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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
30 April 2009




Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the

Question of Palestine

Monthly media monitoring review

April 2009

Monthly highlights
    • Israel’s new Foreign Minister says Israel not bound by the Annapolis understandings. (1 April)

    • PA President Abbas rejects Prime Minister Fayyad’s resignation. (2 April)

    • Human Rights Council appoints fact-finding mission to Gaza. (3 April)

    • Israel refuses to cooperate with the fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict. (15 April)

    • US State Department says Prime Minister Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people as a condition for renewing peace talks unacceptable. (20 April)

    • US President Obama invites Egypt’s President Mubarak, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas to the White House in the coming weeks. (21 April)

    • Israeli authorities finalize preparations for demolition of Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan area of East Jerusalem. (29 April)

1

Israeli soldiers detained 18 Palestinians from Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin and Tulkarm. (IMEMC)

Hamas and Fatah resumed reconciliation talks in Cairo aimed at producing a power-sharing government. The key sticking point is the new government’s programme and to what extent Hamas will abide by past accords with Israel. The official MENA news agency said Egypt’s Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman had been leading the talks. Leading Fatah’s delegation were Ahmed Qureia and Nabil Sha’ath. The top Hamas negotiator is the group’s deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk. (AP)

Israel’s new Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman said that Israel was not bound to conduct negotiations on a final settlement with the Palestinians as agreed at the Annapolis Conference in 2007. “There is only one document that binds us and it is not the Annapolis Conference … only the Road Map. The Israeli Government and the Knesset never adopted Annapolis”, Mr. Liberman said at a handover ceremony at the Foreign Ministry a day after being sworn in by the Knesset. “We will go exactly according to the Road Map … We will never agree to skip any of the stages, and there are 48 of them, and go straight to the last stage on negotiations on a permanent agreement”, he said. (AFP)

A Minister of State at Britain’s Foreign Office, Bill Rammell, called on Hamas to reject violence during a visit to Damascus. “Hamas needs to move tangibly … in terms of rejection of violence … I would like to talk to Hamas but we need change before engaging in that position”, Mr. Rammell said after talks with Syrian Minister for Foreign AffairsWalid Muallem. (AFP)

Damage to Swedish-funded projects in the Gaza Strip during the recent fighting there totalled some $2.3 million, according to a report commissioned by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Consultant Johan Brisman, who conducted the study, added, “Repair costs can be estimated to be between 2 and 4 times that amount.” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA))

Israel had decided to partially open three crossing points to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, according to a Palestinian official in charge of crossings, Raed Fattuh. Mr. Fattuh said 115 truckloads had entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing. (Ma’an News Agency)

An estimated 1,346 Palestinian children had been left without one or more of their parents as a result of the recent Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, according to Islamic Relief in Gaza. (IRIN)

2

The Israeli army arrested 28 Palestinians in Jenin, Qalqilya, Jericho, Bethlehem, Nablus and Al-Izriyah near Jerusalem. Israeli troops also detained a PA intelligence officer at his home in Tulkarm. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

A Palestinian with an axe and a knife killed a 13-year-old Israeli boy and wounded a seven-year-old boy in the Bat Ayin settlement and then fled. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility in a statement. (Reuters)

Egyptian security forces closed nine smuggling tunnels at the Egyptian side of Rafah and confiscated fuel pumps. (Ma’an News Agency)

Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister for Foreign Affairs Riad Malki said President Abbas had rejected the resignation of Prime Minister Fayyad and had asked him to stay on until Fatah and Hamas had reached a deal. “This Government will stay on to avoid having a constitutional vacuum”, Mr. Malki said. (Reuters)

Fatah and Hamas had decided to suspend Egyptian-mediated unity talks for three weeks. Senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath said: “There are new creative proposals and each movement needs to consult its leadership … We decided to resume the negotiations at a later date, sometime between 21 and 26 April.” (AFP)

Israel allowed the smallest quantity of vital supplies into the Gaza Strip in weeks, opening just one of three key crossing points. Raed Fattuh, the Palestinian official in charge of crossings, confirmed that the Kerem Shalom crossing would be partially opened. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Italian geopolitical review Limes reported that at least 19,000 Palestinian homes had been destroyed by Israel since 1967. In 5 per cent of cases, demolition had been defined as punitive, and 35 per cent were based on lack of proper permits, the magazine said. “[It] is important to remember that very often, the Palestinians have no other choice but to build illegally because obtaining permits has become almost impossible”,E it reported, adding that 95 per cent of permit applications made between 2000 and 2007 had been denied. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli authorities issued orders to confiscate 1,000 dunums of Palestinian land in the village of Qaryut, south of Nablus, to construct a road and three settlements. (Ma’an News Agency)

A group of Israeli settlers took over a Palestinian-owned house in Jerusalem’s Old City. The owner said that he had been renovating his house when a group of settlers came and tried to take over the house. Israeli police arrived after the scuffle and allowed the settlers to take control of the house after forcing the owner away. (IMEMC)

"The comments issued by the new Israeli Foreign Minister [Liberman] refusing to recognize the Annapolis process are regrettable and are the first setback to peace efforts coming from this new Israeli Government," Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. (AFP)

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to distance himself from remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman rejecting the Annapolis process. "When something so dramatic is said and does not receive a response, it either reflects weakness on the part of Bibi [Netanyahu] or he actually believes it", she told Israel Army Radio. (DPA)

Spanish public prosecutors had asked a Spanish court to temporarily shelve a complaint against seven top Israeli military figures over an Israeli air strike on Gaza City on 22 July 2002 . The attack had killed Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, along with 14 civilians, mainly infants and children, according to a judicial source. The prosecutors justified the move on the grounds that the alleged crimes against humanity in question were already the subject of a legal procedure in Israel, the source said. Judge Fernando Abreu had agreed in January to pursue the complaint filed by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in line with Spain’s assumption of the principle of universal jurisdiction in alleged cases of crimes against humanity, genocide and terrorism. (AFP)

3

In Safa village in the West Bank, Israeli troops occupied three homes and declared them military posts. Several bulldozers blocked off entrances to the village as the Israelis' search for the “axe attacker” continued. (Ma’an News Agency)

A Palestinian fisherman was injured and three boats were damaged after Israeli warships opened fire on the coastal areas near Rafah. (Ma’an News Agency)

US President Barack Obama reiterated his support for the Arab peace initiative in a meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in London, the White House said in a statement. (The Jerusalem Post)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, urging him to support the peace process with the Palestinians. (Haaretz)

Only the Kerem Shalom Gaza crossing was partially open and was expected to allow 85 trucks through, according to Raed Fattuh, Palestinian official in charge of crossings. No fuel had been allowed in. Meanwhile, Egypt had transferred thousands of aid packages through Rafah. (Ma’an News Agency)

Settlers in Hebron took over four shops in the Old City market in the area abutting the Israeli settlement of Abraham Avinu. (Ma’an News Agency)

The President of the Human Rights Council, Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, announced his decision to appoint the members of the fact-finding mission to Gaza established by the special session of the Council in January. Appointed were Justice Richard J. Goldstone of South Africa, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, who would lead the mission, Christine Chinkin, Hina Jilani and Desmond Travers. Professor Chinkin had served on the fact-finding mission of the Council to Beit Hanoun. Ms. Jilani was a former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders and Colonel Travers, retired from the Irish Defence Forces, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations. (www.unhchr.ch)

4

IDF troops shot and killed two Palestinians as they approached Gaza’s border with Israel. Troops had shot at several gunmen in northern Gaza that morning, killing two. Several weapons and an explosive device were found at the scene. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. (BBC, Haaretz)

A 14-year-old Palestinian boy from Qalqilya was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet during an Israeli incursion into the city and was reported to be in critical condition. (IMEMC)

5

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi dismissed as “completely unfounded” the accounts by Israeli soldiers of wrongdoings during the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip. In a letter addressed to reservists on the occasion of the Pesach holiday, he said, “These testimonies had been fully examined and investigated by the Military Police and the Military Advocate’s Office, and have been found, to my joy, to be completely unfounded and lacking in any evidential basis.” (Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post)

During the day and through the following morning, Israeli forces arrested seven Palestinians from the Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron areas after ransacking and searching homes. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

An IDF officer and three combatants from the Duvdevan special forces unit had received a citation for refraining from hurting non-combatants in clashes with Palestinian militants in the West Bank. (Haaretz)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced during his first Cabinet meeting that Israel would set its peace agenda in the next few weeks. He said, "We will complete the formulation of our policy to advance peace and security” and announced the appointment of a 12-member political-security cabinet. It was reported that the Government was conducting a thorough policy review in which all diplomatic components – from the Road Map to the Annapolis process – were being re-evaluated. (DPA, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post)

PA President Abbas laid down the conditions for renewing the stalled peace negotiations with Israel. The new Israeli Government “would have to accept the creation of a Palestinian State, stop construction in West Bank Israeli settlements and remove army roadblocks crippling life in the West Bank so that we can resume dialogue in order to reach a political solution”. (Haaretz, IMEMC, The Jerusalem Post)

