Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter




Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW

July 2003


1

“We are seeking a political solution,” Secretary General Kofi Annan said during a visit to Switzerland. “And I think at the end I would want to see a situation where all these movements and groups are transformed into political parties to play a role in a democratic Palestine. I think that is the direction we should encourage them to go.” (Reuters, UN News Service)

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz confirmed that Israel would hand over Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority on 2 July, but said details had to be worked out to ensure the security of the Israeli settlers nearby as well as access to a religious shrine. Foreign Minister Shalom said Israel would also pose conditions for further redeployments. “If they are determined to dismantle the infrastructure of terror organizations, to really confiscate weapons and stop incitement, we are willing to withdraw from more cities in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank],” Shalom told Reuters TV. (Reuters)

Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas met in Jerusalem to discuss the Road Map progress. In a joint news conference held before the meeting, Mr. Sharon said he would discuss with Mr. Abbas the next steps both sides would take. Mr. Abbas said he hoped they would agree on forming joint committees to further the Road Map’s implementation, while Mr. Sharon said: “We are before a new opportunity for the possibility for a better future for both peoples. A future full of opportunities and hope is today closer than in the past.” He also warned that despite the new-found hope, dangers still existed, pointing at militants “who would like to see the process explode,” and reiterated that his first priority was Israel’s security, on which he would make no compromises, emphasizing: “Israel will continue to fight terrorism until its absolute defeat.” Turning to the Palestinians, he said: “We do not want to rule you and dictate your destiny.” Mr. Abbas for his part called Israel’s withdrawal from the northern Gaza Strip “important steps” and said other reoccupied Palestinians towns and cities would be next.” Messrs. Abbas and Sharon ended their conference with a long handshake, looking into each other’s eyes. Both Prime Ministers came with a delegation of ministers, with Mr. Abbas accompanied by PA State Minister for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, Palestinian Council speaker Ahmed Qurei, PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath and PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. The TV broadcast aired around the world showed members of the Israeli and Palestinian cabinets sitting together and chatting in an extraordinary scene after 33 months of fighting. “I have no doubt that the picture coming out of here today to the people of Israel and the Palestinian people and the entire world is one of hope and of optimism,” Mr. Sharon said in a live TV broadcast. (DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon said he would consider letting Chairman Arafat relocate from Ramallah to the Gaza Strip, but that there was no intention of restoring his freedom of movement. A senior Israeli official said it would be a “one-way ticket” [to Gaza] for Mr. Arafat. Although Mr. Arafat was now technically free to leave the mukataa - his compound in Ramallah - the move would clear the way for Israel to arrest “wanted” Palestinians who had taken refuge there. He had also been effectively barred from travelling abroad as Israel could deny his return to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP, AP, The Jerusalem Post)

Chairman Arafat said Palestinian security forces had arrested militants who had killed a Bulgarian roadworker in a West Bank shooting on 30 June in a violation of the ceasefire. (Reuters)

An IDF spokesman said a Palestinian armed with a pistol had opened fire at a roadblock near Tulkarm and was shot dead by soldiers. There were no other casualties or any immediate claim of responsibility. (Reuters)

The United States Administration was considering increasing aid to the Palestinians and, in a change of policy, providing its first direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority, The New York Timesreported. To date, US aid, totalling US$200 million so far in 2003, had been transmitted through the United Nations and independent relief organizations. Citing unnamed Administration officials, the newspaper said the aid would go towards improving the Authority’s intelligence and security apparatus and easing living conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. An initial expenditure of $300 million was being considered by the Central Intelligence Agency. (AFP)

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the European Union’s Italian Presidency considered Prime Minister Abbas its main contact within the PA for matters relating to the Middle East peace process and aimed to move towards a confirmation of Mr. Abbas’ legitimacy. “True strengthening of the Palestinian police, action to stamp out terrorism and an extraordinary commitment to sustaining a lasting ceasefire are today in the hands of Mr. Abbas,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Berlusconi had “no problem in meeting with Mr. Arafat.” (AFP)

2

Israel handed over control of Bethlehem to Palestinian police under a security pact supporting the Road Map. Israel would halt curfews and patrols, while armed Palestinian police would curb militants behind suicide bombings and other attacks. Israel would also be in charge of the security of Israelis, including those living in nearby settlements. Israeli tanks and troops continued to surround and restrict movement in and out of the city. Hanna Nasser, Mayor of Bethlehem, called it “a ceremonial withdrawal, not a real one.” (AP, The Guardian, Reuters)

Following a meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen said: “We feel in the UN that the peace process has to be broadened to have all the tracks of the Middle East peace process, including Syria and Lebanon.” He commended Egypt for its role in mediating the three-month ceasefire and called on Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from any provocative actions. He warned that the ceasefire was still “very fragile” and could “easily collapse” if the parties did not act responsibly. (DPA)

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi said that as the European Union President, he would press for a wider Middle East peace conference, and again offered Sicily as the venue. He said: “Our presidency, along with the United States, the Russian Federation and the United Nations, will work to support the Road Map so that we can work out a timetable and the means for the launching of an international peace conference.” Mr. Berlusconi had told European parliamentarians at an earlier meeting that the EU needed to build a relationship of greater trust with Israel but must also implement plans to reconstruct the Palestinian economy. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

President Bush told reporters at the White House that he was “pleased” by the progress made by Palestinians and Israelis but warned that there were still groups committed to thwarting the peace process. (DPA)

The United States started direct economic aid to the Palestinian Authority with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) transferring US$30 million for rebuilding the infrastructure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The money would be earmarked for repairing roads, waterworks and other infrastructure damaged by Israeli incursions. Some money would also go to private Palestinian enterprises that had lost millions of dollars during the frequent curfews and closures. During 2003, the Palestinian Authority was due to receive $124.5 million from USAID, while the State Department’s refugees bureau would provide Palestinians with $89 million through UNRWA. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: “The finances are under the stewardship of a new finance minister [Mr. Salam Fayyad] and now largely transparent and therefore accountable to the Palestinian people.” A sizable contribution to help Prime Minister Abbas rebuild the Palestinian security forces was also under consideration. (Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Guardian)

Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher urged the Israeli Government to “completely stop” building settlements and a barrier separating Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Bureau Chief Dov Weisglass and Political Adviser Shalon Turgeman, Mr. Muasher said: “We hope the security wall will become part of the past in the light of the new atmosphere.” (DPA)

Jordan’s Royal Jerusalem Committee accused Prime Minister Sharon of attempting “to sabotage” the Road Map by allowing foreigners and Jews to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Committee’s Secretary-General Abdullah Kanan appealed “to the US Administration, President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, the European Union and Russia to intervene so as to honour the promises they had made at the Aqaba Summit … by pressuring the Israeli Government to cancel this decision and abide by international legitimacy.” The initiative for the visits had come from Jerusalem Police Chief Michael Levy, who reportedly felt the end of the United States-led war in Iraq had produced a “change of atmosphere” in East Jerusalem. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Spain offered to host a Middle East peace conference, with Foreign Minister Ana Palacio telling a news conference after a meeting with PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath: “For Spain, it would be a very great honour to host a conference... If such a decision is taken, we would facilitate it, by providing a venue for a conference.” Mr. Sha’ath said the PA would be “very happy and proud if the next peace conference were here in Madrid.” Ms. Palacio and Mr. Sha’ath signed an agreement under which Spain would provide €10 million (US$11.54 million) in aid to the Palestinians during 2003 to fund health, education and job creation. Some 80 vehicles were also expected to be shipped from Spain soon for the Palestinian police. Both Foreign Ministers commented on Palestinians given refuge in Spain in 2002 after an Israeli siege of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, saying all three should at some point return to Bethlehem. (Reuters)

Three Israelis were slightly wounded late in the day when Palestinians fired three anti-tank rockets at the “Kfar Darom” settlement in the Gaza Strip. In response, the IDF closed the north-south highway to Palestinian traffic for several hours, with soldiers placing concrete blocks onto the road at the Abu Houli and Al-Matahen checkpoints in the central and southern Gaza Strip, trapping cars between the two. Three Palestinians were wounded when Israeli troops stationed in the “Gush Katif” settlement block further south opened fire on cars. The IDF said troops had fired in the air on two occasions when Palestinian vehicles had approached the roadblock, endangering the soldiers, and was not aware of any victims. Prime Minister Abbas condemned as “acts of sabotage” the firing of rockets at “Kfar Darom” and the shooting attack that had resulted in the death of a Bulgarian worker on 30 June. Mr. Abbas told reporters during a visit to Beit Hanoun that the PA rejected such acts. As Israel lodged its first formal protest against the ceasefire violation after the attack, PA State Minister for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan said the Palestinians were pursuing the cell responsible for the attack. (AFP, AP, DPA, IBA, Reuters)

3

During a raid in Qalqilya, Israeli troops wounded and arrested Ibrahim Yassin, the local leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and shot dead his aide, 30-year-old Muhammad Shawar. Israel Radiosaid both men had been linked to a shooting attack on the "trans-Israel" highway in June, in which a seven-year-old girl was killed. The IDF said both men had been armed and that one was killed when he tried to flee. Palestinian sources said Mr. Shawar was only wounded in the leg, but when troops withdrew, he was found dead with gunshot wounds to the head. PA Minister of Information Nabil Amr condemned the killing, saying it could derail peace efforts, and promised to raise the “worrisome” matter with both Israel and the United States. A senior aide to Chairman Arafat, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, called the killing an “assassination” and accused Israel of trying “to bring us back to the cycle of action and reaction.” But PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath told reporters that the incident would not derail the peace process: “We have always known that the Road Map is not a highway. It is a mountainous, winding road with cliffhangers and sharp turns to the right and to the left and up and down.” (AFP, AP, DPA, IBA, Reuters)

Following the handover of power to the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahur on 2 July, Foreign Minister Shalom said if quiet prevailed there would be further West Bank troop redeployment. (IBA)

Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip arrested two Palestinians from Khan Yunis suspected of firing anti-tank rockets at the “Gush Katif” settlement block the day before. Israel Radio reported that one of the suspects was a Fatah member. (The Jerusalem Post)

Israel Army Radiosaid 12 Palestinian prisoners would be released later in the day, in additio to the nine freed the night before. Among those already released was Col. Suleiman Abu Mutlak, a Preventive Security Service chief for Khan Yunis and surroundings who had been arrested by Israel on 5 May and held as an administrative detainee. Israeli Public Radio had earlier reported that Col. Mutlak would be freed as a goodwill gesture following a meeting between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas on 1 July. Prime Minister Abbas warned that the ceasefire would collapse unless Israel released an unrestricted number of prisoners, while PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdel Razek said: “There can be no peace with Palestinian prisoners still in Israeli jails.” Human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti said: “The people will not settle for anything short of the release of every single prisoner. But the Israelis, it seems, are only considering the release of the administrative detainees. The gap is huge. It won’t be bridged without huge US pressure.” Kol Yisrael reported that 4,500 Palestinians were being currently held in army detention centres, 1,000 of them administrative detainees, while Deutsche Presse Agenturput the number of Palestinians held by Israel at more than 5,000, about 3,000 of them in Israeli prisons and the rest with the IDF. According to the B'Tselem human rights organization, 952 were administrative detainees, jailed by military order without charge or trial. (AFP, AP, DPA, IBA)

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen said while in Cairo that he hoped the 1,000 days of violence were over and called the ceasefire and Israeli pullouts in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank the first important steps in the Road Map implementation. Mr. Larsen also said that eventually the Palestinian Authority must confiscate weapons. (IBA)

The Jerusalem Postreported that senior Israeli Government officials had indicated in recent meetings that Israel would be prepared to allow the Orient House to resume its activities if certain conditions were met. The reopening of closed Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem was one of the demands listed in the Road Map. “We are very optimistic that Orient House would be allowed to reopen in the near future,” a senior PA official told the paper. (The Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition by residents of the “Beit El East” settlement outpost and granted the IDF permission to remove the settlement, Israel Radioreported. The court rejected the petition on the grounds that Palestinians privately owned the land. “You have only been there two weeks and already you want to claim rights to the land from the time of Abraham,” Justice Mishael Heshin told the petitioners, who withdrew the petition to avoid court fees. (The Jerusalem Post)

4

Prime Minister Abbas held talks with Islamic Jihad leaders. Mohammad al-Hindi of the Islamic Jihad said the talks were “positive and serious” and that “we insisted on the liberation of Palestinian prisoners from the occupier’s jails, which is a priority for the Palestinians.” He added, “We discussed with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] the Israeli violations we consider very serious,” referring to the killing of an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader the day before in the West Bank. (AFP)

President Bush called Prime Minister Abbas and praised him for progress on the Road Map, saying he hoped to celebrate Palestinian independence in 2005, according to a statement from Mr. Abbas’ office. (AP)

5

A Palestinian man, Majdi Abu Shaluf, 22, was killed and another was injured in an unexplained explosion to the east of Khan Yunis, according to hospital and security sources in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian security spokesman later said, “Shaluf was killed by an explosive device left behind by the Israeli army.” The IDF stated in an interview that no shots had been fired by their troops in the area. (AFP)

Prime Minister Abbas met with Hamas spiritual leader Shiekh Ahmad Yassin. Palestinian Authority Minister of Information Nabil Amr said: “Abbas made a courtesy visit to Yassin and the unofficial talks between them focused on the issue of prisoners. The visit took place in a positive and cordial atmosphere, and the two men exchanged views on the Palestinian scene.” Palestinian sources said that Mr. Abbas had asked Sheikh Yassin for his support towards a conciliatory approach on the prisoner issue. (AFP)

