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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
2 March, 2009
Israel plans to double West Bank settlers - study
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/3/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s Housing Ministry has plans for West Bank construction that would nearly double the number of settlers there, the group Peace Now said Monday. The presence of the so-called Israeli "settlers" in the Occupied Territories is illegal under international law. The group gave the estimate in research issued on the day that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit to Israel on her first trip to the region since taking office. US President Barack Obama has vowed to vigorously pursue peace efforts in the region, and Israeli settlements on occupied land have long been one of the main obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. "The Ministry of Construction and Housing is planning to construct at least 73,000 housing units in the West Bank," said the Peace Now study, based on analysis of data on Israeli government websites.

Israel may face war crimes trials over Gaza
Peter Beaumont, The Guardian 3/2/2009
Court looks at whether Palestinians can bring case - International pressure grows over conflict -- The international criminal court is considering whether the Palestinian Authority is "enough like a state" for it to bring a case alleging that Israeli troops committed war crimes in the recent assault on Gaza. The deliberations would potentially open the way to putting Israeli military commanders in the dock at The Hague over the campaign, which claimed more than 1,300 lives, and set an important precedent for the court over what cases it can hear. As part of the process the court’s head of jurisdictions, part of the office of the prosecutor, is examining every international agreement signed by the PA to decide whether it behaves - and is regarded by others - as operating like a state. Following talks with the Arab League’s head, Amr Moussa, and senior PA officials, moves have accelerated

U.S. to limit its aid for Gaza
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times 3/2/2009
Reporting from Sharm El Sheik, Egypt -- Only a third of a $900-million package for Palestinians is for humanitarian needs -- and none for rebuilding -- in the Hamas-run territory. The rest will help the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. - The Obama administration intends to spend most of a $900-million Palestinian aid package on support for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, rather than in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip communities that were badly damaged in the recent weeks-long Israeli offensive, a State Department official said Sunday. Robert A. Wood, the department’s chief spokesman, said that about $300 million of the money would be spent on humanitarian relief for Gaza, and the remainder would help offset the Palestinian Authority’s budget shortfall and fund its economic development, security and other projects in the West Bank.

Gazans want open borders, not handouts
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/2/2009
After billions pledged at international donor conference toward Strip’s rebuilding, ordinary Palestinians say there will be no real success until border crossings are opened. ’I don’t think we can derive hope from the conference,’ resident says -As the world’s top diplomats pledged billion of dollars for war-ravaged Gaza in Egypt on Monday, ordinary people here, from merchants to housewives, said they’d rather have open borders than handouts. Even some tunnel smugglers who profit from Gaza’s blockaded borders say they’d rather import legally through open crossings than risk Israeli bombing raids and shaft collapses. "I want a ceasefire and open borders. Crossings are better than tunnels," said 22-year-old smuggler Abu Mahmoud, leaning over a shaft as workers tried to clear a 100-meter stretch of tunnel that had collapsed under a recent Israeli air strike.

Israel demolishes two Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Israel demolished two Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem on Monday, a day before U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to launch an initial effort to shore up the foundations of a shaky peace process. Two bulldozers flattened a home owned by Mahmoud al-Abbasi in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. Israeli authorities said the house was built without a municipal permit. Palestinians say building permission is nearly impossible to obtain from Israel’s Jerusalem city hall and say this is part of a policy to drive out Arab residents. The Jerusalem municipality said last week it planned to demolish 88 homes, not all immediately, that were built without permits in another section of Silwan, near the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, to create a public garden.

Why 88 Arab Homes Received Eviction Notices
Ilene Prusher, MIFTAH 3/2/2009
Israel plans to demolish 88 homes in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, to make way for a new archaeological park, adding new fuel the slow-burning dispute over Jerusalem. A variety of neighborhood activists, Muslim leaders in Jerusalem, and even figures from the Palestinian Authority (PA) held a press conference Wednesday, saying that Israel was trying to minimize the Arab presence in this city claimed by both Palestinians and Jews as their capital. They say such a move amounts to ethnic cleansing. " They have made a decision to clear out 88 houses, and with about three families living in each of these houses, we’re looking at the eviction of about 1,500 people. But people in Silwan are clinging to their land and will not leave, despite the eviction orders," says Adnan Husseini, who is PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser on Jerusalem Affairs.

U.S. Attorney General: Protecting our friends from terror is top priority
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
The new administration of U. S. President Barack Obama continued its close relations with the local Jewish community with U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressing the 2009 Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum in Washington, D. C. , on Monday. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is an American Jewish non-profit organization that addresses community relations. Holder complimented his audience, saying "this is definitely my kind of audience. I just walked in and you all gave me a standing ovation. The question will be what will happen as I’m leaving. " "It’s really good to be here among so many friends, people who I’ve worked with on a good number of projects over the years. And it’s a pleasure to be among people who I hope will become new friends and colleagues as we face the many issues that this administration will have to confront over the years," said Holder.

Medical neglect on the rise in Hadarim Prison, nine more arrests
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/2/2009
Ramallah -- During early morning invasions of the West Bank Israeli forces arrested nine Palestinians. Break-ins included Nablus and it’s Balata Refugee Camp. Jalazone Refugee Camp in northern Ramallah was also hit along with the southern city of Hebron. An Israeli military source said the Palestinians were on a list of the "wanted," which at times is said to include thousands of people. Currently some 11,000 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons, many without charge or trial. Medical neglect is rampant, along with violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Palestinian Prisoners Society reported today that the Israeli prison administration in Hadarim Prison has increased restrictions on Palestinian political prisoners and is engaging in more widespread medical neglect.

Oxfam: Survival rations will not rebuild Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - As the Palestinian Authority unveils its plan for Gaza reconstruction based on the insistence of the international community to have Israeli crossings opened, Oxfam International revealed that only a fraction of the range of goods needed even for humanitarian purposes are being allowed. In a statement Oxfam stressed the importance of financial contributions at Sharm but warned that without pressure on Israel to let essential goods such as school supplies and building materials into Gaza, the contributions would not lead to reconstruction. According to the agency, more than 80% of all goods currently allowed into Gaza are basic foods, such as fruit, dairy products, flour, oil and sugar. For goods needed for agriculture and rebuilding as well as clothing, shoes and supplies for education, however, Oxfam said the “tap has been turned off.

Peace Now: Israel planning 73,300 new homes in West Bank
Sara Miller, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
A report by the Israeli left-wing NGO Peace Now released Monday says that the government is planning to build more than 73,300 new housing units in the West Bank. Peace Now estimates that if all of the units are built, it would mean a 100-percent increase in the total number of Israeli settlers. The report says that some settlements, including the two largest Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, would double in size. According to the report, approval has already been granted for the construction of 15,000 housing units, and is pending for a further 58,000 units. The report states that 5,722 of the planned housing units are in East Jerusalem, and some 9,000 units in total have already been built. Peace Now map showing planned settlement construction beyond East Jerusalem, on both sides of the West Bank fence. Peace Now says that a new right-wing government presents the danger of "expanding settlement growth at a rapid pace. . . with the clear intention of destroying the possibility of a two-state solution. -- See also: Ministry of Housing’s Plans for the West Bank - March 2009

Report: Israeli Army kidnapped 292 Palestinians from the W.B during the month of February
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 3/2/2009
The Palestinian Political detainees Society issued a report on Monday stating that the Israeli military have kidnapped 292 Palestinians during the month of February. Of those 292 kidnapped, 35 were sick and 59 were children, in addition to four women, the report said. According to the Society report, the number kidnapped from different cities were: Bethlehem: 24; Hebron: 90; Ramallah: 68; Nablus: 35; Qalqilia: 22; Jenin: 25; Tulkarem: 13; Jericho: 8; Tubas: 6; and Salfet: 1. [end]

PNI: No more hope for peace with Israel; EU: Israel must reconsider settlement construction
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Ramallah - Ma’an - There is no hope for peace with Israel in light of Israeli election results and the recently unveiled plans to build 73,000 housing units in settlements across the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) said. The party, lead by Mustafa Barghouthi, issued a statement Monday saying it considers the decision by the Israeli Housing Ministry to build the tens of thousands of settlement homes on West Bank land a and Jerusalem “continuation of the war of settlements. ”The act, said PNI, “proves that the Israeli government has no intention of following through with any peace agreements” and that they rather “only care for building more settlements. ”The initiative added that Israel is working to impose “new facts on the ground” in Palestine in an attempt to “destroy the idea of a fully sovereign Palestinian state” and replace it with Israeli housing units and settlements.

Israel plans to double West Bank settlers
Marius Schattner - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 3/2/2009
Israel’s housing ministry has plans for West Bank construction that would nearly double the number of settlers in the occupied territory, the anti-settlement group Peace Now said on Monday. The report was issued on the same day that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit to Israel on her first trip to the region since taking office. US President Barack Obama has vowed to vigorously pursue peace efforts in the region, and Israeli settlements on occupied land have long been one of the main obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. "The ministry of construction and housing is planning to construct at least 73,000 housing units in the West Bank," said the Peace Now report based on analysis of data on Israeli government websites. "At least 15,000 housing units have already been approved and plans for an additional 58,000 housing units are yet to be approved," it said.

We will pursue Middle East peace on many fronts, says Hillary Clinton
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/2/2009
US secretary of state condemns ’violence and false choices’ of extremists - Hillary Clinton today made her first entry into Middle East diplomacy as the new US secretary of state, promising to pursue peace between Israel and the Arabs on "many fronts" and condemning the "violence and false choices" of extremists. Clinton spoke at an international donors conference at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the Palestinian Authority hoped to raise $2. 8bn in aid, part of which will go to the reconstruction of Gaza in the wake of Israel’s three-week war. She was due in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders later tonight. The secretary of state said she would "vigorously" pursue a two-state peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and her mention of peace on other fronts suggested that the Obama administration could also push for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

Israelis demolish home in East Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli forces stormed the house of Mahmoud Al-Abbasi in the Ein Al-Loza area of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Monday morning. Al-Abbasi told Ma’an that a large Israeli police force surrounded the area where the house is located and stormed inside, forcing the family to leave and throwing furniture out. But no clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police were immediately reported. Al-Abbasi added that bulldozers demolished his house, in which 11 people lived, including nine children, and claiming that he had received no prior notice of the demolition beforehand. The house was located in a neighborhood 500 meters from the Al-Bustan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where Israeli officials say 88 homes of 1,500 Palestinians are slated for demolition.

Clinton in Israel to listen to Israel’s leadership
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Israel Monday for a 36-hour visit, during which she will meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. Arriving in Israel after attending a donors’ summit in Egypt, where world nations pledged donations to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, Clinton was expected to meet with senior Israeli officials on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the formulation of a cease-fire agreement with Hamas. This is Clinton’s first trip to Israel in her new capacity as secretary of state, and is characterized as a familiarization trip aimed mainly at listening to the top echelon of Israel’s government. The reason behind the passive nature of the trip is the fact that the new U. S. administration of President Barack Obama has yet to formulate clear policy guidelines regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli military kidnaps three civilians from Nablus; two Palestinians injured in nearby villages
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 3/2/2009
On Monday morning, Israeli troops kidnapped three Palestinian civilians during a pre-dawn invasion, targeting the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Local Palestinian sources reported that Israeli Army forces invaded Nablus city, searched a number of homes and took three men to unknown detention camps. Also on Monday near Nablus, a local doctor, Amer Mansour, received treatment after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops in the village of Kafer Qaliel. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers stormed the village in the morning, and fired tear gas at homes. In related news, Palestinian farmers from the Jordan Valley reported on Monday that a Palestinian farmer was attacked by wild pigs. The farmers said that Ayman Ibraheem was attacked while working on his land, and was taken to a hospital in Nablus for treatment.

