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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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2 December, 2008

Israel kills two civilians in Gaza air strike - medics
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/3/2008
GAZA CITY: Two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinian medics said. The attack, which apparently targeted Palestinian activists, was carried out in the Rafah area, according to the sources. Witnesses of the air strike said that the two dead were civilians, one of whom was 15. The Israeli military confirmed it carried out an air strike in the Rafah area against "a group that had just fired a mortar round. " Palestinian militants fired a total of eight mortar rounds and two rockets at southern Israel on Tuesday, causing no casualties, a spokesman said. Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad warned Tuesday that civil servants in Gaza would not receive their monthly salaries unless Israel authorizes cash transfers to the besieged territory. "The Palestinian authorities will pay out the salaries of civil servants in the West. . .

Settlers rampage through West Bank villages, vandalize mosques
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli settlers rampaged through five villages in the northern West Bank early on Tuesday, vandalizing mosques, attacking farms and harassing residents. In the villages of Yatma, Qabalan and As-Sawiya, south of Nablus, settlers slashed the tires of more than 20 cars and also set fire to thousands of shekels’ worth of straw bales, used as animal feed. In As-Sawiya, settlers wrote slogans insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammad on the walls of a local mosque. Hikmat Abu Ras, a resident of As-Sawiya who works for the Palestinian Ministry of Planning, said that when residents awoke they witnessed the settlers already fleeing the village. He said settlers painted a star of David and slogans such as “Death to Arabs” on the village mosque. He said that residents of the village, particularly students, were harassed by settlers while they waited for transportation in the morning on the road between Nablus and Ramallah.

Rights org: Gaza flour stocks sufficent for less than three more days
Press release, PCHR, Electronic Intifada 12/2/2008
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned about the continuing closure of border crossings into the Gaza Strip, which have now been sealed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for 27 consecutive days. This current and unprecedented closure of Gaza is inflicting severe collective punishment on the entire civilian population, in total violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. PCHR demands the international community intervene to end these latest acts of collective punishment being imposed on Palestinian civilians by Israel. The 1. 6 million civilians of the Gaza Strip are being denied all their rights to freedom of movement, and are confined inside Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating amidst chronic fuel shortages, and shortages of goods, including essential food items.

Israeli forces extra-judicially kill pardoned Palestinian
International Solidarity Movement 12/2/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - At approximately 9:30pm on Monday 1st December, Israeli Special Forces entered Balata refugee camp in Nablus and arrested 28 year old Mohammad Kamal Abu Thraa - an ex-freedom fighter who had been granted amnesty by Israeli authorities in exchange for serving time in Palestinian prison. Two hours later he was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds. Friends and residents of Balata report that Mohammad had been eating dinner with his family before he received a phone call from Palestinian police advising him to wait in front of a convenience store on Al Aqsa street, for a police car to pick him up and take him to the police station to sleep for the night. This was a routine call, as Mohammad had been sleeping in a Nablus police station every night for the past year, forsaking armed struggle in order to take advantage of an amnesty scheme organised between Palestinian and Israeli authorities.

NATO okays pact to boost security, political ties with Israel
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
NATO has authorized a pact to strengthen and expand Israel’s security and political relations with the states in the military alliance. The authorization of the Individual Cooperation Program (ICP) came ahead of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s meeting with her counterparts in NATO member states. The ICP incorporates a number of areas in which full cooperation between Israel and NATO will be established, including the fight against terror. The agreement allows for an exchange of intelligence information and security expertise on different subjects, an increase in the number of joint Israel-NATO military exercises and further cooperation in the fight against nuclear proliferation. It also paves the way for an improvement of collaboration in the fields of rearmament and logistics and Israel’s electronic link to the NATO system.

PA plans to purge West Bank councils controlled by Hamas
Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
The Palestinian Authority is planning to replace all the Hamas-controlled municipalities and village councils in the West Bank in the coming weeks, PA officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. They said the decision was aimed at undermining Hamas’s influence in the West Bank and paving the way for the extension of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office after it ends on January 9. Hamas has made it clear that it won’t recognize Abbas’s status as the elected president of the PA after that date. The PA officials expressed fear that Hamas would try to stir unrest in the West Bank to spoil Abbas’s plan to unilaterally extend his term. Over the past few weeks, Abbas’s security forces have been waging a fierce campaign against Hamas members and supporters in the West Bank. The drive is designed to foil any plan by Hamas to extend its control to. . .

’Hebron struggle is justified, we won’t restrain our youths’
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 12/3/2008
Settler leader Daniela Weiss refuses to denounce violence surrounding disputed house, claims tensions would abate if state accepts Jewish ownership of property. Until then, she says, ’We’re not Christians, we won’t turn the other cheek. ’ As of tonight Border Guard troops will deploy in the area as part of recalibrated effort to curtail riots - Tensions at the epicenter of the Jewish-Arab conflict in Hebron further intensified on Tuesday as dozens were wounded in the progressively violent clashes. A 15-year-old Jewish youth was struck in the head with a large rock and is currently hospitalized in stable but serious condition at Hadassah Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. But despite defense officials’ increasingly vocal criticism of the settler leadership for the free reign given to the rioting youths - one of its most prominent figures told Ynet there would be no attempt to subdue the teenagers in Hebron.

IDF declares Hebron `house of contention` a closed military zone
Amos Harel Nadav Shragai and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
The area surrounding what has been dubbed the House of Contention, which the settlers are calling the House of Peace, was declared a closed military zone Tuesday. Border Police took control of the area Tuesday night and four Border Police companies were deployed in Hebron. The IDF banned Jews from entering Palestinian neighborhoods in the area after settlers announced plans to march toward Palestinian villages to protest the evacuation, which was mandated by a recent High Court of Justice ruling that the house must be evacuated. Settlers said they expect the evacuation to take place within the next two days. The army blames the settlers for instigating clashes with Palestinians, which led to the injury of 18 Israeli security personnel and settlers Tuesday, including a 15-year-old boy whose skull was fractured after he was hit in the head by a rock.

Israeli forces stand by as ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers go on rampage in Hebron
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/3/2008
HEBRON, Occupied West Bank: At least 13 Palestinians and one Israeli were wounded on Tuesday as ultra-nationalist Israelis went on the rampage in the Occupied West Bank city of Hebron, clashing with residents and Israeli security forces. The Israeli rioting broke out as rumors spread that security forces were set to evict 100 Jewish settlers from an occupied house the Israeli high court has ordered evacuated. Young settlers, backed by right-wing supporters, hurled rocks for several hours at Palestinian homes and police vehicles. Police at one point fired teargas grenades at the protesters, but took no further measures - consistently used against Palestinian activists - to stop the rioting. Human-rights groups have long denounced Israel’s handling of settler violence with kid gloves in comparison to the brutal tactics employed while putting down even peaceful Palestinian protests.

Jewish teen seriously injured by stone in Hebron
Ynet reporters, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Palestinians hurl large rocks at right-wing activists near disputed West Bank house, seriously wounding 15-year-old boy; 17 other rightists hurt in clashes. Palestinians say 20 people injured by settlers’ stones since Monday night - Dozens injured in day of violence in Hebron:A 15-year-old boy was seriously wounded Tuesday afternoon near the disputed house in the West Bank city of Hebron, after being hit by a large rock hurled by Palestinians. The boy, who suffered a fracture in the skull, was evacuated by a Magen David Adom rescue force to the trauma unit at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem and was rushed into the operating room. Zaki Yahav, an MDA paramedic dispatched to the area, said that the rock which hit the teen’s head could have caused fatal damage. MDA Jerusalem Spokesman Danny Rothenberg said that 18 people had been treated by rescue crews in Hebron since the morning hours.

Palestinians assess damage as settlers rampage throughout northern West Bank
International Solidarity Movement 12/2/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - On the evening of December 1st and the morning of December 2nd, hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian homes and cars, burnt Palestinian property, desecrated mosques, intimidated Palestinian residents while insulting Islam. At approximately, 8pm, over 100 settlers attacked the town of Burin, shooting and throwing rocks at Palestinian houses. One house, the home of Khalib Kasam, next to Road 60, was surrounded by settlers who attacked the house, damaging solar panels, while Israeli soldiers stood by on the street, failing to intervene. Israeli soldiers instead, attacked Palestinian residents who gathered behind the besieged house, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the unarmed villagers. The soldiers momentarily detained one settler, before releasing him. Shortly after, settlers amassed in front of Huwarra checkpoint, blocking the main passageway to and from Nablus.

Armed Israeli settlers attack Palestinians, insult Islam
International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
Scores of armed Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank cities of Nablus and Ramallah, on Tuesday, attacked Palestinian-owned houses and properties in the Yetma, Qeblan and Assawiya villages. Witnesses said that the armed Israeli settlers attacked the Yetma and Qeblan villages, attacking properties and damaging more than 20 cars, as well as many livestock fodders. In the Assawiya village in southern Nablus, the settlers drew anti-Islam slogans on the viollage’s walls. Palestinian witness, Hekmat Abu Ras, told media outlets that the villagers woke up early today to find out that the armed settlers were attacking their village and that anti-Muslim slogans, including insults to the prophet Mohammad, drawn on the village’s mosque. Abu Ras confirmed that this village has been repeatedly attacked by the armed settlers, as the village is surrounded by three large illegal settlements of Eliei, Rachel and Chilo.

PA seizes Ma’an correspondent, cameraman in Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces disguised as civilians detained two Ma’an journalists in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on Tuesday. Ma’an’s Tulkarem correspondent, Sami As-Sa’i, and cameraman, Muayyad Al-Ashqar, were assaulted on Tuesday by PA security forces before they were taken to a police station. Forces confiscated Al-Ashqar’s camera, as well. The two Ma’an employees were covering a sit-in demonstration organized by Tulkarem lawyers in front of the city’s Magistrate Court building in protest of the PA’s apparently arbitrary arrest of lawyer Muhammad Shadid. Shadid was arrested following orders by a judge within the magistrate after a heated argument broke out between the judge and lawyer over the delay of a suit that Shadid was representing. After Ma’an contacted the Information Ministry in Tulkarem on Tuesday, Chief of. . .

IDF: Hebron violence shames us as Jews
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Senior military officer launches harshly-worded assault on behavior of right-wing extremists in case of disputed West Bank house slated for eviction. Meanwhile army decides to deploy special Border Guard force to isolate, secure area - "The events in Hebron are riots, plain and simple. The damage caused to the Muslim graveyard, and the graffiti on the walls of mosques throughout Judea and Samaria - they shame and disgrace us as Jews," a senior IDF officer belonging to the army’s Central Command told Ynet on Tuesday evening following a particularly violent day in Hebron. Dozens of right-wing activists and Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, and it was decided that a special Border Guard force will be deployed to secure area of the disputed house in the city slated for eviction. " I don’t understand how the preparatory schools and yeshivas are willing. . .

Palestinians, Israeli captain injured during settler attack in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Several Palestinians and an Israeli captain were injured when settlers attacked Palestinian houses near a controversial settler-occupied building in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday night. The sources added that dozens of settlers hurled rocks and beat residents with clubs. An Israeli captain was beaten when soldiers attempted to intervene. An employee of the Palestinian Red Crescent said that their ambulances transported three injured children to Hebron Public Hospital. The children were identified as 16-year-old Sa’ed Nasser Al-Ja’bari, his 13-year-old brother Makram Al-Ja’bari and 10-year-old Adli Suleiman Al-Ja’bari. Medics said the children had been bruised all over their bodies. Local sources said the attack took place near the Ar-Rajabi family house, also known as the “House of Contention” in the Ar-Ras neighborhood of Hebron.

