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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
8 February, 2009

Israeli Navy shells eastern and northern beaches of Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/8/2009
The Israeli Navy shelled on Saturday several areas along the northern and western areas of Gaza beach, inflicting extensive damage to dozens of fishing boats that belong to Gaza fishermen. The Arabs48 news website reported that naval gunship opened fired at the fishermen and their boats in an attempt to bar them from fishing. On Friday, a Palestinian fisherman was injured when the Israeli Army opened fire at dozens of homes and fishing boats in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The ongoing Israeli siege in the Gaza Strip enforces a blockade on all aspects of life. The "Israeli siege" consists of sealing off all border terminals, sealing off commercial terminals, putting restrictions on available cash in Gaza banks, controlling international humanitarian aid destined for Gaza (when it doesn’t arrive, what happens to it? ), and barring fishermen from fishing, thus putting an end to Gazan’s only sources of livelihood.

PCHR Calls for Investigation into the Death of Palestinian Tortured by Security Services in Khan Yunis
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/8/2009
PCHR calls for an immediate and rigorous investigation into the circumstances of the death of Jameel Shafiq Shaqqura, 51, from Khan Yunis refugee camp, who was tortured by the Internal Security Services and subsequently died of his injuries. PCHR calls also for the results of the investigation to be made public, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice according to the law. According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:40 on Friday, 6 February, medical sources at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, confirmed that Jameel Shafiq Shaqqura had died from a brain clot caused by torture and severe beating to his head. Security officers had transferred Shaqqura to Nasser hospital on 31 January, as his health had deteriorated whilst he was in their custody. The victim’s brother, ’Aatef Shaqqura gave PCHR the following testimony. . . .

PA held responsible in death of Hamas man in West Bank prison
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The family of a Hamas member who died in a Palestinian Authority (PA) prison on Sunday are holding the PA responsible for his death. A Palestinian security source earlier confirmed that 30-year-old Mohammad Abd Aj-Jamil Al-Haj died in a Palestinian Preventive Security detention center in the West Bank city of Jenin. He was arrested on Friday. The security source claimed that Al-Haj committed suicide. Al-Haj’s brother, Bilial, however, told Ma’an that that Al-Haj had been arrested for political reasons, adding that no charges had been leveled against his brother. Bilal Al-Haj said that upon arrival at the morgue, his brother’s body had bruises on his waist. A Hamas spokesperson also accused the PA security forces of causing Al-Haj’s death.

Gaza power authority warns: Sole plant to shut down on Sunday
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Gaza power authority has warned that the sole Gaza Strip power plant would come to a complete stop on Sunday after it ran out of fuel. Kenan Obeid, the deputy chairman of the authority, said in a statement on Saturday that the plant was forced to close down one of the main generators due to the lack of fuel. He added that the Israeli tight siege was the main cause of the crisis as it only allowed trickles of fuel into the beleaguered Strip. Egyptian power lines supply the southern district of Rafah with electricity while Israeli power lines supply the northern areas of the Strip and the Gaza plant provides the rest. [end]

Challenges of getting aid to Gazans
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/9/2009
GAZA CITY, 8 February 2009 (IRIN) - Aid agencies are becoming increasingly frustrated with the difficulties of getting humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip. “For us to move ahead with rehabilitation and repairs, we must get building materials into Gaza,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told IRIN by telephone. “Two hundred and twenty-one schools for 200,000 children only have 40 percent of their books because we can’t get paper and glue into Gaza. ”Some US$93 million-worth of UNRWA construction projects have been on hold since before Israel’s military operation in Gaza began in late December due to a lack of cement, said Gunness. Israel’s military offensive in the Strip began on 27 December 2008 with aerial bombardments and combined with a ground assault beginning on 3 January.

ANALYSIS / Fatah fears Shalit deal will bring down Abbas
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Concerned voices have been heard in the Muqata in Ramallah over the past few days: Senior Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials are speaking openly of the end of an era if an agreement to free abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is reached. Palestinian officials say a Shalit deal would bring about early elections in the territories, and Hamas would win again - but this time it would win the Palestinian presidential election, too. Israel would then be forced to deal with a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they say. The latest poll from the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre conducted in the territories shows the recent war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip afforded the Islamic organization unprecedented popularity.

Scottish activist seized from Gaza aid boat held in Israeli prison
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Scottish human rights activist seized by the Israeli Navy from a Lebanese aid ship bound for Gaza has been detained in Israel’s Ramleh prison, according to the Free Gaza Movement. Teresa McDermottwas detained along with eight other passengers on Thursday when the Israeli Navy stormed the Togo-flagged cargo ship, firing shots and reportedly assaulting them. The others, including Lebanese and Palestinian nationals, were deported. Israeli officials claimed that McDermott would be flown to London. McDermott however never appeared in London. According to Free Gaza, McDermott, an employee of the postal service, was able to call her brother John in Scotland from Ramleh prison on Sunday. The ship is still in Israeli custody. Israeli officials claimed that they transferred the humanitarian cargo to Gaza, but there has been no confirmation of this.

Egyptian police seize pro-Gaza blogger
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Egyptian police seized an Egyptian-German blogger and political activist after a pro-Gaza demonstration on Saturday, witnesses said. Philip Rizk, 26, a graduate student at the American University in Cairo, was detained by police Friday night while returning to Cairo from Qalyoubia, north of Cairo, his sister Jeanette told Reuters. Rizk and a group of activists had been holding a march in the rural areas north of Cairo in solidarity with Palestinians and to raise awareness about the effects of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, according to Salma Said, an activist who was with Rizk when he was detained. The march was part of a campaign called “To Gaza. ”A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior told Rueters he had received no word of the detention. "We don’t know where he is, and there is no formal charge," Rizk’s sister said. -- See also: Egypt seizes Jordanian delegate at Rafah crossing and Whereabouts of Jordanian medic detained in Rafah unknown

Israeli daily fleshes out anatomy of Mughniyeh assassination
Daily Star 2/9/2009
BEIRUT: Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated by Israeli Mossad agents supplied with information gathered by American CIA officials in Iraq, according to a report published in an Israeli newspaper. The Yediot Ahronot newspaper [not available on its website - Ed. ] said it had received new details about Mughniyeh’s death from an anonymous Lebanese official who had been charged with investigating the killing, and from Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer. The report claimed that important details used to plan the assassination were gathered from Ali Moussa Daqduq, a Hizbullah operative who was arrested in Iraq in January 2007, where he was allgedly training members of the Shiite Mehdi Army. He was handed to US intelligence agents, who extracted a wealth of information about Mughniyeh from their prisoner, including his telephone numbers, his physical description, his behavioral traits and the names of his acquaintances.

For newly homeless Palestinians, tents stir memories of 1948
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/9/2009
JABALIYA, Gaza Strip: Majid Asamna lived in a refugee tent in Gaza after fleeing what became Israel in 1948 - now a new war has left him homeless again, along with tens of thousands of other Palestinians. The homes of some 30,000 Palestinians were destroyed during last month’s devastating 22-day Israeli onslaught, which killed more than 1,330 people, including over 400 children, and carved a vast swath of destruction across the besieged territory. In recent days Gaza’s Hamas-run government has partnered with international aid groups and local charities to erect hundreds of tents in the most devastated areas, a sight that stirs deep memories for Gaza’s 1948 refugees. "I thought if I left I might never return, just like in 1948. And when I did come back, after the war, everything was destroyed," Asamna, 65, says as he surveys the sprawling ruins of six family houses crushed by Israeli troops.

Financing and plans ready for Gaza Strip reconstruction, but crossings remain closed to materials
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/8/2009
Gaza -- The first draft of one of hundreds of reconstruction projects for the Gaza Strip is being presented by the Al Aqsa Fund. Eight water wells in the northern Strip’s Beit Lahiya and the city’s Tel Al Hawa neighborhood are included for rehabilitation. Co-financed by the Qatari Red Crescent with the Islamic Development Bank, the implementation of Part I of the draft reform is specifically addressing damage suffered by the sanitation sector in the Gaza Strip. The Al Aqsa project in the amount of 650,000 USD is being undertaken in collaboration. The Palestinian Water Authority and the Red Crescent are pushing the urgent reform for municipalities along the coast whose sewage systems were greatly damaged. The health concerns are mounting in the two areas that this project is focusing is on: Beit Lahiya and Tel Al Hawa.

Aid, goods trickle into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel opened two border crossings into the Gaza Strip on Sunday and pledged to open a third in order to allow minimum levels of supplies into the territory. The Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy in Gaza, Nasser As-Sarraj told Ma’an that 121 truckloads of food products, pampers diapers, toilet paper, fruit and fertilized eggs entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southeast of the Gaza Strip. Fifty three of the truckloads are aid sent by international organizations; 56 are for the commercial sector and 12 for agricultural sector. He added that Israel opened the Karni crossing east of Gaza City too to let in 77 truckloads of wheat and fodder. Israel has pledged that Industrial diesel for the power plant in Gaza will be shipped through the Nahal Oz crossing.

Israeli frigates open fire at fishing boats in north Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli frigates on Sunday morning opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats at the northern Gaza shore, which inflicted damge on them, and also fired a number of shells along the coastal strip in the Shati refugee camp, which caused a state of panic among children as they were en route to school. A Palestinian fisherman was wounded yesterday when Israeli frigates shelled the coastal area of Rafah town in south Gaza. In an interview exclusively conducted by the PIC, Abu Obeida, the spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, stated that the Gaza battle created a major change in the Arab and Islamic Ummah (Nation) and caused a great awakening at the level of solidarity with the option of resistance. Abu Obeida underlined that the Israeli war on Gaza made millions of people join the resistance’s side and this would be the start of a significant change. . .

Israeli warplanes attack Gaza-Egypt border line
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/8/2009
Israeli warplanes attacked on Sunday Gaza-Egypt border line in southern Gaza, Palestinian sources reported. The sources said that the Israeli warplanes carried a series of air strikes on the area that separates Gaza from Egypt, where Palestinians use underground tunnels to bring in essential goods and commodities from nearby Egypt as Israel closes the border crossings for more than 19 months now. Also, the Israeli air raids hit an open field in the eastern parts of Rafah city, with no casualities reported in both raids. From its part, Israeli army confirmed that its warplanes targeted today four underground tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border line as well as weapons warehouse in southern Gaza Strip. An army spokesperson , was quoted by Palestinian media sources as saying that the shelling came in response to homemade shells fire today from Gaza into southern Israel.

