InI Logo
InI Needs Your Support!
Subscribe to InI’s Mailing List/Newsletter

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
9 February, 2009

Demolition in Jahalin community leaves 30 homeless
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/9/2009
Occupation forces destroyed tents belonging to five ‘Arab Jahalin families, leaving 30 people, 15 of them children, homeless. These families are part of a community that has been threatened with expulsion for some time, as their land is targeted for the expansion of the nearby Ma’ale Adummim settlement. The demolition began at three in the afternoon on 3 February, when a large contingent of soldiers, 200 according to one witness, and military equipment arrived at the community. They declared the area a closed military zone, detained the families that were in the tents, and demolished the structures as well as their contents. The tents belonged to Kayid Salem and his four married sons and were used to house their respective families. The operation finished in the evening, with the military withdrawing and leaving the families without shelter for the night.

Three reported dead in Gaza, one of earlier wounds and two during a morning attack
Ghassan Bannoura and Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/9/2009
Two Palestinian men were reported dead on Monday morning, one due to earlier wounds sustained during Israel’s operation "Cast Lead", and the other during a morning attack by the Israeli Air Force, doctors reported. Khaled Al Kafarnah, age 22, was killed on Monday morning by missile shrapnel that hit him in the head, after an Israeli drone fired a missile at him in the northern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. The Al Qudes Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, said that Al Kafarnah and another fighter clashed with Israeli forces that invaded the area. During the armed clashes, an unmanned Israeli drone fired missiles at them, killing them. The Al Quds Brigades has yet to release the name of the other fighter. Local sources in Gaza reported that Israeli unmanned drones fired several missiles at a group of people in Khan Younis, and the other attack targeted a police station in the nearby Beit Lahyia town.

UNRWA resumes Gaza aid shipments after Hamas returns goods
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees said on Monday that it would reverse a ban on aid deliveries to Gaza after Hamas authorities returned confiscated goods. UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said in a statement that Hamas had return all the supplies, including blankets and food packages that were seized on 3 and 5 February. The relief agency is however facing another obstacle: Israeli restrictions on the import of humanitarian goods into Gaza. Gunness said, “the Agency’s food distribution operation to 900,000 refugees continues to be jeopardized by the decision of the Israeli government to refuse entry of the three truck loads of nylon pellets for making the plastic bags in which the food is distributed. The only available bags are those on the local market. ”Gunness added that UNRWAhas also been denied approval to bring into Gaza 12. . .

PCHR Calls upon the Government in Ramallah to Investigate Death of a Detainee in Jenin Preventive Security Service Headquarters
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/9/2009
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) calls for an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the death of Mohammed ’Abdul Jameel al-Hajj, 30, from Jalqamous village, east of Jenin, while he was in the custody of the Preventive Security Service (PSS) in Jenin. PCHR also demands the results of the investigation be made public, and that if the results conclude a crime was committed, or that there was a failure by the PSS to protect Mohammed al-Hajj whilst he was in their custody, those responsible be prosecuted according to the law. . According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 18:00 on Sunday, 8 February, a Palestinian security source announced that Mohammed ’Abdul Jameel al-Hajj, had died whilst in PSS custody in Jenin. The source claimed al-Hajj had committed suicide and that the PSS had transferred his body to a medical center to ascertain the cause of death.

Support and Prayer for the Safe Release of Philip Rizk
Facebook Support and Prayer for the Safe Release of Philip Rizk 2/9/2009
LATEST UPDATE FROM JEANNETTE and CHRISTINA RIZK - This afternoon it was discovered that the secret police were at Jeannette Rizk’s residence in the past 24 hours. By process of elimination, we have deduced it was most likely while the family home was being searched in the early morning hours. Hard drives, cameras, iPod, as well as several boxes of paper, including both intellectual and material property are missing from the apartment. No money was taken. The intruders used Philip’s key to get into the apartment, and left it behind on a desk. At this point it is unclear what they were looking for. Although no “incriminating” evidence of any sort could possibly be found –as none exists– the impunity with which personal property was taken is deeply disturbing. - Monday Feb. 9th 5:40 am - At 1:30am when we had just gone to bed the doorbell rang. 5 plain clothed men and two in full riot gear and machine guns...

Official: Israeli companies refusing to ship gas to Gaza due to smuggling dispute
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – No gasoline or diesel for use in motor vehicles has been shipped to the Gaza Strip since last Wednesday. According to a fuel official in Gaza, the causes of this are Israeli military action near the Gaza fuel terminal and a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Israeli fuel companies. The deputy chief of the federation of gas station owners, Mahmoud Al-Khizindar said that Israeli military operations near the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, and that this one reason no gas has reached Gaza. According to Al-Khizindar, two Israeli fuel companies, Paz and Dor Alon, are pressuring the Palestinian Authority to clamp down on fuel smuggling into the Gaza Strip, which they say is causing a 50% drop in fuel prices. Smugglers bring fuel into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt, making the price of a liter of gas in Gaza half the price in Israel.

Homeless Gazans struggle to find shelter
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/9/2009
GAZA CITY, 9 February 2009 (IRIN) - Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are still seeking shelter after their homes were badly damaged or destroyed during the 22-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January. Some 4,000 homes were destroyed and about 17,000 badly damaged, according to a recent UN Gaza flash appeal. Some 50,000 people took shelter in UNRWA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) facilities during the height of the conflict and tens of thousands have been staying in very cramped conditions with family and friends. About US$106 million of the US$613 million UN emergency appeal issued 2 February is for shelter and non-food items, like mattresses and blankets. No’oman (who declined to give his family name) told IRIN he, his two wives and 10 children were given five minutes to evacuate their home in Neusarat on 8 January.

Disappeared free Gaza activist, Teresa McDermott, found in Israel’s Ramleh Prison
Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 2/9/2009
Scottish activist Teresa McDermott was found in Ramleh prison, four days after the Israeli Government claimed she suposedly "disappeared", after being forcibly removed from a seaborne Lebanese aid mission to Gaza, a statement sentto IMEMC on Monday by the Free Gaza movement said. Teresa was one of only nine passengers aboard the cargo ship on February 4, 2009 when Israeli gunboats intercepted it, boarded, and forced the ship to Ashdod port in Israel. All the passengers and crew aboard were released on Thursday, February 5, except Teresa. Between Thursday evening and Sunday morning there was no word in regards to Teresa’s whereabouts, except for several false stories stating that "Britons" had departed to London. Finally, on Sunday, Teresa was able to call her brother John in Scotland to say she was in Ramleh prison in Israel.

40 dumums bulldozed in Masha village
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/9/2009
February9th, 2009 Occupation forces bulldozed 40 dunums of land isolated behind the Wall in Masha. 100 olives trees were also cut down, in what appears to be the beginnings of settlement infrastructure development in the area. In mid-January, bulldozers arrived at Masha, west of Salfit, and leveled a wide swath of land between the settlements Elqana and Ez Efrayim. According to the village council, the land is likely being cleared so as to better connect the two settlements with one another. The targeted land is owned by ten families. Since the Wall went up, Occupation forces have barred residents from accessing the isolated areas, save for a brief period of two weeks during the olive harvest season. The settlers have capitalized on this situation, extending their control and expanding settlements. Masha has lost more than half of its land, 4,500 of 8,300 dunums, to settlements and the Wall.

Bethlehem: Israeli settlers attack farmers’ lands and install portable homes
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/9/2009
Scores of Israeli settlers attacked farm lands that belong to Palestinian farmers from the village of al-Khadir, located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, on Monday. The farmers said that the armed Israeli settlers arrived and installed two portable homes on the farmers’ lands. they added that this is not the first attack the settlers have carried out in an attempt to annex village lands that are located near the illegal settlement of Efrat, which is built on stolen land from Palestinians. [end]

Anti-Hamas Policies Stymie Gaza Recovery
Ali Gharib, Inter Press Service 2/9/2009
WASHINGTON, Feb 9(IPS) - Despite a desperate need to rebuild the Gaza Strip, viewed by many as a key ingredient to reuniting the Palestinian territories and building a two-state peace deal with Israel, it appears that the U. S. and the international community are poised to continue old, politically-charged policies that will impede progress. Even before Israel’s three-week war on the Gaza Strip, some 80 percent of the besieged territory’s 1. 5 million Palestinian residents reportedly depended on aid to meet their basic needs. After the massive air, land and sea assaults of late December and January, those status quo demands have been exacerbated by the urgency of more humanitarian aid coupled with a need to rebuild the devastated Strip. But it is not clear how much help - especially help from the U. S. - will be able to make its way into the tightly sealed, 360-square-kilometre. . .

Prisoners’ conditions spur complaint by Jerusalem public defender
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Prisoners sit with their legs chained together for hours in a cell in the back of an Israel Prisons Service van, while they await hearings in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. The cell is only 1. 5 meter by 1. 5 meter in size. The prisoners are kept in the van because there is not enough room in the holding cells at the court, according to a complaint submitted on Sunday by attorney Moshe Hacohen, chief public defender for the Jerusalem district. Hacohen’s complaint was filed with Prisoner Commissioner Benny Kaniak and Judge Amnon Cohen, president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Hacohen demanded the two intervene immediately, due to the "disgraceful and inhuman conditions" of the prisoners. Last Wednesday, after one prisoner complained, Hacohen and his staff went to the back entrance of the Jerusalem court and confronted a depressing. . .

PRC: No progress on prisoner swap
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – There has been no progress in a proposed Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange as reported in Israeli and other media, the spokesperson of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza, Abu Mujahid said on Monday. Abu Mujahid told reporters, “The only way to complete a deal is through enemy’s approval to release all 1,400 Palestinian prisoners included in the list given to the Egyptian mediators. ”There has been a series of reports in the last three days that Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza, led by Hamas, were close to striking a deal involving the release of hundreds of Palestinians in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held in Gaza. Abu Mujahid added: “There have been recently indications of a break in Israeli stubbornness after the victory Palestinian resistance achieved last month in the Gaza Strip.

Marwan Al Barghouti may be released, but Sa’adat blacklisted
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/9/2009
Bethlehem - Out of 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners are four that the Israelis refuse to release. As part of the Gaza negotiations, Egyptian mediators discussed the names Ahmed Sa’adat, Abbas Said, Ibrahim Hamid, Abdullah Barghouti and Marwan Al Barghouti in the exchange. Fateh leader Marwan Al Barghouti is reportedly among the strong possibilities to be released in an exchange for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The names and eventual reality often changes, but as of now the Israelis say they will not release Sa’adat, Said, A. Barghouti and Hamid. Ahmed Sa’adat is the Secretary General of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was among those given up during the Israeli siege on President Arafat’s Muqata in 2002. It was not until several years later that he was in direct Israeli custody.

Shalit deal ’possible within weeks’
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Three members of the cabinet yesterday made optimistic statements about a possible release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit before the end of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s term. Israel apparently intends to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in return for Shalit, among them prisoners who have committed serious offenses, including most of the people Hamas has demanded to be freed. Defense sources said yesterday they believed a deal could be clinched within a few weeks. Some movement has been evident in the position of Hamas, which until recently had refused any linkage between a cease-fire, the opening of the border crossings and Shalit’s release. However, any deal still needs the approval of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus, who has so far opposed it. A delegation of Hamas leaders headed by Mahmoud Zahar left Cairo yesterday. . .

Mubarak: Longer Gaza ceasefire maybe next week
Middle East Online 2/9/2009
PARIS - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Monday that a longer-term ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip could come into effect as early as next week. Mubarak was speaking in Paris after briefing his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on Cairo’s efforts to mediate a truce in the Gaza conflict through indirect talks, following last month’s 22-day Israeli offensive. "Perhaps next week," the Egyptian leader told reporters when asked about the chances of a more permanent ceasefire. "We discussed the date when the situation could become calmer, maybe from next week. " A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Paris and Cairo were pushing for a more formal ceasefire for "a year, 18 months if possible. " Hamas and Israel, which refuse to negotiate directly with each other, announced unilateral ceasefires on January 18 after. . .

Abbas: PA will cooperate with any Israeli government
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Bethlehem– Ma’an/Agencies – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that he is prepared to cooperate with any new Israeli government that emerges from Tuesday’s election. But he called on Israel to stop building new settlements in the occupied territories. "I don’t know who will win the elections, but we will cooperate with any new Israeli government emerging from the elections on the basis of the bilateral accords and the international resolutions which have been adopted up to this point," Abbas said at a joint press conference with Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski in Warsaw, according to AFP. "We also expect that the new Israeli government will stop installing new settlements. If the new government does not do this, I don’t know what will become of the peace process," Abbas said. "I call on Israel to meet its obligations, otherwise the entire world will. . .

Hamas prisoners declare hunger strike over man who died in PA jail
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Jenin - Ma’an – Hamas-affiliated Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails declared a hunger strike on Monday in protest of the death of Abd Al-Jamil Al-Haj, a Hamas member who died while in Palestinian Authority custody in Jenin on Sunday. The detainees, in a statement issued from an Israeli prison, said that Al-Haj’s death “is a disgrace on the forehead of the PA and all those who kept silent over such crimes. ”The PA declared Al-Haj’s death a suicide, but his family says that he was tortured, and that he was arrested on political grounds. The detainees are calling for the PA to shut down its prisons, noting "dozens" of cases of torture against Hamas members in PA jails. The Hamas-run de facto government in Gaza has also been accused of human rights abuses, including torture.