Israeli soldiers assault Palestinian man in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers assaulted a Palestinian man in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday, according to witnesses and medics. Medical workers said they administered first aid to 37-year-old Essam Abu Es’efan, from the Wadi Hussein area, in the east of Hebron. Abu Es’efan was treared for bruises on various parts of his body. The man’s brother, Jamal Abu Es’efan, told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers attacked him while he was standing in front of his house. No reason was given for the attack. Abu Es’efan’s condition has stabilized, his brother said. [end]

Israeli Army kidnaps five Palestinian civilians from Ramallah
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/2/2009
Five Palestinian civilians were kidnapped by the Israeli Army on Monday during pre dawn invasions targeting a refugee camp in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Local sources said that Israeli troops stormed al-Jalazon refugee camp, searched homes and then kidnapped five men. Meanwhile, other invasions were reported in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem and in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem on Monday. Israeli troops searched and ransacked homes, but no kidnappings were reported. [end]

Israeli forces detain two from Nablus, Balata
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained two young men from Nablus city and the Balata Refugee Camp east of the city at dawn on Monday. Palestinian security sources said several Israeli military jeeps entered the city and suburbs early Monday and stormed half a dozen civilian homes. According to eyewitnesses the forces detained 20-year-old Amid Eleiwi from the city and Mohammad Daoud from Balata camp. [end]

Israeli Apartheid Week: local production, economic stimulus discussion in Tulkarem
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/2/2009
Tulkarem - The Israeli Apartheid Week has begun in universities across the occupied West Bank. Monday’s session is being held in the northwestern West Bank’s Tulkarem and is discussing the effects of the Wall on the economy. Mohammad Jayyousi of the Stop the Wall Campaign in leading today’s opening session at Al-Khadouri College. Palestinian companies from the Tulkarem district will discuss with students the difficulties in producing, marketing and exporting their products as a result of the occupying regime’s closure system; and the need to stimulate internal consumption as a tool of economic resistance. Local production will be exhibited in the college during the session that lasts from 9:30 through 3:30 pm. As the week continues activities, films, panel discussions and teach-ins will held in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Jericho, Nablus, Qalqilia, Tulkarem and Tubas.

International donors pledge nearly $4.5 billion for Palestinians
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/3/2009
SHARM EL-SHEIKH: International donors meeting in Egypt on Monday to held rebuild war-battered Gaza have pledged $4. 48 billion and called for urgent action to revive peace talks. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on her first visit to the region as America’s top diplomat, said the economic aid to the Palestinians must go hand-in-hand with efforts to reach a comprehensive peace deal with Israel. "Our response to today’s crisis in Gaza cannot be separated from our broader efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace," Clinton told the conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Donors insist the money must be channeled through the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of president Mahmoud Abbas and must not go to Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas. But foreign leaders called on the rival Palestinian factions to unite to help pave the way for peace and for a lifting of the Israeli. . .

23 Palestinians killed in February
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/2/2009
The International Solidarity for Human Rights reported on Sunday that the Israeli Army carried out repeated violations in the occupied territories in February, killing 23 Palestinians, including four children and three women. Eighteen residents died in the Gaza Strip, most of them from wounds sustained during the latest Israeli offensive "Cast Lead" on the Gaza Strip, while five residents were killed in the West Bank. The ISHR stated that the Israeli Army increased its attacks against the Palestinian territories, and kidnapped more than 300 residents, including dozens of children and a number of women. The institution added that most of the kidnapped residents were taken to prison after the Israeli Army broke into their homes during the night, while a number of residents were kidnapped on roadblocks in different parts of the West Bank.

Tony Blair urges Israel to lift economic blockade of Gaza
Rory McCarthy in Gaza City, The Guardian 3/2/2009
Former prime minister calls for new approach to resolving crisis, during first visit to Gaza as Middle East envoy - Tony Blair yesterday made his first visit to Gaza as the international Middle East envoy and called for a new approach to resolving the Gaza crisis prior to a key conference on reconstruction. Blair, the latest high-level diplomat to visit Gaza in the wake of Israel’s devastating three-week invasion, urged Israel to lift its economic blockade of the strip, which is home to 1. 5 million Palestinians and under the control of the Islamist Hamas movement. " I think there is a recognition that we have got to change our strategy towards Gaza," he said. The visit, his first since he went to Gaza as prime minister in November 2001, came ahead of today’s major conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh at which the Palestinian Authority will ask for $2.

Egypt: $4.4B raised for Gaza reconstruction
News agencies, YNetNews 3/2/2009
During Sharm el-Sheik Gaza aid conference, where donors pledged $4. 4 billion, Clinton says Obama administration has no illusions when it comes to Tehran’s willingness to negotiate atom work, Obama will push for two-state solution - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in the Middle East for her first official visit Monday, expressed doubt that Iran would respond to the Obama administration’s expressions of interest in engaging Tehran on nuclear and other issues, a senior State Department official said. Clinton was in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheik to attend an international conference to raise money for the war-torn Gaza Strip, where donors pledged $4. 4 billion in new funds, according to Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit. He added that other nations recommitted themselves to funds they promised in the past but never delivered, bringing the total to $5.

Push for peace to avert violence, Gaza donors told
By Alastair Sharp and Will Rasmussen, Reuters, The Independent 3/2/2009
A new drive to revive the Middle East peace process is needed because violence could easily erupt again in Gaza, wrecking aid efforts, international donors were told at an aid conference today. Donors gathered in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh pledged more than $4bn to help the Palestinian economy and rebuild the Gaza Strip after the three-week Israeli offensive that ended in January. "We need more than pledges of aid," said Foreign Secretary David Miliband said. "The aid needs to get in, it needs to be well spent, then it needs to be sustained. Otherwise the saga of reconstruction and destruction will go on and on. quot;The status quo is of benefit to all the extremism. It is time for us to speed up the agenda," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the conference. quot;We are confronted with a serious dilemma," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told the final news conference.

’No money to Gaza until rockets stop’
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 3/2/2009
Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu voiced serious reservations during recent meetings with foreign leaders about money going into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction before the rocket fire on Israel has stopped, The Jerusalem Post has learned. After hearing in one meeting that European taxpayers were concerned about investing in Gaza only to see further destruction at the hands of the IDF, Netanyahu explained that Israel tried hard to avoid civilian casualties and targeted only those areas used by terrorists. He then reportedly said he was not willing to sacrifice Israel’s security "for a smile. " Sources close to Netanyahu said it would be critical for humanitarian aid to bypass Hamas, especially with the Islamist group continuing to fire rockets into Israel. One Netanyahu aide said that with the Gaza reconstruction conference, it seemed as if the world felt that attacks on Israel were a thing of the past, when they were taking place daily.

Fayyad hypes PA plan at Sharm; begins outlining details
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Sharm Ash-Sheikh – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA) plan for the donors conference in Sharm Ash-Sheikh is a focus on Gaza, with a two tier plan to rebuild and revitalize the Strip with the support of donors and international agencies. During the lead-up to the conference Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad explained PA’s plan in an intimate interview with both Tony Blair and the Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. The day before he met with US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Mousa, and director of Egyptian intelligence Omar Sulaiman. These influential figures were also privy to the details of the PA’s plan. Later Monday the plan will finally be made public, and is expected to include mechanisms for the quick refurbishment of the agricultural sector and its infrastructure, a detailed plan to rebuild Gaza and a PA economic plan to begin in 2010.

Hamas: Rebuilding Gaza is a humanitarian mission and should not be politicised
Palestinian Information Center 3/2/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas said on Monday that the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip is a humanitarian mission that should not be politicised or exploited at the expense of the Palestinian people’s national rights. The movement held the "oppressive Zionist occupation" responsible for all the killing and destruction in the Gaza Strip, stressing that the occupation should shoulder all the expenses of rebuilding the Strip. In a statement he made on Monday, Fawzi Barhoum, the Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, commented on the Sharm al-Shaikh conference to rebuild the Gaza Strip, said that his movement rejects any political exploitation of the need to rebuild the Gaza Strip stressing that his movement will not allow the occupation to achieve through this process what it has failed to achieve through force. He further stressed that his movement welcomes any Arab or International efforts towards. . .

Hamas: Palestinian blood can’t be traded for politicized aid
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas movement on Monday stated its rejection “of taking advantage of reconstruction in Gaza to achieve political gains for any side at the expense of the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights. ”“Our people’s blood can’t be traded, under any circumstances, by politicized aid for reconstruction,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson. Barhoum called on delegates at an international donor conference in Sharm Ash-Sheikh, Egypt, to work out a mechanism to deliver aid directly to Palestinians in Gaza, apart from the political rivalry amongst the Palestinian politicians. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has not been invited to the conference. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is planning to use funds raised at the summit for its own reconstruction plans in Gaza. “We think reconstruction is a moral and humanitarian process, but what. . .

PA seeking budget support in addition to Gaza reconstruction aid
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority asked donor states for a total of 2. 7 billion US dollars on Monday to rebuild the Gaza Strip and to support its overall budget. In addition to seeking 1. 3 billion dollars for his Gaza reconstruction plan, Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad devoted much of his remarks at the conference to asking for 1. 4 billion in direct, unearmarked budged support. At the beginning of his speech, Fayyad also enumerated the “disturbing” toll of the Israeli war on Gaza. “Israel’s offensive on Gaza has brought on the darkest days in Palestinian history since the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967. The tally of the damage and destruction caused by Israel’s offensive on our people is in, and it is deeply disturbing:• 1,440 dead, 431 of them children;• 5,380 injured, including 1,872 children;•. . .

UN chief: Gaza border closure ’intolerable’
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt - UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is "intolerable" and that border crossings into must be reopened to allow aid into the war-battered enclave. "The situation at the border crossings is intolerable. Aid workers do not have access. Essential commodities cannot get in," Ban told international donors gathered in Egypt to pledge aid to rebuild Gaza after Israel’s three-week war on the territory. "Our first and indispensable goal is to open crossings," Ban said. Ban said the conference should "express our solidarity with the people of Palestine, and especially those of Gaza" as well as "support the efforts of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership to reconstruct Gaza. " Israel, which wants to crush any Palestinian liberation movement, responded to Hamas’s win in the elections with sanctions, and almost completely. . .

PA seeks $2.7 billion from donor nations ’for Gaza recovery’
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
The Palestinian Authority will ask for another $2. 7 billion from donor nations Monday: $1. 326 billion to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip in 2009-2010 and $1. 415 billion to support the PA’s annual budget. The real challenge behind "The Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza, 2009-2010" is the competition between the two rival Palestinian governments, the PA in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza, over who gets the credit of rebuilding Gaza after Operation Cast Lead. Hamas has announced in the media that it has already evaluated the damage in the Strip and formulated a recovery plan using its own sources of funding. Meanwhile, the PA is attempting to implement its plan although its institutions have not operated in Gaza for nearly two years. The PA intends to implement its program through various subcontractors - United Nations agencies.

Clinton: Gaza aid and peace must go hand in hand
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an international conference on Monday that aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip cannot be separated from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "Our response to today’s crisis in Gaza cannot be separated from our broader efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace," Clinton said at the conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh attended by delegates from more than 70 countries and organisations. "By providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, we also aim to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realised," she said. The United States wants "a state that is a responsible partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbours and is accountable to its people, a state that Palestinians everywhere can be proud of and is respected worldwide.

