, near the neighborhood of Ramot. High Court of Justice President Dorit Beinish, Judge Edna Arbel, and Esther Hayut accepted the petition against the development filed by local residents and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The core of the judges’ ruling was that the development plan violated National Outline Plan 22 for Forests and Forestation, which designates most of Givat Mitzpeh Naftoah as forest and a nature reserve. The judges also ruled that there were material flaws in the approval process of the development by the planning commission.

Livni surging 20 points ahead of Mofaz in race for Kadima leadership
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
With less than two weeks to the Kadima primary, a new poll puts Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni 20 percentage points ahead of Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. The poll of party members, conducted by Haaretz and Channel 10 News on Tuesday, indicated 40 percent support for Livni and 20 percent for Mofaz, which means she could score an outright first-round victory for the Kadima leadership on September 17. If Livni fails to achieve the 40 percent required to win the vote and she and Mofaz hold a second round, she is expected to win with 51 percent of the vote. The poll, conducted by Dialog and supervised by Professor Camille Fuchs, also found that 28 percent of the voters have not decided yet whom to vote for. If even a few of them vote for Livni, she will win in the first round.

VIDEO / Eli Yishai says will support Deri in Jerusalem elections
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Shas chairman Eli Yishai announced yesterday, after a night of consultations regarding rumors that his predecessor Aryeh Deri plans to run for mayor of Jerusalem, that "unequivocally, Shas will back him" if he decides to join the race. The Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party will back Deri even if he runs against another ultra-Orthodox candidate, MK Meir Porush of Agudat Yisrael, Yishai said. Sources close to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef were previously quoted as saying the rabbi had already pledged the party’s support to Deri if he decides to enter the race. However, Porush supporter and Jerusalem City Council member Yossi Deutsch said Yosef told Porush in a meeting this week that he had not even been asked to support a second ultra-Orthodox candidate run for mayor.

Netanyahu: Party electoral system will not change
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
The Likud will not abandon its system of selecting its Knesset members among the 100,000 party members, Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyhu said at a meeting of the party’s secretariat in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening. Netanyahu denied reports that he would try to reserve half the realistic slots of the Likud list for well known public figures. "The primaries system will stay with a few notable exeptions," Netanyahu said in a statement interpreted by his associates to mean that he would ask his party’s institutions to allow him to select a few Knesset candidates but not more. [end]

Not so good for the Jews?
Nati Toker, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Chabad’s most powerful Israeli figure is Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Aharonov, chair of Young Chabad. He and other top Young Chabad figures were arrested in 2007 by the Central District Police Fraud Division, on suspicion of embezzling $60 million from their organization. The investigation began after the Young Chabad management filed a complaint against the organization’s treasurer, Yosef Segal, who was fired on suspicion of theft. Aharonov tried to sue Segal, demanding that he sell his house in Kfar Chabad in order to cover his debt. In defending himself against the lawsuit, Segal gave an account of the organization’s internal dealings that led the police to launch an investigation. Segal leveled serious accusations at Aharonov and at the organization’s leaders, claiming that certain funds earmarked for immigration absorption were in fact channeled into Aharonov’s private accounts.

Israel’s political instability a worry for S&P
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 9/4/2008
Bank of Israel official: We’ve forgotten that rating firms also know how to downgrade. Standard & Poor’s representatives today completed their annual visit to Israel and the rating company will soon make its critical decision for the local economy: the credit rating on Israel’s debt. Two S&P representatives met Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On, Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav, Accountant General Shuki Oren, Budget Director Ram Belnikov, and Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer. The meetings were aimed at obtaining a comprehensive view of Israeli economic developments and the fiscal conduct of the government, which is the key item that the credit rating focuses on. S&P’s last visit to Israel was a year ago, after which it raised its credit rating for Israel. However, the climate for the current visit is utterly different and more hostile.

