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Hamas, the militant Palestinian organisation, attempted to conduct secret talks with the Israeli leadership in the protracted run-up to the recent war in Gaza - with messages being passed from the group at one stage through a member of prime minister Ehud Olmert's family.
Confirmation of attempts to establish a direct line of communication between Hamas and Israel - and the willingness of senior figures in Hamas to contemplate direct negotiations - fundamentally alters the narrative of the build-up to the war in Gaza which claimed more than 1,300 Palestinian lives and led to about a dozen Israeli deaths.
Maamon Khozendar, chairman of Khozendar and Sons Company Ltd., is one of Gaza's most successful industrialists. He's a petroleum importer, and executes major construction projects around the Palestinian enclave.
What he'd most like to do now is help his fellow Gazans recover from the devastating 22-day war that came to an uncertain pause in late January. But rebuilding and rehabilitating Gaza requires the basics of the construction industry – cement and steel – that Israel will not allow in through their border crossings.
His dilemma presents a window into a core challenge faced by Palestinians and international donors as they gather in Egypt on Monday to pledge funds for postwar reconstruction.
The disproportionate and indiscriminate actions by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead rightly earned Israel's leaders international opprobrium, and in some cases the verbal outrage was backed by concrete sanctions. Having last year declared an upgrading of relations with Israel, the EU decided last month to put the process on hold in the wake of the carnage in Gaza.
Israel blocks pasta shipment to Gaza, and tensions boil
By Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers
For more than seven weeks, the international aid group Mercy Corps has been trying to send 90 tons of macaroni to the isolated Gaza Strip as part of a global campaign to help the 1.4 million Palestinians there rebuild their lives after Israel's recent devastating 22-day military operation.
Israel, which controls most of what goes into and out of Gaza, has said no repeatedly.
At first, Israeli officials said that they wanted to make sure that the macaroni wasn't destined for a Hamas charity. Then they said macaroni was banned because they didn't consider it an essential food item.
On Wednesday, days after American lawmakers raised pointed questions about the macaroni ban, Israeli authorities said that they were preparing to give the pasta a green light.
The US is likely to boycott a UN racism conference, reports say, saying a text drawn up for the event criticises Israel and restricts free of speech.
An unnamed state department official said the draft document for April's forum in Geneva was "unsalvageable".
Canada and Israel have also said they plan to boycott the meeting.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he advocates a war on Iran, following the country's successful test-runs at the Bushehr power plant.
Tehran edged closer towards the final launch of a light-water reactor in the southern port of Bushehr on Wednesday, after it staged pre-commission operations at the 1000-megawatt reactor.
Simulated fuel rods made of lead were reportedly used instead of virtual nuclear fuel in the pilot operation, which was launched in the presence of Iranian and Russian dignitaries -- including Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko.
While the incident was hailed in Iran as a huge leap in the construction of the country's first power reactor, the test-run immediately raised hackles in Israel.
In recent days, four key developments have clicked in to edge Iran and Israel much closer to a military denouement with profound consequences for American oil that the nation is not prepared to meet.
What has happened?
Bibi Netanyahus assumption of power in Israel sets the stage for a huge campaign by the Israeli government, and its well-oiled lobby groups in Washington, to push us into a war with Iran.
Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. But reality rarely impedes on politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, along with Netanyahu, all talk as if Iran is on the brink of dropping the big one on the Jewish state.
Netanyahu on Friday named Iran as Israels main threat after he was called to form a new government following the Feb. 20 elections.
Ex-Lobbyists in U.S. Case of Espionage Win a Round
By Neil A. Lewis | NY Times | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of two former lobbyists for a pro-Israeli advocacy group in deciding how much classified information they may use in their defense on espionage charges.
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., ruled against the government and in favor of the defendants, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, whose trial is now scheduled for April. The appeals court also refused to entertain the government’s objections to a series of formidable hurdles to a conviction put in place by the trial judge.
Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions
by Stephen Lendman
Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won't do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.
In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation."
On Friday, 16 January, Mohammed Shurrab and his two sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, took advantage of the daily lull in the Israeli assault – the ‘three hours’ promised by the IDF – to travel from their plot of land in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip back to their home in Khan Younis. They were driving a red Land Rover. On the road, soldiers in a tank waved them on. Later, in the village of Al Fukhari, in a street lined with small houses and gardens, their vehicle was shot at by soldiers stationed on the roof of a local home. Kassab was killed instantly. Ibrahim lay bleeding beside his father; he died at midnight. Mohammed Shurrab had called for help on his cellphone, but the army prevented ambulances from entering the area until 23 hours after the shooting. The closest hospital was two minutes’ drive away.
But the fallout from attacking yet another country on false pretexts is unfathomable. This is why Americans observing mainstream pundits and assorted ideologues trumpeting the current course of the long-delayed AIPAC espionage trial as a victory for freedom of the press should ponder this: is it really in our best interests that Israel and its American lobby be empowered to classify or declassify American secrets at their whim?
