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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.

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
28 January, 2008

Report: Gaza detainees held bound for days
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Seven Israeli human rights groups file complaint with military advocate general chief, attorney general regarding what they describe as IDF’s ’inhumane, appalling treatment’ of Palestinian detainees during Gaza op - Seven Israeli human rights organizations urged Chief Military Advocate General Brig. - Gen. Avichai Mendelblit and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Wednesday to launch an investigation into reports that Gaza detainees were held in "horrid conditions" and treated "inhumanely" during the IDF’s operation in the Strip. In a letter to Mazuz and Mendelblit, the groups, which include the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights said that detainees arrested by IDF forces in Gaza suffered from appalling treatment while in the army’s custody. -- See also: B'tselem: Prisoners from Gaza were held in appalling conditions

Israeli troops killed Gaza children carrying white flag, witnesses say
Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers 1/27/2009
EZBT ABED RABBO, Gaza Strip:... More than 70 members of his family crowded into one apartment for days. On Jan. 7, Abed Rabbo said, the shelling intensified, and they heard an Israeli solider calling for people to come out of their homes. Abed Rabbo said he gathered his wife, their three daughters and his mother, Souad. Souad Abed Rabbo said that she tied a white robe around a mop handle and two of her granddaughters waved white headscarves as they walked outside. When they opened the door, they saw an Israeli tank parked in their garden about 10 yards away." We were waiting for them to give us an order," Khaled said last week as he stood in the ruins of his home. "Then one came out of the tank and started to shoot." .... When the shooting was over, she said, 2-year-old Amal and 7-year-old Souad were dead. The allegation is one of at least five such white flag incidents that human rights investigators are looking into across the Gaza Strip.

Israeli warplanes bombard the Gaza-Egypt border line
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
Israeli warplanes bombarded early on Wednesday dawn the Gaza-Egypt border line in southern Gaza, destroying a number of underground tunnels, used by Palestinians to bring in essential goods and commodities from Egypt as Israel continues to close all border crossings for 20 months now. Witnesses said that the warplanes fired three missiles toward the border area and that some damages were inflicted to some nearby Palestinian-owned houses. Spokesperson of the Israeli army confirmed that the Israeli air raids on the area came in response to yesterday’s blast of a military jeep in the southeastern Gaza-Israel border line, where one Israeli soldier was killed and three others were injured. Yesterday, the Israeli army tanks rolled into Palestinian areas close to the blast location, as military bulldozers razed vast areas of Palestinian-owned lands.

Peace Recedes as Israeli Settlements Expand
Daniel Luban, Inter Press Service 1/29/2009
WASHINGTON, Jan 28(IPS) - Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank increased sharply in 2008, despite Israel’s pledge at the beginning of the year to freeze all construction, according to a new report by an Israeli non-governmental organisation. The report, released Wednesday by the group Peace Now, found that settlement construction in 2008 increased by almost 60 percent, including new construction both inside and outside of the security barrier and within illegal settlement outposts. The Peace Now study was released on the same day that newly appointed U. S. peace envoy George Mitchell - a longtime critic of settlement construction - arrived in Israel. The increase in construction is expected to be a source of friction in Mitchell’s negotiations with Israeli leaders. Critics warned that the increase in construction is likely to damage the already fragile prospects for a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. -- See also: Peace Now: West Bank settlement construction nearly doubled this year

Gaza crossings reopen when our soldier is free, Olmert tells envoy
Rory McCarthy in Gaza City, The Guardian 1/29/2009
Mitchell listens while jets bomb smuggling tunnels • Aid agencies say need to lift blockade is urgent - Crossings into Gaza will not fully open until the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas nearly three years ago, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, yesterday told George Mitchell, who was in Jerusalem on his first visit as President Barack Obama’s envoy to the Middle East. After the lunch meeting, Mitchell said that "consolidating" the ceasefire which halted Israel’s three-week war was of "critical importance," along with a halt to smuggling and reopening of the crossings. Israel insists that its economic blockade of Gaza, now more than a year and a half old, cannot be lifted without the release of Gilad Shalit, who was captured near the Gaza border in June 2006 by militants from groups including Hamas.

Hundreds of West Bank Palestinians commemorate Holocaust
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinians on Tuesday erected a memorial site near the West Bank city of Ramallah to commemorate Nazi Germany’s crimes against the Jewish people. Hundreds of Palestinians were estimated to have attended the event in Ni’lin, which coincided with the United Nations-declared World Holocaust Remembrance Day with photographs purchased from an Israeli museum. "The Holocaust was a horrible and methodical murder of six million innocents, which affects all of the citizens of Israel even today," said Khaled Mahmid, who heads the Nazareth-based Arab Institute for Holocaust Research and Education. "The Koran orders us to acknowledge the Holocaust and understand it," Mahmid added. "The Jews must remember that many of them were saved during the Holocaust thanks to their brothers in the Arab lands," he said. -- See also: For some young visitors, Holocaust exhibit on righteous Muslims calls up thoughts of Gaza

VIDEO - Gaza: A family’s devastation
The Guardian 1/28/2009
Majdi al-Athanma lost 18 members of his family in a 2006 Israeli shelling. He describes how the recent Israeli offensive has shattered his life again. [end]

VIDEO - A call from the ruins of Beit Lahiya
Fida Qishta, The Guardian 1/28/2009
A Beit Lahiya resident stands in front of the ruins of his home calling for aid and diplomacy towards a two state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [end]

Elderly man severely beaten by Israeli soldiers near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers beat a 70-year-old resident of a village near Ramallah on Wednesday morning, witnesses said. The elderly man was identified as Sharif Abed Ahmed Abu Hayya, 70, a Palestinian shepherd. Residents told Ma’an the elderly Palestinian was tending his sheep some 500 meters away from the village of Kherbet Abu Falah when a patrol of Israeli forces attacked arrived and attacked him without warning. According to witnesses, other villagers immediately responded to the incident but were held back by soldiers, who reportedly continued to assault him until an ambulance arrived. The elderly Palestinian man was held for more than four hours for undisclosed reasons and at an undisclosed location. Residents told Ma’an that villagers called the Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Office, which reported the man was “wanted” by Israeli forces.

Olmert briefs cabinet on Tuesday’s ceasefire breach
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday briefed the Israeli cabinet on alleged breaches to Israel’s unilateral ceasefire. Specifically, Olmert spoke about an attack near the Israeli kibbutz of Kisufim on Tuesday morning, which killed a soldier and injured three, one seriously. According to a Hebrew-language news agency, Reshet Bet, Israeli army leaders are hoping to receive permission to respond to any ceasefire breach, regardless of its origin. The Israeli military "sees Hamas as responsible for preserving the peace in Israel’s southern villages and will respond harshly to any attempt of undermining it," according to an army spokesperson.

Troika to Mitchell: We will respond to any Hamas violation
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told United States Mideast envoy George Mitchell that Israel would respond to every Hamas violation of the cease-fire, be they rocket attacks, strikes along the border fence or smuggling through tunnels. Mitchell told Israeli officials that the new administration was committed to Israel’s security, to the road map, and to the 2004 letter by president George W. Bush stating Palestinian refugees would not return to Israel and the border between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would take into consideration facts on the ground, meaning large settlement blocs would remain in Israeli hands. A government source in Jerusalem said yesterday that it was understood during talks with Mitchell that President Barack Obama expects Israel and the Palestinian Authority to renew diplomatic talks right after elections here.

Peres after meeting Mitchell: US, Israeli stance in accordance
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/28/2009
’They say that the Obama administration will pressure Israel, but, actually, we are the ones who will pressure the United States to help bring about peace and fight terrorism,’ president tells reporters after meeting America envoy in Jerusalem - Following his meeting with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon, President Shimon Peres said that there was no contradiction between the US’ stance an Israel’s position on Middle East peace. "Like in the United States, Israel also wants peace and believes that it must fight terrorism, headed by Hamas and Iran. "They say that the US and the new administration will pressure Israel, but, actually, we are the ones who will pressure the United States to help bring about peace and fight terrorism," said Peres.

Israel cuts diplomatic ties with Venezuela
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
The Israeli government have expelled the Venezuelan Embesy staff in Tall Aviv and cut diplomatic relations with the country. According to Israeli media sources the Israeli Foreign Ministry notified earlier this week the Venezuelan diplomats in Israeli to leave within 72 hours. The Israeli government says that this move comes in response to the Venezuelan Hugo Chavez decision to expel the Israeli Ambassador to Caracas earlier this month. Venezuela was the first country to expel the Israeli ambassador and to withdraw its ambassador to Israel in protest to the war launched against the people in the Gaza Strip. Bolivia joined Venezuela and decided to sever ties with Israel in protest to the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales during a speech at a ceremony for ambassadors to Bolivia earlier this month said that he was breaking relations with Israel. . .

Venezuela gov’t: We’re honored Israel expelled our diplomats
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Venezuela’s government said Wednesday it was proud that Israel has expelled its diplomatic envoys, calling Israel’s leaders criminals while denying allegations of anti-Semitism at home. Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that it had ordered the Venezuelan ambassador to leave this week, responding to Venezuela’s Jan. 6 declaration that it was expelling Israeli diplomats in protest of Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Venezuela escalated the clash on Jan. 14 by saying it was breaking relations altogether, though it apparently left its own ambassador in Israel. "The response of the state of Israel is weak, late, and in any case for us it’s an honor," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro told the Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera.

Venezuela calls Israeli leaders ’criminals’
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Caracas says it is ’proud’ that Israel expelled its ambassador: ’The response of the state of Israel is weak, late, and in any case for us it’s an honor,’ says Venezuelan Foreign Ministry - Venezuela’s government said Wednesday it is proud of that Israel has expelled its ambassador, calling Israel’s leaders criminals while denying allegations of anti-Semitism at home. Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that it had ordered the Venezuelan ambassador to leave this week, responding to Venezuela’s Jan. 6 declaration that it was expelling Israeli diplomats because of Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip. Venezuela escalated the clash on Jan. 14 by saying it was breaking relations altogether, though it apparently left its own ambassador in Israel. "The response of the state of Israel is weak, late, and in any case for us it’s an honor," Foreign Minister. . .

Israel expels Venezuelan envoys
Al Jazeera 1/28/2009
Israel has given Venezuela’s mission to the country until Friday to leave following Caracas’ decision to cut off diplomatic ties. Venezuela’s ambassador in Tel Aviv and two of his staff had been ordered to leave and are expected to depart on Thursday, the Israeli foreign ministry announced on Wednesday. Caracas said that Israel was also expelling its chief diplomat in the Palestinian West Bank. Venezuela had initially expelled Israeli emissaries to the country on January 6, following Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip. It then decided to cut off diplomatic relations on January 14, although its own embassy in Israel continued to function. ’Proud of expulsion’ - "The response of the state of Israel is weak, late and, in any case for us, it’s an honour," Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s foreign minister, told Al Jazeera. -- See also: Bashing Venezuelan Democracy

Rabbinate cuts ties with Vatican
Reuters, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Chief Rabbinate of Israel cuts ties with Vatican over pardon of Holocaust denier until apology is made, Vatican’s position clarified. Survivor Eli Wiesel also comes out against pontiff’s pardon of known Holocaust denying bishop, says slight may even have been ’intentional. ’ Pope reaffirms ’solidarity’ with Jewish people -The chief Rabbinate of Israel sent a letter to the Vatican saying that dialogue with Catholics could not continue as before "without a public apology from Bishop Williamson and recanting his deplorable statements". The Rabbinate said it would not attend a meeting scheduled for March "until this matter is clarified". Chief Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said he hoped the pope’s words at the audience would be "sufficient to respond to the doubts expressed about the position of the pope and the Catholic Church" on the Holocaust.

Israel’s top rabbis sever Vatican links
AP, The Independent 1/28/2009
Israel’s highest Jewish body severed ties with the Vatican today in protest at the Pope’s decision to reinstate a bishop who publicly denied millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Briton Richard Williamson and three other bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after right-wing Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated them without papal consent. In an effort to bring Lefebvre’s traditionalist society back within the fold, the pope lifted their ban on Saturday, provoking an uproar among Jews who deplore Williamson’s views. Israel’s chief rabbinate wrote to the Holy See today expressing "sorrow and pain" at the decision. "It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before," the letter said. The rabbinate also cancelled a meeting with the Vatican set for March.

Chief Rabbinate cuts ties with Vatican
Matthew Wagner, Jerusalem Post 1/27/2009
Pope Benedict XVI insisted on Wednesday that he felt "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews. Jewish world outraged at Pope’s decision to reinstate bishop who is a holocaust denier Benedict spoke days after his decision to revoke the excommunication of a bishop who says no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust provoked an outcry among Jews. Benedict said Wednesday that he hoped the memory of the Holocaust would also serve as a warning against the "unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the hearts of men. " He spoke during a public audience at the Vatican. The Vatican had already distanced itself from comments by bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied that 6 million Jews were murdered during World War II.

New Vatican Radio program highlights Pope’s condemnation of Holocaust
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The Vatican is highlighting Pope Benedict XVI’s record of condemning the Holocaust and anti-Semitism amid an outcry that he rehabilitated a bishop who claims that no Jews were gassed during World War II. Vatican Radio aired a lengthy program Tuesday to mark Holocaust remembrance day. It recalled Benedict’s 2006 visit to Auschwitz, his 2005 visit to the main synagogue in Cologne, Germany, and other remarks over the years in which he has denounced the "insane, racist ideology that produced the Holocaust. " The Vatican has been intensifying its defense of Benedict after Jewish groups voiced outrage that he lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop, Richard Williamson, who has denied that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

France summons Israel ambassador over Gaza shot
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
PARIS - France has summoned Israel’s ambassador to protest after Israeli troops fired warning shots as European diplomats were blocked at a Gaza border crossing, the foreign ministry said Wednesday. A diplomatic convoy carrying France’s consul general was halted by Israeli troops at the Erez border crossing on Tuesday and held for six hours as it tried to leave the Gaza Strip and return to Jerusalem, a spokesman said. "The convoy, which included other European diplomats, was subject to two warning shots from Israeli soldiers," French spokesman Eric Chevallier said. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner summoned Israeli Ambassador Daniel Shek "to protest this unacceptable incident and demand an explanation," he said. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said all border crossings were closed for several hours on Tuesday.

France summons Israeli envoy over Gaza border scare
Reuters, YNetNews 1/28/2009
French Foreign Ministry demands explanation on ’firing of two warning shots by IDF at convoy of French diplomats returning from Gaza’ -France summoned Israel’s ambassador on Wednesday to complain after French diplomats were blocked for hours on the Jewish state’s border with the Gaza Strip and Israeli soldiers fired warning shots at their convoy. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said France’s consul general based in Jerusalem and several of his colleagues travelled to Gaza on Tuesday to assess the reopening of border crossings and to inspect projects funded by France. "At the end of this visit, the convoy, which had planned to go back to Jerusalem in the evening, was blocked by the Israeli authorities for more than six hours at the Erez border crossing," Chevallier told reporters.