Palestinian FM: Hamas attacks tied to elections
AP and Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/9/2009
Riad Malki suggests rockets continue to be launched from Gaza Strip as ’a way to interfere’ in Israeli vote, says Palestinian group ’wants instability in the region’. He also stresses PA willing to negotiate with new Israeli leadership - The Palestinian foreign minister accused Hamas on Monday of trying to influence the outcome of this week’s Israeli election, pointing to the continued Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. Riad Malki said "Hamas wants instability in the region" and suggested rockets have continued to be launched from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as "a way to interfere" in the Israeli vote. Israel carried out a bruising three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip last month in an attempt to halt years of rocket fire on southern Israeli communities. Israel and Hamas announced an informal truce on January 18, but two rockets struck southern Israel on Sunday.

UK Vickers call on Church of England to divest from occupation-supporting companies
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Twenty-two members of the Church of England have written to the Guardian Newspaper calling on the General Synod to implement their resolution from 2006 and divest from companies profiting from the illegally occupied territories of Palestine. The letter-signers will arrive at the Synod in London, which will begin on 9 February and continue to the thirteenth. Part of the letter read:“Like many citizens in this country we have watched in horror at the events in Gaza over the last few weeks …We believe that given the events in Gaza as well as the continued illegal occupation of whole swathes of Palestinian land and the illegal land grabs by settlers, supported by the Israeli Government, that the Church of England must make good on its policy of disinvestment and withdraw its investments from those who profit form the misery of millions of Palestinians immediately.

In Photos: Global mobilization in solidarity with Gaza, Part II
Stop The Wall 2/8/2009
The Occupation’s barbaric assault on Gaza served to galvanize the people of the world, bringing millions of people together to denounce the atrocities being committed. From north to south, east to west, people joined forces not only to demand an end to the attacks, but also to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and to call upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its crimes. The international solidarity was extremely important for the people of Gaza, and it is now vital that the mobilization continues to place pressure on Israel, forcing it to end its regime of apartheid in Palestine. -- See also: Part I

In Photos: Global mobilization in solidarity with Gaza, Part I
Stop The Wall 2/8/2009
The Occupation’s barbaric assault on Gaza served to galvanize the people of the world, bringing millions of people together to denounce the atrocities being committed. From north to south, east to west, people joined forces not only to demand an end to the attacks, but also to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and to call upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its crimes. The international solidarity was extremely important for the people of Gaza, and it is now vital that the mobilization continues to place pressure on Israel, forcing it to end its regime of apartheid in Palestine. -- See also: Part II

Report: UK diplomat cursed Israel, Jews
Hagit Klaiman, YNetNews 2/9/2009
Rowan Laxton, of British Foreign Office, allegedly shouts anti-Israeli expletives while working out -British authorities have detained a Foreign Office diplomat who allegedly uttered anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli profanities last month in anger over the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip. The UK’s Daily Mail reported Monday that Rowan Laxton, a Middle East expert and head of the South Asia Group, was performing a routine workout on an exercise bike at his gym on January 27 when a report about the fighting in Gaza appeared on television. Other gym users reported that Laxton then shouted, "Fucking Israelis, fucking Jews", and said that all Israeli soldiers "should be wiped off the map. "The Daily Mail reported that the tirade continued even after other gym users approached him. According to the report, a number of stunned employees reported Laxton to the police.

Italian delegation visits Khan Younis, shocked by the destruction in the city
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Members of an Italian charity have visited the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis Monday, bringing with them two trucks of medicine, and 500 food parcels for affected Palestinians in northern and southern Gaza Strip, sources in the Islamic society in the city revealed. Representatives from the society welcomed and accompanied the Italian delegation as they walked in shock amidst the huge destruction left by the cruel Israeli war on Gaza before they distributed money sums to wounded Palestinians, and school bags to school children, the sources pointed out. The Italian charity members met with a number of ministers in the PA government in Gaza before they paid a visit to Palestinian orphans sponsored by the charity. According to the Palestinian sources, the Italians promised to sponsor more Palestinian orphans with the aim to alleviate the burden on their. . .

UN: Hamas returns aid seized in Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
The United Nations said on Monday that Hamas has returned all of the aid supplies that it seized from the agency in the Gaza Strip last week. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the return of the supplies cleared the way for it to resume all of its operations in the Hamas-ruled enclave. UNRWA had suspended imports of goods Friday after accusing Hamas of twice seizing aid supplies. "The Hamas authorities in Gaza have returned to the UNRWA warehouses in Gaza City and Rafah all of the aid supplies," said UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness. UNRWA had accused Hamas of taking blankets, food and other goods from a warehouse and 10 aid trucks. Hamas denied it confiscated any supplies from UN premises.

Hamas returns UNRWA’s supplies
Reuters, YNetNews 2/9/2009
UN agency resumes aid effort after Hamas returns blankets, 10 truckloads of food stolen Friday -The United Nations said on Monday that Hamas has returned all of the aid supplies that it seized from the agency in the Gaza Strip last week. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the return of the supplies cleared the way for it to resume all of its operations in the Strip. UNRWA had suspended imports of goods on Friday after accusing Hamas of twice seizing aid supplies. "The Hamas authorities in Gaza have returned to the UNRWA warehouses in Gaza City and Rafah all of the aid supplies," said UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness. UNRWA had accused Hamas of taking blankets, food and other goods from a warehouse and 10 aid trucks. Hamas denied it confiscated any supplies from UN premises.

IN THE CASE OF ACTIVIST PHILLIP RIZK: Anhri Lawyer And Representative From The German Embassy Witness Break Into The Family Home And State Security Brutality
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information 2/9/2009
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said today that security officers from Maadi in south Cairo broke into the house of human rights activist Phillip Rizk at dawn. Rizk was kidnapped by state security forces last Friday while taking part in a pro-Gaza demonstration. Police searched his house despite not having a search warrant and would have forced his father to go with them to his company to have that searched too had it not been for the presence of a delegate from the German embassy and a lawyer from ANHRI. State security officers headed to Rizk’s family house at 2 am today and demanded to search his home and his father’s company claiming that they would hand his son over immediately afterwards. Despite having no warrant, they broke into the family’s house and were about to drive the father to the company’s premises under threat of force....

Where is Philip Rizk?
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information 2/7/2009
Egyptian security authorities kidnap activist Philip Rizk to an unknown destination - Yesterday, the 6th of February 2009, Egyptian security forces stopped a number of activists from the Egyptian Popular Campaign in solidarity with the Palestinian people who had organized a "towards Gaza" campaign". The police stopped them for hours in front of the Abu Zaabal police station and eventually arrested activist, journalist and AUC postgraduate student Philip Rizk inside the police station before taking him away in a car with concealed numbers to an unknown destination. When a number of activists tried to follow the car to identify its destination, they were stopped at a police check point. A police general seized identification papers of Dr. Mostafa Hussein from Nadim Center and physically aggressed him.

Sign Petitions for the Safe Release of Philip Rizk
Facebook Support and Prayer for the Safe Release of Philip Rizk 2/9/2009
At about 8:00pm on Friday the 6th of February, journalist and activist Philip Rizk was abducted by Egyptian national security during a solidarity march to Qalubeyya (north of Cairo) as part of the "To Gaza" campaign. 14 other people were also detained, but everyone except for Philip was released. This space is dedicated to spreading the news and updates about Philip as raising awareness about the situation in Palestine. SIGN THE PETITIONS! -- See also: Petition for the Release of Philip Rizk and Petition: Release Philip Rizk

Philip Rizk - Egypt’s Latest Political Captive
Kalash, Kabofest 2/7/2009
A group of activists were recently detained in Sariaqos, north of Cairo. They had been holding a march in the rural area to raise awareness about the situation in Gaza. For several hours, they walked around, talking to bystanders and asking them to join the protest. They did what they had to do. As they were heading back to Cairo, they were stopped and arrested. All of them were released... except for Philip Rizk. Human rights lawyers arrived to help the activists but Rizk was snuck out of the prison’s backdoor of and taken away. According to a Reuters report, he was put in an unmarked car with no license plates; police also blocked his companions’ vehicle to prevent them from following. A Facebook group set up by his friends and family explains further: Phil’s parents went to the police headquarters to file a missing persons complaint....

Egypt police detain Egyptian-German activist
Reuters 2/7/2009
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police have detained an Egyptian-German political activist and blogger on Gaza Strip issues, his sister and an eyewitness said Saturday. 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. A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said he had received no word of the detention. Said said police had detained their vehicle for several hours and then said they wanted to talk with Rizk. -- See also: TabulaGaza - Philip Rizk's blog

Egyptian police attack and kidnap blogger
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information 2/9/2009
The officers were in a car owned by central security before they broke into his house. Dia’ Eddin Gad is author of the blog Sawt Ghadib or An Angry Voice http://soutgadeb. blogspot. com. The police did not reveal the reason behind his arrest or where he was being detained. Lawyers with ANHRI’s legal aid unit for the support of freedom and expression demanded in their report to the attorney general that there should be an immediate investigation into the kidnapping and of the twenty two year old student. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said bloggers have become a major target of the police authorities in Egypt and all these assaults are committed outside the law or under the cloak of the emergency state. ANHRI demands that all defenders of freedom of expression join hands to bring an end to this abominable state of emergency.

Nurse released by Egypt, arrives home
Mohammad Ben Hussein, Jordan Times 2/9/2009
AMMAN - Jordanian nurse Salman Masaeed arrived in Amman on Sunday, 48 hours after being detained by Egyptian security forces at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on suspicion of smuggling money. Later in the day, Masaeed was given a hero’s welcome by activists at the Professional Associations Complex in Shmeisani. Masaeed said he was "relieved" to return to Jordan but gave a gloomy picture of the humanitarian conditions in Gaza. He said the city needs all the help that it can get in terms of medical and humanitarian aid." The Rafah crossing should be opened as soon as possible, otherwise we will be seeing a humanitarian disaster," said Masaeed, who was surrounded by relatives and colleagues. Masaeed said he was held for a “brief interrogation” over suspicion of smuggling money into Gaza, but was not charged.

Israel impose restrictions on al-Jazeera
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 2/9/2009
Israeli Authorities impose restrictions on the Arab news station al-Jazeera after Qatar cut ties with Israel following the war on Gaza - ’Operation Cast Lead’. Foreign correspondents from the Qatar owned television station al-Jazeera can expect further challenges in their news coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. According to BBC NEWS, some al-Jazeera employees will not have their work visas renewed and will have limited access to Israeli news conferences and briefings as well. Accused of being a Hamas mouthpiece, al-Jazeera - Israeli ties has always been strained at their best. When Israel launched it’s recent war on Gaza and banned foreign journalists from entering the area, al-Jazeera was already inside and covered the war extensively through the eyewtiness accounts of now famous correspondents Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros.

Food, fuel, other goods allowed into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel opened the three border crossings on Monday morning: Kerem Shalom, Nahal Oz and Karni, to allow truckloads of foods, humanitarian aid and fuel into the otherwise besieged Gaza Strip. . Ra’ed Fattouh, a Palestinian border official in Gaza, told Ma’an that Israel opened the three commercial crossings around the Gaza Strip to allow dozens of truckloads through. He said 121 truckloads are scheduled to enter through Kerem Shalom in the southeast of Gaza including 38 trucks carrying humanitarian aid, 77 for the commercial sector shipping sugar, rice and cooking oil. Another 13 trucks are carrying fertilized eggs and fruit for the agricultural sector. Fattouh added that another 72 trucks are scheduled to enter through Karni crossing in the east of Gaza city carrying animal feed and wheat. He said industrial fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant will enter through the Nahal Oz terminal, east of Gaza City.

Proliferation of mobile fuel stations supplied by tunnels trade
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/9/2009
Gaza - Samir Nassar no longer needs to travel to the outskirts of Al Bureij Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip for refueling at the end of a work day. The bus driver for a local kindergarten, Nasser buys gas from one of numerous mobile fuel stations now along the main street of the camp. As Sharq Al Awsat reported the story of the main Gaza Strip north-south road, Salah Addin, on which groups of young people stand in close proximity of one another with barrels of petrol and diesel. This is the case throughout the Strip as fuel is entering in droves through the tunnels with Egypt. Unlike regular gas stations, the mobile fuel stations use manual pumps and can be easily moved. A sort of prosperity is being brought through the tunnels to some sectors of the Strip that continue to operate in spite of Israeli claims that its bombings of Rafah have been to destroys those tunnels.

