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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
3 February, 2009

Home demolitions rise in East Jerusalem, Four houses destroyed, 12 more scheduled to be demolished
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh - Palestine News Network PNN, International Middle East Media Center News 2/3/2009
With the escalation of demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, Khader Dibs issued a condemnation of the Israeli-controlled Municipality. As Chairman of the Popular Committee against the Wall in Jerusalem, Dibs told PNN today, "the Israeli occupation authorities have a policy to demolish a higher number of Arab houses in East Jerusalem. "He added, "and as such delivered many more notifications to Jerusalemites of the demolition of their homes. "Four Palestinian homes were destroyed and 12 demolition orders delivered within the past few days. Dibs continued to say on Tuesday, "Some of the homes have been isolated in the wall of apartheid. This comes in implementation of the policy to empty the city of Jerusalem from its rightful owners and to raise the proportion of Jewish residents in addition to the strangulation of Jerusalem as part of a policy of racism practiced against the original residents.

Six injured by Israeli troop and settler attack on villagers in Sa’er, near Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/3/2009
Six Palestinian farmers where injured on Tuesday midday during an attack by Israeli troops and settlers in the village of Sa’er, located near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Witnesses said that Israeli settlers protected by Israeli troops came to the village and began uprooting olive trees; when farmers tried to protect their trees, soldiers attacked them along with settlers, injuring six of them. Medical sources said that the six sustained light wounds and were moved to the Hebron hospital for treatment. Nayef Jaradat, from Sa’er, told reporters that the Israeli Army, along with settlers, arrived to the land with claims that the land belongs to the Israeli government, and managed to uproot at least 100 olive trees, and also demolished animal shades and farming structures. Jaradat added that the villagers have ownership papers that date back to the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Egyptians destroy supply tunnels in Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/3/2009
Gaza - Palestinian residents said the vicinity of the border of the Gaza Strip with Egypt report that 13 tunnels were destroyed, confirming an earlier announcement made by Egyptian security. The tunnels are largely used for importing goods such as food sources and fuel into the Strip during siege. The Israeli administration originally targeted the tunnels saying they did want to ease the siege. Now they say they are going after "weapons smuggling. " The explosions rocked the ground throughout the day, harkening back to 2002 and 2003 when the Rafah ground was in perpetual motion with rampant home demolitions and tunnel explosions. Residents said today that the sound of explosions came one after another with 24 hours of Egyptian security installing surveillance cameras along the border. A private contractor is controlling the cameras and a set of alarms.

Humanitarian aid to be diverted to crossing under direct Israeli control
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/3/2009
Cairo -- The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued new rules and procedures related to the import and export of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip. Included in the plan are new procedures to deal with humanitarian delegations and aid, most all of which is still blocked by the Israelis. The ministry wrote in a note circulated to embassies working in Cairo that the new rules and procedures must be strictly adhered to. No inconsistent request will be considered. "These measures will be applied without any exceptions," the Egyptian mandate states. The Egyptian -- Palestinian border crossing will be partially operational, but within a few days much of the aid, including food, will be diverted to the southern Israeli crossing. In the past when the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was open, the Israeli administration attempted to divert imports to its southern crossing in order to increase control.

Israel attacks south Gaza tunnels
Al Jazeera 2/3/2009
Israel has carried out air raids in the south of the Gaza Strip in retaliation to a rocket fired into its territory. Palestinian fighters had launched a missile on Tuesday, which exploded in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon, the Israeli army said. There were no immediate reports of casualties in both attacks, but smuggling tunnels were targeted alongside another location by Israel. Witnesses said at least three rockets were fired by Israel at the tunnels, which the Jewish state says are used to bring weapons into the Gaza Strip. A Hamas military position near Khan Younis, also in southern Gaza, was hit, witnesses said. The Israeli army had earlier told residents to leave the area. Israeli warning Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, said at a security conference in Herzliya: "I suggest Hamas doesn’t fool around with us. "

Oxfam: Israel blocks half of Gaza needs
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The British organization Oxfam international accused Israel of barring the arrival of more than 50 percent of the Palestinian citizens’ needs in the Gaza Strip through the closure of border crossings despite the disastrous situation of Palestinians there which was further aggravated by the war. Commenting on the UN efforts to raise funds for Gaza, Oxfam said, in a statement received Tuesday by the PIC, money alone could not solve the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. "It is not enough for donor countries to reach out for their check books. They must also press Israel to open up the border crossings and make sure their aid money is used effectively," Oxfam executive director Jeremy Hobbs said. Hobbs also said that Israel allows in small amounts of food not enough for Gaza people who are in urgent need of vital supplies, highlighting that Israel must open all crossings in full swing without further delay.

IOF gunboats fire at Palestinian fishermen
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli gunboats on Tuesday opened fire from their heavy machineguns and fired projectiles at Palestinian fishing boats off the coasts of southern Gaza Strip inflicting material damage but no casualties. Eyewitnesses said that the Israeli occupation forces’ warplanes also launched mock raids on west of Khan Younis, to the south of the Strip, on Tuesday. IOF air raids on Monday killed a Palestinian member of the Salahuddin Brigades, the armed wing of the popular resistance committees, and wounded four other citizens. The Brigades retaliated by firing a number of locally made missiles at Israeli targets. Meanwhile, the Hebrew radio said that a Grad missile fell in the Askalan coastal city, occupied since 1948, causing material damage to a number of cars but no casualties. In the West Bank, the IOF soldiers sealed the entrances to Nablus city and deployed more. . .

During pre dawn invasions: the Israeli military kidnaps 12 civilians from the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/3/2009
12 Palestinian civilians were kidnapped during pre dawn Israeli military invasions, targeting a number of West Bank cities and nearby villages on Tuesday. Three young men where kidnapped when Israeli troops stormed the village of Beit Fajar, located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, and searched homes there, witnesses said. Meanwhile, five civilians were taken during a house search campaign Israeli soldiers carried out in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and nearby Beit Awa and Bani No’am villages. Among those kidnapped from Bani No’am village was Mohamed Shohadah, and his brother Nabeel. The Israeli Army killed their brother Taysser on Monday while he was going to his work. The Israelis clams that Taysser and his co-workers opened-fire towards Israeli troops at a military checkpoint near Hebron, witnesses said that the car Taysser was in was for Palestinian workers going to work, and they did not open-fire at the soldiers.

Clinton: Hamas must abide by preconditions to be included in talks
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the United States wants to work with all involved parties to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but insisted that the Islamist group Hamas must first abide by the preconditions for such talks. According to preconditions set by international powers, Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect past peace agreements before being included in negotiations. We are looking to work with all of the parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict," Clinton told reporters during a joint news conference with U. S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. "Hamas knows the conditions," she said. "They must renounce violence, they must recognize Israel, they must agree to abide by prior agreements. "

Three Palestinians seized as Israel invades Bethlehem area
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained three young men from Beit Fajjar and raided Ad-Duheisha Refugee Camp in southern Bethlehem at dawn on Tuesday. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided Beit Fajjar, entered a number of houses and searched them. Forces detained 17-year-old Salamah Mohammad Taqatqah, 15-year-old Majdi Majed Taqatqah and 15-year-old Ra’fat Ibrahim Taqatqah transferring them for interrogations. Sources reported the soldiers stormed a store and house owned by Da’oud Al-Mahssiri at Ad-Duheishah and searched them. No detentions were reported there. Meanwhile, Israeli forces detained civilians from the northern West Bank city of Jenin and village of Kafr Dan. Later, soldiers abducted two Palestinians from the town of Orta, south of Nablus.

Palestinians: IDF targets Gaza smuggling tunnels, Hamas training position
Yanir Yagana and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
An Israel Air Force aircraft bombed smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt on Tuesday after a rocket launched from the Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip struck the southern port city of Ashkelon, Gaza residents and Hamas officials said. One Israeli plane also fired a missile into a training position of the armed wing of Hamas in Abassan village east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Hamas and residents said. There were no immediate reports of casualties in either of the attacks. Residents of the southern Gaza town of Rafah said on Tuesday that they received telephone messages from the Israel Defense Forces warning them to leave their homes ahead of an impending air strike. The town, on the frontier with Egypt, is a center for smuggling goods and weapons into the strip through tunnels under the border.

Mandela Institute: Israel uses prohibited interrogation means against prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 2/2/2009
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Mandela institute for human rights revealed Monday that Israeli interrogators use prohibited investigation means with the Palestinian prisoners in the Jalame prison including the intensive use of lie detector tests, adding that the prisoners are denied any visits by lawyers and the Red Cross, and some of them are isolated and threatened with punishing and detaining their relatives. In a report received by the PIC, the institute said that the prison administration prevented its lawyer from meeting prisoners Shaker Abu Awwad and Tayseer Nubani at the pretext that their visit was prohibited by the Israeli intelligence and told him that other prisoners had been taken to the Megiddo prison. The report touched on the suffering of prisoner Fadi Al-Barri who had been exposed to various forms of harsh interrogation since his arrest on 12/1/2009.

Hamas reiterates end of Gaza siege as price of truce
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/4/2009
GAZA CITY: Israeli aircraft bombed smuggling tunnels and other targets in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday as Hamas stuck by the opening of the besieged territory’s border crossings as a condition of any ceasefire agreement. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Israeli strikes. At least three missiles targeted tunnels along Gaza’s border with Egypt, witnesses said. The tunnels are used to bring in food, medicines, consumer goods, fuel, and, according to Israel, weapons into the enclave. An Israeli aircraft also hit a position of the Hamas armed wing near Khan Yunis, also in southern Gaza, they said. The Israeli army had earlier sent telephone messages warning residents to leave the area. Hamas remained defiant on Tuesday in its demands of Israel for a long-term truce in Gaza. Representatives of the Islamist movement, which has controlled Gaza since seizing. . .

Hamas: Israel offered to let in 75% of Gaza aid in exchange for Shalit
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
A Hamas official said Tuesday that Israel has offered to allow in 75 percent of the goods it currently bans from entering the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency. The remaining 25 percent are goods Israel says could be used to make weapons. Salah al-Bardawil, a leading Hamas member in the Palestinian parliament, told the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that his movement would be ready for a prisoner exchange with Israel starting Thursday. He added that Hamas would, as part of a cease-fire, agree to stop firing projectiles into Israel, and said Hamas had asked for Egypt’s help in convincing other factions to show restraint. "We have no objection to a cease-fire in exchange for lifting the siege and opening crossing points," Ma’an quoted Bardawil as saying.

Israel: Hamas ’playing with fire’
Yanir Yagana, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Israel warned on Tuesday that Hamas was "playing with fire" shortly after Gaza militants fired a Grad rocket into the coastal city of Ashkelon. "Hamas is playing with fire, and if there is going to be an escalation now, Hamas has no one to blame but itself," said Mark Regev, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman. The Grad that struck Ashkelon was the first such rocket to be fired at the city since a cease-fire ended Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza last month. Three people were treated for shock after the attack, which also caused damage to property. Regev added: "Hamas has acted to deliberately undermine the calm. " During his visit to the site of the rocket attack in Ashkelon on Tuesday, Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to "topple the Hamas regime" in Gaza if elected prime minister.

Muslims, Christians in Jerusalem united against the Israeli excavations
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Palestinian Muslim and Christian figures have highlighted the importance of the Palestinian unity in protecting occupied Jerusalem from the intensified Israeli practices to judaize the city. Dr. Ekrema Sabri, the chairman of the higher Islamic authority in Jerusalem, who was present at the conference, highlighted the dangers that engulf the occupied city and the holy Aqsa Mosque as a result of the Israeli hostile practices and excavations in the city. He pointed to the collapse of a classroom in an UNRWA-run school in the Selwan suburb, which is close to the walls of the Mosque. Patriarch Michael Sabbah, of the Latin Christian Church, stressed that the Palestinian people have clear legal rights in Jerusalem that the entire world is aware of. "Simply speaking, we want our land that was occupied in 1967 to be returned to us to establish our independent. . . " -- See also: Israeli excavations blamed for school collapse that injured 17 girls

Dozens of Palestinian buildings in Jerusalem may collapse due to excavations
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Jerusalem center for social and economic rights warned Tuesday of the collapse of dozens of Palestinian homes and other buildi gs in the old city and the Silwan town south of occupied Jerusalem as a result of the continued Israeli excavation beneath and around these buildings. In a report, the center explained that the collapse, which occurred at the UNRWA Jerusalem school in the Silwan town, was the result of an outgrowth of wide and dangerous excavations being carried out by Israel under the Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian real estate in the town especially in the areas of Ein Helwa and Ein El-Louz, where there is a set of deep and wide tunnels branching from Ein Silwan and going north towards the southern wall of the Aqsa Mosque. The report added that dozens of Jerusalemite real estate over the course of these excavations are threatened with collapse. . . -- See also: Israeli excavations blamed for school collapse that injured 17 girls

Home demolitions rise in East Jerusalem, 4 destroyed with 12 listed as next
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 2/3/2009
PNN exclusive -- With the escalation in demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, Khader Dibs issued a condemnation of the Israeli-controlled Municipality. As Chairman of the Popular Committee against the Wall in Jerusalem, Dibs told PNN today, "The Israeli occupation authorities have a policy to demolish a higher number of Arab houses in East Jerusalem. " He added, "And as such delivered many more notifications to Jerusalemites of the demolition of their homes. "Four Palestinian homes were destroyed and 12 demolition orders delivered within the past few days. Dibs continued to say on Tuesday, "Some of the homes have been isolated in the wall of apartheid. This comes in implementation of the policy to empty the city of Jerusalem from its rightful owners and to raise the proportion of Jewish residents in addition to the strangulation of Jerusalem. . .

