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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
5 March, 2009
Israel kills five militants in air raid on Gaza Strip
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/6/2009
GAZA CITY: Israeli air raids on Gaza killed four fighters just hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended her first Mideast trip vowing to breathe life into the peace process. An air strike in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza on Thursday killed three fighters and wounded two others, medics said. An army spokesman said the raid targeted a group who had fired an anti-tank shell at an army unit on the Israeli side of the border. Late Wednesday, an Israeli air raid killed a senior Islamic Jihad military commander as he drove through the Jabaliya refugee camp near Gaza City. The Palestinian group vowed to avenge his death and on Thursday said its militants fired three rockets into Israel. None caused casualties. It was the latest violation of the tenuous ceasefire Hamas and Israel declared on January 18 to end Israel’s 22-day devastating war on the tiny coastal strip.

Driver Shot Dead After Rampage in Jerusalem
Isabel Kershner, New York Times 3/5/2009
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian driver of a construction vehicle flipped over an Israeli police car and rammed an empty bus here on Thursday, injuring two police officers before he was shot dead, police said. Police later identified the assailant as a Palestinian resident of Beit Hanina, a predominantly Arab neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the man, Mari al-Radeideh, 26, was married and the father of one child. Jerusalem’s deputy police commander, Niso Shahar, told reporters: “We have no doubt that it is a terror attack. ”The driver was shot by other police officers who arrived at the scene and at least one civilian, a taxi driver, witnesses said. “I saw the police car flying in the air,” Oz Ma’atabi, the taxi driver, told Israel Radio. “He lifted it in the air, he rolled it over twice and dragged it in the direction of a bus.

Homeless Gazans protest at UN
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinians made homeless by the recent Israeli assault on Gaza held a protest on Wednesday outside the headquarters of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. The protesters are saying that they still have not received any aid from the UN since their houses were destroyed in December and January. Israel completely destroyed at least 2,000 Palestinian homes and left as a many as 12,000 damaged during its three-week offensive on Gaza. 46,000 people were displaced, according to the United Nations. A man from the central Gaza Strip, Anwar Sulaiman As-Samiri, said he is a father of six, and moved his family into a rented house after their home was leveled. “I rented a house but I couldn’t pay the rent and so I am in a trouble,” he said. Another protester said, “After the war we went to shelter in a school related to the UNRWA, but we were dismissed to a clubhouse in Deir Al-Balah.

Palestinian children’s health in decline, says report
Sarah Boseley, health editor, The Guardian 3/5/2009
Stunted growth among young increasing - Conditions in territories affecting pregnant women -- A two-year international investigation has revealed an increase in the number of stunted children in the occupied Palestinian territories and conditions so extreme that Palestinian women have on occasion been forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints. A series of articles published today by the Lancet concludes that the occupation, the recent conflict in Gaza and inter-Palestinian fighting are undermining the health and development of the population. The best solution to health in the territories is peace and security under a sovereign Palestinian state, argue the authors, who are doctors and academics from Birzeit University in Ramallah and Oxford, with assistance from international health scientists, the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies.

Israel prevents Palestinian physicians from entering Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel prevented a delegation of physicians coming from inside Israel to pass through the Erez crossing into Gaza on Thursday. “Israeli authorities prevented a delegation of specialists from going to Gaza,“ according to a statement from the de facto Health Ministry. “They [the delegation] were supposed to perform surgeries for those injured during the war and some other patients in critical condition,” the statement added. The ministry demanded that human rights organizations urgently intervene to stop “such inhumane acts that contradict all international conventions. ”Also on Thursday, a report published in a special issue of the medical journal, The Lancet, said Israel’s border closings in Palestine have resulted in major health problems. The report cited evidence of malnutrition, stunted growth in children and a high infant mortality rate,. . .

’Israel seriously considering Iran military op’
Hilary Leila Krieger, Jpost Correspondent In Washington, Jerusalem Post 3/5/2009
Israel is seriously considering taking unilateral military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a report by top US political figures and experts released Wednesday. The report also says Israel’s time frame for action is growing shorter, not only because of Iranian advances, but because Teheran might soon acquire upgraded air defenses and disperse its nuclear program to additional locations. The report, "Preventing a Cascade of Instability," was put out by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). It also argues that international sanctions against Iran need to be intensified urgently for the engagement the Obama administration is planning with Teheran to be effective. An early draft of the report was endorsed by Dennis Ross before he withdrew upon joining the Obama administration, in which he is serving as a special adviser dealing with various countries in the region, including Iran.

Head of Palestinian rights group banned from travelling to accept award
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Israel is preventing the director general of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, from travelling to the Netherlands to accept a prize. The Supreme Court has been asked to review Jabarin’s petition to reverse the Shin Bet’s decision. The Geuzenpenning Prize for Human Rights Defenders will be given at a ceremony next week. The country’s royal family is scheduled to attend, and Israel’s refusal to allow Jabarin to travel to the Netherlands is straining relations with the European country. The travel restrictions have stirred a series of protests by human rights organizations around the world, and has become the subject of high-level exchanges between the Dutch and Israeli foreign ministries. The Foreign Ministry refused to comment, and the Shin Bet argued it could not comment since the matter had been brought before the Supreme Court.

Jayyous put under half-day curfew; soldiers threaten demolitions
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 3/5/2009
Occupation forces put Jayyous under curfew again Tuesday, following confrontations with village youth near the Wall. Soldiers detained one person and threatened to demolish several farms on the south side of the village. On Tuesday afternoon, local youth and soldiers clashed near the Wall in the southern part of Jayyous. Following an exchange of stones and bullets, no less than 10 jeeps invaded through the south gate. Regular army and border police put the entire village under curfew, which was not lifted until a bit after midnight, and detained a young man. Soldiers forced him to sit on the ground near the south gate, where he was held outside in freezing weather for hours on end. Following the incursion, the army spread out into the streets on foot. Three jeeps were stationed in the center of the village, where soldiers fired sound bombs and tear gas.

Army to demolish 15 homes, barns and wells near Nablus
Palestine Media Center 3/5/2009
The Israeli Authorities handed on Wednesday fifteen Palestinian residents of Aqraba town, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, military orders to demolish 15 homes, barns, tin-houses for the sheep, and water wells located in Khirbit Al Taweel, which belong to Aqraba village. Local sources reported that Israeli soldiers and members of the so-called Civil Administration Office, which is controlled by the Israeli army, invaded the village on Wednesday morning and handed the orders to the residents. The Israeli Authorities informed the residents that they have until March 26 to evacuate the properties in question. Khirbit Al Taweel is a Palestinian village known as one of the best grazing areas. Its inhabitants own livestock, especially sheep, and depend on their sheep as the main source of livelihood especially after the village lost thousands of Dunams for Israeli settlements and military camps in the eastern part of the village.

Doctors struggling to treat Gaza war wounded
Erica Silverman/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/5/2009
GAZA CITY, 5 March 2009 (IRIN) - Mohammed Abu Shabah, aged 22, lies in al-Wafa rehabilitation centre in northern Gaza, paralyzed from the waist down after a missile fired by an Israeli drone on 11 January left pieces of shrapnel near his spine. Doctors at the centre, Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital, fear removing them could lead to complete paralysis. "I was just walking down the street," said Abu Shabah, recounting the incident near his home in Rafah. He was eventually sent to al-Ma’dee military hospital in Cairo for emergency care. He needs, his doctors say, a vasotrain machine to improve blood circulation to his limbs and a urodynamic machine to measure bladder capacity, but both machines are currently unavailable in Gaza. "They were destroyed by Israeli tank fire on 15 January," Tareq Dirdes, head of the male unit at the al-Wafa centre, told IRIN, adding "the. . .

Israel continues Gaza blockade; no increase in trickle of aid
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel allowed minimum levels of food and fuel through two border crossings into the Gaza Strip on Thursday in spite of reports that Israel would allow increased amounts of goods into the territory. On Thursday the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel had bowed to pressure from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and agreed to allow more aid into the besieged territory. The report quoted anonymous Israeli officials. Ra’ed Fattouh, a crossings official in Gaza, said that Israel allowed 115 trucks through the Kerem Shalom crossing, including 74 containing aid for the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and other international organizations. Another 31 trucks carried frozen meat for the commercial sector and 10 entered carrying fruit and eggs for the agricultural private sector.

Four Palestinians killed in two Israeli airstrikes in Gaza; Islamic Jihad vows revenge
Khaled Sha'lan, Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli warplanes killed four Palestinians in two separate airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Three were killed in an airstrike in the east of Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp, in the central Gaza Strip in the second strike. A spokesperson for the Al-Quds Brigades, Abu Ahmad, said a brigades member, Wasim Mansour, and an NRB member were killed immediately. The NRB (National Resistance Brigades) man was identified as Mahmoud Hammad, who fought under the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). A third man, also affiliated with Islamic Jihad,died later at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in the Central Gaza Strip. He was identified as Ibrahim Bamba. A fourth was said to be seriously wounded. According to Abu Ahmad, an Israeli reconnaissance plane monitored a group of fighters advancing toward the eastern border of Gaza. The plane then launched two missiles at the group. The operation was to have been a joint effort with the NRB and Al-Quds Brigades.

IOF Airstrike Kills 3 Palestinians in Gaza
Palestine Media Center 3/5/2009
Israeli forces have killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night, two of them members of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades. The latest fatalities were killed in an airstrike in the east of Al-Maghazi Refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, early on Thursday Medical sources at the Al-Aqsa Hospital said that two people were killed in the strike and two seriously injured. A spokesperson for the Al-Quds Brigades, Abu Ahmad, identified the dead as Wassim Mansour, a member of his group, and Mahmoud Hammad, a member of the National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). He said that an Israeli reconnaissance plane monitored a group of fighters from both factions who were assembling in the area before launching two missiles at them. On Wednesday evening another Israeli reconnaissance drone fired missiles at a car in Jabaliya Refugee Camp, killing one member of the Al-Quds Brigades.

Israel kills two Palestinians despite ceasefire
Middle East Online 3/5/2009
GAZA CITY - Two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip on Thursday, medics said. Three other people were wounded in the strike near the Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of the impoverished Palestinian territory, they said. An army spokesman claimed the raid targetted a group of armed men who had fired an anti-tank shell at an army unit on the Israeli side of the border. The Israeli army claimed that Gaza resistance fired a rocket into Israel, without causing injuries. It was the latest violence to shake tenuous ceasefires Hamas and Israel declared on January 18 to after Israel’s 22-day war on the tiny coastal strip. Egypt has been brokering talks to turn the ceasefires into a durable truce. On Wednesday, an Israeli air raid killed a senior military commander from the Islamic Jihad as he drove with an associate through the Jabaliya refugee camp near Gaza City.

Three fighters killed in the Gaza Strip
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
Palestinian medical sources reported on Thursday morning that two fighters were killed in the Israeli air strike that targeted Al Maghazi refugee camp, while that a third fighter died of his wounds later on. Another fighter lies wounded at a local hospital. Abu Ahmad, spokesperson of the Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, said that Waseem Mansour of the Al Quds Brigades, and Mahmoud Hammad of the National Resistance Brigades were killed in the attack while the third fighter Ibrahim Bamba also a member of the National Resistance Brigades, died of his wounds later on. In a phone interview with the Maan News Agency, Abu Ahmad said that the fighters were in an area close to the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, and on their way back an Israeli drone fired two missiles at them. The Al Quds Brigades and the National Resistance Brigades said in a joint press release. . .

Quds commander killed in IOF bombing
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
JABALIA, (PIC)-- The armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, the Quds Brigades, announced the assassination of one of its field commanders in northern Gaza late Wednesday night in an Israeli occupation forces’ targeted raid. It said in a communiqué that Khaled Sha’lan, 24, was seriously wounded in the raid but later succumbed to his wounds, noting that another fighter accompanying Sha’lan was injured in the attack. The Quds Brigades stressed that the "crime would not go unpunished", and reserved the right to retaliate to the crime at the opportune time and place. The IOF raid targeted a civilian car in one of the Jabalia refugee camp’s streets, wounding seven citizens including two seriously, according to a preliminary medical report. In the West Bank, the Israeli occupation authority handed notifications to 15 citizens in the Nablus district that they should evacuate their. . .

Air force retaliatory strike kills one, wounds six in northern Gaza Strip
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
An Israel Air Force missile strike last night killed one Islamic Jihad militant and critically wounded another in Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Khareb Khaled Sha’alan died of his wounds a short time after the strike. Hamza Najar, who the army says was involved in long-range rocket fire at Israel in recent days, was seriously injured. Palestinian medical officials said five other people were wounded in the strike. This is the second time since the end of Operation Cast Lead that the Israel Defense Forces has conducted targeted killings against Palestinian militants. The army has also responded to rocket and mortar fire in recent weeks by striking suspected weapons-smuggling tunnels along Gaza’s border with Egypt. The stepped-up strike comes in reaction to the heightened Qassam rocket fire from the coastal strip which began this weekend, including a Grad. . .

Report: Hamas demands Islamic Jihad stop launching
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Sources in Gaza say group wants to show control in region, not escalate situation while negotiations ongoing -Hamas has asked Islamic Jihad operatives to stop firing rockets at Israel, Palestinian sources told Ynet on Thursday. Five rockets were fired on the western Negev from Gaza, following an IDF aerial strike that killed three Palestinian terrorists near Kissufim. According to reports, Hamas is trying to convince the Islamic Jihad to cease rocket fire, on the grounds that doing so while ceasefire negotiations are in progress gives Israel an excuse to escalate military operations and undermine the relative quiet of the past several days. Hamas sources said they viewed the Islamic Jihad’s rocket fire as a legitimate response to the deaths of its operatives and is merely asking them to make do with the rockets launched so far.

Attacks on south continue; Synagogue damaged
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 3/5/2009
More rockets, mortar shells explode in open areas; no injuries or damages reported - Attacks on south continue: A Qassam rocket exploded Thursday evening in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council. No injuries or damages were reported in the attack. Later, a Qassam rocket landed near a synagogue in the southern town of Netivot, damaging it but causing no injuries. Earlier in the evening, two mortar shells fired from the Gaza strip landed in open areas in the south. No injuries or damages were reported in this attack either. Five Qassam rockets and a mortar shell were fired on the western Negev earlier Thursday in response to an Israeli air strike on a terror cell in the Gaza Strip that left three gunmen dead and another wounded. The first rocket fell just before 9 am in an open area in the Sdot Negev Regional Council.