It was disclosed that the University and College Union, Britain’s largest trade union for academics, lecturers and researchers, which had been behind previous attempts to boycott Israeli academia, would not call for a boycott at their congress next month. Nevertheless, it would raise a number of motions critical of Israel. (The Jerusalem Post)

The Israeli High Court had issued a ruling allowing for the demolition of two additional Palestinian-owned homes in Jerusalem, belonging to the Hanoun and Al-Ghawi families. The owners had land ownership documents dating from the Ottoman period which preceded the creation of Israel. The demolition orders were part of the “E1” Israeli settlement plan, whose aim was to tear down thousands of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. (IMEMC)

Three Palestinians were injured in the Old City of Jerusalem after settlers attacked their neighbourhood. Israeli police seized three brothers, who had tried to confront the settlers. Dozens of settlers had been trying to reach the Jaber family home in the Sa’diyya neighbourhood, which Jewish groups and Israeli forces had occupied on 2 April. Witnesses said that at least 1,000 soldiers surrounded the neighbourhood, barring the residents from entering or leaving. Media were also prevented from entering the area. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Some 150 armed settlers attacked dozens of Palestinian homes in the Jaber, Wadi Al Nasara, Wadi Al Hasseen, and Al Ras neighbourhoods of Hebron. They also attacked a number of homes near the Kiryat Arba settlement in the city. The settlers caused damage to Palestinian-owned vehicles and to the doors and windows of a number of houses, with no intervention from IDF. Eyewitnesses reported that the settlers chanted “Death to Arabs” and called for the deportation of all Palestinians. They also tried to occupy the Al Rajaby building. (IMEMC)

6

Israeli soldiers forced Palestinian teenagers to strip naked in full view of other Palestinians waiting at a military checkpoint near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. In addition, the soldiers verbally mocked the teenagers. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli forces closed a checkpoint east of Qalqilya in the West Bank, which left hundreds of Palestinians on both sides stranded. No reason was given for the closure. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Israeli navy seized eight Palestinian fishermen and four boats off the shore of the northern Gaza Strip. According to international human rights observers, the fishermen had been taken aboard warships some 100 metres from the shore in the Salateen area of Gaza. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli soldiers and Ma’on settlement security guards seized three Palestinian boys, aged 10, 11 and 14, from Juwayya village near Hebron, and transported them to the settlement where the settlers subjected them to a beating. Earlier, settlers had shot at a teenage Palestinian shepherd near the village. (WAFA)

An IDF officer and a soldier had been indicted for aggravated assault against Palestinian detainees in the West Bank. According to the charges, the lieutenant, serving as a company commander, and the staff sergeant, serving as a medic, had assaulted Palestinians detained for routine search and questioning in September 2008. The military police were alerted to the incident when a human rights group filed a complaint. (Ma’an News Agency, Ynetnews)

In a speech to the Turkish Parliament, US President Barack Obama said that “the United States strongly supported the goal of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis and people of goodwill around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the Road Map and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will actively pursue as President. We know that the road ahead will be difficult. Both Israelis and Palestinians must take the steps that are necessary to build confidence. Both must live up to the commitments they have made”. The PA welcomed President Obama’s renewed support for the Annapolis agreement and the stalled Road Map for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Israel hailed his commitment to Israel’s security and to the pursuit of peace. (AFP, Haaretz, IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters, Ynetnews)

The US State Department announced that US Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell was expected to visit the region again starting 13 April to advance the goal of the two-State solution and comprehensive peace in the region. He would discuss the next steps in moving the parties towards a lasting peace that will benefit all the people of the region. During this third trip, Mr. Mitchell would visit Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and North Africa. (Ma’an News Agency, Ynetnews)

European Union Middle East Envoy Marc Otte stated that Annapolis was “binding” on Israel because it had been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. (Reuters)

Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair urged Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to resume Palestinian statehood talks in parallel with a push to boost the West Bank economy and to let Palestinians control more of their territory. “There is a great deal of scepticism out there,” Mr. Blair told reporters after talks with Mr. Netanyahu, adding “My view is that he does understand that, if the right context can be created for peace, the only lasting peace is based on a two-State solution.” Mr. Blair also urged Mr. Netanyahu to ease Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters, Ynetnews)

Following talks in Moscow with PA President Abbas, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for a two-State solution in the Middle East, stating that Russia would continue to work towards the establishment of a Palestinian State and to get the Middle East peace process back on track. He again announced plans for a Middle East conference in Moscow for which a date had not yet been set. Mr. Medvedev said that the conference could mark “the next step towards a solution to the conflict”. (AFP, DPA)

During an official visit to Romania, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said that the Arab Peace Initiative offered a solution for peace in the Middle East, adding that Israel should use the opportunity or risk ongoing conflict in the region. The King said, “Israel must decide whether they want to observe this opportunity and become integrated in the region or whether they want to remain a fortress … and keep the Middle East hostage in conflict”. (AP, Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency, The Jerusalem Post)

During its weekly meeting in Ramallah, the PA warned of “dangerous repercussions” of the policies of Israel’s new Government, stating that Israel’s rejection of the land-for-peace principle, the mandate of the Annapolis peace conference and the concept of “economic peace”, all threaten prospects for peace. They called on the international community in general and the US Administration in particular to take firm steps, rather than rely on mere rhetoric. (Ma’an News Agency)

Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, whose three daughters and one niece had been killed in January during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a “soldier of peace”. He was awarded honorary Belgian citizenship “in recognition of his efforts in service of humanity”, the Belgian State Secretary announced. After his daughters were killed, Dr. Al-Aish, who had been trained in Israel and spoke Hebrew, said that he hoped that they would be the last victims of the fighting in Gaza and that their deaths would help bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that he saw the prize as something which could be “positive for the two nations”. (Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency, The Jerusalem Post)

Fifteen patients were permitted to enter the Gaza Strip from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing. Seven truckloads of medicine sent by the Red Crescent Society of Saudi Arabia were also allowed to enter. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Israel announced that it would allow the entry of three trucks loaded with equipment for the power station in Gaza City. This would be the first time in months that maintenance equipment for the power station would be allowed into Gaza. It was indicated that 109 truckloads of food had been allowed to cross into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

The Israeli army had banned all medical personnel and a large shipment of medical equipment from the West Bank from entering Jerusalem. Six Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem had been affected by the measure. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem had demolished a stone block house owned by a Palestinian family in the Burj al-Laqlaq area of the Old City of Jerusalem. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Settlers from the Ma’on settlement shot at a teenage Palestinian shepherd as he grazed his sheep near Juwayya village. (WAFA)

Armed settlement guards prevented a delegation from the United States Consulate in Jerusalem from approaching the Hioval settlement near Qaryut village in the Nablus area. According to the American officials, the visit was a routine, previously scheduled trip to areas controlled by the PA in the West Bank. (Ma’an News Agency)

Palestinian officials had learned that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails would be allowed only one book each, down from a limit of eight books. The measure was part of the Israeli Government’s pressure tactics adopted in an attempt to speed negotiations toward a prisoner swap with Hamas. Female detainees were allowed to have two books. Israeli prison administrations had rejected requests by prisoners to have libraries in the prisons. (Ma’an News Agency)

The PA welcomed the appointment of a fact-finding mission by the Human Rights Council to investigate war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead”, expressing readiness to cooperate with the mission. Hamas indicated that it had no objection to proposals for a fact-finding mission to Gaza to investigate allegations of war crimes during the Israeli offensive in December and January. Hamas said that it would support prosecutions of Israeli leaders for war crimes but that the actions of the Palestinian side should not be viewed in the same light as Israel’s attacks. “The reaction of the Palestinian people and the resistance in the Gaza Strip during the war was a real self-defence and we require that any committee coming to the Gaza Strip should not look equally to the victim and the attacker.” (Ma’an News Agency)

The leading Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem praised the appointment of Judge Richard Goldstone to head the fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Council to investigate war crimes committed during the Israeli incursion into Gaza. B’Tselem said that “particularly welcome was the delegation’s mandate, which covers violations of international humanitarian law by both sides, in the Gaza Strip and Israel. B’Tselem believes that the delegation’s mandate and its composition provide the basic conditions necessary for an independent, fair and credible investigation”, but said that its success depended on the cooperation of both sides. It called on the Government of Israel to enable the delegation to enter Israel and the Gaza Strip and insisted that Israel provide the delegation with all relevant materials in its possession so that the members will have before them the considerations that guided the military in determining the targets that were bombed and the weapons that were used, as well as the orders given to the ground troops. (Ma’an News Agency)

