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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
8 March, 2009
Israel to demolish a mosque, six homes near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israel plans to demolish six homes and a mosque in the villages of A’qraba and Kherbet At-Taweel, both south of the West Bank city of Nablus, residents said on Sunday. Officials representing the Israeli military handed over demolition orders to the residents in question, they added, announcing their intentions in the West Bank villages. According to Yaser Suleiman, the coordinator for the Nablus-area Agricultural Committee, “the occupation is working to force residents out of the village. ”“Repeated attacks on homes, demolition warnings, and settler attacks have killed four Palestinians over the past few years,” he added, noting that the Palestinians killed by settlers were first abducted before their alleged murders. Musa Derieyah, an official with the Agricultural Action Committee, said that A’qrabas is surrounded by four illegal settlements,. . .

Gaza fuel crisis turns for worse after Israeli missiles knock out tunnels
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Gazans are experiencing a resurgence of the fuel crisis after Israeli warplanes have knocked out more than half a dozen smuggling tunnels at the Egypt-Gaza border. Egyptian authorities, how have also occasionally destroyed tunnels, are further exacerbating the problem. Smuggled fuel is no longer on the public market, say most Gazans, and prices for fuel brought in via the crossing points is up to 10 shekels a liter from three the month before. There are also days when no fuel is available. Owners of many smuggling tunnels say dozens have stopped operating completely, while others operate only intermittently fearing Israeli airstrikes. In the months before the Israeli invasion of Gaza the smuggling tunnels provided a lifeline for Gazans being strangled by the brutal Israeli siege on the area.

On International Women’s Day, the Suffering of Palestinian Women Continues
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 3/8/2009
On 8 March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. This event highlights issues particularly affecting women, including their collective struggles for equality, and a universal commitment to women’s enjoyment of all their rights in accordance with international standards and conventions. This year Palestinian women continue to face extremely difficult personal and political circumstances due to human rights violations perpetrated by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against all Palestinian civilians, including women. The most recent form of systematic violence by IOF was the twenty two day military offensive against the Gaza Strip. Throughout the offensive, the lives of Palestinian women were endangered by IOF excessive and indiscriminate use of lethal force. Civilians, including women, were killed without any consideration for the principles of proportionality and distinction

Five arrested as Israeli forces cut down olive trees in Ras at Tira
ISM 3/8/2009
Palestinian farmer has heart attack while Israeli forces cut down his olive trees. Three international and two Israeli activists arrested from demonstration. - UPDATE: The Israeli activists have been released, but the three internationals remain under arrest in Qedumim police station. - 8th March 2009, Ras at Tira, Qalqilya region: A Palestinian farmer has had a heart attack while Israeli forces cut down olive trees on his and other farmers’ lands in the village of Ras Tira, Qalqilya region. Medics treated him at the scene for over an hour before he returned home to rest. Two Israeli and three international solidarity, from the US, Denmark and Sweden, have also been arrested and taken to an Israeli police station in the settlement of Qedumim after they joined villagers from Ras at Tira, Wadi Ar-Rasha and Dhab’a in protest over the Israeli destruction of the region’s olive trees.

Palestinians dig in their heels in face of demolition
Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times 3/7/2009
Families who expanded homes without permits in East Jerusalem face eviction by the city government, which seeks to extend an archaeological site devoted to Jewish history. - Reporting from Jerusalem — Hashem Jalajel was living in a bucolic, cave-pocked valley outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City when Israeli troops wrested the area from Jordanian control in the 1967 Middle East War. The new Israeli authorities deemed his one-story home legal. But as Jalajel’s family grew with the valley’s Arab population, new homes went up without permits and the area became a focal point in the struggle for control of Jerusalem, which lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today the 80-year-old patriarch, his extended family and nearly 1,500 neighbors face eviction from their homes in the bustling urban neighborhood so that the municipal government can raze the buildings and expand an archaeological site devoted to Jewish history.

’The Color Purple’ author Alice Walker to visit Gaza
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Pulitzer-prize winning author Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple, is traveling to Gaza along with other female activists to highlight the devastation of the Israeli offensive on Gaza’s residents. " I feel that what is happening in the Middle East is very important because the situation is so volatile," said Walker, speaking by telephone Saturday from the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt as her group waited to travel into the Strip. "I love people, and I love children and I feel that the Palestinian child is just as precious as the African-American child, as the Jewish child. " Walker is part of a group of about 60 women going to Gaza to deliver aid and meet with NGOs and residents. The trip, organized by the U. S. anti-war group Code Pink, is intended to "push both Israel and Egypt to open the borders into Gaza," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink who helped organize the trip.

Palestinian patient dies in Gaza bringing number of siege victims to 296
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A 60-year-old Palestinian man died in Gaza on Sunday after inability to travel abroad for treatment despite securing all necessary documents, medical sources reported. They said that Mousa Al-Dali, who was suffering from larynx cancer, failed to obtain an Israeli permit to leave the Strip for treatment. The sources noted that the number of victims who were killed as a result of the Israeli oppressive siege reached 296 after the death of another patient Ahlam Ayyad, who died on Saturday for inability to travel outside the Strip for medical treatment. Hundreds of similar cases are waiting for permission to leave for treatment abroad, the medical sources said. The PA health ministry in Gaza denounced the international silence towards the Israeli "genocidal crimes" against the inhabitants of Gaza.

Two Palestinian fishermen wounded in IOF shooting
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Two Palestinian fishermen were wounded on Saturday evening when Israeli gunboats fired at them west of Rafah city to the south of the Gaza Strip, local and medical sources reported. They told PIC reporter that the gunboats fired a number of projectiles and opened their machineguns at a group of fishermen while at sea off the Rafah coast wounding two of them moderately to seriously. The Israeli gunboats routinely target Palestinian fishing boats causing casualties and material damage. Israeli warplanes at dawn Sunday blasted a container northeast of Gaza city destroying the container and starting fire in it, other than damaging nearby houses and property, locals reported. They told the PIC reporter that an F-16 warplane dropped two missiles at the target with no casualties reported. The IOF command claimed that it bombed a warehouse for combat means in Tuffah suburb northeast of Gaza.

Army shells agricultural structure in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/8/2009
The Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported on Sunday at dawn that the Israeli Air Force shelled an agricultural structure in Gaza CityThe agency said that an F-16 Israeli fighter-jet fired two missiles at the structure, located in farmlands in Yaffa Street, in al-Tuffah neighborhood north east of Gaza City. Damage to the structure and some surrounding homes and properties was reported. Rescue teams and fire-fighters rushed to the shelled area. No injuries were reported in the shelling until the time of this report. On Saturday evening, a Palestinian man and his wife were injured when the Israeli Navy shelled their home in al-Mawasy area, west of Rafah City, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. On Saturday morning, a Palestinian fighter, and member of the al-Quds brigades of the Islamic Jihad, was killed and another fighter was wounded when the Israeli Air Force fired. . .

Palestinian man and wife wounded by Israeli gunfire in Rafah
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/8/2009
Palestinian medical sources in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, reported on Saturday that two Palestinians were wounded in an Israeli Navy shelling that targeted an area close to the Rafah shore. The sources added that a man and his wife were wounded when the Israeli Navy fired a shell at their home in al-Shaty’ area in Rafah. Also in Rafah, the Israeli Air Force fired a missile at an area close to the border line between the Egyptian and Palestinian sides of the city. Furthermore, an Israeli tank fired a shell at the eastern part of al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip; no injuries were reported. On Saturday morning, a Palestinian fighter, and member of the al-Quds brigades of the Islamic Jihad, was killed and another fighter was wounded when the Israeli Air Force fired a missile at their vehicle in Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Fence planned on land of Beit ‘Ummar
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 3/8/2009
A new fence will be erected along the settler road that runs on the edges of Beit ‘Ummar. This move will not only hamper the movement of the residents, but will also further extend military control over the village. At the beginning of March, Occupation forces distributed a military order announcing their intentions to erect a 295-meter fence along (settler) Road 60 which runs through Beit ‘Ummar, located north of Hebron. The stated purpose of this fence is to offer further protection to settlers, who use the road to move between the Gush Etzion bloc and Hebron settlements. The residents of the village are strongly opposed to the order, which will serve to close alternative routes to the main road. With the completion of the fence, all residents will be re-routed to main entrance of the village. A military watchtower stands at the main entrance, and the forced re-routing of traffic will allow soldiers to easily engage in surveillance and monitor the movements of residents.

Internationals arrested during effort to halt settlement expansion near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – The Israeli army attacked international peace activists and Palestinians trying to stop bulldozers from destroying their lands near the illegal settlement of Karmel east of Yatta near the West Bank city of Hebron Sunday. Head of the village council of Um Lasfa Jaber Abu Ihmeid, said the “Israeli army and civil administration were at the scene and prevented residents from reaching their lands. ” Arguments erupted between the residents and the Israeli army, who then arrested two international peace activists with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) who were held in custody for hours. Already Israeli bulldozers have destroyed 1. 4 kilometers of lands in preparation for the expansion of the settlement.