Court orders port staff back to work
Haim Bior, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
Port workers returned to regular work yesterday after the National Labor Tribunal ordered them back to full capacity on Tuesday evening. The court also gave the government, Histadrut labor federation and private employees three weeks to negotiate the disagreements between port workers and the treasury, during which workers are not to strike. Negotiations by the government will be conducted on the ministerial level, the court ruled. The decision, handed down by an extended panel of seven judges, was reached as hundreds of Haifa and Ashdod port workers abandoned their posts and demonstrated outside the courthouse. The judges also ruled that the government would refrain from carrying out its decision to restructure the ports, which would allow docks to be leased to external operators. Port workers committees and the Histadrut oppose the decision, concerned that it could. . .

Treasury chief: GDP growth may slow to just 1% by year-end
Moti Bassok , and TheMarker Staff, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
How fast is Israel’s economy growing? At the Economics and Research Department of the Finance Ministry, they say the pace is slowing. This year the department predicts that GDP will grow by 4. 2% but for 2009 it sees the pace decelerating to just 3. 5%, says Eldad Shidlovsky, senior Economics and Research Division manager. "During the first quarter of 2008 the economy grew by 5. 6% [in annualized terms], and in the second quarter, it grew by 4. 2%," Shidlovsky said yesterday. "We believe that in the third and fourth quarters the pace will drop to about 1%. "Of course, the treasury could be missing on the downside, Shidlovsky hastens to add: "If [the pace] is higher, and the chances are not small that it will be, then growth in 2008 will be greater than 4. 2%," he elaborates. Shidlovsky, who holds a doctorate in economics from New York University, is responsible for. . .

Bloomberg to open Jerusalem office
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 9/4/2008
Capital market source: Its good that Bloomberg finds Israel’s capital market important. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that financial wires services company Bloomberg LP will open its first office in Israel on September 10, and has rented space in Jerusalem’s Malcha Technology Park. Bloomberg is the world’s largest financial media company. It has 126 offices worldwide and 10,000 employees. The Bloomberg Professional Service provides real-time news, data, and tools for financial institutions and press, and is found in every dealing room worldwide. It was founded by Michael Bloomberg, who went to become Mayor of New York City. A senior capital market source said, "It seems that Bloomberg understands that the Israeli capital market is important enough to open an office here, and that’s a good thing. "

Nasrallah reaches out to family of slain LAF helicopter plot
Daily Star 9/5/2008
BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday that his group will not surrender its weapons "as long as Israeli threats persist. ""These weapons will remain because they are used for defense," Nasrallah said in a televised speech during an iftar hosted by the Hizbullah Support Committee. Nasrallah also reiterated that Hizbullah will destroy Israel if the Jewish state launches a new attack on Lebanon. He said the Israeli administration and military were well aware that their navy and air force "failed to achieve any military victories [during the summer 2006 war]. . . They caused destruction but they did not succeed on the military level. ""Israel’s elite military power will be destroyed in the South and in the Western Bekaa as well as in any place they might target in Lebanon," he added. The Hizbullah chief said that Lebanon’s internal disputes will not distract. . .

Nasrallah: Hizbullah at war with Israel
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 9/4/2008
Hizbullah leader claims Israel ’knows its navy is weak and its air force has exhausted all options,’ adds that even if Shebaa Farms are returned, group will not lay down weapons, as ’arms are part of defense strategy against Israeli threat’ -Hizbullah’s secretary-general continues his psychological warfare against Israel: Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday that "Hizbullah is still at war with Israel," warning supporters that "at the moment the enemy feels we are weak it will return to occupy us. " In his speech Nasrallah stressed that even if Lebanon receives control of the Shebaa Farms, his organization will continue to battle Israel. "We are not using Shebaa as an excuse to bear weapons. If the area is freed the weapons will remain because we are talking about a defensive strategy against a threatening country such as Israel," he said.

