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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
9 March, 2009

Homes in southern Nablus slated for eviction
ISM 3/9/2009
Six homes in the village of A’qraba have received eviction orders.  14 homes in the area received similar orders in 2008. Among those houses slated for demolition is an electricity station, a mosque, a well and two houses for animals. The villagers in the area believe that this is an attempt by the Israeli government to remove all Palestinians who are now living in ‘Area C’ (close to the Jordan River) to ‘Area B’, to make room for settlement expansion. Ma’an News ReportIsrael 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.

Aid convoy enters Gaza Strip
Al Jazeera 3/9/2009
A British convoy carrying medical relief for the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip has crossed into the territory from Egypt. Gazans cheered and waved Palestinian flags as the convoy finally entered the territory through the Rafah border crossing on Monday, after being stranded on the Egyptian side of the border for two days. "The group was stopped at the border for various reasons, there were various negotiations going on over what would be let through the border; how many people, how much humanitarian aid," Al Jazeera’s Todd Baer, reporting from the Rafah crossing, said. "After an 8,000km journey, nearly one month on the road and a day and a half on the Egypti
an side of the Rafah border, the Lifeline for Gaxa convoy finally made it into the Gaza Strip. The convoy is led by George Galloway, a British member of parliament. -- See also: Viva Palestina

Israeli Settlers Terrorise Palestinian Villagers
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 3/9/2009
AT TUWANI, West Bank, Mar 9(IPS) - "I couldn’t run. My pregnancy was too far advanced and there was nowhere to hide," said Amna Salman Rabaye, 31, as she recalled the terrifying incident several months ago. Rabaye from the Palestinian Bedouin village of At Tuwani in the southern West Bank was grazing her sheep when she was assaulted by a security guard from the adjacent illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’on. "We saw a group of masked Israeli settlers armed with sticks and chains heading towards us. The younger shepherds ran and managed to escape, leaving me with the flock of sheep," Rabaye told IPS. "It was physically impossible for me to run and I also didn’t want the settlers to kill or steal my sheep. The security guard pushed me over but I was not injured," recalled Rabaye who was then seven months pregnant.

New Israeli decision to annex 142 Dunams in Bil’in
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
The Israeli Authorities decided to annex 142 Dunams of Palestinian lands that belong to the residents in Ni’lin village, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. On Sunday, the villagers found the military order attached to the gate of the Annexation Wall. The popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in reported that the annexation orders affect the following areas; 1- A piece of land in the basin part 3 of the site Wa’aret Almizan and Kherbet em Althenen from the territory of the village of Bil’in. 2- The basin natural part of the No. 3 position from the territory Alryan from Der Qidis village. 3- The basin natural part of the No. 2 position Alskarh of the territory from the Kharbtha Bani Hareth village. The committee said that it would file an appeal against the Israeli decision and asked its lawyer to start the needed legal measures.

2,000 Palestinians to be displaced, 73,000 settlement units planned
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 3/9/2009
Since the beginning of this year, Occupation forces have escalated Jewish-only settlement construction in parallel with demolitions of Palestinian homes. 73,000 new settlement-housing units are planned - many of them in Jerusalem – while the Palestinian capital faces ever more virulent ethnic cleansing policies. Demolition campaigns have increased tremendously in the Jerusalem, and the Occupation municipality in Jerusalem has decided to demolish 88 houses in a Silwan neighborhood, housing 1500 people, and 55 houses around Ras Shahada in Shufat refugee camp, from which 500 people will be expelled. Movement in and out of Jerusalem was also curtailed last month with the closing of the Dahayat al-Barid checkpoint, which was the main access point for 60,000 Jerusalemites living in ar-Ram and the northern parts of Jerusalem.

Jewish settlers storm Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on birthday of Muslim Prophet Mohammed
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 3/9/2009
PNN exclusive -- As the Israeli assault on Palestinians in Jerusalem reaches increasingly alarming levels of extremism, 30 Jewish settlers stormed Al Aqsa Mosque this morning. The Israeli administration is demolishing, or overtaking for settlers, Palestinian homes in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, Shu’afat, Beit Hanina, and points between within East Jerusalem. On Monday morning Jewish settlers dressed in civilian clothes, appearing to be tourists while carrying religious garb and tools for Jewish prayer in their bags, entered the Muslim holy site. They were preparing to perform religious rituals for Purim, the Jewish holiday that has the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and certainly the Gaza Strip, under lock-down. A guard at Al Aqsa Mosque took notice and immediately informed Waqf (the Islamic ministry) officials. Police intervened and prevented the intruders from performing the act described as “humiliating” for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

Situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, officials say
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The situation in Gaza is “ready to blow out” if the Israeli siege on the area continues, local analysts said Sunday. The siege crippled Gaza before the war, the war destroyed whatever was left of both human and material reserves, and a continued siege is putting Gaza on the edge of a precipice Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from Gaza Faisal Abu Shahla said during a television interview at Ma’an. “The situation is very dangerous” Abu Shaahla said angrily, adding “the goods are running out of the markets…and anything smuggled in is ten times its ordinary price. ”UN media adviser Adnan Abu Hasna confirmed Abu Shahla’s assessment, adding that it is a shame that finds are available but that until now no reconstruction materials have been allowed into Gaza. Gazans whose windows were broken during the war, and that was most homes, have been unable to replace the glass.

Gaza crossings allow fraction of waiting aid, fuel into Strip
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli authorities opened all three commercial crossing points of the Gaza Strip Monday, allowing only a fraction of the waiting food products, humanitarian aid and fuel purchased for Gaza residents into the area. According to Raed Fattuh, chair of the Gazan committee for entry of goods, Israel partially opened the Kerem Shalom crossing to let in 110 truckloads 38 of which are humanitarian aid for UN and other agencies. Only 62 trucks are destined for the Gazan private sector, including frozen meats, flour, sugar, rice, beans, cooking oil, disposable diapers, toilet paper and blankets. An unknown number of trucks carrying agricultural products including fruits and fertilized eggs, are also expected to transfer their goods into Gaza Monday. Fattuh added that Israel opened Karni crossing as well to let in 45 truckloads of wheat and fodder for commercial and. . .

Rafah remains closed to human traffic; stranded Gazans appeal to PA
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Stranded on the borders between Egypt and Gaza, hundreds of Gazans are waiting to pass into Egypt for treatment, or back into Gaza to be with their families. Those trapped have expressed strong resentment of the administrative chaos they have been trying to negotiate in the process of getting (or not getting) visas to cross the land border. They are calling on Egypt to open the crossing as soon as possible, and officials have responded saying only that it will be open soon. The de facto Ministry of the Interior in Gaza responded to the calls by announcing they had registered more than 3,000 foreign residency holders and 600 patients waiting to cross into Egypt. They demanded that the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s ambassador to Egypt increase his efforts in having the crossing opened. The crossing was last open from 22-25 February, when more than 1,500 individuals passed through the border.

IDF imposes closure on West Bank ahead of Purim
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
The Israel Defense Forces imposed a general closure on the West Bank at midnight Sunday ahead of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins on Monday evening. The army said it will lift the closure at midnight Wednesday in accordance with security assessments. "The IDF regards the Purim holiday as a highly sensitive period in terms of the security risk," it stated in a communique. In addition to the closure, the IDF was also to boost its deployment in areas it views as "points of friction. "The army said it would do this in order to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens, while preserving the daily life of the Palestinian population to the best of its ability. Palestinians in need of medical care will be permitted to pass into Israel proper in order, the army said.

Resistance against the Wall widens in the north
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 3/9/2009
The protests against the Wall expanded this week, as villagers in the isolated communities of Wadi Rasha and Ras Tira turned out to fight the re-rerouting of the Wall in Qalqilya. Weekly protests against the Wall were also held in Jayyous, Ni’lin, Bil’in and al-Ma’sara. In Ni’lin, the demonstration was fired upon shortly after the completion of Friday prayers, and clashes ensued between youth and soldiers. Occupation forces later invaded the village in an attempt to surrounded local youth, taking up positions on rooftops in the village center. A total of eight people were injured over the course of the day, three from live bullets. Demonstrations continued this Friday in Bil’in, where protesters carried Palestinian flags and banners condemning the Wall and settlements, especially the recent plan to build 75 new housing units. Protesters also condemned the recent house demolitions in al-Bustan and Ras Khamis in Jerusalem.

Rights group demands freeze on Israeli exploitation of West Bank quarries
Haaretz, ISM 3/9/2009
Israel is violating international law by exploiting the West Bank’s mineral resources for its own benefit, an Israeli human rights group charged in a court petition Monday. In the petition filed to Israel’s Supreme Court, the Yesh Din group charges that 75 percent of the rock and gravel removed from 11 West Bank rock quarries is transferred to Israel. The group is demanding a halt to all Israeli mining activity in the West Bank. The mining activities are illegal and executed though brutal economic exploitation of occupied territory for the economic needs of the State of Israel, the occupying power, reads the petition. Israel, which occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, denies any violations. The West Bank is home to some 2. 4 million Palestinians and around 280,000 Israeli settlers. Citing a military document, the petition says 9 million of the 12. . . -- See also: Download the petition (PDF, English translation) and Yesh Din - Photo slideshow of West Bank quarries

Petition: Stop mining West Bank quarries
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Human rights group petitions High Court for injunction against Israeli operations in quarries located in Palestinian territory, claims it violates international law -The Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights group petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday seeking both an interim order and an injunction against the operation of 10 Israeli-controlled quarries in West Bank. The petition claimed that mining natural resources located on occupied territory and transferring them to for use of an occupying state, was de facto plundering and therefore in breach of international law. The group further demanded that all mining activities be halted immediately and that no new mining permits be issued. These activities, said the petition, "are the manifestation of Israel’s brutal financial exploitation of occupied territory in favor of its own interests.

Hebron: Military takes over Palestinian lands for settlement road
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
Israeli forces are also reported to have kidnapped peace activists The Israeli military took over 12. 5 acres of Palestinian farmlands that belong to villagers near the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Monday. Abed al-Hadi Hantash, a Palestinian expert on settlements and maps, told reporters that the lands are going to be used to open a road for settlers living at the illegal settlement of Karme’el, near Yatta village. The head of the village council of Um Losfi, near Yatta, Jaber Abu Ihmed, said that soldiers came to begin their work on Monday morning. He added that two members of the American based group Christian Peace Maker were kidnapped by Israeli troops when they tried to stop the work. Abu Ihmed called upon international human rights groups to help the villagers; he said that the military has already started to build the road.