Hundreds flee homes in middle of night
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
Gaza - Witnesses report Israeli warplanes bombing early Wednesday the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. Residents spoke of powerful explosions from grenades and rockets near the border. Hundreds of people fled their homes to escape harm. No casualties were reported from the blasts that hit Rafah along the Gaza Strip -- Egypt border. Israeli forces say the targets were the tunnels used for bringing goods into the Strip banned during the siege imposed in June 2007, including fuel, cigarettes, food and other commodities. Beginning late night and continuing into dawn, the attacks on Rafah are not the first of their kind. Since 2003 Israeli forces have targeted the tunnels, rendering tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless through bulldozing and bombing campaigns.

Israel to respond harshly to deadly Gaza border blast
Amos Harel and Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Israel is gearing up to respond harshly against Hamas in response to a remote-control bomb attack at the Gaza Strip security fence Tuesday, which killed an Israel Defense Forces tracker and wounded three other soldiers, one seriously. It was the Palestinians’ first deadly attack since the cease-fire ended Operation Cast Lead, and came the day before the arrival of George Mitchell, the U. S. envoy to the Middle East. Hours after the attack, an Israel Air Force aircraft fired a missile at a militant on a motorbike in the Khan Yunis area of Gaza. The Shin Bet security service, which helped coordinate the missile strike, said the militant, Hussein Abu-Shamaya, was involved in the bomb attack. The bomb was planted by a Hamas breakaway group identified with the Al-Qaida-affiliated Global Jihad, the Shin Bet said. In addition, a Palestinian man, apparently a farmer, was killed in exchanges of

Israel bombs southern Gaza
Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
Israeli jets have bombed the southern Gaza Strip after a rocket was fired from the Palestinian territory into Israel. There were no immediate reports of any injuries from either the bombing early on Thursday or the rocket fire on Wednesday. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the air attack, saying it had targeted a weapons production site in response to the rocket fired at Israel. There were no immediate reports of any injuries from the strike, which witnesses said damaged a metal foundry in the town of Rafah, near the Egyptian border. Wednesday night’s rocket fire from Gaza - the first since Palestinian factions declared their own ceasefire with Israel - landed at the kibbutz or agricultural commune of Re’im, in the southern Israeli Eshkol region, an Israeli military spokesman said on Thursday. The rocket fire came after Israeli jets carried out raids on tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border earlier on Wednesday - the first tunnel bombing since it halted its 22-day offensive on January 18.

Rights groups: IDF subjected Gaza detainees to deplorable conditions
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Seven human rights organizations approached Israel Defense Forces Military Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Wednesday seeking an investigation into the IDF’s treatment of Palestinians detained during Israel’s Gaza offensive. The human rights groups argued that the detainees were treated in a deplorable manner and were subjected to humiliating conditions from the moment they were seized and up until being transferred to the custody of the Israel Prisons Service. In a letter, composed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B’Tselem and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel among others, it was argued that the detainees had testified to the difficult conditions they faced during the first days of their imprisonment.

Israel tortures Gaza prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of prisoners’ affairs in Gaza has charged that the Israeli occupation authority was using cruel and internationally banned interrogation methods with detainees captured in Gaza during the Israeli onslaught. The ministry, in a press release on Wednesday, said that the Israeli occupation forces took with them more than 200 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip after their withdrawal and subjected them to torture rounds in order to extract any information on resistance elements and places from where the homemade rockets are being fired at Israeli targets. It pointed out that the prisoners were subjected to severe beating especially in the upper parts of the body, forced to sit in uncomfortable positions, deprived of sleep and forced to sit on children chairs while both hands and feet shackled in addition to violently shaking them and exposing them to extreme cold.

IAF commander: Bombing of tunnels not a solution to Gaza arms smuggling
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan said Wednesday that he doubted the long-term efficacy of Israel’s bombing of the tunnels on the Philadelphi Route in southern Gaza. In the first remarks on the outcome of Operation Cast Lead by a member of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff, Nehushtan said he recommended focusing on all means of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip. The air force carried out hundreds of sorties around the Philadelphi Route during the Gaza operation, focusing mainly on houses suspected of hiding tunnels. On Tuesday night, following the attack on an army patrol hear Kissufim, the IDF responded by bombing tunnels in that area. Speaking at the Ilan Ramon Annual International Space Conference in Herzliya, Nehushtan attempted to reduce the importance of tunnels for smuggling arms, calling them "merely the spout of the toothpaste tube".

IAF strikes in south Gaza following rocket fire
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/29/2009
Fighter jets bomb weapons production site, tunnel near Rafah shortly after Olmert, Barak, Livni decide Israel must retaliate on earlier rocket fire on Negev - Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck a stonecutting facility near a Hamas outpost and a smuggling tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip late Wednesday night, shortly after militants fired a rocket at Israel, witnesses and the Islamic movement Hamas said. There were no immediate reports of any injuries. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the attack, saying it had targeted a weapons production site, in response to the rocket fire at Israel. Earlier, the security "Kitchenette," namely Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni decided Wednesday night that Israel must retaliate on the rocket fire at the western Negev.

Armed groups launch seven projectiles toward Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The militant wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for firing seven shells toward an Israeli special forces unit east of Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The Al-Qassam Brigades said it launched the projectiles in coordination with the Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades, which is the militant wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. In a statement, Al-Qassam said one of its groups managed to fire three 90 millimeter rockets toward the Israeli force east of the refugee camp in central Gaza. The operation came “in response to the continuous Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people,” the Hamas affiliates noted in the statement. In turn, the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the other four projectiles launched at Israeli installations east of Al-Maghazi, saying it would continue to attack forces invading the besieged coastal strip.

Israeli warplanes strike Rafah border area
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli aircraft pummeled the southern Gaza Strip early on Wednesday morning, destroying parts of Rafah, witnesses said. Two strikes were reported by residents, who fled the scene by the hundreds. Ma’an’s correspondent in Gaza said three separate strikes damaged buildings around Rafah. No injuries were immediately reported. Israel said the pre-dawn strikes targeted "Hamas smuggling tunnels" in the southern Gaza Strip, but that the attack was retaliatory. "This was in response to the attack against an IDF [Israel Defense Forces] force in the area of Kissufim,” an Israeli military spokesperson said in a statement to Ma’an. That attack killed an Israeli soldier, who died after an explosive device detonated near the Kissufim kibbutz on the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday morning. Three other soldiers were injured, one seriously, in the blast that targeted a military convoy.

Winning hearts and minds in the IDF
Israel Harel, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
"those who do not believe fully in the righteousness of their path cannot educate" [Fascism speaks - Ed. ] - The more the reports multiply about the outcome of the Gaza campaign, especially the high motivation of our soldiers, their parents and the public in general, the greater the concern among those in the last generation who hurt the spirit of the Israel Defense Forces. It was they who were responsible for its lack of motivation ("you can’t win against terror") and affected its combat theories. Indeed, a new wind is blowing in the army these days. It is no longer an army whose only clear victories in the past 35 years - Gush Katif and Amona - were against its own people. The fighting spirit in Gaza was not affected this time by the agenda of the Four Mothers and similar groups, particularly thos think tanks that bear substantial responsibility for the politicization and disorientation of the top brass. -- See also: Advice under fire

Rocket fired from Gaza lands in Negev
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Projectile hits open area in western Negev despite ceasefire declared by armed Palestinian groups following IDF offensive in Hamas-controlled Gaza; no injuries reported. Council head: We expect the government to retaliate - Palestinians fired a rocket from northern Gaza at the western Negev Wednesday night. The projectile landed in an open area in the western Negev’s Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported. The Color Red alert sounded throughout the area ahead of the landing. "We expect the government to retaliate rather than exercise restraint, in order to keep the residents safe," said Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council. Earlier, several Color Red alerts sounded throughout the Nahal Oz and Alomim communities, but subsequent IDF inquires deemed them to be false alarms.

IOF warplanes blast Rafah border area
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israel’s warplanes blasted the Rafah border area with Egypt at an early hour on Wednesday claiming the raids targeted tunnels used for smuggling "weapons". Local sources told PIC reporter that American-supplied Israeli F-16s fired at least four missiles on the border strip south of Gaza forcing Palestinian security elements to evacuate their positions. Egyptian security forces, on the other side of the border, retreated a long distance into their territories after receiving warnings of the Israeli occupation forces’ intention to raid the border area. The border strip in Rafah was the target of hundreds of IOF aerial bombardment during the three-week war on Gaza at the pretext of destroying tunnels, which in fact flattened 150 homes and partially destroyed many others.

Israel jets strike Gaza tunnels
AP, The Independent 1/28/2009
Israeli warplanes have pounded smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border after a Palestinian bomb killed an Israeli soldier. The border flare-up came 10 days into an informal ceasefire. It also came just hours before President Barack Obama’s new Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, was due to meet Israeli leaders. The military said the soldier was killed yesterday on Israel’s frontier with the Gaza Strip by a roadside bomb planted on the Gaza side. Israel sent tanks and bulldozers into northern Gaza to plough up the attack site and launched an airstrike that wounded a Hamas militant. Meanwhile, residents said two Israeli air strikes early today targeted smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. They said the strikes sent hundreds of people fleeing.

Palestine Today 012809
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 4 m 00s || 3. 66 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Wednesday, January 28th, 2009. The Israeli army attacks the Gaza borders, and demolish a home in Jerusalem in the West Bank, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast On Wednesday at dawn, Israeli warplanes bombarded the Gaza-Egypt border, destroying a number of underground tunnels used by Palestinians to bring in essential goods and commodities from Egypt while Israel continues the closure of all border crossings that has lasted for 20 months. Witnesses said that the warplanes fired three missiles toward the border area and that some damage was inflicted to some nearby Palestinian-owned houses. A spokesperson of the Israeli army confirmed that the Israeli air raids on the. . .

Eight West Bank Palestinians seized near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces imposed a curfew on a village west of Jenin and seized eight Palestinians early on Wednesday morning, security sources told Ma’an. Palestinian Authority (PA) security officials also reported that Israeli troops stormed the West Bank town of Qabatiya, as well. Eight young men were reportedly seized in Zabuba, a village near Jenin in the northern West Bank. The Palestinians were identified as Said Jaradat, Thaer Maqaldeh, Hasan Abu Zaytouneh, Mubda Maqaldeh, the brothers Hasan and Husen Muhammad Atatra, Muhammad Amarna, and Abada Zagheel. Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli forces imposed a curfew, closed roads with military roadblocks, raided the houses of residents and prevented people from leaving the village. Security sources said Israeli patrols were in the streets of Qabatiya by 3am and withdrew ay 4am on Wednesday, without any reported arrests.

Israeli forces demolish a Palestinian owned flat in Jerusalem
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
Israeli military bulldozers demolished on Wednesday morning a Palestinian owned flat located in Silwan neighborhood in Jerusalem city. The flat is located in a building; it is the home of Talal Al Shoki and his eight family members. Local sources said that this is the second time his flat was demolished by the Israeli military. Witnesses said that Israeli troops and a bulldozer arrived in the area on the early morning forced the family out then demolished the walls of the flat. The Israeli authorities say that the flat was built without the needed construction permission. Since Israel occupied the city of Jerusalem in 1967 it has rarely given its Palestinian resident permissions to built homes, while funding and building hundreds of home in illegal settlements in and around the city of Jerusalem. Ahmad AL Rowidi, the head of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian President office. . .

No security for Palestinians under Israeli occupation
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
PNN -- Israeli forces opened direct fire on a home in Bethlehem’s Al Azzeh Refugee Camp early yesterday. Forty-five year old Azzeh home owner Laith Issa describes being in his bedroom before dawn. "I had been watching a news program on Al Jazeera and fell asleep. But I felt the movement of vehicles and heard something next door. " He added, "I went to the window and watched the soldiers. "Al Azzeh told PNN today that residents of the refugee camp are accustomed to the raids of the Israeli army, to the home invasions, the roundups of youth, the blindfolds, the shooting. "They were around the house and fired for more than a half hour, hitting at least 10 times the same window. "There are five bullets lodged into the bedroom wall from where Al Azzeh first looked out the window. The family was shocked to find soldiers shouting at them.

The Israeli military kidnaps eight civilians during an invasion targeting a village near Jenin
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
Eight Palestinian civilians where kidnapped on Wednesday by Israeli troops during an attack targeting the village of Zboba located near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Villagers told local media that Israeli troops invaded their village and conducted house to house search for a number of hours. Soldiers forced a curfew on the village and did not allow people to leave their homes, witnesses said. During the search Israeli troops forced families outside their home and ransacked belongs. Troops left later in the morning taking the eight men to unknown locations, residents reported. [end]

The Israeli army attacks several areas in Hebron and kidnaps three civilians
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
Media sources in the southern West Bank city of Hebron reported that the Israeli army invaded and searched homes in several parts of the city and kidnapped three civilians on Wednesday. Troops searched homes in Hebron city and nearby Yatta, Kharas, and Al Thahrya villages. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers handed out military orders to a number of men for integration by the Isralei secrit police in those villages. Those kidnapped where identified as; Isma’el Hassasnah, 21, Khaled AL Battata, 40, and Ayman Abu Arkob, 23. [end]

Settlement building not sufficient to meet ’natural growth’
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The settlers are not thrilled with George Mitchell - and that is an understatement. Mitchell, who first arrived here as an envoy on behalf of the Democratic Clinton administration eight years ago, asked then that Israel freeze settlement construction, even if the building activity was intended to meet natural population growth. To a large extent, he was successful in attaining what he asked for. If Mitchell actually does visit any settlements, and examines closely the situation there, he will find that there has never been a time when so little construction activity was taking place in settlements. In many communities, the construction is insufficient to meet natural growth, and many newly married couples find that they must move to locations within the Green Line (in sovereign Israel). Kiryat Arba, Karnei Shomron and Tekoa are all towns that provide clear. . .