On Feb. 17, Judge T.S. Ellis added a new twist in the case of two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) executives indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act. In what the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Secrecy News describe as a major blow to the prosecution, Judge Ellis ruled [.pdf] that J. William Leonard can testify on behalf of the defendants when they go to trial on April 21, 2009.
Israel’s Attack on Gaza: Legitimate Self Defense or War Crime?
A two-part International Lawyers Without Borders interview with Dr Franklin Lamb | 7 February 2009 | Dissident Voice
Part I: What Law Applies?
Interviewer’s Note: On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a devastating 22 day and night bombardment of the Gaza strip. The assault left, amidst an estimated 600,000 tons of concrete rubble, some 1,740 dead (this figure includes more than 350 ‘forgotten’ stillbirths and trauma-caused abortions in Gaza during the 22 days of terror), a figure that increases as the severely injured continue to die. A majority of the victims were civilians, including nearly 900 (again including the stillborn) children, approximately 5,500 severely wounded, and more than one third of the 1.5 million population was displaced while more than 14,000 homes were completely destroyed. Approximately 92,000 Palestinians are still homeless with more than 16,000 living as many as 20 to a small tent without latrines, as supplies remain blocked at the borders.
Single-limb fractures and the walking wounded are not included in the above figures, according to renowned British surgeon Dr. Swee Ang, currently conducting an on-the-ground medical investigation in Gaza. Dr. Swee and her medical colleagues estimate that of the severely injured, 1,600 will suffer permanent disabilities. These include amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, and large burns with crippling contractures.
Also bombed were 68 government buildings and 31 NGO complexes, buildings all of which were completely or partially destroyed. Property damage and loss of livelihood has been estimated at close to 2 billion dollars.
On February 4, 2009, the Government of France strongly protested Israel’s refusal to allow in donated filtration equipment for drinking water, given that much of Gaza’s population have not had clean drinking water for weeks. As the massive human and material destruction continues to be documented by journalists, investigators and relief workers, the international pressure for accountability increases.
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) — The Palestinian Authority urged the US president on Monday to press Israel to scrap a plan to raze almost 90 homes in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
"We call on President Barack Obama to intervene personally to have this project stopped," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the main aides of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The Palestinian owners of 88 houses in the Silwan neighbourhood have received eviction notices saying that the structures will be destroyed because they were built or expanded without the necessary permits. The move would affect about 1,500 people.
"It is a massacre that Israel will commit in this Holy City," Abed Rabbo told a news conference, calling for "urgent Arab and international action to halt this dangerous project."
He said some of the houses affected by the orders had been built before Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War.
A new report released just hours ago reveals that U.S.-made white phosphorus artillery shells among other U.S. weapons were found throughout Gaza. When white phosphorus munitions are used in densely-populated civilian areas as Israel has, it violates international humanitarian law’s prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and amounts to a war crime.
In light of this new finding, we are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately call for:
* an investigation into Israel’s use of U.S. arms in Gaza
* a suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel and
* to urge the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict
Samia Salman Al-Manay'a, 16 years old, was asleep in her home in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, when a phosphorus shell landed on the first floor of the house on January10th. Ten days later, from her hospital bed, she spoke to our delegation.
"The pain is piercing. It's as though a fire is burning in my body. It's too much for me to bear. In spite of all the medicine they are giving me the pain is still so strong."
George Galloway on Gaza
Can Gaza Be Rebuilt Through Tunnels?
The Blockade Continues—No Supplies, No Rebuilding
By Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel and former U.S. diplomat
How do you rebuild 5,000 homes, businesses and government buildings when the only way supplies come into the prison called Gaza is through tunnels. Will the steel I-beams for roofs bend 90 degrees to go through the tunnels from Egypt? Will the tons of cement, lumber, roofing materials, nails, dry wall and paint be hauled by hand, load after load, 70 feet underground, through a tunnel 500 to 900 feet long and then pulled up a 70 foot hole and put into waiting truck in Gaza?
An Arab League official said Saturday that a league mission was heading to Gaza to investigate allegations that Israel committed war crimes during its recent offensive against Hamas.
League spokesman Hisham Youssef said the mission would prepare a detailed report for league head Amr Moussa and take the necessary legal procedures.
Once You See What Truly Happened in Gaza, It Will Change You Forever
By Medea Benjamin | Alternet
What I saw was like a form of collective punishment, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers, angry fathers and traumatized children.
When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted me. I saw it in a brochure called "Gaza will not die" that Hamas gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across the street, when I go to sleep at night.
RAMALLAH, Feb 17 (IPS) - Israel is bracing for a wave of lawsuits accusing the Jewish state of substantial human rights violations during its 22-day military assault on Gaza which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and nearly 5,000 wounded, more than half of them civilian.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have confirmed that phosphorous bombs were used over Gaza. It is against international law to use phosphorous in densely crowded civilian areas.