First joint Fateh-Hamas statement comes from the prisons on a real national reconciliation
Ali Samoudi for PNN, Palestine News Network 3/9/2009
Jenin - In the Al Naqab Israeli prison where hundreds of Palestinians are held in tents, the factions stated today that internal dialogue in Cairo "reflects clear, positive effects in the atmosphere between the Fateh and Hamas parties. "This is in reference to the current national reconciliation talks hosted by the Egyptians. Hamas and Fateh have been able to formulate and issue a joint statement, the first reversal of the strife in years. "This is the first time that the page has really turned on the issue. The parties are now showing full interest in resolving the conflict. A joint statement is a major step," our sources told PNN correspondent Ali Samoudi. "The past is being left behind and a new chapter is opening to establish positive relations that extend to the prisoners and to move home. "PNN learned that over the past few days that some of the Hamas and Fateh leadership have worked toward a real solution, contributing to an internal atmosphere that supports the internal dialogue.

Representatives of Hamas and other Palestinian factions leave for Cairo talks
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
Representatives of the ruling Hamas party, as well as other Palestinian parties, left Gaza on Monday for Cairo-hosted national unity talks. The Hamas’s delegation was named as Mahmoud Alzahhaer for the elections committee, Isamail Alashqar for the security committee, Khalil Alhaiya for the government committee, Nezar Awadallah for the conciliation committee and Mousa Abu Marzouq of Damascus for the PLO committee. The five committees will be holding talks with Fatah counterparts at an Egyptian government premises in Cairo, starting tomorrow. Spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, told media outlets today that the committees need time to finalize all outstanding issues, and that such a discussion requires genuine Arab intervention. Fatah’s representative to Cairo, Nabil Sha’ath, voiced optimism yesterday toward success of unity talks at this time, as Palestinian President Mahmoud. . .

France urges Israel to open Gaza Strip crossings
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – France is demanding that Israel open its crossings with the Gaza Strip, according to a statement sent to Ma’an from the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday. “Gaza’s reconstruction and the poor humanitarian and economic situation will not improve but through opening the crossings permanently,” the statement said. The Foreign Ministry also warned that reconstruction “will not be carried out” without a significant change in Israel’s handling of the issue of crossings at its borders with Gaza. According to a spokesperson, the Palestinian Authority “has proved its ability to achieve results, particularly in the fields of security,” and should be permitted to manage funds “at the heard of the reconstruction process. ”The statement noted that “2009 should be the year of establishing the Palestinian state,” and with the “active assistance of France.

British lifeline convoy enters Gaza amid warm popular and official reception
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- All members of the British lifeline for Gaza convoy headed by house of commons member George Galloway has crossed Monday evening into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing amid warm popular and official reception. As he entered Gaza, Galloway said he was overwhelmed with happiness at the convoy’s arrival on the anniversary of Prophet Mohammad’s birth. "The trip was long and difficult during which we travelled thousands of miles and crossed many borders. We faced difficulties and lost some of the participants, but at the end, we arrived by the grace of God to the holy land," the head of the convoy added. The convoy’s head stressed that all shipments would enter through the Rafah crossing except for two ambulances, one fire truck and some equipment which would be allowed in through the Awja crossing, adding that Red Cross workers would drive some aid trucks through Israeli checkpoints into Gaza.

Viva Palestina, the lifeline from the people of Britain has arrived in Gaza
Mary Arthur, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
After another morning of intense negotiations with Egyptian authorities, a deal was reached to allow all of the members of the convoy to enter Gaza. In the end, Viva Palestina had to make the sacrifice of agreeing to some vehicles, including their mascot, the fire engine and boat entering from the Al-Ouja Israeli controlled crossing point due to restrictions imposed by Egyptian law on the Rafah Crossing. A tearful Talat Ali said ’Rafah is the most beautiful crossing in the world’. He added that the time , effort and sacrifices put in by all the Viva Palestina family meant that history has been made today - on the day the prophet Mohammed was born. George Galloway made an emotional speech thanking the people of Gaza for the wonderful reception and assuring them "We are all Palestinians. "George also reiterated that the people of Palestine have voted and that their voice should be respected. -- See also: Viva Palestina

'Viva Palestina' arrives in Gaza with 1 million British pounds of aid from three continents
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – After a nearly 8,000 kilometer drive more than 1 million pounds of aid and dozens of vehicles will be trickling into Gaza this week, following the success of George Galloway’s “Viva Palestina” lifeline movement on Monday. Galloway, a British MP, spearheaded the campaign that mobilized thousands of the Muslim community in the UK. Donations for the victims of Israel’s war on the area were collected from several districts in the country, and a convoy of 100 trucks set off from London, drove through France, Spain, boated to Morocco then continued across North Africa to Egypt and waited for two days at the Rafah border. Supervisors of the campaign negotiated with Egyptian officials for two days. On Sunday Egypt allowed a small group of Libyan volunteers into Gaza, and coordinated the passage of three trucks of medical supplies into Israel via Al-Auja crossing to the south of Rafah.

Egyptian authorities promise to allow British lifeline convoy into Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Egyptian officials have promised that they would allow medical relief aid of the British lifeline for Gaza convoy to cross the Rafah border crossing into the Gaza Strip but non-medical goods such as food would have to pass through Israel’s crossings with the Palestinian enclave. News reports also said that the Egyptian authorities agreed to allow the convoy with all its members to cross the Rafah crossing, except heavy equipment such as generators and fire trucks which would cross through the Egyptian-Israeli controlled Awja crossing. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Palestinian minister of social affairs Ahmed Al-Kurd affirmed that the Egyptian authorities promised to allow the lifeline convoy which is still in the Arish city into Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Kurd noted that four people from the convoy had been beaten and assaulted by unknown persons, adding. . .

Galloway protests Israel’s ‘genocidal aggression’
Middle East Online 3/9/2009
RAFAH - British MP George Galloway arrived in Gaza Monday at the head of an aid convoy to protest Israel’s "genocidal aggression" against the Hamas enclave and support the Palestinian "resistance. " The staunchly pro-Palestinian parliamentarian said he was "overwhelmed with happiness" to arrive in Gaza on the birthday of the Muslim prophet Mohammed and in the wake of Israel’s massive offensive at the turn of the year. "I have entered Palestine many times but the most emotional of these is after the 22-day genocidal aggression against the Palestinian people," he told reporters, referring to the war that came to a halt on January 18. He added that he planned to meet "the heroes of Palestine’s resistance, the government of Palestine, the people of Palestine. " Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off from all but limited humanitarian aid since the Islamist Hamas movement seized. . .

Hamas official hails British MP George Galloway as ’hero’ in Gaza
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
A Hamas official on Monday hailed controversial British MP George Galloway as a "hero" upon the lawmaker’s arrival in the Gaza Strip. Galloway entered Gaza from Egypt with an aid caravan. About 50 British and Scottish volunteers and 100 vehicles carrying food, clothing and medicine passed through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with him, a Hamas border official said. Receiving the activists, Ahmed Kurd, Hamas’ minister of social affairs, thanked Galloway for the "noble goodwill gesture" and called the lawmaker a "hero. " Galloway, who was expelled from Britain’s ruling Labour Party in 2003 over statements he made in opposition to the Iraq war, said a total of 300 British citizens and 200 Libyans would be entering Gaza. After entering Gaza, Galloway called the aid a drop in the ocean, but said the trip was to send a message that the lifeline from Britain to Gaza is in.

British MP kisses Gaza ground
Ynet, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Convoy of vehicles carrying food, medicine, and toys travels 12,000 km to enter Gaza through Rafah -A British convoy that embarked 24 days ago on a journey aimed at aiding the Palestinian people of Gaza was allowed into the Strip through the Rafah crossing Monday. British MP George Galloway, who was among those entering Gaza, said the convoy was only the beginning of his battle, and reinforced his comment with a flamboyant kiss to the Gazan ground. George Galloway and entourage at Rafah crossing (Photo: AP)The convoy, brainchild of the ’Viva Palestina’ organization, included 99 vehicles that made a journey of over 12,000 km through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and finally Egypt. It included ambulances, fire trucks, and a boat-carrying truck. The activists carried food, medicine, and toys for the people of Gaza.

Odwan contacts Galloway; urges Egypt to open Rafah doors for life line convoy
Palestinian Information Center 3/8/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Former PA minister MP Atef Odwan has telephoned British lawmaker MP George Galloway who leads the British life line convoy but stopped by the Egyptian authorities at Al-Arish city, not so far from Rafah crossing point. According to Odwan, the humanitarian caravan wasn’t yet permitted to enter the besieged Gaza Strip, but he expressed hopes that Egypt would rethink its stand and pave the way for the smooth entry of the convoy. At least two members of convoy were wounded in clashes with the Egyptian security forces who blocked them from proceeding to the Strip where 1. 5 million Palestinian citizens were besieged and left helpless. For his part, Galloway stressed that he wouldn’t enter the tiny Strip without the convoy, explaining that some difficulties were facing the convoy, which is now at Al-Arish waiting for the permit.

Editor Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 3/9/2009
International Activists’ Aid and Solidarity convoy from London pours through the Rafah Crossing into the Gaza. It is around 3. 30 on March 9th, 2009. Al Jazeera English is broadcasting a live shot from the Rafah Crossing into the Gaza Strip, and I can hardly believe my eyes or ears. Hundreds, seemingly thousands, of international activists are pouring through waving flags, cheering and beating drums. Pure jubilation - amidst the ruins of Israel’s recent assault. The convoy, travelling all the way from London, was never expected to make it. It has arrived and celebrations are erupting throughout the war-torn strip. The people of Gaza, indeed all Palestinians, have been thrown a life-line. The convoy has brought tons of aid and supplies that will provide succor to a few in Gaza - the efforts of one Convoy could never be enough to alleviate a fraction of the suffering of a battered and hungry people. -- See also: Viva Palestina

VIDEO - Dr. Barghouthi on Gaza
Editor Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 3/9/2009
A collection of interviews with Dr Barghouthi during the 22 day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. As the bombs fell upon the besieged Gaza Strip like rain, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, Deputy Director of the Palestinian National Initiative, was invited to speak to a number of news outlets to give the "˜Palestinian side’ of the story. Israel’s media and public relations campaign throughout the war had been as meticulously planned as the military operation itself. Israel had composed a narrative of events and a campaign by which to place this narrative at the forefront of the international community’s collective mind. Palestine has chosen to replay some of the Dr’s interviews throughout the war in hopes of once more challenging the perceptions of what happened and why.

TRCS delegation inspects destroyed Palestinian homes in Jabalia
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A delegation of the Turkish Red Crescent Society on Monday toured the devastated Palestinian homes in Sumud refugee camp east of Jablalia town north of the Gaza Strip. The team members listened to testimonies of many citizens who lost their relatives and homes and fled to nearby areas following the Israeli brutal war on the Strip. The citizens thanked the TRCS delegation for visiting their camp and for providing them with relief assistance. They also hailed the Turkish role during the war on Gaza in support of the Palestinian people. One of the delegates said that the Turkish government and people would continue to support the Palestinian people, and lauded their steadfastness in face of the ferocious Zionist war machine. The delegation announced that it would participate in re-building a number of houses as soon as necessary construction materials were allowed access into the Strip.