Peace Now: Israel settlement building accelerated in 2008
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Settlements and outposts in the West Bank expanded more quickly in 2008 than the previous year, a Peace Now report said Wednesday. According to the group, 1,257 new structures were built in settlements during 2008, compared to 800 in 2007, an increase of 57 percent. The group said in the report that building more than doubled in outposts, which unlike settlements are not recognized by the Israeli government. It says 261 structures were built in outposts, compared to 98 the year before. The government has promised to dismantle outposts. The Palestinians demand a complete halt to settlement building in the West Bank during peace negotiations, saying their expansion is taking land they demand in any final settlement -- See also: Peace Now: West Bank settlement construction nearly doubled this year

Report: Peace Now annual settlement report shows an increase of constructions
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
The Israeli left wing organization Peace Now released on Wednesday its annual report about the Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. The report show that the number of settlers in the West Bank as of 2008: 285,800, while the number of new structures built there during 2008: 1,518 (including 261 in outposts). At least 1,257 new structures were built in settlements, including 748 permanent buildings and 509 caravans, compared to 800 structures in 2007 (including 442 permanent structures and 368 caravans), a 60% rise. The figures are based on aerial photos and site visits by the Peace Now Settlement Watch team in the last year. Peace Now noted in the report that not a single real outpost was evacuated. In addition at least 261 new structures were built, including 227 caravans and 34 permanent structures, compared to 98 structures in 2007 (including 82 caravans and 16 permanent structures), a 2.

UN under pressure to investigate war crimes in Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An impartial international investigation into allegations of serious violations of the laws of war by Israel and Hamas should be undertaken, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. “It is essential to establish key facts and to recommend mechanisms for holding violators accountable and providing compensation to victims,” the group wrote in a statement. Human Rights Watch renewed its call for the establishment of “an independent, international commission of inquiry” and said that UN institutions should urgently take the necessary steps to achieve this. “The Security Council and the secretary-general should both work to establish an independent investigation into alleged violations by both sides,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division. “Since Human Rights Watch first made this call, our on-the-ground investigations. . .

Peace Now: Settlements expanded faster in 2008
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 1/28/2009
On day US Mideast envoy arrives in Israel, Peace Now movement publishes report on settlement expansion activity last year. Yesha Council pleased with ’documentation of Zionist enterprise’ - Jewish settlements and outposts in the West Bank expanded more rapidly in 2008 than the previous year, Peace now reported on Wednesday. The timing of the report is no coincidence, and it was released on the day US Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell was scheduled to arrive in Israel. Mitchell has spoken out against the illegal construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in the past. According to the report, there were 285,800 settlers living in the West Bank as of 2008, with 1,518 new structures built in the territories last year, including 261 outposts. Sixty-one percent of the new structures were built west of the route of the separation fence and 39% were built east of it.

A British boycott in America
Raphael Ahren, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, a group of American university professors has for the first time launched a national campaign calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. While Israeli academics have grown used to such news from Great Britain, where anti-Israel groups several times attempted to establish academic boycotts, the formation of the United States movement marks the first time that a national academic boycott movement has come out of America. Israeli professors are not sure yet how big of an impact the one-week-old movement will have, but started discussing the significance of and possible counteractions against the campaign. "As educators of conscience, we have been unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel’s indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions," the U. S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel stated in its inaugural press release last Thursday.

UN urges Israel to reopen Gaza crossings
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
UNITED NATIONS - UN humanitarian chief John Holmes appealed to Israel to re-open border crossings into the besieged Gaza Strip to allow delivery of badly needed relief aid in the wake of the devastating 22-day conflict. "Israel has a particular responsibility as the occupying power in this context, because of its control of Gaza’s borders with Israel, to respect the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law," Holmes told the 15-member UN Security Council during a briefing on his recent visit to the region. "It is therefore critical that new steps are taken immediately by the Israeli authorities to move to the sustained reopening of crossing points," he said. He underscored the importance of improving the living conditions of Gaza’s 1. 5 million people to avoid further despair and undermining efforts to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following UN demands, Israel suddenly reopens Gaza crossings
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel reopened commercial crossings into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, without conditions, the Palestinian Authority told Ma’an. The crossings had been closed in response to a deadly attack on an Israeli patrol near Gaza on Tuesday morning. One officer was killed in the attack and three others were injured, one seriously. According to Ra’ed Fatouh, a Crossings Authority official, Israel informed the PA “that they reopened the borders in the Strip for dozens of trucks at 7:00am this morning. ”Fatouh also said Israel allowed in 110 trucks, 82 of which were carrying humanitarian aid, through the Karem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza. Other shipments of dairy, flour, fruit, agricultural equipment and fertilized eggs were allowed in, as well, he said, reporting that 36 such trucks crossed the border.

Peace now: Settlement expansion rose by 60 percent in the last year
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli leftist peace now organization reported that the settlement expansion in the West Bank rose by 60 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year, noting that the information came in the report was collected through field visits and supported with aerial photos.   Peace now underlined in its report that the number of new structures built in the settlements last year amounted to 1,257 including 748 permanent buildings and 509 caravans.  The report confirms that despite the Israeli government’s repeated announcement that it would stop settlement expansion and land confiscation, but the facts on the ground contradict this. Regarding the settlement outposts which the Israeli government promised the high court to evacuate, the report affirms that not a single outpost was evacuated in 2008, but quite the reverse the settlers expanded the construction. . .

Security Council emergency session again calls to open Gaza crossings
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
Gaza -- Calls on the Israeli administration demanding it lift the closure of the Gaza Strip became more frequent after the three-week period of destruction. John Holmes of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the United Nations issued yet another appeal last night. "Israel must reopen the Gaza crossings to allow relief supplies to enter the Strip. " Also from the United Nations, Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Karen Abu Zayd is pushing the Security Council to open the way for reconstruction and relief. Holmes addressed the emergency session of the Security Council last night saying, "Israel bears the responsibility defined as an occupying force in this context because it controls Gaza’s borders. It must respect the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law. "

Intel sources: Gaza informants compromised by sloppiness
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Sources at Southern Command and in MI claim that intelligence-gathering personnel both at the Shin Bet and MI were frustrated that in a number of instances, operations officers failed to adequately protect a source of information - namely Palestinian agents. - Among those killed were Fatah members who were spotted in the vicinity of Hamas installations bombed by the air force, and who were carrying cell phones, and could not satisfactorily explain what they were doing in that particular location at that time. In one case, which was widely discussed in the Strip, Hamas gunmen kidnapped a civilian from his home, tortured him, and ripped out his eyes, because they suspected he was an Israeli agent. The man was returned to his family, but several days later the gunmen returned and murdered him. During the fighting, various Israeli security organizations prided themselves on the close

UNICEF steps up educational assistance in decimated Strip
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – With the return of hundreds of thousands of children to school in Gaza, the United Nations is working to provide essential educational equipment. In particular, UNICEF is sending materials to reestablish learning and recreational activities, create safe environments and help restore a sense of normalcy for children in Gaza, it said. On Wednesday, UNICEF’s Representative for the occupied Palestinian territories, Patricia McPhillips, visited Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, where two tents are serving as temporary learning spaces for girls, whose school was completely destroyed. "UNICEF is working with partners to establish safe areas and to supply educational material for children in Gaza," said Ms. Patricia McPhillips. "The return to school provides an important opportunity for children to interact, play, rebuild their routines, and overcome distress.

UN aid being distributed to 900,000 Palestinians
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
GAZA CITY - UN food aid is now being distributed to 900,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of Israel’s devastating military offensive in the territory, an official said on Wednesday. "We have increased the numbers on our food distribution to 900,000 of the one million refugees here," said John Ging, who heads the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza. All employees of the Palestinian Authority have been included because "they are not getting the cash for their salaries, therefore they are not able to buy the food. " The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority lost power in Gaza to the democratically elected government of Hamas. UNWRA aid had previously covered 750,000 people in Gaza, where local doctors said more than 1,300 people – mainly civilians - died in the blistering 22-day assault aimed at ending rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Release soldier and we’ll end Gaza blockade, says Israel
Donald Macintyre in Gaza City, The Independent 1/29/2009
Israel will not allow the full re-opening of Gaza’s crossings until it has secured the release of Gilad Shalit, the army corporal seized more than two-and-a-half years ago by Hamas and other militants, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told President Obama’s new Middle East envoy yesterday. Mr Olmert’s message came in talks with US envoy George Mitchell, who afterwards said that consolidating the 10-day-old ceasefire was of "critical importance". The tough task facing Mr Mitchell was underlined by Israel’s bombing of Rafah tunnels overnight, their latest response to the killing of an Israeli soldier on Tuesday. In a short statement after his lunch with Mr Olmert, Mr Mitchell said that entrenching the ceasefire would include a "cessation of hostilities", an end to arms smuggling across Gaza’s border with Egypt -- which had been a central aim of Israel’s 22-day offensive -- and the re-opening. . .

Hamas rejects Israel’s Gaza cease-fire conditions
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The Damascus-based political leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas said Wednesday that Israel’s conditions for a long-term truce with Hamas were unacceptable. Khaled Meshal said Wednesday that Hamas will not accept Israel’s condition that it would only reopen Gaza’s border crossings after Hamas releases captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Gaza militants in 2006. "We were recently informed of [Israel’s] conditions for calm. . . We reject these Israeli conditions. We will not accept them," Meshal said. Meshal spoke from Doha, Qatar, where he is on a visit to express his gratitude for Qatar’s solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during Israel’s 22-day offensive to rout out Hamas rockets. His remarks were aired on Al-Jazeera satellite television.

Hamas would recognise Israel within 1967 borders
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
PARIS - Hamas would recognise Israel if it withdraws to its pre-1967 borders, a French Jewish writer said this week after meeting the exiled leader of the democratically elected Palestinian movement, Khaled Meshaal. "He told me that Hamas was prepared to recognise Israel on the lines of June 4, 1967. He told me so several times," Marek Halter said on Monday. The date refers to Palestinian demands for an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 war. Halter’s meeting with Meshaal took place in Damascus last month, on the eve of Israel’s 22-day offensive, which left more than 1,330 Palestinians dead, mainly civilians, and vast swathes of the territory in ruins. The writer said he informed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Meshaal’s comments at the start of the Gaza conflict, which ended January 18 as Israel and Hamas declared unilateral ceasefires.

Olmert: Opening crossings tied to progress in Shalit case
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Prime minister meets with US special envoy to Mideast, says significant headway in negotiations for return of kidnapped IDF soldier prerequisite for reopening Gaza crossings - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Wednesday afternoon with George Mitchell, the US special envoy to Mideast. Olmert told Mitchell that opening the Gaza crossings was a decision tied in with any progress made in kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s case. Olmert stressed that until actual headway in Shalit’s case was made, the crossings would remain open for humanitarian aid transports only. The future opening of the crossings, added Olmert, also depends on the Gaza ceasefire proving stable and the cessation of all terror activities. Mitchell reinforced US President Barak Obama’s statements that the US is committed to the security of Israel and will make good on its pledge to establish two states for two nations.

Taha: Hamas rejects to return to the previous truce agreement
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ayman Taha, a prominent leader of Hamas and a member of its delegation to Cairo, said that his Movement would respond clearly and in detail to what was put forward during the ceasefire talks, stressing his Movement’s rejection of all Israeli conditions especially with regard to the idea of returning to the previous truce agreement. In a press statement published Wednesday in the Palestine newspaper, Taha stated that the one-week ceasefire declared after the war was extended until the fifth of next February in order to reach a comprehensive agreement guaranteeing that the crossings would be opened and the siege would be lifted permanently. The Hamas leader underscored that the main point which the truce is contingent on is not the time ceiling, but international guarantees that Israel would respect the truce agreement items which include lifting the siege and opening the crossings.

Israel reopens Gaza commercial crossings
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/28/2009
The Israeli military reopened on Wednesday morning all Gaza’s commercial crossings after it closed them yesterday following renewed violence in the region, Palestinian sources said. The sources added that the Israeli side has informed the Palestinian side that the crossings would be reopened to allow entry of dozens of trucks, loaded with assistance to the Gaza Strip. Raed Fatouh , of the Palestinian crossings administration, was quoted as saying that 110 trucks, including 82, are loaded with humanitarian assistance, while 36 others are loaded with wheat, milk, fruits and fertilized eggs. All shipments will be allowed in through the southern Israeli commercial crossing of Kerem Shalom or Abu Salem. Also, 80 more shipments will be entering through the Karni crossing, to the east of Gaza city, Fattouh explained, adding that some quantities of industrialized crude fuel and cooking. . .

Hamas: Shalit in exchange for prisoners
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Head of Hamas delegation to Cairo responds to PM Ehud Olmert’s position that Gaza border crossings only if significant progress is made in negotiations to return kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit: ’If Israel wants Shalit, it must pay price’ - Hamas rejected Wednesday the Israeli truce proposal, with particular opposition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s demand that it be conditioned on headway made in negotiations to bring home kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and the opening of Gaza border crossings. A member of the Hamas delegation to Cairo, Salah al-Bardawil made it clear to the Egyptian mediators that his organization rejects the Israeli proposal for a truce on the grounds that Israel would like to establish a 500-yard security corridor in the Gaza Strip, and on the issue of Gilad Shalit. Bardawil said on the Shalit issue, the ball is in Israel’s court.

Hamas agrees: Gaza reconstruction funds to be depoliticized
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas has accepted a plan to rebuild the Gaza Strip in which funds would be given to international agencies and kept out of the hands of Palestinian factions, a participant in the Cairo negotiations said on Wednesday. Talal Abu Tharifa, a member of the central committee of the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said that Hamas had agreed to the proposal, which is based on “the Lebanese experience. ”Palestinian political leaders are in Cairo to discuss a ceasefire with Israel, Palestinian reconciliation, and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. The question of how to distribute reconstruction funds has been contentious because of an international aid boycott of the Hamas government. At the Cairo negotiations, Hamas had previously demanded that it be allowed to handle the reconstruction funds.

PLC member: Hamas won’t trade Shalit for open borders
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas refused Israel’s demand to release captured soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for United Nations humanitarian aid to Gaza, a Palestinian legislator said Wednesday. Palestinian Legislative Council Member Mushir Al-Masri confirmed to Ma’an that the Islamic movement rejected Israel’s linking the release of its soldier with opening Gaza’s borders. Al-Masri said the two issues “are different and totally separate. ”“Shalit’s issue is separate and the talks on this subject will take place only when a deal is reached on releasing Palestinian detainees, particularly the ones with long sentences,” Al-Masri said. But Al-Masri reiterated Hamas’ conditions to accept a truce with Israel, saying, "We want a truce that stops Israeli aggression, breaks the siege and opens the borders, especially the Rafah crossing.

Hamas leader rejects Israeli conditions for truce
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/28/2009
’In the name of the heroes who are holding Shalit, I say we will not accept that the Gaza crossings be opened in exchange for the IDF soldier,’ Mashaal says - The exiled leader of the armed Palestinian Hamas group said Wednesday that Israel’s conditions for a long-term truce with Hamas were "unacceptable. " Khaled Mashaal said Hamas will not accept that Israel open the border crossings with the Gaza Strip only after Hamas releases an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants in June 2006. "We were recently informed of (Israel’s) conditions for calm. . . We reject these Israeli conditions. We will not accept them," Mashaal said. Mashaal spoke from Doha, Qatar, where he is visiting to thank Qatar for its solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during Israel’s 22-day offensive to rout out Hamas rockets.