5 Qassams fired after IAF kills Gaza gunmen
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Israeli aircraft target terror cell that fired anti-tank missile at soldiers patrolling Kissufim crossing area; five Qassams, mortar shell hit Negev shortly after attack, no injuries -Five Qassam rockets and a mortar shell were fired on the western Negev Thursday in response to an Israeli air strike on a terror cell in the Gaza Strip that left three gunmen dead and another wounded. The first rocket fell just before 9 am in an open area in the Sdot Negev Regional Council. About an hour later, two more rockets were fired from the Strip, landing in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. In both incidents there were no reports of injuries or damage. Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. Later Thursday another rocket and mortar shell landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, also causing no injuries or damage.

Two Jihad activists killed in IOF raid
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Two members of the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, were killed at an early hour on Wednesday in an Israeli aerial raid that targeted them east of Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. Abu Hamza, a spokesman for the armed wing, said in a telephone contact with the PIC that the two Wasim Mansour and Mahmoud Hammad were on their way back from an advanced monitoring position when they were targeted in the aerial shelling. He said that a third fighter and a number of citizens were wounded in the same raid. The spokesman said that the bodies of the two fighters were shredded in the blast that directly hit them. Local sources said that an armed clash took place between a number of resistance elements and Israeli occupation forces east of Maghazi that was followed by the air raid.

Israel launches renewed airstrikes on southern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel launched renewed airstrikes on the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt on Thursday afternoon after two other strikes killed four Palestinians in less than 24 hours. Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli fighter jets bombed the Brazil and the As-Salam neighborhoods of the city of Rafah. There were no reports of injuries. On Thursday morning, Israeli aircraft attacked a group a Palestinian fighters east of Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp, killing three. On Wednesday night, a separate strike killed a leader in the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. Islamic Jihad has vowed to avenge those attacks, and began by firing a barrage of homemade projectiles into Israel. Israeli officials said the rockets landed in an open area and cause no damage.

Hezballah Brigades fire two projectiles toward western Negev
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hezballah Brigades in Palestine claimed responsibility for firing two projectiles on the western Negev Thursday evening. In a statement sent to Ma’an, the Brigades said the operation "came as a continuity of our attacks. " [end]

Second curfew this month in Salfit village
IWPS, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
Haris, Salfit - Several Israeli military jeeps entered Haris, a village in the Salfit district of the West Bank, again tonight and declared an all-night curfew, allegedly in response to stone-throwing on Highway 5, which is used by Israeli settlers. This was at least the second time in the past month that curfew had been declared in this village. On 24 February the army also placed a roadblock in front of Haris’s main entrance, which it did not remove for five days. Tonight was also the first time that soldiers entered the home of the international peace team based here. Villagers returning to Haris tonight, including an International Women’s Peace Service team member, were questioned as they entered and asked to show identification. A few metres on from the entrance of the village, soldiers from two jeeps surrounded the team member with guns pointed, demanding to know where she was going, and to open her bag.

Israel Rights groups says army holding a Palestinian family hostage every night
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
Machsom Watch, an Israeli Human Rights Group, reported that Israel soldiers have been attacking the home of a Palestinian family in a village near the southern West Bank city of Hebron every night for the past 10 days. The group said that this attack is inhumane especially since the soldiers force family members into one small room for up to five hours every time the army breaks into their home. The army said that soldiers break into homes when Palestinian youths hurl stones at them, and use the property as a temporary lookout point or as a base of operation, Israeli Ynet News reported. Every time the army uses a Palestinian home as a watch tower or "lookout" point, the family remains held hostage in its own home until the army leaves the building. The Hebron house in this case is a three-story building close to Route 60 used by Israeli settlers.

IDF troops face abuse charges
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Ten suspects held in custody, suspected of abusing Palestinians several months ago - Ten IDF soldiers, including an officer, were arrested in recent days in connection with two suspected cases of abuse suffered by Palestinians. The Jaffa Military Court ordered that the 10 be kept in custody for five to six days. Army prosecutors noted that although the cases in question took places months ago, justice will be served. "When we see offences of harming the Palestinians and undermine the IDF’s image, we must act against those responsible for them," said one source. In one case, eight troops servicing in the search and rescue battalion of the Home Front Command are suspected of assaulting Palestinians in Samaria, Ynet learned. The abuse was exposed after the B’Tselem organization filed a complaint with army prosecutors about six months ago.

The Israeli military kidnaps four Palestinians near Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
Four Palestinian civilians were kidnapped during an Israeli military invasion targeting villages near the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday mornings. Local sources said that Israeli troops stormed the villages of Al Shyukh and Al Thahriya near Hebron and searched dozens of homes; witnesses said that troops left after kidnapping four men from the villages. The four men were identified as; Issa Al Ferokh, 40, Sa’ed Al Halayka, 32, Ibraheem Tafesh, 38, and Marwan Al Qawasmi, 24. Meanwhile Israeli troops have set up checkpoints around Hebron city in the morning and searched Palestinian cars, local sources said. [end]

Israel arrests Palestinian school principal in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers arrested a Hebron resident after breaking into his home in the Eien Sarah neighborhood on Thursday. A member of the Shuweiki family said, “Israeli soldiers broke into the home of Bader Mohammad Ali Shuweiki, searched and ransacked it before arresting him and transferring him to unknown location. " Ash-Shweiki was working as the head principal of one of the southern West Bank city’s schools, residents told Ma’an. [end]

Israeli forces seize five civilians from two towns near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized five Palestinian civilians in the West Bank towns of Sa’ir and Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. According to Palestinian security officials and local sources, Israeli forces conducted house-to-house raids in Sa’ir, arresting 40-year-old Issa Al-Froukh, 32-year-old Sa’ed Al-Halayqah and 38-year-old Ibrahim Al-Halayqah. In Beit Ummar, Israeli forces detained 19-year-old Muntasser Abu Ayyash and 17-year-old Ahmad Abd Al-Aziz during skirmishes in the town late on Wednesday. [end]

Israeli forces raid Nablus area village
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces overran the West Bank village of Madama, south of the city Nablus, and handed documents to several men summoning them for interrogation. Hassan Ziadeh, a member of the village council, told Ma’an that Khaled Ziadeh, Abdel Karim Ziyadeh, Ihsan Awad Al-Qut, and Ahmad Sadeq Al-Qut were all summoned for questioning by the Israeli intelligence at a nearby military base. No injuries or arrests were reported. [end]

Israeli forces invade Jenin area towns
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded several villages in the Jenin area of the northern West Bank early on Thursday morning, according to the Palestinian security services. Israeli soldiers raided Qabatiya, Kufr Dan, Kherbat Maraka, and Qabatiya. Shots were fired in Qabatiya. The soldiers later withdrew. No injuries or arrests were reported. [end]

Call for Action in Ras atTira
International Womens’ Peace Service 3/4/2009
At 8:00 this morning, a crowd of 20 Palestinians together with 15 Israeli and International activists gathered in a village called Ras atTira, in the Qalqilya district, to protest against the destruction and annexation of Palestinian land. At the site of the protest, there were three bulldozers destroying the farm land. Some of the Palestinians and activists peacefully protested against this theft of land by sitting in front of the bulldozers attempting to stop the destruction. The protestors were harassed by two armed settlers who grabbed the protestors and threw them around. One of the settlers grabbed camera-related equipment from an Israeli activist and threw that down the hill. Seven soldiers and four police showed up. The Israeli activists lodged a complaint regarding the armed settlers with the police officers. However, police did not act upon the complaint. One Israeli activist was arrested and later released.

Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 26 Feb. - 04 Mar. 2009
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 3/4/2009
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Continue to Impose a Total Siege on the Gaza Strip -- *A resistance activist and a child were killed in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. *The activist was extra-judicially executed by IOF and the child was killed when an unidentified object left by IOF exploded. *A Palestinian civilian died of injuries sustained during the latest IOF offensive on the Gaza Strip. *Nine Palestinians, including 5 children and a journalist, were injured by IOF gunfire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. *IOF aircrafts bombarded targets in the Gaza Strip. *Intensive IAF air strikes continued on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, forcing local civilians to evacuate the area.

IDF fears Gaza probe could harm officers abroad
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
The army is delaying the release of its own investigations into various incidents that took place during Operation Cast Lead due to concerns the information could be used in potential war crimes indictments against officers overseas. With the majority of internal probes into the operation completed, the military had intended to publicize at least some of its findings to Israeli and foreign media with the intention of demonstrating its troops used reasonable force in Gaza, and that most fire was directed at legitimate targets. One of the key incidents under investigation was a mortar strike which allegedly hit an UNRWA school in Jabalya, but which was later revealed to have struck outside the school and caused far fewer casualties than first reported.

PLO report on Israeli violations in the occupied territories
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
The National and International Department of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said in its monthly report that the Israeli occupation continued its violations in the occupied territories, killed 17 Palestinians in February, kidnapped 320, and confiscated orchards in addition to demolishing eight homes in Jerusalem. The report stated that the Israeli occupation continued its violations to human rights in the Palestinian territories and continued the siege on the Gaza Strip for the nineteenth month causing further suffering and increasing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza especially after the recent war which led to thousands of casualties. The PLO Department stated that the occupation is still barring the entry of basic supplies into the Gaza Strip, and added that 300 patients have died after being barred from leaving the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

Palestine Today 030509
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
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, March 4th, 2009. Three Palestinians killed in Gaza, one in Jerusalem as the Israeli governments issue more demolition orders to Palestinian residents, these stories and more coming up - stay tuned. The News Cast Two fighters were killed in the Israeli air strike that targeted Al Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, whilst a third fighter later died of his wounds. Another fighter lies wounded at a local hospital, Palestinian medical sources reported on Thursday morning Abu Ahmad, spokesperson of the Al Quds Brigades, said that the fighters were in an area close to the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, and on their way back an Israeli drone fired two missiles at them.

Twenty-thousand Jerusalem homes under threat
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
PNN exclusive -- Thirty-four more families received notifications to evacuate their homes in southern Silwan. The Al Abasiya area to the south of Al Aqsa Mosque was raided by dozens of Israeli soldiers, police and municipal workers. According to the notices, demolition is slated to take place within 10 days. Ibrahim Marash is an East Jerusalem citizen under threat of demolition in 2002, 2004 and 2007. He provided the licenses that the Israelis required and a court decided to freeze the demolition. He told PNN, "Today’s demolition warnings are reminiscent of those in the past. We will try to legally maintain the home. "He is referring to Israeli law that allows for the steady take-over of Jerusalem as its own. International law forbids the Israelis from creating any new facts on the ground. In a report issued by the Research and Documentation Unit at the Jerusalem Center for Social -- See also: Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights

Jerusalem mayor rejects Clinton’s criticism of house demolitions
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Jerusalem’s new mayor said Thursday that U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was ill-informed when she criticized the demolition of Arab houses in this hotly disputed city, insisting the practice was about law and order, not politics. In a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, Clinton called Israel’s demolition of the illegally built Palestinian homes unhelpful and in violation of a U. S. -backed peace plan. Nir Barkat countered that Jerusalem was a victim of a double standard and a campaign of Palestinian disinformation. "I totally reject the notion that we are kicking people out of their homes, that is not the case," he said. "If you build illegal houses you pay the consequence. . . I expect people to obey the law. "Barkat said he made his position clear to Clinton personally during her visit.

The Israeli Jerusalem municipality hands out demolition orders for 36 Palestinian families
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
The Israeli Jerusalem municipality handed out demolition orders for 36 additional Palestinian families in the city on Thursday. The families live in two buildings located at the Al Abasiya neighborhood just out side Jerusalem’s old city. The orders gave the families 10 days to evacuate their homes. On Wednesday when the Israeli municipality issued orders to demolish 55 more homes, owners of the homes near the old city set up a protest camp. Akkram Joweless is one of these home owners at the camp: "Its main goal is to get the attention of the entire world on this Israeli Judaization of Jerusalem and the Israeli plans against us, the rest is in the hands of God. "Joweless said. Last week Israel issued demolition orders for 88 homes in the Al Bustan neighborhood, located immediately south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem’s old city.

Clinton rebukes Israel over demolition plan
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 3/5/2009
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised Israel’s plans to demolish more than 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as "unhelpful" and a violation of its international obligations. In the first public rebuke of a specific Israeli policy since the new US administration took office, Mrs Clinton indicated the plan contravened the provisions in the five-year-old internationally agreed "road-map" that calls for a halt to all settlement activity. Mrs Clinton said after meeting the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbbas: "Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the ’road-map’. . . It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem. " While the US has long officially opposed moves by Israel in East Jerusalem that would prejudice any "final status" settlement

Jerusalem campaign launches contest of science and literature
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- The popular campaign for the celebration of Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture 2009 announced the launch of Jerusalem prize in two fields, the scientific research and literature. The prize for the scientific research will be devoted to research papers on humanitarian, social, religious, archeological, architectural and economic sciences. The contest organizers said that research papers submitted should stick to the methods of scientific research and documentation and be characterized by new additions in areas relating to Jerusalem. With regard to literature, the participants should compete in literary work in the areas of poetry, novel and critical studies which address the Palestinian cause especially the aspects related to the city of Jerusalem. The two first place winners in both fields will receive a prize of $10,000, each while $3,000 would be allocated for the second place and $2,000 for the third place.

Hamas: Bulldozer attack ’natural response’ to Israeli aggression
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Hamas on Thursday praised a bulldozer attack in Jerusalem earlier in the day, calling it the "natural response" to Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in Arab East Jerusalem and to Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip. "The operation in Jerusalem was a natural response to aggression against our people. The Zionist enemy should realize that they alone bear the responsibility for displacing our people in Jerusalem and for the killings in Gaza and the West Bank," said Mushir al-Masri, a senior Hamas official. Riyad al-Malki, information minister for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Western-backed government, described the attack as a "traffic accident", and called for an investigation into why the driver had been shot. A little after 1 P. M. Thursday, a bulldozer driver overturned a police car and rammed into a bus, before he was shot by police and a taxi driver at the scene. He later died of his wounds.

Palestinian who carried tractor attack is from Jerusalem
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
Israeli sources reported on Thursday that the Palestinian man who carried out the Thursday tractor attack, in which two Israeli policemen were slightly injured, was identified as Mer’ey Radeedeh, from Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem. Israeli Ynet News reported that the man carried a Palestinian Identity Card, married and a father of one child. He was killed after an Israeli policeman and a taxi driver opened fire at him. The Ynet added that the police arrested some of his family members on Thursday evening and took them in for interrogation. The relatives said that they believe the incident was an accident, and one of his relatives said that the man did not have any extreme views, and it is unlikely that this incident was a deliberate attack. Directly after the attack took place, the so-called "The Forum for the Land of Israel" asked the Israeli Defense Minister and the Attorney General to raze the home of Radeedeh.