IDF spy for Hizbullah gets 11 jail years Staff And Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 9/4/2008
Sergeant Major Louis Balut, convicted of spying for Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War, will spend 11 years in jail, an IDF Military court ruled on Thursday evening. Balut, the first Christian tracker in the IDF, was convicted of giving sensitive military information to Hizbullah and of holding contacts with a foreign agent between December 2007 and February 2008. The thirty-five year old father of three from Fassuta in the northern Galilee was not convicted on counts of treason and aiding the enemy in wartime, which appeared in the original indictment and for which he would have received far more serious punishment. Balut was convicted of giving the sensitive information to Hizbullah as part of a drug deal with three Lebanese people associated with the Islamist group. The court also ordered that Balut be expelled from the IDF.


’Ethnic cleansing by stealth’
Seth Freedman, The Guardian 9/4/2008
      With every cruel and unusual punishment meted out against West Bank villagers, Israel is fomenting more and more hate against its own people.
     "When Israel was first created, I had a lot of admiration and respect for the Jews; now I want to throw them all into the sea." The choice of phraseology was no accident on the part of the speaker, who wanted to make crystal clear the effects that more than 40 years of Israeli occupation have had on him and his family.
     We were sitting in his tent in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir, situated just outside the perimeter fence of the West Bank settlement of Karmel. Thanks to Karmel’s proximity, the Bedouins suffer almost daily harassment at the hands of the settlers and their security team, resulting in the vitriolic volte-face performed by the head of the family in terms of his feelings towards Israelis.

Twilight Zone / Death metal

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
      What happens when a Bedouin shepherd goes out to look for scrap metal in the desert near his home?
     The middle of nowhere. The narrow highway that crosses the desert was recently widened in order to enable passage of the heavy equipment needed to build the separation fence. But the highway ends suddenly and turns into a gravel road. We keep on driving, raising a long trail of dust. Occasionally we encounter an encampment, occasionally a camel. There is no desert in Israel as arid as this one, the Judean Desert, between Hashem al-Karem and Hashem al-Daraj, on the way to the Dead Sea. Here and there you see a child in a blue school uniform crossing the yellowish expanses on his way from nowhere, where his school is, to nowhere, where his encampment is. One child flees in panic when we try to ask him about the tent of Mukhtar Yussef.
     Here, in the endless expanses, between nothing and nothing, Israel Defense Soldiers sometimes train, and here the shepherd Mohammed Tabaneh walked, together with his son, Abdel Karim, 14, one day this summer, looking for scraps of metal, unexploded shells, for his living. Tabaneh is the poorest shepherd in the tribe. He owns only six sheep, in a place where there isn’t a single piece of grazing land now, only the desert. So he goes out every day to look for scrap metal that the IDF leaves behind, in order to support his eight children.

Shin Bet to Palestinian: Collaborate or go to jail

Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
      On July 27, Gaza resident Hamed Keshta arrived at the Erez border crossing, carrying an entry permit into Israel. He was headed to Ashkelon’s Ganei Dan Hotel to meet with representatives from his employer, EUBAM. The European Union Border Assistance Mission in Rafah supervises and assists the Palestinian Authority in operating the border crossing with Egypt.
     This was the first time since 1994 that Keshta, 33, of Rafah, married with two children, had crossed the border into Israel. It was to apply for a visa at the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv. Keshta remained in Canada, even obtaining citizenship, until 2004 when he returned to Gaza. Since then he has worked as an interpreter and as a "fixer," a go-between for Western media outlets. He worked for the London Sunday Times, Britain’s Channel 4 TV and the French production company Playprod. He has been at EUBAM since April 2006. The Ashkelon meeting was connected to a promotion from interpreter to assistant security director in the Rafah area.
     "When I got to the border crossing, to my great surprise I was arrested by Israeli security officials," Keshta related in a recent telephone interview. He described the events of that day and the month’s detention and interrogation at a Shin Bet security service facility that followed.