Israel: Gaza projectile strikes near Ashkelon; no injuries
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli sources reported a second rocket strike on areas surrounding Gaza Sunday, this time landing near the city of Ashkelon. The projectile was reportedly a Russian-made Grad missile, which landed in an open area, causing no casualties or damage. None of the Palestinian armed groups have yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier a homemade projectile struck a parking lot in a Kibbutz near Gaza, also causing no casualties. Cars were damaged. Early on Friday morning two Palestinian projectiles landed the Shaar Haganev area to the east of Gaza. Israel responded by bombing 15 targets in the southern Gaza Strip, primarily tunnels used for smuggling goods under the Egypt-Gaza border. Israeli leaders have vowed to respond militarily each time a Palestinian missile or homemade projectile lands in Israel.

Red Crescent staff attacked, impeded 521 times during 2008
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Red Crescent workers and medics were attacked by settlers and soldiers 521 times in 2008, a recent report from the Palestinian branch of the organization announced Sunday. Attacks catalogued in the report ranged from shooting, physical assaults, pelting stones, impeding traffic or delaying the evacuation of the injured were recorded. The PRC catalogued 12 shooting incidents that took place in: Jabalia, northern Gaza Strip / Nablus, northern West Bank / Ni’lin, central West Bank / Hebron, southern West Bank / Beit Fajjar, southern West Bank / Deir Istiya, central West Bank / Qedumim, an Israeli settlement in the north-eastern West Bank --- Of the forced delays, 397 cases were at military checkpoints. The number was nearly 100 cases higher than those in 2007. Several of the assaults, said the statement, were in clear violation of the basic rules of international law

IOA destroys Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, arrests teenagers in Al-Khalil
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Five Palestinian homes were destroyed in Alezariya suburb, east of the occupied city of Jerusalem, in preparation to expand the biggest Israeli settlement in the West Bank Ma’ale Adomim, sources in the anti-wall popular campaign confirmed. The dwellings, the sources added, belong to the Bedouin Al-Salayleh family, which is a branch of the Jahhaleen tribe in the area. The sources added that big numbers of IOF troops surrounded the area and declared it a "closed military zone" before they started demolishing tents and mobile caravans of the local people, all of them are shepherds. "We received two tents from the Red Cross, and immediately erected them on the ruins of our homes, and although the two tents weren’t enough for us, we will stay here and we will never leave our land at all cost", said a member of the displaced family.

Israeli forces blockade Bethlehem-area village
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces have blockaded the West Bank village of Tequa, southeast of Bethlehem, local Palestinian sources said on Sunday evening. Sources in the village told Ma’an that a large number of Israeli soldiers have shut down all three routes into the community, declaring it a ‘closed military zone. ’Residents have been prevented from moving in or out. No reason has been given for the closure. [end]

Settlers bulldoze land in Yasuf
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/3/2009
Last week under the watch of soldiers, settlers from Tappauh bulldozed tens of dunums of agricultural land belonging to the village of Yasuf. The land, which was closed to the villagers years ago, is likely to be used for the expansion of nearby settlements. Yasuf is a small village located north east of Salfit. The targeted land, which is around 1000 dunums in size and located about a kilometer west of the residential area of the village, is used to grow various types of crops. According to the head of village council, settler groups began bulldozing village land at the start of the Gaza bombardment and continue to do so today. Families from the village used to rely on this agricultural product to provide them with a key source of income. However, Occupation forces closed all access roads with stone and dirt mounds and forbade villagers from entering almost seven years ago.

Israeli prisons escalate measures against Palestinians refusing orange uniforms
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of prisoners’ affairs in Gaza reported that the Israeli prison authority stepped up recently its arbitrary measures against the Palestinian prisoners who refuse to wear the orange uniforms. Riyadh-Al-Ashqar, the director of the information office in the ministry, said that the Israeli prison administrations have been trying for several months to impose by force an orange uniform on the Palestinian prisoners who unanimously refused to wear it. Ashqar pointed out that this uniform is known worldwide as uniform worn by prisoners sentenced to death and those held in the notorious Guantanamo detention camp, adding that some administrators in Israeli jails stated publically that the Palestinian prisoners must be treated as terrorist and not as war or political prisoners. The official affirmed that the Israeli prison authority faced the prisoners’ refusal to. . .

Mizan center demands Israel to probe torture of prisoners from Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Mizan center for human rights reported that it filed four complaints with the Israeli military prosecutor and the legal advisor to the Israeli government demanding them to conduct an investigation into the torture of Palestinian prisoners from the Gaza Strip kidnapped during the last Israeli war. In a press statement received on Sunday by the PIC, the center underlined that the information obtained by its lawyer based on testimonies of prisoners released recently confirmed that the IOF troops had tortured and maltreated them. According to the testimonies, the IOF troops were using batons and rifle butts to beat the prisoners as well as they were shackling and blindfolding prisoners in painful positions for long hours. The center expressed its strong condemnation of the Israeli persistence in committing serious and organized violations against the rules of international. . .

Egypt sources: Hamas agrees to link Shalit deal to opening of Gaza border
Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Hamas has acceded over the past few days to the Israeli demand to link the opening of the border crossings to the release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Egyptian sources told Haaretz on Sunday. This allows progress toward a cease-fire, by creating a connection between the opening of all crossings by Israel, completion of a prisoner swap and Shalit’s release. Egyptian sources told Haaretz cautiously that they were "very optimistic" about making progress toward a deal in the near future. However, they said it could not be known when there would be a breakthrough. According to the plan Egypt is promoting, Israel would open the crossings, albeit not totally, when a cease-fire is reached. The crossings would operate at 80-percent capacity, which would allow a large quantity of merchandise to pass into the Gaza Strip, as Hamas is demanding.

Gaza truce could be agreed in ’next few days’ - Cairo
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/9/2009
CAIRO: Egypt is hopeful that a Gaza truce accord between Israel and the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas can be reached in the next few days, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said Sunday. "There are positive signs that in the next few days we will reach an understanding on a truce and a partial reopening of crossing points [into Gaza]," Zaki said. Egypt has been mediating indirect talks for a lasting truce since the end of Israel’s massive 22-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip, which killed at least 1,330 Palestinians, two-third of whom were civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of whom were soldiers. The fighting ended when both Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers called separate ceasefires on January 18. However, the fragile calm has been tested by Israeli air strikes and retaliatory Palestinian rocket attacks.

Az Zahar surfaces for Cairo talks nearing completion, prisoner exchange includes Barghouti
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/8/2009
Gaza -- To finalize ceasefire arrangements and to move forward with internal reconciliation, the Hamas delegation from Gaza entered Egypt on Saturday. Foreign Minister Dr. Mahmoud Az Zahar, co-founder of both the movement and Gaza City’s Islamic University, was at the helm. The delegation arrived to receive the Israeli response to the Egyptian-penned proposal which includes a long-term truce, a partial opening of the crossings and a prisoner exchange. None of the conditions veer greatly from those in place before the major Israeli attacks of late 2008 and early 2009 that killed more than 1,330 Palestinians and injured some 5,400. The Hamas delegation in Cairo includes Salah Bardaweil, Ayman Taher and Nizar Awadallah. This was the first time that Az Zahar was seen in public since he was reportedly injured during the Israeli attacks and driven out of the Strip via ambulance for treatment.

Sources: Israel agrees to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in swap for Gil’ad Shalit
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 2/8/2009
The London-based Alhayat Arabic newspaper reported on Sunday that Israel agreed to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners a in swap of captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit, who was captured by the ruling Hamas party in Gaza in June of 2006. The paper quoted unnamed Palestinian sources as saying that a prisoner swap deal is likely to happen very soon, and that among those of the would-be released are prisoners with long-term sentences. Hamas insists that eight senior prisoners should be included in the list, such as Fatah leader in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti and the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’dat, the paper added. Israel agreed to release Sa’adat but yet to agree to set free Barghouthi, while the Israeli coalition government is willing to reach a ceasefire agreement with the Palestinians before Tuesday, the date set for the elections.

Islamic Jihad: Israeli threats on Gaza an election tactic
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Islamic Jihad dismissed Israeli threats of another major strike on the Gaza Strip as “just part of the elections campaign. ". Abu Ahmad, the spokesperson of the movement’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, said in a statement sent to reporters that "these threats made by [Ehud] Barak and [Tzipi] Livni are not more than satisfying the Zionist electors. " As Egyptian and Turkish efforts to broker a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza Strip intensify, the Jewish state threatened to strike heavily in Gaza Strip if rockets continued to fall into its southern territories. But Abu Ahmed said all the Palestinian factions are ready to accept a ceasefire if their conditions are met, but ruled out any agreement longer than a year or 18 months. Israel broke a six-month ceasefire agreement with the ruling Hamas movement last year, and then launched. . .

Naim: Israel strategically defeated in the war on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Basem Naim, the PA minister of health in Gaza, said Saturday that Israel had lost the confrontation strategically during its war on the Gaza Strip, deploring the international community for giving Israel the green light to commit its crimes. During a workshop organized by the Palestinian center for studies and research, Dr. Naim underlined that the battle fought by the Gaza people is a milestone in the history of conflict with the Israeli occupation. The minister added that the Israeli war opened a window for many peoples living under oppression to revolt against injustice and to express their outrage at what happened in Gaza, noting that for the first time, the Israeli crimes against children and women were documented in sound and picture. He underscored that it is inappropriate to say that some of the victims killed by Israel in Gaza are civilians because every. . .