Jerusalem ’tractor attacker’ killed
Al Jazeera 3/5/2009
Israeli police say they are treating the incident in Jerusalem as a ’terrorist’ act - A man has been shot dead in Jerusalem after he drove a tractor into two vehicles, Israeli police have said. The man was killed on Thursday after his digger turned over a police car and hit an empty bus, Mickey Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said. "It seems to be a terrorist attack from the evidence we have at the moment," he said. Two people were "lightly injured" in the apparent attack, a statement from the Magen David Adom medical rescue service said. Driver shot - The driver of the vehicle was killed when a police officer and a taxi driver shot him, police said. "A police officer at the site saw the tractor lifting the police vehicle into the air and opened fire at the driver," Niso Shaham, deputy head of Jerusalem police, said. "Several seconds later a taxi driver joined in" the firing, he said.

Jerusalem 'terrorist' a married father
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/5/2009
"Terrorist" who carried out attack earlier Thursday identified as 26-year-old east Jerusalem resident; ’We could see tractor hammering police car with its shovel,’ policeman says as he recounts dramatic moments - The "terrorist" who carried out Thursday’s tractor attack in Jerusalem was identified as Mir’i Radeideh, 26, of the Beit Hanina neighborhood in east Jerusalem. A policeman and policewoman were lightly hurt in the attack. Radeideh was married and a father of one. He was carrying a Palestinian ID. Thursday evening, security forces detained some of the terrorist’s family members and took them in for questioning. His relatives told Ynet that they believe the event was an accident. According to a family member, Radeideh was "a normal person who did not hold extremist views" and thus his relatives do not believe he intended to carry out a "terror" attack.

Jerusalem attack 'natural response' to Israeli aggression
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
Jerusalem -- It was described by several Palestinians, including a member of the elected Hamas government, as a "natural response" to the policies of Israeli occupation. This afternoon a Palestinian drove a bulldozer into an Israeli police car in Jerusalem. He injured two Israeli police officers. The man himself was then shot to death. After a major increase in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and settling in the West Bank, along with the killings of over one thousand in Gaza, it "comes as no surprise" that some people may fight back said Mushir Al Masri today. The member of the Hamas leadership said, "The operation in Jerusalem was a natural response to aggression against our people. The Zionist enemy should realize that they alone bear the responsibility for displacing our people in Jerusalem and for the killings in Gaza and the West Bank.

Bulldozer rams police car and bus in Jerusalem; driver shot dead
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – A tractor driver plowed into a police cruiser and a bus in Jerusalem on Thursday before he was shot dead. According to Israeli spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, Jerusalem police killed the alleged Palestinian attacker. But an Israeli taxi driver, Oz Ma’atabi, also claimed to have joined in on the shooting: "I shot at him with my gun. " "With four bullets I finished him. I used my personal weapon and the policeman next to me also shot," Ma’atabi said. Witnesses told Israel Radio that the tractor managed to flip a police cruiser near a shopping mall in Al-Malha (Malcha in Hebrew), in southern Jerusalem. Two police officers were injured in what has been labeled a deliberate attack. The driver, reported to be a Palestinian, was eventually identified as Mar’i Radaydah from Al-U’beidieyah in the West Bank, a resident of Beit Hanina.

Jerusalem: Bulldozer plows into police vehicle; terrorist killed
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Tractor hammers into police squad car on Menachem Begin Boulevard in the capital; misses nearby bus. Two officers injured, attacker neutralized -A tractor plowed into a police squad car on Menachem Begin Boulevard in Jerusalem on Thursday. The driver was apparently also trying to hit a nearby bus, but missed. Two police officers were in the car when it was hit and both sustained mild injuries. Other police officers patrolling nearby shot the terrorist. Magen David Adom emergency services were immediately dispatched to the area. The paramedics treated both the injured officers and the tractor driver, who reportedly sustained severe injuries. One of the police officers and the terrorist were taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. The other police officer was taken to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

A bulldozer rams an Israeli police car in Jerusalem injuring two officers
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
A bulldozer said to be driven by a Palestinian man crashed into an Israeli police car in Jerusalem, injuring two officers and the driver was killed on Thursday afternoon. Israeli media reported that the two officers were moderately wounded and were moved to a nearby hospital. Meanwhile the driver was shot dead by a policeman and a taxi driver who was nearby. This is the fourth such attack in the past 20 months. The Israeli army reported that it may be that Palestinian groups are using this as a new attack method. As of the time of this report no Palestinian group have announced responsibility for the attack. Tension has been high in Jerusalem for the two weeks, since Israel deployed troops and policemen around Palestinian areas in the city, after the government announced plans to destroy at least 100 Palestinian-owned homes in the city.

Palestinian goes on Jerusalem tractor rampage
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/6/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A Palestinian tractor driver was shot dead Thursday after he rammed into a bus and a police car in Occupied Jerusalem. It was the third such attack in nine months in the holy city and came the day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her first visit to the region pledging aggressive diplomacy to revive peace talks. "A bulldozer hit an empty bus and a police" car on Begin Boulevard near the busy Malcha shopping mall, said a statement from the Magen David Adom medical rescue service. "Two people are lightly injured and the bulldozer driver has been shot and killed," it said. Officials later said the wounded were police officers. "We have no doubt this was a terror attack," Niso Shaham, deputy head of Jerusalem police, told reporters at the scene. The driver of the construction vehicle was killed when a nearby police officer and a passing taxi driver shot him, police said.

Bulldozer rams vehicles in Jerusalem
Reuters, The Independent 3/5/2009
A Palestinian driver crashed his bulldozer into a police car and hit a bus on a busy Jerusalem highway on Thursday before police and a taxi driver shot him dead. An open Koran, the Muslim holy book, was found in the driver’s cabin, Niso Shaham, Jerusalem’s deputy police chief, told reporters at the scene. A police spokesman said it was a "terrorist" attack. Palestinian residents identified the driver as Marei Radaydeh, a West Bank construction worker who lived with his family in the Arab East Jerualem neighourhood of Beit Hanina. Police have yet to announce results of its investigation. No Palestinian militant groups have claimed responsibility for the incident, which came a day after a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Hamas said the attack was a "natural response" to Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and to the Jewish state’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which the Islamist movement controls.

Bulldozer rams Israeli police car
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/5/2009
Palestinian driver shot after injuring two officers and hitting empty bus in attack in Jerusalem -- A Palestinian bulldozer driver rammed a police car in Jerusalem, injuring two police officers, and then hit a bus before he was shot, officials said today. Israeli police said they regarded the incident as a terrorist attack. The driver of the bulldozer was shot several times and taken by ambulance to hospital with severe injuries. There were conflicting reports about whether he had been killed. The two policemen suffered slight injuries. Uzi Mahatabi, 32, a taxi driver who witnessed the incident said: "When I saw the bulldozer throw the squad car up and down in the air with an officer inside, I realised it was a terror attack. " Mahatabi said he got out of his cab, and fired two or three bullets, hitting the attacker in the stomach after police had already shot the man.

Two policemen hurt in bulldozer terror attack in Jerusalem
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Two police officers were lightly wounded in Jerusalem Thursday afternoon when an Arab bulldozer driver overturned their police car and rammed it into a bus, before being shot by police and a taxi driver. He later died of his wounds. The attack occurred around 1 P. M. near the Malha shopping mall, on Menachem Begin Boulevard in southern Jerusalem. Police said that a copy of the Koran had been found in the bulldozer after the attack, and that the driver had not been carrying any identification. Israel Police and local residents later identified the man as Marei Radaydeh, a West Bank construction worker in his mid-20s who lived with his family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina. Radaydeh was married and had a daughter. The bulldozer attack was the fourth of its kind over the past year.

Following Clinton’s visit, Israel says it will allow more goods into Gaza
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
Following the visit of U. S Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton, to the region this week, Israeli declared it will allow more goods into the besieged Gaza Strip. [end]

Palestinian officials remain among political prisoners
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
Ramallah -- Chief Negotiator in the Palestine Liberation Organization, Dr. Sa’eb Erekat, is again attempting to garner the release of imprisoned Palestinian officials. The Israeli administration is holding dozens in its prison, but of particular concern to Dr. Erekat today was Jamal Tirawi. The Palestinian Legislative Council member is among those who Erekat says President Abbas is negotiating for as well. During a meeting of he Palestinian Information Foundation it was learned that repeated attempts have been made to release Fuad Shobaki and Tirawi, along with the headline grabbers Marwan Al Barghouti and Ahmed Sa’adat. Dr. Aziz Dweik of the Hamas party was among those whom the Israelis arrested upon winning the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. His health is ailing which makes him of particular concern.

Petition: Roads near Bedouin schools caused child deaths
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Poor roads leading to Bedouin schools in the Negev are responsible for the deaths of four children in car accidents over the past two years, according to a petition to the High Court of Justice against the Education Ministry and the authority for Bedouin settlement in the Negev. The petition was submitted by the Abu Basma Regional Council, represented by attorney Ruth Carmi of the Israel Religious Action Center. "Thousands of children from unrecognized villages risk their lives twice a day on dangerous dirt roads," Carmi wrote in the petition. The document notes that in an accident in October 2006, an 11-year-old died when his head was crushed after he stuck it out the window as two buses passed each other. The road was of substandard width, the petition said. In two other cases, bus drivers ran over and killed an 8-year-old and 5-year-old they said they had not seen because of dust clouds caused by vehicles on dirt roads.

Petition: Provide security to Arab students
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Shfaram family files petition against Education Ministry’s decision to halt armed escorts of field trips in Arab sector. ’The dangers Arab students are exposed to are equal to those threatening Jewish and Druze students,’ say plaintiffs - An Arab family from the northern Israeli city of Shfaram filed a petition asking the court to overturn an Education Ministry decision to cease armed escorts of field trips in the Arab sector. According to the petition, filed with the Haifa District Court, the decision "reeks of racial and ethnic discrimination. " The petition was filed by Attorney Suleiman Amer on behalf of Khaled and Nariman Safuri and their three daughters, who attend a local Shfaram junior high school. According to court documents, an Education Ministry’s security office memorandum, released in early February, stated that "educational facilities and. . .

Two Palestinian women become judges in Islamic court
Jordan Times 3/5/2009
RAMALLAH (AP) - Khuloud Faqih, 34, and Asmahan Wuheidi, 31, made history in February 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. " I compare us to other Arab Muslim women, and I think we’ve done well," said Faqih, wearing a sash in the colours 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. Muslim courts in the Palestinian Authority rule over family affairs like marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody, relying on Islamic jurisprudence rather than secular rules.

2 Palestinian women become judges in Islamic court
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/5/2009
West Bank women make history, becoming first female judges in Palestinian Islamic court that deals with family affairs. Top judge responsible for appointment says he hopes more women apply for job - 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 headscarves and long black robes have smashed through the thick glass ceiling. Khuloud Faqih, 34, and Asmahan Wuheidi, 31, made history in February 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.

UK boycotts Leviev
Stop The Wall 3/5/2009
The government of the United Kingdom has decided to boycott Israeli diamond and real estate mogul Lev Leviev over his companies’ construction of settlements. The decision by the UK government is the result of a coordinated advocacy campaign demanding that the UK government end plans to rent the new UK Embassy in Tel Aviv from Leviev’s company Africa-Israel. Almost a year ago, following the publication of UK intentions to rent space for a new Tel Aviv embassy from Leviev, eight groups in the US, UK and Palestine launched a letter-writing campaign to the UK’s Foreign Office. They drew the attention of the British government to the Leviev’s involvement in the construction of settlements Zufim, Mattityahu East, Har Homa and Maale Adumim as well as the millionaire’s contributions to the Land Redemption fund, which acquires Palestinian land for Jewish settlements. -- See also: UK gov't boycotts settlement financier Leviev

BDS events kick off IAW in the West Bank
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 3/5/2009
IAW [Israeli Apartheid Week] began in the West Bank at al-Quds Open University in Tulkarm on Tuesday. More events took place on the following day in a number of universities in the north as well as in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The events have focused on education and spreading the word in the campuses and camps about BDS, setting the stage for the week to come. IAW opened at al-Quds Open University in Tulkarm, where events began mid-morning. Student activists working with the Stop the Wall Campaign distributed questionnaires to 300 students about the importance of boycotting Israeli goods. Activists sent the results to both the student council and the university administration and asked them to sign statements pledging to cease buying Israeli goods, primarily for the cafeteria, and cut any ties with Israeli academics. -- See also: US Israeli Apartheid Week Events

Teaching child health in the occupied Palestinian territory
Tony Waterston, Samia Halileh, Jumana Odeh, Mary Rudolf, Patricia Hamilton, The Lancet 3/5/2009
Since 1999, the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has been working to establish a sustainable teaching programme1 in child health in the occupied Palestinian territory. The aim is to upgrade the knowledge and skills of doctors and nurses who work with children. This Series in The Lancet describes the serious and in some ways intractable health issues in the Palestinian territory. 2—6The RCPCH programme was conceived in 1998 by David Baum, at that time President of the RCPCH, after a request from the Palestinian Minister of Health who had been approached by Medical Aid for Palestinians7 following their experience in teaching child-health nurses in the territory. The original intention was to provide a basic training of paediatricians with the UK Diploma in Child Health as a model. A needs assessment8 with the support of the UK’s Department for International Development -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

Palestinian refugees outside the occupied Palestinian territory
Guido Sabatinelli, Stefania Pace-Shanklin, Flavia Riccardo, Yousef Shahin, The Lancet 3/5/2009
The 1948 Arab—Israeli war not only marked a crucial moment in the history of Palestine, but generated the largest refugee population in the world, thus affecting all its neighbouring countries. Of 4·6 million Palestinians with refugee status, 2·8 million reside outside the occupied Palestinian territory, in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. They are assisted by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees, which is their main health provider and therefore the most accurate source of information on their health status. 1The political and economic situation, the recognition of refugee status, and the level and possibility of access to governmental services in the hosting countries strongly influence the quality of life and health status of Palestinian refugees living outside the occupied Palestinian territory. -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

The health-care system: an assessment and reform agenda
Dr Awad Mataria PhD, Rana Khatib PhD, Prof Cam Donaldson, The Lancet 3/5/2009
Summary - Attempts to establish a health plan for the occupied Palestinian territory were made before the 1993 Oslo Accords. However, the first official national health plan was published in 1994 and aimed to regulate the health sector and integrate the activities of the four main health-care providers: the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Palestinian non-governmental organisations, the UN Relief and Works Agency, and a cautiously developing private sector. However, a decade and a half later, attempts to create an effective, efficient, and equitable system remain unsuccessful. This failure results from arrangements for health care established by the Israeli military government between 1967 and 1994, the nature of the Palestinian National Authority, which has little authority in practice and has been burdened by inefficiency, cronyism, corruption, and the inappropriate priorities repeatedly set to satisfy the preferences of foreign aid donors. -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