An independent fact-finding mission of medical experts, commissioned by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, had published a special report on the Israeli violation of medical ethics in Gaza. The report said that Israel attacked 34 medical care facilities and prevented Palestinian medical teams from reaching the wounded during the offensive in December 2008 and January 2009. It quoted figures from the World Health Organization that showed that 6 Palestinian medical personnel had been killed and 25 injured by Israeli fire while performing their duties. Israeli forces did not allow the evacuation of injured civilians, who were besieged for days, and left civilians without food or water for considerable periods. The report stated that those findings indicated a "dangerous and retrograde trend" of an increasing disregard for the obligation to protect medical personnel during military operations. (Aljazeera.net, www.phr.org)

7

Israeli border police fatally shot a Palestinian as he tried to crash his car into them during the demolition of an East Jerusalem home of a Palestinian who had killed three Israelis with a bulldozer in July 2008. Clashes erupted at the scene as Palestinians stoned police, who fired tear gas. (Haaretz)

Israeli forces raided the Far’a refugee camp near Tubas, detaining two Palestinians. They also detained two Palestinians from Tubas and one from Qabatiya amid heavy gunfire. (Ma’an News Agency)

An Israeli settler was injured after he lost control of his car as it was pelted with stones in Ramallah. (Ma’an News Agency)

The first complete short-range missile interception system "Iron Dome" is expected to become operational as early as summer 2010, the Israeli armaments development authority Rafael said. (Haaretz)

Israeli forces detained a Palestinian near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, claiming he was armed with a knife and four Molotov cocktails. Israeli forces sealed the gates leading to the mosque and placed the entire southern neighbourhood of Hebron under curfew. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman said that the new Government would formulate a diplomatic programme compatible with the wishes of the electorate. He said that after 16 years of a diplomatic "dead end" in the peace process, the world must be ready to listen to new ideas. He declared: "We intend to work with determination on the diplomatic plane and formulate a detailed and up-to-date assessment. This will not happen overnight.” US State Department spokesman Robert Wood responded by saying that "the important objective for us is to get this process back on track so that we can get to this two-State solution that we think is in the best interests of not only the Israelis and the Palestinians, but the United States and the rest of the world.” (The Jerusalem Post)

At a student round table in Istanbul, US President Obama said that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took pride in trying to help resolve issues between Israel and its neighbours. He said peace in the Middle East was possible and two States, Israeli and Palestinian, could live side by side. He said the situation was not sustainable as “more antagonism towards Israel over time will make Israel less secure” and that the Palestinian economy is increasingly unable to sustain the people's quality of life. He said, “A lot of mistrust has been built up, a lot of anger, a lot of hatred. And unwinding that hatred requires patience. But it has been done”, as evidenced by his Special Envoy George Mitchell’s experience in Ireland. ”And it will require young people like you never to stereotype or assume the worst about other people. In the Muslim world, this notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance … I say the same thing to my Jewish friends, which is, you have to see the perspective of the Palestinians.” (www.whitehouse.gov)

The Israeli Government had allowed the transfer of $12.5 million in cash to the Gaza Strip, just a quarter of the amount needed at this stage, Quartet Representative Tony Blair said. He said, "This is a welcome first step but we need to ensure that larger transfers continue to be made as soon as possible and thereafter on a predictable basis so that all the necessary payments can be made to help people in Gaza." A senior official in PA Prime Minister Fayyad's office confirmed the funds had been transferred, but warned that it was "not enough to pay the salaries of PA employees in Gaza.” (AFP)

Two US congressmen, Bob Inglis and Stephen F. Lynch, made a visit to the Gaza Strip, meeting with aid workers and touring scenes of destruction left by Israel's military offensive. Mr. Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said that the world must find a way to address a "legitimate humanitarian crisis" in Gaza. Mr. Lynch said he and Mr. Inglis, a Republican from South Carolina, visited a project run by Catholic Relief Services in a heavily damaged neighbourhood and a tent camp where displaced Gazans had been living. Mr. Lynch also commented on the limited access saying: "It is problematic having the checkpoints closed." He said that aid could be brought into Gaza through the United Nations and other organizations and that safeguards could be put in place to make sure resources were used properly, but the US would not work with Hamas until it changed its policy towards Israel and rejected violence. (AP)

For the first time in a week Israeli authorities opened all three of Gaza’s main crossings, said the Palestinian official in charge of crossings Raed Fattuh. The Kerem Shalom crossing would see 115 truckloads enter, including 45 for the United Nations and international organizations and 56 for the private sector. The crossings, however, would be closed from 8 to 11 April for the Passover holidays in Israel. The Karni crossing would be opened to allow 45 truckloads of wheat and fodder, and an unknown amount of fuel would enter through Nahal Oz. (Ma’an News Agency)

Local committees in refugee camps in the northern West Bank had decided to close the social welfare offices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) effective the following day to protest reductions in food aid and the suspension of cash assistance. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Director-General of Gaza’s Water Utility, Monther Shoblak, said that over 150,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had been left without tap water as a result of the recent Israeli offensive. He said that requests to the Israeli military via the Red Cross to allow shipments of construction materials and spare parts to repair wells and facilities damaged during the war had been denied. He explained that 11 of Gaza’s 150 wells, the only source of drinking water, were not functioning and six others had been completely destroyed. (IRIN)

8

Eight Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire during a clash between settlers from Bat Ayin and villagers in and around nearby Safa near Hebron, the Israeli military said. Palestinian sources put the numbers at 38 injured and 11 wounded. (AP, Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli undercover forces seized Hamas leader Ahmad Sawalma from the Far’a refugee camp near Nablus, local sources said. Israeli troops also arrested three Palestinians near Tulkarm and five teenagers in Nablus. (Ma’an News Agency)

An Israeli solder shot and lightly wounded a Palestinian after he tried to snatch a soldier’s weapon at a checkpoint near Ramallah. (Haaretz)

Representatives of Hamas and Fatah held a meeting in the Gaza Strip to discuss the reconstruction of Gaza and mutual reconciliation. Four Fatah leaders, headed by Abdallah el-Ifranji, held talks with four Hamas leaders, headed by senior leader Salah el-Bardawil. (DPA)

The US had been training senior PA security officers in a special training course in Ramallah, Haaretz reported. The two-month course was being supervised by US Security Coordinator, General Keith Dayton. According to the newspaper, two classes of 40 officers each had graduated from the programme so far. A third class was being trained in Jordan. (Haaretz)

Saudi Minister for Foreign Affairs Saud Al-Faisal said negative Israeli statements did not bode well for the Middle East peace process and could take the negotiations back to square one. He spoke in Riyadh at a news conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said it was important for both Palestinians and Israelis to adhere to the commitments of their predecessors. (AP)

Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, toured areas of the Gaza Strip that had been destroyed by the Israeli military during its offensive in December and January. "As the leader of a party which was censured and demonized and whose members were killed, I see dialogue between all sides as key to building a successful peace process", he told reporters. "So I will meet with all sides and urge all sides to end all armed actions and to engage in meaningful dialogue.” (Ma’an News Agency)

In a recent briefing, US Administration officials told Democratic congressmen that President Obama considered the two-State solution central to his Middle East policy and that he intended to ask that Prime Minister Netanyahu fulfil all the commitments made by previous Governments: accepting the principle of a Palestinian State; freezing settlement activity; evacuating outposts; and providing economic and security assistance to the PA. (Haaretz)

Twenty-two Palestinian patients, including those wounded during the war in Gaza, returned to the Gaza Strip from Egypt after being treated in Egyptian hospitals, according to a Palestinian official. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued the following statement:


9

Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan confirmed that conciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas would resume on 26 April. He also said that if PA President Abbas planned to ask Salam Fayyad to form a transitional Government, it would “abort all conciliation and unity attempts.” (Ma’an News Agency)

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed his country’s opposition to the demolition of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem. “We view with real concern the proposed demolitions in East Jerusalem … Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinians and Israel”, Mr. Miliband told a press conference he jointly addressed with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh. (DPA)

The Palestinian Centre for Defence of Detainees reported that the number of sick Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons was gradually increasing owing to the Israeli policy of medical neglect. The Centre said that there were 1,600 sick detainees who needed urgent attention, adding that the cells in the detention centres lacked proper ventilation and were dark both day and night. (IMEMC)

10

Israeli navy ships opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats near the beaches of Gaza City and Rafah, causing no injuries. (Ma’an News Agency)

11

Israeli soldiers assaulted three Palestinians and arrested one of them in Al-Khader, south of Bethlehem. (Ma’an News Agency)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II “stressed the need for an immediate move to re-launch serious negotiations for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-State formula and in accordance with the agreed references, particularly the Arab Peace Initiative”, according to a Royal Court statement. The monarch issued the call during a meeting in Amman with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa and the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, the PA and Lebanon, who met to appraise the Middle East peace process following the establishment of the new Israeli Government. “The monarch underscored the importance of the time element in the negotiation process which should unequivocally seek the implementation of the two-State solution, the establishment of comprehensive peace, regaining all Arab rights and setting up an independent Palestinian State over Palestinian soil”, the statement added. King Abdullah II also called for a “unified Arab attitude so as to be able to speak to the world community, particularly the United States, in a single language” in compliance with the resolutions adopted at the Arab Summit in Doha at the end of March. (DPA)