6

Israeli authorities charged 11 Israeli paramilitary border policemen with committing acts of violence and looting against Palestinians in Hebron. The criminal charges were the latest in a series brought against members of a border police company that had patrolled Hebron for the past three years, and included the thrashing of a Palestinian in Hebron caught outside during curfew and the theft of money and goods from local shopkeepers. To date the IDF has issued 34 indictments against soldiers for excessive violence and looting; human rights groups said that much of the abuse went unpunished. (Reuters; see also 18 April 2003)

The Israeli Cabinet agreed by 13 votes to 9 on the release of some 350 Palestinian prisoners. The releases would be carried out on the basis of a list drawn up by the General Security Service (Shin Bet). The Cabinet laid down criteria for the releases, including stipulations that none of the detainees should have “blood on their hands” or belong to “terrorist organizations.” The decision excluded members of militant groups like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and Palestinians who had carried out attacks against Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said: “The releases would be carried out in tightly supervised, small and measured doses in relation to proven Palestinian actions in the security sphere; in other words, if terror continues and there is no genuine Palestinians effort to fight and eliminate it, the releases will stop.” About 6,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails for security - as well as non-security-related offences. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, The Washington Post)

Palestinian Authority Minister of State for Internal Security Dahlan expressed his disappointment in the limited number of prisoners to be released and rejected the criteria set by the Israeli Cabinet for their release. According to an Israeli official, most of the prisoners who would be released had been detained without trial, had only a few months to serve, were either under 18 or over 60, or were women. In a meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz in Jerusalem, Mr. Dahlan asked for an opportunity to appear before a ministerial committee set up to deal with prisoner release to present the Palestinian position. PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said the PA would “continue working for the release of all prisoners regardless of their political affiliations.” (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee, an umbrella organization of various factions based in Gaza, announced its commitment to the three-month truce in a communiqué, which included conditions that Israel should release all Palestinian political prisoners and end all forms of military operations, raids, and assassination operations. It also demanded that Israel lift the siege imposed on Chairman Arafat. (DPA)

Palestinian security forces intercepted five Palestinians, including three armed men, as they approached the Israeli border. They were taken into custody in Gaza. Israeli Major-General Amos Gilad told Israel Army Radio: “The Palestinian Authority has begun dealing with the arrest of those planning terrorism.” (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia donated US$1.8 million to UNRWA, bringing the total Saudi contribution to the Agency to $60 million. Saudi Arabia had also launched a project to renovate and construct more than 2,500 homes in collaboration with UNRWA, said Karen Koning AbuZayd, the Agency’s Deputy Commissioner-General. In a statement released in Amman on 6 July, Ms. AbuZayd said UNRWA had received two checks – one for $1.2 million and the other for $600,000. The former was Saudi Arabia’s regular contribution to the Agency, and the latter was part of a $2.4 million contribution Saudi Arabia had announced in 2000 it would pay to UNRWA over four years. “This will help to relieve the suffering of nearly 4 million Palestinian refugees,” she was quoted as saying by Arab News. (Saudi Press Agency, UNRWA press release J/04/2003)

7

Hamas leader Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi stated in an interview: “If Israel does not release all Palestinian prisoners during the three-month hudna [ceasefire], all Palestinian groups, including Hamas, will consider themselves out of the truce and not committed to it.” (DPA)

Hassan Khamaisseh, leader of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, was arrested by Israeli troops in a dawn operation at Qabatiya, near Jenin. Sheikh Bassam Saadi stated in an interview: “If the raids continue, Jihad will stop respecting the truce.” An Israeli security source said that the arrest was targeted against “a cell involved in the manufacture and planting of explosive devices.” (AFP)

Israeli troops backed by some 20 armoured vehicles raided the village of Tubas in the West Bank in a bid to arrest Ammad Daraghmeh, local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Mr. Daraghmeh was not caught, but troops arrested his mother. (AFP)

In a meeting with Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdel Razek, Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid rejected Palestinian demands that Israel release members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, dismissing the call as “impractical” in the light of the recent declaration by Hamas that it would continue its fight against Israel once the three-month truce was over. Mr. Abdel Razek said: “We in the Palestinian Government are responsible for the entire Palestinian nation and we are not a government of one Palestinian party.” PA Justice Minister Abdul Karim Abu Saleh, who was also at the meeting, said the talks included the renewal of judicial relations between Israel and the PA, in an effort to rehabilitate the Palestinian judiciary. The three also discussed the possibility of Mr. Abbas’ and some of his Cabinet ministers meeting Mr. Lapid’s Shinui faction in the Knesset to discuss the prisoner release. PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said the Palestinians proposed that Mr. Abbas and Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan meet with Knesset members, and that both Mr. Abbas and Chairman Arafat supported the idea. No date, however, had been set and the Palestinian leaders would not be official guests of the Knesset but private guests of Mr. Lapid, Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes said. (Albawaba.com, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Palestinian Authority Minister of External Affairs Nabil Sha’ath called on Israel to leave the remaining West Bank cities by the end of August 2003 and added that the Palestinians would then prepare to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. “We can conduct elections by October. We have told all the parties that Israel should conclude its withdrawal from Palestinian cities within six weeks.” Mr. Sha’ath said Chairman Arafat would be the candidate for President from the Fatah movement since the other major factions had been boycotting elections. Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said that Mr. Sha’ath’s timetable was too optimistic. (AP)

At talks between the EU and Mediterranean States, an agreement was reached between the EU and mostly Arab Mediterranean States that Italy (currently holding the EU Presidency), Israel and the PA would set up a three-way committee to promote contacts between businessmen with a view to launching joint ventures in their countries. PA Economic Minister Maher Al-Masri said, “We believe that by enhancing the business process we can give a helping hand to the peace process.” (Reuters)

In the evening, a suicide bomber blew himself up, levelling a house in Kfar Yavetz, a moshav in central Israel near the West Bank, and killing the 65-year-old woman who lived there. Israeli police said the woman was apparently watching television when the bomb went off, causing the roof to collapse. The dead woman’s three grandchildren were slightly wounded in the blast. The blast had initially been blamed on a gas leak but police confirmed the following morning that it had been caused by a bomb, fragments of which had been found at the scene. Police spokesman Gil Kleiman added that it seemed likely that the attacker had been planning an attack on another target but the device had exploded prematurely. A leaflet with the Islamic Jihad logo faxed to news agencies claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened more violence, saying: “Release the prisoners or the consequences will be grave.” The leaflet identified the bomber as 22-year-old Ahmed Yehyia from the village of Kafr Ra’i south-west of Jenin. The Islamic Jihad’s political leader in the West Bank, Sheikh Bassam Sa’adi, said Jenin-based militants had probably staged the attack in reaction to Israel’s decision not to release prisoners affiliated with the group. But he stressed that “Islamic Jihad ... is committed to the truce and it remains so today.” The Islamic Jihad’s top spokesman in Gaza, Nafez Azzam, also distanced the group from the claim, saying: “We have no knowledge about the claim of responsibility ... and are still committed to this initiative and the truce ... We stand by our word and our commitments.” Foreign Minister Shalom said Israel was still committed to the truce and that peace efforts would continue despite the bombing. “We have an opportunity now that we must not miss, which we have to check out thoroughly and see if it is really genuine,” he told Israel Army Radio. “Today was an attack ... not a huge attack. Tomorrow the same gang will stage an attack with 20 dead and the process will end at that moment.” Ra’anan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Sharon, said the fact that factions within the Islamic Jihad did not accept the ceasefire showed that the ceasefire “was not worth the paper it is written on, unless it is accompanied by real actions ... against the Islamic Jihad and Hamas.” (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A grenade attack was launched against Israeli troops manning a border position with Egypt near Rafah, without causing injury, an IDF spokesman said. But a Palestinian security source said that the troops accompanying bulldozers were not attacked until after they had moved about 100 metres into Palestinian territory, and that two Palestinians were wounded after Israelis had fired on them in the wake of the attack. The Israelis said they had been in a sector under Israeli control and had only opened fire in self-defence, wounding one Palestinian in the leg. (AFP)

Palestinians said they had detained and later released to her family an 18-year-old woman planning a suicide bombing in Israel. A Palestinian Authority security spokesman said forces had begun searching for the woman after she left a note with her family announcing her intention to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Palestinian Authority Minister of Information Nabil Amr met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom to discuss the issue of incitement. Mr. Shalom said steps were being taken to oversee Palestinian written and electronic media as well as school textbooks, to ensure they were free of inflamatory messages. The two also agreed on the creation of a joint committee to examine ways to end incitement to violence. The Israel Broadcasting Authorityreported that the first meeting of the committee had taken place in Jerusalem with Messrs. Shalom and Amr attending the meeting and speaking to the press afterwards. (DPA, Ha’aretz, IBA, Middle East Online)

8

Israel is considering releasing a small number of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members as part of the planned release of Palestinian prisoners that was supposed to take place after the meeting between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas initially scheduled for 9 July. Israel Radio reported that Israel had said that it would consider changing the criteria for release if the United States agreed to release Jonathan Pollard and Egypt agreed to release suspected spy Azzam Azzam. One of the recommendations of the General Security Service (Shin Bet) in compiling its list of some 350 candidates for release was that members of rejectionist organizations, principally Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were excluded from consideration for release. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Abbas told reporters that a planned meeting with Prime Minister Sharon had been delayed “for technical reasons” and denied any serious differences with Fatah's Central Committee. Mr. Abbas had reportedly submitted his resignation from the body in protest at their verbal assaults on his performance. A Palestinian Authority spokesman said Mr. Abbas had postponed the meeting for several days because the Palestinians needed more time for internal debate arising from what he termed the lack of tangible results the Palestinians had so far seen under the Road Map. “This Israeli failure to make progress on the release of prisoners and the withdrawal has created very heated internal discussions. Therefore this demands more time for internal consultations to decide on what to do,” Deputy Information Minister Ahmed Subuh said, adding that Palestinians in Bethlehem, for example, felt no improvement in their lives, despite the Israeli withdrawal the previous week, as the siege on the city had become even tighter. (AP, DPA, Reuters)

In the Gaza Strip, the IDF proceeded with steps to open more roads. Another road linking Gaza and Rafah was expected to be opened to traffic, while preparations continued to open a road near the “Morag” settlement, which had been closed to Palestinian traffic for two years. A Kol Yisrael reporter said “Morag” residents had been demonstrating against the move. (IBA)

Reserve General Uzi Dayan, chairman of the Public Council for Israel’s Security Wall, proposed that communities not protected by a security wall build their own. (IBA)

Israel’s High Court of Justice refused to issue an interim injunction prohibiting the Government’s policy of targeted assassinations on “ticking bombs” until an overall case against targeted killings had been judged. The judges gave the Government 60 days to present a written response to the petition, which had ben filed in January 2002 by the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW) and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI). During the three-hour hearing, petitioning attorney Avigdor Feldman argued that although the law allowed for the use of “special means” against “ticking bombs,” or Palestinians on the verge of carrying out an attack, it was unacceptable to build a policy on such a basis. “Every assassination is irreversible and does not help the situation,” he said. State Attorney Shai Nitzan, representing the IDF, argued that the matter was not for the courts, since they could not intervene in military affairs or examine operational military matters. The attorney further argued that the “pinpoint prevention” referred to by the army was legitimate, according to international laws of war, since it was an act of self-defence. Those laws allowed harming, during combat, someone positively identified as conducting lethal attacks against Israeli targets. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The High Court of Justice also rejected a petition to broaden an earlier injunction which prohibited the IDF from using Palestinian civilians as human shields or hostages. The petition had been filed in May 2002 by Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, on behalf of seven NGOs, including B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, PCATI, LAW and the Centre for the Defence of the Individual. After a 19-year-old Palestinian was killed while forced by the IDF to be a human shield, Adalah had requested the Court to issue a temporary injunction against the practice, and the court had complied in August 2002. The injunction was challenged by the Government and broadened in January 2003 to include a new “prior warning” order, which allowed the army to use Palestinians as “assistance” if they agreed to it during the course of an arrest operation. The current petition sought to overturn the “prior warning” clause on grounds that its use did not relieve the army of its responsibility to protect rather than exploit civilians during military operations. Adalah's attorney Marwan Dalal argued that under international law, it was forbidden to put any civilian into a dangerous military situation, even if he/she was a friend or relative of the person wanted for arrest. But State Attorney Nitzan argued that the use of civilians was justified to prevent loss of life and that under international law, the use of the “prior warning order” permitted a civilian to enter a dangerous situation if he agreed to it. “There are people who, for all sorts of reasons, would certainly accept,” Mr. Nitzan said, citing Israel’s policy of destroying the homes of wanted militants or those who had carried out attacks. “When someone knows you are going to destroy his house with a bulldozer they say: we’ll go in and get them out, don’t destroy our house,” he said. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