Two Gaza patients die at Egyptian hospital
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
Two Palestinian patients from Gaza were pronounced dead at Egyptian hospitals, Palestinian medical sources reported on Monday. Ayah Abdu, age 18, was announced dead on Monday morning. She had been suffering from cancer. Doctors say she was moved to Egypt for treatment, but died on Monday at dawn. Meanwhile, Samier Shaheen, age 40, also suffering from cancer, was pronounced dead on Monday afternoon. He was moved to Egypt for treatment, but died at the borders as he was coming back to the Gaza Strip. Doctors say that there have been many cases in Gaza that they can’t treat because of the continued Israeli siege, adding that patients wait for a long time to get the necessary permissions to leave Gaza for treatment which is putting their lives at risk. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that these last two fatalities bring the number of Palestinians hospital patients. . .

IOA imposes hermetic closure on WB for three days
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli war minister Ehud Barak imposed a hermetic closure on the West Bank as of dawn Monday for three days to celebrate the Jewish feast of Purim, the Hebrew radio reported. It said that the closure would be lifted by midnight Wednesday and would only allow entry of Palestinians into the 1948 occupied Palestine for "humanitarian" conditions after coordinating with the Israeli liaison offices. Meanwhile, a group of Israeli settlers tried to enter the Aqsa Mosque on Monday disguised as foreign tourists. Sources in the Mosque said that the group of 30 settlers wished to celebrate Purim in the Aqsa plazas but the attempt was foiled by the Aqsa guards and citizens. In Nablus, a similar attempt was made by Israeli settlers to pray inside the Nebi Yousef area east of Nablus city. Local sources said that the Israeli occupation forces escorted those settlers to protect them.

Israeli forces take two men from Jenin-area villages
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained two Palestinians from the northern West Bank villages of Fahma and Iqaba on Monday morning. From Fahma, 30-year-old Iyad Nawasra was taken at the military checkpoint of Barta’a south west of Jenin as he was passing through to go to work. From Iqaba, 19-year-old Muthanna Abu Arra was seized from his home after troops stormed the building and ransacked its contents. The villages of Al-Fari’a, Tammun, and Az-Zababda, also in the northern Jenin governorate, were stormed overnight, no seizures were reported. [end]

IOA plans demolition of mosque and six homes in Aqraba
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority has handed inhabitants of Aqraba village, southeast of Nablus city, on Sunday notifications that a mosque and six of their homes would be flattened, locals reported. They charged that the IOA wants to evacuate the entire village of Aqraba after 90% of its land, used in grazing (the main livelihood for the villagers) was confiscated and distributed to four Jewish settlements surrounding the village. The sources also pointed out that four of the village inhabitants were killed at the hands of settlers in those settlements over the past few years. They noted that the settlers recently escalated their attacks and planted roadside bombs, one of which lately blasted killing a man and wounding a child.

Israeli to confiscate Palestinian-owned land near Ramallah
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
On Monday, the Israeli Army decided to confiscate 35. 5 acres of land owned by farmers from the village of Ni’lin, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The villagers said that they found a military order at the gate of the illegal wall Israel is building on the villagers’ land. The popular committee of Nil’in reported that they have contacted the village lawyer to bring their case to the Israeli court, and added that in the 80s, the Israeli Army tried to take over the same area, but the villagers won their court case and stopped Israel from stealing their land. For over a year, the village of Nil’in has been the scene of weekly non-violent protests against the illegal Israeli wall.

Police foil stabbing attack in Jerusalem
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Police arrested two Arab youths carrying a commando blade in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem on Monday, foiling a stabbing attack. During a preliminary investigation, the pair said they had planned on carrying out a terror attack. The attempted stabbing came after two police officers were lightly wounded in Jerusalem on Thursday when an Arab bulldozer driver overturned their police car and rammed it into a bus, before being shot by police and a taxi driver. He later died of his wounds. The attack occurred around 1 P. M. near the Malha shopping mall, on Menachem Begin Boulevard in southern Jerusalem. Police said that a copy of the Koran had been found in the bulldozer after the attack, and that the driver had not been carrying any identification.

Jewish settlers enter Al-Aqsa compound; scuffle avoided
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Dozens of Jewish settlers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound from the Moroccan Gate (Bab Al-Maghariba) Monday afternoon, according to the Al-Aqsa foundation for Waqf and Heritage. The foundation said in a statement that Israeli police guarded settlers who were led by a Rabbi. The group toured the compound starting from the southern mosque to the Marwani mosque in the east. Then they went to the Bab Ar-Rahma (Compassion Gate) in the north, then they headed west then to the (Chain Gate) near the Dome of the Rock staircase. Several settlers tried to enter the Dome of the Rock, but were prevented by the guards. During the tour, settlers performed prayers and rituals, and a heated argument was observed when Muslim worshippers tried to prevent the settlers from performing some of the rites on the holy Islamic area.

Israeli extremists storm al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
A group of 30 Israeli extremist settlers stormed the courtyard of the al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem midday Monday. Palestinian worshippers said that the group were disguised as tourists, and as soon as they were at the main courtyard they started to conduct prayers for the Jewish holiday Purim. Local sources said that Israeli troops and police arrived at the location and moved the settlers away. al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest place for Muslims; Jewish extremists say that the mosque was built on top of the Suleiman Temple, a claim that was not proven by archeologists. In related news, the Israeli military announced a total closure of the Palestinian areas because of the Jewish holiday Purim. The Israeli Army announced that the closure will be implemented from Monday untill Wednesday.

Hizbullah Brigades shell Israeli target near Gaza with RPG
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hizbullah in Palestine claimed responsibility on Monday for firing a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli military jeep northeast of Beit Hanoun in Gaza. In a statement, the group said there were injuries among the Israeli soldiers targeted. That claim could not be independently verified by Ma’an. Meanwhile, the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for targeting the Kisufem military post near central Gaza with two mortars. [end]

Gaza: Israeli forces exchange fire with unknown Palestinian faction
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An unknown Palestinian faction exchanged fire with a unit of Israeli soldiers working near the separation barrier on Gaza’s borders with Israel on Sunday, Israeli sources said. The Israeli forces were reportedly conducting “engineering work” at the electronic fence near the Nireim kibbutz when they heard shots fired. The forces responded by return fire on the unidentified group. No injuries were reported on either the Palestinian or Israeli side. No faction has yet claimed the attack. [end]

Palestine Today 030909
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 00s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for Monday, March 9th, 2009. Two Gazans reported dead and the military confiscates land in the West Bank. , These stories and more coming up - stay tuned. The News Cast Two Palestinian patients from Gaza were pronounced dead at Egyptian hospitals, Palestinian medical sources reported on Monday. Both were suffering from cancer. Doctors say that they have many cases in Gaza that they can’t treat because of the continued Israeli siege. They added that patients wait for a long time to get the necessary permissions to leave Gaza for treatment, putting their lives at risk. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that the two who died today bring the number of patients who have died due to the 21-month Israeli siege to 298.

Islamic Jihad ’signs’ deal not to fire rockets
Middle East Online 3/9/2009
RAMALLAH - Security forces of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza detained several Islamic Jihad activists and made them sign an agreement not to fire rockets at Israel, a Jihad leader said on Monday. "At least 10 activists from the Al-Quds Brigades were arrested by the Hamas interior security," he said in reference to the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad. "They were tortured and interrogated about the identities of those who fire rockets," he reported by telephone under condition of anonymity. "Before they were released they had to sign an agreement not to fire rockets at the occupied territory," he said in reference to Israel whose existence both Hamas and its smaller Islamist rivals in Jihad oppose. A Hamas police spokesman in Gaza City, Islam Shahwan, declined to comment on the report.

Islamic Jihad: Hamas arrested 10 of our men
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Senior group member says detainees include Jihad field commander in Gaza Strip, nine men forced to sign statements pledging to cease rocket fire on Israel prior to being released. ’We have a right to retaliate against enemy’s aggression,’ he adds -The Hamas government in Gaza reportedly arrested 10 al-Quds Brigades gunmen recently for allegedly firing rockets at Israel, a senior Islamic Jihad source told Ynet on Monday. According to the source, the men were arrested in the southern area of the Gaza Strip, near the town of Khan Younis. Among the detainees was a senior Jihad field commander. The latter, the source added, remains the only one in Hamas’ custody, as the other nine were released, but only after they were abused and coerced into signing a statement declaring they would stop firing rockets at Israel.

Report: Mashaal’s deputy receives Shalit video
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Kuwaiti newspaper reports that in addition to letter written by kidnapped Israeli soldier, Hamas’ military wing also gave Abu Marzouk during his visit to Gaza a videotape showing Shalit in good condition. Group plans to use tape as bargaining chip in negotiations for prisoner swap with Israel - Hamas’ deputy politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk received a videotape showing kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit during his recentsecret visit to the Gaza Strip, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida reported Monday, quoting sources close to the Palestinian movement. Shalit is being held captive by Hamas’ military wing. The same newspaper reported about a week ago that Abu Marzouk had also been handed a letter written by the kidnapped soldier. According to the new report, Abu Marzouk received the tape from Ahmad Jabari, the military wing’s commander in Gaza.

Hamas’s Abu Marzouq holds a videotape of captured Israeli soldier
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
Deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, chief Mousa Abu Marzouq, obtained a videotape of captured Israeli soldier, Gil’ad Shalit, during a secret short visit to Gaza on March 5th. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, Aljarida, the tape shows the soldier in good health, adding that a written letter by Shalit was also handed to Abu Marzouq. The letter was handed over by Hamas’ leaders to Abu Marzouq, who did not reveal either details of the tape or the letter until progress on a prisoner swap deal with Israel is achieved. Last week, the Kuwaiti paper reported that Abu Marzouq secretly visited the Gaza Strip and met with family members in the southern city of Rafah, as well as leaders of the ruling Hamas party, including Hamas’s Ezzildin Alqassam. Israeli media reports suggested that the outgoing Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, intends to conclude a prisoner swap deal in exchange. . .

Abu Mujahid: Shalit will not be exchanged for fuel
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit must be dependent on the release of Palestinian prisoners and never to crossings to aid, said Spokesperson of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in the Gaza Strip Abu Mujahid Monday. “The Israeli occupation tried to link the Shalit case to crossing points and humanitarian aid and they failed,” Abu Muhajid said. “They are now trying to link the case to fuel shipments, but this policy will also fail. ”While Israel makes every effort to maneuver the Shalit file they have not made any movement on the names of the Palestinian prisoners that his captors have demanded freed. Abu Mujahid’s comments came in response to Israeli news reports threatening to halt fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip until Shalit is released.