Hamas: The PA-Israeli coordination emboldened the settlers against WB people
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Tuesday stated that the serious security coordination between the PA and Israel in the West Bank cities especially in Nablus and Al-Khalil gave the Israeli settlers the opportunity to unleash and escalate their wild assaults on the Palestinian people there. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that if it was not for the security coordination, the withdrawal of resistance weapons and the arrest of resistance fighters, the Israeli settlers would not dare to go on the rampage in the West Bank because the Palestinian resistance had worked on protecting the Palestinians over the last period. Barhoum held PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his security apparatuses fully responsible for the assaults committed by the Israeli settlers on the West Bank people after they became without weapons to defend themselves.

Hundreds of extremist Jewish settlers attack Palestinian homes in al-Khalil
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
Little Jewish settlers being trained on the use of automatic machine guns AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Hundreds of extremist Jewish settlers, Monday night, attacked Palestinian homes in the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil causing the injury of at 35 Palestinian residents, mostly children according to local sources, and three journalists. The Palestinian homes attacked are situated in the Ja’bari and Wadi al-Nasara neighbourhoods in the old quarters of al-Khalil. One of the local residents told PIC reporter over the phone that the few Palestinian families who still live in the old quarters of al-Khalil have, for decades, been harassed by the extremist settlers from near by Keryat Arba’ to force them to leave, but he said that those Palestinian families are determined to stay in their homes even if it costs them their lives.

Bethlehem communion wine stopped at checkpoint
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli soldiers at the Hebron checkpoint are refusing entry to trucks carrying Bethlehem Cremsian holy altar wine and communion wine to be shipped domestically and internationally for Christmas religious ceremonies. In justifying the embargo, which has been going on for the last five weeks, Israeli soldiers said the wine constitutes “a security risk. ”The wine, made by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic religious order, for the past 125 years at the Cremisan winery in a suburb of Bethlehem, is certified for Mass celebrations by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Salesians have been producing wines for the past 125 years as a means of supporting their pastoral and educational work among the poor of Bethlehem. Because the wine is shipped from the Israeli port of Haifa, the sudden embargo has made it impossible for the wine to be exported to Europe.

Lawyer: Wall ruling could cut off 20,000 Jerusalem residents
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – An Israeli court approved a re-routing of the Israeli separation wall on 25 November such that the barrier will isolate areas of Shu’fat, the Salam neighborhood, Anata and Ras Khamis from the rest of East Jerusalem. A special committee appointed by the Israeli government to take control of the specified lands began construction plans immediately after the decision was made, according to an Israeli lawyer. The separation wall will deprive more than 20,000 Jerusalem citizens of their rights and could eventually lead to the withdrawal of their Israeli ID cards as part of Israel’s policy to limit the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem, the lawyer added. The ruling was nothing more than an “arbitrary political decision,” Daniel Zeidman, the Israeli lawyer appointed by Palestinian residents and local councils in the separated areas, told a Ma’an.

Israeli airstrike kills two Palestinian teenagers in southern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Two Palestinian teenagers were killed and four others were injured in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza on Tuesday, according to Palestinian medical sources. Israeli helicopters reportedly launched an attack on the road to the disused Yasser Arafat Airport east of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. According to Mu’awiya Hassanein, the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services within the Palestinian Health Ministry, one of the wounded Palestinians is in critical condition at the European Hospital in the Gaza city of Khan Younis. Medics said the two dead teenagers arrived "torn to pieces" at Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital, in the city of Rafah. Hassanein identified the victims as 15-year-old Ramzi Ad-Duheini and 17-year-old Ahmad Hammad. Earlier, Israeli military vehicles, including tanks and bulldozers, entered the airport area 200 meters from the border with Israel.

2 Qassams fall in western Negev
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Rockets fall near towns in Shaar HaNegev, Eshkol Regional Councils; earlier IAF attack in Gaza kills two gunmen responsible for mortar shell fire -Palestinian gunmen fired two Qassam rockets from Gaza on Tuesday. One rocket landed near a town in Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, and the other fell in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported. The fire on the Negev was renewed two hours after the Air Force (IAF) killed two terrorists responsible for firing mortar shells at Israel from an area east of Rafah. Four other gunmen were injured in the strike. The Israel Defense Forces reported that IAF jets opened fire at the mortar launching cell and identified a hit. News agencies reported that the Palestinians were hurt in an area used by gunmen to fire mortars at Israel. Sources in Gaza reported that the Palestinians killed were two brothers,. . .

Two teens killed as Israeli warplanes attack Rafah
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
Palestinian medical sources confirmed that two Palestinian teenage boys were killed and four others wounded as Israeli warplanes attacked the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. The sources confirmed that Ramzi Aldehaini,15, and Ahmad Hammad, 17, were dead on arrival at the Gaza-European hospital in southern Gaza. The sources added that four other residents were wounded, including one critically, in the attack. Witnesses said that the Israeli warplanes raided the eastern parts of Rafah, causing the said causalities. Witnesses added that the slain boys were stuck outside of their houses when the warplanes raided the area. Israeli media sources reported that the Israeli army raided a group of Palestinain militants, who were alledgedly trying to fire homemade shells into nearby Israeli border areas. A number of Israeli armored vehicles and tanks, earlier in the day, reportedly swept the. . .

2 Palestinians dead in IDF strike in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Air Force attacks mortar shell launching cell; two teen brothers said to be killed, four injured - The Israel Air Force killed two Palestinian gunmen who fired mortar shells at the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday afternoon. Four other men were injured in the strike, which took place east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. The Israel Defense Forces reported that IAF jets opened fire at the mortar launching cell and identified a hit. News agencies reported that the Palestinians were hurt in an area used by gunmen to fire mortars at Israel. Sources in Gaza reported that the Palestinians killed were two brothers, aged 15 and 17, from the village of Shuka near Rafah, and that three of the injured were youths. "The Palestinians have the right to retaliate this new Zionist crime," a spokesman for one of the Palestinian organizations said.

OPT: Israeli strike kills 2 in Gaza after mortars fired
Reuters Foundation, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
GAZA, Dec 2 (Reuters) - An Israeli air strike killed two Palestinian youths on Tuesday in the southern Gaza Strip, where mortar bombs were earlier launched at Israel, local residents and hospital officials said. The Israeli military confirmed an air strike had taken place on the town of Rafah, in which two other people were wounded. It said militants had fired six mortar bombs across the border. Rafah residents and hospital officials said the two Palestinians killed were civilians who were related. One was aged 15 and the second was 17. The Hamas Islamist faction that controls the Gaza Strip said one of its members was wounded in the strike. Militants have fired dozens of rockets and mortar bombs at Israel in the past three weeks after Israeli raids that killed about a dozen gunmen. The violence has strained a ceasefire which was agreed last June.

Israeli air raid kills two in Gaza
Al Jazeera 12/2/2008
An Israeli air strike has killed two Palestinians and injured four others in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses and hospital officials have said. The Israeli army confirmed the air strike in the town of Rafah, and said Palestinian fighters had launched six mortar bombs across the border. Relatives said both the Palestinians killed were civilians and one was aged 15. Fighters have fired dozens of rockets and mortar bombs at Israel in the past three weeks after Israeli raids killed about a dozen gunmen. Saying it was responding to the rocket attacks, Israel has tightened its closure of Gaza borders, choking off some food supplies to the territory and raising international concern. The violence has strained a ceasefire in place since June, which is due to run out later this month.

Two Palestinian boys killed in IOF shelling
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Two Palestinian brothers were killed on Tuesday in an Israeli occupation forces’ air raid that targeted a group of Palestinians near the Gaza international airport east of Rafah city south of the Gaza Strip. Medical sources told PIC reporter that the bodies of the two boys Ramzi, 15, and Khaled Al-Duhaini, 17, were badly mutilated in the shelling. Witnesses said that the IOF strike targeted a group of people in the area, and added that a number of other citizens were wounded in the bombardment. They added that the raid followed an IOF incursion in the same area that escorted bulldozers, which went on the rampage in citizens’ lands. The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, announced that it fired eight mortar shells at the advancing troops.

2 Palestinians killed in IAF Gaza strike
Yaakov Katz And Ap, Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
Two Palestinians were killed in an IAF strike in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. According to the IDF, it attacked a group of terror operatives who had fired mortar shells attroops from the area. However, Palestinian medical officials said they had identified the dead as civilians - a pair of teenage brothers who were struck outside their house. The identities of four people wounded were not immediately known. Also Tuesday, the rocket fire on the western Negev continued, as Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip fired two Kassam rockets on Tuesday evening. One of the rockets landed in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, and the other in an open area in the Eskhol region. No casualties or damage were report in the attacks.

Mortar shell fired from Gaza; Israeli blockade enters 27th day
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The An-Nasser Brigades said they shelled an Israeli military post near the north of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile Israeli authorities ordered the Gaza Strip’s borders sealed for the 27th day in a row. Israeli sources reported that a mortar shell landed in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council, east of the Strip, causing no damage. The shelling came in retaliation for “ongoing Israeli atrocities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” said the An-Nasser Brigades, which is the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. [end]

Gazan fighter injured while trying to fire homemade projectile
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian fighter was moderately injured on Tuesday as he was taking part with a group of activists in an attempt to launch a homemade projectile toward Israeli towns east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Medical sources told Ma’an that the injured fighter was evacuated to a hospital in Kahn Younis after "a thunderous explosion" was heard in the city, eventually determined to be the launch of a homemade projectile. [end]

Israeli forces raze parts of Rafah in limited incursion
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A number of Israeli military vehicles were witnessed entering the Gaza Strip east of Rafah on Tuesday, searching the area and razing parts of its Westernmost border, local residents told Ma’an. Meanwhile, the Al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for launching five mortar shells at the military vehicles, forcing them to turn back to the Western Negev. The Al-Qassam Brigades is the militant wing of the Hamas movement. [end]

PFLP member sentenced to one life-term and 5 years for the assassination of Zeevi
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
Israeli central Court in Jerusalem sentenced on Monday the head of the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahed Ghalama, for one life-term and additional five years for the assassination of the then-Israeli Tourism Minister, Rahba’am Zeevi, the Arabs48 news website reported. The court claimed that Ghlama supervised the cell that assassinated Zeevi in 2001 in retaliation to the assassination of the PFLP secretary-general Abu Ali Mustafa. Mustafa was assassinated by the Israeli air force while he was at his office in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, several months before Zeevi was killed. Ghalama, 40, is from Beit Forik village, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. He was initially imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority at the Jericho Prison in 2002. The Israeli army broke into the prison, which was guarded by European guards who fled the scene shortly before the army attacked it.

OPT: Siege - International protests, Israeli raid
Missionary International Service News Agency - MISNA, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
At least two Palestinians, aged 17 and 15 years, were killed and others wounded after an Israeli air force attack near Rafah, in southern Gaza. Local medical sources said that the two victims were both civilians. The aerial attack was preceded by an incursion of tanks in the airport area, engaging in a battle with Armed Palestinians who tried to slow the advance of the armored vehicles in the area. Meanwhile, the Association of International Aid Agencies (AIDA), today, a conglomerate of NGO’s operating in the territory, has denounced in a communiqué "the unprecedented refusal to allow any humanitarian aid in Gaza". The document adds that "in the past three weeks, the situation in Gaza has deteriorated in a significant manner" and at least 12 NGO’s have been refused access to Gaza: "NGO’s have been forbidden from taking basic goods such as diapers, essential medicines and construction material,. . .

Palestine Today 120208
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 00s || 2. 74 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org for Tuesday December 02 2008 As Palestinian factions in Gaza are set to discuss the fate of ceasefire with Israel, Israeli warplanes attacked Rafah, killing two teen boys. Meanwhile, as the attacked by armed Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank are stepped up, Israeli military killed a fighter in Nablus. These news and more are coming up. Stay tuned. Israeli warplanes carried out today an air strike against southern Gaza, killing two teen boys and wounding four others. The air strike is the first of its type in three weeks as Israel still closes Gaza’s border crossings under the pretext of homemade shells fire against Israel.