In a letter to Palestinian Authority President Arafat, Prime Minister Abbas offered to resign from the Fatah Central Committee. The resignation was unanimously rejected by the Central Committee. In a separate letter to the Committee, Mr. Abbas challenged it to outline a different policy towards Israel, stating: “If you decide that your way of managing negotiations is better, I’ll also resign from the Government.” The resignation offer followed a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah late on 7 July, at which Mr. Abbas came under fire over his negotiations with Israel, especially on the issue of prisoner releases. A statement obtained by Agence France-Presseindicated that the Ramallah meeting had concluded that all Palestinian prisoners, some 6,000 detainees, must be released unconditionally following the agreement on the hudnaby Palestinian groups. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The United States reaffirmed its support for Prime Minister Abbas after the Fatah Central Committee had rejected his resignation. “Our position is that we stand behind Prime Minister Abbas,” said State Department spokesman Philip Reeker. “What we have seen under his leadership is … constructive change…, empowerment for Palestinian governing institutions taking place, and his efforts to end terror and violence have presented a real opportunity to move forward,” Mr. Reeker said. (AFP)

After consultation with Congress, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage signed a waiver of congressional restrictions barring direct United States aid to the Palestinian Authority. Administration and congressional sources said the first installment of US$20 million would be announced in the coming days and would be used to improve basic services in Palestinian areas being vacated by Israeli forces. (AP, DPA, Reuters)

United States envoy John Wolf, heading the American team expected soon to begin independent checks on the ground of the Road Map's implementation, met with Foreign Minister Shalom in Jerusalem and urged Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners and dismantle more settlements. (AFP)

IDF announced that during a ceremony held at the office of the IDF Chief of Staff, Maj.-Gen. Yossef Mishlav assumed the position of Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories, succeeding Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad who was retiring from the IDF. (www.idf.org)

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said there were no plans to hand over the security responsibility for additional cities in the West Bank to Palestinians until they proved their willingness to combat terror in areas already under their control. (The Jerusalem Post)

At a meeting in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin called for an international conference on the Middle East peace process. (AFP)

The European Commission announced in a statement a €10 million (US$11 million) humanitarian aid package for Palestinians that would be used to finance emergency food supplies and to improve access to water and hygiene. The statement said that 6.5 million had been earmarked for the West Bank and Gaza Strip while the rest would go to Lebanon. (AFP)

9

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 27-year-old Palestinian, Iyad Halanesh, and seriously wounded his 26-year-old wife in the village of Burkin, west of Jenin, during an operation to arrest Mr. Halanesh’s brother, a "wanted" Tanzim member. The army said the wanted man was on the verge of dispatching a gunman later in the day for an attack on Israelis. According to Palestinian security sources, Israeli soldiers burst into a Palestinian home and arrested a 22-year-old militant. The soldiers fired moments later at a neighbouring home of the militant’s brother, and he was shot and killed while looking out of a window. His wife was also shot in the head and was seriously wounded. (AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Shin Bet security service announced that it had recently arrested four members of the Islamic Jihad on suspicion of carrying out attacks against Israelis. The four were also suspected of aiding a terrorist organization, abetting terrorists to avoid arrest, recruiting volunteers to drive booby-trapped cars to Israel, preparing and placing incendiary devices on West Bank roads, carrying out shooting attacks on Israeli buses and gathering intelligence information on potential targets. (Ha’aretz)

In Gaza City, Egyptian envoys, headed by deputy intelligence head Mustafa al-Buheiri, began talks with leaders of Palestinian factions on how to preserve the truce with Israel amid warnings from militants that it would collapse over the prisoner issue. After talks with the envoys, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin reaffirmed his faction’s commitment to the truce but said “Our patience has its limits,” and warned that Israel’s unwillingness to free Palestinian prisoners could undermine the truce. “Israeli practices, [including] the issue of the prisoners, are a red line that can never be bypassed in any way or form,” he told reporters in Gaza. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

United States envoy John Wolf met with Palestinian Authority Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan in an effort to shore up support for Prime Minister Abbas. Israeli media reports said Mr. Wolf would also meet with Defence Minister Mofaz later in the day and urge Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners and dismantle more settlement outposts. Meanwhile, United States Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer held talks with Defence Minister Mofaz, who told Amb. Kurtzer that there had to be progress on the diplomatic front despite the difficulties, but warned that Israel would not yield on security issues. Amb. Kurtzer requested Israel help the Palestinian Authority by releasing more prisoners. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Peace Now said the number of Israeli settler outposts in the West Bank had grown by two since the Aqaba Summit of 4 June. “At the last count, the Israeli army had dismantled eight settler outposts, including one which was inhabited. But the settlers have established 10 other outposts, including two which were inhabited,” said Yaariv Oppenheimer, a spokesman for the organization. (AFP)

The Conference of Supervisors of Palestinian Refugees’ Affairs, held in Cairo, called on the international community to pressure Israel to implement United Nations resolutions stipulating the complete withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since 4 June 1967 and giving the Palestinians their right to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. It further called for an active international involvement to compel Israel to implement General Assembly resolution 194 (III) on the Palestine refugees’ right of return . (Arabic News.com)

The IDF arrested four foreign peace activists as they demonstrated against the construction of the West Bank "security barrier". The four members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), from the United States, Canada, Denmark and Sweden, were detained near the village of Arabbuna, north of Jenin, after refusing orders to leave tents they had set up next to the wall. Fellow activists said they had been camping out at the site near Jenin for three days. Police spokesman Gil Kleinman said the four foreign nationals had put up tents in a closed military area. The army took them to the police and they were now in the police station of “Ariel.” Israel’s Interior Ministry had been informed and would decide on what to do next. (AFP)

10

A Palestinian Authority report said the number of Palestinians killed at the hands of Israeli soldiers totalled 2,616, including 571 children (below 18 years old) between the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000 and the end of May 2003. (Arabic News.com)

Israel Radioreported that Palestinian intelligence services in the West Bank had recently worked in coordination with Israel to arrest an Islamic Jihad militant in Jenin, and later transferred him to a Palestinian Authority prison in Jericho. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF detained three Palestinian boys, ages 10 and 11, who were playing outside the “Yitzhar” settlement, south of Nablus. (Ha’aretz)

One Israeli and five foreign peace activists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and France were arrested after attempting to remove Israeli army roadblocks in Nablus. They were arrested by Israeli soldiers while trying to demolish an earth roadblock with a bulldozer after having demolished two others. All six were handcuffed and transported to the police station in the “Ariel” settlement. The five foreign peace activists were members of the International Solidarity Movement. (AFP)

Four Palestinians were arrested in two separate infiltration attempts from the Gaza Strip into Israel. In the town of Kerem Shalom near the border with the Gaza Strip, the town’s security officer shot and wounded a Palestinian and arrested him. At almost the same time, three Palestinians were intercepted by Israeli troops between Kibbutz Mefalsim and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel. One of the men was wounded by Israeli fire. None of the four Palestinians were armed and their motives were not clear. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Authority Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan met at the Erez crossing. Mr. Dahlan urged Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners, saying: “We are calling for the release of all Palestinian prisoners and especially those prisoners who spent long years in prison, including the ill and the elderly,” noting in particular the cases of 460 prisoners who had been in jail for many years. Mr. Dahlan also called on Israel to transfer security control in additional West Bank cities to the Palestinian Authority, saying that this was “vital” to bolster the truce. Mr. Mofaz rejected both requests, saying the PA must first begin disarming terrorist organizations. Mr. Mofaz said Israel would consider the release of a limited number of Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners, but added that any decisions would be made at a meeting between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas to be held the following week. Regarding further withdrawals, Mr. Mofaz said the PA had not yet proved its ability to fight terror in Gaza and Bethlehem and there would be no further withdrawals until the PA demonstrated that ability. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Egyptian mediators obtained an agreement from four Palestinian factions – Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the DFLP, and Fatah – to stick to the truce. The faction leaders, however, emphasized that “the prisoner issue could blow up everything,” being one of the most emotional issues and affecting the lives of almost every Palestinian. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad turned down Egypt’s request to extend the truce to six months. (AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israeli security forces arrested 20 settlers and removed a tent and a shed during the evacuation of the “Shalem” outpost near the “Elon Moreh” settlement in the West Bank. The outpost had been established several days earlier and the "Yesha Council of Settlements" had also called for its removal. (Ha’aretz)

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Xhaoxing praised the “flexible and practical attitude” of the Palestinian leadership towards resumption of peace talks with Israel in his talks with Palestinian Authority Minister of External Affairs Nabil Sha’ath, who was on an official visit in Beijing. Mr. Li also said China was “ready to join common efforts with the international community” to promote peace in the region. He added that China backed a continued role for Chairman Arafat and urged more United Nations involvement in the peace efforts. (DPA)

11

IDF Special Forces captured four Palestinians in Hebron, one suspected terrorist in Bethlehem and two wanted Palestinians in Nablus, an Israel military source said. Most of the men belonged to the Islamic Jihad. (The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Abbas was reportedly scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Sharon the following week to discuss the prisoner release and the transfer of control of more cities to Palestinians. (Ha’aretz)

Israel Radioreported that Prime Minister Sharon would visit Washington, D.C., at the end of the month. The Prime Minister’s office had announced the previous week that Mr. Sharon would travel to Washington in September 2003, but the radio said the trip had been moved forward at the request of the United States Administration to bolster the Road Map. (AFP, DPA, ITAR-TASS, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was scheduled to begin a five-day visit to the Middle East on 13 July. Mr. Ivanov was to visit Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but not Israel. A Russian diplomat said Mr. Ivanov would not be visiting Israel because Israeli leaders had other commitments at the time of the visit but that he would probably visit the country in the autumn. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia was prepared to take part in the US efforts to monitor implementation of the Road Map. He said: “Taking into account the extreme acuteness of the situation and still remaining lack of trust between the two parties, they would naturally have difficulties trying to reach reconciliation on their own. In this context, special significance is attached to the mechanism of outside monitoring over the fulfilment of the obligations the parties committed themselves to. It will act as a stabilizer of the peace process. We welcome the efforts the USA has already taken in this direction and are ready to join them.” (AFP, The Jerusalem Post, www.rian.ru)

A group of 200 of the 1,200 Palestinian prisoners at the Megiddo prison in northern Israel began a hunger strike, Israel Radio reported. It would be joined by a further group every day, the Bethlehem-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said. (AFP, DPA)

The Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron received an order from the Israeli army to extend the closure of the university for one month. The closure had been imposed on 15 January 2003, when the army had destroyed and confiscated large part of the property and equipment of the university, and welded shut the university’s main gates and doors. (www.ppi.edu)

A 61-year-old Israeli taxi driver, Eliyahu Gurel, was reportedly kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists and held by a local Fatah faction in Ramallah. He did not return home after taking passengers from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His car was found abandoned with the engine running in the village of Beit Hanina. No signs of struggle or blood were found in the vehicle. Money was found in the vehicle and the keys had been left inside. His family said they had received a phone call on 12 July from a man with an Arab accent, who said that Mr. Gurel would not be hurt. The call was traced to Ramallah. West Bank intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi said the Palestinians had set up a liaison office to coordinate the search with the Israelis. Israeli security officials said they believed Mr. Gurel had been kidnapped as a bargaining chip for the release of Palestinian prisoners. A few hours before Mr. Gurel disappeared, a senior Hamas leader had threatened that Hamas would kidnap Israelis if Israel did not agree to release all Palestinian prisoners, but Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said Hamas was not involved in the incident and that the group was committed to the truce. Islamic Jihad also denied any connection to the incident. Sources from the two Palestinian factions said that their threats to kidnap Israelis exclusively referred to soldiers. The IDF placed a closure on Ramallah on 14 July as it continued a search for Mr. Gurel. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

12

The Israeli authorities arrested Sean O’Muireagain, a 40-year old man from Northern Ireland they suspected to be a former real IRA bomb-maker, at the “Hizme” checkpoint between the West Bank and northern Jerusalem. The man had arrived in Israel three weeks before on a British passport. The editor of the Irish-language daily La, Ciaran O’Pronntaigh, said the arrested man had been working as a foreign correspondent for the daily and the accusation was “rubbish.” Three days later, Israel Radioreported that Israeli officials had confirmed that a mistake had been made in the arrest. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Times)

13

Leaders of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons issued a statement calling for the release of the Israeli taxi driver who had been missing since 11 July. Orit Messer-Harel, spokesperson for Israel’s prison service, said the statement had been released by prisoner representative committees at the Ashkelon and Shatah prisons, which together held hundreds of Palestinian inmates. “We allowed the dissemination of this call because it helps peace,” she said. The statement did not confirm that the driver had been kidnapped. PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdel Razeq said the statement had been made released on behalf of all political factions. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement warning that attempts to disarm them would affect their initiative to suspend attacks against Israelis. (AP)

At a weekly Cabinet meeting, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said that the Palestinian Authority had collected weapons and arrested 20 gunmen in the Gaza Strip over the weekend. (Ha’aretz)

In Ramallah, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met with Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Abbas, Foreign Minister Sha’ath, PLC Spokesman Qurei and other Palestinian officials. In remarks at a press conference after the meeting, Mr. Ivanov pledged Russia would strenuously work towards the creation of a sovereign and viable Palestinian State. He also said that the top priority steps to be taken by the parties were the pullback of Israeli troops to the positions before September 2000, the complete lifting of the blockade of Palestinian cities, the freeze of settlement activities, the restructuring of Palestinian security services and enhancement of their effectiveness in countering terrorist activity, preparations for and the holding of Palestinian elections, and the adoption of a constitution. (www.mid.ru)

