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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
26 February, 2009

Fatah, Hamas agree to form transitional government
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Cairo – Ma’an – Rival Palestinian factions have agreed to form a new transitional government that will operate until presidential and parliamentary elections can be held, a top Hamas leader said on Thursday evening. Flanked by officials from 14 different factions at a press conference in Cairo, Hamas political leader Mussa Abu Marzuq said that they had reached agreement in principle on forming a transitional government. The factions are in Cairo in an effort to end nearly two years of Palestinian political disunity. Ahmad Qurei, the leader of the Fatah delegation at the Egyptian-brokered talks, said, “This government could be formed approved by all of the Palestinian factions or could be technocrat government, or [another form of] government approved by the committees,” referring to the panels overseeing the specifics of the reconciliation.

Peace negotiators urge US and Israel to engage Hamas
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem– Ma’an/Agencies – The United States and Israel must engage Hamas if progress is to be made on peace in the Middle East, a group of prominent former peace negotiators said on Thursday. Writing in Britain’s Times newspaper, 14 former foreign ministers and peace negotiators said the three-year policy under which Hamas has been shunned by the international community had backfired and needed to be changed, according to Reuters. "There can be no meaningful peace process that involves negotiating with the representatives of one part of the Palestinians while simultaneously trying to destroy the other," wrote the signatories, who include Britain’s Paddy Ashdown, a former negotiator in Bosnia, and Michael Ancram, who helped broker peace with the IRA in Northern Ireland, according to Reuters. Former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami also signed the letter.

Jerusalem: 1,400 Palestinians could lose their homes in wake of possible Israeli demolitions
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 2 m 42s || 2. 48 MB || The latest Israel demolition plan would displace some 1,400 Palestinians. Announced by Israeli media just three days ago, the plan is to evacuate 88 homes in the al-Bustan neighborhood, located immediately south of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s old city. Some of the homes have been built before 1967. Israel’s blueprint for this long-time Palestinian neighborhood is a park with flowers, trees and cafes, according to the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem. Kkalil Al Tafakji, the head of the maps department at the Orient House in Jerusalem stated that this is not a new plan. "This is an old Israeli policy, meaning it’s a battle of demography inside the city of Jerusalem, which means it’s an implementation to the 2020 Jerusalem project that is minimizing the Palestinian resident of Jerusalem.

Landmine explodes in Tubas killing 16 year old
Ali Samoudi for PNN, Palestine News Network 2/26/2009
Jenin - Palestinian medical sources report on Thursday the death of a boy and the injury of two others from a landmine. The boys were walking in the northern West Bank’s Tubas when the landmine, left over by the Israeli military, detonated killing 16 year old Jamal Abdel Nasser. The injured boys are described in moderate and critical conditions. Eyewitnesses told PNN that the three young students had left school for the afternoon and were roaming around eastern Tubas. The landmine exploded in the area that was sometimes used by the Israeli military for exercises. This was not the first time landmines were discovered in Tubas. Residents said the explosion was "very loud and travelled long distances. " Mohammed Khalil, 15, is seriously injured in his stomach while his 15 year old cousin Munir is suffering abdomen and hand injuries.

Israeli air raids hit Gaza tunnels
Al Jazeera 2/25/2009
Israeli aircraft have bombed smuggling tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, damaging Palestinian homes near the border. Palestinians working in the tunnels in the southern town of Rafah are reported to have evacuated before the strike took place on Wednesday, and there were no immediate reports of casualties. The Israeli military said that it undertook two raids in response to two rockets fired earlier by Palestinian fighters. The rockets hit southern Israel without causing casualties, an Israeli military spokesperson said. "We attacked seven tunnels near the [southern Gaza town of] Rafah. There were secondary explosions, showing they contained weapons material," the spokesperson said. "It was a response to two Qassam rocket attacks today and continued rocket fire.

Spray your tag on West Bank wall - long-distance
Jordan Times 2/25/2009
RAMALLAH (Reuters) - It could turn out to be the world’s longest graffiti space - the massive concrete barrier separating Israel from the Palestinians. Over the Internet, a group of Palestinian graffiti artists is offering to spray paint your personal message on Israel’s towering separation wall in the occupied West Bank. It costs 30 euros ($40) per message and they can be as solemn or wacky as you want. Everything goes, except for obscene, offensive or extremist hate speech. Clients get three digital pictures of the finished product. The eight-metre high barrier of massive concrete slabs is part of a 620km fence Israel says is intended to keep suicide bombers out, and which can be dismantled at some point in the future when peace reigns. But with its slit-eyed watchtowers and burgeoning Palestinian protest graffiti, it is already reminiscent of the hated Berlin Wall.... -- See also: Send A Message

Clinton Warns Israel Over Delays in Gaza Aid
Barak Ravid, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has relayed messages to Israel in the past week expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. A leading political source in Jerusalem noted that senior Clinton aides have made it clear that the matter will be central to Clinton’s planned visit to Israel next Tuesday. Ahead of Clinton’s visit, special U. S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is expected to issue a sharply worded protest on the same matter when he arrives here Thursday. " Israel is not making enough effort to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza," senior U. S. officials told Israeli counterparts last week, and reiterated Washington’s view by saying that "the U. S. expects Israel to meet its commitments on this matter. " Two weeks ago, four senior European Union officials sent a letter to the prime minister, foreign minister,

ICRC: Political steps needed to resolve Gaza crisis
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Political change, not just humanitarian action, if the Gaza Strip is to recover from Israel’s three-week war, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday. "What is needed is sustainable economic development. But that will only be possible if political steps are taken to prepare the ground. The first and most urgent measure should be to end the isolation of Gaza, particularly by lifting restrictions on the movement of people and goods," said ICRC president Jacob Kellenberger, in a rare public statement issued from the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. "Reconstruction is extremely important to help the people of Gaza on to their feet again," said Kellenberger, "but it is unlikely to succeed unless there is a prospect of a lasting peace. Humanitarian action can be no substitute for an honest and courageous peace. . .

Curse of heavy rains for Gazans stuck in tents
Hiba Lama, Palestine News Network 2/26/2009
PNN exclusive -- Heavy rains have proved a curse to Gaza’s newly homeless who are asking that the Israeli ban on reconstruction be lifted. The three-weeks of major attacks destroyed fully or partially thousands of homes. A group of families are crammed together in 50 tents. The cloth does not come close to protecting them from the elements, including the harsh winter and heavy rain. At a time when everyone prayed for heavy rain to aid in the drought, the members of this makeshift camp in Gaza are calling on God to have mercy on their children who are drenched in torrential downpours. Mohammad Abed Rabbo lives in a small tent with 12 other people. He tells PNN, "I live in a tent with two members of my family and a group that adds up to 13 people packed into a small space. We don’t move or do much of anything because it causes discomfort.

Bare minimum shipments of food, fuel allowed into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel allowed bare minimum amounts of food and fuel into the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday. The Karni crossing, used for shipping grain and animal feed, was closed. No reason was given. Raed Fatuh, a Palestinian border official in Gaza, said the Kerem Shalom crossing was open, allowing 117 trucks to cross, including 61 loaded with aid for international organizations, including UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees. Forty sixother trucks are loaded with rice, sugar, pasta, lentils, frozen meat, blankets, diapers and toilet paper. Ten were carrying fruit and eggs. The Nahal Oz terminal was also open, allowing EU-funded industrial grade diesel for use in Gaza’s sole power plant.

Tulkarem: Israeli forces detain dozens in West Bank village
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – The Israeli army invaded the northern West Bank village of Ramin on Thursday afternoon, detaining dozens of residents and closing the entrances to the town. Witnesses in the village said that at least ten Israeli military vehicles entered the town. Israeli soldiers detained dozens of people at the entrance to the town and interrogated them. A strict closure has been imposed on the town, which is east of the city of Tulkarem. [end]

Patient dies as a result of Israel’s siege on Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported that a Palestinian patient died on Thursday at a Gaza hospital after the Israeli occupation barred him from leaving the Gaza Strip for medical treatment abroad. The patient was identified as Husam Mohammad Hallas, age 30, from al-Shujaeyya neighborhood, east of Gaza City. He suffered from heart disease while the Israeli siege left Gaza hospitals unable to treat patients, as most of their equipment is out of service, and their medicine stores had run out of basic supplies. Hallas had all needed papers and transfer documents, but Israel still barred his transfer. It is worth mentioning that a relative of Hallas, identified as Shadi Abdul-Karim Hallas, died last week at a Gaza hospital because Israel also barred his transfer to a hospital abroad. The Ministry of Health in Gaza stated that with the death of Hallas, who died. . .

Gaza toll reaches 1,452 as teenager dies of wounds
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Dozens of Palestinians marched on Wednesday in a funeral procession for yet another victim of Israel’s three-week assault on the Gaza Strip. The death of 17-year-old Abdullah Sleim raises the overall toll of the war to 1,452, according to the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, Muawiya Hassanein. Sleim was transferred to a hospital in Egypt he was critically injured when Israeli forces bombed a house in the center of Gaza City on 14 January. Israel declared a ceasefire three days later. [end]

Palestinian child wounded by Israeli fire in Khan Younis
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/25/2009
Palestinian medical sources reported on Tuesday evening that a Palestinian child was shot and wounded in her left leg by Israeli military gunfire after the Israeli Army opened fire at a number of homes and orchards in Khuza’a town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The sources said that Wafa’ Al Najjar, age 16, suffered moderate wounds and was moved to Nasser Hospital, located in the city. It is worth mentioning that Tha’er Al Najjar, the brother of Wafa’, was shot and killed during last month’s Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. [end]

See your message on the West Bank wall, for a price
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
It could turn out to be the world’s longest graffiti space - the massive concrete barrier separating Israel from the Palestinians. Over the Internet, a group of Palestinian graffiti artists is offering to spray-paint your personal message on Israel’s towering security wall in the West Bank. It costs 30 euros ($40) per message and they can be as solemn or wacky as you want. Everything goes, except for obscene, offensive or extremist hate speech. Clients get three digital pictures of the finished product. The taggers at [Send A Message - click link at end] are members of the Palestinian Peace and Freedom Youth Forum, which set up the scheme in collaboration with a Dutch Christian organization. "It is a new way to speak with the people, that we the Palestinians exist," says graffiti artist Yusef Njm. -- See also: Send A Message and Jordan Times: Spray your tag on West Bank wall - long-distance

Israel seizes land in plan to encircle West Bank town with fence
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli military has issued an order to confiscate farmland in order to build a 295-meter barbed-wire fence separating the West Bank town of Beit Ummar from an adjacent highway. According to the Beit Ummar’s municipal council, the town is appealing the decision in an Israeli military tribunal and with the head of the land department in the Civil Administration. Beit Ummar is located on the Jerusalem-Hebron road, south of the city of Bethlehem. Officials in the town say the residents are constantly attacked by the Israeli soldier staffing a checkpoint on the road at the entrance of the town. These attacks include nighttime raids on homes, shootings, and arrests. These incidents have also been reported to Israeli and Palestinian Authorities.

Israeli bulldozers uproot trees near West Bank checkpoint
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli military bulldozers on Wednesday morning began uprooting olive and almond trees on both sides of the Enav checkpoint, east of the West Bank city of Tulkarem. Witnesses said that the Israeli army appeared to be clearing the way to expand the military checkpoint. [end]

Jerusalem governor: Settlements will trigger third intifada
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an Exclusive – The Palestinian Authority’s governor of Jerusalem warned on Wednesday that Israel’s policy of home demolitions could cause a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising. “The peace process is not a mechanism to steal land, to put facts on the ground as they like,” said PA Governor Adnan Husseini in response to announced Israeli plans to demolish over 100 homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Al-Bustan south of the Old City. Residents of the neighborhood are facing the stress of forced displacement from their homes due to a plan by the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem, prepared by the municipality engineer and approved in 1976, to designate their residential area as “green land. ”“It is now clear to the international community, and our position within the Palestinian Authority is very clear—no negotiations, no peace process, with settlements,”. . .

Israeli E1 scheme for East Jerusalem blocks access, destroys possibility of growth
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 2/25/2009
PNN exclusive - Dr. Rafiq Husseini, Abbas’s chief of staff, said yesterday that current Israeli policy aims at expelling Palestinians from Jerusalem and removing the city itself from negotiations. But Jerusalem shares the highest priority for Final Status along with refugees and a withdrawal to ’67 borders. "There will be no peace in the region without Jerusalem as the capital of an independent state," Husseini said. This came during a tour called for by the Palestinian presidency with accredited foreign consuls in Jerusalem to view the latest developments in the settlement projects in East Jerusalem and in particular the E1 settlement scheme. "The E1 plan would separate the northern and southern West Bank from East Jerusalem and prevent natural growth for Palestinian towns but leave it open for settlement expansion, which would prevent the establishment of Palestinian state," Dr.

Astal calls for supporting resistance to stop judaization schemes in Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 2/25/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Dr. Younis Al-Astal, a prominent Hamas leader, stated Tuesday that the best guarantee to stop the judaization of Jerusalem is to develop the potentials of the Palestinian resistance and supply it with advanced weapons in order to be able to retaliate more effectively to the Israeli crimes. He made these comments during a massive rally organized by the Hamas Movement yesterday in Khan Younis in solidarity with the Aqsa Mosque and in protest at the Israeli blasphemous remaks made about Prophet Jesus Christ and his mother. Dr. Astal underlined that the Israeli violations in occupied Jerusalem are the consequences of the Oslo accord and the subsequent agreements, saying that these agreements recruited the PA to be a security guard for the Israeli occupation. The Hamas leader warned that the Israeli focus on the Bustan area in the Silwan neighborhood near. . .

Vigil marks anniversary of Baruch Goldstein massacre in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Palestinians and their international supporters held a vigil marking the 15th anniversary of the massacre of 33 Palestinians by an Israeli settler in the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday. The demonstration took place near the fence surrounding the present day settlement of Kiryat Arba. The families of the victims of the massacre were present, along with officials from the Palestinian People’s Party and foreign solidarity activists. The demonstrators carried 33 banners with the names of the victims and lit 33 candles and carried torches. In response to the vigil, Israeli soldiers declared the area a closed military zone, shutting down roads leading to the site of the demonstration, in the Wadi Al-Ihsein neighborhood of Hebron. On 27 February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American-Israeli settler, opened fire on Palestinians at prayer at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, the site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Palestinian landowners kept in dark over Efrat settlement expansion
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli military tribunal has issued a decision that could pave the way for the expansion of the West Bank settlement of Efrat without informing a group of Palestinians who were petitioning to save their land. In the ruling, a court in the settlement of Ofer rejected eight separate petitions, each representing dozens of Palestinians. The petitioners had objected to a 2004 declaration by the Israeli Civil Administration to designating some 1,700 dunums (1. 7 million square meters) of land north of Efrat “state land. ”The land at stake belongs to the Palestinian village of Artas, on the southern outskirts of Bethlehem. A catholic monestary is located just to the norht of the land slated for confiscation. If the Israeli Defense Ministry approves it, the seizure of this land could result in a massive expansion of the settlement.