Palestinians hurl rocks at Israeli cars near Ramallah, one lightly wounded
Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
An Israeli man was lightly wounded on Tuesday night after his Palestinians hurled rocks at cars near Ramallah. The man received medical treatment at the site. [end]

Israeli military kills a Palestinian fighter in Nablus
International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
On Tuesday, Israeli military shot and killeda Palestinian resistance fighter from the West Bank city of Nablus after a contingent of the Israeli army chased the man through the city streets. [end]

Hamas: we’ll hold meetings with factions to crystallize a position on the calm
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement reported that it would embark on holding consultations with Palestinian factions to crystallize a position on the extension of the truce with Israel and to assess the previous stage in light of the serious Israeli violations of the calm. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said in an exclusive statement to the PIC that his Movement will hold unilateral and bilateral meetings with different factions to get suggestions and ideas about the truce before coming up with one unified position towards it. Taha underlined that Israel’s reluctance to open the crossings and its resumption of military aggression will be a centerpiece of discussions about the truce which will be conducted academically and professionally for the higher interest of the Palestinian people. The truce was sharply violated by Israel when its troops carried out incursions, aerial attacks and. . .

Hamas holds talks with Gaza factions regarding future of truce
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas will begin holding consultations with other Palestinian factions on Tuesday regarding a fragile truce agreement with Israel that is due to expire on 19 December. The truce agreement, which went into effect in June, called for Israel and Palestinian groups to halt military action in Gaza, along with the easing of Israel’s blockade of the territory, and talks on the opening of the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing. The ceasefire has been eroded by nearly a month of cross border violence that began with a deadly Israeli incursion on 4 November. Israel has also tightened the blockade, blocking crucial deliveries of food, fuel, medicine and other goods. The talks will begin with a bilateral meeting between Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Meetings with other groups will continue until the Eid Al-Adha holiday, which begins on 8 December.

Factional meetings in Gaza, discussing fate of ceasefire
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
On Tuesday the ruling Hamas party in Gaza will begin a series of meetings with representatives of the various armed factions in Gaza to discuss the fate of the ceasefire deal with Israel , which ends on December 19. Media sources reported that Hamas will be meeting first with the Islamic Jihad group, followed by a series of similar meetings with other factions, prior to the holiday of the Muslim Eid of Aladha, on December 8. Sources close to Hamas said that the expected meetings will be discussing new options , to either keep the current ceasefire with Israel or end it. According to Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza, Ayman Taha, Hamas will not impose a specific stance on the factions involved and that all options are open to discussion. On June 19, Egyptian mediators forged a ceasefire deal between Israel and Gaza-based resistance factions for a period of six months.

Al-Qassam: Israel has to fulfill our demands or forget about Shalit
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, reaffirmed that it would never relinquish its demands regarding the prisoner swap deal, pointing out that Israel has to comply with the demands or forget about its captive soldier Gilad Shalit. "We will not add to what we had said earlier about the conditions and parameters to conclude the deal and the equation is very simple and does not need analysis. Answer our conditions fully or forget Shalit, Abu Obeida, the spokesman for the Brigades, said Monday in a statement posted on Al-Qassam website. Regarding statements made by Israeli leaders that those who were kidnapped after the capture of Shalit would be released, Abu Obeida attributed such statements to internal conflicts between Israeli leaders who are trying to collect more supporters for personal and partisan reasons.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad deny receiving Israeli threat message via Qatar
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Movements of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Monday categorically denied the receipt of an Israeli threat message through Qatar warning them that the continued firing of rockets on Israeli settlements would expose the Gaza Strip to a large-scale military operation. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that his Movement did not receive such a message, adding that the Israeli occupation always thinks and plans to attack Gaza and eliminate the resistance. Regarding the truce, Barhoum stated that any decision related to the calm should be taken unanimously by all factions involved. For his part, Sheikh Nafid Azzam, a prominent Islamic Jihad leader, also denied the news, pointing out that the meeting which his Movement held with Hamas discussed many issues including the truce with the Israeli occupation.

Ship hired by Jordan Islamists to sail to Gaza December 20
DPA, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
Gazan Muslims have been prevented from performing their obligatory pilgrimage, or Hajj, duties due to the ongoing blockade of Gaza and infighting between Hamas and Fatah, the two rival Palestinian factions. Saeed urged Egypt to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in order to allow thousands of pilgrims to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj rituals at the Grand Mosque of Mecca, due to begin on Saturday. The Brotherhood leader also unveiled a series of activities and demonstrations to be launched throughout the country in the run-up to the ship’s sailing on December 20. On Monday Israeli authorities turned back a Libyan ship carrying humanitarian aid that had been bound for Gaza. Earlier this year several vessels with foreign pro-Palestinian activists on board.

Gaza Border Crossings are closed for 27th consecutive day
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 12/2/2008
PCHR Demands International Community Intervenes to end Israeli Collective Punishment of Civilian Population of Gaza - The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned about the continuing closure of border crossings into the Gaza Strip, which have now been sealed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for 27 consecutive days. This current and unprecedented closure of Gaza is inflicting severe collective punishment on the entire civilian population, in total violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. PCHR demands the international community intervenes to end these latest acts of collective punishment being imposed on Palestinian civilians by Israel. The 1. 6 million civilians of the Gaza Strip are being denied all their rights to freedom of movement, and are confined inside Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating

Israel Warning to Gaza Blockade-Busters
Ola Attallah – Gaza City, Palestine Chronicle 12/2/2008
The Israeli navy prevented on Monday, December 1, a Libyan aid ship from sailing into Gaza, sending a clear warning to Arabs not to try to break its long-running suffocating siege of the impoverished territory. " Israel does not want the Libyan ship to be the first episode in a series of Arab support ships to Gaza," Adnan Abu-Amer, a Palestinian analyst, told IslamOnline. net. Israeli warships earlier in the day prevented the Libyan cargo vessel Al-Marwa, laden with 3,000 tones of urgently-needed aid, from sailing into the Gaza Strip. The ship was stopped several kilometers off Gaza shores and ordered to return to the Egyptian port of El-Arish. " This is an attempt to reinforce the stifling siege imposed on Gazans," MP Jamal Khodary who heads the Anti-Siege Campaign, told IOL. Despite international criticism, Israel remains adamant on closing all commercial crossings with the densely populated Gaza Strip, home of 1. 6 million.

Khudari: Libyan ship tried to enter Gaza anew, Qatari boat in Gaza next week
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular anti siege committee, said that the Libyan ship carrying three thousand tons of medical and food material to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday tried to enter Gaza waters anew but was held back by Israeli navy boats. Khudari in a press statement said that the Libyan vessel tried to enter Gaza regional waters in the morning but the Israeli gunboats, which encircled the ship, refused to allow it access and was still jamming its radio contacts. The Arab member of the Israeli parliament, Ahmed Al-Tibi, who tried to intervene to allow the ship to unload its shipment, said that Israel was absolutely refusing to allow it to enter. He added that Israel even refused that the ship would unload its cargo in Cyprus to re-ship it to Gaza. Khudari said that the Libyan officials are adamant on reaching Gaza to extend the relief material, and lauded the Libyan step to break the siege.

OPT: Siege - Even fishing is a crime
Missionary International Service News Agency - MISNA, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
"On the deck of an Israeli naval gunship: 15 Palestinian fishermen of the Gaza Strip stripped down to their underwear, forced on their knees, heads hooded, hands tied behind their backs and chains around their ankles; this for the 50km it took to reach the first Israeli port and prison", said to MISNA the Italian human rights activist Vittorio Arrigoni, in describing the first punishment inflicted on a group of fishermen that onboard three fishing boats were blocked on November 18 off the coast of the Gaza Strip. Vittorio Arrigoni was onboard the fishing boats along with the American Darlene Wallach and Scottish Andrew Muncie, who after being detained for a few days were expelled. "I had fallen into the water hit by a taser used by an Israeli soldier. We foreigners were then brought under cover, while the Palestinian fishermen faced the worst fate: naked, chained for 50km and exposed to the freezing winds of this season.

Qatari aid ship to arrive in Gaza by week end: official
Xinhua News Agency, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
GAZA, Dec 02, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network)-- A Qatari ship, with one ton of medical aid, will arrive at Gaza Strip by the end of the week as it set sail from the Mediterranean port city of Larnaca, a Palestinian lawmaker said on Tuesday. "The ship also carries representatives of relief agencies and journalists," added Jamal al-Khodary, director of the Gaza-based popular committee against the siege. His announcement was made a day after Israel ordered a Libyan aid ship to leave Gaza territorial waters. The boat headed for the nearby Egyptian city of al-Arish with 3,000 tonnes of food and blankets on board. The Libyan voyage was the first attempt by an Arab state to defy Israeli closure of Gaza Strip that dates back to June 2007. In the past few months, European lawmakers and international activists succeeded to defy Israeli blockade and docked their small vessels in Gaza fishing port.

El Khodary: ''Al Marwa ship is still in regional waters, insists to reach Gaza''
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
Independent Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), Jamal El Khodary, stated on Tuesday that the Libyan ship (Al Marwa) is still in the regional waters after being intercepted by the Israeli Navy, and is still attempting to reach Gaza to deliver the humanitarian supplies it carries. El Khodary stated that the crisis in Gaza is escalating as the coastal region is out of medical supplies and basic goods and foods needed for daily livelihood. In an interview with Al Yawm (Today) Arabic newspaper, El Khodary said that the ship attempted once again to reach Gaza earlier on Tuesday morning but the Israeli Naval boats intercepted it. Arab member of the Knesset, Dr. Ahmad Tibi, attempted to intervene to allow the ship through, but Israel insists on blocking it. Furthermore, El Khodary said that the Libyan officials in charge of the ship insist. . .

Qatar charitable society sends shipload of relief aid to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
DOHA, (PIC)-- The Qatar charity foundation has announced that a shipload of medical relief assistance would be dispatched from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip next Friday despite the Israeli blockage of a Libyan ship carrying a similar cargo. Abdullah Al-Nima, deputy board chairman of the foundation, said in a statement in Doha that the boat would also carry a number of Qatari civil activists. "We are determined to send the ship and we will not be affected by blocking the Libyan ship or any other," he said defiantly. Israeli gunboats on Monday intercepted a Libyan vessel carrying three tons of foodstuff and medicine to Gaza and forced it to return to the Egyptian port of Arish. Nima denied reported coordination between Qatar and Israel on the path of the boat, adding, "We did not take permission from the Israeli authority and we will not sail in Israeli territorial waters".

Gaza crossings from Israel remain closed, UN reports
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
All crossings for goods going into Gaza from Israel remained closed today, with no fuel, humanitarian supplies or commercial commodities reaching the 1. 5 million inhabitants, the United Nations reported today. The Kerem Shalom crossing was last open on 27 November, the Nahal Oz fuel pipelines and Karni conveyer belt last functioned on 26 November, and the crossings at Sufa have been closed since 13 September, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported. UN officials, from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on downwards, have repeatedly called on Israel to urgently permit the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians. At the same time, Mr. Ban has reiterated his condemnation of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza against Israeli civilian targets, which Israel has cited as a reason for the closures.

Rights group demands international community lift Gaza blockade
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said on Tuesday it is gravely concerned about Israel’s continuing closure of Gaza Strip border crossings and demanded that the international community intervene to end the “collective punishment being imposed on Palestinian civilians. ”Israeli forces have sealed Gaza’s borders for 27 consecutive days, in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, the rights group maintains. “The international community is legally and morally obliged to intervene immediately to demand that the Israeli occupation forces end the current closure of the Gaza Strip and cease their continuing occupation,” the PCHR report said. In condemning all attacks on civilians, PCHR also urged armed groups within the Gaza Strip to stop firing rockets and other projectiles toward Israel.

