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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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11 September 2008

Israeli forces abduct minors from Ni’lin
International Solidarity Movement 9/11/2008
Reports - Ramallah Region - Ni’lin - Thursday September 10th 2008 - At 2am Thursday September 10th Israeli forces invaded the West bank village of Ni’lin and arrested 9 persons, three of them are under 18 and are still being kept in jail. Israeli forces invaded the village in the early hours of the morning, firing live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear-gas and sound bombs. They entered many houses, arresting 9 residents. Among those arrested were at least 3 minors, including a 12 year old and 13 year old. Witnesses have reported that the Israeli forces were in the cases of two of the minors looking for other people, taking the minors when they could not find those they intended to arrest. Mohammed Salah Khawaje (12), Mohammed Loi Khawaje (13), Arafat Amira, Sofian Nawaf Khawaje (17), Imad Azzam Khawaje (18), Mustafa Khawaje (20 year old journalist), Milhim Amira (22), Yousef Amira (34) and Salah Mira (36).

Israeli settlers annexing extra West Bank land, report says
Mark Tran, The Guardian 9/11/2008
Israel and Israeli settlers have effectively annexed about 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of land in the occupied West Bank, some of it privately owned by Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group said today. B’Tselem, which opposes settlements on land occupied in the 1967 war, said some settlements were up to two and a half times larger than their designated area, either through fencing land off or intimidation. In a report, it said this harms Palestinian farmers, who face almost impassable bureaucratic obstacles when trying to reach their property. As a result, many are forced to stop cultivating their land. Control of the land is maintained primarily by settlers and sometimes by Israeli security forces. Palestinians who go near settlements are attacked and harassed, and lands are fenced off by physical and electronic means to block Palestinian access, B’Tselem said.

Free Gaza Movement calls for alleviating the suffering of Gaza
Rami Almeghari & FGM, International Middle East Media Center News 9/11/2008
In a session of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council (DPLC), the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), called upon the international community to join the Movement’s efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population of Gaza, due to a ’strangulating’ Israeli blockade. In a statement emailed to the IMEMC, Paul Larudee, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement’s successful breach of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in August, was quoted as saying " The Israeli siege has produced widespread and endless human suffering in Gaza". " We’ve proved that the sea link to Gaza is viable, but the humanitarian needs in Gaza are overwhelming and our two , small boats cannot even begin to meet those needs. Today we call for much broader effort, specifically, we are calling on other members of the international community-governments, non-governmental organizations. . .

Two killed in Rafah tunnel system in 24 hours
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Two Palestinians have been killed in 24 hours in the tunnel system underneath the Rafah border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Sources in Gaza said on Thursday that 22-year-old Hani Mahmoud Khalaf, from Khan Younis, fell to his death in one tunnel, and 22-year-old Faysal Sulaiman Abu Sultan, from Rafah, who died from an electric shock. Both were working in the tunnel system. Rafah locals blamed both accidents on Egyptian security forces, who regularly demolish the tunnels, using water, gas, and explosives, when they discover them. Dozens have been killed by these demolitions. Smugglers dug the elaborate system of tunnels in order to counter the Israeli-imposed siege of the Gaza Strip. Since June 2007, Israel has severely limited shipments of commercial and humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli navy to Gazan fishermen: ''When the internationals leave Gaza, you will all be made to pay''
International Solidarity Movement 9/11/2008
Reports - Gaza Region - Gazan coastal waters, Gaza, 17:00 Wednesday 10th September 2008 - At high speed an Israeli gunboat rammed a Palestinian fishing vessel. The gunboat smashed through the upper hull, careened over the top of the fishing boat, and landed on the other side. Extensive damage was caused to the fishing boat. The hull was badly damaged, virtually the entire deck area, all the equipment on it, and the canopy above the deck were severely damaged. Unusually all of the crew happened to be in the cabin and at the fore at the time. Had they been on deck they would have had little chance of survival. Via a megaphone, the gunboat crew then made the threat that ‘When the internationals leave Gaza, you will all be made to pay. ’Human rights observers from the International Solidarity Movement and from the Free Gaza Movement, have recently been accompanying Gazan Fishermen during their work.

Army: Settlers have crossed red line
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Senior IDF officers on Thursday lambasted the legal system’s inability to effectively crack down on radical West Bank settlers after a group of young far-right activists went on a rampage that culminated in an attack on an IDF position near Ramallah. Late Wednesday night, some 40 activists arrived at an IDF position - manned by reservists - near the settlement of Talmon, just west of Ramallah. The activists attacked the reservists, tried to enter the post and damaged the pipe system that carries water to the base. The reservists tried to fend off the attackers, who called the soldiers "Nazis. " Earlier in the day, soldiers clashed with settlers near the settlement of Yitzhar, south of Nablus, after they began throwing rocks at passing Palestinian cars. In the Binyamin Region, settlers attacked officials from the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria who had. . .

ISM Rafah: Israeli navy vessels again open fire on Gazan fishermen
International Solidarity Movement 9/11/2008
Gaza Region - On Monday 8th September at least ten fishing vessels left Gaza City port and traveled out into the Mediterranean Sea up to 10 miles offshore. ISM volunteers were onboard three of the boats. They were equipped with video cameras to record and document the aggressive actions of the Israeli naval gunboats towards the fishing vessels. As per the volunteers’ experiences on all previous outings, many of the boats were harassed and shot at by the Israeli gunboats. The soldiers on these gunboats are committing war crimes by shooting at unarmed fishermen who are just trying to earn a living and feed their families. In the afternoon, between 2:30pm and 3:00pm, one gunboat approached three fishing vessels, which were about ten miles offshore, and began to circle one of them multiple times. Using VHF radio, the Israeli gunboat ordered the Gazan fishermen to alter course, saying that their boats were heading into a dangerous area.

An Israeli naval vessel crashes a Palestinian fishing boat
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 9/11/2008
Palestinian sources said yesterday night that an Israeli naval vessel crashed a Palestinian fishing boat while on board on Gaza shores. Nezzar Ayesh, head of fishermen syndicate, told media outlets that the Israeli vessel hit the fishing boat severely , causing the light injury of fisherman Ahmad Alhessi. At the Alshifa hospital of Gaza city, wounded Alhesi told media outlets that he was surprised by the collision with the Israeli vessel. " Me and my colleague were on board , trying to earn a living, when the Israeli naval vessel crashed our boat, damaging it badly". Local estimates suggest that there are 5,000 Palestinian families depend on fishing in the coastal region. Fishing industry has been badly impacted due to the ongoing Israeli blockade on Gaza as well as the frequent Israeli navy harassments of fishermen, human rights groups say.

Israeli army invade Nablus, murdering one Palestinian
International Solidarity Movement 9/11/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - At approximately 18:00 on Wednesday 10 September Israeli special forces entered the Mount Gezzim area of Nablus to arrest a Palestinian they accused of owning a weapon. Following the arrest and detention of two Palestinians, Israeli soldiers then shot multiple times and killed an unarmed man nearby. The Israeli army had been in neighbouring homes the previous night watching the area and on the evening of the 18 August, approximately 100 soldiers and several jeeps surrounded the area shooting live ammunition and using sound bombs and tear gas in the neighbourhood. They entered the home of Jaffar Hamede Tiser Gera (22 years old) shooting open the door where his mother, father, himself and his friend Abu Jaba (22 years old) were sat ready to eat Ifta. The soldiers demanded to know where "˜Jaffar’ was and he immediately made himself known and raised his hands in the air.

IOF troops execute Palestinian civilian in cold blood
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces on Wednesday evening executed a Palestinian youth after shooting him during an incursion into Nablus city then leaving him to bleed to death, local sources reported. Medical sources said that Walid Freitekh, 25, was hit with several bullets fired at him by the IOF special forces that stormed Ras Al-Ein neighborhood in Nablus to round up AMB activists. Local sources told PIC reporter that the IOF soldiers mounting 30 armored vehicles raided the suburb and opened indiscriminate fire at citizens prompting tens of young men to throw stones at them while PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s security elements evacuated the streets of the city. The witnesses said that Abbas’s security men evacuated the streets of the city before the raid. They said that the IOF soldiers arrested two AMB activists amidst angry reaction on the part of citizens over the. . .

PCHR Calls for Investigation into Wounding a Palestinian Child by the Security Services in Bethlehem
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 9/11/2008
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the use of force by the Palestinian security forces to disperse a peaceful march near ‘Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. The security forces fired at the march indiscriminately wounding a child seriously. PCHR calls upon concerned authorities to initiate an immediate investigation into the incident, to take legal action against the perpetrators and to take serious steps to ensure the non-recurrence of such incidents. According to investigations by PCHR and testimonies by eyewitnesses, on 9 September 2008, after having performed the afternoon prayer, dozens of prayers exited the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Mosque in the center of ‘Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. They walked in a peaceful march to protest the aggravation of drinking water crisis and the water cut for more than 22 days in their camp.

Three minors among nine seized in Ni’lin
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces reportedly seized nine Palestinians near Ramallah on Thursday. Eight of the six men and three children lived in the village of Ni’lin, west of the city. One other detainee is from Ramallah. All were taken for investigation, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. Witnesses said Israeli forces took two of the minors when they could not locate those they intended to arrest. The father of Mohammed Salah Khawaje, 12, told reporters that Israeli soldiers used the boy as a human shield against rocks thrown by Palestinian youths. The two other minors seized in the raid are Mohammed Loi Khawaje, 13, and Sofian Nawaf Khawaje, 17. Israeli forces also took Arafat Amira, Imad Azzam Khawaje, 18, Mustafa Khawaje, 20, Milhim Amira, 22, Yousef Amira, 34 and Salah Mira, 36.

Naalin: 12-year-old arrested over violent riot
Ali Waked, YNetNews 9/11/2008
IDF forces apprehend West Bank boy suspected of involvement in violent demonstrations against security barrier. Father: Soldiers carried him away like sheep, used him as human shield. IDF: It’s no secret that even a stone can kill -Large IDF forces arrived Wednesday night at the West Bank village of Naalin in order to arrest 12-year-old Muhammad Hawaja, who is suspected of involvement in violent riots held in protest of Israel’s construction of the security barrier. His father, Salah Hawaja, told Ynet that the forces, "came in from the mountains, surrounded the house and removed Muhammad from his bed. "My wife and I can’t forget the image of IDF soldiers grabbing hold of Muhammad’s pajama collar and leading him away as if he were a sheep crying and screaming," said the father, a paramedic.

Israeli troops invade a West Bank village
International Middle East Media Center News 9/11/2008
The Israeli troops invaded early on Thursday morning the West Bank village of Abu Enjaim, to the south of Bethlehem city in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian security sources told media outlets that an Israeli army contingent stormed the village, through its main entrance and then enforced tightened security measures, preventing access of local residents in and out of the village. Witnesses said that the Israeli soldiers broke into the residents’ houses, vandalizing furniture and then arresting an inhabitant. Israeli army invasions of Palestinian cities, towns, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank take place on daily basis, where the Israeli occupation continues for more than four decades now.