Bibi against talks with a Hamas-PA gov’t
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post 2/26/2009
Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to lobby Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week against US recognition of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, top advisers to Netanyahu said Wednesday. Zalman Shoval, one of Netanyahu’s five primary foreign policy advisers, said the Netanyahu diplomatic team was "trying to persuade whomever" that a Palestinian Authority unity government is a bad idea. "We shall try to convince our American friends that this is not something that would help the peace process, and that it would only make it easier for all sorts of other players - the Europeans and the Russians - to deal with Hamas," he said. "To return Hamas as a partner is not what America is interested in. "Shoval said history had shown that when there was an amalgamation between a moderate and an extremist party, it was only a matter of time before the extremists called the shots.

U.S. envoy, Netanyahu meet on peace efforts
Barak Ravid and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
The special U. S. envoy tasked with jump-starting flagging peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians huddled Thursday with designated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a vocal opponent of the negotiations. The meeting was the first between Netanyahu and George Mitchell since Netanyahu was tapped to lead Israel’s next government. The administration of U. S. President Barack Obama has dispatched Mitchell to the region for the second time in its first month, reflecting the administration’s resolve to end the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Hillary Clinton is due in the area next week for her first visit since being appointed the new U. S. secretary of state. Mitchell hopes to re-energize stalled talks, but Netanyahu wants to promote Palestinian prosperity instead of Palestinian statehood.

Obama’s envoy meets Netanyahu before PA talks
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell met Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, a day before he is scheduled to meet Palestinian leaders in Ramallah. Mitchell arrived in Israel from Turkey on Wednesday in his second visit to the region since the inauguration of US President Barack Obama in January. Obama has tasked Mitchell with restarting the moribund peace process. The Palestinian Authority has threatened to suspend talks with Netanyahu, whose Likud party opposes any territorial compromise with the Palestinians, and is committed to expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank. The prime minister in the Palestinian caretaker government in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad, said he would raise the issue of settlements with the US envoy. “We will talk about what is happening in East Jerusalem and the risks of. . .

U.S. Middle East Envoy Takes Second Trip to Region
Reuters, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
U. S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell has embarked on his second trip to the region to further President Barack Obama’s pledge to work for Arab-Israeli peace, the State Department said on Tuesday. Mitchell was in London on Tuesday for talks with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and would also visit the Turkish capital Ankara, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel and the West Bank before returning to Washington on March 4. Miliband, who was to travel to Cairo later on Tuesday, told parliament in London he had met Mitchell "to discuss prospects for renewed talks on the future of the Middle East. " State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Mitchell would join U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on March 2 for a donors’ conference to rebuild Gaza after Israel’s invasion last December.

Quartet Planning to Meet in Sharm Ahead of Gaza Donors’ Conference
Haaretz, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
Foreign ministers from the four powers heading a Middle East peace process may meet in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh on March 1, RIA Novosti news agency quoted Russia’s foreign ministry as saying on Wednesday. The Quartet is composed of Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union. The State Department on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for Israel, tellingthat the U. S. viewed its relations with Jerusalem as "special" and lasting. Meanwhile, U. S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell has embarked on his second trip to the region to further President Barack Obama’s pledge to work for Arab-Israeli peace, the State Department said on Tuesday. Mitchell was in London on Tuesday for talks with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and would also visit the Turkish capital Ankara, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel and the West Bank before returning to Washington on March 4.

Netanyahu holds ’friendly meeting’ with Mitchell
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Prime minister-designate meets with President Obama’s special Mideast envoy. Sources close to Netanyahu say after meeting it appears US does not intend to press Israel on illegal West Bank construction at this point - Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday with US President Barack Obama’s special Middle East envoy George Mitchell. Following the meeting Netanyahu said that it was held "in a very friendly and practical atmosphere. " Sources close to the Likud leader said that Netanyahu was under the impression that Mitchell does not intend to pressure Israel on the issue of illegal outposts. According to the sources, at this point the US did not present any demands to Israel and mainly sought to learn more of Israel’s stance on the relevant issues. In 2001, Mitchell published a report on the Israeli settlement project in the West Bank and stressed the need to halt further construction in the area.

Hillary Clinton Said to be Planning Middle East Trip
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 2/25/2009
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Israel and the West Bank next week for her first trip to the region as America’s top diplomat, Israeli and Palestinian officials said Monday. The Israeli officials said Clinton would arrive in Israel on March 2 for two days of meetings with leaders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit had not been announced by the State Department, which had not released Clinton’s schedule for next week. Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Clinton also would visit the West Bank. The State Department, meanwhile, announced the appointment of Dennis B. Ross as special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.

Clinton warns Israel over delays in Gaza aid
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has relayed messages to Israel in the past week expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. A leading political source in Jerusalem noted that senior Clinton aides have made it clear that the matter will be central to Clinton’s planned visit to Israel next Tuesday. Ahead of Clinton’s visit, special U. S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is expected to issue a sharply worded protest on the same matter when he arrives here Thursday. "Israel is not making enough effort to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza," senior U. S. officials told Israeli counterparts last week, and reiterated Washington’s view by saying that "the U. S. expects Israel to meet its commitments on this matter.

Under the Bombing, A Girl Child Called Hope
Inter Press Service 2/26/2009
GAZA CITY, Feb 26(IPS) - Ghalia Hussein’s husband refused to evacuate their Rafah home near the Israeli border amid heavy bombardment during the recent 22-day siege. Struck by a missile at the top of their stairs, he bled to death while ambulances attempted to reach him. He left Ghalia three children, a destroyed home, and no income to speak of. "I had to flee with the children. There was nothing we could do," Ghalia said from the United Nations (UN) school in Rafah where she took refuge during the conflict. "Now, I have nothing. How will we survive? " Making up half of the coastal enclave’s 1. 5 million people, Gaza’s women - and their children - bore the brunt of Israel’s deadly Operation Cast Lead. They are the post-war period’s most vulnerable population, says the UN. According to Gaza’s health ministry, 114 women were killed and nearly 1,000 wounded in the three-week Israeli assault.

Victims of Israeli siege rise to 291 patients
Palestinian Information Center 2/26/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The victims of the Israeli siege rose to 291 patients after the death of a 30-year old patient called Hossam Helles from the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza. In a press statement received by the PIC, the Palestinian health ministry said that the IOA denied the patient’s travel for medical treatment outside Gaza, warning that the death toll is apt to increase especially since dozens of patients are in the intensive care units awaiting the opening of crossings. In another context, the Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported Wednesday that six Israeli law professors urged Israeli attorney general Menachem Mazuz to investigate the war crimes committed by the IOF troops in the Gaza Strip in order to block the way to any attempts to to take legal action against Israel before foreign courts. The professors said that the information published in different media outlets. . .

Food, fuel allowed into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel allowed food and humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, momentarily easing its blockade of the territory. Ra’ed Fattouh, a Palestinian border official in Gaza, reported that Israel allowed 110 trucks to cross through the Kerem Shalom crossing, including 71 designated for international organizations such as UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. A Jordanian aid organization was also allowed to ship goods. Israel also allowed 29 trucks carrying frozen meat, diapers and toilet paper for the commercial sector and 10 trucks loaded fruits for the agricultural sector. Fattouh also told Ma’an that Israel opened the Karni crossing, allowing the shipment of 70 truckloads of wheat an animal feed. Industrial diesel for the Gaza power plant, in addition to cooking gas, is scheduled to cross through the Nahal Oz terminal.

Israel reopens Gaza crossings, Rafah crossing closed
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/25/2009
Israeli authorities reopened three Gaza crossings today, allowing more assistance shipments into the besieged Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the Rafah crossing terminal, co-administered by Egypt and Gaza, was reportedly closed. Kerem Shalom crossing, the Karni crossing and the Nahal Auz fuel terminal were reopened to allow food, household items and fuel into Gaza, Gaza crossings administration explained. Meanwhile, the administration maintained that the Rafah crossing terminal was closed by Egyptian authorities after it was reopened for three days, in which approximately 1,567 Palestinians were able to return to Gaza, and 465 others left the region. For more than 20 months now, Israel has imposed a tight closure on the Gaza Strip, following the seizure of Gaza by Hamas in June of 2007 amidst factional fighting with the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli blockade, Palestinian strife hinder Gaza rebuilding
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Despite the generous donations expected to be promised at next month’s Sharm el-Sheikh summit, money alone will not be enough to rebuild the Gaza Strip in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, stated the head of the United Nations Development Program in Gaza. Khaled Abdel Shafi said three basic conditions must be met for reconstruction to take place: The border crossings must be opened to allow in raw materials and construction needs; there must be a long-term cease-fire with Israel; and the Palestinian leaderships in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank must reconcile. Money earmarked -Both the UNDP and the UN Relief and Works Agency have significant amounts of money earmarked for various construction projects in Gaza, but they cannot advance because Israel is blocking raw materials, including construction materials, from entering the Strip.

1,500 People used Gaza’s Rafah crossing in three days
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Egypt on Wednesday closed its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip after opening it for three consecutive days. According to statistics of the Palestinian de facto government’s Interior Ministry in Gaza, 1,567 travelers passed through the crossing in and out of the Gaza Strip over the course of three days. On Tuesday, 456 people left Gaza and 186 entered Gaza from Egypt. That day, 330 were denied passage for unclear reasons. According to the Interior Ministry, many Gazans who hold foreign passports were denied entry to Egypt for unclear reasons, despite the best efforts of the ministry to resolve this problem with the Egyptians. [end]

Palestine Today 022609
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 4 m 00s || 3. 66 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for Thursday, February 26th, 2009. Palestinian man dies in Gaza due to the Israeli siege and a boy is killed by an Israeli explosive device in the West Bank. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned. The Newscast A Palestinian patient died on Thursday at a Gaza hospital after the Israeli army barred him from leaving the Gaza Strip for medical treatment abroad, Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported. The patient was identified as Husam Hallas, 30, from Al Shujaeyya neighborhood east of Gaza City. He suffered from a heart disease which the Israeli siege left Gaza hospitals unable to treat as most of their equipment is out of service and their medicine stores are out of basic supplies.

The Israeli Army kidnaps four civilians from Jenin and nearby village
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Four Palestinian civilians were reported kidnapped by Israeli troops during night and pre-dawn invasions, targeting the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and the nearby Ya’bod village on Thursday. Witnesses said that Israeli troops stormed Jenin city, searched homes in the downtown sector, then kidnapped Hilal Zidan, age 26, and took him to an unknown detention camp. Earlier on Wednesday night, local sources stated that Israeli forces kidnapped three youths from the village of Ya’bod near Jenin while trying to plant an explosive device at the nearby settler road, Israeli military sources reported. The families of the three boys told local media that the boys were on their way back home, and did not have any explosives with them.

Three Palestinians seized from village near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers seized three Palestinian teenagers from the West Bank village of Yabud, near Jenin, on Wednesday on charges of throwing stones at Israeli troops. According to the Israeli account of the arrest, the youths were discovered in possession of an explosive device, which was safely detonated on the location of the arrest. Local sources in the village said that the troops detained Ali Muhammad Amarneh and Iyad Ahmad Qabha, both 18. The third arrestee is still unknown. Palestinians in the village said that the three threw the explosive devices at the troops passing on the main road in the village. The sources added that the troops seized the youths and brutally assaulted them.

Boy killed by explosives left by Israeli soldiers in Tubas
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Tubas – Ma’an – A Palestinian child was killed and two others injured when ordinance left behind by the Israeli army exploded in the West Bank town of Tubas. Palestinian medical sources in Ash-Shifa hospital in Tubas said that 15-year-old Jamal Abed An-Naser Al-Fuqaha died. Sixteen-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Fuqaha and 17-year-old Mohammad Khalil Al-Fuqaha were injured in the explosion. Their wounds were described as moderate and slight. A spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority’s security services said “The incident occurred in an area called Barda, seven kilometers east of Tubas, where there are many training grounds for the Israeli army. ”[end]

Palestinian boy killed in northern West Bank due to explosive left by Israeli Army
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
A Palestinian boy from Tubas city, in the northern West Bank, was killed on Thursday afternoon after an explosive device left by the Israeli Army exploded next to him. Jamal Faqha, age 16, sustained injures in the chest and abdomen, doctors reported. They added that a metal object hit the boy’s heart, instantly killing him. Meanwhile, medics said that aother three young teenagers sustained moderate wounds as a result of the explosion. The Israeli Army has yet to release a statement regarding the incident. [end]

Israeli forces seize eight Palestinians in West Bank raids
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained eight Palestinians across the West Bank during early morning raids on Thursday. The Israeli army confirmed that it seized eight so-called “wanted” Palestinians from Jenin, Ramallah and Hebron. They said the arrestees were taken for interrogation. [end]

Israeli soldier escapes capture attempt north of Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Israel declared a state of alert on Wednesday after a Palestinian man attempted to steal a soldier’s gun near the illegal settlement of Givat Ze’ev, Israeli sources said. The man reportedly fled in his car after failing to steal the gun, sources added. Meanwhile, the Al-Quds Liberation Brigades announced a capture attempt of an Israeli soldier near a petrol station at the same settlement north of Jerusalem, according to a statement. The Brigades said in the statement to Ma’an that “the soldier escaped, while the Brigades withdrew from the area for the safety of our members. ”The statement added that “the operation comes within a series of many more to be carried out by Brigades members against Israeli targets. ”

IOF troops round up 24 Palestinians
Palestinian Information Center 2/25/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation forces on Wednesday arrested 24 Palestinian citizens in various West Bank areas in line with its semi-daily detention campaign. Local sources said that 15 citizens were rounded up in Ramallah districts and refugee camps while five were arrested in Bethlehem city and nearby villages including a man in his fifties. An IOF unit detained four other citizens in the Jericho district. IOF soldiers stormed the Yamun village, Jenin district, and broke into the home of Bajes Hamdia at the pretext that he was wanted for the Israeli intelligence but could not find him. The soldiers forced all inhabitants in Bajes’s home and nearby houses out of their homes for field interrogation that continued for several hours.

