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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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19 December, 2008

Hamas declares end to truce, cites Israeli violations
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/20/2008
GAZA CITY: Tensions surged in and around Gaza Friday as the Islamist rulers of the besieged Palestinian strip declared an end to a cease-fire with Israel that the Jewish state has repeatedly violated, and warned they would respond to any new attacks. Shortly after the armed wing of Hamas formally announced the six-month truce was over, the smaller Islamic Jihad group said it fired three rockets at Israel, which caused no reported damage or casualties, in continuing retaliation for the recent assassination of a member. At dawn, Hamas’ Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades military wing said: "The cease-fire is over and there won’t be a renewal because the Zionist enemy has not respected its conditions. " On Friday night, another rocket was fired on Israel, again without casualties, the army said. Both Hamas and Israel have said that they would respond if attacked, but neither has said it would go on the offensive at this stage.

Eight Wounded in Israeli Air Strikes on Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported Thursday night that eight Palestinians were wounded in two separate Israeli airstrikes that targeted the northern and eastern parts of the Gaza Strip. Dr. Moawiya Hassanen, head of the Emergency Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, reported that three residents were moved to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, suffering moderate injuries. The three were wounded after the Israeli air force shelled Al Tuffah area, east of Gaza city. Also, five more Palestinians were wounded in an Israeli airstrike that targeted Jabalia, in the Zamo area, northern part of the Gaza Strip. Dr. Hassanen said that the five residents suffered mild-to-moderate wounds, and are currently receiving treatment in Kamal Adwan and Beit Hanoun hospitals.

Water Cut Off by Israel in Beita Municipality
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
Beita Municipality, a village near the city of Nablus, is completely without water on Friday after Israel cut all water lines into the area, according to a municipal official, Ma’an news agency reports. On Friday morning, Awad Dweikat , a spokesman for Beita Municipality said that Israel did not provide any reasons for cutting off the water, despite the village receiving a formal notification informing its leaders of the decision. Dwaikat called on the Red Cross and other human rights groups to intervene in the decision, saying that "at this moment" there is not a drop of water in the city. He called this inhumane act by Israel as "embarrassing, especially considering that tomorrow (Saturday) is an official holiday for people in the village. "Berita’s 10,000 residents require 500 [cubic meters] of water each day to fullfill their consumption needs.

UNRWA suspends distribution of food aid in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The UN relief and works agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on Thursday said that it stopped distribution of foodstuff in the Gaza Strip after its stores of wheat ran out. The agency said in a press release that it would suspend the distribution of wheat starting today and until further notice. It said that all crossings to the Gaza Strip are currently closed by Israel and no humanitarian assistance, fuel or others are allowed to enter. UNRWA explained that half the Gaza population are refugees who depend on its assistance for their sustenance, adding that foodstuffs are distributed to 20,000 refugees in the Strip on daily basis. The agency said that in the event wheat shipments are allowed into the Strip then it would use its utmost potential to compensate families that did not receive aid.

Foreign Office advises Britons not to buy Israeli settlement properties
Ian Black, The Guardian 12/17/2008
British citizens are to be formally advised by the government not to buy property in settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, a move that marks a proactive shift of its position on a core issue of the Middle East conflict. The advice, to be posted on the Foreign Office (FCO) website in the next 48 hours, will warn explicitly that potential purchasers of property in a settlement should consider that a future peace agreement "could have consequences for that property", FCO officials confirmed last night. The government has long insisted that settlements beyond the pre-1967 war "green line" border, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights "” both of which have been annexed by Israel "” are illegal. But it has never before linked this to purchase of property. Officials insist there is no change of policy but say that by spelling out the advice they are underlining the urgency and sensitivity of the issue.

Haaretz: Shady land deal unfolds from West Bank to California strip mall
The Associated Press, Haaretz, International Solidarity Movement 12/19/2008
The transformation of a piece of West Bank land from a Palestinian field into a Jewish settlement has roots in an unlikely place - Orange County, California - and in a document that a man supposedly signed more than four decades after the date of his death. Unfolding from the West Bank’s terraced olive groves to a strip mall in a Los Angeles suburb, the story of this posthumous deal offers a rare glimpse into the underworld of straw companies and middlemen through which chunks of land move from Palestinian to Israeli hands. Each transaction further complicates an Israeli withdrawal that would be key to any peace agreement. The land now houses a thriving Jewish settlement, another of the facts on the ground that strengthen Israel’s grip on the West Bank and outrage the Palestinians. Such property deals are driven by the settlers’ belief the land is their God-given right;

Ten Wounded at Ni’lin’s Anti-Wall Protest
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
At least ten civilians were wounded as hundreds of villagers from Ni’lin, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah, took to the streets Friday afternoon to protest the construction of the Israeli apartheid wall on their land. The protest was organized by the Ni’lin Committee Against the Wall. They have been organizing nonviolent protests and demonstrations in the village on a regular basis for over six months. Dozens of Israeli soldiers lined up to prevent the protest, which was to be a prayer at the lands slated for confiscation by the Israeli government. Troops, however, fired dozens of tear gas canisters at the worshippers, preventing them from praying on the land. The demonstrators where forced to pray in another place, away from the planned protest area. Soldiers fired at Red Crescent ambulances directly hitting one of them with a gas bomb.

Palestinian protesters hurl shoes at Israeli troops
Middle East Online 12/19/2008
BILIN, West Bank - Demonstrators hurled their shoes at Israeli security forces on Friday in a protest against the West Bank separation barrier, following in the footprints of a now famous Iraqi journalist. Similar protests in the past near the village of Bilin have often ended with young Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli troops who generally respond by firing tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. This time, many of the 500 or so protesters hurled shoes instead in tribute to the journalist who made international headlines and was jailed for throwing his footwear at US President George W. Bush in Baghdad. "We want to demonstrate our support to Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi and say that like the Iraqis, we are opposed to the occupation," one of the organisers of the protest said. Palestinian and foreign activists regularly gather at the West Bank village to protest against the Israeli barrier.

Bil’in: Israeli Army Attacks the Weekly Protest Injuring at Least 10 People, including Journalists
International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
In Bil’in village near Ramallah city, central West Bank, demonstrators marched today after the Friday prayer carrying Palestinian flags and banners calling for an end to the Israeli occupation, the building of the apartheid wall, illegal settlement expansion, land confiscation, settler attacks, closures and roadblocks, and the release of all 11,000 plus detainees. The demonstration included internationals and Israeli activist. Members of the Peoples’ Struggle Front also joined the protest today and carried banners. Today’s theme was the Iraqi journalist and the shoes he threw at outgoing US President George W Bush. Demonstrators carried shoes along with damning pictures and words of Bush and his allies Olmert, Barak and Sharon. Beginning in the village of Bil’in, the march moved through the streets, and the demonstrators rang out chants rejecting US foreign policy and life under Israeli occupation.

Three Wounded in Nonviolent Demonstration in Bethlehem
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
Three Palestinian civilians were wounded in a nonviolent demonstration in Bethlehem, organized by the Popular Campaign Against the Wall and Settlements. Dozens of protestors marched after Friday’s prayers from the village of Um Salamouna, near Bethlehem, to the construction site of the wall Israel is building on the village land. A Palestinian man dressed as Santa Clause led the demonstration, as Bethlehem is preparing to start their Christmas Celebrations. This was a deliberate sign to show Christian-Muslim solidarity and coexistence, in Palestine. Israeli troops pushed the protestors, causing three protestors to endure mild injuries, including Dr. Mohammad Odeh, head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Services, in addition to two children, Ahmad and Hareth Breijeiyeh. The protestors called for ending the internal Palestinian divide, and demanded both parties, Fatah and Hamas, to resume talks and reach a national unity agreement.

Israel has turned West Bank town into prison
Daan Bauwens, Inter Press Service, Daily Star 12/20/2008
QALQILYA, Occupied West Bank: Qalqilya has been an encircled town since the Israeli West Bank barrier was built around it in 2003. Only one narrow gate guarded by Israeli soldiers allows access. The anger, disbelief and protests over this situation have become muted. The people of Qalqilya are waking up to the reality of near imprisonment. The town’s legislators spend most of their time in Israeli prisons without being charged with anything. "The wall is killing the people of Qalqilya," says Emat, a 25-year-old shopkeeper. "Nothing comes in, nothing goes out, we can’t make a living. The people here are almost dead. "Behind Emat’s empty street is the entrance to the daily vegetable market. A quiet one by Arab standards, with a total of about 20 vegetable stalls. Ten years ago, thousands of Israelis came to this market, making Qalqilya the richest city then in the West Bank.

Protesters throw shoes at Israeli soldiers near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Four Israeli soldiers were reported injured along with eight protesters and two journalists at an anti-wall demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in, near Ramallah. A statement from the protest group claimed that demonstrators marched after Friday prayers, carrying Palestinian flags and banners calling for an end to the Israeli occupation. During the event, two journalists were injured by rubber-coated bullets along with six others, the group claimed. Meanwhile, Israeli sources were reporting on Friday afternoon that four soldiers had been injured during the same event, although the reports were non-specific. According to a statement from the groups organizing the event, protesters carried signs with pictures of George W. Bush dodging shoes thrown from an Iraqi reporter in Baghdad earlier this week.

Awkaf ministry denounces IOA establishment of garbage dump in OJ
Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Awkaf (endowments) ministry in the PA caretaker government has denounced the Israeli occupation authority’s establishment of a garbage dump in occupied Jerusalem over tens of dunums of Abu Dis lands. Taleb Abu Shaer, the Awkaf minister, said in a statement on Wednesday that IOA bulldozers expanded the garbage dump, which would only entail big damage to the nearby villages and towns. He said that the damage would affect health of residents topped by spread of epidemics and diseases while the environment would also suffer badly. The minister condemned such "racist measures" that target forcing Palestinian Jerusalemites to leave their homes and lands. He appealed to the Arab League, OIC and other concerned agencies to immediately and urgently intervene to save the occupied holy city and the Aqsa Mosque in face of repeated IOA assaults.

23-year-old Palestinian suffocates in Gaza Strip tunnel
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A 23-year-old Gazan was killed in a tunnel-collapse in the As-Salam area of Rafah Friday morning. Medical sources confirmed that Yousef Muhammad Shattah suffocated before medics appeared on the scene, and arrived dead at Abu Yousef An-Najjar Hospital. On Monday, a young Palestinian man delivering goods from Egypt to Gaza through a tunnel in the same As-Salam neighborhood near Rafah died when a tunnel collapsed. Gazan medical sources identified the victim, whose body was taken to Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital, as 22-year-old Mahmoud Al-Akhras. Medical sources added that a fire broke out in another tunnel last Sunday afternoon. Twelve people suffered from suffocation and received medical treatment. Tunnel accidents in the Gaza Strip have claimed more than 50 lives this year. Smugglers maintain an elaborate system of tunnels, which are currently. . .

UN: Gaza blockade 'unprecedented;' hardship 'unacceptable'
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The United Nations peace envoy to Jerusalem called for calm in Gaza on Thursday in a statement sent to Ma’an. "Priority must be to ensure calm in and around Gaza and urgently improve humanitarian conditions. . . a major escalation of violence would have grave consequences for the protection of civilians in Israel and Gaza," said UN peace envoy Robert Serry in Jerusalem. Observing the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Serry noted that, "The unprecedented level of closure of crossing points into Gaza has caused unacceptable hardship to the civilian population. " Detailing the security, humanitarian and development dimensions of the Gaza crisis, Serry said that "it is also a deep political crisis, threatening the unified basis on which a future Palestinian state must rest, and the two State solution itself.

All Gaza mills shut down; bakeries one by one running out of flour
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The remainder of operating flour mills in Gaza closed down Thursday night after running out of wheat, said Head of the Society of Mill Owners in Gaza Abed An-Naser Al-A’jrami on Friday. Most mills closed down as early as 19 November, and only a handful stayed open to process what grain remained in the area. Less than 4,000 tons of wheat was delivered to Gaza since the start of December, at which time stores were already exhausted. UNRWA closed its doors Thursday, saying it would be unable to provide emergency food aid to Gazans, since Israel continued to refuse to allow aid shipments into the Strip. Al-A’jrami noted that those bakeries still open in the south of Gaza are shutting down because of the fuel shortage, and bakeries in the north are rapidly running out of flour as well as fuel.