Qalqiliya: Citizens block bulldozers constructing separation wall; Israeli soldiers fire tear gas
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Clashes erupted between Palestinian citizens and Israeli forces in the northern West Bank village of Wadi Ar-Rasha south of Qalqiliya on Sunday as the Palestinians attempted to stop bulldozers changing the route of the separation wall in the area, eyewitnesses said. According to Rafiq Mara’ba from the Popular Committee Against the Wall, dozens of Palestinian citizens from villages of Ras Tira, Wadi Ar-Rasha and Dhab’a along with foreign and Israeli solidarity activists stood in the way of Israeli bulldozers. As a result, Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters at them. No casualties have been reported. [end]

Desert’s Sand and Rocks Become Precious Resources in West Bank Dispute
Ethan Bronner, New York Times 3/7/2009
BEITAR ILIT, West Bank — Boulders the size of compact cars are carved out here at a vast quarry near Bethlehem and pushed noisily through grinders, producing gravel and sand that go into apartment buildings in this rapidly growing Israeli settlement and all across Israel itself. The land of the West Bank is, of course, disputed. Israel occupies it, and the Palestinians want it for a future state. But more and more of it is gone — quarried by Israeli companies and sold for building materials, a practice that is the focus of a new legal challenge. “Israel is transferring natural resources from the West Bank for Israeli benefit, and this is absolutely prohibited not only under international law but according to Israeli Supreme Court rulings,” said Michael Sfard, lawyer for the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, which is bringing the case to the high court next week.

Israel detains six family members of slain bulldozer driver
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Six family members of slain bulldozer driver Mir’i Radeideh were taken into Israeli custody Sunday and held for several hours. Mir’i Radeideh was the driver of the bulldozer that careened onto the wrong side of the road near the Jerusalem mall on Thursday, crashing into a police car and pubic bus. Two police officers were injured in the incident and Radeideh was shot dead by at least three people on the scene. The Israeli press labeled the incident a terrorist attack mirroring two earlier incidents where East Jerusalem residents drove construction equipment into traffic. Some Israeli officials called for the demolition of Radeideh’s home, though his family insisted that the incident was an accident. Four of the family members were released following their detention, but two of Radeideh’s brothers were kept for interrogation.

Israel annexing East Jerusalem, says EU
Rory McCarthy The Guardian, March 7, ISM 3/8/2009
A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem. The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem. The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel’s legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: “Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications. ”.

AUDIO SLIDESHOW - House demolitions in East Jerusalem
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 3/8/2009
8 March 2009: In the Silwan district of East Jerusalem, Palestinian homes are being demolished by the Israeli authorities. Residents say it’s part of a campaign to extend Israeli control over the area, claimed by Palestinians as the capital of their future state. Jerusalem correspondent Rory McCarthy spoke to the people affected. [end]

Four rockets hit Negev as IAF bombs Gaza targets
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Hamas security officials said Sunday morning that Israeli aircraft targeted a Gaza City warehouse in an overnight airstrike. The officials said the warehouse was empty and no one was injured. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the strike, saying the target was used by militants as a weapons warehouse. The military added that the Israel Air Force jets also bombed two smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. On Sunday morning, militants in Gaza fired four Qassam rockets at the western Negev. Three rockets hit the Eshkol region and one struck the Sdot Negev region. No injuries or damage were reported in any of the incidents, but the early warning siren was not activated, causing panic among some local residents. Rocket fire by Gaza militants and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes have become nearly daily occurrences.

Israel carries out two airstrikes on Gaza; Palestinians retaliate with four projectiles fired on western Negev
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian resistance fighters fired four homemade projectiles at the western Negev following two Israeli airstrikes that destroyed a wood warehouse in Gaza City and several tunnels in Rafah city on Sunday morning. Hizbullah Brigades in Palestine claimed to have launched the two projectiles. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for Israeli aggressions against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem where excavations and repair work are ongoing. Israeli sources confirmed that one projectile hit at Sdot Negev, and two others in the Eshkol region. No casualties were reported. Earlier Sunday Israeli warplanes destroyed a wood warehouse in the At-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City. While no casualties have been reported the warehouse, empty at the time, was obliterated. Israeli forces claimed the area was being used as a weapons manufacturing lab.

Israel imposes three-day blanket closure on West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel will close its borders with the West Bank on Sunday night due to the Jewish holiday of Purim. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the army to close the borders from Sunday night through Wednesday evening, due to the holiday. [end]

Khazindar warns of total paralysis of vital sectors in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Khazindar, the deputy chairman of the society of owners of petrol stations in Gaza Strip, has warned of a big crisis that would paralyze vital sectors in the Strip if Israel continued to ban entry of fuel. Khazindar in a press statement published on Sunday said that Israel was linking entry of fuel supplies to the progress in the prisoners exchange deal and to the improvement in the security conditions (firing of missiles). He described such a policy as a new pressure tool on the Palestinians that would lead to doubling their sufferings. The diesel quantities that were smuggled through the tunnels with Egypt were about to run out, the petrol official warned, adding that the depletion of diesel would freeze all life activities in the Strip.

PCHR condemns attack on Al-Jazeera office in Gaza city
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an/PCHR - At approximately 8pm Saturday a news producer at Al-Jazeera in Gaza City, received a phone call from an unidentified person who informed him that an explosive device had been planted near the door of the office and was going to be detonated, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) revealed Sunday. De facto government police were successfully able to diffuse the explosives, which were attached to a note demanding the news agency quit its operations in the Gaza Strip. The Al-Jazeera office is on the eleventh floor of the al-Jalaa’ Building in the center of Gaza City and was full of employees at the time the threat, PCHR said. Workers began to evacuate shortly after the call came in, and found a black package at the door of the building. The note attached to the package read: "To those with unfair media consciences, if you think of a solution it will be well-known.

Gazan women demand aid and protection at UN compound on International Women’s Day
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an –Dozens of Gazan women demonstrated in front of the UN headquarters in Gaza City on Sunday commemorating International Woman Day. The group demanded protection for women during war time and conflict, and requested that fact-finding missions be sent to Gaza to investigate the war crimes committed against the women of Palestine. The Gaza war killed 1,455 individuals, 120 of which were women, constituting 8. 3% of the total number of Palestinians killed. In addition, 735 women were injured (17% of the total), according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and dozens of these women were maimed. During Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip mothers could not feed their children, girls could not go to school, and the role of women in Gaza society was by and large side-tracked in favor of male-dominated resistance activities.

'Rocket-like' apparatus in street sees settler road closed near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces closed the bypass road to the Israeli Yizhar settlement south of Nablus after they reported seeing a red “rocket-like” object propped up in the middle of the street Sunday at mid-day. Eyewitnesses described the object as “huge” and “red” and connected to several wires laid across the street toward the settlement. When Israeli forces came across the apparatus they closed the street and put residents of the settlement on alert. Dozens of military vehicles and a bomb squad arrived at the scene, while settlers took the chaos as a chance to pelt Palestinian cars with rocks. Israeli sources have not confirmed whether the apparatus was indeed an explosive device, though some eyewitnesses said it may simply have been a structure to impede traffic on the bypass road. Palestinians are not permitted to drive on bypass roads in the West Bank; they are under Israeli military control.

British MP Galloway’s activists ’clash’ with Egyptian security at Gaza border
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Multi-national activists belonging to British MP George Galloway’s "Viva Palestina" humanitarian aid convoy clashed on Sunday with Egyptian security forces in the north Sinai town of el-Arish, close to the border with Gaza. Clashes erupted after the convoy was refused entry to the crossing point at the town of Rafah, which is bisected by the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Galloway arrived in Cairo on Saturday to join the road convoy that had set out from London last month carrying relief for war-torn Gaza, and which had entered Egypt from Libya on Thursday. Galloway, who has long been denied entry to Egypt for his criticisms of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was able to coordinate with Egyptian authorities to allow entrance of the convoy before his arrival. Galloway, along with the activists, was received in Rafah by officials from the ruling National Democratic Party.

Zurub urges Egypt not to block way of life line convoy at Rafah
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Adel Zurub, the information officer of the governmental anti-siege committee has urged Saturday the Egyptian government to facilitate entry of the life line convoy of British MP George Galloway that started from London and expected to arrive at Rafah Sunday. According to Zurub, the PA government and the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip have prepared everything to receive the convoy in the way it deserves for the sacrifices the organizers have made along that lengthy journey with the aim to extend a helping hand to the besieged Palestinian people in that tiny coastal Strip. . "The committee has contacted the caravan, and we knew [from the organizers] that they were heading to Rafah crossing point, the only entry point into Gaza Strip before them", Zurub pointed out, adding that the committee called on the Egyptian government to let the convoy pass without hindrances.

Justice for Gaza convoy crosses into Gaza Strip
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The British Justice for Gaza convoy was able to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing on Saturday evening. Adel Zurub, the information officer of the governmental anti-siege committee and the spokesman for the crossings and borders, said that the convoy which includes seven to nine medium-sized trucks loaded with medicines and medical equipment were allowed into the Palestinian Rafah city on its way to Gaza city, noting that the convoy includes 19 British activists. According to Zurub, the Palestinian government and the Gaza people have welcomed the convoy and thanked them for the sacrifices the organizers have made along that lengthy journey with the aim to extend a helping hand to the besieged Palestinian people in that tiny coastal Strip. It was reported that this British convoy succeeded in passing through the Rafah crossing after 60 US female. . .

Carmel blockaded in Jayyous solidarity action
ISM 3/8/2009
At around 6:30 this morning a group of students from Brighton locked themselves to Carmel Agrexco, the Israeli state owned export company, to protest against their complicity in the illegal annexation of the West Bank and the repression of students in the Palestinian village of Jayyous. Carmel Agrexco grows and imports agricultural produce (including fruit, vegetables and flowers) from illegal settlements in the West Bank which are then sold in supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and many others. As such, companies such as Carmel Agrexco are responsible for the systematic annexation of Palestinian land. In these settlements workers, including children, are known to work in slave-labor conditions, with low wages, inadequate access to food and water, and no contract. Furthermore, the settlements have not only stolen land, but use up much needed agricultural resources such as water.