TA: Arab women march against unemployment
Daniel Edelson, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Dozens of women from Galilee, Triangle towns arrive in central city to protest integration of foreign laborers in workforce over them. We have the right to support our children, they say - Residents of Tel Aviv witnessed an unusual spectacle Sunday, in the form of an unemployment protest rally staged by Arab women. Dozens of women, who came to Tel Aviv from the Arab townships of the Galilee area and the Triangle - a concentration of Israeli Arab towns and villages adjacent to the Green Line - wished to protest the growing rate of female unemployment in the Arab sector. "There is a deliberate policy of ’importing’ foreign workers which leads to unemployment among women in the Arab sector," Michal Swartz of the Workers Advice Center told Ynet. "(Foreign workers) make up 50% of the agricultural workforce, effectively closing the door on it as far as Arab women are concerned.

Israeli Arab women march through Tel Aviv demanding jobs
Noah Kosharek, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Dozens of women, most of them Israeli Arabs, marched through the streets of Tel Aviv Sunday, calling on the government to find them jobs in agriculture. Wafa Tayara from Kafr Kara worked for a contractor in the agriculture industry four years ago, before doing the same kind of work through the Workers Advice Center - which organized the protest march from Rothschild Boulevard to Meir Park - and becoming responsible for recruiting more workers for the group, also known as Ma’an. "That was my jumping-off point," she said. "From a worker with no rights or status to a worker with all the rights, and I got a pay slip. "The feeling that she was standing up for herself helped Tayara feel better about life and find the strength to do the housework even after working in the fields all day.

Immigration Police scare off migrants seeking aid in Tel Aviv
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Employees at Kav La’oved, a nonprofit organization that helps migrant workers, were initially puzzled to find their Tel Aviv office deserted Sunday morning, as Sundays usually bring a flood of workers seeking assistance. But then they discovered that two immigration policemen were stationed just outside - one in uniform and one undercover. The policemen were checking the documents of every migrant worker who sought to enter the office, driving many away. Kav La’oved staffers say the policemen told them they had been searching for three suspected illegal persons in nearby Ha’aliyah Street, and after losing sight of the suspects, they reasoned that the three might have sought refuge at Kav La’oved - a conclusion which the staffers thought was unreasonable.

Hamas: The Gaza victory should be embodied through restoring unity
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Monday that there is an urgent need to embody the victory of Gaza in the Israeli war in the political reality through defeating estrangement and division in the Palestinian arena for the sake of the higher national interest. In a press release on the occasion of the birthday of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), Hamas said that the Gaza victory invokes the need to promote the meanings and concepts of brotherhood, unity and love among the Palestinian people and to stand united in the face of the Israeli occupation. Hamas stressed its insistence to render the Cairo reconciliation talks successful and keep extending its hand to all Palestinian factions and forces in order to work together on consolidating the foundations and bonds of the national unity. Hamas called on Fatah faction to take practical and effective decisions for the success. . .

Palestinian delegations head to Cairo; anticipate ten-day challenge
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas, DFLP, PAF, ASF, PPP, PNI, Islamic Jihad, PFLP-GC and the PFLP delegations will leave Gaza and their exile locations Monday and are scheduled to arrive in Cairo by nightfall for ten days of talks, during which the groundwork for restoring a Palestinian government will be laid. Spokesperson of Hamas Fawzi Barhoom said that the committees are free to work until they complete their tasks, but that they are being encouraged to work hard and efficiently in the ten-day window. The outcomes of the committee discussions will be announced once all five committees have concluded and agreements on all issues have been reached. The outcomes will be implemented almost immediately, Barhoum added. Facilitating the work of each of the five committees will be an Egyptian member. Barhoum noted that each committee will have three Fatah, three from Hamas, while other. . .

Mizhir: 'PFLP participation in a unity government depends on its agenda'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
Jamil Mizhir, member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), reported that the optimism towards reconciliation and the recent developments in unity talks does not mean negate upcoming difficulties and require strong political will. Mizhir added that optimism of a solution by the internal talks committees does not negate the fact that there are still obstacles and difficulties in front of internal unity talks. He stated that resolving the difficulties requires a strong political will from all factions. Commenting of the PFLP’s participation in the unity government, Mizhir said that the participation depends on the formula and agenda on the new government. He said that the PFLP wants a unity government that includes independent and public figures, and that its agenda should be based on the National Unity Document.

Barhoum: We are determined to end division
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Fazwi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, has affirmed that his Movement was determined to end the inter-Palestinian rift and was heading to Cairo with a clear vision on means of ending that division. Barhoum told the PIC on Monday that the five committees formed by the Palestinian factions to discuss the PLO, elections, conciliation, security apparatuses and unity government would start sessions on Tuesday. He opined that the talks would not be easy in the light of the complicated issues to be discussed. "However, we are going to the dialog with a clear vision to end the discord and to achieve national reconciliation". The spokesman hoped that all Arab and Palestinian efforts would back the dialog to bring about positive results.

PNI Marks Israeli Apartheid Week: Urges international community to embrace the Global Campaign of BDS
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 3/9/2009
The , PNI, has been on the local forefront of encouraging boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel in response to the ongoing occupation since the unified call was raised by Palestinians on July 9th, 2007. The Palestinian National Initiative, PNI, has been on the local forefront of encouraging boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel in response to the ongoing occupation since the unified call was raised by Palestinians on July 9th, 2007. Since the recent massacre in the Gaza Strip, we have begun to pick up more and more momentum in a world slightly more aware of the brutality and asymmetry of our struggle. Now, in the midst of Israeli Apartheid Week, it is time to build upon this momentum in order to build the truly global movement needed to change realities on the ground. For this reason PNI, in cooperation and collaboration with hundreds and thousands. . .

Al Jazeera attacked in Gaza City
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/9/2009
Gaza City - After years of assaults on the most popular news channel in the Middle East, mostly coming from the US and Israeli administrations, local people planted a bomb this weekend. Israeli forces have recently attacked members of the Palestinian media, their vehicles and offices. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the attack at the office of the Al Jazeera Satellite Channel in Gaza City. According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 21:00 on Saturday, 07 March, Wissam Hammad, 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. When he received the phone call, Wissam Hammad was in the Al Jazeera office, which is located on the eleventh floor of the al-Jalaa’ Building in the center of Gaza City.

Karnit Goldwasser: This is a fight for our values
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Widow of Hizbullah-held soldier visits Gilad Shalit’s parents’ protest tent in Jerusalem, says fight for their son’s release is a struggle for Israeli society’s values, price irrelevant -Karnit Goldwasser, the widow of IDF soldier Ehud Goldwasser who was killed while in Hizbullah captivity and returned to Israel as part of its 2008 prisoner exchange deal with the Shiite group, visited the Shalit family’s protest tent outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Jerusalem home Monday. Noam and Aviva Shalit, whose son Gilad was abducted by Hamas in 2006, set up a protest tent across from the premier’s residence on Sunday, after Olmert was quoted as saying that the public demonstrations calling for their son’s release were "unhelpful. " "His name may be Gilad Shalit, but he represents every soldier in the military. What are we fighting for - a single soldier or our values? This is an IDF soldier who was abducted and (the politicians) would rather we forget that," she said.

Heated argument between Olmert and Barack over resuming truce talks with Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli media outlets reported that a strong argument took place Sunday between Israeli minister Ehud Olmert and his war minister Ehud Barak over the resumption of Egyptian-mediated truce talks with the Hamas Movement and the value of operation cast lead against Gaza. The Hebrew radio said that the argument broke out during the weekly cabinet meeting when Olmert reiterated that there would be no calm agreement with Hamas before the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, while the IOF website said that Barack insisted during the meeting on resuming calm talks with Hamas through the Egyptian mediator. Directing his talk to Barack, Olmert stressed that the war minister’s statements bore out that the military operation against Gaza did not yield any results in favor of Israel. "The minister of defense (Barack) changes his opinion and positions according to his mood.

ANALYSIS / Shalit family are Olmert’s most polite opponents
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could not have wished for more gentlemanly opponents than the Shalit family. The kidnapped soldier’s parents have been tiptoeing around for nearly 1,000 days now, careful not to disturb the delicate negotiations or make false accusations. We can only imagine what Noam and Aviva Shalit would be doing if they were a little more aggressive. Think of Miryam Groff, the mother of soldier Yoske Groff, who was captured in Lebanon in 1982 and released in the Jibril exchange. The Shalit family, in contrast, pitched their tent outside the prime minister’s residence after considerable deliberations and after quite a delay. The Free Shalit campaign is pulling out all its ammunition - interviews, advertisements featuring Gilad, the tent. Even Tzvi Shalit, the most articulate family member, has been summoned to the front.

Noam Shalit: Public supports Gilad’s release - now
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Hundreds of people visit protest tent set up outside PM’s residence by kidnapped soldier’s family. Olmert’s wife invites Shalit’s parents into house - Kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’s father, Noam, is encouraged by the massive support his family is receiving at the protest tent set up outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. "We are here to bring this matter to the public’s test, to see whether it supports Gilad’s release, despite what we are hearing from other elements," Shalit told Ynet. "There is proof that the public supports Gilad’s release - immediately. " Hundreds of residents continued to flock to the protest tent on Monday, some bringing Purim gifts and letters, others asking to shake Noam Shalit’s hand and express their support for his family. Shalit said the public’s support was heartwarming.

Barak, Ron Arad’s relatives join Shalits in protest tent
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday joined the parents of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad shalit in a protest tent they had erected in Jerusalem. Earlier Monday, Aviva and Noam Shalit were visited by the brother and daughter of missing Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad. "We are here to strengthen the hands of the Shalit family and lend our voice to their struggle. The government has to make a bold decision and bring Gilad home as quickly as possible," said Yuval Arad, Ron Arad’s daughter. "The [government’s] treatment of the Shalits is illegitimate. The family does not have a clear picture of what is being done," said Chen, the missing airman’s brother. The public campaign for Shalit’s release shifted gears Sunday as the soldier’s parents erected the tent in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

Ron Arad’s family: Bring Shalit back now
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 3/9/2009
’Speaking from 23 years of experience, regime changes are always problematic,’ missing navigator’s daughter says at protest tent set up my captive soldier’s parents in Jerusalem. Barak confronted by dozens chanting ’we want him home; we want him now’ -"The government that was in power when Gilad Shalit was taken captive must take responsibility and work towards securing his release," the daughter of missing Israeli navigator Ehud Olmert’s Jerusalem residence. "Speaking from 23 years of experience, regime changes are always problematic (when it comes to bringing captive soldiers home)," Yuval Arad said. "We are here to support Noam and Aviva Shalit (Gilad’s parents) and are joining the struggle for Gilad’s return. A brave decision must be made in order to bring him home as soon as possible.

Petition: If I’m taken captive, don’t pay any price
Roi Mandel, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Jerusalem resident publishes petition on internet calling on civilians, soldiers to sign that they are opposed to releasing murderers if kidnapped. ’Clearly, mass release of terrorists increases chances that I will be taken captive,’ he says - A petition circulated recently on the internet calls for civilians and soldiers to sign a declaration asserting that if they are kidnapped, the government must not secure their release by freeing terrorists. Yaron Toren, 37, of Jerusalem, is not part of a bereaved family. The petition is his own private initiative. When the cabinet discussed two weeks ago linking the opening of the Gaza border crossings to kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’s release, Toren wrote the petition and started circulating it among his family, friends, and acquaintances. From here, it snowballed.