Taha: Still early to say that agreement on truce is at hand
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas’s political leader Ayman Taha said on Saturday that it was early to say that an agreement on calm with Israelis was at hand, explaining that Hamas needs guarantees from the sponsor of the calm, Egypt, that the occupation would adhere to it. In press statements he made in this regard, Taha explained that Hamas’s delegation presented a number of inquiries on the nature of the 20% of the materials that the Israeli occupation would block from entering the Strip. "May be this 20% of the materials is more important than the 80% that the occupation agreed to let it into the Strip. If they give us convincing answers. Our main concern is the interest of our people", underlined Taha, stressing that Egypt, being the sponsor, should guarantee that Israel would abide by the agreement. "We don’t want to repeat the previous (vague) agreement"¦ we want a clear-cut agreement. . .

Hamas sources: Calm agreement to be announced within two days
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- The Hamas delegation led by Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar left Cairo Saturday night heading for Damascus to consult with the Hamas leadership on latest calm agreement talks. The delegation members had conferred with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on the calm agreement. Delegation sources said that a final and "honorable" calm agreement could be announced within two days. Media sources in Cairo said that the Hamas delegates are expected to receive the Israeli responses to Hamas queries delivered through Egypt. The delegates are expected to return from Damascus with a final decision on Sunday night and the announcement would be on Monday or Tuesday. Zahhar is heading a delegation grouping Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, Nizar Awadallah and Taher Al-Nunu. The team members had left Gaza for Cairo at noon Saturday.

Barhoum: Hamas wants guarantees for implementation of what is agreed upon
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, has underlined that his Movement’s delegation in Cairo was demanding guarantees to implement whatever is agreed upon regarding the calm agreement. He said in a press statement on Sunday that the delegates would listen to the Israeli reply to the queries tabled by Hamas to conclude a calm agreement. Barhoum pointed out that Hamas delegation asked for clarifications regarding the quantity and quality of goods to be allowed into Gaza, adding that Israel put the condition of retaining partial siege and controlling 30% of goods into the Strip. He attributed his Movement’s demand of guarantees to past experiences in which the Israeli occupation authority procrastinated on agreements and disavowed itself from them. Meanwhile, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad Movement, the Quds Brigades, on Sunday opined that Israeli threats to invade Gaza anew were mere election propaganda.

Israel discusses Egyptian proposal; Cairo optimistic
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/8/2009
Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni and Defense Minister Barak meet to review offer for 18-month truce in Gaza, prisoner exchange deal. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman says ’there are positive signs that an agreement will be reached in the next days’ - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Sunday morning with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza and for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Olmert later tried to lower expectation, telling the cabinet meeting that the reports on the media were "exaggerating in their definition of the situation of the deal for Shalit’s release". "I woke up to a series of reports on Gilad Shalit, but these issues were not released from my office although they are being coordinated by me.

Noam Schalit: There is a window of opportunity to bring to Gilad’s release Staff, Jerusalem Post 2/9/2009
Noam Schalit, father of captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, said on Sunday that there was currently "A one of a kind window of opportunity" to bring to his son’s release. During a meeting with activists in Mitzpe Hila, which was convened in light of media reports that progress has been made in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas, Schalit praised the government for making the utmost efforts to reach an agreement that would lead to his son’s release. ’The Schalit family and the activists believe the current government of Israel is fully determined to fulfill its commitment to bring Gilad back before the next government is formed," he said in a statement.

Activists seek ’Gaza abuses’ probe
Al Jazeera 2/8/2009
Human rights groups have called on Hamas officials to investigate widespread allegations of abduction, torture and the killing of Palestinians accused of being collaborators during Israel’s war on Gaza. Al Jazeera has been shown sworn affidavits, medical records and photographs of alleged victims of reprisals committed against Fatah supporters by security agents or associates of Hamas. "I think that the officials from the Hamas deposed government have the responsibility to investigate into these incidents. . . and bring those who have committed those crimes to justice," Randa Siniora of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, said on Sunday. "There is a state of vigilantism and chaos, lawlessness in the Gaza Strip right now," she said. "Extrajudicial killings have increased during the Israeli aggression. "Separately on Sunday, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights called for an investigation into the death of a man beaten in the custody of security forces loyal to the Hamas movement.

Rights group urges investigation into deadly café bombing in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Palestinian human rights organization called for an investigation of the Thursday bombing of a café in Gaza City in which one person was killed and five others injured. According to the independent Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) report, released Sunday, unidentified individuals detonated a bomb at the entrance of the Al-Waha café in the upper-middle class Ar-Rimal neighborhood at 11:30pm, while workers were cleaning the shop. Locals reported that the café had been busy earlier in the evening as men gathered to watch the Barcelona football match in the local hang out. “The powerful explosion killed Rami Jamil Ashour, 27, a friend of the café owner, who was inside the café at the time. Thirty-year-old Mohammed Farid Al-Ajrami, who was passing by the café at the time of the explosion, was seriously injured and subsequently admitted into the Intensive Care Unit at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City,” PCHR reported.

Hamas: PA seizes six members in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces seized six Hamas supporters in the West Bank on Sunday, the Islamic movement said. In a statement Hamas said that Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Hassri, Hassan Sa’id and Fadi Umeir were arrested in the city of Tulkarem. According to Hamas, PA security men stormedthe Khaled Ibn Al-Walid mosque in the village of Bal’a and confiscated brochures and computers. In Jenin governorate, the PA reportedly detained Hamas supporters Hamza Shwahnah and Iyad Ad-Damj, both for the second time. In Hebron governorate, Hamas said the PA arrested a student at Hebron University named Ala Abu Ajamiyyah for a third time. [end]

Gaza: Hamas hunting Fatah loyalists who ’collaborated with Israel’
News agencies, YNetNews 2/8/2009
Human rights researchers say Islamist group killed at least six Fatah men it claims assisted in killing of senior Hamas figures during recent war. ’Hamas turned on their own people,’ relative of Fatah loyalist in hiding says - While the IDF’s offensive in Gaza ended a few weeks ago, Palestinian infighting in the coastal enclave is raging on, as Hamas security forces are seeking out Fatah loyalists who the Islamist group accuses of collaborating with Israel during Operation Cast Lead. Human rights researchers told Ynet that at least six Fatah loyalists have been killed and several others have been detained since the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect as part of the Islamist group’s efforts to cement its rule over Gaza. Many other Fatah men have gone into hiding, they said. Hamas said anyone who may have been killed in such cases must have been a collaborator with Israel.

Fatah leader: ’regional influences’ encouraged Hamas’ Gaza takeover
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Hamas was encouraged to take over the Gaza Strip in June 2007 by ‘regional actors’ outside Palestine, alleged prominent Fatah member Azzam Al-Ahmad on Sunday. Al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian parliament, also said that the Muslim Brotherhood may have encouraged the Hamas “coup d’état” in Gaza. While he did not name the ‘regional’ influences, Hamas is seen to be aligned with Iran and Syria. Fatah meanwhile is perceived to be closer to the pro-American camp of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Al-Ahmad also said that there is “no alternative” to dialogue to end the Hamas-Fatah split. “There are no suggested initiatives to end this split but the Egyptian one, as soon as Egypt finishes the truce agreement it will call on the Palestinian factions to commence internal dialogue by the end of this month so that to agree on forming a consensus. . . -- See also: Elliot Abrams’ Uncivil War and Vanity Fair: The Gaza Bombshell

Hamas: Fatah strongman Dahlan collaborated with Israel ahead of Gaza op
Shlomo Shamir and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
A senior Hamas official has accused Fatah strongman Mahmoud Dahlan of collaborating with Israel to carry out Operation Cast Lead, the 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip. The official, identified only as a Hamas leader, told Time magazine that Dahlan - Abbas’ former national security adviser - helped Israel ahead of the operation in order to weaken the resistance of the Islamist movement, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. According to the report, Dahlan went to the Egyptian town of El Arish before the operation actually began and dispatched Fatah members into Gaza to help the Israel Defense Forces hunt down Hamas fighters. The Hamas officials reportedly accuse a number of other Fatah activists, aside from Dahlan, for collaborating with the intention of killing off Muslims and bringing their own movement back to power in the Gaza Strip.

Convoys of aid for Gaza travelling from UK
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/8/2009
Gaza -- A Scottish organization is taking the largely overland route to the Gaza Strip. Dozens of trucks are loaded with medicine and medical supplies for delivery through the Rafah - Eypgt crossing. It is uncertain whether the humanitarian mission will be allowed to pass as Cairo issued a statement through its Foreign Ministry last week instructing all deliveries to be diverted through the Karem Abu Salem crossing which is under full Israeli control. The Scottish effort aims primarily to provide medical aid to the besieged population of the Gaza Strip. Included in organizing the mission that is taking off from the United Kingdom on Friday are nongovernmental and parliamentary efforts from both London and Glasgow. After a siege that has been in place in varying degrees for three years, members the Scottish Parliament decided the time was high to participate materially in breaking the hold on a million and a half people.

Justice for Palestine in Scotland to send aid trucks to Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/8/2009
Justice for Palestine organization in Scotland announced that it concluded the preparations for sending dozens of trucks filled with medical supplies and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah Border Terminal. The Organization said that this trip aims at providing aid to the residents of the besieged Gaza Strip, and that several institutions and organizations in Scotland and the UK are participating in this humanitarian mission. The organizers said that this trip also aims at raising awareness on the issue of the ongoing Israeli siege which was imposed on Gaza three years ago. The group invited several Scottish parliamentarians to participate in the trip in order to increase the pressure on the Israeli occupation to end the siege on Gaza and open the Rafah Border Terminal, on the Gaza-Egypt border. The trucks would start their journey on Friday, February 13. -- See also: Scotland for Justice for Palestine

British marathon aid convoy to leave for Gaza soon
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
LONDON, (PIC)-- A marathon aid convoy from London organized by British lawmaker George Galloway is expected to be leaving for the Gaza Strip on 14 February carrying material aid and raising the banner of Palestine in all countries it passes through. The convoy will be led by a British fire truck, ambulances, and many vehicles full of humanitarian aid given by various communities and organizations in Britain. The participants in the trip will be traveling for 16 days through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and then through Rafah into Gaza, during which they will raise funds and other donations in kind for the besieged Gaza people. Spokesman for the popular compaign against the siege Rami Abdo said that the trip named "lifeline for Gaza" would be the largest and most prominent move in protest of the unjust Israeli siege on Gaza.