Nablus mourns man killed by Israeli troops in Wednesday incursion
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Crowds of Palestinians on Thursday mourned Walid Freitekh, a 25-year-old Palestinian who was gunned down by Israeli troops during an incursion in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday evening. During the funeral procession, Freitekh’s body was carried from Rafidya Hospital, to his family’s house, and then to a cemetery. Israeli troops shot Freitekh in the legs several times during an arrest raid targeting wanted Palestinian fighters. Freitekh bled to death before medical crews could reach the area. [end]

Israeli forces seize two Palestinians during raids in Tulkarem area
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized two Palestinians during a dawn raid in the West Bank city of Tulkarem and the nearby town of Anbata. Palestinian security sources said that Israeli troops forces their way into a number of private homes, ultimately detaining 21 year-old Muhammad Omar Ashqar from Tulkarem and 20-year-old Ghassan Abu Rayya from Anabta. Israeli forces withdrew in the early morning. It is not known where Ashqar and Abu Rayya are being held. [end]

Palestinian young man falls and dies in smuggling tunnel in Rafah
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- A Palestinian young man called Hani Khalafallah, 22, was proclaimed dead after he fell into a 15-meter-high smuggling tunnel gate under construction near the Egyptian-Palestinian borders in Rafah. Palestinian medical sources said that Khalafallah reached the Abu Yousif Al-Najjar hospital dead and his body was transferred to forensic medicine to complete legal procedures pursued in such cases Two days ago, a young man from the Abu Sulaiman family had died as a result of his exposure to electrical shock inside another smuggling tunnel near Al-Salam neighborhood, southeast of Rafah. According to Palestinian medical and human rights reports, 53 Palestinians have died since the beginning of this year as a result of similar incidents that happened inside smuggling tunnels at the Egyptian-Palestinian borders.

Bomb on Gaza border, none wounded
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 9/11/2008
Explosive device planted near border fence, detonated against IDF patrol near Kissufim crossing -An explosive device was detonated against IDF troops patrolling along the southern Gaza border on Thursday evening. None were injured; however damage was caused to the fence infrastructure. The Al-Tawhid Brigades, an unknown Islamic faction, claimed responsibility for the bombing. This is the first bombing in the region for several weeks. Palestinian witnesses said they saw plumes of smoke rising from the blast location. The shaky truce with Hamas was last violated a fortnight ago - when two Qassam rockets were fired from northern Gaza towards the western Negev. One rocket landed near two kibbutzim belonging to the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council. No injuries were reported and no damage was caused.

Israel accuses Gaza fighters of bombing attack
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 9/12/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza on Thursday detonated a bomb near an Israeli Army patrol along the border fence, causing no injuries but shaking a fragile truce, an Israeli Army spokeswoman told AFP. "An explosive device was set off against an army force patrolling the fence in central Gaza, south of the Kissufim crossing, causing some damage to the fence but no injuries," the spokeswoman said. A Gaza witness said that an Israeli ambulance had been at the scene, at the border between Israel and the central Gaza Strip, but the army said nobody was injured. A second explosion went off minutes later in the same area, but also caused no injuries, the Israeli Army said. An Egyptian-brokered June 19 truce between Israel and Hamas has virtually halted the violence in and around the Gaza Strip, although militants occasionally still fire rockets and mortar rounds.

Israeli officials deny US Consul statement on Rice position regarding negotiations on 1967 borders
PNN, Palestine News Network 9/11/2008
Jerusalem -- According to the American Consul-General, US Secretary of State Rice said that 1967 boundaries was agreed as the basis for Palestinian - Israeli negotiations. Several Israeli officials later denied this, stating that due to the impending end of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s term, there were no talks regarding Jerusalem. However, this basic point that was said to be currently under negotiation, and then denied by the Israelis, is in fact already laid out in international law and United Nations resolutions. The 1967 boundaries include the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, a split of the Dead Sea, and East Jerusalem. Under the Geneva Conventions and UN resolutions all Israeli settlements are illegal, while the demand for the Israelis to leave all lands occupied in 1967 is a long-standing tenet of international agreements and law, in addition to UN resolutions.

Abbas: Peace agreement with Israel unlikely this year
Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 9/12/2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas doubts that any peace agreement can be reached by the end of 2008, as not one of the six key issues in a final-status arrangement has yet been resolved. Speaking to Haaretz on the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, Abbas said that Washington plays a central role in the peace process. Senior American officials are anxious to reach an agreement by the end of the year and are convinced this is possible. However, the gaps between the parties remain wide. "We presented our ideas and demands regarding the six issues," Abbas stated, "but have not received any answer from the Israeli side. " Among other things, the Palestinians are demanding negotiations over disputed lands claimed by both sides, such as the Latrun region, as part of their demand for an Israeli withdrawal. . .

Walles: Sides agree to negotiate J’lem Staff, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to negotiate on the issue of Jerusalem, as well as parts of the Dead Sea, US Consul-General Jacob Walles said in an interview published by the Palestinian daily, Al-Ayyam on Thursday. Agreement to negotiate J’lem, areas around Dead Sea - According to the interview, which was cited by Israel Radio, the consul-general said that negotiations would be based on the 1967 borders, with changes to those borders being possible should both sides agree. Walles told the paper that the other core issues, including that of the refugees, were also expected to be discussed. A senior Prime Minister’s Office official on Thursday denied the report that the future status of Jerusalem was negotiated. The official, who was involved in the negotiations, said that not only was the report completely false, but also that Israel was surprised by Walles’. . .

Israel bans travel of human rights defenders
Report, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 9/11/2008
On 9 September 2008, Israel informed European diplomats that it rejected the applications for permission to exit Gaza submitted by three human rights defenders, including two winners of human rights awards. The applicants were Issam Younis and Mahmoud Abu Rahma of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Raji Sourani of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The activists had applied for permits to take part in human rights events relevant to their work on human rights in Europe. The human rights defenders have been invited by the Swedish organization Diakonia and the Belgian organization Avocats Sans Frontiers to take part in a conference on the enforcement of the international humanitarian law with regard to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The conference is scheduled to take place on 13 and 14 September 2008.

Egyptian authorities block 10th of Ramadan caravan from proceeding to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
AL-AREESH/GAZA, (PIC)-- The Egyptian authorities have stopped Wednesday an Egyptian caravan comprising many activists and political parties’ members from proceeding to the besieged Gaza Strip, participants in the caravan confirmed. The caravan was organized by the Egyptian popular committee for breaking the Gaza siege, but the Egyptian authorities stopped the four buses of the caravan at a custom checkpoint at the Egyptian city of Ismaeleyya. But the organizers appeared determined to proceed with their plan, asserting that more caravans will be mobilized to the besieged Gaza Strip in a bid to break the unjust economic blockade. "Before we reached the Ismaeleyya, the Egyptian security forces closed the road, and confiscated the drivers’ licenses, explaining that more than 150 activists were waiting at the roadside chanting pro-Palestinian slogans", said Badr Mohammed, the spokesman of the influential Muslim Brotherhood group in Egypt.

Barhoum: denying entry of an Egyptian convoy into Gaza an ’irresponsible action’
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 9/11/2008
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza slammed on Thursday the Egyptian authorities for preventing access of a solidarity convoy into Gaza, branding it ’irresponsible action’. Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, said in a statement, emailed to press, " we have been looking forward that such a convoy would help break the Israeli blockade on Gaza". Barhoum maintained " 1. 5 million Palestinians have been eagerly waiting their Egyptian brothers, amidst the Arab states’ silence towards what’s going on the ground, including the debilitating siege on Gaza". "The Hamas movement has been looking forward to more mass activities by all Arab and world countries, until the suffering of the Palestinian people is alleviated", explained the Hamas spokesman. At least four vehicles , loaded with Egyptian parliamentarians , lawyers and human rights activist and some food assistance, were heading. . .

Egyptian activists in Ismailia : ''Police is still stopping us and we attend to stay there till tomorrow''
International Solidarity Movement 9/11/2008
International Actions - Gaza Region - Egyptian Committee Against the Gaza Siege: At 8am this morning (10th September), a first group from the Egyptian Committee Against the Gaza Siege, mainly Labor Party’s members, left Cairo in 4 micro-buses with food and medicine to go and try to break the criminal siege of Gaza. When they arrived at Ismailia, located at 100 km from Cairo and 30 km from the Suez Canal, the Sinai entrance, the Egyptian police stopped the convoy and took away the driving licences of the drivers, preventing them to go forward More than 150 people got outside the buses with Palestinian and Egyptian flags and chanting slogans in support of the Palestinians. A second convoy of 5 buses with around 200 activists left Cairo at 1 pm and has been also stopped at Ismailia.

Hamas praises Egyptians for efforts to end Gaza seige
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas movement on Thursday praised efforts by Egyptian citizens to end the siege in Gaza. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Ma’an that Hamas appreciates “activities of solidarity that will help to break the siege. ”Barhoum slammed the Egyptian government for obstructing an Egyptian convoy on its way to Gaza the day before. The convoy was launched by the Popular Committee to Lift the Siege. “Such acts,” Barhoum said, “frustrate the feelings of 1. 5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who hope to be freed. ”Barhoum added that Hamas looks forward to further Arab and international efforts to “put an end to people’s suffering and pain,” which he said is a result of Israeli and American policy.

Hamas: PA security detains 11 Hamas affiliates across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – A Hamas spokesperson said that Palestinian Authority security officials detained eleven Hamas affiliates in the West Bank on Thursday. In a statement, Hamas said that the PA detained Khaled Al-Sa’ou, Mo’ath Edrees, Haytham Al-Karaki and Shaher Ashour in and around Hebron. The PA is also holding Mohannad Al-Haymouni, Akram Hijjah and Abdallah Sheiki, who are students at Palestine Polytechnic University, according to the statement. Hamas says Mohammad Saqer Asidah, Marwan Aj’aj and Abdallah ‘Oudah were detained in Deir al Hatab outside of Nablus, as well as Mahmoud Arab, who was taken near Ramallah. [end]

PFLP: Arab League must participate in national dialogue
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) on Wednesday called on Palestinian factions, particularly Fatah and Hamas, to respond to calls for a comprehensive national dialogue between parties. PFLP Central Committee member Jamil Mizhir said in a statement that the issue belongs to the Arab world. He urged the Arab League not to “wash its hands” of the Palestinian cause. Mizhir also said that the international body’s support could end the internal crisis and respond more effectively to “ongoing Israeli atrocities. ”

Abu Marzouk: Send Arab forces to both Gaza and West Bank
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy political bureau chairman of Hamas, has called for sending Arab forces to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and other Palestinian areas. He said in a press statement on Wednesday that if the idea of sending Arab forces to Gaza persists then such forces should be also deployed in other Palestinian areas. He explained that sending Arab troops to Gaza only means that the Strip would be turned into an "isolated island" and that the Strip would be considered as "rebellious" and outlawed. [end]

Bardawil: Abbas unconcerned with dialog and tries to declare Gaza a rebel zone
Palestinian Information Center 9/10/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Salah A-Bardawil, the spokesman for the Hamas parliamentary bloc, stated Tuesday that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas is not concerned with the national dialog and instead intensifies his meetings and contacts with Israel and the US, pointing out that Abbas is trying to persuade Arab states to declare Gaza a mutinous territory. Dr. Bardawil underlined that the visit of US general Jones James, the Middle East envoy for security affairs, to the West Bank and Israel is complementary to the Arab tours made by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Abbas to convince Arab countries to consider Gaza a rebel territory and to support the settlement process with the Israeli occupation. The lawmaker revealed that the three questions which Egypt asked the Palestinian factions in order to explore their positions about dialog were about their opinions on the presence of Arab troops. . .