Palestinian Authority Minister of Social Affairs Intisar Al-Wazir (Umm Jihad) said the Israeli siege and closures had caused deteriorating living conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that more than 70 per cent of the Palestinians lived below the poverty line, while the unemployment rate had reached 65 per cent in the Gaza Strip and 55 per cent in the West Bank. (DPA)

According to a survey conducted and released by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, only 10 per cent of Palestine refugees living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jordan and Lebanon were interested in returning to their homes in Israel. The survey was based on interviews with 4,500 people. Approximately half of the respondents said they would like to live in an independent Palestinian State, while 17 per cent said they preferred to stay in their current homes. The survey also found that “the vast majority” of refugees were willing to accept monetary compensation in lieu of a return to their homes. Dozens of furious Palestine refugees wrecked the Centre’s office in Ramallah in protest at the release of the survey. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

14

Palestinian security forces safely detonated a 20-kilogram explosive device found in Bethlehem. Palestinian sources said the forces had managed to locate the device after questioning a number of suspects held by the Palestinian police. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The Tel Aviv District Court ordered Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti to spend a further six months in isolation from other prisoners. He had been confined in isolation for the past six months to prevent him from making direct contact with other militants. He had refused to testify, saying that the trial was “staged” and its outcome was predetermined. The prosecution was due to present its closing arguments on 24 August. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Israeli army opened a road traversing the central Gaza Strip, the Abu Al Ajin route, to Palestinian traffic. ( www.idf.il)

Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition calling on the army to remove roadblocks preventing residents of three Palestinian villages from reaching Nablus. The petition had been filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights. The State maintained that the villagers could reach Nablus via the Beit Fouriq roadblock, but Attorney Noa Stein argued that residents had to wait hours at the roadblock and only children and those over the age of 35 were allowed through. The Court ruled that it would not tell the army what kind of security measures it should use. (The Jerusalem Post)

During a sit-in in support of Palestinian prisoners at the International Committee of the Red Cross office in Gaza City, Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdel Razeq said: “The problem [of prisoners] has reached a stalemate and needs international intervention to force Israel to change its stance. We have rejected Israel’s stance and we have called on the Quartet to intervene … There can be no progress [on the peace negotiations] without a real move forward on the question of freeing the prisoners.” (AFP)

European Union Governments appointed senior Belgian diplomat Marc Otte, 56, as its new envoy to the Middle East. Mr. Otte, currently chief adviser to EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, wwould replace Miguel Moratinos of Spain, who had held the position for six years. Mr. Otte was Belgian Ambassador to Israel from 1992 to 1996 and also served in Washington. “He is a top diplomat, the right hand of Mr. Solana on security and defence matters,” Mr. Solana’s spokesperson Christina Gallach told Reuters three days earlier. (DPA, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon met with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London. A British official said the two leaders had discussed the implementation of the Road Map and the cases of three British nationals killed or injured by Israeli troops in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The official said: “I understand Mr. Sharon raised the question of dealing with President Arafat, to which the Foreign Secretary made clear that the British position … is that while President Arafat is a democratically elected president of the Palestinian Authority, then we will continue to have dealings with him, as long as we judge it to be useful.” Mr. Straw asked for Israel’s assistance in tracking down terrorist organizations posing as charity groups, and stressed the importance of the release of Palestinian prisoners. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

In his meeting with Prime Minister Blair later in the day, Prime Minister Sharon said the construction of the West Bank security barrier would continue, despite international opposition, as it was “neither a political nor a military border, rather an obstacle to infiltration.” Mr. Sharon also proposed that Europe asume a role in the peace efforts by setting up social and welfare services in the Occupied Palestinian Territory similar to those run by Hamas. “What would influence the Palestinian public’s support for Hamas is British and European action to [offer an alternative to] those services,” Mr. Sharon explained. (AFP, The Guardian, Ha’aretz)

French President Jacques Chirac said in a televised interview that the US had “a special role to play, given its relations with Israel and its resources, in contributing to an improvement in the conflict,” but added that the United States should not act alone: “I continue to think that Europe still has much to do in this area.” (AFP)

Acting United States Consul General in Jerusalem Jeffery Feltman and local head of the USAID Larry Garber visited the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, which had been battered by months of Israeli reoccupation. The US had earlier announced a special aid package to the town. “Our contractors are already at work here in Beit Hanoun and elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, helping Palestinian families and businesses to get back on their feet. Within a short time, the improvement in public services and private sector activity will be evident to all,” Mr. Garber told reporters. According to Palestinian officials who accompanied the US delegation, some 1,200 acres of farmland and 70 homes had been completely destroyed by the army in recent months, as well as seven bridges and 31 water wells. Mr. Feltman said that half of the US$30-million package would be used to rebuild Beit Hanoun, while the other half would be for the rest of the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

A report issued in June 2003 by the Director-General of the International Labour Office (ILO) said the economic and social crisis in the occupied Arab territories had deepened markedly over the past year, with rising unemployment and plummeting incomes leading to an “untenable” situation. Referring to the Road Map, the report stressed that “building labour institutions becomes an essential component towards statehood.” The ILO had contributed US$1.4 million from its own budget to the establishment of a Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection. (Press release ILO/03/30)

Chairman Arafat met with Prime Minister Abbas in Ramallah. PLC member Saeb Erakat said both men had agreed that “the Palestinian leadership is in charge of peace talks with Israel.” Messrs. Arafat and Abbas had worked out a power-sharing agreement that guaranteed Mr. Arafat continued influence over negotiations with Israel, with a PLO negotiating committee to include Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. Mr. Abbas had agreed that a security committee would oversee the work of the Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan. (AP, The Guardian)

15

A 24-year-old Israeli, Amir Simhon, was killed and two others were wounded when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem launched a stabbing attack on Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade near Jaffa. The Palestinian man, who was shot by security in the legs, was taken to hospital, where police interrogated him and identified him as affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. However, several of the organization’s cell commanders said the group was not linked to the attack. Prime Minister Abbas condemned the stabbing, saying Palestinians rejected that kind of violence and terror. Palestinian Authority Information Minister Amr said that PA would continue efforts to “put an end” to such acts. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Guardian)

Late in the day, Israeli special forces freed unharmed an Israeli taxi driver held for four days by Palestinians in a kidnapping that endangered the truce. The IDF said the break in the case had come on 12 July, when one female kidnapper, Shirin Halil, was arrested and provided information that led security forces to two other kidnappers. The two had then led security forces to an abandoned building in Beituniya, near Ramallah, where Eliyahu Gurel was held. Two more Palestinians, both unarmed, were captured during the rescue operation. Three of the four arrested men were identified as Ahmed Bajes Hajaj, Ramez Abed Rimawi and Samir Rimawi. No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and the IDF confirmed that major Palestinian militant groups were not behind it. However, the head of the IDF Central Command, Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, said it was “definitely a terrorist incident.” He stressed that the “release of Gurel was the result of an operation conducted entirely by Israeli forces,” and that Israel had expected better cooperation from Palestinian security sources. Foreign Minister Shalom said: “We hope that next time they will do everything to prevent such a kidnapping of Israelis because it could have brought about a very complicated situation, which could have damaged the peace process between us and the Palestinians.” Palestinian sources said the kidnappers had been in touch with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, seeking help in demanding that Israel, in exchange for Mr. Gurel, release a number of Palestinian prisoners, but the Brigades refused to get involved. Israeli investigators, who interrogated the kidnappers, said they had abducted Mr. Gurel to raise ransom money and to demand the release of about 2,000 Palestinian prisoners, in particular, Marwan Barghouti and five Palestinians implicated in the October 2001 murder of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evy, who were currently held under international custody at Jericho prison. (AFP, AP, ww.idf.il,Reuters)

The United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, opened at the United Nations Office at Geneva. Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Peter Hansen delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General at the opening meeting. (UN News Centre)

UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen, attending United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People in Geneva, told journalists that UNRWA was running out of cash and would be forced to cut food distribution by half “at best,” to cancel plans to rebuild more than 1,800 housing units destroyed in fighting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to cut back “very drastically” on employment programmes affecting the livelihoods of thousands of families, and to scale back or scrap many education and trauma-treatment services. Mr. Hansen said the Agency had not received any of the US$102 million it had asked for to keep aid flowing from July to the end of the year. In response to the latest emergency appeal, donor countries had so far pledged only $3 million, he said, adding: “As of now we have received nothing. I’m sure we will be getting more pledges but it’s clear that it will not be $102 million.” Over the previous six months UNRWA had managed to receive only one third of the amount it had appealed for from donors, or about $34 million, Mr. Hansen said, stressing: “If the international community wants to send [refugees] a message saying ‘trust us, we are working on your behalf for peace’, it’s not very likely such trust will be created. And without that trust, refugees will ask ‘what is in it for us?’" (AFP, Reuters)

The Knesset passed by 26 to 8 a resolution stating: “The territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are not occupied territories, neither from a historic standpoint, nor from that of international law, and not according to the agreements signed by the State of Israel … The Knesset strengthens the hands of the residents of Yesha, and calls upon the Government to continue to develop the communities.” The resolution, which was brought forward by the National Union, also stated: “The Knesset calls upon the Government to insist on the following red lines in all future negotiations: Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem; preservation of security zones including the western security zone along the Green Line and an eastern security zone in the Jordan Valley; total rejection of the entry of Palestinian refugees to the areas of Israel; the dismantling of the terror infrastructures and the cessation of incitement as conditions for all diplomatic negotiations.” (The Jerusalem Post, The Palestine Media Centre)

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met with PA President Arafat and Prime Minister Abbas to discuss the truce, the prisoner issue, and the implementation of the Road Map. (Reuters)

16

Prime Minister Sharon arrived in Norway for a five-hour stay, meeting with Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and Foreign Minister Jan Petersen in Molde, Mr. Bondevik’s hometown on Norway’s western coast. On the airport road, about 150 members of the Norwegian chapter of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem waved Israeli flags and displayed a welcome banner, while several thousand protesters stood along the route to the meeting place, waving rainbow-coloured peace flags and banners. Mr. Sharon was expected to press on with demands that Europe sever ties with Chairman Arafat. However, Mr. Bondevik rejected the idea in a newspaper interview on the eve of Mr. Sharon’s visit, also saying it was in the interest of all parties that the Palestinian leader have freedom of movement. Following the visit, Mr. Bondevik repeated: “Arafat is a leader elected by the Palestinian people and we have no plans to change our policy.” Mr. Petersen told stated in an interview just hours before meeting Mr. Sharon: “We certainly meet with those we want to meet with. We shall not be told whom we can meet with. No way are we going to change our policy. I don’t understand the Israeli position. If we are going to move forward with this peace process we need Arafat onboard. And we need to stay in touch with him.” Thorbjørn Jagland, head of the Norwegian parliament’s foreign relations committee, stated in an interview before the meeting: “The most important thing Bondevik can do is to make it very clear that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza can’t go on.” Speaking briefly with reporters after the meeting, Mr. Sharon described the talks as a “good contribution to the Mideast peace process,” but offered no details. Mr. Bondevik said it was essential for Norway to continue talking to both sides in the conflict, adding that Prime Minister Abbas was also planning to visit Norway in late August. Norwegian officials confirmed that Mr. Abbas would travel to Norway during the last week of August, having accepted an invitation from Mr. Bondevik during a telephone conversation between the two the previous evening. (AFP, Aftenposten, DPA)

The United States and the Palestinian Authority held a ceremony finalizing a $20 million US grant to the PA. “This is the first time we have ever given 20 million bucks straight to the Palestinian Authority,” a US Embassy spokesman said, adding that the money would be transferred electronically to the PA after the ceremony. PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad signed documents along with Larry Garber, Gaza and West Bank regional director for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Mr. Fayyad told reporters after the ceremony that the PA needed “billions of dollars to repair and rebuild what the Israeli army destroyed in Palestinian areas.” (AFP, Reuters; see also 2 and 8 July 2003)

An Israeli military court handed two Palestinians 15 life sentences each, the Israeli news agency Y-netreported. Brothers Yussuf and Mohammed Al-Karam were found guilty of being behind a suicide bomb attack on a bus in Haifa in December 2001 which killed 15 Israelis. Mohammed Al-Karam received an additional 20 years for his role in another attack. (DPA)

Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said there was little doubt that, once released, many of the Palestinian prisoners would soon resume military activities against Israel. “We would be shooting ourselves in the leg because one of our main complaints against the Palestinian Authority was the revolving door,” he told a group of journalists, adding: “It would be extremely difficult for us and America to tell the Palestinian Government to arrest terrorist leaders while Israel would be releasing terrorist leaders. This is ridiculous.” (AFP)

PA Information Minister Nabil Amr stated in an interview that he was working to extend the ceasefire agreement among Palestinian factions declared on 29 June. “We have a plan to transform the [ceasefire] from a limited one to one that is for an indefinite period of time,” he said, and urged Israel to strengthen the truce by releasing more prisoners, dismantling settler outposts and softening its demands for the rapid disarming of Palestinian militant groups. (AP)

After meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül in Ankara, PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath told a news conference: “Turkey will add a factor in persuading the Israelis to move ahead in implementing their share of the Road Map … because of its particular importance in the area and its good relations with both Palestinians and Israelis.” Mr. Sha’ath said the two had also discussed preparations for a Turkish role in the international Middle East peace conference that was called for by the Road Map, and invited Turkey to participate in a number of committees set up by the Quartet and to contribute to reconstruction projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Mr. Gül said his country was determined to help “actively” in the peace process and was expending “great efforts” to that end. He added that Turkey could contribute to the drafting of a Palestinian constitution and to educational projects. (AFP)

