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Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine
MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW

June 2004


1

A Palestinian was killed by helicopter fire during an IDF raid in the West Bank, according to Palestinian security forces. Bilal Abu Zeid, 27, was killed by a rocket fired from a helicopter during a raid by some 20 armoured vehicles in Qabatiya. Another seven Palestinians, including a 5-year-old boy and his mother, were wounded during the raid. The Israeli forces imposed a curfew in the area and surrounded a building, apparently with the aim of arresting Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Yasser Nazal. They later said they captured three Palestinians, including Jafar Abu Hanana, 35, a Brigades leader in Jenin. (AFP)

A number of IDF tanks stormed block “J” of the Rafah refugee camp before dawn, shelling Palestinians’ homes there. The IDF overnight arrested 14 Palestinians during raids in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron. (Xinhua)

Israeli soldiers demolished a house in Beit Hanina, 3 km north of Jerusalem, and concrete walls belonging to tens of houses in the Al-Salam neighbourhood, near the Shu’fat refugee camp in north-eastern Jerusalem. The IDF claimed the structures lacked permits from Israel's Jerusalem Municipality and were illegal, while the walls were demolished to make way for the separation barrier. (IMEMC)

Two Qassam rockets were fired early morning from the Gaza Strip on the town of Sderot in Israel. One landed in an open field, while the other damaged a building in an industrial zone, 3 km away from the Sycamore ranch belonging to Prime Minister Sharon, who was not there at the time. No one was injured in the rocket attack, the IDF spokesman said. Israel Army Radio reported the rockets used in the attack had been of a new, advanced kind. (AP, IMEMC)

An Israeli Justice Ministry official said that the Ministry’s Internal Affairs Department – responsible for investigating police matters – had three Israeli paramilitary policemen arrested on 31 May on suspicion they had beaten and humiliated two Palestinian teenagers, and brought them to court the next day to have their detention order extended. The official said the officers – Sgt. Etai Brayer, Arik Zaldati and Lior Kalbaris – had confessed that the charges were true. The three officers reportedly asked two Palestinian teenagers from the village of Qatanna (Katana), 8 km northwest of Jerusalem, to board their jeep on 16 April, telling them they were suspected of illegally being in Israel. Then they drove them to a deserted wooded area where they allegedly punched and kicked them and beat them with clubs, poured chocolate pudding and other dairy products on them, and allegedly forced them to kiss their shoes and eat sand and stones. The alleged abuse lasted between a half hour and an hour, the official said. Then the officers drove off, leaving the Palestinian youngsters behind. When the Palestinians returned to their village they had a neighbour take pictures of the red welts on their backs, which were presented in court. The official said the officers will be formally charged on 2 June. (AP)

Yoad Ghanadreh, in charge of UNRWA psychological support programmes in 95 schools, 30 clinics and 105 community centres on the West Bank, spoke to reporters during a visit to UNRWA-managed Qalandiya community centre on the occasion of International Children’s Day. She said that trauma and stress-related health problems had risen among Palestinian children since the beginning of the intifada, and the Agency had to step up counselling as a result: “Palestinian children have lost all sense of normalcy. They don’t know whether they’ll be able to go to school, whether they’ll come home safely because of curfews and [Israeli] army incursions. They often suffer from psychosomatic troubles, depression and low concentration that are related to their fear of the present and the future. Violence outside has become a reference. It’s part of our lives and reproduced by children at school and at home.” Ms. Ghanadreh stressed the number of stone-throwing children had gone down with the militarization of the intifada, saying: “We originally thought that children’s participation in non-armed demonstrations was empowering but research later showed it was bad for them because it is violent.” Statistics showed that more than 670 children have been killed in the past four years of the conflict, of which 573 were Palestinian and 105 Israelis. Close to 2,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, interrogated and detained, with 337 currently in jail. Nearly 1,500 school days were lost and pass rates in UNRWA-run schools sharply declined in 2003-2004. In a survey on its schools, UNRWA found a 20 per cent rate of hypertension symptoms, 16 per cent low achievement rate and 11.5 per cent rate of fear and anxiety. Yet, the study concluded that most children displayed high optimism and resilience. (AFP)

Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh told reporters in his first major news conference after taking office in May 2004: “We value our relations with the Government of Israel. ... But our relations with Israel will not be at the expense of sacrificing the legitimate rights ... of the Palestinian people.” Mr. Singh said he and Sonia Gandhi had reminded Prime Minister Sharon during his 2003 visit that “our ties with Palestine preceded our independence.” (AP)

The International Labour Organization reported in a press release that high unemployment continued to grip Palestinian communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, reaching an average of 35 per cent. A recent high-level mission to the area also found that “severe restrictions” on the movement of persons, goods and services had been causing “severe losses in production, employment and income.” (www.ilo.org)

2

Israeli troops killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip overnight, near the road leading to the settlement of “Netzarim”. The soldiers spotted the pair armed with a [RPG] launcher approaching from the road connecting Al-Muntar (Karni), an entrance point between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and “Netzarim.” The troops opened fire, killing them, and later found three rockets as well as rifles near the bodies, Israeli sources said. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (armed wing of Hamas) confirmed that two of its members had been killed. Another Palestinian was wounded in the leg by Israeli army gunfire in the Deir Al-Balah area of southern Gaza as he approached a fence surrounding another settlement in the area. (AFP, Ma’ariv)

IDF tanks and bulldozers re-entered the Rafah refugee camp. Palestinian sources said there had been exchanges of fire, but it was unknown whether there had been any injuries. Alan Johnston of the BBCsaid about 30 Israeli tanks and bulldozers had moved 150 m into the camp. (BBC)

UNRWA issued a press release condemning the violation of the sanctity of one of its schools in Rafah a day earlier by Israeli tank fire. A tank stationed in the sand dunes several hundred metres from UNRWA’s Al-Umariye Elementary Boys’ School opened fire on the Tel El-Sultan district of Rafah. Several shots hit the school building and one hit the window frame of a second-floor classroom. Bullet fragments, shrapnel or pieces of the window entered the classroom striking two 10-year-old boys. One was lightly injured in the head. The second, Mahmoud Nathmey Hamad, was struck in the neck. UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said, “This is the second time in a little over a year that a child in a United Nations classroom has been struck by Israel fire. Such indifference to the sanctity of schools and the United Nations flags flying above them violates all humanitarian norms and is absolutely deplorable. Israel’s military must take steps to investigate this incident and, if necessary, bring to justice those responsible.” (UNRWA press release HQ/G/19/2004)

Twenty IDF jeeps cut off access to Palestinian Authority President Arafat’s Ramallah HQ overnight, according to Palestinian security forces. Israeli troops blocked off the five access roads to the muqataa,stoking fears of an attack against Mr. Arafat. Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim told Public Radiothat a Hamas member had been the target of the operation, not Mr. Arafat. “We are carrying out operations to arrest terrorists wherever it is necessary, especially in Ramallah where Hamas Islamists are preparing attacks on Jerusalem.” Mr. Boim also rejected recent media reports that Mr. Arafat would be allowed to leave Ramallah and move to Gaza after an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The troops later withdrew from Ramallah. (AFP, Albawaba.com)

The IDF destroyed four Palestinian homes near Jerusalem. Palestinians sources said they had been demolished to make way for the separation barrier. Sources also reported that the IDF had razed 19 houses near the army outpost of “Termit” in the Gaza Strip. According to the reports, the residents were forced to leave their homes. (Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv)

Twelve Israeli border policemen have confessed to abusing Palestinians, in separate incidents, Israeli Radioreported. Nine policemen reportedly were arrested on 30 May and admitted to beating and robbing Palestinians during searches near the West Bank border. The nine have confirmed the allegations against them, including having stolen money and property from the Palestinians. Three border policemen reportedly confessed abducting two 17-year-old Palestinians from a village near Jerusalem to a nearby forest. The victims were beaten with sticks, punched, had dairy products poured over them and forced to kiss the policemen’s shoes and chew sand and stones. The three policemen were also arrested this week and were scheduled to be indicted today. P ictures displayed in court showed one youth’s back covered with welts from the beatings. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), Ha’aretz)

Prime Minister Sharon told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that his disengagement plan would include a "Jordanian presence" in the West Bank. Emerging from the meeting, Mr. Sharon told reporters that the plan would pass a vote in the Cabinet on 6 June. “I plan to bring for a Cabinet vote the same disengagement plan I presented before it on Sunday [30 May]. It is impossible to remove any section from the overall plan,” he said before meeting with President Moshe Katsav. “Our agreement with the Bush Administration includes a whole set of steps that Israel needs to undertake, and in return the US has to uphold a number of highly important commitments, which we have never received.” He also told the Committee that the evacuation of settlements outlined in the plan could be completed by 2005. “By the end of 2005, there will not be one Jew remaining in the Gaza Strip,” he said. But, Army Radiosaid, his aides later qualified the statement, saying that approval for the plan would be completed by the end of 2005, and not the implementation itself. (AFP, Albawaba.com, AP, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv, Xinhua)

President Bush said the US would not endorse any alternative version of Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan, according to the US embassy in Tel Aviv. It warned opponents of the plan that it would not accept a scaled-down or compromise agreement. The original version involved the withdrawal of 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip. “It’s that plan that President Bush endorsed in a statement as a bold initiative,” US Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice conveyed the same message to an Israeli delegation headed by the Prime Minister’s Bureau Chief Dov Weissglas, visiting Washington, D.C. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

A briefing paper was issued by Harvard University entitled “The legality of house demolitions under international humanitarian law.” The paper examines the legal aspects, under international humanitarian law, of Israel’s practice of demolitions of houses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It outlines the basis, history, and practice of house demolitions, setting forth the relevant international huminatarian law provisions that impact house demolitions, and reviews the positions of the different parties involved on this issue. (www.reliefweb.int)

In remarks at a US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, President Bush said, “We’re working toward the goal of a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Prime Minister Sharon’s plan to remove all settlements from Gaza and several from the West Bank is a courageous step towards peace. … This success will require reform-minded Palestinians to step forward and lead and meet their Road Map obligations. And the United States of America stands ready to help those dedicated to peace, those willing to fight violence, find a new state so we can realize peace in the greater Middle East.” (AFP, Ma’ariv, www.whitehouse.gov)

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said the despair and violence engendered by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was contributing to “international terrorism.” Mr. Barnier, about to make a trip to the Middle East, reiterated France’s desire to see the Road Map implemented with the creation of a Palestinian State next to a secure Israel. “It is urgent to stop this bloody spiral of terror and violence which is occurring … so close to us as well as among the children of Israel and the children of Palestine,” Mr. Barnier told Parliament. The conflict was the “black hole which could swallow the world because we know that international terrorism feeds everywhere and always off these humiliations and this despair,” he said. (AFP)

The Israeli authorities had started using an infrared security machine to detect non-metals while inspecting Palestinians at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) terminal as of 31 May, Palestinian security sources said. “The PA will send medical and technical crews to check if this machine has dangerous effects on human health,” Director of the Gaza Strip's terminals Mahmoud Faraj told reporters. (Xinhua)

The IDF permitted for the first time in months some 10,000 Palestinian merchants and 9,000 labourers to enter Israel . (Ha’aretz)

Saudi Arabia said that it would disband its largest overseas charity, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and set up a single, government-appointed commission to handle all Saudi charitable donations abroad. The Saudi National Commission for Charitable Work Abroad would be responsible for more than US$100 million (€82 million) a year of charitable giving overseas. Existing Saudi charities that had in the past sent funds abroad, including charities to aid the Palestinians will be folded into the new entity. The decision was announced jointly with United States officials in Washington. “The sum total of the actions we have taken ... puts Saudi Arabia in a very, very small category of countries that has taken tremendous steps in this area,” said Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to the Saudi crown prince. (The Financial Times)

Residents of Reem, a communal farm in southern Israel, said they were raising funds to help a former Palestinian employee rebuild his house, demolished in the recent Israeli raid in the Rafah refugee camp. Mousa Shaqfeh, 47, had worked in Reem for 20 years before he was forced to leave his job as a result of the closures imposed by Israel after the beginning of intifada. (AP)

3

Israeli troops arrested two Palestinians who had been hiding in a compartment in a four-story building in Nablus. Messrs. Jamal Nablusi and Sultan Tashtush were said to be leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Troops searched the entire building and found their hiding place behind a kitchen wall on the fourth floor. After calling on anyone inside to come out, they threw a grenade into the hiding place. It exploded but did not injure the two Palestinians, who emerged soon after. The two were allegedly responsible for preparing explosive belts for suicide bombers. Israeli armoured vehicles rolled into the refugee camp of Balata, near Nablus, imposed a curfew and arrested three Palestinians. In Bethlehem, witnesses told WAFAthat massive Israeli forces had entered into the Al-Ebaiat and Artass areas of the city and conducted house-to-house searches. Soldiers stormed the Artass area and broke into two houses, arresting two Palestinians. Israeli troops had carried out nightly arrest operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often detaining dozens of Palestinians at a time. In all, 21 Palestinians were arrested overnight in the West Bank, Israel Radioreported. (Albawaba.com, AP, Ha’aretz, IMRA)

The Israeli army had ended its latest operation in the Rafah refugee camp. The troops pulled out after destroying a tunnel which they said had been used by Palestinians to smuggle weapons from Egypt. At least 18 houses were demolished by the army before their departure. The army also said they blew up a tunnel running under the border with Egypt which was eight metres deep and 250 metres long. (AFP, AP, BBC, DPA, www1.idf.il)

PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia called for reaching a bilateral ceasefire with Israel as a first step towards the resumption of negotiations. “We call for a plan that starts with a serious commitment to a bilateral ceasefire in order to resume negotiations and end the current crises in the region,” Mr. Qureia said at a press conference held jointly with British special envoy Lord Michael Levy. He said the plan involved a number of issues that would bring an end to the impasse on the political and security levels. He added that the plan called for the lifting of Israeli military sieges imposed on Palestinians and their leaders, as well as “refreshing the Palestinian industry.” Such measures were necessary in order to reinstate trust between Palestinians and Israelis, he said. Lord Levy handed a letter from Prime Minister Tony Blair to Mr. Qureia stressing the need to resume negotiations. Mr. Blair said the UK was sticking to the position that a final agreement must be achieved through talks, according to Mr. Qureia. Mr. Blair said on Mr. Sharon’s plan that the UK “does not view any change on the plan as a good thing to do, though it does not object to implementing it on stages.” Lord Levy said the UK would support the PA to carry out an effective security role, by offering US$12 million to the trust the World Bank established for supporting the PA. (DPA, Ha’aretz, IMRA, Xinhua)

PA Health Minister Jawad Al-Tibi called on world humanitarian organizations to exert pressure on Israel to halt aggressions against the Palestinians and allow his Ministry to provide urgent services. “More than 722 Palestinian children and toddlers have been killed in cold blood by the Israeli army since September 2000,” Mr. Al-Tibi told reporters to mark International Children’s Day. He said the latest large-scale Israeli military operations perpetrated in Rafah had claimed the lives of 56 Palestinians, including 22 children. He added that “33 unborn babies died at the Israeli military roadblocks and checkpoints because their mothers were not allowed to cross these checkpoints to reach hospital.” (Xinhua)

The PA Ministry of Information has started referring to the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt as “Salah al-Din” instead of “Philadelphi,” in response to the protests of a Rafah children’s organization. The demand was made a day earlier by the Palestinian Children Parliament in Rafah, a forum dedicated to children and modelled on the Palestinian Legislative Council. The “parliament” urged the Palestinian and Arab media to use the name of Salah al-Din, the twelfth century C.E. Muslim Arab who conquered much of Palestine. It accused Israel of seeking to “obliterate the history and culture of southern Palestine” by changing the Arab names of some areas. The PA Ministry of Information will now use the new name for all of its publications. (The Jerusalem Post)

The Palestinian Council for Peace and Justice (PCPJ) reported that during May 2004 Israeli forces shot dead 137 Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory . Among the 137 killed, 43 were under the age of 18. The report also said that 1,127 Palestinians, among them 434 children, were shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers, adding that 1,050 had been arrested during Israeli army raids of towns and villages in the territory in May. (Albawaba.com)

Prime Minister Sharon and his Cabinet were working towards a compromise over his Gaza pullout plan. The deal in the works called for Cabinet approval “in principle” for Mr. Sharon’s plan to “disengage” from conflict with the Palestinians but required a new vote months from now before any settlements could actually be evacuated. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposed the [original] plan said, “We are looking for a formula that will protect this Government.” Meanwhile, Mr. Sharon said after leaving the Gaza Strip, Israel would stop providing electricity and infrastructure to the Palestinians there. He also said high-rises for Palestinians would replace the settlers’ homes in the Gaza Strip. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

In an interview with Ha’aretz,Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Today, the Palestinians are the victims, and unfortunately the people of Israel are treating the Palestinians as they were treated 500 years ago. Bombing people – civilians – from helicopters, killing people without any considerations – children, women, the elderly – razing their building using bulldozers.” He added that terrorism was not a problem of only one country so there was a need to establish a joint plan to fight it. “We have to take on this challenge … within the framework of human rights and the supremacy of the law.” (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The deteriorating security situation in the "Erez" area, along with the Gaza disengagement plan in the works, was causing businesses to leave the "Erez" Industrial Zone. Two factories had already moved to the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank, while another 10 had tried but had been turned away for lack of space. Barkan, one of the largest industrial zones in the West Bank, employs some 6,000 workers daily, of whom approximately 2,500 are local Palestinian workers. The uncertainty over Prime Minister Sharon’s plan was among the main reasons for the “exodus” of factories from the area, according to a factory owner. Factory owners were choosing to move to Barkan because they wanted to continue to enjoy cheap Palestinian labour. However, labour rules in the West Bank differ from "Erez" in that they required factory owners to pay an equal minimum wage to all workers there. (Ma’ariv)

A group of Israeli soldiers engendered debate over the army’s behaviour in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by going public about their service in Hebron in a new exhibition. Snapshots and videos featured at the exhibition called “Breaking the Silence.” “Hebron was the hardest and most confusing place that we served in. Up until now, we have all dealt alone with the shocking things we saw there … We decided to tell,” according to a statement released by troops who had served in the Nahal Brigade. None of the soldiers were prepared to speak to foreign journalists. The photos were a collection of army mugshots and group pictures interspersed with photographs of handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinians, sometimes flanked by a posing soldier. (AFP)