A group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance in the Old City of Hebron, damaging the vehicle. “The soldiers turned a blind eye to the incident, making no move to stop the settlers from throwing stones”, Head of Ambulance and Emergency Services for the Red Crescent Abed al-Haleem al-Ja’afra said. (Ma’an News Agency)

Three Palestinian women were attacked by masked Israeli settlers near their village of Umm Al-Kher, near Hebron. One of the women was hospitalized. (Ma’an News Agency)

12

Israeli forces ransacked and took control of a Palestinian house in the town of Al-Shweika, near Tulkarm. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to PA President Abbas for the first time since taking office, telling him that he sought close cooperation to drive peace efforts forward. Mr. Netanyahu’s office said that the conversation had been initiated by Mr. Abbas, who called the Israeli leader to extend greetings for the Passover holiday. (AP)

Pope Benedict XVI said in his Easter message, “Reconciliation – difficult, but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world.” (AFP, AP, Reuters, www.vatican.va)

Israel opened two crossing points with the Gaza Strip: the Nahal Oz fuel terminal and the Kerem Shalom crossing, which had been closed since 8 April for Passover. The Karni crossing remained closed. (Ma’an News Agency)

Some 100 European parliamentarians, mayors and governors arrived in the West Bank under a twinning programme between French cities and Palestine refugee camps (Association des Villes Françaises Jumelées avec des Camps de Réfugiés Palestiniens). The delegation was scheduled to visit several refugee camps in the West Bank and Jerusalem to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and demonstrate support for refugees’ right of return. The delegation would also meet with PA President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad and other Palestinian officials. (Ma’an News Agency)

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Israeli forces detained at least 11 Palestinians during raids in the West Bank. (Ma’an News Agency)

An unmanned Palestinian fishing boat laden with explosives blew up off the coast of Gaza in what the Israeli military said had been an attempt to attack a naval patrol in the area. There were no casualties. (AP)

The Pope’s spokesman, Wadie Abunasser, told The Jerusalem Post that the Pope would “absolutely” refrain from visiting the Gaza Strip during his upcoming trip to the region next month. (The Jerusalem Post)

Indonesia’s Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said that Indonesia was training some 13 Palestinian experts in infrastructure and rehabilitation project management. The Minister explained that the 10-day programme, called “Cycle Project”, would take place on 13 and 14 April in Jakarta, and it would cover project management, planning and evaluation. (Xinhua)

Two Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip, aged 17 and 66, died as a result of the Israeli siege. The two women needed treatment outside Gaza, but the Israeli army did not allow them to leave the territory, a local source reported. (IMEMC)

14

A total of 23 Palestinians were arrested by IDF throughout the West Bank. IDF undercover forces arrested two Palestinians after ambushing their vehicle at the entrance to Ithna village north of Hebron. Israeli troops arrested eight Palestinian youths following a dawn raid on Madama village near Nablus. They also arrested a PA intelligence officer in the village of Qusin near Nablus and arrested two other men at the At-Tur checkpoint near the city. A 27-year-old Palestinian was seized in the village of Al-Matalleh near Jenin, while four Palestinians were detained in Safa village near Hebron. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Heavy shelling by Israeli warships directed at Palestinian fishing boats was reported in the northern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. (Ma’an News Agency)

A previously unknown Palestinian group, calling itself “The Secret Special Units”, claimed responsibility for detonating by remote control an explosives-laden boat the previous day some 600 meters away from an Israeli navy ship. (Ma’an News Agency)

PA President Abbas stated that he had a number of reservations about an Egyptian document which proposes a new joint Palestinian committee that would have the task of preparing for parallel presidential and legislative elections. It was reported that he had asked Egypt to make modifications to the text so that it did not exclude the Palestine Liberation Organization. The document also contained the proposal for creating a committee that would be in charge of supervising the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz, IMEMC)

US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell met with a number of Arab leaders in an effort to revive the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. After meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Morocco, Taïb Fassi Fihri, Mr. Mitchell reiterated his country’s commitment to a two-State solution to the conflict. He also met with the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who welcomed Mr. Mitchell’s visit to Algiers and told him that it was “an excellent idea to include North Africa in your consultations”. Mr. Mitchell would also travel to Tunisia, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and several other Arab States. (Haaretz, IMEMC)

During a meeting with former Meretz party leader Yossi Beilin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé said that “Europe will not accept a situation in which the Netanyahu Government evades its predecessors' decisions in regards to the peace process”. Mr. Moratinos said that the goal of his forthcoming visit to Israel was “to prevent the collapse of the peace process, demand that the Government commits to past decisions and clarify that Europe will not accept a situation in which a democratically elected Government renounces the peace process”. (Haaretz, Ynetnews)

Saeb Erakat, Head of the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO, stated that “Israel’s refusal to commit to the creation of a Palestinian State amounts to a rejection of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority”, adding that “Israel had to make a choice between continued occupation and abiding by its obligations”. The same day, Ahmed Qureia, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, stated that “economic peace is totally irrelevant to Palestinians” and called on the international community to intervene and restore the “political track” of the peace process with Israel. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israel barred deliveries of fuel to the Gaza Strip by closing the Nahal Oz terminal but opened two crossing points for the delivery of food and humanitarian supplies. Eighty truckloads of food and other supplies were allowed through the Kerem Shalom crossing while 30 truckloads of wheat and animal feed were allowed through the Karni crossing. (Ma’an News Agency)

Egyptian border police confiscated 19,000 litres of fuel planned to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip through underground tunnels. In addition, Egyptian security forces destroyed six tunnels along the border with Gaza. (IMEMC)

Israeli police ordered two Palestinian families in the Sheikh Harrah neighbourhood near the Old City of Jerusalem to vacate their homes. Israeli settlers claimed that the land had been owned by Jews before the creation of Israel. The two families managed to acquire documents from the Ottoman archives in Ankara showing that the land was owned by Palestinians, but were unsuccessful in appealing the court decision. (IMEMC)

Human Rights Watch urged both sides in the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone. In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it stated that “an impartial investigation was needed since neither Hamas nor Israel seemed willing to conduct a thorough probe”. Human Rights Watch had also sent letters to the European Union Ministers for Foreign Affairs calling on them to endorse the investigation. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth indicated that an internal military probe would be insufficient given Israel’s record, adding that “past research into IDF investigations and prosecutions regarding the wrongful deaths of Palestinian civilians found that Israeli investigative practices and procedures were not thorough, impartial, or timely”. (AFP, Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters)

15

A Palestinian was arrested at a checkpoint near the city of Tubas in the West Bank. (IMEMC)

PA Prime Minister Fayyad said that “Israel must take bold steps toward ending its occupation of Palestinian land in order to convince the Palestinian Authority to return to peace negotiations. If there is to be any two-State solution to speak of, the Israeli Government must take immediate and bold steps towards ending its colonization and occupation of Palestinian territory. After Israel spent the past year engaging in peace negotiations while simultaneously intensifying settlement activity in the West Bank and launching a military operation on Gaza, nothing less will do.” Mr. Fayyad added that “a return to peacemaking requires immediate action in the areas of freezing settlement activity, including construction of the wall, bypass roads, land confiscations and house demolitions”. (Ma’an News Agency)

Fatah had agreed with Hamas to continue talks in Gaza in advance of scheduled talks in Cairo, senior Fatah official Abdallah al-Ifranji said following his return from meetings with Hamas and other factional leaders in Gaza. He called his mission to Gaza “ice breaking”, one that would prevent factional members from “using weapons against each other.” He also confirmed that the talks in Gaza were not a replacement for the talks in Cairo but rather a parallel process. (Ma’an News Agency)

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé met in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to discuss the reconstruction of Gaza and reconciliation between the Palestinian factions. Mr. Moratinos expressed to Mr. Fayyad his support for the process of Palestinian national reconciliation. He said that he hoped the new round of talks, which would begin in Cairo on 25 April, "will be definitive" and lead to an accord for a national unity Government. (Financial Times)

The Israeli army decided to close three key crossing points into the Gaza Strip, blocking deliveries of food, fuel and other vital supplies. Palestinian border crossing officials were told that the crossings would be closed because of the religious holidays and would reopen the following day. (Ma’an News Agency)

It was reported that more than 700 patients from the Gaza Strip had been waiting for Egypt to open the border crossing at Rafah so that they could travel abroad for medical treatment. Among the patients were many who had been wounded during the Israeli Operation Cast Lead. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Hundreds of thousands of tons of aid intended for the Gaza Strip have been piling up across the Sinai region in Egypt, despite recent calls by the United Nations to ease aid flow restrictions. Aid from Governments and non-governmental organizations consisting of food, medicine, blankets and other supplies had been stored in warehouses, parking lots, stadiums or on airport runways across the North Sinai Governorate. (Inter Press Service)