Bashour: There are efforts to send a Lebanese relief ship to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Maan Bashour, a noted Lebanese activist and the head of the preparatory committee for the right of return forum held days ago in Syria, revealed that there are contacts underway to send a Lebanese ship loaded with food and medical aid to the Gaza Strip, describing the siege on Gaza as the blockade of enemy and friend. In a press conference held in Beirut, Bashour underlined that the continued siege on the Gaza people represents a blot on the official Arab regimes which are passive either because of their complicity or their impotence with insistence on the closure of the Rafah border crossing. The Lebanese activist hailed the good organization of the Arab international right of return forum held in Damascus as similar to the conference of Bandung held in Indonesia in 1955 which engendered the global movement of non-alignment.

PLC member: Qatari aid ship en route to Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The latest siege-breaking humanitarian aid vessel en route to Gaza is from the Persian Gulf’s Qatar, according to a Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member’s statement on Tuesday. The Qatari ship is the second Arab-sponsored attempt to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. On Monday, a Libyan aid ship en route to Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli Navy and redirected to an Egyptian port. Qatar’s Free Gaza ship will arrive by the beginning of next week, having originally set sail from Larnaca Port in Cyprus, PLC member Jamal Al-Khudari said on Tuesday. Al-Khuadri is the head of the semi-official Popular Committee Against the Siege, which is based in Gaza City. The ship is carrying medical aid and representatives of relief associations, as well as journalists, Al-Khudari added.

OPEC Fund donates $3 million to UNRWA for Gaza emergency
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 12/1/2008
The Vienna-based OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) has announced that it will donate $3 million to UNRWA to help the Agency cope with the emergency in Gaza. The announcement, made on the Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People, 28 November, said that the donation was for food aid and medicines. Welcoming the donation, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Karen Koning AbuZayd, said that it was a timely and generous gesture which would help in meeting the escalating needs of a civilian population which was under grinding pressure from the closure of Gaza. She called on other donors in the West and in the Arab world to follow OFID’s example. This donation brings to $10 million the pledges made by OFID to UNRWA. On 8 October the Commissioner-General signed in Vienna an agreement whereby OFID have pledged $5 million to build schools in the reconstructed camp of Nahr El Bared in North Lebanon.

Gaza back to the Stone Age
Norwegian People''s Aid - NPA, ReliefWeb 12/1/2008
Palestinians in the Gaza strip; the most densely populated area in the world are now deprived from the basics of living. We can say the situation is extremely difficult but this is not the case; actually no one in the world could imagine how the current situation is and the depression people here are living in; we are now very close to re-experience the living of primitives in the Stone Age. Talking about living under strict siege and deprivation from electricity, water, cooking gas, fuel, flour etc. , which are the main essential materials for surviving, is common and occupying minds of several households. Some people are short of water for several days continuously. What are we going to use for food next few days after gas or flour runs out and bakeries are closed. Are we going to continue to mill the animal fodder and make bread ; why not as we are forced to do so! Since. . .

Livni clashes with EU MP over roadblocks
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Foreign minister briefs European lawmakers on Israeli policy, comes under fire from MPs on Gaza blockade, roadblocks. Outraged Livni says Sderot children are victims of Palestinian terror; Hamas regime cannot be legitimized - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni clashed on Tuesday with a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee who criticized Israel for its policy in the occupied territories. During a briefing given by Livni to the committee members in Brussels, the minister faced harsh questions regarding Israel’s continued expansion of West Bank settlements, the blockade on Gaza and the roadblocks in the Palestinian territories. At the end of the Q&A part of the briefing, Livni was asked a question by Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit, known as "Danny the Red," a German-born Jew and head of the European Greens faction at parliament, who visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority two weeks ago.

Israel’s Livni faces EU criticism over settlers
Middle East Online 12/2/2008
EU lawmakers told Israel’s foreign minister on Tuesday that her country has to do more to stop the expansion of West Bank settlements. Lawmakers at the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee said settlers’ moves to defend their homes there were threatening Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in Brussels to seek closer EU ties, said it was no longer official Israeli policy to expand settlements in the West Bank and the government has been trying to reduce them since peace talks restarted last year. "We are not trying to use or abuse the period of time in which we negotiate in order to have more land, or to get more land from the Palestinians," Livni told members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Livni said "minor" efforts by some settler groups around the West Bank town of Hebron to expand their settlements. . .

Middle East peace can, and must, be promoted not only at political level, but at grass roots, says Secretary-General in message to Vienna seminar
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the Department of Public Information seminar on peace in the Middle East, delivered by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in Vienna, 2 December: It is a pleasure to send greetings to all the participants in this important seminar on peace in the Middle East. I thank the Government and people of Austria for hosting this event, and for their enduring commitment to the United Nations. We have seen many difficulties in the past year. But, it has been a crucial time in setting the stage for peace. I know we all regret that the goal of reaching a peace treaty by the end of this year, as set out last year at Annapolis, appears unlikely to be achieved. However, the parties have engaged in direct, intensive negotiations, and have succeeded. . .

IOF unit assassinates ''pardoned'' AMB member
Palestinian Information Center 12/2/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- A special unit of the Israeli occupation forces on Monday night shot and killed Mohammed Abu Dra, a member of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades the armed wing of Fatah, in Balata refugee camp east of Nablus city. Local sources reported that the IOF troops were hiding in one of the streets near the refugee camp while Abu Dra was on his way to the PA prison where he stays every night in accordance with a PA agreement with Israel that stipulates an Israeli "pardon" to those who renounce resistance and stipulates retaining those who accepted the "pardon" to remain in PA jails for a period of time. However, the IOF soldiers ambushed Abu Dra and shot at him before dragging him to the car they were boarding and taking him to Hawara roadblock east of Nablus. The IOF carried Abu Dra to Kfar Sava hospital then told the PA that he was dead and handed his body to the Palestinian liaison office, the sources elaborated.

Israeli forces kill pardoned Palestinian fighter in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man formerly affiliated to the armed wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, in Balata Refugee Camp in the West Bank city of Nablus at Midnight on Monday. The man was identified as 27-year-old Mohammad Abu Thraa, a fighter who had been pardoned by Israel as a part of an amnesty agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA). Nablus Governor Jamal Muheisin accused Israel of deliberately assassinating Abu Thraa. The Muheisin confirmed that Abu Thraa had, as a part of his amnesty deal, spent time in the PA’s Al-Juneid prison. After receiving a formal pardon, he would spend his days in his house, and then would be transported to the prison by a Palestinian Preventive Security bus. The governor added that there is “no justification” for killing a man already pardoned by Israel.

Fayyad: International community must ’take responsibility’ for peace process
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on the international community on Tuesday to take complete responsibility for the peace process, especially in light of what he said were Israel’s ongoing violations of signed agreements. Fayyad’s comments came during a celebration in Ramallah for the launch of a US $57 million, USAID-funded project to develop the city’s health sector. “We are celebrating here, yet we can’t ignore Israeli daily practices against Palestinian citizens,” he said in his dedication speech. The prime minister also highlighted the assassination of Muhammad Abu Thraa by Israeli forces in Nablus on Monday and condemned Israeli settler attacks there and in Hebron. Fayyad called on the European Union (EU) to "think long and hard" before raising its level of cooperation with Israel.

Palestinian PM Fayyad Urges EU Not to Widen Links with Israel
Palestine Media Center 12/2/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad urged the European Union on Monday not to widen cooperation with Israel due to a lack progress by the Jewish state in meeting its peace commitments. Fayyad told EU diplomats during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah that Israel was not doing enough to advance peace moves to warrant deeper relations. "Israel is not meeting its commitments. Why are you rewarding them? "an EU diplomat quoted Fayyad as saying. Earlier this year, EU diplomats said all members of the 27-nation bloc supported the idea of increased cooperation with Israel in areas such as social policy, regulation and access to the EU’s single market. Israel has also proposed strengthening political relations to include regular summits of Israeli and EU leaders, and greater access to EU markets, agencies and spending programmes.

Palestinian PM warns EU against Israel ties boost
Middle East Online 12/2/2008
JERUSALEM - Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad has urged the European Union not to upgrade relations with Israel, citing lack of progress in the Middle East peace talks, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday. At a meeting with European diplomats on Monday, Fayyad said there had been no improvement of the situation in the Palestinian territories since the European Union started discussing upgrading ties with Israel on June 16. Fayyad spoke to the officials ahead of the December 8 European Council meeting and the plenary session of the European Parliament on Wednesday at which the EU is expected decide to whether to boost ties with Israel. Fayyad, cited by diplomatic sources, said that in the week the upgrade is being discussed, "the misery index in Gaza has never been higher" due largely to Israel’s near-complete closure of the Palestinian territory over the past three weeks.

OPT: European Neighbourhood Policy in action: EU and PA hold first joint meeting on human rights, good governance and the rule of law
European Union - EU, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
; Palestinian National Authority (PNA) The Palestinian Authority and the European Commission today held the first ever meeting of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Good Governance and the Rule of Law, within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The subcommittee is the forum within which the PA and the EU come together to review progress on the objectives and actions that both sides have agreed are priorities for these three key areas. Those objectives and actions are spelled out in the EU-PA Joint Action Plan, which was first agreed in 2005 and last reviewed in April 2008. Under the chairmanship of H. E. Ambassador Ahmad Soboh, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 40 participants from PA ministries, the European Commission and EU Member States convened to review progress and agree steps for further action.

EU, PA hold first joint meeting on human rights and good governance
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Palestinian Authority (PA) and European Union (EU) Commission held its first joint meeting for its Human Rights, Good Governance and the Rule of Law subcommittee, a body formed to provide a forum for the PA and EU to review progress in these three areas. The subcommittee meeting is the first of four to be held between the EU and PA. Other subcommittees, which will convene in early 2009, are the Economic and Financial Matters, Trade, Customs Issues subcommittee, the Social Affairs subcommittee and the Energy, Environment, Transport, Science and Technology subcommittee. Forty participants from PA ministries, the European Commission and EU member states convened under the chairmanship of Ambassador Ahmad Soboh, deputy minister of foreign affairs, to discuss progress and agree on future action.

Palestinian youth ’should be heard’
Alex Sehmer in Doha, Al Jazeera 12/3/2008
The Palestinian leadership needs to know "when to step aside" and make way for younger leaders, Hanan Ashrawi, the noted Palestinian legislator and rights advocate, has said in an interview with journalists and students in Doha. "We need the young. People my age should know how to step aside and how to provide a system of support and solidarity for the new leaders," Ashrawi told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. Although Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, himself 73, recently threatened to call a general election if Egyptian-brokered talks between the Fatah and Hamas factions fail to move forward, it seems unlikely that young Palestinians will get their chance in politics any time soon. In depth Interview: Hanan Ashrawi "We have a disastrous situation of a leadership that doesn’t know the meaning of a graceful exit," Ashrawi said. Ashrawi, who has served as an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, affirmed she would refuse to stand in any up-coming election.

PA slams Hamas over Hajj crisis
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Minister of Social Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash on Tuesday accused the Hamas movement of a “religious, moral, humanitarian and nationalistic crime” against Hajj pilgrims from the Gaza Strip. “These doings violate all human rights and freedoms maintained in all heavenly religions and international conventions, and Hamas is responsible for what is going on,” he added. Al-Habbash was referring to Hamas’ refusal to allow pilgrims destined for Mecca to leave Gaza after the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the West Bank, along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, refused to coordinate with Hamas. In a press conference held in office of the PA Information Ministry in Ramallah, Al-Habbash discussed the pilgrims’ crisis in Gaza. He said the Palestinian Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs completed arrangements for the departure of pilgrims, in cooperation with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Hamas: PA arrested 11 supporters across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces seized 11 Hamas affiliates across the West Bank in recent days, according to a statement received by Ma’an on Tuesday. Hamas accused PA forces of arresting the affiliates in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron, the statement added. By Tuesday afternoon, neither Hamas nor the PA had announced criminal charges against any of the 11 affiliates. Ma’an could not immediately determine what suspicions had led security forces to detain the Hamas loyalists, other than their political affiliations. Ma’an obtained the identities and governorates of residence for the 11 alleged detainees. Nablus:Hisham GhanimImad SweisiAhmad HamdanMuhammad Abu HusseinMuhannad Abu HasanRamallah:Mu’tasim NakhlaSari Abd-ar-RaziqFadi Al-‘AruriHebron:. . .