Israeli forces seize 22 Palestinians in West Bank raids
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli military said on Wednesday it detained 22 Palestinians during raids in the West Bank overnight. Israeli forces seized two people from the villages of Hindaza and Al-Asakira, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that about 13 military vehicles raided Al-Asakira and Hindaza. Israeli soldiers arrested 19-year-old Mohammad Ariddah Asakira from Al-Asakira, and Usayd Hassan Wardiyan from Hindaza, taking both from their homes. In the town of Al-Khadr, also south of Bethlehem, Israeli forces detained on Tuesday morning 25-year-old Marwan Abu Ghalyoun. Four others were reported detained in the city of Jericho, and 15 in Ramallah.

Israeli forces beat and arrest Palestinian police officer near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning assaulted and detained a Palestinian officer at the Huwwara military checkpoint south of the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank. Witnesses told Ma’an that several Israeli soldiers attacked 32-year-old officer Ammar Qneibu when he tried to pass through the checkpoint in his car. Qneibu is an officer at Aqraba village police station south of Nablus. According to the witnesses, soldiers seized the man from his car, beat him, and took him away. Earlier, Israeli forces detained another Palestinian officer for several hours and denied him passage through the Huwwara checkpoint. [end]

Israeli troops attack party in al-Khader near Bethlehem
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/25/2009
Israeli Army forces attacked a party that was held in the village of al-Khader, near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem late Tuesday night. The party was thrown for Zakaryia Issa, age 29, who had just been released from an Israeli Army detention camp after serving seven years as a political detainee. Witnesses said that Israeli troops arrived to the party tent next to the Issa family’s home, fired tear gas and sound bombs into the celebrations and told the family to stop the party. al-Khader village was handed over to Palestinian Authority control, along with Bethlehem city, in the mid 1990’s. [end]

Teenagers among 12 detained from village near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an Exclusive – Israeli troops detained 12 residents from the Kharbatha Al-Misbah village west of Ramallah late on Tuesday. Most of the detainees are teenagers and all are between the ages of 17 and 20. They were seized when Israeli troops overran the village on Tuesday night. The abducted Palestinians were identified as:Adib Sammour / Fayez Harfoush / Muhamad Harfoush / Thaer Kasby / Abdullah Kasby / Ibrahim Kasby / Hany Harfoush / Mustafa Al-Habal / Muhamad Al-Habal / Nimer Harfoush / Ayman Harfoush / Nidal Al-Habal[end]

Israeli warplanes strike Rafah tunnels
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli warplanes bombed smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip along the Egyptian border. The airstrike took place in the Brazil neighborhood of Rafah, according to the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, Muawiya Hassanein. No one was injured but property was damaged. The Israeli navy also fired on Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Rafah on Thursday. No injuries were reported. The Israeli military said the airstrike was in response to two homemade rockets that landed in Israel earlier on Thursday. One of the homemade projectiles landed in the yard of a home in the Israeli border town of Sderot. According to the Israeli news agency Ynet, one woman was treated for shock, and two houses sustained minor damage. Another homemade projectile landed in the Sha’ar Haganev area, east of the Gaza Strip, causing no damage.

Qassam ’explodes’ in Sderot; no injuries
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Rocket fired from Gaza causes minor damage to two homes; woman and her son treated for shock; another rocket lands in open area -A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinians in north Gaza Thursday morning exploded in the yard of a home in the western Negev town of Sderot. No injuries were reported, but a woman and her son were treated for shock, and two adjoining homes sustained minor damage. The Color Red siren, which warns residents of incoming projectiles, sounded in Sderot and surrounding communities at around 8:30 am; the rocket fired at Sderot landed shortly thereafter, and another Qassam fired by Palestinian gunmen landed near Sderot’s industrial zone, causing no injuries or damage. The owner of one of the damaged homes said "the rocket hit a tree situated between our two houses, but the other house sustained most of the damage.

Two homemade projectiles fired from Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A homemade projectile fired from northern Gaza landed in the yard of a home in the Israeli border town of Sderot on Thursday morning. According to the Israeli news agency Ynet, one woman was treated for shock, and two houses sustained minor damage. Another homemade projectile landed in the Sha’ar Haganev area, east of the Gaza Strip, causing no damage. A group calling itself Hizbullah in Palestine claimed responsibility for launching the two projectiles. They said these attacks were in response to Israeli policies on Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. On Wednesday morning, Palestinians fired two projectiles across the Green Line, causing no damage or injuries. Hizbullah in Palestine also claimed responsibility for that attack. A few hours later Israel’s air force retaliated by bombing smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza.

Palestinian resistance group fires two homemade shells at Israeli targets near Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Palestinian resistance announced on Thursday that their fighters fired two homemade shells at Israeli areas near the Gaza Strip. The group calling itself the Hezbollah in Gaza said that its fighters managed to fire two homemade shells at the Negev area in Israel. Israeli media sources said that the two homemade shells landed near residential areas in the Negev, causing damage to property, but no injures. The Palestinian group said that the attack is in response to Israel’s ongoing siege on Gaza, and other Israeli attacks. [end]

Islamic Jihad ’attacks Israeli patrol in Gaza’
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said that they attacked an Israeli military vehicle east of Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in the middle Gaza Strip. The Al-Quds Brigades said they fired two-rocket-propelled grenades at the vehicle. There has been no confirmation of this from the Israeli side. The Israeli army routinely patrols a buffer-zone along the border inside the Strip. [end]

Israeli helicopters bomb tunnels in southern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli helicopters on Wednesday afternoon bombed smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, along the border with Egypt. Witnesses said at least two missiles hit tunnels in the Salamand Brazil neighborhoods of the city of Rafah. There is no word yet on whether there were any casualties. The Israeli military confirmed the strike, saying that it targeted seven separate tunnels. Earlier, two homemade projectiles landed in open areas east of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning causing no injuries or damage. According to Israel, the projectiles landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. This was the first such attack since Monday. A paramilitary group identifying itself as “Hizbullah in Palestine” later claimed responsibility for launching the projectiles. The group said the attack marked the launch of a military operation they called “sacrifice for Jerusalem.

IAF strikes Rafah smuggling tunnels
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Hours after Palestinian gunmen fire rockets at Sderot Thursday morning, Israel aircraft bomb tunnels in Rafah area - The Israel Air Force launched two strikes against smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi Route, near the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, in response to several bouts of rocket fire from northern Gaza on Israel. Gazans use the tunnels under the border with Egypt to smuggle weapons, food and other goods into the blockaded territory. The first strike took place on Thursday afternoon, following Qassam fire on Sderot. The second strike took place in the evening, after a rocket was fired at the Eshkol Regional Council. Thursday saw three rockets fired at Israel: Two Qassam rockets hit Sderot, causing two people to suffer shock; and a third landed in Eshkol Regional Council limits, causing no harm.

Israel bombs Gaza tunnels ’in response to Qassam fire’
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Gaza militants fired three Qassam rockets into Israel on Thursday, one of which struck the yard of home in the southern town of Sderot. In retaliation, the Israel Air Force twice bombed smuggling tunnels in Gaza, near the border with Egypt. Five tunnels were targeted in the afternoon Thursday, and two additional tunnels were bombed Thursday evening. No one was hurt in the strikes. A number of people in Sderot were treated for shock after the attack, which caused damage to property. A second rocket hit an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. Later Thursday evening, a third Qassam rocket hit the Eshkol region in the western Negev. No injuries or damage were reported. Gazans use the tunnels under the border with Egypt to smuggle weapons, food and other goods into the blockaded territory.

IAF bombs Gaza tunnels after rockets hit Negev
Anshel Pfeffer and Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Israel Air Force aircraft bombed smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border on Wednesday after two rockets hit southern Israel, the army said. "We attacked seven tunnels near the [southern Gaza town of] Rafah. There were secondary explosions, showing they contained weapons material," the spokeswoman said. "It was a response to two Qassam rocket attacks today and continued rocket fire. "The Qassam rockets struck the Sha’ar Hanegev region in the western Negev on Wednesday. There were no reports of casualties in either incident. Egypt has been trying to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of a 22-day offensive that the Israel Defense Forces launched in the territory on Dec.

A Framework for an Enhanced International Role in Gaza
Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
The recent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip resuscitated the debate over a possible international role in the besieged territory. What capacity, if any, can the international community fill in order to help run Gaza’s crossings, patrol its borders, ensure equitable distribution of humanitarian assistance and support imminent reconstruction efforts? This debate is as old as Israeli unilateral withdrawal plans. In 2003, many United Nations officials suggested that an international force along Gaza’s borders was the best way to ensure stability and security for both Israel and for the Palestinians after Israel’s withdrawal. They took their case to world capitals and the region, arguing that such a "presence" could, inter alia, involve patrolling the border and territorial waters to prevent smuggling and illegal passage, training and assisting the Palestinian Authority’s security forces to

Arab League chief praises Obama’s Mideast envoy as ’honest broker’
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
President Barak Obama’s call for change raises hope that the United States will take on the role of "honest broker" in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, the Arab League secretary-general said Wednesday. Amr Moussa, the veteran Egyptian diplomat who has headed the 22-member group for nearly eight years, singled out Obama’s appointment of former U. S. Sen. George J. Mitchell as Mideast envoy as a hopeful change. "Mr. Mitchell is the personification of the honest broker," Moussa said in a public discussion at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. " What we need is a policy change," he said, implicitly criticizing the Bush administration as tilting in Israel’s favor. After talks in European capitals, Mitchell is due to head to the Middle East, his second trip to the region for the Obama administration.

VIDEO - Empire - Israel and the US
Al Jazeera 2/25/2009
In this episode of Empire, Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, and his guests zero in on the special relationship between the US and Israel. From its beginning, when it took the US only 11 minutes to recognise Israel, through its difficult early years, to the blossoming bond when the alliance grew based on shared values and strategic goals. This relationship has provided Israel with over $150bn in aid and military assistance, and in the process changed the nature of Israeli society. However, despite the obligatory expressions of support by politicians playing to their constituencies, the recent elections in both countries have them seemingly heading in opposite directions. This second episode of Empire will explore who benefits from the special relationship and whether the status quo will prevail.

Israel dispatches Dekel to Cairo for renewed ceasefire talks
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Israel dispatched on Thursday Ufer Dekel, an envoy to Cairo-hosted ceasefire negotiations with the Palestinians. According to Mariv Israeli Daily newspaper, the new round of talks will discuss a new list of Palestinian prisoners Israel will offer in a swap for captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit, held as a prisoner by Hamas in Gaza since June of 2006. Such a round comes after Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, called back Israeli negotiator, Amos Gil’ad, to his office after Gil’ad had been removed as official negotiator. Israeli media sources stated that Gil’ad had submitted a written apology to Olmert, prompting Olmert to return him to office as representative to Caior-mediated ceasefire and prisoner swap talks. In Mid February, outgoing Prime Minister Olmert conditioned that any ceasefire with the Gaza-based resistance factions should include the release of soldier Gil’ad Shalit.

Isreali negotiator heads to Cairo with prisoner list
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel headed to Cairo on Thursday to discuss a possible prisoner involving soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza since 2006. Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, is demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails in return for Shalit. Dekel’s trip is a signal that indirect Egyptian-brokered negotiations about a prisoner exchange have resumed. The talks were frozen earlier this week when Israel’s outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, dismissed the top negotiator in the talks with Hamas, Amos Gilad, over critical remarks the defense official made in an interview with the newspaper Maariv. Gilad however Olmert and delivered a letter apologizing for his comments. Olmert accepted the apology. Last week Israel’s security cabinet drafted a new list of prisoners it is willing to release. . .

Israelis deliver list of political prisoners to Egypt
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/26/2009
Gaza -- The envoy to outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Cairo today with what is claimed to be a list of Palestinian political prisoners that the Israelis are willing to release. This is part of the ongoing negotiations mediated by Egypt between Palestinians and Israelis for an exchange of prisoners for the captured Israeli soldier. Israeli sources say the envoy, Ofer Dekel, arrived in Cairo today for talks with Egyptian Security Minister Omar Suleiman. The timing comes as Palestinian parties are holding national reconciliation talks in the capital city. The Hamas party drafted the list of Palestinians it would trade for the soldier. The Israeli administration routinely refused all or part of the list. Which part it has now accepted has not yet been published, although Israeli sources say it includes "hundreds," and among them several with high sentences.

Shalit negotiator heads to Cairo after ousted mediator reinstated
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Senior Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel headed to Cairo on Thursday for talks on securing the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He left shortly after outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reinstated Amos Gilad, Israel’s chief negotiator in talks over a truce in Gaza. Some officials had feared that Gilad’s suspension earlier this week would harm negotiations for Shalit. As Dekel left for Egypt, a source in Olmert’s bureau declared: "We cannot miss this opportunity, regardless of the painful cost. "Dekel was invited to Cairo by Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to hear his suggestions on how to proceed and to relay Hamas’ demands. Hamas wants hundreds of Palestinian prisoners released, including many involved in deadly attacks on Israelis. With only a few weeks left in Olmert’s term, a source in the bureau. . .

Egyptian FM: Ceasefire already in effect
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/25/2009
Ahmed Aboul Gheit says truce between Israel, Hamas already implemented; hopes prisoner exchange deal will follow - Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reported Wednesday that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has already taken effect on the ground, despite the absence of a formal agreement. Gheit addressed the media following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the prime minister of Dubai, and said that Cairo’s efforts were now focused on striking a prisoner exchange deal and cementing the truce. In order to reach a significant breakthrough, he added, "We must pressure Israel into understanding that mitigations (in the blockade place on Gaza Strip) are needed to facilitate the lull. "The ceasefire would play a pivotal role in facilitating reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas. Mending the rift between the two and creating a Palestinian unity government will be the focus of Egypt’s efforts next, he said.