Meteorology Centre to PNN: global warming causing drought and temperature spikes
Hiba Lama, Palestine News Network 2/9/2009
PNN exclusive -- The unseasonably warm Palestinian temperatures that have Bethlehem at 20 degrees Celsius today are expected to drop dramatically overnight and bring necessary rain to a long dry spell. At 45 percent of the precipitation of last year, current water shortages are weakening agricultural output and causing daily difficulties for people without enough to run washing machines. Monday’s weather forecast includes "a slight rise in temperatures during the daylight hours with partial cloud cover, but in the evening temperatures will begin to gradually decline increasing humidity. Rain fall is expected tonight with a moderate sea and average wave height. " Meteorology Monitoring Stations Network Director Mohammad Abu Bakr confirmed to PNN today that after a week of forecasts of snow coming under sunny skies and high temperatures, "Thunderstorms are on the way.

Israelis ’putting politics aside’
Alex Sehmer in Ramle, Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
Israeli citizens may be divided politically, but differences between the country’s Palestinian-Israelis and its Jewish population are left to one side on a daily basis in the interest of co-existence. In the town of Ramle, just outside Tel Aviv, Palestinian-Israeli stallholders work side-by-side with their Jewish counterparts. A local taxi firm is jointly owned by a Palestinian-Israeli and his Jewish business partners and is staffed by both Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli drivers. Behind the market, a mosque and a synagogue sit opposite each other in the same street. Yoel Lavi, Ramle’s mayor, said his town was a "model" of multiculturalism, but admitted it was not without its problems. " On the individual level people are living together and having a good relationship … they are sharing the same jobs on the land or the supermarket, or it doesn’t matter which company," he told Al Jazeera.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP: Recent opinion polls in Israel indicate a change and increase in the overall Israeli society of racism and hatred of Arabs and Palestinians
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 2/9/2009
Ramallah, 09-02-09: Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, the Secretary General of the , said today that recent opinion polls ahead of the Israeli elections show a clear shift in the Israeli society towards increased racism and hatred of Arabs and Palestinians. Said Dr. Barghouthi, "Lieberman is collecting more and more votes, and he says frankly what all Israeli leaders think but do not say: that there should not be a Palestinian state for the Palestinians, and that their existence must be temporary. " "The Israeli elections held tomorrow will no doubt confirm that a transformation has taken place in the Israeli society, and will confirm their extremist apartheid attitudes which are worse than even those that prevailed in South Africa. ""The barbaric and brutal behaviour of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip during the recent war reflected the degree of racial prejudice against all that is Palestinian", the Deputy continued.

Israeli teenage refuseniks speak to Palestinians in Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Five young Israelis who refused military service defied a ban on Israelis entering Palestinian Authority territory on Saturday evening to share their tales of prison, isolation, and struggle with an audience outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem. They were four women and one man. All but one have already been to prison for their objection to serving in the occupying army. They slipped into Bethlehem in order to bring the message of the refusal movement to the Palestinians who face the guns wielded by their teenage peers every day. “These soldiers don’t have to be bad people. They’re very ordinary people, but they’re doing these things. They are responsible,” said Sahar Vardi, 18, from Jerusalem,On Tuesday Israelis are expected to elect the most right-wing government in recent memory, but these five, represent a countervailing. . .

IDF confirms killing Islamic Jihad gunman in Gaza
Anshel Pfeffer and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
An Islamic Jihad militant died in a clash with Israel Defense Forces troops and Israel Air Force jets struck two targets in Gaza early Monday as mediators tried to firm up a long-term Gaza cease-fire a day before Israelis go to the polls in a national election. Islamic Jihad said in a statement faxed to reporters that one of its fighters was killed overnight in an Israeli airstrike. The IDF said troops spotted an armed militant trying to cross the Gaza-Israel border late Sunday and opened fire, after which a bomb belt he was wearing detonated. Islamic Jihad had earlier said the man killed was on a mission to attack an Israeli patrol along the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Islamic Jihad group said. The IDF denied that tank fire or strikes of any kind were carried out around the time of the man’s death, and the circumstances of the incident remained unclear.

’Israeli shell’ kills Gaza fighter
Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
A member of Islamic Jihad has been killed after an Israeli tank shell hit the northern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian armed group has said. The man, who was killed on Monday near the town of Beit Hanoun, was part of a mission planned to attack Israeli troops along the border, a spokesman from the group said. Hamas officials confirmed that he was killed by an Israeli tank shell fired from across the border. Israel’s military has said it was unaware of the incident. Earlier, Israel launched an air raid on a security compound in southern Gaza. There were no confirmed reports of casualties in the raid. The security compound in Khan Yunis was attacked three times during Israel’s war on Gaza last month. More than 1,300 Palestinians died, at least of a third of that number women and children, during the 22-day assault on the coastal territory. At least 13 Israelis, including three civilians, were killed over the course of the war, which Israel said was aimed at preventing rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

Israeli artillery fire kills Palestinian in Gaza
Middle East Online 2/9/2009
GAZA CITY - Israeli artillery fire killed one Palestinian in the north of the Gaza Strip on Monday, medics said. Khaled al-Kafarneh was killed when an artillery shell hit his house in Beit Lahiya, they said. The Israeli army said it was checking into the reports. The violence comes as Egypt continued efforts to broker a lasting truce in the coastal strip to replace shaky mutual ceasefires called by Israel and Hamas on January 18 after Israel’s 22-day on Gaza. Israeli warplanes strike Gaza Strip Israeli warplanes carried out air strikes Monday on the Gaza Strip that caused damage but no injuries, witnesses and Palestinian security sources said. An Israeli F-16 fired two missiles against a police post near the southern city of Khan Yunis, sparking a fire. An Israeli helicopter also carried out a raid in an area of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, but caused no casualties.

Quds Brigades fighter killed in clash with IOF patrol
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
BEIT HANUN, (PIC)- The armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, the Quds Brigades, on Monday declared that one of its fighters was killed in a clash with a special unit of the Israeli occupation forces east of Beit Hanun town to the north of the Gaza Strip. The armed wing said in a communiqué that Khaled Al-Kafarane, 22, was martyred during the armed clash while in the company of another fighter affiliated with the armed wing of the popular front for the liberation of Palestine - general command. It explained that the two engaged the special IOF unit while trying to advance into a field east of Beit Hanun for half an hour before IOF choppers fired two missiles at the fighters killing Kafarne while the fate of the other was still unknown. Meanwhile, local sources told PIC reporter that the Palestinian fighter Hussein Shamiya, 25, who was under treatment in an Egyptian hospital. . .

Israeli warplanes blast targets in Gaza Strip
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Israeli warplanes blasted a police station and another target in Khan Younis and Beit Lahia, in south and north of the Gaza Strip respectively, at dawn Monday, local sources reported. They told PIC reporter that the Israeli raid badly damaged the police station in downtown Khan Younis city. They recalled that the same position was shelled during the Israeli war on Gaza last month. Another raid was reported on Beit Lahia in northern Gaza but no casualties were reported in both raids. Meanwhile, well informed sources told the PIC that Israeli agents had kidnapped a Fatah activist after deceiving him into accompanying them near to the Gaza borders then handed him to the Israeli occupation forces. Ala Al-Hums was reported missing during the Israeli war on Gaza until the Red Cross informed his family on Sunday that he was held in the Israeli prison of Askalan.

Palestinian killed in IAF strike in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/9/2009
Israeli aircraft strike Islamist group positions in retaliation for Sunday’s rocket fire; 22-year-old Islamic Jihad man critically injured dies of wounds at hospital, damage caused to structures -Israeli aircraft struck Hamas outposts in south Gaza during the early hours of Monday morning in retaliation for Sunday’s rocket fire on Israel. Palestinian sources reported thatIslamic Jihad member Khaled Kaparana, 22, was critically injured in the strike and died of his wounds at the hospital several hours later. Palestinian sources in the Strip said the Air Force attacked a Hamas outpost and a structure belonging to its security forces in Khan Younis. According to reports, the structures were damaged and a fire broke at the scene. Reports of another IAF attack in Gaza were received a short while later.

West Bank closed on Israel’s election day
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli government order a closure of the West Bank beginning at Midnight on Monday for the Israeli general election day. According to an Israeli military spokesperson, the blockade, which was ordered for reasons of “security” will be in effect until midnight on Wednesday. The Israeli Civil Administration will authorize exceptions in certain cases, such as those in need of medical aid, the military spokesperson said. [end]

Israeli forces seize Palestinian youth at Beit Iba checkpoint
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Nablus - Ma’an – Israeli forces seized a young Palestinian man at the Beit Iba checkpoint west of Nablus on Monday afternoon, accusing him of possessing a knife and bullets. Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers shut down the checkpoint for three hours, preventing Palestinians from crossing. [end]

Palestine Today 020909
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/9/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 00s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Monday, February 9th, 2009. Israeli army attacks Gaza killing two fighters and settlers attack farmers in the West Bank, these stories and more, coming up, stay tuned. The News Cast Three Palestinian men were reported dead on Monday morning, one due to earlier wounds sustained during Israel’s operation "Cast Lead", and the other during a morning attack by the Israeli Air Force, doctors said. 22-year-old Khaled Al Kafarnah was killed on Monday morning when he was hit in the head by shrapnel after an Israeli drone fired a missile at him in the northern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. The Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, said that Al Kafarnah and another fighter had clashed with Israeli forces that invaded the area.

VIDEO - Beni Raz: the West Bank settler who wants to leave
Peter Beaumont in Qarne Shomron, The Guardian 2/9/2009
Settler tells of threats of violence over call to buy out properties - Things are ugly in Qarne Shomron for Beni Raz. He’s a solid man in middle age with a deeply lined, expressive face. The day we meet, one of the residents of his West Bank settlement has tried to take down one of Raz’s posters calling for compensation for those who want to evacuate. He also threatens Raz with violence. Driving back to his home in the settlement, Raz tries to report the threat to a blue-shirted policeman wearing a kippa. He is fobbed off. As he walks away, exasperated, one of the small group of men who were standing with the policeman – a Russian immigrant – pursues Raz across the street and shouts at him. The problem is that Raz is out of step with most of the other settlers in Qarne Shomron. Raz wants the government to pass a law to buy out him and the other settlers who would like to leave the occupied West Bank.

Courting settled opinion
Peter Beaumont, The Guardian 2/9/2009
Binyamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Avigdor Lieberman all want the West Bank vote - The settlements on the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law, a stumbling block to successive peace proposals. On the day I see Beni Raz I traverse the spine of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank from west of the Palestinian town of Qalqilya to Jerusalem. There are the Jerusalem settlements that probe into the Arab neighbourhoods in the city’s Arab east, pushing between the towns and villages. Prising them apart. In the countryside, I speed along fast Israeli bypass roads punctuated with their watchtowers grey and tall as giant exclamation marks. Ariel goes by in a blur, big as a city, sprawling across a long ridgeline. Then the hardline settlements around Nablus, some of which I’ve visited: Eli, Elon More, Yitzhar, Shiloh, breastworks of red-roofed villas spread over successive hills like the fortified communities they are.

Scottish activist on humanitarian mission for Gaza found in Israeli prison
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/9/2009
Gaza -- The missing passenger from the Lebanese ship bringing aid to Gaza was found yesterday. Resident of Scotland, Teresa McDermott, was able to telephone her brother from Ramle Prison on Sunday. The Israeli administration arrested all of the passengers from the Togo flagged ship, Tali, last week after "beating and kicking" them. That report was confirmed by Al Jazeera reporter Salam Khader who was on board. For four days McDermott was held without contact in the Tel Aviv area Israeli prison. She was one of nine passengers aboard the cargo ship carrying medical and humanitarian supplies as part of ongoing local and international efforts to break the siege on Gaza. On 4 February Israeli gunboats intercepted and boarded the ship, forcing it into the Israeli Ashdod port. The Tali was impounded and the aid confiscated.

Hamas official: Shalit and truce could be concluded after Israeli elections
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/9/2009
A senior Hamas official stated Sunday that he expects a truce with Israel could be declared after the Israeli elections this Tuesday, and that the issue of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, would also be concluded, Maan News Agency reported. The official said that there are some points in the Israeli truce offer that need further clarification, especially issues regarding border terminals and the goods that would be allowed into Gaza, in addition to linking the issue of Shalit with opening border terminals. He added that indirect prisoner-swap talks witnessed "surprising developments" which could lead to ending this issue after the upcoming Israeli elections, Maan added. The official also stated that Hamas demands the release of detainees who were sentenced to high terms, and those who are accused of killing Israelis.

Abu Mujahed: No progress in Shalit’s file, Cairo talks related only to truce
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Abu Mujahed, the spokesman for the popular resistance committees, stated Monday that there is no progress regarding the file of Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit as propagated by Israeli newspapers and some media outlets, adding that such news are disseminated to serve Israeli politicians in their electoral campaigning. In a statement received by the PIC, Abu Mujahed said that the negotiations taking place in Cairo are only connected to the truce issue and the guarantees for opening the crossings and lifting the siege.   The spokesman underlined that the only way to complete the prisoner swap deal is to accept the release of 1, 400 Palestinian prisoners mentioned in the list handed to Israel through the Egyptian mediators. The spokesman noted that the achievement of a truce agreement that leads to the opening of crossings, the lifting of the siege and the reconstruction. . .