Committee: 1,000 patients need treatment abroad
Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The committee of relatives of patients in the Gaza Strip has said that the health conditions of those patients, who obtained medical permits to travel abroad for treatment, were worsening as a result of inability to travel. It said that the number of patients had exceeded 1,000 and the number is expected to increase as the Rafah border terminal with Egypt was still shut down while the Israeli occupation authority deliberately delays their entry into Palestinian lands occupied in 1948 for treatment. The committee appealed to the Red Cross and other concerned parties to help in facilitating travel of those patients before they join the list of victims of the siege that reached 271 patients so far. The free world should help alleviate the suffering of those patients and save them from ultimate death, the committee concluded.

Human rights group: Israel escalating attacks on Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights on Friday accused Israeli occupation forces of of escalating attacks on the Gaza Strip and destroying Palestinian property, as well as a military attack that killed at least one man. The Israeli army "has escalated its military attacks on the Gaza Strip, killing a Palestinian and destroying houses and other civilian premises. " Meanwhile, Israel’s tight blockade of the Gaza Strip has continued, resulting with unprecedented deterioration of the humanitarian situation due to severe shortages of food, water, fuel and medical supplies, the group said in a statement. Daily power outage, which lasts for long hours in Gaza, has exacerbated this crisis. The center also condemned the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which represents "a form of unlawful collective punishment of the Strip’s population.

ISRAEL-OPT: UNRWA suspends food distribution in Gaza
UNRWA, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 12/20/2008
GAZA CITY, 19 December 2008 (IRIN) - The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) was forced to suspend its emergency and regular food distribution services in the Gaza Strip without warning on 18 December, due to the continued closure of all commercial and passenger border crossings. Wheat supplies scheduled to arrive in Gaza on 9-10 December were unable to enter, andhad exhausted all stocks of flour in its warehouses due to the crisis. "The food distribution programmes are suspended until further notice," saidspokesperson Jamal Hamed in Gaza. "As soon as Israel allows us to import food we will resume. " Some 750,000 refugees out of a population of 1. 5 million Palestinians living in Gaza depend on food aid from. On average, the UN agency distributes food to about 20,000 refugees per day, including rice, cooking oil, flour, tinned meat and milk.

Dignity boat to return to Gaza next Saturday
Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian international campaign to lift the siege on Gaza Strip has declared that the Dignity boat would return to the Strip next Saturday carrying one ton of medical supplies and foreign activists. The campaign said in a statement on Thursday that the boat voyage organized by the Free Gaza Movement was the fifth of its kind and was trying to break the siege on the strip and activate Arab and international solidarity with the Palestinians. It added that the delegation, grouping foreign activists, journalists and representatives of charitable societies, would visit hospitals, schools and agricultural fields. The delegates would address a press conference as soon as they land in Gaza port. The campaign also announced that a similar Lebanese solidarity ship is expected to sail to Gaza early next January.

El Khodary: 'Qatari ship to reach Gaza coast Saturday morning'
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
Independent Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Jamal El Khodary, stated on Friday that a Qatari ship carrying humanitarian supplies has sailed from the Larnaka port in Cyprus, and is expected to arrive at the Gaza Coast on Saturday morning. El Khodary added that, if successfully reaches the Gaza Shore, the ship will be the first Arab ship that breaks the Israeli siege. Earlier this month the Israeli army barred a Libyan ship reaching the Gaza shore. He also said that if the ship makes it to the Gaza shore on Saturday, it will considered the first of a series of Arab ship that would sail in the coming days, including a ship from Lebanon carrying onboard several parliamentarians, relief workers, and religious leaders. Parliamentarians of different Arab, Islamic and international countries are also planning to send a ship carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

Soldiers kidnap several residents in Nablus
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/20/2008
Israeli soldiers invaded on Thursday the northern West Bank city of Nablus and kidnapped several members and leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Soldiers also violently searched a number of homes causing damage to their properties. The media office of the PFLP reported that soldiers broke into the house of Jad Hmeidan, one of the leaders of Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the PLFP, and violently attacked his family. The office added that soldiers kidnapped Hasan Shalbana, 45, Roba Khalid, 45, and a third PFLP member who was not identified until the time of this report. Khalid is the father of Mohammad who was killed by the Israeli forces during to an invasion to Al Ein refugee camp in Nablus; one Israeli soldier was also killed in the invasion. Furthermore, soldiers installed a roadblock near the Za’tara roadblock and kidnapped Fawzi Qawareeq, a resident of Awarta village.

Israel Invades Jenin and a Surrounding Village, Detains Young Man
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
Early Friday morning, Israeli soldiers invaded the northern West Bank city of Jenin and the village of Araba that lies just southwest of Jenin and detained a young man, according to Palestinian Authority security sources, Ma’an news agency reported. Israeli soldiers abducted the young man from the village of Araba and they also invaded the city of Jenin. Palestinian Authority security sources told Ma’an news agency that troops invaded the village in a dawn raid, before detaining Farouq Muhammad Mousa, age 22, after breaking into his house. Palestinian sources said that he was taken to an undisclosed location. According to witnesses, Israeli forces surrounded Mousa’s home, and fired percussion grenades through the windows while telling residents to evacuate the home. In Jenin, forces shot their assault rifles in the air before withdrawing from the city.

Israeli forces invade Jenin, detain man at nearby village
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers overran the northern West Bank city of Jenin and a nearby village, where forces detained a young man on Friday morning, according to Palestinian Authority (PA) security sources. Soldiers seized a young Palestinian man from the village of Araba, southwest of Jenin, and invaded Jenin proper, as well. PA security sources told Ma’an that troops overran the village in a dawn raid, before detaining 22-year-old Farouq Muhammad Mousa and breaking into his home. He was then taken to an undisclosed location, PA sources said. In Jenin, forces only opened fire in the air before withdrawing. No one was detained or injured in that raid, witnesses said.

UN: 290 settler-related attacks on Palestinians by November
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Friday that settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank increased this year. Within the first ten months of 2008, OCHA recorded 290 settler-related incidents targeting Palestinians and their property. This figure, while not comprehensive, "reflects a worrying trend," the UN office said, "since it surpasses the total recorded by OCHA in each of the previous two years. " In 2006 OCHA recorded 182 attacks for all 12 months combined, while in 2007 the sum was 243. Similarly, Palestinian deaths and injuries resulting from settler-related incidents in 2008 exceeded the number of Palestinian casualties in each of the previous two years (131 in 2008, compared to 74 in 2006 and 92 in 2007). Group violenceSince 2006, a significant majority of settler incidents. . .

Soldier injured in Al-Aqsa attack on Israeli jeep near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli soldier was injured in an attack by the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Friday, according to a statement. The armed group said it fired on a passing Israeli military jeep while passing on the main road in the town of Ash-Shuyukh, near Hebron, injuring one soldier. The armed group claimed in a statement that the attack “comes in response to the Israeli violations being carried out against Palestinians and arrests targeting Brigades leaders. ”[end]

Rockets fired as Gaza truce ends
Associated Press, The Guardian 12/20/2008
Hamas yesterday announced the end of an often-breached truce with Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by firing two rockets into Israel. The Israeli military also said troops in fields adjoining Gaza came under sniper fire from across the border. There were no injuries reported in any of the incidents. In a statement on its website, Hamas said Israel had breached agreements by imposing a blockade on Gaza and staging military strikes into the densely populated coastal strip. "Since the enemy did not abide with the conditions. . . we hold the enemy fully responsible for ending the truce and we confirm that the Palestinian resistance factions headed by Hamas will act," the statement said. Israel says the six-month-old truce, brokered by Egypt, never had an official expiry date, but it is interested in prolonging what it calls "understandings" with Hamas.

Palestinians fire two Kassams at western Negev; none wounded, no damage
Jerusalem Post 12/20/2008
Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip towards the western Negev in Israel’s south on Friday evening, Israel radio reported. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. [end]

Israeli settlers flee Sderot by end of truce
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- A state of fear engulfed residents of the settlement of Sderot as the truce between the Israeli occupation and Palestinian factions came to an end Friday morning according to a report in the Hebrew Haaretz newspaper. According to the report, the streets are deserted, shops are closed and many residents of the settlement which is in the range of Palestinian factions fire decided to leave the settlement north to safer places. One of the residents of the settlement was quoted as saying he is fleeing along with his wife an four children north away from the Palestinian rocket fire adding that before the truce about 20 home made missiles would fall on the settlement and that he fears that by the end of the truce those missiles are going to start falling. Another settler said that she was sending her children to schools as they are safer places and said she was aware that many settlers were leaving the settlement to safer places.

Violence along Gaza border marks official end of Hamas-Israel truce
Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem and Matthew Weaver, The Guardian 12/19/2008
An Israeli soldier directs a tank near Kibbutz Kissufim, just outside the central Gaza Strip, Photograph: Amir Cohen/ReutersSporadic violence along the Gaza-Israel border today marked the official end of a six-month truce between Hamas and Israel. The Israeli military said Gaza militants fired two rockets into Israel this morning, following heavy rocket fire in recent days, and troops guarding Israeli farmers in fields along the border came under sniper fire from inside Gaza. Hamas officials declared the agreement dead yesterday, 24 hours before it was due to officially expire. This came after another day of escalating violence, beginning with an Israeli air raid on Gaza, which Hamas has controlled for the past 18 months. Hamas responded to Israel’s attack, which destroyed a weapons store and a rocket factory, by firing eight rockets and five mortars at Israel’s southern towns.

Israel occupation troops around the Gaza Strip put on high alert
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces around the Gaza Strip were put on high alert and cancelled all leave for its troops, according to Israeli military sources which said that the step was taken because Palestinian factions decided to end the truce. The Israeli radio said that the Israeli side sent a message to the Palestinian factions saying that the Israeli side is not interested in ending the truce but it will "respond harshly to any breach by the Palestinian side", ignoring all the breaches by the Israeli side which have resulted in the death of 20 Palestinians last month alone. A high ranking Israeli security source said that the occupation government will deal with situation in the Gaza Strip according to developments on the ground. The Israeli source claimed that the IOF is capable of dismantling the infrastructure of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but claimed. . .

Eight Palestinians wounded in two Israeli air raids on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation air force launched two air raids on Thursday evening on the northern and eastern Gaza Strip wounding eight residents as part of an escalation by the occupation forces that has resulted in the death of one Palestinian and the wounding of a number of others. Dr. Muawiya Hasanein, the director of ambulance and emergency in the health ministry, said on Thursday evening that ambulances evacuated three wounded from the Tuffah neighbourhood east of Gaza city describing their injuries as moderate. He added that five others were taken to Kamal Odwan hospital after another Israeli occupation attack to the east of the town of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip and said that their injuries were light to moderate. These attacks took place after Palestinian factions held the Israeli occupation responsible for the collapse of the fragile truce.

Israeli TV reporter unveils military plan to destroy Gaza tunnels
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem /Jerusalem – Ma’an - Israeli TV unveiled new engineering techniques that will allow troops to destroy the extensive tunnel network snaking beneath the Gaza-Egypt border. According to a recently filmed report Israeli soldiers have completed 16 months of special drills and plan to destroy over 600 tunnels. The Israeli army has detailed information about the tunnels including the differences between those used for smuggling food, weapons, and individuals. The special battalion of Israeli soldiers preparing for the mission has been named Yalhum, or “Jewel” in English, and are expected to begin a campaign to assert Israeli control over the tunnels as the truce between Israel and Gaza ends. Ameer, an Israeli military officer commented on the mission saying “the enemy is improving its abilities. We decided to surprise them by showing our new abilities. "

Israel ’showered with projectiles’ as six-month ceasefire expires
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Hamas and its armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, announced an end to the semi-successful truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip on Friday. Immediately following the announcement factions launched several homemade projectiles at Israeli towns and continued the barrage throughout the morning. An afternoon lull was followed by the evening launch of one shell at Sderot. Claiming the projectiles launched towards the Israeli town of Nahal Oz was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)’s Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades. The armed group said in a statement that the fighters "chose resistance" over the ceasefire. The Al-Aqsa Brigades, affiliated with Fatah, claimed a projectile attack on Sderot. The militant group said Israel was to blame for the end to the truce and its actions "were a sign of Israel’s defeat.

Gaza quiet after ceasefire with Israel ends
Reuters, The Independent 12/19/2008
Armed Islamist factions in Gaza put their men on alert today after ending a six-month truce with Israel and warned the Jewish state not to attack. But apart from the rhetoric, calm prevailed. Masked Palestinian conducted exercises in front of television cameras in the hours immediately after the Islamist Hamas group, which controls the coastal strip, unilaterally brought an end to the ceasefire. Civilians on both sides seemed to shrug off the end of the ceasefire, which many in Gaza feel never delivered the expected easing of the Israeli blockade, and many in Israel feel never delivered the expected security from Palestinian attacks. The truce has in fact been eroded almost daily since early November by Israeli raids against Islamist militants and showers of largely ineffective rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.