Israeli envoy in Cairo for talks on captive soldier
Middle East Online 2/26/2009
CAIRO - A senior Israeli negotiator returned to Cairo on Thursday to discuss efforts to free a soldier captured by Palestinian resistance in Gaza more than two years ago, an Israeli official said. Ofer Dekel, a former deputy head of Israel’s Shin Beth domestic intelligence agency, was due to meet Egyptian intelligence chief and mediator Omar Suleiman, the official said. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been held captive by the democratically elected Hamas in the Gaza Strip since resistance fighters captured him in a cross border raid from the enclave in June 2006. Dekel will bring a list of Palestinian prisoners Israel is willing to release in exchange for Shalit, Israeli army radio reported. Hamas has demanded the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of them implicated in attacks against Israelis to liberate their land from Israel’s long occupation, in exchange for Shalit.

Think like an Egyptian
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
CAIRO - "We can understand that you tell us one thing one day and the next day you say the opposite," the Egyptian official began, moving my glass of water next to his. "But maybe you can explain to me," he continued, returning the glass to its place, "why just a few hours later you change your minds yet again, only to go back to the original starting point. "His questions referred to the cabinet decision to link an Israel-Hamas truce agreement, courtesy of President Hosni Mubarak, to the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, courtesy of Khaled Meshal, Hamas’ political leader in Damascus. I volunteered the theory that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert got cold feet when he looked at the list of killers he is expected to free in exchange for Shalit. The man shook his head vigorously. "I read in your newspapers that there is disagreement over four or 20 serious prisoners, and I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Israeli TV show insults Noble Prophet of Islam
Palestinian Information Center 2/25/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli TV channel 10 aired a show blaspheming and insulting Prophet of Islam Muhammad (PBUH), where one of the participants called Natan Bshefken likened his shoes to the Noble Prophet. Dr. Taleb Abu Sha’ar, the Palestinian ministry of religious affairs, strongly denounced this Israeli broadcast, saying that the channel deliberately showed this scene and did not delete it to provoke Muslims’ feelings. Dr. Abu Sha’ar said that feelings of Muslims all over the world was deeply hurt by this Israeli media campaign against prophets of God, adding that this campaign overstepped all the limits of politeness and the accepted manners of conversation and turned into deliberate contempt for a religion followed by more than one billion people in the world. The minister noted that the intentional blasphemies which took place last week against Prophet Jesus Christ and the. . .

Israeli officials: Hamas has until Likud takes over to cut Shalit deal
Avi Issacharoff Jack Khoury Barak Ravid and, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Ofer Dekel, Israel’s negotiator for prisoner exchanges, is set to land in Cairo soon to meet with Egyptian general Omar Suleiman. The two will discuss a deal to release abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. "This opportunity must not be missed, despite the painful price," officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday. Israel is expected to release hundreds of convicted terrorists in return for Shalit, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza since 2006. The Israeli officials called on Hamas to renegotiate over the prisoners it is demanding Israel release. "The number of people to be released is well-known, but now we have to agree on which prisoners," an official said. The officials warned Tuesday that it would be more difficult to reach an agreement with the next government, which will. . .

Ousted mediator apologizes to Olmert for criticism on Hamas talks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Ousted mediator Amos Gilad on Wednesday apologized to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tofor criticizing him over his handling of Egyptian-brokered negotiations with Hamas. Olmert suspended Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security bureau, after he lashed out viciously at the prime minister’s conduct in both the talks over a truce and for the release of abducted Israel soldier Gilad Shalit, in remarks published in the Israeli newspaper Maariv. The two met on Wednesday at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Before the meeting, Gilad presented to Olmert, in which he had written: "I want to apologize for the things I said against the prime minister and against the government of Israel. The things I said were unjustified, erroneous and would have been better off unsaid.

Fayyad asks donors to channel Gaza aid through him
News agencies, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Ahead of next week’s aid conference, Palestinian PM asks donor countries to transfer hundreds of millions for Strip’s reconstruction ’first and foremost’ through his government -Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is asking donor countries to channel hundreds of millions in expected aid for Gaza "first and foremost" through his government. Fayyad’s request is part of a 53-page report he presented to donors ahead of a pledging conference for Gaza next week. The report was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. Gaza’s Hamas rulers are not invited to the conference. Instead, the Palestinians will be represented by Fayyad, a US-backed moderate and Hamas rival. According to the report, released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority urgently needs $1.

Hamas and Fatah Agree to Stop Arrests, Smear Campaigns
Palestine Media Center 2/26/2009
The third session of talks between Hamas and Fateh movements ended in Cairo on Wednesday after the two movements agreed to resolve some of the conflicting issues between them, mainly releasing political prisoners held by the two sides in Gaza and the West Bank. Both movements said that there are some positive indications that would ensure the success of internal dialogue between all factions on Thursday. Azzam Al Ahmad, head of the Fateh Parliamentarian bloc, and senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Al Zahhar, held a joint press conference and confirmed that the two sides has agreed to stop all smear campaigns. Al Ahmad added that his movement wants to end the file of political prisoners, and stop all violations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in order to achieve national unity. Fateh leader, Ahmad Qurea’, and Hamas political bureau member, Mousa Abu Marzouq, headed the meeting.

Thousands Rally for Abbas in West Bank as Palestinian Rivals Begin Talks
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
Thousands of Palestinians congregated in the West Bank town of Nablus on Wednesday in a strong show of support for President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions set to begin in Cairo. Later in the day, representatives of Abbas’ Fatah movement are to sit down in Egypt with envoys from the Islamic militant group Hamas to try to plaster over the gaping political rift that divides them. Fatah on Tuesday released some 42 Hamas prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of the reconciliation talks. Maher Halaby, the Fatah chief in Nablus, said tens of thousands of people from across the West Bank had arrived in the city by midday. Many in the crowd opposite An-Najah University were carrying yellow Fatah flags and red, white, green and black Palestinian flags. The two movements have been bitter rivals for years. The rift came to a head in June 2007 when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza after days of street fights with Fatah.

PA asking for more than 2 billion for Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/26/2009
Ramallah - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority will ask for two billion and 800 million dollars for the reconstruction of Gaza during the donor conference to be held on Monday in Egypt. Fayyad made the remarks after the signing of an agreement. The agreement was made between the PA and the Coordinating Council of the private sector and the European Commission on the program of revitalization of the economic sector in the Gaza Strip. This is part of the integrated program for the reconstruction of the Strip. Fayyad said at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Prime Minister after meeting with the head of European Parliament in Ramallah yesterday in which they signed the agreement. "The volume of funds required to meet the needs of reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, according to the document prepared by the Palestinian Authority, is two billion and 800 million dollars.

Three factions excluded from Cairo talks blame Egypt
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Three Palestinian factions that were not invited to the unity talks in Cairo accused Egypt of “a political agenda … biased toward one party and against another. ”The Palestinian Popular Struggle, Palestinian Revolutionary People’s party and Fatah-Al-Intifada (a Fatah splinter group) all signed the statement, which was issued from Damascus, where numerous Palestinian movements have their headquarters. All three are little-known factions and are not members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Thirteen factions are participating in the Egyptian-sponsored talks, which are aimed at forming a unity government, reuniting rivals Hamas and Fatah. Among the other groups participating in Cairo are the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the communist Palestinian Peoples Party (PPP), Islamic Jihad, and several others.

PA to seek $2.8 billion to rebuild war-ravaged Gaza
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/26/2009
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday it will seek $2. 8 billion to rebuild Gaza, as Israel threatened another military offensive if alleged arms smuggling into the Hamas-run enclave continues. "We have prepared a document on the basis of which donors will make their aid pledges. It foresees a total of $2. 8 billion for all sectors," Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad said at the headquarters of his Western-backed government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. "This document was prepared by the Palestinian Authority with the participation of all concerned parties and contains, in addition to the required aid, mechanisms that will allow donors to start reconstruction. "More than 70 countries are expected at the March 2 meeting in Egypt, which has been mediating a consolidation of the Gaza truce after Hamas and Israel declared on January 18 their own ceasefires. . .

Fayyad: ’Channel Gaza funds through PA’
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – The Palestinian Prime Minister in the caretaker government in Ramallah urged donor states to channel funds for Gaza reconstruction through his Palestinian Authority (PA). Fayyad’s request is part of a 53-page report he presented to donors ahead of a fundraising conference for Gaza next week. The report was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. The Hamas-run de facto government in Gaza is not invited to the conference. Instead, the Palestinians will be represented by Fayyad’s caretaker government. According to the report, released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority urgently needs 1. 15 billion US dollars in international funds to continue operating 2009. The Western-backed government also needs 500 million dollars for development projects, and at least $600 million for reconstruction and. . .

Fayyad: Gaza needs at least two billion USD for its reconstruction
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
The Appointed Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salam Fayyad, stated on Wednesday evening that he will ask for $2 billion and $800 million USD, the requirement for the reconstruction of Gaza, during the Egyptian hosted donor conference next Monday. Fayyad made his remarks during a press conference in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, after signing an agreement with the European Commission. The agreement was made between the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Coordinating Council of the private sector and the European Commission, for a program of revitalization for the economic sector in the Gaza Strip. This is just one part of an integrated program for the reconstruction of Gaza. Fayyad said, "the volume of funds required to meet the needs of reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, according to the document prepared by the PA, is $2 billion and $800 million dollars.

IMF report: PA urgently needs $1.5b to cover financing requirements
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
The Palestinian Authority urgently needs $1. 15 billion to cover external recurrent financing requirements in 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report released on Thursday. The Western-backed government also needs $500 million for development projects, and at least $600 million for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Gaza following Israel’s offensive last month, the IMF report said. It added that should the funds not be paid immediately the cash-strapped authority would need to cut its cash expenditures and likely accumulate arrears, including on wages. Palestinians hope to raise $2. 8 billion at an international conference in Egypt on Monday aimed at rebuilding the Gaza Strip after the Israeli attack. The IMF report also urged Israel to relax restrictions on movement of goods in the West Bank,. . .

Fayyad Says PA Need 2.8 billion US dollars for Gaza Reconstruction
Palestine Media Center 2/26/2009
The Palestinian Authority (PA) must raise 2. 8 billion US dollars at a donor conference in Egypt next month if it is to meet its goals in rebuilding the Gaza Strip, caretaker Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday. Fayyad, speaking at a press conference at PA headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said that his government has prepared a document detailing all that is needed for reconstruction and economic recovery in the Gaza Strip. The Strip is struggling to rebuild after Israel’s three-week onslaught in December and January. Fayyad said the PA document will be the basis for conversations a donor conference at the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm Ash-Sheikh. Some eighty states are expected to be represented at the conference, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Haniyeh: Unity critical to national interests
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – National dialogue is the only way to save the Palestinian nation, de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on ThursdayIn an interview with the Hamas-affiliated website Palestinian Information Center, Haniyeh said, “The dialogue is the bridge toward upholding Palestinian rights, protecting the nation and their sacrifices, and rebuilding the PLO based on new democratic terms. ”Haniyeh’s comments were made public as direct talks between Hamas and its rival, Fatah, began in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. The Hamas leader cited that the Cairo agreement of 2005, the national reconciliation document, the Mecca agreement of 2007, the higher follow-up committee for the Intifada in Gaza, and the committee of coordination between Palestinian factions in the West Bank as the basis for reconciliation with Fatah.

Leftist leader to PNN: national dialogue going well
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/26/2009
Cairo - Secretary General of Palestinian People’s Party Bassam As Salhi expressed great optimism about what was agreed upon at the first day of the national dialogue in Cairo. "The atmosphere is really serious," As Salhi told Thursday. "Everyone wants to progress even though the files are still dramatically difficult. "The notable leftist spoke with from the Egyptian capital that is hosting the long-awaited talks for Palestinian reconciliation. At seven this evening a press conference will give official details of agreements made during this first day of dialogue, including that which pertains not only to Palestinians but also to the rest of the Arab world. Expected outcomes are a national unity government, a re-activation of the Palestine Liberation Organization and preparations for "on time" elections.

Palestinian factions agree on unity
Al Jazeera 2/26/2009
Palestinian factions have agreed to establish five committees to address key issues for unity. The Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo between 12 Palestinian factions began on Thursday and follow 18 months of disharmony between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. At a news conference after the talks Ahmed Qurei, a senior Fatah official, said that the moves were a "national necessity and a response to the aspirations of our people. "The five committees established at the meeting will deal with issues including the formation of a unity goverrnment, rebuilding institutions, establishing presidential and legislative elections, security services, and reconciliation. The immediate release of political detainees in Gaza and the West Bank was also promised.

Abbas calls on international community to recognize unity government that includes Hamas
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/25/2009
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, stated on Tuesday that if the Palestinians form a national unity government that includes Hamas, the international community should recognize it and deal with it, the Maan News Agency reported. The statement of Abbas came in a press conference in Norway. Chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, presidency spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rodeina, member of the Legislative Council, Dr. Ziad Abu Amro, and the Palestinian commissioner in Norway, Yasser Al Najjar, also attended the conference. President Abbas said that recognizing a unity government is essential in resolving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Abbas added that he hopes that internal negotiations between the Palestinian factions, due to commence Thursday in Cairo, will lead Hamas to recognize all peace deals signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Abbas: any national unity government must respect past signed agreements
Maram Isid & Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/25/2009
The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated on Wednesday that any future national unity government formed after an agreement between Fattah and Hamas must respect all past agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Abbas statement came during his ongoing visit to Oslo. He added that what matters now is to agree on forming a government, regardless of whether it is a government of national unity or government of national consensus. President Abbas said that international recognition is necessary for any Palestinian government in order to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza Strip and continued Israeli attacks in the West Bank Abbas hoped that the factional negotiations which begin on Wednesday in the Egyptian capital Cairo will push Hamas to recognize past signed agreements with Israel.

Ashqar: The interior ministry’s news conference was related to a criminal issue
Palestinian Information Center 2/25/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Ismail Al-Ashqar, the head of the parliamentary committee of interior and security, said Wednesday that the news conference which had been held by the interior ministry days ago was completely separate from the issue of division in the Palestinian arena, asserting that the conference was related only to criminal and security issues. In an exclusive press statement to the PIC, MP Ashqar added that the conference revealed information about individuals and a group of spies who gave information to hostile parties resulting in the killing hundreds of Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip and the destructions of buildings and civilian homes. The lawmaker underlined that such criminal cases would be referred to the Palestinian judiciary to take legal action against them according to the Palestinian law.