Zahhar: We are working to reach honorable agreement for our people
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a senior political leader of Hamas in Gaza, has confirmed Sunday that his Movement was doing everything to reach an honorable agreement that would lead to halting all forms of Israeli aggression, and would allow the Palestinians to live in dignity. In an interview with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel in the Egyptian capital Cairo, Zahhar underlined that Hamas wasn’t and it won’t be at any time a card in anyone’s hand in the region. He also said that Hamas doesn’t work for any axis against another axis in the region, explaining that Hamas is working to liberate the occupied Palestinian lands from the Israeli occupation. Talking on Hamas-Egypt relationship, Zahhar stressed that it wasn’t in the interest of Egypt and Hamas to have tense rapport, adding that anyone who wants to portray Hamas as a national threat to Egypt is absolutely wrong.

Mubarak hints at Hamas-Israel truce
Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
A longer-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which holds de facto control of the Gaza Strip, could come into effect as early as next week, Egypt’s president has said. Hosni Mubarak’s assessment came after he met Nicolas Sarkozy, his French counterpart, amid ongoing Egyptian efforts to mediate a truce following Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza. "Perhaps next week," Mubarak said when asked by reporters in Paris about the chances of a more permanent ceasefire. "We discussed the date when the situation could become calmer, maybe from next week. " Paris and Cairo are seeking a more formal ceasefire for "a year, 18 months if possible," a French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire on January 17 after a ground, air and naval assault on Gaza had left 1,330 Palestinians dead, more than one-third of them women and children. Hamas declared its own cessation of hostilities against Israel a day later. At least 13 Israelis, three of them civilians, died during the war.

Can interim government strike truce with Hamas?
Roi Mandel, YNetNews 2/9/2009
With time running out on Olmert government, its mandate to decide on ceasefire agreement with Islamist group comes into question. Legal experts say cabinet entitled to make decisions of urgent national caliber; urge caution, responsibility - The impending ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which – as reported by Egyptian newspaper al-Gomhuria – may be a mere 48 hours away, has once more raised the question of the mandate extended to Israel’s interim government. Can a government rule on cardinal matters so close to the end of its term? Constitutional law expert Professor Ariel Bendor of Haifa University urges caution: "According to the Israeli statute, an interim government can make such decisions should they prove too urgent to wait for the succeeding government. "Nevertheless, an interim government must exercise as much restraint as possible, in order not to tie the following government’s hands. "

Egyptians say talks for ceasefire near completion
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/9/2009
Gaza - According to the Egyptian mediators a declaration of agreement on the ceasefire is imminent. The negotiations between the Hamas and Israeli leaderships were described by Egyptian Security Minister Omar Suleiman as "difficult. "A spokesperson for President Hosni Mubarak added that Egypt has done more than act as a "carrier of messages and attitudes. " The arrival of the high-ranking Hamas official Mahmoud Az Zahar in Damascus yesterday to consult with the exiled leadership was viewed as a "positive signal," report observers. The Hamas delegation is back in Cairo today to resume negotiations with Suleiman. Negotiations that are intended to cement a ceasefire with the Israelis in Gaza include opening the crossings and garnering the release of Palestinians from Israeli prisons in exchange for the captured soldier.

Rights group: Egypt police beat blogger who opposed Gaza offensive
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Egyptian police have beaten and detained a 22-year-old Egyptian blogger and activist who has expressed support for Gaza, an Egyptian human rights group said on Monday. A statement from the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said police officers on Friday beat Diaa Eddin Gad in front of his house in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya, put him in a police car and drove off. Police gave no reason for the arrest, and have not yet disclosed where Gad is being held, according to the group. An interior ministry spokesman did not return calls asking for confirmation of the detention. Gamal Eid, director of the Network, described Gad as a member of the liberal Wafd party and the Kefaya (Enough) protest movement, and said he had attended protests against the recent 22-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

PA: Hamas rockets are ’bid to sway Israeli election’
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
The Palestinian Authority foreign minister on Monday accused Hamas of trying to influence the outcome of Tuesday’s general election in Israel by keeping up the rocket fire on southern Israel. Riad Malki said Hamas did not want to see a pro-peace government elected in Israel during the parliamentary vote because it would pursue a political deal with the PA, dominated by its rival Fatah movement. On Sunday, two rockets struck southern Israel, violating an informal Israel-Hamas truce. Malki told reporters in Warsaw that the PA was very much worried that such attacks might really push Israeli public opinion and the voters to vote for an anti-peace government. The foreign minister’s comments came as polls suggested that Israel’s next government could indeed be more hawkish than the current coalition, with the hardline Yisrael Beiteinu Party projected to win more Knesset seats than the left-of-center Labor Party and the right-wing Likud party projected to the be the largest contingent in the Knesset.

Ma’an’s Nasser Lahham calls on Palestinian leadership to act on seperation wall issue
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian leadership must decide whether the Israeli separation wall can stay or whether it must be demolished, said Ma’an’s Chief Editor Nasser Lahham in Ni’lin on Sunday. Lahham’s remarks came at a conference organized by the Popular Committee Against the Wall in one of the handful of villages that stages weekly protests against the construction of the Israeli separation wall. “The wall won’t fall by itself,” Lahham asserted, and went on to explain that the Palestinian leadership has a responsibility decide whether they accept the wall and limiting the borders of Palestine, or whether it should be demolished. “The Palestinian leadership didn’t work well on the wall issue during the last five years,” he said, “whether they are the PLO or the Islamic movements, neither did anything regarding the wall, they just watched the people and the villagers fighting the wall and calling for their rights. "

Hamas cadre dies under torture at hand of Abbas’s militias in Jenin
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)--  Mohammed Al-Haj, a Hamas’s activist, died Sunday after Abbas’s militias in the infamous Junaid prison tortured him to death, three days after he was arrested Thursday, local sources confirmed to the PIC. According to the sources, Al-Haj, 30, was put under interrogation and severely tortured at the hands of elements of the ill-fated preventive security in the city, adding that the martyr is the brother of Hamas’s spokesman in Jenin, who is now jailed in the Israeli Negev prison. Killers of Al-Haj and their cohorts tried to deceive the Palestinian public by alleging that Al-Haj hanged himself, but inhabitants of Jenin didn’t buy those fabrications as anger spread all over the city over the heinous crime. The family of Al-Haj confirmed that their son was arrested at the hands of the PA security elements last Thursday, and since then they knew nothing about him till they were told about his death.

PFLP-GC urges end to incitement among Palestinian groups
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Isma’il As’ad, a political official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC), urged Palestinian political factions to end incitement against one another. The PFLP-GC said that dialogue is the only solution to the current political split. As’ad made this pronouncement during a press conference at Ramattan Studio in Ramallah on Monday, also attended by attended by PFLP-GC officials Shawkat Hammad and Ziad Ash-Shouli. The PFLP-GC is one of the smaller Palestinian factions. As’ad said on Monday that his movement is united both within Palestine and in exile, denying any disagreements within the group. He said the General Command in the West Bank maintains contact with its Secretary General, who is in exile. “Despite ongoing blockade and aggression and despite continuation of wall construction, still resistance. . .

Al-Masri: Divisions within Fatah delayed movement congress
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Nablus - Ma’an - A new date will be assigned for Fatah’s Sixth Conference, announced prominent Fatah member Ghassan Al-Masri on Sunday. The conference, now years in the planning, is set to gather hundreds if not thousands of Fatah members from the world over to meet and discuss the direction of the party, its aims and strategies. The now dozens of postponements have made many members pessimistic over whether the conference will indeed take place, though some say the latest date set has renewed faith in plans to go forward. No date, however, was announced publically. Al-Masri noted that difficult decisions on the nature and size of the conference and differing opinions on its scope have lead to the recent delays. The need to reconcile Fatah members is now greater than ever, Al-Masri noted. The recent trend of the leadership acting independently of the party must be repaired.

Tens of thousands rally in support of PLO in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in the center of theWest Bank city of Ramallah in support of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Demonstrators held banners reading "No voice rises above the PLO. " The PLO has staged a series of demonstrations in response to a suggestion by Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al that the umbrella organization should be replaced by a more representative organization. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are barred from the body, which does include groups such as Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The Secretary General of the Palestinian Presidency, At-Tayeb Abdul Rahim, gave a speech in which he honored the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and late PFLP founder George Habash. "We say to our prisoners, Marwan Barghouti, the brave, and Ahmad Saadat, we have a date with freedom," he said.

Palestinian lawmakers form committee to investigate death of Hamas member in PA jail
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian political parties have united in calling for a parliamentary committee to investigate the circumstances of the death of Muhammad Abdul Jamil Al-Haj, a Hamas member who died in a Palestinian Authority (PA) prison on Sunday. The Secretariat of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) said on Monday that the committee will first meet on Wednesday to discuss the Al-Haj case and alleged violations by the de facto government in Gaza. The committee aims to complete its investigation in two weeks and present a report to members of the PLC. Separately, PLC member Rabiha Diab, the coordinator for the parliamentary working group on public freedoms and civil society, said that the group will have a meet on Tuesday to discuss Al-Haj case. Al-Haj’s family is alleging that PA security forces arrested him for political reasons and then tortured him.

Mishaal welcomes any initiative to support the Palestinian cause
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
KHARTOUM, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, welcomed Sunday any initiative to support the Palestinian cause, highlighting at the same time his Movement’s position in support of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation which guarantees the Palestinian people’s right to resistance. In a press conference held in Khartoum, Mishaal reaffirmed that his Movement does not seek to exclude Fatah from the political scene, but it refuses retaining Fatah as the only Palestinian reference. Regarding the bilateral relations between Hamas and Khartoum, the Hamas leader expressed his pleasure at the size of political, financial and media support provided by Khartoum for the Palestinian cause, hailing the level of relations between the two sides as "deep-seated. " Mishaal also stressed the need to return to the national accord document signed in Cairo in 2006 in order to. . .

Investigation sought after Gaza man tortured to death by security forces
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian human rights organization is calling for an investigation in to the death of a Gazan man it says was tortured to death by Palestinian security forces in Gaza. According to the independent Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Jameel Shafiq Shaqqura, 51, from Khan Yunis refugee camp Internal Security Services and subsequently died of his injuries. According to PCHR’s investigation, the security forces delivered Shaqqura to a hospital on 31 January. He died on Friday after his condition deteriorated while in custody. The victim’s brother, Aatef Shaqqura told PCHR that on 30 January Jameel and three others were summoned to the Khan Yunis Sports Club for questioning “in a case they knew nothing about. ”“At approximately 06:30 on Saturday, 31 January, I received a phone call from a staff member of Nasser Hospital, who informed me that. . .

Acting speaker holds Abbas fully responsible for torturing Hamas member to death
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the PLC, on Sunday held ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas fully responsible for torturing to death Mohamed Al-Haj, a Hamas member, in the preventive security prison in Jenin. In a statement received by the PIC, Dr. Bahar said that Abbas is legally and nationally responsible for his security apparatuses’ practices against the Palestinian citizens in the West Bank. The acting speaker charged that these apparatuses act on behalf of the IOF troops in kidnapping and torturing the West Bank citizens which led to the transfer of many of them to hospitals. For its part, the Hamas Movement deplored the crime of killing Haj at the hands of Abbas’s security officers, affirming that the clear marks of torture on his body show the level of moral, humanitarian and national decline of the PA leadership and its Israeli-backed security apparatuses.

PCHR demands a probe into the death of a political detainee held by Hamas in Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/9/2009
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), based in Gaza, demanded an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the death of Jameel Shafiq Shaqqura, age 51, from Khan Younis refugee camp, located in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Shaqura had been detained by Hamas’ security forces. The PCHR said that Shaqqura was tortured by the Internal Security Services, and subsequently died of his wounds. The PCHR called on the security devices in Gaza to publish the results of an investigation conducted into the issue, and demanded bringing the perpetrators to justice. The PCHR issued the following statement;According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:40 on Friday, 6 February, medical sources at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis confirmed that Jameel Shafiq Shaqqura had died from a brain clot caused by torture and severe beating to his head.

Fatah calls for investigation into death of Hamas PA prisoner
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – The secretaries of the Fatah movement in the West Bank called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Monday to open an investigation into the death of a Hamas member in a PA prison. Ad Al-Jamil Al-Haj died in a Palestinian Preventive Security detention center in the West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday. The PA said Al-Haj committed suicide, but his family and Hamas are alleging that he was arrested on political charges, then tortured and possibly killed. In a statement the Fatah secretaries also expressed concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in Gaza, blaming the Hamas movement for abuses there, which the statement said were documented by the human rights organizations Addamir, Al-Mezan, and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. The statement said that “Hamas’ coup” is the cause for “all the catastrophes that are going on in Gaza.

Hamas: Torture of Hamas cadres in WB will not go unpunished
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Monday that all those involved in the killing and torture of Hamas cadres and supporters in the West Bank would not escape punishment and would pay dearly sooner or later. Hamas spokesman in Khan Younis Hammad Al-Raqb warned, in a statement received by the PIC, the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank of the consequences of their crimes against Palestinian dignitaries, resistance fighters and citizens, adding that they would be held accountable for all their repressive actions against those innocent people. A prominent Hamas figure Mohamed Al-Haj had been declared dead Sunday evening after being subjected to excruciating torture in the preventive security jail in Jenin. Raqb called on the West Bank people to revolt against the criminals and confront the plots intended for the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.