Despite flare-ups, Egypt claims Gaza truce near
Avi Issacharoff, Yuval Azoulay, Anshel Pfeffer, and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Egyptian officials said they believe Hamas and Israel are close to an agreement on a temporary cease-fire of about 18 months. Egypt, which wants to be able to announce a new truce by February 5, has proposed that Israel and the Palestinians halt any military activity, and that Israel agree to a partial opening of the crossings. Hamas will receive assurances that the crossings will open fully in the future to bring in all goods, including some, such as iron and concrete, that Israel had prohibited because of concern it would be used for terror activities. Meanwhile, the first mortar shell to hit the Negev since Operation Cast Lead was fired last night at the Eshkol region, landing in an open area and causing no damage. "We expect the government of Israel not to be dragged into a policy of restraint and respond harshly in order to protect the security. . .

Israeli clinic closes after treating five Palestinians
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/29/2009
TEL AVIV, 28 January 2009 (IRIN) - The Israeli emergency clinic at the Erez crossing, which opened on the day Israel declared a ceasefire in Gaza (18 January), has closed after treating only five wounded Palestinians. The original purpose of the clinic, according to press releases, was to provide emergency care and evacuate those needing further care to hospitals in Israel. Gynaecologists, paediatricians, general practitioners and trauma specialists were available at the clinic, which was operated by the Health Ministry and Mada (Israel’s national emergency, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service). Foreign press and aid workers said the clinic was merely a publicity stunt. Scores of journalists were invited to its opening day. A volunteer nurse at the clinic, who preferred anonymity, said: ’’It is an extremely well-equipped clinic.

Fatah affiliates call on armed factions to end negotiations with Israel
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The militant wing of the Fatah movement in Gaza on Wednesday called on factions in the Gaza Strip to reject negotiations over a hypothetical ceasefire, according to a statement. Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades called on its own party’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, to end negotiations surrounding the truce as “it won’t return Palestinian rights. ”The group, which is technically separate from Fatah’s political operations, said a ceasefire with Israel would not “compensate for Gaza’s great losses. ”In the statement sent to Ma’an, Al-Aqsa said the truce “doesn’t benefit Palestinian interests, which will achieve nothing from this truce. ”“Palestinians need liberty and unity first,” the statement added. But the armed faction did call on Israel to lift the siege imposed over the Gaza Strip, saying it was the only way to build Palestinian unity, as well as to release. . .

Abbas: PA wants international investigation into Israel’s crimes
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed on Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority has called for an international investigation for Israeli war crimes. In a news conference, Abbas said, “We demand an international investigation and we call upon the International Criminal Court to do it. ”“We will do our best to prove that Israel committed crimes,” the president said. But Abbas also reserved criticism for Palestinians he also holds responsible for inciting Israel’s brutal assault, saying, “There are voices, such as [Hamas leader Khaled] Masha’al, Ahmed Jibril, Shallah and others, who speak of the will of the people and their homeland. ”“They do not live on the soil of this land; therefore, it is not their right to direct us and if they want to talk, let them be reasonable or let them be silent,” the president added.

Morocco, South Africa dispatch medical aid to Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Following the unilateral ceasefires declared by Israel and Hamas, aid to Palestinians in Gaza has been sent from countries all over the globe, including those not normally considered humanitarian aid providers, such as Morocco and South Africa. A Moroccan medical delegation dispatched to Gaza by King Mohammed VI arrived in the Strip on Monday via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, according to the Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP). The delegation of some 30 physicians and paramedics, including specialists in intensive care, anaesthesia, surgery, orthopaedics, psychology and paediatrics, will work with colleagues from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society to care for Palestinians injured in the Israeli war on Gaza. The Moroccan team brought medical equipment into Gaza, and will stay in the Strip for several weeks.

Warnings against Israeli attempts to achieve by political means what was not done militarily
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
Cairo -- In continued commentary from the factional meetings in Cairo regarding internal reconciliation and a ceasefire with the Israelis, the leftists are warning against accepting what does not benefit Palestine. Jamil Mezher of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Central Committee said today, "We must be wary of attempts to pressure the Palestinian people. . . "". . . into accepting by political means what was not achieved by the occupation in Gaza. "He noted that no decisions should be taken lightly or quickly, no matter who is pushing for agreement. "We must review comprehensively the political program as it relates to the Palestinian political strategy and national principles. Our work is toward ending the state of division and restoring unity, and holding the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Factional meetings in Cairo near agreement on year and a half ceasefire if crossings open
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
Cairo -- The Palestinian factional meetings in Cairo are near agreement on the proposal for year and a half ceasefire with the Israeli administration if the crossings to the Gaza Strip are opened. This is the same condition put forth by the Palestinians during earlier negotiations brokered by the Egyptians. An informed Palestinian source confirmed Wednesday that Hamas delegation will return to Cairo within a day. It is expected that Hamas will bring its response to the draft elaborating ceasefire terms with the Israelis and advocating internal Palestinian national reconciliation. The unnamed Hamas source told Al Sharq Al Awsat that the party will accept a year and a half ceasefire with the Israelis beginning 5 February but is not ready to respond to the call to engage in the internal Palestinian dialogue proposed by the factions on the twenty-second of next month.

Egypt: Palestinian Reconciliation Talks to Begin on February 22
Reuters, MIFTAH 1/28/2009
Egypt has proposed Feb. 22 as the date for the start of a dialogue between Palestinian groups, several of the groups said in reports published on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt, which has been mediating between the groups, told reporters: "We will invite the Palestinian groups. We hope we will succeed in this in the third week or at the end of the third week of February. " The leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), in a statement quoted by the Egyptian state news agency MENA, said Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman "emphasized the importance of preparing the climate for the comprehensive national dialogue on Feb. 22. " Bilal Kassem, an official of the small Palestine Liberation Front, told the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat: "Egypt will issue invitations to a comprehensive Palestinian national dialogue on Feb. 22. "

Not Quite a Political Ceasefire Between Hamas and Fatah
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 1/29/2009
RAMALLAH, Jan 28(IPS) - Reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah is looking increasingly problematic as the two groups exchange serious accusations of treason, torture and extra-judicial killings. Tension between the two groups has escalated in the wake of Israel’s 22-day military assault on Gaza, codenamed Operation Cast Lead, which left over 1,300 Palestinians dead, nearly 5,000 wounded, and the coastal territory’s infrastructure decimated. Fatah, affiliated with the ruling Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, accuses Hamas of killing, torturing and beating up a number of Fatah activists in Gaza. Hamas, which controls Gaza, in turn accuses Fatah members of guiding and helping the Israeli military to strike Hamas targets in the Gaza strip during the war. The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Gaza called Monday for. . .

Gaza electricity official: $10m needed to repair electricity lines
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The director of the electricity distribution company in Gaza districts, Suhail Skeik, said on Wednesday that rehabilitating the electricity network and main stations in the Strip needed 10 million dollars. He told a press conference that in certain areas the electricity network was completely damaged while in other areas it was partially damaged and could be repaired. Skeik said that his company’s engineers had repaired a number of lines but could not do so in the areas badly damaged by the Israeli barbaric invasion. He said that electricity poles were uprooted and his company could not re-instate them due to the lack of raw material and tools. The director pointed out that hundreds of thousands of Gaza inhabitants were deprived of electricity along with other services during the three-week war on Gaza when the sole electricity generation station in the Strip came to a complete halt after Israel banned entry of fuel.

Political Cartoon
Steve Bell, The Guardian 1/28/2009
Tombstone - Arabs: 1948 -2009 [end]

For some young visitors, Holocaust exhibit on righteous Muslims calls up thoughts of Gaza
Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
An exhibition about Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust opened Tuesday in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Ramle. The exhibit, entitled "Besa: A Code of Honor," is a collection of photographs by American photographer Norman Gershman documenting Albanian Muslims who saved Jewish lives. It is on display at the town’s municipal museum. Albania is the only country in Europe that ended World War II with more Jews than it had at its outset, thanks to the actions of local Muslims, 68 of whom have been recognized as Righteous Gentiles by the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance authority. However, the Arab high school girls visiting the show, which opened Tuesday in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, wanted to talk to journalists only about the harm that came to innocent people in Gaza.

Patriotism survey: 88% proud to be Israeli
Ynet, YNetNews 1/29/2009
Survey conduxcted just days after IDF offensive in Gaza concluded indicates rise in patriotism among Jews to level close to that which was recorded prior to 2006 Lebanon war; figures among Arab public indicates growing chasm - National Pride: Some 88% of Israel’s Jews are proud to be Israeli, and 95% of them are willing to fight for their country, according to the patriotism survey, which was conducted just a few days after the IDF’s three-week offensive in Gaza concluded. The figures among the country’s Arab population were significantly lower and indicated a growing chasm between the two sectors. According to the poll, which is conducted annually, the sense of patriotism among Israel’s Jews has clearly increased compared with 2008 and has almost reached the level recorded prior to the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Tony Blair: International strategy on Gaza hasn’t worked
DPA, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
International Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair has called for "a new strategy in Gaza," in remarks made in Cairo on Wednesday, and admitted that the international community’s approach to the Palestinian territory had not worked. "We need a new strategy for Gaza," Blair told reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "We should learn from what happened in the past few weeks and make sure that in the future our strategy toward Gaza is different from the one we have pursued until now, because it hasn’t worked, and we need to change it. "Former British prime minister Blair, who represents the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - including the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - also met with U. S. President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy, George Mitchell.

Egypt FM: Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran cooperate to provoke conflict
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Egypt aired its grievances against Iran, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, saying they worked together in the fighting over Gaza to provoke conflict in the Middle East. "[They tried] to turn the region to confrontation in the interest of Iran, which is trying to use its cards to escape Western pressure. . . on the nuclear file," Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in an interview with Orbit satellite channel, broadcast on Wednesday. Aboul Gheit also said that Egypt undermined Qatar’s attempts to arrange a formal Arab summit on Gaza earlier this month, arguing that it would have damaged "joint Arab action. " "Egypt made the summit fail. . . This summit, if it had taken place as an Arab summit with a proper quorum, would have damaged joint Arab action.

Egypt attacks Iran and allies in Arab world
Reuters, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Cairo chides Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah, says cooperation over Gaza provokes conflict in the Middle East - Egypt aired its grievances against Iran, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite group Hizbullah, saying they worked together in the fighting over Gaza to provoke conflict in the Middle East. "(They tried) to turn the region to confrontation in the interest of Iran, which is trying to use its cards to escape Western pressure. . . on the nuclear file," Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in an interview with Orbit satellite channel broadcast on Wednesday. Aboul Gheit also said that Egypt undermined Qatar’s attempts to arrange a formal Arab summit on Gaza earlier this month, arguing that it would have damaged "joint Arab action". "Egypt made the summit fail. . . This summit, if it had taken place as an Arab summit with a proper quorum, would have damaged joint Arab action.

Report: Weapons shipment en route to Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli intelligence indicates a massive arms shipment is en route to the Gaza Strip from Egypt’s Sinai Desert, according to a Hebrew-language report on Wednesday. Israel reportedly informed Egyptian authorities that a large presence of weaponry has been building up in the Sinai during Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, unable to move in. The source added that Israel’s intelligence indicates that weapons were being arranged by Bedouin arms dealers, continuing to receive weapons from elsewhere in Africa during the war. The weapons could enter the Gaza Strip “at any moment, at any second,” according to one source. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama’s newly appointed Mideast Envoy, George Mitchell, met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, where he insisted that the ceasefire is essential.

Report: Massive Hezbollah attack against Israeli target in Europe thwarted
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
A massive terror attack against an Israeli target in Europe has been thwarted in recent weeks, Channel 2 quoted security officials as saying Wednesday. The attack, linked to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, was foiled thanks to intelligence sharing between Israel and an undisclosed European country. Israeli officials believe that as the one year anniversary of the February 14 assassination of Hezbollah second-in-command Imad Mughniyeh approaches, attempts to attack Israeli targets around the world will intensify. Some two weeks ago, the Times of London reported that a Hezbollah plot to attack the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan was foiled last year, after Azeri Intelligence discovered the plot. Azeri intelligence authorities reportedly first caught wind of the plot weeks after Mughniyeh was killed by a car bomb in Damascus.

Moroccan MPs: Gaza steadfast despite the immense devastation
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Moroccan parliamentary team that entered Gaza on Monday night has expressed admiration at the Palestinian people’s steadfastness despite the immense devastation inflicted by the three weeks of Israeli occupation forces’ onslaught. The team chief Dr. Mustafa Al-Rumaid said in a press statement on Tuesday that the Gaza people were full of the conviction of their victory and hope in future. He noted that the delegation members visited the Palestinian legislative council’s destroyed premises and toured other areas in the Strip, adding that the people of Gaza "gave us lessons in resoluteness and fearlessness". Dr. Rumaid said that the delegates’ visit was meant to show the Moroccan people’s supportive stance of Gaza and its inhabitants in face of occupation. The nine-member delegation waited a long time at the Rafah border terminal awaiting Egyptian approval of their entry.

PFLP-GC deplores France for blockading Gaza by sea
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- A Palestinian official in the popular front for the liberation of Palestine-general command (PFLP-GC) on Tuesday strongly denounced France and other NATO countries for participating in blockading the Gaza Strip by sea through sending their frigates to patrol Gaza waters. In a press release received by the PIC, the PFLP-GC official said that the French government was supposed to expedite the dispatch of humanitarian and medical aid to the besieged Gaza people especially after the "Nazi Israeli" aggression instead of reminding the Palestinian people of the colonial past of France in its ugliest forms. The official asked the French government to withdraw its frigates from Gaza waters and to stop participating in the Israeli aggression on Gaza so as to avoid putting itself in confrontation with the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nation.

Lebanese 'Fraternity' boat to head to Gaza on Sunday
Palestinian Information Center 1/28/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- The Lebanese "Fraternity" boat is to leave the Lebanese coasts heading to Gaza on Sunday 1/2/2009 to break the Israeli siege on the Strip carrying with it doctors, medics, journalists and legal activists along with medical aid and foodstuff. The national committee to break the siege on Gaza announced that it finally succeeded in securing a boat to carry those volunteers along with relief material to the "steadfast people in Gaza". It said that the sea voyage was also intended to show support for the Palestinian people and that "they are not alone in face of the siege and aggression". The committee renewed calls on those who wish to volunteer or to donate money or any other donation to do so within the coming three days. It added, "We would like this voyage to be one of fraternity, solidarity and rejection of oppression and aggression".