Israeli Authorities demolish a Palestinian owned garage and a warehouse in Jerusalem
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/3/2009
The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem demolished on Tuesday a Palestinian owned bus garage and a warehouse for construction materials. The bus garage is owned by the Abu Dayah family, Palestinian family in Jerusalem that runs a tourism buses company, the garage is located just outside the walls of Jerusalem old city. Meanwhile the warehouse for construction materials is owned by another Palestinian family and is located near the garage, local sources reported. The sources added that the Israeli army surrounded the area then bulldozers demolished the two facilities and left. The municipality says the facilities have been built without the needed permission. Since Israel occupied the city of Jerusalem in 1967, Palestinian residents have rarely been given permits to build homes, meanwhile Israel continue to Jewish-only illegal settlementsin and around Jerusalem.

IOA demolish four Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSASLEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority has ordered the demolition of four Palestinian homes in Wadi Al-Joz suburb and Shafat refugee camp in the occupied city of Jerusalem, alleging that those homes were close to the apartheid wall. According to local sources in the occupied city, Israeli bulldozers started the demolition work in front of their owners’ eyes in clear violation of human rights. The sources added that 12 Palestinian families received demolition notices from the court a few days ago, but they were surprised by the sudden implementation of the court’s order without giving them the right to contest it. The Quds center for economic and social rights warned that tens of buildings in the old town of the city and Silwan village could collapse due to the relentless Israeli excavations under those buildings.

Israel Demolishes Two Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem
Palestine Media Center 2/3/2009
The Israeli army and officials with the municipality of Jerusalem demolished two homes on Monday morning owned by a Palestinian family, located near the old city. Witnesses said that Israeli troops surrounded the Shofat area near Jerusalem’s old city, then bulldozers demolished two homes that owned by Ghith family. The Israeli authorities say that the homes were built without the required planning permits. Since Israel occupied the city of Jerusalem in 1967, Palestinian residents have rarely been given permits to build homes, but Israeli Jewish-only settlements have been allowed to expand exponentially on stolen Palestinian land in East Jerusalem. Israeli government officials have publicly stated, on a number of occasions, that their plan is to ’Judaize’ Jerusalem to create ’facts on the ground’ that will make it difficult for Palestinians to get their land and homes back in any future negotiations or peace process. A report issued by Peace Now regarding Israeli settlement construction in the. . .

Israel nabs two Palestinians from northern West Bank village
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers detained two young Palestinians from the Orta village south of Nablus, a member of the village’s council told Ma’an. Soldiers also demanded that three brothers “give themselves up” to Israel, according to four young men who were threatened over the allegedly hiding men. Village Council Member Hani Darwasheh told Ma’an that Israeli troops overran the village at 2:00am on Tuesday, raiding several homes and detaining 21-year-old Hindawi Qawariq, a student at An-Najah National University, and 22-year-old Baha Faze Darwasha. He added that troops raided another two houses and called the parents of Majed, Mazen and Samer Sharab and Majdy Qawariq to “hand themselves over” to Israeli forces. The father of Qawariq said in a telephone call with Ma’an that Israeli soldiers demolished a gate leading to his home’s entrance, as well as confiscated his other son’s Jawwal mobile phone.

Two more Palestinians seized near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained a number of civilians in the northern West Bank city of Jenin and the village of Kafr Dan on Tuesday morning, taking them to an undisclosed location. Palestinian Authority security sources identified the detained young men as 21-year-old Ahmad Tharwat Aj-Jammal of Jenin and 30-year-old Ibrahim Sobhi Al-Aabed. Soldiers seized them after storming their houses, confiscating a computer from one of them. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s correspondent in Jenin that large numbers of Israeli soldiers surrounded the Al-Jammal’s house on Nablus road, calling on residents inside to evacuate through loudspeakers. The residents were temporarily detained while soldiers searched the house. Meanwhile, onlookers in Kafr Dan reported that forces seized a computer belonging to Al-Aabed, before detaining him, as well, and searching a cell phone store nearby.

Israel closes checkpoints as army chief of staff visits Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israel closed all checkpoints leading into the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday morning as soldiers deployed in the area, the army told Ma’an. The army’s chief of staff, Gabi Ashkinazy, accompanied other military leaders on the “visit” to Nablus, as well, where soldiers said they were in the area “to check the situation. ”Ma’an’s correspondent in Nablus saw soldiers closing the Huwara, Orta and Shafi Shamron checkpoints for more than 40 minutes on Tuesday morning, while Ashkinazy traveled through Huwara checkpoint en route to Nablus. He arrived at a nearby military base, witnesses said. While at Huwara, the army chief of staff examined the site, which houses the largest and most controversial military checkpoint in the West Bank. Soldiers also erected a military blockade some 300 meters from Huwara, preventing Palestinians from accessing. . .

Palestinian teenager arrested in Jerusalem, accused of planning attack
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers have arrested an 18-year-old Palestinian from Bethlehem accusing him of planning a bombing in Jerusalem, the youth’s family said on Tuesday. According to the family, Abdullah Sulaiman Abu Zahira, was arrested on Friday in Jerusalem. [end]

Israel launches three airstrikes on Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli F16 fighter jets bombed the borderline between the Gaza Strip and Egypt south of the city of Rafah, and an alleged training camp for Palestinian fighters near the city of Khan Younis on Tuesday evening. Witnesses reported that the American-made warplanes fired at least one missile in Rafah, and also reported the sound of a massive explosion. In a second strike warplanes struck what is said to be a training camp for the armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, on the outskirts of the city of Khan Younis, also in southern Gaza. Later, Israeli warplanes bombed another alleged Al-Qassam installation in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. Medical sources have not yet reported any casualties in any of the attacks. Earlier Israeli planes dropped leaflets on Rafah warning residents to leave the area near the borderline, near the smugglers’ tunnels.

IAF strikes targets in Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Palestinian sources report Israeli aircraft targeted smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza as response to firing of Grad missile towards Asheklon this morning. Defense Minister Ehud Barak: ’I urge Hamas not to get smart with us’ - The Air Force (IAF) bombed targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday evening in response to Grad rocket fire on Ashkelon earlier in the day. At 6 pm a vehicle was bombed in Rafah, as well as a Hamas outpost east of Khan Younis. An outpost belonging to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas’ military wing, was also struck in Beit Lahiya. Earlier, Gazan sources reported that IAF aircraft bombed tunnels in the Rafah area. Sources said no one was injured in the attacks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was addressing the annual Herzliya Conference at the time of the attack, informed the assembled audience that the Air Force "is currently operating in the Gaza Strip.

Report: Gazans warned of strike; Barak: We’ll respond to rockets
Ynet, YNetNews 2/3/2009
As Rafah residents reportedly recieve IDF phone calls warning of possible strike in southern Strip, defense minister tours northern border, saying ’Hamas really wants a calm, but the attacks are a fact. If a stronger blow is needed, it will come at the right time’ - Residents of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip reported receiving phone calls from the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday warning them of a possible strike in the area, following the Grad rocket attack on Ashkelon that morning that caused damage to property and a number of shock victims. During a tour of the Northern Command, Defense Minister Ehud Barak commented on the rocket, saying, "There will be a response to the attack in the Gaza Strip. ""We dealt Hamas a very heavy blow, it is picking up the pieces now," Barak said, "Hamas really is interested in a calm, but the attacks are a fact, and you can’t ignore facts.

Rocket lands in central Ashkelon
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Air Raid siren sounds in southern city shortly after 7 am, followed by explosion. Grad rocket lands between buildings in residential neighborhood; three people suffer shock, several cars damaged - For first time since ceasefire took effect, rocket hits central Ashkelon: Despite the alleged ceasefire in southern Israel, an air raid siren sounded in the city of Ashkelon shortly after 7 am Tuesday, followed by an explosion. A Grad rocket landed between buildings in a residential neighborhood in the city center as residents were making their way to school and to work. Three people suffered shock, several cars were damaged and windowpanes were shattered. The narrow forum consisted of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Tuesday morning to discuss the renewed escalation and the Israeli response to the rocket fire.

Gaza rocket hits Ashkelon
Associated Press, The Guardian 2/3/2009
First Grad rocket to be fired at city since ceasefire • Israeli foreign minister says terror must be met with force - Israeli foreign minister says terror must be met with force - A long-range Grad rocket from Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Ashkelon today as Hamas delegates met Egyptian officials in Cairo for talks aimed at securing a long-term truce with Israel. The rocket was the first of its kind to be fired at the city of 122,000 since informal ceasefires were declared separately by Israel and Hamas two weeks ago at the end of Israel’s three-week-long offensive in Gaza. No one was injured in today’s attack, police said. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on 27 December with the aim of stopping rockets being fired from Gaza on a near-daily basis at Israeli targets. Sporadic rocket and mortar fire from Gaza has continued, however, prompting tough warnings of reprisals from Israeli leaders.

VIDEO - Palestinians showcase new rocket
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Military wing of Popular Resistance Committees proudly displays footage documenting use of new rocket in attack against southern Israel - The Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, released a video on Tuesday in which members of the terror group are seen firing a ’Sijil’ type rocket towards the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel. The organization claims that this is the first time a rocket of this type is fired from the Gaza Strip. Hamas has launched several rockets into the Eshkol region over the past several days, and the exact date of the footage has not been confirmed. On Tuesday morning a Grad missile landed in the city of Ashkelon, damaging property but causing no injuries. The IDF responded with a series of airstrikes against smuggling tunnels in Rafah.

Palestine Today 020309
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/3/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 4 m 00s || 3. 66 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Tuesday, February 3ed, 2009. Israeli settlers attack Palestinian farmers in the West Bank injuring six, and troops demolish two facilities in Jerusalem, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Six Palestinian farmers where injured on Tuesday midday during an attack by Israeli troops and settlers in the village of Sa’er located near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Witnesses said that Israeli settlers, protected by Israeli troops, came to the village land and started to uproot olive trees. When farmers tried to protect their trees soldiers attacked them along with the settlers injuring six of them. Medical sources said that the six sustained light wounds and were moved to Hebron hospital for treatment.

Israel to make life harder for Al-Jazeera
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
TEL AVIV - Israel plans to make it harder for Al-Jazeera to operate on its territory after Qatar, which owns the pan-Arab satellite channel, decided to suspend ties with Tel Aviv, an Israeli official said on Tuesday. "Qatar itself has set up obstacles by breaking relations with Israel. There is no reason to help clear the problems this emirate which controls Al-Jazeera created for itself," the official said. He said it would now be more difficult for Al-Jazeera employees in Qatar to obtain a permit to work in Israel or the West Bank. On January 18, Qatar ordered the closure of the Israeli trade office in Doha in protest at Israel’s 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip since December 27 that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, mainly civilians and a third of them children. Doha does not have full diplomatic relations with Israel but the trade mission was run by two. . .

Israel to place restrictions on Al Jazeera Channel
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/3/2009
The Israeli Foreign Ministry decided to place restrictions on the Qatari based Al Jazeera Channel office staff in areas controlled by Israel, Israeli media reported on Tuesday. The decision by Israeli is part of a government response to closing the Israeli trade office by the Qatari government in Doha last month. Qatar closed the office to protest the Israeli offensive on Gaza which started on December 27th, and lasted for 22 days. 1,340 Palestinian were killed by the Israeli air, sea, and ground bombardment. According to the sources, the restriction will be implemented in three steps and will be carried out in Israeli areas and Palestinian Authority controlled areas. First, Israel will not renew the visas of Al Jazeera staff that do not hold Israeli documents. Second, the reporters of Al Jazeera will not be allowed to speak to Israeli MP’s, and will only be given access to. . .

Gaza Reemerging From the Ashes
Mirela Xanthaki, Inter Press Service 2/3/2009
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 3(IPS) - The United Nations is urgently appealing for 613 million dollars to aid more than a million desperate civilians in the ruins of Gaza, where schools, hospitals, houses, factories and even farmland were obliterated during the three-week assault by Israeli air and ground forces. Over 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,300 injured in the war, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Some 21,000 homes were reported destroyed or badly damaged, and more than 50,000 people were displaced into temporary U. N. shelters. "Wholindustrial areas [were] completely flattened, buildings blasted into piles of rubble," Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) country director for the occupied Palestinian territories, reported after her recent trip to Gaza. "While there were some areas left totally untouched, it was precisely the strategic economic areas. . . that were wiped out," she wrote.

Humanitarian Lebanese ship sets sail for besieged Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- A Lebanese ship named fraternity left at noon Monday the port of Tripoli en route to the port of Larnaca and then, if possible, to the besieged Gaza Strip to deliver food, medical supplies, clothes and toys. Hani Suleiman, the coordinator of this sea trip, said that 82 participants including 10 figures from different foreign nationalities would be boarding the ship. Ma’moun Mekhal, the trip’s logistics coordinator, said the amount of donations reached in three days about 50 tons of food, medicines and other supplies. The ship will most likely not be allowed to dock at the Gaza port and thus the alternative solution is to unload at the Egyptian Arish port. In another context, Rashid Al-Qatbi, the head of the Moroccan committee for health professionals, stated upon his arrival along with a medical delegation at the Rafah border crossing that the Moroccan people. . .

Reporter’s diary: Obstacles in Gaza
Zeina Awad in Gaza City, Al Jazeera 2/3/2009
Israel’s three-week war on Gaza caused billions of dollars in damage and left the already-tattered local economy on the verge of collapse. Some of the world’s richest countries - including the US which has promised a $20-million aid package - have pledged monies to rebuild the Gaza Strip. Al Jazeera’s Zeina Awad reports that rivalry between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other Palestinian factions threatens to scuttle efforts to rebuild Gaza and rehabilitate its people. We came across Tayseer Jneed, a father of four, as he waited in queue outside a post office in Gaza City to cash a cheque Hamas had distributed to many Palestinians who, like him, had lost family and homes during Israel’s recent war. But Jneed was already disappointed. " I am unhappy because Hamas promised me 6,000 euros but I am getting 4,f000 euros," he told Al Jazeera.