Analysis: Al-Qaida-style Salafist extremism gains real power within Hamas armed wing
Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
Al-Qaida-type Salafi Islam is rising in popularity within the ranks of Hamas. This trend is particularly noticeable in the movement’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades. Observation of this process shows that attempts to draw a clear dividing line between the "nationalist" Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Islamism of Hamas and the Salafi trend can no longer be sustained. The growth of Salafism within Hamas is part of a larger pattern of increasingly extreme Islamic piety and practice in Gaza. The existence of Salafism within Hamas is not a new development. Indeed, Hamas leaders have long been aware of the potential threat this outlook represents to their authority. As long ago as December 2001, the Israeli authorities intercepted a document produced by Hamas prisoners in Israeli custody which warned of the spread of al-Qaida-type ideology among Hamas members.

OPT: Gaza cash drought to delay state wages payment - PM
Reuters Foundation, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec 2 (Reuters)- Government employees in the Gaza Strip will not receive salaries this month because of a severe cash drought in Palestinian banks there, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday. Fayyad said the state would transfer funds to Gaza banks on Wednesday but an Israeli blockade had prevented moving enough cash to the Hamas-run coastal enclave in time to cover salaries of more than 77,000 government employees. "We are facing a real problem. There is a need for 250 million Israeli shekels ($63 million) to pay the salaries. Now, there are only 47 million shekels ($12 million) in the banks in the Gaza Strip and this is not enough to pay employees," Fayyad told reporters. "Israel’s refusal to allow the transfer of sufficient cash to Palestinian banks in the Gaza Strip is part of the unfair siege.

Hamas: ''P.A security forces arrest 11 Hamas members and supporters''
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
Media sources loyal to the Hamas movement reported on Tuesday that Palestinian security forces, loyal to the Fateh movement, arrested eleven members and supporters of the movement in several parts of the West Bank. The sources stated that the security forces arrested Hisham Ghanim, Imad Sweisy, Ahmad Hamdan, Mohammad Abu Hussein and Mohannad Abu Hasan from Sorra village, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. In the Central West Bank city of Ramallah, the security forces arrested Mo’tasim Nakhla, from the Al Jalazoun refugee camp, Sari Abdul-Raziq from Zeita-Jama’in, and Fadi Al Aroury. In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, the security forces arrested Wael Al Dweik, Jawad Al Ja’bary and Abdul-Aziz Al Sa’afin. Israel recently barred Al Sa’afin from leaving the West Bank as he was on his way to Mecca for pilgrimage.

PA orders reduction in bus fares
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Palestinian Minister of Transportation Mashhour Abu Daqqah ordered a 10% reduction in bus and service taxi fares on Monday. In a statement the Transportation Ministry said the decision was made in order to ease the conditions for Palestinians living through economic hard times. The annoucement also followed a massive drop in the price of fuel. Undersecretary Ali Sha’ath said traffic police will fine companies and drivers who do not adopt the change on Tuesday morning. [end]

ANALYSIS / Why hasn’t Israel evacuated the Hebron house yet?
Amos Harel and Avi Isaacharoff, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
It is hard to understand why the order to forcibly evict settlers from the so-called House of Contention has still not been given. After all, the state announced its intention to evacuate the house more than two weeks ago, following the High Court of Justice’s ruling on the subject. This week, after studying the issue, the Justice Ministry concluded that barring "weighty reasons" for postponement, Defense Minister Ehud Barak must order the evacuation within 30 days of the court’s decision, meaning by December 15. Meanwhile, rumors of the approaching eviction have driven the extreme right crazy. The violence in Hebron - and, simultaneously, in hilltop settlements in the northern West Bank - is escalating, and the security services have long since lost control of events.

Justice Ministry told army to evict Beit Hashalom settlers in 30 days
Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
According to an internal and confidential opinion submitted last week by the Justice Ministry to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the army must evict the settlers occupying the disputed building within 30 days of the eviction order unless they have a good reason not to, a ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "Thirty days is a reasonable amount of time," the head of the High Court Petitions Section of the Justice Ministry, Osnat Mandel, wrote to Barak in the opinion. "A significant deviation [from this time limit] would require very grave circumstances or reasons. " The Justice Ministry refused to hand over to the Post the full text of the opinion and agreed to quote the above sentence only. As a result, it isn’t clear whether Mandel specified what circumstances or reasons could justify postponing the eviction beyond the 30 days.

Burqa (Nablus): Men forced to ''fingerprint'' blank Israeli letterhead during night-time army incursion; three residents injured in weekly demonstration
International Womens’ Peace Service 11/30/2008
Date of incidents: November 8, 2008; 1 to 3 a. m. , November 21, 2008; 10 a. m. to 12 p. m. - Place:Burqa, Nablus district - Witness/es: Family members; IWPS volunteers - Description of Incident: Several men were forced at gunpoint by Israeli soldiers to fingerprint, by way of signing, blank Israeli letterhead during a series of night-time incursions into the Nablus village of Burqa earlier in this month, family members of the men reported. Also, at a demonstration against the re-establishment of the Homesh outpost on Burqa lands last Friday, three local males, including two teenagers, were injured when Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators shortly after they had finished praying. In the early hours of November 8, 2008, over a period of approximately two hours, 15 houses in Burqa were reportedly invaded by soldiers, and nine men forced to fingerprint blank letterhead, while families,

Study: Most Palestinian prisoners from northern West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 12/2/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - More than 50 percent of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons are from the northern West Bank, according to the results of a study released on Tuesday. Reported in the study’s findings is that 53. 8 percent of the total number of currently detained persons and those released between January 2007 and August 2008 are from the northern parts of the West Bank, compared to 28. 3 percent and 17. 9 percent from the central and southern parts of the West Bank, respectively. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) released the main results of a survey of Palestinian households in the West Bank on Tuesday, which focused on socioeconomic characteristics of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails. The results also shed light on the average age of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, finding that 33.

Court: State obligated to rehabilitate Palestinian prisoners
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Judges accept appeal by female prisoner, remark that conditions in which she had been living ’saddened and concerned’ them. ’These prisoners were created human, no one has the right to forget that,’ verdict says -The High Court of Justice on Tuesday reminded the State of its obligations towards Palestinian prisoners, as part of their ruling on the case of a female Palestinian. The judges stated that the Palestinian prisoners were subject to poor conditions, and that they were not being rehabilitated properly by correctional facilities. The court approved an appeal made by 20-year old Nada Dirbas, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit a felony and contact with a foreign agent. Her sentence was reduced from six years to four. The indictment against Dirbas was filed one year ago.

Israel urges EU: Reconsider Syria ties
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
With Syria and the European Union set to initial an association agreement formalizing ties on December 14, Israel is calling on the EU not to rush headlong into normalizing relations with an un-reformed Damascus. The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, said at a press briefing Tuesday that the EU felt a need to respond to a number of positive Syrian moves, including its decision to establish formal diplomatic ties with Lebanon, participation in a Mediterranean summit in Paris last July and the indirect talks with Israel in Turkey. According to Cibrian-Uzal, the European Commission was currently updating a 2004 association agreement with the Syrians that was never signed. After the agreement is initialed at a ceremony in Damascus in 11 days, it will be brought to the EU member states for approval and ratification, a process that needs a consensus of all member states.

IEC instructed to double Egyptian gas order
Lior Baron, Globes Online 12/2/2008
IEC was surprised; the government recently ordered it to resume talks with BG Group. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler last week instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) (TASE: ELEC. B22) to double its purchases of natural gas from Egypt’s East Mediterranean Gas Co. (EMG), despite disruptions in supplies and disagreements over price. Kugler instructed IEC to immediately resume negotiations to buy at least 2-3 million cubic meters of natural gas a year, without tender. In a letter to IEC chairman Motti Friedman and CEO Amos Lasker, Kugler said that he wanted regular updates on progress in the negotiations and summaries between IEC and EMG. The Ministry of National Infrastructures believes that, beginning in 2010, IEC will need to buy $600-800 million a year worth of natural gas in order to meet demand under the company’s emergency development plan.

Doubtful debts deteriorate
Eran Peer, Globes Online 12/2/2008
A review of third quarter bank reports shows the effects of a poor economy. The economic slowdown is now also being seen in the collapse in bank profits for the third quarter. The aggregate profit from ordinary activities of the five big banks plunged 75% to NIS 603 million in the third quarter, compared with NIS 2. 4 billion in the corresponding quarter of 2007. Since the beginning of the year, the banks’ profit from ordinary activities totals NIS 1. 07 billion, an 83. 5% decrease. The fall in profit stems, first and foremost, from the increase in provision for doubtful debts, as a result of the worsening state of the economy, which is likely to deteriorate further in 2009. All five banks drastically increased their debt provisions, parallel to a marked jump in the scale of debts classed as problematic, especially those classed as ’debts under special supervision.

IMF delegation arrives in Israel
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 12/2/2008
IMF’s annual reports have an important bearing on a country’s economic rating. The annual delegation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will open its discussions on the state of the Israeli economy tomorrow when it meets with Bank of Israel officials. The delegation is comprised of four economists headed by Peter Doyle, a unit director in the IMF’s European Department. The delegation will hold consultations with Israel’s economic leaders in both the private and public sectors and will meet Minister of Finance, Ronnie Bar-On and Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer and their senior staff as well as top officials at various government ministries, Manufacturers’ Association, Histadrut (General Federation of Labor), leading academics, and others. At the end of the visit the IMF delegation will submit a preliminary report to Bar-On and Fischer.

Fischer may be candidate to replace Geithner - report
Uriel Harman, Globes Online 12/2/2008
President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Timothy Geithner will become the Treasury secretary. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer could be a candidate to replace Timothy Geithner as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Geithner will become the Treasury secretary in Barack Obama’s administration when Obama is sworn in on January 20, 2009. The president of the New York branch of the Federal Reserve also serves as the vice-chairman of the Federal Open Markets Committee, and Geithner has already relinquished his responsibility on that body. A formal search for a new president at the New York Fed has begun, and the Wall Street Journal named Fed official Kevin Warsh and former Goldman Sachs economist Bill Dudley as possible candidates.

Israel: Economic surge in W. Bank
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/1/2008
Unprecedented military coordination and a sincere effort by the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Hamas has led to a unique economic surge in the West Bank in the past year, according to an internal Defense Ministry report obtained on Monday by The Jerusalem Post. Prepared by the IDF’s Civil Administration, the report cites a three percent drop to 16% in Palestinian unemployment since the beginning of the year. In addition, the report cites a 24% increase in Palestinian average daily wages, up from NIS 70 in 2007 to NIS 86. 9. The stats were collected in recent months from a variety of sources, including the PA and the United Nations International Labor Organization. Since the beginning of the year, the IDF has also removed 113 roadblocks and dirt mounds throughout the West Bank, enabling easier travel between Palestinian cities.