End of the cease-fire means a return to action for Qassam hunters
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
The beeper rings at 4 A. M. , and they jump out of bed, leaving their wife and kids while they go chasing Qassam rockets. Such has been the life of security officers in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip since the rocket barrages began eight years ago. In the communities of the Gaza envelope they are known as "Qassam hunters. "Men like Yehuda Ben Maman of Sderot, Gideon Sharabi of Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, Yoav Peled of Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council and Nikki Levi of Eshkol Regional Council. The difference between their work and that of security officers in the center of the country is much the same gulf between jobniks (soldiers serving in administrative positions) and combat soldiers. They arrive at the rocket landing site before anyone, call for back-up and document every Qassam fired at Israel.

Islamic Jihad: Jihad, resistance the only way
Ali Waked, YNetNews 12/19/2008
Group’s military wing claims responsibility for evening rockets, holds mass rally to protest any renewed ceasefire - Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, promised Israel that "the terror of rockets would continue to haunt residents of Sderot and the Gaza vicinity. "The group claimed responsibility for two Friday night rockets that landed in the western Negev. The Israeli military said three more rockets were fired Friday morning and that troops guarding Israeli farmers in fields adjoining Gaza also came under sniper fire from across the border. The Islamic Jihad said that the rockers were "in response to the crime of occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, and were intended to let the Zionist occupiers know that our missiles and rockets will continue to plague them. "

Lull ends: 3 Qassams hit western Negev
Ynet reporters, YNetNews 12/19/2008
Three rockets fired from northern Gaza Strip land in open areas within southern communities. Two hours later, Palestinians fire at farmers working in fields of kibbutz; no injuries reported, but several vehicles sustain damage. Islamic Jihad’s military wing claims responsibility for rocket fire - Truce officially ends: Three Qassam rockets fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in open areas within the Eshkol and Sha’ar Hanegev regional councils. There were no reports of injuries or damage. The rockets were fired about 75 minutes after the official end of the half-year truce between Israel and Hamas. About two hours later, Palestinians opened fire at farmers working at the Kibbutz Nir Oz fields in the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no injuries, but several vehicles sustained damage.

Americans support conscientious objectors to IDF military service by sending 20,000 letters to Barak
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
WASHINGTON - Conscientious objectors who refused to serve in the Israel Defense Forces received an unprecedented shot in the arm from North American Jewry yesterday, when demonstrators protested against their detention by presenting 20,000 letters from Diaspora Jews demanding their release. Dozens of activists tried to deliver the letters to Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a demonstration outside his office in Tel Aviv. Many letters came from a Web site called Jewish Voice for Peace, which features a video in which the objectors explain in English why they refused to enlist. Although most American Jews are politically aligned with the liberal left, IDF service is generally viewed as an unassailable duty. Thus, there has never been a concentrated effort to lobby Israelis to evade conscription. The Jewish Voice for Peace has recruited actor Ed Asner, historian and author Howard Zinn, and folk singer Ronnie Gilbert to the cause.

Report: 49 Palestinians, including 7 children killed during truce
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Forty nine Palestinians, including seven children and eight resistance fighters were killed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the six-month Egyptian brokered truce which ended on Friday morning, according to a report by Quds Press. Palestinian factions agreed to a truce on 19th June this year provided that the Israeli occupation stops its aggression and lifts the siege and that the truce should be extended to include the West Bank. According the report of Quds Press 22 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip where the truce was active, 22 others were killed in the West Bank and five in occupied Jerusalem. These figures include seven children under the age of 18, and elderly man and an elderly woman. Amongst the Eight resistance fighters killed during the truce, seven were assassinated in the West Bank by special occupation forces. -- See also: QB: Occupation breached truce 185 times, QB retaliated to 170 of them

QB: Occupation breached truce 185 times, QB retaliated to 170 of them
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said on Thursday that the Israeli occupation forces violated the six-month-old truce 185 times and that the Brigades retaliated to 170 of them injuring 38 Israelis. In a report published by the armed wing the QB said that violations by the IOF included targeting civilians causing the death of a number of them. The breaches also included kidnapping a number of Palestinian fishermen and foreign solidarity activists as well as farmers, according to the report which also listed the closure of crossings and limited incursions into the Gaza strip amongst the breaches of the truce. The report said that 21 Palestinians were killed in these breaches, 53 others were wounded and 38 were kidnapped by the IOF. The IOF conducted 15 incursions into the Gaza Strip and closed the crossings on 51 occasions. -- See also: Report: 49 Palestinians, including 7 children killed during truce

Hamas declares end to cease-fire, Israeli gov’t sources fear violence is unavoidable
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Hamas yesterday officially announced an end to its truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip. However, Jerusalem ordered the Israel Defense Forces to refrain from offensive operations for now, saying it wants to see how the situation develops. "We will not be the ones to violate the cease-fire," a senior defense official said last night. "If Hamas wants to escalate, we will know how to act - and it will be clear to the international community who is behind the renewed fighting. "However, a senior government official warned, "if Hamas doesn’t come to its senses and calm the situation, there will be no choice other than an Israeli military response. "The IDF has raised its alert level along the Gaza border. Yesterday, it canceled weekend leaves for all units stationed near the Strip and instructed units to prepare for mobilization.

Hamas declares end to Israel truce
Al Jazeera 12/19/2008
Palestinian group Hamas has declared that the six-month ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip is over. The ceasefire officially ended at daybreak in Gaza on Friday and came after armed Palestinian groups admitted that they had been using the truce to train and better arm themselves. The Izz-al-din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, blamed Israel for the failure of the truce. "The ceasefire is over and there won’t be a renewal because the Zionist enemy has not respected its conditions," the group said on its website. The announcement followed talks between various Palestinian factions within the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. "The first day since the end of the truce has actually been marked by relative calm," Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reported from Gaza.

Russia expresses concern over ceasefire end; urges Hamas to reconsider
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Russia urged Hamas to review its decision to end the six month truce with Israel, the Foreign Minister expressed concern in a Friday statement. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted “concern” over the decision of Palestinian factions to end the truce between Israel, saying the innocent would be the only victims.

Rice warns Hamas: Violence won’t help Palestinian cause Staff And Ap, Jerusalem Post 12/19/2008
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday called on Hamas in Gaza not to attack Israel, and warned that acts of violence would not help the Palestinian cause. "I sincerely hope that there will not be a resumption of the violence because that is not going to help the people of Gaza, it is not going to help the Palestinians, it is not going to help the Palestinian cause," she said. Rice’s comments came at the end of the truce agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza, which lasted six months. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his appeal to extend the truce and immediately halt rocket attacks against Israel and all acts of violence, UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said at the UN headquarters in New York. "A major escalation of violence would have grave consequences for the protection of civilians in Israel and Gaza,. . .

Tension surges as Hamas-Israel truce ends
Middle East Online 12/19/2008
GAZA CITY- Tension surged in and around Gaza on Friday as the democratically elected Palestinian movement in the enclave said it will not be renewing a truce with Israel because Tel Aviv had not kept its side of the deal. Shortly after the armed wing of Hamas formally announced the shaky six-month truce was over, the Islamic Jihad group said it fired three rockets at Israel as a response to Israeli attacks, which reported no damage or casualties. At dawn, Hamas’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said: "The ceasefire is over and there won’t be a renewal because the Zionist enemy has not respected its conditions. " Both Hamas and Israel have said they would respond if attacked, but neither has said it would go on the offensive at this stage. "We issue a warning to the Zionist enemy: all attacks against the Gaza Strip or any new crime will trigger a large-scale confrontation and. . .

Egypt blames Israel for situation in Gaza
Middle East Online 12/19/2008
CAIRO - Egypt’s foreign ministry on Friday pinned the blame on Israel for the situation in Gaza as its Hamas rulers said a Cairo-mediated truce in and around the territory had come to an end. "The legal status of the Gaza Strip defines it as Palestinian territory that is still under Israeli occupation," the ministry said. "Israel still controls the airspace and waters of the Gaza Strip, as well as most of its borders and access to the territory," it said in a statement. "Under international law and the 4th Geneva Convention in particular, as the occupying power, Israel must ensure the basic needs of the inhabitants of the territory it occupies are met, such as electricity, water, fuel, food and medicine. " The statement warned against "attempts to give responsibility for the administration of the Gaza Strip on its neighbour, Egypt," saying this would be "impossible to accept".

Khudari: Crossing points must be opened despite end of truce
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Chairman of the Gaza-based Popular Committee Against the Siege MP Dr. Jamal Al-Khudari has asserted Friday that the issue of the crossing points was a humanitarian issue that shouldn’t be linked to the truce with the Israeli occupation. "Israel, as an occupation force is obliged, under international laws, to secure all basic needs of the people under its occupation, and it should open all crossing points to let life go on normally" Khudari explained in a press conference he held in Gaza city. He also disclosed that the Israeli economic siege on Gaza Strip, which has been in place for more than two years now, has reached advanced and serious stages that could lead to catastrophic results on the lives of the 1. 5 million Palestinian citizens living in the tiny coastal Strip. "Since the siege was imposed, the Israeli occupation government used to allow 10% of the basic. . .

Factions say no new truce in Gaza; Fatah appears divided on issue
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated military wings will not renew the truce with Israel, the groups stated Friday, though a second statement from Fatah officials said their stance was with the President. Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Nafeth Azzam declared the death of the truce at an Islamic Jihad festival at the Al-Fadilah square in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City. The festival was titled "The resistance opposes the blockade" and was attended by large crowds of supporters and political leaders. The Fatah-affiliated military factions held a press conference the same day where spokesman Abu Harun stated that not only were the groups against a renewal of the ceasefire, but that “the armed wings are ready to repel any attack on the Palestinians in Gaza. ”Fatah Central Council over-rides statementsCountering earlier statements from Fatah-affiliated. . .

Truce declared dead; Israeli press reacts
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an Report – The day the truce ended leading Israeli newspapers hit the stands with clear and bold headlines pronouncing the death of the ceasefire agreement, and predicting the worst for the days to come. The three main newspapers in Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post ran front-page photos of Palestinian fighters linked to the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The images showed PFLP-affiliated Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades members preparing to shell the western Negev and nearby towns with projectiles, as well as a few other tense images of Israelis awaiting the bombardment. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz predicted violence will return to the region, and revealed the presence of Israeli troops massing at the borders ready to target Hamas’s Al-Qassam fighters when violence is initiated and unmanned Israeli aircrafts are being readied to target launch sites.

Israeli UN envoy decries Hamas play mocking Gilad Shalit
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 12/20/2008
Israel on Thursday voiced its outrage over a play staged by Hamas at a mass demonstration earlier this week in which members of the militant Islamic group made fun of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was abducted by militant Gaza groups, including Hamas, in a cross-border raid in June 2006, and he remains in captivity. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Professor Gabriela Shalev, took the opportunity during the monthly discussion on the Middle East to remind the Security Council members that "The soldier Gilad Shalit has been held captive by Hamas for 910 days and nights. ""As a human being and a mother," Shalev told the council, "I was horrified to learn about the display held in central Gaza to mark 21 years since the establishment of Hamas.

Lebanese rally against Israeli siege of Gaza
Middle East Online 12/19/2008
BEIRUT - Tens of thousands of people gathered in Beirut on Friday for a mass protest organised by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement against Israel’s crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip. Streets in the southern suburbs were cordoned off as demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and yellow Hezbollah flags poured into the Hezbollah stronghold as loudspeakers blasted out a speech by its chief, Hassan Nasrallah. "We are responsible, like all Arabs and Muslims, to completely liberate Palestine," Hezbollah’s deputy head Naim Kassem told the crowd. "The Palestinian cause is a just cause," he said from a platform on a main road in the area. Hezbollah boy scouts and women in black chadors carried two huge Palestinian flags. Similar smaller demonstrations were held in cities in the south, north and in the Bekaa Valley, east of the capital.