Blair says Gaza crossings must be opened to assist rebuilding
Donald Macintyre in Beit Lahiya, The Independent 3/2/2009
Former Prime Minister makes first visit to territory since becoming envoy - Tony Blair visits Beit Hanun in Gaza yesterday ? his first visit to the Hamas-run enclave since he was appointed Middle East envoy enlarge Tony Blair has called for Gaza’s crossings to be opened for basic building and other commercial goods, adding to international pressure on Israel likely to be exerted at today’s Egypt-hosted post-war reconstruction summit. On his long-awaited first visit to the Palestinian territory as Middle East envoy from the international quartet -- the UN, US, EU and Russia -- Mr Blair said that the 20-month blockade inflicted on the territory’s 1. 5 million inhabitants "does not work&quot. He made the comments while calling for an end to violence, including rockets fired by Gazan militants into Israel.

Abbas: Aid without end to conflict insufficient
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas told international donors gathered in Egypt on Monday that financial aid without an end to the conflict with Israel would be "insufficient. " "We are all conscious that the reconstruction and development efforts will remain insufficient, powerless and threatened in the absence of a political settlement," Abbas said at the conference in Sharm El-Sheikh. "We appreciate your presence and the financial, economic and technical support that you are giving to the Palestinian people but we insist on the pressing need to achieve substantial progress towards a just settlement (on the Israeli occupation). " Peace talks aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel have been frozen since the three-week Israeli war on Gaza in December and January.

Gaza donor conference: Who is pledging what
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
An international conference to help rebuild the Gaza Strip got underway Monday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Palestinian Authority had hoped to raise $2. 78 billion in aid, including $1. 33 billion to rebuild the coastal strip after Israel’s three-week military offensive in January. Here are some of the pledges announced ahead of the one-day event. Gulf Arab states plan to pledge $1. 65 billion in aid over a period of up to five years. The United States will pledge $900 million, of which $300 million will be earmarked for Gaza. The rest will be to support the Palestinian Authority’s economic reforms and budget shortfalls. The European Commission will pledge 436 million euros ($552. 6 million) both to the reconstruction of Gaza and the reforms of the Palestinian Authority.

Donors pledge 5.2 billion USD to Gaza, PA
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
in GazaBethlehem – Ma’an – Donor countries pledged 5. 2 billion US dollarsin new funds to the Palestinian Authority (PA) at a conference in Egypt on Monday to help rebuild the Gaza Strip over the next two years, Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit said. Aboul Gheit said the figure “exceeded expectations. ”Aboul Gheit also called for Israel to reopen the Gaza Strip’s border crossings, and for Israel to reach a long term truce with Palestinian armed factions. The Palestinian Authority had hoped to raise 2. 8 billion in aid, including 1. 33 billion to rebuild Gaza after Israel’s three-week war on the territory. Arab Gulf states planned to pledge 1. 65 billion in aid over a period of up to five years. The United States will pledged 900 million, of which 300 million are earmarked for Gaza.

Donors pledge $5bn to rebuild Gaza
Al Jazeera 3/2/2009
International donors have pledged more than $5bn to help rebuild Gaza after Israel’s war on the territory and to regenerate the Palestinian economy, Egypt’s foreign minister has said. The donations from more than 40 countries "were more than we expected" said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, at a conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. Hillary Clinton, on her first visit to the Middle East since becoming the US secretary of state, pledged $900m. About $300m of the US donation will go towards rebuilding the Palestinian territory, while $400m will go to projects in the West Bank and $200bn will be given to the PA so that it can reorganise itself. European pledgesThe European Commission said it will donate $554m for the reconstruction of Gaza and changes to. . .

AUDIO - Gaza conference: ’People are optimistic, but they’re still waiting for changes on the ground’
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 3/2/2009
Rory McCarthy in Gaza on the international contributors’ conference to discuss rebuilding after the Israeli attacks. [end]

U.S. Talks Tough on Gaza Aid
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post 3/1/2009
Limits on Distribution of $300 Million Suggest Administration Is Hewing to Bush-Era Stance - SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, March 1 -- The United States on Monday will pledge $300 million in humanitarian relief for people in Gaza after the 22-day war with Israel but will maintain restrictions to prevent any assistance from reaching Hamas, State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, attending an international conference here to raise funds for the Gaza Strip, will also announce $600 million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority, which is controlled by Fatah, a rival of Hamas that is dominant in the West Bank. The additional money not aimed at Gaza comprises $200 million in budget support to pay wages -- much of which was previously announced -- and $400 million to support reform and development in the West Bank.

Gaza rocket hits Ashkelon, Israel files complaint with UN
Shlomo Shamir and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Palestinian militants fired a rocket into the southern city of Ashkelon from the Gaza Strip Monday evening. No one was hurt and no damage was caused in the attack. In light of the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza this week, the parents’ association of the Ashkelon school system announced that they would shut down area schools, as the buildings are not properly fortified against rocket attacks. The parents said that they would go to the schools and physically prevent students from entering the buildings, Israel Radio reported. Meanwhile, Israel filed an official complaint with the United Nations on Monday over the continuing rocket fire. " The government of Israel will continue to safeguard its citizens and will do everything in its power to ensure that the situation in the south will not go back to what it was. . .

UN rights chief appeals for anti-racism conference
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Commissioner Navi Pillay tires to assure skeptics that nature of upcoming UN conference on racism will not turn anti-Semitic; calls criticism of meet unwarranted -The UN Rights chief on Monday rejected fears that an upcoming UN conference on racism might turn into an anti-Semitic diatribe and urged countries to make the meeting a success by focusing on global issues. The conference scheduled for April 20-25 has been disparaged in media reports and attacked by a lobbying campaign of those who fear a repetition of anti-Israel moves that marred the first racism conference in 2001, UN. "This is unwarranted," High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. She urged all countries to put aside "narrow, parochial interests and reflexive partisanship" and work for an agreement that would help eradicate discrimination.

Durban 2 draft statement: Israel’s Palestinian policy is crime against humanity
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
A draft of the closing statement prepared for the upcoming United Nations-sponsored conference against racism, dubbed Durban 2, states that Israel’s policy in the Palestinian territories constitutes a "violation of international human rights, a crime against humanity and a contemporary form of apartheid. " The conference, to be held in Geneva next month, is a follow-up to the contentious 2001 conference in the South African city of Durban which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery. The U. S. and Israel walked out midway through that eight-day meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism - the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state - to racism. Israel, Canada and the U. S. have already announced that they will boycott the upcoming summit.

Arab peace offer ’not open-ended’ - Saud al-Faisal
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/3/2009
SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal warned Israel on Monday that an Arab initiative for Middle East peace could not remain on the table forever. "The peace initiative was launched at the Beirut summit in 2002 but it did not meet with any Israeli response," the Saudi prince told an international aid conference in Egypt to raise funds to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip. "Israel. . . must realize that the choice between war and peace cannot be open-ended, and that the initiative will not remain forever on the table. " The initiative calls for a full normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land, the creation of a Palestinian state and an "equitable" solution for Palestinian refugees. The Saudi-penned plan was first presented at an Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, when it was unanimously adopted by all Arab League member states.

Donor conference brings in billions but attempts to keep control via the western backed PA
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/2/2009
Bethlehem - The money is coming in at the Palestinian Donors Conference that began this morning in Sharm el-Sheikh. Nearly three billion dollars are expected, but Palestinian officials such as Jabril Rajoub told in Jerusalem that the crossings must be opened, while Economy Minister Zaza says reconstruction must be coordinated with Hamas. Palestinian Legislative Council member Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi said that donations are meaningless if the Strip remains closed and under siege. Reconstructing the Gaza Strip is the subject of the conference in the Egyptian resort town, but materials such as glass and cement are still banned. Human Rights Watch demanded that the Israeli administration lift the siege on the Strip. Another issue is the continuing struggle between the elected Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority.

International donors pledge $5.2 billion for Gaza reconstruction
Amira Hass and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Egypt’s foreign minister on Monday said international donors have pledged $5. 2 billion in new funds at the conference for rebuilding Gaza, devastated during Israel’s offensive against its Hamas rulers. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the figure is "beyond our expectations. "He said other nations recommitted themselves to funds they promised in the past but never delivered, bringing the total to $5. 2 billion in pledges. Palestinian Planning Minister Samir Abdullah said the money from Monday’s conference is earmarked for humanitarian aid to Gaza, rebuilding in the territory and budget support to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. He could not immediately say how much was going to each fund. The international donors’ conference aimed at rebuilding the war-torn Gaza Strip got underway. . .

Donors pledge 4.5 billion dollars to Palestinians
Ezzedine Said - SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Middle East Online 3/2/2009
International donors on Monday pledged almost 4. 5 billion dollars to the Palestinians and demanded the immediate lifting of Israel’s crippling blockade on the war-battered Gaza Strip. But foreign leaders meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh insisted that the money must bypass Hamas, the Islamist group which rules Gaza but is boycotted by the West as a terrorist group. "We have gathered today 4. 481 billion dollars, in addition to previous pledges," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit said at the close of the conference aimed at raising funds to help rebuild Gaza after Israel’s devastating three-week war. Donors also called for "the immediate, total and unconditional opening of all of Gaza’s borders with Israel", Abul Gheit said. World leaders at the conference also appealed for urgent action to breathe new life into the moribund Middle East peace process. . .

Gaza Summit commences with nearly 70 countries participating
Saed Bannoura&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/2/2009
The International Donors Conference for rebuilding Gaza was initiated at Egyptian Sharm Al Sheikh resort on Monday with nearly 70 countries participating. The United States is expected to pledge USD$900 million. In his opening speech, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stated that the aggression against Gaza should not divert international attention from the Palestinian cause, and he called on the new Israeli government to respond positively to the Arab peace initiative. He added that a ceasefire deal between Israel and the Palestinians is a very important issue, and called on the convening leaders to help in achieving a lasting truce. "The Palestinian people need aid and relief," Mubarak said, "but they also need clear political support. "Hamas, which was not invited to the conference, said that it rejects linking the rebuilding of Gaza with obliging the Palestinians to make concessions.

Egypt: Gaza donations to go through UN and World Bank
Yoav Stern and Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Participants in today’s international donors conference for Gaza, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, want the funds they donate for post-conflict recovery to be channeled through existing resources like the United Nations and World Bank rather than creating new ones, the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement published yesterday. The existing resources cited by the ministry also include t he European Commission and the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development, Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported yesterday. Each of the 75 donor countries and international organizations participating in the one-day conference will decide how to distribute the funds, Egyptian officials have said. Hamas and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority are split over how to use the money, which is supposed to help Gaza recover from the Israel Defense Forces operation held in the Strip in December and January.

Despite silence when war began, nations line up to rebuild Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Sharm Ash-Sheikh – Ma’an – Every Middle Eastern country sent representatives to the Gaza donors’ conference in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm Ash-Sheikh, which opened on Monday, except for Israel and Iran. Ma’an’s correspondent at the talks reported back that seemingly every country in the world is suddenly concerned about Gaza, having remained silent while Israel began its war but now openly competing to support reconstruction efforts. One theory floating around the donors conference in Sharm compares the assault on Gaza to the American-led invasion of Iraq, suggesting that the US first destroyed Iraq, but then used Iraqi oil and natural resources for its reconstruction. But comparing the same situation to Gaza yields different results; Gaza has neither oil nor natural resources—nothing to interest a superpower or occupier to consider the nightmare of controlling it, yet it is still routinely attempted.

