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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
31 August 2003




Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW

August 2003


1

A Palestinian wanted by Israel was shot and wounded in Nablus by Israeli security services when he drew his gun to resist arrest. Security services also arrested eight Palestinians in the West Bank, including Sami Subahi, a senior leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Tulkarm. The IDF said he had been planning to send several suicide bombers in the near future. (Ha’aretz)

According to Israel Radio,a commission of the Israeli Government handling the issue of Palestinian prisoner release decided that prisoners to be freed would have to sign a pledge not to offend again and would have to serve out the rest of their original sentences if caught again. (AFP)

In an interview published in Ma’ariv, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on the subject of the separation barrier: “The continued construction will make the implementation of the next phase of the Road Map very difficult. … The (US) President is concerned by this issue because the fence is a fait accompli which determines the borders of a Palestinian State.” (AFP, Reuters)

Clashes broke out in the northern West Bank between Israeli soldiers and around 1,000 Palestinians, as well as foreign peace activists, protesting against the separation barrier. Israeli troops fired tear gas grenades and rubber-coated bullets on the demonstrators, lightly wounding seven people. Five of the injured were members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the two others were local Palestinians. The IDF intervened when the protestors started cutting the fence and attempted to destroy a gate in the barrier near the village of Deir al-Ghusun, north-east of Tulkarm. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Nearly 600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike, refusing the day’s meals but drinking water, Prisoners Service Commissioner Ya’akov Ganot told Israel Radio.Issa Qaraqa, Director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, said the meal refusal was a one-day warning protest taking place in the Shatta, Eshel, Nafha and Hadarim prisons. Mr. Qaraqa also said the prisoners were protesting general prison conditions, demanding prisoner release, and expressing solidarity with the prisoners at the Shikma prison allegedly suffering from the aggressiveness of the guards. Prisoners at the Shikma prison had rioted the previous day and some twenty of them had been injured by the police ( see also Daily Focus of 31 July 2003). (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Eight Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank in two separate incidents during clashes with Israeli troops, Palestinian hospital sources said. Five of them were wounded in the northern West Bank town of Jaba and three near Bethlehem. (AFP)

The New York Times quoted US officials as saying the US Administration had backed away from demands that the Palestinian Authority dismantle militant groups immediately, concerned that the security forces of the Palestinian Authority (PA) were still too weak to carry out a speedy crackdown. “Both sides now think the ceasefire is a good idea and the early Israeli scepticism has changed,” a senior administration official told the daily, referring to the Israeli and Palestinian positions. He said one advantage of the ceasefire was to give Prime Minister Abbas time to build up and consolidate his security forces for a campaign against militant groups. US officials said in the three-month ceasefire period, the United States would try to spend as much as US$300 million in aid on the Palestinian Authority, channelled through the CIA, to replace jails, communication equipment, vehicles and other infrastructure destroyed by Israeli forces. Officials also said that at the meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon on 29 July, the two sides had named two task forces to create “political space” for Mr. Abbas to build up his popularity and strengthen his command of his forces. The first task force was to deal with the separation barrier, and the second one was on the future of settlements. (The New York Times)

2

A 13-year-old Palestinian boy was killed and four other children were injured when an explosive device detonated near the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. A medical official said a four-year-old boy, among the wounded, was in serious condition. According to witnesses, the blast occurred when the children were playing in an empty area outside the refugee camp. Palestinian police said there was a possibility that the device was an old Israeli mine planted to prevent Palestinian militants from reaching a settlement. (AFP, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), Reuters)

Two Palestinian militants were seriously injured in a mysterious blast in Khan Younis. Palestinian security officials opened an investigation into the explosion. (DPA)

Inside PA President Arafat’s Muqata compound in Ramallah, Palestinian security forces arrested 17 Palestinians on Israel’s wanted list. At least 14 of them were members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, according to a spokesman for the group. The arrest followed an agreement between Palestinian officials to transfer the militants out of the compound, in coordination with Israel and the United States. Israeli Minister without portfolio in the Finance Ministry Meir Sheetrit (Likud) had said that the militants’ presence would not “allow Israel to relieve the siege” on the compound and that they should be sent to a Palestinian-supervised jail in Jericho. “If that will happen, in my opinion, the attitude of Israel towards … Ramallah will change upside down and we will make another step towards the peace process,” Mr. Sheetrit said. PA President Arafat said on 4 August he intended to transfer the militants to Jericho and the Gaza Strip. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

In a statement, the Islamic Jihad threatened on 2 August to break off the truce and resume attacks against Israel. The statement condemned Israel for its suppression of a riot by Palestinian prisoners in the Shikma prison in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on 31 July, and said, “We express our solidarity with our detained brothers and hail their resistance.” (AFP)

The PA Ministry of Agriculture said on 2 August that the Israeli army had confiscated three hectares (7.4 acres) of land outside the “Neve Dekalim” settlement near Khan Younis. “Israeli soldiers put up barbed wire around the land and prevented the owners from cultivating it,” the Ministry said. The Israeli Government had issued building tenders on 31 July offering contractors rights to build 22 new housing units for the settlement (see also Daily Focus of 31 July 2003).(AFP)

3

Palestinian gunmen shot at the car of a 39-year-old settler on a road between Jerusalem and the “Har Gilo” settlement near Bethlehem, seriously wounding her and her nine-year-old daughter. Two other children were treated at the scene for cuts from broken glass. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting. Responding to the ambush, Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said, “For now, we will not transfer any more Palestinian cities until we see that the necessary steps are being taken against the terror and definitely against the group that carried out the shooting.” In response to the attack, the Israeli army on the following day prevented Palestinian workers from Bethlehem from entering Israel. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Israeli police officers patrolling a road between Jerusalem and Ramallah shot dead a 22-year-old Palestinian driver, Suleiman Abu Ghaya, when he rammed into a police van after failing to heed a request to pull over on suspicion he was driving a stolen vehicle. The man later died of his injuries in a hospital. A police spokesman said, “He jumped out of the car, police fired warning shots and then they shot and wounded him.” Police found that the car had not been stolen but they were still investigating why the Palestinian man was driving a vehicle with Israeli licence plates, the spokesman said. It was the third fatal police shooting of an Arab motorist in less than a month. (The Palestine Media Centre, Reuters)

In a meeting in Jerusalem, PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath told his Israeli counterpart Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that further Israeli withdrawals from West Bank towns and other steps to allow Palestinians freedom of movement could make it possible for the Palestinian Government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire with Palestinian factions. Mr. Shaath said he and Mr. Shalom had failed to agree on the idea because of Israel’s demands that the Palestinian factions be dismantled and their leaders be arrested. (AP, Reuters)

Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz told the weekly cabinet meeting the IDF would not have enough funds for an optimum response to any new wave of violence by Palestinian groups. (Ha’aretz)

Israel’s Supreme Court extended the detention of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti for 90 days or until the end of proceedings against him. (The Jerusalem Post)

4

A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers near Tulkarm. According to Israeli military sources, the man was planting an explosive device on a road used by Israeli forces. The forces spotted the man just outside the village of Faron and opened fire, fatally wounding him. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades identified the man as its 26-year-old member, Nihad Qasan. (AFP, AP, The Jerusalem Post, The Palestine Media Centre)

A local branch of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Tulkarm threatened to break out of the ceasefire to avenge the killing of its member, who the Israeli army said had been planting a bomb on a road near Tulkarm. “We in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades announce our withdrawal from the ceasefire,” a statement from the branch said. Asked to clarify the statement, Saleh Nassar, the leader of the branch, said by telephone: “We are still committed to the truce, but every time they carry out an attack we will respond to that particular attack.” The faction’s branches in other parts of the West Bank said they would continue to abide by the ceasefire. (Reuters)

Israel posted on the web site of the Israel Prison Service a list containing the names of 349 of the 443 Palestinian prisoners set to be released on 6 August. The names include 183 inmates convicted of activities ranging from stone throwing to aiding militant groups and 161 “administrative detainees” held without charge on security grounds. The release of the list on the Internet was aimed at giving anyone opposed to a prisoner’s release time to appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court to keep the prisoner in jail. PA Minister of Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan responded by saying, “This is a complete deception, a trick. … What the Israelis are doing will complicate the peace process and frustrate the peace supporters among the Palestinians.” (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Hamas said in a statement that the group was growing impatient with Israeli breaches of the truce and called on Palestinians “to prepare themselves for confronting arrogance of that criminal enemy that denied the right of freedom for the heroic detainees.” (AP, Reuters)

Israel's Shin Bet security agency announced that it had recently arrested two Arab residents of East Jerusalem on the suspicion that they had aided the Hebron branch of Hamas in carrying out two suicide bombings near Jerusalem in May and June 2003. The two were suspected of transporting the suicide bombers and of gathering information about the movement of Prime Minister Sharon and other senior Israeli officials to aid Hamas in assassinating them. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Abbas was scheduled to meet with leaders of Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip later in the day, Palestinian officials said. He would report on his recent talks with US officials in Washington and discuss the future of the ceasefire as well as concerns over Palestinian prisoners and charges of Israeli truce violations. (AP)

Settlers began dismantling the unauthorized outpost of “Tel Haim” near the “Beit El” settlement. The outpost was to be dismantled by the army, but settlers agreed to evacuate it by themselves. Under the agreement, the settlers will be allowed to transfer the four mobile homes from the outpost to the “Jabel Artis” site, where a new neighbourhood of the “Pisgat Ya’akov” settlement is under construction. That neighbourhood already has 20 mobile homes. (Ha’aretz)

Israel's Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas are scheduled to meet on 6 August to discuss prisoner release as well as a permanent ceasefire issues proposed by the Palestinian side. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops shot and wounded two Palestinians in a car as they tried to avoid a checkpoint near Nablus, according to Palestinian security and medical sources. Ahmad Issa, 36, was hit in the back and reported to be in serious condition, while his relative Abdelsalam Issa, 28, was moderately wounded in the head by shrapnel. The men took a dirt road in Salem to avoid a nearby roadblock when they were spotted by troops and shot at. (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Abbas met with senior Fatah activists in the West Bank to urge them to strengthen the ceasefire and rein in rogue cells such as the one responsible for the previous day’s shooting of a settler’s car near Bethlehem. Mr. Abbas heard the activists’ complaints about “Israeli ceasefire violations” and the slow pace of goodwill gestures to Palestinians. He told the activists to be patient and said Palestinians had US guarantees for progress in the peace efforts. (Ha’aretz)

A high-ranking official of Fatah said 19 Palestinians wanted by Israel had been jailed by the Palestinian Authority in Jericho a week earlier. “Nineteen wanted people were transferred last week to Jericho from four places in the West Bank: Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qalqilya and Salfit,” the official stated. He said that six of them had been arrested by the Palestinian security services and transferred to the Jericho jail as part of an agreement signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The 13 others went to Jericho on their own initiative. According to the official, the group of six consisted of two militants from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and four members of the Palestinian security services. “The Palestinians are doing their best, when they sign an agreement, to respect their commitments. Although we consider these people as resistants and not terrorists, they are in jail today,” the official said. The official pointed out that the imprisonment of the 19 militants had come before the arrest of 18 Palestinians on 2 August inside the PA President’s compound in Ramallah. (AFP)

US President Bush said on 4 August that the United States would provide US$26 million for urgent assistance to Palestine refugees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Mr. Bush ordered the State Department to use the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for the contribution to UNRWA. He said the aid was needed to meet “unexpected and urgent refugee needs in the West Bank and Gaza.” (AFP, Reuters)

A senior US official said the United States was considering penalizing Israel for the construction of the separation barrier. The plan would withhold from Israel US loan guarantees in the amount Israel spent on the barrier. “It is something that is being looked at,” the official told AFP, “Real questions have been raised about the fence and we’re discussing how we should express our concerns in a concrete way.” The official said the proposal was still being debated by the White House and the State Department and that no decision on it would likely be made before September 2003. (AFP, AP)

In an interview with the US-funded Arabic-language radio station Radio Sawa,which broadcasts to the Middle East, Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed US concerns about the separation barrier. “A nation is authorized and it is within its rights to put up a fence, as it sees the need for one,” he said. “But in the case of the Israeli fence, we are concerned when the fence crosses over onto the land of others, and if it is constructed in a way which makes it more difficult to move forward on the Road Map, this causes us a problem,” he added. (AFP,www.state.gov)

5

A 13-year-old Palestinian boy, Munir Abu Hin, was killed in Gaza City when an explosive device he had handled went off, Palestinian medical sources said. According to his family, the boy and a group of friends were playing in the wreckage of his house, which had been dynamited by the Israeli army in May 2003 during a raid targeting Yusef Abu Hin, a Hamas member and the family’s relative. Mr. Abu Hin and eleven other people were killed in the operation. The boy’s family charged a land mine had been planted by the army during the raid, but medical sources could not confirm the provenance of the explosive charge. (AFP)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas cancelled a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Prime Minister Sharon scheduled to be held on 6 August. “Abu Mazen (Mr. Abbas) cancelled the meeting because he sees no serious sign from the Israelis about implementing the Road Map,” said an official close to Mr. Abbas. He also said a central issue was Israel’s reluctance to free a significant number of Palestinian prisoners. A source in Mr. Sharon’s office also confirmed the meeting had been cancelled because of Palestinian “displeasure” at Israel’s intentions on the release of prisoners. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas was scheduled to meet in the course of the day with leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said that the talks with Mr. Abbas would focus on “Israel’s violations of the ceasefire,” and said, “We feel they are not committed to implementing the ceasefire conditions.” (AFP)