Russia’s Middle East envoy Andrei Vdovin told reporters after talks with Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid in Beirut: “We are backing efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the Road Map, but we believe the time is ideal to relaunch the Lebanese-Israeli and Syrian-Israeli tracks.” At a joint conference after talks in Cairo on 17 July, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Maher also called for the revival of the two tracks, based on existing “resolutions of international legitimacy.” Mr. Ivanov was expected to meet with President Mubarak later in the day. (AFP, DPA)

UNHCR started giving Palestinians refugee status in Iraq, including hundreds who had been living in tents since being evicted from their houses after the end of the war. UNHCR estimated there were 80,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq, who had arrived in waves in 1948, 1967, 1973 and 1991. They were registered not with a UN agency, but with the Iraqi Government which gave them all the rights of Iraqis except nationality. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Abbas was expected to arrive in the United States on 25 July on his first official visit there, his office said in a statement. He was expected to meet with President Bush and Secretary of State Powell, as well as other US officials in Washington. (AFP, DPA)

17

Palestinians fired at the IDF in the Gaza Strip near the “Neve Dekalim” settlement and in the “Kaddim” settlement. No injuries were reported. (Ha’aretz)

After the announcement of the visit by Prime Minister Abbas to the United States on 25 July, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Al-Rantissi warned Mr. Abbas against giving in to the US “dictation” and attempting to disarm his group. Islamic Jihad leader Mohamad al-Hindi said any aid offered by the US Administration and accepted by Mr. Abbas would be considered a bribe to end the intifada. In a leaflet, local leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Nablus called on Mr. Abbas to resign and immediately end all security talks with Israel. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen briefed the UN Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” (UN News Centre, UN press release SC/7818)

The European Commission decided to extend aid amounting to €100 million (US$112 million) to the PA to help efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. The aid would go towards reconstruction, reforms, boosting Palestinian businesses, and providing Palestinians with “immediate, tangible benefits” from moves towards peace, said Christian Leffler, the European Commission Director for the Middle East. Of the 100 million, €30 million will go towards rebuilding essential services in northern Gaza and Bethlehem, €40 million to the PA Finance Ministry for its debt payments to local companies, and €30 million to be made available as loans to Palestinian businesses to boost employment and growth. (Reuters, www.europa.eu.int)

Israeli and Palestinian parliamentarians met in Geneva for the first time since the intifada started in 2000. Anders Johnsson, Secretary-General of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which brought them together, said the IPU was arranging for another meeting there before the end of August. An IPU statement said the working group of MPs, set up at the meeting, would “prepare in the near future the infrastructure for cooperation between the two elected parliaments, within the peace process and towards the peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.” The delegations involved four Israeli MKs and four Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members. Avraham Burg, Israeli delegation leader and former speaker of the Knesset from the Labour Party, said it had been “a refreshing experience to renew dialogue with our Palestine neighbours after three painful years.” The PLC team’s Jawad Tibi, a doctor and independent member of the body, also said he was happy that dialogue had been renewed, adding that it was a pity that members of the two legislatures could only meet in Europe. “But we hope this will be a first step towards more negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments so as establish a good bridge over the gap that has existed between us, and still exists,” he told a news conference attended by both delegations. However, members of both delegations conceded that there were major differences between them over the conflict. (www.ipu.org,Reuters)

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) said in a press release that Israel was scheduled to deport eight foreign peace activists deemed “a security threat” after they had peacefully protested against the construction of the security barrier in the West Bank. The move came after a Tel Aviv court rejected an appeal filed by the activists’ lawyer. Four of the activists had been detained the previous week in Arabbuna village near Jenin where they had set up tents to protest Israel’s construction of the fence. They had been camping out at the site for three days, but were arrested on charges of “entering a closed military zone,” said Huwaida Arraf, ISM spokeswoman and one of its founders. A day later, four Western and two Israeli peace activists were arrested as they tried to clear three roadblocks cutting off two villages just outside Nablus. The two Israeli activists were released without charge. The eight activists (two from Sweden, two from the UK and the other four from Canada, Denmark, France and the United States) were likely to be flown back to their home countries within the next 24 hours, Ms. Arraf said, adding that since April 2002 nearly 60 ISM activists had been deported on “security-related” offences. (AFP, www.palsolidarity.org)

Two settlers were arrested by the General Security Service (Shin Bet) and police on suspicion of “security crimes” against Palestinians, but had not yet been charged. Yitzhak Pas, whose 10-month-old daughter was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper in the centre of Hebron in March 2001, and his brother-in-law, Matityahu Shevu (Shabu), appeared in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court the next day for a first remand hearing. A police request to have them held for 15 days was rejected, and instead the court remanded them for six days. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking to the US Congress, said: “Terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine,” adding to loud applause: “We must never compromise the security of the State of Israel.” (AFP)

Security officials said the 21km segment of the separation barrier around Jerusalem, also known as the “Jerusalem envelope,” being built on the northern and southern outskirts of the city, would be completed by the end of July. Responsibility for it will be handed over to the IDF at the beginning of August. Another 900m segment in the Atarot area north of the city was expected to be completed in the near future, while the third segment, of an especially high barrier in the area of Rachel’s Tomb, had been approved two weeks earlier, following months of talks with the residents opposed to its construction. Israel Radio also reported that funds had yet to be allocated to build the separation barrier from the “Elkana” settlement, south-east of Qalqilya, to the Dead Sea. The cost of a kilometre of the barrier was estimated at NIS10 million. Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, State Prosecutor Edna Arbel and the Deputy Director-General of the Defence Ministry had toured the site of the planned separation fence that would surround Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported. The tour had been undertaken after some Palestinians petitioned the High Court of Justice to protest the appropriation of their land to make way for the barrier. During a hearing in the High Court several months before, Mr. Rubinstein had said Israel was committed to building 26 special crossing points that would enable farmers to reach their lands. But an engineer sent by the World Bank found preparations for only one such crossing, according to a World Bank report published in May. (Ha’aretz)

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov criticized Israeli MPs’ adoption of a resolution denying the occupation of the Palestinian territories, saying it undermined the Middle East peace Road Map. “Russia believes that any decision or action of this sort destroys the basic principles of the peace process, and is not in harmony with the political process,” Mr. Ivanov told reporters after talks with President Mubarak, adding: “We hope that people will refrain from adopting such resolutions.” (AFP; see DF of 17 July 2003)

18

Senior official in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs David Granit said Foreign Minister Shalom would deliver a speech to the EU Foreign Ministers on 21 July, in which he was expected to challenge them and say that if the EU viewed itself as an active partner in the Road Map process, it had to take action against the anti-Israel resolutions in UN bodies, both by voting against them and by ensuring that the Palestinians and Arab States toned down the rhetoric. Mr. Granit, the Ministry’s Deputy Director-General for UN and International Organizations, said Mr. Shalom’s appeal to the EU Foreign Ministers would be the beginning of a campaign to put an end to the flow of anti-Israeli resolutions in various UN forums. “We did not understand at Oslo the damage these resolutions can do, and thought that the excitement of Oslo would sweep away all the negativity. But we did not appreciate enough the strength of the radical countries, Islamic fundamentalism, and the legitimacy they have in the UN… One resolution may not be important,” Mr. Granit said, “But 30 or 40 create an impact in many countries which, because of these resolutions, treat you like a leper.” According to Mr. Granit, a number of European ambassadors had said in the past few weeks that the treatment of Israel in the UN needed to change. (The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF said in a statement that its forces had demolished the Beit Rima houses of Ahmed Hajaj and Ramaz Rimawi, who had taken part in the 11 July kidnapping of Israeli taxi-driver Eliyahu Gurel. (AFP, DPA)

Palestinians in Jenin erected a statue of a horse made by a German sculptor from the scrap metal of cars and homes destroyed during an IDF siege. The multicoloured, 5-metre high statue was placed at the southern entrance to Jenin as a symbol of hope and renewal after a farmer moved it around the West Bank on a cart attached to a tractor in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians. It had taken 11 hours to travel 90 km within the West Bank because of the tractor’s slow speed and delays at six IDF roadblocks on the way. “I want this piece of art to be a contribution towards the freedom of the Palestinian people,” said Thomas Kilpper, the sculptor, who had collected scrap metal left over from the siege and built the horse with the help of 12 Palestinian teenagers. “Even if they [Israel] destroy so much, we can build our life productively out of the rubble,” Mr. Kilpper said. On one side of the horse, a piece of white metal read “Red Crescent Society.” It had been extracted from an ambulance in which a Palestinian doctor died after it was hit by Israeli forces. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Abbas was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Sharon on 20 July ahead of his visit to Washington. Palestinian officials stated in an interview that the talks would focus on further Israeli withdrawals from reoccupied Palestinian areas, the lifting of closures, the release of Palestinian prisoners, as well as a freeze on Jewish settlement and what Israel calls the security fence.” Mr. Sharon is expected to approve the release of between 40 and 60 Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in advance of the meeting. Mr. Abbas would then head off to Egypt where he planned to meet with President Hosni Mubarak and other officials, and thence to Jordan on 21 July to meet with King Abdullah and Prime Minister Samir Abbas. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin reaffirmed the EU’s determination to maintain contacts with Chairman Arafat despite Israeli and US pressure, telling a news briefing in Brussels: “We believe that contacts with President Arafat do nothing to undermine his Prime Minister. In fact, those contacts may indeed be helpful.” She was speaking after Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, whose country currently held the rotating EU Presidency, said after meeting his Israeli counterpart last week: “We’ll listen to other countries as far as the protocol role of Arafat is concerned, but we can’t allow discussions about the implementation of the Road Map to be taken over by the role of Arafat.” (Reuters)

Shimon Peres said in an interview with Reutersthat the US leadership in the current peacebuilding efforts was the critical factor that would help the Road Map succeed where an earlier peace process launched with the 1993 Oslo accords had come unstuck. “The difference is that there is a major player in the fight against terror, the United States. The change occurred on September 11, 2001. Now the Americans are really leading the process more than anybody else. It’s not just a commitment, it’s part and parcel of their overall strategy to bring an end to terror. The continuation of the conflict harms their overall strategy.” “I’m very optimistic,” Mr. Peres said of the efforts by Prime Ministers Abbas and Sharon. “I think that we can develop good relations with the Palestinians, similar to those that exist between us and the Jordanians.” Mr. Peres also expressed opposition to the separation barrier, saying, “It must be temporary. A wall or a fence shows a disagreement, a border shows an agreement and I prefer an agreed border than a disagreed fence. If terror will fall we don’t need fences or walls.” (Reuters)

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Jean Ziegler told reporters in Geneva that Israel was violating in a “permanent and grave” way the right to food in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with some 3.5 million Palestinians facing a “catastrophic humanitarian situation.” An independent expert and a Swiss professor of sociology mandated by the UN Commission on Human Rights, he had just returned from the region and was to present a report to the Secretary-General in early September. During his 3-13 July mission, Mr. Ziegler met with Chairman Arafat and other PA officials, as well as Israeli military officials responsible for the territories. Although Mr. Ziegler dismissed Israel’s reasons in several cases, he commended the Israeli Government for its full cooperation and for having for the first time granted officially his mission access to the area. Citing World Bank figures, Mr. Ziegler said some 56 per cent of Palestinian households had a meal only once a day, while over 9 per cent of children under five suffered from severe malnutrition. “They are reduced to begging. The economy is in ruins,” Mr. Ziegler said, while insisting that there was “no malice” in Israel’s actions. He blamed the situation on the Israeli military occupation, the sealing off of the Palestinian territories by Israeli forces, the confiscation of land and the diversion of water towards Israeli settlements. (AFP, AP, The Jerusalem Post)

19

PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath, in Rome for a Socialist International conference on Iraq and the Middle East, told reporters that Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, whom he had met with the day before, had said he would go soon to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and meet with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Abbas. Palestinian representative in Rome Nimer Hammad also said that during the talks there was “an agreement in principle” that Mr. Berlusconi would go to the Middle East to meet with the Palestinians and that Prime Minister Abbas would soon visit Rome. The Italian Government had said that Mr. Abbas would visit Italy sometime between 15 and 25 July. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

About 20 Palestinian gunmen abducted acting governor of Jenin Haidar Irsheed, beating and threatening to kill him as a collaborator, but freed him hours later after Chairman Arafat spoke by telephone with members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, who admitted to the kidnapping. “He sent his men to shoot at members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and tried to assassinate others,” local Brigades leader Zakariya Zubeidi told Reuters. PA Information Minister Nabil Amr condemned the abduction as a “regrettable act” and said: “Law will be enforced. Nobody can act outside this cycle of law.” (AFP, Reuters)

20

Chairman Arafat ordered the re-publication of the three-article Presidential Decree No. 3 of 1998 entitled “Strengthening National Unity and Forbidding Incitement,” outlawing both “incitement to violence” and “incitement to violate agreements contracted by the Palestine Liberation Organization.” “Any person committing any of the above acts will be prosecuted according to the law,” said the text of the decree published by the official WAFA news agency. The decree banned “incitement to racial discrimination, encouraging unlawful acts of violence or resorting to violence, or incitement to resort to violence in relations with brotherly countries and foreign countries” and prohibited “incitement to (commit) crimes, kill, agitate crowds to use unlawful force [and] incitement to national division.” (AFP,Palestine Media Centre)