Two Hamas captives talking to Shin Bet about tactics, training
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
[Torture report? - Ed. ] The Shin Bet security service released details yesterday regarding its interrogation of two Hamas men who were arrested by the Israel Defense Forces during the Gaza military campaign, including the militants’ use of mosques for weapon caches and military training. There are more than 20 terrorists currently being held in Israel from the Gaza operation. One of those is Ramzi Abed-Rabo, a 30-year-old Hamas member from Jabalya. The Shin Bet indicated he admitted under questioning that he used to watch IDF movements from his house and report about them to Hamas. He also told his interrogators about the location of Hamas weapon storage sites, in tunnels, in the homes of activists, and in citrus groves and mosques. Another Hamas member, Subahi Atar, 27, from the village of al-Atatra in the northern Gaza Strip, told interrogators that he was a member of a Hamas security cell in the area around his village. -- See also: Rights groups: IDF subjected Gaza detainees to deplorable conditions

Graduation from Palestinian trade and development program
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
Ramallah - Within the context of the European Union (EU) funded technical assistance project "Palestinian Customs Modernization Programme (ASYCUDA-TAWASOL)," implemented by the United Nations Conference and Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a second group of 28 specialists in Customs procedures and consignment Examination graduated today from the intensive training program on "Managing and Automating Customs Procedures. "A graduation ceremony was held at the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance headquarters in Ramallah, hosted by the Director-General of Palestinian Customs and a representative from the European Commission office in Jerusalem. The training covered the customs clearance process according to international standards and conventions. The last day witnessed a workshop on ’Dispute settlement mechanisms’ and attended by representatives of the trade community; importers, customs agents and PSC.

US envoy outlines Gaza truce needs
Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
Arms smuggling into Gaza must end along with Israel’s blockade of the territory if ceasefires between the pair are to hold, George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, has said. Mitchell’s comments on Wednesday followed talks in Israel and Egypt during his tour of the region aimed at promoting what he said would be a bid for "lasting peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. Speaking after meeting Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, and Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, Mitchell told reporters in Jerusalem there needed to be "a cessation of hostilities, an end to smuggling and re-opening of the crossings based on 2005 agreements" in order to consolidate the ceasefires. But Olmert has insisted Israel would open Gaza’s borders if Hamas released Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier the Palestinian group seized in June 2006.

U.S. releases Iranian ship said taking arms to Gaza
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
WASHINGTON - The U. S. navy was forced to release an Iranian boat detained in the Red Sea on suspicion of carrying arms to Hamas-ruled Gaza. Weapons of various kinds were found aboard the ship, which was flying the Cypriot flag when it was stopped January 19. The ship was released yesterday when it became apparent that there was no legal basis for holding it. At a press conference in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, who heads the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said although American naval personnel boarded the ship and found the weapons, they had no legal authority to impound the arms. He suggested that more stringent resolutions by the UN Security Council would be required stating clearly that Iran is violating standards against arms smuggling.

VIDEO - Gaza ceasefire of critical importance, says US envoy
Peter Walker, Ewen MacAskill, Rory McCarthy and agencies, The Guardian 1/28/2009
A continued ceasefire in Gaza is of "critical importance", Barack Obama’s Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell said today, as Israeli jets bombed smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border amid the worst violence in the territory since a truce began 10 days ago. Mitchell arrived in Israel this afternoon after talks in Cairo with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. In Jerusalem, he held talks with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and was due to meet the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, before travelling to the West Bank to see the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. " It is of critical importance that the ceasefire be extended and consolidated, and we support Egypt’s continuing efforts in that regard," Mitchell told reporters after talking with Mubarak. "The United States is committed to vigorously pursuing lasting peace and stability in the region. "

Global Poll: Most People Think Their Country’s Foreign Policy Is Morally No Better Than Average
PCPO, MIFTAH 1/28/2009
WorldPublicOpinion. ORG (WPO) conducted between July 15 and September 26, 2008 a global poll in 21 nations. The poll covered a random sample of (21’618) respondents, representing the most of the world’s largest nations – China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia – as well as Argentina, Mexico, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kenya, Thailand, and Ukraine. The nations polled represent 61% of the world population. Margins of error range from approximately +/-2 to 4%. Not all questions were asked in all nations. Asked to assess the morality of their country’s foreign policy, in 19 out of 21 countries the most common answer is that their country is about average or even below average. So the somewhat modest Palestinians, who assess the morality of their own nation’s foreign policy at 35% above average, 38% about average and 22% below average.

Gaza tensions shadow UN Holocaust ceremony
Daniel Luban, Electronic Intifada 1/28/2009
UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - The president of the United Nations General Assembly was a last-minute no-show at the UN’s annual ceremony commemorating the Holocaust, following an intense lobbying campaign by pro-Israel organizations to have him removed from the program. Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann had come under fire for his harsh criticisms of Israeli policies, leading to suspicions that his failure to deliver a scheduled speech at the event was due to political considerations. The incident comes at a delicate time in the UN-Israel relationship, which has always been rocky but has been further frayed by the recent war in Gaza. At Tuesday’s International Day of Commemoration ceremony, d’Escoto was replaced by General Assembly Vice-President Joseph Nsengimana of Rwanda, who delivered a statement on d’Escoto’s behalf.

US doctors face challenges in crippled Gaza
Associated Press, YNetNews 1/28/2009
’Palestinian doctors would not have been able to handle a tumor this size,’ American specialist says after operating on 4-year-old boy at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital. American doctors careful to stay away from politics, but one of them says regarding Israeli blockade, ’It’s inhumane. . . to not allow them to even have basic medical care’ -Doctors from the United States who rushed to the Gaza Strip to help the war wounded quickly learned that their challenge went beyond treating shrapnel injuries. The eight American specialists found themselves operating on patients who had fallen victim to the 20-month-border closure that had crippled Gaza’s health care system even before Israel’s offensive against Hamas. On Tuesday, the team removed a kidney tumor the size of a honeydew melon from a 4-year-old boy, Abdullah Shawwa, in a five-hour emergency surgery at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.

Gaza ceasefire strained as Mitchell flies in
Donald Macintyre in Gaza, The Independent 1/28/2009
Washington’s newly appointed special envoy to the Middle East arrived in the region yesterday as the nine-day-old Gaza ceasefire came under its most serious strain yet after an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian died in border clashes. The former senator George Mitchell will hold talks with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak today in the wake of a bullish declaration by Barack Obama that the "moment is ripe" for peace talks, despite splits between Palestinians and an Israeli election tipped to put the right-wing Likud party in power. The Israeli soldier was killed and three others injured when militants detonated a bomb close to the Kissufim border crossing. Medics said the Palestinian killed shortly after the attack on the Israelis was a 27-year-old farmer. Hours later a militant in the small Palestinian Resistance Committees was wounded, along with a bystander, as he rode on a motorcycle in southern Gaza.

Yesha: Palestinian state will blow up in our face
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 1/28/2009
As US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell makes way to meet with heads of State, settlers drive through Tel Aviv to Jerusalem displaying presentation warning against establishment of Palestinian state in West Bank - The Yesha Council prepared a special welcome for visiting US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday - a presentation displayed in Tel Aviv titled "A Palestinian state will blow up in our face". Settlers wished to illustrate the danger the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would pose on central Israel, in light of the lessons learned in Israel’s 2005 unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, including rocket fire on Beersheba, Gedera, Ashdod and the war in the south. The three-dimensional presentation accompanied by audio and visual effects on a truck leaving from Tel Aviv en route to Jerusalem ahead of Mitchells meetings with heads of state.

Mitchell: end border closure, end smuggling in Gaza
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
TEL AVIV - US Middle East envoy George Mitchell said on Wednesday it was critical to consolidate a ceasefire in Gaza by ending hostilities, opening borders and ending smuggling into the enclave. "The prime minister and I discussed the critical importance to consolidate the ceasefire including a cessation of hostilities, an end to smuggling and reopening of the crossings based on 2005 agreements," Mitchell told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. On his maiden trip to the region since being appointed by new US President Barack Obama, Mitchell said: "The US will sustain an active commitment to reaching the goal of the two states living side by side in peace and security. " And he reiterated that Washington "is committed to Israel’s security and to its right to defend itself. " His trip comes more than a week after the end of Israel’s devastating war on the Gaza. . .

Hamas urges Obama to correct US ’mistakes’
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
GAZA CITY - Hamas premier Ismail Haniya urged US President Barack Obama to correct the "mistakes" of his predecessor George W. Bush, on Wednesday as the new US Middle East envoy arrived in Israel. "Given that you are a man who incarnates victory after a long struggle, we hope that you will rectify the errors of the previous administration," Haniya wrote in a letter. "Today we join you in the march toward change, change that will bring justice for all," he said. "Palestine is the door to the Muslim world," Haniya wrote, in an apparent reference to Obama’s comments reaching out to the Muslim world following his inauguration. "Justice and freedom for Palestinians is the key that will open this door. " The text of the letter was posted on a Hamas website, which did not say how the message, which also congratulated Obama on his inauguration, was sent to the US president.

Obama gives first interview to Al Arabiya
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
Bethlehem - The new United States president Barak Obama gave his first sit-down interview to the Arab press, spending 15 minutes with Al Arabiya, re-broadcast last night on MBC 4. He demonstrated an awareness of the Middle East with a typical US administrator’s view of Palestinians and Israelis. He used the terms "Israel" and "the Palestinian territories. "Noticeably refusing to use the word "occupation," Obama referred to "Israel’s need for security," and for "Palestinians to have better lives. "He did not say, "Palestinian territory" in the singular, but did say that he believe a contiguous state was possible. And he said "Israelis and Palestinians," instead of the old US usage "Israel and the Palestinians. " He did not talk about Palestinian security, the lack thereof under occupation, or the need for it.

Yisrael Beiteinu overtakes Labor
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Less than two weeks before the elections, Kadima has only three Knesset seats less than Likud, but the right wing bloc has grown to 65 Knesset seats while the left bloc has dwindled to 53, according to the Haaretz-Dialog poll supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs, of the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at Tel Aviv University. The poll shows that Yisrael Beiteinu, led by Avigdor Lieberman, has overtaken Labor and now has 15 Knesset seats compared to Labor’s 14. The Pensioners Party, who will be part of any coalition, are still hovering on the Knesset entry threshold with two possible Knesset seats. Some 22 percent of those interviewed are still undecided. A considerable number of them are fluctuating between Labor and Kadima and between Kadima and Likud. Their final decision will determine the elections’ outcome.

Livni to Haaretz: We could work with Lieberman
Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
"If Netanyahu becomes prime minister, we will lose our ability to recruit the United States against Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas," Kadima head and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Haaretz in an exclusive interview. If Likud wins the election, "our ability to put together an international coalition against those threats will be affected immediately. "In the interview, to be published in tomorrow’s Haaretz Magazine, Livni said, "Netanyahu and Barak each have a character problem that was revealed during their tenures as prime minister. " She said that both men "completed their terms of office as excoriated prime ministers. " Livni said she has no doubt that she "can be a better prime minister than any other candidate. " To Likud’s claim that the job of prime minister is too big for her, she responded, "It’s not too big for me and not too small for me. "

Did Barak quote Putin or did Putin quote Barak?
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 1/28/2009
Russian-language media have reacted with surprise to a Haaretz report that Ehud Barak will mimic Vladimir Putin’s statement about killing terrorists "on the toilet" as part of a campaign for the upcoming general elections. Some journalists have claimed that it was in fact Barak’s military exploits that inspired the Russian president’s comments. "As you people say, they should be whacked when they’re on the toilet," the Labor leader and defense minister will say in a radio election broadcast intended for Russian speakers. The Russian media cited a 2004 article, published in a Russian newspaper, on a 1972 operation commanded by Barak in which a team of Sayeret Matkal commandos took back control of a hijacked Sabena Airlines plane that had landed at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Bibi won’t Rule out Palestinian State
Gil Hoffman, MIFTAH 1/28/2009
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and three quarters of the Likud’s candidates declined to sign a loyalty oath ruling out a Palestinian state that was distributed to all the parties on the Right. The oath, distributed by the Matot Arim organization, included a vow not to lend a hand to the formation of a Palestinian state. The National Union, Habayit Hayehudi, Israel Beiteinu and Shas signed the document. Shas chairman Eli Yishai signed the document on behalf of his party. Meir Porush was the only United Torah Judaism MK who made the pledge. The only candidates in the Likud’s top 28 who signed the pledge or were tied to previous such pledges were Moshe Ya’alon, Yuval Steinitz, Ze’ev Elkin, Ayoub Kara, Tzipi Hotovely, Yariv Levin and Danny Danon. A similar document was distributed when former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government was formed.

IDF censures officer for distributing incendiary religious pamphlets to troops
Amos Harel, Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/28/2009
The Israel Defense Forces says it has "severely reprimanded" an officer for distributing a religious booklet urging soldiers to show no mercy to their enemies. The unidentified officer handed out the booklet to troops during Israel’s fierce three-week military incursion in the Gaza Strip. The army says the booklet was based on the writings of an ultranationalist rabbi identified with the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank. It says the chief military rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichay Rontzki, did not see or approve the booklet before publication. Some passages compared Palestinians to the biblical Philistines and suggested they had no right to land claimed by Israel. An Israeli rights group has said the passages bordered on "incitement to racism.

Israel ’Must Sack’ Military Rabbi
BBC News, MIFTAH 1/28/2009
A human rights group in Israel has called for the military’s chief rabbi to be dismissed for alleged incitement against Palestinians. The group, Yesh Din, said Rabbi Avichai Rontzki distributed a booklet to troops in the Gaza offensive, which advised them they were fighting "murderers". The booklet, citing an ultra-nationalist rabbi, told soldiers to show no mercy to a "cruel enemy". The Israeli military has not yet commented on the issue. Yesh Din, which says it is dedicated to defending human rights in the Occupied Territories, called on Defence Minister Ehud Barak to dismiss the rabbi. It said the booklet’s contents could be "interpreted as a call to act outside the confines of international laws of war".

Netanyahu: I’ll force the banks to unclench their fists
Meirav Arlosoroff, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday revealed his economic manifesto, in which he is vowing to force the banks to unclench their fists and also, promises to lower income tax. "The Bank of Israel’s interest rate cuts, no matter how dramatic they are, don’t help the economy if the banks don’t translate them into lower interest rates on credit," Netanyahu said at a press conference he called yesterday to reveal his economic platform. "We will encourage the banking system - pressure it, if you will - to lend more. "Netanyahu didn’t explain exactly how he would press the banks. All he said is that at first he’d try to reason with the bankers. Also present at the meeting with the press were Dan Meridor, Silvan Shalom and Yaakov Neeman, all former finance ministers. If elected prime minister, Netanyahu said, he’d keep the finance portfolio in Likud hands, and vowed to direct economic policy himself.