Carmel blockaded in Jayyous solidarity action
Stop The Wall 3/8/2009
A group of students from Brighton locked themselves to Carmel Agrexco, the Israeli state owned export company, to protest against the ongoing annexation of the West Bank as well as the repression of students in Jayyous. This action is the latest in a series of Agrexco blockades, which have included numerous actions in the UK as well as a protest last month in Belgium. On the morning of 7 March, Brighton students blockaded the Carmel Agrexco warehouse on the grounds that the firm grows and imports agricultural produce from settlements in the West Bank that are then sold in UK supermarkets. The students were responding to a call for BDS from the youth of Jayyous, following the mass arrests that began on 18 February. Actions against Agrexco have not been confined to the UK. At Liège airport in Belgium, some 30 activists held a demonstration against Agrexco on Valentines Day, when tons. . .

Palestinian students push BDS in universities and cities
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 3/8/2009
IAW events for the past several days in the West Bank focused on strengthening the internal BDS movement and promoting Palestinian products. Considerable progress was made from March 4 – 5 in moving the boycott forward in Palestinian universities. Students are not only working to institutionalize a boycott of Israeli goods inside the university, but also bringing the BDS call into their local shops and communities. Events took place in Nablus, Tulkarm, Jericho, Qalqilya, and Ramallah colleges and universities, as well as in the Jenin camp. At an-Najah in Nablus, a talk and discussion was held entitled, “The global BDS campaign: Comparing the South African and Palestinian experience. ” Student activists are also busy preparing a workshop for the coming week, and will host a speaker from Stop the Wall who will hold a session on the Wall and the BDS movement.

ISM Sweden protest Swedish-Israeli Davis Cup matches
ISM 3/8/2009
On Friday the 6th of March protesters from ISM Sweden joined with other activists in a peaceful demonstration outside the arena in Malmö, Sweden, where the Davis Cup matches between Sweden and Israel are being played. Activists participated in street theater, spoke to media and passers-by, and shouted out their anger and frustration outside the enclosed area around the arena, which is being guarded by one of the largest police contingencies in Swedish history. Debate about the matches has been hot in Sweden the last few weeks, and the ISM sees their work during the weekend as part of an international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The matches are being played without audiences - a partial victory for the campaign run by a broad coalition of political parties, cultural groups and organisations that has been working since the beginning of the Gaza massacre.

Swedish Jews undeterred by protests
Tal Rabinovsky, YNetNews 3/8/2009
While local Jews admit notable rise in anti-Semitic atmosphere after protest against Israel-Sweden tennis match, Israeli envoy blames riots on small groups of extremists, says public debate on Israel in media may have deterred many from protesting -Despite Saturday’s anti-Israel protest in Sweden, in which rocks, eggs and firecrackers were hurled at police outside a sports arena in the city of Malmö during an Israel-Sweden tennis match, the country’s Jews say they feel safe in the Scandinavian country. Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan told Ynet following the incident that such protests were part of a wave of aggression coming over Europe. "There is a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, it’s happening here in Sweden as well," the ambassador said. However, Dagan said, the activists taking part in such protests come from a number of different camps,. . .

Solana: 'No peace without implementing Arab Peace Initiative'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/8/2009
EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, stated on Saturday that there can be no peace in the Middle East without implementing the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. In an interview with the al-Ahram Egyptian weekly, Solana said that Israel must understand that without peace with its Arab neighbors it can’t have peace and security. Commenting on the Sharm al-Sheikh Summit for rebuilding Gaza, Solana stated that this summit was a message of hope to the Palestinians and the Israelis. This message, he said, reaffirms the importance of resuming peace talks in order to achieve a two-state solution. In 2002, Arab leaders convening at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League proposed a comprehensive peace initiative. In 2007, Arab leaders endorsed the Initiative during their Summit in Riyadh. The initiative offered normalization between the Arab countries and Israel in exchange for a full. . .

EU Report: Israeli Policies Hinder Palestinian Existence in Eat Jerusalem
Palestine Media Center 3/8/2009
A confidential EU report slammed Israeli policies in East Jerusalem stressing that it hinders Palestinian existence in the occupied city. The report, which was obtained by the Guardian British Newspaper, accuses Israel of illegally annexing East Jerusalem by expanding Jewish settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes and installing roadblocks. The report also stated that the Israeli policies in East Jerusalem, including constructing new Jewish settlements, the Annexation Wall, demolishing homes ad discriminating against the Palestinians, hinders the Palestinian development and existence and solidifies the Israeli presence in East Jerusalem. It also stated that the Israeli policies are harming the peace process and are questioning the Israeli commitment. The EU report yet recognized “Israel’s right” to perform activities for security purposes, but added that most of Israel’s illegal activities in East Jerusalem do not have any security motivation.

Confidential EU report slams Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/8/2009
A confidential report prepared by the European Union slammed Israel for its settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the demolishing of Palestinian homes in the city. The Guardian British Newspaper reported on Sunday morning that the report accuses Israel of illegally annexing East Jerusalem by expanding Jewish settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes and installing roadblocks. The report also stated that Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem, including the construction of new Jewish settlements, the Annexation Wall, demolishing homes ad discriminating against the Palestinians, hinders Palestinian development and their existence, and solidifies the Israeli presence in East Jerusalem. The report also stated that Israel’s policies are hindering the peace process, and is raising serious questions regarding Israel’s commitment to it.

Hebron municipal council leader speaks of city’s plight to EU congress of organizations
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – During a visit to France head of the Hebron municipal council Khalid Al-U’seili requested support for the city from the European Congress of Local and Regional Organizations, and pressure on Israel to halt settlement building in the West Bank. Al-U’seili delivered a speech to the sixteenth conference of the congress in Strasburg, France on 3 March. He described for the congress members the difficulties Hebron residents face in conducting daily life and business. “The Old City of Hebron has turned into a city of ghosts after being surrounded by the Israeli army, more than 112 of checkpoints, electronic gates, dirt mounds and 1,500 soldiers,” he told the congress. “There have been 1,819 shops closed and thousands of residents have left their homes” because of the dire situation.

PCBS: 55.4 percent of Palestinian women over 15 are married
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Palestinian Central Bureau of statistics (PCBS) released a report in honor of International Women’s Day, highlighting some of the most recent indicators for the status of women in Palestine. The statistics refer to females over the age of 15 for the year 2008. 73 years is the life expectancy for women in Palestine; 73. 6 years for females in the West Bank and 72. 1 in the Gaza Strip. 55. 4 percent of women are currently married, 6. 4 percent are widows, 1. 2 percent are divorced 0. 3 percent are separated from their husbands and 36. 8 percent are single (never married). 9. 1 percent of Palestinian women are illiterate, compared with 2. 9 percent for males. 15. 1 percent of women hold elementary school certificates (17. 4 percent for males) and 7. 6 percent hold Bachelors degrees (14.

’Special regime’ touted as solution for Jerusalem
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/9/2009
OTTAWA: A solution to Jerusalem could be a "special regime" that administers the Old City without dividing it, leaving the thorny issue of sovereignty for a future date, two former diplomats wrote. In the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, professors Michael Bell of Canada and Daniel Kurtzer of the United States, both former ambassadors in the Middle East, propose a way to deal with Jerusalem in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. They suggest creating an impartial, Old City Special Regime (OCSR) chosen by Israelis and Palestinians together, that would appoint a chief administrator. "The most promising alternative to a street-by-street, site-by-site division of the Old City is to construct a special regime that defers the issue of sovereignty and instead focuses on how to administer and manage the Old City with strong third-party participation," the two experts write.

Olmert: Barak proves Cast Lead was worthless
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Prime minister clashes with defense minister over Egypt-mediated truce talks with Hamas during cabinet meeting on situation in south. Minister Dichter says Palestinians smuggling advanced weapons into Gaza on daily basis - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday during a cabinet meeting discussing the ongoing rocket fire in southern Israel following the recent military offensive in Gaza. "What the defense minister suggests proves that Operation Cast Lead was worthless, because after we crushed them (Hamas), you’re proposing that we accept their conditions offered to us before the operation. This is the truth," the prime minister said. The clash revolved around a disagreement between Olmert and Barak on the Egypt-mediated truce talks with Hamas, which were cut off after the prime minister demanded progress in the talks for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’s release as a condition for opening the crossings to the Strip.

Olmert to Barak: You’re negating achievements of Gaza op
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
An argument broke out Sunday morning between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the handling of the conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin briefed the cabinet at its weekly meeting, when Olmert said "I have never agreed to a deal with Hamas," adding that anyone who offers Hamas a deal, like Barak did, is sabotaging the gains achieved during Israel’s recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, which was launched in efforts to halt rocket fire from the Strip into Israel. Israel ended its 22-day offensive, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, on January 18, with a unilateral cease-fire declared by both sides, and efforts to forge a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas have stalled. Directing his comment at Barak, Olmert declared that forging an agreement with Hamas "makes the military offensive worthless.