Hamas holds P.A responsible for the death of political prisoner
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/9/2009
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and the family of Mohammad Al Hajj, held the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank responsible for the death of Al Hajj, who died while he was detained at a Preventive Security Center in Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank. The family said that this is not the first time Al Hajj, age 32, had been arrested by the Palestinian security forces for his affiliation with Hamas. The family added that marks of torture were found on his body, including bruises around his abdomen and kidneys. The family demanded an autopsy in order to reveal the causes of death, and added that he was arrested five times for his affiliation with Hamas. The Preventive Security forces said that Al Hajj committed suicide in his cell, but his family said that his religious beliefs forbid suicide, and the family suspects Al Hajj was murdered.

Hamas leader Zahar: We don’t want to replace PLO, we want to join it
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar on Sunday played down reports that his Islamist militant group wanted to establish a new umbrella body to replace the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole representative of the Palestinians. Zahar told Al-Jazeera television that remarks by Hamas’s political leader, Khaled Meshal, that some Palestinian groups were discussing the formation of a "national steering committee" as an alternative to the PLO had been misinterpreted. "Meshal’s remarks about the resistance’s program were interpreted by [the media] to be an alternative to the PLO, and we didn’t say that," Zahar, who is based in Gaza, said in Cairo in an interview with the Doha-based broadcaster. The PLO has represented the Palestinians since 1964 but the more recently created Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad. . .

Unknown Persons shoot at Offices of al-Hayat al-Jadeeda Newspaper in al-Bireh, and Car of Government Official in Nablus
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/9/2009
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns shootings by unidentified which targeted the offices of the al-Hayat al-Jadeeda newspaper in al-Bireh, and, in a separate incident, the car of the Director of the Department of the Interior Ministry in Nablus. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian government in Ramallah to investigate these attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice. According to investigations carried out by PCHR, at approximately 00:30 on Sunday, 8 February, unidentified militants fired at offices of al-Hayat al-Jadeeda newspaper in al-Bireh town near Ramallah. The editor of the newspaper, Bashar Barmawi, told a PCHR field worker that while he and other staff members of the newspaper were on duty, unknown militant fired at their offices from a building opposite.

Gunmen fire on Interior Ministry office director in Nablus; no injuries
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Interior Ministry office director Ibrahim Salamah on Monday morning. Salamah was in his jeep driving to work when two masked gunmen fired several shots, hitting the vehicle. Salamah assured via telephone that he was not injured. The 45-year-old was driving on Al-Quds Street in southern Nablus. Palestinian security started investigating the incident. Just over two weeks ago the car of an An-Najah professor was targeted outside his Nablus city home. He testified that attackers hurled a Molotov cocktail at his Mitsubishi while it was parked in front of his home in the Al-Jadida neighborhood in Nablus. Students later claimed the attacks were based on an alleged affiliation with Hamas.

Rabbi Eliyahu calls to boycott dried fruits from Turkey
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 2/9/2009
Safed’s chief rabbi says Israelis should not buy Turkish products in light of country’s hostility towards Israel during Gaza op - Safed’s Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu called on Israelis on Monday to boycott dried fruits imported from Turkey, in response to the recent anti-Israeli flare-up in the country. "This is our way to protest Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s expressions of hostility towards President Shimon Peres at the Davos Forum, and the support they received from the Turkish people," Eliyahu told Ynet. In recent weeks there has been a sharp drop in the number of Israelis travelling to Turkey, and the rabbi hopes that the touristic boycott would be accompanied by an economic one. "While IDF soldiers were fighting and defending the state, Turkey opted to side with our greatest enemies and threaten our troops.

Indian leftists press to cancel Israel Aerospace AWACS deal
Ora Coren, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Left-wing Indian parties are pressing New Delhi to cancel the $2. 5 billion spy-planes deal with Israel Aerospace Industries, following Operation Cast Lead. Speaking at a convention organized to show solidarity with Palestine, Prakash Karat, the secretary general of the Communist Party of India, called for an end to the "pro-Israeli tilt" in Indian policy. The first step in this direction, following the "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, should be to cancel the deal for the planes, Karat said. The planes in question are Russian Il-76 jets converted into AWACS-type (Airborne Warning and Control System) espionage planes. Speakers at the conference called on New Delhi to cease its alliance with Israel. Also mentioned were suspicions now under investigation of kickbacks from the Aerospace Industries, in a deal involving Barak missiles.

Media freedom ’nowhere on Mideast agenda’
Faisal Baatout - DOHA, Middle East Online 2/9/2009
Media freedom in the Middle East still faces many hurdles, despite waning state control on the flow of information, a Qatar-based media watchdog said in a report on Monday. "Media freedom is nowhere on the agenda in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf," the Doha Centre for Media Freedom said. "The region remains generally opposed to the free flow of news despite some easing of press laws and a few signs of opening up and greater tolerance. "The Doha centre was established last year in a joint venture between the Gulf state and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Despite differences in regimes, constitutions and media laws, countries in the region are united when it comes to controlling the media, the report said. "The region’s governments shelve their ideological differences to agree that freedom of expression is dangerous and media outlets that defend them are potential threats.

Abu Dhabi to host Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture events in solidarity
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Al-Quds, Capital of Arab Culture events will also be held in Abu Dhabi, said an announcement from the Palestinian Social Committee in the United Arab Emirates on Monday. The committee will hold a competition called “Jerusalem in mind,” in which students in high school and university will submit stories on how they imagine Jerusalem. A pamphlet advertizing the competition read, ““It is known as the bride of Arabs, the flower of all cities, Ursalim, Jebus, Aelya, Al-Quds and Bayt Al-Maqdis. Write a short story about it as you imagine it. Elaborate in its names and talk about its ancient alleys and streets. ”The committee organized with the UAE school boards and the ministry of education to raise awareness of the events. The committee hopes the stories from the competition will be shared with other nations.

Time report: Hamas, Haneyya popularity soars in PA territories
Palestinian Information Center 2/9/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- A report published by the wide-spread American Time magazine showed that the popularity of the PA prime minister Ismail Haneyya and Hamas Movement have soared in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the aftermath of the Israeli war on Gaza. According to the magazine, the opinion survey was released last Thursday by an independent Palestinian polling organization, which it did not identify, and that Hamas Movement could easily beat Fatah faction and win any elections held these days. The report also confirmed that popularity of Fatah leader and former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has sharply declined due to his "unpatriotic" stand during the Israeli war on Gaza. The magazine added that Abbas failed to condemn the Israeli military action against his people in Gaza Strip, and that he attempted to exploit the brutal Israeli war to "register points against Hamas", which. . .

Survey: ’Only one in four Gazans supports Hamas’
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
[Consider the source: same outfit reported 22 percent support for Hamas shorty before its sweeping victory in 2006 elections - Ed. ] Only a quarter of the Palestinians in Gaza support Hamas, Army Radio reported Monday. According to the findings of a new poll conducted in Gaza by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, support in the ruling Hamas government has drastically gone down following the Israel Defense Forces offensive in the coastal strip. Only 28% of the Palestinians now say they support Hamas, compared to 51% who voiced their support for Hamas in November 2008. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ moderate Fatah party has seen a rise in favorability rate, with 42% of the Palestinians in Gaza now supporting Fatah, compared to 31% in November. Despite the findings of the poll, more than half of those questioned said they hold Israel responsible for the recent escalation in Gaza. -- See also: Election polls: Drop in Hamas support

Olmert allocates NIS 2.4b to rearm IDF after Gaza offensive
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert has ordered to allocate NIS 2. 4 billion to the defense establishment following the Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported Monday. The Finance Ministry had initially agreed to allocate NIS 1. 4 billion to the defense budget but Olmert on Monday raised the sum by NIS 1 billion, according to the report. The defense establishment would allot NIS 800 million of its own budget to rehabilitating the IDF in wake of the Gaza operation. Officials from the bureau of Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that the increase in defense budget would go towards re-equipping the army. This would entail funneling more money to the Israel defense industry.

Israel’s election cliffhanger as Livni closes gap with Netanyahu
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/9/2009
The Likud leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni Photograph: ReutersIsraelis go to the polls to elect a new government tomorrow in what is becoming a cliffhanger contest between the rightwing opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his rival Tzipi Livni, the centrist foreign minister. Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, is slightly ahead, and given the combined size of the rightwing parties that would support him he is thought most likely to lead the next coalition government. But up to a fifth of voters are thought to be undecided, according to opinion polls. Israel’s proportional representation voting system is complicated and no single party will be able to form a government without bringing four or five other parties into a coalition.

Meretz makes 11th-hour push against Livni and Hadash
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
The chairman of The New Movement-Meretz, Haim Oron, yesterday wrote Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni asking her to "tell the truth" on joining a coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, "to voters to whom you present Kadima as a alternative the public that defines itself as center-left. "Opinion polls have shown many Meretz voters are considering voting for Livni. On the party’s internet site yesterday, former Mapam head Yair Tzaban asked those considering voting for Hadash instead of Meretz, a trend particularly popular among young Tel Avivians, to reconsider. Citing an anti-Meretz campaign by Hadash, Tzaban wrote, "This is not the first time that with racism and fascism on the rise, certain Communist parties decided to attack not only the extreme right, but socialist parties.

Shas: Lieberman to legalize civil marriage
YNetNews 2/9/2009
Religious party slams Rightist leader’s visit to Western Wall, claims he will ’open pork stores’ - After waging a long battle against the ultra-Orthodox parties, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday, where he placed a note between the stones. Lieberman was followed by a swarm of reporters, who pressed him for comment near the holy site. "I have just one message: Without loyalty there is no citizenship," he said, repeating the slogan of his party’s campaign. The Shas Party was enraged at the visit. "We suggest that the note Lieberman places between the stones of the Wall include a plea for mercy, for his desire to open pork stores and institutionalize civil marriage. This was a visit to a relic of our temple, not a tennis court.

Last-gasp Labor efforts target vacillators, minorities
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
On the last day of the election campaign, the Labor Party intends to target voters who are deliberating between it and Kadima, and non-Jewish Israelis who might be inclined not to vote. To strengthen the party’s presence on the ground, activists yesterday stood at about 40 highway intersections around the country with election banners. So as not to mar the landscape, they attached the banners to their backs instead of hanging them up. Hundreds of thousands of people who voted Labor in the past, or have told pollsters they are considering supporting the party, will today receive a recorded telephone message urging them to vote from chairman Ehud Barak. Barak is due to visit Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, where he grew up and where he will participate in a ceremony for Tu Bishvat, the new year of the trees.

Netanyahu says won’t name Lieberman defense minister if elected
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
If Benjamin Netanyahu is tapped to form Israel’s next governing coalition, he will not appoint Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman as his defense minister, the Likud chairman told Channel 1 on Monday, just hours before Israelis go to the polls. Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel"If I am elected, I will approach all the Zionist parties to join a coalition headed by the Likud," Netanyahu said. "We will take all these parties - Kadima, Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu. "Netanyahu added that he is not ready to commit to holding negotiations with the Syrians. "The Olmert government’s understandings with the Syrians do not obligate me," he said. "Rather, Israel’s security [obligates me]. "Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni said she too would seek to form a unity government if elected.

Greens threaten center-left bloc
Ofri Ilani, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
The Green agenda has experienced many twists and turns in the course of the election campaign. Up until four months ago, it was considered the most promising hope of the campaign and surveys showed the Greens winning a number of Knesset seats, like the Pensioners in the past election. Then came the war in Gaza and environmental issues were pushed aside. Nitzan Horowitz’s joining Meretz and the failed attempts to unite the Green Party and the Meimad-Green Movement all helped reduce the chances of a Green party reaching the Knesset. But it seems the Green parties have recently picked up momentum: If not as a party in the Knesset then at least as a threat to other parties, in particular Meretz, Labor and Kadima. These parties are now worried that a serious number of undecided voters are debating between them and the Green movement.

Panel allows far-rightist Marzel to oversee Arab city poll
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
The central elections committee on Monday unanimously rejected a request from Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to disqualify Baruch Marzel from serving as the chief supervisor of a voting station in the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm. Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in IsraelThe head of the committee, Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Rivlin, sent a bluntly worded missive to Mazuz in which he sharply criticized the manner in which the attorney general submitted the request. Mazuz said that Marzel’s presence in the city will harm the public order and the purity of the election process, and said that his request was based on information from security services and police. Mazuz’s suggestion that hundreds of police officers would be required to maintain order in the city is "an apocalyptic vision," Rivlin said.

Kulturkampf between Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu gets vicious
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’ 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.

Ahrar Al-Jalil Brigades call on Palestinians in Israel to boycott Israeli elections
Ma’an News Agency 2/9/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an - The Ahrar Al-Jalil Brigades, an unknownand self-proclaimed Palestinian militant group based in Israel called on Palestinians inside Israel on Monday to boycott Israeli elections scheduled to take place Tuesday. The group said in a statement, “Participation in Knesset elections means approval and recognition of the legitimacy of this Zionist state which has been committing atrocities against our people. ”Commenting on statements made by Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Benjamin Ben Eliezer, which anticipated an uprising from Palestinians inside Israel, the brigades said:“The uprising in Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 [Israel] began long ago, and leaders of Israel know that but they mislead their people. Not a single day passes without an event whether it is destruction in streets, or pelting stones or stabbing Israelis across the 1948 territories.