Occupation releases MP Zeidan after 23 months in detention
Palestinian Information Center 3/2/2009
TULKAREM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority has released Palestinian lawmaker Abdel-Rahman Zeidan, former Minister of the Ministry of Public Works in the 10th Palestinian government of PM Ismail Haneyya. Sources close to the former minister said that he was released from the Negev desert prison on Monday 2 March 2009 after spending 23 months in detention. Zeidan was arrested on 23 May 2007, to join tens of Hamas lawmakers and ministers in Israeli occupation jails. This was the second time Zeidan was arrested and detained. He had to undergo surgery during his detention as he suffered ill health. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said in a report that the Israeli occupation forces arrested 292 Palestinians in the West Bank during the month of February. Amongst those arrested 35 people who are suffering health problems, 59 minors and 4 girls.

Israel releases former Hamas minister from prison
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israel released Abdel Rahman Zaidan, a member of the Palestinian parliament and a former minister of public works on Monday after holding him prisoner for 22 months in prison. Zaidan, a member of the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform List, was a minister in the 10th Palestinian government. He was arrested in May of 2007 and served time between Israel’s Negev prison camp and Megiddo prison. Residents in Zaidan’s hometown of Deir Al-Ghusun, near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, are preparing a celebration at Al-Faiha Hall to welcome him home. Israel seized dozens of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in response to the capture of soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still held by Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip. Some forty members of the PLC are still in Israeli jails.

Reservist: We did not bring Hamas to its knees
Yael Levy, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Soldiers drafted during Gaza offensive frustrated by government’s inability to propel military leverage into lasting results. ’It’s as if we did nothing,’ says one. ’We set out to protect southern communities but the fire continues,’ adds another -Six weeks after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, many of the reservists who took part inIsrael’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip are frustrated by what they call "the political echelon’s incompetence". " It’s as if we did nothing," G. , an officer who was drafted by proxy of the campaign’s emergency orders, told Ynet on Monday. While in uniform, Major G. commands a special forces unit. The offensive saw him and his troops operate in the northern Gaza districts of al-Attatra and Beit Lahiya. "We were inside (Gaza) for 10 days and preparing for that took three weeks of being away from family and friends.

Olmert orders Barak to act swiftly against Gaza rocket attacks
Barak Ravid Anshel Pfeffer and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday to implement a military response to the ongoing rocket fire as soon as possible, in accordance with a cabinet decision taken last week. "The cabinet decided that if the firing continues from the Gaza Strip, it will be met with a painful, harsh, strong and uncompromising response from the security forces," Olmert said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Palestinians have launched more than 110 rockets and mortar shells at Israel since the military operation in Gaza ended in a cease-fire January 18, according to the IDF. Palestinians fired three Qassam rockets on Israel Sunday, which caused no injuries. They came on the heels of eight rockets fired on the south over the weekend, including a Qassam that exploded in an empty Ashkelon. . .

Israel tells UN it will respond to rockets
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Official complaint letter says ’attacks hinder efforts to reach stable cease-fire, threaten Israel’s security’ - WASHINGTON -Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, filed an official complaint with the UN Security Council Monday regarding the rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli towns. The recipient of Shalev’s official letter was Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s ambassador to the UN and the Security Council’s rotating president. The Arab nations have permanent representation in the UN’s Security Council. Libya, the current president, has been using its status to promote anti-Israeli resolutions, most significantly during its offensive in Gaza. Shalev’s letter followed a barrage of rocket attacks on the south, including two advanced Grad rockets fired from Gaza at Ashkelon Saturday.

Futile and absurd threats
Editorial, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
While the firing of Qassam rockets on communities in the south continues as though there had been no war to put an end to it, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday once again began threatening Hamas, as if his threats had any validity. "Israel will not continue to show restraint at the firing of Qassams," Olmert said at the beginning of a cabinet session. "If the firing continues it will be met by a painful response. "The outgoing prime minister has not learned a thing. After Hamas proved to Israel that the war waged against it was totally useless - the Qassams and the Grad missiles that continue to fall and to sow fear prove that no deterrence was achieved in this useless war - the prime minister continues to use the language of past threats, as though we hadn’t caused enough pain and harm to the residents of Gaza; to no avail.

Strategic Allies
Leslie Susser, The Jerusalem Report, Jerusalem Post 3/1/2009
Just before its 30th anniversary, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty survived one of its sternest tests. Despite angry region-wide protests against Israel over the 22-day December-January war in Gaza, the Egyptian government did not issue any harsh condemnations or convene the Arab League to call for sanctions against Israel or its Western backers. Nor, even more significantly, did it mobilize Egyptian armed forces or make any threat of military intervention. All this was taken for granted even though the war raged on territory once controlled by Egypt, was fought perilously close to the Egyptian border and some Egyptian border guards were accidentally killed. On the Egyptian street and in the media, the reaction was very different. The buzzword in Cairo was and still is "the genocide" committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Israel opens Gaza crossings – no word on Rafah
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel partially opened its Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid on Monday, National Economy Undersecretary Nasser As-Sarraj said. As-Sarraj told Ma’an that Israel would allow 110 truckloads to cross through Kerem Shalom, including 47 to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and other international organizations. Another 50 truckloads of frozen meat, beans, cooking oil, diapers, toilet paper, and blankets will go to the private sector, in addition to 10 truckloads of fruits and fertilized eggs to the agricultural-private sector and three others with equipment for Gaza’s sole power plant, As-Sarraj said. He added that Israel will allow 70 trucks to cross through Karni, shipping wheat and feed, and 420,000 liters of industrial diesel will be shipped to the power plant; however, cooking gas will not be allowed in.

Gaza private sector hopes for access
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
GAZA CITY - In Gaza’s devastated industrial parks entrepreneurs fear that foreign aid will do little to repair the territory’s shattered economy if Israel’s siege on the enclave is not lifted. The Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is expected to request some 2. 8 billion dollars at Monday’s donors’ conference in Egypt to rebuild Gaza in the wake of a 22-day war that killed over 1,300 Palestinians, mainly civilians. But Gaza business owners say there will be no lasting reconstruction unless Israel lifts its blocakde. "There will be no reconstruction without opening the crossings," says Ali al-Hayek, the director of the Palestinian Businessmen Association in Gaza. "We do not want to keep receiving humanitarian aid, we are a free people and a dignified people. " Before 2000 Gazan industry, construction and agriculture employed more than 120,000 people,. . .

Longest humanitarian convoy crosses northern Africa to Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/2/2009
Tripoli -- The British aid convoy en route to the Gaza Strip arrived in Tripoli yesterday. "The Life Line for Gaza" includes 120 vehicles, among them ambulances. They are carrying food, medicines and medical equipment. This is the largest British effort of its kind and took off from London on Valentine’s Day for an estimated 16-day trip. British Parliament member George Galloway is leading the effort along with trade unions, Islamic organizations and the Stop the War coalition. Some 280 people are on the road being hosted in cities as the convoy crosses Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Taking off from Tripoli on Sunday, the convoy should reach Egypt shortly and then attempt to pass through the Rafah crossing. The coordinator of the National Committee of the Support of the Palestinian People told the press today that the convoy is carrying 5,000 tons of humanitarian aid, two ambulances, and a fire truck.

Palestine Today 030209
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 3/2/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 00s || 2. 75 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for Monday, March 2nd, 2009. Five Palestinians killed in Gaza and two injured in the West Bank as army invaded a number of cities, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Five Palestinians died late on Sunday when a tunnel collapsed on them due to heavy rain, Palestinian medical sources reported. The tunnel is located at the Rafah-Egypt border in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. A medical source at Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah said that the bodies of five residents were taken to hospital. A Palestinian man died on Saturday in a similar accident in Rafah. The International Solidarity for Human Rights group reported on Monday that the Israeli army killed 23 Palestinians including four children and three women in February.

Qassam lands south of Ashkelon
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Parents say City’s school strike will continue Tuesday and beyond until all schools are fortified - A Qassam rocket fired from Gaza landed in open spaces south of Ashkelon late Monday evening. No injuries or damage were reported. The city’s parents have decided to continue their education system strike due to many school buildings’ lack of fortification. The strike began Monday and will continue Tuesday despite the municipality’s objections. Ashkelon Municipality announced that all schools and kindergartens will remain open and that the faculty would be present, and recommended that parents send their children in "so that they don’t wander the streets". However the Ashkelon Parents’ Committee plans to send representatives to the facilities’ gates to persuade parents to take their children home.

Comptroller: No protection from ongoing Gaza rockets or potential chemical attack
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
The State Comptroller on Monday released a scathing report of the defense establishment, lambasting its delays in providing protection from Gaza rockets for southern residents and expressing concern that most Israelis would have no protection from a chemical attack. Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ report reveals a worrying picture of bureaucratic tumult, waste of funds and administrative irregularities. Southern towns on the border with the Gaza Strip have been waiting eight years for the government to reinforce their homes and public buildings, to little avail. The comptroller examined two active defense systems: Iron Dome, built to protect against short-range missiles, and Magic Wand, designed to intercept medium-range missiles. Both systems are still in the development stage.

ANALYSIS / Another harsh report shows little has changed for Gaza border residents
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
There is something symbolic about the fact that the State Comptroller’s report was originally due to be released on the eve of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, and was postponed until Monday, when Israel’s southern communities are once again under rocket attack. There is a direct connection between the report’s findings, which are characterized by a lack of order and a denial of reality, and Israel’s management of the situation faced by communities bordering Gaza - specifically when it comes to public defense systems and missile-interception systems. The truth is we have grown used to these reports. Once or twice a year, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss releases his findings, which are comprehensive and disturbing. The media (barely) gets worked up the day after the report is released, the defense ministry promises change and then everything returns to its regular course.

Comptroller finds ’severe flaws’ in development of anti-missile systems
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Lindenstraus’ report notes billion shekels were spent on ’Iron Dome’, ’Magic Wand’ defensive systems before IDF ever specified operational needs; adds home front ill-prepared for chemical attack -The 2008 State Comptroller’s report points to severe deficiencies in the Defense Ministry’s decision-making process regarding Israel’s anti-missile systems. According to the report, published Monday, the State spent considerable funds, amounting to billions, on developing defensive systems before determining their actual operational objectives. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus also noted defense establishment failures in addressing additional threats, mainly the possibility of a chemical attack on the IDF and Israel’s civilian population. "The security establishment is obligated to find a comprehensive solution to Israel’s defensive and offensive needs as soon as possible, including the development or acquisition of defense systems," the report stated.

Minister Sheetrit: Israel supports thousands of West Bank kids
Zvi Lavi, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Interior minister says National Insurance Institute pays child benefits to 112,000 families living in West Bank because official records show mothers reside in east Jerusalem -The National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII) in paying allowances to some 112,000 Palestinian children living in the West Bank since the Interior Ministry’s records show their mothers as living in east Jerusalem, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said Monday. Sheetrit added that hundreds in the Palestinian Security Service were also enjoying stipends, since their wives’ registered place of residence was east Jerusalem, while in fact, the families reside in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah. " This is not the way a country should conduct itself, but this is the situation right now," he said. The interior minister also said that his office has laid the groundwork. . .

Mitchell in UAE on Mideast peace mission
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
DUBAI - US President Barack Obama’s Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell discussed with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahayan ways of achieving a lasting ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, the official WAM news agency reported. Mitchell’s visit came as part of his second regional tour that included Israel and Jordan ahead of a donors’ conference on Gaza in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. He briefed Sheikh Mohammad on his meetings with the other parties, WAM reported late on Saturday. Sheikh Mohammad said the United States, Europeans and Arabs should work together to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel land for peace, WAM reported. In January, Mitchell visited Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia on his first tour of the region as Obama’s special envoy.

