InI Logo
Google
 
Web www.williambowles.info
PayPal
InI Needs Your Support!
Subscribe to InI’s Mailing List/Newsletter

Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
www.vtjp.org/
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
31 January, 2008

Gaza desperately short of food after Israel destroys farmland
Peter Beaumont in Gaza, The Guardian 2/1/2009
Officials warn of ’destruction of all means of life’ after the three-week conflict leaves agriculture in the region in ruins - According to the World Food Programme, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and Palestinian officials, between 35% and 60% of the agriculture industry has been wrecked by the three-week Israeli attack, which followed two years of economic siege. Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, the World Food Programme’s country director, said: "We are hearing that 60% of the land in the north - where the farming was most intensive - may not be exploitable again. It looks to me like a disaster. It is not just farmland, but poultry as well. "When we have given a food ration in Gaza, it was never a full ration but to complement the diet. Now it is going to be almost impossible for Gaza to produce the food it needs for the next six to eight months, assuming that the agriculture can be rehabilitated. We will give people a full ration. "

Gaza electric grid on the verge of collapse
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Gaza’s electricity grid may collapse on Sunday if Israel does not allow vital shipments of fuel and spare parts into the Gaza Strip, energy company officials warned. The electric company said in a statement that Israel badly damaged Gaza’s electric during its bombing of the Gaza Strip in December and January. Although the plant is back up and running at a reduced capacity, a lack of spare parts means the grid and the power plant cannot be repaired. The Gaza Strip’s sole power plant will itself shut down to a lack of fuel. The statement warned that blackouts could reach 12 hours a day. It called for the international community to pressure Israel to allow fuel into Gaza.

France in row with Israel over Gaza water
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
PARIS - France is taking back a water treatment plant that would have helped civilians in Gaza after Israel prevented it from entering the Palestinian territory, the foreign ministry said Friday. "Unfortunately, for reasons that we find hard to explain, the water treatment plant was not let in," said foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier. Part of a humanitarian aid package, the treatment system would have provided some 2,000 cubic metres of drinkable water per day to civilians in Gaza who were cut off during Israel’s 22-day military offensive. A team of 51 civilian security officials were on hand to help set up and operate the plant. Israeli authorities had been blocking delivery of the treatment plant at a border crossing with Gaza since Sunday, according to the foreign ministry. "It is with great regret that we have decided to repatriate it," said Chevallier.

Egypt installs cameras, sensors along Gaza border
Avi Issacharoff Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Egypt has begun installing cameras and motion sensors along its border with the Gaza Strip in an attempt to combat smuggling to Hamas, an Egyptian defense source said yesterday. A Hamas delegation to Cairo will start another round of talks in the Egyptian capital this morning on the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. It is still not clear what Hamas’ position is on the proposal. Some senior Hamas officials have said there will be no cease-fire without a full opening of the border crossings with Israel as well as the Rafah crossing with Egypt. However, the Egyptian proposal for now only relates to a partial opening of the crossings, as long as kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is not released. The Egyptian defense source said the process of installing the sensors started two days ago with the help of US, French and German expertise, adding that they hoped the sensors and cameras would help detect any tunnel construction in the border area.

Kassam rocket hits Ashkelon region
Jerusalem Post 1/31/2009
Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip fired a Kassam rocket at Israel on Saturday morning, the third since both Israel and Hamas declared cease-fires on January 18. Masked Palestinian terrorists from Islamic Jihad place Kassam rockets before later firing them towards Israel on the outskirts of Gaza City. The rocket landed in an open area near a kibbutz in the Ashkelon area. There were no reports of casualties or damage in the attack. Prior to the rocket landing, ’Color Red’ sirens sounded in the area, prompting residents to seek shelter. On Thursday, a rocket was fired at the Sha’ar Hanegev region, and on Wednesday another landed in the Eskol region. Both rockets landed in open areas, causing no casualties or damage.

Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement
Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Just four years ago, the defense establishment decided to carry out a seemingly elementary task: establish a comprehensive database on the settlements. Brigadier General (res. ) Baruch Spiegel, aide to then defense minister Shaul Mofaz, was put in charge of the project. For over two years, Spiegel and his staff, who all signed a special confidentiality agreement, went about systematically collecting data, primarily from the Civil Administration. One of the main reasons for this effort was the need to have credible and accessible information at the ready to contend with legal actions brought by Palestinian residents, human rights organizations and leftist movements challenging the legality of construction in the settlements and the use of private lands to establish or expand them. The painstakingly amassed data was labeled political dynamite.

VIDEO - Gaza survivor describes day 48 members of family were killed in attack
The Guardian 1/30/2009
10-year-old Mona Samouni describes how she became one of the very few survivors of the Samouni extended family, after an attack on the densely populated area of Zeitoun - Warning: Contains footage that some viewers may find distressing. [end]

NIS 200m spent on new W. Bank settlement
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Israel has invested close to NIS 200 million during the past two years in preparing infrastructure for construction of housing units to create a contiguous block between Ma’aleh Adumim and East Jerusalem. The neighborhood of Mevaseret Adumim, slated to be built on Area E1, has so far not been built because of strong American opposition. However the construction of a police base in May 2008 opened a window for massive construction in the area. It is doubtful all this construction was meant to serve several hundred policemen and civilians traveling to the headquarters daily. The building of the police station, which was done with all required permits, appears to have been a necessary stage in the "claiming" of A1 ahead of constructing residential neighborhoods there. "Ma’aleh Adumim is an inalienable part of Jerusalem and the State of Israel in any permanent. . .

The military attack Ni’lin weekly protest and injures seven including three journalists
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
On Friday midday Scores of villagers from Nil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, held their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall being built on the village’s land by the Israeli settlement and annexation project. The people held Friday prayers near the village lands, and then proceeded to march to the land being confiscated by Israel. Demonstrators carried banners calling for national unity and demanded an end to the Israeli occupation. As soon as locals and their international supporters arrived to the village where Israel is building the wall, soldiers showered them with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Seven civilians were treated for gas inhalation among them three journalists. Witnesses in the village added that soldiers took over a house at the entrance of the village before the march started then looked the family under house arrest.

Israeli soldiers open fire on Hebron demonstrators, injuring 17
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Seventeen Palestinians were injured when Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators in Israeli-occupied Hebron on Friday. Confrontations between Israeli troops and stone-throwing Palestinian youths took place on Tareq-Ibin Ziad Street, which is in a section of Hebron under the full control of the Israeli military. Medical sources said that the soldiers used live ammunition. Medics at Muhammad Ali Hospital in Hebron said that eight children were among the 17 treated for bullet and shrapnel wounds. Most of the injuries were on the demonstrators’ lower bodies, except for two people who were wounded above the waist. Three people were shot with rubber-coated metal bullets. Massive demonstrations have taken place in Hebron after prayer every Friday since the beginning of the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.

Yesh Din Israeli group to help Palestinians sue Israel over settlements
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
The Israeli leftist group, Yesh Din, announced on Friday that it was initiating a campaign to aid the Palestinians in suing Israel for annexing their private lands and using them to construct illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the International Herald Tribune reported. The statement of the group came after Israel’s leading newspaper, Haaretz, published a report on Israel’s official support to settlements and outposts including those that the Israeli law considers illegal. The settlements in question were built on privately owned Palestinian lands, built without permit or built outside of the approved plans. Some of the settlements, whole neighborhoods, were totally built on privately owned Palestinian lands, an issue which constitutes a violation to the international law and to the Israeli law.

Settlement data ’implicates Israel’
Al Jazeera 1/30/2009
The report focuses on the about 120 settlements set up with government approval - A leaked report on Jewish settlements in the West Bank shows that the Israeli government was complicit in illegal construction on land owned by Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group says. Yesh Din said on Friday that the classsified information, compiled by the Israeli defence ministry, would allow it to help Palestinians sue the Israeli government for damages. Michael Sfard, Yesh Din’s legal counsel, said the information was a "severe indictment" of Israel’s military and government. Israeli authorities are "systematically violating international law and the property rights of Palestinian residents," he said in a statement. The information leaked to the group shows that in three out of every four settlements in the West Bank at least some of the construction was completed without proper permits, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

Israeli troops attack a nonviolent protest near Bethlehem
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
Scores of villagers from Al Ma’ssara, located near the southern West Bak city of Bethlehem and their international supporters protest the Israeli illegal wall on Friday. The protesters gathered at the village school then marched towereds the location where the Israeli military is building the Wall. People cared Palestinian flags and photos of George Habash, a Palestinian leftist leader, to mark the first anniversary of his death. Israeli troops stopped the people from reaching their lands where the army is building the wall and attacked some of them, troops also took some of the demonstrators ID cards as well as a number of local journalists and held them for some time. Protesters then blocked the nearby settlers’ road for half an hour in protest of the Israeli troops attack on them.

Child and youth die of wounds suffered during Israel’s offensive in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
Palestinian medical sources reported on Thursday that a six-year-old child and a youth died at Egyptian hospitals of wounds suffered from the recent Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip. The sources reported that the child, Sondos Abu Sultan, age 4, died at the Ahli Hospital. She was seriously injured after shell fragments struck her in the head and other parts of her body. The youth, Adham Khamis, from Gaza city, was seriously wounded in an Israeli shelling more than two weeks ago. On Saturday, January 17th, 2009, Israel announced the unilateral ceasefire after its army embarked on a 22-day military offensive, which began on Saturday, December 27th, 2008. Homes, schools, mosques, UN centers, and media agencies were attacked by Israeli air, sea, and ground forces, leaving at least 1,330 Palestinians dead; thousands of Palestinianswere injured, hundreds seriously.

Death to Arabs' graffiti found written by soldiers in Gaza homes
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
Several media agencies around the world published images of home walls that remained standing t Gaza during the latest Israeli offensive, yetsome residents who fled their home came back to see "Death to Arabs" graffiti written by the soldiers after breaking into their homes and sabotaging them. The graffiti were found in Gaza’s Al Zeitoun neighborhood. The residents also found some of their belongings missing in addition to the vast destruction of interior and exterior properties of their homes as the soldiers used these homes as locations to rest during the war. A spokesperson of the Israeli army claimed that the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world after initially denying the news. Later on, the spokesperson admitted to the incident and claimed that a probe is underway. He also claimed that this is an "isolated incident" as the soldiers were given strict instructions not to harm civilians or damage civilian properties.

Givati troops leave ’Death to Arabs’ graffiti in Gaza
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 1/30/2009
New images from Strip’s Zeitoun neighborhood show inscriptions on walls signed by infantry brigade soldiers - The Israel Defense Forces is still searching for the soldiers who scrawled "Death to Arabs" inscriptions on walls in Gaza’s Zeituon neighborhood. New images released by several news agencies have revealed more details on the unit’s identity. Alongside the operational activities, army commanders stressed to their soldiers how important it was to protect the Palestinian property, and instructed them to refrain from unnecessarily damaging civilian infrastructures. But it turns out there were some Givati Brigade troops who decided to ignore the rules and leave a "souvenir" to the house’s residents. They also made sure to add the name of their unit and the date the inscription was scrawled on the wall - three days after the ground offensive was launched.

Israeli military refuses water filtration system for Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 1/31/2009
The Israeli government has blocked the entry of a much-needed water filtration system into the ravaged Gaza Strip. The French Foreign Ministry said Friday that Israel has refused to allow the French government from bringing the filtration system to Gaza, where people have been without clean water for weeks. In some parts of Gaza, sewage is flooding streets and homes after the three-week long Israeli assault that ended last week when Israeli officials declared a ceasefire. The Israeli military has violated the ceasefire seven times since then, including an attack yesterday that wounded a number of primary school students in Khan Younis. Palestinian fighters killed one soldier who was invading southern Gaza in violation of the ceasefire. Meanwhile, the Israeli imposed closure of the Gaza Strip remains in place, and Palestinians have been unable to even clean. . .

Gov’t pays slain journalist’s family 1.5 million pounds
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Following lengthy legal discussions, Israel recently paid approximately 1. 5 million pounds in damages to the family of British cameraman James Miller, who was killed in Rafah in May 2003. The British Ministry of Justice said it would not file legal claims in the case, or requests to extradite the Israel Defense Forces officer and troops said to have been involved in the incident. Attorney Avigdor Feldman, who represented the Millers in Tel Aviv District Court, would not say how much money the state agreed to pay them in damages. He did tell Haaretz that the sum was higher than the state’s opening offer of 1 million pounds. The payment is apparently the highest damages award that the state has ever paid a foreign citizen injured in the course of military activity. None of the soldiers who had been implicated in the shooting faced criminal charges.

Watching instead of working from just miles away
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 1/30/2009
PNN exclusive -- Just miles from the Gaza Strip, West Bank journalists are worlds away. Watching the arrival of media from throughout the Arab and international worlds, depression compounds grief. Nael Khalil says, "I’ve been to Europe, but I can’t reach Gaza. "Under the tenets of Israeli occupation travel between the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Gaza is forbidden. After the protests from journalist and human rights groups, the Gaza Strip finally opened to the media after the three weeks of major attacks. In the West Bank, journalists still could not move, but instead watched people come from around the globe: the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Tunisia, even Washington. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are separated by occupation, ensuring contiguity lives only in dreams. Correspondent Mohammad Daraghma expressed great anger today while noting that as a Ramallah. . .

UN: Gaza farmers hit hard by war with Israel
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
ROME - Palestinian farmers were severely affected by the Gaza war, posing a threat to food security, the UN food agency said Friday, appealing for 6. 5 million dollars (five million euros) in immediate assistance. "Almost all of Gaza’s 13,000 families who depend on farming, herding and fishing have suffered damage to their assets during the recent conflict, and many farms have been completely destroyed," the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a news release. Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza caused widespread destruction in the Palestinian territory and killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, a third of them children. "Farmers already struggling to make a profit before the outbreak of the conflict are now facing the possible irreversible loss of their livelihoods," said Luigi Damiani, senior project coordinator for the FAO in Jerusalem.

Missing: 22-year-old Zakariyah Fathi Ismail Khader from Rafah area
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Gaza – Ma’an - Abu Raed Khader’s 22-year-old son Zakariyah Fathi Ismail Khader has been missing since the second day of the Israeli war on Gaza. He left the house on 28 December to see the damage Israeli missiles caused on the Rafah border area and never returned. His father thought he had been arrested by Egyptian border authorities but when several men were released from Egyptian custody this week, Zakariyah was not among them. The Khader family lives in the Ash-Shabura refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, and have released an appeal for help in finding the young man. [end]

Palestinian heritage being stripped from Jaffa
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/31/2009
Jaffa -- By all appearances, measures taken by successive Israeli governments to change the Arab nature of Palestinian cities are not limited to Jerusalem and West Bank cities such as Hebron. Overtaken in 1948, Jaffa along the northwest coast of the Mediterranean is one of those Palestinian cities that have faced systematic displacement. Israeli efforts to "create a state with a Jewish character" have led to the destruction of much of the Palestinian heritage within the Green Line. Real estate and investment companies, as well as the nearby Israeli municipality of Tel Aviv, are undertaking the implementation of an unprecedented scheme in the ancient Palestinian city of Jaffa. Thousands of people are being displaced as the Israelis aim to "double the number of Jewish residents in the city in a decade. "Mega apartment and condo complexes are being built, with more in the works, to replace Palestinian homes.

Pro-PFLP gathering canceled
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 1/31/2009
Police cancel rally in Haifa after discovering that the gathering, marketed as an elections event, is actually a support rally for terror organization -A Saturday gathering of members of the Israeli-Arab community in Haifa was called off, after police discovered that the event was meant to be a support rally for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and a memorial for its leaders, George Habash. Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen instructed officers on Friday to call off the event, scheduled for Saturday from 4 p. m. until midnight and organized by both Arab and Jewish spiritual leaders. The event was marketed as an elections rally, but police investigation revealed that this was simply a front for the event’s real purpose: An expression of support for the PFLP and the commemoration of the one year anniversary of Habash’ death, which recently took place.