Haneyya: Anti-siege demonstrations reflect Arab disgruntlement over the siege
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian prime minister Ismael Haneyya has expressed gratitude to calls made by leaders and officials of Arab and Islamic parties allover the Arab world to end the siege on Gaza Strip, describing the rallies as reflection of the Arab and Muslim anger over the blockade. "Those marches and sit-ins were indeed tell the Palestinian people that they aren’t alone in confronting the Israeli occupation," asserted Haneyya in statements he made after the Friday prayer in Gaza city. "This is a clear message to those besieging us that they should take their hands off of our people, and that they should end the siege," added the prime minister. In this regard, Haneyya urged religious scholars and popular movements across the Arab and Muslim worlds not to relax their activities till the Israeli siege on Gaza Strip is lifted.

Thousands of Hezbollah supporters protest Gaza siege
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/20/2008
Thousands of supporters of the militant Hezbollah group swarmed Beirut’s southern suburbs Friday, demanding Israel lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Hezbollah’s supporters, including black-clad Shiite women with their children, waved flags and carried banners denouncing the Gaza blockade as they marched in the neighborhoods devastated by Israeli airstrikes in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Chants of "Death to America" and "Israel is the enemy of Muslims" rang out from the crowd. The protests were in response to a call by Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to people across the Arab and Muslim world to help end the siege and support the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power of it last year, ousting the forces of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mass protest in Beirut against Gaza blockade
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 12/19/2008
Thousands gather after Hizbullah chief’s call to rally; Organization’s deputy chief calls on Egypt to open Rafah crossing -Egypt must open the Rafah crossing on its border with Gaza, said Hizbullah’s Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Kassem, during a speech Friday afternoon in Beirut. Hundreds of thousands of Hizbullah supporters gathered all over the city in protest of the ’siege’ on Gaza. "Why is Gaza under siege," asked Kassem in his speech. "Because its people rejected humiliating political initiatives and chose resistance. Israel doesn’t want them to choose their own destiny, so it set up a blockade," he said. "Egypt has all of the religious, moral and legal justification to stand with the people in Gaza and Palestine. There is no agreement in the world that allows for standing with a blocked, starving people and killing women and children," Kassem said.

Haniyeh to Arab world: Your support tells the world to keep their 'hands off' Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The De Facto Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza thanked Hizbullah, and several Islamic and Arab national parties for their calls to stand by the people of Gaza as the ceasefire agreement came to an end Friday. Hizbullah organized a mass rally in Beirut Friday where hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian refugees gathered in the city calling for an end to the siege on Gaza, and for Egypt to open the Rafah crossing. During his weekly speech at the Friday prayer session Ismail Haniyeh sent thanks to the Arab and Islamist parties and factions expressing solidarity, and said the Strip needed parties to stand by them and help Gaza break the siege. Gazans, he said, appreciate the sit-ins and rallies organized by other Arab peoples. He said they indicated that the Arab nation is sick of the siege and the Palestinians are not alone in facing it.

Zionist troops abduct two men during raid into South Lebanon
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/20/2008
BEIRUT: Israeli soldiers captured two Lebanese civilians in a raid across the border into South Lebanon on Friday, a Lebanese security official said. Tarraf Tarraf and his brother Hassan Tarraf, both aged about 50, were taken on Lebanese territory near the border village of Blida, the official said. Negotiations were under way between the Israeli soldiers and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to free the men, he said. Israeli forces have informed UNIFIL that "they have in custody two Lebanese civilians that appear to be from the area of Blida," UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane told AFP. "UNIFIL is in contact with all parties urging them to exercise restraint while the circumstances of the incident are assertained," she said, without commenting on where the Lebanese official said the capture had taken place.

Israel examining possibility of purchasing a new Australian bomb
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/20/2008
Israeli sources reported recently that Australian media agencies said that Israeli officials are interested in purchasing a bomb manufactured by Australian and can be used to hit Syrian and Lebanese targets without having to cross the borders, the Arabs48 news website reported. The new bomb, manufactured by the Australian Security Industries, weighs around 1000 kg and could hit targets as far as 70 to 80 kilometers. The bomb could be fired by a plane or by a ground launching pad. It has a targeting system and wings to achieve precise hits. Israel wants to be able to shell Lebanese and Syrian targets, including Damascus, without having to fly its war jets over Lebanese or Syrian territories, Israeli security sources reported. Yet, a spokesperson of the Australian Defense Ministry said that so far his country did not receive an official request from Israel to purchase the new bomb.

Hale says M-60 tanks will arrive in spring, make LAF heartier
Daily Star 12/20/2008
BEIRUT: The United States plans to deliver M-60 tanks to Lebanon in spring next year as part of a commitment to help the country’s army, a senior US State Department official said in Beirut on Friday. David Hale, US deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, denied the US is in competition with Russia, which announced Wednesday that it would give Lebanon 10 MiG-29 fighter jets. "Support for the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] remains a pillar of our Lebanon policy," he told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, without saying how many tanks the US would supply. "We are working to provide the training and equipment the LAF needs. . . to maintain internal security and to fight terrorism in Lebanon," Hale added. In addition to supplying the tanks, the US is "preparing a new package of assistance including close air-support capabilities with precision. . . "

Australian policeman to probe Hariri assassination
Daily Star 12/20/2008
Egyptian-born Australian policeman Nick Kaldas has been appointed chief of investigations for the United Nations tribunal trying suspects of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Australian police said on Friday. Kaldas, the deputy commissioner of the New South Wales (NSW) police, will lead the investigations from the beginning of March next year, police commissioner Andrew Scipione said. The tribunal was created to try those accused of involvement in a wave of political assassinations in Lebanon, including that of Hariri, who was killed with 22 others in a massive car bombing in February 2005. Kaldas, who is fluent in Arabic, has worked primarily in major crimes and counter-terrorism for 27 years with the NSW police force and said he was honored to be chosen for the role. "Working for the UN is the closest a police officer could come to representing their country,. . .

Blair hints support for Israeli assassination policy in Gaza during Haaretz interview
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – In his interview with Haaretz Thursday Quartet envoy Tony Blair made no move to condemn Israel’s reported plot to assassinate Hamas leaders in Gaza, only saying ’things must change. ’On Thursday some Israeli papers reported a military plot to assassinate several top Hamas and factional leaders if the end of the ceasefire resulted in violence. Speaking from the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem where he spends one week each month, Blair told Haaretz reporter Barak Rabid that “the situation in the Gaza Strip doesn’t affect Hamas,” but said it rather “harms the civilians and there should be a new strategy. ”Blair noted that two weeks ago he spoke with incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Elect Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser James Jones. He said he spoke with them about the need to change the strategy in the Gaza Strip, and said they were aware of the situation.

Egypt: An open Rafah would mean the end of the Palestinian cause
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egyptian officials said the Rafah crossing will stay closed despite recent Arab calls for its opening, and confirmed they received no requests from Gaza to renew the truce agreement brokered between Palestinian factions and Israel. “Until now no one asked us to make efforts for truce as we were asked previously,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Husam Zaki confirmed to Reuters on Friday. Responding to the recent calls from Lebanon and Egypt to open the Rafah crossing, Zaki said that the decision was not one under Israeli control, but rather an Egyptian decision that took into account the best interests of Gazans. Zaki defended Egypt’s policy saying that by opening the Gaza Strip crossing Egypt would allow Israel to wash their hand of Gaza, and the burden of the occupation would fall on Egypt.

Abu Zuhri: Arab states could break the siege if they want to
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hamas spokesman, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, said that the fact that certain Arab parties did not deny reports by the Israeli Maariv newspaper claiming that Israel has a green light from some Arab states to assassinate Hamas leaders is evidence that those states are involved in the siege on Gaza. He also said, in a statement to PIC, that the lack of such denial means acceptance of those Arab parties of the Israeli escalation in the Strip. He called on Arab governments to take a brave decision to open the Rafah crossing to break the siege imposed on the Gaza population pointing out that the Rafah crossing was the only gateway for Gaza to the outside world. He praised those Arab countries who declared their support for Palestinian rights, such as Syria, calling on other countries to adopt such a stance.

Israel angered by UK settlements move warning FO warns not to buy in occupied zones
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 12/20/2008
Britain has been accused of anti-Semitism by a hardline Israeli MP because Britons are to be warned against buying property in settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. An advisory, to be posted on the Foreign Office website, is to refer to settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, all areas occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war. It will warn that future peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and Syria could affect property purchases there. Yuval Steinitz, a hopeful for the post of foreign minister if Benjamin Netanyahu leads the right-wing Likud party to victory in February, advised Britain to abandon the campaign. Foreign Office officials said that it would include possible steps against newspapers advertising property in the occupied territories. "This is none of Britain’s business," said Mr Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defence committee.

UK advises citizens not to buy land in settlements
YNetNews 12/19/2008
British Foreign Office posts recommendation against purchase of property in West Bank settlements, Golan Heights, says Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could ’have consequences for property’ - Britain’s Foreign Office says it is advising Britons not to buy property in Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories or the Golan Heights. The ministry says it will post the warning on its Web site. The ministry says home buyers should consider the possible consequences of future peace deals between Israel, the Palestinians and Syria on the property. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday there will inevitably be changes to settlements under any peace deal. Brown held talks Tuesday with Israel’s outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and raised the issue of settlements. Britain has backed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s call for Israel not to expand West Bank settlements.

Don’t buy land stolen by Israeli settlers!
Middle East Online 12/19/2008
LONDON - Britain is to warn its citizens of the risks of buying property situated in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the Foreign Office in London said Friday. Britain has urged Israel to freeze settlement activity in the occupied territories, warning that it threatens the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state. "We’ve always been clear that we oppose settlements and they are illegal," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said, noting that the ministry would amend the travel advice on its website next week. "The proposed changes to travel advice are in line with this. We will be updating our travel advice to make people aware that there are risks involved with purchasing property in Israeli settlements on land considered to be occupied under international law. "Potential purchasers should be aware that a future peace deal between Israel. . . "

UK: Don’t buy in ’occupied territories’
Jerusalem Post 12/19/2008
Britain will officially advise its citizens not to buy property in "occupied territories," The Guardian reported Friday. The advisory, which will reportedly be issued on the Foreign Office (FCO) Web site in the next 48 hours, will warn potential buyers that a peace accord could have consequences for that property, FCO officials said. "Potential purchasers should be aware that a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians or between Israel and Syria could have consequences for the property they purchased," the FCO stated in a draft warning. The Guardian quoted the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, as saying, "This is a dramatic change of policy by Great Britain. They have gone a long way in being critical of Israel’s policies. In the past they have talked about settlement being an obstacle to peace and so on.

New UK stance on settlements may prevent nationals from buying property on 'occupied land'
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Details of the paper presented by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in London outlining the UK’s new stance on Israeli settlements were released Friday. The paper was handed over during Fayyad’s visit to the UK for the London Forum on Palestinian investment, and included details about a UK warning, and even legal measures preventing citizens from buying property in the occupied West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. The paper indicates a harder UK stance on the issue of settlement construction and the yet-unresolved issue of Israeli borders. According to some reports the UK is considering a divestment policy in areas classified as under occupation. UK government websites will be posting the warning against property purchase in occupied areas.

Australian university student association to boycott Israeli institutions
Press release, University of Western Sydney's Student Association, Electronic Intifada 12/18/2008
The University of Western Sydney’s Student Association (UWSSA) has decided to formally affiliate to the "Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. " In Palestine, millions of people live under an oppressive military regime. Among them, hundreds of thousands of university students have to endure ongoing humiliations at checkpoints and roadblocks on their way to campus. Earlier this year, Israel even denied the right of some students from Gaza to study overseas. As long as the occupation and apartheid continue, we, students of the University of Western Sydney, stand in solidarity with the Palestinian students, and the Palestinian people as a whole, and we acknowledge the role of the academic institutions of Israel in the highly oppressive apartheid regime.

Bush tells Abbas peace process ’irreversible’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/20/2008
WASHINGTON: US President George W. Bush said Friday that the Middle East peace talks are a hard but "irreversible" process as he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas one month before he leaves the White House. Speaking beside the US leader, Abbas said Palestinians are "practically committed" to talks launched by Bush a year ago and was confident incoming President Barack Obama would pick up where Bush left off. Their comments came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that renewed violence against Israel following the expiry of a six-month truce with Abbas’ rival Hamas movement in Gaza would only hurt the Palestinian goal of statehood. Abbas also met Rice Thursday with Bush set to leave office on January 20 without the peace deal he had claimed to want to achieve when he and his top diplomat revived Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007.

