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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
30 April 2006



Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the

Question of Palestine

Monthly media monitoring review

April 2006

Monthly Highlights

    • Escalation, growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip (5 April)

    • Israel decides to prevent Hamas from becoming a established government (9 April)

    • Term of Middle East Quartet’s Special Envoy James Wolfensohn expires in April (28 April)

1

Israeli artillery bombarded a unilaterally-enforced “no-go” zone in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants launched seven rockets at Israel, an IDF spokeswoman said. Israeli aircraft carried out three air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip, destroying an empty building used by Palestinian militants during rocket attacks and damaging two open fields. There were no reports of casualties. (AFP, AP)

A group of Israeli settlers from the “Alon Moreh” settlement near Nablus attacked an elderly Palestinian farmer, Palestinian witnesses said. (AP)

PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told Xinhua: “Israel doesn't want peace, nor does it have any peace project. Therefore, we should not cheat our people and tell them that there will be negotiations.” He said that the Hamas cabinet might make contacts with Israel in running the daily affairs of the Palestinians, stressing that these contacts would never be elevated to political talks. He reiterated that it was possible that Hamas would accept a temporary two-State solution to the conflict with Israel, but voiced doubts over whether Israel really wanted to see the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. “I hope that our dream to have our independent State on all historic Palestine … will become real one day… there is no place for the State of Israel on this land,” said Mr. Al-Zahhar. “Why should we disarm the militants while the Palestinian territories are still occupied? The people should defend themselves,” he emphasized. (Xinhua)

Vice Premier Shimon Peres is to visit the Vatican on 6 April to ask Pope Benedict XVI to join a boycott of the PA Government, Israel Army Radio reported. (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that he would try to get gunmen off the streets of the Gaza Strip, warning that factional fighting, provoked by the assassination of a top militant, had created a “dangerous situation.” Senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip Samir Masharawi rejected Mr. Haniyeh's call. (AP)

Iran condemned the killing of a top Palestinian militant the previous day. “Israel is now taking revenge on the Palestinians by inhumanely assassinating their popular personalities,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying. (IRNA, Xinhua)

2

Two Palestinian farmers were moderately injured when an Israeli shell hit their vegetable-laden truck in the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian witnesses and medics said. (Xinhua)

Israeli police prevented a suicide bombing when they stopped a car trying to enter the town of Beit Shean, the police said. (AP)

PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Wasfi Kabaha told reporters that Palestinian prisoners at Ketziot, a prison tent camp in the Negev desert, reported guards using tear gas, water hoses and cattle prods against prisoners protesting a transfer to prisons in central Israel. Israel denied the claim. (AP)

PA Interior and Civil Affairs Minister Saeed Siyyam indicated that it might take as long as a year to re-establish public order in the Gaza Strip. (Xinhua)

PA Prime Minister Haniyeh condemned the US decision restricting diplomatic ties with the PA Government. “This Government was elected in a free and honest election, and according to the democratic principles the American administration is calling for,” he said. “We believe this is a punishment of the Palestinian people because of its democratic choice, and at the same time, it increases the people's suffering,” he said. (AP)

Quartet envoys held talks in Amman to discuss the next steps after the inauguration of a Hamas-led PA Government. Officials refused to give further details. EU foreign ministers are expected to take a decision on PA funding on 10 April. (AP)

Jordan's Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah Khatib met with the Quartet envoys and urged continuation of economic assistance to the Palestinians people, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA))

3

A senior “Tanzim” militant was killed in exchanges of fire with IDF soldiers near Bethlehem, the IDF and Palestinian witnesses said. Another Palestinian, wounded in the fire fight, was arrested. (Ha’aretz)

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades launched a homemade rocket at the southern costal Israeli town of Ashkelon to avenge the recent killing of their West Bank commander, the group’s communiqué said. (Xinhua)

The IDF wounded nine Palestinians and arrested eight others in the West Bank cities of Qalqilya, Nablus, Hebron and Jenin. (WAFA)

A 13-year-old Palestinian, identified as Mohammad Zaid, was shot dead by Israeli troops near the Qalandiya refugee camp, west of Ramallah. Two other children were wounded in the incident. According to witnesses, an IDF jeep entered Qalandiya after 5 p.m. Clashes broke out, and Palestinians began attacking the jeep with stones. IDF troops responded with gunfire. (Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

The IDF had launched operation “Southern Arrow” to target Qassam launching sites in the Gaza Strip, utilizing for the first time navy ships last week to carry out attacks from the sea. (www.ynetnews.com)

An inquest into the death of James Miller, a British filmmaker shot dead by an IDF soldier in Rafah in 2003, opened in London. (AP)

Israel’s Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said that any agreement between the IDF and the “Amona” settlers regarding their return to the old market area in Hebron was invalid. (www.ynetnews.com)

The Al-Aghwar al-Shamaleya area in the Jordan Valley suffered a severe food shortage as Israel continued separating the area from the rest of the West Bank for the fifth consecutive day. (WAFA)

PA President Mahmoud Abbas had a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. They talked about the political developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. They also discussed reactivating the role of the UN and the Quartet in the peace process and the need for the continuation of economic support to the Palestinians. (WAFA)

A Hamas spokesman said Hamas members had held talks two months ago with French officials and more recently with an Indian diplomat. The French ambassador to Israel had denied the claim. (Ha’aretz)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Talks would include the question of aid to the Palestinians. (AFP)

Jordan’s Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit conferred with US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch in Amman, urging Washington to lead the Quartet’s efforts towards the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He also stressed the “importance of the international community’s continuation of economic aid to the Palestinian people ...” Jordan sent 400 tons of food aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Some 25 trucks, laden with food worth US$220,000, were sent to the Occupied Palestinian Territory “on the express orders of King Abdullah II.” Mr. Welch said the US would continue to offer humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Petra, Xinhua)

4

IDF tanks fired several shells at the northern Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and wounding eight, including a mother and her six-month-old baby. The IDF said it was unaware of tanks shells or artillery being fired toward the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said the shells hit three houses in Beit Lahiya. Neighbours ran into one of the buildings in search of the dead and wounded. (Ha’aretz)

Israel struck four sites in the Gaza Strip. An aircraft fired two missiles into the PA Headquarters compound in Gaza City, wounding two people, according to Palestinian security sources. PA President Abbas, who was in the West Bank at the time of the attack, condemned the strike and called on the international community to intervene to stop what he called Israel’s escalation. The missiles landed at the compound’s helicopter landing pad, about 100 metres from Mr. Abbas’ office, leaving deep craters on the ground. A military spokesperson said Israel launched the attack to “send a message” to the Palestinians that it did not tolerate the continued firing of makeshift rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The strikes also targeted three other sites: two open areas in the northern Gaza Strip and an open area in Gaza City. Mr. Abbas’ office issued a statement calling on “the Quartet to stop this violence against the Palestinian people and to assume their responsibilities to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli military escalation.” (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

Israeli would keep the Al-Muntar (Karni) crossing closed, despite warnings by UN aid organizations that the Gaza Strip was on the verge of a humanitarian disaster due to the lack of money and food. OCHA official David Shearer said there was no significant change in the situation and that the Gaza Strip would face a humanitarian crisis as bad as the one in Kosovo. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli military sources said the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and East Jerusalem would be turned into an international-type border crossing, and would be renamed “Aterot Crossing.” The crossing would be open only for Palestinians who have entry permits into Israel and holders of Jerusalem ID cards. (International Press Centre)

PA President Abbas received Canadian representative to the PA Ron Wilson and Russian representative to the PA Alex Poghodine at the PA headquarters in Ramallah. (WAFA)

PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar reportedly said, in a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, that “We are looking for freedom and independence side by side with our neighbours and we are ready for serious discussions with the Quartet. We look forward to living in peace and security, as all countries in the world, and to our people enjoying freedom and independence living side by side with our neighbours in this holy place”. Mr. Al-Zahhar also referred to Israel’s “illegal colonial policies”, “which will ultimately diminish any hopes for the achievement of settlement and peace based on a two-state solution”. Later, Mr. Al-Zahhar denied referring to a two-State solution. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

PA Foreign Minister Al-Zahhar announced, after a meeting with the Chinese representative to the Palestinians Yang Wei Guo, that he had been invited to China in May. Mr. Al-Zahhar said, “The Chinese told us that they are ready to receive a Palestinian delegation at any time … we highly appreciate this visit, which we consider the first official visit by a foreign diplomat to the new Palestinian government.” Mr. Yang said, “We discussed the joint relations and the bilateral projects and we hope to continue and strengthen the cooperation and friendship in the future. China was and will continue to support the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle to restore their national rights.” (AP, Reuters)

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Hamas needs to get a consistent message from the world until it accepts “certain” requirements. “I do think we need to make certain that Hamas gets a very strong and consistent message from the world that until they have accepted certain requirements, they are not going to be welcome into the international community,” she said, testifying before the House Appropriations Committee. She also said that the US wants to increase humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians and help them control an outbreak of bird flu. (Xinhua, Reuters)

Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met the Secretary of Saudi Arabia’s Security Council, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, in Moscow to discuss “the situation on Israeli-Palestinian relations, the situation in Syria and Lebanon, as well as Iraq”, the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a written statement. (AFP)

Hapoalim Bank, Israel’s largest bank, cut off all its connections with the PA, by ceasing to process PA checks and transfer funds. A senior political source said the PA’s financial situation would “completely deteriorate to total chaos,” but that the bank “had no other choice.” (AP, Xinhua)

5

The IDF wounded two and arrested 25 Palestinians in the cities of Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah. In Nablus, Israeli soldiers swept the city amid intensive fire shooting at Palestinians’ houses and wounded two, including a teenager, with a rubber-coated bullet in the chest. The IDF stormed the village of Borren and arrested 20 Palestinians, including a female student of Al-Najah Univeristy, leading them to an undisclosed place. In Bethlehem, Israeli troops stormed the villages of Dora and Kherbat Salama, south of the city, and arrested two citizens, leading them to an undisclosed place. In Ramallah, Israeli soldiers arrested Zahi Dramnah, 26 years old, from Jamala village, and led him to an undisclosed place. Israeli soldiers deployed at Tayaseer checkpoint, east of Toba city, held up Palestinians, including elders and patients, under heavy rain for hours. (WAFA)