Health status and health services in the occupied Palestinian territory
Prof Rita Giacaman PharmD, Rana Khatib PhD, Luay Shabaneh PhD, The Lancet 3/5/2009
Summary - We describe the demographic characteristics, health status, and health services of the Palestinian population living in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory, and the way they have been modified by 60 years of continuing war conditions and 40 years of Israeli military occupation. Although health, literacy, and education currently have a higher standard in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory than they have in several Arab countries, 52% of families (40% in the West Bank and 74% in the Gaza Strip) were living below the poverty line of US$3·15 per person per day in 2007. To describe health status, we use not only conventional indicators, such as infant mortality and stunting in children, but also subjective measures, which are based on people’s experiences and perceptions of their health status and life quality. -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, and cancer in the occupied Palestinian territory
Dr Abdullatif Husseini PhD, Niveen ME Abu-Rmeileh PhD, Nahed Mikki, The Lancet 3/5/2009
Summary - Heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer are the major causes of morbidity and mortality in the occupied Palestinian territory, resulting in a high direct cost of care, high indirect cost in loss of production, and much societal stress. The rates of the classic risk factors for atherosclerotic disease—namely, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, tobacco smoking, and dyslipidaemia—are high and similar to those in neighbouring countries. The urbanisation and continuing nutritional change from a healthy Mediterranean diet to an increasingly western-style diet is associated with reduced activity, obesity, and a loss of the protective effect of the traditional diet. Rates of cancer seem to be lower than those in neighbouring countries, with the leading causes of death being lung cancer in Palestinian men and breast cancer in women. -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

Maternal and child health in the occupied Palestinian territory
Dr Hanan F Abdul Rahim PhD, Laura Wick MSc, Samia, The Lancet 3/5/2009
Summary -- The Countdown to 2015 intervention coverage indicators in the occupied Palestinian territory are similar to those of other Arab countries, although there are gaps in continuity and quality of services across the continuum of the perinatal period. Since the mid 1990s, however, access to maternity facilities has become increasingly unpredictable. Mortality rates for infants (age ? 1 year) and children younger than 5 years have changed little, and the prevalence of stunting in children has increased. Living conditions have worsened since 2006, when the elected Palestinian administration became politically and economically boycotted, resulting in unprecedented levels of Palestinian unemployment, poverty, and internal conflict, and increased restrictions to health-care access. Although a political solution is imperative for poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and the universal -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

BBC: Palestinian health care ailing
Palestine Media Center 3/5/2009
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza suffer from an "ailing landscape" of health services, a new study claims. The Lancet medical journal report highlights how 10% of Palestinian children now have stunted growth. The paper describes the healthcare system in the Palestinian territories as "fragmented and incoherent". Experts from Birzeit University say death rates among children and expectant mothers have failed to decline in recent years. The plateau is in spite of good ante-natal care and high rates of child immunization. Dr Hanan Abdul Rahim said: "There are gaps in care. There’s a low level of post-natal care and often it’s not given in a timely manner. "Mortality rates among infants and under-fives haven’t declined much. This is unusual when compared with other Arab countries that used to have similar rates but have managed to bring them down. "The trend for stunting among children is increasing, and the concern is about the long-term effects.

Israel says UK medical journal report propaganda, one-sided
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A report published on Thursday in a special issue of the medical journal, The Lancet, said Israel’s border closings in Palestine have resulted in major health problems. The report cited evidence of malnutrition, stunted growth in children and a high infant mortality rate, as well as an editorial from former US President Jimmy Carter, who called for a Middle East peace agreement to improve Palestinians’ health. Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev called the report “one-sided. ”"This is propaganda in the guise of a medical report," he insisted. “Israeli authorities prevented a delegation of specialists from going to Gaza,“ according to a statement from the de facto Health Ministry. The ministry demanded that human rights organizations urgently intervene to stop “such inhumane acts that contradict all international conventions.

Palestinian health system under Israeli siege
Middle East Online 3/5/2009
LONDON- Health standards in the beleaguered Palestinian territories have fallen in recent years, exacerbated by the Israeli blockade and war on Gaza, researchers said on Thursday. Some 3. 8 million Palestinians face a stretched healthcare system whose inefficiency is made worse by factors linked to Israel such as checkpoints which complicate access to hospitals, they said. The research, billed as the most comprehensive-ever assessment of Palestinian health, is published in respected medical journal The Lancet. It follows a two-year collaboration between Palestinian and international researchers plus the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN agencies. "Since 2000, the occupied Palestinian territory has experienced increasing human insecurity, with the erosion and reversal of many health gains made in earlier years," Lancet editor Richard Horton said.

Health as human security in the occupied Palestinian territory
Rajaie Batniji MA, Yoke Rabaia MPH, Viet Nguyen—Gillham PhD, The Lancet 3/4/2009
Summary - We describe the threats to survival, development, and wellbeing in the occupied Palestinian territory using human security as a framework. Palestinian security has deteriorated rapidly since 2000. More than 6000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military, with more than 1300 killed in the Gaza Strip during 22 days of aerial and ground attacks ending in January, 2009. Israeli destruction and control of infrastructure has severely restricted fuel supplies and access to water and sanitation. Palestinians are tortured in prisons and humiliated at Israeli checkpoints. The separation wall and the checkpoints prevent access to work, family, sites of worship, and health-care facilities. Poverty rates have risen sharply, and almost half of Palestinians are dependent on food aid. Social cohesion, which has kept Palestinian society intact, including the health-care system, is now strained. -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

Britain open to engaging in direct talks with Hizbullah
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/6/2009
LONDON: Britain said Wednesday it was prepared to engage in direct contacts with the political wing of Hizbullah, after it became part of a national unity government last year. London has had no official talks with Hizbullah since 2005, and last July added its military wing to a blacklist of designated terrorist groups. "We have reconsidered the position," Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell told a parliamentary committee hearing. The main reason was "in the light of more positive developments within Lebanon, the formation of the national unity government in which Hizbullah are participating, and for that reason we have explored establishing contacts. "Rammell said there had already been a "first meeting", between a delegation of lawmakers from the main opposition Conservative party visiting Lebanon and a Lebanese parliamentary delegation which included a member of Hizbullah.

UK ready for talks with Hezbollah
Ian Black, Middle East editor, The Guardian 3/5/2009
Overtures to political wing of militant Shia group - Officials deny precedent set for contact with Hamas -- Britain overturned its policy on a key Middle East issue yesterday by agreeing to talk to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia movement which fights Israel and is banned as a terrorist organisation by the US. Bill Rammell, the Foreign Office minister, told MPs the government would authorise "carefully selected" contacts with the political wing of Hezbollah, which is represented in the Lebanese parliament. Other EU countries, including France, already deal with the group. The move, urged privately by British diplomats for some time, may be partially intended to encourage the US to follow suit as Barack Obama’s administration pursues a fresh approach of engagement with parties shunned by George Bush. But Foreign Office officials said the decision would not create a precedent for talking

Britain open to direct talks with Hezbollah
Middle East Online 3/5/2009
LONDON - Britain said Wednesday it was prepared to engage in direct contacts with the political wing of Lebanese Hezbollah, after it became part of a national unity government there last year. London has had no official talks with Hezbollah since 2005, and last July added its military wing to a blacklist of designated terrorist groups. "We have reconsidered the position," Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell told a parliamentary committee hearing. The main reason was "in the light of more positive developments within Lebanon, the formation of the national unity government in which Hezbollah are participating, and for that reason we have explored establishing contacts. " Rammell said there had already been a "first meeting", between a delegation of lawmakers from the main opposition Conservative party visiting Lebanon and a Lebanese parliamentary delegation which included a member of Hezbollah.

Britain re-establishing contact with Hezbollah
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Britain’s government on Thursday said it was re-establishing contact with the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah. Britain ceased contact with members of Hezbollah in 2005. The United Kingdom listed Hezbollah’s military wing as a proscribed terrorist organization last year. But Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said on Thursday that it had reconsidered its position following political developments in Lebanon. Britain’s ambassador attended a meeting in January in Beirut alongside aHezbollah lawmaker, the ministry said. The Foreign Office added that it was seeking to build relations with other legislators attached to the group. Israel fought a 34-day war against Hezbollah in 2006 after the group kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

Fayyad meeting Clinton, Says halting settlements key to comprehensive peace
Palestine Media Center 3/5/2009
Prime Minister, Dr. Salaam Fayyad, met US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in his Ramallah office on Tuesday, and said that halting Israeli settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank, and halting Israeli invasions, are the keys to a two-state solution. On her part, Clinton said that she will start extensive efforts to resolve social and security issues immediately after a new government is formed in Israel. Clinton praised Fayyad and his authority for achievements in different fields over the past period, including enforcing law and order while facing difficult security and economical conditions. She also expressed support for the Palestinian economic plans aiming at boosting the Palestinian economy and rebuilding Gaza, and praised the Palestinian Authority for managing to garner financial support during the Sharm Al Sheikh Summit in Egypt. Fayyad thanked Clinton for vowing support for the Palestinian economy during the summit and for her statements regarding a two-state solution.

American initiative: 'Rebuilding Gaza in exchange for releasing Shalit'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported on Thursday that a new initiative by the US Congress aims at conditioning the US financial support to rebuild the Gaza Strip with the release of the Israeli Soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza in June 26, 2006. The initiative was considered as an American attempt to achieve what Israel failed to achieve in its repeated wars against the Gaza Strip since Shalit was captured. The initiative states that the Palestinian resistance should stop the firing of homemade shells and release Shalit, and in return the United States would transfer 900 Million Dollars to the Palestinian Authority. It is worth mentioning that the United States vowed this amount during the Sharm Al Sheikh Summit in Egypt without placing these conditions. The proposal came out after a meeting between Noam Badin, head of the Media Office in Sderot, and some members of Congress this week.

Obama providing funds to PA for 'security'
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
Ramallah -- Not surprisingly the new US administration is pledging a type of support to the Palestinian Authority which leaves the internal struggle in an even more perilous state. Officials said on Thursday that President Barack Obama is planning to expand the US program that supports Abbas. The US program is to strengthen security forces loyal to President Abbas in the West Bank. The work of PA security bodies is seen in large part as being the suppression of Hamas and the protection of Israeli forces. This has been the case in the past between the US and PA as some in the Fateh-led government are viewed in the street as colluding with the Americans and Israelis for its own ends. Sources said today that the US support will come in the form of "funding for training and equipment. " In the eyes of the general public, the PA is expected not to provide "security" for. . .

Fayyad meeting Clinton, claims halting settlements key to comprehensive peace
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
The Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salaam Fayyad, met US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in his Ramallah office on Tuesday, and said that halting Israeli settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank, and halting Israeli invasions, are the keys to a two-state solution. On her part, Clinton said that she will start extensive efforts to resolve social and security issues immediately after a new government is formed in Israel. Clinton praised Fayyad and his authority for achievements in different fields over the past period, including enforcing law and order while facing difficult security and economical conditions. She also expressed support for the Palestinian economic plans aiming at boosting the Palestinian economy and rebuilding Gaza, and praised the Palestinian Authority for managing to garner financial support during the Sharm Al Sheikh Summit in Egypt.

Israel to let more aid into Gaza in gesture to Clinton
Nir Hasson Barak Ravid Avi Issacharoff, and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Israel will increase the range of goods permitted into the Gaza Strip as a gesture to U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who concluded her visit to the region Wednesday. In recent weeks, Israel has prevented such products as jam, pasta and paper from reaching the besieged coastal territory. "We want humanitarian aid to get into Gaza in sufficient amounts to alleviate the suffering of the people," Clinton said, but stopped short of calling for a full opening of the crossings. Last week, Haaretz reported that U. S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell had complained about Israel’s policy of limiting goods sent into Gaza, saying it was "unacceptable to the U. S. " Many other diplomats, including the Norwegian Foreign Minister and a number of counterparts from the European Union, also urged Israel to drop the measure.

Proposal in Congress: No Gilad Shalit, no Gaza aid
Natasha Mozgovaya Haaretz U.S. Correspondent, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
WASHINGTON - A new initiative by members of the United States Congress seeks to condition the transfer of the $900 million for the Palestinians on an end to rocket fire on Israel from Gaza, and the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged the $900 million during a conference in Egypt this week to raise money for Gaza reconstruction, in the wake of Israel’s three-week offensive aimed at halting rocket fire on its southern communities. Shalit has been held captive in Gaza since June 2006, when he was snatched from his army base in a cross-border raid from Gaza. The proposal followed a meeting on Capitol Hill between Noam Badin, the director of the communications center in Qassam-battered Sderot and several members of Congress and their advisors.

Abu Halabia: IOA announcement on Aqsa tunnels test for Arab and Muslim reaction
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian lawmaker and chairman of the Jerusalem committee in the PLC MP Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabia has described Wednesday the Israeli announcement of digging two tunnels under the Aqsa Mosque as "test for Arabs and Muslims". In an interview with the PIC on Wednesday, Abu Halabia explained that the Israeli efforts to judaize the city rapidly and noticeably intensified, including destroying more Palestinian Jerusalemite homes and forcing more families out of the city. He stressed that the Israeli excavations under the third holiest shrine for Muslims reached alarming levels, and started to threaten foundations of the Mosque. "The Israeli occupation government doesn’t need to announce or consult any party about its schemes against the Aqsa; yet, the latest Israeli declaration of digging two tunnels under the Aqsa Mosque was meant to gauge the pulse in the Arab and Muslim street on those excavations", he pointed out.

Hamas: No truce until Israel halts attacks
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas warned on Thursday that two deadly Israeli airstrikes in Gaza threaten any possibility of a truce. “The Israeli escalation carried out against the Palestinians and the resistance is a dangerous one. The enemy alone is held responsible for the consequences of this escalation,” said Mushir Al-Masri, a member of the Hamas bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Al-Masri was referring to two attacks, one in the northern Gaza Strip and one in the central section of the Strip, which killed four Palestinian fighters since Wednesday night. “The Israeli occupier will be unable to take away from us any position favoring a truce,” he said. Egypt has been attempting to broker a long-term truce between Hamas and other Palestinian factions and Israel. The talks have been frozen in recent weeks due to political disarray following the Israeli election last month.