US mindful of Israel when aiding Lebanese army
Andrew Wander, Daily Star 12/3/2008
BEIRUT: The United States is providing aid to the Lebanese military to make it powerful enough to exercise power throughout the country, at the same time as fulfilling Washington’s "commitment" to considering Israel’s strategic interests in the region, a senior Pentagon official has said. Chris Straub, the US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Near East and South Asian affairs, said in a recent interview that no decision on arms to Lebanon is made without taking into account Israel’s perspective on such deals. "We don’t have a conversation on these matters without considering the concerns of Israel and Israel’s qualitative edge," he said. "That’s a commitment we take very seriously. "The US-supplied M-60 tanks are "no match" for Israel’s Merkava 4 main battle tanks, a Pentagon press release publicizing the interview said. Any arms which the US provides to Lebanon are aimed at strengthening the army domestically, not regionally, Straub said.

Bellemare finds links between Hariri killing, another attack
Daily Star 12/3/2008
BEIRUT: The UN investigator charged with finding those responsible for the killing of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri has leads to more people potentially involved in the assassination and believes there may be a link to another case under investigation by the UN. Daniel Bellemare, the Canadian prosecutor heading the International Investigation Commission, had previously said that a group of people, the "Hariri network," had been responsible for the suicide bombing that killed the former prime minister. "The Commission has identified new information that may allow the Commission to link additional individuals with this network," Bellemare said in his latest report, which was distributed to UN Security Council members on Monday and Tuesday and of which a copy was seen by The Daily Star. In addition, another of the 20 other assassinations or assassination attempts currently probed. . .

VIDEO - Senior Iranian commander leads Hezbollah drill in south Lebanon
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for December 2, 2008. It emerged on Tuesday that Qassem Suleimani, a senior Iranian military official, commanded a Hezbollah drill south of the Litani River in southern Lebanon roughly two weeks ago. Suleimani is the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and is considered an emissary between Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli government radio broadcasts operating in southern Lebanon reported in Arabic on the drill for the benefit of its southern Lebanese target audience. [end]

POLITICS: U.N. Assembly Head Hailed for Blasting Israel
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service 12/3/2008
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 2(IPS) - The president of the General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, dropped a political bombshell last week when he lashed out at Israel for its repressive actions in the occupied territories, including the recent blockade of humanitarian aid to Gaza. "What is being done to the Palestinian people seems to me to be a version of the hideous policy of apartheid," he told delegates, during a meeting commemorating the "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People". A senior U. N. official told IPS: "I cannot remember any Assembly president so publicly vocal in denouncing Israel. " D’Escoto damned both the Israelis and the United Nations for the plight of the Palestinians. "And he was on target," the official added. "I believe," D’Escoto said, "that the failure to create a Palestinian state as promised is the single greatest failure in the history of the United Nations.

U.S.: Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service 12/3/2008
WASHINGTON, Dec 2(IPS) - The incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama should move quickly to engage Iran without preconditions and to promote an Israeli-Syrian peace accord, according to two veteran Middle East experts whose views are likely to have influence over Obama’s just-announced foreign policy team. Obama should also "make a serious effort from the outset to promote progress between Israel and the Palestinians," propose its own solutions to the parties "sooner rather than later", and enlist the active support of the Arab League in its success, according to Richard Haass and Martin Indyk, senior Middle East aides under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, respectively. They also called for Obama to consider providing nuclear guarantees and enhanced anti-ballistic missile defence capabilities to Israel if negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. . .

PM ’too busy’ to go to Mazuz hearing
Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not yet discussed with his lawyers whether or not to ask for a hearing before Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz files an indictment against him regarding the Rishon Tours affair, his spokesman, Amir Dan, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Dan denied a report that Olmert was leaning towards waiving the hearing because it concerned only one of six affairs for which the prime minister had been or was still being investigated by police. The police have completed three investigations and submitted their findings to the state prosecution. In the case of allegations that Olmert tried to slant a government tender for the sale of the controlling interest in Bank Leumi for a friend, Australian businessman Frank Lowy, the police recommended closing the file. It recommended indicting Olmert on allegations that he received cash gifts from US businessman. . .

Labor postpones its primary election until Thursday
Roni Singer-Heruti and Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 12/2/2008
Cabel added that the new touch-screen voting machines had been piloted for over a month, covering every possible scenario. He apologized to the voters and the candidates, and announced that a committee would be established to investigate the mishap. Stations across the country complained of technical glitches in the new system that replaced paper ballots. The mishap was just the latest setback for the embattled party. Labor used to be the dominant party in Israeli politics. But polls show Labor slipping drastically. One poll has it as garnering as low as six of parliament’s 120 seats. General elections are set for Feb. 10. They were set into motion in September when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned amid corruption charges. The vote comes a year and a half ahead of schedule.

Labor primary to be held Dec. 4
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
Labor’s party primary was canceled three hours after the polling booths were opened Tuesday, after technical problems plagued the country’s first effort at electronic voting. Nightmare for Labor Party elections with system failure, elections rescheduled for Dec. 4 This latest embarrassment for Labor comes on the heels of polls predicting that the once-ruling party will end up with fewer than 10 seats in the next Knesset. The party has also suffered the departure of Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon and the decision by a party appeals committee to nix the reservation of the sixth spot on its Knesset candidates list for National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. The decision to cancel the voting came after several candidates complained that the computer system failed to process votes that had been cast for them.

Analysis: From party of government to laughingstock
David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post 12/3/2008
An irreverent Britishism for absolute incompetence refers to someone who "couldn’t organize a p*ss-up in a brewery. "Labor on Tuesday demonstrated the political equivalent: It couldn’t organize a vote in a polling booth. Trying to drag itself into the 21st century with an ultra-modern computerized process for selecting its Knesset list, it neglected the ancient imperative to check and recheck the basics - in this case, to be sure that the vaunted new system actually worked. It didn’t. And those of the party’s 60,000 members who had bothered to schlep to the polling stations to express a preference for "Bujie" over "Fuad," et al, were told to go home and try again on Thursday. Whether or not these hardy Laborites do indeed come back, the danger for Labor is that precious few will want to vote for the party when it really matters, on February 10.

Barak: Leave IDF out of political debate
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Defense minister tours northern IDF base, speaks of volatile situation in Hebron. He asks settlers to avoid violence, refrain from ’pushing security forces into corners’ -Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged West Bank settlers on Tuesday to "leave the IDF out of the political debate. " Barak, who was visiting an Israel Defense Forces base near the northern city of Carmiel, called on "the responsible forces in the Israeli settlement (movement) of the West Bank"¦ not to push the IDF and the security forces into (political) corners. "Israel’s security forces are the State’s subordinates and they will have to ensure the laws of Israel are upheld," said Barak. The defense minister called on the settlers "to draw a line and differentiate between those who respect this country’s authority and those who don’t.

Likud settles primaries voting changes
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Party Chairman Netanyahu agrees to compromise on request to increase number of candidates each voter can pick in primaries, bringing it down to 12 from 15. Move that nearly led to internal war within party stems from Netanyahu’s desire to thwart election of Feiglin - With Labor still licking its wounds from Tuesday’s primary embarrassment, Likud seems to have bridged its own primaries chasm. The party’s chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu, reached a settlement with Likud officials on increasing the number of candidate slots on the primary ticket from 10 to 12. Netanyahu initially demanded the number be raised to 15, seeking to thwart the election of Moshe Feiglin to a realistic place on the roster and thereby jeopardizing the chances of the new star talent he has recently roped for the Likud. Netanyahu held a series of furtive meetings with his associates throughout. . .

Netanyahu: Public broadcasting will support Hebrew
Yael Gaoni, Globes Online 12/2/2008
"There are only six million Hebrew speakers in the world, and our language is being eroded. " Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel now needs stronger public broadcasting more than ever. He made the comment at yesterday’s journalism conference in Eilat. Netanyahu said, "Every country needs public broadcasting, but we need it more than most. I say this precisely because the communications map is developing. Israel faces a two-front cultural threat. From outside we face the threat of a flood of imported material from overseas, while from inside, we face the threat of tribalization and the erosion of our cultural core. " Netanyahu added, "I have no problem with the Israeli cultural mosaic, and everyone can have his own expression, but we must preserve our cultural core. Our cultural core is being eroded, and I think that this is a problem that is affecting the language.

Women’s groups in uproar over nominee for chair of new religious party
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 12/2/2008
Head of rabbinical courts added to list of candidates for chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, feminist groups claim divorce refusal increased during his time in office -Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) is a relatively new party, but it is already the site of a number of tumultuous political battles. Though its committee had already finalized a list of candidates for the position of party chairman, a new name was added Tuesday that caused uproar among various women’s organizations. The new candidate is head of the rabbinical courts, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, a highly controversial figure in the religious world due to his contentious halachic rulings on the subjects of conversion and atrimony. Last week the party’s council canceled the primary election, instead summoning the public to nominate potential chairmen online.

Treasury puts off pension safety net talks
Lilach Weisman, Globes Online 12/2/2008
The Ministry of Finance has successfully postponed discussions on the pension safety net until next week. Efforts by Ministry of Finance officials to play for time on the pension safety net issue have succeeded. At a meeting yesterday evening lasting several hours, between teams from the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Israel, and the National Economic Council at the Prime Minister’s Office, the sides failed to reach an agreement over their differences on safety net requirements for pension funds. At the end of the meeting it was decided that the teams would continue to examine the various options based on the Ministry of Finance proposals, and will report their recommendations by next Monday to the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Governor of the Bank of Israel. Discussions on the issue will be renewed on the basis of their reports.

Cutbacks may force Ulpan Etzion to move
Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
Jerusalem’s historic Ulpan Etzion, which has been the starting point for thousands of young, single, academic immigrants since it was founded in 1949, could be moved from its central location to another Jewish Agency building on the outskirts of the city, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The move, which an Agency spokesman confirmed is still being considered, is part of a $45 million cutback being forced on the quasi-governmental agency because of the global financial crisis. "It will not happen overnight," the spokesman said. "However, it is part of our streamlining process. We currently have two ulpan programs in Jerusalem and moving them into one location will reduce costs. " The other ulpan, Beit Canada, is located in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, at least one bus ride from the bustling German Colony/Baka area that is so popular with young immigrants, and even further from downtown.

The Netherlands support UNRWA community centre in Syria
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 12/1/2008
The Embassy of the Netherlands signed with UNRWA today a financing agreement to help reduce poverty among Palestinian refugees. Under the agreement, the Embassy will support UNRWA’s community development activities at Rukin Eddin Community Centre in Damascus by establishing a sports hall for Palestinian women and youth and a beauty and hairdressing training facility. The contribution will also be used to provide rehabilitation services to children with disabilities and to enhance the capacity of the community committees. Signing for the Netherlands, Ambassador Désirée Bonis praised UNRWA’s efforts in alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian refugees and reiterated the commitment of the Government of Netherlands towards the Palestinian refugees. Panos Moumtzis, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, thanked the Netherlands for its funding support to UNRWA, saying: "This project. . .

USAID and the Ministry of Health launch a $57 million health sector reform and development project
United States Agency for International Development - USAID, ReliefWeb 12/2/2008
Ramallah, West Bank – Today, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health launched the Palestinian Health Sector Reform and Development Project, which aims to strengthen the Ministry of Health’s ability to respond to the priority health needs of the Palestinian people. The event, held under the auspices of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the Central Public Health Laboratory in Ramallah, was attended by Minister of Health Dr. Fathi Abu Moghli, U. S. Consul General Jake Walles, USAID Mission Director Howard Sumka, Health Ministry officials, and international donors. The new $57 million program, also called the Flagship Project, is the largest health initiative funded by USAID in the West Bank and Gaza. It will be implemented by USAID’s contractor Chemonics International in close coordination with the Ministry. . .