University of Rochester students in New York demand divestment, fundraising for Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Mirroring the action in UK schools last month, University of Rochester students and community members began an occupation of campus buildings Friday afternoon. The students have stated that they will remain in the buildings until the university agrees to the following:1. Divestment: A peaceful investment policy governing the university’s endowment funds, including divestment from corporations that manufacturer weapons and profit from war. Students say the university invests in General Dynamics, a weapon manufacturer supplying Israel. 2. Humanitarian aid: A day of fundraising for humanitarian aid in Gaza within two weeks as part of an ongoing commitment to provide financial support for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 4. Scholarships: A minimum of five scholarships for Palestinian students per year. -- See also: U of R Students to Occupy Academic Building for Peace and in Solidarity with Gaza and U of R Students for a Democratic Society

Beirut, 13 other cities honor Gaza’s martyred children
Special to The Daily Star, Daily Star 2/9/2009
BEIRUT: Hundreds of candles flickered on the seafront at Ramlet al-Baida on Sunday evening in commemoration of Gaza’s fallen children. The vigil was one of 13 organized by Mothers Across the World for Gaza in cities across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and North America to mark the passage of 40 days since the first child was killed during the Israeli military’s December-January offensive against the Gaza Strip. The crowd of roughly 200 men, women, and children gathered on the small seaside walkway, most of them dressed at least partially in black, with many wearing the black and white keffiyehs that have become just as fashionable as they are representative of Palestine. Participants in the vigil held thin, white candles, each mounted on a brightly colored square of paper, with the name and age of a child killed in Gaza pinned to their chests.

European and Arab countries participate in Jerusalem cultural celebration
Palestinian Information Center 2/8/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Osama Al-Ashkar, the executive director of the popular campaign for celebrating Jerusalem as capital of the Arab culture, disclosed on Sunday that the initiation of related activities was postponed to the 30th of March due to the Israeli aggression on Gaza. According to Ashkar, 14 Arab countries and six European countries would participate in the activities, explaining that they were scheduled to kickoff on 27 December of last year, but the Israeli brutal aggression on Gaza on the same day prompted the delay. Talking about the plans of the group, Ashkar revealed that his group is looking forward to issue 500 books in the name of the campaign, in addition to carrying out a number of projects in the devastated Gaza Strip that would preserve the cultural dimension there. Moreover, Ashkar stressed that his group wasn’t competing with any party on the legitimacy,. . .

U.S. Jew stabbed in the face by Palestinians in Jerusalem
Jonathan Lis and Yuval Goren and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Three Palestinian youths are believed to have stabbed an American Jewish student in the face near the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem late Saturday. The victim, 19, was later hospitalized in light-to-moderate condition. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld says the student told police he was lost on a Jerusalem road late Saturday and stopped the men for directions. The student identified the men as Arabs and said they attacked him with a knife, slashing his face and neck. Rosenfeld did not give the student’s name or age, saying only he was enrolled at the city’s Hebrew University. The university had no immediate comment. In a separate incident Sunday morning, a 20-year-old Israel Defense Forces soldier fought off an assailant who tried to stab him in Jaffa. The attacker later fled, after which police embarked on a manhunt to find him. The soldier was unharmed in the attempted stabbing, the motivation of which is still being investigated.

Youth stabbed in J’lem, soldier attacked in Jaffa
Avi Cohen, YNetNews 2/8/2009
Lost youth says stabbed by Arabs near gas station in capital after stopping to ask for directions, suffers light to moderate wounds. Unknown assailant shouting in Arabic attempting to stab soldier in Jaffa is fought off, soldier remains unharmed - A Jewish youth sustained light to moderate stab wounds after being attacked near a gas station in Jerusalem on Sunday morning. The incident occurred around 2 am. The youth said he lost his way to the student dorms in the city and was attacked by three Arabs when he stopped to ask for directions, and was evacuated to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Magen David Adom paramedic Hanan Meir told Ynet, "He was sitting on a chair in the gas station with a sweater around his neck to stop the bleeding. Since we were without police escort, we put him straight in to the ambulance and started driving.

Solider suspected of fabricating Jaffa knife attack
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/8/2009
Military prosecution to launch probe against soldier who said Arab tried to stab him; soldier sticking by his version -The Military Advocate General’s Office is expected to order the launching of an investigation against a 20-year-old soldier who claimed to have been attacked by a knife-wielding Arab near the military court in Jaffa Sunday morning. It is suspected that the soldier fabricated the story for reasons that are not yet known. It is not clear whether the prosecution will seek the soldier’s arrest, but in any case he will be summoned for questioning on Monday morning. The soldier, who is sticking by his version of the events, said the attacker fled the scene after he had punched him. Following the soldier’sreport, police began scouring the area in search of an assailant, but came up empty handed.

Palestinian injured as Israeli military jeep collides with vehicle near Huwwara
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – A Palestinian sustained moderate wounds after an Israeli military jeep collided with his near the Huwwara checkpoint south of Nablus. Palestinian medical sources identified the man as 41-year-old Hasan Abu Aun from Nur Ash-Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem. Aun was driving on the main street north towards Huwwara when Israeli military jeep collided with him. Aun was evacuated to Al-Ittihad Hospital by Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance. [end]

Rocket hits southern Ashkelon
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/8/2009
Air raid siren sounds in southern city at around 1:50 pm Sunday, followed by blast; no injuries or damage reported. Earlier, Qassam rocket lands in parking lot in western Negev kibbutz, damaging cars - Cairo, Jerusalem discuss ceasefire while rocket fire continues:A rocket landed in southern Ashkelon on Sunday afternoon. An air raid siren sounded in the area at around 1:50 pm, followed by a blast. There were no reports of injuries or damage. Amit, an Ashkelon resident, told Ynet, "Several minutes ago I heard a very weak Color Red alert. We usually don’t hear the Color Red alarm in the city, and this time it was activated. A moment later I heard a boom. "The siren system in the city’s southern industrial zone was amplified recently, so that Ashkelon’s southern neighborhood could hear the alarm from there.

Gaza rocket hits southern Israel
Al Jazeera 2/8/2009
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip has landed in southern Israel, setting several cars on fire, the Israeli military has said. The rocket landed in an agricultural community near the southern town of Sderot, the military said. No one was injured. A fragile ceasefire has been in place since Israel ended a 22-day military offensive in Gaza on January 18 that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians. Israel’s stated aim of the war was to halt cross-border rocket attacks from the Palestinian coastal enclave. Truce negotiations Egypt is trying to secure a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group. Diplomats said the Egyptian proposal includes a prisoner exchange and the initial opening of at least two of the enclave’s border crossings. Israel wants any truce deal to include the release of Gilad Shalit, the soldier held. . .

Palestinians fire 2 rockets at South
Jerusalem Post 2/8/2009
After terrorists fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel during the day, Israeli Air Force jets bombed two Hamas outposts in the Strip late on Sunday night. The IAF pilots identified direct hits in both cases, Army Radio reported. The IDF stressed that the airstrikes came in response to the rocket fire. In the latest attack, a Grad-model Katyusha rocket landed in the vicinity of Ashkelon on Sunday evening. Earlier on Sunday, two cars were severely damaged when a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hit a parking lot in a Sha’ar Hanegev kibbutz. There were no casualties in the attack, which came shortly before children were set to leave for school. The Ashkelon Municipality was advised by security sources to prepare for a trickle of rockets in the coming days, but could expect them to cease soon afterward, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Israel: Gaza strike an alternative to ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel threatened on Sunday to hit a “major target” in the Gaza Strip if projectiles continue to be launched into Israel, despite ongoing indirect talks between Israel and Hamas aiming to achieve a long-term ceasefire. According to Israel’s Channel 10 television, the announcement came Sunday as a Gaza projectile hit a kibbutz in the western Negev. No casualties were reported and no factions have yet claimed the attack. ‘Israel will not remain handcuffed,’ was the sentiment from analysts who had little to offer on the nature of the target. Channel 10’s analyst Alof Ben David, speculated that “There will be either ceasefire agreement or effective deterrence for Hamas,” he said, and added that the decision to damage Hamas came “despite the fact that Israel knows it is factions other than Hamas who are launching projectiles.

Two Gaza rockets strike west Negev as truce talks progress
Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Sunday fired a Grad rocket at the southern city of Ashkelon, as a deal for an Israeli-Hamas truce in the coastal territory was taking form. The rocket attack on the southern town caused neither casualties nor damage. Earlier Sunday, a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. The Israel Defense Forces said one car was set ablaze and several others were damaged by shrapnel. No injuries were reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack. Militants have sporadically fired rockets into Israel since a cease-fire ended Israel’s three-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza on Jan. 18. They also killed one IDF soldier in a border bombing attack. IDF troops have killed three Palestinians in border shootings.

Israeli sources: Homemade shells fired from Gaza into Israel
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/8/2009
Israeli online daily Haaretz reported early on Sunday that a Palestinian homemade shell was fired from Gaza into the southern Israeli area of Naqqab. The Israeli Army stated that the shell caused set a car ablaze and slightly damaged other cars in and around where the shell landed. In the aftermath of the three-week-long Israeli Army attacks on the Gaza Strip, both the Israeli Army and Gaza-based resistance factions traded fire, despite a temporary ceasefire deal. The Israeli Army killed three Palestinians during recent attacks on the region. [end]

Gunman opens fire at Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper offices in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Offices of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida came under fire for the second time in six weeks on Saturday night. Sources at the newspaper office reported no casualties. Fifteen minutes after midnight an unidentified gunman opened fire at the windows of the office where editing director Bashar Barmawi’s office is, an Al-Hayat Al-Jadida journalist in the office at the time told Ma’an. Barmawi was not in the room at the time. The journalist noted that the fire originated from the same direction as in the previous incident. The front side of the building faces directly towards the Israeli settlement Psaggot, though there is a large open area between the edge of the suburb and the boundaries of the settlement. Palestinian police arrived on the scene and began investigations. The paper is based in a Ramallah suburb, and is the official news source for the Palestinian National Authority. [end]

Olmert blasts ’damaging’ reports on Shalit, in veiled attack on Barak
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday issued a veiled attack on Defense Minister Ehud Barak for sparking "exaggerated and damaging" reports on a deal for abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "There is ongoing treatment of the Gilad Shalit issue, which is coordinated by me personally. The recent publications are exaggerated and damaging and are absolutely unnecessary," said Olmert at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. Barak has recently given a number of interviews on the matter. On Friday night, he told Channel 1 that Israel was making "supreme efforts" to bring the soldier home. Olmert added: "I awoke this morning to a stream of media reports regarding Gilad Shalit. These reports did not come from me or from my office. "The prime minister’s comments came after significant progress had been made in the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas regarding a new cease-fire formula in the Gaza Strip that will also include the reopening of the border crossings and the release of Shalit.