Zahhar: The national unity government will not recognize Israel
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
TEHRAN, (PIC)-- Hamas prominent leader MP Dr. Mahmnoud Al-Zahhar has asserted in a press interview published on Thursday that any next PA national unity government would not recognize Israel. He told UAE-based Al-Khalij newspaper that recognizing Israel would not be on the agenda of the new Palestinian government, and added that Hamas would not recognize the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. "The Zionist entity is a foreign power that has nothing to do with the land of Palestine and this alien body should get out of our lands," he elaborated. The Hamas leader hoped that the new unity government would be one of technocrats that would be formed with the agreement of all Palestinian factions, and added that the government’s prime targets would be improving the Palestinian people’s living conditions, holding elections and achieving the "noble goals" of the Palestinian people.

Shalit family launches new campaign for Gilad’s release
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Ahead of son’s 1000th day in captivity, Noam, Aviva Shalit prepare to stay in protest tent in capital, send out SMSs, emails, and letters with the word ’Help’ cut out from letters sent by son in captivity in hopes of raising awarness. ’We will stay in tent as long as it takes,’ says father - The Shalit family is stepping up its efforts to bring about the release of their son, Gilad, who has been held captive in Gaza for the past 984 days. At noon on Thursday, the family held a press conference in Tel Aviv, and announced the launching of a new campaign for thier son’s release. On Sunday, Shalit’s parents Noam and Aviva plan to travel to the protest tent in Jerusalem, where they will spend most of the hours of the day. Other relatives will join them in the days to follow. Noam Shalit said, "We will stay in the tent as long as it takes and we will get. . .

Barhoum: 'Assassinations, shelling, and escalation show real Israeli intentions'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/5/2009
Fawzi Barhoum, spokesperson of Hamas movement, stated Thursday that the Israeli escalation and assassinations in the Gaza Strip show the real Israeli intentions to resume violence, and reveals the reason behind the Egyptian failure in achieving a truce. In an interview with the Palestine Information Center, Barhoum said that the Israeli escalation pushes Hamas to reaffirm its commitment to resist the aggression. He added that this dangerous escalation aims at increasing the pressure on Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian factions to adhere to the Israeli demands. "The enemy only speaks one language, the language of violence and terrorism", Barhoum said and called on all resistance groups to remain alert and ready to defend their people. He also demanded the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to stop pressuring the resistance and enable them to defend their people.

Palestinian gov’t slams int’l court for issuing arrest warrant against Bashir
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya on Wednesday strongly denounced the international criminal court for issuing an arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir, saying that this decision is politicized par excellence ignoring the real war criminals in the world. Spokesman for the government Taher Al-Nunu said in a press statement received by the PIC that the justice of the international community reflects the American will and ignores the real war criminals in Israel who committed atrocities against the Palestinian people. Nunu urged the leaders of the Islamic and Arab countries to stand by the Sudanese president, his government and people against the unjust attack that targets the Sudan, stressing his government’s full solidarity with Bashir and its rejection of this court’s arbitrary decision against him.

’Save me!’ - Gilad Shalit’s voice and note feature in new campaign
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
A new video calling for the return of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit has been released featuring the soldier’s voice and the words "save me" written in his handwriting. The video was released during a press conference held with Shalit’s father Noam Shalit, and sources from the Campaign to Release Gilad Shalit said it is meant to "express his [Shalit’s] cry for help. " The reproduction of Shalit’s words is taken from a letter he sent home to his parents, and will stand at the forefront of the campaign. In addition to the TV spots, the campaign will also send the written message to thousands of Israelis by way of email and SMS, and it will be featured in print advertisements. During the press conference, Noam Shalit said that his family will sit in a protest tent outside of the prime minister’s residence. . .

Masri: The Palestinian resistance was able to foil the goals of the Israeli war
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Mushir Al-Masri, the secretary-general of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, stated Thursday that the Palestinian resistance was able to frustrate the goals of the Israeli war on Gaza, highlighting that the resistance enjoys today a broader base through which it could achieve the aspirations of the Palestinian people. In a statement to the Iranian Al-Alam satellite channel, MP Masri said that the resistance managed to thwart the aims of the Israeli war which was the most brutal in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in light of the complicity of some regimes with the US and Israel against the Palestinian people and their resistance. The lawmaker noted that the Tehran conference symbolizes the unity of the Arab and Muslim countries to the contrary of the Sharm Al-Sheikh conference which provokes division.

Nasr: Calm a tactical step
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
SANA’A, (PIC)-- Mohammed Nasr, member of Hamas’s political bureau, has stressed in a seminar in the Yemeni capital on Tuesday night that calm with the Israeli occupation was a step within resistance and not an end in itself. He pointed out that the Israeli war on Gaza proved that resistance could not be wiped out simply because it is not an isolated phenomenon but rather is embraced by the people. Nasr said that Hamas was ready for internal Palestinian reconciliation, adding that compromising to another Palestinian party was not capitulation as long as the compromise would lead to securing the country’s higher national interests. He underlined that his Movement was ready to extend whatever facilities needed to any party that wish to help the Palestinians, but put the condition that such help should not be politicized.

Bahar calls for forming international court to prosecute Israeli war criminals
Palestinian Information Center 3/5/2009
TEHRAN, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the PLC, called Wednesday for forming an international court to prosecute Israeli war criminals for the war crimes and massacres they committed against the Palestinian people, deploring at the same time the arbitrary arrest warrant issued against Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir while ignoring the real war criminals.  During the fourth international conference for the defense and support of the Palestinian people held in Tehran, Dr. Bahar also called for expediting the reconstruction of what was destroyed by Israel and not politicizing this humanitarian issue. The acting speaker condemned the American preconditions for the Gaza reconstruction as unfair to the Palestinian people and a political blackmail at the expense of the displaced and war-torn people of Gaza.

Israel’s ambassador to U.S. says stepping down from post
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
WASHINGTON - Israel’s ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor announced this week his intention to step down from the top diplomatic post in the near future, it emerged Thursday. Meridor informed outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu of his decision. "I wish to thank the prime minister, the foreign minister and the outgoing government for granting me the privilege to serve Israel in a most vital and central position during a challenging and sensitive period," the envoy said in a statement. Meridor, who was appointed by Olmert, said he would return to Israel after leaving the position. News of the announcement came after Haaretz reported Thursday that Netanyahu sidelined Meridor Wednesday, asking him to leave the room during a meeting with U.

Why did Netanyahu kick Israel’s U.S. envoy out of meeting with Clinton?
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu sidelined Israel’s ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor Wednesday, asking him to leave the room during a meeting with U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem. Meridor was asked to leave even though U. S. Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham and the U. S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, remained at the meeting. Two other Israeli aides stayed with Netanyahu - Prof. Uzi Arad and attorney Yitzhak Molcho. "The Americans decided that only three participants from each side stay in the meeting," Netanyahu’s office said yesterday. "Therefore, Molcho stayed because of the Palestinian issue and Arad because of the Iranian issue. Netanyahu greatly respects Meridor. " Molcho, a longtime Netanyahu associate, worked for Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister between 1996 and 1999. -- See also: Israel's ambassador to U.S. says stepping down from post

Ambassador to US quits
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Unexpected departure: Sallai Meridor announces that he will be leaving post soon - WASHINGTON - Surprising departure: Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, announced Thursday that he intends to quit his post soon and return to Israel. Meridor informed Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, and PM-designate Netanyahu of his decision on Monday, before joining US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her Israel visit. Meridor, who was appointed to the post in October 2006, said that "In light of the sensitive nature of the position of Ambassador to the most important country in the world and Israel’s strongest ally in the international community, it is fitting and proper that the new Government will have the opportunity to appoint, immediately upon its formation, the man or woman of its choosing as Ambassador to Washington.

Game on in the Middle East
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian 3/5/2009
During her tour, Hillary Clinton has made clear that the grand US-Iran battle for strategic control of the region has been joined -- The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s quasi-regal progress through the Middle East this week seems to have been too much for Iran’s Supreme Leader to bear. Speaking publicly about the new US administration for the first time since Barack Obama took power, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was by turns angry and dismissive. " Even the new American president, who came to office with the slogan of bringing change in the policies of the Bush administration, avows unconditional commitment to Israel’s security," Khamenei said. "This commitment means the defence of state terrorism, injustice, and oppression. . . of Palestinians. " Obama was following the same "crooked ways" as his predecessor, he went on, and people such as the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud

Jordan reduces prison terms for Hamas militants
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Three Hamas militants convicted of plotting attacks on Israelis and intelligence officers in Jordan have had their prison sentences reduced. Jordan’s highest court said a military court that handed down the initial sentences in December had failed to take into account that the three Jordanians did not carry out any attacks or possess weapons. They were charged with conspiring to attack Israeli diplomats and businessmen and Jordanian intelligence officers. One of the suspects had his sentence reduced from 15 to 7 and a half years on Thursday. The prison terms for the other two were lowered from five to 2 and a half years. Hamas denied the accusations against the men, saying it does not target Jordan or any Arab country.

Speaking in two voices
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
As Hosni Mubarak welcomed participants at this week’s conference about on the reconstruction of Gaza, Egypt’s state media were playing a different tune Karem Gaber, head of the board of directors of the Egyptian weekly Roz al-Yousef, is loyal to the government. He knows how to serve his country’s president, who appointed him to his post at the veteran paper, established in 1928. And Gaber, known for being articulate, is very familiar with the inner feelings of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Ahead of this week’s international donor conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Gaber lashed out at several Arab countries in an article, as well as at Hamas and Iran. He wrote what Mubarak could not say in his festive speech addressing the conference, because Egypt and Saudi Arabia recently launched a process of reconciliation with Syria and Qatar.

Abbas Urges Iran to Stop ’Interfering’
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 3/5/2009
Iran must stop interfering in Palestinian affairs, president Mahmud Abbas said on Wednesday after talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. " We are sending a message to the Iranians and others -- stop interfering in our affairs," he said. "They are interfering only to deepen the rift between Palestinians. " Abbas spoke on the same day that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for world Muslims to join the Palestinian "resistance" against Israel at the start of a two-day summit in support of Hamas-run Gaza. " The only way to save Palestine is resistance," Khamenei said in his address to open the global summit Tehran organised in aid of Gaza and the Palestinians. " Support and help to Palestinians is a mandatory duty of all Muslims. I now tell all Muslim brothers and sisters to join forces and break the immunity of the Zionist criminals," Khamenei said.

Fayyad hosts former UN General Assembly president in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad met with a former president of the United Nations General Assembly in Ramallah on Thursday. Theo Ben Gurirab, who also served as the second prime minister of Nigeria, joined a delegation of World Parliament leaders, which he currently presides over. Fayyad reportedly briefed Gurirab on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and risks facing the peace process. Fayyad stressed that halting illegal Israeli settlement activities and incursions into the West Bank should mark the first attempts to “protect their commitment to the two-state solution,” and a condition that “cannot be ignored to restore credibility to the peace process” and end the occupation. ”Fayyad also insisted that Palestinians will not drop their demands for a “full sovereign state” with East Jerusalem as its capital and borders demarcated along the West Bank’s border with Israel.

PA says Gaza banks unable to deliver salaries
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian Monatary Authority announced Thursday that Gaza banks would be unable to delivery salaries due to “Israeli obstacles” imposed on the banks. In a statement, the Authority said “we made all regional and international efforts to allow the needed funds to get to the working banks in Gaza,” but since “Israel placed obstacles barring the needed funds until now, we are unable to deliver the salaries. ”Meanwhile, the head of the Public Employees Union said a delay in 77,000 Palestinians’ salaries in Gaza is due to Israel’s refusal to allow cash into Gaza. The union head, Bassam Zakarnah, said Israel “is responsible for not delivering the required money to banks in Gaza. ”In a statement, he said the money has not been permitted to Gaza and the 500,000 Palestinian civilians with families of those working for the Palestinian Authority there.

Union: Gaza salaries late because Israel refusing cash transfers
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The head of the Public Employees Union on Thursday said a delay in 77,000 Palestinians’ salaries in Gaza is due to Israel’s refusal to allow cash into Gaza. The union head, Bassam Zakarnah, said Israel “is responsible for not delivering the required money to banks in Gaza. ”In a statement, he said the money has not been permitted to Gaza and the 500,000 Palestinian civilians with families of those working for the Palestinian Authority there. Zakarnah explained that salaries in Gaza will continue to be late until the union can follow up with all concerned sides. He also appealed to the international community to press Israel on the matter. The Palestinian Monatary Authority announced Thursday that Gaza banks would be unable to delivery salaries due to “Israeli obstacles” imposed on the banks.

De facto government releases official newspaper in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-run de facto government in Gaza released a new official newspaper called Ar-Ra’i (The Opinion) on Thursday. The 12-page newspaper (four in color, eight black and white) is now being produced once a week, but its publishers intend for it to be a daily. The first edition, distributed for free in Gaza, contains an exclusive interview with de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and an article about Said Siyam, the interior minister who was assassinated by Israel in January. The newspaper’s administration says they have “several” correspondents gathering news and information in Gaza and the West Bank, in addition to editors and other employees. The director of the de facto government media office, Hasan Abu Hashish, said that all government agencies and ministries will cooperate and support the new paper.

Palestinian reconciliation remains far off: some blame Iran, others point to the US
Kristen Ess / Ramallah, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
PNN exclusive - A Palestinian official ruled out the possibility of an internal reconciliation "during the month of March. "The official close to the Palestinian dialogue in Cairo said that outside parties are negatively impacting progress. Internal Palestinian reconciliation has been on the table in Yemen, Cairo, Syria, Doha, Gaza, Ramallah and points in between for years. Meetings of the five reconciliation committees, formed to take-on the most contentious internal issues, will still begin as scheduled next week. "The atmosphere in general does not augur the possibility of reconciliation soon especially since there are indications that some countries, including Iran, want to have a role at the regional level by influencing the conduct of the internal Palestinian situation," PNN’s Ramallah source said Thursday afternoon.

Gaza Reconstruction Has a Political Price-Tag
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service 3/5/2009
CAIRO, Mar 5(IPS) - A conference held this week in Cairo devoted to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip succeeded in raising more than 5 billion dollars from international donors. But some critics say the issue is being used as a means of isolating Gaza-based resistance faction Hamas. "Reconstruction efforts are being exploited to further weaken Hamas and coerce it into changing its position vis-à-vis the Zionist occupation," Essam Al-Arian, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, told IPS. On Monday (Mar. 2), high-level representatives from more than 70 countries met in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where they pledged monies for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, still reeling after Israel’s recent assault. Along with killing over 1,400 Palestinians, the three-week onslaught damaged thousands of homes, offices and. . .