In a meeting in Damascus with a group of visiting British parliamentarians headed by Member of Parliament Roger Godsiff, Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mashaal accused the international community of failing to live up to its “moral and humanitarian obligations” by putting political conditions on reconstruction aid for the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Tension was mounting in Jerusalem as Israeli settlers and right-wing groups announced plans to invade the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Mosque the following day. Local sources reported that the Israeli police and army had brought reinforcements into the Old City to deal with any trouble. Israeli media sources reported that the rally might be the largest since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. The PA Cabinet condemned the proposed march. It was reported that some Palestinian religious and other figures had urged Palestinians who were able to reach Jerusalem to march towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque early the following day to stand up to Israeli extremists. Israeli police accused the PA official in charge of Jerusalem affairs of intending to create a public disturbance which would “inflame the situation in Jerusalem”. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

A senior Israeli official indicated that Israel had informed the United Nations that it would refuse to cooperate with the Human Rights Council-mandated independent fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict. Hamas had expressed its readiness to work with the investigators. (AFP, Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters)

In Cairo, Israeli-Argentinean conductor Daniel Barenboim called on Arabs to visit Israel, urging them not to put all Israelis "in one basket". In a news conference, a day before the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra he co-founded was due to play in Cairo, he said, "It would be much better that Egyptians, and Syrians, and Palestinians, and Jordanians, and Lebanese, will go to Tel Aviv, and explain their point of view, and express their point of view", Mr. Barenboim also said that there was no military solution to the conflict. (AFP)

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Israeli aircraft bombed a house in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip after a lull of more than a month, causing no casualties. An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the attack. The raid came one day after Gaza militants fired a rocket into southern Israel for the first time in 10 days, causing no injuries or damage. (AFP)

During the third round of talks of US Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell in Jerusalem, he told Israel’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman that the US remained committed to a two-State solution to rectify the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Liberman, for his part, said that a different approach was needed to solve the Middle East conflict because past Israeli Governments had taken a path that did not lead to "good places, to say the least". Mr. Mitchell continued with his visit, travelling to Ramallah. (Haaretz)

Gaza crossings official Raed Fattuh said that Kerem Shalom would be opened to allow up to 30 truckloads of food and aid into the Gaza Strip. (Ma’an News Agency)

Dozens of patients from the Gaza Strip waiting to receive treatment abroad and ambulances staffed by frustrated medical workers from the Gaza Strip, gathered in front of the Rafah crossing gate in a joint demonstration against Egypt’s closure of the crossing point. (Ma’an News Agency)

Dozens of Palestinians gathered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in an effort to defend it from an anticipated invasion by the Chabad movement, which had called on its followers to go to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to "conquer and Judaize the holiest place on earth, which was being desecrated in such a disgraceful and shameful way." Several religious groups had organized a march to the holy compound but none showed up at the Mosque. Outside the Old City of Jerusalem, crowds were smaller than anticipated as Israeli soldiers prevented West Bank men under 50 from entering Jerusalem, and Jerusalem residents under 50 from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Those able to attend what many called the “defence of Al-Aqsa” gathered at the Lion’s Gate. (Ma’an News Agency)

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A Palestinian protestor was shot dead by Israeli forces during a demonstration in Bil’in against Israel's separation wall, a military spokeswoman said. She said the army ordered "that a joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation be conducted into the circumstances of this death." Dozens of protestors were injured. (AFP, IMEMC)

A knife-wielding Palestinian infiltrated the Beit Haggai settlement south of Hebron and was shot dead by a settler, the Israeli military said. A military spokeswoman said the settler had been slightly injured by the knife. (DPA)

Israeli forces opened fire on members of an international solidarity NGO called Local Initiative, who were helping farmers in the northern Gaza Strip. No one was injured. (Ma’an News Agency)

A Qassam rocket fired from Gaza hit an open area in southern Israel. (Haaretz)

"This conflict has gone on for far too long. The people of this region should no longer have to wait for the just peace[...]," US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell told a news conference in Ramallah after meeting PA President Abbas. "We want the Arab Peace Initiative to be a part of the effort to reach this goal … A two-State solution is the only solution," he said. Saeb Erakat, head of the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO, said ahead of the talks: "The international Quartet ... demanded from us to accept a two-State solution and agreements signed, and we did, and I think the same standards should be applied to Israel," adding that failure to do so would weaken moderates and push the region further into the hands of extremists. (AP, DPA)

"We cannot, we will not, and we will never recognize the enemy in any way, shape or form," senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, said in a mosque sermon broadcast on the radio, referring to Israel. (Reuters)

Palestinian Prisoners Day was marked by marches, calls to action and moments of silence in Gaza City, Bethlehem, Ramallah and other Palestinian cities as communities took to the streets to remember and honour the Palestinians in Israeli prisons. (Ma’an News Agency)

Twenty-three international NGOs accused the international community of “standing by” as “Gazans sift through the rubble,” noting that thousands “are still homeless and without basic services such as piped drinking water three months after the 18 January ceasefire.” More than “lip service to the needs of the people of Gaza” is required, the statement signed by CARE, Oxfam, Defence for Children International and others said. “If the EU does not put the brakes on the process to strengthen ties with Israel, it will be sending a dangerous signal to the world that maintaining a destructive policy of closure is acceptable,” said Martha Myers, country director of CARE West Bank and Gaza. (Ma’an News Agency)

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Palestinian officials said that a 16-year-old was killed and a 19-year-old was wounded in the leg by Israeli army fire near the Beit El settlement. The Israeli military reported that soldiers guarding the settlement had spotted a group of Palestinians who threw firebombs toward the gate of Bei El”. (AP)

Two Israeli police officers were injured when a Palestinian driver deliberately ran them down north of Jerusalem, a police spokesman said. (AFP)

"Several Israeli shells were fired this morning at Palestinian fishing boats off Rafah, without causing casualties," a Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity. (AFP)

US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell said in Cairo that a Palestinian State alongside Israel was the only way to end the Middle East conflict. "It has been the policy of the United States for many years that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in a two-State solution," he told reporters after the meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. This is "the policy of President Obama and one that we will pursue with great energy," he said, adding that an end to the conflict was "also in the national interest of the United States." "The President believes and I believe that a comprehensive peace in the Middle East will be possible only as a result of the leadership of Egypt, President Mubarak ... and the whole [Egyptian] Government," he added. (AFP, DPA)

Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Sultanov reaffirmed Russia's support for the establishment of a Palestinian State as a basis for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He had met, during his visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who affirmed the necessity that Israel stop construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (WAFA)

Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip for a limited number of humanitarian cases, Hamas spokesman Adel Zourob said. He added that the Rafah crossing point would be open for two days for patients, students and Palestinians holding residency permits in other countries. Later, it was announced that the crossing would also be open on 20 and 21 April. (DPA, Ma’an News Agency)

A two-day civil society conference under the title “United against Apartheid, Colonialism and Racism: Justice and Dignity for the Palestinian People” opened in Geneva, on the eve of the official United Nations Durban Review Conference. The meeting was sponsored by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, which represents more than 170 organizations. (Ma’an News Agency)

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Defence Minister Ehud Barak had proposed that Israel's new Government hold parallel peace talks with both Syria and the Palestinians, an Israeli official said, on condition of anonymity. "We must go to Washington with a proposal for a regional peace agreement which will include talks with Syria and the Palestinians that will ensure Israel's interests", the official said. Barak's plan will also include Palestinian recognition of Israel as the State of the Jewish people. (Haaretz)

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Prime Minister Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people as a condition for renewing peace talks was unacceptable to the United States, the State Department said during US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell’s visits to Ramallah and Cairo. (Haaretz)

Prime Minister Netanyahu was not setting recognition of Israel as a State for the Jewish people as a condition for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, his office said. "The recognition of Israel as a Jewish country is a matter of principle largely accepted in Israel and the world, without which it is impossible to make progress in the peace process and reach a peace agreement." (AFP)

Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya said Hamas planned to present a new solution to the current political impasse at a new round of talks with Fatah in Cairo next week. He said Hamas would lay out its plan for what he called a “mission Government”, an interim body that would have a limited portfolio of responsibilities. (Ma’an News Agency)

A World Bank report entitled “Assessment of restrictions on Palestinian water sector development” concluded that fresh water per capita consumption in Israel was about four times that of the Palestinians. By regional standards, Palestinians have the lowest access to water resources, due to Israeli restrictions and Palestinian underinvestment. (www.worldbank.org)

Nearly 7,000 UNRWA employees staged a one-day strike in Jordan, demanding pay raises to meet soaring food and fuel prices and high inflation. The protest forced the closure of 174 schools run by the agency; 24 clinics were also closed. (AP)