Israeli police close Haifa Theater; prevent events commemorating PFLP founder
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Al-Midan Theatre in Haifa was closed Friday in an effort to prevent an event commemorating the late George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Though organized by both Arab and Jewish spiritual leaders, Israeli police claimed it was an event “in support of a terror organization,” and so they “decided to prohibit it. " Israeli sources said Inspector General of the Israeli police Dudi Cohen ordered the closure of the Theater. [end]

’Jerusalem: Capital of Arab Culture’ events jeopardized by occupation, political fragmentation
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Jerusalem, Palestine’s occupied capital, was designated the “Capital of Arab Culture” for 2009, but organizers are now finding that plans to hold the cultural festival in the city are near impossible due to Israeli access restrictions and organizational challenges. The yearlong event is part of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO) Cultural Capitals program, which began in 1997 in Cairo. The capitals, decided two years in advance by the Arab Ministers of Culture with the Arab League, traditionally showcase elements of their culture through festivals and increased funding to the arts. Jerusalem was chosen in 2006 when Baghdad withdrew its bid due to security chaos. According to the Palestinian planners of the festival, it may have been easier to hold the events in Iraq after all.

Arab parties disappear, center-left still weakening
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 1/29/2009
The latest "Globes" poll finds that many Arab voters intend to stay at home. No-one took the threats of the Arab parties to boycott the elections seriously. However, the latest "Globes" poll in collaboration with Geocartography, managed by Prof. Avi Degani, paints a worrying picture: the Arab community is staying at home, and the Arab parties are failing to get above the minimum vote threshold. The poll, conducted yesterday evening (Wednesday) among a representative sample of 800 people, shows Arab parties Ra’am Ta’al and Balad (National Democratic Assembly) disappearing, sinking below the level of a single seat. 28% of the Arab community say they will not vote in the coming elections, and another 40% have become floating voters and have not yet made up their minds how to vote. A simple calculation gives a problematic result: 70% of the Arab community is starting to lose faith and is considering foregoing participation in the democratic process.

Israeli Arabs protest banning of PFLP founder memorial service
Yoav Stern Eli Ashkenazi and Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Arab demonstrators rallied in Haifa on Saturday in protest of a police decision to ban an open-air memorial service for George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Mohammed Kanana, secretary general of Ibnaa el-Balad (Sons of the Country), which organized the rally, told Haaretz he had not been surprised by the police decision. "Israel Police is famous for its oppression of the Arab public and for its opposition to lawful democratic activity," he said. The event was supposed to be held on Saturday, marking the first anniversary of Habash’s death. Among the invited speakers were Arab public figures, clergymen, and Habash’s relatives living in Israel. Kanana said that the event was not to be a support rally for the Popular Front, but merely a memorial service.

Netanyahu retains poll lead after Gaza campaign
The Guardian 1/31/2009
The leader of Israel’s Likud party, Binyamin Netanyahu, has maintained a lead in advance of the country’s 10 February election that is several points clear of his main rivals, both of whom have been directly involved in the Gaza campaign. A poll published in the Maariv daily yesterday gave Netanyahu 28 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, five more than his closest rival Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the centrist Kadima party. Ehud Barak, the Labour defence minister, trails in third. Netanyahu opposes a substantial withdrawal from the West Bank and has said he would not prevent the natural expansion of settlements. Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, has criticised settlements in the past. Yesterday, Mitchell gave a sober assessment of the obstacles to peace.

Israel’s Netanyahu rejects evacuation of settlers
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
TEL AVIV - Hardline former premier Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed not to evacuate illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is named prime minister after February 10 elections, Haaretz daily reported on Friday. Netanyahu, the frontrunner for the parliamentary elections, insisted he would not be tied by any pledge made by outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to withdraw illegal settlers from the occupied Palestinian territory. "I will not keep Olmert’s commitments to withdraw and I won’t evacuate settlements. Those understandings are invalid and unimportant," the newspaper quoted Netanyahu as saying. Olmert told visiting US peace envoy George Mitchell earlier this week that Israel had offered in negotiations with the Palestinians to remove 60,000 settlers from the West Bank, according to Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

60 US lawmakers urge Clinton to aid Gaza
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
WASHINGTON - Sixty US lawmakers have urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give emergency funds to the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after its bombardment by Israel. In a letter dated Tuesday, the House Democrats also said Israel should allow critically ill patients to be transported out of Gaza and into Israel, the West Bank and Jordan for treatment. "We therefore urge you to express this concern directly to Israeli government officials," they said in the letter. The representatives focused in their letter on worries about the flow of food and humanitarian goods into Gaza as well as medical services and reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed by Israeli strikes. They noted that the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimated financial needs of nearly 350 million dollars to rebuild their own infrastructure and keep providing essential services to the Palestinians in Gaza.

Jordanian king meets Obama’s envoy, urges US engagement in peace process
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Jordan’s King Abdullah II met US President Barack Obama’s new envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, in Amman on Saturday and urged him to renew US efforts to reach a two-state peace deal between Israel and Palestine. The king “insisted on the importance of relaunching peace negotiations on the basis of two states, Palestinian and Israeli, stressing that we must not start a different process,” a Jordanian palace official told the AFP news agency. “We need to act quickly - without wasting time - on negotiations based on two states and not be diverted by new proposals,” the king was quoted as saying in his meeting with Mitchell. Mitchel said in Jerusalem on Friday that the United States was committed to “actively and aggressively” to seeking peace between Israel and its neighbors.

US envoy in Jordan to bolster Gaza truce
Middle East Online 1/31/2009
AMMAN - US Middle East envoy George Mitchell arrived in Jordan on Saturday for talks with King Abdullah II on consolidating the ceasefire that ended the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Jordan’s king is expected to tell Mitchell that the United States must be "really engaged in the peace process based on a two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian," a senior palace official said. US President Barack Obama’s new envoy said in occupied Jerusalem on Friday that the United States is committed to "actively and aggressively" seeking lasting peace in the Middle East but warned there would be further setbacks. He kicked off his maiden regional tour in Egypt and has held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. He is still due to visit Saudi Arabia ahead of travelling to Europe.

Jordan`s king meets Mitchell, calls for immediate resumption of peace talks
Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Jordan’s King Abdullah called for the immediate resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks following a meeting with President Barack Obama’s new Mideast peace envoy on Saturday. "It’s important not to lose time, and to move immediately to resume talks," Abdullah said. He said the negotiations should be based on international agreements and incorporate the Arab peace initiative as the means to ensure security for all in the region. Washington dispatched envoy George Mitchell to the Middle East a week after Obama took office, signaling the new U. S. administration’s eagerness to get directly involved in peacemaking. Mitchell has already met with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders on his trip and will hold talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh on Sunday in a bid to consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza.

MEDIA-US: Gaza Coverage Echoed Govt Support of Israel
Marina Litvinsky, Inter Press Service 2/1/2009
WASHINGTON, Jan 31(IPS) - U. S. television coverage of the recent three-week conflict in the Gaza Strip failed to tell both sides of the story, according to a number of media analysts. The most recent conflict between the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the Palestinian faction Hamas garnered some media attention, with an unusually large spike in coverage, but that level sank as the fighting dragged on. During both the first and second weeks of the attack, including a massive aerial attack and a full-scale ground invasion of the tiny, densely-populated Gaza Strip, the conflict was the top story on the nightly newscasts of the three major U. S. networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), where it got 55 minutes of total airtime. But the first two weeks of fighting were "an aberration in terms of coverage by American broadcast networks", said Andrew Tyndall, of the Tyndall Report, which monitors the weekday nightly newscasts from the three major U.

UN to probe Gaza compound attack
Al Jazeera 1/30/2009
The UN secretary-general has announced an investigation into the attack on the UN headquarters in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s 22-day assault on the Palestinian territory. Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that he was angered by the "unacceptable" Israeli attacks on civilians and UN relief agency (Unrwa) compounds. "Over the past several weeks, unacceptable and terrible situations have taken place against the civilian people and against particularly the United Nations compounds, where many civilians were sheltered," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The UN chief’s announcement came shortly after nine people, seven of them schoolchildren, were injured in an Israeli air raid on Khan Yunis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip. Israel seemed to be targeting a Palestinian fighter on a motorcycle, witnesses told Al Jazeera. There have been a series of raids on Gaza in recent days despite the Israeli government calling a unilateral ceasefire to end the fighting on January 17.

New Rice in UN: war crimes charges must be investigated
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/30/2009
New York -- The new United States Ambassador to the United Nations is expected to improve the American image in the international body, severely tainted over the past eight years. In her first speech before the Security Council, Susan Rice said that allegations against the Israelis for the commission of war crimes in the Gaza Strip must be investigated. The UNSC is known for severe foot dragging due to the US veto, spending two weeks to pass a resolution against the Gaza bloodbath. That, coupled with the Israeli insistence to "go its own way" when it comes to international law, Rice’s words are welcome. "We expect that Israel fulfill its international obligations to investigate. "Rice also criticized Hamas by placing on it the full onus of responsibility for the acts of all factions of the armed resistance, regardless that under international law an occupied population does have the right to defend itself.

African FMs demand UN probe Israel over Gaza
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
ADDIS ABABA - Africa’s foreign ministers on Thursday demanded a UN investigation into what they described as war crimes committed by Israel during its recent military operation against the Gaza Strip. The officials were in Addis Ababa for a three-day meeting ahead of the 53-member African Union’s heads of state summit scheduled to kick off over the weekend. "(We) call on the Security Council to carry out an investigation into the serious violation of human rights and war crimes observed during the aggression and the use of banned weapons in order that the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished," a statement said. The AU’s Executive Council "is deeply dismayed and shocked by the recent air, ground and sea aggression launched by the Israeli forces which cost the lives of more than a thousand people and accounted for thousands of wounded.

Belgium to stop exporting ’arms that bolster the IDF’ to Israel
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Belgium’s government has agreed to ban the export to Israel of weapons that "strengthen it militarily," a Belgian minister said on Thursday. A Brussels-based research group accused Israel of enlisting child soldiers. The Belgian daily De Morgen quotes Minister Patricia Ceysens from the Flemish regional government as saying: "There’s a consensus [among ministers] not to approve exports that would strengthen Israel’s military capacity. " Ceysens said this after a discussion on policy regarding weapons exports to Israel following the operation in Gaza. A final resolution has not been passed yet, but Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht already said recently that "given the current circumstances, weapons cannot be shipped from Belgium to Israel. " According to a recently-released report by the European Institute for Research and Information on Peace and. . .

Spain FM: War crime charge against Israel will be reversed
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Spain’s foreign minister yesterday told his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni, that Israel should have been more prompt in transferring legal material pertaining to the prosecution of Israeli defense officials in connection with the assassination of Hamas military leader Saleh Shahade in 2002. "It is a shame that you didn’t transfer the material on time," Miguel Mortainos told Livni in a phone call on Friday. He nonetheless added that the material that the Israeli justice ministry did hastily transfer on Friday will serve to reverse the decision. A Spanish judge on Thursday ruled that Shehade’s assassination by an F-16 air strike on his home, which killed 15 people including Shahade’s wife and nine children and wounded more than 100, should be investigated as a war crime.

’We hope this will get Spain to drop Shehade case’
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 1/31/2009
Justice ministry steps up diplomatic, legal efforts to fight Spanish lawsuit against senior defense officials involved in targeted killing of Hamas leader in 2002 - "We hope the briefs and documents we sent yesterday - and which they have already received in Spain - will result in them rescinding their decision to prosecute the seven Israelis in the killing of (Salah) Shehade," a senior Justice Ministry official familiar with the case told Ynet on Saturday evening. Last Thursday it was confirmed that a Spanish judge had agreed to prepare a lawsuit against Israeli defense officials involved in the bombing of a Gaza building in July 2002. Senior Hamas military wing leader Salah Shehade was killed in the attack along with 14 civilians. The Israelis named in the suit include, among others, Ministers Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Avi Dichter, and former IDF Chiefs of Staff Moshe Yaalon and Dan Halutz.

Spain to amend law to avoid trying Israeli war criminals
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Spanish government has decided to amend the country’s law dealing with prosecuting military commanders involved in war crimes. Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni announced the news following a meeting with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Moratinos after a Spanish court accepted a lawsuit against former Israeli war ministry Benjamin Ben Eliezer and the then head of the air force Dan Halutz on charges against humanity. The Israeli 2nd TV channel quoted Livni as expressing satisfaction over Moratinos’s decision and informed both Israeli premier Ehud Olmert and justice minister Daniel Friedman on the latest developments in this regard. She stressed that Israel would continue in its efforts to settle such cases not only in Spain but in the whole world, the TV report said. Spanish judge Fernando Andreu agreed to look into the case against Ben Eliezer. . .

Moratinos promises Livni to limit jurisdiction
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/30/2009
Spanish foreign minister telephones Israeli counterpart following court’s decision to charge security officials involved in 2002 assassination of Hamas operative, promises his country will work to change legislation - Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos telephoned his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni on Friday, and promised her that the Spanish government would work to change the legislation and limit the courts’ jurisdiction in order to prevent charges against Israeli security officials. On Thursday, a Spanish court granted a petition by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, asking that six Israeli security officials and former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer be charged with alleged "crimes against humanity" for their involvement in the 2002 assassination of Hamas operative Salah Shehade. Fourteen civilians were killed in the incident and about 100 more were injured.

Spanish court opens war crimes investigation into 2002 attack on Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/30/2009
Gaza - On Thursday the Spanish National Court issued its formal decision to investigate Israeli leaders for war crimes. As the highest Spanish judicial council, the court joined legal experts throughout the world in taking to task the Israelis for acts against the Gaza Strip. While many of the cases currently being sent to The Hague, and those in other national courts, focus on the major attacks on Gaza which began 27 December, decades of war crimes charges have been filed in the past. The Spanish court is focusing on seven former senior Israeli military officials suspected to have committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip in 2002. Former Defense Minister and current Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, his former military advisor, Michael Herzog, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, former Commander of the Israeli Air Force Dan Halutz, former Head. . .

Israel to give info on Spain ’war crime’ probe
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
TEL AVIV - Israel on Friday said it would provide "relevant material" for a Spanish crimes against humanity probe over a 2002 Israeli bombing in Gaza, after originally vowing to quash the investigation. "The Israeli justice ministry will provide the Spanish government with the relevant material," the foreign ministry said in a statement. But Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also reiterated Israel’s criticism of the complaints, according to the statement. The Israeli ministry said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told Livni the Spanish government decided to amend the law as soon as possible in order to prevent further such lawsuits. Spanish judge Fernando Andreu agreed on Thursday to pursue a crimes against humanity complaint against seven senior Israeli military figures over the 2002 bombing.

Israeli officials say State will protect them from Spanish lawsuit
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/29/2009
Former IDF chief Yaalon says Spanish court’s decision to bring charges against officials involved in 2002 assassination of Shehadeh ’part of anti-Israel propaganda. ’ Ben-Eliezer: We were as cautious as possible during attack. Livni: Suit political - Senior Israeli security officials expressed their outrage over the Spanish court’s decision to grant a petition by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Thursday, asking that they be charged for alleged "crimes against humanity" for their involvement in the 2002 assassination of Hamas operative Salah Shehade. Fourteen civilians were killed in the incident and about 100 more were injured. National Infrastructure Minister and former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said they were certain the State would protect them from any legal action by Spain.

Sourani: 86 Israeli war criminals are now wanted by international courts
Palestinian Information Center 1/30/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Palestinian human rights activist Raji Al-Sourani has disclosed Wednesday that at  least 86 Israeli military officers were now wanted by a number western courts for their role in the holocaust in the Gaza Strip. In a forum held in this regard in the Egyptian capital Cairo, Sourani accused the European governments of adopting  unfair  stand over the Israeli massacres in Gaza Strip, opining that such behavior would bring the world back to the " law of the jungle. "He said that a number of lawsuits were filed by international human rights organizations against Israeli military officers before courts in Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Spain over their role in the brutal war on Gaza, underlining that 86 of  those officers were now wanted by those courts. "The Palestinian human rights organizations will keep on chasing those Israeli war criminals,. . . "

Gaza counts the cost -- and assigns blame
The Independent 2/1/2009
Two weeks after an uneasy ceasefire ended Israel’s 22-day offensive, Gaza is still struggling to come to terms with the cost of more than 1,300 Palestinian lives, more than 5,000 injuries and the total or partial destruction of some 20,000 homes. Last night Chris Gunness, chief spokesman for the UN Relief and Works agency, which has budgeted more than $300m (£205m) for an emergency food, health and repair package, said there was an "overwhelming" need for "industrial-scale building materials to be brought into Gaza to begin the task of rehabilitation, and that is before reconstruction in earnest even begins". The loss and devastation faced by Gazan civilians is as apparent in this rural village, a mere 1. 5 kilometres from the Israeli border, as anywhere. Juhr al Dik is agricultural land, notably green by Gaza standards, but a month ago Israeli forces arrived here early in their ground offensive, establishing bases in some of the homes.