Prison Service acccused of tuning out critical reports
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The Public Defender’s Office is accusing Prison Service of allegedly ignoring evaluation reports sent for comment, Haaretz has learned. In a sharply worded letter sent this week, Chief Public Defender Anabele Rubinstein argued Prison Service appeared to be following orders issued by its head, Benny Kaniak, not to respond to official reports that the public defender’s office prepares on prisons. Responding to Haaretz, a Prison Service spokesman said that there was no intention to enter into an argument with the Public Defender, and certainly not a public debate in the media. The spokesman reiterated that the two public bodies have mutual respect for each other. The spokesman also said that in every report that is received by the Public Defender’s Office, the warden of the prison responds to the criticism and his comments appear in the document.

European Union Failing its Obligations to Protect Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/28/2009
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) demands that European Union (EU) immediately take action in order to protect human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The EU is currently failing in its obligations to effectively intervene in order to protect the lives of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), especially civilians in the Gaza Strip, whose human rights are being massively violated by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). PCHR is dismayed by recent statements made by, and actions taken by, EU states regarding human rights violations in the OPT. Since launching its widespread military offensive against the population of the Gaza Strip on 27 December, 2008, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have killed 1,285 Palestinians in Gaza, and injured at least 4,336 others. Thousands of bereaved and traumatized survivors are now also homeless, as IOF have completely destroyed at least 2,400 homes across the Gaza Strip.

Surge of direct action at UK universities in support of Palestine
Abigail Humphries, Electronic Intifada 1/28/2009
Students from at least 17 universities in the United Kingdom have staged sit-ins, as part of an unprecedented increase in British activism in support of the Palestinians. These university "occupations" have been launched to compel administrators to meet demands ranging from official condemnation of the Israeli action to establishing scholarships for Palestinian students to study in the UK. Students at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, were the first to take action. On 13 January students occupied the prestigious Brunei Gallery Suite where, to their disgust, the university was allowing the Ministry of Defense (MOD) to stage an exhibition. The students remained overnight in the suite only leaving after many of their demands were met. The MOD exhibit was removed and the group were allowed to use the room for the week to meet in support of the Palestinians.

Israeli killing of Palestinians radicalises UK Muslims
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
LONDON - Britain’s security and counter-terrorism minister, Lord Alan West, warned Tuesday that the conflict in Gaza has set back the government’s attempts to tackle radicalism in Muslim communities here. "There is no doubt that when you see these pictures coming back, that in the mind of people making hate, there is a linkage between the US, Israel and the UK. Without a doubt it will have set us back," he said. West also dismissed the refusal by former prime minister Tony Blair to acknowledge the link between foreign policy and security threats. "We never used to accept that our foreign policy ever had any effect on terrorism. Well, that was clearly bollocks," he said, according to widespread and concurring reports. "They [the Blair administration] were very unwilling to have any debate about how our foreign policy impacted on radicalisation. . . "

Belgium distances itself from minister’s attack on Israel
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Belgium’s foreign ministry distanced itself yesterday from statements by a Flemish minister who likened Israel’s Gaza campaign to a recent deadly attack on a nursery near Brussels. The remarks drew unusually harsh words from Israel’s embassy in Brussels, which called the comparison "reckless, absurd and offensive. " The Dendermonde nursery attack occurred on Friday. Police believe 20-year-old Kim De Gelder stabbed to death two infants and a woman and wounded another 11 children. "[The attack] shocks all of us," culture minister in the Flemish government Bert Anciaux wrote in his Web site on the day of the attack. "I must also think of the hundreds of dead children in the Gaza Strip, who were also knowingly killed by an aggressor who got away. "In her reaction to a query on the matter, Belgium’s ambassador to Israel, Benedicte Frankinet, told Haaretz. . .

BBC refusal to air Gaza aid appeal sparks protests
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/29/2009
A decision by the British Broadcasting Corporation to refuse to air an appeal for humanitarian aid for Gaza has led to protests from a number of groups and within the BBC itself. Protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the British state television service to burn their tv permits, and the station has received thousands of complaints. The appeal was put out by a dozen large international aid groups, and asked for donations to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It did not mention Israel, or the fact that the widespread destruction in Gaza was caused by three weeks of bombardment by the Israeli military. Despite the apolitical nature of the ad, the head of the BBC, Mark Thompson, said that he decided not to air the appeal. He gave two reasons: one, that the aid was unlikely to get into the Gaza Strip, and two, that the BBC is still covering the. . .

UN nuclear chief boycotts BBC over Gaza appeal
George Jahn in Vienna, The Independent 1/29/2009
The head of the UN nuclear agencyhas cancelled interviews with the BBC over its refusal to air a charity appeal for victims of the Gaza conflict. Mohamed ElBaradei said the BBC had violated "the rules of basic human decency" by not airing the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal for Gaza, which the broadcaster said would have damaged its impartiality in coverage of the conflict. Mr ElBaradei’s outspoken remarkson the issue is unusual for the head of a UN agency, whose mandate has nothing to do with the Middle East or humanitarian issues, but it is in keeping with his record. The Egyptian-born head of the International Atomic Energy Agency cancelled scheduled interviews with BBC radio and World Service television because he believes the broadcaster’s refusal to air the appeal "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong," according to a statement.

UN nuclear chief boycotts BBC over Gaza appeal
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor, The Guardian 1/28/2009
The head of the UN"s nuclear watchdog has cancelled planned interviews with the BBC in protest at the corporation’s decision not to air an emergency appeal for Gaza on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee. In a statement to the Guardian, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner, unleashed a stinging denunciation of the BBC, deepening the damage already caused by the controversy. The statement, from his office at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the BBC decision not to air the aid appeal for victims of the conflict "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people, irrespective of who is right or wrong". It said the IAEA director had cancelled interviews with BBC World Service television and radio, which had been scheduled to take place at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday.

Head of Atomic Energy Agency boycotts BBC
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/28/2009
Bethlehem -- The fallout continues after the BBC decided it would not broadcast a humanitarian appeal for aid to the Gaza Strip in a bid to appear "neutral" after Israeli forces killed 1,330 Palestinians in 23 days. Today the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, cancelled an interview. The winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize was slated to be on air with the British Broadcasting Corporation, but refused to do so in protest. Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the IAEA, said Wednesday Al Bardei cancelled the BBC interview directly because of its decision to not broadcast a two-minute ad from a group including the Red Cross and Oxfam. She told the press, "This decision violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong.

Hamas delegation arrives in Qatar for talks with emir
Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A Hamas delegation led by exiled Khaled Mash’al arrived in Doha late on Tuesday night to meet with Qatari officials, according to a statement. Masha’al and others, including Dr Mousa Abu Marzouk, Sami Khater and Muhammad Nazzal, all members of the movement’s political bureau, went to Doha along with members Dr Salah Al-Bardawil and Dr Jamal Abu Hashem. In a statement sent to Ma’an, Hamas said the delegation “is touring several countries to express our appreciation for their support for the Gaza Strip and for national resistance in opposition to Israeli aggression. ”The delegation first visited Syrian Persident Bashar Al-Assad on Saturday and will meet with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa Al-Thani on Wednesday, the statement said.

Mishaal heads Hamas delegation on Qatar visit
Palestinian Information Center 1/27/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of Hamas Movement, is to lead a Movement’s delegation on a visit to Qatar on Tuesday within a tour of a number of Arab countries. A senior source in Hamas said that the tour would target discussing means of ending the siege on Gaza and opening all crossings. He noted that the delegation’s visit to Doha falls in line with contacts with the Arab countries in a bid to explain Hamas’s views regarding Palestinian developments and to assert the importance of continuing efforts to open all Gaza crossings and lift the siege. The delegation includes deputy political bureau chairman Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk and members of the political bureau.

Shalit’s mother: Pact between State, mothers broken
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Aviva Shalit issues last minute plea to Olmert, Barak, Livni to secure her son’s release before current government’s term ends. ’I want to be hugging Gilad when I go to cast my vote,’ she says - Gilad has been held captive for 948 days. Two wars have taken place during this time; a hudna (truce), rocket fire, changes in the government, in the military and God knows where else. Only one thing stayed the same - my son is still rotting away in a Hamas prison,"Aviva Shalit, mother of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, said Wednesday. The pact between the State and the mothers, she added, has been broken: "The State’s commitment has been unshakeable throughout the years. the unspoken covenant between the military and the mothers was carved in stone. We give you our sons and daughters to serve - you return them to us.

Operating in the line of fire
Ronny Linder-Ganz, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Dr. Michael Sherf was well prepared for the war in southern Israel this year. But one thing the manager of the Soroka Medical Center, which took in most of the wounded Israelis from the conflict in Gaza, hadn’t considered in advance - what to do with the roughly 300 children of hospital staffers whose schools had been closed down, and probably as many celebrities, all running amok in the hospital hallways. "Schools were closed down during the war and a lot of men were called up to reserve duty," Sherf says. "Nurses couldn’t make it to work. We had to find a solution to keep the hospital functioning. " Within a day, the hospital threw together a makeshift "summer camp" for the kids. "It was a special project," Sherf notes, in an understatement. "We had to keep 300 kids of all ages occupied with activities, classes, trips outside the area. "

Cops suspect crime gang behind arson attack on Sneh’s car
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Tel Aviv police think a suspected criminal ring from the Sharon region was behind Sunday’s torching of the car of Strong Israel party chairman Ephraim Sneh, due to his intervention in a local dispute involving the individuals. However, other police officials, who deal with the individuals and organizations believed to be behind the fire, say they don’t think those suspects were involved. The Tel Aviv District team investigating the torching is focusing on the suspects from the Sharon, while officials in the Central District crimes unit, which has been dealing with the suspects for some years, says they had nothing to do with the incident. At about the time that his car was being torched outside his Herzliya home, Sneh received a phone threat that he would be harmed.

Shas leader Eli Yishai commits to Netanyahu-led government
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The Shas party will support Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, Shas leader Eli Yishai announced at a news conference in Tel Aviv Tuesday at which he also unveiled Shas’ television advertising campaign. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni is presented in the Shas broadcast as someone who is not ready to provide state child allowances, but is willing to divide Jerusalem (a play on the word "lehalek," to divide or distribute in Hebrew. The early announcement of Shas support for Netanyahu apparently stems not only from an assessment that Netanyahu’s election victory is assured, but is also as an effort to position Shas as certain to be a Likud coalition partner, thereby encouraging voters who might vote Likud to cast their ballots for Shas.

Day 1 of TV campaigning: All parties declare victory, lambaste opponents
Roni Singer-Heruti and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Labor Party activists and candidates watched last night’s election broadcasts at party headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva quarter, after canceling plans to do so at a Tel Aviv bar in reaction to yesterday’s hostilities in the south. "We received excellent feedback from professionals and others about our broadcasts," said MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who heads the party’s communications headquarters. "I think we succeeded in getting across the line we’ve been taking since the beginning of the campaign, and that from the broadcast one can understand that we are not zigzagging, and that [Ehud] Barak is winning the leadership test. " Pines-Paz praised the ad of the New Movement-Meretz party, which attacked the head of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman.

Shas looking to gain ground with largest trade unions
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Shas is reaching out to members of the largest trade unions in a bid to broaden its voter base. In the past month party chairman and Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor Eli Yishai has held a number of meetings with shop stewards to drum up support for the party in next month’s election. He promised to fight against the privatization of state companies in the event he joins a cabinet headed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. "The sword of privatization will be held to the necks of all the unions," Yishai said at a closed meeting of about 25 workers’ committee heads in Haifa early last week. "In most cases the privatization is not just," he said. Referring to the plan to dismiss 2,500 Israel Electric Corporation employees he said, "Look at how they delegitimized you, talking about free electricity [given as a perk to IEC employees].

Winograd member: Disturbing similarities between Gaza, Lebanon wars
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 1/28/2009
Prof. Ruth Gabizon says that like war against Hizbullah in 2006, goals of recent military offensive in Strip were unclear and it ended with ’insufficient ceasefire’ -"Israel has a tendency to belittle its enemies," said Prof. Ruth Gabizon, a former member of the Winograd Committee, which probed the failures of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Speaking at conference held by the Institute for National Security Studies on Wednesday, Gabizon said "we like to call them (enemies) terrorists; we look down on them and underestimate their legitimacy. "We must understand that we are facing a stubborn enemy that will not surrender easily. They are very serious as far as their sense of righteousness is concerned," she said. Gabizon claimed that part of the failure in Lebanon stemmed from the fact that the war’s goals were unclear, saying that the situation was similar to the one the IDF faced during the recent offensive in Gaza.

Top U.S official: There’s no way to stop Iran’s nuclear program
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
"There’s no way and no chance to stop the Iranian nuclear program," Republican U. S. Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra told the independent American news site Newsmax in an interview on Tuesday. The Congressman, who has access to top secret information, indicated that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be "incredibly difficult and complex. " Hoekstra explained that while Israel’s attack on a Syrian complex in 2007 completely destroyed in a single blow what the committee believes was a nuclear reactor located at a remote site, the case with Iran is entirely different. "In Iran you’d have to make multiple attacks against very difficult targets, with very precision bombing. That’s very very difficult," he said.

IAF chief: Diplomatic efforts to prevent nuclear Iran ’unsuccessful’
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/28/2009
’Methods employed by UN, Arab world and the IAEA to thwart Tehran’s armament did not bear fruit,’ Maj. -Gen. Nehushtan says, adding ’Gaza op’s most essential achievement was harnessing support of many countries to prevent arms smuggling’ -The commander of the Israeli Air Force called the international community’s diplomatic efforts to block Iran’s nuclear program as "frustrating and unsuccessful". "The methods employed by the UN, the Arab world and the International Atomic Energy Agency (to thwart Tehran’s nuclear armament) have not bore fruit," Maj. -Gen. Ido Nehushtan told the Fourth Ilan Ramon Annual International Space Conference, which began Wednesday at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center. The IAF chief stressed that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities was vital to global stability, adding that the issue would remain at the top of Israel and the international community’s agenda.