Rehabilitation group distributes food to Gaza residents
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Bureij Association for Social Rehabilitation continued food distribution in post-assault Gaza Strip on Tuesday, according to a statement. The group distributed 300 food packages to homeless Palestinians now homeless following Israel’s three-week operation in Gaza. The packages were funded by international and local aid agencies. The group also announced plans to collect 1,000 food packages for other displaced Palestinians in the Al-Wusta area of Gaza, funded by the Popular Committee Against the Siege and the Palestinian Relief Campaign, the statement said. Al-Bureij’s board thanked donors for their “nonstop support to the Gazans,” calling on other social and psychotherapy organizations to provide help to some 4,000 children in Gaza evaluated as needing social and psychological support.

Hamas distributes more cash to owners of damaged Gaza homes
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas on Tuesday completed its first phase of distributing reconstruction aid to Palestinians affected by Israel’s recent assault on the Gaza Strip. The movement handed out cash to Palestinians made homeless in the Al-Wusta area of Gaza, where almost ever home was destroyed by Israeli shelling in late December and early January. Hamas spokesperson Yousef Farahat said Palestinians living in the Al-Meghraqa area were the first to receive compensation, particularly those whose homes were entirely destroyed, who received 4,000 euros in compensation. Partial home destruction warranted 2,000 euros, the spokesperson said. Farhat said about 300 Palestinian families had been compensated thus far, and that other phases of cash distributions would be carried out soon.

ICC takes first step toward Gaza war-crimes probe
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/4/2009
THE HAGUE: The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Tuesday he would determine whether there was such a legal entity as a Palestinian state, a precursor to a possible probe of war crimes in Gaza. Having received a request from the Palestinian National Authority to investigate the recent Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said: "My work is now to analyze this in accordance with [international] law. "Before a full investigation could be launched, he had to determine whether "the Palestinian Authority [PA] [has] the legal capacity, the legal ability, to accept the jurisdiction of the court," the prosecutor told reporters in The Hague. The Rome Statute that created the ICC determined that only a state could do so. "But who is the state in Gaza? " asked Moreno-Ocampo. "What is a state in international law, in particular in the Gaza territory - that is the discussion. "

ICC prosecutor takes look at alleged Israeli crimes
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
THE HAGUE - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has begun a "preliminary analysis" of alleged crimes committed by Israelis during the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, his office said Monday. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has received communications on this matter from Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Kashan, the Palestinian National Authority, and over 200 other individuals and non-governmental bodies, his office said. "The office of the prosecutor will carefully examine all relevant issues, including on jurisdiction," it said in a written response. "The preliminary analysis conducted by the office of the prosecutor is not indicative that an investigation will be opened. " Moreno-Ocampo’s office said he had met Kashan in The Hague on January 22, when "they discussed allegations of crimes committed in Gaza".

Livni: There’s no such thing as economic peace
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/3/2009
"A Palestinian state is the national answer for Arab-Israeli citizens who identify with the Palestinian people. " - Kadima chairwoman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni today ridiculed Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that he would pursue "economic peace" if elected prime minister in next week’s elections. In a presentation at "Globes" today, Livni asked, "What is economic peace? What is this drivel? There’s no such thing. Netanyahu is laundering words. " Livni added, "We all know that we must invest in the Palestinian Authority and that it’s necessary to have more projects with them and economic assistance, but that won’t solve the conflict. Ultimately, the other side has national ambitions. " As for Netanyahu’s comments, Livni said, "With such words, you can’t tell the world that Israel wants peace. . . "

Kadima accuses Likud, Labor of political scheming
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Kadima officials say Netanyahu, Barak have struck a pact by which defense minister will continue his office in Netanyahu’s government if he is voted PM -Kadima officials accused the Labor and Likud parties for setting up a "political scam" intended to secure Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s position in Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s government if he is indeed elected to the office of prime minister. Kadima’s PR manager, Eyal Arad, said a meeting that occurred between Barak and Netanyahu Tuesday was out of order, and condemned the two for discussing political matters before the nation had voted. Netanyahu hinted after the meeting that upon being elected prime minister, he would ask Barak to continue his office in the new government. "Before the greatest security challenges faced by the State of Israel - Hamas in Gaza, Hizbullah in Lebanon, and. . .

Barak: Only I dealt with rocket crisis
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Three premiership candidates promote their defense strategies as scramble for votes hits peak -The three candidates for premiership, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, and Benjamin Netanyahu, made attempts at snagging more votes Tuesday as the February 10 elections draw nearer. The three focused on defense issues in order to draw in voters. Livni met with a number of military officials who expressed their support for her, while Barak declared that he had dealt with the rocket threat to the south. Netanyahu visited Ashkelon and promised residents that he would destroy Hamas. A number of current and former military officials announced their support for Livni Tuesday, including former Air Force Commander Eitan Ben Eliyahu and Generals Yoram Yair and Gideon Sheffer. Former Mossad Director Ephraim Halevy was also present at the meeting, but was not explicit in his support for the Kadima chairwoman.

Majadele: State must close social gaps
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/3/2009
In answer to Lieberman’s demand for loyalty, Arab minister says state must treat all citizens fairly -Science, Culture and Sport Minister Raleb Majadele (Labor) condemned statements made by MK Avigdor Lieberman, who demanded loyalty from the Israeli Arab population. "Those who want loyalty from the Arab citizens of Israel should first make sure the state is loyal to them by closing gaps," Majadele said. He was referring to the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, whose chairman demanded that loyalty to the State be a condition for citizenship. Majadele made the comments while taking part in a panel on economic and industrial research and development at the annual Herzliya Conference. "To those demagogues who ask for loyalty, we reply that any state that wants its citizens to respect and love it must treat them accordingly.

Israeli election: from Gaza to Jerusalem
Mark Tran, The Guardian 2/3/2009
Q&A: Israeli election - Israel holds a general election on 10 February after Tzipi Livni, the new leader of the Kadima party, failed to form a coalition government last month. The opinion polls show Likud, led by the former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu winning the most seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament - Security has become even more of a paramount issue after the Gaza offensive, along with the larger question of negotiations with the Palestinians. Of the two main parties, Kadima is committed to continuing talks with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of the Fatah faction. It is unclear, however, whether Likud is prepared to countenance a Palestinian state; Netanyahu talks instead about an "economic peace". In other respects little separates the two parties, which have largely played down ideological differences, with campaigning revolving around personalities.

First Black Hebrew gets Israeli citizenship
Zvi Alush, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Forty years after arriving in Israel as self-identified descendants of Tribe of Judah, first member of Israelite community gets letter from Interior Ministry approving request for citizenship. Ministry says more approvals to follow - "Hallelujah, Hallelujah," members of Dimona’s Black Hebrew Israelite community sang out after one of them received a notification that he was eligible for Israeli citizenship. The first of the Black Hebrews arrived in Israel from the United States and Liberia in December 1969, claiming to be the descendants of the Tribe of Judah. Upon their arrival the Hebrews settled in the southern communities of Dimona, Mitzpe Ramon and Arad, and have struggled extensively in an attempt to gain recognition from the State of Israel. Only in August 2003 did the Black Hebrew Israelites get the news they were waiting for when then- Interior Minister, Avraham Poraz granted them the status of permanent residents.

Appointment of Marzel for Umm El-Fahm voting booth remains unclear
Abe Selig And Rebecca Anna Stoil, Jerusalem Post 2/3/2009
Central Elections Committee Chairman Judge Eliezar Rivlin said on Tuesday that he would look into the appointment of Baruch Marzel as the National Union’s poll monitor in the Wadi Ara town of Umm El-Fahm. But Marzel told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that, "the judge has said he has no legal backing to stop me from entering the town. I am going to Umm El-Fahm to make sure no illegal activity goes on there, and if any votes are registered for the National Union, I want to make sure they’re not tampered with. People may not agree with me, but this is a democracy, and I’m acting within my rights. " Marzel also said that he hoped to draw attention to the fact that, "the Israeli government has no control over Umm El-Fahm - it’s just like [Nablus] or Gaza. " Regardless, such a statement from Rivlin is far from the usual decisive rulings he offers, and any such probe would have to be completed - and a decision reached - before next Tuesday.

Elections 2009 / Far-right National Union: We’ll station poll observers in Arab towns
Nadav Shragai Yoav Stern and Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
The National Union announced Monday that placing far-rightist Baruch Marzel as a ballot box supervisor in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm was only the first step, and that the faction plans to deploy a number of monitors in voting stations throughout Arab towns and villages. Arab leaders have warned that the presence of Marzel and other rightist activists would trigger a response. "We in the National Union plan to be at many voting stations in the Arab sector and to prevent the large-scale forgery that the state has ignored for many years," the party said on Monday. One of Marzel’s allies, Dr. Michael Ben Ari, is fourth on the National Union slate of candidates. By law, every party is permitted to field 40 representatives at voting stations around the country.

Elections 2009 / Shas elections ad banned for promising blessings to voters
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
The Central Elections Committee banned part of Shas’ TV advertising campaign Tuesday in which the ultra-Orthodox party’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is seen giving blessings to voters. The decision was made in accordance with the Elections Law, which prohibits the giving of blessings in exchange for votes at the ballot box. "Blessings will come to all those who vote for Shas, to their wives and sons and students and all their families, and it will give wealth, honor, good health and renewed youth, fortune, health and all things good," Rabbi Yosef says in the ad. This is not the first time Shas has run into trouble with elections regulations. In 2003 the Central Elections Committee banned campaigning in Shas satellite broadcasts of sermons by Rabbi Yosef.

Vandals deface Livni campaign posters across Jerusalem
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Vandals have defaced dozens of election signs in Jerusalem featuring Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the Kadima chairwoman contending for premiership in the national election next week. In many of the posters, Livni’s face has been painted over or scratched out. The posters of her male rivals have been left untouched. Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Tuesday that an investigation was under way. He gave no further details. In the past, extreme groups in the city’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have opposed the presence of women’s likenesses on billboards, calling them immodest. Provocative ads are regularly defaced, and during a recent municipal election Jerusalem buses banned posters advertising women candidates. Israel’s national election is on February 10.

Haredim suspected of defacing Livni on election posters
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 2/3/2009
A week before the country goes to the polls, police are investigating the defacement of Kadima election posters in Jerusalem. Police suspect haredi extremists opposed to public images of women have been painting over Kadima leader Tzipi Livni’s face on posters throughout the city, but no arrests have yet been made. A police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that the defacements, some of which occurred outside haredi neighborhoods, had probably been perpetrated by the same individuals, as the same color had been used to cover Livni’s face in each instance. According to the spokesman, this type of offense is not considered a serious crime, but could lead to an arrest, indictment and small fine. Police sources said that fighting this phenomenon was more of an educational challenge than a security. . .

Shas’ Rabbi Yosef TV ad disqualified
YNetNews 2/3/2009
Central Elections Committee finds campaign ad featuring ultra-Orthodox party spiritual leader’s blessing to potential voters in breach of election laws; party pulls ad, says law ’trampled’ - Justice Eliezer Rivlin, head of the Central Elections Committee, ruled Tuesday against the airing of a Shas’ campaign ad which features the ultra-Orthodox party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, blessing voters. In the ad, Rabbi Yosef is saying that anyone who votes for Shas, "They, their sons, students and kin will all be blessed"¦ with happiness and honor, good health and success. " Section 122 ofIsrael’s Election Law forbids any party to solicit votes via the promise of a religious blessing. Justice Rivlin informed the party that unless the text is revised he will not authorize the ad’s airing, prompting Shas to pull it altogether.

Rightist religious leaders jostle in pre-elections event
Jerusalem Post 2/3/2009
3 right wing religious leaders vying for votes in next week’s parliamentary election jostled for support among the national religious camp at a Jerusalem even Tuesday night in the Great Synagogue, offering competing visions on whether it was more effective to support the Likud or two small right-of-center parties. The English languages debate pitted Moshe Feiglin, No. 36 on the Likud list against new chairman of National Union Yaakov Katz and the chairman of HaBayit Hayehudi party chairman Prof. Daniel Hershkovitz. Feiglin repeatedly said that the only place to effectively change policies was within Likud. "By voting for me you are voting for those who can guard Netanyahu from within and not be irrelevant from the outside," Feiglin said. "Only with us will you be sure that there is no Palestinian state, no disengagement," Katz said.

Poll: Likud drops sharply, Kadima falls
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/3/2009
A week from the elections, the latest "Globes" poll finds Labor gaining ground and Yisrael Beiteinu still strengthening. The latest "Globes" poll in collaboration with Geocartography, managed by Prof. Avi Degani, shows the Likud losing between six to seven Knesset seats over the past five days. With seven days until the Feb. 10 elections, the poll predicted that the Likud will win 24-25 Knesset mandates compared with 31 last week. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud has now lost 14 seats since polls taken five weeks ago. The poll, conducted yesterday evening (Monday) among a representative sample of 600 people forecast Kadima winning 21 seats compared with 23 last week, while Labor climbed from 15 last week to 17. Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu rose one seat to 17, while Shas also strengthened to 11seats from 10 last week and Meretz fell back to 7 seats from 8-9 last week.