Egyptian official, FIDA delegation meet on Palestinian rift
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 9/10/2008
CAIRO, Sep 10, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Wednesday held talks with a visiting delegation of the Palestine Democratic Union (FIDA) on means of ending the current inter-Palestinian tensions. Upon his arrival on Tuesday, FIDA Secretary General Saleh Raafat voiced his faction’s appreciation of the efforts exerted by Egypt to end the inter-Palestinian rift and restore Palestinian legitimacy and unity, according to the Egyptian MENA news agency. No more details about the talks are available at the moment. Earlier in the day, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said Egyptian officials have already completed talks with about half of the Palestinian factions concerned. The meetings with the rest of the Palestinian groups are scheduled to be carried out by the end of September, said Zaki.

Jenin farmers and traders subject to fraud inside Israeli boundaries
Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 9/11/2008
Jenin - The Society for the Protection of Vegetable and Fruit Traders in the governorate of Jenin severed all forms of dealings and relationships with Israeli and Palestinian traders from within Israeli boundaries. This is a strike of sorts, being done in protest of exposure to fraud. The deception has significantly exceeded the value of 30 million shekels. An emergency meeting of the local assembly, traders and farmers in Jenin examined the problems and concerns of those suffering from the impact of an accumulation of debts. A series of steps is being undertaken to protect the Palestinian national economy from further threat. Farmers and traders from Jenin are able to use the Jalama crossing into Israeli boundaries. In so doing they are being cheated out of thousands when they deal with traders inside and are accumulating piles of bad checks.

B’Tselem: Jewish West Bank settlers grab more land
Ali Waked and Reuters, YNetNews 9/11/2008
Human rights group issues report saying settlements grabbed land, some of it privately owned by Palestinians, by fencing it off or by intimidation, calls on settlers to ’return to Israel’. Yesha Council: If B’Tselem’s demands heeded, it will be easier to murder Jews -Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank have annexed tens of thousands of acres of land, some of it privately owned by Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group said on Thursday. A report issued by Israel’s B’Tselem human rights organization said some settlements had grabbed land up to two and a half times greater than their own designated area either by fencing it off or by intimidation. It said settlers should return to Israel. Israeli government officials were initially not available to comment on the report but a spokesman for Jewish West Bank settlers said the land annexation was an authorized security measure.

West Bank: 2 soldiers lightly injured in clashes with settlers
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 9/11/2008
IDF forces, Civil Administration workers assaulted after arriving at Yad Yair outpost to seize equipment used for illegal construction; one soldier bitten by settler’s dog, another breaks finger. Army official: Red line crossed -Two IDF soldiers were lightly injured on Wednesday, during clashes with Jewish settlers in the West Bank. In the first incident, which took place in the afternoon hours, IDF forces and Civil Administration workers arrived at the Yad Yair outpost to confiscate equipment used for illegal construction at the site. During the ensuing clashes with dozens of settlers, the tires of a vehicle belonging to the Civil Administration were punctured and, according to the IDF, one settler unleashed his dog on a soldier, who sustained light injuries. Another soldier broke his finger during the clashes.

B’Tselem Report: Israel increased area of dozens of settlements east of the Separation Barrier by tens of thousands of dunams
International Solidarity Movement 9/11/2008
Today (11 September), Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem is publishing a report on Israel’s blocking of Palestinian access to land around settlements lying east of the Separation Barrier. The report reveals that state authorities and settlers have de-facto annexed rings of land amounting to tens of thousands of dunams to these settlements. Control of these lands is seized by a variety of means, but two modus operandi stand out: 1) settlers, and sometimes members of Israel’s security forces, violently attack and harass Palestinians who venture near settlements; and 2) erecting fences and other physical and electronic devices around the lands, blocking Palestinian access to them. In many cases, the authorities turn a blind eye to unlicensed closure of lands, systemically avoiding their duty to enforce the law on criminal settlers.

Be’Tselem: settlement expansion has increased in the past years
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 9/11/2008
The Israeli center for human rights in the occupied territories (Betselem), reported that Israel has annexed tens of thousands of dunums of Palestinian-owned lands to Israeli settlements, east of the separation barrier in the West Bank, over the past few years. The Be’Tselem’s report revealed that the settlement expansion has been inconsistent with the law, as many of the annexations have been completed by military orders. Most of those badly damaged people have been Palestinian farmers as they have been deprived of farming or reaching their farm lands, the report hinted. Israeli settlements building or expansion are still going on in the occupied Palestinian territories, mainly in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. Israel insists on keeping these settlement blocs, though the international law describes them illegal.

B’Tselem: Israel annexing lands around West Bank settlements
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Bethelehem – Ma’an – Israeli authorities and settlers have de facto annexed “tens of thousands of dunams” of land to settlements located east of the separation wall in the West Bank, a new report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem says. The report deals with the way settlements, through various means, block Palestinians’ access to their land. “Two modus operandi stand out,” says the report, ”1) settlers, and sometimes members of Israel’s security forces, violently attack and harass Palestinians who venture near settlements; and 2) erecting fences and other physical and electronic devices around the lands, blocking Palestinian access to them. In many cases, the authorities turn a blind eye to unlicensed closure of lands, systemically avoiding their duty to enforce the law on criminal settlers.

Jewish West Bank settlers grab more land - report
Ori Lewis, ReliefWeb 9/11/2008
JERUSALEM, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank have annexed tens of thousands of acres of land, some of it privately owned by Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group said on Thursday. A report issued by Israel’s B’Tselem human rights organisation said some settlements had grabbed land up to two and a half times greater than their own designated area either by fencing it off or by intimidation. It said settlers should return to Israel. Israeli government officials were initially not available to comment on the report but a spokesman for Jewish West Bank settlers said the land annexation was an authorised security measure. "It must be clear to B’Tselem that if their demands are heeded, it will be easier to murder Jews," Yesha Council spokesman Yishai Hollander said.

IDF court jails soldier who didn’t let woman in labor through crossing Staff, Jerusalem Post 9/12/2008
Military court on Thursday sentenced the IDF commander of the Hawara Crossing to 14 days in prison and dismissed him from military service following his involvement in an incident in which a Palestinian woman was delayed at the IDF checkpoint and consequently, gave birth to a dead baby. The woman was on her way to a Nablus hospital last Thursday after having contractions. According to her husband, even when the baby’s head was crowning, the soldiers at the crossing north of Jerusalem did not let the couple through. The Palestinian ambulance team that arrived at the scene could not save the newborn. [end]

Army jails soldier who delayed pregnant woman at checkpoint
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 9/12/2008
Company commander sentenced to 14 days incarceration following incident in which baby died stillborn after couple was held up at Nablus crossing -An IDF company commander was sentenced to 14 days in jail following an incident in which a pregnant Palestinian woman in labor was delayed at a military crossing. The soldier was also relieved of his command. The army said the soldier should have allowed the vehicle carrying the woman to pass into Nablus, and that he had violated protocol by delaying her. The incident occurred last Thursday night. Muayed Abu Raja and his wife Nahil, of the Palestinian village of Kafr Kusra, south of Nablus, arrived at the checkpoint on their way to the hospital in Nablus but were stopped by the soldiers, who claimed they did not have the proper documentation to pass.

PA military prosecution refuses court decision to release journalist Sabri
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The PA military prosecutor rejected the decision taken by the higher Palestinian court to release journalist Mustafa Sabri who has been detained in the PA intelligence jails for 84 days in Qalqilya and decided to keep him in prison until further notice. The PA security apparatuses had summoned Sabri nine times over the past months, where he was sometimes detained or released. He was elected to membership in the Qalqilya municipality after spending several years in Israeli jails because of his national orientations. His family reported that Sabri was arrested in 26/7/2008 and exposed to extreme torture, but after his release he published a story about what happened to him and was arrested again during the same month on a charge of disturbing public order through his news reports. In a new development, informed Palestinian sources told the PIC reporter that the. . .

Electrical fire breaks out in PA prison in Jericho
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Jericho – Ma’an – A fire broke out in a prison operated by the Palestinian Intelligence service in the West Bank city of Jericho on Wednesday night, causing no injuries. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that the fire resulted from a faulty electrical connection. Twelve Palestinians are held at the Jericho facility. The men are serving temporary sentences in Palestinian Authority custody under an amnesty agreement for Palestinian armed activists. [end]

Feature - Palestinian police make a difference in Hebron
Wafa Amr, ReliefWeb 9/11/2008
HEBRON, West Bank, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A new chapter in the history of the biblical town of Hebron is being inscribed in a Palestinian police blotter. The record shows that in August Palestinian police arrested 139 people on suspicion of crimes ranging from murder, drug dealing and illegal arms trading. Nearly 700 traffic tickets were handed out. After years of rule by gunmen in the Palestinian side of the divided city in the occupied West Bank, some 400 pistol-toting Palestinian policemen in blue uniforms are beginning to make a difference, residents said. "I feel the security conditions have improved. I feel safer now walking the streets and there are fewer armed conflicts," Umm Nidal, a 49-year-old housewife, told Reuters. Shopkeeper Mahmoud Oweida said the armed men who dominated life in Hebron were off the streets and the sound of gunfire had disappeared.

Khan Younis mayor meets with Gaza police chief
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Khan Yunis Mayor Rafiq Salem Maqqi met Tawfic Jaber, head of the de facto police unit in Gaza, to discuss prospects for future cooperation. Palestinian sources say the two discussed future coordination between the municipality and Gaza police department in a meeting at the mayor’s office in Khan Yunis on Thursday. The mayor reportedly expressed gratitude for recent police efforts to keep the region under control. [end]

Hebron police arrest 17 at judge’s request
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Hebron police said on Wednesday that they arrested 17 wanted Palestinians following the request of an area judge. The accused were arrested in Tuffuh, northwest of Hebron, on weapons charges. Some of the men admitted that the weapons had been used in family clashes, according to a police report obtained by Ma’an. Police said that only members of security agencies are permitted to carry weapons. [end]

PA declares its intention to fire non-striking civil servants
Palestinian Information Center 9/10/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The PA in Ramallah announced Tuesday its intention to fire all civil servants who did not comply with the strike called for by Fatah-controlled syndicates, the thing which confirms that the strikes are politicized and unprofessional. The security committee, which reports directly to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his premier Salam Fayyad, said in a statement posted on Fatah websites that it decided to start the dismissal procedures against every civil servant who did not participate in the strikes called for by the Fatah-affiliated unions in the Gaza Strip. This statement was issued despite that fact that the PA government denied coyly its intention to cut the salaries of civil servants who were not committed to the strikes after it was severely reprimanded by human rights and civil society institutions  In a related context, the Fatah-affiliated unions ignored. . .

Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territor- 04 - 10 Sep. 2008
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 9/11/2008
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) - *IOF killed a Palestinian civilian in Nablus. *11 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children, and 2 human rights defenders were wounded by the IOF gunfire in the West Bank. *Dozens of school girls suffered from tear gas inhalation as IOF fired tear gas canisters at their school in Ne’lin village west of Ramallah. *IOF used a liquid with a disgusting smell against demonstrators in Bal’ein and Ne’lin villages near Ramallah. *IOF conducted 55 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. *IOF arrested 29 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children. *IOF transformed 3 houses into military sites.

Human rights organization outlines Israeli violations
Palestine News Network 9/11/2008
PNN - The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza City issued its weekly report for the period of 2 -- 10 September in which the well-respected organization outlines Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Field workers conducted tireless research to ensure that all accounts were taken. As the report that follows states, Israeli forces fired gas into a girls elementary school in western Ramallah’s Na’lin Village, a hot-spot of nonviolent resistance. Throughout the West Bank Israeli forces shot and injured 11 Palestinians, including five children and two human rights workers, and shot and killed one Palestinian man in Nablus. Gaza City / PCHR - Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) IOF killed a Palestinian civilian in Nablus.

OPT: Narratives Under Siege - Harvesting in hope
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - PCHR, ReliefWeb 9/11/2008
On a hot afternoon during the month of Ramadan, there are few better places to be than resting beneath the shade of an orchard of guava trees, with the scent of fresh ripening fruit wafting around you. Farmer Sa’id Al-Agha sits quietly, his eyes resting on his fruit trees. ’My father and my grandfather both grew up here, farming guavas, and I’ve lived here all my life’ he says. ’This land is in my blood. ’ Sa’id Al-Agha farms thirty donumms of guava plantations in Mawasi, in the south western Gaza Strip, where the loamy soil also encourages date palms and citrus trees to thrive (a donumm is equivalent to 1,000 square metres). His Mawasi farm is a tranquil haven in Gaza, which has one of the highest population densities in the world. There are some 120 guava farms dotted around Mawasi, and between them the farmers and their families cultivate more than 2,500 donumms of guavas.

Oppressive Israeli practices against journalists in Hebron
PNN, Palestine News Network 9/11/2008
Hebron -- Israeli forces arrested two journalists working for the international news agency Reuters. The journalists were filming and interviewing for a story about Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank’s southern district of Hebron. In addition to arresting Reuters journalists Yusri Al Jamal and Mahmoun Wuzwuz, Israeli forces took several people whose land was being confiscated in Beit Ummar and Halhoul. Al Jamal spoke with PNN via telephone from inside the Etzion Settlement bloc’s detention center. "The occupation forces came to the place where they were going to confiscate land. They watched us work for a while. We were conducting an interview with one of the residents whose land was going to be confiscated. When we finished we were walking back to our car. The occupation army told us to stop.

Lebanese Druze politician killed in car bomb
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
BEIRUT - Saleh Aridi, a member of Lebanon’s opposition Democratic Party, was killed Wednesday in a car bomb explosion in his hometown of Baysur, southeast of Beirut, officials said. His violent death came as Lebanon’s political parties prepared for a national dialogue next week aimed at reconciling their differences, which in May brought the country close to civil war. "Aridi was killed in the explosion in Baysur, near Aley," a security official said on condition of anonymity. "The initial probe indicates that the bomb was placed under his Mercedes. " He said Aridi had just left his house at about 9:30 p. m. (1830 GMT) and was alone in his vehicle when the bomb went off. His body was charred, the official added. He said six passers-by were slightly wounded by the blast. No-one claimed responsibility. Aridi, in his 50s, was close to pro-Syrian Druze leader Talal Arslan, a rival to Druze anti-Syrian leader Walid Jumblatt.

Lebanese parties vow to work past Aridi murder
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 9/12/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanese and international leaders urged calm on Thursday as they condemned a political assassination that threatened to undermine efforts to reconcile rival factions in Lebanon. Saleh Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic Party, was assassinated in a car bombing late on Wednesday in his hometown of Baysour, southeast of Beirut. A security official said the bomb, made of 700 grams of explosives, was placed under his car. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday condemned the car bombing and urged rival parties to show "restraint. " "This violence only underscores how important it is for dialogue and reconciliation to move forward," the UN chief told a news conference. Six people were also slightly wounded in the attack, which was also condemned by both Washington and Damascus.

Syria condemns Lebanon deadly car bombing
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
DAMASCUS - Syria on Thursday denounced the murder of a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician as a terrorist act aimed at undermining security in its neighbour ahead of planned multi-party reconciliation talks. "Syrian firmly denounces the criminal and terrorist act which claimed the life of Saleh Aridi," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "Syria is convinced that such crimes that target security and stability in Lebanon will not achieve their objectives," it said. Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic Party, was assassinated in a car bombing on Wednesday in the first attack against a pro-Syrian politician since a string of bombings targetted mainly anti-Syrian figures. His murder came days ahead of national reconciliation talks due to take place next week, as a follow up to a power-sharing agreement struck by feuding politicians in May after deadly sectarian fighting.

Lebanon leaders call for calm
Al Jazeera 9/11/2008
Lebanon’s leaders have called for calm in the wake of the assassination of Saleh Aridi, a Lebanese Druze politician, whose death in a car bombing has threatened to derail efforts at national reconciliation. Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, had ordered the Lebanese army to step up security in the area on Thursday and launch an investigation into the incident. Aridi’s death on Wednesday came less than a week before planned reconciliation talks among rival Lebanese factions. The attack was thought by politicians to be an effort to rekindle violence between rivals in the sensitive Druze-inhabited mountains, areas controlled by the two main Druse factions - the Lebanese Democratic Party led by Talal Arslan and the Progressive Socialist Party of Walid Jumblatt.

’No peace in Mideast if Israel exists’ Staff, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Hizbullah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah voiced his opinion on Thursday about the various peace processes currently underway in the Middle East, saying that as long as Israel exists, there will never be peace in the region. "As long as Israel exists and its eyes are honing in on the territories of other states, the world will not know peace in the Middle East," Nasrallah said during an interview with Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). "The region will not see the light of peace and stability," he continued, adding that this was due to the "aggressiveness and the natural militancy of Israel. " Speaking about the Second Lebanon War, Nasrallah again emphasized that the conflict was a victory for his organization and for Lebanon, but added that Israel still posed a threat. "Israel will not cease to try and achieve its goals," the Hizbullah chief said.

Nasrallah: No peace in Middle East as long as Israel exists
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 9/12/2008
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said in a recent interview that as long as Israel exists, there will be no peace in the Middle East. "The region will not see the light of peace or any stability because of Israel’s aggressiveness and militant nature," Nasrallah said. Despite hiding out in a bunker since 2006’s Second Lebanon War, Nasrallah recently spoke to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting radio station, Army Radio reported. The Hezbollah leader went on to say that his Lebanon-based guerilla group is stronger than ever and is prepared for its next confrontation with Israel. "Any Israeli attack on Lebanon, Iran, Syria or Gaza will be met with a fierce response," Nasrallah said. He added that Hezbollah has grown logistically and militarily stronger, claiming that all of Lebanon has united against a common enemy - Israel.

Ambassador Meridor: Talks aimed at breaking up Syria-Iran alliance
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 9/11/2008
’First reason to engage with Syrians is to explore whether there is a chance for a strategic U-turn, and to have them separated from their special relationship with Iran,’ Israeli envoy tells The Washington Times, adding UN sanctions on Tehran ’not enough’ - WASHINGTON - "There can’t be true peace if Syria continues to align with the Iranian regime and with terror groups," such as Lebanon’s Hizbullah, Israeli Ambassador to Washington Sallai Meridor told The Washington Times this week. Meridor said the main reason the Israeli government began talks with Syria earlier this year was to "bring about a strategic repositioning" in the Middle East by breaking up Damascus’ alliance with Iran, adding that a "U-turn" in Syria’s policy is a "litmus test" for reaching a broad peace agreement with Damascus. "By far, the first reason to engage with the Syrians is to explore whether there is a chance

Not all but good enough
Bassel Oudat, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/11/2008
Syria is trying hard to break its isolation and gain friends, and is succeeding, French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks to his Syrian counterpart Bashar Al-Assad in DamscusA week ago, Damascus hosted a four-way summit that was rather unusual. It was neither Arab, Islamic, Mediterranean nor Middle Eastern. The Syrians said it was all the above and more. Reporting on the Syrian- French-Qatari-Turkish gathering, the Syrian media spoke of a "historic summit" that would launch a "new phase" and "turn around the region". In one sense, the hyperbole was justified. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is currently the head of the Arab summit. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is president of the EU, and Qatari Emir Hamad Ben Khalifa is president of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Only Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is not head of any specific outfit, though he is emerging as a high-profile mediator between East and West.

Israeli navy fires on Palestinian fishing boat, causing damage but no injuries
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli gunboats opened fire on a Palestinian fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday night, causing 70,000 dollars of damage but no injuries, fishermen in Gaza said on Thursday. Murad Al-Hessi, the boat’s owner, said the eight people on board the boat were rescued by nearby fishing vessels. The head of the fishermen’s professional association, Muhammad Al-Assi, held a press conference in front of the destroyed boat, which is now docked in Gaza, to condemn the Israeli attack. Al-Assi urged Arab states in particular to wake up to the severe conditions faced by Gazan fishermen. He said that Israel’s blockade of Gaza has harmed the fishing industry. In addition to the physical danger posed by the Israeli navy, Gazan fishermen lack adequate fuel and other supplies do to the closure of Gaza’s borders.

IOF gunboat collides with Palestinian fishing boat wounding fisherman
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian fisherman was wounded when an Israeli gunboat deliberately hit his fishing boat off the Gaza coast at a late hour on Wednesday, the Palestinian fishermen syndicate said. The head of the syndicate, Nizar Ayesh, said that the gunboat intentionally crashed into the fishing boat, which destroyed it completely and wounded its owner Ahmed Al-Hassi. He noted that four fishing boats headed from Gaza fishing pier to the scene of the incident, rescued Hassi and recovered his wrecked boat. Hassi said in a press statement from his hospital bed at Shifa complex that he was surprised with the big gunboat speeding towards him and hitting the starboard of his boat. He told Ramattan news agency in a televised interview that the "Israelis are fighting us in our sustenance". Meanwhile, the director of the general petroleum authority in the Gaza Strip, Ahmed Ali,. . .