21

According to the Israeli paper Ma’ariv, Israel last week had resumed, through Egyptian mediators, talks on a possible long-term ceasefire arrangement with Hamas. The paper quoted an Egyptian diplomat as saying the recent calm along the Israel-Gaza border was a result of Egyptian political pressure on Hamas rather than the recent Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip. More details of a proposed ceasefire deal would be discussed during an upcoming visit to Israel by Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. Hamas spokesperson Ismail Radwan said, however, “[There is] nothing new with the truce.” (Ma’an News Agency)

At a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, US President Barack Obama called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take steps in the coming months to build confidence and establish a foundation for resuming peace talks. He said the United States would be deeply involved in the peace process to build a better future for Israelis and Palestinians. He went on to say: "I am a strong supporter of a two-State solution,” adding, "And I think that there are a lot of Israelis who also believe in a two-State solution." (DPA)

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that President Barack Obama had invited key Middle East partners to the White House in the coming weeks in an effort to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. He said that the White House was working to finalize the dates for the visits of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. With each of them, President Obama would discuss ways in which the United States could strengthen and deepen its partnerships with them, as well as the steps all parties must take to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab States. (www.whitehouse.gov)

The Israeli military handed seven Palestinian families orders to evacuate their homes and farm buildings in Nablus within 48 hours. According to Jad’an Qasim, chair of the Al-Falah Society, Israeli authorities decided to demolish the homes and sheds near the Israeli settlement of Mechora. Mr. Qasim appealed to the PA and international organizations to intervene and prevent the demolitions. (Ma’an News Agency)

Six Norwegian lawyers would be filing the following day a motion with Norway’s Chief Prosecutor to consider legal action against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials over the Gaza offensive, accusing them of war crimes. The lawyers said they would call for the arrest and extradition of Mr. Olmert, former Minister for Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and seven senior Israeli army officers. The lawyers released a statement accusing Israel of killing civilians, using illegal weapons against civilian targets and deliberately attacking hospitals and medical staff. (AFP)

A team of experts from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will visit the Gaza Strip on 11 May to assess environmental damage left by an Israeli offensive earlier in the year, said Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, during his visit to Gaza. Mr. Steiner said one major result of the massive Israeli offensive was the ongoing difficulties in water provision as well as sewage removal. He added that the destruction of buildings also released dangerous substances and that dangerous medical waste produced by hospitals treating the thousands of injured could not adequately be disposed of. (DPA)

22

Four Palestinians were injured when an ordnance left by the Israeli military exploded in Gaza City. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli forces seized eight Palestinians during overnight raids in Bethlehem, Tuqu village, and Ramallah. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman met with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “Mr. Liberman expressed his respect and appreciation for Egypt’s leading role in the region and his personal respect for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Minister Suleiman.” (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, “We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian Government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agrees to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority.” Mrs. Clinton said she had made the US position clear during conversations with Arab and other allies. “We want to leave the door open” to including Hamas, Mrs. Clinton said. “From everything we hear, there is no intention on the part of Hamas to meet those conditions, but these are not just American conditions. These are the conditions that were adopted by the Quartet”, she added. (Reuters)

Following a meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, King Abdullah II of Jordan called for the formation of an Arab/Islamic task force charged with backing up the United States in efforts to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East. He said a serious and speedy set of negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be launched. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman said that the Arab Peace Initiative was "dangerous" because it required Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return, according to an Israeli official. He said, "The Foreign Minister has nevertheless not rejected the initiative as a whole." (AFP)

The Hamas delegation from Gaza was scheduled to leave for Damascus, where they would meet their counterparts in Syria and finalize positions on several Egyptian suggestions regarding reconciliation and a transitional government. Hamas had prepared its vision on how to resolve the “suspended” issues from the last round of talks. Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that the top priority was to define a position on Egypt’s suggestion of forming a Higher Council, with which both the West Bank and Gaza Strip governments would coordinate. The Council would be charged with reconstructing Gaza and preparing legislative elections for 25 January 2010. He explained that if elections took place at the scheduled time, then “the destiny of the current Government will be decided [by the people].” If the elections were put off, he added, factions in Gaza would meet to discuss the next stage. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Jerusalem municipality demolished a Palestinian house in the Jabal Mukabber neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, saying it had been built without a permit. In the Jetit area, south-west of Nablus, Israeli military bulldozers demolished eight Palestinian houses. (Ma’an News Agency)

Delegations from around the world would be arriving in Bil’in the following day for the fourth annual conference on non-violent resistance to discuss, compare and analyse the use of popular resistance in the Palestinian Territory. Presenters from the European Union and South Africa would speak alongside presenters from Bil’in, Na’lin, Al-Ma’asara, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinians had been exploring methods of resistance to the separation wall construction, land confiscation and home demolition orders by Israel. Major Palestinian factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian National Initiative and Fatah, would be represented, as well as other groups. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli prison guards assaulted a group of Palestinian prisoners while they were chained inside a military vehicle. According to Jawad Al-Amawi, Director of Legal Affairs at the PA Ministry of Prisoners Affairs, Israeli wardens tried to force one of the prisoners to wear an orange uniform. When he refused, prison services summoned a crisis intervention team who hurled tear gas canisters into the vehicle and then beat the prisoners. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed the head of the Shin Bet internal security service, Yuval Diskin, as his special envoy for the prisoner negotiations after the previous envoy, Ofer Dekel, stepped down the previous day. (AFP)

The IDF announced that an internal investigation had determined that no civilians were purposely harmed by IDF troops during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The enquiries conducted by five IDF colonels who had not been involved in the fighting in Gaza. They examined reports of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, medical personnel and facilities and United Nations facilities and of the use of white phosphorous. The enquiries, which were supervised by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, did find cases of civilians killed by mistaken fire on the part of IDF troops, but said the incidents were isolated. Following the release of the investigation results, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the army's willingness to investigate itself once again proved that the IDF was one of the most moral armies in the world. The most glaring case of mistaken fire found by the enquiry was the attack on the Al-Dahiyeh family home, in the neighbourhood of Zeitoun, in which 21 members of the same family had been killed. The IDF had called the incident "regretful", but said it resulted from "an operational mistake that is bound to happen during intensive fighting." Israeli human rights group B'Tselem called the IDF investigation flawed and said it "does not answer the need for an independent enquiry outside the army to look at the whole range of violations the army is incapable of looking at." (Haaretz)

A survey released by OneVoice, a pro-peace group, and conducted by two leading polling groups in Israel and the Palestinian Territory, found that Israelis and Palestinians remained overwhelmingly in favour of a two-State solution as the best way to end their decades-long conflict. (onevoicemovement.org)

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that economic recovery in the Gaza Strip was at a standstill owing to the ongoing blockade of materials, spare parts and transfers of cash. Meanwhile, UNRWA warned that cases of acute diarrhoea among children under the age of three had topped the alert threshold for the second time this year. Test results had shown contamination in 14 per cent of water samples, and there were concerns that water could be further tainted by the residue of toxic munitions. The United Nations Development Programme noted that unemployment in Gaza had risen from 36 per cent before the military operation to 43 per cent. Poverty among the unemployed had also increased from 56 per cent to 66 per cent. (UN News Centre)

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry deplored the demolition of a home in East Jerusalem while on a visit to sites where Palestinian homes had either been destroyed or were being targeted for demolition. (UN News Centre)

23

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek met with Israeli Foreign Minister Liberman and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem and with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Abbas in Ramallah. The discussions focused on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and on other perspectives of the Middle East peace settlement. “If an independent Palestinian State is the ultimate goal, three conditions must be met on the road to that goal: maintain permanent peace, strengthen security and improve the social and economic standards of the people … Without these preconditions, the achievement of the ultimate goal will be jeopardized”, Mr. Topolánek said. Prime Minister Netanyahu appreciated the approach to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict adopted by the Czech Presidency thus far, and reiterated that discussions of the potential establishment of an independent Palestinian State included the question of “Whether it merely entails a two-State concept, or a concept of two States for two nations.” (www.eu2009.cz)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told visiting Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek after the latter brought up the issue of settlement construction in the West Bank and the European Union’s concern that it could prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State, “If Israel can’t build homes in the West Bank, then Palestinians shouldn’t be allowed to either … I have no plans to build new settlements, but if someone wants to build a new home [in an existing one], I don’t think there’s a problem.” Mr. Netanyahu characterized the West Bank as “disputed territory” over which negotiations must be held. (Haaretz)

French Ambassador to Israel, Jean-Michel Casa, said that his country was holding indirect talks with Hamas and that it had received a letter from captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit addressed to the French President. Mr. Shalit holds both Israeli and French citizenship. Mr. Casa stated that several European countries supported the holding of talks with Hamas in an effort to reach a solution of the Middle East conflict. (IMEMC)

Diplomatic sources said Russia had called for a ministerial-level United Nations Security Council meeting on 11 May to discuss peace in the Middle East. Russia will hold the rotating Security Council presidency for the month. Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, told his 14 Council colleagues that the meeting would be headed by Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, the source said. Mr. Churkin, however, did not say whether the Council members had agreed to the meeting or if they would be sending their top diplomats to the event, according to the sources. (AFP)

Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi urged Israel to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon. “China supports the Road Map and the principles of land for peace … I know that the new Government in Israel needs time to crystallize its policies and I hope that you will reach wise decisions which will lead to peace and stability in the region”, he told President Shimon Peres, according to a statement by the Presidency. Mr. Yang had held talks with PA President Abbas in Ramallah the previous day, where he stressed China’s support for the creation of a Palestinian State. (AFP)

In an address at Birzeit University in the West Bank, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry spoke of the urgent need for Palestinian reconciliation to achieve statehood. “The United Nations stands ready to work with any Palestinian government under President Abbas that emerges from the reconciliation process”, Mr. Serry said. He emphasized the strong international consensus today for a two-State solution, the commitment of the new US Administration to that goal and the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative. “We can no longer accept process without peace. There can be no more talks without results. The United Nations, the Quartet and the international community are focused on achievements in parallel with progress on the negotiation track”, he said. (Ma’an News Agency, www.birzeit.edu)

Human Rights Watch said the Israeli military’s findings about the conduct of its forces in Gaza announced the previous day lacked credibility and confirmed the need for an impartial international enquiry into alleged violations by both Israel and Hamas. “The investigative results make clear that the Israeli military will not objectively monitor itself … The conclusions are an apparent attempt to mask violations of the laws of war by Israeli forces in Gaza. Only an impartial enquiry will provide a measure of redress for the civilians who were killed unlawfully”, said Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. (www.hrw.org)

European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner praised the PA for its efforts to reform its finances and security sector in 2008 despite the challenges. The release of the European Commission’s annual report on relations with the PA was “an opportunity to praise progress made by the PA government,” Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement. “This progress has been achieved under very difficult circumstances: continued Israeli occupation and increasing political and institutional split between the West Bank and Gaza”, she noted. In particular, the PA achieved “notable progress” in reforming the management of its public finances, consolidating its budget and deploying security forces under its control to Nablus, Jenin, Hebron and Bethlehem, the report said. (DPA)

Amnesty International said that the Israeli army should make public the full details of the findings of its investigation into some of its attacks during the 22-day Gaza military offensive, in reaction to the army’s conclusion that its forces had committed no violations and only rare mistakes, some of which might have resulted in the killing of Palestinian civilians. (www.amnesty.org)

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Some 30 people were injured when Israeli troops clashed with demonstrators in the West Bank village of Bil’in protesting against the separation barrier, medics and witnesses said. The wounded sustained mainly light injuries from rubber-coated bullets and tear gas fired by the Israeli army forces near the village, where last week a Palestinian was killed in a similar weekly protest. Several hundred people, including Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists, took part in the demonstration. Five other protestors were injured in similar clashes in the nearby village of Nil’in, according to medics. (AFP)

Israeli forces raided several homes in the Old City of Nablus and arrested three Palestinian youths. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Vatican said that the Holy See and the Arab League had agreed to work together to promote world peace, after a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa. In a separate meeting, Mr. Moussa and the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, signed a memorandum of understanding, according to a Vatican statement. The meetings allowed for an “exchange of views on the international situation, especially in the Middle East, and on the need to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to the other conflicts which afflict the region”, the Vatican said. (AP)

The first Representative of the Republic of Cyprus to the Palestinian Authority, Andreas Kouzoupis, presented his letters of appointment in Ramallah, to PA President Abbas. It was noted that the presence of the Republic of Cyprus at the Palestinian Authority will be in a Joint Representation Office with Malta, following relevant decisions taken by the Governments of Cyprus and Malta. (www.mfa.gov.cy)

Israel will computerize the permit system for the entry of Palestinians in the West Bank to the areas on the west side of the separation wall, including Jerusalem, as of 1 May. The computer system would be installed at military-controlled crossings, including gates separating villages from their agricultural land. Israeli authorities had already warned that those who failed to register in the new system could lose their permits for a day, week or even month. (Ma’an News Agency)

Israeli settlers opened fire and wounded seven Palestinian villagers following massive clashes outside Nablus. A number of settlers from Yitzhar entered the nearby village of Ourif, opening fire and moderately wounding seven people, who were rushed to a Nablus hospital, Palestinian security sources said. Residents of “Yitzhar” claimed at the same time that Palestinian gunmen trying to infiltrate the settlement had opened fire and wounded three settlers, according to media reports. An Israeli army spokesperson said that some 100 Yitzhar settlers had clashed with a group of 70 Palestinians from Ourif who had tried to enter the settlement. An army force dispersed the rioters, she added. (AFP)

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Israeli soldiers arrested a 23-year-old Palestinian shepherd from the West Bank village of Al-Twani while he was herding his sheep near the Ma’on settlement. (Ma’an News Agency)

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Israeli authorities said that on 14 April they had caught a Palestinian man who had killed a 13-year old Israeli boy and wounded a 7-year-old in the Bat Ayin settlement earlier in the month. Authorities said Moussa Tayet, 26, had confessed to the killing and handed over the knife used in the attack. (AP)

Israeli soldiers shot a 26-year-old Palestinian, Mustapha Hosheh, in the shoulder during a raid on the village of Rantis, north-west of Ramallah. Medics said his condition was serious. (Ma’an News Agency)

The Israeli military said it had detained six Palestinians during an overnight raid in a village south-east of Qalqilya. (Ma’an News Agency)

PA Minister for Foreign Affairs Riad Malki visited Venezuela as part of a move to open a diplomatic mission in Caracas, the Venezuelan Ministry for Foreign Affairs said. Mr. Malki and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduros Moros were set to sign the following day a joint communiqué establishing diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the PA, paving the way for a diplomatic mission. (AFP)

Israel Army Radio reported that an Israeli Ministry of the Interior committee had recommended expanding the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement. In its report, the committee said that the small settlement of Kedar should be integrated into Ma’aleh Adumim along with the lands between the two. The move would expand Ma’aleh Adumim by another 1,200 hectares and add another 800 people to its current 34,500 residents. To be implemented, the committee’s recommendations have to be approved by Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai. (AFP)

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IDF troops shot and slightly wounded a Palestinian at a checkpoint near Hebron after he failed to stop at their command. The army said it was investigating whether the Palestinian was attempting to carry out an attack. (Haaretz)

Israeli forces seized nine Palestinians during overnight raids in Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. (Ma’an News Agency)

The US plans to expand a programme to bolster PA security forces in the West Bank, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton said. "We have plans to train at least three more battalions before this time next year", he told Reuters. "If it goes the way the Administration has asked for, we will accelerate dramatically what we are doing here in terms of training and equipment, and filling in the gaps in between", he said during a visit to a security headquarters in Tulkarm. (Reuters)

PA President Abbas said in a speech that a complete freeze of Israeli settlements was a prerequisite for resuming talks with Israel, and that he would not give in to possible Israeli or international pressure to resume negotiations while settlement construction continued. Mr. Abbas also rejected previous Israeli demands that Palestinians not only recognize the State of Israel but recognize Israel as a Jewish State. “Name yourself [...] it’s not my business … All I know is that there is the State of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimetre more, not one centimetre less. Anything else, I don’t accept.” (AP)

Delegations from Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo for three-way talks with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, which they said would be their final attempt at reconciliation, Egypt’s MENA news agency reported. Senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath said he expected the meetings to last at least three days. The factions were expected to discuss the formation of a national unity government and its programme, the reform of security apparatuses and the drafting of a new electoral law. (AFP)

PA President Abbas said, "I call on the dialogue in Cairo to agree on a government that will run the country, reunite it and rebuild Gaza, then go for elections … We cannot rebuild Gaza without this Government." He said he was not asking Hamas to accept past interim agreements, but only the unity government to do so. (AP)

European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, in a follow-up to a statement she had made on 23 April, insisted that Israel should first recognize a two-State solution before ties with Israel could be strengthened. “We want to have good and trustworthy relations with Israel but … our upgrading can only be seen in the context of the Israel-Palestinian conflict … We are looking now to Israel to really make a policy review and hopefully they will go back to a two-State solution”, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said at a meeting of European Union Ministers for Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, whose country holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, contradicted Ms. Ferrero-Waldner’s position in an interview published in Israel the previous day. “The peace process should not be linked to the relations between the EU and Israel,” Mr. Topolánek said. Commenting on Ms. Ferrero-Waldner’s position, he said, “I would not really attribute to it more weight than just a statement by a commissioner … I am still the President of the European Council and I should know something about it.” In response, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said Mr. Topolánek clearly did not know the decisions that the European Union nations had taken. “He should read the [European] Council conclusions”, she said. (AFP)

US State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, "If Iran wants to show goodwill, it should encourage those forces that it supports that are opposed to a two-State solution to cease their opposition and work constructively toward helping us reach that two-State solution.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an interview with the US network ABC, had said it would be "fine with us" if the Palestinians reached a two-State solution. (AP)