Italy to boycott Durban 2
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/5/2009
FM Frattini tells Livni his country has problems with conference agenda, adds he is canceling visit to Iran -Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that his country would not participate in the international anti-racism conference in Geneva - known as ’Durban 2’ - out of fears that the event was being used as an anti-Israeli forum. Italy was one of a number of European Union members who expressed concerns in recent weeks that the international event would focus on censuring Israel and thus divert attention from the real problems of racial discrimination. Italy and other EU countries recently stepped up their opposition to attempts by certain countries to shield Islam from criticism and attack Israel disproportionately, pursuant to a draft of a conference agenda that calls for equating criticism of a religious faith. . .

Envoy to U.K. calls British Embassy divestment ’absurd’
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Israel’s ambassador to Great Britain on Wednesday blasted London’s decision to cancel the transfer of its Tel Aviv embassy to a building owned by Africa-Israel because of the company’s role in building West Bank settlements. Ambassador Ron Prosor told Haaretz the move represented "surrender to those who slander Israel. " Prosor said Britain was engaging in "appeasement towards those who slander Israel. Such a policy doesn’t contribute anything to advancing a peace agreement in the Middle East. " Prosor has been faced with a rising tide of delegitimization attempts from non-governmental organizations against Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank. The U. K. government has also recently made efforts to remove British investments from settlement activity.

Italy pulls out of Durban II over ’anti-Semitic’ draft
Barak Ravid , and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini announced Thursday that his country was pulling out of the Durban II United Nations conference on racism due to "aggressive and anti-Semitic statements" in the draft of the event’s final document. The move by Italy was the latest blow to a meeting seen by many Western governments as marred by Muslim attempts to attack Israel and shield Islam from criticism. Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has canceled a planned visit to Iran following pressure from both Jerusalem and Washington. This would have been the first visit to Iran by a European Union foreign minister in nearly four years. Senior Israeli officials asked senior White House officials to become involved and convince the Italians to change their plans.

Livni, Turkish FM meet for first time since Gaza op
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Foreign minister arrives at NATO meeting in Brussels with goal of warming cooled ties; two ministers agree on importance of continued political cooperation -Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met on Thursday with her Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, for the first time this year, after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza led to tensions between the two countries. The two foreign ministers, who met in Brussels, agreed on continued political contact between Israel and Turkey at all levels and stressed that the two nations share strategic interests. Livni’s decision to fly to the Belgian capital to participate in a meeting of NATO foreign ministers was motivated by the desire to assuage tensions with Turkey. Tentative contact had been made prior to Thursday’s meeting to this effect. Leaders in Jerusalem and Ankara had been anxious to ensure tensions between. . .

Israel and Turkey in quiet talks to end diplomatic crisis in days
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Israel and Turkey are involved in quiet but intensive talks to end the crisis in relations between the two countries. According to a senior Jerusalem source, officials from both countries have exchanged messages regarding the need to restore relations to an even keel and hope to do so in the coming days. The communication exchange follows a letter that Turkish President Abdullah Gul sent President Shimon Peres a few weeks ago, in which he expressed the desire to visit Israel in the coming months. The senior government official said the positive messages increased after Israel wrote the Turkish prime minister’s bureau and the Turkish army that Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrachi had been reprimanded for criticizing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a lecture. After receiving clarifications, Turkey told Israel it viewed the matter as closed.

Livni, Turkish FM hold secret reconciliation talks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Israel and Turkey held secret reconciliation talks at the highest level Thursday in an effort to end weeks of friction sparked by Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Haaretz reported earlier in the day that the two countries have been holding low-key talks to end the crisis between them. But the Thursday meeting between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan was kept secret due to the sensitivity of the issue and fears that a leak would scupper the meeting. Livni and Babacan met on the sidelines of a summit of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, during which both acknowledged the importance of the ties between the two nations, and discussed regional peace moves. The pair also agreed that consultation at all levels between the two countries would continue.

Israel: Syria’s demand to get munitions from seized ship ’insolent’
Ron Ben-Yishai and AP, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Officials in Jerusalem say Damascus’ demand that Cyprus transfer part of cargo of ship suspected of transporting explosives from Iran to Hamas proves Syria, Tehran breaching Security Council resolution - Israeli officials in Jerusalem called Syria’s demand to receive at least part of the cargo of an intercepted ship suspected of transporting explosives from Iran to Palestinian terrorists in Gaza "insolent. "European diplomats said the EU and Syria are engaged in a tug-of-war over the ship. Cyprus is caught in the middle, they said, because the vessel docked there after the US military boarded it. According to the Israeli officials, the affair serves as unequivocal proof that both Syria and Iran were breaching UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from March 2007, which states that "Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals

Kerry says Syria prepared to resume talks with Israel
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/5/2009
US senator tells think-tank Assad told him Damascus willing to embrace Arab peace initiative from 2000, looking past Iran to improved relations with Arab countries and West, but adds: We should have no illusion that Syria will immediately end its ties to Iran -Sen. John Kerry said Wednesday that Syrian President Basher Assad told him last month in Damascus that Syria is prepared to resume peace negotiations withIsrael and embrace a 2000 Arab initiative offering peace in exchange for territory captured from the Arabs in the 1967 Mideast war. "Syria would like direct American participation in these peace talks," said Kerry, D-Mass. , the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Reversing the Bush administration’s dismissive stance on Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Tuesday during a visit to Israel she would send two senior officials to Damascus this week.

VIDEO - Animator of award-winning Israeli movie tackles Gaza
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/5/2009
Short film aims to highlight effects of Israeli blockade on Palestinians -- One of the creators of the successful Israeli movie Waltz with Bashir has produced a new animated film to highlight the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip and its 1. 5 million Palestinian residents. Yoni Goodman, who was director of animation for the Golden Globe-winning movie, said he was motivated to take part in the project by the recent war in Gaza. His 90-second animation, Closed Zone, follows a young boy chasing a bird through the Gaza Strip who finds his way out blocked at every turn. " The issue was always important in my opinion, meaning the issue of the closure," said Goodman in a second video about the making of the Gaza animation. " The war made this project a mission for me. This character is this kid, he is kind of a kid and kind of an adult, a bit Arab and a bit Jewish, something that everyone -- See also: Closed Zone

Vanunu: I don’t want Nobel Prize after Peres got one
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Israel’s nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu requested on Thursday for his name to be removed from a shortlist of candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize because President Shimon Peres had received the award. Vanunu said in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee that he did not wish "to belong to a list of laureates that also includes [President] Shimon Peres, the man behind Israeli atomic policy. " The nuclear whistleblower was convicted of treason and imprisoned for 18 years after telling a British newspaper in 1986 about his work as a technician at Israel’s main atomic reactor, disclosures which cracked the secrecy around the assumed Israeli nuclear arsenal. Human rights organizations have put Vanunu’s name forward for the prestigious prize every year since he was released from jail in 2004.

Lieberman received large payout from daughter’s company as MK
Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman allegedly received hundreds of thousands of shekels when he was an MK and a minister from the company established by his daughter, according to an investigation by Haaretz Magazine to be released Friday. According to the investigation, Lieberman allegedly received the money as severance pay, after working for the company for only two years. "I never engaged in private work concurrent with serving as an MK," Lieberman said. Haaretz Magazine also reports that the company his daughter Michal Lieberman established in 2004, M. L. 1, continued to receive money from abroad in 2008, and is still in operation. The company has received at least NIS 12 million from abroad in the four and a half years since its founding.

Netanyahu in cabinet talks with Lieberman
Middle East Online 3/5/2009
JERUSALEM - Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu was due to hold talks on Thursday with ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman as he struggles to put together a broad-based coalition government. Netanyahu is seriously considering Lieberman, whose controversial statements on Israeli Arabs have earned him the label of "racist" among his critics, as foreign minister, an official in his Likud party said. "There is a serious possibility that Avigdor Lieberman will take the helm of the foreign ministry," the official said on condition of anonymity, but added: "Nothing has been decided for the moment. " Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu is the third largest party in parliament after winning 15 seats in the 120-member house in the February 10 election.

Israeli police recommend Olmert be indicted
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/6/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli police recommended on Thursday that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert be indicted on yet another graft case after authorities had announced plans to press charges over two other scandals. The anti-fraud unit recommended that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz indict Olmert for fraud and breach of trust for allegedly granting preferential treatment to a factory represented by a friend of his, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. The recommendation does not bind the attorney general and state prosecutor, who will decide in the coming months whether to indict Olmert, a judicial source said. The claim dates back to the time when Olmert was trade and industry minister from 2003-06. Mazuz has previously notified Olmert of his intention to charge him over two separate allegations that he billed foreign trips multiple times and unlawfully accepted cash-stuffed envelopes from US financier Morris Talansky.

Police: Investment Center case against Olmert solid
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 3/5/2009
National Fraud Unit says has sufficient evidence to prosecute prime minister for fraud, breach of trust in case of his involvement with the Investments Center, as industry and trade minister. ’Attempt to turn every personal acquaintance into a crime unreasonable,’ says aide - The National Fraud Unit said Thursday that it has finished its investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s alleged improper involvement with the Israel Investments Center, which took place during his tenure as industry and trade minister. The police said that there was enough evidence in the case to file charges of fraud and breach of trust by a public official against Olmert. The final decision on the matter lies with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the State Prosecutor’s Office. The Israel Investments Center case dates back to 1998, when a group of American businessmen looked into building a large-scale,

Shas to Barak: Join emergency government
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Yishai calls on Labor chief to join Netanyahu-led government in light of fiscal crisis; Yisrael Beiteinu reps say discussed ’eradication of terror’ with Likud negotiators -Shas Chairman Eli Yishai has called on Labor to join an emergency government in light of the deepening financial crisis in Israel. Following Thursday’s coalition talks with Likud representatives, the Shas leader urged Labor chief Ehud Barak to join a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, "even if only for a year. "Yishai said Likud and Shas hope to draft a preliminary agreement soon, and then finalize it once they have settled the disputed issues. "We will settle the distribution of ministerial portfolios only after signing the final agreement. We are interested in ministries that deal with the lower socio-economic echelons," he said. The Likud member in charge of the coalition negotiations also met with representatives of Avigdor Lieberman’s party.

Today: Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud to split up portfolios
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman today to discuss the formation of a coalition government. Lieberman will ask Netanyahu to give him the Foreign Ministry portfolio and to keep Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann in office. In addition, Lieberman is expected to ask his faction be given the communications; industry trade and labor, and interior security portfolios. Although Netanyahu has reportedly largely agreed to making Lieberman his foreign minister, he is thought to still be weighing the potential political damage the appointment of the hawkish politicians would do to the image of his government. The Likud leader faces strong opposition from within his party. Former foreign minister MK Silvan Shalom told Netanyahu in a private meeting that the only portfolio he was interested in was the Foreign Ministry.

Shas: No agreement with Likud just yet
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/5/2009
Eli Yishai hopes to exchange coalition drafts with Likud next week, but says many of disputed issues have yet to be discussed. - A coalition agreement between Shas and the Likud may still not be a certainty: Sources in the ultra-Orthodox party told Ynet Thursday that the coalition negotiations between the two have hit several snags. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai expressed his hopes that the parties would be able to exchange coalition drafts over the course of next week, adding that "not all of the disputed issues have been discussed. " Yishai met with the Likud’s coalition negotiation team Thursday morning and the meeting reportedly focused on matters of the economy, welfare andcivil marriage. The latter, according to Yishai, presented the biggest problem during the talks. " We will probably exchange our first drafts for the coalition agreement. . .

Netanyahu seen taking finance portfolio himself
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 3/5/2009
Reports that no-one is keen on the post are regarded as spin to allow Benjamin Netanyahu to hold it alongside the premiership. Opinion is gaining ground in the Likud party that prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu will retain the finance portfolio in his hands as well as the premiership. Political sources say that recent reports that no-one was keen to take the finance portfolio were designed to pave the way for Netanyahu to take it for himself. It Is not clear at present whether Netanyahu will appoint a minster under him to run the ministry, or a deputy minister, or no-one. If he does appoint someone, it will presumably be someone loyal to him whom he can supervise closely, and who shares his economic outlook. On the other hand, because of the economic situation, it is possible that Netahyahu will prefer to appoint a full-time. . .

Police: Indict Olmert in trade ministry probe
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
The fraud squad on Thursday said that there is sufficient evidence to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for graft and breach of trust during his stint as Trade Minister under predecessor Ariel Sharon. In the "Israel Investment Center" affair, first exposed in Haaretz, Olmert is suspected of fraud and breach of trust while trade minister in granting preferential treatment to a factory represented by his then-lawyer and former friend, Uri Messer. According to suspicions, Olmert would allegedly intervene in requests from Messer’s clients, and even allegedly granted financial favors worth millions of shekels. Olmert, who aannounced his intention to resign in July 2008 due to mounting corruptions claims against him, also faces charges for allegedly billing multiple organizations for the same trips abroad, and for allegedly. . .

Talansky: Israel sent U.S. material for probe against me
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
The lawyers for Morris (Moshe) Talansky today sent a letter to the State Prosecutor and the Jerusalem District Prosecutor charging that an investigation against him in the United States was based on material provided by the Israeli authorities, despite assurances that this would not happen. Talansky is at the center of one of a series of criminal investigations into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Talansky over many years. Olmert is suspected of receiving financial favors from the American Jewish businessman in exchange for assisting him with business ventures. The letter claims that Talansky had been told by the Israeli prosecution before he testified in an investigation into Olmert’s conduct that the information he provided would not be used against him.

Olmert faces further charges
Al Jazeera 3/5/2009
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, should be indicted for an alleged investment scheme, police say. The recommendation to indict Olmert was issued on Thursday, adding more charges to a series of corruption scandals that have forced his resignation. A police statement said that during Olmert’s term as trade minister under Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, he diverted state money to Uri Messer, a former law partner. Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said the anti-fraud unit’s non-binding recommendation included evidence of "fraud and breach of trust". Olmert, who resigned in September but is staying on until a new government is formed following a February 10 election, has denied the allegations. The outgoing prime minister faces six other simultaneous investigations. . .

Police: Indict Olmert in Investment Center case
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 3/5/2009
Olmert is suspected of conflicts of interest when he served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor in the Sharon government. Israel Police recommend indicting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Investment Promotion Center case. The Police National Fraud Unit recommended to the State Prosecutor to indict Olmert on charges of fraud and breach of trust. The police believe they have found evidentiary grounds for the charges. Olmert is suspected of conflicts of interest when he served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor in the Sharon government, on behalf of grants for a Negev project represented by a friend and former law partner, Adv. Uri Messer. [end]

Netanyahu repeats income tax cut pledge
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 3/5/2009
Prime minister-designate’s office: "In view of the harsh reality, Netanyahu’s first priority is to cut taxes in 2009. "Prime minister-designate MK Benjamin Netanyahu today reiterated his pledge to cut taxes this year, belying reports to the contrary this morning. Netanyahu’s office released a statement, which said that he was trying to reach a deal with employers and the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) to prevent layoffs. "In view of the harsh reality, Netanyahu’s first priority is to cut taxes in 2009. " Netanyahu’s office said that the income tax cut would apply first to low and middle income-earners. He also plans to cut the company tax, which should help small businesses. Netanyahu also plans to help factories and enterprises in the Negev and Galilee on a case-by-case basis.