Israel deports 93 Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Police reportedly deported 93 Palestinians accused of residing illegally inside Israel to the Palestinian Authority, according to the Israeli news agency Ynet. According to the report, two Israeli citizens were also arrested for housing and employing the Palestinians. The Palestinians were deported from the Sharon sub-district, in central Israel. The Palestinian Authority has not confirmed the report. [end]

Israeli forces detain hundreds of Palestinians working illegally in Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained 376 Palestinian’s working in Israel without permits over the weekend, Radio Israel reported. Also arrested were 20 Israelis suspected of aiding the men and employing them illegally. All but 12 of the men were later released; those detained longer were reportedly “wanted” by Israeli authorities. [end]

Interview: Mahmoud al-Zahar
Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
In his first interview following the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, Dr Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader and member of the movement’s political bureau, talks to Al Jazeera, from Cairo. Al Jazeera: What is the political meaning behind Hamas sending a delegation to Cairo at this time? Zahar: The main motive behind this issue is to rebuild what the occupation has demolished - the crimes which the whole world has witnessed and its serious impact on humanity. The truce has to be upheld on conditions that are not unjust to the rights of the Palestinian people. Particularly to give them a chance to rebuild the houses that have been demolished, the mosques, hospitals, schools and others. My attendance, along with a delegation of senior [Hamas] figures, reflects the real desire of Hamas’s leadership inside and outside the Palestinian territories to end this crisis by upholding

PM Fayyad: PA Plan for Gaza Reconstruction Ready
Palestine Media Center 2/8/2009
The general features of the document outlining the reconstruction of Gaza have been completed, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told WAFA News Agency Saturday. The specifics of the document rely on a detailed survey of the destruction of the Gaza Strip, now nearly complete. The Cooperative Housing Foundation is performing the assessments. The PA has pledged 67 million US dollars for Gaza reconstruction, which will be distributed as follows: 55 million US dollars for clearing rubble and reconstruction of government buildings, electrical and water systems 22 million US dollars for rebuilding the homes of Gazans; this money will be distributed as follows: 5,000 US dollars in cash will be given to the residents of homes totally destroyed 3,000 US dollars to those whose homes were partially destroyed The PA document looks to consolidate and streamline the reconstruction so it is efficient and addresses agriculture and industry facilities as a priority.

Public sector salaries postponed, union revokes offer
Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 2/8/2009
PNN exclusive -- The union has revoked its offer to give a days worth of salaries to the Gaza Strip. Perhaps only temporary is the decision that came last night. A heated meeting of the Union of Civil Service Employees is following today. Union leader Bassam Zakarneh says that the needs of the workers must be considered. "We are happy to work for no salaries for a day to give to our brothers in Gaza," said union leader Bassam Zakarneh. "But when we find out that salaries are going to be delayed from last month to the middle of this month to both Gaza and the West Bank we reject the decision. " Zakarneh continued to tell PNN, "The Union refuses to pay our salaries to Gaza when ours have been postponed. "Today the civil service union is meeting in Ramallah to decide on the next course of action, noting that the postponement of salaries is unacceptable and that the union will not include its donation.

PM Fayyad speaks to press in support of retaining PLO
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/8/2009
Ramallah -- The Prime Minister appointed by President Abbas is speaking out against Hamas calls to revamp the PLO. It was well reported last week that the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, said from exile that the Palestine Liberation Organization was non-representative of the whole of the people. He called to create a new organization that included all political parties, while later in the week his comments significantly softened on the issue after being severely criticized. Speaking to the press in the West Bank’s Ramallah, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said yesterday, "We see the seriousness of this matter to circumvent the PLO in attempts to find an alternative. "He referred to Meshal’s suggestion as "unacceptable" and said that instead of talking about replacing the PLO the Hamas leader should go to Cairo for the reconciliation talks.

Fayyad: PA channeled 2.2 billion dollars to Gaza since Hamas takeover
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah has channeled 2. 2 billion dollars to the Gaza Strip since Hamas took full control of the coastal territory in June 2007, said Ramallah-based Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Sunday. Fayyad, who was appointed prime minister in the wake of the Gaza takeover, also said during a speech in Ramallah that the PA has already begun a multimillion dollar recovery program for the Gaza Strip. Fayyad also outlined a plan to compensate the owners of houses that were destroyed by Israel during the three-week war in Gaza. Those whose houses were completely destroyed will receive up to 3,000 dollars, while those whose houses were partly destroyed will receive 1,000 dollars. The 20 million dollar plan is to be carried out in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Abbas visits wounded Gazans in Turkish hospital
Ma’an News Agency 2/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited ten Palestinians who are being treated at Ataturk hospital in the Turkish capital, Ankara on Saturday. The Palestinians were evacuated to Turkey after they were wounded in Israel’s three-week assault on the Gaza Strrip. Abbas prayed for them to get well soon and thanked Turkey for treating them as he said: “this is one of Turkey’s supporting political, financial and moral attitudes to the Palestinian people,” according to the official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa. The PLO’s chief negotiator Sa’eb Erekat accompanied Abbas onhis visit along with the Palestinian presidentian spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdeinah and Palestinian ambassador to Turkey Nabil Ma’rouf.

N.Y. rabbi aims to ease Jewish-Muslim tensions in Europe stoked by Gaza op
Shlomo Shamir and Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Rabbi Marc Schneier, a New York Jewish leader who has helped to build bridges with American Muslims, is planning to bring his campaign to Europe to help ease the anger fed by bloodshed in Gaza. "In the light of the recent conflict in Gaza, Jewish-Muslim tensions have been exacerbated," Schneier, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, told Reuters during a recent visit to London. "We have seen a rise, I would say an exponential growth, in anti-Semitic attacks, rhetoric coming from the Muslim world. We cannot allow for Islamic fundamentalism to grow. " Schneier helped to bring together thousands of Jews and Muslims across America last November in an initiative in which 50 mosques were twinned with 50 synagogues over a weekend. Jews and Muslims worked together in community projects, formed study groups and got a better understanding of each other’s faith.

Rise in antisemitic attacks ’the worst recorded in Britain in decades’
Mark Townsend, The Guardian 2/8/2009
Police patrols have been stepped up in Jewish neighbourhoods following the most intense period of antisemitic incidents to have been recorded in Britain in decades. Safety fears are so acute that reports have emerged of members of Britain’s Jewish community fleeing the UK with antisemitic incidents running at around seven a day this year. Around 270 cases have been reported in 2009, according to figures compiled by the Community Security Trust (CST), the body that monitors anti-Jewish racism, with most blamed on anti-Israeli sentiment in reaction to hostilities in Gaza. Attacks recorded during the first Palestinian intifida of the late 1980s averaged 16 a month. Scotland Yard is understood to have placed prominent Jewish communities on heightened alert, while the Association of Chief Police Officers’ national community. . .

Bullets strike Amsterdam mental health clinic run by Jewish community
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
Dutch Police on Wednesday found two bullet holes from a shooting aimed at a mental health clinic run by the Amsterdam Jewish community, in what may be a further escalation in anti-Semitic attacks in the Netherlands since Israel launched an operation in Gaza in December. Staff from the Sinai Jewish center in Amstelveen near the Dutch capital called police after noticing what appeared to be gunshot holes in a window adjacent to the main entrance door. No one was hurt in the shooting and no witnesses have come forward so far. "Police are playing down this incident, which is fairly usual on their part with this sort of thing," Ronny Naftaniel, head of Holland’s largest pro-Zionist organization, told Haaretz. "They’re saying they don’t know whether this attack was aimed against the Jewish community.

Venezuela arrests 11, including 7 cops, over synagogue attack
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Venezuelan investigators on Sunday said seven police agents and four civilians were arrested in connection with an attack on a synagogue that sparked international condemnation. The Venezuelan public prosecutor’s office said the civilians included at least one security official from the synagogue and that all had been captured in raids over the weekend. "These people were apprehended during raids carried out between Saturday and the early hours of Sunday in different parts of Caracas. They will all be charged by the Public Prosecutor’s office," the office said in a statement. Armed men broke into Venezuela’s Tiferet synagogue last week, daubing the walls with slogans like "Jews get out" and destroyed religious objects. The attack produced a deluge of condemnation of President Hugo Chavez, a. . .

Olmert formally endorses Livni
YNetNews 2/8/2009
Outgoing prime minister, in first formal endorsement, backs colleague from his Kadima party. Meanwhile, Netanyahu, Begin criticize Kadima’s candidate during Likud rally - Two days before elections, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threw his support solidly behind the Kadima party’s candidate for prime minister,Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. It was the first time Olmert had publicly supported any candidate for the elections of the 18th Knesset. "I won’t surprise anyone if I say that I support Kadima and hope that Tzipi Livni will be elected as the 18th prime minster of Israel," Olmert said, a week after he alluded to his support for his colleague by stating his support for a party led by a woman. "I am using this opportunity because I think it’s important for the prime minister to announce who he is supporting… Tzipi Livni is the candidate who can lead Israel. She has wisdom and sensitivity," he said. .

Netanyahu digs for election victory
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 2/9/2009
Likud head plants a tree for his son in disputed territory - Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader who is the favourite in what is expected to be a close electoral contest tomorrow, planted a eucalyptus tree in the occupied Golan Heights yesterday, demonstrating the uncompromising posture he intends to take towards Israel’s Arab neighbours. Seeking to beat back a challenge from the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who has gained on him in recent polls, making the race too close to call, Mr Netanyahu warned that a victory for her centrist Kadima party would lead to a dangerous withdrawal from the strategic plateau overlooking the Sea of Galilee that was seized from Syria during the 1967 war. Mr Netanyahu, also wary of gains by the far-right Yisrael Beytenu party, has fallen back on his favoured theme of being tough on terror and the most adamant in rejecting territorial concessions.