Rival Palestinian factions agree to prisoner swap in goodwill gesture
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah agreed Wednesday to exchange prisoners as part of a deal still being negotiated to reconcile the bitterly divided groups, a senior Hamas official said. The two sides met in Cairo for talks mediated by Egypt’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman. Wednesday’s session focused on the release of detainees and ending attacks in the media against each other. Starting Thursday, the sides were to confront more challenging issues like holding elections and sharing power. An accord between the Islamic militants of Hamas of Gaza and the more moderate Fatah movement in charge of the West Bank is seen as key to moving ahead with Gaza’s reconstruction after the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas. The Palestinians are hoping to raise $2.

Majdalawi: 'We agreed to end divisions, start a new era of talks'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Jamil Majdalawi, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) stated in a press conference held by the Palestinian factions on Thursday evening in Cairo, that the factions agreed to discuss forming a unity government, elections, and reforming the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The factions agreed to form five committees that would start their activities on March 10. They will be in charge of forming a new government, arrangements for new legislative and presidential elections, reforming the security devices, and reforming the PLO to include top include Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. In their Thursday meeting, the factions also agreed to form a unity government before the end of March. Responding to a question regarding who will be the head of the new government, Al Majdalawi said the new government will include all factions. . .

PRC: Hamas and Fatah must unite to confront Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas and Fatah must unite in order to face a likely right wing government in Israel, a leader with the radical Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) said on Thursday. A member of political leadership of the PRC, Zuheir Al-Queisi said that an extremest Israeli governmentwill continue to expand settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank“Meetings held among Palestinian factions are an the interest for all. … The factions have a duty of … empowering resistance culture and building a Palestinian resistance community,” he said. “Fatah and Hamas should have a huge sense of responsibility towards the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli assault,” he added. “This should not be thwarted by continued Palestinian division which is a temporary form of internal Palestinian relations,” said Al-Queisi, calling. . .

Haneyya: The dialog is a way for the national deliverance
Palestinian Information Center 2/26/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian premier Ismail Haneyya stated Thursday that the national dialog is a way for the national deliverance and not merely a political tactic, stressing that the priority for the government and the Hamas Movement is to achieve a genuine national reconciliation.  In an exclusive interview conducted by the PIC with the premier before the start of the national dialog in Cairo, Haneyya highlighted that the dialog is a bridge towards upholding the Palestinian constants and rights, preserving the dignity, steadfastness and sacrifices of the Palestinian people, and rebuilding the PLO democratically. The premier added that the dialog should lead to a national government not subject to external pressures and protecting the Palestinian right to resistance, and also to new security apparatuses rebuilt on national foundations away from any security coordination with the occupation.

Suleiman: The dialog is intended for forming a government of all factions
Palestinian Information Center 2/26/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Omar Suleiman, the director of the Egyptian intelligence, stated Thursday that the meeting of the Palestinian factions in Cairo is intended for ending the state of division and working on achieving the aspirations of the Palestinian people in forming a government of national unity involving all factions. At the opening of the national reconciliation convention this morning, Suleiman said that the Egyptian concern about the Palestinian cause is a sacred duty and national responsibility, adding that Egypt would not forsake the issues of its Arab nation. The Egyptian official underlined that the results of the inter-Palestinian dialog would be a milestone in the history of the Palestinian people and a glimmer of hope that shifts the Palestinian reality into new horizons. He also noted that five committee would be formed to deal with the files of the rebuilding of security. . .

Fatah and Hamas agree to release prisoners
Ma’an News Agency 2/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to release political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza and cease incitement in the media. Senior leaders Mahmoud Az-Zahhar of Hamas and Azzam Al-Ahmad of Fatah held a joint press conference in Cairo after officials from the two movements met. Az-Zahhar said that there were more than 400 Hamas political prisoners in Palestinian Authority jails in the West Bank, 80 of whom were released this week. He said Hamas is contacting President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah leader Ahmad Qurei to arrange the release of the rest. For his part, Azzam Al-Ahmad said that Hamas had lifted the house arrest that was imposed on some Fatah leaders in Gaza. They said that two committees have been formed, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza, aimed at following up on the issues of political arrests and media incitement.

Security sources to PNN: accused murderer escapes from court
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/26/2009
Ramallah -- A man accused of murder escaped from a Ramallah courtroom in the central West Bank Thursday. A Palestinian security source told PNN that the accused fled during today’s session in the midst of chaos. A witness had pointed a gun at the man standing trial. Police wrestled the gun away and during the fracas the accused escaped from custody. The security source told PNN today that the chaos that prevailed momentarily in the court provided the perfect cover. Police are on the lookout for the man standing trial. To the south in Bethlehem’s Beit Jala Palestinian police are investigating a string of robberies that began early this week at the gas station and have continued at several stores.

Hamas to buy caravans for homeless Gazans
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/25/2009
Palestinian group’s strongman Mahmoud al-Zahar says organization will use funds confiscated by Egypt at border to house Gazans who lost homes in Israeli offensive. ’It’s our right to bring in anything - money and weapons. We will buy whatever Palestinians need,’ he says - Hamas strongman [sic] Mahmoud al-Zahar said on Wednesday that his organization planned to buy some 1,000 caravans from Egypt to house residents of the Gaza Strip left homeless following Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that Hamas planned to purchase the caravans with funds that were seized from the organization’s senioe member Ayman Taha a few weeks ago when he tried to return to the Strip from Cairo. Al-Zahar said that the last round of meetings between the Hamas delegation and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman have been positive.

New Fatah TV station to take on Hamas
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/25/2009
Fatah decides to establish television, radio stations to counter Hamas’ media supremacy - While reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah continue, officials in Mahmoud Abbas’ movement are preparing to establish a television station and other media outlets, in a bid to counter the influence of Hamas’ highly popular television and radio stations. Following Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip, Fatah members complained that the Islamic movement took advantage of a well-oiled propaganda machine in the form of television and radio stations that constantly aired Hamas messages, and particularly the al-Aqsa stations. Earlier this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approved the recommendation to establish a Fatah television station in Cairo and Ramallah, as well as a radio station, website, and newspaper - in order to counter Hamas’ media supremacy.

PLC in Gaza receives fact-finding committee sent by the Arab League
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the Gaza Strip welcomed to its Gaza headquarters on Thursday morning the fact-finding committee which has been sent by the Arab league. Several legislators met with committee members to discuss the outcome of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, and the war crimes committed by the Israeli Army against Palestinian civilians and civilian facilities, as most of the casualties were women, children and elderly. Legislator Naim Al Ashqar, head of the Internal Security and Local Government Committee, provided the visiting delegates with detailed information on the outcome of the Israeli war, and said that Israel used all sorts of internationally banned weapons against unarmed civilians. Al Ashqar added that Israel should be prosecuted for war crimes, and that its leaders should be brought to justice in the international Court of Justice in the Hague.

League of Arab Nations Fact-Finding Mission will Conclude Work in Gaza on Friday
PCHR, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Press release; The Palestinian Center for Human Rights - GazaThe fact-finding mission of the League of Arab Nations mandated by the League of Arab Nations to investigate war crimes committed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during the latest offensive on the Gaza Strip is going to finish its works in the Gaza Strip on Friday, 27 February 2009, with a tour in Rafah to watch the destruction caused by IOF to the town. The mission has sought to gather evidence and eyewitnesses’ testimonies, and to watch the destruction cause by IOF during the latest offensive on the Gaza Strip to prepare a neutral and objective report to be submitted to the League of Arab Nations. The mission consists of 6 international experts in the field of international law and humanitarian law: John Dughard, Former UN Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories; Finn Lenghjem, a judge and legal expert;. . .

Acting PLC speaker leaves Gaza on tour
Ma’an News Agency 2/25/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmad Bahar left the Gaza Strip on Tuesday through the Rafah crossing on a tour to explain the situation in the Gaza Strip during and after the three-week Israeli offensive. At the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip Bahar told the reporters, “This tour will include Syria, Iran and Bahrain, and it is necessary after the Israeli offensive against Gaza to update Arab parliaments on the suffering of Gaza caused by that offensive. ”Bahar highlighted that he received several invitations from other parliaments, and he will accept these invitations to discuss with parliamentarians the Palestinian dialogue, Israeli aggression on Gaza, Palestinian prisoners in Israel, especially the jailed PLC speaker, Aziz Dweik. Bahar is also reported to be attending the Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo.

Former International Foreign Ministers call for dialogue with Hamas
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
A number of former Foreign Ministers from different parts of the world issued a statement on Thursday morning demanding Israel and the United States to engage in talks with the Hamas movement, labeled as a terrorist group by the two countries. The statement was published at the London Times newspaper, and includes 14 signatures of former diplomats and foreign ministers who participated in negotiations and mediation in different parts of the world, the Arabs48 news website reported. One of the signatories is the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben Ami. The statement is entitled "There can no peace without Hamas", and states that the time has come to reconsider the current strategies in order to find a suitable strategy that can achieve peace in the Middle East. It also reads that the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas, and the Israeli policy of isolating Hamas, will never lead to stability and peace.

European Campaign: Diverting international attention from war crimes will not change facts
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/26/2009
Brussels -- Dr. Arafat Madi is the Chairman of the European Campaign to Lift the Siege on Gaza and says the Israelis are trying to divert attention from charges of war crimes. "Such attempts will no succeed. There are many witnesses to the heinous crimes of the occupation," said Madi today whose campaign is active in the maritime attempts to break the siege. He said that allegations put forward by the Israeli President Shimon Peres blaming Hamas as the party "that prevents the achievement of peace," is a diversion tactic. "These types of statements reveal the Israeli attempt to cover up a series of firsts for he massacres committed in the Gaza Strip during the 23 days in which more than 6,000 Palestinians were killed and wounded and the infrastructure of the Strip was completely destroyed. " Dr. Madi added today that Peres’ position "reflects the Israeli fear of recognition. . .

Former peace negotiators urge world to engage with Hamas
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
A group of former international peace negotiators on Thursday urged the world and Israel to abandon the policy of isolating Hamas and engage with the Islamist militant group. "The policy of isolating Hamas cannot bring about stability. As former peace negotiators, we believe it is of vital importance to abandon the failed policy of isolation and to involve Hamas in the political process," the group said in a letter published in the British newspaper The Times. The letter said the futility of the policy had been demonstrated by Israel’s recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Israel, the United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Since the group took over the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 coup, the international community has largely complied with an Israeli-led blockade of the coastal territory and boycott of its rulers.

Miliband faces high court battle in UK over Gaza rights
David Pallister, The Guardian 2/25/2009
The foreign secretary, David Miliband, has acted "in flagrant and continuing breach of international law" in failing to suspend arms exports to Israel, the high court will be told. In what is thought to be the first legal challenge resulting from Israel’s operation in Gaza, lawyers representing more than 30 Palestinian families have accused Miliband, along with the ministers for defence and business, of acting illegally by failing to suspend arms sales and government assistance after alleged Israeli human rights violations. Lawyers acting on behalf of the Palestinian charity Al-Haq said the case would be the first of numerous actions brought against Israel, as activity is stepped up to examine the humanitarian and financial cost of recent events. " The UK has urgent international obligations that it must fulfil immediately," Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing Al-Haq, said today.

U.K. foreign secretary: Talking with Hamas ’the right thing to do’
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Wednesday that talking to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas was "the right thing to do" but Egypt and other parties were best placed to do it. In an interview within Cairo, where Hamas and the rival Fatah group prepared on Wednesday for a national dialogue on a new Palestinian government, Miliband said Egypt was acting on behalf of the whole world in its dealings with Hamas. Britain, along with the United States and the European Union, calls Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to have talks with the group, which won Palestinian elections in 2006 and has controlled Gaza since 2007. Egypt, the only Arab state bordering the Gaza Strip, has taken the lead in trying to mediate a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel after the Israeli assault. . .

Academic boycott of Israel takes off in Canada
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/25/2009
Over 40 universities in Canada will be participating in activities to mark ’Israeli Apartheid Week’, beginning on Sunday. Students from the participating universities are calling for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel ends, what they call, apartheid policies against the Palestinians. In addition to the university groups, CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees), the largest trade union in the Canadian Province of Ontario, has called for a boycott of all Israeli institutions that engage in research for the Israeli military. According to the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week, the campaign was first launched in Toronto in 2005. In 2008, more than 25 cities around the world participated in the week’s activities, which also commemorated 60 years since the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes and land in 1947-1948.

Canada schools blasted for ban on anti-Israel ’apartheid’ poster
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Two Canadian universities came under criticism this week for banning a poster which is seen to be depicting Israelis as child-killers and accusing Israel of apartheid. Brazilian politicians and scholars, meanwhile, lambasted a recent student exchange accord between Tel Aviv University and a Catholic academy from Sao Paulo. The posters from Canada, which were banned from Ottawa University and Carleton University, are advertisements for an annual series of events labeled as "Israeli Apartheid Week," due to begin on Monday, March 1. The "Israeli Apartheid Week" tradition began in 2005 in Toronto, spreading since to other campuses and cities. The poster, circulated by pro-Palestinian activists, depicts a gunship with the word "Israel" on it firing a missile at a boy wearing a kaffiyeh and holding a teddy bear.

BDS action on the rise in Australia
Stop The Wall 2/25/2009
In keeping with the recent growth of BDS activity around the world, Australia has witnessed a number of boycott initiatives over the past several weeks. Throughout the country, direct actions have taken place, campus mobilizing has begun, and long-term campaigns have been launched. Last week, from Monday to Friday, activists kicked off their anti-Max Brenner chocolates campaign by handing out flyers outside of a Max Brenner café, and erecting a large “Boycott Israel” sign. They also entered into the café several times and placed the flyer on people’s tables. The activists several positive responses, and many passers-by said that they would stop purchasing Max Brenner chocolates. Organizers plan to hold similar actions every Thursday night for the next few months. On 24 February, a meeting was held with academics from every university in Sydney.

Danish activists spread the word about BDS
Stop The Wall 2/17/2009
Danish activists organized a Boycott Israel Day on 14 February, with BDS activities taking place across the country. Pickets were set up outside of shops and supermarkets selling Israeli goods, primarily targeting fruits and vegetables produced and sold by firms such as Carmel Agrexco. Activists distributed flyers to customers in order to raise awareness about Israeli products and to strengthen the consumer boycott. They also stuck boycott labels on Israeli fruits and vegetables, and unfurled large “Boycott Israel” banners at supermarket entrances. According to organizers, Boycott Israel Day was a resounding success, as the majority of shoppers welcomed the flyers and were keen to learn more about BDS activities. In light of the positive reception, another day of action will be held on 28 February, and will continue every second Saturday.