Gilad: Iran-Hamas ties stronger than ever
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Senior Defense Ministry official says Islamist group looking to remove Abbas from power, promote terror activity in West Bank. Adds: ’Hizbullistan’ being established in Lebanon -"One ofIsrael’s biggest mistakes was to allow Hamas to take control over the Gaza Strip in 2007," senior Defense Ministry official Maj. Gen. (res. ) Amos Gilad said Monday. Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, told a Tel Aviv University conference on Lebanon that the lslamist group is looking to expand its sphere of influence to the West Bank and promote terror activity there as well. "Hamas’ strategic objective is to seize control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization," he said. "This remains Hamas’ vision – to take control over the PA by way of elections, remove (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and make the West Bank its base.

Exiled Hamas official Abu Marzouk sees mother in Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/2/2009
Gaza - Vice chairman of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouk, confirmed today that he visited the Gaza Strip for a period of 29 hours. The exiled leader entered the Strip through the Rafah crossing in coordination with Egyptian authorities, namely Security Minister Omar Suleiman. Abu Marzouk is second in the Hamas movement to Khaled Meshal, also living in exile in Syria. Although Abu Marzouk refused to divulge specific details of his short time in Gaza, it was said that he held meetings on the possible prisoner exchange with the Israelis and the ceasefire. Suleiman is the mediator between the Hamas and Israeli parties regarding the two issues. In a statement sent to from London, the Hamas leader added that he visited his mother in Rafah for four hours. He had not seen the ailing woman in 30 years.

Explosive cache found near Gaza
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Egyptian police find 450 kg of TNT hidden in sacks near Rafah on border with Gaza Strip -An Egyptian security official says police have discovered 450 kilograms of TNT hidden in sacks near the country’s volatile border with the Gaza Strip. The explosives were found Monday in two buried deposits near Sheik Zuwayed - a village just west of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. The find comes as Egyptian police are cracking down on tunnels used to smuggle weapons, fuel, cigarettes and foodstuff to the Palestinians in Gaza. Police have found 10 tunnels north of Rafah crossing during the past 48 hours. The tunnel-rich area was a target for air strikes during Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, and the IDF claimed at the. . .

Naseef: political arrests in West Bank persists despite national talks
Palestinian Information Center 3/2/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Prominent political leader in Hamas Movement Rafat Naseef said on Monday that the PA security forces in the West Bank continued with its political arrest campaign against Hamas cadres in clear undermining of the ongoing inter-Palestinian national talks in Egypt. In a written statement he made and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC, Nassef stressed, "At a time our Palestinian people are happy and satisfied with the meetings and understandings between the Palestinian factions in [the Egyptian capital] Cairo, the political situation in the West Bank remained unchanged as political arrests and provocative summonses persisted against Hamas cadres there". "Since the Palestinian national dialogue started in Cairo last week, at least 29 members of Hamas Movement were arrested at the hands of the PA security forces, in addition to summoning 67 others", underlined Naseef,. . .

Ghusain: Fayyad’s security agencies try to foil reconciliation efforts
Palestinian Information Center 3/2/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ehab al-Ghusain, spokesman of the interior ministry in the Gaza Government, condemned the arrest on Monday of Ahmad Zaid, an interior ministry employee in Ramallah, by security men answerable to Fayyad, the prime minister of the illegitimate government in Ramallah. In a press statement Ghusain said that the fact that these agencies continue to pursue political opponents is clear evidence of the attempt of these agencies to spoil the Cairo talks which aim to reach national reconciliation. He stressed that despite promises to the contrary, the pursuit of  Hamas supporters have not stopped and that the latest political arrest was that of Ahmad Zaid. He called on all Palestinian factions and the Egyptian administration to urgently intervene to put an end to these practices "of this unpatriotic trend" which aim to spoil the efforts for reconciliation.

Union: Fayyad promises civil servant salaries Thursday following last month’s three week delay
Ma’an News Agency 3/2/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian civil servants will be paid Thursday, PA President Salam Fayyad promised Monday, said Head of the Palestinian Civil Servants Union Bassam Zakarna. February’s salaries were more than three weeks late, following the retraction of a PA promise to pay salaries on time when the caretaker government came into power in 2007. The delay, officials said, was due to the overextension of the government budget after 67 million US dollars was devoted to Gaza aid. This month, the Palestinian caretaker government recommitted itself to promises made by Fayyad that salaries would be paid the first week of each month. Fayyad also announced that there would be a salary adjustment for the increased cost of living following a meeting between union and government officials set to be held this month.

Ramallah: Palestinian police fine drivers with flowers instead of giving tickets
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/2/2009
As is the case each morning, on Monday traffic police started their day by standing on the merger street intersections in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. But, this morning it was rather different from usual as police officers stopped drivers breaking the law and gave them each a flower with a note saying, "’We wish you a safe journey! Please remember not to break the law next time. "Thabit Sa’di, director of traffic police in Ramallah told media agencies that this campaign was welcomed by the local community, adding that their main goal is people’s safety, not the fine, which this campaign clearly demonstrates. [end]

Barak to Peres: Convince Labor members to join coalition
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Labor Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has asked President Shimon Peres to help him convince his fellow party members to join the government of prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 10 reported Monday evening. Netanyahu also approached the president asking him to convince Labor to join his coalition. Netnayahu is currently trying to entice various parties to join his coalition in efforts to build a stable government. So far Labor has insisted it would not join a government led by Netanyahu and vowed to serve from the opposition. Similarly, Foreign Minster Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party has also vowed not to join Netnayahu’s government. Barak met Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in the hallways of the Knesset building on Monday, and told her that Netanyahu was not as rigid on foreign policy issues as he likes to make himself out to be.

Peretz: If Barak wants defense ministry he should leave Labor
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Inner-party struggles intensify after Labor chairman meets with PM-designate Netanyahu, doesn’t rule out entering coalition. MK Peretz, Barak’s main competition for party head, says ’his conduct could lead to a deep rift in the party; he should invest energy in organizing Labor for the opposition’ - "Any attempt to legitimize the Labor Party’s inclusion in the coalition will be met with much objection," Knesset Member Amir Peretz said Monday morning following Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Labor Chairman Ehud Barak on Sunday evening. In an interview to Ynet, Peretz said that if Barak wants to serves as defense minister - he should resign from his role as Labor chairman immediately. Peretz warned that if Barak continued to negotiation withNetanyahu, "it could lead to a deep rift within the party, and possibly even to segmentation.

Barak: As it seems now, Labor won’t join Likud government
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that his Labor Party would likely not join a unity government lead by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, but he shied away from officially announcing that he would head for the opposition. Barak told party members, many of them concerned by his recent talks with Netanyahu, not to attribute significance to every meeting he held with the Likud chairman. "I know that if we do not join the government, as it seems now, at least we’ll know that we acted with full intention and clean hands," he said. Labor Party Secretary-General Eitan Cabel told Army Radio earlier Monday that the party was in danger of splitting if Barak were to renege on his earlier criticism of a unity government and accept the post of defense minister. Labor MKs Ophir Pines-Paz, Sheli Yachimovich and Avishai Braverman have been. . .

With Livni likely heading opposition, Barak may yet join Netanyahu coalition
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
The chairman of the Labor Party, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has not ruled out joining Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. At the end of a meeting between the two Sunday night, Barak declared that talks with Netanyahu would continue. This time Barak did not state, as he has a number of times previously since the election, that he will be in the opposition. Instead he explained the conversation with Netanyahu was over a number of important issues: Iran, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and the economic crisis. The increasing likelihood that Kadima will be in the opposition, and Tzipi Livni will be the opposition leader, makes Barak’s dilemma even harder. He must decide whether to try to convince the members of his party to join the government, based on the consideration that it will be difficult for Labor to have much influence. . .

Likud government will include only one female minister
Mazal Mualem and Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
A narrow Likud-led government is likely to include a lot of new faces, but only one woman: former minister Limor Livnat. That would contradict party chairman Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu’s campaign pledge to give women "fair representation" in his cabinet. Likud sources also said yesterday that the "narrow government" is likely to be even narrower than expected - a mere 61 MKs instead of 65. That is because Netanyahu may opt not to bring in National Union, for fear of adverse reactions in both the local and international media. One of National Union’s four Knesset members, Michael Ben-Ari, used to belong to Meir Kahane’s Kach movement, which both Israel and the United States have labeled a terrorist organization. "Bibi himself has no problem with this, but he is certainly worried about the reaction, the media image," said one.

Lieberman to meet religious parties in bid to solve rift over civil agenda
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman is scheduled to meet today with leaders of right-wing, ultra-Orthodox parties in a bid to solve the rift between them over matters of state and religion. The meeting was initiated by Lieberman, and is expected to include representatives from ultra-Orthodox parties, including the National Union, Habayit Hayehudi and Agudat Israel. Agreements between Lieberman and the Haredi leaders would make Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s task of forging a narrow right-wing government easier. As a precondition for joining a coalition, Yisrael Beiteinu has demanded that civil unions be permitted for couples who are unable to marry under Jewish law. Likud representatives said they were certain a solution could be found for the 300,000 people considered non-Jews according to Jewish law, who immigrated to Israel in the last two decades.

Netanyahu says not giving up on wide government
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Prime minister-designate tells Likud faction members Israel needs ’a stable and strong government’ in order to deal with rocket fire in south, financial crisis. Kadima Chairwoman Livni says ’there is no use for a survival government’ - Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday afternoon that he was not giving up on his desire to form a wide national unity government in order to deal with the events in southern Israel and the economic crisis. "The events are not waiting. The Qassams are not waiting and neither is the unemployment," the Likud chairman told his faction members at the Knesset. "We need a stable and strong government. I have not given up on the idea to form a wide government. The talks will continue," he added. Kadima ChairwomanTzipi Livni addressed her recent meetings with Netanyahu during her faction’s weekly gathering, saying that "there is no use for a survival government".

Israel’s new far right
Yoav Sivan, The Guardian 3/2/2009
"I also advocate the creation of a viable Palestinian state," Avigdor Lieberman says nonchalantly in an article for the Jewish Week of New York. Of course Lieberman - founder and chair of Yisrael Beitenu - is trying to appeal to an American audience and his article is hardly a liberal manifesto. But it does reveal that opposing peace negotiations is not among the priorities of his far-right party, now Israel’s third biggest. One of the central tenets of Lieberman’s recent election campaign was that Arab Israelis are a danger to the country. The slogan of Israel Beiteinu (which means "Israel our home") was "no loyalty, no citizenship". Lieberman’s racist rhetoric sent a chill through many Israelis, but regrettably not enough. Conventional wisdom would consider Lieberman’s rise, which has contributed significantly to Binyamin Netanyahu’s capacity to form a government, as a sign Israel has taken a sharp turn to the right.

Barak panhandles coalition to reluctant party members
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/2/2009
’If Kadima ends up in opposition, we will be a fifth wheel,’ says Labor chairman during faction meeting. To Livni: Netanyahu gave Arabs more than all of us combined -Labor Chairman Ehud Barak attempted to convince party members Monday to refrain from automatically dismissing the option of participating in a Likud-led government. He said a decision by Kadima to sit in the opposition would render the party "a fifth wheel". The defense minister claimed that "senior market officials, military officials, and judges want us in the coalition. No one says the opposition is better than the coalition and if Kadima is in the opposition we will be a fifth wheel. "Outgoing Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer criticized party members for their rowdy dilemma on whether to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. "I’ve been in this party for 25 years and I have never seen such a thing.