Dichter claims Palestinian Resistance obtained anti-aircraft missiles
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
Israel’s Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, claimed on Sunday that Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza managed in recent days to obtain anti-aircraft missiles. He called for further strikes against the resistance. The statements of Dichter came during the weekly cabinet meeting. He warned that arms smuggling into Gaza is ongoing, and that Hamas is managing to store missiles and explosives, and continues to develop shells. The security chief slammed Egypt for what he described as "[a] lack of action against arms smuggling". He also claimed that Hamas and other factions are continuing their attempts to attack Israeli targets, and that the resistance is firing at least five homemade shells into Israel every day. "Hamas is seeking to re-arm and rebuild its infrastructure after the war" Dichter stated, "[w]e need to continue our strikes against Hamas and other factions in Gaza; we need to hit more tunnels and infrastructure".

Bibi has a partner
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Shortly after the Annapolis Summit, Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the U. S. , was invited to a farewell meeting at the White House. President George W. Bush was in a jovial mood. "Condi [former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice] and I are very optimistic about the peace process," the president said, "but Elliot [Abrams] is quite pessimistic. "The veteran Egyptian diplomat turned to look at Abrams, at the time charged with the Middle East portfolio at the National Security Council. "Unfortunately," he said, "this is the first time that I am in agreement with Elliot. "Even then, Fahmy recognized that Bush had no intention of doing anything besides making declarations. Now Abrams is recommending that President Barack Obama’s administration learn a lesson from the outlook that led to the "failed Annapolis process.

No secret that Palestinian judicial system in need of improvement: will EU project help or hinder?
Tamer Maliha, Palestine News Network 3/9/2009
Ramallah - It is no secret, not unknown to the Palestinian street that the judicial system is in sore need of help, but it remains in question whether a European Union-funded project will help or hinder. The ’Seyada’ Project’ for Empowering the Palestinian Judicial System is underway. It is in partnership with Palestinian Authority Attorney Al-Mugani, is building a legal framework to improve ’General Prosecution’ guidelines under Palestinian law. The conference is being held at the Jericho Intercontinental Hotel this Friday, Saturday, Sunday 6, 7, 8 March 2009. Seyada, funded by the European Union, has invited all 99 members of the General Prosecution in the West Bank to debate the newly developed guidelines for the public prosecution, a briefing on the Palestinian Judicial Institute and ceremony for recent training course graduates. The Judicial Institute was established last year and supported by Seyada under the PA Justice ministry to provide training for judges, prosecutors and staff.

Hamas’ popularity rises after Israel’s Gaza war
Reuters, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Poll shows Islamist group’s leader Haniyeh would beat Palestinian President Abbas if elections were held today; however 71 percent of Palestinians believe they are worse off than they were before IDF offensive - Hamas’ popularity among Palestinians has risen sharply since a three-week Israeli war in January devastated the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip, an opinion poll released on Monday showed. If an election were held today, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would beat Mahmoud Abbas, the Western-backed Palestinian president and leader of Fatah who advocates a peace deal with Israel. The face-to-face poll of 1,270 people by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research was conducted on March 5-7 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as the factions tried to reach agreement on a unity government with Egyptian mediation.

Poll: Hamas more popular after Gaza offensive
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Hamas’s popularity among Palestinians has risen sharply since Israel’s three-week offensive against the Islamist group in Gaza last month, an opinion poll released on Monday showed. If an election were held today, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would beat Mahmoud Abbas, the Western-backed Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, who advocates a peace deal with Israel. The face-to-face poll of 1,270 people by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research was conducted on March 5-7 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as the rival factions tried to reach agreement on a unity government with Egyptian mediation. Hamas, which Western powers shun as a terrorist organization, won a Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip the next year in a bloody [counter-]coup.

Hebron residents commemorate the birthday of the Prophet at Ibrahimi Mosque
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Thousands of Palestinians attended a ceremony at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron commemorating the birthday of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad Monday. The occasion is one of the rare moments that Israeli authorities allow Palestinians to access all of the Ibrahimi Mosque’s facilities. The mosque was divided into Muslim and Jewish sections by an Israeli government special committee called “Shamgar committee” after a 1994 massacre that took place in the mosque when a American-Jewish settler opened fire on Muslim worshippers killing and injuring 26 at dawn prayer. The event will see local imams and sheikhs speak to believers on the life and work of the Prophet. The day is a holiday for most institutions in the West Bank and Gaza.

World takes dim view of Lieberman in FM post
Assaf Uni and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
American and European officials have thus far declined to comment publicly on the expected appointment of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister. Behind the scenes, however, many officials are asking whether this appointment is really necessary - and newspapers on both continents are criticizing the move openly. The official position in Washington is that Barack Obama’s administration will work with whatever Israeli government is ultimately established. Beyond that, American officials are keeping mum. But the "Lieberman question" continually arises in State Department briefings for journalists and in other forums. And opinion columns in the American press have presented Lieberman in an extremely negative light, with comparisons to Austria’s Joerg Haider and even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, (both use "ultranationalist rhetoric of hate," one paper charged).

Netanyahu’s bankruptcy
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
The coalition agreement being forged between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu threatens the law-enforcement system and the rule of law in Israel, and reflects moral bankruptcy on the part of Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu refused to moderate his political positions to enable the formation of a broad government with Kadima, while violating his campaign promise that he would work to form a national unity government. He is paying the price for his political inflexibility by placing responsibility for the Justice Ministry and the Public Security Ministry, and perhaps the Judicial Appointments Committee and the Knesset Constitution Committee, in the hands of Avigdor Lieberman and those he will recommend for the posts. There is a serious ethical problem with the fact that a person suspected of serious offenses, like. . .

Netanyahu: Coalition talks far from over
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Prime minister-designate briefs Likud members on efforts to form new government, warns public statements on negotiation’s progress may weaken party’s standing -Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that the coalition negotiations were far from over. Speaking at aLikud faction meeting, Netanyahu said that "the negotiations are in their midst and we are focusing on substance as well as on the portfolios. " You must remember that (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor) Lieberman won 15 mandates. Kadima doesn’t want a unity government and (Labor Chairman Ehud) Barak made stipulations that would have required us to break from our natural partners. " The realities of the negotiations are very complex, he added, and "discussing them in public only weakens our standing.

Netanyahu looks to rally Likud MKs frustrated over portfolios
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu sought on Monday to counter criticism from within his Likud party over his perceived generosity in distributing ministerial positions to prospective coalitional partners. "The coalition talks have not ended," the Likud chief told party colleagues. "They are at their apex, both in terms of the principle and in terms of portfolios. " Netanyahu mentioned the large number of Knesset seats won by Yisrael Beiteinu in last month’s general election in a bid to temper the heavy criticism leveled at him by party lawmakers who had hoped to be named top ministers in his cabinet. "Kadima does not want a unity government and there are limiting factors presented by Barak that would force us to part ways with our natural partners," he added.

Olmert, Barak spending last moments in office bickering
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
They have only a few weeks left in office, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are still arguing over the Gaza Strip. Olmert is claiming Barak’s efforts to reach a deal in the Strip are weakening the achievements of Operation Cast Lead. The two erstwhile leaders started arguing after Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said Hamas was newly willing to be flexible on some issues because the military operation had created deterrence. But Olmert interrupted him after he said the Egyptians were discussing an "arrangement" with Hamas, with Israeli support. "There are no talks of an arrangement with Hamas," Olmert said. After Yadlin finished speaking, Barak said: "There are talks that include elements of an arrangement, like the smuggling issue and the crossings issue. ""The operation was successful and we said from the beginning that it wouldn’t bring the firing to a total halt," he added.

’Outgoing pensioners minister on costly, state-funded London trip’ Staff, Jerusalem Post 3/9/2009
Outgoing Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan is spending the final days in his job on a costly, weeklong, state-funded trip to London, Channel Two reported on Monday. Eitan and the director general of his ministry were meant to go on a three-day trip to the British capital for meetings on the return of Jewish assets from Arab countries, but the length of the visit was suddenly extended to eight days, the channel said. In addition, the wives of Eitan and the director general, as well as an assistant, joined the trip. A Pensioners Ministry source told Channel 2 that the total cost of the trip would come to some NIS 30,000. It includes three hotel rooms amounting to 3,080 pounds and car rental costing 1,500 pounds. From Eitan’s timetable obtained by Channel 2, it appears that some of the events he plans to attend - including hospital visits, Purim festive meals and other. . .

Ex-president Katsav to face rape indictment
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Former president Moshe Katsav will be charged with several serious sexual offenses, including rape, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced yesterday. The decision ushers in a new phase of a legal drama that has dragged on for almost three years. The indictment charges Katsav with two counts of raping A. , who worked at the Tourism Ministry from March 1998 to January 1999, when Katsav was tourism minister. One rape allegedly took place in the minister’s office in Tel Aviv and the other at a hotel in Jerusalem. Katsav will also be charged with forcible indecent assault against A. and abusing the employer-employee relationship. In addition, Katsav will be charged with lesser offenses against two employees of the President’s Residence - H. , whom he allegedly hugged repeatedly against her will, and L. , whom he allegedly hugged and kissed on the neck against her will.

Katsav mum, women’s groups welcome rape indictment
Zvi Zrahiya and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Former president Moshe Katzav was secluded in his Kiryat Malakhi home on Sunday, refusing to speak to the press. His brothers and sons, arriving at the house in the afternoon, also declined to comment. Katzav’s media advisor, Ronen Tzur, said in a statement on behalf of the family that, "the former president took the possibility [of an indictment] into consideration when he called off the plea bargain. He will fight to prove his innocence in court. "Tzur added: "If [Attorney General Menachem] Mazuz is so confident of the rape charge, why wasn’t it part of the plea bargain? " MK Haim Oron (Meretz) requested that the finance committee of the Knesset be convened immediately, to discuss his proposal for denying retirement benefits to former officials convicted of offenses entailing moral turpitude, for the period between the indictment and the sentencing.

Israel’s ex-president to be indicted for rape
Ron Bousso - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 3/9/2009
Israeli prosecutors said Sunday they will 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 offences 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 complainants’ 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.

Katsav: the Iranian child who became scandalous Israeli President
Middle East Online 3/9/2009
JERUSALEM- Israeli ex-president Moshe Katsav, soon to be indicted for rape, has been hounded by sexual assault allegations that have shocked the Jewish state and brought scandal to its highest office. Israel’s attorney general announced on Sunday he would indict Katsav for offences committed against his employees when he served as tourism minister and president, including rape and sexual assault. The bland bureaucrat who rose from impoverished origins as a child immigrant from Iran to assume the nation’s top job, resigned in June 2007 and became a leper of the political establishment, his humiliated and loyal wife Gila in toe. Despite strenuously professing innocence to a litany of sex and rape charges, and refusing enormous public pressure to resign for months, Katsav stepped down as part of a plea bargain that incensed women’s rights groups.