According to Amnesty, Israel tanks also fired flechettes, 4cm long metal darts in civilian neighbourhoods. Shells containing 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes explode in the air and scatter in a conical pattern over an area about 300m wide and 100m long.
Fascist Rule in Israel
by Stephen Lendman
On February 10, Israel held parliamentary elections for 120 seats in its 18th Knesset. The process repeats every four years unless the body calls an earlier election by majority vote. The prime minister may also ask the president to request one early that will proceed unless the Knesset blocks it. Parliamentary terms may be extended beyond four years by special majority vote. Israel has no constitution.
Under Article 4 of its Basic Law: The Knesset:
"The Knesset shall be elected by general, national, direct, equal, secret and proportional elections, in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law." Every Israeli citizen 18 or older may vote, including Arabs who are nominally enfranchised, may serve in the parliament, but can't govern or in any way influence policy.
THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION (EAFORD) offers this petition to the United Nations for the Creation of a Special Tribunal to Try Israeli War Criminals.
To: President and Member States of United Nations General Assembly
To President and Member States of United Nations General Assembly
The Creation of a Special Tribunal to try Israeli War Criminals
Recalling that Israel was created by virtue of a General Assembly Resolution in 1947 against the wishes of the indigenous population of Palestine;
Israel has launched a covert war against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran's nuclear programme, US intelligence sources have revealed.
It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project, the experts say.
The most dramatic element of the "decapitation" programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran's atomic operations.
It is well-known outside the United States that a key obstacle, if not the key obstacle, to Israeli/Palestinian peace is the relationship between Israel and the United States. To say that the U.S. "supports Israel" severely misstates the problem: the key problem is the perception and the reality that the U.S. almost unfailingly protects the Israeli government from the negative consequences of anti-Palestinian policies, such as the recent military assault on Gaza, so that while rhetorically the U.S. is committed to peace, in practice the incentives that have been created and maintained by U.S. policy have had the effect of constantly pushing the Israeli government towards more confrontation with the Palestinians, rather than towards accommodation.
Revealing Words of an Israeli Columnist
By Ann Wright
I travelled to Gaza last week with Medea Benjamin and Tighe Berry of Codepink: Women for Peace. We were allowed by the Egyptian government to enter Gaza for only 48 hours.
I knew that 1026 of the 1330 who were killed in the Israeli attacks on Gaza were civilians. Of the 1026 civilians, 282 were children, 111 women, 168 civilian policemen and 501 civilian men died in Israeli bombings. 274 have been classified as combatant deaths.
I knew that the estimates for the cost of reconstruction to the destruction done by Israeli bombing is over $2 billion. After seeing the destruction in Gaza City, I thought I would be prepared for North Gaza. I had heard the damage done by F-16s and tanks was substantial, but I was stunned by the large number of apartment buildings and industries that had been blown up and destroyed by the Israeli military in the northern Gaza border region with Israel.
by Linda Milazzo
CODEPINK Women For Peace will be traveling to Gaza on March 6th. The purpose of their mission is to provide "humanitarian and emotional support to women and women's organizations and exert pressure on US, Egyptian and Israeli governments to lift the blockade and promote peace and human rights in the region."
In advance of their trip, CODEPINK has created a petition that asks signers to write President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to request that he meet with the women of Gaza. As an American Jew who opposes Israel's inhumane treatment of Palestinians, I answered CODEPINK's call, signed the petition, and wrote a letter to Mr. Mitchell. The letter that follows is my personal statement to Mr. Mitchell and not the statement of CODEPINK.
By Phyllis Bennis
In its recent elections Israel has witnessed the rise of the right, the extreme right, and the fascist right.
The timing of the December-January Israeli assault on Gaza had everything to do with the Israeli elections. (Well, almost everything - there was that little item of finishing the military attack before Barack Obama's inauguration.)
But now the elections are over. And while final tallies are not officially finished, a few things are already clear. The two top mainstream parties, popularly known as "right" and "center," placed virtually neck-and-neck. Tzipi Livni's ostensibly centrist Kadima Party ended up in first place, one seat ahead of the officially rightist Likud bloc of Bibi Netanyahu.
Far more significant - for Israelis, Palestinians, and U.S.-Israeli relations - was Israeli voters' choice for third place in the Knesset (Israel's parliament) line-up.
By Ann Wright, retired US Army Reserve Colonel
In a tent in front of Shifa hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, a sign on the photo of a young child bleeding from wounds from the Israeli attack on Gaza read “Gaza Will Not Die.”
Shifa hospital received hundreds of bodies of those killed and thousands of those wounded during the December 27, 2008-January 18, 2009 22 day attack, invasion and occupation of Gaza by the Israeli military.