Israel talking to ’heavyweight’ Palestinian prisoners, attorneys say
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Lawyers, family members of prisoners with ’blood on their hands’ say they are being interviewed by Israeli security officials in framework of prisoner exchange negotiations -Israeli security officials have been interviewing ’heavyweight’ Palestinian prisoners in what the Palestinian Authority considers a sign of headway in the negotiations on a possible prisoner swap that would see captive soldier Hamas agrees to remove other ’heavyweight’ Palestinian prisoners from the list it had submitted during the negotiations. The Israel Prison Service denied that any talks were being held with Palestinian prisoners, and the Shin Bet refused to comment. It was further reported that about two weeks ago Israel approved 226 of the 450 names on Hamas’ list of ’heavyweight’ prisoners it wants released in exchange for Shalit.

Abu Obeida warns Israel of making any follies against Gaza people
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Abu Obeida, the spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades the armed wing of Hamas, warned Israel of the consequences of any follies it might commit against the Palestinian people in Gaza, stressing that the armed wing is fully geared up to defend its people. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Abu Obeida underlined that the Israeli threats to wage a new war on Gaza confirm beyond doubt that the last war failed to achieve its objectives. Regarding the Brigades’ readiness to counter any possible Israeli military aggression on Gaza, the spokesman said that Al-Qassam fighters always get themselves ready to repel any attack. "We are away from any political analysis and forecasts. All we say that it is an enemy and we do not trust it at all," the spokesman replied to a question about his expectations of a new Israeli attack.

Hamas: Israeli escalation won’t make us give up calm conditions
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas on Sunday asserted that the Israeli military escalation against the Gaza Strip over the past few days would not sway the Movement from defending the Palestinian people. Dr. Ismail Radwan, one of the Hamas political leaders, said in an exclusive statement to the PIC that the "Zionist escalation" was meant o pressure Hamas and other resistance factions to accept the "Zionist conditions for calm", which, he said, could not be accepted. He said that the resistance factions would never give up their demands for lifting the siege, opening crossings and halting aggression in order to reach calm, without linking that issue with any other one. The Hamas leader said that the escalation in Israeli military attacks indicates failure of the "war of annihilation" on Gaza in achieving its goals, and added that the "Zionist enemy bears the responsibility for consequences of such aggressions".

PA ’Suspends Talks’ Over Israeli Actions
Palestine Media Center 3/8/2009
The top Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qurei, has announced that negotiations with Israel are "suspended and frozen" until there are major changes to Israel’s recent policies in the occupied territories. Israel’s recent war and continued attacks and siege of the Gaza Strip, a rise in the demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem, and continued "canton- ization" of the West Bank by Israeli military checkpoints, bypass roads and growing settlements reportedly led to the official decision by the Negotiations Affairs Department on Wednesday. Qurei made the announcement via a statement sent to media outlets from his office in Ramallah. The announcement was no doubt meant to coincide with the visit of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and to send a strong message to the new U. S. administration that the Palestinian leadership expects increased American pressure on Israel to halt actions deemed harmful to the peace process.

Palestinian official: Netanyahu must recognize two states
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – A senior Palestinian official said on Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benyamin Netanyahu should embrace the two-state solution. The official, head of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, Mohamad Ishtayeih, said “Natanyahu and the right coalition cannot be a partner unless he recognizes the two-state principle. " He said that would include ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories taken over in 1967 by the Israeli army. His statements came during a delegation visit by a group of socialists from the European Union at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The delegation included a number of European parliamentarians, among them: Pier Shabera, Bruno Maraca, Zulutan Simon, Anna Maria Gomez, Richard Hewitt and Jamila Madera.

Fayyad confident Palestinians will form ’government of consensus’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/9/2009
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Sunday he was confident the Palestinians would form a "government of consensus" after he stepped down to pave the way for a unity cabinet. "As I said yesterday after submitting my resignation to the president, we are confident the dialogue in Cairo will lead to a government of consensus," he told reporters in the Occupied West Bank town of Ramallah. He was referring to talks that rival Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, have been holding in Cairo under Egyptian auspices with a view to forming a national unity government. Asked whether he could serve as premier in a unity government, Fayyad said he had submitted "a resignation letter, not a request for a new post. " Abbas meanwhile called for a national consensus government that "adheres to the commitments of the Palestine. . .

Palestinian leader seeks reconciliation with Hamas
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/8/2009
’The faster a unity government is formed, the faster we will be able to rebuild Gaza for the sake of our people,’ Abbas says ahead of Egyptian-mediated Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks, adding new coalition will have to accept past Palestinian agreements - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged his Hamas rivals Sunday to move quickly toward a unity government that would be able to rebuild Gaza after a devastating Israeli military offensive there. Abbas made his comments as negotiators from his Fatah Party plan to meet Hamas officials in Egypt this week for what are expected to be the most serious reconciliation talks since Hamas violently seized power in Gaza nearly two years ago. "We must reach a national reconciliation government," Abbas said. "This government will be responsible for reconstruction (in Gaza). The faster a government is formed, the faster we will be able to rebuild in the Gaza Strip, quickly, for the sake of our people. "

PLO: Government Resignation Responsible
Palestine Media Center 3/8/2009
Will Boost Unity Talks Unity Talks to Resume on Tuesday - The PLO Executive Committee “praised” the “responsible” resignation of the Palestinian government, led by Dr. Salam Fayyad, adding that the move will boost the “formation of a national consensus government. ” The highest Palestinian political decision making body met on Saturday at the President’s Headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. In a statement issued flowing the meeting, the executive committee expressed hope that a national unity government will be formed by the end of March. “It is hoped that such a government form will be reached in Cairo dialogue. ” The expected-unity government must focus on “preserving the Palestinian legitimacy and protecting it, as well as furthering financial and administrative reformation,” it added. The committee praised Dr.

Al-Maliki: Fayyad’s resignation will take effect by April
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riydh Al-Maliki said on Sunday that the current Palestinian caretaker government will be will be dismissed at the end of March. Al-Maliki added that Fayyad’s resignation, which he submitted on Saturday to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will take effect before April. At a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Al-Maliki said “the Ministerial Council decided to stop appointments and promotions as of Sunday until the new government takes office. ”He added, “We suppose that the Palestinian dialogue will succeed; the last meeting’s indications were positive and will produce an agreement soon. ”He went on to say that “the government is committed to work all throughout March as part of our responsibility and job. ”“We will not give up our responsibility to provide the needed funds to pay salaries in the first week of each month,” he added.

Abbas asks Fayyad to resume duties until dialogue bears fruit
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/8/2009
On Saturday, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, asked the Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salaam Fayyad, to remain at his post until the internal Palestinian talks achieve positive results, including an agreement for legislative and presidential elections. Dr. Fayyad and his government submitted their resignations, effective at the end of this month, in order to facilitate an agreement for a National Unity Government in the Palestinian territories. The government would be based on the outcome of national dialogue held in Cairo. At the opening speech of the Saturday meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Ramallah, Abbas asked Fayyad to remain at his post until positive results are achieved in the near future. Abbas said that Fayyad submitted his resignation in order to push forward national unity talks, and efforts to form a unity government.

Hamas calls for the adoption of the Mecca agreement to form a unity government
PNN exclusive, Palestine News Network 3/8/2009
Ramallah - An informed Palestinian source told PNN Sunday that the Hamas movement submitted a proposal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the presidential and legislative elections for two years and four years. The source, notably outside of the Fateh government bloc, spoke to PNN today on the condition of anonymity. President Abbas rejected the Hamas proposal out of hand. Presidential elections were meant to be held at the end of Abbas’ term in January of this year based on the Palestinian Basic Law. Abbas refused. The legislative elections are supposed to be held next year: January 2010. Abbas’ team did not want him out of power while the elected Hamas government remained in office. At the same time a unity government was formed within the past two years, yet rejected by the Americans and Israelis, and therefore was never able to get off the ground to function.

Leftist factions in Gaza insist on comprehensive unity government
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Left-wing Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip on Sunday maintained that a unity government declared in Cairo ought to be “comprehensive. ”Arguing that it would be necessary to counter Israeli plans, especially in the case of an extreme-right Israeli government, members of the several leftist parties urged conciliation. “All elements of Palestinian strength inside and within the Diaspora must be gathered along with reactivation of Arab countries’ role in the Palestinian question,” said a Palestinian Liberation Front politburo member, Adnan Ghareib. Such a role, he maintained, would “speed up the basics of the Palestinian national project, which are the establishment of a Palestinian state and the return of refugees. ”Ghareib identified the names of his faction’s representatives to Cairo as follows:Nathim Abu Yousif, PLO CommitteeBilal. . .

French diplomat: Bush and Rice spoiled Sana’a agreement between Hamas and Fatah
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
PARIS, (PIC)-- Noted French diplomat Yves Misoziyr revealed Thursday that ex-US president George Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice intervened to abort the reconciliation agreement reached in Sana’a between Hamas and Fatah in March last year. Misoziyr, who is also a researcher in the Paris institute for political studies, told a news conference held in the Arab press club in Paris that on the eve of the Sana’a agreement and before signing it, the former US president phoned ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and told him that Washington would cancel the Annapolis conference if he reconciled with Hamas. The French diplomat added that Rice made similar phones calls on the same evening in order to dissuade Abbas from reaching a reconciliation agreement with Hamas. The diplomat underlined that the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip rehabilitated the Palestinian cause and made it an. . .