Lieberman now throwing his ’no loyalty, no citizenship’ motto at Shas
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Hours after she first heard about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s verbal attack on Russian immigrants for "selling pork and praying at churches," the Russian-immigrant owner of a grocery store in Netanya said Sunday she feared that Shas might try to shut her business down. "I wasn’t going to vote this year but now my husband says we have to vote for [Avigdor Lieberman], otherwise they [Shas] will shut us down," she said, referring to the Soviet-born head of Yisrael Beiteinu. " It’s true we don’t sell pork here but I’m from Russia and that might be enough [to close us. ]" Like many Russian-speaking Israelis, who number over a million, she understood the harsh words from Shas’s spiritual leader as an insult to an entire community. Yisrael Beiteinu’s campaign slogan, which was originally aimed at Israeli Arabs, declared that there can be "no citizenship without loyalty. "

Israel elections / ’99% of Israeli Arabs stand by their loyalty to the state’
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that while he believes the government must take action against any disloyal citizen, he could not back rival Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman’s campaign motto of "no citizenship without loyalty. " "I believe in the declaration of independence and the need to act accordingly. Ninety-nine percent of Arab citizens are citizens who stand by their obligation to the state. I think steps need to be taken when people act against the state, Jews and Arabs alike," Barak said in an interview with Channel Two. "As I see it, Lieberman’s statement ’No citizenship without loyalty’ is wrong. That is not Israel’s problem. Some political players are dealing with that instead of with the true issues," he added. Channel Two on Sunday aired live interviews with the top three contenders for prime minister: Labor Chair Barak, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lieberman gains, Likud’s slip in the polls leave election up for grabs
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
After weeks of expecting a clear-cut victory, Likud is now locked in a struggle with Kadima and the outcome is "completely open," a close associate of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday. Netanyahu has been fighting hard since Friday to win back voters who have unexpectedly been defecting to Yisrael Beiteinu over the past week, a trend that has narrowed the gap between Likud and Kadima. Likud is said to be feeling the pressure that it might lose to Kadima or win by a small margin that might lead Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman to recommend that Kadima’s Tzipi Livni form the next government. Netanyahu, his associates concede, is unsure what steps Lieberman will take after the election. The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman has been intentionally vague about his recommendation to the president. Netanyahu, who limited his media interviews during the campaign, stormed the

Lieberman followers debate how to enforce loyalty
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 2/8/2009
Speaking at the party’s final campaign rally in Haifa on Sunday night, Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman once again touched on his platform’s cornerstonethat has his party surging in the polls. "After the elections, we will introduce our citizen loyalty bill," Lieberman said to a roaring crowd. "We can’t go on like this. " But when it came to the enforcement of such loyalty - which in and of itself remains officially undefined - Israel Beiteinu’s supporters themselves were somewhat unclear as to how such a policy would go forward. "They’re not going to throw them straight into jail," said Arik Vexler, a Haifa resident who braved protesters from Haifa’s Arab community - some of whom yelled slogans in Russian at rally-goers - outside the rally’s entrance to get a glimpse of the man he’s voting for on Tuesday. "It’s more of a crack-down on those who break the law," he continued. "Take those protesters, for example. I mean, you’re allowed to protest, but there has to be a limit. . . . "

Shouts for coexistence at Lieberman speech
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 2/8/2009
Arab Israelis protest outside Haifa conference hosting Yisrael Beiteinu leader, some shouting slogans in Russian; Mossawa Center director detained for suspicion of assaulting police -Arab residents from Haifa, in protest of Avigdor Lieberman’s controversial ad campaigns, protested against the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman on Sunday, standing outside a conference where he was lecturing. Some of them even shouted their message in Russian. "Dear people, don’t follow the way of fascism," yelled one protester, holding up a sign reading ’racism’. Others at the rally censuredLieberman’s contentious idea of transfer, shouting slogans such as: "The transfer will not happen, we will live here together," "Fascism will not pass," and "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies. "The atmosphere became heated when a group of Lieberman supporters arrived on the scene, singing "no citizenship without loyalty.

Elections 2009 / Olmert: I hope Livni is elected prime minister
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday issued an endorsement for his centrist Kadima Party, following speculations regarding his vote in Israel’s upcoming general elections. The uncertainty over whom Olmert would be voting for began to dissipate early last week when he told fellow ministers during a government meeting: "This time I will be voting for the party headed by a woman. " Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel AdvertisementOlmert’s remarks were made after various political sources speculated that he would not vote for his own party due to the rift with his Kadima successor and prime ministerial candidate Tzipi Livni. Some political officials had stated that Olmert would rather vote for the right-wing Likud, or would even cast a blank ballot in light of his fractured relations with Kadima’s chairwoman.

Cabinet approves new prime minister’s residence
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/8/2009
The new building opposite the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem will cost NIS 650 million to build. The cabinet today approved NIS 650 million for the construction of a new residential building in Jerusalem for the prime minister. The building, which will be located opposite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will include residential quarters for the prime minister and his or her family, conference rooms and offices. Planning will be completed this year and construction will take several years. Construction of the new prime minister’s residence was approved by a large majority with only four ministers voting against the plan - Minister of Education, Yuli Tamir, Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On, Minister of Environmental Protection Gideon Ezra, and Minister of Negev and Galilee Affairs Yaakov Edri. In the proposal submitted to the cabinet. . .

Rivals target undecided Israelis
Al Jazeera 2/8/2009
Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel’s opposition Likud party, has pledged to stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, as election candidates aim to win support from a record number of undecided voters. Netanyahu remarks on Sunday came hours after two rockets were fired from the Palestinian coastal territory into Israel. "It starts by sporadic firings, then turns into a downpour and finishes by a storm," Netanyahu, a former prime minister, told Israeli army radio. "Under my government, there will no longer be downpours or storms and there will no longer be arms smuggling, especially rockets that can one day reach Tel Aviv. " About 20 per cent of Israelis remain undecided on who they will vote for, polling organisations say, and the leading candidates in the election are focusing their efforts on winning them over.

Elections 2009 / Lieberman predicts he’ll win 30 seats next time around
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Avigdor Lieberman on Saturday predicted that his far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party will garner 30 seats in the next general election after Tuesday’s. This would put the party on an equal footing with Likud and Kadima. Such forecasts by the controversial politician, whose campaign against Israeli Arabs has sparked outrage, have often proved correct in the past. Before the 2006 election, he predicted that Yisrael Beiteinu would have a double-digit outcome, and it did indeed gain 11 seats. Lieberman has also declared his ambition of gaining 15 seats in next week’s election, while surveys in fact predict Yisrael Beiteinu even more than that. He made the forecast at a campaign event in Be’er Sheva. At a meeting later in the day in Arad, Lieberman responded to what he labeled as mounting slander against his party.

VIDEO - ’The Jewish majority should be afraid’
Peter Beaumont, John Domokos and Orly Halpern, The Guardian 2/8/2009
The Israeli-Arab town of Umm al-Fahm is at the centre of a struggle between Israel’s far right and its Arab minority. Local politicians say the rise of anti-Arab sentiment is a threat to the whole country. [end]

Elections 2009 / Netanyahu: I’ll keep the Golan Israeli, Jerusalem undivided
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Prime Ministerial candidate Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said only a government led by his Likud party could ensure that the Golan Heights will remain in Israeli hands and that Jerusalem will not be divided. "Jerusalem will not be divided again and Gamla will not fall again. The Golan will stay in our hands only if the Likud is victorious. If Kadima wins, we will leave the Golan," Netanyahu said. Gamla was the historic capital of the Jewish Golan, sacked by the Romans in 68 CE. The Likud leader’s made the statements during a tree-planting ceremony in the Golan Heights, where he was joined by Likud heavyweights Moshe Ya’alon, Yossi Peled, Benny Begin and Effi Eitam. He added that, "Anyone who wants defensible borders will vote Likud. A large Likud will defend the tree we have planted. "He also vowed that his son Avner will sit beneath the trees planted Sunday with his grandchildren.

Elections 2009 / Voting already underway for IDF and Border Police
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
While most Israelis will go to the polls Tuesday to vote in the parliamentary elections, Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Border Police officers have already begun casting their ballots. The law allows IDF personnel to vote early, and some went to the polls beginning Saturday night. Around 700 stationary and mobile polling booths are expected to be set up for IDF and Border Police personnel, including IDF officers who are abroad, soldiers serving on Israel Navy ships and some Israel Air Force officers. The mobile polling booths will move between different units in the field. IDF soldiers stationed at posts near Mt. Hermon in the north will vote on Monday in order to avoid stormy weather conditions expected in the area on Tuesday. The soldiers’ votes will be tallied by the Central Elections Committee. During the elections for the 17th Knesset, out of the 63. 2 percent of soldiers who voted, 62 percent of them cast their ballots at army polling booths.

Despite ’Compass,’ many unlikely to vote
Amir Mizroch, Jerusalem Post 2/8/2009
On Tuesday, Israelis will go to their fifth general elections within a decade, and it seems the more Israelis go to elections, the less they’re interested in them. In the first elections in 1949, 86. 9 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. In 2001, that number dropped to 62%. Added to those who won’t vote, there are still hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have yet to decide whom they’ll vote for come February 10, and given the vast array of parties (34) advocating everything from divorced fathers’ rights to marijuana legalization - as well as the lack of a single debate featuring the leading candidates - the choice may be far from easy. The confusion about party platforms and general feeling of disgust with the level of political discourse may keep many of these floating voters at home. Pollsters have warned that Tuesday’s elections will see a low voter turnout.