Palestinians back to work on tunnels after IAF bombing
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/28/2009
Smugglers were back at work in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Wednesday repairing tunnels running under the border with Egypt only hours after Israeli aircraft bombed the underground network. "They dropped two or three bombs. But look, everybody is still working," said a 30-year-old digger who gave only his nickname, Abu Ali. The Israel Air Force bombed the tunnels heavily during the 22-day offensive it launched on December 27 with the declared aim of halting Hamas rocket attacks on its southern communities. The Israel Defense Forces fears Hamas can rearm through tunnels and targeted them again after a bomb detonated by Palestinian militants on Tuesday killed an Israeli soldier on the Gaza frontier, 10 days into a ceasefire. There was nothing clandestine about the bulky, bright yellow diggers and bulldozers grinding around the dusty area known as the Philadelphi corridor that divides the Gaza Strip from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

Israel Aerospace, Tata in joint military firm
Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The Israel Aerospace Industries board yesterday approved initial investment up to $50 million in a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems, a subsidiary of the Indian conglomerate, Tata. The new jointly-owned firm, to be named Nova Integrated Systems and based in India, will establish development, production, marketing and sales operations for missile systems, radar, electronic warfare and security systems, following the IAI’s business paradigm. The two firms plan to invest up to $1 billion. The IAI will initially put up $16 million for a 26% stake in the firm, with the Indian partner holding the remaining 74%. If Indian law is amended to allow foreign companies to do so, the IAI will make use of the option to increase its stake in the firm to 50%. IAI has also undertaken to provide financing or guarantees of another $20 million, matched by the Indian partner.

Israel Aerospace Industries okays India weapons joint venture
Yossi Nissan, Globes Online 1/28/2009
IAI and Tata will develop, manufacture, and support defense and aviation products. The board of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP. B1) today approved a $50 million investment in Nova Integrated Systems Ltd. , an Indian joint venture with Tata Industries Ltd. unit Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. IAI will own 26% of the joint venture and Tata Advanced Systems will own 74%. Nova Integrated Systems will develop, manufacture, and provide technical support for defense and aviation products, including in missile, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), radar, electronic warfare, and homeland defense technologies. IAI has an option to increase its stake in Nova Integrated Systems to 50%, subject to changes in Indian law. IAI will make an initial investment of $16 million in Nova Integrated Systems for the initial stake, and. . .

Vishay increases Israel layoffs to 400
Shay Niv and Shmulik Shelah, Globes Online 1/28/2009
The layoffs are significant, affecting manufacturing staff in outlying areas, where alternative jobs are hard to find, especially during an economic crisis. Electronics components manufacturer Vishay Intertechnology Inc. (NYSE:VSH) is expanding its cost-cutting measures in Israel, and intends to fire 10% of its workforce at Vishay Intertechnology Israel Ltd. The company will fire 400 employees at its plants in Beersheva, Carmiel, Dimona, Migdal Ha’Emek, Holon, Netanya, Yehud, Or Yehuda, and Kanot. The news comes a week after "Globes" revealed that Vishay had decided to reduce its activity in Israel, including closing down its plant in Yokne’am. Vishay Israel general manager Mark Zandman told "Globes" that the closure was due to the global economic crisis, and that the plant at Yokne’am was just one of the company’s plants around the world that would be closed.

Spanish police arrest former Mossad agent in AIM fraud affair
Uriel Harman, Globes Online 1/28/2009
Abraham Hochman is reported to be among six arrested in connection with the $600 million fraud. The Spanish police have arrested six people, among them a former Mossad agent, on suspicion of involvement in a €450 million ($600 million) fraud on the London Stock Exchange. The "Daily Mail" reports that Abraham Hochman, formerly a Mossad agent, and an Argentinian named Diego Magn Selva are thought to be among the six arrested. One of the people under arrest is suspected of organizing the fraudulent scheme involving shares in a British company called Langbar International between 2003 and 2005. The company was delisted from London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 2005, when the investigation began. The scheme was to create a bogus company, list it on the London Stock Exchange, use false documents and rumor to inflate the share price, and then sell shares at a profit.

Former Mossad agent reportedly among suspects in 420m pound fraud case
Nimrod Halpern, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The Spanish police announced Wednesday that they had arrested six people suspected of a £420 million fraud in a public company traded on the AIM exchange in London. No names were released, but the newspaper El Pais reported that among those arrested is a former Mossad agent, Avraham Hochman, whom the newspaper described as the one of the "brains" behind the fraud. The suspects are accused of false reporting and forging company documents, for the purpose of boosting the share price of Langbar, a Bermuda-registered company traded on the AIM. Langbar, formerly called Crown Corp. , was a shell company on the AIM, floated in 2003 with reported assets of £202 million. In July 2005, Langbar announced a number of financial transactions, including a deposit of £70 million in ABN Amro and Banco Di Brasil, causing its own share price to soar.

Stay healthy: Labor strife to cripple hospital operations
Haim Bior, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
A labor dispute will disrupt regular activity at state-run hospitals starting today. Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Assaf Harofeh in Tzrifin will be working in "weekend" format. Outpatient clinics at these hospitals will be closed. Scheduled surgeries will be put off to a later date, excepting urgent operations, which will continue to take place. There will be no orderlies or sterile supplies services. Starting on Sunday, the Histadrut labor federation will announce the configuration of sanctions for the following day. The fifteen hospitals operated by the Kupat Holim Clalit health maintenance organization, including Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava, will continue to operate as usual.

Ashdod port union threatens strike
Avi Bar-Eli, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Labor leaders at Ashdod Port are threatening to call a strike unless the Transport Ministry ceases and desists with its plan for reforms. The chairman of the port workers union, Alon Hassan, bitingly criticized Transportation Ministry Director-General Gidon Siterman last Monday, during a meeting at Siterman’s office to discuss the so-called ’landlord’ model for operation of Israeli seaports. According to the Web site HaMitan, which focuses on the transport industry, Hassan told Siterman that he didn’t believe him. "You are an unreliable person that changes his mind every few minutes," he said. "I’d like to see you act like a man and do it. See this landlord thing all the way through. Don’t give up. This time it’s you who are in my sights, not the finance ministry. The last time you threw the blame on Belinkov [the Finance Ministry’s supervisor of budgets]. . .

Industrial exports fall sharply
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 1/28/2009
Domestic consumer demand also continued to drop in the fourth quarter. The Central Bureau of Statistics today reported that exports fell by 4. 7% in the fourth quarter of 2008, an annualized drop of 20. 3%, after falling by an annualized 15% in the third quarter. Exports by all industrial segments fell, except for low technology, which increased by 4%. Exports by mixed-low technology industries (mining and quarrying, minerals, rubber and plastics, and basic metals and metal products) plummeted 54% in the fourth quarter. High-tech exports, a central driver of the Israeli economy, fell by 12%, and mixed high-tech exports (chemicals, machinery, electrical equipment, and transport equipment) fell by 14. 3%. Exports by all three industrial segments also fell in the third quarter, and it is now possible to talk about a clear sharp slowdown,. . .

Shekel-dollar rate reaches past NIS 4/$
Yossi Nissan, Globes Online 1/28/2009
The representative rate was set above that level only once in 2008, on November 21. The shekel-dollar exchange rate has returned to the NIS 4/$ level, with the current rate up 0. 78% to NIS 4. 011/4. The shekel-dollar rate reached NIS 4/$ on Monday, the first time in two months it had reached that high. The representative rate was set above that level only once in 2008, on November 21. Yesterday, online foreign exchange firm Prico CEO Vered Yitzchaki told "Globes" that the dollar’s weakness against the shekel is part of global weakness in the US currency, and that this week’s interest rate cut did not impact the local foreign currency market as it was essentially already priced in. In the longer term, Yitzchaki sees the exchange rate falling to the NIS 3. 2-3. 3/$ range.

Gates returns to his Tehran hard line
Gareth Porter, Asia Times 1/29/2009
WASHINGTON - When United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran of "subversive activity" in Latin America on Tuesday, it raised the question of whether he is trying to discourage President Barack Obama from abandoning the hardline policy of coercive diplomacy toward Iran he has favored for nearly three decades. In making a new accusation against Iran, just as Obama is still considering his diplomatic options, Gates appears to be reprising his role in undermining a plan by president George H W Bush in early 1992 to announce goodwill gestures to Iran as reciprocity for Iranian help in freeing US hostages from Lebanon. Bush ultimately abandoned the plan, which had been three years in the making, after Gates, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), claimed before US Congress that new intelligence showed Iran was seeking weapons of mass destruction and planning terrorist attacks.

Iran leader demands US apology for Bush
Ali Akbar Dareini, AP, The Independent 1/28/2009
The Iranian president called for "profound changes" in US foreign policy during a speech today, saying the Islamic Republic would welcome a real and fundamental shift from the new American administration. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments in the western city of Kermanshah come as Obama has indicated a new willingness to reach out to Muslims and the importance of engaging with Iran, a country the Bush administration often singled out as the most dangerous in the region. Without mentioning President Barack Obama by name, Ahmadinejad repeatedly referred to those who want to bring "change," a word used often in Obama’s election campaign, and indicated that Iran would be looking to see if there would be substantive differences in US policy. "We will wait patiently, listen to their words carefully, scrutinize their actions under a magnifier and if change happens truly. . .

Analysis: Obama must treat Iran as key player
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
TEHRAN - New US President Barack Obama must view Iran as a strategic player if he wishes to achieve regional peace rather than limiting his policy to Tehran’s controversial nuclear drive, analysts said on Wednesday. Both Washington and Tehran have an interest in the wider Middle East and an easing of tensions between the two archfoes is key to ushering in peace in the volatile region, they said. Mohammad Saleh Sedghian, head of Tehran-based think tank the Arab-Iranian Studies Centre, said both administrations were watching each other closely to determine their next steps. "The Iranians are watching the Americans’ practical moves and the Americans, especially Obama, are expecting Iran to help them take the correct position on Tehran’s nuclear plan and Iran’s role concerning Hezbollah and Hamas," he said, referring to the popular movements in Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ahmadinejad: US must change policy
Al Jazeera 1/28/2009
Iran’s president has said that the US must make sweeping changes to its foreign policy. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally in western Iran on Wednesday that Barack Obama’s administration must be committed to a path of dialogue with Iran. "We welcome change but on condition that change is fundamental and on the right track," Ahmadinejad said. "When they say ’we want to make changes’, change can happen in two ways. First is a fundamental and effective change. . . The second. . . is a change of tactics. "It is very clear that, if the meaning of change is the second one, this will soon be revealed. " Continuing on the theme of "change", Ahmadinejad said: "Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologise to the Iranian nation and try. . .

Survey: Iraq elections could be ’turning point’
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
BAGHDAD - Elections in Iraq this weekend could prove a "turning point" for the war-torn nation but fears of voting fraud remain a threat to success, an international survey warned Wednesday. The polls -- in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces -- are seen as a key test of the country’s fragile security situation and political stability, almost six years since the brutal US-led invasion. "Whereas the January 2005 elections helped put Iraq on the path to all-out civil war, these polls could represent another, far more peaceful turning point," the International Crisis Group said in its report. Early voting started on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s main ballot to try to avoid the security, logistical and electoral fraud problems of the 2005 elections, when all eligible Iraqis had to vote on the same day. About 614,000 police, soldiers, hospital patients and prisoners started casting ballots at 7 am (0400 GMT), with polling centres to close at 5 pm.

Iraqis vote in key regional polls
Al Jazeera 1/28/2009
Iraq has held provincial elections - the nation’s first polls since 2005 - which will establish the county’s political landscape as US forces return home. Soldiers, police, prisoners, hospital patients and displaced people voted under tight security on Wednesday, three days ahead of the general public. The polls are seen as a marker of far Iraq has moved in overcoming the worst of sectarian violence that took over the country after the 2003 US-led invasion and deepened following the 2005 elections. Analysts also see the vote as a test of Iraqi forces’ ability to ensure stability as Barack Obama, the US president, aims to hasten the withdrawal of 140,000 US troops in the country. About 614,000 individuals were eligible to vote on Wednesday at 1,699 polling booths which closed at 5pm (1500GMT).

Saudi hails Obama’s stance towards Arab world
Middle East Online 1/28/2009
DUBAI - Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s top allies in the Middle East, on Tuesday hailed new US President Barack Obama’s desire to bolster ties with the Arab world. Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal praised Obama for "his desire to have a strong and fruitful relationship with the Arab world" and said his stance was a "positive development" in Washington’s policy towards the Middle East. In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network on Monday, Obama sought to assure the Muslim world that "Americans are not your enemy" and urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Obama has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency rather than waiting for years like his predecessor George W. Bush, but said he did not want expectations raised too high for swift progress for peace, following the Israeli war against Gaza.

South Africa Jews slam deputy FM’s anti-Semitic comments
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
South Africa’s Jewish community on Wednesday lodged a complaint of hate speech against the country’s deputy foreign minister, who earlier this month said that "Jewish money controls America and most Western countries. " Stressing that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies "usually prefers dialogue," the Board’s national director, Wendy Kahn, told Haaretz: "Deputy Minister Fatima Hajaig had crossed all limits. "Kahn, who is in Israel to attend the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem, called Hajaig’s comments "a demonstration of anti-Semitism of the oldest and most classical kind. " The Board filed the complaint against Hajaig to the country’s Human Rights Commission - a national institution with some investigative and executive powers, which derives its powers from the post-apartheid constitution.

Sorcerer unable to cast Orthodox judge from lawsuit
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
Magistrate’s Court Judge Menahem Klein refused yesterday to recuse himself from a lawsuit involving sorcery and curses, on the grounds that the Orthodox judge would not be impartial in the case. The case involves a suit brought by Eti Cohen, who is demanding her money back from Sana Koma, whom Cohen paid to lift a curse. Koma said Klein should recuse himself because Orthodox Judaism, which he follows, prohibits the act of sorcery. In his decision, Klein wrote that people could not "shop" for another judge just because the judge assigned has a different way of life. Klein said doing so would be "a severe blow to faith in the judicial system. " Klein also wrote that even if he started with the assumption that Koma’s acts constituted sorcery according to the Torah, financial issues between Cohen and Koma were still being. . .

Holocaust survivors’ party teams up with pro-marijuana offshoot
Max Socol And Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 1/28/2009
The Green Leaf Graduates, which split from the political party Aleh Yarok, best known for its advocacy of the legalization of cannabis, is making waves with its most recent announcement: a plan to incorporate the Holocaust Survivors Party. The Holocaust survivors are focused on the controversial issue of their state pension disbursement, which has been weakened by rising demands among the country’s retired workers. The party accuses the government of misappropriating funds, donated by Germany, that were supposed to be given to Holocaust survivors. The survivors’ party alleges that instead, those monies have been paid in part to thousands of other Israelis who have no connection to the Holocaust, to ease the government’s pension burden.