Israel’s Jewish and Arab Eurovision duet criticised
Rory McCarthy, Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/26/2009
Israel’s entry for this year’s Eurovision song contest, a rare pairing of a Jewish and an Arab singer, has sparked criticism from Arab artists at a time of tense relations in the wake of the Gaza conflict. Achinoam Nini, a popular Jewish Israeli singer and peace activist, often known just as Noa, will sing a duet with Mira Awad, a well-known Arab Israeli singer and actor. The pair have worked together in the past and are rehearsing four songs in Hebrew, Arabic and English, one of which will be chosen through a television broadcast next month, before they take part in Eurovision in Moscow this May. The day after Israel launched its war on Gaza in late December, Nini, 39, was selected by the Israel Broadcasting Authority and promptly suggested she pair up with Awad, who was born in Galilee and now lives in Tel Aviv. Awad, 33, who appeared to enthusiastic reviews in a popular Israeli television

Netanyahu: Meeting with Livni decisive
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Will Kadima join government? Likud leader prepares for next meeting with Kadima chairwoman; sources who spoke with Netanyahu say it appears he intends to tempt Livni with additional offers - Two days before his second meeting with Tzipi Livni, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is hinting that he plans to take additional steps in order to bring Kadima into his government. " I think the meeting on Friday will be decisive and meaningful," Netanyahu said Wednesday in closed-door sessions. Various sources who spoke with the Likud leader said they were uncertain whether he was optimistic ahead of the meeting. However, one source said that "it appears he intends to further accommodate Livni. He genuinely wishes to bring Kadima into the government and establish a broad coalition. " Meanwhile, sources close to Livni said she may change her position on joining. . .

Israeli right-wing parties start coalition talks
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/26/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s Likud launched talks with far-right parties on Wednesday, although hawkish leader Benjamin Netanyahu still hoped to form a broad-based government more acceptable to the international community. Likud negotiators kicked off formal talks at an afternoon meeting with the Yisrael Beitenu party of ultra-nationalist MP Avigdor Lieberman, followed by negotiations with the religious Shas and United Torah Judaism. They were to meet the pro-settler Jewish Home and National Union parties on Thursday. Netanyahu has made it clear he would rather form a broad coalition that includes theKadima party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Labor party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. So far, both Kadima and Labor have rejected Netanyahu’s advances, but the Likud leader planned to meet Livni again on Friday in an effort to convince her to change her mind.

Netanyahu to Histadrut chief: Help form broad govt
Lilach Weissman and Shai Niv, Globes Online 2/26/2009
Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini met for talks on the economy today. Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu met Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) chairman Ofer Eini today. The meeting, which took place at Netanyahu’s request, was to discuss the consequences of the economic crisis and to send a message of cooperation between the Netanyahu government and the workers and employers’ organizations in the face of the wave of layoffs in the Israeli economy. Among other things, Netanyahu and Eini discussed the problem of unemployment I outlying areas. The two agreed to cooperate when the new government is formed, together with other players in the economy. We had an important, in-depth discussion in an attempt to understand the depth of the crisis that threatens the jobs of tens of thousands of people, " Netanyahu said after the meeting.

Likud, Nat’l Union: Public voted for a change in direction
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Hard-right parties to demand increase in Jewish education, limits on territorial withdrawals and changes of relations of religion and state -As part of Thursday morning’s coalition negotiations, the leading Likud party met with representatives from Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) and the National Union, two parties that, according to Likud Faction Leader MK Gideon Sa’ar, had formerly been part of "the hard nucleus of the opposition. "Sa’ar said that a move toward a right-leaning coalition reflected the wishes of the voters. " In recent years, we served together in the opposition, with a join vision of the dangers engendered by the policies of the previous government," the Likud member said, prior to meetings between his party and the hard-right parties. "The Likud and the National Union were the hard nucleus of the opposition in recent years.

Shake-up coming to Finance Ministry
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/26/2009
Director general Yarom Ariav will leave, and Capital Markets Supervisor Yadin Antebi’s term expires this summer. The line-up at the Ministry of Finance will likely change when the new government takes up office. Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav will be replacedand Supervisor of Capital Markets, Insurance and Savings Yadin Antebi’s term expires this summer Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu plans to set up a special economic team that will include himself, Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer, the new minister of finance, and the national economics council chairman. This team will set economic policy, with Netanyahu closely coordinating day-to-day collaboration between the organizations so long as the economic crisis persists. The team is aimed at ending the solo policies that have largely characterized recent times.

Justice Minister urges pardon for disengagement objectors
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann signed a recommendation on Thursday, urging President Shimon Peres to pardon 80 defendants who were tried for acts of dissidence in protest over the evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank in 2005. Friedmann explained his recommendation, saying that the deeds were perpetrated against the backdrop of an "unusual historical event, and not by people who are defined as criminals. " The public defender’s office, which represents most of the disengagement defendants, filed the pardon requests with Peres last week, among them requests to expunge the criminal records of 48 defendants who are minors. The recommendation includes those defendants without criminal records, before or after the disengagement, and whose crime did not endanger lives or harm others.

Israel’s next government will be ’more Jewish and more Zionist’
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Israel’s next government will be "more Jewish and more Zionist", the confident faction leader of the right-wing National Union party declared Thursday, following coalition talks with members of Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. "There was very positive atmosphere at the meeting [with Netanyahu]," said Yaakov Katz, as he emerged from the talks at Kfar Maccabiah in central Israel. ". . . There is an understanding with Likud that the next government will be more Jewish and more Zionist. "Netanyahu, who was tapped to form the next government following national elections two weeks ago, initially turned to mainstream Kadima and Labor, but was rebuffed. Some Kadima members are, however, rebelling against party leader Tzipi Livni’s determination to sit in opposition, and urging her to join a Likud-led coalition.

Will Ariel Sharon be moved to Shikmim Ranch?
Meital Yasur-Beit Or, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Ometz group for proper administration alerts Health Ministry to comatose former prime minister’s family’s refusal to have him moved out of Sheba Medical Center. ’Medical staff, family exploring best course of treatment,’ says hospital -The Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer is set to have Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been hospitalized in the facility since 2006 moved to back to his home at the Shikmim Ranch in southern Israel, for continued care. Sharon (81) suffered a massive stroke on January 2006. He underwent several brain surgeries, but has remained comatose ever since. According to the hospital, "The medical staff is in constant contact with Mr. Sharon’s family and primary caregivers in order to explore and determine the best course of treatment for him in a non-hospital environment.

NGO: Ariel Sharon’s son has commandeered hospital room for personal use
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Gilad Sharon, son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, has converted a hospital room at Sheba Medical Center for use as a private office, a non-profit organization protested Thursday. According to the Ometz non-profit organization for good government, Gilad Sharon has been using a room in the respiratory rehabilitation department at the Sheba Medical Center where his father is hospitalized, as a private office and conference room. "We don’t understand why the state has to fund such an office," a letter by Ometz stated. The letter further states that the Sharon family has been recently asked by the Sheba board to transfer the former prime minister from the hospital into a family home with the assistance of a private nurse, but has reportedly refused to do so.

Shas wants to combat recession while doubling child benefits
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Despite Shas leader Eli Yishai’s stated desire to combat the economic crisis in Israel, the ultra-Orthodox party is conditioning its entry into the next government on a commitment to double child welfare payments. "Of course, we understand that the subsidies won’t return to their previous levels, but the current absurd amount - 140 NIS per child - should be doubled, at least," Shas MK Nissim Zeev told Channel 7 radio on Wednesday. Yishai met with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday for the official start of coalition talks between the two parties. In the radio interview, Ze’ev added that his party will request an additional NIS 1. 5 billion for large families. "This will be something the must come from the 2009 budget," he said.

Netanyahu Rebuffed Again in Efforts to Form Coalition
Isabel Kershner, MIFTAH 2/25/2009
Ehud Barak, the leader of Israel’s center-left Labor Party, turned down a proposal on Monday by the prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu of the conservative Likud Party, to join a broad governing coalition. The refusal dealt a further blow to Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to forge a unity government. His meeting on Sunday with Tzipi Livni, the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, ended without agreement. “The voters’ verdict has sent the Labor Party into the opposition,” Mr. Barak said. “I told Netanyahu that we will serve as a responsible, serious and constructive opposition. ” In the Feb. 10 election, his party won only 13 of the 120 seats in Parliament. Mr. Netanyahu has six weeks to form a government and says he will press on in his pursuit of national unity. Ms. Livni and Mr. Barak both said they would meet with him again if asked.

Fischer rebuffs Netanyahu on offer to join cabinet
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Stanley Fischer yesterday rejected Benjamin Netanyahu’s plea to join his cabinet as finance minister. Netanyahu, the prime minister designate and former finance minister himself, may well decide to keep the finance portfolio for himself. He reportedly doesn’t feel there are any suitable candidates among his fellow party members to headthe ministry. His candidates all come from outside the party, as did Fischer - the governor of the Bank of Israel. By order of preference, his favorite candidates are himself, followed by Avigdor Lieberman and an external figure - Aharon Fogel. The latter knows the Finance Ministry, having served as its director general and chief of its budgets department. Fogel currently chairs both Migdal Insurance and Ness Technologies, a giant software house. However, if Netanyahu manages to build a broad coalition with Kadima, he almost. . .

Bethlehem struggles ’out of season’
Alex Sehmer in Bethlehem, Al Jazeera 2/26/2009
Bethlehem, which bustles with tourists around Christmas time, sees little business for the main part of the year. Ihad and Osama, two young Palestinians who had found work refitting a women’s clothing shop close to the main market, told Al Jazeera that they had been lucky to find the temporary work. Unemployment in Bethlehem is incredibly high - some estimates from last year have put it at over 60 per cent. "We hope that things will get better," Victor Batarseh, the mayor of Bethlehem, told Al Jazeera. "But to tell you frankly, with the results of the Israeli elections, Israeli society is going more to the right. . . really what we see is that Israeli society is becoming more extremist. " Western promises - Western powers have made much of their intentions to support Palestinians by building up the West Bank economically.

Arcadi Gaydamak set to give up Israeli citizenship
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/26/2009
His Russian citizenship was revoked in the 1970s when he moved to Israel. “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) reports that Arcadi Gaydamak has asked the Russian Ministry of the Interior to reinstate his Russian citizenship, which was revoked in the 1970s when he moved to Israel. Since Russian law does not permit dual nationality, Gaydamak will have to give up his Israeli citizenship to get his Russian citizenship back. Gaydamak’s lawyer told “IDF Radio", "He asked for his Russian citizenship to be restored a few days ago. He is making an effort to win back his previous citizenship, which means that he will have to forego his Israeli citizenship. " Gaydamak’s lawyer added that Gaydamak will probably sell his stake in the Betar Jerusalem Football Club. "It’s true that news about his plans changes every day. "

Yehuda Ne’eman, severe critic of the establishment, wins Israel Prize for film
Nirit Anderman, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Prof. Yehuda "Judd" Ne’eman, a filmmaker aware of "all the horrible things Israel does," has won the 5769 Israel Prize for film, the Education Ministry announced yesterday. Ne’eman’s "academic writings are subversive and full of vision," the judges wrote. "As an artist, researcher, teacher and leader of artists, he has left his mark on crucial junctures in the history of Israeli film since the 1960s. "Two and a half years ago, at the Haifa Festival where he won an award for his contribution to Israeli film, Ne’eman noted his difficulty in accepting a prize from the establishment. " As a filmmaker, I never shook hands with the government. So upon receiving this prize as well, my hand is trembling slightly," he said. He added that his films are meant to open viewers’ eyes to Israel’s political reality, because the military here trains young men to abandon their bodies for the sake of the state.

Gov’t postpones note offering
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/26/2009
Finance Ministry source: Israel doesn’t need cash urgently; I stress the word ’urgently’. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Accountant General Shuki Oren has postponed a pending ten-year note offering planned in Israeli and foreign markets planned for Friday. On Monday, his staff will review the market conditions for the offering. If the conditions are poor, they will again postpone the offering. Ministry of Finance sources said that Oren reviews the market climate on a near daily basis. One source said, "Israel doesn’t need cash urgently; I stress the word ’urgently’. " The question is what market conditions the Ministry of Finance waiting for. Oren wants an interest rate of 5. 5-6% on ten-year notess, and he will reportedly reject the offering if the proposed interest rate is higher.

Leviev seeks buyer for Africa-Israel Hotels
Michal Margalit, Globes Online 2/25/2009
Africa-Israel Investments denies the report. Lev Leviev may be putting up for saleAfrica-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE:AFIL ; Pink Sheets:AFIVY ) subsidiaryAfrica-Israel Hotels Ltd. at an asking price of $150 million. The company might be split up among several buyers. Leviev has already put his malls, held throughAfrica-Israel Properties Ltd. (TASE:AFPR ), up for sale. Leviev delisted Africa-Israel Hotels from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in late 2007, after buying out the public’s 13. 9% holding in the company for NIS 48. 9 million. The company operates ten hotels in Israel under the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands. It also owns the Tiberias Hot Springs Spa, is a partner in the Kings City amusement park in Eilat, and owns a number of hotels in Europe. An Africa-Israel Investments. . .

Traders worry as index nears critical support level
Efrat Peretz-Harpaz, Globes Online 2/26/2009
The Tel Aviv 25 Index options for February were set at 652. 99 points today. Tel Aviv 25 Index and Banking Index options for February expired at today’s opening on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE). The Tel Aviv 25 Index options were set at 652. 99 points, 0. 85% below yesterday’s close. Turnover was NIS 478 million, compared with NIS 790 million for the January options expiry. The direct impact of trading on international capital markets has recently been seen on the TASE. Local traders are now increasingly afraid that the Tel Aviv 25 Index will fall below 650 points, which has been a psychological and technical support level for several months. CEO Moran Zur told "Globes" today, "The big traders have forced the issue toward the 650-point level. In recent months, we’ve seen how the market has been divorced from developments on international markets.

Housing sales down
Ariel Rosenberg, Globes Online 2/26/2009
21% fewer new homes were sold in January 2009 than in January 2008. Home sales are falling, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported today, belying talk in recent weeks about a recovery in new home purchases. 880 new homes were sold in January 2009, 21% fewer than the 1,108 homes sold in January 2008. 720 of the homes sold in January were under construction. 361 of homes sold in January were in the central district, 41% of total sales, and 186 were sold in the Tel Aviv district, 21% of total sales. Sales in the central district were down 32. 9% compared with January 2008, and sales in the Tel Aviv district were down 34. 6%. Interestingly, even though the southern district was in a state of war - Operation Cast Lead in Gaza - until January 21, new home sales were barely changed compared with a year ago: 83 homes sold in January 2009, compared with 85 in January 2008.