Rights group: W. Bank settlers grab more Palestinian land
Reuters, Ha’aretz 9/12/2008
Jewish settlers in the West Bank have taken posession of tens of thousands of acres of land, some of it privately owned by Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group said on Thursday. A report issued by B’Tselem, a human rights organization said some settlements had appropriated land up to two and a half times greater than their own designated area either by fencing it off or by intimidation. Asked about the B’Tselem report, the Israel Defense Forces said it had established security zones around settlements after they had been attacked repeatedly by Palestinians and dozens of Israeli civilians had been killed. "The use of these zones has been approved a number of times by the Supreme Court. Any building in these zones is illegal," the IDF said. Government officials were initially not available to comment on the report but. . .

Israeli official acknowledges Hamas strength
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
TEL AVIV - Israel’s point man in indirect, Egyptian-mediated talks with Hamas said Wednesday the democratically elected movement in Gaza is more powerful than the Fatah government in the West Bank. Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said talks with Hamas designed to secure the release of a captured Israeli soldier have gone better since a truce went into effect in June, but he added that a deal is "not close. " "Since the truce we are discussing more seriously," he said. His comments came as a senior Hamas official warned that any Israeli military option in Gaza could lead to more captures of Israeli soldiers. Gilad, making a rare appearance before foreign diplomats and journalists in occupied Jerusalem, said current peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian forces in charge of the West Bank are not likely to bear fruit until those forces retake Gaza from Hamas.

Report: Hamas wants new mediator for Shalit deal
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 9/11/2008
London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reports Hamas wants to replace Egypt as lead broker in negotiations for Gilad Shalit’s release, in hopes of kick-starting stalled talks - Are the stalled negotiations for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit about to take a new turn? London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi quoted a Hamas source Thursday as saying the organization’s leaders have decided to find a new mediator to take over for Egypt and broker a deal with Israel. Hamas, said the report, no longer believes Egypt can play an impartial role in the talks, since it seems to favor Israel’s demands. According to al-Quds al-Arabi sources, Hamas officials have contacted several Arab and foreign officials, in hopes to enlist them in favor of the feat. The sources went on to tell the newspaper that Israel too is unhappy with the Egyptian meditation, saying Ofer

Report: Hamas wants Egypt out of Schalit talks Staff, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Hamas has begun taking concrete steps towards finding a new mediator to replace the Egyptians in negotiations for kidnapped IDF soldier St. -Sgt. Gilad Schalit, according to sources quoted by the London-based Arabic dailyAl-Quds Al-Arabi Thursday. The report stated that statements made by senior Hamas figures to the effect that they were committed to Egypt’s role in the talks were no more than a "cover" to divert attention from the steps taken recently by the organization’s leadership. "Hamas is of the opinion that Egypt has failed miserably in its attempts to make any kind of headway in the affair, and is now biased in favor of the Israelis," the sources were quoted as saying. Israel, they said, was also interested in replacing Egypt but would not act on the matter due to the possible impact such a move could have on its relationship with Cairo.

Hamas denies any link between Shalit deal and internal dialog
Palestinian Information Center 9/10/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Wednesday denied press reports claiming that it delayed internal dialog after linking it to the issue of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. MP Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesman of Hamas-affiliated change and reform parliamentary bloc, said in a press statement that the report was not true, adding that Hamas calls for national dialog based on a strategy and not on political maneuvering. Hamas was the first to call for dialog and responded to all calls for dialog on the local, Arab and international levels, he noted. Bardawil stressed that the basic goal of such dialog is to endorse Palestinian national constants and legitimacies in addition to finding a common program to liberate the land and holy shrines and establish the independent Palestinian state. The methods towards realizing those goals could be agreed upon topped by all forms of resistance, diplomacy and others, he said.

Islamic Jihad calls for comprehensive dialogue to overcome Hamas-Fatah split
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Prominent Islamic Jihad leader Mohammad Al-Hindi called for a comprehensive national dialogue to overcome the internal political crisis stemming from fighting between the Hamas and Fatah factions. At a Ramadan dinner for journalists and cultural figured on Wednesday evening in Gaza City, Al-Hindi urged Hamas and Fatah to “recognize their faults,” stop incitement against each other, release all political detainees in Gaza and the West Bank and to draft a “charter of honor,” to prevent the use of violence in resolving disputes between the factions. Both Hamas and Fatah have committed in principle to beginning a reconciliation dialogue, but have yet to begin direct high-level talks. Egypt is currently hosting a series of consultations with Palestinian factions that it says will lay the groundwork for substantive dialogue.

RCA and UNRWA sign agreement to help Palestinian orphans
Government of the United Arab Emirates, ReliefWeb 9/11/2008
The UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) and the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) signed an agreement yesterday to sponsor Palestinian orphaned children. The agreement is part of a wider and long-term cooperation between the two sides to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees. The agreement was signed on behalf of RCA by its Secretary General Dr. Saleh Al Taei and on behalf of UNRWA by Ambassador Peter Ford. Shortly after signing the agreement, the two officials conferred on the current situation of the Palestinian refugees. Ambassador Ford hailed the unfailing support provided by the UAE under the leadership of President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the Palestinian refugees. The RCA and UNRWA recently signed an agreement to help the Palestinian refugees in Neirab, Syria.

As-Sarraj: Fayyad says PA not directing strikes, threatening Gazan salaries
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Gazan psychiatrist Eyad As-Sarraj on Wednesday insisted that the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah never threatened workers’ salaries or called for the ongonig strikes across Gaza. He applauded the PA’s willingness to pay August paychecks for its employees. In a phone call, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told As-Sarraj that salaries would not be affected by the strikes, according to the Gazan psychiatrist. As-Sarraj said that he hoped to reassure PA employees that they have nothing to fear by returning to work. [end]

Israel allows entry of Arabs of 48 lands into a West Bank city
International Middle East Media Center News 9/11/2008
The Israeli authorities decided on Thursday to allow entry of Israeli-Arab citizens and their vehicles to the West Bank city of Qalqilia without permissions, starting from tomorrow Friday. The said decision came after all Israelis including Arabs, have been prevented access into this Palestinian city for the past three years. Some of West Bank cities are adjacent to the Israeli territories in what is called the ’Green Line’. Following the establishment of the Israeli state on Arab-owned lands in 1948, many Palestinian Arabs remained in their lands, which later followed the jurisdiction of the newly-born Hebrew state. [end]

Israel to allow Palestinian citizens of Israel into Qalqilia without permits
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – The Israeli military has decided to allow Palestinian residents of Israel to enter the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia in private cars without first obtaining an army permit, the Civil Affairs Administration in Qalqilia announced on Thursday. This is the first time in three years Palestinians from inside Israel have been allowed into the city without special permits. The decision goes into effect on Friday. Israeli citizens, often including those of Palestinian ethnicity, are barred from entering areas of the West Bank that are under the control of the Palestinian Authority. [end]

Israel augments barrier north of Hebron to allow truck traffic
Ma’an News Agency 9/11/2008
Bethlehem/Hebron – Ma’an – Israel altered a roadblock at Ras Al-Jora, north of the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday to allow trucks to between Hebron and the Tarqumiya crossing with Israel, which lies to the west of the city. UN observers told Ma’an that the Ras Al-Jora barrier had been converted from an earth mound into a set of two gates staffed by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli government says the passage is now open to vehicles between 5:00 am to 8:00 pm. In addition, the director of the liaison office at the Tarqumiya crossing, Colonel Hamuda Abu Tharif, said that Israeli authorities are considering opening the crossing to private Palestinian cars, depending on how the security situation develops. According to the Israeli government the Ras Al-Jora point was closed on Wednesday for “maintenance,” and then reopened on Thursday.

Solana hoping to push foward ’peace process’
PNN / Brussels, Palestine News Network 9/11/2008
Mohamed Al Arabi - The High Representative for Security and Foreign Policy in the European Union Javier Solana said from Brussels on Thursday that he will meet with President Abbas in the Middle East. Solana intends to also meet with Israeli officials in an attempt to push forward the ’peace process,’ with hopes they will implement commitments made during the Annapolis conference late last year. He stressed the need to expedite the pace of work coming from the European Union and its political presence in the region, particularly as the US administration will be changing shortly. Of 2009 and the EU analysis of the Middle East situation, Solana said, "We will work with the same enthusiasm that we brought to our work last year. " He said that the EU is determined to pursue its work with the Palestinians and Israelis.

Hamas: Secret PA-IOA talks pose dangers on national project
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Thursday said that the secret talks held between the PA leadership in Ramallah and the Israeli occupation authority are seriously threatening Palestinian rights and constants and pose dangers on the Palestinian national project. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, told PIC that the Palestinians might be surprised with resolutions and agreements reached away from the Palestinian national consensus. The spokesman was commenting on a statement by Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni that PA-IOA talks were being held in-camera and that progress was made during those talks. He expressed concern over the news report, adding that the secret talks might lead to liquidating the Palestine cause. He urged PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to be frank with his people and the Palestinian public opinion and to reveal all talks between him and the IOA.

Islamic Jihad calls for stopping negotiations with Israel
Palestinian Information Center 9/11/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Islamic Jihad Movement called Wednesday on the PA to stop its negotiations with the Israeli occupation and to pay attention to what could heal the internal rift. During an evening gathering held in honor of journalists and intellectuals, Sheikh Nafid Azzam, a prominent Islamic Jihad leader, stressed the need to pool all sincere efforts to promote the unity of the Palestinian internal front and spare the Palestinian people and their cause further woes. Sheikh Azzam stated that one of the most important features that characterizes the work and mission of the media is to base information on evidence and facts, highlighting that it is inappropriate for the media to deviate from the values of truth and justice. For his part, Dr. Mohamed Al-Hindi, another senior Islamic Jihad leader, said that the Palestinian people are on the verge of a new confrontation with the. . .

Israeli minister apologizes to China over athlete’s slur
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
TEL AVIV - An Israeli Cabinet minister called the Chinese ambassador Wednesday to apologize after Israel’s only Beijing Olympics medalist used a curse to describe the Chinese in a newspaper interview. Israeli windsurfing bronze medalist Shahar Zubari used a scatological expletive to describe the Chinese in an interview with the Yediot Ahronot daily on Friday. "After a month and a half I couldn’t look at Chinese people any more," Zubari said. "Their traditions are bizarre and even their speech is weird," he said, adding, "I also don’t like their food. "He later apologized. Sport and Culture Minister Galeb Majadle called Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jun to condemn Zubari’s comments, which he called "despicable. " Majadle, who attended the Olympics, told the ambassador that they "do not reflect the views of the Israeli people toward the Chinese people," and praised the Chinese for. . .