Haaretz: Fayyad’s resignation is a tactical move by the US
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli Haaretz newspaper stated Sunday that the resignation of Salam Fayyad as premier of the Ramallah government was a deliberate tactical move by the US to portray him as a "yeanling" seeking the success of the Cairo reconciliation dialog between Hamas and Fatah and as the best independent person who could lead the next formed unity government. The newspaper noted that this resignation is aimed to pressure Hamas into softening its opposition to Fayyad serving as a premier in the future government. It added that the US relayed a message to Hamas by the Norwegian government that it would not recognize any Palestinian unity government unless Fayyad was reappointed as a premier. According to the newspaper, western diplomats confirmed that Washington relayed messages to Hamas through a European country stressing that any future unity government in. . .

Hamas announces names of its members for Cairo dialogue
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A senior Hamas source told Ma’an the names of the members who were chosen to represent the Islamic movement at talks in Cairo. The source affirmed that Hamas’ delegation members from the West Bank and Gaza will depart for Cairo on Monday. Hamas chose Musa Abu Marzuq for the PLO Committee, Mahmoud Az-Zaharfor the Elections Committee, Khalil Al-Haya for the Government Committee, Nezar A’wadallah for the Conciliation Committee and Ismail Al-Ashqar for the Security Committee. The sources concluded thatthe delegation will arrive in Cairo by Monday with “a full vision for all of the files and issues that will be presented by the five committees,” affirming that what had been agreed on in a package concerning all of the files “will be approved and signed to be implemented simultaneously between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and on the five tracks.

Abbas says determined to form power-sharing government with Hamas
Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff, and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he is determined to form a power-sharing government with his Hamas rivals, despite their deep differences. Abbas comments come a day after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad submitted his resignation. The move is meant to ease the formation of a new caretaker government to oversee new elections. In the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, Abbas said any new government must accept previous Palestinian obligations. That includes recognizing Israel, which Hamas refuses to do. The United States will only recognize a future Palestinian unity government if Salem Fayyad is reappointed prime minister, according to a message relayed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to European and Arab leaders at last week’s donor summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Hamas delegation in Cairo Monday to participate in reconciliation committees
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated that its delegation to Cairo talks will leave on Monday to participate in the work of the five committees in order to reach reconciliation ending the Palestinian division. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman, said that the Movement’s delegation has a full concept on the mechanisms of each committee in addition to a vision to be tabled during the meeting of these committees. Dr. Radwan stressed that the agreement of the five committees will be in the framework of a package deal and the results of any committee’s discussions will not be declared separately, adding that any agreement reached will be implemented under united Arab sponsorship. The spokesman underlined that the Hamas representatives that will be in the committees are MP Ismail Al-Ashqar, Dr.

Five members of Fatah’s Cairo committees leave Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Five Fatah delegates to the Cairo dialogue committees will leave Gaza Sunday for the Egyptian capital via Rafah crossing. Committee talks for the five groups are set to begin 10 March. One delegate, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Ashraf Jum’a, described the delegation as “going to Cairo with open hearts and minds” and that all five were hoping to benefit from the “historic opportunity to reach conciliation and fold the rivalry file forever. ”Jum’a made specific mention of the two preparatory committees, not part of the Cairo dialogues, as essential to the success of the talks. The committees, one of Hamas members in Gaza and one of Fatah affiliates in the West Bank, are charged with preparing citizens for the outcome of the talks by ensuring a halt to such practices as political arrests.

Abbas: We will form a government by whatever means necessary
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – A national unity government will be created "by any means," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbassaid in Ramallah on Sunday. Speaking on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Abbas said he is hoping the proposed unity government with Hamas will “conform to all the Palestine Liberation Organization’s commitments. ”Such a government, he added, will hold legislative and presidential elections before the end of January 2010 and will be entrusted with rebuilding Gaza. “The sooner we form a government, the faster we can rebuild the Gaza Strip,” he said. The president’s comments came as he signed an order blocking “all aspects of anti-women discrimination in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law,” and he congratulated Palestinian women on the occasion of Women’s Day in Palestine.

PM Fayyad urges President Abbas to back a unity government
Rami Almeghari&Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/8/2009
The resigned Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, urged on Sunday Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to back formation of a national unity government. Fayyad, who produced a written resignation to Abbas recently, asserted that the Palestinian Authority should back a unity government of both Hamas and Fatah for unifying the two extremes of Palestinian politics. Fayyad also emphasized on the fact that the ongoing Israeli settlement activities on the occupied West Bank, pose a stumbling block in the path of regional peace. The Palestinian PM’s resignation comes as representatives of Fatah and Hamas are holding talks in the Egyptian capital to achieve a unity government that could end and Israeli blockade of Gaza and an internationally-enforced embargo.

Fayyad hopeful of Palestinian unity
Al Jazeera 3/8/2009
Salam Fayyad, the Palestinianprime minister, has said that he expects a Palestinian "government of consensus" to be formed once he steps down. Fayyad’s comments on Sunday came a day after he submitted his resignation to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, amid talks being held in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah, the two principal Palestinian factions. "As I said yesterday after submitting my resignation to the president, we are confident that the dialogue in Cairo will lead to a government of consensus," Fayyad said. The discussions between Hamas and Fatah aim to produce a unity government. ButFayyad says he will not assume any role in it. "What I submitted yesterday was a resignation letter and not a request for a new post," he said.

British Muslim leader urged to quit over Gaza
Jamie Doward, home affairs editor, The Guardian 3/8/2009
Abdullah advocates attack on foreign navies if they halt arms smuggling - One of the UK’s most influential Islamic leaders, who has helped counter extremism in the country’s mosques, is accused of advocating attacks on the Royal Navy if it tries to stop arms for Hamas being smuggled into Gaza. Dr Daud Abdullah, deputy director-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, is facing calls for his resignation, after it emerged that he is one of 90 Muslim leaders from around the world who have signed a public declaration in support of Hamas and military action. Abdullah, who led the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day, was a member of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, the body endorsed by the government that trains imams and was set up to curtail the activities of extremist clerics. In January, he briefed the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and communities secretary Hazel Blears

Amid Low Expectations, American Officials Hold Talks in Syria
Associated Press, New York Times 3/8/2009
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A senior American envoy visited Syria on Saturday as part of the Obama administration’s effort to ease the rivalry between the countries, and he said he held “very constructive” talks with Syrian officials. Syria has also signaled its interest in better relations, but both sides remain cautious over whether they can surmount their crucial differences, including Syria’s backing for militants and its alliance with Iran. “We look forward to making progress in achieving results in the bilateral relationship and in terms of regional issues,” said the envoy, Jeffrey D. Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who was visiting Syria with Daniel B. Shapiro, a senior director at the National Security Council. The United States has long wanted Syria to drop its support for the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, which have undermined Middle East peace efforts.

Hillary Clinton moves quickly on diplomatic fronts
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times 3/8/2009
Reporting from Geneva — If anyone doubted that the "restart" button has been pushed on U. S. diplomacy, look no further than the T-shirt worn by a young gay rights advocate at a question-and-answer session in Belgium last week: "I [Heart] Hillary. " "I must call on this young man," the new secretary of State said. In her trip through the Middle East and Europe last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton was warmly received in most places by audiences who are fascinated by the life of the former first lady -- and delighted that George W. Bush resides once more in Texas. She was applauded vigorously by reporters at a news conference in Egypt, a highly unusual gesture from Arab journalists toward a U. S. official. Officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, some of whom felt shut out by the Bush administration, grilled her in a private meeting on the Obama administration’s intentions, then applauded as well.

MI chief: Iran capable of creating bomb
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Following US army declaration that Tehran has enough nuclear material to make bomb, Major-General Amos Yadlin tells cabinet ministers Iranians have crossed technological threshold but have yet to change their strategy - Military Intelligence chief Major-General Amos Yadlin told the cabinet meeting on Sunday that "Iran has crossed the technological threshold, so that reaching a military nuclear ability is only a matter of matching the strategy to the goal of creating a nuclear bomb. " According to Yadlin, "Iran continues to accumulate hundreds of kilograms of enriched uranium of poor quality, and hopes to take advantage of its dialogue with the West and the government in Washington in order to advance towards creating a nuclear bomb. " The Military Intelligence chief went on to say that "the Middle East is viewing the plan for Iran’s nuclearization and the dialogue with the new administration in Washington cautiously.

MI chief: Iran has crossed ’technological threshold’ in quest for nukes
Barak Ravid and Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Military Intellience chief Amos Yadlin said Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting that "Iran has crossed the technological threshold" in its quest for nuclear arms. "Arrival at military nuclear capability is a matter of strategy," Yadlin said. "Iran is accumulating hundreds of kilograms of enriched uranium at a low level and hopes to utilize the dialogue with the West in order to gain time, which is required in order to achieve the capability to manufacture a nuclear bomb. "Yadlin stressed that the American government’s new approach of dialogue with Iran is being treated with caution in the Middle East. "The moderate Arab states think this will come at their cost and will be used for negative purposes by Iran and Syria, who are dragging out time with the appearance of talks but are continuing to arm themselves and to support terrorism," Yadlin said.

Iran test fires new long-range missile
Reuters, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Tehran’s state television reports of yet another successful missile test, offers no details as to actual nature of ballistics test -Iran has test-fired a new long-range missile, the country’s state Press TV reported on Sunday. Iran often stages war games or tests weapons to show its determination to counter any attack by foes including Israel and the United States, which accuse the Islamic Republic of seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran denies the charge. "Iran test fires new long range missile," Press TV, Iran’s English-language television station, said in a scrolling headline without giving details. The Press TV report came less than a week after a top Iranian military commander said that Iranian missiles could now reach Israeli nuclear sites.