The IDF arrested two members of Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine during an arrest operation in Nablus. Twelve others were also arrested in Nablus overnight. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli forces discovered a 15-kg explosive device on a road leading to the “Itamar” settlement near Nablus. (Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

Eight Qassam rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. There was no report of injuries, but some damage was caused to greenhouses. The IDF responded by firing artillery towards rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip. (Ynetnews)

PA President Abbas urged the international community and the Quartet to intervene to stop the Israeli escalation in the Gaza Strip, which is suffering a critical humanitarian crisis due to Israel’s siege and closure of vital border points. (PMC)

The new Hamas-led PA Cabinet held its first meeting to discuss an emergency plan for its first three months of rule. PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told the Cabinet, “The Palestinian Finance Ministry has received an entirely empty treasury in addition to the debt of the Government in general”. Ahead of the meeting, Mr. Haniyeh also said that he and the rest of his Cabinet would not be paid until the rest of the 140,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority were paid. The first Cabinet meeting was held via video-conference, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. (AP)

PA Prime Minister Haniyeh said following the first regular Cabinet meeting: “Nothing stops ministers from having contacts with the Israelis to deal with matters connected to daily life, business and the economy. … When it comes to political negotiations, that poses a problem because they subscribe to a political vision. We are waiting on what is proposed to us, we will study it and decide on our position.” (AFP)

Senior Israeli Government officials said Israel was considering limited contact with the Hamas-led Government as part of efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the territories. Any contact with the Palestinian Authority would only take place through those channels aimed at preventing a humanitarian crisis, according to the sources. (Ha’aretz)

The new Hamas-led Palestinian Government said, “The Government has decided to freeze the naming and the promotion … of administrative appointments carried out [by the previous Government] between 20 November 2005 and March 2006.” (AFP)

The PA Presidency assumed security control over the Gaza Strip’s border crossings. “Administration of the crossing points and borders will fall directly under the jurisdiction of the President. … It is an independent administration in terms of finance, commerce and security,” Mr. Abbas’ office said in a statement. The Hamas-led Government said Mr. Abbas’ announcement ran counter to understandings whereby control of borders would remain in the hands of the Palestinian Government. “Any attempt to reduce the authorities of the Government will harm its performance and its ability to carry out its duties,” said Cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad. (Reuters)

The Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) in Tulkarem reported on the harsh conditions, deliberate medical negligence and robbery of Palestinian prisoners. It added that Israeli courts imposed inflated fines against prisoners. (WAFA)

PA Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek said the PA expected to receive US$80 million from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to help pay salaries for March. (AP, Reuters)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the European Parliament in Strasbourg: “Obviously, until Hamas shows unequivocal willingness to respect the international community’s principles, we cannot do business as usual with the Palestinian Authority. The EU will, however, continue its aid for the Palestinian people, firstly because this is a moral imperative which the EU cannot shirk, and secondly because the humanitarian crisis and instability in the occupied territories do no good to anyone, starting with Israel itself. Another of the EU’s key aims is to maintain the Palestinian Authority’s institutional fabric, which we have put so much effort and money into building and whose continuity is crucial if the creation of an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state is one day to become a reality.” Mr. Solana concluded by saying, “Hamas cannot change its past, but it can and must change its future. If it decides that there is no place in that future for terror, violence or negation of the reality of the State of Israel, the EU will be able to respond appropriately, as it has always done.” (http://ue.eu.int)

PA President Abbas received the French Consul-General in Jerusalem, Alain Rémy, in Ramallah. President Abbas briefed Mr. Rémy on the latest political developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in light of the Israeli military escalation and the Israeli unilateral acts that turns the West Bank into cantons. (WAFA)

Chris Cobb-Smith, a former British army officer and UN weapons inspector, who investigated the death of James Miller, a British journalist who was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in May 2003, told a jury in London that the killing was “calculated, slow, deliberate, cold-blooded murder, without a shadow of doubt” and not an accident. In a statement, the Israeli Embassy in London said, "After a very thorough investigation using laboratories in Israel and abroad and after reviewing all the available evidence, it was not possible to reach a reliable conclusion that could provide a basis for proceedings under criminal law." (The Guardian)

United Nations health officials said that another 250,000 birds in the Gaza Strip would be killed in the coming days in a bid to halt the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus. Ambroglio Manenti, head of the World Health Organization’s office for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, estimated that at least 200,000 poultry workers and their families would be affected by a loss of income. He added, “Since poultry is the primary source of protein for people in the Gaza Strip, we are also concerned about the nutritional consequences, especially with the frequent closings of the Karni crossing”. Some 250,000 birds had been culled so far. There had been no confirmed cases of the virus infecting humans in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. (Reuters, AP, The Jerusalem Post)

Peace Now submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice calling for the evacuation of six illegal West Bank outposts. The army had issued orders to begin the formal evacuation in 2004. Shortly afterwards, various settlers groups petitioned the High Court to stop the evacuations. Although the Court rejected their appeal, the settlements still had not been evacuated. (The Jerusalem Post)

6

Israeli forces arrested in Nablus a Palestinian woman planning to carry out a suicide bombing, along with four Fatah activists and two Islamic Jihad members. Fifteen Palestinians were wounded during the operation, according to Palestinian sources. Israeli forces also arrested seven “wanted” members of Islamic Jihad, “Tanzim,” and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Tulkarm, a “Tanzim” activist in the Qalandiya refugee camp, south of Ramallah, two Hamas activists and an Islamic Jihad member near Bethlehem, and two Hamas members in Hebron. (Ha’aretz, WAFA)

An undercover Israeli unit stormed the old town of Jenin and arrested three Palestinians. (WAFA)

Two Qassam rockets hit southern Israel. The second rocket landed in a kibbutz near a factory and caused a fire. One Israeli suffered from shock. The first one did not cause injuries or damage. The IDF responded by firing artillery at rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip. One Palestinian was wounded. (WAFA, Ynetnews, www.idf.il)

Israeli border police detained PA Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafa as he made his way from Jerusalem to Al-Eizariyya, a West Bank suburb of Jerusalem, for a handover ceremony at his predecessor’s office. “They stopped the car and asked the Minister to get out, and when he refused, they forced him by pointing the rifle in his face,” a Hamas source said. Israeli security sources said Mr. Abu Arafa, a resident of East Jerusalem, had been detained for trying to enter the Palestinian territory with his Israeli ID card. Israelis are banned from entering the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He was released five hours after being taken to an Israeli police station in the “Ma’aleh Adumim” settlement. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The PLO ordered Hamas to coordinate with the office of PA President Abbas before making major diplomatic pronouncements. According to a decision by the PLO’s main decision-making body, the Hamas-led Foreign Ministry must report to the PA President’s office before making policy statements to world leaders. (AP)

PA President Abbas appointed Rashid Abu Shbak, former head of the PA’s domestic intelligence agency, to head three of the PA security forces. The three agencies now headed by Mr. Abu Shbak still nominally fall under the control of Saeed Siyyam, PA Minister of the Interior and Civil Affairs, but in the event of a dispute, final authority would lie with the National Security Council headed by Mr. Abbas. PA Prime Minister Haniyeh said in response, “There are attempts to create parallel frameworks to some ministries in the Palestinian Government. … But I don’t think [Mr. Abbas] can continue this pressure and diminish some of the authorities of this Government.” (AP)

PA Prime Minister Haniyeh said, “[PA President Abbas], as the head of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, can move on political fronts and negotiate with whomever he wants. What is important is what will be offered to the Palestinian people.” (AP)

In an AP interview, PA Prime Minister Haniyeh said that his Cabinet will take control of the Palestinian security forces, opposing a decision by President Abbas to assume security control over the Gaza Strip's border crossings. Mr. Haniyeh declined to recognize Israel and appealed for understanding from the United States. He said there was no change in Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and respect all past accords signed by the Palestinian Authority − the three conditions Israel and the West have imposed for dealing with Hamas. (AP)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the Chinese Government had no plan yet to receive PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar. Mr. Al-Zahhar had said on 4 April that he was planning to tour countries in East Asia, “starting with China,” in late May. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, Xinhua)

The World Health Organization, in a report released to mark World Health Day on 7 April, warned of dire consequences for Palestinian public health services because of Israeli economic sanctions and threatened cuts in international aid. It warned that the public health system in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip could enter a “rapid decline” and head towards “possible collapse,” with 57 per cent of all health workers paid by the cash-strapped Palestinian Health Ministry. Hundreds of public health clinics would be affected, including up to 252 maternal and paediatric clinics, leading to a drastic reduction of the services they could provide and threatening their closure, said the report. (AFP)

7

Israeli aircraft fired missiles at three sites in Gaza City, including a security compound not far from PA President Abbas' office, witnesses said. No one was hurt. The other two targets were Fatah offices, one in northern Gaza and the other in Gaza City, they said. The air strikes followed three rocket attacks from Gaza at Israel, causing some damage but no casualties. (AP)

A Palestinian was killed and two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded during an arrest raid in Nablus. The IDF said Palestinian gunmen attacked the troops who returned fire, hitting one militant. The dead man and his relatives – four of whom were wounded in the exchange of fire – were not known to be linked to any militant group. (Ha’aretz)

In the Gaza Strip, IDF troops shelled Gaza in response to rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip. Israeli military aircraft dropped leaflets in northern Gaza, urging civilians to stay away from rocket-launching sites "for your own safety." Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets at southern Israel. The rockets, which landed south of Ashkelon, caused no injuries or damage, Israel Radio reported. (Ha’aretz)