Popular front and Sa’ika faction call for rebuilding PLO
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The popular front for the liberation of Palestine and the Sa’ika organization on Monday called for rebuilding the PLO on the basis of the Cairo agreement in 2005 and the document of national reconciliation in 2006. In a statement received by the PIC, Abdelrahim Mallouh, the deputy secretary-general of the popular front, called on all Palestinian factions to work together and initiate directly comprehensive dialog in order to end the Palestinian differences and rebuild the PLO. For its part, the Sa’ika organization said that it always stresses the need for electing a new national council, electing a national authority to rehabilitate the PLO and its institutions, and involving all factions without exception in the PLO. Sa’ika also highlighted the need to separate the position of the Palestinian authority from the presidency of the PLO because the PA’s work is concentrated. . .

PNC ‘emergency meeting’ addresses Hamas call to replace PLO
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Senior members of the Palestinian National Council held an emergency meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday to respond to Hamas’ demand for the creation of an institutional alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Hamas leader Khalid Mashal said last week that the PLO, a UN-recognized umbrella organization of Palestinian factions, is obsolete. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are barred from the organization, which is dominated by Fatah. Speaking at the beginning of the session, PNC chairman Salim Zanoun urged Mashal to withdraw his request, arguing that the PLO is still the “sole representative” of the Palestinian people. He said that all attempts to replace the PLO would be doomed to failure because of the PLO’s legitimacy. The secretary-general of one of the factions in the PLO, the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA) Salih Raafat, who is a member. . .

Critics of Meshal’s anti-PLO statement include the leftists
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/3/2009
Ramallah -- Since Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Meshal said that the PLO should be abolished condemnations have come in droves. Exiled and living in Syria, Meshal said several days ago that the Palestine Liberation Organization was not the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people that it was meant to be because it does not include all parties. As such, Meshal suggested abolishing the PLO and creating a new, more representative body. But the PLO is wrapped up in decades of national struggle and is dear to the hearts of most, as was noted by the rampant criticism. Some people said the timing of Meshal’s statements was inappropriate considering the Israeli attacks on Gaza, while others who are President Abbas supporters want to keep the PLO as is. If the Palestinian Authority is closed, Abbas will be in the position to run the PLO.

Fayyad to deliver key speech outlining PA plans for Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will deliver a speech on Wednesday detailing the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza following the Israeli offensive. Fayyad’s office said that the speech will be delivered at the opening of a conference dedicated to evaluating the Palestinian Authority budget for 2009. According to a statement from Fayyad’s office, the Ramallah-based caretaker prime minister will outline the PA’s response to the disaster, including plans for a first phase of reconstruction in Gaza. These programs, according to the statement, will include urgent relief programs such as housing homeless people, refurbishment of damaged houses and economic facilities.

Hamas: We’re in No Hurry to Talk with Abbas
Haaretz, MIFTAH 2/3/2009
Hamas will not push for Palestinian reconciliation talks if President Mahmoud Abbas insists on the supremacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Islamist group said Monday. In a statement mocking Abbas and his supporters, a high-level Hamas official accused Abbas of siding with Israel during its recent invasion of Gaza, and seeking to "return on Israeli tanks" to govern the territory. Abbas on Sunday rejected a call by Hamas to replace the PLO with an organisation less dominated by his allies, and said recognising the primacy of the PLO in representing all Palestinians was a condition for dialogue. Earlier Monday, aides to Abbas said the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks will be a topic of discussion when he sits down with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Monday. France was taking center stage Monday on Mideast diplomacy, with visits by Abbas, the new U.

Interior ministry announces arrest of spy ring
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian interior ministry in Gaza reported Tuesday that the security apparatuses arrested several groups on a charge of providing Israel with information about the Palestinian resistance. Ihab Al-Ghussein, the spokesman for the interior ministry, said that the security apparatuses were able to arrest a spy ring spearheaded by Mohamed Al-Habbash, a nephew of the minister of social affairs in the PA unconstitutional Ramallah government, which collected information about the resistance a few days before the Israeli war started on Gaza. Ghussein added that the mission of this spy ring was to gather information on the whereabouts of the resistance fighters and then send it to PA officers in Ramallah who in turn hand over the information to Israel. He also pointed out that the security apparatuses are still in pursuit of other groups who fled during the war, noting. . .

UN donates bulletproof vests, helmets to Gaza journalists
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – UNESCO has donated 16 bullet-proof vests, helmets and press signs to Palestinian journalists in Gaza in a response for an urgent need to improve the safety of media. “The current crisis in Gaza has had a critical impact on the press freedom, highlighting the urgency of the need to protect media professionals and respect the independence and rights of journalists to exercise their professional duties in conflict situation,” the UN agency said in a statement. Many local journalists and cameramen were reporting and covering the three-week war in December and January without protective equipment in hazardous conditions while the international media was barred from entering the Gaza Strip. As a part of a larger project strengthening Palestinian media, UNESCO said that it is also establishing programs of psycho-social support and hotline for media professionals.

UN to hold independent investigation on IOF shelling of its Gaza buildings
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
GENEVA, (PIC)-- The UN is to hold a separate investigation into the Israeli occupation forces’ shelling of its buildings during the IOF war on the Gaza Strip. John Holmes, the assistance UN secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said on Monday that the UN was waiting for the result of the Israeli investigation into shelling the UNRWA warehouses and an UNRWA-run school, but underlined that the international organization would hold a separate investigation into the incident. He expressed conviction that the issue would end up with raising the question of compensations. For her part, Karin Abu Zaid, the UNRWA commissioner, said that her agency estimated the losses of its warehouses over a period of 8 years of Israeli attacks at one million dollars. "We asked Israel to pay compensations but we did not receive anything," she said, adding that her agency would ask for more compensations after the latest attacks as the losses were greater.

Israel seeks UN permission to search ships headed to Gaza in international waters
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel has reportedly asked the United Nations to give it permission to board and search ships in international waters even if they are flying the flag of another sovereign state, in an attempt to halt alleged arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip. The Hebrew-language newspaper Ma’ariv reported on Tuesday that that the Israel is sending a security officer to discuss the issue at the UN, following a US-Israeli agreement to combat smuggling signed in January. According to Ma’ariv’s report, they Israeli Navy wanted to intercept an Iranian ship flying the flag of Cyprus. The ship was allegedly carrying arms to Hamas in Gaza. The US reportedly ordered Israel not to board the ship, which was later inspected by Cypriot authorities. Meanwhile the US and EU are scheduled to hold a high-ranking security meeting in Denmark to discuss alleged smuggling to Gaza.

UNICEF chief to visit Gaza Strip, southern Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – UNICEF’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict will be visit the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel this week, according to a statement. Radhika Coomaraswamy is hoping to “ascertain first hand the situation of children in Gaza and also to visit southern Israel,” the statement said. Coomaraswamy said she will liaise with stakeholders “to ensure that children are protected and their needs are addressed in the aftermath of the recent hostilities. ”Coomaraswamy will meet with officials from both the Government of Israel and Palestinian Authority, as well as with members of civil society, NGOs and children affected by the recent conflict in Gaza.

Abbas, US Envoy Push Mideast Peace in Paris Talks
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 2/3/2009
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas headed to Paris on Monday to try to drum up diplomatic support for a unity government and to push for a role in rebuilding the war-shattered Gaza Strip, controlled by rival Hamas. With scattered violence in Gaza straining an informal cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants, Abbas was expected to join French, U. S. and other officials in meetings aimed at finding sturdier solutions for Gaza. Abbas was to hold talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped broker the Gaza cease-fire, as well as Qatar’s prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani. The Gulf state has emerged as a regional mediator since helping to resolve a political crisis in Lebanon last year. Earlier Monday, President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, met with Sarkozy’s chief of staff before sitting down with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for lunch. Mitchell met with Abbas and other Palestinian officials last week.

Abbas promotes Gaza plan in France
Al Jazeera 2/4/2009
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has held talks in Paris with Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, over Palestinian reconciliation, the crisis in Gaza and the Middle East peace process. Abbas, who arrived in the French capital on Monday, appealed for help from the European Union in creating a unity government. He offered to work with the winner of Israel’s parliamentary elections scheduled for February 10. The Palestinian president said: "The role that is always required from the European Union, past, present and future, is financial support for the national authority. "We want the European Union to have a political role that complements the role of the quartet in the region. "Opportunity - Abbas said: "We will work with anyone the Israelis choose, but on the condition that they don’t bring us back to the starting point. "

EU envoy: Israel must ease aid restrictions on ’hell-like’ Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Israel must lift its ban on materials to rebuild Gaza after its offensive in a territory resembling "hell" where children have to sleep outside shattered homes, the European Union’s Middle East envoy said in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "What encouragement to terrorism would it be to rebuild the sewage system, have clean water, have kids going to school, have clinics that work, have mothers delivering their babies in safe conditions? "Marc Otte asked following Operation Cast Lead - Israel’s devastating 22-day assault in the Hamas-ruled territory. While Israel has opened Gaza’s border crossings to larger amounts of food and medicine, it has so far balked at letting in construction materials, including glass, steel and cement, needed to rebuild the thousands of Palestinian homes, roads and buildings destroyed or damaged during the war.

Latest Greek aid shipment transported to Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Greece stepped up aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to a statement. "Continuing its support to the Palestinian people, our country has sent six containers with new Greek humanitarian aid from the Piraeus port to the Gaza Strip," the statement said. The 105-110 of tons of aid contain mainly food, bought by the Greek Foreign Ministry, as well as medicine and medical supplies that were collected by the Church of Greece in collaboration with local authorities, private companies and associations. Transportation has been undertaken and paid for by the Foreign Ministry’s Hellenic Aid organization and will be delivered to the appropriate United Nations bodies so that it can be taken into Gaza and distributed, the Greek government said.

France pledges to rebuild Gaza hospital that was destroyed by Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – The government of France plans to rebuild a hospital in Gaza that was partly destroyed by Israeli bombing last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Tuesday. "France has approved a project to rebuild the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza and this is an extremely important humanitarian project," Abbas told reporters following a lunch meeting with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris, according to the news agency AFP. "We hope that it will be implemented as quickly as possible. " Kouchner confirmed that he had discussed "urgent" plans to rebuild the Al-Quds hospital and help other health centers in Palestinian territory following Israel’s three-week onslaught that killed more than 1,350 Palestinians. The Red Crescent-affiliated hospital in the Tal Al-Hawa area of Gaza City was hit on January 15 by an Israeli shell and caught. . .

Ireland hints at negotiations with Hamas
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - An Irish newspaper reported that Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin hinted the European Union may negotiate with Hamas. Martin said at a news conference in Damascus that negotiations should include other major players in the region, an apparent reference to Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. "What was clear. . . was the request to Europe to be flexible in terms of how one approaches what emerges from this process. . . not to be absolutist," the minister was quoted as saying by the Irish Times. The EU maintains a boycott on dealing with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair recently suggested negotiations with Hamas, as well, saying talks with only half of the Palestinian side is “half of what we needed. ”Blair said that “pushing Gaza aside” to create ea Palestinian state in. . .

President Abbas Meets Sarkozy in Paris
Palestine Media Center 2/3/2009
Leaders Discuss Truce, Gaza Reconstruction - President Mahmoud Abbas in France on Tuesday expressed hopes for reaching a reconciliation agreement with the Hamas movement. At the same time, President Abbas met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a donor’s conference in Paris, where he said the Palestinian Authority would welcome Hamas into a unity government—but had no intention of dismantling the Palestine Liberation Organization to accommodate the movement. At a news conference following his talks with the French leader, Abbas called for reconciliation and urged Hamas and Israel to cement fragile ceasefires declared earlier in January. He applauded Egypt’s efforts on behalf of peace between the arch rivals. But the president noted tensions over the deal, blaming “Israeli aggression” that he said “is still ongoing. ” Abbas is touring Europe in support of the massive reconstruction effort for the Gaza Strip, as well as urging EU governments to approve negotiations with all factions,. . .

Israeli drones in Gaza may have had British engines, ministers admit
David Pallister, The Guardian 2/3/2009
MPs are calling for a full account of arms exports to Israel amid growing concerns that British military equipment was used during the bombardment of Gaza - contrary to Israeli assurances and UK export guidelines. The government was adamant UK exports were not used in drone aircraft that helped the Israeli air force target missile strikes that killed more than 1,000 people and demolished thousands of homes and other buildings and infrastructure. Now, however, ministers say they are unsure what equipment was used. Attention has been focused on two critical weapons in Israel’s frontline forces: the F16 ground attack fighters and the Hermes 450 drones, which pinpoint the sites for attack. British arms control officials have admitted they are unable to say whether UK-made aircraft engines were fitted to drones. And ministers say they have been unable to ascertain whether the planes were

Hamas upbeat at Cairo talks on ceasefire, Palestinian unity
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A positive atmosphere prevails in Cairo as talks regardingceasefire with Israel, rebuilding Gaza and reuniting the Palestinian government, said Hamas leader Salah Bardawil on Tuesday evening. Speaking on the phone from Cairo, Bardawil told Ma’an, “Hamas dealt with the Egyptian proposal regarding the ceasefire with Israel positively. However, Hamas asked for explanations of some Israeli proposals, especially objection to entry of certain material to the Gaza Strip which Israel claims are used in making weapons. ”Moments before he spoke Israel had bombed the Gaza Strip in at least two places. He also said that an agreement has been reached for form united Palestinian committees to supervise the reconstruction of Gaza and other committees to plan for Palestinian national reconciliation talks slated for 22 February.