Barghouthi: UNSC resolution on Annapolis meant to strangle Palestinian cause
Palestinian Information Center 12/19/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Palestinian lawmaker and head of the Palestinian National Initiative MP Dr. Mustafa Al-Barghouthi has warned Friday of the adverse repercussions of the UNSC resolution supporting the continuation of the PA-Israeli negotiations. According to Barghouthi, the danger in the resolution was that it replaces all previous UNSC resolutions stipulating the need of ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands, and that it dwarfed the Palestinian cause to the dictates of the Annapolis conference. "The failed Bush administration, that is flagrantly biased to Israel, wanted of the new resolution to bind the new US administration and the international community to the Annapolis process which failed miserably, to guarantee none intervention of the international community by exerting any pressure on Israel and to gain Israel more time to complete its settlement building. . .

Bush: Mideast peace talks have yielded progress
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/20/2008
President George W. Bush, poised to finish his presidency without the Middle East peace deal he once said was in reach, declared Friday that Israelis and Palestinians have made great strides toward settling decades of conflict. "No question, this is a hard challenge," Bush said in the Oval Office alongside the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. "But nevertheless, people must recognize that we have made a good deal of progress. "Abbas concurred: "Some might say that all these efforts perhaps went in vain. I happen to disagree. "In what was likely their last face-to-face meeting before Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, the two men sought to praise each other and emphasize what has been gained, not the opportunity lost. Their meeting came just days after the UN Security Council endorsed as irreversible the administration’s peace process.

UN envoy to peace process urges stepped-up efforts
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - With the goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of this year out of reach, a top United Nations envoy on Thursday stressed the need to step up efforts, according to a statement. “We must set the stage for a decisive push for peace in 2009,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told an open debate of the Security Council, in which some 35 speakers participated. “We must protect, preserve, and where possible advance, the three tracks of the Annapolis process,” he said, referring to negotiations, institution-building and implementation of the commitments of the parties under the so-called Road Map peace plan. At their meeting in November 2007 in the United States city of Annapolis, leaders of the two sides agreed to immediately launch good-faith negotiations to try to conclude a peace treaty by the end of 2008 that resolves all outstanding issues.

Bush claims progress in Mideast peace talks
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/19/2008
In farewell meeting with Palestinian president, outgoing US president expresses optimism about Israeli-Palestinian relationship, despite ’challenges’ -Outgoing US President George W. Bush expressed optimism regarding Israeli-Palestinians relations, during a farewell visit by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to the White House. Bush, who leaves office Jan. 20, said a US-backed Middle East peace process has yielded "a good deal of progress," even as the Palestinians and Israelis are headed toward the end of the year with no deal in place. The US president conceded that, "No question, this is a hard challenge. But nevertheless, people must recognize that we have made a good deal of progress. "Abbas responded in kind by heaping praise on Bush for his role in pushing the peace talks.

Arab sources: Israel-Syria contacts at crucial point
Ali Waked, YNetNews 12/20/2008
European efforts have gathered steam in recent weeks, may lead to Assad’s willingness to meet with Olmert - Arab sources claim that indirect contacts between Israel and Syria will reach a decisive point in the upcoming days and potentially allow for a direct meeting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The sources told Ynet Friday that European efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria gathered steam in recent weeks. Their primary focus, according to the sources, is to convince Assad to announce his willingness to meet with Olmert. " Talks are getting to the point where its possible to have a formula that will persuade Assad to say he’s willing to speak and meet with Olmert," they said. If the Syrians believe that Israel is willing to withdraw from the entirety of the Golan Heights, it’s possible that Assad’s. . .

’Important development in Syria talks’
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/19/2008
State officials refuse to speak of ’breakthrough’, but talks with prime minister’s associates, his diplomatic speech point to optimism following series of talks behind the scenes - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s upcoming visit to Turkey is the result of a breakthrough which took place in recent days in the unofficial Turkish-mediated Israel- Syria talks. It is quite possible the so-called development is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s willingness to declare his desire to launch direct negotiations with Israel which would lead to an agreement on a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which would be leased to Israel later on. A Turkish emissary was expected to arrive in Damascus on Friday. This report has yet to receive official confirmation, but estimates talk of a Syrian initiative aimed at tying US President-elect Barack Obama to the diplomatic talks between Israel and Syria.

Olmert: Syria is more ripe than ever for peace deal
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Syrian President Bashar Assad is "more ripe than ever for a peace deal with Israel," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech Thursday. Meanwhile, Olmert announced he would be meeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday to discuss the Syrian talks, among other issues. Speaking at a conference of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, Olmert said indirect Israel-Syria talks mediated by Turkey can lead to direct negotiations, stressing that a peace treaty with Syria could be achieved. Referring to the ongoing indirect talks, Olmert said "the talks with Syria were thorough and important. Removing Syria from the radical axis is one of Israel’s top priorities. ""Tough sacrifices will be required," Olmert said, "but the prevention of lost lives is worth it.

Netanyahu disavows Olmert’s bid to reach peace with Syria
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/20/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Far-right Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday dismissed peace efforts with Syria led by interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "The concessions made by the Olmert-Livni government to the Syrians do not and will not obligate a government that I shall head," Netanyahu, a former prime minister, told Israeli public radio. The indirect negotiations, mediated by the Turkish government, have been suspended pending Israeli parliamentary elections scheduled for February. No agreement has been reached, and therefore no concessions have been made, and Syria has never asked Israel to make concessions, only to heed international law by evacuating occupied territory. Netanyahu, of the Likud party, leads opinion polls ahead of the February 10 elections that will determine who will replace Olmert.

Palestinian Affairs: Shooting for control
Jerusalem Post 12/18/2008
This week, upon hearing that the speaker of the Hamas-dominated parliament, Abdel Aziz Dweik, had been sentenced to three years in prison by an Israeli military court, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s inner circle heaved a sigh of relief. Dweik, who was arrested following the abduction of IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit, was supposed to step into Abbas’s shoes on January 9, 2009, when the latter’s term in office was scheduled to expire. The Palestinian Basic Law stipulates that the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council would replace the PA president when his term expired, or if he stepped down for any other reason. When Yasser Arafat died in November 2004, the then speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Rouhi Fattouh, was appointed interim president of the PA for 60 days before new elections were held.

Poll: Kadima and Likud neck and neck Staff And Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/19/2008
A new poll published Friday puts Kadima and Likud neck and neck. The poll, conducted by the TNS Teleseker firm forMa’ariv and coming hot on the heels of the Kadima primary, predicted that the parties of Tzipi Livni and Binyamin Netanyahu would each win 30 seats. It also showed that Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu would each get 12 mandates, Shas would win nine and Meretz - running with the new Hatnua Hahadasha - would win seven. 800 people were interviewed for the poll. The margin of error was the equivalent of two parliament seats. RELATEDKadima’s new faces not new to Jewish worldMofaz’s men lose out to Livni’s loyalistsMeretz and Hatnua Hahadasha unveil their joint Knesset listLikud appeals to drag into next week In Wednesday’s Kadima primary, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik clinched. . .

Dalia Itzik, Tzachi Hanegbi, Roni Bar-On emerge victorious in Kadima primary
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
All of Kadima’s current ministers made it into the top half of the party’s slate, with the lowest-ranking being Haim Ramon (17). But the big winner was Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who placed first in the primary. That puts her third on the list, since the top two slots were reserved for party chairwoman Tzipi Livni and her main rival, Shaul Mofaz. Itzik is the only one of Kadima’s top 10 to have come from the Labor Party. Eight of the others came from Likud. MK Tzachi Hanegbi came in second, followed by Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, who defied predictions that the economic crisis and a double-voting scandal would hurt him. Altogether, Kadima will have four women in its top 10 ¬ Livni, Itzik, Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham Balila and MK Marina Solodkin ¬ and nine in its top 30.

Likud appeals to drag into next week
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/18/2008
The Likud’s internal court convened past press time Thursday night to deliberate on the appeal of former MK Michael Ratzon, who was demoted last week along with former MK Ehud Yatom and activist Moshe Feiglin to slots 36-38 on the party’s list from slots that were more realistic. Ratzon said that if he was not restored to his original slot he would appeal to the Tel Aviv District Court. Feiglin chose not to appeal, but he would return to the 20th slot on the list if Ratzon’s appeal is successful. Earlier Thursday, the court decided not to disqualify World Likud chairman Danny Danon and Guy Yifrach, who were elected to slots 24 and 35 on the list, despite questions about whether they live in the regions the slots were reserved for. The court suggested that the Likud institute a minimum residency requirement to prevent candidates from temporarily changing their addresses to get elected.

Police: Charge Katsav with rape
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 12/19/2008
Following confrontation between former president, his former Tourism Ministry employee, police sources tell Ynet there is sufficient evidence to indict Katsav for rape. Former president’s aide says ’confrontation a death blow to A. ’s case’. Complainant’s lawyer: She stuck to the truth -Moshe Katsav was confronted for the first time by his former secretary, known as A. , as part of the probe into sexual offenses by the former president. Katsav arrived at the Police Economic Crimes Unit headquarters in Lod on Friday morning and left 40 minutes later. The confrontation was originally scheduled to last 90 minutes. [end]

Katsav complainant confronts former president over rape accusation
Tomer Zarchin and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Moshe Katsav was confronted in front of investigators by complainant A. from the Tourism Ministry on Friday morning over her allegations that the former president raped her. A. , who worked for Katsav when he was Tourism Minister, had requested the confrontation be held before prosecutors decide whether to include her complaints in a new indictment against Katsav. It took place at a police station somewhere in central Israel, and lasted about 40 minutes. Katsav left office in 2007 under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations. A trial is now pending, after Katsav accepted, then rejected a plea bargain, under which rape charges were to have be dropped but the former president would have admitted to sexual harassment and indecent acts and receive a suspended jail sentence, paying compensation to two of his victims.

Arab party saves space for women
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/19/2008
Women candidates in Balad to be guaranteed one out of every three Knesset spots. Party cannot be called ’progressive’ unless women are equal, female candidates say - The Arabic party, Balad, has decided to save one spot out of every three for a woman candidate. Given the party’s small size in recent Knesset plenums, the decision is not expected to contribute a large number of new female MKs, but nonetheless is a decisive gesture. During interviews with Ynet on Friday, Balad’s seven female candidates said that the decision was a brave and bold move in Israeli society in general, and in the Arab sector, in particular. The party, which describes itself as a ’democratic progressive national party for the Palestinian citizens of Israel,’ cannot "appeal for equality from the state and at the same time leave women behind," said candidate Mahasen Rabus.

Two factions quit Habaiyt Hayehudi
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
The newly-formed rightist party, Habaiyt Hayehudi, whose Hebrew name translates as "the Jewish Home," yesterday lost two of its founding factions, Moledet and Achi. Moledet’s two-member team left when neither were nominated to the top 10 slots of Habayit Hayehudi’s list of candidates for the upcoming election. Achi - another two-man faction - seceded weeks ago and yesterday filed the necessary paperwork to finalize this political divorce. Together, the four members who left Habiyt Hayehudi - Effie Eitam, Yitzhak Levi, Aryeh Eldad and Benyamin Elon - took with them four state-allocated funding units. Elon, who didn’t make it beyond the party’s 17th slot, announced he is leaving public life, as did Levi and Eitam. Eldad is running as head of the Hatikva party in the hope of scooping up Moldedet supporters and taking over Moledet’s funding units.

Immigrant IAF pilot fights to be recognized as a Jew
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 12/20/2008
The Israel Air Force will receive its first non-Jewish pilot next week, when Andrei (whose last name is classified) receives his wings at the end of a long flight course. The blue-eyed, 24-year-old immigrant from Ukraine arrived in Israel nine years ago, in the framework of the Jewish Agency’s Na’aleh study program for youngsters with Jewish backgrounds from the former Soviet Union, arriving ahead of their parents. His Jewish father and non-Jewish mother had planned to immigrate to Israel after him, but the plan did not work out. His mother and father will, however, come to the ceremony to see him receive his wings and become an F-16 fighter pilot. His entry into flight school was different from that of most cadets. When Andrei enlisted, he was sent to the Armored Corps as a combatant in a tank crew.

News in Brief -Scores of policemen injured in drill
Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Scores of policemen injured in drill - Dozens of Israel Police officers were injured by their fellow policemen yesterday during a training exercise simulating violent civil unrest. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said about 45 officers sustained light injuries while practicing riot-control techniques. The majority were hurt while scuffling with each other while five others were injured when a police van overturned, Rosenfeld said. He would not confirm media reports that the vehicle flipped after a policeman fell asleep at the wheel. About 7,000 officers took part in the drill, which was the largest of its kind in state history. (AP) - Gilad Shalit given honorary Paris residence status - The Paris City Council will grant honorary city residence to kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe made the announcement Wednesday to members of the French Support Committee to Free Gilad Shalit.