PMO: Netanyahu approved plan for ’Israeli White House’ in 1996
Barak Ravid and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday accused Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu of having approved the plan to build an Israeli White House in 1996, despite his current opposition to the proposal. "Most of the plans were approved in 1996 when Netanyahu was prime minister," said the PMO official. "He was well aware of all the plans and the costs and was even involved in selecting the architect Ram Karmi. " The official added that Netanyahu’s opposition to the proposal is a purely political move. Netanyahu responded on Sunday by saying he is aware of the project, but never approved or decided on the NIS 650 million price tag, especially not during a time of financial crisis. In one of its last acts in office, the cabinet approved on Sunday a plan to build an Israeli White House.

Four main Israeli parties’ positions on peace
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/9/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM:The next Israeli government is expected to face increased pressure from new US President Barack Obama to push along stalled Middle East peace talks. Below are the positions of the four main Israeli parties on talks with the Palestinians, according to their Hebrew-language platforms. Likud (right-wing) l "The Palestinians are not ready for an ideological compromise of historical dimensions to end the conflict. " l Israel will focus its efforts on assisting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Premier Salam Fayyad to improve the Occupied West Bank economy. l The economic plan "will not end the conflict in itself, but will create a positive atmosphere that will significantly improve the chances of a peace process. " l No return of Palestinian refugees to Israel as mandated by international law.

Netanyahu vows to continue occupation of Golan Heights
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/9/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday vowed never to return the Occupied Golan Heights to Syria as top candidates battled it out for a record number of undecided voters ahead of the general election on Tuesday. Speaking at a campaign stop in the occupied Syrian territory, from which the UN has demanded Israel withdraw, Netanyahu pledged to keep hold of the strategic plateau. "The Golan will never again be divided, the Golan will never fall again, the Golan will remain in our hands," he said. The government of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had engaged in indirect talks mediated by Turkey over the return of the territory as part of a peace deal with Damascus. Netanyahu on Sunday also pledged to stop rocket fire from Gaza if elected. "It starts by sporadic firings, then turns into a downpour and finishes by a storm," Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing opposition Likud party, told army radio.

In last cabinet meeting as PM, Olmert calls on Israelis to head to the polls
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday used his last Cabinet meeting before he leaves office to call on Israelis to head to the polls on Election Day Tuesday. "Knowing all of the fateful issues that will be on the agenda in both the near and distant futures, I call upon all citizens who have the desire and will to wield their influence, to realize their democratic right and obligation and go vote," Olmert said, in a statement released by his office. Calling voting "the essence of democracy", Olmert said in Israel "everything starts with voting. It is important that there be a high turnout so that the government that will be elected knows that it has the full legitimacy, from a decisive majority of the residents of the state, to decide on the most important issues affecting our future.

U.S. Writers Guild names Israeli war film ’Waltz with Bashir’ best documentary
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Israeli animated war film "Waltz with Bashir" was given the award for best documentary by the Writers Guild of America Saturday, to add to the collection of awards the critically-acclaimed film has received. "Waltz with Bashir" deals with filmmaker Ari Folman’s search to piece together his memories as a combat soldier during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and in particular, where he was during the massacre at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp in Beirut. The film uses a striking combination of frame-by-frame and computer generated animation to create a powerful and at times surreal portrayal of war and the way memory plays tricks on the mind. It won best foreign film at the 66th Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood in January and was named the best film of the year by the National Society of Film Critics.

Report: More than 300,000 children ’at risk’ in Israel
Haaretz Srevice, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
A Welfare Ministry report released on Sunday reveals that in 2008 some 309,141 children were living in homes that place thjem at risk. The report finds some 2000 children were hospitalized due to domestic abuse during 2008. The report also indicates a continuing decline in the number of youths serving in the army. In 2007, 76 percent of male teens and 59 percent of female teens were drafted to the IDF, while in 1992 the figures stood at 83 percent and 67 percent accordingly. Meanwhile the number of youths’ suicide attempts has increased according to the report. In 2007 nearly 700 teens, 73 percent of them females, were hospitalized after attempting to commit suicide. In seven of these cases the youths were under the age of nine.

Residents of ’cursed’ building seek rabbis’ advice
Uri Gilhar, YNetNews 2/8/2009
After three of their neighbors die of cancer within one year, panicked residents of apartment building in haredi Ramot neighborhood approach prominent religious leaders, who suggest gossip may have brought about evil eye - One apartment building in Jerusalem was struck by disaster three times in the last year, when three of its inhabitants - fathers to multiple-child families, died of cancer. Fearing that their building might be cursed, the distraught residents turned to several leading rabbis for counsel, and were advised to begin holding "Shmirat HaLashon" lessons aimed at preventing people from spreading gossip, and thus protecting them from the evil eye. In light of the chain of catastrophes, the concerned residents approached prominent haredi rabbi Aharon Shteinman and raised the possibility of moving out of the "cursed" building.

Property tax receipts fall sharply
Ariel Rosenberg, Globes Online 2/8/2009
Tax Authority: Property tax revenues on real estate deals totaled NIS 322 million in January 2009. The global crisis is also affecting new and second-hand deals for residential and income-producing properties in Israel. Israel Tax Authority figures for January 2009 belie realtors’ reports of new deals by homebuyers after several months of fence-sitting. The Tax Authority reports that property tax revenues on real estate transactions totaled NIS 322 million in January 2009, 49% less than in January 2008. The Tax Authority notes that two deals alone accounted for 30% of property tax revenues in January 2008. [end]

UBS slashes 2009 growth forecast for Israel
Yael Gruntman, Globes Online 2/8/2009
Although Israel is viewed as one of the stronger economies in the EMEA region, a falling global economy will cut into exports. Investment bank UBS analysts have revised downward their growth forecasts for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) countries, and have lowered their growth forecast for Israel’s economy to below that of the Bank of Israel UBS analyst Reinhard Cluse has slashed the 2009 growth forecast for Israel to negative 0. 8%, from its previous estimate of 1%. He attributes the downgrade to slower global growth, which will impact Israeli exports and consumer confidence. Cluse maintains his 2010 forecast of 2. 7% growth. The Bank of Israel recently forecast -0. 2% economic growth for Israel in 2009. UBS now expects regional growth of -0. 2% for 2009, down from a previous estimate of 1.

Elbit unit Elisra wins South Korean contract
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/8/2009
The electronic warfare systems firm will provide systems for Korea’s FA-50 jets. Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP. B1) joint subsidiary Elisra Grouphas won a $7 million contract to supply airborne electronic warfare systems to Korean Aerospace Industries Co. Ltd. (KAI) for use Korean Air Force FA50 light attack jets. Elisra will develop and produce prototype electronic warfare systems, which will be delivered to KAI over the next two years. KAI’s business plan calls for delivery of systems for 60 jets over the next few years, and dozens more systems in a follow-on phase with a potential for export. KAI has a Korean government contract to develop and build a domestic trainer and light attack jet by 2012.

Iran’s Khatami announces presidential plan
Reuters, YNetNews 2/8/2009
Tehran’s former ruler announces third presidency bid in nearing June elections - Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who oversaw a thaw in ties with the West when in office from 1997 to 2005, announced on Sunday he will run for the presidency again in the June election, political allies said. The race will pit him against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who often rails against Western powers. Since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, ties with the West have deteriorated as tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions have mounted. Mehdi Karubi, head of Iran’s Etemad Melli (National Trust) Party, who also announced he would be seeking the presidency, is expected to withdraw from the race following Khatami’s bid. The West accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies, insisting its aim is to make electricity.

Iraq’s Parliament fails to elect new House speaker
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/9/2009
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Parliament remained deadlocked on the election of a new speaker on Sunday, just two days after US Vice President Joe Biden said Iraq needed to push ahead with political reform. The failure is a blow to the fledgling democracy, which without a speaker cannot debate or approve a new budget and oil laws deemed crucial to the reconstruction of the country. There are five candidates vying for the post, but rival Sunni politicians cannot agree on who should get the job. "A group of parties left the hall today and there were not enough MPs to choose a new speaker," said Jamal al-Butikh, chief of the National Iraqi List, the parliamentary group headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Outspoken Mahmoud Mashhadani quit as speaker on December 23, triggering political wrangling over a replacement. He resigned after Kurdish and Shiite MPs clamored for him to go because. . .

Journalist who shoed Bush to go on trial February 19
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/9/2009
BAGHDAD: The Iraqi journalist who famously threw his shoes at former US President George W. Bush is to go on trial on February 19 accused of assaulting a foreign leader, a judicial official said Sunday. Muntazer al-Zaidi won global attention when he threw his shoes at Bush during the president’s farewell visit to Iraq on December 14. "The trial will start on February 19 in the central criminal court," judicial spokesman Abdel-Sattar Beyraqdar said. "He is accused of assaulting a foreign president. " Zaidi, 30, also insulted Bush, shouting: "It is the farewell kiss, you dog," in an action that was hailed across the Arab world as an ideal parting gift to an unpopular US president, whose armed forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 based on intelligence later proven to be wrong. The journalist, who works for Al-Baghdadia television channel, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of. . .


Israeli women expose companies complicit in occupation
Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada 2/8/2009
      Two years ago the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace set up its project entitled, Who Profits from the Israeli occupation? The coalition has a track record of successfully mobilizing the Israeli public in protests against the occupation, for women’s rights and social-economic justice. For instance, on the day Israel’s onslaught in Gaza began, hundreds of protesters were demonstrating that evening in the streets of Tel Aviv. In January, the Coalition officially launched its on-line database, , listing companies directly involved in the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights. Dalit Baum, coordinator of the project, explains to The Electronic Intifada contributor Adri Nieuwhof how the project came about.
     The Electronic Intifada: Can you please introduce yourself to readers?
     Dalit Baum: Let me first of all emphasize that this database is not just the initiative of a small group of lefties, but of a broad coalition. The Coalition of Women for Peace was founded in the early days of the second [Palestinian] intifada, and represents thousands of women organized in nine organizations, including Machsom Watch, Women in Black, Bat Shalom and New Profile. I am one of the co-founders of the coalition. You can find more info about us on our website. The "Whoprofits" project is carried out by a group of activists in our coalition. It is mainly run by volunteers. -- See also: Who Profits from the Israeli occupation? and Coalition of Women for Peace

The resistance option

Robin Yassin-Kassab, Electronic Intifada 2/8/2009
      Hamas isn’t Hizballah and Gaza isn’t Lebanon. The resistance in Gaza -- which includes leftist and nationalist as well as Islamist forces -- doesn’t have mountains to fight in. It has no strategic depth. It doesn’t have Syria behind it to keep supply lines open; instead it has Israel’s wall and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s goons. Lebanese civilians can flee north and east, while Gaza’s repeat-refugees have no escape. The Lebanese have their farms, and supplies from outside; Gaza has been under total siege for years. Hizballah has remarkable discipline and is surely the best-trained, most disciplined force in the region. Although it has made great strides, Hamas is still undisciplined. Crucially, Hizballah has air-tight intelligence control in Lebanon, while Gaza contains collaborators like maggots in a corpse.
     But Hamas is still standing. On the rare occasions when Israel actually fought -- rather than just called in air strikes -- its soldiers reported "ferocious" resistance. Hamas withstood 22 days of the most barbaric bombing Zionism has yet stooped to, and did not surrender. Rocket fire continued from Gaza after Israel declared its unilateral ceasefire.