Hamas Cites ’Positive Direction’ as Cairo Works Toward Stronger Gaza Truce
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 2/3/2009
Palestinian officials were gathering in Cairo on Sunday amid hopes of bolstering a ceasefire in Gaza, even as Israel threatened to strike at Hamas after Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel. Egypt has been mediating a truce after Hamas and Israel announced ceasefires on January 18, ending a devastating 22-day war that killed more than 1,330 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. An advisor to deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, who heads the Hamas government in Gaza, told AFP that the group was awaiting Israel’s response to an Egyptian truce proposal. "We can speak with details about the truce after our delegation examines the Israeli response," said Ahmad Yusef, adding that Hamas expected the response by Monday. "But for now, things are moving in a positive direction. " A Hamas team from Gaza was already in Cairo, as was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, while representatives of Hamas’ Syria-based leadership were due on Monday, a Hamas official said.

Egyptian diplomacy continues on potential Hamas-Israel truce
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Hamas officials met with Egyptian mediators in Cairo on Monday as Egypt pressed for a ceasefire agreement with Israel. Meanwhile, Israel “limited its responses to continued attacks from the Gaza Strip” to encourage the Egyptian negotiators, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported. Israel and Egypt also continued talks on the ceasefire, but Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni dismissed suggestions Israel negotiate directly with Hamas, maintaining the latter is a terrorist organization. Regardless, Israeli defense sources told the paper they are optimistic that a deal for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit might be included in the agreement. Hamas has of late rejected calls for linking that case with the crossings into Gaza, saying the two are totally separate issues.

Egypt offers a compromise to the Gaza crossing standoff
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/3/2009
Hamas sources said on Tuesday that Egypt offered a compromise for a possible ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesperson, said that the Egyptian mediators proposed reaching a deal based on partially reopening the Gaza crossings, resolving the issue of captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit, in return for a one-year-long truce. [However], Abu Zuhri reiterated his party’s position that they will not accept involving the Shalit case with any truce deal with Israel. "The Shalit case is a separate one and has nothing to do with the reopening of crossings", Abu Zuhri maintained. Israeli sources suggested that Hamas has not taken a stance toward the ceasefire because of reservations over the Egyptian initiative. The sources added that Israel wants to put an end to smuggling on the Egypt-Gaza border line.

An-Nasser Brigades: Open crossings or truce is finished
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian armed group threatened Israel over its refusal to open crossings into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, according to a statement. The An-Nasser Brigades, a militant wing affiliated with the Popular Reistance Committes, said Israel’s “nonstop” shelling and closure of crossings “will force us to end the truce and turn Israeli sites into Hell. ”In a statement sent to Ma’an, An-Nasser said that “Israel’s security is in our hands and we absolutely reject the siege and blockade imposed on Palestinians,” promising that no truce will be declared without the group’s commitment. The armed group also called on Egypt to reject Israeli pressure and open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, assuring Cairo that “any attempt to put down the resistance will fail. ”On Monday, the An-Nasser Brigades claimed responsibility for firing over a dozen homemade projectiles into. . .

Gaza violence simmers amid truce talks
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
GAZA CITY - Violence simmered around Gaza on Tuesday while talks on a long-term truce in Gaza dragged on in Egypt. A Hamas delegation was expected to give its response in Egypt to a proposal for a long-term truce around Gaza as Cairo continued its efforts to broker a lasting calm with Israel around the territory. On Monday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held talks with Mahmud Abbas. In Gaza, Hamas said it favoured a one-year truce on condition that Israel opened the border crossings of the territory that it has kept sealed since mid-2007. "We agree in principle with a one-year truce," spokesman Fawzi Barhum said, but added that Hamas has not ruled out an 18-month truce proposed by the Egyptian mediators. "Whether one year or a year and a half, it must be linked to the opening of all crossing points, including (the) Rafah (crossing on the Egyptian border), and the lifting of the blockade," he said.

Hamas willing to tie Shalit to truce
Ynet and Reuters, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Hamas spokesman says kidnapped soldier’s case may be addressed in tandem with ceasefire, for which group demands ’lifting of siege, opening of all crossings’. Earlier Egypt announces may open Rafah to allow construction materials in - Hamas is prepared to discuss a ceasefire deal that would include kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Hamas leader Salah Bardawil told the Palestinian Maan News Agency Tuesday. He also said Israel had agreed to allow 75% of previously prohibited goods into Gaza in exchange for his release. Earlier, following a round of talks in Cairo, Hamas announced that Egypt is considering opening its border crossing with the Gaza Strip to allow in reconstruction materials blocked by Israel after its 22-day offensive. Egypt is trying to broker a longer-term truce in the Gaza Strip under which both Israel and Hamas would hold their fire.

Mitchell to press for talks between Lebanon and Israel - US officials
Daily Star 2/4/2009
BEIRUT: US Middle East envoy George Mitchell will visit Lebanon in the next two months carrying a request from Washington that Lebanon and Israel begin to engage directly in peace negotiations, regional media reported Tuesday. Quoting a senior Egyptian diplomat based in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Kuwait’s Al-Seyassah daily reported that Mitchell would travel to Lebanon in an effort to revive peace talks, tabled since the 1980s, between the hostile neighbors. A US-supported 1983 peace agreement between Lebanon and Israel, brokered at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, quickly fell apart. Mitchell just finished his first tour of the region, under his new appointment as US President Barack Obama’s special envoy. He met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Occupied West Bank to discuss a way forward in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, put in serious jeopardy after the recent bloodshed in Gaza. -- See also: Barak: Syria-Hezbollah arms deal will prompt Israeli action in Lebanon

Mitchell Gets Earful From Mideast
Caryle Murphey, MIFTAH 2/3/2009
Winding up his week-long tour of the region, President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, met Saudi officials here over the weekend for an exchange of ideas on ending the volatile Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Mitchell conferred with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud bin Faisal Saturday night and met with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Sunday. Specifically, the talks were said to cover the Saudi-initiated Arab Peace Initiative – first offered to Israel in 2002 – as well as how to counter what many Arab states regard as an alarming development: The increased involvement of Iran in Palestinian affairs, through its partners, Syria and Hamas. " Something needs to be done about Syria, Iran, and Hamas," said one Saudi source. "They believe that by doing what they’re doing it’s going. . . to put them on top. … [We need] to counter it once and for all. "

Obama envoy to revisit Middle East
Al Jazeera 2/3/2009
George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, is to return to the region within weeks to pursue peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she would send Mitchell back to the region after being briefed by him on his return from his first visit following his appointment. "This is the first of what will be an ongoing high level of engagement by Senator Mitchell," Clinton said in Washington on Tuesday. Clinton said the US was looking to work with "all of the parties" in the region to help make progress towards an agreement that would end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Mitchell said he planned to "establish a regular and sustained presence in the region". The 75-year-old former senator, was appointed by Barack Obama, the US president, in January.

Clinton wants to work with 'all sides,' but repeats conditions for Hamas talks
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies –Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the US’ conditions for dialogue with Hamas on Tuesday but said that the US is looking to work with all the parties in the conflict. "We are looking to work with all of the parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict," Clinton told reporters in Washington after meeting the US’ Middle East envoy George Mitchell. "Hamas knows the conditions. . . They must renounce violence, they must recognize Israel, they must agree to abide by prior agreements. " Clinton also said she would send Mitchell back to the region after being briefed by him on his return from an initial visit to the Middle East. Mitchell did not meet with Hamas or visit Gaza. Last week international envoy Tony Blair said that Hamas should be included in the peace process, possibly signaling. . .

Clinton: Hamas must agree to conditions
Reuters, YNetNews 2/3/2009
US secretary of state reiterates administration’s demand that Hamas renounce violence, recognize Israel as prerequisite for any true progress on regional peace talks; says special envoy Mitchell will return to area before month’s end - The United States wants to work with all parties to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the Islamist group Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect past peace agreements, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday. " We are looking to work with all of the parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict," Clinton told reporters after meeting US special envoy George Mitchell. Progress? Abbas, US envoy push Mideast peace in Paris talks / AP and Ali Waked After meeting Sarkozy, Palestinian president. . .

Erdogan vows to protect Jewish minority in Turkey
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/4/2009
ANKARA: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged Tuesday never to allow anti-Semitism to take hold in Turkey, in a bid to calm the country’s Jewish minority, concerned over his criticism of Israel’s conduct in its war on Gaza. "There has never been anti-Semitism in the history of this nation and country," Erdogan told a parliamentary group meeting of his Justice and Development Party. "And I believe there will not be any from now on. Nothing of the sort can happen under our government," the prime minister added. "Their safety and lives are under our guarantee. "Turkey’s tiny Jewish community - numbering about 23,000 people - have expressed fear that anti-Semitism is creeping into predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular Turkey and have reported several incidents of hostility. During Israel’s 22-day deadly assault on Gaza, a sign reading "Jews cannot enter, dogs can" was. . .

Turkish PM vows to fight anti-Semitism
Associates Press, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Erdogan says criticim of Israel does not amount to anti-Semitism. He adds his country guarantees rights, safety of country’s Jewish population, calls anti-Semitism ’a crime against humanity’ -Turkey’s leader says criticism of Israel does not amount to anti-Semitism and that his country guarantees the rights and safety of its Jewish population. The small Jewish community says it is in contact with Turkish police and lawmakers because of safety concerns after the Gaza war. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a harsh critic of Israel because of civilian casualties during the war in Gaza. He angrily walked out of a forum attended by the Israeli president in Davos, Switzerland. But Erdogan said Tuesday that the country has no history of anti-Semitism and described it as a "crime against humanity".

Erdogan: Turkey still ready to mediate Mideast peace deal
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday his government remains committed to mediating a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians despite an angry public exchange last week with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Erdogan also said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had phoned him on Monday to ask him to continue Turkey’s role as a Middle East mediator. Erdogan accused Peres on January 30 of "knowing very well how to kill" during a panel discussion, that included Ban and the Arab League’s Amr Moussa, on the Israeli incursion in Gaza at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Erdogan then stormed off the stage. " If a demand arises from the parties, we again would shoulder this mission (of mediation)," Erdogan told members of his party in parliament.

Turkish soccer player plants Palestinian flag at on pitch at cup match
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
A Turkish soccer player planted a Palestinian flag in the middle of the pitch at a match on Tuesday, in an apparent protest against Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Turkish broadcasters reported. The Israel Defense Forces’ campaign, which ended in a January 18 cease-fire, triggered protests in Turkey where there is widespread support for the Palestinians. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was given a hero’s welcome on his return home last Friday after accusing Israel of "knowing very well how to kill," during a sharp exchange with President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum. Sivasspor midfielder Ibrahim Dagasan placed the flag on the center spot at a stadium in the central Turkish city of Sivas after his side beat Galatasaray in the quarter final of the Turkey Cup.

Turkish footballer in Gaza protest
Al Jazeera 2/3/2009
Turkish broadcasters have reported that a Turkish footballer planted a Palestinian flag in the middle of the pitch at a match, in an apparent protest against Israel’s 22 day assault on Gaza. The Israeli military campaign, which ended in a January 18 truce, triggered protests in Turkey where there is widespread support for the Palestinians. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was given a hero’s welcome on his return home last Friday after accusing Israel of "knowing very well how to kill" during a sharp exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum. Sivasspor midfielder Ibrahim Dagasan placed the flag on the centre spot at a stadium in the central Turkish city of Sivas after his side beat Galatasaray in the quarter final of the Turkey Cup.

Israel instructs airlines not to fly to Antalya amid strained Turkish ties
Zohar Blumenkrantz TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Security officials have instructed Israeli airlines not to fly to the Turkish resort city of Antalya because local authorities were no longer allowing armed Israeli security personnel to arrive at its airport. The airlines have been instructed to halt all services to Antalya until the matter is sorted out, TheMarker has learned. sraeli charter airlines had already reduced the number of flights to Antalya as a result of the worsening financial crisis and the Turkish government’s strong disapproval of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Antalya hotels have been offering enticing deals to Israeli tourists in an effort to bring them back to Turkey. At least five top hotels advertised a free weekend for Israelis "in order to display Turkish hospitality".

Erdogan: The main reason for tensions in Gaza is the policy of isolating Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 2/2/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Turkish premier Recep Erdogan stated that the primary cause of the ongoing tensions in the Gaza Strip is the policy of isolating the Hamas Movement, highlighting the need to recognize the legitimacy of the Movement which was democratically elected by the Palestinian people. In an interview with the Washington Post newspaper Erdogan categorically denied that Hamas is part of the Iranian scheme to control the Middle East. "Hamas is not an arm of Iran. It entered the election as a political party. If the whole world had given it a chance of becoming a political player, maybe it would not be in a situation like this after it won the elections, he said. The Turkish premier charged that the world did not respect the will of the Palestinian people, saying: "On the one hand, we defend democracy and try our best to keep democracy in the Middle East, but on the other hand we. . .

Turkish snub changes Middle East game
M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times 2/4/2009
There are different ways of looking at the Justice and Democratic Party, or AKP, which rules Turkey. Militant secularists and Kemalists allege it is a Trojan horse of Salafists whose members masquerade as democrats. Others say the AKP is so extremely moderate that it might get ostracized as infidel if it were transplanted to Iran or Afghanistan. But it appears there could be a third way - looking at the AKP as a progeny of the 30-year-old Iranian revolution. At least, that is how Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri thinks. He is one of Iran’s senior clerics, used to be a speaker of the Majlis (parliament) and now holds the exalted position of advisor to Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Nouri explained last Sunday, "When Iranians talked of ’exporting’ their revolution, they did not mean manufacturing something and then exporting it to other countries by trucks or ships; rather, they meant

Arab talks focus on Palestinians
Al Jazeera 2/4/2009
Foreign ministers from nine Arab countries are meeting in Abu Dhabi for talks on the division between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have signalled their support for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, Hamas’ main rival. The meeting on Tuesday comes as Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in Tehran. In recent weeks the three countries have stayed away from meetings attended by Ahmadinejad in protest against Iranian support for armed groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the Palestinian West Bank, said that the ministers in Abu Dhabi are "declaring officially that unwelcome foreign intervention, as they called it, in Arab and Palestinian affairs should be brought to an end.