Israel’s security services arrested 47 foreign and Israeli activists protesting against the construction of the separation barrier through a Palestinian family’s garden in the West Bank. Troops burst into the house of the Amar family in the village of Mashah, near Qalqilya as well as the garden where the protestors had erected a tent. Authorities had declared the area “a closed military zone.” Those arrested included 41 members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and six Israeli activists. The ISM activists arrested were from the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Sweden. Israeli police, late on 5 August, released 34 ISM activists detained for trying to block construction of the West Bank separation barrier. (AFP, AP, BBC, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

In response to recent statements by members of the Knesset that they would visit Al-Haram Al-Sharif, (Temple Mount) on 7 August to commemorate Tisha B’Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples, Israeli police announced that MKs would not be permitted to do so, according to Israel Radio. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

A poll conducted by Birzeit University, near Ramallah, showed that some 60 per cent of Palestinians believed that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas was doing a reasonable job. Twenty-seven per cent believed he was doing a good job, while 34 per cent regarded his performance as “fair.” Twenty-eight per cent said he was “weak.” A survey published in April 2003 by the Jerusalem Media and Information Centre found just 1.8 per cent placed most trust in Mr. Abbas, as opposed to 21 per cent who backed PA President Arafat. The Birzeit poll also showed that 74 per cent of the respondents supported the "hudna" (temporary ceasefire) and 61 per cent would favour its renewal for another three months. The poll surveyed 1,200 Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 75 localities, and had an error margin of 3 per cent. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

A survey conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University found that 69 per cent of Israelis polled were in support of the truce. Ninety percent said Israel was doing its best to make it work while only 59 per cent said the same of Palestinians. The survey also found that support for the separation barrier remained strong among the Israeli public. Eighty per cent of respondents said that they backed the principle “of a fence separating Israel and the Palestinians” and only 15 per cent were against. The approval figure fell to 71 percent when asked if the project should continue in the light of US objections. (AFP)

Israel has extended the closure of the Orient House, PLO headquarters in Jerusalem, for another six months, Israeli Internal Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi said. The decision was taken on the recommendation of the police and the Internal Security Services (Shin Beth), the Minister’s statement said, and was “aimed at preventing the Palestinian Authority from acting to erode Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.” The Palestinians had one week to appeal against the ruling. The order applies also to other Palestinian institutions: the chamber of commerce, an industrial and tourism office, a research centre and a prisoners’ club. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Commenting on a possible withholding of US loan guarantees for Israel because of its routing of the separation barrier, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters in Crawford, Texas: “At this point no decision has been made regarding the loan guarantees and speculations in the media at this point is a little premature. We have expressed our concerns to the Israelis about the fence. We have urged the Israelis to consider the route that the line is taking. The Israelis have stated that they are considering the route of the fence to minimize the impact on the daily life of the Palestinian people. They have said that they will take our views under consideration.” On the same day, State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said that Israel’s continued construction of the security barrier may result in US financial sanctions. Mr. Reeker stressed that no decision had yet been taken on the proposal and acknowledged it was under discussion. Mr. Reeker said the plan would build on provisions in legislation authorizing US$9 billion in US loan guarantees that already allowed Washington to deduct the amount Israel spent on settlements from the assistance package, “but in terms of the specific link to the fence, that is something we’ve been discussing.” Mr. Reeker and Michael Anton, spokesman for the National Security Council, both called any talk about decisions being made “premature.”Ha’aretzalso reported that during a phone call from US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice to Dov Weissglas, the Prime Minister’s Bureau Chief, Mr. Weissglas asked about the loan guarantee deductions and was told it was not on the agenda. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Islamic Jihad held “positive” talks with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas, its spokesman Nafiz Azzam told AFP after the meeting, saying: “He spoke to us about Israeli aggressions and informed us about the results of his talks in Washington and the Arab world, and we agreed with him that the liberation of Palestinian prisoners announced by Israel is insufficient.” (AFP)

6

An IDF column of around 20 jeeps and APCs carried out an incursion into Jericho in the morning, advancing 500 m into downtown Maghtas Street, near a training camp for the Force 17. The soldiers announced by loudspeaker that a curfew was being imposed and proceeded to conduct house-to-house searches, arresting up to 15 men. According to residents, they were members of the Palestinian security and protection force, which is not linked to Force 17. The IDF had no immediate comment on the raid. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher condemned the raid as not helping the peace process. Mr. Maher added that the raid and the construction of the separation barrier in the West Bank, reflected Israel’s negative intentions at a time when the Palestinian side was showing its goodwill. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Israel released 339 Palestinian prisoners (334, according to some sources) in what it said was a goodwill gesture to the PA. Some 182 of those freed had been jailed for taking part in attacks against Israel, while 157 were administrative detainees, incarcerated without trial or being charged under a military order renewable every six months. One of the prisoners released was a woman and all but 27 came from the West Bank. The prisoners had to sign a document promising not to engage in attacks against Israel after their release, and underwent repeated and lengthy security checks. At 2.30 p.m. all of the buses under heavy police guard arrived simultaneously at five checkpoints. One hundred and three persons were freed at the Turkamiya checkpoints, 70 were released at Tulkarm, 70 at Beituniya, 68 near Jenin and the remaining 28 at the Erez crossing in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians expressed disappointment at the small number of prisoners set free and the fact that many of them were due to finish their sentences in the near future. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an aide to Chairman Arafat, said the release was “not enough” and violated all agreements reached with the US and Israel. While the Road Map makes no specific reference to a release of prisoners, it calls on the sides to implement a previous cease-fire plan, which called on Israel to free “all Palestinians arrested in security sweeps who have no association with terrorist activities.” An additional 99 prisoners (50 jailed for criminal offences and 49 for being in Israel without a permit) are scheduled to be set free at a later date. Kach activist Itamar Ben-Gavir was arrested trying to disrupt the release of prisoners at the Beituniya checkpoint near Ramallah. (Arutz 7, AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The Israeli security cabinet convened to discuss the threat posed by “the strengthening of terrorist infrastructure” in the Palestinian territories during the current truce, Israeli Public Radio reported, as well as alleged attempts by Hamas to upgrade its Qassam rocket and the scenarios of a “mega attack” in Israel. On 4 August, a military intelligence official had told the Knesset that Hamas was producing rockets in Nablus, which would enable the group to target central Israel. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

Two Likud MKs were planning, in defiance of a police ban, to demand entrance to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) on 7 August for Tisha B’Av, the traditional Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. MKs Yehiel Hazan and Inbal Gavrieli will try to invoke parliamentary privilege to secure access to the shrine, Yediot Aharonotreported. Several other MKs who had considered visiting the site changed their minds after Internal Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi told them the site would likely be partially reopened again to visitors next week. Israel police chief Insp.-Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky said: “The police will not allow Knesset members or anyone onto the Temple Mount when it is considered that this will undermine security and public order.” In the afternoon, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the petition, submitted every year by the extremist Temple Mount Faithful group demanding permission symbolically to place a foundation stone for a new temple. Israel Radio also quoted Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as saying that MKs should not go to the Temple Mount for religious reasons. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The UNDP programme of assistance to the Palestinian people called for immediate action to address the needs of Palestinian communities affected by Israel’s separation wall, launching an appeal for US$18 million in emergency assistance to address job needs as well as vital social, municipal and agricultural requirements. The proposals aimed at generating over 200,000 employment opportunities, and included land reclamation, agricultural roads and water infrastructure projects. UNDP representative in Jerusalem Timothy Rothermel said, “Immediate action is required to meet the needs of those affected by the construction of this barrier. After consulting numerous community leaders and farmers who lost their land in various municipalities, UNDP has developed a comprehensive emergency action plan.” (UN News Centre)

Commissioner-General of UNRWA Peter Hansen welcomed the US Government’s pledge of contributions up to US$26 million to the Agency’s Sixth Emergency Appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The US contribution, approved by US President Bush, was the largest single donation by any Government to the Agency’s Emergency Appeals since their launch in October 2000. Mr. Hansen said, “I am delighted by this strong vote of confidence in the Agency from the Bush Administration. We have systems in place to aid poor and hungry Palestinian refugees; we can deliver relief aid in a cost-effective and targeted fashion; and we know who are the really needy.” Under-funding of its Emergency Appeals has been a growing concern for the Agency. In the first half of the year, donors had pledged US$41.3 million, barely 43 per cent of the amount needed to preserve vital programmes, and only US$2.5 million of the pledges had been received. (press release No. HQ/G/12/2003)

7

Israeli soldiers arrested eight Palestinians in the West Bank, including three members of Islamic Jihad, Palestinian sources reported. Israel Radio,reported the three were militants on Israel’s “wanted” list. The militants, together with a fourth unidentified man, were apprehended when the army stopped their car at a military roadblock south of Jenin. (DPA, Middle East Online)

Israeli police prevented about 40 Jews, including Likud MKs, from entering the site of Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount). According to a source cited by The Jerusalem Post, the police were presently working on a system whereby Jews could visit in a safe manner. (AFP, Albawaba.com, AP, The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post)

Ma’arivreported that Prime Minister Sharon supported a new proposal to allocate US$95 million to settlements in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. The report also stated that the money would be used to provide free housing to young couples moving to the area for at least four years. The fund would also go to college tuitions and provide grants of US $2,700 to those who found jobs in the area. (The Guardian)

The IDF opened the West Bank road from Yabed to Jenin to Palestinian traffic as part of moves to ease conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (Ha’aretz)

PA Prime Minister Abbas commenced a four-day tour to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. After the Gulf tour, Mr. Abbas was expected to stop in Jordan to meet US Middle East Envoy William Burns and then go on to Tunisia, before returning home. He was expected to discuss the latest developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the need for financial aid to the Palestinians as well as Arab help with the Road Map. The main purpose of Mr. Abbas’ visit to Kuwait is to restore bilateral ties. (Albawaba.com, DPA)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Palestinians must do a better job cracking down on militant groups responsible for carrying out attacks against Israelis. He noted, however, that the “level of terror and violence” had gone down “significantly.” But the ceasefire by three Palestinian groups could end “any day” and might cover for the militants to improve their capabilities or test new weapons, he said. He also noted progress made on the Road Map, citing the withdrawals from the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem, but said, “We need to see a lot more.” Mr. Powell said settlement activity must end and reiterated US concerns about the routing of the separation barrier. (DPA)

In an article in The Washington Post,US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wrote, “With the liberation of Iraq, there is a special opportunity to advance a positive agenda for the Middle East that will strengthen the security of the region and throughout the world. We are already seeing evidence of a new commitment to forging ahead with peace among Israelis and Palestinians … Israeli leaders increasingly understand that it is in Israel’s own interest for Palestinians to govern themselves in a viable state that is peaceful, democratic and committed to fighting terror ... The transformation of the Middle East will not be easy … it will require the broad engagement of America, Europe and all free nations … not a primarily military commitment but … diplomatic, economic and cultural.” She referred to President Bush’s launching of the Middle East Partnership Initiative through concrete projects and the proposal to establish a US-Middle East free trade area. (The Washington Post)

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns, visiting Moscow, met with Russian diplomats to discuss the Road Map. The Russian Foreign Ministry said every effort must be made to solve the problem of the separation wall so it did not stall the Road Map. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

US President Bush signed a six-month executive order authorizing the PLO to maintain its offices in the US. The State Department 2003 budget bill alluded to the PLO’s 1993 commitment to recognize Israel’s right to exist, accept UN Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), peacefully resolve its differences with Israel and renounce terrorism and all other acts of violence. Mr. Bush, in signing the order, noted that whereas not all conditions had been met, it was “in the interests of national security” of the US to suspend the sanctions for another 180-day period. (AFP)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterated US concerns over the separation barrier. He said, “It is when the fence … starts to intrude in a way that makes it more difficult for us to make the case for a viable Palestinian State, or starts to cut off certain towns or villages or in other ways interfere with Palestinian activity in Palestinian towns and villages, then it is appropriate for us to say to our Israeli friends, ‘Look we have a problem here,’ and particularly as we are getting ready for the next stages of this fence construction project.” On the Bush Administration’s consideration of deducting the amount spent by Israel on the barrier from the annual approximately $9 billion loan guarantees, Mr. Powell said a decision had not been made. (The Washington Post)