Interview with Franklin Lamb: Self Defense or War Crime? (Part I)

Lawyers Without Borders, Palestine Chronicle 2/7/2009
      Part I: What Law Applies?
     Interviewer’s Note: On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a devastating 22 day and night bombardment of the Gaza strip. The assault left, amidst an estimated 600,000 tons of concrete rubble, some 1,740 dead (this figure includes more than 350 ’forgotten’ stillbirths and trauma-caused abortions in Gaza during the 22 days of terror), a figure that increases as the severely injured continue to die. A majority of the victims were civilians, including nearly 900 (again including the stillborn) children, approximately 5,500 severely wounded, and more than one third of the 1.5 million population was displaced while more than 14,000 homes were completely destroyed. Approximately 92,000 Palestinians are still homeless with more than 16,000 living as many as 20 to a small tent without latrines, as supplies remain blocked at the borders.
     Single-limb fractures and the walking wounded are not included in the above figures, according to renowned British surgeon Dr. Swee Ang, currently conducting an on-the-ground medical investigation in Gaza. Dr. Swee and her medical colleagues estimate that of the severely injured, 1,600 will suffer permanent disabilities. These include amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, and large burns with crippling contractures. -- See also: Interview with Franklin Lamb: Self Defense or War Crime? (Part II)

Interview with Franklin Lamb: Self Defense or War Crime? (Part II)

Lawyers Without Borders, Palestine Chronicle 2/7/2009
      Part II: Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law: What Remedy?
     Interviewer’s Note: On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a devastating 22 day and night bombardment of the Gaza strip. The assault left, amidst an estimated 600,000 tons of concrete rubble, some 1,740 dead (this figure includes more than 350 ’forgotten’ stillbirths and trauma-caused abortions in Gaza during the 22 days of terror), a figure that increases as the severely injured continue to die. A majority of the victims were civilians, including nearly 900 (again including the stillborn) children, approximately 5,500 severely wounded, and more than one third of the 1.5 million population was displaced while more than 14,000 homes were completely destroyed. Approximately 92,000 Palestinians are still homeless with more than 16,000 living as many as 20 to a small tent without latrines, as supplies remain blocked at the borders.
     International Lawyers without Borders and Hokok, the International Coalition against Impunity, asked American international lawyer and researcher, Dr. Franklin Lamb, of the Sabra-Shatila Foundation, currently based in Beirut, to comment on Israeli claims. In the following interview Lamb offers his brief analysis of the conduct of Israel and Hamas, against a backdrop of continuing on-the-ground investigations in Gaza. Dr. Lamb was interviewed at UNESCO Palace in Beirut. A transcript follows. -- See also: Interview with Franklin Lamb: Self Defense or War Crime? (Part I)

When Rice sank, my turtle swam

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 2/7/2009
      The world is a better place today, because Condoleezza Rice has retired from American public service, and my water turtle Jerry has found a new home with friends in Beirut. My water turtle Jerry has always been the best barometer I know of American diplomacy in the Middle East. For the entire five years of his life to date, his antics in and out of his water tank home on our balcony overlooking the Mediterranean have always echoed larger worlds. He had the misfortune five years ago to be born into the era of Condoleezza Rice. He tried his best - within the limits of a water turtle’s world - to help the lady deal with the many challenges she faced.
     Water turtles do not have many ways to easily communicate with humans, but Jerry and I understood the code he developed. When the US was wreaking havoc in Iraq, Jerry would sulk for days on end, neither eating nor swimming. He would burrow under the mound of colored stones I bought him and remain there, signaling that events in progress were not to his liking, and that a change in direction was needed.

World needs credible body to pursue Israeli war criminals

Khalid Amayreh, Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
      On 27th December, Israel carried out a genocidal blitzkrieg against the estimated 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, using state-of-the-art of the American technology of death.
     These deadly weapons used against the imprisoned Gaza inhabitants include , inter alia, F-16 war planes, equipped with all sorts of lethal missiles including bunker buster bombs,  apache helicopters, white Phosphorous shells, flechette dart shells, as well as the  Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME), a deadly weapon recently developed by the United States army to create a powerful and lethal blast over a small area.
     DIME is believed to still be in the experimental stage. However, it is widely believed that Israel had received a green light from the Pentagon to use Gaza as a testing ground.
     In addition, Israel used all other conventional weapons, including tank and artillery shells against densely populated neighborhoods.

Change the Israel Lobby

Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Online 2/7/2009
      One cannot emphasize enough the stranglehold Israel’s lobbying infrastructure has on US foreign policy. The events of recent weeks undoubtedly attest to this. “The special relationship” that has been historically fostered between the US and Israel in fact, is often a relationship of leverage, manipulation and intimidation, and often leads to the US supporting actions or resolutions that stand at complete odds with the interests of the American people.
     The promise of change echoed the world over as people from all corners anticipated the magic moment Obama could actually change the devastating reality in which we live today. But just weeks before his inauguration, Israel unleashed the most barbaric attacks on defenseless Palestinian civilians since 1948. Civil societies expressed outrage and called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes and genocide.

Obama’s Mideast ways are pretty similar to Bush’s

Yossi Alpher, Daily Star 2/9/2009
      It is too early to evaluate the direction the Mitchell mission is taking. Mitchell’s preliminary visit, immediately after the war in Gaza and just days before Israel’s elections, can only be defined as an orientation tour. Hence, at this early date we can address the Mitchell mission only in terms of the direction George Mitchell appears to be headed.
     Based on this first foray into the region, Mitchell’s mission can already be characterized as one enveloped in a paradox: He is not addressing all those Middle East actors who will have to be addressed if progress is to be achieved and if the principles laid out by President Barack Obama for dealing with the Middle East are to be honored.
     Here we must recall the backdrop to Mitchell’s appointment and examine the course of this first visit. Back in 2001, it was Mitchell who coined a certain equation linking cessation of both Palestinian violence and Israeli settlement expansion. In the ensuing years, US President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon managed to address that equation in rather unique terms: they agreed to the total rejection of Palestinian violence, a wink and a nod at settlement expansion, but also the removal of all the Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip.

The children of Shatila: no future and no past

Curtis Bell writing from the United States, Electronic Intifada 2/8/2009
      My wife Linda and I went back to Beirut, Lebanon recently to visit the American Community School that I graduated from in the 1950s. One of the counselors at the school, an American named David Bakis, has started a project to bring some cheer into the lives of children in the Palestinian refugee camps near Beirut. No easy task.
     Every Sunday afternoon David takes 20 or so children from one of the Palestinian refugee camps on an outing, traveling by school bus. We accompanied David to Shatila refugee camp one Sunday. Shatila is the camp where a right-wing Christian militia massacred Palestinian men, women, and children in 1982, during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the midst of the country’s ongoing civil war. Estimates of the number killed in Shatila and the neighboring Sabra camp vary widely between 500 and 3,000. The Israeli army occupied Beirut at the time and had the camps surrounded. They allowed the militia into the camps and did not stop the massacre when they knew it was going on.
     The eight- to 10-year-olds of Shatila were waiting for us when we arrived. They were full of smiles, laughter and anticipation as they greeted David. They were very excited about the movie they were going to see that afternoon in downtown Beirut. The bright, smiling faces of the children were in contrast to the generally somber faces of the adults walking by. The children’s happy faces were also in contrast to the squalid conditions of the camp....

A Zoo in Rafah – Poems

The Palestine Chronicle is pleased to feature three new poems, Palestine Chronicle 2/8/2009
      At Fakhani, The Shoe: Lebanon, After the Bombing
     It is a
     Shoe a
     Single baby’s
     I pull it from the
     Wreckage in Fakhani, a refugee
     Separated from its
     Foot, it is April
     And it is darkening in the covering
     Black Lebanese earth, the soft earth
     Has cracked its white surface, marked with
     Streaks of blood
     And who wore this shoe, what
     Little girl, or was it a
     Boy, what did the
     Father say when he
     Smiled, did he laugh
     Back, or was she a shy girl who had
     Already learned to be a
     Coquette – or was she
     Chubby and withdrawn among
     People, if he was a boy
     Was he already strong, his
     Dark hair flying as he
     Wrestled his father’s
     Arm – and what
     Did her mother say to her....

I Rage - A Poem

The Palestine Chronicle is pleased to feature a new poem, Palestine Chronicle 2/8/2009
     I Rage
     I rage
     I rage
     I rage
     I rage against
     The gods who let the world spin out of control
     I rage against the system that deceives us
     I rage against the machinery that destroys
     Fed by silent people
     And trickery
     I rage because we should rage
     And not be subdued
     Or pacified
     Or patronized
     I rage against the system that watches with glee
     As we tear ourselves to pieces
     Become monsters that howl at the moon....

Israeli Etchings - A Poem

Vi Ransel, Palestine Chronicle 2/7/2009
      Two grim images from Gaza
     acid-etched themselves
     into my consciousness,
     a little girls’ head
     and a baby’s body.
     It was odd to see
     her tousled hair, her smudged small cheeks
     on a pile of rubble as if asleep
     at an IDF soldier’s feet
     severed from the rest of her
     perhaps by the pressure waves
     of limb-slicing, US-supplied
     dense inert metal explosives,
     or DIMES....