The new PA Hamas-led Cabinet was told by the PLO that Hamas must coordinate with President Abbas' office before making major diplomatic pronouncements. "The Government does not accept the creation of parallel bodies that may take away its authority,” Mr. Haniyeh told Reuters at his house in Gaza City, adding that he would meet with Mr. Abbas later and discuss control of the crossings and security forces. The Hamas Government said Abbas' announcement ran counter to understandings whereby control of borders would remain in the hands of the Palestinian Government. "Any attempt to reduce the authorities of the Government will harm its performance and its ability to carry out its duties," said Cabinet Spokesman Ghazi Hamad. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told The Times that Hamas was ready to enter talks with the international community over the prospect of Israeli and Palestinian States co-existing. At the same time, he warned that Israel and the international negotiators would have to signal what they would offer in return. When asked how Hamas could deal with the insistence of the international community that a two-State solution be part of any peace agreement, Mr. Al-Zahhar said, "What is the concept in the Quartet about the two-State solution and on what basis? We have to ask that real question and after that, we are going to discuss inside the Government. We are going to discuss with our President,” adding, "We are going to discuss it in the Legislative Council and after that we may need to ask the general attitudes of our people. This is the land of the people. It is not the land of the Government. So how can we convince the people that they are going to denounce or renounce or accept these agreements? We have no final answer now. Let us wait, let us discuss and evaluate." (AFP)

In a statement, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States will increase its humanitarian aid to help Palestinians in need. Basic humanitarian assistance – including health, food, and education – will increase by 57 per cent, for a total of US$245 million. The United States will also provide $42 million to strengthen civil society and independent institutions. Assistance will be administered through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and non-Palestinian Authority actors, including local and international NGOs. (U.S. Department of State)

In Prague, visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the European Union had to find new ways of providing aid to Palestinians because the new Hamas Cabinet had changed the group's violent ideology. "Unfortunately, we can't see any clear signal that would make it possible for us to continue financing (of the Palestinians) in the same way as we did in the past," Mr. Steinmeier said, adding "We have to prepare certain changes in the way of financing (the Palestinians)". (AP)

In Brussels, the European Union said it had suspended direct aid payments to the Hamas-led Cabinet because of its failure to meet the EU's conditions for continued aid. The European Commission confirmed that it had temporarily halted aid payments to the Palestinian Government pending a decision by European Union foreign ministers next week on future assistance. (Ha’aretz, AP)

The World Health Organization issued a report entitled “Possible consequences on the health sector due to the reduction of support to the public services”. (http://www.who.int/en/)

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) said it was considering possible action over an Israeli air strike last week on a soccer field in the Gaza Strip. Jerome Champagne, FIFA Deputy General Secretary, also in charge of political issues, said it was a direct strike "without any reason" and that the soccer field was not being used by Palestinians as a missile launching pad, as Israel's Ambassador to Switzerland had originally claimed. (Ha’aretz)

8

At least six Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike on Khan Yunis, medical sources said. They said that an Israeli helicopter targeted a training camp of Abu al-Riesh Brigades in the al-Amal neighbourhood of the city, adding that scores were also injured. (AP)

PA Presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said PA President Abbas decided to ask the UN Security Council to convene and issue a resolution calling on Israel to halt its dangerous military escalation. Mr. Abu Rudeineh called on the Quartet and the international community to immediately intervene to pressure Israel to stop attacks against the Palestinian people. (WAFA)

Settlers from the settlement of “Sossiya”, south of Yatta village in Hebron, planted for the second consecutive day, olive trees on 16 dunums of seized Palestinian land. Witnesses said that the settlers uprooted 1,000 olive trees, which were previously planted by the Israeli "Taayush" movement and American Peace Team with the owners of the land to stop the seizure of land by the colonizers. Meanwhile, settlers continued to occupy a three-storey building in the old city of Hebron turning it into a museum. (WAFA)

The Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli raid against a civilian car in Jabalia that killed two Palestinians. The Presidency spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, described the raid as "an unforgivable crime," calling on the US Administration, the Quartet and the international community to immediately intervene to pressure Israel to end its military escalation and to stop the deterioration of the situation. (WAFA)

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said that the suspension of international assistance would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe in the Palestinian territories. In a press release, the PLO National and International Relations Department said that the seizure of custom taxes collected by the Israeli side on behalf of the PA, Israeli laying siege to Palestinian territories and barring access to food and medicine would increase poverty among the Palestinian people. It concluded that the health sector would witness complete deterioration, and called on all human rights organizations and friendly States to immediately intervene and put an end to suspension of assistance to the Palestinian people. (WAFA)

9

IDF troops shot and killed Jabber Akhris in a village near Bethlehem, IDF sources said. The troops killed Mr. Akhris, a senior official of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, as he was coming out of his house, which the IDF surrounded, holding an AK-47 rifle in his hand. According to the Shin Bet security service, Mr. Akhris was responsible for a shooting attack near Bethlehem in 2003 in which two soldiers were killed, and also commanded attempts to fire mortar shells on the Giloh neighbourhood in Jerusalem. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli tanks fired at Palestinian ambulances and paramedics in the northern Gaza Strip. The Director of Emergency Services at al-Shifa Hospital, Dr. Moawia Hassanein, said that the paramedics and the ambulances of the PA Ministry of Health, Palestinian Red Crescent Society and al-Awda Hospital were subjected to the Israeli bombardment that caused partial damages to the vehicles. (WAFA)

Israel pounded the northern Gaza Strip with artillery fire, killing a Palestinian police officer and wounding at least 16 people as the army escalated its retaliation against militant rocket attacks. The police officer, who was identified as Yasser Abu Jarad, 28, was trying to evacuate colleagues from a makeshift military post when a shell hit his car and killed him, Palestinian security officials said. At least 16 people were wounded in the shelling in northern Gaza. Since 6 April, Israel had conducted 10 air strikes and launched 900 artillery shells at northern Gaza and for the first time began firing at rocket-launching sites in populated areas. Fifteen Palestinians, including 13 militants and the child of one of the militants, had died in Israeli attacks since 7 April. No Israelis were wounded by the 10 rockets launched from Gaza into southern Israel over the weekend. (AP)

Palestinian militants fired at least five Qassam rockets at Israel, although some landed in Gaza or in the sea. There were no reports of injuries. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF explained the tight travel restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank in recent months. "The purpose of these restrictions is to defend the citizens of Israel from Palestinian terrorists". The restrictions have effectively divided the territory into three sections. Palestinians living in the northern West Bank were cut off from their jobs in the south, and a wide swath of land along the Jordanian border was off limits to all but its few thousand residents, human rights groups said. But Palestinian officials say the restrictions were collective punishment for the Hamas victory in the January Parliament elections. Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said, "There's a clear Israeli policy of laying siege to the Palestinian territories in an attempt to make the Palestinian people pay a price for choosing Hamas". David Shearer, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem, said, "I can't remember (the West Bank) being that locked down for such a long period of time". The United Nations reported a spike in the number of roadblocks in the West Bank, from 376 the previous summer, to 575. Temporary checkpoints numbered 160 last week, up from the usual 30 or 40. Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for the Israeli human rights group B'tselem, said "There is a process of cantonization of the West Bank. New restrictions also prevented residents of the northern towns of Jenin, Qalqiliya and Tulkarem from traveling any further than the Hawara checkpoint at the southern edge of Nablus, cutting them off from jobs and markets in the wealthier areas of the central and southern West Bank. Though Nablus residents could move south, all Palestinian males between the ages of 15 and 30 were barred from crossing Hawara. (AP)

Israel announced the closure of the joint facility used as a security liaison office between Israel and the PA in Jericho. IDF officers informed PA security liaison officers that they must evacuate their joint offices, located adjacent to the “Vered Yericho” settlement, the following day. Contact with PA security forces will be maintained only to save lives. Security officials rejected a police request to maintain contact also in order to retrieve stolen vehicles. The offices are being closed following a decision to sever ties with the Palestinian Authority, made at a special security cabinet session Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert convened in the wake of the swearing-in of the Hamas Government. Israel will cut off ties with the PA, view it as a "hostile" entity and act to prevent Hamas from becoming an established Government, Mr. Olmert said at the meeting. (Ha’aretz)

Hamas is close to a decision on initial steps aimed at influencing Palestinian militants to halt shelling of Qassam rockets at Israeli targets, Israeli security officials said. The planned Hamas move comes on the backdrop of an Israeli military response that had killed more than a dozen Palestinians in Gaza since 7 April. Islamic Jihad had promised the Hamas Government that it will stop firing Qassam rockets for an unspecified amount of time, in an effort to allow the new Government to stabilize. But the commitment appeared to be in question as two top officials in Islamic Jihad's political wing vowed to continue their fight against Israel. Israeli security sources said Israel planned to continue shelling Gaza until Palestinians completely ceased the rocket attacks. "We will react with quiet on our side only if there is total quiet [on the Palestinian side]," a senior security official said. (Ha’aretz)

Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in East Jerusalem over the purchase of a house by Israeli Jews in a mostly Arab neighbourhood of the city, a police spokesman said. A small group of Palestinians entered the home in A-Tur neighbourhood, which Israeli Jews moved into last month, Shmuel Ben-Ruby, the Jerusalem police spokesman, said. When police arrived to evacuate the Palestinians, dozens of neighbourhood residents clashed with police, wounding four officers, Mr. Ben-Ruby said. Four Arab residents of East Jerusalem were arrested, he said. (AP)

In a press release issued in Gaza, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said that a Palestinian civilian was killed as a result of Israeli artillery shelling on the northern Gaza Strip and that the IDF committed two extrajudicial executions in Gaza City and Khan Yunis the previous day, which left eight Palestinians dead. "This brings the total number of Palestinians killed by the IDF in the last two days to 14 and the number of injured persons to 30," PCHR said, expressing its grave concern as the Gaza Strip was having the highest rate of fatalities since the Israeli disengagement in September 2005. It strongly condemned the latest attacks on the Gaza Strip. (WAFA)

The PA Cabinet held an emergency meeting to discuss the latest escalation of Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. PA Cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hammad told reporters that the meeting was held at the request of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. (Xinhua)

The Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General issued the following statement:

(UN press release SG/SM/10409-PAL/2044)

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that recent Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip were excessive and disproportionate, and would lead to further violence. "Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed his disapproval of Israel's continued bombing of the Gaza Strip," MENA news agency said. "This bombing, which Israel had justified by the firing of Qassam rockets by some Palestinian elements, is an excessive and disproportionate use of force. The Foreign Minister indicated that the escalating Israeli military campaign ... will not lead to the realization of Israeli security but will result in increased violence," it quoted him as saying. (Reuters)