8

Four Palestinians and an Israeli soldier died in a raid at the Askar refugee camp next to the city of Nablus. An IDF commander said the army had conducted the raid due to intelligence information that two senior Hamas members were planning a terror attack shortly. The Israeli soldiers came under fire from a house and the soldier, Ro’i Oren, was killed. The soldiers dynamited and destroyed the building, apparently leading to the death of Hamas members Khamis Abu Salam and Faiz A-Sadar, whose bodies were later found buried in the rubble. A third Palestinian died of a gunshot to his abdomen, while a fourth died from inhalation of large quantities of tear gas. Hamas spokesman Ismail Abu Shanab said, “Hamas ... cannot be silent about this violation and aggression.” PA President Arafat’s aide Nabil Abu Rudeina described the incident as “a big violation of the truce.” Though the main Palestinian groups called for a ceasefire on 29 June, the Israeli military continued its operations in the West Bank to arrest Palestinian terror suspects. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Guardian)

Israel said it was considering “alternative routes” for the security barrier it was building along the West Bank. A senior Israeli official said the choice among the alternative routes had not yet been made by the Israeli Cabinet. He added that the final route would be determined in such a way as to “minimize hardship of the Palestinians.” Israel might consider not to encircle the large West Bank settlements of “Ariel” and “ Emmanuel”, as planned. Incorporating the 18,000 residents of Ariel would mean building a 19-mile “finger” poking into the centre of the West Bank. (DPA, The Guardian)

Egypt and Israel have agreed to extend the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, an Egyptian border official said. The border would be open from 8.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. Previously, it had been open from 9.00 a.m. until 4.00 p.m., though in July it had agreed to extend the closing time to 7.00 p.m. (AFP)

The UN Human Rights Committee concluded its four-week session during which it adopted concluding observations and recommendations on reports submitted by a number of State parties, including Israel. While it fully acknowledged the threat posed by terrorist activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Committee deplored the partly punitive nature of the demolition of property and homes. Acknowledging the seriousness of the State party’s security concerns that had prompted restrictions on the right to freedom of movement, the Committee stated its concern that the construction of the “Seam Zone,” by means of a fence, had imposed additional and unjustifiably severe restrictions on the Palestinians within the territory. It recommended that Israel respect the right to freedom of movement, and that the construction of the “Seam Zone” within the Occupied Palestinian Territory be stopped. (UN press release HR/CT/640)

IDF troops wounded two Palestinians firing at the “Kadim” settlement in the Jenin area. Soldiers returned fire and hit the two Palestinians, seriously wounding one and the other moderately. (Ha’aretz)

PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan released a statement saying that rebuilding the Palestinian police posts destroyed by Israeli forces would cost US$250 million and take three years. Mr. Dahlan was seeking funds from international donors in order to rebuild destroyed posts and equip officers. The Palestinian police have 150 new patrol cars and work was under way to double the current monthly police budget of US$1 million. About US$25 million was being put into building command and operations centres and US$22 million was being spent on computer equipment. (Ha’aretz)

9

A Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli army gunfire as troops advanced into a northern West Bank village. Bilal Hamamra, 22, was hit in the face by a bullet as troops fired at a group of stone-throwers in Jaba, nine miles from Jenin. Local residents threw stones after around 10 army jeeps pushed into the village and circled a group of houses. According to an Israeli military source, the incident occurred as a Palestinian threw a Molotov cocktail at troops carrying out a routine patrol. (AFP)

IDF forces arrested two “wanted” Palestinians in the village of Batir, in the Bethlehem area. Four Hamas members were also arrested in the West Bank according to an Israel Radioreport. The report said that the men had been planning revenge attacks in response to the deaths of two Hamas members. Three of the men were said to be from Tubas, near Nablus, with the fourth coming from the Jordan Valley. (DPA,www.idf.il)

Around 600 Palestinians held a demonstration against Israel’s construction of the separation barrier around the West Bank. About 50 Israeli peace activists joined in the protest near Taibe, a village in the Jenin area, along with a similar number of foreign peace activists from the International Solidarity Movement. (AFP)

PA President Arafat accused Israel of threatening peace by carrying out a raid against militants at the Askar refugee camp near Nablus, wherein two Hamas militants and an Israeli soldier were killed. He said, “What Israel is doing is killing the entire peace process, not just destroying the truce.” In Gaza, Hamas leaders warned Israel that the group’s armed wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, would carry out an attack to avenge the Palestinian deaths, although they stopped short of calling off the truce. Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said, “We are still committed to the truce but we will react against the Zionist enemy crimes.” (Reuters)

10

Israeli Border Police in the Tulkarm area arrested a Palestinian who was allegedly armed with a sniper rifle. The detained Palestinian, who had also been carrying ammunition clips, was turned over to security forces for questioning. (www.idf.il)

PA Prime Minister Abbas arrived in the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia, on the second leg of his regional tour which focused on regional peace efforts. He had met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz on 8 August and Saudi King Fahd on 9 August. Mr. Abbas cancelled the planned visit to Kuwait after a demand for an official apology from him over the position of the PLO during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. (AFP, DPA)

11

Israeli President Moshe Katsav commuted the sentences of 69 Palestinian prisoners, paving the way for their release from Israeli jails the following day. All the prisoners had been convicted of criminal offences, including illegal residence in Israel, drug dealing, burglary and car theft. In the pardons, Mr. Katsav said the prisoners would have to pledge to refrain from getting involved in terrorism or violent activities and from repeating the crimes for which they had been convicted. (DPA)

PA Prime Minister Abbas accused Israel of jeopardising the Road Map by its repeated assaults on Palestinians despite a ceasefire agreement. He said, “The Israeli army has not stopped its raids on our cities or its killing of Palestinians, which has led to tensions that prove that Israel does not want this ceasefire. The situation on the ground is very dangerous, which threatens the Road Map to peace.” In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agenturin Abu Dhabi, Mr. Abbas warned militant Palestinians not to violate the ceasefire. He added that Security Affairs Minister Dahlan had received clear instructions to disarm and arrest everyone who violated the ceasefire. (DPA, Reuters)

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah left Cairo after two days of talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak which focused on the Road Map and Iraq. (DPA)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher called for a stronger US role in implementing the Road Map. Speaking to reporters in Cairo after his meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns, he charged that Israel was “contravening the Road Map.” He added that the US should “play a stronger role in implementing the Road Map in line with its commitment in this regard.” Mr. Burns expressed US President Bush’s strong determination to insure the implementation of the Road Map. He further expressed US concern over Israel’s building of a separation barrier in the West Bank. (AFP, DPA)

Israel would continue building the separation barrier along the West Bank according to its planned route, despite US comments that this made it hard to develop a contiguous Palestinian State, according to Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. He said, “We don’t see eye-to-eye with the Americans on the route of the fence. The Americans want a different route, but they say that as long as the fence is related to our security and doesn’t harm Palestinian lives, it can continue.” (DPA)

Israeli Internal Security Minister Tsahi HaNegbi announced that visits to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound would resume early next week, even if the Muslim authority in charge of the site did not agree. He said, “If there is agreement [with the Muslim authorities], so much the better. If there is no agreement, the absence of that will not prevent regular visits by groups and individuals to the Temple Mount,” using the often-used Israeli name for the mosque compound. (AFP)

The Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria are scheduled to meet in Cairo to discuss the situation in Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian Territory with the aim of “elaborating a unified Arab position.” (AFP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a report published on 11 August that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was putting the entire Palestinian health system at risk. “Up to 95 per cent of Palestinians were still able to reach a health facility in 2002 … in spite of severe restrictions on the free movement of Palestinians,” according to the survey carried out in cooperation with the Palestinian Health Ministry and Al-Quds University. Although vaccine-preventable and other communicable diseases had been contained since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000, “there would be a risk of a polio outbreak if immunization coverage declined further,” the report said. The report also pointed out that the PA Health Ministry, thanks to humanitarian aid, had so far been able to provide free health insurance to the ever-increasing proportion of Palestinians unable to pay. “However, in the long term, it will be difficult for the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the international community to sustain these emergency measures, which are currently minimizing the impact of limited access to health services on the population’s health,” it said. “In the case of a further deterioration of the economic situation and with the increasing poverty in the occupied Palestinian territories, the functioning of the entire health sector will be put at risk,” the report stated. (AFP)

12

A Palestinian exploded a bomb at a shopping centre in the Israeli town of Rosh Ha’ayin, near Tel Aviv, killing himself and a bystander and wounding nine others, one seriously. The blast occurred at the entrance to a supermarket and set off a large fire in the building. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility, identifying the bomber as a 17-year-old Palestinian from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. Less than an hour after the attack in Rosh Ha’ayin, a Palestinian blew himself up near a bus stop outside the entrance to the “Ariel” settlement in the northern West Bank, killing an 18-year-old Israeli and seriously wounding two others. The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack outside “Ariel,” saying it had avenged the deaths of two Hamas members during an Israeli army raid into Nablus’ Askar refugee camp the previous week. The group identified the bomber as a 21-year-old Palestinian from the refugee camp. Asked whether Hamas was calling off the ceasefire, a political leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Hanieh, said: “No, this is a reaction to the continuous violation [of the truce] by Israel,” and added, “Palestinian factions are still committed to the truce.” (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

In response to the two suicide bombings, Israel sealed Nablus, where the two bombers were from and imposed a curfew on surrounding villages. It also closed all entrances to Qalqilya and Jenin. Israel also called off the planned release of 76 Palestinian prisoners that had already begun. Buses holding the prisoners headed back to the jails. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Talking shortly after the two suicide bombings, Prime Minister Sharon warned that the political process would not continue if Palestinian violence did not stop. He also said Palestinians were unlikely to win what they hope to win if violence did not cease. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said the first stage of the fence to be completed had stopped just short of the site of the Rosh Ha’ayin attack. “Where the fence stops is where the terrorist enters, and that’s what happened today. … As long as the Palestinian Authority cannot prevent suicide bombers from crossing into Israel, we will have to continue building the fence,” he said. Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said the attacks should not mark the end of the truce. “If we say that it is the end of the [truce], then we are passing the reins to the extremist elements within the Palestinians, and it would also constitute a capitulation to the extreme elements within our own ranks that don’t want this direction at all,” he said. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

IDF officers reported seven incidents in which shots were fired from Khan Yunis towards various parts of the “Gush Katif” settlement in the Gaza Strip. Some of those responsible belonged to the Gaza branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said officers in the IDF's Southern Command. No injuries were reported. (Ha’aretz)

The Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued the following statement concerning the two suicide bombings:

Speaking of two recent suicide bombings, White House spokesperson Claire Buchan told reporters in Crawford, Texas: “The Palestinian Authority must act now to dismantle terrorist networks that perpetuate such attacks and to prevent future attacks.” She said Israel had the right to defend itself but added it should bear “in mind the consequences of their actions.” US Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to a group of Arab and Israeli students from the group Seeds of Peace, said, “We will not be stopped by bombs; we will not be stopped by this kind of violence.” Mr. Powell insisted that the Road Map had not been derailed by the bombings. “We cannot let it go off track. … We will continue to move forward on the Road Map; we will continue to do everything we can … to come together and once again say we will go forward,” he said. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

Russia condemned the two suicide bombings in a statement from the Foreign Ministry and urged the two sides to press on with implementing the Road Map. “The situation can be normalized through effective steps by the Palestinian Authority to stop the terror and a restrained Israeli reaction to provocation by extremists who are clearly trying to ruin implementation of the Road Map plan,” the statement said. (DPA)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, condemned the two suicide bombings and called on all sides to get the peace process back on track. “While condemning all such acts, I call upon all the parties to show restraint and abstain from provocation,” he said. “Everybody should exert maximum influence on armed groups to stop all attacks that undermine the fragile peace process. … More than ever, positive signals are necessary to maintain calm and build confidence between the parties to allow for further steps in the implementation of the Quartet Road Map,” he added. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns held talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, including PA Finance Minister Fayyad and the Israeli Defence Ministry’s political adviser, Amos Gilad. Mr. Burns was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Sharon later in the day. Mr. Burns was also to stop in Jordan the following day before returning to Washington for talks with Jordanian officials as well as PA Prime Minister Abbas, according to a spokesman of the US Embassy in Amman. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

A report in Ma’ariv,published before the two suicide bombings, said the Israeli Defence Ministry was considering altering the route for the next section of the separation barrier to clip off less Palestinian land than originally planned. The new plan proposed a fence following the Green Line much more closely, but leaving open the question of including the “Ariel” settlement. “It is possible to find alternatives to the route … taking into account the remarks of the Americans and the clearly expressed desire of the [Israeli] Prime Minister to minimize any possible damage caused to the Palestinians by the construction,” an Israeli official had said in the previous week. (AFP)

Chairman Arafat told the Egyptian daily Al-Ahramon 12 August: “This is not a security barrier, contrary to Israel’s claims, but a political barrier ... to make a future Palestinian state a gross distortion of what it should be… Israel has already seized 58 per cent of the West Bank, what remains for the Palestinians is 42 per cent, divided into cantons in Hebron, Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin, ghettos in Qalqilya and Tulkarem, with a ‘Berlin wall’ around Jerusalem.” Mr. Arafat further added: “Israel has given nothing to the Palestinians, we are wondering what happened to the Road Map two months after its proclamation.” (Palestine Media Centre)