Justice Ministry: Criticism of Katsav indictment is groundless
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
The Justice Ministry on Monday rejected criticism of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s decision to indict former president Moshe Katsav for rape as "groundless. ""There is no foundation to the comments and false accusations that external or personal considerations were the basis of the decision to put Katsav on trial," the ministry relayed. "This is nothing but an attempt to divert coverage of the case to irrelevant and inappropriate places. " The statement came after Katsav’s brother on Monday attacked the decision to indict him the former president, saying that the charges were tantamount to "blood libel. "The ministry said in response that the decision reached on the Katsav case had not been made by one man, even though Mazuz was the official authorized to do so and he is responsible for it.

Katsav’s family: Expect surprises
Tova Dadon, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Former president’s family not enjoying Purim holiday very much. In conversations with associates, Mosher Katsav reiterates claims that horrible injustice has befallen him. His wife Gila remains by his side. Wednesday night, former president slated to hold press conference in which he is expected to announce ’surprising things’ - The day after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to issue an indictment for rape and other sexual offenses against Moshe Katsav, the former president discussed his precarious situation with his family in Kiryat Malachi on Monday. The family has announced that they will hold a press conference on Wednesday after the Purim holiday in which new details will be revealed. "The attorney general has prepared a tree taller than the one evil Haman prepared for Mordechai," said the former president’s brother, Lior Katsav, to Ynet referencing the Purim story.

Assad says peace with Israel possible
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Syrian President tells UAE daily normal relations with Jewish state will only be feasible if Israel ends its conflict with Palestinians. ’We give them the choice between comprehensive peace and a peace agreement which does not have any real value on the ground,’ he states -Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published on Monday that a peace deal withIsrael was possible but that normal relations would only be possible if the Jewish state ended its conflict with the Palestinians. "There will perhaps be an embassy and formalities, but if you want peace then it has to be comprehensive. We give them the choice between comprehensive peace and a peace agreement which does not have any real value on the ground," Assad was quoted as saying in the United Arab Emirates daily al-Khaleej. "There is a difference between a peace agreement and peace itself. "

Assad: Alleged nuclear site hit by IAF has been built over
Yoav Stern , and Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Syrian president Bashar Assad denounced U. S. claims that a Syrian site bombed by Israel two years ago was a nearly finished nuclear reactor, and said in comments published Monday that the location has been built over. Assad’s remarks in the Emirates’ Al Khaleej daily confirmed statements made last month by two Western diplomats with the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear watchdog. The diplomats quoted Syrian nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman as telling the International Atomic Energy Agency that Syria built a new missile facility on the bombed site in a remote desert area. However, Assad didn’t elaborate what the new construction was at Al Kibar. The autocratic Syrian leader’s comments appeared to be an effort to close the chapter on the issue of the bombed site amid a recent drive by Damascus for better relations with Washington and the new Obama administration.

Syria leader: Site hit by Israel built over
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/9/2009
In interview with Emirates’ Al-Khaleej daily, Assad denounces US claims that facility bombed two years ago was nearly finished nuclear reactor, does not elaborate on nature of new construction at site -The Syrian president denounced US claims that a Syrian site bombed by Israel two years ago was a nearly finished nuclear reactor, and said in comments published Monday that the location has been built over. President Bashar Assad’s remarks in the Emirates’ Al-Khaleej daily confirmed statements made last month by two Western diplomats with the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog. The diplomats quoted Syrian nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman as telling the International Atomic Energy Agency that Syria built a new missile facility on the bombed site in a remote desert area. However, Assad didn’t elaborate what the new construction was at Al Kibar.

Hezbollah: War with Israel unlikely in near future
Barak Ravid , Haaretz Service and Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Hezbollah Deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem said on Monday that there was little prospect of another conflict with Israel in the near term. But he warned that, "In the distant future all things are possible. "Israel fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah in 2006, which it launched after the Lebanese militant organization abducted two Israeli soldiers. The Hezbollah official also welcomed a review of policy towards Hezbollah by Britain, which says it is willing to talk to the political wing of a movement listed as a terrorist group by Washington. "We welcome this British revision and perhaps there will be meetings in the coming days," Kassem told Reuters in an interview. "There is no request for a meeting but we expect this to happen soon," he said, adding that Hezbollah already had "wide contacts" with other European governments.

Bahar urges Arab parliamentary union to form int’l court for Israel’s crimes
Palestinian Information Center 3/9/2009
MUSCAT, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the PLC, urged Sunday the participants in the fifth conference of the Arab parliamentary union held in Muscat to adopt a set of steps to support the Palestinian resistance and to form an international court to prosecute Israeli war criminals. Dr. Bahar underlined that the Arab and Muslim leaders also must assume their responsibilities in defending the occupied city of Jerusalem and providing all forms of support for its people in order to strengthen their steadfastness in the face of Zionist attempts to judaize their city. The acting speaker called for not politicizing the reconstruction issue, condemning US conditions for reconstructing Gaza as unfair and a political blackmail at the expense of the displaced and homeless citizens. He also invited the members of the Arab parliamentary union to visit postwar Gaza to see with their bare eyes the reality of the war crimes committed by Israel.

Israeli, Vatican historians meet to discuss wartime pope
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Israeli and Vatican historians met for the first time Sunday to discuss the current state of research into Pope Pius XII and his Holocaust-era conduct. The gathering at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial signals a growing willingness of Israeli and Vatican officials to try to resolve one of their most sensitive disagreements - the pope’s action or inaction during the Nazi genocide. Most Jews believe Pope Pius XII was partly to blame for the scope of the Holocaust tragedy for failing to speak out publicly against the Nazi atrocities or attempting to mobilize Catholics in Germany and elsewhere to stop it. The Vatican has struggled to defend its wartime pope as it pushes his sainthood cause, insisting that Pius spearheaded discreet diplomacy that saved thousands of Jews.

The pontiff’s posse: millions of tourists
Irit Rosenblum, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
The last papal visit, by Pope John Paul II in March 2000, boosted the number of tourists to Israel that year to 2. 7 million. But the intifada, which broke out that September, turned the last quarter of 2000 into a tourism disaster, so the number of tourists never reached the anticipated 3 to 4 million. Israel invested significant amounts of money in infrastructure for the last papal visit, including more than NIS 10 million in Jerusalem and NIS 12 million at the Mount of the Beatitudes in the Galilee, where John Paul II conducted a public mass. Another 1. 8 million was spent in Nazareth, on projects such as construction of a helicopter pad for the pope’s chopper and a huge parking lot for the buses full of pilgrims. Tens of thousands of pilgrims accompanied the pope, filling hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as bed-and-breakfasts in the north.

Pope confirms Holy Land pilgrimage
Irit Rosenblum and Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Pope Benedict XVI confirmed yesterday that he would visit Israel from May 11-15, in the first papal visit since 2000 and the second official visit by a pope to the country. Announcing the dates of the long-planned pilgrimage, the Pope said he would visit the sites where Jesus was and would pray for the gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and all humanity. Benedict told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional noontime blessing that he was asking the faithful for their spiritual support for the Holy Land pilgrimage. "I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord, by visiting the places sanctified by his earthly passage, for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and for all humanity. I am counting on the spiritual support of all of you, and may God accompany me, support me, and bless with his Grace all those who I meet on my way," the pontiff said.

Abbas welcomes Pope’s visit to Palestine
Ma’an News Agency 3/9/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomes the visit to Palestine by Pope Benedict XVI on 13 May. Abbas said the hopes the visit will be the start of a lasting good, and a sign of love and peace in the land of peace. Abbas ordered formation of a higher committee to be headed by Palestinian Minister of Local Governance Ziad Al-Bandak to prepare for the Pope’s historic visit. The visit comes following the invitation to the pope by Abbas during his visit to the Vatican last year. Israeli President Shimon Peres also welcomed the pope in a Monday statement, saying he was “very happy because the pope has accepted his initiation to visit the Holy Land. ”On December 28, the day after Israel launched its most recent war on the Gaza Strip, Pope Benedict XVI condemned what he called the “endless” bloodshed in the Holy Land and urged Israeli and Palestinian factions to end the violence immediately.

Neturei Karta: Dressing up as soldiers forbidden
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 3/9/2009
Anti-Zionist stream’s leaders urge public not to wear popular costumes of policemen, soldiers on Purim, because they include ’impure symbols’ of State of Israel - The Neturei Karta faction has come out against the custom - common among ultra-Orthodox boys - of dressing up as soldiers on Purim, and warned that such costumes were even worse that those of Christian priests. In pamphlets distributed among their public, the stream’s leaders urged their followers not to masquerade as policemen, soldiers, rescue workers, ZAKA crew or other forms of national service, and avoid wearing "impure symbols. " In an article titled "On Purim I Do Not Wear Zionist Outfits," they wrote: Would anyone wear the clothes of pagan priests? Let alone the clothes of those who serve the heretical monstrosity that descended from Israel. -- See also: Neturei Karta

Sharpest drop ever in industrial exports expected
Merav Ankori, Globes Online 3/9/2009
The Manufacturers Association expects the drop in industrial exports to ease to a 2. 5% decline in 2010. The Manufacturers Association of Israelpredicts that industrial exports will fall 10% in 2009 from $40. 1 billion in 2008. This is the largest annual decline in industrial exports ever expected in Israeli history. The Manufacturers Association expects the drop in industrial exports to ease to a 2. 5% decline in 2010. Israel’s industrial growth in the past decade was export-oriented. Industrial exports, excluding diamonds, have accounted for 90% of the growth in the country’s industrial output since 1998. However, this picture has been changing recently. The 25% appreciation of the shekel against leading currencies between early 2006 and September 2008 sharply eroded exporters’ profit margins.

Record losses for Africa Israel
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel is going deeper and deeper into the red. The company is expected to lose NIS 1. 5 billion to NIS 2 billion for the fourth quarter of 2008 alone, and total 2008 losses could reach an unprecedented NIS 3. 5 billion. Most of the losses stem from the drop in the value of the firm’s real estate properties in Eastern Europe. Africa Israel refused to comment on the report. Africa’s shareholder equity at the end of the third quarter last year totalled NIS 7. 4 billion. The company had forecast losses of NIS 1. 7 billion for the third quarter of 2008, but in the end it reported NIS 2. 1 billion of red ink. The third quarter numbers included write-downs of NIS 1. 08 billion on the value of real estate properties. Most came from various Africa Israel subsidiaries, those in the U.