Israel's Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert announced that his Government would boycott foreign diplomats who meet with members of the new Hamas-led Palestinian Government. "Foreign visitors who meet with Hamas officials will not be authorized to meet Israeli officials," Mr. Olmert said in a statement. However, "Those who meet Abbas without seeing any Hamas officials will not be boycotted by Israel," an official said. (AFP)

PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar called on the European Union not to cut donations and economic aid to the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Al-Zahhar spoke on the eve of an EU Foreign Ministers meeting, scheduled the following day in Luxembourg, where they were expected to announce the EU’s decision to cut ties with the Hamas-led Cabinet, including a halt to aid money. Mr. Al-Zahhar urged the EU Foreign Ministers "to respect the democratic choice of the Palestinian people and not to be subjected to the Israeli Government stance that seeks to keep siege imposed on our people”, adding “Cutting off aid would never serve the strategic ties and relationship of Europe in the region. We believe that such ties should be based on exchange of benefits and respect of people's choices". (DPA)

Although Norway had been one of the most active supporters of the Palestinian Authority, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said, the attitude of Hamas made it difficult to envisage the continuation of direct aid. Mr. Stoere said in an interview that his country would continue to support the Palestinian people indirectly by contributions to non-government organizations and the UN. He declined to go as far as the United States or the European Union in calling for the freezing or suspension of aid to the Government. (AFP)

10

Palestinian militants fired two rockets at Israel. The IDF responded with an artillery barrage that landed in a farming area in the northern Gaza Strip, damaging two houses, destroying a greenhouse and lightly wounding two people, Palestinian police said. (AP)

An eight-year old Palestinian girl was killed and her mother and seven siblings injured by IDF artillery fire in the northern Gaza Strip. Deputy Defence Minister Ze’ev Boim apologized for the girl's death, but said the military operations would go on as long as Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets at Israel. (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Israel’s Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert said in a published report that he will complete his plan to withdraw from much of the West Bank, strengthen Israel's hold on key settlement blocks and draw the country's final borders before the next US presidential election in 2008, a senior Olmert aide said. (AP)

The Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference expressed deep concern over continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, and called for the immediate intervention of the Security Council, the Secretary-General and members of the Quartet. (www.oic-oci.org)

In Luxembourg, European Union Foreign Ministers endorsed a freeze in aid to the Palestinian Government but said they would seek alternative ways of providing money for humanitarian projects, Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said. "There will be no aid to (Hamas) Government organizations, but we will maintain humanitarian aid," Mr. Bot said, adding that the EU would try to help Palestinians with their utility bills and other basic needs. Earlier, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said Europe continued to "stand by the Palestinian people." It will continue to provide money for electricity, food, education and other projects, so "their basic human needs will be met in the future," she added. (AP)

PA Communications and Technology Minister Jamal al-Khodari said the Hamas-led PA Cabinet was considering connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt's telecommunications network. (AFP)

About 3,000 Hamas supporters took part in a protest outside the United Nations office in Gaza City protesting a European Union decision to sever aid to their Government and vowing to stand firm behind Hamas. (AFP, AP)

During a meeting with Jack Wallas, the United States Consul in Jerusalem, at his headquarters in Ramallah, PA President Abbas urged the United States to stop isolating the Palestinian Authority following the swearing-in of the Hamas-led Government. (Xinhua)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that a US and an EU freeze on aid to the Hamas Government could worsen the plight of ordinary Palestinians and fuel further violence. Pierre Kraehenbuehl, Director of Operations for the ICRC, said that aid organizations would be unable to fill the gap if basic services provided by the Palestinian Authority broke down completely. (AFP)

A British coroner said that he would recommend that the British Attorney General seek war crimes charges against five IDF officers over the deaths of two British activists killed by IDF fire in 2003, after a British inquest jury ruled that peace activist Tom Hurndall had been unlawfully killed by an IDF soldier in Rafah in April 2003. (Ha’aretz)

11

The IDF arrested 18 Palestinians in Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem and Qalqilya. (WAFA)

Special forces under PA President Abbas assumed control of the Rafah Terminal. (Reuters)

Palestinian sources in Jenin said a 15-year-old Palestinian, Amir Shawhana, had died of injuries sustained on 8 April, when he was shot by Israeli soldiers operating in the village of Hilat al-Hartyia. (Ynetnews)

Palestinian security officials said a shell fired by Israeli gunboats had exploded near a Palestinian police position in the northern Gaza Strip. There were no injuries or damage. The Israeli military said there had been artillery fire in the area but no shelling from the sea. (AP)

Palestinians threw three Molotov cocktails at an Israeli car near the “Yitzhar” settlement, causing no injuries or damage. (Ynetnews)

John Jing, UNRWA operations manager in the Gaza Strip, told a news conference: “I visited UNRWA schools in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia and I met with parents and teachers and they all expressed great concern for the safety of their children due to ongoing bombing and shelling.” (Xinhua)

“The bombardments in the north of the Gaza Strip and in Khan Yunis ... are part of a political and economic siege of the Palestinian people,” said PA Prime Minister Haniyeh. “This is an attempt to bring the Palestinian people to their knees and strangle the Government which was democratically elected,” he added. (AFP)

“We will continue firing rockets in response to the crimes and Israeli aggressions, namely their assassinations and bombardments against the Palestinian people,” Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades spokesman Abu Ahmed stated. “We will continue to respond to the Israeli aggression by any means. If Israel were to stop, then we would consider our response,” an Islamic Jihad spokesman said on condition of anonymity. (AFP)

At a meeting, the Israeli Cabinet discussed policy regarding the Palestinian Authority and took the following decisions:

(www.pmo.gov.il)

British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said, “We condemn the killing of a young Palestinian girl in the village of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza following Israeli artillery shelling on 10 April. We are particularly concerned about the impact of Israeli artillery fire close to residential areas. Recent Israeli Defence Force operations have resulted in several Palestinian civilian deaths, including children. Such civilian casualties are unacceptable. The British Ambassador in Tel Aviv has asked the Israeli Government to exercise maximum restraint. Israel has the right to defend itself, but any actions in the Occupied Territories must be proportionate and in accordance with international law. Equally, we urge the Palestinian Authority to take steps to halt all attacks launched at Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip.” (www.fco.gov.uk)

Arab representatives to the United Nations dropped a plan to seek a Security Council condemnation of Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip. The Arab States were to attempt to secure only a statement by the Council President. (Ha’aretz)

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution calling on Hamas to “renounce violence, recognize the State of Israel within secure internationally recognized borders, and express support for the Middle East peace process.” The Parliamentary Assembly also called on the Israeli Government to “halt military operations and extrajudicial executions of militants of Palestinian extremist organizations without delay, refrain from unilateral action,” and “put an immediate end to the expansion and construction of illegal settlements.” (www.coe.int)

Palestinian militants who carry out attacks against IDF soldiers cannot be defined as terrorists, Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in an ABC interview. (AFP)

The United Nations had advised its aid agencies to avoid political contact with Hamas leaders, including PA Cabinet Ministers and other high-level Hamas appointees, UN officials reportedly said. (Reuters)

World Bank officials said contact with the new Palestinian Government had been “limited” until World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz decided how to proceed. “As long as Hamas is branded by major donors as a terrorist-related organization, it’ll be very difficult for the Bank staff to proceed, and if they would like to, they will also have to go to the board. … There is no formal stop in grant disbursements, but they are not going out, so it is a dilemma,” one senior bank official said. Another official said, “Even as an employee of the World Bank you may have some protection, but you’ll think twice before you really engage because you could be indicted in the US or in Europe. … As long as it’s unclear how much backing you will have from the senior levels and also from the board, it’s best not to engage at all.” (Reuters)

PA President Abbas told reporters in Ramallah: “We are ready to begin negotiations on the basis of the Road Map the minute the Israeli Government is formed.” (Reuters)

“Of course Hamas must fulfil the demands made by international mediators. ... But to have that happen, it's necessary to work with Hamas, not boycott it,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters after meeting his Jordanian counterpart. “The rejection of aid to the Palestinians only because they chose a Government made up entirely of Hamas members in the elections is wrong,” Mr. Lavrov said. EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana’s spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said that the EU decision to suspend aid to the PA was “not only compatible” with the Quartet policy but also “the direct consequence” of it. (AFP, AP)

PLC Speaker Abdel-Aziz Dweik called on the EU to reconsider its decision to suspend financial aid to the PA. (Xinhua)

An eight-member European Parliament delegation met with PLC Speaker Abdel-Aziz Dweik, and is also scheduled to hold talks with representatives of Fatah. (DPA)

12

The IDF carried out an air strike overnight on a building housing a branch of Fatah’s youth wing in Gaza City, causing damage but no injuries. (AFP, DPA, WAFA)

Israeli forces arrested 12 “wanted” Palestinians in the West Bank: an Islamic Jihad member in Deir Abu-Da’if, east of Jenin; two Islamic Jihad members, a Fatah operative and another Palestinian in Nablus; a Hamas member and an Islamic Jihad member in Tulkarm; three Palestinians in Husan, west of Bethlehem; a Hamas member in Hebron; and a Palestinian south of Hebron. (www.idf.il)

Israeli forces discovered and destroyed an Islamic Jihad explosives laboratory containing 30 kgs of explosives in Birqin, west of Jenin. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, www.idf.il)

Israeli soldiers arrested a Palestinian carrying a 25-cm long knife at the Beit Iba crossing, west of Nablus. (www.idf.il)

Two members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were killed in an Israeli air strike along the “Kissufim” border crossing between the central Gaza Strip and Israel. Witnesses said an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a group of Palestinians near the crossing. An IDF spokesperson said the men approached the border holding rifles. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

IDF soldiers arrested a Palestinian armed with an axe and a makeshift handgun next to “Moshav Beka’ot” in the Jordan Valley, according to Israeli Radio. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli security forces went on high alert on the eve of the Passover holiday, and a complete closure was imposed on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. (Ha’aretz)

The new Palestinian Government was reported as saying that it would recognize Israel if the latter withdrew fully from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Sources close to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the decision was a “significant change in policy.” Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Palestinians were ready to negotiate with any Israeli Prime Minister. (Aljazeera.net, Ha’aretz)