Settlements as an Obstacle to Peace

Cesar Chelala, New York, Palestine Chronicle 9/4/2008
      ’According to Peace Now, more than 2,600 housing units are under construction in the West Bank.’
     During her visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Israel to stop expanding settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. Hours before, a new report had come out from the organisation Peace Now stating that Israel has nearly doubled settlement construction during the past year. Statements similar to Dr Rice’s have been abundantly made by US administrations over the past two decades without any effect on the rate of new settlements’ construction on Palestinian territory.
     Israel had promised to halt all settlement construction according to the tenets of the "Road Map" international peace plan for the Middle East. However, rather than fulfilling that promise, Israel has constructed thousands of homes in West Bank territory it hopes to keep under its control.
     According to Peace Now, more than 2,600 housing units are under construction in the West Bank, including units in more than 1,000 new buildings. Peace Now’s conclusions, based on aerial photographs and field visits, state that construction is encroaching on the boundaries of important Palestinian towns such as Ramallah and Bethlehem.

Eye on Gaza

Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/4/2008
      Next Monday, Arab foreign ministers will meet in Cairo for their regular autumn gathering that is likely to be preoccupied with Palestinian developments: the fortunes of ongoing Palestinian-Israeli negotiations over a final status agreement (or simply the parameters thereof) and the prospects of containing the inter-Palestinian feud between Fatah and Hamas. For the moment, full reconciliation appears all but impossible.
     No major decisions are expected out of the ministerial meeting. It is left entirely to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Mahmoud Abbas -- with some Arab influence, especially from Cairo and Riyadh -- to decide whether or not to accept a deal that is being offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a final settlement. This deal excludes settlement on East Jerusalem or a formula to determine the right of return and/or compensation for millions of Palestinian refugees.
     Arab diplomats in Cairo appear unconcerned with the detail of ongoing negotiations. The overriding tone is that Arab governments would support whatever Abbas would agree to, provided that it is not too embarrassing in terms of giving up control over Muslim sites in East Jerusalem.

Hard bargaining

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/4/2008
      Hamas is holding fast in the Shalit affair, to the chagrin of Israel, under pressure to see its soldier freed.
     Reacting to Israeli "dithering and procrastination", Hamas has decided to up the ante as to the price Israel has to pay in order to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Palestinian fighters captured during a cross-border attack in the Gaza Strip more than two years ago.
     Hamas officials in Gaza said this week the group was now demanding the release of 1,500 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and detention centres in exchange for freeing Shalit.
     The new demands by Hamas, that Israel dismisses as a "bargaining tactic", was conveyed by Egyptian officials to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak who visited Cairo last week. Barak said the Israeli government was making strenuous efforts to get Shalit released as soon as possible, adding that he expected indirect negotiations with Hamas in this regard to be accelerated.
     Barak also suggested that Egyptian-mediated negotiations be conducted in secret to ensure a successful outcome.

Teachers listen to Hamas

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/4/2008
      Debilitating the educational and health sectors in Gaza is Fatah’s new strategy for bringing down Hamas -- a strategy that is failing and will likely backfire.
     Amer Boreik, 42, came back to his home in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in Gaza at dawn, just as his wife finished preparing the morning meal for the first day of Ramadan. For the past 10 days, Boreik, who runs a non-governmental organisation, hasn’t been home before dawn. He is busy running one of the numerous emergency committees the Ismail Haniyeh government set up to tackle strikes in the education sector. The strikes have been called by a Ramallah- based, Fatah-controlled labour union.
     Boreik has been asked to bring in teachers to keep the schools running. He is pleased with the results. Eight of the 10 schools he is supervising are now fully staffed, and the remaining two are almost so. Boreik says that at the beginning of the strike, 80 per cent of the staff stayed at home. "But thanks to the effort exerted by the emergency committees, schools in Gaza are now operating to near full capacity."

Palestinians lose faith in two-state solution

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 9/4/2008
      Study group calls for new form of resistance to Israeli occupation with goal of single, bi-national state.
     A group of prominent Palestinian figures has proposed a radical change in strategy to demand a single, bi-national state if the current round of Middle East peace talks fails.
     The Palestinian Strategy Study Group, an EU-funded project written by 27 leading Palestinian figures from across the political spectrum, argued that the current two-state framework for peace talks is failing to bring the promised independent state. Instead, it suggested ending the negotiation process that has gone on now for nearly 20 years, reconstituting the Palestinian Authority into what might become a "Palestinian Resistance Authority", and developing a form of "smart" resistance.