Palestine Today 091108
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 9/11/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org for Thursday September 11, 2008. Israeli troops invaded a West Bank village; detain one, as an Israel naval vessel crashed a Palestinian fishing boat with fishermen on board on Gaza shores, these stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast Israeli troops invaded on Thursday morning the West Bank town of Abu Enjaim in the outskirts of Bethlehem city. The Israeli soldiers ransacked several houses in the village and eyewitnesses said, one person was taken prisoner. Also in the West Bank, the Israeli center for human rights in the occupied territories, "B’tselem, published a report stating that the Israeli settlement expansions have doubled over the past few years.

Olmert says he really will quit after Kadima primary
Shelly Paz And Ap, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday reiterated his pledge to step down immediately after Kadima chooses a successor next week, dispelling speculation he will try to linger in office. With the primary set for Wednesday, the announcement means that the new Kadima leader could find him or herself racing to form a new government in as little as a week. Olmert, who is battling corruption investigations, announced in July that he would resign after Kadima chose a new leader. But some felt he was vague about the timing of his exit, raising speculation that he might delay it. Addressing a Kadima Party meeting at Kfar Hamaccabiah in Ramat Gan on Thursday night, the prime minister said he did not intend to delay his resignation. RELATEDWalles: Sides agree to negotiate J’lem "As I have said before, immediately after. . .

VIDEO: IAF grounds Cobras after crash kills two pilots
Amos Harel and Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 9/11/2008
The Israel Air Force decided to ground all Cobra helicopters Thursday after a fatal crash killed two pilots during training mission in the Jezreel Valley. The incident marked the first helicopter accident since the Second Lebanon War two years ago. One of the pilots was identified as Major Shai Danor, 35, from Rosh Ha’ayin. Danor left behind five children. The name of the second pilot has yet to be cleared for publication. The IAF’s head, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehoshtan, ordered that a committee be set up to investigate the crash. A number of possibilities are being considered, including technical malfunction. The crash occurred at 7 P. M. in the fields of Kibbutz Ginegar in the Jezreel Valley. About 10 minutes before the crash, two Cobra helicopters had taken off from Ramat David on a routine training mission.

Direct elections begin with the Likud primary
Nathan D. Wirtschafter, Jerusalem Post 9/10/2008
Recent news stories concerning the Likud’s upcoming primary reveal a split between party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu’s office and Likud MKs. Netanyahu’s office has outlined a plan to reserve every other spot on the Likud list for distinguished outsiders, while the MKs seek to preserve the status quo of electing the list nationally. While both plans have a certain merit, neither will bring the Likud the 40+ seats it seeks in the next Knesset. The Likud must be the party of change, and should aim to replace Israel’s flawed system of government with a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Until it acts, the government will continue to be of, by and for the inept, the inexperienced and the corrupt. The Likud should organize its primary around several initiatives to implement reform within the party.

PM: I will support any candidate elected
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 9/11/2008
Speaking before Kadima brass at holiday event, Olmert reaffirms commitment to step down once successor elected, touts progress in talks with Palestinian Authority while warning Hamas ’will pay’ if Shalit harmed -Less than a week after police investigators recommended he be indicted on corruption charges, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke at a Kadima Party convention on Thursday ahead of Rosh Hashana. He opened his remarks with condolences to the families of the two pilots killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday. "I am excited to be here with you," Olmert said. "This is a party by the people and for the people. We may be a relatively young party on Israel’s political landscape, but it seems as though we have always been her. It is clear to all that Kadima’s existence is a reality, and that it is a living, functioning party that is powerful enough to lead Israel for many years.

’Residents grasp danger of haredi mayor’
Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat said Thursday he expects the secular, traditional and modern Orthodox voter turnout to be the surprise of the November mayoral election. "Jerusalem residents care about what is happening in the city, and they understand the danger of another term for a haredi candidate," Barkat said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. He said that Jerusalem had already lost its "Zionist majority," with more than a third of the city Arab and another 20 percent haredi. The self-made hi-tech millionaire, who lost to Mayor Uri Lupolianski of United Torah Judaism in the last vote five years ago, said he was convinced that the vast majority of the modern Orthodox public now backed his candidacy - support which is critical if he is to take over city hall. "Today the modern Orthodox camp understands that the Zionist movement has to be united," Barkat said.

Deri: Yes to Gay Pride, no to PA forces
Dan Izenberg And Jerusalem Post Staff, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri vowed Thursday to maintain the "status quo" in Jerusalem - opposing religious coercion, permitting the Gay Pride parade and keeping Palestinian forces out of east Jerusalem - if successful in his bid for the capital’s mayoralty. Far from ceding east Jerusalem to the Palestinians, he said in a Channel 2 interview, Israel should invest in the infrastructure there. It was "inconceivable" to contemplate Palestinian forces in Israel’s capital, he said. Deri, who cannot formally run for the office of mayor at present because the law bars anyone convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude from running for local office until seven years have passed from the end of the prison sentence, sounded confident that his candidacy would be approved. He also said firmly there would not be two haredi candidates and that the politician with the better. . .

Minister Ayalon: Increase number of haredim in National Service
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 9/11/2008
Ami Ayalon to ask cabinet to sanction four-year plan to increase ultra-Orthodox community’s participation in National Service. Plan said to be sanction by sector’s leaders as means to ease community’s dire financial state - Minister Ami Ayalon is expected to ask cabinet to sanction a new four-year program aimed at increasing the number of ultra-Orthodox who volunteer for National Service. Minister Ayalon, who holds the National Service Portfolio, said his proposal in meant to advance the implementation of the previous government decisions to that effect, such as the Tal Act. Ayalon wants to have 2,000 haredim enlist in the service every year by 2012, as opposed to the 200 who volunteer today. Contradictions? National Service placements cut / Kobi Nahshoni Education Ministry pulls budget, cancels National Service placement for 3,000 seminary teachers.

Only 43 child investigators for over 10,000 abuse cases
Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
There are only 43 child investigators countrywide who are permitted to interview child victims of violent abuse or those who have witnessed horrific crimes, according to new statistics obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem PostThursday. That means some children have to wait more than four months before meeting with professionals who can assess their situation and advise on treatment or prosecution. The figures, which were put together by the Social Workers Union, contradict reports from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry that there are currently 52 child investigators. These are specially trained social workers appointed by the ministry and the only ones permitted to interview children under 14 and those with disabilities thought to be victims of severe abuse and violence. "Even though 52 child investigators can be hired, six positions have been vacated in recent. . .

Yeshiva students demand religious newspapers on IDF bases
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 9/11/2008
Recently discharged orthodox soldiers turn to army, MKs, editorial boards in attempt to convince them to allow dispersal of media of a more pious nature to base synagogues - Two yeshiva students who were discharged from service in the hesder program (combining advanced Talmudic studies with military service in the IDF), turned to the army, religious Knesset members and brochure editorial boards, with a request to allow them to disperse brochures to various military synagogues. The two, Asaf Danoch and Sarel Shfeir turned to the directors of Makor Rishon (conservative Israeli daily), which is also responsible for dispersing brochures throughout Israel, and asked them to check this possibility. Keeping the SabbathPetition: Soldiers serving in Army Radio must not work on Shabbat / Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asks High Court to prevent IDF radio station from using soldiers for Saturday, holiday broadcasts.

Transport Minister Mofaz delays fuel tariff cut
Lior Baron, Globes Online 9/11/2008
Ministers believe the delay is due to the opposition from the Ashdod and Haifa ports. Has Minister of Transport Shaul Mofaz capitulated to the ports workers yet again? Mofaz has now delayed signing the order reducing tariffs on fuel imports to Israel for several weeks. Mofaz’s procrastination over the signing of the order has left ministers bewildered, given that over the past year the Ministry of Transport has moved forward with a reform that will see a cut in pier fees for imports of fuel via the Haifa and Ashdod ports. Minister of Transport director general Gideon Siterman even asked the Ministry of Finance repeatedly to allow the cuts to go into effect. The reform in fuel import tariffs is a milestone event for the fuel sector, with pier fees charged by ports for importing crude oil and energy products due to be slashed by 60-70%.

Ariav c’ttee presents Tel Aviv benefits to NY bankers
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 9/11/2008
The Ariav committee yesterday made a presentation in Manhattan of its vision to make Tel Aviv into a global financial center to 100 top investment bankers and heads of financial institutions. Participants included executives from Goldman Sachs Holdings Inc. (NYSE: GS), Citigroup (NYSE: C), Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB; XETRA; LSE: DBK), Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE: CS; SWX: CSGN; XETRA: CSGZ), and Northern Trust Corporation (Nasdaq: NTRS). They came to hear how Israel will develop its financial sector, and how its capital market will be modernized, competitive, more open, and more attractive to local and foreign investors. The Israeli speakers included Supervisor of Banks Rony Hizkiyahu, Supervisor of Capital Markets, Insurance and Savings Yadin Antebi, State Revenue Administration deputy director Frieda Yisraeli, and Ministry of Finance New York representative Zvi Halamish, who organized the event.

Olmert meets leaders on future of economy
Adiran Filut, Globes Online 9/11/2008
Stanley Fischer: Foreign investors are still coming to Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today met financial leaders in Tel Aviv in order to obtain their impressions on the global economic situation and its effect on the Israeli economy. Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On and Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer were also present. Fischer opened the meeting by noting that foreign investors were still coming to Israel. He added that pursuing responsible policies would ensure that Israel would get through the current crisis in good shape and achieve 5% or higher GDP growth. Participating business leaders included Fishman Holdings chairman Eliezer Fishman, Bank Leumi president and CEO Galia Maor, Elbit System chairman Michael Federmann, Harel Insurance chairman Yair Hamburger, Motorola Israel general manager Elisha Yanay, Migdal Insurance chairman Aharon Fogel,. . .

Fischer predicts robust economy
Sharon Wrobel, Jerusalem Post 9/12/2008
The Israeli economy should be able to weather the effects of the global economic situation in relatively good shape, according to Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer. "We are going through a crisis, but we have a good chance to overcome this period better than in the previous crisis in 2003," he said Thursday at a private meeting of business leaders in Tel Aviv. "If responsible fiscal discipline and budget policies are pursued, we can return to previous growth rates of over 5 percent. " Fischer said being part of the global economy, including Israel’s road map to becoming a member of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, could not go hand in hand with an interventionist monetary policy. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert initiated the meeting for an assessment of the future of the country’s economy, in light of the global economic slowdown, and the 2009 state budget.