Palestinian man killed, wife & children wounded in IOF missile shelling
Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- A 47-year-old Palestinian was killed Wednesday night in northern Gaza and his wife and two children were wounded in the Israeli artillery firing of a land-to-land missile on their home. Dr. Muawiya Hasanein, the director of ambulance and emergency in the health ministry, said that Salah Abu Okal was hit with shrapnel all over his body, which was badly mutilated in the blast, while his children Ahmed and Samar were moderately wounded along with his wife. Eyewitnesses said that the missile slammed into the house of Abu Okal causing severe material damage to the house and nearby buildings. Three Palestinians were injured 24 hours earlier in an Israeli air raid on northern Gaza. Security sources said that Apache choppers fired two missiles at a missile launching pad east of Jabalia city north of Gaza wounding the three citizens.

IOF air raids blast Palestinian home, workshop
Palestinian Information Center 12/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces blasted a Palestinian home and a workshop in northern and southern Gaza respectively during pre dawn aerial raids on Thursday, local sources reported. The sources told PIC reporter that an IOF Apache fired two missiles at the family home of martyr Hussein Abu Nasr in Jabalia to the north of the Gaza Strip and totally destroyed it but no human casualties were reported. Abul Nasr had blasted a booby-trapped truck that he was driving south of Gaza in 2001. An IOF F-16 warplane later fired at least one missile at a workshop east of Khan Younis city to the south of the Strip. Local sources told PIC correspondent that the shelling completely destroyed the workshop and started a fire in it while material damage was sustained in nearby buildings. A bloody IOF air raid on Wednesday night killed a Palestinian man and wounded his wife and two children.

This week in Palestine Week 51 2008
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 15 m 30s || 14. 01 MB || This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for December 12 through 19, 2008. GENERAL LEDE: the Six-month Egyptian brokered truce between Hamas and Israel is declared dead today, and the Israeli army raised alert at the Gaza borders. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip worsens as the closure continue, these stories and more coming up, stay tuned. Nonviolent Activities Let us begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank where the Israeli Army met peaceful rallies with Rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and assaults. Bethlehem In Bethlehem, three Palestinian civilians were wounded in a nonviolent demonstration organized by the Popular Campaign Against the Wall and Settlements.

VIDEO - Protesters throw shoes at Israeli soldiers in Bil’in
Al-Jazeera, International Solidarity Movement 12/19/2008
Report by Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall and Settlements - Demonstrators marched today after the Friday prayer carrying Palestinian flags and banners calling to end the Israeli occupation, stop the wall and settlement building, stop land confiscation and settler attacks, closures and roadblocks, and the release of all detainees. The demonstration was joined by internationals and Israeli activists. Members of the Peoples’ Struggle Front also joined the protest today and carried banners. Protesters carried pictures of U. S President George Bush having shoes thrown at him. They also carried their own shoes as a symbolic refusal of the Israeli occupation. The protest today marched towards the wall singing slogans and attempting to reach the confiscated land behind the wall.

PCHR Report: 2 Palestinians killed, 17 wounded in last two weeks
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, over the last two weeks, from December 4th - 17th, 2 Palestinians, including a civilian were killed by Israeli forces. 10 Palestinian civilians were wounded by Israeli gunfire and 3 others were wounded by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. 4 fighters with the Palestinian resistance, and an unarmed woman were wounded by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. Israeli attacks in the West Bank:Over the last two weeks, Israeli forces conducted 38 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and one into the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, on Monday, 15 December 2008, an Israeli forces undercover unit extra-judicially executed Jihad Ahmed Ameen Nawahda, 21, a member of the al-Quds Brigades (the armed wing of Islamic Jihad), in al-Yamoun village west of Jenin.

One Palestinian arrested as IOF raid Beit Ummar
International Solidarity Movement 12/19/2008
Bethlehem Region - On Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 1. 00 in the morning, the IOF raided the home of the Al-Salabi family in Beit Ummar. About forty soldiers came to the village located near Road 60, south of Bethlehem. Two soldiers remained by the door, as six soldiers forcefully entered the house. The entire family, parents and their five children, were pushed outside. They were made to stand outside in the cold for two hours, the soldiers refusing to permit them to obtain their jackets. The soldiers ransacked the house, throwing the family’s belongings unto the floor. They took a dresser out of the wall to search by the wall. The soldiers asked the father if anything was hidden in the home, repeated saying "if you remember, tell us". They left at 3. 15, arresting one of the sons in the family, Ala’ Al-Salabi.

Interview / ’How could there be no qualified Arabs to coach in the Premier League?’
Yaniv Kobovic, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Veteran midfielder Abbas Suan knows that as a representative of an entire group within Israeli society, he can’t tiptoe around questions about politics. Suan, who plays for Kiryat Shmona and is a former member of Israel’s national soccer team, is part of an international organization dedicated to eradicating racism from sports. He also lectures when possible on equality in sports and Arab-Israeli tolerance. Two months ahead of the elections for the 18th Knesset, Suan presents his j’accuse to Haaretz. "I don’t want any of the candidates as my prime minister," he says. "We here in Sakhnin have had enough of their promises. They shouldn’t bother coming to Sakhnin to make more promises. They talked too much and never did anything. No prime minister until today has done something for the Arab community.

Rank and File
Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
LEARNING WITH SUDANESE: Officials from Bnei Akiva, the Orthodox Zionist youth movement, said this week that a new initiative helping Sudanese refugees in South Tel Aviv would be continued by other groups participating in its gap year in Israel program. The first "Sudanese Learning Exchange," a six-month English tuition project established with the help of youths from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, came to a close last week. It was founded earlier this year by the directors and participants of Bnei Akiva’s Tafnit gap year program. "The plight of the Sudanese refugees in Israel is at a crucial juncture," said Anton Goodman, founder and director of the project. "We are searching for the correct Jewish response to a situation that has been overlooked by the government. There are around 10,000 Sudanese refugees in Israel, with little provision for their well-being, let alone a sympathetic welcome worthy of the suffering they have experienced.

Former US admiral says to Israel: Don’t fear Iran
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 12/18/2008
Israel is one of the strongest countries in the Middle East and needs to stop giving in to a "fear factor" with regard to the prospect of a nuclear Iran, Adm. (ret. ) William Fallon, the former commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. In Israel for a regional security conference at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, Fallon told the Post that he could not understand why Iran would even contemplate using nuclear weapons against Israel unless the country wanted to be destroyed. "Do they wish to go away? " he asked, insinuating that a nuclear attack on Israel would elicit a devastating response. "They are not nearly as strong as their rhetoric indicates," Fallon said of Iran. "They are not particularly strong militarily outside their own internal entity, and they have huge economic issues and political instability. "

’Iran talks should last 12 weeks max’
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 12/18/2008
The US should consider making concessions to Russia on the placement of a missile-defense shield in Europe, in order to get Moscow to back "crippling" concessions against Iran if the time comes, a leading US congressman said Thursday. Howard Berman, the powerful Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview that one reason for a limited dialogue with the Iranians to get them to suspend uranium enrichment would be to encourage other countries to "buy into crippling" sanctions if Teheran failed to do so. Berman said the US-Iran talks should be of a set duration, somewhere between eight and 12 weeks, so the Iranians would not, as they had done in the past, use the negotiations as a cover to continue their nuclear program and their weapons development. In an interview after addressing a conference at the Institute for National Security. . .

Gilad to Russia: Don’t sell Iran arms
Yaakov Katz And Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/18/2008
Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, on Friday urged Russia not to sell weapons to Iran that could be used to attack Israel. The Interfax news agency quoted Gilad as saying Israel expects Russia to respect his country’s interests. "The deliveries of dangerous armaments to our enemies won’t serve the interests of peace and, for instance, can help Iran wipe Israel off the face of earth," Gilad was quoted as saying. "So we expect Russia to demonstrate responsibility on the issue. " Gilad was visiting Moscow and was quoted in response to a question about possible deliveries of the Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Iran. Some Russian media have claimed that a deal has already been struck to sell the missiles. According to Interfax, Gilad denied allegations that Russia and Israel had struck a secret deal under which Israel. . .

’Russian arms sales could help Iran obliterate Israel’
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/20/2008
A senior Defense Ministry envoy has urged Russia not to sell Iran advanced anti-aircraft missiles, saying they could help the Islamic Republic destroy Israel, according to a Russian news agency report. "The deliveries of dangerous armaments to our enemies won’t serve the interests of peace and, for instance, can help Iran wipe Israel off the face of earth," the Interfax news agency quoted envoy Amos Gilad was quoted as saying. Gilad also reportedly said Israel believes Russia will respect his country’s interests. "So we expect Russia to demonstrate responsibility on the issue. " The official, who was visiting Moscow, was responding to a question about possible deliveries of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Iran. Some Russian media have claimed that a deal has already been struck to sell the missiles, but Russian officials have denied it.

POLITICS: Israel Deeply Wary of 2009 Anti-Racism Meet
Wolfgang Kerler, Inter Press Service 12/20/2008
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 19(IPS) - At their anti-racism conference in Geneva next April, United Nations member states may find themselves -- once again -- in a heated dispute over how to properly address the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the context of racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination. Meant to assess and accelerate progress on the implementation of anti-racism measures adopted at the somewhat infamous 2001 World Conference against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa, the Durban Review Conference will now have to deal with renewed resentments among U. N. member states. The Asian countries reminded all parties of what had happened seven years ago: In their contribution to a still to be discussed draft declaration for the review conference, they called Israel’s policies towards Palestinians "a new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity, [and] a form of genocide.

Slowdown speeds up
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
The Israeli economy is rapidly slowing down, as each month during the past year has been worse than the one preceding it. In the August to October period, industrial production fell by 3. 5%, and if it were not for high tech, the drop would have been a big 6. 9% (in annualized terms). In fact, the numbers may be showing not just an economic slowdown, but a recession. Figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics reveal that economic growth is now negative. The effects of the slowdown are expected to appear soon in the country’s unemployment figures, and in fact the number of salaried workers in industry fell by 1. 1% in the August-October period. The slowdown also hit the service and sales sectors. The Bank of Israel’s Composite State of the Economy Index fell 0.

Madoff funds may have been used to evade taxes
Lior Dattel, Ronny Linder-Ganz and Guy Leshem, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Hundreds of Israelis who invested their money in the funds managed by Bernard Madoff and won’t have nice returns to look forward to anymore, may soon be required to report to the Israel Tax Authority on where they got their money from. The trustee appointed by the court in New York to protect the investors’ money, Irving Picard, will likely reveal the complete list of investors in Madoff’s funds, as well as the amounts they put in over the years, and the Israeli taxman may take a serious interest in the information. Madoff is the Wall Street investment manager who recently admitted to a years-long Ponzi scheme fraud scam totaling some $50 billion. The entry ticket to Madoff’s investment fund was a minimum of $1 million, as well as complete control over the investments.

Wall Street: The man American Jews hate more than Ahmadinejad
Allison Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 12/18/2008
Last week, during a conference call with American reporters and Jewish activists about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, US Congressman Brad Sherman noted that he thought the threat was so dire that he was missing a hearing on the $700 billion bank bailout to talk about it. Sherman, a Democrat who represents the heavily Jewish Sherman Oaks neighborhood in Los Angeles, added that he thought his constituents wouldn’t mind - but then immediately voiced a political truth that has been simmering in the Jewish world all autumn: "I’m not sure they want the focus of the incoming administration to be on asking them to make sacrifices to deal with an Iran nuclear program that is not causing them any pain right now. " And that was before the Madoff financial scandal detonated, leaving a multibillion-dollar crater in the middle of the American Jewish community.

Rise in number of unemployed new immigrants
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 12/19/2008
Yedid Association for Community Empowerment reports 60% of unemployed aid seekers immigrated to Israel within last decade. Unemployment Service says two-thirds of job seekers are over age of 45 - The Yedid Association for Community Empowerment reported an 18% rise in the number of unemployed people seeking the association’s help in the past three months, with over 60% of them having immigrated to Israel in the past 10 years. What makes these numbers more concerning is the fact that over half of the unemployed immigrants turning to the association are over the age of 45, which will make it even harder for them to find new jobs. The rise in the number of assistance-seeking workers has risen by 9% compared to the first half of 2008. The troubles faced by new immigrants were also evident in Israel Employment Service data from October, which stated that 79,500. . .