Talks between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas ended without tangible results, with the meeting reportedly dominated by the issues of Palestinian prisoners to be released from Israeli jails and the continued siege of Chairman Arafat. The two sides agreed to form a joint committee which would consider the numbers of Palestinian prisoners who should be released from Israeli jails. PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdelrazeq ws also to meet with Avi Dichter, head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), “to discuss the means and conditions of the liberation of detainees,” according to a statement released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. In advance of this meeting, Mr. Abdelrazeq said he would reject any attempt by Israel to present a list of detainees to be released from its prisons as a fait accompli. (AFP, www.pmo.gov.il)

Israeli terrorist cells were operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory against Palestinians, defence officials told Israel Radio, adding that there were at least two if not three such cells and each one had some three members trained in terrorist operations. Eight Palestinians had been shot and killed and several injured over the past three years. Also, five bombs had been planted in Palestinian cities and schools over the past two years, three of which were found and neutralized. In April 2002, two residents of the “Bat Ayin” settlement had been apprehended as they tried to plant what police said was a powerful bomb near a Palestinian girls’ school in East Jerusalem. (The Jerusalem Post)

Completion of the proposed 450 km security barrier “could take until 2005 or 2006,” said Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Ze’ev Boim. Construction had ground to a halt after an agreement between Prime Minster Sharon and Defence Minister Mofaz to expand the original plan with a 120km spur to envelop the “Ariel,” “Immanuel,” and “Kedumim” settlements. “There is an unholy union of opposition between the settlers, the Palestinians and the Americans,” said Mr. Boim, blaming criticism by the three for the lack of action. (The Jerusalem Post)

A Palestinian was shot dead in an exchange of fire with the IDF near the “Kadim” settlement east of Jenin, Palestinian security sources said. The victim was identified as Rami Hubeizi, a member of the Islamic Jihad. Israeli military sources said he was killed while detonating an explosive charge as an IDF patrol passed by and not by Israeli gunfire. The patrol also came under automatic rifle fire but did not respond, the sources added. No Israeli casualties were reported. (AFP)

21

Prime Minister Sharon met the Likud MK group on the eve of a meeting by the Knesset Finance Committee to decide on a NIS750 million (US$170 million) package to speed up work on the “security fence,” Israeli Public Radioreported. The committee had called for more discussion on the route of the fence, but Mr. Sharon said there was a need to “erect the best possible fence as quickly as possible.” Defence Minister Mofaz confirmed the fence would cut east of the “Ariel” settlement. According to the radio, Gen. Mofaz argued that the fence was “vital” for Israel’s security and warned that if it was not completed, the deployment of extra army reservists would be even more costly. (AFP)

In Brussels for a meeting of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, EU Foreign Ministers said in a joint declaration: “The Council underlined that the Palestinian Authority and its Government deserves support by everybody. This entails remaining in contact with all interlocutors within the Palestinian Authority.” “The EU strongly supports Mahmoud Abbas in his efforts,” the Ministers further said, urging “all parties to strictly adhere to the ceasefire agreement, to refrain from any provocation and to proceed with the implementation of confidence-building measures.” (AFP)

The EU Foreign Ministers held back-to-back meetings with Israeli and PA Foreign Ministers in Brussels, a format not seen since the end of 2001. Speaking after the meetings, both called for the EU to play a major role in the search for peace in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Sha’ath declared that the EU represented a “guarantee” for his people in the peace process and said they had full confidence in Europe. Foreign Minister Shalom called on the EU to play a “key role” in the settlement of the conflict. “It’s very important for us… I can’t accept the formula that Israel can live without Europe and that Europe can live without Israel. Israel and Europe have to live together... sharing the same values of democracy, the rule of law and respect of human rights,” Mr. Shalom said, adding that “the time has come for the Europeans to change their approach even in the United Nations.” Mr. Shalom said he urged his EU colleagues not to “vote against Israel automatically” at the UN: “If they will have a more balanced approach, I think it ... will allow all of us to let them play an important role in the peace process.” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Europe had done a lot to revive international diplomatic efforts and help the Palestinians prepare for a new attempt to find a settlement, but the EU also needed better ties with Israel. He said he had the impression that Israel felt ostracized: “I was astounded by the Israelis’ feeling of isolation.” Mr. Shalom responded: “The United States and Europe are able to work together to prevent the anti-Israeli decisions that are made by the UN in an automatic fashion. They can in this way reduce Israel’s feeling of isolation.” (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Prime Minister Abbas met with Egyptian President Mubarak and Foreign Minister Maher in Cairo and discussed the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as his recent meeting with Prime Minister Sharon. At a joint conference with Mr. Maher, Mr. Abbas warned that achieving stability would be difficult without any progress on the issues of prisoners, outposts and military withdrawals. He added, “We want the release of all the prisoners no matter what their affiliations are.” (AFP, DPA)

Palestinian national and Islamic organizations as well as other factions threatened to annul the hudna(truce) if Israel refused to release all the Palestinian political detainees from its jails. At a press conference held during an organized protest at the Unknown Soldier Square in the heart of Gaza City, the organizers called on Prime Minister Abbas to reject any resolution with Israel if it did not include a solution to the prisoners issue. (Comtex Global News)

Prime Minister Sharon was called to appear before the Knesset to answer opposition motions criticizing his Government for failing to remove settlement outposts put up in the West Bank in the past two years. Mr. Sharon said that Israeli Governments in the past had removed unauthorized settlements, “and this is how we intend to act in the future.” He further complained that his political opponents were referring to the unauthorized outposts in the same category as the 150 settlements in the West Bank that had been authorized by successive Israeli Governments, saying: “By that they strengthen our enemies.” The Knesset approved the Prime Minister’s statement by a vote of 47 in favour, 27 against and one abstention. (AP)

22

A vote in the Knesset to decide on extra funding for the completion of the West Bank separation barrier was postponed until further notice, a Knesset spokesman told reporters. According to Israel Public Radio, the delay was caused by members of the Likud party who had defied Prime Minister Sharon’s call on 21 July for the approval of a NIS750 million (US$170 million) package and demanded that the route of the fence be further discussed. (AFP, see also 21 July 2003)

Israeli Interior Minister Avraham Poraz (Shinui) said he planned to cut the amount of money his Ministry transferred to settlements and would give the money instead to developing towns inside Israel. “The Interior Ministry’s job is not to provide security for the settlements but rather to make sure that local districts are maintained properly,” Mr. Poraz told Army Radio. According to a report in Ma’ariv, the Ministry was to cut NIS70 million from funds designated for settlements and transfer them to struggling cities within the Green Line. “In the past it was accepted that some of the money was designated for settlements. I think that this preference is out of place so I took the money at the Ministry’s disposal and split it up according to formulas but without a preference to the settlements,” Mr. Poraz said. (The Jerusalem Post)

Head of the Labour Party Shimon Peres suggested that the issue of Jerusalem should be resolved by placing the city’s holy sites under UN stewardship, his spokesman Yoram Dori said in an interview. Mr. Peres' plan calls for declaring a holy area of sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem’s Old City as a “world capital,” with the UN Secretary-General serving as mayor. Mr. Peres put forth the idea during a meeting with visiting Russian diplomats-in-training when they asked how he envisaged a solution to conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city. (Reuters)

Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Amr Moussa told reporters that he would lodge a protest with the United Nations over the recent entry of Israeli groups into the Al-Aqsa Mosque. “This is a provocation directed at all Muslims, it is a very serious issue … [that] will provoke violence and reaction once again,” Mr. Moussa said. In recent weeks, Israeli police had been escorting small groups of tourists and Jews on short visits to Al-Haram al-Sharif. (Ha’aretz; see also 1 July 2003)

Prime Minister Abbas met with his Jordanian counterpart Ali Abul Ragheb in Amman. A statement issued by Mr. Abul Ragheb’s office indicated that he “underscored the importance of Israel taking tangible and practical steps regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners, freezing settlements and stopping the construction of the security fence.” Mr. Abu Ragheb also pledged that his country would “continue to employ its international ties to promote peace and stability in the region, foremost the implementation of the Road Map, [benefiting] from the United States commitment to set up an independent Palestinian State before the end of 2005.” Mr. Abbas met later in the day with King Abdullah who affirmed his support to the Palestinian Authority, to Mr. Abbas’ Government, and to steps that had been taken to implement the Road Map. King Abdullah expressed the hope that the discussions with President Bush would yield positive results. For his part, Mr. Abbas said the PA had taken many initiatives to achieve security, but stressed that Israel must take similar initiatives on the ground to build trust and support the Road Map, Petrareported. (Albawaba.com, DPA)

An Israeli military source said an IDF patrol had been attacked by roadside bombs in Rafah on 22 July. The vehicles were slightly damaged and there were no casualties. (The Jerusalem Post)

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), in its annual report covering the period between June 2002 and June 2003, criticized Israeli soldiers’ cruel behaviour towards Palestinians over the past year. The report . While denouncing Palestinian terrorist attacks, the document’s section on the West Bank concentrated on Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, citing the military's behaviour at roadblocks, searches of villages and assassinations of suspected Palestinian militants. The group charged that most of the civil rights violations by Israeli soldiers “arise not from any operational necessity, but from hard-heartedness of soldiers, who receive from above the message of utter disregard for the dignity, freedom and lives of innocent Palestinians.” The group alleged that the military prosecutor followed a policy of refusing to investigate “deaths that occurred during warfare,” a term covering most of the fatal incidents. The roadblocks had become "institutionalized centres of mistreatment" of Palestinians, the report claimed. “While a healthy person can somehow make his way across, a pregnant woman or a sick person cannot, and an ambulance cannot cross from the other side.” Although the military had pledged several times to allow urgent cases to cross roadblocks unimpeded and a procedure for that was in place, the report charged that “the procedures are not implemented, and in many cases, people in need of medical attention do not cross.” The ACRI report also alleged that Israeli soldiers randomly searched houses south of Hebron in the middle of the night, causing great destruction. Another practice was to park an armoured personnel carrier next to a house and race its engine, sending clouds of exhaust smoke into the house to choke the residents. The report said one incident of such “smoking” had been captured on videotape. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

23

Palestinian sources said the IDF had shot dead a Palestinian in Jenin. The victim was identified as Ziyad Suqiyyah. (The Palestine Media Centre)

The IDF arrested two suspected members of the Islamic Jihad in the village of Rai, south-west of Jenin, who reportedly had been planning to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. The Israeli forces operating in the Nablus area seized a variety of explosive devices, including 15 pipe bombs, a 10 kg bomb, and iron used to manufacture shrapnel. The IDF also found an explosive device weighing tens of kilograms in the village of Sabastia, north of Nablus. (Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

Jerusalem police arrested some 200 Palestinians from Hebron and Nablus for being in the refugee camp of Shuafat in northern Jerusalem without valid permits. (Ha’aretz)

The Ministerial Committee on the Release of Palestinian Prisoners, chaired by Prime Minister Sharon, held its first meeting. The Committee decided that some 530 Palestinian prisoners were ready to be released, but Mr. Sharon decided that a final decision on the release of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members on the list should be postponed until a vote by the Cabinet. PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdel Razeq commented to reporters: “We have entered a huge political crisis with the Israeli side and this decision will lead the political process to a dead end.” Some 400 prisoners were to be freed in the coming days, after the Director General of the Justice Ministry examined each case. The Committee was to reconvene in 11 days to discuss further releases. (AFP, Ha’aretz, www.pmo.gov.il)

Head of the Palestinian Authority Preventive Security in Gaza Rashid Abu Shbek warned that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad could not expect to keep their weaponry indefinitely if the peace process advanced, despite the groups’ claims that they had been given guarantees they would not be disarmed. “If there is a real peace agreement and a political solution, we will then be in a position to act against such organizations,” he added. Referring to “the year 1996 when the peace process was still alive,” he said: “We did crack down on groups and confiscate weapons because people believed in peace, and violence made no sense.” (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Abbas arrived in Washington for a meeting scheduled for 25 July with President Bush. Accompanying Mr. Abbas were Minister of External Affairs Nabil Sha’ath, Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, and PLC Speaker Ahmad Qureia. Minister of Finance Salam Fayyad was also to join the delegation. Mr. Abbas reportedly told the Al-Quds newspaper that he would discuss the problematic implications of the separation barrier with the United States Administration, presenting them with maps illustrating the route of the planned structure and the surrounding lands that would be appropriated by Israel to build it. He would also ask the US Administration for financial support. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

PA Information Minister Nabil Amr told reporters that the Palestinian legislature would convene after Prime Minister Abbas’ return from his visit to the United States and would “debate again giving him its confidence or not.” He said Mr. Abbas needed to “get support from the American Administration in order to go ahead with implementation of the Road Map” and the Prime Minister would otherwise face “difficulties on the Palestinian street” and in the legislature. (AP)

A poll by Peace Now showed that a majority of settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were willing to leave their homes for peace with the Palestinians if properly compensated. According to the poll, 68 per cent of settlers thought unauthorized outposts should be removed, and 74 per cent would leave their homes in return for compensation. Twenty- three per cent said they were ready to leave the settlements immediately. Fifty-four per cent said they would resist evacuation, but only 5 per cent said they would break the law and 1 percent said they would resort to violence. The survey also showed that 68 per cent of settlers agreed that a peace agreement should be reached and 30 per cent thought Palestinians deserved a State. The pollsters interviewed 1,100 settlers by phone and reported a 3 per cent margin of error. (www.peacenow.org.il)