Trade deficit narrows as chemical exports rise
Bloomberg, Jerusalem Post 9/12/2008
Israel’s trade deficit narrowed last month for the first time since January 2007 as exports of chemicals soared. The deficit, excluding diamonds, ships and aircraft, shrank to a seasonally adjusted $1. 2 billion, down from $1. 25b. in August last year, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Thursday in a preliminary report on its Web site. Chemicals exports rose an annual 83 percent to $1. 38b. Israel’s economy has expanded by more than 5% in each of the past four years, led by booming exports. Growth will probably slow to 4. 2% this year and 3. 5% in 2009 as the global economy cools and demand for Israeli products weakens. "The increase in exports this year is surprising since theoretically, the appreciation of the shekel and the global slump should have resulted in a drop in exports," said economist Rafi Melnick, deputy president of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

65% of Israelis are apartment dwellers
Miriam Honen for "Globes", Globes Online 9/11/2008
80% of greater Tel Aviv residents live in apartments. 65% of Israelis live in apartments and 35% live in semi-detached and private houses, according to a survey by Heker Rating Marketing Research Ltd. The proportion of apartment-dwellers is higher among young families, haredim (ultra-orthodox) (71%), and the poor (78%). A breakdown by region shows that 80% of residents in the Dan region (greater Tel Aviv) live in apartments, and that proportion of apartment dwellers is lowest in the Sharon (45%) and in the north (51%). 6% of apartment dwellers live in apartments that occupy an entire floor, 37% live in two-room apartments, 14% in three-room apartments, 31% in four-room apartments, and 11% in five-room or larger apartments. The average number of apartments per floor is three. 59% of buildings in Jerusalem and 56% of buildings in north have two apartments per floor.

Albania attracts Israeli investors
John Benzaquen, Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
Albania may soon become the new mecca for Israeli real-estate developers. Over the past 10 years, Eastern and Central Europe has become the playground of local real-estate operators who have promoted real-estate projects in most of the countries behind the former iron curtain. The fall of communism and the creation of market economies in these areas has created vast real-estate opportunities, and local companies have not fallen behind in taking advantage of them. Now the spotlight is on Albania. "We are very keen on attracting foreign investments, and we are especially interested in attracting Israeli foreign investors," Albanian Ambassador to Israel Tonin Gjuraj recently told The Jerusalem Post. "We want to develop real estate so as to construct better housing for our citizens and hotels for the tourists who are flocking to visit Albania. "

Russia and Turkey tango in the Black Sea
M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times 9/12/2008
Amid the flurry of diplomatic activity in Moscow last week over the Caucasus, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took time off for an exceptionally important mission to Turkey, which might prove a turning point in the security and stability of the vast region that the two powers historically shared. Indeed, Russian diplomacy is swiftly moving even as the troops have begun returning from Georgia to their barracks. Moscow is weaving a complicated new web of regional alliances, drawing deeply into Russia’s collective historical memory as a power in the Caucasus and the Black Sea. German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht would have marveled at Lavrov’s diary, heavily marked with "Caucasian chalk circles" through last week, with intertwining plots and sub-plots - an Extraordinary European Council Meeting taking place in Brussels; a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Moscow; three foreign counterparts to be hosted in Moscow. . .

Pelosi reveals her father’s support for Bergson Group
Jerusalem Post 9/11/2008
The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has detailed her father’s support for a World War II-era rescue group that worked to save the Jews of Europe in a new book. Pelosi’s father, the late US congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. of Maryland, was a fervent Roosevelt Democrat, but he broke ranks with FDR by supporting the Bergson Group, which challenged the Roosevelt administration’s policies on the Jewish refugee issue during the Holocaust. The Bergson Group was run by Irgun activists and worked in the US in the 1940s to raise awareness of the Holocaust and campaign for America to help save the Jews of Europe. The group’s leader, Hillel Kook (the nephew of Abraham Isaac Kook, Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi), worked under the pseudonym of Peter Bergson. The organization was viewed by mainstream American Jewish leaders as being too direct in its. . .

Talabani: Iran, Syria pose ’no problem’ for Iraq
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
WASHINGTON - Iraq President Jalal Talabani told US President George W. Bush on Wednesday that Iran and Syria now pose "no problem. " "I’m glad to tell you Mr President that our relations with our neighbors is improved very well with Turkey, with Syria, with Iran with the Arab countries," Talabani said as he met with Bush at the White House. "The relation is normal now and we have no problem with any of those countries. In contrary, many many new ambassadors are coming to our country from Arab countries," Talabani said. Washington has for years accused Syria of at the very least turning a blind eye to foreign fighters crossing into Iraq to battle US-led forces, and has alleged Iranian support for elements that target coalition troops. But a senior US official told reporters on Tuesday, after Bush announced a modest drawdown of US forces in Iraq over the coming months, that Iran may have changed tack on its strife-ravaged neighbor.

Cholera outbreak spreads in Iraq
Al Jazeera 9/11/2008
Babel, a central Iraqi province, is on alert after Iraqi authorities declared it a disaster zone marking the country’s latest cholera outbreak. At least five people died on Thursday while 90 new cases had been reported, local and national health officials said. Babel’s provincial council, said: "The laboratory reports from Babel health department indicate there are 200 cases of suspected cholera, vomiting and diarrhea in the province". At least 20 people, including seven children and two women, have died from cholera in the past three days, a local official said. The southern province of Maysan has also reported cases of cholera, but so far there have been no deaths, local officials said. Salih al-Hasnawi, Iraq’s health minister, said years of war have degraded water-treatment facilities in Iraq and deprived many Iraqis of clean drinking water.

Iraq still awaiting US response on pact proposals
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
BAGHDAD - Iraq is still waiting for a response from the United States to proposals regarding the controversial security deal between the two countries, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said on Thursday. "Talks are in the final stage and the Iraqi side is waiting for the American side to provide answers on several points which the Iraqi government has raised," Saleh told reporters in the holy city of Najaf. Saleh spoke after meeting revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. "This is a dangerous patriotic decision and we want the government to guarantee the sovereignty of Iraq," Saleh said. Earlier Thursday Shiite MP Ali al-Adeeb also said the Iraqi negotiators were waiting for the response from Washington on their objections over the pact which will decide the future of US forces in the country.

Japan to end Iraq deployment
Al Jazeera 9/11/2008
Japan says it is planning to withdraw the last of its troops deployed in Iraq by the end of the year. The recall would affect about 210 Japanese air force personnel who have been used to transport supplies and staff for US-led forces and the United Nations. Masahiko Komura, Japan’s foreign minister, said the personnel and Japanese aircraft which have been stationed in Kuwait would return to Japan by the end of the year. Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Thursday he said the purpose of the mission had been achieved and attention was now turning to the conflict in Afghanistan. "After continued consultations with Iraq, we have come to believe that the situation in Iraq has gradually improved and that we are gradually achieving the purpose," he said.

Saudi to sign extradition treaty with Iraq
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia is poised to sign an extradition treaty with Iraq, where several Saudis who joined the insurgency are believed to be held, an interior ministry spokesman said in remarks published Thursday. "We have completed the drafting of an extradition accord which will be signed soon between the kingdom and Iraq," the spokesman was quoted in the local press as saying. The treaty stipulates "the exchange of convicted prisoners. . . so that they serve the rest of their sentences close to their families," said the spokesman, whose remarks were carried by the official SPA news agency. He did not say how many Saudis were being held in Iraq, where Saudis are among foreign fighters who have joined Sunni Arab insurgents battling Iraqi government forces and their US-led backers. Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffak al-Rubaie said in March that Baghdad had repatriated. . .

’Many still have doubts’ over 9/11
Alex Sehmer, Al Jazeera 9/11/2008
More than 50 per cent of people reject the official belief that the attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, were carried out by al-Qaeda, a new survey has revealed. The findings, released late on Wednesday, suggest that the official version of events - that the attacks, which killed more than 2,900 people and sparked the US so-called "war on terror", were carried out by al-Qaeda - is still a long way from being generally accepted. Only 46 per cent of respondents named al-Qaeda, while 25 per cent said they did not know and 15 per cent said the US government was behind the attacks. . . . While a substantial number of those polled believed the US government was in some way behind the attacks, seven per cent point the finger at Israel

Plans set to improve services in Talbieh camp
ReliefWeb 9/11/2008
His Majesty King Abdullah on Tuesday issued directives to concerned authorities to carry out health, educational and development projects in Al Talbieh refugee camp. During a visit to the camp, King Abdullah met with community leaders and listened to their remarks on the services offered to residents. His Majesty said it was important to address the challenges and obstacles facing the camp community and instructed the government to take the necessary measures to solve the problems residents face, especially in the fields of health, education and youth care. Located 35 kilometres south of Amman and home to approximately 7,000 refugees, Talbieh is one of 13 refugee camps in Jordan. There are some 800 housing units in the camp, which was established in 1967 over 136 dunums. The King noted the Royal Court would work in cooperation with the government to tackle the inherent problems in the area.

Tehran feels an Arab sting
Sami Moubayed, Asia Times 9/12/2008
DAMASCUS - Never has the Arab press been filled with so many critical stories of Iran. The trend is striking, and proves just how influential the Saudi and American media have been at painting a very dark and "dangerous" picture of the Islamic Republic. Slowly but surely, Arab columnists have started filing story after story critical of Iran’s role in the region. That became strikingly clear when prime coverage was given to the death of General Hisham Sabah al-Fakhri, a decorated officer from Saddam Hussein’s army, who made a reputation for himself for fighting the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). He was treated as a celebrated Iraqi, although nothing had been said of him since he fled the violence in Iraq and took up residence in Syria in 2003. He is now hailed in several Arab dailies as a war hero. Last week, veteran Palestinian journalist Jihad al-Khazen wrote in the Saudi

US refuses to give Israel bombs fearing Iran strike
Middle East Online 9/11/2008
TEL AVIV - The United States has turned down an Israeli request for "bunker buster" bombs and mid-air refuelling planes for fear they could be used to attack Iran, the Haaretz newspaper said. The US administration also refused to give permission for Israeli fighter jets to fly over Iraq -- the quickest route to Iran, it said. Israel, the region’s sole nuclear armed state, fears that Iran might acquire nuclear weapons too. Iran has repeatedly denied the allegations, insisting it wants only to provide electricity for its growing population. Military experts believe the GBU-28 "bunker busters" Israel had requested could be effective against Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in central Iran. The GBU-28 is a 2. 2-tonne, laser-guided, conventional munition equipped with a powerful warhead that can burrow through more than six metres (20 feet) of concrete and up to 30.

Iran’s Road Less Traveled to Nukes
Ray McGovern, Middle East Online 9/11/2008
Thomas Fingar, the US government’s top intelligence analyst, in a public speech on Sept. 4, repeated the intelligence community’s key judgment that Iran’s work on the “weaponization portion” of its nuclear development program “was suspended” in 2003. Not that the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has exactly trumpeted this important conclusion. One has to read down to paragraph 16 of an article titled “Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for the US,” but there it is, right there on an inside page of Sept. 10’s Washington Post. It is the 64-dollar question — whether or not there is evidence that Iran has resumed work on the weapons part of its nuclear program, since the startling judgment of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007 that it had stopped. The Post’s Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus quote Fingar as saying there is no evidence that Iran has resumed the weapons work.