Gaydamak takes ’business trip’ after paying $2.5-m bond
Jerusalem Post 12/19/2008
Billionaire businessman Arkadi Gaydamak left Israel for a 10-day business trip to Russia, he said Friday. Police confirmed that having deposited the 2. 5-million dollar bond ordered by the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court, the ban preventing him from leaving the country had been removed. The police added that they were aware in advance of his approaching departure. Gaydamak has faced a long-standing police investigation into allegations of money laundering, and was last questioned in mid-May at the Serious and International Crime Unit’s (SICU) Petah Tikva Headquarters. He vehemently denies reports that in 2000, he transferred nearly half-a-million shekels out of a Bank Hapoalim account as part of a larger money laundering scheme. Gaydamak moved to Israel following a French extradition order for his alleged involvement in the sale of Russian arms to Angola from 1993-2000.

Is Russian-Israeli tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak leaving Israel for good?
Guy Liberman, TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Russian-Israeli businessman Arcadi Gaydamak is in the process of selling off several of his properties in Israel, TheMarker has learned. Gaydamak has put his Caesarea home up for sale at an asking price of $30 million. His representatives last week asked several Caesarea real estate agents to look for potential buyers for the property. The mogul has also listed his Herzliya home at an aksing price of $4-$4. 5 million. Gaydamak is also trying to sell off the main property he owns in Israel - Bikur Cholim Hosiptal in Jerusalem, which he bought about two years ago for $32 million. Senior hospital officials refuse to reveal who the potential buyers are and what the asking price is. The troubled tycoon has in recent months suffered steep financial losses, which have forced him to sell off a number of his business holdings.

Israel falls in int’l aviation ratings
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 12/19/2008
American federal aviation administration gives Israel a Category 2 ranking, meaning country can’t establish new services to US - The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed Israel’s aviation safety standard rating from Category 1 to Category 2, following an assessment made last July, the FAA reported in a statement released Friday. The rating, given by the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, is not related to security issues, but rather to standard safety items. The assessments are not an indication of whether individual foreign air carriers are safe or unsafe. Rather, they determine whether or not foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting international safety standards. A Category 2 rating may involve a country lacking laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance. . .

US military ’to defy’ Iraqi pact
Gareth Porter, Asia Times 12/20/2008
WASHINGTON - United States military leaders and Pentagon officials have made it clear through public statements and deliberately leaked stories in recent weeks that they plan to violate a central provision of the US-Iraq withdrawal agreement requiring the complete pullout of all US combat troops from Iraqi cities by mid-2009 by reclassifying combat troops as support troops. The scheme to engage in chicanery in labeling US troops represents both open defiance of an agreement which the US military has never accepted and a way of blocking president-elect Barack Obama’s proposed plan for withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office. By redesignating tens of thousands of combat troops as support troops, those officials apparently hope to make it difficult, if not impossible, for Obama to insist on getting all combat troops of the country by mid-2010.

Iraq ’Baathist plotters’ released
Al Jazeera 12/20/2008
Around two dozen Iraqi security and police officials arrested on charges of plotting a Baathist coup have been released, the interior ministry has announced. Jawad al-Bolani, the interior minister, told news agency AP on Friday that nineteen detainees had been released from custody and charges dropped against another four suspects. Al-Bolani said that a judge had issued "an order to release all of them because they are innocent", adding there was no evidence they conspired to restore the Baath party to power. The Iraqi minister provided no other information. Earlier on Friday, al-Bolani told a press conference that the charges were baseless and politically motivated by those trying to undermine the interior ministry.

Bush shoe protester has been beaten, Iraqi judge says
Matthew Weaver, Mark Tran and agencies, The Guardian 12/19/2008
The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush was beaten afterwards and had bruises on his face, the investigating judge in the case said today, as a senior cleric in Iran urged others to wage a "shoe intifada" against the US. The reporter, Muntazer al-Zaidi, had bruises on his face and around his eyes, said the judge, Dhia al-Kinani said. Zaidi was wrestled to the ground after throwing the shoes during a Sunday press conference by Bush and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. He remains in custody and is expected to face charges of insulting a foreign leader. Kinani said a complaint about Zaidi’s treatment had been filed on his behalf and court officials "will watch the footage to identify those who have beaten him. . . He was beaten and we filed a case for that. Zaidi did not raise a complaint and he can drop this case if he wants to. "

Scores of Reporters Protest in Bethlehem in Support of Iraqi Journalist
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
Scores of Palestinian reporters protested on Thursday at the Manger Square in Bethlehem expressing their solidarity with the Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at the US President, George W. Bush, during a press conference earlier this week in Iraq. The reporter, Montathir Al Zeidi, was arrested after hurling his shoes at George Bush, and could face up to two years imprisonment for "insulting a foreign leader". Currently, the whereabouts of the reporter remain unknown as the US-sponsored Iraqi regime is holding him among fearsthat he might be killed. The protesters in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, carried Palestinian and Iraqi flags. They also carried signs in English reading "Bush deserved it", referring to the shoes Zeidi hurled at Bush. A similar protest was held in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. The protesters demanded the release of Al Zeidi and stepped on photos of Bush.

Bethlehem journalists rally for Iraqi shoe-thrower
Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Dozens of Palestinian journalists protested outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem’s Nativity Church on Thursday in support of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush earlier this week. Muntadhar Al-Zeidi is still in Iraqi police custody following the incident but some Palestinian journalists demanded that he be released, many waving Iraqi flags and one holding a sign that read, in English, “Bush deserved it. ”[end]

Head of Palestinian clan offers Iraqi shoe-throwing journalist a bride
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/20/2008
The head of a large West Bank family wants to reward the Iraqi journalist who lobbed his shoes at President George W. Bush by sending him a bride. 75-year-old Ahmad Salim Judeh says if journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi is interested the family is willing to take one of its eligible daughters to Iraq along with her dowry. Judeh says doing so would be our honor. He also said Friday that the 500-member clan had raised $30,000 for al-Zeidi’s legal defense. Al-Zeidi has become something of a folk hero since throwing his shoes at President Bush at a Sunday press conference. Thousands took to the streets in Iraq to protest his arrest, and his actions were heralded across the Arab world as news stations repeatedly showed footage of the incident. Al-Zeidi is unmarried.

Iraqi judge: Shoe tosser was beaten
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/19/2008
The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a news conference was beaten afterward and had bruises on his face and around his eyes, a judge said Friday. Judge Dhia al-Kinani, the magistrate investigating the incident, said the court has opened an investigation into the alleged beating of journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi. Al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground after throwing his shoes during the news conference Sunday by Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and there have been conflicting claims on his condition since then. One of his brothers said he was harshly beaten, but another said he seemed to be in good condition. Al-Zeidi "was beaten in the news conference and we will watch the tape and write an official letter asking for the names of those who assaulted him," the judge told The Associated Press.

Bush shoe thrower ’appears beaten’
AP, The Independent 12/19/2008
The investigating judge in the case of the Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at President George Bush said today that the man showed signs of being beaten. Judge Dhia al-Kinani said the journalist had bruises on his face and around his eyes. The journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, was wrestled to the ground after throwing the shoes during a Sunday news conference held by Mr Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Al-Zeidi remains in custody and is expected to eventually face charges of insulting a foreign leader. The judge said the journalist had not raised a formal charge relating to his injuries. He also confirmed that al-Zeidi had written a letter to al-Maliki requesting a pardon.

Iraqis will face war crimes trial
The Independent 12/20/2008
Two Iraqis accused of killing British soldiers can be lawfully handed over to the authorities in Baghdad to be tried for war crimes, the High Court has ruled. Faisal al-Saadoon, 56, and Khalaf Mufdhi, 58, who have been held by British forces in Basra for five years, have opposed the transfer on the grounds that they would be in danger of torture and the death penalty. Both men are accused of murdering Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth and Sapper Luke Allsopp during the war in 2003. Phil Shiner, the solicitor representing Mr Saadoon and Mr Mufdhi, said: "We are disappointed by the final decision that it would be lawful for our clients to be transferred to the Iraqi Higher Tribunal in Baghdad, despite the fact that our clients face a real risk of the death penalty if convicted by the Iraqi Higher Tribunal. . . "

Rare first century half shekel coin found in Temple Mount dirt
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
A rare half shekel coin, first minted in 66 or 67 C. E. , was discovered by 14 year-old Omri Ya’ari as volunteers sifted through mounds of dirt from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The coin is the first one found to originate from the Temple Mount. For the fourth year, archaeologists and volunteers have been sifting through dirt dug by the Waqf, the Muslim authority in charge of the Temple Mount compound, in an unauthorized project in 1999. The dig caused extensive and irreversible archaeological damage to the ancient layers of the mountain. The Waqf transported the dug up dirt in trucks to another location, where it was taken to Emek Tzurim. 40,000 volunteers have so far participated in the sifting project, in search of archaeological artifacts, under the guidance of Dr.

’Israel won’t take ’half-truce’ in Gaza’ Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/19/2008
The IDF is in its best form ever, and will be ready for attack, Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said on Friday. "There’s a limit to what Israel can absorb, and at the moment it’s like we’re standing with a stopwatch in hand," he said. "The IDF has never been in a greater state of readiness, and in the case of an attack, it will know how to operate in the best way. " Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference, Ben-Elizer warned "If there’s no calm in Israel, there won’t be calm in Gaza either. " "Israel won’t accept a ’half-truce,’" he added. [end]

15 activists sail from Cyprus to Gaza in effort to break siege
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/20/2008
International activists delivering medical aid sailed from Cyprus to Gaza on Friday, in attempt to break the siege on the coastal territory. Fifteen activists, including two from a Qatari charity, left the port of Larnaca late on Friday aboard a cabin cruiser. Organizers said they expected to be in Gaza on Saturday morning. Free Gaza Group spokeswoman Greta Berlin confirmed that the 66-foot yacht SS Dignity left Larnaca on Friday evening. It is scheduled to return to Cyprus on Monday. She said the boat’s 15 passengers are from Italy, Lebanon and Israel, and include two officials from the private Qatar Charity. They will tour Gaza looking for investment opportunities. The boat is carrying a ton of medicine, baby food and 20 satellite tracking devices to be installed on Palestinian fishing boats.

Free Gaza Movement: We Do Not Ask Permission from Israel
George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
The Free Gaza Movement issued a press release on Thursday in response to statements by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, made in an interview with the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on December 11, in which he said that the issue of the Siege-breaking boats is a "silly game", and asserted that the Israeli embassy in Cyprus checks the boats and approves the names of passengers before they sail. Abbas also added that Israeli navy boats stop the Free Gaza boats in the sea and search their load before they enter the Gaza Strip. The free Gaza movement managed to sail boats to the Gaza Strip four times, and is preparing to sail a fifth boat, today, December 19, loaded with tons of aid from the people of Qatar. Below is the full text of the Free Gaza Movement Statement. FREE GAZA MOVEMENTDate : 12-17-2008The Free Gaza Movement is sending the Dignity on its fifth mission to Gaza with envoys on board from civil society organizations in Qatar.

’Obama may adopt Israeli electric car’
David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post 12/18/2008
The incoming Obama administration is "closely monitoring" the innovative electric car project being developed by Israel’s Better Place company, "and may be adopting it," Idan Ofer, chairman of Better Place, has told The Jerusalem Post. Heralding a potential private transport revolution, a leading US car manufacturer is also now "putting together a team" to work on the project, Ofer said. Renault-Nissan agreed 18 months ago to build the first cars, and will be mass-producing hundreds of thousands of the electric-powered vehicles by 2010, he noted. Ofer said the electric car was a natural fit for the Obama presidency as it prepares to grapple with the global financial crisis, environmental concerns, a dependence on oil supplies from unfriendly countries and a collapsing conventional car-building industry.

Parliamentary recess has Knesset members idle and ’climbing the walls’
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
It’s a toss-up as to which is the most popular activity among Knesset employees these days: playing solitaire or speculating about the outcome of the upcoming elections - especially who the next Knesset speaker will be. With parliament recessed until after the election, and the House Committee having laid down stringent rules that make it hard for committees to convene during the break, the building is virtuallyempty and there is little else to do. "We’re going crazy here. We’re climbing the walls," one worker said. The boredom is so bad that the Knesset’s director general, Avi Balashnikov, recently announced plans to organize volunteer activities for the workers: cleaning and painting nursing homes and residential facilities for special-needs children. Nearly every parliament alternates between periods of hectic activity and long, quiet recesses.