Two Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli troops in the Rafah refugee camp, Palestinian security sources said. They said six Israeli tank rounds were also fired at the Khan Yunis refugee camp, without causing any casualties, and a Palestinian was arrested in the camp. The IDF had no immediate comment on the reports. (AFP)

The Jerusalem Times reported that in the last two days Israeli authorities had destroyed six buildings in East Jerusalem for lack of building permits from the municipality or the IDF's civil administration, leaving tens of Palestinians without shelter. Al-Quds Centre, an East Jerusalem NGO, said since the beginning of 2004 Israel had destroyed 46 buildings there. (The Jerusalem Times)

Israel Radioreported that Prime Minister Sharon had decided to dismiss two Ministers to pave the way for the approval of his Gaza withdrawal plan. The two tried to avoid the Prime Minister’s couriers carrying the dismissal letters. One minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was eventually tracked down at his gym, while the other, Benny Elon, remained elusive. The dismissals would take effect 48 hours after they have been received in person, within just enough time before a Cabinet vote on the Gaza withdrawal plan on 6 June, where Mr. Sharon expects an 11-10 majority, once the dismissals take effect. (AP)

PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat said in Washington, D.C., that the PA wanted to hold “presidential, legislative and local elections as soon as possible.” The US, he maintained, could help make free elections a reality, which he said would begin with local municipal elections in Jericho and would be overseen by several thousand observers from the US, EU, Canada and Japan. (UPI)

The World Bank announced in Ramallah that it had approved an emergency structural adjustment grant of US$20 million to be used as part of the Bank’s response to the immediate budgetary assistance needs of the PA that had been “facing severe economic and fiscal challenges with a financing gap estimated at US$650 million for 2004.” ( World Bank press release 2004/391/MNA)

The World Bank announced in a press release that its Board of Executive Directors had approved a social safety net reform project, with an initial financing of US$10 million, to support the PA in meeting an increased demand for social assistance. The project will assist the Ministry of Social Affairs in reforming and expanding its main social assistance instrument known as the Social Hardship Cases Programme that provides regular cash assistance, food donations and health insurance to about 36,000 families comprising about 120,000 individual beneficiaries. The programme suffered funding shortages over the last three years amidst a climate of increased social vulnerability, PA fiscal difficulties and the ongoing crisis with Israel. (www.worldbank.org/we)

The Jerusalem Timesreported that after successfully reaching more than 100,000 schoolchildren over the past year with psychological-educational activities through its Classroom-Based Intervention programme, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) had pledged an additional US$3 million to continue the project. The follow-on project, called “Bina’” and expected to benefit 350,000 children in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, starts 1 July 2004 and will conclude on 30 June 2006. “The programme is popular with children, the [PA] Ministry of Education, and with UNRWA,” said Veerle Coignez, USAID programme manager. (The Jerusalem Times)

EU Middle East Envoy Marc Otte said after a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa that Europe wanted to help Egypt maintain security in the Gaza Strip when Israel withdraws: “We hope there will be coordination between the EU and Egypt regarding the Egyptian plan on security in Gaza Strip.” Under the proposed Egyptian security plan for Gaza, several European countries might be asked to play a role, including Britain, France and Italy. (UPI)

The EU pledged it would start negotiations between member Governments by the end of 2004 to agree on possible financial support for a Dead Sea water supply project, whose initial phase costs US$1 billion. “We believe that this programme would be very important for the future of the region and the people. I think that the economic financial support will also be strong,” said Walter Mazziti, Chairman of the European Task Force on water for the peace process-EU, at a five-day conference on water management attended by 1000 experts from 32 Arab and other countries. Two years ago Jordan launched the so-called “Red-Dead” initiative, which envisages the pumping of over 880 million cubic metres per year from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea annually. Jordanian Water and Irrigation Minister Hazem Nasser had said on 2 June that the World Bank was expected to fund the $10 million feasibility study. (Reuters)

Wang Shijie, China’s special envoy on the Middle East, met Jordan’s Minister of Justice and Deputy Foreign Minister Salah Bashir. At a press conference afterwards, Mr. Wang reiterated China's position supporting the fair causes of the Arab people, especially the Palestinian cause, in order to restore Palestinian rights and to establish an independent Palestinian State. He called for solving the conflicts under the United Nations resolutions through negotiations, saying that China was working to persuade the Israelis and Palestinians to resume the peace process according to the Road Map. The Chinese envoy indicated the Israeli unilateral plan was not a suitable solution to the conflict and condemned the Israeli military actions against Palestinian people, especially the latest actions in the Gaza Strip. Regarding his visit to the Middle East, he hoped to clarify China's points of view for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and persuade the two sides to make full efforts to achieve peace. (Xinhua)

4

Palestinian security sources said that a curfew had been imposed in Abu Dis, on the edge of East Jerusalem. Israeli police indicated that it went on high alert, fearing a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, with additional checkpoints in and around the city and increased identity checks. (AP)

Saying that the appointment of a Head of State and the formation of an interim Government in Iraq were encouraging steps, Pope John Paul II told visiting President Bush: “May a similar hope for peace also be rekindled in the Holy Land and lead to new negotiations, dictated by a sincere and determined commitment to dialogue, between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” (AP)

The IDF said its troops arrested five Palestinians at the Al-Muntar (Karni) commercial crossing south-east of Gaza City, following repeated threats of an attack there. One of the five was a Palestinian police officer, Israel Army Radiosaid, but the IDF refused to confirm the information. Palestinian security sources confirmed several arrests during an army operation in the Karni area, but could neither give an exact number nor immediately identify them. (AFP)

Germany’s junior coalition partners, the Greens, have apologized to Israel for accidentally issuing an election poster that featured a peace demonstrator carrying a banner saying “Victory to the Intifada.” A spokeswoman for the Greens said the party had sent a letter of apology to Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Shimon Stein, after it failed to recall all 5,000 blown-up photos of a London peace rally in which the slogan was visible. “We noticed the slogan and ordered a complete recall,” the spokeswoman said. “Unfortunately, some had already been hung up before the order got through, so we couldn’t get them all.” She said the Greens had also withdrawn an unspecified number of flyers featuring another photograph where a banner calling for a boycott of Israel could be seen. The material was conceived as part of the Greens’ campaign for the 13 June European Parliamentary elections. (Reuters)

5

President Bush, speaking at a joint press availability with President Chirac, said, “The President and I also share – had discussions about the Holy Land. We seek two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. I support the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent. And I realize that security is the foundation for peace and the starting point for all progress in the Middle East. I believe that Israel needs a truly responsible partner in achieving peace. I believe the Palestinian people deserve democratic institutions and responsible leaders. So for the sake of peace, I’m committed to helping the Palestinian people establish a democratic and viable state of their own. And I look forward to working with President Chirac to achieve that objective.” (PRNewswire)

In his opening statement to the nineteenth meeting of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Ministerial Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah of Kuwait reaffirmed GCC support for the Palestinians, calling upon the international community to “immediately intervene to stop the blatant Israeli aggression on the Palestinians” and to achieve justice in accordance with international conventions. Sheikh Mohammad said GCC members have observed with great sorrow the developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including assassinations, killing innocent people, demolishing homes and erecting barriers. (UPI, Xinhua)

US actor Richard Gere, on his third visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, met Prime Minister Qureia at his office in Abu Dis. The two exchanged gifts. Mr. Gere presenting Mr. Qureia with a book of photographs he had taken in Tibet over the last 20 years. The actor was in Ramallah on 4 June to open an exhibition of his photographs at a local cultural centre. “I express my solidarity with you and I am glad my exhibition is being shown here,” Al-Ayyamq quoted him as saying at the opening. “I consider myself your brother.” (AFP)

The Palestinian Prisoners Club called on all Palestinians and the PA for “a day of mourning and protest” on 6 June to mark the sentencing of Marwan Barghouti, who was also to turn 45 on that day. (AFP)

6

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian in a wheelchair in the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem . Arafat Yakoub, 31, an accomplished wheelchair-bound basketball player and director of a rehabilitation centre in the camp, had been paralyzed since 1987 when he was injured in the first intifada. Mr. Yakoub had been drinking coffee near the entrance to the camp when he was shot in the head by soldiers who reportedly fired at stone-throwing demonstrators near a checkpoint. An Israeli military source said troops had opened fire on several Palestinians suspected of trying to infiltrate an Israeli industrial zone near the camp. The IDF said it was investigating the incident. (AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The IDF raided the Al-Makhfiya neighbourhood in Nablus and the adjacent Balata refugee camp, arresting five Palestinians. Overnight, the IDF shelled Palestinians houses in the Tel Al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah, injuring one Palestinian. The IDF shot a Palestinian motorist in Al-Bireh driving his car, and arrested him while he was still bleeding. (Xinhua)

The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Fatah West Bank Secretary-General and PLC member Marwan Barghouti to five life terms and two additional 20-year sentences for a series of murders. He had been captured by Israeli troops in Ramallah in April 2002 and charged three months later with premeditated murder, accessory to murder, incitement to murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit a crime, as well as of activity and membership in a terrorist organization. The prosecution had accused him of having “wilfully caused the deaths of hundreds of Israelis” by funding and encouraging the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activists who carried out armed attacks. According to the indictment, Mr. Barghouti authorized Fatah field operatives generally to carry out attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers and the field commanders informed him of the attacks carried out. The Court found him directly responsible for three specific attacks. (DPA)

PA Negotiations Minister Saeb Erakat said that the Tel Aviv District Court had no jurisdiction over Marwan Barghouti and called on “Israel to release him immediately.” “This sentencing of Marwan Barghouti is illegal and invalid because the Israeli court has no power to sentence him as an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council,” Mr. Erakat said. “We reject this sentence and do not recognize this unfair decision,” Prime Minister Qureia told Voice of Palestine. “Marwan Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Parliament and a national leader and the Israeli occupation forces have no right to sentence him.” PA Cabinet Minister Qaddura Fares also condemned the sentence as illegal. “Everything was illegal from the beginning and the occupation is illegal, so the decision is illegal,” he said, adding that Israel’s real intention in trying Mr. Barghouti was to send a strong message to the Palestinians about the intifada. (AFP)

The Palestinian Prisoners Club called on all Palestinian and international humanitarian organizations to help save the life of a Palestinian child, Mohamed Hashash, 14, who was taken by the IDF on 12 May from an ambulance on the way to hospital. A statement from the group said Mr. Hashash had been seriously injured by an Israeli landmine and appealed to humanitarian organizations and Arab members of the Knesset to exert their utmost efforts to release Mohamed from jail, where his condition was said to be critical. (Xinhua)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in France with President Bush for celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of "D-Day", commented to CNNon talks with President Chirac the previous day that touched upon the issue of scattered areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territory being unfit for a future Palestinian State. Mr. Bush, he said, had supported the idea of the West Bank’s contiguity, saying, “In the West Bank you’ve got to have a coherent, contiguous land, which, joined with Gaza, would constitute the state of Palestine. He was making the point that you can’t have a bunch of little bantustans or the whole West Bank chopped up into non-coherent, non-contiguous pieces and say this is an acceptable state.” (AFP)

The PA called on the US to help in holding general elections instead of making repeated statements about finding an alternative Palestinian leadership. PA Negotiations Minister Saeb Erakat said, “President Yasser Arafat was democratically elected and he called on the US to provide the suitable climate for holding elections.” He noted that the Palestinians were ready to hold presidential, legislative and municipal elections, whereas the Israeli military deployment all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip obstructed the process. (Xinhua)

Malaysia's Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak repeated his nation’s concerns over the impact of the Middle East conflict. “Not everything, but the core of the [terrorist] problem is the Palestinian issue and it was not Saddam Hussein,” Mr. Najib told the third annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore, dubbed the “Shangri-La Dialogue” after the name of the hotel where it was being held. “We do not have any love for Saddam Hussein but the core issue would be a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian conflict. “The question is, after the Iraq war, has the world become a safer place? I think the answer is no ... The priority would be to handle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and seek a fair resolution.” (AFP, AP)

Singapore’s coordinating Minister for Defence and Security Tony Tan told the final day of the Asia Security Conference that the US approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a powerful propaganda tool for Islamic terrorists. “We are good friends with Israel, we are good friends with the United States,” Mr. Tan said during a session on global terrorism. “But as my Prime Minister has said ... a balanced approach by the United States towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is necessary if the Muslim world perceives the approach by the United States as unbalanced and tilted towards the Israelis. It must contribute as a propaganda tool to the sense of outrage, to the sense of resentment. It inspires suicide bombers not only in the Middle East but also throughout the world.” Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong opened the conference on 4 June by warning the US it needed to adopt a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue to win the war on terrorism. “This is too important an issue to dress in diplomatic niceties. The US is essential to the solution but it is also part of the problem,” Mr. Goh said, with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the audience. (AFP)

The Israeli Cabinet voted 14-7 on Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan, although the ministers only approved a withdrawal in principle, delaying a final vote on the removal of Israeli settlements until March 2005. Despite the delay, Prime Minister Sharon’s Bureau Chief Dov Weissglas said the plan remained on schedule. “The plan is exactly the same plan,” he said, noting that it would take months to work out the logistics of the withdrawal. “Disengagement has begun”, Mr. Sharon said after the Cabinet vote. “The Government decided today that by the end of 2005, Israel will leave Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank.” The US welcomed the vote on the disengagement plan, calling it a “courageous and historic step.” Prime Minister Qureia said Palestinians welcomed “any Israeli withdrawal from any part of our Palestinian land ... if the withdrawal is total and comprehensive, which includes dismantling all the settlements.” (AP)

7

Mohammed Nabhan (Mohammed Jamal Al-Hadi, according to AFP), 17, was killed overnight in the Al-Nimsawi neighbourhood of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. He was reportedly shot from the nearby Israeli military watchtowers in the “Neve Dekalim” settlement. The IDF said it fired at a suspicious figure overnight in an area frequently used by Palestinian militants to attack troops. It said the youth was shot after ignoring warning shots and calls to stop. (AFP, AP, Xinhua)

Israeli troops killed a mentally handicapped Palestinian near Tulkarm, when three Israeli jeeps raided the village of Far’un opening fire at any Palestinian moving in the streets, according to the witnesses and medics. Omar Farekh, 24, was shot dead near the separation wall. Israeli military sources said, “A unit carrying out a routine patrol identified a suspicious man that was walking in its direction with a plastic bag in his hand. The soldiers fired warning shots to make him stop, but he ran away and troops then shot in his direction.” (AFP, Xinhua)

Palestinian villagers attempted to stop the construction of a new section of Israel’s West Bank wall near Al-Zawieh, west of Salfit. Some 1,000 villagers tried to prevent Israeli bulldozers from razing their land, but were dispersed by Israeli troops. Stone-throwing youths were met with teargas and rubber-coated bullets. Medics reported a few cases of light injuries. Foreign peace activists, including women’s organizations, participated in a related demonstration. (AFP)

“The sentence pronounced against Marwan Barghouti is null and void and the Zionist tribunals have no legitimacy,” the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said in a statement. “We urge all our fighters to kidnap Zionists – children, women and soldiers – condemn them to death and execute them.” (AFP)

The PA demanded guarantees about Israel’s commitment to the Egyptian initiative, which the PA had already approved. PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath told Al-Ayyamthat it was “still unclear if Israel is ready to commit to all terms of the initiative conveyed by Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, but President Arafat has already voiced his approval.” (Xinhua)

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the two countries have been talking for a few months about finding ways to increase the Egyptian security presence at the border. “We’re now very close to implement this understanding between Israel and Egypt,” Mr. Shalom said in Cairo, addressing reporters in English. Amira Aron, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official who was travelling with Shalom said afterwards that the agreement would put an additional 100 Egyptian police along the Egyptian side of the border. The agreement, she said, also involved Egypt sending 200 military experts into Gaza to help Palestinians in organizing their security services. Mohammed Bassiouni, a member of Egypt’s upper house of Parliament and a former Ambassador to Israel, said that what Ms. Aron had referred to as 100 additional police officers would likely be soldiers or special forces carrying heavier weapons than the light arms now carried by Egyptian police officers in the border region. He said Egypt now had 19,000 soldiers and 3,000 police officers in all of Sinai. Mr. Shalom met separately with President Mubarak, his top political adviser Osama El-Baz and with intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. (AP)

A two-day conference opened in Geneva to discuss the plight of more than 4 million registered Palestine refugees. It is jointly hosted by UNWRA and the Swiss Government and attended by representatives from 62 countries and 29 international organizations. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement delivered by Peter Hansen, UNRWA Commissioner-General, said the social and economic conditions of Palestine refugees have increasingly worsened and called on the international community to do more to help them. (DPA)

Ten United Nations agencies working in the West Bank and Gaza issued a joint statement saying IDF restrictions on movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could prevent tens of thousands of pupils from sitting their high-school finals, which began Monday. The agencies appealed to Israeli authorities to facilitate “these important and future-defining exams.” David Bassiouni, the local UNICEF head, warned, “Failure to sit for these exams will result in forfeiting the entire school year. Students will not be able to study in universities and they will be forced to repeat their studies next year.” (AFP, ReliefWeb)

Indian President Abdul Kalam in his Government’s first policy statement to Parliament said India would give a “fresh thrust” to its “traditional ties” in the Middle East. “My Government will continue to fully support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Mr. Kalam said. “Our relations with Israel, which have developed on the basis of mutually beneficial cooperation, are important, but this in no way dilutes our principled support for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.” (AFP)

The IDF started building a cement wall along the road near the “Kissufim” junction north-east of Khan Yunis. Residents were concerned that their cultivated land located between the “Gush Katif” settlement and the “Kissufim” junction would be confiscated. (Xinhua)

Jordan and the PA agreed in principle to a programme under which Jordan would rehabilitate Palestinian security apparatus. The agreement came following intensive talks between Jordan and Palestinian Interior Ministers in Amman. (DPA)

8

“The pressing Palestinian crisis must be treated like the former apartheid issue in South Africa to galvanize the support and attention of the international community, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said. “We must be able to turn the Palestine conflict similar to the apartheid issue in South Africa,” the Minister told reporters after delivering a keynote address on Malaysia’s foreign policy on the second day of the twelfth General Assembly of the Organization of the Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA). (Xinhua)

Australia announced that it would provide AU$500,000 (US$355,000) as humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. The money was earmarked to the Palestinian refugees in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, said Federal Parliamentary Secretary Chris Gallus. The aid will be administered through UNRWA. (Xinhua)

PA President Arafat accused Israel of stalling over its planned pullout from the Gaza Strip, as he backed an Egyptian initiative to break the peace process deadlock. “We need this plan to be part of the Road Map and what is going on to take place in Gaza and the West Bank,” he said . (AFP)

Israel's Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour Ehud Olmert announced that he would close down the Beit Hanoun (Erez) industrial zone in the northern Gaza Strip and move Israeli factories to southern Israel. Mr. Olmert said that he took the decision in wake of Israel’s vote on 6 June to begin preparations for an Israeli evacuation from the Gaza Strip. The Director of the PA border passages in Gaza, Abu Salim Abu Safeya said the measure would leave 4,000 (more than 5,000, according to AP)Palestinian workers without a main source of income. (AP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

The Egyptians were demanding that PA President Arafat facilitate the implementation of security reforms within the PA, and transfer control of security bodies to the PA Interior Minister and Prime Minister, a senior Egyptian official reported to the Al-Sharq Al-Awsatnewspaper. (Ha’aretz)

“Four million Palestinian refugees were at a 'crucial juncture' following decades of dashed hopes and flagging aid which might turn the increasingly young Palestinian population into 'gun-slinging militants,' Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA said. After reaching and sometimes exceeding regional standards for education and health, the refugees “are now sliding down towards the bottom.” UNRWA received less than half of the resources need for its US$196 million dollar emergency funding programme last year, which was meant to deal with the impact of violence, curfews and closures in the Palestinian Occupied Territory. The number of Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank relying on the Agency for food aid had risen from 130,000 to 1.1 million since September 2000, according to the UNRWA. (AFP)

Egypt and Israel were working to increase Egyptian forces along the border with the Gaza Strip as part of the preparations for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Egyptian Foreign Minister Osama El-Baz, who met Mr. Sharon, said that the Cabinet had adopted a “certain version of the disengagement plan.” (The Financial Times)

The Quartet had prepared a draft “action plan”, for Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, including proposals on overhauling Palestinian security forces and providing financial backing. The document, entitled “Gaza Disengagement Action Plan” called for giving the PA Prime Minister and the Cabinet “authority and structures” to direct and implement political and economical reforms in Gaza. The draft set timelines for specific actions, giving a task force on Palestinian reforms up to 60 days to assess the necessary steps for Palestinian elections. The US would also have 60 days to “to seek Israeli release” of more than US$180 million in tax revenue arrears to the Palestinians. The World Bank was given 60 days to assess the Gaza Strip’s reconstruction and development needs, as well as the value of buildings and equipment that will be left behind by departing Israeli settlers. (Reuters)

IDF helicopters fired three missiles at a metal workshop near the entrance to the Shati (Beach) refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, starting a fire and wounding two people, residents said. The IDF said the target was a weapons warehouse “used by Hamas terrorists for terrorist activities against Israeli civilians.” (AP, www.idf.il)

Israel’s Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labour Ehud Olmert told The Jerusalem Postthat he was prepared for Israel to cede control over at least six East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhoods to the Palestinians. He mentioned Isawiya, Shu’fat refugee camp, Anata, Kafr Aqab [Kfar Akab], Sur Bahir and Umm Tuba. (The Jerusalem Post)

9

A Palestinian Telecom employee was seriously wounded by IDF gunfire as he worked on the roof of a school in Nablus, witnesses and medical sources said. (AFP)

Israeli troops wounded three Palestinians, including a 70-year-old man, and injured 70 others when they fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a group of 800 people, including foreigners, protesting the construction of the separation barrier in the village of Zawiya south-west of Jenin. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv)

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades said in a joint leaflet that their members had “fired a rocket-propelled grenade on an Israeli military watchtower at the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in the central Gaza Strip. The RPG hit the IDF military watchtower directly and injured two Israeli soldiers.” According to the IDF, no Israeli troops had been injured in the incident. (Xinhua, Ma’ariv, www.idf.il)

PA President Arafat, in a letter to Egypt's President Mubarak, agreed to comply with the Egyptian demand to facilitate the implementation of security reforms within the PA and transfer the control of security bodies to the PA Interior Minister and Prime Minister. (AP, Ma’ariv)

Senior Palestinian negotiator and PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat said that the Quartet had not formally presented to the PA the draft “action plan” on the Israeli evacuation plan from the Gaza Strip. He added: “We heard about the draft, but we haven’t been formally informed.” (Xinhua)

Truth, Justice, Peace, an international non-governmental organization, is planning to bring 10,000 volunteers into Palestinian cities to serve as observers and to monitor human rights violations and violence. The target date for the beginning of the operation is 11 September 2004, when 3,000 observers are expected to come to the Gaza Strip and another 7,000 to the West Bank. (Ma’ariv, www.p10k.net)

Walid Aashour, 23, was fatally shot as Israeli troops raided the northern Gaza Strip village of Beit Hanoun. Palestinian security sources said that IDF had raided parts of the village and stormed one of its buildings, detaining at least four residents. Witnesses said that IDF had used several tanks and armoured vehicles in the operation that reached Beit Hanoun’s school of agriculture amid intensive gunfire. They said the soldiers took the roof of the building and snipers opened fire at anything that moved. (DPA, Xinhua)

Acording to the timetable that the Israeli Government presented to the committee overseeing the planned pullout, the process had to be completed by 30 September 2005, three months ahead of the original target date. The process would begin with a voluntary evacuation by settlers, beginning this August. Although compensation details remain to be worked out, some sources said that early evacuees could get up to US$ 30,000. On the same day, the committee outlined the timetable for the evacuations:

(AP, Ma’ariv)

10

Hasan Ayash, 38, died of a heart attack during an IDF raid on his house in Jenin. Palestinian sources said that IDF troops backed by some 20 military vehicles raided homes and detained a number of local youths. Ma’mon Hussein Abul Hasan Al-Zar’eeni, 25, was killed by the IDF in the Al-Sikka suburb of Jenin. Palestinian sources said he was a member of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Zuhdi Abdul Hakim Al-Masri, a Palestinian engineer working with Palestinian telecommunications, was in critical condition after being hit by IDF fire to the chest while working near a secondary school in Nablus. (AP, The Palestinian Information Centre)

PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath told Voice of Palestineradio that Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was expected to visit the Occupied Palestinian territory in late June. He said that he had discussed the Egyptian peace initiative and his visit to the territories and Israel on 8 June with Mr. Suleiman. He also told the radio station that Quartet ambassadors would hold a meeting in the territories in early July while the French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier would visit the territories on 29 June and meet with PA President Arafat and Prime Minister Qureia. (Xinhua)

The G8 leaders meeting in Sea Island, Georgia, said in a statement released today that the Quartet would return to the Middle East. They said that the G8 countries would join with others in the international community, led by the Quartet, to restore momentum on the Road Map, to enhance humanitarian and economic conditions among the Palestinian people and to build democratic, transparent and accountable Palestinian institutions. They called upon the Quartet to meet in the region before the end of this month, engage with Israeli and Palestinian representatives and set out its plans. The statement also said that the G8 welcomed plans by the Palestinian Authority to hold municipal elections by the end of the summer and would help to make sure they were fair and transparent. (US Department of State)

Two Palestinians, including 13-year-old Hani Khamis Mahmoud Qandil, were shot dead during separate raids in the West Bank. Medical sources in Nablus said the boy had been shot in the head when soldiers confronted gunmen and stone-throwers during a raid in the city and died by the time he arrived at a local hospital. At least one other person had been wounded in the incident. In Bethlehem, soldiers shot and killed Shaher Awni Ahmed Taqateqa, 21, and wounded three others. A military source said in both instances soldiers had targeted those who threw firebombs at the troops. (Albawaba.com, Reuters)

At least 15 protesters were wounded when Israeli troops fired rubber-coated bullets to disperse demonstrators protesting against the separation wall in the West Bank. The army said soldiers used only tear gas in the clash at the village of Zawiya, south-west of Jenin. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops raided a wedding in Ramallah, detaining the groom Ramzi Barash and four other men, witnesses said. Troops arrived at the wedding hall and used loudspeakers to call for the man to come out and turn himself in. The groom came out immediately. Along with him, soldiers also apprehended his brother, cousin, another guest and one of the waiters. An Israeli military source said they were Hamas activists suspected of past involvement in plotting suicide bombings. The men had been turned over to the Shin Bet. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv, Reuters)

Five young settlers from “Yitzhar” beat up a Palestinian shepherd and stole his flock of sheep, Israeli police said. The five were arrested and the police returned the flock to their owner in the nearby village of Einabus, south of Nablus. Police did not rule out the possibility of further arrests of “Yitzhar” settlers who had tried to block their investigation. (AFP)

11

The Israeli Government could begin offering compensation in July 2004 to settlers who would leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a Government official said. The “Compensation, Evacuation and Dialogue Committee” had already begun working out the criteria for the payout, including the size of the property and the home and the number of years the family had lived in the settlement. Israeli media reported the average compensation package would be about US$300,000 per family. The Cabinet was expected to approve a compensation bill “around July or a little later,” according to the official. The bill was expected to clear the way for the Government to begin paying cash advances immediately, before the Knesset approved the bill. Evacuating the Gaza Strip, including compensating the 7,500 settlers there and removing the [four] West Bank settlements would cost more than US$1.5 billion, of which US$450 million would be earmarked for security. Officials also said “hundreds” of settlers had already expressed interest in leaving. According to Ha’aretz,the Government would encourage the settlers to relocate to areas with low housing prices, such as the southern Negev Desert, the northern Galilee region and certain parts of the West Bank. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

Israel’s National Security Council had recommended to Prime Minister Sharon that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip be expedited, in order to complete it as quickly as possible. The defence establishment feared that the reaction of the settlers, or certain groups among them, could be extreme, and that the longer the process was drawn out the higher the risk things could get out of hand. Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said it was important to accelerate the implementation of the disengagement plan, adding that “anarchy” had started in the process of compensating Gaza settlers. Sources from Prime Minister Sharon’s office said the timetable had not yet been approved by Mr. Sharon and therefore “it was not a binding document at this point.” PA Cabinet Minister Fares Qaddura said the Israeli unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip would cause Palestinians great suffering. (Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv)

An official of the Palestinian Trade Union in the Gaza Strip called upon Arab countries to employ Palestinian workers who lost their jobs after it became known that Israel had decided to close the Beit Hanoun "Erez" industrial zone. It was estimated that some 4,000 Palestinians had lost their jobs. Workers had gone on a sit-in near the zone calling for alternative jobs. Head of the Union Rasim Al-Biari told reporters that he appealed “to our Arab brothers in the Arab countries to understand the needs of the Palestinian people and open their labour markets for the Palestinian workers.” He also called on them to build new industrial zones to employ Palestinian workers. “The United Nations should also play a role in helping the Palestinian people because it is the responsibility of the whole world to help them,” he said, adding that there were 120,000 unemployed Palestinian workers. (Xinhua)

Prime Minister Sharon received pledges of support from both Secretary-General Kofi Annan and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana in recent days to ensure the smooth implementation of the Gaza withdrawal plan. In a phone call, Prime Minister Sharon and United Nations Secretary-General Annan agreed “to cooperate closely” over the pullout, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “UN Secretary General Annan added that the international community was prepared to render assistance and contribute both efforts and resources in order to assure a successful implementation of the disengagement plan.” Mr. Annan had described the prospect of a withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank settlements as “a significant and courageous step that could potentially move the region forward”, the Israeli statement added. Mr. Solana spoke with Sharon on 9 June by telephone to offer the EU’s help in implementing the withdrawal plan. (AFP, UPI)

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrima Sabri, the most senior Muslim cleric in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, renewed a fatwa forbidding Palestinians to work on Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank and branding those who did as “traitors.” The fatwa was renewed because Israel had started building the barrier in Palestinian neighbourhoods in and around East Jerusalem. Hundreds of Palestinians held Friday noon prayers on a dirt road in Al-Ram, on the edge of East Jerusalem, in protest against the recent construction of the barrier that cut through the town. The Grand Mufti said during the Friday noon prayer, “All those who help or contribute in the construction of this wall is a sinner, an outcast and had to leave us, never be among us.” The PLC said the day before that a number of Palestinian contractors might have bought cement from Egypt and sold it to Israel, although there was not sufficient evidence in this regard. (Reuters, Xinhua)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II in an address to business leaders said he wanted a programme for the Middle East modelled after the Marshall Plan, adding that he had approached US leaders about such a project before 11 September 2001. The King said bringing stability to Iraq was also important to any Middle East revival, but that it was secondary to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Terrorists, he argued, were using the Palestinian issue to woo recruits. “If we solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, 90 per cent of the battle is over,” he said. (AP)

Raef Nijem, Vice-President of Jordan's Construction Committee, said in an interview that the eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque was stable despite many small holes uncovered during the mosque’s restoration in two areas, one about 40 sq m. and another 10 sq m. He said the holes were the result of centuries of rainwater penetration, which had weakened the bond of the exterior layer of the wall, and his team would fill the holes with new stones. “The rest is in a good state,” Mr. Nijem said. “The structural stability was checked and we found that the wall is stable and not affected by the last earthquake” the previous winter. A Jordanian team has been working since February 2004 to restore the wall, which had a small bulge and other minor problems. Israel says the bulge was caused by renovation work of the Islamic Trust, which oversees the compound, while Palestinians blame Israeli excavations at the base of the wall. A report on the Mosque's wall would be sent within a week to the head of the Jerusalem police “to assure him that the wall is stable and there is nothing dangerous”. (AP)

12

PA National Security Adviser Jibril Rajoub announced that the Palestinian security services would be reduced to three in accordance with the Road Map. Mr. Rajoub told reporters, “These apparatuses are the national security services, the general security services and the political services that will abide by the National Security Council and Prime Minister Qureia.” (UPI)

Israel will demolish all 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip as part of a pull out from the territory, going back on earlier plans to leave them intact. “The houses will be destroyed so that they do not fall into the hands of terrorists or the mafia run by Yasser Arafat”, an anonymous official in Prime Minister’s Office said. “It would have been otherwise, had we received assurances that these buildings would be turned over to the Palestinian refugees, but, as this is not the case, we had no other choice.” (AFP)

Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, stated that his movement did not intend to halt its attacks inside the Gaza Strip if the Israeli evacuation of all the Gaza Strip was not completed. He told reporters, “Hamas witnesses a series of changes in its institutions and strategies,” adding, “Since its foundation the movement has always been secret and the absence of its leaders from the spotlight is not a new thing to us.” Mr. Haniya strongly denounced the allegations that the suicide attacks carried out by Hamas had negatively affected the unity of the Palestinians. “I strongly denounce these claims. We are undergoing a legitimate struggle against the occupation and Hamas has always stood in the position of self-defence,” he said. Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas official, said that the continued Israeli presence was unacceptable, “We do not trust the Israelis, and we do not trust that the Israelis are going to withdraw from Gaza while they are speaking of controlling the sea and the air. Until the occupation completely ends, our resistance will continue.” (AP, UPI)

PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat told reporters, “Israel’s decision to establish the separation wall around Jerusalem in order to alienate the city from its surroundings is part of the Israeli fait accomplithat sabotages the peace process.” His statement came in response to Israel’s demolition of houses and confiscation of Palestinian-owned lands in order to resume the construction of the wall around Jerusalem. Mr. Erakat said Israel apparently intended to establish a new settlement south of Jerusalem, which contravened Prime Minister Sharon’s pledge to the US about evacuating settlements. “Israel escalates military aggressions, confiscates lands, demolishes houses, kills and arrests Palestinians while Jewish settlement activities are still under way. This requires a prompt move from the international community,” Mr. Erakat said. (UPI)

Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Maher said Cairo had no plans to sideline PA President Arafat. “Egypt’s position on President Arafat is known. He is the elected and legitimate leader of the Palestinians,” MENAquoted Mr. Maher as saying. He also said that the extent of powersharing between Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Qureia was a matter for the Palestinian basic law to decide. (AFP)

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades forced a visiting Jordanian security delegation, comprising about 10 officers from different Jordanian security services, out of Jenin. “Their visit to the area was not coordinated with PA President Arafat,” said the group’s commander Zakaria Zubeidi. He said the Jordanians had arrived on 11 June to study the possibility of training Palestinian security officers and prepare for dismantling four Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank. In Amman, Government spokeswoman Asma Khodr denied the report and said that the Jordanian delegation was in fact a “media team” from the armed forces public relations office and Jordan TV. “They are touring the Jordanian military field hospitals in Jenin and Ramallah,” Ms. Khodr told Petra.She also denied that they were “harassed” by anyone, adding that the delegation was still carrying out its fact-finding mission. A Palestinian diplomat in Amman had told AFPthat the Jordanian delegation was not an official security team dispatched to the West Bank but a media group on a reporting mission. On 9 June, an aide to Mr. Arafat had said the latter had sent PA Interior Minister Hakam Balawi to Amman with a “protest message” following reports that Jordanian officers were involved in visits with Israelis to the West Bank. The Jordanian Government had denied having received such an official protest. Jordan had said it was ready to train Palestinian security services but would not send troops to the West Bank. (AFP, Xinhua)

The PA began a dialogue with various Palestinian factions, including Hamas. Prime Minister Qureia told reporters in Gaza that his talks with Hamas leaders and other factions had been “fruitful, and we agreed on resuming the national Palestinian dialogue without any reservations. All issues are open for discussion.” He added that they agreed to formulate a mechanism to ensure regular meetings, including high-level monthly talks, to “draw up common plans in order to face the upcoming phase”. Mr. Qureia said that all the factions “welcomed the Egyptian role and efforts that will support the Palestinians to face the demands” that would follow an expected Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Qureia also said at the meeting that the planned Israeli evacuation from the Gaza Strip was a “historical opportunity that might not occur again”. Fatah representative Samir Masharawi, who participated in the talks, said that he expected a fresh round of Palestinian dialogue to be launched in Gaza City within the coming few days in order to prepare for the Palestinian talks due to take place in Cairo. He added that an Egyptian security delegation had been expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip on 17 June, but said that Israeli internal conflicts and its reluctance to respond to the Egyptian initiative had postponed the visit. (UPI, Xinhua)

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened in a leaflet to quit Fatah after PA President Arafat called upon the group to join the PA security forces in the West Bank and Gaza. The group said that it would quit Fatah “if its militants are neglected or deprived of participating in the decision-making and defending the Palestinian territories from Israeli raids.” A spokesman of the group in the Gaza Strip known as Abu Qusai told reporters “as a result of being neglected and Fatah movement doesn’t give the group a good care, we seriously think of quitting Fatah”. He accused some Fatah officials “of not helping the Brigades and not giving it the chance to participate in the decision-making”, adding that Fatah didn’t pay salaries to its members and to the families of those who were killed. “Since the beginning of the intifada in 2000, all armed attacks against Israel were self-funded,” said Abu Qusai, adding that “many characters in Fatah who lead the movement had contributed to undermining the group.” He said that the Palestinian leadership had two choices, “either to change its policy or we just quit, if we pull out from Fatah and this won’t be considered as a rebellion”. Prime Minister Qureia told reporters the next day that the Fatah Central Committee had been asked to address concerns raised by members of the Brigades “in a serious way”. “The Fatah Central Committee has formed a high committee to study their case in general. First of all, we must ensure their protection [from the Israelis]. We must also look into the problems they face in their daily lives. A ministerial committee will implement any recommendations by the high committee,” Mr. Qureia said. (AFP, Xinhua)

A joint leaflet from Fatah and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades warned against any attempt to end the intifada and “the armed resistance against the occupation”. “While the government of Sharon is repressing the Palestinian people and keeping the siege on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a new group of people who ignore our people’s sacrifices emerged under the title of training security forces. They are acting without even getting any guarantees from the Israeli enemy to withdraw its forces out from our Palestinian territories,” said the leaflet. It called for stopping “all suspected meetings unless the fate of the wanted Palestinians and thousands of prisoners is decided”, referring to reports of alleged meetings of Israeli and Jordanian security officials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory without any coordination with the PA. (Xinhua)

13

Palestinian sources said that Israeli troops had tried to kill Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Zakaria Zubeidi in Jenin. A special Israeli undercover unit reportedly opened fire at Mr. Zubeidi and his bodyguards on the outskirts of the Jenin refugee camp. One of the bodyguards was injured in the 15-minute shooting and Mr. Zubeidi himself escaped the attack. An IDF spokeswoman said only that troops had been involved in an exchange of fire in the area while on a “routine patrol”. (AFP, Xinhua)

A nine-month-old girl was shot and wounded as Israeli troops stationed on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt opened fire at Rafah refugee camp. Ali Musa, chief of the emergency unit of Abu Yousef al Najjar Hospital in Rafah, said Mallak Jabber had been shot in the leg in her father’s arms as he was standing near one of the stores. Mr. Musa said that the father had been slightly injured by bullet shrapnel, but both the father and the baby were in stable condition. (Xinhua)

Witnesses said that a convoy of IDF tanks, accompanied by a bulldozer, had raided the Al-Qarara area north of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip and demolished the house of Jumi’an Al-Smeiri. The witnesses and security sources said the Israeli troops had caused severe damage to the neighbouring houses and terrified children and women. (Xinhua)

An IDF force seized a building in front of PA President Arafat’s HQ in Ramallah. The witnesses said that more than 20 Israeli soldiers raided the building under construction and removed its rooftop. (Xinhua)

Palestinian gunmen opened fire inside United Nations offices in Jenin, leading the organization to halt building new homes for Palestinians who lost theirs during Israel’s 2002 Operation “Defensive Shield”. The new houses, built with a US$27 million contribution from the United Arab Emirates, are reportedly nicer than the old ones, but 15 per cent smaller. Ha’aretz said the planners had left room for wide alleys so tanks could move without damaging homes. Quoting UNRWA’s spokesman in the West Bank, the newspaper said five Palestinian gunmen approached the project’s offices on 9 June and fired at the building. They then entered the offices and fired pistols in the rooms. The gunmen apparently came from families unhappy with the size of their new houses, the newspaper said. Some 70 clerks, contractors and planners work in the UN offices in Jenin and UNRWA stopped the project pending security guarantees. The head of UNRWA’s Public Information Office, Paul McCann, confirmed the report, adding UNRWA had so far built 70 new homes and renovated around 1,000 others, Israel Army Radiosaid. (DPA, UPI)

The IDF set up a new military post south-west of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Residents said that a number of Israeli tanks and bulldozers placed big cement blocks and barbed wire in the Nimsawi neighbourhood and the cemetery west of town. The Israeli military vehicles began razing wide areas west of the town and levelled sand hills a few days ago. Palestinian security sources said the IDF had confiscated Palestinian-owned lands for building a large base near the “Neve Dekalim” settlement. (Xinhua)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his cabinet on 13 June he was determined to see Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip completed by the end of 2005. He said he had ordered the committees dealing with his disengagement plan to begin work “without delay so that we can meet the deadline for each stage of the withdrawal by the end of 2005”, according to an official statement. (AFP)

Israel will move two main crossing points in the context of its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli official said. Prime Minister Sharon ordered work to begin on implementing the plan. The Beit Hanoun "Erez" crossing, the main entrance for Palestinian workers into Israel and site of a nearby industrial park, will shift northward into Israel. If Egypt agrees, the Rafah crossing would be moved 1.5 miles south into Egyptian territory. Moving the crossing points away from the Gaza Strip would end the cooperation between Israeli and PA security forces mandated by interim peace accords in the 1990s. Also, distancing the crossings from Gaza itself would reinforce Israel’s contention that the pullout meant the end of its occupation of Gaza, despite Israeli plans to maintain control of its borders and air space. (AP)

The Popular Resistance Committees of the Intifada (PRC) criticized the PA’s decision-making on security arrangements “for not being involved in equal foot with other Palestinian factions and militants groups”. “Our group and its armed wing the Salah al-Din Brigades can never be neglected or sidelined because it is a part of the Palestinian people and the intifada that can never be divided,” said the group in the leaflet. The group said that any deal signed between the Palestinian factions and the PA with Egypt “that doesn’t refer to the rights of the Palestinians to struggle against the occupation would be automatically rejected.” The group further said, “If we are deprived from participating in the coming decision making which is our legitimate right, we won’t be committed to any deal reached in the future.” The PRC leaders were not invited to participate in the meetings that PA Prime Minister Qureia held the day before with representatives of different Palestinian factions. (Xinhua)

Iran’s Ambassador to Jordan accused Israel of being behind international concerns about Tehran’s nuclear programme and said Israel would meet a “painful” response if it attacked Iranian nuclear installations. “Israel is behind politicizing Iran’s programme for developing peaceful nuclear technology because of our positive stances regarding many issues in the region, including our support for the oppressed Palestinian people. Those Israelis do not wish to see any Muslim country acquiring nuclear technology, even peaceful, although they themselves possess nuclear arsenal,” Ambassador Mohammad Irani told a news conference to announce a visit to Tehran by Jordan’s Prime Minister Faisal Al-Fayez who was scheduled to arrive there on 21 June for three days of talks. (AP)

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Two Palestinians were killed after their car was hit by an Israeli missile at the entrance to Nablus. The victims were Khalil Marshud, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Awad Abu Zeid, a member of Islamic Jihad. (AP, AFP, Xinhua)

Israel confiscated Palestinian farmland to build its separation barrier near the “Ariel” settlement some 20 km inside the West Bank. Palestinian security sources and eyewitness accounts confirmed that engineers had been surveying the land east of “Ariel” for the past three days, although no land had so far been levelled in preparation for actual construction work. Residents of the nearby Zawiya village were informed that 4,500 acres of land were being confiscated for a 3 km barrier segment, said PA liaison officer with Israel Annan Elashkar. The village had also been ordered to halt construction of a new school just 20 m from the barrier, residents said, adding that once the barrier was complete, the village would not be able to expand. A spokeswoman at the Israeli Defence Ministry denied that the start of building work conflicted with agreements struck with Washington, D.C., stating, “The security fence around Ariel is being built according to the understandings with the United States.” A US official told APthat the US, which opposed including “Ariel” on the Israeli side of the barrier, was in ongoing talks with Israel on how to solve the problem. Asaf Shariv, an adviser to Prime Minister Sharon, said that in about six months Israeli and US officials would discuss whether “Ariel” should be hooked up to the main barrier or be surrounded, “like a fenced-in island”. US officials apparently don’t oppose the second option. Mr. Sharif also said that for now only an east-west section of the wall was being built, leaving the option of encircling “Ariel” to the east of Jerusalem. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erakat said that building a barrier around the settlement would “mean the destruction and devastation of the Road Map”. (AFP, AP)

Palestinian security and medical sources said the IDF had used a new kind of tear gas against Palestinians protesting the construction of the separation wall in the West Bank, as well as during raids in Nablus. The gas caused suffocation, unconsciousness, spasms, vomiting, and other side effects. A recent Palestinian report stated that the IDF had used a kind of “chemical gas” against Palestinians since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. (Xinhua)

Saraya Al-Quds, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, in a leaflet claimed responsibility for firing two rockets at the “Ganei Tal” settlement west of Khan Yunis. Salah al-Din Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees of the Intifada (PRC), claimed responsibility for firing two rockets at the “Kfar Darom” settlement in the central Gaza Strip. The group said rockets had hit targets inside the settlement, and the attackers had escaped unhurt. An IDF spokesman said two attacks by anti-tank missiles had been carried out during the day, but no injuries or damage had been reported. (Xinhua)

According to a statement by Prime Minister Sharon’s Office, Hussam Nabulsi, 38, a Palestinian from the Old City in East Jerusalem, was arrested on 16 May 2004 in a joint operation by police and the domestic security service (Shin Bet). Accused of acting on behalf of a Hamas cell in Nablus, he admitted during interrogation that he had planned to plant a large explosive device at Mr. Sharon’s office or in a synagogue in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood. In the same operation, security forces discovered a powerful bomb hidden in a bag near the Bir Naballah village north of Jerusalem. Mr. Nabulsi said it was supposed to be placed at a site in Jerusalem and activated remotely by a mobile phone once he was a safe 200 m away. Working as a driver for an Israeli company which distributes leaflets in the city, Mr. Nabulsi would often go to different government offices in the city, one of which was Mr. Sharon’s office. According to the statement, the arrest highlighted a growing trend by radical groups to use East Jerusalem residents for attacks due to the travel restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank. (AFP, DPA)

The IDF was removing about one third of the obstacles installed to control Palestinian traffic at entrances to West Bank villages, Ha’aretz reported. Although the removal of about 40 obstacles, including earth mounds, will make it a little easier for Palestinians to move around the West Bank, the main obstacles to travel – manned army checkpoints at the entrances to towns and roving roadblocks – will remain in place. Palestinians confirmed that the military reopened a central road leading from Nablus to the Jordan Valley, which had been closed since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. Most of the barriers removed are in the northern West Bank, with Israeli military officials saying that the removal was possible in areas where the separation barrier had been largely completed. (AP, DPA)

Zakaria Zubeidi, the Jenin commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, told Israel Radiohe had answered positively to a request from the PA to halt attacks against Israelis after Israel withdrew from the city and four nearby settlements. He said this would include halting shooting attacks in the area and dispatching suicide bombers to Israel. The Brigades members in Jenin were also interested in joining the Palestinian security forces after the pullout, he added. The movement would also try to restrain other militant groups in the area such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. (DPA)

A meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the foreign minister level opened in Istanbul, attended by ministers from 57 countries and about 2,300 delegates. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a message delivered by his envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, said Israel’s plan to withdraw from the occupied Gaza Strip could benefit the Middle East peace process as long as it was a complete pullout carried out in consultation with the PA and in line with the Road Map. Mr. Annan called on Israel to stop “targeted killings” of Palestinian militants and said Palestinians must halt their suicide bombings. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey told delegates that unless there was a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a US plan for a “Greater Middle East” would fail, saying, “The occupation, which is continuing in Palestinian territories, the excessive and disproportionate use of force ... have lifted the conflict to a higher level.” (AFP, Reuters)

King Abdullah II of Jordan said the war on global terrorism can only be won if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is truly resolved. “If you want to deal with terrorism, you have to deal with the core issue”, the King told NBC News in an interview”. (Dow Jones)

15

Israel is considering moving settlers slated for evacuation from the Gaza Strip to “expanded West Bank enclaves” despite US objections. Defence Minister Mofaz reportedly ordered plans drawn up for hundreds of new homes at the “Gush Etzion” block for use by 7,500 settlers who are to be evacuated from Gaza. “The whole idea was to turn a Gaza withdrawal into an opportunity [for peace]. If Mr. Mofaz takes settlers from Gaza to the West Bank, that would kill the idea,” Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saeb Erakat said. (AP,Ma’ariv, Reuters)

Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. Sallah Allahwani, 18, was fatally injured by a bullet in the abdomen. Palestinian witnesses said the 17-year-old was shot during stone-throwing clashes with soldiers after the funeral of three militants killed in a missile strike the previous day. Medics said a 12-year-old boy was also shot and wounded. (Reuters, Xinhua)

A Palestinian car packed with 100 kg of explosives blew up after being fired on by Israeli soldiers as it approached the “Netzarim” settlement in the Gaza Strip. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad claimed joint responsibility for the abortive attack near the settlement of "Netzarim", south of Gaza City. Palestinian sources said that at least one person who was travelling in the vehicle had managed to flee before it exploded but was later arrested by the Palestinian security services. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

A Hamas member was killed when a bomb that he was preparing exploded prematurely, Palestinian medical and security sources said. Awni Taha, 55, had been assembling the device at his home in Gaza City. He was taken to the city’s Al-Shifa hospital but was declared dead on arrival. (AFP)

Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres said that he had been in contact with PA Prime Minister Qureia. “I hold telephone conversations with Mr. Qureia from time to time,” he told Israel Public Radio.The Prime Minister’s bureau chief, Hassan Abu Liddeh, confirmed contacts between Mr. Peres and Mr. Qureia. (AFP)

President Yasser Arafat’s security advisor Jibril Rajoub told Israel Radio that “Yasser Arafat understood Israel’s demographic concerns as a state for the Jews” and would be willing to consider territorial exchange with Israel on a one-to-one ratio. (DPA)

Israeli troops closed the Abu Huli military roadblock in the central Gaza Strip splitting the Strip in two separate areas. Palestinian security forces said the IDF informed them that the closure would continue until the end of the day. The IDF arrested Palestinian students at Al-Matakhin junction in the central Gaza Strip, close to the “Gush Katif” settlements block, while they were on their way to attend their secondary school certificate examinations. Two other Palestinians were also detained. The IDF seized a Palestinian house in Al-Mughraqa area, south of Gaza City, and turned it to a military post and demolished another Palestinian house near Al-Matakhin junction. Israeli military bulldozers razed areas of Palestinian land planted with olives trees and vegetables there, and did the same in the Wadi Salqa area, east of Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, where it also bulldozed a number of green houses. (Xinhua)

Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom is asking the European Union’s 10 "accession status" countries to use their influence to win support for Israel in Western Europe and the United Nations. Speaking after talks with Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda in Prague, Mr. Shalom said he had asked Mr. Svoboda “to try to talk to his colleagues in the EU to change their way of voting in the United Nations” on Palestinian and Israeli issues . (DPA)

16

An IDF undercover unit assassinated an Islamic Jihad activist during a raid in the Jenin refugee camp and arrested several other Palestinians. Palestinian sources said the troops opened fire on Majed Sa’di, 30, killing him instantly. A Palestinian taxi driver was critically wounded. (Xinhua, DPA, Reuters, Ha’aretz)

Salah al-Din Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees of the Intifada (PRC), claimed responsibility for firing homemade rockets at the city of Sderot in Israel, north of the Gaza Strip. “A group of our militants have fired two Nasser 2 rockets against Sderot established on the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948,” the group said in a leaflet. (Xinhua)

A mortar was fired at an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip and hit an empty classroom. Earlier, Palestinians fired an anti-tank rocket at IDF soldiers near Rafah. (Israel Radio)

Two 15-year-old Palestinian girls were arrested by IDF troops in Nablus, Palestinian security sources said. The fathers of the two girls were taken away with them. Israel Radioreported that the two teenagers had been planning to carry out an attack in Israel. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message delivered on his behalf by Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor at the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, in Beijing, that “the status quo is simply unacceptable.” He further stated that “Despite the clarity of the Quartet’s Road Map, despite its acceptance by both sides, and despite the reciprocal and reasonable nature of the steps it calls for to realize the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in security, efforts to implement it remain deeply unsatisfactory.” (DPI press release ...)

Israel began construction work to incorporate the “Ariel” settlement within the separation wall, as hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli protesters clashed with Israeli security forces near the village of Iskaka some 20 kilometres inside the West Bank. The construction was subsequently halted. However, an IDF liaison official told area residents that construction work would continue at a later date. US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on June 15 that US officials had most recently discussed the matter with Israeli counterparts. “Our position has been clear: the fence is a problem,” he said. “It’s a problem to the extent that it prejudges final borders, that it confiscates Palestinian property, or that it imposes further hardship on the Palestinian people.” (AFP,www.state.gov, Ha’aretz)

PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Erakat told Al Ayyamdaily that the decision of Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to expand the West Bank settlements “is certain to undermine the Road Map peace plan. Building hundreds of housing units in the settlements in the West Bank and in the area near Jerusalem would certainly undermine the Road Map plan and the plan of pullout from Gaza at the same time.” He urged the US administration to interfere as soon as possible “to cancel the plans of expanding the settlements and to stop the construction of the wall in the West Bank.” (Xinhua)

The 31st Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers issued a declaration inviting the Security Council to “send United Nations peacekeeping forces to the Palestinian territories in order to provide international protection to the Palestinian people.” The officials, gathered in Istanbul on the last day of a three-day meeting, also called for an end to the Israeli occupation of “all Arab territories, including Jerusalem,” and for Israel’s siege of the headquarters of President Arafat to be lifted. (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Qureia arrived in Cairo for talks. “The Prime Minister is expected to confer with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman later in the day, focusing on Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip,” the source said. During the trip, Mr. Qureia is also scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Mubarak. (Xinhua)

PA President Arafat called on Europe to do more to advance the Road Map for Middle East peace, in an interview with German newsweekly Sternto be published on 17 June. “There must be a strong push from the Quartet committee, especially from Europe,” Mr. Arafat said. “The Europeans have a very important chance to play this role. They have to be strong and act quickly. The next six months will be important,” he said, according to a transcript of Mr. Arafat’s remarks in English provided by Stern.(AFP)

Chinese special envoy on Middle East issues Wang Shijie said in Beijing that China was willing to see the scenario of an independent State of Palestine coexisting peacefully with Israel. Mr. Wang, who made his fourth Middle East trip from 1 to 8 June, said the Chinese side shared many similar views with the Palestinian leaders and leaders of Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic, whom he had met during his trip. The special envoy said China had always supported the just cause of Arab and Palestinian people, and Palestine’s legitimate rights including setting up an independent State, and the principle of land-for-peace and negotiations for a peaceful solution. (Xinhua)

President Bush delayed for another six months the transfer of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Mr. Bush explained that the delay was essential to preserving US interests. He explained, at the same time, that the administration was committed to the congressional decision to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem. (Israel Broadcasting Authority)

In Nablus, several buildings including two mosques and a church were damaged during an Israeli operation. (Albawaba.com, www.palestine-info.co.uk)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak underlined the need that the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip should be part of the Road Map. “We accordingly offered to train Palestinian cadres to maintain security and halt continued violence operations,” he told reporters. He added, “We have an agreement with the US, Israeli and Palestinian sides to protect our forces which will undertake this training. Our forces are not combat troops to fight anybody. These forces are for working out plans to train the citizens.” It was reported that Egypt approved deploying 30,000 soldiers on its borders with the Gaza Strip in addition to playing a security role inside the Strip. ( Ha’aretz, www.sis.gov.eg, Xinhua)

The Washington Post reported that physical abuse of Iraqis by American guards sounded familiar to Anan Labadeh, a former Palestinian prisoner. The casual beatings, the humiliations, the "trophy" photos taken by both male and female guards had been experiences he underwent as a Palestinian security detainee at an Israeli military camp in March 2003. There was, he added, a significant difference: The Israelis have rules, he said, and their techniques for breaking down prisoners were far more sophisticated. “What the Israelis do is much more effective than beatings. Three days without food and without sleep and you’re eager to tell them anything.” Although officials never used the word “torture”, Israel has acknowledged sanctioning mistreatment of prisoners in interrogation. After the start of the second intifada, the Shin Bet used physical coercion as a standard practice, according to human rights lawyers and detainees. (The Washington Post, IPC)

According to Mahsom Watch (MW), an Israeli group that monitors soldiers’ behaviour at West Bank checkpoints, three of its activists were attacked by a group of settlers just outside the northern city of Nablus. During the incident, six settlers began shouting, pushing and cursing the three women who were standing at the Jit checkpoint near the “Kedumim” settlement, west of Nablus, MW spokesman Adi Dagan said. She said that, under the eyes of the soldiers, the women’s notebooks were snatched or destroyed and one of the settlers threatened to kill them if they returned to the area. The women called the police, who did not turn up for 25 minutes. By that time, two of the women had suffered cuts and scratches. Dagan said “they grabbed and pushed them and stole their notebooks, which is very worrying as it contains many MW members’ phone numbers and numbers of Palestinians,” she said. A similar incident occurred six weeks ago at the same checkpoint, when a group of three MW volunteers were attacked by a group of settlers, one of whom was the mayoress of “Kedumim”, Daniella Weiss. Dagan said, “What is even more disturbing is that the police are doing nothing about it.” The group has filed a complaint with the police commander responsible for the West Bank, she said. (AFP)

17

A Palestinian man died of wounds sustained the day earlier during an undercover Israeli military operation in Jenin, according to Palestinian sources. (Ha’aretz)

A member of the Islamic Jihad was wounded during an arrest operation by Israeli forces in Jenin. Ahmed Fawzi Al-Saadi suffered gunshot wounds to the leg in exchanges of fire after troops surrounded his home. He was later arrested, along with other suspected militants, sources said. (AFP, DPA)

Israel took first steps towards building a moat or trench along the Gaza Strip-Egypt border, publishing a tender for the construction of a canal to stop cross-border smuggling via tunnels. Israel Radio reported the trench would be built along the “Philadelphi” buffer zone, a narrow strip of land along the border with Egypt which is occupied by Israel. The trench would be four kilometres long and between 15 to 25 metres deep. (DPA, Reuters, The Washington Post)

Israel threatened to close down higher education facilities in the West Bank. IDF commander and head of “civil administration” Elan Bazz circulated letters to several higher education facilities warning that Israeli authorities would examine the possibility of taking strict measures against academic institutions which went ahead with incitement activities. PA Minister of Education Nayim Abul Hummus said the threats were extremely dangerous, putting the entire education career of universities at risk. (IPC)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called off a scheduled meeting with PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia. Egyptian officials gave no explanation for the cancellation. Mr. Qureia would instead meet Chief of Intelligence General Omar Suleiman and Presidential Advisor Osama Al-Baz. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Israeli Labour MK Shimon Peres renewed his backing for Israel’s planned Gaza pullout after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was ready for the “pain” of evacuating settlements to achieve peace. “We are doing everything we can in favour of the evacuation from Gaza, of the settlements and the relaunch of negotiations over the future of the territories” with the Palestinians, Mr. Peres said. (AFP)

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Ben Abdelaziz, in an interview with Le Figaro, said the cause of many misunderstandings between Saudi Arabia and Western Governments was the plight of the Palestinians. “Our problem with the West is perhaps the Palestinian cause. The suffering of the Palestinians is great. And we do not forget that the third mosque of Islam is in Jerusalem.” He went on to demand that UN resolutions on the Middle East be applied fairly. “Everyone can see the injustice: it is a Palestinian child against an F-16 fighter plane. That is our problem with the West,” he said. (DPA)

France has decided not to give in to pressure to cancel the meeting of French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier with PA President Yasser Arafat during his visit to the Middle East in June, according to French weekly Canard Enchainé. The spokesperson of the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, Herve Ladsous, told reporters that France would announce before the end of the week the agenda of the Foreign Minister’s visit. The visit would likely include Egypt, Jordan and Ramallah. (IPC)

UN Human Rights Commission Rapporteur Jean Ziegler wrote to Caterpillar, Inc. Chief Executive James Owens, stating that the sale of bulldozers by the company to the Israeli military could violate Palestinian human rights. He added that Israel used the bulldozers to raze homes and destroy crops, preventing the Palestinians from obtaining adequate food supplies and aggravating their “already precarious living conditions.” Caterpillar’s action “might involve complicity or acceptance on the part of your company to actual and potential violations of human rights, including the right to food.” The letter had been sent out on 28 May. Caterpillar spokesman Ben Cordani said the company’s sales to Israel complied with US law and were conducted through Washington’s foreignmilitary sales programme. A spokesman for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Mr. Ziegler, as a human rights investigator, was an independent expert acting in his personal capacity. (Reuters)

The European Council issued its Presidency Conclusions at its meeting in Brussels on 17 and 18 June. The European Council welcomed the prospect of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. “Such a withdrawal would represent a significant step towards the implementation of the Roadmap”. The conclusions also confirmed that the EU would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.

The Palestinian Information Centre reported that armed Jewish settlers have attacked and wreaked havoc in the Christian section in the Old City of Hebron that is located near the “Kiryat Arba” settlement. Eyewitnesses said that the settlers broke into houses, smashed windows, broke furniture, threatened to kill inhabitants, voiced anti-Arab slogans and called for annihilating Palestinians. Settlers also ruined the peach harvest of farmer Ahmed Jaber and damaged trees on his lands. (Palestinian Information Centre)

Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) demolished two Palestinian homes east of Deir Al-Balah city in central Gaza rendering their inhabitants homeless. The IDF advanced into the Abul Ajeen area and encircled the houses of Mohammed Tawfik Al-Kurd and Yousef Mohammed Al-Kurd. The forces searched both houses and forced the inhabitants into the open at gunpoint before blowing up the houses with all belongings inside. The IDF then arrested Abdul Rahman Al-Kurd, 14, and Abdul Latif Mohammed Al-Kurd, 20, after beating them up. (Palestinian Information Centre)

The IDF was preparing for the imminent possibility that the Government could instruct it to begin involuntary evacuation in Gaza as early as December 2004. The IDF officially had set up a special team, under the auspices of the Southern IDF Command and headed by Gen. Yossi Turjeman, to deal with the disengagement. The plan also included a special unit of some 2,000 carefully selected and specially trained soldiers to carry out the forceful evacuation of settlers. It will function as a wing of the police force and will be aided by other special units and police forces in the task. The brigade will be made up from the soldiers inducted into the IDF. (Ma’ariv)

18

PA President Yasser Arafat has for the first time said he recognized the Jewish character of the Israeli state. Mr. Arafat said it was “clear and obvious” that the refugee problem needed to be solved in a way that would not change the Jewish character of the State, adding that he was ready to sign an agreement under which 97 per cent of the Gaza Strip and West Bank would be ceded to the Palestinians. The remaining two to three per cent would be granted to Israel on condition that Israel hands over land of a similar or equivalent area. Any such agreement would also cover the right-of-return of an agreed number of refugees, rather than all. Mr. Arafat said that under any agreement, Israel would retain control of the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, while Palestinians would control the rest of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount - Al-Haram Al-Sharif to Moslems. Mr. Arafat also gave assurances that Israelis would be granted free access to any sacred Jewish sites under Palestinian control. President Arafat also pledged to assert control over the Gaza Strip after an Israeli pullout and fight militants who break the law. (Ha’aretz)

After cancelling the17 June meeting reportedly for health reasons, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to discuss the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza to be completed by September 2005 as well as Egypt’s role following the pullout. Egypt is seeking assurances from Israel that it will halt all military strikes in Gaza well before the pullout, to enable Egypt to send military advisers to Gaza for training the Palestinian security forces, Mr. Qureia said. He also confirmed that the Palestinian Authority and militant groups in the Gaza Strip have begun drafting an agreement on how to run the territory jointly after an Israeli withdrawal. Mr. Qureia said the document was being written and would be completed after additional talks in Egypt. Also in Egypt, speaking to reporters after a meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa on 17 June, Mr. Qureia pressed for US support for an Egyptian offer to help keep order in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli move. He said that it was imperative to rally unconditional support from the United States and the Quartet to ensure that the Egyptian mission would succeed. “Israel must not commit violation while Egypt is helping restructure the Palestinian security apparatus,” he added. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

Journalist Amira Hass of Ha’aretzbecame the first recipient of the Anna Lindh Award created in memory of the slain Swedish Foreign Minister. Organizers said she was awarded the prize for her “courageous reporting from the West Bank and Gaza” that “contributes to a better understanding of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation” and “by informing the Israeli public about everyday life in Palestine, she helps creating conditions for a meaningful dialogue”. The prize, worth 250,000 kronor (US $33,000) was created in memory of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. A special trust, the Anna Lindh Memorial Fund, will hand out the Anna Lindh Award to an individual, organization or project that works in the spirit of the late Anna Lindh. (DPA)

Israeli Radioreported that Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a new version of the Qassam rocket against Israel. Minor damage was caused in the city of Sderot, where a rocket landed near a residence, after which a woman reportedly went into shock. The missile was described as a "Nasser-3", able to travel further and carry a larger payload than its predecessor. (DPA, Reuters)

19

Shortly before midnight, Israeli helicopters fired five missiles on two metal workshops in the southern Gaza Strip, destroying them. Later, Israeli helicopters fired three missiles at a blacksmith's shop in the refugee camp of Al-Maghazi, in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said. The attacks on workshops came after home-made medium-range rockets were fired at the nearby “Nisanit” settlement. (AFP, UPI)

A spokesman for the British Consulate said that a day earlier Israeli troops had fired at a delegation of British MPs twice during a visit to the town of Rafah. "The MPs said they were fired at while inside a United Nations car and also when they got out of the car” he said. Baroness Northover, a member of Britain's House of Lords and the Liberal Democrat party's spokeswoman on international development issues, said the group was travelling near the Rafah refugee camp on 18 June when soldiers in an Israeli observation post fired machine guns over their heads. A large number of children were nearby, she said. The group then moved closer to marked United Nations vehicles and another shot hit a building next to them, chipping off pieces of masonry near Northover, she said in a statement. “This incident has shown me first hand the indiscriminate violence faced by Palestinians on a daily basis,'' she said. ``If the Israeli Defence Force are prepared to shoot at a delegation of Parliamentarians under the supervision of the UN, one wonders what treatment ordinary Palestinians are given.'' She said the Israeli military appeared to be trying to prevent the group, which also included Labour Party legislator Huw Irranca-Davies and Conservative Crispin Blunt, from seeing “the full effects of Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian housing in Gaza.” An IDF spokesman said after an internal probe that the incident “was unknown”. (AFP, AP, BBC, DPA, UPI)

The IDF ordered Palestinian families living in three houses in the neighbourhood of Juhr ad-Deik (Johr Al-Deik) in the southern Gaza Strip to evacuate. Israel’s High Court of Justice denied the appeal filed by lawyers of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) on behalf of the families last week . (Xinhua)

Egypt has urged Israel to stop its operations after a possible pullback from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Qureia said in an interview with the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan,saying, “Egypt demands that Israel stop all forms of aggression, attacks or killings during the rehabilitation of the Palestinian security forces”. (Xinhua)

Prime Minister Qureia designated former PA Minister of Communications Emad Falouji as his coordinator with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. (Reuters)

Palestinian General Security Chief Abdel-Razeq Al-Majayda said the PA had formulated a plan and security measures concerning the Israeli settlements to be evacuated, “There is a written plan attached with maps to show how the Jewish settlements will be handed over”. Asked about the Egyptian security experts who are due to train and rehabilitate Palestinian security cadres, Mr. Al-Majayda said, “this issue is part of the Egyptian initiative that is still under consideration and negotiations, but the PA has already welcomed this move”. (Reuters)

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Prime Minister Qureia ruled out any move to dissolve the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, telling Asharq Al-Awsat,“The Al-Aqsa Brigades form part of Fatah and will not be dissolved, they will be integrated in the institutions of Fatah”. (AFP)

The IDF raided Jenin overnight, as 15 APCs and tanks moved in through the northern entrance, and at least ten people were arrested. At dawn, the IDF also raided Nablus and its refugee camp, where five people were arrested. (Xinhua)

Israeli helicopters shelled Palestinian houses in the Al-Namsawi neighbourhood and in the refugee camp in Khan Younis. A number of tanks and armoured vehicles backed by helicopters raided the areas early in the morning. Four Palestinians suspected of being militants have been arrested. (UPI, Xinhua)

PA Chief of Staff Hassan Abu Libdeh said that Prime Minister Qureia had informed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Chief Omar Suleiman about the outcomes of the Palestinian national dialogue. “In order to unify security apparatuses, we need an Interior Ministry that is able to administer security responsibilities, maintain the security and reinstate the supremacy of law” said Mr. Abu Lebda. However, he stated that there were a number of decisive issues that still had to be discussed with the factions and movements before launching a fresh round of the Palestinian dialogue, due to be held soon in Cairo. (Xinhua)

Prime Minister Sharon told the Cabinet that Israel would not decide on whether to dig a trench along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt without consulting Cairo, Israeli Radioreported. Director-General Amos Yaron had told Israel Radiothat news of the tender had been released only to check the feasibility of the project. Army Chief of Staff General Moshe Yaalon also told ministers that neither he nor the Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz had given any orders to proceed with the project. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The Israeli authorities closed the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt citing unspecified “security reasons”, Egyptian border guards said. (AFP)

Israel reopened the Beit Hanoun-Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip and allowed 500 Palestinian workers into Israel following a revised security assessment, for the first time since 22 March 2004 when Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated . However, Palestinian merchants have been allowed to enter Israel in increasing numbers since 11 May, a spokeswoman said, without explaining why the military distinguished between merchants and workers. Access for merchants was further eased, with their number raised to 700, although Palestinians said only 250 actually crossed. Some 15,000 Palestinian workers are usually authorized to work in Israel, although the border is frequently locked down for security reasons. Israel opened the Erez border crossing on 17 June to 500 workers, the IDF said, but none showed up. (AFP, AP, Reuters, Xinhua)

Israel's opposition leader Shimon Peres said in an interview that Prime Minister Sharon must agree to a far-reaching Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and commit to negotiating with the Palestinians about the Gaza withdrawal. “My vision… is to return to the 1967 borders with minor adjustments for security and settlements”, he said. Prime Minister Sharon’s plan calls for a withdrawal from four isolated settlements on the West Bank where some 230,000 settlers live amid two million Palestinians. (AP)

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said during his visit to Egypt that France was willing to help with security in Gaza after a withdrawal of the settlers and Israeli troops. “We have stated our availability to take part, at the appropriate moment, including through an international presence whose format is to be determined, said the Foreign Minister. He also told reporters that the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was the main element in restarting the peace process within the framework of the Road Map. The French Foreign Minister held separate talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman as well as Arab League Chief Amr Moussa on an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s role in this respect. (AFP, Xinhua)

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A Thai foreign worker was killed this morning when Palestinian militants fired at the greenhouses of the settlement of “Kfar Darom” in the Gaza Strip. The IDF said the worker was killed by a mortar. Thai Labour Ministry officials said the Thai labourer, Veerachai Wongphut, 37, was shot in the chest Monday afternoon by a Hamas infiltrator and died later in hospital. Two Palestinian farmers were wounded when Israeli troops returned fire, Palestinians residents said. Palestinian officials initially said one militant was killed, but later were unable to confirm the death. The incident prompted the IDF to shut down the “Kissufim” roadblock. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ma’ariv, Reuters)

Israeli troops stationed at the "Kfar Darom" settlement opened fire against nearby Palestinians' houses in the central Gaza Strip town of Deir El-Balah, injuring two Palestinians, Bushra Abu Mogheseb, 30, and Eyad Abu Mogheseb, 18. (Xinhua)

Zakaria Zubeidi, a senior Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader in Jenin said his organization would not halt its attacks even after Israel evacuated from the Gaza Strip, the Al-Qudsdaily reported. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) rejected the Egyptian initiative and also said that would continue its attacks. A leaflet published by PFLP’s military wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, stated that it was unwilling “to give guarantees to any Egyptian security officer”; the Brigades said it would only agree to a ceasefire under certain conditions and would insist on its independence. The PA, backed by Egypt, is trying to reach an agreement with the militant groups – Al-Aqsa, Hamas and Islamic Jihad – on halting attacks on Israelis. (AP, DPA)

Prime Minister Sharon announced plans to relocate Gaza Strip settlers to the Galilee and the Negev desert once Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, Israel media reported. (DPA)

The Israeli Government ordered the military to dismantle one of the largest West Bank settlement outposts in coming days, a military official and settlers said. Dozens of Israelis, many of them settlers from other parts of the West Bank, began gathering at the hilltop outpost of “Givat Haroeh”. Bringing sleeping bags and tents, they said they would try to prevent the evacuation of the outpost's 17 families. (AP)

President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon had no choice but to work with PA President Arafat to achieve peace in the Middle East, former President Clinton said in an interview with The Guardian. (AFP)

Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres told Prime Minister Sharon that the Likud Party must decide whether it really wanted to leave Gaza before he joined any new coalition: “We are ready [for government] but with whom? Likud must make up his mind whether to go back to the Greater Israel [policy] or go ahead with the peace process”. (AFP)

PA Interior Minister Hakam Balawi presented to Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman a list of requirements to rehabilitate the Palestinian security apparatus. “We have already given to Egypt a plan on merging the security apparatus and Egypt voiced welcome to this decision”, Mr. Balawi told Al-Ayyam.(Xinhua)

Said Siyam a senior Hamas member in Gaza, said dealing with the Palestinian Occupied Territory from which Israel withdrew should be based on “national consensus”. He said Hamas, once the proposed withdrawal took place, supported political partnership and participation, sought the holding of Palestinian elections to include all sectors and called for “respecting the ballot boxes and the free choice of Palestinian people”. (Xinhua)

Ten Palestinian factions, including Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular and Democratic Fronts, issued a joint statement strongly opposed to the “security role” proposed for Egypt and Jordan in the territories. The statement said: “We are amazed by, and deplore, the talk of a ‘security role’ for some Arab parties in Gaza and the West Bank, because our people expect the Arab nation to act according to the logic of supporting the Palestinians and not the logic of security which cannot be used with regard to the Palestinian people defending its land and its holy places. The references [to security] turn things on their heads, making the problem the Palestinian people and not the occupation.” The statement criticizes Egypt and Jordan and calls the role envisioned for the two “as an attempt to take over the Palestinian problem”. Fatah dissociated itself from the statement, saying Egypt had much to contribute, with Fatah Central Committee member Zakaria Al-Agha saying: “Fatah rejects the content of this statement, notably the passages concerning the Egyptian role”. Jamil Majdalawi, head of the PFLP in Gaza City, said the statement had been agreed after several rounds of talks in Damascus. Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman was due to hold talks with PA President Arafat on the issue the same day. The Foreign Minister of Jordan said that Amman’s decision to take on security responsibilities would depend on the outcome of talks between Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians. According to a new poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, 45 per cent of Palestinians thought Israel was “not serious at all” about its planned withdrawal while another 25 per cent of respondents also doubted it was genuine. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, Xinhua)

Israel Radio's Arabic service reported that a senior Israel official had told foreign journalists that Israel would hand over the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip to Egypt within the framework of its disengagement plan. “If the Rafah crossing is handed over to the Egyptians and if they control matters there and smuggling and digging trenches stop, we might consider opening Gaza airport and seaport and Egypt might assume their control”, the official said, adding that Israel might hand over the Gaza settlements to a third party after the evacuation of all settlers. (Xinhua)

Prime Minister Sharon spoke on the telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the Russian national holiday (12 June). Mr. Sharon updated Mr. Putin on the details of the Gaza disengagement plan and the steps that Israel was taking to implement it and told him that PA President Arafat was an obstacle to peace and that any contact with him worked against the possibility of reaching a regional settlement. Mr. Putin said that the Russian Federatiion was prepared to contribute in order to advance the process and added that to this end Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would soon visit the region. (IMRA Independent Media)

A University of Haifa poll showed that 63.7 per cent of Israeli Jews believed that the Government should encourage Israeli Arabs to emigrate from Israel. The survey, conducted by the university’s National Security Studies Centre, also found that 48.6 per cent of Israeli Jews said the Government was overly sympathetic to the Arab population. Compared to similar polls conducted in 2001 and 2003, the current survey indicated an increase in the public’s extremism posited the poll. The majority of Jewish respondents, 55.3 per cent, said Israeli Arabs endangered national security, while 45.3 per cent of those polled said they supported revoking Israeli Arabs’ right to vote and hold political office. The Mossawa Arab rights centre called on Justice Minister Yosef Lapid to sponsor a bill to prevent incitement encouraging Arab Israelis to leave the country. The group also asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to ensure enforcement of the law against racist incitement. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF arrested 14 Palestinians in various West Bank areas. Israeli sources said that they found a Kalashnikov rifle and two locally made pistols in the home of one of the arrested in Nablus. The IDF also claimed arresting two Hamas activists in Hebron and three others in Deek village in the Qalqilya district. Two Palestinians were arrested in Beit Eiba village, Nablus district, five in Qabatiya village in the Jenin district, and one in Arub village in Hebron. In another incident, the IDF abducted a number of Palestinian patients in an ambulance in central Bethlehem, among them Imad Faraj, a chief of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. According to the IDF, one of the detainees needed medical treatment and was hospitalized in Israel. Eyewitnesses also reported five Palestinians being detained at the Atara roadblock to the north of Ramallah. (Palestinian Information Centre)

PA President Arafat signed a presidential decree regarding the elections. The decree includes three articles. The first article talks about the start of preparations of the voters’ register and setting the date of registration, 4 September 2004. The second stipulates the date for the publication of the preliminary voters register, 20 November 2004, for a period of five days. The third article calls on all concerned parties to execute the decree as of the date of its issuance and to publish the rest in the official gazette. (Al-Quds)

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Israeli troops killed two Palestinians in the Beit Hanoun area near the border, where the IDF had been uprooting orange trees to pave a new road near the border. The army said it had fired at two gunmen who approached its soldiers. Palestinians said the two were killed when soldiers fired a tank shell at a group of people during a military operation. The two were named as Khaled Al-Shimbari, 21, and Ibrahim Saliha, 19, both members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. A Palestinian civilian, identified by medics as Ahmed Al-Masri, was seriously wounded. (AFP, AP)

The IDF demolished the house of Sheikh Taleb Al-Zahaika, Imam of Abrar Mosque in Jabal Mukabir, a suburb of Jerusalem, for lack of a building permit. A large number of border police and policemen was deployed to prevent movement of Palesinians in or out of the area until the demolition was completed. Sheikh Taleb said that he was taken by surprise since Israeli authorities usually imposed financial fines on houses built without permits. (Palestinian Information Centre)

The Palestinian Cabinet issued a statement after its twenty-sixth session welcoming Egyptian efforts aiming at rebuilding the Palestinian security services. Prime Minister Qureia told the ministers that his talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman focused mainly on ways to inject momentum into the peace process and emphasized that the Egyptian move represented the most essential backing for the Palestinians. He added that any Israeli withdrawal from Gaza must be part of the Road Map and consistent with concrete withdrawals from the West Bank, a full halt to the Israeli settlements, as well as the construction of the wall. Mr. Qureia said the Palestinians welcomed the Egyptian role and there was no basis to the criticisms that were sporadic here and there. The Egyptian intervention was requested by the Palestinian leadership to address the need to rebuild the Palestinian security services. (WAFA)

After his visit to Egypt, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier arrived in Amman on a two-day visit. Mr. Barnier held talks with King Abdullah II and his Jordanian counterpart on EU's, Egypt's and Jordan's roles in strengthening security after the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories. He said at a joint news conference with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher that the PA must reorganize its security services and could count on the cooperation and the support of Egypt, Jordan and several countries of the European Union. Mr. Moasher said Jordan’s decision to take on security responsibilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would depend on the outcome of talks between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians. (AFP, Xinhua)

Israel’s Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said the recent drop in the number of terror attacks stemmed from a changing trend in the abilities of terror groups. “The level of terror is slowly declining, we must keep up the offensive operations, and the pressure is working. The motivation of terror organizations is high, yet their capabilities have substantially decreased,” Mr. Mofaz said during a briefing with senior officers at the IDF Central Command. The senior officers during the briefing pointed to a 75 per cent decrease in suicide attacks during the first half of 2004, in comparison with the corresponding period last year. The IDF in recent weeks had identified steps taken by the PA to prevent terror activity, including a stop to transferring money to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The IDF believed this stemmed from an attempt by the PA to address the situation ahead of the implementation of the disengagement plan. Mr. Mofaz instructed the Central Command to conduct preparatory work to study the effects of the withdrawal plan in the Gaza Strip on the militant groups in the West Bank. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF demolished two Palestinian-owned houses east of the central Gaza Strip town of Deir el-Balah. Palestinian sources said the Israeli army launched a predawn raid at the Wadi Salqa area, forcing the residents of the two houses to evacuate before demolishing the structures. (Xinhua)

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said urgent aid efforts were needed to help the residents of Rafah who were rendered homeless in the latest Israeli military operations. "Despite the official and public sympathy with the residents of Rafah and numerous promises of assistance, Palestinians living in Rafah haven't seen any tangible help," PCHR Director Raji Sourani told reporters. (Xinhua)

US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer said Prime Minister Sharon should dismantle settlement outposts and freeze building in other settlements in keeping with commitments he gave the United States. Mr. Kurtzer told Army Radiothat Sharon and one of his close advisers had promised President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to remove scores of unauthorized settlement outposts established throughout the West Bank. Mr. Sharon also discussed freezing new building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He said that Palestinians viewed the West Bank settlements as encroachment on land they claimed for a future State. Mr. Kurtzer said that the US wanted to see Mr. Sharon’s commitments honoured: “These are commitments undertaken by Israel. They’re not a result of any pressure from our side, so this is something that Israel undertook to do, and therefore, sure, we expect them to be fulfilled.” The previous day, Israel’s Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against an army decision to dismantle “Givat Haroeh”, one of the largest West Bank outposts. A Court spokesperson said justices would meet within a week to consider the issue. (AP, Ha’aretz)

PA Prime Minister Qureia said after a meeting with EU, “The success of the ongoing Egyptian efforts for ensuring security following an expected Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip would depend on the support of the Quartet, particularly the US, and Israel’s commitment to halt its military aggression and operations that stand to foil these efforts”. (Xinhua)

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The IDF shot dead Fadi Salim during an arrest operation in the village of Salfit near Nablus, after the man reached for a pistol, and arrested Muhammad Abu Eisheh, allegedly “responsible for the production of explosive belts used by suicide bombers of the Islamic Jihad”. (AFP, DPA)

Palestinian hospital officials said Ibrahim Abu Sa’ada, 21, was killed by random machine gun fire from Israeli tanks in the area. The army said it fired at a group of armed men in the area and identified hitting one. Israeli troops have been operating in the area near the border since the previous day, uprooting orange trees to pave a new road near the border, Palestinians said. (AFP, AP, DPA)

Israel's Prime Minister Sharon welcomed Egypt’s efforts to work out security arrangements for the Gaza Strip, but would not allow Egypt to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. “I don’t plan to allow the Egyptians to become mediators between Israel and the Palestinians or to put on the agenda general Israeli-Palestinian peace talks or, at this point, an Israeli-Palestinian process in Gaza”, he said. Mr. Shalom also told visiting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that Israel opposed the deployment of a multinational force in the Gaza Strip as was suggested by Cairo. According to the plan, a multinational force will be deployed at the Gaza City port and the airport which will be rehabilitated and reopened. An Israeli diplomatic source told Xinhuathat Israel viewed the plan with “appreciation but also with doubt and reservations.” (AP, Xinhua)

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns met Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher to discuss the planned Israeli pullout from Gaza. “The Palestinians … have some difficult choices to make consistent with their obligations under the Road Map about consolidating security forces [and] … demonstrating seriousness about maintaining law and order in Gaza and the West Bank, particularly in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal,” Mr. Burns said. (AFP, AP)

PA President Arafat, Prime Minister Qureia and National Security Advisor Jibril Rajub met with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in Ramallah. “The withdrawal from Gaza must be accompanied by a withdrawal from the West Bank and be fully incorporated under the terms of the Road Map to enable creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” President Arafat said. (AFP, Middle East Online, Reuters, Xinhua)

Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) Raji Sourani said in a meeting with United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territory John Dugard, “The Israeli unilateral evacuation plan does not change in any way the legal status of the Gaza Strip as being a land subdued under military occupation”. (Xinhua)

The Palestinian National Information Center issued a report indicating that 3,345 Palestinians had been killed since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. Among casualties, 617, including 233 females, were younger than 18 years old, and 196 died at Israeli roadblocks, including patients, pregnant women, children and the elderly. The statistics also indicated that 732 Palestinians were killed in Israeli shelling, air strikes and bombardments, including 30 members of medical teams and rescue workers. (UPI, Xinhua)

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Mr. Kieran Prendergast, briefing the Security Council said the implementation of the Road Map had stalled and could easily be revived if both sides took the political decision to do so. The position of the Quartet was well known – there must be a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a transfer of authority and control to the Palestinians, if withdrawal was to be recognized as an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. To be part of the implementation of the Road Map, the withdrawal also had to be accompanied by similar steps in the West Bank. The involvement of the international community would be crucial to an effective handover in the Gaza Strip. Egypt and Jordan could assist the process. The Egyptian initiative in training PA security forces and Jordan’s offer similar action in the West Bank. The Quartet envoys were meeting in Taba tomorrow to discuss the action plan related to the proposed withdrawal. (UN Press release SC/8131)

The US House of Representatives voted 407 to 9 in favour of a resolution endorsing President Bush’s April declarations that Israel would not have fully to withdraw from the West Bank as part of a final peace deal and that Palestinian refugees would not be resettled in Israel. House concurrent resolution 460, “Regarding the security of Israel and the principles of peace in the Middle East,” was introduced by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. The resolution “strongly endorses” the principles articulated by President Bush in a letter to Prime Minister Sharon on 14 April. Congressional representatives strongly supported the resolution with Representative DeLay saying: “Israel must not retreat behind its 1949 borders and there is no so-called right of return. The people of Israel are at war and it is our responsibility to help them win it; as long as the Palestinian Authority refuses to take the necessary steps to end terrorism we must stand with Israel.” Tom Lantos (D-California) said supporting the resolution would “embolden Israeli leaders to take further key and courageous steps toward the Middle East peace all sides desire.” On the other hand, Representative Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia), while finding the resolution acceptable believed Palestinians should be involved in the dialogue over final status issues. (The Jerusalem Post)

In its largest operation in Nablus in over a year, “Operation Full Court Press”, hundreds of IDF troops accompanied by APCs and tanks entered the old city and the adjacent Balata refugee camp late in the day. Soldiers imposed a curfew, sealing the old city with cement blocks and barbed wire to lock in militants and imposed a strict curfew. The military said soldiers handed out leaflets explaining that they were looking for seven men, most from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. A Palestinian who threw a firebomb at troops in Nablus was shot and wounded. Israeli soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinians, wounding two. During searches, troops found a belt with 20 kg of explosives, the army said, which they blew up in a controlled explosion, damaging the house in which it was found. Troops also found a roadside bomb at a junction and detonated it. The Palestinian Information Centre said ten Palestinians had been killed during the incursion. (AP, Palestinian Information Centre)

Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, following talks with visiting PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath, said in Warsaw, Poland fully supported the right of Palestinians to an independent state and also understood Israel's need for security. “Poland's position is unchanged; the resolution of the conflict in the Middle East can only have a political dimension,” Mr. Cimoszewicz said. As an EU member, Poland would do everything within its power to breathe new life into the “slowed” Middle East peace process. For his part Mr. Sha'ath said “We cannot ignore a glimmer of hope, being in a long and dark tunnel”, with reference to the Egyptian efforts to work out security arrangements for the Gaza Strip and European calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He expressed the hope Poland would soon accredit an ambassador to the PA and stressed the EU involvement in the Middle East peace process was of crucial importance. Addressing the issue of economic development, Mr. Sha'ath said Palestinians wanted to learn from Poland's experience as an emerging economy in boosting economic growth. Mr. Sha'ath met with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Deputy Prime Minister Izabella Jaruga Nowacka later in the day, the first of his two-day long visit to Poland. (AP, DPA)

PA President Arafat will “stay in Ramallah for the next 45 years”, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said. His comments, reported by public radio, came in a meeting with Defence Minister Mofaz and Foreign Minister Shalom ahead of their talks with Egyptian envoy Omar Suleiman who met with Mr. Arafat in his headquarters, known as the Muqataa, earlier in the day. (AFP)

Israel's military police raided an exhibit of soldiers critical of their military service in Hebron, called “Breaking the Silence”, and confiscated several items, among them a videotape with statements from 70 soldiers who served in the city. Four reservists who organized the exhibit were to be interrogated by authorities the next day, media reports said. According to Ha’aretz,the army said it had raided the exhibit to uncover evidence of violence done to Palestinians, while the organizers said the raid was meant to intimidate soldiers who have come forward with evidence of abuse against Palestinians. (DPA)

Thailand told its citizens to leave the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants killed a Thai agricultural worker in an attack on an Israeli settlement [on 21 June]. “I'd like to urge those who are already working in safe parts of Israel not to risk their lives for better pay in dangerous zones,” Labour Minister Uraiwan Thienthong told Reuters.She said there were more than 20,000 Thais working in “safe areas” in Israel, but did not know the exact number of Thai workers in the Gaza Strip after about 500 of them had been told to leave the area by April. “Despite several pleas by officials for them to leave, I believe there are still some Thais continuing to work there. We have asked job recruitment firms to look for them, but frankly we just have no idea where to find them,” she said. Officials at the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Labour estimated 50 to more than 300 Thais were still working in the Gaza Strip. (Reuters)

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The IDF shot and killed two Palestinians 30 m away from three settlements in the northern Gaza Strip. Searches showed the two were wearing IDF uniforms, and were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades. “Apparently they were out to attack the Dugit crossing,” a military source said. In a joint statement, Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. The two were identified as Al-Aqsa member Moumen Nafez al-Malfuh, 20, and Hosni Bashir al-Hassi, 19, from the Islamic Jihad. Earlier, the Israeli Government said it killed three Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip and that IDF troops were conducting searches in Nablus. In Nablus, according to Palestinian medical sources, three Palestinians were injured during an Israeli military raid. The IDF sealed off the Nablus casbah with barbed wire and combed the city as part of a large-scale military operation in the West Bank. IDF soldiers detained several Palestinians. IDF soldiers were searching for the Fatah militants they claimed were responsible for 80 per cent of the planned attacks in the West Bank. In another incident Army Radiosaid that IDF soldiers had killed a Palestinian seen digging near the “Bedolah” settlement in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP, DPA, Xinhua)

Sixty Palestinian children from the Rafah refugee camp launched a boycott of US-funded summer camps in the Gaza Strip. “Our kids need protection against death by American Apache helicopters, not summer camps,” said Abdel-Raouf Barbakh, an activist in a Palestinian children’s rights group that organized the protest. The group targeted a Palestinian NGO funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which helped organize summer camps and other childcare projects in the Gaza Strip. The children pelted the office of the organization in Gaza City with eggs. (Reuters)

The Quartet met in Taba to discuss an Egyptian plan for the Gaza Strip after Israel’s proposed withdrawal of its troops and settlers. Egypt has offered to dispatch about 200 security advisers to Gaza and to build new police stations and jails in the territory. The plan also demands that PA President Yasser Arafat consolidate his security forces into three divisions instead of the existing twelve, and yield some power to the PA Cabinet. US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen and Russian envoy Alexander Kalugin expressed strong support for Egypt’s offer. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Burns said it was “something we much appreciate and admire”. An EU statement issued after the meeting said the envoys stressed “their strong support for the efforts of the Egyptian government in working with the two sides to put in place arrangements that will be critical to the success of the Israeli initiative to withdraw from Gaza”. Mr. Otte, commenting on the Palestinian groups opposing Egypt’s plan, said, “‘National reconciliation must come from the Palestinian society”. The Quartet meeting also discussed how an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza could be made to boost rather than sideline the Road Map. In that context Mr. Burns said: “We are going to do everything we can to help the Palestinians and Israelis move ahead with the Road Map”. The meeting also discussed “the practical ways to support and take advantage of the opportunities that were offered by the Israeli initiative”. (AP)

Egypt and Jordan’s involvement in the planned pullout of the Gaza Strip deepened today as Palestinian security officers prepared to receive training in Cairo and PA Prime Minister Qureia met with King Abdullah II in Amman. A senior Palestinian official told AFPthat around 40 officers from a cross section of the Palestinian security services were to travel to Egypt in July for a six-month training course. The officers would then work closely with a team of Egyptian experts who are expected in Gaza at the end of the year to help train and restructure Palestinian security forces. The head of Palestinian security in the north of the Gaza Strip, Gen. Saeb Al-Ajez, said his forces were not yet in a position to assume total control after Israel’s departure. A Jordanian Palace source in Amman also said that PM Qureia had asked King Abdullah II for Jordan’s help in the training of the Palestinian security forces. The King replied that Jordan was prepared to help train Palestinian police and security services “in line with an official request of the Palestinian Authority. King Abdullah and Mr. Qureia also reaffirmed a Gaza pullout should take place under the framework of the Road Map, which the king continued to support. (AFP)

The IDF submitted to Defence Minister Mofaz details of the planned withdrawal from Gaza. Codenamed “Celestial Brilliance”, it includes proposals for the construction of new bases to house divisions currently headquartered in Gaza after a withdrawal, as well as how the pullout can be coordinated with Egypt. Thousands of soldiers and police are expected to be called into action to remove settlers who refuse to go voluntarily by next summer. (AFP)

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met with PA President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah before travelling to Jerusalem to meet with Foreign Minister Shalom and Defence Minister Mofaz. President Arafat welcomed Egypt’s efforts and reaffirmed continuous consultation with Egypt at every step and that Palestine and Egypt were working as one party. Mr. Suleiman told reporters that the implementation of the Egyptian plan would start within two months. He identified three issues. First, the national dialogue among all factions: contacts will be made with the factions abroad and if progress is achieved, Egypt will invite all representatives of factions inside and abroad to a meeting in Cairo. Second, breaking the stalemate in the peace process and Palestinian participation in the negotiations. Third, unify the security services and rebuild them within the next two months. Later in Jerusalem Mr. Suleiman told Mr. Shalom that Mr. Arafat said he would appoint Tayeb Abdel Rahim as PA Interior Minister in the coming months and would unite the 12 different PA security branches into three. Mr. Suleiman, according to diplomatic officials, told Mr. Shalom he laid out a security plan for Arafat that includes the following elements: the unification of the PA security serves into three branches; appointment of a new interior minister; training of PA officers in Egypt; confiscation of illegal arms; dismantlement of Palestinian militias; cessation of incitement. Mr. Suleiman also met Mr. Mofaz for three hours, instead of the one hour originally scheduled. Defence Ministry officials said both sides laid out their general expectations, but did not get into details. Mr. Mofaz told Mr. Suleiman that Israel expected Egypt to do more to stop arms smuggling into Rafah. (Jerusalem Post, Xinhua)

PA Prime Minister Qureia said a US-Palestinian-Israeli-Egyptian meeting would be held in October 2004 to draw a plan for the resumption of peace negotiations and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Qureia told Al-Ayyamdaily the EU might also join the high-level meeting, adding that the location of the meeting had not been finalized. President Arafat and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had agreed about intensifying and activating the Palestinian dialogue in parallel with the adopting decisions about merging the security apparatuses before launching the new series of Palestinian dialogue in Cairo, Mr. Qureia said. He also revealed that about 40 PA security officials would go to Egypt between July and August to join a six-month training programme in order to train the PA security services upon return to the territories. (Xinhua)

General Saeb Al-Aajez, the head of the Palestinian general security in the northern Gaza Strip told reporters that 400 general security officers in about 20 battalions were being trained by Palestinian security experts. General Al-Aajez said that the Palestinian security forces urgently needed lots of equipment in order to be able to take over Gaza after the Israeli pullout. “We need wireless communication equipment, weapons and ammunition,” he added, “All weapons confiscated by the Israeli army since the beginning of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000 should be returned back.” He further stressed that all the security installations that had been bombarded and shelled within the last four years should be reconstructed. Asked about the readiness of the Palestinian security forces in case Israel evacuates Gaza, General Al-Aajez said that there is “simple readiness, but incomplete.” (Xinhua)

A report by UNRWA said that nearly US$45 million would be needed to re-house almost 3,800 Palestinians made homeless by the IDF in the Rafah area, where 298 buildings had been demolished since the September 2000 clashes at the outset of intifada. “UNRWA estimates that even if no further demolitions occur in Rafah, and if all current or planned housing schemes are completed, 1,691 of the families eligible for UNRWA housing will remain homeless unless additional funding and land is available to re-house them,” the report said. The cost for re-housing a family was estimated at US$20,000. “If all the remaining homeless families were to be re-housed, the cost would be approximately US$44.76 million. UNRWA estimated the unfunded shortfall for re-housing eligible refugee families alone to be US$35.05 million. The report also warned that space to re-house the families was rapidly running out. However, UNWRA later announced that its Commissioner-General Peter Hansen had reached agreement in talks today with PA President Arafat for two tracts of land to be provided to build 400 homes for the Rafah locals. UNWRA secured funding pledges from the United Arab Emirates’ Red Crescent Society on 21 June to build 400 replacement homes, although the exact amount of the donation had yet to be finalized. The Permanent Mission of Denmark also wrote to Secretary-General Kofi Annan informing him of its decision to contribute €11.8 million to UNRWA in 2004. (AFP)

United Nations human rights official Yakin Erturk said Palestinian women were among the hardest hit by almost four years of Israeli-Palestinian violence. “They may be killed, targeted for arrest, detained and harassed for being related to men suspected of being linked to armed groups”. The conflict had also left many women widowed, forcing them to raise children and look after elderly relatives alone, she said. Israeli restrictions on movement make it harder for women to find jobs to support their families, while destruction of water and electricity supplies during incursion by the Israeli military make looking after their lives more difficult. (AP)

PA Minister for Negotiations Affairs Saeb Erakat said Palestinians were prepared to hold general elections within six months, but to do so needed the support of Israel, the US and the EU. “We stand fully ready for presidential, legislative and local elections under the leadership of the United States of America, the European Union and others,” he told a press conference in Washington. “I believe we can do it in six months,” he said, but added, “Without Israel's full cooperation on elections, how can you see it, how can you do it?” Mr. Erakat called on the US, which was promoting a broad democratic reform programme for the Middle East, “to begin with us,” but stressed that such a reform programme must not push President Arafat out of the picture. “I really hope that those in Washington, D.C., who speak of new Palestinian leaders will be consistent as far as enabling the Palestinians to carrying out free, fair elections,” said Erakat. “I hope they will not stop the natural growth of Palestinian democracy.” (AFP)

25

Israeli soldiers killed two and wounded 18 Palestinians in the second day of an operation in Nablus, where the old city had been sealed. Mohammed Sakha, 18, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers when a group of youths began pelting troops with stones. Late in the day, soldiers shot dead Ihab Slim, 19, and wounded his brother and father on their balcony. In Gaza, two Palestinian youths and a 12-year-old boy were wounded by Israel gunfire in the Brazil neighbourhood of the Rafah refugee camp. Also in Gaza, an Israeli unit destroyed three houses in the Tal Al-Sultan neighbourhood. (AP, AFP)

Abdelsalam Abu Ayyada died of wounds he suffered on 19 May during an Israeli raid in Rafah. (AFP)

An 18-year-old Palestinian was wounded by IDF gunfire in Nablus, as he stood on a roof holding a gas canister. In separate developments, Palestinians opened fire on IDF troops on “Karni-Netzarim” road in the northern Gaza Strip and threw explosive devices at IDF troops operating east of Nablus, with no casualties reported. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF destroyed the Bethlehem flat of Bassam Abu Akr, jailed in June and responsible for masterminding suicide bombings in Israel, according to an IDF spokesman. Two other apartments in the six-storey building were partially damaged. (AFP)

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) indicated that its Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory would be rendered on 9 July. A public sitting will be held at 3 p.m. in the Great Hall of Justice of the Peace Palace in The Hague. At that sitting the President of the Court, Judge Shi Jiuyong will read out the Advisory Opinion. (ICJ, BBC, Reuters)

US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, EU Middle East Envoy Marc Otte, UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen and Russian Envoy Alexander Kalugin, representatives of the Quartet, welcomed the release of the World Bank report entitled “Disengagement, the Palestinian Economy and the Settlements” which looked at the potential impact and economic implications of the disengagement plan. The report said the Palestinian recession, which had been deepening since September 2000, was among the worst in modern history, with more than half of the Palestinian population living in poverty. GDP per capita had declined by almost 40 per cent. The report stressed “the key to restoring economic vitality is to dramatically ease internal closures and restore the predictable flow of goods across borders”. “Disengagement alone will not alter this dangerous, unsustainable situation,” said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. Lifting those restrictions in large part depended on the PA’s ability to restore security, while Israel could take steps to facilitate movement of cargo and goods without sacrificing security, according to the report. “What disengagement means for the Palestinians – almost none in economic terms”, said the World Bank Director Nigel Roberts. He warned that an evacuation plan would also fail to convince donors to assist in the reconstruction of the local economy unless it reopened Israel’s borders to Palestinian goods: “Common sense tells you it is a real stretch to expect donors to lay on a billion dollars every year when money is used for welfare and consumption and without a clear political horizon.” Provided “a radical easing of the closing is in place, donors could be convinced to top their already high contributions with another US$500 million per year,” he added. The report also highlighted “the importance of a port and airport in Gaza and access to third countries for the long-term progress of the Palestinian economy”. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said that another meeting was expected in the region in early July “to begin preparing for a possible major donor meeting in September”. (AFP, AP, Dow Jones, DPA, Reuters, The Financial Times)

The US Senate has voted 95 to 3 to embrace President Bush’s support of Prime Minister Sharon’s plan to evacuate Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. Approving senators said, “It is unrealistic for any peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians to require Israel to return to the borders that existed before the 1967 war”. The three opposing senators of resolution S.Res.393;A were: Robert Byrd (D), James Jeffords (Ind.) and John Sununu (R). (Reuters)

PA Minister for Negotiations Affairs Saeb Erakat appealed to the US to put pressure on Israel to freeze settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and take further steps to ensure the full implementation of the Road Map. At a meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Mr. Erakat also requested that the US back a joint Egyptian-Jordanian effort to train Palestinian security forces as well as assist with Palestinian general elections. (The Financial Times)

Rapporteurs of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights denounced Israel for extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force and destruction of homes. In a joint statement after a weeklong annual meeting about 30 Special Rapporteurs urged the Security Council to deploy an international protection force to stop the “abuses”. The Rapporteurs also denounced suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian militants against Israel. Miloon Kothari, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, told a news conference the statement was provoked by the worsening of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: “In the last week alone there have been extrajudicial killings, confiscation of agricultural lands, demolition of houses has continued in Gaza and construction of the wall has continued”. (Reuters)

Palestinians fired an anti-aircraft missile at the Gaza settlement of “Kfar Darom”. (Ha’aretz)

Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman met with Defence Minister Mofaz, who emphasized Israel’s intent to act aggressively and effectively to prevent weapons smuggling from Sinai to the Palestinians. The Israelis told Mr. Suleiman that they would be happy to leave the Philadelphi route, but in the absence of a credible security alternative (such as Egyptian preventive measures, similar to those taken by Jordan and Syria on their respective borders with Israel), the IDF will have to maintain its control of the area. (Ha’aretz)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s response to questions in a press conference held at United Nations Headquarters, included the following: “With regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yes, I am aware of the demolitions and the desperate situation of the Palestinians who have lost their homes, and I know that from the reports I get from UNRWA how difficult their living conditions are. We, the Quartet, have engaged the Government, and in fact the envoys met recently and that is where they made the statement about the Egyptian and Jordanian efforts to assist the Palestinians. But that is more on the security side and restructuring of the security arrangements. We are also looking at the whole question of withdrawal from Gaza and have indicated that if it is done in the context of the Road Map and is a total withdrawal from Gaza, to be followed by similar steps in the West Bank, it could re-energize the peace process. And we - the international community - should be prepared to work with both parties to manage the withdrawal in order to avoid a situation where the withdrawal leads to even further chaos. In the meantime, the agencies on the ground – UNRWA and others – are doing as much as they can to give assistance and to give support. But of course, no one has condoned what has happened. I have spoken often. The European Union has done quite a lot. Governments have appealed to the Israeli Government to be careful not to harm the innocent.” (United Nations News Service)

26

Palestinian sources said that at least nine Palestinian have been killed and many others wounded during an Israeli raid of Nablus. Medics said that they managed to retrieve the bodies of nine Palestinians that were shot dead in the overcrowded old city. Israeli security forces had set their sights on Nablus last week after arresting three young men from the area who were suspected of planning a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. On 24 June, hundreds of Israeli troops sealed off the city centre and searched for militants, including Nayef Abu Sharkh, a senior figure in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Israel’s military passed out leaflets with Mr. Sharkh’s photo, which read, “You can help the citizens of your city by preventing the activity of this terrorist who is hiding like a terrified rat.” Two days later, the Israel forces found Mr. Sharkh, apparently by accident. A group of soldiers encountered two armed Palestinians, shooting one dead and chasing the other into the hideout beneath a home deep inside the casbah, the military reported . The soldiers hurled hand grenades and smoke grenades into the tunnel, and shortly afterward a suspected militant emerged from the other end of the passageway, which was attached to a neighbouring house, the military said. The troops called for anyone inside to come out, and when no one responded, the soldiers tossed more grenades into the passageway. Five militants that were hiding there were killed and a sixth was caught and is being interrogated, while two more Palestinians were shot and killed when spotted carrying arms, the Israeli source said. The dead included Mr. Sharkh, along with Jaffer Masri, a local Hamas commander, and Fathi Bahti, a leader of Islamic Jihad, who was also known as Sheik Ibrahim. Israel accused Mr. Sharkh of orchestrating multiple attacks, including a suicide bombing that killed 23 people in Tel Aviv in 2003. Israel pulled its troops out of the centre of Nablus early on 27 June, but said it would continue searching for militants in the area. (The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times, UPI, Xinhua)

Israeli border police clashed with hundreds of Palestinians protesting Israel's West Bank separation barrier, beating demonstrators and firing rubber-coated bullets and water cannons to disperse the crowd. The violence occurred in the Jerusalem suburb of Ar-Ram, an affluent area inhabited by Palestinians who left the city to escape overcrowding. Participants said about 100 foreign and Israeli activists were among the demonstrators. Dozens of people suffered from tear gas inhalation, and nine people were arrested. A police spokesman said rioters threw stones, hammers and an axe. TV footage showed riot police pushing protesters to the ground during the confrontation. Witnesses said masked undercover police also moved into the area, beating protesters. A Palestinian AFPphotographer was beaten in the head and kicked by police, witnesses said. (AP)

PA President Arafat called for a ceasefire with Israel during the Olympic Games in Greece, scheduled for 13-29 August. He made the offer at a lighting ceremony for an unofficial Olympic torch, saying, “I declare our commitment and respect of the Olympic truce. We hope that the revival of this ancient, noble tradition will help create a world that enjoys peace, justice and security for coming generations.” Israeli officials dismissed the offer as insincere. The PA is sending a swimmer and a runner to the Games. (AP, Reuters)

An official Palestinian source said that President Arafat’s Chief of Staff Tayeb Abdel Rahim was being considered for the post of PA Interior Minister. The unnamed official told Al-Shark Al-Awsat that Mr. Rahim, 60, was trusted by President Arafat, accepted by Egypt and was a member of the Fatah Central Committee, a basic condition for the position. He was known to be a man of strong character and will. Another Palestinian source told the same daily that Mr. Rahim had turned down Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia’s offer to hold the interior portfolio because it was not presented by President Arafat himself. Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman who did not name anyone asked President Arafat to designate someone who could assume security responsibilities. (Xinhua)

Syria’s Assistant Secretary-General of the Al-Baath Arab Socialist Party Abdullah Al-Ahmar and visiting Turkish Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Development Party Mir Denkir Mohammet Furat expressed their support to the Palestinian people in their legitimate right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, SANAreported. During the talks, the two discussed the latest developments in the region, expressing their support for the Palestinians in their resistance against Israeli occupation. (Xinhua)

PA Prime Minister Qureia met with US Middle East Envoy William Burns to discuss the outcome of the Quartet meeting held on 24 June at Taba, the ongoing Egyptian efforts aimed at reviving the peace process, as well as the Israeli continuous military and settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat said Mr. Burns’ visit aimed at providing international monitoring teams and setting timetables and mechanisms for the implementation of the Road Map. He added that the meeting will call on the Quartet to pressure Israel to halt its settlement activities and stop the construction of the separation wall. Mr. Erakat, who had met Secretary of State Powell in Washington on 23 June, said that the US Administration and the Quartet had to assume their responsibilities and provide timetables, mechanisms and international monitors for the implementation of the plan. (Xinhua)

At a Tel Aviv teach-in outside a cinema, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and a number of other human rights groups tried to raise awareness of what they say was an increasing and systematic use of torture on Palestinian prisoners, on the United Nations-sponsored International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. “Most torture techniques have come back with the intifada”, said Hanna Friedman of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. “One can talk of the systematic torture of Palestinian prisoners.” She said torture had momentarily disappeared after a 1999 supreme court ruling against the internationally banned interrogation techniques, except in cases when security forces deal with so-called “ticking bombs”. (AFP)

27

One Israeli soldier was killed and five others were wounded late in the day after an explosion in a tunnel beneath an army post at the “Gush Katif” junction in the Gaza Strip. According to an IDF source, the Palestinians used a cellular phone to detonate the explosives. Palestinians also reportedly fired guns and mortar shells at rescue forces as they attempted to evacuate the wounded from the site of the attack. Both Hamas and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Brigades said Palestinians had dug a 350-meter long tunnel and detonated 150 kg of explosives underneath the post. Hamas said it was revenge for Israel’s assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantissi. The outpost nicknamed “Orkhan” (“Road-Inn”) is located at the entrance to the “Gush Katif” settlement block, where it controls one of the busiest junctions on the main road connecting Gaza City and Rafah at one end and Israeli traffic to the settlements at the other. The outpost used to control the main junction in the Gaza strip where Palestinian and Israeli traffic crossed, but Israeli traffic had been diverted by a bridge built a few hundred metres to the north. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

PA Health Minister Jawad Al-Tibi said that Nablus was “a catastrophic area” that lacked basic food and medicines because of the continuous Israeli military siege and curfew. “The Israel Army is violating all international laws and human standards by barring the International Red Cross Organization from presenting Nablus' residents, especially the children, with milk and food”, he said in a statement. He denounced the Israeli military operation in the old city of Nablus for the third day running, saying the Israelis killed 10 Palestinians and destroyed many Palestinians' houses. Mr. Al-Tibi called on international humanitarian organizations, the UN and the EU to put an end to the Israeli military aggressions against Palestinian civilians and lift the siege imposed on Nablus. (Xinhua)

28

Four Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops in Gaza overnight. Israeli troops destroyed 10 Palestinian houses near the post, and divided Gaza into three parts, preventing most travel on the main north-south road. In the immediate aftermath of the blast and to the south of the post two Palestinians from Khan Yunis – Mohammed Al-Sharb Baji, 37-year-old police officer, and Ashraf al-Sabag, 13 – were killed after troops manning an observation post near the settlement of Neve Dekalim opened fire. Two other Palestinians were killed by troops early in the day, including a truck driver who drove on the north-south road after soldiers closed it to traffic. Ibrahim Abu Tabikh, 40, was shot dead by Israeli troops near the “Morag” settlement in the southern Gaza Strip. An IDF spokesman said soldiers had opened fire at an armed Palestinian who had been seen approaching the settlement. Palestinian sources told Xinhua that the IDF stationed at the Al-Matahen roadblock opened fire against two Palestinians, killing Mesleh Abdel-Al, 50, and injuring the other. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

Early in the day, in response to the attack on the IDF post, Israeli helicopter launched two separate missile strikes on metal workshops in Gaza City. No casualties were reported. The Government of Israel said that Hamas and other Palestinian groups were using the workshops to make weapons, including Qassam rockets. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

Two Israelis, a 49-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy, were killed and at least nine others wounded when four Qassam rockets landed on the southern Israeli town of Sderot in the morning. One of the rockets landed close to a kindergarten in the Neveh Eshkol neighbourhood, while another hit a coffee shop. The rockets landed just a kilometre from Prime Minister Sharon’s ranch. Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. The victims were identified as 3-year-old Afik Zahavi, who was on his way to nursery school, and Mordechai Yosopov, 49. Afik's mother, Ruth, was hospitalized in critical condition, and 10 other people sustained minor injuries. In the afternoon Mr. Sharon met with Israeli security chiefs, including Defence Minister Mofaz, to discuss possible responses to the attack, Israel Radioreported. Mr. Sharon told the meeting he was determined to go ahead with a planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and that he would speed up the voluntary evacuation of settlers by making first compensation available immediately, instead of August. United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Terje Rød-Larsen condemned the rocket attack on Sderot. Ha’aretz said that since the beginning of the intifada 347 Qassam rockets had been fired at Israeli targets, 265 of which landed in Israel. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

The IDF raided Jenin before moving into the nearby village of Yamun to search for members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, causing one Palestinian casualty. (AFP)

About 2,500 Hamas supporters attended a rally in the Gaza Strip to celebrate the attack on “Gush Katif” in which an IDF soldier was killed. The IDF blew up two buildings in Khan Younis. A Palestinian gunman was injured by IDF fire in Nablus. (Ha’aretz)

US Department of State said Israel was not helping its plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip by continuing its targeted killings of Palestinians. Deputy spokesman Adam Ereli's comments were in response to a question on 26 June's killing of Naif Abu Sharah of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Nablus. He said: “Obviously we recognize Israel’s right to take action in self-defence, but our focus and the parties’ focus should be on moving with all due haste in preparing to take advantage of a changed dynamic, and any distractions from that to find other issues to deal with, are not helpful”. (UPI)

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier met PA President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. (Ha’aretz)

Former Chief United Nations Inspector Hans Blix suggested Middle East peace should go in hand with nuclear disarmament talks. “A road map to peace is the first step,” he said in Vienna when asked how to go about getting Israel to renounce what a reporter called its weapons programme. But he added that he did not think “you can have a peace process without considering the nuclear issue.” (AP, Ha’aretz)

29

Close to midnight, Israeli missiles hit a multi-storey building in the Gaza Strip housing a number of media outlets, injuring two Palestinians and destroying an empty metal workshop in the Nuseirat refugee camp. Bulldozers razed 15 Palestinian houses leaving 60 Palestinians homeless as well as Palestinian agricultural land destroyed. Israeli troops killed Ahmad Abu Eid, 14, on the roof of his house in the Khan Younis camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Before dawn, about 24 Israeli armoured vehicles moved into the areas around Beit Hanoun in response to the Qassam rocket attacks. Rasem Adwan, a top Hamas commander, died in the raid. A local hospital said 17 youngsters were wounded by army fire, one critically. (AFP, AP, BBC, Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post, Xinhua)

The Israel Foreign Press Association (FPA) condemned the Israeli attack on a building in the Gaza Strip that housed several media organizations, including BBC, Al-Jazeera,and Germany’s ARD,saying that the attack showed “a disregard for the life and security of journalists”. (DPA)

Five rockets launched from the Gaza Strip hit Sderot during a visit by Prime Minister Sharon, even though Israeli soldiers reoccupied parts of the northern Gaza Strip earlier in the day to prevent such barrages. One Sderot resident was hurt. Mr. Sharon was unharmed. “The rockets fell about 150 to 200 metres away from where they were holding the meeting”, a senior official who was accompanying the Prime Minister said. Two more rockets reportedly fell at an industrial plant in Shaar Hanegev. (AFP, AP)

Moshe Yohai, an Israeli, was found dead in a truck in Beit Rima, north of Ramallah, the IDF and Palestinian rescue officials said. Israeli Police said Mr. Yohai, 63, who was killed while driving, was a frequent visitor to the region where he had sold construction materials. The truck had Israeli licence plates. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility in a call to Associated Press, saying that it was in revenge for the Israeli killing of senior militants over the weekend. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said even as plans for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip proceeded Israel would continue to strike at Palestinian militants. “There is a war against terror, and we shall continue fighting terror regardless of disengagement … the IDF will retain its freedom of movement”, Mr. Olmert told Israel Radio.(AP, Ha’aretz)

South African President Thabo Mbeki called African Nations to action on the Mideast issue, opening the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in Cape Town. The outcomes should be considered at the next African Union Summit Meeting in Addis Ababa, he said. (DPA)

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA Peter Hansen delivered a statement on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “I appeal to the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map and international law. Israel should cease its practice of extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and other practices which violate its obligations as an occupying power to protect the civilian population. The Palestinian Authority should take decisive action to halt all acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians. It should take also steps to reform Palestinian security forces and empower the position of the Prime Minister”, the Secretary-General said. (United Nations News Service)

The World Bank has recommended that Israel transfer settlers’ homes and other assets to the PA, rather then turn them over to a third party after it withdraws from the Gaza Strip and parts of West Bank. The Bank recommended the PA set up a special agency to dispose of the assets with advice from the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, a technical forum of key international donors. World Bank Chairman James Wolfensohn said, “Above all Israel’s restrictions of the movement of people and goods needs major overhaul. These closure measures stifle any hope of Palestinian economic revival. Major improvements could be made without compromising Israel’s security, particularly in relation of trade of goods across borders”. The recommendation is part of a new report released by the World Bank this week that examined the potential impact of Israel’s Disengagement Plan on the Palestinian economy. (The Jerusalem Post, IPS)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Israel must match its planned withdrawal from Gaza with similar moves in the West Bank. “The Israeli intention to withdraw from Gaza could help break the current stalemate, if it is carried in the right way”, he told a news conference in the capital of Qatar, part of a three-week trip to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. “It must transfer full authority and control to the Palestinians and it should be accompanied by similar steps in the West Bank”, he added. (Reuters)

After a six-week delay, Israel gave the US a list of 28 unauthorized settler outposts in the West Bank. US Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said the action fell short of American demands to dismantle the outposts. The list presented by the Defence Minister’s advisor Baruch Spiegel to US Ambassador Dan Kurtzer consisted of outposts erected since Prime Minister Sharon assumed office in March 2001. According to the list, Mr. Sharon and Defence Minister Mofaz had ordered the evacuation of 12 outposts, of which seven had been removed while some of the remaining 16 outposts were in the process of being approved and planned. (Ha’aretz)

French President Jacques Chirac said PA President Arafat’s isolation hampered international peacemaking efforts in the Middle East. He said the US policy was “not very prudent or compatible with a strategy of restoring peace” in the region. “People can have whatever opinion they like of President Arafat or any other president,” Mr. Chirac said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Istanbul. “But legitimacy cannot be contested if a different legitimacy is not proposed.” He said it was normal for France to have contacts with the Palestinian leader who was “probably the only person who could impose compromise on the Palestinian people”. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

South African President Thabo Mbeki said there could be no solution to the Middle East conflict without the involvement of PA President Yasser Arafat, speaking at the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Mr. Mbeki condemned the restrictions placed by Israel on President Arafat’s ability to travel and lead his people. Mr. Arafat remained “the only leader who had been democratically elected by the Palestinian people, and any solution to the Palestinian problem would have to involve him … Nobody should decide for the Palestinian people who their leaders should be”. (Mail and Guardian Online)

Israel's Defence Ministry said it was planning to put anti-graffiti paint on the separation wall. Israeli media said the state wanted to prevent graffiti that could heighten opposition to the barrier or help turn it into a tourist attraction like the former Berlin Wall. (Reuters)

30

Attiyah Al-Ajrami, 18, (16, according to Reuters,about 20, according to Xinhua) was shot as he tried to plant a Palestinian flag in the ground at Beit Hanoun as other youths pelted soldiers with stones, Palestinian witnesses said. Ten other people were wounded. An Israeli military source said soldiers had fired warning shots at a large crowd which was throwing stones and concrete blocks at troops manning a barricade on the outskirts of town. “The soldiers called on them to disperse by loudhailer but they continued to approach and throw stones. Warnings shots were fired and the reports we have is that one has been injured and evacuated to hospital,” he said. (AFP, Reuters, Xinhua)

Israeli forces operating in Beit Hanoun shot dead a member of Hamas after exchanges of fire during the night. An IDF spokeswoman said Ismail Nabhan, 26, was killed after he and another gunman had opened fire on an Israeli position. Israeli helicopters fired two missiles at targets in the northern Gaza Strip, wounding several people, Palestinian witnesses said. The army said it had fired at least one missile at a group of militants who had planted explosives close to Israeli troops operating near Beit Hanoun. Omar Mohammed Abu Zreihan, 9, was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after being shot in the head during the early morning operation in the Brazil neighbourhood of the Rafah refugee camp. A 26-year-old Hamas member had also been killed during the operation, Army Radioreported, during which around 15 armoured vehicles had entered Rafah. (AFP,Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The final document of the United Nations African Meeting, inter alia, stated the following:

(United Nations News Centre)

Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered changes to 30 km of the planned separation wall, northwest of Jerusalem, saying that everything must be done to minimize hardship to the Palestinians in the affected area. The landmark ruling by Chief Justice Aharon Barak and Justices Eliahu Maza and Mishael Cheshin came in response to a petition filed by the village council of Beit Zurik, north of “Mevasseret Zion”. In their ruling, the Justices disallowed 30 km of the 40-km stretch of fence mentioned in the petition. “The route disrupts the delicate balance between the obligation of the military commander to preserve security and his obligation to provide for the needs of the local inhabitants”, the ruling said. On its part, the Defence Ministry said that it would reroute part of the West Bank separation wall after the High Court of Justice ordered the changes. (ABC, AP, Ha’aretz, IMRA,The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Following the High Court’s decision on the separation wall, Israeli Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Nathan Sharansky, Minister of Health Dan Naveh and Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Orlev Zevulun asserted the construction of the separation wall should be completed according to its original route. (Ma’ariv)

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier condemned President Yasser Arafat’s living conditions and urged Israel and the US to stop isolating the Palestinian leader. “Yesterday, I had a meeting with President Arafat and I direct and personally saw his living conditions, which are inappropriate for him (considering) what he represents”, Mr. Barnier told reporters at a news conference in Ramallah. “We think that this situation should come to an end because he is the legitimate and elected President of the Palestinian people” he added. (Reuters)

The IDF sealed off Beit Hanoun with tanks and tore roads to halt the firing of Qassam rockets at the nearby Israeli communities. “The IDF will do everything it takes to prevent or at least reduce the Qassam threat” a senior military official said. Israeli forces were expected to continue operating in the northern Gaza Strip in the next months in an effort to prevent Palestinian militants from firing the rockets. Three people had been injured during clashes, and ambulances were unable to gain access into town as the result of the blockade, Palestinian medical sources said. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv)

Israel Public Radio reported that Israeli authorities would bar thirteen Palestinian militants, exiled in Europe two years ago after a siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, from returning to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The thirteen militants had been given temporary visas to reside in Europe as part of the deal to end the siege. (AFP)

The IDF operation that began on 24 June, when soldiers entered the village Al-Yamun near Jenin in search of two wanted militants, continued. Residents claimed some 25 military vehicles with dozens of soldiers and APCs were in the village at different points. (Ma’ariv)

A Palestinian opened fire on the “Karni” crossing on the border of the Gaza Strip, Israel Army Radio reported. Security guards fired at the gunman, who escaped, and the crossing was closed to traffic. Earlier in the day, four Palestinian children were wounded in an explosion near Hebron, Palestinian sources told the Itim news agency. The circumstances of the blast, apparently caused by a bomb, were unclear. (Ha’aretz)

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that the during the last two 2 days the IDF razed more than 100 dunums (9.393 hectares) of land and bulldozed 20 Palestinian houses in Khan Younis, in addition to dynamiting two five-storey buildings and two water wells. (PCHR)

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in its annual report said the scope and gravity of Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had reached unprecedented levels and the construction of the separation wall was in violation of both human rights and international law. (AFP)

Foreign diplomatic sources said the IDF intended to build a new security wall on the borders between Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza and Israel. Israeli security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP the IDF planned to set up a five-kilometre “security zone” in northern Gaza and patrol the area for many months. The officials said structures would be set up to serve the needs of Israeli forces there, including fortified troop positions, ramps for tanks and other armoured vehicles, and new roads. More than 1,000 soldiers will be deployed in the zone. The 31,000 residents of Beit Hanoun and outlying areas to be part of the zone would have to pass through an Israeli checkpoint to reach other areas of Gaza. Beit Hanoun’s industrial zone in the outskirts of town has been temporarily closed, and farmers are not able to reach their fields while soldiers are deployed in the area. PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sheath said Israel seemed to be trying to sabotage its own plan. “I don’t understand the Israeli government’s behavior,” Mr. Sha’ath said. “Either it’s not serious about the withdrawal from Gaza, or it wants to destroy Palestinian land before withdrawing.” (AP, Reuters, Xinhua)

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held its annual foreign ministers' meeting in Jakarta. At the end of the two-day meeting, a joint communiqué said the following on the Middle East: While condemning all acts of violence, the ministers expressed “grave concern” over the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. (AFP)

The Knesset approved NIS150 million (US$33.3 million) to be used in establishing security zones around 40 Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Ha'aretz reported. The money will come from budget reserves, which were set aside for establishing special security zones beyond the West Bank separation wall. Under the plan, relatively low walls will be erected around several settlements, which will not be connected to the separation wall. (Xinhua)

Rabbi Avigdor Neventzal, who oversees Jewish affairs in Jerusalem's Old City, told colleagues that anyone who removes Israeli settlements from the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be subject to the death penalty under biblical Jewish law. In his remarks, broadcast on Israeli television, he did not mention Prime Minister Sharon by name. Rabbi Neventzal could not be reached for comment. (AP)

New Zealand’s Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Marian Hobbs said the NZ$800,000 (US$502,000) donation to UNRWA was a response to the growing pressures on the Agency, delivering humanitarian aid to 4.1 million Palestinians living amid the deteriorating political situation in the West Bank and Gaza. “We have been shocked and appalled by the recent displacement of thousands of civilian refugees following the destruction of their homes in the past few months,” she said. New Zealand also contributes NZ$300,000 (US$188,000) annually to UNRWA. (AP)


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