Turkish FM: Turkey trying to ease U.S.-Iran tension
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Sunday - after meeting U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and shortly before leaving for Tehran - that Turkey was trying to bridge differences between the United States and Iran. Tukey, the only predominantly Muslim member of NATO, has offered to help resolve the standoff between the United States, its traditional ally, and its neighbor Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program. Clinton said in an interview on Turkish television on Saturday that the United States would ask Turkey to help push forward U. S. President Barack Obama’s plan to engage Iran. Babacan, who held talks with Clinton in Ankara on Saturday, will visit Iran for an Economic Cooperation Organiztion meeting chaired by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Pope to visit Holy Land on May 8-15
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Benedict XVI tells followers he will visit sites of Jesus’ life, pray for ’the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and all of humanity. ’ Peres: Pope ’an honorable guest’ -Pope Benedict XVI says he will visit the Holy Land on May 8-15 in the first papal trip to the area since 2000. Benedict announced the dates of the long-planned pilgrimage following his traditional noontime blessing on Sunday. The pope said he would visit the sites of Jesus’ life and would pray for "the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and all of humanity. " The itinerary will include stops in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Benedict is expected to visit Jordan’s largest mosque in Amman, and make stops in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. The late Pope John Paul II went to the Holy Land in a 2000 pilgrimage.

Pope officially announces Holy Land visit in May
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Pope Benedict XVI officially announced Sunday that he will visit Israel on May 8-15 in the first papal trip to the area since 2000. Benedict announced the dates of the long-planned pilgrimage following his traditional noontime blessing on Sunday. The Pope said he would visit the sites of Jesus’ life and would pray for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and all of humanity. The itinerary will include stops in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Benedict is expected to visit Jordan’s largest mosque in Amman, and make stops in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. At the same time, the Israeli chief rabbinate will renew its ties with the Vatican, which were cut in response to the Holy See’s decision in January to revoke the excommunication of Richard Williamson, a British-born bishop who denied the extent of the Holocaust.

Netanyahu gives up on deal with Barak
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 3/8/2009
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has ended his quest to bring Labor into the next government and will expedite his efforts to form a coalition of 61 MKs from the Likud, Israel Beiteinu, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Habayit Hayehudi, sources close to Netanyahu said Saturday night. Netanyahu and Lieberman on the verge of sealing coalition deal The prime minister-designate will complete the process of allocating portfolios to his coalition partners this week and then distribute the remaining ministries inside his own party, with a goal of presenting his government to President Shimon Peres next Monday. Between now and then, Netanyahu will try to appease his Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom, who is angry at him for giving the Foreign Affairs portfolio that he sought to Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.

Kadima official: Netanyahu forfeiting rule of law to Lieberman
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Sources in centrist party livid by what they call prime minister-designate’s yielding to rightist bloc’s demands, say unity government was within grasp - Senior sources in Kadima slammed Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday for "forfeiting the rule of law and Israel’s foreign relations" to Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, and the country’s economy, via stipends, to the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism. "Netanyahu says we are in a state of security and financial emergency and he is right… If he could only stop holding the office above everything else he could have formed a unity government with Kadima and the Labor Party," said a Kadima source. "Naturally, he fears that without the rightist bloc he has no claim to the premiership and that is all that he cares about. (Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi) Livni would have allowed for a rotation, even though he doesn’t deserve it. "

Barak: No basis for Labor to join coalition
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Labor chief tells Netanyahu no point in launching coalition negotiations due to Likud’s ’widespread adoption of Lieberman’s requests’ -There is no basis for the Labor party to enter into coalition negotiations with the Likud, Labor Chairman Ehud Barak told Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu during a telephone conversation Sunday afternoon. As his reason, Barak noted the Likud’s "widespread adoption of the requests of Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, including the appointment of all the heads of Israel’s law enforcement agencies. " Barak further stated that Labor would not join a government that would see Daniel Friedmann stay on as justice minister, as demanded by Yisrael Beiteinu. During the collation talks Barak has been harshly criticized by fellow party members, who object to joining a Netanyahu-led coalition.

IDF raises alert level for fear of 'kidnappings'
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Following last week’s attempt to kidnap officer in Jerusalem, commanders instructed to brief soldiers once again on hitchhiking prohibition - Following a security assessment by the General Staff, the IDF has raised its alert level for fear of possible attempts by terror groups to kidnap soldiers. Security officials said Wednesday’s incident in which Arabs tried to kidnap an Israel Air Force officer near Jerusalem’s Malcha Mall underlined the need to raise the alert level and prevent the abduction of a soldier on Israeli soil. To this end, IDF commanders were instructed to brief their soldiers once again on the prohibition regarding hitchhiking and make sure they offer them the safest possible way to get home. As part of the effort to enforce the hitchhiking prohibition, undercover Military Police officers will offer unsuspecting soldiers rides at hitchhiking posts throughout the country.

Desperate efforts to free Israeli prisoner
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 3/8/2009
Since Noam Shalit’s soldier son has been held prisoner by Hamas, his calm demeanour, measured statements and unflinching efforts to free his son have earned him widespread respect. But yesterday there was growing desperation in the air as the soft-spoken engineer tugged even harder on the heartstrings of his countrymen in what he believes is a last effort to save Gilad, who has been kept in an unknown hideout by Hamas for almost three years. Mr Shalit and his wife Aviva set up a protest tent opposite Ehud Olmert’s residence yesterday and vowed not to leave until their son is freed or the Prime Minister completes his term, expected in several weeks when the new right-wing government being cobbled together by the Likud party leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, takes office. The release of Corporal Shalit, who was just a few months out of high school

Yishai: Next government will likely return Shalit
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Shas chairman says believes protest held by kidnapped soldier’s parents not raising price for his release. ’The demonstration is important because it makes things easier for the family,’ he says. Minister Tamir: Rallies may raise price tag, but there’s no choice - Israeli ministers agreed Sunday morning that the Jewish state would have to pay a heavy price for Gilad Shalit’s release, but not all of them agreed that the demonstrations for the kidnapped soldier were helpful. The ministers spoke before entering the weekly cabinet meeting, while Shalit’s parents moved into a protest tent outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Parents’ PleaNoam Shalit: We’ll protest as long as it takes/ Ahiya Raved Kidnapped soldier’s parents move into protest tent outside PM’s official residence in Jerusalem; captive’s father demands Olmert end affair before leaving office.

Goldwasser criticizes Olmert in Shalit tent
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Mother of Ehud Goldwasser, who was kidnapped by Hizbullah in 2006, says outgoing prime minister’s behavior strengthening Hamas - Miki Goldwasser, the mother of Ehud whose body was returned in 2008 after the reservist was captured by Hizbullah in 2006, railed against outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying, "the prime minister thinks protests strengthen Hamas? He himself strengthens Hamas!" Goldwasser was speaking, Sunday, from the protest tent set up by Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, who was kidnapped to Gaza in 2006, shortly before Goldwasser and reservist Eldad Regev were kidnapped to Lebanon. The parents of the soldiers became close during their long struggle to return their sons home. Although the two reservists’ bodies were returned last year in a prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah, Miki Goldwasser maintains her fight is not over. "I wish I didn’t have to come here, but all three families started this fight together and, as far as I’m concerned, business isn’t finished," she said.

Noam Shalit: We’ll protest as long as it takes
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Kidnapped soldier’s parents move into protest tent outside PM’s official residence in Jerusalem; captive’s father demands Olmert end affair before leaving office. Bereaved parents opposing prisoner release to demonstrate in same place - Kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, moved into a protest tent outsideEhud Olmert’s official Jerusalem residence Sunday morning, after the outgoing prime minister said over the weekend that the demonstrations calling for Shalit’s release were unhelpful. The Shalits left their home in the northern community of Mitzpe Hila on Saturday night and headed to the capital, where they planned to stay in the protest tent from the morning hours. Shortly before arriving at the prime minister’s residence, Noam Shalit told Ynet, "We’ll sit outside his house so that he sees us when he wakes up in the morning, when he leaves the house, when he comes back.

Shalit’s father: We will protest until Gilad is free
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
The parents of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit left their home in the Galilee on Saturday, arriving Sunday at a protest tent set up across from the residence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, where they vowed to stay until their son is released. Gilad Shalit was abducted by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid. Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip, have demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons in return for his release. "We will stay in the [protest] tent until the end of Olmert’s term, or until Gilad returns," said Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, on Sunday, in an interview with Army Radio from the protest tent in Jerusalem. The captive soldier’s father addressed remarks made previously by Olmert, who insisted that mass protests for Gilad Shalit were undermining efforts to secure. . .

Shalit to bereaved parents: Don’t sacrifice my son
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Families who lost loved ones to terror attacks stage rally across from Shalit family’s protest tent in Jerusalem, say cabinet’s consent to release Palestinian prisoners premature. Kidnapped soldier’s father: Let them look us in the eyes and say it’s okay to abandon Gilad - Kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’s parents were not the only ones to make their way to Jerusalem Sunday morning, as bereaved parents of terror victims set up camp across from their tent, located just outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s residence in the capital. Noam and Aviva moved into a protest tent outside Olmert’s home earlier Sunday, as means of countering a statement he made over the weekend, suggesting that the demonstrations calling for Shalit’s release were unhelpful.