Aides: Netanyahu to freeze tax cuts, possibly raise taxes
Moti Bassok TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu will freeze the tax cuts scheduled for 2010, a number of his aides and confidants said Wednesday. The planned tax reductions are part of the multiyear tax-reform program, from 2005 through 2010, which was sponsored by Netanyahuwhen he was finance minister. In a recent meeting between Netanyahu aides and senior Finance Ministry officials, the possibility of tax increases was also raised; the increases could come this year or next. Due to the low level of tax revenues over the past 14 months, and forecasts for even worse tax collections this year, the treasury estimates that state revenues from direct and indirect taxes will be only NIS 160 billion for 2009. This is around NIS 40 billion below the official forecasts from August 2008 used in forming the 2009 state budget.

Decision on Katsav indictment expected within days
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 3/5/2009
State Prosecutor’s Office said to be in final stages of formulating new indictment against former president in case involving A. of the Tourism Ministry. Charges said to be grievous, but judicial sources say it is still a case of ’he said/she said’ -Attorney General Menachem Mazuz is expected to formulate the final indictment against former president Moshe Katsav within a few days, Ynet learned on Thursday. The indictment is said to include charges of grave sexual offenses allegedly preformed against complainant A. of the Tourism Ministry. Attorneys Ronit Amiel and Nisim Marom, who have been heading the case on behalf of the State Prosecutor’s Office’s team, have said before that the case is complex and that it suffers from some essential evidentiary difficulties, but have not categorically recommended it be closed.

Protests as IDF colonel who ruled for attacks on Gaza civilians starts as TAU lecturer
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
The first day of lectures by an Israel Defense Forces colonel who headed the department that ruled in favor of attacks on Gaza civilians were met with demonstrations at Tel Aviv University’s Law School Thursday. Protestors and counter-protestors, including a number of Knesset MKs, demonstrated outside of the classroom of Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch as she prepared to teach her first classes. Sharvit-Baruch was appointed by the Law Faculty to teach a class this semester. Both professors and students protested the move, after Haaretz reported that under Sharvit-Baruch’s command, IDF legal experts legitimized strikes involving Gaza civilians, including the bombardment of the Gaza police course closing ceremony. Right-wing students waving Israeli flags were joined outside of the classroom by Likud MKs Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely, were they were met by left-wing protestors.

Controversial IDF lawyer begins TAU job
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Israel Defense Forces Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, whose appointment to the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law was criticized by faculty members and leftist activists, will today begin lecturing at the university. While some faculty members and leftists activists said she had supported war crimes by legitimizing strikes involving Gaza civilians, others, including Tel Aviv University President Zvi Galil, and many politicians such as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, strongly defended Sharvit-Baruch’s appointment. Her first class in Introduction to International Law was supposed to take place on Monday but was canceled. [end]

Israelis loot supermarket as it goes bankrupt
Middle East Online 3/5/2009
TEL AVIV - Disgruntled employees and creditors have looted an Israeli supermarket after it went bankrupt, claiming the owners of the store owed them money, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Thursday. "Dozens of creditors, suppliers and workers looted the local branch of failed supermarket chain Birkat Hashem, claiming it owed them money," it said. Dozens of people hauled crates of produce and food boxes out of the store, while others unscrewed light fixtures from the ceiling and took the doors off their hinges, it said. "By afternoon, the store had been stripped bare, including the doors and the office supplies. " Looters interviewed by Haaretz said they were owed thousands of shekels, with one man claiming he was owed 150,000 shekels (36,000 dollars, 28,000 euros). "The sight of people carrying off refrigerators, air conditioners, shelves and food from the market was another sign of the deepening economic crisis," said Haaretz.

Layoffs spreading across sectors, bankrupt supermarket looted in north
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
The economic crisis took a further hit at Israel’s economy yesterday, as hundreds of high-tech employees received pink slips. Comverse Technology announced plans to dismiss hundreds of workers in Israel and abroad, and electronics manufacturer Flextronics began firing about 200 employees at its Ofakim plant - just two months after dismissing 200 workers at its Migdal Ha’emek facility. Comverse said it planned to dismiss about 450 workers, about 10 percent of its workforce, just two months after letting go about 150 employees, half of them in Israel. "I’m sitting in the office, reading in the papers about those poor guys at Pri Galil, and then it turns out that I’m not better off than they are," a Comverse employee said a few hours after reading about her employer’s plans. Workers said rumors about an imminent wave of dismissals had been circulating around the company for a few weeks.

Union leader: ’80% of Western Galilee companies in jeopardy of closing’
Haim Bior, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
"Eighty percent of the companies in the Western Galilee are in danger of closing. In the past three months, 600 workers have been fired from area factories and most plants have moved to a four-day workweek," said the Histadrut labor federation chairman for the Western Galilee yesterday. "The catastrophe is continuing, but it’s not in the headlines, because usually the issue isn’t the closure of a single plant but rather serious problems at several," said chairman Asher Shmueli. Shmueli was speaking at a trade union and business convention in Nahariya. "I am currently negotiating with the management at six food and metal plants in the Western Galilee. Employers tell me they’re not getting new orders, or that existing orders are being postponed or canceled due to the economic crisis, and I can’t help them.

Luxury car sales rise despite downturn
Dubi Ben-Gedalyahu, Globes Online 3/5/2009
Are the wealthy so far removed from the economic reality? An analysis of new car sales in January-February 2009 shows that despite a 35% drop in total sales, compared with the corresponding months of 2008, sales of luxury cars rose strongly. 782 luxury cars and jeeps were sold in January-February, 30% more than in the corresponding months of last year. There are several possible ways to explain the contrast. There is, of course, the populist hypothesis - the rich are removed from Israeli economic reality, and that economic gaps have widened, but there are also more practical and less dramatic hypotheses. One possible explanation is the well-known trick of pushing off sales closed in December to the following month, in order to improve delivery numbers for the next year.

Kinneret up 30 centimeters, but situation still dire
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
The recent burst of rain has caused one of the sharpest increases in the Kinneret water level in the past decade, but Israel’s largest reservoir remains in dire straits. The Water Authority published its bimonthly water report on Tuesday. The report, prepared by the Hydrology Service, notes that at the start of the week, the Kinneret water level was 1. 7 meters below where it was a year ago. It is currently only a meter above the lowest permitted level for drawing water. Due to the recent rainfall, the lake’s water level rose 30 centimeters in three days, a massive amount for such a short period of time. The area received more than 110 millimeters of rain, which is unprecedented in this region. Normally, the lake’s level rises mostly due to inflowing streams, but this time at least a third of the increase was due to rain over Lake Kinneret.

Report: Israel won’t wait for diplomatic solution to Iran nukes impasse
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
Iran is likely to obtain a nuclear weapon within a year as it already has access to enough fissionable material to manufacture 50 warheads, according to a report commissioned by a key U. S. [right-wing Zionist] think-tank. The report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is entitled Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U. S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress, notes that Israeli leaders still cling to the belief that a military option is available to stop the regime’s nuclear program. "However, Israelis see the option fading over the next one to two years, not only because of Iran’s nuclear progress and dispersion of its program but also because improved Iranian air defenses, especially the expected delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system from Russia, are seen by Israel seriously limiting its military options.

Clinton hits out at Iran
Al Jazeera 3/5/2009
The US has accused Iran of funding "terrorism", posing threats to Israel and Europe, and seeking to "intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach". Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, made the comments to reporters on Wednesday at the conclusion of two days of talks in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. Clinton said that in her talks with Arab foreign ministers and other leaders she heard "over and over and over again’’ concerns regarding Iranian policies in the region. "It is clear that Iran intends to interfere with the internal affairs of all of these people and try to continue their efforts to fund terrorism, whether it’s Hezbollah or Hamas or other proxies," she said. The strong words by the chief US diplomat come despite signals from her president, Barack Obama, that the US was seeking. . .

Clinton: U.S. to invite Iran to Afghanistan summit
Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
In its first public overture to Tehran, the United States intends to invite Iran to an international conference on Afghanistan planed for this month, U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on Thursday. "If we move forward with such a meeting, it is expected that Iran would be invited as a neighbor of Afghanistan," Clinton told a news conference in Brussels after meeting NATO foreign ministers. President Barack Obama, in a dramatic turnaround from Bush administration policy, has said the United States wants to engage Iran on a range of issues and the conference invitation would be the start of diplomatic outreach to Tehran. Clinton proposed the conference, which brings in Afghanistan’s other neighbors including Pakistan and other major players, would take place on March 31.

The Political Roads Lead to Tehran
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 3/5/2009
JERUSALEM, Mar 5(IPS) - The obvious objective of the first visit to the Middle East by the Obama administration’s U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to contain the still potentially explosive situation in Gaza following January’s Israeli offensive against Hamas, and to rescue the two-state solution policy in face of the emergence of a far-right administration in Jerusalem. But on everyone’s minds and lips was the spectre of Iran going nuclear. Meeting in Cairo to follow up international commitments to rebuild Gaza, concerned Arab foreign ministers, led by Saudi Arabia, were in fact busy trying to sway Syria away from its alliance with Iran. That clearly was also the motive for the breakaway from Bush policy when Clinton announced from Jerusalem that she would be dispatching two envoys to Damascus to begin a new dialogue with President Bashar Al-Assad.

Clinton Wants to Include Iran in Afghan Talks
Mark Landler, New York Times 3/5/2009
BRUSSELS — Setting up the prospect of its first face-to-face encounter with Iran, the Obama administration proposed a conference on Afghanistan later this month that is likely to include Iran among the invited participants, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday. “We presented the idea of what is being called a big-tent meeting, with all the parties who have a stake and an interest in Afghanistan,” Mrs. Clinton said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers here. “We hope that this meeting could provide an opportunity to reach a common set of principles. ’“If we move forward with such a meeting, it is expected that Iran would be invited, as a neighbor of Afghanistan,” she said at a news conference after the NATO meeting. The Netherlands is being considered as a host for the conference, which would take place on March 31 and be chaired by the United Nations.

Iran holds conference to support Hamas
AP, The Independent 3/5/2009
Iran and Hamas spent two days probing ways to provide assistance to the militant Palestinian group and promote "resistance against Israel" at a gathering in Tehran, an Iranian lawmaker said today. The conference in the Iranian capital meant to counter an international meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik on Monday that gave a powerful boost to Hamas’ rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The gathering in Egypt also raised $5. 2bn in pledges to rebuild Gaza after Israel’s recent offensive but the funds will bypass the coastal strip’s Hamas rulers. Hamas wasn’t invited to the Egyptian meeting and is considered a terrorist group by the Unites States, Europe and Israel. Iran, like Hamas, doesn’t recognize Israel and is the militant group’s chief political and financial backer. " The conference in Egypt sought to weaken Hamas, promote compromise and treason against

New Iran report reeks of stale ideas
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times 3/6/2009
United States President Barack Obama may be puzzled as to how to initiate dialogue with Iran, but there are a wealth of pro-Israel pundits advising him in Washingtonwho are crystal clear on the method, purpose and goals of such an approach. These advisors are now attempting to win Obama’s approval over certain competing perspectives. This much is clear from a report by a new "bipartisan" group tailored to assist the Obama administration’s formation of a new Iran policy. The new paper fails to present any fresh or innovative ideas with respect to Iran’s nuclear standoff, a shortfall that inevitably casts further doubts on one of its signatories, Dennis Ross, who is Washington’s point man on Iran. Although it was not commissioned by the past or present White House, the report, titled "Preventing a cascade of instability: US engagement to check Iranian nuclear progress," carries a badge of legitimacy under the "Presidential Task Force".


Keys to health: justice, sovereignty, and self-determination
Andrea Becker, Katherine Al Ju'beh, Graham Watt, The Lancet 3/5/2009
      In this Lancet Series on the occupied Palestinian territory, a team of nearly 40 Palestinian and international academics present evidence both to the scientific community and to the powers that have determined the health status of Palestinians living in the occupied territory of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip.
     A very powerful determinant of Palestinian health is the State of Israel, whose economic, political, and military superiority continue to be applied, not only to the blockade and recent bombardment and invasion of Gaza, but also to the territorial project within the West Bank, involving 149 new Israeli settlements (housing nearly half a million settlers), and their exclusive road systems, the separation wall, military checkpoints, confiscations, and economic uses of 70% of land in the West Bank over which the Palestinian Authority has no control. The international community, led by the USA, either endorses or largely tolerates these uses of Israel’s power.
     Lesser powers include many internationally funded agencies, whose combined activities, despite huge financial investment, lack coordination and coherence, and the Palestinian Authority, which has lacked the ability to develop a coherent health system and has failed too often to rise above factional interests. Although any current assessment of the health of Palestinians is dominated by the consequences of Israel’s siege, bombardment, and invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Series describes the more complex background of a strangulated Palestinian economy, gross restrictions on ordinary movement, and a pervasive environment of intimidation, uncertainty, and insecurity, in which attempts to establish a coherent health system are set to fail. -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009

This little boy’s dad: he was very bright and he was great with animals

PCHR, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
      Gaza City - On the 14 of February 2009, almost a month after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, thirteen year old Hammad Silmiya was grazing his sheep and goats in northeast Gaza, about 500 metres from the border with Israel.
     This is the only remaining photo of the boy, taken when he was seven.
     An Israeli military jeep patrolling the border opened fire on him and his teenage friends. Hammad was shot in the head and he died almost instantly.
     Hammad’s death barely made the news -- just another casualty in the Gaza Strip, where civilian injuries and deaths continue to mount daily. His family had already endured the killing of Hammad’s grandmother, his two cousins, aged four and eighteen months, and the destruction of their homes and livestock during Israel’s offensive.
     "It was Saturday morning and Hammad woke up at six," says Hammad’s aunt Jomai’a, 40. “He left with his brother and a couple of young friends to graze the animals. At around ten in the morning Hammad was preparing some breakfast in the field like he always did. An Israeli military vehicle fired at them and shot him in the head.”
     Jomai’a pulls out a plastic bag from the folds of her black shawl and unties the knot. Inside a small envelope is the only remaining photograph they have of Hammad, taken when he was seven years old. More recent photographs of him were lost in the rubble of their home.