Israel’s war vote
Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
As soon as Israel concluded its military campaign in Gaza, the country launched itself into a political campaign for elections. Inevitably, the war has featured highly in that political campaign, with many parties competing for the security vote. Israel as a nation has shifted to the right and many people are disillusioned with a peace process that appears to be going nowhere. In a special programme Al Jazeera interviewed leading political figures, commentators and peace activists in Israel to guage opinions on the war ahead of the upcoming vote. Yuval Steinitz - Likud, chair of foreign affairs and defence committee. We think it [the war] was a golden opportunity not just to punish or to deter Hamas, but to put and end to an Iranian regime, an Iranian military outpost, that is growing on our southern border. For this aim we had to proceed and to take control Gaza and to destroy Hamas.

Parties in last-ditch efforts to woo voters
YNetNews 2/9/2009
Candidates use last day before Knesset elections to give last push to fight over every vote. Likud says shift to smaller right-wing parties halted, Kadima relying on young people and women, Labor infuriated over attempts to disregard party, while Lieberman plans visit to Western Wall - Millions of Israelis will be heading to polling stations across the country on Tuesday to decide on the composition of the 18th Knesset. In the last day left before the elections, all parties are engaged in last-ditch efforts to conquer voters’ hearts, or at least make them cast the right ballot. Kadima members remain optimistic, believing that the momentum is on their side. The last days’ slogan, "Only Tzipi will defeat Bibi," continued to stand out, and efforts were invested in encouraging the activists and voters and in organizing Election Day. The party’s main target is women and young people.

Israelis prepare to go to the polls
Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
Israelis are preparing to vote in a general election dominated by security concerns after Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza. Tuesday’s election is likely to see large gains for right-wing parties after the war and amid sporadic clashes between Israel and Hamas fighters. However, a record 20 per cent of voters remain undecided, with party leaders battling for every vote on Monday. The election has become a close-run contest between Kadima, which heads the current ruling coalition, and the opposition Likud party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and Kadima leader, insisted on Monday her party was best placed to achieve Israeli unity and that "victory is in reach". "If Kadima gets just one mandate more than Likud, we will be able to form a governing coalition as we are a centrist party that can bring together the right and the left," she said.

The electoral system and the voter
Moshe Arens, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
No democracies are perfect, nor are their various electoral systems. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and it would be a mistake to believe that somewhere out there an ideal system exists. Different electoral systems and systems of government are suited to the respective country’s interests. In Israel, a parliamentary democracy, the electoral system is one of proportional representation. In other words, each competing political party receives Knesset representation that closely matches the votes it receives in the election. The inevitable result is a large number of parties in the Knesset. It follows, therefore, that the government is then supported by a coalition of parties that command a majority in the Knesset. But the mechanics and dynamics of a coalition government make for instability, sometimes resulting in short-lived governments and frequent elections.

Party heads talk unity, loyalty
Haaretz Staff, 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 2. "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. " Channel 2 on Sunday aired live interviews with the top three contenders for prime minister: Labor chair Barak, Kadima chief Tzipi Livni and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu.

Elections Committee won’t bar Marzel from Umm al-Fahm
YNetNews 2/9/2009
Committee’s presidency says it won’t intervene in National Union’s decision to send extreme rightist to serve as observer in Arab city polling station; asks attorney general to instruct police to prevent any provocations by Marzel or against him - The Central Elections Committee decided not to intervene with the National Union’s decision to send right-wing activist Baruch Marzel to serve as a representative on the party’s behalf at a polling station in Umm al-Fahm on Election Day. The committee’s presidency found that there were no legal grounds for interfering with the party’s decision. It further explained that any intervention would be futile, as concerns regarding Marzel pertained to his presence at any polling station in the Arab sector. However, the committee asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to instruct the police to prevent any provocations by Marzel or against him from taking place.

Elections 2009 / Kadima: Center-left voters will pick us to ensure Likud defeat
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Kadima is hoping to beat Likud by taking votes from Labor and the New Movement-Meretz party while winning undecided center-left voters. Sources in Kadima say the center-left electorate is likely to choose Kadima because strengthening Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni is a way to "stop Netanyahu. " Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party have been neck-and-neck in the polls with Kadima. "It doesn’t matter whether Meretz has seven or five seats and Labor has 16 or 14," a source close to Livni said on Sunday, referring to the main parties to the left of Kadima. What matters to the left is that only Tzipi can beat Bibi [Netanyahu]. "Livni made an appeal to the center-left at a Kadima rally Sunday at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. She repeatedly used the words "hope" and "despair. ""We have a chance today to plant hope in the people of Israel. I believe that our lives here and Jewish history and tradition are also the hope," she said.

Elections 2009 / Shas feeling hot breath of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Internal polls by Shas show that the ultra-Orthodox party is losing ground to its competitors on the right - Likud and especially Yisrael Beiteinu. Shas officials are concerned that the Sephardi party might win only nine or 10 seats in the next Knesset, a decline from its current 12. The opinion polls in the weekend papers show similar results. On Saturday night, Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, told supporters that a vote for Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman was "giving power to the devil" and that voting for the party that approved "shops that sell pork and civil marriage" was "utterly prohibited. " A Shas source said that while "there are good responses from the grassroots to the rabbi’s statements," as things look now, "Lieberman’s and Bibi’s [Benjamin Netanyahu’s] growing power is nibbling away at us. "The source said the party was particularly concerned that the change in the balance of power deprived Shas of some of its status as the "swing vote" in coalition making.

Netanyahu, Yuval Rabin call for unity government
YNetNews 2/9/2009
Likud chairman, slain prime minister’s son hold joint press conference in Tel Aviv. Despite his frequent meetings with Netanyahu, Rabin states will vote Labor in Tuesday’s elections - Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu has held several meetings in recent months with Yuval Rabin, the son of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. On Monday, on the eve of the Knesset elections, the two convened a press conference in Tel Aviv and spoke of the need for a national unity government. During the meeting, however, Rabin did not make the statement the Likud had hoped to hear. "The point of this meeting is not to voice my support for one party or another, and Mr. Netanyahu knows I won’t be voting Likud," Rabin declared. Asked which party would gain his support, he replied, "Labor. "Netanyahu spoke of his acquaintanceship with Yitzhak Rabin’s son.

United Torah Judaism woos Arab voters
YNetNews 2/9/2009
Ultra-orthodox party launches campaign aimed at swaying Arab votes in its direction; bases efforts on promise to protect sector’s interests against right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu’s ’racist’ platform - With Election Day less than 24 hours away, it seems the parties are pulling out all the stops in order to increase their potential Knesset mandates. Ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism party activists, for example, have been distributing flyers in Arab neighborhoods and communities, using the slogan "Haredim for equality. "The party stated it would protect the Arab sector’s interests againt Yisrael Beiteinu’s manifest. Some of the party’s flyers label rival party leader Avigdor Lieberman a racist, and state that "Arabs and haredim fight racism - vote United Torah Judaism. "UTJ is considered a sectorial party, representing predominantly the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community.

Israeli elections: Livestation chat
Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland had a chat with viewers to discuss the Israeli elections on Livestation. Viewers can watch a live stream of Al Jazeera, participate in a chat or signu up for alerts using Livestation’s applicaion. Following is an edited transcript of the chat: GS: I really don’t think it matters who gets elected in Israel. They are all the same. Not interested in peace. They want the establishment of Greater Israel. In other words, it’s the same [expletive], different day. Jacky Rowland: That’s what many ordinary Israelis fear. More of the same. As for the labour party, they are suffering from disillusionment among Israelis about the peace process. It’s sad but true that Israelis don’t believe in peace in the way they used to; they fear it’s not possible. Labour was promoting the peace line - now they are promoting a "we’re into peace but we’re also tough on security line".

ISRAEL: Many Candidates, No Leaders
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 2/9/2009
JERUSALEM, Feb 9(IPS) - Along the ironic lines of "Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum", the old Broadway musical about democracy in ancient times, something "funny" happened to Israelis on their way to the polling stations. They went to war. As a result, something weird is happening to Israeli democracy as the country goes to the polls on Tuesday. Israeli elections used to be known for their fiery nature, the explosive debates, the contrasting ideological credos of the competing parties, the ruckus of left-right rivalry, the no-holds-barred traditional confrontation between religious and secular. And beyond it all, existential questions which have challenged Israeli democracy since its inception 60 years ago: how to live with the Palestinians and how to make peace while guaranteeing the security of the state.

Departing lawmakers bid farewell, some vow to return
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Outgoing members of Knesset can be divided into three types: those who have had enough and have new plans for the future; those who were ousted against their will and but have come to terms with it, and those who are on their way out but still hope to find their way back. Of the current 120 lawmakers, 80 will return in the next Knesset. Meretz MK Ran Cohen is of the first kind. He willingly stepped down and seems to have a busy schedule planned out. "I’ve agreed to be the head of the Halon organization," Cohen said. Halon helps children with learning disabilities. Cohen will also lecture students at two universities, be a member of the Israel-Asia commerce committee and, of course, write an autobiography. He has already published a book on his parliamentary work but his new one will focus on his childhood.

Police on high alert ahead of Election Day
YNetNews 2/9/2009
Some 16,000 officers prepare to deploy across country Tuesday in order to ensure safe, proper election proceedings - Security forces throughout Israel went on top alert Monday evening ahead of Election Day. Full closure will be imposed on the West Bank starting Monday night. Some 16,000 policemen and Border Guard officers, as well as about 2,500 volunteers and 4,500 security guards will be assigned to the 9,569 polling stations across the country on Tuesday. Security personnel will also deploy in crowded places, work to conduct traffic near polling stations and secure public figure’s visits in various places. The security establishment has seven specific warnings on plans to carry out terror attacks, which might include rocket fire, abductions, suicide bombings and shootings.

Elections 2009 / Barak: I won’t be defense minister if Labor fails to near 20-seat mark
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel Defense Minister and Labor chair Ehud Barak said Monday he will not be defense minister in the new government should his party plummet in Tuesday’s general election. "People tell me: ’You should be defense minister,’ but I want to say that I will not and could not be Israel’s defense minister if Labor doesn’t near the 20-seat mark," Barak said during a tree-planting ceremony in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, where he grew up. Barak then addressed left-of-center voters, urging them not to cast their vote for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party. "Only a strong Labor could be the answer to the right-wing bloc. Center- left people who vote for Kadima are taking a huge gamble," Barak said.

’Your father would be ashamed’: Rabin’s son heckled at Netanyahu’s side
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
An official from the Meretz party heckled Yuval Rabin, the son of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, during an appearance Rabin made with Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Monday. Netanyahu said he has held a series of meetings with Rabin over recent months, during which he laid out his plans to form a wide coalition. Rabin expressed support for Netanyahu’s commitment to establish a national unity government, but he noted that he has no plans to vote for Netanyahu. At one point during the news conference, the head of the Meretz youth wing, Ori Zachi, yelled out: "Your father would be ashamed of you. "Zachi was then hauled into custody by the Shin Bet security service and questioned as to how he managed to sneak into the event.

A guide to the Israeli elections
Al Jazeera 2/8/2009
Around 5. 3 million Israelis will be eligible to vote in the elections for the 18th Knesset (Israeli parliament) on February 10, 2009. All Israeli citizens over the age of 18, irrespective of their race and religion, have the right to vote. Similarly, every citizen aged 21 or older is eligible for election to the Knesset, provided they have no criminal record, do not hold an official position and have not specifically been prohibited by the courts to stand for election. Though the Knesset term is for four years, most of the 17 Knessets since 1948 have been unable to complete their terms because of the complexities of coalition politics and Israel’s unique election process. Proportional representation Israel’s political system is based on a single electoral constituency, whereby the whole country forms one constituency, and uses proportional representation to elect members of its parliament.

For U.S. Jewish charities, economic crisis is ’first, second and third priority’
Nathaniel Popper, The Forward, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
While the public’s eye has been trained on the money that Bernard Madoff allegedly swindled from Jewish organizations, most Jewish charities are fearfully watching another, much larger donor that is falling on hard times: the government. Jewish agencies such as nursing homes and community centers take in an estimated $10 billion each year from government sources - some 10 times the amount these agencies raise from the public. Most of the $10 billion is directed through state governments that are struggling mightily to stay afloat in the current economic downturn. In California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing a spiraling economic crisis and a $14 billion budget gap, Los Angeles’s Jewish Family Service is one of the agencies already feeling the squeeze. The agency, which oversees care of the elderly and disabled, took a cut of nearly $1 million to its budget this year.