Africa-Israel warns on Q4
Michal Yoshai, Globes Online 3/9/2009
The company says it will report a loss of NIS 2. 7 billion, much of which is from a write-down on the New York Times Building. After the rumors and the asset sales, it was the turn of the official profit warning:Africa-Israel Investments (TASE:AFIL ), controlled by Lev Leviev, announced this morning that in the financials due to be released at the end of the month it will report a loss of NIS 2. 7 billion for the fourth quarter of 2008. $380 million of the loss is due to an accounting write-down the company has been forced to make on the value of the New York Times Building. This follows a recent valuation of the building that put its value at $315 million. The accounting write-down is larger than Africa-Israel’s exposure to the building. The remaining fall in value of Africa-Israel’s assets around the world amounted to NIS 1.

Natural Gas Authority urges change to LNG terminal tender
Lior Baron, Globes Online 3/9/2009
The recommendation is the latest development following the natural gas discovery at the Tamar prospect. The Natural Gas Authority recently advised Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On to amend the format of the tender for the construction of a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal, and also to cancel plans for a contract with another natural gas supplier. The recommendations are the latest developments following the natural gas discovery at the Tamar prospect offshore from Haifa. The recommendations are significant, and follow the revision of the natural gas reserves at Tamar to 142 billion cubic meters. The recommendations aim to give priority to domestic natural gas production. Nonetheless, the Natural Gas Authority set its recommendation as depending on the partners in the Tamar prospect promising to expedite the construction. . .

Israel has failed in bid to halt Iran nuke program
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
The statements by Military Intelligence head, Major General Amos Yadlin, that Iran has crossed the "technological threshold" in its nuclear program, mean only one thing: Everything is now up to Tehran. If it wants to, Iran can proceed and produce its first nuclear weapon, but if it doesn’t want to, it will not do so. This conclusion means that Israel, through Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who declared it a national priority to foil Iran’s nuclear program, has failed in its mission. The "technological threshold" is a Military Intelligence term for an expression they thought was too deterministic: the point of no return. It means that Iran has the know-how, the resources and the equipment to make a nuclear weapon. But the MI chief’s assessment is not necessarily based on sensitive, classified information. It was clearly written in the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report. Iran has 4000 active centrifuges. These produce the low-grade enrichment of more than a ton of uranium.

MI chief: Iran ’buying time’ while building nuclear bomb
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
Iran has crossed a major technological threshold in its nuclear program, according to Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence. Speaking at the cabinet meeting yesterday, Yadlin noted that, "Iran’s ability to reach a military nuclear capability is a matter of adjusting its strategy vis-a-vis the goal of developing a nuclear bomb. " The top IDF intelligence officer said Iran "has stockpiled hundreds of kilograms of uranium at low levels of enrichment, and is hoping to take advantage of the dialogue with the West to buy the time necessary to enable it to develop a nuclear bomb. "Yadlin explained that the new approach of the Obama administration, which calls for dialogue with Iran, is being cautiously received in the Middle East. "Moderate Arab states believe that this [the dialogue] will be used by Iran and Syria, who will waste. . .

Israeli spy Manbar seeks early parole to raise family
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 3/9/2009
62-year old man convicted of collaborating with Iran asks court to release him from prison 5 years early -Nahum Manbar, who was convicted of collaboration with the enemy in 1998 after conducting arms deals with Iran, asked the court Monday to release him so that he could be free to start a family. "I paid my debt to society, I’m 62, and I would like to raise a family in Israel," he told judges during a two-hour hearing. "I have expressed deep regret. I don’t doubt the judge’s ruling and I take responsibility for everything I’ve done. " Manbar added, "I’m the only prisoner in the Prison Service that has been allowed unlimited, unconditional vacations for seven years. If anyone had thought I was so manipulative and so dangerous they wouldn’t have let me out for vacations. " The judges are scheduled to rule on Manbar’s case by Wednesday morning.

Iran tests air-to-surface missile
Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times 3/8/2009
Reporting from Beirut -- Iran has test-fired a precision air-to-surface missile with a 70-mile range, a news agency reported Sunday, a capability that could threaten ships in the Persian Gulf. Iran’s semiofficial Fars New Agency cited unnamed Iranian military experts saying the 1,100-pound missiles mounted on jet fighters include an "automatic guidance capability" and a "special warhead" for destroying large ships. The U. S. Navy keeps dozens of warships off the Iranian coast in the Persian Gulf to escort oil tankers and serve as a check against Iran’s ambitions. The U. S. and Israel, among others, are concerned about Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which they suspect is being used to produce fuel for an eventual nuclear bomb. On Sunday, Israel’s top military intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, said at a closed Cabinet meeting that Iran now had the expertise and materials needed

Let me tell you the story of the army of widows in Iraq
Ines Bel Aiba - BAGHDAD, Middle East Online 3/9/2009
When she was made Iraqi minister for women’s rights, Nawal al-Samarrai threw herself enthusiastically into the job. But six months later she resigned, saying the government cares little for the plight of women. "I have lots of will power, I’m tenacious," Samarrai, wearing a beige headscarf, said in the hotel where she lives in Baghdad’s high-security Green zone, in an interview marking International Women’s Day on Sunday. "I was convinced that I could improve conditions for women, but I ran into a wall," said the 47-year-old gynaecologist. "The occupation, terrorism, the economy collapsing. . . all that produced an army of widows, an increase in the number of divorcees, unmarried women, women beggars," she said. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, between one and three million Iraqi families are now headed by women after seemingly endless years of war.

French filmmaker slammed for likening illegals to WWII Jews
Ha’aretz 3/9/2009
France’s immigration minister criticized a film director on Monday for likening the situation of illegal immigrants in France today to that of Jews under the Nazi occupation during World War Two. Director Philippe Lioret - whose film "Welcome" about illegal immigrants trying to reach Britain from northern France opens on Wednesday - has criticized a French law that makes it a crime to help illegal immigrants. "To see that a decent guy can all of a sudden be charged and that he can go to prison is crazy. It feels like it’s 1943 and we’ve hidden a Jew in the basement," Lioret told the regional newspaper La Voix du Nord last week. Some 76,000 Jews were arrested in France during World War Two and taken to concentration camps such as Auschwitz, where most died.

Missed Justice in Darfur
Middle East Online 3/9/2009
For the first time in its history, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for a sitting president of a country. That president, Omar al Bashir of Sudan, has been charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes in relation to the conflict in Darfur. According to the United Nations up to 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict. Some world leaders, including former President George W. Bush, have called it a genocide. For his part, President Bashir reacted with angry defiance. In a rally blasting the arrest warrants, President Bashir said, "The true criminals are the leaders of the United States and Europe," and he said that this warrant was an act of "neo-colonialism. "Thousands in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, also rallied in defense of their President, burning American and Israeli flags.

Legitimacy of Global Court Questioned Over Sudan
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service 3/9/2009
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 9(IPS) - The ongoing political crisis in Sudan is expected to worsen in the face of a rash of threats and warnings following the indictment last week of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The beleaguered Sudanese president has threatened to expel diplomats from Khartoum and throw out more humanitarian organisations - in addition to the 13 that were run out of town last week - in retaliation for the indictment. At the same time, there is considerable speculation that some, or all, of the 30 African countries who are state parties (of a total of 108) to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, may decide to pull out, threatening the virtual collapse of the world’s key criminal court. Michael Ratner, president of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, told IPS the creation of the ICC was a major step forward in accountability for human rights atrocities.


Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Alice Walker, CODEPINK Founder Medea Benjamin in Gaza to Mark International Women’s Day
Democracy Now! 3/9/2009
      Millions around the world marked International Women’s Day on Sunday by celebrating advances made by women and honoring the ongoing global struggle for gender equality and equal rights. We go to Gaza, where a women’s delegation just made it in, to speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin.
     ....Alice Walker and Medea Benjamin, welcome to Democracy Now! Alice, can you tell us how you came over the border into Gaza?
     ALICE WALKER: Well, we came through the Rafah Gate, which Medea and everyone else thought would be very difficult to get through, because it had been closed and there was talk of nobody ever coming through it. But we managed. And the Red Crescent was a big help, including the wife of Mubarak, the president of Egypt. So we’re very, very happy that we managed to get here to be with the women on International Women’s Day.
     AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, talk about your purpose in Gaza, how long you will be there, what you’re doing.
     MEDEA BENJAMIN: We’ll be here for five days. We have come with a sixty-person delegation, I think the largest mostly US delegation to visit Gaza. And our purpose was to connect with the women for International Women’s Day to show our support and to educate ourselves so that we can go back to the United States and work hard on our policies. And we’ve been told by so many of the people we met with that one of the greatest obstacles to any kind of improvement in their lives is the United States government. So we know that our real work happens when we get back home. -- See also: Listen / Watch and CodePink: Women Say No to War

Interview: Children Need More Support in Gaza - UNICEF Head

IRIN News, Palestine Chronicle 3/9/2009
      UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman recently paid a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory to assess the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with special focus on children. As of 5 February, 431 Palestinian children had died and 1,872 had been wounded in the 22-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January, according to the Gaza health ministry. Veneman spoke to IRIN in Gaza City during her visit.
     IRIN: After visiting Gaza, what are your first impressions and priorities?
     Veneman: We focused on the impact of the conflict on children. So often children are the ones that are hurt by the wars of adults. The total population of Gaza is about 1.4 million, of which 56 percent - approximately 793,520 - are children, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Humanitarian access to all, especially to the most vulnerable, must be unhampered.
     IRIN: How are the health and nutrition standards for Gaza’s children since the recent war.
     Veneman: UNICEF remains concerned that the nutritional status and general health of children in Gaza is likely to deteriorate given the dependency of Gazan families on food aid and cash assistance, as well as the lack of access to clean tap water.

Walaja farmer stands the ground he loves

Mary Arthur, International Middle East Media Center News 3/9/2009
      Abed al Fatah lives in a tiny natural cave on his land near Walaja village just outside Jerusalem. It is on the steeply stepped side of a wildly beautiful valley with the soft shade of Cremisan monastery woods behind and wide rural views all around.
     Abed is farming his ancestral lands here as father and grandfather did before him and he hopes his children will in years to come. The land has been in the family for over 400 years and it is deeply precious to Abed:
     ’I love this land; without it, I can’t live. It is my life, it courses through my veins; the earth here has the smell of my ancestors,. I want to live here, like others across the world, in peace and love.’
     Abed’s gentle good nature shines out of his deep brown eyes, his heart as golden as his skin. But his will is as strong as his muscles; he has farmed this land all his life and he swears he will die before he gives it up. And this is beginning to look like a possibility. Two days ago he had a visit from officials saying they were from the Israeli Interior Ministry. They broke down the door of his dwelling and threw out all his things.