Warehousing a ’Surplus People’
Jeff Halper, Palestine Chronicle 9/10/2008
      So rapid is the pace of systemic change in that indivisible entity known as Palestine/Israel that it almost defies our ability to keep up with it. The deliberate and systematic campaign of driving Palestinians out of the country in 1948 was quickly forgotten, the plight of more than 700,000 refugees becoming an invisible "non-issue." Instead a plucky, European, "socialist" Israel became the darling of even the radical left, and for many years after 1967 Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza also remained a non-issue. Even the mention of the word "occupation," not to mention "Palestinians," would get you labeled an anti-Semite in a wink of the eye, especially given the identity of Palestinians with terrorism in the 1970s and early ’80s. Only with the outbreak of the first Intifada in late 1987 did the situation of the! Palestinians under Israeli rule show upon the radar of public consciousness, in Israel as elsewhere, becoming a full-fledged and official "issue" with the opening of the Madrid and Oslo peace talks in the early 1990s. Still, Israeli ruled the all-important realm of PR. Once Arafat refused Ehud Barak’s "generous offer" - a mythical proposal which put a positive spin on a blatant attempt to impose an apartheid regime of "cantons" on the Palestinians - the campaign to re-demonize Arafat and his people proved a relatively simple exercise. Sharon’s imprisoning the Palestinian president in a dark room of his demolished headquarters, eliminating him politically, and I believe, physically, raised virtually no major opposition or even criticism in the international community.

The Palestinian Horror Story

Sonja Karkar – Melbourne, Australia, Palestine Chronicle 9/10/2008
      ’I was the man paraded blindfolded and handcuffed.’
     Last night as I lay in bed wishing for sleep, I thought I saw a spider scurry across the moonlit ceiling. I closed my eyes only to have uninvited thoughts intrude in that drifting space between wakefulness and slumber.Images floated by. There in that nether world, shimmering threads criss-crossed the darkness of the unknown luring me to come closer until I saw the faces of millions caught in a gigantic, glistening spider’s web. The faces were my own.
     I was the girl screaming on a blood-stained beach strewn with the body parts of her family.I was the boy huddled against his father as the bullets sprayed around them.I was the woman faint with labour pains at the checkpoint willing her unborn child to stay in the womb a few more hours.I was the man paraded blindfolded and handcuffed, tortured and jailed for resisting the occupation of his people. I was the family of thousands clutching the memories of lifetimes as the bulldozers tore down the walls of their homes. I was the generations, terrorised and driven from their land and villages in one of the cruellest acts of inhumanity perpetrated by one people against another.I was Palestinian caught in a web of deceit, despised and shunned by a world blinded by Biblical myths and twenty-first century spin.

Prisoner Release Yet another Propaganda Tactic

Akram Salhab, MIFTAH 9/11/2008
      As the bus of 199 prisoners (a number oddly short of 200) pulled into Ramallah recently, many will have seen the images of crying mothers and waving Palestinian flags as yet another indication of Israel’s willingness to take risks for peace. Newspapers were filled with op-eds praising Israel for its bravery and courage while the usual international voices hailed it as a step in the right direction.
     Much less coverage was given to the 1,751 Palestinians who have been arrested since the last busload of prisoners was released last November. Many of these prisoners were taken from their homes in the night and held without trial for months on end. For those lucky enough to face trial, they are subject to trial by a military court, which does not meet international standards, and are often convicted on secret evidence. It is fairly obvious, given the increase in the number of prisoners and the unjust conditions in which they are held, that Israel’s latest prisoner release has little to do with a change in policy.

Playing ’make believe’

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/11/2008
      The US is pushing Abbas into another dead end, observes Despite official denial, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel are formulating a "shelf agreement" which both sides will consider the basis of further negotiations to be resumed in 2009.
     According to well-informed sources at the Muqataa, the headquarters of PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Israel and the PA have come to the conclusion that a real breakthrough in the current negotiations is highly unlikely this year.
     Hence, efforts will be concentrated on reaching an interim agreement or a "shelf agreement" that would keep the process going and enable both sides to claim that the peace talks didn’t fail.
     Coincidentally, this is what the Bush administration is demanding, at least privately, in order to save the process from the danger of complete collapse.
     In truth, the Israeli-Palestinian talks, and despite the "nearness of a breakthrough", have utterly failed to tackle the main contentious issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and Jewish colonies in the West Bank.

A New Palestinian Initiative That’s Hard to Read

Stuart Littlewood – London, Palestine Chronicle 9/10/2008
      I have just stumbled across an important-looking report entitled ’Regaining the Initiative - Palestinian Strategic Options to End Israeli Occupation’ by the Palestine Strategy Group. It is dated August 2008, but I don’t recall any fanfare to launch it.
     Were we actually meant to discover it? The only mention I’ve seen was buried deep within the text of an excellent article, ’Coexistence with Occupation Not an Option’ by Sam Behour, recently posted on the Palestine Chronicle website.
     Sam Behour is one of 45 politicians, academics, business people and others who participated in the study. He says the document "reflects an alternative to an official but impotent Palestinian discourse that will very shortly, in the judgment of most Palestinians, run head-on into a brick wall."
     The report is 52 pages long, maintains that Israel’s strategic calculations are wrong and sets out three strategic tasks for Palestinians if they are to bring the present sterile ’peace’ negotiations to an end and re-focus efforts towards achieving the Palestinian dream.

Still struggling

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/11/2008
      Normally, the holy month of Ramadan, which in most Muslim countries began on 1 September, is a joyful season of charity, prayers and especially exquisite meals at the end of each day. However, for the majority of Palestinian families, hit hard by rampant unemployment and worsening poverty, this year’s Ramadan represents a real challenge to their meagre budgets. Moreover, the enduring rift between Fatah and Hamas, which has become particularly ugly manifestations, is also casting a dark shadow on Palestine.
     Many had hoped the advent of Ramadan would prompt the rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza to start over, as it were, and to free the hundreds of political prisoners each side is holding. However, far from this, the two parties’ security apparatuses, and especially Fatah’s, continued to round up alleged suspects by the dozens, in many cases subjecting them to physical and psychological mistreatment. The politically-motivated detentions, coupled with the worse plight of more than 10,000 Palestinian families whose sons and relatives are languishing in Israeli jails and detention centres, are undoubtedly leaving a depressing mark, especially during Iftar time, when families get together for the sunset meal to break the day’s fast.

Palestinians in crisis: the Arab solution

Samir Ghattas, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/11/2008
      Arab mediation of internal Palestinian strife need not end up a circus if planned and executed well and backed by collective will.
     It is the regretful opinion of many that the internal Palestinian situation has hit a nadir unprecedented in the history of the Palestinian cause. Compounding their distress is that the Palestinian factions, themselves, are largely responsible for this new calamity that has afflicted the Palestinian people.
     A Palestinian stands at Jerusalem’s Old City Damascus gate ’In spite of the pessimism surrounding the Cairo-sponsored Palestinian dialogue, there remains a glimmer of hope of imposing an Arab solution that would supersede other proposed solutions and be binding on all sides’ The deepening internal fissure has gravely obstructed the Palestinian national project. To make matters worse, influential forces in the Palestinian factions have deliberately sabotaged all attempts to mend the rift that followed bloody internecine fighting and to restore a minimal level of national unity. Indeed, for reasons of their own, some of these factions or portions of these factions appear determined to entrench and perpetuate the current separation between Gaza and the West Bank and to hamper any initiative aspiring to realise inter- Palestinian reconciliation.

Growing Up Occupied in Gaza

Ahmad Abed, MIFTAH 9/11/2008
      It was a very sudden moment when I realized that I was no longer a child. Occupation, intifada, Israel, enemy, Zionists, curfew, revolution, all these words were repeatedly spoken everywhere and I was very confused trying to understand what they all meant. No place to play or to meet my friends, no freedom. I could no longer go to the fields to pick oranges and grapes and have barbecues with my family and our friends’ families and I was forbidden from going to the sea after 7pm. It was a long list of restrictions that killed my childhood in one moment. Coping with all these dramatic and sudden changes was never easy. When someone misses a dear friend or a loved one it takes him or her a long time to recover, but when one loses one’s childhood suddenly and without notice, one can never recover.
     "The intifada started, we have to sacrifice to get back our stolen freedom and end occupation," my father told me. I was eight years old, the days became too long and the nights were very heavy and even longer. I felt that there would be no mornings. I was terrified, anxious and expecting the occupation to come at any time to raid and destroy our beautiful house, like they had already done to our neighbors when they arrested the father and his oldest son. I was too scared to look from my window to see how close they were. I learned to resist my curiosity as a child. I learned also to cope with the new safety regulations and to stay in my little room, in our house, in our city, or in other words in my cell in the big prison that is Gaza.

Round two in Gaza

International Crisis Group - ICG, ReliefWeb 9/11/2008
      Step by methodical step, Hamas is consolidating its control over the Gaza Strip. The latest development followed a 25 July explosion that killed five of the movement’s military leaders in addition to a young girl. In response, the Islamist movement mounted a broad campaign during which it overran the Hillis family, one of Gaza’s most powerful and which includes prominent Fatah leaders; arrested hundreds of political activists; and raided more than 200 organisations and offices. The campaign largely wiped out the remains of the Palestinian Authority’s security services in Gaza, brought families and smaller political factions to heel, further encroached on civil society and crippled Fatah’s already limited political and military capacities to mobilise. In Arab capitals, there is continued talk of Palestinian reconciliation. In the U.S., there is discussion of a possible peace agreement between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. On the ground, in both Gaza and the West Bank, events are taking a decisively different turn.
     Since Hamas’s June 2007 takeover of Gaza, the U.S., Israel, several Arab states and elements within the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have been counting on a strategy of weakening Hamas by isolating Gaza. That approach lies in tatters. The Islamist movement has scored a series of significant tactical victories. Internally, it has improved security and marginalised political challengers. It has reshaped the bureaucracy and pushed out those still loyal to the Ramallah-based government. Externally, it concluded a ceasefire with Israel, which is shaky but still holding. Hamas is developing its ties with outside actors, most recently Jordan.

Smuggled lanterns

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 9/11/2008
      Seated patiently behind his desk, with a line of women applicants spilling out of his office into the hallway, Tareq Qandil, 35, is taking down names and handing out food. He heads a branch of the Islamic Rectitude Society in Al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, and his society is giving away thousands of food parcels to poor families in an area where at least 20,000 people struggle to survive.
     Each family gets a cash handout and several food parcels during the month of Ramadan. But this year the society is working harder than usual. "Because more families have fallen under the line of poverty due to the siege, we will double the number of parcels we distribute. Many people are unemployed and thus depend on charity for survival," Qandil told Al-Ahram Weekly.
     Societies similar to Qandil’s have sprouted around Gaza to supplement the efforts of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is also helping thousands of indigent families. Meanwhile, the stranded government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is also doing what it can. Social Affairs Minister in the Hamas government Ahmed Al-Kurd says his ministry is providing financial assistance to over 20,000 families in Gaza.