World Jewish leaders tell Vatican Holocaust denial is a crime
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
World Jewish leaders told Vatican officials that denying the Holocaust was "not an opinion but a crime" when they met on Monday to discuss a bishop they accuse of being anti-Semitic. The meetings, the first since the controversy over Bishop Richard Williamson, who denies the extent of the Holocaust, began last month, took place three days before Pope Benedict is due to address a group of American Jewish leaders. Williamson told Swedish television in an interview broadcast in January: "I believe there were no gas chambers. "He said no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. " Today we strongly reaffirmed that the denial of the Shoah is not an opinion, but a crime," said Richard Prasquier, president of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF, using the Hebrew word for Holocaust.

Sharp drop in credit card purchases
Eran Peer, Globes Online 2/9/2009
The fall was strongest in the furniture, electrical appliances, clothing and footwear. There was a significant fall in growth in credit card use in January 2009. Data obtained by "Globes" shows that in January Israel’s three major credit card companies -Isracard Ltd. managed by Haim Krupsky,Cal - Israel Credit Cards managed by Boaz Chechik andLeumi-card Ltd. managed by Dani Cohen - saw lower growth in credit card clearing of minus1% to 2. 5% compared with January 2008. In recent years credit card use in Israel has grown by 9% to 12% annually. The slowdown in credit card use is a clear indication of lower consumption and a recession in the economy. The CEO of one of Israel’s credit card companies said, "This is a dramatic, lower level of consumption. Maybe because of the war the slowdown in use was more severe but we certainly don’t expect double digit growth in 2009.

Hapoalim mulls Turkey expansion
Eran Peer, Globes Online 2/9/2009
The bank is unconcerned that the recent Israeli-Turkish diplomatic spat will impact long term opportunities. Israeli bank Bank Hapoalim(TASE: POLI; LSE:80OA) is unconcerned that the recent Israeli-Turkish diplomatic spat following Operation Cast Lead will impact long term opportunities, and the bank is considering expanding its activity in Turkey. Bank Hapoalim’s Turkish business is handled through subsidiaryBankpozitif Credi Ve Kalkinma Bankasi AS. One option under consideration is the acquisition of the Turkish operations of Millennium Banco Commercial Portuguese (Euronext: BCP) and consolidating them with Bankpozitif. A deal will reportedly be closed at $100 million, reflecting the shareholders’ equity of Millennium AS’s operations. Bank Hapoalim has already notified Supervisor of Banks Rony Hizkiyahu of its intentions, and he reportedly has no objections.

Tel Aviv real estate ranked 33rd in world
Michal Margalit, Globes Online 2/9/2009
Global Property Guide: Monte Carlo has the world’s most expensive real estate market. Global Property Guide has ranked Tel Aviv as the world’s 33rd most expensive real estate market with average prices of $4,582 per square meter. This is less than 10% of the world’s most expensive city Monte Carlo where the average price per square meter is $47,578. In second place is Moscow ($20,853) closely followed by London ($20,756), Tokyo ($17,998), Hong Kong ($16,125) and New York ($15,828). The prices are based on a 120 square meter apartment in the city center. Israel finds itself sandwiched between Milan in 32nd place with prices of $4,624 per square meter and Prague in 34th place with prices of $4,559 per square meter. In terms of highest gross rental yields, Tel Aviv is in 44th place a yield of 5.

Iraqi girl killed in US attack
Middle East Online 2/9/2009
PACIFICA - An eight-year old girl has been killed in an attack by US troops in Iraq, Democracy Now! reported Monday. Witnesses said several other civilians were injured when a US military convoy opened fire on a crowd of Shiite pilgrims traveling to the holy city of Karbala. The US military said the shootings were accidental following a mistaken weapons’ discharge. Meanwhile, a trial date has been set for the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush during his farewell trip to Iraq last month. Muntadhar al-Zaidi will stand trial on February 19th on charges of assaulting a foreign leader. Zaidi faces fifteen years in prison. His attorney and family have alleged abusive treatment since his imprisonment.

Iraqi shoe thrower could get 15 years
Ahmed Rasheed, The Independent 2/9/2009
The journalist who threw his shoes at former U. S. President George W. Bush will face trial on 19 February for assaulting a visiting head of state, with a maximum 15-year prison term, a court official said yesterday. Muntazer al-Zaidi’s defence lawyers lost an appeal to have the charges against him reduced to a lesser offence of insulting Bush, rather than assaulting him. "The Iraqi appeals court has rejected the appeal submitted by Muntader al-Zaidi’s defence lawyer to change the charges, and decided to set 19 February as the date for trial," said Iraqi judiciary council spokesman Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar. Al-Zaidi has been held in jail in Baghdad since hurling both shoes at Bush at a Dec. 14 news conference during the then president’s final visit to Iraq. Bush ducked the flying shoes while the journalist called him a "dog.

IRAQ: Minister of women’s affairs tenders resignation
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/9/2009
BAGHDAD, 9 February 2009 (IRIN) - Nawal al-Samaraie, minister for women’s affairs, tendered her resignation on 3 February, saying she lacked the resources to implement her plans to help improve women’s lives. "I have only an office, not a full ministry, with insufficient resources and limited authority"¦ My mission is very hard, if not impossible, to achieve," Al-Samaraie told IRIN. "My office is inside the Green Zone with no affiliated offices in other provinces and not enough funds to hold conferences, invite experts for studies and implement development plans," Al-Samaraie said. "How can I work and serve women under such circumstances? " Al-Samaraie said there was "an army" of uneducated women, widows, victims of domestic violence and female internally displaced persons in dire need of assistance.

Report: Iran to build four more satellites after successful launch last week
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/9/2009
Iran is building four more satellites, the telecommunications minister was quoted on Sunday as saying, after the Islamic Republic put its first domestically produced satellite into orbit last week. Iran launched a research and telecom satellite called Omid on Tuesday, a step that worried Western powers who fear Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb and missile delivery systems. Iran insists its nuclear work is to generate electricity and said the satellite launch was for peaceful purposes. The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used for launching warheads. "There are now four other satellites being manufactured by Iranian experts," Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Soleimani was quoted by Iran’s Mehr News Agency as saying, without saying when they might be launched.

Iran lacks economic self-sufficiency
Middle East Online 2/9/2009
TEHRAN - "Neither West, nor East" was the slogan adopted after the Islamic revolution 30 years ago, but the call for self-reliance has yielded mixed economic results and oil-rich Iran still battles for prosperity. The passionate motto of self-sufficiency and independence inspired Iranians after toppling the US-backed dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979). "The sentiment of self-sufficiency was so strong that it was incorporated even in the new constitution," Iranian economist Mousa Ghaninejad said. The country’s isolation was heightened by the withdrawal of foreign companies from schemes such as the nuclear power project, the revival of which in recent years has aroused international hostility. Iran is OPEC’s second largest oil producer and it sought economic growth by investing heavily in its scientific programmes, but it also burdened itself with imports worth billions of dollars.


Strong Indications of Israeli War Crimes
National Lawyers Guild, CounterPunch 2/9/2009
      Gaza City
     We are a delegation of 8 American lawyers, members of the National Lawyers Guild in the United States, who have come here to the Gaza Strip to assess the effects of the recent attacks on the people, and to determine what, if any, violations of international law occurred and whether U.S. domestic law has been violated as a consequence. We have spent the last five days interviewing communities particularly impacted by the recent Israeli offensive, including medical personnel, humanitarian aid workers and United Nations representatives. In particular, the delegation examined three issues: 1) targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure; 2) illegal use of weapons and 3) blocking of medical and humanitarian assistance to civilians.
     Targeting of Civilians and Civilian Infrastructure
     Much of the debate surrounding Israel’s aerial and ground offensive against Gaza has centered on whether or not Israel observed principles of proportionality and distinction. The debate suggests that Israel targeted Hamas i.e., its military installations, its leaders, and its militants, and in the process of its discrete military exercise it inadvertently killed Palestinian civilians. While we have found evidence that Palestinian civilians were victims of excessive force and collateral damage, we have also found troubling instances of Palestinian civilians being targets themselves.
     The delegation recorded numerous accounts of Israeli soldiers shooting civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, in the head, chest, and stomach. Another common narrative described Israeli forces rounding civilians into a single location i.e., homes, schools which Israeli tanks or warplanes then shelled. Israeli forces continued to shoot at civilians fleeing the targeted structures.

Israeli closures prevent import of aid, cement to Gaza

IRIN, Electronic Intifada 2/9/2009
      GAZA CITY (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 Palestine 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 $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. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on 18 January. Hamas declared its own ceasefire later that day. Over 1,300 people in Gaza were killed and more than 5,300 were injured during this period, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Aftermath (1) 'We Never Feel Safe'

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/9/2009
      In this new series of personal testimonies, PCHR looks at the aftermath of Israel’s 22 day offensive on the Gaza Strip, and the ongoing impact it is having on the civilian population.
     Foreign correspondents and camera crews have now begun to leave Gaza, in search of the next headline grabbing location. But ongoing airstrikes and violations of international law are a stark reminder that there is no real end to Israel’s offensive here.
     Since Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on 18 January it has continued to launch strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip. Some families in the southern town of Rafah have been evacuated from their homes up to ten times in the last 15 days.
     Faten el Sha’er, a 31 year old mother of one, lives just 150 metres from Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. This area, known as the ‘Philadelphi Route’ has been repeatedly targeted and is now a mass of rubble, sand and bomb craters. Her home is one of the few left standing here, surrounded by the grey concrete remains of homes, and the shreds of tarpaulin which once covered smuggling tunnels.
     “I was baking bread when the bombing of the border area began on 28 December,” says Faten. “Thousands of people took to the streets, trying to escape. Everybody was on the move. My mother, my five year old daughter Nagham and I ran to my uncle’s house, which is further from the border.” Other family members were scattered at the homes of relatives.

End the Occupation First

Sam Bahour – The West Bank, Palestine Chronicle 2/9/2009
      If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today he may well have attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony wearing a black-and-white checkered kaffiyeh and holding a sign saying, "Mr. President, stop the Gaza nightmare. No more false hopes and delayed dreams. End the Occupation NOW!" Civil rights leaders spent precious political capital to speak out against America’s wrongdoings across the world, most notably the war in Vietnam. President Obama should spend domestic political capital to denounce Israel’s domination of the Palestinians. Nothing would boost desperately needed international capital more.
     Rev. King would have recognized that without unfettered US arms, funds and political cover, Israel would never have been able to inflict the level of brutality it ’proudly’ inflicted on Gaza. Nor would it have been able to keep Palestinians in bondage so long.
     King would have pointed to where the solution to this conflict lies: the United States of America. If President Obama is to be an historic leader, and not just the first African American elected to the presidency, he must not tolerate Israel’s continued slaps in the face, from restricting President Carter’s movements in the Mideast, to using US funds to build illegal Jewish-only settlements, to launching a one-sided "war" on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. He will instead deal with the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel’s forgotten Palestinians

Ahmed El Amraoui, Al Jazeera 2/9/2009
      The rising mistrust of Israelis towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel raises the question of what will happen to the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, who already suffer discrimination.
     While they used to make up the majority of the population of Palestine before the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, only 150,000 out of 950,000 native Palestinians remain within what is now known as the state of Israel.
     After this tragic war and the forced expulsion of the people -- known by Arabs as al-Nakba, or the Catastrophe - Israeli forces occupied 213 villages and expelled more than 400,000 refugees before the British mandate ended on May 15, 1949.
     After the defeat of Arab forces in December 1948, Israel confiscated nearly 85 per cent of the territory. Most of this land was taken from about 800,000 Palestinians from 531 villages, cities and tribes, who were thrown out or fled in fear of their lives.
     Those who remain.
     Today, the Palestinians who remain in Israel account for less than 20 per cent of the population, roughly numbering 1.4 million of a total population of 7.3 million.
     As part of its longstanding effort to "divide and rule", Israel identifies them as "Arab Israelis" rather than the Palestinian citizens of Israel to separate them from their kin in occupied territories.

Israeli University Welcomes ’War Crimes’ Colonel

Jonathan Cook – Nazareth, Palestine Chronicle 2/9/2009
      The Israeli government has moved quickly to quash protests over the appointment of the army’s senior adviser on international law to a teaching post at Tel Aviv University. Col Pnina Sharvit-Baruch is thought to have provided legal cover for war crimes during the recent Gaza offensive.
     Government officials fear that recent media revelations relating to Col Sharvit-Baruch’s role in the Gaza operation may assist human rights groups seeking to bring Israeli soldiers to trial abroad.
     A Spanish judge began investigating Israeli war crimes in Gaza under the country’s "universal jurisdiction" laws this month, and a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is considering a Palestinian group’s petition to indict Israeli commanders.
     Meanwhile, the furore -- by highlighting the close ties between the army and Israeli universities -- is adding weight to a growing campaign in Europe and the US to impose an academic boycott on Israel, say activists.
     Tel Aviv University’s decision to hire Col Sharvit-Baruch to teach international law prompted protests from staff after the local media published details of the military planning for the Gaza offensive. -- See also: How IDF lawyers okayed hitting Gaza homes and IDF colonel to teach TAU law course, despite critics' bid to stop her

Open letter to UN Secretary-General

Angie Tibbs, Middle East Online 2/9/2009
      Dear Mr Secretary-General,
     The United Nations, the world’s preeminent law-making body, together with its Charter, provides the basis for laws and principles; therefore, people of conscience everywhere look to the UN with hope for upholding its Charter and its pledge to end the scourge of war.As the secretary-general, you, sir, are expected to at least speak words that honour this Charter and its principles.
     However, while people of good conscience world-wide are expressing revulsion at Israel’s terrorist attack on the defenceless in Gaza, you are already seeking to minimize war crimes of monumental proportions while echoing the disinformation of Israel and its supporters.
     For instance, on 16 January 2009 the headlines read: "Ban urges unilateral ceasefire in Gaza conflict; meets with Palestine leaders".
     You did not meet with "Palestinian leaders", sir. Palestinian leaders are either detained in Israeli or West Bank prisons, murdered by Israeli assassins, or in Gaza, where the world, in its sick attempts to placate Israel, refused to allow them to govern the people who elected them.