Serious charges
Ze'ev Segal, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s announcement yesterday that he is "considering" indicting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on charges of receiving illicit cash from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky joins his earlier announcement that he is "considering" charging Olmert with double-billing various organizations for flights abroad and pocketing the surplus. In both cases, the final decision will be made only after Mazuz holds a hearing with Olmert’s attorneys. Yesterday’s announcement describes the suspicions against Olmert in grave terms: He behaved "in a way that contradicts the norms and rules that bind a minister and public servant. "The actual charges being considered are "fraud and breach of trust," which bears a maximum sentence of three years in jail, and obtaining something by fraud, which bears a maximum sentence of five years.

Mazuz: Olmert abused status to acquire personal favors
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may be indicted over suspicion of receiving illicit funds from New York millionaire Morris Talansky, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told Olmert’s legal team Sunday. The indictment is pending an additional hearing, said Mazuz. In a letter to Olmert’s attorneys, Mazuz stated that he believes the Prime Minister had methodically abused his public office and his status to acquire personal favors from Talansky over a period of time. Mazuz wrote Olmert obtained financial favors in exchange for assisting Talansky in his business ventures, while being in a conflict of interests. A similar announcement was given to the lawyers of Shula Zaken, then director of Olmert’s office. The actual offenses Olmert is faced with are fraud and breach of trust.

Military won’t let the facts get in the way of ideology
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Who says the Israel Defense Forces is not determined? It is certainly determined not to let facts get in the way of ideology: Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, like his predecessors as head of the Personnel Directorate, repeated the old mantras about the IDF being the people’s army yesterday, even if little more than half the people actually serve. The most significant statistics were those relating to religious exemptions from service: The percentage of 18-year-old men claiming draft deferments to study in yeshiva rose from 4. 9 percent in 1991 to 10. 9 percent last year, and is expected to rise to 11. 8 percent by 2012, while the percentage of 18-year-old women claiming exemptions because they are religiously observant rose from 21. 3 percent in 1991 to 34. 6 percent last year, and is expected to reach 36.

After Haaretz probe, IDF limits rabbinate activities
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
The Israel Defense Forces Personnel Directorate released a document limiting the military rabbinate’s involvement in educational activities, after a Haaretz report exposed the right-wing political content mixed with religious material the rabbinate was distributing to soldiers. "We must display the utmost caution and sensitivity," a top IDF official said. "When the IDF deals with values, it must refrain from bringing in ideological exhortation or contamination by political content. " The official said the army would be monitoring whether the rabbinate follows the new guidelines. "It’s very important for soldiers to be familiar with ethical issues," he said. "But mistakes were made in this process, and the head of the personnel directorate has spoken personally to whomever he needed to.

Former Tourism official may face indictment over tender
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Prosecutors are seriously considering indicting former Tourism Ministry director general Aharon Domb on charges of tilting a tender toward two of his former business associates. Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel held a hearing for Domb about a month ago. That is the final step before a decision to indict. In 2003, while serving as the ministry’s director general, Domb allegedly worked to get a company called Contact hired to do advertising and marketing for the ministry in Europe. The contract was worth millions of shekels. However, two of Contact’s senior officials, both French citizens, had been business associates of Domb’s before he took the Tourism Ministry job. At that point, Domb was serving as managing director of a firm called Orbital, and the two Frenchmen were shareholders in that company.

IDF unlikely to shorten army service due to drop in eligible conscripts
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
The Israel Defense Forces is unlikely to reduce the length of compulsory military service in the next few years, Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, head of the IDF’s Personnel Directorate, said in a briefing for reporters Sunday. Though the IDF had prepared a plan for gradually reducing the length of compulsory service, the "complex security reality," the decline in the number of 18-year-olds eligible for service and the drop in the percentage of eligible 18-year-olds who actually enlist all make it impossible to implement this plan, Zamir said. Last year, despite the army’s efforts to increase enlistment rates, 25. 8 percent of 18-year-old men and 44 percent of women did not enlist, and the army expects these rates to rise in the coming years. The main factor fueling this growth has been the increase in men who obtain draft deferments to study. . .

Top Sephardi rabbi rules women may chant Scroll of Esther for men
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Women are allowed to chant the Scroll of Esther on behalf of men if no competent men are available, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel’s Sephardi community, ruled last week in a landmark decision liable to outrage many of his Ashkenazi counterparts. Esther is traditionally read in synagogue on the holiday of Purim, which this year falls next week. And while some rabbis have long permitted women to read the megillah, or scroll, for other women, most do not allow women to read on behalf of men. In his weekly Torah class on Saturday night, however, Yosef discussed the rules of reading the megillah and ruled that not only may women read it in front of men, but the men will thereby have fulfilled their obligation to hear the scroll read. "It is permissible for a woman to fulfill this obligation on behalf. . .

Israeli Arab accused of planning to spy for Hezbollah
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
An Israeli citizen suspected of being a prospective Hezbollah spy was indicted yesterday on charges of contact with a foreign agent. Ismail Saleiman, a 27-year-old man from the Jezreel Valley town of Hajajra, is suspected of being in contact with a Hezbollah operative and planning to spy on Israel for the terror group. Police and the Shin Bet security service arrested him February 5, but the incident was placed under gag order until yesterday, when Saleiman was indicted in the Nazareth District Court. Saleiman’s lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, said yesterday her client never had any intention of causing damage to Israel’s security. "The person from Hezbollah initiated contact with him when he was in Mecca and pestered him," she said. "The main story here is how Hezbollah is tripping up Israeli Arabs who travel to Islamic holy sites.

Sources: Hariri murder tribunal could derail Israel-Syria talks
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Peace talks between Israel and Syria and the thawing of U. S. -Syria relations could be derailed if a landmark international tribunal calls senior Syrian officials suspected in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, sources in Washington and New York told TIME magazine on Sunday. Hariri was assassinated along with 22 others in a suicide bombing in February 2005. According to TIME, Syria, which politically controlled Lebanon at the time of Hariri’s death, remains the chief suspect in the murder. Syria denies any involvement in Hariri’s death and says it supports an independent investigation. The international tribunal opened Sunday with a moment’s silence and a pledge to impartially investigate the politically charged case. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Special Court for Lebanon, prosecutor. . .

Hariri tribunal gets under way in The Hague
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
THE HAGUE - A landmark international tribunal to try the suspected killers of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri opened here Sunday with pledges to provide justice to victims of terrorism. At a ceremony to inaugurate the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, chief prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said it constituted the world’s first anti-terrorist court. "By the very nature of its mandate, the STL is the first international anti-terrorist tribunal," he told VIPs, diplomats and journalists. Saad Hariri, whose father was killed in the massive Beirut car bombing in February 2005 along with 22 other people, hailed the opening of the court as a historic day for his country. "Today the flag of justice for Lebanon is being raised in The Hague. It is a historic date. "March 1 is the fruit of the efforts of all Lebanese people who supported the establishment of the court and who. . .

Lebanese allow more time for defense strategy
Daily Star correspondent, Daily Star 3/3/2009
BEIRUT: Participants in a fifth round of national dialogue agreed Monday to allow more time for military experts to reach a common understanding on a defense strategy and pledged to refrain from provocations in the buildup for the elections. They also agreed to meet for a sixth round on April 28. Participants agreed to a proposal submitted by Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud suggesting that political forces would be bound to protect civil peace from March 2, 2009, until the results of the June 7, 2009, parliamentary polls are announced. Monday’s session, which lasted for more than two hours, was headed by President Michel Sleiman and attended by top Lebanese politicians, including Speaker Nabih Berri, MP Walid Jumblatt, MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Absentees were Prime Minister Fouad Siniora who is attending a donors conference in Sharm el-Sheikh on rebuilding Gaza and MP Ghassan Tueni who is currently abroad.

Bellemare: We have received phone calls from Siddiq
Daily Star 3/3/2009
BEIRUT: The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) prosecuting suspects in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has received a number of telephone calls from a key witness whose whereabouts are unknown, media reports said on Monday. "We have received several calls from [Mohammed] Zuheir Siddiq, but we don’t know his whereabouts," STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare told New Television without elaborating on the nature of the calls. Self-made billionaire and five-time Premier Hariri was killed with 22 others in a massive car bomb as his convoy passed through Beirut’s Ain al-Mreisse seafront on February 14, 2005. His slaying was the first in a string of political assassinations that targeted Lebanese anti-Syrian figures, though Damascus has denied any involvement. The STL headquarters in The Hague officially opened on Sunday with a ceremony attended by hundreds of high-ranking international figures and a promise for impartiality.

Visit our New Videos Section!
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 3/2/2009
There is so much material circulating about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that it is almost impossible for a casual observer to wade through it all. has decided to try and make this easier by finding, viewing and making available documentaries, lectures, debates and interviews which will help our readers make sense of events on the ground. The video library has been added to the left-hand column of the website to provide more information for you readers. We have dozens of interesting media ressources to share with you. Stay tuned for regular updates! The Iron Wall -- This brilliant, one-hour documentary by Palestinian director Mohammed Alatar explores the multiple physical and psychological layers that constitute the occupation of Palestine. The movies title was coined by one of the late forefathers of the Zionist movement, Vladimir Jabotinsky.

Record 19,800 requests for unemployment benefits filed in February
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
The National Insurance Institute on Monday reported some 19,800 new requests for unemployment benefits, a new record for a single month. The number is some 60% higher than for February of last year. The NII has received a total of 65,120 requests for benefits since November 2008, a 54% rise over the same period last year. Also, over those same fourmonths, there has been a 45. 8% rise in the number of people receiving unemployment benefits in comparison to the first 10 months of 2008. Minister of Welfare and Social Services Yitzhak Herzog said this week that coping with unemployed is "one of the central challenges the state has ever faced. "Herzog said the people requesting benefits are part of "a public that has been thrust against its will into a difficult reality as a result of the global financial crisis, which has also affected Israel.

Unemployment benefit claims soar 59%
Shay Niv, Globes Online 3/2/2009
The National Insurance Institute reports 19,800 new claims for unemployment benefits in February. While the Bank of Israel predicts an unemployment rate of 7. 6% by the end of 2009, the National Insurance Institute today published a more pessimistic outlook - an unemployment rate of 7. 5% will be reached as early as the end of June. Only yesterday National Insurance Institute director general Esther Dominici told "Globes" that she expected an unemployment rate of 7. 5% at the end of September. However, figures for February released today paint a bleaker future. The National Insurance Institute reports 19,800 new claims for unemployment benefits in February, 59% more than in February 2008, and a record number of claims for month compared with recent years. 55,399 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed in November 2008 and. . .

AIG Israel sees no change from parent co loss
Ron Stein, Globes Online 3/2/2009
AIG Israel CEO Hava Friedman-Shapira: There is no material risk to our policyholders. "The structural change announced by AIG and the US government will not affect the activity of AIG Israel," saidAIG Israel Insurance Company CEO Hava Friedman-Shapira. She added, "There has been no change in the business of AIG Israel, because, since the day it was founded, it has operated in the framework of American International Underwriters (AIU), which operates as an independent international division of AIG. " Troubled insurer American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) has converted AIU into an elementary insurance holding company that owns, among other things, AIG Israel. AIG Israel operated as a unit of AIU even before the announcement of AIG’s restructuring. "The restructuring that will convert AIG into a holding company will not change our future conduct," said Friedman-Shapira.