The Los Angeles Times reported that the US Administration had asked Congress for minor changes in US law that would permit aid to continue flowing to Palestinians in the event Hamas-backed officials became part of a unified Palestinian government. The Administration requested the changes this month as part of an $83.4 billion emergency spending bill. The bill would provide $840 million for the Palestinian Authority and for rebuilding in Gaza. US officials insist that the new proposal would not amount to recognizing or aiding Hamas. Under law, any US aid would require that the Palestinian Government meet three conditions: recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and agreeing to follow past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. (Los Angeles Times)

An Israeli settler from Yitzhar shot and critically injured an 18-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Na’im Faraj, from the village of Madama, south of Nablus. (Ma’an News Agency)

An Israeli group, Peace Now, said Israel had begun construction on some 60 new housing units in settlements in East Jerusalem. “The works aim to build 60 housing units for Orthodox religious Jewish families right next to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Arab Al-Sawahra,” Peace Now spokesperson Hagit Ofran said. “The works began two months ago as part of the development of east Talpiot,” one of a dozen settlements in East Jerusalem, she added. The Jerusalem municipality said that the construction in the settlement had been approved in 2000 and that the works in question did not amount to a new settlement. (AFP)

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Two Palestinian teens carrying knives were arrested in Hebron near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Israeli forces seized two Palestinians from towns east of Nablus and north of Ramallah. (Haaretz, Ma’an News Agency)

Israel's Defence Minister Barak said in a Haaretz interview that he expected Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to the principle of Palestinian statehood. "You have to understand that in their consciousness, the leaders are not so far apart in terms of what the final settlement will look like", Mr. Barak said. Mr. Netanyahu’s review of Middle East policy should be ready by the time of his US trip, his office said. (AP, Haaretz)

In an interview, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman denied that settlements in the West Bank were an obstacle to peacemaking. Mr. Liberman also said that Israel could not negotiate peace with the Palestinians until they dismantled militant groups and set up a proper justice system. "To jump straight to the last paragraph [of the Road Map] and to concede on all of the Palestinian commitments to fight terror ─ it’s a very strange approach," he said. (The Jerusalem Post)

Hamas and Fatah continued their latest round of reconciliation talks in Cairo. Participants described the atmosphere as "very positive", according to local press reports. "We have agreed to resolve all outstanding issues as one package", Fatah parliamentary leader Azzam al-Ahmed, who was in Cairo for the talks, said. "We started the debate, and put forward new ideas. We exchanged ideas with enthusiasm. This, in itself, is progress", he said. (DPA)

Egypt had opened the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, allowing 18 patients to return home. (Ma’an News Agency)

An Indonesian humanitarian aid group called Medical Emergency Rescue Committee is planning to build a hospital in the Gaza Strip for the victims of Israeli military attacks, the Antara news agency reported. (Xinhua)

"The plans to expand the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim are particularly concerning in that they threaten the creation of a viable Palestinian State, without which there can be no peace in the Middle East or lasting security for Israel", said the spokesperson of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eric Chevalier. (AFP)

Israel released Palestinian lawmaker and former Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razeq from prison, according to his wife. Mr. Abdel Razeq had been seized by Israeli forces on 15 December and originally sentenced to 26 months in prison for his affiliation to Hamas. (Ma’an News Agency)

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Israeli forces said they had seized three Palestinians from the Ramallah area. (Ma’an News Agency)

A number of Israeli tanks and bulldozers destroyed farmlands and uprooted trees in the northern Gaza Strip near the border with Israel. (IMEMC)

Brigadier-General Britt Brestrup of Norway is replacing Brigadier-General Roy Grøttheim as head of mission for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). (www.tiph.org )

King Abdullah II of Jordan flew to Riyadh for talks with the Saudi leadership at the start of a new round of regional diplomacy to spur the peace process. He was due to brief Saudi King Abdullah later in the day on the outcome of his talks with US President Obama. (DPA)

Hamas and Fatah ended a fourth round of talks in Cairo without an agreement, but were to meet again on 16 May, negotiators said. (AP, Ma’an News Agency)

PA President Abbas was expected to form a new Government in the 10 days preceding his trip to Washington, high ranking sources said. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that any Government not endorsed by the Palestinian Legislative Council would be illegitimate. (Ma’an News Agency)

European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Marc Otte said Russia’s proposal to host a Middle East peace conference had international backing and such a meeting should take place by the year’s end. “This is not only the wish of the Russian Government, but something that has been agreed on within the Quartet”, Mr. Otte told journalists in Moscow, where he met with his Russian counterpart on plans for the conference. (AFP)

Fatah said in a statement that settlers, backed by Israeli soldiers, had been bulldozing land and uprooting olive trees near Salfit to turn agricultural lands into a dump. (WAFA)

Israeli authorities released a Palestinian prisoner from East Jerusalem, Tariq Al-Eisawi, after he had completed an eight-year sentence. (Ma’an News Agency)

"Around 5,000 teachers at 174 UNRWA schools held a strike today demanding a 7 per cent salary increase," Matar Saqr, UNRWA spokesman in Jordan, told AFP. "They plan to take further action on Thursday and next month if the Agency fails to meet their demands." (AFP)

The Jerusalem municipality announced that it had finalized all preparations needed to demolish 50 Palestinian homes in the Al-Bustan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. (IMEMC)

Hatem Abdul Qader, Adviser for Jerusalem Affairs to PA Prime Minister Fayyad, said that the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem had given orders for the demolition of a two-floor addition to the Armenian Catholic Church and monastery in the Old City. The 150-year-old structure had been built on land owned by Belgium's monarchy. (Ma’an News Agency)

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The Israeli military seized four Palestinians during incursions into the town of Al-Bireh near Ramallah and the Old City of Hebron. Israeli soldiers broke into several homes in the Yatta area and stole 8,000 shekels (approximately $2,000) in cash and jewellery. Nine Palestinians were detained in surrounding villages. In Gaza, Israeli forces also detained a number of Palestinians who they said had approached the Israeli border. (IMEMC, Ma’an News Agency)

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Yigal Palmor called European Commissioner for External Relations and the European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner's recent comments "very militant" and contrary to understandings with other European Union officials. Earlier this week, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner had criticized Israel's refusal to endorse a Palestinian State. Israel warned the European Union to tone down its criticism of the new Israeli Government or risk forfeiting the bloc's role as broker in Middle East peace efforts. (AP)

Hamas official Ahmed al-Kurd said that 65 per cent of the workforce in the Gaza Strip was currently unemployed. Moreover, 80 per cent of people in Gaza were living below the poverty line, and 85 per cent were dependent on aid from international organizations, such as UNRWA, he said. (Ynetnews)

Fifteen right-wing Israelis rallied against the separation wall near the Shu’fat refugee camp north of Jerusalem. They were protesting the route of the wall, which they said was cutting their land into separate pieces. They were using the same tactics that Palestinians in Bil’in, Ni’lin and elsewhere used during weekly Friday afternoon protests in the West Bank. Right-wing member of the Israeli Knesset Michael Ben Ari climbed up the wall and shouted “Jerusalem and the Land of Israel will not be allowed to be separated by the wall.” (Ma’an News Agency)

The Israeli authorities released Medhat Tariq Al-Isawi, 35, from an Israeli prison after eight years of detention. (Ma’an News Agency)

After touring Gaza, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry issued a statement noting the Strip’s hardship and slow pace of reconstruction after the December-January Israeli attacks. "In the absence of real progress on issues like Palestinian reconciliation, open crossings, secure borders and a prisoners exchange, the potential for renewed violence is ever-present", Mr. Serry said in a statement. Acknowledging Israel’s security concerns, Mr. Serry said that the goods and materials must be used for their intended purposes. (AP, Reuters)

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Homes said helping Gaza’s most vulnerable must be a top priority, lamenting unmet basic human needs and stalled reconstruction, nearly four months after the end of hostilities there. In an opinion piece published in the European Voice (Brussels), Mr. Holmes noted that while donors had pledged money, the flow of goods was “wholly inadequate” and reconstruction was “almost impossible”. Roughly 75 per cent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents required assistance, but even the most essential imports were subject to intense limitations by Israeli authorities, he pointed out. “In Gaza, humanity has taken a back seat to politics. A measly trickle of items has become the most the world can offer civilians trapped by a political stalemate,” Mr. Holmes wrote. (UN News Centre)

At a news briefing at European Union headquarters in Brussels, John Ging, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, said none of the $4.5 billion package of reconstruction aid recently pledged for the Gaza Strip at the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza in Sharm el-Sheikh had gotten through because of border restrictions. He said, "There is no prospect of recovery or reconstruction until we can get access for construction materials". Mr. Ging said the international community should find a solution to the border crossings issue and provide more access to goods and services for the inhabitants of Gaza. (Reuters)

A group of Israeli settlers from Beit Ein attacked a number of homes in Safa village near Hebron. At least 20 armed settlers opened fire at a number of homes and set ablaze agricultural land. (IMEMC)


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