Aid reaching Gaza, but is it enough?
Pablo de Soto/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/29/2009
      RAMALLAH, 28 January 2009 (IRIN) - Israel says 453 trucks entered Gaza 18-23 January, but only about half of them carried humanitarian aid - not nearly enough for 1.5 million Gazans, say UN agencies and international aid groups.
     "The donors and the general public have mobilised from all over the world but the aid is stuck outside Gaza," said John Ging, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.
     Of the 100-120 trucks permitted to enter per day, some 37-40 are for UNRWA, about half are for commercial goods such as meat and nappies, and the remainder are for other aid agencies, said Ging, who pointed out that before June 2007 Israel permitted 500-600 trucks to enter daily.
     Food in Gaza is still scarce due to price increases and the lack of currency, and the destruction of farmland is exacerbating food shortages, , according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Apart from the tunnels from Egypt, there are no other ways of getting food or other goods into Gaza.
     There are five crossings into Gaza - four from Israel and one from Egypt. However, none are open in a regular or consistent way, and relatively little aid is getting through. -- See also: Latest UN field update from Gaza

Uprooted lives
Ewa Jasiewicz - Jabaliya, Gaza, Palestine Chronicle 1/28/2009
      Yesterday saw the first canvas tents go up in the Gaza strip to house internally displaced people. The UN estimates 50,000 people have been made homeless due to the bombing and bulldozing of homes and properties by Israeli occupation forces in Israel’s 21 day offensive in the Gaza Strip. The displacement is just meters in the case of many families who don’t want to move far from their ancestral land, and have opted to move into tents on the site of their destroyed houses.
     People have lost more than their homes here. Entire families, living on family land, handed down throughout generations, have had their protection, life’s investment, and community networks literally crushed. The Al Eer family, living on land close to the border in’Izbat ’Abed Rabbu had eleven homes reduced to rubble, and had five members dragged out from under one home. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, medical crews found Ibrahim Mohammed al-’Err, 11; Rakan Mohammed al-’Err, 4; Fidaa’ Mohammed al-’Err, 17; Iman Nember al-’Err, 27; and Mohammed Mousa al-’Err, 48 in the early hours of Sunday 18th January. Ibrahim al-Err, standing in the ruins of his home told me his family left their home on January 7th, after being told by Israeli Occupation Forces to get out. The family was told to leave immediately by loudhailers perched on tanks. ’We saw 10s of tanks, they were everywhere, we didn’t even have five minutes, we didn’t have time to take our belongings’. Nasser al-Err, 40, living close by explained, ’My sons left without their shoes, I had 5-6000 Dinars at home -- I don’t know where it is or how to reach it. My son is disabled, where will he go?’

Israeli strikes leave Blair project with major repairs
Donald MacIntyre in Gaza, The Independent 1/28/2009
      One of Tony Blair’s flagship projects as international Middle East envoy -- and one of his most concrete achievements to date -- was emergency work on a sewage plant in northern Gaza to stop it overflowing and endangering the lives of some 10,000 people.
     Now, it has emerged that Israeli forces severely damaged parts of the plant during their 22-day offensive and the project -- which was due for completion at the end of this week -- has been delayed for two months, with repairs expected to cost $200,000 (£140,000).
     Although the damage to Mr Blair’s project close to the border with Israel in northern Gaza is modest compared with the overall destruction across the Strip and a Gazan death toll put by the Palestinian Ministry of Health at more than 1,200, it has considerable political and diplomatic significance. It is virtually the only major development aid project which has been allowed to go ahead since Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza 18 months ago.
     Mr Blair, who has already raised the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, had worked intensively to secure Israeli approval for vital components to be brought into Gaza for the works despite Israel’s 18-month-long economic siege. The bulk of the North Gaza emergency sewage treatment project was due for completion in early January and the rest by the end of this week but it is now unlikely to be completed until March at the earliest.

BBC and Transformation of Suffering into Propaganda
Sarah Gillepsie - London, Palestine Chronicle 1/28/2009
      ’What impartiality requires is not that everyone receive equal treatment, but rather that everyone be treated as an equal.’ Ronald Dworkin Taking Rights Seriously. Harvard University Press. 1977, p. 227).
     BBC director general Mark Thomson can not screen footage of Palestinian suffering in Gaza without compromising his cooperation’s impartiality. At the heart of his obfuscation lays a belief that Palestinian pain is not an objective reality. It is, at best, a subjective possibility, one loaded with the potential to burst into a subversive, destabilizing force.
     For activists and supporters who are frequently asked why they devote more energy to Palestine than Darfur or the Congo (the implication being of course that they are anti-Semites) Mark Thomson provides the most succinct answer. For Thomson has no problem whatsoever screening Disaster Emergency Committee films on behalf of Darfur and the Congo. The suffering endured by people in these regions is endorsed by the BBC as a universally acknowledged fact. Screening footage of the humanitarian disaster in Palestine though, sabotages Sky and the BBC’s obligation to be ’balanced.’ If this was indeed a war, and not genocidal attack, then the BBC could counter their depictions of carnage in Gaza with images of the horrors endured in Sderot. But this is of course impossible. The visual impact of a damaged kitchen doesn’t quite cut it next to the apocalyptic hell hole that is Gaza.

Winning and Losing in Gaza
Richard Falk, Middle East Online 1/28/2009
      Now that there is a cease-fire in Gaza, questions are emerging about what Israel has achieved. Of course, the lopsided casualty figures and Israel’s military dominance certainly make it the battlefield winner. But such a "mission accomplished" assessment is as misleading in occupied Palestine as it was in Iraq. Although Hamas could not come close to matching Israel’s armed might, it may have won a major battle for Palestinian hearts and minds. Reports from the West Bank, Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora suggest widespread anger at the Palestinian Authority for its passivity and a rise in support for Hamas, even among secular Palestinians -- in appreciation of its determined resistance to the brutality of the Israeli occupation and military operations. If Hamas becomes the dominant political force in all of occupied Palestine when the next elections are held, Israel will be the loser.
     The scorecard is also complicated on the diplomatic front. Perhaps Israel’s military display will have some inhibiting effects on its opponents, but the extreme one-sidedness of the struggle evoked widespread protests and some negative diplomatic repercussions. Qatar and Mauritania, among the few states in the region that had accepted Israel, broke relations, and the European Union has suspended moves to improve Israel’s status as a trading partner. The Turkish prime minister even suggested expelling Israel from the United Nations.

Israel Violated Cease-fire 7 Times, No Media Reports
Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 1/28/2009
      US Media Misreport Latest Gaza Violence
     (Political cartoon by Carlos Latuff )
     Please phone and ask for correction!
     American media are reporting violence that took place along the Gaza-Israel border on January 27th as, in the words of CNN, "the first incidents of violence since last week’s Mideast cease-fire," telling the public that Palestinians broke the ceasefire. [1]
     The reality, however, is that Israel had already violated the cease-fire at least 7 times, the Israeli military killing 2 Palestinian civilians and injuring at least 5, at least one of them a child:
     * Israeli forces killed a Palestinian farmer in Khuza’a east of Khan Yunis on Jan 18
     * Israeli forces killed a Palestinian farmer east of Jabalia on Jan 19
     * Israeli naval gunboats shelled the Gaza coast line, causing damage to civilian structures on Jan 21
     * Israeli troops shot and injured a child east of Gaza City on Jan 22
     * Israeli gunboat fire injured 4-7 Palestinian fishermen on Jan 22
     * Israeli shelling set a Palestinian house on fire on Jan 22
     * Israeli tanks fired on the border town of Al Faraheen, causing damage to homes and farms on Jan 24
     This list does not include two Palestinian children who were killed on January 20th by unexploded ordnance left from Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza.[2] (Additional details about the above cease-fire breaches and citations can be found in the timeline below...) -- See also: A FLYER about this can be downloaded here

The shortcut to peace
Hasan Abu Nimah, Electronic Intifada 1/28/2009
      Because it is generally accepted by the so-called "international community" that Hamas is a major threat to Israel, and therefore to world peace and security, France has dispatched a frigate to participate in a new blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Sunday Times reported that United States naval ships hunting pirates in the Gulf of Aden have been instructed to track down Iranian arms shipments (25 January). Many other European states offered their navies to assist. Indeed, United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 emphasized the need to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.
     Unfortunately not one European country offered to send its navy to render humanitarian assistance to the thousands of injured, hungry, cold and homeless people in Gaza rendered so as a result of Israel’s attack. Perhaps helping children dying from white phosphorus burns, or just lack of clean water, would be seen as supporting "terrorism."
     The perverse assumption behind all the offers of help to Israel seems to be that Hamas and other resistance groups in Gaza fired rockets at Israel merely because rockets were available. Therefore, the logic goes, peace would prevail if the supply of rockets were curtailed.

Prominent Palestinian figures appeal for national unity
Various Undersigned, Ma’an News Agency 1/28/2009
      A number of Palestinian leaders on Tuesday signed a letter in Ramallah demanding reconciliation between competing factions.
     The text of the letter, as well as its signatories, is as follows:
     Appeal for Unity
     January 26, 2009
     The Palestinian people today are faced with dangerous conditions.
     There is a deterioration in conditions following the recent barbaric aggression on Gaza Strip, which has local, Arab, regional and international ramifications, along with the positions and measures that endanger the safety and unity of the Palestinian territories and other measures that jeopardize the representation and independence of the Palestinian people’s decision, and work underway to prepare the grounds for passing schemes that Israel has aimed to impose on our people through increasing colonialism schemes, denying the Palestinian people their rights and through steps aimed to realize the Zionist dream.
     In face of this dangerous picture, there is a need to adopt a clear position based on the pillars of the higher national interests that should rise high above all other individual, tribal and partisan interests.

’Five Minutes’ With the PA Interrogators
Khalid Amayreh – The West Bank, Palestine Chronicle 1/28/2009
      When the Beirut-based Al-Quds satellite television interviewed me last week on the recent genocidal Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip, it never occurred to me that the few sound bites I uttered would land me in a slimy prison cell at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Preventive Security Apparatus (PSA) in Hebron.
     During that interview, I was asked why the American-backed regime in Ramallah was not allowing large protests in solidarity with the Gaza Strip. I answered that the PA didn’t want things to get out of control and that it didn’t wish to antagonize Israel.
     Interestingly, Israel itself had allowed a massive demonstration against the war on Gaza to take place in the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin where as many as 150,000 people, including some Jewish peace activists, took to the streets to protest the nauseating killings and bombings of civilian targets all over the coastal enclave.
     I further pointed out that Israel didn’t really respect the PA and was effectively treating it as a subservient entity serving Israeli interests.

Gaza prisoners held in harsh and humiliating conditions
Press release, Israeli human rights organizations, Electronic Intifada 1/28/2009
      This morning seven Israeli human rights organizations appealed to the Military Judge Advocate General, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblit, and to Attorney General Meni Mazuz concerning the appalling conditions in which Palestinians arrested during the fighting in Gaza were held, and the humiliating and inhuman treatment to which they were subjected from the time of their arrest until their transfer to the custody of the Israel Prison Service.
     The complaint, written by Attorneys Bana Shoughry-Badarne, from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Lila Margalit, from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Abeer Jubran-Dakuar, from Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, was submitted on behalf of those organizations and on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, B’Tselem, Yesh Din and Adalah.It is based on statements collected from detainees by lawyers from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, as well as on testimony given to Hamoked: the Center for the Defense of the Individual.

VIDEO - Ali Abunimah discusses Obama’s presidency with 'progressives'
Video, GRITtv, Electronic Intifada 1/28/2009
      From closing Guantanamo to lifting the gag rule Bush era policies are coming to an end. But is it a new era of progressive government?
     Katrina vanden Heuvel editor and publisher of The Nation, Mark Green President of Air America Radio and the author of Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President, Andrea Batista Schlesinger Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute, and Ali Abunimah Co-Founder of The Electronic Intifada and the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse discuss Obama’s first week in office and whether a new era of government has been inaugurated.
     They spoke on the program GRITtv hosted by Laura Flander

Mitchell’s Mission: Saving the Two-State Solution
Nadia Hijab, Middle East Online 1/28/2009
      Despite George Mitchell’s vaunted abilities and the aggressive backing of the US administration, it may be too late for two states. It is not Israel’s survival that is at risk but rather its survival as a Jewish state.
     US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has been tasked to listen and to help shore up the Israel-Hamas ceasefire during his week-long visit.
     But the signs point to a more ambitious agenda ahead: Saving the two-state solution. Its impending demise has focused the minds of those in Washington determined to save Israel from itself. They are reframing the conflict: A Palestinian state is now crucial to Israel’s survival.
     The reframing is potently illustrated by Sunday’s CBS 60 Minutes segment “Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?” Using strong images and language rare in the mainstream media, the respected CBS correspondent Bob Simon painted an unflattering portrait of messianic Israeli settlers and a sympathetic one of Palestinians losing land and rights.

Paying Lip Service to Unity
Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 1/28/2009
      In the end, they all say the right words. From President Mahmoud Abbas down to Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and all the lesser ranking minions in between, they never forget to mention Palestinian national unity. It is the Holy Grail of Palestinian politics and all those who fail to embrace these words are immediately branded as unpatriotic, a sell out to the noble cause.
     Still, there is something horribly wrong, even when the phrase "national unity" is espoused by our leaders as the ultimate goal. Not only are the calls for national unity half-baked these days, they usually come with a huge "but". The aftermath of the latest disaster that befell the Gaza Strip is ample evidence of just how much trouble we are really in.
     While the split between Hamas and Fateh is nothing new, one would think the atrocities of Gaza and the obvious suffering of our people there would have, if nothing else, brought us together. Israel claimed its "war" was on Hamas, not the citizens of Gaza. But when the missiles fell and the phosphorus bombs rained down on the crowded Strip, all Palestinians were targets, not just members of the Islamic movement.
     Since Israel’s occupying army, our common enemy, made no discrimination amongst us, shouldn’t we at least allow ourselves the same courtesy?

Italian singer revives Arabic poetry
Rasha Khayat - BONN, Germany, Middle East Online 1/28/2009
      The Arab rule of early medieval southern Europe left behind significant traces. Spain and Portugal, in particular, show Arabic and Moorish influences on language, art and architecture. Yet the effects of Arab rule on the art and culture of the Mediterranean island of Sicily have been little explored.
     Around 829, however, when a fleet from Kairouan in North Africa, led by the commander Asad ibn al-Furat, landed on the island and captured it from the Byzantines, Sicily entered a golden age. Irrigation systems and land reforms, as well as the rise of cities like Palermo, Syracuse and Marsala as the most important in the Mediterranean realm, are among the achievements of almost 300 years of Arab rule in Sicily. Alongside architecture and agriculture, the occupying forces also spawned new literature.
     Berlin-based Italian singer, Etta Scollo, says she stumbled upon the book, Anthologia die Poeti Arabi di Sicilia, by accident in a Bologna library several years ago. The anthology is a collection of poetry and divans written between the 9th and 12th centuries in Sicily, translated into Italian by contemporary poets.