Arab foreign ministers discuss Hamas-Fatah split
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies - Foreign ministers from ten Arab countries are meeting in Abu Dhabi for talks on the division between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said that the meeting would pave the way for an upcoming Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar. “The main goal of the meeting is to foster joint Arab efforts, and to clear all discrepancies between Arab countries, especially what emerged after the Kuwait summit,” Al-Maliki said. “We want to go to Doha summit in positive atmosphere in order to achieve success,” he added. The 20 January meeting in Kuwait ended in discord when Arab leaders failed to agree ona course of action beyond condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza and sending aid to Palestinians. Arab diplomatic sources told AFP that ten Arab countries would take part in the meeting in Abu Dhabi away from media outlets.

Turkish writer: Palestinian resistance restored glory of Ummah
Palestinian Information Center 2/3/2009
ANKARA, (PIC)-- The Ankara Gathering for Friends of Palestine has organized a pro-Gaza forum in the Turkish capital Ankara where Turkish speakers highlighted the role of the Palestinian resistance in restoring the glory of the Muslim Ummah (Nation). Zeyyad Abu Zaid, of Hamas Movement, who was present in the forum held on Sunday night, pointed out that Hamas is a resistance Movement that aims at liberating the occupied Palestinian lands, stressing that three main factors were behind the victory in Gaza namely: the Islamic ideology of the resistance, the support and steadfastness of the Palestinian people to the resistance, and the overwhelming support across the Arab, Muslim, and international arenas to the resistance. However, Abu Zaid stressed, "The support for Gaza should continue, and it shouldn’t be limited to breaking into the streets for few hours and then returning home".

Palestinian rift deepened by regional rivalries
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
Syria on one side and Saudi Arabia and Egypt (pushed by the US) on the other could be hampering efforts to reconcile Mahmud Abbas and the democratically elected Hamas. The Israel’s 22-day offensive killed more than 1,330 Palestinians (mainly civilians and a third of them children) and reduced government buildings and many homes to rubble. Hamas, which holds a majority in the Palestinian parliament, is vocally supported by Syria and Iran. Abbas, meanwhile, enjoys the support of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, regional powers allied to Washington, which is under pressure from its Israel-lobby to be tough on Hamas. Paradoxically, Qatar, a wealthy Gulf emirate that is home to a US military base and an Israeli office, has aligned itself with Tehran and Damascus on this issue. The small country’s influence is magnified by its powerful pan-Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

Politically, Hamas May Have Won
Analysis by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service 2/3/2009
CAIRO, Feb 3(IPS) - Despite declarations of victory by Israel, the military assault on the Gaza Strip failed to achieve its stated aims, many analysts say. The assault, and even its exceptional brutality, may only have vindicated the notion of resistance among the Arab public. "The steadfastness of the resistance in Gaza in the face of Israeli military power has resuscitated the idea of armed resistance," Gamal Fahmi, political analyst and managing editor of opposition weekly Al-Arabi Al-Nassiri told IPS. From Dec. 27 to Jan. 17, Israel pounded targets throughout the Gaza Strip from air, land and sea, in ostensible retaliation for rockets fired at Israel by Palestinian resistance factions, chief among them Hamas. The latter two weeks of the campaign brought a parallel ground offensive that encountered fierce resistance in and around a number of population centres.

Israeli right eyes election jackpot
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
TEL AVIV - The Israeli right looks set to make a strong comeback in the February 10 election, riding a hardline shift in society. Leading candidates from across the political spectrum are competing in the hard-talk stakes on burning security issues such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Polls project former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish Likud party the big winner, and have the rightwing parties poised to garner a comfortable majority in the 120-member parliament. And although pollsters say that most Israelis support a Middle East peace deal, Netanyahu’s tough stance towards the Palestinians has made him the country’s most popular politician. The rise of Yisrael Beitenu -- whose firebrand leader Avigdor Lieberman wants to expel Arab citizens -- is the clearest indicator of the lurch to the right.

Mazuz: Adoption doesn’t constitute conversion
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 2/2/2009
Attorney general tells High Court adoption of child by non-Jewish parents should not invalidate his right to make aliyah to Israel, by virtue of his blood ties with Jewish people - The adoption of a child by a non-Jewish family does not invalidate his right to make aliyah to Israel in accordance with the Law of Return, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the High Court of Justice on Monday. Mazuz’s issued his opinion in response to a petition filed by Regina Bernik, who asked to make aliyah to Israel by virtue of her father’s Jewishness, although she was adopted by a non-Jewish couple as a child. Bernik’s request was turned down by the Interior Ministry, and she decided to challenge it at the High Court. The Law of Return, which was passed in 1950, is one of the cornerstones of Israel as a Jewish state.

Israel warns Hezbollah against attacks
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
TEL AVIV - Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday responded to threats by Lebanon’s Hezbollah by saying any attack would prompt an unimaginably painful response from Israel, despite the fact that it was Tel Aviv which began making war threats. "I want to say here, on the border, that I don’t recommend that Hezbollah test us because the consequences would be more painful than one can imagine," Barak said during a visit to the Israeli-Lebanese frontier area. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed last week to avenge the killing of top commander Imad Mughniyeh who died in a February 2008 car bombing in Damascus which is widely blamed on Israel. "I want to tell the Lebanese government we would hold it responsible," Barak said, according to a statement by the defence ministry. Barak also expressed concern that Syria could transfer weapons to Hezbollah, something he said. . .

Barak: Syria-Hezbollah arms deal will prompt Israeli action in Lebanon
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday that the transfer of particular weapons systems from Syria to Hezbollah would obligate Israel to take action in Lebanon. During a tour of the northern border on Tuesday, Barak addressed concerns that Syria was looking to transfer anti-aircraft missiles to the Lebanon-based militants group, vowing that Israel would respond to such an illicit deal. The defense minister, who was addressing an Israel Defense Unit on the northern border, would not detail in his address which weapons systems were allegedly being dealed. "There are [weapons] system capable of tipping the status quo in Lebanon and we will need to consider our response should they be transferred," he said. Bracing for reprisals a year after the assassination of Hezbollah’s military mastermind,. . . -- See also: Mitchell to press for talks between Lebanon and Israel - US officials

Amos Gilad: Only peace can avert collision with Syria
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/3/2009
With all eyes on Gaza it seems as though the threat from the North has been moved to the back burner. But Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad warns Israel is ’on a collision course with Syria,’ says only peace with Damascus can drastically change security situation - "We’re on a collision course with Syria, a high probability of a confrontation with (Syria). We were nearly at that point in the summer of 2006," Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, said on Tuesday at the annual Herzliya Conference. Gilad said he believed Israel would have no choice but try to reach an agreement with Syria in the near future. Failing to achieve such a peace would create a far more dangerous front for Israel, which in two years would include a nuclear Iran, Syria’s rocket array and a well-equipped Hizbullah.

Top defense official Gilad: Israel must strive for peace with Syria
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Top defense official Amos Gilad said on Tuesday that it was imperative for Israel to attempt to reach a peace accord with Syria, in order to weaken the influence of extremist elements across the Middle East. Israel "must strive for peace with Syria because we are on a collision course with [the Syrians]," Gilad told participants at the 9th annual Herzliya Conference. According to Gilad, peace with Syria is a realistic prospect. "We were on the verge of war in 2006, and the next time there is a confrontation with Hezbollah and they fire Syrian-made rockets at us, it is not certain that we will be able to respond. " "Peace with Syria, if properly realized, could weaken a coalition of extremists and weaken threats that Israel has difficulty dealing with," Gilad said.

A Palestinian Knockout: Boxing in a Refugee Camp
Hussein Al-alak, Palestine Chronicle 2/3/2009
I was first introduced to the Baqa’a boxing team in May 2005, a team that represents over 120,000 displaced Palestinian’s, in a refugee camp that is located north of central Amman. On our arrival at the boxing club, it was discovered that training occurred within a large converted basement underneath the famous Baqa’a Football Club. During 2005, when I was first at the club, I had been treated to a demonstration by two of the camps champion boxers, with a running commentary on their training regime by the coach of the club, who was affectionately referred to as ’captain’ by the others. An Iraqi gentlaman and former fighter himself, since his retirement from the ring, Captain had chosen to dedicate his skills as a pugilist to the training of others. Having left Iraq in the early 1990’s, due to the hardship brought about by the sanctions, "captain" had travelled to neighbouring Jordan, where shortly after his arrival in the country, had been drafted in to teach the camps eager young men.

Siniora meets Bellemare to discuss Special Tribunal
Daily Star 2/4/2009
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora held talks on Tuesday at the Grand Serail with the head of the international investigative commission, Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, to discuss preparations for the launch of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on March 1. Well-informed sources told the Central News Agency (CNA) on Monday that the investigative commission was "able to reach enough information" concerning the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The sources said the launch of the tribunal was "now a reality. ""Obstructing or delaying the work of the tribunal is now impossible," the sources told CNA. The sources added that Bellemare had urged Siniora not to implicate the international investigative commission, "in the everyday bickering of Lebanese political life. "In other developments, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh held talks on. . .

First Iranian-made satellite launched
Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi, Reuters, The Independent 2/3/2009
Iran said it had for the first time launched a domestically made satellite into orbit today, a move likely to worry its enemies at a time when its conflict with the West over its nuclear plans remains unresolved. The launch of the Omid (Hope) research satellite, hailed by Iran as a major progress in its space technology, may irritate the administration of new US President Barack Obama, who has said he sees the Islamic Republic as a threat but is also offering direct dialogue with its leaders. The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used for launching weapons, although Tehran says it has no plans to do so. Analysts said the move would likely worry Israel and other states in the Middle East. " Dear Iranian nation, your children have placed the first indigenous satellite into orbit," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a televised message.

US ’gravely concerned’ over Iran satellite launch
News agencies, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Despite largely dismissing first Tehran-built satellite in orbit as ’a symbolic step,’ world governments uneasy with development. However American security official says satellite ’not a game changer’ - Iran has launched its first satellite in a step that has important symbolism but does not itself alter the strategic balance in the region, a US national security official said on Tuesday. " The satellite technology they have deployed is probably not state of the art, but for the Iranians this is an important symbolic step forward," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Iran said earlier it had launched a domestically made satellite into orbit for the first time, a move which could further fuel worries by Israel and Western powers over its nuclear ambitions. US and British officials said the Iranian satellite program may use technology. . .

Cyrpus reports to UN over Iranian boat allegedly bringing arms to Syria
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Cyprus filed a report to the United Nations on Tuesday after concluding its inspections on a ship suspected of transporting banned weapons from Iran to Syria. The Cypriot-flagged "Monchegorsk" has been docked off the Mediterranean island for a week while authorities carried out checks on its cargo. The United States had said it was carrying arms-related material in violation of UN sanctions on Iran. A team of Cypriot experts carried out two inspections of the ship, a statement from the Cyprus Foreign Ministry said. "The Republic of Cyprus today submitted a report on the findings of the inspections to the competent UN Security Council Sanctions Committee," it said. Cyprus has refused to say what is on board the cargo vessel, docked off the Cypriot southern port of Limassol under police guard since Jan.

Cyprus reports to UN on Iran’s arms ship
Reuters, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Contents of ship suspected of transporting banned weapons from Iran to Syria not made public -Cyprus filed a report to the United Nations on Tuesday after concluding its inspections on a ship suspected of transporting banned weapons from Iran to Syria. The Cypriot-flagged "Monchegorsk" has been docked off the Mediterranean island for a week while authorities carried out checks on its cargo. The United States had said it was carrying arms-related material in violation of UN sanctions on Iran. A team of Cypriot experts carried out two inspections of the ship, a statement from the Cyprus Foreign Ministry said. "The Republic of Cyprus today submitted a report on the findings of the inspections to the competent UN Security Council Sanctions Committee," it said. Cyprus has refused to say what is on board the cargo vessel, docked off the Cypriot southern port of Limassol under police guard since Jan.

Deutsche Bank sees trouble ahead for big banks
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/3/2009
Analyst Dan Harverd: Unrealized losses on investment portfolios can lead to large write-offs. Deutsche Bank analyst Dan Harverd warns that theBank of Israel’s recent forecast of negative 0. 2% GDP growth in the economy in 2009 weighs on potential banking sector results. With banks set to report fourth quarter 2008 results in several weeks, Harverd is concerned that unrealized losses sitting on bank’s books will begin to affect actual reported results, and problem debts are set to rise as the economy falls. Harverd worries that the securities portfolio at Bank Leumi(TASE: LUMI) carries the most risk among big banks. "It has the highest risk weighting and highest amount of unrealized losses, making it the bank with the highest likelihood of large write-offs. Its NIS 42 billion securities portfolio is 40% larger than Bank Hapoalim’s(LSE: BKHD;. . .

Bank spread widens despite interest rate cut
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/3/2009
Commercial banks are not passing on the Bank of Israel’s interest rate cuts to private customers or to the business sector. The commercial banks are not passing on the Bank of Israel’s interest rate cuts on to private customers or to the business sector. The Bank of Israel reported today that the bank spread, or interest-rate spread, at commercial banks - the difference between the interest rate banks charge for credit and the interest rate paid on deposits - rose from 3. 72% to 3. 81% in December 2008, despite the fact that the Bank of Israel had cut the interest rate to 2. 5% for December. The Bank of Israel added that the financial spread was unchanged in October-December, despite interest rate cuts by the Bank of Israel. The Bank of Israel’s figures indicate that the main reason for this situation is that the banks slashed the. . .