Report: Mideast in danger of exposure to high levels of radioactive water
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Israel and other Middle Eastern countries face possible exposure to high levels of radioactivity of ancient underground water sources in Jordan, researchers said on Wednesday. Ancient wells in water-deprived Jordan have 20 times more radiation than is considered safe for drinking, researchers said, raising concern about water safety across the Middle East. Their study showed that water from an underground source in Jordan contained high levels of a naturally occurring radioactive particle linked to some cancers, posing a health risk to thousands of people in central Jordan who drink it. Several other Middle Eastern countries have recently tried to offset water shortages by tapping similar underground reservoirs, as growing populations have overwhelmed supply. -- See also: Lawyer: 40 more Dimona employees to sue state and Israel's Dimona.. Threat to Human, Bird Life

Europe’s air safety agency considers downgrading Israel’s rating Staff, Jerusalem Post 2/26/2009
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is considering downgrading Israel’s safety rating. According to reports, the EASA sent the Israel Civil Aviation Authority an email warning that if Israeli flight safety does not improve, the European agency will blacklist Israel. European and Israeli representatives will be meeting in four weeks on the issue. If its safety rating is indeed lowered, Israeli airlines could be prohibited from landing in European airports, or even flying over Europe. This could deal a mortal blow to the profits of Israeli airlines. The European move would follow the US Federal Aviation Administration’s downgrading of Israel’s air-safety system to "category 2" last December.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel says he cannot forgive Madoff
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
Calling accused swindler Bernard Madoff a "crook, a thief, a scoundrel," Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel said on Thursday he could never forgive the man he says stole all of his foundation’s money - Wiesel said he twice met Madoff, a once-respected Wall Street trader who authorities say preyed on the Jewish elite of North America and Europe in what grew to be an estimated e50 billion fraud. They discussed ethics and education, not finances. "Could I forgive him? No," Wiesel said during a discussion, "Madoff and the Meltdown," hosted by Conde Nast Portfolio magazine. "First of all, it would mean he would come on his knees and ask for forgiveness. He wouldn’t do that. " He said the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity had e15. 2 million under management with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, substantially all of its assets. Wiesel said he and his wife also lost personal investments, but he did not disclose the amount.

Jerusalem: Haredi riots prompt switch to metal trash cans
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Torching of plastic garbage cans in protest of gay parade have cost capital over a million shekels over the years -The Jerusalem Municipality has replaced dozens of plastic garbage bins with noncombustible metal ones, this after recurring ultra-Orthodox riots in protest of the annualGay Pride Parade have cost the city more than a million shekels over the past five years. During the past few weeks the new garbage bins have been dispersed throughout the haredi neighborhoods of Mea Shearim, Geula, Kerem Avraham and Shmule Hanavi, where extremist Jews have held violent demonstrations against the municipality and the local police’s decisions, including the authorization of the gay parade. An additional 200 metal bins are expected to be scattered throughout the city over the next few weeks.

In Jerusalem, ’Sinful’ city buses stoned by ultra-Orthodox Jews
The Independent, Palestine Monitor 2/26/2009
It is an all too familiar scene: the Israeli bus, travelling near predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem, is pelted with stones that smash windows and startle passengers. Except this time the stone-throwers are not Arabs but Jews. The violence is part of an unholy war in which strident elements of the ultra-Orthodox community in Mea Shearim are trying to force Israel’s leading bus company - and, by extension, Israeli society - to defer to their strict religious teachings and sensibilities. Although Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, what that means in practice is subject to dispute, with religious and secular Jews constantly tugging for greater clout in shaping the character of the country. The latest battle is over demands that buses segregate men and women in accordance with strict Jewish law on a line connecting the ultra-Orthodox stronghold of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem with the Western Wall.

Warming ties? Syrian ambassador called to State Dept
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Ambassador expresses hope meeting can constitute ’change’ in relationship, but embassy spokesman says Syrians have learned to ’keep expectations low’ on US behavior. Secretary of State Clinton: Too early to tell if relations can improve - In a possible indication of a warming relationship between Syria and the United States, the ambassador from the Middle East, Imad Moustapha, was invited to the State Department as a first step in the efforts of President Barack Obama’s administration to advance US-Syrian dialogue. Moustapha, in an interview to official Syrian newspaper al-Thawra, said that the meeting could constitute a change in relations between Syria and the US and that "all of the big issues" are on the table. But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said after the meeting it is too early to tell if Washington and Damascus can improve frosty relations.

Syrian Foreign Minister will attend Gaza meeting in Cairo
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/26/2009
Next week’s meeting in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Egypt will include not only Palestinian, Israeli, US and Egyptian officials, but a representative from the Syrian government as well. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told the media on Thursday, "I will represent my country - Syria would never be absent from a meeting on the reconstruction of Gaza. " He made his statement during a joint press conference with Javier Solana, the foreign policy representative of the European Union. The decision to participate comes at a time of increased tension between Syria and Israel, given the shift to the right in the Israeli government that has taken place with the recent election. In addition, officials on both sides leaked statements to the media prior to Israel’s invasion of Gaza that the two states were closer to an agreement than they had been in many years.

Clinton: Too soon to say whether U.S.-Syria ties will thaw
Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday it was too soon to say whether there would be a thaw in ties with Damascus, as a senior U. S. diplomat met with Syria’s ambassador at the State Department. "We have regular interaction with the Syrians as a part of our normal diplomatic efforts," said Clinton of a rare meeting at the State Department between Syria’s ambassador Imad Mustapha and senior U. S. diplomat Jeffrey Feltman. "It is too soon to say what the future holds," she added, when asked whether this indicated a thaw in ties. A State Department official said on Tuesday that Mustapha accepted the rare invitation to come to the department to meet Feltman, acting head of the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, who also served as U. S. ambassador to Lebanon.

US and Syrian envoys to hold talks
Al Jazeera 2/26/2009
Syria’s ambassador to the US is due to hold talks with a state department official in what is seen as the highest level meeting between the two countries since Barack Obama moved into the White House. Imad Moustapha and Jeffrey Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, will discuss concerns including Syria’s support for groups that Washington labels as "terrorists", the US state department said. The two diplomats were expected to meet on Thursday. "There remain key differences between our two governments, including our concerns about Syria’s support to terrorist groups andnetworks, Syria’s acquisition of nuclear and non-conventional weaponry, interference in Lebanon and worsening human rightssituation," a state department statement said.

Reversal of American Stand
Osama Al-Sharif, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
In a brazen departure from the policies of the Bush administration, Washington is rapidly warming up to Syria, a country that for years was stigmatized, isolated and threatened. Congressional delegations have been landing in Damascus and meeting President Bashar Assad; early signs suggest that a quick thaw in relations is about to happen soon. The highest-ranking US official to visit the Syrian capital recently was Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, and a close associate of President Barack Obama. His assessment after meeting President Assad was that there is an opportunity for “real cooperation” between Washington and Damascus. Ironically, the new approach toward Syria began to take shape during the Bush era when a bipartisan committee presented recommendations to the administration on Iraq.

Syria denies significant amount of uranium found at bombed site
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
VIENNA - Syria said on Tuesday United Nations inspectors’ discovery of uranium traces at an alleged secret nuclear site was not "significant" as the UN maintains, suggesting the International Atomic Energy Agency’s analysis was faulty. Damascus also denied UN officials’ account that IAEA sleuths had found graphite at the place where Washington says the Syrians had almost built a graphite-core reactor meant to yield weapons-grade plutonium, before Israel bombed it in 2007. And Syrian atomic energy agency director Ibrahim Othman repeated that Damascus would allow no more investigative IAEA visits to the country, on the grounds this would involve military sites beyond the writ of the UN nuclear watchdog. Othman further dismissed the IAEA’s finding that the uranium particles’ chemical composition showed they did not come from munitions Israel used against the target known as Al-Kibar.

Drought causing food scarcity in Syria
Middle East Online 2/26/2009
DAMASCUS - Two years of drought has left many farmers and herders without an income and has severely limited cereal production in Syria, pushing up local food prices and putting pressure on basic food supplies, according to UN and Syrian government officials. In 2008, Syria had to import wheat for the first time after a shortage caused by a second year of drought, which the Syrian government says has affected about a million people so far. Emergency wheat stocks have been depleted though adequate supplies remain. “There is still enough food in Syria to go round,” Abdullah Mawazini, Public Information Officer for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Syria, said. “But we are worried about the provision of basic materials. It is a dangerous indicator for Syria that last year we had to import wheat. ” Syria usually keeps three years’ worth of wheat stocks, Mawazini said, but in 2008. . .

Olmert in thinly-veiled threat against Iran
Middle East Online 2/26/2009
TEL AVIV- Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shot a thinly-veiled threat at Iran on Thursday after Tehran announced the completion of its first civilian nuclear power plant. "We are a strong country, a very strong country, and we have at our disposal (military) capacities the intensity of which are difficult to imagine," Olmert told public radio. "We have deployed enormous efforts to reinforce our deterrence capacity," he said. "Israel will be able to defend itself in all situations, against all threats, against all enemies. I cannot say more but believe me, I know what I’m talking about. " Observers say Olmert was referring to Israel’s nuclear weapons’ might. Although the remarks did not mention Iran by name they were clearly aimed at Tehran. Iran on Wednesday began testing the civilian nuclear power plant in the Gulf port of Bushehr and said the long-delayed project could go on line within months.

Livni to Netanyahu: I’ll back you on Iran threat from opposition
Barak Ravid Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has promised prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu her party’s support on the Iranian nuclear threat if she ends up heading the opposition. The commitment, made during talks between the two leaders Sunday, became public as Netanyahu headed for his first day of formal coalition negotiations today. "I will use my many contacts in the United States, Europe and the Arab world, along with my experience and that of other Kadima members, to win support from the international community against Iran to the extent necessary," Livni said. Netanyahu had argued that Kadima should join the government despite the differences between Kadima and Netanyahu’s Likud because it is crucial that Israel deal with the Iranian issue. However, Livni said her party does not need to be in the coalition to support the government on the matter.

Barak: Time needed to deal with Iran slipping through our fingers
Ofri Ilani, and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak sounded a more urgent tone on Wednesday following reports that Iran had started testing its Russian-built nuclear power plant in Bushehr. "Israel’s policy is clear: we do not take any option off the table with regards to Iran’s nuclear program," Barak said during an appearance at a symposium at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. In a veiled reference to the Obama administration, the defense minister said: "We would suggest that others do not take any option off the table. A dialogue with Iran needs to be limited in time. " "Time is slipping through our fingers, and what is needed is a two-pronged course of action which includes ironclad, strenuous sanctions against the Iranian regime and a readiness to consider options in the event that these sanctions do not succeed," Barak said.

Livni: Iran arms trading ’one of the main problems’ in Mideast
Barak Ravid and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hosted her Cypriot counterpart, Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, in Jerusalem on Wednesday for talks which centered on the Iranian arms-laden ship which was destined for Syria and was detained by authorities in cyprus. Livni told Kyprianou that Iran should be aware that the weapons it seeks to deliver to Syria, Lebanon, and Hamas will be seized. "Smuggling of weapons that are sent by Iran represent one of the main problems of the region," Livni said. Earlier this month, Cypriot authorities have started unloading an Iranian ship detained off its coast for allegedly attempting to smuggle weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Cyprus has accused Iran of breaching a United Nations ban on its arms exports.

Barak: We’re running out of time on Iran threat
Mazal Mualem and Or Kashti and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
"We’re running out of time to address the Iranian threat," said Defense Minister and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak on Thursday. "The U. S. administration is getting ready to conduct dialogue with Iran. We are convinced that the dialogue must be confined to a short period of time while simultaneously stepping up sanctions. " Earlier, at a Labor Party conference in Tel Aviv, Barak explained that the U. S. dialogue must be confined to a short time frame in order to rapidly determine whether "there is or isn’t a chance. " Speaking later at an event sponsored by a Jordan valley college in memory of former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Shomron, Barak said that it was "essential for Israel to keep all the options on the table, while standing behind its declarations.

Report: EU trio proposes tougher list of Iran sanctions
Reuters, YNetNews 2/26/2009
Financial Times says confidential document drafted by France, Germany and UK lists 34 Iranian entities and 10 individuals believed to be linked to covert nuclear or biological weapons programs -France, Germany and Britain are proposing a tough list of additional sanctions to be imposed against Iran over its nuclear program, the Financial Times newspaper reported on Thursday. A confidential document seen by the Financial Times and Italian newspaper Il Riformista lists 34 Iranian entities and 10 individuals believed to be linked to covert nuclear or biological weapons programs, the report added. European diplomats gave differing interpretations of the reasons behind the list, the FT said. Some said it was intended to provide US President Barack Obama’s administration with a "bigger stick" option in continuation of the existing carrot-and-stick approach towards Iran.

Dennis Ross appointed special U.S. adviser to Gulf area
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
U. S. foreign policy veteran Dennis Ross has been appointed special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Gulf region, including Iran, and southwest Asia, the State Department announced on Monday. "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement announcing the appointment. Ross, a veteran of Arab-Israeli negotiations when Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, was president, will advise on both Iran and the broader Middle East region. The Obama administration is reviewing U. S. policy toward Iran. It is looking into ways of engaging Tehran on a broad range of issues from seeking cooperation in Afghanistan to giving up sensitive. . .

Iran conducts nuclear plant test
Al Jazeera 2/25/2009
Iran says it has successfully carried out a test run of its first nuclear plant, a move that will raise concerns in the West over Tehran’s atomic ambitions. The long-delayed reactor, in the southern port city of Bushehr, could come on line within months, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said on Wednesday. "Today was one of the most important days for the Iranian nation,’’ Aghazadeh said. "We are approaching full exploitation of this plant. " Iran is also expanding its uranium enrichment programme, with the number of centrifgues at the Natanz enrichment site increasing to 6,000 from 5,000 last November, Aghazadeh said. His claim defies a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency last week, which said Iran was slowing down its uranium enrichment programme, increasing the number of centrifuges by only 164 since November.