Adults Acting Like Children

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 3/5/2009
      Throwing large amounts of money into Palestinian reconstruction while reinforcing a political context that only perpetuates Israel’s regular destruction of Palestinian institutions is wasteful folly at best, and complicity in criminality at worst,
     BEIRUT - The international pledges of some $4.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians to rebuild the Gaza Strip and promote the development of the West Bank seem like a monumental folly in view of the surrounding political context of this gesture. The financial generosity of the donors is largely offset by their political cowardice on two fronts:
     • Challenging Israel to live according to the norms of law in its treatment of Palestinian land and people under its occupation; and,
     • Coming to grips with Palestinian political realities, especially the legitimacy and role of Hamas.
     On both counts, generous donors seem unwilling to admit that they are perpetuating a wasteful cycle of Palestinian and international construction in Palestine that is set back by repeated Israeli destruction through war, followed by repeated rounds of reconstruction. This recurring cycle is striking for its sheer waste, but also for what it reveals about the willingness of the international community to use reconstruction aid as a political tool -- a failed tool that should be abandoned in favor of a more productive approach.

Palestinian Women are Israel’s Demographic Nightmare

Iqbal Tamimi, Palestine Think Tank 3/5/2009
      No condolences to apartheid Israel….yes, it has killed 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza because its fears are of a demographic nature, its army never cared what age or gender it killed, Israel’s machine was harvesting Palestinians of all ages and sizes…young and old, disabled and healthy, pregnant women and young girls, the ones resisting the occupation and the ones who are still too young to understand such expressions….. Israel’s nightmare is of a demographic scale, it is frightened to be outnumbered…so the answer was to starve people to death, stop them from receiving medication so that they would die of ‘natural causes’ then bar the media from investigating that and then knit a freshly made lie to suit its new tailored fib. Israel’s actions mean there was a terrorist in every cradle, there were tunnels turning bread to arms.
     During the time Israel was feeling victorious and happy counting 1,300 massacred Palestinians in cold blood, Palestinian women retaliated by giving birth to 3,570 babies. The Palestinian woman is considered a demographic bomb, a highly fertile creature as fertile as the soil of Palestine. The more Israel sends Palestinian on a one way trip to the womb of the land, the more Palestinian women’s wombs show generosity, giving birth to more heroes.

Jerusalem: Waiting for the bulldozers

Ma’an News Agency 3/5/2009
      Jerusalem – Ma’an – Mousa Muhammad Ahmad Ouda’s new name is “Number 59.”
     Ouda’s house is marked 59 of a total of 88 houses in one East Jerusalem neighborhood that are slated for demolition by the Israeli-controlled Municipality of Jerusalem. The Municipality says it plans to turn the area into a park.
     The houses are marked in red on an official map drawn up by the Israeli authorities. On the satellite map the neighborhood, Bustan, is a sliver marked with a thick red boundary, an outline oddly similar to the outline of Mandate Palestine.
     The Municipality says the houses were built without construction permits, but the residents say that the demolition orders are a calculated attempt to remove them from the land their families have inhabited for centuries.
     “This house is more important to me than the Al-Aqsa Mosque. If I lose this house, I lose everything,” Ouda said during an interview in his one-story home, which lies a few hundred meters from the iconic mosque itself.
     Land claims
     Residents say that the demolition orders threaten the homes of 1,500 people just in the Bustan area, an enclave in the Silwan neighborhood, a densely-packed Palestinian area tucked in a valley adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City.

Gaza conference: conspiracy wrapped up as compassion

Jean Shaoul, World Socialist Web Site, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
      The donor conference Monday at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt had nothing to do with alleviating the appalling humanitarian crisis in Gaza and rebuilding the homes, factories, infrastructure and schools destroyed by Israel—its ostensible purpose.
     This stated goal was a cover for furthering Washington’s geopolitical interests in the oil-rich Middle East, by overthrowing Hamas and restoring the discredited Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas to power in Gaza so as to help police the region in American and Israel’s interests.
     The meeting followed Israel’s US-backed 22-day war against Gaza at the end of last year, an assault that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, wounded many thousands more and drove 400,000 people from their homes. Attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the donor conference is part of an attempt by the Obama administration to portray itself as more even-handed in its approach to the Middle East in general and the Israel-Palestine conflict in particular. This is vital in order to provide cover for the Arab regimes' collusion with the US in the occupation of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and any offensive against Iran. -- See also: WSWS

The makings of history / A light in the dark

Tom Segev, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
      The Green Line is 60
     The new biography of King Hussein of Jordan by Nigel Ashton contains numerous revelations that Amir Oren reported in Haaretz last week - among them, the fact that the secret of the Israeli decision to launch a war against Egypt on June 5, 1967 was leaked to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser via Hussein. According to Oren, the source of the leak was, astonishingly, none other than chief of the Mossad espionage agency, Meir Amit.
     This wasn’t a matter of malicious intent, heaven forbid, but merely the result of the rather convoluted way in which secrets are passed from intelligence agency to intelligence agency, and from country to country.
     Amit was in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 1967; he met with top officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and with the U.S. secretary of defense, Robert McNamara. But he could not have divulged when the war would break out, because he did not know: The date was set only after he returned from Washington, at a meeting held at the home of the prime minister Levi Eshkol, in which the participants discussed various dates. Amit himself suggested postponing the start of the war by a week.

Was Hamas the Work of the Israeli Mossad?

Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 3/5/2009
      While various Western governments are struggling to define a possible relationship with the Palestinian movement Hamas, some progressive and leftist circles are also uneasy regarding their own perception of the Islamic movement.
     Some have even made the claim that Hamas is, more or less, an Israeli concoction. In fact, the accusation that Hamas was created by Israeli intelligence has become so commonplace that it often requires no serious substantiation. While the claim, as it stands, is erroneous, there is certainly a reason and history behind it. But was Hamas, in fact the work of the Israeli Mossad?
     The mere suggestion is consequential, for not only does it discredit one single faction, but implies that Palestinians are deceived into thinking that they actually have some control over their collective destiny. This notion - that Hamas is the brainchild of Israel - is simply incorrect.
     It could very well be complicated for one to grasp how such a movement could take a foothold and flourish with such popular support if one has no familiarity with the social, economic and religious history of the Gaza Strip, the birthplace of Hamas.

Avigdor Lieberman: A Profile of Israels’ Next Foreign Minister

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 3/5/2009
      Avigdor Lieberman is a “hot” topic in the political world at the moment.
     With the latest Israeli election in February, his party Israel Beiteinu came in third, making him into the “kingmaker” able to decide the next Prime Minister of Israel - Livni or Netanyahu. He chose Netanyahu.
     The irony though is that Lieberman does not dream of being the power behind the throne, he wants the throne itself.
     He was born in Kishinev, Soviet Union (now Moldova) in 1958, and given the name Evet Lvovich Lieberman. He went on to study at the local agricultural institute and worked as a nightclub bouncer and a broadcaster in Baku (the capital city of Azerbaijan) before moving with his parents to Israel in 1978.
     Once there, he served as an army corporal and took a social science degree at the Hebrew University. It was and while studying in Jerusalem that he began his career in politics.
     Between 1983-88 he helped found the Zionist Forum for Soviet Jewry, and was also a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Economic Corporation and the Secretary of the Jerusalem branch of the Histadrut Ovdim Le’umit (“national workers union”).

Barak for defense

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
      If I were Shelly Yachimovich, I would beg Ehud Barak to join the next government as defense minister; if I were Ophir Pines-Paz, I would form a public lobby to promote Barak’s appointment. The Labor chairman simply belongs in the defense post and on the right’s dream team. The public wants it and the Labor electorate wants it - so run, Barak, run and get the desired job.
     It’s his natural place: the right. After the proven success of the worthless war in the Gaza Strip, we cannot do without his outstanding services. Iran will tremble, Hamas will shake: Hurray! Hurray! The next defense minister is on his way.
     Together with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, we will have a lovely pair: Bibi-Barak, two graduates of "the unit," the commander and the subordinate, in an exchange of roles. With all they learned in the Sayeret Matkal elite commando unit, they will easily solve any problem. They will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Hamas from having Qassams, Hezbollah from getting Katyushas. They have waged war and made peace, economically feasible or not. They have proved they can do it all.

Obama’s spy ruffles hawks’ feathers

Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe, Asia Times 3/6/2009
      WASHINGTON - The appointment of a top-ranking retired diplomat and vocal critic of Israel to a key intelligence post has triggered an intense backlash from hawkish Israel supporters in Congress and the media who are pressing the administration of President Barack Obama to reconsider.
     Critics have seized on retired ambassador Charles "Chas" Freeman’s ties to Saudi Arabia and views on human rights in China to argue against his appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), but Freeman’s defenders charge that their real aim is to impose an ideological litmus test on top government officials and ensure a continued policy of reflexive US support for Israel.
     Observers are watching the campaign against Freeman, who enjoys strong support among intelligence professionals and realists in the national-security bureaucracy, as an early test of how much influence the so-called "Israel lobby" will be able to exert on the new administration.
     Freeman was formally appointed NIC chairman last week by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI), ambassador Dennis Blair. A polyglot with unusually wide-ranging foreign policy expertise - he has served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and has shaped US policy in areas ranging from Asia to the Middle East to Africa - Freeman is reported to have been Blair’s hand-picked choice for the job.

Iraq’s Palestinian refugees back at square one

Anaheed Al-Hardan writing from Syria, Electronic Intifada 3/5/2009
      When images and news of the new border tent-camps that the Palestinian refugees from Iraq fled to after the US invasion began to spread through Arabic-language media, a concurrent anecdote began to circulate: "Word is that the Palestinians will even be hosted in tent-camps in the afterlife." The nightmare of the approximately 25,000 to 30,000 Palestinians whose families sought refuge in Iraq in 1948 is but the latest manifestation of the ongoing tragedy of Palestinian stateless refugeehood. This is a story of multiple uprootings and dispossessions since 1948 by both Israel as well as Arab host states that have turned what is known as the Nakba of 1948 into a persistent and ever-present condition that has led to, and allowed for, multiple post-1948 Nakbas.
     The central reason for this condition has been the lack of a resolution and restitution for the Nakba of 1948, leaving the Palestinians refugees in a peculiar hereditary refugee-stateless politico-legal status. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that it was supposed to be both transitional as well as temporary whereas after six decades it seems to have become an ad infinitum status. Their right to return to their homeland has thus far been withheld by Israel, under whose territorial jurisdiction their homeland now lies. At the same time, Israel by definition and in praxis ethnically excludes the indigenous inhabitants of the land on which it was established. The Palestinian refugees are therefore simultaneously stateless, denied their homeland as well as the right to return. Since 1948, this reality has left the Palestinians expelled beyond the borders of historic Palestine vulnerable to the fate and at times even whims of their Arab host-states as they have nowhere to return to.

Iran in the Crosshairs

Gareth Porter and Ray McGovern, Middle East Online 3/5/2009
      Netanyahu has made no bones about the fact that his preferred solution to the problem is a massive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and other military targets, and that he would not wait for any evidence that Iran had actually manufactured a weapon before doing so. Last year, the Middle East dodged the danger of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and the inevitable spread of hostilities.
     Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen was sent to tell the Israelis that the United States would not support such an attack, and after the fiasco in Georgia, the Russians too sent stern warnings to Tel Aviv.
     But now the specter of an Israeli strike has reappeared. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s incoming prime minister, is far more committed to an attack on Iran than his predecessors.
     Remember when Joe Biden told supporters of Barack Obama last October that Obama would be tested in his first six months in office?
     There is good reason to believe he was referring to the likelihood that Netanyahu would become prime minister after the February 2009 Israeli election, and that he would waste little time finding a pretext to attack Iran.
     Netanyahu has been laying the groundwork for such an attack for years, constantly repeating that Tehran is “preparing another Holocaust” a la Germany in the Thirties.

Imprisoned at home

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
      GAZA - We had already visited this house, belonging to the Abu Eida family. It is the only one of the family’s nine large houses that remained standing at the eastern edge of the city of Jabalya following Operation Cast Lead. The demolition of the family’s houses and its four cement factories spells the loss of 40 years of hard work.
     One Hebrew word scrawled on a wall tells the story of the 10 days when young Israeli soldiers became the ostensible prison wardens of five people. The youngest is Suheila Masalha, 55; the eldest is her mother Fatma, who is perhaps 85 or 90 or older. The only man is her brother Mohammed, 65, who is paralyzed and dependent on the women of his family. And there were two more women from the Abu Eida family - Rasmiya, 70, who owns the house, and her sister-in-law Na’ama, 56, who is blind.
     "Jail" ("mikhla’a" in Hebrew), wrote the soldiers on the wall of the room where they kept the man and the four women. They did not allow them to use the toilet, but forced them to use all kinds of plastic containers kept in the room, for nine of the days....

The occupied Palestinian territory: peace, justice, and health

Richard Horton, The Lancet 3/5/2009
      The distances seem short. From Jerusalem to Ramallah is only a few kilometres; from Gaza City in the north of the Gaza Strip to Rafah in the south, 30 km; from Ramallah to Gaza, 70 km. One can drive the length of the West Bank in just a few hours. Yet for those living outside the occupied Palestinian territory, the distances—to peace and justice—seem impossibly vast. The impression conveyed through western media is of a land in perpetual war, a people drenched in hatred, aggression, and violence. Visiting the territory reveals a very different reality.1 This week, The Lancet publishes the results of a 2-year collaboration between Palestinian public-health scientists, WHO and associated UN agencies, and a broad group of international scientists from the USA, UK, Norway, and France.2—6 The goal of this Series on Palestinian health is to change the way health professionals, politicians, policy makers, media, and the public view, think about, and discuss the predicament facing this region of the Middle East.
     The pursuit of health as a political objective and the creation of a strong health system for Palestinians could be one fruitful diplomatic path to reconciliation, peace, and justice. The people of the Palestinian territory matter, most importantly, because their lives and communities are continuing to experience an occupation that has produced chronic de-development for nearly 4 million people over many decades. But the future of Palestinians also matters because of the continued conflict with Israel, the failure of the peace process to make any substantial progress, and the internally catastrophic and violent divisions within Palestinian politics. These characteristics are, in the words of one respected commentator, “the oldest and most powerful driver of discontent, disequilibrium, and radicalism in our region”.7 If a way could be found to strengthen Palestinian political institutions and find common ground for negotiations with Israel and western governments, great regional and even international benefits could follow. -- See also: Articles and Reports from The Lancet, March 2009