Non-Violence? Finkelstein and Gandhi

Robin Yassin-Kassab, Palestine Chronicle 2/9/2009
      When Western liberals call on the Palestinians to renounce violence and to adopt Gandhian passive resistance instead, I usually become enraged. My first response is, they’ve tried non-violence, and you failed to notice. For the first two decades after the original ethnic cleansing of 1947 and 48, almost all Palestinian resistance was non-violent. From 1967 until 1987 Palestinians resisted by organizing tax strikes, peaceful demonstrations, petitions, sit-down protests on confiscated lands and in houses condemned to demolition. The First Intifada was almost entirely non-violent on the Palestinian side; the new tactic of throwing stones at tanks (which some liberals consider violent) was almost entirely symbolic. In every case, the Palestinians were met with fanatical violence. Midnight arrest, beatings, and torture were the lot of most. Many were shot. Yitzhak Rabin ordered occupation troops to break the bones of the boys with stones. And despite all this sacrifice, Israeli Jews were not moved to recognize the injustice of occupation and dispossession, at least not enough to end it. The first weeks of the Second Intifada were also non-violent on the Palestinian side. Israel responded by murdering tens of unarmed civilians daily, and the US media blamed the victims. Then the Intifada was militarized.
     Was it really, or only, non-violence which liberated India? In colonized India there were hundreds of thousands of Indians to each British officer, so the cause of independence had sheer numbers on its side as well as time. The British people certainly came to love Gandhi and to respect the moral courage of his non-violent strategy, but the British officials who counted could also see the tide of violent anti-imperialism rising behind Gandhi, a tide that would dominate if Gandhi’s method failed. Likewise in the American civil rights struggle: behind Martin Luther King stood Malcolm X. It’s a lot easier to deal with the nice guy when you see the nasty guy rolling up his sleeves.

Pledging Allegiance to Discrimination

Nadia W. Awad, MIFTAH 2/9/2009
      I’m going to risk a limb here and dip my toe into the extremely controversial Israeli ‘loyalty’ debate. This debate heated up when Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman made it one of the major themes for which his party, Israel Beytenu, is campaigning. Translated as ‘Israel Our Homeland’, the party was originally formed by Lieberman as a platform for Russian immigrants. It takes a strong stance against peace negotiations, considers the ‘land for peace’ concept to be immoral and wrong, and aims to reduce the number of Palestinians living in Israel by as many as possible. As part of his Israeli election campaigning, Lieberman is calling for a loyalty test, or pledge of allegiance, for all Israeli citizens, including the Palestinians.You may ask yourself, so what’s the big deal? Don’t most countries require pledges of allegiance? Of course, most countries didn’t begin and maintain an illegal occupation, didn’t create millions of refugees, and don’t treat a large number of their citizens as second class. Lieberman and his supporters argue that they are not asking Palestinian-Israelis to renounce their identity. Instead, they are asking that they recognize and pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. If they wish to live here as citizens with full rights and benefits, they must contribute to Israel’s success.
     Of course, your average Palestinian-Israeli, after laughing at the part about full rights and benefits, will argue that to pledge allegiance to the Jewishness of Israel does indeed sacrifice one’s own identity as a Palestinian Muslim or Christian. And look at the term ‘Israeli Arab’, which is widely used in Israeli discourse to refer to Palestinians living in Israel. This term in itself reveals a great deal about the Israeli psyche; for if you were to replace it with the phrase Palestinian-Israeli, you would shock many Israelis, even secular, left-wing ones....

Breaking the Palestinian impasse

Arjan El Fassed, Electronic Intifada 2/9/2009
      To end the Palestinian political impasse, elections for the Palestine National Council (PNC) should be the top priority for all Palestinian parties. The 669-member Palestinian "parliament-in-exile" has not held a meeting since 1998 and its members have never been elected. Once a central body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), what is left of the PNC lacks all legitimacy.
     Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal caused an uproar recently when he stated that in its current form the PLO is no longer a reference point for Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as president of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority expired on 9 January, reacted with fury. Having himself lost all legal and political legitimacy, Abbas told a crowd in Cairo that "There will be no dialogue with those who reject the PLO."
     Of course Meshal did not reject the PLO, but he asserted that the PLO has become "a center of division for the Palestinian household." Speaking to Al-Jazeera on 30 January, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan clarified that the "PLO represents a good framework that can be used to solve a lot of our problems and disputes." Hamdan added that the body "is the only organization that is capable of continuing the negotiations and the signing of political agreements with internal factions and external sides alike." Fawzi Barhoum, another Hamas spokesperson, said that when Hamas made the suggestion to create "a new representation" it was not meant to suggest the creation of an alternative to the PLO. "We want to add opposition factions to the PLO, factions that are still not included within the body," he told reporters.

Gilad Shalit: The Grand Illusion

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 2/9/2009
      A few days ago, Noam Shalit, the ‘father of’ slammed the Hamas for holding his son for no real reason. Miraculously, he managed to forget the fact that his son Gilad was actually a combatant soldier who served as a post guard in a concentration camp and was captured in a fortress bunker overlooking Gaza.
     Father Shalit called upon Hamas to: “stop holding us as hostages of the symbols of yesterday’s wars". He also claimed that the Hamas is engaged in no less than ’imaginary resistance’. Seemingly, these are some very bold statements from a father who is supposed to be very concerned with his son’s fate.
     Gilad Shalit saga is no doubt an exemplary case-study of Israeli identity. In spite of the fact that Gilad Shailt is a soldier who was directly involved in the Israeli military crime against a civilian population, the Israelis and Jewish lobbies around the world insist upon presenting him as an ‘innocent victim’. The leading slogan of the Shalit campaign reads ‘Gilad Shalit, Human being, JEW’. And I ask myself is he really just an ordinary a ‘human being’ as the slogan suggests or rather a chosen one as implied by the ‘Jew’ predicate? And if he is just a human being, why exactly did they add the ‘Jew’ in? What is there in the ‘Jew’ title that serves the Free Shalit campaign?
     Apparently the usage of the predicates ‘Human being’ and ‘Jew’ in such a proximity is rather informative and meaningful. Within the post-holocaust Jewish and liberal discourses ‘human being’ stands for ‘innocence’ and ‘Jew’ stands for ‘victim’. Accordingly, the Shalit’ campaign slogan should be grasped as ‘FREE Gilad Shalit the innocent victim’.

English actor urged to cancel appearance at Israeli festival

Open letter, PACBI, Electronic Intifada 2/9/2009
      The following is an open letter to English actor and UNICEF ambassador Sir Roger Moore sent on 8 February 2009 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
     The Palestinian arts community has received the news of your plans to make a special guest appearance at the Red Sea International Music Festival in Eilat this February in a state of disbelief. At a time of unprecedented Israeli war crimes and grave violations of human rights, condemned by leading United Nations officials and international human rights organizations, with Israel just ending its atrocious assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, after more than 18 months of a criminal siege, described as a "prelude to genocide" by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, your participation in this festival can only be understood as condoning this injustice and celebrating it.
     We feel exceptionally disappointed because of your otherwise significant record in advocating human rights, particularly in your capacity as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Israel’s bloody war on occupied Gaza caused the immediate death of over 1,300 people, of whom 410 were children, in addition to injuring another 5,300 people. As UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted in her statement regarding the Israeli aggression on Gaza:
     "Each day more children are being hurt, their small bodies wounded, their young lives shattered. These are not just cold figures. They talk of children’s lives interrupted. No human being can watch this without being moved. No parent can witness this and not see their own child." -- See also: Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Gaza Obsession

Hatim Kanaaneh - Galilee, Palestine Chronicle 2/9/2009
      Friends and close associates, whether relatives or DNA-aliens, are an extension of one’s own being. At least that is how I seem to relate to the segment of humanity that I mingle with by choice. With that in mind and with my humanity severely tested by the atrocities committed in part in my name as a citizen of Israel and with my tax money, my mind and my senses have been acutely attuned to relevant signals coming from members of my immediate human circle of contacts.
     At the airport, Ali, my nephew who drove my car over to meet us, couldn’t start it on the first try and cussed Israel’s leaders loudly; he needed to get a certain part from Karmiel but didn’t feel like venturing there. No specific incident or source of fear; just a general feeling of discomfort when in the midst of the inimical environment of a Jewish town. He, his son and his brother have not put a single day’s work since the Gaza invasion started. Mahmoud, his construction contractor friend, has stripped down his crew from a daily fleet of three car-fulls to just one with five workers. It is a combination, he thinks, of the war and the world economic slump.
     Back in Arrabeh, my home town in Galilee, in shops while picking up milk and eggs, at the homes of relatives over meals, and in the yards of friends over coffee in the warm winter sun, people ask politely about my trip abroad and about the health and wellbeing of my children and grandchildren there. As I try to respond with specific information about my kin in America and our three-week trip to Morocco, the conversation keeps reverting back to Gaza....

Will the Outcome of Israel’s Elections Really Make a Difference?

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 2/9/2009
      With the upcoming February 10th Israeli election approaching fast, the outcome is still not certain. There’s been talk about alliances, accusations at various levels, and also the banning of three parties. On the 12th of January, the Central Election Committee banned all three Arab parties, Hadash, United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad, by accusing the parties of incitement, support for terror groups and refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. The Israeli Supreme Court however overturned the decision from the CEC, with a unanimous vote on Wednesday the 21st.
     The rumor of an alliance between Kadima and Israel Beiteinu, has been coming from right-wing parties, whose slogan ”If you vote for Lieberman you are going to get Tzipi Livni as prime minister”, tries to remind people that in 2006, Israel Beiteinu was part of the Kadima-led government. These rumors were spread further by Tzipi Livni herself who would not rule out a coalition with Beiteinu
     The Likud party with Benjamin Netanyahu, is in the lead, according to a broadcast on Channel 2 Wednesday night, but Kadima is a close second - just 3 mandates behind. Kadima is followed by Israel Beiteinu. On Thursday the 5th, Netanyahu reached out to the voters who are planning to vote for Israel Beiteinu, by reassuring them that a vote for Likud would guarantee Lieberman a senior ministry.

Israel expels Palestinians and other countries are forced to deal with the refugees

Iqbal Tamimi, Palestine Think Tank 2/9/2009
      Since the first minute the Zionists arrived in Palestine during the first half of the 1900s their policy was clear, it was to empty the land of its indigenous people and house immigrant Jews in their place. Almost 6 million Palestinians are now scattered all over the world as refugees since then, and hundreds of thousands were massacred and housed under the soil for resisting to abandon their home land.
     The Telegraph published an article 5 Feb 2009 by Damien McElroy titled Britain offers to accept Palestinians who fled Iraq (30 widows with children!)
     The article is about efforts to resettle Palestinians who have been forced into squalid desert refugee camps on the Iraqi border in the hardest conditions including facing hazards of fires and floods that have claimed many lives such as the story of Ahmed Mohammad who lost his pregnant wife when a fire engulfed his tent last month. "The fire took seconds to burn and I could only rescue my son." said Ahmad. There are more than 800,000 Palestinian refugees still living in Syria and 224,000 are registered with the UN as refugees.

Demolition in Jahalin community leaves 30 homeless

Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/9/2009
      Occupation forces destroyed tents belonging to five ‘Arab Jahalin families, leaving 30 people, 15 of them children, homeless. These families are part of a community that has been threatened with expulsion for some time, as their land is targeted for the expansion of the nearby Ma’ale Adummim settlement.
     The demolition began at three in the afternoon on 3 February, when a large contingent of soldiers, 200 according to one witness, and military equipment arrived at the community. They declared the area a closed military zone, detained the families that were in the tents, and demolished the structures as well as their contents. The tents belonged to Kayid Salem and his four married sons and were used to house their respective families.
     The operation finished in the evening, with the military withdrawing and leaving the families without shelter for the night. While the affected families did obtain two tents from the Red Cross, these have not been enough to meet their needs. Kayid Salem stated, “They left us outdoors between the evening and the night, where do we go? There isn’t anywhere; everything is confiscated and closed for settlements. Where do we go, who will shelter us?"
     This particular Jahalin community is located east of al-‘Eizariya, in Bir al-Maskub. The whole community is threatened with expulsion; along with the Salem family, 14 other families, around 100 persons, have been told to collect their collect their possessions and leave the area. This is to clear the area for the expansion of Ma’ale Adummim.