Azorim CEO: There’ll be a housing shortage within months
Avi Shauly, Globes Online 12/2/2008
Mati Dov: Our involvement in India will be less. "The real estate market will be weak, but there’s a shortage of housing starts. The inventory of apartments under construction is small, and there’ll be a shortage of housing within a few months. Developers won’t begin to build unless market prices are greater than construction costs, giving them a profit," said Azorim Investment, Development and Construction Ltd. (TASE: AZRM) CEO Mati Dov. Azorim published its financial report for the third quarter on Sunday. The company said that it met its sales target in Israel, with 632 apartment sales in January-September. "Globes": Are you worried that many buyers are waiting for prices to fall? Dov: "Most of our projects are for late delivery. The market will get smarter and understand that apartment prices won’t fall drastically, and buyers will return in a few months.

D&B: One in four restaurants in danger of closing
Ilanit Hayut, Globes Online 12/2/2008
Sales are down 20-30% at Israel’s dining establishments. Dun & Bradstreet Israel says that 28% of Israeli restaurants, cafes, and bars are at risk of closing down, compared with 22% at risk of closing at the beginning of the year. Sales are down 20-30% at Israel’s dining establishments, compared with last year, and are expected to drop by the same amount in 2009. Dun & Bradstreet Israel predicts that the restaurants worst affected by the economic crisis are those that cater to high-tech employees at industrial parks. Dun & Bradstreet Israel general manager Reuven Kuvent said, "The public’s mood during crises directly affects whether people go out. People who have lost money in the capital market, whose salaries are being cut, or who have lost their jobs don’t go out to eat. We predict that restaurant chains will delay the opening of new branches and close peripheral ones.

Elbit Systems unit gets $60m European contract
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 12/2/2008
Elisra will supply an airborne surveillance system. Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq:ESLT ; TASE:ESLT ) subsidiaryElisra Group has won a $60 million contract to supply an airborne surveillance system to a European country. The system will be delivered over two years. Elisra CEO Yitzchak Gat said, "The Elisra system was selected after a long, in-depth evaluation process. We hope that the current award will be followed by additional contracts in the future. Elbit Systems owns 70% of Elisra andIsrael Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE:ARSP. B1 ) owns 30%. Yesterday, Elbit Systems won a $10 million contract from an unnamed Asian country for a live training system, which will be delivered during 2010. The system will train a brigade combat team including infantry, armor, artillery, and air defense forces.

Prof. Melnick: Growth of just 0.7% in 2009
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 12/2/2008
Prof. Melnick feels the Bank of Israel forecast of 1. 5% growth next year is too optimistic. Prof. Rafi Melnick of the Arison School of Business at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya sees the current global recession as the result of "a global shock that happens once in a century. " "The impact of the crisis," he estimates, "in which we are caught is expected to lower growth in Israel to 0. 7% in 2009 and this would be the lowest rate of growth recorded by the economy since the economic crisis in 2001 and 2002, when there was negative growth. " At the Caesarea Center Conference for the Capital Markets and Risk Management on Thursday, Melnick, who developed the Melnick Index for measuring Israel’s economic situation, will present his detailed macro-economic forecast for economic developments in Israel in the coming year.

Religious clerics pray together for rain on Kinneret
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
Rabbi Shlomo Didi knows Lake Kinneret well. As rabbi of the Jordan Valley and a resident of Tiberias, Didi has not only married couples beside the Kinneret, he has also offered prayers for rain along its shoreline, which has receded markedly. On Monday Didi was again praying for rain - but this time, he was not alone. He was joined by Ian Clark, the priest of the Scottish church, and Muhammad Dahamshe, the Imam of Kafr Kana. "A joint prayer does not consider differences of religion," says Didi. "There is one god, we are all human beings and are all praying to the same god. ""The dismal condition of the Kinneret threatens each and every one of us," said Shimon Kipnis, general manager of the Scots Hotel, which initiated the joint prayer, and on whose beach the prayers were held.

Number of returning Israelis up 50% in ’08
Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post 12/1/2008
Returning Israelis constituted almost a quarter of all those arriving to live in the country this year, according to data released this week by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry ahead of the second state-sponsored conference examining immigration and absorption, set to take place in Ashdod on Tuesday. According to the information published by the ministry, which is organizing the conference together with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the Ashdod Municipality and Bar-Ilan University, close to 7,000 ex-pat Israelis returned in 2008, a 50 percent increase in returning Israelis compared to the average number in previous years. In 2000, 2,641 Israelis came home and in 2007, 5,103 returned. Ministry officials cited the weakened global economy as one of the main factors encouraging aliya in recent months and in bringing Israelis back home.

US experts: Dialogue with Iran needed
Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
A new report compiled by American experts and addressed to president-elect Barack Obama contains recommendations on the region, including Iran and Hamas, which might raise eyebrows in Jerusalem’s security establishment. The next US president will need to pursue a new strategic framework for advancing American interests in the Middle East, says a new report entitled "Restoring the Balance - A Middle East Strategy for the Next President" published Tuesday and compiled over a period of 18 months. The report cites sectarian conflict in Iraq, Iran’s race to build a nuclear weapon, failing Palestinian and Lebanese governments, a dormant peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and the ongoing war against terror as the issues Obama will have to face. Following an overview chapter by Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Martin Indyk, director

Iran launches massive naval maneuver
Ap And Jpost Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
Iran launched a large-scale, six-day naval maneuver in the Sea of Oman on Tuesday, the official news agency reported. About 60 warships were set to participate in the maneuver, which will cover 129,500-sq. kilometers of Iranian territorial waters, the agency, IRNA, said. This type of "maneuver has been rare in the past 30 years both in its size and commissioning of new weapons," IRNA quoted the maneuver’s spokesman, Adm. Ghasem Rostamabadi, as saying. Aircraft from Iran’s air force will also participate in the war game, dubbed "Unity-87" in reference to the current year 1387 in the traditional Persian calendar. No other details were immediately available. Iran regularly holds war games in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. Linking the two bodies of water is the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway where 40 percent of the world’s oil passes through.

Iraqi refugees in Syria protest against military pact with US
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/3/2008
DAMASCUS: Almost 2,000 Syria-based Iraqis staged a protest on Wednesday against the Iraq-US military pact, saying that the agreement would place Iraq under US domination. Men, women and children took part in the protest in the Sayeda Zeinab suburb south of Damascus nearly a week after the Baghdad Parliament ratified the pact. "We denounce the security agreement, a shameful and dishonorable agreement of American occupation," read one banner outside a shop in the mostly Shiite neighborhood. One demonstrator carried a placard reading: "This disastrous accord puts Iraq under American control. " After months of wrangling, the Iraqi Cabinet on November 24 ratified the agreement, which is now due to be formally endorsed by the country’s presidential council. The agreement would replace a UN mandate, which was acquired after the fact of the 2003 invasion and expires at the end of. . .

UN: Serious human rights abuses ongoing in Iraq
Middle East Online 12/2/2008
GENEVA - Serious human rights abuses including the torture of detainees are ongoing in Iraq, even though the general security situation has improved, a United Nations report published Tuesday said. There are "ongoing widespread ill-treatment and torture of detainees by Iraqi law enforcement authorities, amidst pervasive impunity of current and past human rights abuses," said the UN Iraq mission’s report on the human rights situation in Iraq for the first half of this year. The mission said it found through visits to prisons that many prisoners have been held for many months without recourse to defence, even though some have not even been charged formally with a crime. Minorities also continue to be targetted by organised armed militia, with members of the minority groups having to pose as Kurdish or Arab to get access to health care or education.

Dozen killed in Iraq blasts
Al Jazeera 12/2/2008
Three bombs have killed at least 14 people across Iraq, officials said. A bomb hidden in a cart exploded outside a school in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday, killing four people, including two children and wounding 12 others, police said. A suicide car bomber killed at least five people and wounded 25 near a checkpoint in Tal Afar in northern Iraq, according to police and hospital officials. An Iraqi officer supervising work at the joint army-police checkpoint saidthe blast sent "a ball of fire" toward the security forces, and panicked car passengers next to the sight abandoned their vehicles to look for shelter. A roadside bomb also struck an Iraqi army convoy in Hilla, south of Baghdad, killing five Iraqi soldiers, a police official said.

POLITICS: Muslim-Majority Nations Back More Independent U.N.
Ulrich Knapp, Inter Press Service 12/3/2008
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 2(IPS) - People in seven majority Muslim countries favour a more active United Nations with broader powers, while simultaneously viewing the world body as dominated by the U. S. and failing to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a new poll by WorldPublicOpinion. org, a global network of research centres. The survey was conducted in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Indonesia, the Palestinian Territories and Azerbaijan. Nigeria, which has a 50 percent Muslim population, was also polled. The survey found conflicted attitudes towards the United Nations. There was, however, clear support for a U. N. with much broader powers than it has today. Asked about a number of options for giving the U. N. greater powers, nearly all received strong support. Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion. . . .

Survey shows Muslim support for UN using force to stop spread of nuclear weapons
Allison Hoffman, Jerusalem Post Correspondent In New York, Jerusalem Post 12/2/2008
A majority of respondents in several predominantly Muslim countries believe the UN Security Council should have the right to authorize military force to prevent a country that does not have nuclear weapons from acquiring them, or to prevent the production of nuclear fuel that could be used to manufacture weapons. According to poll results released Wednesday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, two-thirds of respondents in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey approved of the UN using force to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. People interviewed in the Palestinian Authority disagreed, with 59 percent telling interviewers the UN should not be allowed to authorize military action to prevent a country from acquiring such weapons. The data comes from a series of surveys on attitudes toward the UN conducted. . .

Halevy: Europe heading to major cultural clash
Jerusalem Post 12/1/2008
Europe is heading towards a major cultural clash with an ever-growing Muslim population that does not want to adopt European culture, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy said Monday. "We can expect a major inter-cultural clash in Europe," Halevy said in an address at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies on the changing face of the world on the eve of 2009. He added that prominent European countries, as well as Russia, could be nearly 50 percent Muslim by 2050, noting that England was currently debating whether Islamic law can be applicable to British Muslims instead of British law in certain matters such as marital disputes. The former spymaster, who immigrated to Israel from the UK as a teenager in 1948, opined that how European countries reacted to such a challenge would determine their very future.

Social economic cabinet renews Jerusalem fast train
Moshe Lichtman and Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 12/2/2008
The cabinet will also discuss increasing the project’s budget to NIS 6. 4 billion. The social economic cabinet today renewed approval for the A1 high-speed rail link to Jerusalem as part of the stimulus plan for national infrastructure projects. The social economic cabinet, headed by Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On and Minister of Transport Shaul Mofaz, also boosted the budget for the project 2. 5-fold to NIS 6. 4 billion. The project’s original estimate by Israel Railways, included in the five-year infrastructures plan of 2003, was NIS 2. 7 billion. The decision was made after the cabinet was briefed on the revised feasibility study for the line, which predicts an increase in passenger traffic. Bar-On decided to accept Mofaz’s position to build the line despite the cost overruns. He noted that the line was a national project of strategic importance.

Iraqi court sentences ’Chemical Ali’ to death
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/3/2008
BAGHDAD: An Iraqi court on Tuesday condemned one of Saddam Hussein’s right-hand men to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity over the crackdown on Shiites during their ill-fated 1991 uprising. Hassan al-Majid, 67, nick-named "Chemical Ali" already on death row after being convicted of genocide for the brutal military campaign against Iraq’s Kurds in the late 1980s, listened quietly to the verdict before muttering "Praise be to God. "Abdel-Ghani Abdel-Ghafor al-Ani, who headed Saddam’s Baath party in southern Iraq in 1991, was also condemned to death on the same charges over the uprising that followed Iraq’s defeat by US forces in the 1991 Gulf war. "Down with the occupation, down with the collaborators!" Ani shouted as Judge Mohammad al-Oreibi read the verdict reached by a five-judge panel. "God be praised, I will fall as a martyr to the nation.