India delivers USD 10 million in support to the PA
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad met with Indian officials on Sunday at his office in Ramallah. The representatives informed Fayyad that India will deliver USD 10 million in funding to the Palestinian Authority. India had committed the funds during the Gaza donor’s conference in Sharm Ash-Sheikh, Egypt in early March. Among the delegates visiting Fayyad was Bisho Adab De, Indian representative to the Palestinian Authority. [end]

Israeli prosecutors to indict ex-president on rape charges
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/9/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli prosecutors said Sunday they would indict former President Moshe Katsav on charges including rape in the latest act of a years-long saga that saw the politician resign in disgrace. "Following the completion of the investigation. . . the attorney general and the state prosecutor decided to indict Mr. Moshe Katsav over sexual offenses against several of his employees when he acted as tourism minister and president, including charges of rape and sexual assault," said a Justice Ministry statement. "The decision was made after the attorney general and state prosecutor reached the conclusion that the complaintants’ testimony was reliable and that there is sufficient evidence for an indictment. "The statement did not say when the formal indictment would be filed against the 63-year-old father of five, but local media said it would come within days.

Israel’s Katsav to face rape charge
Al Jazeera 3/8/2009
Moshe Katsav, the former president of Israel, will be charged with rape and other sexual misconduct offences, the country’s attorney-general says. Katsav stepped down shortly before his seven-year term was due to end in 2007 after four female employees accused him of crimes including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. "Following the completion of the investigation. . . the attorney general and the state prosecutor decided to indict Mr Moshe Katsav over sexual offences against several of his employees when he acted as tourism minister and president, including charges of rape and sexual assault," the justice minister said in a statement on Sunday. The statement did not say when the formal indictment would be filed, but local media reports said it would be within days. Zion Amir, Katsav’s attorney, said that the defence team was "preparing for a long struggle to prove the innocence of the former president

Women’s groups hail Katsav indictment
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Israeli women’s organizations praise AG’s decision to charge former president with rape in case of A. of Tourism Ministry. ’This is a day of celebration not only for Israeli society but for the notion of justice and the rule of law, says WIZO chairwoman -Israel’s women’s groups on Sunday praised Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s decision to indict former President Moshe Katsav of rape in the case of A. , a former Tourism Ministry employee. The decision on the tumultuous case was rendered, in a somewhat befitting twist of fate, on International Woman’s Day. "We welcome this decision. All we wanted was for the courts to decide on this matter. We’ve seen A. through this ordeal right from the beginning. She always wanted her day in court and now she can finally have it"¦ We just wish it had not taken so long," Nurit Tsur, director of the Israel’s Women Network, told Ynet.

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav to be indicted for rape
Ma’an News Agency 3/8/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav will be indicted for rape, according to Israel’s Justice Ministry on Sunday. Israel’s attorney general, Meni Mazuz, decided that an indictment will be submitted against Katsav for sexual offenses against "several women," according to a statement sent to Ma’an. The women reportedly worked closely with Katsav when he served as tourism minister and as president, the statement said. The indictment will include charges of rape and indecent assault against Complainant ’A’ from the Tourism Ministry and for obstruction of justice, the statement went on to say. The decision was taken after Attorney General Mazuz and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador "reached the conclusion that the complainants’ version was credible," the statement said, adding that "there was a reasonable possibility of conviction.

Katsav`s accuser: I am not afraid of a trial
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
A woman who worked for ex-President Moshe Katsav during his tenure as tourism minister and is the main accuser according to the rape indictment against him said Sunday she is not afraid of a trial. "I am happy that the prosecutor has decided to put faith in my version. I am not afraid of a confrontation and I am not afraid of a court hearing," said the woman, who can only be named as ’A’. Earlier, A’s lawyer Dani Sarur said that "there is no doubt that the court will put faith in the testimony of my client. " Katsav will be indicted for alleged sexual offences, including rape and indecent acts, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced Sunday. He will also be charged with obstruction of justice. The charges relate to accusations by women staffers who worked under Katsav while he was tourism minister and president.

Lieberman, Netanyahu want Israelis abroad to vote
Yuval Karni, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu leaders agree to push for legislation of bill allowing Israeli citizens residing overseas to participate in general elections. Former MK who proposed bill in past says such a law will dilute Arab, leftist votes. Likud MK says bill meant to serve Lieberman’s own political purposes, gaining him 200,000 votes of Russian Israelis abroad -Will the hundreds of thousands of Israelis residing abroad be able to vote in Israel’s next general elections? Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister-designateBenjamin Netanyahu hope so, and agreed on Thursday that they would work together to have such a law passed. According to the bill proposal, the 800,000 to one million Israeli citizens living abroad with a valid citizenship will be able to vote in any of the consulates throughout the world.

Hirchson caught on tape lying to police
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 3/8/2009
Court releases video depicting former finance minister, currently on trial for multiple charges of fraud, deceiving police investigators -The Tel Aviv District Court released parts of former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson’s police interrogation tape Sunday, in which he is clearly heard lying about receiving illegal cash payments. The former finance minister is currently standing trial for fraud and embezzlement, allegedly preformed during his tenure as head of the National Labor Federation (NLF), between 1998 and 2005. Hirchson’sindictment includes multiple counts of larceny, executive theft, fraud, breach of trust, illicitly obtaining funds, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents. He has taken the stand several times and has already confessed to lying to the police.

Shalom urges Likud unity, plays down rift with Netanyahu
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
Likud MK Silvan Shalom denied reports on Sunday that he informed Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu that he has no interest in serving as finance minister in his governing coalition. Shalom, who is believed to have long sought the foreign ministry post he once held under Ariel Sharon, told supporters on Sunday night that he is intent on preserving unity within the Likud "though unity needs to be the desire of everybody. ""Portfolios never interested me and all the reports that I refused the finance ministry have no grasp of reality," Shalom said. "With all due respect, the Likud won the last elections, not [Avigdor] Lieberman and not Shas, and the Likud needs to be the most influential factor in the government. " Shalom made the statements during a Purim party he organized for Likud activists in his camp.

Celebration for the life and work of our late great poet Mahmoud Darwish
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/8/2009
Dubai/ - The Dubai International Festival 2009 was a great night, reported all sources. "We cannot lose sight of the words and wisdom of our Palestinian poet, not only the national poet, but a teacher and artist throughout the Arab world," said a guest at the Darwish memorial in the United Arab Emirates. We lost Mahmoud this summer, a funeral whose tragedy came close only to that of our late President Yasser Arafat. "This land deserves life," was just one sentence spoken among hundreds at the Dubai activity. No one was a stranger to Darwish who sang and recited, celebrated his wisdom and beauty. Tears flowed freely as they did at his funeral in Ramallah’s Al Muqata, Presidential Headquarters: no shame here. His poetry and letters, his ability to say what we all are trying to impart ourselves, made a night worthy of what the name suggests.

Africa-Israel puts up Tel Aviv mall as loan collateral
Avi Shauly, Globes Online 3/8/2009
Subsidiary Africa-Israel Properties is also continuing its efforts to sell the Ramat Aviv Mall. - Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE:AFIL; Pink Sheets:AFIVY) has put up the entire 73. 4% holding in the Ramat Aviv Mall in north Tel Aviv as collateral for a NIS 350-400 million loan from Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI). Africa-Israel’s stake in the mall is held through subsidiary Africa-Israel Properties Ltd. (TASE: AFPR). Africa-Israel, controlled by chairman Lev Leviev, owns 68% of Africa-Israel Properties. Leviev is also continuing his efforts to sell the mall. Africa-Israel Properties has pursued sales talks for its malls, including the Ramat Aviv Mall, with several potential buyers in recent months. Migdal Insurance and Financial Holdings Ltd. (TASE: MGDL), which owns the other 26. 6% in the Ramat Aviv Mall, has first refusal rights at the same price as in any deal with a third party.

Israeli cleantech cos seek piece of $6b US stimulus pie
Merav Ankori, Globes Online 3/8/2009
Adv. Noemi Schmayer: Grants will be provided for solar energy and other renewable energy projects. The $800 billion US stimulus package launched by President Barack Obama will affect both domestic and foreign industries. The package includes funding for renewable energy projects, which will also affect Israeli venture capital and technology companies in this field. This is a dramatic change, because the US renewable energy market hitherto was quite difficult to penetrate for foreign entrepreneurs, compared with, for example, the Spanish market. The US stimulus package includes federal government loans for renewable energy projects. Until now, such guarantees were only available for innovative technologies, but they are now available for commercial technologies as well, which creates opportunities for Israeli companies like Ormat Industries Ltd.

Average salary down in 2008
Michal Yoshai, Globes Online 3/8/2009
Once again the employees of the Israel Electric Corporation and the Mekorot Water Company earned the highest salaries. The latest Central Bureau of Statistics figures show that average gross salary in the Israeli economy fell by 0. 5% in 2008 to NIS 8,060 per month. At the end of 2008 there were about 2. 8 million salaried employees in Israel, 3. 1% more than at the end of 2007. Once again, the employees of the Israel Electric Corporation and the Mekorot Water Company earned the highest average gross salary of NIS 19,680. At the bottom of the table were employees in the catering and accommodations sector with an average monthly salary of NIS 3,737. The biggest fall in the average salary was in the transport sector where salaries dropped 3. 2%, while Mekorot and IEC employees saw their salaries increase by 2.