Fund-raising campaign for Gaza victims brings over 725,000 AED
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/30/2009
Dubai -- Regional efforts continue the arduous work of repairing the Gaza Strip after a year and a half of ongoing siege and the three weeks of attacks that left two billion dollars in damage to the infrastructure. With over 5,000 Palestinians injured and more than 1,000 dead, those affected are countless. In Dubai an ongoing campaign is collecting funds for the children. The Israeli administration still holds the Strip under siege and the crossings closed, with Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, saying it will remain that way. Others in the Israeli administration say their "work in Gaza is not done," meaning they must reinstate the major attacks in order to fully destroy the Hamas government. The United Nations and other aid agencies and humanitarian organizations issue appeals daily demanding the crossings be open for supplies to enter.

Obama earmarks 20 million USD for Gaza aid
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – US President Barack Obama has designated 20. 3 million US dollars for emergency food and medical aid for the Gaza Strip, Obama’s envoy to the Middle East announced on Friday. US Envoy George Mitchell made the announcement during a visit to the headquarters of UNRWA, the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees, which serves hundreds of thousands in Gaza. “These funds are in addition to the nearly $40 million in ongoing U. S. support to the United Nations, ICRC, and non-governmental organizations for programs in Gaza since hostilities began in late December,” Mitchell said. “The tragic violence in Gaza and in southern Israel offers a sobering reminder of the very serious and difficult challenges and unfortunately the setbacks that will come,” he said. During his visit to the UN compound, Mitchell was briefed by UNRWA’s director of operations in. . .

UN appeals for 613 million dollars to help Palestinians in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
NEW YORK, (PIC)-- The UN launched an appeal on Thursday for 613 million dollars to help the Palestinian people affected by Israel’s three-week military aggression on the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 1,300 citizens and injured about 5,300, one third of them children, and caused widespread destruction. These funds will cover the requirements of the UN and other aid agencies for the next six to nine months and cover critical needs such as food, water, sanitation, health care, shelter and education. The funds will also help to remove the debris of war, including unexploded ordnance, finance emergency repairs for basic infrastructure, and provide psychological help for the victims. Another appeal for long-term needs will be launched later. "With the help of this 613 million dollars appeal, the UN and other aid agencies can jump into action to help the. . . "

UPDATED: Evidence mounts of extrajudicial executions by Gaza’s Hamas rulers
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Editor’s note: This updated version of this article contains further information translated from the Arabic report. Ma’an apologizes for the initial discrepancy between the Arabic and English versions. This article was updated at 12:02am on Saturday, Bethlehem time. Bethlehem – Ma’an Exclusive – The de facto government in Gaza “categorically rejects” allegations that it carried out extrajudicial executions, physical attacks, and other human rights violations in Gaza during the Israel’s three-week offensive against the territory. Ma’an News Agency has compiled numerous of eyewitness accounts of violations by uniformed and civilian-clothed Hamas men. In the course of its investigation, Ma’an also consulted independent human rights monitors and political leaders from both Hamas and Fatah. Contacted by Ma’an, the spokesperson for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza, Ihab. . . -- See also: Hamas executes collaborators and restricts Fatah movement and Fatah downplays Hamas attacks on members during Gaza assault

PFLP condemns Hamas violence against Gazans, calls for strength and unity
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) condemned the violent tactics used by Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian people during the Israeli war on the area. While Gazans themselves were united during the war, said a statement from the party, it is shameful for Hamas to use violence as they did. The comments came in response to recent and increasingly persuasive reports of Hamas-men using force and violence to detain, injure or execute Fatah officials, collaborators and petty criminals. The PFLP statement urged sides to work for a united government to rule the briefly united population of Gaza, rather than a government that rules by force. Palestinians in Gaza endured the Israeli aggression against them, said the statement, and that harmed the people and the land.

Hayya: It is time for our people to have new leadership carrying their concerns
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Khalil Al-Hayya, a prominent Hamas leader, stated Friday that it is time for the Palestinian people to see a new leadership carrying their burdens and concerns at home and abroad and protecting their resistance, adding that the Palestinian people would not condone anymore a leadership that accepted humiliation. This came during a massive rally called for by the Hamas Movement in the Gaza city with the participation of the visiting Turkish delegation. The rally was held in support of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal’s call for forming a new authority for the Palestinian people and to pay a tribute to the position of Turkish premier Recep Erdogan in Davos. In a speech delivered before the rally, Dr. Hayya underlined that Hamas had always extended its hands for the national dialog and called for the rebuilding of the PLO.

Fatah statement slams Mash’al call to end the PLO; accuses Hamas of dividing Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian blood shed in Gaza “must be our gate to unity,” read a statement of Fatah leaders calling themselves the “leaders of the first Palestinian uprising” released Saturday. The statement was a response to the call of Hamas leader in exile Khalid Mash’al for Palestinians to reject the PLO and demand the establishment of a new form of Palestinian leadership that represents all Palestinians around the globe. The Fatah statement called Palestinians and political factions to stick to the Palestinian National Agreement (PNA) Document signed by all factions in cluing Hamas. The signed statement reiterated the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the only representative of the Palestinian people, and Palestinian factions must work with the aim of coming together under the PLO umbrella.

Abbas says Hamas can ’never’ seize West Bank
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Mahmud Abbas said on Friday that Hamas will "never" be able to take over the West Bank as they did the Gaza Strip, where they ousted his forces in 2007, despite the fact that they are democratically elected to rule the whole of the Palestinian territories. "Hamas succeeded in its putsch in Gaza because we wanted to avert military confrontation, but what happened there would not be repeated in the West Bank. Never," said Abbas, who is not longer president according to Palestinian law. Israeli troops still occupy the West Bank, which should serve as protection for Abbas from the democratically elected Hamas. Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007, ousting forces loyal to the Abbas, as the Fatah leader was plotting a US-backed coup against the democratically elected government. Abbas also said exiled Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal would fail to set up. . .

Hamas leader calls for creation of an alternative to the PLO
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A senior Hamas leaderin Gaza called on Friday for the creation of an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a key institution that excludes Hamas. Khalil Al-Haya was speaking at a Hamas rally in front of the ruins of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) building in Gaza, which was bombed by Israel. It was his first public appearance since Israel began its assault on Gaza in late December. “It’s time forthe Palestinians to seek a leadership that would lead them to victory,” reiterating Hamas’ previous demand that the PLO be replaced or reformed. The PLO includes other Palestinian factions, including Fatah and the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. At the demonstration Al-Haya also expressed support for a call by Damascus-based Hamas leader Khalid Mashal to create a unified Palestinian leadership.

Abbas refuses to endorse help to families of Fatah fighters who fell in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/30/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Palestinian sources said that Mahmoud Abbas, former PA President and head of  Fatah, refused to endorse the payment of a monthly allowance to the families of Fatah fighters who fell during the Israeli occupation war on Gaza. The same sources added that Abbas considered those Fatah fighters who confronted the invading IOF troops as acting outside the decision of the movement (Fatah) to "renounce terrorism", which makes their families not entitled to be on the (Martyrs’ families payroll) of the Palestinian National Fund, which is controlled by Fatah and the PLO. Abbas has worked over the past two years on dismantling the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB), the armed wing of Fatah claiming more than once that this wing was illegitimate because no one in Fatah took the decision to form such a wing and thus Fatah disowns the AMB.

PNC leadership alarmed at Hamas’ call to replace the PLO
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Amman – Ma’an – The leadership of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the pre-Oslo parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), condemned Hamas’ call for the creation for an alternative to the PLO. In a statement sent from Amman and signed on behalf of the PNC, the organization denounced “this coup against the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. ”The statement also labeled the Hamas demand a "conspiracy," against PLO as an institution. Hamas leader Khalid Mashal has called for the creation of what he termed a new “national reference” for Palestinians that would include all the Palestinian political factions. Currently Hamas and Islamic Jihad are barred from the PLO, while other, older parties such as Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are included.

Hamas continues aiding victims of Israeli Gaza raids
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
GAZA – The democratically elected government of Hamas continued to give what it can of aid to the Palestinians who fell victim to the latest Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip. Social Affairs Minister Ahmed al-Kurd promised that the Hamas government would rebuild Salam neighborhood bigger and better, as he gave checks worth nearly $2 million to Palestinians living in a tent camp. One resident, Zayed Khader, 45, waited for his name to be called so he could pick up relief checks worth a total of $6,000 for his family of nine. Israel’s three-week war on Gaza ended 10 days ago but many are complaining from the slow delivery of the urgently needed aid to Gaza due to the Israeli blockade. A lifting of the blockade, a key Hamas demand, is being held up because of slow-moving negotiations over the terms of a durable truce.

De facto government moves forward on reconstruction, dialogue and ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – De facto government cabinet meeting pushed forward aid and war crimes trials agendas, and affirmed the need for a long-term truce during its weekly Thursday meeting. Foremost on the agenda was a callto speed up preparations for the international fundraising meeting slated to be held in Cairo on Gaza reconstruction. There are no obstacles to holding his meeting and start rebuilding immediately, said de facto government ministers. The Ministers noted that they would be happy to work in cooperation with any country wishing to deliver funds to the people of Gaza. Working directly with the Gaza government, they noted, would prevent the use of aid money as political tools with “conditions” that would limit the way aid is delivered to the people. During the meeting ministers discussed the urgent priorities for development and aid in Gaza, and noted the first priority would be to establish a long-term ceasefire.

Palestinian chief Islamic judge urges national unity
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Sheikh Tayseer At-Tamimi, Palestine’s supreme Islamic Judge criticized the rival Palestinian political factions on Friday for verbal and physical attacks that he said would worsen the internal Palestinian division. Delivering the Friday sermon at the historic Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron, in the heart of the Israeli-occupied Old City, At-Tamimi said that Islamic law called for unity, prohibiting division among Palestinians. He spoke about “the prohibition of all arguments between the Palestinian senior leaders on the satellite channels for the negative role they play, contributing to the destruction of all hope for national unity. ”He urged all the Palestinian factions to overcome their partisan disputes and restore Palestinian unity, in order to work towards end the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Haneyya gov’t welcomes Spanish court decision to prosecute Israeli war criminals
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
GAZa, (PIC)-- The Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haneyya has welcomed the Spanish court’s decision to prosecute the Israeli war criminals who murdered Sheikh Salah Shehada, one of the Hamas leaders, in Gaza city in 2002 and 12 other civilians mostly women and children. In a statement on Friday, the government hoped that more such lawsuits would be filed against the Israel war criminals for killing Palestinian women and children and for destroying homes, schools and mosques during the recent war on Gaza. It also announced the formation of a legal committee to follow up the issue of prosecuting Israeli war criminals and documenting their crimes to remain a witness to the acts of genocide exercised by the Israeli occupation forces during the war on Gaza. The government also thanked Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan for walking out of the Davos conference on Thursday in. . .

Spanish Judge accepts PCHR lawsuit against senior Israeli officials, Israel to appeal decision
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
A Spanish judge accepted a lawsuit filed by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) against senior Israeli officials for committing war crimes against the Palestinian people after the officials gave the go ahead for shelling the house of a senior Hamas leader in 2002, killing 15 Palestinians and wounding more than 100, the Arabs48 news website reported. At least nine of the casualties in the shelling were children and women. The Israeli Army dropped a 15 ton bomb on the house of Salah Shihada, a Hamas leader. The Spanish Judge, Fernando Andreu, accepted the lawsuit, which was filed by the PCHR, and sent two letters; one to Israel informing Israeli officials that a probe is underway, and the second to the Palestinian Authority informing them that the case has been accepted. Israel claims that Shihada is responsible for hundreds of attacks against Israeli targets, and considers. . .

Israel: Erdogan’s Davos behavior may ruin Turkey’s EU chances
Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
The public confrontation between President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Davos Summit Thursday continued off the stage over the weekend as questions arose over whether Peres apologized to Erdogan for what the Turkish leader said was ’shouting’? A senior political source in Israel also said that a private meeting between Peres and Erdogan that was scheduled to take place prior to the Davos panel they were both on was canceled at the last minute because of a Turkish request. The same source said it was probably canceled because the Turkish Prime Minister did want to give the impression that relations with Israel were business as usual. The Foreign Ministry has learned that senior European Union diplomats were highly critical of the vociferous criticism Erdogan had leveled at Israel over the operation in Gaza and for his support of Hamas.

Erdogan: Palestine an open-air prison
YNetNews 1/31/2009
Turkish PM, in exclusive interview with Washington Post, explains recent comments about Gaza operation, encourages engaging Hamas; says Turkey’s relationship with Israel not over, but that leaders must ’check themselves’, reassess actions regarding Palestinians. -After the Turkish Prime Minister blasted Israel for Operation Cast Lead in Gaza this week, sparking bi-national tensions by walking offstage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Recept Tayyip Erdogan explained in his position towards the operation and the conflict in general in an interview published Saturday. Erdogan, in the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth, said in response to the question as to why he had "pushed the Turkish-Israeli relationship to its limits" that this was taking "the wrong view," noting that Turkey has been active in promoting the regional peace process.

Erdogan hailed after Davos walkout
Al Jazeera 1/30/2009
Turkey’s prime minister has returned home from the World Economic Forum in Davos to a warm welcome after he stormed out of a debate over Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip. More than 5,000 people, many waving Palestinian and Turkish flags, greeted Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his aeroplane touched down early on Friday. Erdogan walked out of a televised debate on Thursday with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, after the moderator refused to allow him to rebut Peres’ justification about the war. Before storming out, Erdogan told Shimon Peres, the Israeli president: "You are killing people. " At least 1,300 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s 22-day aerial, naval and ground assault on Gaza. Thirteen Israeli citizens [including 10 soldiers - Ed. ] died over the same period. Speaking to Al Jazeera at the Swiss resort, Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy for the quartet of the European

Israeli administration denies Peres apologized
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/30/2009
Bethlehem -- A new hero was born in Davos whose face is expected to be seen next to that of Chavez on the posters flown by the nonviolent resistance in the West Bank. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Israeli President Shimon Peres that the killings in Gaza were criminal, adding that he recalled former Prime Ministers who have said they were happy when able to roll over Palestine in tanks. Erdogan, having been seated next to Peres during a panel discussion, walked out of Davos and said he may never return. The Israeli President had waged his finger and shouted at several WEF attendees about projectile launches in an effort to excuse the killing of more than 1,300 Palestinians in three weeks. Peres to Erdogan: "What would you do if you were to have in Istanbul every night a hundred rockets? " Erdogan to Peres: "President Peres you are older than me and your voice is very loud.

Erdogan receives hero welcome over Gaza stance
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned home to a hero’s welcome Friday after storming off the stage at the World Economic Forum during a spat over Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip. Over 3,000 followers gathered at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, draped in red and white Turkish flags, to acclaim Erdogan as he flew back overnight from the Swiss resort of Davos. Many carried banners denouncing Israel’s killing of innocent Palestinian civilians, including woman, children and the elderly. Turkey is traditionally Israel’s closest ally in the Muslim world. "I did what I had to do," he told reporters gathered at the airport. "I cannot remain apathetic when it comes to these things, it’s just not in my nature. " In one of the most dramatic moments seen at the normally restrained Davos meetings, Erdogan marched off in front of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. . .

Is Turkey’s Mideast role at risk after PM outburst?
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
ANKARA - Did Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spat with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos deal a blow to Ankara’s ambitions to become a powerbroker in the Middle East? Analysts asked Friday. "The incident is a breaking point. It will seriously harm Turkey’s mediation role (in the Middle East)," claimed Arif Keskin, a senior analyst at the Ankara-based Eurasia Studies Centre. But judging from Israel’s record and recent actions, was Tel Aviv serious about peace in the first place? Many observers doubt that. And Israel itself said it is confident that ties with Turkey will recover. Israeli ties with Turkey, "the closest and most friendliest countries," will recover after a public clash between its leaders over the Gaza war, the Israeli ambassador in Ankara said Friday. "I am confident and trustful that we are going to be able -- within a period of time. . .

Erdogan risks mediator role
Robert Tait, The Guardian 1/31/2009
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s histrionics in Davos won him praise in Gaza yesterday but at the possible price of sabotaging Turkey’s hard-earned role as a Middle East mediator. The Islamist-rooted Justice and Development party (AKP) government has sought to use Turkey’s imperial heritage to forge close relations with neighbouring countries that once formed part of the Ottoman Empire. Most recently, that has resulted in Ankara emerging as a broker in revived peace talks between Israel and Syria. Before that, Turkey asserted its influence by sending troops to Lebanon as part of the international peace-keeping force deployed after Israel’s five-week military campaign against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. But its most contentious diplomatic appeal has been to Hamas, the group targeted by Israel in its recent assault on Gaza. In 2006, Turkey became the first Nato country to host Hamas when its leader, Khaled Mashaal visited Ankara.