Book release: ''Poets for Palestine''

Poets for Palestine, Electronic Intifada 9/3/2008
      Sixty years after the dispossession of the Palestinian people, Poets For Palestine, a unique collection of poetry, spoken word, hip-hop, and art has been released. Unifying a diverse range of poets who have used their words to elevate the consciousness of humanity, this book aims to bridge a younger generation of poets with those who, for decades, have cultivated and strengthened the poetic medium.
     The anthology includes poems by the late Mahmoud Darwish, Naomi Shihab Nye, Amiri Baraka, Suheir Hammad, Nathalie Handal, E. Ethelbert Miller, D.H. Melhem, Junichi P. Semitsu, Fawzia Afzal Khan, Annemarie Jacir, Ibtisam Barakat, Tahani Salah, Remi Kanazi, Ragtop from the Philistines, among many others.
     All of the proceeds of this volume will go towards funding future cultural endeavors in the US that highlight Arab artistry.
     The concept of this collection was conceived after a night of spoken word at the historic Made in Palestine art exhibit in New York, in 2006. Invigorated by the capacity of spoken word to enliven a crowd, Al Jisser, collaborating with the event’s host, Remi Kanazi, decided to publish a brief chapbook to capture the night’s vivacity.

The greater rift

Nicola Nasser, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/4/2008
      The conflict between Fatah and Hamas disguises a more dangerous divide that threatens the very existence of the PLO, argues The current rift between Fatah and Hamas, with their rival claims to legitimacy whether through incumbency in the presidency or through the ballot box, each dominating a government, one in the West Bank and the other in Gaza, is being used to cover up the promotion of an older and more dangerous divide. I am speaking, here, of the division between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its frame of reference, the Palestine Liberation Organistion (PLO), and of a power struggle between two factions within Fatah over leadership and roles of the PA and PLO. This power struggle is facilitating the real US-Israeli sponsored "coup" that is currently in progress in the Palestinian political arena. However, this coup will determine the outcome of the dialogue between Fatah and Hamas and the future of other crucial issues.
     The Fatah-Hamas and PA-PLO divisions have given rise to a "third" force that has yet to assume an overt political framework. However, its principles and policies are clear: they overlap with, if they are not identical to, the US-Israeli "vision" for an end to the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This force, whose constituent elements intersect with a trend within Fatah and factions in the PLO, is keen to fuel both divisions, as it is the sole beneficiary of their perpetuation. As it manoeuvres between the two sides, it wrests a little more ground for itself every day. It, not Fatah, is now the third force. It effectively controls the PA in Ramallah as it strives to assert its control over all decision-making centres in Fatah, the PA and the PLO while simultaneously working to perpetuate the political, military and economic blockade against Hamas because it does not yet have the capacities to infiltrate its ranks in Gaza. In short, it is engaged in a stealthy bid to commandeer the Palestinian national movement.

About a boy

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 9/4/2008
      One man gives another man an improvised notebook of a child’s drawings (A3-sized pages, stapled together).
     Man No. 1: a schoolteacher, Mohammed Amira
     Man No. 2: David Reeb
     The place: The village of Na’alin
     The time: August 7, just before the regular demonstration against the separation fence
     The time: Shortly before Israeli soldiers arrest Mohammed Amira
     The time: A week before Amira was released from jail (August 14)
     The child: Ahmed Moussa
     Age: 11. That is, was 11. Was? He died. Died? Was killed (if an 11-year-old child had been killed by an armed Palestinian, he would have been "murdered").
     David Reeb: "I read in the paper, ’A 10-year-old youth was killed at Na’alin’ - not, ’Soldiers killed,’ but ’was killed,’ and I’ve never heard of a 10-year-old Israeli youth who was killed."