End of the primary season
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
The Kadima primary that ended early yesterday morning was pushed to the tail end of all of yesterday’s news broadcasts ¬ after Gaza, after Tuesday’s fatal bus crash, after the gruesome decapitation in Petah Tikva earlier this week, and after a few other things. With the poll now behind us, we can make a few conclusions ¬ that only the Likud succeeded in raising interest, in rejuvenating itself and lighting a flame, even if since the primary its list has changed several times a day and its legal department been occupied around the clock. Still, Benjamin Netanyahu returned Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Moshe Ya’alon to the fold and pushed Moshe Feiglin to the back. Primary voters launched a generational revolution, sending three candidates around the age of 40 to the top of the list - Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan and Moshe Kahlon.

Ramon drops to 17th slot on Kadima list
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon, one of the founders of Kadima, was demoted Wednesday to the 17th slot on the party’s list. Despite the disappointing result, Ramon has no intention of leaving politics. Kadima chair and foreign minister Tzipi Livni contacted Ramon yesterday to assure him the relatively low placement would not alter his seniority within the party, or affect positions he would be granted in a future government. Still, Ramon has struggled to conceal his disappointment, and at the list’s unveiling Wednesday in Tel Aviv Ramon was conspicuously absent. At the beginning of the primary campaign Ramon announced he was removing himself from the "madness of the primaries," declining to establish a campaign headquarters, raise funds or draw up deals with other lawmakers. "People know me, for better or worse.

South Korea ends Iraq mission
Al Jazeera 12/19/2008
South Korean forces have ended their mission in Iraq, joining their Japanese counterparts who also pulled out this week. About 520 soldiers returned to South Korea on Friday, marking the end of its four-year reconstruction mission in Iraq that had about 3,600 troops at its height - the third-largest contingent after the US and Britain. A unit was stationed in Irbil, about 354km north of capital Baghdad, focusing on rebuilding schools and roads and providing humanitarian aid, and another unit was based in Kuwait providing air support. Won Tae Jae, a defence ministry spokesman, said the mission in Irbil also provided medical services for at least 88,805 local residents and vocational training for up to 2,299 people in fields such as car mechanics and cooking.


Gaza: The Untold Story
Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Online 12/19/2008
      It’s incomprehensible that a region such as the Gaza Strip, so rich with history, so saturated with defiance, can be reduced to a few blurbs, sound bites and reductionist assumptions, convenient but deceptive, vacant of any relevant meaning, or even true analytical value.
     The fact is that there is more to the Gaza Strip than 1.5 million hungry Palestinians, who are supposedly paying the price for Hamas’s militancy, or Israel’s ‘collective punishment’, whichever way the media decide to brand the problem.
     More importantly, Gaza’s existence since time immemorial must not be juxtaposed by its proximity to Israel,failure or success in ‘providing’ a tiny Israeli town – itself built on conquered land that was seen only 60 years ago as part of the Gaza Province – with its need for security. It’s this very expectation that made the killing and wounding of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza a price worth paying, in the callous eyes of many.
     These unrealistic expectations and disregard of important history will continue to be costly, and will only serve the purpose of those interested in swift generalizations. Yes, Gaza might be economically dead, but its current struggles and tribulations are consistent with a legacy of conquerors, colonialism and foreign occupations, and more, its peoples collective triumph in rising above the tyranny of those invaders.

My expulsion from Israel

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, The Guardian 12/19/2008
      On December 14, I arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel to carry out my UN role as special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.
     I was leading a mission that had intended to visit the West Bank and Gaza to prepare a report on Israel’s compliance with human rights standards and international humanitarian law. Meetings had been scheduled on an hourly basis during the six days, starting with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, the following day.
     I knew that there might be problems at the airport. Israel had strongly opposed my appointment a few months earlier and its foreign ministry had issued a statement that it would bar my entry if I came to Israel in my capacity as a UN representative.
     At the same time, I would not have made the long journey from California, where I live, had I not been reasonably optimistic about my chances of getting in. Israel was informed that I would lead the mission and given a copy of my itinerary, and issued visas to the two people assisting me: a staff security person and an assistant, both of whom work at the office of the high commissioner of human rights in Geneva.

Interview with Dr. Salah Haj Yahia of the PHR- Israel on the situation in Gaza

Saqer Abu Sa"™look, Naba News Agency - Translation - Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
      This is an interview with Dr. Salah Haj Yahia, of Physicians for Human Rights -- Israel, on the situation in Gaza and the hardships the residents, especially the patients are facing due to the ongoing and unjust Israeli siege. This interview was conducted by Saqer Abu Sa’look, Naba’ News Agency, and was translated by Saed Bannoura of the IMEMC.
     Dr. Yahia is the head of the PHR clinics and in charge of the field work of PHR in Tel Aviv. He managed to enter the Gaza Strip on Thursday along another PHR member, Mustafa Yassin, in order have a clear and close idea on the situation in Gaza and the needs of the medical sector. PHR delegates to Gaza have been denied entry to Gaza since August.
     Q: What do you think of the situation in Gaza?
     Dr. Salah: The current situation is filled with anticipation as the truce is ending, when night falls, the firing of missiles and retaliation starts. The biggest danger is if Israel decides to invade the Gaza Strip. If the army invades Gaza the number of fatalities will be huge, and medical needs will increase. The medical situation is already bad, and hospitals lack the basic supplies.

The war of dependence

Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 12/19/2008
      A salvo of shots cuts through the tranquil air. More shots, this time in a single burst. Another weapon replies with faint shots from a different neighborhood.
     "A pistol, perhaps?" asked one of the people present.
     More volleys and now fireworks, too, and everyone who had until a moment ago been serenely drinking a cup of Arabic coffee on the veranda in the winter sunshine amid the clear air of Umm al-Fahm jumps up from their seats. Light clouds of smoke, of the sort that fireworks leave behind, rise over the center of Umm al-Fahm.
     A little while earlier the police had announced the cancellation, or at least postponement, of the right-wing procession through the town, and a guest passing through concludes that the inhabitants are happy about the decision. They probably decided to waste some of the ammunition they had been saving for the right-wing procession, or for the police.
     A pubic activist who lives in the town smiles after hearing this theory. "Are you nuts? Today the pilgrims to Mecca came home. These are shots in their honor," he said. "Stop thinking everything revolves around you people."

Christmas under Occupation

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh "“ Bethlehem, International Middle East Media Center News 12/19/2008
      When I look out the balcony of the faculty lounge at Bethlehem University I hear the constant hammering of the construction in the settlement that separates us from Jerusalem and I see Israeli settlements built on Palestinian lands surrounding Bethlehem on three sides. Every two weeks, Jewish settlers "visit" the hill on the fourth side (called Ush Ghrab) that they have set their eyes on. Yet, I hear the US media is focused on other things including the weighty matter of dodging shoes.
     After living 29 years in the US, it is not easy to be living in Bethlehem area especially this Christmas season. Life can be at times hard, exhilarating, depressing, fun, and hopeful. Israel occupied this area in 1967, but the landscape had begun to change well before that. In 1948, Bethlehem became home to thousands of Palestinian refugees after more than 750,000 people were driven from their homes in what became Israel. Palestinians were forbidden to return, and three cramped refugee camps (Dheisheh, Azza, and Aida) add to the local migrants from villages whose lands were taken over.

Unity, and peace, hinge on US

Jim Lobe, Electronic Intifada 12/19/2008
      WASHINGTON (IPS) - Eighteen months after Hamas evicted Fatah forces from Gaza, the prospects for restoring Palestinian unity are more elusive than ever, with both factions believing that time is on their side, according to a new report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) released Wednesday.
     But changes in the regional and international landscape, particularly if United States President-elect Barack Obama follows through on his campaign pledges to engage with Iran and Syria, could spur a reconciliation, one which a growing number of experts here believe is essential for progress toward a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord.
     A more flexible attitude towards Hamas by Washington -- which organized a western diplomatic and aid boycott against it after the Islamist group won elections in 2006 and later formed a government of national unity with Fatah -- could also play a critical role in encouraging intra-Palestinian reconciliation that would in turn enhance chances for a peace settlement with Israel, according to the report.

Fighting Within - Gilad Atzmon Interviews Sid Shniad (IJV Canada)

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 12/19/2008
      Recently I have been corresponding with Sid Shniad (1), a founding member of Canadian Independent Jewish Voice (Canadian IJV) (2). Those who are familiar with my writing are well aware of the fact that I am highly critical of any form of Jewish political activism, for I consider it to be a racially orientated discourse.
     Yet, as much as I am interested in elaboration on the issue, a true dialogue with Jewish political activists is pretty much impossible. Jewish political ethnic campaigners and political activists have much to lose. They are fully aware of the categorical contradiction between the aim for universal values and tribal activism. They have much incoherence and inconsistency to hide.
     Sid, however, was different, though we do not agree on many things, we have managed to keep an open and fruitful dialogue. He was very helpful and addressed each issue in a very positive manner.
     Gilad: Hello Sid, I will start with a very brief question. Assuming that you are a secular human being, what makes you into a Jew? And what does it mean to operate politically as a Jew?
     Sid: I come from a long line of irreligious Jews. My great-grandfather was a rabbi in Poland, but since that time there has been very little religion in my family. My father was not bar mitzvahed, but he strongly identified as a Jew.

Human Rights: Nails in the Coffin of Israel

Kawther Salam, Palestine Think Tank 12/19/2008
      The Jewish State of Israel considers itself above the laws and has imposed a blockade on any criticism against its violations of the International laws, of its barbaric Apartheid regime and of its many crimes against humanity, by the UN human rights organizations and members of the International community.
     The representatives of this so-called "state" lose control each time any criticism against them, as small and innocuous as it may be, arises here or there. Each time they are criticized according to international laws and agreements to which Israel has acceded, and which in part were even redacted with help of representatives of Israel, these saints of the "unique and aloof" morality of their state give themselves the right to punish, to lambast the international organizations and their representatives, instead of accepting punishment or even mild criticism from these organizations which constitute the forum for the representatives of a great part of humanity.
     The representatives of the Israeli occupation regime reacted arrogantly after the Human Rights Council of the UN in Geneva unanimously released a list including 99 recommendations at the end of a two-day review of Israel’s record on human rights last Tuesday 9 December 2008. The council urged Israel to take 99 step to end its violations of human rights, including to lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip, freeing Arab detainees, and to allowing international observers to enter Palestine.

Underneath the Rubbles: Argentina Conspiracy

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, Middle East Online 12/19/2008
      Haaretz reports that an Argentine judge has ordered the property of a former Iranian diplomat to be seized as compensation awarded to a survivor of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Without verification, Israeli and American accusations trump lack of evidence in any jurisdiction- Argentina in particular – since it stands to benefit from the verdict.
     The US-Argentina relationship has always been in a struggle; but it was Ronald Reagan, the man who declared to the American people: “We raised a banner of bold colors--no pale pastels. We proclaimed a dream of an America that would be a Shining City on a Hill” who strengthened the ties. Reagan’s opposition to the Sardinistas prompted him to solicit the aid of the most ruthless military regime Argentina has ever known to train the Contras[i].
     ...Among the victims were some 2000 Jews. Hitler was not without long-term impact in Argentina. The country’s military regime kept secret camps decorated with swastikas.[iii] A Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs publication reveals that during this period, the foreign policy of Israel was to offer assistance to the Jews in Argentina, but at the same time “to cooperate with the military regime in realizing economic goals” of Israel. “Israel was accused by various quarters within the Israeli political system and the Jewish community in Argentina of deserting hundreds of Argentinean Jews, some of whom disappeared and some of whom were arrested and tortured under the military junta’s rule.

Craigslist founder supports microfinance in Palestine

Ma’an News Agency 12/19/2008
      Bethlehem – Ma’an – The inspiration behind the largest online classified ad service, as well as its namesake, announced plans on Thursday to bring his web savvy to Palestine.
     Internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark, who founded the immensely popular, plans to support stability in the Middle East through a new partnership with an existing microfinance organization that provides small loans to residents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as other developing nations.
     In partnership with CHF International, a humanitarian aid and development assistance organization, Newmark helped develop Kiva, the world’s “first person-to-person micro-lending website.”
     On the site, individuals can choose and lend to entrepreneurs in the developing world, according to CHF. The aid organization has been working in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1994. It extends small loans to families for business development and home improvement, “in hopes of fostering economic stability in this politically fragile region. -- See also: Kiva