Islamic Jihad calls Erdogan’s comments 'bold,' thanks Turkey for standing by Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments on Israel’s actions in Gaza during the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday were praised by Islamic Jihad as “bold” and “honest. ”Following a defense of the war on Gaza by Israeli President Shimon Peres, Erdogan said, "I find it very sad that people applaud what you said. You killed people. And I think that it is very wrong. " He was then cut off by the moderator of the conference, to which he responded by leaving the area, stating his displeasure with having been cut off. In a public statement Friday Islamic Jihad spokesman Dahoud Shehab said Palestinians appreciate how Erdogan stood by Palestine with such conviction, and thanked Turkey for caring for the Palestinian cause. “We wished that Arab countries did the same thing and gave a similar reaction to what Turkey did,” noted Shehab.

Peres: Outburst won’t hurt Israel-Turkey ties
Roni Sofer and AP, YNetNews 1/30/2009
President says his heated public exchange with Turkish PM Erdogan was not personal, defends his unusually passionate speech as called for in response to verbal assaults on Israel over Gaza - President Shimon Peres said Friday his heated public exchange with Turkey’s prime minister was not personal and ties between the two nations won’t change. Peres defended his unusually passionate speech at a session of the World Economic Forum Thursday night as called for in response to the verbal assaults on Israel over its war in Gaza against Hamas. The remarks raised the emotions of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stalked off the stage after a moderator insisted on cutting off his attempt to respond. Peres said he spoke afterward with Erdogan who returned to Turkey early Friday to a rousing welcome.

Is this the transcript of Peres’ call to Erdogan following Davos spat?
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
President Shimon Peres called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday following Thursday’s spat at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in efforts to soothe the tensions. On Thursday, Erdogan stormed off the stage after he was cut off by the forum moderator and barred from responding to Peres’ defense of Israel’s 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip. Turkish media outlets reported that Peres had apologized to Erdogan during their five-minute phone conversation, but Peres’ office denied the report, saying that the purpose of the telephone call was simply to ensure that the "crisis won’t deteriorate. "The following is a transcript of the phone conversation between the two leaders, issued by Turkey’s state-run Anatolian Agency on Friday: Peres: Such things happen between friends. . .

VIDEO - Recep Erdogan ’storms out’ of Davos Gaza debate
The Guardian 1/30/2009
Turkish prime minister in angry clash with Israeli president Shimon Peres over ’very wrong’ offensive against Palestinian territory. [end]

Hamas hails 'courageous' stands of Turkish premier
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement hailed the "courageous" stand of Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan who protested Israeli president Shimon Peres’s remarks at the Davos conference concerning the Israeli war on Gaza and walked out of the conference hall when he was denied the right to respond to those remarks. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press release on Friday that the premier sided with the victims of the "Zionist war on our people". He pointed out that Erdogan defended the victims of this "criminal war" live in the presence of Peres. "We believe that his step was in support of the Palestine cause and the victims of the Zionist holocaust," he said, adding that Hamas lauds the Turkish leadership and people’s noble positions, which displayed real and practical solidarity with the Palestine people and its just cause.

Peres: Hamas should have learned lesson like Nasrallah did
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
President Shimon Peres said on Saturday that Hamas should have learned a lesson just like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Peres met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The two statesmen discussed, among other issues, the developments in the Gaza Strip. Peres said that Israel’s goal in the offensive it launched on Gaza last month was to change the situation in the south of Israel, and that Hamas should have learned a lesson. Peres made reference to the leader of the Lebanese militia, who has refrained from provoking Israel since the end of the Second Lebanon War, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Lebanese citizens. He also said that Israel intends to go on cooperating with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and that he believes that efforts. . .

Academics and Journalist in Gaza call for boycotting the BBC
Palestinian Information Center 1/30/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian academics and journalist in the Gaza Strip called for a boycott of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for its biased coverage of the Israeli occupation war on Gaza. The academics and journalists held a picket on Thursday afternoon outside the Shawwa Husary Towers in Gaza City, where the BBC has an office and called for a complete boycott of the BBC, not only for its biased coverage of the war on Gaza but also for its refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for the victims of Gaza. The angry protesters called on the three BBC journalists in Gaza to leave, before they get chased with the shoes of the victims of the Israeli occupation war on Gaza. Dr. Jamal Abu Nada, chairman of the Academics and Lecturers Society, talked about the BBC’s reporting of war on Gaza and how its "reporters prepared their. . . "

French Jews ask Sarkozy to help curb anti-Semitic attacks related to Gaza op
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
An umbrella group of Jewish groups sought assurances on Friday from French President Nicolas Sarkozy that authorities would do more to stem a rise in anti-Jewish crime in the wake of the war in the Gaza Strip. Some 100 acts targeting Jews were reported in France since Israel launched its offensive against Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers in late December, said the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France. "We expressed our worries to the president," Richard Prasquier, who heads the body, told reporters. "The president assured us of the attention he was giving to these acts. He told us that he would do more to find a solution to this problem. " The group said aggression against Jews had picked up markedly over the past month compared with 2007, when some 250 acts targeting Jews were recorded.

Vandals attack Venezuela synagogue in ’worst ever’ attack on Jewish community
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
An armed group vandalized Caracas’ oldest synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting walls in what Jewish leaders called the worst attack ever on their community in Venezuela. Two security guards were overpowered by about 15 people who ransacked the synagogue’s sanctuary and offices late Friday, leaving graffiti such as: We don’t want murderers, and Jews, get out. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro condemned the attack and promised it would be investigated, while reiterating his government’s opposition to what he called Israel’s criminal government. "We respect the Jewish people, but we ask respect for the people of Palestine and their right to life," Maduro said in a ceremony called to welcome home two Venezuelan diplomats expelled from Israel this week.

London: Protest against IDF officer
Ynet, YNetNews 1/31/2009
4 arrested during protest across from London Jewish center; protesters call for reserves colonel to be put on trial -Four people were arrested, Friday, as dozens protested in London against the visit of Israel Defense Force reservist, Col. (res) Geva Rapp, to a Jewish center in the city. British media reported that between 80 to 100 protesters gathered in front of the Jewish London Student Center in protest of the colonel’s arrival. One, who was holding a ’Free Palestine’ sign, attempted to scale the building and was detained after reaching a first-floor window. According to the reports, protesters demanded that the officer be arrested. Demonstrators dispersed after a police officer announced Rapp would not be arriving. Stewart Halforty, of the Stop The War Coalition, told British newspaper The Telegraph: "We found out that Colonel Geva Rapp was speaking. . .

Lebanese cargo ship to challenge Israel’s Gaza blockade
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Lebanese freighter is currently en route from the port of Tripoli to the Gaza Strip in the most recent attempt to break Israel’s military blockade of the territory by sea. Some 75 people are on board the ship including lawyers, doctors, journalists, human rights activists, and a catholic bishop. The ship is loaded with 1,400 tons of food and medical supplies for Gaza. In 2007 a group of human rights advocates sailed to Gaza four times in defiance of the Israeli blockade. Israel’s Navy has blocked recent attempts to sail to Gaza. The coordinator of the National Committee to break the siege of Gaza, Ma’en Bashur, said that the Lebanese ship is “first, a contribution in breaking the ongoing assault on Gaza, second a solidarity message and support to Gaza, third, a confirmation to the Palestinians that they are not alone, fourth a practical translation. . .

Al-Aqsa Brigades claim responsibility for firing on Nablus area settlement
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility opening fire on the illegal Israeli settlement Itamar, near the West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday evening. The Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed that an Israeli soldier was injured by the shooting. The Israeli military reports that Palestinians opened fire towards a hilltop adjacent to the settlement, and that no one was injured. Israeli forces are reportedly searching the area for the shooters. [end]

Israeli forces invade two Jenin area villages
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Jenin –Ma’an – Israeli army invaded the villages of Al-Yamun and Silat Al-Harthiya, west of the West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday. Palestinian security sources in Jenin said that Israeli troops invaded the two towns in the early morning hours, roaming the streets and sporadically firing in the air. Israeli forces withdrew shortly after. No arrests or raids of houses were reported. [end]

Clashes erupt as Israeli troops detain eight from Qalqiliya area, ransack homes
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Israeli troops detained eight men in Hijjah village near Qalqiliya before dawn on Friday and took the men to an unknown destination. Clashes erupted on between the villagers and the Israeli troops as they entered the village, though no injuries were reported. Witnesses said Israeli troops overran the village at 2:00am and raided several houses, one from the Masalha family where the troops damaged the home and detained 23-year-old Zakariyah Mufid Masalha. A second home near the Masalha’s was also raided, and brothers Khader and Assem Masalha were also detained. In a telephone call with Ma’an Wael Masalha detailed the raid on his home. Troops forced their way into the home, he said, and forced his family to gather in one room while his brother was detained. Masalha added that the troops also detained Issam Husni Masalha, Muhammad Masalha,. . .

IOF conducts 32 incursions into West Bank towns and villages in a week
Palestinian Information Center 1/30/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The IOF has stepped up its daily incursions in various parts of the West Bank, conducting 32 such incursions during the fourth week of January and making numerous arrests. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said in its weekly report that most of these daily incursions into West Bank towns, villages and refugee camps are characterised by random firing, destruction of property and large scale arrests. The PCHR added that 64 Palestinians, including 15 children were arrested during those incursions. The IOF also commandeered a house in the village of Batteer to the west of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem and turned it into a military post during one of the incursions.

Palestinians in Gaza launch Grad rocket into Ashkelon
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
A Palestinian Grad rocket exploded in Ashkelon on Saturday morning, according to Israel Radio. The projectile struck an open field in the city. Authorities are now searching for the precise landing spot, Israel Radio reported. No injuries were reported in the attack. Decision-makers in Jerusalem said Israel would continue to launch pinpoint strikes against Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz has learned. Israeli aircraft on Thursday wounded 10 Palestinians in the attempted killing of a Hamas operative in southern Gaza. Palestinian militants launched two Qassam rockets and one mortar round into Israel, resulting in no casualties or damage. Hezbollah, meanwhile, has vowed to strike Israeli targets, and Cypriot authorities Wednesday detained an Iranian arms ship that Israel believes may have been en route to Hezbollah.

Gaza Grad hits Ashkelon first time since ceasefires called
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Grad fired from Gaza hit Ashkelon shortly after sunrise Saturday morning, Israeli sources reported. The missile was the first Grad launched since the ceasefires were called, and the first to hit a major Israeli center. According to the sources, the projectile hit an open area on the outskirts of the city causing no casualties or damage, but triggering the alarm siren set up to warn residents of projectile launches. [end]

Israel to carry out attacks against Hamas and other targets in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
Israeli online daily Haaretz reported on Friday morning that Israel has decided to carry out what has been described as pinpoint attacks against Hamas and other factions in the Gaza Strip in retaliation to an attack carried out against Israeli soldiers at the Kissufim crossing on Tuesday. One officer was killed and three soldiers were wounded in the attack, which came in response to Israeli military strikes in Gaza, carried out after the unilateral ceasefire was declared by Israel on January 17th. Haaretz stated that Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, held a meeting on Thursday night with Israel Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, where they agreed upon "limited attacks" in the Gaza Strip. The convening leaders also decided to carry out further offensives at the "right time", based on what Haaretz refers to as practical considerations and facts on the ground.

Palestinian Eagles Brigades: Beware of Israeli technology in war follow-up
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - The Palestinian Eagles Brigades called on all Palestinian forces and factions to be cautious and aware of new Israeli monitoring technology. The faction, an offshoot of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades, began announcing military activities during the Israeli war on Gaza. In a Friday statement the group warned all factions to beware of “indirect methods and war tactics” used by the Israeli military and their monitoring technology. Israel was not able to achieve their goals in Gaza and they want to make up for their losses by continuing their attacks against the resistance and the political leadership. Israeli threats “won’t stop us” the statement said, and vowed to continue resistance when it was necessary.

Projectile lands in Israel; previously unknown brigades claim launch
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A new military group calling themselves the Nation Troops Brigades claimed to have launched a projectile at a group of Israeli military personnel at the Al-Ahrash area east of the Zaitoun neighborhood of Gaza City Friday morning. The brigades said the attack came as a response for the Israeli crimes against Palestinians. The Natin Troops have not previously claimed any projectile lauches, and say they are unafiliated with any group or faction. [end]

West Bank demonstrations for Gaza under siege
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/31/2009
Ramallah -- Demonstrations throughout the West Bank began early Friday and continued through the evening with calls for solidarity with Gaza. Although the major Israeli invasion has ended, the siege and closure have not. The weekly nonviolent Palestinian demonstration in western Ramallah’s Bil’in was marred by a brutal response by Israeli forces. Further south in the West Bank’s Hebron yesterday 17 people were injured. After Friday prayers in Bil’in a group of some 200 residents, members of the Popular Struggle Front and foreign supporters walked together waving Palestinian flags and banners. Calls were issued for solidarity with the people of Gaza who remain under siege and closure, and for the prosecution of Israeli leaders as war criminals. The Popular Struggle Front hoisted banners written with demands to remove settlements and the Wall.

Demonstrations against the Wall in Ma’sara, Bi’lin and Ni’lin
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 1/31/2009
Demonstrations against the Wall occurred this week in al-Ma’sara, Bi’lin and Ni’lin. Despite the ongoing attacks from soldiers sent to control and suppress the demonstrations, villagers have shown no signs of abandoning weekly actions against the Wall. In Ma’sara, dozens of people marched from the village school to the Wall. Protestors carried Palestinian flags as well as pictures of George Habash in commemoration of the anniversary of his death. Upon reaching an area near the threatened lands, villagers and organizers chanted slogans against the Occupation and gave speeches. Additionally, demonstrators blockaded the road leading to the Efrata settlement for a short time. Soldiers stationed in the area responded by beating several people and confiscating IDs, on the grounds that the area was a closed military zone.

This Week in Palestine -Week 05 2009
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 12 m 0s || 10. 9 MB || This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for January 24th through to January 30th 2009. As Hamas representatives are holding talks in Cairo over reaching a truce with Israel, more Palestinians died this week of wounds they sustained during the latest offensive These stories and more, coming up, Stay tuned. Nonviolent Activities Let us begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank with IMEMC’s Eliza Sprout: Ramallah People left the village of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah after Friday prayers in a massive demonstration, in which international and Israeli peace activists also participated. Waving Palestinian flags and banners people marched calling for solidarity with the people of Gaza,. . .

Dozens suffered teargas inhalation during the Bil’in Weekly Demonstration
Abdullah Abu Rahmah, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
People left the village of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah after Friday prayers in a massive demonstration, in which a group of international and Israeli peace activists. Waving Palestinian flags, and banners people marched calling for solidarity with the people of Gaza, and for the prosecution of war criminals and leaders of the Israeli occupation soldiers, as well as slogans calling to national unity. The march drew a crowd of cadres and members and supporters of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, hoisting banners and chanting slogans calling for unity and the removal of settlements and the wall and lifting the siege on Gaza. The demonstrators marched in the streets of the village, chanting slogans the same content, and calls for national unity, and condemning the policy of occupation, racism and the construction of the wall and the settlements.

Thousands march Ramallah streets for Gazan relief and support
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Thousands of mothers and their children marched the Ramallah streets Friday as part of a public demonstration organized by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The protesters condemned the Israeli violence in Gaza and called for an end to the siege. They held signs asking that war criminals be brought to trial and asked Palestinian leaders to work for national unity. Small children raised Palestinian flags and photos of those lost in the Gaza war. They held banners asking the international community to affirm the right of Palestinians to exist. The march finished at the Baladna Cultural Center in Ramallah where activities were held in solidarity for the people of Gaza. Children drew pictures and wrote letters of support and encouragement for Gazan children telling them to move forward despite the sadness.

PCHR this week: Israeli forces shoot farmers and journalists
Palestine News Network 1/30/2009
Gaza City’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights issued its weekly report for the period of 22 - 28 January 2009. Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Continue to Impose a Total Siege on the Gaza Strip A Palestinian farmer was killed by IOF, and two civilians, including a child, died of previous injuries. 17 Palestinian civilians, including four children and two international journalists were wounded by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. IOF conducted 32 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. IOF arrested 64 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, including 15 children. IOF transformed a house in Battir village near Bethlehem into a military site.