Bank Hapoalim warns of Q4 loss
Michal Yoshai, Globes Online 2/3/2009
The bank also expects to report a loss for the full year, and will miss its 2008 return on equity target. Bank Hapoalim (LSE:80OA ; TASE:POLI ) today announced that it expects to report a loss of NIS 250 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. As a result the bank will not meet its full year 2008 return on equity target. According to the bank’s latest estimates, it also expects to record a loss for the full year. The bank estimates that return on equity for 2008 will be between negative 3% and negative 5%. At the same time Bank Hapoalim published its work plan for 2009, which includes a positive return on equity of between 4% to 7%. Bank Hapoalim chairman Danny Dankner said, "We are confident in the ability of Bank Hapoalim to successfully implement the work plan that has been approved by the board of directors and yield a positive return on equity in 2009.

Car sales plummet as leasing firms cut back
Dubi Ben-Gedalyahu, Globes Online 2/3/2009
January car sales were down 45% compared with a year ago. 11,319 new vehicles were delivered in January 2009, 45% fewer than in January 2008, according to the Israel Motor Vehicles Importers Association, on the basis of licensing figures. This is the lowest number of deliveries in January in many years. At the current rate, vehicle deliveries will amount to 130,000 this year, the lowest figure since 2001. The main reason for the slump in vehicle deliveries is the credit distress at leasing companies, which have slashed purchases for their car fleets. Industry sources say that a substantial proportion of car sales in January were with long-term credit of up to 36 months, which means that importers will see little in the way of proceeds in the short term. The slump in vehicle deliveries also encompassed the private market.

Shekel-dollar rate continues rise
Yossi Nissan, Globes Online 2/3/2009
The representative shekel-dollar rate has been set above the NIS 4/$ level for four consecutive days. The shekel-dollar exchange rate is rising 0. 44% to NIS 4. 083/$, while the shekel-euro exchange rate is up 0. 81% to NIS 5. 2369/€. Online foreign currency trading firm Easy Forex said that the dollar is maintaining its strength as global markets see a wave of risk aversion. Analysts also said that the recent interest rate cut by theBank of Israel and the chances of further cuts are weighing on the shekel. Prico said that as Israel’s interest rate nears that of the US, and with the Bank of Israel continuing to buy dollars, the shekel-dollar rate is remaining in line with global trends, and reflects a stronger dollar. Yesterday, the Bank of Israel set the representative shekel-dollar exchange rate unchanged at NIS 4.

Makhteshim CEO Bigger: No significant industry in Negev
Erez Wollberg, Globes Online 2/3/2009
MK Avishai Braverman: If I were to bring here a Negev resident to hear what is being said, he’d laugh. "There is no significant business activity in the Negev. There is a lot of educational activity, but real business activity, which is the main thing, is missing" saidMakhteshim Agan Industries Ltd. (TASE:MAIN ) CEO Avraham Bigger from the floor at the Herzliya Conference yesterday. Bigger added, "The main industry in the Negev is agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. "He added that this industry accounted for 40% of manufacturing in the Negev, and that it employed 50,000 people at an average salary of NIS 17,000. "This should be protected before all kinds of very unpleasant things happen to it," he said. Bigger told the audience, "This industry needs the right balance between a completely clean world and industry.

Iraqis voted to end US occupation
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
PACIFICA - Only half of Iraq’s 14 million registered voters went to the polls Saturday, the lowest turnout in elections held since the US-led invasion, but those who did vote did so in a bid to end the American occupation of their country, analysts said. However many Iraqi and US officials hailed the elections as a success. “We met many people who said they were voting for [Iraqi PM] Maliki … as the most expedient way to end the occupation,” Rick Rowley of Big Noise Filmstold Democracy Now! on Monday. “An important thing to remember is, the US likes to try to cast elections in Iraq as referendums on the legitimacy of the occupation, to see every election as proof that America has defeated the insurgency, but many Iraqis saw this, the votes they were casting in this election, as a way to end the American occupation,” he added.

Paratrooper critically wounded in Gaza recovers
Meital Yasur Beit-Or, YNetNews 2/3/2009
2nd Lt. Aharon Karov was called up for service in Gaza the morning after his wedding and critically wounded in combat. Today he said saluted the doctors who three weeks ago gave him scant hours to live - and left the hospital - Three weeks after they gave him mere hours to live, the paratrooper officer critically wounded in Operation Cast Lead saluted his doctors farewell - and left the hospital. Platoon commander 2nd Lt. Aharon Karov, 22, was ordered to cut his leave short and report for duty in Gaza the morning after his wedding to Tzvia, 19. She was by his side on Tuesday as he said goodbye to the doctors who saved his life at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. The young officer will continue his rehabilitation at the Shiba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer.

Israeli ambulance driver refused help to soldier injured by settlers
Ma’an News Agency 2/3/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli ambulance driver refused to evacuate a fellow border guard injured in Hebron during a settlement evacuation, police investigations revealed on Tuesday. The soldier was moderately injured in clashes between other military and illegal settlers over the occupation of the Ar-Rajabi family home in the West Bank city of Hebron in November, the Hebrew-language newspaper Ma’ariv reported. The ambulance driver was apparently sympathetic to the illegal settlement movement, furious over Israel’s enforcement of laws preventing arbitrary theft of Palestinian property. When other settlers injured the soldier carrying out Israel’s orders to remove the occupying settlers from the home, the driver reportedly verbally abused the man, refusing to evacuate him or other injured police. An Israeli commander told the newspaper the incident was “dangerous and unexplainable,”. . .

Israel and US Jews: Affinity or alienation?
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Jewish Peoplehood Index Project, to be presented at Herzliya Conference this week, reveals findings regarding relations between world’s two largest Jewish communities - A new study on the affinity and similarity between Israel and US Jews, which will be presented at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday, reveals that while both groups highly value one another, they also lack basic knowledge about their fellow community. These findings, which are based on scientific surveys carried out in Israel and the US in the past year, are included in the Jewish Peoplehood Index Project, a research headed by Prof. Yoav Shoham of Stanford University, Nimrod Gur, and Prof. Uzi Arad of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. The study revealed that both Israeli and American Jews attribute great importance to their Jewish identity, with replies yielding an average score of 83 (85 among Israelis and 81 among US Jews).

US soldier pleads asylum case over Iraq war
Middle East Online 2/3/2009
KARLSRUHE, Germany - A soldier from the US army seeking asylum in Germany pleads his case Wednesday in a hearing that could have major political and legal ramifications. Citing profound moral opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq, Andre Shepherd, 31, went AWOL from his base in southern Germany in spring 2007 and spent 19 months on the run before applying for asylum in November last year. Shepherd, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, completed a five-month stint in Iraq between September 2004 and February 2005 where he serviced Apache helicopters as part of the 412th Aviation Support Battalion. When ordered to redeploy to Iraq, he felt he could not continue to serve in what he said is a "completely illegal war" and will be the first US soldier to claim asylum in Germany in a landmark case. "Wednesday is my chance to tell my side of the story," Shepherd said on Monday.

Al-Qaida: Islam’s enemy in Gaza is U.S. just as much as Israel
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Al Qaida’s deputy leader on Tuesday dismissed U. S. President Barack Obama’s expression of concern over killings in Gaza as an empty gesture on Tuesday and said Washington remains a main enemy of Muslims. "I remind our mujahideen brothers that our enemy in Gaza is not only Israel but the Zionist-crusader coalition, with America, the leader of evil. . . at its head," Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio recording posted on Islamic websites. "Obama said he was concerned about the killings of civilians in Gaza. We thank Mr. Obama for his concern which we received with thousands of shells and. . . white phosphorous," Zawahri said, referring to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. " But Obama’s concern did not seem to last long as he did not say a word about Gaza in his inauguration speech, as if nothing had happened," he added.

Top cardinal: Vatican botched Shoah affair
Reuters, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Cardinal in charge of relations with Jews says in radio interview that Catholic Church handled rehabilitation of Holocaust denying Bishop Richard Williamson badly, adds he was not consulted by Pope Benedict - The cardinal in charge of relations with Jews has acknowledged that the Vatican handled the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop very badly and complained that Pope Benedict did not consult him. "There wasn’t enough talking with each other in the Vatican and there are no longer checks to see where problems could arise," said Cardinal Walter Kasper in a blunt interview with Vatican Radio’s German program, broadcast on Monday night. Benedict on January 24 lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including Richard Williamson, a Briton who denies the full extent of the Holocaust, to try to heal a 20-year-old schism in the Church.

Expert: Iranian launching capabilities cause for concern
Roi Mandel, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Former head of Israel’s Space Agency says Iranian satellite poses no intelligence threat but use of ballistic missile to send it into orbit does; adds satellite project meant to mask real goal of arming missiles with nuclear warheads -The Iranians are highly motivated, but that does not mean they are telling the truth, said Knesset Member Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel (Kadima), former head of Israel’s Space Agency, after learning of Tehran’s successful satellite launch Tuesday. According to Iran’s state television, the Islamic Republic launched its first home-made satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Omid (Hope) satellite was sent into space as Iran marks the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and is said to be a research and telecommunications satellite. Ben-Israel suggested waiting a while before determining whether the reports were true: "The Iranian have reported of such successes in the past, and those turned out to be false.

U.S. urges Iran to become ’productive’ member of world
DPA, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged Iran to become a "productive member" of the international community, saying that the United States was "reaching out a hand, but the fist has to unclenched. " "It is clear that. . . Iran has an opportunity to step up and become a productive member of the international community," Clinton said at a news briefing with Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband, where she announced that world powers would meet to discuss strategy over Iran on Wednesday. "We are reaching out a hand, but the fist has to unclench," she added. Clinton said senior U. S. diplomat Bill Burns would join officials from world powers in Germany on Wednesday to discuss an international strategy for curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that diplomatic efforts. . .

Why I’m heading back to the US
David Teich, Jerusalem Post 2/2/2009
When I made aliya in December 2002, I thought a guy with years of Silicon Valley experience, an MS in computer science and an MBA could be of use to this country’s burgeoning hi-tech industry. Next month, I’m heading back to the US. The biggest existential risks to the nation don’t come from the Muslim world. They come from Israelis’ own minds. Look at how little our leaders think about aliya: Three heads of absorption in two years, as nobody seems to want the job and the Knesset underfunds or kills programs for successful absorption. There’s a saying that most olim quickly learn in ulpan: "Israel loves aliya, but Israelis hate olim. "That’s a problem in an immigrant nation. The way it shows in my case is simple: I can’t find a job using my skills. I have serious sympathies for the immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia and other places, who must take menial. . .

Hirchson says ashamed of way he received funds
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 2/3/2009
Former finance minister testifies for first time in his trial, addressing allegations that he stole millions of shekels. ’I can’t explain it and can’t forgive myself,’ he tells judge. Advocate: He gave back the money - Former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson continues to insist he did not steal money. On Tuesday, he took the defendant stand for the first time in his trial which is taking place at the Tel Aviv District Court. Hirchson’s lawyer stated that the former minister had returned more than NIS 1 million (about $ 246,608) to the National Labor Federation (NLF). At the of the defense phase in his trial, Hirchson told Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom that "reaching this situation, from the position of finance minister to the defendant stand, is very difficult for me. There hasn’t been one night in which I managed to sleep since this affair began.

Disgraced ex-finance minister Hirchson ’ashamed’ of embezzling millions
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
Disgraced former finance minister Abraham Hirchson told a Tel Aviv court on Tuesday that he is "ashamed and embarrassed" over charges of embezzling NIS 2. 5 million from the National Workers Organization. "I want to prove that every cent was earned properly, but not in this way in which I am now agonizing over," Hirchson said. "I am shamed and embarrassed about the way I received the money. I’m contemplating and asking myself ? why did I take the money in cash," he said. MK Hirchson (Kadima) on Monday sent the union a check for NIS 1. 16 million - the amount he admitted to having taken. In a letter attached to the check, Hirchson said the cash he had received from the union had been part of his retirement package. He requested that an independent committee make a final calculation of his pension.

Elections 2009 / Channel 1 poll gives Hadash four seats
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/3/2009
The Arab-Jewish Hadash party is predicted to win four seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections, the same number as leftist rival Meretz, according to a Channel 1 opinion poll released Monday. Hadash officials celebrated the poll as proof that the party is strengthening "at the expense of the old left", and claim that this increase in support is particularly noteworthy considering the fact that, "unlike other parties, Hadash does most of its campaigning is done on the street and on the Internet by activists and supporters, as opposed to billboards and intrusive banners. "Party members say that their viral Internet campaign ’Left vs. New Left,’ registered over 7,000 hits within its first 20 hours. Hadash members also say that they identify an increase in support within the Arab sector.

Lieberman: There’s ’unholy alliance’ among my critics
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 2/2/2009
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman used his appearance at the IDC Herzliya conference on Monday to fire back at critics and justify his party’s platform, which has come under increasing scrutiny in recent days as Israel Beiteinu continues to make significant gains in the polls leading up to next week’s general elections. "There is an unholy alliance among those who attack me," Lieberman told the packed auditorium on Monday night. "There was a quote in Ha’aretz a few days ago, in which Ehud Barak asked about me, ’When has he ever shot anyone? When has he ever held a rifle? ’ Is that a criterion? "Lieberman asked as the audience laughed. "This is the leader of the Left? " But in addition to responding to the Jewish opposition to his party, Lieberman also used his speech to clarify his. . .