Danger of drought averted following heavy winter rainfall
Ha’aretz 3/8/2009
The head of a private water company said Sunday that the unexpectedly high winter rainfall averted the danger of severe drought in Israel’s north. Ahikam Barlevy, CEO of the Hatzbani-Dan company, said the amount of rain that has fallen in Israel’s north since the beginning of 2009 has already reached 80% of the yearly average, allowing agriculturalists to delay mass-scale uprooting of tens of thousands of dunams of cherry and apple orchards. More than 100 millimeters of rainfall was recorded in the Upper Galilee, Hula Valley and Golan Heights during the cold snap at the end of February and the beginning of March, bringing about a sharp rise in the quantity of water in the Dan Stream, which reached seven cubic meters (7000 liters) per second, almost triple the 2.

Feltman: US, EU observers to monitor Lebanon vote
Daily Star 3/9/2009
US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said Sunday that US and European observers will monitor upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for June 7, only after receiving a request from Lebanon. Feltman said after a meeting with Elias Aude, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Beirut, that the US and Europe are willing to observe the process, including the conduct of the poll, "only after receiving approval of the Lebanese. "Feltman, accompanied by top Middle East officer at the US National Security Council Daniel Shapiro, held a series of meetings on Sunday with Lebanese officials as well as religious leaders, including Lebanese Forces boss Samir Geagea, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and vice-president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan.

Iraqi women suffering 'silent emergency', survey finds
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/8/2009
BAGHDAD, 8 March 2009 (IRIN) - Marking International Women’s Day on 8 March a new survey has painted a grim picture for Iraqi women who it says are suffering a “silent emergency” as they endure insecurity, poverty and a lack of basic services. Entitled “In Her Own Words: Iraqi women talk about their greatest concerns and challenges”, the survey was conducted in 2008 by aid agency Oxfam International in cooperation with the Iraqi women’s NGO al-Amal. It surveyed 1,700 women from five provinces: Baghdad, Ninevah, Basra, Kirkuk and Najaf. The survey found that continuing insecurity has devastated women’s physical wellbeing and greatly restricted their day-to-day lives. About 60 percent of respondents said security was their number one concern, despite an improvement in security since mid-2007. Some 55 percent said that they were directly or indirectly victims of violence since the US-led

Ending violence against women
Adam Makary, Al Jazeera 3/8/2009
Hibaaq Osman campaigns to end violence against women in North Africa and the Middle East - In many countries women are active participants in the political process and have made progress toward some economic equality. However, women’s rights to life, to physical integrity, to health, to education, to freedom from violence, remains largely unfulfilled. Nowhere is this more evident than for women living in poverty. International Women’s Day, March 8, is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. On the occasion of the Day, Al Jazeera interviewed Hibaaq Osman, the founder and chair of Karama, a regional movement of activists collaborating across eight civil society sectors to end violence against women in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2002, she was appointed the Special Representative to Africa, Middle East, and Asia for V-Day, a global movement to stop. . .

’Women at risk’ amid economic woes
Al Jazeera 3/8/2009
The global economic crisis could put more women and girls at risk of violence, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women has said on the occasion of International Women’s Day. With the World Bank predicting that 53 million more people could be pushed into poverty in developing countries this year, progress towards gender equality could be disrupted, Yakin Erturk said on Sunday. "It is expected that women and girls in both developed and developing countries will be particularly affected by job cuts, loss of livelihoods, increased responsibilities in all spheres of their life, and an increased risk of societal and domestic violence," she said. Erturk pointed to studies which say that women are particularly exposed to violence when men lose their livelihoods or homes due to economic crises, conflict or foreign occupation.

Founder of prison-based terrorist group sentenced to 16 years
Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times 3/7/2009
Kevin James, founder of Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, a terrorist group that targeted the U. S. government and supporters of Israel, pleaded guilty in 2007 of conspiring against the United States. - The founder of a prison-based terrorist group that targeted the U. S. government and supporters of Israel was sentenced Friday to 16 years in federal prison. Kevin James, 32, who founded Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, or JIS, pleaded guilty in 2007 of plotting "to levy war against the United States through terrorism. " On Friday, U. S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney described James as "the mastermind and architect of a terrorist conspiracy" to attack LAX, Army recruiting centers and the Israeli Consulate. Still, Carney said he believed James felt genuine remorse and had written him "the most powerful letter I’ve ever received" as a judge.

Turkish minister warns Obama against ’genocide’ recognition
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/9/2009
ANKARA: Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Sunday there was a "risk" that US President Barack Obama would recognize the massacre of Armenians a century ago as genocide. But Babacan said in an interview with the NTV television channel that such a move would only impede efforts to reconcile Turkey and Armenia. Obama, who is expected to visit Turkey in April, said several times during his election campaign that he would recognize the 1915-1917 massacres under the Ottoman Empire as genocide. The United States has previously condemned the killings while not calling them genocide to avoid tensions with Turkey, a NATO member and key Middle East ally. "I still see a risk," Babacan said. "Mr Obama made the promise five times in a row. "He added however that "The new American administration understands Turkey’s sensibilities better today" and called on the US not to interfere in the dispute between the neighbors.


Another war crime in Jerusalem
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 3/8/2009
      A lot of anxiety and worry hovers over the lives of the people of Silwan in the Bustan neighborhood. This emotional strain is the consequence of the occupied municipality’s plan in Jerusalem (Plan E/J/9) which calls for the demolishing of 88 buildings housing 115 families. Simply, this will make around 1500 Jerusalemites homeless; the number includes women, babies, and elderly people. All will lose houses they inherited from their parents and grandparents, most of which have been built before the Israeli state came to existence.
     The coming demolishing campaign for the 115 families in Bustan is not the only expected one, and a similar destiny awaits around 60% of the houses in Wad Hilwa in the same village. All these places are facing the threat of demolition on grounds that they have been built either without a building permit or upon archeological sites.

Women’s Day on the Radio: their children must be released from Israeli prisons

Mazin Qumsyieh, Palestine News Network 3/8/2009
      Beit Sahour - Driving from Beit Sahour to Birzeit yesterday, I was listening to a program on radio Falastin titled "Wala Budda LilQayd An Yankasir".
     The term is a verse from a poem that roughly translates that "the chain is destined to be broken."
     The program is a lifeline for the nearly 13,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails to hear from their families outside the prison walls.Since visitation rights are routinely denied or highly restricted, family members call in and have three minutes to say something on air.For those prisoners who have access to radio, it is a way to hear and connect with their loved ones.I listened for nearly one hour to impassioned messages and harrowing stories.
     All the voices I heard were of women.
     One woman started her message by saluting women prisoners on International women’s day and specifically mentioned one leading prisoner, a friend of hers whom she shared a prison room with the year before.
     She went on to encourage all prisoners to be steadfast. Then she directed her message to her husband, still in prison.

Where Every Day Is a Woman’s Day

Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 3/8/2009
      BET SAHOUR, West Bank, Mar 8 (IPS) - We’ve been warned she’s a "harsh case". Hesitantly she enters, a withdrawn smile hidden behind glasses and a canopy of thick black hair. Impassively, she tells her life story - as if it’s about someone else entirely: She’s 19. Since seven, she’s been sexually assaulted by "an influential family relative."
     He used to tell her what they were doing was "normal between a man and a woman." She felt secluded from her own family by a vow forced upon her not to reveal their ’little secret’: "I didn’t know what to do - he’s so well-known in our community. I couldn’t speak to my dad whom I love so much. My mother was of little comfort. I was afraid."
     Last year, she heard two younger sisters suffered the same ordeal. But, they were now married, whereas she remained at home, alone in her helplessness. Two months ago, she left, "not knowing where to go."
     Finally, she found a haven within the ochre walls of this new complex on a Bethlehem hillside looking down on the rugged Judean desert - the Mehwar Centre for the Protection and the Empowerment of Families and Women. At this centre every day is a woman’s day, every week a woman’s week.

No more excuses for Egypt: refuse British aid convoy entrance to Gaza

PNN, Palestine News Network 3/8/2009
      Gaza -- No longer can we make excuses for the Egyptians, no matter how often they put their names atop "negotiations" between Fateh and Hamas, and with the Israelis.
     Today, after a journey that began on 14 February, the largest British convoy finally arrived to its final border passage bringing humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza.
     Hundreds of people and vehicles made it through Europe and northern Africa, but it was the Egyptian authorities who refused today the introduction of a convoy for Gaza. Instead the Egyptians insisted they pass through the Israeli border crossing of Karem Abu Salem.
     For his part the Minister of Social Affairs in the government of Gaza, Dr. Ahmed Kurd, confirmed at a press conference at the gate of the crossing on Sunday night that the convoy included British Parliamentarian George Galloway. He, and other officials, held talks with the Egyptian authorities imploring them to allow the entrance of critically needed medicine, food and blankets.

Israeli right-wing cabinet will increase extremism in the region, challenge the US

Riad Kahwaji, Daily Star 3/9/2009
      As the majority of governments in the Arab world struggle to win the battle over the spread of extremism in order to defeat Al-Qaeda, and as the new US administration of President Barack Obama starts an uphill battle to undo the mess left behind in the greater Middle East region by the Bush administration, an extreme right-wing government starts to take shape in Israel under Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu threatening to place the volatile region on a steady course toward more extremism and instability, and likely new military confrontations.
     Just when there are new efforts in Washington to revive the Middle East peace process that suffered serious setbacks during the George W. Bush era, hardline parties advocating anti-peace policies have won a majority of Knesset seats, poising them to form the next Israeli government. While moderate Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt fiercely push their way to consolidate and unify Arab ranks against growing Iranian influence and rise of Islamist extremism in the region, Israel’s shift to the far right with more radical policies expected to take form will likely seek to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem, build up to 70,000 housing units in West Bank Jewish settlements, and carry out heavier attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.