Erdogan: Iran asked Turkey to help mend US ties
Middle East Online 2/25/2009
LONDON - Iran has asked Ankara to help improve ties between Washington and Tehran, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview published Wednesday. Speaking to The Guardian newspaper aboard his prime ministerial plane, Erdogan said the Iranian request had been made when former president George W. Bush was in office, and added that he had passed along the details of Tehran’s request to Washington. He also challenged Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to recognise Palestinians’ right to their own state. "Iran does want Turkey to play such a role," Erdogan told the daily on a trip to Mardin, in the southeast of the country, during a local election campaign. "And if the United States also wants and asks us to play this role, we are ready to do this. They (Iran) said to us that if something like this (an opportunity to better ties) would happen, they want Turkey to play a role.


Industrial wastelands
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
      The Abu E’ida company for concrete and construction materials could stand a very good chance of winning any public tender issued during the Gaza reconstruction process - if it ever gets under way. This family business manufactured the concrete and carried out the concrete works in the construction of Gaza’s power station (under joint American-Palestinian ownership). It also supplied the concrete used to build the sewage treatment facility in northern Gaza, known as the "Blair project" because of the former British prime minister’s role in securing the funding. After June 2007, this was the only infrastructure project in the Gaza Strip whose construction Israel allowed to continue.
     Abu E’ida’s company produced and supplied 35-40 percent of all concrete used in the Strip before the crossings between Israel and Gaza were hermetically sealed that summer. The family, which has been in the concrete business since the mid-1980s, has ties with the Israeli firm Nesher, which also manufactures and sells cement, with the Shapir and Reichman quarries, and with companies in the metal works industry, such as Elkayam.
     Abu E’ida stood a good chance of being awarded rebuilding contracts. The only problem is that his company’s plants were destroyed by Israel Defense Forces tanks and bulldozers sometime between January 5 and January 18. The pumps and the conveyor belts were demolished, along with the silo and the laboratory, the control rooms and the cement scale, the ventilation, electricity and water systems, the cement mixers and the trucks and cars. His four factories (two family-owned, two in partnership) were located in the northeast part of the Gaza Strip, in an industrial zone that sprang up on both sides of the eastern road, on the slopes of the hill on which stands I’zbet Abed Rabbo, the easternmost neighborhood in the city of Jabalya.

New Land Seizure Orders Issued During the Gaza Operation - February 2009

Americans For Peace Now, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
      The Peace Now Settlement Watch Team latest report discloses that a number of new land seizure orders were issued during the Gaza operation, a number of these orders were related to the route of the separation fence.
     In most cases they were irregular orders signed by a brigadier general, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division (as opposed to the Officer in Command of the Central Command who usually signs seizure orders), and are limited to only 60 days.
     Peace Now sees these seizure of orders as an attempt to establish quick facts on the ground and to bypass High Court provisions.
     1. Seizure orders number t/03/09 and t/02/09 - Refencing between the Palestinian villages of Hussan and Jaba’ and some of their lands Order No. t/03/09 was signed by Judea and Samaria Division Commander on January 8, 2009, referring to the construction of a fence along road no. 375, the length of 2 km, south of the village of Hussan.
     Construction of this fence will separate the residents of Hussan from parts of their land.

The Crisis in Gaza is Far From Over

Joharah Baker, Palestine Chronicle 2/25/2009
      Everyone knew that the timing of Israel’s Cast Lead Operation in Gaza was hardly coincidental. It ended mere days before US President Barack Obama’s inauguration into the White House and weeks before Israel went to early elections. Political pundits postulated that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak wanted to give his Kadima party one last boost before heading out of political life with his tail between his legs. The fact that the US was changing administrations only expedited the operation, especially since Israel understood well that Obama would surely not be as war-oriented as their good friend George W. Bush.
     Hence, Operation Cast Lead. As everyone well understands, the results were devastating. At least two-thirds of the 1,400 Palestinians killed in the Israeli operation were innocent civilians, scores of them children, women and the elderly. Approximately 4,000 homes were destroyed by Israel’s bombardment, subsequently displacing hundreds of thousands of Gazans. Factories, schools, government buildings and agricultural land were devastated, leaving the vast majority of Gaza’s approximate 1.5 million residents in destitution.
     This is not the first time Israel has wreaked havoc in Gaza, destroying homes, buildings and infrastructure. Each time, international parties, the United Nations and Arab and Palestinian governments have jumped in to restore what Israel destroys. Millions of dollars are pledged for the "restoration and reconstruction of Gaza" and the process begins all over again.

Israel is Blind to its Own Arab Citizens

Fareed Zakaria, MIFTAH 2/25/2009
      Even before a new coalition could emerge, Israel’s latest election was historic. It marked the collapse of Labor, the party that can plausibly claim to have founded Israel and produced its most celebrated prime ministers, from David Ben-Gurion (as head of Labor’s predecessor, Mapai), through Golda Meir to Yitzhak Rabin.
     The last vestige of old Labor is Shimon Peres, who - with fitting irony - is the country’s president only because he quit the party. Israel’s political spectrum is now dominated by three right-wing groups: Likud, Kadima (the Likud offshoot founded by Ariel Sharon) and Yisrael Beitenu, a party of Russian immigrants. But while most commentators focus on the future of the peace process and the two-state solution, a deeper and more existential question is growing within the heart of Israel.
     It’s a question posed by the election’s biggest winner: Avigdor Lieberman. His Yisrael Beitenu party won 15 seats, placing third but gaining enormous swing power in the Israeli system. Whether or not the new government includes him, Lieberman and his issues have moved to center-stage. As fiercely as he denounces the Palestinian militants of Hamas and Hizbullah, his No. 1 target is Israel’s Arab minority, which he has called a worse threat than Hamas. He has proposed the effective expulsion of several hundred thousand Arab citizens by unilaterally re-designating some northern Israeli towns as parts of the Palestinian West Bank.

Targeting Israel: The Global BDS Movement

Stephen Lendman - Chicago, Palestine Chronicle 2/25/2009
      Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won’t do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.
     In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
     "The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation."
     In July 2008, 21 South African activists, including ANC members, visited Israel and Occupied Palestine. Their conclusion was unanimous. Israel is far worse than apartheid as former Deputy Minister of Health and current MP Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge explained:
     "What I see here is worse than what we experienced - the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw....racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa."

Twilight Zone / ’they told me daddy died’

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 2/26/2009
      As the war in Gaza raged, Israel Defense Forces reservists apparently thought anything was permissible: It was possible, maybe even necessary, to kill innocents, in the West Bank, too. Under cover of war, they thought, they could also kill a handcuffed Palestinian.
     After all, they could always claim he tried to steal their weapons - never mind that he was bound with plastic handcuffs practically impossible to get out of. A bullet in the stomach from close range finished him off. Thus ended the life of Yasser Temeizi, 35, who had a work permit and jobs in Israel all of his adult life; in the past year he had worked for the Harash company in Ashdod. He was a young father who’d never gotten in any trouble with the IDF before. The soldiers arrested him for no reason, beat him for no reason in front of one of his small children and finally executed him for no reason.
     A month and a half has passed since this horrifying incident, and the army’s criminal investigations division is still looking into the case. An investigation that could have been completed in an hour is going on without end. Not a single Palestinian was questioned, as usual; not a single soldier was arrested, and most likely none will be - also as usual. The reservist soldiers who killed Temeizi have likely already been sent back home; perhaps they returned feeling good about their experiences and about doing their national duty. Granted, they didn’t take part in the war in Gaza, but they killed, too. Why not? Herewith, as a service to them, is the story of the consequences of their actions, which senior IDF officers have already termed "a grave incident," that involved "a series of serious failures.

Are Palestinians Allowed to Resist? (Part I)

Dina Jadallah-Taschler, Palestine Chronicle 2/26/2009
      The issue of Palestinian resistance, in terms of its permissibility and types, is a highly inflammatory question for most Western observers. Mainstream media discourse frequently boils down to criticisms and condemnations of its "violence" or alternatively, asserts its impotence in the face of Israeli military might and Western opposition. It might therefore be helpful to place it in historical and current context and to comparatively evaluate it against that other famous struggle for independence, Indian national liberation. India’s struggle, given the prominent role of Gandhi’s satyagraha’s role, is usually synonymous in Western discourse with non-violent resistance.
     This first part in the essay deals with legal and historical issues that define Palestinians’ struggle for independence, then describes their repercussions on the current status of the occupation. In the second and final part, I will present examples from the history of Palestinian unarmed struggle and then compare it with the Indian one. I will argue that the agreeable and reasonable- sounding frame of the superiority of peaceful resistance sets up a false dichotomy. Presenting satyagraha as the exemplary approach to liberation is deceptive on two levels. First, India’s independence was not achieved through non-violence alone. And second, while inspirational and useful on many levels, it is not sufficient as sole guide or solution to achieving Palestinian liberation.

Trapped Between the Wall and the Green Line

Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 2/26/2009
      RAMALLAH, Feb 26 (IPS) - "They started smashing down doors at 2am last Wednesday before moving through homes and destroying property," says the mayor of Jayyus, Muhammed Taher Shamasni.
     "Residents were assaulted, money was stolen, computers confiscated, over 60 young men arrested and the village placed under curfew. The Israeli soldiers came into my home and threw the contents of cupboards and closets on to the floor," Shamasni told IPS.
     Jayyus, an agricultural community of 3,500 inhabitants, located in the Qalqiliya district of the northern Palestinian West Bank, was invaded by Israeli soldiers using police dogs and backed by military helicopters.
     The village has been the scene of frequent clashes between local youths, their Israeli supporters and international sympathisers on the one hand, and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the other. Dozens protesting Israel’s continued expropriation of village land were injured last Friday by Israeli soldiers firing live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas.
     Israel started building a separation barrier (a combination of walls, ditches and fences), most of it on Palestinian land, in 2002 to separate the Jewish state from the West Bank. This followed a wave of suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian militants, some of them originating from the West Bank.

’Palestine’s’ Next Stage

Peter Marks, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
      George Ibrahim tugs down at the top of his turtleneck and points to the bare skin of his throat. "This," he says in accented English, "is what kasaba means in Arabic. Center of breathing. Center of life."
     It’s Ibrahim’s way of illustrating the role that he wants his theater company to claim, as an artistic lifeline for his people. Located in Ramallah, on the West Bank, the Al-Kasaba Theatre and Cinematheque already inhabits a central place in the hardscrabble landscape of Palestinian culture. Not that there’s that much competition: His organization runs the only multipurpose arts complex in the Palestinian territories.
     And despite its meager resources -- "Up to now, we have no annual budget; we cannot program more than one month ahead," he says -- Al-Kasaba has become an example to the world that Palestinian art is indeed alive, and breathing. Washington gets firsthand confirmation of this tomorrow night, when a performance piece that has become Al-Kasaba’s signature, "Alive From Palestine: Stories Under Occupation," opens for a three-performance run in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater.

Amos Gilad 'running Israel'

Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada 2/26/2009
      It is not entirely surprising that Amos Gilad, an Israeli general who once sued his own government for "irreversible mental damage" caused by his role in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, has publicly courted controversy again.
     On Monday, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, suspended Gilad as his envoy to Egypt, responsible for negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas, after Gilad called the prime minister’s truce conditions "insane."
     The move threatened to unleash a political storm in Israel. Ehud Barak, the defense minister and a longtime ally of Gilad, rushed to denounce Olmert’s decision. He insisted that Gilad, a defense ministry official in charge of diplomatic and security issues, would continue with his other duties.
     Gilad’s fingerprints are to be found on most of the hawkish policies approved by the political leadership since the start of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, including the emasculation of the Palestinian Authority, the "disengagement" from Gaza, and the promotion of civil war between Hamas and Fatah.

The Fact-Finding Mission Mandated by the League of Arab Nations to Investigate Israeli War Crimes Concludes Its Works in Gaza on Friday

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2/26/2009
      The fact-finding mission of the League of Arab Nations mandated by the League of Arab Nations to investigate war crimes committed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during the latest offensive on the Gaza Strip is going to finish its works in the Gaza Strip on Friday, 27 February 2009, with a tour in Rafah to watch the destruction caused by IOF to the town. The mission has sought to gather evidence and eyewitnesses’ testimonies, and to watch the destruction cause by IOF during the latest offensive on the Gaza Strip to prepare a neutral and objective report to be submitted to the League of Arab Nations.
     The mission consists of 6 international experts in the field of international law and humanitarian law: John Dughard, Former UN Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories; Finn Lenghjem, a judge and legal expert; Paul De Waart, an international legal expert; Gonzalo Boye, a lawyer and representative of PCHR in Spanish courts; Raeleene Sharp, an international lawyer; and Francisco Corte Real, an expert in forensic medicine. The mission is also accompanied by 3 members of the secretariat general of the League of Arab Nations: Radwan Ben Khader, Legal Advisor of the Secretary General; ’Aliaa Al-Ghussain, Director of Palestinian Affairs Department; and Ilham al-Shajani, First Secretary of Demography and Immigration Policies Department.
     PCHR has hosted the fact-finding mission in coordination with the League of Arab Nations. PCHR has prepared an integrated schedule for the visit, which has continued from 22 to 27 February 2009. It has also coordinated field visits and provided logistic support for the mission. During their visit to the Gaza Strip, members of the mission have met with dozens of victims of Israeli crimes, their relatives and eyewitnesses. They have also met with representatives of civil society organizations, human rights organizations, representatives of international organizations, officials, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and political leaders.

A Win for Women’s Rights

Diaa Hadid, Nasser Shiyoukhi, MIFTAH 2/26/2009
      The Islamic courts were among the last male-only bastions in Palestinian society, where women have been presidential candidates, police officers and even suicide bombers.
     Now two stern-looking young women in Muslim head scarves and long black robes have smashed through the thick glass ceiling.
     Khuloud Faqih, 34, and Asmahan Wuheidi, 31, made history when they became the first female Islamic judges in the Palestinian territories.
     Across the Arab world, only Sudan has had women judges in Islamic courts, West Bank-based academic experts on Islamic affairs said. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, all relatively progressive states in the region on women’s rights, do not.
     “I compare us to other Arab Muslim women, and I think we’ve done well,” said Faqih, wearing a sash in the colors of the Palestinian flag across her robe. “I think I’ve opened a door for myself and other women.”
     She spoke between meetings with petitioners in her modest courtroom — an office with a few couches, a desk and a coffee table with plastic flowers.