Doctors struggling to treat Gaza war wounded

Report, IRIN, Electronic Intifada 3/8/2009
      GAZA CITY (IRIN) - Mohammed Abu Shabah, aged 22, lies in al-Wafa rehabilitation center in northern Gaza, paralyzed from the waist down after a missile fired by an Israeli drone on 11 January left pieces of shrapnel near his spine. Doctors at the center, Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital, fear removing them could lead to complete paralysis.
     "I was just walking down the street," said Abu Shabah, recounting the incident near his home in Rafah. He was eventually sent to al-Madee military hospital in Cairo for emergency care.
     He needs, his doctors say, a vasotrain machine to improve blood circulation to his limbs and a urodynamic machine to measure bladder capacity, but both machines are currently unavailable in Gaza.
     "They were destroyed by Israeli tank fire on 15 January," Tareq Dirdes, head of the men’s unit at the al-Wafa centre, told IRIN, adding "the machine’s keyboard was hit by shrapnel, and there are no spare parts available."
     Some 2,315 (43 percent) of the injured were wounded by shrapnel, and spinal cord injuries are common, according to the health ministry.
     Hospital staff told IRIN they were struggling to provide medical care with intermittent electricity supplies and shortages of items like wheelchairs and medication as well as the more sophisticated equipment needed for patients with paralysis.

Gaza Or Bust

Yvonne Ridley reports from Viva Palestina, band annie’s Weblog 3/8/2009
      The last 24 hours have probably been the blackest since the Viva Palestina convoy set off from London.
     Yesterday the convoy members became the target of an orchestrated wave of violence first started by Egyptian police and then culminating in vicious attacks by unknown thugs.
     The end result was a number of peace activists whose only aim is to take humanitarian aid into war torn Gaza were treated in hospital for head injuries.
     Mercifully the string of casualties was not too serious but the experience denied us the chance of fulfilling our mission to deliver aid to Gaza yesterday.
     And dramatic images of the rioting and attacks could not be relayed to Press TV viewers because someone sabotaged the satellite van by deliberately cutting through a vital cable which would have beamed the shameful attacks across the world.
     However, every cloud has a silver lining and I would like to take this opportunity of personally thanking the Egyptian authorities and those dark forces who tried to derail Viva Palestina.
     The event has only served to make us stronger, unite and bond us together more and created a wave of international media interest in Viva Palestina. -- See also: Viva Palestina and Aid convoy enters Gaza Strip

No Headlines As Epic Journey To Gaza Nears End

Sonja Karkar, Palestine Chronicle 3/9/2009
      An epic journey across eight countries is nearing its end. Gaza is almost within sights of the weary drivers and their navigators. On Day 21, the British convoy leaders decided to by-pass the towns of Benghazi and Bayda in Libya after consulting with Libyan officials to cut the time it would take to get to Gaza. This meant a desert crossing of some 400km - enduring not what many would think to be hot and stifling conditions, but rather the bitter cold of winter winds unbroken by vast expanses of emptiness. Perhaps few thought of what would await them on this journey when they first set out, but certainly, despite the hardships no one is complaining. What the Palestinians in Gaza are suffering is so much more and that is uppermost in everyone’s minds.
     Nevertheless, poor and oftentimes non-existent phone signals, no landmarks, breakdowns, sandstorms and security restrictions are just some of the hiccups that have made the epic journey a writer’s dream story - after all, there are some 300 people sharing in the experience and each with their own story to tell. Under normal circumstances, it would be splashed across pages and TV screens in large headlines with a blow-by-blow account of various travellers’ tales. Not so on this voyage. The media is strangely silent, seemingly uninterested even in the historic opening of the border between Morocco and Algeria that has been closed since 1994.

Obama and his magic lamp

Spengler, Asia Times 3/10/2009
      For the United States to borrow the US$2 trillion a year that it wants, a poor country like Turkey cannot borrow the $30 billion a year that it needs - unless, that is, the United States borrows it first and re-lends it to Turkey.
     When President Barack Obama respectfully suggests that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan might like to jump, Erdogan will ask, "How long should I remain in the air?" Turkey requires a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at which the US has the biggest vote. News that an IMF loan might be delayed sent Turkey’s lira crashing to a new low against the dollar last week. Just then, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned up in Ankara to announce that Obama would visit Turkey in April.
     Most analysts expected Obama to adjust American foreign policy to the modesty of his circumstances, constrained by rising foreign debt and enervating entanglements. Instead, Obama has entered the foreign policy area with a magic lamp in hand, namely America’s bottomless capacity to borrow, and the whole of the world seems to him a Cave of Wonders - at least for the moment. Does America want logical support for its withdrawal from Iraq, or mediation with Iran, or a back channel to Hamas, or anything else? Obama’s wish is Erdogan’s command, as long as Erdogan can hold onto power.

Hot Air Brings no Winds of Change

Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 3/9/2009
      JERUSALEM, Mar 9(IPS) - Last November, on the day marking the assassination of Israel’s peace-making leader Yitzhak Rabin, the now outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israelis something which, for decades, not even Rabin had dared say - we must end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and return to the 1967 borders.
     Olmert’s call sounded revolutionary, but it was rather hollow: he had himself been elected on the ticket to settle Israel’s permanent borders, yet never dared to put into practice what he preached. When he spoke out, Olmert was already on the way out.
     Hollow, or not, was it an opportunity missed? Is it now a lost opportunity?
     Israelis have since elected the hard Right to form their next government. The call to end occupation sounds more hollow still. The regression into hidebound positions has gone further: prime minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu resolutely resists committing to the two-state solution that has been part and parcel of formal Israeli policy with the Palestinians over the past 16 years.
     But the further Israel seems intent on retreating, the more open the rest of the region seems to be to possibilities for compromise in keeping with the spirit of change being disseminated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Promise of ’Normal Ties’

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 3/9/2009
      BOSTON - Well, well, what do we have going on this week? The US State Department invites the Syrian ambassador for a long chat, and then sends two senior envoys for more chats in Damascus. The US Secretary of State announces a few days later that she wants Iran invited to a meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors to discuss conditions in that country. The following day, the British government announces it is resuming contacts with the political wing of Hizbullah in Lebanon.
     What we have going on, I suspect, is that the two leading proponents of Western arrogance in the form of colonialism and neocolonialism -- the United States and United Kingdom -- have recognized that their approach has failed, and that they are better off having normal diplomatic talks and negotiations with the three leading centers of resistance to them, namely Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. The pace of change in American policies, in particular, has been impressive since President Barack Obama’s administration took over six weeks ago, though it will take some time for the results of the current shifts to materialize.

Lieberman’s Charm Offensive

Editor Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 3/9/2009
      Israel’s ’Rising Political Star’ tries to convince the West that he ’shares their values’.
     Israel’s February 10th National Election results confirmed the country’s worrying rightward political shift.The election results were basically a tie between Tzipi Livni of Kadima with 28 seats in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud with 27 seats.Coming in third was Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu, an extremely nationalist and right-wing party. Because of Israel’s political shift to the far right, he was the deciding factor in Likud’s being granted the opportunity to lead the new government"”earning him the nickname "kingmaker".
     Lieberman was born in Ishinev, Soviet Union (now Moldova). He studied at an agricultural institute and after finishing he worked as a nightclub bouncer and broadcaster in Baku, Azerbaijan. He moved with his parents to Israel in 1978, served in the army and studied social sciences at university before starting his career in politics.

Iran’s Anti-Israel Rhetoric Aimed at Arab Opinion

Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 3/9/2009
      WASHINGTON, Mar 9(IPS) - After Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called in October 2005 for an end to the state of Israel, Israeli leaders began stepping up talk of an "existential threat" to the country.
     Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who is now forming a new government, has even used it support his argument that the Iranian president is threatening a new "holocaust" against Jews.
     Serious Israeli and Iranian analysts of Iran’s national security policy, however, have long viewed similar statements by Iranian leaders - and its assistance to Hamas and Hezbollah - as having nothing to do with ending the Israeli state, much less using military force to destroy it.
     The Iranian condemnation of Israel and embrace of the Palestinian cause, according to these analysts, have been largely a strategic ploy to turn Arab public opinion against the Sunni regimes’ policies of hostility toward Iran.
     Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was Israel’s foreign minister and minister of public security from 1999 to 2001, observed in a lecture in Bologna in November 2007 that Iranian policy toward Israel has been misunderstood. Iran has been "more an enemy of an Israeli-Arab reconciliation than of Israel as such," said Ben-Ami.

Reconciliation at Last?

Joharah Baker, Palestine Chronicle 3/9/2009
      It has been almost two years since the fabric of Palestinian unity was torn down the seam. For almost two years Hamas and Fatah have duked it out on the ground and in political corridors, claiming hundreds of lives and creating an almost irreparable split between the West Bank and Gaza. Today, although terribly overdue, Palestinians are cautiously squinting into the future, at the possible light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
     On March 3, Fatah announced the members of the five joint committees agreed on at the recent Cairo talks. The five committees will deal with the issues of the transitional government formation, reconciliation, security, elections and the PLO. If all goes well, a transitional government will be formed by the end of March and will conduct the affairs of the state until presidential and legislative elections take place at the beginning of 2010.
     To an outsider, this may seem like a small step. To Palestinians it is definitely not. There have been numerous attempts to reconcile the two Palestinian political giants, Hamas and Fatah, but to no avail. Ever since the international community refused to accept Hamas’ victory in the 2006 PLC elections, the situation has gone in one direction only: downhill. Thereafter, Hamas refused to relinquish power in Gaza and Fatah refused to let go of its historic reins over the Palestinian Authority, naturally resulting in the metaphorical clash of the Titans. The bloody Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 left hundreds dead in its wake and bad blood between brothers. The clashes between the two have been on again off again since then with intermittent lulls in between. This new development is the first glimmer of hope in a long time.

Systematic failure to enforce the law against Israeli occupation forces in the Palestinian territories

Valentina Azarov, International Law Observer 3/8/2009
      Ben-Naftali and Zamir have recently published an article in the Journal of International Criminal Justice titled ‘Whose ‘conduct unbecoming’? The shooting of a Handcuffed, Blindfolded Palestinian Demonstrator’. The work considers the case of HCJ 7195/08 Abu Rhama et al. v Military Advocate General - the petition in the case is available in English. The case of this 27-year old Palestinian demonstrator who was handcuffed, blindfolded, detained and then shot at from less than 2 meters away whilst being held by the soldiers following a command given by the officer in charge. This story has reawakened the focus on the non-enforcement of the law and the lack of access to justice for Palestinian who wish to pursue their right to receive a remedy and to see that the perpetrator that has violated their rights and most basic freedoms is prosecuted and punished appropriately.
     The work commences by placing the incident in the context of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) conduct towards Palestinian demonstrators and detainees. It proceeds to outline the applicable normative framework of IHL and ICL; namely, the application of the principle of human dignity in IHL, and inhuman and degrading treatment as war crimes. Finally, the paper examines the policy of tolerance towards systematic violence and its implications and the possibility of such conduct by the occupation forces to amount to a ‘crime against humanity’. In this light, it concludes by considering at brief the significance of both the doctrine of universal jurisdiction and the role of the HCJ in such cases. The abstract reads as follows...