Global Poll: Large Majorities of the Publics in the Islamic Countries View the Goals of the US Policy in Their Countries Negatively
PCPO, MIFTAH 3/2/2009
WorldPublicOpinio. Org in cooperation with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland / USA conducted July through September 2008 in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, Turkey and Morocco a survey with a total random sample of (6265) respondents among the publics of these countries on the basis of face-to-face interviews and an ongoing, in-depth study. Margins of error range from +/- 3 to +/- 4 percent. The most important poll results reveal that very large majorities continue to renounce the use of attacks on civilians as a means of pursuing political goals. At the same time large majorities agree with al Qaeda’s goal of pushing the United States to remove its military forces from all Muslim countries and substantial numbers, in some cases majorities, approve of attacks on US troops in Muslim countries.

Jewish World / Can U.S. Muslims and Jews work together to change the world?
Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Rabbi Marc Schneier, a leading figure in interfaith dialogue, is optimistic that the U. S. Jewish community will one day share a bond withMuslims as strong as its historical relationship with African Americans. In this exclusive interview with Leadel. NET, Schneier characterizes black-Jewish relationship as "clearly one of cooperation. " Schneier has spearheaded cooperation between the two minority groups, alongside Russell Simmons, his good friend and partner in the African American community. While Jews were prominent in the civil rights movement, their ties with the black community soured following the assassination of Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr. Nevertheless, Schneier says, the bond has strengthened again over the last decade and a half.

California Muslims say FBI surveillance has a chilling effect
Teresa Watanabe and Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times 3/1/2009
Irvine resident Craig Monteilh, said last week in interviews and court documents that he served the FBI as a paid informant from July 2006 to October 2007. Use of an informant in Orange County leads some to avoid mosques and cut charitable giving. - The Islamic Center of Irvine is a beige stucco building that blends into the rows of office buildings surrounding it. But last week, it became the most publicized mosque in California with disclosures that the FBI sent an informant there to spy and collect evidence of jihadist rhetoric and other allegedly extremist acts by a Tustin man who attended prayers there. The revelations dismayed mosque members like Omar Turbi, 50, and his 27-year-old son who shares his name. After Friday prayer service last week, while hundreds of others scurried back to work, the pair stood with their backs to a wall and mulled over the news. " It gives you a little bit of apprehension about who you trust," the elder Turbi said.

ElBaradei urges Iran to ’unblock’ nuclear stalemate, praises West’s ’fresh approach’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/3/2009
VIENNA: UN atomic watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei urged Iran Monday to "unblock" a long-running nuclear standoff and expressed hope that a possible change in US policy toward Tehran may help break the deadlock. "I again urge Iran to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program at the earliest possible date and to unblock this stalemated situation," ElBaradei said in his opening speech to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors here. And he added: "I am hopeful that the apparent fresh approach by the international community to dialogue with Iran will give new impetus to the efforts to resolve this long-standing issue. "The Egyptian-born diplomat did not specifically mention the United States, but he was clearly referring to President Barack Obama’s signal that he is ready to talk with Iran directly.

ElBaradei: US outreach to Iran could aid IAEA probe
Reuters, YNetNews 3/2/2009
UN nuclear watchdog chief urges Tehran to do more to defuse mistrust in its nuclear ambitions - A new US readiness to engage Iran could help resolve suspicions about its nuclear work but Tehran must do more to "unblock this stalemated situation", the UN nuclear watchdog chief said on Monday. Mohamed ElBaradei made the remarks in an address kicking off a weeklong meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors, the first since US President Barack Obama took office. Obama has pledged diplomatic outreach to Iran and other US foes after years of unfruitful isolation policy by George W. Bush, but concrete steps await the outcome of a foreign policy review due for completion in about a month. Still, Washington’s return under Obama to support for multilateral cooperation to address frozen conflicts has been greeted. . .

Iran denies ’baseless’ US nuclear accusations
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
TEHRAN - Iran denied on Monday it was seeking to make a nuclear bomb after top US military commander Admiral Mike Mullen charged that Tehran now has enough fissile material to build such a weapon. "All this talk is baseless," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said at his weekly news conference. When asked if Iran had enough nuclear material to manufacture an atomic bomb Mullen told CNN on Sunday: "We think they do, quite frankly," in Washington’s first such assessment. "And Iran having a nuclear weapon, I’ve believed for a long time, is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world," said Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Tehran now has 1,010 kilograms (2,227 pounds) of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride (LEU) from its enrichment activities at a plant at Natanz.

U.S. officials’ about-face on Iran nukes could sway Obama policy
Amos Harel and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/2/2009
Israel is anxiously awaiting the new U. S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which is due to be published in another month. President Barack Obama’s administration is currently formulating its policy toward Iran’s nuclear program, and the revised NIE will serve as the basis for its conclusions. The administration has already decided that it wants to begin a dialogue with Iran, but it is still wrestling with questions such as how to prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear program under cover of negotiations and what role sanctions should play in the process. The last NIE effectively stymied efforts to impose stiffer sanctions on Iran by declaring that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program. Since then, however, Iran has been feverishly developing its uranium enrichment capabilities - widely considered the hardest part. . .

Syria, Iran in spotlight of UN nuclear watchdog
Middle East Online 3/2/2009
VIENNA - UN atomic watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei urged Iran Monday to "unblock" a long-running nuclear standoff and expressed hope that a possible change in US policy towards Tehran may help break the deadlock. "I again urge Iran to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme at the earliest possible date and to unblock this stalemated situation," ElBaradei said in his opening speech to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors here. And he added: "I am hopeful that the apparent fresh approach by the international community to dialogue with Iran will give new impetus to the efforts to resolve this long-standing issue. " The Egyptian-born diplomat did not specifically mention the United States, but he was clearly referring to the new president Barack Obama’s signal that he is ready to talk with Iran directly.

'Expert': Iranian bomb possible in a few months
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 3/2/2009
Israeli security experts unsurprised by US Joint Chiefs of Staff head’s statement that Iran has enough fissile material to make nuclear bomb. ’Everyone agrees [on the same lies - Ed. ] the Iranians have the systems; the only question is the timetables,’ says Dr. Ephraim Asculai - Israeli security experts were unsurprised by a statement made by Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the US military Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told CNN on Sunday that he believed Iran has enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. "Although we were unfamiliar with the American military’s estimates, our estimates are not far from theirs," said Dr. Ephraim Asculai, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. "We all agree that the Iranians have the systems; the only question is the timetables," he told Ynet. "If they don’t have the ability to create a nuclear bomb today or tomorrow, they’ll have one in a few months. "

Tehran reacts to Obama’s appointment of Iran envoy with skepticism
Omid Memarian, Inter Press Service, Daily Star 3/3/2009
BERKELEY, California: The appointment of Dennis Ross as a special adviser to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has found a cool reaction in Tehran and some US policy circles. "The appointment of Ross is an apparent contradiction with [President Barack] Obama’s announced policy to bring change in United States foreign policy," said Iran’s State Radio on Wednesday, accusing Ross of being in league with Israel. Announcing the long-anticipated appointment, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said that Ross would offer "strategic advice" and perspective on the region, coordinate new policy approaches and take part in "inter-agency activities. ""It would have been so much better to pick Ariel Sharon or Ehud Olmert as special envoy to Iran," joked Kazem Jalali, a conservative member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iran’s Parliament.


Articles

Gaza solid waste management in dire straits
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/2/2009
      GAZA CITY, 2 March 2009 (IRIN) - The lack of technical means to transport and process solid waste in Gaza is posing a severe risk to people’s health in the enclave, experts say.
     Many Gazans, especially children, have developed breathing problems as a result of the stench emanating from rubbish dumps and the indiscriminate burning of waste; insects attracted to the rubbish tips and ground pollution pose further health risks, according to Bahaa Alagha, planning and project manager in Gaza’s Environment Quality Authority.
     Solid waste is managed by three main entities: municipalities in the main cities; local councils in towns and villages; and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in refugee camps. There are three official collection sites for solid waste - Rafah (south), Der Albalah (central), and Gaza City (the biggest).
     Gaza Mayor Rafiq Mikki told IRIN the city’s 550,000 people produce 550-600 metric tonnes (mt) of solid waste a day, but that the enclave lacked the means to transport the waste to the main waste station near the Gaza-Israeli border for processing.
     Mayor Mikki says the municipality does not have the capacity to solve the problem and has appealed for help from international organisations.

Young Gaza couple begin married life in a tent

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 3/2/2009
      Last Thursday, relatives, friends and local community representatives attended an unusual wedding party in Gaza. The celebration was held in a newly-erected refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabaliya.
     "My wife and I planned to marry at my house, where we furnished an apartment, just shortly before Israel’s war on Gaza. Yet, as you see, we were forced to stay at this tent in the al-Rayyan refugee camp," said newly-married Ahmad al-Hersh of Jabaliya refugee camp.
     "We had no other option; after the war, there have been so many difficulties to find a house to rent, as the demand is higher than before. My wife Eman initially objected but later on she agreed as we don’t have any other choice. And thanks to those who helped furnish this marriage set," recalled Ahmad while sitting at his tent’s bedroom.
     Ahmad used to live in a three-story house in the al-Khulafa neighborhood inside the town of Jabaliya, before it was bombed by Israeli warplanes during the 22-day siege of Gaza. The tent where the newly married Palestinian couple will live has a bed, table, cupboard and a small bathroom.

Expelling Jerusalem’s Palestinians, One House at a Time

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 3/2/2009
      There are some people whose faces betray the difficulties they have encountered throughout their lives. Salah Shweiki is one of them. Sitting under the large tent set up in Silwan’s Bustan Quarter, seeking warmth from the wood burning in an old wheelbarrow, Shweiki emanates the aura of an elderly sage.In his 56 years of life, he has seen a lot, maybe too much, but today, he is focused, his face determined and his will iron solid.
     Salah Shweiki is one of approximately 1,500 people who are being threatened with expulsion from their homes by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality. According to the eviction order distributed among the residents of the Bustan neighborhood, the demolitions are being carried out under the pretext of lack of proper licensing. Once the homes are torn down, Israel plans to construct a national park in its place, a park, its archeological experts say, is part of the ancient City of David.
     Shweiki disregards any and all of these claims, saying the eviction order falls under a larger scheme for Jerusalem, which is to expel as many Palestinians from the city as possible.

Surrounded by all sides, choices go from bad to worse for devastated Palestinians of Gaza Strip

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 3/2/2009
      The Palestinian donor conference is underway in Sharm el-Sheikh bringing in billions of dollars.
     Now the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Mousa, says that Sharm el-Sheikh is a strong message to Israel that the world is with Palestine. During the major attacks Palestinians from all corners demanded the presence of the UN, of the international community.
     Now they have their attention, but to what end.
     However the obvious question is who has garnered the most attention. Is it the "Palestinian people" that some parties note, or is it who will wrest control in an Arab world divided by the internal Palestinian conflict, or is it the western powers who concentrate of the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" such as Berlusconi who said today that Italy proposes to host a conference on the issue in Sicily.
     At the same time reconstruction efforts for Gaza after the bombings and during the ongoing siege are a moot point as Amnesty International and Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi are among dozens who have rightly pointed out that the crossings remain closed and all reconstruction materials are banned.
     Oddly enough, out of the initial statements at Sharm el-Sheikh were the clearest words of the day coming from of all people, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Very simple: You should not isolate the attacks on Gaza from the gravity of the entire Palestinian issue which includes the takeover of Jerusalem, the settlements and Wall of the West Bank and the continued control over the Palestinian government in whatever makeup it chooses.