Gazan children denied treatment abroad
Jonathan Cook - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 2/3/2009
      For four days running, an ambulance has driven 15-year-old Amira Ghirim from Shifa Hospital in Gaza to the Rafah border in the hope that she will be allowed to cross into Egypt and then on to France, where she has been promised emergency surgery.
     Amira’s left arm and thigh were crushed and her internal organs damaged by falling rubble when a shell hit her home in the Tel al Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City in the final days of Israel’s offensive. The attack killed her father, brother and sister, leaving her an orphan.
     But, despite her urgent need for surgery, Amira has been turned away at the border each time, said her aunt, Mona Ghirim. “Each morning we arrived at the crossing and the Egyptian soldiers cursed us and told us to go away.”
     Ms Ghirim said Amira’s condition has been deteriorating because of the long periods out of hospital. Yesterday, after hearing news that the border would remain shut, they decided to abandon the journey. “She is very ill and these futile trips are not helping.”
     Amira is one of four children who have been offered potentially life-saving surgery by a team of doctors in France. But she and the other children appear to be victims of a bureaucratic wrangle involving the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Egypt.

Who Profits?

Dominique Edde, Crises Magazine, Palestine Monitor 2/3/2009
      What does Israel intend to gain at the conclusion of another bombing operation, this time called Cast Lead?
     The provision of security for Israeli citizens. The elimination of Hamas. Do we know from history even one example which proves this system works? Operation Grapes of Wrath, which included the Qana massacre in 1996? It strengthened Hezbollah and ended with a withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000. Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin, in the spring of 2002? Operation Paved Road, two months later? The years 2002-2003 were bloody for the Israeli population with 293 killed. What about Operation Rainbow in 2004? Or Judgment Day four months later in the northern Gaza Strip, that had the same dire results?
     Murder of the Hamas political leaders, about which Israel bragged without shame? Suicide bombings reached their height in 2005, and at the beginning of the following year Hamas received an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections. Appropriate Response, or the second world war in 2006 that destroyed an entire country and resulted in the death of more than 1000 civilians, of whom 32% were children? Here also, Israel destroyed and gained no tangible results; war booty? The exchange of two corpses of Israeli soldiers in exchange for 5 prisoners and tens of bodies of Lebanese and Palestinians. -- See also: Crises Magazine

Aid worker: Gaza an 'apocalypse'

Mel Frykberg, Electronic Intifada 2/3/2009
      RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - As fears rise of renewed violence in Gaza, Elena Qleibo, a French-Costa Rican aid worker from Oxfam, gives IPS a first-hand account of surviving Israel’s three-week bombardment of Gaza.
     Excerpts from her account:
     I was attending a meeting at Gaza City municipality on 27 December when suddenly the meeting was interrupted by heavy booming sounds coming from a short distance away.
     Plumes of smoke were rising from a number of bombed areas surrounding the building I was in. I and a number of colleagues rushed outside to try and establish what was happening.
     Mayhem and confusion reigned as shocked Gazans realized they were coming under a sustained attack from warships off the coast and aerial bombardments from fighter jets circling the skies above. Later on as I tried to gather more information from people in my neighborhood, many appeared in a state of incomprehension at the ferocity of the assault.
     I am a cultural anthropologist, and first decided to make Gaza City my home in 2004 after living and working in the occupied Palestinian territories for a number of years. My first visit to Gaza was in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada.

It is Time to Say 'Enough'

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 2/3/2009
      It was rather encouraging to see PM Erdogan standing up for a humanist cause in Davos. But it didn’t really take me by complete surprise. Once again it has been proven that as far humanity and ethics are concerned, Islam and Muslim leaders are at the forefront together with only very few decent popular leaders such as Chavez and Morales.
     At the end of the day, it was PM Erdogan who opened his mouth and told the world leaders present that which they should have grasped on their own a long time ago. While Western leaders kept silent about Israeli war crimes, it was PM Erdogan who stood up for the truth, telling President Peres that his hands were soaking with children’s blood. ‘You are raising your voice Mr Peres because you are submerged with guilt.’ I may as well note that unlike PM Erdogan, I myself wouldn’t count on President Peres’ conscience. The old man has spent the best part of his adult life amongst the leading policy makers of a racist state. His name is intrinsically linked with numerous massacres. As if this is not enough, Peres was also a leading figure behind the notorious Israeli WMD project. I guess that if there is any humanity in Peres, it must be very well hidden indeed.

In Gaza, a 'ranch' turned to rubble

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 2/3/2009
      Piles of bricks, metal sheets and pieces of wood, are all that remains of tens of Palestinian homes in the Ezbet Abed Rabu (Abed Rabu Ranch) neighborhood, east of Jabaliya town in the northern Gaza Strip.
     "There is nothing left for us to live for -- the house was lost and the furniture destroyed," lamented Suad Muhammad Abed Rabu, a 53-year-old mother sitting in front of a fire stove in a still intact room of her badly damaged home. "We prefer to die in our demolished house rather than live life as outcasts," she said. "Since we were born we have been suffering. Since 1948 we have moved from one refuge to another and from one war to another. All, including Arabs and Europeans, are conspiring against us, they don’t want us to live."
     Abed Rabu’s home used to shelter 14 family members. Although it is almost completely destroyed, the family chose to remain in it rather than live in the tents international aid agencies have recently erected in the battered neighborhood.
     Neighborhood children play amidst the rubble of destroyed homes while their parents huddle in the tents or stand in lines to receive blankets and other items in the newly-installed small refugee camp.

Mubarak: Abetting the Siege of Gaza

Rannie Amiri, Palestine Chronicle 2/2/2009
      As staggering as the statistics detailing Gaza’s destruction may be, they still do not present a complete picture of the unique travesties and tragedies suffered by individuals, families, neighborhoods and villages during Israel’s savage 22-day assault on the tiny territory. Yet, they bear repeating. From the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics ( and various NGOs:
     • 1,334 killed, one-third of them children (more children than ‘militants’ were killed)
     • 5,450 injured, one-third of them children
     • 100,000 displaced, 50,000 made homeless
     • 4,100 residential homes and buildings destroyed, 17,000 damaged (together accounting for 14 percent of all buildings in Gaza)
     • 29 destroyed educational institutions, including the American International School
     • 92 destroyed or damaged mosques
     • 1,500 destroyed shops, factories and other commercial facilities
     • 20 destroyed ambulances
     • 35-60% of agricultural land ruined
     • $1.9 billion in total estimated damages
     In the face of such massive devastation and hardship - and this after the crippling 18-month siege had already reduced Gaza to a state of bare subsistence - the behavior and actions of the regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak remain as contemptible after the war as they were before.

Israel and the politics of friendship

Joseph Massad, Electronic Intifada 2/3/2009
      The status of Israel as the enemy of the Arabs has largely depended in the last six decades on its enmity or alliance with Arab regimes and not with the Arab peoples. Insofar as Israel threatened Arab regimes, it was depicted by them as the enemy, insofar as it did not, it was welcomed as a friend.
     This was certainly the case in Israel’s ambivalent position toward the Jordanian regime with which it has allied itself since the 1920s while at the same time working to undermine the regime when some of its strategies changed. This in turn explains why the Jordanian regime was historically ambivalent about whether Israel was an enemy or an ally. In 1967, some in Israel contemplated unseating King Hussein from the throne while in 1970 Israel sought to extend its military assistance to buttress his throne. While King Hussein became convinced that Israel’s ambivalence had been resolved by the early 1990s in favor of an alliance, many Jordanian nationalists as well as Jordanian chauvinists were not. It is in this context that many anti-Palestinian Jordanian nationalists opposed the peace agreement that Jordan signed with Israel in 1994 and pointed to the continuing Israeli ambivalence towards Jordan. They correctly observed that Israel would sacrifice the regime in favor of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan after expelling all West Bank Palestinians to the country, a project that Ariel Sharon had been proposing since the 1970s and that retains support among key people in the Labor Party. Indeed, Sharon wanted Israel to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1970 against King Hussein.

Winners and Losers in Gaza: A Palestinian Perspective

Daoud Kuttab, MIFTAH 2/3/2009
      Unlike times of tranquility, wartime brings out the best and worse in many people. Wars are also an opportunity for people to shine or to fail. The Israeli war on Gaza certainly has its winners and losers, although the list could change and protagonists can swap from one side to the other. Here is my preliminary list of winners and losers.
     The first and biggest loser has been the international system which proved unable to stop a clearly disproportional assault from taking place. International humanitarian law, which has been gathering some teeth in recent years, has yet to show whether it is able to deter future Israeli politicians, army generals, air force pilots and other military commanders from carrying out war crimes against civilian populations.
     In politics my choice for a major loser goes to the emir of Qatar who embarrassed himself by insisting on holding an Arab summit when it failed to gather a quorum and allowed the leader of Hamas and two other Damascus-based Palestinian leaders to fill the seats of the Palestinian delegation. Palestinian spokesmen all but called the emir a liar, hinting that he had promised that none of the Hamas leaders would be present at the consultative meeting in Doha. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s aides (specifically Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erekat) told the press that they have a recording of the emir’s phone conversation with Abbas without saying what exactly he said and without actually releasing it.

Irish civil society calls for boycott of Israel

Open letter, various undersigned, Electronic Intifada 2/3/2009
      The following letter was published in a full-page advertisement in The Irish Times on 31 January 2009. The original ad, including signatures . [PDF] Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed over 1,300 Palestinians, a third of them children. Thousands have been wounded. Many victims had been taking refuge in clearly marked UN facilities.
     This assault came in the wake of years of economic blockade by Israel. This blockade, which is illegal under international humanitarian law, has destroyed the Gaza economy and condemned its population to poverty. According to a World Bank report last September, "98 percent of Gaza’s industrial operations are now inactive."
     The most recent attack on Gaza is only the latest phase in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and appropriation of their land.
     Israel has never declared its borders. Instead, it has continuously expanded at the expense of the Palestinians. In 1948, it took over 78 percent of Palestine, an area much larger than that suggested for a Jewish state by the UN General Assembly in 1947. Contrary to international law, Israel expelled over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. These refugees and their descendants, who now number millions, are still dispersed throughout the region. They have the right, under international law, to return to their homes. This right has been underlined by the UN General Assembly many times, starting with Resolution 194 in 1948.

Jerusalem, the Schizophrenic

Joharah Baker, Palestine Chronicle 2/3/2009
      ’East Jerusalemites live in a police city.’
     Coming into work the other day, I passed by what is, to most people, a completely mundane scene - a bus stop. As uneventful as this may sound, it was the venue to which my writer’s muse decided it would visit.
     For 30 seconds or so at this particular bus stop at a main Jerusalem intersection, I realized that this one small place was the microcosmic representation of all the contradictions, tensions and divisions that characterize Jerusalem. There were eight or 10 people standing there, each from a distinct walk of life, each from a distinct ethnic and national group, and each, let me add, completely polarized on one of two sides of the stand. There was no literal line delineating the border between the Palestinians and Israelis, but the split was no less distinct.
     On one side, rigid and tense, two or three Israelis stood, obviously waiting for Israeli-run public transportation to one of the city’s Jewish areas such as French Hill just a few kilometers away. An Israeli soldier with his automatic machine gun slung across his shoulder stood next to a Jewish Orthodox woman in her long black skirt and covered hair. Next to them, another Israeli man, secular perhaps, waited along with them, standing just to the left of the other group of people who were waiting for different, Palestinian bus line.

Black Flag

Uri Avnery, Middle East Online 2/3/2009
      Chief Army Rabbi declared that his job is to reinforce the ‘fighting spirit’ of the soldiers. Under the auspices of the army rabbinate, religious-fascist brochures of the ultra-right rabbis were distributed to the soldiers. Rabbis openly called upon the Israeli soldiers to be cruel and merciless towards the Arabs. To treat them mercifully, they stated, is a ‘terrible, awful immorality’.
     A Spanish judge has instituted a judicial inquiry against seven Israeli political and military personalities on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case: the 2002 dropping of a one-ton bomb on the home of Hamas leader Salah Shehade. Apart from the intended victim, 14 people, most of them children, were killed.
     For those who have forgotten, the then commander of the Israeli air force, Dan Halutz, was asked at the time what he feels when he drops a bomb on a residential building. His unforgettable answer: “A slight bump to the wing.” When we in Gush Shalom accused him of a war crime, he demanded that we be put on trial for high treason. He was joined by the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who accused us of wanting to “turn over Israeli army officers to the enemy”. The attorney-general notified us officially that he did not intend to open an investigation against those responsible for the bombing.

Gaza Delenda Est

Michael Warschawski, Crises Magazine, Palestine Monitor 2/3/2009
      No way we will call it a war! What Israel is perpetuating in Gaza is a genocidal operation, targeting a civilian population without distinction. I am not in the habit of using the term "genocide" lightly, and I have often criticized those who have abused it’s use. However, when artillery and fighter planes are bombarding the center of one of the most densely populated cities in the whole world, I cannot avoid speaking about genocidal intentions.
     Several years ago, the whole Gaza Strip, with its one and a half million residents, was declared by Israeli leaders a "terrorist entity" and therefore had no right to exist. The siege imposed on Gaza by Israel, with the active support of Egypt and the Western states, did not break the population or push it to accept a Quisling-like leadership imposed by Israel and the USA. On the contrary, it dramatically strengthened the popularity of the Hamas party and its democratically elected government. According to the neo-conservative strategy, when one fails to "convince" a people to vote according to the wishes of the self-appointed masters of the world, you eradicate the people itself, by civil wars (Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq) and by military interventions (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine). Gaza delenda est!
     The martyrdom of Gaza may be the last crime of the neo-conservative era before Barack Obama takes control of the White House. The madness of Israel’s brutality reflects its fear of a turn in US policy, and its actions seem to be guided by a sense of intense urgency. This is similar to the United States at the very end of the Vietnam war, or the last years of French colonial domination in Algeria. Or like the German army in 1944-1945. -- See also: Crises Magazine