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert said a meeting with US President Bush next month in Washington would kick off his drive to secure international help, including financial support, for the pullout of some 70,000 Jewish settlers from the West Bank. He said he expected to begin drawing up his “convergence plan” after coalition negotiations in Israel concluded in about two weeks and to finalize it within the next 18 months. (AFP)

UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd said that her Agency had received no instruction from UN Headquarters on not meeting Hamas ministers. “It doesn’t make sense to reduce contacts when you’ve been asked to increase your activities,” she said, stressing that UNRWA had “no intention of changing” its operations. (AFP, Reuters)

German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul announced that bilateral humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people would continue. “The support is primarily concerned with drinking water supply and sanitation and with local employment,” she said. She also said that the Council of EU Foreign Ministers had called on Israel to give the Palestinians the tax and customs revenues that had been withheld and thus also allow them to meet their own responsibilities. (WAFA)

The PA launched a fundraising drive on websites and Arab satellite TV stations. The appeal was sponsored by the Arab League. (Ha’aretz, Ynetnews)

13

Members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades briefly took over the PA Cabinet building in Ramallah, protesting the refusal of the new Government to meet their demands for perks and promotions. They also demanded compensation for the families of Palestinians detained in Israeli jails. At least 20 members carrying weapons blocked entrances to the building. Police reinforcements were deployed to remove the protestors. Earlier in the day, the group had shut down the offices of the Transportation Ministry, forcing employees to leave the building. (Al-Jazeera, DPA, Ynetnews)

Several Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles entered an area east of central Gaza Strip. The tanks rolled about 500 metres into the Palestinian territory near the “Kissufim” border crossing. Officials said Israeli forces entered the Strip as part of a “pin-point” operation to check for explosive devices in an area where two Palestinians had been killed the day earlier. (DPA, Xinhua)

Hundreds of Palestinians took part in a march in central Gaza City to protest the recent decision by the US and the EU to cut funding to the new PA. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, “We are calling on the international community to reverse their decisions and to respect the democratic choice of the Palestinian people.” (AFP)

PA Minister of Economy Ala’ al-Araj said the Cabinet did not oppose in principle linking PA financial affairs management to international organizations. He said the Cabinet was interested in cooperating with international aid organizations, including UNRWA and UNDP. He added that the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would transfer urgent funds to the PA to overcome its financial crisis. (Xinhua)

14

In Khan Yunis, Palestinian police held a protest against the inability of the new PA Government to pay their wages. Up to 50 masked officers blocked roads and stormed a Government office, firing their weapons in the air. (BBC, Ha’aretz)

Ending a three-day visit to Morocco, PA President Abbas urged Arab States to speed up aid to prevent an economic collapse of the PA within three or four months. He also appealed to the EU to rescind its decision to cut aid, saying the bloc was punishing needy Palestinians. (Ha’aretz)

Israel opened Gaza Strip checkpoints to allow essential goods into the Gaza Strip. Trucks entering the Kerem Shalom crossing, from Egypt, carried wheat and flour, and other trucks contained gas. Most of the trucks were UN vehicles. (Ha’aretz)

In a memo, the US Treasury Department reportedly said “transactions with the Palestinian Authority by U.S. persons are prohibited, unless licensed.” It said the decision was based on “existing terrorism sanctions.” Exceptions were made for the World Bank, the IMF, and the UN, authorizing “activities and transactions with the PA that are for the conduct of … official business.” The memo also stated, “This restriction is limited to transactions with the PA Government and does not apply to transactions with individuals or other entities in the Palestinian territories.” The document also made a distinction between Hamas and the PA, saying that “The Palestinian Authority is not a designated terrorist organization.” (BBC, Ha’aretz)

15

IDF soldiers arrested five “wanted” Palestinians across the West Bank. Two members of the PFLP and a Fatah member were arrested in Nablus. Two others were arrested in the village of Beit Omar, south of Bethlehem. (Ha’aretz)

IDF soldiers delayed thousands of Palestinians seeking to pass through roadblocks in the northern West Bank during an unannounced curfew, which disrupted regular business and school activities. An IDF spokesperson said stricter searching procedure employed by troops at the roadblocks caused the delays. (Ha’aretz)

The Head of Israel’s National Security Council at the Prime Minister’s Office, Giora Eiland, said the Palestinian Government must take control of the Gaza Strip and stop the attacks on Israel. Mr. Eiland made the statement as a Qassam rocket hit a sports stadium in a kibbutz near the town of Ashkelon, causing damage but no casualties. He added, “So far, we are not going back into Gaza … perhaps at a certain stage there will be no choice but to do it. I don’t think it is the preferred mode of action.” (Ha’aretz)

PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the suspension of Western aid to the Palestinians would never defeat the new Government. He said the West would not succeed in isolating the Government as it had the full support of the Palestinians. Hamas leaders warned that if the Government was broken by its enemies, Hamas would go back on the offensive. Hamas MP Younes al-Aftal said there would then again be Hamas suicide bombings in the heart of Israel. (BBC)

Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti called on PA President Abbas to initiate talks with Hamas members in the PA Cabinet to find a way to resolve the crises plaguing the Palestinians. He said Fatah and Hamas should begin “a comprehensive and deep dialogue, because the dangers we are facing are tough.” (Ha’aretz)

In a phone call with PA President Abbas, Russian Federation Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would grant the PA urgent financial aid. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said: “Mahmoud Abbas stated his high appreciation of Russia’s intent, confirmed by Sergey Lavrov, to grant the Palestinian Authority urgent financial aid in the nearest future.” Iran’s Foreign Minister said Iran would donate US$50 million to the cash-strapped PA. Qatar said it would give the PA $50 million in aid. The Qatar News Agency said the funds were offered to “bolster the budget of the Palestinian Authority based on the decision of the Arab Summit held in Khartoum.” (AP, BBC, Reuters)

16

In his first “Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and to the world) address, Pope Benedict XVI said, “May the international community, which reaffirms Israel’s just right to exist in peace, assist the Palestinian people to overcome the precarious conditions in which they live and to build their future, moving towards the constitution of a state that is truly their own.” (AFP, www.vatican.va)

17

At least nine people, as well as the bomber, were killed in a suicide attack near the old central bus station in southern Tel Aviv. At least 60 people were injured, some seriously. The Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades both claimed responsibility for the attack. Sources said the suicide bomber was 16-year-old Islamic Jihad member Sami Salim Mohammed (a.k.a. Samer Salim Hammed) from a village near Jenin. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Dozens of IDF soldiers and jeeps rolled into Nablus shortly after the bombing. The troops moved into the centre of the city, where they began carrying out arrests. Elsewhere, Palestinian demonstrators threw stones and incendiary devices at IDF troops near Bir Zeit University, north of Ramallah. In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants launched four Qassam rockets at Israel. No injuries or damage were reported. (Ha’aretz)

Soldiers holed up in a home in Nablus opened fire on a crowd of stone-throwing protestors outside the building, wounding two people, including a 13-year-old boy. The soldiers took over the home during a military operation and a crowd quickly gathered outside. The crowd threw rocks at the soldiers, who responded with gunfire. (AP, WAFA)

An IDF artillery shell killed a 16-year-old Palestinian and wounded two others in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya. The IDF had been firing towards areas where Palestinians were launching cross-border rocket attacks. (Ha’aretz, WAFA)

PA President Abbas condemned the suicide bombing attack as an act of terrorism and called on the international community to act to end the “serious deterioration” in the region. “This attack violates the Palestinian national consensus and runs contrary to our interests,” he said. Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert said, “We will know how to respond. We know what to do.” Israeli MP Shimon Peres said, “This is painful, but we will continue the democratic process.” (AFP, The Jerusalem Post, WAFA)

(UN press release SG/SM/10422)

A statement issued by the Russian Federation Foreign Ministry said, “We firmly and without reserve condemn this bloody attack by extremists who have again raised a hand against people who are guilty of nothing.” The statement called on the Palestinian leadership to do the “maximum possible” to stop all violence against Israel and also called on the Israeli leadership to exercise restraint to prevent “wide confrontation” in the region. (AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw condemned the suicide bombing, saying “It is particularly repugnant that this attack comes during the Jewish festival of Passover. I would urge restraint on all sides at this difficult time.” White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said, “Defence or sponsorship of terrorist acts by officials of the Palestinian cabinet will have the gravest effects on relations between the Palestinian Authority and all States seeking peace in the Middle East.” US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the bombing showed the “true nature” of the Hamas-led Government. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said, “Nothing can justify this act of hatred … which has also been condemned by the President of the Palestinian Authority.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, “It will be a fateful beginning for the new [Palestinian] government if it were not to confront acts of terrorism clearly and energetically.” EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana called on “all parties to prevent any new descent into a senseless spiral of violence.” (AFP, Reuters, Xinhua)

The new PA Government called the suicide bombing a legitimate response to Israeli “aggression”. “We think that this operation … is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people, according to PA Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Helal. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the attack a part of the Palestinian right to self-defence. (DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

Hamas had held talks with other Palestinian factions to persuade them to join a Palestinian Government which the group said was facing a “state of crisis.” Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said, “There is a state of crisis and a state of siege. There is no place for any party to sit in the audience.” PA President Abbas has offered to hand control of the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt to the new Government. (Al-Jazeera)

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that he was planning to host a meeting of the Quartet in New York on 9 May. “We will have a comprehensive discussion. We are also likely to bring in our regional partners from the Middle East ...” (AFP)

The Security Council held an open meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. A total of 34 speakers took the floor. The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People addressed the meeting. (UN press release SC/8692)

18

An IAF aircraft fired missiles at a metal workshop in Gaza City, causing some damage to the building but no injuries. The IDF said the strike targeted a building used by the PFLP for making homemade rockets to fire at Israel. In Jenin, IDF troops arrested Samer Hammad, father of the man who carried out the previous day’s bombing, and two others. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, WAFA)

Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert decided to limit its immediate response to the Tel Aviv bombing, refraining from authorizing military action against the PA, while holding the PA formally responsible. Among measures approved were the revocation of the Israeli residency status of three Hamas officials living in East Jerusalem, and a police crackdown on the smuggling of Palestinians without permits into Israel. (AP, BBC, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

A report released by the Information Department of the PA Education Ministry revealed that 459 Palestinian minors were in detention and subjected to harsh measures and torture sessions and placed in cells with Israeli criminals. (Daily News)

Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition by Nir Naballah residents asking the Court to issue a temporary prohibition against the construction of the wall surrounding the northern part of Jerusalem. The decision effectively permitted the completion of the northern route of the wall. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

PA President Abbas received US Senator Joseph Lieberman at his office in Ramallah. Mr. Abbas briefed Mr. Lieberman on the latest developments. After the meeting, Mr. Lieberman told reporters that the US Administration hoped to continue communications with Mr. Abbas and Israel to work for peace. (WAFA)

Japan had decided to halt new aid to Palestinians via the PA until it became clear that Hamas was committed to the peace process, according to Akira Chiba, assistant press secretary for the Japanese Foreign Ministry. “Hamas has clearly had a hostile policy toward Israel, so if that doesn’t change we won’t be in a situation where we can offer aid,” Mr. Chiba said. Emergency aid, such as a payment in March of US$6 million to the World Food Programme would continue, officials said. (BBC, Ha’aretz)

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg ruled out political meetings with representatives of Hamas who were scheduled to visit Norway in May. The invitation had been extended by the Norwegian Palestine Committee. (DPA)

The Jordanian Government, hours before the planned visit of Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahhar to Jordan, postponed the visit “until further notice”. (Ha’aretz, Petra, Yediot Ahronot, AP, Reuters, AFP, Palestine Media Center)

19

An Israeli artillery shell fell near a house in a Bedouin community in the northern Gaza Strip but nobody was injured. The Israeli army said it was unaware of the incident. (AP)

Israeli troops clashed with hundreds of Palestinians in Nablus. Seven Palestinians were wounded, including four by live fire and three by rubber bullets, according to officials at the city’s Raffidieh Hospital. The army denied firing live rounds during the clash. Earlier, troops searched for wanted Palestinian militants and briefly detained four female relatives of sought suspects. (AP, WAFA, Ha’aretz)

The Palestinian Prisoners Society said female prisoners in Telmond jail suffered from maltreatment and inhuman practices. (WAFA)

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh insisted his Government would not renounce violence at a news conference. “We reject all pressure on our people and government to forgo our basic rights, we will not touch the rights of the Palestinian people whatever the circumstances…dignity is more important than dollars”. Later in the day, a masked spokesman for six militant factions backed the Prime Minister’s statement, but warned against using force in solving internal dispute. The Islamic Jihad did not take part in the declaration. (Xinhua, AFP)

French President Jacques Chirac said in an interview to Al-Ahram, before embarking on a two-day trip to Egypt, “As of now, we call on Hamas to understand that the path of violence is a dead end, and to pursue its transition toward political action by continuing to respect the truce and committing to a process of renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel.” (AP)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his weekly House of Commons address, said, “I hope very much Hamas realize that those who kill innocent people in this way, by this type of attack that happened in Tel Aviv, are wicked and irresponsible, but more than that, they do absolutely nothing to further the process of peace in the Middle East or the two-state solution that we all want to see.” (AP)

20

At least four Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit near Ashkelon. No injuries were reported. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli settlers attacked four international peace activists in Hebron, one of them elderly, who were escorting Palestinian children on the way to school, the International Solidarity Movement said. (WAFA)

PA Interior Minister Saeed Siyyam issued a decree appointing Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the Popular Resistance Committees and a former lieutenant-colonel in the PA security apparatus, as Director-General. He was given the rank of colonel. Khaled Abu Hilal, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said Mr. Siyyam was also forming a new security branch that would be answerable only to him. “This force is going to include the elite of our sons from the freedom fighters and the holy warriors and the best men we have,” he said. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the appointment showed “the true nature and the true tactics of this particular Hamas-led Government.” Israel’s Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir said: “If someone needed proof about the connection between the Hamas rule and Palestinian terror, this appointment is the ultimate proof for this connection.” “We will continue to pursue him,” said a senior Israeli official who declined to be identified. (AP, Ha’aretz, The New York Times, www.state.gov)

The Russian Federation gave over US$10 million to the office of the PA President Abbas. (AFP)

PA Minister of Economy Ala’ al-Araj warned that the current aid-cut off to the PA could lead to its collapse. “If the US and other countries continue to implement their decisions to halt aid to the Palestinian people and their Government, then the PA might fall … We can’t get along without direct aid from the world, particularly funds for the Government’s budget.” The Palestinian Minister said the cabinet is facing a shortage of up to $800 million. (Xinhua)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Middle East Envoy, Lord Levy, delivered a letter to PA President Abbas outlining proposals to revive the peace process. “The letter contains ways to unfreeze the peace process and the role Britain can play in this regard”, said the Director of the President’s office, Rafiq al-Husseini. (AFP)

Syria would expand its support to the PA by setting a national fundraising day for the Palestinians, upgrading diplomatic ties and establishing direct phone links with the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem announced. (The Jordan Times)

PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, according to Radio Israel. (Ha’aretz, AP)

21

Israel’s security forces arrested two “Tanzim” militants near Jenin who were said to be planning a suicide bombing in Israel. IDF soldiers arrested a Palestinian carrying an army knife at a checkpoint north-west of Hebron. Two unarmed Palestinians were apprehended by the IDF after crossing the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF also arrested two Palestinians near Bethlehem. (Ha’aretz, Petra)

PA President Abbas vetoed the decision by PA Interior Minister Saeed Siyyam to appoint PRC leader Jamal Abu Samhadana as a security chief, two of his aides said. He also annulled the decision to set up a security force that was to consist of militants from various factions. (AFP)

France refused to grant a visa to PA Planning Minister Samir Abu Aisha. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said that the decision had been carried out “in concert with our European partners. This decision derives from the European policy ... that is, the suspension of contacts with the Palestinian Government.” (DPA)

“We [the EU] are not the major source of finance for the Palestinian Authority,” said Emma Udwin, spokeswoman for EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. “The Palestinian Authority lives much more substantially from the tax transfers made by Israel of Palestinian money," she said. (AFP)

“If the price we have to pay becomes unreasonable as a result of increased attacks, then we shall have to take all steps, including occupying the Gaza Strip,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, head of Israel's Southern Command, said. The IDF had a contingency plan for ground operations in the Gaza Strip but for now was not recommending a go-ahead to the Government, senior General Staff sources told Ha’aretz. PA President Abbas said the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip would be a “deadly mistake.” (AP, Ha’aretz)

PA President Abbas told Turkey’s Anatolia news agency: “If you [Hamas] insist on saying 'I don't recognize this or that', how can you reach an agreement with the Israeli Government? How can you run daily affairs if you refuse to recognize each other? If this continues to be the case, everything will be crunched and blocked. This will lead us to a collapse,” he warned. "They [Hamas] must comprehend the consequences" of their stance. (AFP)

“We can understand that Israel and America are persecuting us, and seeking ways to besiege and starve us, but what about the sons of our people who are plotting against us, who are following a studied plan to make us fail,” Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashaal said. “We absolutely do not target any faction,” Mr. Mashaal clarified the following day. PA President Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, called Mr. Mashaal's remarks “harmful and irresponsible.” “We don't want the situation to escalate, we will not allow a civil war, and we will not tolerate military confrontations,” Mr. Abbas told journalists in Jordan. (AP)

The PA reduced the stipends it provides to Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. (Ha’aretz)

Israel’s Attorney General Menachem Mazuz would defend the Government's move to revoke the East Jerusalem residency of three Hamas members of the PLC if the decision is petitioned in the High Court, Mr. Mazuz informed interim Prime Minister Olmert. (Ha’aretz)

22

Across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, tens of thousands of Fatah backers marched on the streets denouncing Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashaal’s comments. In Gaza City, Hamas and Fatah followers traded gunfire and hurled stones, grenades and firebombs. Fifteen people were wounded, two seriously. Later, hundreds of Fatah activists marched to the PLC compound, throwing stones and shattering windows. In Nablus, gunmen stormed a municipal building and ejected dozens of employees. (AFP, AP)

Hamas and Fatah officials met and agreed to calm the hostilities. “The two movements have agreed to call on our Palestinian masses to stop all displays that might lead to tension,” Fatah official Maher Mekdad said, reading a joint statement. “They agreed to work together to strengthen the national unity.” No agreement had been reached on the control of the security forces, participants said. (AP)

“If we cannot convince Hamas to accept the demands of international Quartet mediators, we cannot rule out a large-scale armed conflict between Israel and Palestine or clashes between Palestinians,” said Oleg Ozerov, Deputy Head of Russia’s Foreign Ministry's Middle East and North Africa department. “Both options are bad and dangerous,” he added. (AFP)

PA President Abbas’ aide Nabil Amr said that the US had warned international banks not to transfer money to the PA, preventing millions of dollars in Arab funding from reaching the PA. (AP)

23

Two Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militants were killed and one wounded after undercover Israeli troops opened fire at their vehicle in Bethlehem, security and medical sources said. The group put out a statement vowing to avenge their deaths. “The resistance factions will not stand handcuffed against what happened ... We warn that the continuation of such an escalation will lead to an explosion in the region,” said Hamas PLC member Mushir al-Masri. (AFP)

A group of gunmen burst into the office of PA Health Minister Bassem Naeem and demanded better care for a relative, a Health Ministry spokesman said. Mr. Naeem's bodyguards - Hamas militants - engaged in a brief shootout that wounded three people, witnesses and Palestinian security officials said. (AP)

Israel’s Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Palestinian militants had attempted to fire a second Grad (Katyusha) rocket from the Gaza Strip into Israel, a Government source said. (AFP)

Abu Udai, an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander, said that his group “will fire a barrage of Grad rockets at Tel Aviv within 48 hours” following the killing of two group members in Bethlehem. (Ynetnews.com)

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Moratinos, said that the recent clashes between Hamas and Fatah loyalists were "worrisome." Speaking at a joint press conference with Mr. Moratinos in Cairo, Mr. Aboul Gheit said the Palestinians should “take on the responsibility” because such clashes might impede Palestinian national efforts. (DPA)

PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that an Egyptian delegation was mediating between Hamas and Fatah to defuse the situation. (DPA)

An Israeli court turned down a claim for compensation by an Israeli settler allegedly defrauded by Palestinians in a West Bank land deal, saying it had no authority to enforce Israeli judgments in PA-controlled territory, which it said enjoyed "quasi-sovereign status." (AP)

24

Israeli troops killed Abu Ariban, a 28 years-old Palestinian near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. (IMEC, WAFA)

IDF soldiers wounded 12 Palestinians and arrested eight Palestinians in Nablus, Tulkarem, Hebron and Bethlehem. (WAFA)

“We have received 50 million dollars and 20 million dollars had been received by the Arab League, while 20 million dollars more are on the way,” PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told a press conference in Kuwait. (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Haniyeh told reporters, when asked about the taped message by Osama Bin Laden, broadcast by Al-Jazeera: “There is an unjust blockade imposed on the Palestinian people which is pushing parties and individuals to express their solidarity.” “What Osama Bin Laden said is his opinion but Hamas has its own positions which are different to the ones expressed by Bin Laden," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. “We say once again that if the Western siege continues against Hamas ... it will create more tensions in the Palestinian street and in the Arab world,” he added. (AFP)

PA President Abbas told the CNN-Turk television station that failure to find a solution on the PA aid problem could lead to a famine in Palestine. He later told reporters that that failure could lead to a “social explosion.” “I believe that Turkey can play an active role in the Middle East,” Mr. Abbas told CNN-Turk. “We really want your help.” (DPA)

PA President Abbas told CNN-Turk: “The constitution gives me clear and definite authority to remove a Government from power, but I don't want to use this authority. Everyone should know that by law this power is in my hands.” A senior Hamas official in the West Bank said: “We will go, but we will not recognize the Palestinian political regime. We will not participate in any new election and we will go underground as we did before and we will not adhere to any commitments, any truce, by anyone. Being ousted from power will have a heavy price for everyone. We hope not to reach that.” Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said: “We expect from President Abbas to protect his Government and not to make such declarations.” (DPA)

PA Prime Minister Haniyeh told a news conference: “I call on the Palestinian people for calm and to respect the law… The Government intends to restore order, the law and end all acts that give the Palestinians a bad image and which target public sector employees," the Premier added. “President Abu Mazen [PA President Abbas] is respected and has his own positions. Khaled Mashaal is also respected... and has his positions,” he said. “All the different policies should be solved in a political manner and not in the street.” (AFP)

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair told a news conference: “Let me again make it clear I support entirely the mandate of Hamas; they won the election fair and square … But if they need our help to move this process forward - and we are willing, anxious, urgently wanting to do that - I don't know how I approach the Israelis and say, let us enter into a negotiation about two States when one side to the negotiation is saying that we want the other side eliminated. I can't do that. So, it is of course a challenge for Western leadership and the leadership of Israel, but it is also a challenge for the leadership of Hamas.” (AFP)

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Alvaro de Soto, said in a statement to the Security Council, “We are witnessing a potentially dangerous deterioration of the situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…. It is no exaggeration to say the prospects for achieving a two-state solution along the lines envisaged in the Road Map have receded through a combination of factors”. (UN press release SC/8697, UN News Centre, WAFA, AFP, AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “We are sure it is a mistake to refuse help to the Palestinians, just because they elected the government in the course of democratic elections … it is necessary to work with Hamas, not to boycott it.” (A&G News)

The Foreign Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre, told NRK radio that his Government would be prepared to meet Hamas representatives in the future despite pressure from the US. “I would not rule out that it would be natural in the future [to meet] at the governmental level. I believe in dialogue,” he said. (AFP)

PA spokesman Salah al-Bardawi had been invited to Sweden in mid-May. “I don’t think it is possible to change the negative image painted primarily by the United States and Israel of Hamas with a single visit, but I hope this can be a first step. We were given our new role as governing party by means of democratic elections. This is what the rest of the world demanded – and then it is not reasonable to punish the Palestinian people economically and politically,” he said at the Palestinian Lawyers’ Association in Gaza City, in an interview with Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. (BBC)

A spokesman of the Fatah movement denied that Fatah militants had stormed the Health Ministry in Gaza City and clashed with Hamas guards the previous day. (Xinhua)

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview: “It is too early to talk about a Palestinian-Israeli summit in Sharm el-Sheikh to revive the peace process and resume discussions between both parties. Such a summit would require extensive preparatory talks with the Palestinians and the Israelis.” He added, “The success of the talks would require, amongst other things, putting the Palestinian house in order, and an agreement by the Palestinians to speak with one voice.” (AFP)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said in London: “We respect the Palestinians’ democratic choice; we do not intend to punish them.” (WAFA)

PA President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombings attacks in Dahab, in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. PA Spokesman Ghazi Hamad also said, “We condemn this awful crime that targeted innocent tourists and Egyptians citizens in the desert of Sinai … Our Government strongly condemns this criminal act which flouts our religion, shakes Palestinian national security and works against Arab interests.” (DPA, AFP)

PA President Abbas received the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev, and was handed an invitation to participate in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, which will be held on 17 June 2006. (WAFA)

25

Mohamed Sker, a 17-year old, was seriously wounded when he was hit in the head by an IDF rubber bullet near Nablus. (Ha’aretz)

IDF troops arrested West Bank Hamas Government spokesperson Farhat Asaad. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF arrested 18 Palestinians in the cities of Nablus, Bethlehem and Jenin. Israeli bulldozers started shovelling and seizing more land for building new sections of the wall in Kherbat at-Tawani, Hebron. Land owners, farmers, international activists, and the Israeli organization Ta’ayush gathered on the land in an attempt to stop the bulldozers. (WAFA, Ha’aretz)

PA President Abbas said clashes between Hamas and Fatah were of concern, but he would “never let a civil war occur.” (AP)

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy praised Hamas’ condemnation of the attack in Dahab, the Egyptian resort in the Sinai peninsula. “This attack was condemned by Israel, by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and, for the first time, by Hamas. This is a major development of foreign policy”. (The Jerusalem Post, AP)

PA Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek said Hamas will not object to foreign aid via PA President Abbas. (Reuters)

PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said Saudi Arabia had pledged US$90 million in emergency aid to the Palestinian Government. He said Kuwait had also pledged US$7.5 million. (Ha’aretz)

PA Prime Minister Haniyeh, during the fourth session of his cabinet in Gaza and Ramallah via conference video said that funds of the PA Government were already at the League of Arab States in Egypt and his Government was mulling means to bring it in and solve the PA employees’ situation. He urged the EU to rethink its negative stand against the PA and turn a new page in dealing with it. PA Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek said that “the funds have been converted to Euros to lessen the possible American connection”. Some 70,000 Palestinians in communities in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland had urged the EU, the UN, and the Norwegian Foreign Minister to help the Palestinian people. (Palestinian Information Centre, AP)

US Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey is to arrive in Israel on Tuesday to discuss economic measures against, inter alia, the Palestinian Hamas Government. (Ha’aretz)

26

Three Palestinian security officers were injured in exchanges of fire with Palestinians who sought to penetrate Karni crossing with a car bomb. The IDF said shots were heard near the crossing. The gunmen escaped. (Yediot Ahronot, Xinhua)

The IDF stormed Nablus through various entrances and arrested 15 Palestinians, 10 of whom were Najah University students. (Palestinian Information Centre)

A 22-year-old Palestinian from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was killed in the northern West Bank village of Al-Yamun by Israeli soldiers operating in the area. Soldiers surrounded a building triggering an exchange of fire during which Amer Housheh was killed. Two other Palestinians were arrested. (DPA, WAFA)

Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert, in a meeting with senior politicians and army officers, discussed a way of speeding up the construction of the wall and overcoming “legal hold ups”, and instructed security forces to complete the “Jerusalem envelope” section of the wall. (Ha’aretz)

Members of Fatah announced a plan to form a new militia. “The new force would aim to protect Fatah men against the Israeli enemy and against any attempt by any party inside the homeland to target them,” according to Abu Saqer, spokesperson for Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. (Reuters)

PA President Abbas met Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Foreign Minister Jonas Støere and other senior officials in Norway. Norway pledged a US$20 million aid package to Palestinians. The Prime Minister said Norway would be looking for ways to channel the money through the UN or Norwegian non-profit organizations. (AP)

PA President Abbas called for direct negotiations to be held “immediately” at an international conference. “An international conference should be summoned immediately, in which direct negotiations take place, on the basis of international UN resolutions and signed peace agreements. The international group, whether it is the Quartet or any other international framework, would play the role of the broker and arbitrator at the same time,” President Abbas said in a speech at the Nobel Institute in Oslo. He also stated, “The international community needs to move fast. Israel’s unilateral measures through which it strives to impose its vision and expansionist map by building the discrimination separation wall, judaizing Jerusalem, would lead to a practical annexation of more than 59 per cent of the West Bank to Israel … eliminating any chance of establishing a viable independent Palestinian State”. (AFP)

In his message at the opening of the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, convened at Cairo under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was likely that the scale of UN activities throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory would increase, but that all concerned must understand that the PA provided the bulk of the irreplaceable basic services necessary to avert a humanitarian crisis. Angela Kane, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, delivered the message at the Seminar. (UN press release SG/SM/10434-GA/PAL/1005, UN News Centre, MENA, WAFA)

Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger said the EU was too hasty when it decided to suspend aid to the Palestinian Government. “Many EU countries have granted themselves the right to set down conditions for Hamas … It would be wiser to give Hamas a trial period and judge it according to its acts,” Mr. Leunberger said in an interview with Al-Jazeera. (AFP)

The PA Prime Minister’s Office in the Gaza Strip said Japan would complete financing all projects it funded in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Office said Prime Minister Haniyeh had received a letter from the Palestinian Ambassador to Japan, Waleed Seyam, denying earlier reports that Japan had frozen aid to the new Government. (Xinhua)

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed disagreement over the cut aid to the Palestinian Government, saying he will join a new forum with Saudi Arabia and Turkey to find a solution to the Palestinian problem. “Indonesia disagrees if the aid to Palestine is halted,” the Indonesian President said to journalists on board a presidential flight from Jakarta to Jeddah. He also said that “Hamas should be given a chance to solve the Palestinian problem, so don’t add their burden by halting aid”. (AP)

The US would not recognize as Israel’s permanent border the border created after a possible unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, senior administration officials said in unofficial conversations. (Ha’aretz)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) denounced two attacks on Christian volunteers in Hebron and called the Israeli authorities to punish the Israeli settlers responsible. In both cases, the attacks occurred as the volunteers were helping Palestinian children on their way to school, said the WCC. Israeli authorities should stop the “abusive, unlawful and violent behaviour by settlers towards Palestinians and internationals,” the WCC Director for International Affairs said, in a written protest to the Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland. (http://www2,wcc-coe.org, AP)

The International Committee of the Red Cross in a press release urged both Israel and the Palestinians to respect international law and spare and protect civilians. The Red Cross said it was alarmed by the number of civilians killed or injured in recent attacks in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AP)

27

Israeli aircraft fired three missiles at targets in the central Gaza Strip, critically wounding two Palestinians. One later died in hospital. The IDF said the airstrikes had been aimed at a cell en route to carrying out an attack. The two Palestinians were identified as members of the Islamic Jihad. (Al-Jazeera, AP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

In the West Bank, IDF troops arrested between 17 and 27 “wanted” Palestinians overnight, including six members of Fatah and nine from the Islamic Jihad. Two Hamas members were also arrested. In Nablus, troops operating there came under fire a number of times. IDF soldiers found a Kalashnikov rifle during searches conducted in Jenin. (Ha’aretz, WAFA)

IDF troops handed farmers and shepherds warrants ordering them to demolish their tents in the Wadi Al-Rakheem area, near Hebron. Palestinian farmer Moussa Shannar said, “Such an Israeli plan aims at wiping us from our lands to expand the nearby Jewish colonies.” (WAFA)

The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) said it would join a new security force which the Hamas-led Government intended to establish. PRC Spokesperson Abu Abeer said, “We have informed the Interior Ministry of our complete readiness to contribute 500 fighters to the new security force.” The group pledged their allegiance to the Hamas-led Government. (Reuters, Xinhua)

Ahmed Mubarak, a Hamas legislator, was arrested by Israeli troops near Ramallah. Witnesses said soldiers surrounded Mr. Mubarak’s house in the Jalazon refugee camp, pushed him into a vehicle and was taken away. (Xinhua)

PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said, “It is possible to consider peace negotiations with Israel, as long as they lead to actual results and are not held for the sake of negotiation alone.” He added that “we are still holding resistance, but in its wider meaning, including resisting the occupation ….” (Al-Jazeera, Ha’aretz)

PA President Abbas met with Finnish President Tarja Halonen and other officials, including Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. Mr. Abbas said Israel and the Palestinians should return to the negotiation table and hold peace talks immediately. He added that the PA was now in severe financial difficulty and needed urgent financial aid. He called on the EU to continue to supply direct financial aid to the PA. Mr. Abbas is scheduled to proceed for a two-day visit to France. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Xinhua)

PLC member Nabil Sha’ath said that the combined effects of the suspension of US and EU aid to the PA and the Israeli retention of taxes payable to the PA, could lead to “mass starvation.” He was speaking at the UN Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, convened by the General Assembly’s Palestinian Rights Committee in Cairo. Mr. Sha’ath urged an increased UN presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the implementation of donor pledges, a resumption of transfer of funds to the PA and a revitalization of the Rafah Agreement on freedom of movement. The Chairman of the Israeli Institute for Economic and Social Research, Roby Nathanson, recommended a return to the Oslo Agreements, the Geneva Accord and the Road Map as a way to end the current crisis. Gershon Baskin, Director of the Israeli-Palestinian Centre for Research and Information, said, “Israel and the Palestinians did not have the tools or the ability to resolve their conflicts by themselves.” (DPA, WAFA)

International donors met in London to discuss ways to continue humanitarian aid to the Palestinians despite a Hamas-led Government. A British Foreign Office official said, “It’s … talking about donor funding and to make sure the people of Palestine continue to be helped.” The informal meeting was organized by the Canadian Foreign Ministry, which involved senior officials from the EU, the IMF, World Bank, UN, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation and the US. No formal decisions were taken at the meeting, and no formal declaration was issued. (AFP)

Médicins Sans Frontières head Pierre Salignon said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was “explosive” after the suspension of aid by Europe and the US. He noted, after returning from the Gaza Strip, that “social and hygienic conditions” had worsened, especially in hospitals as government funds run low. He said there were 54 clinics and 11 hospitals in the Gaza Strip and that there was “a lack of medicines of primary medical importance, such as bandages, surgical thread, Hepatitis B vaccine.” (DPA)

Indonesia will appoint a special representative to the PA. “The special envoy will establish a staff based in Ramallah or another place,” Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was quoted as saying. Mr. Yudhoyono was on a Middle East tour. The President also said he supported Saudi Arabia’s proposal to create a forum bringing several countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, together to help solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “This forum could be integrated with the Quartet to help the Middle East peace process,” Mr. Yudhoyono said. (AFP)

28

IDF troops arrested 13 “wanted” Palestinians in overnight West Bank operations. (Ha’aretz)

A senior Israeli official said Palestinian militants have smuggled dozens of Katyusha rockets into the Gaza Strip. The official said Israel was prepared to re-enter the Gaza Strip in response to the threat of the rockets, but had no plans to do so in the immediate future. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Middle East Quartet’s Special Envoy James Wolfensohn had decided to step down. “His term is expiring at the end of the month,” an official in his office said. No formal announcement was being planned. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

After a meeting with PA President Abbas in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac called for the creation of a World Bank fund to pay the salaries of PA staff. Mr. Abbas said he favoured the idea, but also noted that Mr. Chirac had to discuss the proposal with other Governments. France would raise the issue with the Quartet during talks scheduled for 9 May at United Nations Headquarters in New York. (AFP, Al-Jazeera, AP, Ha’aretz, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

A batch of medicine and medical equipment, offered by the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, would be sent within two days from Jordan to the Al Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip to enable the hospital to continue providing people with medical and humanitarian assistance, local media reported. (www.mfa.gov.jo, Xinhua)

World Food Programme spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume said the “highly infrequent entry of food” into the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the “halting of funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority” had caused food shortages. “Given that salaries are no longer being paid, the number of people in need of food aid is also increasing,” she said. (AFP)

29

Seven Palestinians, including a five-year-old child and a 13-year-old boy, were wounded by Israeli artillery fire in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources said. An Israeli military source had earlier said the shelling was in retaliation for rocket fire overnight Friday, adding that four rockets coming from the area had exploded in Israeli territory without causing any casualties. In the West Bank, the wife and the mother of a “wanted” local head of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were arrested at an Israeli checkpoint near Nablus. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

IDF troops arrested three “wanted” Palestinians in West Bank operations. Two out of the three were reportedly militants from Jenin and the third was arrested west of Bethlehem. (Ha’aretz)

Settlers from “Maon,” in the southern Hebron Hills, tried to prevent Palestinian children from travelling to and from school. The settlers threw stones and eggs at an IDF jeep accompanying the Palestinian children from school to their village Hirbat Al-Tuwani. No arrests were made. (Ha’aretz)

A Palestinian poll published in Ramallah said fewer Palestinians were willing to vote for Hamas if elections were held today compared to last month. The poll said support for Hamas stood at 38 per cent, while support for Fatah stood at 30 per cent. However, despite the international embargo and pressure on Hamas, 63 per cent of respondents said the time was not appropriate for Hamas to recognize Israel and that it should look for alternative sources of financing from Arab and Islamic countries. The poll, conducted by Birzeit University’s Development Studies Programme, had a 4 per cent margin of error. (DPA)

PA President Abbas sent out invitations for a national dialogue to grapple with the PA’s economic and political crisis. The invitations, which were sent to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his Cabinet, described the conference as “aimed at discussing the current situation, reinforcing the unity and to confront the financial crisis.” (AFP)

PA Cabinet spokesperson Ghazi Hamad said that French President Jacques Chirac’s call to create a World Bank fund to fund the Palestinians showed “the [Palestinian] Government as irrelevant regarding the Palestinian situation, salaries and responsibility over money. We feel that some countries and organizations try to bypass the Government.” (BBC, Xinhua)

30

During its Cabinet meeting, the Israeli Government approved Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz’s recommendations on changing the route of the wall in the area of the “Ariel” settlement, south of Nablus. The Ministers also agreed to transfer the security responsibility for the Jerusalem section of the wall from the IDF to border police. Altering the route in “Ariel” was intended to connect it with the main route of the wall from the direction of the settlements “Beit Aryeh” and “Ofarim,” south of “Ariel”, rather than a straight line westward, as was initially planned. This placed a large area with some 40,000 Palestinian residents outside the wall. Prime Minister-elect Olmert said, “We must go forward as quickly as possible,” in completing the wall. (AFP,Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

In Hebron, IDF troops and Israeli police gave settlers who had recently occupied a Palestinian home 10 days to evacuate the building. (Ha’aretz)

PA Prime Minister Haniyeh welcomed a call by PA President Abbas for internal talks between the various Palestinian factions. Mr. Haniyeh said, “We hope that this dialogue will be productive and that it will come up with concrete results for the Palestinian people. He also said Mr. Abbas “can go in any direction, however, negotiation experience has failed, and renewing it means a new suffering for the Palestinian people.” Mr. Haniyeh also said he expected the funding crisis to be over “very, very soon.” (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, Xinhua)

The Arab League sent an emergency aid payment of US$150,000 to the Hamas-led Palestinian Government, saying that the money was desperately needed for medical care. Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa said the funds were dispatched after Arab countries had been repeatedly approached by the PA Health Minister, who said medical care had seriously deteriorated. (Ha’aretz)

Syrian President Bashar Assad launched a week-long campaign to collect money for the Palestinians, following a visit of PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar 10 days earlier. Mr. Al-Zahhar, on a fundraising tour of Arab States, met Libya President Muamar Al-Ghaddafi. (Ha’aretz)


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