The pasta, paper and hearing aids that could threaten Israeli security

Anne Penketh, The Independent 3/2/2009
      Members of the highest-ranking American delegation to tour Gaza were shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade against the Hamas-ruled territory included such food staples as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste.
     "When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni?" asked Congressman Brian Laird. It was only after Senator John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised the issue with Defence Minister Ehud Barak after their trip last month that Israel allowed the pasta in. Macaroni was considered a luxury item, not a humanitarian necessity, they were told. The total number of products blacklisted by Israel remains a mystery for UN officials and the relief agencies which face long delays in bringing in supplies. For security reasons such items as cement and steel rods are banned as they could be used by Hamas to build bunkers or the rockets used to target Israeli civilians. Hearing aids have been banned in case the mercury in their batteries could be used to produce chemical weapons.
     Yet since the end of the war in January, according to non-government organisations, five truckloads of school notebooks were turned back at the crossing at Kerem Shalom where goods are subject to a $1,000 (£700) per truck "handling fee".
     Paper to print new textbooks for Palestinian schools was stopped, as were freezer appliances, generators and water pumps, cooking gas and chickpeas. And the French government was incensed when an entire water purification system was denied entry. Christopher Gunness, the spokesman for the UN agency UNRWA responsible for Palestinian refugees, said: "One of the big problems is that the ’banned list’ is a moving target so we discover things are banned on a ’case by case’, ’day by day’ basis.

Israel as a cancer on Palestine

R.L in Ramallah, Palestine Monitor 3/2/2009
      In the previous article "The Battle of terms behind the conflict", the author explained why often used terms such as ‘holocaust’, ‘genocide’, ‘apartheid’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ are not fully appropriated to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although these are descriptive in some ways of the Palestinian context, the author argued that "they are ‘used’ terms—they are connected to a different situation in a separate time and historical context in most people’s minds—and their recycling ends up creating confusion and controversy more than anything else."
     The Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs its own, unique term that accurately and comprehensively describes the situation. In the case of Israel, I will offer a new idea: it is a ‘cancer’. Israel as a Cancer on Palestine…
     The medical definition of the word cancer is “a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spreading to other locations in the body). These are three ways that a cancer changes from being benign—which is self-limited, does not invade, and does not metastasize, and becomes malignant or harmful.
     If Israel was a cancer on Palestine, it would definitely be a malignant cancer. Israel has shown uncontrolled growth (beyond the normal limits) in the Israeli settler communities that have been established illegally on Palestinian land. Currently there are 121 Israeli settlements and 102 Israeli outposts built illegally in Palestinian territory—and instead of removing these settlements as required by International Law or at least stopping their growth as agreed upon in the Annapolis framework; the settlers are increasing at a rate of 4-6% per year. Just like cancerous cells cause destruction in the body, these settlements are destructive to the Palestinians and the peace process in many ways. -- See also: Previous Article "The Battle of Terms Behind the Conflict"

Defend Freedom of Speech on Palestine

Various undersigned, Tadamon 2/27/2009
      Open Letter to university community on Palestinian Rights and Canadian Universities:
     The last two years have seen increasing efforts to limit advocacy of Palestinian rights on Canadian universities, amounting to a pattern of the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
     these include:
     * Statements from 19 university presidents in the summer of 2007 to foreclose debate on the academic boycott of Israel, citing “academic freedom”
     * Visits to Israel by eight university presidents in the summer of 2008, with no equivalent outreach to Palestinian institutions
     * Efforts to ban the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid” at McMaster University in February-March 2008, overturned only through a campaign of protest
     * Discipline against students involved in peaceful protests for Palestinian rights at York University in March in 2008
     * Attempted discipline against a faculty member who addressed a rally against Israeli Apartheid at York University in 2008
     * A pattern of cancellation of room bookings for meetings concerning Palestinian rights at the University of Toronto and York University in 2008
     * The use of security clearance requirements and fees to cover security costs to impede campus meetings about Palestinian rights...

Prisoners of Apartheid: Soha Bechara

Tadamon 3/1/2009
      Lecture from Soha Bechara, Lebanese author and former political prisoner. - Montréal, Quebe - Soha Bechara, Lebanese author, resistance fighter and former political prisoner will speak in Montreal on the struggles and realities experienced in Israeli prisons within Israeli Apartheid Week 2009.
     Bechara born in Beirut in 1967, originally from southern Lebanon, is a celebrated figure who was involved in the Lebanese national resistance, a hero to many in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East.
     After occupying southern Lebanon since 1978, Israel launched a military attack on Beirut, bombarding and besieging Beirut in 1982, killing an estimated 10 000 Lebanese and sparking the national resistance movement to the Israeli occupation in Lebanon.
     Shortly after the Israeli invasion in 1982, Bechara joined the Lebanese National Resistance Front against Israel’s occupation, in the struggle to liberate Lebanon from Israel’s military occupation.
     Israel’s 1982 invasion also sparked the origins of Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed political movement that eventually succeeded in pushing Israeli forces from Lebanon in 2000, an event celebrated in Lebanon and across the Middle East as a profound victory against Israeli colonialism in the region.
     In 1988 Bechara, only twenty-one years old, attempted to assassinate General Antoine Lahad commander for the South Lebanon Army, a Lebanese proxy army administering the Israeli occupation in Southern Lebanon.
     Lahad survived the assassination while Bechara was arrested and imprisoned in the infamous Khiam detention center without trial, during which time she was repeatedly tortured. -- See also: Photos: Khiam Detention Center

Descent into Bestiality – A Poem

Rassool Jibraeel Snyman, Palestine Chronicle 3/2/2009
      I look for the stars in Gaza
     I cannot see them
     The smoke blinds me
     The acrid smell
     of burned flesh chokes me
     Bodies litter the landscape
     My hands covered in blood
     My uniform stained scarlet
     What beast have I become
     Israel what have you done to me
     What have you turned me into
     In the name of your twisted dreams
     I became inhuman
     In the name of your ideology
     A mindless predator
     A military criminal
     Who kills without second thought...

Fatah and Hamas on an uphill road to rapprochement

Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 3/2/2009
      CAIRO (IPS) - Representatives of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo this week for talks aimed at national reconciliation and the formation of a unity government.
     "Egypt hopes this meeting is the real start of a new period ending the state of division which has gone on too long," Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s point-man on Palestinian affairs, was quoted as saying.
     On Wednesday (25 February), delegations from both Fatah and Hamas held preliminary meetings in Cairo aimed at removing obstacles to rapprochement. Delegation members later described the meetings as "positive."
     According to the state press, the two groups agreed to release each other’s detained members, currently being held in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled West Bank respectively. As a gesture of goodwill, Fatah reportedly released 42 Hamas members from West Bank prisons, with promises of additional releases soon.
     The issue of detainees has tripped up reconciliation talks in the past. Last November Hamas and other resistance factions pulled out of a scheduled reconciliation summit in Cairo at the last minute, citing the ongoing mass arrest of their members in the West Bank.

Al-Haq receives prestigious Geuzenpenning prize

Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada 3/2/2009
      The Palestinian rights organization Al-Haq, together with the Israeli rights organization B’Tselem, will receive the prestigious Dutch Geuzenpenning award for human rights defenders on 13 March 2009. Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. The organization was established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The award is an initiative of the Foundation Geuzen Resistance 1940-1945, named after the De Geuzen resistance group active during World War II around Vlaardingen, Maassluis and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The resistance group, in turn, took its name from the Geuzen, a collection of armed groups that fought the Spanish occupation of the Low Countries in the 16th century, during the Dutch Revolt. German forces executed 15 De Geuzen members in the dunes of the Waalsdorpervlakte near The Hague on 13 March 1941. The Waaldsorpervlakte has become one of the most important war memorials in the Netherlands. After the war, surviving members of the group started the foundation to honor the memory of their fallen comrades, and the Geuzen ideals of promoting and maintaining democracy in the Netherlands and heightening global awareness of all forms of dictatorship, discrimination and racism. Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq, told The Electronic Intifada, "We are proud to receive The Geuzenpenning, because of the history that is linked to it. The award is an acknowledgement of our resistance to the [Israeli] occupation."

Feminism and War – Book Review

Nathaniel Mehr, Palestine Chronicle 3/2/2009
      ’Imperial democracy mainstreams women’s rights discourse into foreign policy.’ -- Robin L. Riley et al Eds, Feminism and War: Confronting US Imperialism (London: Zed Books, 2008).
     ’Feminist geopolitics,’ writes Jennifer Hyndman, "aims to recast war as a field of live human subjects with names, families, and home towns." The intersection of feminist critique and anti-imperialist resistance to the so-called "war on terror" forms the subject of this illuminating collection of essays from a range of scholars and activists who convened at the "Feminism and War" conference in New York in October 2006.
     The essential premise of the project is to wrest back from pro-war mainstream discourse a feminism which it had appropriated for the purpose of furthering an imperialist agenda. As Zillah Eisenstein explains, "Imperial democracy mainstreams women’s rights discourse into foreign policy and militarizes women for imperial goals". In particular, Jennifer Fluri and Shahnaz Khan identify the Bush administration’s attempt at rallying people around the cause of women’s rights in Afghanistan as a disingenuous appeal which not only misrepresents the history of that oppression as a relatively recent phenomenon, but also serves to cast Afghan women as a people waiting to be rescued -- a practice that is by no means unprecedented in colonial history.

Gaza Reconstruction?!

Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestine Think Tank 3/2/2009
      A donor conference is underway in Sharm Alshaikh in Egypt is "to raise funding" for Gaza but is turning out to be similar to all previous conferences: lots of huff, puff and posturing. For the US administration, it is a way to prop the government of Mahmoud Abbas (whose term ended January 9).  The US "pledged" $900 million but $200 million of those will go to cover deficits of the administration of Mahmous Abbas, $400 million to West Bank projects (many profiting Israel), and the remaining $300 million will be slated for Gaza but may never get there because the US refuses to deal or help anything associated with Hamas and Hamas is the de facto government (and most of the people) of Gaza.  The European Union is trying to buy its way out of the nagging conscience of having supported a failing US/Israeli policy (a policy that tries to bypass democracy and find compliant leaders or pressure them into compliance). This money is also getting entangled in the "no discussion with Hamas" mantra  (which only strengthens Hamas and their fundamentalist ideology). Hamas said it will not allow aid to achieve what the Israeli military failed to achieve by force (subjugation of the Palestinian people).  Other money pledged is also ending up with so many strings attached that hardly any of it is likely to enter Gaza.  But even if all these issues are solved, Israel simply continues to blockade Gaza and prevent reconstruction supplies from entering (a blockade that is not only an act of war but a crime against humanity).....

Ministry of Housing’s Plans for the West Bank - March 2009

Settlement Watch Team, Peace Now 3/1/2009
      The Ministry of Construction and Housing is planning to construct at least 73,300 housing units in the West Bank.
     An examination of the data available on the Israeli government Website (http://www.govmap.gov.il/) that contains maps and information from the Ministry of Housing, reveals that in plans for the West Bank at least 15,000 housing units have already been approved, and plans for an additional 58,000 housing units are yet to be approved.
     This Peace Now report is based on this data published on the official government website.
     However the plans published are only a small part of the overall housing plans for the Occupied Territories, there are other thousands of housing units in plans of the local authorities, private initiators and other public authorities, all of which we are in the process of collating. Main findings:
     • Total number of housing units in the published plans – 73,302, out of which, 5,722 are in East Jerusalem
     • Total number of housing units in approved plans – 15,156, approx. 8,950 of which have already been built.
     • Total number of housing units in planning stages – 58,146.
     • If all the plans are realized, the number of settlers in the Territories will be doubled (an addition of approx. 300,000 persons, based upon an average of 4 persons in each housing unit).... -- See also: Full report, including photos and maps (PDF)