Egyptian editor wins Gebran Tueni Award for journalism
Daily Star 12/3/2008
BEIRUT: Ibrahim Essa, editor in chief of the Egyptian daily Al-Dustour, was awarded the 2008 Gebran Tueni Award, the annual prize of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) that honors an editor or publisher in the Arab region. The prize, which was created in memory of Tueni, the Lebanese publisher and WAN Board Member who was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in December 2005, recognizes Essa’s commitment to freedom of the press, his courage, leadership, ambition and high managerial and professional standards, according to a statement released by WAN on Tuesday. Essa will receive the award during the third Arab Free Press Forum, to be held in Beirut, Lebanon, next week. Essa said he was honored to receive an award associated with Gebran Tueni and WAN because of their defense of press freedom in the Arab world and beyond.


No Bethlehem Wine for Christmas
Stuart Littlewood – London, Palestine Chronicle 12/2/2008
      Christian hotels in the Holy Land as well as Catholic and Anglican churches in the UK face Christmas without Bethlehem wine as Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint at Hebron are refusing to allow lorries carrying the wine to enter Israel.
     The wine is made by a Roman Catholic religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, at the Cremisan winery in Beit Jala, a suburb of Bethlehem. The Salesians have been producing the wine for the past 125 years as a direct means of support for their pastoral and educational work among the poor of Bethlehem and to provide a livelihood for many local Palestinian families. Although small by modern standards, the winery’s organic production using classical Italian methods has made its table wines and brandy famous far beyond the region.
     Now, for the first time in more than 100 years, the churches and religious establishments in Jerusalem, Nazareth and other parts of Israel are being deprived of Cremisan wine. Christian hotels and pilgrim houses in Israel are now being forced to buy Israeli wine. Because wines for export are shipped through the Israeli port of Haifa, no export to the UK and Europe has been possible for several months.

Power cuts, fuel shortages affect health and water supplies

Report, IRIN, Electronic Intifada 12/2/2008
      WEST BANK/GAZA (IRIN) - Adel Abu Sido, 31, a taxi driver from Gaza City, stands over his two-week old premature baby, Hadil, dreading her air supply may abruptly stop.
     Hadil’s incubator is not reliably providing enough oxygen due to the inconsistent power supply at al-Shifa Hospital, the main healthcare center in the Gaza Strip.
     The fuel for hospital generators has nearly run out and a shortage of basic medical supplies has left al-Shifa with only 20 percent of the oxygen supply it needs, forcing medical professionals in Gaza to make hard choices, said Gaza health ministry spokesperson Hamam Nasman.
     "Fifty percent of hospital equipment at al-Shifa has stopped functioning due to the lack of electricity and spare parts since this more than 20-day blockade started," said Gaza health minister Basem Naim, adding that 95 basic medications are out of stock.
     Asthma patients waiting for inhalers are being turned away, as hospital pharmacists scavenge local pharmacies.
     "Al-Shifa Hospital is using its secondary generator nearly 20 hours a day to power the hospital, since there is not enough fuel in stock to operate the primary generator," said spokesperson Nasman. Under normal circumstances the secondary generator has the capacity to power the hospital only three hours a day.

A Peace Process That Makes Peace Impossible

Nicola Nasser – The West Bank, Palestine Chronicle 12/2/2008
      In Annapolis, Abbas was lured by a promise of a Palestinian state.
     Palestinian-Israeli peace-making can only deliver if Palestinians are united, but the current Annapolis "peace process" was launched first of all as a blueprint for perpetuating the inter-Palestinian divide.
     Commitment or non-commitment to what the Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russian mediators in Middle East peace -- making described as the "Annapolis Process" in a statement they released after their meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on November 8 has become the terms of reference to make or break the Palestinian unity of ranks, which has so far failed the Egyptian mediation efforts, the latest in a series of national, Arab and non-Arab similar reconciliation endeavors.
     The Annapolis conference, which was hosted by the United States in Meryland on November 27, 2007 and attended by all members of the League of Arab States, convened with much fanfare and re-launched the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations after a seven-year interruption since the collapse of the trilateral Camp David summit with the U.S. in 2000.

A must-read interview

Michael Tomasky, The Guardian 12/2/2008
      You really have to take five or six minutes and read this amazing interview Ehud Olmert gave to Yedioth Ahranoth, republished in the current issue of the New York Review. Olmert, the lame-duck pm, speaks with a frankness I’ve never seen from a head of state from Israel or anywhere. To wit:
     Were a regional war to break out in the next year or two and were we to enter into a military confrontation with Syria, I have no doubt that we’d defeat them soundly. We are stronger than they. Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. We could contend with any of our enemies or against all of our enemies combined and win. The question that I ask myself is, what happens when we win? First of all, we’d have to pay a painful price.
     And after we paid the price, what would we say to them? "Let’s talk." And what would the Syrians say to us? "Let’s talk about the Golan Heights."
     So, I ask: Why enter a war with the Syrians, full of losses and destruction, in order to achieve what might be achieved without paying such a heavy price?...

Jewish ’Refugee’ Lobby Seeks to Eclipse Palestinian Losses

Jonathan Cook -- Nazareth, Palestine Chronicle 12/2/2008
      A broad coalition of Jewish lobby groups has made a series of breakthroughs this year in its campaign to link the question of justice for millions of Palestinian refugees with justice for Jews who left Arab states in the wake of Israel’s establishment 60 years ago.
     Referring to these Jews as the "forgotten refugees" and claiming that their plight is worse than that of exiled Palestinians, the campaign has scored political successes in recent months in Washington, London and Brussels.
     Last week, the campaign received a major fillip when one of Israel’s largest political parties announced that restitution of property for Arab Jews was a central plank of its platform for the general election scheduled for February.
     Shas, a religious fundamentalist party and the third biggest in the current parliament, said it will refuse to support any government that reaches a deal with the Palestinians unless it first forces the Arab states to compensate these Jewish emigrants.

Need for Action against Israel

Editorial, Gulf News, Palestine Media Center 12/2/2008
      As we get closer to celebrating Eid Al Adha, Muslims and Arabs across the region are preparing for this blessed occasion.
     Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, where a humanitarian crisis exists because of a brutal, month-long Israeli blockade. The people are being stripped of their basic rights and are struggling to get hold of food and medicine.
     The sick are not getting the medical attention they need and most recently, Gaza’s sole power plant had to be closed because of Israel’s refusal to allow regular shipments of industrial fuel to enter. Essentially, Palestinians are being stripped of their dignity.
     The current deterioration in humanitarian, economic and social situation in the Strip is both shocking and revolting. And the blockade is becoming more and more restrictive with no end in sight. Sadly, what is apparent is the lack of coverage of and attention to Gaza.

Gaza’s Grim Reaper

Paul J. Balles, Middle East Online 12/2/2008
      While Americans concentrate on the cost of rescuing the US financial system, and Europeans worry about how the worldwide financial crisis will affect them, Israel blithely, with US government and European community approval, deprives Gaza’s entire civilian population of food, medicine and clean drinking water.
     When pushed to explain their behaviour, they claim self-defence. Defence against whom? More than 50 per cent of the population in Gaza is comprised of children under the age of 15. Few people outside of Gaza even notice this slow genocide.
     Israel always manages to commit its worst deeds when no one else is looking. If they happen to be caught, they blame it on the Palestinians – on a few resistance fighters lobbing rockets into Israel in retaliation for a broken cease-fire. To the Israeli, the actions of a few violent Palestinians are justifiable cause for genocide of the entire Palestinian population in Gaza.

Interview: Hanan Ashrawi

Al Jazeera 12/3/2008
      Ashrawi says Obama’s policies indicate he wants to engage the Palestinians Hanan Ashrawi, the prominent Palestinian politician, is cautiously optimistic about the impact Barack Obama, the US president-elect, and his administration will have on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
     Al Jazeera attended a breakfast round-table with Ashrawi while she was visiting Doha, the capital of Qatar.
     Below are her responses to the questions that were put to her.
     Question: With the new US administration coming in and Hillary Clinton being appointed as US secretary of state, in your view are we likely to see a similar stance from her towards the Middle East peace process as there was under Bill Clinton’s administration?
     Hanan Ashrawi: First of all, we must not personalise issues. I don’t think it is a matter of individuals.

Obama’s Victory and What It Means to Us

Miko Peled, Palestine Chronicle 12/2/2008
      ’Instead of fighting to end the occupation, we must bring an end to apartheid.’
     Besides restoring my faith in humanity, Barak Obama’s victory made me think of one thing: The first Palestinian Prime Minister in a post Zionist, secular, democratic state in Palestine/Israel. This may sound strange coming from an Israeli living in America, but just as Obama is good for black and white Americans, a Palestinian prime minister in a secular democracy will be good for Israelis as well as Palestinians. If it can happen in the US it can happen in the holy land. On January 20, an African American by the name of Barak Hussein Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States. This is a milestone if ever there was one, and there are many lessons to be learned from it. At the same time, this does not mean that we should expect that an Obama administration will offer anything new as far as US policy towards Israel and the Palestinians.
     One lesson we need to take from Barak Obama’s victory is this: With razor sharp focus on a single issue, driven home here in America and in our shared homeland, we can achieve equal rights between Israelis and Palestinians in all of Palestine/Israel. The message has to be: End the apartheid. The term occupation has become irrelevant because it has come to imply a temporary situation and the Zionist rule of Palestine is clearly not temporary. The message and the effort need no longer focus on a tiny, helpless Palestinian state living peacefully alongside an all-powerful Israel that is armed to its teeth; that possibility has been obliterated for good anyway. The message and the effort should be focused on ending apartheid and a call for equal rights.

Corruption, Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing In the Occupied Territories

Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/2/2008
      Issues such as international law, Abbas’ leadership of the PLO, Hamas, terrorism and the failed peace process are analysed and discussed
     It has been under 16 months since I have been back to Ramallah, yet I see so many changes that have happened in and around the city. As I did the last time I had a chance to visit the West Bank, I entered from Jordan, from the west, across the Allenby Bridge, through Jericho into the community that lies just to the west of Ramallah, which is called Al Bireh. Al Bireh is historically a Muslim community and Ramallah a Christian community, but today it’s difficult to distinguish them from one another as they both seem to be and are both commonly referred to as simply, Ramallah.
     The first thing that could be observed very clearly was a further expansion of settlements in and around Ramallah and the surrounding agricultural communities. There aren’t any new settlements per se; rather, the existing ones have expanded their boundaries and their populations. These settlements are, of course, in direct violation of international law, as outlined in UN Resolution 446, which “...‘determines’ that Israeli settlements are a ‘serious obstruction’ to peace and calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention”(1) , Resolution 452, which “...‘calls’ on Israel to cease building settlements in occupied territories”(2) , Resolution 465, which "...‘deplores’ Israel’s settlements and asks all member states not to assist Israel’s settlements program"(3) , Resolution 471, which "...‘expresses deep concern’ at Israel’s failure to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention."(4)

Hajj in exchange for power

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 12/3/2008
      GAZA - The Hamas government is preventing thousands of Muslims from leaving the Gaza Strip to go on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca - a religious duty - on the Id al-Adha (feast of the sacrifice) holiday.
     What a sensational headline, what a fascinating paradox. What Israel has never dared to do - certainly not to this extent - is being done by a Palestinian government for which Islam is the basis of its platform and provides personal guidance for each of its ministers.
     Why does the Ismail Haniyeh government need the headache of the images of security roadblocks on the main road in Gaza preventing would-be pilgrims from reaching the Rafah crossing, which Egypt has announced will be temporarily opened, and the reports, including exaggerated ones, about people beaten by Hamas security forces because they insisted on getting close to the crossing? Why did the government decide not to allow out some 3,000 Gazans registered for the pilgrimage with the Palestinian religious affairs ministry in Ramallah as long as Egypt and Saudi Arabia don’t allow an additional 3,000 Gazans who registered with the religious affairs ministry in Gaza to go on hajj?