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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
1 February, 2009

Israel threatens ’disproportionate’ response to Palestinian rocket fire
Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/1/2009
Fresh attacks could set back Hamas truce talks in Cairo - Israel’s government has threatened to take "fierce and disproportionate" action in Gaza after Palestinian militants fired six rockets on southern Israeli towns this morning. The preparation to launch fresh attacks on Gaza comes two weeks after Israel halted a three-week onslaught and claimed its aims were "attained fully". Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said the defence minister, Ehud Barak, was preparing the army for a surprise attack. "We won’t give the terror groups warning as to when and how we’ll react, but Israel will respond and act at the time and place of its choosing," Olmert said. But the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who leads Kadima, which dominates the governing coalition, demanded an immediate reprisal. "We need to use strength and a lot of it, there is no reason to wait," Livni said.

IAF strikes 6 targets in central, south Gaza
Reuters, YNetNews 2/2/2009
Military confirms Israeli fighter jets targetHamas security headquarters, smuggling tunnels hours after PM Olmert vowed ’disproportionate’ response to rocket, mortar fire that injured three Israelis - The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group belonging to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, said it fired some of the rockets, but not all were claimed. - Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the Islamist group said, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed a "disproportionate" response to mortar fire that injured three Israelis. Security sources confirmed the strike, citing that the Israeli Air Force struck six targets in Gaza during the evening hours. The targets included a Hamas stronghold, and several tunnels on the Philadelphi Route. According to the sources, the fire triggered several explosions, indicating that Hamas as resumed its arms smugglings. No casualties were reported. -- See also: Fatah denies it took responsibility for firing projectiles at Israel

Report: Hamas agrees to year-long Gaza truce from Thursday
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Hamas has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a year-long truce with Israel in Gaza starting on Thursday, Al-Arabiya TV Sunday quoted sources in the Islamist militant group as saying. A Hamas delegation is expected to arrive in Cairo on Monday in order to give the group’s final answer to the initiative. The official spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry, Hossam Zaki, refused to confirm or deny the report on the Dubai-based Arabic satellite television station. According to the report, Hamas has agreed to the deployment along Gaza’s border crossings of forces under the control of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the rival Fatah movement. The deal stipulates that the PA forces will coordinate their activities with Hamas. Hamas’ acceptance of the deal apparently led Abbas to cancel a trip to the Czech Republic and travel to Cairo instead.

United Nations school collapses due to excavations under Muslim holy site
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/1/2009
Jerusalem -- Israeli excavations under Al Aqsa caused today a school to collapse in Silwan. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency girls' school collapsed today because of the excavations under the Al Aqsa Mosque. Between 14 and 17 students are injured, most described as light to moderate. Ambulances rushed the girls to hospitals for treatment. One pupil was seriously hurt when the ground under the school suddenly gave way. It was fifth period when a meter and a half to two meter hole opened in the floor of the school. -- Israeli excavations under the Al Aqsa Mosque and its larger compound Al Haram As Sharif have sparked two years of protest. Recent concerns include the possibility that the Muslim holy site will collapse from as a result. -- The UNRWA school is about 200 meters from the mosque wall. A Silwan resident reports that some 40 houses in the region have suffered similar sinking. . . -- See also: ACRI and Bimkom: Stop City's Unauthorized Work in East Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University to cut ties with Israeli academia
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Al-Quds University will cease all forms of academic cooperation with Israeli academic institutions soon, the school’s board determined on Sunday. “In cooperation with all sides and under an accepted timetable,” the university will phase out programs and cooperation, the university board said in a statement. It added that, “If the two-state solution is as far away today as it was ten years ago, there is no justification for continued academic cooperation based on reaching that solution. ”“And there is no justification for continued official and non-official cooperation in other fields, foremost security coordination between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel,” the board noted. “Ending academic cooperation is aimed at, first of all, pressuring Israel to abide by a solution that ends the occupation, a solution that has been needed for far too. . . "

MI: Hamas upholding truce; others aren’t
Jerusalem Post 2/1/2009
"Hamas have internalized the extent of the physical and moral blow inflicted upon it. Unlike arrogant statements sounded in the media, the organization is conducting serious soul-searching on its strategic mistakes and operational failures," Military Intelligence chief Maj. -Gen. Amos Yadlin said Sunday in the weekly cabinet meeting. "Two weeks after the cease-fire began, terrorists not belonging to Hamas are challenging the organization and carrying out attacks in order to bring on another escalation. Hamas is deterred and respecting the cease-fire, but not doing enough to discourage the others," he continued. "Operation Cast Lead improved Israeli deterrence and brought radical factions to lesson-learning processes"¦ Hamas sees the rehabilitation efforts as an opportunity for inner Palestinian reconciliation, which would enable them to realize their ambition to take over the PLO, bringing an end to the two-state notion," Yadlin added.

UNRWA investigates the collapse of an East Jerusalem school
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
The United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) began a probe into the collapse of an UNRWA-run school in the occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday morning. Sami Mosha’sha’, spokesman of the UNRWA, said today that his organization’s crews are currently investigating the circumstances of the collapse of some parts of the school. Media reports said earlier that the Palestinian Selwan school of the occupied East Jerusalem, which is located close to the Al-Aqsa mosque, was partially damaged as one of its classrooms collapsed abruptly. The reports suggested that the breakdown occurred partly because of the proximity of the school to the Al-Aqsa mosque , where Israeli construction workers have been long ago carrying out excavations beneath the mosque. Mosha’sha’ added that preliminary investigations showed that there have been some signs of excavations beneath the collapsed classroom, but he did not confirm. -- See also: ACRI and Bimkom: Stop City's Unauthorized Work in East Jerusalem

Clashes over bulldozed land reported in Jerusalem’s Old City
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – The Israeli army harshly put down a demonstration by Palestinians in East Jerusalem protesting land destruction near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, witnesses told Ma’an. The Israeli army had bulldozed four dunoms of land belonging to the Al-A’bbasi family in the Al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan, near Jerusalem’s Old City, sources said, leading to riots. Israeli municipality staff and police responded to the scene, threatening the oweners of the land with arrest for not evicting the protesters, themselves. Israeli police also refused to show official documentation, neither a warrant for entering the property nor a demolition notice for destroying the privately owned land, witnesses said. The army was backed by heavy military vehicles when it bulldozed the land in Silwan, near the Al-Aqsa Mosque-area illegal settlement of David City, itself adjacent to Al-Mughrabi Gate into East Jerusalem’s Old City.

Israeli excavations blamed for school collapse that injured 17 girls
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – A floor collapsed at a United Nations-affiliated school in East Jerusalem on Sunday, injuring 17 Palestinian schoolgirls. Al-Quds Elementary school had previously suffered structural damage due to Israel’s ongoing excavations near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem’s Old City. Girls fell into a 1. 5 to 2-meter deep ditch that opened up when the floor collapsed during the students’ fifth period class, according to a teacher at the school. Israeli ambulances evacuated the injured girls to hospitals in Jerusalem, where medics said most of sustained moderate to light injuries. Neighbors nearby the school said the floor collapsed as a result of excavations that Israeli antiquities authorities have been carrying out under the Old City, particularly near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located just 100 meters from the damaged school.

Israel bombs Gaza targets
Al Jazeera 2/2/2009
Israel has bombed several targets in the Gaza Strip, witnesses say, hours after the Israeli government vowed a "disproportionate response" to rocket fire from the Palestinian territory. An Israeli security official confirmed the attack, one of which was on an empty police station, on Sunday. "The air force has carried out several strikes across the Gaza Strip," he said. There were no reports of casualties or injuries in the attack on the police building. Other attacks targeted at least seven tunnels along the Palestinian territory’s border with Egypt, the AFP news agency reported. Before the attacks, Israeli aircraft also flew over an area near the border town of Rafah, setting off sonic booms. Witnesses said hundreds of people who work in the tunnels there fled, along with residents. -- See also: Hamas says Israel manipulating projectile concerns

Abbas: Rockets give Israel excuse for escalation
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Palestinian leader slams armed groups in Gaza for ’ending ceasefire due to interests and agendas that have nothing to do with the Palestinian people’ -Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed the failure of the truce with Israel on the Palestinian factions in Gaza. "We did everything we could in order for the truce to continue, but because of interests and agendas that have nothing to do with the Palestinians, it was decided to end the truce," he said on Sunday. "Israel does not need an excuse to escalate the situation, but these rockets have given it the excuse. Those who say that Israel won (in Gaza) with its warplanes but we won the international community over with the blood of our children – this is a criminal outlook. "Leadership and responsibility do not mean sending innocent people to hell," Abbas continued, "this (Gaza war) was an adventure that hurt the Palestinian nation’s dream of an independent state. " -- See also: Fatah group claims responsibility for rocket attack and Hamas says Israel manipulating projectile concerns

3 lightly injured in mortar attack on Negev
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Palestinian gunmen fire five mortar shells at western Negev region; two IDF soldiers, civilian sustain mild injuries; total of four Qassam rockets, 13 shells hit Israel since morning hours - Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. - Five mortar shells fired from northern Gaza Sunday afternoon landed in Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council limits. Two IDF soldiers and a civilian sustained mild shrapnel injuries in the attack and were evacuated to the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment. A short while later, at around 6:20 pm a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza landed in the western Negev; there were no reports of injury or damage. The attacks on Israel began at 6:50 am, when three Qassams were fired from the Gaza Strip into the western Negev. One projectile landed in the Sdot Negev Regional Council and the other two hit the Eshkol Regional Council, one of them landing between two kindergartens.