Israel plans to build up West Bank corridor on contentious land
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Israel has invested close to NIS 200 million during the past two years in preparing infrastructure for construction of housing units to create a contiguous block between Ma’aleh Adumim and East Jerusalem. The neighborhood of Mevaseret Adumim, slated to be built on Area A1, has so far not been built because of strong American opposition. However the construction of a police base in May 2008 opened a window for massive construction in the area. It is doubtful all this construction was meant to serve several hundred policemen and civilians traveling to the headquarters daily. The building of the police station, which was done with all required permits, appears to have been a necessary stage in the "claiming" of A1 ahead of constructing residential neighborhoods there. Ma’aleh Adumim is an inalienable part of Jerusalem and the State of Israel in any permanent settlement," read a statement from the office of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

BBC on Haaretz report: Israeli settlements on Palestinian land
Palestine News Network 1/31/2009
BBC - The Israeli defence ministry has concealed information about the extent of illegal settlement-building in the West Bank, a leading newspaper reports. A classified database of construction compiled by the ministry was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It suggests most construction took place without the right permits, and more than 30 settlements were built in part on land owned by Palestinians. Settlements are a contentious issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The defence ministry has not commented on the report, which appears to contradict Israel’s official position that it does not requisition private land for settlements. The internationally-backed "road map" peace plan also calls on Israel to halt all settlement activity. Publication ’blocked’ - The database - compiled over about two years - was leaked to Haaretz by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.

US envoy meets Israeli intelligence officials
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
WASHINGTON - US envoy George Mitchell, who is touring the Middle East, met Israeli intelligence officials on Thursday in Jerusalem, the State Department said. Mitchell had "productive meetings" with Mossad director Meir Dagan, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin and Israeli army chief Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood told reporters. Mossad is the external intelligence agency and Shin Bet the internal one. These meetings took place before Mitchell’s visit to Ramallah during which he met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the spokesman said, adding that the US envoy was also due to meet Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad. Wood said that on Friday Mitchell will meet right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who opinion polls show is the favorite to win the Israeli elections next month.

Talking to Gaza
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
"Hamas is responsible for everything that goes on in the Gaza Strip," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said. "Hamas is responsible for planning the [recent bombing] attack and perhaps even more," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told us, adding that Hamas is responsible for both harming civilians and for Gilad Shalit’s well being. But Hamas is not only "responsible" - it is playing a central role in the ongoing talks in Egypt to extend the cease-fire and to reopen the border crossings. Hamas will set the conditions for a reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority; Europe is reevaluating its policy toward the group; Turkey believes it should become a political organization that "does not carry weapons," and Hamas is suggesting that U. S. President Barack Obama negotiate with it. On the face of it, history can now rejoice.

Blair encourages Hamas involvement
Ynetnews, YNetNews 1/31/2009
Quartet’s envoy to Middle East says Hamas should be part of peace process in region, but adds Hamas must do so ’on the right terms’ - Hamas should be part of the Middle East peace process, according to Tony Blair, former prime minister and Middle East envoy of the Quartet Powers (United States, United Kingdom, Russia and the European Union). The Times, on their website, published an interview Friday evening between Blair and Ginny Dougary of the Saturday Magazine, in which the former prime minister implicitly criticized the strategy followed by the most recent Israeli and American administrations of focusing all peace and reconstruction efforts on the West Bank. "It was half of what we needed," he said. Blair added that the strategy of "pushing Gaza aside" and trying to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank "was never going to work and will never work.

Hamas hails Blair comments as shift in stance toward Gaza government
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-run government in Gaza said on Saturday that it sees a shift in international policy towards Hamas in a comment by Tony Blair, the international envoy to the Middle East, who said the Islamic movement should be involved in the peace process. “Blair’s statement is a change in the stance of the international community towards Hamas,” said Yousif Rezqa, an advisor to Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister in the Gaza government. Blair, the former UK prime minister and the representative of the Quartet of world powers, told the Times of London, "I do think it is important that we find a way of bringing Hamas into this process, but it can only be done if Hamas are prepared to do it on the right terms. " "If you do this in the wrong way it can destabilize the very people in Palestine who have been working all through for the moderate cause," he added.

Blair: Hamas should be part of peace process
Haaretz Service and Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
Hamas should be part of the Middle East peace process, said Tony Blair, former British prime minister and envoy to the region of the international quartet of powers, in comments published on Friday. "I do think it is important that we find a way of bringing Hamas into this process, but it can only be done if Hamas are prepared to do it on the right terms," Blair said in an interview with the Times of London newspaper, published on its Web site. Blair is the Middle East envoy for the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union. Blair told the newspaper that that the strategy of "pushing Gaza aside" and trying to create a Palestinian state on the West Bank "was never going to work and will never work.

Hamas slams Blair’s statements as old scenario
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement deplored the statement of Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet to the Middle East, in which he said that Hamas must be included in the peace process but after renouncing resistance and recognizing Israel, considering it the same old scenario repeated by the West to cover up for its rejection of the Palestinian democracy. In a press statement received by the PIC, MP Mushir Al-Masri, the secretary-general of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, said that such statements are worthless and ridiculous because the idea of integrating the Movement into the peace process is rejected earlier by the Movement and many Arab and international parties. MP Masri underscored that Blair’s statement is considered a recognition that Hamas is a primary force in the Palestinian arena, adding that the repeated talk about not ignoring Hamas confirms the European and global realization that all attempts to eliminate Hamas have failed.

Gaza leadership at odds over ceasefire position
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/31/2009
Gaza -- The relationship between the Hamas leaderships in Gaza and Damascus is currently in a state of severe chill. Reliable sources indicate that again the point of contention is how to deal with the Israeli occupation. There was a split in opinion regarding the status of the previous ’period of calm’ in the Gaza Strip. Khalid Meshal and Mahmoud Zahar are making headlines. Regardless of the noted Israeli violations, by not renewing it the Hamas party provided the excuse Israeli forces needed for the major attacks that reduced much of the Strip to rubble and killed 1,330 Palestinians. When Hamas political bureau leader living in exile, Khalid Meshal, declined to renew the ’period of calm,’ the Israeli administration used this as a pretext for the invasion. While the Gaza leadership was incensed that Israeli forces had not honored the ’period of calm,’ they had hoped nonetheless to prevent the major attacks.

Abu Zuhri: The victory of Gaza is a turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated Saturday that the victory of the Gaza Strip is a turning point in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, adding that the next stage is the stage of the victory of the resistance project and the failure of the settlement project. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Abu Zuhri said that this initial victory in Gaza encourages the resistance to continue on this path until the liberation of the Aqsa Mosque, considering the victory a new rebirth of the Arab and Islamic nation which revolted all over the world in support of the Palestinian resistance. Regarding the withdrawal of Turkish premier Recep Erdogan from Davos conference in Switzerland, the Hamas spokesman said that his Movement applauds the attitude of the Turkish premier in Davos and his withdrawal from the conference in protest of the Israeli disregard of the Palestinian blood.

Abu Marzouk: The Cairo ceasefire talks led to nothing new
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
DOHA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, said that the Cairo ceasefire talks did not lead to anything new, noting that it is not possible to accept truce without opening the crossings and lifting the siege. In an interview with Al-Jazeera website, Dr. Abu Marzouk underlined his Movement’s rejection to include the file of the prisoner swap deal in the current truce issue, adding that the Israeli prisoner would be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Regarding the Movement’s acceptance of a new control mechanism for the Rafah border crossing involving the PA in cooperation with Egypt, the Hamas leader said that the PA in Ramallah rebuffed such a proposal which was agreed upon with the Egyptian side. With regard to his reading of the goals of the last Israeli aggression on Gaza, Abu Marzouk underscored that Israel. . .

Israel, Hamas divided on ceasefire terms
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – While Hamas sources in Gaza have indicated they will accept a ceasefire deal with Israel, Hamas leader in exile Mousa Abu Marzouq said the Cairo plan cannot be accepted unless it includes opening the Gaza crossings and ending the siege on Gaza. On the Israeli side, Army Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday that sides were closer than ever in reaching a long-term ceasefire deal despite the recent violations of the two unilateral calls for a halt in violence earlier this month. While his words were optimistic, Barak told Israeli channel 10 TV that if Hamas does not stick to its commitments than Israel will “hit again in the same efficiency and strength. “During operation Cast Lead,” he said “Hamas received the toughest strike ever since it was established, and was shocked trying to close the ranks.

Barak: Israel to hit Hamas again if necessary
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday that Israel will strike against Gaza militants again if necessary. Barak said he hoped the truce that ended Israel’s three-week offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers holds. But he stressed that Israel is prepared to act again if Hamas continues to fire rockets at southern Israel. " Hamas was hit like it was never hit before," the defense minister told Channel 10 TV on Friday. "If we need hit Hamas again, we will. "Israel launched its offensive on Dec. 27 to stop eight years of near-daily militant rocket fire from Gaza at southern Israeli towns. Nearly 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, about half of them civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, three of them civilians.

Hamas to approve 18-month ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Hamas will approve a one and a half year truce, despite Islamic Jihad’s decision to “study the Egyptian proposal,” informed sources told Ma’an Thursday. Hamas will inform Egypt of its decision during meetings next week, and Islamic Jihad is expected to give a response at the same time. The sources noted that Hamas has approved the truce on the conditions that the crossings open on the date the agreement is set to start, and has okayed the deployment of international forces to monitor. The group rejected linking the ceasefire to the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, saying his file is connected to prisoner swap talks. The prisoner file, they added, is closed at the moment and is expected to remain so for the time being. On the issue of smuggling, the sources noted that opening the crossings will greatly reduce the. . .

Hamas wants Palestinian prisoners in Israel freed
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
GAZA CITY - Captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will not be released until Israel frees Palestinian prisoners, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip said on Friday. "Shalit will not see the light of day as long as our prisoners don’t see it either," Khalil al-Hayya told hundreds of people at a rally in Gaza City. "We are ready to speed up (efforts towards a swap) so the release of prisoners will take place," he said. Israel has linked a permanent opening of the Gaza Strip’s crossing points, which Hamas is seeking, to the fate of the soldier, who was captured by Palestinian resistance fighters in a deadly cross-border raid in June 2006. Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated on Friday in Gaza City and in the northern town of Jabaliya against Israel’s offensive. Print

Hayeh declares victory over Israel
Ap And Jpost.com Staff, Jerusalem Post 1/30/2009
In a first public appearance since he went into hiding a month ago, when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayeh addressed more than 5,000 supporters rallied in Gaza on Friday, declaring Hamas’s victory over Israel. Hayeh remained defiant despite Hamas’ heavy losses in the three weeks of fighting that devastated much of the city. "We thank God when we see our houses bombed and our institutions destroyed, but our people say yes to the resistance and yes to martyrdom for the sake of God," Hayeh said, standing in front of the damaged Palestinian parliament building. "We say proudly that Gaza has won the war, the resistance has won the war, and Hamas has won the war," said Hayeh.

Egypt started installing surveillance cameras at the Gaza border
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
The Egyptian Authorities started installing surveillance cameras along the Gaza-Egypt border in an attempt to monitor smuggling into Gaza and the digging of tunnels across the border. Egyptian security sources said that the operation was initiated two days ago and is being conducted in cooperation with US, French and German experts. The United States vowed 32 M USD for technologies used in revealing locations of tunnels across the Gaza-Egypt border. The US also appointed several engineering experts to help Egypt in this issue. Israel says that the tunnels are used by Palestinian groups to smuggle arms and ammunition into the Gaza Strip, and pushed for US and European help in monitoring the borders and stop the smuggling of arms into Gaza. Since Israel imposed its strict siege on Gaza in mid June of 2007, the tunnel also became the only source of goods and food to the 1.

Sources: Egypt begins installing cameras, sensors at Gaza border
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Egypt has begun installing cameras and motion sensors along its border with the Gaza Strip to try to combat smuggling to the Hamas-run territory, security sources said on Saturday. The sources said Egyptian authorities had begun installing the equipment two days ago with joint U. S. , French and German expertise, and added that they hoped the sensors and cameras would help detect any tunnel construction in the border area. "Cables that are part of a tunnel detection device are being installed along the Gaza-Egypt border," a security source said, adding the cables were being installed from south of Rafah to the Mediterranean coast. The source said some cameras and sensors had already been installed, and the cameras would be connected by the cables. For the 1. 5 million people in the Gaza Strip, the tunnels have become a main source of goods, including fuel, since Israel tightened its embargo after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Egypt says it detained two armed Palestinians after exiting a border tunnel
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/31/2009
Israeli Ynet News reported on Friday that Egyptian security forces detained two armed Palestinians after they emerged from a tunnel across the border. The security forces also said that they are searching for seven other Palestinians believed to have made it through into Egypt. An Egyptian security source said that the two gunmen were detained immediately after they exited the tunnel at the Gaza-Egypt border. The source added that the arrested Palestinians informed the interrogators that seven other Palestinians managed to cross into Egypt and that Egyptian security forces are searching the area in an attempt to locate them. Egypt vowed to Israel and the United States to counter the tunnels issue and stop arms and goods smuggle through them into the Gaza Strip. Israeli military sources stated Friday that although Israel carried its 22-day war, several tunnels are still intact and Palestinian fighters could use them to rearm.

Abbas heads to Cairo for urgent talks, postponing Europe visit
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed a planned official visit to Europe and is instead flying to Cairo to address “urgent developments,” an aide told Ma’an on Saturday. Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeina said that “the president’s visit to the Czech Republic will be agreed on later with the Czech government which is currently the rotating president of the European Union. ”Nabil Amr, the Palestinian ambassador to Cairo, said that Abbas will begin a visit to Egypt on Saturday afternoon. Amr said that the president will meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday morning to discuss Egypt’s to consolidate the Gaza ceasefire and bring the rival Palestinian factions together. Abbas had planned to visit the EU offices in Strasbourg, France, in addition to the UK, Italy, Turkey and Poland for talks aimed at stabilizing the Gaza ceasefire and reconstruction.

Egypt installs cameras, sensors on Rafah border in bid to stop smuggling
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Egypt is installing cameras and motion sensors along its border with the Gaza Strip in a US-backed attempt to crack down on smuggling. Egyptian security sources told Reuters that they began installing the equipment two days ago with the help of experts from the US, France, and Germany, hoping the sensors will detect any tunnel construction under the border. "Cables that are part of a tunnel detection device are being installed along the Gaza-Egypt border," a security source said, adding the cables were being installed from south of Rafah to the Mediterranean coast. Israel heavily bombed the Rafah border area, seeking to destroy the tunnels during its three-week offensive in Gaza. Palestinian smugglers maintain an elaborate network of tunnels, using them primarily to import goods made scarce by Israel’s blockade of Gaza’s commercial border crossings.

Egypt installing cameras on Gaza border
Reuters, YNetNews 1/31/2009
Egyptian security officials hope sensors, cameras will help detect tunnel construction in border area -Egypt has begun installing cameras and motion sensors along its border with the Gaza Strip to try to combat smuggling to the Hamas-run territory, security sources said on Saturday. The sources said Egyptian authorities had begun installing the equipment two days ago with joint US, French and German expertise, and added that they hoped the sensors and cameras would help detect any tunnel construction in the border area. "Cables that are part of a tunnel detection device are being installed along the Gaza-Egypt border," a security source said, adding the cables were being installed from south of Rafah to the Mediterranean coast. The source said some cameras and sensors had already been installed, and the cameras would be connected by the cables.

Egypt to host international Gaza reconstruction conference
DPA, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
Egypt will host an international conference on March 2 to raise funds for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip recovering from the destruction caused by a 22-day Israeli offensive, Egypt’s foreign ministry said Friday. "The ministry has started intensive diplomatic contacts to convene the conference," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said. The foreign ministers meeting will tackle means to secure funds for rebuilding the enclave, as well as securing urgent humanitarian aid for the Palestinian territory. "The conference is organized with full coordination between Egypt and the Palestinian Authority," Zaki said in a statement. The conference will also discuss political issues that might directly or indirectly affect efforts to rebuild the Strip.

Egypt slams Hezbollah chief as ’Iran agent’
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
CAIRO - Egypt on Friday accused Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah of being an ’agent of Iran’, after he accused Cairo of lying. Hezbollah has often accused the Egyptian regime of being a US and Israeli puppet, an accusation shared by many Egyptians who acknowledge that American military power is keeping their country’s dictatorship in power. The Egyptian regime is known for clamping down on its own opposition in a bid to prevent it from taking over parliament democratically. Hezbollah on the other had have huge popularity in Lebanon, especially in the south, as well as having their own MPs in parliament, despite inherited sectarian restrictions governing the laws of the country’s representative system. "Hassan Nasrallah’s criticism of Egypt confirms once more that he is nothing more than an agent of the Iranian regime and takes his orders from Tehran," it charged in a government statement.

Egypt arrests 2 armed Palestinians at Gaza tunnel
Reuters, YNetNews 1/30/2009
Security forces searching for seven others believed to have slipped into Egypt -Egyptian security forces arrested two armed Palestinians as they emerged from a border tunnel with the Gaza Strip on Friday, and were searching for seven others believed to have slipped into Egypt, security sources said. "Two Palestinian smugglers were caught immediately upon exiting a tunnel in the al-Barahma area of the border between Egypt and Gaza, and they were armed," one source said. The sources said the detained Palestinians told investigators that seven other Palestinians had crossed earlier on Friday, and Egyptian security forces were searching the area. For the 1. 5 million people in the Gaza Strip, the tunnels have become a main source of goods, including fuel, since Israel tightened its embargo after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Egyptian company supplied IOF with food during war on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/30/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- An Egyptian newspaper revealed that an Egyptian company supplied IOF troops with food through the Owja crossing during the war on Gaza while the Rafah crossing was closed in the face of relief supplies to Palestinians. Al-Osbo’ weekly said that regular convoys of lorries carried the food supplies from the Sadat city to the Owja crossing to deliver the products of the "International Union of Wholesome Food Products" to the Israeli "Channel Foods" company which in turn supplies it to the IOF troops. The paper expressed horror at the thought of an Egyptian company supplied the IOF troops with foods labelled "Latha" which means "Delicious" at  the time the Egyptian people were expressing their rage at the sorry state of the people of Gaza under siege and under attack. The paper gave details of drivers, their licence numbers, their addresses, the amount of food they. . .

Nasrallah: Egypt is not a fair mediator, Rafah crossing essential to Gaza life
Ma’an News Agency 1/30/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Hassan Nasrallah considers Egypt an unfair mediator for Palestinians because it played a role in maintaining the siege, and continues to enforce the closure of the Rafah crossing. "I condemn Egypt because they are closing the Rafah crossing,” said Nasrallah, secretary general for the Lebanese party Hizbullah, during an interview with Al-Manar TV from Lebanon on Thursday. “[Egypt] told the Arab and Islamic world that the Rafah border was opened and it was not. ”While Egypt’s presence on the southern border with Gaza “cannot be ignored,” he said, speaking the truth Egypt has not been honest and “I doubt if they can do anything positive for Palestinians. ”Nasrallah said he considered the Rafah crossings as a major component in the life of the Gaza Strip, and that closing it was a “crime against those [Palestinian] people.

NDP slams attacks
Gamal Essam El-Din, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
In the face of attacks from Islamist and leftist forces, the ruling National Democratic Party mobilised this week to defend Mubarak’s policies on Gaza - Gamal Mubarak addresses members of the ruling NDP Members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) gathered at two large rallies last weekend to defend the policies of President Hosni Mubarak on the Gaza Strip from attacks by Islamist and leftist critics. Led by Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son and chairman of the party’s powerful Policies Committee, NDP leaders slammed "those who have tried their best to tarnish the image of Egypt during the Israeli aggression on the Palestinians in Gaza. " NDP leaders were particularly infuriated by what they called "the attempts by some Islamist and leftist forces to use the war in Gaza to incite Egyptians against their democratically-elected government," these detractors including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, the Arab Nasserist Party and dissenting movements such as Kifaya (Enough).

Lebanon, Syria to bolster military cooperation
Middle East Online 1/31/2009
DAMASCUS - Lebanese defence minister Elias al-Murr discussed security cooperation and strengthening border controls during a visit to Damascus on January 28. Murr met with top Syrian politicians including President Bashar al-Assad to talk about cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces. His talks followed the establishment of diplomatic ties and a series of visits by senior Lebanese security and political officials over the past few months to discuss curbing the smuggling of weapons and the movement of Islamist militants across the border between the two states. Syrian officials say that a group of militants belonging to an Islamist organisation in Lebanon were responsible for a car bombing in Damascus last September in which at least 17 people were killed and 14 injured. An official news agency in Lebanon reported that the contentious issue of paramilitary bases. . .

New Syrian-Turkish economic ties forged
Middle East Online 1/31/2009
DAMASCUS - Syria and Turkey have recently bolstered economic relations by signing new agreements on trade, investment and finance. Experts say the growing ties between the neighbouring countries are in part a result of Ankara’s ambitions to expand into Arab markets via Syria. They are also a reflection of Damascus’s need to build new regional alliances in light of its deteriorating relations with certain Arab states, they say. “We have to work as a team to achieve development in both countries,” said Syrian prime minister, Abdullah al-Dardari, at a press conference following a joint meeting of Syrian and Turkish economic officials in Damascus in December. The meeting concluded with a decision to set up an industrial area for Turkish manufacturers in the Syrian industrial city of Hisyah, near the border with Lebanon.

Praying for rain: Palestine facing severe drought
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Dozens of Palestinian men gathered solemnly on a football pitch in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Saturday to pray for rain. Just before 7pm Saturday evening, their prayers were answered. For the first time in weeks a light rain began to fall in the West Bank. Nevertheless an unusually dry winter means that the aquifers have not been replenished, and Palestine could face the worst drought in years. According to the Palestine Water Authority, the country received only 143. 7 millimeters of rain from the beginning of the winter season until the end of January, or only 30% of the average rainfall for that period (434 millimeters). The head of the Palestine Water Authority, Shadad Al-Atili, warned that the country is facing a “dangerous situation” with regard to water in the coming months, since the lack of rain has “a great impact of the level of water that reaches the aquifers.

Mitchell rounds up Mideast tour in Saudi
AFP, YNetNews 2/1/2009
US President Obama’s special envoy meets with King Abdullah in Amman, Prince Saud al-Faisal in Riyadh on final leg of regional tour aimed at reviving peace process - US Middle East envoy George Mitchell flew in to the Saudi capital late on Saturday on the final leg of a regional tour aimed at reviving peace efforts, the official SPA news agency reported. Mitchell met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and was also expected to meet King Abdullah, a key force behind the Arab peace initiative to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Mitchell and Prince Saud discussed "the importance of moving the peace process forward" to achieve an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state, SPA said. Earlier in the day he met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who urged Washington to resume its efforts to clinch a two-state settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Study: U.S. Jewry’s willingness to strengthen Israel ties very low
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Although American Jews and Israelis share a strong and mutual feeling of solidarity, U. S. coreligionists have a very low willingness to strengthen the relationship, according to a new study on the subject. The Jewish Peoplehood research, whose findings will be presented on Tuesday at the Herzliya Conference, relies on questionnaires by some 3,000 Israelis and American Jews. Asked about the degree to which they feel connected to a Jewish brotherhood, both groups gave a similar answer which yielded an average score of 68 out of 100. But the research also shows that Americans possess a drastically lower level of willingness than the Israelis’ when it comes to strengthening the bond. While Israelis ranked 66, the Americans’ average score was 32. "The emotional attachment that US Jews have to Israel does not translate itself into willingness to act to strengthen this bond," the research states.

Sharansky: Netanyahu won’t clash with Obama
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 2/1/2009
Former minister Natan Sharansky, who has been a frequent guest at the White House in recent years, has rejected allegations from Kadima that if elected prime minister, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu would not get along with the administration of US President Barack Obama. Sharansky, who now heads the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center, was considered a mentor by former US president George W. Bush. He met with Obama a year ago and discussed the bottom-up theory of solving the Middle East conflict that Sharansky has been talking about for years and which has become the basis of Netanyahu’s "economic peace" diplomatic plan. Based on that conversation, Obama’s writings and the history of Israel’s relations with the US, Sharansky said he was convinced that Netanyahu would get along well with Obama’s. . .

MIDEAST: Mitchell Mission Risks Déjà vu
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 1/31/2009
JERUSALEM, Jan 30(IPS) - At the start of his Middle East presidential mission, Senator George Mitchell has listened to President Barack Obama’s recommendation earlier in the week on Al-Arabiya television that he "should start by listening, because ultimately we cannot tell Israelis and Palestinians what’s best for them. " "Listening", was indeed a central element in Mitchell’s first venture into his mission. But, with ongoing skirmishes between Hamas and the Israeli army, Mitchell’s initial talks per force focused even more on the immediate situation in Gaza and on fears that all-out fighting could resume, less on laying the groundwork for an all-out U. S. diplomatic re-engagement. Mitchell spoke of the "critical importance" of consolidating the ceasefire. This is not yet a threat to the Mitchell mission though he, like all in the region, will be mindful of the risk that all. . .

U.S. envoy Mitchell: Mideast peace process faces substantial hurdles
Barak Ravid and Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
United States Mideast envoy George Mitchell said on Friday the new U. S. administration’s push for Israeli-Palestinian peace after the war in the Gaza Strip faced substantial hurdles, and he predicted further setbacks. The somber assessment by former U. S. Senator George Mitchell followed two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders about shoring up a shaky cease-fire that ended Israel’s 22-day offensive on Gaza. Mitchell said consolidating the truce and "addressing immediately the humanitarian needs" of Gaza’s 1. 5 million residents were the Obama administration’s priorities. "Then we must move forward," he added, apparently referring to stalled peace talks that have now been derailed by the war. Earlier on Friday, Mitchell told Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu he plans to return to Israel shortly after February’s general elections.

Castro: Obama supports Israeli ’genocide’ in Gaza
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
HAVANA - Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro unleashed his first condemnation Thursday of US President Barack Obama, accusing him of following previous US administrations by supporting Israel’s "genocide" of the Palestinians. Castro attacked Obama for allegedly continuing the policies of his predecessor George W. Bush in giving unwavering support to Israel, and hence "sharing the genocide against the Palestinians. " The former Cuban president highlighted statements made by the Obama administration that reiterated its strong support for Israel, which recently fought a 22-day war on the Gaza Strip. In a foreign policy mission statement on its website, the US administration said its "incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America’s strongest ally in the Middle East. " According to the statement, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden "support. . .

Erekat: Linking Shalit with borders violates 2005 Gaza crossings agreement
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Jericho – Ma’an – Israel’s attempt to condition the opening of Gaza’s borders on the release of a captured Israeli soldier is “a clear violation of the Egyptian Initiative and the 2005 agreement on crossings,” the PLO’s top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said on Saturday. Erekat was referring remarks this week by Israeli officials, who are now linking the issue of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held by fighters in Gaza, with the negotiations over Gaza’s long-blockaded borders. The 2005 agreement allowed Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to operate the Rafah crossing with EU supervision. Erekat made this remark after meetings with the head of the EU monitoring mission at the Rafah border. Erekat also met the Norwegian representative to the Palestinian Authority, the UN’s envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry, and the British Consul General, Richard Makepeace.

Haneyya welcomes any efforts to rebuild Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/30/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian prime minister Ismael Haneyya said that his government is willing to facilitate the mission of  any Arab or international party willing to reconstruct the devastated Gaza Strip. He also added that the Palestinian national dialogue became a national imperative, especially at this point in time, in order to preserve the Palestinian national constants and legal rights. Haneyya made these remarks in an interview with Al-Quds satellite TV channel where he also described linking the construction program with the formation of Palestinian national unity as" deliberate" blocking of the rebuilding of Gaza Strip, explaining that such delay would be at the expense of the poor Palestinian citizens who lost their homes and farms. However, he stressed that his government was and still is open for national dialogue that would end the Palestinian political division, but. . .

Bishop who denied Holocaust apologizes to pope
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
A bishop recently rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XVI expressed regret Friday to the pontiff for the distress and problems he caused by denying the Holocaust. In a letter to the Vatican, Bishop Richard Williamson, who recently denied in a TV interview that 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, called his remarks imprudent. The letter was posted on Williamson’s personal blog and addressed to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who has been dealing with the rehabilitation of Williamson and other renegade bishops who had been excommunicated. The Holocaust denial had outraged Jewish groups and many others. It was not immediately clear if Williamson’s letter, which contained no apology for the content of his remarks, would ease that anger.

Jewish backlash against Vatican gathers pace
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
TEL AVIV - Israel’s chief rabbinate on Thursday cancelled talks with Catholic officials in Rome as a backlash against Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to reinstate a Holocaust-denying bishop gathered pace. "The five representatives of the chief rabbinate who were due to meet five Vatican representatives in Rome in March will not be able to participate in this meeting in the current state of affairs," the rabbinate’s director general Oded Wiener said. "The dialogue that we began in 2000 following the visit of former Pope John Paul II cannot continue as if nothing has happened after such a decision, announced nearly on the day that the international community commemorates the Holocaust," he said. Pope Benedict XVI has found himself in hot water with Muslims, native Indians, Poles, gays and even scientists during nearly four years as pontiff, but the current row comes in the run-up. . .

Ads to sell Israel as safe destination
Irit Rosenblum, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
The Ministry of Tourism is launching a NIS 26 million advertising campaign this week that aims to present Israel as a safe destination for tourists coming from abroad. The first stage of the campaign will target Germany, Russia, Italy and France. Additional stages are planned that will target countries including the United States, Canada and Great Britain. The ministry is already running an active campaign to recruit tourists from South Korea, Poland, Brazil and China. The ministry hopes the stepped-up marketing effort will overcome the negative effects on incoming tourism of the global economic crisis and the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip. "Without an approved annual budget and a significant increase in our budget, it will be impossible to duplicate the high tourist numbers that Israel recorded in 2008," Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila said.

Shoah survivors bilked for state compensation
Orly Vilnai, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
A 78-year-old Holocaust survivor was forced to pay NIS 9,393 just to fill out her forms to get her state allowance of only NIS 1,590 a month, according to the head of the department in the psychiatric hospital where she is hospitalized. Vika, who has a government appointed guardian to manage her affairs, is one of several survivors who have agreed to pay lawyers large sums to release the state funds. " We are asking your immediate intervention with the guardians. This is the simplest work, filling out the forms," read a letter sent from the head of the hospital to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on behalf of Vika last week. "If it is necessary, we are willing to fill out this form every Holocaust survivor for the symbolic fee of one shekel. "Vika, before being hospitalized a month ago at the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam, could not afford to eat, she said.

Leftist luminaries criticize Cast Lead, celebrate Shulamit Aloni’s 80th birthday
Noah Kosharek, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Shulamit Aloni celebrated her 80th birthday on Friday at an event in her honor which took place at Tel Aviv’s Tzavta Theater. The former Meretz politician and Israel Prize Laureate participated in a panel discussion hosted by journalist Ilana Dayan, with authors Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua and law professor Ruth Gavison. The participants discussed Operation Cast Lead. Amos Oz explained that he called for a cease-fire after two days because that was when he realized that the reaction of the Israel Defense Forces was disproportionate. "It should have been a pinpoint operation - and it turned into an all-out war with all the brakes off," he said. Oz added that the next two years will, in his opinion, be the most crucial in Israel’s history because, "for the first time in decades there is a possibility of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinian. . .

Arab MKs: Iran news agency falsified anti-Israel remarks attributed to us
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
Israeli Arab lawmakers denied on Saturday making statements that were attributed to them in an interview with official Iranian media. In the Iranian report, three members of Knesset - Jamal Zahalka, Ahmed Tibi, and Taleb al-Sana - reportedly issued blistering criticism of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip, with one member of Knesset said to have warned that the Arab minority in Israel possesses "a demographic weapon" against the Jewish state. "We are first and foremost Palestinians who are concerned with Palestinian interests," Balad MK Jamal Zahalka is said to have told the Iranian state news agency Fars on Saturday. "The aggressive nature of Zionist society towards the Arabs stems from the fear of the demographic weapon that we have as Palestinians who live here. . . "

Prosecutor says has ’substantial suspicions’ about Lieberman
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
The State Prosecutor’s Office has "substantial suspicions" that Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman engaged in offenses involving bribes, fraud and breach of trust, a government prosecutor said on Thursday. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s senior assistant Raz Nizri said this to the nonprofit group Ometz. He mentioned suspicions of false registration of corporate documents and money laundering. Mazuz told the High Court of Justice he could not say when his office would decide on how to pursue the investigation against Lieberman, whose actions have been probed for the past 11 years. [end]

Shas nabs promise for extra NIS 162 million for yeshivas
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
A bit of ultra-Orthodox history took place on Friday: Shas Chairman and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister, Eli Yishai, paid Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv a visit at his Jerusalem home. Elyashiv is the spiritual leader and patron of the Degel Hatorah faction of Agudat Yisrael. It has been years since Yishai was invited to meet a leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox public. Yishai and Meshulam Nahari, another Shas minister, were rewarded with the sought-after picture of the two beside the Ashkenazi rabbi. Yishai did not show up empty-handed. He and Nahari said they had managed to obtain another NIS 162 million from the Finance Ministry for yeshivas, in addition to the NIS 140 million already budgeted. The money made headlines in the ultra-Orthodox press and garnered a lot of praise for Shas from influential Ashkenazi rabbis.

Israel Heads into a Political Storm
Patrick Seale, Middle East Online 1/30/2009
Israel goes to the polls on 10 February in a collective state of mind that is highly disturbed and seemingly ill-prepared for the important choices which lie ahead. This is bad news for Israel itself, for its neighbours, and for the prospects for peace. The Israeli electorate will be struggling to find answers to at least three important questions: 1) How will the fall-out from the war in Gaza affect Israel? 2) What will Barack Obama’s Administration mean for U. S. - Israeli relations? 3) And which of the three or four Israeli politicians competing for the post of prime minister -- a mediocre lot by any standards -- can best be entrusted with Israel’s future? Although much of the world viewed the war in Gaza as a criminal enterprise against helpless civilians, in Israel it produced an alarming surge of flag-waving nationalist triumphalism.

Election watch / We certainly had a wonderful country
Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Even the virtual debate between the candidates for prime minister in the upcoming elections did not put the blush back into the cheeks of the campaign. It remained anemic. The old rules will remain, the old rulers will remain. Same musical selection for the same game of musical chairs, same nascent coalition, same policy. Questions were admittedly asked. , but the answers remained the same, ready-made, reheated TV dinner. For several days now, I have been wracking my brains to figure out in what way the current campaigns have been different from past ones. Why it is so gloomy. Yesterday I found the answer: We had a wonderful country. In the past, the cameras of elections videos soared like a bird, and we were able to see the old beautiful Israel from its point of view. We saw tractors and good, well-plowed soil, and the faces of well-meaning farmers, their faces plowed with wrinkles.

Hebron police arrest suspect in Qalqilia killing
Ma’an News Agency 1/31/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Palestinian police in the West Bank city of Hebron said on Saturday that they have arrested the culprit in the killing of a 43-year-old man near the city of Qalqilia last Tuesday. Hebron Police Chief Ramadan Awad told Ma’an that they delayed releasing the name of the suspect in the murder of Sa’id Jabir. He also said that the suspect had confessed to the crime a few hours after his arrest. “We delayed the release of the killer’s identity until clan dignitaries took the needed traditional procedures,” Awad said, referring to clan-based methods of conflict resolution. Awad said the case is still being investigated in detail. He said more information would be released later. Jabir was found dead by gunshots near the northern West Bank village of Beit Amin, south of Qalqilia, on Tuesday night.

Who torched my car?
Palestinian Information Center 1/31/2009
On Friday, 23 January, at 9:20 pm, unknown assailants  (I know their identities and have  handed  their names over to the police) set my car ablaze while parked in front of my home (in downtown Nablus). The arsonists jumped over the fence and poured a flammable substance all over the car. The car was burned down completely. On 30 December, a person, identifying himself as Muhdi Marqa, a resident of the al-Ein Refugee Camp, telephoned me saying he had just listened  to my interview with the al-Aqsa Television. He asked me to "calm down," adding that I could, if I wanted,  consider his call a threat. This is the  same person who  had  opened fire on  my car on 14 June, 2007, when he and other accomplices fired 60 bullets on it. He made sure that the bullets hit the engine in order to render the vehicle unusable.

An artistic upheaval
Salonaz Sami, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
Just a few days after the ceasefire which had brought the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip to an end, a group of artists of various nationalities decided to show their support for Gaza by getting together at an impromptu art festival dedicated to the cause. At the Townhouse Gallery in Downtown Cairo, top Egyptian underground bands such as West Al-Balad, Massar Egbari, Ressala, and Eskenderella took part in the three-day festival of harmony and solidarity. " Artists are surely an essential part of our society," said Salma Shukrallah, one of the organisers. "They wanted to show their solidarity and support in both word and action. "In that spirit, she added, 12 bands had graced the stage with their presence, each for a 30-minute set, and the entire proceeds had been donated to Gaza. The festival kicked off with a performance by Ressala, who got the crowds off their feet as they sang their famous hit track Abu Galabiya, which was featured in the 2008 film Ehna Etaabelna Abla Keda (Have we Met Before? ).

Modern Middle Eastern art show opening in London
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
LONDON - Works by 21 artists from the Middle East goes on show Friday at London’s Saatchi Gallery, with Iranians strongly represented. "Unveiled: New Art From The Middle East" runs to May 6 at the leading modern art gallery and also features work by Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraq artists among others. The 11 Iranian artists include Shirin Fakhim, whose grotesque figures made from everyday objects like rope, wigs and an abacus are inspired by the prostitutes of Tehran. Wafa Hourani, who lives and works in Ramallah in the West Bank, takes an unflinching look at the realities of Palestinian life, with one work imagining life in a Palestinian refugee camp in 2067. "Art from the Middle East is beginning to have its moment," said Saatchi Gallery spokeswoman Rebecca Wilson. "The number of artists emerging from the Middle East is going to go up considerably.

US refuses to rule out Iran attack
Al Jazeera 1/30/2009
The White House has refused to rule out the use of military force to put pressure on Iran to suspend its nuclear programme. Robert Gibbs, a White House spokesman, said Barack Obama, the new US president, was keeping open "all his options" in dealing with Tehran, despite signalling that he was prepared to engage in direct diplomacy. "The president hasn’t changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options," Gibbs said on Thursday in response to a question about the use of force against Iran. "We have many issues to work through - an illicit nuclear programme, the sponsorship of terrorism and the threatening of peace in Israel are just a few of the issues that this president believes the Iranian leadership must address," Gibbs said. Iran is engaged in a standoff with the West over its uranium enrichment programme, which it says is for the peaceful generation of electricity but which Western countries say is a cover to build an atomic weapon.

US denies drafting letter to Iran
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 1/30/2009
White House spokesman denies President Obama received letter from Iranian leader Ahmadinejad; State Department dismisses British report that US is working on response - WASHINGTON – Obama administration officials responded scornfully Thursday to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent demand for a change in the US policy in the Middle East, and dismissed a British report that the administration was drafting a letter to the Iranian authorities. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs, who was asked during his daily press briefing about a letter allegedly sent to US President Barak Obama by the Iranian leader, said that "neither the president nor the secretary of state has seen such a letter that I think was reported in an overseas newspaper, so I think that sort of closes the book on that. "State Department officials also clarified Thursday that no one at the White House or State Department was drafting a letter aimed at thawing relations between the two arch-foes.

White House: Obama retains all options with Iran
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama prefers diplomacy with Iran but preserves "all his options," the White House said Thursday, refusing to rule out military strikes despite promises of a new rapprochement. Asked if the military option was still on the table with regard to the Islamic republic, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "The president hasn’t changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options. " In tackling Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Obama believes "we must use all elements of our national power to protect our interests as it relates to Iran," he said. "That includes, as the president talked about in the (election) campaign, diplomacy, where possible, and that we have many issues to work through," Gibbs told reporters. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is running for re-election on June 12, having earlier congratulated Obama on his election,. . .

Report: Top U.S. official met with Ahmadinejad aide to discuss Iran nuclear program
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 1/31/2009
Former U. S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry held a series of previously undisclosed meetings with a senior aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to a report published on Friday in The Washington Times. The Washington Times quoted an unnamed source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic, as saying the talks took place with Ahmadinejad adviser Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi. The report added that the meetings were "discussions, not negotiations" about Iran’s nuclear program that aimed to clarify the two sides’ positions. It was not clear from the report whether Mr. Perry was acting at the behest of the Bush administration or others. The revelation about the meetings comes at a time when the administration of U.

Netanyahu: Iran won’t get its hands on nuclear weapons
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s leading candidate for prime minister, said yesterday that Iran will not be armed with a nuclear weapon. In an interview with Channel 2 TV, Netanyahu said if elected prime minister his first mission will be to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat. Netanyahu, the current opposition leader and head of the Likud party, called Iran the greatest danger to Israel and to all humanity. When asked if stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions included a military strike, he replied: "It includes everything that is necessary to make this statement come true. " Iran says it is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes and not for a weapons program. The Channel 2 broadcast interviewed all three candidates for prime minister ahead of the Feb.

Ship in Cyprus said to carry arms from Iran
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
The Cypriot authorities intend to continue holding a ship carrying suspicious cargo for at least several more days, a European diplomat told Haaretz yesterday. A search of the ship, which was sailing from Iran to the Syrian port of Latakia, found ammunition for T-72 tanks, used by the Syrian army, as well as various types of mortar shells, said a senior Israeli official. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called her Cypriot counterpart, Markos Kyprianou, yesterday and asked him to act to impound the weapons found on the ship. She said allowing the delivery of the weapons would violate UN Security Council Resolution 1747, which bans Iran from selling arms due to sanctions imposed following its breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The diplomat said that the decision concerning the ship will be taken after it becomes clear whether the cargo violates United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Israel asks Cyprus to unload arms from Iranian ship
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 1/31/2009
For several days now Cypriot authorities have been detaining the Gaza-bound vessel on the suspicion it is trying to transport arms to Hamas in violation of UN resolutions, Foreign Minister Livni urges counterpart Kyprianou to unload weaponry found on board while latter orders repeat search of the ship - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke with Cypriot counterpart Markos Kyprianou by telephone on Saturday, and asked him to unload the weaponry found aboard the Iranian vessel docked at Limassol port and apparently intended for the Gaza Strip. On Friday Cyprus ordered its security forces to begin searching the ship, which sails under a Cypriot flag. It was detained Thursday at the request of the United States and Israel. Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias confirmed the authorities had detained the ship and said without qualification that the ship had violated UN resolutions.

Cyprus: Iran ship’s cargo breaches UN resolutions
Reuters, YNetNews 1/30/2009
Cypriot president: Vessel’s cargo appears to violate Security Council resolutions - Cypriot authorities have detained a vessel from Iran and are investigating whether it was carrying an illegal cargo of weapons, diplomatic sources said on Friday. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias confirmed the authorities had detained a ship. He said the cargo appeared to be "in contravention of Security Council resolutions," but declined to give further details. "We are handling this situation in a responsible manner and I cannot make comments which could. . . cause more problems," Christofias told reporters. " We are investigating to see what it is carrying. "Diplomatic sources said the vessel had departed from Iran. One source said authorities were probing an apparent violation of United Nations resolution 1747, which prohibits the transfer of munitions and related materials from Iran.

Iraq poll counting started
Al Jazeera 2/1/2009
Counting is under way in Iraq after millions of voters cast ballots for influential regional councils around most of the country. The elections on Saturday were hailed by Barack Obama, the US president, as an important step towards Iraqis taking responsibility for their future. "I congratulate the people of Iraq on holding significant provincial elections today," Obama said in a statement on Saturday. He said the United States was proud to have provided technical assistance to the electorial commission, "which performed professionally under difficult circumstances. " The polls, seen as a test of the security situation in Iraq, closed at 6pm (1500GMT) following an hour’s extension by electoral authorities aimed at giving more Iraqis the opportunity to vote.

Bush’s War Totals
John Tirman, Middle East Online 1/31/2009
We are now able to estimate the number of Iraqis who have died in the war instigated by the Bush administration. Looking at the empirical evidence of Bush’s war legacy will put his claims of victory in perspective. Of course, even by his standards -- "stability" -- the jury is out. Most independent analysts would say it’s too soon to judge the political outcome. Nearly six years after the invasion, the country remains riven by sectarian politics and major unresolved issues, like the status of Kirkuk. We have a better grasp of the human costs of the war. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are about 4. 5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07.

Iraqi shoe-Bush-basher votes in prison cell
Middle East Online 1/31/2009
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at former US president George W. Bush in Baghdad has voted in secret from his prison cell in the country’s provincial election, a court official said. "Muntazer al-Zaidi voted on January 28," an official with the Central Criminal Court of Iraq said. "Nobody was allowed to ask him whom he would vote for so it would not be considered as a way of trying to influence his choice. " Police, soldiers, hospital patients and prisoners cast advance votes on Wednesday to avoid the security, logistical and electoral fraud problems which plagued the 2005 parliamentary elections. Zaidi, 29, gained instant international fame when he threw his shoes at Bush during the US president’s farewell visit to Iraq on December 14, an action considered a grave insult in the Arab world.

A guide to Iraq’s provincial polls
Al Jazeera 1/31/2009
Nearly 15 million Iraqis are eligible to cast their votes at polling stations in 14 of 18 provinces as Iraq holds its first provincial elections since 2005. More than 14,400 candidates will vie for 440 provincial council seats on January 31 in an electoral system Iraqis hope will help balance the power in a nation dismantled by sectarian warfare. Some analysts are predicting a massive Sunni Arab turnout and Sunni parties, many of which boycotted the last provincial polls in 2005, are hoping to gain a greater share of local power. Kirkuk will not hold elections as its status remains in dispute. Iraq’s parliament reached a compromise in October 2008 which allows Kirkuk’s elections to be delayed until a power-sharing agreement can be reached between the city’s Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities.

Iraqi Christian candidate fears for his life prior vote
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
HAMDANIYAH, Iraq - Sami Habib Istifo, a Christian candidate in Iraq’s provincial elections, has already lined up a replacement in case he is killed before voting day tomorrow, as two Sunni candidates were murdered in Mosul. The 49-year-old member of one of the war-torn country’s many minority groups is standing in the town of Hamdaniyah, in the northern province of Nineveh. "I do not rule out the possibility that I may be killed before the election, so a person has been chosen to take my place," said Istifo, a wry smile on his lips. Istifo has kept a very low profile in campaigning for the election, addressing only three public meetings and too afraid to venture across to the nearby city of Mosul to pick up his election posters. As a result, only the posters of Sunni Arab and Kurdish candidates have been plastered on walls across the town.

Sunni candidates killed before Iraq elections
Middle East Online 1/30/2009
BAGHDAD - Iraq on Friday prepared for its first election since 2005 with police and soldiers on high alert after gunmen killed candidates and campaign workers, raising security fears ahead of polling day. The run-up to Saturday’s poll had been relatively free of violence but the shooting of election contenders in Baghdad and in the cities of Baquba and Mosul, north of the capital, on Thursday night exposed the threat that such attacks could throw polling day into chaos. The elections -- being held in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces -- are seen as a key test of Iraq’s steadily improving stability. Campaigning for the vote officially ceased at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) on Friday and Iraq’s borders will be closed at 10:00 pm, while transport bans and night-time curfews will also be put in place as part of stepped up security measures.

Tribute to Iraqi shoe-thrower
Sabah al-Bazee in Tikrit, Iraq, The Independent 1/30/2009
Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit has unveiled a giant monument of a shoe in honour of the journalist who threw his footwear at the former US president George Bush. The 2m-high statue depicts a bronze-coloured running shoe. The inscription reads: "Muntazer: fasting until the sword breaks its fast with blood; silent until our mouths speak the truth. "It is in honour of Muntazer al-Zaidi, who hurled his shoes at Mr Bush and called him a "dog" at a news conference. Mr Zaidi has been held in jail in Baghdad since the incident. Fatin Abdul Qader, the head of an orphanage and children’s organisation in Tikrit, said the monument, by the artist Laith al-Amiri, was entitled Statue of Glory and Generosity. He added: "Iraqi hearts were were comforted by his throw. "

Partnering for diversity
Sherine Nasr, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
The Nabucco gas summit gives a boost to regional energy cooperation - Arab gas pipeline It is no longer difficult to imagine Egyptian gas flowing into Europe. This week, Budapest hosted a significant summit bringing together presidents and heads of governments who represent the potential partners for a gigantic 3,300km gas pipeline, Nabucco, planned to transport gas from Turkey to Austria by 2013-2014. Among the attendees was Egypt, which is believed to be a strategic Middle Eastern partner to the project. Future plans for the Nabucco pipeline is to be linked with the Arab gas pipeline, starting in Egypt and running through Jordan, Syria and finally Turkey. Although it has taken the Nabucco project some eight years to actually materialise, the long-awaited project could not have been given more attention before it finally took off.


Articles


Life in the Gaza Strip is not ’back to normal’
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
      GAZA - "Only aerial photographs of the Gaza Strip will make it possible to show and to comprehend the extent of the destruction," a number of Western civilians said this week. They added: "But there isn’t a chance that Israel will allow anyone to come with a light plane and do aerial photography."
     The talk of aerial photography reveals the frustration felt by everyone who has managed to come here. The frustration derives from the conclusion that the real dimensions of the Israeli attack on Gaza are not being fully comprehended in the West and in Israel. They go beyond the physical destruction, beyond the numbers of the dead and the wounded, beyond the deadly encounter between a bomb dropped from an F-16 and the hollow concrete and gravel house in the Yibneh refugee camp in Rafah. Three siblings aged 4 to 12 were killed there. Parents and two sisters were injured. The mother - who was nursing her infant daughter and heard and saw the bomb rushing towards them - is in a state of shock. She stares out at the world from her hospital bed in Egypt, and does not speak. The physical injuries can be treated.
     Volunteer doctors, architects who specialize in the rehabilitation of disaster zones, jurists whose aspirations reach into international courts for the investigation of war crimes, Red Cross teams, international human rights organization investigators with battle experience behind them, directors of government and independent development agencies, which transfer funds from development budgets to budgets for rehabilitation and rescue: All of them - not only journalists - are flooding the Strip, taking notes, taking pictures, exchanging information, documenting and carefully cataloguing what are emerging as patterns, phenomena that repeat themselves: shelling and bombing of buildings and enterprises that have no connection to the Hamas infrastructure - politically or militarily, the prevention of the evacuation of wounded, unfamiliar kinds of injuries, vandalism in homes that became Israel Defense Forces positions, destruction of agricultural areas and, above all, families - almost in their entirety - that were killed in their homes or as they tried to flee from the approaching tanks....

"and he stood steadfast before Goliath."
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, Palestine Monitor 1/31/2009
      When I was asked about Palestinian identity, one idea kept coming to mind. I wondered how this idea would translate into English, and I was told that it would be steadfastness.” I looked up "steadfast" in the dictionary: “Marked by firm determination or resolution - not shakeable - of firm convictions and strong resolve; of unbendable perseverance and unwavering loyalty.”
     It is pretty close to what I had in mind, but somewhat incomplete - it is hard to capture an entire people in a word. Steadfastness refers only to our Palestinian character of never - ever - giving in. It refers to our standing up to overwhelming odds time and again without a single friend in our corner. It is about our being beaten and abused in every way known to humanity, only to get back up with our heads held high.
     This is impressive; but if steadfastness were understood only in this way, it could easily be exchanged for a different, less appealing word: stubbornness.
     Not giving up, in and of itself, is not an admirable quality. After all, the rather unsavoury and racist group of Hebron’s Tel Rumeidan settlers could also be described as steadfast. After all, they too display “unwavering loyalty” or “firm convictions,” and they seemingly “never give up.”

Controversial Bestseller Shakes the Foundation of the Israeli State
Joshua Holland, MIFTAH 1/31/2009
      What if the Palestinian Arabs who have lived for decades under the heel of the modern Israeli state are in fact descended from the very same "children of Israel" described in the Old Testament?
     And what if most modern Israelis aren’t descended from the ancient Israelites at all, but are actually a mix of Europeans, North Africans and others who didn’t "return" to the scrap of land we now call Israel and establish a new state following the attempt to exterminate them during World War II, but came in and forcefully displaced people whose ancestors had lived there for millennia?
     What if the entire tale of the Jewish Diaspora -- the story recounted at Passover tables by Jews around the world every year detailing the ancient Jews’ exile from Judea, the years spent wandering through the desert, their escape from the Pharaoh’s clutches -- is all wrong?
     That’s the explosive thesis of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, a book by Tel Aviv University scholar Shlomo Zand (or Sand) that sent shockwaves across Israeli society when it was published last year. After 19 weeks on the Israeli best-seller list, the book is being translated into a dozen languages and will be published in the United States this year by Verso.

They Shoot Children from Womb to Cradle to Grave
Mohamed Khodr, Palestine Think Tank 1/31/2009
      Political cartoon by Carlos Latuff
     "There are only two powers in the world…the sword of the oppressor and the spirit of the oppressed. In the long run, the sword is always defeated by the spirit." - Napoleon Bonaparte
     "It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands." –Yoram Bar Porath, Yediot Aahronot, of 14 July 1972.
     "May the Holy Name visit retribution on the Arabs’ heads, and cause their seed to be lost, and annihilate them, and cause them to be vanquished and cause them to be cast from the world. It is forbidden to be merciful to them, you must give them missiles, with relish - annihilate them. Evil ones, damnable ones." – Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in a sermon discussing Passover and God’s wrath at Israel’s enemies, 8 April 2001. Some months ago he distinguished himself by describing Arabs as "snakes" whom "God regrets having created".... – Professor Arnold Toynbee, famed British Historian, in "A Study of HIstory"

The BBC’s Warped impartiality
Stuart Littlewood - London, Palestine Chronicle 1/31/2009
      The BBC wouldn’t help the Gaza Appeal because doing so might jeopardise the public’s confidence in the BBC’s impartiality.
     That’s laughable. Everyone I know has written several times to the BBC complaining about its glaring lack of impartiality when reporting the Palestine-Israel conflict. Some feel obliged to protest on a daily basis.
     So brazen is the British Broadcasting Corporation’s eagerness to "fudge it" for Israel that it is widely known here as the Zionist Broadcasting Corporation - the ZBC or Zee-Bee-Cee.
     The BBC delights in finding Palestinian spokesmen who lack media skills and whose speech is difficult to understand, while always wheeling in trained and polished Israeli PR people. The Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor is given plenty of air time but we rarely hear from his Palestinian opposite number, Professor Hassassian.
     Professional liars like Mark Regev with his ’friendly’ Australian accent are given a free ride by BBC presenters and interviewers, who are so poorly briefed -- having no doubt swallowed the disinformation that’s pumped out through Israel’s London embassy - that the most outrageous untruths and distortions go unchallenged.

’Myth of Exile’: Justifying Slaughter in Gaza
Janine Roberts, Palestine Chronicle 1/31/2009
      The ’myth of an exile’ is ’taught to members of the Israeli armed forces.’
     Many have been appalled by the seemingly mindless orgy of destruction of families, children, homes, streets, shops and orchards in Gaza carried out by the Israeli armed forces.It left me wanting to know what has happened to make ordinary well-educated Israelis think that it is morally right to do this to their comparatively unarmed neighbors?
     I perhaps stumbled on part of the answer in the bookstore at Tel Aviv airport on a recent visit to Israel.A map on display marked all the land from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea as Israel: there was no West Bank, no Gaza Strip. A travel book I admired for its photos of a beautiful land also described it all as Israel. Jericho was in Israel it stated, although deep inside the West Bank.
     If this bookstore is as typical as I suspect, then most Israelis are convinced they already own the lands now occupied by Palestinians. It is as if they see them, not as a sovereign people, but as a host of unwelcome and unruly tenants squatting Jewish lands.If this is so, then I thought there is little hope for a "Two State" solution.

War on Gaza: Israeli Action, Not Reaction
Nicola Nasser - Bir Zeit, The West Bank, Palestine Chronicle 1/31/2009
      Stubbornly insisting on getting the carriage before the horse as the approach to a ’durable and sustainable’ ceasefire in Gaza Strip, U.S. and European diplomacy in particular is building on an Israeli misleading premise that the 22 -- day military operation, dubbed ’Cast Lead,’ against the Palestinian Gaza Strip was a reaction and not a premeditated long planned scheme that found in the change of guards in Washington D.C. an excellent timing. It was ’not simply a reaction,’ but ’a calculation,’ Daniel Klaidman wrote in Newsweek on January 10.
     U.S. and European diplomats are reiterating the Israeli propaganda justification: "What would any normal country do if they were threatened by rocket fire? They would act." U.S. President Barak Obama was the last western leader to uphold this Israeli claim. "But Israel is not a normal country, it is an occupying country," former Palestinian - Israeli member of Knesset Azmi Bishara said. Moreover what country would tolerate an eight -- year siege and not consider it an act of war without any national reaction? Why should western diplomacy judge Palestinians in Gaza as universally abnormal.

Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum
William A. Cook, Palestine Chronicle 1/31/2009
      C-Span provided Americans a chance to view a World Economic Forum debate on Peace in the Mid-East on the 29th from Davos, Switzerland. Americans rarely have an opportunity to view a civilized debate on the crisis in Palestine, but to witness the anger of Israel’s representative at the Forum, President Shimon Peres, was unique indeed.
     Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented a carefully detailed analysis of the lead up to and the consequences of the Israeli invasion of Gaza followed by a second logically stated argument against the Israeli government’s action by Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League. Both men presented their arguments in a calm and deliberate manner that gave strength and credibility to their presentations. However, President Peres squirmed uncomfortably in his chair as he listened to these arguments and to the audience’s positive reaction to them.
     In his response, Peres launched into a passionate defense of the Israeli state’s invasion pointing to three primary points that justified the attack.

Try Israeli War Criminals, in Israel
Uri Avnery – Israel, Palestine Chronicle 1/31/2009
      ’My list of suspects includes politicians, soldiers, rabbis and lawyers.’
     A Spanish judge has instituted a judicial inquiry against seven Israeli political and military personalities on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case: the 2002 dropping of a one ton bomb on the home of Hamas leader Salah Shehade. Apart from the intended victim, 14 people, most of them children, were killed.
     For those who have forgotten: the then commander of the Israeli Air Force, Dan Halutz, was asked at the time what he feels when he drops a bomb on a residential building. His unforgettable answer: "A slight bump to the wing." When we in Gush Shalom accused him of a war crime, he demanded that we be put on trial for high treason. He was joined by the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who accused us of wanting to "turn over Israeli army officers to the enemy". The Attorney General notified us officially that he did not intend to open an investigation against those responsible for the bombing.

Every family has a story, here are some of them
Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/30/2009
      There are many stories. Each account -- each murdered individual, each wounded person, each burned-out and broken house, each shattered window, trashed kitchen, strewn item of clothing, bedroom turned upside down, bullet and shelling hole in walls, offensive Israeli army graffiti -- is important.
     I start to tell the stories of Ezbet Abbed Rabu, eastern Jabaliya, where homes off the main north south road, Salah al-Din, were penetrated by bullets, bombs and/or soldiers. If they weren’t destroyed, they were occupied or shot up. Or occupied and then destroyed. The army was creative in their destruction, in their defacing of property, in their insults. Creative in the ways they could shit in rooms and save their shit for cupboards and unexpected places. Actually, their creativity wasn’t so broad. The rest was routine: ransack the house from top to bottom. Turn over or break every clothing cupboard, kitchen shelf, television, computer, window pane and water tank.
     The first house I visited was that of my dear friends, who we’d stayed with in the evenings before the land invasion began, with whom we had huddled in their basement as the random crashes of missiles pulverized around the neighborhood. I worried non-stop about the father. After seeing he was still alive, I’d done the tour, from the bottom up. The safe-haven ground floor room was the least affected: disheveled, piles of earth at bases of windows where it had rushed in with a later bombing which caved the hillside behind, mattresses turned over and items strewn. This room was the cleanest, least damaged.

Israel Faces the Gaza Aftermath
Dan Lieberman, International Middle East Media Center News 1/30/2009
      From self-deception to self-destruction
     Digging through the pulverized ruins of Gaza revealed the extent of damage to the Palestinian community.
     Still not revealed are exact reasons for Israel’s attack, its sudden willingness to halt the damage and what awaits a shaken Middle East in the future. Clues that contradict the given reason for the attack - rockets hitting Israeli soil – are: (1) rockets have been hitting southern Israel since 2002, (2) the initial rocket barrage caused no casualties, and (3) the intensive emphasis on the rocket attacks as the reason for Israel’s overly aggressive counterpunch, with almost all Israelis and foreign newspapers reciting that theme, seemed too arranged, more like concerted propaganda, and an attempt to divert attention from more valid explanations.
     Regardless of the conflicting views of events, an inevitable drift to war was set in ...

The new siege mechanism
Nicola Nasser, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      Some within the pro-US Palestinian establishment, to Israel’s manifest interest, are seeking to condition aid to Gaza on their reassertion of power in the coastal Strip.
     The rebuilding of Gaza has become the latest siege weapon. The Israeli occupation, the US that had backed its offensive, and the EU which did nothing to stop it are conspiring to turn the reconstruction process into a means to produce a suitable "peace partner" while the Arab summit in Kuwait hopes to use it to bring about Palestinian reconciliation. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) government is urging all parties and others to look to it as the sole channel for administering the construction process on the grounds that it is the government formed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation that is recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Soon we will see that freezing reconstruction will become the tool of all those parties for extracting from the resistance what they have been unable to gain from three weeks of warfare and the long blockade that preceded it.
     Israel, the occupying power, is determined to keep a tight grip on the reconstruction process, which is why it sustained its closure of the border crossing following its "unilateral" ceasefire. Indeed, this is why it declared the ceasefire unilaterally: it did not want to be bound by any agreement -- the Egyptian initiative or any other framework -- that would oblige it to lift the embargo, if only partially, in order to facilitate reconstruction. Tel Aviv has also been seeking to obtain "guarantees" from international agencies such as UNWRA. On 19 January Reuters reported that Western diplomats revealed that Israel had asked the UN and other agencies to submit itemised lists of the goods, equipment and staff that they intend to send into Gaza, whether for urgent relief or for the more long-term reconstruction process....

Victims twice over
Azmi Ashour, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      Once again, the Palestinians find themselves pawns of regional power struggles while brutalised by a barbaric Israel.
     Developments in the Middle East bring to the fore many contradictions, ambiguities and falsehoods. Events in Gaza, today, throw into relief the fact that some of the world’s commonly held perceptions on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict are founded on little more than skewed facts and myths. Foremost among these misperceptions is Israel’s peaceful intent. Israel has routinely snubbed sincere peace initiatives to end the conflict, preferring instead to manage the conflict in its own relentless way, which depends heavily on aggression, killing and destruction, along with economic siege, all given a veneer of legitimacy for domestic and foreign consumption. Consequently, the other side must be forever vigilant in order to forestall an attack that could happen at any moment on such feeble pretexts as "self-defence" cited by Israel and those who have vested interests in its policies. Which leads us to the question as to whether the universally acknowledged right to self-defence is one that is denied to the Palestinians.
     As events in Lebanon in 2006 and these weeks in Gaza testify, violence on the part of the resistance has always been in response to Israeli violence. After more than 50 years of being on the receiving end of the Israeli creed of employing brute force, the Palestinians have developed a kind of immunity to fear or surrender. Over time, the Palestinians have evolved the ability to choose the most appropriate means to contend with Israel’s powerful and advanced military machine....

The silence of the jurists
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
      One silence, of all the shameful silences, has thus far roared especially loud - the silence of the jurists. The 41,000 attorneys in the state of Israel are entrusted with protecting its image as a lawful state, and this large and grand army has once again strayed from its function. There is a deep suspicion throughout the world that Israel carried out a series of war crimes, and the jurists of our country are holding their peace.
     Where, for instance, is Aharon Barak when we really need him? Where are his colleagues, the former justices of the Supreme Court, who knew very well how to raise their voices when Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann threatened to harm the apple of their eye, and who now hide in their cowardly silence?
     Where is Mishael Cheshin, who threatened to cut off the hand of anyone who raises it against the Supreme Court no less, and now, with a heavy shadow being cast before us, does not say a word? Do they not know that disproportionately harming a civilian population, supply convoys and medical crews, the use of white phosphorus in the midst of population centers and indiscriminate bombings are considered war crimes? What is their response to their enraged colleagues around the world? Are they convinced that Israel carried out these crimes or not? In both instances, their voice is vital and their silence is abominable.

Pearls of Gaza – A Poem
Andrea Lamb, Palestine Chronicle 1/31/2009
      To the Pearls of Gaza – the Palestinians
     Imprisoned, trapped as Gazan sand
     In clammed tight shells --
     oppression and death --
     life seeks life, and struggles for breath.
     These Sands resist apartheid hells.
    
     Hideous torment-- burns, white blasts,
     Transfigures single grains to strength
     thru pain, the strength that strengthens
     forms these jewels with will
     to live yet death to face,
     These lustrous Pearls of Gaza....