In talks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Minister Shalom was told that the United States wanted Israel to halt construction of the separation "fence" and alter its route, Israel Radioreported. The Administration appeared to have adopted the Palestinian position that the fence, which did not follow the Green Line, largely being built inside the West Bank, would create humanitarian problems and would impact on future negotiations by predetermining the border between Israel and the future Palestinian State. A spokesperson from B’Tselem said the fence isolated 13 Palestinian villages from the rest of the West Bank, while the residents of another 36 villages would be cut off from their farmland. It would also incorporate 10 Israeli settlements. Ms. Rice told Mr. Shalom that Israel had to display greater flexibility on the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and had to remove more unauthorized settlement outposts. (Albawaba.com, DPA, Ha’aretz)

In his remarks to the press after with meeting Foreign Minister Shalom, Secretary of State Powell said: “I think Prime Minister Abbas has made considerable progress in the time that he has been in office … It is our objective to enhance his position. I think that is the position of the State of Israel. And we’ll do everything we can in the meetings that are coming up with Prime Minister Abbas this week and Prime Minister Sharon next week to do that for the benefit of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.” (www.state.gov)

24

Israeli troops captured Ahmad Shabani, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, in the village of Fahma south-west of Jenin, according to Bassam al-Saadi, also a senior leader of the movement. He said, “Islamic Jihad is not thinking of ending the hudna [ceasefire] because the Israeli army is continuing to arrest our leaders and enter Palestinian towns and villages every day. The army does not respect our hudna and the Israeli Government is not even considering the release of Jihad and Hamas prisoners.” (AFP)

IDF troops arrested an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant in Ramallah, just a few hundred metres from Chairman Arafat’s Muqataa compound. (Ha’aretz)

Israel had killed more than 2,500 Palestinians in two years, confiscated vast areas of land, destroyed Arab houses and pushed ahead with the expansion of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to force Palestinians to leave, according to a report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The report concluded that Israel’s measures against the Palestinians were cruel as they had made their life intolerable and sharply widened poverty and unemployment among the Palestinian people who had wished for peace. (Gulf News Abu Dhabi)

Israeli and Palestinian security officials were reported to be working on a plan whereby militants on Israel’s wanted list would be given immunity in return for a PA commitment that they would not be involved in future attacks on Israelis. The talks were part of an effort by the PA and Fatah to end attacks by Fatah activists who did not recognize the ceasefire. Palestinian sources had said that guaranteeing the success of the truce depended on winning Fatah support for it and this could be done by drafting Fatah activists into the PA security services. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

The Palestinian branch of the Geneva-based Defence for Children International (DCI/PS) issued a report accusing Israel of violating the rights of Palestinian children and called for holding Israel accountable for its actions. According to Khaled Quzmar, one of the lawyers working with DCI/PS, the right to life had been the one most violated, and the number of children killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers had risen during the recent conflict. He further stated, “There has been a huge rise in the number of children killed,” citing 463 cases of children under 18 years of age killed in the West Bank and Gaza since the outbreak of the intifada. According to he report, “Almost a third of all child fatalities were caused by bullet injuries to the head, and a further third were a result of multiple shots, testifying to the excessive use of force and careless targeting of Israeli forces.” (DPA)

According to figures from the Israeli Interior Ministry, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had risen by 5,400 over the past 12 months to reach a record number of 231,443. “Ma’aleh Adumim,” east of Jerusalem, was now the biggest settlement with 28,000 inhabitants. The next biggest were the settlements of “Modi’in Illit” west of Ramallah (23,000) and “Beitar Illit” south of Bethlehem (21,500). The number of settlers in the centre of the Hebron, under the protection of some 100 Israeli soldiers, was put at 532. The Ministry also said that the total number of settlers in the Gaza Strip was 7,700. (AFP, Albawaba.com)

An Israeli border guard shot and killed a Bedouin carrying Palestinian workers in his vehicle in southern Israel. According to preliminary findings, the driver had refused to stop at a roadblock. Some witnesses accused the police of being “trigger-happy” when it came to Israeli Arabs. (AFP)

25

Mahmoud Kabaha, a four-year-old Palestinian boy, was killed and two other children, aged 6 and 7, injured when an IDF soldier at a roadblock in the village of Barta accidentally discharged a burst of fire from a tank-mounted machine gun, striking a jeep and killing the boy, in what an IDF spokesman called “an operational mistake.” (AP, The Guardian)

Palestinians reported that a woman, aged 70, was slightly wounded in a shootout in Jenin, where the IDF arrested an Islamic Jihad activist. Security services arrested 10 “wanted” Palestinians. Four were arrested in Hebron, including three Hamas members. (Ha’aretz)

Israel announced a series of humanitarian gestures towards the Palestinians to be implemented in the preceding days and following Prime Minister Sharon’s visit to Washington. Among the moves announced were the removal of three key West Bank checkpoints, the reopening of West Bank roads to Palestinian traffic, the transfer of NIS72 million in tax money held by Israel to the PA and the issuance of 8,500 permits for Palestinians to enter Israel to work. There would also be a further relaxation of the tough rules governing the import of produce to Israel. (AP)

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office announced that Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon was scheduled to meet PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan early the following week, to discuss the transfer of security control of two more West Bank cities to the Palestinians. The two cities that were reported likely to be handed over to the PA were Jericho and Qalqilya, but the Palestinians wanted Ramallahas one of the cities. (AP, Ha’aretz)

In a joint press conference at the White House Rose Garden, President Bush said Prime Minister Abbas was “committed to a complete end to violence and terrorism.” He referred to the separation wall, stating that it was “very difficult to develop confidence between Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank” and that a “frank discussion” was needed on the prisoner situation on a “case-by-case basis.” He also announced that Treasury Secretary John Snow and Commerce Secretary Don Evans would travel to the region to follow up on the creation of a joint US-Palestinian economic development group, which would seek “practical ways” of bringing jobs and development to Palestinian areas. In his remarks, Mr. Abbas said the Palestinians sought a State built on “solid foundations of the modern constitution, democracy, the rule of law, and the market economy.” He said movement was needed in terms of freeing prisoners, lifting the siege on Chairman Arafat, Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas, and easing up freedom of movement to Palestinians. He referred to the need to resolve the refugee question on the basis of General Assembly resolution 194 III. Mr. Abbas thanked Mr. Bush for US$20 million in direct assistance to Palestinians, and for exerting “relentless efforts.” (www.whitehouse.gov)

26

PA Prime Minister Abbas said that he had ended a series of meetings with US officials having clarified the Palestinian position on the truce with militant groups. Referring to the US demand that Palestinian militant groups be dismantled, Mr. Abbas told journalists, “We told them that if the truce remains in place, why should we use force against our own people? We have cleared up that point with the Americans. We explained what we are ready to do and what we cannot do.” PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan had at least seven hours of meetings with National Security Adviser Rice and CIA Director Tenet. Mr. Abbas expressed his appreciation for President Bush’s support for a Palestinian State on contiguous territory as well as his reaction to the so-called security wall, which Mr. Bush referred to as “a problem.” (AFP)

The Israeli Cabinet voted by 14 to 9 to authorize the release of Palestinian prisoners within a week. The text of the decision did not state the number of prisoners to be released, but rather criteria for deciding who was eligible. About 540 prisoners reportedly would be released, including 210 from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and about the same number from Fatah. Minister of Defence Mofaz said Israel was taking a calculated risk, and was not releasing prisoners “with blood on their hands.” PA Information Minister Nabil Amr described the decision as “positive but insufficient,” saying Palestinians were disappointed that Israel would not be releasing a larger number. Palestinian officials said that of the 6,000 prisoners Israel was holding, 3,000 could be freed with no threat to Israel’s security. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

27

In a television interview, Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said: “If the peace process continues and if we actually reach peace, we can start considering the release of political leaders such as Marwan Barghouti.” He nevertheless ruled out Mr. Barghouti’s early release, especially if he was proven “to have been involved in the killings” of Israelis. (AFP)

PA Justice Minister Abdelkarim Abu Salah signed an order abolishing state security courts and special military tribunals in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The measure, according to Mr. Abu Salah, had the approval of Chairman Arafat and formed part of a process of reforms being taken by the PA. (AFP)

The IDF started implementing “confidence-building measures,” including the removal of the Surda and Ein Arik checkpoints, allowing Palestinians access from Ramallah to villages north and west of the city. A roadblock was removed at Jabel Sindak, allowing Palestinians to travel from Hebron to villages south of the city. A checkpoint near Bani Naim was opened for trucks transporting merchandise to and from Hebron. The road between Tekoa and Bethlehem was also opened to Palestinian traffic, thus allowing travel to nearby villages. Restrictions were eased up on goods transported to and from Nablus, doubling the amount of merchandise that entered the city daily. In the Gaza Strip, the operating hours of the Rafah crossing had been extended and it was now open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. In the West Bank, Israel had issued 5,000 entry permits to 2,000 labourers and 2,000 merchants from Bethlehem, 500 female workers from Tulkarm, as well as 500 Christians from Bethlehem to enter Israel to participate in the Mar Elias holiday in Haifa. (The Jerusalem Post, www.idf.il)

28

Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a protest against Israel’s construction of the West Bank separation wall, wounding five protesters. An American activist was hit in the leg at close range during the clash near Amin and was taken to the hospital. The other four protesters were treated at the scene after being struck in the back and stomach. The troops had opened fire after about 300 protesters gathered on both sides of the barrier and tried to tear down a gate in the wall. The Israeli Defence Ministry announced it had cancelled an official ceremony to inaugurate the first section of the wall. (Albawaba.com, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers, border guards and police were deployed overnight to evacuate about 100 people who had come to reinforce the “Giborim” outpost between Hebron and the “Kiryat Arba” settlement. The IDF removed a hut and three tents from the outpost near the western exit of the settlement and arrested two people for resisting the eviction. Outpost activist leaders said that they were organizing to return to “Giborim,” which had been declared a closed military zone. (AFP, Arutz 7, www.hebron.org.il)

An IDF spokesperson said Israeli security forces had discovered “an explosive device weighing several kilograms” in Jalbun, east of Jenin, as well as three pipe bombs. No one had been arrested but the army imposed a curfew while the devices were being detonated. The curfew had since been lifted. (AFP)

Paletinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas met with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI in Tetouan, Morocco, for talks on the peace efforts and the future status of Jerusalem. Mr. Abbas said he wanted to discuss plans to hold an Arab meeting on the status of Jerusalem with King Mohammed, who is head of the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. (AFP)

The Knesset Finance Committee approved an additional NIS 1 billion cut in the 2003 budget but allotted more funds to the construction of the separation barrier in the West Bank. Abraham Hirschson, a spokesperson of the committee, said NIS750 million would be realloted from the budget to help finance the construction of the wall. He also noted that the cut reduced the defence budget. Despite government spending reductions, defence costs had jumped during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Reuters)

The Jewish-Arab Centre for Peace in Givan Haviva, northern Israel, and the Palestinian Jerusalem Times weekly, in cooperation with the EU, signed an agreement to open a radio station, “Voice of Peace,” which would broadcast from Beituniya, near Ramallah. Maissa Siniora, the Palestinian director of the station, said its aim was to rebuild trust and narrow the distances between the two peoples. It would not focus much on current political issues, but rather on the cultures of the two peoples, their similarities and their differences. The new station was to begin broadcasting on 4 November 2003, the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Prime Minister Sharon was scheduled to meet with National Security Adviser Rice in the course of the day and with President Bush and Vice President Cheney the following day. (AFP, Reuters)

The PA requested a US$416 million emergency aid package for the next six months during a meeting with international donors in Ramallah, attended on the Palestinian side by Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, Minister of Planning Nabil Kassis and Minister of Economy and Trade Maher Al-Masri. Among the donor countries and institutions represented were the US, EU, UN, Japan as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Mr. Fayyad said the package consisted of US$220 million for the PA budget, US$74 million to rebuild infrastructure, US$71 million for humanitarian and social purposes and US$51 million for the private sector. Mr. Fayyad also said an international donors’ conference to help “rebuild Palestinian society” would be held in November 2003 in an unspecified country. (Palestine Media Centre)

The IDF spokesperson issued a statement re-emphasizing that Israeli citizens were forbidden by the OC Central Command order from entering “Area A” in the West Bank and were discouraged from entering “Area B” without prior coordination with security forces. It particularly noted that “repeated and unauthorized attempted entries to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus carrie[d] a great risk.” (IBA, www.idf.il)

29

President Bush, during a press conference with Prime Minister Sharon at the White House, said he was encouraged by Israeli steps to move forward on peace plans and urged Mr. Sharon to “carefully consider” the consequences of the separation barrier. President Bush said that rather than building the fence, the focus should be on dismantling militant groups’ capabilities to carry out violence, adding: “I would hope in the long term a fence would be irrelevant.” Mr. Sharon replied: “The security fence will continue to be built with every effort to minimize the infringement on the daily life of the Palestinian population.” He further pledged that unauthorized outposts would be removed, “as required in a law-abiding country.” (DPA, Reuters,www.whitehouse.gov)