Israeli F16 jets bomb several targets in Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
Israeli F16 jet fighters shelled several areas in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night, Palestinian sources said. The sources said that a Palestinian police station in Gaza City was targeted along with areas close to the Gaza-Egypt border near the city of Rafah in the south of the Strip. As yet there are no reports of casualties. Israeli source said that the shelling was in response to the home made shells that Palestinian resistance groups fired at Israeli targets near the Strip. Palestinian resistance groups said that the attacks are a response to the continued Israeli attacks on Gaza. Israel announced the unilateral ceasefire on Sunday January 17th, 2009 after the Israeli 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 and thousands injured.

Israeli sources : two soldiers slightly wounded by homemade shells
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
Israeli media sources reported on Sunday that two Israeli soldiers were wounded slightly as a mortar shell was fired from Gaza into the nearby Israeli area of Sha’aar Hanigaiv. The sources said that another homemade shell landed in the nearby Israeli town of Sderot, with no injuries reported. Earlier in the day, the sources reported that four homemade shells landed in the same area of Sha’ar Hanigev, with no injuries or damages reported. Israeli cabinet decided Sunday that Israeli army will respond to the homemade shells fire in the right time and the right place, maintaining that Israel will not keep silent to the continued homemade shell fire from Gaza into Israel. The said developments come in the backdrop of a three-week Israeli massive attacks on the coastal region, where more than 1340 Palestinians, half of them are women and children, were killed and more than 5500 others were wounded.

Israel’s air force hits police station in central Gaza; no injuries
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli aircraft bombed a de facto government police headquarters in the Gaza Strip late on Sunday night, as well as two sites in Rafah. No injuries were immediately reported in any of the three strikes, medical sources said. Aircraft were seen circling over the skies of Gaza City before the strike, leading to fears Israel would respond harshly to projectile attacks that injured two soldiers earlier in the afternoon. In a statement sent to Ma’an, an Israeli spokesperson said the strikes were "in response to the barrage of Qassam rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel [Sunday]. " The targets attacked included "a Hamas outpost," the statement said, an apparent reference to the police station bombed in central Gaza, as well as six smuggling tunnels in and around Rafah. "As the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas bears full responsibility. . .

Olmert threatens ’disproportionate’ response to rockets
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/2/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel vowed a "disproportionate" attack against the Gaza Strip on Sunday, two weeks after the end of a war in the territory that elicited allegations of war crimes by the Zionist state. "We’ve said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a severe and disproportionate Israeli response," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the weekly cabinet meeting. Israel - which goes to the polls on February 10 - has been hit by several rockets since a January 18 ceasefire largely brought an end to its 22-day war on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Israel was widely criticized for disproportionate use of force in its onslaught of the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,300 Palestinians, including over 400 children and over 100 women. Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, were killed in the same time.

Rafah tunnels needed for fuel imports as power plant forced to suspend operations
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/1/2009
Gaza - The Israeli administration said it would lift the ban on a limited amount of humanitarian aid today but "we are still waiting" says Chairman of the Crossings Committee in Gaza, Ra’ed Fattouh. At the same time, the Israelis have banned all fuel imports causing the Strip’s only power plant to cease operations today. Diesel fuel needed to run the plant is banned under an Israeli siege exacerbated by the Egyptians. The tunnels in the southern Strip’s Rafah, which are the lifeline for imports such as fuel, took another hit yesterday. Cairo announced on Saturday that it has focused surveillance cameras on the shared border with Gaza for the "control of movement through smuggling tunnels. " Headlines have been changed from reporting on earlier Israeli statements that said the tunnels were targeted to prevent "easing restrictions" imposed by the siege.

Palestinians determined to survive ongoing siege
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/1/2009
Gaza -- "The continuing siege on the Gaza Strip is a crime against humanity," notes Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi. While some international attention was paid during the recent attacks, the siege is not being widely addressed. The armed resistance remains operational with Al Jazeera sitting down to tea with a group who talk to their loved ones via mobile phone. On Sunday, despite the ceasefire, Israeli forces continued to occupy the Strip, opening fire from the Kissufim military installation. Israeli Foreign Minister Livni and Defense Minister Barak say that Israeli attacks will increase as sporadic projectile launches continue. Fateh’s Al Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for launching projectiles at the western Naqab Desert while Israeli sources report other projectiles landing without causing damage or injury.

Hamas hands out cash to displaced Gaza Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas movement on Sunday handed out over four thousand euros to Palestinian residents in Gaza whose houses were destroyed in the 22-day Israeli offensive that began in late December. The money was distributed during a festival in front of As-Salam Mosque on Sunday in Jabaliya, which is in the northern Gaza Strip. According to a Hamas spokesperson, Abdul-Latif Al-Qanu, the number of houses completely destroyed is estimated at 1,885, while homes that sustained partial damage were said to be around 2,200, in addition to 5,000 houses that received slight damage. Al-Qanu also explained that in a few days, Hamas will hand out financial aid to those whose houses were partially damaged. Each house owner will receive 2,000 euros, he said. After that, Hamas will pay US $1,000 to families of “martyrs,” he added.

Fatah denies it took responsibility for firing projectiles at Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Fatah movement in Gaza denied news reports that it fired projectiles on Sunday, contradicting reports from an Israeli news agency and others. According to a statement sent to Ma’an, neither its affiliated armed wings, including the Al-Aqsa Brigades, fired projectiles toward the western Negev in Israel. “This happens all the time. Whenever a faction doesn’t claim responsibility, they are always claimed to have been fired by people affiliated with us,” the statement said. Fatah added, “The Israeli onslaught did not stop and the movement is making enormous efforts toward establishing a Palestinian national consensus, through Egypt, to stabilize the ceasefire and agree on a mutual truce that would stop the shedding of the Palestinian blood. ”But it noted that no agreement would be signed that did not “provide a decent life and remove justifications from the Israeli occupation to avoid renewing the assaults. " -- See also: Hamas says Israel manipulating projectile concerns

Hamas says Israel manipulating projectile concerns
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-led Palestinian government in Gaza on Sunday accused Israel of falsifying projectile launches to sabotage Egyptian truce efforts, a spokesperson said. Egypt has been strenuously negotiating between various Palestinian factions in a bid to end disunity that began in 2007, but Hamas spokesperson Taher An-Nunu said Sunday that Israel wants to prevent that possibility. He also said recent statements by outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were designed to force Hamas into accepting a one-sided ceasefire deal for the purposes of strengthening Israeli candidate Tzipi Livni’s bid for his seat in upcoming Israeli elections on 10 February. “These statements are for purely electoral reasons,” An-Nunu said, calling on factions to respect the opinions of a Palestinians, in general, rather than dictates from the Israeli military.

Hamas: Israeli allegations on homemade shells fire sabotage ceasefire efforts
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza said on Sunday that the Israeli government’s allegations about homemade shells fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns are aimed at sabotaging underway ceasefire efforts. Spokesperson of the Hamas-led government in Gaza, Taher Alnouno, said that the latest threats by Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, that he would respond severely to homemade shells fire, are aimed at sabotaging current Egyptian efforts to reach a ceasefire with Israel. Hamas also called on all other Gaza-based factions to abide by the national consensus regarding the situation on the ground. As of Sunday, Israeli media outlets said at least four homemade shells were fired from Gaza into nearby Israeli areas, with no injuries reported. Israeli cabinet later in the day decided that Israeli army will respond in the right time and the right place.

Analysts say Abbas went to Cairo to save PA legitimacy; Hamas members urge PLO restructuring
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cut a planned European visit and headed quickly to Cairo because serious progress was made on the ceasefire talks, observers say. Rumors on Abbas’ swift decision say there is agreement on a possible temporary ceasefire draft that includes opening crossings and preparations to tackle other profiles, especially Palestinian conciliation. “Abbas’ urgent visit to Cairo indicates that the PA [Palestinian Authority] wants to play a role in the ceasefire,” said political analyst Talal Ukal. Part of his reasoning for the urgency of PA involvement was that external sides see Abbas as the only official Palestinian representative, so in order for a deal to be struck, Abbas needs to be part of the agreement. Former advisor to de facto government prime minister Ahmad Yousif, surmised that Abbas went to Cairo in the wake of Hamas. . .

Hamas cites ’positive direction’ as Cairo works toward stronger Gaza truce
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/2/2009
CAIRO: Palestinian officials were gathering in Cairo on Sunday amid hopes of bolstering a ceasefire in Gaza, even as Israel threatened to strike at Hamas after Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel. Egypt has been mediating a truce after Hamas and Israel announced ceasefires on January 18, ending a devastating 22-day war that killed more than 1,330 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. An advisor to deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, who heads the Hamas government in Gaza, told AFP that the group was awaiting Israel’s response to an Egyptian truce proposal. "We can speak with details about the truce after our delegation examines the Israeli response," said Ahmad Yusef, adding that Hamas expected the response by Monday. "But for now, things are moving in a positive direction. "A Hamas team from Gaza was already in Cairo, as was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, while representatives. . .

E1 settlement project ongoing, Israel invested 200 M. NIS for settlement construction
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
Israel is ongoing with the infrastructure work, which includes roads and homes in the so-called E1 area, in east Jerusalem in order to impose its own vision of any future peace deal by disconnecting geographical contiguity of the Palestinian territories and linking Maali Adumim illegal settlement with East Jerusalem and other settlements around it. Israel planned this construction initially in 1994, and in 1999 the Higher Construction Committee approved the plan but was not implemented due to American pressure. In May of 2008, Israel constructed a police station in the area and went on to pave roads, main junctions, public squares, checkpoints, a bridge, side walls, and other constructions with a total cost that exceeded 100 Million New Israeli Shekels. Israel also paved a road which links Khizma Palestinian town with Al Zeaayim area in order to be used by the Palestinians as they will not be allowed into the E1 area.

Despite protests and international law Israeli administration to expand Ma’ale Adumim
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/1/2009
Ramallah -- George Mitchell was just in town trying his hand again at brokering negotiations after writing in 2000 that the Israeli administration must cease settlement activity. That dictate was already a facet of international law and the stuff of numerous United Nations resolutions. The Annapolis conference in November 2007 demanded the same, as does the on again, off again Road Map. However as Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi of the Palestinian Legislative Council and National Initiative pointed out in Paris late last year, Israeli settlement activity was up 30 times from November 2007 to 2008. The Israeli group "Peace Now" uses the figure 60 percent. Meanwhile the Israeli daily Ha’aretz has just published another front-page story that is making a splash with reports appearing in both the London and local papers regarding an earlier article that revealed a classified data base admitting that settlements are built on private Palestinian land.

Israel: Four projectiles hit Negev; Palestinian gunmen exchange fire with Israeli soliders
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli sources reported four projectiles, three hitting the Eshkol region of the western Negev and one near Sderot Sunday morning. No injuries or damage were reported. Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades released a statement claiming to have launched at least three of the projectiles, landing in the western Negev. The projectile launch followed the reported gunfire exchange between Palestinian resistance fighters and Israeli patrol cars along the Gaza border overnight. The incident took place near the Kissufim military post in south-central Gaza. No casualties were reported. [end] -- See also: Hamas says Israel manipulating projectile concerns

Report: IDF warns Rafah residents to evacuate
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Palestinian civilians said to receive phone calls from Israeli security forces warning ’those residing near terror hubs, tunnels, weapons caches’ to evacuate area ’immediately’ -Residents of Rafah and Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip claimed Sunday evening to have received telephone calls from Israeli security forces warning them to evacuate areas from which gunmen are operating. According to the civilians, the messages said "all those residing near a terror hub, a tunnel or a weapons cache must leave the area immediately. " Some Palestinians had reportedly evacuated their homes for fear of Israeli retaliation following Sunday morning’s rocket and mortar barrages on the Negev region. A total of four Qassams and 13 shells were fired at

Israeli sources: Two soldiers injured by projectiles fired from Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Two Israeli soldiers were reported lightly injured by shrapnel from a number of Palestinian projectiles that hit southern Israel on Sunday. At least four projectiles, described as mortars by Israeli sources, hit Sha’ar Hanegev on Sunday night, injuring the two soldiers. Israeli sources later reported a civilian was injured, as well. Armed Palestinians in Gaza had fired at least five projectiles and eight mortar shells into the western Negev on Sunday, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported. Three hit Eshkol in southern Israel, while a fourth landed in Sdot. No injuries or damage were reported. An Israeli news agency said the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. But later on Sunday, Fatah denied anyone affiliated with the movement either fired projectiles or claimed responsibility for them.

Israeli cabinet decides to respond severely to homemade shells fire
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
Israeli cabinet decided on Sunday that Israel will respond severely to any homemade shell fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns, describing the latest homemade rockets fire as a breach of the ceasefire announcement. Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said on Sunday morning, just before the weekly cabinet meeting, that his country will not allow the homemade fire to continue " We wont allow the return of homemade fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns and we wont be dragged into a rocket war that might make the life in southern Israel unbearable". According to Olmert, the Hamas party’s breaches of the ceasefire have increased, therefore, Israel has the excuse to respond in the right time and the right place. Foreign minister, Tsibi Livni, stated she has never agreed to reaching any agreement with Hamas, therefore , any response to the group should be swift and strong.

Olmert vows 'disproportional' response to projectiles; Gaza crossings remain open
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem/Gaza – Ma’an – Responding to the steady trickle of Palestinian projectiles launched from Gaza towards Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his cabinet Sunday that Israel is prepared to launch a "sharp” and “disproportional” attack against Gaza. Before the Israeli war on Gaza, initially posed as a means to root out projectile launchers, Israel closed Gaza crossings whenever projectiles were launched in violation of the initial six-month ceasefire between the sides. After Israel’s war that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, more than half of which were civilians, and no halt in projectile fire despite a ceasefire call from Hamas - which has indeed stopped firing projectiles - Olmert announced his readiness to hit with a second round of disproportionate attacks. Israel says Palestinian projectiles have killed 18 civilians and soldiers in the past eight years.

MI Chief: Hamas upholding cease-fire, but smaller Gaza groups undeterred
Barak Ravid and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/2/2009
Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said Sunday that while Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip had indeed deterred Hamas, other radical groups in the coastal territory were still looking to escalate hostilities. "Two weeks following the cease-fire, militants from groups other than Hamas are challenging it and carrying out attacks aimed at renewing escalation," Yadlin told cabinet ministers. "Hamas is deterred and is respecting the cease-fire, but is not preventing the attacks of others. Hamas is internalizing the gravity of the blow it received," Yadlin said. "The group has begun to evaluate its strategic mistakes and operational failures. Hamas is fighting for approval on the streets of Gaza and is trying to improve its image in the eyes of the public by stealing humanitarian aid and rehabilitation funds," he added.

Military Intelligence chief: Hamas deterred
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Major-General Amos Yadlin briefs cabinet on situation in Gaza, says Hamas internalizing lessons learned in war, but other Palestinian organizations continue to fire on Israel -"Hamas has begun internalizing the scope of the physical and moral blow. Despite its bragging in the medial, self-examination of its operational failures has begun," said Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Major-General Yadlin also offered explanations for the shooting incidents and the renewed rocket fire on southern Israel. "Two weeks after the ceasefire, terrorists that are notHamas are challenging Hamas and carrying out attacks for a renewed escalation. "Hamas, for its part, has been deterred and is honoring the ceasefire, but is not deterring the others enough," he said. Sunday morning saw four mortar shells fired at the western Negev.

Mofaz: If Schalit doesn’t see light of day, neither will Hamas leaders
Jerusalem Post 2/1/2009
If kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit is not freed and is not permitted to see the "light of day," neither will Hamas leaders, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Sunday. "The state of Israel will not give up on any one of its sons," he said while speaking at a gathering of Kadima members in Natanya. "We will do everything so that Schalit will return. " "If Schalit doesn’t see the light of day, they won’t see the light of day either," Mofaz continued. "Until he is walking around freely, they won’t walk around freely. " [end]

Egypt: Without unity talks, donors won’t support Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Reconstruction talks must take place after unity, said Spokesperson of the Egyptian foreign ministry Husam Zaki on Sunday. Zaki announced the Egyptian plan to host a series of individual conciliation meetings culminating in an “all factions” call to meet in Cairo on 22 February. Palestinian conciliation is necessary before the conference on reconstruction occurs, said Zaki, since the issue of who will control the aid and reconstruction inside Gaza must be worked out. Palestinians themselves will be the only one capable of solving the question of unity, and unity is the only way to convince international donors to help rebuild Gaza, Zaki said. If Palestinians choose to maintain their disagreement, he said, “they will reap nothing good, but rather the international community will realize that the Palestinian people and their cause do not deserve any support.

Hamas: Egypt refused Algerian delegation entry to Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas-affiliated politicians on Sunday said they regretted Egypt’s refusing entry to Algerian parliamentarians hoping to show solidarity with besieged Palestinians in Gaza. The Hamas bloc within the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) said Egyptian authorities were “unjustified” in preventing the Algerian delegation from entering the Strip, particularly “in light of the massive destruction inflicted on Gaza. ”“Arab parliaments and international organizations should take the first hand” in reviewing the damage there, the Hamas affiliates said, demanding that Egypt take responsibility for “empowering Palestinian steadfastness. ”In a statement, the bloc called on Cairo to allow all future delegations into Gaza via the former’s control over the Rafah crossing point and do a better job supporting their neighboring Palestinians.

Arrested Egyptian labor leader demands Cairo open Gaza border
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The head of an Egyptian labor party was arrested on Saturday after allegedly entering the Gaza Strip through a smuggling tunnel. A security source said Majdi Hussein was arrested Saturday after arriving in Rafah without a passport. He had apparently entered Gaza as much as two weeks earlier through an underground tunnel. He had previously called on Cairo to open the Rafah crossing point into the Gaza Strip to “ease the suffering” of the Palestinian people. Party leader Majdi Hussein said the closure policy damages the “legendary steadfastness of Gaza’s people, who defeated the latest Israeli aggression. ”The political leader’s comments came as he was leaving the Gaza Strip, crossing over the Rafah border area near Egypt, where he added that the latest “resistance victory bolstered the choice of resistance in Gaza. "

Abbas condemns Hamas stand on PLO
Al Jazeera 2/2/2009
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said he will reject talks with any group that fails to recognise the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Abbas’s comments, made in a news in Egypt on Sunday, referred to a recent call by Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, for the PLO to be sidelined. Meshaal, who heads Hamas from exile in Syria, said earlier in the week that the PLO had become obsolete and called for "a new, national authority". Meshaal’s proposal was echoed on Friday by Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas political leader, who told a rally that the PLO was dead. "It is high time the Palestinian people have a new leadership," he said. But Meshaal’s comments were not supported by all Hamas members, many of whom said the PLO should be reformed rather than replaced.

Abbas: Continuing Gaza rocket fire gives Israel excuse to strike
Reuters and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/2/2009
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said that the continuing rockets attacks from the Gaza Strip were providing Israel with an excuse to attack the coastal territory. In a speech at a Palestinian hospital in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, Abbas attacked Hamas for its conduct during the three-week conflict with Israel, accusing the Islamist group of irresponsible behavior and of carrying out "an agenda which is not Palestinian. ""Those people [Hamas leaders] gambled with the future of the people, they gambled with the blood of the people, the destiny of the people and the dream of the people," Abbas said. " Why? Because of agendas which are not Palestinian," he added. Abbas and his conservative Arab allies say Hamas serves Iranian and Syrian interests, a charge it denies.

Abbas: No dialogue with those who reject PLO
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Cairo – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday vowed not to negotiate “with those who reject” the Palestine Liberation Organization. In a reference to Hamas, Abbas added that “they have to recognize the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative for the Palestinians—clearly. ”The president added in a brief news conference in Cairo that “some have placed the future of the Palestinians, their destiny and [and their] dream of establishing an independent Palestinian state at risk due to outside agendas. ”"We did everything we could in order for the [Israel-Hamas] truce to continue, but because of interests and agendas that have nothing to do with the Palestinians, it was decided to end the truce," he said. He also condemned rocket fire toward Israeli targets, a strategy he said only benefits Israel, which uses the supposed threat to legitimize its attacks against Palestinians.

Fatah promises to stick with PLO, says institution will continue to lead Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Hamas’ calls to replace the Palestine Liberation Organization with a new “reference” body for the Palestinians is simply a call to substitute the current government for a new Hamas movement, said Fatah on Sunday. “Khalid Masha’al’s plans supported by regional players aiming at fully dismantling the Palestinian political system…risks [further] division and political separation,” said Fatah spokesman Fahmi Az-Za’reer. “The first attempt failed [and] the second will not happen,” he said, affirming that previous attempts to overthrow the Palestine Liberation Organization have failed because the efforts are against the Palestinian will. He suggested engaging in efforts to unify the current system through dialogue and conciliation. Az-Za’reer also noted that Fatah would stick with the PLO as the true representative body of the Palestinians, and the institution. . .

Jailed PFLP secretary-general calls for Palestinian unity
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on Sunday called for competing factions to settle disputes and work toward unity. The secretary-general, Palestinian Legislative Council-member Ahmad Sa’adat, said the failure to successfully reconcile political difference benefits only Israel,claiming that Palestinian disunity is one of its most urgent objectives. During a visit from lawyer Buthaina Duqmaq with the Mandela Prisoners Society, Sa’adat praised Palestinian steadfastness during the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, as well as Bolivia and Venezuala’s recent decisions to sever ties with the Jewish state. Ahmad Sa’adat is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison, Hadarim Jail. Sa’adat affirmed that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the sole Palestinian political entity and sole legitimate representative. . .

Palestinian president Abbas: no dialogue with those who reject PLO
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/1/2009
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that he will not initiate any dialogue with those who reject the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), calling for all concerned Palestinian parties to recognize PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. During a press briefing in Cairo, where Abbas is holding talks with Egyptian top officials, the president blamed some Palestinian parties for what he described gambling the Palestinian people’s future and aspirations, naming no body. " there are some parties that work in secrecy to sabotage the Egyptian initiative for ceasefire, which was adopted already by the United Nations Security Council", Abbas made clear. He also accused those parties of adopting external agendas that are different from the PLO’s, saying that Egypt remains the main destination that defends Palestine and the Palestinian people.

Former Hamas member and government official object to calls for dismantling PLO
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Former Hamas spokesperson Ghazi Hamad and former Palestinian Minister of Education Nasser Addin Ash-Sha’ir expressed their opposition to the calls for creating substitute for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saturday night. Hamad told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV, “Personally, I don’t agree on deepening Palestinian disagreement. We must resume dialogue which will be strategically beneficial for both Hamas and Fatah as well as the Palestinian national project. ” Hamad asserted that his comments represent his own opinion, rather than that of the Hamas leadership. “The problem does not lie in the PLO, but it is rather a problem in the Palestinian security services, the political system and many aspects of Palestinian life,” Hamad added. The former Hamas official said he believed the present problems could be solved through dialogue, and said. . .

Israel paying $2 million for death of filmmaker
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 2/1/2009
Israel has reached a huge financial settlement with the family of James Miller, a British cameraman killed by IDF troops in 2003, an official confirmed Sunday. Haaretz reported Israel paid James Miller’s family $2. 2 million, a figure that Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said was "more or less" correct. A statement from Miller’s family spokesman confirmed that a settlement has been reached, adding that "this is the nearest they are likely to get to an admission of guilt by the Israeli government. " In May, 2003, Miller, 34, was in the Gaza-Egypt border town of Rafah shooting footage for a documentary about the impact of violence on children in the region, when he was shot and killed by IDF gunfire. -- See also: Gov't pays slain journalist's family 1.5 million pounds

Israel to pay $2.2M for death of filmmaker
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Foreign Ministry confirms settlement was reached in 2003 wrongful death case of British cameraman James Miller. Latter accidentally shot by Israeli troops near Gaza-Egypt border -Israel has reached a huge financial settlement with the family of James Miller, a British cameraman killed by Israeli troops in 2003, an official confirmed Sunday. Israel reportely agreed to pay James Miller’s family $2. 2 million, a figure that Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said was "more or less" correct. A statement from Miller’s family spokesman confirmed that a settlement has been reached, adding that "this is the nearest they are likely to get to an admission of guilt by the Israeli government. " In May, 2003, Miller, 34, was in the Gaza-Egypt border town of Rafah shooting footage for a documentary about the impact of violence on children in the region, when he was shot and killed by Israeli gunfire.

Hamas: European parliamentarians to visit Gaza in mid-February
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The head of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)’s Hamas bloc said on Sunday that European parliamentarians are planning a visit to the Gaza Strip in February. The leading Hamas-movement Foreign Affairs Department deputy, Mohammad Radwan, told Ma’an that European lawmakers want to survey firsthand damages and alleged crimes in the Gaza Strip, following Israel’s three-week offensive there. He added that Hamas “will receive the high-level European delegation” in February, noting that “this visit comes out of continued coordination between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the European Campaign to Lift the Siege of Gaza. ”The Hamas-affiliated deputy went on to say the delegation will tour a number of areas shelled and bombed by Israel’s air force soon after their arrival, including the former parliament building, Ash-Shifa Hospital, a damaged UN compound,. . .

Palestinian lawmakers applaud freeze on Israel-EU relations
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on Sunday applauded recent European Union efforts to slow negations for upgrading relations with Israel. PLC Political Committee head Abdallah Abdallah congratulated Palestinian legislators and national councils for their success in lobbying Europe to postpone upgrading relations with Israel in light of the recent carnage in the Gaza Strip. In early December, Israel and the EU voted to upgrade relations, despite opposition to the agreement by human rights advocates and Arab states. But in early January, the EU postponed negations on the deal, which Abdallah called a victory for “our efforts on achieving unity,” indicating the “importance of intensifying efforts to reconstruct Gaza, opening the crossings and lifting the siege. ”The statements came as Abdallah, along with other PLC members, the. . .

Supporters fete Erdogan for stand at Davos over Israeli massacres in Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/2/2009
ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stood firm Friday of his criticism of Israel’s war against the Gaza Strip, in which more than 400 children were killed. Erdogan received a hero’s welcome on his return to Istanbul and the Palestinian Hamas movement hailed his "courageous stand" after he walked out of a debate on the Gaza war at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We will never allow anyone to show disrespect to the prime minister of Turkey," Erdogan told a cheering crowd as he returned home following his clash with Israeli President Shimon Peres. He slammed the hundreds of civilian deaths in Hamas-ruled Gaza during Israel’s recent 22-day offensive, and said his anger was directed not at Jews, rather at "the practices of the Israeli government. "The death of civilians cannot be seen as a simple work accident," Erdogan said.

Israel’s envoy to Turkey: Relations will improve
Yael Levy, YNetNews 2/2/2009
In response to heated debate between Peres, Erdogan in Davos, ambassador to Turkey says ’we have loyal partners within the Turkish establishment who are concerned over the deteriorated ties and will work to resolve the crisis’ -"This is not the first time that the relations between Israel and Turkey have destabilized, but in time they will return to normal," Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy said in response to the heated argument between President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over Gaza. According to Levy, Israel has "loyal partners within the Turkish establishment" who are concerned over the deteriorated ties and will work to resolve the crisis. "There was tension between Israeli diplomatic staff and the Turkish political echelon during. . . "

’Scared to be identified as Jews’
Yedioth Ahronoth, YNetNews 2/1/2009
A. , a Jewish woman living in Istanbul, writes of difficulties faced by Jews following rising anti-Semitism in Turkey in wake of Gaza op - "Me and my friends in the Jewish community in Istanbul are scared to give out our names these days, fearing it might hurt us. We don’t want to be identified as Jews. "We are afraid to walk down the street, as the atmosphere is very tense. Slogans supporting the Palestinians and against Israel are plastered on walls everywhere, and Palestinian flags can be seen all around. A Palestinian flag was even hung opposite the great synagogue in the Neve Shalom neighborhood where the major bombing occurred. "Anti-Israel graffiti has been sprayed on Jewish-owned stores and Judaica stores. "We are very reluctant to get out of the house these days. On Shabbat the great synagogue stood almost empty.

Olmert warns ministers against deepening schism with Turkey
Barak Ravid , and Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday warned the cabinet against deepening a schism with Turkey that was sparked by fierce Turkish censure of Israel’s offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza. "[I’m] very concerned by the behavior in public on the subject of Turkey," Olmert said. "Our relations with Turkey are important, and I recommend that we don’t intensify our statements on the subject. " The Israel Defense Forces campaign, which ended in a Jan. 18 truce, triggered protests from Turkey culminating in a shouting match last week between its Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum. Despite his warning, Olmert added that Turkey, a key ally of Israel, was "not exempt from domestic considerations. . . being a Muslim state on the eve of elections. "

Chavez condemns Caracas synagogue attack
Reuters, YNetNews 2/2/2009
Venezuelan president suggests anti-Semitic vandalism plotted by opposition leaders to tarnish his socialist revolution - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday condemned an Israel, suggesting it was plotted by opposition leaders to tarnish his self-styled socialist revolution. Armed men broke into a synagogue in Venezuela’s capital late on Friday night, destroying religious objects and spray-painting walls in an incident that sparked outrage and complaints by the Jewish community of growing anti-Semitism. The socialist leader last month expelled the Israeli ambassador and cut diplomatic ties in protest over the military campaign in Gaza that killed nearly 1,300 people. "We condemn the actions on the synagogue of Caracas," Chavez said in a televised speech. "It must be asked. . . who benefits from these violent incidents. It is not the government, nor the people, nor the revolution. "

IDF troops arrest 5 armed Palestinians near Kibbutz Migdal Oz
Jerusalem Post 2/2/2009
IDF troops arrested five armed Palestinians near Kibbutz Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion on Sunday night, Army Radio reported. The men were being interrogated by security forces. [end]

Haifa: Jewish men allegedly assaulted by Arabs
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Three Jewish men attacked upon leaving pub in northern Israeli city; say multiple assailants swore in Arabic. Haifa police investigating - Three 22-year-old Jewish men were assaulted Saturday night, while leaving a Haifa pub. The assailants are believed to be Arabs, although the police are unsure whether the attack was nationalistically motivated. Two of the three are IDF servicemen and the third is a student at the Israeli Institute of Technology. The latter told Ynet of the attack: "We left the pub around 1:30 am. Two men began walking behind us and swearing at us. We ignored them, but they kept following us. They were clearly looking for a fight. "As soon as one of my friends answered back the fight broke put," he added. "It felt like an ambush. Two cars arrived almost immediately and 10 people came out of them. "

Iran tells Hamas: Be ready for fresh Israeli attacks
Reuters, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal meets with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran; say ’the Islamic resistance should be prepared for any possible situation’ -Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the Palestinian group Hamas to be prepared for possible fresh Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday. A delegation from Hamas, headed by its leader Khaled Mashaal, arrived in Tehran on Sunday as part of a regional push to reinforce support for the Palestinian group after the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Hamas was in close contact withIran, its main backer along with Syria, during the 22-day Israeli offensive against Gaza, which was halted last month, with the two sides declaring separate ceasefires. Khamenei said the war in Gaza had yet to be finished, praising "the resistance of Gazans".

Hamas leader Meshal: Iran has big share in our victory in Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/2/2009
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal told Iranian leaders during a visit to Tehran on Sunday that the Islamic Republic had played a big role in helping Hamas to achieve ’victory’ during Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. "The Islamic Republic of Iran has a big share in our victory in the Gaza Strip," said Meshal, who metSupreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A high-level delegation from Hamas arrived in Tehran early on Sunday as part of a regional push to reinforce support for the Palestinian group after Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza, a Hamas official said. Khamenei told Hamas during the visit to be prepared for possible fresh Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday. Khamenei told Hamas during the visit to be prepared for possible fresh Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday.

Jerusalem nonviolent resistance salutes Turkey
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 2/1/2009
PNN exclusive -- As many are saying, "Arabs found a new hero" in Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who he was cut off from responding to a devilish rant by Israeli President Shimon Peres. In East Jerusalem hundreds of Palestinians held a solidarity sit-in saluting the "dignity and pride of Turkey. "Led by representatives of religious institutions the Turkish flag was raised over the regular weekly demonstration for Gaza. With Israeli forces continuing to hold the Strip under siege since June 2007, Palestinians are protesting throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Erdogan is the latest hero whose is held next to the Venezeula and Bolivian presidents for their solidarity with Gaza. At the WEF this year after Peres spent several minutes excusing the major attacks on the Gaza Strip that left more than 3,300 Palestinians dead in just over three. . .

Hamas leader in exile visits Tehran wtih delegation to rally support for Palestine
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A high-profile Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran Sunday morning as part of campaign to recruit support for Palestine in the region following the Israeli military offensive that hit the Gaza Strip for three weeks in December and January, a Hamas official told Reuters. According to a member of Hamas’ politburo, Izzat Ar-Rashq, the delegation is headed by Khalid Mash’al, Hamas leader in exile, and six other leading members. The delegation is scheduled to meet Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khaminai and the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. [end]

Security plays central role in Israel’s parliamentary polls
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/2/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Voters are being asked to choose between a candidate without "caliber" and a rival that "you can’t trust" as Israel’s main parties wage a mud-slinging election campaign in the shadow of its war on Gaza. With just 10 days to go before the general election, right-wing Likud leader and former Premier Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up the battle with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the centrist party Kadima. A week after the ceasefire in its 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, Israel’s television stations finally began to run broadcasts of the 33 parties running in the February 10 election. Amid skepticism over the political process, the main parties have turned to shock tactics. "Netanyahu was the worst premier in the history of Israel," is the blunt message from the ruling Kadima, aiming to fend off the challenge from the Likud chief - known as "Bibi" - who was premier from 1996 to 1999.

Elections 2009 / Poll gives right-wing bloc 12 seat advantage over left
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 2/1/2009
The latest Haaretz-Dialog poll predicts the right-wing bloc will win 65 seats in the upcoming Knesset elections, a 12-seat advantage over the center-left, which is expected to capture just 53 of the 120 parliamentary places up for grabs. The right-wing bloc: Likud (headed by Benjamin Netanyahu): 28 seats / Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is our home" - a far-right pro-transfer party headed by Avigdor Lieberman): 15 seats / Shas (Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party headed by Eli Yishai): 10 seats / National Union-Habayit Hayehudi (coalition between two right-wing parties, the long-standing National Union and fledgling Habayit Hayehudi [the Jewish home]): 7 seats / The left-wing bloc [sic]: Kadima (centrist party established by Ariel Sharon and now and headed by Tzipi Livni): 25 seats. / Labor (headed by Ehud Barak and formerly Israel’s dominant party): 14 seats / New Movemment-Meretz. (latest incarnation of the left-wing Meretz): 5 seats. / Hadash. . .

Zionist state frets riposte for Mughniyeh hit
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/2/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau warned on Sunday that Hizbullah was planning to abduct or kill Israeli officials ahead of the anniversary of the assassination of the resistance group’s military commander. "Hizbullah is apparently prepared to carry out a severe attack against an Israeli target, including abroad," the bureau said in a statement, warning specifically of assassination or kidnapping attempts. "Such an attack is a threat against any Israeli, especially senior officials," it added. The bureau reiterated its travel warnings for Israelis, calling on tourists and businessmen to take special precaution in hotels, restaurants and recreational spots abroad. The anti-terror bureau has issued a number or warnings that Hizbullah was seeking to target or abduct Israelis abroad following the assassination of Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in February 2008.

High alert over Hezbollah ’plans to attack Israelis abroad’
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/2/2009
Security services are on high alert due to concrete intelligence that Hezbollah is in advanced stages of preparing an attack against Israelis abroad to avenge the killing of one of the group’s top leaders, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bomb in Damascus last February. The Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a severe travel warning on Sunday for Israelis abroad, two weeks ahead of the one-year year anniversary of the assassination. "Hezbollah appears to be prepared to carry out a serious attack in the form of an assassination or a kidnapping of an Israeli target, including abroad," the bureau said in a statement. "This threatens every Israeli, especially senior figures. " The Counter-Terrorism Bureau, which is based in the Prime Minister’s Office, described the threat as "concrete and at the highest level.

Warning: Hizbullah may attack, abduct Israelis
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Counter-Terrorism Bureau issues ’very concrete’ warning regarding possible terror attacks in Israel and abroad ahead of anniversary of two Hizbullah leaders’ assassinations -The Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Sunday issued a warning against terror attacks, assassinations and abductions of Israeli citizens by Hizbullah in Israel and abroad. "Such an attack threatens every Israeli, and Israeli officials in particular," the warning said. Israeli security bodies are completing assessments of terror attacks Hizbullah may be planning ahead of the anniversaries of the assassination of two of its officials - former Secretary-General Abbas Musawi on February 16, 1992, and operational officer Imad Mughniyah on February 13 of last year. The warning issued on the bureau’s website was rated as "a very high concrete threat".

Nobelists lead flock behind Barenboim’s message for justice
Daily Star 2/2/2009
Petition - Almost a month ago, Daniel Barenboim wrote a short statement about peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In a period of two weeks, artists and thinkers from all over the world gave their support by signing the statement. The famous pianist and conductor who created in 1999, together with his late friend Edward W. Said, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra composed of Palestinian and Israeli musicians, manifests in the text his disapproval of the use of force and calls for equal rights for both peoples. To be published in the New York Review of Books today, this humanistic message is signed by 10 Nobel laureates in literature including J. M G Le CLezio, Russel Banks, J. M Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk and Kenzaburo Oe, and more than 130 other eminent personalities, such as Desmond Tutu, Oscar Niemeyer, Alfred Brendel, Yo-Yo Ma, Pierre Boulez, Placido Domingo, William Christie, Zubin Mehta,. . . -- See also: 'Please Listen, Before It Is Too Late'

’Please Listen, Before It Is Too Late’
Daniel Barenboim and various undersigned, New York Review of Books 2/26/2009
To the Editors: Your readers may be interested in the following statement by Daniel Barenboim and the list of those who have supported it. -- For the last forty years, history has proven that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict cannot be settled by force. Every effort, every possible means and resource of imagination and reflection should now be brought into play to find a new way forward. A new initiative which allays fear and suffering, acknowledges the injustice done, and leads to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike. An initiative which demands of all sides a common responsibility: to ensure equal rights and dignity to both peoples, and to ensure the right of each person to transcend the past and aspire to a future.

IDF colonel to teach TAU law course, despite critics’ bid to stop her
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/2/2009
Tel Aviv University confirmed on Sunday that Israel Defense Forces Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch would teach a course on international law during the spring semester as planned, despite attempts by critics of her policies to prevent her from lecturing there. "Pluralism is a central tenet of Tel Aviv University, part of its reason for being and of its important societal role," the university wrote in a statement. "In this regard, the University? s policy is clear and it does not intend to bow to pressures from one quarter or another. " Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday responded to opposition to the appointment by saying Israel would no longer support institutions that discriminate against IDF officers because of their military service. . . . Olmert dismissed the protesters who opposed her appointment as "a number of self-righteous, sanctimonious, arrogant hypocrites. . . "

Israeli PM threatens Tel Aviv University over professor appointment
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israel’s prime minister on Sunday threatened to cut off government funding for universities that participate in boycotts of Israeli academics, even Israeli universities critical of their own country’s alleged war crimes in Gaza. Tel Aviv University is under pressure to not allow Col. Pnina Sharvit Baruch to lecture there, as critics say her appointment would permit a supporter of war crimes to teach. Baruch is a special advisor to the Israeli government, nominated shortly after Israel’s three-week assault in Gaza, to defend the Jewish state against allegations of war crimes around the world. "I regret that some of these self-righteous preachers of morality abroad find allies at home," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday. "Several overly-pure self-righteous hypocrites tried to challenge her right to teach all because of her duties at the IDF Prosecutor’s Office, including during the recent fighting," he said.

Calls for centrist bloc gain ground among key March 14 members
Daily Star 2/2/2009
BEIRUT: The Phalange Party on Sunday launched its electoral campaign for Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary polls as the issue of forming a centrist bloc drew more controversy over the weekend. Phalange central committee coordinator Sami Gemayel addressed his comrades on behalf of his father, former President Amin Gemayel, who traveled to Rome on Sunday for talks with Italian officials. Almost 1,800 party members gathered at Habtoor Hotel is the eastern Beirut suburb of Sin al-Fil. Gemayel said his party was not running for the purpose of gaining seats in Parliament but rather for a national cause. He added that the Phalange Party was strictly against Hizbullah’s "illegitimate possession of arms. ""We are not against the Shiite community or Hizbullah, but we believe the real problem lies in Hizbullah’s illegitimate possession of arms," he said.

LEBANON: Climate change and politics threaten water wars in Bekaa
Dalia Khamissy/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/2/2009
NABHA, BEKAA VALLEY, 1 February 2009 (IRIN) - In the shadow of Black Peak Mountain in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, an historic feud over irrigation is being slowly re-ignited, illustrating how increased water scarcity is triggering social conflict in Lebanon. "Nothing’s profitable to grow here. Twenty thousand dunums [nearly 5,000 acres] of farmland is unused," said Abdel-Wahab Amhaz, head of a Shia Muslim clan in Nabha, in northern Bekaa, home to some 11,000 people. The Amhaz own most of the land in Nabha, which is irrigated by the Oyoun Orghosh springs further up the mountain. But when in 1951 a violent feud broke out between the Amhaz and the Tawk, one of the leading Christian families in Nabha, the Tawk relocated 1km up the mountain, establishing restaurants, cherry orchards and a trout-farm around the spring.

Controlled UNIFIL explosions carried out in Lebanon
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 2/1/2009
Blasts alarm Galilee residents, who were not informed of controlled explosions in advance -A number of controlled explosions carried out by UNIFIL forces in Lebanon Sunday afternoon alarmed the residents of Israel’s western Galilee region, who were not informed of the detonations in advance and feared they were part of an attack on Israel. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit later confirmed that the detonations , which were heard in Israel at around 4 pm, were carried out by UNIFIL. "We heard a boom, but it didn’t sound like a Katusha rocket," Kibbutz Gesher-Ziv resident Sigalit Cohen told Ynet. Last month the relative calm that prevailed along Israel’s northern border was breached when two Katyushas were fired toward Nahariya and a community in the Western Galilee. Two people sustained mild injuries.

US envoy holds talks with Saudis
Al Jazeera 2/1/2009
The US Middle East envoy has arrived in the Saudi capital on the final leg of a regional tour aimed at reviving peace efforts, the Saudi official SPA news agency has reported. George Mitchell met Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, late on Saturday and was also expected to meet King Abdullah on Sunday. The Saudi monarch is 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. The US envoy has also visited Egypt, Jordan and Israel and held talks with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. Earlier on Saturday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met Mitchell in Amman and urged Washington to resume its efforts to clinch a two-state settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

US media touted Israeli view of Gaza war - analysts
Daily Star 2/2/2009
WASHINGTON: US 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 Israeli onslaught 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 Israeli attacks, including a massive aerial bombardment 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 US 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 US broadcast networks.

Washington ’already reaching out’ to Damascus, Tehran
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/2/2009
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has already used experts within the last few months to hold high-level but discreet talks with both Iran and Syria, organizers of the meetings told AFP. Officially, Obama’s overtures toward both Tehran and Damascus have remained limited. In an interview broadcast last Monday, Obama said the United States would offer arch-foe Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic’s leaders "unclenched their fist. " Meanwhile, his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, warned that the Israeli-Syrian track of the Middle East peace negotiations took a back seat to the Israeli-Palestinian track, especially because of the recent war in the Gaza Strip. However, even before winning the November 4 election, Obama unofficially used what experts call "track-two" discussions to approach the region.

Bank of Israel mulls gov’t bond purchases
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/1/2009
The objective of the Bank of Israel, should it decide to buy government bonds, would be to affect the long-term interest rate. "The central bank can buy assets," said Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer last week in response to a question about the Bank of Israel’s options if its monetary policy runs out of ammunition. Fischer declined to provide specifics, and other senior Bank of Israel officials declined to comment. There is no doubt that the "assets" referred to are government bonds issued by the Ministry of Finance, since it hard to imagine the Bank of Israel buying corporate bonds or shares directly from the market. The objective of the Bank of Israel, should it decide to buy government bonds, would be to affect the long-term interest rate.

IDF to develop electric troop carrier
Dubi Ben-Gedalyahu, Globes Online 2/1/2009
Elbit Systems is a leading contender to develop and supply the vehicles. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that the IDF is considering developing a quiet electric vehicle for carrying troops and cargo and with the capabilities of regular vehicles. The vehicle will have a diesel or gasoline engine to extend its range by hundreds of kilometers when the batteries run out. The IDF is reportedly examining various platforms for the vehicle, including jeeps and dune buggies. Industry sources believe that Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) is a leading contender to develop and supply the electric vehicle. In recent years, the company has accumulated extensive experience in the development of electric vehicles and batteries, including electric motors for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The sources added that an electric vehicle contract could be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Alljobs sees 9% drop in demand for workers
Yossi Nissan, Globes Online 2/1/2009
Alljobs CEO Revital Hendler: The recession has no regard for religion, gender, or residence. Jobs website Alljobs reports that demand for workers was 9% lower in January 2009 compared with December 2008. "Forecasts officially declare that Israel has entered a recession," it states. Alljobs reported 35,157 requests for employees in January, down from 38,795 requests in December. Alljobs CEO Revital Hendler said, "The recession has no regard for religion, gender, or residence. It affects all segments of the population and every job sector. "[Equally? - Ed. ] A breakdown of Alljobs’ figures shows a direct link between the 27% drop in the number of tourists and a 36% drop in demand for workers in the resort town of Eilat. Other badly hit sectors include construction, which saw a 26% drop in demand for workers in January, education and teaching, down 17%, and administration, down 12%.

Exports Institute finds no high-tech export growth
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/1/2009
A bright spot in 2008 exports was pharmaceutical exports. TheIsrael Export and International Cooperation Institute reports that high-tech exports, excluding pharmaceuticals, totaled $12. 2 billion in 2008, just 0. 3% more than in 2007. High-tech exports are a main economic growth driver. High-tech exports, including pharmaceuticals, totaled $17. 2 billion in 2008, up 5% on 2007. Most pharmaceuticals exports are by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA Pharmaceuticals exports grew by 37% to $5 billion in 2008. Exports of optical and digital photography equipment rose by 87% in 2008 to $387 million; and exports of automated data processing equipment rose by 8% to $846 million. However, exports of medical devices fell by 1% to $1.

Two more drilling sites authorized
Erez Wollberg, Globes Online 2/1/2009
Tamar-2 and Dalit-1 are to begin immediately after the production tests at Tamar-1. The consortium seeking gas off the coast of Haifa authorized two more drill sites in order to confirm the historic gas find in the Mediterranean Sea. Tamar-2 and Dalit-1 will begin immediately after the current production tests at Tamar-1. The new drilling is intended to confirm the quantity of gas. Dalit-1 is expected to continue for two months, at a cost of $50 million. Tamar-2 will continue for about three months at a total cost of $75 million. After the Tamar-1 well found gas, drilling operator Noble Energy said the group would conduct more tests and drilling to confirm the find and the estimated quantity. The Tamar prospect in the Matan license is owned by Delek Group Ltd.

Foreign banks fund Tel Aviv light rail
Lior Baron, Globes Online 2/1/2009
A nine-bank syndicate will provide €930 million. Tel Aviv light rail consortium Metro Transportation Solutions (MTS) has secured funding from a foreign bank syndicate. MTS CEO Yohanan Mor notified Accountant General Shuki Oren on Thursday night that the consortium had obtained letters of intent from the syndicate for a total of €930 million. Germany’s KfW Bank Group and Bayern LB are leading a nine-bank syndicate. Espirito Santo SA (Euronext: BES) of Portugal recently joined the syndicate. MTS also notified the Ministry of Finance that the Royal Bank of Scotland plc (LSE; NYSE: RBS) and a Chinese bank are also due to approve their participation in the syndicate next week. The syndicate is expected to provide €1. 4 billion (NIS 7-8 billion) altogether for the project.

Fuel prices across Palestine
Ma’an News Agency 2/1/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Finance Ministry announced prices of fuel and cooking gas across Palestine on Sunday as follows: One liter of diesel = 4. 2 NIS ($3. 91 per gallon) / One liter of benzene 95 Octane = 4. 75 NIS / One liter of benzene 96 Octane = 4. 75 NIS ($4. 42 per gallon regular gas) / One liter of benzene 98 Octane = 5. 01 NIS ($4. 66 per gallon premium gas) / On liter of kerosene = 4. 2 NIS ($3. 91 per gallon) / Twelve kilogram bottle of cooking gas = 44 NIS for consumers ($40. 95) / Forty-eight kilogram bottle of cooking gas = 176 NIS for consumers ($163. 80)[end]

IRAQ: Elections Could be a Telling Signpost
Analysis by Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service 2/2/2009
BAGHDAD, Feb 1(IPS) - After strong polling for the provincial elections Saturday, Iraqis are looking out for new signposts of political recovery from the U. S. -led invasion and occupation. Polling picked up after a slow start Saturday in the 14 provinces of Iraq that are voting after the 2005 poll. The four provinces that did not vote are in the Kurdish controlled north. Polls were not ordered here mostly due to the controversy over control of the oil- rich Kirkuk region. Kirkuk, along with Dahuk, Arbil and Sulaymaniyah will hold elections later. The provincial elections were earlier scheduled for Oct. 1 last year, but were delayed due to disagreements over electoral procedures for Kirkuk, which is hotly contested between Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomens. Both provincial and legislative elections were last held Jan. 30, 2005. The focus in that election was on election to the 275-member Iraqi National Assembly. The next national assembly elections are scheduled late 2009 or early 2010.

Iraqi officials trumpet 51-percent turnout for provincial elections
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/2/2009
BAGHDAD: Just over half of Iraq’s voters turned out for provincial elections that were hailed as a political milestone for the future of the war-torn nation, officials said on Sunday. The 51-percent turnout, however, was lower than expected, a result likely to disappoint Iraqi and US leaders who saw Saturday’s vote as a key test for a nation trying to shore-up security and democracy six years after the US-led invasion. "Turnout reached 51 percent at the national level," Higher Electoral Commission (HEC) chief Faraj al-Haydari told a press briefing, saying 7. 5 million of the 15-million electorate cast ballots in 14 of 18 provinces. Early unoffocial indicators had suggested a turnout of around 60 percent, with a tight security clampdown in place across the country that helped to prevent any major militant attacks.


Articles


Saudi patience is running out
Turki al-Faisal, Financial Times 1/22/2009
      In my decades as a public servant, I have strongly promoted the Arab-Israeli peace process. During recent months, I argued that the peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia could be implemented under an Obama administration if the Israelis and Palestinians both accepted difficult compromises. I told my audiences this was worth the energies of the incoming administration for, as the late Indian diplomat Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit said: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.”
     But after Israel launched its bloody attack on Gaza, these pleas for optimism and co-operation now seem a distant memory. In the past weeks, not only have the Israeli Defence Forces murdered more than 1,000 Palestinians, but they have come close to killing the prospect of peace itself. Unless the new US administration takes forceful steps to prevent any further suffering and slaughter of Palestinians, the peace process, the US-Saudi relationship and the stability of the region are at risk.
     Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told the UN Security Council that if there was no just settlement, “we will turn our backs on you”. King Abdullah spoke for the entire Arab and Muslim world when he said at the Arab summit in Kuwait that although the Arab peace initiative was on the table, it would not remain there for long. Much of the world shares these sentiments and any Arab government that negotiated with the Israelis today would be rightly condemned by its citizens. Two of the four Arab countries that have formal ties to Israel – Qatar and Mauritania – have suspended all relations and Jordan has recalled its ambassador.

Adjusting to disaster

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      Although he could see the bulldozer tearing at his house, 75-year-old Youssef Al-Najjar, who is paralysed, remained in his bed, unable to take action and submitting himself to his fate. He was spending the night alone after his family had left the house, fearing that Israel would invade the area of the southern Gaza Strip where they live, in Khazaa village.
     As Youssef lay there, a neighbour called Sobhi risked his life to climb up to the window and push his way in. He picked up the paralysed old man and carried him out the back door, out of sight of the occupation soldiers who were protecting the bulldozer razing the three- storey building that consists of six apartments. Sobhi carried him past other buildings that were still intact until they reached an olive grove that concealed them from the soldiers. He then took the old man to nearby relatives he has stayed with since that night, placing a burden on them due to his special needs. Youssef’s wheelchair was destroyed by the occupation bulldozers.
     Al-Ahram Weekly visited the ruins of Youssef’s house and saw the remains of the wheelchair that used to help him move around independently. But no one can linger too long in the southern portion of the house, for the air is filled with the stench of a decomposing donkey corpse. Occupation soldiers razed the house right over the family donkey, killing it instantaneously. This agriculture-dependent family had used the donkey for transport between their village and the surrounding hamlets.

The message is clear

Ramzy Baroud, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      For Palestinians, so far, the new US president represents no change whatsoever.
     When former US president George W Bush departed for his final trip home, that very moment represented an end of a long and unbearable nightmare, one that Bush epitomised until his last day in office.
     Americans may decry what we can finally dub as the "Bush legacy", for it brought economic ruin and also pushed the country into avoidable, if not completely preventable, wars, disgracing the collective history of a nation that for long imposed its sense of moral authority on the world.
     But the new president is set to change all of that. True, Barack Obama is duly warning of hyped expectations, but frankly he can only blame himself for the eagerness and hope, realistic or otherwise, that has engulfed the US nation, even the world over. During his presidential campaign he made many promises, the gist of which is that an Obama administration would be everything that the Bush administration was not. That was enough for "Obamaniacs" to sing and dance everywhere.

George Mitchell and Hamas

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 1/31/2009
      BEIRUT -- If George Mitchell is to have any chance to succeed in using American engagement to prod a just and lasting Arab-Israeli peace agreement, he will have to make a very fundamental decision very soon:
     Is his main task and that of US foreign policy to please Israel by shunning Hamas at any cost, or is it to identify and work to implement the equal rights of Israelis, Palestinians and other Arabs to statehood and security?
     It is no surprise that Israeli officials and their political hirelings and hit men in the international media and American policy community have launched a campaign to try to perpetuate the role of the American government as subserviently implementing Israeli policy. The main focus of this effort is to prevent Hamas from becoming a legitimate partner in the pre-negotiating process now underway.
     Attacking or defending Hamas diverts attention from the core issue to be resolved: the simultaneous and equal national rights of Israelis and Palestinians. Mitchell should be careful to not allow himself to be dragged into the Israeli-defined game of arguing over Hamas, its tunnels, or other side issues. This will only guarantee diplomatic stalemate and failure.

Prosecute the crimes

Salama A Salama, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      Many in the Arab world want to see Israel held responsible for the atrocities it committed in Gaza. The barbarity of Israel’s offensive was such that the UN secretary-general, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the chief of the UN Relief and Works Agency all called for an international investigation into Israel’s use of internationally banned weapons and its disregard for civilian life.
     The carnage in Gaza should leave an indelible mark on the Arab psyche. It is time we admit that Israel doesn’t want peace, cannot be trusted, and frankly deserves a taste of its own medicine.
     The first who deserve to be tried for war crimes are Israel’s gang of three: Olmert, Livni and Barak. Unfortunately, they have hoodwinked everyone, including the Palestinian Authority. They have misled Arab countries through a series of manoeuvres and gimmicks, while using the calming- down deal as an excuse. As soon as the calming-down period -- which was never calm by the way -- was over, the gates of hell opened.

A new beginning?

Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      As Egypt pursues Palestinian reconciliation and the reconstruction of Gaza it might be narrowing its distance from Hamas, reports Palestinian factions met in Cairo this week and Mitchell started his seven-day trip to the region with a meeting with MubarakIt has been a successful week for General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. The shrewd negotiator who is directly in charge of mediating between Hamas and Israel to secure a sustainable truce, and in parallel to strike a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority (PA), is said to have made a breakthrough on both tracks.
     Informed Egyptian sources suggest that a truce between Hamas and Israel is almost in the offing. Some of the details of the truce are still under negotiation. Sources predict it will take another week, "more or less", to finalise whether or not the truce will start with six months in Gaza and be renewed for a year later in both Gaza and the West Bank. Also pending are the set of guarantees that Hamas wishes to have in relation to the smooth operation of crossing points linking Gaza with Israel as well as Egypt. However, the overall assessment is that progress has been made and that both Israel and Hamas are showing signs of settling down for a truce, probably for a year, monitored by the international community according to a mechanism that does not involve the direct stationing of troops in Gaza.

Ceasefires, Israeli-Style

Stephen Lendman – Chicago, Palestine Chronicle 2/1/2009
      ’Militarism can’t bring security. Only reconciliation and diplomacy works.’
     Waging war while talking peace is customary Israeli practice. On January 19, Haaretz headlined: "Israel declares unilateral cease-fire. The security cabinet last night authorized a unilateral cease-fire (to take effect) at 2AM (Sunday morning), ending three weeks of intense fighting."
     Declaration notwithstanding, nothing changed. Gaza remains occupied, under siege, and totally isolated. Borders are still closed. On January 28, The New York Times said "truckloads of humanitarian aid" are stuck in Egypt because of Israeli and Cairo restrictions. Little can get in, and attacks merely downshifted to a lower gear.
     Shortly after Sunday’s announcement, an Israeli aircraft killed a Gaza City resident. IDF troops opened fire in Wadi al-Salqa village, southeast of Deir al-Balah. Homes in al-Qarara village were attacked. Helicopter gunships struck areas west of Khan Yunis, and F-16s bombed near the Science and Technology College in the same area. Israeli naval vessels shelled coastal areas and turned back ships with humanitarian aid. Agricultural land was raised. Arrests were made. Gaza continues to be terrorized.

Likud Charter Does Not Recognize Palestine

Frank Barat - London, Palestine Chronicle 1/31/2009
      Likud platform: "The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values."
     In a few weeks, on February the 10th, Israel will elect its new leaders during legislative elections. The three main contenders are Tzipi Livni from the Kadima party (Ariel Sharon’s party), Ehud Barak from the Labour party and Benyamin Netanyahu from the Likud party.
     Before the Gaza "war", it was a two-horse race: Livni against Netanyahu, with Netanyahu leading by a good margin in all the polls. The race became a three-horse one thanks to the Gaza "war" launched by Livni and Barak. Barak saw his ratings surge and is now back in the race. Even if he does not get elected, his party will get quite a few more seats than it had planned a few months ago.
     But the frontrunner has always been Benyamin Netanyahu and he remains, in the eyes of the majority of Israel’s journalists (Gideon Levy from Haaretz) or activists (Jeff Halper from ICAHD), the more than probable future PM.

Jingoism all the way

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      As elections near, Israel is swinging to the right, the only question being how far.
     Netanyahu, Livini, Barak One of the main but undeclared goals of the recent Israeli blitzkrieg against the Gaza Strip was to significantly enhance the chances of the Kadima and Labour parties in upcoming Israeli elections, slated for 10 February.
     Conventional wisdom has it that Israeli Jewish voters are more likely to give their votes to candidates with a reputation of toughness vis-à-vis the Palestinians. In the popular and political lexicon, this means spilling Palestinian blood, destroying more Palestinian homes and narrowing Palestinian horizons.
     Kadima and Labour party leaders had hoped that the killing and maiming of thousands of Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, coupled with the relentless bombing and destruction of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and agricultural land, would put both parties in an advantageous position against the Likud, led by Benyamin Netanyahu. However, post-war polls have shown that the genocidal Gaza onslaught didn’t dramatically help Kadima and that the popularity boost it briefly obtained during the Gaza campaign proved variable rather than constant.

Mission near impossible

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 1/29/2009
      The arrival of George Mitchell to the region is being greeted with both relief and dispassion, report Sherine Bahaa in Cairo Despite an air of optimism in some regional capitals about the recent appointment by US President Barack Obama of Senator George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy, there are serious doubts in many quarters as to whether the veteran diplomat will be able to work the miracles the region so badly needs.
     Sceptics, and they are legion, argue that getting Israel to end once and for all its 40-year-old colonialist occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip (for many the foremost miracle needed) necessitates a transformation, if not revolution of strategic thinking in Washington.
     The US is Israel’s guardian-ally. Absent meaningful US pressure on Tel Aviv, the Jewish state will continue to behave and act as it has always, namely defying international law, savaging the Palestinians, and building more Jewish colonies on occupied Arab land.

The One-State Solution

Muammar Gathafi, Middle East Online 1/30/2009
      Israelis and Palestinians have also become increasingly intertwined, economically and politically. The compromise is one state for all, an ’Isratine’ that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.
     TRIPOLI – The shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which ended with this weekend’s cease-fire, reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes.
     But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the desperate diplomacy, there is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions.
     Although it’s hard to realise after the horrors we’ve just witnessed, the state of war between the Jews and Palestinians has not always existed. In fact, many of the divisions between Jews and Palestinians are recent ones. The very name “Palestine” was commonly used to describe the whole area, even by the Jews who lived there, until 1948, when the name “Israel” came into use.