IDF soldiers operating in the Askar refugee camp near Nablus demolished overnight, on 12 August, the house of Khamis Jerwan, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who blew himself up outside a supermarket and pharmacy in the Israeli town of Rosh Ha’Ayin. The demolition left 12 people homeless. The IDF was planning to demolish the Askar house of the second suicide bomber as well. (DPA, IBA,www.idf.il,The New York Times, Reuters)

13

Prime Minister Sharon met with security officials to discuss a response to two suicide bombings. Israeli media reported that Israel would not use military force to respond to the bombings, but would increase pressure on the PA to crack down on the militant organizations. Quoting a “well informed source in Jerusalem,” Ha’aretzstated that Israel would erect more roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and make it harder for Palestinian workers to enter Israel. Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz reportedly will meet soon with PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan to discuss the latest developments. (DPA)

Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians in Ein Al-Bida village, two in Tammun and three in Nablus. (The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Abbas met US envoy William Burns in Amman, Jordan. “The US is committed to the peace in the Middle East and determined to implement the Road Map,” Mr. Burns told reporters after the meeting, adding: “None of us have any illusions. This is a very difficult process. Both sides, Israelis as well as Palestinians, have obligations to meet if we are going to move forward in the interest of both peoples. The United States will do everything it can to help.” PA Information Minister, Nabil Amr, who also took part in the meeting, said the PA was “ready to go ahead with the truce and to encourage Palestinian movements to respect it,” and held Israel responsible for the “current escalation.” In the evening, Mr. Abbas was to arrive in Tunis on his first official visit there. Mr. Abbas was to meet Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on the following morning. (AFP)

Israeli bulldozers, under the protection of border guards, demolished five Palestinian houses, home to some 40 people, in the village of Al-Walaja, on the southern edge of East Jerusalem. Foreign contractors employed by Israel’ s Interior Ministry earlier removed the families’ belongings from the houses. (AFP)

The chief Palestinian envoy to Italy Nemer Hammad told Reuterson 13 August that Pope John Paul would interrupt his summer holiday to see PA Prime Minister Abbas on 26 August. Mr. Hammad said the two would discuss relations between Palestinians and the Holy See as well as the situation in the Middle East. (Reuters)

14

In Nablus’ Askar refugee camp, Israeli forces demolished the family home of a suicide bomber who had blown himself up near the “Ariel” settlement on 12 August, killing an Israeli and seriously wounding two others. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli troops killed a 25-year-old local Islamic Jihad leader, Mohammed Seder, when they raided his house in Hebron. The army alleged that he had been planning to attack Israelis with a car bomb. He was also suspected of having been responsible for the deaths of 19 Israelis, as well as for the deaths of a Turkish and a Swiss national. When troops called on Mr. Seder to give himself up, he fired at them and the two sides traded shots for about six hours. The soldiers then fired an anti-tank missile into the building, setting it ablaze and bringing down walls, according to witnesses. Military bulldozers then demolished the ruins. A political leader of Islamic Jihad, Mohammed Al-Hindi, told AFP, “What happened today in Hebron is a big violation of the ceasefire, but for this moment we in Jihad are committed to the ceasefire. But this does not mean we will not avenge this violation.” Bassam al-Saadi, another leader of the group in the West Bank, promised revenge. “This is a major crime and the Israeli army will pay the price for it in its soldiers and settlers,” he said. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan urged Palestinian militants to stick to the ceasefire despite what he called Israeli attempts to drag them back into a cycle of violence. He accused Israel of continuing raids for wanted militants and other tough security measures to provoke retaliatory violence so it could justify its reluctance to grant a state to Palestinians. “Definitely Israel is pushing the Palestinian groups to retaliate violently, and because we know that, it is important for the factions to remain strongly committed to the ceasefire,” Mr. Dahlan told Reuters, “The factions must not satisfy Israel. They should not give Israel the chance to exploit an attack here and an attack there to justify its departure from the course of implementing its political commitments,” he said. (Reuters)

Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz met with US envoy John Wolf and US Ambassador Dan Kurtzer. Israeli Public Radio had earlier said Mr. Mofaz would tell the US envoy that Israel would take no further steps towards implementing the Road Map until the Palestinian Authority dismantled the infrastructure of militant groups. Mr. Wolf was scheduled to meet with Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan later in the day, according to Palestinian security officials. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

An Israeli military unit demolished a building around Rafah on 14 August, according to Palestinian security officials. The unit, composed of seven armoured vehicles and two bulldozers, had penetrated 150 metres inside the area, with tanks opening fire in the direction of the building, which was then razed by the bulldozers. An Israeli military spokesman said the building had been used by Palestinians as a cover to launch anti-Israeli attacks. (AFP)

On 14 August, the Israeli Government invited tenders to build 72 flats in the “Har Homa” settlement in East Jerusalem. The settlement consisted of some 6,500 flats. (AFP)

15

The IDF said in a statement that they had taken confidence-building steps and humanitarian measures in the Bethlehem area. The steps included allowing entrance of all merchandise into Bethlehem, allowing residents of Bethlehem and nearby villages with permits to enter Israel and opening the city to tourists. (www.idf.il)

Israel freed 73 Palestinian prisoners after a three-day delay caused by two Palestinian suicide bombings on 12 August. Palestinian officials brushed off the release, saying the 73 had been jailed for petty crimes like theft rather than militant activity. (AP, DPA, Reuters)

At a meeting between Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz and PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, Israel agreed to withdraw from Qalqilya, Jericho, Ramallah and Tulkarm. Under the plan, Israel would withdraw from Qalqilya and Jericho in the following week and remove some military roadblocks. The withdrawal from Ramallah and Tulkarm would begin in the last week of the month, provided that there were no shooting and bombing attacks and that the Palestinian security forces would begin dismantling militant groups, said Shirli Eden, an Israeli Defence Ministry spokesperson. (AP)

PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said in Beirut that the right of return for Palestine refugees was guaranteed under the Road Map. “No condition has been set for a return [only] to an independent Palestinian State. The right of return is no longer an illusion. It is an integral part of the Arab peace initiative, which is one of the reference points in the Road Map,” he said, referring to the Saudi initiative adopted by the Arab League summit in March 2002. “I want to be clear: this right includes returning to an independent State and to Palestinian cities in the Jewish State. Whether a person returns to Haifa or to Nablus, their return is guaranteed.” Israeli Government spokesman Avi Pazner said on the following day the Road Map said “absolutely nothing” about the right of return for refugees. “This statement [by Mr. Shaath] is detrimental to its implementation,” Mr. Pazner said. “Israel has no intention, under any circumstance and within any framework, of accepting the return of refugees in Israeli cities, which Nabil Shaath terms Palestinian cities,” he added. (AFP)

PA Minister of State without portfolio Abdul Fattah Hamayel said that the PA had intercepted US$3 million in foreign funding for Islamic Jihad. The money had come from “outside, non-Palestinian” sources, said Mr. Hamayel, who is in charge of negotiating with militant groups. He did not provide further detail. Islamic Jihad officials denied that the money was meant for the group. “This is the first that I hear of it,” said Mohammed Al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad leader in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Hamayel said the Palestinian Authority was making progress in identifying sources of funding, monitoring e-mails and phone calls between people and groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and foreign countries. “We now have a clear picture of the network of communications between these non-Palestinian outside sources and Palestinians inside Palestine,” said Mr. Hamayel. (AP)

16

PA Foreign Minister Shaath said that Prime Minister Abbas would visit Damascus in September 2003, adding that the Palestinian leadership wanted to boost coordination with Syria and Lebanon on the Middle East peace process. “Syria is to welcome Abu Mazen in September and he will meet several Syrian officials, notably President Bashar Al-Assad,” Mr. Shaath told reporters following talks with his Syrian counterpart, Farouk Al-Sharaa. He also said he hoped to see more meetings between Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian officials to “achieve coordination and collaboration between the three sides to help them liberate their lands and make progress towards the just and lasting peace.” (AFP)

The Islamic University and Polytechnic Institute in Hebron were reopened for the first time in eight months. “The Israel Defence Forces informed leaders of the polytechnic and the Islamic college in Hebron that they may reopen their institutions, which have been closed since 15 January 2003, when terrorist activities were accruing in the schools,” a statement from the army said. Around 4,200 students are registered at the Islamic University and another 2,500 students at the Polytechnic Institute. The two institutions had been closed since they were shut by Israel in January 2003 following a series of attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers. At the time, the army said the two establishments had become “centres of agitation by terrorist organizations,” adding that several of the Palestinians involved in the spate of attacks had been studying at the two institutions. (AFP)

17

The Israeli army arrested Azem Nazzel, a 38-year-old Islamic Jihad leader in Qalqilya, in a bloodless morning raid in the city. (AFP, Reuters)

A 17-year-old female settler was shot by Palestinians while driving on a road close to the “Yitzhar” settlement near Nablus. The girl was in serious condition but her life was not in danger, medical sources said. A statement from the Jenin and Nablus branch of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said the group was behind the shooting. “We will continue our attacks against the Israeli army and the settlers until they have left our land,” said the statement faxed to AFP. (AFP, AP, DPA)

The Associated Pressreported that the Israeli army had set up two military outposts in Hebron 10 days before, flying Israeli flags for the first time in six years. The army set up two watchtowers in Palestinian neighbourhoods that overlook Jewish enclaves in the Israeli-controlled downtown sector. Palestinian militants in the hilltop neighbourhoods had often used their strategic position to fire down on the settlements below. (AFP, AP)

US Senator John McCain, who was leading a six-member congressional delegation to Israel, said the US Government would come to agreement with Israel over the building of the separation barrier. “There will be an agreement between the [Israeli and US] Governments about the fence,” he said after talks with Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. “The Oslo agreement meant to bring ways that Palestinians and Israelis can live together in peace. … Now it’s obvious that we need to find a way that they will live apart, at least for a certain amount of time.” (AFP, AP)

In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio,PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said Palestinians were seeking a pragmatic solution to the refugee question and did not want to erase the Jewish character of the State of Israel. The remarks came after Foreign Minister Sha’ath told Palestine refugees in Lebanon that their right of return to homes in Israel was guaranteed. Mr. Amr said a solution to the refugee problem would be reached in partnership with Israel. “We are ready to negotiate and we are ready to discuss all the practical solutions for this important issue,” he said. “When Israel will participate in the negotiations from the beginning and will participate in the mechanism and the solution, I think this is a guarantee for all the Israeli people that there is no dramatic solution and there’s a pragmatic solution,” he added. Mr. Amr did not say what kind of solution would be acceptable to the Palestinians, but said it was possible the Palestinian Authority would hold a referendum among Palestinians in diaspora when the time came. (AP, DPA)

PA Minister of Transportation Saedi Al-Krounz said the Palestinian national airline Al-Falastiniya would resume its flights on 21 August for the first time in almost three years. He said the airline would temporarily use the Egyptian airport of Al-Arish in the Sinai until the Palestinian Authority was able to operate Gaza International Airport. It would fly three times a week from Al-Arish to Amman and Cairo. Within the next three months, three Palestinian Fokker-50 planes would also fly from Al-Arish to Turkey, Cyprus and some Arab countries. “We decided to use the Egyptian airport as a temporary alternative to Gaza Airport until we reach an agreement with the Israeli side to reopen it,” said Mr. Al-Krounz. He said the PA had begun renovating the Gaza airport two months before with the help of Arab and other foreign experts and engineers, following an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. But a date on which the Palestinians would be allowed to reopen the airport had yet to be set. The Israeli army had destroyed the runway and many buildings during the past three years of the intifada. (DPA)

Senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials met for discussions on an Israeli handover of the towns of Qalqilya, Jericho, Ramallah and Tulkarm to Palestinian control. Palestinian officials said the talks had ended without an accord. “The meeting failed to reach a timetable of Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities,” said Elias Zananiri, a spokesman for PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan. Mr. Zananiri said the main sticking point was Israel’s refusal to dismantle the checkpoints surrounding Qalqilya, Jericho, Tulkarm and Ramallah. “We are not interested in cosmetic pull-outs,” he said. Israeli officials gave a different account, saying the dispute had arisen over the fate of the militants on Israel’s wanted list whom Israel had wanted kept under close surveillance by Palestinian security forces, Israel Radioreported. (AFP, Reuters)

18

PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan, speaking to reporters at a meeting of the PLC, said the issue of the militants was “about to be resolved” in the coming days. He did not provide details but said the agreement would guarantee the militants’ safety: “It is the duty of the Palestinian Authority to protect our brothers who carried out resistance operations during the uprising.” Israel had agreed to a two-phase withdrawal plan under which it would withdraw from Jericho and Qalqilya in the course of the week and hand over Ramallah and Tulkarm in the following week. Defence Minister Mofaz told a cabinet meeting on 17 August that transfer of security control in Ramallah and Tulkarm would be “conditional on a resolution of the problem of fugitives in each city.” General Ribhi Arafat, head of the Palestinian team at the talks, told AFPthat a new meeting would be held on 19 August “to complete the negotiations and to hear an answer from the Israeli side and to have a new idea of removing the checkpoints.” He said Israel had made “unacceptable” proposals to man 24-hour checkpoints on the edge of the towns. Mr. Dahlan also protested the Israeli plan, saying, “We want the withdrawals to be accompanied by the removal of roadblocks, allowing the people to move freely between cities and villages.” (AFP)

Five Palestinians from East Jerusalem were arrested on suspicion of trying to re-establish Palestinian security forces in the city, Israeli police said in a statement. The men, who were arrested during an overnight operation in the village of Silwan, south-east of the Old City, were thought to have spent the past few weeks undergoing military training in Jericho, according to the statement. Three of those arrested were members of Chairman Arafat’s Force 17 presidential guards and were being paid through Muqata, Chairman Arafat’s compound, according to the statement. Police suspect the men underwent training with the aim of re-establishing an arm of the Palestinian preventative security forces in Jerusalem. The preventative security forces operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but are not permitted by Israel to operate in East Jerusalem. There are members of the forces who live in East Jerusalem and Israel frequently accuses them of operating illegally in the city. Such a group was broken up several years ago. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Approval for the next stage of the construction of Israel’s separation barrier was being delayed due to a dispute between Prime Minister Sharon and Defence Minister Mofaz, Ha’aretz reported. The disagreement between the two concerns the fence’s location near the “Ariel” settlement. Assenting to US requests, Mr. Sharon had asked security officials to come up with alternative locations for the fence that would protrude less into the Palestinian areas. Mr. Mofaz, however, has not revised his insistence on erecting a fence east of the “Ariel,” “Kedumim” and “Immanuel” settlements. A meeting devoted to plans for the separation barrier is scheduled to be held in the Prime Minister’s Office during the week. Mr. Sharon, Mr. Mofaz and other security officials are expected to take part in the meeting. (Ha’aretz)

PA Minister of Culture Ziad Abu Amr said Prime Minister Abbas was scheduled to begin two-day talks with Palestinian factions in Gaza City on 19 August. “We will hold several sessions with the factions to assess the truce so far,” said Mr. Abu Amr, who also heads the team in charge of liaison between the factions and the Cabinet. (AFP)

Two Palestinians militants were arrested by Israeli troops in the Hebron area. One Palestinian was shot and wounded as he attempted to flee the soldiers. The pair belonged to an unspecified militant group and were in possession of four assault rifles and two revolvers, according to sources. (AFP)

19

A suspected suicide bombing ripped apart a bus in the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood of central Jerusalem near the traditional dividing line between West and East Jerusalem, killing at least 21, with about 74 wounded. PA Prime Minister Abbas condemned the attack and urged Palestinians to dismantle terrorist organizations. Al-Manar TVand several news agencies reportedly received phone calls claiming to be from Islamic Jihad and taking responsibility for the attack. Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi said his organization was not involved and that it was committed to the truce. Israel later said it was freezing planned talks intended to break a deadlock holding up the transfer of four West Bank cities to Palestinian control. (BBC, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Office of the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General issued the following press release on the recent bombing in Jerusalem:


Israel said it would press on with construction of the separation barrier through the West Bank, confiscating Palestinian property near Jerusalem. Defence Minister Mofaz said the project had already prevented attacks and would go ahead full speed. Near Jerusalem, Israel had started expropriating the land of Palestinians for a barrier that would cut them off from Jerusalem and the West Bank hinterland. Dozens of families in the four towns - Abu Dis, Izzariyeh, Sur Baher and Al-Sawahreh Al-Sharkiya - had already been separated from East Jerusalem by a concrete wall. Palestinians in the four towns had received confiscation notices late last week. Once the barrier was completed, tens of thousands of Palestinians in the area would be able to use just one road – manned by Israeli soldiers – to get in and out of the fenced-in area. (AP, Ha’aretz)

President Bush said the US and Israel were not backing away from their push to dismantle Hamas and other groups. He said, “I think that the Palestinian Authority needs to continue to work with the United States and others who are interested in dismantling terrorist organizations and ask for the help necessary so they can go and do what they need to do, which is dismantle and destroy organizations which are interested in killing innocent lives in order to prevent a peace process from going forward.” (Reuters)

In a new report the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said thousands of Palestinian residents of Hebron’s old quarter, also known as H-2, where three heavily guarded settlements are located, had moved out since September 2000. Violence by settlers towards Palestinians, combined with the failure of Israeli soldiers and police to prevent the attacks and prosecute the assailants, had made the lives of the city’s Palestinian residents intolerable, the report said. Around 150,000 lived in the city, including 35,000 in the old quarter where around 500 militant Jewish settlers also reside. B’Tselem did not have an exact figure for the number of residents who had left, but, estimated that 43 per cent of Palestinian residents had moved out of H-2, based on a canvas it had conducted in the streets of the old quarter. In addition, at least 2,000 businesses had closed and three schools, which served 1,835 students, had been taken over by the IDF and had closed. The Israeli army said it had been forced to take certain steps, such as imposing curfews, due to “terror attacks” by Palestinian residents in Hebron. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. (S/PV.4810)

In a statement faxed to AFP,Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed more than 20 people. A short time earlier, Islamic Jihad had also said it was responsible for the blast. Hamas identified the bomber as Raed Abdel Hamid Mesk, a 25-year-old teacher from Hebron, and said the attack was in revenge for the killing of two Hamas leaders in Nablus in early August and the killing in the previous week of an Islamic Jihad leader in Hebron. An Israeli military source said Israeli troops had arrested “a number of terrorists” in a sweep in Hebron. Israel Radio reported the IDF had arrested 17 people in Hebron, including members of the bomber’s family. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

20

Prime Minister Sharon held a meeting with Defence Minister Mofaz Shaul and other security chiefs to discuss Israel’s response to the previous day’s suicide bombing in Jerusalem. At the meeting, it was decided that Israel would hold off on a military response and give the diplomatic process a chance. It was also decided not to expel PA President Arafat from his compound in Ramallah, according to officials who attended the meeting. Israel froze all contacts with the Palestinian Authority and cancelled the planned handover of Qalqilya and Jericho to Palestinian control, which had been expected later in the week. The IDF imposed a “general closure” on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as well as a blockade of Palestinian towns. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

PA Prime Minister Abbas ordered security services to arrest militants responsible for the Jerusalem suicide bombing. Mr. Abbas also cut off contact with leaders of militant groups and re-imposed a military clampdown on the West Bank. “It was decided … that the Palestinian Authority would stop all forms of dialogue with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad [for the time being]. It holds them responsible for harming the higher national interest of the Palestinian people,” a senior security official told Reuters,PA Information Minister Nabil Amr told reporters: “There are clear instructions [given] to security forces to follow these people, find them, put them under arrest. We have to use our authority to contain this tough situation and to stop the negative developments.” Mr. Amr also said Mr. Abbas would convene the Cabinet later in the day to decide on security measures against those responsible for the bombing. Mr. Abbas cancelled his planned visit to Europe. He had been scheduled to meet on 25 August with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, whose country currently holds the Presidency of the EU. Mr. Abbas had also been scheduled to meet with Pope John Paul II the following day and then travel to Oslo for the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Oslo Accords. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Dozens of Palestinian prisoners rioted in the northern Israeli jail of Megiddo. According to Israeli military sources, a military police force fired large amounts of tear gas and water cannons at the rioters, who were protesting a planned transfer to the Ketziot prison, in the southern Israeli Negev desert. At least two prisoners were injured. Ketziot has a reputation among Palestinian prisoners for poorer conditions than Megiddo. Some 1,161 Palestinians are jailed in Megiddo for their alleged involvement in armed attacks against Israelis. (DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Jerusalem police reopened Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) to non-Muslim visitors, as ordered by Israeli Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi. Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy refused to confirm whether a deal had been reached with the Waqf and said that the decision had been taken before the Jerusalem suicide bombing on the previous day. The rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz said that the police had reached an understanding with the Waqf Islamic religious trust, which oversaw the site, before the opening. But the Waqf director and Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, Mufti of Jerusalem, denied that the move had been coordinated with them. Police authorized almost everyone who wished to enter the site to do so but banned journalists and photographers. Over 150 Jewish worshippers visited the site in the morning. (Al-Bawaba, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The Israeli security Cabinet met in the evening and, according to a statement Prime Minister’s Office “thoroughly discussed all the relevant issues, and made several decisions” in response to the Jerusalem suicide bombing the day before, such as resuming the practice of “targeted" extrajudicial killings. (AP,www.pmo.gov.il)

21

Israeli helicopter gunships launched a rocket attack at a car in Gaza City, killing prominent Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab and two of his bodyguards. Fifteen bystanders were hurt. Mr. Abu Shanab, who had a degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado, was widely regarded as a moderate in Hamas and served as a liaison with Prime Minister Abbas. He was the third member of Hamas’ political wing to be killed by Israel in the past two years. The Israeli military confirmed the killing and said he was involved in the planning of attacks, along with other Hamas leaders. “There’s no question that there is a direct link between the heads of Hamas and the terrorists on the ground,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir. Hamas threatened revenge and formally declared that the ceasefire was over, while Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, its armed wing, said it had ordered its fighters to avenge the assassination. “The assassination of Abu Shanab ... means that the Zionist enemy has assassinated the truce and the Hamas movement holds the Zionist enemy fully responsible for the consequences of its crime,” Ismail al-Haniyah, a Hamas senior official, told reporters in Gaza. Prime Minister Abbas called the attack an “ugly crime” and warned that the assassination of Mr. Abu Shanab would make it harder to crack down on militant groups, and a Palestinian official said the campaign was now on hold. “This for sure will affect the whole process and the decision taken [the night before] by the Palestinian Authority,” Mr. Abbas said. “We hope that the Palestinian Authority ... learns the lesson that the Zionist enemy wants to use it to realize its aims in oppressing the Palestinian people,” Hamas official Osama Hamdan told Reuters, “We consider that it is up to the Authority government to stop its threats to the resistance and return to the Palestinian people in the framework of a national dialogue based on protecting them … Actions against the resistance during this period will put the Palestinian Authority in a position of confrontation with the Palestinian people.” (AFP, AP, Reuters, XINHUA)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General in New York:


Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Abbas met with a US Envoy John Wolf to discuss the next moves. Mr. Wolf was also meeting separately with Israeli and Palestinian security officials. (AFP, AP)

Israeli troops moved into Tulkarm and Jenin, prompting exchanges of fire that left two Palestinian brothers, Islam Ghanem, 16, and Said Ghanem, 15, dead and at least three others injured. The IDF was also operating in Nablus, where its forces sealed off the casbah with armoured vehicles and barbed wire and ordered residents out of homes to search buildings. Soldiers also took over several buildings as outposts, suggesting a longer stay. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli bulldozers began destroying a market in the Palestinian village of Nazlat Issa, north of Tulkarm, where Israel was planning to build a section of the West Bank security barrier, Israel Radio reported. Dozens of villagers protested the demolition of the some 22 market structures, which include storerooms. Israeli security forces threw stun grenades to disperse the protesters, two of whom were taken into custody. (DPA, IBA; see also 23 January 2003)

An IDF statement announced that IDF forces had demolished the Hebron house of Raed Abdelhamid Misq, a Hamas member who had carried out the suicide bombing in Jerusalem on 19 August 2003, which killed 20 Israelis and wounded over 130 others. In the village of Al-Yamun, west of Jenin, IDF forces had demolished the house of Ahmad Abahra, an Islamic Jihad member, who had carried out the suicide bombing in a mini-market near the Israeli city of Beit Shean in the northern Jordan valley on 19 June 2003, killing one Israeli. In the village of Kharas, north-west of Hebron, IDF forces demolished the house of Ali Abu Basma, an Islamic Jihad member, who carried out the shooting attack in the Israeli town of Aviezer on 19 March 2002, injuring two Israeli Border Police volunteers before being killed himself. In the village of Kafr Ra’i, 15 km south-west of Jenin, IDF forces demolished the house of Ahmad Yahia, an Islamic Jihad member, who carried out the suicide bombing in the Israeli village of Yaabatzon on 7 July 2003, killing one Israeli. (AFP, www.idf.il)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to reporters after meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said: “[I] call on Chairman Arafat to work with Prime Minister Abbas and to make available to ... [Mr.] Abbas those security elements that are under his control so that they can allow progress to be made on the Road Map – end terror, end this violence. At the end of the Road Map is a cliff that both sides will fall off.” Powell appealed for all countries, including Arab nations, “to step up now and insist that the terror perpetrated by organizations such as Hamas must come to an end” and he denied that the Road Map had come to an end. “The alternative is what? Just more death and destruction, let the terrorists win, let those who have no interest in a Palestinian state win, let those who have no interest but killing innocent people win? No. That is not an acceptable outcome,” he said. “Both parties realize it and I think both sides should recommit themselves to finding a way forward.” (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, meeting with members of his Cabinet, decided against expelling PA President Arafat or retaking Gaza and Bethlehem. The Government instead opted to make a series of "precision strikes against terrorist targets” and then wait to see what PA Prime Minister Abbas would do before undertaking broader actions. An Israeli security source said all Hamas leaders were now considered fair targets and new strikes would be launched if there was no sign of the PA taking steps against Hamas and Islamic Jihad networks. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Israeli forces moved into the town of Qabatiya, five kilometres south of Jenin, and arrested three Palestinians belonging to Islamic Jihad. A convoy of military tanks and jeeps pushed into the town and surrounded a local coffee shop in which all three, who were also university students, were sitting. The Israeli army confirmed that the three had been detained by a unit of the border police. Heavy shooting broke out in Jenin between Israeli troops and Palestinians after the convoy moved in. (AFP)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced an end to the three-month ceasefire, declared on 29 June, in the wake of the air strikes in Gaza that had killed three Hamas members, including Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab. PA Minister of Culture, Ziad Abu Amr, who had been liaising with militant groups about the ceasefire, said: “The official position is that the truce is over and Israel is responsible for that, not only because of this assassination in Gaza, but also because of many actions which had been continuing before.” (AFP)

In an open letter to US President Bush, the EU, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and UN Security Council members, Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the PLO Political Department, said resistance to the Israeli Government was the “only option” left open to the Palestinian people. He called on the international community to send a force to the Occupied Palestinian Territory immediately “to end the bloodbath and preserve security and stability.” He added that the Palestinian people had accepted a truce but Israel had not responded, and had “continued to kill, assassinate, imprison, destroy houses and tighten its siege.” (AFP)

League of Arab States spokesperson Hisham Yussef blamed Israel for the renewed cycle of violence after the assassination of Mr. Abu Shanab. He said, “ Israel bears the responsibility of renewing the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence.” (AFP)

22

Israeli forces shot and killed three Palestinian militants when they opened fire at a hospital in Nablus. Witnesses said the three Palestinians were “sheltering” in a small rooftop room of Rafidya hospital when soldiers shot at the room. They added that Israeli soldiers had surrounded the hospital. Palestinian sources identified the three Palestinians as members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. (Albawaba.com, Reuters)

At least 100,000 Palestinians attended the funeral of Ismail Abu Shanab. Speaking at the funeral, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said if the Israelis killed him and other top militants, a secret leadership was ready to take over. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Guardian)

Hamas reportedly dispatched squads of young militants in the Gaza Strip to launch home-made rockets into Israel. Six crude projectiles were fired, damaging two houses but causing no injuries. More than a dozen mortars were also launched at Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, damaging another house. (AFP, AP, The Guardian)

Israeli soldiers set up road blocks along Gaza’s main north-south highway, effectively cutting the strip into three parts. Hundreds of motorists were stranded on the road, which had been briefly reopened by Israel. (AP)

Egypt sent Mr. Osama el-Baz, adviser to President Mubarak, who met with PA President Arafat and Prime Minister Abbas in an effort to try to salvage the ceasefire. Mr. el-Baz warned that a “catastrophic escalation” could bring chaos to the Middle East. He also met with high ranking Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Mr. el-Baz was quoted on Israel Radioas saying that PA leaders had requested more time from Israel to pressure Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stop attacks. He declined to elaborate on the proposals discussed. (AP, DPA, Reuters)

A poll conducted by the Dahaf Institute found that only 35 per cent of Israelis thought peace talks with Prime Minister Abbas should continue following the suicide bombing on 19 August. The survey of 501 adults was published in the Yediot Ahronotand had a margin of error of 4.5 per cent. (AP)

Eleven Israeli and 11 Palestinian children, as well as Japanese children, got together in Tokyo for a week-long programme of soccer matches, camping, concerts and stays with Japanese families. The purpose of the programme was to promote Middle East peace at the grass-roots level. The effort was the brainchild of Daitetsu Koike, a Buddhist monk and president of Takasaki University of Art and Music, north of Tokyo. Inspired by the universal nature of soccer, he decided to bring the children over from their homelands. The programme was paid for by donations from Japanese individuals. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Twenty Palestinians wanted by Israel, who had been sheltering in Chairman Arafat’s Muqata compound in Ramallah, left the compound for fear of a raid by the IDF, according to a Palestinian security source. (AFP)

US President Bush announced in a statement that he was widening the US campaign against Hamas, including some leaders and supporters based outside the United States. The President said the action against the six officials and five non-governmental organizations was in retaliation for a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on 19 August. US National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said the six targeted leaders were Hamas fund-raisers based in Europe. The five organizations are the Committee for Welfare and Relief for Palestine in France, the Palestinian Relief Association in Switzerland, the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund in Britain and the Palestinian Association in Austria. “By claiming responsibility for the despicable act of terror on 19 August, Hamas has reaffirmed that it is a terrorist organization committed to violence against Israelis and to undermining progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinian people,” Mr. Bush said. “I will continue to work with leaders in the neighbourhood to encourage them to cut off the money and the aid and the help that goes to these terrorist organizations.” (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he would visit the Middle East in September 2003 to “touch base” with officials in several Arab nations on the situation in the Middle East. He also said it was possible for a more senior US official to visit the region in the coming weeks. (AFP)

23

At least 20 Palestinians were injured, some of them seriously, during clashes between Israeli troops and dozens of Palestinian teens in Nablus, Palestinian medical sources reported. Dozens of young men took to the streets and threw stones and empty bottles at Israeli tanks, jeeps and armoured vehicles. The clashes erupted after the Israeli army lifted a curfew imposed on the town for several days. Witnesses said that the Israeli soldiers had fired live ammunition at the Palestinian youths. Israel Radio reported that the Israeli soldiers had used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd. (AFP, DPA)

A 20-year-old Palestinian, Mohamed Abu Shanab, was seriously injured in the head in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip when he was hit by the shrapnel of an Israeli army tank shell fired at the camp. Residents said that the Israeli soldiers stationed at the “Neveh Dekalim” settlement, west of the camp, had fired several tank shells. (DPA)

Palestinian security forces began shutting down tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Rafah in the Gaza Strip. The move followed US demands, after a Jerusalem suicide bombing on 19 August, that militant groups be reined in. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

24

Israeli helicopter gunships fired three missiles at a car in Gaza City, killing two members of Hamas’s military wing and two members of Force 17, and wounding more than a dozen bystanders. Some of the victims were decapitated by the assault, which took place some 90 metres from the office of PA Minister for Security Affairs Dahlan. Israeli security officials said one of the dead, Ahmed Aishtawi, was a top operative who had planned and executed attacks in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Hamas spokesman Ismail Haniya said, “If the Israelis thought assassinations would destroy our determination to continue in our resistance, to continue defending ourselves, they are mistaken. … We will move ahead whatever the sacrifice.” (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Israeli troops destroyed a house in Nablus suspected of being used by Palestinian militants making bombs and rockets, military sources said. “ Eighty kilogrammes (176 pounds) of military explosives were found in the house in the Old City of Nablus and were destroyed,” an army spokesman said. Also found in the building were two makeshift rockets of the type often fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip into Israel, according to the sources. (AFP)

The head of Palestinian public security for the Gaza Strip ordered his forces to prevent hostile acts towards Israel. “General [Abdelrazak] al-Majaida ordered his services to uphold security throughout the Gaza Strip and to prevent any public order violation, in order to preserve Palestinian national interest,” security services said in a statement. A Palestinian security official told AFP that Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip would “no longer tolerate the firing of Qassam rockets, mortar shells or automatic weapons against Israeli targets.” (AFP, Reuters)

Palestinian security officials said nine suspected weapons dealers were arrested during an operation that had also closed down five smuggling tunnels in Rafah. (AFP)

A Qassam 2 rocket fell on the outskirts of the Israeli port city of Ashkelon, some 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the Gaza Strip, but caused no casualties or damage. The rocket landed on Zikim beach, about four kilometres (2.5 miles) short of the city. “It’s the first time that rockets of this type have penetrated Israeli territory so far,” a military source said. “ The rocket exploded 10 metres (33 feet) from a lifeguard watchtower on a very busy beach,” the source added. (AFP, Reuters)

IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon declared that every member of Hamas was now “a potential target for liquidation.” (AP)

A senior Fatah source said the Fatah Central Committee was considering seeking the nomination of Brigadier-General Nasser Yusuf, former chief of Palestinian public security, to the post of Interior Minister, currently held by Prime Minister Abbas. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Key US lawmakers called for outside military forces to help secure peace in the region. “If we’re serious about having a situation of stability, a very direct action, I think, is going to be required,” Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana told CNN, Senator Lugar, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States should consider the possibility that US and other nations’ troops would be needed to provide stability for Israelis and Palestinians in the wake of deadly violence. “We ought to involve our NATO allies. We ought to involve others in the Middle East. In other words, we need to think through this carefully. But still, the terrorists have to be rooted out because they will ruin any possibility for peace in that area,” he said. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said, “I hope we’re not there, but we may well be. The Palestinians have wanted a United Nations or an American observer force.” She added, “It’s clear to me you can’t have just a straight observer force. But you have to have some military entity that is going to be able to control the terror. Otherwise, the situation is going to dissolve into nothingness.” Representative Howard Ford of Tennessee, who had recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, told the “Fox News Sunday” programme: “If America is as committed as I believe we are, and as dedicated as our actions suggest at times … then we’re going to have to support the Palestinians, and support particularly Prime Minister Abbas in more meaningful and bigger ways than we have up to this point.” (AFP, AP)

25

The military wing of Hamas, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, vowed to avenge the deaths of its two activists killed the day before in the Israeli helicopter strike in Gaza City. In a leaflet, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam said it had ordered its activists to carry out rocket attacks and suicide bombings against Israelis. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops pulled out of Nablus, but later imposed a curfew in a number of neighbouring villages. The troops had entered Nablus in the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on 19 August. (AFP)

Palestinian security sources and witnesses reported that some 100 olive trees had been cut down by the Israeli army around Busen village, south of Nablus. An Israeli woman had recently been injured in a shooting near the site. However, Israeli sources said that troops had only cut the leaves and shrubbery, which they said had been used as cover by militants. (AFP)

PA President Arafat appointed Jibril Rajoub, a former head of preventive security in the West Bank, to the vacant PLO post of national security adviser. “The National Security Council will be in charge of restructuring the security organization and in charge of putting out general plans and overseeing and coordinating the relationship with the Quartet,” Mr. Rajub told AFP. As the post is a position within the PLO, it is not a PA appointment. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

The Israeli army dismantled for the second time a settlement outpost near Hebron. Soldiers tore down a building on the site, which had been named “Heroes’ Hill,” near the scene of an Islamic Jihad ambush in which nine soldiers and three settlers had been killed. Five young settlers who opposed the dismantling of the building were arrested by Israeli border guards. In response, people from the “Yitzhar” settlement near Nablus rebuilt an outpost that had been destroyed several months before. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

US National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said of the Road Map: “ [President Bush] remains committed to the course that he laid out … because it is the only course that will bring durable peace and security.” “[Israeli leaders] increasingly understand that it is in Israel’s interest for Palestinians to govern themselves in a state that is viable and peaceful and democratic and committed to fighting terror.” “Israel has to fulfil its responsibilities to help that peaceful change take place,” she added. (Reuters)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov was scheduled to leave for the Middle East in a bid to apply diplomatic pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to curb the recent escalation of violence in the region, ITAR-TASS reported. The report said Mr. Fedotov would meet both Israeli and Palestinian officials and gave no further details. (AFP)

Pressed by the United States, EU Governments have resumed discussions on whether to put the political wing of Hamas on a blacklist of international terrorist organizations, according to EU diplomats. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, whose country holds the current EU Presidency, said EU foreign ministers would discuss “the problem of Hamas” at their meeting in Italy on 5 and 6 September 2003, but diplomats said no quick decision was expected, with Governments still divided over the US demands. Britain and the Netherlands favour the EU ban, which would cover Hamas fund-raising activities in Europe, but France remains opposed to the move, fearing it could further wreck Middle East peace efforts. In recent EU discussions, France has also insisted that the Union should focus on the “bigger picture” in the region and try to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. EU Governments agreed earlier in the year to put the military arm of Hamas on its list of international terrorist organizations, thereby imposing a freeze on the organization’s financial assets in Europe. A meeting of EU leaders in Thessaloniki in June 2003 confirmed that the EU was also examining the case for wider action against Hamas fund-raising. (AFP, AP, DPA)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Terje Rød-Larsen condemned Israel’s extrajudicial assassination of four Palestinians in a missile attack in Gaza City on 24 August. Mr. Rød-Larsen reiterated the United Nations’ consistent and vocal opposition to such assassinations. He urged all parties to halt violent actions and immediately re-engage in a constructive process towards peace, as outlined in the Road Map. The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, also condemned acts of violence by both the Israeli and Palestinian sides over the past week and appealed to all parties to refrain from any further violence and to do their utmost to control those who committed terrorist acts against civilians or engaged in the disproportionate use of force. Mr. Ramcharan called a Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem on 19 August “senseless and repulsive violence” and also referred to subsequent Israeli military operations and extrajudicial killings. “Such acts of violence on both sides are severe and unacceptable breaches of the truce agreed upon by the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and work against all efforts carried out so far within the Road Map process to achieve a just and sustainable peace in the region,” he said in a statement. (www.un.org/news)

US Undersecretary of the Treasury John Taylor said that finance ministers from the Group of Seven countries would meet PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad in Dubai, where a G7 meeting wass scheduled to take place on 20 September 2003 on the fringes of the semi-annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Mr. Taylor said the meeting with Mr. Fayyad was part of an “ outreach” effort by the G7 to ensure that every opportunity was used to discuss issues of interest to global leaders. (Reuters)

26

Israeli undercover units burst into Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus and took two wounded Palestinian militants from their beds, one of whom was connected to a respirator in intensive care, according to hospital officials. One of the men, Othman Younis, 27, is accused of having organized several attacks, in which at least 10 Israelis were killed, including a suicide bombing on 12 August that killed one Israeli. The other, Fahid Bani-Odeh, 25, is accused of being responsible for shooting attacks. Israeli military sources said they had been conscious at the time of arrest and had been transferred to a hospital in Israel. Both had been wounded in a shoot-out the previous week with Israeli troops, which had surrounded the hospital after discovering three wanted militants had been sheltering inside. The third militant was killed in the gunfight. All belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Three Palestinian teenagers were wounded, one seriously, when Israeli troops opened fire in Jenin. Israeli military sources confirmed that their forces had opened fire in the town but said that they had been targeted by Palestinian gunmen, while a firebomb had also been lobbed at their positions. Palestinian witnesses said that the Israelis had opened fire after youths had thrown stones at troops. The army had imposed a curfew on the town earlier in the morning due to warnings that terrorists could be coming out of the area to carry out an attack. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Palestinians fired 11 mortar shells and an anti-tank missile at the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the Gaza Strip, according to Israel Radio. There were no injuries. The army based in the block responded by firing shells in the direction of Khan Yunis. Three Palestinian were wounded in the attack. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli helicopter gunships fired three missiles at a car in Jabalya, north of Gaza City, killing two persons and wounding at least 26. Three men were in the car, including Wael Ekalan of the Hamas military wing, according to witnesses. An Israeli security source confirmed that the target of the strike had been a member of the Hamas leadership. A bystander, Hassan Hamlawi, 65, was killed and four children were among the wounded, including an 8-year-old boy in critical condition. Another bystander, Mohammad Balusha, 17, died of his injuries the next day. (AFP, AP, CNN, DPA, Deutsche Welle, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Israeli police announced on the previous day that they had arrested three officials of the Waqf (the Islamic trust) who had tried to block non-Muslims from visiting Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount). The three were praying at its entrance along with a dozen other Muslims in a bid to block visits by non-Muslims. Scuffles ensued and the three were arrested. Two of the three were ordered by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to stay away from the site for two months and were released on a NIS5,000 bail. The Israeli authorities had reopened the compound to Israelis and foreign tourists in the previous week despite opposition from the Waqf. PA Minister of Cabinet Affairs Abed Rabbo called the arrests “an unjustified act” that could escalate tensions. Adnan al-Husseini, who heads the Waqf, said the action was “an unjust and illegal procedure” motivated by Israel’s desire to impose control over the site. PA Prime Minister Abbas condemned in a statement the Israeli decision to allow “Jewish extremists” to enter the site. “We all know the consequences of such action from previous incidents in 2000 … At a time when efforts are channelled to contain a security crisis and return to calm, the Israeli Government is igniting the most sensitive issue in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he said. Meanwhile, MKs Eliezer Cohen (National Union) and Gilad Erdan (Likud) made visits to Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount), Israel Army Radioreported. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Israel’s Ambassador to France Nissim Zvilli said that France seemed to have begun to harden its stance toward Hamas. “During a recent meeting with a close advisor to French President Jacques Chirac, I detected the beginning of a change in the position of France,” Mr. Zvilli told Israeli Public Radio, France had so far resisted agreeing to include the political wing of Hamas on a list of terror groups drawn up by the EU. (AFP)

The United States commented on the previous day’s decision by Chairman Arafat to appoint Jibril Rajoub, former head of preventive security in the West Bank, as an additional national security adviser. “By blocking the consolidation of the Palestinian security services under Prime Minister Abbas, Yasser Arafat undercuts the fight against terrorism and further undermines the hopes of the Palestinian people for peace and for a Palestinian State that can live side by side with Israel in peace and security,” White House spokesperson Claire Buchan told reporters. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi in Tokyo and urged him to use Japan’ s clout as a major aid donor to pressure Palestinians to return to the Road Map. “Japan has already given US$680 million to the Palestinians. … I think they should use their influence in order to convince the Palestinians to implement their commitments,” Mr. Shalom told a news conference. Mr. Shalom also asked Japan to follow the US move to freeze the assets of the political wing of Hamas. Japan had frozen the assets of the military wing of Hamas, but not the political wing, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official. Mr. Koizumi urged Israeli restraint, as well as Palestinian efforts to dismantle radical groups. In a separate meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Kawaguchi urged Mr. Shalom to support PA Prime Minister Abbas to save the Road Map and called for a halt in the construction of the separation barrier. (AFP, Reuters,www.mfa.gov.il)

The Israeli army arrested a total of 32 “wanted” Palestinians in a series of overnight operations in the West Bank, Israeli and Palestinian sources said. Five members of Hamas were detained in an operation in Nablus. Another Hamas member was arrested in Madama, south of Nablus, on suspicion of organizing an imminent anti-Israeli attack. Six persons were arrested in Jenin. Another seven were detained in Tulkarm after Israel troops in tanks and jeeps entered the town in the early morning. The balance of arrests was carried out in a number of towns and villages around the West Bank. No one was believed to have been injured, although the Israelis said they had come under fire while arresting a militant in Qalqilya. (AFP)

The Israeli army lifted its siege around Bethlehem and Jericho, a week after closing the cities in response to the recent suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Soldiers allowed Palestinian motorists with travel permits through road blocks in the cities’ main entrances. Previously, residents had only been allowed to reach nearby villages on foot. Roadblocks around other cities in the West Bank remained closed, including the Surda and Ein Arik checkpoints north and west of Ramallah, which had been lifted a month earlier. A curfew was also in place in Jenin and Nablus. (DPA)

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man who Israeli security forces said had tried to stab one of them outside Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Sources said soldiers guarding the area fired on the man when he approached them wielding a knife. Local Palestinian residents told Reuters they had not seen a knife in the man’s hand. A Palestinian medic said soldiers had prevented his ambulance from reaching the scene of the shooting. Witnesses said they had seen the body of the victim, aged about 17, before he was driven away in an Israeli ambulance. Shortly after the incident, a Palestinian crowd threw stones at Jews arriving by bus to pray at the Tomb. (AFP, Reuters)

India said it would host PA Minister of External Affairs Nabil Shaath, who was expected to visit India from 29 to 31 August. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said, “India has consistently supported the Palestinian cause. This longstanding position has roots in India’s traditional ties with the Arab world.” Thousands of Palestinian students have studied in India over the years and New Delhi had also helped the PA upgrade its human resources and nation-building capacities, Mr. Sarna added. Prime Minister Sharon was scheduled for a three-day visit to India beginning 9 September. (Reuters)

US President Bush vowed “no retreat” from Iraq or the Middle East peace process despite mounting criticism in the US and an upswing of violence in the region. He said, “ I will continue to challenge other countries to join in this important mission. … Murderers will not determine the future … of the Middle East. … A Palestinian State will never be built on the foundation of violence. Now is the time for every true friend of the Palestinian people, every leader in the Middle East and the Palestinian people themselves to cut off all money and support for terrorists.” (AFP, Middle East Online)

PA President Arafat accused the US of meddling with internal Palestinian affairs after the White House criticized his appointment of Jibril Rajoub as national security adviser. Mr. Arafat said, “I will not allow anyone to intervene in our internal affairs. Does anyone intervene in any country’s system and how it works?” (Reuters)

The IDF said it would investigate the death of James Miller, 34, a prize-winning British documentary film maker. Mr. Miller was shot in the neck on 2 May while filming Israeli troops searching for weapons smugglers in Rafah. The army had carried out an internal inquiry, but Mr. Miller’s family pressed for a full investigation, contesting initial army reports that he was shot from behind – suggesting he might have been shot by Palestinians – and hired a ballistics expert and a pathologist to carry out more research. The IDF said military police would now investigate partly based on “other material collected, including material received from British sources,” with findings to be passed on to military prosecutors. (The Jerusalem Post)

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At least two people were injured as clashes broke out in Ramallah after the Israeli army sealed off the offices of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Soldiers opened fire with rubber-coated bullets after being pelted with stones by PFLP followers who had gathered in the main Manara Square to commemorate the second anniversary of the death of PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa, who had been killed in an Israeli raid in August 2001. An Israeli military source said 15 PFLP supporters had been briefly detained. (AFP)

Three Israeli Bedouins were arrested for plotting attacks in southern Israel on behalf of Hamas, according to the office of Prime Minister Sharon. The three, including one minor, who were arrested on 11 August by the Shin Bet, had been reportedly recruited by Hamas member Yussef Mohammad Naira. There are some 200,000 Bedouins in Israel who also serve in the army. (AFP)

PA President Arafat urged militants to reinstate the truce that had been cancelled after Israeli forces assassinated a Hamas leader. A statement issued by his office said, “President Yasser Arafat calls upon all the Palestinian factions to reiterate their commitment to the truce to give a chance to international peace efforts to implement the Road Map which the Israeli Government refuses to abide by.” Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz Shaul discounted Mr. Arafat’s call as “propaganda” and said it would continue targeting militants until the PA dismantled their organizations. He said, “We have no choice but to act with severity against the terrorist infrastructure.” Mr. Arafat also said he was ready to take action against militant groups if Israel halted missile strikes and other attacks on them. Senior political leader of Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said, “Any call to strike at the movements or the resistance is a very dangerous call.” (AFP, AP, BBC, The Guardian, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, was due to visit the Middle East on 29 August, skipping a meeting with the PA in order to avoid a snub from Israel. Diplomats said Mr. Solana’s decision not to visit PA leaders showed that he was trying to take advantage of Israel’s good will. Diplomats had expressed alarm that the Quartet had been sidelined since the Aqaba Summit in June. One EU official said, “It’s time to give a positive impetus to the process again.” He added that the EU, whose foreign ministers would meet in Italy on 5 and 6 September, would probably call for a Quartet meeting before or during the UN General Assembly session in mid-September. An EU official said Secretary of State Powell had asked Mr. Solana to put pressure on PA President Arafat to end the bloodshed. Mr. Solana had a long telephone conversation with Mr. Arafat on 23 August. (Reuters)

In an interview with US regional news syndicates, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said PA President Arafat must turn over full control of the Palestinian security apparatus to Prime Minister Abbas and then “get out of the way” if peace with Israel was to be achieved. He added that Prime Minister Sharon had been “very restrained” in his actions. When asked about Israel’s “targeted killing” policy, he replied that in principle, the US was opposed to such killings, but insisted that Israel had a right to defend itself. (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Abbas convened the Cabinet and officially asked the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), to summon a parliamentary vote of confidence in his Government. No date had been set for the discussion. According to Israeli sources, Israel would not negotiate with a Palestinian Government headed by Mr. Arafat, should Mr. Abbas’ Cabinet be dissolved. Mr. Abbas was also to meet with heads of the Palestinian militant groups to discuss the security situation, but it was not clear whether Hamas and Islamic Jihad would attend. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

Hamas spokesmen said it was prepared to continue dialogue with PA officials about renewing the recently-ended "hudna", despite ongoing Israeli assassinations and attempted assassinations of Hamas leaders. Ismail Haniye, bureau chief for Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said “we are not against meeting with Abu Mazen (Mr. Abbas).” His statement also said that Hamas participated in all the meetings because the goal was to form a strategy that would protect the people under the current conditions. (Ha’aretz)

Defence Minister Mofaz decided to cancel a meeting scheduled for 28 August between the leaders of the “Peace Coalition” and PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan. The meeting was to take place at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Among those scheduled to take part were MKs Colette Avital (Labour), Phir Pines-Paz (Labour), Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), and Ilan Leibowitz (Shinui), as well as former Knesset members Yossi Beilin, Musi Raz, and the Secretary-General of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer. Messrs. Raz and Oppenheimer said the decision was “a serious infringement on the basic democratic rights of Knesset members and public figures,” and that the cancellation was “extremely unreasonable.” They threatened to petition the High Court of Justice if the decision was not reversed within 48 hours. (Ha’aretz)

Hundreds of Palestinians marched to protest Israel’s extension of the separation barrier. Abu Dis, a village east of Jerusalem, now stood to be split by Israel’s separation wall. Protesters marched along the barrier’s construction path, calling the separation barrier a “new Berlin Wall.” (Reuters)

The IDF demolished a two-story house in Qabatiya, south of Jenin, inhabited by the family of Hani Zakaria, an Islamic Jihad militant who had infiltrated the Israeli agricultural community of Gadish, just north of the West Bank, on 12 January 2003, had shot dead one Israeli and injured two others, before being killed himself. An IDF statement said its forces had come under fire during the demolition, but that there had been no injuries. (AP, DPA,www.idf.il)

One of nine Israelis suspected of being part of a terrorist cell, which had been accused of carrying out a series of attacks against Palestinians over the last three years, and had left nine Palestinians dead, was released from custody, after security officials had failed to directly connect him with the remaining eight suspects. Amior Tsuriel was placed under house arrest and was still expected to be charged over his connection with another terrorist cell, which had been suspected of trying to carry out a bombing outside an East Jerusalem school in April 2002. Security officials say that Mr. Tsuriel’s fingerprints were found on the explosive device. (The Jerusalem Post)

Britain’s Charity Commission announced it had opened a formal investigation into the affairs of Interpal – the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund - and had frozen the accounts held in its name. “This action follows concerns received alleging the Charity’s links to Hamas political-militant activities,” a commission spokeswoman said, adding that the Charity was not being closed down and that it would be able to continue its work under Commission supervision. Interpal chairman Ibrahim Hewitt said on 26 August that a US charge against it was “totally baseless” and that Interpal kept in communication with the Charity Commission, which had given it a clean "bill of health" in a previous inquiry. The Commission confirmed that it had investigated Interpal between March and June 1996. “It had been alleged that some charitable funds had found their way to supporters of terrorism. We found no evidence in the Charity of any pro-terrorist bias or indeed bias of any kind,” the spokeswoman said, adding: “We have taken this step in the best interests of the Charity and its beneficiaries,” enabling it to continue its work. (AP, IBA, The Jerusalem Post)

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At least 13 Palestinians were wounded, one critically, in clashes with the IDF in Nablus. An IDF source said that troops had opened fire after two explosive devices were thrown at them and they came under fire from Palestinian gunmen. Hospital sources said one of the Palestinians injured was a 20-year-old man who had been shot in the neck. A seven-year-old boy had also been wounded. A curfew was imposed in the town. Protesters could be seen throwing stones at soldiers who had come in tanks and jeeps. Three Palestinians were wounded when Israeli troops opened fire on stone-throwers in Jenin, with a 21-year-old man in serious condition after being shot in the head. (AFP)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad said there could be “no talk” of halting attacks against Israelis and renewing the truce declared two months ago, as long as Israel continued targeting their members. They responded to an appeal by PA President Arafat, stressing they had issued no official statements rejecting the plea. “Arafat’s call must be addressed to the Zionist entity and not to the Palestinian factions of resistance, which have suffered from tough Israeli criminal operations against its leaders and militants,” senior Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said. Mohammed Al-Hindi, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, accused Prime Minister Sharon of having fired “the bullet of mercy” at the truce: “All factions proved their commitment to the hudna for more than 50 days, while Israel continued demolishing houses and assassinating Palestinians.” (DPA)

Palestinian security forces fired at Hamas militants in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, after they had launched at least three rockets into Israel. The Palestinian police had tried to arrest the activists that were fleeing by car. Police opened fire at the vehicle, shattering a window. One rocket hit the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, landing in the city’s industrial zone, causing no injuries. At least two other rockets landed near an agricultural community south of Ashkelon. The IDF said the rockets were Hamas-produced “Qassam-2” rockets, which had a longer range than their “Qassam-1” predecessors. It was the first time an improvised rocket fired from the Gaza Strip had reached so far into Israel, exceeding the range of a previous firing on 24 August, which had hit a beach 4 km short of Ashkelon. That strike, which also caused no casualties, prompted Israeli commanders to warn of a possible ground operation inside the Gaza Strip if the rocket firings continued. IDF vehicles, including three tanks and two bulldozers entered the outskirts of Beit Hanoun in the evening and started clearing the land from which the rockets were fired, Palestinian witnesses and IDF officers said. It was unclear if it was the beginning of a wider IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Sharon said he had “instructed the Minister of Defence to take all necessary steps to avoid such actions in the future.” (AFP, AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Palestinian authorities froze 39 bank accounts of nine charitable societies linked to Hamas. According to a copy of the order obtained by AP,the charities affected were Al-Jamiya Al-Islamiya, the Islamic Young Women’s Association, As-Salah Association, the Social Care Committee, the Palestinian Student Friends Association, the Islamic Charity for Zakat, Al-Mujamma Al-Islami (founded by Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin), An-Nour Charity Association and Al-Aqsa Charity Association. PA Information Minister Nabil Amr confirmed that accounts had been frozen but did not give a figure. He denied that the move had been specifically aimed at Hamas but said that all groups would be made to respect the law. “We have put in place a mechanism which will guarantee that nothing happens to the detriment of the poor,” Mr. Amr told AFP.The order to shut down the bank accounts was issued by the Palestinian Monetary Authority on 24 August, and had come to light that day, when hundreds of Palestinians relying on welfare payments from charities had tried to pick up their monthly support checks at banks in Gaza City. They were told by banks they would not receive the money because the accounts had been frozen. The move was condemned by Hamas political leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi, who told AFP:“This step from the Palestinian Authority comes after pressure from the Americans and the Zionists.” Mohammed Al-Hindi, a senior leader of Islamic Jihad, also criticised the step, telling AFP: “It will be very bad for poor Palestinians and we are asking the Palestinian Authority and President Arafat to reverse this step.” (AFP, AP)

About 2,000 Palestinian women and children demonstrated against Washington’s recent decision to freeze the US assets of humanitarian organizations suspected of having links to Hamas. The demonstrators carried banners in Arabic, French and English with slogans like “We are not terrorists,” “We want to eat” and “Who will take care of our orphans?” (AFP)

Chairman Arafat’s new national security adviser, Jibril Rajoub, said he intended to cooperate with Prime Minister Abbas. “We have only one Government and it is answerable to President Arafat. I support this Government and back Abu Mazen as there are no differences between us,” Mr. Rajoub told Israeli Public Radio. (AFP)

For the third time in two months, Jerusalem police announced restrictions on entry to Friday Muslim prayers at Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount), banning all males under the age of 45. (The Jerusalem Post)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov met PA Prime Minister Abbas in the early afternoon after meeting Minister of External Affairs Sha’ath in Gaza City, a Palestinian statement said. “He (Abbas) put him in the picture about the situation” on the ground, said an official in the Prime Minister’s Office. “They also discussed the implementation of the Road Map.” (AFP)

“Persona Non Grata,” a documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by Oscar-winning film maker Oliver Stone, gets a special screening at the Venice film festival this week. “I tried to be as even as possible and to talk to everyone. But it’s not objective. None of my films is,” Mr. Stone told Italy’s Corriere della Sera.The film was shot over five days in March 2002 as diplomacy deadlocked and violence escalated and, while Mr. Stone and his crew shuttled between Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah. (AFP)

Hamdi Kalakh, a 24-year-old member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, was killed in an Israeli airstrike while riding a donkey cart in Khan Yunis. Three other Palestinians were wounded in the attack, with one reported in critical condition. Israel Radiosaid Mr. Kalakh had been responsible for a number of Qassam rocket strikes on Israel but did not report whether he was believed to be behind the latest one, on the coastal city of Ashkelon, 9 km north of Gaza’s border. An Israeli military spokesman said that “explosives expert” Kalakh had been preparing a Qassam attack against the nearby “Gush Katif” settlement block. “Our mujaheddin will avenge our martyr as soon as possible to ensure that the Zionists pay the price,” said a statement from Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. It was the fourth lethal attack against Hamas in a week. (AFP, Reuters)

“We face serious challenges, as we try to push forward with progress in the peace process,” US State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said. “There are commitments in the Road Map, and commitments made to [President Bush] by both sides, more importantly made to their own people, and those commitments need to be fully implemented,” he told reporters. (AFP)

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Palestinian gunmen shot dead an Israeli settler and seriously wounded his pregnant wife in a roadside ambush north of Ramallah. The couple, residents of the “Homesh” settlement, north-west of Nablus, were on their way from the “Kokhav Ha-Shakhar” settlement. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. “If the Israelis attack, we will attack,” an official from the Ramallah branch of the group told AFPby phone, adding that a more detailed statement would be released later. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli forces traded fire with Palestinian gunmen, as they entered an apartment in the centre of Jenin, which had been under curfew for several days. Earlier, a group of around 40 activists from the International Solidarity Movement had marched through the town - carrying banners, with such slogans as “Stop the curfew” and “Give the Palestinians their freedom,” - to deliver a petition at the local offices of the United Nations. (AFP)

Half a dozen Israeli tanks and bulldozers could be seen on the outskirts of Beit Hanoun, demolishing vines and fruit trees, which the Israeli military says had been used as cover for the Qassam rocket launches. An Israeli military source, quoted by Reuters,said the “very small force” would return to Israeli territory once the mission, to deny Hamas rocket squads cover, was completed. IDF troops found the rocket launcher 15 metres from a manned Palestinian police post, Israeli security sources said. (Reuters)

Israeli police deployed hundreds of reinforcements around Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Al-Haram Al-Sharif, after banning all Muslim men under the age of 45 from attending weekly prayers there. The precautionary measures were being put in place after information that “Islamic extremists” might stage a demonstration in protest at against a recent decision to reopen the site to Israeli and foreign visitors. Israeli Public Radiosaid up to 1,000 extra police had been deployed. (AFP)

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An Israeli helicopter missile strike killed Abdullah Aqel, the leader of Hamas’ armed wing in central Gaza, and another Hamas member. PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said the attack in the Bureij refugee camp destroyed any chance for the resumption of talks with Israel and called on the US to intervene and halt the cycle of violence, saying: “Israel’s continuation of such policy means that it is completely turning its back on ... calm and the possibility of implementing the Road Map.” (Reuters)

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A Palestinian gunman shot and wounded an Israeli truck driver at the “ Rafiah Yam” settlement in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, met Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz in Tel Aviv for talks expected to focus on Israeli demands that the EU sever ties with Chairman Arafat and blacklist the political wing of Hamas. To date, the EU had only blacklisted its military wing, but Solana’s spokeswoman acknowledged the situation had changed in the light of the recent Jerusalem blast. “We will continue contacts with Palestinians and the Palestinian President,” Mr. Solana said after the talks, adding: “We respect any decision by a democratic country but one has to respect our position that has not changed.” Mr. Solana also said: “We are not very happy with the fence. We can understand that for security reasons it can be built in some places but we cannot understand that a fence can become political and change the borders.” (AFP)

An eight-year-old Palestinian girl was killed by an Israeli tank shell near her home in Khan Yunis. The IDF said troops opened fire in the area after an explosive device blew up near a patrol, damaging a military vehicle. An army spokesman could not confirm whetehr anyone had been hit. Some 1,500 people gathered for the funeral of Aaya Mahmud Fayaad, whose relatives and witnesses said had been fired upon from an Israeli observation post on the edge of an Israeli settlement. (AFP, Reuters)

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) decided to postpone a vote of confidence in Prime Minister Abbas, originally scheduled for 1 September, and decided instead to convene on 4 September to discuss the Government’s first 100 days in office. Speaking at a news conference in Ramallah, PA Minister of Information Nabil Amr urged PLC members to study the 100 days report carefully before deciding on the future of the Government, stressing that it could not continue in office unless it had received stronger backing than it had received to date and had a clear delineation of its authorities and powers. (DPA)

Israeli troops imposed a total curfew on Qalqilya after an Israeli-Arab worker was shot and seriously wounded at a separation barrier construction site. Israel Radio reported that Israeli soldiers were conducting house to house searches for known members of Palestinian militant organizations. Israeli troops also detonated a 30-kg explosive device found near the fence bordering the Gaza Strip. In another incident, a single Palestinian mortar shell fell on an Israeli settlement inside the Gaza Strip, exploding but causing no casualties or property damage. (AFP, DPA)

An Israeli military court sentenced Mahmud Shritah, a student at Birzeit University near Ramallah, to seven consecutive life sentences for sending a suicide bomber on a crowded bus in central Tel Aviv in September 2002, killing six people as well as himself. Mr. Shritah was also responsible for sending a second bomber who tried, but failed, to blow himself up in a cafe on the Tel Aviv seafront in October 2002. (AFP)

The IDF said in a statement that its forces had demolished the house of Talab Mussa in Yatta, south of Hebron. The statement said Mr. Mussa was “a Tanzim operative,” who had “planned and carried out a number of shooting attacks in the Zif Junction.” (AFP, www.idf.il)


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