EU spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana had decided at short notice to fly to Cannes in southern France to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas, on his way home from the United States, following a telephone conversation between the two men that morning. Mr. Solana, accompanied by EU Middle East peace envoy Marc Otte, reviewed the Road Map implementation and urged Mr. Abbas to streamline the Palestinian security services and press on with political reform, in particular, to start work on reforming the Palestinian judiciary to bring it up to international standards. Mr. Solana had spoken earlier by telephone with PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan to discuss measures to make Palestinian security structures more robust, Ms. Gallach said. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

The head of the Palestinian delegation in Rome, Nemer Hammad, said in an interview that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas was set to visit Rome on 25 and 26 August, his first official visit to a European Union country, “as a guest of Prime Minister Berlusconi.” Mr. Abbas had also requested an audience with Pope John Paul II. (Reuters; see also DF of 21 July 2003)

In an interview published by The Guardian,Palestinian Authority President Arafat said time was running short for the implementation of the Road Map. He also drew attention to a map of the West Bank with the projected route of the Israeli security barrier, which he said would mean confiscating 58 per cent of West Bank land. (Palestine Media Centre)

PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdelrazeq said 361 Palestinian children were currently held in Israeli prisons and demanded their immediate release. A statement from the Minister said that the minors’ treatment in jail was “inhuman and cruel,” that “children should be a priority among those prisoners to be released,” and criticized the fact that some had been “jailed for long periods of time ... without trial.” According to Defence for Children International/Palestine Section, which handled two thirds of the juvenile cases brought before Israeli courts in 2002 and 2003, the great majority of children held in Israel were between 15 and 18 years of age. More than 9 per cent were aged 13 or 14. (AFP)

The IDF said an 11-year-old Israeli girl had been slightly wounded in the leg when shots were fired at the car she was travelling in with her parents on a bypass road near the “Yitzhar” settlement just south of Nablus. (AFP, IBA, www.idf.il)

A month after declaring a suspension of anti-Israeli attacks, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad stated that Israel had done nothing to meet the conditions of the truce. “Israel has not acted on the conditions of the Palestinian initiative for a hudna,especially on the prisoners issue, and Israel has continued its aggression. This shows the problem stems from the Israeli occupation and not from the Palestinian resistance groups,” senior Hamas official Ismail Haniya told reporters and warned that “Israel’s policies will shatter the hudna and plunge the region into further turmoil.” Islamic Jihad leader Mohammad Al-Hindi counted “70 Israeli aggressions, including killings, demolitions, arrests and incursions” since the truce was declared a month earlier, and further added: “The siege has not been lifted on Yasser Arafat; Israel has built more than eight outposts in the West Bank, allowed Jews to invade the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and passed a resolution in the Knesset stating that the Palestinian territories were not occupied.” Mr. Al-Hindi also deplored the fact that Israel and the US had “dismissed the hudnaas a unilateral decision” when it was in fact a response to one of their main demands. (AFP)

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Yael Nathan, said the population in Israeli settlements in the West Bank had grown three times as fast as in Israel overall in 2002, by 5.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively. Ms. Nathan further said the West Bank growth had escalated from the 5 per cent level in 2001, and was concentrated in settlements dominated by ultra-Orthodox Jews. The Bureau put Israel's total population at the end of 2002 at 6,631,000, including some 1,200,000 Arab Israelis. Ms. Nathan said that about 225,000 Jews lived in settlements in the West Bank and another 8,000 in the Gaza Strip. (The Jerusalem Post)

30

The IDF arrested two Hamas members near Nablus and an Islamic Jihad leader in Ramallah. (AFP)

The PA criticized Prime Minister Sharon’s statements in Washington on 29 July as “disappointing” after he pledged to carry on with the building of the separation barrier on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while President Bush voiced “understanding” of his guest’s announcement. PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan told reporters that Mr. Sharon’s insistence on building the West Bank barrier proved he was not serious about implementing the Road Map: “If the wall is about security, why does it absorb Palestinian villages? Who will look after these people?” (AFP, Palestine Media Centre)

Prime Minister Blair, speaking about the West Bank separation barrier at his monthly press conference, said: “We have expressed our own misgivings. What we don’t want is a situation where, de facto, the boundaries are changed, because that would mean that a peace settlement is less likely and less possible… In the end, unless you get an agreement, and that agreement has got to start with the security measures, you are not going to make progress on this.” (AFP)

Secretary of State Powell stated in in an interview on the issue of the West Bank separation barrier: “We are going to press on this issue. There are other phases of construction coming along and ... this is an area that will have to be discussed as we move forward. If the fence is constructed in a way which continues to intrude on Palestinian land, even if it’s compensated for, in a way that makes it harder to go forward with the additional elements of the Road Map ... that is a problem.” On the Road Map implementation, Mr. Powell said: “Even though every issue was not resolved, we were able to mark good progress.” (Reuters)

President Bush held a press conference on the top priorities for the US. Asked if the goal of a Palestinian State in 2005 was still realistic, he said: “I do think it’s realistic. I also know when we start sliding goals, it makes progress less realistic. Absolutely, I think it’s realistic. And I think we’re making pretty good progress in a short period of time.” (AFP, www.whitehouse.gov)

Prime Minister Abbas, during talks in Amman with King Abdullah II, praised the US Administration’s “understanding” of Palestinian concerns, notably the prisoners issue, the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the West Bank separation barrier. (DPA)

Israeli police decided to suspend visits by Jews and Christians to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem’s Old City due to “tactical, operational considerations,” police spokesman Gil Kleiman was quoted as saying. Permission for visits by non-Muslims to resume in June 2003 had come from Prime Minister Sharon, Minister for Internal Security Tzahi Hanegbi and the police. Prime Minister Abbas and Mayor of Jerusalem Uri Lupolianski had criticized the visits as “provocative,” and Chairman Arafat had accused Israel of letting in extremists under “the pretext of tourism.” Police the previous week also banned Muslims under the age of 40 from visiting the site, fearing Palestinian protests. The director of the Waqf Islamic Trust, Sheikh Adnan Al-Husseini, told Kol Yisrael that the police-escorted visits had stopped a few days before. He was further quoted by Agence France-Presseas saying: “We cannot allow strangers to enter the Noble Sanctuary while Israel imposes restrictions on Muslims, but we could reconsider our position if these restrictions are lifted.” Israeli ultra-nationalist groups demanding the right of Jews to pray at the site had announced their intention to gather there on 6 August for Tisha Beav, which commemorates the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans in 70 C.E. (AFP, DPA, IBA)

An Israeli military court in the “Ofer” army base outside Ramallah sentenced Ahmed Barghouti, the cousin and bodyguard of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, to 13 life sentences for sending three suicide attackers to the Sea Food Market and Jaffa Road in Tel Aviv, and to "Neveh Yaakov" in Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported. “He said he was innocent and had no regrets,” his brother Mustafa Barghouti told reporters. (AFP, DPA, IBA)

The IRNA news agency reported that Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi had dismissed as “ridiculous” accusations made by Israeli officials on 29 July that Iran was now offering US$50,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. “Public resistance in Palestinian occupied lands is deep-rooted and historical, stemming from the strong political rationale of a nation, and problems of Israel cannot be solved through blame games or recriminations … The key to the Palestinian problem is full restoration of Palestinians’ rights,” Mr. Asefi said. (AFP, IRNA, Reuters)

PA Minister of Prisoners Affairs Hisham Abdelrazeq said: “An explosion inside Israeli jails will be imminent if Israel adheres to its unilateral decision on releasing prisoners based on unfair and racist criteria and if Israel does not respond to Palestinian demands on prisoners.” Mr. Abdelrazeq further said that ordinary Palestinians could also revolt over the issue. (Reuters)

PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan held talks with Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz at a hotel outside Jerusalem. Mr. Dahlan was expected to urge Israel to pull its troops out of Ramallah and either Qalqilya or Nablus, and stated earlier in an interview that “this withdrawal must be real, not like what happened in Bethlehem where the army withdrew but then surrounded the city. There is no meaning in this type of withdrawal.” Mr. Dahlan further said that the PA would not confront or arrest Islamic militants so long as they maintained the ceasefire. The New York Times also quoted Mr. Dahlan as saying that while the Palestinians were committed to a truce and his forces in the West Bank had prevented seven attacks against Israel in the past month, Israel had not reciprocated. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The New York Times)

Israeli security sources were quoted as confirming that Israel and the PA were discussing relocating Palestinians on Israel’s wanted list to Jericho in exchange for an Israeli pledge not to arrest them. Even without an agreement having been reached, dozens of wanted Palestinians had moved to Jericho, over the past few weeks after being told by the PA that it would not arrest them as long as they remained committed to the ceasefire. (Ha’aretz)

Israel's Shin Bet security agency revealed that it had recently arrested three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank, on suspicion of planning to abduct and murder an Israeli soldier in the northern West Bank. The three admitted to the accusations, according to the police. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Mohammed al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza, accused the United States and Israel of trying to spark a Palestinian civil war by building the West Bank separation barrier, saying: “We think we should make a reassessment of the truce because the dangers are very close to harming our hopes and goals.” (Ha’aretz)

After the Israeli police suspended visits by Jews and Christians to Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) (see 30 July 2003), Israel's Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, MK Michael Ratzon (Likud), appealed to Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to reopen the compound to Jewish visitors. He also said that if the site was not opened, he would organize a daily rotation of MKs to visit the compound. (Ha’aretz)

At his mid-year press conference at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Annan said: “The Road Map demands of the parties parallel action for us to make progress… I do not think one should condition one’s own action… This is something that has worried those of us who worked on the Road Map: that past efforts failed because some of it became so conditioned that it was conditioned to death.” Asked about Israel’s separation barrier, Mr. Annan said: “I know that it is conventional wisdom that fences make good neighbours. But that is if you build a fence on your own land and you do not disrupt your neighbour’s life.” (UN News Service)

A two-day consultative meeting aimed at preparing for the Arab-International Forum on Palestine Rehabilitation and Development, to be hosted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in early 2004, concluded in Beirut. UN agencies, Arab and international experts agreed that the Forum would aim to develop a Palestinian vision for reconstruction and development, integrate the efforts of regional and international organizations, and call for the contribution of donors to achieve reconstruction and development. At a press conference, ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy told reporters: “The presentation of the Palestinian plan in the economic and social sectors; the role of civil society organizations and the private sector; the link between the Palestinian economy and that of the Arab States; and the role of regional, international organizations in the reconstruction process will be the main agenda items of the upcoming forum.” The meeting was organized in cooperation with UNCTAD, UNDP and LAS. (UN News Centre)

31

Overnight negotiations between Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan ended with no agreement on an Israeli withdrawal from two Palestinian towns. Israel offered to turn over security control of Qalqilya and Jericho to Palestinians, but the Palestinian side insisted that Ramallah be included as one of the two cities and that any withdrawal be accompanied by steps to allow Palestinians to move around the West Bank more freely. Mr. Dahlan said, “We wanted the withdrawal to be a genuine one that would allow the Palestinian cities to connect with each other and would give people free ways to move on the roads between those cities and villages without having to go through the Israeli army roadblocks.” (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Defence Minister Mofaz announced he had instructed the army to prepare for a resumption of attacks by Palestinian militant groups, and warned that terrorism would resurface if the PA did not move to “dismantle the terrorist organizations.” He also told IsraeliArmy Radiothat the security situation was in danger of becoming “worse than before Aqaba [Summit on 4 June 2003].” (AFP)

Israel began to remove a major military post west of the “Netzarim” settlement south of Gaza City. Gen. Saeb al-Ajez, head of Palestinian national security for Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip, said his Israeli counterparts had told him it would take about a week to dismantle the “Netzarim” junction post. (AFP)

The Israel Lands Authority issued a building tender to expand the “Neveh Dekalim” settlement in the Gaza Strip, offering rights to build 22 new housing units. The tender said that 10 of the 22 plots were for local residents, while the rest would be offered to the Israeli general public. It was the first such tender for a Gaza settlement in about two years. Prime Minster Sharon’s office said the tender did not violate any agreement because the new homes would be built within the boundaries of an existing settlement, Israeli Army Radioreported. The Lands Authority defended the tender in a statement, saying it had been “issued after receiving all the necessary permits and with the authorization of the Defence Minister.” The Defence Ministry had no comment. Settler spokesman Eran Sternberg welcomed the move, saying the Gaza settler population had grown slightly despite almost three years of violence. Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now dismissed the natural growth argument, saying, “This is government building in an ideological settlement, not a city with a housing problem.” (AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Palestinian prisoners rioted at the Shikma prison in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, prompting police to move in firing tear gas. Some 20 prisoners and two guards were slightly injured. The Prisons Service said in a statement that the prisoners had resisted when guards tried to search a cell following the discovery of a sketched map of the jail on a prisoner. “The prisoners vigorously resisted the entry of guards … The prisoners began banging on their doors and threw sharp objects and burning papers,” the Prisons Service said. Palestinian officials said the riot was not connected with Palestinian demands for Israel to free prisoners. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israel Radioreported that Israel had completed the first phase of the separation barrier around the West Bank and Jerusalem. The barrier, consisting mostly of an electronic fence and in some parts an anti-gunfire wall, ran from the village of Salem in the north-west of the West Bank to the “Elkana” settlement, south of Qalqilya, along some 123 kilometres. The barrier along Jerusalem was 18 kilometres in length. The second phase, from Salem in the west to Beit Shean in the east along the northern West Bank border, was scheduled to be ready in December 2003. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the barrier along the West Bank affected 210,000 Palestinians living in 68 villages. (AFP, DPA)


________


Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter